Let me begin by saying that writing a novel is a terrific achievement. I know, having written one ~ and only one. My hat is off to anyone who can complete a novel.
That said, here is my honest opinion of The Adventures of Miss Mind Shift by Jayme Beddingfield, a crime-noir story where the bad guys have the superpowers.
Characters: Protagonist Ruby Dawson, an attractive red-haired young woman who wields frightening telekinetic power narrates this dark story. Though Ruby is powerful and at times heartless, Jayme makes her main character vulnerable and sympathetic, plaguing her with nightmares, angst and increasing pangs of conscience as she gradually realizes her death-dealing, destructive whiskey-swilling, pot-and-ciggie-smoking lifestyle isn’t sustainable.
Though Jayme offers only hints of what Ruby looks like —
What am I afraid of? I guess it’s many things. My green eyes look back at me through the dirty mirror. My skin feels recharged— at least a part of me feels good. My wet, red hair curls around my face. I use my fingertips to flatten out the collar of my shirt. I look awesome in flannels.
— she lets us know that Ruby is attractive, sexy even, in that she’s pursued by three men throughout the book. Two of them, Tristan aka “T”, who can turn invisible; and Brody who can pass through matter, and take solid objects, including people, with him, belong to Ruby’s criminal crew.
Charlie, a non-superpowered “regular,” who owns a drive-through coffee shop, represents a healthy lifestyle and possible way out.
Ruby spends much of the book trying to navigate her conflicted and complicated feelings for each of them. The process not only helps brings Ruby’s emotional state into sharp relief, but also makes the three young men real and vivid.
Possibly scarier than Ruby, and much less sympathetic is the crew’s cruel female leader, Madison, tall, slender, with “Long, black, board-straight hair,” who generates and throws fireballs.
Madison’s laughter echoes through the room. Madison throws a fiery ball into the center of the dude’s chest. The smell of scorched blood makes my stomach turn.
While I wouldn’t have minded a bit more physical description of characters, especially Ruby, Jayme provides enough for imaginations to at least work with, without leaving it all up to readers’ imaginations.
The characters’ action and dialogue are sharp and vivid, and put readers square in the middle of each scene.
Plot: The story of Ruby’s longing for love and redemption plays out against the backdrop of a rather one-sided war to take over the drug trade from a criminal gang of motorcycle-riding regulars called Na Kelekona, Hawaiian for “Many Dragons.”
Setting: The Adventures of Miss Mind Shift takes place in Seattle, but it’s not the tourist Seattle of Pike Place and the Space Needle.
South Seattle is littered with homeless people, I’m not to far from the nearest tent city, the one huddled under that half-built bridge whose construction stalled a while back. I’m not judging. Everyone has to find a way to live.
It’s mostly the seamy underbelly of the city, but really could’ve just as well have been New York, Chicago or L.A. Might’ve been nice to get some insider’s landmark descriptions, but lack of didn’t detract from the story in my opinion.
Jayme’s immediate scene-settings are clear enough to orient readers, along with a touch of the narrator’s character-revealing snark:
We’re inside a small room, apparently an office. All the lights are off except for a small lamp sitting on top of a metal desk. A plaque on the wall reads RESTROOM, and next to the text is an arrow, pointing to a dirty curtain that hangs where the bathroom door should be. Classy.
What I thought could’ve been done better: Typos are the only thing I’ve got for this section, but there are a lot of them. A good proofing is all the book needs.
There are missing words: “Brody, well he wouldn’t tell anyone but I don’t need to involve him that.” I think it should be “…I don’t need to involve him in that.”
Wrong words: “I let Darcy live and now I have her hold up in a motel room— for what reason?” Should be “holed up.”
Bad grammar: “Your were taking too long.” You’re taking too long? You were taking too long?
In most cases, Jayme’s meaning is still clear, but even the best stories — and this is a fine one — don’t need the stutter-step distraction of these kinds of typos.
What I thought was good: Everything else. Ruby’s terse, present-tense, often simple-sentence narration gives the story a compelling rhythm and immediacy.
