Under Heaven Journal – discussion thread

By Deborah (Deborah) on Monday, September 14, 2009 – 3:34 am:

Anyone reading GGK’s new Under Heaven journal can post comments or questions about things he has revealed in the comments box at the bottom of this page.

By Natae on Monday, September 14, 2009 – 8:47 am:

I feel that this thread should be started off with a sensible and responsible question about the journal, but first let me just say, “New book draws closer? … Woooot!”

Interestingly I picked up a second hand book of Late T’ang poetry about a year ago that I hadn’t got round to reading until this book was announced. I’m part way through it and would recommend it to anyone interested in poetry, or the late T’ang. In my case, published by Penguin in ’65, translated by A.C.Graham.

The introduction conveys how difficult this kind of translation can be, while dealing with cultural references, style, rhyme and meter. More interesting when it seems that many of the written records of this era are in this form.


By Jayson Merryfield (Wolfe_boy) on Monday, September 14, 2009 – 12:07 pm:

I have little of substance to add to the discussion at this point too, except to say that this is one of my favorite parts of BW for the last few years.

Maybe, just thinking casually here, it would be interesting to get a post from Ms. Marjoribanks, about her side of the copywriting process. It seems to be a very clinical way of dealing with a work of art.

By Simon Fraser (Simonsays) on Monday, September 14, 2009 – 2:57 pm:

I think most people here should be informed that “crack-of-dawn winter interviews on the prairies” are one of the few highlights that those of us who dwell thereon have to look forward to during those months. The silver lining here (for GGK, anyway) is that, given the paucity of daylight hours in general at that time of year, said interviews would be nearly indistinguishable from crack-of-dusk interviews on the prairies, and so fortifying doses of scotch at so early an hour would be far (very far) from frowned upon.

Just sayin’.


By Paula Servin (Paula) on Monday, September 14, 2009 – 4:50 pm:

I’ll echo Jayson’s sentiments on how pleasurable it is to have these journals to follow, and may I reciprocate the welcome back. Icing on the cake today was a timely and fact-filled BW newsletter to complement the unveiling. Many thanks, Smarty!


By Lonstar on Monday, September 14, 2009 – 9:00 pm:

April 2010!!! Yay! I think I may be the Aussie reader who needed more than Spring 2010 as an ETA. I am pumped. Luckily I have 4 months in Paris to help me while away the days between.

By Jeff Cherpako on Monday, September 14, 2009 – 10:33 pm:

Outdoor photo session in February ,in Winnipeg ? Who did you piss off ? That is absolutely brutal , considering , as you well know , that February seems to be the coldest month of the year in these parts . On the bright side , with an April release , you should not be in this neck of the woods until later in the year .

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Tuesday, September 15, 2009 – 9:15 am:

So, they talk about the way the internet and access to data changes the brain … I was trying to remember my modus operandi here, if I dealt with comments or questions in the comments thread directly, or steered my replies back into the main Journal … and I realized I could Look It Up. (Baseball fans know all about this, of course.) We’re being wired, the theory goes, AWAY from memory, since it is less important these days … this continues a trend, if it is true, that began with writing.

What I seem to have done, and what I’ll do, in any case, now, is offer short replies as direct responses here, and take longer, more complex issues over to the Journal.

I enjoyed discovering that Natae was also first in this thread for YSABEL three years ago! I have no idea what to make of it, however. I do have a lot to say about Tang poetry (it is often written as T’ang, but I’m going to avoid that, for simplicity). Eventually, I’ll do a fuller bibliography than the one that’ll be in the novel itself, and that will include some specific translations and essays. Graham is a classic, so are Arthur Waley, Burton Watson, David Hawkes (wonderful), and there are a remarkable number of newer translators also tackling this golden age.

Jason, good idea, and I’ll toss it out to Catherine Marjoribanks when she’s read the manuscript … a bit unfair, before that! I could threaten her with a dawn photo shoot in winter if she doesn’t deliver.

Simon remains a very civilized reader with a subtle understanding of (some) writers, and Lonstar was, indeed, my chastising Australian, though it is a bit much, methinks, to be in Paris for four months AND chastising others. Yes, Jeff, tour likely mid-to-late April, but there’s a lot that can shift before dates are firmed up.

Film meeting today, L.A. agent is in Toronto for the Festival.


By Bryan Bernfeld (Dukebryan) on Tuesday, September 15, 2009 – 1:06 pm:

So happy for this to be going up… whets the appetite and it’s always fascinating to read the anecdotes about an industry I know next to nothing about. So thank you GGK for the opportunity.

Also wondering, since GGK mentioned a cast of characters in the first journal post, whether there will be an illustrated map in this one… I remember being frustrated with LLotS on my first read for its lack of cartography, but it has since become one of my favorite aspects of that book. Really, I’d be excited either way.

I Feel like holding my breath until April, but that would be unhealthy, wouldn’t it? Luckily, in the same vein as Lonstar, I have 3 1/2 months in Moscow to take my mind off it.

And, to echo Natae, WOOOOOOOT.


By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Tuesday, September 15, 2009 – 2:24 pm:

Yes, there’ll be a map. Martin Springett is at work on it now.

Bryan, I’m pleased you appreciated the non-map for Last Light, eventually. I gave it a lot of thought, and I know some readers missed having one, but I’m still comfortable with the decision, for many reasons. (I know I mentioned some of them in the Forums here at the time.)


By Patrick Thompson (Halmayne) on Tuesday, September 15, 2009 – 5:44 pm:

Relying on my memory (for better or worse), I recall one reason given for the lack of a map in LLotS was the presumption of reader familiarity with general British geography. Which leads one to wonder whether the decision for a map this time is, in part, a presumption of unfamiliarity with the setting.

I admit to having an underwhelming knowledge of the various Chinese dynasties–thank goodness for the bargain bin pickup of a world history atlas to give a thumbnail sketch of the T’ang period and orient me to where it fell amidst the numerous dynasties and what its borders were. One of the reasons I am looking forward to the new release–beyond the incalculable pleasure of a new GGK work of course–is the certain increase in my desire to learn more about the historical background.

Looking forward to the journal and even more to the book.

Patrick (Suppressing a shiver at my own recollections of February on the North Dakota plains and wishing GGK tropical photoshoot locales–Austin, TX can be quite lovely in the spring)

By Emilie Bee (Emilie) on Tuesday, September 15, 2009 – 8:49 pm:

That Texas photoshoot would have a good chance at an Alec cameo, too! hihi

I also love how that layering of history into the stories spark my interest in the regions and times that served as inspiration. I understand and admire the method of transposing them into a fictive place – so that we don’t forget there is a part of supposition and a part of pure imagination inserted into them – but the stories still help to shape, in my mind, the actual history of those places from linear and flat archives to tangible, colourful people and lands full of aromas and sounds.

By Kimberly Campbell on Tuesday, September 15, 2009 – 10:59 pm:

Patrick, in the interests of presenting an intelligent way to remember the accomplishments of the T’ang dynasty, I will share a joke that my sister and I have. The T’ang dynasty is the one which produced all the statues of the chubby horses. What more do you need to know?

OK, so I am easily amused. Trust me, it was funny at the time!

By Tyson Perna (Greywanderer) on Wednesday, September 16, 2009 – 5:50 am:

“…was also first in this thread for YSABEL three years ago!”

Wow, has it already been so long? I was thrilled to see on Twitter that GGK had another book coming out. My first thought was, “Didn’t Ysabel just come out last year?” I’ve really lost track of time. 🙂

By Timo (Timo) on Wednesday, September 16, 2009 – 8:33 am:

To me, one of the more interesting aspects of this new book is how well I can relate to that. All the other books have basically a ‘Western’ setting (France, Italy, Byzantium, Canada/England/Fionavar, they are not that different in many ways). This one will located in an utterly alien environment! 😉

Regarding this, if we have members/lurkers/whatever from Far east, I would be curious in knowing whether they had any problems with relating to the previous books.

By Clinton Hammond (Clintonhammond) on Wednesday, September 16, 2009 – 10:48 am:

Great! But when is the Under Heaven movie coming out on DVD?!!?


By Natae on Thursday, September 17, 2009 – 8:45 am:

Strange co-incidence. Considering that I’m only here intermittently, depending on how chaotic life is, maybe it means that I’m overly excitable at the news of the next novel?

It is a valid point Timo, that ancient Chinese dynasties are perhaps a larger step removed than the subtler cultural differences within the european / mediteranean cultures. It make me think that there is relatively little western origin literature about eastern culture history? There are some contemporary eastern writers either being translated into or writing in English, but it has to be an era that hasn’t been done justice to yet (at least in the UK).

It’s one of the reasons why I’m looking forward to this coming novel so much.


By Robin_of_lox (Robin_of_lox) on Thursday, September 17, 2009 – 11:09 am:

It occurs to me, after reading Guy’s latest entry, that were I to develop amnesia, it might be the one way I could get all the way through The Lions of Al Rassan again. It still remains the only Kay book I have been unable to complete a reread of. Well, except for Ysabel, which I have not yet attempted.



By Jayson Merryfield (Wolfe_boy) on Thursday, September 17, 2009 – 12:01 pm:

Care to elaborate, Paul? I can come up with two possible reasons:

1. You dislike the book and are reminded of it more and more as you read, to the point that you put it down before the annoyance becomes full-out loathing.
2. You really like the book and become too overcome with emotion to contemplate finishing it once you get beyond a certain point.

FYI – I don’t reread the Sarantine Mosaic as much as I would like due to the second reason. The overwhelming sense of impending doom that pervades the latter half of Lord of Emperors is a little tough to deal with sometimes.

Jayson Merryfield

By jjgeorge on Thursday, September 17, 2009 – 1:00 pm:

I will state that I have read every kay book about a million times..so much that the folks at work laugh at me…LOL..the pages are all falling out on some of them..But i can’t help but read them over and over!..(just started on Audible books and I have already listened to every one that Kay has out) I feel like he transports me to another world and when the book is over I feel soooo sad. I have had a hard time rereading Lions..because I find it is the saddest(also my fave..LOL??.) the love that rodrigo and ammar have for one another makes my heart weep..It is the book that I recommend to my friends to read first…can’t wait for the movie and for it to come out in Audible!


By Brittany on Thursday, September 17, 2009 – 6:03 pm:

OK, so now I’m curious . . . what WERE the one-line summary of the novels?

By Timo (Timo) on Friday, September 18, 2009 – 3:18 am:

Jayson, I can relate to that. Fortunately Mosaic has a happy ending (sort of). Come to think of it, all Kay books have a happy ending (sort of). I’m very happy that they do (sort of). Hopefully Under heaven is no exception in this.


By Timo (Timo) on Friday, September 18, 2009 – 4:08 am:

After Reading Kay’s latest post in the journal (which, for one reason or another, has a reversed order compared to the ordinary threads; I almost read Kay’s first entry accidentally again because of that!), I felt like commenting on the plot and reread issue.

I was trying to remember which books have had such intensive plots that they have kept me up at night. From my childhood, I remember how I devoured the last two books of Lords of the rings (or books three to six, if you go with JRR’s own nomenclature) with practially no sleep during the process. Lately, such books have been few, but the Da Vinci code was such a book for me. It had a very fast-paced plot and the topic was intriguing. David Brin’s Kiln people is another example (except for the ending, which was somewhat of a disappointment). These books are rather short, so I didn’t miss much sleep. From Kay’s books, Ysabel might be closest to that, because it is a bit like a detective story. Plotwise, Tigana could also be such book, but the tempo is lost when it jumps between two story lines.

Of the books mentioned, I have only reread the Kay books. I suppose this is not a coincidence; the spell-binding aspect of Kay’s books generally isn’t the intensity of the plot. To me, it is the ‘broad-spectrum’ richness of the stories and the people involved. As a consequence, I can reread them almost any number of times, I often read them in a more relaxed pace (excluding the common occurrences of complete absorption and loss of the sense of time which may last until the book is over). It is not uncommon that I read one chapter and then take a walk and let the story continue to play in my head until I later return to the book.

There are different ways how books can keep you up at night. When one reads the book for the first time, a major factor is in not knowing what will happen next, and wanting to find out. This feeling can be magnified if the plot is fast paced and intense, so that there are no good places where to stop for a night. I expect that most such books loose their charm on reread. Kay’s books, on the other hand, manage to keep me up at night even when I know the story by heart, simply because I don’t want to part with my “friends” just yet.


PS. I have never really felt a need to have a cast of characters in any of Kay’s books. Last light is perhaps the only one where I might have used it (did it have one? I do not remember and cannot check immediately.).

By Robin_of_lox (Robin_of_lox) on Friday, September 18, 2009 – 11:08 pm:


I have attempted a reread of Lions at least four times, and have never got past 100 pages or so. I have discussed this elsewhere on the forums, and don’t really want to go into it here. Email me if you’d like to hear more.



By Simon Fraser (Simonsays) on Saturday, September 19, 2009 – 12:13 am:

And Jayson, I still somehow like Paul in spite of this, LIONS being my favourite book to date. (It’s also my favourite book to read!)

Just between you and me, I think Paul had his stirrups shortened on a trail-riding expedition in his own fey youth, and this book brings the memory back too painfully when he reads it.


By Trent Churchill on Saturday, September 19, 2009 – 8:46 pm:

To Guy’s most recent post…I did like the Miss Manners blog piece, but I do have a few thoughts about some of the reader comments in the discussion thread that followed.

One user, going by Doret, wonders why a blogger would host a book about which they were lukewarm, not getting why they would promote a book they didn’t love. This is representative of an issue I would have with a blog tour (and even blogs in general.) They are not, at least not exclusively, “unbiased” reviews, in the sense thay the blogger does not host a book because it is important, or widely anticipated, or for whatever reason makes a book pop up on the review radar. It is strictly a personal whim. This may not be the absolute rule – I’ll agree with Guy that the blog world is no more monolithic that any other, and a blog-reader called Abby makes some counterpoints in a subsequent post – but I think it is more the norm than the exception. And Abby’s explanation for hosting a book she’s not wild about is that she feels stuck with it since she agreed to before reading it. (I contrast that with a recent CBC Radio interview of a former New York Times restaurant critic’s explanation of how an eatery came to be in his sights, which he put forth as more of a public service, a “they want to try that place” rather than an “I want to try that place” deal.) It also implies that a blogger would never pan a book, because he only hosts what he likes. Moreover, the blogger is often not someone with any authenticity other than the popularity of their blog – perhaps the ultimate example would be Perez Hilton, and he admits as much – but who can exert inordinate influence because society (including, apparently, the marketing departments of major publishing houses) has bought into the idea. Remember a while back there was a thread here about being “adequate” in one’s response to a work? I was not wild at the time about the idea that an everyday reader had to invest that much into deciding if he liked a book or not, but I would like to think that a professional reviewer whose opinions can influence a lot of other people would do so. And I don’t see this as being intrinsically built into a blog as much as it is into a traditional review, say a magazine or newspaper.

In somewhat-ironic counterpoint to this issue with the nature of blogs is the idea expressed by another user, innalin, that blog reviews of books are becoming useless and worthy of being tuned out because they are always positive and glowing. Yet he/she calls this promotion a latter day sell-out to “crass” commercialism (a thought echoed by others there) rather than recognizing it as an inherent flaw in the structure of the blog itself.

Another idea put forth in the discussion thread is that some blog (and presumably book) readers are off-put by the “getting to know the author” aspect of blogging. This is a societal trend that disturbs me, this idea that we could know a real person fully and reliably from brief online encounters. Craigslist killer, anyone? I enjoy and appreciate GGK’s presence here on Brightweavings, but I don’t feel I know the man. Had I gone to Montreal in August and joined the denizens for drinks, I would have learned more about GGK the person in 5 minutes than I have in all the time I’ve spent on this site. One poster on the blog in question goes so far as to write, “[authors on blogs] aren’t real people, they are tasty-cake personas pretending to be real people.” It boggles my mind that anyone can actually believe such a judgement of another human being can be made based on what would be ( or even could be) given in a blog tour.

So I guess you can write me down in the no blog tour column.


By Paula Servin (Paula) on Saturday, September 19, 2009 – 11:39 pm:

So tell me, how is a blog tour any more necessary now than, say, three years ago when there are still so many different ways to publicize a new book from the comforts of home? What I recall about Ysabel was a variety of publicity forum including blog reviews, newspaper (print and online) reviews, newspaper interviews and guest-authoring on certain sites. Of course, some overlap and repetition is inevitable with this, but wouldn’t that array be more interesting and fresher than a focus on a blog circuit? (For authors AND readers, I imagine).

I also don’t hear people excited by blogs anymore. Instead, what has changed substantially in three years is the existence of Twitter, the ubiquity of Facebook and the expectation of real-time information. I see the BW twitter feed taking the various publicity links for Under Heaven and putting them out there with the immediacy that’s demanded. It’s an excellent off-shoot of the privileged information status of this site. (Incidently, I also like that I can view the Twitter updates via BW without having to actually have an account!).

Speaking of publicity, there was a major stunt here on Tuesday. Dan Brown’s newest was released that day and apparently there was a flashmob type event at Union Station which is the train station and main commuter hub into downtown Toronto. As thousands of people streamed through the main concourse in the morning, there was a large and obvious contingent of stationary people (standing and sitting) all intently ‘reading’ the book. Which is to say, holding it up in front of their faces! My husband actually heard one sadly gullible women impressed at all the people ‘reading the book’. Now I can’t quite imagine a similar event for Under Heaven. Horses and commuters might not make a great mix….


By Kimberly Campbell on Sunday, September 20, 2009 – 9:38 am:

One thing I found interesting in the discussion thread, and which GGK has also mentioned, is how publishers are cutting back on their publicity department and telling authors to go out and sell themselves. Is that change due to the availability and ubiquity of the internet? Do the publishers think that because the forum is there, it must be used? Is it just a way for them to cut costs, or is there some social shift taking place? I’m in my 30’s, and so am old enough not to have grown up with the internet. As such, I enjoy the internet, but I don’t view it as a natural part of life. I really don’t understand the impulse that a lot of people seem to feel that the availability of social networking sites means that they must post every random thought or action they take in their lives. I have a Facebook page, but do not post daily updates or anything private or personal on it.

If the idea that authors must go out and sell their own books is some wide change taking place in the publishing industry, I also wonder how that translates into sales. One poster on that discussion thread mentioned that not all authors are suited to or enjoy the work that entails, or even understand the best way to go about it. I’ve just been engaged in a marathon DVD viewing of Mad Men the past couple of weeks, and one thing that sticks in my mind is how the characters there talk about how the customers don’t know how to sell their products, and that is why they have an industry devoted to advertising. Which really seems self-evident, when you think about it. So if the publishing industry thinks they are saving money by cuting their publicity departments and telling authors, who have no training in marketing, to go sell their own books, are they really helping their bottom line? If a lot of the authors don’t know how to promote themselves or are not suited tempermentally to that job, is that hurting sales?

One other comment in the discussion thread I found interesting was that one poster felt negatively affected by the things he or she was reading in author’s blogs. This poster felt that the information the authors were revealing about their personal lives or the persona they displayed online was not appealing, and that was influencing the poster’s opnion of the books. Has anyone else had that experience? I don’t read all that many blogs or fansites, so I have a limited experience. Certainly GGK’s presence here enriches the site, and we are all deeply appreciative that he takes the time to interact with us in such a generous way. In contrast, I was recently on the site of an author whose books I have loved for years, and which I rank among my all-time favorites. This author had recently started a blog and forum, which I was initially excited to see. However, a brief perusal turned my feeling almost into dismay. The blog posts were rambling, and contained a tone I didn’t at all care for – very hectoring, and with a sort of in-your-face quality. All of which was extremely different from the elegant prose of the author’s novels. And in the forum posts, there was a tone of a very overbearing, controlling person, who seemed to want to control the discussions rather than letting the discussion range where it will. In one thread about readers’ favorite books by the author, one poster said something along the lines of “X is my favorite book, although I know the author doesn’t like it when people praise their early books over their later ones.” All of this was extremely disquieting to me, especially since this author’s books hold a very special place for me. It was an extreme disillusionment for me to realize that I did not like the author personally (or rather, the persona the author was projecting online). Since I want to keep on loving the author’s books, I decided never to go on their site again. So that is one instance in which the idea of authors going out and selling themselves would seem to have backfired.

By Dianne Gilleece on Sunday, September 20, 2009 – 11:39 am:

As a musician, I feel a certain resonance with this developing trend of writers having to “sell themselves”.
While the chimera of the music industry devours itself, musicians have to peddle their own product, and the means (not to mention the results) can be pretty embarrassing. The more shameless efforts get the most attention, but what if you’re not of the “negative attention is better than no attention at all” school?
The “blog tour” does appear to be a crass example of the “new” publicity, like Kramer inviting himself (and his new pet bonobo) over to Seinfeld’s apartment for dinner, yet it is also one that was probably inevitable.
Consumer culture, despite the fact that it isn’t that old, has become the dominant way of life in much of the “developed” world (and especially here in the US), and “value” is no longer associated with, or even conceivably linked to, “gift”. Any writer, or artist, or musician, or craftsperson, knows the gift is the truly important element of creation, not the commodity. Perhaps always having this knowledge in the back of one’s mind while attempting to advertise oneself is helpful.
As for the Person vs. Persona thread, that discussion could involve a whirlwind of topics such as stagecraft, magic and magick, spiritual health, behavioral psychology, meditation, historical relativism….bring it on?

By Clinton Hammond (Clintonhammond) on Monday, September 21, 2009 – 1:32 pm:

There is never anything shameful about getting your ‘art’ noticed! it’s a harsh, competitive world, and only the people willing to “do the do” ever get anything out of it! Nobody knows your creation the way you do, so noone else is able to sell it the way you can, with even just a little bit of practice…

Guy! Good to hear that LoAR is still at least in development hell… Better that than having been shelved which I was beginning to expect. Had this very talk the other day, over Facebook, between myself, a young local film maker named Gavin Michael Booth(www.howmanydays.ca) and Kevin Smith… (Yes, that Kevin Smith) Even if a project is moving forward slowly, at least it’s still moving forward. Kevin shared his experience that a project that stops is a project that will probably never move again.

Here’s to keeping LoAR moving!

By lonstar on Tuesday, September 22, 2009 – 4:23 am:

When you say Kevin Smith, Clinton, do you mean the actor from Xena?

By Jayson Merryfield (Wolfe_boy) on Tuesday, September 22, 2009 – 11:40 am:

I still think the best Ysabel cover was the original Canadian hardcover version. Generally speaking, I prefer all of the Canadian covers. Perhaps those marketing gurus know what they’re doing?

I can only wonder…. once published, will we diligent followers be privy to the scene change? Before and after? As a writer, the behind-the-curtains machinery always intrigues me.

Hopefully today involved sleeping in and a less hectic schedule.

By Clinton Hammond (Clintonhammond) on Tuesday, September 22, 2009 – 12:14 pm:

What’s a Xena?

I mean the film-maker Kevin Smith who owns View Askew Productions

By Jennifer McFillin (Camilla) on Tuesday, September 22, 2009 – 1:14 pm:

Clinton, the Kevin Smith Lonstar is talking about was an actor in the Xena/Hercules (the TV shows filmed in New Zealand) world. And that Kevin Smith died tragically several years ago.

And I have to say that I’m jealous you had a conversation with Kevin. I like his viewpoints and in general he’s just funny as hell.

Back on topic, I’m excited for this journal. It means the book is that much closer to being in my hands. It also means I get to have something to amuse me for a few months. I have a question also. When you woke up to fix that scene Guy, were you only thinking about your own arc and the development of that character, or did the thought actually cross your mind that we might pick up on it because, as you say, we are pretty quick?


By Clinton Hammond (Clintonhammond) on Tuesday, September 22, 2009 – 2:53 pm:

Jenn… Go to the view askew web site… Anybody can have a conversation with Kevin Smith! 😉

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Tuesday, September 22, 2009 – 3:53 pm:


At that hour, Ms McFillin, it wasn’t about you!

More seriously, it is almost always an internal alarm buzzer, my own somewhat obsessive need to make something ring true – for me. I have often worked absurdly hard on working in detail, or fine tuning something, that I am entirely sure no reader will ever catch.

What is fun, and even reassuring, is that sometimes a review appears, or a forum post, or a question at a conference, and … well, someone DID catch it.


By Emilie Bee (Emilie) on Tuesday, September 22, 2009 – 9:04 pm:

It feels the same when coding webpages or web apps, sometimes: most everyone only sees the end visual of a webpage, and never bothers about the coding behind it, yet decent coders make a fuss about how that code will render and how standards compliant it is, and how neatly content is separated from container and styling, even if it WOULD be easier once in a while to just cheat and hack the code: nobody would see the difference, but it’s a matter of pride in doing it right and finding the simplest most efficient way of making it work — sort of a coder’s wit, that.

Ok, long sentence (and long day of wrapping my brain around PHP), sorry.

I just mean to say it’s healthy perfectionism, in my view. :-) The world’s a richer place for all the people who apply their best at what they do.

By Simon Fraser (Simonsays) on Friday, September 25, 2009 – 3:10 pm:

Ah, the return of “the doughy adventurer”. What ho!

Going through the fringes of the revision process (again) via this journal is a reminder of how much work remains after an author “finishes” a manuscript. That first, flushing glow of accomplishment must really be fleetingly enjoyed before reality banishes it to a mere afterglow.

Reminds me of a topic that has been oft discussed here, and of which I was reminded via an article in Slate yesterday. The event discussed in the article is… “the forthcoming (Nov. 17) release of the long-locked-away Holy Grail of higher lit, Vladimir Nabokov’s unfinished draft of The Original of Laura…”

It goes on at some length to discuss many of the issues we here have also done, centred on the right of a deceased author’s estate to publish any work posthumously, in direct contravention to that author’s express wishes. This particular book is simply going to be a scan of all 138 index cards that comprise the book as it existed at the time of Nabokov’s death. He first “burdened” his wife with destroying them should he die before it was finished, and it was his “sole surviving heir, Dmitri”, who later tucked them away in a Swiss safe deposit box, and has now allowed their publication. (At the badgering of the article’s author, who himself waffled on his stance to publish, after said badgering.)

