Dangerous Women

After the exhilaration brought on by the massive Women’s March, I found it both amusing and infuriating to browse through these

Postcards warning men about the dangers of women’s rights

They were put together by Tara McGinley who wrote: “Here’s a collection of totally ridiculous vintage postcards and posters dated from around 1900 to 1914 warning men of the dangers associated with the suffragette movement and of allowing women to think for themselves.”

postcards posterExcept for the clothes, I am not entirely sure that things have changed all that much.

See more postcards at Dangerous Minds website HERE

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HORIZONS MURALFeature image: detail from “Horizons” a mural by Robert McCall.

I always remain astonished at the disdain in which the literature of the future has always been held by the here and now.

It’s just so easy to wave a hand and close the door on the science fiction ghetto. 

Sometimes I think that the ‘real’ writers are so afraid of how they’ll be shown up by us genre folks that they’d rather just not compete at all and fondly imagine that keeping the gates locked will keep the cooties away. But I have news for them. it’s in HERE that the future lives. The fences and the locks and the keys…keepg THEM out, not US in. We’re already out there among the stars. Have the literati considered the possibility that it is around THEM, rather than us, that the locked gates and the iron bars really are…?

While I am better known for my fantasy than my science fiction (I sometimes combine the two), I believe that if anything, the sheer vision required to create ANY future from scratch should be a feature of literature, not the bug.

Here are two links to relevant articles well worth you time.

Why science fiction authors can’t win HERE

Building a Better Definition of Science Fiction HERE

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Andrew Hilleman offers

10 Great Westerns You’ve Never Read

My husband, who cut his teeth on westerns, has read a couple of these and urged this link on me. He is still haunted by ‘The Ox-Bow Incident‘, an exploration of mob rule that still echoes harshly for us even today.

Read all of Hilleman’s picks at the PW website HERE

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Surprise! Children’s Books Figured Out Life Long Ago

Children's Book wisdom poster
There’s a reason certain children’s books stay with you long after you’ve left elementary school, Crafty House tells us. “Deceptively simple, such evergreen stories absolutely brim with meaning and insight, serving to remind the reader of the most basic but vital lessons in life.”

 
See all the quotes at Crafty House HERE

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Quote of the Day

Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.” ~ Albert Einstein

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How long should it be?

I don’t write short novels. As a rule. Most of them are quite long, some behemoths.

In fact my epic fantasy novel (with the original title for the whole thing having been “Changer of Days”) weighed in at a quarter million words – and the publisher took one look at it and squawked, “Split that puppy up into two!” That’s how the duology was born, not by design – and the place where it naturally fell into the two volumes was at a terrifying cliffhanger – but that was meant to lead to the next CHAPTER not the next VOLUME and I hope readers forgave me for that. I didn’t do it deliberately.

Letters from the Fire cover

But I did do a couple of short(er) novels.

Letters from the Fire“, my searing email epistolary collaboration with the man whom I eventually married is a slight book – at least by my wordy standards, although collaborating with a fairly taciturn co-writer might have contributed to that.

 

 

 

Abducticon cover

Last year’s “AbductiCon” was another shorty – but it said all it wanted to say, at that.

There’s a new novel in the works for 2017, another shorter one.

I will never really stop writing lush and long. But maybe, just maybe, sometimes fewer words deliver the greater punch.

At Lithub, Emily Temple offers

20 Short Novels to stay up all night reading

Check out her selection at Lithub HERE

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I do write a fair number of short stories.

Want to read one of my best, for free? One that earned a Pushcart nomination?

“The Bones of Our Ancestors, the Blood of Our Flowers”

is now available HERE

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Self destruction on screen

TiVo recently recorded a movie I was long interested in seeing, “Maleficent.” It was … a major disappointment.

Fantasy and fairy tale are not the same. When a fairy tale is retold well, it is transforms it into fantasy because the basic world of the story has been reworked into something sturdier and more REAL. The original folktale has been deepened and broadened, something gets added.

But the basic fairy tale is a formula — linear and predictable, fairy tales are built solely on tropes and archetypes, and that is all that is asked of them — the sprinkling of fairy dust, the idea of magic, and in most of them the happily-ever-after that follows. In fairy tales there IS no truer true love than the prince and the princess in a rosy glow on their wedding day. You want something more? You have to work harder.

When “Maleficent” first came out, I was interested in the addition of the backstory about the prior relationship between Maleficent and Aurora’s father, and about the destruction of her wings, and how that changed her into the villain we all know. As a writer who counts world-building and character building as utterly essential in the crafting of a good story, I was interested in how they would re-tell the essentially sweet Sleeping Beauty story in the shadow of Maleficent and her stolen wings.

Dear God, what a mess.

Yes there’s a back story but it feels sad and tacked on. The whole fairy kingdom is unbearably twee. And those three fairy godmothers of legend who raised Aurora in the woods are utterly annoying. It is hard to believe that Aurora stayed remotely sane while growing up with those three very trying and very silly creatures.

Then they took one of the great villains of literature and they tried to make her… human. And did a really botched job of that. I find it hard to reconcile the revenge against a reprobate human by telling him “your baby will die”.

