From Imagination To Publication

Monday, October 5, 2015

Monday Morning Sneak Peek! - DRAGON OF THE STARS

Did a weekend of reading leave you wanting more? 
Sneaking peeks of your newest novel from under
your desk at work? 

For the eternal is your 
Monday Morning Sneak Peek!


The ship of legends…

The future is set for Lt. Commander Aden Pendar, son of a Hyrathian Duke. Poised to secure his own command and marriage to the queen’s daughter, he’ll stop at nothing to achieve his goals.
But when the Alliance denies Hyrath’s claim on the planet of Kavil and declares war on their world, Aden finds his plans in disarray. Entrenched in battle and told he won’t make captain, Aden’s world begins to collapse. How will he salvage his career and future during Hyrath’s darkest hour?

One chance remains–the Dragon. Lost many years prior, the legendary ship’s unique weapon is Hyrath’s only hope. Can Aden find the Dragon, save his people, and prove he’s capable of commanding his own ship?

Chapter One

He had her in his sights.
Excusing himself from the group of officers, Aden sized up his competition among those present for the Summer Solstice. Satisfied he rose above those gathered at the palace, he paused long enough to secure two green-tinted glasses of spirits before approaching the queen’s daughter.
He caught her gaze as she surveyed the crowded room and presented his most charming smile. She  smiled in return and gripped the edges of her dress. The layers of jade shimmered in the light, and she offered a nod.
“Your Highness,” he said, bowing before Arabella.
“Lt. Commander Pendar. I’m delighted to see you here tonight.”
“It wouldn’t be proper for Duke Graham Pendar’s son to be absent from the celebrations.” Aden offered one of the slender glasses, its contents still bubbling. “Would Your Highness care for a drink?”
“Thank you, Commander.”
Her fingers brushed his as Arabella accepted the glass. Their softness was a welcome contrast to his calloused skin. Later those velvety hands would feel pleasant in his own when he enticed her to dance. Aden would not allow Duke Balderic or any other suitor the opportunity to steal Arabella, either.
“Might I add, you look beautiful this evening,” he said.
“You may,” she said, tendering a wink as she raised the glass to her lips.
Aden took a drink, resisting the urge to knock back the contents in one swallow. The thin glasses were made for looks and did not hold a suitable amount of liquid. Alcohol always flowed in abundance at the palace, though. There would be countless such drinks this evening.
His smile returned as she lowered her glass and gazed at him. Arabella tilted her head, sending a bobbling wave through the blonde curls that were pulled away from her face.
“Walk with me,” she said.
Gesturing for her to lead, Aden fell in step with Arabella. The queen’s youngest daughter still had her duties and needed to circle the room to greet guests. He possessed patience though. At least he’d caught her before anyone else.
A path cleared for them as they wandered the room. Aden enjoyed the freedom of movement this offered, not to mention the attention they received in passing. The green and blue of royal attire and military uniforms swirled around them. Memories of visiting his father’s largest production plant stirred in his thoughts. The ocean around the facility rippled with kelp in a similar fashion, affecting a kaleidoscope of rich colors. This early in the evening, the press of bodies did not produce an odor to match the floating seaweed, for which he was grateful.
He caught sight of his father deep in conversation with a Khanze diplomat. Attired in his race’s customary flowing yellow robes, the Khanze man stood out in the crowd. Not that he could hide his textured red face or reedy body.
Can’t hide your Ceteroll addiction either, Aden thought as the man pulled a vial of pale green liquid from his robe and let three drops fall into his drink. If you’re negotiating a shipment from my father, you just lost your bargaining chip.
Arabella spent a few minutes speaking with Count Grohom and his wife. While Aden was content to engage the couple in conversation, Duke Balderic held no such opinion. The husky man planted himself in plain view of Aden and Arabella, his scowl pulling his brows into one. The shag above his eyes matched the wild hair under his nose.
