#REVIEW: Persephone Station, by Stina Leicht

Let me start with the tl;dr of this review: I really enjoyed the story of this book, but there are certain aspects of it that are going to make it flat-out unreadable for certain people, including my wife, so that’s kind of tempering my reaction to it and it’ll be really interesting to see how much of it sticks with me in a month or two.

One of the pull quotes on the back of this book describes it as Casablanca meets The Magnificent Seven meets The Mandalorian, and that’s … pretty astonishingly accurate, honestly, although it was a miss to choose The Magnificent Seven and not Seven Samurai, the movie Magnificent Seven was based on, since Seven Samurai is an Akira Kurosawa movie and the main spaceship in this movie is actually called the Kurosawa. If that mix of things– seedy bars, bounty hunters, big guns, combat mechs, corrupt government and law enforcement and a small team of people fighting back against an overwhelming force, plus aliens— appeals to you, then this book is going to be right the hell up your alley, and while I hadn’t actually seen that blurb when I bought the book, it would have immediately sold me a copy. That’s not up my alley. That’s my entire fucking alley, and this is a very Star Wars kind of science fiction, where we’re not worried about the science so much as it’s set in space and there are laser guns and giant mechs and AI and talking space ships and aliens. Honestly, it hit me at about the halfway point that this very easily could have been a Benevolence Archives story with a couple of minor setting tweaks. That’s a compliment, in case it’s not clear; anytime I read a book and think Damn, I wish I’d written this, it’s a good thing.

And all the main characters are women or nonbinary– yes, all of them; I don’t think there’s a single male in the book who gets more than a handful of lines– and not quite everybody is gay, I suppose, but a lot of them are, and it’s all delightful.


It occurs to me that it’s not impossible that what has happened here is that somebody fucked up and sent the ARC version of the story to the printers. Because there are parts of this book– published by an imprint of Simon & Schuster, mind you, not an indie title or a small press– that very clearly did not have the attention of an editor. There is the occasional hugely clunky sentence, the type that every author produces from time to time, where you accidentally switch tense or something halfway through, but you notice it during editing. There are misspelled words. There are misused homophones from time to time. There is the occasional word that is simply the wrong word, like that word doesn’t mean that and doesn’t belong in that sentence. It’s not constant– more like once every handful of chapters, although I remember at least one three-page run with multiple errors packed closely together– but it happens often enough that I’m really surprised this book came from a big press. And the book is 500 pages long, so “every handful of chapters” is still a good number of times. Stina Leicht isn’t famous enough to have gotten the Stephen King/George RR Martin treatment where the “editors” are barely doing a pass on her books and otherwise she can write whatever she likes. And the book’s not badly written— where it works, it really works, and these are the sorts of errors that nearly every manuscript is going to have from time to time, and the type of thing that I’m used to seeing in ARCs, which often aren’t final copy. But this is final copy, so somebody dropped the ball somewhere, and if you’re the type of person who is going to be knocked out of the book by that, you’ll want to stay away.

I am 100% in for more from this author in the future (and, to be clear, this isn’t her debut) and I would love to see more of these characters, but this is a one-shot as far as I know, and the story ends satisfyingly. But the bad editing is a thing, and it’ll be interesting to see whether I remember this better in six months for having really enjoyed the story or all the mistakes I noticed.


I just wrote a thousand words of a post (I wasn’t done) about how we study and teach history in this country, and about what it means to “exclude” people from “history,” and then I decided that the entire post was wrongheaded and deleted it.

Which means that I’ve been sitting here for an hour for, like, nothing.

I have work to do that I don’t want to do. I’m going to go play video games for a while and hopefully when I’m done I’ll have an idea about something else to blog about today. It’s not often that I spike a post, but I think it was the right call here even if it annoys me.

GUEST POST: Writing for Yourself vs Writing for an Editor, by Steven D’Adamo

At least one guest post today and tomorrow, as brain melt starts to set in.  Steve’s good people.  Be nice.  

Bio: Steven D’Adamo is a writer based outside of Baltimore, MD. He co-founded Red String PaperCuts with a friend and fellow writer to discuss books, music, and poetry, and argue about life from their armchairs. His fantasy adventure novel, The Warden of Everfeld: Memento, will debut at the end of 2017. To catch a glimpse of his fantasy universe, check out the dark fantasy horror, “Wolf’s Moon Night,” published by Five on the Fifth. Aside from his website, you can find Steven on Facebook, Goodreads, and NaNoWriMo (dia820).

