August, it seems to be

Update time.

Tomorrow I head for the west coast and a first appearance at the Sunshine Coast Festival in Sechelt, a little up the coast from Vancouver. There’s a pontoon plane that takes you there from near the Vancouver airport. If I miss the (tight) connection the gallant Penguin rep there has volunteered to hasten out to the aiport and whip me (well, drive me) to the ferry terminal for the alternative (scenic) route. I will owe her a Negroni or something if that happens.

I’m reading there Friday evening, after which I might propose a mass migration down to the water to look up at the Perseid meteors… word is their biggest shower in a long long time (200 an hour!), and Friday midnight is peak time, we’re told. My favourite Perseid memory is watching them with my family in the countryside of Provence, the year we went back there, when I wrote Ysabel.

There are a whole slew of other appearances coming up in September and October, ‘festival season’, and I just signed off on a trip to Halifax in mid-November, too. I’ll get firm details posted on Bright Weavings, and on Twitter and Facebook nearer the dates. It is unusual for a spring book to still have ‘legs’ this far into the summer, with fall books already appearing, so I’m genuinely touched that Children has stayed on the Canadian hardcover lists for 12 weeks now. By this point that is going to be due to enthused readers and word of mouth, so when I say thank you (and I do!) I mean it.

Penguin Canada are continuing with their rejacketing of their entire backlist. The first three came out when Children did (I posted images here) and the next three are in October. Here are those covers. (Autocorrect keeps wanting to make ‘rejacketing’ into ‘rejecting’…they are not rejecting the books!)

9780143194026 9780143194033 9780143194095

I love what their designer has been doing with these (last three will appear in January; Penguin Canada have 9 of my backlist titles, Fionavar is HarperCollins in Canada). The idea of a uniform ‘look’ for an author’s work is awfully appealing.

Over in UK the good news is that Fionavar will be out very soon as ebooks from Hodder, my new publishers. Under Heaven is now on sale in Turkey (a new market for me) and the German edition is slated for October. France’s River of Stars is November. In France, as well, Ysabel has now been nominated for the Prix Elbakin as best translated book, the award Under Heaven won there last year. I do better at foreign language updates over on Twitter, as they are the sort of quick hits that suit 140 characters!

I had an essay run in Walrus Magazine last month; if you missed it, here’s the link:

And that’s (a bit of) the news for August 10th. Back to the Olympics with pleasure and the American elections with increasing disbelief.

Father’s Day

I have been thinking of my dad today, of course, and sharing the poem I wrote for him years ago seems apt on Father’s Day (Penguin have given me permission to do this, from Beyond This Dark House).




Driving through Winnipeg this autumn

twilight, a sensation has lodged

somewhere behind my breastbone

(impossible to be more precise).

It is at once a lightness and a weight,

press of memory and a feeling

as if tonight has insufficient

gravity to keep me from

drifting back, so many

long years after leaving here.


Quiet streets, the slowly darkening

sky (it can take a while). I turn

on Waterloo and stop outside the house

where we first lived. No curtains drawn

on the living room windows. I can see

into the past, almost. The willow in front

is so tall now. My parents planted it.


We played football on this lawn

(and the next one down, and next,

as we grew older, needed room to run).

Used the willow sapling when cutting

pass patterns, slicing in front of it

to shake a defender. I hear

my mother from the porch, ‘Don’t

break the tree!’ A car approaches,

slows, someone looks at me

in the gathering night, moves on.


So do I, gliding a little further

to Mathers Bay, where we’d race

our bikes, the finish line

right at the intersection,

so we’d be flying flat-out

and sometimes have to brake

in a squeal and sideways skid

(black tire marks on the road)

if a car was coming east.

I wouldn’t let my sons do that today.


The houses along the bay,

down to the curve and back

up the other side, were homes of friends,

or girls I longed for, and their

parents – men and women mostly

dead now. Each address marks

a grave. Ghosts water the night

lawns, rake leaves under stars,

look up as I coast by

and then turn away, as if politely,

not to seem to stare as this rented car

stops again, this time outside

our second home, the one

my parents built when I was nine.

