Spotlight, Spotlight, & Excerpt: The Stars Within + Giveaway

The Stars Within blog announcement

Cover - The Stars Within

The Stars Within
by Lena Alison Knight
Series: The Gift of the Stars #1
Genre: Space Opera/Military Sci-Fi
Intended Age Group: Adult
Pages: 238
Published: 2021
Publisher: Self Published

Content/Trigger Warnings:

Shown on page:

Frequent, non-graphic violence
Corporate imperialism
War w/ civilian casualties

Alluded to:

Family separation

Book Blurb:

For Kerelle Evandra, her psionic powers have always meant three things: mandatory service to a multigalactic corporation, a luxurious lifestyle as a prized asset, and an electronic collar that will kill her if she steps out of line. As a powerful telekinetic, she’s spent the last ten years of her life in the corporate military, fighting anyone and anywhere the company demands. While she might resent her gilded cage – and obedience to her corporate masters’ cold directives – everyone knows that escape is impossible. And defiance risks not just her own life, but also the life of the person closest to her: Galhen Ambrel, her lover and fellow bound psionic.

But when Galhen’s service contract is suddenly sold to a distant oligarch, Kerelle learns that obedience was not the guarantee of safety she once thought – and that escape may not be as inconceivable as she was taught to believe. When a mission brings her into contact with an unexpected ally, she must decide how far she can go, and how much she’s willing to risk for freedom.

Solving Problems with Explosions • The Power of Friendship (and Guns) • Love in the Time of Corporate Dystopia



Even from the air, Kalnis was a teeming, derelict mess. Here and there were the shells of grand buildings, indicating that perhaps things had once been better – or at least that someone with investment money had believed they might get better. Judging by the age and condition of those buildings now, any such hopes had long since fled. They dropped down over a sea of rickety walls and broken windows to touch ground at a drab concrete field surrounded by razor wire.

They were met at the landing pad by a shifty man in a worn port authority uniform. Sandrel paid him the requested docking fee, then reached into his jacket to count out another two hundred credits. The port worker pocketed it with a nod and moved on.

Sandrel caught Kerelle’s questioning glance as he returned to the ship.

“First amount is the docking fee we pay to land here. The second one is the ‘security fee,’ which is a nice way of saying the bribe that makes sure the ship is still here when we get back.” He explained this nonchalantly without having to be asked; Kerelle’s performance with the ship’s guns had apparently elevated her in Sandrel’s opinion.

Sandrel turned to regard Kerelle and Nalea both. “Doc, are you sure you want to stay with the ship?”

The scientist gave a small nod. She’d been quiet since they got their first good look at Kalnis, and her second thoughts about the entire venture were written plainly across her face.

“All right then,” he said. “Keep everything locked up, stay out of sight and don’t answer the door. We paid our bribe to keep the ship from being stolen, but it never hurts to be extra careful, especially here. We’ll be back as soon as we have the parts we need.” Nalea only nodded again and drew back further into the ship. Kerelle felt a twist of worry at leaving her, but locked inside the ship was probably far safer than roaming the streets.

Up close, Kalnis was even worse off than it looked in the air. Garbage carpeted the claustrophobic streets, with scattered piles of pungent refuse that spoke to a lack of accessible sanitation. The uneven sidewalks were hemmed in by crumbling concrete block towers, many with plywood shanties built around them like vines beginning to choke a tree – though she hadn’t seen a tree since they broke atmosphere. Most people they passed hurried about their business, carefully not looking at anyone. Those that didn’t were the clusters of rough-looking individuals who leaned against walls here and there, watching the passerby like sharks sizing up a school of fish.

Sandrel walked with brisk purpose and no sign of fear, and Kerelle followed suit. All the same, she brushed those they passed with telepathic encouragement that there was nothing about her and Sandrel worth noticing. As the smuggler had said, it never hurt to be extra careful.

