Month: April 2019

Several of My Favourite Retellings

Posted April 29, 2019 by Lynn E. O'Connacht in Miscellaneous / 0 Comments

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Hi, everyone! I hope your week is off to a fantastic start! I know. I know. No one likes Mondays because the week’s off to a new start. But you know what Mondays also mean? It’s time for Monday Musings! Wherein I ramble about various and sundry depending on my whim or Patreon requests/suggestions. Posts are somewhere below 2,500 words at most and consist of short personal essays and discussions.

Several of My Favourite Retellings

Last week, I revisited an old post about my favourite fairy tales. As that post had a companion, this week, I’m revisiting a discussion on my favourite (fairy tale) retellings.

I’m sure it doesn’t take people long to pick up on the fact that I enjoy fairy tale retellings rather a lot. I’ve only got a series exploring them, after all. I’ve always loved them. There’s something fascinating and beautiful about the many ways in which we can retell the same story without losing our originality or personality. Retellings, to me, are a testament to the power of storytelling and imagination because even the ones that are similar to one another are recognisably different and have always been such.

Talking about my favourite retellings may be a little disingenuous since, in many cases, I’ve only read the story once. I’m not great at rereading nowadays, but these are all stories that have touched me deeply and that I’ve enjoyed reading rather a lot.

One of the newest additions to my list of favourite fairy tale retellings is Aliette de Bodard’s In the Vanishers’ Palace. This is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast with a distinctly Vietnamese flavour set in a post-colonialist and post-apocalyptic world. It’s arguably science fantasy and maintains an amazing balance between being nothing like Beauty and the Beast and yet being recognisably a retelling of the fairy tale. It deals directly with the question of consent inherent in the narrative as well as the question of how such a palace could be forgotten. One of the great frustrations for me in fairy tale retellings is the way they deal with the timelessness present in the original. De Bodard deals with it beautifully and poignantly, as she deals with every aspect of the narrative. My favourite aspect, though, is almost certainly the magic and the commentary it delivers on certain well-known magic systems.

Another new addition to my list of favourite retellings is Jo Walton’s The Prize in the Game, which retells The Táin and, having finally read it, lets me posit all three of the books as a single unit for the purposes of this post. I think they’re best read closely together, to allow this prequel to nuance Sulien’s opinions and commentary in The King’s Name and The King’s Peace (both of them retellings of Arthurian legend). These books are some of the richest and most in-depth retellings I’ve ever read. Like De Bodard in In the Vanishers’ Palace, Walton retells these tales in a way that is both nothing like the original and yet unmistakably that story. There is a depth and lyricism to Walton’s retelling that encapsules both modern fantasy novel sensibilities without losing that sense of myth that comes with a story retold many times over many centuries.

Sticking with the theme of not-actually-fairy-tales and retellings of The Táin, I also want to highlight Jules Watson’s The Raven Queen. This is a historical fantasy retelling of the tale and, thus, far more recognisable in its retelling. Watson, unlike Walton, seeks to tell a story that reads like it could be the ‘real’ story before time and storytelling polished it into the tale we know today. It’s a companion piece to Watson’s The Swan Maiden, and though The Raven Queen stands on its own perfectly well, it’s worth reading The Swan Maiden first as the two are closely intertwined and you’ll get a better understanding of events overall.

Novis by Rachel Tonks Hill is a science fiction retelling of Beowulf, and exceedingly epic in its scope. I don’t even really know where to start with this one. It’s a delightful take on the tale and, despite being a science fiction setting, still manages to keep some of the horror of the original poem intact. Choosing to retelling Beowulf in a space opera allows Hill to keep everything that makes the poem so memorable whilst giving it a spin unique to the story that Hill is telling.

Returning to actual fairy tales, I cannot write a post like this without mentioning Jane Yolen’s Briar Rose, a retelling of Sleeping Beauty that weaves the fairy tale firmly into reality and tragedy by tying the narrative of the fairy tale to the Holocaust. It’s difficult to talk about this book without feeling like I’m spoiling it. One of the reasons it was so powerful to me was knowing virtually nothing about it beyond that it was a retelling of Sleeping Beauty. It is, however, one of the most powerful and heart-felt retellings, and a perfect example of how we use stories to make sense of the world around us.

