Saturday, October 18, 2014

Review: Kinslayer by Jay Kristoff



This is the sequel to the book I raved about in this post.

Book one focused very much on Yukiko, a young woman with the ability to speak telepathically with animals. She's bonded with an Arashitora - a Thunder Tiger, or Griffin.

Book two, in contrast has as many, I think, viewpoint characters as one of George R. R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire books, but like I said, he handles them better. He never sacrifices pace, and yet there's no shortage of character development or mood.

In Kinslayer, Yukiko is in mourning after the events of book one, plus suffering from some awful headaches as a result of her telepathic abilities being amplified. She leaves on a search for a clue to the cause of her crippling condition, and for much of the book is far from the rest of the action.

Instead of being trapped on the ground, wings clipped, though, we get to spend lots of time flying this book. I'm a pilot; I liked that part.  Kristoff returns to her just often enough to satisfy me, but there was so much going on in the capitol city, and in the rebel village, there was no telling the story with a single point of view like book one.

Now, there's a character from the first book who's name was Kin, who was a totally sweet boy, who doesn't deserve to die, and based on the first book, I didn't trust Mister Kristoff at all not to kill him. In The rebel village, we got Kin, who's crushing on Yukiko. That subplot is kind of set up to be a classic love triangle, except then Kristoff pretty much goes "Oh, you think this looks like a which-girl will-he-end-up-with story? HAHAHAHA!" And...oh my. Yeah. I won't spoil anything.

Okay. In Kigen, the capitol, Michi, the princess's handmaiden appears again, and we get to hear more of her background. She spends much of the book locked in her quarters, under suspicion of working with the rebels, so it's surprising how much action can happen in that one room. In a bid to clear her name, she's quite successfully seducing the Daimyo's uncle. But she might just be falling in love with him too, despite herself. Anyone seeing a pattern here? Anyone think they'll escape off into the sunset in one another's arms, away from the cares of their former lives?

Collaborating with Michi, to try and help her escape, is the other main viewpoint character, Hana, the girl who empties the chamber pots in the palace. She and her brother are both like Yukiko in their ability to speak with animals. At the same time she's hiding her association with the rebels from her brother Yoshi, Yoshi is hiding his plot to get rich from her. Seeing Yoshi was really cool too, because he and his lover are homosexual, and it's great seeing some representation in there.

So anyone who says it's hard to get female characters into stories because women just didn't do much in those days/in those settings, should be hit over the head with hardcover of Stormdancer and Kinslayer.

Well, I won't spoil anything, but I've come to the conclusion that Jay Kristoff hates all of his characters and enjoys seeing them suffer in terrible, terrible ways. Seriously, if there's anyone reading this who's a die-hard George R. R. Martin fan, those people should read Jay Kristoff, because he punishes his characters just as viciously and senselessly, loads on the scheming and betrayal, but dear gods, he manages pacing a million times better.

Also, FYI: if you really prefer happy endings, Jay Kristoff's books may not be for you. Or if you have issues with profanity. Or entrails.

In conclusion, Jay Kristoff is a terrible, terrible person, and I can't wait to read his next book.

Twelve cylinders.



On that note, the next one is Endsinger, and the release date is November 25th. But I have an advance reader copy in my hot lil' hands, provided by the publisher, so keep your eyes open for a review of book three, as well as a giveaway. That's right, there's going to be a free copy of Endsinger up for grabs, courtesy of the publisher, so watch out for details in November.

Off to start book three!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

An interview with first time Steampunk author, February Grace.

Tick tock, 

As a lover of all things clock this next book caught my eye. Especially the blurb:



"What is a heart if not the ultimate clockwork?"
     Abigail’s young life was saved by the kindness of strangers: Schuyler Algernon, the man who found her collapsed on cold city streets, and Quinn Godspeed, the doctor who risked everything by breaking the law to keep her fragile heart beating.
     As the truth about what she’s become and her feelings for her savior overtake her, Abigail is forced to ask what constitutes life, living, and what dark secrets are contained within Godspeed’s past and the walls of Schuyler’s house.

I tracked down the author and I just had to interview her. Punkettes, I'd like you to officially meet February Grace and her novel Godspeed.  




Clockpunkette: Tell us about why we would like your book.

