Dear Readers:

We appreciate the fact the current political environment is highly charged, but we want to keep Spacefreighters Lounge a stress-free place for everyone to visit and exchange ideas about SFR.

Therefore, we ask that you please refrain from making political references that may antagonize those with differing viewpoints. Thank you for your consideration.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Introductions All Around

Special of the Day:
Meet Fax

"'Lo. Name's Fax. Yeah, I'm the new 'tender here at Spacefreighters. Glad to make your acquaintance. What'll ya have?" He pulls a glass of Billins and adds a splash of green casco as garnish, placing the drink on the counter. "There ya be."

Straightening, he wipes his hands on his apron and smiles. "Yeah, I came over from Condhar's Net after that nasty bit of business with the female Purmian last week. The place caters to the darker side of freighter clientele, if ya know what I mean. Pirates, rouge salvagers...flibbin' headrunners. Uh...you wouldn't be one of those, would ya?" He raises one eyebrow. "Good. Didn't think so. Anyway, decided it was time to seek my livin' in a less perilous locale, if you get my float." He winks.

After serving another patron, he wanders back to the near end of the bar. "What's that? Oh, yeah, the Net is a wreck. That melee is the talk of the spaceport. Been off planet for awhile, have you? Well, I'll pass on a bit of chatter you may not have tapped into then."

"The Trouble With Demons is slated to launch on April 28. Looks like there'll be a healthy crowd in attendance. Popular, that one. You can follow the launch prep over at
Lisa Shearin's place."

"Speaking of that, one of the sister-ships, Armed & Magical is in one hades of a battle pitted against Anton Stout's Dead to Me on Bookspotcentral. Here's the
address to get a peek at the battle transcripts." He glances both ways and leans closer. "In fact, might not be too late to getcherself involved in the skirmish. But you didn't hear it from me."

Fax pulls a clean tankard down from the rack and, doing a quick scan to make sure Merc isn't lurking about, wipes a spot off the rim.

"If you're inta seein' a bit of scenery, be sure to check out Greg Manchess' take on painting the cover art of Canticle by Ken Scholes. That one's sponsored by Tor.com. Amazing mystical stuff, that."

Fax glances out the port as a ship does a low flyover and shakes his head. "Carduwan hot shot." He slides a dish of snacks onto the counter with a sly glance toward the kitchen. "Have some crunchers. It's on the house."

Generous guy, this Fax.

"Oh, by the way," he says, hooking the handle of the tankard back up on the rack, "if you're lookin' for a read that leans toward dark apocalyptic fantasy, check out the excerpt from
Over in Plague County by Heather Powell-Smith, a pre-published author featured in the Discovery Showcase on Fantasy Debut. Int'restin' world, that landscape."

He places your tab face down on the counter and unties his apron.

"Welp, that'll do for me. Gotta spiff the cellar for my co-'tender. Benna will be ondeck soon. Enjoy your day, and be sure ta stop in again next time you're in this neck of the galaxy."

Time for a Refit!

Thanks to everyone who participated in our Celebration 10,000 drawing last week. As we blast off toward our next 10,000 hits, Spacefreighters is adding a new dimension. No, not that kind of dimension. Three's enough for now, thanks.

But mayhaps you noticed the larger font? We're going to try this out, making future posts easier to read. You're not the only ones getting eye strain from the tiny default font on the dark background, let me tell ya.

*slips off her reading glasses and sighs in appreciation*

We may experiment with a lighter background, but we'll save that for a future rainy day...or would that be a meteor shower?

Next, Spacefreighters has finally hired some staff. We'll now have two hosts--our lovely(?) 'tenders--Fax and Benna. They'll be serving up virtual Billins and sharing gossip, news and rumors with you, in uniquely Fax and/or Benna style. And they'll be pointing out some of the patrons who wander into Spacefreighters from time to time, including several of the characters from my novels. They may also share a bit of backstory, legend or infamy or whisper a few juicy details they've heard. There could even be a few surprise characters from other novels you know and love...or those you may get to know in the future (if their authors grant them shore leave, of course).

After all, who better to give you the lowdown on SF/F characters than the bartenders at one of the galaxy's favorite watering holes?