I am heavy and light tonight,

entangled and drifting, both

at once. The city

is so full of my father.


I used to ride with him to Saturday

morning rounds at the hospital.

Proud, anxious not to show it (Why

was that? Did he know?) as we’d step

off the elevator and onto a post-op ward.

I’d read a book by the nursing station

then cross the street to the

Salibury House (long gone now)

and order two sandwiches, a milkshake

and a coffee, but only at the exact

minute he’d told me to. And he’d

arrive from his last patient just

as the waitress set the food in front of me.

I’m guessing he’d watch from the window

or door, to time it so exactly, for his son.


East on Mathers now, imagining kids

on bikes careening into my path forty

years ago. Waverley, and south. I’d

hitchhike this route to campus, winter

mornings, dreaming of away, anywhere

away. My parents had their first

date at a nightclub out here on

Pembina Highway. My father just back

from overseas. She thought he was

phony-British, using words like ‘chap’

and ‘bloody,’ all night long. Still, (she’d

later tell her sons), that night she

went home to Enniskillen Avenue and woke

her mother. Sat on the edge of the bed and said

she thought she’d met a man she could love.


We never tired of that story.

Our pretty mother,barely into her twenties,

her immediate certainty, the dashing

image of our father, home from away,

away, winning a woman for himself.

The city’s quiet on a Thursday night.

The forecast was rain but the sky’s been clear,

the air cooling down; football

games and burning leaves. Back north now,

on what seems to have become

a night drive entirely unplanned. I steer

with one hand at twelve o’clock and

an elbow out the open window.


The downtown ‘Y’ has been demolished.

My Uncle Jack would take me there

on Sunday mornings for a steam and

a swim. Such a sweet man. White hair

my father always joked of envying, ruefully

shaking his head in admiration. Dad’s

was a duller, white-grey, nondescript. Except,

it seems, the morning of the day he was

killed in Florida, my mother said to

him over breakfast, ‘Sam, look at your

hair! It’s white as Jack’s!’ Salt water,

winter sun, had bleached it bright.

I imagine my father surprised

and pleased, and thinking of his brother

when he took that last walk

with the dog along the coastal highway

in too much twilight.


There seems to be no crossing of streets

tonight where I can avoid

hitting my father or myself. Wellington

Crescent now, west towards the park

where I first kissed some girls, broke up

with others, dreamed of going away. My father

took a troopship to England in the

last year of the war, stayed over there

in Scotland for five years, came back,

came back, married, had three sons.


He taught each of us to catch a football, lost

deliberately (to each of us) in table tennis,

grimacing elaborately at a drive mis-hit

into the net, not fooling anyone. He’d look

shocked, shocked when we accused him

of letting us win, as if the idea

couldn’t have even crossed his mind.

He quizzed me before high school tests,

tsking with dismay at wrong answers

that were clear evidence of insufficient

application. He worked so hard.


I think we knew that, even very young,

but still assumed he’d have infinite time

and room for us. I wince, tonight, remembering

the absolute sureness of that. How did he

elicit so much certainty? I wonder

if he ever looked for and found

clear signs of his own nature in

three very different sons,

or if that kind of thinking

required too much vanity.


I liked coming home from a downtown

appointment with him. Walking to

the Mall Medical Building, waiting

in the doctors’ lounge, listening to the

talk of football and politics, grabbing

myself a Coke from the little fridge, and then

the feel of the room altering as he came in,

loosening his tie, hanging up the white coat,

raising an eyebrow at my soft drink

before dinner. The drive back home,

just the two of us, end of a work day. He’d steer

with one hand at twelve o’clock and

an elbow out the open window. No one

ever born had hands I’d ever rather feel

enclosing mine. Then. Now. The day

the son we named for him was born.