FG: Well, I think you would like this book because it is an awesome blending of light Steampunk and literary romance! It is appropriate for the YA age group, but I have readers that cross almost all age categories (from age 12 on up into their near 70’s that I know of!) It was also chosen to be a featured story on Wattpad after I published it there in January of 2013, so that is another thing that speaks to its awesomeness! I am so grateful to Wattpad for their support of my writing. *note if you don't know what wattpad is go here

Above all, though, I hope that you would love it because of the diversity in its characters. Most have different disabilities (I have multiple disabilities myself) and I wanted to give them a voice, as it were. As Doctor Godspeed says to main female character Abigail at one point in the book: “It’s time you met the Freaks!” (The Freak’s Chorus is how the small band refers to itself, it is a name they have taken and proudly owned. Pretty cool, I think. I love them all.)

Oh...and it also hit number #1 in Steampunk (Paid, in Kindle Store) on Amazon a couple of times during different promotions...beyond my wildest dreams, that was! It was such an amazing feeling. I'll never forget it.

Clockpunkette: Would you consider your book steam/clock or deislepunk?

FG: Definitely Steampunk-ish. The gadgets are not the center of the story though, the people are.

Clockpunkette: How did you find steampunk?

FG: I kind of stumbled into it backwards…through seeing artwork online and people cosplaying at Comic Con and thinking, that is really cool, what is that about? I’ve always loved clocks and gears! As do I. Then I realized there was all the cool steam powered stuff and inventions (and gears!) and levers (and gears!!!) and that great stuff and I wanted to read a really cool steampunk book. So I looked for one that I would love…and I didn’t find it. In fact, I didn’t really read more than the synopsis/blurbs for most of them before realizing they were not what I was looking for. So I decided to write the book I wanted to read myself. I kept myself away from all Steampunk books while I was writing too—and you know, I have yet to find a story out there that someone else wrote that I can really fall in love with, steampunk-wise. I’m still looking!!! Any suggestions for her Punkettes?

Clockpunkette: Why did it influence your book?

FG: Steampunk had to be at the heart of the devices that I wanted Doctor Godspeed to create. It was a natural fit. I actually came up for the idea for the book in the middle of the night when I was very ill and recovering from surgery. The thought, “what is a heart if not the ultimate clockwork?” came to me and I jotted it down in the notebook I was using to keep track of all my medication doses in. Originally the idea for the story was much darker than GODSPEED turned out to be, but I couldn’t really be happier with the way the final story turned out. This book is my baby.


Clockpunkette: How do you conducted research for the steam elements?

FG: I read about Steampunk in general online to get a feel for the limits of what I could and couldn’t invent for GODSPEED which was great because being it is set in a fictional city, I had a lot of leeway to play with. I didn’t specify the year for that same reason, though I imagine it to be in the late 1890s. I wanted the freedom to create these fantastic devices, but I did look into things like when the first of something critical to the book was invented and by whom and how (spoilers if I tell, sorry!) so I wouldn’t mess that up! Then I just went for it.


Clockpunkette: If you could make anyone read your book who would it be?


FG: If I could MAKE anyone? LOL Probably be someone at Disney, with the hopes that they’d want to make it into a film! Now THAT would be the ultimate! 


Clockpunkette: And lastly can you provide us with an excerpt of the book.

FG: Gladly!

Excerpt from GODSPEED:

“My father was a clockmaker,” he declared, without my having to ask. “He was… sort of a business partner of Schuyler’s father. He built timepieces, restored antiques for the shop on a regular basis. I learned everything I know about clock repair and watch making from him.”
   He closed the case on the back of the watch he’d been working on and set his tools aside. Last of all, he removed the loupe and put it away. “I find concentrating on the task of repairing such a thing helps me to think.”
   I marveled that work so intricate, requiring such meticulous attention, could help anyone think about anything else. It just served as evidence again of the unusual mind at work here, someone so brilliant that clockworks were no challenge at all, and only in the mysteries of the inadequacies of the human body could a true challenge be found.
   “Your mother?” I asked softly. Hearing how dry my throat was, the doctor rose from his chair and brought me a glass of water.
   “I do not remember.”
   He did not elaborate as to whether she left him by choice or by chance, taken in death or had abandoned him when he was a boy. “Before you ask, no, I have no siblings. Well, none that are not… convenient fabrications.”
   I left the comment alone for now; I did not want to stop him talking. If I risked asking the wrong question in this moment he may never be willing to approach this topic again.
   I wondered that he was willing to approach it now. Again, I was too afraid of breaking the spell to question too mightily.
   “Schuyler’s mother, I remember. She was a very kind woman. Gifted,” he continued. “A musician. All the musical instruments you find around this place originally belonged to her. She tried to teach me to play violin and piano, but I had no natural talent for music.
   “So off to my father’s workshop I went, usually ferrying back and forth from it the items from Ruby Road that needed to be repaired. Very early on he had me assisting him, handing him this tool and that, never once behaving as if he believed I didn’t understand. No matter how young I was, he always used the proper terms for things and explained to me exactly their purpose inside the clockworks.” He got a distant look in his eye, and shook his head as he paced past his workbench and moved toward the cabinet across the room.
   He opened up a panel, procured a bottle and glass, and poured himself a drink. “I didn’t realize then that the greatest gift he would ever give me was faith in my own mind.”
He downed the dark, pungent liquid in one long gulp and nodded approvingly at the taste. He pivoted on his heel and turned back toward me. “Still, you refuse to tell me about yourself.”
   I looked away.
   “Even so much as your name.”
   My eyes remained focused on the opposite wall.
   “I am a fairly resourceful man, you know.”
   I felt the urge to laugh at the magnitude of his understatement. To say he was fairly resourceful was to say that the sea, roaring and endless with advancing and retreating tides, was vast and tasted slightly of salt.
   “I’ve done some investigating,” he said, pacing again as he spoke. “There have been no reports of a young woman your age, anyone even close to your description, going missing in the last year, and I highly doubt you were on the street more than a day before Schuyler plucked you from it. Otherwise you would not have survived.”
   He looked me over with carefully critical eyes, almost as one considering purchase of a piece of used merchandise. “Why is it a girl with such… who has been at least somewhat carefully kept and cared for over the years, would not be reported missing?”
I summoned all of my strength to speak, because I was driven to answer. “To be reported missing, sir, one must first be missed.”
   He inclined his head, accepting my explanation. He clearly understood how much speaking those words, words tied to such difficult emotions, took out of me. He pressed me no further.
He returned to the workbench behind the surgical table, where I now sat with my legs hanging over the side.
   He opened the top drawer, procured a small wooden box, and held it up on display.
   “A gift.”
   My eyes widened when I saw what at first appeared to be a brilliant silver-tone locket; antique, and fashioned in the arcing shape of a heart.
   “This, like most things in life, is more than it first appears.” He removed it with one hand and set aside the box with the other before moving within reach. “This is the means by which we will free you from the torment of harsher treatments.”
   I watched with absolute amazement as he unlatched the clasp on the charm and revealed its complicated interior. Gear upon gear, lever upon lever, all churning and clicking away in musical, clockwork time. He leaned in so close now that I could feel the warmth of his cheek against mine.
“Here.” He dangled the necklace in front of me, where it danced and flickered in the light. “This is your new heart. It’s rare, and young, and made of pure white gold.” For an instant he looked upon me with an expression I could not possibly put emotion to. “Exactly, I am certain, like the one it will repair.”
   He lowered the chain around my neck, and as he did so, tears I could not deny wound their way down my cheeks and onto his gifted, powerful hands.
 

Thank you so much for hosting me! I really appreciate it! 
Our pleasure.





GODSPEED is Published by Booktrope, and is available here:

Amazon Kindle: http://amzn.to/14uTC4s
Amazon Hardcover: http://amzn.to/18tMsCc

Contact February Grace:
Twitter: @FebruaryGrace
Pinterest: FebruaryGrace

Friday, June 20, 2014

Punkettes On TV!

Well, one of us anyway.


Last Saturday was the 50th anniversary of the airport where I took flying lessons. The breakfast in the morning was held in the hangar where most of the planes I learned to fly were kept.

There were aeroplane rides planned for young people, but sadly, thunderstorms trashed those hopes and the kids had to make do playing with paper aeroplanes in the rain. But there was a flight simulator brought in by the cadets, where I saw a good number of people I wouldn't want to be in a plane with, along with some ten-year-olds that I would be happy to.

