Monday, August 28, 2017

For Goblins Do The Bells Toll - A Look At The Goblins Of Bellwater by Molly Ringle.

The Goblins of BellwaterThe Goblins of Bellwater by Molly Ringle

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Most people have no idea goblins live in the woods around the small town of Bellwater, Washington. But some are about to find out. 

Skye, a young barista and artist, falls victim to a goblin curse in the forest one winter night, rendering her depressed and silenced, unable to speak of what happened. Her older sister, Livy, is at wit’s end trying to understand what’s wrong with her. Local mechanic Kit would know, but he doesn't talk of such things: he’s the human liaison for the goblin tribe, a job he keeps secret and never wanted, thrust on him by an ancient family contract.

Unaware of what’s happened to Skye, Kit starts dating Livy, trying to keep it casual to protect her from the attention of the goblins. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to Kit, Skye draws his cousin Grady into the spell through an enchanted kiss in the woods, dooming Grady and Skye both to become goblins and disappear from humankind forever.

It’s a midwinter night’s enchantment as Livy, the only one untainted by a spell, sets out to save them on a dangerous magical path of her own.

I had the opportunity to read an early version of The Goblins Of Bellwater by Molly and this forms the basis for my review.

The Goblins Of Bellwater, in many ways, marks a significant left turn for Molly Ringle after the rather epic Chrysomelia Stories. True to her talents as a story teller, and a nimble one at that, Molly Ringle returns with a one shot novel that, it could be argued, packs just as powerful a punch as her re-imagining of the Persephone mythology.

Taking inspiration from the works of Christina Rossetti and the visual genius of Brian Froud, The Goblins Of Bellwater offers a fantastical premise, complete with an ancient curse and a hidden population of goblins, which Molly injects seamlessly into a contemporary Pacific North West setting.

The balancing act from the very beginning of this story is perfect and, through the character of Skye - the victim of that curse - we are invested, experiencing her terror and helplessness as she endures it from behind a veil. Likewise, her sister Livy is a vividly drawn character, struggling to cope with something she interprets as something far removed from dark magic, but a something that is no less frightening. Into the mix, comes Kit, an unwilling witness to the machinations of the Goblins, while his cousin Grady, who falls for Skye in the midst of her ordeal, is unwittingly drawn into a conflict that threatens both his and Skye's very existence. Livy's trajectory in the story is, perhaps, the most compelling as it is she who has to find courage and the resources to confront this ages old curse as well as a tribe of beings who have only ever existed in imagination.

The Pacific Northwest, once again, leaps from the page in all its color and life and vibrancy, and I had no trouble immersing myself in a place that I can see is very special to Ringle. And, as she did with her Chrysomelia Stories, Ringle takes an established mythology and turns it on its head, resulting in fresh storytelling that crackles anew and surprises and delights.

The Goblins Of Bellwater is Molly Ringle at her fantastical finest.

The Goblins Of Bellwater hits bookshelves on October 1st 2017.

Molly Ringle (image credit: the author).

Molly Ringle was one of the quiet, weird kids in school, and is now one of the quiet, weird writers of the world. 

She likes thinking up innovative romantic obstacles and mixing them with topics like Greek mythology, ghost stories, fairy tales, or regular-world scandalous gossip. She's into mild rainy climates, gardens, '80s new wave music, chocolate, tea, and perfume (or really anything that smells good). 

She has lived in the Pacific Northwest most of her life, aside from grad school in California and one work-abroad season in Edinburgh in the 1990s. (She's also really into the U.K., though has a love/stress relationship with travel.) She currently lives in Seattle with her husband, kids, guinea pigs, and a lot of moss.


View all my Goodreads reviews

Monday, August 14, 2017

My Strange Addiction - Bad Reviews & Where To Find Them.

Bad reviews.

They're nothing new. They are part and parcel of being a published author and, if there is one thing I've learned after seven years of writing and being published, you are bound to get one - or two.

You know something?

They still hurt.

