The Life and Times of Angel Evans: Behind the Scenes

Welcome back! This month, I’m exploring Dragonboats, Featherboats and worldbuilding.

Dragonboat sketch by Meredith Debonnaire

Art by Meredith Debonnaire

So, dragonboats. They are, as you will (I hope) know, mentioned in the story. As are featherboats. And they’re one of those things that’s actually quite important to Angel Evans’ world. As you can see from the sketches above, I imagine dragonboats to resemble viking longships with figureheads. They’re mainly made out of wood, with the scales being added on later (if you imagined them differently, I would love to know how). And it’s the scales that allow them to travel the way that they do. Angel Evans’ native world has a lot of natural magic, including really big currents of it that are known as marivers. Dragonboats travel by tapping into the magic of the marivers and using it to float. They are fast, reliable transport. They tend to be used more for cargo and trade than transport, although there are people willing and able to pay to travel quickly, as well as stowaways, and others who do things like join a dragonboat crew and conveniently hop out at the place they wanted to go.

Now the scales, as I have said, are the things that allow them to tap into the marivers. Dragonboats are covered in them (which makes them a bit painful to look at if the sun hits at the right angle), and not many people are sure how they work: something to do with absorbing and refracting the magic in a particular way. As you may remember, the scales for the dragonboats are made by Dwarfs. It’s one of their biggest exports. And the Dwarfs have never shared the secrets of how the scales are made (in fact, no single Dwarf knows the whole process – the scales are made from a rare raw material that is mined by the women, then forged by men, enchanted by grafs and sold by kleed), meaning that the main method that Humans have for transporting cargo is dependent on trade with Dwarfs (who don’t often use dragonboats themselves). This makes for an interesting relationship, as the dynamic between Dwarf nations and Human nations is often fraught with cultural misunderstandings (and battles). However, the Humans like fast, convenient transport, and the Dwarfs (who do not have a very agrarian culture) like the variation in diet afforded them by this trade, so the dragonboats are one of the main reasons why battles between Human and Dwarf nations do not tend to last, although they are often bloody.

The next best thing are featherboats. No-one’s quite sure who came up with featherboats: some people say it was a Human, some that it was a renegade Grem with poor Phasing skills. What is certain is that, although featherboats are the next best thing, they are not actually good. They are smaller, they are riskier, they sometimes explode. Or stop floating. Or decide to go somewhere else entirely. They are the cheap option, and unfortunately, as in so many places, this means the dangerous option. As the name suggests, they substitute feathers for scales, with very very mixed results. Some feathers are good at channeling magic, and some are not. About the only advantage is that featherboats can travel along weaker marivers than dragonboats, but considering the possible exploding this is not a great advantage…

Join me for Behind the Scenes next month for some thoughts on the elusive Yumiko.

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Book Review: Bearly a Lady by Cassandra Khaw

Bearly a Lady by Cassandra Khaw

It’s late, and the star-starved sky’s a shade of indigo-black.

So, I’ve mentioned this book before (link here). Bearly a Lady is, in a word, delightful. There are a lot of supernatural romance (or as I once saw them labeled in a bookshop, ‘fangbanger’) stories around; I don’t think I’ve ever read one quite like this. The main character is a werebear. A bisexual, WOC, fashonista werebear called Zelda. She is a brilliant protagonist: I felt immediate sympathy and investment. I really cared what happened to her, and I wanted her to be happy.

There’s a tendency for most fluffy fun romance to be very straight. And for a lot of queer romance to have angst of the “am I bi/gay/or so on?” or “Should I tell anyone that I’m bi/gay/a werebear?” type. This story, wonderfully, has neither. Zelda is bi, and precisely no-one makes a fuss. Zelda is a werebear, which is a bit more problematic (waxing. Lots of waxing), but similarly just a thing. Her roommate is a vampire. A wonderfully snarky vampire. And really, I just think you should read this book. It’s warm, it’s fluffy, the writing is excellent and it plays with all the supernatural romance tropes with great glee. Should Zelda go out with the sexy werewolf? Or the infuriating but yummy Fae prince? Or perhaps, someone else entirely…?

It has a lot of brilliant background characters, and the humour is spot on. Also, having a plus-sized main character who gets portrayed as attractive and awesome was great. (you may have noticed that I like this book). So, to sum up, this is definitely fluff, but it’s well written, diverse, queer friendly, intelligent fluff WHICH IS ANNOYINGLY RARE. I shall definitely be re-reading.

Rating: read this book. Release your inner beast, just not while wearing your favourite jeans…

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Update: a week of blergh

Hello all! My week has somewhat resembled this:

The Story Behind the Dumpster Fire GIF That Embodied the Year 2016 ...

