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So, the first ever short story written by Joshua Palmatier has finally been published in the anthology Close Encounters of the Urban Kind. The story is called Mastihooba and is based (like all of the stories in the anthology) on a local urban myth. Mine is about a man named Masty Huba who is the equivalent of a boogeyman. The thing about this anthology is that all of the urban myths have some kind of alien twist to them. So Mastihooba is more than just a boogeyman. Bwahahahaha!

In any case, the anthology is NOW AVAILABLE! So head on over here and order it directly from the publisher, Apex, or you can get it from if you'd like. I still haven't gotten a copy of this yet, although I'm expecting it any day now since I preordered some. I'll be interested to see what everyone else came up with for their own stories.

And since I'm pushing my books, I may as well push the Throne of Amenkor series as well. I have copies on hand here and getting them into someone else's hands would be a plus. So, here are the deals:

Hardcovers: Individually, the books are $15 each (including shipping in the US). If you'd like the entire series in hardcover, then they're at the discounted rate of $30 (including shipping in the US). I can sign and personalize them however you'd like.

Paperbacks: Individually, the books are $8 each (including shipping in the US). If you'd like the entire series in paperback, then they're at the discounted rate of $20 (including shipping in the US). I can sign and personalize them however you'd like.

Email me at if you're interested in the Throne of Amenkor books and we can discuss payment and signatures. I do have Paypal, so that's an option as well. If you're from outside the US, I can find out how much the shipping would be to see if you're still interested.

But in the meantime, watch out for Close Encounters of the Urban Kind!
joshuapalmatier: VacantThrone (Default)
I read Robin Hobb's first series, The Farseer Trilogy, quite a while ago and loved the first two book enough to propel me through the third while still wanting to read anything else that Robin Hobb wrote. I managed to get The Liveship Traders series at the time in hardcover . . . but then lost the first two books in a flood. It's taken me a while to get back to Robin Hobb now, but I'm glad that I did.

Ship of Magic is the first book in the series and it takes up the threads of numerous lives in and around the port city of Bingtown, focusing mostly on the Vestrit family, one of the Old Trading Families in the town. These traders have magical ships called Liveships because . . . well, the ship itself is alive through the quickening of a special kind of wood. Here, we get to see one of the Liveships quicken on the death of its captain and the resultant chaos that comes from the death. The entire family is shaken to its foundation as the will is read and not everything that everyone had planned came to be. In addition to following members of the family and the ship itself, we also follow the life of a pirate, which becomes entangled with that of the Liveship late in the novel.

What I liked about the book was that the worldbuilding was lush and detailed. Bingtown and the ships, the coastline and the crews, everything was given life, so that you really felt as if you were a part of these people's lives as you read. The world felt real, and it held just enough mystery that I wanted to know more. The characters also felt real, each of them distinct and each of them vying for something that they desperately wanted. Their motivations were clear, and I could easily see how the circumstances of their lives would change due to events mostly outside of their control, as well as due to their own decisions at key moments.

However, sometimes their choices didn't always make sense. A few characters do things for reasons that aren't always clear and that make the situation much worse, not only for one of the other characters, but for themselves as well. This didn't happen that often, but in the few cases where it did, it felt wrong. Not all of the characters are likeable, and I actually liked that, but the characters that aren't likeable still need to act in their own self-interests.

I also felt that in some spots the highly detailed worldbuilding could have been cut and trimmed down. This is an 800 page paperback, and I felt it could probably have been trimmed down to about 600 pages without really loosing the cool world and characterization that much. Characters spend a lot of time explaining to themselves (and thus us) what they're thinking, which wasn't always necessary in that amount of detail. I'm not sure the plotline really needed that much detail get us to where we end up by the end of the first book.

But that said, I'm immediately moving on to the next book. Because the world IS interesting and I DO want to find out what happens to some (perhaps not all) of these characters, how their lives intertwine and eventually affect one another. Definitely a book and an author I'd recommend.
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So this Thursday I will be getting up, teaching, then climbing on a plane an flying to Seattle to attend NORWESCON!!! I've attended this con for the last five years . . . I think. At least four. I started going the year before The Skewed Throne came out, because DAW was the guest publisher. And I have friends and relatives in Seattle I could visit while there. I loved the con--which contains a literary track, costume track, and game track, everyone getting along with everyone else--and so have returned again and again. For those in the area (or not), I highly recommend it!

And for those attending, here's my schedule:

Friday, April 2nd:

10:00 a.m.: Don't Say It, Have the Characters Say It

How can you avoid big blocks of narrative data-dump? By having characters
dump the data! Come join our panelists as we discuss different ways to have
the characters do the telling, while the author just does the writing.
Joshua Palmatier (M, hmm I should probably prepare for this), Alma Alexander, A.M. Dellamonica, Jean Johnson, Kevin Radthorne

9:00 p.m.: Hey, Check out the Sex Scene in My Fantasy

Writers discuss the challenges and rewards of writing sex scenes. What do
you need to construct believable sex scenes? How can you tell when they are
a necessary addition to the plot? Is it O.K. to just be hot? How explicit do you need to be to best serve your story? Examples may be read aloud, so use your judgment if you are easily embarrassed. Greg Cox (M), Mark Henry, Joshua Palmatier, Eden Robins

Saturday, April 3rd:

9:00 a.m.: Building a Balanced Mythos

When building a religion for your world, how do you make it balanced and
plausible without riffing off of existing religions? How will myth and
religion impact your plot and motivate your characters? Why should there be several types of belief systems on a world? Mary Robinette Kowal (M), Jason Henninger, Joshua Palmatier, Mary Rodgers

6:00 - 6:30 p.m.: Reading: Joshua Palmatier

"Mastihooba," SF Horror short story, Rated: PG; Joshua Palmatier


The "Mastihooba" short story I'll be reading from comes from the anthology Close Encounters of the Urban Kind, edited by Jennifer Brozek, and is being released on April 4th. I've been told that there will be copies of the anthology for sale at the con. You can preorder the anthology here if you're interested. Or pick it up at the con!

