mollyringle: (Default)

The more I read of currently popular fantasy, the more dismayed I am that there tends to be such a huge focus on weaponry and fighting and the protagonists being (or becoming) martial arts geniuses. I stick with some of these books anyway if, such as in The Hunger Games, they're written really well and the plot and characters are compelling. But I've got to admit that violence and weaponry and action scenes are really not my favorite things. They're never the parts I re-read for pleasure (that would be the love declarations, or some particularly amusing exchanges or incidents, or passages of beautiful writing describing something magical). I don't particularly like writing fighting-and-weapons scenes either, though sometimes I find I have to, given the way I've set things up. So now I'm pondering how to set up a fantasy book so I can spend as little time as possible in violent weapon-related scenes and still create a really good read.

I think this is actually what appeals to me about the Harry Potter world, and also stories like Howl's Moving Castle: we get a lot of time to hang out in the magic world and enjoy it, and when there's fighting, it's almost solely with spells and with using one's brain. When Hermione actually uses her fist to hit Draco, it's all the more startling and satisfying that way. Except I want to write for grown-ups more than for kids. So, yeah. Pondering this, and I see from forum discussions like this that others have pondered it too.

mollyringle: (Default)
 We have gotten lots of advance reviews for The Goblins of Bellwater, and I must sincerely thank those who have taken on the ARC for review, since we're now actually taking your views into consideration and making a few adjustments. As of June 16, we've posted a new ARC over on NetGalley. It's a new situation for us--like having another and very large group of beta readers--and in some ways it feels like cheating to change things based on prevailing opinions among them. However, when they're changes we agree with (which they are), we're happy to make them and improve the final edition of the work. So, thank you, intrepid ARC readers! I really like how this book has shaped up.

But yeah, it's true what some reviews say: I'm afraid this isn't Labyrinth and these are not Bowie-esque goblins that you fall in love with. So don't go in expecting that or you will still be disappointed.

mollyringle: (Default)
We’re down to the final edits of The Goblins of Bellwater, and those proofing it have pointed out that I need to pick what the singular of “fae” is. I mostly have gone with “faery,” though slipped into “faerie” a time or two. Or hang on, should it just be “fairy”?

Well. Not a straightforward “check the dictionary, duh” kind of question, it turns out. Merriam-Webster and others simply list “faery” and “faerie” as “less common” or even “obsolete” variants of “fairy.”

The word comes from Old French “faerie” and “fae,” leading to Middle English “fairie” (oh look, another variant) which became Modern English “fairy.” So yes, in a sense, the modern version is spelled “fairy,” as the dictionary says. However. Connotations must be taken into account.

First problem I have with “fairy”: it makes people think of the Disney style of fairy. Glittery pink wings, giggling, sanitized, harmless, a cute party costume for five-year-olds. This isn’t the kind of fairy I’m writing about.
Second problem I have: “fairy” has become derogatory slang for a gay man, which is both distracting and a mean-spirited kind of attitude I want no part of.

As someone puts it on this language discussion forum, “fairy tales and the associated idea of fairies typically refer to the genre of folk stories printed by the Brothers Grimm, then sweetened and popularized for modern audiences by Disney et al. Faerie stories, on the other hand, are stories about the fae: otherworldly, unpredictable, and dangerous creatures who appear in the folk-tales and myths of England and Ireland. In origin, of course, the fairies and the fae are one and the same, but the connotations and usage of the words today are headed in opposite directions.”

I like the spelling “faerie,” even though it gets marked “archaic or poetic” by the dictionaries, and sometimes even “pseudoarchaic”—ooh, no one wants to be called that! Feeling the lexicography burn, Edmund Spenser? (With The Faerie Queene, from 1590, Spenser apparently used a deliberately archaic spelling.) But “faerie” also has the complication that it sometimes refers to fairyland, the realm of Faerie, rather than an individual being.

So: “faery,” then?
Much of my visual idea of the kind of fae I’m writing about comes from the brilliant, gorgeous artwork of Brian Froud—whose most influential volume on the subject is of course titled Faeries. In his own writing about them, he spells it “faery” for singular, so really, if Brian Froud calls them that, it’s good enough for me.

