More Wanda Maximoff, Please

**This post contains spoilers for Avengers: Age of Ultron, so proceed at your own risk!**

There’s been a lot of talk about the Black Widow’s representation in Age of Ultron (AOU), and that’s cool. Conversation is good. I’ve seen the film twice now, and I actually liked her backstory–but enough people are talking about that.

What I don’t understand is why no one’s talking about Wanda Maximoff.

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I’m not saying that Ultron passed the Bechdel or anything, but everyone seems to be forgetting that there is another female Avenger now. I’m pretty sure AOU can’t call her the Scarlet Witch because Sony owns the rights to X-Men (although I did find her action figure, so I’m not sure) but that’s who she is, and I seriously loved her.

Wanda’s got a pretty cool arc in Ultron. She’s powerful, and she has agency. As an antagonist, she’s directly responsible for Hulk’s smashing spree. After she realizes Ultron’s out to destroy, she’s the one who foils his plan, paving the way for Vision. 

In the course of the film, she gets to be angry, afraid, and tough. 

Plus, she totally gets the best shot in the movie:

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Book Recommendation Redux: THE MASKED SONGBIRD By Emmie Mears

25302137Title: THE MASKED SONGBIRD (SHRIKE Book 1)
Author: Emmie Mears

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Disclaimer: Let it be known that I purchased this book of my own free will and enjoyed it so much that I’m posting a recommendation/review.

I reviewed this book in October when it was released as THE MASKED SONGBIRD. It rereleases today, so it’s a perfect time to remind everyone how incredible it is.

Here’s the Goodreads blurb:

Edinburgh accountant Gwenllian Maule is surviving. She’s got a boyfriend, a rescued pet bird and a flatmate to share rent. Gwen’s biggest challenges: stretching her last twenty quid until payday and not antagonising her terrifying boss.

Then Gwen mistakenly drinks a mysterious beverage that gives her heightened senses, accelerated healing powers and astonishing strength. All of which come in handy the night she rescues her activist neighbour from a beat-down by political thugs.

Now Gwen must figure out what else the serum has done to her body, who else is interested and how her boss is involved. Finally—and most mysteriously—she must uncover how this whole debacle is connected to the looming referendum on Scottish independence.

Superpowers don’t make a superhero. Real strength isn’t something you’re born with — it’s something you build.

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I adored this book.

The voice. This voice is everything I want from first person. Gwen is fun to hang around with, and you never quite know what she’ll do next–which is why it’s totally believable that she’d suck down an open beverage when she finds herself in desperate need of one (no spoilers here!).

The story is rigorously true to its own internal logic, and to Gwen’s character. I know her well, so I believe in her choices. She may be hapless from the beginning, as the blurb tells us, but it’s clear she’s tough even before she can leap onto rooftops. She’s good at her job, yet she’s stuck with an evil boss. She’s bad at budgeting, but she doesn’t “solve” the problem by throwing expensive meals/shoes/etc. on credit cards (or hell, even affordable ones–the woman is barely surviving). She has flaws, interesting flaws that directly effect the direction of the novel. She’s also competent enough before she gets her super strength that I believe in her ass-kicking abilities when she does find she has powers–and in the loyalty and kindness that drive her to use them. It’s beautifully done.

The supporting characters are also intriguing. Gwen’s evil boss makes all other evil bosses look like kittens. Her neighbor is a-dor-a-ble. Her flatmate is charming. And her boyfriend…yeah, I think I dated him once. Even those who appear only briefly are memorable and nuanced, which I love–layers and secrets keep me guessing all the way through.

This book strikes a beautiful balance between a fun origin story and a serious contemplation of the price involved in becoming a hero. That choice fascinates me, as do the consequences. I think about it more than I should, probably. I love superheroes. I wrote a novel about superheroes. I was proudly biased when I started reading The Masked Songbird, and I wasn’t disappointed. I was thrilled to see a female superhero who faces these choices and the sacrifices that come with them, who rises to the occasion just like Cap and Spider Man–but (I’m itching to tell you more, but I won’t) brings her own unique spin to the story, too.

What surprised me the most about this novel was its depth of heart. It’s clear from page one that it’s going to be a fun read, but woe betide you if you go in expecting Emmie Mears to pull any punches. She raises the stakes throughout the novel, and she delivers. There’s a line in the climax that hit me so hard I had to put my e-reader down for a few minutes to catch my breath. It’s a moment that could be cheesy, but Ms. Mears pulls it off without sugary sentiment.

Is it too soon to ask for a Gwen Maule TV series? In the vein of Arrow? I’d love that. More importantly though, there’s a sequel on the way–which means lots more quality time with Gwen!

 

March News Roundup

March flew by, with lots happening on the writing front:

You can still get your hands on the Cactus Heart’s Speculative Issue, e-Issue #11, which I guest edited! It’s $5 for a gorgeous PDF.

And speaking of Cactus Heart, go find their table at AWP, where you’ll be able to pick up a print copy of The Egret’s Crossing: A Collection of Adventure Stories! I have a story in it, titled “The Oft-Mistold Tale of Lord Oliver and the Fae.” You can also order a PDF of the collection here for $5.

