Thursday, January 19, 2017

Hot, quick tips to be a BS detector

Of late I find myself getting into a bit of a frothy when folks share sensationalist BS and hoaxes via social media. Seriously, folks, there is already so much garbage out there, you *don't* need to add to the pile. However, something else I've realised is that many folks don't stop and think before they share nor do they possess the skills to tell when they're (sometimes) unwittingly sharing garbage. So, here are my hot, quick tips to help guide you.

VERIFY YOUR SOURCES
Recently an unidentified voice message was doing the round on the community WhatsApp groups, where a chap was mouthing off a currently popular conspiracy theory. I immediately smelled a rat. Why? The guy did not identify who he was nor who he represented (always a warning bell). Nor could he back up any of his so-called facts with actual names and dates. So here's the deal, see what the source of your information is. If it's not an official news site or authority within the field then for the love of dog, don't share the information.

Here's an example: someone claims that a spate of fires in a region are being started by arsonists with political motivations. If that someone isn't the police, the official spokesperson of your local Fire & Rescue or a credible news source (like your local daily paper) then it's probably some idiot trying to get everyone all wound up with his fear-mongering. Avoid! Don't share! Don't pay attention to this!

CHECK YOUR EMOTIONS
How do you feel after you've read or listened to the supposed "news"? Are you angrier than usual? Do you feel like you want to go and punch someone? If so, then there's a very good chance that that particular snippet of "news" has been created specifically for that purpose – to get you all GRRRRR riled up and emotional. People who're all GRRRRR are known for making poor decisions. You're being manipulated. Take a step back. Take a breath. Go look for other news sources to compare to the one you've just read. Look at the language usage. See which one is offering a more measured response.

CONSPIRACY!
We all know that there are loads of wingnuts and Flat Earthers out there who believe in chemtrails and Reptilians and all manner of really crazy stuff. And they will try to get others to share in their cray-cray by the way that they share their information. Remember this: every weird hoax doing the rounds has a little grain of truth. This is what makes it so appealing for us. We don't like situations that are difficult to explain. We want to have order in our lives, to be able to say that ABC is the reason for XYZ.

First off, it's okay that we don't have all the answers. It's okay to say "I don't know" and spend time looking for a solution ourselves or waiting for the experts to deliver a report. Remember also that all that fake news and the clever hoaxes out there pander to our own biases. So when you read a story that makes you go hmmmm, first check with yourself.

For instance, if you're religious, you're less likely to question the authority of your local pastor or imam. However your religious leader is also just human, and is himself prone to fallacies.

So, check your biases before you go off on a half-cocked tangent. If something sounds unbelievable or just plain odd, go ask the experts. Phone your local police station, speak to a medical doctor, or your city or town's helpline. Or, if you are faced with strange advice (the most recent one being folks claiming that little bags of water taped to windows repel flies), go check it out on Snopes.com. HOAX-SLAYER is also a fantastic site, among others.

You really have no excuse. Google is your friend. Question everything and go do your research before you share misinformation.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

You've read the book, now leave your mark

When it comes to folks discovering their next read, word of mouth is best. This could be as simple as a friend shoving a book under your nose and yelling READ THIS BOOK! or you might encounter a review in your local paper. Or, you may belong to an online book club on Facebook. Or you trawl Amazon or Goodreads for books in genres you enjoy reading. Ten to one, before you make your choice, you're going to see what other people have said.

Reviews are, therefore, gold for authors (especially if they're placed on vendors' sites), and a wonderful thank you if you've enjoyed a literary work. (Apart from buying a book or writing a bit of fanmail.)

I've had folks come to me saying they don't know the first thing about what to write in a review. Likewise, I've had authors commenting that readers end up giving a blow-by-blow report of the novel's events rather than share their opinions in reviews. So, here I'm going to give a few tips on how to write a decent review and talk about some of the pitfalls of offering your opinion.