Exhibit A: page from Froud’s 
Good Faeries, Bad Faeries:





That said, Froud seems to prefer “the faeries” as the plural, whereas I’ve fallen into the habit of “the fae,” just because I like it. Plenty of others use “the fae” too, just not Froud so much.

Thus I’m going with “faery,” but in case anyone ever asks, yes, I know it’s an imperfect solution, and I know some people will call me pseudoarchaic. I’m feeling the burn. 
mollyringle: (Default)
 Handy tool for writers using Microsoft Word who want to see what exactly they changed from one draft to another:


Tools –> Track Changes –> Compare Documents

Select the original document and the revised document. Et voilà! It makes a new document with your changes underlined/highlighted. 

This does require that you save your drafts as separate documents rather than directly replacing the old stuff in the original document. But saving as separate files is a good idea anyway, if it’s a long document with a lot of revisions.

Yes, it took me long enough to realize this menu item was there. :D But here, I share in case you didn’t know either.

 

#amwriting 

mollyringle: (Default)
 I've been getting early reviews back on The Goblins of Bellwater, and most of them are good (whew). And, as ever, I could not predict what people would say, and I've already been a bit surprised by some comments. For instance, the book got an unusual compliment in this review:

"One of the best things this book does doesn't actually have to do with the story, but the fact that each time any of the characters have sex, either one or both of them have condoms ready. It's explicitly stated. It's kind of a shame that so often sex is just a spur of the moment in YA and NA with no mention of safety, either pregnancy or STDs (unless the entire book is based around those subjects). Safe sex needs to be mentioned and I'm glad it was here, especially in such a natural way within the moment."

I completely agree and am glad it felt natural, which tends to be the tricky part. I know that a lot of writers don't want to mention the birth control/protection because it's unromantic, a trip-up in the tango. But personally, anytime I'm reading a book with male/female sex and they DON'T mention protection, I spend the rest of the story wondering when we're going to find out she's pregnant. Or, with any couples, it's possible they could have caught something, but I don't suspect that in general, since STDs aren't nearly as common a plot device as pregnancies. I mean, if you think birth control is unsexy, wait till we talk about sores in uncomfortable places...

So, right--thank you for noticing and backing me up on my stance, reviewer Tori! High five.
mollyringle: (Default)
 Netflixing and enjoying lately: Versailles. I don't know my Louis XIV era history well enough, but I'm suspecting this is rather more historical fanfic than actual history. Even so, it's got all the intrigue and gorgeous costuming and insane sex and dreadful slaughtering you'd expect. So, it's a good time. Kind of like a slightly lighter Game of Thrones. (Just slightly. And with a slightly smaller cast. But that's not saying much, I suppose, since pretty much everything has a smaller cast than GoT.)

Plus, fellow slash fans, you might especially like it, since these two gorgeous guys...
 
...are often being like this:
 
That's Alex Vlahos as Philippe, Duke of Orleans, the king's brother, called "Monsieur" at court; and Evan Williams as the Chevalier de Lorraine. Apparently this couple is now #MonChevy in the fandom world. Vlahos was Mordred on BBC's Merlin, which is how I heard of Versailles and got interested. Also, George Blagden (who caught my attention as Grantaire in the recent film version of musical Les Mis) is quite magnetic as King Louis. I'm not through with season 1 yet, so no spoilers!
 
Then on lighter Netflix days I watch some old eps of Arrested Development, which I never saw that much of when it was actually on, or Galavant (it's like Robin Hood: Men in Tights), or New Girl. All good and silly.
mollyringle: (Default)
 A couple of cooking and diet notes that will be exceedingly boring unless you're interested in cooking and diet.


The cooking note: 
Tried and love: sunflower oil for cooking. We've had olive oil, butter, and canola oil around for most of our cooking needs for years, like most people, and those do okay. But olive oil and butter both have low-ish smoke points, so they can get that scorched taste in the pan fairly easy. And canola oil tastes like, well, canola oil, which has never been in its favor. I do use coconut oil sometimes as well, and on the whole I like that (it performs especially well in baked goods), but it does taste like coconut, and has a heavier presence than some oils. So I picked up some sunflower oil, because I'd heard good things, and dang! It does well at everything I've tried so far: pan-cooking (eggs, vegetables, quesadillas) as well as baked goods. It tastes like pretty much nothing; it's the lightest touch of all the oils I've tried so far. It doesn't smell heavy and smoky when cooking with it. When I made a big batch of scrambled eggs, the kitchen just smelled like scrambled eggs, not like scrambled eggs with a thick veneer of hot butter like it does if I use butter. So yes, we're sold. Sunflower is the new canola.

