Edward Willett

Saskatchewan Book Awards jurors say nice things about Masks

Book Awards 2015The Saskatchewan Book Awards were handed out on Saturday night. My novel Masks (written as E.C. Blake) was shortlisted in two categories. Alas, I didn’t win, but at least I picked up a couple of great review quotes.

Jurors for the Drs. Morris & Jacqui Shumiatcher Regina Book Award wrote:

“An exciting, compelling narrative that sweeps the reader up into a thoroughly believable, artfully constructed alternate world, Masks is a rip-roaring story featuring a complex, nuanced heroine and a fine cast of supporting characters. The writing is spare and efficient, the narrative absorbing, the conflicts engrossing.”

And the jurors for the SaskEnergy Young Adult Literature Award wrote:

“When rejected by her mask, Mara is thrown on an adventure that forces her to journey far and deep. In the process, she discovers her true strengths. A riveting read that is both fast-paced and unpredictable–Masks is a page-turner!”

Not bad, eh?

The jurors in question, by the way, were Melanie Dugan, Nate Hendly, and Chris Rutkowski for the Regina Book Award, and Caroline Pignat, Robert Priest, and Valerie Sherrard for the Young Adult Literature Award.

Giving imagination free rein: Sheila Gilbert of DAW Books

Me With Sheila & Betsy

From left to right, Sheila Gilbert, me, and Betsy Wollheim.

I’m jumping the gun a little bit here, since Freelance hasn’t come out yet, but here’s my upcoming “Space-Time Continuum” column for the Saskatchewan Writers Guild magazine–an interview with my editor and publisher, Sheila Gilbert, nominated once again this year for a Hugo Award for Best Editor, Long Form.

As a teenager looking for science fiction and fantasy, I was drawn to the distinctive yellow spines of paperbacks published by DAW Books—a name I found amusing because DAW are the initials of my brother, Dwight Arthur Willett.

In fact, those initials belonged to Donald A. Wollheim, who founded the press in 1971 with his wife, Elsie. Today, the company is co-owned and operated by their daughter, Elizabeth (“Betsy”) Wollheim, and Sheila Gilbert. Together they select, edit, and publish all the books under the DAW imprint, including work by award-winning authors, bestselling authors…and me.

Sheila Gilbert, then, is both my editor and publisher—and a handy person to interview to give you a little insight into the world of a major SF and fantasy publisher.

Sheila read science fiction and fantasy in her teens and attended conventions, which is how she became friends with the Wollheim family. Fresh out of university, with a B.A. in English, she was offered a job as an editorial assistant to Don Wollheim, who in those days edited Ace Books.

“I jumped at it,” Sheila says. “People were going to pay me to read the books I would read anyway! It was the ideal job and I never looked back.”

In 1972 she moved to New American Library as an ad and cover copywriter, becoming editor of NAL’s Signet science fiction line in 1978. In 1985, when Don Wollheim became critically ill, Betsy Wollheim asked Sheila to join her at DAW. The two have run the company ever since.

DAW is attractive to new writers because it is one of the few major publishers that still accepts unsolicited submissions. The odds are long—hundreds of manuscripts arrive in any given month—but, says Sheila, “We’ve found some of our best authors through manuscripts that are unsolicited. Which isn’t to say that we haven’t also gotten things through agents, but it doesn’t mean that you have to have an agent to sell a book. You just have to be a really good writer.”

In her 45 years in the business, Sheila has read a lot of manuscripts. But one thing never changes: “Every time you find one that is good and you can actually be excited about it, it’s certainly a thrill.”

Although you can submit a complete manuscript (by mail, not email, unless you’ve been asked to send it by email), Sheila actually recommends sending a query letter first—not an email, because of spam filters. “Make it very simple. If you can, have a one-line kind of hook to hopefully catch attention, and then a synopsis. We don’t need a testimonial how your mother and all of your relatives loved it.” Along with the synopsis, send the first three or four chapters. If the partial submission is interesting enough, DAW might ask to see the complete manuscript. (For DAW’s formal submission requirements, see www.dawbooks.com.)

What kind of books does DAW publish? “We’re really open to the whole spectrum, from epic fantasy to urban fantasy to military SF to cultural or high-tech SF—pretty much anything where there are strong ideas, really well-developed characters, and good writing.”

She urges writers seeking to be published by DAW (or anyone else) to write every day, even if they end up throwing most of it out. “If you write every day, 200 words every day, before you know it, you’ll have a book,” she says. “If you sit down and write occasionally that’s not nearly as likely. If you find a writers’ group that can give you good input, that’s valuable. But you have to have something to work with.”

