Edward Willett

Cover reveal: Paths to the Stars, my short-story collection

I’m getting very close to releasing my short-story collection, Paths to the Stars. It brings together almost all of my published, and a few of my unpublished, short stories, going all the way back to the beginnings of my writing career, up through “Textente Tela Veneris,” just released in the Planetary: Venus anthology from Superversive Press (see the previous note).

Since I’m independently publishing this through “Shadowpaw Press” (ahem), I’m doing my own cover art. I found a great image on Shutterstock created by Tithi Luadthong. I my still tweak the fonts, but this is pretty close to what you can expect on the finished book.

Can’t wait to share these stories!

Short story in new anthology Planetary: Venus

I have a new short story out, in the anthology Planetary: Venus from Superversive Press.

Here’s a description of the anthology:

Venus, the second planet from the sun, a world of sulfurous gas and tremendous temperatures where the landscape features—mountains and valleys—are all named for love goddesses. Venus herself is the goddess most known for allure and romance.

Here are twenty stories featuring Venus, the planet, the goddess, or just plain love—both romantic and otherwise. Planetary Fiction explores the themes associated with these heavenly bodies as well as their astronomical, mythological, and in some cases even alchemical significance.

My short story, “Texente Tela Veneris” (in English, “Venus’s Weaver”), has an interesting back-story: it began life as a play. In fact, you can read the original play right here on this website. Called “Threads,” it was written for Globe Theatre’s On the Line: A Freefall Through New Work a few years ago. It took a bit of tweaking to make it Venus-specific, but I’m pretty happy with the result.

Lots of great stories in the anthology as a whole–check it out if you like short fiction!

The Cityborn shortlisted for Saskatchewan Book Award

I’m pleased to announce that my science fiction novel The Cityborn (DAW Books) is a finalist for the $2,000 City of Regina Book Award in this year’s Saskatchewan Book Awards (you can find the complete list of nominees at the link.) The shortlist was announced at the Regina Public Library (and concurrently in Saskatoon) on February 16.

I’ve been nominated for the Regina Book Awards three times previously, for Spirit Singer (which won in 2002), Magebane, and Masks.

Others nominated in the City of Regina Book Award category are:

  • Islands of Grass by Trevor Herriot (photographs by Branimir Gjetvaj) (Coteau Books)
  • The Fabric of Day by Anne Campbell (Thistledown Press)
  • The Last Chance Ladies’ Book Club by Marlis Wesseler (Signature Editions)

The awards ceremony is Saturday, April 28.

Song of the Sword now available as audiobook!

I’m thrilled to announce that Song of the Sword, book one in my Shards of Excalibur young adult fantasy series (published in print by Coteau Books) is now available through Audible.com as an audiobook, narrated by the talented Elizabeth Klett, who will be narrating the remaining four books in the series over the course of the year.




I couldn’t be happier with Elizabeth’s narration. Here’s a bit more about her from her website:

Reading books out loud has long been a passion for Elizabeth Klett. She has been a professional audiobook narrator since 2011, with over 100 titles available at Audible and elsewhere. She has been recording free audiobooks for LibriVox since 2007, and has produced over 60 solo recordings of novels, short stories, and poetry. She can also be heard voicing various characters in audio dramas at The Online Stage, and reading poetry at Rhapsodize Audio. She lives in Houston, Texas.

Here’s the synopsis as presented on Audible (I wrote it, so I can vouch for it):

Ariane’s life is complicated. Her mother suddenly disappeared two and a half years ago, she’s trying to get used to living with her aunt after bouncing around a series of foster homes, and she’s taking a lot of grief from the clique of “in” girls at school. To make matters even worse, now she’s having strange dreams involving swords and knights and battles, and things seem to get weird whenever she touches water.

The weirdness comes to a head the morning the lake starts singing to her. Next thing she knows, she’s underwater, talking to the Lady of the Lake of King Arthur fame (who turns out to be an ancestor), has acquired a nerdy sidekick, Wally, has been bestowed magical powers, and has been sent on a quest to find the five scattered shards of Excalibur before the powerful wizard Merlin, in his unsuspected modern-day guise, can get his hands on them. Can Ariane and Wally figure out how to use her new abilities to meet the challenge…or will they die trying?