I haven't heard anything about an autographing session, but if you find me at the con at some point, I'm more than happy to autograph books or anthologies for you. They don't even have to be mine! *grin*

Hope to see you all there!
joshuapalmatier: VacantThrone (Default)
Before I begin, I just want to say that this anthology has, so far, been the best DAW anthology I’ve read. The stories were all consistently good and engrossing, drawing me in and holding me in each alternate reality. Kudos to the editors, Nick Gevers & Jay Lake, for putting such a stellar anthology together, and kudos to the writers for coming up with such interesting alternate Earths. I’ve indicated the two stories I thought were the strongest, but of course that’s my personal opinion. It was harder picking out these two this time though.

Table of Contents:

This Peaceable Land, or, the Unbearable Vision of Harriet Beecher Stowe by Robert Charles Wilson: A good story about what might have happened if the Civil War had never occurred. The tone and the potential consequences of this alternate reality are perfect and utterly believable, which makes what happens in the story that much more disturbing. It took a while of reading before you realize why the story is “alternate,” but otherwise a great story.

The Goat Variations by Jeff VanderMeer: In this story, we get to see a variety of alternate Earths, all centered around what the president (of an alternate Earth) was doing and thinking before and during the seven minutes of silence after receiving word about what had happened on September 11th, 2001. We get to see these reactions because of what happened in this alternate Earth, where a machine has been invented that alters the mind of the current president so he can see these other realities. A cool idea, and an interesting take on the theme of the anthology, although I’m not convinced the story resolved itself as well as it could have. However, it was haunting at a gut level.

The Unblinking Eye by Stephen Baxter: In this story, the alternate reality is one in which the Europeans never discover the Americas, thus giving the Incas a chance to rise to supremacy. However the story is told from the perspective not of the high and mighty and powerful, but from a commoner’s level. I liked the way the events unfolded, and the revelation of what the Unblinking Eye truly was, and felt this story (though complete and satisfying here) could be expanded into a much larger story.

Csilla’s Story by Theodora Goss: In this story, the Earth isn’t as altered to as great an extent as some of the other stories. Here, it’s pretty much our own Earth, but with a particular race of possibly magical gypsy-like people living and surviving under great prejudice, even though the truest members of their group have green hair and bleed silver blood. This actually contains many smaller stories, since the main story is about preserving their heritage even though they are hunted down and persecuted wherever they live. A good story though.

Winterborn by Liz Williams: This is probably the most far-fetched of the “alternate” Earths in this anthology, with the premise being that magic in Britain is real and that the faerie realm still interacts heavily with our own world, to the extent that the current queen is from faerie herself. The main story revolves around a young woman who can speak to those who have died in the waters of the rivers in and around London. Through these resources, she learns of an imminent attack through magical means on London and the queen. I loved the descriptions of the magic and the use of how humans take over and control the lands around us, to the extent that we “relocate” rivers to suit our own needs and how this could come back and bite us in the ass. Another good story, although I do think it stretches the general premise of the anthology a little thin. *grin*

Donovan Sent Us by Gene Wolfe: Here, the alternate Earth is one in which the Germans have won the second World War because the Americans never got involved. The story centers around an attempt to rescue Churchill from the prison camps in Britain after the Germans have taken over. The story certainly draws you in, and the ending is shocking. Not what you’re expecting as you work through the story at all.

The Holy City and Em’s Reptile Farm by Greg van Eekhout: This story is the wildest alternate Earth of them all, with everything you can think of turned on its head and introduced without explanation and without qualms either. Las Vegas is basically a religious mecca, with all the glitz and glam it possesses now, but with the religion turned on its head. There are camels alongside cars, religious zealots and thieves in the Holy City. But all of this is sideline world detail. The main story is about a young woman trying to save her family’s reptile farm by going to the Holy City to win a religious artifact in a lottery. It doesn’t turn out as she expected.

The Receivers by Alastair Reynolds: In this alternate Earth, the war goes on longer than expected, which interrupts the lives of some famous musicians. Yet the music these musicians would have created calls to them through one of their new jobs to help with the war effort. It’s a sad story in some respects, and yet uplifting at the end. A much more personal story, more about the characters and their missed opportunities rather than the way the Earth was altered.

A Family History by Paul Park: This story was interesting in that it was speculation from the perspective of the narrator, along the lines of “if this hadn’t happened, and this hadn’t happened, . . .” etc. I didn’t find this worked well for me, however once the narrator settled into a particular story thread for a particular set of speculations, I got involved in the story. It basically presented two alternate possibilities for a certain character. Why the narrator is so interested in this particular character and what could have happened to him doesn’t become clear until the end. It still didn’t feel as fully developed as it could have been.

Dog-eared Paperback of My Life by Lucius Shepard: The main premise behind this story isn’t that a significant event (or insignificant, even) happened differently, but instead that a bunch of alternate Earths have converged. An author discovers a book by himself that he never wrote, which is the beginning of his discovery that these different versions of the Earth sometimes meet, sometimes briefly, sometimes not. This is a 90 page “short” story, and I felt that the beginning could have moved a little faster. Mostly, though, the main character isn’t really someone that you’re supposed to like all that much, which makes it hard to be concerned about him. You’re mostly reading to discover what happens with the idea of the story, not the character.