Even with all of the advice I've received about bad reviews and the knowledge that you can't please everyone all of the time, there are occasions when the bad review cuts - and cuts deep.

(image credit: Goodreads.)

Of course, one nexus where authors can almost be guaranteed of seeing bad reviews of their work is Goodreads. The Amazon owned, global hub of just about any book that has ever been published is either a blessing or a curse for the working author.

I still haven't decided which.

Sure, it's a platform that gives exposure to an author's work, allows discussion and interaction about that work and literature more broadly. 

In the past couple of weeks, some reviews have appeared on the Goodreads entry for The Recipient that are less than kind. In a word  - they suck. I won't relay the details of them for you here. You can visit the entry for yourself and check them out. Suffice to say, there are no positive take aways in them. There is nothing in them that I could use to apply to better myself as a writer. Over the course of several hundred words, their basic take-home is, 'This is shit. Move on.'

You maybe asking, why would you do this to yourself Dean? Why would you visit a site like Goodreads, if you know that the reviews may not all be good?

Well - because reviews matter. Reviews are still the pre-dominant indicator of an individuals decision to purchase or not to purchase. If the reviews are bad, and they come from a reviewer of influence, that is quite a powerful position to be in.

I've had plenty of advice, saying to avoid reviews - good and bad - and I know, intellectually, that is the right thing to do. 

But sometimes, I have moments of weakness. I've had a few moments of weakness recently.

I'm close to a stage of burn out. I've recently had two patients at my work pass who I were really close to and I think they affected me more than I am willing to admit. There has a constant pressure associated with the daily grind. Work, the school run, the weekend sports, juggling the house hold budget, my health. Not to mention the challenges of trying to remain creative and finish a story that I've committed quite a lot to emotionally over the past year.

I missed a pressure release valve somewhere along the way.

In those moments, I find myself indulging in a crazy little game of self flagellation. There is something about bad reviews that is strangely attractive. It's almost like, seeing a bad review acts as a sort of leveler. That, even after multiple titles, you're not actually top stuff at all. You're not even decent. You're a fraud.

(image credit: REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail.)

The best place, it seems, to do that is by visiting Goodreads and checking up on your reviews. Ignore the good reviews and go straight for bad ones and bask in them like some strung out drug addict. 

Feels good, don't it. 

I've endeavored to adhere to the idea that all reviews are valuable. All reviews offer something that an author can use to better themselves. Truth is, not all reviews are helpful. In fact, there are actually bad, bad reviews. 

And it still hurts.


Thursday, August 10, 2017

Remembering The Lineman.

The death, this week, of country singer/songwriter Glen Campbell affected me more than I anticipated. For me, Campbell's music has always been an affectionate fixture, even if it hasn't figured prominently in my playlists. Whenever a Glen Campbell tune came on the radio, I would invariably turn the volume up.

This was especially true for the Jimmy Webb penned Wichita Lineman.

My grandfather was a lineman for the State Electricity Commission in Victoria, Australia. It was his first job when he returned home after the war (WW2). 

I remember the stories he used to tell me about driving the big old electricity commission truck that had the line barrels on its rear and how he would drive out to where the lines had broken to repair them. He was also responsible for the erection of many of the poles and wires across that remain in existence across large parts of the Gippsland country side. 

I like to think Pa was quite proud of the fact The Wichita Lineman talked about men and women like him - those who established such a vital infrastructure. It was he who introduced me to the track on his old HMV record player.

I hear you singin' in the wire,
I can hear you through the whine
And the Wichita lineman is still on the line...

Pa went onto become a night watchman at the Yallourn Power Station. He wore a uniform and a hat and worked in a station house onsite. Basically, he was the equivalent of a policeman. I have vague memories of visiting him with my Dad when he was on shift. The tearoom at the station had a jar of teddy bear biscuits and he'd often find one for me. He was a proud man.

Glen Campbell's was a voice I've known my entire life and Wichita Lineman is a song I'll forever associate with my grandfather. 

I am emotional, even as I write this.

Good things pass too frequently.