There is just obviously so MUCH work that goes on between the last period of a first draft and when the first book off the press hits store shelves. Not, likely, two entirely different works, but certainly two distinguishable ones, in most cases, I would assume.

Perhaps (at some future point, when Adiel is in college), Deb can give some of her own personal insights into any sort of general changes or notes of interest based on having read first galley proofs and then published works of GGK. While not the insightful excavation into Nabokov’s process as reading his index cards will be to some, it would still make for interesting discussion.

(Maybe. I know GGK has been accused of submitting “…the cleanest copy, like, EVAR!” [paraphrase], so the effect will likely be muted in this case.)


By Elizabeth_s (Elizabeth_s) on Friday, September 25, 2009 – 4:31 pm:

‘Doughy’ about describes how I feel with a head cold. Pass the tea, uh, ‘t’…

Simon, you’ve BEEN the parent of a toddler – you know by the time Adiel’s in pre-school, much less university, Deb will be happy to remember to turn the oven off and where she laid her keys!

Beyond the back-scratching ethical issues, I’m curious what a blog tour would even entail – is it guest postings, Q&A’s or interviews between bloggers and author? That would get repetitive quickly, I imagine. But then I suppose all book tours, whether by road or by net, do as well… Can’t all be Thomas Pynchon and get by with a Simpson’s cameo.

By Melissa Houle on Friday, September 25, 2009 – 7:44 pm:

I hope nobody in Under Heaven comes down with the H1N1 virus AKA swine flu….Lord knows what would show up on the Blog page if they did…


By Emilie Bee (Emilie) on Friday, September 25, 2009 – 11:31 pm:

Smarty: “That would get repetitive quickly, I imagine. But then I suppose all book tours, whether by road or by net, do as well…”

…for the author. 😉

(Most) attendees of a ‘road’ book tour only meet and hear the author once during the tour, while web fans “following” a blog tour will catch up on the repetitions quickly.

By Elizabeth_s (Elizabeth_s) on Saturday, September 26, 2009 – 8:10 am:

Yes, for the author is indeed what I meant, Émilie. If anyone IS following a blog tour, they surely better expect it to get repetitive! A blog tour isn’t really meant for ‘followers’ any more than a road tour is, it’s meant to reach as wide an audience as possible, and hopefully garner new readers. I wouldn’t be surprised if authors try to keep it fresh for any who might be following, and for the blogger’s sake, but it must get harder for them to do so as time goes on. Still, at least they can do it from the comfort of their own chair – or in pajamas from their own bed! (Ah, the joys of a laptop and a lazy Saturday – time for me to go get breakfast…)

By Orestis Mavroudis on Monday, September 28, 2009 – 3:25 pm:


I was wondering whether your new book is going to be available for the new e-book gadgets that are now available in the market?


By BOB (Anstett) on Monday, September 28, 2009 – 4:14 pm:

I would never dream to speak for Ser Kay but using past books as the guideline Under Heaven will be in eBook format shortly after if it comes in dead tree format. Over the past two releases the time frame has shortened each time.


who else would answer questions about eBooks?

By Madelejm (Madelejm) on Monday, September 28, 2009 – 11:26 pm:

oh BOB, I’d have answered if you hadn’t gotten to it first 🙂

By BOB (Anstett) on Tuesday, September 29, 2009 – 10:04 am:

Grins, thank you June.


Converting the word one reader at a time

By Elizabeth_s (Elizabeth_s) on Friday, October 09, 2009 – 10:27 am:

Ah, he returned in a nonce, at most two nonces…

(“How dare you use a semi-colon there?”)

That typo had to be intentionally funny – if not it’s hilarious.

Curious as to why the paradigm shift regarding the timing of translation rights bids – because it is so much easier to get hold of an English language copy now that it might undercut sales if they wait too long?

By Simon Fraser (Simonsays) on Friday, October 09, 2009 – 11:44 am:

Um, anybody else deathly curious where Smarty’s alleged typo is?

Or am I just dumb? <– entirely possible.

By Elizabeth_s (Elizabeth_s) on Friday, October 09, 2009 – 12:08 pm:

You are emphatically not, Simon, it isn’t even a question… (hint).

By Elizabeth_s (Elizabeth_s) on Friday, October 09, 2009 – 12:16 pm:

Though perhaps it was not meant as a deliberate tease on punctuation typos, as I originally read it, but rather one on the ‘dangerous’ copy-editor remonstrating with a query. Either way, amusing.

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Friday, October 09, 2009 – 12:23 pm:

Yes, to Smarty’s thought on translations: in some markets being too far behind English-language edition does hurt sales.

It is also partly my getting older, I fear, though I could say better-known, and spin it that way. Some markets know they’ll want the book, and will look for early acquisition to best work out pub date.

Other territories are still working through the backlist, so buying the new one isn’t a rush for them. It really is a remarkably complex, varying world, international rights.


By Natae on Tuesday, October 13, 2009 – 3:49 pm:

So a few years ago when Last Light came out, Guy set the challenge to denizens to think about designing book covers. How would you write the dust cover blurb to be tempting and curious without including any spoilers? What isn’t a spoiler on a dust cover? What image should be used on the front cover? Stylistic themes? It got me thinking, but at the time I didn’t find time to try out a few ideas.

So when Under Heaven was announced I started thinking again (shocking, I know. Once every three years?!?) and got round to producing something. It isn’t quite what I initially imagined, but I thought I’d share it anyway, because I thought it was an interesting question last time.

I’m looking forward to seeing what the new US / Canadian covers look like.


By Firinneach on Tuesday, October 13, 2009 – 4:42 pm:

Neat project Natae. I like your cover quote choice.


By Elizabeth_s (Elizabeth_s) on Tuesday, October 13, 2009 – 4:46 pm:

Lovely photo and concept, Natae. And an exceptionally lovely model Miko makes. I also like the simplicity and balance of the layout, the striking colors.

As for cover blurbs, I imagine it can be very difficult to find the balance between tantalizing and spoiling in cover copy (I am reminded of what often ‘works’ in human interactions as well – some mystery makes someone more interesting in the beginning, while being too forthcoming can dampen the thrill of discovery, the unfolding).

As important to me as a reader is ‘truth in advertising’ vis à vis cover art. Using your vision as an example – Miko makes the cover gorgeous and intriguing, yet I got the impression from the blurb on the site that the main character in UNDER HEAVEN is male – if I saw a woman on the cover, I’m going to expect a female to play a major role of some sort. So even the art can be a spoiler of sorts. It’s the first clue to what’s inside, even before copy.

The Kinoko Kraft artwork on the U.S. first ed. of ARBONNE is my favorite for a number of reasons, but it’s the story hinted at in the vignette that really grabs my attention, makes me look closer and become curious – and I want to find out what inside corresponds. Martin Springett’s covers did the same, hinting at intriguing elements, whetting the appetite, as well as being arresting. They’ve proven their worth by their staying power as well.

By Emilie Bee (Emilie) on Tuesday, October 13, 2009 – 7:56 pm:

I like the balance and colours, too. I keep imagining a blue colour palette for this book cover — fog, cloudy skies, mountains; maybe it is because the location is “faraway” from all the other books, and the European stories had rich, warm colours on the covers. However, I know nothing of the history that inspired this new novel, and dynasties/royalties were probably rich in colours when it comes to garb and abodes.

PS. Miko rocks in this picture.

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Tuesday, October 13, 2009 – 9:24 pm:

Natae, that’s creative, fun, and quite striking. I would feel unfair actually setting a ‘do a cover’ challenge simply because it takes so much time and skill, either in painting, in finding images, in photography … but if anyone wants to play like this, I’m happy to use the results as further evidence of how fortunate I am in my readers.

I do remember the jacket copy challenge three years ago, with people taking that on for books already published, and even editing each other (if memory serves). I still like that one … it showed, I think, just how challenging it can be to tease for a book, lure a bookstore (or online) buyer, capture the essence … without spoiling, or being clichéd. Not easy.

As it happens, I have a conversation booked with the Canadian marketing director tomorrow morning to finalize catalogue copy. One question tabled: what hooks better in Canada … ‘#1 national bestseller’ or ‘international bestseller’? I honestly don’t know.

I do know it is a ridiculously lucky choice to be wrestling with!


By Emilie Bee (Emilie) on Tuesday, October 13, 2009 – 10:47 pm:

The marketing department will know best, and I can only speak for one Canadian, but I would pick the International bestseller.

If the buyer knows the author is Canadian (which is not a given, I know), the international part instills some national pride — ie. you’re already giving something to the potential reader. A selling point, IF you can communicate the author’s nationality in another way… no?

By Francois Vincent (Francoisvincent) on Wednesday, October 14, 2009 – 12:42 am:

I’d vote “international bestseller” as well. The bar seems higher, to my eyes at least, in that case.


By Miko (Miko) on Wednesday, October 14, 2009 – 6:30 am:

I agree with Emilie and fv, ‘international bestseller’ seems more compelling to me …but maybe a Canadian living abroad isn’t the best marker 😉

Glad you all found N’s project interesting and thanks for the nice things that were said about my part in it! I have to admit I’m much more comfortable behind a camera than in front of one!


By Natae on Wednesday, October 14, 2009 – 8:32 am:

It is a fair point Elizabeth and I tend to agree with the marketing blurb suggesting the story follows a lead male character. However, knowing Guy’s excellent writing I took the liberty of assuming there will be significant female characters. Interestingly Miko pointed out to me that there was a ruling empress in the T’ang dynasty, but we’ll have to raid Guy’s safe wait for publication to see how the story develops.

But as you probably guessed my choice of design was partially influenced by my budget. Miko is a fantastic and remarkably tolerant reluctant-model.

“International Bestseller” has a lot of instant impact and therefore has the attention grabbing that a cover needs. However, the more I think about it the less sure I am that it’s the greater acclaim. If there are 20 books on the best-seller list, then being the very top best seller in one country seems more successful than potentially being only 20th in two countries. Patriotism is an complicating factor though.


By Elizabeth_s (Elizabeth_s) on Wednesday, October 14, 2009 – 9:00 am:

I only meant to use your mock-up as an example of what it would lead me to expect, Natae – and you’re very right, it would be surprising to me if there were not significant female characters. To the best of my recollection, GGK novels do always pass the Bechdel test, and then some…

By Jay Tan on Wednesday, October 14, 2009 – 9:22 am:

Oh man, this news! I used to lurk obsessively at brightweavings, but RL and livejournal (and gofugyourself, go figure) have of late conspired to keep me away. And had I actually been so lurking, I suspect I would not only not be so beyond late to the party, but also be typing a far more articulate comment than the squeeing fangirly one that I’m really tempted to leave here!

Ahem (resisting the impulse to squee): I am so excited at the prospect of a new GGK novel in the Tang Dynasty setting. Tang poetry is heartbreaking and gorgeous, and I now appreciate being forced to memorise it in school (it comes back to me in snatches). I can’t wait to see what GGK does in this milieu.

And, since I’m delurking, I guess I should say hi to everyone? I have actually been a GGK fan since Fionavar, and have followed the goings-on in this sandbox since the poetry challenges started. Never considered participating, though – you all are kind of frighteningly erudite and talented, and some of you write exquisite verse – until now, and this new novel ;).


By Simon Fraser (Simonsays) on Wednesday, October 14, 2009 – 10:04 am:

Thanks for de-lurking, Jay! This place is made so much more enjoyable for increased participation of squeeing and non-squeeing fans alike. Please stick around, continue posting, and let us all know what you think of whatever element of GGK’s work comes to mind. Only a few short months to wait, now, before we can enjoy the next addition to our respective top shelves.

Simon <– who has been known to squee on more than one occasion.

By Firinneach on Wednesday, October 14, 2009 – 10:51 am:

Welcome Jay, will echo Simon in saying it’s always nice to hear from someone ne—wait a minute! Did you call us Erudite? Weren’t they all killed by the death rain in Fionavar?

Why, I never!



By Natae on Wednesday, October 14, 2009 – 3:29 pm:

No, Alec, no! I’m sure Erudite is that kind of superglue, isn’t it?

To echo Simon and Alec, welcome to the forums, Jay. You’ll have to join in the poetry contest this year. If I quote you out of context then you’ve got a very good chance of winning:

“… and some of you write exquisite verse – until now”


By Robin_of_lox (Robin_of_lox) on Wednesday, October 14, 2009 – 5:44 pm:

Naw, it’s that stuff the Aussies spread on toast, right?

Add my name to the welcoming committee, Jay. Nice to have you here.



By lonstar on Wednesday, October 14, 2009 – 6:39 pm:

Well I’ve never spread Erudite on my toast. (sidebar- That sticky black stuff we DO spread on toast was recently given added cheese and re-named ‘isnack 2.0’ to public outrage. It has been pulled from the shelves and re-named. Erudite never came up as an alternative, but ‘your momma mite’ did. Seriously!)
Welcome to the forums Jay. I am really looking forward to seeing your poetry entries.

Loni -from downunder (till tomorrow, Paris here I come)

By Jay Tan on Thursday, October 15, 2009 – 10:29 am:

Aw, you guys are so kind. I will try not to squee, really: it’s unseemly, and all the moreso in this august, if erudmite-spreading and out-of-context-quoting, company 😉 (Okay, now steeling myself for augustine Sarantium jokes.)

Has there been a discussion about the Eridu (um, sp) here? I must say I was kind of disappointed when they were wiped out sans (much) backstory.

Simon – glad to know your previous squeeing history. Thanks; I do aim to stick around, now that I’ve uncloaked!

Alec – it were you, with the spoilery T-shirts of doom? Aha, then the death rains might be fitting.

Natae – I wouldn’t inflict my really awful teenage-esque poetry on you. Seriously, you’d thank me! I’d be crosser about the out-of-context quote (ahh, kidding), but I recall some of the aforementioned exquisite verse emanating from *you* and I am all, as the kids say these days, <3_<3.

Paul – I am actually quite fond of Marmite – it’s not only the Aussies that eat it! (I currently live in Singapore, but I’ve lived in many places, incl the Marmite-eating UK.)

Loni – have fun in Paris! I haven’t been in ages, but I’m headed there myself at year end. We only ever do touristy stuff there, so I’d appereciate reccs for things to do, if you had them!

Um, I should say something on-topic, shouldn’t I? Let’s see. I read Mandarin (sadly, a lot less fluently these days), and Tang poetry is taught here in Chinese literature classes. And I’ve been to the PRC on many occasions – the return to the kingdom, as it were.

Hence my squeeing fangirly feelings towards upcoming story – I feel as if: here is my favourite writer, finally coming to tell this old story of our people. (Man, I’m kind of killing myself with the cliches here. If I bust out in “Colours of the Wind” all of a sudden, please feel free to wield the pointy stick.)

By Natae on Friday, October 16, 2009 – 8:24 am:

Ha! I’ve just had an, ‘Oh no, I’m older than I thought I was!!!’ moment. It’s kind of funny, at the same time as being a little bit scary. I mean, I’m aware of the growing popularity of the new written shorthand-language known as ‘text-speak’ (at least that’s what it’s sometimes known as in the UK). I’m even aware that it has it’s own slang and dialect, however, not having much exposure to teenagers I haven’t often been the recipient of it.

Does anyone speak ‘kid’? if so could they translate “<3_<3”, please? (I think it looks like, ‘I’m all ears’).

This reminds me of an advert I saw recently for a Glaswegian-to-English translator to help out visiting business-people that can’t understand the accent.


By Simon Fraser (Simonsays) on Friday, October 16, 2009 – 9:10 am:


“<3” is typical text shorthand for a heart, ♥.

I can only imagine that somebody loves you twice!


By Simon Fraser (Simonsays) on Friday, October 16, 2009 – 9:15 am:


I would also say (and this is a guess) that “<3_<3” is somebody with their heart in their eyes. (Likely because sleeves are too hard to textify.) Grain of salt, though. This is all coming from a man who still insists on typing out “through” and using punctuation in text messages.

By Paula Servin (Paula) on Saturday, October 17, 2009 – 2:03 pm:

From today’s Globe and Mail, the promised opinion piece. (Warning: may contain some scenes of violence).


By Michael on Monday, October 19, 2009 – 2:02 am:

Now that’s just almost too painful–reading GGK’s latest journal entry that he’ll be doing his first UH reading in 2 short weeks, in my town, of all places, at the World Fantasy Convention…where the tickets apparently sold out a couple months ago!

The gnashing of the teeth shall commence immediately!

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Monday, October 19, 2009 – 9:12 am:

Unexpected Abbreviations Dept: I admit I never thought about UNDER HEAVEN being shortened to, uh, UH. Ouch. I usually say or type ‘Heaven’ as I do ‘Lions’ or ‘Last Light’, or ‘Fionavar’ though one of my agents always says ‘FT’ for the trilogy. Saves herself two syllables, I guess.


PS Sorry about the sell-out, Michael … as I said, WFC controls the numbers, it caps at 900 or so.

By Michael on Tuesday, October 20, 2009 – 12:59 pm:

Now add to my chagrin the embarrassment of trivially shortening what I imagine will be my favorite book of 2010 in a way that makes my favorite author say “ouch!” Smoooooth!

Best wishes for the reading. I’ll just keep an eye out for the next time you’re reading in the Bay Area and we’ll see you then!

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Tuesday, October 20, 2009 – 7:20 pm:

Fret not, Michael, it was funny. And ‘ouch’ counts as fairly low-key for me, as many can attest.


By Simon Fraser (Simonsays) on Tuesday, October 20, 2009 – 8:20 pm:

Yeah, I think GGK has been egged close to High Dudgeon only once or twice on the forum here. Now those are the times you have to watch out for! Best to lay low and peruse the OTHER stuff on the site for a day or two then.


By Firinneach on Tuesday, October 20, 2009 – 10:15 pm:

Well, Natae’s discussion a week ago of the nuances behind creating a cover for a novel–the stylistic and other choices involved in such–along with his very impressive production of one inspired me. Now, there was no way I was going to try to follow his efforts with a book cover, but some of the themes discussed in these book journals had also got me thinking about the changing way books are marketed these days.

I recently read an article about one such example, which is the growing popularity of movie-like trailers being created for upcoming novels.

Including fan-made trailers.


So here’s my own small attempt at tackling one of these challenges:

Trailer for UNDER HEAVEN:


p.s.: Depedning on your broswer you’ll need to give it a minute to buffer after hitting play.

p.p.s: I had created a sound track to go with the trailer, but despite gnashing of teeth, impressive fist shaking, and some Tang-dynasty inspired swearing, I couldn’t get it to save along with the movie. So feel free to hum your own favourite tune along with the video.

By Simon Fraser (Simonsays) on Tuesday, October 20, 2009 – 11:02 pm:

THAT… was entirely too well done, Alec.

Please rest assured there was a suitably epic soundtrack coursing through my head as I was watching all that. The list of movies from which you plucked scenes could hardly have been more appropriate. Was it just the one, brief, bit from LotR that I saw, or were there more from that?



By Jeff Cherpako on Tuesday, October 20, 2009 – 11:05 pm:

I look on the bright side , at least the title isn’t “Under God’s Heaven” .

By Timo (Timo) on Wednesday, October 21, 2009 – 12:11 am:

Wow, Alec. I really have to see this mov…book! Very well done!

Simon, I think I saw at least three separate bits from LotR. I was also greatly surprised to see some clips from Jade Warrior, which is a Finnish movie. Not many of those make it internationally…

By Timo (Timo) on Wednesday, October 21, 2009 – 12:12 am:

Jeff, you mean Jad, surely? Religious wars have started from less!

By Emilie Bee (Emilie) on Wednesday, October 21, 2009 – 7:01 am:

Super, Alec!
(And Frank here enjoyed the selection of scenes from a number of his favourites.) 😉

By Elizabeth_s (Elizabeth_s) on Wednesday, October 21, 2009 – 7:34 am:

Feeling distinctly ‘Twilight Zone’ at the moment. I saw an impressive trailer just this weekend for the movie RED CLIFF – which is coincidence enough, given some of the material you used, Alec – but believe it or not actually had the thought while watching that it contained some generic scenes someone could sample for assembling such a mock-up trailer (they’re all over youtube these days). IF someone were insane, I mean energetic, enough to do it! I should have KNOWN… Remarkable effort, as usual, Alec.

(Looking it up just now to verify that I did recognize some scenes in Alec’s, I came across a different trailer for the same movie – that has a vaguely familiar conversation at the end between two of the characters: Rodrigo and Ammar, Han Dynasty version?)

By jjgeorge on Wednesday, October 21, 2009 – 12:33 pm:

That was amazing! all i could like about was that I wanted to see that movie…LOL…movies! You’ll have you tell what movies you used cause I want to see them all now..very beautiful

well done!


By Miko (Miko) on Wednesday, October 21, 2009 – 12:34 pm:

Super Alec! (What difference a comma makes – can you hear the tone there? I now have this vision of Alec, in tights, with one fist in the air 😉

Seriously, though, really nicely done, Alec! I’ve been thinking about book covers lately and why I’m not normally a fan of ones using photographic images and this ties in nicely. I like to imagine characters for myself and think the reason for my only occasionally liking photographic covers stems from this – I don’t want someone else’s vision to affect how I’ll see the characters before I even open a book (this obviously doesn’t apply to N’s cover – I won’t end up seeing myself in any role 😉 … I expected not to like a video trailer for the same reason and think in general I wouldn’t go out of my way to watch them, but I think you managed to piece together a lot of footage that gives us atmosphere without too much detail, which actually worked well for me. If only all people who designed covers and trailers before reading a given book could do so with such subtlety!

Elizabeth, watching the end of the trailer you linked to was almost spooky after reading your comment!


By Natae on Wednesday, October 21, 2009 – 2:32 pm:


That trailer was brilliant. Genius. I am seriously impressed. Good job on the video clip selection and editing. I have to admit that I haven’t come across the concept of trailers for books, but I think that in this case it works really well. Alec, are you ready for a new job with Penguin (the publishers, not the internationally renowned editing studio)?


By Emilie Bee (Emilie) on Wednesday, October 21, 2009 – 3:10 pm:

I’m exactly the same as you, Miko — which is part of the reason I didn’t enjoy Lions as much as I do now, when I first read it: my edition had the main three protagonists illustrated on the cover, and I didn’t like their faces, but I had trouble imagining them differently. Same with Arbonne, now that I think about it, although in this case I liked how the women looked.

As for book trailers, my interest is not held (except for Super Alec’s, of course), but they do seem to exist — in good and bad quality — and to have their own venues. Google points to:http://www.book-trailers.net/

By Firinneach on Wednesday, October 21, 2009 – 4:23 pm:

Thanks all.

Clips were for the most part taken from Hero and Red Cliff with a few from Two Towers (good eye Timo – there were about three shots from that one).

Miko & Emilie: I also agree that photographic representations of characters rarely work for me (I’m more ok with hand-drawn/painted ones) and was part of why I stayed away from close-ups of characters in favour of more generic footage (I also figured it would make any suspension of disbelief too tricky, as we’d naturally associate any faces with their…better known roles 😉


By Audrey (Audrey) on Wednesday, October 21, 2009 – 10:19 pm:


That was awesome. Great trailer. I noted scenes from Hero which I saw a few years ago and also from Two Towers.

Do you edit video for a living?

I’d love to see your version of a trailer for Lions… especially as presumably , someday there will be an actual movie.

About cover art, I find myself drawn to covers with stylized illustrations rather than the more text only versions. A good cover for me is one that sums up the essence of a story.


By Jay Tan on Wednesday, October 21, 2009 – 10:55 pm:

Natae: I’m sorry for inflicting textspeak/kidspeak on you! <3_<3; = “hearts in eyes”, as in, happy and awestruck. Although “I’m all ears” would work equally in this context. (T_T, I’m reliably informed, is shorthand for cryin’.)

Simon: thanks for translating! Younger than you think, despite your use of “through” in text messaging.

Alex: Can I squee at you? Oh my heck, your, uh, Heaven, trailer was AMAZING. So well done!

Elizabeth: I love RED CLIFF (it’s also very well subtitled!). Thanks for the visual – I am now seeing the delightful Takashi Kaneshiro as Rodrigo, and the thought pleases me greatly. Re the Lions connection, there is a scene where Zhou Yu’s wife, the lovely Lin Chi-Ling, walks into the enemy camp to have tea with her husband’s enemy, the opposing general Cao Cao (who loves her), and I was reminded of Jehane, especially in this picture: http://www.yowazzup.com/blog/images/red-cliff-2-movie-02.jpg. (Alas, the rest of her scenes are not very Jehane-like.)

By Timo (Timo) on Thursday, October 22, 2009 – 5:37 am:

Yes, protagonists in the covers are problematic. I mean, _everybody_ knows that Ammar looks like Sylvester Stallone and Rodrigo is a spitting image of Dolph Lundgren. But do the cover artists get this? Nope.

By Kimberly Campbell on Thursday, October 22, 2009 – 7:25 am:

Timo, if I have an image of Sylvester Stallone in a pearl earring next time I read Lions, be warned, I’m coming after you! 😉

By Timo (Timo) on Thursday, October 22, 2009 – 7:42 am:

Kim, it is when he starts reciting poetry when it gets really interesting…

By Madelejm (Madelejm) on Thursday, October 22, 2009 – 5:45 pm:

Alec, I’m late to the party, sorry. Your trailer is awesome! I kept hearing the Hero soundtrack (probably because I saw a taiko drumming show last w/e) which was a bit distracting. Out of curiosity what made up your crafted soundtrack?


By Lauren on Thursday, October 22, 2009 – 5:56 pm:

Well I couldn’t pass up this book cover challenge, so I too am de-lurking. Well, re-de-lurking, technically speaking.

I can’t top Natae’s beautiful cover idea, but the base image I’ve used for my idea for a Lord of Emperors cover is a picture I took myself when I visited the ruins of Ephesus. Granted in some ways the image really fits and in others it absolutely does not, so I guess I have a love-hate relationship with the end result, but frankly I just couldn’t resist.

Cover can be viewed here:

By Firinneach on Thursday, October 22, 2009 – 6:16 pm:

Lauren, I gotta say you are (re)delurking in style!

Very nice job both with the image choice and design. I’m impressed by the font/style you used for the title. I wonder if there couldn’t be some–subtle–border to offset or compliment the areas of black? Though the blue wave at the bottom is a nice touch.

