Hi, folks, my name is Kerry Tolan and I was chosen to lead the vanguard of science fiction writers as Champagne Books moved beyond the Romance genre. I often find myself on Romance-orientated boards with the same lead-in line as you see above. Delivered with a literary devilish grin, it is an enticement to be sure. Why? Because science fiction is a tough sell to readers who bank a book’s worth on relationships – and this more action orientated genre tends to fall short in that respect. As SF writer Orson Scott Card pointed out, heroes tend to leap out with no ties at all to anyone. Most don’t have mothers or fathers to speak of, let alone friends. In that regard, to quote one of my favorite movies “Serenity”, I aim to misbehave.
My first novel, Blade Dancer, could easily have produced the same type of action-figure character that many SF books present. Meet Mikial Haran, a biological killing machine if there ever was one. It doesn’t take long, however, before you end up meeting her parents, and a life long girlfriend named Paleen Chimmer. You then find out Mikial has the same angst as any young woman – even if she is alien. She’d rather dance than fight, and is envious of her friend’s reedy physique. And she meets this guy… You get to watch something different as a reader when Mikial becomes pivotal in her fractured society’s history. The burden and cost isn’t just hers, it falls on her parents and friends as well. Relationships are strained, and there is a second story as you watch Paleen’s own innocence slowly get worn down as Mikial struggles through her story.
I also wrote Waiting Weapon, recently released, along the same vein. You get to see that two opposites don’t exactly attract in the relationship between Richard Pinn and Jamie Brinnwall. Rick’s trying to find out why his alien race left him and her behind in cryogenic stasis to be raised by humans. Jamie, well, she just wants to run away from practically everyone – especially Rick. Sparks do fly when I put these two characters together where they have no choice but to depend on each other. For added fun, I toss in another couple – two humans with issues of their own that need solving. Personal lives are interrupted and caught in a conflict when Rick and Jamie finally do meet their true parents – or at least the unforgiving memories of them. It is a human foster father torn by grief, and an alien mother consumed by hatred and loss, who make for antagonists you can almost sympathize with. One of the villains is the inexplicable antipathy between Rick and Jamie themselves that must be overcome if anyone is to be saved from a vengeance centuries in the making.
In my worlds, heroes rarely save worlds by themselves – they involve those they love as well. I invite you to take a look at either of these novels – the first chapters are on my website at www.kmtolan.com. Mikial’s adventures continue this December when Rogue Dancer hits the shelves.
I will leave you with a quick excerpt from Waiting Weapon – the first meeting between Rick and Jamie in years after Rick returns from a harrowing incident in the ancient ruins where he and Jamie were initially found. The scene opens with Rick discussing how to explain things to the colonial governor-to-be with his fellow archeologist Andrea. Rick’s attention is rather quickly diverted:
Andrea wiped at her eyes. “You think you’re the only one here with questions? Excuse me, but the last time I checked, I was still an engineer on the payroll. Let’s just say that I’ve a right to get shook when mines start popping up around me. Now we’ve got to convince Colonel Brinwall not to do a repeat of Clan Weth on Maedan.” She stood up. “Any ideas?”
Rick took a long breath. “Play the threat down. Show him a better advantage to letting us back in.” His center of awareness in the universe shifted.
“Only dead leaves answer an empty wind,” came a light voice in the melodic Me’Aukin language.
An olive-skinned young woman walked in behind them. She was small by human standards, but stood eye-to-eye with Rick. This was no ghost. Rick could practically taste the swirling eddies behind her thoughts. She wore an off-white wool sweater with brown leather lapels and cuffs that matched her tailored pants. Jet-black hair curled along a delicate jaw line, giving her a disarmingly fragile appearance. Rick knew better than to make that mistake in judgment.
Like his, Jamie’s eyes were a deep ebony. They focused on him over a narrow nose, her expression no less intense than his own awareness of her. He noticed the moment of hesitation between her breaths. The subtle working of muscles along her throat. The intensity of her presence was stronger now than he ever remembered. The scientists at the Institute called it an empathic awareness. He called it stifling back then, and it had just gotten worse.
Rick took a mentally clearing breath. “Ma’thell.”
“Ma’thelsa,” came Jamie’s more cautious greeting. “I didn’t expect to see you before I left.” She glanced at Andrea. “Problems at the site?”
“Nothing to be concerned over,” Andrea replied, her expression quickly smoothing into what seemed a well-practiced pleasantness. “Going back to Corven?”
Jamie’s lips curved in an equally perfunctory smile. “Leaving shortly, as a matter of fact. I’m resuming my studies in political science at Lake Austin as ordered. Actually, I think Father’s nervous about having both Rick and me on the same planet.” Her eyes bored into Rick, her mind seeming to dig even further. “Still pretending to be human?”
He stiffened. “Are we going to pick up that old argument again?”
Jamie shrugged. “Don’t be offended. When it’s politically convenient for the Colonel, I pretend to be his daughter.” She turned to leave, and then paused. Rick was not sure if the shudder was physical or emotional. “Have you heard them?” she spoke once more in Me’Aukin. Her long fingers brushed against her temples.
Rick swallowed, her comment piercing through his guard to confirm that those whispers he had heard were not to be dismissed as an over-active imagination. He searched for something to shield his surprise with, and found nothing.
His startled reaction brought genuine relief to her face, not the mocking grin he expected. “As I thought. Was it the whispers that chased you back, then?”