Blog

Robin Hobb – PIEBALDS AND PRINCES

Posted by on Nov 29, 2017 in Voyager UK | 0 comments

Robin Hobb – PIEBALDS AND PRINCES

Suppose you were born with a magical ability, but the ability was so intrinsic to who you were that you were unaware of how unusual it was. Just as a child doesn’t know what a miracle it is to be able to see colours, or distinguish the different scents of flowers and fruit, you might assume that everyone was aware of animal life as keenly as you were.  You might think that all people were aware that sometimes an animal’s consciousness might brush against your own. You would not think of it as something dirty and disgusting.  You would not be ashamed of it. Until someone told you that the Wit was a bestial magic, and you deserved to die for practising it. This is the situation for young FitzChivalry Farseer when the reader first encounters him in The Farseer Trilogy.  His ability to use the Wit endangers him, and affects his relationships with everyone around him.  Those who value him must protect him and force him to conceal his magic. Those who wish to destroy him will use it as one more tool against him. We all know the saying, ‘History is written by the victors’. When my readers first began to visit the Six Duchies, in The Farseer Trilogy, the Skill was a highly prized magic.  The training and practice of the Skill was a closely-guarded knowledge, and only those of appropriate character were instructed in it.  Although it was known to sometimes appear ‘randomly’, it was seen as the magic of the Farseer nobility. The Skill enabled its practitioners to ‘see from afar’ as well as to communicate with others talented in that magic, or to influence weaker minds.  It was both a weapon and an art.  It was certainly not appropriate to teach it to young bastards such as FitzChivalry. In contrast, the Wit was a despised magic, a loathsome practice that might lead to bestiality. Wit-users were shapeshifters who used their magical ability to spy on their neighbours.  Those who possessed it were persecuted, and it was believed that the only way to be rid of such people was to hang them over running water and then burn their bodies.  It was believed those who practised the Wit could assume the form of their Wit-beasts, or bring down sickness on flocks and herds that belonged to their neighbours. Those who practised the Wit were disparagingly referred to as Piebalds, though among themselves they might speak of being of Old Blood. In The Farseer Trilogy, readers learn that Fitz is possessed of a dangerous magic, one he does not understand, but one that might lead to his death and his dishonour. In The Wilful Princess and the Piebald Prince I wanted to write a tale that began in a time when the Wit was not so despised but was simply a folk magic, not so different from the arts practised by the hedge-witches of the Six Duchies.  I wanted to explore how a genetic predisposition towards that magic might have been introduced to the royal Farseer bloodlines, and to write about it from the point of view of someone who knew all the details. Someone who had witnessed it, and possibly been a pivotal player in that change. Someone who was not the victor, but...