YOU DON'T HAVE TO RE-INVENT THE WHEEL
There is no need to rehash the plot. By all means, say a little bit about the characters and the circumstances, to give a (brief) description but be careful to avoid spoilers. As an example, this is my way of introducing a review of Goldilocks and the Three Bears: Goldilocks is a nosy little girl who doesn't respect others' private property, but on the day that she visits the Bears' household, she's in for a little more than she bargained for.

That's enough. It's fine. It sets the scene. Now, ask yourself the kinds of questions you imagine other potential readers might ask.

What did you like about the story?
Mention here that the plot was full of surprises. Perhaps you were up until late reading (authors love hearing this). Perhaps the writer uses poetic language or is really good with descriptions. Perhaps the dialogue between characters is especially witty and made you laugh. Mention things like this.

Were the characters well-realised? 
Characters are either likeable or unlikeable. Don't just say that you hate something or love something. Tell readers why. You have your own personal likes and dislikes, so be aware when these may colour your opinion. Characters may do things you don't agree with or like, but that doesn't mean you're reading a bad book.

Was there anything about the story that annoyed you?
This could be anything from the fact that a novel is poorly edited and there were lots of errors or that the writing itself was simplistic. Perhaps characters' behaviour lacked sufficient motivation. Don't just say something was awful; try to figure out what bugged you. Merely saying "This is a terrible book" won't explain to potential readers why you think it's terrible.

When you write your review, remember that there is another person on the receiving end of your words. It's all too easy nowadays to let rip. While I'm not advocating that you only say nice things, my suggestion is that you sandwich the positive with the negative so that your review is balanced. You might not like that the novel is written in the present tense, for instance, but you enjoyed the way the author depicted the setting.

Take notes while you read so that you have a record of your responses. (Goodreads offers functions for this.) I always love comparing my review to others just before I post it to see if there are other reviewers who've felt similarly. You may find yourself agreeing or disagreeing, and that is fine – each reader will have a unique response to a written work.

One thing I always keep at the back of my mind when writing is that I may very well one day meet the author whose work I've read, so I aim to keep my tone respectful. If I can't share my opinion to their face, then there's a chance that perhaps I should not write it down online (where it may well be carved in stone).

Monday, January 16, 2017

Don't be THAT AUTHOR (or rather, GUESS WHAT? NO ONE CARES).

I find myself going round in circles so often with the whole "how to self promo" thing for authors. Plainly put, no one truly knows what works. Some claim a Facebook advertisement garners results. Some say it won't. Some authors don't do a single stitch of advertising, and their books fly off the virtual shelves. Other authors spend hundreds of dollars each month on ads, blog tours and whatnot, and perhaps don't even see a blip on the radar when it comes to sales.

THERE IS NO WAY TO PREDICT WHAT WILL WORK.

A few authors I know have gained success bundling their books or novellas and pooling their resources (and in that way, they've gained a modicum of success on bestseller lists). This is all fine and dandy, but it just highlights the fact that the market at present is saturated with new releases every day. With the prevalence of permafree copies, 99c specials, giveaways, I can tell you I have more books on my Kindle app than I can hope to read in four years. And that's not even talking about what I've got squirrelled away on my Kobo and iBooks apps.

After the initial boom in ebooks and small presses, we're now entering an age of overabundance. Readers have more choice than ever before, and it's becoming increasingly difficult for authors to make their voices heard (and sell books).

I'm going to put my cards on the table. I'm *lucky* if I sell one or two copies of one of my dozen or so titles each month. Granted, I don't write in a popular genre like romance, and my career so far has genre hopped a bit, and also I haven't been arsed to release any new novel-length works during the past few years.

A lot of work goes into self-publishing. Not only is the author responsible for content creation, but she takes on the role of publisher too – this means being willing to invest in editing, design, formatting, illustration. This means shelling out money. And it stands to reason that the same amount of effort must go into marketing.

Even traditionally published authors can no longer rely on their publishers to handle their marketing for them. While big-name authors will get marketing budget tossed at them, many new and mid-list authors will need to supplement whatever promo they get from their publisher with efforts of their own.