“Your Highness,” he said in a voice that commanded attention. He bowed in haste as if to offset his tone, leaning hard on his walking stick. Out of the corner of Aden’s eye, he saw Arabella wrinkled her nose.
“Duke Balderic,” she said, resting her hand on Aden’s arm.
The man straightened his back. His look of confidence diminished when his gaze fell on the fingers wrapped around Aden’s forearm.
“Lt. Commander Pendar,” said Grohom.
The corner of his mouth twitched as Aden suppressed a chuckle. “Duke Balderic.”
“Are you enjoying the festivities, Duke Balderic?” said Arabella.
“Considering the current state of affairs, as much as can be expected. The Council would do well to focus on the crisis concerning Kavil.”
“Among other things, they are working on the situation, Duke.”
The man’s eyes narrowed. “With the Alliance denying our claim to the planet, it should be the sole item on their agenda. It appears the threat of military retaliation is not enough.”
Aden’s muscles flexed as bile rose in his throat. “Hyrath’s military strength is not in question.”
“Perhaps it should be questioned.”
Snapping to attention, Aden prepared to give Balderic a piece of his mind. A gentle squeeze on his arm stayed his response.
“Perhaps another time,” said Arabella, leaning against Aden. “Good evening, Duke Balderic.”
Yielding to the pressure from the queen’s daughter, Aden allowed her to lead him away from the Duke. When they had placed some distance between them, he cursed under his breath.
“That man is an ass!”
Arabella patted his arm. “I’ll not argue.”
As they worked the room, several others voiced concern over Kavil. The queen’s daughter repeated her assurance more than once. Her words were meant to soothe, but Aden suspected she knew little of what transpired within the Council. He could’ve offered more in depth answers, but Aden didn’t want to pull them into a longer conversation. He had other plans for the evening.
The majority were Hyrathian, but representatives from four other races occupied the hall, despite trouble within the Alliance. Aden nodded at the diplomat from Biquentas, focusing on the man’s purple eyes rather than the ears that stretched to his shoulders. The race wasn’t the most unusual in terms of appearance, but their drooping appendages touched on the comical.
I’m sure we look just as odd to you.
On the far side of the room, Arabella paused. Aden turned to survey the gathering within the great room of the palace. Attendees clustered in pockets, heads drawn together in discussion. Music filled the air, resonating an echo as it struck the glass fixtures filling the chamber. It wasn’t enough to elevate the mood of the room to the level of past celebrations though.
Arabella sighed. “I’m afraid the festivities are dampened this year by the business on Kavil. People are on edge.”
“Everyone knows how important it is for us to acquire the raw materials on Kavil if our fleet is to continue to expand, Your Highness. Not to mention the Kargrandes’ untapped potential. We’d begun testing those creatures as an alternate power source when the Alliance intervened and halted our progress.”
“I hear the Alliance’s protests have filtered to our own people.”
“Only from the common folks,” Aden growled in disgust. “The military fully supports the Queen and the Council. We are at the ready should the need arise.”
Arabella’s lips pulled up in a smirk. “You are more than willing to go to battle for Hyrath and her people?”
“Once I have my command, nothing will stop me.”
The queen’s daughter lifted her chin, her smile growing. Her reaction pleased Aden. She’d caught the double meaning in his words.
That’s right, Your Highness. When I command my own ship, you will be mine. Balderic won’t stand a chance against my rank.
The tempo of the music changed and Aden seized the moment. “Would you care to dance, Your Highness?”
“Yes I would, Commander.”
Aden placed their empty glasses on the tray of the nearest servant and escorted Arabella to the central floor. Bowing once, he took her hand and placed his palm on the small of her back. Assuming the lead, Aden moved them with grace around the other dancers.
The shimmering glass lights cast a myriad of colors over the crowd. Tiny flecks of orange and yellow flickered across Arabella’s face. Aden kept his eyes locked with hers, drinking in her beauty as they danced. Ten years his junior, he hoped she would grow to possess the same elegant features as the Queen.
Two weeks until my review. Then I will have both my command and your hand in marriage.

