Tag Archives: super hero

Sovereign, by April Daniels

Only nine months after her debut as the fourth superhero to fight under the name Dreadnought, Danny Tozer is already a scarred veteran. Protecting a city the size of New Port is a team-sized job and she’s doing it alone. Between her newfound celebrity and her demanding cape duties, Dreadnought is stretched thin, and it’s only going to get worse. When she crosses a newly discovered supervillain, Dreadnought comes under attack from all quarters. From her troubled family life to her disintegrating friendship with Calamity, there’s no trick too dirty and no lever too cruel for this villain to use against her. She might be hard to kill, but there’s more than one way to destroy a hero. Before the war is over, Dreadnought will be forced to confront parts of herself she never wanted to acknowledge. And behind it all, an old enemy waits in the wings to unleash a plot that will scar the world forever.

It’s hard to talk about a great book like Sovereign, by April Daniels without spoiling it. The cover art is compelling, just like Dreadnought. We see the continuing adventures of Danny Tozer. The way that society reacts to her and her power continues from book one. While I feel that Sovereign is not quite as powerful as Dreadnought, they are superhero books above all others as far as I’m concerned. From a literary standpoint, Sovereign cranks up the tension and the stakes, not just with Danny Tozer, but also with the world as a whole. Danny has more to lose and more to cherish in book two, and I cannot wait for book three. Like its predecessor, Sovereign, by April Daniels is a five-star superhero read.

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April Daniels graduated from UC Santa Cruz with a degree in literature, and then promptly lost her job during the 2008 stock crash and recession. After she recovered from homelessness, she completed her first manuscript by scribbling a few sentences at a time between calls while working in the customer support department for a well-known video game console. She has a number of hobbies, most of which are boring and predictable. As nostalgia for the 1990s comes into its full bloom, she has become ever more convinced that she was born two or three years too late and missed all the good stuff the first time around. Early in her writing practice, April set her narrative defaults to “lots of lesbians” and never looked back.

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The Last American Hero, by Nicole Field

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In the aftermath of the accident that revealed his identity, famous superhero Captain Hart has gone missing. His best friend Bruce waits anxiously for any sign of him, any clue as to where Leo Hart might have gone—even though he knows full well he’s not the only one looking, and that it might be best for Leo to stay gone. Then Leo returns, and Bruce starts to wonder whether it will be the good thing he expected it to be.

 

I saw The Last American Hero on NetGalley, and I liked Nicole Field’s The Shock of Survival, so I figured I’d check this one out. I wasn’t disappointed. More than one review has compared this story to April Daniel’s Dreadnought, and I’d go one step further and liken the two stories to being cousins. They both have trans protagonists. I’ve been trying to diversify my reading in the past year or so, and it’s so wonderful to read these touching stories that I may not have been exposed to otherwise.

The Last American Hero is just a good story. It provides us a small glimpse into the life of a trans person and allows us to empathize. We also see thoughts and opinions on the nature of being heroic, and how perception can deify or demonize those that are different. Most of all, though, we get a fun story about what happens after a superhero thwarts an alien invasion.

Like, The Shock of Survival, Nicole tells the story we all want to hear after the villain is vanquished. For every story that you’ve finished, and wondered, “what happens next?” Nicole starts at that point, and we see what we’ve often wondered. The Last American Hero is a fun, fast read, and easily 4+ stars. And just so Nicole knows, #TeamCap.

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Nicole writes across the spectrum of sexuality and gender identity. She lives in Melbourne with one of her partners, two cats, a whole lot of books and a bottomless cup of tea. Also likes tea, crochet and Gilmore Girls.

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Moonrise CH28 – Phantom Moon

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[1058 words – Prompts: Inspiration Monday, #3WW, The Writing Reader, Write Anything Wednesday, #SoCS, Sunday Photo Fiction]

Joaquin jogged through the stalled traffic, the overcast evening getting cold. He appreciated the comfortable numbness. Light shone brilliantly from behind the clouds. The phantom moon pulled at his inner tide. He allowed the celestial influence guide him toward Andy’s apartment in Chinatown. No one called it that anymore – now it was the International District. Joaquin had expected Andy to be living in a house with a white picket fence, but instead he and Massey found the hacker in a small apartment above an Asian Travel agency, and Moe’s Exotic Herbs.