For Whom Do You Write? (Hint: it always changes!)

Most of us say that we only write for ourselves, that it doesn’t matter how the outside world perceives our stories because we poured our hearts and souls into creating them – that’s all that really counts!

Most of us are at least partially lying.

As I spent months upon months crafting the first draft of The Warden of Everfeld: Memento, it really did feel as though I was writing it exclusively for myself. No one laid eyes on my “alpha” draft until it was finished. I wrote it the way I wanted to, and I was proud of what I had accomplished.

I sent the draft to my alpha readers to have a look, knowing that they would critique my story and send me feedback. But my four alpha readers were close friends and/or family; people I trust with my life who I knew would accept my story as a labor of love whether or not it was any good.

Why the Second Draft was not for Me

The good news is that most of them liked it even it needed a whole lot of work. (And boy did it!)

But then I started writing the beta draft, and suddenly I felt the weight of my readers over my shoulders. I wanted them to see my story as fully fleshed out as it appeared in my head, without all of the plot holes and shoe-horned character development.

I accepted this change in mindset as an evolution; I hand-picked these four readers to open my story up to, and they deserved to read the best version of it I could create. I owed it to them to make WoEM the best damn story I could. Their opinions were all that mattered to me.

Critical Consumption

Four weeks ago I began working with a proofreader to review and revise my beta draft. She is also a friend, but as a high school English teacher, she actually has a ton of expertise in critically reviewing literature, the nuances of grammar, and stringing together beautifully constructed sentences.

We agreed to have a “test run” for her editing services to figure out what kind of project she was getting herself into. I scrolled all the way up to the top of my beta manuscript to read through the first few chapters before sending them to her.

I was immediately more concerned than ever about the little things that I knew would need to be reviewed or corrected eventually, but which I had passed over in my attempts to just write the damn story:

  1. Minor in/consistencies such as the precise ages of my characters, their years of birth in relation to important events in their lives or the story at-large, and even obvious things like how a made-up fantasy word was pluralized
  2. Use of adverbs and gerunds. Every writer’s blog ever harps on cutting down on this type of language. I took these suggestions with a grain of salt, because many sentences just sound unnatural without the occasional ly or ing. But knowing that I was sending this thing to an English teacher, I became hyper-sensitive to these words.
  3. Use of inner character monologue versus normal narrative to convey a character’s feelings/thoughts. Okay, so my editor actually brought up this distinction after reading my few batch of chapters. We had a long discussion about via email trying to agree when inner character monologues were appropriate. We came to an agreement, but it was such an Aha! moment for me that it changed the way I wrote my narrative in the final chapters of my beta (which are still in the works).

I am sure there will be many other instances of this as I review my beta to send to my editor. These are changes I would have had to make anyway to make my book appropriate for public consumption. But in my head, these were eventualities.

Hiring a proofreader has expanded both the real and potential audiences for my story from people who love me enough to tolerate my fantastical nonsense to people who will analyze and dissect every piece of my writing ability.

Fortunately for me, my editor is doing this in an effort to improve the beta manuscript.

Once the final version is published, no one else will do this for me. The stakes have been raised.

An unfortunate announcement


I discussed this a bit the other day, but it’s official now: Sunlight is on hold, and when it comes back it may not be Sunlight anymore.  I remain deeply unhappy with the manuscript as it currently exists, and it badly needs a massive restructuring.  Basically a page one rewrite.  There are bits of it I can salvage, but even those are going to need restructuring and moving around.

So I’m putting it aside for a while.  The new goal– and I think this is possible, but y’all know how I am about hitting my own deadlines– is to have the next Benevolence Archives book available by IndyPopCon in June.  That’s going to be crazy tight, I’m not gonna lie.  But I’m already 1/3 of the way to my target wordcount for it, so it’s not impossible.  I still want the Skylights sequel out in 2016, but it’s going to have to be later in the year.  I need to put it away for a while to get a clearer perspective on where I want the story to go.

The good news is that I’m really happy with the stories I’ve written so far for Tales from the Benevolence Archives.  This is good stuff.  You’ll like it.  I promise.  🙂

Two things

I had an idea for a blog post today, and as soon as I remember what it was I’ll write it, but for now, be aware:

  1. Benevolence Archives, Vol. 1 is free today, and is in fact free for the next several days.  Scoop it up, read it, and review it!
  2. A reminder from yesterday: Authors!  I do freelance editing and formatting now.  Keep me in mind if you need help with anything.