Autumn leaves…

Thinking of the wonderful song, but could also mean all the fall departures I’ve had – and will have. (Best version of ‘Autumn Leaves’? My favourite is Duke’s band on ‘Ellington Indigos’, with a stunning, soaring vocal.)

I’m just back from really enjoyable experiences in Vancouver and Ottawa at their author festivals. Vancouver was the amusingly-billed ‘Intimate Evening with Guy Gavriel Kay’. I teased that I half-thought I was expected to wear a red velvet smoking jacket, carry a glass of armagnac, and sound like Vincent Price. No. None of that happened. I told some stories, read my elegy for my friend George Jonas, who died early this year, then read from Children, and there were a lot of really good questions. Ottawa was a shorter reading then an onstage interview with Kate Heartfield, writer, teacher, ex of the Ottawa Citizen editorial board. I had a first in that signing line: signed a book for a 4 1/2 months in the womb baby, at the mother-to-be’s request. Have signed for (very) small kids, as parents wanted them to read the books when they grow up, but this was new. In Toronto, at their festival Monday, I was on a panel discussing writing about history (yes, you know I love this stuff) and also introduced my dear friend and agent, Linda McKnight, as she received the Ivy Prize for lifetime contribution to Canadian publishing. A really lovely moment.

Next up, tomorrow morning to Columbus, where World Fantasy Con is this year. I am Sad because my Aussie whisky-drinking chums, Garth Nix and Jonathan Strahan, are AWOL this year. Will expect to seek solace in various bars to cheer for the Cubs – in Ohio, yet!

Next week is an event for the Writers’ Trust here Tuesday afternoon, then another visit to Waterloo for their Wild Writers Festival (yes, they called it that) on Thursday night. I’m in Halifax reading at the library on the 17th, then talking the next day to a graduate seminar at Dalhousie, which is studying my work as filtered through various medieval texts and themes.

And yes, I’m reading. A lot. Trying to discover what the next novel wants to be. No, it hasn’t told me. Yet. Well, hints, gleanings, possibilities…the usual process for me, in fact.

Here, so you have it in one place, is the fall schedule. Hope to see some of you yet as I move around.


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.)