True to his word, Sandrel knew where they were going, and he led them unerringly to a battered storefront in a small cluster of merchants that passed for a shopping center. With reinforced bars over their windows and heavy chains to secure their doors, it seemed more to Kerelle that the shops were huddled for mutual defense.

She waited quietly to the side while Sandrel negotiated for what they needed. She could be of no help fixing the ship, but she didn’t intend to stand idly by. Kerelle kept her senses open for anyone in their vicinity who might be trouble. She’d done a good job on the way in though, or else Sandrel had, because she sensed no one who had taken note of them. So far so good.

Sandrel briskly shook hands with the proprietor and credits changed hands, and soon they were back in those filthy streets with several small boxes stowed in his pack. Kerelle marveled that their survival could be contained in such little things, but it was probably for the best they didn’t have to visibly carry them.

She kept up her mental shield of anonymity as they made their way back to the dock, and to her relief they passed back into the bleak little shipyard without incident. Now all they had to do was install the parts and leave this wretched world behind them. There was just one problem.

The ship was gone.

Author Interview:

1. Tell us a little about how this story first came to be.
So there were a lot of things that came together in this story, but the initial spark was work. More specifically, it was a culture of work where your entire identity is centered on your job, with this almost religious devotion. The PsiCorp sort of grew out of that, and my feelings around it.

Which feels odd to say now, because the story actually got away from the PsiCorp fairly quickly – once I sat down to write it, Kerelle escaping that situation was more interesting than living through it. But in a way the PsiCorp concept is what started the whole thing.

2. What, if anything, did you learn when writing the book?
I learned I’m a plantser! I have to meticulously plan my books, or else I can’t make any progress at all. If I just sit down and write and try to figure it out as I go, I’ll hit a wall where it’s not clear where to go next, and for me it’s very hard to get over that wall if I’m knee-deep in writing the actual draft. By outlining the whole story before I start, I always know where I’m going (and so we’ll actually get there!).

While working on this series, though, I discovered that I still have some pantser moments. I would hit a point in my outline that didn’t quite feel right on the actual page, or I would have a sudden burst of inspiration for another scene that wasn’t in the outline but would be a great fit for this part of the story. At first I tried to just stick with what I had planned, but I learned that sometimes giving into the pantser impulses could improve the overall flow of the story. Some of my favorite scenes in the series weren’t in the outline.

3. What surprised you the most in writing it?
I was surprised how much the characters took on their own voices and personalities as I went along. There were times when I would reach something I’d put in the outline and realize “no, she would never say that, actually” and have to rethink the scene. I had the broad strokes of them from the outline, but I got to really know them so much better when I was writing the actual draft.

4. If it’s not a spoiler, what does the title mean?
It’s a bit oblique, but the first book is called The Stars Within because so much of the central conflict is internal. We follow Kerelle through a number of external conflicts, of course, there’s a lot of action in this book. But the really important one is in her head, reconciling what she was raised to believe with a reality that doesn’t match up, and struggling with what she might be able to do about it.

The Stars Within is also the book where Kerelle is most withdrawn from the world around her, which contributed to the name as well. Found family is an important theme in the later books, but for most of The Stars Within she’s on her own.

5. Were any of the characters inspired by real people? If so, do they know?
Not exactly. I actually like to say that all of the characters are me – not literally, of course, but I can recognize certain aspects of myself that went into them.

6. Do you consider the book to have a lesson or moral?
I wouldn’t say it has a moral, per se. I would say more that it has ideas, particularly around corporate power in society. Kerelle and her friends live in a world where these mega-corps have accumulated enough political and social power that in some places they’re indistinguishable from the government.
When we meet Kerelle, actually, it’s in the midst of SysTech acting like an imperial power, even though they’re a private business entity. The book opens there partially to give the reader a fast and unambiguous introduction to how SysTech operates – including both why Kerelle might want out, and why she has zero doubt they’d make good on their threats to kill her if she tried. But starting on Elekar is also meant to pose one of the big questions that our protagonists need to grapple with throughout the series. How do you rein in a private entity, when society lets them get away with this?