None of this makes sense any more — not as a fairy tale, and not as fantasy. And a lot of it becomes an excuse for — whee! — CGI galore and special effects rather than a story vehicle. They took a beloved fairy story, and they CHANGED IT FOR NO PARTICULAR REASON.

The whole idea was supposed to be the Princess and the Prince and True Love’s Kiss. The fairy tale princess isn’t supposed to be woken up by a motherly pressing of lips on her brow. Is this why it was called feminist? Because it is Maleficent’s chaste kiss that wakes the sleeping princess, not that rather dweeby prince who shows up for the job? Come on, people. At least pretend that things make sense in the fairy tale context.

Those wings — they’re supposedly a part of the living creature — hacking them off with a DAGGER would have taken TIME, and dear God, wouldn’t the living creature to whom these things were attached have reacted by waking up to the pain? And just how much value did those wings really have? They’re ripped off and taken as trophies to the old king in the human kingdom — but Maleficent doesn’t seem to have lost an ounce of her magic power, so what purpose did the wingclipping serve?

What was the purpose of rehashing this tale? All they did was unravel and destroy the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale. The Maleficent fantasy just never stepped up to take its place.

And then…Well, we’ll talk about Sherlock later. Watch this space.

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Quote of the Day
Le Quin quote Poster ~~~~~
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Whence AbductiCon?

Every book has a story – of its origins, of the secrets and the inspiration which led to its existence, the surprises that leaped out at the writer during the process of creation, the dead end alleys, the astonishing moments of transcendence, the feelings that linger when the writer types “The End.”  These essays about my books originally appeared at the Book View Café Blog.

From Alma’s Bookshelf

AbductiCon: When time-traveling androids take a hotel full of SF fans for a trip around the moon

When people ask writers “Where do you get your ideas?”, they might get a growl, or an answer for some value of “EVERYWHERE!”, or some snarky comment about backyard idea trees. Or sometimes they get a bewildered look and disavowal of having any inkling whatsoever as to the provenance of a story that swam into the writer’s mind and demanded to be told.

Abducticon coverI am not entirely sure where ‘AbductiCon’ came from.

It’s like nothing I have ever done before. It is science fiction, not fantasy, although as  I frequently point out most SF is fantasy: (Beam me up? Really?).

It is contemporary, its characters are people you will probably recognize. It is funny. It is metaphysical. It touches on the lore of my tribe and our favorite pastime, the SF Convention. At its heart, it’s a love letter to the con culture and the tropes of the world of SF&F. I actually deliberately named a character something in order to have ONE PARTICULAR LINE appear in the book (and you’ll know it when you see it. Trust me.)

It is one of the most polarizing books I have ever written. People don’t have meh feelings for this thing. They love it and laugh and hug it to themselves in recognition, or they berate me for having wasted my time on it and call it frivolous, shallow, silly, not worth the time spent ticking off the tropes that appear in its pages on the AbductiCon bingo card.

In what is known in the industry as an elevator pitch, a summary of the book in one or two pithy sentences, this one comes in as possibly — “It’s like the cult movies ‘Paul’ and ‘Galaxy Quest’ had a love child”.

The basic plot: What we have is a classic comedy of errors which happens with any convention, anywhere. It is thrown into a higher gear when a bunch of time traveling androids kidnap the entire con – HOTEL AND ALL – and take it for a swing around the moon while they finish figuring out their own origins

It is a book for people who love science fiction. It is a book for people like me, for people I love, for all the friends and colleagues I have met over the years – it is a thank you to that world for being all that it has been for me in its time, for giving me strength, and courage, and fellowship, and laughter – yes, even while I was writing this, the book was giving me warmth and support and permission to laugh while I sometimes escaped into it, writing it as I did during a wretched period of my father’s last illness.

This book is both for new or casual con goers, and for those who actually know what FIAWOL means.

