Today I’ve got both a Page 69 Challenge excerpt and a book review for Samantha Bryant’s paranormal fantasy, Going Through the Change
Genre: Paranormal Fantasy
A menopausal superhero novel
Going through “the change” isn’t easy on any woman. Mood swings, hot flashes, hormonal imbalances, and itchy skin are par for the course. But for these four seemingly unrelated women, menopause brought changes none of them had ever anticipated—super-heroic changes.
Helen discovers a spark within that reignites her fire. Jessica finds that her mood is lighter, and so is her body. Patricia always had a tough hide, but now even bullets bounce off her. Linda doesn’t have trouble opening the pickle jar anymore… now that she’s a man.
When events throw the women together, they find out that they have more in common than they knew—one person has touched all their lives. The hunt for answers is on.
Page 69 Challenge
Helen hesitated only a moment and then joined the other Our Market customers tugging the chairs nearer each other until it looked like they might play musical chairs. Dr. Liu had apparently sent the young man who introduced her after some refreshments, because he re-appeared with a tray of small paper cups filled with a fruity smelling iced tea and served everyone before taking a seat himself.
Dr. Liu sat and waited until everyone was resettled and then cleared her throat. Her voice was louder than it had been when she was talking to Helen individually, but not overpowering, just the right tone for a group this size. “Let me start by saying that conventional medicine is not as advanced as we might like to think. It does not have all the answers. It is definitely not harmless. There are nearly one hundred thousand deaths a year from medical mistakes.”
Someone gasped and Dr. Liu looked approvingly in the gasper’s direction. “How many of you know someone who has suffered at the hands of so-called ‘modern medicine?’” After a brief pause, Helen noted that nearly everyone had raised a hand―herself included. “Would anyone care to tell their story?” Eight of the sixteen people shot their hands into the air. Helen smiled to herself. Dr. Liu knew her audience. Our Market customers loved to share what they thought they knew.
During the telling of the tale, Dr. Liu gave every appearance of watching the speaker, a white haired man whose voice shook with emotion as he described the misdiagnosis and untimely death of his wife. Although she seemed to be listening attentively, somehow Helen felt as if the doctor was really watching her. She shifted a little in her seat. Wasn’t it a little late in the day to be so warm? She shifted some more and groaned a little to herself. What terrible timing for a hot flash. There was no discreet way to excuse herself or slip out when they were all seated in a tight, little circle like this.
She closed her eyes and breathed slowly. Breathing was the one part of yoga she had taken to when her daughter had bought her those classes last year. Relaxation and focus through breath control. She felt the now almost familiar icicle-like sensation moving down her head and arms and out her fingertips. She imagined the heat disappearing into the paper cup of tea she was still holding and felt the cup grow warm in her hand. The tea began to bubble and some rolled down the sides over her fingers. She could feel that the liquid was boiling hot, but somehow it didn’t actually hurt her hand.
Helen opened her eyes. She could see steam rising from the disintegrating paper cup, and through the steam, Dr. Liu’s sharp gaze, focused on her.
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I was excited to read the blurb for Samantha Bryant’s Going Through the Change because I thought the concept was simply wonderful. Take a bunch of relatively normal post-menopausal women and give them superpowers. What sort of awesome things would these middle-aged superheroines get up to? With great powers, what would be their great responsibilities—gun control? Health care? Education? Ashley Madison adultery websites? Would they need bifocal face masks? Forget each other’s superheroine name? Worry that they’ll be too old to legally fly and have to hang up the cape? Struggle to maintain their secret Fortress of Solitude and Super-Buick on an income that’s only two-thirds of the average male superhero’s take-home? Would they face a glass ceiling that younger, male superheroes fly past?
Bryant does a nice job of introducing the various characters as they acquire their superhero-trope powers—strength, fire, flight, invincible armor. We hear a bit about their normal lives, before they go through the Change. Only for these women, menopause doesn’t just include hot flashes. Their inexplicable new strengths force them to reevaluate their lives and priorities. One woman turns out to be the supervillain, and picks up a henchwoman. One acquires a sidekick. There is mention of the genre-defining “With great power comes great responsibility” mantra. We see these women as they start to figure out who their enemy is, what has happened to them, and how to combine their strengths to work together. Reluctantly, they realize that their “great responsibility” includes protecting each other and innocent bystanders. Except…
Except why is the “strength” superpower defined as turning into a male? Why is the real world Bad Thing that sparks the entire process not evil, injustice, or even a radioactive spider but age discrimination? (Okay, that last one could be pretty cool, if it had gone to some kind of extreme, but it was simply mentioned.) And above all, why why WHY does the story not have an ending? Just as all of this realization is happening, the book just stops. Nothing is resolved, or even defined. If we want to know how anything at all turns out, we will (presumably) have to buy the next book. And—as I said in my cliffhanger rant here—that’s not acceptable behavior toward readers unless we’re talking a short serial with a new chapter coming out every other week.
Sometimes when I’m reading stories with superpowers, I try to think how they would be told in movie or graphic novel form. And I realized that this entire book would not exist. The actual story would be the next book, the huge conflict, the big dark moment. These stories are vignettes, and they would be presented (if at all) in flashbacks or at best in brief opening scenes before the credits.
So here’s my review. I’d give Going Through the Change three stars out of five for its great concept and character descriptions. The writing and settings are professionally well done. The pace is steady, with plenty of tiny action scenes. All that’s missing is the actual story. But I think that author Samantha Bryant has that story to tell. And with all the other things she’s got going for her writing, I’d definitely take a look at that next book.
