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…





It gets late early out there…

(Yes, a Yogi Berra quote. You’ll see what I mean about timing and accelerated schedules as you get into this one!)

Because my last few books have been spring releases, it seems that each time as the International Festival of Authors begins here, and Penguin (or, now, Penguin Random House) throw a cocktail party to get the show started, I end up in ‘discussions’ with people over wine and whatever hors d’oeuvres the servers are floating past with. No, it isn’t too early for this, they always tell me (the publishing people, not the servers!). I always mentally check the date and become aware, again, that long lead times are so the norm in publishing.

I have Serious Sit Downs ahead. With marketing and publicity and editorial here in November, and in NY in early December, and am meeting my UK editor (he promises single malt) in two weeks at Saratoga Springs.

Right. Saratoga, in upstate New York, is where the World Fantasy Convention is this year (the Chair tells me standby memberships can possibly still be scored). It is a lovely town, and WFC is my own favourite con … and not only because a diverse and gallant group seek each other out late at night deploying secret signs, having brought from their far corners of the planet good bottles of whisky to share. (There may be a theme emerging for this post, yes.)

I’ll also be doing the worldwide first reading from Children of Earth and Sky there, on Friday November 6th. I debuted both Kitai novels that way, too. This is always tricky for me, as it is well before I am really ready to talk about a new book (May release, remember!) but WFC offers a truly good mix of colleagues, professionals, book lovers, and it feels like the best place to open up a bit on the novels. Does also mean I need to give thought in next little while as to what I want to read.

Readings … we all need 5 minute, 10 minute, 20 minute passages when a book comes out. (I think going much longer is usually a mistake.) Actually, I’ve even been asked on radio to read a one minute snippet. All these need to be sorted out, though for me it always evolves as I start touring … you discover what feels right, learn what audiences respond to.

At this moment I am awaiting the Return of the Manuscript. The copy-editor, Catherine Marjoribanks, emailed this morning to say I’ll have it back tomorrow afternoon or Wednesday morning. Then she gets to relax and I get to be driven crazy by what she’s done to me. Mostly joking. Copy-editing is critically important (and I’ll add that it is too-often not done carefully these days). For one thing, a good one monitors consistency, and through a big book written over a long time, it is easy to run into issues. Usually small, but in a way nothing is small.

Catherine and other copy-editors are also looking down at the level of commas and paragraphing. If I disagree with her deletion or insertion of a comma, I’ll change it back, and she knows I will. In turn, I know she’s being thoughtful when she makes suggestions and even if I don’t agree with a perercentage of them, whatever I do accept has – this seems obvious – improved my book. I used to get irked when younger, by having to change things back. I don’t, any more. I’m grateful for attentive eyes on my pages, and for a copy-editor I’ve worked with several times now. There’s a comfort zone that emerges.

It is a painstaking process, though. And done under deadline. Publishers want the finished, copy-edited manuscript by November 17th, and I even had to ask the production director to do battle, to get that date pushed from the 10th. (May book, remember! These timetables can induce a shaking of the Authorial Head.)

Once the manuscript is with them the publishers move (quickly) towards a few things. They make what are called First Pass pages, set as they’ll look in the finished book. From these they also make Advance Reading Copies (ARCs). The ARCs are what will go off to reviewers, ‘influencers’, people who buy authors well-aged single malts. (Joke. Really!) ARCs always indicate ‘please check against finished book before quoting‘ as these pages still need to be proofread, by a professional and by the author – though some writers do skip doing this. Errors will creep in to typesetting (and errors often linger in books, as we all know, even with proofing).

So this update, as I await my novel’s return to me, is to say, it is getting tangible with this book. I had a running joke in an earlier edition of these tour journals with that word tangible, but any writer will tell you are are many, many stages to a book feeling done, real. A few will be ticked off here in the next few weeks.

One Book’s Cover

I don’t know many topics that engage authors and readers as much as do book covers. Blood on the tracks, sometimes. The debates can be fierce, and the authorial cries of pain resound from bars and cafes across all the lands.