So stop back often and catch the latest chatter from Fax and Benna.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Cloudscapes: Muse Fuel

Clouds, you say? What's so fascinating about them?

Ah, the poor, dissed cloud. So often we think of clouds as merely "overcast" or "gray." As writers, do we often overlook the variety and possibilities of clouds?

Clouds can serve as harbingers of more than just the weather. They can set tone and inspire a sense of majesty, danger, terror, impending doom, hope, magic, mystery, wonder, anticipation, or awe, to name just a few emotions.

Here, as fuel for your muse, are some amazing photos of New Mexico cloud formations courtesy of The National Weather Service Cloud Landscape.

A Lenticular cloud formation over Espanola in January 2009, looking very much like a hovering mothership. Whimsical? Or an omen? Photo by Joe Schiel.


Mammatus cloud formations over San Jon in Jun 2003. Imagine your MC staring up at a sky full of ominous spheres. Or is it a sign of hope? Photo by Gerald White.


Double Cloud Shadow in June 2007. Eerie, yet inspiring. Photo by Becky Ramotowski.


Dawn on the Caja Del Rio Plateau in February 2007. Red sky at morning, sailors take warning. No oceans in this vicinity, so what other superstitions might it inspire? Photo by Charles Harrison.


Dissipating rainclouds near Roswell. Roswell? *queue Twilight Zone theme* Photo by Steve Johnson.


More mammatus clouds from May 2004. A great wall of water vapor. Photo by Jay Blackwood.


A shelf cloud over Glenrio in July 2005. I don't know about you, but seeing something like this incites a feeling of apprehension. Are clouds supposed to look like that? What powerful forces in the atmosphere would cause this pattern to form?


This is a pyrocumulus formation. As the scientific name implies, the pyrocumulus are actually clouds formed by large fires, such as the Pine Canyon Fire in September 2005. Wildfires can create their own weather patterns. Photo by Linda Hawson.


Sunset over Albuquerque in 2004. This sunsets marks a transition between two realities, the very different realms of day and night. Photo by Jay Blackwood.

I hope you've enjoyed and been inspired by your journey through these majestic clouds. Altogether now. Ooooooh! Ahhhhhh!

April Fools!...A Little Early

Here in New Mexico, it's been spring for about four weeks now. Tulips are blooming, trees are flowering or leafing out, it's been sunny and warm. But...

Every year Nature likes to play a little April Fool's Day joke on us. It's a part of the cycle of life in the high desert/southern Rockies and as dependable as Old Faithful. As April 1st approaches, so does the onset of our last major blizzard of the year. I've been waiting for Mother Nature to have her last laugh for the last several days now.

Guess what? Good morning from a winter wonderland. :)

Looking out at my window, there's at least eight inches of snow piled up on my patio furniture. My patio pear tree, already in full bloom, is now covered with little cotton balls of snow. Gorgeous. And yay! A current two hour delay and possible snow day at work. And...Brrrrrr!

It's too dark yet for pics, but I'll try to snag some to post later.

Happy Friday and TGIF.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Rita and Golden Heart Award Nominees

RITA Finalists for Paranormal Romance


Dragon Wytch by Yasmine Galenorn
Penguin Group USA, Berkley (ISBN: 9780425222393)
Kate Seaver, editor


Mine to Possess by Nalini Singh
Penguin Group USA, Berkley Sensation (ISBN: 978-0-425-22016-0)
Cindy Hwang, editor


Moonstruck by Susan Grant
Harlequin Enterprises, HQN (ISBN: 0373772599)
Tara Parsons, editor


Seducing Mr. Darcy by Gwyn Cready
Simon & Schuster, Pocket Books (ISBN: 978-1416541165)
Megan McKeever, editor


The Darkest Night by Gena Showalter
Harlequin Enterprises, HQN (ISBN: 0373772467)
Tracy Farrell and Margo Lipschultz, editors


The Healer by Sharon Sala
Harlequin Enterprises, HQN (ISBN: 978-0-778-2544-4)
Leslie Wainger, editor


The Undead Next Door by Kerrelyn Sparks
HarperCollins Publishers, Avon Books (ISBN: 978-0-06-111845-6)
Erika Tsang, editor


Thunder Moon by Lori Handeland
St. Martin’s Press (ISBN: 0-312-94918-9)
Jennifer Enderlin, editor

Congratulations to all the nominees.