With so much noise in social media going along the lines of BUY MY BOOK! BUY MY BOOK! actually selling enough copies to make a decent living is becoming more and more difficult. This is the reality of the system. It's no use crying about it.

You, as author, are not special. Don't try to deny it. Unless potential readers are invested in you, they simply don't care. Accept it. Deal with it. Getting bitter and twisted about it won't change that fact. You simply have to ensure that the product (because yes, your special darling *is* a commodity) you put out is the best that it can be.

Work on the premise that no one cares, and you'll save yourself a pile of heartache. Ask yourself why it is that you write. If you're looking to make oodles of money, be prepared for disappointment. Play the long game. No one cares about your awesome YA kick-ass heroine who resembles "XYZ of that popular dystopian setting's heroine". There are hundreds if not thousands of other authors out there who most likely are publishing books that are similar to yours. And also feel as if they are TWU SPESHUL SNOFLAKES.

So, what can you do?

It's about attitude readjustment. You are not going to sell your book on Twitter or Facebook. You may not even sell your book using your newsletter. Word of mouth is best.

I'm going to say it again.

WORD OF MOUTH IS BEST.

And there's nothing *you* personally can do to make it happen.

People must care enough about you to care about your writing. If you're a whiny little sh*t who complains about the fact that you're being discriminated against day and night, that everyone else has it soooo much easier than you and your life is just terrible and one disaster after the other...

Guess what?

NO ONE CARES.

If all you ever post every day are buy links and bits begging people to BUY YOUR BOOKS, guess what? NO ONE CARES.

If you send people who follow you DMs telling them to BUY YOUR BOOKS, guess what? They'll unfollow or, worse, block you. If you constantly self-promote in communities where self-promo is forbidden, guess what? You'll get blocked.

Your shotgun approach to marketing won't sell books. It won't make people care about you, as a person or an author. You'll just have yourself labelled as "that author" and folks will be resistant to picking up copies of your books.

Sending buy links to other authors won't work either. They're in the same boat that you are. You need to reach readers, not authors. If you think getting [insert famous author name here] to share or retweet your buy link will automatically result in fame and fortune, you're sadly mistaken. Readers aren't stupid. If you don't put down what they want to read, they won't pick it up. If you think getting your novel reviewed in the local papers will make a huge difference, nope, nope, nope. You might see a slight bump, but newspapers and magazines get pulped. And, while reviews on vendors' sites like Amazon are gold, and Good reads is pretty fab too, they still won't sell your books.

So, what to do, if as this post suggests, nothing works?

Cultivating your readership is an exercise in patient gardening. Your readers must be so excited about your next book that they share news of an imminent release for you. Hell, they must love you so much that they make and share fan art. Or gush about what they're reading randomly on social media. And there's no easy way to reach this point.

My suggestion is as follows: go see how your favourite top authors handle their social media. One thing you'll notice is that many of them rarely (if ever) share buy links. Instead they talk about the things that are important to them. They share snippets of (curated) personal info. They might post cat photos or pictures of what they're baking. They might talk about the writing process. What books they're reading. Hell, even what they're knitting. What music inspires them. They might offer insights about current affairs (although here be careful that you don't go overboard with politics – this can also be a turn-off).

Don't inundate people with all the terrible things in your life. Remember, NO ONE CARES whether your left testicle is slightly lumpy or that your dog ate an entire block of hash and has now pooped it all over your afghan. Okay, I digress, the last example is actually quite funny, but I hope you get my point that folks don't want to be privy to the unrelenting existential crisis that you've been having for the past three decades. You won't win awards (or sell books) for being a martyr. Find ways to turn your setbacks into opportunities to shine.

(For instance, if I'm feeling blue, I ask my friends to post me pictures that will make me smile and it's so lovely to see engagement that way).

Thing is, it's not wrong, per se, to post buy links from time to time, but it's *how* you do it and with how much regularity this occurs (less is more, IMO). People want to get to know you, the person, and then they'll be more prepared to care about your writing. If they feel that they can relate to you and you're not like those annoying religious fundies who go door to door trying to sell afterlife insurance when all you really want to do is watch telly, then you're on the right track.