“Every so often…a writer is skilled enough to utilize the stories of King Arthur and Camelot to significant effect. Guy Gavriel Kay’s Fionavar Tapestry Trilogy is definitely on the list. So, too, is Song of the Sword, the impressive new YA novel from Regina writer Edward Willett…a taut, compelling narrative, well-drawn characters, and a keen sense of genuine peril and true wonder. It’s a powerful, fun, engaging read, and it’s the first of a series, so readers have much to look forward to.” – Quill & Quire

“This is a fantasy of epic proportions, with the perfect blend of suspense; well-developed, likable characters; and a touch of sarcastic humor…this is just the beginning of the fantastical journey.” – School Library Journal



The Space-Time Continuum: What do writers owe their readers?

Here’s my latest column from Freelance, the magazine of the Saskatchewan Writers Guild.

The Winds of Winter, the sixth book in George R.R. Martin’s bestselling fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire, still doesn’t have a release date, six years after the release of A Dance with Dragons. (And there’s a final book, A Dream of Spring, to come after The Winds of Winter.)

Readers of the series are understandably antsy. Some have been downright rude about it, prompting Neil Gaiman to famously tell a reader that “George R.R. Martin is not working for you.” (Well, he put it that way the second time he said it: his original formulation was…pithier.)

But it raises an interesting question. What does a writer owe to his or her readers?

I’ve thought about this quite a bit over the years. I once heard a playwright claim, in an interview, that she owed the audience nothing. That raised my hackles, and not just because I’d disliked the play. I think as an author I do owe my readers something.

Both theatre and writing are collaborative art forms. Even on Broadway, with its fantastic sets and multimillion-dollar budgets, audiences must invest a great deal of their own imaginations to make a show work. They must look at a few painted flats, some furniture, a projection on a backdrop, and a handful of actors in costumes, and from that conjure up within their minds a believable, fully fleshed world. I act as well as write. As an actor, my job is to perform my role so believably that audiences can make that imaginative leap, so that, to answer Shakespeare’s question in the prologue to Henry V, a theatre may indeed hold “the vasty fields of France.”

Now, as an actor I have the benefit of hearing the audience’s response as I perform. The response to my writing is delayed months from when I first type the words. Yet that collaboration with the audience still exists. A book without a reader is just a stack of paper or a computer file. Our words are just flecks of ink on dead trees or pixels on a screen until they enter the minds of our readers. That’s where they take form. Just as actors conjure up whole bloody battlefields with two guys in fiberglass armor with plastic swords, so we conjure up whole worlds in the minds of our readers with 26 characters arranged in various ways.

If readers sometimes react strongly to our story in ways we didn’t expect, pleading with us to write more in the worlds we’ve created, or taking us to task for the fates of characters or the course of our plots, we should neither be surprised nor alarmed. That’s the literary equivalent of spirited discussion in the bar down the street after a play ends. It means we have successfully collaborated with the audience to craft a story. They care deeply about what they have read because they, just like the writer, have put time and effort into making it come to life, and thus they feel it belongs to them as much as it does to its putative creator.

That’s not to say I believe I owe my readers–my audience–anything specific with regard to the content of my creation. Quite the opposite. I hope neither my plot nor my characters do what is expected. But I do owe my audience the best performance I can muster, a performance that kindles their own imaginations, allowing them to bring the story to life within their minds.

In short, I owe them a darn good read. I owe them the assurance that they are in the hands of someone who knows what he’s doing, someone who won’t afflict them with characters who act illogically, speak boringly, and have all the depth of onionskin paper, or make them suffer through plots warmed over from reruns of The Love Boat. I owe the readers the best book I am capable of writing. I am not shouting gibberish into an empty auditorium: I am speaking my lines clearly and distinctly before an audience of human beings.