If it was summer, turning west on Grant,

the sunlight would be on us. We’d put

the visors down. (I was too short for that

to help, but copied him.) Or it might have been

darker, cooler, under a prairie sky

in a twilight like the one that started

and compels these images,

if it was autumn then, as it is now,

above this ground of memories.


Heaviness, and that so-strange

sense of weightlessness. I thought,

before, I couldn’t locate these feelings

precisely within myself. Not so,

in the end. They reside, together,

anywhere my father was in this city

and in me, which is pretty much

everywhere, and he’s been

dead too many years now already,

with more years and more years

and more long years of being gone

still to come.

Photo Finish

With an unexpected, and pleasing, level of agreement the three editors for Children of Earth and Sky had amazingly similar shortlists for the photo contest. What makes it even nicer is that I also agreed!

We all muttered a lot (if you can mutter in an email) about other genuinely good candidates for prizes – and I’m going to share a number of honourable mentions in a later post.

The underlying idea, you’ll recall, was a photo of the book ‘in the wild’. Two of the editors specified this as significant in making their final pick, the notion that the photo needed to show the book clearly, to fit that concept and win.

So, without pretending to having trouble tearing open the envelope or anything so lame, herewith the winner as selected by Nicole Winstanley, Claire Zion and Oliver Johnson:

Terrence Drake wins the leather-bound copy of Children of Earth and Sky. He and his photographer were, well, on fire. Unique? Check. Book clearly shown? Check. Wild in many ways? Check, indeed.


We have a tie for runner-up, however (in order to keep peace and harmony in the kingdoms, there’s enough warfare in the book!). These two will each receive signed copies of the new Penguin Canada reprints of three of their backlist titles (the first three of nine coming in next months). Thanks go out to Nicole and her team at Penguin Canada, not only for the leather-bound, but for shipping two sets of these!

First runner-up, because everyone thought it was genuinely funny, is “Ichabod Noodle”, who captioned this one: “Half time at the footy. Giants up by 44, Senjani pirates raiding. ‪#TwoPassions


Two passions, indeed. Though I lament I could only get his attention at the half! (And in a 44 point blowout, too!)

The other runner-up was picked for being simply beautiful and evocative. It is Jenna MacWhirter whose caption was “Though The Walls Crumble Around Me”. Gorgeously located, framed, the lovely colour of the blue dress (there’s a riff on blue in painting in the book), definitely in the wild.


I’ll do that follow-up post soon with other photos that were discussed, and greatly enjoyed. You can see them all for yourselves under the hashtag #ReadThisGuy, on Twitter.

Here’s a look at the prizes.


If the winners would send me Direct Messages on Twitter (I’ll follow them all now, to make that possible) with your preferred mailing addresses, and how you’d like the books inscribed, we’ll get you your prizes asap.

Congratulations to all three of you! And thank you to everyone who entered. All my editors reported how much fun this was (despite how tough it also was), and I felt exactly the same way.

Photo Contest!

Publication day for Children of Earth and Sky is today in US/Canada – and on Thursday in UK. A good time to announce a contest with a really great prize. To celebrate?

Three years ago we did a photo contest on Twitter for RIVER OF STARS. The best, funniest, most creative/beautiful/interesting photo of the book ‘in the wild’, would win a prize. It was a lot of fun, even the publicists got in to the act, competing with each other.

Here’s the winner from back then, and the runner-up. Yes, there is an unfair advantage to being able to take a photo at 25,000 feet. But still, how cool is that? The runner-up was the excellent (and brave!) YA novelist Jessica Day George, whose caption was, ‘Shh! Mommy’s reading!’


And here are two more we liked…


So, start your cell phones and cameras. Three entries per person max. The contest will run on Twitter again under the hashtag (Penguin Canada’s idea) #ReadThisGuy (I know, I know). Remember to USE the hashtag, so judges can find your photo.

If you absolutely avoid Twitter, and still want to play, we’ll try to keep an eye out for any photos uploaded to the FB page at and ‘port’ them over to the Twitter hashtag. But to see other entries (and react to them!) you’ll have to get over to Twitter and search for the hashtag. That’s what the judges will do.

