Friday, 30 January 2015

Interview: Joshua Palmatier

Joshua Palmatier on a good hair day.
Today's author is Joshua Palmatier, author of The Throne of Amenkor series, as well as a whole lotta other good books. Josh was kind enough to sit still long enough for me to ask him a few questions.

1.      HWK: I remember reading “The Skewed Throne” and enjoying it.  Of all your novels, which one is your favourite and why?

JP:  Hmm . . . well, there something in each of them that I love, otherwise I wouldn’t have written them, but I think I’d have to say “The Skewed Throne” is my favorite.  This may be because it was the first novel that I managed to get published, so there’s a ton of high level emotion involved in the book just from that.  Getting that phone call from my agent saying DAW was interest in it, getting the contracts, seeing it for the first time on the shelf at Barnes & Noble—all of those things were new experiences and had a huge impact on me.  But I’d also say that it’s because of the main character, Varis.  I like Varis.  She’s tough, stronger than she thinks, and yet at the same time vulnerable and can be easily hurt.  She’s a survivor.  I like her practicality and perseverance and that no nonsense attitude.  She’s a good person, even though she’s done some terrible things.  I love all of my other main characters, too, of course, but she’s probably the most ruthless of them all.

2.       HWK: What is the greatest thing you have learned as an author?

JP:  Probably that the industry is rough and that, as Kate Elliott once told me, you have to persevere.  Persistence is the key.  There are going to be some highs, but there are also going to be lows, and no matter how great your book is, that doesn’t mean anything when it hits the market (or the agent or the editor).  There are so many factors that go into whether a book is a success or not (or gets sold or not) that you’re going to take some lumps occasionally and you just can’t let those lows get you down.  They will, of course—you’ll be depressed, think you’re a hack, that your writing sucks, etc—but that’s a normal reaction.  You have to pick yourself back up and keep writing.  You have to believe in your writing, that it SHOULD be out there, and that eventually it will be and that it will be recognized.  It’s all about persistence, not just in getting that first novel published, but afterwards as well.

3.       HWK: You have a PhD in Mathematics.  (My second daughter would love you, as that’s her favourite subject.)  Only the truly dedicated (or insane) pursue PhDs.  What do you love about mathematics?

JP:  Well, there’s the benefit that I can use it to get a day job and thus pay my bills, because the writing certainly doesn’t come close to doing that.  Yet.  But it’s more than that, of course.  I’ve always loved mathematics.  It just MAKES SENSE.  And early on, I realized that I was pretty damn good at explaining it to others so that it made sense to them.  So I decided, in sixth grade, that I’d be a math teacher.  (It wasn’t until eighth grade that I decided to be a writer.)  A little later, I decided I’d rather teach at the college level, which of course required the PhD.  There’s a simplicity and perfection about mathematics that I enjoy, a reason for everything, and once you see that, it becomes easy.  Getting people to see that simplicity is the problem.

4.       HWK: In life, what can’t you live without?

Chocolate.  HA!  But seriously, let’s see . . . No, it’s pretty much chocolate.

5.       HWK: If you can talk about it, what’s your next planned project?  Otherwise, what’s your latest project?

My current project is the sequel to SHATTERING THE LEY, called THREADING THE NEEDLE.  It continues the story set up in LEY, which revolves around a society that has tapped into the ley lines as a power source and has used it to build up large cities, the Wielders of the ley sowing towers in a single day, creating flying barges, etc.  Think London or New York City, but with everything being powered by the ley.  In LEY, the Baron controls the ley using his vicious Dogs as a military force and tight control of the Wielders themselves.  But of course there are those that want to break the Baron’s hold on this power, including the barons that control the surrounding cities.  LEY is all about how the Baron’s control is broken.

So THREADING THE NEEDLE picks up almost immediately after that, with the people of the city of Erenthrall that the Baron controlled picking up the pieces.  The Nexus that the Prime Wielders used to control and augment the power of the ley has shattered and various groups are now vying for the power and for the resources left over in the ruined city.  But the destruction of the Nexus has damaged the natural order of the ley, creating massive distortions that envelop entire cities, auroral lights that wreak havoc with reality wherever they appear, and seismic quakes brought on by the natural ley trying to reestablish itself.  In NEEDLE, we follow the main characters from LEY—Kara and Allan—as they attempt to keep their friends and family alive in this dangerous new world, while at the same time try to heal the ley . . . before it tears their world completely apart.

I’m writing the last few chapters of THREADING THE NEEDLE right now (I’m actually at the final big scene).  I’m hoping that I can get this revised and handed in so that it appears this year from DAW Books.  After that . . . hopefully I can start work on the third book in the series, REAPING THE AURORA.  Also in the works this year is another anthology project co-edited by Patricia Bray and myself called TEMPORALLY OUT OF ORDER, with stories about objects or gadgets that are acting “temporally” out of order, as opposed to temporarily.  I think the stories for this anthology are going to be loads of fun.

