Alchemy Crossing into 2021

As many of you know, I live in British Columbia, Canada. A few days before Christmas, I had commented to my aunt and uncle (who see eagles daily in Haida Gwaii) that I hadn’t seen an eagle for months in Nanaimo. Then, on Christmas Eve, one landed atop a nearby tree. I stood outside watching it for several minutes. To me, in light of the trying circumstances of 2020, the eagle’s reappearance after an extended absence in my life represented an inspirational omen: return and renewal.

News From Council Dimension has necessarily been on hold since March 2020 — my time having been diverted to prepare and teach online classes. As the weeks and months passed, the stress of 2020 moved me further and further away from activities that used to calm me: writing, reading, beading, puzzles. Consequently, after the second of two 2020 surgeries, I spent my downtime playing Animal Crossing — a hobby introduced to me by my friend Tami. By the end of the year, I had logged hundreds of hours building an elaborate new world.

My Animal Crossing character is named Cedar. My island is named Genevre. Both Cedar and Genevre are major characters in my most recent Alchemists’ Council book: The Amber Garden. Gradually but inevitably, my creative endeavour of building a new world in Animal Crossing became replete with elements drawn from my previously imagined world of Council dimension. Notably, both Animal Crossing and Alchemists’ Council became abbreviated as “AC” in texts sent to me by friends, one of whom is my primary editor. Thus, many a message in 2020 led to my momentary confusion: “AC today?” Perhaps my new world was a twist on the old.

If you’ve read The Amber Garden, you know its premise: the dimensions are disintegrating due to the equivalent of an alchemical plague, culminating in 2020. Yes, the choice of ending the trilogy in 2020 was intentional given that I knew the book would be published in 2020. But I had submitted the original manuscript in 2018 and, thereafter, spent a year on various editing stages. The Advance Reading Copy was printed in Fall 2019. In other words, the parallel between the plague of 2020 within Council dimension and that in our own world is a mere coincidence — or so most alchemists would have you believe. Certain Novillian Scribes, on the other hand, would claim that the synchronicities had been foretold within Lapidarian prophecies.

If you play Animal Crossing, you may already have been graced with the opportunity to attain a fragment of the Lapis — or, as outside world manuscripts call it, the Philosopher’s Stone (as pictured here with Cedar in the Highland Ritual Grove on the Isle of Genevre). Granted, you may have passed on that rare opportunity, choosing instead to await an authentic “Informative Statue.” Like all members of the Alchemists Council, only those players destined to become alchemists would have recognized the truth within the apparent forgery. “All that glitters…,” as Cedar or Ruis would have responded back in the day.

Rest assured, if you are destined for alchemical change, other opportunities will present themselves. Potentially, if you follow your AC dream to Genevre, alchemical secrets may be revealed to you within the sparkling remnants of the Amber Garden. (Masks, by the way, are optional but encouraged, especially for those whose blood has not yet been fortified by Lapidarian Elixir.) Alternatively, you could ask Scribe Cedar for a consultation with the Magistrates. If they deem you sufficiently dedicated to the Great Work of alchemy, they may invite you to attend a session or two at Genevre Elemental Magic School (aka GEMS).

As you may have guessed by this point, those hours playing the AC game with the AC series in mind led me not only through 2020 but also to an idea for my new book series — GEMS: Oceanic Division. Indeed, thanks to my game-play inspiration, virtual alchemical world building, and a new keyboard, I have again begun to write.

With this bee-themed, glow-in-the-dark keyboard (gifted to me recently by Tami and Johnny), I have written both this blog post and the first few lines of GEMS. As with any opening of a new manuscript, these initial words may change; indeed, the repetition of “different” already calls for alteration. But at least a few words now exist on the virtual page. And, as such, they offer a new beginning to Council dimension’s ancient world.

With these opening lines recorded, I have found faith in the alchemical Initiates of Genevre Elemental Magic School. Rest assured, both ancient and novice scholars will work diligently at GEMS as they search for a means to rebuild the world — the world that (literally on occasion) crushed their ancestors in 2020. And if they prove unable to “save the world” (as the expression goes), they will work together to construct a new one.