Nine Alternate Alternate Histories by Benjamin Rosenbaum: This isn’t so much a story as it is a potential list of ways in which we could interpret the idea of an “alternate” history. It was interesting reading, and the different types of alternate histories presented were interesting to think about, but I still wouldn’t call it a “story” per se.
joshuapalmatier: VacantThrone (Default)
I finished this a little while ago actually and haven't had a chance to write up a review until now. So here goes:

I liked this second edition of the LEAGUE universe much better than the first, possibly because it had a much more coherent plotline to follow and it focused alot more on the characters of the LEAGUE. While the first volume was mostly about gathering the group together, followed by a short plot involving the cadamite (or whatever), this one started with the main plot thread and kept that thread throughout, weaving the character development into that.

And the plot was interesting and engaging, starting with the first chapter--a montage to everything Mars from literature. Very nice artwork throughout this entire chapter, even if there were a few questions brought up by said artwork (such as what's the rule about breathing martian air, anyways; sometimes it seems they can, other times they wear masks). Very nice chapter, which leads directly into chapter 2 with the introduction of the League into the plot. Once again, we have numerous different literary figures making appearances, which is one of the cool aspects of the League world. I don't want to spoil any of that, so I won't say any more there.

Instead, I'll focus on what I felt was the best part of the entire novel: the characters. We get much more with the relationship between Mina and Quartermain. Perhaps too much, in some chapters. But the relationship that stands out and that held my attention throughout was that of Hyde and Griffin. We get to see exactly how nasty these two can get, and reading about it was what kept me riveted to the book. To the point where I felt that this was really what the novel was all about. I felt that Chapter 5, where all of this comes to a head, was really the high point of the novel, even though Chapter 6 is the one in which the main plot thread finally gets resolved.

And that's where the book was a little bit of a let down: the final chapter. The confrontation between Hyde and the monsters was great, but it still felt anticlimactic to what happened in Chapter 5 between Hyde and Griffin. And the rest of the resolution (I'm not saying much here because it would spoil the novel) certainly didn't measure up to Chapter 5. The final few pages dealing with Mina and Quartermain's relationship felt rushed as well.

So in the end, I loved the graphic novel overall. There was some really good artwork (and some really bad, to be honest, but mostly good) and the characterization was spectacular, to the detriment of the main plot unfortunately. I've already gone ahead and bought the rest of the LEAGUE universe books (1910 and the Black Dossier) and will definitely read them as well.

Extras: At the end of the book there are a bunch of extras, including a rather dense "atlas" of the world. I started reading this and almost put it down because it was TOO dense and didn't seem to be adding much to the novel except for some satisfaction when a particular literary reference was one that I knew. However I persevered and was rewarded when instead of doing place after place after place (as in the first few chapters), the authors began weaving in accounts of the places from the League characters' journals. In fact, a small story began to develop. That story is really the only reason to read this extra--aside from those few moments of recognition. The additional cover art and such is always interesting as well.
joshuapalmatier: VacantThrone (Default)
I made a rather hard decision yesterday, with the help of some friends. See, I've signed a contract with DAW for a few more books, which is great! However, that means I need to, you know, actually produce the books. Hopefully good books. So since the beginning of the year I've been working on two of them. One of them is due months before the other. The problem is that the book I'm caught up in and is basically writing itself . . . is not the one that's due next.


In any case, I'm working on the next book. And I'm working and working and working. I've now got a prologue and four chapters written on the new book. I love the prologue. The four chapters are . . . OK. They aren't bad. But they aren't great.

So my decision . . . is to chuck them all. Well, not the prologue. I'll keep that. But the chapters just aren't cutting it. I'm having a hard time getting into them and . . . well, writing, which is a fairly good sign that something is wrong. I initially thought that the "wrongness" I felt in my gut was because it was the beginning of the book and I hadn't settled into the story yet. Plus, I was introducing a new character and figured I hadn't gotten the character "figured out" just yet, so that was what was making me uneasy.

But I'm four chapters into it now and I don't think the unease is because of the character anymore. I think it's the story itself. What I have written so far is broken, and it's time to just pull it, set it aside, and start fresh.

This realization pretty much made me want to cry, because I'd just spent a month working on this (while working the day job) and chucking it meant I'd lost all of that time in some sense. And this thought made me sick. So part of me--a big part--just felt like crawling into bed and closing my eyes and NOT THINKING about it at all, and perhaps that would make it go away.

At the same time, a part of my brain had already kicked into overdrive and was figuring out what Chapter 1 should be if it wasn't supposed to be what I thought it was supposed to be. And guess what? My brain already knew. I'd already written about part of it (although that's changed slightly) in the pages I'd written.

So, I feel like I've lost something but at the same time I've regrouped and have a new destination. Hopefully a much more interesting one.

If not, then I'll have to call my editor . . . and I don't want to do that unless absolutely necessary.
joshuapalmatier: VacantThrone (Default)
The Dwarves of Whiskey Island is the second book in the Cleveland Portal series from S. Andrew Swann. I've read and reviewed the first book as well (The Dragons of the Cuyahoga) but the series is set up so that each book can be read individually. You don't need anything from the first book to follow or understand this second one.

