Welcome Readers, Alchemists, and Potential Initiates!

Latest Update: January 1, 2018. Close Up CoverFlaw in the Stone RGB Final Cover

Welcome to News from Council Dimension, a blog focused on The Alchemists’ Council.

From the HOME/BLOG page scroll upward to access MENU items (including BOOK REVIEWS) or downward to read the latest BLOG posts. Scroll to the bottom of the HOME/BLOG page to access the OLDER POSTS, ARCHIVES, and SEARCH.

Click here to learn to pronounce the CHARACTERS’ NAMES.

Click here to learn about the symbolism of the COUNCIL LOGO.

Click these links to read a few of my favourite blog entries: The Amber GardenFrom Pen to Parchment, andThe Bunny Poem and Other Juvenilia.

If you have a QUESTION about the book, feel free to ask it in the comment area of this pinned post. Or click CONTACT to send me a note–I enjoy hearing from readers!

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Long live the Quintessence!

I live as the Flaw in the Stone!

#PortalPics from the Final Days of 2017

Pendant Sized Flaw CloseUpThough I have remained in Nanaimo over the holidays working, among other things, on The Amber Garden (yes, Book Three is underway), the ARC of Book Two continues its 2017 travels through dimensional portals.

Here, for example, we find The Flaw in the Stone at the headwaters of the Amazon–that’s headwaters not headquarters, of the river not the bookstore! Thank you, Tamy, for this glorious pic from Peru! (I have since been informed that a Rebel Branch stronghold is located within a few miles of this scenic locale.)

Peru with ARC (from Tamy)

Shortly thereafter, two #PortalPics from Jamaica arrived in my inbox thanks to “Reader Rodney”! Jamaica with ARC (from Rod) 2

Jamaica with ARC from Rod 1

Based on both the Peruvian and Jamaican photo evidence, I hypothesize that The Flaw is being drawn toward water. Though this attraction makes sense elementally, caution must prevail. In order to balance the alchemical elements in 2018, I therefore solicit pictures of The Flaw within reasonable proximity of fire. Otherwise, as Sadira well knows, dimensional chaos may ensue. (See Chapter Three of The Flaw for details.)

To compensate until the arrival of 2018 #PortalPics, we will assume that Fen (our latest #DimensionDog) is lounging beside a nearby elemental hot spot.

Fen From Chelsea 2017

Have a Happy New Year, one and all! (“One and all”–get it? If not, read the books!)


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Holiday Alchemy 2017

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Happy Holidays!

If you’ve been reading this blog, you already understand the importance of bees to The Alchemists’ Council. Here are two recent seasonal photos, both of which feature bee embroidery. One is of my favourite holiday ornament; the other features my new footwear, which a friend immediately dubbed “alchemy shoes!”

Bee Shoes

Content Warning

As I posted last month, Advance Reading Copies of The Flaw in the Stone began to circulate during November’s World Fantasy Convention. Along with the bees, December therefore brought with it a few early reviews. My heartfelt gratitude extends not only to Frances (at materfamilias reads) but also to Brenda, Rebecca, and Jason (at Goodreads).

Needless to say, I greatly appreciate each of these reviews, but I’d like to draw attention to one in particular. Last month, Jason Henry contacted me via Goodreads to offer feedback on a review written by someone who hadn’t yet read The Alchemists’ Council (i.e. Book One in the series). He asked whether he could attain an ARC of The Flaw in the Stone (Book Two) in order to review it from the perspective of a reader who had enjoyed the first book. The resulting detailed and thoughtful review contains a passage that I adore — so much so that I plan to frame it for my office wall:

Content Warning 2Yes, readers, Jason’s description is accurate: alchemical baby-making is indeed crucial to the plot of Book Two! As with most alchemical practices of The Alchemists’ Council series, this one is a revision / adaptation of a concept from real-world alchemy: the alchemical homunculus. Alchemists of the outside world may never have succeeded at creating miniature human beings in the laboratory. However, according to The Flaw in the Stone, certain Rebel Branch alchemists have discovered a manuscript containing a potentially world-changing recipe: “Formula for the Conception of the Alchemical Child.”

