Book Review: Dreadnought by April Daniels

TW for discussion of transphobia.

April Daniels’ Dreadnought tells the story of Danielle, a transgender girl who happens to be present when the superhero and Legion-member Dreadnought is killed by the supervillain Utopia. Upon his death, the Dreadnought mantle passes to Dani, giving her superpowers but also physically transitioning her to female. Dani’s dreams have come true, but there’s still her friends and family to deal with and when she finally comes out to them, they fail to support her. wp-1593696052282.png

Worse still, when the Legion invites her for a meet-and-greet, she is outed without her persmission and Legion member Graywytch proves herself to be extremely transphobic. Dani leaves, determined to figure out things for herself, and strikes up a friendship with Calamity, a western-styled hero, not super, but with excellent sleuthing and parkour skills. With Calamity’s support, Dani learns how to navigate both superhero-hood and accepting herself for who she is.

Here’s the thing that grabbed me the hardest, reading this book in this time and space. I probably won’t always recognize transphobia on my own but  I believe my transgendered friends when they tell me something or someone is transphobic.  I believe them when they tell me a certain famous magic book author is being transphobic. Heck, I bought this book to support a transgender author while that whole fiasco was happening. But. BUT. This book made everything clear. There’s a scene in which Graywytch goes on a rant about why she despises Dani and everything she is. The story is told from Dani’s perspective, so we see Dani’s exhaustion with hearing these tired, damaging stereotypes over and over again. These stereotypes? Claiming that transgendered women will use their access to female spaces to sexually assault cis women. Claiming that she (Graywytch) will never stop trying to protect her sisters, and in this instance “sisters” is meant in a feminist sense.  Which is exactly what the transphobic author is tweeting. My eyes almost popped out of my head. She could have pulled those tweets straight from Graywytch’s dialogue. And here’s the thing, and why Dreadnought is an important book for cis folks to read, because if you can’t recognize the stereotype for the parroted drivel of hate that it is, who the person who parrots that drivel can hide just how bad what they are doing is.

We need to read books that explore identities outside of our own precisely because they are outside of our own. The powerful awakening that Dreadnought gave me is a fine example of how books can broaden our worldview. Stories are a unique means to live as another person, if only for a time, and that’s a superpower of its own. Obviously, I highly recommend this book, please read it. 5/5 stars.

book review: Do Not Go Quietly

Apex Publication’s Do Not Quietly anthology of short stories is an emotional tour-de-force that will snatch you out of your seat and leave you cheering. 5/5 stars. Every story in this book is worth the read, but there are a handful that stood out or shook me to the core, and their review follows

Do Not Quietly opens with Brooke Bolander’s Kindle, the story of a little girl caught in a reincarnation cycle until she gets it right. The story that starts with a familiar match-girl, abused in the cold selling her matches. Frozen, she strikes a match, and pictures the flames devouring her abusers. It goes out. Another match and this time her lost matriarch whispers to her that the blood of warrior queens runs in her veins and she must take back what was taken from her. You know what happens next, she freezes there, on the ground, a dead girl with matches spent. In the next life she dreams of saving her friend, a dream version where the sulphur of the match factory hasn’t taken the girl’s teeth. There comes a few more cycles until she sets the flame to buildings, to factories, a palace, until she reclaims her own story. I held my breath for entire sections of this story, it absolutely blew me away with its simmering rage and stunning protagonist.

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Rachael K. Jones’ Oil Under Her Tongue introduces us to Erin, a youth growing up in a strict Christian cult. It is modern day but her only future is that of wife and baby-maker. For now, she’s not yet 18 and working with Carlos in a gas station. He’s just bought a junker car for $50 and Erin’s spinning psalms into magic spells. They’re in this car when Hailey, an android imprinted on an owner who has died and left her heartbroken, finds them. As the pair try to help the android overcome her programming, a loosely veiled metaphor for Erin’s own programming, the relationship between Carlos and Erin deepens and the certainty that they need to fight for their future clarifies. This story punched me in the gut. Erin’s early life ran a little too similar to my own, making this both hard to read and a story I will always keep close to read again and again.