And the second one is better than the first in my opinion. The first has it's interesting points, because the world he created--one in which Cleveland is suddenly inundated by dragons, elves, dwarves, etc because a portal to their world opens up in the middle of the city--was new and unique. Part of the problem with a series like this is that the second book can't rely on that "trick" to keep the readers reading. There has to be something new.

And there is in this. We still have the main character, Kline Maxwell, working for the newspaper and getting involved in the "fuzzy gnome" stories he hates when all he wants to cover is politics. In the first book, he gets assigned a "fuzzy gnome" story and the politics come in afterwards. In this one, he starts with politics and the "fuzzy gnome" gets interwoven into that. This time, it's dwarves. When they first came through the portal, no one knew what to do with them, so they were sent to the salt mines (where the magic was so high that no humans could live) and with the help of Mazurich, a politician, they became essential to the survival of the city after the portal by taking over construction projects and such.

And then Mazurich kills himself . . . and no one knows why. Kline receives a phone call that sends him search of the answers and leads him to the dwarves . . . and something much, much worse that threatens not only Cleveland, but his family as well.

I liked this book better because the writing felt . . . smoother. It was easier to read and the case itself flowed more naturally out of Kline's real job as a reporter on politics. Another reason I liked both this book and the previous one was become S. Andrew Swann is adept at giving you more and more information about the story without actually giving the real point/plot away. He sets all the cards on the table for Kline (and essentially us) and yet they still don't quite make sense until he reveals what's REALLY going on at the end. And then it makes perfect sense and you wonder why you didn't see it earlier. I also liked how this story got more personal for Kline. In the first book, it was just him against everything else. In this one, it gets personal, threatening his family, so in the end he's not doing this to save himself or to get the story for the paper. This personal stake in the outcome makes the book much more tense and dramatic.

I had some issues with the ultimate bad guys in the book, but I think my issues are more personal than anything else. I can't really say anything more about this without ruining part of the plot of the book. Suffice it to say that I wish S. Andrew Swann had chosen something a little new and different for the Big Evil. Don't get me wrong, he does do something different things with this Big Evil, but the Evil itself . . . he had an entire portal full of anything he wanted, so I wished he'd come up with something different.

But as I said, a good story. It has me wondering if he's going to do any more stories in the Cleveland Portal series. I hope he does.

PS--The Dwarves of Whiskey Island can be found now in the omnibus Dragons and Dwarves.

joshuapalmatier: VacantThrone (Default)
The Dragons of the Cuyahoga is the first book by S. Andrew Swann featuring newspaper reporter Kline Maxwell, who usually covers the political beat in Cleveland, OH, never the "fuzzy gnome" stories. What are the "fuzzy gnome" stories? Well, the main premise behind this book and the sequel is that a Portal has opened up in Cleveland and elves, dragons, mages, gnomes, and every other assorted fantasyland creature have tumbled through an inhabited the area around Cleveland. They're limited in how far they can roam by the magical field that surrounds the Portal, but it's still a significant amount of area.

I picked the book up because of the premise, but I went into the book with some doubts. It's very difficult to integrate magic into the real world believable, but I think S. Andrew Swann has done it. There are limits on the magic and the way it is described and how it is used is interesting. There has been a lot of thought put into how something like the Portal would fit into our world, not just the mechanics of it and how it works, but also how it would affect politics and government and such.

The book has two great strengths, and that's one of them. The second is that the elves and dragons and such aren't just humans with funny ears or wings. S. Andrew Swann had gone the extra mile and made them all THINK differently.

The story begins when Kline is assigned to the "fuzzy gnome" story of a dragon that crash lands in the Cuyahoga. Except after a while it becomes obvious that it wasn't an accident, but murder. Most of the outcome of the story revolves around the fact that the fantasyland creatures think differently and that Kline has to adjust his own thinking in order to fit all of the pieces of the puzzle together so that they make sense. He keeps assigning human motivations and motivators to the elves and dragons and such, and he has to kick that habit in order to get the mystery of the dragon's death solved. This idea--that the fantasy creatures don't think the same as we do--is something that should be integrated into fantasy novels more, but it's hard to pull off, mostly because it's hard for us (the human author and human reader) to wrap our head around how someone so completely different will think so completely different. In the end, though, you can follow how S. Andrew Swann's creatures think and who killed the dragon and why--and why those who help Kline, help him, and those who don't, don't.

There are some drawbacks to the novel. I'm not sure what happened, but this book appears to have skipped the last page proof phase. There are alot of typos and sentences gone wrong and such. I don't usually mind some throughout my books, because as a writer I know that it's nearly impossible to find them all, even when three or four people go through the book specifically looking for them. But the number that appear in this book is insane and it got annoying. There was also a few sections of the book where I thought the worldbuilding detail of how the Portal was integrated into Cleveland was a little too much. This happened most often when the author spent a page or two explaining the "history" of a particular section of Cleveland--how such-and-such area went from new-wealth to a slum housing the lesser classes of fantasyland creatures, for example. I don't mind a paragraph on this, but when it went on for a few pages . . .

In the end, though, I thought it was a cool idea and I really liked the way the mystery resolved itself, since it was based on how everyone thought and that not everything had the same goals as, say, humans would have. I'll certainly go on to read the sequel, The Dwarves of Whiskey Island. In fact, I've already started it. *grin*

PS--These two books can now be found in an omnibus volume called Dragons and Dwarves: Novels of the Cleveland Portal.