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SOURCE: http://www.alchemywebsite.com/Emblems_Donum_Dei_1582.html

If you’d like to see what the rebels do with this knowledge, please place your pre-order of Book Two at ECW Press or at your favourite online bookstore. Publication is in March!

Council Cats and Dimension Dogs

December has also brought with it the first #CouncilCats and #DimensionDogs pics of Flaw! Thank you Tamy and Chelsea for these wonderful shots!

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Here I must again thank and acknowledge materfamiliasreads, this time for the #DimensionDog featured at the beginning of her review:

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If you would like to submit a #CouncilCats or #DimensionDogs pic, please contact me for details.

Happy holidays and happy reading everyone!


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From Academic Article to Fantasy Novel

A&H YouTube ScreenCap via Picasa

Back in September 2016, as part of Vancouver Island University’s Arts and Humanities Colloquium Series, I presented a lecture entitled “From Academic Article to Fantasy Novel: Medieval Alchemy and The Alchemists’ Council.” Thanks to VIU and the Media Research Lab, that presentation is now available on YouTube. Thanks specifically to Harlen Bertrand, the recently uploaded version has been reedited so that all the slides/images are visible.

The video begins with introductions to VIU and the Colloquium Series by Timothy Lewis (Professor of History) and Ralph Nilson (President of Vancouver Island University). These words of welcome are followed by a brief introduction to my presentation by Marni Stanley (Professor of English). I then begin speaking shortly after the 14-minute mark.

My talk opens with an introduction to alchemy in general. I then discuss a few specifics of my academic work, especially regarding alchemy. Thereafter, I outline several key alchemical concepts (including the alchemical hermaphrodite) that I transformed from my academic study of medieval alchemy into the fictional world of The Alchemists’ Council. Along the way I read several brief passages from Book One (The Alchemists’ Council) and preview a passage from Book Two (The Flaw in the Stone).

My hope is that those people interested in alchemy and/or the world and concepts of The Alchemists’ Council trilogy will enjoy watching and learning more about alchemical images, manuscripts, and texts–the facts and the fictions.

Click here to reach the entire VIU Colloquium Series page. Or click here to reach my presentation.

A&H YouTube ScreenCap


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Adventures at World Fantasy Con 2017

 

ProgramMy first experience at World Fantasy Con truly was fantastic! I enjoyed every moment! Attending panels, hearing authors read, wandering around the art displays, and talking with various writers, publishers, and other people interested in fantasy literature were pleasures through and through.

The CrowdsOne highlight was the opportunity to meet folk who stopped by to chat at either Friday night’s “signature event” or the ECW booth throughout the convention. Special thanks to the people who came to my reading of The Flaw in the Stone Saturday–a small but enthusiastic group!

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Conversations with fellow writers Michael Wigington and Timothy Ray were both inspirational and delightful. Both of these generous authors provided me with one of their books, and Tim even gave me a second book to pass along to a colleague who teaches zombie literature at VIU. Thank you Michael for The Bloodstone Reckoning (Book One of The Earth Mother Saga) and Tim for both The Acquisition of Swords (Book One of the New Age Saga) and Charon’s Blight: Day One (Book One of the Rotting Souls series)!

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Spending time with David Caron and Jessica Albert, from ECW Press, was especially gratifying. Between events we shared stories and laughter, delicious Texan meals and San Antonio-style margaritas. One of our dinner-hour discussions notably brought us to develop a plot point for The Amber Garden (Book Three of The Alchemists’ Council).

David and Jessica

For those of you who picked up a copy of the ARC of The Flaw in the Stone at the convention (or elsewhere), keep in mind that the new book is a continuation of the story established originally in The Alchemists’ Council. So be sure to read (or re-read) The Alchemists’ Council (Book One) prior to venturing into The Flaw in the Stone (Book Two). In a future blog post I plan to expand on this topic, but for now let me simply say for readers to fully appreciate the characters, worlds, and ironies of Book Two, reading Book One first is paramount.

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Thank you ECW Press and World Fantasy Convention for making this adventure possible! And thank you, people of San Antonio, for hosting us all!

