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Guest Blog by S.K. Dunstall: Writing a Book Together - July 17, 2015


Please welcome S.K. Dunstall to The Qwillery as part of the 2015 Debut Author Challenge Guest Blogs. Linesman was published on June 30th by Ace. You may read an interview with Sherylyn and Karen here.



Guest Blog by S.K. Dunstall: Writing a Book Together - July 17, 2015




Writing a book together

The most common question we get as writers isn’t about our books at all. It’s “How do you write a book together?”

Some co-writers ‘share’ the writing equally. The story might have two protagonists, and each writes one protagonist’s story. We do that sometimes too, but it’s not our main method of writing. For us, sharing the workload doesn’t mean we each do half of everything. We have our own strengths.

We didn’t always write together. We began by critiquing each other’s stories. We were harsh critics—because we wanted the other’s stories to be good. Somewhere along the way we started editing each other’s work. After a while we realised that the stories we worked on together like this were better than the ones we worked on alone.

So we started experimenting with different ways of writing together. We’re still experimenting, but we’ve settled into the following method for our most successful stories. This is what we used for Linesman, and it’s what we’ll use for other stories in the Linesman universe.

For us, it is important we keep the same voice throughout the story. This means one main writer for the first draft. For the Linesman series, it is Karen.

We discuss the story as Karen writes it. Over breakfast, over dinner, in the car. It absorbs our life. Most of this talking is backstory, not plot. If we over-talk the plot before we write it, it stops us dead.

First drafts are ugly. Stories aren’t written, they’re rewritten. If a writer—even a published writer—shows you their first draft, your reaction is unlikely to be, “Wow, this is a great story.” It’s more likely to be, “Hmm, how do I tell them this story needs work?”

When the first draft is done, the second writer starts fixing things. We still talk all the time about what works and what doesn’t.

Once that’s done, we have a working story.

Then we start the rewrites.

This involves multiple rereads, multiple rewrites and a lot more discussion. Whole sections of the book are rewritten, story lines added, or even taken out. If we can’t agree, we talk until we get something we both agree on. Everything has to blend together as seamlessly as possible.

Usually one writer follows along behind the other, editing the other’s rewrite.

Finally, we have a story we’re happy with.

But it doesn’t finish there. That’s just the story. Next job is to clean up the writing.

The second writer takes over the bulk of the work. For the Linesman series, this is Sherylyn. Cleaning up the prose, getting rid of pet phrases, eliminating unnecessary words. Reading and rereading the text until she can almost quote paragraphs in bulk.

Once we think the book is clean we read the whole thing aloud. We pick up lots more errors doing this.

It’s intense, even claustrophobic sometimes, and we could only do it with each other.

We’re sisters, but we’re also good friends, and we’ve been sharing stories all our life.

More, if one of us doesn’t like something we know to talk it out because we trust the other’s instincts. Eventually we’ll arrive at a solution that suits us both.

We’re honest about what works and what doesn’t.

We like the same type of writing. If we didn’t both love science fiction and fantasy we wouldn’t be writing together. If we didn’t both like the same types of characters in a story we wouldn’t be writing together. You have to be able to read the other person’s writing and think it’s not just good, but great. You have to be able to reread it dozens of times and still think that.

You still get book fatigue, where you’ve been working on a book so long you get tired of it, and then you think ‘this story stinks’. Most writers do, but that’s part of writing. You get over that.

So given it sounds like a lot of work, why do we do it?

It’s fun.

Writing is something most people do on their own. You work on your novel for months, sometimes years. If you’re lucky, you have someone close who understands and supports you, but for many you’re doing it alone. When you’re co-writing you have someone as enthusiastic about the novel as you.

It doesn’t halve the work, but it helps cut the stress. You can’t control life. You can’t control deadlines. Work and family get in the way of writing. You will get stressed. Luckily for us we have our meltdowns at different times. Karen usually stresses early in the book, when the whole thing looks huge and undoable. Sherylyn stresses as the deadline looms. We support each other and help the other through.

Most of all, we enjoy writing together. We wouldn’t have it any other way.





Linesman
Linesman 1
Ace, June 30, 2015
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 384 pages

Guest Blog by S.K. Dunstall: Writing a Book Together - July 17, 2015
First in a brand new thought-provoking science fiction series.

