Category Archives: Writing

Anything related to writing, authors, agents, publishers, etc.

A couple of inspiring success stories

Just a quick one to share two success stories that are inspiring to anyone looking to break into the ranks of (traditionally) published authors.

Lynette Noni

First, Lynette Noni, who is starting to officially freak out! She wrote a bunch of lovely blog posts last year about getting a publishing deal with Pintera Press, and since then has worked hard (I’m sure) to get her book, Akarnae, polished for publication. The big date for her is the 2nd of February 2015, so just three days away… if you haven’t already, go visit her blog and send her some love and well-wishes. :-)

Akarnae, by Lynette Noni

Lynette Noni’s new book, Akarnae, is about to be published!

Good luck for the book release, Lynette! (The cover looks awesome, by the way.)

Sarah Joy Carlson

Secondly, Sarah Joy Carlson has just announced that she has signed with an agent in Ireland, which is also awesome news. In her post “Drumroll, please… I’ve signed with an agent!” she tells all about her journey of overcoming a few rejections, persisting and believing, and finally getting her dream agent for her novel, Hooligans in Shining Armour. (The blog post also contains pretty much every gif about excitement that currently exists on the Internet. :-) )

Congratulations to both of these great authors!

Can’t… blog… in… zone

Ok, quick break from writing, just long enough to say…

… Sorry, the main part of my mind is somewhere completely different right now.

… I’m making good progress with my last couple of chapters.

… Thanks heaps, Thomas, I’ll get around to that blog post when I have a chance (that is, when it doesn’t mean breaking out of the Zone), and will reply to that email. Just… not right now. (You’ll notice lots of 3-dot ellipses, though!)

… Another great picture my wife took that sort of fits the topic:

In The Zone

My attention is probably somewhere completely different right now…

… No, it’s not the Twilight Zone. (But thanks for your concern.)

… Your blog visit is very important to us. The next available Amos will be with your comment… er, later. Probably. Gotta go!

Fearing agents’/editors’ pet peeves

I just came across Thomas Weaver’s great post on Thinking to myself – or not that raised an interesting point about sometimes having circumstances where you need to dare to break some of the “rules” that seem to be so important to literary agents and editors.

Reading the beginning of the post, where Thomas explains the redundancy of adding “to oneself” after “thought”, at first I thought to m— I mean, I just, er, thought, “Heh, silly noob mistakes.” (Then I ran off and searched my manuscript for occurrences of “to herself”, “to himself”, and “to myself”.)

But seriously in all seriousness(*), I find it scary that agents/editors seem to have all these semi-undocumented pet peeves and the poor sods who submit their hard work and may commit one or two of them (which may soon be me!), despite the fact that these faux pas are easily corrected easy to correct, may never hear back from them nor ever find out what they did wrong.

(*) See what I did there? I avoided triggering someone’s pet peeve against adverbs (against which I’ve ranted previously) by using an adverbial phrase. Same thing, really (except it’s less succinct), but strangely enough, the same people that really mind adverbs don’t seem to mind adverbial phrases. Hypocritical of them, I know, I know… but they seem to “make” the rules.

I hope that there are more “reasonable” agents and editors out there than I realise (despite the fact that I understand how they came to be that way; I’m sure some of the things they have to read are just… shockingly bad). Because I’ll be running that gauntlet soon(ish). #amwriting

Wise Old Tree

Even this Wise Old Tree doesn’t know all the pet peeves that need to be avoided. (Oh, fine, I admit it – the tree doesn’t really have anything to do with this post’s topic. I just wanted to sneak another one of my wife’s great photos into my blog. Sue me.)

Does anyone have (or know of) a list of these types of pet peeves, or unwritten rules, for authors to avoid? And please don’t point me to the Turkey City Lexicon – in my opinion, that’s just common sense mixed with “never do this!” overreactions to serial-pattern-abusers.

I believe…!

(*clears throat and climbs up on his soapbox, manifesto in one hand, microphone in the other*)

I believe...

… that there are a few things I need to say at the start of the new year, 2015.

General

  • … that people who wonder about the meaning of life either don’t have kids or don’t pay enough attention to them.
  • … that love, humour and hope are the three main ingredients for happiness.
  • … in happy endings in real life. (In stories, they sometimes make me cringe, though. Even if I did silently hope for them.)
  • … in the importance of people being able to talk to each other… non-electronically.
  • … that you don’t need to drink alcohol in order to have fun.
  • … that smoking should be outlawed except for people willing to wear a permanently sealed-off helmet, and that the influence of tobacco lobbyists and the like are despicable. We all know what it does… why is it still around?
  • … that America and the UK need to stop hanging on to their confusing versions of the imperial system of units and finally go metric (your medical and military people are doing it… no, not with each other, I mean they use the metric system). Also, the US need to stop insisting on formatting dates with the middle value followed by the smallest value followed by the largest value. WTF? Oh, while you’re at it, guys, fix where punctuation goes on quotes that are less than a “complete sentence”.
  • … that bullies are almost always cowards too weak to stop doing to others something similar to what’s been done to them.
  • … that the most wonderful sound in the whole wide world is that of my kids laughing uncontrollably.
  • … that I’m the luckiest guy alive because my awesome wife, best friend and soulmate gets me and loves me including all my faults.