Speaking of dedicated scholars, I must express gratitude to my IRL students from Fall 2020 who excelled beyond measure. In particular, their final essays were utterly brilliant. Thus I will be heading into the new semester with fond memories of the extraordinary students from my first online classes: Mel and Hailey, Suki and Cassie, Elise and Anandita, Daniel and Isaiah, Jeffrey and Mike, Sarima, and Ziera, Jeremy, Emily, Taylor, Hanna, Ashley, Stefania, Naman, and so many others. These students come to mind as I write this blog post because of their enthusiastic determination. During a semester cloaked in the shadow of Covid, these young scholars renewed my faith that world can indeed be renewed through creative ingenuity.

If Spring 2021 is anything like Fall 2020, I likely won’t have time to blog again for several months. Nonetheless, between now and the end of term, I hope to write at least a bit more of GEMS, a project on which I will report back to you in the summer. Until then, take care, stay safe, read what you like, and build what inspires you.

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The Amber Garden Book Launch

Hello Fellow Alchemists!

Today I offer you two alchemy-related videos for your viewing pleasure during the new world order.

First, given current self-isolation protocols, I’ve opted to make a short video in lieu of a face-to-face book launch for next week’s official publication of The Amber Garden. If you would like a preview of the book via my reading of two brief passages, click here.

Second, yesterday I uploaded an online lecture (for my Medieval Literature course at Vancouver Island University) on Chaucer’s Canon’s Yeoman’s Tale and alchemy. If you would like to learn more about Chaucer and/or alchemy, grab a copy of The Canterbury Tales and follow along with my students by clicking here.

Third, on a final note, thank you to everyone who read an Advanced Reading Copy of The Amber Garden and posted a review on Goodreads! I am truly grateful for your support.

Long live the Alchemical Tree! Keep well!


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Change Your Story: Alchemical Text as Philosopher’s Stone

Happy New Year!

For my first blog entry of the new year—and for the first time ever on News from Council Dimension—I’ve recorded a video rather than writing a post. In this twenty-minute segment, I introduce the concept of the alchemical text as the philosopher’s stone. Then, via quotations from The Amber Garden (Book Three of The Alchemists’ Council series), I discuss the interrelated concepts of language, narration, and writing or rewriting your story as a means to transform both the dimension(s) and the self. After watching, let me know which blog format you prefer.

If today’s video ignites your desire to learn more about the alchemical concepts I used in The Alchemists’ Council, here’s a link to my 2016 presentation on the topic: “From Academic Article to Fantasy Novel: Medieval Alchemy and The Alchemists’ Council.” (Note: In this 2016 YouTube video, the main presentation begins at the 14-minute point.)

Long live the Alchemical Tree!


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Autumn 2018 Key Chains and More

Hello again Alchemists, Rebels, and Readers! Today’s post comprises brief news items, which I’m uploading between marking sets of university midterms.

Thanks to Sarah at BytheBookBoutique, my keys are now sporting an Alchemists’ Council library catalogue key chain, which I custom ordered from her shop on Etsy. My correspondence with Sarah, the artist and shop owner, was delightful. The key chain’s quality and functionality is excellent, with the clip having proven repeatedly useful.

Key Chain Enlight

BytheBookBoutique offers a variety of library book options (both literary and historical) in a range of designs (necklaces, bookmarks, and more). Here, for example, is a Brown v Board of Education necklace.

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I was particularly happy to hear from Sarah that both The Alchemists’ Council and The Flaw in the Stone are available through her local branch of the Chicago Public Library. As of today, all copies are still in use; thus, I assume they currently reside either with Sarah or another Chicagoan! Thank you Chicago!

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Sarah’s comment prompted me to check other American libraries to see whether they carried the books. To my utter delight (as someone living and working in a small Canadian town), several do! I certainly enjoyed learning that Book One has been signed out multiple times at the 42nd Street branch of the New York Public Library. Thank you New York City!