Things were winding down when the Global reporter showed up, and everyone else seemed busy closing things down so I waved her down and asked if she wanted to see the planes. She asked if I was a pilot, and made me feel pretty special, and it was fun. But without further ado, click the link to the video that showed up on Global News that evening:

Global Report, St. Andrew's 50th

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Over The Waves: Radio In Fiction

I attended a panel presented by Kelly Armstrong a few years ago, where she commented on how cellphones were the bane of many urban fantasy writers. They create a lot of "well why don't they just _______" plot holes, requiring the author to get creative in finding ways of preventing the cellphone from working.

I felt cheated. I thought, if the technology of the era you're working in is a problem, why are you writing in that time period?

One of the awesome things about dieselpunk and the other 'punks, is that they're all about the technology (or should be!) The ability to communicate over long distances can be a great plot device that really sets the world apart from medieval fantasy. In contrast with most urban fantasy, you can have one character in one situation, who is in contact with another character in a completely different situation. They can communicate in real time, but not physically help one another. For example, you could have a character in a plane that's on fire and careening into the ground, speaking real time with characters who's heart's are breaking because there's nothing they can do to help.

And on the other hand, the limitations of radio keep it differentiated from urban fantasy. Radio is only good for a certain number of miles, and not so good over rough terrain. Better if you're broadcasting from high up, like in an aeroplane - you can reach much farther then. Less, if you're in the middle of a storm with a lot of electrical activity. Not only that, but there's limitations in the way it works. Only one person can speak at a time on any particular frequency. If one person is speaking, and another person tries to transmit over them, you get static and you're lucky if you can hear either of them.



Incidentally, that's why they say "over" in the movies when they're talking on the radio, and while the rule of saying "over to indicate you're done talking and someone else can talk is still on the books, we pilots don't actually ever say it. Well, there's one guy who does, and we all giggle at him in our respective cockpits. You can generally hear when someone lets go of the transmit button because the background static that's there while they're talking stops.

I wondered about that, years ago. How do people know what frequency to talk on, to talk to a particular person? Do they actually have to set the radio to a specific frequency, and know beforehand what frequency the other person is going to be on in order to contact them? That seemed entirely too inconvenient.

Now of course, I'm a pilot, and part of being a pilot is having a radio license and using a radio regularly. And the above is exactly how it works. There are specific frequencies that are designated for particular purposes. For example, in most countries, 121.5 is the emergency frequency. If you're calling mayday, and you're not already in contact with anyone, you'd call mayday on 121.5. Most airports have their own frequency. The busy ones might have more than one. My home city has five or six, if you include the frequency that's nothing but a continuous loop played over and over of the most current weather report.

If two frequencies are close together, you might hear broadcasts faintly from other frequencies. Or a very strong signal might bleed over all frequencies, like if you're emergency beacon goes off in your plane, it doesn't matter what frequency you're listening to, you'll hear it.

And then there's the cultural things. The frequencies where music would be played, to entertain the masses, or the news. You have radio plays, and with radio, came commercials. And everybody's favourite: propaganda.



Lots of things to bring a dieselpunk world to life, with just one piece of technology.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Poisonous Fashions








In Toronto, Ontario, a most interesting display is opening on June 18th. The Bata Shoe Museum "for the curious" is opening an exhibition called "Fashion Victims: The Pleasures and Perils of Dress in the 19th Century".

Beneath the ruffles and dainty lace of the highest fashions, lay perilous and deadly secrets. Can a top hat kill you? Can a pair of dapper boots slowly poison you to death? If you wear those billowing skirts and step too close to the fireplace will you go up like tinder?

From hair combs made of highly flammable plastic that caught entire factories on fire, to socks that were colored with highly poisonous dyes, the exhibition has it all.


The Event Announcement:

Fashion Victims: The Pleasures and Perils of Dress in the 19th Century

Transport yourself back to the 19th century where beautiful outfits fashioned by seamstresses and shoemakers supplied the privileged with enviable ensembles. Swathed from head to toe in expensive garments and shod in delicate footwear, fashion-forward women graced the boulevards and the ballrooms with their colorful presence. Their tailored male companions cut equally refined figures in their black coats, spotless white linens, lustrous top hats and shiny boots. Yet presenting an elegant exterior was not without its perils. The discomfort of constricting corsets and impossibly narrow footwear was matched by the dangers of wearing articles of fashion dyed with poison-laced colors and made of highly flammable materials.

