Focus on Characters: Trina of Seeds Among the Stars

I told you about the villain of the first book in Samuel, but skipped the main character, a decision I will now correct. If you haven’t delved into the Seeds Among the Stars, or even if you have, here’s a glimpse of the underpinnings of Trina.

When you look at my main characters in Seeds and The Steamship Chronicles, they have certain things in common, such as a focus on family and strong convictions/determination. In other ways, they are not the least bit alike. Sam is a sheltered Victorian girl despite her both terrifying and wondrous gift. In contrast, Trina is a street rat. She preys on the wealthy, sneaking into houses, picking pockets, and fighting for her life whenever she has to.

She is skilled both with her knives and cat burglary, but unlike Sam, the only special thing about Trina is her dreams.

Coming from a culture with strict social divisions, she refuses to accept her place as fixed. Her high-born father broke the lines when he fell in love with her shafter mother. The fairytale books he left behind raised Trina to a moral code from times before the colony founders left Earth. Even her very name sets her apart from her mother’s people. Shafters will have many names in their lifetimes, but never a meaningless one like Katrina. They are named for their skills, like her friend Piper who protects himself with a short length of steel pipe pulled from the walls. She never knew the name his mother gave him, and suspects he no longer remembers it either.

Before you get the sense of Trina as a noble thief with a heart of gold, though, understand she’s a product of her environment. She grew up in the shafts beneath the colony, and her people are considered less than vermin. She knows the value of what she steals and expects a less than fair price from the one man willing to traffic in the property of polits (catch a glimpse here). Trina understands everything comes at a cost. Nothing is free, and if you want something badly enough, it makes you vulnerable to exploitation so best never to want anything, or if you do, best to hide it.

There’s little that’s heroic about her actions, but the reasons behind her tough, “dare me” attitude reveal her soft heart. Whether it’s getting medicine for her mother or protecting two laborers from drunken polits, she has a strong sense of duty and honor. It’s the laws she scoffs. They exist to crush those like her, and she can find little respect for polits who preach the doctrine of “work of your hands” while benefiting from the labor of others. A shafter thief might not have been what the founders had in mind when they set down the doctrine, but Trina works hard for the necessary things in life and never expects anyone else to labor for her.

Like the story of Aladdin, she refuses to accept this life, but unlike him, she neither expects, nor believes in some magical solution to her situation. Her mother dreams of when their father will return and raise her family out of the shafts. Trina knows he would have come by now if he ever planned to. No, Trina will solve her own problem, even if she hasn’t quite figured out how.

Knowing the dangers of dreaming doesn’t stop her from risking too much and trusting where she shouldn’t. Some dreams are bigger than self-preservation. Sometimes, the risk is worth even a chance at the reward, especially when the alternative is staying trapped in the restrictions of Ceric colony where her mother was used in medical testing and her sister chances slavery or worse every time she goes to the underground market for food.

You can hear what you want to when it’s the only path you can follow. Sometimes, you don’t know enough to understand what questions to ask.

Trina takes a leap of faith when everything in her life has told her to doubt and be suspicious. She takes it because the only other choices left to her are worse. She’s not willing to give in to what everyone expects of her. She’s not willing to live a life on the edge with nothing better to look forward to than a careless polit leaving something valuable out for her to snatch.

In this, she and Sam are more like twins than Trina’s sister Katie. Sam dreams of a safe haven, a place where she can use her gift without fearing a misstep will bring the law down on her family. Trina’s dreams are different, but they’re equally pressing. She wants to escape both her shafter life and the colony of her birth.

In both cases, they are driven to take potentially fatal risks to bring their dreams about. Neither are the type to sit back and expect something to be given to them, nor are they willing to let the chance, no matter how slim, slip by them.

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5 Interesting Links for 02-16-2018

Note: Videos may auto start with sound so be prepared.

Printing (Publishing)

This article offers a good comparison of CreateSpace and Ingram Spark for printing and distributing your book. The only issue I found was stating CS does not have a surcharge for shipping. It does, but the fee isn’t separated out.

Exercise (Health)

An interesting comparison of the value in terms of physical activity between a number of steps and short, vigorous exercise throughout the day.

Archaeopteryx (Paleontology)

I haven’t posted a dinosaur link in a while, and have a soft spot for the bird precursors, so here you go: an article about a fossil that appears to be the earliest known Archaeopteryx specimen.

Research (Animals)

A research team in France has taught a killer whale to mimic words. This article both looks at what they’re doing and the greater meaning of such communication.

Authors (Blogging)

Some suggested blog topics for authors. Not all of them will fit on every blog, but it’s an interesting collection to serve as a jumping off point.

Shafter (Seeds Among the Stars, Book 1)

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The Governess Affair by Courtney Milan

The Governess Affair by Courtney MilanThis novella contains all that is good about historical romance. While many focus on the upper class and nobility, The Governess Affair stars a coal miner’s son turned pugilist who is using a frivolous duke’s penchant to gamble as a way to move into the ranks of the wealthy. All his plans threaten to collapse because the same duke can’t keep his hands to himself, which puts Hugo (named Wolf of Clermont for his ruthless ways) in direct opposition to a young woman determined to make Clermont pay for his actions.

Had Hugo been no more than he was painted in the newspapers, Serena might have been in real trouble. Instead, she captivates him with her determination and unnerves him with her fortitude in the face of what he comes to suspect is far from a simple seduction.

The repartee between Serena and Hugo, as well as Hugo and the duke, is lovely, while the letters Serena and Hugo exchange are full of double meanings and attitude. Serena, much like Hugo, is fighting the shadows of her past. She no longer has the option of bending with the weight, though. She has to think not just of herself, but of the baby Clermont set in her belly.

