A quickie…

I am trying not to be a tease (he says, teasing). There will be some real announcements, one as early as next week, but at this point everything is about coordinating and I need to let my various publishers do their thing.

I’m about halfway through the proofreading. Have spotted only 6-8 straight typos, or missing commas etc, but I am guilty of my usual transgression: am cutting on average about 3-5 words a page. Simple trims. I am very aware I am making work for the production people … depending on how a paragraph ends, dropping one or two words can alter the page breaks. I do feel contrite (see I am even noting that here!) but I also know these slight, invisible trims make me happier.

Italics are dying en masse.

New York tomorrow. A long day, straight from airport into four separate meetings, then more on Friday. This is the US equivalent of the meetings I had here last week and on Monday of this week.

Oh. I think I can say this: the worldwide launch event for River of Stars looks like it is confirmed: will be here in Toronto on April 4th. Details, as always, to follow.

The proof is in the proofing…

I’m proofreading, if the header didn’t give that away. For reasons discussed earlier (production department joined marketing department in having their way with me) this is the first time I’ve seen River of Stars on the page, as opposed to on screen. I know that some readers will never not see it on a screen (or perhaps hear it as an audio book) but it makes a difference for me.

I know I’ve said it before: italics are louder on the page than they are in pixels. I delete many of them as I go through this time. I need to force myself to slow down, too, read for typos, not making last-chance edits. I am very happy two others are proofing (both professionals) and one friend has volunteered to do a read, as well. So far I’ve only caught a handful of punctuation errors and a few bad choices as to stretching or compressing words to make a line-break work.

Another meeting at Penguin here Monday afternoon, as to which I cannot (yet) speak or write. Then two days of meetings in NY at end of week, publishers, marketing/pr team, agents (including foreign rights). I’ll get to a gallery or two as a NY perk.

BTW, I’ve been sent a PDF of the ARC cover (fyi!). It looks terrific. I’ll check with Penguin as to whether I can post it here. Everything of that sort now involves coordination among several people in different locations (and the UK is about to come on board). I’ve always said these Journals are very much about looping readers in to how books get made and marketed and sold, and I have to say that the game is changing very fast. That includes all publishrs trying to organize releases and reveals together. Even in the three years since Under Heaven everything has altered. The online dimension was present then, and increasingly significant. Now it is a huge component of the process, for just about any book.

Back to proofing. Pass the italics excising knife.

In which there is more wrestling

Really good meeting today at Penguin Canada with Nicole Winstanley and the marketing team, headed by the Tag-team Wrestlers. (Beth and Charidy are easy to tell apart, one loves soccer and the other loves musicals. Since I like both, they manipulate me easily.)

Beth showed up with a 7-item agenda and rolled through it.  A couple of them surprised me. A few elements are going to start soon, but I shouldn’t do more than tease (here’s me, teasing) for yet.Seriously, at this stage they have some clear ideas as to timing and sequence, and I wouldn’t want to mess that up. A book does best when editorial, marketing, pubicity and sales all see it as their baby, too.

We will do, all going well, one of my favourite small things: a charity auction of the first book off the press. We usually use a literacy charity, and it is a fun process to watch. The same man has won the bidding for the last three auctions.

Tour was discussed, spring author festival gigs (and fall as well), the launch night here in Toronto (even which bookseller to have selling books). The marketing trio really wanted the ARCs to go to press immediately, as in today, since the monthly magazines are already doing their April issues, and they need to read it.

I came home and did the good soldier thing, finished my fast scroll through the typeset ARC, wrestling it into submission (I freely admit I used ‘wrestling’ here purely for the echo of headline and opening paragraph). Only one killer error (a poem set with all words jumbled together, no spacing at all, and as prose). I asked the production editor on the phone when I called it in, ‘How did that happen?’ A pause. ‘I have no idea.’ It was fixed. It will be printed asap. Nicole said these will be the most handsome galleys they’ve ever done, which is obviously nice. She sees it as emphasizing book-as-artifact, which suits the setting and story.

I am doing the same thing in NY next week, another set of meetings there.