Once a book is accepted, the editor steps up. Editors, Sheila says, “provide an objective perspective. A good editor will see the holes in your manuscript, the things that don’t make sense and are missing. They can help you improve your plots and your characters, make the book that you’re writing the best it can possibly be. But it’s a collaborative effort, and I think that’s the most important thing. They shouldn’t just be telling you what to do, they should be helping you find the right path.”

Sheila doesn’t think traditional publishing is going away, even though it’s never been easier to self-publish. “A lot of people think they can self-publish, which some people can do and do well. But other writers need more input than that, need an editorial hand, need someone who understands marketing and can bring to that everything publishers can offer.”

Ebooks are an increasingly important part of the book market. “They don’t have the heavy associated costs of the print editions, so they really subsidize print sales,” Sheila says. But their success depends large on the author’s online presence. “It’s the biggest promotional tool that authors have these days. It gives readers a personal stake. They feel like they know the author and they’re friends.”

For 45 years, Sheila Gilbert has been intimately involved with the world of science fiction and fantasy literature. She sees science fiction and fantasy offering the ultimate creative playground for writers, readers—and, yes, editors and publishers, too.

“It’s one of the areas where you can give your imagination free rein, which is not true of other fields,” she says. “What could be more fun than creating a whole universe?”

What indeed?

Read the first chapter of Lake in the Clouds!

Lake_intheClouds_smallerLake in the Clouds, Book 3 in my YA fantasy series The Shards of Excalibur, comes out in May from Coteau Books–which means it’s time for a little teaser.

Here you go: Chapter 1 for your reading pleasure, just to whet your appetite.

Sharp-eyed observers may also note that the title has changed slightly, from The Lake in the Clouds to just Lake in the Clouds. This is so it matches up better with the first two books, Song of the Sword and Twist of the Blade, neither of which begins with a definite article. The fourth book has likewise shifted title from The Cave Beneath the Sea to Cave Beneath the Sea.

Book launches are planned for May 16 at ComicReaders here in Regina, and May 26 at McNally Robinson in Saskatoon.

I’m very excited about this upcoming release…I hope you are, too!

Available in May from Coteau Books

Buy from Amazon.ca

Buy from Indigo.ca

Cover art and description of FACES hits online bookstores

Faces coverGetting closer all the time to the July 7 release of Faces, Book 3 of my Masks of Aygrima trilogy (written as E.C. Blake) from DAW books, edited by three-time Hugo nominee Sheila Gilbert. The cover art has finally appeared in online bookstores, along with the description below.

Warning: this could contain spoilers if you’re still on Book 1!

***

The spellbinding third novel of The Masks of Aygrima is set in a land where people are forced to wear spell-imbued Masks that reveal any traitorous thoughts they have about their ruler, the Autarch.

Mara Holdfast is a young woman gifted with the ability to see and use all the colors of magic. Two other people share this talent: the Autarch, who draws upon the very life-force of his subjects to fuel his existence and retain his control over the kingdom; and the legendary Lady of Pain and Fire, the only person who has ever truly challenged the Autarch’s despotic reign.

After a devastating battle that takes a dreadful toll on both the rebel unMasked Army and the forces of Prince Chell, their ally from across the sea, Mara and her fellow survivors have no one to turn to for help but the Lady of Pain and Fire.

As the Lady leads them to her haven beyond the mountain borders of the kingdom, Mara feels that she has found the one person who truly understands her, a mentor who can teach her to control and use her power for the greater good. Together, they may be able to at last free Agryma from the Autarch’s rule.

Living within the Lady’s castle, cut off from her friends in the village far below, Mara immerses herself in her training. Still, she can’t entirely escape from hearing dark hints about the Lady, rumors that the Lady may, in her own way, be as ruthless as the Autarch himself.

Yet it is not until they begin their campaign against the Autarch that Mara discovers where the real danger lies. Driven by the Lady’s thirst for revenge, will Mara and all her friends fall victim in a duel to the death between two masters of magic?

 

Thoughts on the Hugo Awards

cropped-2010header

The nominees for this year’s Hugo Awards have been announced, and I’m thrilled to see that my editor at DAW Books, Sheila Gilbert, is once again nominee for Best Editor, Long Form. This is Sheila’s third time on the ballot, and here’s hoping this is the year she goes home with the rocketship.

That said, I’ve decided I’d throw in my tuppence-worth of thought on the Big Hugo Controversy of 2015. Many pixels have been spilt and much bandwidth sacrificed to discussions all over the Web, but it’s entirely possible you, gentle reader, are among the few who know nothing of this. Let’s see if I can sum it up while being fair to both sides.