*I received this book for free from the publisher or author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.*
- Book Title: Going Through the Change
- Author: Samantha Bryant
- Genre: Paranormal fantasy
- Publisher: Curiosity Quills Press (April 23, 2015)
- Length: 250 pages
Interview with author Samantha Bryant
What was your first car? Her name was Gertrude. She was a Honda Civic that my mechanic-dad got for cheap because her engine was blown and my uncle-bodywork guy made pretty and red for me. My mom called her the Roller Skate because she was so little and cute.
Star Wars, Star Trek, or Firefly? While I have enjoyed all three, Firefly is the story that works best for me. I can’t help it, I’m a Joss Whedon fan. Witty dialogue, fascinating ensemble casts, imaginative but real-feeling worlds. And on Firefly, there were so many characters to love. Star Wars and Star Trek are franchises I have a critical love of, stories I still want, but that I see the flaws in. Firefly, I just fan-girl. Mal is Han Solo written by a better writer than George Lucas, and the series really understands that “strong female character” includes many types of strength.
Worst movie ever? The worst is when a movie is set someplace that you’re familiar with it and they get it completely and utterly wrong. My favorite of these was 30 Days of Night, set in Barrow, Alaska. I haven’t lived in Barrow, but I did live in Nome, and we played Barrow in basketball all the time, so I feel like I know the area. Stuff they got wrong was hilarious: the buildings, the clothing (they would have died from the cold before the vampires even got started), the kinds of people who live in Barrow (hello! Where did all these white people come from? And where are all the Natives?). Even worse: The Fourth Kind, set in Nome. Nome-ites were laughing at the trailers because of the trees and southern-style veranda porches on the houses. Jeez Louise. Did they even look at Google Earth first?
Who would you most like to sit next to on an airplane? My husband! Because that would mean we were finally getting to travel together. We haven’t gotten to do enough of that in our time together yet. I traveled quite a bit when I was single and in my first marriage, but finances and family entanglements have made that more complicated for my husband and me. Plus, if we got to sit next to each other on a plane, we’d have hours to just talk. Those can be hard to come by when you’re busy raising kids.
Best guilty pleasure ever? Really cheesy old horror movies, like Vincent Price’s House of Wax. I think that may be where my fascination with mad scientists really began. I love how overwrought and emotional and gross those old films are and how they’re not afraid to go for a simple “jump out and say boo!” kind of fright.
Who would play you in the movie? Dear Lord, is there going to be a movie? Well, I always wanted to look like Audrey Hepburn, though I guess that would require a necromancer…realistically, I probably look more like Kathy Bates. At least she’s a good actress!
What is the one thing you can’t live without? The thing (as in object) that I value the most is my laptop computer, but that’s not really about the object itself. It’s more about all the things I use it for: my life of words. So, it both is and is not replaceable. Someday, I’ll have a new computer and that will be fine, just like getting a new car is fine, even if you miss your old one. Other than that, there’s not one thing. I have a fair amount (okay, a lot) of clutter around me because there are many small things I value: keepsakes and mementos, things my children have made, things that make me comfortable. But overall I don’t invest my heart in physical things.
Are the names of the characters in your novels significant? Of course! Though, sometimes that may not be evident to my readers. Many of my characters have perfectly ordinary sorts of names (Linda, Jessica, Patricia, Helen, Sherry, Lena, etc.). In my superhero series, I use a lot of names of people I know and love for minor characters. My writing critique group has a running gag among some of us to name bit players after each other and I’ve had a lot of fun doing that. In the sequel, I began using secret identity name pieces from superheroes for good guys (like Sally Ann Rogers, named for Steve Rogers) and old time horror name pieces for bad guys (like Daniel Price, named for Vincent Price). That’s been fun.
What is the single biggest challenge of creating the settings in your novels? I’ve written three different types of novels so far: contemporary women’s fiction, superhero, and historical fiction. Superhero was the easiest in terms of setting. I made up a non-specific comic book town, but was specific about setting for scenes, especially fight scenes. The contemporary women’s fiction wasn’t too bad either, since I basically just fictionalized the town I live in, changing details when I needed to for the sake of my story. But, historical fiction? Jeez Louise. I love historical fiction (reading and writing it!), but the research can be insane. You’re writing along, making stuff up and then you’re like, “Wait! Would she have had access to a telephone? How likely is it that anyone in the town had a car? Is the town big enough to rate its own doctor in 1913?” What I’ve learned to do, so I can keep going, is to highlight things for research, but keep writing. Sometimes, by the time I circle back around, the issue has resolved itself and I don’t actually need to do the research anymore.
What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever heard? Writing is work. I’ve read and heard some version of this advice many different times, but it took a while to sink in. Stephen King phrased it as: “Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.” I didn’t really start moving forward in my writing until I took it seriously. When I sat around and waited for inspiration, I’d write a little once in a while. Some of it was good, but it did not a career make. When I started to write every day, whether I felt inspired or not? That’s when I made progress.
What are you working on right now? I’m in research mode at the moment. I’ve just finished and sent off a superhero novella for an anthology as well as the sequel to Going Through the Change. So, to avoid too much nail-biting while I wait to see what my acquisitions editor has to say, I’m working on some historical fiction, the second book in what I think will be a trilogy. It’s a story of two sisters moving through the twentieth century. It started as a “what if” exploration of a family legend about a great aunt of mine. The first book, Cold Spring, is also with an acquisitions editor right now, so I’m hopeful that it’ll be out there in book form soon. I am woefully undereducated about WWI and the period between the world wars, so that’s what I’m rectifying now, so I can write the second book!