Just to encourage others that may be interested in tackling the cover challenge GGK has issued, but may be lacking the space to showcase your images, here’s a couple user-friendly sites you can use:

http://imageshack.us/ (I don’t believe it even requires registration, and after uploading your image its url will given to you to share it with others)
http://www.fotothing.com/ (requires registration but a lot you can do with your images)
http://www.flickr.com/ (probably amongst the most popular sites)

Also, for those wanting a start finding copyright free images, check out:


p.s.: June: It was an intricate mix of “Girl’s Just Wanna Have Fun”, Billy Joel’s “The Piano Man”, and the theme to Star Trek. Truly, you don’t know what you missed.

By Melissa Houle on Thursday, October 22, 2009 – 7:44 pm:

Alec… that trailer is amazing. I think I’ll stick to pictures that DON’T move, because I can’t compete in video!

Lauren, I really like your cover! Although I’m mildly bummed that you chose the book I was going to do… But maybe I can try Sailing to Sarantium, instead. Or we can have two different versions…=o) Or I could try Tigana…


By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Thursday, October 22, 2009 – 8:08 pm:

Two (or more) different versions is the whole point, Melissa. My idea here is to get you to explore and experience the process of creating covers. Alec, for example, has a point I agree with: the one here needs a bit more ‘design’ either in borders, or in some other way, and it probably needs more text, or larger type if there isn’t … that sort of thing.

For YSABEL in Canada the hard-working art department at Penguin offered about seven or eight images that were rejected (some by me, some by editors) and they were wildly different approaches.

I also like the idea of discussions about them, how the images feel or resonate – or don’t – with how different people see the books. You can do this (and I think it has been done at times on bw) with actual covers in different markets, but adding the creative, personal element seems at least worth playing with.

Treat it as fun. Be artist or art director, or editor assessing.


By Firinneach on Thursday, October 22, 2009 – 11:26 pm:

Not quite ready to brave my own cover design, but thought I’d use Lauren’s fine work as a jumping off point and take a try editing it a bit.


Added some generic cover text and a bit of border to separate it up a little, and increased the text size (though I had to do that by distorting the existing text since I don’t have access to the wonderful font Lauren chose, which left it somewhat distorted). Thought it still needed something after that, but couldn’t find anything that quite worked, so threw on the publisher’s trademark. :-)

Aesthetically speaking, I think I actually like Lauren’s version better (would make the better poster, certainly) but it was fun to toy with.

Credit again to Lauren of course for the original picture/font and the bulk of the design.


By Lauren on Friday, October 23, 2009 – 7:29 am:

Nice! I definitely see what you both mean about it needing some sort of definition at the edges of the image. And the text you added is also a very definite improvement. It’s almost like I just decided I was finished without adding in some pretty essential details (for example “Book 2 of the Sarantine Mosaic”). The Lord of Emperors font was Trajan and the GGK font was Herculaneum, and I’m pretty sure they just came with my mac, and if they didn’t I’m not sure how they wound up on my computer but I’m glad they’re there :-)

By Lauren on Friday, October 23, 2009 – 7:31 am:

And Melissa: I’d love to see someone else’s take on it! Look forward to your version (of Lord of Emperors or whatever book you choose)!

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Friday, October 23, 2009 – 10:56 am:


That’s exactly how the process starts and goes. I’ll note that the ‘publisher’ logo should not be at the top there, spoils the balance, the colour effect, gets too prominent. If it is on the front (most often on the spine, but some do put it at the bottom front) it would be as part of a signature line and not assert itself so much against the art.

I think the border for the Mosaic is excellent and I like the use of that mosaic, too. This is a good cover … see if you can (this is hard) find a way to pair it with SAILING so they integrate.

(I’m having fun playing art director.)


By Elizabeth_s (Elizabeth_s) on Friday, October 23, 2009 – 12:27 pm:

I really like Alec’s border addition, think the framing is needed and well done – but also quite like the nod toward ‘sailing’ that Lauren’s wave motif adds. I wonder if there’s a way to incorporate it or something like it IN the border, or if it’s too much it’s own distinctive ‘element’, water, and would contrast or compete with the feel of the mosaic rather than enhancing it. Love the fabulous mosaic itself, the connotations of power, royalty, conflict, etc. it can evoke – even despite the severed bison’s head which, due to the elements of the book itself, at odds with said elements, might created the issues I mentioned earlier of the connect looked for between what’s ‘advertised’ or implied on the cover and what’s inside. It’s a gorgeous photo, Lauren, I’m impressed and envious of your experiende seeing it in person. (I’m also prone to ‘over-think’ art, but it is true that we are often influenced by things unconsciously and pondering it isn’t a waste.)

Bravo on the cover, too, Lauren, and Alec. I’d almost like to see this ‘sandbox’ activity get it’s own thread, which might increase the odds of on-going participation beyond just this tour. Like the casting couch thread…

By Melissa Hole on Friday, October 23, 2009 – 2:55 pm:

Sigh, thank you Lauren and Ser Kay…
I’ve been futzing with my Tigana cover concept last night and this morning, and the more I experiment with it, the less it pleases me. I can make a nice graphic, but it doesn’t really capture the essence of the book. About ready to dump it and try something else!


By stargazer72 on Friday, October 23, 2009 – 3:05 pm:

I am also (re)delurking. :-) I have no computer/image editing skills, so I’m doubly impressed by the cover!

Playing from the sidelines, I’ll just add another cool mosaic image that might fit the books: http://johntunger.typepad.com/portfolio/NEU_days_ofthe_dolphin_04.JPG

By Lauren on Friday, October 23, 2009 – 5:35 pm:

Well I can’t resist *that* challenge. I’ve posted a Sailing to Sarantium version to correspond with the Lord of Emperors one. At first I had NO idea how to integrate the two, being determined to use one of my own pictures again, and not having an obvious idea of where to turn, but in the end I had a tough decision between THREE photos I thought fit. This was my favourite (I think). This mosaic is from a completely different place (Ostia Antica) and era (I think) but nobody has to know that…

My cover for Sailing to Sarantium:

A revised Lord of Emperors one, just for the sake of continuity:

Oh, and lest I misrepresent the art that I’ve seen, which was truly incredible, I should note that I’ve heavily increased the contrast/saturation for the purposes of this exercise. The originals can be found here:

By Firinneach on Friday, October 23, 2009 – 6:01 pm:

Lovely, Lauren!

I swear, I’d actually been thinking that the match to your Lord of Emperors one should be a silver tone. Your own choice of border defining the edge of the picture is very nice, and I like the wave effect at the bottom.

The only things I might still do as touch ups is add a corressponding cover quote to your Sailing to Sarantium cover (a different one from Lord of Emperors but in the same spot), and perhaps make Guy Kay’s name just a touch larger (though I’m less sure on that one; would have to see what it would look like). Maybe also push the “Sailing to” part of the title closer to the “Sarantium”.

Those are, however, minor nitpicky points, and easily imagined.

Very, very nice work.


By Firinneach on Saturday, October 24, 2009 – 6:42 pm:

So it was too much fun witnessing the progression of Lauren’s cover not to take a stab at one myself.

A few things noted during the process:

-It’s trickier than expected to include enough stuff on the cover so that it is full but balanced.

-It’s trickier than expected to resist adding too much stuff.

-For some reason I had it in my mind that the title of the book is normally above the author’s name, but it doesn’t take long looking through the art gallery on brightweavings to see that it is often reversed. I tried to tell if there was some pattern determining which came first. I thought maybe newer books would be more likely to display the author name first and larger, reasoning that as an author becomes increasingly well known, their name would be a selling point worth emphasizing. In the end, however, there’s no pattern that I can see and I suppose it’s just what people thought looked best project by project.

-I wish I had enough artistic skill to create my own pictures. I had an idea of what images I wanted but trying to find pictures I could use to achieve the look I envisioned never really worked. I found it was easier to reverse the process and begin by browsing for images and then envision something from them.

Anyway, here’s ya are:


Critiques or your own revisions of it welcome.


By Lauren on Saturday, October 24, 2009 – 10:23 pm:

Ooooh! I like it! Excellent choice of font and image, in my humble opinion. Agreed that it is very difficult to find that fine line between too much and too little, but I think you’ve managed to strike a good balance.
To add to your notes about the process, personally I also found myself dwelling a lot on colour, as I didn’t want a lot of competing colour schemes but I also didn’t want the result to seem ‘drab’ or anything.
And, this whole idea of experimenting with book cover creation is terribly addictive. I have nice long train ride to Ottawa tomorrow, and I can guess what I might end up doing on my laptop to pass some of the time!

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Sunday, October 25, 2009 – 9:10 am:

I’m enjoying all of these, and think Alec is right to consult the gallery (or his bookshelves!) for templates, and patterns. Title and author name size do vary. The more-or-less rule is that if the author is known, and therefore a selling point (Ah! The new Joe Schlobotnik is out!”) it is larger. Name above the title is a credit chase in movies, less so in books but you do hear it come up at times. Too small looks too diffident, though the author’s name LENGTH plays a role!

Always source any jacket quotes you use, they look naked to me without the attribution. If you fake a quote, fake a source but it is easy enough to pick a real one – that is part of the cover’s decision-making, too! In Canada,m for exmaple, a great Canadian quote or a great international one? Arguments both ways. Same in UK, but generally a UK quote. US will always use an American quote.

Look at this famous, very successful cover of long ago:


Consider the effect of small figures in the foreground in the context of Alec’s cover here. (Do NOT consider the botched attempt to evoke this look in the UK TIGANA of 1990!)

Do the figures help? What effect do they have? Does the Kinuko Craft cover for Arbonne use them well (I think so, to give my answer)? Part of what figures on that cover add is … energy … which is an element the designer can choose to play with.

Play on!


By Melissa Houle on Sunday, October 25, 2009 – 2:39 pm:

I received The Far Pavilions as a gift from my brother years ago; If I’d encountered that book in a book shop, very likely I’d have been intrigued enough to buy it on the strength of the cover, knowing nothing else about the book.

I feel the small characters in the foreground work; they play up the sense of distance, and also at the majesty of the mountain ranges that they, as well as the person looking at the cover, are seeing.

Still Struggling with my Lord of Emperors cover. Photoshop is fun, but nothing makes me swear more often than it does!


By BOB (Anstett) on Sunday, October 25, 2009 – 11:13 pm:

I have zero artistic skills so I will not offend with any artwork. But I do have a site to contribute to those who have time more than money – free editing software. www.aviary.com I recommend the add on for Firefox in particular, I use that screen capture/edit ability a lot at work.

Wonderful stuff here, someone should move this to a new separate thread to continue it.


By Melissa Houle on Thursday, October 29, 2009 – 1:07 am:

Hi Everyone,

Creating my book jackets took longer than anticipated! Espcially the Lord of Emperors one. They can be viewed here:


For Lord of Emperors the dome of the Sanctuary is important enough almost to be a character in its own right; it’s the reason that Crispin went East, and set off the chain reaction of events in both Sarantium and Batiara; it brought him out of his despair, and almost put him back in it when Leontes took it away again. I’m not totally satisfied with what I came up with, and it took some time to work out the perspective, but I’m happy enough with it to let it be shown, now. The lower half of the cover is added because it is a Roman (I think) mosaic to suggest Rhodias, and also chariots, and very vaguely, Heladikos and the dolphins.

I’m less satisfied with the Tigana cover. The photo is of the Etruscan gate of the city of Perugia, Italy to suggest Avalle of the towers, and the background is the sea, to suggest Tigana of the waves. I like it as far as it goes, but it doesn’t capture the full essence of the book, for me.


By Firinneach on Thursday, October 29, 2009 – 12:41 pm:

I can easily see how especially the Lord of Emperors work took you a while, Melissa. You must have placed each letter of the title/author individually to achieve the curve.

I think the effect of the dome image above the mosaic looks quite striking, and I like the details of the figures in some of the windows/alcoves. I didn’t even notice them at first glance (I choose to praise you for being subtle rather than assume I’m just oblivious).

The border–not quite going all around the cover in a clever looking way–also ties it all together.

I do think for a novel cover the title/author name are perhaps not quite bold enough or are overpowered a bit by the art; however, I can easily imagine that perhaps on an actual cover the lettering could be embossed or raised a bit to give it some more attention.

I’m curious, did you create the background/border part of your Tigana cover yourself? Your Tigana work is gorgeous too, and it’s easy to see what you were going for. I get the sense (though others may very well disagree) that your current layout may work better as a print than an actual cover page. The art, tones, and even the fonts are lovely, but I feel like I’m used to seeing more writing or separation on cover pages.

Thinking about it though, the soft shades and tones, and the angle of the image brought to mind for me some of the artwork of the Danish editions of The Fionavar Tapestry:

It made me wonder what a similar cover layout using your art would look like and–I hope you don’t mind–I thought I’d give it a shot. What do you think?


Again Melissa, very nice work.


By Lauren on Thursday, October 29, 2009 – 5:22 pm:

Awesome work Melissa! They are both lovely. I tend to agree with Alec that the first layout for the Tigana cover works better as a print or poster than book cover, and really think Alec’s emphasis of the text and added borders at the top and bottom work well for a book cover.
I really like your Lord of Emperors one…looks like you put a LOT of thought and effort into it. Well done!!!

By Firinneach on Saturday, October 31, 2009 – 12:13 pm:

Thought I’d share my second go at designing a cover, this one for Tigana.


I had a couple ideas of what I wanted to do with this cover though I’m not sure I ever *quite* achieved what I was hoping for with any given effect.

The candle seemed to fit a couple aspects of the book (the Ember days–and Catriana’s mother and Devin’s father lighting one on those days despite religious tradition, and of course the George Seferis quote at the beginning of the book, which also lent itself to the title given part five of the novel).

I’d actually initially used the Seferis quote as the background text of the cover given that it fit the image so well but in the end it just didn’t made sense to use writing that wasn’t actually Guy Kay’s. Choosing which passage to use almost seemed to be the hardest part! The background text is meant to be just barely visible, but I’ve discovered that depending on your monitor resolution it will either be nigh invisible, very clear, or anywhere in between–so squint as necessary.:-)

With the title itself I was trying to give the impression that the name of Tigana was fading or disappearing away. I like the idea but am not really sure if I pulled it off.

As always, critiques or revisions welcome.


By Lauren on Saturday, October 31, 2009 – 4:43 pm:

Nice! I love all the ideas behind what you included in your cover. When you said the bit about the name of Tigana fading or disappearing away (my favourite concept of all your ideas, by the way…definitely think it has a lot of potential that I, with no formal graphic design knowledge or skill, may not properly know how to capitalize on), I couldn’t resist taking my own direction on that…so I’ve posted a revision. The idea that popped into my head is kind of a bold thing to do on a cover –and I’m not sure if it would work– and like you say, it all depends on your computer monitor as to whether or not I’ve acheived the right level of darkness/contrast. I was making myself a business card once upon a time and a friend of mine astutely pointed out that if you can’t read my contact info it isn’t much of a useful business card, is it? I guess the same would apply to a book cover, so hopefully I haven’t crossed too far over that line. The idea was to take the fading away idea to the idea of shadows of a name, barely illuminated by the candle in your image.

Maybe I am just strange, but sometimes if text is not bright and clear it draws my attention even more than it would otherwise. I’m going out for coffee tomorrow with a friend who works in the graphic design industry, incidentally. Maybe I’ll see what she says!
I’m also not sure I like my font selection as much as Alec’s, because I think it might be too elaborate for a cover, but I didn’t seem to have anything resembling the original.

The link:

By Firinneach on Saturday, October 31, 2009 – 6:47 pm:

Actually, I rather like the idea of the candle lighting up the text. I see why you think it might be over-bold (being, as it were, under bold) for a bookcover, but I could actually see it working. The effect does make you want to lean in to see what the title is.

Even if your idea of having the candle light up the title text weren’t used, I think it most definitely would work well for the background text, having it clearer near the flame and increasingly faint towards the edges.

-Alec (who is entirely too jealous of any who made it to the San Jose reading)

By Anna on Saturday, October 31, 2009 – 10:11 pm:

*coming out of lurk-mode*

Alec, I was at that reading, and can safely say that you and the other denizens would have loved it! The best part for me was that this was also my first opportunity to see Ser Kay in person. It was truly an unforgettable hour and easily the highlight of WFC so far, with the possible exception of my short conversation with our very gracious author as I got my books signed at the autographing session last night.

There was also a very enjoyable panel this afternoon: Coarse Dialogue and Graceful Description–The Balancing Act. Some lively discussion between Ser Kay, Ellen Kushner, and Patricia McKillip with the authors’ side; Deanna Hoak and James Frenkel for the editors’ opinions. The hour was over much too soon!


By Emilie Bee (Emilie) on Saturday, October 31, 2009 – 10:16 pm:

I like your idea, Alec, and I also like Lauren’s modification — it’s a classy font, for the title, and the effect is well done. Marketing people might request a notch brighter, for the title, but I like it that way, too.

My thoughts: the background text’s lines could be closer together… they would feel more like a background (to me), then.
The author’s name in sans serif font, to relate better to the title’s font.

I’d also love to see this candle on a window ledge, looking out to a darkened countryside (but I can see how that would be more difficult to create, as a home project). I’d keep the focus on the candle, but would give a hint of the setting.

By Firinneach on Sunday, November 01, 2009 – 12:16 am:

Thanks for the recap Anna; I shall live vicariously through you (and my books shall be signed vicariously through yours).

I can readily imagine that panel being a fun one to attend. Some authors could take their discussions on the road, or even online. Actually, this might just be the desparation of distance speaking here, but I wonder if there will ever be an online con, so to speak. Get enough authors willing to do readings and have discussions that people can view from home, moving between video feeds instead of rooms. Heck, you could even combine that with real cons with just a few high quality web cams. Charge a small fee for a computer specific password to the channels…

I’ll dream my little dream. Until then, there’s twitter. 😉

Emilie, good points about the cover. I’d actually tried inserting a few different things into the background but was unable to get anything to work–I really do need to learn how to draw!

Actually, one thing this exercise has had me thinking about is the challenge artists have when creating a picture which will be used for a cover, and the challenge the actual cover designer has in utilizing that piece. Both, for instance, have to consider what part of the image will be covered in text, and how it will look wrapped around the spine.

There’s some neat examples in the art gallery section of when a lot of thought has obviously gone into this and it’s been well done, and others where the art itself is both thoughtful and elegant but losses a lot when cropped and covered for cover purposes.

What’s really caught my attention though is how often only part of an artist’s work will make it onto the cover. When you look at the three pieces of art Martin Springett did for The Fionavar Tapestry, it’s apparent that they were done so that each piece could be cut in half, presumably so that either half could make the cover, or more likely in case the image were to be wrapped across both the front and back cover.

Sometimes I’m really surprised when I see the original artwork used for a cover in its entirety. Compare, for instance, the final cover of this version of Sailing to Sarantium:
to the original art:

I actually think the full City looks a little too sci-fi in that image and using just part of it against the mosaic background works better, but I do wonder if some artists ever get annoyed with how their work is cropped for pages, or if they all just shrug it off as part of the business.


By Emilie Bee (Emilie) on Sunday, November 01, 2009 – 6:29 am:

I attended a panel or two at Worldcon about book covers, and it was clear that professionnal artists who are used to creating book cover art will take into consideration that text needs to be inserted over the art. They purposefully design their image so as to leave some “blank” space in the art, like sky, a lake or a fading city in the background. Something without too much contrast.

PS. Does that artist’s page on the Sarantium art really note “The first of a two-volume story continuing that of the world created in “Tigana”.” ? Hehe.

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Sunday, November 01, 2009 – 10:59 am:

Early morning in San Jose. Ridiculously good weather here. Someone offered me a glass of 21 year old Aberfeldy single malt last night after the Yankees won. There are people who do understand the complex needs of authors. (Never had that one, never HEARD of it. Really outstanding.)

Alec’s comment about how the cover challenge has made him aware of the various issues facing artists and art directors in the interplay of ‘a work of art’ and ‘a cover for a book’ … well, that pretty neatly catches the central point of the exercise. Bravo. I do want to encourage people to see what might be going on behind the cover art, as it were. Name and title size are, as I think I said, tricky issues in themselves, having too do with how well-known the author is. Will his or her name sell the book? Is this a first novelist? Or: is there a quote from a superstar writer we need to showcase to lure his or her readers? Has the writer won an award or two? Is he or she a bestseller? Can that be shown on the cover? Is the book able to be packaged to link to existing trends? (Any vampires?) These all come into it.

The Geoff Taylor cover is a good example of ‘rescue’ I suppose. It looked much too futuristic when used in its entirety (for that book) and it was far too late to have him start again (and budgets apply there, too). So the art director looked for a cropped element that would work and emerged with an idea that didn’t clash too greatly with the content. There are other stories of a similar nature that could be whispered in the corridors of the brightweavings art gallery.

By Michael on Tuesday, November 03, 2009 – 10:00 pm:


Reading that Ser Kay was on a panel with a woman who’s become my second fav. author (Patricia McKillip!) is making me that much more convinced that I should have found SOME way to worm my way into the WFC this weekend! Hijacking a waiter’s outfit, pretending to be a lost hotel guest, SOMETHING! Oh well, where’s maniacal creativity when you really need it? Sounds like it was a terrific conference. Glad you enjoyed it, and thanks for the recap!

By Jayson Merryfield (Wolfe_boy) on Thursday, November 05, 2009 – 11:24 pm:

I missed the last couple Journal entries, but after getting caught up (both temporally and breathing-related, after hearing about a 40 minute reading) I have only one comment.

You’re fooling no one with the curmudgeon act, Ser. With some more interesting tour stories like the Belgrade-Border-Crossing tale and a reappearance of The Hat, you could believably put on a roguish air, though.

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Friday, November 06, 2009 – 8:42 am:

If I had been wearing The Hat, odds are I would never have made it across the Croatian-Serbian border that night.

(That late-night crossing does remain unique in my author-tour playlist.)


By Elizabeth_s (Elizabeth_s) on Friday, November 06, 2009 – 10:25 am:

Since many of you likely read the ‘spat of spates’ article regarding genre issues which GGK mentioned writing for the Globe and Mail, and since this relates to book promotion, thought I’d share this interesting ‘marketing’ protest: http://isfrd.org/ (and its equally interesting list).

Not that I condone wholesale re-shelving (though I will admit I HAVE gone so far as to place certain favorite novels face out on a store shelf). It’s hardly fair to put more work on bookstore employees who will have to undo the protesters efforts (and I’D protest doing this in libraries, which they thankfully don’t suggest). Yet I do find it an interesting idea. Not because I think it will be very effective (see ‘bookstore employees, extra work’ above), but because of the ‘grassroots’ factor in and of itself. That readers are getting involved in marketing beyond blogging and twitter suggestions. And what that might indicate for the future.

I also find intriguing the ‘from-to’ direction in which they are suggesting the re-shelving, which is in distinct contrast with some authors who’ve refused (sometimes derisively or vehemently) a totally appropriate label of SFF for their books (which is my guess for the very issue which instigated the protest). “C’mon in, the ghetto’s fine, see!”

Yet I also doubt the efficacy even if bookstores didn’t just change them back. If, as they claim, a goal is to end a shelving practice which “prevents readers of those books from discovering the rich tradition to which they belong“, wouldn’t it be more effective to re-shelve MORE SFF books in the section in which those readers regularly browse? Get ’em hooked and reel them in when they come back for more of the same? Rather than moving the very books which might have had a chance of expanding their tastes in the first place to a section where they aren’t browsing. And won’t find a moved book if by miracle them come in looking for it.

So, while I laud the point they are attempting to make, it breaks down in execution I think. Still, no one tell on me for moving the duplicate copies of GGK’s books to the front aisle. (and certain politicos to ‘humor’ or ‘composting’…) Has anyone here ‘promoted’ their favorite authors or books in a ‘grassroots’ manner, via blog, twitter, what-have-you? How do YOU find out about new books you want to read?

By Emilie Bee (Emilie) on Friday, November 06, 2009 – 12:15 pm:

Well, I get my recommandations from the fine denizens here, of course! They have such good literary taste.

By Kimberly Campbell on Friday, November 06, 2009 – 8:19 pm:

Interesting concept, Elizabeth, although I agree with you that it seems silly and ill-conceived. But then, when I see a book misshelved at the library (just mis-alphebetized or what have you) I’ll more often than not move it to the correct space. So I sympathize with the poor book store emplyees who will have to go around correcting these vandals’ high jinks. While, like you, I can sympathize with their reasoning, this is one of the things where you just have to say, “Can’t those people find anything better to do with their time?”

By Paula Servin (Paula) on Friday, November 06, 2009 – 8:20 pm:

Simply beautiful. Elegant, intriguing and suitably, subtly referential to China. I am so keen to see the backlist covers in their complementary designs. It’s going to be a lovely spring, I can tell.


By Kyle M. on Saturday, November 07, 2009 – 3:59 am:

Speaking as a bookstore employee who’s job is too promote books… I work at a large chain Bookstore as a book seller, the best part of the job (and requirement) is to recommend “favorite” authors or specific titles to customers who are interested. Also fun is to get recommendations from customers. I put quotations on favorite because most booksellers are required to promote certain books to an extent, but are also free to promote their own personal favorites. Unfortunatly my bookstore has been only carrying Ysabel in stock for the last year, so at least for GGK novels I have had little to recommend. Though I have sold 2 copies of Ysabel in the last couple months. As of today though I saw 4 GGK novels just arrived, so either because of my selling skills, lol, or because the spring release of Under Heaven is coming, the bookstore has put more in stock.

And by the way most staff at bookstores wouldn’t mind one bit if you put a favorite author face-out, actually if there is too much space on a shelf we need to do more face-outs, so you are actually doing us a favor.

If the only thing “vandals” in the bookstore were doing was putting favorite books faceout and mis-shelving, bookstores would have few problems indeed.


By Francois Vincent (Francoisvincent) on Saturday, November 07, 2009 – 5:05 am:

The US cover looks great. The UK cover, meh.

I wanted to try something in the same vein with my favorite book (aka: copy without shame). It’s really tough to find a good arabic font…when you’re tired and picky. Feel free to grab it and remix. If anyone has a really good picture to replace the one I chose, please let me know. A strong contrasty (usable) image was tough to find.

