Writers: Play D&D!

This post will be accompanied by Critical Role gifs, because... well, because I can.

This post will be accompanied by Critical Role gifs, because… obvs.

Dungeons and Dragons. That final frontier of “well, yes, I’m a nerd, but I’m not that kind of nerd.” So endlessly uncool. Which is a shame, because it’s so much fun. And, for writers, it’s a totally overlooked way to practice writing, make creative friends, and have a really great time in the process.

Before I played, I always imagined D&D as a stat-based fighting game, which interested me not even a little bit. That’s basically the most boring part of video games for me. But although combat is part of D&D, it’s actually a collaborative storytelling game. The best way to describe it is like an open-world, decision-based RPG computer game (like Dragon Age or Skyrim), except you can actually, genuinely, do anything you want. You can approach problems however you please. You can flee from the city under attack to save your own skin. You can stab the king in the middle of him giving you a mission. You can do anything, as long as you accept that your actions will have real consequences too.


In D&D, you control one character — but only one. You develop them and their relationships over weeks and months and years, and unlike writing fiction, you don’t get to decide what happens to them, only how they react to what happens, and what they’ll attempt to do next. Then it’s down to the other players to figure out how their characters would react, the game runner (Dungeon Master or DM) to decide how non-player characters react, and down to the dice to decide how successful your attempted actions might be.

Not that the dice run a dictatorship on the story, like I once imagined. You get boosts or penalties for your attempts based on your character’s stats (a charismatic character is going to have an easier time deceiving people than a socially-awkward one), on how good your strategy is (you’ll have a better chance sneaking into a place through the back door at night after making sure all the guards are drunk than if you stride in through the front door at noon), and perhaps on how convincingly you roleplay the situation. It forces you to strategize, think outside the box, and dig deep into your character.


But you don’t get to choose exactly what happens or what path your character will take. All you can decide is their personality and goals and play it out from there. Which makes it an awesome exercise in character development.

This was proven to me recently, when I started playing a selfish and ambitious human sorcerer called Kethra. In my head, she was going to end up on an adventure and learn to be a better person. If I’d written her story as a book, it would definitely have gone in that direction. Instead, she started a steady fall into Pure Evil, and was a hair’s breadth away from betraying her entire party by the end. (Yup, D&D friends. If I hadn’t been out of spells and low on health when you guys destroyed those black dragon eggs, I would so have fought you to keep one). It wasn’t what I expected her story to be, but the way people reacted to her and the way her actions played out just kept leading her deeper and deeper into Team I Love Evil Dragons.

No one knows where a game of D&D is going to go, not even the DM. Things get weird. Sometimes you adopt little goblins called Droop and end up rolling deception checks to convince him that actually you do like his terrible cooking, really (and feel really guilty when you fail). Sometimes an attempt to gather information undercover goes awry because your friend wrote “Wizardy Bloke” in her notes instead of the relevant character’s name, and you end up being blackmailed by a smuggler with some really second-rate goods for sale. Sometimes you make deals with chromatic dragons, because everyone knows that always ends well. And sometimes your DM wants to kill you when you keep trying to find out things about an ancient civilization that she has barely any notes about because it was just supposed to be a little side worldbuilding thing, seriouslystop doing investigation checks, there’s nothing else to know, why do you hate me?

And it’s great for learning how to stay true to your character and develop character-driven story arcs, even in super-plotty fantasy situations. It’s definitely made me think differently about narrative and about how characters pursue (and are thwarted on the way to) their goals. And, of course, it’s just plain fun. At least, it is if you like stories, really weird improv, and having great adventures with your friends.


Book Love: This Adventure Ends by Emma Mills


More and more recently, I’ve been reading books that I LOVE, but that I don’t feel like I can review on Feminist Fiction. Not because they’re not feminist, but I don’t have anything to say about feminism in the book. So this is a new blog series where I just get to straight-up squee about recent books I’ve really loved. 

Sloane isn’t expecting to fall in with a group of friends when she moves from New York to Florida—especially not a group of friends so intense, so in love, so all-consuming. Yet that’s exactly what happens.

Sloane becomes closest to Vera, a social-media star who lights up any room, and Gabe, Vera’s twin brother and the most serious person Sloane’s ever met. When a beloved painting by the twins’ late mother goes missing, Sloane takes on the responsibility of tracking it down, a journey that takes her across state lines—and ever deeper into the twins’ lives.

Filled with intense and important friendships, a wonderful warts-and-all family, shiveringly good romantic developments, and sharp, witty dialogue, this story is about finding the people you never knew you needed.

This book was so WONDERFUL. So readable and so fun, and all the characters felt so REAL. At first, I overlooked this one on my “to read” list, because the “missing painting” plotline didn’t feel too interesting to me. Then I started hearing people rave about it, and after reading a couple of serious non-fiction books, I reeeally needed a good book to cheer me up.

Not that this book is fluffy. God, it hits where it hurts. But the characters and the friendships? Gah. It was so perfect. I just want to squish all the characters. I want to crawl into this book and hang out with these people forever.