As Joaquin walked by, an Asian man lackadaisical sweeping the floor inside Moe’s Exotic Herbs eyed him. His motions became more deliberate, the grip on the broom tightening. He feigned concentration at his task, but Joaquin caught the pull of the lip, saw the wrinkles piling on the ancient cheeks, saw the barely showing but present snarl. A thought slowly crept into his mind that the man wasn’t judging him by appearance, but by the fact that he was one of them, one of the super powered people they were showing on the TV all day. The media painted them as killers, so why would some ordinary man see it otherwise? Joaquin felt like he was suddenly transparent to the man, his freak DNA imprinted on his skin. He rushed past the glint of the window. Behind him, the man flipped the “Closed” sign and turned off the lights.

Joaquin found the stairs to the side of the building. He climbed them two at a time, and when he snuck inside the narrow corridor, he quickly found Andy’s black painted door. His banged his fist on it. When Andy didn’t answer, he hammered at it again feeling it shift slightly under the pressure of his impatience and frustration. “Yo man open up. It’s Joaquin.”

He heard the muffled sounds of feet rushing on wood, the throwing off something heavier, the drop of coins and the light swear. Then the door cranked open obstructed by the rusted chain.

“Slide that shit open homie and let me in.”

Andy slicked back his hair and craned his neck to look past Joaquin.

“Where’s Detective Massey?”

“Busy,” Joaquin squeezed through teeth. “I got the stuff instead. So. Move. Over.”

Andy yanked the chain free and stepped aside allowing Joaquin’s large frame access.

“The hell were you doin’ makin’ me wait and shit? I thought you was trippin’ or somethin’.” Joaquin looked around the apartment. It wasn’t difficult to figure out Andy had rushed to make it look more hospitable, cleaning papers and clothes, which were in a heap on the bed. Despite his effort, the small living room was like a disposal area, food, clothing, cables, cameras, CDs all in a mess that Andy probably called order.

Andy shook his head. “I don’t partake in drug usage. So, Golden Boy, let me see what you brought.”

Joaquin handed him the backpack. “Don’t call me that.”
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A few Questions for April Daniels

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I reviewed April Daniels upcoming #LGBT superhero novel on Tuesday, and I asked her to follow up with a little Q&A…

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
When I went to college. I wanted to make video games, but the part of gaming that I really was interested in was the story, and after looking at some game company websites for game writer job postings, it seemed like the easiest way to do that kind of work was to get published as an author a few times. At the time, getting a novel published seemed like it would be no sweat, just a matter of a year or two. This is not the case.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I really wouldn’t know. I write how I write, and try not to think too much about signature styles or anything. Style is something that happens naturally for most, and while you can develop it with intention, that’s an advanced level skill that I’m only now beginning to come to grips with.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I still play a lot of video games, but I’m getting old, so while I used to be able to play twitch-shooters, I’m now mostly into support classes on Overwatch and grognardy strategy games.

What does your family think of your writing?
Mom’s pretty stoked.

Describe your protagonist, Danny.
Plucky. She’s got miles and miles of pluck.

How long did it take you to write Dreadnought?
About six weeks to rough it out in late 2013. After that, there have been a total of several months work of intensive work, spaced out in fits and starts as I worked on other projects and battled various intrusions from real life and my day job.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned while writing Dreadnought?
I don’t really learn things while writing books. Researching, sure, but once I start writing it’s because I know where I’m going.

Danny’s experiences touch on larger issues, such as the nature of choice, the ramifications of how society sees us, and the pursuit of revenge. What’s your take on some of these issues?
My answer to this will go on sale January 24th on Amazon and at your local bookstore.

What was your grand plan when you first set out to write this novel?
To write the book I wish I’d had when I was 15. There wasn’t anything at that time that showed trans people in a good light. Hell there wasn’t even anything that told stories from our perspectives.