The afternoon sun cast lazy shadows across the garden. If not for the breeze and the canopy overhead, sweat would be pouring off Aden. Even in his light dress shirt, the sizzling heat baked his skin.
Aden finished his drink and eyed the empty glass. “I understand there were protests outside the palace this morning.”
“A dozen people hardly constitutes a protest,” his father said. The Duke waved his finger and a servant filled Aden’s glass. “Fools don’t understand Kavil’s potential. The metals on that planet are in short supply on Hyrath. With only a fraction of the surface covered in water, it’s a great mining opportunity.”
“Damage to the environment is but one of their issues. They’re more concerned about the creatures on the planet.”
His father scoffed at the idea. “Those Kargrandes beasts are just that–mindless beasts. Hardly even qualify as an animal. But as a power source, they are invaluable. We could supply half of Hyrath with the energy they produce.”
Aden lifted his glass and turned to gaze at his father. “You’re not worried an alternate power supply will cut into your profit?”
“Energy is expensive to produce and nets the lowest profit,” said the Duke, his scowl causing his rounded features to resemble dried fruit. “Ceteroll is where the money is, Son. That drug is easier to cull from the sea kelp than energy. If I could convert even two plants to a hundred percent Ceteroll production, profits would quadruple. Regardless of the outcome with Kavil, I intend to switch to drug production at one plant that’s produced less and less profit from energy every year. Time to stop the bleeding.”
“Ceteroll is in high demand right now,” Aden conceded. He took another sip of his wine. “Won’t too much production flood the market?”
His father laughed and downed the contents of his glass in one gulp. “The price might dip a bit, but so will production costs, so it’s a wash. Besides, the Khanze are placing larger orders now. And we can make it more readily available for the common folks outside of medicinal purposes. That opens up a whole new market.”
“I suppose it does.”
“It will be your heritage, Aden. One day, your legacy.”
The servant returned with more wine for his father. The distraction worked in Aden’s favor. Their conversations often turned to his decision to pursue a military career rather than focus on the family business. Graham Pendar wanted his son to understand everything about kelp harvesting so he could take over one day.
And I will, thought Aden, downing the last of his wine. First give me a few years commanding my own ship. That’s the legacy I desire.
Movement at the edge of the garden caught his attention. A regal woman stepped out of the solarium, a basket dangling from her fingers. Aden smiled as his mother strode toward a metal enclosure at the center of the main garden. Time to feed the tiny creatures occupying the cage. His mother preferred to handle the task herself. She did so love her pet dragons.
“Father, if you will excuse me,” he said, setting his glass on the table, “I want to speak to Mother before I go.”
“Leaving already?”
“Yes, the Ryzell departs tomorrow morning and I have things to attend to tonight. Thank you for the company and the wine,” he said as he rose to his feet.
“Well, at least you were able to attend the Summer Solstice celebrations,” his father said. The Duke wiggled his body further into the wide chair. “Your absence from such events is always noted.”
Aden dipped his chin, ignoring the slight dig. “I know, Father. Duty calls, though. I will stay in contact. Good day.”
He left the shade of the canopy and stepped into the scorching sun. Aden located the nearest path and entered the garden. His mother had reached the cage and petite dragon wings filled the enclosure with a flurry of activity. They understood feeding time.
He approached, his boots grating the tiny pebbles of the path. His mother heard the sound and glanced over her shoulder, greeting Aden with a warm smile.
“You really should give those little beasts their freedom,” he teased as he joined her outside the enclosure.
His mother held out another tidbit. “Poor little beasties would die in the wild.”
A dark green dragon landed in front of her, his claws curled around metal and wings splayed out against the wire mesh. Poking his head outside the enclosure, he took the bite from her fingers. Another landed next to him and tried to steal the meat from his jaws. A squabble ensued until Aden’s mother offered the newcomer his own piece.
“That’s because you’ve spoiled them. They’d never fend on their own.” Aden didn’t begrudge his mother her hobby; it made her happy.
“I spoiled you,” she said, her cheeks rich with laughter, “and you’ve done quite well on your own.”
Aden chuckled, unable to argue her point. His mother fed the remaining bits of cooked meat in her basket and stepped away to admire her collection of dragons.
“I envy their flight,” she said. “To feel alive on the wind and soar over Hyrath. I envy your opportunity to fly a ship on a regular basis.”
He poked at the pebbles with his boots. “I don’t actually fly my ship. But I will soon captain my own vessel.”
“At least you’re not terrified to leave Hyrath’s surface. Last night it took a double dose of Ceteroll to get me on the transporter so I could attend the celebrations at the palace.”
A dragon squawked and landed on the mesh wire. His mother reached out to stroke the creature’s neck. Its emerald coat matched the scarves around her neck and waist. Aden couldn’t recall a time when she’d worn anything other than green, even when other Duchesses donned blue dresses for the Winter Solstice. No surprise she fancied the little green dragons.
“I’m confident that next time I visit, I will be captain of a ship adorned in dragon flames in your honor,” he said.
The breeze pulled at her hair, tugging at the strands holding the long locks in place. She turned into the wind and gazed up at her son, placing a hand on his chest.
“When you command your own ship, no one will be prouder than I, my son,” she said.
Aden covered her hand with his own. She alone understood his passion and drive.
“Thank you, Mother. I wish Father shared your sentiment.”
His mother tendered a comforting smile. “He does. He understands your need to achieve success outside of the family.”
Her hands curled around his and Aden dropped his gaze to their interlocked fingers. “He would’ve preferred I found a way to accomplish that outside of the military.”
“That’s because you are his only son and he worries about you. You’re his sole heir, Aden. Your father is steeped in tradition and wants his lineage to continue.”
Aden lifted his chin. “But it will. Once I acquire my rank as captain, I will ask for Princess Arabella’s hand in marriage. That will secure our family’s standings as well. If that doesn’t please Father and validate my time in the military, I don’t know what will.”
Releasing him, his mother rested a hand alongside his face. “It will. Promise me one thing though.”
“Don’t waste your affections on someone who does not share your feelings.”
Her request caught him by surprise. Aden stared at his mother, unsure how to respond. She patted his cheek.
“Success is important, my son. So is true happiness in love. My wish is that you find both.”

