LAPTOP!

I have a laptop! JOY JOY JOY JOY JOY JOY JOYDarth vader dance

So now I just have to sort it all out and make sure I haven’t lost any of my files in the transfer, and then we’re golden 🙂 I should be getting a lot more done now. Shout out to the amazing staff (BECCA!) at Webworks for getting me all fixed up – YOU ARE AWESOME! And also a really really big shout out to all my friends and family who donated money towards me being able to afford a new laptop – thank you! Personal thank yous will be trickling out over the next little while 🙂

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Aside

Book Review: Mother of the Sea by Zetta Elliott

Mother of the Sea, Zetta Elliott, art by Christina Myrvold, image shows black woman holding a child surrounded by ocean

When the skinless men leave, the taste of salt lingers on her lips.

So this is a tiny book – forty-six pages in fact. And it kicked its way through my ribs, grabbed my heart and held. Mother of the Sea is not a history book, (I’d say fantasy/speculative fiction probably) but it is set in one of those places during history that my (school) education never adequately reached, and that is the slave trade.

It’s a story about a girl, waiting in the dark and fearing what will happen. It’s a story about holding on; to hope, maybe, to one’s sense of self. It’s fantastical, slightly, but that doesn’t mean that everything works out. In all honesty, I don’t quite feel qualified to review this book. But it’s amazing, and it made me question things and it made me cry and it’s a good story so I wanted to give it a signal-boost (as they say). Read this: the writing is sharp, the characters are sharper, and there’s a mysterious fish-child onboard the slave ship…

Rating: heart-stompingly good, bring tissues…

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Book Review: Dragon Haven by Robin Hobb (book two of the Rain Wilds Chronicles)

Dragon Haven by Robin Hobb art by Jackie Kay

Day the 5th of the Prayer Moon

I previously reviewed Dragon Keeper by Robin Hobb, and I advise you to read that one first! There are some spoilers in this review.

Well, I said I wanted to see what Robin Hobb was going to do, and I have not been disappointed! Having warmed up to the characters during the first book, with this one I was able to dive right in. I was again struck by the richness of Robin Hobb’s worldbuilding. Her descriptive writing is skilled, nuanced and wonderful (I did have to do a bit of looking things up in the dictionary). Relationships and tensions that were laid out in the first book simmer, boil over, transform and deepen: Alise finally finds out that her husband (Hest Finbok, who is referred to in my head as idiot-man) was in fact having an affair with Sedric Melden, who was her best friend and Hest’s sort-of secretary…

What’s wonderful about this whole progression is that, although the feelings between Alise and Sedric are understandably complicated, they are able to salvage their friendship and somewhat bond over the fact that Hest has behaved manipulatively and awfully towards both of them. Watching these two characters heal from their treatment at the hands of idiot-man, and figure out how to do so while remaining friends, was wonderful. They also have both found lovers who treat them with the love and respect that they deserve, which lead to me yelling happily while I read.

Meanwhile, the dragons continue to be difficult, mysterious and joyful by turns. Thymara’s stubborn back wound persists, and Thymara persists in refusing to be part of the toxic machinations of Greft (idiot-man mark two). One of my favourite characters vanished really early on (swept away by a flood), which was rather upsetting. And everyone keeps heading up the river, slowly and laboriously and being changed by it…

Also, the letters between Detozi and Erek, the pigeonkeepers, start betraying something more than a professional relationship, and give us a glimpse into the havoc being caused by this expedition back in civilisation. A brilliantly engaging read.

Rating: read this book, curl up in the warmth and feel your wings grow and grow and grow…

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The Life and Times of Angel Evans: Behind the Scenes

Welcome! This is a new monthly thing that I will be doing, taking you behind the scenes of The Life and Times of Angel Evans. It’s going to vary as to what exactly that means; I might take you behind the scenes to the process of writing, worldbuilding and editing, or I might take you to bits of the world that didn’t make it into the story and characters who I would have loved to give more page space. If there’s anything specific that you’d be interested in seeing, do ask! Also, if you’re reading this and wondering ‘how do I get my hands on this story?’, you can buy The Life and Times of Angel Evans through Amazon or directly from the Booksmugglers (it will cost you about £1.50 or $1.99 USD). You can get it as a Mobi or an Epub file.

Now, onwards! Let’s start by taking a look at the eponymous character herself…

Angel Evans concept art

Art by Meredith Debonnaire

I’ve talked a bit about the creation of Angel Evans as a character in both the essay and the interview that are included with the eBook; those of you who’ve read that will know that, originally, Angel Evans was meant to be a background character. I don’t remember quite how I created her – she started life as an OC in a fanfiction that never got written, grew a bit in my head, and made it into a larger project that I was planning at the time. The planned story was a really big, portal-hopping kind of thing, and Angel Evans was meant to be a background character. She was just a cleaner, working in this awful pub which, for whatever reason, was where the main characters always went for drinks while trying to figure out how they were going to save the world. They’d be getting drunk, having these very intense conversations about magic and sorcery and oh shit how do we fix this now and in the background was this ginger cleaner who always stank of tobacco. The idea I had was that, eventually, there would be this big revelation that the cleaner was actually super powerful and had saved the multiverse already (at a very high cost) and was intrinsic to doing so again, but very reluctant indeed.

That story didn’t work out. Mainly because Angel Evans just kept stealing the show – I’d try to write the story that I had planned, and all the time in the corner of my mind was this angrysad ginger cleaner, smoking cigarettes and glaring and being really really intriguing. So that project got jettisoned. And I didn’t write anything involving Angel Evans for quite a while, although she continued to hang out in the back of my mind and grow. She acquired a girlfriend, Yumiko, and a backstory and more and more of a personality. Angel Evans is one of those rare characters who seemed to write herself.