As for current projects, I’m in the middle of an epic fantasy novel, which I’m just calling SOULS for now. It has a title, but I don’t feel like broadcasting it quite yet. Don’t have many details to share (gotta stay tight lipped on my early drafts), but you could peek at my inspiration board on Pinterest here. Not much there yet, but it’s growing!

Lots more exciting news will be forthcoming in April–stay tuned!

Some stuff that’s been catching my eye:

Emmie Mears did a badass blog and Vlog series on Surviving the Query Trenches. Watch/read it, then check out the rest of her blog for craft advice, publishing news/opinions, and giggle-worthy Supernatural GIFs. And then buy her books.

Tabitha Blankenbiller is doing us all a service by rounding up weekly publications and awards on her website. And in case she leaves it out of the list, she had a beautiful essay in Hobart last week: Fiesta Barbie.

Kelly Davio’s doing an amazing series on The Butter called The Waiting Room–if you haven’t been reading her posts, you’re missing out.

And finally, Laura Heffernan has an overview of April writing contests (the kind for catching agents): on her blog.

Adventure Stories Anthology – Coming Soon!

 

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It was an absolute blast to contribute to this collection of adventure stories! Mine is called “The Oft-Mistold Tale of Lord Oliver and the Fae; Or, How Elyana Led Lord Oliver Underground.” I may share a snippet at some point as we get closer, if I get a green light to do that.

The settings in these stories range from ancient tombs and tropical islands to the frigid arctic. It’s going to be quite a collection, and I’m super excited to be a part of it.

It’s going to be available in print at AWP and by pre-order for $20, and you’ll be able to get a PDF for only $5.

Update! Here’s a link to pre-order a print copy: http://www.apiarylife.org/projects-1/

You’ll be able to get the PDF from the same link, after around April 15th.

Sachael Dreams by Melody Winter – Cover Reveal!

I have such an exciting post today, because I get to help celebrate the cover release for a book I’ve been looking forward to reading for months upon months – Melody Winter’s Sachael Dreams!

First, here’s a little bit about the book:  

Twenty-two-year-old Estelle Bailey has had enough of busy city-life and her hot-tempered ex. She escapes to the seclusion and peace of her family’s clifftop home in Ravenscar, where the soothing solitude whispers to her soul as strongly as the sea itself does. But her newfound contentment is interrupted when a mysterious man—a Sachael, master of seduction—joins her midnight swim unexpectedly.

Estelle struggles against his charm and the overpowering attraction she feels for him. He offers her a life she never could have imagined, a life beneath the waves . . . but at what cost? Before she can decide, she’s captured, ensnared by the Sect, a secret enemy of the Sachaels, becoming a pawn in a war she knew nothing about.

Now, she’s left with a new choice—escape the clutches of the Sect and flee into the ocean, or side with her alluring, intimidating captor and destroy the Sachaels forever. Can she turn her back on the man she might love, or will the secret of her heritage change everything?

Set against a picturesque backdrop, Sachael Dreams is the first in a new series, exploring themes of romance, love, and identity, and the struggle that happens when all three collide.

Find Sacheal Dreams on Goodreads.

And about Melody: 

Growing up, Melody Winter showed a natural ability in art, a head for maths, and a tendency to write far too long English essays. Difficult to place in the world when she graduated, she pursued a career in teaching, but eventually ended up working in Finance. Melody is convinced the methodical time she spends working with numbers fuels her desire to drift into dream worlds and write about the illusory characters in her head.

Melody Winter lives in North Yorkshire, England, with her husband and two sons. When not dealing with football, rugby, and a whole plethora of ‘boy’ activities, she will be found scribbling notes for her stories, or preparing for another trip to the beach. With an obsession for anything mythical, Melody revels in reading and writing about such creatures. In fact, if she wasn’t such a terrible swimmer, she’d say she was a mermaid.

Sachael Dreams is her debut novel, and the first in her New Adult Romantic Fantasy series—the ‘Mine Series’.

You can view more of Melody Winter on her websiteTwitter or Facebook.

Soooo are you ready to see the cover?

Here it is:

 

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Gorgeous, isn’t it?

Sachael Dreams will be out on February 24, 2015, and you can preorder it now for a discounted price today!

Snowy Thanksgiving

I spent Thanksgiving in New Hampshire with my parents, my two sisters, my husband, and one small cat who was more than a little confused by all the activity.

It was a great weekend, despite the fact that we lost power – for 48 hours. We enjoyed the time together (thankfully, my parents have a wood stove and a generator they turned on for limited periods of time so we could do important things like charge phones, drink coffee, and take hot showers) and we got to have Thanksgiving dinner on Saturday. Very grateful for that! And for the ability to flush toilets without having to fill the tank (my parents are on well water). It’s the little things.

The snow stayed in the trees for days, even after the sun came out. It was incredible. Here are some photos!

During the storm

During the storm

Blue skies

Blue skies

Snow's still hanging in the trees!

Snow’s still hanging in the trees!