Here’s the cover art for The Cave Beneath the Sea, Book 4 of The Shards of Excalibur YA fantasy series from Coteau Books. Book 1 was Song of the Sword, Book 2 was Twist of the Blade, Book 3 is The Lake in the Clouds (coming out May 1). The Cave Beneath the Sea is due out this fall and Book 5 will be out next spring, to wrap up the series.
Pretty cover, isn’t it? They all are. Collect the whole set!
A while back I was contacted by Agriculture in the Classroom Saskatchewan about writing a short illustrated book to be used in classrooms during Agriculture Literacy Week. Each year during this week, AITC has agricultural producers and others from the agriculture industry to visit school classrooms around the country to read and talk about their own experiences.
I had great fun writing what became The Adventures of Michael & Mia: Stewards of the Land, which is being featured during this week. It’s a short story about two kids who try to get an old garden whipped back into shape on the farm their parents have just bought. The things they struggle with–what to plant, when to plant it, irrigation, protecting the soil, fertilizing, dealing with pests–mirror what their parents and other farmers have to think about while growing crops.
The book is illustrated by Val Lawton. I’m looking forward to launching it tomorrow, March 2, at Seven Stones School here in Regina, where I’ll be one of the Agriculture Literacy Week readers.
The book gets mentioned in the press release from the Government of Saskatchewan proclaiming Agriculture Literacy Week, and there’s also a good description of it in this interview with Karen Carle, ag education consultant with Alberta Agriculture.
The book has been translated into French, and I’m told more than 30,000 copies have been ordered across the country, making it probably the the bestselling book of my career. Go figure.
To get your very own copy, contact AITC Saskatchewan.
Each year the Saskatchewan Book Awards honour the best books by Saskatchewan authors, and I’m pleased to announce that the 2015 shortlisted books include Masks, in two categories: Young Adult Literature (self-explanatory) and Regina Book Award (for the best book by a Regina author).
The books are judged by out-of-province judges, and the stated criteria is simply “the quality of the writing.”
I’ve been shortlisted for Saskatchewan Book Awards in the past but have only won once, for my YA fantasy Spirit Singer (written under my other name, Edward Willett), back in 2002. I was also nominated for Best First Book in 1997 for my first novel, Soulworm; for Children’s Literature a couple of years later fro my YA fantasy The Dark Unicorn, and for the Regina Book Award a couple of years ago for my adult fantasy novel Magebane (written as Lee Arthur Chane).
Best thing about winning a Saskatchewan Book Award? A $2,000 cash prize!
In the Young Adult Literature category, the other nominees are:
Brenda Baker, Camp Outlook (Second Story Press)
Robert Currie, Living with the Hawk (Thistledown Press)
Alice Kuipers, The Death of Us (HarperCollins)
For the Regina Book Award, the other nominees are:
Tracy Hamon, Red Curls (Thistledown Press)
Trevor Herriot, The Road is How: A Prairie Pilgrimage through Nature, Desire, and Soul (HarperCollins)
Margaret Hryniuk and Frank Korvemaker, Legacy of Worship: Sacred Places in Rural Saskatchewan (Coteau Books)
Zarqa Nawaz, Laughing All the Way to the Mosque (HarperCollins)
The awards will be announced at a gala on April 25.
A “science column” I wrote several years ago, my science-writer’s take on the famous poem “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas,” has had remarkable life. It appeared in the newspaper, of course, but it was originally written for for CBC Saskatchewan’s Afternoon Edition radio program, and first read at one of their Christmas open houses (a different one from the one at which I sang “Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow!“), it’s been published or posted a few times since. A couple of years ago it got a lot of attention because it was noted by Ed Yong at Discover Magazine‘s website. I recorded a podcast of it, which you can listen to here. And now…ta da!…the YouTube video! (Just in time for the day after Boxing Day! Timely, I’m not.)
This is from The Golden Apple Theatre‘s Christmas Crackers: A Not So Silent Night, the third edition of the popular Christmas revue from the local professional theatre company on whose board I serve, and is performed by me and Andorlie Hillstrom, co-artistic director of the theatre. The performance took place at The Artesian on 13th on December 21, 2014.
I’ve reprinted the poem itself below the video so you can follow along.
‘Twas the Nocturnal Time of the Preceding Day to the Day We Call Christmas
By Edward Willett, with apologies to Clement Clarke Moore
’Twas the nocturnal time of the preceding day
To the day we call Christmas (which is, by the way,
Just a modern twist on the eons-old fight
To use feast and fire to end winter’s night).
And all through our dwelling (a.k.a. the house),
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
(Mus musculus—really a terrible pest,
But even a pest needs a bit of a rest.)
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that Saint Nicholas soon would be there
(Though that old-fashioned chimney’s so energy-poor
That next year I’m making him use the front door!).
Our genetic descendants lay snug in their beds,
While sucrose-based snack foods danced jigs in their heads,
And mamma in her kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap
(You wear hats to bed when you lack central heat;
It helps keep you warm from your head to your feet),
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.
(I’m not really jumpy, but a noise in the night
Sets off animal instincts to flee or to fight.)
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash
(Well, not really flew, it was more like a dash—
And my wife didn’t wake even after the crash).
