I don’t know if any of you have noticed, but I finally changed my header picture. It’s a lot brighter around here and the pink and red fit with Valentine’s Day a whole lot better.

Yes, it doesn’t take much to make me happy.

Sunday linkfest

The Broaden Your Horizons Edition

Three Things Writers Can Learn from Photographers: I love how different creative pursuits shape and inform each other.

Creative Experiments: February: daisy yellow posts monthly experiments to jumpstart those of us with creativity block. The experiments that specially intrigue me: art inspired by circles; drawing (as opposed to writing) letters and numbers; finding an ingenious solution to a problem (once I decide which of my myriad issues to focus on, heh); art based on a list (I love lists!). Are you tempted to rack up some creativity points?

Just Try (via Megs): Natalie Whipple on how fear keeps us from failure by taking us out of the game. I am a cautious, risk-averse person so this is something I need to overcome all the time. A must-read if you’re like me!

The Gap Year: Susan Wise Bauer advocates for a gap year between high school and college, based on her experience as both a college student and a college professor. What does this have to do with writing or even creativity, you wonder? It’s because most of us are locked into the belief that there is one conventional path to our goals. You go to school, you go to college, you get a job. You write a book, rewrite a book, query an agent, wow an editor, get a publishing contract, go back to square one if you don’t succeed. This is a challenge to think outside of the box, to step back, to ask “why?” in response to “this is the way things are done”. To consider alternative paths for reaching *your* unique goals.

Sunday linkfest

I love how writer Megan Payne turns failed short stories into a learning experience. I wish I were that analytical–maybe my short story success rate would be higher. *grin*

Debut Analysis for Aspiring Writers: After two and a half years of reviewing debuts, Tia Nevitt shares her thoughts on writing to fit trends, complete with marine metaphors. What I have found (as a reader and follower of agent blogs) is that high-concept, original twists and fresh ideas really work. The standard fantasy fare, however well-written, is just too same ol’ same ol’ to jaded readers (of which I am one, I’m afraid).

JA Konrath always has such an interesting take on ebooks, especially in light of lessons learned watching the movie and music industries deal with piracy. Will books go the Google way, with free content and paid advertising? And here’s his followup, Selling Paper, on why the publishing industry is approaching e-books from the wrong angle.

Ship of Destiny: A Review

Wow. What a ride. I finished up Ship of Destiny–the culminating volume of Robin Hobb’s mammoth Liveship Traders trilogy–a few days ago. I can understand why Hobb is such a popular writer. In this trilogy, she deftly and masterfully handles a sprawling plot,  an immersive world, multiple points-of-view, and several character arcs. Ship of Destiny is a BIG book (800 pages!), but it is all muscle and bone; no flab. At no point did I feel that the book was padded.

Chaos has come to Bingtown in the wake of Chalcedean attacks, the disappearance of the Satrap and the earthquake in the Rain Wilds. The long-dormant dragon Tintaglia has awakened and is in search of others of her kind. Althea Vestrit sails on the mad Paragon in search of her family’s liveship, Vivacia, now in the hands of the charming and ruthless pirate Captain Kennit. Meanwhile, Althea’s nephew Wintrow, under the auspices of Kennit, learns what it is to be a man. Malta Vestrit, in enemy hands, puts her Trader cunning to good use while her fiance searches desperately for her. There is a sense of great change throughout the book, of things broken and made anew–dragons are in the world again!–and a knowing that nothing will be the same again. The story rushes the majority of the characters into the Pirate Isles, where sailors and Satrap, liveships and dragon and serpents, pirates and soldiers, all meet in one long multi-stage encounter. Yep, it can get pretty intense!

But what makes this trilogy so fascinating to me is how Hobb, in spite of the scope, never loses sight of her characters. In spite of the talk of destiny and fate, I never felt like the characters were pawns in service of the Story (except for one glaring incident involving Kennit which still does not ring true to me); rather they and their actions make the story. Hobb takes special care in developing all of her characters, especially the pirate Captain Kennit (who I loathe, in a weird fascinated/repulsed kinda way). I enjoyed watching Malta grow from a spoiled brat into an independent, smart young woman. I found the tortured Paragon to be a deeply sympathetic and interesting character.

If you love epics, this ambitious nautical fantasy certainly delivers. Thanks to my friend M. for introducing me to Hobb’s work! *waves* (See, it only took me a couple years to go through all the Hobb novels you sent :D).