STEALING MERCURY (Arena Dogs #1) by Charlee Allden-Review and Interview with the author
ABOUT THE BOOK: Release Date March 27, 2015
Born a slave, Mercury is an Arena Dog, genetically engineered to fight and die in the Arena for the entertainment of others. Trained as a gladiator from boyhood in a violent world, where men must form alliances and share what little bounty they have to survive, his only goal has been to keep his men alive. But two are dead and the rest are condemned to be hunted down and killed for sport. Worse, their demise will leave a woman Mercury has sworn to protect, alone and vulnerable. And then there is Samantha—a courageous human he has no right to claim. But she is his. He feels it deep in his soul and with an ache in his body he can’t deny.
Samantha Devlin is an indie-freight pilot who has lost everything: her ship, her crew, and her father. When an old friend hires her as an emergency replacement to pilot a cargo carrier for the Roma Company, she’s shocked to learn her cargo is three, living, breathing, and dangerously sexy Arena Dogs. When Samantha learns she’s taking the men to their deaths, she must decide if she is willing to risking everything for a man whose customs require that he share her with one of his men and demands he return to Roma to protect another woman. Mercury, their leader, and Lo, his emotionally broken arena-brother, challenge all her notions of honor, loyalty, and love. Her heart tells her Mercury is worth any cost, but her head sees nothing ahead but disaster.
REVIEW: STEALING MERCURY is the first installment in Charlee Allden’s adult Arena Dogs romantic fantasy, science fiction series focusing a group of genetically engineered slaves and gladiators. This is Arena Dog Mercury, and space ship pilot Samantha Devlin’s storyline.
NOTE: STEALING MERCURY contains M/F/M sexual situations and may not be suitable for all readers.
Told from third person point of view STEALING MERCURY follows the rescue attempt and escape of three fighting Dogs of the RomaRex Arena-Mercury, Diablo (Lo) and Carnage (Carn)-three ‘brothers in arms’ and pack mates whose tortuous lives have been nothing but abuse, fighting and destruction. Due to a lack of females, their lifestyle requires the males of their species to share one female, and in this Samantha has caught the eye of Mercury and his pack mate Lo.
Arena Dogs are genetically engineered hybrids with animal and non-human alien DNA whose sole purpose is to fight for the entertainment of intergalactic patrons. The Dogs are bred to be hunted, tortured, destroyed and abused, and in this our heroine Samantha Devlin-who is not quite human herself- will make every attempt to free the captives now imprisoned in the cargo hold of the space ship she is currently piloting. What ensues is a crash landing on an uninhabited planet where the Roma Company will hunt the escaped slaves along with their female accomplice.
The relationship between Mercury and Samantha is one of immediate attraction although Mercury is considered an animal and a threat by the whip-master and his handler. Samantha sees something different-she sees a man whose pain and suffering pulls at her soul, and in this she is determined to free the men from bondage. Not only does Mercury desire Samantha as his own, Lo’s need for a mate finds Samantha falling in love with both men. The $ex scenes are intimate, passionate, erotic and provocative. Mercury is the alpha male; Lo has sworn his protection and love.
Meanwhile, Mercury’s brother Carn is desperate to find his mate who has been imprisoned by the Roma Company, and Mercury has promised to return to the planet to rescue Carn’s mate. All does not go according to plan when the Roma Company recaptures the escapees with the sole intent to kill at the RomaRex Arena in the Earth Alliance Beta Sector.
We are introduced to Mercury’s brothers and pack mates: Diablo (Lo) and Carnage (Carn) ; the requisite evil comes in the form of whip master Drake, and handler Resler who have been entrusted to ship the Arena Dogs to another planet for ‘disposal’.
The world building follows the enslavement, abuse and history of the Arena Dogs from conception to training to Arena gladiators. Think of the storyline as ‘Spartacus’ meets Star Trek meets Science Fiction wherein the ‘Dominus’ is determined to control his slaves both in and out of the arena. There are some scenes of graphic violence due to the nature of the storyline premise. The Dogs struggle against discrimination and stereotyping, slavery and abuse resulting from a preconceived notion that the genetically engineered hybrids are animals or less.
