Current Reading, Part I – Olive

I recently read a post by Jodi Meadows on the blog “Pub Crawl” (what a great name, right?!) about a common question authors are asked: what are you reading? Figured I’d jump in as I’m reading some unique stuff that’s been unexpectedly inspiring…

I generally, as Jodi recommends, read books in a few different genres at the same time. Jodi offers four categories on her blog: Popular, Award Winning, Out-of-Comfort Zone, and Books you love. Coincidentally, I’ve currently got one book in each of these categories between my nightstand and kindle. But I’d also add one more category to her four: non-fiction.

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More Inspiration: The DiRel – Olive

(Photo cred.:

This is one of a series of posts about inspiration for the novel we’ve written, OF GOLD AND FIRE.

The DiRel people – A people ruled by Women

Some of the inspiration for the DiRel society, the group that one of our main characters belongs to, comes from the Mosuo (or “Na”) people, a small ethnic minority in China.

One of the last matrilineal societies in the world, the Mosuo (also spelled Moso) live near a Lugu Lake in Yannan, China. Years ago, I read a book about them called Leaving Mother Lake: A Girlhood at the Edge of the World, by Yang Erche Namu and Christine Mathieu. I highly recommend it. (Amazon says that I purchased this book in 2007, so I’ve been thinking about it for quite a while.)

The Mosuo have a tradition that is often called “walking marriages.” In fact, they don’t really marry at all, at least in the sense that we do in the West. Also, family structure is very different from the way we organize ourselves. For example, children belong to the family of the mother, and men sometimes have very little involvement in the raising of the children. Women are also the heads of the household, the matriarch being the end all be all in Mosuo families.

One of the things the book mentioned was that you never have any question whether a child is of that mother; there can be no mistake as to maternity…I mean, it kind of makes sense that a society would do that, especially before DNA and so on.

Like the Mosuo and other Chinese, the local people in our story think that the DiRel are promiscuous, which isn’t the case. The Mosuo [DiRel] generally take only one partner at a time, but lack the usual reservations that Western society (or the “local” society in CHAINED) places on women, or men for that matter.

But the DiRel are also markedly different from the Mosuo in many ways. For one, the DiRel are a much more primitive people, wearing skins and hunting for their food. They keep chickens, but no other livestock. The setting for the DiRel Mountain, as mentioned in our blog post, Inspiration for CHAINED: Setting and Slavery, is the Kuwaiti desert and craggy Hindu Kush, specifically in Afghanistan.

To read about the Mosuo, please pick up Leaving Mother Lake, or check out the Mosuo project online.


The Bechdel Test for OF GOLD AND FIRE = PASS – Olive

What is the Bechdel test?

According to

“The Bechdel Test, sometimes called the Mo Movie Measure or Bechdel Rule is a simple test which names the following three criteria: (1) it has to have at least two women in it, who (2) who talk to each other, about (3) something besides a man.”

The test was popularized by Alison Bechdel‘s comic Dykes to Watch Out For, in a 1985 strip called The Rule. For a nice video introduction to the subject check out The Bechdel Test for Women in Movies on

OK, so OF GOLD AND FIRE isn’t a movie (or TV show, YET). But after being reminded of this little test, I figured I’d mention it since it could easily apply to other mediums too. Because why not? Plus it’s a chance for me to plug our writing and rich story—and our bad-ass lady characters.

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Books to Write Books, my Writer’s Library – Olive

Sorry about our brief hiatus. Aristen and I have been busy chipping away at OF GOLD AND FIRE after receiving feedback from beta readers. Consequently, we’ve been neglecting our blog a bit. Oops.

Anyway, I’m going to share with  you a few of my favorite books that help me write, especially when I’m stuck on a specific problem. As a disclaimer, I don’t use any of these books word for word, but they often give ideas—especially if I’m stuck! I also routinely use these books to add depth to what I’ve already written.

1.  Oxford American Writer’s Thesaurus, 3rd Ed., by David Auburn


Yes, I do go online and use But I find that a physical book I can tab and refer to over and over jogs my brain better than searching online. Many of my books are dog-eared and have rainbow-colored wings gracing their fore edges. For a logophile/bibliophile like me, it’s multi-colored happiness.

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Cosplay and Crushes – Olive

I mentioned in a series of tweets that one of our beta readers has really gotten into the story:


Giggling girlishly, so beyond happy and totally twitterpated, I typed up those tweets and went along my day, satisfied with a job well done. Sure, we have a lot of work to do on the story to make it shine (editor, rewrites), but I think every writer/author dreams of the day when their readers can fall in love with their characters just like they have. I see tweets about this all the time; there’s fan art, fan fiction, you name it. Our world is big enough for some badass fanfic, if I don’t say so myself.

Then the next morning, something completely hilarious happened. But let me start with a short story…

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Progress Check on OF GOLD AND FIRE – Olive

Phew. OF GOLD AND FIRE is currently in the hands of a select few beta readers, and we recently received feedback from some of them. We are so excited! Why might we be excited about people coming in and picking apart our story? Because above all, most of the feedback we received was positive and constructive. I’m so impressed with the thought and effort that went into the responses we’ve gotten so far, and we still have a couple reviews outstanding. A hundred thousand thank you’s to all our beta readers.

This is also a special time for us because most of our work throughout our lives has been made for the other. Aristen and I have written together since we were in kindergarten, but this is a whole new endeavor: sending our baby out into the world for the very first time.

We still have [a ton of] work to do, but let me share some of the kudos:

“[Character R] is awesome, more hunting wizards please.”

“I feel like you don’t want me to like [character J], but he’s one of the most awesome people in the story.”

This reader had a preference for character J for sure.

“[Character J] is awesome. It seemed like you wanted me to feel he was the bad guy in the situation, but everything he did made him likable.”

And, funny enough, this same reader wanted another character to die … a lot. It cracked us up.

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How Beta Reading can make YOU a Better Writer – Olive

If you’re wondering what beta reading is, check out my post on editing, The Quest to find the Perfect(ish) Editorfor an explanation.

I beta read for a couple of reasons.

First, I beta read because I feel like I owe it to other aspiring authors to help them with their work. It’s a shark filled pond out there, and we’re all the little fish in it together.

Second, as someone said about OF GOLD AND FIRE while they beta read for us, “you are the doers. So many people talk about these other things they want to do, but I want to help you because you’re actually doing it.” Truth. The doers are going after their dreams. If I can be a part of all that, that’s where I want to be, not with the people who talk about doing but don’t.

Third, believe it or not, helping others helps me improve. We read about the “rules” of the road when it comes to writing, but putting them into practice is a separate issue, one of execution. It’s one thing to know how something is supposed to be done; it’s quite another to actually do it.

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