NYCLibraryF18On a final note to this brief seasonal post, I want to express gratitude to two recent book reviewers. First, thank you to Christina Paige for her creative and detailed review from September 2018. How could I not smile at the phrase “compared to Tolkien”? To read Paige’s full review, click on the Amazon image.

Amazon PAIGE F18 Drop ShadowAnd, second, thank you to Matthew Rettino for his nuanced review of The Flaw in the Stone. I especially admire his close reading of the historical allusions, as depicted in the excerpt below. To read Rettino’s full review, click on the excerpt’s image.

Rettino Book 2 F18As to Book Three of The Alchemists’ Council — The Amber Garden — the first full draft has been submitted. My editor and I will be working on the manuscript over the next year, heading toward a release date in 2020.

Have a colourful autumn filled with plentiful reading time!


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Time & Travel: Summer 2018

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Here we are once again–the summer almost over, and the new semester about to begin. As of next week, I will return to full-time teaching (and all related activities) at VIU. But, today, I will take the opportunity to update readers on book-related summer news!

My primary focus over the past few months has been the completion of the manuscript for THE AMBER GARDEN (Book Three of The Alchemists’ Council). Since this volume represents the final installment of the trilogy, its construction has proven the most challenging of the series for me. All threads from the first two books had to be brought together here. Given the myriad characters and hundreds of years involved in the plot of this series, detailed charting became an ongoing necessity. The photo below depicts a segment of the 18-page timeline document.

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To make timeline consistency even more complex, Book Three involves multiple time-travel scenes. Consequently, over the next few weeks, I plan to reread Books One and Two, checking yet again for continuity issues. If only I could employ some bloodline time-manipulation alchemy to provide myself a few more weeks of uninterrupted reading!

Flaw Working Copy

Earlier this month, during a two-week trip to Ontario, I had the pleasure of meeting Okiki Kendall. Okiki is the person who will be narrating the audio version of The Flaw in the Stone. We spent the better part of a day together discussing the book, the pronunciation of character and manuscript names, and some of our personal philosophies related to subject matter of the series. I feel very fortunate and grateful that ECW found such a talented vocal artist to be Book Two’s narrator. At last report, Okiki had finished the initial recording sessions, which means the audiobook should be available sometime this fall.

Okik at ECW2

Of course, visiting Toronto also provided me the opportunity to meet with other ECW folk, including David Caron (Publisher) and Jessica Albert (Digital Production Manager and Art Director). Our conversations ranged in subject matter from Scrabble strategies to Book Three plot points–all while sipping iced-tea at Rooster Coffee House on Broadview and enjoying delicious BBQ at Beach Hill Smokehouse on Main. During my visit, Jessica was also featured live on CBC Radio to discuss the growing popularity of audiobooks. Click here to listen to her interview.

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The Toronto visit also allowed me time to stop by the Riverdale branch of the Toronto Public Library, where I found Book Two, complete with a maple-leaf sticker. (Yeah Canadian writers!) Though I consider The Alchemists’ Council series to be fantasy, I gathered that various genres of speculative fiction are labelled as “Science Fiction” here. Frankly, I am pleased that The Alchemists’ Council books are available at Toronto libraries no matter their designation!

Riverdale

Back home on Vancouver Island, during a stroll through the Nanaimo Night Market, I was fortunate to find an item representative of Book Three: a bee on a timepiece! This beautiful pendant was fashioned by artisans at Long Lake Studio in Nanaimo. Click here to be directed to their Etsy page, where you will find numerous delightful pieces of eclectic jewellery.

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Of course, shortly after returning to town, I also dropped by Nanaimo Chapters to sign the store’s latest copies of Flaw in the Stone. If you live locally and want to pick up a signed copy, please do!

Chapters Stickers

I hope the upcoming season is a positive and productive one for us all–professors, students, writers, and readers alike! Feel free to write to me if you have any questions about the books. Meanwhile, Long live the Quintessence!

ECW B&W Photo taken outside ECW Press in Toronto

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