Edward Willett

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.

The Space-Time Continuum: What’s the Big Idea?

Here’s my latest “Space-Time Continuum” column from the Saskatchewan Writers Guild‘s magazine Freelance.

“Where do you get your ideas?” is a question every author has heard multiple times. I usually say something about how story ideas are all around us, and give some examples.

But recently I’ve realized there are two different kinds of ideas at work in a book: the idea that starts the book, and the idea at the heart of the book—what you might call the “big idea.”

Or, at least, that’s what I’m going to call it, because that’s what bestselling science fiction writer John Scalzi calls it in his popular blog “Whatever,” where for years he has generously provided a weekly spot for authors to promote new books. I recently wrote a “Big Idea” essay about my latest book, The Cityborn (DAW Books), which is what got me thinking along the lines.

I began that essay by saying that, “Some books are born from big ideas, others have big ideas thrust upon them.”

It’s another way of saying that sometimes, even though we have a little idea that gives us a book, we don’t know what the big idea at the heart of the book is until we’ve worked on the book for quite a while. The authorial process (at least for me) is often as much a process of discovery as it is of ex nihilo creation.

In the case of The Cityborn, for example, I was a good 60,000 words into its 110,000-word total before I understood what it was about.

Oh, I had a good science fiction premise, a fast-moving plot, interesting characters, and a (I hope) fascinating setting. I’d had the idea for the book, I just hadn’t discovered the idea within the book.

The initial idea came (as is true of a lot of my books) in the form of a striking image: that of a young man scavenging for survival on a giant trash heap, outside a great city.

My process for building a novel from such an idea is similar to that of an oyster crafting a pearl around a piece of grit. I ask myself questions: “Why did that rubbish heap form? How big is it? What kind of city created it? Why are some of them reduced to scavenging? Who rules this city? Why do they allow this to continue?” My answers gave me the skeleton of my story.

This process is the same even if the initial idea takes the form of something other than an image. The classic seed for science fiction stories, after all, is “If this goes on…”: looking at something happening now, whether sociological, technological, or scientific, and projecting what it might mean in the near or far future. In that case, the series of questions might begin with, “Who is helped by this?” and “Who is hurt by this?”, a good way to disc

over the conflict and characters that lie at the heart of the potential story.

But no matter how much plot-development and character building I do before I start writing a story, the writing process itself has a way of changing it. To return to The Cityborn, even though I had a complete synopsis and knew exactly where the plot was going to go, it wasn’t until I started writing the characters, exploring not only the world in which I had placed them but their thoughts and feelings, that I finally twigged to what the story was about.

In fact, it came to me in a literal epiphany, one morning while I was writing in Atlantis Coffee in downtown Regina (a favorite haunt of mine). What makes my characters unique within the world they inhabit is that they were literally designed (with genetic modification and the injection of microscopic robots into their bloodstreams, this being science fiction) to fulfil a certain role. You might say they’re predestined, in a way even John Calvin never dreamed of.

What I realized that morning was that the big idea at the heart of The Cityborn was just another, albeit higher-level, question: namely, can individuals break the chains forged by the circumstances of their birth, the way they are raised, the expectations and restrictions placed upon them by their society?

Once I had that question in mind, all of my subsequent writing and revision worked to strengthen my answer to it: which (it won’t come as a surprise to anyone who has read my other books) was a resounding “Yes!”. The value of individuals, the importance of individual liberty (and individual responsibility) is a “big idea” that runs through many of my stories—but it’s particularly central to this one, and in a way, it seems so obvious it surprises me that I didn’t twig to it sooner.

But ultimately, that’s what makes writing such an interesting process. Readers make new discoveries with every page they turn…and writers make new discoveries with every page they write.


The Cityborn is out! Reviews, interviews, and more…

The Cityborn, my eighth novel for DAW Books (though only the fourth under my own name) officially released on July 4. All of the United States celebrated with fireworks, which was nice.

This is an ongoing post that I’ll update as new things appear online.

It’s been getting some nice attention! It made Inverse Entertainment’s list of “7 Essential Science Fiction Books for July 2017” and Barnes & Noble’s list of “The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Books of July 2017.”

