Although I’m still waiting for the bulk of my author’s copies of Faces (which is why the top three winners in my giveaway haven’t received their books yet), Faces has officially hit bookshelves and is available for order through your local bookstores (if they don’t have it in stock) or online at Amazon.com, Amazon.ca, Indigo, Barnes & Noble, and other fine retailers.
Not a lot of reviews yet, but there have been a couple! From RT Book Reviews, which gives it four stars:
In his final installment in the Masks of Aygrima trilogy, Faces, E.C. Blake builds on the suspense created in the previous installment. Readers will see the characters grow and change as they face troubles in both the war against the Autarch and in their personal lives. Blake creates a perfect balance between the action and emotion, forging a deep connection between the reader and the characters.
The first review at Amazon.ca is nice, too:
I thought Faces was the best book of the Masks trilogy. Unlike most series I’ve read that have gotten weaker with each book, Masks started off strong and got better and better with each passing release. The action moves at a fast pace in the book. There are plenty of plot twists and turns before coming to a surprising climax.
And a very well-written review on Goodreads also offers praise:
I can honestly say that while Mara Holdfast might be at her lowest point in this novel, she still has the uncanny ability to grow and expand exponentially while exploring the vast lands around her in very believable, yet often unpredictable ways….The character growth for Mara was astounding, as well as with the Lady of Pain and Fire…E.C. Blake has done a magnificent job with this trilogy, which seems to have gone unnoticed by a significant number of readers of fantasy. I truly hope that this is a success and that Blake returns to Aygrima in the near future with more epic feats amongst tyrants, villains, heroes, and heroines.
Have you got your copy yet?
Grain Magazine 42.3, the second volume of this venerable literary magazine that I’ve guest edited, is now in the mail to subscribers. I really enjoyed working on it with poetry editor Kelly-Anne Riess and fiction editor Cassidy McFadzean.
Among the duties of the managing editor is to come up with a title for the issue. I chose “The Maps We Make,” and here’s my editor’s note, explaining why:
Casting around for a title for this issue of Grain, I netted this quote from the novel Love Over Scotland, by Alexander McCall Smith: “Regular maps have few surprises: their contour lines reveal where the Andes are, and are reasonably clear. More precious, though, are the unpublished maps we make ourselves, of our city, our place, our daily world, our life; those maps of our private world we use every day; here I was happy, in that place I left my coat behind after a party, that is where I met my love; I cried there once, I was heartsore; but felt better round the corner once I saw the hills of Fife across the Forth, things of that sort, our personal memories, that make the private tapestry of our lives.”
And there, buried within that quote, was my title: The Maps We Make.
Every writer is a mapmaker, filling blank pages with the coastlines and landmarks and roads and villages of a newly discovered land, replacing the vague warnings of “Here There Be Dragons” with precise and delicate delineations of fascinating places: places beautiful and ugly, places of joy and places of grief, places of peace and places of strife, places filled with hatred…and places filled with love.
The literary works in this issue of Grain, chosen with care by fiction editor Cassidy McFadzean and poetry editor Kelly-Anne Riess, are maps to all of those kinds of places, and many more. Though not the “unpublished maps we make ourselves” of which Smith wrote (for one thing, they’re now published!), they will become, if you let them, part of your own “unpublished map”: “Here I read a story that made me happy; here I read a poem that touched my heart; here I cried over tragedies past and present; here I fell in love with a person who never existed; here I found pleasure in the music and rhythm of well-chosen words.”
We each make our own maps, day by day. We map our life, we map our past, we map out our future. It’s an odd, yet very human, truth that sometimes the most prominent landmarks of these personal “unpublished maps” are made of make-believe: novels and stories and plays and poems that change our lives, point us in a different direction, and hence alter our personal maps in strange and unpredictable ways.
“Here There Be Dragons” was meant to frighten people away from the blank spaces on ancient maps, to warn them that if they journeyed into those spaces they might encounter…well, anything. For some, it was a warning. For others, it was an invitation.
The writers in this issue of Grain have entered those blank spaces and sent back the maps they made.
Dare to follow them. Perhaps you will find their maps can help you fill the blank spaces of the one you draw every day.
The release of Falcon’s Egg, sequel to Right to Know, from Bundoran Press draws nigh–we might have copies at When Words Collide, as I understand it, with a formal launch to occur at Can-Con in Ottawa this fall.
A sure sign of impending release: cover art! This gorgeous cover (it has an exploding starship, how could I not like it?) is by talented Calgary artist Dan J. O’Driscoll, who also did the cover for Right to Know.