Covers do get discussed with intensity, they are analyzed in cultural and political terms (the headless women meme!), there are conversations about the obvious – ‘That doesn’t look at all the way I picture Lord Protector Crum!’ – and strategy sessions about the less obvious – ‘Why don’t we flip the image: have her looking out towards where the book opens, not in towards the spine?’ (I’ve had that done, twice. Er, to my cover, not to me.)


This spring I was working with my American and Canadian editors, and an art director, and a gifted artist to devise and shape the cover those territories are sharing for Children of Earth and Sky.

Contractually, all that the publishers are allowed to use, all they purchase, is the finished version but the artist, Larry Rostant, ( has generously allowed me to show early versions as they emerged and were changed to show what I want to discuss here – which is about process in the evolution of a cover.


One new aspect of the book business is how soon everything starts these days. Lead times have lengthened greatly. This means, in practical terms, that a publisher needs (urgently desires?) a cover and jacket copy startlingly early. Startling for me, that is. It isn’t ‘when are we gonna be there?’ it is ‘are we there now?’

In this case, my dialogue started with my New York editor Susan Allison before anyone had read the whole book – and that was for the entirely valid reason that I hadn’t finished it. My editors and agents had seen twelve chapters. I wasn’t even thrilled with sending that much out before completing and polishing (that says something about me, I know) but since my UK agent, Jonny Geller, was thinking about submitting the novel more widely in UK, it was necessary for a partial manuscript to be seen (can’t sell to a new house, not as easily as to an existing one, based only on a half page of themes, a snappy quote, and a setting).

Everything was complicated by the fact (sad and happy, both) of Susan’s upcoming liberation/retirement, coming at the end of June. We had done so many books together over the years (we go back to The Summer Tree) that Susan wanted to make a good start on a cover before vanishing on us.

She had read those twelve opening chapters and so we were able to have a good conversation and emails as to ‘what do you see on the cover?’ I wasn’t ready for this, was still in ‘write the book’ mode, but managed to get my head into that space.

We talked about cityscapes and seascapes – merging into a possibility of a walled city and harbour – the ‘big historical setting’ cover idea. (You’ve seen lots of them.) But Susan also said right away that she wanted to do something that linked up in style with the previous books – Ysabel, Under Heaven, River of Stars – and that her preference would be to use Larry Rostant, who had done them. I was entirely onside with this – I love Larry’s covers for those books.

I think I was the one who threw out, ‘Maybe an iron gate … in front of a retreat, or perhaps with the sea beyond?’ And I could hear Susan on the phone scribbling as she said ‘I like that!’

She went off for a chat with her art director. That is generally the next stage: the art director is the one who will shepherd the cover forward, ideally under guidance from the editor who knows the book best. Susan emailed me that the art director was going to see if Larry was free to work with us, and that he was keen on the ‘gate’ idea. In fact, he immediately sent her – just as a concept – a photo of a Renaissance period gate:




Susan and I both felt, immediately, that this would work as a direction for this cover. In fact, looking back over all my books, it is rare for a vague idea and a sample photo to so immediately elicit a ‘yep!’ from everyone. The art director turned the idea over to Larry, who was keen to work with us again (God bless). We’d already agreed the better background was the sea – opening the book up, and making use of both a sequence in the novel (spoiler!) and something interesting when considered with the title.

Larry Rostant did what he does, and came back to us with this first draft idea:


Children of Earth and Sky1st


It was shared with the Canadian editorial and marketing team, who would also be using this cover if it worked for them – and it seemed to be pretty universal, from everyone’s first look … this was a direction that was going make a cover for us. I felt instantly reassured. Even happy. This is not invariably the case, I should add. (You probably know that about me by now.)

Fine-tuning was needed, just as for a book. People were divided on the foreground figure of the digging labourer you see above. I was unsure. On the one hand I liked it, the figure picked up a motif I’d spoken of to Susan (and which she’d obviously relayed) about ‘the lives of those not powerful’ in the book. It also evoked (Too literally? We wondered.) the word ‘Earth’ in the title.