I wrote a “Big Idea” for John Scalzi’s popular blog WhateverYou can read it here. John has generously provided these guest spots for many years for authors to promote their new books. The last time I claimed one was for Terra Insegura.

Quite a few reviews popping up:

RT Book Reviews says:

“Willett brings J.G. Ballard’s High-Rise into the distant space age in this dystopian tale of class, power and freedom that will entertain devotees and non-genre fans alike. The worldbuilding in this book is impressive, creating an atmosphere that is both fascinating and oppressive, and characters who are magnificently complex…the ending provides a fascinating study about loyalty and power that grounds this book in our own time as much as the titular city of Willett’s imagination.”

Publishers Weekly opines:

“Willett (the Helix War series) wraps his capable new adult science fiction adventure around the fate of a mysterious many-tiered city and its inhabitants…Willett’s spunky protagonists and colorful world will entertain SF adventure fans.”

Future Fire notes:

The Cityborn is a well-told story that moves along rapidly, yet not so quickly that the reader is unable to get a feel for what’s going on in the characters’ minds…characters with depth and internal conflict.”

Culturess says:

A novel that doesn’t promise an entire trilogy? Be still our hearts. Edward Willett’s The Cityborn does fill that niche, but it’s a decent read, too…if you’re thirsting for a sci-fi read and don’t want to get tangled up in having to remember plenty of details for more than a single book, The Cityborn should appeal to you.”

NovelKnight proclaims:

“I’ve finally read a dystopian that I’ve enjoyed…I’d definitely recommend The Cityborn, especially for fans of sci-fi looking to branch into dystopian, and for readers like me who are tired of the typical dystopians out there.”

JBronderBookReviews says:

“Dystopian stories are my all time favorite and I couldn’t wait to get into The Cityborn…once things start going, you will be flipping the pages as fast as Alania and Danyl are moving to keep ahead of the Provost. There is a lot happening in this story and it does a great job of building the world we find ourselves in…Overall this is a great dystopian story. It’s my first book from Edward Willett and I hope to read more of his books.”

Koeur’s Book Reviews states:

“This was some crazy shjt. Not that anything is new under the post-apoc/SciFi sun, but the way it was constructed and interleaved with the characters makes it inescapably poignant.”

Amazing Stories says it was…

“…a well-written book that kept me interested all the way through. Recommended for YA readers and adults alike.”

Fresh Fiction opines…

“THE CITYBORN was a very topical read and a scary one at that but in the end, it was also an entertaining story. Yes it is dark at times, but there’s never a sense of overwhelming hopelessness and you feel like the main characters are constantly working to make things better for themselves and their respective tiers. A great book that I highly recommend.”

Finally, I’ve done some online interviews: NovelKnight, Unbound Worlds,  Jean BookNerd,  MyLifeMyBooksMyEscape, Jera’s Jamboree, more to come.

Keep checking back on this post as I try to keep it up to date!


New Aurora Award Storybundle includes my novel Marseguro

A new Storybundle has just gone live featuring winners of (and finalists for) Canada’s Aurora Award for best Canadian science fiction and fantasy. It’s curated by Douglas Smith, so I’m going to let him explain it in the guest post below…

The Aurora Award Bundle #2

Curated by Douglas Smith

How would you like to own, at an incredible bargain, ten books that readers like yourself have already voted to be the best examples of speculative fiction published in Canada? Well, here’s your chance. I’m once again curating an ebook bundle for StoryBundle.com that contains more winners and finalists for Canada’s premier speculative fiction award, the Aurora Award.

The Auroras are awarded annually by the Canadian Science Fiction & Fantasy Association (CSFFA) for excellence in Science Fiction and Fantasy. The award started in 1980 as the Casper and was renamed the Aurora for the 1990 awards. I’m honored to have won the Aurora three times and to have been on the final ballot another sixteen.

This Aurora bundle again delivers a great mix of SF and fantasy, adult and YA novels, as well as a selection of short fiction. The books included reflect the long history of the Auroras, with titles spanning a quarter century of Canadian speculative fiction from 1992 to 2016.

This time, the bundle provides a great introduction to several wonderful series, including the first book in four separate series and the second book in a series that can be read as a stand-alone title. It also lets you sample the rich tradition of Canadian short speculative fiction, with two acclaimed collections.