Lions cover


By Firinneach on Saturday, November 07, 2009 – 10:38 am:

That looks really sweet, Fancois. I’d say you really captured the style: the font, size, and placement of the author name looks especially sharp. And the sand background is absolutely perfect.


By Robin_of_lox (Robin_of_lox) on Saturday, November 07, 2009 – 11:23 am:

I find the contrast between the two covers fascinating. The US/Canada cover, as with Ysabel, embodies a move away from drawn or painted artwork in favour of more realistic – almost photographic – elements. It seems to me to be an effort to be less genre-like; more mainstream in appearance.

The UK cover of, uh…Under Heaven, seems to be an all out embracing of genre – right down to an almost over-the-top attempt to cash in on the recent popularity of all things Oriental.

I see two publishing/distribution channels who have different ideas of what a Guy Gavriel Kay novel is.



By Robin_of_lox (Robin_of_lox) on Saturday, November 07, 2009 – 3:04 pm:

A second look at the UK cover and it reminds me of a movie poster: “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon…Under Heaven.”



By Madelejm (Madelejm) on Saturday, November 07, 2009 – 10:10 pm:

fv, I think your cover is excellent. I think the sand really works.


By Lauren on Sunday, November 08, 2009 – 6:53 am:

fv, I really like your cover! Awesome job in my books. I particularly like the image you chose…where is it from?

By Emilie Bee (Emilie) on Sunday, November 08, 2009 – 8:06 pm:

fv, your link doesn’t work from here/right now…?

I love the US/Canada cover, too. Many good subtle/strategic choices, and classy. Great shadows!

I also imagined the UK cover as a movie poster right away.

By Francois Vincent (Francoisvincent) on Sunday, November 08, 2009 – 8:17 pm:

Thanks, guys (mostly thanks to Trajan and drop shadow). The link is broken. I think this one works.

The picture is of the fountain in The Court of the Lions in the Alhambra (the link has all the details).

If I had time, I’d add arabic text running over the images like in the other designs and up the contrast in the fountain’s image. But time is like vacation, more is never enough.


By Emilie Bee (Emilie) on Sunday, November 08, 2009 – 8:53 pm:

Oh great job, fv. I had looked for a fountain with lion photo to try something, but didn’t find anything interesting. This is sort of perfect, it seems, because of how it ties with the story so much. Too bad the lions look a little like cats/dogs, though.

I think I would have made the background darker and would have cut the (hose?) and more of the ground out (wouldn’t have kept the walkway). If the photo could be taken again, in fact, I would go with a perspective a little higher up, to make it look more dynamic. And, yeah, the arabic font would be needed to keep with the series.

Thumbs up, again.

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Sunday, November 08, 2009 – 9:06 pm:

I am greatly impressed by the various cover ideas and by the commentary/art directing being offered. This is, more or less, the process. The Canadian YSABEL had at least six completely different concepts shown to us, before they emerged with the statue in greenery that so many people love. It can take time, talent, rethinking, inspiration, editorial input, marketing and sales input, sometimes authorial input…

This whole exercise is doing just about exactly what I hoped it would.


By Kyle on Tuesday, November 10, 2009 – 12:07 pm:

I love the new covers to the older novels. I was shocked to see the Lord of Emperor’s cover as it is a mosaic in Istanbul. I travelled to Istanbul in the Fall of 2007 during my 5 day trip. I stumbled onto an interesting site not far from the Blue Mosque with some exquisite mosaics. I actually liked this one so much I took a no flash picture, and I still have the picture on my computer today. Here it is.


By Simon Fraser (Simonsays) on Tuesday, November 10, 2009 – 12:37 pm:

What are the odds of that, really?

That’s very cool, Kyle. It is for this exact reason (among others) that I like hanging around here so much. What are the odds of such a strange overlap of seemingly disparate threads coming together in a small corner of the internet? It happens ’round these parts at an alarming rate. And that really is a beautiful mosaic.


By Timo (Timo) on Wednesday, November 11, 2009 – 2:42 am:


I assume your latest post does not count in this tangible contest?

– Timo (trying to get a lucky shot)

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Wednesday, November 11, 2009 – 11:15 am:

Good assumption, Timo. Good try, too.


By Stephen Saunders (Swsaunders) on Tuesday, November 17, 2009 – 10:28 am:

Here’s hoping Halifax makes it onto the Under Heaven book tour circuit.

By Elizabeth_s (Elizabeth_s) on Thursday, November 19, 2009 – 10:05 am:

A quick heads up for those who may be interested: the latest edition of Warp and Weft, the Brightweavings Newsletter, just went out. There are at least a few bounce backs on defunct email addresses each time, however. So, if you did not receive the newsletter this time – or if you would like to sign up for the first time – make sure and send an email tonewsletter@brightweavings.com with your preferred email address.


By Madelejm (Madelejm) on Thursday, November 19, 2009 – 6:54 pm:

I second Stephen’s suggestion since hoping for a reading in NB seems futile. We have an Indigo now and our 3rd Starbuck’s just opened yesterday. It’s ok, I like an excuse to go up to Halifax. Just please this time don’t book the Halifax reading on a Wednesday. Geez, I’m so demanding! 🙂


By Elizabeth_s (Elizabeth_s) on Wednesday, November 25, 2009 – 11:48 am:

You have to love a copy-editor who gives herself her own treatment! That was as delightful as it was insightful, Ms. Marjoribanks. Many thanks. Easy to see why GGK has said he’s so fortunate.

Though now I’ve been sitting here re-reading my own post for possible errors (still wondering if that first period should have been a comma…).

By BOB (Anstett) on Wednesday, November 25, 2009 – 11:52 am:

Grins, very fun read.

I do have a question if it could be forwarded over to your lovely copy editor.

Have you considered the idea of using Google Wave with an author to make the edits ‘on the fly’? It could recreate that kitchen table experience online for the two of you. Of course the repercussions of being able to edit the author’s work while he is still actively writing it might throw some off.


(For privacy’s sake you can host your own Wave in house so no one outside of the company can see what happens.)

By Francois Vincent (Francoisvincent) on Wednesday, November 25, 2009 – 12:35 pm:

Mr. Kay, how did you manage to restrain yourself from suggesting Ms. Majoribanks had submitted the “second cleanest text in the business”. Fear of reprisals, perhaps?


PS: Loved the guest piece.

By Simon Fraser (Simonsays) on Wednesday, November 25, 2009 – 1:57 pm:

It occurs to me to wonder, what with the again-cited claim regarding the cleanliness of GGK’s submitted copy, if this doesn’t work very well in favour of the final product that gets published. As Ms. Marjoribanks said, she is able to “… focus instead on the text’s nuances and finer points.” It seems that the more effort an author puts into his own final manuscript will yield subsequent (and substantial) benefits because of that. I’d rather have an editor (copy-editor, substantive, or letter-carrier) focus much more on the effectiveness of nuances in a piece of work versus whether or not I’ve spelled “spruagh” consistently throughout.

There is only a finite amount of effort that can be applied to any submitted draft (given the time constraints), and it only stands to reason that the most easily identifiable errors, omissions, gaffs, and eye-colour inconsistencies will be dealt with first. The fewer of those there are, the more the finer point can be refined.


By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Wednesday, November 25, 2009 – 4:15 pm:

Simon, arguing against my own style/process, I’ll note that you’d be astonished at the major, stellar, impeccable stylist authors who deliver seriously ‘rough’ manuscripts to their editors (let alone copy-editors, who only come in later). It can have a lot to do with how one’s creative nature operates. Think about the theatre-based, workshop-it types, or someone used to a writers’ group vetting their drafts, or a corporate ‘brainstorming’ sort.

Really good books can come from people who value/need/demand strong outside input or guidance. There are strong works, from Look Homeward Angel to Life of Pi to The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, that emerged only through ‘high’ levels of editorial intervention.

I do it a certain way but it isn’t the only way.


By Trent Churchill on Wednesday, November 25, 2009 – 4:46 pm:

There must be a little copy-editor inside all of us, because I can’t help but wonder if, in the fifth-last paragraph, when discussing how authors nowadays review their copy-editor’s changes, Ms. Majoribanks typed the word “along” when she actually intended to use “alone”.

But thanks to her either way (and feel free to question this sentence starting with “but.”) It is a very interesting look into this part of the writing and publishing process, as has been the entire journal. It’s the first one of these for which I’ve been around this site, and I am enjoying it immensely.


(whose grammar may not be up to poking fun at a copy-editor, but who just can’t stop himself sometimes)

By Tyson Perna (Greywanderer) on Thursday, November 26, 2009 – 5:22 am:

I loved the piece from Catherine Majoribanks. It was a fun insight into her world.

The article, and GGK’s last comment above, makes me wonder how an author knows he’s gone as far as he can on his own and it’s time to turn in the MS for an editor’s input. It sounds like with GGK he waits until there’s literally nothing left he can find to tweak. Is this just a gut feeling? (And I had the same thought as Simon so I appreciate that reply. For a beginning writer, it’s very useful.)

By Lauren on Friday, November 27, 2009 – 11:10 am:

I also loved the post by Catherine. Really enjoyable to read, and informative. Some very small part of me is something like a copy editor at heart…obsessed with details of grammar and punctuation…but to torture myself I went into a career in science. Nowhere else in life will you experience such enthusiastic, creative uses of commas.

By Timo (Timo) on Monday, November 30, 2009 – 5:02 am:

I was wondering, if the author and the copy editor simply cannot find a common grounds on something, what happens? Who has the final say? Does the author then find another publisher with “smarter” editors?

Further, considering GGK’s remark about rough manuscripts, I cannot help but contrast this with the state of scientific literature. I cannot help (here I am repeating myself, and using parentheses when I didn’t have to) but think that today, when publishing in scientific journals is common practice rather than an event, authors are more and more using the peer reviewers (and perhaps even editors) as proof readers. The amount of typos in an average manuscript is simply appalling. I wonder if this is the case in book publishing as well, and if not, perhaps it is going that way?

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Monday, November 30, 2009 – 8:18 am:


As Catherine said, it is the author’s call, it is his or her book. Also remember that the copy-editor is following the editor, who is more generally the one who guides writers in their more strategic elements. Again (and I am a broken record on this) procedures vary widely. When we talk about a book having a heavy editor’s contribution, it is usually the acquiring editor (the one who bought the book), not the copy-editor.

Much of this comes down to personalities. Some authors have no confidence in their grammar, some have no interest in monitoring commas, they are exhausted, tired of their own book, some have already moved on to a next book. In this case one pattern will unfold. Sometimes authors are young and insecure and happy to get professional guidance. In other cases, authors can over-invest (as Catherine’s anecdote highlights!), and occasionally there’s an engaged back-and-forth dialogue between author and editors. Sometimes it can even be fun, though time pressure can reduce that, too.

The legendary Robertson Davies was notorious for never accepting copy-editor’s suggestions, late in his career. “Stet” was his magic word. (Look it up.)

Good comment on scientific papers and the use of peers as editors. Take it further: software with early buyers as editors/beta testers.


By madelejm on Monday, November 30, 2009 – 2:28 pm:

lol, I wish I’d known about “stet” in my most recent round of revisions for a journal article.

We sure are lucky here at Bright Weavings to gain access to these behind the scenes processes. My thanks to Catherine Majoribanks for the insight into the process as well as an entertaining read. Honestly though, I can’t imagine keeping things straight using the tracking changes function in Word. I suppose one gets used it it.


By miriam on Tuesday, December 01, 2009 – 6:52 am:

hmm, I wonder if I can use ‘stet’ as a scrabble word?

“First they came for the verbs and I said nothing, for verbing weirds language. Then they arrival for the nouns and I speech nothing, for I no verbs.”

Thank you riabacon for the above quote:


By Davka on Tuesday, December 01, 2009 – 8:36 am:

Miriam said:
“hmm, I wonder if I can use ‘stet’ as a scrabble word?”

You can, but instead of adding to your score, it cancels out a word an opponent added on to one of yours.

By Elizabeth_s (Elizabeth_s) on Tuesday, December 01, 2009 – 8:49 am:

You people are very funny.

Speaking of editing and funny, I recently discovered this site, which appeals to both the juvenile and the ex-English major tendencies in me: http://twitter.com/FakeAPStylebook

By Tyson Perna (Greywanderer) on Saturday, December 05, 2009 – 10:31 pm:

Funny that Miriam would bring up stet as a Scrabble word. It’s one of the common words I come across doing word games online, such as Word Twist. In fact, that’s how I know of the word stet.

By Emilie Bee (Emilie) on Monday, December 07, 2009 – 6:25 pm:

I like the Acknowledgements better at the end. I tend to skip them when they are at the front, because it feels more abstract when one doesn’t know what exactly the author is really thanking the person for.

Once the story is spent, reading the acknowledgements brings me a sense of closure and I can even feel like I’m being taken backstage, in a way. Obviously, items mentionned there resonnate better with things encountered in the story, then.

By Timo (Timo) on Monday, December 14, 2009 – 1:34 pm:

Interesting stuff in from the Editor’s world again. And again I’m reminded how similar it all sounds to scientific publishing. Especially reviews being late…

Whether to proofread backwards or not might depend the kind of errors one wishes to capture. It might work well for noticing typos, but if the sentences have extra or missing words, or sentences do not make sense at all, it would be very difficult to notice them like that. Then again, if you read them normally, then the mind tends to supply meanings even when there are none. I sometimes proof read my own meager manuscripts one sentence at a time and stop after each sentence to think whether that was precisely what I intended to say. But this takes a lot of time, and today nobody cares about quality anyway, so I seem to do this less often nowadays.

It also seems to me that there are certain differences in the types of errors being sought in the proof reading, depending on the type of literature in question. Of course, ideally all kinds of errors should be caught, but in scientific literature it is more important to notice conceptual errors and sentences not being clear or being blatantly incorrect than noticing every typo there might be. Typos are only problems when readers cannot correct them themselves. Whereas, in a _real_ literature, typos can easily draw the reader from the book universe and break the illusion the writer is trying to create. Not good, that. So, perhaps the pro’s do read backward after all? 🙂

As to the blogger reviews, are they actually trustworthy? There is no telling who’s writing them, could be the author him/herself, trying to improve sales. A review in a good, established paper can be taken much more seriously. But then again, if movie critics can be used as a reference, getting good or bad critics may not correlate at all whether a reader might like the product or not. I suppose I should try once to read a book review before reading the book, not after. 🙂

By Firinneach on Monday, December 14, 2009 – 1:51 pm:

Timo, it seems to me the world of blogger reviews has been an interesting one the last couple years, with its share of scandals and people trying to figure out protocals and just where the heck they fit into the world of book reviews.

However, I think there are a lot of blogs that have, in some circles at least, become quite established and well-known, and I imagine it’s to these blogs that ARC’s would be sent. In any event, it seems like authors these days are encouraged enough–indeed, expected–to blog and self-promote that they probably don’t need to make up a fake blog to up the hype!


By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Monday, December 14, 2009 – 2:53 pm:

Timo, you are wading into piranha-infested waters! As Alec notes, the entire question of bloggers and ‘formal print reviewers’ and publicists and authors flogging themselves (so to speak) is one of the major pre-occupations of the book world these days. (E-books are another.)

‘Trustworthy’ is an obviously complex idea – at least in this context. Many people trust their friends more than any reviewer. Reviewers (print or blog) are irrelevant when it comes to something like Dan Brown or anything with a hot vampire in it. A stake through the heart will not kill these books. It won’t even be noticed.

Friends who work for newspapers do say in conversation, and some write about it, that the idea of a ‘gatekeeper’ … an editor who in theory ensures that the opinion being read has some merit, validity, authority, should stay with us. The blogosphere says that’s so very olde media and they also note (rightly) that the space given to book reviews in newspapers has shrunk, which means fewer books are covered and in a more cursory way. Bloggers can target and focus on an area of interest and gain their credibility by the quality of what they write and they can write at length, without worrying. (I’ll mention Eve’s Alexandria, where one of the original brightweaving denizens, Nicola Clarke, is a central figure.) This is an example of what Alec means, I suspect, when he talks about blogs or websites becoming established and well-known.

Timo, if you are saying that on the Internet no one knows you’re a dog (that’s a brilliant New Yorker cartoon … where it is a dog typing away) you are right, of course … but only to a point. If someone’s views are simplistic or silly, that will come through. If they are thoughtful and well-written … so will that, right away.

Alec is entirely correct as to the increasingly tricky attempts to find the protocols, the relationships between publishers and book bloggers. Google the ‘scandal’ about Diane Setterfield’s last book, where a ‘chance at a bribe’ was essentially offered to bloggers by the publisher in NY. (“Just mention the book…”) A few went ballistic and ‘outed’ the story, but the vast majority … went for it!

These are all wide-open issues.


By Simon Fraser (Simonsays) on Monday, December 14, 2009 – 3:32 pm:

Nicola’s site, for the curious.

And, for the Kay fans, her review of YSABEL from three years ago.


By Timo (Timo) on Monday, December 14, 2009 – 4:17 pm:

Thanks Simon. Interesting review. But what exactly is elliptical air? Maybe my meteorology colleagues could answer… 🙂

By Simon Fraser (Simonsays) on Monday, December 14, 2009 – 4:38 pm:

More poetical than meteorological, Timo:

(Paraphrasing) “Ellipticism tries to manifest a person – who speaks the poem and reflects the poet – while using all the verbal gizmos developed over the last few decades to undermine the coherence of speaking selves.”

I need to think too hard to really get that right now. But I think it’s what was meant.

By Timo (Timo) on Tuesday, December 15, 2009 – 1:07 am:

Oh. And I was thinking it referred to the atmoellipse (or rather atmoellipsoid). Well, makes sense. Kind of. Maybe.

By Jayson Merryfield (Wolfe_boy) on Tuesday, December 15, 2009 – 5:06 pm:

Here’s an odd question…

How do you read your book (with the intent to catch minor typographical mistakes and errors) for what must be at least the tenth time without glazing over a bit, or skimming over sections of description that you already know by heart?

I remember some common simplistic editing techniques that my English teacher showed the class in high school: read your piece backwards, one paragraph at a time; read it out loud and enunciate each word; use a ruler and look at only one typed line at a time.

I assume there is some more professional way of going about this. Is it just a matter of diligence and perseverance?

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Wednesday, December 16, 2009 – 9:01 am:

Jayson, the truth is … I’m NOT a good proofreader at this stage. That’s why I’m happy others carry the burden. I am most useful for situations where (say) I intend one of my larger section breaks (the ones where we have an icon/asterisks) as opposed to one of the smaller ones (where there’s just an extra space). I am pretty likely to ‘feel’ that something is ‘off’ here, whereas no proofreader coming fresh to the book could do that.

Incidentally, Sandra at Penguin Canada tells me I am just about the only one of their authors who uses this system of two different kinds of separation. (I’ve done it from the start.) I find this genuinely surprising. It seems so useful to me, and I am sure I have seen it elsewhere. Anyone have any books that come to mind? I really wasn’t trying to be innovative here!


By Lauren on Wednesday, December 16, 2009 – 11:01 pm:

Interesting… I’ve definitely seen the two different kinds of separation elsewhere, but I can’t seem to find an identical example at the moment. The concept seems very natural to me…and I can see how it would be useful. Since it happens to be the book I’m reading at the moment, I can say with certainty that Neil Gaiman has used different means of separation in American Gods in at least a few places…but I’m not sure if I’d classify what he has done as the exact same standardized system of two different kinds of separation (granted, I’m not very far into the book so maybe it’s premature for me to say that).

By Lia on Thursday, December 17, 2009 – 7:14 am:

The ‘Memory, Sorrow and Thorn’ trilogy, Tad Williams. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen it used elsewhere too.

By Kimberly Campbell on Tuesday, December 29, 2009 – 7:33 am:

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I present the folowing sentence as evidence: “There’s a balancing of cost to the publisher and time for the author against good will and more tan-whatever returns.” Clearly “tan-whatever” is so closely related to “tangible” that it should in fact be considered to be the same word. In making your determination, consider the context in which the word is used. The meaning is plain. Consider also whether a world-renowned author would be familiar with the use of a thesaurus, should he have wished to find a synonym for the word “tangible.”

Consider also whether this beats going out and shoveling the driveway! Ah well, out into the cold it is.

By BOB (Anstett) on Tuesday, December 29, 2009 – 8:23 am:

I think that Tan-whatever actually means Tan-where ever and our reclusive curmudgeon might be looking for a beach tucked away somewhere.


or is that Tan-all over at a more exclusive beach?

By Lia on Tuesday, December 29, 2009 – 9:51 am:

A curmudgeonly author named Kay
Knew a word that he just wouldn’t say
It was palpably plain
This discernible strain
Made us all wish it were New Year’s Day!

Free book? Were we born yesterday?
Methinks Kay’s in a mood to dismay.
He can tease, taunt and joke,
Tantalise, prod and poke,
But he ain’t giving nothing away!

Ah, but you do still have time to prove me wrong Ser Kay

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Wednesday, December 30, 2009 – 8:19 am:

Nice, Lia. You know I really did think about tucking the t-word in somewhere, but it would have been too cutesy, even lame. It seemed at least a little funny (a little? at least?) to play with it, once I’d caught myself with the overuse, earlier.


By Lia on Wednesday, December 30, 2009 – 3:47 pm:

Definitely funny… and light-hearted shenanigans of this kind are so typical of the stereotypical, grouchy, bad-tempered curmudgeon aren’t they? – everybody knows that!

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Wednesday, December 30, 2009 – 5:35 pm:

You. Lia. Hush.


By Kyle on Monday, January 04, 2010 – 12:41 am:

I work part-time at a Borders in LA. Its closing in mid-january. Its becoming much more difficult to find a descent book stores in Los Angeles these days. I believe there is only one large independent book store left. I really hope that in 10-20 years the only option for bookstores is NOT only Barnes & Noble.

By Stephen Saunders (Swsaunders) on Tuesday, January 05, 2010 – 12:12 pm:

April 15th in Toronto? I might have to make a quick pilgrimage up from Halifax to catch that.

If any other denizens will be in evidence, I’d enjoy meeting up for a glass of something… well, tangible (just can’t stomach those intangible drinks).

By Simon Fraser (Simonsays) on Tuesday, January 05, 2010 – 12:30 pm:

You know, Stephen, if you drop a few unnecessary letters off that bon mot, one is left drinking Tang. Doubly appropriate, no?

(Tip a couple for me, as I am too far away to attend, sadly.)

By miriam on Tuesday, January 05, 2010 – 5:04 pm:

I have the 15th already circled in my day timer. Would love to meet up and imbibe something more tangible than tang…

By Madelejm (Madelejm) on Wednesday, January 06, 2010 – 8:45 am:

I’m giving it some thought. It depends partly on whether or not I get accepted to a conference in San Fran at the beginning of April. In which case I’ll get to visit Melissa again 🙂 At least classes are finished then, so I might be able to make a quick trip before exams. I’m certain I’ll have to travel to a reading in any case since we aren’t much of a market here in NB.


By Natae on Wednesday, January 06, 2010 – 9:10 am:

Sounds to me like Miriam want’s something kind of tangy. I’d recommend unsweetened orange juice with a dash of lime.

Alas, we are unlikely to be anywhere near Canada on the 15th April, so we will resume the custom of enthusiastically cursing anyone who has their hands on a copy, and try and avoid any Brightly Woven spoilers while we wait for international shipping.


By BOB (Anstett) on Wednesday, January 06, 2010 – 9:53 am:

Hear Hear Natae!

I wonder what the difference in dates for International Release will be like from the eBook release dates?

For Y it was only a couple of months at least. We can hope for a closer/shorter time frame this time.


By Miko (Miko) on Wednesday, January 06, 2010 – 2:03 pm:

Lol! I’ve just done a Canadian to UK translation and explained to Nick was ‘Tang’ is 😉

The explanation went, ‘it’s something like Orange Squash’ …funny because I’m sure we had a discussion like this a few years ago that went:

Me: ‘What the heck is Orange Squash?’

Natae: ‘Well, it’s kind of like orange juice, but is more sugary and fake’

Me: ‘Oh, so it’s like Tang!’

Natae: ‘…?’



By miriam on Wednesday, January 06, 2010 – 8:23 pm:

I’m not even sure if I’ve ever drunk Tang. I remember kool-aid from my childhood-makes a good fabric dye.
I like Natae’s suggestion of OJ with a dash of lime.
A shandy would be most appreciated. So hard to get a decent cider here in the colony. And forget about scrumpy, nonexistent on this side of the pond, alas.

By BOB (Anstett) on Thursday, January 07, 2010 – 7:36 pm:

Re: recent Journal entry

Page Counts? Stripping out two pages of excellent content just to fit an mechanical arrangement? (I know Guy said the cabal is adding not subtracting – but that might be worse! having your book being cabaled!)

eBooks sneer at page counts. The book is complete when the author/editor says it is complete without having to meet some artificial standard.

I know there are two or three eBook converts around here now. I do hope that more get the chance to experience Under Heaven in the digital form.



By Madelejm (Madelejm) on Thursday, January 07, 2010 – 9:27 pm:
Well BOB, I’ll be buying it in dead tree and ebook format. I really like having at least some of the books with me all the time. I look forward to the rest of them being available electronically. I’m even up to date on the audio books now (thanks Alec for helping me get around that weird Canadian embargo on LLOTS – my favourite one!). Funny, how fast most of the audiobooks got out, but we are still waiting for most of the books in ebook format.

Anyway, I had a similar reaction to that page count problem. I had this funny idea that the whole process was just an elaborate, and large, desktop printer. I hadn’t really thought about how the pages have to get stuck together in some sort of multiple – though 8 and 16 seems odd. I wonder if there is a printing facility I can arrange to take students to, just so that I can see how this all works. I figure I should know since I teach about the printing press and all that 🙂

Well, they can add a nice page all about Brightweavings and how fun we are here if that helps pad things out 🙂


By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Thursday, January 07, 2010 – 9:37 pm:

Ah, Bob … no, no, they don’t edit the book itself, they just find ways (sometimes) of adjusting blank spaces to sqeeze the two pages or whatever. But it is never (or should never be) an actual change in content for this reason.


By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Thursday, January 07, 2010 – 9:39 pm:

Canadian e-books by February, I am told. There will be market/territory limitations, obviously. Penguin Canada only own rights here. US and UK plans unfolding, but they’ll happen.