The lines. No ship can traverse the void without them. Only linesmen can work with them. But only Ean Lambert hears their song. And everyone thinks he’s crazy…

Most slum kids never go far, certainly not becoming a level-ten linesman like Ean. Even if he’s part of a small, and unethical, cartel, and the other linesmen disdain his self-taught methods, he’s certified and working.

Then a mysterious alien ship is discovered at the edges of the galaxy. Each of the major galactic powers is desperate to be the first to uncover the ship’s secrets, but all they’ve learned is that it has the familiar lines of energy—and a defense system that, once triggered, annihilates everything in a 200 kilometer radius.

The vessel threatens any linesman who dares to approach it, except Ean. His unique talents may be the key to understanding this alarming new force—and reconfiguring the relationship between humans and the ships that serve them, forever.





About S.K. Dunstall

Guest Blog by S.K. Dunstall: Writing a Book Together - July 17, 2015
Andrew Kopp ©2015
Karen (left) and Sherylyn (right) Dunstall
S. K. Dunstall is the pen name for Sherylyn and Karen Dunstall, sisters who have been telling stories—and sharing them with each other—all their lives. Around five years ago, they realised the stories they worked on together were much better than the stories they worked on alone. A co-writing partnership was born.


Website


Twitter @SKDunstall


Facebook




Interview with S. K. Dunstall, authors of Linesman - July 3, 2015


Please welcome S.K. Dunstall to The Qwillery as part of the 2015 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Linesman was published on June 30th by Ace.



Interview with S. K. Dunstall, authors of Linesman - July 3, 2015




TQWelcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?

Hi. We are so happy to be here.

Sherylyn:  I have never known a time when I didn’t write or tell stories. Even in primary school, Karen and I wrote stories for each other. I used to tell stories at night to my younger sisters to send them to sleep – or until I fell asleep. During the day, I would tell stories to other kids at primary school. I just loved telling stories.

Karen:  Being one of those younger sisters, I was obviously indoctrinated at an early age. Like Sherylyn, I’ve been telling stories ever since. I can’t think of a time when I haven’t been writing.



TQAre you a plotters, pantsers or hybrids?

S. K.:  Pantsers, without a doubt. Although we came across George R. R. Martin’s ‘gardeners and architects’ (via a You Tube lecture by Brandon Sanderson) and think gardener suits us better. We’re constantly rearranging the garden and trying out new plants. Rewriting parts of the book, moving things around. And weeding. My goodness, weeding words.

We plot by talking ideas. We don’t actually write these down, just get the ideas and let them percolate.

We have found that we can over-talk things and when that happens we don’t write it. So we have to balance the talking and the writing.



TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you both about writing? What is your co-writing process like?

S. K.:  The most challenging thing? Time. We like to leave our writing sit for as long as possible and come back to it fresh. Ideally, we like to write one book, put it aside and write another. Then go back to the first book and rework the whole thing. Having a contract—as wonderful and fantastic as that is—means you can’t do this. We are not fast writers, and both of us work full time.

Co-writing is so much fun. We spend hours talking stories and ideas. We’ll try different ways of co-writing, too. Sometimes we each write a different character, sometimes we write the same chapter and pick out what we want to keep. Other times one writes the first draft while the other edits.

We always talk about a story as it progresses and if one of us doesn’t like something, we talk and come up with new ideas until we can both agree.

For Linesman, we wanted to keep the voice the same across all three books, so we wrote/are writing all of them the same way, as the person who writes the first draft sets the tone for the whole book.

Every day we’ll discuss what has happened so far, and what we think might happen next. Then Karen writes a rough first draft, with Sherylyn following behind, adding comments and rewriting sections.

Once the first draft is written Sherylyn takes over the bulk of the edits, while Karen comes along behind and works on what Sherylyn has edited.

As we fine-tune the story, Sherylyn takes over more of the work. In the end, for every one time Karen reads the book and makes changes, Sherylyn re-reads it at least five times.



TQWho are some of your literary influences? Favorite authors?

Sherylyn: I read anything I could get my hands on; school adventure stories, Australian stories, science fiction, westerns. Anything except horror. Some of my favorite authors today are Anne McCaffrey, Andre Norton, Diana Wynne-Jones, Robin Hobb, Anne Bishop, to name a few. There are so many writers I love. The list would fill the page.

Karen: Likewise, anything. We’d both read out the library at our primary school years before we moved on to secondary school, and ditto there. As a child I remember reading my way through every one of those yellow covered Gollancz science fiction books I could get my hands on. Some of my favourite current authors today are Diana Wynne Jones, Robin Hobb, Vernor Vinge, Connie Willis. We both read a lot of science fiction and fantasy. We also read mysteries and thrillers. And anything else that takes our fancy.



