Top 10 Authors – Robin Hobb

Robin Hobb was one of the guest authors at the first ever Spec Fiction convention I went to. I had never heard of her so I borrowed a book off a friend. It was fantasy, I had read a bit of fantasy but it hadn’t grabbed me. The book I borrowed didn’t grab me, it consumed me. One of the great joys of coming to a fantasy writer late is that you get to binge on full series, you don’t need to wait a year or three between books. And binge is exactly what I did.

The first series I read was the Farseer Trilogy, followed by the Live Ship Traders. They were both superb. Her world-building is colourful and logical, the characters are flawed but likable, and there is enough politics going on to keep it interesting, but not enough to get you confused. I loved disappearing into this world of no computers, no monthly pay packets and no crowded city commutes.

The only reason I didn’t finish (yet) the Tawny Man series is because a character I loved died, and each time I picked up the next book in the series I was reminded of that and started crying again. Yes, I cry sometimes just thinking about this character dying. I’ve never had a book do that to me so long after reading it before. I think I’m nearly ready to get over it, it’s been more than ten years now.

If you are looking for a true escape from the real world, then these are the books for you. They do have a little magic in them, but quite frankly if a fantasy book doesn’t have magic then it might as well be historical fiction as far as I’m concerned. Provided there are rules around the use of the magic, which Robin Hobb does apply, then I’m happy.

Language in flux

The other day I was at an event where the host asked her guests to ‘smile for a selfie’. The thing is, the host was not in the photo, she was only taking it. Then I saw someone on TV being ribbed about the large number of selfies he was posting, they even showed one for illustrative purposes. In that photo he was posing with both his hands in view, so unless some unseen parts of his body were very dexterous, I’m confident that he did not take the photo himself.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against the evolution of language, and I think the word ‘selfie’ beautifully describes a photo taken of one’s self by one’s self – but surely both those factors need to be true for it to be a ‘selfie’? If they are not we have another word for photos like that… photos.

It seems like the definition of ‘selfie’ is morphing to mean any picture of human beings taken by a device that is able to post the images to the internet. So perhaps instead of ‘selfies’ we should be calling them ‘posties’. I know we already use that for the people who deliver our mail, but hey, there used to be a time when ‘stream’ just meant a small waterway.

Story magic

I know I’ve mentioned before that it amazes me how stories seem to pull themselves together when you write them, as if they already exist in their entirety and when you write them you are just uncovering what is already there. Well it happened again while editing this week.

In my re-read a couple of months ago I identified a question that was raised in the story and never answered. At first I thought it was too complicated to sort it all out so I was getting ready to cut all the bits that related to raising the question. Then, while laying in bed on Tuesday night, the answer came to me. More amazingly, the novel already had all the foreshadowing required to insert it.

The communal unconscious which (I’m sure) gifts us all these stories knew exactly what was happening and why the characters were doing what they were doing. It took me over a year to figure it out. I am stunned at how many hints were already placed in the book, hints I had no idea I was leaving. They just seemed right when the characters were living that part of the book.

So the edit to answer the question amounted to less than a half-chapter of re-writes for something that I think really contributes to the story. It is so addictive this story writing caper. I can’t believe everyone isn’t doing it.

Editing… still

In my opinion, there is nothing exciting about editing. It doesn’t drive me to the computer like new words. New words are like a wave that you catch and ride and you have no idea how far or how long you are riding until you collapse on the shore at the end, exhausted. Editing is like wading through mud. Well that’s how it is for me.

To make things even more tedious I found a time glitch in my novel. It is a Were-story, so the full moon is pretty important, and I realised the date (which I never mention) has a full moon happening on a Friday when it can’t happen. I need my people to be people on that Friday night, not Weres. I was writing the story with the calendar up behind me, so I thought I had it covered, but I must have misread it. That’s what editing is for; double-checking everything and finding all the places where you got it wrong.

So two hours of research later I had new dates that would fit and keep my Friday human-only. Two hours of research that probably didn’t really need to happen because I never mention the date anyway, but I would KNOW that I had it wrong. Editing won’t let you keep going if you know you have something wrong. Editing nags a bit.

The up side is that editing does not require you to be overly motivated, this is red-pen work after all, so you can force yourself to do it in small snippets or large chunks, whatever time you can spare. For me I can stop mid-paragraph if I need to, so it means I’ll get it finished in the timeframe I set if I can keep forcing myself to sit down and do it.

The problem is I am getting a bit sick of being muddy, I’m keen to ride another wave.