In Destiny’s Blood, Marie Bilodeau delivers action, romance, and mystery in an interstellar SF tale of two sisters fighting to save each other—and all life. And it all begins in a flower shop.

C. Bell’s Drowning in Amber is a fast-paced paranormal murder mystery featuring amateur detective Marie Jenner who can talk with ghosts.

Druids, by Barbara Galler-Smith and Josh Langston, kicks off a magnificent epic historical fantasy trilogy, set a thousand years ago when the Celts ruled Europe.

D.G. Laderoute’s Out of Time is a YA fantasy adventure combining time travel with First Nations lore as two fourteen-year-old boys—one white, one Anishinabe—join forces across time to battle a monster.

Dave Duncan’s fantasy The Cursed takes place in a fallen empire where a plague leaves its survivors ostracized but with magical powers, powers that might be the key to rebuilding their world.

In Defining Diana, Hayden Trenholm updates the locked room mystery to 2043, where nuclear war, biotechnology, and all-powerful corporations have changed the Earth we know.

Golden Fleece, which was the first novel by Canada’s best known SF writer, Robert J. Sawyer, is an SF mystery set on a colony ship as told by the artificial intelligence controlling the ship.

In Ed Willett’s Marseguro, modified humans on a distant water world finds themselves in a battle for survival with a future Earth ruled by a fanatical theocracy.

Hair Side, Flesh Side, Helen Marshall’s award-winning first collection of short stories, is a brilliant introduction to one of the brightest new lights in Canadian speculative fiction.

Finally, my own collection, Impossibilia, delivers a mix of SF and fantasy, including an Aurora winner, a finalist, and the story prequel to my novel, The Wolf at the End of the World.

And if you are looking for still more pedigree, the bundle includes two CSFFA Hall of Fame inductees (Sawyer and Duncan).

– Douglas Smith

For StoryBundle, you decide what price you want to pay. For $5 (or more, if you feel generous), you’ll get the basic bundle of five books in any ebook format worldwide:

  • Destiny’s Blood by Marie Bilodeau
  • Drowning in Amber by E. C. Bell
  • Druids  by Barbara Galler-Smith and Josh Langston
  • Impossibilia by Douglas Smith
  • Out of Time by D. G. Laderoute

If you pay more than the bonus price of just $15, you get all five of the regular titles, plus five more:

  • The Cursed by Dave Duncan
  • Defining Diana by Hayden Trenholm
  • Golden Fleece by Robert J. Sawyer
  • Hair Side, Flesh Side by Helen Marshall
  • Marseguro by Edward Willett

The bundle is available for a very limited time only, via http://www.storybundle.com. It allows easy reading on computers, smartphones, and tablets as well as Kindle and other ereaders via file transfer, email, and other methods. You get multiple DRM-free formats (.epub and .mobi) for all books!

It’s also super easy to give the gift of reading with StoryBundle, thanks to our gift cards – which allow you to send someone a code that they can redeem for any future StoryBundle bundle – and timed delivery, which allows you to control exactly when your recipient will get the gift of StoryBundle.

Why StoryBundle? Here are just a few benefits StoryBundle provides.

  • Get quality reads: We’ve chosen works from excellent authors to bundle together in one convenient package.
  • Pay what you want (minimum $5): You decide how much these fantastic books are worth to you. If you can only spare a little, that’s fine! You’ll still get access to a batch of exceptional titles.
  • Support authors who support DRM-free books: StoryBundle is a platform for authors to get exposure for their works, both for the titles featured in the bundle and for the rest of their catalog. Supporting authors who let you read their books on any device you want—restriction free—will show everyone there’s nothing wrong with ditching DRM.
  • Give to worthy causes: Bundle buyers have a chance to donate a portion of their proceeds to charity.
  • Receive extra books: If you beat the bonus price, you’ll get the bonus books!

StoryBundle was created to give a platform for independent authors to showcase their work, and a source of quality titles for thirsty readers. StoryBundle works with authors to create bundles of ebooks that can be purchased by readers at their desired price. Before starting StoryBundle, Founder Jason Chen covered technology and software as an editor for Gizmodo.com and Lifehacker.com.

