Zara – A Name Among The Stars – SciFi Adv/Rom – Episode 6

Early release of episode 6, as I’m away at the weekend.

Some research on my readers … please answer a question or two: 🙂 (Or leave a comment)

Who do you visualize for these characters? (Or for non-visual people, which well-known book characters do they most resemble?)

Name other books  you’ve enjoyed in the genres (i.e. SciFi, Adventure, Romance).

Which is your favorite scene or part-scene so far?

Are the non-standard names distracting?

If you flicked back through previous episodes, which scene/detail had you forgotten?

Thank you! Enjoy!



I have had to remove the episodes I posted here to fall into line with Amazon’s policies on Kindle Unlimited books.

The full novel is available on Amazon:




When I post stories on my blog, they will remain for at least a month after completion.

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About Mark Henwick

I was born in Africa and left out in the sun too often. An early interest in philosophy and psychology was adequately exorcised by tending bars. And while trying to enroll in a class to read Science Fiction full time, I ended up taking an engineering degree which splendidly qualified me to move into marketing. That in turn spawned a late onset career in creative writing. When not working, I get high by the slightly less conventional means of a small light aircraft. My first books are available on Amazon at

32 responses to “Zara – A Name Among The Stars – SciFi Adv/Rom – Episode 6”

  1. weberse says :

    Mark, right now I really, really hate you with a vengeance! Don’t you dare get lost on your trip and leave me hanging off that cliff!

  2. azrm says :

    Wow! This story rocks! I really liked the tuned up first chapters, and this story arc is great! I’m not loving reading it a week at a time…the suspense is killing me!!

  3. azrm says :

    About those questions. I read a lot, and am comfortable with the use of non-traditional names. In fact, “common” names would detract from the believability of the story. I rarely associate the characters with people I am familiar with unless I have watched a movie that depicts those same characters. I have been reading Sci-Fi for 50 years…there are no new concepts, just unique ways of presenting them. You are doing that nicely.

  4. Ladygeeke says :

    Daisy Ridley for Zara!
    Names are names. As long as they’re not all consonants I can usually cope.

  5. colleenjc says :

    I don’t mind non-traditional names and even expect them in SciFi but I have DNF’d a few books because the names are just so weird they pull me out of the story.

  6. Sarah L says :

    Hi Mark, I have to confess that I have only just got round to catching up on Zara and I can say I have mixed emotions – cross with myself because I’ve been missing out on something as completely amazing as this, and glad because I got to enjoy it all in one sitting! Now I’m with everyone else, champing at the bit to find out what happens next. I have a love hate relationship with great serials like this, the wait is agony but I can’t stop myself from getting my weekly ‘fix’ 😃

    I absolutely love Zara, I found her relatable from the very first moment and I always want to find out more. Bring on the action, I can’t get enough of it! As to your questions, by far and away my favourite part was meeting Shohwa, learning about the ship and its security team. I keep waiting for more contact, as I’m sure Shohwa is watching somehow, having had her AI curiosity piqued. I haven’t read much Syfy, although I like watching it as a TV genre. I read mostly UF, then fantasy, a small amount of romance and I do like crime/mystery/adventure thrown in. As to the use of names, I like the middle ground of yours, unusual without being a string of unrecognisable letters. Appealing, not distracting at all. As for an image in my mind’s eye of characters, the only clear vision I have so far is of Zara herself and a fairly close fit for me would be Rashida Jones, but then when she is young.

    Absolutely fabulous read as always, your words never cease to capture me.

    • Mark Henwick says :

      Thanks Sarah.

      I’m getting the impression that people are finding the cliffhangers tense and there’s not enough in each episode. I think I have to make the cliffs higher and the episodes longer. That would mean, however, a longer wait between episodes. 🙂

      The Shohwa wasn’t supposed to be quite such episode (although the ship & crew do return later), but I’m glad so many enjoyed it. Maybe an additional couple of scenes will have to come out of the love. Rashida would work.

  7. Shannon says :

    Who do you visualize for these characters? (Or for non-visual people, which well-known book characters do they most resemble?)

    — Shelley Hennig or Summer Glau

    Name other books you’ve enjoyed in the genres (i.e. SciFi, Adventure, Romance).

    –Anything by Nial Teasdale, Nalini Singh’s Guild hunter series, Ella Summers Legion of Angels series

    Which is your favorite scene or part-scene so far?

    –The realization that she has become “interesting” to an entity whose power is almost god like and totally non-human. that “I am so screwed” moment

    Are the non-standard names distracting?