But remember this, it's not a case of overnight fame. You're not going to get rich off your debut novel (those stories are the exception, not the rule). Write because you love to. Tell the stories you love AS IF NO ONE CARES. Don't be that author who makes you want to hit the unfriend button.

PS. Use the fact that no one cares as a way to free yourself from the expectations of others. That's what I do, and I can guarantee that instead focusing on making beautiful books that *you* love to read, makes the journey worthwhile. 

Friday, December 30, 2016

Best of 2016, a year in editing and reading

This year has been odd, in that the ratio of books I've edited are 1:3 for the books I've read for review purposes. This is excluding the fact that I've been binging on fanfiction for pleasure.

But I thought I'd give a bit of love to my clients and fellow co-op members, whose books have released during this year.

So, in alphabetical order, here we go...


TS ADRIAN
It's always refreshing to see male authors head into writing strong female protagonists in fantasy, and this year I've had the experience of working with T.S. Adrian, who has just released Beneath the Silver Rose (Shadyia Ascendant #1). We meet a plucky courtesan, Shadyia, who becomes embroiled in world-shattering events that involve magicians and evil entities. Kudos to my husband creature who designed the cover.







SORCHA BLACK
Here it is, finally, the book I've been begging Sorcha to release for ages now. Actually, it's two books, but Valentine is pure awesome. Those who know me well will understand that I'm no fan of superhero narratives, but Sorcha is the exception. Valentine and Jory are polar opposites, and their hot/cold, push/pull relationship as they discover the limits of their D/s relationship is... Well, I needed a fan and a moist cloth for my forehead. This is all about a fall from innocence and redemption in a twisted, most certainly dark erotic fantasy read, with a strong narrative.





ALYSSA BRECK & ANNICE SANDS
I have a soft spot for vampires. I admit it. Featured in this paranormal romance is none other than Magnus or M as he is better known from the Crooked Fang stories I've edited. In Hex Appeal Breck and Sands take turns to pair up their witch and vampire respectively, resulting in... Well. I won't lie. A lot of supernatural schmexxors. If you're looking for fangs meet magic, with a lot of ripped panties, then this one will most likely hit the spot. Extra Nerine points because they take us to Egypt in this one.






AMY LEE BURGESS
My year is incomplete unless I've edited an Amy Lee Burgess title. Sea Cursed is a dystopian fantasy with a strong romantic element that is set in a shared world – a great concept, BTW, and I think a different approach from the usual boxed sets coalitions of authors bring out. Here we meet witches Demetria and Logan, who have been sea cursed. This means that they need to get together and perform a great magical rite to protect their island from the rather "Creature from the Black Lagoon" type ravagers. Not only that, but the witches are up against a despotic esteemed leader who's hiding something that will have a huge impact on the lives of witches on the island of Galvateen. As always, Amy balances her romance with an engaging story, making this a worthy read within the fantasy romance genre.


DJ COCKBURN
DJ and I have known each other for years, and it is always a pleasure to work with him. Caresaway is a disquieting medical thriller set in an alternate future where a drug for depression creates a generation of psychopathic CEOs who don't care that they're sending the planet down the tubes. This novella is a quick read, and is partially set in South Africa, which is always enjoyable for me when I edit.







MASHA DU TOIT
Initially Masha started out as a client, but when I set up the SFF writers' co-op Skolion this year, she became one of our founding members. Her writing is incredibly textured and magical, and though I've worked on some of her earlier titles, this year's release that blew me out of the water was The Babylon Eye. Set in the not-so-distant future, where cybernetic enhancements are a norm in a world where history has taken an unexpected course, the novel tells of Elke, a prisoner and erstwhile militant environmental activist, who is given a chance to gain back her freedom. At a price, of course. She's set on a course to track down and retrieve a cybernetically enhanced dog that's become lost on a station between worlds. What I particularly love about Masha's writing is the understanding she has of people and animals, and their relationship to their environment, no matter how strange it becomes.

