How to read Robin Hobb

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What we don’t see

As I drove away to place another stone I realised that I had left behind both camera and phone. I almost went back to get them, but then thought, no. I was heading off to sit on a beach and write. It would be good to have no distraction. By now it has probably been taken, though I placed it above the tideline.

I drove to Cable Cottage, where the first thread of telegraph was sent out, under the Irish Sea and then turned the van around and parked by the footpath to Aber Bach. Onto the beach, at the further end from the footpath, where the fresh meets salt I placed the stone, across the stream. The water on one side was deeper and clear and the light played with it making beautiful ripples.

I walked on, sat and wrote for a while and watched as 4 people walked over it, wondering how it was, especially as this was a crossing over water, and they had to watch their feet for balance, that 4 people could walk past and not see it.

Then I wondered what there is around me that I don’t see, even though it is in obvious view. So, very, many, things.

I wrote more, tangling threads, then walked back to the van, past the stone where it maybe still sits in the crossing. I will go back in a day or so, see if it’s still there. It’s big, as large as my hand.

I went then to Abereidi, where the tide had gone out while I was writing, wrote some more, tangled myself into knots, unwound and unbound in my head, walked the beach to look for stones. I returned home to find flowers.

I will go back to Aber Bach, and take another stone incase this one is gone. Such a beautiful place to leave something.

My house fills up with stones, and it’s good to return them. I came home with some fine curiosities yesterday, and I have an increasing urge to chisel.




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What I was doing yesterday.

Yesterday my daughter asked for my help with something. She needed someone to film her for a short promo film for a few yoga days she’s running on Ramsey Island.

I know I said I was taking a sabbatical, but I am also writing a novel, and if that doesn’t make sense to you then just know that I’m not really worrying about that.

I’ve not landed on Ramsey for a while. It was a beautiful day. Here’s the result. More later.

And if you fancy signing up to it you need to follow her on




and take a look at her website.

Here’s an example from the youtube chanel


And here’s her van and her hound, Rosie, made by The Indie Project.

Hannah says, please subscribe to her youtube channel, and full details for the Ramsey Yoga days will be posted later today.

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A book of a lifetime.

On May 5th, in the evening, Jane Johnson will be interviewing Robin Hobb about her latest book, Assassin’s Fate, published in the UK the day before. The event, with Toppings Bookshop, Bath takes place in Christ’s Church, Julian Road.
Of the book Jane says,
“The most beautiful book I’ve ever published? Certainly the one that tugs most on the heartstrings. Fitz and the Fool – the deepest, most frustrating, elusive, affecting friendship in fiction. These characters have been my constant companions in the past 20 years I’ve been editing these wonderful books. So looking forward to the UK tour – beginning 29 April in London and finishing a week later in Plymouth.
Jane will be interviewing Robin. I’ll be there too, mostly to listen but also, to sign books if people wish it, as I have done so much cover art for Robin. At least that is why I will be signing. I will be there to help celebrate this stunning book, the conclusion to Megan Lindholm aka Robin Hobb’s wonderful series of books.
I still remember meeting Fitz for the first time.
Jane is Robin’s editor, and also edits many of the finest writers in the genre that is fantasy, from George RR Martin to Joe Abercrombie, via the stunningly brilliant Mark Lawrence. It was Jane who commissioned me to do the covers for Robin’s books, and held my hand through the crafting of many of them. I interviewed her some time ago, fascinated by all the books she has had through her mind, on her editing desk, and also all the books she has written. So many books that I love owe their publication to this woman, and I believe that without her fierce championing and loyalty to her writers we would never have seen Game of Thrones rise as it has.
Both of us adore Robin’s writing. Truth be told we are both rather fond of the author too. In some ways I envy Jane, being one of the first to meet Fitz, the bastard son of royalty, Nighteyes, the most beautiful fictional creature in literature today, and one of the first to visit he Six Duchies, meet the dragons, so much.
If you don’t know Robin’s work you need to begin at the beginning with Assassin’s Apprentice. Don’t tell me you don’t read fantasy fiction, just do yourself a favour and sink into this world and read without prejudice.
Tickets selling fast. There are other venues on the tour including The Lonely Planet in London and Waterstones in Plymouth, but this will be the very best.
Here’s a link to Robin’s website where you can see how differently her book is presented in UK to US. I really want a US edition too. Really love the difference.
And here, to the UK tour dates.
And what is the new book about? So many things. Each reader will bring their own truth to it. To me, it’s about the difference between justice and vengeance, and in being so brings it right into our world, and right into our time.
Thanks Harper collins, for bringing Megan, aka Robin Hobb over to our shores.
If you have read all of Robin’s books then you need to get Cloven Hooves by Megan Lindholm. Good luck finding a copy. Time to bring it back into print Harper Collins. I’ll do the cover…..
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A curious way to review a book: no 2.

Half way through reading this stunning book I realised I have to give it away. I am sending it to Theresa May, along with this letter.

Dear Theresa May,

I am sending this book to you as a gift. I realise that you must be extraordinarily busy, but I also know that President Obama found time to read while in office, and I hope you will too.

