7 Rated Books 8 Rated Books Book Reviews Joint Review

Joint Review: Gabriel’s Ghost

Title: Gabriel’s Ghost

Author: Linnea Sinclair

Genre: Sci-fi Romance

Stand Alone or Series: Book one of a trilogy around the central characters

Summary: (from amazon.com)

After a decade of cruising interstellar patrol ships, former Captain Chasidah Bergren, onetime Pride of the Sixth Fleet, finds herself court-martialed for a crime she didn’t commit—and shipped off to a remote prison planet from which no one ever escapes. But when she kills a brutal guard in an act of self-defense, someone even more dangerous emerges from the shadows. Gabriel Sullivan—alpha mercenary, smuggler, and rogue—is supposed to be dead. Yet now this seductive ghost from Chaz’s past is offering her a ticket to freedom—for a price. Someone in the Empire is secretly breeding jukors: vicious and uncontrollable killing machines that have long been outlawed. Gabriel needs Chaz to help him stop the practice before it decimates imperial space. For Chaz, it’s a matter of survival. For Sully it means facing the truth about who—and what—he really is. The mission means putting their lives on the line—but the tensions that heat up between them may be the riskiest part of all.


First Impressions

Ana: I read the first 40 pages and was prepared to quit reading. It starts with the Strong Heroine, in dire straights, being rescued by The Rogue Hero, who wants her help to bring down The Evil Empire – there is even The Space Ship and the Band Of Brothers. I was like, oh noes, not another one. But because I am nothing if not resilient, I kept going and I am glad I did, because the book turned out to be a very gripping read, and I ended up liking it very much. Although I thought of this book more as a romance than as a sci-fi story, both were equally well done in my opinion. I wouldn’t say it is the most original book out there, readers of both sci fi and romance will probably recognize the over-used premise and the mechanisms of a Alpha Male-His Female relationship. But the book is well written, the sci-fi gimmicks are cool and well described, there are a few surprising twists and interesting underlying religious themes and above all, a Desert Island worthy Hero.

Thea: I actually almost put this book down as well when I first started it–having only recently read the debacle (in my opinion) that was Grimspace, I was loathe to read an eerily similar story. However. As Ana said, we are resilient, and I would not give up without a fight! Certainly I had finished much worse a book, and decided to give Ms. Sinclair an honest chance…and I am so very glad I did. While Grimspace and this book share an amount of similarities, Gabriel’s Ghost delivers on all the levels that Ms. Aguirre’s book falls flat on–and lumping both those books together would be doing a disservice to Gabriel’s Ghost. This is most certainly a romance at its core–but when you have characters that are this compelling, in a world that makes sense with some heftier background themes and a strong plot, what more could you really ask for!? While the romance theme is strong, there is also a strong sci-fi element; more along the lines of Star Wars or Star Trek. Even though those examples do not employ “science” per se nor do they follow the rules of physics, we love them anyways because of the characters and the all-encompassing plot. Gabriel’s Ghost fits firmly in this category, and is a highly enjoyable, quick read.

On the plot

Former Fleet Captain Chasidah Bergem (Chaz for short) has been accused and court-marshaled for a crime she did not commit. Sent to Moabar, an outer rim prison planet that is impossible to escape from, she had only recently arrived when danger meets her head-on. As the book opens she had just been attacked by a Takan, one of the furry creatures who work as prison guards (think Wookie). Narrowly avoiding rape by killing the Takan guard, Chaz hears the voice of a Ghost. She finds herself in the dark with none other than Gabriel “Sully” Sullivan–wealthy poet turned mercenary, who everyone thought was dead for the past two years…and with whom Chaz had a passing fling, years before. As a Captain of a Fleet ship, Chaz has met and pursed Sully’s shenanigans many times in the past in a game of cat and mouse. What in the world is Sully doing there? To rescue her, making an offer she can’t refuse – he will help her escape from Moabar if she helps him with his mission. Chaz, while no smuggler or pirate, is down on her luck and prospects…and then a murderous killing creature, known as a Jukor, arrives on the scene. Jukors are nearly invincible, and they are vile, evil creatures–for this reason, they have been outlawed throughout the Empire. So, when one happens upon Chaz and Sully, Chaz is beside herself with fear. Sully manages to take it down, but it becomes clear that he knows something about the Jukors, and that her recruitment for his mission is involved with this somehow.