The judges … all three of my editors have agreed to judge! Nicole Winstanley in Toronto, Claire Zion in New York, Oliver Johnson in London. Editors are so judgmental anyhow, right? Yes, I also expect to have ‘opinions’. (Moi?)

The deadline? Let’s give it 3 weeks, to be sure people have time to get their books and figure out a photo idea. So: May 31st is the cut-off.

The prize? Here is where it gets good. Penguin Canada have celebrated already by making up a very small number of leatherbound copies of CHILDREN. Seriously. Leatherbound. And one of these collectibles, signed, will be the prize for the winner. We will also have a prize for the runner-up. To be determined, but it’ll be nice. Promise.

Hope people have fun with this. Show us what you can do. Would leather look good on your bookshelf? Go for it.

Bright Weavings Makeover

Publication week starts (tomorrow in North America, Thursday in UK). I’ll have a couple of announcements of Fun Things before I go on the road.

First of these is this: Bright Weavings, as many of you know, was created as a labour of love by the wonderful Deborah Meghnagi in 2000. Content has steadily been updated by her and Alec Lynch, but the ‘look’ has been unchanged since a very early revision.

This winter, my old friend Sue Reynolds of Piquant Productions (Sue also did the maps for Fionavar and Tigana) has been doing a major site updating, bringing BW forward 15 years or so in look. Content was not altered (she cleaned up some dead links) and will be updated regularly as before.

Hope you like it. This was a major task – it is a big site. If you see glitches, stray links, discover sasquatches or random dragons, please email word of them – the site’s contact address is at bottom of every page.

(Note: as of right now the Art Galleries are still being fine tuned, that’ll take a few more days. Sue is on it.)

Tour Schedule

So, Trish Bunnett, my publicist at Penguin Random House Canada (I still prefer ‘Random Penguin’, probably always will), coordinating with Alexis Nixon who does the same thing in NY, has laid out and released the tour itinerary. This is not entirely final, there are more events to come, but they haven’t pinned exact details down, and wanted to get the current schedule out for people. We’ll add what needs adding as it comes in.

Some of these will require online ticket orders (the worldwide launch on May 11th in Toronto does – but the library hasn’t opened the ticket process yet, I will alert you when they do), some are free and some have a charge (usually to cover the venue). All are open to the public, and I’ll sign books (usually my own, it really doesn’t work as well when I sign George Martin’s or Yann Martel’s, and they tend not to autograph mine!). No truth to rumour/threat that I will sing. Fear not. Come find me.




The snow before the storm


So, we spent January through mid-March working down south (San Miguel de Allende in Mexico, then northern California) to cleverly dodge the worst of winter and come home to spring – and it is freezing! My car is covered with snow. People lied to us. This is weather to stay inside and write a journal post…

The ever-changing online culture means that Twitter and now Facebook become my quick ways of sharing things, and if you want to see what I am saying regularly on subjects from baseball to puns to single malt to, well, my books, chase me down there. But this remains where I can come to go ‘longform’ and update things.

We are in full-on pre-release mode now, all publishers. My inbox overfloweth. I do count this as part of being a writer, though when I was younger I begrudged the extreme distraction from research and writing. Now, it is essentially part of what a writer owes his or her publishers (and family, and whatever bank has the mortgage!).

The earliest pre-publication reviews have been wonderful. I say this drawing a breath of pleased relief. It is simply the case that one never knows. The fact that readers and reviewers have liked earlier work does not mean they’ll like a new book. And as you build a body of work, to a degree you are competing with yourself. ‘Better than his last one!’ ‘I really like it, but I loved his X more years ago!’ There is no real way around this, for any artist, much as you might wish a book (or film, painting, piece of music) to be judged for itself. There are many overlapping contexts for assessments. As readers we bring – obviously – ourselves to a book and what we are, our needs in art, will change, year to year, even day to day.