Jan. 23rd, 2010 02:24 pm
joshuapalmatier: VacantThrone (Default)
I have not confessed this publicly yet, so I may as well do it now: I love putting together puzzles. This has actually become sort of a family Christmas tradition. Every Christmas, I bring down a new puzzle and my mom and I put it out and spend hours upon hours putting the puzzle together, the goal being to get it completed in the few days that I'm visiting. In 2008, I brought down a 2000 piece puzzle and we didn't get it finished. This past year, I ended up buying a 1000 piece puzzle at B&N while I was down there and we managed to get it finished. Here's what it looked like after we'd gotten it out on the coffee table and had been playing with it for a day or so:

Any idea what it's a picture off? Well, the small little part we have finished there in white is a gigantic clue. So after about three or four days of working together, we got it done:

So, while I was down there, my mom informed me that the 2000 piece puzzle we'd been working on in 2008 had been put back in its box, but with the parts we had done more or less intact. I decided I'd take it home and see if I could get it finished. I got the box home and carefully removed all of the pieces we'd managed to get together and reassembled them:

The puzzle in the picture is actually upside down because I couldn't get a good enough "right-side-up" picture with the lighting in that room. Anyway, I got working. This puzzle turned out to be much more difficult than it looked, not just because it had twice as many pieces, but there was no obvious place to tackle first and enough different parts of the puzzle were similar in color that you couldn't start separating little sections out (like we did with the white horse in the 1000 piece puzzle).

In any case, I've managed to finish it. Here's the final puzzle (upside down still). I chose this puzzle because I have this thing for old maps like this. (My mom is the horse lover, which is why I got the first puzzle I showed you.)

So, I feel fulfilled. The nagging feeling something had been left undone is gone, now that the 2008 puzzle is finished. And so I move on. In a random act of splurging and insanity, I bought a 9000 piece puzzle of a ship battle AND an 18,000 piece puzzle that's really four different 4500 piece map puzzles that they've put borders on to make it one large picture. The 4500 piece puzzles are bagged separately, thank god. My plan is to do the 45000 piece puzzles individually first, then put them all together to get the giant puzzle.

And after that I'll tackle the 9000 piece puzzle. I'm not sure where I'm going to put that one up. I don't think it will fit on my table.

(Now that I have photographic evidence of finishing the 2000 piece puzzle, I need to rip it apart and box it. I never glue my puzzles when I'm done.)
joshuapalmatier: VacantThrone (Default)
This past week the German translation of The Cracked Throne, titled "Die Regentin," was released in Germany . . . and I got my ordered copies in the mail the other day. *grin*

I have a few extra copies of both "Die Assassine" (the German translation of The Skewed Throne) and "Die Regentin," so I figured I'd offer them up if anyone here in the US is interested in having a copy. They're basically trade paperbacks and I'll have to charge $25 each (this includes shipping to an address in the US). If you're interested, email me at and we can deal with arranging payment and shipping address and all that. Quantities are limited!

And since I'm talking books for sale, I may as well plug the US versions of the books as well. I have lots of extra copies hanging around the house, so I'll offer up the same deals as I had for the Holiday Sale:

Deal #1: All three hardcovers (The Skewed Throne, The Cracked Throne, and The Vacant Throne) for $30.

Deal #2: All three paperbacks (The Skewed Throne, The Cracked Throne, and The Vacant Throne) for $20.

If you need an individual book, then the hardcovers are $15 each, and the paperbacks are $8 each.

All of these offers include shipping and are for shipment to addresses in the US. Please contact me at if you're interested and we can arrange payment and such. If you need a price quote for overseas, please get in touch and I can get back to you. And, of course, all of these offers are for signed copies. *grin*
joshuapalmatier: VacantThrone (Default)
I read The Surrogates because of the movie with Bruce Willis. The graphic novel and the movie were two completely different stories in the end and I enjoyed both. One of my main complaints about the original graphic novel, though, was that the story didn't feel as deep as it could have been. The idea of the world, of people using surrogates to live their lives, to keep them safe and to give them the freedom to live out some of their fantasies, is just too good and too perfect. It opens up a HUGE amount of possibilities, and I thought that the original book could have used this world to explore so much more.

Which meant, of course, that I needed to read the prequel graphic novel The Surrogates: Flesh and Bone to see if they did indeed play around with some of those possibilities.

Flesh and Bone takes us back to something mentioned in the original graphic novel: the attack on a homeless person by three rich teens illegally using their fathers' surrogates. The homeless man dies and suddenly the case becomes international news, bringing up the serious question of whether children should be able to use surrogates, a theme that was also addressed in the original graphic novel and was the main motivating factor behind Steeplejack (the main "bad guy" in the original). And this type of question is what I was hoping that the authors/artists would explore more about this world, what makes the world they've set up so intriguing.

Here, the graphic novel once again centers around Harvey Greer--now a beat cop--and the investigation surrounding the death of the homeless man. There's also a seedy lawyer for the father of the main kid on trial. (The father's no picnic either.) We see the origins of the Prophet, and the state of the surrogate corporation at this time period. The more interesting aspects of this graphic novel are how the corporation handles the situation, and how the law is going to be affected by not just this one situation, but by surrogates and their general use by the population. Those were the parts that intrigued me the most and held my interest. And the authors do explore these facets of the new world to some degree. The investigation gives the story a strong structure that's easy to follow, but isn't as interesting overall, especially since the first graphic novel was centered around an investigation.