Politics

  • … that religious extremism of any sort makes this world a darker place, and that the rest of the world should take heed of how Australia handled her first real encounter with it. #IllRideWithYou
  • … that Australia needs to get rid of its current village idiot, climate-change-denying leader to start moving in the right direction again. We’re the joke of the world, being pretty much the only country in the world that is moving away from actively doing something about global warming, and it’s a friggin’ disgrace.

Software

  • … that OSS (open-source software) is the way to go wherever there’s a choice.
  • … that DRM (digital rights management) is wrong.
  • … that I couldn’t live without some of my favourite pieces of software (sounds like a future blog topic to me!).
  • … that installing a piece of software on my PC or an app on my phone doesn’t give it the right to do things like collect data about me without my explicit agreement, to not give me a choice of when it can dial home or check for updates, or to access any information on my system it doesn’t absolutely need to function. Worst offenders being companies like Apple, Microsoft, and Adobe, but also increasingly “do-no-evil” Google. (I love Cyanogen!)
  • … that it’s a crying shame that Smalltalk isn’t more widely used as a programming language (try Pharo and Seaside if you like to tinker, you won’t want to go back).
  • … that I am fully within my rights, when I see an email from someone that ends with “sent from my iPhone” to add to my own response, “Sent from my 64GB/3G Snapdragon 801 2.5GHz Quadcore OnePlus One with Cyanogen 11S that kicks your iPhone’s arse (and costs less than half as much)”.

Work (in IT)

  • … that programmers shouldn’t have to wear business clothes.
  • … that software architects should have the guts to recommend the right software for the job, not based on which sales reps can throw more money at decision-making board members who still believe that more expensive must mean better.
  • … that IT recruiters are right up there with lawyers and other blood suckers. The fact that they charge between 10% and 40% (or even more) on top of a developer’s rates without really knowing anything beyond buzz words is just appalling.

Blogging

  • … that I should take the time to blog a bit more. (Yeah, like that’ll happen. *sigh*)
  • … that there are too many good, honest blogs out there to read – how I wish I had more time to invest in being a good follower!
  • … that following another blog without really being interested in what it’s about, i.e. just to get them to follow you back, is akin to lying. Thanks to all those who do occasionally read my humble scribblings, and I hope to find more time to read all your blogs. (I _am_ interested in those I follow! I just roll my eyes whenever someone new follows me whose blog is about “making money by blogging” or the like.) For now, though, my aim is simply to have (not necessarily build) a platform while I focus on writing my book. Building my platform will come later, when I have more time for that sort of thing….
  • … that WordPress is great, but they should finally accept that I like the “old” stats page better and stop asking me to vote in their silly survey every time I load it.
  • … that WordPress needs to finally find a way to fix the “invalid certificate” bug that causes security errors. I keep forgetting that certain things only work in certain browsers because of it, and that it sometimes causes my “likes” of other blogs to be lost. Not cool!

Writing

  • … that I’ve had enough of distopian future stories whose premise I don’t buy, or whose premise I buy, but they then make ridiculous assumptions about human nature that I just can’t swallow (might be another future blog post).
  • … that everyone should take grammar seriously. Not just grandpa. All jokes aside, don’t let our language decay because people have to fit everything into 140 characters. Do your part, write things out, learn how it’s done right without needing a spell checker, and gently educate those who fall short. Or, like, mercilessly correct them, or… whatever.
  • … that my story is worth telling.
  • … that 2015 will be the year I finally finish my story. Watch this space. #amwriting

Conclusion

  • … that you should all have a Happy New Year! All the best for 2015 (and beyond).
  • … that it’s about time I stepped off this soap box. Ahem. Sorry for ranting, but occasionally it’s nice to get this sort of stuff off my chest. Now somebody give me a hand getting down, it’s higher than it looks. Huh? What do you mean, the microphone wasn’t on?!?

‘Tis the Season to be… Writing

Oh yeah… holidays! Time off from work! Time to finally write more than a few disjointed hours per week! I can’t tell you how much I’ve been looking forward to this.

Santa Writes

Image shamelessly merged from two free-to-modify images of Santa and a feather pen. No, I didn’t add the weird jester doll.

Admittedly, there’s also that little thing called Christmas to get through, but that will be so much easier this year… because all my kids are now old enough to know. We’ve kept the magic alive as long as we could; this year, all three of them will be in on the magic. Maybe that’ll take some of the excitement out of it, but I think it should still be fun. Just in a different way.

I finally found the time earlier this week to post a topic I’d been working on for a while (the GuildWars 2 bounties post; just taking, picking, cropping, uploading and inserting all those screenshots took forever), and may get around to posting on one or two other non-writing ones I’ve been meaning to do, but I do want to get back to the reason I created this blog in the first place, i.e. my own writing.

If I don’t quite finish writing the ending to my work-in-progress before I have to go back to work, I’m hoping to at least get close. Then, next year may find me writing about going through the long, boring, exciting, depressing, scary process of eventually submitting my work. Reading up on potential agencies to submit to, writing/honing my query letter, agonising over picking the sample chapters to submit, and so on. Wish me luck! :-)

But first, I have to get there, and write my ending. I’ve only got a rough outline thus far, but at least I now have a chunk of time to dedicate to it. (I hope.) Also, I have to complete my timeline (nearly done!) so that I can make sure that everything is logical and coherent. Not such an easy task in the fantasy genre and in my tropical setting, where I need to know exactly when the rainy season needs to kick in so that it all makes sense.

