Sci-fi and romance. Put them together, and you hit that tantalizing sweet spot of cool concept, insane plot, high-tech gadgetry and sexy shenanigans. No one knows this better than author A.E. Ash. A self-proclaimed nerd, gamer and writer, whose captivating short story Luminous was a breakout hit in 2015, A.E. writes fast-paced and futuristic sci-fi romance that will hook you from the very first line. Her world building, her techie vision of the future, her spot-on prose, all of it are a gorgeous testament to her skills as a writer.
Luckily for us readers, she is back on the book scene with a new release on Aug. 15! Temporary Duty Assignment promises a sci-fi second chance at love you will not want to miss. To celebrate, A.E. joins HEA to reveal Temporary Duty Assignment’s stunning cover (from fantasy artist Reiko Murakami), plus answer a few questions about her current foodie obsessions, some romance recs and doodling when she’s bored (plus, she draws us a bonus doodle)!
About the book:
Samantha Gao is an elite Metro soldier, dedicated to the job and to her team. But following a devastating mission, Sam is handed a new temporary duty assignment. On paper, she’s supposed to babysit a Metro tech-inspector during a routine evaluation of Greenerhouse seed colony’s corporate sponsor. Sam expects to be on duty at all times, ready for whatever comes. But what she didn’t expect was to see him — Caleb — again.
Caleb Estes is an engineer at Greenerhouse and cannot believe his luck when his first love, Samantha Gao, walks into his lab — and back into his life. It’s enough to make him believe in second chances after all.
But Sam and Caleb’s reconciliation will have to wait when the routine bodyguard job goes sideways, and the future of the seed colony itself is at stake.
And now, let’s welcome A.E. Ash to HEA!
Judith: A.E., hello and welcome! Before we jump into the details of Temporary Duty Assignment, I wanted to see if you could break down the story for us … in 10 words or less!
A.E.: I will not lie, I had to do this several times. >.< In the end, I’m gonna go with this one: “kitten tee’d commando learns about love the hard way,” but some of the earlier iterations were even more absurd, haha.
Judith: Good one! Now that we’re all hooked, why don’t you go ahead and give us the real scoop behind Temporary Duty Assignment? What were the driving forces behind this novella? Is there character overlap from other works?
A.E.:IN A WORLD (no, really, I overuse this movie-trailer-voice joke, but I can’t help it, because it’s too perfect) of post-apocalyptic, post-dystopian megacities and global efforts to heal the land, one woman faces down the ghosts of her past, battles her own set-in-stone ideas about life and learns that things are not always what she believes them to be, while Caleb, the man she falls in love with again, learns that second chances can and do happen.
That would be the movie-pitch version? 🙂
In Temporary Duty Assignment, I introduce Samantha Gao, a military police officer who is the prodigy of Kitsune — the veteran assassin from my short story Nice, which introduces the world of the Metro. Nice is all action and intrigue, but Temporary Duty Assignment moves into the heart of this world, the narrative driven by themes of self-acceptance and love, hope and faith in others.
Judith: With a story so full of strong emotions and strengths and one kick-butt strong female lead, what are some books that you think readers drawn to TDA will enjoy?
A.E.: Now THAT is a tough question. I always think of the work of Sharon Shinn, who is a writer I admire profoundly — her work is speculative fiction that always and forever has heart. Her romances are believable and complex, her characters so alive … I think people who love character-driven speculative fiction with strong romance elements would enjoy her work, especially the Samaria series. 🙂
Judith: In addition to writing, you mention on your blog that you are very much a doodler. If I asked you to describe Temporary Duty Assignment in doodle form, what would that look like?
A.E.: Ha! It would have probably a city skyline spanning the page — those are so much fun to doodle because of the geometric shapes of the buildings, and repeated patterns of the city lights! Since I’m fond of curlicues, I might also add little whirls of smoke or transit rails and cars (those can loop the loop pretty nicely). I find I think things through so much differently when sketching. I did doodle a pic of a much younger Sam in my Temporary Duty Assignment notebook when I was trying to wrap my head around her character — I sometimes plot in sketchbooks so that I can do just this kind of thing.
A much younger Sam doodle from A.E.’s Temporary Duty Assignment notebook.
This is Sam from around when she first meets Caleb, which was one of my favorite scenes to write. I will note — my cover artist absolutely nailed the characters — the cover is PERFECT. ❤
Judith: Love it! I also read on your personal blog that you’re a foodie and have been known to sneak food references/scenes into your own work. Can you tell me which are your favorite literary food scenes, in your own books or others’?
A.E.: Definitely NOT Miss Havisham’s moldy, grody, cobwebby cake … blech. 😛
My favorite literary food scene, while not the most delectable in many ways, occurs in A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle … specifically, the “turkey dinner” on Camazotz. The food looks amazing … it is a full comfort meal spread (comforting at least for the people in the book). It is nutritive, apparently, and beautiful to behold, but to enjoy it, one must give over control of their mind, their senses, their own thoughts — kind of horrific. One person enjoys it and eats with gusto, while the rest must watch, horrified, or partake in food that is pretty much nutritional sand made to look like what it is not. Compared to the dinner Mrs. Murray cooks up in the lab at the beginning of the book, or Charles Wallace’s midnight hot cocoa, the grand feast is even more awful!
Judith: So after the release of Temporary Duty Assignment, what’s up next?
A.E.: Well, thank you for asking! 😀 I’m super excited about releasing the beginning of my steampunk and magic fantasy novella series this fall and am working on two YA series in the meantime. Beyond that, even I will apparently just have to wait and see!
A.E. Ash is a writer, nerd, gamer, mooncalf but not a baker or candlestick maker (and nobody said anything about butcher). She writes speculative poetry and fiction because why not make good use of an overactive imagination? Ash lives in the Midwest with her super-rad husband and her lazy cats who do nothing at all to help her on the path to world domination. You can find her on Twitter at @dogmycatzindeed or on her blog, www.aeashwrites.com.
Judith is the owner and curator of the book review site Binge on Books, as well as the boutique press Open Ink and the literary PR agency A Novel Take PR. You can also find Judith on Teen Vogue talking her favorites in queer YA and New Adult.
MORE ON HEA: See more of Judith’s posts
sci-fi romance, science fiction romance, Author interviews, Cover reveals, Top stories
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A Little History about Project Visibility©
The Boulder County Area Agency on Aging launched Project Visibility in 2004, after conducting extensive focus groups with area LGBT elders. These seniors wondered which service providers were “safe and friendly” and feared many could be unwelcoming, or even hostile.
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The Project Visibility training is designed for managers and employees of nursing homes, assisted living residences, home care agencies, and other senior service providers, as well as the friends and families of LGBT elders. The training’s cornerstone is a 21-minute, or abridged 13-minute, film in which courageous lesbians, gay men, and a trans woman speak about their lives, their strengths, wishes, and concerns about the aging services network. A Power Point helps to guide the discussion. An accompanying manual provides history, background information, terminology, resources, and practical suggestions for providing culturally-competent care and services. Trainees will learn the simple necessary steps to ensure that their service or agency is LGBT inclusive. These easy-to-use materials have been sold to agencies in 30 states and several other countries; a Train-the-Trainer Manual is also available. (See How to Order, below.)
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Project Visibility was developed by Boulder County Area Agency on Aging, a county government organization in Boulder County, Colorado. Project Visibility is funded and supported in part by Boulder County Area Agency on Aging; Aging Services Foundation of Boulder County; David Ensign Charitable Fund; Fairfield County Community Foundation – donor advised fund; Jared Polis Foundation; Open Door Fund of the Community Foundation of Boulder County; and the Daily Camera.