By Firinneach on Thursday, January 07, 2010 – 10:35 pm:

The dingbat post may just be my favourite journal entry yet, of any of them.

I’ll disagree on one point made, however. I’d actually find fourteen blank pages at the end of a GGK book immensely useful. It would be a very handy place to jot down all my notes and thoughts, and would probably look a bit better than the tangles of scrap paper that sprout out of my books at the moment.


By Elizabeth_s (Elizabeth_s) on Thursday, January 07, 2010 – 11:23 pm:

Cute idea, Alec. Or, if you really don’t like the ending, use the extra pages to write the one you want? (Blasphemy, perish the thought, off with her head!)

By Madelejm (Madelejm) on Friday, January 08, 2010 – 8:10 am:

Or, now that we are in the know about how many people work to produce the final book we get in our hands (except for BOB) we could collect their autographs on all the extra pages 🙂


By Simon Fraser (Simonsays) on Friday, January 08, 2010 – 9:17 am:

You can’t help but remind me, Smarty, of the ending (just a single sentence, I believe?) that GGK once appended to LIONS at the behest of a fan in line for an autograph. A moment of indulgent weakness, no doubt, but my curiosity has never really subsided.

By stargazer72 on Friday, January 08, 2010 – 2:19 pm:

And they all lived happily ever after? ;-D

By Timo (Timo) on Saturday, January 09, 2010 – 11:50 am:

Guy, what you need to do is to write a ten-page teaser of your next book to those extra pages. Simple and elegant solution.

By miriam on Wednesday, January 13, 2010 – 1:10 pm:

How is it that one can order ‘Under Heaven’ online at a lower price than the listed in-the-bookstore cost? Or is the list price a…er..(ahem)tangible red herring? Is this another reason bookstores are going bankrupt?


By Jayson Merryfield (Wolfe_boy) on Wednesday, January 13, 2010 – 4:46 pm:

I do hope that someone in the Edmonton area has requested a tour stop. If not, consider this an official request – I have a spacious basement and an insufficiently stocked liquor cabinet.

I do believe that Simon and myself represent the core readership, or at the very least, not quite debauched ne’er-do-wells.

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Wednesday, January 13, 2010 – 4:50 pm:

Miriam, discounting has been with us for a very long time and has only intensified with internet book sales. A major shift in book retailing was when the chains in the US started discounting ‘NY Times Bestsellers’ by various percentages many years back, reaching today’s level of (often) 40% off. Amazon will sell ANY hardcover at a 30+% discount. Pre-sales will sometimes be 50% off.

The list price used to be the price. Period. But not for a while now.


By AMShields on Thursday, January 14, 2010 – 9:34 pm:

New to BW as a website, longtime fan of GGK, and Tang (唐) literature scholar: I assumed that after Lions, China was inevitable, given that some of the world’s greatest stories happened in China and certainly some of the world’s greatest poetry was written between 600 and 900 (western Julian/Gregorian calendar). I am looking forward eagerly to the new novel.

By Robin_of_lox (Robin_of_lox) on Wednesday, January 20, 2010 – 2:40 pm:

I seems to me that both fleurons, and dingbats are the individual graphics elements that are strung together to create ornamental text dividers. We need another, altogether different name for the dividers themselves. Any suggestions?



By miriam on Wednesday, January 20, 2010 – 3:44 pm:

I’m not sure how the word ‘Dingbat’ came to be used as text ornaments. I can indeed see the word ‘Fleuron’ in just such a usage. what a beautiful word. Makes me feel like going and drawing some now.

By Robin_of_lox (Robin_of_lox) on Wednesday, January 20, 2010 – 4:17 pm:

The list of fonts that comes with a word processing suite includes several groups of symbols that are referred to as “dingbats.”



By miriam on Wednesday, January 20, 2010 – 5:34 pm:

mine doesn’t have dingbats, but it does have wingdings.

By Timo (Timo) on Thursday, January 21, 2010 – 5:11 am:

Maybe they should be tangbats?

By Lyndsay Ryor (Lyndsay) on Thursday, January 21, 2010 – 1:29 pm:

What, no one else is dying to know the chronology problem in Lions? Grrrrr.

If I were a cat, curiosity would have killed me long ago, it seems.

By Robin_of_lox (Robin_of_lox) on Thursday, January 21, 2010 – 4:23 pm:

I suspect, Lyndsay, that those of us who have been here long enough are resigned to never knowing – except for Alec, who will figure it out for himself now that the challenge has been made. It’s been a good number of years, and despite repeated begging requests, Guy has not elaborated on his story of the alternate ending to Lions. We see no reason to believe this will be any different.



By Lia on Thursday, January 21, 2010 – 5:36 pm:

Lyndsay, I would suggest timing Diego and Fernan’s movements en route to Fezana and seeing if they could have arrived there on the same day that their dad did. It is quite a large discrepancy. Someone did mention it on BW a few years ago and I checked it out of curiousity. I can’t remember now, but I have a vague idea it was something like 10 days out, although it could have been less.

By Firinneach on Thursday, January 21, 2010 – 6:08 pm:

Well lets see, if a Jaddite is riding southbound from Esperana at 30 mph, and an Asharite is sailing northbound from the Majriti at 10 mph, then…um…it’s going to rain on the Kindath.

Sigh, my teacher said I’d need to know how to do word problems one day.


By Lia on Thursday, January 21, 2010 – 6:40 pm:

Alright Alec, you made me check again, so here it is –
Rodrigo and Ammar left Ragosa the day after carnival and made the ten day journey to Fezana in six days, riding hard.

Meanwhile, the morning of the Carnival in Ragosa, they came to Rancho Belmonte to fetch Diego to Geraud de Chervalles. They leave the ranch the same day. The next morning (the day that Rodrigo leaves Ragosa), Ibero sets off after the boys. He falls in with a company of soldiers and reaches the boys seven days later, in the plain south of Carcasia. Soon after, they ride south. Then, for an undetermined space of time, they keep heading south. We don’t know how many days this takes, only that Ibero prays each morning and each night. Then four more days pass. Diego has a vision of his father riding west to Fezana, still a full day’s ride away from where he now is.

Now, according to all of that, Rodrigo reaches Fezana on the evening of the day before Ibero reaches the boys in the plain south of Carcasia, I think (either that or on the day Ibero reaches them). So, they’re five days away plus whatever the number of unspecified days riding south was, right?
I suppose it would be too much of an expense to allow an author to adjust his text for 2nd, 3rd, 4th editions (and so on) when something like this is spotted too late to be corrected in the 1st edition?

By Francois Vincent (Francoisvincent) on Thursday, January 21, 2010 – 8:13 pm:



By BOB (Anstett) on Thursday, January 21, 2010 – 8:30 pm:

Very nicely done Lia.

Alec there is an old saying “I am an English major. Trains and planes crash and I don’t know what time it is.”


By Lyndsay Ryor (Lyndsay) on Thursday, January 21, 2010 – 9:53 pm:

Thank you. I’m too lazy to figure such things out myself. =]

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Friday, January 22, 2010 – 8:47 am:

I think it may have come up here once before. Can’t remember.

That was it, as Lia outlines. And don’t want to change it because it stands as a monument to how artistic effects can mess you up while STILL feeling like a good effect! I didn’t HAVE to say they came for Diego on ‘the same day’ … it felt like a strong (and affecting) way to make the segue north, and at the time I did it, I didn’t expect to be writing a meet-at-same-time scene later. And when I did do that later scene, I didn’t link it up to the throwaway about ‘same day’ in the earlier section … and no one spotted it, or counted it out before we were in print, or for years after. I do normally count and measure, especially in Fionavar where I had a LOT of bodies from different places converging at the end.

The LIONS fix would be trivially easy: just to delete the ‘on the same day’ phrase, no more than that. But I now like it, in a perverse way, as a reflection of how things get written. And I know there are others.


By Lia on Friday, January 22, 2010 – 10:35 am:

Well I, for one, wouldn’t dream of criticising Lions in any way or of changing a single word of it. I love that book! I was just trying to satisfy Lyndsay’s asserted, albeit lazy and somewhat half-hearted curiosity.
Maybe we should all be grateful that Ser Kay, in his dedicated pursuit of excellence in his work, knows where to draw the line – otherwise he’d be settled on a growing hoard of unpublished manuscripts, polishing and polishing, and breathing curmudgeonly fire at any who dared to suggest that they were ready to see the light of day. Now, wouldn’t THAT be just awful!

By Simon Fraser (Simonsays) on Friday, January 22, 2010 – 10:49 am:

Conversely, Lia, there are innumerable authors (and readers) who would benefit from an increased desire to pursue excellence in such a fashion. There are far too many, it seems, who currently put in at least as much effort in hiding from it.

Not naming names, and there is definitely a tongue-in-cheek element to my assertion.

By Jayson Merryfield (Wolfe_boy) on Friday, January 22, 2010 – 3:13 pm:

Guy has not elaborated on his story of the alternate ending to Lions…

Wasn’t it an alternate ending to Tigana, penned to a fan in line during a book signing? A custom-written ending, in pen, in the masters own hand?

Maybe I’m getting my tall tales mixed up.

By Simon Fraser (Simonsays) on Friday, January 22, 2010 – 3:30 pm:

Pretty sure it was LIONS, Jay. A hand-written note at the end of the scene showing the wine glasses on the edge of the fountain.

By Jayson Merryfield (Wolfe_boy) on Friday, January 22, 2010 – 5:45 pm:

I must be mistaken then (alas!) as I thought I recalled it being some alternate ending to the riselka situation… really though, that would take more than a quick scribble on the back page or two.

I wonder if that book will ever show up on ebay?

By Broken Wing on Friday, January 22, 2010 – 9:55 pm:

I read Lions a number of times without noticing the inconsistency, and would probably never have spotted it had I not read about it here.

I think if you pick apart just about any author’s work, you can find inconsistencies. I can’t even imagine the difficulty involved in trying to line up everything precisely while building worlds as complex as GGK’s. And writing isn’t engineering; the entire story isn’t going to come crashing down because of minor details that don’t impact the development of the characters or the outcome of the story.

The truly remarkable thing about Ser Kay’s worlds is that, in all his novels taken together, there seem to be few enough inconsistencies to count on the fingers of one hand. Aside from the Lions one, I’ve found only three others:

– In the Mosaic, we are told in StS that the second city of the Empire is Sarnica and the Blues’ second is Dauzis, who dies in the spectacular crash described toward the end of the book–thus, presumably, paving the way for Taras to fill the void. But in LoE, the vacancy is created when the Blues grow tired of the drunken behavior of their second, Rulanius, and send him north to the Empire’s second city, Eubulus. (A discussion of this can be found here.)

– In Fionavar, we are told that, 25 years after Dr. John Ford and Dierdre Cowan met in 1949, their daughter Kimberly was standing on the shore of Eilathen’s lake. This places the beginning of the Tapestry in 1974. Paul’s memories of Rachel include a Blue Jays game the summer before, which would be in 1973. The inconsistency here is between the story and the real world; the real-life Toronto Blue Jays didn’t play their first season until 1976. (I seem to recall GGK mentioning that he hadn’t intended to place the story in a particular year, but I can’t find the thread where he says it.)

– This precise placement of the Tapestry in Earth time also creates a possible problem with real world vs. story in Ysabel, depending how you interpret the characters’ reckoning of time. The Tapestry begins in the spring of 1974 Toronto time, Darien is born in the winter of 1974-75, and the final battle and denouement of the story take place in the spring/summer/early fall of 1975. My memory of Ysabel is a bit hazy, but I seem to recall mention of the events having happened to Kim and Dave 25 years earlier. This would place Ysabel in April/May of 2000–not a problem except for the frequent mention of iPods. The iPod was first unveiled by Apple in October 2001, and I doubt it would have achieved the level of market penetration apparent in the book until at least 2002. Of course, the characters may be merely using “25 years” as an approximate figure, in which case it’s certainly close enough to work.

The fact that these are the only inconsistencies I can recall throughout 10 highly complex novels is astonishing. With some fantasy authors, I can tie my brain in a knot trying to rationalize away plot holes large enough to drive an SUV through. Of course, when you consider that my guilty-pleasure author of choice, Mercedes Lackey, is currently working on her 27th full-length novel set in the Valdemar universe, I’m shocked that any of the details still match up. That’s why I’m glad GGK knows when to end his sojourn in a particular world–no matter how much that pesky riselka at the end of Tigana makes my teeth itch. :-)


By Laurel Copeland on Sunday, January 24, 2010 – 2:53 pm:

If I may beg for a moment,

Please come to visit us at McNally Robinson Winnipeg for your tour. I have read everyone of your novels, and would dearly love to attend both a signing and a reading. Yes, I know that its often cold hear, but its a wonderful city nonetheless, and we would love to have you stop by!


Laurel Copeland

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Sunday, January 24, 2010 – 4:25 pm:


McNally’s has always been a stop in Winnipeg. I’d expect it to be one again this spring.



By Penguin on Monday, January 25, 2010 – 8:46 am:

That seemed to be remarkably easy. Let’s give this a go…

Dear Sir Kay,

Please come and visit us in McMurdo Sound. I and my friends have brought every one of your novels and we all agree that they are better than anyone else’s. We’d love it if you came down here to demonstrate their insulating properies. It’s cold here too, but we’re all very friendly.

yours faithfully,


By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Monday, January 25, 2010 – 8:50 am:


Alas, if you’d only requested BEFORE I committed to Winnipeg…


By Stephen Saunders (Swsaunders) on Monday, January 25, 2010 – 11:19 am:


Timing, as they say, is everything.

By Robin_of_lox (Robin_of_lox) on Monday, January 25, 2010 – 12:53 pm:

But, but, but…Penguin!



By stargazer72 on Monday, January 25, 2010 – 9:21 pm:

Maybe I should mention that it’s not cold at all down here in Southern California. ;-D

By Arlando on Monday, January 25, 2010 – 9:50 pm:

Seconded, stargazer72.

Not cold at all.

In fact, the weather would be almost as warm as the welcome. Ain’t that right?

Just beggin’…er sayin’.

By Penguin on Tuesday, January 26, 2010 – 8:48 am:

Alas, it seems that I should have asked sooner.

Perhaps I should take this up with the Lord of our community to see if he can pull any strings with those Winnipegians.


By vmouse on Wednesday, January 27, 2010 – 1:22 pm:

I have been lurking (as usual) and keeping track of all the exciting news. I know Mr. VMouse would say it is never too early to raise a glass in celebration of a job nearing completion.

I’ve now added a new link to my favourites folder for the Toronto Reference Library to watch for news on the book launch. Is the book debut going to take place as part of “The eh List Author Series”?

Mr. VMouse has been very tolerant of my eager nattering and has allowed me to mention that we live just outside of Toronto in Ajax and have a guest room, a sofa, a recliner, floor space… which might be available for some of our DebCon 2009 acquaintances heading this way for the launch or one of the readings. All grovelling, begging and bribery will be taken into consideration *wink*wink* Ties will be settled by thumb-wrestling match.

I’m hoping to be able to at least attend a reading. In fact Mr. VMouse insists I go as he has expressed a desire to repay Mr. Kay’s kindness in Montreal by offering a bottle of single malt.

By Simon Fraser (Simonsays) on Wednesday, January 27, 2010 – 1:57 pm:

Um… uh oh.

It seems that GGK’s pragmatic concern has already come to pass. Good thing it’s “not a big deal.”

As fans, I do think we have something to be concerned about though. I mean, if you take a close-up look at the auction item in question.


By miriam on Wednesday, January 27, 2010 – 2:26 pm:


AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHAHAAHAAA!Thanks for the laugh. I’m still chorkling! LOLOL

By madelejm on Wednesday, January 27, 2010 – 3:04 pm:

tee hee, that’s awesome, Si!


By Elizabeth_s (Elizabeth_s) on Wednesday, January 27, 2010 – 3:34 pm:


Bravo, Simon. Yet again.

By Firinneach on Wednesday, January 27, 2010 – 3:39 pm:

I’ll still make a bid.

Well played, Mr. Fraser.


By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Wednesday, January 27, 2010 – 5:23 pm:

Bright Weavings, gotta love it.

Bravo, Simon. You even caught the deleted italics on the sixteenth ‘Guy’!


By Melissa Houle on Wednesday, January 27, 2010 – 11:34 pm:

False alarm–It can’t possibly be authentic. No mention of baseball, penguins, scotch or dragon powered ships!


By Timo (Timo) on Thursday, January 28, 2010 – 5:05 am:

And were are the beautiful and too-witty-for-their-own-good female characters?

By Lia on Thursday, January 28, 2010 – 6:42 am:

Love it Simon! – but is there any way you could get the ‘see other items’ link to work please. I’m dying to know what other lost treasures this ‘mystery seller’ might have up their sleeve. The ‘Cin Dromma Snechta’ maybe? The lost plays of Aeschylus, Aristophanes and Euripides? Byron’s Memoirs? The original ‘Text I’ manuscript of ‘The Seven Pillars of Wisdom’? – all out of my price range I’m afraid, but worth a free look.
And if the seller sells paintings too… oooh, do I have a ‘Gimme a peek at that’ wish list!

By Simon Fraser (Simonsays) on Thursday, January 28, 2010 – 9:11 am:

Given the unreasonable starting bid for the item in question, Lia, I don’t think the seller will have much luck in having secured any other items of note. Doesn’t seem to have the sort of business acumen or artistic appreciation to have come by anything significant. At least not honestly. He’s probably quite handsome, though.


By Firinneach on Monday, February 01, 2010 – 11:42 pm:

Another enjoyable guest post. I suspect I wouldn’t be alone in saying I’ve been appreciating this added aspect to the journal (not that there is any problem with the…um…regular contributor).

Having to tinker and think (and drink) about problems of scale so much, and that dreaded “gutter” between pages, makes me wonder a couple things.

How far in advance does the map artist generaly know if they’ll have a two page spread (with gutter) to fill, or just a single page? I imagine that must have a huge effect on the design.

Or perhaps, does this ever work the other way, with the optimal shape of the map determining whether a single or double page spread is used?

I’m thinking about the map of Fionavar in the Tapestry books. I’ve always pictured Fionavar being much longer vertically than it is wide, but now I wonder whether this is because that is how the land was conceived by author and artist, or because it had to be drawn that way to fill a single page.


By Simon Fraser (Simonsays) on Tuesday, February 02, 2010 – 12:57 am:

Without any offense to GGK, I think Martin’s winning the Journal thread so far with, “… the other Firkin place…” I near bust a gut at that one, so unexpected. Can’t wait to see all of this finally. The appetite is becoming so very whetted, and alas, it will not be sated at the release thingie in April!!


By lonstar on Tuesday, February 02, 2010 – 6:41 am:

Don’t you mean ‘….the firkin release thingie in April’, Simon?

Lonstar ( who was pleased she wasn’t the only one delighted with name, Firkin)

By Simon Fraser (Simonsays) on Wednesday, February 03, 2010 – 10:58 am:

Here’s the link to the photo that GGK referenced in today’s Journal entry. Not sure if there’s a bigger one on his site.

Can we now officially add “Firkin” to the selective list of GGK-centric terminology that has gone into creating the BW idiom?

To wit: “The five hunched men wanted to portage to the next river, but the dragon-powered ship was too Firkin heavy.”


(Very eager to see the map that goes live on the Under Heaven site. I love pretend maps even more than real ones.)

By madelejm on Wednesday, February 03, 2010 – 11:45 am:

so what does “firkin” really mean in relation to the many beer outlets that include it in the name? Is it some sort of vessel from which one imbibes? I’ve always been drawn to pubs with firkin in their name and seem to recall many in Toronto.


By Simon Fraser (Simonsays) on Wednesday, February 03, 2010 – 11:59 am:

According to wikipedia:

A Firkin is an old English unit of volume. The name is derived from the Middle Dutch word vierdekijn, which means fourth, i.e. a fourth of a full-size barrel.

I can appreciate that much beer!


By Martin Springett on Wednesday, February 03, 2010 – 12:10 pm:

Me too, that much beer I mean. One of our favourite mapping brews is called Old Peculiar. The name says it all I feel.

By Timo (Timo) on Wednesday, February 03, 2010 – 4:30 pm:

It’s firkin a lot, if you excuse my Dutch.

By miriam on Wednesday, February 03, 2010 – 5:42 pm:

and in metric: 1 firkin = 40.9148269 liters

That is 72 imperial pints of ale.

I wonder if it goes well with a Chinese banquet?

By Audrey (Audrey) on Wednesday, February 03, 2010 – 9:52 pm:

there ‘s an interesting piece on the website of the chinese restaurant “Lai Wah heen” in Toronto that talks about wine and spirits and the traditional Chinese banquet.

On other topics,does anyone know how publishers measure the impact or benefit they get from touring an author? Is it in sales generated?

i.e. one interview on CBC radio = 333 bushels of books ( I am obviously a fan of CBC radio)
one showing at venue X = 212 bushels



By Simon Fraser (Simonsays) on Wednesday, February 03, 2010 – 10:35 pm:

We’re measuring things in Firkins now, Audrey.

Do try to keep up, would you??


By Timo (Timo) on Thursday, February 04, 2010 – 2:44 am:

While reading Kay’s latest journal entry I could not help but think that writing a book seems less of a work than all the action it entails. Well, I suppose the journal is not entirely unbiased record of events. Still, I wonder was it this bad in the Good Old Days, say, when writing a Tigana? It would be interesting to hear some comparisons at some point. I assume the differences are only partially related to becoming a celebrity, the whole marketing part of the business has probably gained much weight since then.

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Thursday, February 04, 2010 – 7:48 am:

Timo, a very good question … I’ll try to get to it in the next Journal post. Yours, too, Audrey.

Firkins have, very clearly, entered the bw lexicon. Blame Springett. (This is useful in a wide variety of contexts, incidentally.)


By Natae on Thursday, February 04, 2010 – 8:38 am:

That last line reminds me of the ambiguity of phrases like ‘large cookie jar’, where you can play all sorts of games with punctuation.

Either firkins are useful in a wide variety of contexts (eminently plausible) or the phrase, ‘Blame Springett‘ is useful in a wide variety of contexts (certainly conceivable, especially when a firkin has been broached).

From memory a firkin is the common means of distributing beer in this country, with a whole barrel being a very rare sight indeed. What I am amazed by is that Old Peculiar has made it to Toronto. There was a time, when I was er… younger, that you couldn’t find the stuff outside of small villages within about a five miles radius of Theakston in Yorkshire. The world is definately a smaller place.

I wonder whether the corner of the original pre-digitised map will have a small dark-brown beer stain roughly the size of a mountain, or three day’s travel by fast horse?


By Lia on Thursday, February 04, 2010 – 10:21 am:

Natae, my first encounter with Old Peculiar was in Horsehouse, Coverdale, back in the ’70s. I think we can expand your 5 mile radius just a little. Rather nasty stuff – until you acquire the taste for it – but it certainly kept the chill at bay for a wet afternoon’s fishing afterwards (and finding out the history behind the name was an added bonus). Does anyone know how long it’s been on sale in Canada? Or are they producing an imitation of their own rather than importing the original stuff?
I must say, all of this uproar over the word ‘firkin’ is very amusing. I guess the Canadian denizens just aren’t as familiar with it as one might have supposed. A lot of pubs in the smaller hamlets around Britain would have to throw away a staggering quantity of bad beer if their only draught option was a full barrel.

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Thursday, February 04, 2010 – 10:36 am:

Lia made me smile and nod. I am honestly not even sure if Martin, a good Brit to the core (or near the core, anyhow) meant the swearword association when he riffed on Firkin … he may have just found the word amusing in context. Someone from England, as you say, would know the term well.


By Simon Fraser (Simonsays) on Thursday, February 04, 2010 – 11:21 am:

This line gave me the most pause for thought:

“I was a young author, was touring The Darkest Road so I was just starting out.”

Made me think that an industry and an author would both consider a third (successful) book still to be the mark of an up-and-comer. This was 25 years ago. In my mind, this contrasted immediately with having seen GGK moderate a panel in Montreal this past summer on which Patrick Rothfuss also sat. Here was a young fellow in sort of the same shoes as Ser Kay’s back then, except that he has a single published novel to his name and has been much touted for it.

I dare say that Rothfuss is better known now, after a single book, than Kay was then after three. (Alas, I was reading Piers Anthony in the mid-80s.) This doesn’t take relative quality into account (I’ve not read The Name of the Wind), but seems to me to be at least a single example of the effect of having a more easily accessible – online – audience to create a sensation and build up a following.


PS — I understood WAY more of that NewYorker article than I had any right to.

PPS — In the spirit of that article, I lol’ed at teh “diffident” comment. Srsly.

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Thursday, February 04, 2010 – 11:52 am:


Interesting comments, all of them. No question times have changed. Once, the ‘trajectory’ for a writer was slow start, good reviews, word-of-mouth, gradual build of sales … then a publisher’s decision that that author’s time had come for a big push. That was, say, what happened with Anne Tyler (who has a new book out this week, which is why she’s on my mind). I think (but don’t quote me) that it was Morgan’s Passing that was the ‘push’ book, but it may have been the award-winner that made the next one the ramp-it-up title. This is also, pretty much what happened with me in Canada, with Tigana, where Penguin, taking me over, decided the time had come to push marketing/pr efforts even further. They pushed it to the bestseller list.

But today … with sales figures for any book easily available to the trade (and they’d embarrass a number of authors and publishers if they got out) it is actually easier to ‘break out’ (like a rash?) a first novelist with a strong campaign, than it is to change the sales pattern for a writer of several novels, whose numbers have plateaued at a given level. (Some people will switch to a pseudonym to avoid this.)

Add a cultural impulse to find the next new big thing and you’ll see more emphasis on first books aggressively marketed, and that is an element, a major element, of what you’re noting.

There are others, but I have to dash … unfair, I know, but this is a comments thread, so others can leap in if it interests them. Hell, you can leap back in yourself!


By BOB (Anstett) on Thursday, February 04, 2010 – 12:33 pm:

I will offer up one small comment about numbers.

Having been a Bookstore manager and working in a library for the past *cough* years (when do you start counting how many decades rather than years?) I know that the number of sales/usage is a relative thing.