Oh, plus I need to get over this nasty chest cold I’ve caught… I think it’s been around a year and a half since I’ve had a real cold or the flu, so maybe I was overdue. All this coughing is exhausting, but you don’t need that much (physical) energy to sit and write.

And that’s exactly what I intend to do.

A heartfelt “thanks” to anyone who ever read my blog, I’ve learned heaps this year (not least of which was to adjust my expectations time-wise of what’s involved in blogging) and look forward to blogging more next year. And an even bigger “thank you” to my wonderful wife (she reads my blog and my scribblings) for putting up with me sitting in front of my computer for large chunks of my “spare” time and for supporting me in my crazy dream all the way!

Merry Christmas (or Happy Holiday Season or whatever you prefer…) to all writers. Oh, fine, to all non-writers as well.

Excitement building about building excitement

The reason I’ve been slacking off with my blog-writing lately is that I haven’t been slacking off with my book-writing. It’s been a long time coming, but I’ve finally finished the major rewrite of the section I was, er, rewriting.

I’ve written about what had happened and what I was planning to do a while ago in The Road So Far, from finishing a manuscript to early rejections to planning to do a huge revamp of my work, and now I’m done with what I set out to do. I’ve completely transformed the story while keeping core aspects of it, constructed a “story around the story” that I think works quite well, brought in a bunch of new characters to join the reader in discovering the main storyline, woven together the pre-existing threads with new threads and the threads around them, and I think it helps to give the whole thing a sense of building up to something.

It’s taken me a fair while (I have a family, a day job, and hobbies…), and to some extent it’s been frustrating because I had to slow down from my normal “just let it happen in my head” style of writing and think more about how all the individual threads interact and make sure that the story as a whole is cohesive, that some bits don’t contradict others and that the timeline is consistent from all perspectives. I even went to the trouble of using a mind-mapping tool to plan out my timeline visually for myself, with all the little occurrences noted of where a character may say something happened “three days ago” or was planning to do something “in three days” to make sure it all matches up with what’s in my head and what everyone else says. A very different aspect to writing than what I’m used to, but it’s been an interesting exercise, and most likely one I’ll have to repeat as the series progresses beyond Book 1 (which I’m hoping it will).

Of course, as I’ve read through it all multiple times to make sure all the little details are lined up, I’ve also let my inner editor run amok and did lots of reviewing, correcting, and polishing.

I think I’d even be willing to let some people read what I’ve got so far… which is both exciting and scary.

Now that I’m done with all the “weaving”, I get to finally go back to really writing because it still needs an ending to round off the first book (much, much more material in the series is still spooking around in my head, and I’ve got over 150k words from one character’s first-person perspective already written that I can use/adapt/weave into the main story when the first book is ready to send off… hey, it’s epic fantasy). I’ve got some ideas of how it’s going to go, but the details will grow like an independent organism writhing in the back of my mind while I try to keep up with putting it down on paper screen.

At a little over 70k words, the story should need about 15-25k more to give the reader an ending that will hopefully offer some explanations, some excitement, tie up some threads while leaving others dangling to be woven into Book 2, and leave her with an aftertaste of, “Hey, that was a great story set in an interesting world. I’m looking forward to visiting again and finding out what happens there next.”

Oh Boy Oh Boy Oh Boy!

Excitement ahead! (Image: Wikimedia Commons.)

The end is so close I can smell it! I look forward to seeing where the story will take me.

Thanks for the reviews!

There have been two very nice reviews of Nicholas C. Rossis‘ short story collection, The Power of Six (Plus One), which includes one of my short stories.

So I thought I’d point them out and thank the respective authors for their time reading and reviewing this anthology. I hear from Nicholas that his book went to #1 (so what if it’s in an “obscure subcategory”, as he puts it… details, schmetails ;-) ), so congrats to him on that achievement!

T. J. Hapney

The first one was from T. J. Hapney, who summarises and reviews each of the seven short stories, saying that “each story is designed to make you think outside of the box regarding how we perceive things, which I really enjoy and found it to be a bargain for under $1″. She concludes that “this was a fun read, especially for those who enjoy short stories”, giving it 4 out of 5 stars.

Here’s what she had to say about my contribution, Big Bang:

Big Bang by Amos M. Carpenter was an interesting story along the same line of those that Nicholas Rossis did in this collection. I really enjoyed reading Big Bang. It was definitely a different and witty way to look at how life in the universe may have begun. I found the story interesting and the writing style complemented Mr. Rossis’ so that the story did not seem out-of-place.

http://tjhapney.wordpress.com/2014/10/23/book-review-the-power-of-six-by-nicholas-c-rossis/

Thanks for the kind words, TJ!

Daniel J. Dombrowski

Daniel’s review is also very flattering, likewise summarising his thoughts on each separate short story. From someone who “grew up reading Asimov” and later “fell in love with the voluminous short fiction of Philip K. Dick”, I consider his positive words to be very encouraging.

The Power of Six […] will appeal most to readers who have already read and enjoy short fiction from the masters of days gone by. […] This is a solid collection of stories worthy of your time and money (a scant $.99) regardless of your genre inclinations.

http://thirtythirdstreet.com/2014/10/ebook-review-power-six-nicholas-rossis-nicholas_rossis/

Thank you, Daniel, for the detailed review.

Back to it

And now… for (most of) the rest of this Saturday, I’m going back to working on my book. Yay! :-)

Was I duped by Sarah Daltry?