Still on Moabar, the pair moves to a Takan monastery where they must wait for a couple of hours before they can board the shuttle that will take them to their ship. There she meets his friend and crew member, Ren. Chaz is terrified. Ren is a Stolorth, a humanoid alien who, she was taught back at the Academy, have telepathic powers that can wipe people’s minds. Stolorths are feared all over the universe. But Ren, being blind – Stolorths need to have eye contact to use their powers – is quite harmless albeit still with some degree of telepathy and empathy. Even tough she is rather uneasy, she accepts his presence and is then informed of what their mission entails. Someone has been breeding Jukors through raping and imprisoning unwilling Takan females. What’s more is, a Jukor’s birth is along the lines of the movie Alien–the gestation period occurs in the female Taka’s body, and when the baby has reached full size, it eats and claws its way out of the host, killing her. The gen-lab is situated in the Markers Shipyards, halfway across the galaxy. This is the reason for Chaz’s involvement as she grew up in Markers, and as an adept pilot she knows her way around the shipyard, through both legitimate and less legitimate channels.

And this is how the most interfering bitch of the galaxy and the most handsome of bastards must face in numerous perils, get around the galaxy without being captured, to try to destroy their target whilst at the same time, dealing with their undeniable feelings for each other – feelings that have been in limbo for the past few years when they were on opposite sides of the law but that now must be dealt with. But not before some unsettling truths about who or what Sully really is come to surface.

Ana: If at first things appeared to be just the same old space romp storyline, I was soon sucked into the story. I thought the development of the plot was very well done, especially for the detailed descriptions of the sci fi aspects. For example how everything inside the spaceship had a place or number or a name. I liked the fact that Chaz had a wrist knife that was described and explained with minutia. I think this is where part of the strength of the book lies – that Mrs Sinclair can start with a premise that has been used several times but build interesting and unexpected twists on top of that. There are also religious undertones to the plot with the exploration of blindness fanaticism against things that people don’t comprehend and don’t care to understand, giving room to the more painful and heart wrenching aspects of the story.

The action sequences were very well done, specially the final one, my heart was pounding on my chest. I LOVE the fact that things were not miraculously resolved in the end – quite the contrary, there is a setback to their mission which has turned even more dangerous now.

And that is only the sci-fi aspect – the romantic storyline was amazing. Again my first impression was to roll my eyes at the fact that things were happening too quickly, that them getting together was just out there too soon and too fast but it became clear that those feelings have been there for a long, long time. Every single thing, development and small detail of their relationship , be it their conversations, or the more physical aspects have a reason and an explanation. Nothing is there by chance. I love that.

Thea: I am a sucker for a good plot–and Ms. Sinclair does it with flair. As Ana says, the book follows all the conventions–both scifi and romantic. The Evil Empire, the damaged Hero, the understanding yet strong heroine. I am one of those of the belief that highly original “new” ideas are incredibly hard to come by, and even if the premise is hardly groundbreaking, the writing, the characters, and the level of detail Ms. Sinclair injects into her universe make it all worth it. The “what” is a given–it’s the “how” that captures us.

Certainly there are some annoying repetitive phrases (the interfering beautiful bitch and handsome bastard use gets a little tiresome after a while, and should I ever see and angel hearts stars card I will torch that sucker into oblivion), but the author has a distinct, almost spoken-word poetic style to her writing that you can’t help but admire. Ms. Sinclair is incredibly deliberate with each of her sentences–and this follows for the plotting as well. Everything is there for a reason, and all those reasons will be revealed in due time. I love it when an author picks up all the seemingly innocuous story lines and leaves no loose ends, and Ms. Sinclair falls firmly into this category.

Romantically, I’ll preface my opinion by stating I am not a romantic person by nature. I laugh through love scenes. I find the word “nipple” hilarious. It takes a lot to win my romantic vote. That said, I can safely add Chaz and Sully to the list of couples that I found myself gunning for the whole way. Again, as Ana mentioned, there was the initial fear that the attraction between Chaz and Sully was going to be some stupid too-much-too-fast type of deal. To be perfectly frank, I find this a common falling in many romantic stories. Either there’s some animal attraction thing going on, scenting each other from across the room eyes meeting and widening with lust, or in paranormal romances there’s this popular concept of soulmates or truemates or vampirebrides or whatever scenting their mate and then embarking on a 300 pg long journey to posses said mate at any cost! Which is fine, it just doesn’t particularly appeal to me as a reader.

Gabriel’s Ghost manages to avoid this pitfall–it becomes painfully clear that Sully has had a huge crush on Chaz forEVER. Placing himself in her path when they were on opposite sides of the law, trying to charm her. Chaz also has some feelings there, but it’s hardly animal lust or head-over-heels luuuurve. The way they deal with their feelings takes the entire book, and there are many layers of mistrust, fear, and half-truths that feel remarkably real. Sure there’s the growly Mine! thoughts, and a good dose of the usual romantic standbys and a few love scenes which bug…but the actual interaction between the characters and the clever plotting make the romance tangible, and worth rooting for.

On the characters

Ana: The book is narrated in first person by Chaz and I quite liked her voice and her mental processes. She is not smart-ass or extremely heroic – she tried not to jump to conclusions but analyses the facts and her feelings about them. She is a strong person who do not delve in self-misery over her past and who tries to get on with her life – she also has no problems with accepting her feelings for Sully even though some aspects of their relationship disturbs her. I quite like Chaz but not near as much as I liked Sully.