TQDescribe Linesman in 140 characters or less.

S. K.:  A guy who repairs ships gets caught up in the discovery of an alien spaceship and the fight between two warring factions who want possession of it.



TQTell us something about Linesman that is not found in the book description.

S. K.:  Is it cheating if we say ‘sentient spaceships’? It’s not part of the description, but one of the blurbs mentions it.



TQWhat inspired you to write Linesman? What appealed to you about writing Science Fiction, especially Space Opera? What is a 'Space Opera'?

S. K.:  Space opera is science fiction action adventure in space. There’s usually a war, or fighting, and it’s not too heavily scientific, although it can be. Most importantly, it is based around the characters. Star Wars (the original) is the classic space opera. Guardians of the Galaxy is also space opera.

We love both science fiction and fantasy. There’s something about creating worlds, and making everything fit, that’s so much fun. Plus, it allows us to write things we can’t if we’re restricted to our own world. Equality, for example. A world where anyone can be an admiral and no-one cares whether they’re male or female, or white or black or purple or green.

And to explore ideas. Linesman, for example, started as a “what if” dinner-table conversation. What if humans found alien technology in space? Would they know what to do with it? What if they worked out how to use part of it, but not all of it? It’s a bit like using a Swiss army knife. Suppose you learned to use the corkscrew to open bottles of wine, but didn’t even realise anything else on the knife existed? Then, as time passed, how would what they learned about the original technology diverge into something else?



TQWhat sort of research did you do for Linesman?

S. K.:  The brain is a fascinating part of the body and there’s so much we don’t know about it. For Linesman we looked at how the brain worked—particularly how it interpreted music. Plus a bit about synaesthesia, and handedness.

We also looked at spaceship design, and realised that provided a ship didn’t need to land on a planet it isn’t constrained aerodynamically. The limitations are air and power. Thus we came up with the idea that the ships in our universe will be large, any shape, with lots of levels, and modules that can be attached as required. And anyone who’s been following Commander Chris Hadfield (excellent source of research, by the way), would know that null-g in space is undesirable if you’re going to be on a ship for long periods of time, so we had to have gravity too.



TQWho was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

S. K.:  Jordan Rossi was easy to write because he could be unpleasant and it didn’t matter.

Hardest character? That’s difficult. Each character had a life of their own and wanted to be written.

Ean was fun to write because he is such an unreliable narrator (and because he’s great), but he was probably the hardest to write too, because he could be such a wimp. He isn’t helpless, but he lets things happen to him. We had to be careful because that’s very frustrating for the reader, who just wants him to do something. It was a hard balance. We hope we got it right.



TQWhich question about Linesman do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Karen:

Q. Will Rossi have his own book?

A. I’d like to think so. I would love people to want a Rossi story.

Sherylyn: You wish. I might let him take part in another book, but he will not have a book to himself. You will have to work hard to sell me on this one.

Karen: Jordan Rossi is an unpleasant man. Confident, arrogant, always putting other people down, but I love him. Most people hate him.



TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery lines from Linesman.

Sherylyn: “The lines were crying out to be heard and no-one was listening.” Karen wrote that line and when I read it, I went cold. It held so much emotion for me.

Karen: I love the clever lines. The ones they say you should get rid of, because they’re not in the book to further the story but simply because you think they’re good. For example, after Michelle tells Ean that Abram likes him, and Ean thinks, ‘yes, and everyone sang to the lines too’. Which is a lie, because no-one except Ean sings to the lines.



TQWhat's next?

S. K.:  We’re contracted for three books in the Linesman series.

We just got the editor’s feedback on book two (Alliance), so we’re about to start working on those. Before that we were in middle of the first draft of book three. The next six weeks we’ll concentrate on Alliance, then it’s back to book three.

After we finish book three? Who knows?

There are so many books to write, so many ideas. We have a couple of science fiction stories we would love work on. One set in the Linesman world, the other a separate series. We also have an Australian fantasy we would love to finish, but that is for a distant future.



TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

S. K.:  Thank you for having us. It was a pleasure to take part.





Linesman
Linesman 1
Ace, June 30, 2015
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 384 pages

Interview with S. K. Dunstall, authors of Linesman - July 3, 2015
First in a brand new thought-provoking science fiction series.