    –Not as long as they don’t make bronze age Welsh names as pronounceable as “Bob” or “Dan”. That being said, a compelling story can earn a bit of forgiveness for funky names. In Nial Teasdale’s Thaumatology series there is a historical figure named “Gorefguhadget”. My brain always reads it as “Gore-forget-about-it”

    • Mark Henwick says :

      Thanks Shannon!

      Shelley Hennig & Summer Glau would work! Everyone has come up with interesting takes on Zara.

      Enjoyed a couple of Nial. I have Legion of Angels on the tbr. I Had a problem with one of Nalini’s books that I will have to return to.

      The Shohwa scenes came out bigger than I intended!

      I’ll keep working on the names. There are only a couple more to come. I’ll explain about the names in a separate post.

  8. T says :

    “There’s an unconscious man lying on the floor, head and chest swathed in new bloody bandages, arm in a splint. A woman is kneeling alongside him. She’s cleaning blood from her hands with the fixed determination of someone suffering from shock.

    Warwick is standing at the bar, arguing with a man and a woman. The man’s the one who just called me a drunken tramp, and I piece together that this is Gaude, and he’s the manager for Cardu, which is an estate, not a town. The woman’s a doctor, and her patient lying on the floor is the worst injured victim of an accident. He’s near death and they need to get him to hospital urgently.”

    I found this section confusing, even after reading through it several times. I think it would be better if you replaced that scene with dialogue between Gaude, Warwick, and the doctor. I think it would be better to hear what Zara hears as she pieces together what’s happening.

    • Mark Henwick says :

      Interesting! Thanks. My original sketch of this scene had all the victims of the accident lying on the floor of the bar or sitting, dazed in chairs. Zara learned what had gone on / what was being argued about as she helped with the injured. The trouble with that was it made it too long for the purpose the scene had, so I cut it right down without dialogue. Maybe I should look at it again. It is supposed to be a little abrupt & confused to mirror the feeling that Zara has – just woken up and angry as a nest of hornets about being judged.

  9. Richard says :

    I visualize Zara as being a non-descript woman. Her personality and skills are what makes her unique and memorable. Gina Carano, very pretty but can get lost in a crowd. Thin her down a bit and she would be Zara


    I like the scene with the AI (it feels like the start of something important) and is slightly surreal
    I really like the scene at the end were she is yelling at the duke I can’t wait for her to tell him that the documents are real. They think she is the other candidate with another name. Assumptions can cause some embarrassing situations.
    I like names being non-standard, it enhances the cultural differences.
    At the same time non-standard names can adversely affect the immersion in the story. People operate on associations, the southern river, the mountains to the north, the castle, john, david, jane. They remember words and names they use a lot and associate them with people places and things. Unknown words, including names only build associations over time and use. Easily pronounced names can help this process.
    My mind says AI, duke/governor, amazon, bartender, ect… with more exposure the names will sink into my mental pictures.
    For some reason I see the AI or the Amazon being the romantic interest, or both?

    • Mark Henwick says :

      Gina would work!

      Everyone loves Shohwa! 🙂

      I telegraphed that this last cliffhanger isn’t actually a cliffhanger, which you have spotted. Maybe I should obscure it again.

      I will post separately about the names.

      I was just about to write and explain who is the romantic interest and why, when I just ran out of pixels again. Damn!

  10. weiglsa says :

    You are a truely evil bastard. This is the first time your cliffhangers realy seam to get to me.
    I can’t think of an english book character -only german ones (“leandra“ from “das geheimnis von askir“ by “richard schwartz“ comes to my mind).
    I like the anita blake series.
    The scene I enjoyed the most is the tea ritual.
    I like the names and for me as a not native speaker, they are not distracting (in general I have the most problems if too many names start with the same letter)
    I can remember the events until now quite good -the parts whitch seam most unclear are chapter 7 and 8.
    Really enjoyed the story so far.

    • Mark Henwick says :

      I wear my evilness well, though. 🙂

      I will have to see if I can read the German books you mention! (That would take me a *long* time).

      Anita Blake is a standard bearer for this genre. I enjoyed all the early ones.

      Everyone seems to have enjoyed the Shohwa and the tea ceremony. I didn’t expect it to do so well! This means I will have to write more about them and add in some other Asian rituals as background.

      I will look at chapters 7 & 8 again before I publish.


  11. Janine says :


    Loving this new serial. Hate you for doing this to us. Reminds me of when Ilona Andrews has a new “Inn Keeper” book going. Maddening yet utterly addictive. I think Brandon Sanderson did something similar to this format also.