Golden Heart Award Finalist for Paranormal Romance
(for unpublished manuscripts)

First Grave on the Right by Darynda Jones
Ghost Planet by Sharon Lynn Fisher
Heart of the Dragon by Morgan R. Karpiel
Just in Time by Nancy J. Litzau
Kismet’s Kiss by Katey Coffing
Magic Man by Jacqui Jacoby
Magick by Heather Dawn McCollum
Underbelly by Tammy L Hoganson

Winners will be announced on July 18th at the RITA and Golden Heart Awards Ceremony during Romance Writers of America’s 29th Annual National Conference in Washington, D.C.

News, Tidbits, Opinions...and a Pictorial Comment on my WIP

I wanted to share some of my surfing finds this week.

Heather asks the question if HOPE’S FOLLY (Linnea Sinclair) might be a Science Fiction Romance breakout novel on The Galaxy Express.

The Crochety Old Fan has some rumblings about volunteers--or volUNteers--for the upcoming 67th World Science Fiction Conference in Montreal. (Where the Hugo Awards are named.)

Suite101 offers commentary on three Paranormal Romance series and The Saga of Seven Suns (series) by Kevin J. Anderson.

And as for my pictorial comment on how my current WIP is progressing? Here you go. Enjoy!











Yeah. That about sums it up. :/

Monday, March 23, 2009

And the Winners Are....

The winners of the drawing have been chosen!

In order to keep this as random and fair as possible, I sent messages to three persons who I know don't follow my blog and have no clue what I was doing. I asked them to:

Pick any two numbers between 1 and 21, not counting 7.

(The numbers equate to the order of the comments, and 7 was excluded because that was author Lisa Shearin's post.)

The response: 2 and 4

So the winner of the pre-order of THE TROUBLE WITH DEMONS and the Amazon gift certificate is the second comment.

Dawn

The winner of the second drawing for the pre-order of THE TROUBLE WITH DEMONS is the fourth comment:

Just_Me

BUT....

I sent the same message to three people (to totally randomize the randomness) and got the second response at almost the same time, and he said:

3 and 19

So, I'm going to go ahead and make it four winners. After all, how often does a blog turn over 10,000 hits?

So comments #3 and #19 will also receive a pre-order of THE TROUBLE WITH DEMONS.

Shelb
Beverly

Will the four winers please contact me at Lgreen2162 AT aol DOT com with the address you want your prizes shipped to.

Thanks to everyone for participating and helping us celebrate our 10,000th hit.

Winners Being Selected...Stay Tuned

The drawing is now closed. Thanks to all who participated. Random winners are being selected by an uninformed, remote third party now.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

We're There!

Spacefreighters has now reached a major landmark...er, spacemark? 10,000 hits! We just reached the magic number earlier today.

We're calling this event:

Celebration 10000

We're giving away prizes! Hurry! You still have a little time. Post a response to this announcement--it can be anything from a simple hi, a mention of your own blog or next book, a comment why you enjoy science fiction romance or why you visit this site. We'll chose a winner by random selection for our Spacefreighters Bounty.

What's the bounty? I went with a theme of "10."

FIRST DRAWING

An Amazon gift certificate for $10

A pre-order of THE TROUBLE WITH DEMONS
the next novel in Lisa Shearin's Raine Benares series
due out in April

SECOND DRAWING (added!)
A pre-order of THE TROUBLE WITH DEMONS

So leave your comments and stay tuned. Winners will be announced soon.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

If You're Querying...

...you should read this. Thanks to Lori from CC for posting the link to this highly informative (and I must say quite entertaining) post on the kt literary blog. Sure made me see the flip side of the coin a whole lot better. Sort of a devil's advocate kind of thing for writers.

This blog goes on my blog roll. :)

Saturday, March 14, 2009

New Bricks for my Leaning Tower of TBR


Today I stopped by Borders and had a field day.