I’ve never reviewed a poem before and I’m not sure where to start, but I’ll say this: I wish every little girl could read If the Fairy Godmother Comes by Mary Soon Lee. I copied it out and hung it up where my daughters will see every day.

April Teeth, by Eugenia Traintafyllou, is another one that haunts you after reading. In the story’s world teeth are pulled and given to a goddess-like Tooth Fairy on faith they will regrow. The devout will lose their teeth naturally, while others will have to them pulled. It’s a story about how power pivots on acceptance and faith in that power,  and the “invisible thread that goes taut every time you overstep the boundaries… set for you.”

If this sounds interesting to you, I encourage you to check out the Kickstarter the same publisher has going on for their next anthology, containing many of the same authors, Invisible Threads. In some of the rewards,  you can support them simply by ordering copies of Do Not Quietly and Invisible Threads. You can also get story crits from some of the best in the biz (gasp!) which I happily admit I’m drooling over. If it funds, they’ll also be opening to submissions (cough cough pay attention writers). Check it out by clicking here and please consider helping them reach their goal before time runs out.

Stay safe everybody. Wash your hands.

 

In Darker Corners of Your Favorite Band, Which Cannot Save You.

I’m trying to write more book reviews, the reason being that I’ve never been comfortable writing them. Imposter syndrome and all that. But I’m never going to get comfortable writing reviews if I don’t write more of them. Towards that end, here are two books I enjoyed this week.

In Darker Corners

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5/5 Stars – Indie

I was excited to receive my copy of Peter Gillet’s second collection of short works, In Darker Corners,  as I enjoyed his first, Mind Full of Prose. This collection has a blend of narrative nonfiction, album reviews, and dark fantasy stories.

Finding a sequel to the Beards and Bearability story, Tests and Testimonies, deep into the book was a delight. Fans of the original will not disappointed. Marked by Death, an essay about a tombstone that fell on the author as a child gave me the best kind of chills. No wonder Gillet’s horror works well, in particular the creepy Dimensions of Mediocrity and Viral. In Darker Corners is a wonderful collection to dip into for a story before falling asleep.

Your Favorite Band Cannot Save You

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4/5 stars – Tor Books

Your Favorite Band Cannot Save You by Scotto Moore follows a music blogger who comes across a transcendent new band that quickly becomes an obsession. The music starts controlling people’s emotions and soon sacrifices some listeners to open interdimensional portals. Alien monsters tumble into Earth. The protagonist denies all evidence in front of him and keeps plunging deeper into the music-caused danger like a hapless teenager in a horror movie, pulling the reader along for the ride.

Moore perfectly captures the annoying aloof quality of your music snob friend and then blows it into another dimension. This book is like the movie Almost Famous collided with the crack in Amelia Pond’s wall (Doctor Who) during a Sharknado and Your Favorite Band Cannot Save You climbed out of the wreckage fully formed. It’s a fun, campy read and I can honestly say I’ve never read anything like it. I’m hopeful for a sequel. Let’s take this ride off-world.

 

Submit Your Stories Sunday: Kidlit Edition

Welcome to this week’s edition of Submit Your Stories Sunday! Every week I bring you a unique call for submissions to help you find a home for your stories or inspire a new one. Each call will contain a speculative element and will offer payment upon acceptance.

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Zizzle

UPDATE: It has come to my attention that as of January 2019, Zizzle is charging writers a $3 (U.S. dollars) submission fee. I have removed the link to their submissions page as this is not industry standard and writers should be extremely wary.

Eligibility: Zizzle is a middle-grade ‘bookzine’ seeking stories from 500 to 1200 words which will appeal to readers 10 and up, including adults.

Take Note: their submission says that submissions are “free until December 31st, 2018.” Does that mean they will charge for submissions in 2019? Not sure, but I’d recommend subbing before the new year to err on the side of caution.

What makes this call stand out: these hardcover print magazines are stunning, the pay is wonderful, and yahoo, its a new kidlit market!