So, in the end, I wasn't as satisfied or as thrilled with this prequel as I was with the original. Even though the authors explored some of what I was looking for, I STILL finished the novel wanting more. I wanted more exploration of this world, and I thought there could have been more depth in the storyline itself, especially regarding Greer and his relationship with his wife and how the introduction of surrogates into the home was affecting relationships. But it was still a good read overall. There were some nice touches to the world, and a few strong snippets of humor throughout. One particular panel had me laughing so hard I had to put the book aside to recover. Strong artwork (although not as polished in my opinion as the original) throughout, and a decent storyline. A good book. If there were more graphic novels set in this world, I'd definitely read them, because there's still a TON of things to explore.


Jan. 1st, 2010 05:33 pm
joshuapalmatier: VacantThrone (Default)
So, let's look back at last year's resolutions first and see how well I did. I had a few major goals back then, most dealing with writing. I wanted to get rid of this "little extra" I have around the waist that magically appeared overnight (it seems) when I turned 35. That didn't happen. It hasn't grown, but it hasn't really gone away either. So chalk that up as a goal for this year.

I also wanted to find an agent . . . not so much. Didn't happen. I didn't do a hardcore serious search for an agent this past year, but I did put out some feelers to various people and when the responses were simple and direct "Not interested," or just no response whatsoever, I let it go. Why? Because DAW was interested in my next few projects, I've worked with my editor for a long time, and I had no strong desire to move to a different publisher or try to play one publisher against another. I also didn't have strong enough sales with the Throne books for me to be able to bargain or negotiate much in any potential contracts. So I decided to represent myself as long as I was dealing with DAW. Which is what I did.

And that brings me to the good points about my resolutions for last year. I wanted to sign three contracts. At the time I wrote that, I didn't really expect that to happen. Honestly, at the time, I was praying I'd get one contract. But DAW has bought 3 more contracts from me, which satisfied that resolution. In addition, something unexpected happened: I (along with Patricia Bray) sold an anthology idea to DAW. So I got to add "editor" to my resume.

And along with the unexpected editorship, I also managed to sell a short story, something I'd never really attempted before as well. So I have a short story appearing sometime in April (I think) in the anthology Close Encounters of the Urban Kind. This seems to have opened up my urge to continue writing short stories, and I have at least one more sold with the potential for a few others in the works.

Overall, 2009 ended up being a very good year for my writing career, with some of my hopes fulfilled and some things happening in unexpected directions. In the end, I'd count 2009 to be a very good year for me. No agent (and I've still got that "little extra") but I'm certainly not going to write it off as being a bad year. A much better year than expected actually.

Which brings us to 2010. What are my resolutions for this new year? Well, once again they mostly involve writing. There's the "little extra" that I'd like to get rid of, of course, but my main focus is going to be on writing. Seriously. I have 3 known deadlines this year: the anthology I'm editing with Patricia Bray, called After Hours: Tales from the Ur-Bar, is due July 1st; the book that I've just barely started (I have maybe 16 pages of it written so far) is due September 1st; and the book that I worked on last year while I waited to hear whether DAW would be interested in any of my projects is due January 1st, 2011, which means I have to finished it this year. Now, that last book has a significant chunk already written, but I've never tried to write two books in one year, so this is going to be a challenge. So my main resolution is MEET ALL OF MY DEADLINES!!! Since I'm expecting at least one short story deadline in there somewhere, this will be quite enough of a challenge for me. And who knows what other deadlines might arise in there.

So, in summary, my 2010 resolutions are:

1. Write my ass off.
2. Meet all deadlines.
3. Lose the "little extra."
4. Conquer the world.

I think they're all doable. What about you guys? Got any resolutions for the new year?


Jan. 1st, 2010 12:05 am
joshuapalmatier: VacantThrone (Default)
Happy NEW YEAR, everyone!
joshuapalmatier: VacantThrone (Default)
So, I just got back from the movie Sherlock Holmes . . . and it was a GREAT movie! I knew going into the movie that it was not going to be "true to the books" in any sense, but I have to say that it certainly had the same spirit of the books.

And that's what was so great about the movie: spirit. Both Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law played their roles with great spirit and good humor and just the right touch of seriousness. So while they did have their little spats and their own personal stories throughout the movie, those stories didn't subsume the main plot. I'd say that everything was extremely well balanced: personal stories along with main plot, as well as the larger plot. There weren't so many twists and turns that you got completely lost. You could follow everything and they explained nearly everything that dealt with the explanation of how the "crime" was committed. I only say "nearly" because there were a few handwaving moments when they didn't explain exactly how things worked . . . but I wouldn't say that was a problem. They explained exactly what they needed to in the detail they needed to. Any deeper explanation would have amounted to a science lecture and that's not what you go to the movies for.

And here's the thing: there weren't any movie tropes here. Oh, sure, good guys win in the end and such, but unlike Avatar I couldn't guess where things were going in the plot sense. So I was riveted to the pillow screen and kept involved during the whole movie. There were no slow points.

And the best recommendation I can give the movie is that at the end, I REALLY REALLY wanted to go immediately to the next movie. And there will definitely be a next movie, simply because I WILL IT! But just in case, I highly suggest that EVERYONE go out to see this movie.

And bring your pillow.