The characters are strong, determined, and delightful. The historical details blend well into the story, and though it stays true to the nature of standing and legal definitions where rape is concerned, Hugo’s reactions are well founded both morally and because of his own background. The duke is equally a product of his position, but where some used their position to good purpose, he is an irresponsible fool, dependent on others to keep his pockets lined and his name out of the papers.

The story is founded on violence, in Serena’s rape and Hugo’s abusive father, but little of this shows on the page. It is appropriately spoken of in sideways references and the worst confrontations are punishing fisticuffs.

True to the genre, the story ends with a marriage…or does it? Nothing quite so simple faces these two, though the special license is procured and their bond legalized. When they consummate their marriage, it is onscreen and detailed, but necessary as it shows Hugo’s true character as he gradually banishes her one experience, overlaying it with a wonderful one.

You may have the impression I greatly enjoyed the read, and you wouldn’t be wrong. Between the dialogue, the characters, and the story chosen, Courtney Milan had me hooked. Despite this being a novella rather than a full-length work, she even manages to play with perceptions in the relationship Serena has with her sister as well as a glimpse into their child’s future that is a beautiful thing. This epilogue changes a young gentleman’s view of himself and everything he’s known. She’s won another reader with this strong tale and snappy dialogue.

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Focus on characters: Samuel of Seeds Among the Stars

Everyone loves a good villain, whether that means unflinchingly evil, completely twisted, or working for the wrong side. I’m rarely able to introduce a character I can’t connect with, so my villains tend to have more going for them than a will to cause harm. This is not always true, but in Samuel’s case it very much is.

My father, who read an early draft of Shafter, identified a little too much with Samuel and so couldn’t face him turning out to be the bad guy. The released version is a little clearer about his path, but I worked hard to keep that person my father identified with for various reasons.

Samuel is not evil. He’s not a shadow in the corner waiting to leap out at the innocent folks who wander by. Many would look at his wealth, respected position, and command of First City and think his life perfect. They could not be more wrong.

You have only to look a little deeper to see the cracks in his perfection.

He’s a failure as a father. He tried to crush his first son’s independence and drove Jared away. On the heels of that disaster, he indulged his second son so much Paul has little sense of character.

He’s driven by the expectations of ancestors (more by the myths than reality), and all he can see is how he will never measure up.

The original Samuel established this colony after he rose to power through disaster. Mechanical failures, combined with alien viruses, transformed what started as a well-supplied, well-funded colony expedition into a struggle for survival. Few of the elite colonists had any experience in real work. That first Samuel bought his way onto the vessel with money of the type the others scorned. It came from hard labor as much as inheritance. When the colonists had to face their true circumstances, though, Samuel and his family knew how to do what was necessary to establish a working settlement.

It’s a heavy legacy to bear, especially as their accessible resources have been tapped by the time Samuel inherits the position as grand polit. The young folks don’t see this as a challenge to overcome, looking instead to the stars and colonies of their own as Trina’s father had done. They didn’t care about the doctrines that pulled survival out of disaster, finding them out-of-date and limiting.

Samuel doesn’t want to be the one in charge when everything sinks back into the sands as if Ceric had never been colonized. Neither can he throw away what his ancestor created out of nothing. He can’t deny the doctrines laid down in the name of God. Those doctrines were necessary to carve a life out of the harsh, untouched planet they’d been given when little machinery remained. He held to them now out of respect and gratitude.

A Glimpse of Ceric from the Original Shafter CoverLetting spacers establish a base on Ceric, as his father had done, already threatened the principles underlying their colony. The weakness of relying on machinery didn’t stand out when seeing a small group of spacers bring forth buildings from the sand, and the hulking space ships landing and jumping off into the unknown. If not for that decision, the younger generations might never have looked to the stars. Samuel had seen the consequences of his father’s choice first hand. How could he make a similar one to let spacers bring the very machinery that had failed the first colonists into their lives? How could he let machinery extract the resources which lay deeper beneath the soil, denied to them within their doctrines?

But how could he not? Without the infusion of something new, Ceric would die under his watch, and the other polits refuse to recognize what the future holds. They refuse to make the hard choices, and will not let him make them for all of Ceric.

His is an uncomfortable position, and it’s one he’s put all his life toward shoring up. Samuel could have been like those who relished their wealth and position with little thought to the future, but it’s not his way. He’s responsible to the people he commands, but also to the memory of those who came before.

Meeting his lost granddaughter does much to shake his convictions, but it cannot change the person he was raised to be. She reminds him of what he lost in trying to press Jared into the image of a proper polit, but even that is not enough to lift the weight of the original Samuel’s gaze.

He’s a complicated person with pressures many can identify with. He also has some lovely moments of compassion and delight. It’s his choices that ultimately determine his fate. Villain or hero, there is a fine line between good intentions and good choices that can as easily tip toward the worse self as the better.

If you haven’t had the chance to meet Samuel, you’ll find his story unfolds in Shafter. The start of Seeds Among the Stars is available in eBook and print wherever you purchase your books. I do hope you sympathize with Samuel, as he deserves your sympathy, but his is not a path to follow, no matter how much his reasons seem sound at first.

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5 Interesting Links for 02-09-2018

Note: Videos may auto start with sound so be prepared.

Tools (Archaeology)

A review of woodworking tools on the Northwest Coast of North America that offer insights into ancient lives.

Wattpad (Publishing)

An interview with one of the folks behind Wattpad looks at what the platform is intended to be, how authors are using it, and what future changes might look like.

Psychology (Life)

15 questions to ask when you’re feeling down that cover pretty much all bases. Not everything is relevant for every person, but odds are you’ll find something to break through the blahs.

Authors (Blogging)

Tips for making your blog attractive to readers new and old.

First Contact (Fiction)

A fun little science fiction story that offers a different result of first contact.

Safe Haven Sharable

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