Even though the story is narrated in first person by Chaz, to me, the main character is really Gabriel – his story and what he truly is are central to the plot, central to the emotional development of all characters. The fact that I love him so much also means I am back to true form, siding up with the hero over the heroine. I liked how tortured he was – how he wasn’t at all what Chaz always thought him to be and what we , readers first think of him. He was not the most straight-forward of characters, being all secretive and not forth-coming with some very important truths but that was only because he was a true tortured Alpha Male who is vulnerable and shaken by his own fears. I just wanted to be the one cuddling him in my arms.

With regards to the secondary characters: Ren was by far my favourite. I enjoyed reading the interactions between Chaz and him. Their scenes together were very sweet (specially the ones where they braid each other’s hairs) and served to tackle the interesting aspects of what means to be a telepath.

Thea: In a book like this, the characters count towards a lot. And I found myself in love with Chaz, Sully, and Ren. I adored that Chaz actually is NOT an “Alpha Female” stereotype. She is strong, but she isn’t some badmouthing idiot rushing into fights and making multiple bad decisions. She is more subdued than many heroines I have read recently, and the distinction makes her all the more attractive. She has been a Fleet officer and captain for much of her life, and it shows in the way she knows how to deal with other characters. Whereas many Fantasy heroines can come off as abrasive superwomen, Chaz comes off as a real woman. And I like that.

This is one time I will side with Ana though–while Chaz is narrating the story, the focus and main protagonist has to be Sully. Sully, with his tortured past and dark soul (and trust me, unlike the few romance novels I’ve read, the reason for his torture actually holds water–heck holds an ocean! It’s much more devastating than daddy issues or having a stutter). Although I don’t particularly want to be the one cuddling him in my arms (that is a whole lot of drama to be dealing with), I liked the complexity of this character–and even more so, I loved how we only learn about his nature haltingly, as Ms. Sinclair takes her time peeling back layer after layer of his protective wall.

The character of Ren is also a gooder. Although he seems ultimately to be the typical too-good-to-live-through-the-book, handicapped innocent heart…well, let’s face it, he is…Ren is a sweetheart. The classic standbys are classic standbys for a reason–and again, Ms. Sinclair manages to pull at my heartstrings.

I also felt the cast of villains and other tertiary characters were surprisingly well done. The other shipmates (especially the cook, Dorsie), the evil villains, people that were involved in Chaz’s life before her incarceration (I won’t say too much because I don’t want to spoil)–they all were excellently done.

Final Observations, Recommendations and Rating:

Ana: This one is a winner – good plot without lose ends but still open for more developments, an amazing hero, an easy-to-relate to heroine and some well written secondary characters. A fantastic blend of SciFi and Romance that I highly recommend. Can’t wait to read book 2, Shades of Dark that comes out in July.

Thea: Regarding the religious subplot–I felt it was done wonderfully as well. There are many separate-yet-intertwined lines to this book, and I can only applaud the author for her carefully planned and plotted work. Also, I have to admire Ms. Sinclair’s restraint from some contrived happy ever after ending or trying to wrap everything up in one book. I cannot wait until I get my hands on the sequel–there is so much left to discover!

Notable quotes/parts:

Ana: Love this part, when they were making love for the first time:

“and then I swear three suns went nova, half a galaxy was blown away and the universe shifted at least a hundred feet from where it had been before”.

Thea: I loved the portion after Chaz and Sully’s big first fight, where Chaz stands up for herself. Sully always says that his weakness is that he cannot tell flat out lies, and promises Chaz that he would never ever hurt her. Chaz responds by asking him, how could he know what would hurt her? He never bothered to ask.


Ana: 8 Excellent!

Thea: 7 Very Good

Reading next: Halfway to the Grave by Jeaniene Frost.

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  • Kristie (J)
    May 16, 2008 at 7:48 am

    I read this one a while ago and loved it. I’m going to have to do a reread before the next one comes out so I can familiarize myself with Chaz and Sully again – what a great thought!

  • Angiegirl
    May 16, 2008 at 10:20 am

    I’m going to have to pick this one up. I’ve heard a lot about Linnea Sinclair, but haven’t jumped in yet. Think I’ll start here.

  • Katie(babs)
    May 16, 2008 at 12:14 pm


  • Carolyn Jean
    May 16, 2008 at 6:08 pm

    Oh, KB you are a bad one!

    Hey, great review. I read this one some time ago, but I still love that Sully. You’re right about this being a nice female lead, too, in Chaz. She’s smart and quick-witted, but not the whole “goes off at the mouth without thinking” thing that I get SO tired of in my action heroines.