One reviewer half-worried readers might find the ‘history’ as compelling as the characters. I don’t find that a worry! I love that effect. I was taken with a similar line in a review of Annie Proulx (great writer!) and her new book, meant there as high praise: ‘it becomes clear that history and time are the main characters here.’

I like that! Not necessarily the ‘main’ characters (they aren’t, in mine) but definitely an awareness shaped in the reader of them. One reader’s worry is another’s catnip. Something we all need to be aware of, as writers and readers.

Publishers’ Weekly today (April 4) released a starred review for Children. They are probably the most influential of the advance review organizations, they affect what bookstores and libraries order, and how many copies, so a starred review is really good news. The last lines are: ‘He wields plots and all-too-human characters brilliantly…This big, powerful fantasy offers an intricately detailed setting, marvelously believable characters, and an international stew of cultural and religious conflict writ larger than large.

Yes, everyone is happy about that. If you ever find me at a reading and buy me a drink I’ll tell you something ironic about it.

As to that, the tour is just about ready to be posted. Another new thing these days: some of the bookstores and venues have already announced my upcoming appearances on their own websites. That never used to happen. But the publicists coordinating (primarily Trish Bunnett at PRH Canada, who is doing heroic work on this) prefer to lock in and nail down (and other phrases!) as many dates as possible before posting an almost-full tour schedule. There are always later add-ons, nature of the game.

We’ll have finished books in the warehouse in 2-3 weeks. Always, always a ‘moment’ when a writer first sees the book. Publication date is May 10th Canada and United States – May 12th in UK – though it may be in some stores a few days ahead. The worldwide launch event (I can reveal this) will be here in Toronto the evening of May 11th, in the big Appel Salon of the main Reference Library.

The audiobook, narrated by the wonderful Simon Vance is finished, and will be out at the same time. He wrote me a beautiful note about needing to pause at times to control emotion as he read. (We met him and his wife in California last month – genuinely lovely people.)

There will be more from me here this month. Possibly the next post will be that link to the tour gigs when Trish is ready. Here’s something cool, meanwhile. Elizabeth Cameron, who handles online publicity/marketing for PRH Canada, had animated cover images made. Fun.


children-of-earth-and-sky (1)



Putting the ‘tour’ in Tour Journal

I’ve always described these as ‘tour journals’ since my early model, back with the first one, was writers on tour offering insights (usually funny) as to the vagaries of life as a writer on the road. You know, arrive at a signing in one city and there is promotion but no books have arrived, arrive in another and books are in the bookstore but they forgot to promote the event. (Yes, both happen.)

Over the years I’ve expanded the journal concept to include activities that start well before the tour itself (finishing the draft, copyediting, covers, first marketing meetings), but we’ve now reached that actual On the Road planning stage.

We could pause for an authorial lament at how damned early everything happens these days. Or did I do that rant already, about sending out the first Advance Reading Copies? Probably. I give good rant I have been told.

So, here’s the thing about book tours: they don’t happen nearly as much any more and the debate as to their efficacy concerning cost and time is ongoing, and varies case by case. Margaret Atwood or Stephen King on the road makes sense for everyone. There is guaranteed coverage and events will succeed by any measure one wants. Still, a lot of time, airports, hotel rooms, publisher money spent, but the calculation tilts strongly to ‘let’s do it’.

When you see younger authors on tour, be kind, odds are good they are spending some of their own money, are speaking to small numbers, are stressed, and may be sleeping on someone’s couch. Buy a book.

For me, over the years, tours remain worth it if well set-up. That involves two different elements. Obviously bookstore reading/signing events, at a store committed to promoting the evening, and with a constituency in any given city that are legitimately excited that there’s a new book out. The second element has gotten trickier: media. The simple truth is that there are fewer newspapers out there, there’s less coverage of books (especially fiction), radio and tv coverage of books has dropped significantly, which means less to do on the road, and fewer chances to promote the signing event, too.

The slack, to a fair degree, has been picked up by online coverage. Book bloggers, online mags, and mainstream media that delegate book world coverage to their online sections. And all of these can just as easily interview a writer sitting at his or her computer typing answers to an e-interview. Why fly somewhere?