Payment: $100 USD per story.

Submit by: ongoing submissions, but don’t miss the section above regarding December 31st.

What I’m Reading:

The kids and I have made our way through Eeny Meeny Miney Mo: Tales for Tired Tykes. It’s a fun book of bedtime stories. The girls love picking out the story by choosing a picture and little Nimia is delighted by the bold colors and simple lines of Jon Stubbington’s illustrations.

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Table of Contents, with art by Jon Stubbington

Before I go deeper into my review, a caveat. There is a wide breadth of stories in here. There are sports stories, mindfulness tales, and many more, meant to appeal to a wide range of kids, but not necessarily to me. That bias will affect my reviews so I’m going to stick with the fantasy stories for my review, because that’s my wheelhouse. This is ten out of twenty-nine tales. Also, this review is intended for parents, so spoilers abound.

Lida’s Rainbow, by Ariel Stone, is the story of a land brown and cracked, without rain for a generation. The children, except for Lida, don’t believe in color anymore, for they’ve never seen any. After her father gives her a wishing stone, Lida makes her wish and awakens to a beautiful rain culminating in a breathtaking rainbow. This story left me with questions. Why no color anywhere? But the girls didn’t question it, they dug right in and delighted in the first drops falling on the roof and the vindication of the colorful rainbow.

The Boy Beneath the Beech Tree, by Edward Ahern, tells the tale of a terrible ogre who kidnaps a boy to do his chores for him while the boy’s Granny is away. With the help of a skunk, the boy is able to escape by locking up the ogre instead. After he hears the ogre moaning, the boy returns and releases the ogre after making him swear never to harm the boy or skunks again. I enjoyed this story very much, and I loved that the boy returned to the ogre rather than letting him die. I did worry this one might scare the girls, one of whom has endless nightmares about being kidnapped, so I read the ogre in the silliest voice I could come up with to tone down the suspense.. It worked.

Lady Ogress and Oglets, by Lyn Godfrey, follows the sole lady ogre in a village of ogres. After she finds a human baby in the forests, she conceals its humanity by coating it with a green face mask she makes for her complexion. The baby is noisy and fussy but cute and soon all the ogres want one. To satisfy demand, she travels to human orphanages and collects babies, coats them green, and delivers them. She keeps them green by sneaking in at night and giving them another coat. Of course, eventually she is caught, but all is well. The ogres have fallen in love with their babies. It’s a fun story., though I worried over how inclusive it was, despite its theme.

When Rivers Run Up, by Salena Casha, tells the story of an immature water-god dragon in a school for gods who unwittingly unleashes his water powers on a village and can’t shut them off. The villagers are in grave danger of being washed away forever until he uses his wits and fellow young gods’ help to tilt the world on its axis and save the village. Based on Chinese mythology, this is a wonderful story to use to teach kids about the way past generations saw the world.

Hector and the Moon Cat, by Daisy E. White, is the perfect story for kids plagued with nightmares. Hector notices a silver cat on his windowsill as he worries about dark dreams. The cat takes him on an adventure to the Moon Valley and explains that the moon cats collect bad dreams from children and hide them in the dark valley, where they can never return.

The Princess and the Dragon, by Wondra Vanian: Drewhilda’s parents worry that she will never marry and their kingdom will fall to her evil uncle. The feminist in me stopped and had a conversation with the girls about how women are more than capable of ruling before we carried on. Drewhilda is cursed by a witch that she will never find her true love until she tells them she loves them. Of course this is quite impossible and everyone is upset. Drewhilda decides to run away to a faraway aunt, where she ultimately meets a dragon. They become best friends. At last she blurts out that she loves her dragon friend and poof! he turns into a man. The fun part is that he isn’t just a man in his happily ever after, but can turn into a dragon and do terrible dragony deeds (like slaying evil uncles) when he wants. I thought that was a fun twist even though I do worry about the message that dragons could rule the kingdom but not the daughter. Hmmm.