I believe that books can change the way we think, help us to see and understand the lives of others.

I also believe that in order to wield power with integrity one requires wisdom, empathy and imagination.

We stand, as a species, in a precarious place. Party politics does not serve democracy well. We need, now, if we are to survive on our planet, new ways of thinking, imaginative solutions as politics fails us.

You speak of ‘ordinary people’ as if in some way politicians are a species appart, extraordinary. The world we ‘ordinary people’ live in is one very different from the games of democracy y=that those of you in positions of power play.

My hope is that if you can find time to read this extraordinary book, a modern fairy tale, it will open doors of perception and understanding in your mind. I cannot imagine living through the circumstances so many migrant people have endured, continue to endure, but this book has helped me to. I have only read half way through. I will get another copy as i need to know the end of it. I hope you can make time in your busy day to read it also.

You have the chance to make a real change- not to continue the bitter infighting and the game that masquerades as democracy, where people are played against each other.

Yours sincerely

Jackie Morris.

Wisdom. Imagination. Empathy.


As ever I feel that in the letter I have failed to say what I really wanted to, but I hope the gift finds its way to her. The book is such a savage beauty. Spare of language, sometimes the words demand to be read aloud but to do so cracks the heart. Not sentimental, not voyeuristic or gratuitous in its casual violence, it follows two lovers as the city in which they live as it and others they love and the people around them are  torn appart.

As I say, half way through, and I will miss it so, I do miss it so. I keep forgetting it’s gone and reaching out to read it. And maybe it will fall on deaf ears, never make its way to her. But I feel that we do ourselves no favours in the ways that we respond to those who need our help, and I think that we need to realise and implement great changes in how we govern and are governed.

So, I may be naive, and this is a curious way to review a book. If you only read one book this year, can I suggest that this be it. But can I also suggest that you read as many as time will allow, and more if you can sneak them in. Because n reading we can get a view into the lives of others, rest our heads in harbours for the soul, learn.

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When work becomes so beautiful.

Years ago I was told by all, from teachers to parents to other relative, “you can’t make a living as an artist”.

Well, it’s not been an easy road to walk. Long hours, no holidays, no money, no sick pay, oh, and no pension. But…. having recently finished a very intense period of work for Hamish Hamilton, for The Lost Words, written by Robert Macfarlane (too lazy to write my own books these days), I have begun to play again. It’s what I intended to do as after 30 years of full on push ahead, book after book, always with deadlines, mortgage etc, I decided to take a sabbatical.

So, I have been playing with stones, while writing a book. (Oops, forgot I wasn’t working). And I have almost reached a point where characters set sail, so, when Ffion said she was off to Skomer for an evening on the water, did I want to come, What could I say? It’s research, after all.

It seemed that she had Sam Hobson on the boat, taking pictures of puffins, but no one else, so off we went. I left my laptop guarded by small things, dressed warm, and left the land behind, venturing out across St Bride’s bay with Falcon Boats.

We stayed around the harbour of Skomer for a while, and it was wonderful to see all the puffins. Hoping Sam fared better with his focussing than I did. So many puffins they turn the cliffs into something like a pepperpot.

Ffion did some crew training with Ben Sutton, so that he would learn the guillemot song, by John Hegley. Please listen. It’s such a perfect thing.

John Hegley – Guillemot from CLPE on Vimeo.

But it was the journey back where the light was just so awesome.


The peace of the wild, and the peace of the ocean. Sea like a mirror to the sky all twisted pewter, mercurial majesty.

Back at teh land we all went home to mine where Hannah had prepared a feast for us and we drank too much gin and wine. Then next morning, a short walk up the hill with The white Cat and raggedy hound pack. I took Ffi to visit the stone.

And unable to resist the pull of the tides, back out on the water, where I read to the passengers, from Hrafen’s Ey, unpublished, but, having crossed the Sound, past a raven’s nest, and porpoise, while skylarks sang and swallows skimmed the land, it seemed the perfect setting. Seals swam around while I read.

Here is the story, as yet unpublished, without the accompaniment of sealsong this time. I think it might be the beginning of something. AND, we will be doing trips like this, with Falcon Boats, so if you want evenings with stories and shearwaters, and supper, or bring your own, then contact Falcon Boats.

It was Pi’s first boat trip. She loved the birds, and was intrigued by the phshush of the porpoise breath.

I looked rather like a country lady with my Barber and my Pi.

Rosie loves Hannah sooooo much. 

So, research done, stories read, I guess what this post is trying to say is that you can make a living as an artist but it’s not easy. But by doing so you can make your life your work. And instead of spending money, you can spend your time, in beautiful ways. And now it’s time for me to go away to where the skylarks sing and dwell upon what it is like to be out on the water, and write the next piece, stepping stone, chapter, towards a new book. Because I forgot I was having a Sabbatical. But I will still play.

And I don’t think I have expressed myself very well here. What I am trying to say is, more than 30 years in to being a professional artist, I love my job.


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The White Cat, hunting.