Indeed, here’s a secret: many of the local print interviews you see with a writer who has arrived in town for an event were done online or by telephone the week before. But they were only done after the newspaper or magazine confirmed the author was coming to town! They wouldn’t have happened without that assurance. In other words, you have to commit to the tour to get the at-home interview.

Another variable (everyone taking notes?) is author festivals. Many cities now have these, with significant numbers of writers coming in sometimes. The upside for a publisher is that the festivals can (often via grants they get) cover much or even all of the cost of getting writers there. The downside is that bit about ‘significant numbers of writers’ … signal to noise ratio. It can be challenging for a publisher to get attention for their writer (and sometimes they have a few writers!). The upside for an author is, often, that the festivals can be a lot of fun. No, I am not about to tell the good stories.

All of this is prelude to the fact that last week I started getting draft itineraries and options to assess for hitting the road in May.

Publicists get in touch with bookstores, festivals, media way ahead (not ranting, not!) because so much needscoordinating. There can be conflicts of a varied nature. You don’t want to do a reading on Mother’s Day! (Pro tip.) You don’t want two major authors doing events in a city on same day or evening. (Duh.) Reading with someone else can double the audience (if the authors are roughly matched in significance), reading with four others may not be not all that great for tour value. There’s a trend I like of doing onstage interviews not just readings, and if there’s a wonderful interviewer in a city, you need to check her schedule, too. Bookstores sometimes compete for a writer. Flattering, of course, but publishers need to be careful, and fair. If you give X store Y writer, you may need to give B writer to C store the next week. I always push for my events to be at indie bookstores (a crusade of sorts) but it is simply foolish not to acknowledge the importance of the chains in selling books, and dropping in to sign stock and meet fans on the staff at those is just good manners.

So, what we know now (what we think we know now) is that Children of Earth and Sky will have its worldwide launch in Toronto on May 11th, in the Appel Salon at the Toronto Reference Library. I’ve launched there twice, they do terrific work, and a bookseller will be there (it is obviously a plum gig for whichever bookseller does this, and that, too, can get political). I’ll head west in Canada the next day, then go down the west coast into the States at the end of that. All details will be released well ahead as they firm up. There will also be events later in summer, and in fall, at various festivals.

Do I enjoy it? What curmudgeon ever admits to something like that? Seriously, people. My longstanding joke has been that the only people less happy than authors on tour are the authors not on tour.

More seriously, by now I mostly do have fun on the road. For one thing, I’m not prolific, this isn’t an annual exercise (some overseas tours and events can happen between books, though). I have old friends in many cities, media friends in some, and there are bookstores I love visiting. (McNally Robinson in Winnipeg, both the University store and Elliot Bay in Seattle, as examples…) There is even an invite this spring to a top secret single malt night if I have a free evening in a Particular City. This needs to happen.

I also find it a really good way to get a bit of the pulse of the book business in any year. The online world can be insular, meeting the people selling books in their stores, meeting my own readers, talking to journalists …I learn a lot from all of this about the world in which I operate professionally.

So, yes, I enjoy it. Don’t tattle.

The George Burns entry

So, George Burns was glorious comedian (along with the equally glorious Gracie Allen for years and years). Late in life he developed a running joke about a sequence of ‘Farewell Tours’. I’ve been thinking about that in terms of writers and ‘finishing books’.

We’re finished, then we’re really finished, then…

I’m done when the ending is written, then done when my first full revision with editor notes is finished, then done when I review the copy-editor’s careful pass-through, then finally done when I proofread (and trim, amend, sharpen) the typeset manuscript – which is a stage when I’m just supposed to be looking for typos. Yeah, right. Like that’s all that’s going to happen.

That last stage is, truly, an author’s (this author’s) last chance to make it better before the book gets printed and bound and, you know, bought and read. (Ideally.) So I am always doing small, but for me necessary, little fiddles. This, in turn, makes me a bad proofreader of my own books, because good proofreaders do not get sidetracked or hung up on reading for content, they are reading for errors, and getting drawn into the rhythm of sentences distracts, big time, from that.

