Sunday, March 19, 2017

Book Review: Illuminae




Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff (Goodreads link)
 

5 stars

This is not a typical book. It doesn't have chapters and the story isn't told in description and dialogue. Instead, the story unfolds through excerpts from journals and incident reports, emails between the main characters, and the internal monologues of a damaged computer (which reads almost like poetry).

It's beautiful.

Blueprints of the ship, coffee stains on the bottom of a file, multiple pages that are just the names and photos of the people who were confirmed dead. Blank pages when a character is lost in space. Pictures made of words.

The story itself would be great without all of that, too.

What starts as an attack on a planet by an enemy corporation quickly escalates into chaos. Three ships are trying to get to safety, the bad guys are on their tail, and a disease is turning people into wild, merciless killers.

Oh, and an artificial intelligence system, damaged in the attack, just blew up one of the ally ships.

The fleet's only hope is seventeen-year-old hacker Kady Grant. To save the ships - and her boyfriend - she has to risk everything and team up with some less than trustworthy characters to bring these atrocities to light.

This is a sci-fi book I would recommend to people who aren't sci-fi fans. Once you get used to the unconventional storytelling method, it's just an amazing story of human perseverance - and what it means to be human.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Plot Notes!

I'm about to finish the first draft of a novel. It's a young adult story about reincarnation and taking down an evil government.

I think I'm calling it Blue Incarnations.

And editing it is going to be... fun. Especially because I'd write for a few months, something else would catch my interest for a while, and I'd come back to it later. Each time, I forgot some details and come up with new ideas. The last chapters tell a very different story than the first chapters. I've changed which characters are the good guys, what was supposed to be the whole plot is now just a little sideplot, and a dead character was reincarnated as a very evil preteen.

And that means I'm in for a lot of editing.

And that means...

EDITING NOTES!

I'm expecting a lot of good ones when I actually start editing, but for now, here are some notes from my plot outline.

 

  • D killed P in jungle life, possibly for same reason Gran killed D - they thought 30 was being repealed soon and next life would be without punishment (but P didn't kill anyone; bgs were after her for starting resistance) (I know exactly what all the abbreviations mean. I still have no clue what I'm talking about because none of this happens in the book.)
  • Can I seriously call the bad guys "nematodes?"
  • Flower obstetrician (I forgot the term "botanical geneticist")
  • But how do you dismantle a government using knowledge of horticulture in only one day?
  • It's what you get when you combine reincarnation, an evil government, and Billy Joel songs. (this is apparently how I described the book. It was inspired by a line in Only The Good Die Young, but otherwise there isn't a lot of similarity to Billy Joel songs. Which is probably why I wrote this:)
  • Okay this is solarpunk now. Fix the cities. Add more Billy Joel.
  • They really did start the fire, though. If "fire" is a metaphor for "social change" and "Belgians in the Congo" is a metaphor for "bad guys in the shopping mall."

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Time After Time

Time After Time is ABC's new drama about HG Wells and Jack the Ripper time traveling to 2017. I'm really excited about this show because it combines everything I love: time travel, unsolved mysteries, people who don't understand how phones work...

I haven't watched all of the two-hour premiere yet, but so far I'm enjoying it for a very... interesting reason: it almost feels like the show keeps referencing something I wrote.

I know it's all just a big coincidence, but I was laughing for the first twenty minutes or so and finally had to have my mother pause it to explain how many "connections" I was seeing.

 
  • My novella Anachronism is about a time traveler, Moses. who shows up in the present in a bank vault; in Time After Time, it's a museum exhibit.
  • HG and Moses both have to talk to a bewildered person in charge, who think he's crazy but decide not to press charges in the interest of not attracting unwanted publicity.
  • The time travelers then learn another, murderous time traveler (Jack the Ripper in Time After Time, Zachary Davenport in Anachronism), whom they knew in their native time, has come before them.
  • They team up with a woman to stop him. (There's a very small line in Time After Time about something being a gift from her father that might be funny to the five people who have actually read my book.)
  • HG and Moses are both British but otherwise not very similar.
  • But Jack the Ripper and Davenport! Not only do they dress the same and both enjoy threatening people in public places, but the actor playing the Ripper looks so much like how I imagine Davenport! (I'd originally imagined him a little more like Zachary Quinto, especially in Heroes where he was a great villain, but I think this Josh Bowman fellow may be edging him out for the role in the movie adaptation that exists only in my head).

And one or two other things that would spoil parts of the book if I were to point them out.
So yes, I'm quite enjoying the show, if not for the normal reasons. Have you ever noticed a TV show or movie "stealing" your ideas?

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

ISWG: Reworking Old Stories

First, a little bit of exciting news. I've just had a query lead to a request for full manuscript! It's from a publisher I'm really excited about, too.

Now...
On the first Wednesday of every month, the Insecure Writer’s Support Group encourages writers to talk about their insecurities.

 
Each month, they also have an optional question to answer. This month it's: Have you ever pulled out a really old story and reworked it? Did it work out?

I have, and that's how I got published the first time!
When I saw the submission call for Circuits & Slippers, asking for sci-fi fairy tale retellings, I thought... "Wait, don't I have one of those about Goldilocks and aliens?"
And the answer was "kind of." I had four paragraphs that was going to be about a girl abducted by aliens and subjected to tests (I don't remember what tests or why they were doing them, or really what made me think it was going to be anything like Goldilocks), that I had written a few years ago.
But I liked the idea. Mysterious people, tests, messing with memory... So I got rid of the aliens in favor of bear-like creatures, had the girl get trapped in a house in the woods, and gave her a few different sets of memories. A few months later I was told it had been accepted for publication.