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World Fantasy Con 2017 Announcement

Hello Alchemists and Friends! I’m pleased to announce that I will be reading from The Flaw in the Stone at World Fantasy Convention 2017. In addition to attending the Friday night Signature Event, I will be signing books on Saturday morning (beginning at 11 a.m. at the ECW booth) and reading on Saturday afternoon (beginning at 3 p.m. in ExecSalon 3). If you attend WFC, please stop by and say hello–I’d love to meet readers!

WFC 2017 Banner

The Flaw in the Stone

After a summer of revising Book 2 and writing (as much as possible of) Book 3, the new academic year is upon us. For now, I must set aside the fantasy writing and turn my attention to teaching courses in medieval literature and composition.

But today, before venturing into The Canterbury Tales, I wanted to announce that Book 2 will be published in March (with ARCs available within the next few months to reviewers). Until then, here’s the cover image followed by a brief teaser from the Prologue. I’ll be back here with updates as soon as possible!

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From the Prologue to The Flaw in the Stone:

Genevre trembled. Once again, she removed a piece of glass from her pocket, reopening her wound for the second time. She held her bleeding finger above the first folio while applying pressure with her thumbnail to ensure the release of large drop of blood. At first nothing happened as the blood hit the page, and she suddenly feared the repercussions if anyone were able to trace the manuscript defacement to her. But, as the minutes passed, the folio began to bear forth its message. The illumination emerged first, rendered in dark crimson and gold. It featured what appeared to be a small being within an ancient alembic, or some kind of transparent vessel. Shortly thereafter, a few words appeared above the image. Their size, style, and placement suggested they formed a title, but Genevre could not read the ancient script in which the words were written.

“Congratulations.”

Genevre spun around. Dracaen stood directly behind her.

“You have done what no High Azoth, including myself, has ever managed to do. Your bloodline alchemy truly is extraordinary.”

Genevre blushed, ashamed at being caught but simultaneously proud of her accomplishment.

“You are no mere outside world scribe,” continued Dracaen. “But neither are you, as yet, an alchemist — rebel or otherwise. Thus, as High Azoth of the Rebel Branch, I must ask you to leave this chamber immediately.”

“But—”

“We will return here together one day, but for now — for your own safety and that of the entire Flaw dimension — you must leave and allow the manuscript to mature.”

“I don’t understand.”

“One by one, over the years — three decades if the scriptural enigmas have been correctly interpreted — the words and illuminations on each folio will emerge. We cannot risk contaminating the sacred process with our impatience.”

“At least tell me what these words say.” She pointed to the letters inscribed above the image of the alembic, now fully revealed and spectacularly vivid on the first folio.

Dracaen moved closer to the manuscript. He smiled and sighed. “Finally.”

“Finally?”

Finally, the Rebel Branch has gained an advantage over the Alchemists’ Council. Even if you choose to leave us on your Day of Decision, today you have repaid our hospitality beyond measure. The Rebel Branch will be forever grateful. With this manuscript, our greatest potential has begun to manifest.”

“What do the words say?”

“Roughly . . .” Dracaen began but then paused as if pondering the best translation of the manuscript’s title. He announced it solemnly: “Formula for the Conception of the Alchemical Child.”


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Summertime Stories 2017

This afternoon I had one of the best experiences I’ve ever had as author of The Alchemists’ Council thanks to the people at Nanaimo Association of Community Living. As described on its website, “NACL is committed to removing the barriers faced by individuals with a developmental disability.”

When facilitator Robin Erickson asked the participants in her Career Exploration group what people they would like to interview about careers, one creative member suggested “an author of a fantasy novel.” Not knowing if she could find such a person in Nanaimo, Robin told her group she would nonetheless try. A fortunate Google search led her to me!

NACL Group Photo
Left to right: Cynthea, Tina, Dustin, Jeremy, and (front) Stephen

Robin’s group comprises five people, four of whom joined us today: Tina, Dustin, Jeremy, and Stephen. The questions posed by the group were extraordinarily thorough and interesting. They ranged from basic (such as “What inspired you to write the book?”) to complex (such as “What is the most difficult part about being an author?”) to pleasantly unique (such as “Do you read with your glasses on?”). Today’s interview was one of the most thought-provoking I’ve ever had the pleasure to experience. I extend my gratitude to everyone involved for welcoming me to the Career Exploration session!