And it has a side-plot about fandom

I’ve read quite a few books recently that have attempted to tackle fandom, but I haven’t come across anything that felt real since Fangirl. But This Adventure Ends absolutely nails it. The addiction, the excitement, the community. How fanfiction and fandom in general take on a life of their own, separate from the source material. What the characters come to mean to you. The weirdness and wonderfulness of AU fic. And also the why. Why people love fanfiction so much. Why it’s so enjoyable. Why we need the happy endings.

Fangirl was about BNF Harry Potter fans, which is a little out-of-date with actual fandom these days, and not exactly an experience many people have. This Adventure Ends was about everyday fandom, about finding solace in stories about stories, and omg it’s so good.

I need to buy a physical copy of this to sit on my bookshelf. And then I need to go and buy Emma Mills’ debut novel, First & Then, because I’m in LOVE with her writing. I’m so in love.


To everyone wondering about my absence this past month: yes! I am still alive! Yay for still being alive. Just been sorting out some Life Stuff. And drinking a lot of pumpkin spice lattes. Both very important and time-consuming things. 😛


September Writing

  • I didn’t write much in September, to be honest. At least, not where anyone could see! I did share the first few chapters of my post-Long May She Reign project with another human being, to get confirmation that it’s, you know, written in recognizable English and didn’t make her want to gouge her own eyes out so she wouldn’t have to keep reading. And she didn’t! So that was a success, at least!
  • On Feminist Fiction, I wrote about Robin Hobb’s Liveship Trader series, and why you should DEFINITELY 100% read it, right now.
  • On this blog, I wrote about some of my favorite finds while volunteering in a charity bookshop. My favorite thing since I wrote that? “Knit your own royal wedding.” I mean, what more could anyone want in a book?


September Books


  • The Mad Ship by Robin Hobb. My new favourite fantasy series. You need to read it.
  • Ship of Destiny  by Robin Hobb. No, seriously. It’s amazing. Althea Vestrit is my queen.
  • Empire of Storms by Sarah J Maas. Not as good as Queen of Shadows, but still addictive fantasy reading.

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Being nosy in a charity bookshop


Book collections tell you a lot about a person.

I volunteer at a charity bookshop in my spare time, and one of my favorite things to do there is sort through the big donations. I’d like to say it’s the writer in me, enjoying constructing stories about the people who’ve donated these books. In reality, I’m just super nosy, and even a person’s unwanted books reveal a lot about who they are.

Like the female minister who liked visiting museums and had recently got into decluttering. Or the crime novel reader who owned a camper van and liked hiking around the UK. You can see people’s hobbies and interests, their careers, their aspirations, major events in their lives… these donations are the detritus of their lives, parts of collections being decluttered or entire libraries being passed on after a person’s death.

We get novels from the 1940s and 1950s that were clearly bought brand new and kept for all these years. Gorgeous original Penguin classics. Children’s novels from literally a lifetime ago. Collections of people’s interests over decades. Some have related newspaper clippings from the 1960s held between the pages, or postcards from friends in the 1970s that were used as bookmarks. Sometimes they have people’s thoughts scrawled in the margins — we can’t sell them if there are too many notes, but they’re still fascinating to see. And of course, there’s the modern stuff. The speed with which people go through books. The number of crime novels that people buy from us, read in a few days, and then re-denote, over and over again.

But my favorite donation, so far, came in last week. They were sheet music collections, for piano, available for a few pence every month. Only a newspaper-y pages, kind of like monthly magazines, the sort where you need to buy them all to have a complete collection. This set spanned from April 1896 to June 1897. I don’t know whether then decided they had enough music or just lost interest in buying them. But they were beautiful. Really old and worn now, stained by age, but still intact. Honestly, I don’t know if they were in good enough condition for us to sell them. I’m always surprised by how many really old books aren’t really worth anything, at least monetarily. But it was amazing to sort through these and know that 120 years ago, someone was going out every month and buying them new, then taking them home and practicing them on their own piano. These weren’t just antiques. They were magazines, something someone specifically bought every single month for at least a year. Part of someone’s long-gone life in 1896.

I’d like to think they made that person happy. Or the person just kept buying them out of the hope that they’d motivate them to learn piano, and never actually did. If it was me, it’d probably be that second one. And I hope that, wherever they end up, they bring someone as much joy as they brought me in that back room when I discovered them, lurking in a Sainsbury’s plastic bag underneath a pile of other books.


August News

  • I might regret this, buuuut… I’ve started using my Youtube channel, RhiWrites. I’m still learning, but I hope you’ll join me there! It’s a talky channel (I believe that’s the technical term), just chatting about books and life and being a writer. Come hang out with me!


August Writing


August Books


  • Emotional Agility by Susan David. Really insightful book about finding emotional authenticity.
  • A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess. Super readable Victorian fantasy, full of magic, boarding schools, and plot twists.
  • The Best Possible Answer by E. Katherine Kottaras. Anxiety-ridden overachiever faces her fears in the summer before applying to college.