Get your copy Here

~~~~~Indians With Umbrellas illustration

Featured art: Fritz Scholder, “Indians with Umbrellas.”

With thousands of veterans on the way to Standing Rock to help defend Dakota Pipeline protesters against militarized police, Obama under increasing pressure to take a stand, and the timid corporate media beginning to admit there may be a story to cover, things are likely to get even more complicated and ugly.

This might be a good time to look at…

10 Books by Indigenous Authors You Should Read

For example:
Last Standing Woman cover

 

Winona LaDuke, Last Standing Woman

This novel spans decades and generations of people living on the White Earth Reservation in Minnesota, telling stories of struggle, strength and resistance that culminate in an uprising for independence.
See all the books at Lithub HERE

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Whence The Weres?

One of a series of essays about the backstories of my books – the origins, the inspiration, the difficulties, the surprises. The essays originally appeared in the Book View Café Blog.

Every book has a story – a story of origin, of the secrets and the inspiration which led to its existence, the surprises that waited to leap out at the writer during the process of creation, the dead end alleys one wanders into and then has to battle to reverse out of when it becomes obvious that one is astray, the astonishment at the moments of transcendence that sometimes come unlooked for, the feelings that linger when the writer types “The End” and lifts hands from the keyboard.

These are the stories of my books, the children of my mind and my heart, and how they came to be.

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Alma’s Bookshelf

The Were Chronicles

The origins of this series lie in my quintessential problem: I don’t write short stories, at least not easily or often or even willingly.

But when I got wind of an upcoming anthology about Were-kind, with the specific fiat that the editor did not want just the iconic wolves but OTHER creatures, exploring the possibilities of the trope, I had a wild idea out of absolutely nowhere.

It involved a Random Were, a creature that has its own primary form into which it Turns at its changing time under the proper moon, but if another warm-blooded creature is seen by the Were entity just as the Turn begins… then it is THAT creature which the Were turns into.

The potential for trouble and comedy was high, and that was the way I began to write the short story – and the tone was set early. For instance, my protagonist’s mother was… a Were-chicken. Because of an unfortunate farmyard accident at the moment of her first Turn.

You can see where this was going. I giggled to myself and began to write the story I thought I had started to write…

right until the moment that I realized that it was turning into something potentially much darker than the comic little tale I was originally pursuing, and that I was more than 5000 words into it and I hadn’t  even properly said hello yet. This thing wanted to be a novel.

And the further I waded into it and the more it unfolded it became clear that it was even more complex than that.

It ended up being three novels. But not your classic trilogy. More of a triptych, with each of the three books presented as a first-person narrative from a different POV character… involved in the same central tragedy. The different prisms through which the world and its events were viewed by these three very different characters gave my story an unparalleled depth and dimension. I was writing something very special.

Thematically, the books differentiated according to their protagonists.

The Were Chronicles coversJazz, the voice of “Random” (Book 1) was the youngest of the POV characters and one who was, perhaps, by far the most innocent of them. It fell to her to explore the dark and vindictive shadows of bullying and discrimination, of finding out about the bitterness of being “other” in the world, of having to struggle with the harsh realities of being alone and not quite knowing who or what to trust. It turned out to be a harrowing book, holding up a mirror to the truths which were being played out in many a reader’s real life – and for some readers it proved to be an unexpected spar of salvation and insight and understanding. (Buy it HERE)

Book 2, “Wolf” dealt with Science. I finally went back to my own educational background, my MSc in Molecular Biology, and I worked out the genetics behind being Were as opposed to being human. The book also dealt with the dangers of dogma and agendas when hidden behind the shield of that science, and explored those issues as well as ideas of guilt and expiation, of sacrifice and salvation, of growing up and finding one’s place in an uncaring world. Mal, my protagonist, Jazz’s older brother, was a brooding and moody angsty teenage BOY, in every sense of that word, until circumstances made him step up and take responsibility – and I was in awe of this character and what he brought to me and to my story, of how he showed the process of coming of age. (Buy it HERE)

And then came Book 3, “Shifter”, where Mal’s friend Saladin van Schalkwyk , better known as Chalky, took center stage. A Don Quixote of a character, a lost boy, a creature lonely and wary and abandoned, and the greatest and most unique Were of them all. He was a white knight and a trickster both, a transcendent creature, a joy to write about. And his book dealt with the dangers and the heady triumphs brought on by that isolation and that responsibility – and also, in broader terms, circled back to the original issues of being “different” and being hated and feared and where those things could lead (open warfare) when fueled by the torches of fundamentalism and malice. (Buy it HERE)

The three books are some of the best and potentially some of the most important things I’ve ever written. And I am immensely proud of them.

Quite aside from the main characters, all of whom were absolute gifts, there were moments of unexpected beauty and poignancy. There was the love between siblings, between family, which was stronger than anything that the world piled on and had to be honored. There was the love between friends, which was the bond of promise and trust. There was the love between mates, the two halves of a couple, and the bonds that are forged when two soulmates meet one another. And all of this was luminous. And then there was the dark light of hatred and fear and the wicked shadows that it cast across the world.

These may be be books about Were kind in title, but at their fundamental root they are actually books about what it means to be human.