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In other book news . . . most of the summer thus far has been spent working on edits of Book 2 (The Flaw in the Stone) and writing the initial chapters of Book 3 (The Amber Garden). However, in June, I had the opportunity to travel to Ontario, where I met with various people associated directly and indirectly with The Alchemists’ Council.

My first stop was at ECW Press itself, which is nestled amidst a variety of eclectic shops and colourful murals on Gerrard Street East (near Broadview Avenue) in Toronto.

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Featured here are photos of the building, its mural, and me with publisher David Caron. David and I enjoyed a leisurely chat over tea and muffins about the books and various related topics. I always appreciate our discussions!

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Later that day I met with Bridget Wareham, the reader of The Alchemists’ Council audiobook. Last year, when she was in the midst of recording the book, we chatted on the phone several times–particularly in regard to the pronunciation of character names and alchemical terms! But this visit was the first one in person. I absolutely loved meeting her, and I look forward to our paths crossing again.

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You may be interested to know that, in addition to recording audiobooks, Bridget is a screen and television actor. To learn more about her most recent film, Hunting Pignut, check out the film’s Facebook page or click on the image of the film’s poster.

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Another highlight of my Toronto trip was an impromptu visit to Bakka-Phoenix Books. While checking to see if they carried The Alchemists’ Council–which I was happy to find they did–I had the good fortune to chat with author Leah Bobet.

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Leah’s lastest book, An Inheritance of Ashes, has had great reviews, including this one: Quill & Quire Review.

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A second author I had the pleasure to meet on this trip was Randal Graham. He is another ECW Press novelist, whose book Beforelife is about to the hit the shelves.

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Our editor, Jen Hale, now refers to us as her two professor authors who write about eternity. (Randal works at Western University, and I work at Vancouver Island University.) The three of us enjoyed a delicious lunch in London, Ontario, and talked about everything from academia to Buffy the Vampire Slayer. (Of course, I often talk with academics about Buffy; however, unlike Jen and I, Randal has never been to Slayage. Well, not yet . . . but the 2018 conference awaits!)

Beforelife

On one final note about connections with other authors, I’ve recently had the pleasure to correspond with Dee Willson, who won the Kobo Emerging Writer Prize in the Genre Fiction (Speculative Fiction) category for her novel A Keeper’s Truth. Dee and I were both nominated for that award, and I sincerely congratulate her on the win. (If you’d like to see all the nominated authors and their books, click here.)

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Finally, thank you again to the Independent Publisher Book Awards! In addition to the gratitude I expressed in my previous post about the award, I must say that I love the visual coincidence of a gold medal on the cover of a book about alchemy.

Long live the Quintessence!

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Gratitude

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The Alchemists’ Council has recently won an Independent Publisher Book Award–specifically, the Gold Medal for Fantasy. Thank you, Independent Publishers! Congratulations to all the other medalists, especially David Waid and Russell C. Connor, whose books won the Silver and Bronze in Fantasy.

If you would like to learn more about the awards and see the winning books in all categories, click on either of the images in this post.

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During this time of gratitude, I would also like to extend my sincere thanks to all the readers who have supported Book 1 since its publication last year. You will be pleased to know I am currently working with my editor on revisions to Book 2: The Flaw in the Stone. And, just last week, I wrote the opening passages to Book 3: The Amber Garden.

Long live the Quintessence!


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The Alchemists’ Pendants

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The pendant featured above was given to me a few weeks ago by Cheryl Morrison, an avid Alchemists’ Council reader. She commissioned an artist to design this piece: a tree in the Amber Garden growing out of the Lapis. I gasped when I saw it and thanked her profusely. It truly epitomizes the spirit of the book. The Lapis therein even houses a flaw. Watching the light glisten through the amber, I stood astonished.

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According to Cheryl, the artist who made this gift not only listened to Cheryl’s description of the Amber Garden, but she later read the book herself while designing the pendant. She also read through this blog, including the post I wrote almost a year ago on the significance of amber.