There’s more in the works, I’ll save some for later. I’ll also have a U.K. announcement here soon. Again waiting on others.

Anyone see that News Corp (HarperCollins) is in discussions with Simon and Schuster? That was always going to happen once Random Penguin was done. Twitter has a few of us playing the name game (how can one resist?) One guy is offering a recipe for a Simon Collins (usual Tom Collins ingredients + agent and author tears). I think the gamesmanship involved just about demands SimHarper as a name. Gamers, get in the comments thread and tell me you laughed!

Salon du Livre Love

Home from a genuinely rewarding weekend in Montreal at their Salon du Livre, as guest of my Quebec publisher, Alire. The Salon can actually restore, however briefly, some optimism about the book world. 120,000 people over 4 days or so, paying to crowd their way in to see … nothing but books, publishers, and authors signing at booths like people in a revolving door. I was a revolver. Four sessions over Saturday and Sunday.

As Alire’s only translated Anglophone author, I am not the star attraction at their booth for a French-langage fair. But my time there, among other feelings induced, reminded me how lucky I am (how lucky all English-language writers are) as too the language in which we write and sell. I always say I feel fortunate to be able to write the books I want to write, at the speed that lets me research and polish them, but a trip like this reminds me that the good fortune includes my principal language of publicatuon.

Alire’s star is a writer named Patrick Sénécal. He sells hugely in Quebec, one of the top 3 in the province, had lines starting for each of his four sessions long before he arrived. But his work is not translated into English, it is not even in France … because the French have an extremely narrow view of Quebec writers. Patrick does Stephen King-like horror-thrillers, and Louise and Jean of Alire are appalled that he hasn’t achieved a wider breakout. It is tough to be a Quebec novelist, and I was genuinely happy to see the crowds honouring and responding to their own.

They were awfully good to me, too. There’s ongoing political language tension in Quebec, the nootious Bill 101, restricting the use of English on signs, new questions about the teaching of Engloish in schools … but I was touched and humbled by how generous every single reader who came up for a signature was. My spoken French is clumsy, ungrammatical, and appallingly accented … and without exception people shifted into English for me, and many then apologized for their English. I kept pointing out that they were idulging me, shifting into my language, that I was the one who needed to apologize.

Many amusing moments, but here’s one: there was a pair of readers, about half an hour apart on Sunday. Each reported at the signing table that I was their ‘2nd favourite writer’. When asked (how do you not ask?) one said Tolkien was his #1, the other actually blushed, looked away, didn’t answer. I will admit that a part of me wondered if 50 Shades had me beaten out with her (so to speak). Um, that’s an off the cuff joke, of course.

I was also touched by how many had read all of my books (and some brought all to be signed). I have been associated with Jean Pettigrew and Louise Alain in Quebec for twenty years now. This is a friendship and a really happy publishing relationship.

And yes, yes, I know … this is further eroding the curmudgeon image. Is it a rescue if I point out that Winokur’s very funny The Portable Curmudgeon is one of my bedside books?

Didn’t think so.


What happened to my day off?

The late comedian George Burns did a series of routines of a Farewell Tour, then The Next Farewell Tour, then The Last Farewell Tour …

I feel that way sometimes when thinking about being finished with a novel. There are so many stages of being ‘done’ it can actually be funny. So, Wednesday I wrapped my review of the copy edited manuscript, did my photo, drank my Springbank, went off to a scotch tasting night with friends (pure coincidence, that timing), and woke up yesterday to a crazy busy day!

It was mostly the map. Martin and I must have exchanged a dozen emails each way and half a dozen phone calls to sort the fiddly things that make these things work. Mostly to do with where the text is specific about something. If a stream is described as visible from a farmhouse, the map can’t have it too far away, even knowing that people allow cartographic license (I just made that up) in the interest of legibility. If someone walks east from a set point and crosses a river to get to a town, that town needed to move east on the map – and I needed to be alert enough to catch it – after several encounters the night before with a superlative 21 year old Glengoyne.