    Now I’m trying to remember the name of her other book…not zombie but the one with Branden Kel-paten, because I loved that one, too, and that hero is fabulous!

  • Katie(babs)
    May 17, 2008 at 5:08 am

    CJ: The book with Kel-Paten is called Games of Command and me second favorite one behind GG.

    Oh yes, me and Sully are very, very bad.

  • Rosario
    May 17, 2008 at 12:14 pm

    I read the original e-version years ago and I thought it was fantastic. I should reread the rewritten book before the next one comes out, though, as I’ve heard some big changes were made.

  • Linnea Sinclair
    May 20, 2008 at 4:32 pm

    Hi Ana and Thea,
    Thank you for taking the time to read GABRIEL’S GHOST and commenting on it in your blog. I’m very appreciative of your positive comments and insights. A 7 and an 8–woot!

    Just a minor point and one unrelated to the book, but as you all note so well the warp and weft of female characters and their positions and strengths… I’m not MRS Sinclair. 😉 Ms. Sinclair does fine, or preferably Linnea. Or Hey You, or Shorty. I answer to them all. 😉

    The book: I will readily admit GABRIEL’S GHOST (hereinafter GG for brevity and less wear and tear on my arthritic fingers) is Sully’s story. However, the only way it can most impactfully be told (and note the ‘impactful’) is through Chaz’s eyes. So the staging of first person POV Chaz was deliberate. Or rather, there was no choice. But yes, it’s Sully’s story and continues to be in SHADES OF DARK.

    Ana writes: [[Although I thought of this book more as a romance than as a sci-fi story,]]

    Therein is the problem of writing SFR. I do consider myself primarily a romance author. Hell, GG won the RITA award which is the quintessential romance award. So others think as you do. But I try hard to work in WORKABLE SF aspects.

    I do not have a PhD in Physics and wouldn’t write same even if I did (I’m a retired private detective and news reporter). I’m not writing to exclude readers but rather to try to (insanely) bridge the gap and bring romance and SF readers to a somewhat common ground. Given that, I don’t write super-steamy in-detail sex scenes. Nor do I write super-complicated, in-detail scientific data-filled scenes. I’ve been accused of writing “media-SF” to which I respond with a hearty, “Huzzah!” George Lucas and Gene Roddenberry reached a far wider audience than, say, Lawrence Krauss has–and I do read and enjoy Krauss. ((And I think it’s notable that Krauss, too, seeks the Star Trek connection.)

    GRIMSPACE: I adore the book. Keep in mind GG was published by Bantam in 2005 and written in 2001. GRIMSPACE was written much more recently. I cannot comment on any similarities other than the “strong female protag” and if that’s the case, there are easily dozens of other books that fit that mold as well. But I don’t think either book influenced the other in any manner.

    Alpha Male: actually, Sully is a bit more of a Beta, if you go that route. I don’t. I tend to ignore–or try to ignore–the whole Alpha, Beta, whatever labels as I find them constricting and for the most part, useless. The ten years I spent as a private investigator taught me there is no such thing as the stereotypical ‘bad guy’ and to assume ‘bad childhood’ or ‘divorced homelife’ = bad guy was to find yourself at the wrong end of an investigation.

    Be that as it may, Sully to me is Sully, with all his plusses and minuses. He’s a unique character and I never sought the Alpha label for him any more than I seek a label for any of my characters. But I recognize a lot of readers like to play with those labels so I have my ready answer: he’s Beta. To me. 😉

    Repetition of key phrases: I fully plead guilty to that. It’s a standard author trick that usurps “he said-she said” with the use of dialogue and action tags. It’s a fine line as to when is ‘too much.’ Being an author is a learning process. I’ll work on refining that one but likely it’ll come up in SHADES. My personal preference is for identifier phrases/tags but I know not everyone else’s is…just as not everyone adores coconut ice cream as I do. Some deluded individuals actually prefer chocolate. Fancy that!

    I’m glad you found Chaz and Sully a fun read, and enjoyed Ren and Dorsie as well. I enjoyed writing them–enough so I did it again. I wish I had the time to write the stories as I fully want to but like all authors, there are deadlines and there are word counts and within those constraints, one does the best one can while scooping kitty litter, folding laundry and dealing with a husband who misplaced his reading glasses yet again. 😉

    There is not a manuscript I’ve turned in to date that I’ve felt was perfect. There are many changes I wish I could have done to GG (and it was written almost ten years ago). Many more to SHADES (I could have used an extra six chapters with that one!). Hell, while writing GAMES OF COMMAND I was hit by a car (February) and two months later dealt with the death of my father. And I wrote. And I’m not unique in that. Author Susan Grant flies 747s full-time and writes books. And raises two teenagers.