There are a lot of things that I really like about Angel Evans (sense of humour, ridiculous flirting, absolute disregard for rules concerning magic, relationship with Yumiko); the thing that I think interests and challenges me most about her is the contradiction between her selfishness and her altruism. She’s definitely selfish in a lot of ways, and she will literally climb over other people’s bodies to survive if she has to. But she doesn’t necessarily want to do that, or to have to make that choice. She has a lot of kindness, but it’s hidden beneath layers and layers of learning to survive. I think that, a lot of the time, women in fiction are not allowed to be selfish and  sympathetic: if they are selfish, we are supposed to dislike them. And I wanted to play with that.

Angel Evans is someone who, when she was pushed to absolute breaking point, did the right thing. The altruistic thing. She herself did not even consider that she had a choice in the matter, not really. But that supposedly altruistic thing is the thing she’s struggling to live with, not the things that some readers may view as selfish.

So some of the questions I was asking while writing her were: does this one, really really big act of altruism cancel out the rest of her selfish acts? And should it even matter that she can be selfish, when it was the selfishness that allowed her to survive and gain the skills she needed in order to save the worlds? Would we, the readers, view her behaviour as selfish if she had had a different gender? (it’s worth noting that she does have a different gender for a while when she’s living with Dwarfs – I’m using she pronouns because Angel Evans is ‘she’ for most of the story.) And, of course, what motivates her?

I still think about most of those, despite the story being done and written. Angel Evans is probably one of my favourite creations, precisely because she’s a flawed ball of contradictions with the potential to be absolutely monstrous. She also grew very organically, rather than being planned out in advance as some characters were, and I think this gave her the rough edges that she needed.

Join me next month for more Behind the Scenes – I’ll be talking about Dragonboats and why they’re important in Angel’s world.

If you enjoyed this, remember you can buy me a coffee via the magic of the internets 🙂
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A moment of SQUEEEEEEE plus announcement

Squeeee first: I’ve just started reading Persistence: All Ways Butch and Femme edited by Ivan E. Coyote and Zena Sharman and my queer heart is exploding with emotions! So many feelings! All over the place! The variety of experiences and the honesty and the abrupt feeling of having a history, there is a history out there is overwhelming and wonderful and brilliant! If I never come back, it’s because I’ve attempted to move in to this book…

Announcement second: tomorrow will be the first of the Behind the Scenes: The Life and Times of Angel Evans blog posts, and I’ll be talking about the development of Angel Evans as a character. There will also be an art 🙂

Random music video for your delectation:

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Aside

Book Review: A Tyranny of Queens by Foz Meadows

A Tyranny of Queens by Foz Meadows

“It’s all right,” said Ruby, squeezing Saffron’s hand.

This is the sequel to An Accident of Stars, which you definitely need to read before reading this one. You can read my (very)short review of that book here.

A Tyranny of Queens is breathtaking. It takes everything that was built and set up in An Accident of Stars, and runs away with it in unexpected directions. I could probably write a great deal of essays about the world that Foz Meadows has created, about what has been done with gender and sex and religion and race, how they relate to where we are now. About polyamorous marriages and matriarchy and family. About how we treat victims.

And the wonderful thing is that all of those things above are in the book without making one feel as though one is reading a book that wants you to think certain things. They just exist, in the world, and the plot roars along like a steam engine on the boil, veering sharply enough that I thought, several times, it had gone off the rails and there was no possible way that this new development could make sense and then it did! The cast is, as in An Accident of Stars, fantastic. Primarily women, and primarily not white women, and with a big mix of ages and origins and wellness – how often do we get main characters with chronic illnesses? Facial scarring? Partial paralysis? Neurodiversity? The answer is not often enough – it’s hard to find even one, and in this book we get all of those things in a fantasy setting, as well as most of the fantasy settings (this is a portal fantasy, so we get more than one world) being extremely queer-friendly.

It is, of course, not perfect. But it’s damn good, and having only finished it a few hours ago I am still emotionally entangled with it all, and more than a bit breathless from the way it ended. I realise I’ve barely mentioned the characters or the plot; in this instance it’s really hard to do without MAHOUSIVE spoilers… So, yanno, go read it 🙂

Rating: Read this book, phone all your friends and make them read it…

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Update: Holidaaaay tiiiimmmeee!

Hello all! A quick updateamundo!

I shall be on holiday for the next little while, so you probably won’t hear much from me. However, I do have some things planned once I get back: firstly, sorting out my laptop situation (a brilliant friend has lent me a working laptop until I can afford to buy one – three billion cheers for her!); I hope to do this mid-August. Secondly, I have found all the scribbly art that I did while I was writing The Life and Times of Angel Evans. I’ve been sorting it out, and colouring some of it, and I intend to start a little ‘behind the scenes’ column once a month sharing that and other things with you. I hope you all enjoy this 🙂 Thirdly, I have set up a ko-fi page! You can buy me coffee through the internet now! Wow, isn’t that magical? 😀

Other updates

Writing: Just finished a novella, I’m now hiding it from myself for a few weeks so that I get editing space. Also plotting a mini-series that would go on this blog: bonkers, not-particularly-accurate sci-fi full of queerness. It’s in progress, and I’ll keep you updated. Also been poking some of my old stories: sometimes they poke back, which is worrying…

Reading: more fanfiction than I should. I regained internet access and went a bit mad. I have a lot of books that I’m planning to read while on holiday though. So. Many. Books.

Other thoughts: I want this song to be my theme music. Whenever I walk into a room, it plays. Loudly.

And that’s it! Until we meet again, farewell 🙂

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