This year, SF writer Brad Torgersen mounted a campaign called Sad Puppies 3 to solicit suggestions of people who fans thought ought to be on the Hugo ballet but might be overlooked without greater attention being drawn to them. From those suggestions, and in consultation with like-minded colleagues, he presented a slate of possible nominees (including my editor, Sheila Gilbert). He and the others promoting the slate–bestselling SF/fantasy author Larry Correia and SF/fantasy author Sarah A. Hoyt, among others–urged people to give the list serious consideration, to read the suggested works, and then, most importantly, to buy supporting memberships to this year’s WorldCon in Spokane and nominate and, later, vote.

The view of the Sad Puppies is that awards have tended to go to recent years to certain works primarily because those works carry an approved political message (specifically a left-wing political message), or because their creators are outspoken online advocates of approved political messages, rather than because those works are necessarily particularly well-written or entertaining science fiction or fantasy.

In contrast, the Sad Puppies slate includes authors of varied political persuasions, some right-wing, some left-wing, some unknown: the goal is not to promote a political agenda but rather to ensure that political agendas do not become the central feature of the Hugo Award nominees.

The Sad Puppies campaign was a remarkable success, with the majority of the nominees either being on the Sad Puppies slate or another one run by controversial but influential (his website generates enormous traffic) writer/editor Vox Day, who called his similar-but-not-identical slate Rabid Puppies (and whose motivations may be somewhat different).

Those who disagree with the Sad Puppies approach fall into, by my analysis, roughly four (overlapping) camps. While the Sad Puppies approach is entirely within the rules, open campaigning for the Hugos has traditionally been frowned upon. (It is the Sad Puppies’ contention that such campaigning has still gone on, but behind the scenes. I suspect that is true, but have no solid evidence for it.) This dislike of open campaigning is one reason some are unhappy with the Sad Puppies.

The second camp comprises those convinced that the reason for the Sad Puppies campaign is entirely reactionary: that the Puppies are upset that more people of varying skin tones and sexual identities and left-wing political views have been winning awards than did in the past, because the Sad Puppies are largely white straight conservative men and they believe only white straight conservative men should be winning awards. The fact that the current Sad Puppy slate is not, in fact, entirely made up of white straight conservative men, does not seem to alter their stated perception. The fact that the Sad Puppies flat-out state that’s not what the campaign is about doesn’t alter this perception either: they’re accused of lying about their true motives.

The third camp comprises those who believe the Sad Puppies campaign is really just an attempt by its organizers to net Hugo Awards for themselves. Since Larry Correia made the ballot this year and withdrew his name from consideration, and Brad Torgersen recused himself before the nominations even began, that one doesn’t seem to have much basis in fact, but the argument is still made.

The fourth camp comprises the several who believe that the Hugo Awards should only be nominated and voted upon by a core group of fans with a long involvement in either WorldCon or the SF publishing industry; that the new fans nominating and voting for the Hugos for the first time this year, without having any connection to WorldCon or the group of editors/publishers/authors/reviewers/bloggers who see themselves as the core of the community, are interlopers who are trying to take the Hugo Award process over from those to whom it rightfully belongs due to their years of interest in, and involvement with, the Hugo process. This attitude is seen on the Sad Puppy side as being a claim that there is a hierarchy of fans, and that they, despite their love of science fiction, are seen as “not real fans,” or at least a lower order of fans, ones who should not be allowed to have a say in the Hugo Awards.

The annoyance of those who disagree with Sad Puppies has erupted online into the kinds of vitriol with which anyone who spends any time online is all-too-familiar. Insults fly, accusations are hurled about, people are called racist and sexist and homophobic and stupid, and so forth, and so on.

There is a move afoot among those whose ox has been gored by the preponderance of Sad Puppies nominees on the Hugo ballot this year to vote No Award (a viable option under the preferential Australian-style ballot of the Hugo) above any work or person who appeared on the Sad Puppies slate, regardless of quality.

I think this is wrong-headed, not to mention cruel and disrespectful. It’s a form of guilt-by-association–you hang out with the wrong people, so you will be shunned. It’s playground tactics, and far more destructive to the Hugo process and the perception of the award among readers than the mere presence on the ballot of works with which whose nomination those voting No Award disagree.

Yes, the No Award option is there for those who honestly believe nothing was nominated deserving of the award–but read the nominees first and then make that decision. To punish people–like Sheila Gilbert!–simply because they happen to be on the Sad Puppy slate is flat-out wrong. And it WILL backfire. I suspect, because Ann Leckie’s book Ancillary Justice won for Best Novel last year, that the non-Sad Puppy nominee of choice is the sequel, Ancillary Sword. If the No Award-above-Sad Puppy movement takes off and is widely promoted, there’s little doubt that the insulted and annoyed whose own nominated works are being No Awarded will return the favour. No Award could win the Best Novel category. And that wouldn’t be good for anyone, except those few who perhaps would take perverse delight in the complete destruction of the award’s remaining cachet.