7. What is your favorite part of the book?
I’m going to cheat a bit here. I think of the book as having two phases – a phase when Kerelle believes the PsiCorp is inevitable, and a phase when she doesn’t. I have a favorite for each.

In the first phase, my favorite part is when Galhen first joins her on Elekar. We learn a lot about both of them, and they have some fairly serious discussions, but we also get to see them relax and banter and support each other through some very difficult situations. I feel like in SFF we have a lot of stories about people forming relationships (which I like also, don’t get me wrong!), but we don’t have many stories about people who are in relationships. That’s something I’d like to see more of, because life doesn’t end once you get together, you know? So in some ways, this was me writing the story I wanted to read.

In the second phase I’m going to be a bit more vague, since this is well into spoiler territory. My favorite part here is the moment of truth for Kerelle’s ambitions of leaving the PsiCorp, and its immediate aftermath. It was quite fun to write, and also gives Kerelle the first nudge towards some important realizations about herself.

8. Which character was most challenging to create? Why?
Kerelle’s friend Mila, actually. She’s not even in the book that much, but she plays an important role both in helping Kerelle’s path move forward and in representing a more typical PsiCorp experience. By the time we meet Kerelle, she’s shaken off some of her childhood indoctrination; Mila has not. In her, we see how PsiCorp are supposed to act – and often do.

At the same time, though, I didn’t want her to be this one-note caricature. Yes, Mila reflects the values of her upbringing, but she really does care about Kerelle’s well-being. She genuinely tries to help Kerelle recover from loss, the only way she knows how. And I didn’t want it to feel like the story was criticizing her for the fact that the only way she was ever taught to provide emotional support is by taking someone shopping.

Most of the other characters actually developed pretty naturally – I had a good sense for who they were and their role in the story, and their voices were relatively clear from the beginning. Mila took me a couple of tries before she felt “right.”

9. What are your immediate future plans?
I’m working on a science fantasy project that’s been a lot of fun so far, that I’m hoping to be able to share more about soon. I’ve also got a longer-term series project going that’s more on the epic side, and I’ve been trying my hand more at short fiction.

About the Author:

Lena Alison Knight grew up reading space opera and high fantasy, and started writing her own as soon as she could hold a crayon steady. She lives with her husband in the San Francisco Bay Area, and when not writing she can be found taking brisk walks, haunting local coffee shops, or sprawled on the couch playing video games. Find her online at

Author Photo - Lena Alison Knight

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Starts: August 18, 2022 at 12:00am EST
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Spotlight & Excerpt: Recon, by Devon C. Ford

Recon Ebook Cover (1)

The Expansion #1
by Devon C. Ford
Genre: military sci-fi
Pages: 204
Publication date: Oct 2020

The universe is expanding, and so is humanity’s reach.

Years after clean energy ended the world’s reliance on fossil fuels, a lull of peace encompasses all of humanity. Some think we should travel to the distant corners of the galaxy, others oppose the idea, thinking that the harnessed singularity reactors are unnatural.

When a terrorist group attacks the Lunar colony, members of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force are affected in different ways.

Years later, Lieutenant Commander Kyle Torres comes face to face with old friends, as he’s thrown into an assignment that could change everything: a reconnaissance mission with huge implications for humanity and science.

Start the epic journey as Earth begins its venture into deep space, where not everything is as it seems. From Devon C Ford, the best-selling author of the hit Post-Apocalyptic series, After It Happened.




Armed men and women sprayed indiscriminate bullets everywhere as they flooded off the transport shuttle and into arrivals.