    So the whole key for me, with my books, is: Was it fun? I aim for fun. I’m a real Saturday-afternoon-at-the-movies kind of gal. If my books give you a gasp and a giggle, I’m good to go. 😉

    I hope you’ll read SHADES. It’s also first person POV Chaz. It’s also intense. Sully likely has some Alpha moments but mostly he’s Sully. And there are, I hope, some more twists and turns. Fun ones, though at times intense.

    And a couple poetic love scenes. 😉 I think those are fun, too.

    BTW I love talking about my books/characters. As if you can’t tell. So if you have any more questions, don’t be shy in asking.

    Again, many thanks for taking the time to post your comments. I hope you don’t mind my jumping in with mine. I’m sincerely grateful for your support, not only of my books, but of the genre.

    Best regards from hot and humid Florida, ~Linnea ::waves to katie and kristie and rosario!::

    PS: there are some SHADES sneak peeks on my website on my BOOKS page: http://www.linneasinclair.com

  • Katie(babs)
    May 20, 2008 at 4:44 pm

    Again I must mention.. SULLLY MINE MINE MINE… and what he can do with his mind… thump thump thump.

  • Thea
    May 20, 2008 at 9:40 pm

    Hey You, Shorty, aka MS. Sinclair! 🙂 Wow. Thank you so much for stopping by and taking the time to read and respond to our review! On the SF vs. Romance aspect–I have to take off my hat to you, I don’t think I’ve read an author that does it better *takes off imaginary hat* I consider myself an SF reader first, but I do like a romantic element in my books, and I loved the blend of both in GG. And, if you couldn’t tell *points at frantically avatar* I am a huge Star Wars and Star Trek fan–‘hard’ science fiction is great, but I have to admit that my favorites are more of the Gene Roddenberry variety 🙂

    On the love scenes–I have to say that I fully appreciated the fact that they weren’t play-by-plays…if you know what I mean 😉 But that’s just me, of course!

    Coconut ice cream? Well…to be fair, I am one of those poor souls that can’t eat ice cream (lactose intolerant and all that jazz). But I love coconut cupcakes–does that count?

    I have to put in here that I adore Chaz. She didn’t feel like an empty vehicle by which the reader gets to know Sully; even if Sully’s story is the main focus, I found myself falling in love with Chaz and her quiet intelligence.

    Regarding Grimspace–In all honesty, I found GG light years better. This is just my opinion as I know many readers and bloggers have loved this book (in fact, Ana and I had a debate over Ms. Aguirre’s book). I actually was disappointed that I had read Grimspace before GG for this reason! Again, just my opinion though.

    I cannot wait to read Shades of Dark–I want more Chaz, more Sully, more of everything! Thank you so much for creating this wonderful world, I cannot wait to jump right back into it 🙂 Again, thanks for stopping by. Ana and I are hastily making our way through all your published books (currently we are reading The Down Home Zombie Blues and LOVING it–by the way, the songs at the beginning are wonderful–I am trying to imagine playing this on a guitar and singing it in a bluesy voice)!

  • Katie(babs)
    May 21, 2008 at 4:34 am

    Sully.. drool.
    Can’t speak in total sentences when I hear his name.

  • Linnea Sinclair
    May 21, 2008 at 7:38 am

    Hey Thea,
    Oh, coconut cupcakes! Coconut cake, coconut creme pie, coconut Italian ice (surely you can have that?). Handfuls of coconut. Pina Coladas. Toasted coconut…

    ::sigh:: We share an addiction. Thank gawd most people love chocolate. More coconut for us.

    ZOMBIE BLUES: you can hear the songs, didn’t you know? The musician Ed Teja mentioned in the book is a Real Person.


    “Blue Light” and “Blue Dime”, which Theo plays in the book, are here:

    The ZOMBIE video’s music is performed by Ed:
    and the other songs are here:

    But back to GG. I was thinking of some of your comments last night after I posted to this blog, specifically about the “alpha” issues and the similarities to Grimspace. And it dawned on me there might be a reason why. Most of us SFR authors are friends if not beta-readers for each other. I was one of Ann Aguirre’s crit partners and beta-readers for Grimspace. Robin D Owens beta-read Zombie for me, as did Susan Grant. Susan Grant vetted all my flight scenes in Games of Command. I beta-read her Moonstruck (LOVE THAT BOOK!). And so on.

    I didn’t, however, vet Susan Grant’s How To Lose An Extraterrestrial… nor did she see the complete Games manuscript and yet we both put out books with cyborg/human heros at the same time.

    We didn’t plan that. But we all tend to go to the same conventions (RT and RWA National) and yeah, we sit around at the bar and talk shop. We play with plot ideas. We “what if” (which is where lots of books are born).

    A lot of us also write to Swain–Dwight V Swain’s Techniques of the Selling Writer. And one basic of Swain (and also writing guru Jack Bickham) is to open the story at the point of no return. Open the story at the point where the main protagonist has started a fire that he/she cannot put out.