Shannon Hale’s The Goose Girl is one of the most faithful retellings I’ve ever read while still making the story into an entire novel. In some ways, I think Hale’s retelling of The Goose Girl is the way it’s always lived inside my head plucked out of the world of dreams and poured into written form. In most ways it isn’t, of course. I never dreamed of Bayern or the way magic works in them. But if Seven was the novella that taught me just how different you can make a fairy tale retelling while keeping it recognisably its original then Hale’s was the book that taught me the power of staying true to a story’s core. I’ve never read a retelling that felt, so keenly, like it was an unabbreviated version of a tale.

Iron and Gold by Hilda Vaughan is a book that I can almost guarantee you’ve never heard of. It’s a retelling of a Welsh fairy tale, Lady of Llyn y Fan Fach, and is utterly, utterly gorgeous. If you enjoy fairy tales, especially an exploration of the fairy bride trope in fiction, I strongly urge you to track down a copy of this book. It’s thoughtful and thought-provoking as well as emotionally gripping. The introduction of the Honno edition is well worth your time too if you’re normally the kind of person who skips introductions.

One of the most powerful retellings I’ve ever read was Deerskin by Robin McKinley. Deerskin is a retelling of stories such as Bearskin or All-Kinds-of-Fur and deals unflinchingly with the aftermath of rape. It’s a sensitive, gentle retelling, if at times harrowing. McKinley’s style is somewhat hit-or-miss for me, but in Deerskin, certainly, it works a wonder on me. It’s an honest look at the healing process and trauma and seeks to deal with it in a way that I’ve not seen many fairy tale retellings even dare.

As this technically covers eleven books already, I will leave it at this. I have many more books that I utterly love and that I’d recommend without hesitation (if, at times, with content warnings) and I hope that if I’ve inspired you to pick up any of them, that you’ll enjoy them immensely.

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Week 17 Update

Posted April 26, 2019 by Lynn E. O'Connacht in Miscellaneous / 0 Comments

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Weekly Accountability

Hi, everyone! It’s that time again! Weekly updates delivered every Friday!

Completed Projects

  • 4/4 discussions of papers in Asexualities
  • 13/12 books read

Goal Updates

  • 0/2 essays for May
  • 0% Abstract submission
  • 4,529/10,000 words of fiction written
  • 0/1 video on ace rep in The Bone People

Writing Updates

This Week’s Fiction Wordcount: 736

This Week’s Non-Fiction Wordcount: ???? (It’s numbers. My brain can’t do numbers right now. T_T)

DemiPrincess: I’ve made a tiny bit of progress! I got kind of sideswiped by the week. (Seriously, how is it Friday already?)

Life And Other Such Important Matters

I have heard back on one of the stories I submitted! Whoo! It was, alas, a rejection, but thankfully I could have a good conversation about it and, if I’m honest, I’m 100% behind it and mulling over what, if anything, to do. For now, at least, the story is trunked while I try to figure out whether the issues are fixable or not. I have way too much on my plate to worry about it now. (Basically, the only chance at fixing it is turning it into a novel and I do not have time for another novel, especially not one I might still have to trunk afterwards. So it goes into the drawer for poking at a later stage.)

Beyond that, life continued apace. I’ve been brave and sent out the scary important emails and heard back from one of them. And then I got into an ongoing grumbly fight with Paypal and, well, my week was not that great, if I’m entirely honest. But hey! I still made progress, I may, eventually, be able to access my money.

Stand-out Positive Moment

Come on, this is clearly the release of She-Ra and the Princesses of Power season 2. Unless it’s that one scene in episode 2 of Game of Thrones season 8. It’s a toss-up.

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Fairy Tale Favourites

Posted April 22, 2019 by Lynn E. O'Connacht in Miscellaneous / 0 Comments

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Hi, everyone! I hope your week is off to a fantastic start! I know. I know. No one likes Mondays because the week’s off to a new start. But you know what Mondays also mean? It’s time for Monday Musings! Wherein I ramble about various and sundry depending on my whim or Patreon requests/suggestions. Posts are somewhere below 2,500 words at most and consist of short personal essays and discussions.