Then Martin had to do some nimble footwork (well, fingerwork) to stretch the map a bit (too much and words look weird) to be more rectangular, as it is a two-page spread in the book. (It may actually go on the endpapers this time. I like that effect, easier to turn to it, and a little larger, too. Though that only works for the hardcover, of course.)

Then I received by email from Penguin the ‘interior design’ sample pages. These were fine (identical to Under Heaven, which I liked in design terms) with one exception. Ready for more dingbat discussion? Latecomers will perhaps have forgotten, or never known, more likely, that ‘dingbats’ are the small section dividers (like asterisks, but classier) and can also be large Part 1, Part 2 dividers, as decoration. For Under Heaven the larger ones were a horse Martin designed, and that suited the book very well.

Can’t use that this time, and I disliked the one proposed in the material sent to me (too modern). So the ARCs (advance reading copies) will either just say Part 1, Part 2, with no decoration, while we figure it out for the actual book, or they may have something since we went into overdrive yesterday looking at options. To be determined today. I made calls to the Royal Ontario Museum, to see about access to a particular image… if that happens it’ll be fun.

I also wrapped the Acknowledgements. I find these tricky, and said so in them this time. On the one hand, I want to mentionall the books I found even slightly useful. On the other hand, I read 100+ texts and about 40-50 articles. Would be ridiculous! (And not everything read is equally useful, obviously.) So it requires focus and selectivity. People are easier (hmm, what curmudgeon has ever said that?).

Then a last close look at the Character List (this was all ‘last look’ country as River of Stars will be made into ARCs based on this week’s work!). I was sorely tempted for awhile not to have one. I know, I know, people like these. But I had a weird sense that since the number of characters is really not so huge, that it might look more daunting to see all the names on two pages at the front, than it really is as they emerge organically through the story. Still, as Catherine pointed out when we emailed on this, people read books in widely different ways … someone might set it down for a week to deal with life or something (shocking, I know) and a reminder at the front does help. So, it is in there.

But, being in there, it compels some decisions. I elected to identify everyone by their role as they first appear. Anything else spoils plot hooks. I mean, if we meet Mary as a law student, and she becomes a congresswoman, then President … I think you get it. I’ll describe her as Mary, a student at Georgetown Law…

Then there were emails and phone calls relating to tomorrow’s trip to the Salon du Livre in Montreal, then more concerning an online marketing idea that will launch soon. (That’s a tease, I know.)

And next week I get the book back, typeset, and three of us proofread that in about a week. (Um, thanks, no volunteers needed. They have it covered!)

The true shame is that we finished off that Glengoyne … I could use it. First time any one bottle has been polished off at our group. Usually the host gets 1/3 of a bottle or so to put in his liquor cabinet. Not this one.



Unforeseen obstacles!

The camera tells the tale of why I might be egregiously late! Or wreck my back, whichever comes first.

Cat occupying Authorial Editing Chair (aka Perfectly Splendid Nap Place). The war has been going on since the weather turned colder. It shows no signs of easing up. I am (mostly) winning. But not always.

And the sad consequences of the above:

This is the Suffering Author Seat, to which retreats must be made when the damned cat looks WAY too comfortable. This does not not, dare I say, offer an ideal editing position. 

Need I say more? Really?


Decisions, decisions…

Journal post or editing … journal post or editing? Tough call. This is, of course, shamelessly meta as I am writing said journal post, therefore … hmm, as a Tristram Shandy digression, I know I have mentioned Laurent Binet’s remarkable novel of the Heydrich assissination, HHhH. Let me plug it again. Put in mind of it by his very self-aware technique. The novelist is very much in the novel.

This novelist will be only briefly in the journal today, though. Deadlines are real. And A Certain Person in production department advised yesterday that she’s off tomorrow for a long Asian holiday which means, of course, that she can’t possibly enjoy herself unless she knows Your Author is fiercely aware of said deadline before she flies off.

