QSFer Bard Bloom has a new lesbian urban fantasy book out: Snake Armed Girl.
Fifteen years ago, America was shaken by a magical war between elves and Moon Demons that left many human cities in flames and many people turned into monsters.
It’s mostly calmer now — but Liane’s high school crush Elise is turned into a cat-monster under suspicious circumstances, and then Liane herself is turned into a snake-armed girl under even more suspicious circumstances.
As she investigates, she uncovers terrible secrets behind the war — and is cursed to be transformed into a woeful shape if she reveals them. Can she save her country without sacrificing her humanity and personality?
Bard is giving away an eBook copy of Mating Flight with this post. Comment below for a chance to win:
It’s finally time for Jyothky and eight other misfit adolescent dragons to go off to an unexplored, dragon-free universe and decide who will marry whom. They’re astral dragons, mighty and arrogant, with devastating breath weapons and vast magical powers, and they’re not even there to conquer the place. What kind of trouble could the natives possibly be — even civilized and technologically sophisticated natives? Or the mind-controlling parasite worms, or the undead god, or any of Hove’s other surprises? …Maybe quite a lot of trouble, but not as much as they will bring upon themselves.
The worst thing in the world happened to Elise this morning.
Well, not exactly all of Elise. The worst thing in the world happened to Elise’s shoe size this morning.
And we’re trying to joke about it to cheer her up — to cheer everybody up — but it isn’t actually funny. It’s not actually curable either, and the prognosis is terrible.
Anyhow, I will be a good public-diary-keeper and start from the beginning. Today was a half-day at school. The first week of school is always stupid, with Labor Day off, then Tuesday as the first day and Wednesday as the second, and Thursday and Friday as half-days called “Teachers’ Afternoons.” Maybe they need some time off to concoct all the assignments they meant to concoct all summer and never quite got to. (They leave everything to the last minute, those teachers. Not like students at all.)
So the Teachers’ Afternoon leaves Elise and Annika and me going to Annika’s house for lunch and homework. Our school is Tolland Academy (which means a lot if you’re from Cleveland), and not super-close to where we live. So Elise’s mother, or sometimes Annika’s when she’s home, drives us. Congress has vacation for another week for some reason or other, probably because Congressmen are even lazier than teachers. Which means Annika’s father is home instead of in Washington being the wily and powerful Rep. Ballard, Speaker of the House. But Annika’s mother is still in Washington, probably competing with 434 other congresswives to see who is the most plastic-made and personality-free. I bet she wins hands-down.
Annika’s newish housekeeper María made us a weird lunch. Deep-fried bananas stuffed with cream cheese and strawberry jam! For lunch! She says it’s a Guatemalan traditional recipe. Grilled cheese sandwiches too, with a smear of frijoles in with the cheese. That’s at least pretending to be a normal lunch food.
Not that there’s anything really very normal about having lunch with two classmates, two Secret Service agents, and the guy who has been Acting President of the United States for almost six weeks over the last three years, while he’s having a fight with his daughter about her asymmetric spiky hair style, inky-black lip gloss, and buttons with blasphemous slogans on them.
And after lunch we left the former acting president and the guys who could kill you in two seconds behind and went to the lake in Annika’s living room. Her living room is approximately twice as large as all of Ohio (*), and gets redecorated approximately every half-hour when Annika’s mother is in town. They hold wily and powerful parties for wily and powerful people there. Also — especially — the parties are for people who want to think that they are wily and powerful because they are invited to the wily and powerful parties, and they get to show just how wily and powerful they are by giving Rep. Ballard some big campaign contributions. (My mom and dad are regulars. Mom is very wily and used to be powerful. Still is, I guess, but not as much as when she was Assistant Mayor. And Dad is fairly wily, a little powerful, and, because he is a Dean — that’s a sort of levelled-up super-professor — he has the magic ability to talk to anyone at all about anything at all and know more about it than they do (or sound like it anyhow) and make it be a devastatingly interesting conversation. Which makes his conversational victims give more money to Rep. Ballard. I’m usually invited also, to give Annika someone her own age to hang around with so she doesn’t pester the wily and powerful people while they’re getting fleeced.)
(*) I am known to exaggerate sometimes. I exaggerate a lot when I do. So you know that the living room is just “big”. But the worst thing did happen to Elise’s shoe size. That’s not an exaggeration.
Anyways, the lake in Annika’s living room is a big squooooshy ring couch, around a coffee table which is a slab of glass over a working saltwater aquarium full of fish that are all sorts of colors not found in nature, on a wavy blue oceanic rug. It is the best place in Ohio to do Biology 11 homework, because you can see real live biology swimming around and waving its very biological antennae at you through the page you’re writing on. But today we were doing Physics 12 homework set number 1. For the first week that’s just forces and accelerations and velocities and freely falling bodies.
And as we started Problem 3, Elise said, “Yeesh, my feet hurt terribly all of a sudden!”
“So take your shoes off,” said Annika. “Take everything off. See if I care!” She grinned a wicked grin of the sort that goes well with asymmetric spiky hair, inky-black lip gloss, and buttons with blasphemous slogans on them. This is not my favorite side of Annika.
Elise took her shoes off, and we all saw why her feet hurt terribly all of a sudden. Her feet, from the soles to a bit below the ankle, were suddenly huge black-furred cat paws, like for a panther or a black tiger or some such thing. They hadn’t been like that this morning, or even when we started Problem 2.
María came running in when she heard us scream. She screamed too — Mãe do diabo! — and fainted, and became a freely falling body, as described by the equations in Physics Problem 3.
So I tried to take care of María: a cup of water, a chair, and some fanning. That worked. And Annika tried to take care of Elise. But about all you can do for someone who’s gone chimmy is a hug and some kind words. That didn’t work much.
Bard Bloom is a software engineer by day, a parent by night, and a writer on the train between them. They live in suburban New York with their wife, her wife, their son, and a collection of cats and snakes. Their previous book Mating Flight was on the long list of recommended reading for the 2015 Nebula.