Fairy Tale Favourites

A few years ago, I wrote a post about my favourite fairy tales. I figured that, with two more fairy tale retellings published and a third in planning stages, it would be a good and fun idea to revisit the topic.

Like many, I grew up on fairy tales. Notably, those that are canonically considered to be Western European fairy tales and the English and Germanic tales in particular. Those are, after all, the tales I know best and they make up the majority of the stories that I grew up with.

Growing I was surrounded by retellings of many of the most well-known fairy tales: Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and so on. None of that is particularly surprising. These fairy tales are exceptionally good at what they do and they fit neatly into the Victorian-era recasting fairy tales as something for small children, as nursery and bedtime stories, and their ideals on proper behaviour. The violence in earlier versions of Cinderella is, after all, much easier to pare down than the violence in The Juniper Tree. The visual gruesomeness of Cinderella happens at the end, when the stepsisters cut parts of their own feet and have their eyes plucked out by Cinderella’s feathered friends. None of the violence is integral to the central narrative of Cinderella’s hard work and good heart being rewarded. The visual gruesomeness in The Juniper Tree, however, drives the plot. Without the stepmother in the story cutting off her son’s head, there is no story.

That is not counting all the simply plain weird fairy tales, such as The Mouse, the Bird, and the Sausage or The Louse and the Flea or The Straw, the Coal, and the Bean. And then there are the anti-Semitic fairy tales, and the ones that are barely stories such as A Riddling Tale. That’s not to mention the ones that are like more well-known tales and yet didn’t gain the same popularity, such as All-Kinds-of-Fur. My point is that there are a lot of fairy tales that didn’t – and don’t – get retold as much as the ones we all know, and it isn’t all because of Disney’s influence on fairy tale retellings as a whole.

All of that isn’t to say that these stories never get retold – they do. It’s just that they rarely gain the popularity of retellings of the more well-known tales. One of the most impressive feats about Jim Henson’s The Storyteller is that none of the fairy tales it retells are the ones you might expect. The closest the series gets is Sapsorrow and the meshing of All-Kinds-of-Fur with Cinderella and Donkeyskin works exceptionally well because they’ve all got similar beats.

To me, one of the most fascinating things about fairy tales and their retellings is how much individuality authors can pour into what is, at its core, the same narrative. It’s what draws me to the tales again and again. Though I grew up with a lot of books containing fairy tales and retellings, notably complete collections of all the stories collected by the brothers Grimm and those written by Hans Christian Andersen, most of my favourites all come from Grimm’s collections.

The Juniper Tree is actually one of them. I couldn’t quite explain why. I suspect it’s largely the combination of a story that is exceptionally gruesome and yet has an element of whimsy to it.

I have a big soft spot for Puss-in-Boots as well, though my favourite cat fairy tale was probably Madame d’Aulnoy’s The White Cat. Because it has a cat princess who saves the day for the prince. How was I not going to love that tale?

One of my absolute favourite remains The Two Brothers, largely because of the sheer amount of animal helpers in it. The Two Brothers is a fairly long fairy tale, smushing together several different motifs, but it’s always been the first half that holds my interest. This is the fairy tale that I’ve got bookmarked in my collection to this day.

In the first third of the story, we’re introduced to two identical twins who, because it’s a fairy tale, end up being able to find a gold coin underneath their pillow every night. They get kicked out of their home and taken in by a kindly huntsman, who raises them as his own. Now adults, the two brothers leave. They come across five animals, all of whom they decide not to kill after the creature begs for its life, and they’re both given a young animal in return, which they keep as pets.

In the second third of the story, the two brothers have split up and we mostly follow the younger of the two in his adventures to defeat a dragon and marry a princess. He defeats the dragon, with the help of his animal companions, but a marshal was watching and steals the proof that he’s done so. Or so the marshal thinks! Anyway, a short story made shorter the younger brother marries the princess and becomes a king. One day, he goes out riding and manages to get himself and his animals turned into stone.

Cue the third part of the story which focuses on the older brother. He returns to the village where they parted and discovers something is amiss with his brother and he goes off to discover what happened. He gets mistaken for his brother and, somehow, cannot get out of sleeping in the same bed as the princess. His brother, after being rescued, is really rather upset about it, lops his head off, then regrets it and the animals help him magically restore his brother back to life. They go back home, get recognised for who they are, discover the princess did not sleep with the brother not-her-husband, and happily ever after has been reached!