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave a luster of midday to objects below
(Which makes sense, since the moon gets its glow from the sun,
Which means moonlight and sunlight in one sense are one!);
When what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer
(Rangifer tarandus, you could call them, too—
Here in Canada we know them as caribou).
With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment he must be St. Nick.
(St. Nick is the patron of Russia, you know;
He was born fifteen hundred or more years ago!)
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came
(As fast as a peregrine diving on game),
And since his old sleigh had no window or door,
He shouted their names o’er the slipstream’s loud roar:
“Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donder and Blitzen!”
(An interesting mixture of names old and new—
“To the top of the porch, to the top of the wall!
Now dash away, dash away, dash away all!”
As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky
(That’s ’cause air piles up when it meets with a wall,
And the leaves, weighing little, rise too, and don’t fall),
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of toys—and St. Nicholas too.
And then in a twinkling I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof
(Not to mention the cracking of each little shingle:
Reindeer weigh quite a lot, as does dear Mr. Kringle!).
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.
(I can only assume, since his legs didn’t crack,
That friction ’twixt him and the bricks held him back.)
He was dressed all in fur from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot
(And since so much creosote blackened his hide,
I no longer fear carbon mono-oxide);
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a pedlar just opening his pack.
His eyes, how they twinkled (reflecting the light)!
His dimples, how merry (one to left, one to right)!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry
(I thought for a sec he’d been drinking my sherry);
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard on his chin was as white as the snow.
(And did you know that white hair is not really white?
It looks white because it’s transparent to light.)
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
(We must forgive Santa this unhealthy sin;
He was born before all of the studies were in.)
He had a broad face and a little round belly
That shook, when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly.
(It’s amazing, you know, that he’s lived for so long,
What with all of the things that he eats that are wrong!)
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed, when I saw him, in spite of myself.
(Laughter benefits heart, lungs and brain, it’s been said;
Maybe laughter’s why cheerful old Santa’s not dead!)
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.
(Body language, to Santa, is nothing unique;
He speaks every language, from Zulu to Greek.)
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose.
(Apparently Nick spends his off-season time
At a school in Nepal, where he’s learned how to climb.)
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle
(Its surface is large, but it’s so very light,
That the slightest of breezes can make it take flight);
But I heard him exclaim, as he vanished away,
With his anti-grav reindeer and miniature sleigh,
“Though I may not be real, in the physical sense,
“Though I may not have mass, and I may not be dense,
“Though it’s true, scientifically, this isn’t right,
Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!”
– See more at: http://edwardwillett.com/2012/12/a-christmas-tradition-twas-the-nocturnal-time-of-the-preceding-day-to-the-day-we-call-christmas/#sthash.65FreXkx.dpuf
In the third instalment of this modern take on Arthurian legends, Ariane – descendant of none other than the Lady of the Lake herself – is on the run and on her own. Using her powers to keep avoiding Rex Major’s agents makes her too weak to detect the next Shard of the broken sword she must reunite. And her erstwhile best friend and sidekick Wally has switched allegiance and is living a pampered life at Rex Major’s right hand.
Perhaps worst of all, the powerful Rex (aka Merlin) has the biggest network in the world, and has used it to find Ariane’s Aunt Phyllis – her mother’s sister, and the person she’s closest to.
With her aunt under threat, Ariane has no choice but to walk straight into Rex Major’s trap. No longer using her powers to stay ahead of his spies, she can sense the third Shard. Now all she has to do is win back Wally’s friendship, protect her aunt’s life, figure out Major’s next move – oh, and get to New Zealand and safely back with the Shard whose song is beginning to call her…
That’s the Amazon.ca version. The Amazon.com version is a little shorter for some reason.
Go forth and pre-order!
Meanwhile, I’ll just double down on finishing writing the thing, since it’s going to be out in May. I’ll be turning in the manuscript this week…
“E.C. Blake provides an excellent sequel in Shadows...Blake does a great job of building on the foundations he laid in the first book when it comes to both the magical system and world building…Anyone who liked Masks needs to read this book. Fans of realistic heroines will love Mara.”
Just got this from DAW Books today: it’s the cover art for Faces, Book 3 in my Masks of Aygrima trilogy, written as E.C. Blake. It builds on the previous two covers and reveals, appropriately enough, Mara’s face for the first time. I like it a lot! How about you?
Like the first two covers, this one is by Paul Young.
The paperback of Masks will be out November 4, the paperback of Shadows will be released on May 5, and then Faces will be out in August of next year in hardcover.
Here’s a great video about the best genre literary convention in North America and probably the world: Calgary’s When Words Collide. If you’re interested in writing, you owe it to yourself to get to When Words Collide.
My name gets mentioned about halfway through this video as an example of the kinds of deals that get made at the convention: it was there last year that Hayden Trenholm of Bundoran Press asked me if I’d write a sequel to Right to Know. That sequel, Falcon’s Egg, will be out next year.
Early this morning I sent off Faces, Book 3 in The Masks of Aygrima, to Sheila Gilbert, my editor (and co-publisher with Betsy Wollheim) at DAW Books. I’m quite pleased with it–I hope she is, too!
We’ll be discussing it at World Fantasy Convention in Washington, D.C., early in November. After which I’ll be plunging back into it for editorial revisions, all heading toward next August’s release.
I’ve seen the cover art and it’s grand! As soon as I can I’ll share it…