    That means, yes, Chaz on a prison planet and Sirantha Jax in a mental institution. Both are trapped and desperate and yes, in that sense, there are distinct similarities to GG and Grimspace. But the reason has more to do–IMHO–with Swain than author-sharing.

    I also write to chapter-ending hooks as does Aguirre. Again, another Swain/Bickham ploy.

    So the construction of our books may feel similar because of that. But we’re very different writers. Aguirre’s SF stuff blows me away. I think her plot twists are deeper than mine and her characters reach more angtsy-depth (though SHADES may challenge that…). I’m in awe of Ann Aguirre’s talent. I do know the first person PRESENT tense threw a lot of readers. I loved it but I know it gave some people the yips.

    But then, if everyone liked coconut, there’d be none for us. 😉

    Back to GG: It was a book of my heart. As I told Ana earlier today, I wrote it in 34 intense days. Lost 8 pounds. (!!) It was a book that wouldn’t stop. Sully kept waking me up at 4AM (much to my husband’s annoyance) demanding: write! write!

    The opening scene was actually written about ten years ago. I was living in Naples FL (first time) and had sold my PI agency and was looking for something to do. I’m not one to sit home and watch soaps, yunno? So the local high school was offering creative writing classes at night for adults–yes, I have a BA and incomplete MA but I’m an education junkie. So I signed up for these creative writing classes and the teacher said there were two things she didn’t want in her class: poetry and SF. ::snort:: So when she gave an assignment to write an opening scene based on the emotion of “fear”, the opening paragraphs of GG were born. Pretty much exactly as you read in the final book.

    It took a year for those opening five or so pages to ferment and then the next thing I knew, Sully and Chaz were my constant companions.

    Oh in an early version, Ren dies. 😉 That was to be the black moment in the book. But that pissed off my crit partners so much (they actually threatened me with bodily harm) I had to rewrite that scene. 😉

    The other thing is that I had NO CLUE Chaz had an exhusband until that scene came out of my keyboard. No Freakin’ Clue. I didn’t even know at the end of CH 15 and not until Chaz began talking to Philip in CH 16 did it all come out. Page 191 if you have a print copy of the book. THAT’S exactly where and how and when I found out.

    I was as surprised as Sully was.


    I hope you enjoy ZOMBIE. Author Robin D Owens has a cameo in the book. 😉 So does author Stacey Klemstein and her husband Greg. And my former investigative colleague, Cote Reynolds, and his wife Karen and two sons. 😉

    Beware befriending an author. You may end up on a page…


  • Katie(babs)
    May 21, 2008 at 7:54 am

    OMG Linnea you almost killed Ren!??! I would have gone into a deep dark depression if you did that.

  • Heather
    May 21, 2008 at 6:34 pm

    That is one heckuva review. Wow. I’m not worthy.

    Thanks for staying with the book, and for ackowledging Linnea’s voice. I think it’s wonderfully distinct and a perfect match for the tales that she weaves.

    Just wanted to add that Sully is great and all (ducking as kati(babs)lobs a bottle at me), but Phillip is the man! Looking forward to his story.

  • Thea
    May 21, 2008 at 8:38 pm

    Linnea (Hey You? Shorty? 😛 ) I had no idea there were full songs and even a music video available for ZOMBIE! How awesome is that!?

    Re: GG and collaboration–what you say makes a lot of sense. Kind of like when you hang out with people and you subconsiously pick up their mannerisms, I imagine this is exponentially increased in this setting. (oh and now I have added Susan Grant to my Must Buy Now list!) And I have to admit, I knew nothing of Dwight V Swain–but these writing techniques make sense and I can definitely understand where you are coming from.

    You wrote (the majority of) GG in just over a month?!?!?!?! Cripes! Well–it was completely worth the weight loss and husband-annyoing 😉

    You know, when I read GG, I was expecting Ren to die! Just a feeling…but I am so glad he didn’t 🙂 I love Ren. Can’t wait for more of him!

    And hooray for the cameos in ZOMBIE! I’ll keep my eyes open 🙂

    Thank you again Linnea, it’s so great to hear your perspective and stories about writing!

  • Linnea Sinclair
    May 22, 2008 at 6:51 am

    Definitely ‘Shorty’. 😉 I’m 5-foot tall (but I’m taller than Robin D Owens! Not many people I can say that about.) My huz is 6’4″ (in his socks). So yeah, Shorty is something I’m so very aware of. I don’t buy capri pants because they look like slightly to short ankle length pants on me. 😉

    You definitely need to read Susan Grant. Her MOONSTRUCK is beyond awesome. She also has several terrific series–just go to http://www.susangrant.com and poke around.