I agree in part that publishers and authors do not want exact numbers to be released because then the temptation is there to rate based on those numbers (quantity) versus the quality of the author’s work. However sales of 500 of a particular work might be very robust in a subject area where in a different subject 10 might be a breakout success.

Currently I know that a typical fiction book might be checked out 4 times a year and that is a very good thing in our branch. Of course the stratospheric numbers of a Dan Brown being checked out 28 times in a year makes that previous author look rather shabby.

I do not think that consumers are currently educated enough to make the distinction between the two. Why else do you think we post the best seller list?


By Simon Fraser (Simonsays) on Thursday, February 04, 2010 – 12:43 pm:


That first thought leads (naturally?) to a second one, for me.

Since it is, demonstrably, easier today to ‘break out’ as a first-time novelist via a strong campaign than it was previously, it seems that the greatest inherent risk for the novelist is that, after the impetus is built up, readers come to the unpleasant realisation that the author… sucks, and the wave breaks on the shore, leaving the surfer battered and stranded with only Wilson for company. (I think I broke a metaphor-limit-law there… sorry.)

Authors who have had to prove themselves to the industry first, and then receive backing and campaigns to bolster sales of future books, well, it seems to me, then, that those writers would have a better long-term success rate than meteoric risers would now. Sure, it may be easier to break out today, but the concomitant risk of falling flat on your face is subsequently higher as well. There are pros and cons for both sides.

For me, this lends a kind of justification (or reasoning, surely) to the concern: “… but I worry that for some younger writers, or those working very fast, publishing often, the two to three hours a day they spend ‘working’ the online spaces even as they write represents a major paradigm shift in the writing life. Writers feel they need to do this, or risk disappearing in the general chaos.” The young writers are in a catch-22 situation where they probably won’t break out if they don’t pimp themselves as hard, but if they don’t then their writing won’t get the notice it needs. Write a bomb and sell the hell out of it, or craft the next greatest-ever English language novel and get a pat on the back from Mom.

Advice for aspiring novelists: Don’t write a petard! There may be hoisting involved.

Unfortunately, I can think of a couple very successful authors who have defied this. I blame the fans. The ‘release-able’ sort.


By Firinneach on Thursday, February 04, 2010 – 1:55 pm:

Engaging thoughts, Simon.

I’m not sure I’d say the risk of a new novelist (one that hasn’t yet proven themselves or slowly built up credibility) crashing and burning after an aggressive marketing push is very serious. Or perhaps I should say not one that would prove a deterrent to either those doing the marketing or the one being marketed.

At the very least, it’s certainly not a risk any new author would be unhappy taking. If they don’t live up to the hype, they’re not any worse off than if they hadn’t been marketed in the first place, and are *still* likely to have found enough fans and created enough buzz that they’ll still get a second go.

I’m considering the numbers involved. Even if a lot of people are disappointed by something (a book or movie or song) that was over-marketed and created unrealistic expectations, as long as enough people are reached there’s going to be a sufficient base that do enjoy the work and will stick around (and spread the word) about any future works.

Perhaps it’s because of this that it seems like enough marketing–cleverly done–can almost guarantee that something will at least be perceived as a quality work, with the hype influencing people to see something as better than it is. To a degree, we’re more likely to appreciate something that we *expect* to appreciate (aside: perhaps this is similar to how people tend to find people in certain roles more attractive just because of the role–singers or actors today, for instance, or like the royalty of The Sarantine Mosaic, which demonstrates the power a title can have on changing peoples’ perceptions of someone without that person changing physically [or think Cleopatra]–but now I’m really digressing!)

Another example, and back to my point about numbers–and I intend this without judgment–if only one in ten people that decide to check out what the Twilight phenomenon is all about actually end up enjoying the books, well, once you’ve reached a certain number that one in ten is more than enough to make for a smash commercial success.

Which reminds me, do you suppose if The Lions of Al-Rassan were published in today’s world of marketing and hype, we’d be surrounded by “Team Rodrigo vs Team Ammar” merchandise? :-)


By Simon Fraser (Simonsays) on Thursday, February 04, 2010 – 3:28 pm:

“I’m not sure I’d say the risk of a new novelist crashing and burning after an aggressive marketing push is very serious.”

I agree, Alec. I was trying to make the point that there is simply more of that risk than there used to be. (“Only Sith deal in absolutes!”) The times they are a changin’, and all that. Given the choice, few people would refuse the opportunity in light of the potential recognition.

To better illustrate the points I was trying to make, here’s a set of graphs I just made (the engineer in me) that show my current perception of things. They are intended to plot the relative success of various authors over a period of time.



By Lia on Thursday, February 04, 2010 – 4:15 pm:

Ser Kay said – “Someone from England, as you say, would know the term well.” Ever the optimist, ey? (Again, a well-known character trait of your stereotypical curmudgeon!) I have a horrible feeling that if we randomly collected, say, a thousand Brits, we’d get about the same percentage of GGK readers as of people who knew what a ‘firkin’ was. The rest would probably belong to Simon’s excellently engineered ‘Unfortunate Anomaly’ graph.

By Jayson Merryfield (Wolfe_boy) on Thursday, February 04, 2010 – 5:43 pm:

One anecdote that gets tossed around a writers forum that I participate in is that it’s harder to get your second or third novel published than your first. Your first novel is something new, something fresh and previously unknown to the public. It is in fact easy to drive hype for something unsubstantiated (or so it seems to my prole marketing mind). A good head-and-shoulder photograph for publicity (all authors are gorgeous, aren’t they?), a few decent blurbs, some blog and general internet hype, and you can drive sales to a certain level on curiosity alone.

The second novel, though, already has a stigma attached to it. This guy writes fantasy. Her characters are melodramatic. His diction could use a little work. Do you service those expectations and stick to the pool of fans you have already attracted? Do you break out of your box and seek new fans, potentially alienating your original fan base and missing out on those who have already have an opinion based on your last work? And a little less artistic but more pragmatic, a new author has an unlimited potential for sales. He might be the next Rowling. She might be a future King or Rice. However, once stuck with a track record of middling sales volumes, would an editor take the risk of missing a potential super-star in the making, or stick with slow-n-steady established author?

And for the record, I’m totally on Team Rodrigo.

By Trent Churchill on Thursday, February 04, 2010 – 7:42 pm:

On the topic of marketing books, and prompted by Jayson’s mention of Stephen King, I relate the following. I was in my local bookstore the other day, and wandered over to check the discounted hardcovers section. King’s new book, Under The Dome, was on the shelf so I picked it up to read the dustjacket and see what it is about. (“Well, there’s this dome…”). To my surprise, there is not one word on the jacket about the story. No hunched men of any number, no dragon-powered ships, nary a firkin to be found. No jacket copy of any kind, not even the standard quotes from reviews of other works. It struck me how certain King’s publishers are of a sales success, just because it’s Stephen King, that they don’t even feel the need to utilize this most basic marketing tool to sell the book. People have been posting thoughts about means of creating hype and launching new writers, and what a writer’s previous success contributes to his later. And here is Stephen King, who seems to have moved so far beyond it all that his dustjackets can be silent.

Trent (wearing his home made Team Ammar T-shirt)

By Simon Fraser (Simonsays) on Thursday, February 04, 2010 – 8:19 pm:

As delightful and intriguing a comment as that was, Trent, I feel it’s only right to inform you that I’m with Jay here: Team Rodrigo.


By Kimberly Campbell on Thursday, February 04, 2010 – 9:56 pm:

Interesting (and rather sad, in my opinion), to see the declne of some of the more traditional bookstore centered marketing in favor of more and more online-based marketing. When I was visiting my parents for Christmas, I made my usual pilgrimage to my favorite childhood bookstore, which was an amazing place when I was younger. They were constantly having events and author signings. Now the store is a ghost of what it used to be, with a much smaller selection. They even took out the small stage in the center of the store where they used to hold events. You certainly don’t get the same feelng from Amazon, not to mention that it isn’t nearly as fun to browse. Which could really set me off to anther lament on the decline of the number of used book stores in town if I let it.

But I really just posted so that I could register my support for Team Ammar, so here I will end!

By Madelejm (Madelejm) on Thursday, February 04, 2010 – 10:47 pm:

I got to meet Patrick Rothfuss in Montreal at one of those small gatherings at Worldcon with authors – koffeklatches (no doubt, misspelled). One thing he talked about was the pressure to get the second book out. There were piles of amazon pre-sales lined up and then the release got pushed back. He had been somewhat willing to put something out, but his editor (or some sort of author handler) decided that they should refund those pre-sales and hold back the release until the book was ready. I can imagine that sort of thing isn’t common for newish writers unless they’ve scored big on their first book and seem bankable to their publishers.

The Twilight teams arose because (although it should have been obvious) readers had 3 full books and the periods between their releases to speculate on which fella Bella would end up with. That sort of phenomenon is less a result of the times, the explosion of the internet or the age of the fan base so much as it was due to the lag time between the introduction of the love triangle and it’s resolution. That said, Go Team Ammar!


By Trent Churchill on Thursday, February 04, 2010 – 10:54 pm:

Simon, I’m wearing my Team Ammar T-shirt underneath my Toronto Maple Leafs jersey, so what the hell do I know anyway?


By Madelejm (Madelejm) on Friday, February 05, 2010 – 8:21 am:

so, Alec, when will you be designing these shirts and posting them on Cafe press? We can use the sales as a vote for which team wins 🙂


By Robin_of_lox (Robin_of_lox) on Friday, February 05, 2010 – 8:31 am:

I have been given a message to relay to the denizens. It seems, in the spirit of all things Kayian, that you’re all wrong here. To paraphrase Jehane: “Is it wrong, or impossible, for a reader to love two men?”

This via the inimitable Jaquandor.



By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Friday, February 05, 2010 – 12:25 pm:

Damn, but that’s a perfect riposte from Jaquandor. Can’t be bettered, really, for so many reasons. Give it a bravo, and even a HoF status as a thread capper.


By Francois Vincent (Francoisvincent) on Friday, February 05, 2010 – 2:39 pm:

Getting that first book published, from the editor’s side.


By Simon Fraser (Simonsays) on Wednesday, February 10, 2010 – 10:09 am:

With tour dates now “as firm as they ever get”, I herewith present a predicted headline in a spring edition of the Edmonton Journal:

“Kay’s Bad Rap gets Local Fans Bent Out of Shape”

By Madelejm (Madelejm) on Thursday, February 11, 2010 – 12:24 am:

I’m already over the moon that one of the tour dates will be during the Frye Festival in Moncton. That’s practically local to me. If one of my exams is scheduled on either of the days, I’m making the registrar change it. I’ll think up a reason, don’t tell them the truth!


By Jayson Merryfield (Wolfe_boy) on Thursday, February 11, 2010 – 4:45 pm:

Simon, I can’t read your headline without jumbling things up a bit in my head…

“Kay’s Bent Back give Local Fans Bad Rap”

Not that it makes much sense, mind you.

I do have a favorite yoga pose (downward Diarmuid) and me mum’s best borscht recipe to share, should an author feel like availing himself of an Air Canada ‘chute en-route between the Suck and the Blow (a.k.a. the reason why it’s windy on the prairies – BC blows and Manitoba sucks).

(Wow, do I sound bitter?)

By sb1 on Thursday, February 11, 2010 – 8:44 pm:


I don’t know if this is the first review out there, but just found this and thought everyone would be interested. A generally favorable review, but not too enthusiastic.

By Paula Servin (Paula) on Thursday, February 11, 2010 – 9:42 pm:

Actually, I’m trying to keep my head in the sand and avoid reviews and any spoilers of Under Heaven. I realize it may be unrealistic, and I’m not exactly prepared to boycott brightweavings for the next 8 weeks, but my hope is to have my own impressions be as uncluttered by others as possible. May I ask, then, that any further links be posted without a reference to how it was reviewed?

With appreciation,

By Elizabeth_s (Elizabeth_s) on Thursday, February 11, 2010 – 11:12 pm:

Also, anyone sharing a link please consider whether there are spoilers WITHIN a review as well and warn accordingly (some reviewers are better about refraining from them than others*). Though of course that’s hard to know before the book is out, I’d hazard that since GGK is very careful to avoid spoilers in promotional blurbs, if a review discusses a specific element of the novel not mentioned in the info posted on the site already (especially about plot or characters), it may well be one.

At least it’s not as difficult to avoid being spoiled for a book as it is for a movie… I get a little anxious watching trailers these days.


(*especially those that are more summary than actual appraisal. Oy.)

By Elizabeth_s (Elizabeth_s) on Thursday, February 11, 2010 – 11:15 pm:

ps. sb1, that WAS thoughtful of you to share that you’d found a review – I didn’t want you to think that sort of thing wasn’t welcome!

By Robin_of_lox (Robin_of_lox) on Thursday, February 11, 2010 – 11:37 pm:

In case Smarty’s message wasn’t explicit enough, be aware that the linked review gives a pretty comprehensive plot summary of the book. Click through at your own risk.



By Ilana on Friday, February 12, 2010 – 6:57 am:

I propose a thread specifically for UNDER HEAVEN reviews that contains a spoiler warning in its title. That would be like the spoiler zone.

What do you guys think?

I know we can easily avoid the links–I always do–but it’s more a psychological thing to have them all in one place.

By Ilana on Friday, February 12, 2010 – 7:03 am:

Actually, it’s not just psychological…this way if people discuss the spoilers no one else will have to see that, either.

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Friday, February 12, 2010 – 7:50 am:

I’m going to echo what’s been said above, with an author-request added. My own memory is that bw protocols involved being REALLY careful to protect readers here from content, spoilers, even reactions to any new book before it was available, and as a reader myself, I tend to prefer that a lot with any book.

I think Ilana’s got the right idea, a thread for the book BEFORE publication, where people can post links if they really want. I don’t see bw as only a place where people link raves (assuming there are those!) nor do I have toi agree with or respect all views, but I do want the denizens able to surf here, glance at thread topics and not have themselves flinching away. As it happens, that blogger does spoil a key plot twist (isn’t the first to do that for a book!) and opens up an author response, or even a seminar, on language and context, but I never do that in public.

Sometimes the main issue is rushing one’s first thoughts… I’m impressed at how many bloggers getting ARCs have said they are going to wait until nearer pub date, which is the more ‘professional’ approach. There will always be some for whom getting their views out fast is more important. I end up feeling all sorts of irony, since I am the opposite of that, in terms of writing the books. As some might have noted.

Incidentally, I am also echoing Elizabeth here: there’s nothing wrong with sb1 (SmartyBelle 1??) arriving to relay this link, only that it needs some proper categorizing. Maybe Alec or Deb can take care of it? Nor am I saying that bloggers are ‘bad’ if they review very fast … as I think I posted somewhere in the Journal, it is almost expected these days that some will.

It is just … we are almost two months (three for US and UK!) from a book. It feels so … early. And will frustrate people.


By Elizabeth_s (Elizabeth_s) on Friday, February 12, 2010 – 7:52 am:

Thanks for the heads up, Paul. I was speaking generally, not specifically, but forewarning is appreciated.

Still generally speaking, I usually do enjoy reading reviews of books; with limited time at this season in my life for the luxury of reading (oh, for the summers when I hid for hours up on the roof, or in my little brother’s closet where no one would ever think to look for me), I rely on them to help me discriminate. I’ve learned to scan down without really fully reading to see how much of a review is spent in synopsis as a sort of guide to whether or not I want to risk a full read. I’ve also learned that professional newspaper or magazine reviews are not better than blog reviews about this. I read one recently that was two pages long, and the first page was ALL synopsis.

Blog reviewers are gaining much in both influence and excellence and reliability – or at least the long-overdue-in-many-cases recognition of the latter. But there is a wider spectrum of the latter still, if only because there are so many more of them. Does anyone here have a favorite book-review blog they follow (besides our own Nicola Clarke and friends’ excellent Eve’s Alexandria which is to blame for many of the books on my Amazon wishlist)? If so, would you mind sharing them here?

By Elizabeth_s (Elizabeth_s) on Friday, February 12, 2010 – 8:14 am:

Oh, I see I cross posted. Well, I agree I’d quite like to have a thread where reviews specific to GGK are linked – I know many enjoy reading them (and seeing if they agree!), especially after finishing a novel. Plus they do add insight, and fuel for discussion.

So, ask and ye shall receive. Alec, I’ve placed it in the cross-book discussion, as sometimes bloggers comment on previous books as well (e.g. the really excellent rebuttal recently discussed here), but if it would be better to create one for each book, feel free to change it.

By sb1 on Friday, February 12, 2010 – 8:18 am:

apologies to all for posting the link without further warning regarding the possibilities of spoilers. i am new here and did not know the protocol.

i am a great admirer of GGK (discovered him just last year) and am looking forward to reading Under Heaven. a blogger’s opinion, while respected, really doesn’t matter to me.

By Elizabeth_s (Elizabeth_s) on Friday, February 12, 2010 – 8:27 am:

No worries, sb1, we didn’t really have a formal protocol, and you’ve helped us, I think, to come up with both a helpful solution and a good way to archive. We’re delighted you’ve joined in, and hope to see you around here often! Enjoy those other novels – I envy you your first read of them.

By Robin_of_lox (Robin_of_lox) on Friday, February 12, 2010 – 1:38 pm:


We are absolutely not being critical of you. While many here are very spoilerphobic (I wonder if Kay readers are moreso than those of other authors specifically because of the way he likes to surprise readers), others here will have appreciated the link. I have no fear of spoilers, and read the review immediately. Much to my regret. It wasn’t very well written, and while the reviewer touched on some of the deeper themes the book presents, it was clear she was aware of them without any real understanding or appreciation. Most of her opinions were on the more superficial aspects of the book. I was left asking myself, “how, exactly, did this person get her hands on an ARC, and how likely is she to get another?” Not because the review was critical, but more because of its Jessica Rabbit nature.



By Paula Servin (Paula) on Friday, February 12, 2010 – 2:11 pm:

No question, there’ll be a floodgate of reviews, references and discussions in the next couple of months and I really will be interested in reading them….but only after I’ve read the book myself. So, my thanks to you creative denizens for organizing and compartmentalizing all these possibilities so I’m not peeking through fingers in the meantime!


By Lauren on Friday, February 12, 2010 – 3:24 pm:

I happily read reviews in advance of books and movies as long as they aren’t plot heavy and specific. When I read a review I tend to look more for the reviewer giving his/her impression of the tone/writing style/general lack of plot holes/etc. If I wanted regurgitation of plot and themes I’d read the book myself instead. In my opinion, there is a lot of skill that goes into writing a GOOD review. Perfect balance of giving context to what you’re saying, without giving much away.

But, that said, I think the point about GGK fans being especially sensitive to spoilers is an interesting one….I shall have to think on that. And I for one fall into that category. Although in my case it’s probably exacerbated by the fact that a friend of mine once DID spoil a VERY LARGE plot event in my first read of Fionavar. It concerned the fate of a character I was particularly fond of. When I said “I LOVE this book” she assumed that meant I was finished reading it, and blurted “what did you think when so-and-so…” and the rest is history. Needless to say, I now invariably plug my ears and babble loudly when anyone who has read a book I’m reading begins to speak. I was SO paranoid after that, that I refused to read anything on these forums until I finished reading ALL of GGK’s other books. Even despite the fact that you all are very considerate, and conscious of spoilers :-)

By Madelejm (Madelejm) on Thursday, February 18, 2010 – 9:32 am:

Well Audible sure knows how to segregate sales by nation. When I wanted the audiobook version of LLOTS it was “not available for my geographical area.” I was sure that was a mistake, but e-mail to their customer services seemed to indicate not. Which would have been fine if it were on sale to Canadians by some Canadian seller, but I couldn’t even find a way to get it from the Penguin Canada site. All of which was really aggravating because it is my favourite of the books. Luckily when many of the Denizens were gathered in Montreal this summer I got someone with a US based credit card to order it for me. Aside from searching for an available torrent file (bad for the publishers and the author as far as lost revenue goes) I didn’t have much option. Given the state of internet technologies I’d expect these companies to figure out a better way to safeguard their market but also make works available (esp to people in the same market as the author!). It is available from Penguin Canada now, but it wasn’t back when I was looking for it and knew it was available for Americans searching Audible. It still strikes me as bizarre that all the other audio books are available to Canada and the US except that one. I suppose this is something unique about the publishing arrangement for that particular book.

I’m also not so sure about Simon Vance. I liked his work on Tigana, but found his choice of accents for the various cultures in Fionavar really grating. These 2 auidobooks don’t even sound like the same reader to me. I hope Under Heaven goes more like Tigana and less like the tapestry. I still enjoyed it, but despite his reading.


By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Thursday, February 18, 2010 – 10:24 am:

When it comes to evaluating audio book readers, I become an interested listener in the bar, without strong opinions because I don’t ‘do’ audio books. I do have a sense there are two broad approaches: acting the story and telling it. An acting version will stress accents and variations of tone among speakers, a telling-it approach will do rather less of that. I’m also aware that some books use multiple voices (Vance was in a multiple-voice version of Dune for example). These would clearly tilt towards an acted production of the novel.

I’m guessing listeners tend to fall on one side or another of this divide. The whole issue of ‘was he or she good?’ underscores my journal point about someone between author and reader (listener).


By Simon Fraser (Simonsays) on Thursday, February 18, 2010 – 10:36 am:

It’s interesting you mention Vance, June. I’m making my way through the Tapestry right now, and have pretty much sworn completely off commercial radio during my morning and evening commutes. I sometimes find myself waiting in the parking lot at work for an opportune moment to pause my iPod so I’m not cutting off in the middle of a critical scene, with eight hours to wait again to pick up the narration. I have found this to be difficult with GGK’s work!

I find Vance’s accents sort of quirky, but not at all grating. Not being any sort of audiobook afficionado, I’m just going to opine that this is quite likely a very personal thing, and tastes enter into it very much. I got accustomed to the voices quickly and pay them little mind, though I still can’t help thinking that all the dwarves have a little bit of vampire in them. (Maybe appropriate for Blod and Kaen, not so much for Matt and Brock.) Some folks want straight narration, and others want some dramatization mixed in. Can’t have it both ways, eh?

One unexpected twist I’ve discovered (being so new to audiobooks) is that homonyms create very occasional stumbling blocks when listening to a story being read, as opposed to reading the words myself. The different meanings between same-sounding words is not always immediately apparent in context.

Case in point: two days ago, during my drive home, Kim had just raised Arthur from Glastonbury Tor using the summoning name, and there was a brief description of the Warrior that GGK provided. What gave me pause, then, was the line that described Arthur as being the only king ever “… to be rowed by three queens to Avalon.”


No, I’m sure one of those queens was NOT Alienor, why do you ask??

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Thursday, February 18, 2010 – 11:25 am:

I’m never THAT ungrammatical, Simon.


By Madelejm (Madelejm) on Thursday, February 18, 2010 – 11:57 am:

Si, you never cease to take up such an opportunity. If we tried hard I doubt we could close all such spaces. 🙂 Very amusing.

I can see that preference for reading or dramatizing might be relevant. For me though, I think it is about familiarity with the book. I’ve probably read the tapestry more than any other besides LLOTS and they just didn’t sound like what I’d ever imagined. Not just that, but they were either too far off of what I heard in my head or choices that seemed so odd to my ear that I was tossed out of the story for a moment each time I encountered a particular “race” of people. The Scottish lilt of the Dalrai seemed like a really weird choice as did whatever that was for the accent of the dwarves-German-ish?. I can imagine this works better for listeners who have less invested in their own “voices” for the characters. I think that is more the basis for my own less positive response to his reading of the Tapestry than the more dramatic type of approach. I’m really enjoying his work on Tigana (I’ve heard them all now except that one and I eagerly await an audio version of The Mosaic).

I have yet to listen to an audiobook of something I’m not already familiar with. I don’t think I’m going to be as keen, but I’m going to give it a try. Despite their annoying geographical sales rules Audible has sucked me in by making GGK’s works available. I tend to listen as I’m falling asleep. That also wouldn’t work with books I haven’t read already – talk about spoilers!


By Melissa Houle on Thursday, February 18, 2010 – 1:21 pm:

Now come along, Simon. I can’t ever imagine Alienor rowing a boat! She has better things to do with her time.


By Simon Fraser (Simonsays) on Thursday, February 18, 2010 – 1:31 pm:

I’m always willing to overlook bad grammar for a good double entendre.


By vmouse on Friday, February 19, 2010 – 1:17 pm:

Since I have been keeping track, this recently went up on the Toronto Reference Library website.
I telephoned the library to find out if reservations, memberships or tickets will be needed and the lady I spoke with said just show up. Perhaps this is wrong and someone can correct me.
I hope to be able to attend and see many of the denizens there.

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Friday, February 19, 2010 – 1:33 pm:


As best I gather, TPL has a lot of space in the main reference library and some flexibility … they can go from 40 to several hundred in that Atrium. This year there is no admission being charged (which pleases me). So, no tickets being bought. If history holds (and I make no assumptions) getting there a bit early makes sense if you want to be close enough to catch every operatic nuance of my version of ‘Nessun dorma’.


PS A joke. It really, really is a joke. Everyone sit down. Behave. We’re looking at you, Simon.

By Simon Fraser (Simonsays) on Friday, February 19, 2010 – 1:42 pm:

[deletes Paul Potts youtube link; walks away grumbling about prescient curmudgeons]

By Simon Fraser (Simonsays) on Sunday, February 21, 2010 – 2:36 pm:

“…the back jacket of the German paperback of Tigana revealed the single biggest surprise at the end of the book…”

I think here we can accuse ze Germans…

*puts on CSI Miama David Caruso sunglasses*

… of Rhuning the ending.

By Firinneach on Sunday, February 21, 2010 – 5:00 pm:

I like the point made that the pleasure and benefits of a reread can be different from those of the initial read.

I think we’ve actually got an entire thread around here of people discussing whether they’d give up all they’d gained from subsequent reads of a book if they could enjoy the experience of that fresh initial read once more.

I do realize the spoiler thing is very subjective (when my mother reads a book she reads the first chapter, then the final two pages, and then the rest of the book–but then, some commercials have been too suspenseful for her), but it does surprise me a reviewer wouldn’t see the difference between the pleasures of an initial read and a reread.