There may be a pattern here … some will recall a marketing director of yesterbook sending me to Winnipeg in dead of winter, to do (among other things) a photo shoot outdoors in way sub-zero, under a snow-laden tree, without my coat, as the photographer thought it would ‘look really out there if you are just in shirtsleeves, eh?’ … marketing person, meanwhile, was on beaches of Costa del Sol, though she did kindly promise to check emails to see if I was alive.

Teasing aside (for the nonce), deadlines at this stage are legit … publishers queue up printers and proofreaders and apparently Penguin and Roc are (for some reason) doing other books this spring. This means that if a manuscript backs up too much, others do, too. I have ‘good soldier’ in my genetic coding, and hate to be the cause of those problems. I also have ‘cynical author’ in me, and I would rather it be me moving fast, than someone else, who might make mistakes. A writer with only his or her book to worry about can focus more. Someone at the publisher has a lot going on across a lot of titles.

I’ve been furnishing proof of progress. Here’s the latest. Yes, I could be faking these, but I ain’t…


Artists and Models … er Friends

In 1984 the World Fantasy Convention was held in Ottawa, in the month my first book, The Summer Tree, was to be published. There are at least half a dozen great stories from that weekend. I just told one of them again on Saturday because Peter Straub (who co-stars in the story as the Innocent Villain) was at our Charles Brown dinner.

But one story, for here and now, is this: Martin Springett had just become an acquaintance, on the way to being the good friend he’s been ever since. He’d done the splendid, distinctive cover painting for the upcoming Canadian edition of the book (the worldwide first edition) and I had just arranged with him to buy the original. With nothing but instinct guiding me, I pushed him hard to clear the time and budget to come up to WFC. He listened. I claim he owes me for life.

Long story short, his artwork was seen in the art show there by David Hartwell of Arbor House and David Fielder of Allen & Unwin, my other editors, and picked up by both the US and UK for my trilogy (and eventually many, many foreign language editions). The painting was also seen by a number of other editors, and Martin received commissions to do artwork for their books, too. Eventually, he segued towards illustrating children’s books, and writing his own … but WFC in Ottawa, that art show, was definitely the start.

So, flash forward to last weekend. Martin came by here to collect all three paintings to show them together for the first time at a WFC – the one here in Toronto. He told me yesterday, dropping them off again, that he’d never had such a response at an art show, as so many people came to find him and say how thrilled they were to see them hanging together after all these years (he sells them as posters on his website, incidentally).

I know for a fact that a number of my initial readers were drawn to pick up The Summer Tree because they loved the cover. Maybe I owe him for life. Maybe that’s the way good friends should end up feeling.

In any case, here’s a picture he just sent me:

Note the additional dragons below The Darkest Road on the right. Springett=Dragons!

WFC, aftermath

I didn’t even have to travel, WFC was here in Toronto, and I still feel as if I am returning to my life from far away. Conventions and conferences do that to you, don’t they?

It was a very good weekend, all credit to Con Chair Peter Halasz and his team. The usual blurred sequence of breakfasts, lunches, drinks, dinners, drinks, room parties with drinks. I recall, out of the mists, a really good rum quietly offered by Sally Harding of the Cooke Agency after their cocktail party, and a terrific dinner Saturday night, the Charles Brown dinner, as some of us think of it – a tradition in his memory. (Charlie founded and embodied Locus Magazine, and our dinners together were a highlight of any con for me.)

The line of the weekend may have been Rodger Turner’s, one of the World Fantasy’s executive members. As I was headed up to a publisher’s party around 9:30 one of the nights, I saw Rodger approaching along the hotel’s main floor. He looked tired. ‘Rodger, you okay?’ I asked. He sighed. ‘Guy, I can’t take these crazy 10:30 nights any more!’

The Saturday reading from River of Stars was a lot of fun. A very good crowd, and they were kind enough to laugh when the passage was funny, and not to laugh when it was’t! My kind of audience. At the awards ceremony, I was asked to accept the Lifetime Achievement Award on behalf of the quite wonderful Alan Garner, and to read out the letter he’d sent. It gave me a chance to very briefly express how pleased I was that the World Fantasy committee had conferred that distinction on him. Garner’s a powerful, passionate, challenging, important writer, and has been for 50 years.