If you would like to explore more of Hailey Sacree’s stunning pendant art, visit her Etsy shop or Facebook page for WOUND TO EARTH.

woundtoearthlogoCouncil Initiates may begin seeking their pendants here rather than making the journey to Santa Fe.

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Since writing the earliest notes that would eventually transform into Book One, I envisioned alchemists wearing pendants. In 2009, just as Jaden does near the end of Chapter Two, I purchased a pendant from a woman named Florence in Santa Fe. This exquisite piece of “blue turquoise flecked with black” inspired more than only a geographically specific scene. Thanks to this pendant, inspiration for specific Council pendants began. An alchemist’s pendant holds not only a fragment of the Lapis, but the accumulated power of the alchemist, without which one’s bond to the Council ends.

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I have written every passage of Books One and Two wearing the same pendant — one of elaborate silver repoussé wrapped around a green stone. Feeling its weight around my neck immediately transports me into the books’ multiple dimensions, into a state of mind conducive to writing. As a gift for my editor after we completed Book One, I chose an amethyst pendant. The stone is set back into the silver and boasts a streak of rebel red.

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pendant-ssThe silver and stone pendants worn by the alchemists may eventually outshine even the official Council logo as an overarching symbol of The Alchemists’ Council. If you are a potential Council or Rebel Branch Initiate, don’t worry — you will inevitably recognize your pendant when you cross its path.


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Happy New Year Alchemists & Rebels!

Welcome to 2017! On New Year’s Day, a friend sent me these two photos taken at the Crowfoot Chapters in Calgary, Alberta:

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Observing that The Alchemists’ Council continues to be spotted in the wild in the same general habitat as Martin’s Game of Thrones, I have been inspired to update readers on events of the past few months.

In August I participated in Nanaimo’s first GeekCon! Held at the downtown branch of the public library, the event drew numerous participants for its games and cosplay, alongside a small but enthusiastic audience for my reading. Thank you to Janis (not pictured) for dropping by to assist me with book sales. And thank you to audience members Meg, Eric, Brandon, Nalia, and Lee for your active participation! Reconnecting with Lee was particularly welcomed since he is a former student of mine from many years ago.

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In September, as a contributor to Vancouver Island University’s Arts and Humanities Colloquium Series, I spoke about the influence of my academic research and writing on my creative writing.

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Comprising detailed commentary and over 80 slides, this hour-long presentation was one of the most difficult I’ve had to prepare yet one of the most fulfilling I’ve had the pleasure to present. Specific topics included The Philosopher’s Stone, The Emerald Tablet, The Alembic, The Alchemical Tree, The Alchemical Hermaphrodite, and Conjunction. The event’s question period yielded numerous insightful inquiries from engaged audience members. Thank you to all who attended, including VIU President, Dr. Ralph Nilson.

For now I can offer only one photo taken by colleague and audience member Melissa Stephens. Note, however, that the A&H Colloquium Series is filmed, so I will be able to add a link when it’s available. [UPDATE: The video is now available at the bottom of the HOME/BLOG page. My presentation begins after approximately 14 minutes of introductory remarks by other people associated with VIU.]

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September 30, 2016, Malaspina Theatre (VIU, Nanaimo) / Photo Credit: Melissa Stephens

In October I submitted the first draft of the manuscript of Book 2 (The Flaw in the Stone) to ECW Press. Both my publisher (David Caron) and my editor (Jennifer Hale) have now read the manuscript and provided initial feedback–all positive so far. Editing will begin soon!

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Fall 2016 brought one other exciting turn of events: The Alchemists’ Council trilogy has been optioned for television. Though I won’t be providing details of this development until we move further along in the process, I will say that I have thoroughly enjoyed my communications with the CEO of the company in question. The first time we spoke on the phone, the conversation lasted almost two hours. Since then, we have exchanged various emails exploring the philosophy, worlds, and characters of the books. Stay tuned for updates throughout 2017.

As I discovered during the Fall 2016 semester, my day/night/weekend workload kept me from adding regular updates to News from Council Dimension. Since the fast-approaching Spring 2017 semester may yield similar results, this new post for the New Year became a priority today. Though I may not be able to post at length again until the semester’s end in May, I hope you will enjoy exploring past posts and links in the meantime.

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