Be it a kiss, skydiving, or a bite of my wife’s homemade cookie dough, most experiences in life are still enjoyable the second time around–sometimes (like a reread) even moreso than the initial because of increased knowledge or familiarity–but I don’t think many people would deny that the first experience of something is unique, and not to be repeated, and surely this is because we can’t fully know what to expect.


p.s.: That was bad Simon…someone ought to teach you Alessan.

By Madelejm (Madelejm) on Monday, February 22, 2010 – 7:30 am:

I’ll have to disagree about _Citizen Kane_. I think the statute of limitations has to also consider the nature of the specific crime in each case of spoiling. Spoiling how Anna comes to her end is not as big a spoiler as telling all before they ever get to the narrative what “Rosebud” refers to. Rosebud in _Citizen Kane_ is a key structural mystery and if you ruin that for someone, you have really ruined the experience. There’s a Peanuts cartoon where Lucy spoils that movie for Charlie Brown, and by extension all the readers who hadn’t already gotten to it. I had already seen it, but I’m still annoyed about that. So, I think it depends upon more than just how long the story has been circulating.


By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Monday, February 22, 2010 – 7:49 am:

A fair point on “Kane” and underscores my point about the wide range of views on this – though not sure the distinction regarding Anna Karenina is that clear-cut. I think many would say that “Kane” has little to do with the surprise at the end, it has to do with wit and invention and chutzpah and the Rosebud moment is close to a McGuffin (Hitchcock’s term for a plot hook that just gets a film going and ends up not that vital to enjoyment). I forgot about Lucy, but my kids, who hadn’t seen “Kane” then, told me Family Guy revealed the ending, too.

I’d agree time isn’t the only factor, or ‘importance of the moment’ but maybe also iconic status? How some twists are so well known, even by those unaware of the film or book, that they enter the wider culture. We could almost have a thread discussing what those might be (spoiler-alerted!). Is “Reader, I married him.” still a spoiler? Is “With all my heart, I still love the man I killed?” (That might be, as the film is not THAT well known, so I won’t say what it is!)

My own take is that some of these do enter cultural awareness. Um, Luke’s parentage? Can anyone say that’s a spoiler any more? There ARE going to be ten year olds who haven’t seen it yet. I assume.


By Simon Fraser (Simonsays) on Monday, February 22, 2010 – 9:23 am:

As to Luke’s parentage, I can say that there are some three- and five-year-olds who are full up on the canon. But then not all parents raise their sons as properly as I do.

I remember seeing a live play during Edmonton’s Fringe Theatre Festival some years ago, and one of the actors, in a throw-away line, completely spoiled The Crying Game for anyone paying attention. I’d never seen the movie, and watched it with my parents a couple weeks later for the first time. I have no idea what it would have been like had I been unaware, but I knew the big secret all the way through, and just the look on my parents’ faces during the BIG REVEAL demonstrated how significantly different our viewing experiences had been.

I’m not going to touch a single review of Under Heaven until after I’ve read it.


By Christian Fournier on Tuesday, March 02, 2010 – 10:08 am:

Hello !
First of all, let me say that I’m looking forward to your new book, for having read all your previous works, I’ve never been disappointed.
My question is quite simple as a matter of fact, there’s the “Salon International du Livre de Quebec” from April 7th to 11th and I was wondering if you had considered stopping by for the launching of Under Heaven ?

Christian (yes from Quebec !)

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Tuesday, March 02, 2010 – 10:50 am:


Timing of that Salon is a little off — if I ‘launch’ UNDER HEAVEN in French, it would be when Alire release their edition, which will be awhile yet, as we are still in contract discussion stage. I do know that the splendid Elisabeth Vonarburg is ready and keen to translate it.

I will be in Montreal later in April for the Blue Met Festival, though. Right after Moncton and the Frye, and just before Ottawa.

Incidentally, in a really nice brightweavings coup, denizen Stephen Saunders has been asked to do – or punished with – the onstage interview of me at the Frye.

Perhaps we could recite all the ballads from the last poetry contest here?


By Madelejm (Madelejm) on Tuesday, March 02, 2010 – 11:00 am:

Wow, nice score Stephen on the Frye interview. I look forward to seeing you both there.


By Christian on Tuesday, March 02, 2010 – 12:57 pm:

I agree for Stephen Saunders !
But I was more talking of an english promotion, something like your visit in Quebec at the “Librairie Anglaise” at “Place de la Cité” for Last Light of the Sun (book that you kindly sign after your presentation). After all, it is an “International Salon”.
But that being said, I must sadly admit that I understand your main target in Quebec City is not the english population…
I had to try!
Montreal will be a nice alternative.
Thank you !
PS : good news for those who read your books in french about Elisabeth Vonarburg, she’s really good !

By Emilie Bee (Emilie) on Wednesday, March 03, 2010 – 8:38 am:

Even though I’ve been favouring the original versions in recent years, I enjoyed Mrs. Vonarburg’s translation of the Tapestry, long ago, and some of her own novels, especially ‘In the Mothers’ land’. Plus, I’ve met her once or twice and she’s a really nice lady. :-)

By Christian on Wednesday, March 03, 2010 – 9:58 am:

Yes your right, she’s really nice. As a matter of fact, I’ve met her at the “Salon du livre de Quebec” a couple of years ago…
Like you, my first reading of the Tapestry was the translation of Mrs. Vonarburg. Now I’m reading original versions, but my introduction to Mr Kay’s work was by this translation, so I’m really glad she’s still on board this journey :-)

By Firinneach on Wednesday, March 03, 2010 – 4:29 pm:

Another enjoyable guest-post. These various behind the scenes perspectives have been really interesting.

On another note, I begin to wonder if it would be fair to suggest it was the picking of the setting that really made the book first feel tangible?


By Robin_of_lox (Robin_of_lox) on Wednesday, March 03, 2010 – 5:18 pm:

Why, Alec, does it take place in space?



By Simon Fraser (Simonsays) on Wednesday, March 03, 2010 – 5:35 pm:

Paul, he oughta be shot into space for that awful, horrible, wonderful pun.


By Timo (Timo) on Thursday, March 04, 2010 – 3:59 am:

Too bad we cannot see those page proofs. A lesson lost, surely. Then again, completely appreciated why not.

By Daphne (Daphne) on Saturday, March 06, 2010 – 5:21 pm:

This is indeed *very* cool. Here in Ottawa we know Boris Brott very well. He conducts a youth concert series at the National Arts Centre and he is fabulous– lively and engaged and so passionate about music. He loves to bring music to life– and just draws the children into the spirit of the work. I’m sure he will conduct an inspired interpretation of this music.

By Jayson Merryfield (Wolfe_boy) on Monday, March 08, 2010 – 10:47 am:

On the topic of interview lists…

When I got my first girlfriend (woo! Grade 10!) my much more experienced friend helped me put together a list of questions and topics to duscuss for our first phone call – favorite movie, music, blah blah blah. Also made me put my own answers down so I could hold a proper conversation and not forget everything about me. It worked, which is to say I didn’t come across as hopelessly lame.

Regarding the interview process, it’s clear that a slightly more personal and informed approach is likely to achieve better results than just going off a prepared list. Does the other extreme ever occur? Not completely unprepared interviewers, but people who assume an air of casualness or intimacy that isn’t yet earned? It’s one thing to pursue a line of conversation to deeper levels, but it’s quite another to indulge one’s ego at the expense of an author’s (presumably) precious time.

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Monday, March 08, 2010 – 2:34 pm:


Over the years I’ve probably had every kind of interview, just about though never – I should make clear – anyone being outright rude. (I was unpleasant once, I confess; it had to do with how shabbily the radio host had treated the guest before me, using his in-studio cronies to bully the man for disliking Mel Gibson’s ‘Passion’ film.)

The most usual ‘sin’, almost too common to be noteworthy, is for radio or tv hosts to be underprepared. It is very normal for them not to have read a novel before talking to the author, but generally someone on their staff will have read it and briefed them with questions – and I have been pleasantly surprised on many occasions when an on-air figure has read the book and reacted enthusiastically to it. It is also quite common for publicists to send ‘possible questions for GGK’ (or whomever) with the advance copy of the book. I used to think journalists would be offended by this, but in fact, for the usual on-air show, they love them. Makes them sound smarter. The negative is that it leads to those too-scripted exchanges.

If you think about what they have to do, day after day, it is almost impossible for tv or radio people to keep up, even if they want to. Print journalists, for newspapers or magazines, or bloggers will almost always have read the book, or a good chunk of it – unless it is a fast newspaper info piece or profile running ahead of an author’s arrival in their city. That’s where you can get ‘So, what’s the book about?’ or – famously in these parts – a telephone interview ahead of arrival that results in the immortal ‘Dragon powered ships’…


By Stephen Saunders (Swsaunders) on Monday, March 08, 2010 – 2:38 pm:

Sounds like I might have my work cut out for me.

By Simon Fraser (Simonsays) on Monday, March 08, 2010 – 3:31 pm:

You can scratch the “So, what’s the book about?” question off your list, eh Stephen?

By Jayson Merryfield (Wolfe_boy) on Monday, March 08, 2010 – 4:46 pm:

I’m hoping he’ll lead with it, actually.

“Chinese people? Crazy. You know they invented gunpowder, right? And egg rolls. Mmmmm….”

By Stephen Saunders (Swsaunders) on Tuesday, March 09, 2010 – 9:15 am:

Oh, I’ve got a few interesting ones in mind, but I’m a little loathe to share them here and let them go stale.

Guy’s already voiced his distaste for over-rehearsal, and the simple pleasure of being asked an unexpected and thought-provoking question (or, more specifically, engage in a thought-provoking conversation). Least I can do is attempt to oblige.

So the mitt stays close to the chest, for now.

“Wait. You’re saying that Chinese people invented Chinese FOOD? Wow. How lucky, that they named it like that, then. That’s almost, like, prophetic or something.”

By Ilana on Wednesday, March 17, 2010 – 10:16 am:

This made me smile. It was probably within the same period of years that I was having similar happy experiences, albeit with books that had already been out, that I hadn’t realized existed until they appeared in the library. (By Roald Dahl, E. Nesbit, Lloyd Alexander, etc.) I think it was Amazon that really changed everything, at least at first.

By Deborah (Deborah) on Wednesday, March 17, 2010 – 11:50 am:

Made me smile, too. Because I remember, vividly, seeing a copy of Interzone in the university library, with an ad for A Song for Arbonne on it, and being overjoyed that there was a new book coming out. I didn’t know when, though, still. I headed to Waterstones with a non-fantasy-reading friend, and perused the shelves for a while, picked up a couple of books. I went to pay for them, and asked the sales guy – “Do you know when the next Guy Gavriel Kay book is out?”

“It’s out already, I think,” said he. “It should be on the shelf over there.”

The world spun and rocked.

(that’s a direct quote from Tigana I think. My lexicon is composed, at least somewhat, of GGK lines :-))

I ran to the shelves, found it, and ran back to the cash register. I think I may have jumped a foot in the air. My non-fantasy-reading friend was rather embarrassed.

A few years later, I was talking to a friend. He told me he’d seen an article, or something, about a new GGK book being out. The next day was my first day at a temp job in the centre of London – an area I was totally unfamiliar with. On my first day *ever* working in an office, I took the one hour lunchbreak to rush around London trying to locate a bookshop so I could buy Lions. I did find one, and got back in time, just.

I knew Sailing to Sarantium was coming out when it did because by then I’d found the email address of a certain author, who told me. :-)

By Firinneach on Wednesday, March 17, 2010 – 12:04 pm:

“It is not – surely it is not – a zero-sum game where knowledge can only come from one method or the other.”

I remember fondly reading The Return of Martin Guerre in my historiography class, along with Mattingly’s The Armada and Braudel’s Mediterranean. Though I’ll admit at the time part of my appreciation was that it was somewhat more approachable (and easier on the back when carrying) than The Mediterranean!

Truly though, they are three history texts that use remarkably different styles of approach to history, and I remember even as students our class discussions tended to result in debates about which style was right or best, and I count myself lucky that our prof was able to appreciate and (eventually) impart the idea that each style had value and something to add.


By Jayson Merryfield (Wolfe_boy) on Wednesday, March 17, 2010 – 12:09 pm:

I had that exact experience with Sailing to Sarantium. Had read all extant GGK to that point, was always on the look-out for more, hadn’t yet found Brightweavings. Was in line at Chapters, spotted STS on a display behind the counter, had to endure a torturous five minutes while I waited to reach the front of the line.

“Is that.. is that a new Guy Kay novel?”
“Yes, I think so.”
“Can I buy it?”

How could she be so cavalier? Bliss was truly that simple, though the effort needed to contain myself while in line (and not embarrass myself in front of the quite fetching cashier) was monumental.

Now, back to business…

With the increased availability of advanced information and notice, are book sales becoming increasingly front-loaded? A book like Lions (where your reputation was already somewhat established, but prior to the current information deluge) probably had a much longer-term initial sales period than Under Heaven will. At least, that makes some kind of sense to me, don’t know if it applies at all to reality.

By Ilana on Wednesday, March 17, 2010 – 12:26 pm:

I had no such experience with GGK books, for the simple reason that Deb introduced them to me and she had them all. :-) Though I ordered “Arbonne” myself for some reason (and it’s since split neatly in half…thanks, Roc).

My most vivid such memory is probably going to the library with my best friend when I was 7 and discovering “Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator”–neither of us had realized that “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” had a *sequel*! We had a brief argument over who got it first. She’s nicer, so I won.

By BOB (Anstett) on Wednesday, March 17, 2010 – 2:30 pm:

Today I was able to ‘surprise’ a librarian at a meeting with the news about Under Heaven so it is still possible.

I had read the backlist in Paperback over the years but then fell away from the fold as I moved to eBooks. It was a nice surprise to see Last Light pop up on the New Fantasy screen when I was looking one day. Then there was a tag line on the last page about this website to visit….


By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Wednesday, March 17, 2010 – 2:36 pm:

This entire comment thread made me grin, in part because Bright Weavings is such a cool place for stories and reflections. Of course the ultimate import of Deb’s post is: it is all my fault.

Alec, neat triple text story. I think Zemon Davis would be at-ease being linked to Braudel in terms of underlying method. Braudel is like the 2nd wave of Annales giants after Marc Bloch and Lucien Febvre – and yes, I did have to look up Febre, I always blank on his name. Must be a … bloch? (Fine, I’ll duck.)

Georges Duby is another in that second wave, he lived down the road from us when I was in Aix writing Arbonne, elderly by then (him, not me, dammit); I kept hoping to bump into him on a walk and never did … Duby was one of the General Editors of the monumental A History of Private Life in five gorgeous volumes, a major influence on my work,

Jayson, really good question and I don’t have an easy answer, though your intuitive thought strikes me as sensible. I think there are many variables.

One of them is if an author is prolific or not. I think fast initial sale for my work might be affected by readers having had to wait 3+ years. I suspect that Yann Martel’s newest will fly this spring because it has been more than a decade AND he did phnomenally well with Life of Pi. In the genre, when GRRM does deliver his next in the series, it’ll also fly because of pent-up demand.

My fastest rise to the list was with Arbonne here, which debuted at #1 before official publication date and this was before online buying existed. It had been awhile since Tigana, though only two years I think, not three, and books hit the shelves a bit early – and sold, very fast. So the advance-word element had nothing to do with that one. As I said, it is hard to predict or analyze these things

On the other hand, the mechanics of the industry today help books that start well to stay strong. Discounting of bestsellers means that not only are they easier to find (front of store, in different retail outlets besides bookstores, featured by an online bookseller) but they are often cheaper, so getting on the list means it is likelier you’ll stay on it for awhile.

We’ll see, I guess.


By Lauren on Wednesday, March 17, 2010 – 5:26 pm:

I did sort of experience this excitement you speak of about six or seven years ago when (admittedly a bit late to arrive on the scene) I had almost finished reading Fionavar for the first time and was wandering through a bookstore when it suddenly dawned on me that GGK had written *other* books as well. Being ignorant and uninformed can cause these wonderfully innocent discoveries to happen, even in a world obsessed with the internet :-)

Speaking of ignorance, being that I went through school in science I am strongly of the opinion that the humanities, and arts in general, are woefully undervalued at the university level. I know people –very, very smart people, actually– that couldn’t tell you even basic historical facts (I mean basic…stuff like “approximately when did World War I take place?” would definitely stump them), if their lives depended on it. I mean, it is one thing to be able to name every bone in the skeleton of a lemur, or tell me the genetic content of their DNA compared to humans, but what good is that if you can’t even tell me that Madagascar is a country, or that lots of things in that country are now exinct or becoming extinct because of human activities? That’s not even that great an example, but the point remains the same: science can only take you so far if you don’t have context.

I think the arts requirement for most science students is quite a joke, and it infuriates me. Nice to know that there are other people in the world that actually think this sort of thing is a *problem*.

By Patrick Thompson (Halmayne) on Thursday, March 18, 2010 – 3:52 am:

Struggling to think of the last time I had that feeling with a book (trust GGK to make me mourn something I hadn’t really been aware I had lost). Probably the most comparable feeling was discovering Serenity was coming out. I had watched Firefly but never became part of the, as I discovered later, rabid online following; and was thrilled to discover it’s resurrection on the big screen.

Living in Texas, the subject of history comes up at an interesting time with much debate currently centered around the guidelines for the adoption of new history textbooks for TX schools. And it is not just TX–due to the population of TX its standards tend to have a national impact. I think they struggle with how to balance imparting that basic knowledge that Lauren spoke of, and also providing a broader view of history “from the bottom up” represented by the Annales movement (if my memory of my own American historiography classes are not too faulty). I believe that is why I enjoyed history so much more at the undergrad and grad levels–less emphasis on the straight-forward march of dates and places, and more focus on a variety of approaches to history.

I’ll leave you with words from my favorite history professor Annette Atkins from her work Creating Minnesota a History from the Inside Out

quote:The work of historians is not to heal the wounds of the past but to understand them enough to allow nuance and detail to cloud the easy answers. To make the complex simple and the simple complex, to widen our view and sharpen our vision–these are the goals of this book and the real and essential functions of history, even state history.

For me, that is what GGK’s works do–provide nuance and detail that cloud easy answers.


By Francois Vincent (Francoisvincent) on Wednesday, March 24, 2010 – 10:31 am:

Upon reading that 4 1/2 stars was the highest rating possible for a book, I was reminded of a review I saw for show here in Montreal. It concluded:

3 out of 5 stars. Perfect.


By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Wednesday, March 24, 2010 – 11:04 am:


That’s a terrific quote, you know. The dual ambitions of widening AND sharpening just about capture it.


By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Wednesday, March 24, 2010 – 11:08 am:

By the way, I haven’t abandoned the guest post idea. I have been thinking about getting one of the publicists here, but they are so febrile right now, with regard to Under Heaven and pub date approaching with a complex tour to coordinate (including cross-border elements and a hand-off from one team to the other) PLUS all the other titles they have, that I might risk serious bodily harm if I even asked just now.

And that could impact on the tour, which might upset them even more.


By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Wednesday, March 24, 2010 – 1:24 pm:

A small, nice follow-up (but it doesn’t really fit the Journal itself, so I’ll tuck it in here). Paul Frehner, the composer of the “Sarantine Polyphony” wrote me and gave permission to quote him here:

“The premiere of Sarantine Polyphony last week went very well. The McGill Chamber Orchestra did a great job on the piece and they really conveyed the mood of music. There was a good size crowd on hand and people were quite appreciative. One fellow told me that he now has to read the books.”

Paul also obtained permission from Boris Brott (the conductor) and the orchestra for us to post the music online and I am going to discuss with Deb and Alec (and Penguin Canada) doing that. The files are very large, of course, but we’ll see what can be done.

This whole episode has pleased me a lot.


By Jayson Merryfield (Wolfe_boy) on Thursday, March 25, 2010 – 11:50 am:

Indeed exciting news. I’ve been listening to far too much classical these days. My wife has been poking fun at me.

By vmouse on Friday, March 26, 2010 – 10:01 am:

WOOT! I just got a call from my local bookstore where I had pre-ordered my copy and I am now leaving work to “run an errand”. Guess what I will be doing all weekend?

By madelejm on Friday, March 26, 2010 – 1:23 pm:

hmm I don’t think they are supposed to release it to you until the proper release date. You are lucky!


By vmouse on Friday, March 26, 2010 – 1:34 pm:

Well then, I am very glad I skipped out of work to pick it up before someone figured that out!

By Daphne (Daphne) on Friday, March 26, 2010 – 4:49 pm:

I am one of those very lucky ones holding an advance copy of “Under Heaven”! I won Penguin’s contest and my copy arrived yesterday. I couldn’t have been more thrilled to arrive home to the mail!

I can’t wait to share the reading experience with the rest of the denizens.

By BOB (Anstett) on Friday, March 26, 2010 – 8:16 pm:

Just a quiet word of caution as copies are picked up and read through.

Can we please have a separate thread for discussion of the actual book?

eBooks will not be released for another month or so I hear, so I will avoid the new thread till then.


who wishes he could make the dinner, wonder how much trouble he would get in if he just disappeared for the weekend.

By miriam on Friday, March 26, 2010 – 10:37 pm:

I find it singularly unfair that the Chapter’s online price is $12 cheaper than in the store. Do they not want people coming into a bookstore anymore?
And Chapters/Indigo release date is listed as March 30. Yet it’s in bookstores already. Interesting.

By Madelejm (Madelejm) on Saturday, March 27, 2010 – 1:04 pm:

Apparently Under Heaven isn’t under a restricted release date for Chapters/Indigo/Coles so they can put it on the shelf when they get it. It hasn’t made it to New Brunswick yet. I hope my ARC from Penguin comes before I leave for my trip to ‘merica on Tuesday.


By Madelejm (Madelejm) on Monday, March 29, 2010 – 8:19 am:

I hope this doesn’t count as a double post. My ARC arrived from Penguin this morning. I’m so excited to have it for my trip tomorrow 🙂 The real thing still hasn’t hit the shelves here in New Brunswick, but I can get my copy when I get back. Thanks Penguin, Canada!


By Simon Fraser (Simonsays) on Monday, March 29, 2010 – 8:50 am:

Chalk it up to the BW community here that I don’t think it at all strange that June will be reading her ARC while away from home, then coming back only to buy the officially published version of the exact same thing. I wouldn’t do anything differently.


By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Monday, March 29, 2010 – 12:03 pm:

Actually, not exactly the same … as I think I ruefully confessed (and Sandra needled me for in her guest post). I do a lot of fine tuning between ARC and finished book.


By Richard Shearwood (Mistersaxon) on Tuesday, March 30, 2010 – 4:30 am:

Hmmm – I thought I spotted a few things :-) I was, however, reluctant to get the pencil out on my ARC – should have taken notes I guess. Now I’ll have to read it again :-) – “Once more, this time with feeling!”

So, does that mean the UFO won’t make it into the finished book then? (just kidding, FTAOD)

By Kimberly Campbell on Tuesday, March 30, 2010 – 6:44 am:

Penguins in UFO’s? Now you spoiled the book for me, Richard.

By Matthew Klugman (Rawtoast) on Tuesday, March 30, 2010 – 9:01 pm:

Are the “cross-border” tour dates confirmed? And if so, where do I find them?

I’m in the US for a sport history conference at the end of May, and will be jumping around the States doing a bit of research in early June, and would love to attend a reading.

(We cover chariot racing in one of the subjects I teach, so I’ve recently included the Sarantine Mosaic into the suggested readings.)


By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Tuesday, March 30, 2010 – 9:52 pm:

Hi Matthew,

Looking like three events in San Francisco/San Jose area, then one in Seattle. Around May 8-12.

NYC later in May is still being worked out but would likely be media not a reading.

There was a university in Vermont that had the Mosaic pair on the Classics curriculum a while back, too. (They are being reissued for autumn by Roc, in the gorgeous new covers that Deb has up here in the art gallery section.) If you are doing classical chariot racing, you must know Alan Cameron’s two great books – he was my ‘gateway’ there.


By madelejm on Tuesday, March 30, 2010 – 11:01 pm:

Well,I’m disappointed there were no dingbats in the ARC. 🙂 Another incentive to buy the real thing. Though, I got through a long 12 hours of travel today with the new book and I’m liking it a lot so far.


By Matthew Klugman (Rawtoast) on Tuesday, March 30, 2010 – 11:28 pm:

Thanks, though unfortunately I’ll only be around at the end of May and early June. Maybe I can find a way to pop over to Burlington for the June 1 reading (I do note that I’d have to become a series subscriber for that). I’d intended to bring some fine Australian whisky too :-)

Alan Cameron’s books are wonderful (I’ll be referring to them when I give my lectures on sport in the Roman empire in a couple of weeks).


By vmouse on Wednesday, March 31, 2010 – 8:46 am:

That is too funny June. The first thing I did when I opened my copy was check out the dingbats since there has been so much “talk” about them. Second was read the acknowledgements. I am half-way through reading now and cannot wait for the discussions to start.

By BOB (Anstett) on Wednesday, March 31, 2010 – 9:36 am:


Where can I watch Chariot Racing in the States? :-)


By Matthew Klugman (Rawtoast) on Wednesday, March 31, 2010 – 11:03 pm:


I can’t help you much I’m afraid. I know much more about chariot racing in the classical world, and hail from Australia (like some other more famous BW denizens). We do have a public holiday here in Melbourne to celebrate our biggest horse race…

Apologies for derailing this thread (which I’d been enjoying as a lurker anyway – I’ll also be studying the dingbats as soon as I get my copy, and will be keeping a look out for the t-word as well).

By Elizabeth_s (Elizabeth_s) on Thursday, April 01, 2010 – 9:21 am:

As a friendly reminder, for those interested (and yet in the club with some of us likewise too-far-from-any-in-person-opportunity souls) in an autographed copy of UNDER HEAVEN – Book City in Toronto has kindly made it possible once again: http://www.brightweavings.com/buyingbooks.htm

By Elizabeth_s (Elizabeth_s) on Thursday, April 01, 2010 – 8:18 pm:

I’ll probably regret admitting it (and I’ll blame my conclusion-jumping on evening-brain muzziness), but when I read this – “another photographer rattled by the recalcitrant material he had to work with“, I confess I thought at first it was a self-referential curmudgeon anecdote!…

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Thursday, April 01, 2010 – 8:42 pm:

It IS, dammit.