From the challenges faced by those who produced fashionable dress to the risks taken by those who wore it, this exhibition provides thought provoking insights into what it means to be a fashion victim.



Oh darling, this dress is simply to die for.



All we can say is, The Punkettes may be making a trip to Toronto.

The Bata Shoe Museum Website



























photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/sacheverelle/2657467211/">Sacheverelle</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/">cc</a>

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Einstein and the Fountain of Youth


Did Einstein discover the secret to the Fountain of Youth?



As someone captivated with time and time theories I find Einstein’s theory of Special Relativity particularly interesting. In the interest of my not botching the description you can read about SR here:



Now the part I find particularly fascinating is the notion that when we travel at fast speeds we reach our destination faster. All right, I know what you’re thinking. It’s not fascinating, it’s a fact. Well if we apply Einstein’s theory to that fact than our perspective changes. We do not reach our destination faster because we travelled faster. We reach our destination faster because time slows for us.

Have you ever heard someone say Astronauts age slower than people on Earth? Well it’s technically true. It may be only mere seconds but they still age slower.

Here’s an example:

A moving clock runs more slowly than a stationary clock.
The most famous hypothetical illustration of time dilation is usually called the twin paradox. Suppose there are twins named Harry and Mary. Mary takes off in a spaceship which travels very fast away from earth (it must travel close to the speed of light for the effect to be noticeable) and returns very fast. We can think of the human body as a clock which records the passage of time by aging. Since Mary is moving very fast, her clock runs slowly, compared to Harry's clock. As a result, when Mary arrives back at earth she has aged less than Harry has. How much less depends on how far she has traveled, and how fast. (Read more here: http://webs.morningside.edu/slaven/Physics/relativity/relativity5.html)

So this brings us to my question: Did Einstein discovers the secret to the fountain of youth. I think YES! If a stationary body ages faster than a body in motion than in order to stay young we have to stay active. So the secret to youth is actually not a secret at all. Richard Simmons, Body Break(Canadian fitness troupe) and many other space-time consorting activists have traveled before us promising youthful bodies if only we follow their routines. Perhaps they are right and my diet of caffeine and sugar merely gives the allusion of youth, because it makes you hyper and you talk faster. 

Happy hurrying!

Rebecca Sky
The Clockpunkette  

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Nazi Fetishism

Some time ago, I joined a dieselpunk group on facebook, and this post came up in my feed:


I wasn't sure how to react to that. My first thought was do these people not realize the reaction they're naturally going to get? 

I mean, sure, the swastika is a very old symbol, predating Nazis by a few thousand years at least, and has usually had positive connotations. But that's not what we're talking about - they're not invoking eastern culture, they're specifically invoking the Nazi connotations, and there isn't anyone who's going to see them wearing it that's not going to associate it with this:


(I went with one of the milder pictures - we all know there are more discomfiting images out there....)

And there is no getting around that association. These people cannot expect people anywhere in the world to look at them wearing Nazi uniforms and not think that these are people who probably hate Jews, Romani, Gays, and the mentally challenged.

And since they say they're not, it begs the question, are these people just wanting to be contrary and stir up trouble because their mothers didn't give them enough attention as children?

I was at an artist gathering where the models were dressed on a steampunk theme a few months ago, and one of the male volunteer models was dressed as an un-dead German soldier, gas mask and everything. He had a character backstory though, that it seemed very important to him that everyone know: This character had been involved in one of the failed assassination attempts on Hitler, and was killed in the attempt. (And subsequently re-animated, but that's beside the point.)

It was important to him that people be reminded that not all Germans in that period were entirely comfortable with Hitler's actions, and there were indeed people who stood up and tried to do something about it. And see, that's a commendable way to present that, and he wasn't being stupid about it. Not only was he trying to educate people, but he recognized that there was no getting around people's reaction to what he was wearing.

So I'm kind of on the fence about it. If it's your thing, I guess, go for it, but don't do it for attention, and don't go around being surprised about how people react to it, and what assumptions will be made about you. And Steampunk and it's derivatives aren't about historical re-enactment anyway. If you just like the style, and you really are into dieselpunk, don't just dress up in a Nazi costume - make it your own some how - use anachronisms, play around with the style, be creative. If it's true dieselpunk, it's about invoking the old images and twisting them, subverting them, turning them upside down, not re-creating them.