As I write this very column, I’m speaking to you. You’ve given me your time, and I owe it to you to be as interesting and entertaining and thought-provoking as I can. That doesn’t mean you have to agree with what I’ve said. If you’re reading one of my novels, it doesn’t mean you have to approve of the way I kill off your favorite character in Chapter 12 (spoiler!). But at the very least, I hope you won’t feel that I’ve wasted your time, or that I’ve failed to engage your mind. The best writing and thinking I can muster: that’s what I owe my readers.

And so, this column ends. I bow, and exit stage right, and as the curtain closes behind me, hope you have found my short performance worthwhile…as I hope the readers of my novels find those much longer performances also worth the price of admission.

Help me create science fiction and fantasy through Patreon!

I’ve decided to join the ranks of the Patreonites: you can now, if you wish, become a patron of my work (Medici-like), helping me create more exciting science fiction and fantasy works and earning some cool rewards in the process.

In case you’re not familiar with it: Patreon is designed to help people support creators in their creation of stuff. There are artists and filmmakers and craftspeople and many, many others on Patreon. And there are authors. Including, now, me.

Check out my page, and if you’d like to contribute, you can sign up for as little as $1 U.S. a month. There are rewards at different levels of giving, so take a look at those, too. There will be some Patron-only posts on the Patreon site: snippets of writing, audio clips, videos, I don’t even know yet. I do promise to try to make it fun.Oh, and here’s a video of me to start everything off:


So please, take a look, and I hope some of you will join the Great Willett Patron Brigade! (Hm. May have to work on that name…)

First description of Worldshaper, my next novel for DAW Books

The release of Worldshaper, Book 1 in the Worldshapers series, is still 10 months away (it’s set for September 2018), but that’s not very long in publishing terms. My editor at DAW Books, Sheila Gilbert, and I are already talking about cover art. And I’ve also been asked to write “sell copy” describing the book. Here it is, the first public description of what to expect:

By Edward Willett
Book 1 in the Worldshapers series

For Shawna Keys, the world is almost perfect. She’s just opened a pottery studio in a beautiful city. She’s in love with a wonderful man. She has good friends.
But one shattering moment of violence changes everything. Mysterious attackers kill her best friend. They’re about to kill Shawna. She can’t believe it’s happening—and just like that, it isn’t. It hasn’t. No one else remembers the attack, or her friend. To everyone else, she never existed…
Everyone, that is, except the mysterious stranger who shows up in Shawna’s shop. He claims her world has been perfect because she Shaped it to be perfect; that it is only one of uncounted Shaped worlds in a great Labyrinth; and that all those worlds are under threat from the Adversary who has now invaded hers. She cannot save her world, he says, but she might be able to save others—if she will follow him from world to world, learning their secrets and carrying them to Ygrair, the mysterious Lady at the Labyrinth’s heart.
Frightened, hounded, Shawna sets off on a desperate journey, uncertain whom she can trust, how to use her new-found power…and what awaits her in the myriad worlds beyond her own.

The Space-Time Continuum: Pulp Fiction

This is my latest column from the Saskatchewan Writers Guild magazine Freelance, with extra graphics!

Mention “pulp fiction” these days and most people probably think of the 1994 Quentin Tarantino movie. But of course the movie’s title referenced something much earlier: fiction literally published on pulp—cheap paper made directly from wood-pulp.

Pulp paper quickly turns both yellow and brittle, and perhaps that perception of poor quality has coloured the perception of the fiction printed thereon, but in fact many classic stories—not just of science fiction and fantasy, but in other genres, too—first appeared in what are now known as the “pulp magazines.”

Mike Ashley is a U.K. researcher and editor who has published four books on the history of science fiction magazines just since 2000, with a fifth in the works. In a recent essay on The Pulp Magazines Project website, he offers a quick history of pulp magazines.

He defines pulps narrowly, as magazines not only printed on pulp paper, but of a standard size, about 10 X 7 inches. Their glory years were 1896 to 1955. After that, they largely vanished. Some magazines became larger and moved to better paper, while the few survivors mostly shrank to digest size, roughly 7 X 5 inches.