read more

NaNoWriMo and What Comes Next by Christi J. Whitney

Posted by on Nov 28, 2017 in Voyager UK | 0 comments

NaNoWriMo and What Comes Next by Christi J. Whitney

November is nearly over, which means NaNoWriMo is also coming to an end – well, the writing part, at least. Anyone who has ever participated in this annual phenomenon will know exactly what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, here it is in a nutshell: NaNoWriMo presents you with the challenge of writing a 50,000 word novel during the month of November. It’s a fantastic exercise in both creative writing and determined discipline. When I wrote Grey, the first book in The Romany Outcasts Series, I had no idea what NaNoWriMo was, much less how to participate. But shortly after finishing my novel, I joined a writer’s group and heard all about it. Since then, I have participated multiple times. Have I always finished? Absolutely not! But the point is to get writing, no matter whether you make the word count or not. But let’s say you did finish a novel. What next? The temptation can be to start sending your work out to everyone. (Believe me, I’ve been there.) However, since December tends to be a slow month in the publishing industry anyway, now is actually the perfect time to begin honing that story into a finely-tuned novel. December is the perfect time to revise and edit your manuscript. I know, I know . . . it sounds impossible, right? There are decorations to arrange, presents to shop for, and you have to navigate the general bustle of the season. But the winter months also provide early darkness, cooler weather, and opportunities for cozying up in front of the fire. Which means there is opportunity for revising.  Many people find that writing new material is the easiest part of the writing process. But I’ve never felt that way. Writing on a blank page is difficult for me. When I’ve finally finished the story and it’s time to go back and dig in, that’s what I enjoy most. No more stressing over new ideas and how to get them on paper. Instead, I get the chance to make what I’ve brought into existence as excellent as it can be. What if you aren’t ready to dive into revisions? Then use December as a time to step away from your project for a while. If you can find readers to look it over during this month, that’s great. If not, don’t worry. Just take December off from your project entirely and come back to it in January with fresh eyes. Setting aside recently completed manuscripts for a bit works well for many writers. It may work for you. If you’re like me, your time away from your project might only be a few days. And that’s okay, too. Everyone approaches writing and revising differently. The point is, don’t stick that story up on a shelf. Do something with it. Nothing is ever wasted in writing. Even if you don’t end up publishing your novel, you learned from it. You revised and edited. You practiced how to discipline yourself and finish something you set you mind to finish. You reached out to other people to read your work. You aren’t hiding your writing; you’re out in the open and working diligently to improve yourself every day. My debut novel Grey was a direct result of this process. I was fortunate to...

read more

Coldmaker by Daniel A. Cohen: TEN TRAVEL TIPS FOR VISITING THE WORLD CRIED

Posted by on Nov 9, 2017 in Voyager UK | 0 comments

Coldmaker by Daniel A. Cohen: TEN TRAVEL TIPS FOR VISITING THE WORLD CRIED

  So you’re planning a trip to the World Cried. Excellent choice of destination. It could certainly use the tourism, as things have been a little… stifled since the Great Drought. Here’s a list of the top ten things you need to pack, know, and see in order to have a gratifying travel experience, and more importantly, not die.   Make sure your suntan lotion is at least SPF 1000. The World Cried is a little on the scorching side these days. You’ve probably heard rumors of lush lands flushed green and alive, where you can walk a hundred feet in any direction and pick fruit as big as your fists. Where the Cold breaks on mountain rocks, cooling the air and the boiling rivers, so that you could swim and drink straight from the current. Alas, those were the glory days eight hundred years ago, before the Great Drought. Now the brutal Sun has free rein over the land and will scorch you down to the bones if you don’t protect yourself properly! A good hat won’t hurt.   The Paphos Library Scrolls and scrolls and scrolls galore! When visiting the capitol of the Khatdom, learn all about the history of the High Noble houses and the great deeds of the long line of Khat leaders. (Praise be to them!) There are also lots of nifty sculptures and paintings including ‘The Cause’, the famous oil-on-boilweed canvas which illustrates all the horrible things the Jadans did to anger the Crier way back when. Those pesky Jadans! So unworthy of the Cold that the gracious Nobles dole out of their own pockets.   The Crying This is certainly the main attraction you’ll want to witness of the World Cried, and is not to be missed for any reason. Marvel at the thousands of pieces of Cold streaking through the night sky, a gift from the Crier Himself! If you don’t make an effort to see the Crying, then frankly you’ve wasted your money and you should have just gone to visit Degobah or Middle Earth instead. The Crying only happens in the Khat’s Patches behind the pyramids, so make sure to get a good vantage point and watch out for Sobek lizards while walking outside of the city. Folding chairs are a good choice if you choose to watch this natural phenomenon from the dunes.   The River Singe Witness the largest and most intense boiling river in all of the Khatdom! Just don’t try to drink straight from the water or you’ll get heat blisters along your throat for the rest of the trip. Also no swimming or diving…or you will die.   Pick up some Closed Eye jewelry from the Market Quarter. Even though the World Cried might seem ‘dead’ and ‘awful’ and ‘in a state of complete and utter suffering’ to some visitors, there are still plenty of hidden gems to stumble upon! For example, the Market Quarter of Paphos is a vibrant hub of bustling commerce. The pound-to-Cold exchange rate is pretty steep, but you’ll certainly get your money’s worth in the form of sunsilk shirts, lovely parasols and locally-sourced, organic figs. There are oodles of souvenir opportunities, so make sure to grab yourself something shiny with the image of the Closed Eye dangling from it....