STEALING MERCURY is a fascinating introduction to Charlee Allden’s ARENA DOGS sci-fi fantasy series. There are moments of heartbreak and sorrow; betrayal and revenge; romance and love. The characters are colorful, engaging, imaginative and inspiring. The premise is dramatic, powerful and intense.
Copy supplied by the author.
Reviewed by Sandy
TRC: Hi Charlee and welcome to The Reading Café. Congratulations on the release of STEALING MERCURY.
Charlee: Thank you and thanks for inviting me to visit today!
TRC: We would like to start with some background information. Please tell us something about yourself?
Charlee: I wish I could say something unexpected, like being an alien princess in hiding, but I’m pretty ordinary. I’m am average Florida girl, living too far away from the nearest body of water. But I’m close to family and I have a fantastic group of writing friends that I love like sisters. For them, I tolerate the humidity and the heat of Florida summers and dream of my own private swimming pool.
TRC: Many authors develop their love of writing at an early age. What or who was the catalyst that started you on the road to publication?
Charlee: My wonderful grandmother was a bit of a poet. She wrote and recited funny rhyming poems about family and simple, everyday things. I followed in her footsteps writing poetry as a young adult. It wasn’t until much later I got the itch and courage to write something as long as a book.
TRC: If you had a choice, which career, other than writing, would you like to attempt?
Charlee: That’s a hard question to answer. I’ve actually done a lot of different jobs and nothing makes me as happy as writing. But if I were to dream a bit, I’d have to go for something like personal assistant to some wealthy, eccentric person who liked to travel to cool places.
TRC: STEALING MERCURY is the first installment in your new romantic fantasy/science fiction ARENA DOGS series. Would you please tell us something about the series and storyline premise?
Charlee: ARENA DOGS is set at the outer reaches of Earth-colonized space. It’s a place of infinite variety: from war torn planets to wealthy resort planets where culture, greed, and barbarism come together in the form of the arena games. Rich patrons come to watch the gladiators fight to the death. Like the gladiators of old, the Arena Dogs are slaves, unlike their predecessors they are genetically engineered and trained from childhood. They have their own unique customs and are fiercely loyal to each other. In Stealing Mercury, a freighter pilot is hired to transport three of them to a hunt planet where they will be killed. She quickly has to decide whether to help them. Adventure ensues.
TRC: How many books do you have planned for the series?
Charlee: Book 2 and Book 3 (a novella) are definite, but I hope to be writing many more in the series. The world is vast and rich enough to support a lot of storytelling, adventure, and sexy romance.
TRC: What or who was the inspiration behind the series premise?
Charlee: Stealing Mercury started out as a novella that was never supposed to be published. Another manuscript was driving me nuts and I took a break to write something different. The Arena Dogs came together in my head as I mixed all the elements I love into a big tangle that I could unravel on the pages.
TRC: If you could virtually cast the leading roles in STEALING MERCURY which models or actors would match your ideal image for Mercury, Lo, Carnage and Samantha?
Charlee: I’m much happier letting readers do the casting!
TRC: Is there a message in the novel that you would like your readers to understand or grasp?
Charlee: Thank you for this question! I don’t set out trying to send a message with my books, but they always explore things that are important to me and there are many things on the pages that I hope provoke some thought. The most important (to me) aspect of Stealing Mercury is that the characters must move past the negative and limiting messages that have taken root in their view of themselves and the right and wrong of things. If they are to be happy, they have to learn to accept themselves and others as they are. They must learn to see their own weaknesses as strengths.
TRC: What challenges or difficulties (research, logistics, background) did you encounter writing this particular story?
Charlee: I discovered in this book that putting your hero in a cage for the first third of your story does present some challenges to building a romance. I vowed never to do that again… I won’t tell you how the third story starts.
