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.

Friday, February 3, 2017

(Updated) Very Superstitio-- Wait, Wrong Song

I have this dumb superstition regarding the novel I'm querying. I'm not usually superstitious at all; I think this is probably my writer brain forgetting that not every little detail is symbolism or foreshadowing. Especially, ya know, in real life.


In November of 2015, I had an idea for a novel about a space carnival. And that was the extent of the plot. A carnival in space and the people who worked in its freak show. I had some characters I liked and a general idea that there'd be a war, but nothing else.

And then I was sitting in the van in our friend's driveway, waiting for my mom, and American Pie came on the radio. I like the song, and it isn't one I hear very often, so I actually stopped to listen.

And it fixed everything about my plot. I mean everything. It gave my character a love interest and the villain a backstory. It indirectly named a lot of my planets. (Vespi 3-14? That's totally named after Ameriggo Vespucchi, whom America is named for, and the first three digits of pi. American Pie. Get it?) A major part of my plot involves music "dying," and if you were to play a drinking game involving really obscure references to the people and events in the song, you'd be too drunk to read past the first few chapters. (Even I don't remember them all, but I think every planet and most characters were tangentially named for something in the song.)

So American Pie became something of my book's theme song, and while I never actively sought it out, the song kept... finding me. In the six months I was writing (not editing, just writing) FreakShow, I think I heard it six or seven times. Sometimes the whole thing, sometimes just catching the very end, and almost always when I was struggling with the plot.

I wrote "The End" in May 2016, and haven't heard the song since.

I listen to the same radio stations, around the same times of day, as I did for those six months. Nothing. So now I have this idea that I won't hear it until the day my book is accepted or published. It's silly, I know, and I don't actually believe it.

But if it does happen, now I have written proof that I thought it might. :D

Have you ever had interesting coincidences happen with your writing? Does your book have a theme song?

UPDATE 2/5/17

Guess what song I just heard.

I'm not even kidding. I'm watching the first season of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (hilarious show, by the way), and Jon Hamm's character started singing American Pie.

I know it doesn't mean anything, but how funny is it that I was just talking about it?

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

ISWG: Reading as a Writer

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: How has being a writer changed your experience as a reader?

(I'm going to lump in TV and movies in with reading because there's nothing in the rules says I can't. It's the Air Bud law.)

Well, it's easier to figure out who the murderer is.

I once named the murderer within five seconds of her showing up on screen. Not exaggerating. It was a futuristic cop show called Almost Human. The detectives go to investigate something, the big important guy introduces his secretary when she brings him a folder, and I said "She did it." My mom asked how I knew, and I said, "Because it's the future. They have robots. They don't need secretaries, and they definitely don't need paper folders. Her character was onscreen for ten seconds and didn't need a name, so this was the writers making sure we knew her before the big reveal at the end where Cop Guy goes 'Wait, I know that name...'"

And I was right.

I also find myself noticing little bits of symbolism and foreshadowing that I think went over my head before I started having to add that kind of stuff into my own stories.

But mostly, I think being a writer has given me a better understanding and appreciation of the work that goes into making something like a book or movie. I might not like that character, but look at how developed his backstory is! Or maybe there's a few episodes that I think are pointless, but I can see how the boring events are needed to set up the big exciting bits later on.

And in other news: I made a scarf! My mother made the hat and had extra yarn. (Aren't I adorable? You can hardly tell how claustrophobic I am in that horrible yarn noose. (I really don't understand the appeal of scarves and was a very reluctant model here.))