My dilemma for the past couple of weeks has been that I couldn’t decide whether I wanted to blog in support of Sarah Daltry or one… well, warning about her. I’ve been trying to weigh both sides of the story, since I felt it was worth a blog post, but simply couldn’t decide. Supporting either side felt, and still feels, wrong. When I moped about it to my wife, she – wisely, as always – told me that there’s nothing wrong with continuing to sit on the fence if neither side appears palatable.

So, here I sit.

Undecided, but wanting to get my doubts out.

The email

After my passionate rant in her defense (and that of anyone who’s ever been bullied) when I heard that she was withdrawing her written work and her social media presence due to extreme bullying, I didn’t hear about the issue again for months until I received an email from someone who said she was a friend of Sarah’s. She apologised for the delay, saying she’d only found my post recently in a Google search (and that Sarah wouldn’t do such research herself), explained Sarah’s current situation (which was apparently much improved after she was suicidal and required professional help, so improved, in fact, that she was “coming back, with a focus on […] the stories she loves and what the writing means to her”), and thanked me for my supportive words in the open letter I wrote.

Honestly, that felt good. I’d done the right thing, stood up for what I believed was right and smote (well, with words) what I believed was wrong. And I was being thanked for it. I was under no illusions that my words had pulled Sarah back from the brink of darkness or anything that dramatic, but I was sincerely glad to hear she was doing better and writing once again. Someone who’d had that many bad things happen to her (bullying, via bad reviews as well as emails and on social media, rape, poverty, depression, suicide attempts…) surely deserved my help.

My reply

I replied to the email, thanking her for the update and confessing to be a “sucker for happy endings, but enough of a realist to understand that it’s not always like that”. I offered to help if I could:

“If there’s anything I can do to help, please do let me know – however much, however little, I’d be glad to help, whether it’s a new blog post with your words (only with your permission, of course), beta reading, feedback of any kind, or simply taking down the old post if Sarah prefers and never mentioning it again… just let me know.”

Research of my own

We emailed each other another couple of times; she was happy for me to do a blog post, even to post the contents of her first email, and, since Sarah was currently “rewriting her NA series that was originally romance [into] a new series [that was] geared more towards YA”, I could share upcoming promos for that series.

I agreed, saying I’d do a blog post later that week (over two weeks ago). In the meantime, I wanted to do a little bit of research to know more about Sarah’s story; surely, many others had carried the torch as I had, had stood up to bullying in their own ways in support of someone who’d been treated that badly.

The original “Open Letter to Bullies” post, in which Sarah announced that she was giving up, conceding defeat to all the hate, was no longer available, but there’s always the wayback machine for such cases (even if the styling is off, the content is there):

http://web.archive.org/web/[…]/open-letter-to-bullies/

The other side

To my surprise, what I discovered next was quite a different story. Rather than the social media outrage I’d expected at an author being bullied, the first three results of googling “Sarah Daltry” were her author pages on goodreads.com (with quite a favourable rating), her own site, and amazon.com, followed by a blog post by a site that seemed dedicated to stopping bullying on goodreads, except… that one was not supportive of her at all. Instead, just four days after Sarah published her open letter to bullies, it claimed to have sufficient information to take the stance that the whole thing was just a PR stunt to promote her work:

http://www.stopthegrbullies.com/2014/04/09/sarah-daltry-cries-bully/

Wait, I thought, aren’t you guys supposed to be trying to stop the bullying rather than adding to it? I read through this post with skepticism sitting heavy on my shoulders, but starting to slip as I found out that she’d reversed her decision to take down her site and her self-published books. Reading through the comments, people seemed to be quite willing to get right back to bashing Sarah (or was it “back”?).

There were a few other sites that were similarly dismissive of her claims, stating that Sarah had made quite a profit out of “crying wolf”, getting many “sympathy buys” after asking publicly for support, etc., and that there was no proof that she’d ever been bullied by bad reviews, with high ratings on both goodreads and amazon.

Who’s right?

Hmm. So either Sarah Daltry was right with her claims and those other websites were just adding to the incredible unfairness she’s experienced, or they (I’ll call them her “decriers”) were right to call BS and Sarah has been abusing the sympathy of a great lot of people, myself included, for her own profit.

Either way, I feel I have a right to be outraged. I think. I’m just really reluctant to direct my outrage at anyone unless I can be sure that, when I get down from my fence, I land on the right side.

Here’s what I emailed back to Sarah’s friend after I’d read up on the issue:

Wow, do I feel stupid. I was about to write up that blog post I mentioned, but, having just done a bit of googling myself, I’m not quite sure what to believe…

The reply was… well, understanding, ending with: “I will respect your choice either way, because in the end the choice is up to you as to what you believe.”

Checking newer posts on Sarah’s site like this one, she replies to comments by Nicholas (whose post first alerted me to the whole issue and who I think is a genuinely nice guy) that, yes, she’s read positive things as well as negative things posted about her.

What doesn’t add up for me

Here’s why I’m not willing to leave my perch on the fence just yet, some things still don’t quite make sense….

Assuming Sarah Daltry’s claims and reasons for withdrawing from “public life” were legitimate:

  • Why did she claim that she’d be removing her books but then did no such thing?
  • Why are her reviews so high on goodreads and amazon if there was such extreme bullying?
  • Why does she claim that she reads positive and negative things about herself when her friend says she’d never do that (only two days earlier)?
  • Why wasn’t her friend more, I don’t know, outraged when I said I wasn’t sure what to believe? If your friend gets treated really badly and someone says they think she might be lying about it, wouldn’t you get upset?
  • Would a site that’s supposed to be about protecting those who were bullied call BS on someone claiming to have been bullied, unless they had pretty good evidence?