As for the book, here’s how it’s described:
The sequel to Right to Know, Falcon’s Egg is a fast-paced action adventure. Discovering a plot to reassert Imperial control over the recently rediscovered Peregrine, Lorn Kymbal tracks the conspirators into the deepest and most dangerous reaches of the planet and beyond. Kymbal, a veteran of the war of liberation that almost costs his life, fights killer robots and his own inner demons as he tries to win freedom for himself and his planet.
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
When Robert Frost wrote his famous poem “The Road Not Taken,” he clearly didn’t have in mind the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics, which postulates there is a very large—perhaps infinite—number of parallel universes, in which anything that could have happened in our past, but did not, in fact did.
Still, even shorn of its quantum-mechanical underpinnings, the idea of the choices we make today altering our future was hardly original with Frost. The story of Adam and Eve, to name one obvious example, is all about having a choice, and making the wrong one. Had Eve not tempted Adam, and had Adam not yielded to temptation, we would, the Bible tells us, all be living naked in the Garden of Eden.
But Frost’s poem expressed the concept elegantly and concisely, and illuminated a truth we all face on a daily basis. For example, while admittedly it is not as consequential a choice as the one which resulted in humanity being forced to earn its living by the sweat of its brow before returning to the dust from whence it came, at this point I now have two directions I could go with this column. I could write about the sub-genre of science fiction known as “alternate history,” or I could write about the choices one makes during the writing process.
This time, I’m going with the latter (although, if the many-worlds interpretation is correct, in a parallel universe I am writing that other column right this minute).
What got me thinking about roads not taken was the editing process for my upcoming science fiction novel Falcon’s Egg (Bundoran Press), a sequel to 2013’s Right to Know. The main character of Falcon’s Egg, Lorn Kymball, was a teenager in Right to Know. Idealizing Art Stoddard, the main character of that novel, Lorn foolishly plunged into an active revolution, was critically injured, and then killed several crewmembers of a starship (and very nearly himself, as well) by blowing open a hatch. In the seven years since, he’s joined the State Security Intelligence Network—the state police—and for a while gamboled merrily along through fields of mayhem, mopping up the dangerous religious fanatics of the previous book. But recent events have made him question his commitment to the SSIN, and so when he finds himself caught up in yet another attempt to overthrow the government, he’s conflicted.
It took me quite a bit of writing in the first draft to grasp that his internal conflict was the real conflict of the book rather than the external conflict, although writing the external conflict, involving as it does killer robots and exploding starships, was more fun. And even though I recognized that fact, I struggled with delineating it.
Enter my excellent editor (and publisher) at Bundoran Press, Hayden Trenholm, who noted that in the draft I sent him, “what he (Lorn) was doing was interesting but he wasn’t very interesting himself.” In other words, I had oodles of external conflict, but I still hadn’t nailed down the heart of the novel, Lorn’s internal conflict.
Hayden suggested two roads I could follow to make the story work: either Lorn, in response to the violence he’s been exposed to and committed, becomes a cold-blooded heart-of-stone killer, or he becomes a tortured soul barely holding it together, who still manages to save the day. He thought the latter more interesting, and so did I, and thus that’s the path Lorn takes in the revised version of Falcon’s Egg I recently submitted.
But I could have taken the other road. That’s one of the most fascinating things about the stories we tell: we are constantly making choices, as writers, about what happens next. (Indeed, that’s the question that drives all stories, and has since the primeval campfires of our ancestors: “And then what happened?”) What happens next determines what happens after that, and after that, and after that, yet at each fork in the road, there is another way to go, another story that could be told.
So how do we decide which road to take? I try to choose the most interesting road—the one that leads the story in a direction that I will enjoy writing, and (more importantly) readers will enjoy reading. That doesn’t necessarily mean the happiest direction, but nor is it automatically the grimmest. It usually does mean (I hope) the most surprising. Nothing is more boring than predictability, and there are many venial literary sins I will gladly commit to avoid the mortal sin of being boring.
No matter what you are writing—science fiction, fantasy, literary fiction, poetry, even non-fiction—at every step along the way you are faced with choices. Strive to make the most interesting choices…and leave the boring ones to the versions of you scribbling away in parallel worlds.
I’m offering several prizes, awarded at random to anyone who comments here, on Facebook on my Edward Willett fan page, my E.C. Blake fan page, here or at www.ecblake.com, or who retweets on Twitter.
First prize will be a complete, autographed set of all three books of the trilogy in hardcover.
Second prize will be a complete set of the trilogy, but with the first two books in paperback and only the third in hardcover.
Third prize will be a copy of Faces in hardcover.
Fifth prize will be a copy of Masks in paperback.
Five great prizes! To enter, comment below. Contest runs until the book is released, July 7: it cuts off at midnight July 6.
Please share freely!
I’m excited to announce that Song of the Sword has been long-listed in the young adult category for The Sunburst Award for Excellence in Canadian Literature of the Fantastic, an annual award celebrating the best in Canadian fantastic literature published during the previous calendar year.
