But I digress…

I am sometimes, inexplicably, accused of being insufficiently sober and judicious. Often, this involves puns. Over on Twitter someone started a very funny hashtag called #archaicfilms with retitlings of flicks to fit ancient themes. Like (a favourite) Acropolis Then, or Of Mycenae Men, or Never Say Nebuchadnezzar Again (!) or Sundial M For Murder … have a look if you are on Twitter.

This all made me very happy. And reminded me of a similar game when we lived in France in 2004-5 where, with some friends, we started doing Geriatric Rock Songs, riffing on the real titles in that way. The guilty accomplices were Martin Levin, Books Editor of the Globe, Neil Randall of U of Waterloo, my brother Rex, and my son Sam, but I did all the ones that you find funniest below, okay?

Yes, I am soberly and judiciously determined to brighten all your Mondays with a few of these, because I dug back into my email folders and found the exchanges. You are, of course, warned. Herewith, some geriatric song titles:

You Can’t Always Remember What You Want

Total Attack of the Heart

Every Breath You Took

One Less Cup of Coffee

Walking on Empty

Abraham, Martin, and Whatsisname (love that one)

Adam Raised His Cane

Penny Lame

Teeth In a Bottle

The Shape I’m Out Of (that’s Martin, a major fan of ‘The Band’)

Shufflin’ Jack Flash

Bound For the Home (Simon & Garfunkle’s last reunion?)

The Needle and the Sweater Done

I’ve a Rocker

and a particular favourite, from Neil, this variation of the Byrd’s immortal ‘Turn, Turn, Turn’


And no, I am not apologizing. Can’t make me!

No editing this week, as I wait on Catherine. I’ve filled the week with meetings, accordingly. One of the good things this time around is we are way ahead with our cover. My American publishers, Roc, took charge of the design, used the same artist as for the last few (Larry Rostant) and I absolutely love the cover for River of Stars … how it echoes the one for Under Heaven, which just about everyone adored. The monumental figure chosen (with guidance from my editor there, Susan Allison) is perfect for the book. You can see it up top here, of course, or larger on Bright Weavings in the art gallery section.

I’d like to thank my agent and my barista…

I’m working on the Acknowledgements for River of Stars. I read an essay earlier this year (someone might find it and link?) that was an irritated assault on the very idea of acknowledgements. One aspect was the notion that a writer’s family and friends really don’t need citing in great numbers, nor does the music one listened to while writing. And there was a pretty funny riff noting that sometimes the writer is just bragging: ‘I want to thank my friends Rihanna and Margaret Atwood for support during many coffee sessions and twitter PMs, along with the always-loyal David Bowie and Junot Diaz.’

Right. Having said this, I still find my own Acknowledgements important for each book, and I spend some time on them. And, as it happens, I am one of those readers interested in the acknowledgements of other writers. (David Bowie? Loyal? Wow!)

For me the starting point is the writers and books that keyed my research. The trick is trying to balance steering readers to the works that were most useful, letting them chase down the material, without making a novel sound like a dissertation. The reality for me is that every book is built on a scaffolding of reading and correspondence and note-taking over a long period of time. It feels proper to show my appreciation for the books and people who are central to that.

Beyond that, we get into ‘you didn’t build that yourself’. Yes, of course, a writer writes his or her books, and usually in an intense and solitary way (not always, but usually?). The very stresses associated with that make it even more important if an author was braced and backed up by people in their lives. There is also a difference between a manuscript on a writer’s desk or hard drive, and a book that can be bought in a store (or downloaded). Production, packaging, editing, marketing … some writers are now doing this alone. Some of us are graced with publishing colleagues who put a lot of passion and skill into bringing the book to  readers. It seems ungracious (un-Canadian?) not to name at least some of them.

On the other hand, I am going to refrain from acknowledging the day-by-day support of my very good friend Derek Jeter, especially the morning after he broke his ankle and the Yankees of 2012 probably died.

On the other other hand, here’s a photo…

We sometimes get very good seats…



Just received the Programming Schedule from Barbara and Chris Roden, who are handling programming for the World Fantasy Convention – which is here in Toronto this year, starting on November 1st. (That’s an info heads-up, WFC always sells out well in advance.)