Teach ME to try to be self-deprecating ’round here. I can leave the author-needling to the denizens, that what you’re trying to say?


By Elizabeth_s (Elizabeth_s) on Friday, April 02, 2010 – 8:47 am:

See, knew I’d regret admitting it… and that’ll teach ME to second guess myself – and a known curmudgeon! And here I thought I was guiltily confessing to a mischievous mind… when all along it was someone ELSE’s.

Since I’m here – I’m curious as to how certain venues luck out on scoring an author event (apologies if that’s been covered and my obviously senescent brain – as evidenced above – isn’t recalling). How much of it is the venue being contacted by the publicist for an opportunity and how much the reverse of that, the venue asking the publicist for an appearance? Beyond proximity and convenience of timing (say, a convention or festival occurring at an opportune time), what helps shape the decision where to send an author? e.g. expected audience turn-out, amount of exposure generated? I wonder if budgetary constraints in this economy and the current publishing world have seriously curtailed how much a publisher is willing to take the risk that the outlay is worth it.

By Elizabeth_s (Elizabeth_s) on Sunday, April 04, 2010 – 5:49 pm:

Good news: in addition to Book City, mentioned above (which carries Canadian editions), there is now another channel through which to get signed and personalized copies of UNDER HEAVEN. U.S. editions may be purchased through The Signed Page’s website: http://signedpage.com/?p=258

By Timo (Timo) on Friday, April 09, 2010 – 7:38 am:

So, when is the next book due? 🙂

By Emilie Bee (Emilie) on Monday, April 12, 2010 – 9:41 pm:

Regarding the Gabriel Garcia Marquez bio quote: really amusing, how this similar point of view comes from an entirely inversed perspective — an inversed take on how to approach storytelling, on some levels.

By Timo (Timo) on Tuesday, April 13, 2010 – 4:49 am:

Interesting thing about Marquez, a few years back I picked his A Hundred Years of Solitude with an idea that it would be nice to read high-quality non-fantasy for a change. But the book is really a fantasy book! In you consider the amount of supernatural, it is no less fantasy than, e.g., Mosaic. As to the fantasy interpretation of history in Mosaic, I’m pretty sure the Solitude is not an accurate historical document, either.

By Firinneach on Wednesday, April 14, 2010 – 1:48 pm:

Date Night and Clash of the Titans, eh?

The best I can come up with is both protagonists begin their adventures under mistaken identities.

Or how about Steve Carell stars in Date Night, but was also in Bruce Almighty, which…um…deals with gods and humans messing with each other…which….yeah, I’ve got nothing.

Enjoy the launch!

By Elizabeth_s (Elizabeth_s) on Wednesday, April 14, 2010 – 2:41 pm:

Hmm, well, let’s see now… Clash of the Titans has two actors (Gemma Arterton and Mads Mikkelsen)… both of whom have been in a James Bond film with Daniel Craig… and well, who wouldn’t want to go out on a Date Night with Daniel Craig? There you go, it’s obvious! Wait, what was the original question again?…

By madelejm on Wednesday, April 14, 2010 – 2:44 pm:

They are both very hyped films that are getting really, really, really bad reviews. I’m glad the audiences are at least getting to see a wonderful trailer for a great book before they have their expectations shattered by a dismal film-going experience.


PS I am still going to see Clash of the Titans, but not in 3D and I was never going to see the other one – comedies almost never make me laugh and I don’t bother to see them in the theatre.

By BOB (Anstett) on Wednesday, April 14, 2010 – 4:24 pm:

They are both distributed by Forum Cinemas


at least if you are in the Baltic States :-)

By Elizabeth_s (Elizabeth_s) on Wednesday, April 14, 2010 – 7:47 pm:

Good news for U.S. fans on the West Coast – new tour dates have been added to the Readings and Screenings page.

And here’s another helpful site listing events and other information on GGK (and numerous other authors): http://www.booktour.com/author/guy_gavriel_kay

By Timo (Timo) on Thursday, April 15, 2010 – 5:37 am:

Obviously (this is rather bold statement for an educated guess, but here I go), both the Date Night and Clash of Titans take place under heaven! The other obvious link between the two is that I have seen neither.

By miriam smith (Miriam) on Thursday, April 15, 2010 – 7:16 am:

Well, Clash of the Titans is fantasy/myth and Date Night is a Romance genre. The trailer reaches two different audience types for a crossover effect.

By Robin_of_lox (Robin_of_lox) on Thursday, April 15, 2010 – 11:42 pm:

I would say that the common link between Date Night and Clash of the Titans is that Liam Neeson does not act in either.



By Elizabeth_s (Elizabeth_s) on Friday, April 16, 2010 – 8:54 am:

Some good news for those who are unable to attend a book tour event like last night’s official launch – Penguin Canada and GGK have thoughtfully provided at least part of the experience… an audio recording of GGK reading the opening Chapter of UNDER HEAVEN – http://www.guygavrielkay.ca/links_and_downloads.html#guyreads

By Emilie Bee (Emilie) on Friday, April 16, 2010 – 12:22 pm:

Just to confirm: Blue Metropolis is the only event in Montréal and/or Québec, right? I don’t think I can make that one — weeknight, out of town — so I thought I would check.

I imagine an additional event or two might be planned when Alire’s French edition comes out in a few months… I think the Alire editor noted fall 2010 as the possible publication for their translation, but my memory might be failing.

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Friday, April 16, 2010 – 12:27 pm:

Blue Met is only reading event. There’ll be some media, but that is different.


By Simon Fraser (Simonsays) on Friday, April 16, 2010 – 12:58 pm:

One of the things I really like about early audio recordings is the ability (for me) to ensure I have some of the pronunciations correct in my head. It’s a niggling point for the most part (heck, GGK doesn’t get bent out of shape over it), and no truly important element of the story would really be lost if I ended up saying Li-Mei as “Beatrice”. It’s one less distraction, though, to have certain uncertainties put to rest.

I’ve been correct in everything I heard in the recording Smarty linked, but would I also be correct in assuming that “Qin” is pronounced “chin”? I think that’s the only one left that makes me question it every time I read it.

Not that I obsess over these things. Noooooo, sir.


By Paula Servin (Paula) on Friday, April 16, 2010 – 4:00 pm:

It was a lovely evening, with (always the reason I attend) a compelling and evocative reading from the first chapter. Jared Bland and GGK played easily off each other with excellent discussion (outside of sport and scotch) on the how and why of writing Under Heaven, poetry in that era, including its role, and its inspiration and creation in the book, as well as how the walls between literary genres are breaking down. And I suspect the length of the line of signature seekers kept the the library open beyond its usual hours!

It was a capacity audience, clearly, with a number of library patrons surrounding the atrium also privy to the event. Miriam, Loni and I constituted a small BW delegation, though I suspect there were others there as well.

From an audience perspective, it was altogether an excellent launch. And may the rest of the tour follow with that lead.


By Stephen Saunders (Swsaunders) on Friday, April 16, 2010 – 7:27 pm:

Lean? Hungry? I’m as harmless as a newborn babe, me.

The depiction of Jared’s interview has worried me, in that he’s set the bar high. I have no long list of insightful questions prepared. I fear a long weekend of re-reading and note taking ahead, with questionable results.

By Madelejm (Madelejm) on Friday, April 16, 2010 – 9:07 pm:

Well, I’m looking forward to the Frye Festival events next week. Easy for me since I only have to be in the audience watching. I’m sure you will be great, Stephen!


By vmouse on Friday, April 16, 2010 – 10:22 pm:

I had wanted to wind down a bit after my journey home from the big city last night for the book launch and was going to post a small note, but as Elizabeth has informed me, the site was in a lock down because of the huge amount of spamming going on. I know it’s going to be locked down again soon so I better get on with it 😛

I had forced myself to save the last 7 pages of Under Heaven to read on my train ride back to Ajax. Wow! Loved it!!

I am not articulate enough to express my thoughts, but they do mirror a lot of what has already been said here in the forums. I now want very much to express my gratitude. Listening to Mr. Kay read a passage from the book was a joy. Mr. Bland’s interview was interesting and entertaining. Paula has said all of this much better than I could hope to. Mr. Kay’s very gracious greeting when I got my book signed left me a babbling idiot (what can I say? I am extremely intimidated by rockstars of the literary kind!) Thank you for another wonderful book and for the extra memories I will have when I get around to all the re-reads.


By Paula Servin (Paula) on Saturday, April 17, 2010 – 11:18 am:

I’m sorry I missed seeing you there, Vicki. Maybe we should all have worn straw hats to spot each other?


By Lannes (Lannes) on Sunday, April 18, 2010 – 4:21 pm:

*Cries* Due to some stupid volcanoes I’m stuck in Europe and won’t be able to attend Mr. Kay in Montreal next week…Waaah!

By Terry (Terry) on Sunday, April 18, 2010 – 6:43 pm:

Does anyone know if the interview from the launch is available online?

By Timo (Timo) on Thursday, April 22, 2010 – 3:28 am:

…and here I thought it was about Silver Surfer.

By Kalimac (Kalimac) on Thursday, April 22, 2010 – 5:52 am:

Actually, I read somewhere that there is a Lone Ranger movie coming, with Johnny Depp playing Tonto…

By Stephen Saunders (Swsaunders) on Thursday, April 22, 2010 – 1:17 pm:

Guy is being kind/generous.

When prompted, he spoke a bit about the blurring of genre boundaries, and I forced him to bring in Ysabel as a gateway book (probably a mistake, as it required a bit of context for non-GGK readers).

He also talked about the difficulty in presenting a society with incredibly strict (and accepted) social/cultural requirements to a readership which lives, in many ways, in the opposite sort of society/culture. He mentioned how some of the poets and commentators he researched used to write about previous dynasties in a fictional/fantastical way in order to criticize their contemporary regime (which they couldn’t do directly), and drew a parallel to his own work in historical fantasy evoking truths that are relevant today. I got a few laughs when I logically extended the parallel and accused him of not wanting to criticize the Harper government directly (for fear of the Emperor’s wrath).

I tried to articulate another progression I’ve noticed through his canon, and he gave me an answer I didn’t expect (which was wonderful: to be surprised on-stage like that and have to deal with the ramifications of re-thinking while being observed by 30-some-odd people). I noted that, when introducing people to his work, I’ve warned them not only of a shift from high fantasy to historical fantasy, but also a shift in writing style (my anecdote, poorly told, involved re-reading the lyric and elegant language of Lions and starting Sarantium, reaching Carullus, and having to start the book over because the soldier’s brash and profane language jarred me out of unrecognized expectation so unexpectedly). Guy claimed this wasn’t so much of a progression/shift of style as yet another tool in his arsenal as a writer. The logical extension was that, had he wanted to write an earlier book that needed less lyrical and more abrasive language to promote its themes and tones, he would/could have done so. He also noted, to illustrate, that Last Light deals with harsh people in a harsh land, and that it contains more jagged language, shorter sentences, etc. The most lyric passages in that book are the passages that involve the faerie.

And, when asked “What do you want to say about the book, now that you have the opportunity?” he related the wonderful story which chronicles how the image/idea of Kuala Nor approached him.

June is right, I did have a stack of index cards. But surprisingly few questions on them, since I didn’t want to barrage him with questions oft overdone. Most of them just had doodles. Of ponies. Sardian ones.

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Thursday, April 22, 2010 – 3:14 pm:

Ah, yes the Chinese ‘king of flowers’…

Oh. Wait. Stephen typed ponies not peonies!

Never mind.

(Quick points – not quick ponies – for who gets that SNL reference and character first here.)


By Lauren (Lauren) on Monday, April 26, 2010 – 4:48 pm:

Fingers crossed for a visit to Kingston!

However… I have to admit, I think I may have caused a slight disturbance at the last reading (for Ysabel, in Toronto) I attended, and am therefore probably GGK’s only fan that can say I fainted during one of his readings. (And, thus, I learned that hypoglycemia cannot be fought with sheer willpower. It’s much easier to just get up and eat something.) I have to admit, this still makes me blush, so I will have to find my way to another reading to redeem myself. Plus I would like to attend a reading and actually remember it with something resembling clarity. :-)

By vmouse on Thursday, April 29, 2010 – 3:29 pm:

Did a quick search on the CBC website to find out what time the interview for Radio 1 would air, no luck in finding it…but…I did see that the CBC Studio One Book Club has a contest to win tickets for May 5th in Vancouver for anyone in that area.
Win Tickets


By Paula Servin (Paula) on Friday, April 30, 2010 – 11:00 am:

I think I can help out here. Shelagh Rogers hosts The Next Chapter on Saturdays at 4pm on CBC Radio 1. You can listen online as well. Perhaps the interview will be archived too? (as there are others on the site).


By Vmouse (Vmouse) on Friday, April 30, 2010 – 1:53 pm:

Thanks Paula :-) I was able to do a better search this morning and found the time as well, but things got hectic so I couldn’t post the time. I hope to catch it tomorrow but am keeping my fingers crossed they archive the interview just in case.

By Michael on Sunday, May 09, 2010 – 10:05 am:

Wonderful to see you down at the Capitola reading/interview last night, Guy! Far nicer, I’m sure, than it would have been in a hall with hundreds of others at the WFC, anyway! Thank you for your usual generosity of time. Now Joanne and I just need to complete the complex negotiations about who gets to read Under Heaven first!

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Sunday, May 09, 2010 – 12:25 pm:

On Mother’s Day, Michael, I don’t think you stand a chance.

Nice chatting with you both.


PS Journal post today if I can.

By Michael on Sunday, May 09, 2010 – 6:57 pm:

Not just an author, he’s a prophet as well! You’re right, Guy–on Mother’s Day, I’m sitting here on computer while Joanne’s curled up with a cup of tea and Under Heaven. I can’t imagine a better gift for her!

The dual-author format was interesting, if a bit constrained by the structure. We also bought a copy of the Odyssey book. A clever idea, and I enjoyed his take on the cyclops as Homer.

Good luck on the rest of the tour!

By Alan Kellogg on Wednesday, May 12, 2010 – 5:54 am:


My favorite bit by Radner was when she, as Emily Lutella, got all hot and bothered about presidential erections.

(If you, not just Guy, remember what I’m referring to, you win a fabulous no-prize!)

BTW, on Under Heaven. I’m trying to save up for a new iMac, would you cut it out?

By Alan Kellogg on Wednesday, May 12, 2010 – 6:02 am:

Almost forgot, I read your big idea over at Scalzi’s. Liked it and now I’m hoping Under Heaven will soon be in paperback so I can afford it.

Now imagine a world where the unpopular authors get published in hardback, and only popular writers get released in paperback.

By Victoria Dixon on Wednesday, May 12, 2010 – 4:25 pm:

First time postee, so please forgive me if I do this wrong or if I’m not supposed to do it here.

If anyone is interested in a review of Under Heaven, I received an ARC for that purpose and the review is up at http://ronempress.blogspot.com. No spoilers, I promise. That blog andhttp://historicalnovelreview.blogspot.com are hosting contests to give away two copies of the book.
Tomorrow, both blogs will feature different interviews with GGK, thanks to his generous response to my ramblings. :-)

By Robin_of_lox (Robin_of_lox) on Thursday, May 13, 2010 – 10:20 am:

Hi Victoria,

Thanks for the pointers. And welcome.



By Trent on Friday, May 14, 2010 – 7:06 am:

A GGK baseball novel? That is a fantastic idea. I find it becomes harder and harder to find really good sports writing in the age of the video highlight (even Sports Illustrated, which I always thought paired good writing with excellent photos, seems to be gradually working it’s way toward the sidebar and caption rather than feature pieces). And since I consider sport, when at it’s purest and best (big caveat there in the modern pro arena) to be one of the latter day equivalents of the mythical heroes, it seems a natural progression from historical myth. And what GGK could do with baseball, of all games. What do you say Guy? Want to go all Stephen King and bang out another book before October when the Yankess buy (I mean WIN, of course) another Series? Can’t call it Damn Yankees, that’s been used, but G** Damn Yankees should be okay.


By Melissa on Friday, May 14, 2010 – 9:36 pm:

I’m baa-aack…. Close the doors in the Long Wall and keep the Bogu out! Have now completed reading Under Heaven and enjoyed it very much. Sadly, this is not a report on how Ser Kay’s local readings went….

Due to a confluence of very inconvenient events involving cars and work, I was unable to attend Ser Kay’s reading at Kepler’s on May 9, as several weeks before I’d agreed to work that Sunday. Even though I got extra pay, I was so annoyed when I realized I couldn’t make it to the reading at Kepler’s and we were short staffed anyway, so I couldn’t duck out of it.

The straight dope is, at noon on May 5, my car was totaled when a truck merged off the freeway and into the freeway entrance lane I already occupied. I’m very impressed with Honda safety right now, as I walked away from that accident even though the poor car looked awful. (I’m achy and a little stiff, and inclined to some self-medication when at home in the evenings lately, but feeling lucky to be alive and not facing life as a quadriplegic.)

Anyhow, by Saturday, I was in no fit mental state to drive either over the notorious Highway 17 to Capitola, or up to San Francisco, on Monday. I will simply have to wait until Ser Kay’s next visit to get Under Heaven suitably autographed. But I was sorely disappointed to miss all Ser Kay’s local appearances so completely.

The more pleasant part of this story is that I now own a new-to-me Honda Civic as of today, that has all the features my poor deceased Scortius had.

Maybe I really shouldn’t have named that black Honda Scortius.

I’m still ruminating about Under Heaven, and will have more useful comments to make about it when I’ve digested it a bit better. I enjoyed it very much… and yet feel somehow that I wanted MORE of it.


By Emilie Bee (Emilie) on Friday, May 14, 2010 – 10:05 pm:

I think the two are consequential: you enjoyed it very much… AND SO you felt that you wanted more of it. 😉

PS. I had read about the accident. Very glad you made it out ok. :-) (And, alright, a near-death experience WILL work as an excuse out of official fanclub activities; you can retain your GGeek status for now. But don’t ever do it again!)

By Melissa Houle on Friday, May 14, 2010 – 11:57 pm:

Thank you so much, Emilie. I’ll do my best never to let down the GGeek side again, Ma’am. =o)

Nice to be able to post again.


By Kimberly (Kimberly) on Saturday, May 15, 2010 – 8:14 am:

So, Melissa, do you want to sue anybody? :-)

But seriously, I’m glad you’re all right. I had a near miss myself years ago, when my car skidded out of control on a highway entry ramp, and only avoided being hit due to the good driving skills of the oncoming truck driver, who swerved to avoid me. That was more than 10 years ago, and it can still give me the shakes to think about it. Do something nice for yourself and others to celebrate your good luck.

I’ve been trying to think of a suggestion for what you could name your new car, but nothing seems to fit. Nino, for instance, does not seem well omened.

By Trent on Saturday, May 15, 2010 – 8:53 am:

How about Vargos? Solid, dependable, works the roads, takes one from place to place safely, and lives a long and happy life blessed by two or more Gods.


By Melissa Houle on Saturday, May 15, 2010 – 1:52 pm:

Do I want to sue? No. If I’d been seriously injured and left permanently unable to care for myself as a result of the accident, I might consider it. The driver was a young guy, extremely contrite and nice. He’s probably sweating whether he’ll get to keep his job as he was driving for his employer at the time. He’s going to have this on his record for a while, too, which won’t do him any good. That seems a sufficient wake up call for him, to me.

Getting a nice new car seems a pretty nice thing, so far. :-) She handles a treat which makes me realize my old car was getting a little idiosyncratic, and would probably have needed a new clutch in the next year or two. I was so used to it, I’d stopped noticing it.

Yes, I think the new car is a she. She just gives off that vibe. (Is that too Californian of me?). But no name has occurred to me yet.


By Firinneach on Monday, May 24, 2010 – 1:57 pm:

I think I can see how the sense of repetition could be a worry for an author when doing interviews and such.

But–speaking for myself–from the reader/audience side of things I’d actually say such repetition isn’t much of a problem.

I often enjoy coming across an interview, review, etc that once again brings up a question or ancedote. Often I’ve either forgotten it and enjoy the refresher (some stories simply don’t get old) or can better appreciate a point or argument the second or third time around.

Also, I think there’s a real difference between hearing answers or stories in person with the author as opposed to having read them in an interview or even seen them in a video (though those are certainly better than nothing!).

I mean, I don’t think any reader would give up hearing a favourite author do a reading in person because they’d already listened to the author read their books on tape or online. Likewise, hearing Q&A’s in person–even if they’re questions and answers you’ve come across in one form or another before–simply have a different feel when hearing them in person.

Others can say if I’m alone in thinking this way, but I suspect I’m not.


By Emilie Bee (Emilie) on Monday, May 24, 2010 – 4:30 pm:

True. I also suspect that the majority of the audience will not have watched/read multiple interviews before attending a reading; and for the ones that did, it’s a different kind of experience, but still good: like hearing a relative’s well-known anecdote told to someone new… It’s still good fun — sometimes more so, because you know what’s coming!

Even if there’s no joke involved, if the discussion is more serious, it’s still a pleasure to hear it live. The “real” factor is not to be underestimated.

By Guy Gavriel Kay (Ggk) on Monday, May 24, 2010 – 4:37 pm:

Alec: “some stories simply don’t get old”

Oh, well then …

So there we all were in a bar in Covent Garden celebrating Deb’s visit back to London, and my visiting on tour. Nic Clarke (Now DOCTOR Nic) was having a drinking contest with Darren Nash that I had instigated. Martin Springett was sitting innocently at the table …


By Firinneach on Sunday, May 30, 2010 – 5:56 pm:

One (potential) aspect of history and historical fiction I’ve always enjoyed is getting a glimpse at different individual and cultural mindsets.

Of course, how well this is done depends greatly on the author/historian. After all, part of my interest comes from how difficult it is to comprehend just how much of our thinking and worldviews we take for granted as being natural to all people everywhere and everywhen.

One aspect of GGK’s books I’ve always appreciated is that various worldviews and mindsets are presented so naturally. Both in how they are woven into the story, but also in that it is down in such a way that the reader isn’t meant to feel superior in their thinking and understanding of the world. It seems many historical-inspired books read in such a way that it feels like “let me tell you about these stange, silly people and their quaint and outdated beliefs.”

Not that I think all worldviews and necessarily equal or all beliefs true, but if I’m reading a novel set in a culture where people believe matter-of-factly in the power of fox spirits or curse tablets or ring dives, then I appreciate that they are woven naturally and matter-of-factly into the story.

In regards to the last journal post, I must admit I’m less surprised at the revelation that GGK would know the lyrics to Family Guy as I am to learn that, given the content of the post, I can only deduce that the latest novel was really inspired by Turn, Turn, Turn (I assume the Dolly Parton cover version):

A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep

To everything
Turn, turn, turn
There is a season
Turn, turn, turn
And a time to every purpose under Heaven

By Elizabeth_s (Elizabeth_s) on Tuesday, June 08, 2010 – 10:15 am:

“…the degree to which the literary world is shifting towards a foregrounding of personality as a way of marketing and selling our books.”

So the curmudgeon gig has been a sales technique all along??…

Actually, it makes the examples of those who utterly refuse to dance the jig, or at least dance it to their own tune (e.g. Pynchon, Salinger, Lee) another interesting topic. Which may be one reason why going against the tide worked for them (or at least helped rather than hurt) – the reclusive pulling-away garnering increased interest in its own, backward way. Of course then the onus was on the work to really speak for itself. Perhaps an increasingly harder thing to do, given the growing tide of competing ‘voices’, amplified by the internet. I suspect many authors work hard to try and find a balance. And everyone has different comfort levels with regards to privacy. But for many readers at least a little mystery and distance is both intriguing and respected, even appreciated. (if nothing else than for being saved from TMI.) Another reason space can be important?

Because there’s the flip issue of how increased exposure and accessibility (that TMI mentioned) can be a sales risk – when an author’s personality (or behavior, or political stances) are made more public and cost them readers, who can then have a hard time separating the work from the creator. (same thing has happened for me with a few actors, though sometimes they still surprise me). Video killed the radio star… (actually, knowing anything about an author can affect the reading experience – some female authors deliberately chosing male-sounding or non-gender-specific noms de plume for this very reason).

Also, anyone else amused at the synchronicity for this year’s World Scholar’s Cup? Talk about timing!!


By Elizabeth_s (Elizabeth_s) on Thursday, June 24, 2010 – 8:12 am:

No idea if there will be any overlap (i.e. concurrent if not duplicate posting) with the journal here, but for those interested, GGK is currently guest-blogging on Babel Clash, Borders’ SF&F blog, for the next two weeks – http://bordersblog.com/scifi/ . Some interesting discussion responses in comments there.

By Jayson Merryfield (Wolfe_boy) on Thursday, July 01, 2010 – 4:05 pm:

Alas! Another tour journal come and gone again!

Thanks very much for the indulgence of allowing us some insights into the books release. Very enlightening (and amusing, it must be said).

By Emilie Bee (Emilie) on Friday, July 02, 2010 – 7:22 am:

Thank you.

By Firinneach on Friday, July 02, 2010 – 3:41 pm:

Always enjoy these so much.

It’s funny, on one hand they seem to be over before you know it, and on the other hand, looking back, it’s amazing how much time has passed and how much has been covered since the beginning. It feels like the cover design challenge was a couple books tours ago!

The guest posts were also a nice addition.


By Madelejm (Madelejm) on Tuesday, July 06, 2010 – 9:09 am:

I’ve often wondered what it is like to pick up a book that has been out for awhile and get to read one of these journals in one big chunk long after the fact.

I like reading the entries as they come and the anticipation of the new book being released, but it means I can’t ever have that other experience.

I’m grateful to GGK, the guest contributors and my fellow denizens for making the lead up to Under Heaven’s release not just more bearable, but also really enjoyable. I’m also thrilled that NB finally was a stop on the book tour.



By Jc (Jc) on Sunday, October 10, 2010 – 3:14 pm:

Just finished my second reading of UH. Do some of you agree that the language is the most beautifully done of any of GGk’s books so far. He has grown so far for the Tapestry he is a new man. I thought nothing could beat Tigana but I have to say this one is gold all the way. Thanks and well done you GGK.

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