The Post Pixie, by Phillippa Rae, tells the story of a mail carrying pixie who mixes up his deliveries. The gnome receives a tea cosy for a hat, and the Fairy Flower receives a hat to keep her tea warm. When they all meet for tea later, the pixie’s story comes out and everything is set to rights. While this is a simple story, the girls loved the idea of the tea party with gnomes, pixies, and fairies so much they acted it out the next day.

The Other Monster, by Anne E. Johnson, is a silly tale of mistaken identity. Elspeth, friend to the monster Gak, helps an unemployed wizard find the local evil monster only to discover and uncover the many misunderstandings that have lead the local folk to believe her friend Gak is evil. Together, they come up with a way to get the wizard’s job back and prove Gak is kind.

Elizabeth and the Lightning Sprite, by Trish Rissen, follows Elizabeth as she joins a lightning sprite above the clouds. She meets the thunder thumpers and the vast trampolines they use to make the thunder, and rides a rainbow home again when the storm is done. This is a simple story, but it gave my eldest good daydreams and smiles, and that’s what I want from a story.

Sir Blodry, Adventurous, Or: A Good Knight’s Work, Or: A Hero’s Work is Never Done, by D. J. Tyrer, is a humorous story about a knight who didn’t quite slay a dragon, but got all the glory for doing so anyway. King Arthur sends him off to deal with a new dragon and Sir Blodry decides to reason with the dragon, opting for a riddle instead of a fight. His cleverness wins out, the dragon must leave the kingdom, and Sir Blodry’s questionable reputation remains intact. My daughters and I agreed that this is a fun story. Silly in all the right places. Plus, it had cake.

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Writerly links worth sharing this week:

J. S. Pailly made this compelling case for why art, and writing, need science. Ray Bradbury would be proud.

Publishers Weekly posted about a creepily detailed phishing scam seeking manuscripts targeting writers.

Jami Gold offered this advice on How to Save a Broken Story.

Happy writing!

Submit Your Stories Sunday: Spaceports and Spidersilk

Welcome to this week’s edition of Submit Your Stories Sunday! Every week I bring you a unique call for submissions to help you find a home for your stories or inspire a new one. Each call will contain a speculative element and will offer payment upon acceptance.

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Spaceports and Spidersilk

Eligibility: Entertaining genre stories with a maximum of 3 000 words, poems 25 lines or less, written for children aged 8 to 17-years-old.

Take Note: adventures preferred. No swearing or sex, obvs.

What makes this call stand out: Spaceports and Spidersilk has a special place in my heart because this is where I got my first acceptance. Editor Marcie Tentchoff is accepting of writers with no publication credits which makes this an excellent place for beginning writers to get their start.

Payment: $6.00 per story, $2.00 per poem or reprint

Submit by: submit anytime. Spaceports is an ongoing, quarterly journal

Click here to go to the original call for details.

Writerly links worth sharing this week:

L. L. McKinley wrote this thoughtful article for Tor about representation in fairy tales, and who, if anyone, “owns” these stories.

What I’m Reading:

My daughter Evening and I read Sherry D. Ramsay’s Planet Fleep this week. Planet Fleep is a middle grade novel with a third-grade reading level. Evening is in grade one, but she loves science and science fiction so I read a few chapters to her before bed every night.

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Planet Fleep follows two adopted siblings known as ‘the Science Twins’ as they crash into a strange planet with no one but an annoying robot named BIFT to watch out for them (Roald Dahl would approve, methinks). They soon befriend the local fauna, guinea pig-like critters who make a sound like a ‘fleep.’ When the twins discover an unfamiliar alien species is trapping the fleeps to sell for food and fur, the twins vow to rescue the gentle beasts, but how? And why aren’t their parents answering on the communicator?

Evening tells me her favorite part of the book was BIFT the robot. “And I’m glad that I know how to survive without my parents on an alien planet now.”

“Uh. I’m not sure that’s quite true, sweetie. You learned about surviving on Planet Fleep, but not all of the planets.”

