Don't give up, writers!...But don't expect fame either.

On Twitter recently there was a hashtag that got going in which successful authors encouraged struggling writers to keep at it, because it took them (the successful ones) X number of years and manuscripts and rejections before they Hit It Big. And now they’re on bestseller lists! And have Netflix deals! And fan art! So don’t give up!

Normally you can count on me to be the encouraging optimist too. But in this case I feel the kinder thing to do, in the long run, is to deliver an opposing viewpoint consisting mainly of, well, I won’t say “pessimism,” but more like realistically tempered expectations.

I’ve been writing books since I was 12. (I’m now 45.) Counting just the published ones, I’ve had 12 novels or novellas published, with two excellent small presses. I have never hit a bestseller list. I have never been offered a screen adaptation deal. I am not getting fan art or fan fiction, and hardly ever fan mail. I’ve never in all these years had a royalty check big enough to cover more than one month of the mortgage. (And keep in mind royalties are paid once every three months.)

I’m now taking work as an editor/proofreader, not only because I like the work (which luckily I do), but because writing is clearly not going to bring in enough money for me to stick exclusively to that as my career. 33 years of fiction-writing experience and 12 published books is evidently not enough for me to Hit It Big, and I’ve given up on expecting it ever will.

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Froud - bad faeries

Guest feature: author Darlene Foster takes us to Malta!

It's been too long since I've brought on another author for Q&A, and I'm pleased to be doing so again with Darlene Foster! I met Darlene (in an online sense) through our publisher in common, Central Avenue Publishing, and she's one of the most upbeat, easygoing, fun-loving writers I know. Her Amanda Travels series is a wonderful set of books for middle-grade readers in which the young Amanda visits a new country in each book and always encounters an adventurous mystery to untangle. They're perfect for the young armchair traveler—or real-world traveler—in your life.

Author Darlene Foster
Author Darlene Foster
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Buffy folk - by mangofandango

Fluffy to grim: the tone spectrum. And watch The Untamed!

I’ve come to realize it’s not the *subject matter* you should think about when recommending shows and books to me, but the *tone*. Here is a tone spectrum I drew up for illustration, using just TV and films.

Fluffy to grim, 0 to 10
Fluffy to grim, 0 to 10

I’m unlikely to want things that are a 10—all serious all the time. (Or even 95+% of the time.) I’m open to the complete fluff on the 0 end, but I have to be in the mood for that.

The sweet spot is 3 to 7 or thereabouts: give me tonal variety! All the shows I’ve truly adored have been in there. They have a lot of complete silliness and also a goodly amount of heartbreak. They’re not just ONE MOOD.

I sketched this because sometimes people recommend a show or book to me because it’s got Greek gods in it, or linguistics, etc.—things I like. Then it turns out to be unrelentingly depressing, and I don’t like it.

So if recommending to me, think tone! I want pleasant fluff AND meaningful depth, in harmony and balance.

N.B.: I fully realize this is only one way to evaluate media and does not cover all the relevant details that might make us like a thing. Don’t bother going into full “but but but” mode about it. It’s just one angle.

For those who can’t read an image, the chart goes:

0 (Fluffy) to 10 (Grim)

0: Most Disney

1: Comedy in general

2: Gilmore Girls

3: Most Studio Ghibli

4: Harry Potter; Avatar: the Last Airbender

5: The Untamed; Buffy

6: Angel; Sherlock; BBC Merlin

7: Star Wars; Downton Abbey

8: Lord of the Rings

9: Tragedy in general

10: Game of Thrones; Witcher

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Froud - bad faeries

The new book! Lava Red Feather Blue

I haven't posted here about the new book, have I? Here is its magnificent cover!

Cover of Lava Red Feather Blue by Molly Ringle: mountains, starry sky, jewels, trees
Cover of Lava Red Feather Blue by Molly Ringle: mountains, starry sky, jewels, trees

All of you who love the idea of a m/m Sleeping-Beauty-inspired urban fantasy set in a fictional island country full of fae and witches: please go request it on NetGalley, preorder it (release date is January 5, 2021), or just put it on your Goodreads shelves to remind yourselves later.

This was the first time I've invented an entire new country for a story, so that was especially fun. I'll probably write more books set on this island, now that I've gone to the trouble of building it.

That is all. Hope you are all as well and sane as is reasonably possible in a year like this one. 

Zuko, Avatar

"Which do you choose, a hard or soft option..."

Magic systems in fantasy! They are not all alike, as you know, but here's one of the ways to categorize them: a spectrum between "soft" and "hard" magic. Hard magic systems have defined rules on how they work, and the reader is told what they are—e.g., the four element types of bending in Avatar: the Last Airbender have certain basic limits, which is why the characters are astounded when, say, Toph invents metalbending. Soft magic is more mystical and indefinable—e.g., we don't really know HOW Gandalf does all the magic he does, or even what his limits might be; we just accept that he's a wizard and such things are unknowable to the likes of us.

I tend toward soft magic, though moderately so, in my fantasy books, because I feel like the more you give precise, quasi-scientific explanations for magic, the more it's likely to bug people who actually know science. (Also the closer it comes to being science fiction instead of fantasy.) That said, I do put limits and costs in my magic systems: the fae in The Goblins of Bellwater (and Lava Red Feather Blue), though very soft-magic in terms of having large and undefined amounts of power, must nevertheless adhere to deals they make, because that's just the rule.