6.       HWK: Which of your novels would you want new fans to read first?

I’d like fans to start at the beginning, with the “Throne of Amenkor” trilogy—comprised of THE SKEWED THRONE, THE CRACKED THRONE, and THE VACANT THRONE—mostly because I’d rather people read the books in the order that they were written and appeared in print.  I’d like to think my writing has improved over time, and I’d hate to have someone read a later book, love it, then grab an earlier book and be disappointed with the writing.  But there’s another reason as well:  that trilogy is completed.  You can get all three books and read them BAM! BAM! BAM! Without a wait.  There’s a certain satisfaction in that kind of reading experience.  *grin*

7.       HWK: One final question where you can preach to your heart’s content:  If you could convince the world of one thing, what would it be?

JP:  To read more!  Not necessarily my books, but I don’t think people are reading as much as they should and I don’t think they realize how much it improves . . . well, pretty much everything about their lives.  And it’s not that they need to be reading “classics” or all of those “good” books suggested in English classes and whatnot.  They can read anything.  But I’m probably preaching to the choir here, so I’ll just leave it at that.  *grin*

Find Joshua on Goodreads, the Web, and his LiveJournal. Haven't read any of his books? You can get The Skewed Throne on Amazon, Kobo Books, and pretty much anywhere good books are sold.

Monday, 26 January 2015

Australia: home of women with attitude

Happy Australia Day!

Australians have figured out that they can do whatever the heck the want.This attitude has been handed down from generation to generation.

It's this same attitude that got many of the First Fleet sent here.

For example, take one Mary Bryant. Descended of Cornish fisherman's stock, she decided she wanted a better life than that of a fishwife, so she turned highwaywoman. Eventually she got caught for petty theft and sentenced to transportation to Australia. Not satisfied with her imprisonment, she and a few other fellow convicts escaped. Later they got caught and transported back to England.

That's an Aussie for you. Don't like what you've got? Do something about it.

If you're Aussie, you've definitely heard about Edith Cowan. She's on the AU$50 note. If you're not Aussie, you've probably not heard of her, and that's your loss.

Edith Cowan was born on Glengarry Station near Geraldton, Western Australia. (My condolences, Edith.)  Anyhow, she was lucky enough to escape country life and ended up at school in Perth.

As she grew up, she got her feminist ire on over social injustices in the legal system where women and children were concerned. Also, someone needed to get uppity about issues such as education, welfare, women's health and more. Women needed empowerment. For Edith, education was the key. she wanted a place where women "educated themselves for the kind of life they believed they ought to be able to take."

So, she set about starting or supporting organisations for the benefit of women: the Karrakatta Club, King Edward Memorial Hospital for Women, Women's Service Guilds and National Council of Women, for starters.

She got elected to Parliament in Western Australia, where she was most vocal over women's issues, successfully pushing through much legislation regarding women in law careers, women's voting rights, women's family rights and more. Good on ya, lass! Ta muchly.

So what'd we do? We built her a clock, a university (which I have attended), and stuck her face on our money.

You really need to learn more about this most excellent lady

Meanwhile, here's 22 Australian Women who will inspire the heck out of you.

Her Grace wishes the $50 note wasn't such an ugly colour.

Friday, 23 January 2015

The Interview

There is no such thing as an "official" selfie.
Back when I was more active on the Online Writing Workshop discussion groups, I liked to welcome new members and ask them a few silly questions. In actuality the questions were designed to give us an insight into the new member.

There were five questions. Also, rice bowls were mandatory, straitjackets optional.

Thus, we wanted to know:

  • What animal are you?
  • Who are the cats who own you?
  • What is your chocolate preference?
  • What are your views on Star Trek?
  • What lurks in the back of your fridge?

We had a lot of fun with these questions. Not once did we ever get a bit of side-eye with, "Why are you asking those questions?" We asked these questions because they were fun, and my fellow authors got that.

I've missed interviewing my fellow authors, so I'm going to start doing that again. Authors are fascinating people, because their inner world is so populated with marvelous stories and diverse characters. I'll be asking some serious questions (me pretending to be all adult) but will throw in a few fun ones besides.

You know what else we have now that we didn't have fifteen years ago? The silly selfie. So many authors have such professional (and serious!) author portraits. Me, I want to see my fellow authors have some fun. Bring on the duckfaces!

Her Grace would like to know how you would answer the above questions. Remember, there are no wrong answers.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Subtle Differences

(Wherein Her Grace indulges in a plethora of parentheses.)

I love escapist fiction. It's what I write, it's what I read.

I tend to avoid subjects that are too close to my real life. I get enough of that in my contemporary living. Any wonder I want to escape?