The winners receive a cash prize of $1,000 as well as a medallion which incorporates the Sunburst logo.
The Sunburst Award takes its name from the debut novel of the late Phyllis Gotlieb, one of the first published authors of contemporary Canadian speculative fiction.
Others long-listed in the YA category:
- Sea of Shadows by Kelley Armstrong
- The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier
- Gottika by Helaine Becker
- Tin Star by Cecil Castellucci
- The Voices in Between by Charlene Challenger
- Guardian by Natasha Deen
- Child of a Hidden Sea by A.M. Dellamonica
- A Breath of Frost by Alyxandra Harvey
- Sophie, In Shadow by Eileen Kernaghan
- Seven Wild Sisters by Charles de Lint
- The Boundless by Kenneth Oppel
- The Paper Sword by Robert Priest
- Zomboy by Richard Scrimger
- Radiant by Karina Sumner-Smith
- The Door in the Mountain by Caitlin Sweet
The short list will be announced in mid-June and the winners will be announced in the fall. This year’s jurors are S.M. Beiko, Gerard Collins, Paula Johanson, Corey Redekop and Sherryl Vint.
My fifth book (out of 10) this year: Fertile Ground, 50th anniversary history of the Saskatchewan Mining Association
Yesterday marked the launch of my fourth new book (and fifth book overall) of 2015, when the Saskatchewan Mining Association released its 50th anniversary book, Fertile Ground, to celebrate Saskatchewan Mining Week. The photo shows the book’s designers, Catharine Bradbury and Nikki Jessop of Bradbury Design, and me at the press conference proclaiming Saskatchewan Mining Week yesterday morning in the Saskatchewan Gallery of the Saskatchewan Legislative Building.
I really enjoyed writing Fertile Ground: I learned a lot about the history of mining in the province. The final product is lovely and of course will be widely distributed through the SMA’s many member companies, and presumably to libraries, so look for it if you get a chance.
So, to tally up. Book 1 of 2015 was Kiera Cass: All About the Author. Book 2 was The Adventures of Michael & Mia: Stewards of the Land. Book 3 was the mass market paperback of Shadows. Book 4 was Lake in the Clouds. Book 5 will be Faces. Books 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10 will be (though not necessarily in this order) Blue Fire (or whatever the new YA fantasy for Rebelight Publishing ends up being called), Cave Beneath the Sea (the fourth book in The Shards of Excalibur), Falcon’s Egg (sequel to Right to Know), and the revised editions of my old books on Ebola and disease-hunting scientists, now titled What You Can Do About Ebola and Infectious Disease Specialists: Hunting Down Disease.
It’s entirely possible I might add one more title…there’s a long-delayed project I’m expecting to finally come out this year. We’ll see.
Oh, and if I get time, there might be a couple of self-released books, too.
Imagine what I could accomplish if I wasn’t such a lazy procrastinator. Which I always feel I am.
Also, this may explain why I’m on the verge of wearing a hole right through the “E” key on my MacBook Pro. “A,” “S,” and “N” are also looking a little battered…
The Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association has announced the ballot for the 2015 Aurora Awards, recognizing the best in Canadian science fiction and fantasy, and I’m pleased and proud to announce that Twist of the Blade is on the ballot in the Best Young Adult Novel Category.
Others nominated in that category:
Lockstep by Karl Schroeder, Tor Books;
Rain by Amanda Sun, Harlequin TEEN;
Out of This World by Charles de Lint, Razorbill Canada;
The Voices in Between by Charlene Challenger, Tightrope Books;
Mabel the Lovelorn Dwarf by Sherry Peters, Dwarvenamazon; and
Sea of Shadows by Kelley Armstrong, Doubleday Canada.
The Aurora awards will be present during SFContario 6 / Canvention 35 on the weekend of November 20-22
There are more than the usual five nominees because of a three-way tie for the last spot on the ballot. The complete list of nominees in all categories can be found at the link below. Note that if you join the CSFFA you can vote for the awards, and you’ll also receive a voters’ package that includes many of the nominated works, or portions thereof.
Please consider joining and voting for your favorites!
With the July 7 release of the hardcover of my E.C. Blake novel Faces, Book 3 in The Masks of Aygrima trilogy, just around the corner, it’s time to post a little teaser. You can now read Chapter 1 online. It picks up immediately following the events at the end of Shadows.
Watch this space–I’m planning to run a giveaway in June to help promote the release!
Faces will be available through your favorite bookstore, or you can pre-order it now from Amazon. Here’s a convenient link!
I had the great pleasure last Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday to be one of the writer-instructors at Creating in the Qu’appelle, an annual teen writing camp held at Dallas Valley Ranch Camp outside Regina. (The others were Chris Fisher, Gerald Hill, and Steven Galloway.)