    The series I am most likely to relate this (just by the few chapters you’ve posted) is the Michael Anderle Kutherian Gambit. Kick ass series that now has several spin off authors writing their own books and is absolutely enthralling.

    Sci Fi/Space Opera is about my favorite genre lately. That’s the feel I’m getting from Zara. there may be some romance but it doesn’t seem to drive the story. There’s more to the plot than the sheets which is lovely to see. Keep up the excellent work and know that as soon as its done i’ll still buy the e-book.

    • Mark Henwick says :

      Thanks Janine.

      What schedule & length of episode did Ilona Andrews use with the Inn Keeper?

      I’ve read a couple of Michael Anderle boks and I note how many co-operative projects he’s kicking off! Spectacular!

      Romance is coming, but I’ve just enjoyed the scene-setting and adventure too much! 🙂

      • Janine says :

        I think she was trying for every Friday but sometimes life got in the way. She published 3 books that way and then at the conclusion of each book did final edits and put them on Amazon.

        Keep up with the world building. Its very satisfying to read and will come in handy later when you are on later books and all the ground work is laid. I can imagine its much more draining mentally having your characters actually “function” in their reality but from a readers viewpoint, its much more engrossing. I’m already hearing Saskia Maarleveld doing the Audible book. (She is the narrator for Helen Harper’s Blood Destiny series)

        As always, love your work and am looking forward to reading what comes next. I hope this new venture is wildly successful both to your muse and commercially.

        • Mark Henwick says :

          Thanks Janine. I will have a listen to Saskia. Whether I go to audio or not is dependent on how popular it is. It’s very difficult to tell exactly how many readers there are on the site. Any one day there could be well over 150, but does 7 days with 150 a day mean 1050 readers?

          I hope I will be able to add a little bit of polish before publishing. I may publish on reaching 3/4 of the way through, especially if I can find a really horrendous cliffhanger! 🙂

  12. ptitelau says :

    Hi, this is a great serial, I love it. The names are not a distraction at all as I’m a big reader, I read everything from science fiction to fantasy, with a big heaping of romance thrown in so encounter a lot of different types of names.

    Usually, I’ll discover an author, fall in love and read everything from that author until I get fed up or fall out of love.

    However, I’m not big on visualization, especially of people, so the heroine doesn’t remind me of anyone physically, except maybe makes me think of one of Ilona Andrews’ novella, Silent blade.

    But most importantly the story reminds me of Jane Eyre, with a bit of wuthering heights thrown in for the decor. Which is great because the heroine sounds much more kick ass, and I had loved the atmosphere and poignancy of the book (Jane Eyre).

    Looking forward to the rest, where I guess we’ll realise Gaude has mistaken her for the other one who applied for the position. + Maybe there, her real name is renown and they’ll think she stole in.
    Ze plot thickens…

    • Mark Henwick says :

      Thank you!
      I will need to look up Silent Blade.
      Interesting that you see the historical romance approach. I actually re-read Jane Eyre in preparation and also Victoria Holt’s Mistress of Mellyn. Both of them (and many others of the genre like Wuthering Heights and Poldark) have the wild and isolated setting. I’ve taken the ‘trope’ of having the lady, of ultimately good family, not immediately or obviously beautiful, unsuccessful in the basics of romance, with the family fallen on hard times and faced with difficult employment circumstances, etc etc so I’m following in some pretty big footsteps here. I have updated and injected adventure with ‘hard times’ involving people trying to kill Zara and I’ve given her some of the skills to survive. Add to that the SciFi flavours of AI and the original inhabitants of the land, stir together and see how it turns out.

      Yes, I have made it a bit obvious that Gaude has mistaken her. I did wonder about increasing the tempo by them also recognising her true name as a Name Among The Stars, but I’ve backed away from that in the next few chapters on the basis that each planet would be very familiar with their own founders, but not necessarily those of other planets, especially where they were in different phases of expansion.

      I am enjoying myself 🙂

      • ptitelau says :

        For Silent blade, it’s more in the tone of the book. And to be quite honest, the reader’s experience depends a lot of their mood at the time.

        Enjoying yourself is the most important, have fun!

  13. Vroni says :

    Ilona Andrews tried to do fridays with the innkeepers. If they could not make it, they leave a message on the Blog. The serial chapters were on a separate Site.
    They also had readers complaining about cliffhangers, too short chapters, etc.
    Whatever you do, we will complain while reading and rereading the available parts. Good writing Time! Vroni

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