Assuming it was all a farce and those who say she cried wolf to engender false sympathy are right:

  • Couldn’t the lack of evidence of bullying and the positive reviews just be because the abusive reviews and comments were removed from the sites in question? (I honestly don’t know what their policies are.)
  • Is Sarah’s “friend” who emailed me actually just another one of the multiple personas her decriers claim she maintains?
  • Why does the “stopthegrbullies” site not post the “evidence” that proves who Sarah Daltry is? Is it really because of a promise to those who gave them that information, to protect them from Sarah using her other personas (“socks”) to write bad reviews about them? Even if she abused sympathy to sell her books, making Sarah sound like an evil kingpin with that much power doesn’t quite gel.
  • Why did the “stopthegrbullies” site remove commenters’ last names and links to their websites? Because of “trolls stalking their blog” to protect the commenters, really? Sorry, but that seems far-fetched to me. By the same token as their argument about Sarah’s “socks”, some of those commenters who were “convinced” could then well have been the site owners themselves.

And, either way: Would people really do that?!? Wow, maybe I’m just too naïve.

So… was I duped?

What do you think? Or know? Have I missed any major information? Am I being silly in not being able to reach a conclusion, one way or the other? Should I just “let it go” and stop fretting?

Please let me know in the comments below, or feel free to email me (amos at amosmcarpenter dot com) if you’d rather not make it public.

Fool’s Assassin by Robin Hobb – Errata

As mentioned in my review of Fool’s Assassin a bit over a week ago, I thoroughly enjoyed the book, but it was quite full of errors, including little typos, grammatical mistakes, spelling mistakes, repetitions and factual errors. If you’re following my posts, you’ll know that I have a hard time reading past those, so for this book, I took it upon myself to write down all those things that nagged me. Still a great book, mind you… but I think many of these could have and in fact should have been caught by editors and proofreaders.

Fool's Assassin Errata

Some are things I’d have suggested if I were Robin Hobb’s editor or beta reader, others are plain errors. Both are things I’d like my beta readers (when I get to that stage… haven’t forgotten your offer, Suzanne!) to point out to me, because often, as the one doing the writing, you’re too close to the forest to see the trees, or too close to the blackboard to see the context, or… you get the picture.

So, below is my list of corrections of Robin Hobb’s latest book, Fool’s Assassin, in order in which they appear in the book, listing the page number in my copy (the UK large paperback version; see the review for cover photos) and using the categories “Error”, “Note”, and “Guess”, as well as these abbreviated ones:

Cons. = Consistency
Conv. = Convention
Gr. = Grammar
Punct. = Punctuation
Rep. = Repetition
Sp. = Spelling
Sugg. = Suggestion