Over the course of the 2 1/2 days, I conducted four workshops, three for students and three for teachers, and had one-on-one meetings with several promising young writers. There as also a very enjoyable open-mic night where the teens read from their work, I sang “Me” from Beauty and the Beast (because, why not?), and the talented duo AndersonBurko performed.
For my workshop, I used the Seven-Sentence Short Story exercise that I lifted from James van Pelt a while ago. To recap, it works like this:
1. Introduce what the main character wants and the first action he/she takes to accomplish that goal.
2. The results of the action the charact takes in sentence #1 has to make the situation worse. The character should be farther from the goal now.
3. Based on the new situation, the character takes a second action to accomplish the goal.
4. The results of the second action the character takes from sentence #3 is to make the situation worse. The character should be even farther from the goal now.
5. Based on the new situation, the character takes a third and final action to accomplish the goal.
6. The third action either accomplishes the character’s goal, fails to accomplish the goal, or there is an unusual but oddly satisfying different result of the last action.
7. The denouement. This sentence wraps up the story. It could tell the reader how the character felt about the results, or provide a moral, or tell how the character’s life continued on.
I don’t always take part in the exercise myself, but this time I did. And so, gentle reader, I present you with two seven-sentence short stories. Be kind.
Story 1: The Deer Hunter
1. Prestal looked down from the branches of the giant oak into the dim green shadows where the great stag hesitated, clenched his knife more tightly between his teeth, and leaped.
2. He intended to land on the stag’s back and seize its antlers, to ride it to exhaustion and then kill it with the dagger…but the moment he moved he startled a flock of starlings which exploded from the tree with a noise like a hailstorm on a tile roof, and the stag bolted too, so that rather than land on it shoulders, Prestal landed on its hindquarters, and promptly tumbled to the ground, getting kicked in the stomach by the fleeing stag’s rightmost hoof on the way.
3. But he wasn’t done yet: he spat the now useless dagger from his mouth and reached instead for the crossbow slung across his back; killing the stag with a crossbow bolt might not impress his fair lady Silena as much as the riding-it-and-stabbing-it scenario he’d originally envisioned, but ultimately, the real goal was not letting dinner get away.
4. He aimed, fired, and missed…well, missed the stag: he did hit the black mountain cat which had just leaped from the branches on the far side of the giant oak and born the stag to the ground, the bolt skittering across its haunches so that it yowled in pain and fury—and then turned and leaped toward him, murder in its yellow eyes.
5. Prestal had one chance, and one chance only: he snatched up the fallen dagger, held it out at arm’s length, and waited for the impact.
6. But the impact never came—the beast leaped high over his outstretched arm, landed behind him, skidded to a halt, and made a sound that the panicked Prestal first interpreted as a growl, until his terror subsided a little: then he recognized it as a purr.
7. He twisted around just in time to see the cat transform from cat to beautiful lady—his lady, Lady Silena, who smiled and said, as she helped him to his feet, “As I warned you when we first met…sometimes, I can be a bit catty.”
Story 2: A Lesson in Humility
1. Anton dove headfirst into the crystal-clear water of the Pool of Light, determined that this time he would reach the bottom and retrieve the precious Stone of Foreseeing that Sage Chamis, his mentor, had demanded he come back with…or not come back at all.
2. But the moment he touched the water, it changed in consistency from liquid to something more like thick jelly: he barely penetrate it, and in the same instance it changed from crystal-clear to inky black, black as scrivener’s ink.
3. Anton swore, but he wouldn’t—couldn’t—give up: he drew the dagger from his belt and sliced at the jelly-like substance of the pool, digging his way foot by foot toward the hidden bottom, and the Stone it held.
4. The Pool didn’t seem to like that: the whole thing heaved, like a dog that had eaten bad pork, and threw Anton out onto the glittering, jewel-like sand surrounding it.
5. He scrambled to his feet and, in fury and frustration, thrust out his fingers and screamed the activating words for the Spell of Flaming Death.
6. The magical fire tore into the pool’s black contents, causing them to bubble and smoke, filling the cavern with a thick haze that made Anton cough and blinded him for several minutes: when it cleared, there was the pool, crystal-clear again, the Stone of Foreseeing still winking away in its depths, as though mocking him.
7. ”Seeing is not the same as having, and sometimes the best way to your goal is not the direct path,” a voice said behind him, and he turned to see Sage Chamis, who walked over to a rope lying at the side of the pool he had noticed but ignored, tugged on it, and pulled the stone to him, only to untie it and toss it back into the pool: “Let us continue our lessons,” he said, and Anton, sighing, followed him out of the cavern.
All in all, Creating in the Qu’appelle was a great experience. I hope I have the chance to go back some day!