read more

Building a magic system on memories – Gerrard Cowan

Posted by on Sep 7, 2017 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Building a magic system on memories – Gerrard Cowan

Memories can play tricks on us, fading and twisting over time and sometimes even changing altogether. How, then, can they form the basis of a magic system? That was the question I faced in developing The Machinery Trilogy. Without giving too much away, memories sit at the heart of the magic in the novels: they live forever, and are imbued with the power of an ancient god. Memories hold a number of interesting possibilities for a magic system. For a start, they are fascinating in their trickiness. I am often surprised to find that something I was sure occurred in one place actually took place in another, or in a different year than I expected, for example. Sometimes it seems that two or more memories have somehow mixed together, like paints on a palette. This presents interesting possibilities for a magic system, where each memory holds its own power, and can be combined with the power of another memory – in just the same way that real memories become tangled up over time. There is also the question of potency. It is undoubtedly true that certain memories hold a power over us, for whatever reason, good or bad. This provides a solid basis for a magic system, with some memories being particularly prized for their power. Memories are one of the major themes of the series, beyond their function in the magic system. I also wanted to consider the characters’ relationships with their own narratives of the past, and the question of how reliable these narratives are. As memories live forever in this world, it is possible for characters to walk through them again. But if we could revisit a memory as it actually occurred, would it look the same to us as it does in our mind’s eye? Would we be surprised by how it appears – would we trust what we see? The existence of an endless pool of memories raises a number of other questions. The society we are presented with is roughly Early Modern in its development. However, there are signs that other, older civilisations were more advanced than the current version. If we could access the memories of the people who lived in these older times, would it not also be possible to learn their secrets? The role of more ‘ordinary’, non-magic memories is also a major theme of the trilogy. The books are centred on a 10,000-year-old state whose leaders are chosen by a machine. However, throughout this long history, and despite the success the Machinery has brought them, the people are haunted by an ancient prophecy, which states that in the 10,000th year, the Machinery will break, selecting a ruler who will bring a terrible ruin to the world. There has been a long struggle throughout history between those who question the effectiveness of the Machinery – called ‘Doubters’ – and the forces of the state. In this way, an ancient memory is ever-present in the lives of the people: the historical memory of a dreaded prophecy, which has only gained potency as the years have gone by. The longevity of the nation creates its own questions surrounding memory – how can we be sure that the early events occurred as laid out in history? Who controls the memories of the past?...

