Please welcome Jessie Mihalik to the blog.
Thank you so much to Ilona and Gordon for allowing me to share a snippet of my debut novel, POLARIS RISING, with you all! But first, I want to tell you the story of how I met Ilona and Gordon. They later became my nearby neighbors and dear friends, but I will never forget our first meeting (possibly because it was permanently etched into my brain by sheer adrenaline).
Eight years ago, I signed up for a writing workshop where Ilona and Gordon were one of the professional mentors. I am a huge fan of their books, so I was elated when I found out I would be in their group. Then I remembered that my favorite authors were going to read something I wrote.
And critique it.
There is a special kind of terror in giving something you created to another person for critique, especially if you admire and respect that person. When Ilona announced she was bringing a stuffed animal for us to cuddle while they gave feedback, I was sure it was just for me.
On the day of the workshop, our group met and introduced ourselves, Ilona and Gordon were perfectly lovely, then Ilona handed me the stuffed animal. I was first, and I was sick with nerves. I barely remember any of the rest of the critiques, but I remember mine with crystal clarity.
Despite Ilona’s frequent claims that she’s mean, she was not—not even a little. They were honest and fair and very, very kind. In fact, their encouragement gave me the boost of confidence I needed to think, hey, maybe I can do this.
And I did!
Last year, I sold a three-book series to Harper Voyager. The first book in that series, POLARIS RISING, comes out February 5, 2019. It’s a sexy space opera featuring Ada von Hasenberg, a space princess on the run, and Marcus Loch, the outlaw soldier to whom she offers a fortune to help her escape.
I am pleased to share the following snippet with you. In it, Ada and Loch have agreed to work together to escape, but they have been separated. Ada fears Loch has left without her, trapping her on the ship with a rival House’s soldiers.
Footsteps pounded behind me, closer than I would’ve liked. I darted left at the next hall and hoped Loch hadn’t left yet. With a long straightaway in front of me, I sprinted.
I might not be infinitely capable, but I could run. It was a skill that came in handy more than once over the last two years. I’d chased down thieves and outrun mobs, and, in one memorable case, did both at the same time. I’d also had a few close calls with House von Hasenberg security where literal running was the only way to escape.
And nothing motivated quite like imminent capture or death.
The video drone paced me, but the footsteps fell farther and farther behind. Running blindly when there could be more soldiers lurking ahead wasn’t ideal, but I was out of options. I had to get to that ship.
I turned left and ran down the short hall that would take me back to the main hallway. A right and another thirty meters or so and I’d be there. Please let the ship be there.
I glanced left as I turned right into the main hallway to see if the soldiers’ backup had arrived yet. My body found what my peripheral vision had not—I slammed into a wall of muscle that barely gave under the impact. An arm clamped around my waist to prevent me from rebounding to the floor, and a blast pistol went off behind my head.
The video drone exploded in a shower of sparks.
Loch had already pulled me back into a run by the time my brain caught up with the fact that he hadn’t left. And he was wearing clothes. He looked so much like a merc that it took me a second glance to process that it was really him.
When he pulled me into the port leading to the ship, I resisted. “We need to open the doors. The manual overrides are out here,” I said, trying to pull back. It would be easier to move the moon.
“No time. We’ll blast them,” he said. The doors that enclosed the bay were wired with explosives that could be activated from the escape ship. But that was truly the last resort because it failed as often as it worked.
When Loch didn’t stop to close the port door, I dug in my feet. “The door!”
“No time,” he snarled.
I shook myself loose. “I’m making time. I won’t be responsible for depressurizing half the ship. You go on.”
He left me.
I cursed him silently while I pulled the heavy door closed. If we blasted the outer bay doors with this door still open, every unanchored person in the cargo bay would be ejected into space. And with the ship’s power partially down, I wasn’t sure the safety doors would close to protect the rest of the ship.
While I had no love for the Rockhurst soldiers, they were just obeying orders. The mercs could go to hell, but it would be nice if Captain Pearson’s family could recover his ship in one piece.
I turned and ran for the escape ship. Loch was already closing the door, the bastard. I slid through the narrow opening and kept going. Once I made it to the bridge I realized the ship was already powered up and ready to fly.
Loch shouldered past me and took the captain’s chair. Of course he did. His hands flew over the console with obvious skill, though, so I held my comments. Mostly.
“Stop grumbling and strap in,” he said without looking up.
I dropped into the navigator’s chair and clipped in. A quick look showed that we already had a destination plotted. Before I could check the stats, the outer doors blew and Loch cursed. I looked up from my console and saw that only one of the doors had blown. While the depressurization had slightly opened the other, it was going to be a tight squeeze.
Warnings started blaring as Loch’s hands raced. He unclipped from his seat and moved to the rarely used manual controls.
“What are you doing?” I asked, alarmed.
“Computer won’t take us out,” he said. “Going to have to do it manually.”
I swallowed. I knew how to fly a ship manually—all pilots did in case of emergency. But most pilots practiced just enough to pass the test and to be able to land a damaged ship in a large open field or to dock to a station with docking assist. We did not learn how to finesse an escape ship out of a partially open bay door without tearing a hole in the hull.
“Can you?” I squeaked. I cleared my throat. “Do it manually, I mean. Without killing us.”
His eyes glinted as he glanced at me and his lips curved into a smoldering grin. “Don’t worry. I’m good with my hands.”
Ilona – I am mean. Don’t listen to her. Gordon and I read POLARIS RISING and it’s a good book. But I do warn you, I am very biased here, because we’ve been friends for years, so make sure to read the snippets and samples. There are goodies on her website, too.
A space princess on the run and a notorious outlaw soldier become unlikely allies in this imaginative, sexy space opera adventure—the first in an exciting science fiction trilogy.
In the far distant future, the universe is officially ruled by the Royal Consortium, but the High Councillors, the heads of the three High Houses, wield the true power. As the fifth of six children, Ada von Hasenberg has no authority; her only value to her High House is as a pawn in a political marriage. When her father arranges for her to wed a noble from House Rockhurst, a man she neither wants nor loves, Ada seizes control of her own destiny. The spirited princess flees before the betrothal ceremony and disappears among the stars.
Ada eluded her father’s forces for two years, but now her luck has run out. To ensure she cannot escape again, the fiery princess is thrown into a prison cell with Marcus Loch. Known as the Devil of Fornax Zero, Loch is rumored to have killed his entire chain of command during the Fornax Rebellion, and the Consortium wants his head.
When the ship returning them to Earth is attacked by a battle cruiser from rival House Rockhurst, Ada realizes that if her jilted fiancé captures her, she’ll become a political prisoner and a liability to her House. Her only hope is to strike a deal with the dangerous fugitive: a fortune if he helps her escape.
But when you make a deal with an irresistibly attractive Devil, you may lose more than you bargained for . . .
Jessie’s Website: https://www.jessiemihalik.com/