I'm looking forward to when she releases book two, The Real, early next year. One of the benefits of being her editor is that I've already had my first taste of the next instalment of Elke's adventures.


NICOLETTE HUGO
In a similar vein to the writings of Cari Silverwood, Bought by Nicolette Hugo is most certainly classifiable as dark erotica. Set in Australia, this book dips into a m/m/f with an edge of danger that will certainly get the blood flowing to those hard-to-reach places.









DIONNE LISTER
I admit I did a bit of a double-take when Dionne queried me regarding a gap in my schedule for Tempering The Rose (which is book 1 of her The Rose of Nerine series – yes I'm well aware what my name is, LOL!). But there you have it. I don't claim exclusive rights to my name (though I'm more accustomed to seeing it discussed in context with a lily that grows in the bush here in South Africa). Tempering the Rose is the story of a young woman who's endured serious abuse, who discovered that she's The Chosen One to save a distant country. Only her vengeance may stand in the way of her fulfilling her role. Addy is not an easy character to like, but I get *why* she feels the way she does, and it's quite a ride following her adventures.



CHRISTINE PORTER
I'm no stranger to editing MG and YA fiction, and this year saw me working with South African author Christine Porter, who released book two of her Histories of Laenutia, Night of the Cologoro. Plucky Jeremiah – or Jerm as he becomes known – travels back in time to help his adoptive father, Morgan, vanquish the dread Cologoro. This is a charming, magical tale that is suitable for youngsters from ages 10 and up.







CARI SILVERWOOD
Cari Silverwood keeps me busy. No lies there. We've known each other for years and I totally blame her for corrupting me. She's also the reason why the #atleastimnotcari hashtag exists. But seriously, folks, if you want to see dark erotica done *well*, look no further. This genre-bending author often dips her toes in fantasy and SF too, so be sure to read the blurb before you buy to at least get an idea of what you're getting into. This year we're celebrating a number of titles for her: Needle Rain (fantasy), Wicked Ways (dark erotic thriller/SF); Wolfe (dark erotic thriller/SF).

When Cari writes the following as a disclaimer, do yourself a favour by taking note: WARNING: This is a dark romance and written to be disturbing.

You’ll find some graphic scenes of violence and sex within these pages, plus a smidgen of horror. Though the ending may be sweet, this is a very kinky, twisted, and dark story.

As a note: my husband creature did the cover design for Wolfe, so if you're ever in need of book cover design, feel free to drop me an email here. (I promise our rates are highly competitive.)



At present, I've got quite a bit on my plate, but if you are in need of manuscript assessment, developmental editing, a gremlin hunt or merely proofreading for your novel or novella, feel free to email me at nerinedorman@gmail.com. I keep my rates affordable, as my preferred clients are self-published authors and small presses.

While I generally don't offer editing for standalone short stories, I do occasionally make exceptions. My preferred genres include SFF/horror, historical, romance/erotica, LGBTI. I do not take on religious fiction nor works that glorify gratuitous violence or abuse. Life is too short. No, I will not edit poetry.

A response to Laurie Gough on self-pub vs. traditional

Let's unpack some faulty logic and bad journalism, shall we? And it's that tired old debate of traditional publishing vs. self-publishing, according to people who have absolutely no idea about what's actually happening in the industry.

Referring to this article over at Huffington Post by Laurie Gough, who clearly cannot tell op ed apart from authentic journalism. (But then again, since HP doesn't pay their writers, this level of subpar work is hardly a surprise, is it?)

I'd rather share a cabin on a Disney cruise with Donald Trump than self-publish.

Wow, lady, you really have no idea what self-publishing entails if this hyperbole is all you can resort to.

To get a book published in the traditional way, and for people to actually respect it and want to read it—you have to go through the gatekeepers of agents, publishers, editors, national and international reviewers. These gatekeepers are assessing whether or not your work is any good. Readers expect books to have passed through all the gates, to be vetted by professionals. This system doesn’t always work out perfectly, but it’s the best system we have.