read more

The Anatomy of Truth by Nancy K. Wallace

Posted by on Sep 4, 2017 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

The Anatomy of Truth by Nancy K. Wallace

From the very beginning, The Wolves of Llisé has been about truth. On my website, www.amongwolves.net there is a quotation by Mark Twain that I love: “The very ink with which all history is written is merely fluid prejudice.” It’s an old refrain but most would agree that history is written by the victors; the losers receive much less press coverage, even in America. In Llisé, the Archives in Coreé contain the official written version of history and, yet, another version exists, no less precise and carefully guarded, in the form of the oral Provincial Chronicles. The differences between the two are blatant. The Archives intentionally cover up decades of cruelty and hate. They consistently present the provincial people as the enemy and the government as the beleaguered guardians of the empire. It’s odd isn’t it that here in the 21st century, we find ourselves wrestling with the same issues that haunt the history of Llisé? Conspiracies, deception, and lies fill the evening news. History is being written and rewritten and for most people the truth is a well-hidden, carefully guarded secret. Where can any of us go to find the truth and, once we find it, what should we do to protect its fragility? As a librarian I find myself constantly questioning the reliability of sources. I ask patrons, “Where did you read about this?” when they want additional information on a subject they may have heard about on social media. I believe that ours is not so much the age of “information” but the age of “misinformation.” Rumors are rampant and when anyone can have a website touting his or her opinion, searching for the truth can be daunting. During the recent eclipse, CBS ran special slides of “Solar Eclipse Myths.” One reported that a battle between the Lydians and the Medes in 585BC came to a halt because of a solar eclipse. The combatants were so awed that they called a truce. Considering this battle happened 2,500 years ago, how do we separate myth from the truth? Using Google, I found three reliable websites (The History Channel, NPR, and the University of Hawaii, reprinting research from the University of California, Berkley) which agreed that a truce did occur during a solar eclipse. There were slight discrepancies in the date but the main event remained the same. The information is based on what was recorded by Herodotus, a Greek historian, and what astronomers today can piece together about celestial events. Three reliable sources are generally considered enough to substantiate factual information. Can we apply the same technique to current events? Or are facts buried so quickly and so deftly that we are left clueless as to who is speaking the truth and who isn’t? If you look back at the preceding paragraph, the information for all three sites came to us from what is called a “primary source.” While Herodotus was not alive at the time of the aforementioned battle, he wrote about it, basing his opinion on the observations of those who witnessed the event. Most of us aren’t good eyewitnesses. We are usually so frightened, awed, or angry that we don’t remember all the details when something big happens. But when enough eyewitnesses are interviewed, a pattern emerges, the basic facts are presented, and the story becomes...

read more

Marina J. Lostetter – Alternate Yous

Posted by on Aug 7, 2017 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Marina J. Lostetter – Alternate Yous

Clones have long held a fascination for storytellers.  Before cloning was a scientific reality, there were many myths and fables about evil twins, doppelgängers, and the creation of humans “from scratch.” Copies, supernatural reflections, and Frankenstein’s monster all come from the same long-standing questions and fears: what makes us ‘us’?  And can that be taken away? A clone is a genetic twin of the source.  But what does that mean? Twins do not have exactly the same experiences, and thus do not share the same memories.  They are unquestionably individuals, with their own wants and needs and desires.  We’ve all encountered stories of clones created through replicators, where a person is copied right down to their current memories and the clothes on their back–but this type of clone is very different from both the ones I’ve created in Noumenon, and those created by modern science.  Dolly the sheep was not a carbon copy of its parent.  Using an adult’s DNA to create a baby does not mean you end up with a person who thinks and acts exactly like their original once they’ve grown. In Noumenon, I explore the concept of clones as a ‘fix.’  Early in the novel, clones are thought to be the best way to ensure an interstellar convoy’s success.  The mission planners believe if they take genetic information from well-vetted sources that it will give them more control over the many variables that could shift in the mission over the centuries. But does it offer more control?  Would populating generation ships with genetically identical crews over and over actually create stability? Our experiences are part of who we are, and an Earth-based mission-control cannot regulate every incident aboard such a convoy. It’s the classic nature vs. nurture argument: do our genes make us who we are, or do our experiences? This is a fundamentally silly question, of course.  There’s nothing ‘versus’ about nature and nurture.  The two things are both undeniably components of our personage.  So, then the question becomes, which one is more influential?  Which one is more ‘us’? But, why do we care so much?  Why have stories focused on this concept for so many centuries?  What, exactly, are we getting at when we delve into the influence of genetics and environment?  Why are we so fixated on which is ‘more important’? There’s the simple scientific curiosity of it all, of course.  Humans like to know how things work, if only for the sake of knowing.  An interest in the origins of behavior drives a good chunk of the questions. And some people explore the topic as introspection, a way to be more self-aware; If I know how I work, then I might better understand why I work, in a sense. But what’s most interesting–and simultaneously frightening–is where these questions put us socially speaking. Nature vs. nurture as a question is stuffed full of biases, especially when value judgments about certain behaviors and genetic traits come into play. We can most starkly see the dangers and limits of the question when confronted by people who look to nature vs. nurture to advance their world-view, as with those who push genocidal concepts like eugenics and racial supremacy. As much as those individuals would like to argue one aspect scientifically has more bearing than the...