Trust me, the last part is incredibly unsatisfying to read in its full form as well. The first two thirds are delightful, though, and I’d happily recommend it if you enjoy fairy tales with animal companions. They’re really the star of the whole thing.

Another of my favourites is Brother and Sister, which I did a loose if fairly faithful retelling of in Feather by Feather and Other Stories. Here it’s definitely the sibling relationship that’s done it. I love the wildness of the deer and the love and friendship that remains between the siblings even then.

Some of my favourites are a little more well-known, though. I count The Twelve Dancing Princesses and The Six Swans (or The Twelve Ravens, take your pick) among them as well. In the case of the former, it’s the dancing that always gets me. I love dancing and it’s so integral to the story here. In the latter, it’s, again, the love between siblings as well as the hardship of the way the princess breaks the curse on her brothers. Imagine trying to do what the princess does. (And then remember that she fails. How many fairytales end in failure? I mean, sure, it’s got a happy enough ending and all, but she still didn’t finish that last shirt she was making.)

I also have a soft spot for Fitcher’s Bird. It’s a Bluebeard variant, but here the girl pretty much rescues herself and her sisters. Sure. There are menfolk to do the killing, but she doesn’t go about locking herself up and hoping men’ll show up before the sorcerer breaks down the door and murders her. She goes about rescuing her sisters and sets up a ruse to trick the sorcerer into believing she’s not left his house. I think Fitcher’s Bird was probably one of the first self-rescuing heroines I ever encountered. Again, I mean, sure she gets help, but the vast majority of the story is about her outwitting her sorcerer husband-to-be and succeeding. Mostly by decorating a skull with flowers to pretend she’s watching the sorcerer from afar. It is the gothiest of Bluebeard variants.

There’s also Frau Holle. (You may or may not know it under the name of Mother Hulda.) What I loved about it is… Well, probably much the same as what I loved about most portal fantasy stories, really: the portal. The idea of stepping (or falling) into a completely new world where apples and bread can talk to you. Also where you make it winter in the world you came from by shaking out down covers! Look, I’m not fond of winter, I admit that, but if I could make it winter by raining feathers down onto the world? Sign me up!

I have a massive soft spot for The Goose Girl as well. It takes a lot for me not to want to pick up a retelling of it, or not to like it when I read it. I loved Falada. I also always interpret Falada as a mare rather than a gelding, but there you go. I loved the way the wind obeyed the princess (and only the princess) and the solution the king arrived at to convince the princess to talk about what actually happened. It’s such a fun play with loopholes. Also the geese. They may play only a small role, but I do enjoy their presence.

I also have a deep love for The House in the Woods. Partially it’s because this is one of the stories I recall listening to on audiobooks and I can still hear the soothing cadence of the narrator whenever I think of this tale. Largely it’s because it’s a story about the importance of kindness. While that’s not an uncommon staple of fairy tales in and of itself, in many tales there’s a strong current of “If you are kind to others, others will be kind to you” and it’s not that that strand isn’t here at all, but it’s comparatively muted.

You see, The House in the Woods sees three sisters all stumble across a house in the woods where they ask for shelter. This is agreed to, provided that they cook supper. The eldest two cook supper for themselves and the old man living in the house. The youngest also cares for the animals without being prompted. She wakes up in a palace and learns that the old man was a prince cursed to be an old man until he meets a woman kind to both people and animals. Though, like in the other fairy tales, kindness to animals is rewarded, the animals don’t set out to help her win trials in return. They just go to sleep, fed and contented. It disrupts the general concept set out by more well-known fairy tales that the reason to do good deeds is because others will do good deeds in return.

Lastly, because I have to stop at some point, one of my favourite tales is One-Eye, Two-Eyes, and Three-Eyes. I’m sure it’s the goat. (Are you noticing an animal theme running through my fairy tales? I am.) But it’s also interesting in how it’s the middle daughter who is the heroine. This makes sense if you look at the title, but it’s still a pretty rare occurrence. It’s usually the youngest child or, in a pinch, the eldest. This is also one the few fairy tales I know of where the evil sisters aren’t severely punished for their cruelty. They’re left poor, sure, but the story ends on both of them repenting of how they treated their sister. The sisters don’t get their eyes pecked out or shoes they’re forced to dance in until they die or anything like that. It’s just a small note about people learning that what they did was wrong and showing remorse. To a child that’s been bullied, the idea that those bullies may one day learn to be better people can be a powerful one.