Page Type Correction/Comment
2 Gr. “[…] do wonder, sometimes, if […]” – The if should be whether to avoid ambiguity.
5 Note Example of correct usage of whom: “On whom else […]”; also on p. 201 – I’m glad the author isn’t one of those who believes whom to be dead! Having said that, see errors below.
7 Conv. “I AM an old man.” – CAPS should be replaced by italics. There are several occurrences of this throughout; I’m guessing this was meant to be italicised later?
10 Guess “[…] guard contingent […] to rival the Queen’s Own.” – I don’t recall that the Fitz books had a “Queen’s Own” guard contingent (used as a proper noun), but could be wrong, or it could be the introduction of a new term, or accidental capitalisation of Own.
19 Rep. “Of course not!” – Patience says “of course” three times within six lines.
20 Rep. “[…] presence of all life, of course, […]” – In the paragraph directly following Patience’s above, Web says “of course” twice within two lines.
23 Gr. “Who do they hunt?” – Should be whom, as they is the subject: They hunt whom?
25 Cons. Fitz says that it’s been “almost ten years since I’d killed anyone”, then, on page 31, he says it was “over a decade” since he’d even thought of killing anyone. No significant amount of time passes between the two occasions.
41 Gr. “[…] it was what I smelled made me […]” – Is there a that missing, or is that intended to be colloquialism (which would be very unusual for Fitz)?
47 Rep. The word “market” is used three times in the same sentence. The first one could be dropped without losing any meaning.
66 Gr. “[…] needled my Skilled at him.” – Perhaps due to an edit; should be Skill.
86 Gr. “Who would you write your memoir for?” – Should be whom.
86 Rep. Two paragraphs begin with “<Something> shocked me”.
92 Rep. Two now occurrences in quick succession: “[…] was guttering now. […] Morning was not far away now.”
103 Cons. “Autumn went out […] as ever it was in fall.” – Not 100%, but I don’t believe the two can be used interchangeably, “fall” being US English and “autumn” being UK/AUS English.
109 Error “She […] wiped vainly at her seventeen.” Huh? Copy/paste error?
112 Cons. “When I had visited the Fool’s old home, I had thought only to look at it for a time and touch the stone that once I had had a friend…” Not sure, but the “stone” seems out of place; the mountain homes weren’t made of stone and there was no other significant stone there as far as I know.
125 Gr. “Who do I have who understands who we are…?” – Should be whom.
127 Gr. “This were the sort of puzzle that I dreaded […]” – Should be was.
132 Gr. “She was too young to ask her permission.” She and her refer to the same person (Bee); since she’s not asking for her own permission, it should be something like “She was too young for me to ask her permission” or “She was too young to be asked for her permission”.
140 Gr./Rep. “[…] wondrous […] wondered […] wondered” within three lines. Also, “as I wondered if” should be whether (it’s not a condition, it’s an either/or case).
151 Conv. “It IS foolish.” – CAPS should be replaced by italics.
189 Gr. “There was no scatter of spoiled pens, no open containers of ink.” – Nitpicky, I know, but to get subject-verb agreement, it should be “There was […], there were no open containers of ink.”
195 Punct. “But now that Bee is here..,” – I’m guessing the comma should be the third dot in the ellipsis?
201 Error “[…] carried away from me a five or six times a year.” – The first a should be deleted, my guess is, “few” was replaced by “five or six” at some point.
204 Rep. “Yet […] Yet […] yet […] yet […]” – Not sure whether this is an intentional juxtaposition, but it seems a little excessive.
219 Gr. “In the middle of briar patch […]” – There’s an article missing; the or a briar patch.
220 Punct. “[…] Cook Nutmeg and our grave steward ?” – The space in front of the question mark should be deleted.
249 Sp. “[…] her differences as short comings.” – Shortcomings is one word.
249 Gr. “I had refused to consider if […]” – Should be whether.
282 Gr. “I recalled that my father said […]” – Should be had said.
286 Sugg. “I longed to be able to better hear” – Without another phrase to follow, I’d rearrange to hear better.
295 Error “Her lips lip curled in a cat smile.” – Looks like a last-minute replacement gone wrong, either lips or lip should be deleted.
307 Sugg. “You’d be putting yourself beyond the pale.” Nitpicky, but this phrase wouldn’t make sense in a world without Ireland or Russia, nor would the modern interpretation of “unacceptable behaviour” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beyond_the_Pale).
309 Punct. “‘You aren’t.’ Chade cut in decisively.” – I believe Chade cutting in refers to his words, “You aren’t”, hence they should be followed by a comma, not a full stop.
312 Rep. Near the middle of the page, Fitz says that he’d known Riddle for years, and that he’d once left him for “worse than dead”, and that Riddle had forgiven him for it. He’s already said pretty much the same thing previously in the middle of page 292. One instance should be edited.
327 Sp. “He was busy, I knew, and he put Withywoods into an uproar with his business.” Since he’s not running a business, it should be busyness (the state of being busy).
350 Sugg. “After you tell Amos, then you must […]” – Redundant then, unless the purpose is to emphasise the order (which doesn’t seem to be the case here). And no, I’m not Shaky Amos ;-)
370 Cons. “Would she read the scrolls in the library?” – Unless there’s a room that hasn’t been mentioned previously and isn’t on the map, Bee is probably referring to the room that has always been referred to as Fitz’s study.
391 Sugg. “[…] I realized I had been walked toward […]” – Does Fitz mean that Bee walked him there, or should it be had been walking?
396 Punct. “‘[…] told me that he would hide in th . . .’” – I’ve never seen, in formal writing, an ellipsis cutting off speech in the middle of a word. Conventionally, shouldn’t that be an em-dash? I.e.: ‘[…] told me that he would hide in th—’ The same occurs on pages 474 (“would dare t…”), 484 (“Unles…” – really, one s gets cut off…?), 489 (“If it would please you, sir” is interrupted but has no end punctuation apart from the single quote), 567 (“Skill-linked. S…”), and 624 (“If they see u…”).
406 Error “I paid it no more mind to this than […]” – Another late edit? Should be I paid it no more mind or I paid no more mind to this.
412 Sugg. “I refused to […] puzzle any more on her message.” – I don’t think puzzle should be followed by on… “puzzle over her message” perhaps?
421 Punct. “Such a peculiar idea!’” – Missing start (single) quote to match the end quote.
422 Gr. “Did she used to stutter then?” – The word did already indicates the past tense, hence used to should be changed to use to (otherwise it’s like saying did she went…).
426 Sugg. As on page 434, I think the word bonefire (“had made our bonefire”) should be changed to bonfire (even though that word originates from bonefire and bones were, in fact, on the fire).
432 – 433 Rep. “She […] was adept at avoiding me.” Then, a page and a half on, “I sensed that Bee was avoiding me […].”
444 Sugg. “[…] and finger combed his hair” – Since finger isn’t used as a noun, shouldn’t it be hyphenated, i.e. finger-combed? Not sure, but couldn’t find either version in the dictionary.
463 Gr. “[…] taking a short cut through the gardens.” – I’m pretty sure shortcut is one word, though it could possibly be hyphenated; but it’s not a cut which is short.
469 Error “I opened his eyes […]” – Bee shuts her eyes tightly a few lines earlier, so it should probably be opened my eyes.
472 – 473 Sugg. The tenses in the paragraph beginning “I took her to […]” are a little confusing, mainly because it switches back and forth between the past tense and the pluperfect tense. Do “that evening” and “that night” refer to the same night, before the time Fitz is describing? Should it be “that evening, when I had returned”, and “that night, I had slept”?
491 Cons. Bee plans to be first to the dining table, but “Shun had preceded me”; her tutor “was behind” her. The order is described very carefully, yet when the tutor arrives, he apologizes to Fitz. When did he get there?
504 Error “I wondered if they thought he already knew all about me or if, as I did, knew it indicated he already disapproved of me.” – Apart from the if that should be whether, something is missing there; leaving out the subordinate clause “as I did” leaves “[…] or if knew it indicated […]”, which doesn’t make sense.
510 Sugg. “[…] with earnest mockery.” – Shouldn’t that be “with mocking seriousness” or similar? It seems the author is trying to express that he’s mocking, but pretending to be serious; “earnest mockery” sounds as though he’s seriously mocking someone.
521 Error “[…] several of your wish yourselves elsewhere.” – Should be of you.
529 Sugg. “[…] charms carved from antler” – Not sure, but shouldn’t it be from antlers, or from an antler?
541 Error “[…] and it become even rarer once one has a child.” – Should be becomes.
552 Error “He twisted away to me to reply to [someone else]” – Should be away from me.
555 Gr. “[…] how much further he could see from his height.” – Should be farther, since it relates to physical distance.
556 Error “[…] the thirsty garden that only been waiting” – Should be that has only been waiting.
560 Gr. “Row of scars lined his face” – Should be rows of scars.
568 Error “How could I call for you to save me from when I had not rescued you […]” – There appears to be a word missing after from.
625 Error “[…] and when back for Priss” – I think when should be went.