Beyond this, it was my son who first noted something amusing, one of those things you might never see, but once it is pointed out you can’t unsee. He saw a lizard head (someone later said a Ninja Turtle) in the peasant. The actual figure is in profile, of course, with a hood. But looked at slightly askew, the lizard appears – looking right out at us. I knew there would be people who saw this right away, and were distracted and amused by it (we were), and none of us wanted a ‘What colour is the dress?’ debate opening up here!

In addition, someone else wondered, what was being dug by the shovel? Was that a mound of earth – or was it a corpse being buried? In a way, I didn’t mind that, and my NY agent, John Silbersack, liked the visual ambiguity, but we ended up agreeing that Larry would be asked to fix the hood to avoid the lizard (as it were), and he’d also visually clarify it was not a dead body down there.

But in the meantime, it was now July and Susan was headed off to read books for pleasure not work, and travel, and ride horses in retirement, and Claire Zion, my new editor in New York, raised a different issue, and Larry was asked to address this, instead.

Claire’s feeling, along with the art director now, was that my previous two book covers had had more scale, more of the epic to them, and this one, with two visual elements (the digger with his spade and the icon of the sun) wasn’t as focused and didn’t ‘match up’ to the others as well as it could. They had ideas for how to address this.

So the next version we saw, when it came back from Larry, addressed this:


Children of Earth and Sky 2nd

And, essentially, looking at it, everyone said, ‘By George, I think he’s got it!’

Still not quite finished (of course not!). Claire and I continued discussing – within the framework of a new author-editor relationship, too. We agreed that in this version the presence of the sea might be too soft, muted, it was slightly challenging to decode at a glance. And reading at first glance matters.

So the next stages were those that can vex (mild word chosen here) an artist and art director as they ‘cope’ with editors and writers. The sea was made hyper-sharp by Larry in version 3:

Children of Earth and Sky3rd


You can see the difference best on the right side. And looking at it we decided (you know what is coming…) that it was a touch too sharp now. So a split-the difference (it is pretty subtle, look to the right of the word ‘Sky’ in both) shift back took place.

Children of Earth and Sky 4th

After which this cover (which is the one we posted last month) was happily signed of on by everyone in New York and Toronto, including the author. Drinks were had.

There will be light tweaks to come: the title lettering will be embossed, for example, as was done with the previous titles (the typeface and formatting is deliberately the same as those), and the exact quotes and copy for front and back covers are to be determined.

The British cover is being designed as I write these words. It will not be the same. Hodder and Stoughton, my new UK house, do not, for example, have the same rationale to ‘echo’ the previous books. This is their first of mine, so varying considerations apply, over and above the fact that different markets operate in different ways.

There is another essay to be written here some day about ‘styles’ in markets and countries (including foreign-language editions), but for now two of my publishers have a cover we all love, and that’s a really important element done. Now (tomorrow, actually) I dive into my usual slow revision of the novel before it goes to the copyeditor. I have had a month to step away, get some distance, I have notes from several people, I have a book to fine-tune.




Not-a-slow news day

Yes, we did – for those who think something looks different hereabouts. Changed the banner to show the cover for Children of Earth and Sky, and so this represents the beginning of a new journal – for a new book.

Had to wait until today for the cover reveals to take place. Not wise to pre-empt your publishers and their planning. Did any of you see the tweet this week of the secret passage behind the bookcase in the new Penguin Random House Canada offices? There have been rumours of screams. Also rumours they stole the idea from ‘Young Frankenstein’.

A very busy day in media terms.

There were ‘cover reveals’ on CBC Books site and B&N blog this morning. I’m posting a good-sized jpeg here and what will be the jacket copy for the American edition (they are slightly ahead in fine-tuning, Canada will be very similar, UK is in-progress). The book will be released in May. (Yes, it seems early, yes the book world has changed a lot.)

The cover artist is Larry Rostant, who has done several for me now, all gorgeous, and the art director is Adam Auerbach. Stories of disastrous covers are all over the literary world (and I have had a few in foreign language editions, and even early ones in English once or twice), so I am serious when I say how lucky I feel to have talented, committed people engaged in working on these.