Back in harness editing this morning, with a publisher meeting tomorrow, up at the Penguin offices to discuss some ideas they want to propose. And there is now a New York trip to be planned for the near future. I tend to start these online Journals as the marketing plans and production process for a book ramp up … and that’s exactly what is happening.

There were a lot of queries on the weekend, and I knew there would be, so I armed myself with the facts beforehand: the ARCs (bound galleys) will indeed be going out to variously selected targets, as actual copies or e-files, in early January. I still have some trouble processing how early that is, for an April book, but that’s the new game we all play…

Back to the red pencil work, cyber-version.


WFC, The 2nd Prelude

Okay, so give me a hard time if you like, but having very well-made cocktails midday, autumn, grey and rainy, sitting in a handsome 50s-look bar under a copper ceiling (!) with good company (albeit Australian) made me think of John Cheever. No, not ‘Mad Men’, I am (a little) more sophisticated than that. The Museum Tavern was perfect for the day.

Jonathan Strahan, reviews editor of Locus, came downtown from the convention hotel and brought Alisa Krasnostein, Publisher of Twelfth Planet Press. JS and I tend to try for at least one meal each time we’re at a convention. We covered a lot of ground, including why their most direct flight here was through Dubai. (Answer: coming from Perth, not Sydney.)

One of the virtues of a convention like WFC is the chance to get snapshots of the publishing mood from professionals in other countries. Why does the U.K. always ‘get’ Australian rights (and New Zealand, India, South Africa…)? How do Australian houses feel about it? How do readers feel? Actually, they haven’t all been thrilled to bits. One interesting law (which I’ve known about for a while) mandates that if the house that controls Australian rights does not have actual books on sale there within six weeks of a title appearing elsewhere in the English-language world, they lose their exclusive rights and must compete in an open market with houses in other countries (read: America).

This emerged because Australians became increasingly irked with the U.K. having their territory but sending 50-100 books by slow steamer, to get there … eventually. I’m exaggerating, but not wildly, according to my contacts Down Under. That law can actually make for some tricky timing and negotiations…

(I did say I’d use this Journal to do some backstories about the nature of the book world. No, that doesn’t mean naming the cocktail Strahan picked from a really very good list.)

Here in Canada, our biggest literary prize, the Giller, was awarded last night to Will Ferguson for 417. He’s another Penguin (not a Random Penguin, the merger will take a year or so, and the name will be the deadly correct Penguin Random House). It was major cause for celebration at Penguin last night and today – and on Twitter where the Tag Team Tandem were quite properly busy. (I mean, if they’ve lured me onto Twitter, they have to be there, right?)

I head up to WFC tomorrow to do a podcast interview, show up at the Opening Ceremony to support Gary Wolfe (good friend, MC this year) Peter Halasz, also a good friend and this year’s Chair, and the Guests of Honour who include John Clute (see earlier post here).

Then I am moderating a panel at the odd hour of 5 PM. It is right after the opening, so I plan to express my thanks to all of them for being our warmup act. (Good? Bad? Terrible joke?) Topic is “Fantasy and the Wilderness” and it interests me (that, need I say, doesn’t always happen with panel topics). I am allegedly a fierce moderator though haven’t (yet) used handcuffs and whips on panelists. Leaving that for entirely different sorts of author…

I am being told people like when I put photos in here. I will therefore manifest my almost unspeakable courage by attaching a picture taken so long ago there was no such thing, children, as the WWW (there was colour for photos, but this one is b&w, obviously). That’s the Canadian non-fiction writer Jack Batten, the English novelist Julian Barnes, et moi, before a reading night. No points for guessing who is who. Points for keeping a straight face, or applauding my bravery, or riffing on ‘where are the snows of yesteryear…’ Jack is probably explaining to us that he has heard of something called a ‘word processor’ that makes typing and revising easier and he predicts all writers will start using it. We are obviously being kind to him.

Before a reading at ‘ADifferent Drummer Books’. Long ago. Really long ago.