The diet note:
Now that I'm over 40, I've found I weigh a few pounds more than I used to, even though I still eat the same and exercise the same as ever (perhaps better than before on both counts, even), and in particular I've found I have a bloated belly more often than I'd like. So to combat these two things together, I tried what I think of informally as the "just don't eat so much" diet. It involves smaller portions on the whole, as suggested by its name, but it also involves avoiding wheat, sugar, alcohol, and salty junk food. Or really any junk food. In trying this for the past couple of weeks, I have't cut these things out entirely, but I eat way less of them. Things I mainly eat, if you're curious: eggs, nuts, meat and fish, fruits, vegetables, beans, dairy of all kinds (except sweetened things like ice cream or sweetened yogurt, but I do eat plain Greek yogurt), dark chocolate, tea (with Stevia if I want it sweeter), moderate amounts of oat-or-rice-based cereals and dishes, corn tortillas, moderate amounts of tortilla chips.

Results are exactly as hoped: less bloating, a couple of pounds shed, and, best of all, a marked reduction in even the desire for things like wheat or sugar. So if you're thinking, "Oh, but I could NEVER give up bread/cookies/etc.," well, a) I'm not saying give them up, just maybe try restricting yourself to one piece of bread a day instead of five, or one cookie instead of a stack, etc., and b) I really do think that once you try lesser amounts, you recalibrate fairly quickly and don't miss it as much as you thought you would.

That said, some people are abstainers rather than moderators--they find it easier to give up something entirely rather than just have a little of it. In their case, sure, try giving up your problem foods. I'm a moderator, though, and would feel depressed if I thought I could NEVER have a cookie again. So if I get a cookie a day, and otherwise steer clear of sugar, I'm good with that. And so is my aging belly.

mollyringle: (Default)

Since I keep seeing things in stories like a full moon rising in the middle of the night, or a “waning” moon showing up at sunset, or the points of the crescent moon pointing toward the sun in the sky, I figured it was time to write this brief guide. Because none of those things are astronomically possible if you are writing about planet Earth as we know it.

This doesn’t matter very much, I know. But the small section of the population who does notice moon phases, and/or are astronomy buffs, will appreciate your being accurate about it. So here is the quick-and-dirty guide to how the moon works:

The waxing moon (the phase in which it’s gradually getting more illuminated—“bigger,” we say) begins as a very thin crescent at sunset, just above the sun in the west. Its back, its illuminated edge, will face the sun; the points will point away from the sun.

That’s how it always works, of course: the sun illuminates the moon, so the bright side of the moon is the side facing the sun, and the points of the crescent therefore always point away from the sun.

As the waxing moon gets brighter, it rises a little later each night, so that it’s a bit farther to the east at sunset than it was the previous night. Waxing moon can thus be seen in the afternoon too, before sunset, but not in the morning and not for very long in the night; it sets sometime during the night.

The full moon always rises right at sunset. Sun in the west, full moon in the east, shining at each other from opposite horizons, sun fully illuminating face of moon.

And then we are in waning moon phase. After the full, the moon starts rising after sunset, later and later each night as it becomes less illuminated (“smaller”). Waning moon can thus be seen in the morning too, till it goes fully dark and starts over again. (That's the new moon, which rises and sets with the sun, which is why you can’t see it.)

This page has some good tables and explanations on moonrise and moonset too, written by a proper astronomer.

We have some lovely waxing moon going on right now, by the way!

mollyringle: (Default)
Hi all!

So: I have a completed contemporary male/male love story (95,000 words, rom-com/coming-of-age) that has undergone some beta-reading, but what it still needs is a Britpicker. Though from the POV of an American, the story takes place partly in London and has plenty of English characters. (Yes, this is the one about Sinter, for those of you who've been around this journal a really long time.) So if anyone with London (or at least UK) linguistic instincts is willing to go through it for accuracy in terms of dialect and Brit-related details, I would be so grateful!