People tell me they wept when they reached the conclusion of “Shifter.” I’m glad. It shows me that these books have reached a deep emotional core within people, as they had been meant to.

Writers are often asked  which of their books are their favorites – and it’s an impossible question to answer because it’s like asking a mother to choose her favorite child. But if I had to pick the books of which I am proudest – well – I don’t think I’ve ever been prouder of anything I wrote than I am of these books. They matter. They are part of a huge human story, instantly recognizable to those who pick up the books and yet breathlessly followed from narrator to narrator into places where the reader might not have expected to go.

I am lighting a path. I hope that readers will follow it.

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Buy Random HERE

Buy Wolf HERE

Buy Shifter HERE

Something is wrong

The uniqueness of story

You hear all kinds of numbers for the plot lines available to authors — 27, 10, 7, 3, 2, 1.

Those who favor two – “Someone leaves town/Someone comes to town” — have a point.

But personally I believe that there is really only one : “Something is wrong”.

If you take ANY book and distill it down into its smallest component parts you are going to get down to that last, eventually, because in their purest essence all stories have this in common – they revolve around a character with a problem (i.e. “something is wrong”) and the story then complicates and convolutes itself around that skeleton of a plot and fleshes it out… differently. Every time.

There have always been demands that every story be “unique”. Presumably that means that it’s  possible to foresee any single part of the development in advance of its actual occurrence or the authors of such works are “wasting their precious time”.

This circles back to the other discussion, the one about what readers and writers owe each other.

I realize, and appreciate, that I must tell a good story to keep a reader interested. I try to do this. If blogosphere commentary alone is anything to go by, I am not succeeding with everyone – in fact, if you haven’t got someone who absolutely hates and despises your book you probably haven’t been read by enough people to make a statistically significant readership quorum.

Take my own work. When it comes to “The Secrets of Jin-shei”, comments have ranged from:

“Go out there and get this book. And I mean NOW.”
“Graceful and lyrical”
“My favorite book, ever!”

…through

“Okay. (but) Not worth keeping.”

…all the way to

“Feminist claptrap”
“Anti-feminist diatribe”
“Falls into all the old traps, and I threw it against the wall”

You cannot please all of the people all of the time.

Those who see the story as “feminist” see only that there’s a book out there with not just one but a BUNCH of female protags (shock! horror!).

The ones who want to pick holes in the social fabric can only see that, for instance, one character was made Chancellor… and then nothing about her work as Chancellor was referred to in the book ever again; or that another character was the classic screaming-memie angsty psychotic fem-bitch who chooses to rule alone without a man and that I therefore made her OF COURSE go mad because I apparently wanted to make a point that women needed a man to make them whole, and and and and…

Man, I didn’t know I  packed so much subtext into that story.

But the point is, this subtest (counterplot if you like) is the thing that the reader brings to the story. This subtext may or may not have anything to do with the story being told. Of course it would have been fascinating to explore the character’s Chancellorship – but this book was plenty long enough as it was, and *it wasn’t just that character’s story*. Etcetera. I wrote the story that I was told, not, perhaps, the story that that particular reader wanted to read. I cannot be apologetic about that.

But coming back to the uniqueness of the tale – I actually stumbled onto the whole idea of nushu, the secret language of the Chinese women on the concept of which my story was based, and I wrote a historical fantasy or alternative history based on that idea. There didn’t seem to be many books with that as the plot bunny around – but less than two years after mine came out, hello, here they all  came – anyone heard of “Snow Flower and the Secret Fan”?

I promise you this – pick up the two books and read them side by side and although they are based on the same idea – i.e. NOT UNIQUE – they could not be more different. Boil down their plots to the distillate, and nushu – or, as I renamed it, jin-ashu – and the bonds it forged between women of a certain geographical and temporal locale are there in both books, and if you rendered the plots of both books into a single sentence, you’d probably find it hard to differentiate between the two of them.

How much more prevalent this is when you look at genre?

Mills and Boons and Harlequin books made a business out of the non-uniqueness of their plots and stories – they had a fricking TEMPLATE which their authors got and were supposed to adhere rigidly to. But even leaving that aside completely, ALL romance shares a certain set of genre requirements.

In a romance, and this defines it, the two protagonists have to be together on practically every page – and if they are not in an actual physical clinch then they must be quarelling with each other, hating each other, thinking obsessively about each other. A happy ending was mandatory (perhaps certain more modern lines have a bit of wiggle room on this, but you could NOT have a self-respecting romance novel where He and She did not end up together happily ever after. Just how unique is ANYONE’s romance? Utterly, I’d say – no two relationships are the same – but when you reduce it to a plot of a novel, it remains Boy Meets Girl, whatever dressing up you apply to the basic mannequin.

In fantasy, my own beloved, things are even more dire, because you have a limited number of tropes which define fantasy – and by definition no fantasy book is truly unique. It is the details that the writer puts in that make it so, the world that is being built, the interaction of the characters. “Lord of the Rings” is emphatically not the same book as Guy Gavriel Kay’s “Tigana” or “A song for Arbonne”; neither of those books bear much resemblance to the work of Kate Eliot, Glenda Larke, or J K Rowling.

But scratch them all hard enough, and the same tropes will bleed out, silvery and scintillating fantasy blood, for it is of quests we speak (personal or chasing after magic rings), and of insurmountable troubles, and often of battles and deaths and mourning, and transcendent love, and betrayal, and pity, and of building up and tearing down, learning to fly and tumbling from the sky, finding one’s own gifts or a place in one’s world, sometimes over dead bodies of those one loved or through tragedy stark enough to drain a human being and leave him or her a creature of stone and poison and ice and fury.