(Just for fun, I dug up those four paragraphs of the original story. They actually aren't as awful as I remember, but the new version is much better in my opinion.)
I awoke with a start and found myself in a room devoid of light. To say it was a room at all was a bold presumption on my part, as it equally could have been a cave or a forest under a clouded night sky, but something about it, perhaps the echoic quality of my breath, gave the impression that I was enclosed in a spacious chamber with four walls.
My head pounded with the ferocity of a bass drum; the hard metal slab did my already-pained skull no favors. This was most certainly not where I had fallen asleep -- though, to be honest, my memories of the previous night were rather blurry.
By this time, my eyes should have begun adjusting to the gloom, but if there was anything to be seen, it was obscured by the thick, all-encompassing darkness. My hand was invisible before my face, and I only knew my eyes were open at all because of a single point of light, a red and blinking eye high above me.
I sat up and swung my legs off to the side, but my dangling feet failed to find the floor and I pulled them up under me.

 

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Book Review: Dreadnought

(image from Goodreads)

Dreadnought by April Daniels
5/5 (review also posted on Goodreads)

I ordered this book from the library before they actually had a copy, just because I liked the idea of a trans superhero. And I was not disappointed.

First of all, this book is so funny. "Come, Mother, and show me the wonders of the tampon aisle!" had me laughing so hard. And Danny is such a dorky fangirl sometimes.
I love the running theme of not knowing who to trust. Superheroes - and parents and friends - can be bad people and do bad things, even though they're the people we're supposed to rely on. And teenagers make stupid decisions and skip class to go be vigilantes. (Can you blame them, though?)
The universe of Dreadnought divides people into the good whitecapes, bad blackcapes, and morally ambiguous graycapes, but it seems like everyone has a little bit of gray in their cape.


Now the gender stuff.
Wow. So when you become the superhero Dreadnought, you become your ideal self. For Danny, this means "he" is finally transformed into the girl she always knew she was. The transition is described so well, how she's surprised to be a little shorter and how her emotions are closer to the surface now.
I really identify with the way that was described because even though I'm fine being a female, I've always felt like my brain was mostly male. And there are times when the girly hormones get the better of me, and that's exactly how it feels.
And people are... not exactly cool with her change. Some are, but others are really abusive and dismissive of her identity. Those things bother me, because they aren't just characters being awful; they're real things that happen to people. There are parts that are hard to read because of the language and behavior.


But it's a really good book. A great story about friendship and awesome fight scenes. What more could you want?
(Also included in this story are helpful superhero tips, such as it's not as easy to lift a plane as Supergirl made it seem, and it's less effective than you'd think to hit someone with a car and more effective to rip out the engine block and hit them with that.)

Monday, February 20, 2017

Book review: Raptor Red

I like using Goodreads to review books I read. I thought I'd start posting them here as well. This time I read Raptor Red, by paleontologist Robert T. Bakker. It's a fictional story about a year in the life of a female Utahraptor trying to survive after the death of her mate.


 
4/5 stars

So first of all, I am a huge dinosaur nerd. Like, "watched Jurassic Park multiple times a day when I was 5" kind of nerd. So it's a huge struggle for me not to rate this a 5 just because it contains biologically accurate (I mean, as accurate as you can get when you're giving human thoughts to animals and you don't know that raptors had feathers because you live in the early nineties) dinosaurs that do not exist just to be big scurrrry monsters.

That being said, Bakker is the king of infodumping. If I was only mildly interested in dinosaurs, I would be annoyed at stopping the action to talk about how one crocodile is such a good breeder and how all modern crocs might be related to her. I found it fascinating at times, but maybe that's just me.


Anyway. Thoughts:

* I like that raptors also struggled with body image.

* All the characters are so different and realistic animals without seeming like they're just human characters in dino suits. The dumb little gaston is the cutest.

* I don't know how scientifically sound the flower scent theory is, but it was so funny how confused and scared the male raptor was.

* The conflict(s) over the chicks were an interesting source of drama you can't get in human stories ("I like this guy, but I won't sleep with him until I'm 100% sure he won't kill my family..." "I really like this girl, but I also really want to kill her nieces because they don't share my genes, and I'm just not sure how she'll react to that...").

* At some point near the end, my brain started picturing the raptors as Chocobos. That was weird, but not entirely unpleasant.

* The ostrich dino that could have started the first dinosaur religion because she thought a mouse-type-thing turned into a frog may be my favorite part of the entire book. I adore her.

 
Also, this is not related to the actual book but the copy I borrowed from the library had a bunch of random words underlined on pages 42 and 43. Pretty sure it's a secret code.

You can read more of my reviews on my Goodreads page.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Request for Pages!

Last week, I posted about my "superstition" about the song American Pie, and how I hadn't heard it since finishing my novel. A few days later, I heard the first two lines of the song on a show I was watching.

And a few days after that, a publisher I'd queried requested to read the first 30 thousand words of my novel.

Yes, really. :D

I'm still blown away by the fact that it wasn't a rejection. This is my first request for pages for FreakShow, and the editor said it may be several months until I hear back.

Someone is going to read thirty thousand little bits of my soul.

My concept and first few chapters "intrigued" them. I wrote a successful query. Even if this results in them not wanting to read the rest, I consider this a win.

And I can just imagine how my characters would react to this news. Lily would smirk and say, "What, did you actually doubt that we were awesome?" and Jack would pretend it's no big deal, only to secretly design book covers in his quarters while Ruby and Par started planning a book tour through the universe.