The lines. No ship can traverse the void without them. Only linesmen can work with them. But only Ean Lambert hears their song. And everyone thinks he’s crazy…

Most slum kids never go far, certainly not becoming a level-ten linesman like Ean. Even if he’s part of a small, and unethical, cartel, and the other linesmen disdain his self-taught methods, he’s certified and working.

Then a mysterious alien ship is discovered at the edges of the galaxy. Each of the major galactic powers is desperate to be the first to uncover the ship’s secrets, but all they’ve learned is that it has the familiar lines of energy—and a defense system that, once triggered, annihilates everything in a 200 kilometer radius.

The vessel threatens any linesman who dares to approach it, except Ean. His unique talents may be the key to understanding this alarming new force—and reconfiguring the relationship between humans and the ships that serve them, forever.





About S.K. Dunstall

Interview with S. K. Dunstall, authors of Linesman - July 3, 2015
Andrew Kopp ©2015
Karen (left) and Sherylyn (right) Dunstall
S. K. Dunstall is the pen name for Sherylyn and Karen Dunstall, sisters who have been telling stories—and sharing them with each other—all their lives. Around five years ago, they realised the stories they worked on together were much better than the stories they worked on alone. A co-writing partnership was born.


Website


Twitter @SKDunstall


Facebook




Review: The Witches of Echo Park by Amber Benson


The Witches of Echo Park
AuthorAmber Benson
Series:  Witches of Echo Park 1
Publisher:  Ace, January 6, 2014
Format:  Trade Paperback and eBook, 304 pages
List Price:  $15.99 (print)
ISBN:  9780425268674 (print)
Review Copy:  Reviewer's Own

Review: The Witches of Echo Park by Amber Benson
From beloved author, director, and actress, Amber Benson...

Unbeknownst to most of humankind, a powerful network of witches thrives within the shadows of society, using their magic to keep the world in balance. But they are being eliminated—and we will all pay if their power falls…

When Elyse MacAllister’s great-aunt Eleanora, the woman who raised her, becomes deathly ill, Lyse puts her comfortable life in Georgia on hold to rush back to Los Angeles. And once she returns to Echo Park, Lyse discovers her great-aunt has been keeping secrets—extraordinary secrets—from her.

Not only is Lyse heir to Eleanora’s Victorian estate; she is also expected to take her great-aunt’s place in the Echo Park coven of witches. But to accept her destiny means to place herself in deadly peril—for the world of magic is under siege, and the battle the witches now fight may be their last…


Amber and Qwill's talk about The Witches of Echo Park and more in this video interview.



Brandon's Review

Elyse MacAllister is a woman with a green thumb struggling to keep her small business afloat when she receives a call about her ailing great aunt, who raised her. She rushes off in a fugue to answer the call of family in need. But thrust into this turmoil she is asked to accept the existence of witches and the need for witches to help keep the world balanced amidst a rise in dark forces and a sudden drought of Dreamers. Dreamers are the backbone of witch culture and have true dreams of the future and hope for the future lies in the Echo Park coven.

If you’ve read any of Amber Benson’s other series you’ll notice a similarity in flavors and subject matters. There are a host of strong female characters to choose from in terms of having someone to identify with, but different here is the almost exclusive focus on women and both how women relate to each other as friends, lovers, and family and how that influences the world around them.
I think the character that caught and kept me reading was Hessika. A gruff seeming witch who was the coven’s last Dreamer. She continues to reach out into the future as a ghost to help keep the coven safe and on the path to preserving the world at large. There is something about the smoking and gruff Hessika that appeals to me.

The plot for the series, as explored through this novel, is nothing new to the genre. Witches must unite to battle rising darkness with inheritance and loss a driving force for some of the changes. If you enjoy lighter reads that don’t rely on flowcharts for character histories and family genealogies I think you’ll like this.

Something to really cherish about The Witches of Echo Park is the exploration of the way many different friends and personalities can co-exist to make their world better.  Benson is a solid author and I look forward to seeing what the series holds in store for the Witches of Echo Park.




Upcoming

The Last Dream Keeper
Witches of Echo Park 2
Ace, January 5, 2016
Trade Paperback and eBook

Review: The Witches of Echo Park by Amber Benson
In the second Witches of Echo Park novel, one coven must keep the world in balance and stand against a rising darkness.