I thought I’d post this since I haven’t had a reply from either HarperCollins Australia nor from Robin Hobb’s facebook page. Maybe they’re already aware of these issues; if not, I hope someone somewhere comes across them and finds them useful to improve future editions of this great book.

Review of Fool’s Assassin by Robin Hobb

Having finished reading Robin Hobb’s latest work, the recently published Fool’s Assassin, Book 1 of the Fitz and the Fool trilogy, and having freed up some time on the weekend, I’m finally ready to write the review I mentioned in my previous post.

I’ll keep this post relatively spoiler-free for those who haven’t read it; of course, I won’t be able to restrain myself from writing another spoiler-laden post later on….

The Front Cover

Fool's Assassin Front Cover

The front cover of my copy of Fool’s Assassin

This version of the front cover (the UK large paperback version) has been kept relatively simple in design, but done lovingly with embossed fonts and a gilded look that seem to want to let you know you’re holding a masterpiece in your hands, even before you read the endorsement from George R. R. Martin.

At first glance, the daggers make sense for something bearing the word “Assassin”, but the significance of the bee near the top won’t – at least not until you’re about a fifth of the way through the book’s 630 pages. The snow-covered scene around the first letter of the title is a simplified drawing of the location where most of the story takes place: Withywoods.

The Back Cover

Fool's Assassin Back Cover

The back cover of my copy of Fool’s Assassin

Turning the book over, you’ll see the blurb, another bee at the top, and a butterfly wing at the bottom, the significance of which will be made clear later.

Re-reading the blurb again now that I’ve read the book, I find the last sentence to be a little misleading, but I’ll get to that.

The Backstory

While Robin Hobb does try to cater for first-time visitors to her Realm of the Elderlings (the name given to the world in which most of Robin’s stories take place) by gradually mentioning (some of) the most important parts of what has happened previously, I would probably not recommend this book as an introduction to her writing.

Those not familiar with Fitz’s tendency to overthink everything and his failure to understand why some people care about him without having ulterior motives may well consider him an unrealistically masochistic drama queen who loves to feel sorry for himself. However, if you are among that group, I would heartily recommend introducing yourself to what has to be one of the best fantasy series ever written (you can probably tell that I’m completely objective) by beginning with Assassin’s Apprentice (see the list of books there), Book 1 of The Farseer Trilogy, and working your way through that trilogy as well as The Tawny Man Trilogy, at a minimum. Ideally, read The Liveship Traders Trilogy and The Rain Wilds Chronicles as well in order to get a full understanding of the story. It’s worth it.

Those who do know Fitz, on the other hand, have suffered with him through all the heartache and pain Robin has wreaked upon him, and know of his unique combination of talents as well as the sacrifices he has made for his kingdom, will most certainly appreciate that the author takes it easy on our favourite unsung hero… at first. And they will love the story Fitz has to tell.

To give you a quick summary of the backstory… ok, I’ve made several attempts at writing this and gave up. There’s no way of doing the story justice and keeping it relatively short at the same time, so, once again, I’ll refer anyone not familiar with the backstory to the previous trilogies. And, if you like, to my Fitz and the Fool post from a few months ago, where I wrote about their wonderful friendship.

The Plot

Fool’s Assassin begins slowly. (In fact, I said the same thing in my Assassin’s Apprentice post, but it’s even more so in this case.) Fitz, who, as previously, tells the story from a first-person perspective, lives and, somewhat surprisingly, enjoys a quiet life in the backwaters of the duchy in which he grew up. Known as Tom Badgerlock, for it is safer if no one knows that FitzChivalry Farseer is still alive, he and his wife Molly look after the Withywoods estate, where once his father Chivalry lived (and later died from his “accident”) after abdicating the throne over the revelation that he had fathered a bastard.

Fitz has many regrets, mostly about losing Burrich, the man who raised him, and about the fact that the Fool seems to have moved on without as much as a word (“doesn’t call, doesn’t write…”) after taking his leave at the end of Fool’s Fate. He deals with his melancholy by writing each night, presumably the story of The Tawny Man, his current musings, and sometimes doing translations of Skill-related writings for his old mentor Chade, the assassin-turned-royal-advisor to King Dutiful with whom he occasionally keeps in touch. He also keeps in touch with Nettle, his daughter with Molly, who is now a grown woman and Skillmistress in Buckkeep, where the royal family lives. However, Fitz wants nothing to do with the goings-on at court.