For more information, visit our website at storybundle.com, tweet us at @storybundle and like us on Facebook. For press inquiries, please email press@storybundle.com.

Curator’s Notes

Destiny’s Blood:

One of several books in this bundle that get you started on a new series, in this case Marie’s Destiny trilogy. Destiny’s Blood won the Foreword Award and was a finalist for the Aurora. Destiny’s Fall (also an Aurora finalist) and Destiny’s War complete the series. Marie is an Ottawa-based writer who lights up a room the way her prose lights up a page. If you haven’t read her work before, this book is a great introduction.

Drowning in Amber:

I’ve included several books in series in this bundle, most of which are the first title. E. C. Bell’s Drowning in Amber is the second book of a trilogy, but it and all the books in the series can be fully enjoyed as a stand-alone work. The first title, Seeing the Light, won the BPAA award for Best Speculative Fiction Book of the Year and was shortlisted for the Bony Blythe Award for Light Mystery. The third book is Stalking the Dead.


An introduction to yet another series! This time, it’s the Druid trilogy by the writing team of Barbara Galler-Smith and Josh Langston. I’ve never had the chance to meet Josh, but I’ve known Barb since I began writing, and it’s always a thrill to read her work. Captives and Warriors complete the trilogy.

Out of Time:

For a bundle that’s coming out shortly after Canada’s 150th birthday, it seemed appropriate to include a fun YA adventure (to remind us we’re still young) in an environment that many associate with Canada (the wilderness, specifically the shores of Kitche Gumi, or Lake Superior).

The Cursed:

Shortly after I started writing professionally, I sat on my first panel at a genre convention, an unknown among established pros. One of my fellow panelists was Dave Duncan, and I still remember his gracious welcome to a newbie. Dave is an international best seller and an acknowledged master of epic fantasy and science fiction, with fifty-plus novels and over a dozen series. In 2015, Dave was inducted into the Canadian Science Fiction & Fantasy Association Hall of Fame. The Cursed is often cited by fans as a favorite Duncan title.

Defining Diana:

I’ve known Hayden almost since I started writing in the late 90’s. He’s been an Aurora finalist ever so many times and has won the award four times. He also owns Bundoran Press, so he knows the writing game from all sides: writer, editor, and publisher. Here’s your chance to read the first book in The Steele Chronicles, a near-future SF trilogy, each volume of which earned a spot on the Aurora Award ballot. Steel Whispers and Stealing Home complete the trilogy.

Golden Fleece:

I couldn’t  put together an Aurora Award bundle and not include a Robert J. Sawyer title. Rob’s won the Aurora fourteen times with another thirty ballot appearances. Rob is one of only eight writers in history — and the only Canadian — to win all three of the world’s top Science Fiction awards for best novel of the year: Hugo, Nebula, and John W. Campbell Memorial Award. In 2013, Rob was also inducted into the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association Hall of Fame. Golden Fleece was Rob’s first novel.

Hair Side, Flesh Side:

I first met Helen when she worked for the excellent Canadian press, ChiZine Publications, and edited my second collection, Chimerascope. I didn’t realize how lucky I was at the time. Helen has established herself as a master of the short form, and this, her first collection, is ample proof. Aside from being a finalist for the Aurora Award, Hair Side, Flesh Side also won the Sydney J Bounds Award.


Here’s your chance to read the first entry in Ed Willett’s acclaimed two-book series of thought provoking SF adventure. Marseguro won the Aurora Award and its sequel, Terra Insegura, was a finalist for the award. It’s a series that will make you both feel and think, and is a great introduction to the work of an author of more than fifty books.




Publishers Weekly reviews The Cityborn…”will entertain SF adventure fans”

Another review has bubbled up, although the release of The Cityborn is still more than a month away. This time it’s from Publishers Weekly:

“Willett (the Helix War series) wraps his capable new adult science fiction adventure around the fate of a mysterious many-tiered city and its inhabitants…Willett’s spunky protagonists and colorful world will entertain SF adventure fans.”

Entertainment is what this book is all about, and the common thread running through all the reviews–people seem to be finding it a fun read. I’m sure you will, too. :)

Now I’m looking forward to receiving my authors’ copies and actually seeing the book in the dead-tree flesh..could be any day.