Aden strode across the open hangar, pack slung across his shoulder. The lights of the hangar did not illuminate the dark beyond the flight line, but that didn’t stop the sea from making her presence known. The ever present breeze carried a sharp tinge of saltiness, a reassuring and familiar smell. He missed it when duty called and sent his ship away from Hyrath.
And this time, we might be gone for a while.
The Ryzell loomed large ahead of him. In the predawn light, her dark hull reflected only the surrounding illumination. The fiery stripes down her side were not apparent until he drew closer. Those marks were unique to each ship and indicated the strength of the vessel. Aden gazed with pride at the numerous splashes of red, orange, and yellow. He envisioned the blaze of colors his own ship would boast one day.
I’ll look like a dragon’s fireball bearing down on my enemies.
Hyrath’s strongest ship, now missing for twenty years, entered his mind. The weapons she possessed, unique and unreplicated in any ship since, were legendary.
Shame the real Dragon never had a chance to earn her colors, he thought.
Bright lights glowed from the Ryzell’s entrance. His feet hit the ramp and a squawk near his head caused Aden to duck. He caught a flash of leathery wings and moved out of the way. Two serpents, entwined in a battle over a fish and oblivious to him or their surroundings, swooped down. Aden swung his pack at the tiny creatures.
“Go on!” he said, disrupting their squabble. “I don’t want the crew wasting time chasing stowaway dragons.”
Uttering another squawk, the pair flitted off into the darkness. Shouldering his pack again, Aden strode up the ramp. The lift sat open and he punched the key for the officers’ level. He had enough time to ditch the bag in his room before reporting to the captain. With three short days of leave, he’d packed light and could empty the pack’s contents later.
Leaning against the wall, Aden smiled, his mind still on the Summer Solstice Festival. Ah, but those three days were worth it.
He passed only one crew member between his quarters and the captain’s office. The remainder would filter in over the next hour. The hum of the ship’s support systems dominated the stillness and vibrated in his ears. The reverberation struck him as unnatural when compared to the noise of daily operations. He preferred the sound of the crew at work. It signified activity. Idleness served no purpose.
Aden pressed the com button and stood at attention outside the captain’s office. “Reporting, sir.”
The doors opened and the man seated at the desk gestured him forward. Aden counted five steps, his focus on the plaque-covered wall behind the captain, before snapping his boot heels together and saluting.
“At ease.”
Relaxing his stance, Aden placed his hands behind him, and let his gaze fall to the captain. Fyall stared at his computer screen, eyebrows together in a rare scowl. The man punched several keys, his fingers moving faster than their girth suggested possible. Two stacks of papers adorned the desk and Aden strained to read the closest text. From his position, the bold lettering at the top was clear: URGENT.
“I hope you enjoyed your leave,” said the captain, still staring at the screen. “It will doubtless be the last for a while.”
“The situation on Kavil, sir?”
“Talks with the Alliance have broken down.” Leaning away from his computer, Fyall looked up at his Lt. Commander. He gave the sheet marked URGENT a tug. “Diplomatic relations are failing as well. We stand to lose more than Kavil in the long run. Hyrath might lose her primary seat with the Alliance.”
 “They wouldn’t dare,” said Aden, indignation clutching at his chest. “We earned that position.”
The captain’s ears twitched, the sole outward sign of agitation. It had taken several months of serving under Fyall for Aden to decipher the unusual movement, which often sent ripples across the man’s bald head.
“The threat exists, though no action has been taken,” said Fyall. “No single race could oppose us, but if everyone in the Alliance came against us, we’d be hard-pressed to win that battle.”
Aden began calculating the firepower possessed by the others in the Alliance. Only if the seven races united would they be a real threat.
“It’s difficult to come out on top when everyone is your enemy. Fortunately for us, we aren’t at that point yet.” Fyall grabbed the papers in front of him. “The military has been placed on alert, and patrols doubled. We are to monitor five sectors near the edge of our own solar system. Duration indefinite.”
“Yes, sir.”
“I want every system and weapon double-checked and tested. The squadrons are to perform daily drills until I say otherwise. I want the crew alert and prepared for anything.”
“Yes, sir!”
Captain Fyall nodded. “Dismissed.”
Aden snapped to attention and turned for the door. He had a full day’s worth of work awaiting him.
“And Pendar?”
He paused at the open door. Captain Fyall arched his eyebrows, a smile tugging at his lips.
“Did you enjoy the Summer Solstice festivities?”
“Yes, sir, I did,” he said, allowing a smirk to reflect his confidence.

