Like Birds is on Wattpad.

Copy of Like BirdsWattpad has fascinated me and scared me since I started getting serious about my writing. Even before I knew what it was, I liked the idea of serially posting a story online. The problem was, traditional publishing just holds too much allure.

Now that I have one book signed with a small press and another being subbed to agents, it’s safe to pull Like Birds Under The City Sky from my “shelf” of misfit manuscripts and share it with the internet.

It’s a story near and dear to my heart, one that explores the intersection of the LGBTQ identities and Christianity, but it is not a linear novel. It jumps time and tenses and points of view as Micah tries to reconcile his faith with his identity, and explores the hypocrisy of his parents while helping his boyfriend, Charlie, run from cyber spies and robots who want to pressgang him into service.

Every time I try to rein that jumping around in per beta reader feedback, it just doesn’t work. I still have two stories trying to be one. I still have a story that unfolds out of order.

And that is just how it has to be.

In my last revision, I tried to blend the feedback with want I want the book to be. I changed the format so it was told through blog posts, letters, journals and transcribed recordings.

Books like this do exist in print, but for now, I think this one is just better online. Readers don’t have to go through it in my recommended order, and don’t necessarily have to read the whole thing. Someone more interested in the realism of it can just read the parts set in Micah and Charlie’s past, and those who are more into the science fiction could just read about their present. Someone could read them in the order I’m posting them — the order I see the story unfold in, or read the chronologically.

Once the whole book is on Wattpad, I’ll post a few guides giving people navigation options, but those who read it while I’m posting it will see it in the order I do.

I considered building a website to post it on, but decided Wattpad would work fine since it is free, has readers, and an established community. I still have a lot to learn about Wattpad, but I’ll work through that as I go, and hopefully, once I get a chance to participate, I’ll get feedback from the community.

The first three sections are up now, and I plan to post one or two a week over the summer until they are all online.

This will be an interesting experiment, and I hope the right readers do find this story.

If nothing else, I’m sure I’ll learn something from it, and like I did with my failed attempt at crowdfunding a book, I’ll blog about those lessons as I learn them.

Since there is no money involved in this summer’s experiment, I suspect it will turn out better than my foray into Publishizer did.

https://embed.wattpad.com/story/148624059

Book Review: Seven-Sided Spy

Seven-Sided SpySeven-Sided Spy by Hannah Carmack

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I received a copy of Seven-Sided Spy from the author in exchange for a fair and honest review and was pleasantly surprised to find it’s science fiction element was a more prominent part of the story than I initially expected.

When I read the cover copy about once attractive spies deformed and on the run from the KGB, I thought normal scarring, not superhuman abilities and blue skin. The later is much more exciting, at least in my mind.

Yes, it has speculative elements, but Seven Sided Spy is also firmly grounded in reality and history. The slang, cars and clothing really ground me in the time period. The deep character development grounds me in humanity.

I loved how the characters’ past, present and future were all woven through the novel, but felt that at one point, having characters tell each other stories as a way to do that was used a little too much. It worked, though, because a lot of the “present” narrative was the characters stuck in the woods, trying to figure out when or if it would ever be safe to leave.

I honestly was not sure how this was going to end. I had a clear idea of how I wanted it to end, but my ideal ending would not have been the best for the stories true hero, so when I got to the end, the one I didn’t quite expect, it left me a little sad. It almost made me cry. However, it was also happy for at least for one characters. And it worked. I’m just a baby when it comes to endings.

While I am sure there are comparable novels like this one out there, I have not read once recently enough to make comparison. However, if you have ever wanted something like a darker, more grounded, queer Agent Carter, or if you just like spy novels with deep characters and a slight speculative element, then read Seven-Sided Spy.

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National Novel Writing Month: 2017

It’s that time of year again. The leaves are changing color, the days are getting short, and it’s almost time to embark on an adventure: National Novel Writing Month.

Last year, I wrote a romantic sci-fi thriller about a hacker and a small town boy on the run from some government contractors. After a few revisions, I thought it was done, queried it too soon, and got a lot of rejections. One editor was kind enough to give me some feedback, and after sending the book out to a few more beta, who agreed that the book needed work, I started a revision, got stuck, and put it in the to be revised later folder.