But still, whatever drama we the writers throw at our hapless heroes to make our stories “unique”, it all boils down to that same simple sentence that encapsulates the Plot: SOMETHING IS WRONG.

I’ve seen genre books (SF and fantasy) juxtaposed with so-called literary or mainstream fiction by describing the former as stories where strong and normal and (relatively) well-adjusted people take on broken circumstances, and the latter where broken people deal with ordinary circumstances.

I suppose that, too, is one way of breaking down plot – but once again, even on that basis, there is no such thing as a unique story.  The last certified original idea was seen fleeing for the hills back when humans first started telling stories.

There is no such thing as an original story – for everything is a circle, things that HAVE happened will happen again; things that ARE happening have happened before; human life is human life, and THAT is what our fiction is based on. It has to be. We know no other yardstick.

What I, the writer, owe you, the reader, is a GOOD story, not one that has never been told before. I cannot promise that, or deliver it. And if you come into this relationship seeking that, then we will both wind up disappointed.

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The Power of Magic

Fantasy is a lens which sharpens and clarifies the sliver of reality viewed through it. Magic is one of the tools used to accomplish this, and it’s a powerful one.

Sufficiently advanced magic takes on a reality all of its own and begins to be something believed in on its own terms, with something approaching religious faith. This is possibly why the more fundamental Christian ilk feels so violently threatened by such things as the magic in The Golden Compass or Worldweavers.

They confuse a powerful system of magic being used to shape a fictional story with a potential rival to their own creed and dogma and set of beliefs and a false dichotomy of “people who like and believe THIS cannot possibly believe OUR magic faith and so they must be our enemies”.

I am going to take this one step further. If any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, then any sufficiently advanced magic can be indistinguishable from a religion.

If anything that is beyond our comprehension may be tagged with the word “magic”, then the Christian mythos starts to drip with it – what are miracles if not magic? Changing water into wine? Walking on water? Resurrection, for that matter? But over the course of two thousand years the magic has hardened into a cracked outer shell of dogma. It is no longer the original magic but the recasting of that magic into something useful and controllable by a series of human interpreters who have sought to use it as something that supported their own theory, or grip on power.

Upstairs To The Magic Land illustrationThere is real magic in belief. Sometimes wishing for something hard enough actually does make it come true because the sheer power of the act of visualization often means that you are also working in real-terms for the manifestation of that thing in your life.

I remember reading Richard Bach’s “Illusions: the adventures of a reluctant Messiah” I couldn’t remember the exact title so I just looked it up and this jumped out at me from one of the book’s Amazon reviews: “I’m a Christian, but believe that when you move beyond a literal interpretation of Christ’s words and see the symbolic message in them, it’s not too different from what’s in this book. But that’s a big leap for most Christians and this book will probably make their blood boil.”

True magic lies in weaving together something that is impossible with something that is yearning for the impossible in such a way that the impossible thing becomes not just possible but inevitable.

This is what writers do every day.

What is it that makes magic come alive for the reader? Is it that the writer must believe in it first, and to what degree should that belief be taken – philosophical, empirical, dogmatic? What is it about magic that pulls in the human mind? What are the riptides and the undertows of that wine-dark sea in which we all like to occasionally drown?

What makes magic… for YOU?

The full version of this essay can be read at at Book View Café HERE

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Readers Resource

There are a myriad of websites devoted to books, reading, and readers. Here are just a few for your viewing pleasure. Others will be periodically added to this list. Your additions are welcome. (Click the balloon in the upper right to add comments.)

goodreads
librarything
Online Book Club 
Signature
Litsy
Publishers Weekly
young adultica
Readers’ Favorite

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Quote of the Day

No Tears Frost QUOTE posterA lesson every writer must learn.

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The LEY of the land

I first crossed paths with Joshua Palmatier, who would also go on to write under the name Benjamin Tate, at a con – where else does one make friends who are also writers like oneself, after all?  In the years that have passed since that first meeting, he’s written a number of fabulous books – and he also graciously consented to be part of a project that was very dear to my own heart, the anthology, “River”, which I edited and to which he contributed a story rooted in one of his own fantastical worlds.

He has a new book out. Let him tell you a bit about that, and about himself.

(Bowing out with a gesture introducing my guest blogger for the day, Joshua Palmatier)


The LEY Series

First of all, thanks, Alma, for sharing your blog with me today! I really appreciate it.

Alma asked me to talk about the inspiration, reasoning, and process of writing the LEY series, so blame her.  *grin*

Well the inspiration is easy. I was reading fantasy rather heavily back in the *coughcough* 80s and back then nearly every fantasy novel had ley lines in them. They were mentioned, but never used, basically just part of the background of the world. Maybe someone used a stone monument like Stonehenge or something like that, with ley lines connected to it, but the lines themselves … not much. It was such a cliché that I vowed … VOWED … I would never use ley lines in any of MY books.