I’m grateful, always, that there are professional proofreaders who work separately from me, with a cold eye for a typo or dropped comma. Indeed, I just learned from  the production editor an hour ago that the proofreader for Children of Earth and Sky spotted an umlaut instead of a tilde (!!) on a word in the map. That is an impressive catch, and underscores the detailed reading the good ones give you.

Author adjustments, and the proofing ‘catches’ are the reason why if you ever see an Advance Reading Copy (ARC) of a book, you’ll notice a ‘not to be quoted without checking against the final version’ notice. (I do wonder how many reviewers actually do that, but…) The ARC is before this happens, it is a 95% or so version of a book, maybe 99% for some writers, but the book does get changed.

In any case, the fact that the production editor has the manuscript from both of us tells you that the final farewell for this book has happened here — it is, literally, out of my hands. Courier claimed it around noon. (Yes, I get edgy until I get a call or email that it has arrived at the publishers.)

This may require a Rob Roy or Negroni to deal with. Book’s done. Can’t call it home.


6, 5, 4, 3 …

There is a strange, stage-by-stage aspect to finishing a book. One feels done so many different times. Obviously when the last word is typed (for the first time). Then when the manuscript is revised following input from editors, agents, trusted friends, sagacious bus drivers. Then comes the copy-editor, and I review mine – Catherine Marjoribanks – (well, her work) just as she reviewed me. And that, just an hour ago, is what I’ve finished now. I’ve addressed all her notes, and sent the file back for her to clean up our marginalia and send to the publishers. Copy-editors, whatever they are paid, aren’t paid enough.

Catherine thinks she’s done six of my books (just proofreading the first time, copy-editing all the other times). We have a process by now. She knows what I need her to monitor, I know her fetishes. Indeed, this time she triumphantly reported catching me for the first time in an eye colour slip. I always ask her to check eye colour (light blue in an early chapter became dark blue much later in this one). I could say I planted it to give her something to exult about but I’d be lying, and you’d all know it.

These really are comma, semi-colon, paragraph break, tense shift, word-choice wars. And if everyone promises not to tell her, I’ll say I end up enjoying it. I think she does, too. She tells me she does. (‘You probably say that to all your authors.’) We have little dialogues in the margins. It is a pleasure to engage with someone for whom such tiny aspects of language and writing matter, as they do for me. If I use ‘stet’ a lot (‘revert to original’ is what it means) I do so knowing that whenever I do buy a proposed change, it has made the book better. The time I spend assessing and often not accepting is simply part of what one does with a book one cares about.

Next stages involve the production departments. Children of Earth and Sky will now be typeset – it’ll look as it will when people read it – and Advance Reading Copies (ARCs) in some to-be-determined quantity will be printed. The ARCs will start winging forth to selected victims (empowered recipients, whatever) late in the year, ahead of the May release. These go to the early reviewers, influencers, sagacious bus drivers of this world.

Meanwhile, the typeset pages come back to me and to a professional proofreader and we read for errors, slips, gaffes, typos. In theory. I am one of those writers (I know others) who use this late stage to make still more changes. Almost always just a word or punctuation shift by this point, for me, but this is also when I first see the book on a page, and it … just looks different. A version of the effect that happens if you read your writing aloud. I often make adjustments after doing that.

So, a brief downtime now, before I get the page proofs back in a couple of weeks. One nice thing in the interval: next week I go to Ottawa to get my Order of Canada medal from the Governor General. We are members as soon as named (summer 2014, for me), but the medals are presented with formal citations read out and a black tie banquet when a recipient is able to get to Ottawa on one of the dates they offer (some people take years to find time, I’m told). No jaded author here: I’m deeply honoured, and my mother is coming up with us. That part is pretty special.

Protocol does not dictate a curtsy or bow, by the way, but for those who really feel like it…