This year I am going to be more patient. I’m really excited about my project, and want to make sure it’s really ready before I send it out. Luckily, I have plenty of other projects to keep me busy.

I haven’t written or outlined enough to know exactly where the plot’s going, but I know who my characters are, I know the world, and know that it is totally queer. It’s space opera, and that means there will be whispers of Star Wars, Firefly and Guardians of the Galaxy, but I’m also certain my cast of gender-fluid characters, teenage drama, and  retro flare will make it unique.

Yes, there are space ships, aliens, magic and a quest, but the characters are what will make this book shine.

For now, here is a working blurb and some images:

Dianny doesn’t want to take over Mom’s business dealing in sex and drugs, or wind up like one of the beings Mom employs. However, with ADHD, anxiety, sensitivity to Oomph, and a gender identity their peers don’t understand, Dianny isn’t doing so well at avoiding that path. Dianny isn’t sure if they are relieved or terrified when they find Mom’s club shut down and swarming with federal agents, but they don’t dare disobey the task given to them by one of Mom’s girls: find their father, who is in a prison half way across the galaxy, and give him the Oomph enhanced artifact that the authorities are after. 

 

 

 

Book Review – Ardulum: Second Don

Ardulum: Second DonArdulum: Second Don by J.S. Fields

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The second book was just as good as the first, and I am very thankful I was able to get a free digital ARC.

The characters were constantly growing and being pushed to evolve. They were all flawed in ways that made me want to root for them. The obstacles thrown at them were believable enough to accept but big enough to pose a significant challenged.

The romance subplot is is picking up a bit, though it is still going at an incredibly slow, frustrating pace. This really puts the slow in slow burn. However, the romance really is a subplot, and there is so much more to this book.

The main plot was faster than the romance. I was reading on my kindle. One minute I was at 54%. The next time I looked at my progress, I was 77%, 95% and then I was done. It flew by, and I really wish book 3 was already out. The little teaser at the end of this made me want to read it now!

I may have already said this in the first review, but I loved how different pronouns were used for different species who had members that were neither male nor female, but while the idea of a true third gender was awesome, it wasn’t with the humans.

I have no complaints about this book. I had been reading more fantasy than science fiction, but the authors and editors at NineStar press, with books like the Ardulum series, Dalí, and Trans Liberty Riot Brigade, are reminding me how powerful science fiction can be when it involves complex characters and issues.

Ardulum was entertaining. It kept me on the edge of my seat trying to figure out what was going to happen next, and got me through a bad day, but it also made me think. It made me think about gender and sexuality, about human rights, religion, faith, diversity and where technology and advancement can build society up and break it down. Second Don was a little darker than First Don, but it wasn’t bleak and hopeless. Yes, it exposed some nasty flaws, but also offered hope that they might begin to heal in Third Don.

I guess I’ll just have to wait and see.

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Book Review: Phaethon

PhaethonPhaethon by Rachel Sharp

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

From Holly Black to Jim Butcher, I read a lot of books that involve Faeries of one kind or another. Still, this one felt fresh. It had the folklore grounding of a Holly Black novel, but a tone and humor more likely to appeal to Butcher fan’s.

The characters were cute and believable – people I could picture myself being friends with.

The plot was fast paced, and for the most part, I was able to suspend my disbelief and enjoy the ride.

As far as flaws go, sometimes things seemed a little too easy. I laughed a little when one of the characters said humans were fixing Earth, but reminded myself that the political climate may have been more…optimistic…when this book began.

The rest of the story was fun and well thought out, so I can forgive those flaws.

If you like a good blend of science and fantasy, then you will enjoy Phaethon.

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Book Review: Dalí

Screen Shot 2017-07-17 at 9.32.00 PMI received a free, electronic copy of Dalí from NineStar Press in exchange for an honest review.