I open my eyes; Everything looks blurry. My throat is burning. My mouth is dry. I shut my eyes. T is breathing so heavy. His back is sweaty and warm up against my arm. My forehead is pulsing. I ended up drinking way too much last night. My choice to cope was rather nonexistent. After last night I’m absolutely sure of at least two things. One, T and I will never be the same. Two, I’m tired of killing people.
Jayme’s action scenes are terrific. Here, Tristan, Brody and Ruby tackle enemy gang members:
“What you heard is true,” I say smiling.
A gunshot goes off. I reach my hand up and picture the center of his chest. I grab a hold of some of his guts. I rip them from his body. I allow him to fall to the ground.
“Crazy bitch,” a taller guy yells. He starts running towards me, his hand wrapped tightly around a knife.
I extend my fingers out and hold him still. He begins to shrink into the ground. Brody is pulling him down. He swings his blade in the air as gets swallowed by the street. I place my mind around the little silver knife. I bend my fingers towards my chest. The knife pulls out of his hand. His mouth opens. His face disappears underneath the city.
A guy with noticeable wrinkles on his face and a gut that pokes out from underneath the dragon-patched vest, points a gun in my direction. The click of the barrel echoes in my ears. The loud gunshot sounds off. I see the bullet. I close my eyes, putting my hand straight out. My throat tightens. I freeze the bullet in its place. A cold stiffness runs though my body. I open my eyes. The bullet is staring right at me. I rush my hand forward with force. The bullet shoots through the air. The guy who sent this bullet, is shocked and frozen by what he’s seeing. The bullet disappears right into the center of his chest. The impact knocks him to the ground. Blood begins to pool out from his chest.
Note the simple, direct, active voice. I also liked how Jayme doesn’t just show telekinesis in action. She shows how it feels to use it — “A cold stiffness runs through my body.”
I also mentioned dialogue earlier. Jayme’s dialogue is snappy and real. Here, Ruby confides to Brody that she’s tired and wants out.
“Tired of what?”
“Stealing, killing, everything that’s involved with what we do.”
“You have an awesome talent. Your plan shouldn’t be to waste it.”
“I don’t want to be one of the bad guys anymore.”
“Don’t look at it like that.”
“I thought you’d see my side of it.”
“Yeah it gets rough sometimes. This whole new direction Madison is pushing us in is unsettling to me too but it will be fine. This is who we are.”
“No, this is what we do, it’s not who we are. All I am saying is I don’t want to do this anymore.”
“So, what? You’re gonna get your own place, get a meaningless job, make some new friends that don’t know the truth about you until what, you get tired of that too?”
“Maybe I’ll help people.” I feel the tears starting to break through. I don’t know why I thought that Brody would make me feel better about this— well because he makes me feel better about most things.
“You’re gonna use your talent to help people?” Brody scoffs.
Jayme does a lot with her dialogue. She advances the story, shows who Ruby is becoming, what she’s up against, and who Brody is — all things good dialogue is supposed to do.
Notice there’s not a lot of “said,” “replied,” “whined,” or other attributives. The lines themselves pack all the meaning needed.
And I loved Ruby’s takes, like
Trying not to smoke is like attempting to avoid staring at a person without legs.
Staring at a clock makes time move slower. Waiting is a special kind of torture especially designed for those who lack patience.
I think what I liked best about The Adventures of Miss Mind Shift is the emotional truth permeating every page. In my opinion, the book could easily have been titled “The Confessions of Miss Mind Shift.”
But adventures there are too, and plenty of them.
Overall: Despite the typos, The Adventures of Miss Mind Shift is a deeply satisfying superpowered journey into the dark night of the soul. Its profound theme of how in harming others we ultimately destroy ourselves is clothed in action, snark, insight and even a little dark humor.
Ruby Dawson, flawed, frightening, vulnerable, sometimes more than human, but never less, is a character I’ll remember for a long time.
Good job Jayme!