Except for Molly, no one around him knows of his abilities with the “royal” magic, the Skill, nor of his Wit, the baser magic that allows him to sense almost all forms of life and to communicate with animals. Not to mention that he is a trained assassin. Since his wolf-partner, Nighteyes, died many years ago, he has never wanted to bond with another animal.

Even strange events one Winterfest, when a messenger appears, asking to speak to him but disappears before he even has the chance to meet her, aren’t enough to make him realise what is going on. As before, he still possesses an extremely bright mind, but continues to wield it with all the finesse of a blacksmith doing fine embroidery. Web, the Wit-expert, is visiting and tells him that the strange “performers” who turned up unexpectedly shortly after the messenger seem invisible to his Wit-sense. This should ring a bell for anyone familiar with the previous books, but Fitz simply finds he’s enjoying himself while hunting for clues as to what happened to make the messenger disappear without delivering her message, leaving nothing but some blood stains. When the trail goes cold, he dismisses it as odd but not worth pursuing.

Contrary to what the blurb suggests, his life does not erupt into any further violence at this point. Rather, it continues peacefully for many years.

The Skill-healing performed on him by his “coterie” in the previous books has the lingering effect of keeping him healed and looking young, while Molly, ever pragmatic, refuses similar treatment. Thus Fitz gets to watch her age and regret that she cannot bear him any more children. (After Nettle, Molly had several other children with Burrich, who married her when everyone thought Fitz dead.) And then, well into menopause, Molly claims that she is finally pregnant. The reader’s heart, once again, breaks ever so slowly as Fitz struggles with the realisation that Molly is becoming senile, insisting she is right about her pregnancy as the seasons pass.

As mentioned above, I do not wish to spoil the story if you haven’t already read it. Suffice it to say, then, that there is more heartbreak in store for Fitz, as people he holds dear pass away, but there is also a wonderful new friendship that takes up the bulk of the book, a fateful reunion with the Fool (I won’t count that as a spoiler – given the book’s title, you’d expect the Fool to make an appearance, even though you wouldn’t expect it the way it happens, which will make you ponder several possible interpretations of said title), and even a few chapters from a new point of view.

The end of the book arrives suddenly. Having lulled you into a deeply intricate world of magics known and unknown, having built for you a spectrum of friends and enemies, the selfless and the selfish, and everything in-between, Robin Hobb springs the Fool on you from an unexpected angle, revealing that he has been seeking to contact Fitz for a long time and is attempting to find someone referred to only as “the unexpected son”. The story lives up to its title long before the reader realises it.

(Some of) The Details

Like in Fitz’s previous writings, each chapter begins with a few sentences or paragraphs of other writing – something Fitz found in historical scrolls, missives he has received, intercepted, or written but never sent, publications on various subjects, and so on. Typically, Robin uses these to give you a glimpse of the theme ahead, or some insight that will help you understand the greater story, although the connection between this “appetiser glimpse” and the chapter that follows is not always immediately obvious.

Isolated though Fitz is from the rest of the Six Duchies, the greater story around him continues, too. The land is in the process of adding a seventh duchy after the death of Eyod, Kettricken’s father and ruler of the Mountain Kingdom. Kettricken is no longer queen, having given the reins to her son, King Dutiful (who makes a couple of very small appearances; it seems Fitz is still successfully repressing the fact that he is actually Dutiful’s biological father). Nettle has managed to build a new coterie with several Skill-users for the King. The Witted, once hunted and killed, are now more accepted into society thanks to Web and the events of the previous books.

Once again, the realism present in a work of fantasy fiction is something to which all fantasy writers should aspire. The characters are finely-wrought and act believably in accordance with their own well thought-out backstory and the setting of the detailed tapestry that forms their world.

Robin does not buy into the “don’t ever use adverbs!” BS that some editors and writers seem to preach; she uses them, but not overly so to the point that it becomes a crutch. She manages, as ever, to use language that gives her writing that “authentic olden days feeling” without it sounding artificial or too try-hard, and without sending the average reader to the dictionary.

One thing that really bugged me, though – being a writer myself who is a bit of a grammar Nazi – was the number of errors in the book. Many were relatively minor and would be overlooked by most, but some are glaringly obvious. I’m wondering whether the publishers’ proofreaders (surely they have those?) and editors were on vacation to let that many errors slip through. I’ve contacted the publishers and will be emailing them a lengthy list of these errors in the hopes of stamping them out for future editions, at least. (Update: email sent!) I may also write them up as a blog post.

One for the Fans

Robin Hobb is an author who does not need to establish her credibility in a world of readers clamouring for high-paced, hard-hitting action. Rather, she is able to take her time, re-introducing the readers to characters directly and indirectly as though mentioning long-lost friends to her fans, who will be thrilled.

If you want hard-hitting non-stop action, this book will not be what you expect. If you enjoy letting yourself be drawn into a very rich and well-crafted world, however, where attention to detail is required to understand the finer details of the plot, you will love Robin Hobb’s latest book.

The author once said that Fitz’s story was done, and that she would not write any more stories involving him. That was before The Tawny Man. I am glad that Fitz once more managed to rattle around Robin’s brain and made her realise that there is more to his story that is worth telling.

Personally, I can’t wait until Book 2. And then Book 3. And, oh, I hope it doesn’t stop there.

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