I will happily beta a manuscript for you in return, or read and review a published one, or Yankpick (is that the word?)--whatever it is you need lately.

Message and/or email me! (writermollyringle at gmail dot com)
mollyringle: (Default)
I am finally reading The Secret Garden, one of my all-time childhood favorites, to my own kids. I've been almost reluctant to do so, since I wasn't sure they'd like it, but I'm pleased to find they do so far, and that the writing has held up wonderfully over time. It's crisp and wry and intriguing, and a delight to read aloud.



It's no wonder I love it, since as many people have noted, it's essentially Jane Eyre for children--lonely girl arriving at big house on the moors with a lot of shut-up rooms and mysterious goings-on, and ultimately finding love there, though in a familial and friendship way here rather than romantic. And of course it adds in the redemptive powers of gardening and fresh air, which anyone ought to be able to get behind.

A few years ago I did finally read A Little Princess by the same author, and liked that too, but not quite to the same level of love that I hold for The Secret Garden. I think that's not only because of the Gothic-lite appeal of the setting in the latter, but because of protagonist relatability: much as I wish I were like the saintly Sara Crewe (of A Little Princess), I am undeniably far more a Mistress Mary Quite Contrary. I feel ya, Mary Lennox.
mollyringle: (Froud - bad faeries)
I have a voucher for three free months of Headspace, if anyone wants it. I've been using the app for a few months and liking it. (Last year I used Calm, and liked that too. There are a lot of helpful mindfulness-and-meditation apps out there, I wager.)

Let me know if you're interested in the voucher!

EDIT: claimed! But I'll leave this up as a rec for the apps.
mollyringle: (Froud - bad faeries)
Can you do something for me, world? Go out there and write a positive review about something you liked, in a place where everyone can see it, or at least where the creator of the thing you liked can see it. Your review could be for a book, a music album, a cool thing you bought on Etsy, you name it. Or, if you’d rather, compliment someone in person for something they did that you appreciate. Positive reviews only, today.

I get the feeling that the collective mood of the world lately is—understandably—stressed and cranky. And this stress seems to be emerging in all kinds of ways, including fault-finding with things (like novels, music, or cool art projects on Etsy) that are not in any way to blame for the state of the world, but people are feeling the need to complain, so they complain about more stuff than they used to.

So today I’m asking you to balance the score by doing the opposite. Go out and say something nice. Leave a good review. Praise those who are creating stuff you enjoy. And make sure you put your words where those creators can see them. Because believe me, it will help. You will make their day, if no one else’s.
mollyringle: (unexplained pirates - songstressicons)

Just in case we all decide to abandon LJ, here are some other places you are welcome to find/follow me...

I've been backing up this LJ here at Blogspot for a few years now. Suppose that will become my main blog if I ever choose to delete this one. (I have no plans to at the moment, but there you go, just in case.)

I am on Instagram now as well, just for fun and pretty pictures.

I have a Facebook author page though I continue to despise Facebook for so many, many reasons.

I'm on Twitter and also Tumblr (Tumblr sometimes gets my posts as well, and/or other fun stuff, though I'm inconsistent about that).

There's also Goodreads, for book discussion.

Yeah, really, there are options to LJ, now that I think about it. ;)

mollyringle: (sea reflecting moon)

On the Facebook fragrance forum I like to browse (one of the only things I still use Facebook for anymore), someone recently asked: what are everyone's favorite nature (i.e., non-perfume) scents?

My answers off the top of my head:

Petrichor! (Rain on ground, especially warm ground that has been dry a while.)

Fresh cut grass but also certain varieties of grass and/or moss and/or other ground cover--I've never quite placed what it is, but certain grassy fields smell so sweet and warm. A coumarin scent, I believe; reminiscent of how the plant sweet woodruff smells. Sometimes forest floors have this scent too, or something similar, which makes me suspect it's moss.

The shores of Puget Sound: basically a seawater smell, but less wind-whipped and wild; quieter, and more mixed with rocks and evergreen trees and a hint of wood smoke from cabins.

Mint growing wild.

A summer night--no idea what the smell is, other than a hot earth cooling down for the evening.