Yes, and have you walked into a bookshop lately and seen the unrelenting piles of steaming shit that traditional publishers also bring out because Author! Big name!!! As a book reviewer I have seen some truly cringe-worthy gobshite that's barely been edited. Brought out by supposed gatekeepers that must've been high on crack at the time they okayed those contracts.

Good writers only become good because they’ve undertaken an apprenticeship. The craft of writing is a life’s work. It takes at least a decade to become a decent writer, tens of thousands of hours. Your favourite authors might have spent years writing works that were rejected. But if a writer is serious about her craft, she’ll keep working at it, year after year. At the end of her self-imposed apprenticeship, she’ll be relieved that her first works were rejected because only now can she see how bad they were.

I don't deny that becoming a good writer takes years of work but have you considered how many fucking amazing authors have successful careers now that they have gone hybrid? To wait for validation if you already have an objectively good idea of what makes good fiction will be the death knell to your writing.

The problem with self-publishing is that it requires zero gatekeepers. From what I’ve seen of it, self-publishing is an insult to the written word, the craft of writing, and the tradition of literature. As an editor, I’ve tackled trying to edit the very worst writing that people plan on self-publishing just because they can.

Have you *read* any self-published books? I will concede by saying that you may have to wade through a bit more dreck - but of late, some of the self-published works I've enjoyed have been as good (if not better) than some of their traditionally published brethren (where all the publisher appeared to care about was Big! Name author!! that would sell copies).

By the way, your ham-fisted examples were not even the slightest bit ridiculous or apt. Terry Pratchett has more humour in his little finger than you, darling. Compare apples to apples if you wish to be relevant. Oh wait, you were intending to fall back on humour to hide the fact that your piece was not even substantiated with more than a few vox pop opinions from people I've never heard of.

I have nothing against people who want to self-publish, especially if they’re elderly. Perhaps they want to write their life story and have no time to learn how to write well enough to be published traditionally. It makes a great gift for their grandchildren. But self-publishing needs to be labelled as such. The only similarity between published and self-published books is they each have words on pages inside a cover. The similarities end there. And every single self-published book I’ve tried to read has shown me exactly why the person had to resort to self-publishing. These people haven’t taken the decade, or in many cases even six months, to learn the very basics of writing, such as ‘show, don’t tell,’ or how to create a scene, or that clichés not only kill writing but bludgeon it with a sledgehammer. Sometimes they don’t even know grammar.

Darling, I have edited some traditionally published authors and let me tell you, I have seen their prose in only its knickers, and if you think that being traditionally published automatically means that an author has ascended to lofty heights, you are quite delusional. And yet I've encountered self-published authors whose self-editing skills leave many in the dust. Your simplistic generalisations suggest that you have absolutely no idea about what you're attempting to write about.

Writing is hard work, but the act of writing can also be thrilling, enriching your life beyond reason when you know you’re finally nailing a certain feeling with the perfect verb. It might take a long time to find that perfect verb. But that’s how art works. Writing is an art deserving our esteem. It shouldn’t be something that you can take up as a hobby one afternoon and a month later, key in your credit card number to CreateSpace or Kindle Direct Publishing before sitting back waiting for a stack of books to arrive at your door.

Lastly, has it even occurred to you that people write for different reasons, and all are equally valid. Sometimes an elderly lady wants to merely write her memoirs. Sometimes that young man wants to write a novella where he explores his existential angst. Maybe that middle-aged woman wants to explore her fantasies in a time-travelling bodice ripper. Disdain all you want but no one is holding a gun to your head forcing you to read anything. We should be grateful we live in an era where any and all who are so inclined are able to express themselves.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Fool's Quest (The Fitz and the Fool #2) by Robin Hobb

BIG DISCLAIMER: HERE BE SPOILERS. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

Also, if you haven't read the preceding books in the trilogies, none of this might make much sense to you.

I really didn't want to reach the point where I hit the end of what's currently available with Robin Hobb's Fitz and the Fool trilogy, but here we have it, book two. Fool's Quest breaks from all the preceding books in that Hobb gives us a new viewpoint character: that of Bee, Fitz's second (and last) daughter with Molly.