From the way The Choosers conducted the attack, it was obvious they were on a suicide mission. After the duty unit responded and drew their sidearms to concentrate their fire at the foot of the metal stairs, the invaders’ intention was clear. One of the terrorists was hit, collapsing forward with flailing limbs to make the others scatter panicked away from their downed body. Seconds later the attacker detonated, a suicide vest rigged to their biometrics blowing savagely as the heart stopped and the bomb timer started. The terrorists continued the attack, spreading out and overwhelming the too-few defenders rapidly as pockets of leaderless peacekeepers were pinned down by the superior firepower. There were no heavy-weapon platforms, no automated gun systems and no armed drone surveillance programs operating. The place was still treated as a frontier outstation.

The secured doors leading out of the area closed in their attack. Other than the hangar airlocks, the only other way out was the long service tunnel to the freight arrival dock. A large pallet containing what looked like a bomb was unloaded from the newly arrived shuttle hovering six inches from the ground, courtesy of the four repulser jets at each corner propelling it quickly across the open space toward the dome edge. The way the terrorists treated it with almost equal care and fear combined with the wires and makeup of the device screamed bomb to anyone watching.

The sporadic gun battles had faded, becoming an occasional outbreak of firing as both sides ran low on ammunition. Just as the bomb was bumped into the inner dome, a group of three UNPF burst from the access tunnel and sprayed the three terrorists arming the device. If they weren’t stopped it would rip open the dome and depressurize them all out into space.

Jake was sweating and out of breath when he reached the main arrivals hangar, more from the adrenaline than the physical exercise. Glancing around the corner, he realized they were on the near side of what looked like an explosive device. It seemed to be being rigged to blow underneath one of the main support beams of the huge dome. He ducked back and filled the others in.

“Bomb,” he said, his eyes wide with adrenalized fear. “They’re trying to blow the goddamned dome!”

“We can’t let that happen,” Torres said, stating the obvious with all the manly gusto he could summon.

“Duh,” Paterson said, embarrassing the boy. “Not if we like living.”

“On three,” Jake said as he gripped his service pistol, which felt inadequate for the challenge. “One, two… three.”

They stepped out and opened fire, dropping the three people rigging the device as the small 6mm subsonic rounds drilled into their bodies and expanded on impact. Their bodies exploded before the three ambushers reached them. Jake saw the detonator—the flashing lights of the display indicated ‘ready’ beside a red button with the clear plastic safety shield raised.

Movement to his right caught his eye as another terrorist burst into view; he was a ragged-looking man about Jake’s age but his eyes displayed none of the discipline and belief that the seaman possessed. The two men raised their guns at one another. Both pulled their triggers at the same time, and both guns clicked. Jake’s gun had run dry and the old machine gun in the hands of the terrorist jammed. Both men’s eyes went wide, and both reacted at the same time.

About the Author:

Devon is from the UK, having lived in many places until finally settling in the Midlands. His career in public services started in his teens and has provided a wealth of experiences, both good and some very bad, which form the basis of the book ideas that cause regular insomnia.

Devin c fordHe first started reading for fun as an adult, having tried his hardest to avoid anything resembling academia growing up, and at that point the world became a far bigger place. He has been reading, at least one book at a time, ever since.

His debut works, the After It Happened series, (Survival, Humanity, Society) were published in April 2016 followed by Hope (July 2016) and Sanctuary (December 2016). The first part of the series concluded with the release of Rebellion which was published in June 2017.

Storming high into the charts with the first books of the After It Happened series, Devon launched into the top 10 sellers listings in the UK, Australia, Canada and the US, and he made the decision to write full time shortly after the launch of Hope.

Devon’s self-published beginnings caused a stir in the publishing world, and resulted in contracts with Podium Publishing for Audible, narrated by R.C. Bray (The Martian, Expeditionary Force, Arisen), before a publishing deal for kindle and paperbacks with Vulpine Press.

Further works have seen the start of a multi-author series, sci-fi/post-apocalyptic cross genre, futuristic dystopian and alternative history zombie apocalypse. Spin-off books from the After It Happened world have been announced for 2018.


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