I admit, I haven’t read much space opera, if any, since Karen Traviss stopped writing for the Star Wars franchise. I stuck to fantasy, and to science fiction that did not involve space travel because nothing quite compared to the Star Wars universe and the 40+ books I had read in it.

Dalí restored my faith in that particular sub-genre. The world building was exquisite, and done so smoothly that it did not distract from character development and plot. There was just enough description to help me picture the world, but it was concise and didn’t slow the story down. But most importantly, the characters were alive, diverse, fluid, and complex.

I am envious of Dalí’s ability to change gender to suit the their mood or the situation but remain neutral when they are just being theirself. I have a soft spot for characters that do not conform to the binary gender, and for characters that bounce back from trauma.

All that I mentioned above combined with the fascinating galaxy and the well woven Princess Bride references made this book a definite five stars.

There is so much more explore with this galaxy and its characters. I really hope this becomes a series!

Micro Fiction: The Importance of a Clean Windshield

The Importance of a Clean Windshield

By Sara Codair

“Scrape that off before you make the jump.” Dad’s voice crackled through the com. Like everything Iris’ family owned, it was utterly obsolete.

He faded to static. Iris imagined him lecturing her on the dangers of bringing organic, terrestrial material, like pollen and bird shit, into hyperspace.

“Will do,” she said before turning on her craft’s wipers. Just to be safe, she set to the whole ship vibrating.

“Make sure you don’t miss anything,” crackled Dad.

“I love you, Dad. I’ll be fine, and I’ll let you know as soon as I revert to real time.” Iris punched the coordinates for Great Red Eight. She was going to be attending university there and studying materials engineering, but as she prepped for light speed, all she could think about was the party scene, and what it would finally be like to make a life for herself away from her family’s antiques and eccentricities.

As the home-made hyper drive hummed to life and the stars stretched into lines in her space-craft’s windshield, Iris couldn’t help thinking of each glowing streak as a potentially awesome path her life could take. With hope brewing in her brain, Iris set an alarm to wake her shortly before reverting to real time and drifted off to sleep.

***

Iris woke to urgent beeping. It wasn’t the alarm she set, but one alerting her to premature real-time reversion. Blinking sleep away, she stared at the controls, holding her breath until she realized she was only seconds away from her planned reversion point.

“That could’ve been worse,” she sighed, adjusting her course.

The ship hit resistance that shouldn’t exist in space. She peered through the view screens. A giant Osprey was pushing her craft away from Red Eight.

“So much for escaping eccentricity,” she muttered before radioing for emergency assistance.

Flash Fiction: At Last

The following piece of flash fiction was originally published on Cracked Flash and was the runner up for their week 44 competition. I made some revisions based on the feedback I received from the judges.

At Last

By Sara Codair

The sword fell out of Lenora’s hand. It was over. After years of slaving away on the battlefield her ex-husband, the emperor, was finally dead. His head lay on the ground next to her fallen sword. She expected to feel some sense of excitement or victory, but she was empty, too tired to muster the smallest smile.

After fighting for years without victory, she had all but lost hope, believing the Gods were against her until the mysterious army of white knight appeared out of nowhere. These allies beat back the enemy legions and paved a way for her to reach the emperor and finally slay him. Now, she was watching blood pour out of his corpse like sand in an hourglass.

As the last of the emperor’s blood soaked into the ground, the landscape broke down. Bodies and vultures, mud and murder, armor and arms dissolved into tiny little squares.

Lenora looked down at herself. She still appeared solid. Crouching, she waved a calloused, gauntlet-clad hand through her enemy’s corpse. It went right through his pixelated body to a stone floor.

She choked on her next breath. She’d grown accustomed to the stench of blood, death and sweat, but it’d been a lifetime since she smelt melting plastic mingling with coffee and beer. It was terrible and beautiful and she sucked in as much of it as she could.

“It worked,” shouted a voice as foreign and familiar as the smell.

The battlefield was nothing more than fading dots dirtying the floor of a room filled with screens, wires and video game controllers. Two men rushed towards her. They bore no armor or weapons, and wore only ripped jeans and t-shirts.

“Nora!” shouted one of the men. “Thank God you’re back. Are you alright?”