Lyse MacAllister did not step into an easy role when she took over as master of the Echo Park coven of witches after her great-aunt Eleanora’s death. As she begins to forge the bonds that will help her lead her sisters, she struggles to come to terms with her growing powers. And she soon faces a deadly new threat. A group of fanatics intent on bringing about the end of times has invaded the witches Council—but the Council is turning a blind eye to the danger growing in its midst.

Only one witch is prophesied to be able to stop the encroaching darkness. And if Lyse and her blood sisters are to have any chance at protecting all we know from being lost forever, they must keep her safe—no matter what the cost…

Review: The Diamond Conspiracy by Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris


The Diamond Conspiracy
Author:  Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris
Series:  The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences 4
Publisher:  Ace, March 31, 2015
Format:  Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 368 pages
List Price:  $7.99  (print)
ISBN:  9780425267325 (print)
Review Copy:  Provided by the Publisher

Review: The Diamond Conspiracy by Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris
For years, the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences has enjoyed the favor of Her Majesty the Queen. But even the oldest loyalties can turn in a moment…

Having narrowly escaped the electrifying machinations of Thomas Edison, Books and Braun are looking forward to a relaxing and possibly romantic voyage home. But when Braun’s emergency signal goes off, all thoughts of recreation vanish. Braun’s street-wise team of child informants, the Ministry Seven, is in grave peril, and Books and Braun must return to England immediately.

But when the intrepid agents finally arrive in London, the situation is even more dire than they imagined. The Ministry has been disavowed, and the Department of Imperial Inconveniences has been called in to decommission its agents in a most deadly fashion. The plan reeks of the Maestro’s dastardly scheming. Only, this time, he has a dangerous new ally—a duplicitous doctor whose pernicious poisons have infected the highest levels of society, reaching even the Queen herself…


Melanie's Thoughts

Book four of The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences series The Diamond Conspiracy starts not long after my favourite heroes escape certain death in Dawns Early Light. For those of you who have been following the series will remember that the two agents had come to a 'romantic understanding' in book 3 and this instalment starts with Books and Braun getting to know each other a bit more intimately. However, it’s all bad news back in London. Braun's band of street urchins, The Ministry of Seven are about to come very close to their last ever mission. In the midst of a normal snatch 'n' grab one of the seven is captured by an evil doctor. It's not long before Books and Braun are summoned back to London, determined to find the missing child. They however, discover something far more fiendishly evil is in play with the Ministry in ruins, it’s agents on the run from the Department of Imperial Inconveniences and The Maestro about to take the entire empire on behalf the Queen. It’s all hands on deck to save the Ministry and themselves from whatever nefarious plans The Maestro has up his sleeve.

Everything was turned on its head in The Diamond Conspiracy with the Ministry agents being hunted down by the Department of Imperial Inconveniences. It made for a rather exciting twist in the story and introduces or re-introduces us to more of the Ministry's agents. The writing duo of Ballantine and Morris felt the need to emphasize the horror of what was happening to the agents by describing the horrific murder of one of my favourite Ministry agents from the Ministry Protocols short stories not once, but twice.  I enjoyed the return of awesome Aussie, agent Bruce Campbell even though I wasn't that fond of him in the previous books. I think I liked him so much more because he was almost handed his butt on more than one occasion by one of the Department's more dedicated female agents, Beatrice Muldoon. The chapters involving Ministry's female enemies were some of my favourites. Beatrice was an excellent adversary but she didn't hold a candle to Sophia Del Morte. Sophia found that the Maestro and Dr. Hyde had gone one step too far in their evil plans so in order to save her own very attractive but evil bacon she takes the most unpredictable course of action.  To tell more would be too spoilery!

The Diamond Conspiracy could have just as easily been called 'the big reveals'. Ballantine and Morris serve up a plethora of uncovered secrets. Books' learns more about his father when he returns to his childhood home. What he discovers is far worse than he ever imagined. I wasn't totally surprised but thought there were a few good twists in store for my favourite character.  One of the biggest reveals was the  mystery surrounding Dr. Sound and the 'the Restricted Area' that had me silently shouting 'nnnoooooooooooooooo'. I felt let down that Ballantine and Morris decided to use other people, both real and fictional, as plot points.