What are yours?
mollyringle: (chocolate)

Everyone knows what Valentine's Day is really about: chocolate!

I ran a search on my books, and predictably enough, nearly all of them mention chocolate. Some examples:

Summer Term:
He set down the glass, thought a moment, and said, “I would like to make chocolate chip cookies.”

Persephone’s Orchard:
Adrian peeled the plastic wrap from the brownie, broke it in half, and handed the larger section to her.

Immortal’s Spring:
Must be the scents and nourishment of a proper home-cooked meal at last. And the wine. And the chocolate cake—from scratch.

Of Ghosts and Geeks:
When Gwen heard the knock, she imagined it was a local kid selling fundraiser chocolate bars, or Uncle Bert dropping in to beg more details about her “student’s” ghost.

The Ghost Downstairs:
“But he did. He had chocolate with me.” Lina closed her mouth before disclosing what happened after the chocolate.

What Scotland Taught Me: (To my surprise this one has the most references to chocolate of any of my stories. Here are a few.)

“Can we just get some chocolate,” I said, “and go home?”

“Be a dear and serve your boyfriend some chocolate trifle, won’t you?”

Coffee, I needed coffee. No, better yet, chocolate. Chocolate might put my calendar in perspective.

“I was wondering if an old friend could stay at your flat tonight, if that friend brought like a cubic buttload of Cadbury Fruit and Nut bars.”

Valentine’s Day resolved nothing. That afternoon apparently featured Amber wearing lingerie and chocolate body paint in Laurence’s room, and still not getting laid.

---
My apologies for the damage this post may have done to anyone trying to cut calories.



mollyringle: (Gutenberg)
14.     Listen to your critique team.

When you’ve acquired beta readers (or alpha readers, or critiquers, or whatever their chosen label is), and they’ve read your rough draft and sent you their thoughts, now is the time to exercise gratitude, as all the self-help books urge lately. Believe me, I know from experience that it’s nerve-racking to hand over your literary concoction to other people and open yourself up to anything they might say about it. But chances are they’ll be nice—those dreadful creative-writing peer-review small-group college classes being the only likely exception—and in any case they have definitely done you a favor by devoting time and thought to your draft. So listen to what they say! And consider all of it.

You don’t have to make all the changes they suggest. Use your intuition on that. Also consider doing it by democratic vote: if you have more than one beta reader (which is best if you can swing it), and the majority of the team agrees on a proposed change, then it’s probably a good idea.

Sometimes they’ll suggest changes that you do not like. But spend some time with the suggestion anyway, before responding. I’ve done this on many occasions, and have gone through the following succession of thoughts:
“Noooo, I don’t want to write it that way.”
“I mean, if I did, it would change X, Y, and Z, which…hmm, that might not be too bad…”
“Oh! Wait! I might not do it exactly like they said, but if I make THIS change, which is similar, it’ll be even better!”
“Yay! I love this book even more now! My beta readers are awesome!”

And, on the bright side, they’ll probably also tell you stuff they loved about the book, which you won’t have to change at all. So bask in that part. You’ve earned it.

Go write! Go be grateful! We’re done here! :)
mollyringle: (Gutenberg)
13.     Read rough drafts for other writers.

Chances are you know other writers who are seeking feedback, or you’ve seen open calls asking for beta readers among the social media outlets in your life. So, as your schedule allows, volunteer your time, read their stuff, and critique it as constructively and thoughtfully as you can. Not only is this good karma, payable in the form of them reading your drafts in return, but it helps you see your own work more realistically, both its strengths and its flaws, when you get back to it.

It’s probably most useful if you choose to beta-read projects that are the kind of thing you like to read anyway, but it can also be a good stretch for your mind to try something different from your usual tastes. Most writers—as you know, being one—are grateful for any kind of feedback, whether from the typical reader of the genre in question or from someone less familiar with it, and you can really make a difference in your friend’s revision process by providing your thoughts. Be the change you want to see in the writing world, and help a colleague out!
mollyringle: (Gutenberg)
12.     Read! Lots! And review. Nicely.