First of all, I went on my usual mission and faced the books I found for some of my favorite authors--Lisa Shearin, Linnea Sinclair and Susan Grant. (I couldn't find any by Sandra McDonald. :( )

Then I started scouting out new building material and added four more SF/F books to my Leaning Tower of TBR(c) including a couple I've been meaning to purchase for some time including OLD MAN'S WAR by John Scalzi and HIS MAJESTY'S DRAGON by Naomi Novik (pssst...Amazon says this one is currently $0.00 for the Kimble download, if that's correct). I also stumbled on a couple of finds, as in, I hadn't heard about these yet and I bought them based on the blurb. One is SPIN by Robert Charles Wilson and the other is COMMAND DECISION by Elizabeth Moon. I also zeroed in on a reference novel for one of my upcoming projects.

Just doing what I can to support the publishing industry. :)

While I was in the area I had a delicious meal at the Elephant Bar, grabbed a hot cocoa at Starbucks and checked out several laptops at the Mac store. I started out a Mac user many moons ago before switching to PCs due to non-compat issues that are no longer the case, and I've been threatening to defect back to my first love with my next purchase.

All in all it was a fun day and a nice break from my WIP. Love these refreshing little sidetrips.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Music of the WIP

Earlier this week I posted the opening notes to this series: Music in Text. I've turned off the blog's sound track for this next installment in favor of a new music playlist. Read on.

Capturing the essence of a tune within the printed word is a tricky thing to do. Lyrics alone, even if you manage to get the permission to use copyrighted material, doesn't carry the same emotional weight as the actual melody coupled with the words and how they're sung.

As I've often said, I don’t write to music…but I muse to it. Listening to songs on my way to work is how I enhance plot details and embellish character and story details in my head. Some of these songs started as muse fodder.

Let me share a few examples with you from my current WIP in progress.

The Music of the WIP

When my character "informed" me he's a musician, it piqued my interest to select particular songs that reflect his feelings and what's going on in the plot, either directly or indirectly. Let me give you a partial list of the Music of the WIP. (I can't provide a complete list because the songs themselves would be major spoilers.)

Playlist

I've embedded a playlist of these songs to accompany this article. Click on the title to hear the song (or just a portion of it) as I explain why I chose them.


Music Box Dancer
The female MC often gazes into her musicbox--a gift from her late father--for comfort and nostalgia. The uplifting tune of the 1970s instrumental is the melody it plays. I used descriptions like "light" and "buoyant" to describe the melody as well as describing how it started with a single piano and then an orchaestra joined in. This music box, by the way, has some very special properties.

The Lion Sleeps Tonight by The Tokens
This is my character's introduction as a singer, when he's shanghaied by his peers into providing the evening's entertainment. The female MC is clueless about her love interest's particular talent at this point in the story, so this comes as a total surprise--for both her and the reader. I chose this particular song because of the amazing vocals and the contrast with the setting, in both time and place.

Riverside by America
The female MC is invited to the male MC's band practice with his friends. This largely overlooked America tune carries an instrumental introduction that's a perfect opener for the band's mellow rock jam session (a bit of an antique in their time...and maybe in ours, for that matter). The song also carries subtle clues of his philosophy. “I said, the world don’t owe me no living.”

You Can Do Magic by America
The male MC follows up Riverside with another America song, this one offered as a serenade to the female MC, and her first real clue that his feelings for her may be deeper than he's able to admit or that his recent actions have shown.

Say (What You Need to Say) by John Mayer
The male MC knows something is amiss and is frustrated that the female MC is unwilling or unable to talk about it. “Fighting with the shadows in your head” is his not-so-subtle way of telling her he knows she's not being completely forthcoming, and it throws her into internal conflict and a temptation to back out of the spot she's put herself in. Or maybe the spot she's put them both in.