Those are just some of the tales I’ve loved and enjoyed and continue to love to this day.  While I do greatly enjoy the more well-known fairy tales as well, it’s often the lesser-known ones that truly hold my heart.

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Week 16 Update

Posted April 19, 2019 by Lynn E. O'Connacht in Goals, News / 0 Comments

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Weekly Accountability

Hi, everyone! It’s that time again! Weekly updates delivered every Friday!

Completed Projects

  • Lynn Rambles about… Star Trek: Discovery Season 2

Goal Updates

  • 0/2 essays for May
  • 10/12 books read
  • 2/4 discussions of papers in Asexualities
  • 0% Abstract submission
  • 3,793/10,000 words of fiction written
  • 0/1 video on ace rep in The Bone People

Writing Updates

This Week’s Fiction Wordcount: 1,067

This Week’s Non-Fiction Wordcount: 1,338

DemiPrincess2: Chapter 11 is done! I hate it, but it’s done. Huzzah!

Life And Other Such Important Matters

Whelp, I got the bill for the fainting of the ambulance. It’s… nowhere near as bad as the US, but wow. Still more than I was expecting. Eep.

Also with spring in full swing, it’s finally time to clean the patio outside and prepare to enjoy the weather there.

Stand-out Positive Moment

The stand-out positive moment for this week is top secret, sorry, so I’ll pick something fairly predictable: season 8 of Game of Thrones has started and in a few weeks’ time we’ll have an ending to the narrative!

Also did I mention I finished chapter 11 of DemiPrincess2?

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Writing Asexual and Aromantic (Fairy Tale) Retellings

Posted April 15, 2019 by Lynn E. O'Connacht in Ace & Aro Studies / 0 Comments

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Hi, everyone! I hope your week is off to a fantastic start! I know. I know. No one likes Mondays because the week’s off to a new start. But you know what Mondays also mean? It’s time for Monday Musings! Wherein I ramble about various and sundry depending on my whim or Patreon requests/suggestions. Posts are somewhere below 2,500 words at most and consist of short personal essays and discussions.

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Week 15 Update

Posted April 12, 2019 by Lynn E. O'Connacht in Goals, Miscellaneous / 0 Comments

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Weekly Accountability

Hi, everyone! It’s that time again! Weekly updates delivered every Friday!

Completed Projects

Ah, nope. None this week.

Goal Updates

  • 0/2 essays for May
  • 7/12 books read
  • 1/4 discussions of papers in Asexualities
  • 0% Abstract submission
  • 1,842/10,000 words of fiction written
  • 0/1 video on ace rep in The Bone People

Writing Updates

This Week’s Fiction Wordcount: 1,842

This Week’s Non-Fiction Wordcount: 1,730

DemiPrincess2: Progress! It meant backtracking a little, but hey. It means I added words and the chapter that wasn’t working started to work a little better. I’m not wholly caught up, but I should be soon and that should fix the issues I had with the damned thing and send me on my merry way. Huzzah!

Life And Other Such Important Matters

I made strawberry cupcakes! They were… okay, but not quite what I’d wanted them to be. I added at least double the strawberry the recipe called for and, well, you could barely taste it and the cupcakes were incredibly sticky because, I think, there was actually too much fruit juice in them.

That’s pretty much the most exciting thing, yes, unless you count that Cat decided she had to be in my bedroom all night and I didn’t have the heart to make her leave even if it meant wrecking my ability to sleep properly.

Stand-out Positive Moment

Oh, gosh. I’m not sure I even know this week. It’s been such a blur. Okay, no. I do know. I just can’t talk about it. But suffice to say it is very awesome and I can’t wait for when I’m allowed to talk about it with you all!