    Swain-Dwight V Swain is the writing guru for a lot of authors. Not all. Some, like my dear buddy Stacey “The Silver Spoon” Klemstein, is a Vogler afficianda. She swears by Vogler’s techniques, “The Hero’s Journey”, and structure. But a lot of us write to Swain/Bickham (or any combo thereof), which is highly based on conflict structure. There’s also Deb Dixon’s GMC: Goal, Motivation and Conflict, which is another writing bible, but also influenced by Swain.

    I think one of the things that somewhat (not fully) surprised me when I started writing commercial genre fiction is that there are guidelines, techniques. I don’t want to say formulas because that’s often taken as an ugly word but okay, formulas. There are proven ways to structure a story. That doesn’t mean all stories become alike. At all. But if you’ve studied story structure you can, after a while, tell the Vogler-ites from the Swain-ites. 😉

    The thing is, though, I didn’t start writing to Swain’s structures. Swain’s structures fit best to the way I write. I wrote to chapter hooks way before I read one word of Swain. Swain’s books just taught me how to do it better.

    The other thing about writing commercial genre fiction to contract is that the image of the writer, deep in muse heaven, sucking down a bourbon, typing and sobbing just ain’t true. Well, the sobbing part is. 😉

    Once you’re under contract, writing is your job. Just like whatever your day job is. You have to do it when you feel sucky. Sometimes the muse abandons you and you have to turn out 10 pages anyway. Sometimes the muse goes off in wild directions and you waste 20 pages and a day. Sometimes your muse and your editor hate each other.

    Any commercial genre fiction book you read is a war, a collaboration, a compromise and a last desparate flailing of an author, an editor and one or more copywriters. By the time a book gets to the editor, the author and her crit partners and beta-readers have likely read it over ten, twenty times. Maybe more. You can damn near quote it in your head and that’s bad, because you lose the ‘fresh eyes’ aspect the reader brings to the book.

    It’s like doing your hair or makeup before your prom or wedding or such. You spend hours and hours and get frustrated and wash your face three times, or redo your hair five times, try this, try that and then the doorbell rings and you’re OMG! And you make some last minutes touch-ups and hope like hell it looks good.

    A book is like that. Not only do authors sit around in the bars at cons talking shop, but there are those wailing cries for help two days before deadline. One day before deadline. A week PAST deadline where we sob via email to our author friends and beg for their help. “Please read this chapter over–it’s so wrong and I don’t know WHY!”

    We don’t know why because we’ve been writing the bloody book for four months, seven days a week, and can no longer “see” what we’ve written. We can no longer hear or feel our characters. We’re on overload. We’re numb.

    Sometimes our fresh-eyed friends can help. Sometimes they can’t and you end up sending it to the editor as is…and she either throws it back at you for changes or (worse) she loves it, and then you’re scratching your head wondering how something so sucky could be loved.

    Honest. That’s really the way it goes.

    Then there are the scenes that you love, and your editor hates. But at that point, you’ve been starting at the freaking manuscript 24/7 for four months and you bow to your editor’s changes.

    Only to have a reviewer or blogger pan that very chapter when the book comes out. And you realize you should have never changed that scene.

    But. You. Don’t. Know. At. The. Time. You can’t tell. As the saying goes, when you’re up to your arse in alligators, it’s hard to remember your initial objective was to drain the swamp.

    Anyway, I’m writing all this because you all are bloggers and readers and reviewers, and I’d like you to understand the process of commercial genre fiction as you read on and judge our books. It’s not the days of F Scott Fitzgerald anymore. Things move quickly in the publishing world. It’s a business, first and foremost. A book is a product, like a vacuum cleaner or a bottle of bleach. I am a contractor who produces a commodity for Bantam. Plain and simple.

    So if you wonder why a certain author did a certain thing in a certain book–reread my monologue above. For most of us, writing is our day job and like YOUR day job, there are days when we’re better than others. And some of us handle pressure better than others.

    Every administrative assistant and secretary doesn’t answer the phone perfectly every time. Doesn’t compile or file away every single bit of correspondence or contract perfectly everytime. Ever work in an office where something was misfiled? Where an appointment was missed? Where someone was out on a sick-day?

    Writing a book is a business. And sometimes just when I need her most, my muse is out on a sick-day. 😉

    Okay, long rant but I’m hoping this not only provides food for thought but might actually open some discussion about how writers craft their stories. I think we understand the process of special effects in movies and tv far more than we do the process of story-crafting. (IE: you go to a movie and see a certain special effect and know that it was created within certain restrictions and parameters.)

    Oh, and did I mention we write to word-count? 😉 It’s like, “Oh, Thea/Ana, you know those forty client files I asked you to organize? Well, I now need them done it two hours, not ten.”