What other fiction influences your work?
I’ve been reading sci-fi and fantasy my whole life. Superhero fiction is great because it’s basically both at once. It’s hard to pick out specific features I took from other work for that reason, though believe it or not, The Black Company by Glenn Cook is probably the strongest influence.
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Moonrise CH27 – Bizarre Mundanity

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[1000 words – Prompts: Inspiration Monday, #3WW, Sunday Scribblings 2, #SoCS, Write Anything]

* * *

Joaquin lingered in the threshold of Frank Massey’s apartment even after Betty’s silhouette faded into the distance of a bustling city street. Joaquin closed and locked the front door, tossed the envelopes in his backpack, left via the back door and made his way to the bus stop perched at the end of the long lane. He didn’t see the black SUV creeping up from anywhere, and he wondered whether it hadn’t been waiting on Betty. He didn’t know if his self-reassurance was far-fetched and lamented the fact that he just didn’t know what was going on. Before he had super powers, it was easy to know who he had to watch out for. Now, he just didn’t know.

It was getting dark, earlier than usual, a nasty trick of the month. Joaquin measured the sky, saw how it darkened inch by inch, a layer of blue melting away to add purples and reds and oranges until it went indigo. He caught the bus by the tail and loaded himself. As it pulled from its stop, Joaquin looked around, but he didn’t spot anyone acting suspicious or spending too much time with their eyes glued to him.

He sighed. He was overwhelmed, and every shadow or invisible threat spooked him. Joaquin thought that that was pretty stupid for a guy who couldn’t get hurt, but still… It was like the paranoia Massey and Betty carried had transferred onto him and was now crawling up his spine making him nervous. Even those glorious days in the Canadian wilderness with Peter seemed somehow less dangerous. Joaquin rested his head rest against the bus window, watching humanity stroll by on the sidewalks, gather in front of bars, and seat-dance in their cars.

The curved glass of the window distorted the night sky injecting fast growing city lights into the mix. Red streaks broke into his view, the color crashing into his peripheral vision. Joaquin blinked at his reflection, hollow eyes twinkling with that dreadful color. The intruding shade disappeared as the bus gained speed. Joaquin pulled his hood tighter over his head and disappeared into the anonymity he used to take for granted.

When the bus groaned to a halt ten stops later, Joaquin jumped out of its bleak interior dismissing anyone staring at him from the steamy windows. He kicked up his pace, hands in pockets, eyes set firmly in one direction. The city lights were full in their illumination of the night now, neon greens, yellows, blues and pinks erupting from every commercial corner, selling booze, selling smokes, dealing drugs, dealing porn. They gave away some sort of warmth and comfort, and Joaquin felt more at home as he rushed down the curb, dodging people, avoiding eyes. His ears picked out music, but it died out in the cacophony of a city gearing up for the nightlife and was too scant to be identified or remembered. The halting thump-thump of dance music blared out of a few open doors. Blues, country, and rock also competed for his attention. He could make out brief snippets of conversation. They were small words from smirking mouths. He relished the slang and accents constructing one giant jibber-jabber in front of food carts. He smelled the curbside popcorn, gamy kebabs, hot dogs and ice cream right by weed smokers exchanging signs and currency. Hard drinkers crushed brown paper bags between calloused fingers. They watched him with watery eyes from hollow sandpaper faces. He knew them all, their nature, their tricks. He felt like he could breathe again alone and assured in the bizarre mundanity of the Seattle urban sprawl.
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Moonrise CH26 – Error

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[1010 words – Inspiration Monday, #3WW, Sunday Scribblings 2, The Writing Reader, #SoCS]A harsh red light in the laboratory blinded him when stepped through the doors as he rushed past lab assistants, engineers, and other personnel. Major Globe was on the precipice of a dire failure he feared could happen yet hoped he would be able to avoid. He closed his eyes and tried to calm his frayed nerves, but the erratic throbbing building in his temples only increased. The flicker of the alert light turned his skin hotter than it already was and he ground his teeth feeling the pressure of tooth on tooth scratch at his skull.

“Will someone turn that off?” he demanded to no one in particular.

The clinical calm typically present in the lab returned. Globe’s workers tried to compose themselves. The low-frequency sound disappeared with a soft buzz. Globe opened his eyes blinking at the blue-white light that returned to calm his heated head.

Globe glared at the transparent tube where Peter motionlessly floated. What normally illuminated the super within was now eerily dark. The data on the screen in front of him flashed, “alert,” “system down,” and “reboot unavailable.” It had been working like a clock, timed and measured to tick in a precise rhythm that promised to deliver outstanding results within weeks. Now it had suffered a step back and not a small one. He tried to calculate the new timetable. His gaze was unfocused, and he looked nowhere, in particular, lost in thought while his fingers clenched into fists. He needed time to understand whether the experiment had suffered a recoverable overdose on the cocktail of drugs designed to keep Peter alive. Perhaps the substance had been muddied, weakened, even. He needed to know if this project was completely lost or just halted.