This Week on Patreon

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On Ace Representation: Perceived Ace-coding and Confirmed Ace Rep

Posted April 8, 2019 by Lynn E. O'Connacht in Miscellaneous / 0 Comments

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Hi, everyone! I hope your week is off to a fantastic start! I know. I know. No one likes Mondays because the week’s off to a new start. But you know what Mondays also mean? It’s time for Monday Musings! Wherein I ramble about various and sundry depending on my whim or Patreon requests/suggestions. Posts are somewhere below 2,500 words at most and consist of short personal essays and discussions.

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March Newsletter

Posted April 5, 2019 by Lynn E. O'Connacht in Goals, News / 0 Comments

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March Newsletter

Hi, everyone! It’s that time again! Monthly news and accountability! March was certainly over in a blink, wasn’t it? How’d your month go?

This month in “Lynn tries new stuff”, I’m also offering a nice round-up of all of March’s posts at the very end. Plus a few from April, because I don’t want to send out more than one round-up email per week if I can at all help it. Do you like it? Let me know your thoughts! 😀

Life And Other Such Important Matters

I never know what to say here. I’ve had a rough couple of days which doesn’t really help because it makes me less likely to communicate in general. (I know. I know. I mask it well. This is one of the real ways in which it shows, though.) It’s just even with weekly comments to look back on I’m drawing blanks. I lead the most interesting life, I tell you.

I did get a nonfiction rejection, which makes me very sad, but you can expect that piece to appear on the blog sometime in future! And currently I’m head-deep in reading The Bone People for the first time and taking copious notes so I can do a video lecture on it after I’m done. Eep! I’m both terrified and excited!

Featured Post

Essay: Subverting Stereotypes: A Look at Asexual and Aromantic Representation in RoAnna Sylver’s ‘Chameleon Moon’

Though the links between Chrysodrine, disability and/or race are immediately obvious, these moments of acceptance result in the narrative also linking queerness to the way that Chrysodrine physically Others as Sylver clearly demonstrates that the majority of their cast falls somewhere under the queer umbrella. Yet by centralising these characters what Sylver actually accomplishes is the opposite. Instead of presenting these characters in a way that says “these people are different from us”, the narrative presents the characters in a way that says “these people are just like us”. Chameleon Moon uses its intertwining of physically Othering both the cast and the setting as well as the characters’ ability and drive to build a better, more accepting community to Same its characters, to state without question that they and people like them are human.

Completed Projects

  • Sekrit Project/Skies short story
  • 1 Let’s Play
  • Let’s Read! Asexuality and Sexual Normativity
  • Let’s Read! Asexual Resonances

April Goals

  • 2 essays for May
  • 12 books read
  • 4 discussions of papers in Asexualities
  • Abstract submission
  • 10,000 words of fiction written
  • 1 video on ace rep in The Bone People

March Goals

  • 7/9 short essays for March/April/May
  • 13/12 books read
  • 2/2 discussions of papers in Asexuality and Sexual Normativity
  • 100% Pick a new Let’s Read! project and discuss its future
  • 16,950/10,000 words of fiction written
  • 1 short story recorded from Feather by Feather and Other Stories
  • 1/1 completed new Let’s Play
  • 100% Reread Chameleon Moon for essayage

Writing Updates

This Month’s Fiction Wordcount: 16,950

This Month’s Non-Fiction Wordcount: 22,765

DemiPrincess2: Lots of whirring and thinking, mainly. I had a plot issue that needing smoothing and sanding before it could work.

Stand-out Positive Moment

Hands down, RoAnna’s reaction to the essay on their book. I’ve been terrified of writing this essay partially because they’re a friend and what if they hate it and I’m completely misreading their intent?! (Well, that’s one of the reasons anyway.) But I know they wanted to read it when it was done, so of course I shared it with them and I had a fantastic discussion about the book with them and it was just absolutely amazing. 😀

Also I finished a short story and it actually stayed a short story!

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Some brief musings on American Ruritanian Christmas romances

Posted April 1, 2019 by Lynn E. O'Connacht in Miscellaneous / 0 Comments

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Hi, everyone! I hope your week is off to a fantastic start! I know. I know. No one likes Mondays because the week’s off to a new start. But you know what Mondays also mean? It’s time for Monday Musings! Wherein I ramble about various and sundry depending on my whim or Patreon requests/suggestions. Posts are somewhere below 2,500 words at most and consist of short personal essays and discussions.

Read More

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