Morning walking was at the airfield, all kingcups and marshland and golden grasses.

Evening walking was trip to visit the stone. And The white cat came too, to see if he could find it. We sat for a short while in a scoop of shelter. A raven flew close by.

π and The White Cat wandered dangerous places while Ivy turned her face to read the wind.

The The white Cat said that he would find the stone, for though he had not been with us when we placed it, he was a cat and the hill and all that was on it was known to him.

Here, said The White Cat.

On the way back we found squill, beautiful blue stars in the green. And a rock that was mapped with lichens.

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I was reading American Gods by Neil Gaimon, the folio Society one, with the amazing pictures. Then this arrived. Tatterdemalion.

And I loved the way it had no title on the cover , and the wonderful production of it, making it such an object of desire.

I first heard of the book by accident when visiting Terri Windling in Chagford. Rima and Sylvia were joining us for lunch, they were filming something, a promo film for the book.

Given that this book is such an unusual creature, feral, and unlike anything else I have read, maybe with a whisper of Garner, a slight lilt of Angela Carter, Ursula LeGuin, somewhere, but really like none of them at all, but very much of itself, perhaps the best thing to do is to watch this:

It slowed down my reading with its curious strangeness. I love that it was born in a similar way to The Quiet Music of Gently Falling Snow. Both books worked backwards from image to text.

Rima I have known for a long time having met her work through The Hermitage in the early days of blogging. Her blog, so image heavy, would take an age to load on my dial up connection. Years ago I bought a clock from her.

Gingercat, bear and hare. What could be better. It tells the time it choses to, and twice a day that coincides with the time that it is, and it hangs in my studio.

And Rima and her husband Tom have the wonderful Hedgespoken, which is so worth knowing about. For those in Pembrokeshire, they will be at Unearthed Festival.

But, back to the book. It’s a curious dream creature, a long, lyrical poem of a book. So looking forward to reading more from Sylvia. And I think Tatterdemalion will live on in my dreaming for some time to come.

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On pathways made by hooves

Yesterday, when walking up the hill and writing, I walked back down via a tumbled wall. Here the stones are alive with lichen. I picked one up, selected from the centre, and took it home. I promised the hill I would return it within a day’s cycle.

Not smooth like the beach stones, this is pitted with age and wear and weather and growth of tiny lichen. And lichen itself is such a complex creature, a symbiotic joining of fungus and algae and something else.

So hard to gild, and yet somehow it worked.

 So we walked, up to the high hill, under the tree tunnel.

Ravens greeted our arrival. Huge, dark. You can see how big these two are in comparison to Ivy who chased them away.

Before I could begin writing I returned the stone to its home. Some stones are meant to be found and taken. Some stones i hope will stay. I want to see what happens with this one and I hope that anyone finding it will know that it is mean to stay. The plant/fungus/lichen needs to breathe in the open air, to feel the wind, rain and cold and sun on its skin.

I love how it hides in the small slope of scree.

And this, so green, lime green, just beautiful.

So, I write for a while, trying to gather threads, let things happen and not push the boat.

The ravens have left a message, in skin, hair and bone. Such fragile bones.

In the distance the ponies have opened up the pool again. Meadowsweet and bluebells flow down from where they are, soon, not yet in flower, but they are there still, and we go to take a look. And a red kite circles above us in the blue.

The ponies have opened pathways around the fields of Maes y Mynydd, so we walk that way, and find the fields filled with fieldfare and swallow.

This is where I found my first book, so many years ago. I remember the struggle to find the words to weave the story.

Home past the dandelions that glow, constellations of small suns in fields of green. My uncle used to make dandelion wine, but never knew you could also batter them and deep fry. Will try it, see what they are like. And the ferns unfurling fast, each leaf still folded.

Home now. Too many distractions to settle to write. Tired legs, tired dogs. Finished reading Tatterdemalion. Want to read another book, and want to start a book and then do nothing but read until it is finished. But, first I think I need to finish writing……

And then there is this:

which I think is a key to the story I am working on. I hope so. I love the mystery of this and the 424 others like it, but not like. Thanks Bernie, for showing me the way to them.

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Caerbwdi, Pembrokeshire

We parked at the car park, walked down the green lane. Only a short walk to the sea, past the blackthorn and wind woven tree.

A suntrap of boulders and stones, with red Caerfai rock and a lazy sea. In the distance, Skomer Island.

I walked the beach, searching for the place.

Where the fresh meets salt I placed the stone, at tide’s edge. And the tide was going out.

In twelve hours time or before it will be gone, taken by human hand or the sea’s, it matters not. Moongold and stone.

Back home now and more stones wait for freedom, a return to the wild. I want to paint them at the beaches also, carrying gold to meet the stones, and tools for gilding. This one I will find hard to leave. This one is a path. Love the lines of quartz across the stone.

I painted blackbirds from a piece unused from The Lost Words. A nest in a bowl that never held bramble berries. Almost finished, not quite. And still tangling threads for a new short novel.

But meanwhile I do love walking with stones. They show me the way to a peaceful mind.



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