read more

Peter V Brett – The Core Tour

Posted by on Aug 1, 2017 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Peter V Brett – The Core Tour

Please click on the links below to buy tickets:   All Waterstones events   Forbidden Planet, London   Blackwell’s, Edinburgh  ...

read more

Creating a World by Anna Smith Spark

Posted by on Jul 4, 2017 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Creating a World by Anna Smith Spark

When I came to write The Court of Broken Knives, it was the world that came first, not the story. The story, in fact, is pretty simple, in the way that myths and folk tales often are. The first scene I wrote was a description of men in a desert, and violence, and they were travelling towards a great city, and that city was every fantasy city I have ever loved. Why they were travelling, what the purpose of this journey was and what would happen to them when they got there, was at first unimportant. But the joy of writing the desert … Of writing the city … Of writing a world …   In Xanadu did Kubla Khan A stately pleasure-dome decree: Where Alph, the sacred river, ran Through caverns measureless to man    Down to a sunless sea. Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Kubla Khan   The wonder of it. Marvels. Magic. Beauty. The dream of things so far beyond mundane reach. To enter a world that is not our own. Of course I enjoy the plot twists, the characters, the action. But it’s the evocation of other worlds that love most about fantasy as a genre. I want to wallow in another world, immerse myself in it, drown in it. I read fantasy like I read travel writing – to be there, to see it, to be removed from my own tedious time and place.   The unpurged images of day recede; The Emperor’s drunken soldiery are abed; Night resonance recedes, night-walkers’ song After great cathedral gong; A starlit or a moonlit dome disdains All that man is, All mere complexities, The fury and the mire of human veins. William Butler Yates, Byzantium   It was important to me in creating Irlast that the reader had a strong sense of this, that there was a far wider world outside the place that the characters happen to inhabit. I wanted to give a strong sense of history and of place. Two of the fantasy writers I most admire are R. Scott Bakker and Steven Erikson, simply because their worlds are so immense, so immersive, so detailed. The different languages, cultural mores, cultural myths of their world are so fascinatingly evoked by both these authors. There’s such a strong, vivid sense of being in a real place.   What shall we tell you? Tales, marvellous tales Of ships and stars and isles where good men rest, Where nevermore the rose of sunset pales, And winds and shadows fall towards the West:   And there the world’s first huge white-bearded kings In dim glades sleeping, murmur in their sleep, And closer round their breasts the ivy clings, Cutting its pathway slow and red and deep. James Elroy Flecker, The Golden Journey to Samarkand   But I also wanted to create a sense of wonder, of romantic splendour. I wanted my world and my places to be unreal. These are not real places. They cannot possibly be real places. They are absurd beyond imagining. Fantasies on fantasies. Absurd. I have a great love of mythology and folk lore, and it’s the very impossibility of many of the stories that appeals to me. The god Thor wrestling with his own old age, and then draining so great a draft from a mead horn...

read more

Hero Risen: Guest blog from Andy Livingstone

Posted by on Jun 21, 2017 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Hero Risen: Guest blog from Andy Livingstone