Yet today I found myself reading a blog post about my faith (granted, it was written by a respectable fellow escapist fiction author).  I tend to avoid most un-official stuff about my faith online, as eventually it leads to crazy sauce in the comments. (And yet, here I am writing the very post I tend not to read.)

I love my faith. I indulge in my faith in little things throughout my day, then I go in big time on Sundays. Needless to say, I am thoroughly sated. To then spend my free time also reading other people's opinions on my faith is overkill and I tend to burn out. Bad thing.

So yeah, as I read this rather good post (and only the one), I saw a banner ad (so NOT the author's fault) with a model in a T-shirt that said, "I can't. I'm Mormon."

Dude!  Really?  This is NOT the best way to promote one's faith. Nobody really wants to belong to a faith that's restrictive and prohibitive (unless you get a kick out of that sort of thing).

Besides, this is completely NOT how the Latter-Day Saint faith works. We're all about the Moral Agency.

Moral Agency is the freedom to make our own choices. All choices come with consequences, which is why Moral Agency is such a powerful thing. All of our teachings are about the choices we have in this life. We encourage the world to choose the choices that will lead to good consequences, not only for ourselves, but for those around us. (You know, the whole 'Love the Lord,' 'Love thy neighbor', 'Love one another' thing.) We also warn that poor choices lead to bad consequences and misery.

We don't want our fellow men to be miserable.

So when I see a T-shirt like this, I must get all huffy and step outside my usual scribatory practices and Say Something. (It's the feminist in me.)

To say, "I can't" is subscribing yourself to woe. "I can't" implies you do not have a choice. "I can't" has a sort of wistfulness about it, a powerlessness. "I can't" suggests that, if you could, you absolutely would, but it's only your big bad nasty religion that's holding you down.

Do you really want to send this kind of message about a faith you claim to believe in?

Wise Mormons know that it's not "I can't", but "I won't."

"I won't" supports the practice of Moral Agency. "I won't" means a decision has been made, and the maker has the stuff and balls to stick with their decision. Sure, they can change their mind if they want.  But if they have made a decision and wish to stick with it, I support them in that right.

Next time you find yourself saying "I can't," consider changing it to "I won't."

Fr'ex, "I can't go out there. There are wolves!"  vs. "I won't go out there. There are wolves."

Which phrase sounds like it was uttered by a cowardly yellow chicken, and which one sounds like it was uttered by a wise woman who is not going to get eaten by wolves?

Now, there are a few things in my faith that are not recommended as wise choices--alcohol and promiscuity, to name two. These come up all the time in the "You Mormons can't do that" conversations.

Well, actually, we could do those things, but we choose not to. We choose freedom from the negative consequences of those actions.

What a lot of Gentiles may not realise is that my faith actively encourages good decisions, such as eat a healthy diet (so that you may "run and not be weary, walk and not faint"), gain an education, indulge in service towards your fellow beings, be a force for good in the world, that sort of thing.

So don't get hung up on all the stuff Mormons "can't" do, because there's an awful lot of stuff we can do.

Her Grace will read biographies, but only if the person has been dead at least a hundred years.

Monday, 19 January 2015

Computing: a woman's industry

In my Daye Jobbe, I work in the computer industry. For the most part, this industry, (like many of the STEM subjects) tends to have more men than women

However, did you know that the first computer programmer was a woman?

Ada Lovelace was a mathematician in the early 19th Century who derived the first algorithm to be used by a machine. That's computer programming, folks.

This is what the first computer program looked like:

While the above algorithm may seem simple, Her Grace marvels that someone thought of it first. Go Ada!

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Time for a change

Yeah. The hot pink was starting to get to me. Could also be I am in need of a nap.

Blue is so much nicer. You like? I hope so, because I'm not going back to pink.

Meanwhile, here is some Randomosity for you:

  • Comet Lovejoy is visible by the naked eye, of only just. Make the most of it before it fades from view.
  • This Cherry Port Sauce goes well with kangaroo.
  • Risky Regency presents King's College and the Coventry Carol. I really ought to learn the words. I've been playing this music in various orchestras my whole life.
  • Geocaching: worldwide treasure hunt.
  • How to install a zipper:

...because why should we throw out our favourite clothes when the zipper breaks?

Her Grace has done all these things in the past two weeks.

Friday, 16 January 2015

Beauty in Poetry

I've got such a romantic heart. I'm a sucker for poetry, even when it's not April.
Lord Byron, the original emo.

"She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that's best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes:
Thus mellow'd to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies."

Tell me this isn’t one of the world’s most beautiful poems. Go read the rest of it, and imagine yourself on a Regency balcony under a starry sky with the scent of roses wafting on the gentle summer breeze. Ah, Byron, you darkly romantic soul, you.

I also love Fire and Ice by Robert Frost:

"Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice."

Her Grace would like to hear some of your favourite poetry.