Blood and Steel is the fifth story in Atoms for Peace (available for purchase at Amazon in paperback and multiple retailers such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble as an ebook), pitting Steve and Dani against an army of killer robots (somewhat more substantial than the illustration, and Dani’s not fighting in her nightgown). The robots were supposed to be part of a National Guard war game, testing their robot-fighting techniques. But something’s gone wrong and people are dying …
One of the challenges in writing these short stories is that when I conceived the characters in The Brain From Outer Space, I didn’t have to go into the details of their backstory. I knew Steve and Dani met during the Invasion (the Martian invasion, that is, but even years later, that’s the one that gets capitalized) and had a one-night stand. They met again when they were both working in California, Steve for the TSC, Dani for the National Guard. I didn’t have to go into detail on either encounter.
Now, though, I was writing the second meeting. I had to explain why they’d walked away from each other back in Boston even though they had a connection. And I had to make meeting each other again feel real; even though they’d had other lovers since, I had to convey that they meant something to each other, that the night they’d spent together had meant something. And that there was enough between them to keep them together after that. Fortunately, my best friend Cindy Holbrook is a former Regency romance author, so I trust her judgment that I got the emotional side right.
I also didn’t want to have Steve, or Steve and Dani, single-handedly save the day. Not that I object to characters who can; I’ve written several. But I like the idea that in this setting Steve isn’t the hero, that the other Science Investigators are perfectly capable of handling things. As a female National Guard medic, Dani’s more unusual, but she can’t do it alone either. For whatever reason, in this series that works for me. So I had to show them both getting a share of the action, contributing to the fight, but not defeating the bad guy on their lonesome.
Rereading it as I proofed this volume, I felt very pleased with my work.
#SFWApro. Fantastic Adventures cover by Harold McCauley, courtesy of wikimedia. Cover is out of copyright. Atoms For Peace cover by Zakaria Nada, copyright is mine.