Thankfully, it’s nearly Sunday. So I can chill out, stop beating myself up about getting zero writing done this week (due to illness, so it’s perfectly reasonable if very frustrating) and hopefully have a much better time starting on Monday.
I have also, wonderfully, gotten my hands on a copy of this lovely thing:

Bearly a Lady by Cassandra Khaw

Cover art by Muna Abdirahman; design by Kenda Montgomery

And it was exactly what I needed and wanted. I intend to do a proper review for it later, but in lieu of that I heartily recommend this novella – romance, were-bears and warm loveliness all round. Just the thing to make a garbage fire week feel an awful lot better.

Review: Beauty, Glory, Thrift by Alison Tam

This is the first story in the Gods and Monsters season from the Booksmugglers, and it is a wonderful offering. I’ve just finished reading it – a quietly beautiful story about the goddess Thrift, who makes a bargain with a thief in order to leave the temple where she waits with her bickering sisters.

The writing is deceptively simple, and the relationship between Thrift and the thief develops slowly. I enjoyed the attention to detail in Thrift’s point of view; the way she experienced things without being corporeal. And it was a pleasing journey, with a few surprises along the way. A lovely little tale; a bit sad and a bit happy. Recommended.

 

Beauty, Glory, Thrift by Alison TamPublished 6/13/2017 I am Thrift and I want to leave this place, and see the far ends of the universe, and never spend another moment in stasis ever again. Take my hand and bring me with you… On a lost planet in the depths of space, goddess-sisters Beauty, Glory and…

via Beauty, Glory, Thrift by Alison Tam — The Book Smugglers

Booksmugglers Hugo packet

So I meant to reblog this a while ago, but I’m only just getting around to it. My lovely publishers, the Booksmugglers, are Hugo finalists in the category Best Semiprozine! Hooray, applause, yay! I just want to congratulate them here, wish them lots of luck, and share their Hugo packet. That is all 🙂

As you may have heard, The Book Smugglers are finalists for this year’s Hugo Award for Best Semiprozine. The Hugo Awards, presented annually since 1955, are voted on by members of the World Science Fiction Convention–aka Worldcon–which is also responsible for administering them each year. This year’s award ceremony will be held in Helsinki, Finland,…

via Hugo Voter Packet 2017 — The Book Smugglers

Book Review: Hurricane Heels by Isabel Yap

hurrican heels art by denise yap

A long time ago, in the space between dimensions, two beings were formed from the matter that filled the hearts of every living thing.

So this is one big story, told in five short stories from the points-of-view of five female friends. Who happen to have magical powers and save the world on a semi-regular basis. Yes it’s magical girls! I have to admit to not having watched or read many magical girl stories at all, but this book was brilliant and I still enjoyed it, although I probably missed some of the trope subversions.

One of the great things about this story is that the women have, at this point, been fighting the forces of darkness for ten years. And those forces are actually terrifying: strange grey monsters that appear out of nowhere to wreak havoc. There’s a real, tangible sense of fear. If things go wrong, people will die. As a reader, there’s a definite feeling that even if there is a fairytale ending, it might not be one of the good ones.

The five characters are all really strong, very different from each other with their own internal struggles. I wasn’t very well when I read this book, so a lot of the details were lost in the fog of a SuperMassive Headache (I’ll just have to read it again), but there’s a general impression of “awesome” that remains. I especially liked the fact that all of the women were having normal, growing up and being an adult difficulties as well as saving the world difficulties. One of them, wonderfully, was an anime nerd who loved magical girl stories – it sounds cheesy but it worked really well.

So, here we have a fab book with five main characters – all women – who kick arse and take names and manage to stay friends (and in some cases, girlfriends), with some great illustrations by the author’s sister. It’s touching and honest and heartwarming. I mean, what’s not to like?

Rating: Read this book. Put on your magical earrings and beat up some monsters (we’ll go for drinks after).

Locus poll and survey

Soooooo, here I must admit that I do not usually pay much attention to awards: I have a tendency to quietly live beneath a rock and emerge only briefly for basic necessities or if my friends poke me. I find new books by a) wandering into bookshops or libraries and browsing b) recommendations from friends, or c) mystical messages from the great beyond communicated to me via carrier pigeon, smoke signals or messages in bottles left outside the aforementioned rock…..

HOWEVER, something rather exciting has happened! Which is that The Life and Times of Angel Evans (my debut novelette) is on the Locus Award ballot *insert expressions of disbelieving excitement here* and and and I don’t really know what to do with that information – it has reduced me into a weird mess of nervous excitement because people read my work and liked it!!!!!!!

Ahem. So, I’m off to actually vote in the Locus Award ballot-ma-thing. And if you have read and enjoyed The Life and Times of Angel Evans, please do consider voting for it (it’s in the category Best Novelette). Click here.

If you haven’t read it and you would like to (it’s got magic, a ghost, dead prophets and the end of the world), click on the image to the right of this post and you’ll be redirected.

Thank you to everyone who’s read, reviewed, critiqued and enjoyed – it’s wonderful that Angel Evans has come this far 🙂

I’m now returning to my rock – reviews again next week 🙂

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