PS--Thanks to Joshua B for the last minute gift of some spare tickets!
joshuapalmatier: VacantThrone (Default)
Well, I've returned from the family gathering for the holidays, a few pounds heavier. I'll do an update on the festivities (with pics) in the next few days. But for now, HELP OTHERS! Patrick Rothfuss is holding a fundraiser for a worth cause and has a bunch of DAW books up for grabs, signed by the author and such. Go check them out and then donate something to cause! I haven't researched how the bidding works or anything else yet, but I thought I'd pass the word along.
joshuapalmatier: VacantThrone (Default)
So I spent ANOTHER few hours today transcribing the student evaluations for my second semester at Oneonta. There were more evals this time, probably because it was the first time I'd taught a couple of the courses and I admit that my perception of what the students would be able to handle was skewed at the beginning. I adjusted as the semester went along, and most of the students complained about what I'd expected at the beginning, but also noted that things changed as the semester went along. So I think, overall, the evals were good ones. I've got two more semesters of evals to transcribe now, and when I return to classes in January, the Fall 2009 evals should be waiting for me to transcribe.

But I say again, GAH, and ask, "What's the point?" I mean, I could copy the evals and put them if the administrators really do want to see them all, but I don't honestly think that they really do look at these things when they get together to discuss the portfolios. Sure, they may look at a few of them, but am I seriously expected to believe that they're going to look at the hundreds of evals I've gotten, when they probably have 50 other portfolios to look at after mine?

In any case, here are some of the typos I found during this batch. And these are just errors in spelling. I'm not even attempting to take note of the grammar errors involved.

The winner by far in the spelling wars was "quizes." I probably saw it spelled that way over 50 times. People just don't believe in z's anymore, apparently. The others, in no particular order:

"calcalters" (This was on the same one as the previous word, so the student was trying to figure out how to spell it correctly.)

And may I add that, as a writer, it is EXTREMELY difficult to type those words spelled incorrectly into the computer? Both here and when I was typing up the evals. But I push onwards. Probably not until after the trip home for the holidays though. Tomorrow I'm hoping to write some on my own stuff.
joshuapalmatier: VacantThrone (Default)
So, I won free tickets to see Avatar 3D, the midnight showing last night. Here's the obligatory review.

First, the good stuff: the special effects and cinematography. This was a spectacular movie in this respect. The special effects for the world--and when I say the world, I mean the world--were stunning. This had nothing to do with the 3D aspects at all. You can tell that the team that created this world spent a TON of time on it, going into every little detail and making all of those little details work together to create an actual, realistic-feeling other world. And I mean it: the world felt completely and utterly real to me, to the point where when something from out world came on set it felt like an intrusion (which was the point) and made it seem like anything related to us as humans was out of place (also the point). In fact, it made it seem as if anything related to us WASN'T REAL, that we were the special effect in the movie, not the world that served as the setting for the entire movie. It was literally stunning--beautiful and engaging and above all believable in nearly every respect. Sure there were a few "glossed over" explanations, such as how the mountains actually float (they just called it the "flux" or something), but that glossing could be ignored. And as I said, I don't believe this had anything to do with the 3D aspects of this.

One of the nice things about the creation of the world is that the special effects were NOT the central point of the movie. The world was there, and it served as a setting, but it was not the entirety of the movie. Same for the 3D aspects. There were no scenes where the entire "point" was the play with the 3D aspects to make the audience go "wow." Sure there were some "wow" scenes, but they weren't there JUST for that reason, except for when the newbies were seeing something spectacular for the first time, in which case the "wow" WAS the point, but for the character (not the audience). And these scenes were kept suitably short in my opinion. Same for the world in general: nothing was put into the movie for the sole purpose of the audience; it was there for the characters or for the plot. Too many SF and fantasy movie use the special effects just for the audience and don't let it serve exclusively for the plot or the characterization and the story. There were a few moments here and there where I thought a 3D effect went too far (such as one point where I wondered why we needed the ass shot and why it needed to be sticking out so far), but they were few and far between.

Of those characters, strangely enough, the one that I loved and followed and connected to the most was the main female alien (whose name I don't recall). I was not as drawn to the main character, Jake, much. Sigourney Weaver was great, but mostly served as a side character and in the end didn't have a huge role (a significant role, but not a huge one). The fact that I connected better with the aliens than the humans should make the creative team feel great, but shouldn't I be connecting to both, especially the hero of the story? I'm not sure if this was because Jake was just not a character that I could sympathize with, or if it was because the acting wasn't great, or simply that he just wasn't interesting, even though he was the character with the most significant character change from beginning to end. But in the end, I loved the female lead alien more, so kudos to that actress for her role.

So, some really good stuff going on in this movie: great worldbuilding, some good characterizations, especially of the aliens, and special effects used like they should be used in an SF movie.

Now some of the not so good things: the plot. It wasn't that the plot was bad--there were some really good emotionally jarring and gut-twisting moments in here--but the plot wasn't . . . new. This is the standard "humans find new land with indigenous species but with a resource we desperately need, so we try to take what we want and the locals fight back" story. The main thread is "human wins trust of locals, becomes one with them, betrays his own people and fights with them to take back the human-ravaged land." James Cameron could have used this theme to make some serious, heavy-duty commentary about some of the hideous things humans have done against humans in this vein in the past, pretty much all over the world, but he didn't need to. That point is hammered home without him needing to thrust it in our faces here. He sticks to the characters and how they are affected, and that is the most effective thing about this movie. It's what draws you in and makes your heart ache when the plot begins to take hold and get serious. But in the end, James Cameron didn't do anything really original with the plot. The only difference between this and movies with similar themes is that this is an SF movie. It's basically "Dances with Wolves" in space, as my movie companion said.