Where do I stand in all this? (I know you’re dying to find out.) More on the Sad Puppy side, simply because their stated goals (and unlike a lot of the critics, I’m not going to take the “sure, they SAY this, but I know they really mean THIS” approach–I take them at their word) are not to damage or destroy the Hugos, but to rescue them. To, in fact, INCREASE the “cachet” I referred to by increasing the number of people who nominate and vote for the award, and increasing the diversity of that group of Hugo-supporting fans.

And when I say diversity, I don’t mean diversity as in skin-color and sexual identity. I couldn’t care less about the skin-color and sexual identity of the authors I read, or the characters they write–provided they write, and the characters inhabit, a fascinating, mind-expanding, entertaining fictional world. True diversity is diversity of opinion, of thought, of storytelling style. That’s the diversity that matters within science fiction (and within the world in general). And the smaller and more insular the group of people deciding who deserves and doesn’t deserve a Hugo, the less of that kind of diversity we’re going to see.

The number of people nominating for the Hugos this year set a record. I suspect we’ll see a record number of people voting, too. This year’s awards will suffer, no doubt, from all the controversy, but I hope that what the Sad Puppies have accomplished is to blow open the Hugo process, letting in fresh air and light and way, way more science fiction fans, and offering the possibility to many, many more writers that they may not only some day win a Hugo, but will do so secure in the knowledge that lots of people both nominated for them and voted for them.

A lot of the people nominating and voting this year were unaware the Hugo Awards even existed until the Hugos were drawn to their attention through the Sad Puppies. Others knew the awards existed, but had no clue they could be a part of the nomination process by buying a supporting membership. Their reaction was, “Cool! I’ve got to get on on that.”

I don’t see that as a bad thing. How can it be? The Sad Puppies, contra their detractors, are not trying to wreck the Hugo Awards, they’re trying to save them, by raising their profile and making them more truly representative of the vast sea of science fiction, and science fiction fans, which surrounds us.

The Hugo Awards claim to be the most prestigious award for science fiction, and once they were, but they haven’t been for a while–and they won’t be again unless they penetrate the consciousness of the thousands who read SF and fantasy books and watch SF and fantasy TV shows and movies, and throng to the ComicCons and DragonCons, and they, too, begin to nominate and vote.

Sad Puppies isn’t going away. Sad Puppies 4 is already in the works, with Kate Paulk heading it up. I don’t know what form it will take–I doubt she does, either, yet. For myself, I hope that, rather than provide a “there are five slots and here are five nominees” list as was done this year, which lends itself to those who are motivated to do so to vote a “straight ticket” and which certainly lends ammunition to those who claim that’s what everyone did, they provide somewhat longer lists of suggestions, a la the Locus Magazine recommended reading list.

For myself, I considered the Sad Puppy list when nominating, and did make a few nominations that appeared on their list. My reasoning? I saw people on that list I’ve long thought deserved to be a Hugo nominee, and their presence on the list seemed to indicate that this year they might actually make the ballot–and I wanted to help them along. The big one there for me was Jim Butcher, who absolutely deserves a Hugo, in my estimation, and whose nominated book this year, Skin Game, is one of his best.

Barring a change in the notoriously hard to change World Science Fiction Convention bylaws, we may see record nominations and online recommendation battles in the years to come, record voting, and record interest in the Hugo Awards.

I personally think that’s a good thing.

Here’s my slate for the final ballot this year:

Sheila Gilbert, Best Editor, Long Form

Other than that, read everything, vote as you see fit. And ignore anyone who tries to get to you do anything else.

ADDENDUM RE COMMENTS POLICY: Since this post is generating more comments than most things I post, I should point out that all comments have to be approved before appearing. If your comment doesn’t appear right away, it probably just means I’m not at my computer for a while. If you don’t see it after, say, two or three hours, it’s possible I didn’t approve it. It’s more likely I just haven’t seen it yet. And it could also have ended up in spam, in which case I’ll still see it, but it’ll take longer.

The Shards of Excalibur first four books as a set looks like this…

Song of the Sword Cover CoteauTwist of the Blade for WebThe Lake in the Clouds CoverCaveBeneath_theSea_smallercover

Cover art revealed for The Cave Beneath the Sea

CaveBeneath_theSea_smallercoverHere’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!

 

My latest book: The Adventures of Michael & Mia: Stewards of the Land

Final MAMSOTL Full Cover Low Res_Page_1This is a bit different from my usual work. Not an alien, spaceship, monster or magic-user to be found!

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.

Masks shortlisted for two Saskatchewan Book Awards

10857126_10152666676641720_4794773788794441917_oEach 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.

‘Twas the Nocturnal Time of the Preceding Day…video edition

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.

Enjoy!


 

‘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—
Astronomy-biology-mythology stew!)
“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