“Ray,” she whispered as memories long buried broke through the dungeon doors. She ran towards him, all but collapsing in her lover’s arms.

“I love you,” she said inhaling the stale beer and coffee that clung to his breath.

“I love you too. You’re home now. You’re safe.”

She clung to him, crying to tears of relief to be out of the virtual hell her ex-husband had trapped her in. She was back in the real world. She was finally free.

© 2016 Sara Codair

Flash Fiction: Hope

Hope

By Sara Codair

“Don’t feel bad. I’m pretty hard to kill,” said GiYu. His purple appendages were already reattached and his torso was knitting itself back together.

The human female nodded and sucked air in through her nose. The slurping sound worried GiYu that the mucus her crying had evoked was making it hard for her to breath. Her skin was still flushed red though, and everything he had read about humans had said they turn blue when they are suffocating. Her eyes were focused on on torso, watching feathery tendons flicker back and forth.

“What do you think of it?” asked GiYu.

At first, the female didn’t respond. However, GiYu was patient. He watched her brow furrow, her lips quiver and her shoulders square before she finally speaking it a quiet, raspy voice. “It’s…Like…like 3-D printing, only without the extruder. It’s…it’s magical.”

“Regeneration is the art of my kind.” GiYu beamed down at the missing section of his torso. It was wide and purple, but shaped like a an earth-tree half eaten by one of their furry beavers.

“Does it hurt?” she asked with a steadier voice.

GiYu shook his head. “It is pleasant, almost like mating. Some of my kind get addicted to it and harm themselves just to experience the pleasures of regeneration.”

“You’re not mad?” Her eyes were wider now, and the tears were starting to dry up.

“Quite the opposite.” GiYu wrapped a fuzzy, purple tentacle around the human female’s back. “I’ve met many humans, but none of them were born during The Melt. None possessed your unique abilities.”

The female’s hands had uncurled as she let out a slow breath. GiYu could see the tips of her ten tiny fingers now. He was pleased to see the flesh on the the tips were still smooth and whole and he was relieved that using her ability did not do harm to her.

“My own people think I’m a monster.” The human’s creamy cheeks glowed red as she looked up. It was the first time her two green eyes made contact with any of his seven eyes. “I burned my family’s home when I was seven. They wanted to kill me, but the government took me, experimented on me, deemed me unfit for service and sold me to you.”

GiYu pulled her closer. “We have plenty of use for a firestarter here on SyLur. Fire is the only thing that keeps the mold at bay, and it really isn’t a problem if you accidentally set me and my kin on fire. We rather enjoy it, and we hope you will enjoy our planet.”

“But I’m a slave,” said the human.

“For now,” said GiYu. “Dedication and hard work may yet earn you your freedom.”

“Really?”

“Yes.”

GiYu was pleased to see a flare of hope in the girl’s eyes.

***

The above story was originally written for the Cracked Flash Fiction Competition. It was the runner up, which meant the judges wrote a brief review about saying a few things they liked and a few things they thought could be better. That draft had been written from a more omniscient 3rd person point of view where the human female talked a lot more. The judge liked the concept of the story, but said the following:

“I felt like her personality felt incongruous with her backstory–for someone who was a pariah for most of their life, and probably both mentally and physically tormented and abused (generally what ‘experimented on’ stands for, since experiments tend to not be gentle things), she felt far too talkative and adventurous. It would be more believable to me if she was more timid and had a lot more nonverbal gestures; it might have been useful to write from a more limited third-person view from GiYu, where he observes her more closely, and we hear more of his thoughts.”

So I took that suggestion, more or less, before posting the story here. The reader does here more of GiYu’s thoughts. The girl is more timid and has more nonverbal gestures. As she realizes GiYu isn’t going to eat her and is pleased with her actions, then she becomes more talkative.

You can see the original here.

If you have any further suggestions for the piece, I’d love to hear them. I don’t think this piece is quite finished yet, but I am trying document/show my revision process online. I learn a lot from revising and documenting that revision. I hope other writers can too.

Thank you!

©2016 Sara Codair