This one’s easy, because (I would hope) you’re already doing it: read! Read books you love, whatever they are. I won’t go as far as some advice-givers go, and tell you to read mainly books in the genre you want to write in. I think it’s more important to read books that captivate you for any reason. That way you’ll not only be enjoying your reading time, but you’ll hone your unique voice, which is fed by the specific collection of interests that only you possess.

When you finish a book, review it online. Goodreads is a useful place for this, as of course are Amazon and B&N and Kobo and iTunes and…well, wherever you bought the book would likely be a good place to review it, but mirroring the review on other sites is a nice touch if you have the time. This not only gives you a handy record of what you’ve read and what your impressions of it were, but it serves as a bit of marketing for you as an online book-related person. People might like your review and look up the stuff you’ve written.

THEREFORE: look, I can’t dictate to you what to do. But in your reviews I strongly suggest you avoid snark and trash-talk. If a book didn’t work for you, find the nicest way possible to say so, and even with those books, try to include a line about what your favorite part was. I mean, think about it: when you rip other people’s books to shreds, anyone reading your review is going to expect some pretty fabulous material from your pen if you hold such lofty ideals of literature. Can you live up to that? If you don’t, are you ready to get equally dumped on by people reviewing your stuff?

Now, unfortunately, people might trash your work even if you’ve been 100% nice in reviews. It happens. It hurts. It sucks. But at least you can take some comfort in having the moral high ground, which, seriously, a lot of people will respect you for. Be the class act.

Exception I will grant you: if a book has sold hundreds of thousands of copies and has thousands of heart-eyed five-star reviews, and you just don’t get it, you can say so a little more flatly. I admit I did this with the third Twilight book, for example. But even then, I recommend holding back from a full-out immature rantfest. You’ll thank yourself later.

Anyway, go read books! Enjoy them! Final hint: if you aren’t enjoying a book, don’t finish it. Stop halfway, DON’T leave a review, and move on to something new. There. Happier already, right?
mollyringle: (Gutenberg)
11.     Spend a little time every week familiarizing yourself with some aspect of the business side.

This is one I definitely need to do more, and better. Sure, we’re artists. We like to create, in solitude, and share only when we’re ready, which might be approximately once a year. We hate the shallow, commercial, look-at-me marketing side. But, assuming we do want to be published, we need to know something about how the publishing industry works. So, just for a few minutes a week, do some Googling. Read articles and blog posts by those who are savvy about this stuff.

For example, find out what exactly it is that makes professional cover art look cooler than DIY cover art. What should go into a back-cover blurb. What kind of social media persona you’re currently presenting, how much online-marketing time you’re willing to commit to, how you might best reach your target audience. Consider who your target audience actually is. Read about what types of marketing have worked (and haven’t) for other authors. Check out what’s up in the publishing world lately in general.

One of the reasons it’s important to do this, aside from merely not sounding like a noob in your query letters, is that the industry is changing rapidly, and frequently. Ebooks are now a hugely profitable thing when not that many years ago no one thought they’d take off. Self-publishing likewise has become far more respected than it used to be, in a short amount of time. The role of agents and editors has shifted accordingly. Lots of posts and articles out there are discussing these kinds of things, and they’re good to know.

Another reason to do this kind of research is that you might stumble into a fabulous networking moment. Here, I’ll give you an actual useful tip: check out the #MSWL tag on Twitter. MSWL stands for Manuscript Wish List, and it’s what agents and editors sometimes use when posting the kind of books they really want to see submitted to them right now. You might just find someone who sounds perfect for you to work with, who’s looking for exactly what you’ve written. May it be so!
mollyringle: (Gutenberg)
10.     Try writing something different from your usual, once in a while

This is good for flexibility. Could be a poem, or a nonfiction article, or a letter to someone. Or a scene that’s light and funny if you’re usually inclined to dark material. Or a thoughtful, honest Yelp review of a restaurant. I keep a file in which I describe and review perfumes I’ve tried, which is mainly for my own practical reference, but also can count as a writing exercise since it demands that I pay attention to the way something smells and put the impression into words.

As with your free-write journal, this doesn’t necessarily have to be anything you share with anyone else. Goodness knows the poems I’ve tried writing are not ready for prime time. (Poetry is decidedly outside my wheelhouse.) But it’s another form of writing practice and is thus good for the creative mind. Then you’ll be feeling more ready to get back to your fiction!

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