The magazines lacked bulk advertising: they were so cheap to produce that even though they typically sold for a dime, they could survive solely off of sales revenue. Illustrations were limited to line drawings, because photos wouldn’t reproduce well.

The direct ancestors of the pulps were dime novels and boys’ adventure magazine. (Interestingly enough—to me, at least—a previous Edward Willett wrote dime-novel Westerns.)

Ashley pegs the first proper pulp as The Argosy, born as The Golden Argosy, a weekly boys’ adventure magazine, in December 1882. The name change in December 1888 was an attempt to attract a more grown-up readership. It moved to the pulp format in April 1894 (the image is the cover of that first pulp issue). The focus remained on adventure stories, but more serious work was also serialized, such as Upton Sinclair’s novel In the Net of the Visconti.

The overall model, though, was exciting adventure fiction, sold cheaply, and it worked so well that by 1907 The Argosy was selling half a million copies of every issue, making it second in circulation among American magazines.

Success bred imitators—lots of them, far too many to list here. The early pulps had an eclectic approach to fiction, but specialty magazines soon appeared, beginning with 1906’s The Railroad Man’s Magazine, in which all of the stories were linked to railways.

In October 1912 All-Story published Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs. His Martian adventures featuring John Carter followed. Their success led to even more fantastical stories (though there’d always been some) appearing in the pulps.

Science-fiction readers finally got their own magazine with Amazing Stories, started by Hugo Gernsback in April 1926. Though it was the first science-fiction magazine, Ashley points out it wasn’t really a pulp: initially, it used a larger format and heavier paper. As a result, the honour of being the first true science-fiction pulp goes to 1930’s Astounding Stories (whose first cover graces—if that’s the right word—the top of this column).

Amazing Stories continued in print form until 2005, but the real “amazing story” is Astounding’s. Renamed Analog in 1960, it continues to this day: you can find it in Chapters as a digest-sized magazine published on cheap paper (though better paper than the original pulps used!). That’s the cover of the most recent issue at right.

Other science-fiction pulps included Wonder StoriesStartling Stories, and Planet Stories, which introduced such writers as Robert A. Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Ray Bradbury, Philip K. Dick, and L. Ron Hubbard. On the fantasy side, Weird Tales published H.P. Lovecraft, and Robert E. Howard’s tales of Conan the Barbarian.

The number of pulps dwindled during the Second World War, and by the mid-1950s they’d almost all vanished, “victim,” Ashley says, “to all manner of afflictions—comics, paperbacks, television, and eventually the withdrawal of their major distributor.”

And yet their spiritual descendants live in science fiction and fantasy in the form of the “Big Three”: the aforementioned Analog, Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine (launched in 1977), and The Magazine of Science Fiction and Fantasy (1949).

In the larger literary world, there’s a movement called New Pulp (“stories by modern fans and authors that recreate the style of adventures that appeared in the pulp magazines during the pulp era”), which has an annual convention called PulpFest.

And in science fiction specifically, there’s the Pulp Revolution. Jasyn Jones, one of its adherents, defines it thus:

“The Pulp Revolution…is about learning from the past how to make great stories. It’s about grabbing the audience right out of the gate and keeping them mesmerized by moving the story along. It’s about the absolute minimum of boring talky baloney, and the absolute maximal entertainment, enjoyment, and fun. It’s about audience first, last, and always. It’s about eschewing all else in pursuit of stories that inspire, that thrill, that horrify, that move, that elate. It’s about storytelling in its purest and most elemental form. It’s about all that…”

From my point of view, “all that” sounds pretty sweet.

Pulp fiction lives!

Tim Hildebrand’s acting career stretches from Caronport to Cannes

I wrote this article for Refined Saskatoon; you can see it in the context of the magazine here. Back in 2007, I performed with Tim in Beauty and the Beast at Persephone Theatre in Saskatoon, the very first show in the then brand-new theatre. (Our Beast was Paul Alexander Nolan, currently heading to Broadway again in the Jimmy Buffett jukebox musical Escape to Margaritaville; I profiled him here.)