Confirming their present course a final time, Aden rose from his seat. He surveyed those present on the bridge, assessing the capability of the crew on duty. Most had been with the Ryzell for the past two years and had proven their worth. He noted one exception–the second weapons officer had not seen action under his watch. Considering their current situation, Aden would’ve preferred someone with more experience.
He paused at her station and she sat up straighter in her seat. “Have you run a full diagnostic in the past hour?” he said.
“Yes, sir,” said Ensign Pavott.
Aden tapped the screen over her head to confirm. Not only had she run a diagnostic, but two in the last hour. Everything functioned at optimum capacity. Satisfied but still cautious, he glanced down. Wide eyes stared at him from beneath a cap too large for her head. Aden offered a curt nod and turned to locate the highest ranking officer in the room.
“Lieutenant, you have the bridge until I return,” he informed the navigations officer on duty.
“Yes, sir!”
His stomach growled as he entered the lift. Aden had foregone the afternoon meal, choosing instead to observe squadron drills. A hearty meal in the officer’s club would be most welcome.
Four other senior officers were gathered around the oval table, and the men rose to their feet. Aden noted the captain’s absence and wondered if Fyall was taking dinner in his quarters instead. He considered doing the same, but now that he was here the succulent aroma overpowered the idea.
“At ease,” he said, taking a seat next to the senior weapons officer.
A petty officer from the kitchen appeared at his side and filled his water glass. A fresh basket of rolls materialized by his elbow, steam curling up from the cracks in the flaky crust. Aden tossed one on his plate and reached for the platter of meat.
“The squadrons looked good today,” he said, glancing across the table. The squadron leader  lifted his chin, striking a pose fitting the son of a Duke serving on the Council. “I noticed some variation from their normal drills.”
Lieutenant Shadvey leaned forward, fork in hand. “I’m incorporating maneuvers unique to each race of the Alliance. We practice two each day.”
“Might want to train them to defend against all seven at once,” offered the weapons officer. Asher leaned away and placed an elbow on the frame of the empty chair beside him. “They don’t stand a chance attacking us on an individual basis.”
“Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that,” said another officer.
Aden swallowed a mouthful of meat, determined to get food in his stomach. “But we must be prepared. The Council won’t allow Kavil to be taken and the Alliance refuses to acknowledge our claim. If they dare move against us, we’ll be ready.”
Asher nodded, his weathered fingers strumming the table. “Did you catch the report from Hyrath before dinner?”
Tearing a hunk from his roll, Aden shook his head. He’d not had time to check the feed in the past hour. Asher’s narrowed eyes warned he wouldn’t like it.
“They had to use force to dispel the protesters outside the palace this afternoon. Hundreds had gathered and refused to leave in a peaceful manner. Claimed we had no right to control Kavil or its creatures.”
A bark of laughter erupted from Shadvey. “What would they have us do? Renounce our claim and let the planet’s commodities fall into the hands of the Biquentas? Or the Ormentas?”
“Their need of metal compounds isn’t as pressing as ours,” someone said.
“Plus we can’t allow a power source with so much potential to fall into other hands.” Asher met Aden’s gaze, every wrinkle standing out on his sun-baked forehead. “They could convert it into a weapon.”