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MST3LOTR-dance - arwen_elvenfair

Which book? How to choose?

I asked myself something yesterday when I was trying to decide which of the many possible story ideas I should commit to working on next. I'll share it with you in case you have some decision to make, to which this line of questioning may apply.

I essentially had three story ideas revolving in my mind as main contenders for The Next Novel; we'll call them A, B, and C. (As with many writers, my problem isn't coming up with ideas, it's choosing which of my many ideas to use at a given time.) Naturally I first tried asking myself, "Which do I want to write most?", but for some reason that didn't give me a clear winner. I could justify why I might like writing each of them, or "should" try writing each of them.

So I turned it around and instead asked, "How would I feel if I learned that someone else just wrote and published this exact story, and therefore I could never write it myself?"

And that was more interesting. Because for stories A and B, it turned out I didn't mind so much. I thought, "Oh well; that might be for the best. Someone else with more expertise on subject A or subject B would probably write it better." But for story C, I felt regret at the idea of giving it up—"Aw! I could've had fun with that. I would have come up with something cool."

Thus we have our answer.

...Although don't hold me to that. I could yet change my mind. 

Froud - bad faeries

Being a memoirist again, just for tonight

Here’s a story about an alluring guy I met online.

It was the late '90s, in a chat room for fans of The Cure.

He swooped in and defended me against a troll by delivering witty, cutting comments that drove said troll out of the room. I messaged him to say thanks, and we became friends.

He lived on the other side of the country from me, with his folks. We were still in our early 20s, so it wasn’t too unusual that he lived at home. He basically seemed to invest funds rather than work, and was well educated.

Not only did we share tastes in music, but we both enjoyed snarky takedowns of stupid people. Always a thing to bond over in one’s 20s. The friendship continued for the next few years, despite our frustratingly slow dial-up connections.

We confided in each other. I told him about relationship trouble with my boyfriend sometimes, but my online buddy was a gentleman; he never tried to cybersex me or otherwise audition to become my next boyfriend.

He told me about having loved and lost. About a fiancée recently who’d died in an accident. My heart ached for him.

There was sometimes flirtation. Or at least, I read it as such, and I reciprocated. The affection was expressed through rare, shy compliments, songs sent to one another in mp3, and occasional gifts shipped across the country.

We even talked on the phone a couple of times. He was charming, exactly as he was in our message window. Hearing his voice made him so real. Although not quite as real as I wanted.

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Doing nothing...except WRITING!

We all like to joke about how the majority of us lately are at home doing nothing; wearing pajamas, Netflixing, posting photos of our pets, obsessively refreshing news sites. I'm doing all of that for sure. BUT! I'm also writing! And editing. And plan to keep doing a lot more of both.

I asked myself: If I were going to die soon—a possibility that's seemed a lot more real for everyone lately—what would I wish I had done? Since I have to scratch off things like "see Italy" for now, I looked to the other items, most of which are things like:

Finish the story I'm working on
Try writing that play adaptation I was talking about
Think about the next book and decide what I most want to write in all the world, and write that

And, yeah: read delightful books and watch shows and films I've always meant to, and be extra loving with my kids and husband and pets. But not to the exclusion of creating.

Because, you know what, I probably still have a long future ahead, and you probably do too. And when quarantine finally lifts and real life rushes out the gates again, I want to emerge with lots of new finished products in hand, ready to share.

HUGE side benefit: focusing on all of the above makes me much less anxious, and I am naturally a person prone to anxiety. Especially health-related anxiety! So this is a major perk.

Take care out there, and worry less by living more. In your space. At a safe distance. 

:) ❤️

girl reading with moon

88 Lines About 44 Women Writers

So, I made a thing. I heard that ‘80s song about 44 women, and I decided to write…


Enheduanna was a poet

From four thousand years ago,

Sappho, too, wrote lyric lines

For lovers we may never know

Murasaki’s Tale of Genji

Might be the first novel ever,

Hildegard knew plants and music,

Mystical and wise and clever

Héloïse became a scholar,

Writing reams to Abelard,

Veronica the courtesan

Penned poems earning high regard

Aphra was a spy and playwright,

Boldly blazing cagey trails,

Marie-Catherine charmed the salons

With her retold fairy tales

Mary wrote on rights of women,

Did her gender proud and fine,

And her daughter, also Mary,

Gave the world a Frankenstein

Jane created Mr. Darcy,

Satirized society,

George’s books (or Mary Anne’s)

Show kindness and variety

Elizabeth, she loves thee, let her count the ways,

Her romance soars,

Charlotte gave us Rochester

And Jane Eyre out upon the moors

Emily is famed for Heathcliff,

Turbulent and dark and grim,

Anne wrote with more realism,

Sensible and calm and prim

Christina held a Goblin Market,

Lovely, eerie, and fantastic,

George romanced Chopin and kept her

Gender expression elastic

Harriet, with Uncle Tom,

Helped to encourage abolition,

Emily wrote eighteen hundred

Poems despite her shy condition

Louisa and her little women

Still cause us to rhapsodize,

Edith scored the Pulitzer,

The first woman to win the prize

Virginia urged a room of one’s own

For all women who would write,

Colette captivated France

As actor, novelist, playwright

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