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The Olympics

While getting completely obsessed with the Olympics over the past couple of weeks, I noticed something really perplexing:

Wow, do people like to dismiss and complain about Olympians. People sitting on their couches complaining about how someone didn’t try hard enough, because they only got a silver. Saying athletes should be ashamed for qualifying for the finals but not receiving medals. Saying athletes aren’t gracious enough, or humble enough, or ambitious enough. For being the wrong shape or size (despite, you know, being more in shape than most people could ever dream of being), for not being pretty enough, for caring too much about appearance.

Olympians have more ambition, self-discipline, and proof of success than almost anyone else on the planet. They’re the elite in whatever sport they pursue, and they have worked tirelessly for years to get there. Even qualifying for the Olympics is something amazing that almost none of us will experience. And yet that doesn’t save them from people sitting at home, dismissing them, belittling them, and making fun of them. In fact, it seems to make them more susceptible.

That should probably be depressing. If Olympians aren’t good enough for the world, what hope do we mortals have? But I actually think it’s really freeing. It’s so easy to try and restrict ourselves because of fear of what other people will think. We don’t think we’ll ever be good enough, so we make ourselves smaller to avoid people’s disdain. And it’s pointless. There will always be bitter complainers who devote their energy to tearing other people down, but their words have nothing to do with the person they’re criticizing, and everything to do with their own bitterness. No one is good enough for the internet. So no one even needs to try. If you’re doing your best to do the things that are important to you, that’s what matters. And you’ll come out of it with whatever your version of an Olympic experience is, while those detractors… well. They’ll just have their own loathing to show for it.


Last week, I went to my first ever ballet class.

Well, not first ever. I took classes when I was five, and I was absolutely terrible in the way you’d expect a fidgety, clumsy, overexcitable five-year-old to be. But this was my first class since, you know, I learned how to actually spell the word “ballet,” and the fact that I went seems about as unlikely to me as saying I took my first trip to the moon.

I’m totally non-sporty, despite what my Twitter might have suggested during the height of the Olympics. I’m still super clumsy, and more shy and self-conscious than I ever was back then. But I just had a sudden feeling about it. I’ve had a rubbish year so far, and I suddenly felt that I wanted to shake things up by taking a ballet class.

Now I’ve taken a class and loved it, I could come up with more reasonable sounding reasons for going. I like that it’s hard work in a totally new way for me. I like that it’s a workout that doesn’t leave you breathless (as an anxiety sufferer, that’s never a good feeling for me). I like how it makes you feel powerful, in a quiet sort of way.

But before I went, I just had a feeling. And I’ve learned to trust my feelings, however random they might seem. I became a vegetarian at 10 on a feeling. I took a Japanese class on a feeling. I moved to the US for university on the feeling that it was the right thing to do. It might seem dumb, but it’s like part of me knows it’s right for me, and I just need to plough ahead and wait for my logical brain to catch up and figure out why.

Speaking of new things, I made  a Youtube video before the class, talking about some of this stuff. I don’t have a DSLR, I’m using light from the window, and god I need to get a good external mic to fix that sound, but … it was also kind of fun. Terrifying and new, but fun. I don’t really expect anyone to watch them, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned this year, it’s to just do what you want to do, create what you want to create, and not get distracted by the thoughts of others.

So I’m probably going to be adding more videos here. Recording videos, practicing ballet, and embracing that excitement and suckiness that comes with diving into something new, just because you have a feeling that it might turn out to be the perfect thing in the end.

A Few Long May She Reign FAQs

I’ve been getting a few questions about Long May She Reign, so I thought I’d make a quick post with some answers. 🙂

What genre is Long May She Reign?

It’s a fantasy novel!

So it’s all about magic?

Not really. It’s more a fantasy in the Game of Thrones sense (maybe some magic in the world, but most people don’t believe in it) than the Lord of the Rings sense.

Is it SCI-FI and fantasy? Because you say Freya is a scientist.

Definitely not futuristic sci-fi, although it’s not medieval fantasy either. Think more 18th century — an era where people are starting to discover what we’d think of as modern science.

Is it like the TV show, Reign?

Sadly, there are no Gothic monsters hiding in the forest or gloriously anachronistic headbands in this book. But it is the story of a teenager trying to figure out how to be queen, with far less background in ruling than Mary Stuart has. And, obviously, murder is very much on people’s minds.

Is it truly a standalone?

Yes! I mean, the world doesn’t end on the final page of the novel, so I’d never say never to telling another tale in that universe, but it was written as a standalone, and it tells a complete story.

Will it be available in countries other than the US?

So far, the rights have only been sold in US and Canada — although, of course, places like Amazon, Wordery and the Book Depository make that kinda moot if you want an English language version.

Could you send a reviewer copy to me?

Sadly, I can’t. Partly because I live in England, and it costs me about $10 per book to mail them back to the US (which adds up pretty darn quickly), and partly because I don’t even have any reviewer copies myself yet, because of that aforementioned living-in-England thing. But there will be a giveaway or two nearer the time, and any giveaway organized by me will always be open internationally. If you’re a reviewer, I recommend contacting HarperTeen instead.


July Writing


July Books


  • Ummm, I barely read ANYTHING this month. I actually don’t know what happened, looking back. But I reread Chamber of Secrets and Prisoner of Azkaban, and am loving listening to the audio books read by Stephen Fry again.

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