I absolutely love this series. I love the characters (especially Books), I love the setting, the steampunkiness and the secrets and intrigue are second to none. Why is it in book number 4 where everything is ripe for maximum enjoyment that I have to say....and I can barely type it ...that I was disappointed? I felt let down by the crossover of other characters. Ballantine and Morris are so imaginative, not just in this series but in all their others and I think this is why I was so disappointed. I will say that despite my disappointment this is still a good book, a fantastic series and check out the cracking cover. Love it! I wouldn't want anyone to miss out on any of the adventures of Books and Braun so if you haven't indulged I suggest you start at the beginning with Phoenix Rising.

Retro Reviews: Courageous by Jack Campbell



Retro Reviews: Courageous by Jack Campbell


Courageous
Series:  The Lost Fleet 3
Author:  Jack Campbell
Original Publisher and Date:  Ace, December 18, 2007
Still in Print: Yes
Current Formats and Length: Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 320 pages
     Used: Trade Paperback (Titan Books)
Availability:  Online and in stores
ISBN:  9780441015672 (print)

Retro Reviews: Courageous by Jack Campbell
Brief History

Jack Campbell is an pseudonym for John G. Hemry. John G. Hemry is a retired U.S. Navy Officer and a son of U.S. Navy officer, who was a mustang, a Navy term that describes an enlisted sailor who rises in rank to become an officer. Hemry spent his childhood traveling the globe as his father served in the Navy (Florida, California and Midway Island to name a few). He graduated from the U.S. Navy Academy in 1978. He learned Russian from a relative of Tolstoy. He currently lives in Maryland with his wife and three kids. Hemry is also a member of the SFWA Muskateers. Hemry's first published story was "One Small Spin" in Analog Magazine, September 1997 issue. Hemry's first published novel is Stark's War, April 2000 (written as John G. Hemry). He has written twenty-one novels to date.

The first book in the Lost Fleet series, Dauntless, was published in 2006. There are six books in The Lost Fleet series. A newer series that ties in with it called The Lost Fleet: Beyond the Frontier currently has four books (a fifth will be published in May 2015). The Lost Stars series also takes place in the same universe, but from the view point of a different main character, and presently consists of three books.

Description

Badly damaged and low on supplies, the Alliance Fleet is raiding Syndic mines for raw materials--and Captain "Black Jack" Geary hopes they can continue to remain one step ahead of their enemies. But the Syndics are the least of Geary's worries when he learns of the existence of aliens with the power to annihilate the human race.


Brannigan's Review

I picked up my copy of Courageous on a whim at my local used bookstore about a month ago mostly because I liked the cover, and I enjoy military science fiction more than any other sub-genre. It wasn't until I got home that I noticed it was book three in a series, which can be a daunting read. I have never read anything by Jack Campbell and I hate reading books out of order because I can never be sure how lost I'm going to be in the story or how long it'll take to get into the book. Campbell quickly put my mind at ease. Within a few pages, I knew all the basics of what was going on and even some clues as to what had happened before. All the major key points in the story were explained clearly and even the characters were introduced with enough information from the get go to keep the confusion down to a minimum.

Courageous has a wonderful pacing and description that made me feel like I was on the space ship Dauntless with Captain John “Black Jack” Geary, a futuristic mix between Rip Van Winkle and King Arthur, as he struggles to find a safe way home in enemy space. Campbell eludes to the past history of the Navy as far back to ships powered by sail, which adds a nice romantic touch to the past that blends well with futuristic ships in space.

At the heart of the story, Courageous is a chase book—Captain Geary commands a fleet of alliance spaceships that are being attacked by enemy ships at every turn. Campbell shines as he explores the reality and drama of everyday military ship life. While there are great battles between the warring ships, there's more drama in the struggle to keep the fleet up and running and working as one.

Captain Geary is an interesting character, a man who awoke to find himself in the future and called to lead. He struggles with the myth of who he was prior to his sleep and who he truly is. At times he takes advantage of his myth, but for the most part he almost forces himself to reject this “Black Jack” who everyone loves. Campbell does a masterful job of exploring this topic and the struggle. The supporting cast is well developed and helps balance out the story.

It's a straight-forward science fiction novel with future technology in a human-only universe—so far. The book hints there may be an alien civilization lingering on the edge of the universe. None of the technology is mind-blowingly different than what you'll find in other science fiction books, but I did enjoy some of the military tech used in the battles.

My only criticism would be that at times I felt a little bogged down in the descriptions of the actual directions the ships were going in the midst of the battles. I feel this is more my fault as I have little understanding of navigation, however it does add a sense of realism. The only other complaint I have is I would have liked to know the characters better by the end of the book. I was thoroughly engaged in their struggles, but I don't feel as if I know them personally that well. Granted, this is book three in a six book series so there's a chance the characters were established more fully in the previous two books.