Ha ha!  Fast forward 20 years. After long thought, I realized that what bothered me about the mentions of the ley in all of those books back in the 80s was that the authors never really USED the ley.  It was there, but it wasn’t significant, really.

So I started asking myself, how could the ley be used more effectively in a book?  Instead of it being just background, what if it was the focus? What if the people in the fantasy world started to actively use it in their daily lives, tapping into it for things like light and heat and all of the things that we use electricity for? How would this change the society?

And then this idea combined with a few others, most notably the idea that fantasy doesn’t have to be set in a medieval setting. So, if we tapped into the ley, what kind of city could be built with it? And thus the city of Erenthrall was born, where everything is powered by the ley (for those that can afford it) and the ley is, of course, controlled by the Baron, his Wielders, and his Dogs. Because of course it can’t be a utopia.

After that, it just came down to sitting down and writing.  I’m a very organic writer, meaning I don’t plot things out much ahead of time.  I just write and see where everything takes me. For the first book in the ley series, SHATTERING THE LEY, it took me in the direction of how we abuse our natural resources and what the consequences of that might be. In the new book, THREADING THE NEEDLE, my characters are dealing with some of those rather nasty consequences.

That’s generally the process for how all of the ideas for my books are generated.  I have something I think is cool (the ley) and it melds with some other idea (a fantasy with cities like New York) and then the book happens. There’s usually a third idea in there somewhere as well, but if I told you what it was for the LEY series, it would be spoilery. So you’ll just have to check the books out for yourself!  *grin*

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Threading the Needle CoverThreading the Needle

The Nexus—the hub created by the Prime Wielders to harness the magical power of the ley lines for the city of Erenthrall, the Baronial Plains, and the world beyond—has Shattered, the resultant pulse cascading through the system and leaving Erenthrall decimated, partially encased in a massive distortion.
The world has fared no better: auroral storms plague the land, transforming people into creatures beyond nightmare; silver-white lights hover over all of the major cities, the harbinger of distortions that could quicken at any moment; and quakes brought on by the unstable ley network threaten to tear the earth apart. The survivors of this apocalypse have banded together in desperate groups, both in the remains of Erenthall and without, scrounging for food and resources in an ever more dangerous world.

Having survived the initial Shattering, Wielder Kara Tremain and ex-Dog Allan Garrett have led their small group of refugees to the Hollow, a safe haven in the hills on the edge of the plains.  But the ley system is not healing itself. Their only option is to repair the distortion that engulfs Erenthrall and to fix the damaged ley lines themselves. To do that, they’ll have to enter a city controlled by vicious bands of humans and non-humans alike, intent on keeping what little they’ve managed to scavenge together.

But as soon as they enter the streets of Erenthrall, they find themselves caught up in the maelstrom of violence, deception, and betrayal that the city has descended into—including the emergence of a mysterious and powerful cult calling themselves the White Cloaks, whose leader is called Father . . .The same man who once led the terrorist group called the Kormanley and brought about the Shattering that destroyed the world.

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Author Bio:

Joshua Palmatier photoJoshua Palmatier is an epic fantasy writer with a PhD in mathematics. He has had eight novels published by DAW Books, including “The Throne of Amenkor” trilogy, Shattering the Ley, and Threading the Needle. He is currently hard at work on the third novel in the “Ley” series, Reaping the Aurora. In addition, he’s published numerous short stories in various anthologies and has edited four SF&F themed anthologies with co-editor Patricia Bray. He is also the founder of the small press Zombies Need Brains LLC.  Find out more about him at www.joshuapalmatier.com or on Facebook or Twitter (@bentateauthor).

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Additional Information:

Webpage:  www.joshuapalmatier.com

Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/joshua.b.palmatier

Twitter:  @bentateauthor

ZNB Webpage:  www.zombiesneedbrains.com

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Quote of the Day

'Nuf said photo of stone engraving‘Nuf said.

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People people EVERYWHERE

The last days of a Comic-con

I had been hearing distinctive Artoo Detoo chirps and raspberries for a while but I couldn’t quite nail down where they came from – until the next morning, when I noticed a bevy of life-sized R2 units in the concourse.

I raced down to play with them of course.

There’s a picture. I’m leaning over one in a full Leia pose, one hand on its noggin.

Alma and R2-D2 photoDid you say ‘Help me Obi Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope?” someone asked on Facebook, later, upon seeing the photo.

Well, not out LOUD,” I responded primly.

My signing at the University Books booth was at 2 PM and so I presented myself there at that time, together with John Pitts and Robin Hobb, who of course immediately drew a line of people who were telling her how much they loved her books.

A young lady came up to the table where I was sitting, without a book in hand, but with a very earnest expression.

I just wanted to tell you, I love your books, and I think they’re wonderful,” she said, and I got this lovely warm feeling all over. “I think I have them all…

“There’s a brand new one,” I said, lifting ‘Empress’.

I tend to read on Kindle,” she said.

It’s on Kindle,” I assured her.

She lit up. “Thanks!” she said. “Ill look for it!

Other people wandered up with copies of ‘AbductiCon’ or The Were Chronicles books. It wasn’t Nathan Fillion, it wasn’t Robin Hobb, but it was a pleasure.

Cosplay Superpeople photoI made my way through the fairies and the warriors and the hobbits and the wizards and the princesses and the monsters and the superheroes and the gods (and one Sheldon Cooper) and walked those long five blocks back to the hotel where I keeled over. With another book. Which, yes, I finished before bedtime…

The crowds had worn me down and there was no “have-to-see” panel or event on Sunday. It was time to go home.