Another minor flaw is that the initial sequence--when we arrive on planet and the main character, Jake, is being introduced to the locals and slowly becoming an accepted part of their society--is a little too long. This section is extremely important to the movie: we get characterization, we get introduced to the world through Jake, we get a love interest, we get some very cool setup for events that happen later on in the plot. All of that was necessary and was there . . . but it still went on just a touch too long. At one point, the writer in me kicked in and said, "If he doesn't start the main plot sequence in the next 5 minutes, this movie is going to suck wind." I'd reached my limit of setup and worldbuilding and character building by that point. The fact that it pulled me out of the movie so much the writer kicked in DURING THE MOVIE is bad. So Cameron needed to find some small ways to cut that part of the movie back a little. I don't think it would have taken much--maybe cut 10 minutes overall from that section--and I wouldn't have had that writer moment. It would have made those scenes that much more effective in the end.

This is a minor quibble as well, but I wished Cameron has spent just a touch more time on Jake's character and how much he is emotionally affected by the fact that in his real life he can't use his legs, but through the avatar he can run, walk, jump, etc. Cameron spends some time on this, but not enough by far. I think this is why I ended up not connecting so much to Jake, and yet why I did connect so much with the main female lead. We get her side of the story and her emotions at nearly every stage in the movie. Cameron starts doing that with Jake at the beginning, but then Jake's own personal motivations and emotions get set aside. I wish they hadn't. Jake had great potential as a character of extreme interest and emotional turmoil. It just wasn't used.

So, in the end, what did I think? I loved the movie, even seeing it at midnight after a long day that started at 5:30am. I did not get sleepy at all during the showing (although my movie companion dozed out for a while *ahem*), so it completely engaged me. The worldbuilding was spectacular, but was not the point of the movie. Most of the characters were interesting and drew me in, although there were some lost opportunities with a few of the characters, namely Jake. There were some emotionally riveting and gut-wrenching parts. But the story fell a little flat simply because there wasn't anything new done with it. We've seen this type of story before (or read this type of story before) and it needed something else, some twist besides it being set on another planet, to take it up a level. That twist could have been drawing us in more to Jake's turmoil, driving home his desire to get his legs back and the choices he has--getting back his original legs by siding with the humans, or getting them back using the avatar--but Cameron didn't focus in on that enough. But it was still a good movie. In many aspects a spectacular movie.


Dec. 15th, 2009 08:24 pm
joshuapalmatier: VacantThrone (Default)
So today was interesting. I intended to get some writing done, and I did. Not much, but still some. Mostly what happened was that I ended up working on a bunch of small things for various writing projects. So it was productive in many aspects, just not the physical "words on page" aspect, which is what I REALLY need to get cracking on, since the next book is due in August (and today was the first day I actually wrote any words for it).

Also of interest, while all of this various activity was going on, I ran across a post on Facebook about winning tickets to see Avatar on Thursday, midnight showing. I figured, what the hell? so I entered . . . and won. So I now have tickets for Avatar. On Thursday night. Midnight showing. And guess what I've discovered? All of my friends have day jobs and can't go! (Well, they could still and I'm trying to convince them of this, but so far it isn't working.) So we'll have to see what happens, whether I go or not, etc.

If I do, I'll be sure to do a review.
joshuapalmatier: VacantThrone (Default)
I decided to buy and read "The Surrogates" because, of course, the movie was coming out soon and it had Bruce Willis in it, and I've lately been drawn into the graphic novel universe. So I said, why not? I've read a few other graphic novels and the concepts presented in this one were interesting.

First off, the graphic novel is significantly different from the movie, so you should probably read it even if you have already seen the movie. It starts off with the same initial setup--some surries get zapped and detectives are there to investigate--but pretty much from that moment on it diverges from the movie. Characters are the same, but they don't do what they did in the movie, tec. So read the novel, it's worth it.

The storyline is definitely interesting and pulls you along, weaving the actual detective work together with the life of the main detective, Greer. You find out about his relationship with his wife and how the introduction of the surrogates--androids that the user controls and that pretty much act out everyone's daily life for safety reasons--has altered society and interpersonal relationships to a huge extent. The main idea of the surrogates is what kept me interested in the novel, although the plotline about who's zapping surrogates and why also drew me in. The ramifications on every aspect of society if we did ever reach a point where the majority of the population lived their lives through surrogates is . . . astounding. And that's why this graphic novel rocks.

It's also why it's slightly disappointing. There are so many aspects of life that would change that what was presented in the novel seemed . . . limited. I loved the story and the novel, but when I was finished I felt that there was SO MUCH MORE to explore with this concept and I was disappointed that there wasn't more, a volume 2 or something. I know there's a prequel, and I will definitely read that, but I seriously hope that there will be more set in this world in the future because there is so much more left to explore.

Since this is a graphic novel, I must also comment on the artwork: spectacular. The artwork was subtle and appropriate and a perfect amalgamation of art and photoshopping, especially regarding some of the SF elements that were incorporated into the artwork, such as realistic digital screens and such. At the same time, the artwork was extremely simple. The level of detail was appropriate and minimalistic, as well as the color palette. Some panels were sketchy and blocky, others were more finely detailed, and the ability of the artist to convey complex emotions through facial expression and such was astounding.

So, overall a very good graphic novel, the only drawback being that the world created had SO MUCH potential that I felt there should have been much more done in this universe and with this plotline, so was disappointed when the novel ended. I'd love to see more from this pair, and even if you've seen the movie, I'd definitely suggest reading the novel.
joshuapalmatier: VacantThrone (Default)
An interview has been posted over here regarding my Throne of Amenkor series and the release of the translated versions of the books in Germany. The link is to the English version, but there's a German translation of the interview posted at the same site as well. Check it out!


joshuapalmatier: VacantThrone (Default)

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