It is pretty much the only convention I try to attend every year. Even for Certified Curmudgeons there are a lot of friends and colleagues (agents, editors) who attend, making the hotel bar a lot of fun. By now I have ‘traditions’, such as a Saturday dinner group that is partly a memorial to a friend – Charles N. Brown, who created Locus magazine.

One year I watched a world series game in the bar with Jeremy Lassen of Nightshade Books. Jeremy, a ‘goodly, portly man’, in Shakespeare’s words, wore a resplendent orange and black pinstripe custom-made three-piece suit (how would that not be custom-made, I hear you asking). Yes, it was Halloween, but that wasn’t it: they are the colours of his beloved San Francisco Giants, who were playing that night. There’s a fan! Another WFC baseball memory, from the convention in San Jose, involves another hotel bar (you don’t have to comment on everything, you know!), watching my Yankees play (and win) a game, with John Berlyne, a UK agent who really did want to learn baseball. A surprising number of others came over and joined us, pretending similar interest. The final exam involved the infield fly rule. (Those following this year’s playoffs will know that not even umpires always get that right.)

In any case, I am moderating a good panel (people and topic, both) on Thursday afernoon, on ‘The Fantasy of the Wilderness’, a subject that interests me a lot. Then on Saturday afternoon at 1 the programmers have generously given me a full hour for the debut reading from River of Stars. This makes for a mini-tradition,I guess, because I did the first public reading for Under Heaven at WFC, too.

Means I have to figure out a passage … and as I have written in these journals before, reading passages are a tricky business. I don’t like spoilers (because readers don’t, either). I don’t like needing to do extensive backstory explanations. And what ‘works’ for someone at home reading is not the same as what works in a public space, listening. On the other hand, it is a book, not a play, a reading, not a theatrical performance.

Somewhere between now and then I’ll sit down and sort this out … though I often end up with three or four passages from a book that I try before settling on what feels best for touring/reading purposes.

Of course, by the time Catherine M is finished copy-editing the manuscript, I may be forced to read the recipe for dover sole with pine nuts in chapter four. (See previous post for the backstory to that joke).

Another photo? This, also from Prague. Sheer luck – we were crossing the Charles Bridge at night when …

I am quite sure that these were NOT being set off because a Canadian author was in town to sign books. Never did find out why they were being lit, though. Made for a pretty gorgeous twenty minutes. The bridge (especially at night when crowds thin a bit) is magnificent to start with …




Figuring it out as we go…

Bright, blue sky autumn morning here. Leaves are turning, which is always wonderful. Watched the Yankees lose in extra innings last night (it would be so easy to cheer for the improbable Orioles if I hadn’t been born a Yankee fan and my mother wasn’t cheering for them so hard!). Also watched a feisty VP debate showcasing very different styles, over and above very different views.

That made me think (segue alert!) of styles in social media. I hope it is clear I am joking when I ‘blame’ people for my being on Twitter now, or shifting the Journal to this sleeker format. I am too stubborn to really be made to do these things against my will. At the same time, my ambivalence as to aspects of online interaction is real. I have a horror of being bland, and my friends know am not afraid to be silly/whimsical at times (puns!) but people vary so widely in their expectations or imaginings of a writer (for example) that getting elements of ‘the real person’ can be disconcerting.

So I was very serious on Twitter as to my contempt for the Taliban shooting of a 14 year old girl in the Swat Valley, and I have been wry about Paul Ryan and his ‘mistatement’ about his marathon prowess – and his two explanations that followed: 1. He ’rounded down’ from 4 hours+ to 2 hours and 50-some minutes and 2. He confused his own time with his brother’s. As someone with a sports background (and two brothers), I find these both hilarious and disturbing and I used the discovery that Laura and I were in Berlin last week during their marathon to do a riff on it, featuring my own (utterly fictitious) decision to enter and run. (Two hours, 21 minutes, my usual barefoot technique.)

But both of these posts, of course, take things into the ‘real me’ and into humour and politics … and that will inevitably not work for every reader. (One person wondered if my account had been hacked.) On the other hand, way back when (more than 12 years ago now!) I resisted Deborah Meghnagi’s urgings that I let her start up Bright Weavings because I found author-sites too self-indulgent, hyperfocused on their books. So it appeals to me to cast a wider net with social media, including this journal.