When Tim Hildebrand was in Grade 1 in Caronport, he longed to get to Grade 5, so he could be in an “actual play”—the annual Christmas pageant.

“I remember waiting for four years just to get a chance to be in that play,” he recalls. “I got this little singing solo, the crowd really clapped, and I was just ecstatic. It was the most exhilarating experience I’d ever had.”

That love of performing has led him to a professional acting career, first in theatre in Saskatchewan, and now in movies, TV shows and commercials, and taken him all the way from Caronport to Los Angeles.

But oddly enough, it wasn’t his first choice. In high school he was mostly into athletics, and when he graduated he embarked on an education degree at the University of Saskatchewan.

However, he chose drama as one of his teaching subjects, and in drama classes he realized “these are the people I love spending time with.”

He switched to a degree in theatre, graduating in 2002. “Tibor Feheregyhazi (the late artistic director of Persephone Theatre) took me under his wing, and gave me seven or eight roles at the Station Arts Centre in Rosthern and at Persephone very quickly out of university. More than anybody else, he guided and launched my professional career.”

Hildebrand branched out to other western Canadian theatres, including Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan and Rosebud Theatre in Rosebud, Alberta, but he also felt a call to give back to society, and so in 2006 he stepped back from performing to coordinate the much-lauded Performing Arts for At-Risk Youth program at Family Service Saskatoon.

When he decided to return to full-time acting in 2013, he began doing a lot of auditions, one of which was in Florida for the New York Film Academy, which offers a Master of Fine Arts degree in film acting. His audition netted him a $10,000-a-year scholarship, which he used to obtain his MFA at the Academy’s Los Angeles campus.

He used his time in L.A. well, not only obtaining his degree, but learning the city and building valuable relationships with casting directors and others. His L.A. acting career began in the theatre, when he landed the role of Mark Rothko in Red, “a two-person, intimate play that went really well.”

That was followed by a role in The Engine of Our Ruin at the Victory Theatre. The play was a Los Angeles Times Critics’ Pick, and made several top-10 drama lists. Film and TV roles began to come Hildebrand’s way, including the lead detective in an episode of Deep Undercover, the lead in a pilot for the SciFi Network called Declassified Encounters, and roles in “a flurry of small independent films,” the “funnest” of which was Bid, about corruption in the Mafia-controlled construction industry in Brazil, which entailed his first-ever trip to South America.

Last year, Hildebrand appeared in three small films that were accepted into the Cannes Festival: Departure, a prison drama; Adam and Miriam, a film about the Holocaust, and Embrace, “a small film about an estranged father and daughter meeting in a restaurant to decide their future,” which he also wrote.

This summer Hildebrand is back in Saskatoon, auditioning for shows locally, while he works to renew his visa so he can return to L.A. this fall and continue to grow his career.

What’s he looking for? “Solid feature film work, with good scripts and good co-workers. The thing that gratifies me the most is working with talented people.”

He’s already worked with many, including (a career highlight) Irma P. Hall, whom he considers one of the great character actors of all time, in a small independent film, and more recently, on a commercial, Sean Hayes from Will and Grace (below).

But he’ll always remain a Saskatchewan boy at heart. “My parents taught at a Bible college,” he notes. “The values they instilled in me have evolved as I’ve gotten older, but those core values have really stayed true.”

That solid Saskatchewan grounding has helped him stay true to himself in Los Angeles, where, he says, there is “tremendous pressure” to conform, both in physical appearance and in philosophical bent.

“I think the world is hungry for grounded perspectives,” he says. “With all the anger and vitriol and the accusations flying back and forth, to be a sensible, grounded person is in demand and is appreciated.”

More and more, Hildebrand sees acting as an opportunity to share what he’s learned about life. Every script has some kind of message, he notes, and says, “It’s become more important to me to find messages I can actively endorse: pro-social things, inclusion, openness, joy, love, the things that a lot of us believe in in theory but find hard to practice.

“As actors, we are in the business of implanting ideas in people’s minds,” he concludes. “It’s a sacred trust.”