On the way out, a family of four – Mom, Dad, and two kids, one teenage, one slightly younger – all smiled at me as I stepped into the elevator. They were all wearing lanyards with Comic-Con badges on them. I wasn’t wearing my own badge any more but my T-shirt had a Tribblecentric version of the “Soft Kitty” song that Sheldon Cooper so loves on Big Bang Theory, a crossover of two fandoms, and the Mom of this little family nodded at it.

I’m guessing you’re in sympathy with all this, going by the shirt,” she said, clearly meaning the Comic-Con gestalt we all shared.

I caught the eye of the teenager, and she grinned broadly. I smiled back. The Next Generation.

Ever After

I’m a convention veteran with two World Fantasy Cons under my belt, six Worldcons, and countless other smaller cons across the breadth of the continent. I have badges stuck on a cork board from cons in New York, Wisconsin, Oregon, and Canada, from Vancouver to Toronto and Montreal.

But they’re all tiddlywinks compared to something like this. It was literally the first time I had gone conventioneering with the population of a small TOWN. It was… an interesting experience.

Cosplay Wizards photoThere’s a buzz, something in the air. There’s a knowledge that you can say something weird and crazy and utterly esoteric and be certain that someone will *get it*. It’s a feeling of belonging. It’s a sense of being able to smile at a complete stranger wearing wings or horns or a cut-out shell of BB8 covering her large pregnancy bump or the robes of a Middle Earth Wizard or the uniform of a Star Trek officer or a Spiderman mask, and know that even if you’re wearing none of those things they’ll grin back and know that you’re “in sympathy with all this”. There’s an immensity of inclusion.

But for a cast-iron introvert like me there’s also a weight to it which can become crushing – there is a reason I tend to avoid large crowds. I can spend a limited time in them, amongst them, and then I get the urge to find a quiet corner somewhere to catch my breath and re-collect my scattered energies. I NEEDED to leave that space when I left it because there were PEOPLE EVERYWHERE. The constant stream of people up and down the packed escalators looked like a gush of water from a busted hydrant, unstoppable, powerful, sweeping all away before it. There were moments I was part of it. There were moments that it was imperative that I *get out of its way*. It was an exhilarating but also very draining three days.

Am I glad I did it? Oh yeah. I asked Maleficent to excuse me when I stepped on the trailing edge of her cloak on an escalator. I hugged an Artoo unit. I watched a Unicorn playing a fiddle out in the sunshine of a convention center courtyard. I caught a glimpse of a Captain Mal smile. I met some of my own fans at the book signing.

I’m glad I did this.

Tomorrow: How Comic-con came to be. A history

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Surrealism in Seattle

My first Comic-con: Friday, Day 2

The closer I got to the Convention Center the more surreal the streets became. Pirates. Boba Fetts. Lots of Reys, of different ages and sizes, the youngest maybe not yet seven, the oldest possibly older than ME. SCADS of Spidermen (that was the thing for some reason. Lots and lots of those.) Fairy princesses. People painted green. Star Trek crews from different eras. A dog made up to look like an Ewok.

All flowing towards the center of gravity. ECCC in full bloom.

I had asked someone the previous day how many people they thought were there.

About 50,000,” I was told. “And you wait. This is just the first day.”

On Friday I heard revised estimates. 80,000, maybe 85,000. I was an ant in an anthill. Some of the ants were mousy, like me, but some were truly spectacular. I started taking pictures.
Eccc Hall Crowds photoThe signing queue in front of the booth where the star attraction, Nathan Fillion, was signing autographs was a heaving mass of hundreds of souls. I contemplated joining them but the price of admission was a little too rich. I don’t think I’m ever going to be convinced that $80 for the price of a signature was a prerequisite for getting within eyeball distance of anyone.

I remember the Worldcon in Japan where they had George Takei doing much the same thing – but there I simply joined a queue and when I got to the front I spoke a few words to him and shook his hand and that was enough – there wasn’t a requirement for money to change hands.

I just drifted on the edges a bit, saw Captain Mal flash that brilliant grin at someone else at the front of the line, and went on my way.

I did go to another signing. I had bought a copy of Matt Ruff’s latest book, “Lovecraft Country”, the previous day, and finished reading it that night. (and LOVED it.) After getting my copy autographed and chatting with him until the next fan stepped forward, I pressed on.

There was a 3-D scanner for people. You could climb in and be full-body-scanned, and then they could print a figurine of you from that. The scan was free, you could decide later if you wanted to buy the action figure, so I had myself 3-D scanned. How very futuristic.

And then there was the artist R.K. Milholland sitting at his booth chatting to a friend until I smiled at a sign that he had there in front of him: ‘I DO FREE SKETCHES FOR NICE PEOPLE.’

You want one?” he asked.

I don’t know, am I nice enough?”

He grinned. “Well, you haven’t pissed me off yet.

He hauled out a piece of white card. Wolf boy cartoon

So what do you want me to draw?”

In honor of The Were Chronicles, I requested a Were creature, half boy, half wolf. He quickly drew this hilarious caricature, and then broke me up completely by putting in a speech bubble above the creature he drew, who had an expression of pure comical consternation, which bore the single word,

….Help.”

I took more pictures.

I bought a T-shirt with the picture of a cat drawn WITH NUMBERS. Which portrayed the maths of the Uncertainty Principle. The cat, of course, was Schrodinger’s.

I saw a panel that looked interesting but by the time I decided I wanted in, the panel had been declared full and I was turned away. .

My usual affliction was starting to present itself. Namely, I have wretched feet. No matter what shoe I put on, I will end up with a blister SOMEWHERE. The one I was beginning to cultivate this time was getting painful. I found a first aid station and, like my wolf-boy, I said “…Help.”

No problem,” said the first-aid person. He applied a thin gel-like thing over the enormous blister that had developed on the side of my foot and then put a massive oversize bandage to go over that. “You are definitely not the first person to present yourself here with that problem!” he added cheerfully.