Art directors and artists take initial guidance from editors, especially when the covers come early in the process and they haven’t had a chance to read the manuscript. In this case, that means Susan Allison, Nicole Winstanley, Adrienne Kerr, and Claire Zion, who arrived when Susan retired and had some sharp ideas right away. From Larry’s first draft, done after discussions with Adam after visual cues from Susan, we all knew we were going to have a cover we loved. It was that immediate. Part of what everyone wanted was a ‘look’ that matched up with the last two covers (Under Heaven and River of Stars) in terms of scale and effect, and that was where the fine-tuning came in. Yes, I love it.

Here is the cover:



And here is the jacket copy:


The bestselling author of the groundbreaking novels Under Heaven and River of Stars, Guy Gavriel Kay is back with a new novel, Children of Earth and Sky, set in a world inspired by the conflicts and dramas of Renaissance Europe. Against this tumultuous backdrop the lives of men and women unfold on the borderlands—where empires and faiths collide.

From the small coastal town of Senjan, notorious for its pirates, a young woman sets out to find vengeance for her lost family. That same spring, from the wealthy city-state of Seressa, famous for its canals and lagoon, come two very different people: a young artist traveling to the dangerous east to paint the grand khalif at his request—and possibly to do more—and a fiercely intelligent, angry woman, posing as a doctor’s wife, but sent by Seressa as a spy.

The trading ship that carries them is commanded by the accomplished younger son of a merchant family, ambivalent about the life he’s been born to live. And farther east a boy trains to become a soldier in the elite infantry of the khalif—to win glory in the war everyone knows is coming.

As these lives entwine, their fates—and those of many others—will hang in the balance, when the khalif sends out his massive army to take the great fortress that is the gateway to the western world…


We also can announce something else important.

Children of Earth and Sky will be published in the UK by Hodder & Stoughton, also in May, under the editing and stewardship of Oliver Johnson. This is a new relationship, and one I’m really happy about. Hodder do smart things in marketing and positioning books, and the challenge I always present publishers lies in how I lie suspended (so to speak) between mainstream, history, and fantasy. (There is very little cookbook in me, though I know quick readers will point back at the Mosaic pair to rebut that!)

Here’s the Hodder press release, which went out today (Yes, it makes me feel self-conscious. Next question?):

We are delighted to announce the acquisition of the latest novel by the legendary Canadian fantasy author Guy Gavriel Kay for publication on May 12th 2016. The deal was negotiated by Jonny Geller of agents Curtis Brown UK.

In The Children of Earth and Sky Kay returns to the familiar territory established in several earlier works, a reimagining of the melting pot of the medieval Mediterranean. In his hands well-known places and events are transformed into the wonderful and strange through the lens of fantasy, and brought to life with brilliantly drawn characters and the most graceful of styles, which will seduce his many fans and new readers alike.

Acquiring Editor Oliver Johnson says: ‘To bring a celebrated, legendary author like Guy Gavriel Kay to our list is a truly wonderful moment; an editor’s dream is to publish a writer he has long admired, and this couldn’t be more true for me than with Guy. Though we have no specific genre list we are very proud of our work at Hodder with books that cross the divides of genre as Guy does with his brilliantly written, erudite and deliciously imagined works of historical fantasy. Our hallmark is great writing without bounds and we know we have acquired exactly that in Guy’s new work.’

Guy Gavriel Kay famously assisted Christopher Tolkien in the editing of The Silmarilion. His debut novels in the Fionavar Tapestry established him as one of the most exciting fantasy writers of the last half century. Several of his books (including Tigana, The Lions of Al-Rassan, Under Heaven) have been named as among the greatest fantasy masterpieces of the last twenty-five years. His work has been shortlisted for the Best Novel in the World Fantasy Awards several times and he won that award with Ysabel in 2008.  In 2014 he was appointed to the Order of Canada for his services to literature, the country’s highest civilian honour.