(I Think I'm in) Trouble by Lindsay Buckingham
Editor's note: Please overlook the first few garbled words of silliness. In case you're wondering, he's saying "two...uh-three...uh-four...two...uh-three...uh-four." And yes, translation is necessary. From the moment the actual vocals kick in, this is one of my all-time favorite melodies. This song represents a pivotal moment in the plot where the male MC must decide whether to accept the life-shaking revelations he's just discovered about the female MC and the fact she hadn't disclosed a major truth to him. (If this sounds like a cliche' situation, trust me as a writer, it's not.) Through his music, he's trying to decide whether to cut and run, or work through the bombshell she's just dropped. She overhears him singing his lament and realizes she's responsible for his confusion.

Silence by Delerium
A haunting, modernized Gregorian chant that captures the loneliness, fear and heartache behind a decision the two MCs must make, and as the music implies, its a dreamy and surreal situation.

I hope you liked reading about the plot points behind The Music of the WIP. I'm curious to hear your thoughts or experiences on this subject. How do you use music in your manuscripts? Is music an important element, or does it just get a mention or help flesh out setting? Have you ever tried to work a particular song or lyrics into your story?

Next week: The Power of Music

First Look: Code Black

Recently I wrote a glowing review on Philip S. Donlay's CATEGORY FIVE (not a SFR, but an action adventure--and how!--with a touch of romance). I now have the sequel, CODE BLACK, in my hot little hands and I can't wait to dive in.

The crux of the story: A mid-air collision between two passenger jets, and the struggle--against perils both onboard and offboard--to survive.

CATEGORY FIVE was a thrill ride and from the sounds of the reviews CODE BLACK with be even better.

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Using Music in Text

Does music translate to the printed medium?

Much to my surprise, one of the main characters in my current WIP evolved into a musician. Well, maybe evolved isn’t the correct term. It was more like he informed me via his actions that this was an important part of his life and no matter what else I inflicted on him, his music is going to be a part of his story.

OK. I needed some time to think that over. He’s not a professional, just a hobbyist—as is the case with a lot of people—but his music is very much a part of how he reconciles his feelings and at times communicates them. Trying to show these traits in a novel is easier envisioned than written.

Many write to music (I don’t) and believe a certain theme or atmosphere manifests itself in the printed word as a result, but how can a writer actually incorporate music into prose? There is no way to “show” the essence of a favorite song. If the reader knows the song, you might be able to invoke their memory, but if they don’t know it they can’t “hear” the melody in their head no matter how well it’s described.

The actual lyrics don’t usually work. First of all, lyrics are copyrighted, and even if I were to get the proper permissions, I think song lyrics lose too much in translation without the melody that makes them so haunting, humorous or heartfelt. So instead of using lyrics, I hint at snippets of the melody, the character’s expression, what the song is saying and how it’s an interpretation of what’s going on in his life at that point. Another character may also reflect what he’s thinking about or where he is emotionally (especially if they are either the cause of that mood or close to him personally).

Later this week: The Music of the WIP

Monday, March 9, 2009

Coming up on a Major Event!

Spacefreighters is approaching its first big milestone....er, parsec?
10,000 hits!!!!
We'd like to thank everyone for dropping by our little space tavern,
so it seems some prizes may be in order.
::: checks inventory :::
Ah, yes. I think we'll have something a little better
than the usual virtual Billins
as a reward for your patronage.

So keep your dish aimed in this direction.

We'll be at our destination soon.

Sincerely,

The Management

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Tour the Universe with WIKISKY

Thanks to Angela for pointing me to the WIKISKY site in one of her comments. What a great way to tour the known universe, gaze at photos of galaxies, nebula and supernovas, or look for specific astronomical entities.

WIKISKY has been added to the list of references under SCI FI 101 side bar at the right.

Thanks again for the link, Angela.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

And Furthermore...

This goes along with my Pact With my Readers post. I saw this quote today and I thought, "Yes. That is so true."

______________________


Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.


- Cyril Connolly

______________________


A couple of my close writing buddies have done very well for themselves writing Erotica. There's a huge market for it, and they've sold many short stories and novels. I really gave this a lot of thought as a way to break into the industry. I even tried my hand at writing an erotica short. My conclusion? Writing for a sale isn't really why I write. I write to share a story--usually a long, complex story with characters who have lost much and are about to lose more. Erotica just doesn't seem to fulfill my muse's quest.