When Words Collide 2017: Canada’s best writing conference

Last weekend my wife and daughter and I made our annual pilgrimage to When Words Collide in Calgary, which has become, not only my favorite writing conference, but, I think, the best writing conference in Canada. (Admittedly, I haven’t been to all of them, but I don’t see how any of them can be appreciably better!)

There are panels on every aspect of writing, and even though many of them are aimed at writers who are just starting out, there are plenty of others of interest to more experienced writers. This year, I particularly enjoyed Tawny Stokes’s panel on pitching books to TV/movie production companies—something I intend to pursue more aggressively—and hearing the talks of the guests of honour: Jennifer Estep, Sam Hiyate, C.C. Humphreys, and Guy Gavriel Kay. (Will Ferguson was also a guest, but was only able to attend for one day, and missed the Friday night session where the others spoke.)

For my part, I gave two presentations. One involved leading attendees through the Seven-Sentence Short Story plotting exercise (created by James van Pelt), which I’ve done about four years in a row now, and which has proved quite popular. (My own example this year wasn’t one of my best efforts, so I’ll spare you reading it.)

I also gave, for the first time, a presentation called “Working with DAW Books,” in which I outlined my own rather unique journey from published-on-a-small-scale to published-by-one-of-SF-and-fantasy’s-major-houses. Someone commented that it seemed a rather narrow focus for a presentation, but while of course it was specifically about working with the wonderful people at DAW (the “DAW family,” as it’s known, is an accurate description, not hyperbole), it was also about, in general, the process of working with a major traditional publisher: editing, copyediting, proofreading, cover art, etc. It must have been reasonably interesting: someone told me a later a friend of theirs said it had been their favorite presentation of the convention to that point.

One regular feature of When Words Collide is what’s known as “Live-Action Slush.” A panel of editors listens to readings of the opening pages of stories submitted anonymously, each editor putting up a hand if they would have stopped before the end of the page is reached, then explaining why or why not they put up their hands.

There are science fiction panels, fantasy panels, YA panes, romance panels, etc. I love being the reader, and this year did two: historical novels, and a very special one where the panel wasn’t made up of editors, but of kids aged 11 to 16. (One of the 16-year-olds was my daughter, Alice.) We didn’t have that many writers submitting work to it (which astonishes me—seems to me kids’ feedback is the most valuable of all) so I bravely read a page from my own middle-grade work-in-progress, and did indeed get some excellent feedback, including a critical comment from Alice, which I appreciated. (No, honestly, I did!)

Another regular feature at the convention I always try to be part of is “Writers at the Improv.” This is hosted by IFWA, the Imaginative Fiction Writers of Alberta, and they’ve been doing it since way back when I used to go to ConVersion, a now-defunct Calgary science fiction convention. Normally teams of two join forces to craft sentences using words provided by the audience, creating a story over the course of the hour, with the teams competing to get the most sentences into the final product. This year I was a team unto myself, competing with two two-person teams of IFWA members.

The resulting stories are always…unusual. This year’s began with a velociraptor chasing a velocipede down a vellum-covered roadway, and ended with everyone being taken bodily into heaven. So, of course, the final title was “Velocirapture.” (Which, it turns, out, is the name of a five-piece “adventure prog” band from Florida. Who knew?)

Besides the programming, When Words Collide also offers an opportunity to catch up with old friends and fellow writers, like Robert J. Sawyer, my fellow DAW family member Gerald Brandt (as seen in the photo, taken by Rob Sawyer), and Liz and Hayden Trenholm, who used to live in Calgary and now live in Ottawa: Hayden owns Bundoran Press, which brought out my titles Right to Know and Falcon’s Egg.

You also make interesting new connections, and, hopefully, pick up new readers: there’s a mass autograph session, opportunities to sell books in the dealer’s room, room parties hosted by publishers and others, and more.

If you’re interested in writing in any genre, you should be going to When Words Collide. They cap attendance at 700 or so and it fills up every year, so register earlier rather than later—and maybe I’ll see you there next year.