TRC: How do you keep the plot unpredictable without sacrificing content and believability?
Charlee: Hmm… I try to make sure that everything the characters (including the villains) do is well motivated and comes from some very real emotion. I believe that, if the reader believes the emotion is real, they can accept its consequences. Samantha, my heroine, is very impulsive and that sometimes makes her do things that could be called stupid or crazy—like stepping in-between two bigger men who are fighting. I try to make sure the reader knows what is motivating her to do that.
TRC: When writing a storyline, do the characters direct the writing or do you direct the characters?
Charlee: As the author, I decide who the characters are and where the story will go. However, if I do a good job of developing the characters, I sometimes have to accept that they would never do something I planned the way I planned it. That just means I have to find another way.
TRC: Do you listen to music while writing? If so, does the style of music influence the storyline direction? Characters?
Charlee: Often I do listen to music. More with some stories than others. Some stories call for a sound track that sets a mood. Others for reasons I don’t understand, don’t need music as much. Even for those stories, the right music can help get me in the right from of mind for a particular scene. I’ve learned never to try to write an action scene while listening to something mellow!
TRC: The mark of a good writer is to pull the reader into the storyline so that they experience the emotions along with the characters. What do you believe a writer must do to make this happen? Where do you believe writer’s fail in this endeavor?
Charlee: Oh, wow. This is a tough question with a complicated answer. I teach a 90 minute workshop that only scratches the surface of that question! The only things I can say without droning on and on are that writers must 1) engage their own heart in the writing process and 2) learn their craft. Even writers blessed with natural talent can make their writing stronger and richer by studying writing craft.
TRC: What three things would you like to accomplish in the next five years?
Charlee: I see we’ve gotten to the tough part of the interview! I do have concrete, measurable goals in my career and personal life. I’m all about the goals, but it’s getting harder to look so far into the future. The Kindle is less than 10 years old but it has changed so much about the book world! When I do look five years out, I visualize myself freer to focus on the things I enjoy most: writing what I want to write, connecting with readers, and spending time with the people I love. I have always been a rules follower and trod the expected path. This year I shed some of the limitations of that habit by venturing into indie publishing. In five years I want to have left the rest of those limitations in the dust.
TRC: What is something that few, if any people, know about you?
Charlee: I was a slow reader as a child. I failed a reading comprehension placement test in fourth grade because I couldn’t finish the test in the time allowed. I was put in a “special” program to help me catch up and spent most of my time in that program playing backgammon.
TRC: What do you believe is the biggest misconception people have about authors?
Charlee: That authors have to have some special talent and that since they do, the rest is probably easy. Writing is always hard work, often fun, rewarding work, but work all the same.
TRC: Who is the first person you think about when you need someone to talk with and why?
Charlee: My mother because she knows me better than anyone. I’ve never doubted her love and acceptance. I’m really blessed to have that.
TRC: On what are you currently working?
Charlee: Arena Dogs book 2 and 3 are my focus at the moment!
TRC: Would you like to add anything else?
Charlee: If readers would like to offer up casting suggestions for Stealing Mercury, I’d be happy to credit them and post to my Stealing Mercury Pinterest page: https://www.pinterest.com/charleeallden/stealing-mercury/ The page already has some of the images that inspired the settings in this book.
Favorite Food – Homemade Macaroni and Cheese
Favorite Dessert – You want me to name just one?
Favorite TV Show – Again, just one?
Last Movie You Saw – Jupiter Ascending
Dark or Milk Chocolate – Milk with nuts
Secret Celebrity Crush – Stephen Amell and Ricky Whittle
Last Vacation Destination – Amelia Island in Florida
Do you have any pets? – A cat—Tiger.
Last book you read – Ice Planet Barbarians by Ruby Dixon.
Pet Peeve – Planting palm trees in Florida – long story.
TRC: Thank you Charlee for taking the time to answer our questions. Congratulations on the new release. We wish you much success.