Courageous is a top-notch military sci-fi novel with a heavy emphasis on the Navy. There's plenty of realism mixed with future tech. I found the struggles engaging and the end of the story rewarding. There are plenty of great battles and thought-provoking ideas to keep anyone entertained. As it is a military novel, there is violence but nothing graphic, light to no language and only implied adult situations so I can recommend it to teen and adult readers. This is definitely a book to check out at the library or borrow from a friend. If you enjoy it, you should have no problem finding the rest of the books in the series. I enjoyed myself so much that I'll be keeping my eye out for more books in the series on my next trip to the bookstore.

Favorite Quote:

“Not gladly, not embracing death as some key to heroic salvation, but because she knew others would be counting on her. In the end, that was what it was all about. Do what was needed for those counting on you, or let them down.” Captain Geary thinking about Captain Dejani and the crew of the Dauntless. p. 273

Review: Grave Matters by Lauren M. Roy


Grave Matters
Author:  Lauren M. Roy
Series:  Night Owls 2
Publisher:  Ace, February 24, 2015
Format:  Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 304 pages
List Price:  $7.99 (print)
ISBN:  9780425272497 (print)
Review Copy:  Provided by the Publisher

Review: Grave Matters by Lauren M. Roy
Night Owls bookstore always keeps a light on and evil creatures out. But, as Lauren M. Roy’s thrilling sequel continues, even its supernatural staff isn’t prepared for the dead to come back to life…

Elly grew up training to kill things that go bump in the night, so she’s still getting used to working alongside them. While she’s learned to trust the eclectic group of vampires, Renfields, and succubi at Night Owls bookstore, her new job guarding Boston’s most powerful vampire has her on edge—especially when she realizes something strange is going on with her employer, something even deadlier than usual…

Cavale isn’t thrilled that his sister works for vampires, but he’s determined to repair their relationship, and that means trusting her choices—until Elly’s job lands all of the Night Owls in deep trouble with a vengeful necromancer. And even their collective paranormal skills might not be enough to keep them from becoming part of the necromancer’s undead army…



Trinitytwo's Point of View

Grave Matters by Lauren M. Roy is the second in the Night Owl series which features a sensational array of supernatural characters. Book two picks up about a month after the events of its predecessor and although Roy fills in all the blanks to allow this installment to stand alone, I think the reader would get a much better flavor for the world of Night Owls if they start with book one, Night Owls. (Click here for review.)

Vampire Valerie McTeague owns Night Owls, a bookstore that caters to the nocturnal crowd. Staffed by Chaz, Val’s Renfield, and Justin, a newly turned vampire, the bookstore and its surrounding area are a hub of paranormal activities. Val and her crew have joined forces with Elly and her brother Cavale, both former members of the mysterious Brotherhood. Elly and Cavale are well-versed in the all things mystical and especially the laying to rest of a variety of monsters, either by magical means or lethal force. In Grave Matters, a renegade necromancer is raising the dead and causing havoc within the circles of their small community. To further complicate matters, Elly’s new boss, the powerful leader of a nearby vampire coven, is keeping her busy dealing with a rival group of vamps who are trying to edge into his territory.

I like this series. It’s entertaining and dark at the same time. Roy does a great job of fleshing out her characters while dealing with the emotional complexities and conflicts that come with such a diverse group of supernaturals. Physically badass but emotionally vulnerable Elly continues to be my favorite character. Elly is now living with her brother Cavale, which alternates from being awkward to endearing. Elly is new to the concept of friendships and it’s interesting to see how she handles the relationships she is beginning to forge with the Night Owls crew. I find Cavale fascinating and liked discovering more about his talents and flaws. I really enjoy his interactions with his sister as well as his occult work at Hecate’s Cabinet as a Tarot reader. Chaz, realizing he is now physically the weakest link, begins self defense training with succubi Lia and Sunny. His attempts to keep up with the other members of the group are admirable; I respect his motives, but he somehow rubs me the wrong way and I’m not really sure why. Grave Matters is at its best for me when our heroes are kicking supernatural ass and taking names, but I’m also happy with the way they support one another in the face of the unspeakable and always have each other’s backs. Grave Matters is an enjoyable read and if the pace lags a tiny bit from time to time, the satisfying climax more than makes up for it. I would definitely recommend this book and the series to lovers of paranormal adventures.

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