    Yeah, we write to word count and deadlines. 😉

    Enough whining. I love what I do. If I didn’t write, I’d a-splode (or go back to being a PI). 😉


  • Linnea Sinclair
    May 22, 2008 at 7:23 am

    **Katie(babs) said…
    OMG Linnea you almost killed Ren!??! I would have gone into a deep dark depression if you did that.**

    So would have Sully and that was the general idea. 😉

    Since I write to conflict structure, as I write, I’m always looking for ways to make things worse for my characters (ain’t I a helluva broad?). I also have to look for those “inciting incidents” that push a character beyond his or her limits, which thereby gives a jolt to the story (and the reader).

    For example–and I’m assuming you all read GG and if not, this will contain spoilers so go away for bit 😉 — I knew that Sully had a ‘secret’ –he is a Kyi-Ragkiril–that he did not want Chaz to know. Ever ever ever. Well, until HE thought the time was right. It was my job as the author to make sure the time SULLY thinks is right is NOT the time that secret is revealed. I had to let Sully feel he was in control of when that info would be revealed–and then I had to rip that control from him.

    The way you do that is by creating an inciting incident. You get the character’s back against the wall where there is NO OTHER WAY than doing the one thing they DO NOT WANT TO DO.

    It’s like the guy who forgets his wife’s birthday and figures he has until dinnertime before he sees her again so he has five hours to get her a gift…then his secretary tells him his wife just called and she’ll be in his office in forty minutes. So he figures, great, I’ll run across the street to the jewelry store but as he stands to leave, his secretary says his boss just called and wants the guy in her office NOW or he’s fired.

    So what does he do? Piss off his wife–and he’s already forgotten her birthday four years in a row–or lose his job?

    Let’s make matters worse: if he pisses off his wife this time, she’ll divorce him and take all his money so he won’t be able to continue to pay for his mother’s chemotherapy…

    See? That’s how it goes. That’s why Ren dying was something I thought I’d use to slam Sully’s back against the wall.

    Ain’t I a helluva gal? ~Linnea

  • Katie(babs)
    May 22, 2008 at 7:35 am

    Linnea, you make Sully suffer so much 🙁
    People are going to go into emotional commas after reading Shades of Dark! 😉

  • Linnea Sinclair
    May 22, 2008 at 10:44 am

    **Katie(babs) said…
    Linnea, you make Sully suffer so much 🙁
    People are going to go into emotional commas after reading Shades of Dark! 😉

    ::snort:: then ::evil grin::

    Okay, back to Sully and somewhat off the techniques of writing. Well, no, I have to talk about both.

    When an author structures a conflict line, s/he also has to make is logical. You just can’t keep dumping problems on a character without rhyme and reason. Any problems a character has must LOGICALLY flow from who they are and what they want. That is, books must be *more* logical than real life.

    Sully, for all his charm, really has attracted some negative karma by things he’s done or not done. That means, he has to pay the piper (Geez, I’m a veritable plethora of cliches today). And Sully’s karma comes home to roost in SHADES OF DARK.

    One of Sully’s karmic issues has been his use of Ren to ‘mask’ what he, Sully, is. For all of Sully’s largesse, he uses people. And the one he’s used the most is also the most innocent, and his dearest friend. Ren. Sucky, no? But Ren is also the quintessential enabler (which almost gets Sully killed in SHADES–bit of a spoiler there) so we have to at least see why Sully can so easily use Ren. Ren permits it; verily, he damn near encourages it.

    But does that make Sully worse, taking advantage of Ren’s heartfelt and selfless friendship?

    Remember–which a lot of readers don’t initially realize and I don’t know if Ana and Thea do–Ren is 19 years old. Yeah, Chaz notes Ren’s only a few years younger than she is. But Stolorth’s life spans ARE LONGER THAN HUMAN. Think “dog years” in reverse. Emotionally, hormonally, biologically, Ren is 19. Even though he’s lived 30+ physical years. He’s 19.

    Sully sometimes forgets this. Conveniently? Maybe.

    Don’t get me wrong. Sully would die for Ren. Ren’s his best friend and little brother rolled up in one. Ren is the only person Sully knows who’s really “like” him–as close as one can be (Ren’s not Kyi). Ren understands most of what Sully goes through, being able to ‘read’ people’s thoughts and emotions. So there is this bond of (wounded) brotherhood between them.

    And Sully at times takes advantage of that.

    Karmically, not a healthy thing to do.

    Sully also lets his fear of rejection dictate how honest he is with others. He has a tendency to decide he knows “what’s best” for them and neglects to consult the person. As Chaz very succinctly noted. He doesn’t ask, he acts, which isn’t alltogether a terrible thing. Sometimes there’s no time to ask. Acting can then save lives.

    But sometimes there’s plenty of time to ask and Sully just…doesn’t. It’s part ego, part fear, part impatience. Part just being alone for so long.

    This gets him into huge trouble in SHADES. As it should.

    All of Sully’s troubles are a logical outgrowth of his personality and his karma.

    If only real life was so easy… ::sigh:: 😉 ~Linnea

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