I believe writers must write what inspires them--not just whatever is the hot seller right now. I've heard that advice from published authors again and again (well, that and "don't give up"). I think it's a very important thing to love what you write. Because if you love it, then chances are a lot of other people are going to love it, too.

So I'm going to stick to my guns and continue to kick out the kinds of novels that I'd love to read. It may be a longer, steeper, tougher road to travel, but when I reach my destination, I know I will have enjoyed every minute of the journey.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Pact With My Readers

That's a pretty brave title for an (as yet) unpublished author, but it occur ed to me as I was reading yet another book stamped from the "they're all starting to sound the same" mold, that I would never want to do that to my readers. In fact, there are several things I'd never want to do, so here's my pact with my (okay, okay...future) readers.

#1 Each of my novels will be a very different story. It may be the same genre, the same general setting (space, other planets, the future) but the characters won't go through the same motions and do the same things in the same ships with different names.

#2 If my hero is a bad boy space pirate, then he's going to BE a bad boy space pirate and not a boy next door with tattoos and an eye patch. If he's/she's done terrible things in the past, he's going to have paid a price in guilt and remorse and public outrage and scars and stitches, and he's going to have to really work to overcome that.

#3 I don't believe in space pirates. Run-amok salvagers maybe. I have this issue with taking old ideas and putting them in a futuristic novel. So...no pirates, cowboys, knights, etc. Also no sorcerers or dwarfs or elves. (See #6.) That doesn't mean I may not put a new spin on these icons, but that's the operative word. New.

#4 My hero and/or my heroine will be real people who fear, get angry and show frustration. They won't be perfect. They won't be anything close to perfect. In fact, they'll be flawed and driven and angsty and somehow noble because they do fear and get angry and show frustration. And because they care about being alive.

#5 My villains won't act like stereotypes. Every villain is a person with something human about them, with dreams, goals, ambitions. It's how they achieve their ends that makes them the villain. So none of those Snidely Whiplash handlebar-moustache types with a sinister laugh and a black hat that says "VILLAIN" with a big, flashing neon signs and pointing arrows. Aren't the bad guys much more interesting when they carry the subtle evil of someone who thinks they're doing the right thing?

#6 I do slipstream, but I don't do cross-genre. You want werewolves and vampires? Go read a fantasy. It's a big universe out there and I'm sure I can come up with something lightyears more original than another tired old vampire or werewolf. That's not to say other writers can't write fascinating stories that contain them, it's just not what I want in my science fiction romance universe(s). Ghosts, well that's a different story.

#7 I'll listen to what my readers say. If they are saying "I'd really love to read a sequel to that." I won't say, "Sorry, I don't have a contract for a second book." I'll say, "Let me write something for you that you're going to love as much as the first."

#8 I will never write X number of books a year. My books percolate over time and I write them in layers. I can't kick one out by a specified deadline. I can't even tell you when I expect it will be done. Creativity doesn't work that way. At least, mine doesn't. I'll write them until they're finished, and hopefully, you'll never get a rushed, half-baked disappointment because of it. Deadlines kill (muses). As I develop my craft, I hope writing faster and smarter becomes one of my talents so I can keep the deal I made in #7.

#9...I haven't come up with a #9 yet. This pact, like my current novel, is still a work in progress.

Stay tuned.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

CATEGORY FIVE: Book Review

CATEGORY FIVE
By Philip Donlay
iBooks (paperback)

OPENING NOTES FROM THE REVIEWER: I normally stick with the romance genre in general, and science fiction romance in particular, but I stumbled on this novel while doing some book scouting recon on Amazon and the premise intrigued me. I bought it during my next book haul, stacked it onto my Leaning Tower of TBR© and returned to it when I recently whittled down my Must Read List and it was time to hunt up another brick in the tower. What a great story CATEGORY FIVE turned out to be. It was well-written, suspenseful (*understatement*) and had characters I could root for and hope for. The author did a tremendous job of putting his characters in the exact situations they feared, and then making things even worse. Oh, and it even had a compelling romance (though most of the really romantic action took place off stage).