His stare wandered to a matching tank and his brows furrowed. He knew it had come from Kristoff, the computer said as much. It was just a light stir, a brief, but weak spark. The vital signs of his reluctant hero were the source of the power surge that had transferred to Peter’s chamber and short-circuited it. They had nearly lost Peter, and now his vitals were so low it was impossible to continue the experiment. Worst than that, his power had been depleted. Globe shifted his attention to the third pod in the room. He threatened Anne into compliance so many times with it. Could it be used to fix Peter’s malfunctioning pod?

One of the lab assistants babbled at him reiterating things that Globe already knew. The assistant tried to explain how the team was taking a manual sample to test. How from the moment the accident had happened the test results had begun to decrease in purity, efficiency and strength. How they had had to temporarily disconnect Kristoff from the equation for fear his DNA structure would dominate and destroy the results. Globe’s fist came down on the table scaring the lab assistant and he pounded it until the skin on his knuckles broke and they started to bleed. He smacked the monitor and grabbed a handful of cables and pulled at them ripping them apart from whatever sockets they were attached to. He hurled the bundle of cables on the floor in a heap. In his fury, he flipped the table and kicked a rolling chair making the assistant cower and hug the tablet he held with a death grip. Everyone else present stopped and stared. Some had the sense to hide it, but not all of them.
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Moonrise CH25 – Fragile Destiny

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[1030 words | Prompts: Inspiration Monday, #3WW, The Writing Reader, Sunday Scribblings 2, #SoCS]”Who are you?”

Joaquin blinked at the woman’s squinting eyes and the stern expression on her face. She shifted her hands behind her back to hide something. Joaquin allowed a wide grin and took a step back from the door. “Frank told me to wait for someone.” He paused and allowed his eyes to roam over the petite woman from head to toe. “How do I know you’re the one I’m waiting for?”

The woman sighed and brought whatever she was hiding behind her back in plain sight. “Let me guess,” she declared, an amused rise in the corner of her lips, “Frank had to step out, so you got stuck waiting for this.” She waved a thick envelope at Joaquin, and let it thump soundly on a table adorning the entryway.

“So,” she continued after glancing at Joaquin, “who’re you with? CIA, FBI, NSA, DHS? Detective Frank Massey has lots of friends in a variety of federal offices.” Her eyes focused on his right eyebrow. “He also has contacts in other organizations.” She winked. “Street organizations…”

Joaquin’s smile fell. The blonde woman nodded as if he had confirmed her suspicions. “Well, uh, I…” he stammered.

She held up a hand, palm toward Joaquin. “Save it; I don’t want to know.”

Joaquin looked over his shoulder and back to the woman. “What’s your name?” he queried.

She smiled. “Just let Frank know that all the information and ancillary content he wanted is in the package.” She gestured toward the envelope balanced precariously on the edge of the table.

“Okay, uh, Betty, er, I mean, Officer Patterson.”

She smirked and turned to exit the foyer back to the street. Her pleasant smile faded when she saw a black Ford Explorer with dark tinted windows parallel parked across the street. Joaquin followed her gaze, and he noticed the slight distortion coming from the tailpipe. Whoever it was, they left the motor running. The vehicle suddenly pulled into the street and sped away. Betty and Joaquin watched it disappear over the slight rise of the pavement, noting the government license plate.

Betty tightened her jacket and turned back into Frank’s apartment. She met Joaquin’s eyes with a cold determination that made him swallow audibly. “Tell Frank that I don’t know what he’s into, but he needs to watch his back.” She reached over and pushed the envelope further on the table. “He needs to keep me out of whatever’s going on. I want no part of an operation that has spooks watching what’s going on.”

She turned and stepped across the threshold. She looked left and then right, before another glance over her shoulder at Joaquin. She descended the stairs and headed down the sidewalk opposite from the direction the black SUV went. She looked as if she hadn’t a care in the world, but Joaquin knew better.

He was certain that his destiny and Frank’s were intertwined and so very fragile. One mistake could end them both, possibly even the world.
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