I had a standing dinner engagement back at the hotel with friends, so I retreated from the Center in good time to limp back to the hotel slowly and carefully. After they left, I went back up to my room and finished another book. Yeah I know. I read at the speed of summer lightning…

Day 1 can be found HERE

Tomorrow: Day 3

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Batman and the Redshirt photoI didn’t see this guy at the ECCC.but  I’m sorry I missed him.

Redshirt killed by every character in history

“Go to any big sci-fi convention,” Gavia Baker-Whitelaw writes at Dailydot.com, “and you’re guaranteed to see a few people dressed as the red-shirted security officers from Star Trek’s original series. It’s a simple costume that provides a built-in theme for cosplay photos: getting horribly killed, which was the primary role of Star Trek’s redshirts.

“Cosplayer Tim Adam has perfected the art and has built up a massive gallery of imaginative redshirt death crossovers with other cosplayers from Marvel to Star Wars to Mad Max: Fury Road.

Go to Dailydot.com to read more HERE

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The geeks and the nerds

My first Comic-con: Day 1

My knowledge of the comic-con phenomenon came from the legends of my tribe, the nerds and the geeks and the science fiction and fantasy people of this world.

The people who can quote you chapter and verse from the canon of half a dozen iconic shows, who have read all the books and know everything there is to know, who are lovingly familiar with all the characters and all the worlds and who do not grudge the time and the money it takes to reproduce those characters in eye watering detail in the halls of the convention center.

I knew this at one remove but I was a comic-con virgin until I accepted a ‘Pro-Pass’ invitation to attend the Emerald City Comicon in Seattle.

I also knew that it was going to be vivid and big and crowded and wall-to-wall-peopled with others who love the things I love. I have to admit that there was a frisson or two because large crowds have always been tough for me to handle, they suck strength and vim from me, and there is usually only so much of a thoroughly crowded place I can take before I start wildly looking for quiet boltholes.

But it is part of geek-cred to do Comic-con, at least one Comic-con, at least once. And here was this one in my back yard – there it was. And there I was going to be.
I drove down to Seattle on Thursday, April 7, Opening Day. They were still not quite a going concern when I got there, with various escalators in the Convention Center being guarded by fierce staffers herding eager con-goers with the wrong kinds of badges — there are several different kinds of badges, and oh boy do they matter — away from the area not yet open.

In the Main Stage area, the drifting populace clumped into a heaving, impatient, queueing mass, a low undertow of chattering squawking occasionally roaring humanity underlying the music played over loudspeakers as they waited for the doors to the main show floor to open at 3 PM – and flowing through those doors like a human river as soon as they were flung wide. I had a bagful of books to deliver to the University Books booth, so I took one of the forbidden escalators to the sixth level as soon as they were opened up and divested myself of those.

Then, exploring the two different levels of Show Floor, I plunged into Huckster Heaven.
Huckster Exploding Kitten photoWhat didn’t they sell at Comic-con? T-shirts, of course, but also Batman bikinis and Superman bathrobes; chocolate mounded into Daleks and the Tardis and Weeping Angels and the Death Star and sonic screwdrivers and eyeballs and brains; every possible kind of stuffed ANYTHING, from Hello Kitty and Kittchthulhu to plush Dust Mites (I kid you not) and sloths and various Manga like critters whom I did not quite recognize and Gothified plushied versions of characters who ALMOST looked familiar but were desperately not quite there; artwork of every description from 2-D posters and prints through figurines, electronic LED flashing things, sculptures that were sometimes quite breathtaking, hand-made leather journals that made me drool over their pure beauty…

Take a breath:
Huckster BRIGHT Booth photo….books, geek-heaven mix-and-match DIY backpacks which you could build out of different bit parts like luggage lego; masks and wigs and cat ears oh my; games (one crowdfunded one which went by the name Exploding Kittens and came in kiddie and R-U-Old-Enough shrink-wrapped versions; mugs; vast piles of comics; things for the making of comics and art (pens, brushes, paints, notebooks, paper); music; craftsman beer; things that had no business being made out of Legos but still impossibly made out of Legos; booths which sold… things…Huckster Cat Ears photo
which were an explosion of color, like a unicorn had wandered past and vomited up a rainbow; endearing ceramic creatures which made you smile just to look at them; fairy things and dragon things and flame-thrower things and wand things and soft things and fascinating things, and ….
I wandered through in a daze, watching one young woman counting out $95 dollars without blinking and handing it over to a booth holder in exchange for a bag stuffed with stuff – and this was THURSDAY, the con was barely open. I wanted so many things. I didn’t buy anything, heroically, at all, at least in those first few hours. But it WAS heroic. There were dollar signs dancing in the crowded aisles between the tables. The air was green with them.

I stopped at a booth (wo)manned by a Facebook friend of mine, who was talking to another woman, and patiently looked at art until they both looked over. And then the other woman, the customer, frowned and said,

But I know you. From Norwescon, right?”

Not this year,” I said.

No, but from Norwescon. You write books. About, I don’t know what was it, magical spam…?”

Spellspam, yes,” I said, supplying the name of one of my Worldweavers Young Adults..

I have your books,” she announced triumphantly. “I LIKE your books.

I meandered on smiling.

I ended up, a little footsore, at the Cheesecake Factory restaurant right next door to the Convention Center, and had dinner over a brisk conversation with two women about women and comics (oh STRAIGHT out of Big Bang Theory! They even discussed Thor, just like the BBT girls!) and after a very nice dinner dragged myself two blocks down and five across back to my hotel.

Tomorrow: Day 2

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QUOTE

If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time—or the tools—to write.” — Stephen King

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