“Nah, I’ll be fine. I’m a Science Twin now. I just need a robot, granola bars, and some fleeps.” She crosses her arms.

I consider the defiance in her expression. Pick your battles, Jennifer. What are the odds she’ll be crashing into an alien planet in the next few years? I let it go.

She goes on to tell me that she liked the book so much she plans on keeping it forever and possibly marrying it when she grows up. I’ve never asked her to rate a book before so I am unaccustomed to such… devotion. In terms of kid-speak, I believe this translates to a four-point-five stars out of five star rating.

Happy writing!

 

 

Submit Your Stories Sunday: Still on Patrol

Welcome to this week’s edition of Submit Your Stories Sunday! Every week I bring you a unique call for submissions to help you find a home for your stories or inspire a new one. Each call will contain a speculative element and will offer payment upon acceptance.

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Still on Patrol

Eligibility: Otter Libris is looking for stories surrounding the tradition of referring to lost American submarines and their sailors as ‘still on patrol’ rather than lost at sea. What happens if those sailors return from patrol? Stories from all countries are welcome. Stories should be from 3 000 to 6 000 words.

Take Note: no stories disrespecting the military or depicting abuse will be tolerated. Writers should also be aware that the publisher expects non-exclusive audio, print, and ebook rights for five years after an exclusivity period of one year has passed.

What makes this call stand out: we’re coming on to the perfect time of year to write a spooky supernatural story.

Payment: $25 per story

Submit by: December 15th, 2018

Click here to go to the original call for details.

Writerly links worth sharing this week:

Here’s an article that offers questions writers should ask of their characters. The majority of these are excellent. None of that ‘what is their favorite pizza toppings’ to be found here.

The Guardian reported on an uproar that happened among booksellers in France last week when an Amazon-only title was longlisted for a prestigious French prize. I think this whole mess highlights the nasty affect Amazon has had on small bookshops, but also shows the conundrum of what an author is to do when Amazon is their only option. Food for thought.

Inclusive YA lit mag Cicada has closed, which gave me pause. 2018 has been hard on some of the great fiction magazines out there.

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Photo by Free Photos.cc on Pexels.com

What I’m Reading:

I had A.J. Pearce’s historical fiction Dear Mrs. Bird on my TBR list simply because I have a beloved aunt who is a Mrs. Bird. Somewhere on the interwebs I read that fans of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society would like it which had me racing to the library. Guernsey is so good I have spare copies in case I meet someone who hasn’t read it.  *Ahem* this is the part where I grab you by the shoulders and ask you if you’ve read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. No? I have an extra copy, hold on.

Dear Mrs. Bird is set in London during the Blitz. Pearce mentions in the story notes that she was inspired to write the book after reading through the advice columns of women’s magazine from the Blitz. They gave her a deep sense of the unique challenges women faced at that time.

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The story follows young Fire Brigade volunteer Emmy as she fumbles her way into a job typing up letters for a grumpy advice columnist with strict ideals of what is allowed to be spoken in polite society. As bombs drop and lives fall apart around her, Emmy struggles with ignoring the Unacceptable letters of desperate girls who write in for help with controversial issues. She begins writing back, posing as Mrs. Bird, to help the girls find their way.

This book has many lines that made me stop and think. At it’s heart, this book is about a writer. At one point, Emmy’s mentor of sorts, Mr. Collins, “Find out what you’re good at, Miss Lake, and then get even better. That’s the key.” Such simple, important advice. I had to stop reading and jot it down.

It’s also a book about living in a war zone and a city experiencing relentless raids. There are moments of devastating reality. Pearce writes these scenes with skill, zeroing in on the small moments of character. “Some cried out, saying It Hurts, It Hurts. I ignored them and that was disgusting of me. I ignored people who were dying. At the time, it didn’t feel like a decision. If (redacted) was alive (redacted) would need help, so I kept going.” (edited to avoid spoilers).

Dear Mrs. Bird is an excellent read, I recommend grabbing a copy of your book-getting place of choice and settling in for a few hours.

Happy writing!