COVER ART: Excellent! The cover art shows a cockpit overlooking storm clouds through a cracking windshield, and at a glance sums up the major premise of the story. It’s about a collision course between pilots who fly environmental missions, scientists who study meteorological events and a monster hurricane...possibly the strongest ever recorded.

INITIAL IMPRESSION: The story begins in the middle of a developing hurricane in Bermuda and has some major hook factor going on.

MAIN CHARACTERS: Donovan Nash, a crack pilot, and Dr. Lauren McKenna, a scientist. They share a history…and something more. Donovan is Director of Aircraft Operations for Eco-Watch, a research company with a primary mission to study hurricanes, typhoons and meteorological events. At least, that's his cover and the role he chooses to play. Lauren studies hurricanes, and has been granted access to sensitive defense satellites in order to carry out her work.

SUPPORTING CHARACTERS: One supporting character that really stood out was Michael Ross, Donovan’s senior pilot and friend. Michael is witty, entertaining, always has exactly the right thing to say in any situation, and he’s one helluva pilot to boot. The tanned, blue-eyed Michael nearly stole the show from the main characters. I hope he’s back to play a major part in future novels. Another pivotal character is billionaire and father-figure to Donovan, William. William’s influence seemed almost Deux ex friend at times, but I’m sure people do exist that can wield this kind of power, and since main character Donovan Nash is really someone else, I can suspend my disbelief enough to accept the hanging-by-a-hair sequence of events that leads to the climax. There are other various characters including pilots, military and government officials, scientists, reporters, foreigners, family members and friends that all lend their part to this well-wrought tale. Oh, and I can't overlook Eco-Watch's two highly modified Gulfstream jets, Spirit of da Vinci and Galileo, that were characters in themselves.

VILLAIN: A villain surfaces in the story and the shadowy network behind him is hinted at. I didn’t figure him out beforehand, but I think someone more adept at unraveling mysteries would probably have spotted him in a moment. He wasn’t terribly sophisticated as a bad guy, but with the main characters pitted against a monster category five plus hurricane—and worse—who needs crafty villains.

WORLD BUILDING: I was so impressed with the author’s knowledge of his subject— namely pilot culture and military/government hierarchy, bureaucracy and lingo—I had to Google his name after reading the book to find out more about him. He’s a pilot with over thirty years’ experience, so it's no wonder he can very effectively talk the talk.

CONFLICT: The conflict between the two MCs is well-drawn and believable except for one hasty conclusion by Lauren that could have easily been cleared up with a question or two. There’s a big revelation in the story (which the reader is already privy to) that I felt was handled extremely well and with wonderful timing by an intervening Michael. (Did I mention how much I love his character?)

PLOT: This book does what a great story should. It starts in the middle of a tense, dangerous scene, and once the characters are introduced, fleshed out, and manage to escape catastrophe one, things slow down a bit to establish an intriguing back story and a potential plot against Donovan. From there the suspense and tension rises in peaks and valleys to a white-knuckle ride that, just when you think things can’t get any worse, they take a nose dive into hell. As Donovan says, “Dying is the easy part. It’s surviving that’s the real trick.” The author’s knowledge of his subject and storytelling ability in this genre is first rate. There’s a big surprise at the end that’s set up quite well in back story.

ROMANCE: This isn’t a romance, but there is a major romantic element between Donovan and Lauren. It just seems impossible that they’ll both survive the series of disasters in their path to mend the damage that’s been done.

READABILITY: Very readable, highly satisfying, and a definite keeper.

EVIL AUTHORS GUILD STAMP OF APPROVAL: The Evil Authors Guild exists to encourage writers to inflict appropriate amounts of terror, angst and torture into their characters’ lives, and to leave them twisting in the wind at every opportunity. With the series of catastrophes that beset the characters, I must say Philip Donlay has served way above and beyond the call of duty.

SECOND READ: Yes. I’ve already started the second read, and it’s even more fun this time around because of all the nuances and clues I missed in the first run through.

OVERALL RATING: Three short words. What. A. Ride! Mr. Donlay has an encore novel out entitled CODE BLACK, with a return by Donovan Nash’s character (and hopefully Michael’s too) which reviewers claim is an even better book than the first. I’ve already ordered it, and look forward with extreme anticipation to reading it.