So, if you're resistant to the idea of the novel swapping between the two, be prepared for the shifts in voice. While Fitz is reflective, older and may have lost some of his edge (he is an older man in his fifties, though his body is still under the thrall of that misfiring healing spell), we discover the world anew through Bee, who doesn't have all the threads of the past history at her disposal.

In a way, this is a way for Hobb to inject new life, new uncertainty into the setting. There is only so much we can show from Fitz's point of view and the story needs the freshness of a young, inquiring mind.

Bee is also not an ordinary child, as we discover, and her heritage is firmly intertwined with the Fitz/Fool/Nighteyes triad, though I shall refrain from elaborating too much. Suffice to say that Fitz and the Fool share a relationship that transcends the physical. A carving that Bee examines illustrates this relationship beautifully, and Nighteyes remains present, though not in a tangible form (but also in a way that brought a hard lump to my throat).

Fitz as always exists outside of time. The world outside Withywoods, his estate, has moved on. Power has shifted. Kettricken is no longer the primary power; her sons are coming into their own. Nettle has taken on a prominent role at court and my heart bleeds for the often prickly, awkward relationship she has with her father. Fitz, as always, makes poor decisions, for which he and others later pay the price. He is faced with great sadness, with loss, with change that he himself doesn't quite feel and in that he is quite a tragic character.

There is that Other Thing that is foreshadowed quite heavily in book 1 of this trilogy that plays out to its conclusion (inevitable for those of us who're accustomed to Hobb's clue-laying) that ripped my heart out. Yet in a way this was necessary, as this novel is very much a coming of age story, not only for Bee but also for our Fitz, who with the reappearance of the Fool, is once again cast in his role as Catalyst.

Hobb is not in a hurry with her storytelling. As noted by Mark Lawrence, in his review, "There are very few authors who can get me to tolerate considerable detail spent on clothing, gifts, feasting and just plain organizing stuff. George RR Martin somehow manages it, and so does Robin Hobb. I guess that if you write well enough then anything goes."

To that I can't add anything, except to say that to immerse myself in Hobb's writing is to have a fully tactile experience in another world, down to every last detail, and there are times in my life when this sort of measured, highly textured writing that slowly unfurls is *exactly* what I need to make me feel better about having to face my own grind. And hells, book three can't come fast enough. The waiting is pure torture.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Mad Max #review

In a self-destructing world, a vengeful Australian policeman sets out to stop a violent motorcycle gang.

I was most certainly a wee sprite when Mad Max came out (1979) but it was one of those movies that I've watched more than once over the years. It had a bit of a reputation – as in I heard a lot about it while growing up – before I first got to see it when I was in my early teens.

I also admit my feelings about the film have changed over the years. When I was younger, I got a big kick out of what I now term loosely as "revenge porn". And then of course there's the rather baby-faced Mel Gibson before he became a complete jerk (and a household name).

If you're looking for a template for late 1970s styling, you can't go wrong with this film. It's dated horribly. It's clear George Miller was already aiming at a post-apocalyptic vibe, but there's enough of a touchstone of the (then) contemporary to ground this film firmly in reality. This is a future that's just around the corner; it's recognisable.

The plot is a coat hanger. We're not going to delve deeply into what motivates characters (beyond the rather obvious need for revenge.) We're not even going to talk about whether Mad Max passes the Bechdel test nor whether women characters have agency (hint, Mad Max is very much a product of its time). This film is all about the chase and the stunts. If you go into watching Mad Max for anything other than the absolutely insane car chases, you're going to come away disappointed.

The film is very much the origin story that sets up for the films that follow, and out of all the four films currently in existence, it's most certainly not my favourite. Is this a great film? No, not really. Is it entertaining? I'd say so – if you're looking for the "oh my god how did they manage that?" kind of reaction when trying to figure out how they did the stunts.

Will I watch this film again? Probably. It's one of those that kinda stuck with me when I was growing up, even if it's not particularly great. I'll write it off as mood, setting and nostalgia, and leave it at that.