“You’d love to get your hands on one of those Kargrandes, wouldn’t you?” said Shadvey.
“Of course! Wouldn’t you want your squadrons to be tapped into such a power source?”
“That power,” said Aden, projecting his voice over the others, “could be the difference between our dominance and our downfall as the most powerful race in the Alliance. The common Hyrathian isn’t thinking long term. Nor do they understand what is at stake. Those foolish protesters are wasting resources and time.”
He paused and cast a sly grin at Shadvey. “Would you even know what to do with a squadron powered by Kargrandes energy? I seem to recall a homemade rocket exploding when you gave it too much juice.”
“Had the converter not failed, it would’ve launched,” Shadvey said in protest.
“Instead it took out your mother’s favorite statue. Not to mention it burned the grass to the point it never grew again in that spot.”
The squadron leader hesitated, his mouth open. Aden continued to gaze at him, relishing the chance to tease his childhood friend. A twinkle appeared in Shadvey’s eyes and he smiled.
“My father was furious for months,” he admitted.
“When was this?” said Asher, an eager grin filling his face.
Shadvey leaned forward on the table, fists clenched in earnest. Before he could speak, Aden’s com buzzed. He retrieved it from his belt and noted the captain’s insignia on the screen.
“Yes, Captain?”
“Pendar, report to my office at once.”
Aden’s gaze strayed to the full plate of food in front of him. So much for dinner. In truth, he should’ve eaten earlier. “I’m on my way.”
Snatching a roll from the basket, he stabbed one more slice of meat and tossed it into his mouth as he rose from the table. He’d grab another plate when he got off duty in a few hours.
This can’t be encouraging news, he thought, ducking under a ventilation tube in the corridor.
Upon entering Fyall’s office, the taut muscles across the captain’s face confirmed his assessment. Aden didn’t have time to salute before the man began speaking.
“Our primary seat has been rescinded,” Fyall announced, rocking Aden on his heels. “An official blockade was set in place, cutting us off from all trade and rights to Kavil.”
Aden’s pulse quickened even as a chill settled over his body. “Are we at war?”
Fyall shook his head. “We’re being sent to Kavil, though. I need you to lay a course at once.”
“We aren’t giving up Kavil?’
“The Council refuses. We are to display a line of power against invading Alliance forces.”
“Can we engage?”
“Not unless necessary. The Queen hopes that a full regiment of battleships will be enough to deter them.”
“A mass of vessels that great increases the odds of an incident,” said Aden, thinking out loud.
The captain’s ears twitched and his jaw tightened. “Of that I am well aware. You have your orders, Pendar.”
“Yes, sir!”
Aden relayed the captain’s orders on his way to the bridge. By the time he arrived, they had changed course and increased speed. Glancing once at the main screen, he accessed the computer and relayed orders to all sectors of the ship. With the Ryzell on high alert, he would be on duty until the early hours of the morning.
So much for a late-night snack.
Hunger pangs were the least of his concerns. They were on their way into hostile territory. Aden was determined to keep the crew focused and prepared for what awaited them.
The lieutenant announced their current speed and trajectory. Aden confirmed their arrival at Kavil in a little over two days. The significance of the date caught him by surprise.
Damn, he thought, scowling at the screen. That’s the day of my evaluation.


  1. This is an awesome first chapter, Alex!

    Jessica, what a cool book to feature ;)

  2. Great beginning! I'm hooked.