  The safety valve for our darker selves Cricket with my parents and brother on baking-hot days in a park on holiday in Blackpool. Tennis, with my dad pretending I was as good as him and, in later years, with my brother proving I was not. Rugby at school, hockey after leaving it. Karate, Muay Thai, Table-tennis, snooker, swimming – anything at all, I threw myself into it throughout my childhood and into adult life. Usually with a consistently average ability, but always with an excess of enthusiasm. And football, football, football. Always football. Standing at Fir Park to watch Willie Pettigrew and Joe Wark play for Motherwell and switching on the TV to see Joe Jordan and Billy Bremner play for Scotland and Johan Cruyff and George Best just, well, play as only they could. Then imagining I was them: battering a ball in the garden with my brother, sneaking onto the college playing fields with my friends in the holidays, running about the wing for the Boys’ Brigade football team while pretending I knew what I was doing. Even now, I drag myself out onto the five-a-sides pitch with the enthusiasm of a 10-year-old and the fitness of a 49-year-old. Always football, always sport, always loving it. But I had asthma. So there was reading, too, and that became the other love as I grew up. I would run about until my lack of breath told me it was a bad idea, and then lose myself in someone else’s world. It became what I did. It became me. So there is no surprise that sport has an influence in my books, too. Not in the sense that my characters indulge in a spot of table tennis or shoot some hoops from time to time – although I did invent a sport all of my own for the start of Hero Born – but it’s more that experiences that have affected or formed me as a person have at times affected or informed scenes and characters’ actions or decisions in my books. The collective, unifying, oppressive atmosphere when an entire crowd shares the same feelings – the hum of excited, almost disbelieving, expectancy at Motherwell’s first-ever Champions League home match or the relentless fear and nauseating nerves leading to the outpouring of ecstasy and relief at a last-minute relegation-averting free kick – became the start-point for the backdrop in a gladiatorial arena. Coaches’ training exercises for teams and those devised by my young self to try to overcome my own deficiencies led to thoughts of training suitable for combat and the difficulties of teaching technique without stifling talent. Basic competitive martial arts methods and principles from twenty years ago helped with imagining anything from a street fight or a duel to a battle or an ambush. And, more than anything, the spirit and heart and in-the-moment invention and adapting inherent in sport became infused in any win-or-lose situation in the books, especially in Hero Risen where Brann has to draw perhaps more determination, drive and inner strength than ever before. And It is this that made me think more than anything that the link with sport is not so far-fetched. In our parts of the world, we are lucky to have spent generations living in societies where we...

read more

An exclusive message from Robin Hobb

Posted by on Apr 27, 2017 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

I dedicated Assassin’s Fate to Fitz and the Fool. They’ve been my closest friends for over twenty years. That’s not to denigrate my marriage of forty-six years, or the friendships that reach back to my high school. The characters we write live inside our minds, creating an internal friendship that is difficult to explain to non-writers. I’ve never heard my characters speak aloud, never seen the Fool juggle or watched Fitz impassively shed the blood that demanded to flow. Yet over the past twenty years, I’ve spent more hours in their company than in anyone else’s. When I first began writing Fitz and the Fool, my writing desk was in the laundry room, in an old house with plank floors. When the washer went into a spin, I’d dive for the computer and hold it steady lest the hard drive malfunction. I often wrote late at night, in darkness save for my old desk lamp and the green letters glowing on my black screen. All was quiet, the kids in bed, only frogs creaking outside. But both Fitz and the Fool were there, the Fool sitting cross-legged on the dryer, mocking and contradicting us.  Fitz leaned against the doorframe, talking in his soft, deep voice, always trying to explain his life to himself, puzzled as he looked back at his decisions, shaking his head over who he had been. Yet all of us knew that who he had been had already determined his future. Every new set of events built on what had gone before. From the start, we all knew what was to come. Just as the Fool looked forward, seeing a myriad of possible futures, and choosing a path, so I wrote forward, reaching toward events that had already happened to Fitz, even as I wrote them down for the first time. There are sentences in this book that are strange echoes of words I wrote twenty years ago. There are sentences I’ve waited twenty years to write. I’ve approached them with both trepidation and anticipation. To write them down and say to both of them, ‘There. Now it has happened,’ was a very peculiar sensation. To be done is not to be finished. Ave atque vale. Hail and farewell.   Robin Hobb February 2017...

read more