We’ll see how it plays out. I do plan to have the journal remain a window in to the way books are made and eventually to let readers who are not in the cities I visit get a bit of the flavour (I’m Canadian, it isn’t flavor!) of a tour.

State of play right now is this: Catherine Marjoribanks, my really splendid copy-editor is at work on River of Stars right now, turning it into a book of seafood recipes and … er, she’s doing her necessary, hyper-vigilant thing with name forms, punctuation, and other critical elements. She also makes a full character list, from which I will prepare the list of major characters.

I get this version back in about two weeks and then begin being harried by the equally important Sandra Tooze, who is in charge of production at Penguin Canada (who are handling this for everyone). Sandra needs me to turn it over faster that I ever want to turn it over, because I use that upcoming read through as my last chance to polish, not just to check what Catherine proposes, and I am just a tiny bit obsessive about the novels.

(Both these women did ‘guest posts’ on the Under Heaven tour journal, which can be found on Bright Weavings (link at top of this page) in the Forums.

In the meantime, in about four hours I meet with my friend and colleague Martin Springett, who always gets an early read of the books, as he is doing another map for me. He needs to deliver around when I finish with the copy-edited pages, so the map can go in the ARCs (Advance Reading Copies) which are slated to go out in January. (More on these in a later post.) Martin also did a guest post last time around, by the way.

Finally, a photo, to take advantage of what WordPress lets us do. I could do another piece of art, but this time I’ll link a shot taken during my talk/signing in Prague last week (for their release of Under Heaven).

No ‘Kanadsky’ jokes allowed! The bookstore is enormous, by the way, largest in central Europe they told me. On my left is the marketing manager from Argo, my Czech publisher. He introduced me, and translated – which may be why he looks stressed. It is a hard job.

Once more, with feeling

‘Well, I’m back,’ as someone shorter than myself (and braver than all of us) once said at the end of a very long (very good) novel. It works as a starting quote, too, I think.

As some of you will know, I’ve done Tour Journals on Bright Weavings for my last three novels. People seem to like them. I use them to give background on the way books are published (which is changing by the hour, it sometimes seems). I’ve thrown out challenges – to write jacket copy, for example, and edit each other – to allow hands-on experience with this. I give details of the run-up to a book’s release, and what follows. I still try to be funny at times, and kindly readers still allow me to believe I am succeeding. At times.

So here we go again, with River of Stars. It is due out at the very beginning of April. I tend to start the journals well before publication date, because so much of what goes on with the books happens well in advance. I usually stop around when actual touring stops, or winds down. Or I stop. Or wind down.

The change this time around is formatting. The same nefarious forces among publishers and friends who lured me like Sirens onto the time-obliterating rocks of Twitter have joined forces (scary, yes) to insist that WordPress is way sexier (and easier to read!) than the old format of tucking my journal entries into the Bright Weavings Forums.

I do sometimes listen. Really. I do. It isn’t exactly a quotidian event, people have been known to log the moments in their diaries, but this is one of them. I have also been advised that photogrpahs can be used here. I have also been advised that they might therefore be expected.

Fine. Here:

This is Antoine Bourdelle’s ‘Hercules the Archer’. I fell in love with it in his studio space/museum in Paris ages ago when I was young. It was a treat to find another version in Prague last week. And yes, I agree, it has nothing, really to do with anything, except … well, there’s a major archer figure in River of Stars. (Yes, I’m reaching for that link. It is true, about the archer, but I really just wanted to show you the sculpture!)


So, this is really just a first post/announcement of more to come. For those who missed it, I did a ‘title reveal’ for the book a while back via this video (done by my filmmaker son).

General news will appear still on the Facebook page (where a couple of the Bright Weavings team, people I really don’t deserve, keep everyone up-to-date on news). I am now @GuyGavrielKay on Twitter (see nefarious forces, earlier in this post!) and, of course, watch this space. I’ll figure out, as I go, how to balance the different modes and forms.

Or is that wildly optimistic?