Time & Travel: Summer 2018

Clock

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.

BH BW

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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Slayage, “The Hive,” and The Alchemists’ Council

Close Up

Last week I took a break from writing Book Two of The Alchemists’ Council to attend the ‘Euro’Slayage Conference on the Whedonverses in London, UK. If you are a fan of Joss Whedon, you likely already know about Slayage. If not, let me simply say for now that Slayage is a conference that brings together both fans and scholars to present academic papers and round table discussions on all things Whedon. Since first attending in 2006, I would name Slayage (in its various incarnations) as significant highlights of my life. Attending the conference and reconnecting with all my friends every two years fills me with utter joy.

If you would like to learn more about this year’s conference, here is a brief article, including a few details about Michael Starr who, among other contributions to the conference, designed 2016’s fabulous poster:

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From my perspective, Slayage is integrally connected to The Alchemists’ Council. Joss Whedon changed my life as both a scholar and a writer; among other things, he taught me the inherent value of the fantasy genre. And my work in Whedon Studies over the years was a major influence on my decision to write the book. Most significantly, though, I met Jennifer Hale at Slayage in 2008. Jen not only recommended the book to ECW Press in 2014, but ended up becoming its editor. Indeed, it was at Slayage 2014 in Sacramento that she informed me ECW had accepted the book for publication. What a pleasure to be able to attend Slayage 2016 and explore London with her only a few months after the book came out! Here we are enjoying yet another fantasy world a few days before the conference began:

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Onward now to “The Hive”! Given the prominence of bees in The Alchemists’ Council, I wanted to spend the day before the Slayage conference began at Kew Gardens in order to see a spectacular bee-themed art installation created by Wolfgang Buttress.

Hive Sign

According to the official description at the Kew Gardens website, “The installation is made from thousands of pieces of aluminium which create a lattice effect and is fitted with hundreds of LED lights that glow and fade as a unique soundtrack hums and buzzes around you. These multi-sensory elements of the Hive are in fact responding to the real-time activity of bees in a beehive behind the scenes at Kew. The sound and light intensity within the space changes as the energy levels in the real beehive surge, giving visitors an insight into life inside a bee colony.” Fortunately for me, several of my fellow Slayage friends, including Jen, joined me for this unique experience.

Hive Edited

When walking toward “The Hive,” seeing the metal as it glistens against the bright blue sky, one is initially impressed by the installation’s size and intricacy. The architecture alone thrilled me. The ability to view the structure from various angles added to the overall visual and sensory effects. Here are a few shots taken from underneath the structure (i.e. at the end of the path featured above), as I stood looking up into the hive.

From Ground 1

From the Ground 2

Those people are Jen and another friend (Tamy Burnett) looking down at me from above! The path continues upward past a wildflower garden meant to attract actual bees. This shot is taken from the path on my way to the top of the structure:

From the Path

Once inside, one is met not only with a variety of sights based on the hive design, but also with the sounds of bees humming and buzzing, which fill the space. Though impressive and moving, the sounds were muffled by dozens of human voices. I would have preferred to lie down on the floor to listen and observe in silence.  And a nighttime viewing would have allowed better appreciation of the flickering lights. But what can one do at a popular tourist attraction open only during the day? We made the best of it, and the experience was fascinating.

From Inside 1

From Inside 2

The exhibit also included information on local bees, including this one whose Latin name–readers of the book will note–resembles “Lapidarian”!  Perhaps Kew Gardens is actually a protectorate that the Council simply had no need to use in Book One.

Bee Info

Of course, Kew Gardens offered other treasures for someone who has built a world of characters named after trees. Jen and I spotted several of the namesakes from Book One, including Ilex and Cercis:

And at least one great name was suggested for a future volume: Fraxinus (clearly a member of the Rebel Branch).

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Of course, the gardens were full of exquisite trees, including this glorious weeping beech, under whose beautiful leaves and branches my friends and I spent quite a bit of time.

Weeping Birch

A few days later, the book and the conference conjoined at the banquet. Here are AmiJo Comford and Ian Klein posing with their door-prize copies of The Alchemists’ Council at ‘Euro’Slayage!

I will also take this opportunity to once again congratulate Ian for winning not only a door prize but–even better–the award for best paper at the conference! Here he is with Mr. Pointy! (Yes, non-Slayage folk, we’ve heard the jokes for years.)

Ian and Mr P

And on a final note, I would like to offer a special thank you to Bronwen Calvert, one of the conference organizers. Amidst all the work she had to do to prepare for the conference and her own paper, she somehow managed to make me this beautiful bee bag as a “congratulations on the book” present. Thank you, my generous and talented friend!

Though I’ve been back home only two days, the countdown is already on for Slayage 2018! See you again then! In the meantime, as of tomorrow, I’m headed back to writing Book Two of The Alchemists’ Council which, by the way, is tentatively titled The Flaw in the Stone. So, as Whedon’s Angel would say, “Let’s go to work!”


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Welcome Readers, Alchemists, and Potential Initiates!

Last Update: October 2018

Book with Bee Card

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

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 here to learn about the significance of conjunction and THE ALCHEMICAL HERMAPHRODITE.

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

If you have a QUESTION about the books, 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!

Bees: Both Absent and Present

“The bees are disappearing,” announces Cedar at the beginning of Chapter One of The Alchemists’ Council. Thus begins the inter-dimensional mystery that must be solved in order to save the worlds. The bees to which Cedar refers are those of the Lapidarian manuscripts: ancient texts used by the Council alchemists to control both the elements and the people of the outside world.

Source for Bee Image

Bees, of course, are disappearing from the real world too, from our world, from the world outside of the fiction of Council dimension. Almost everywhere one turns these days, one hears about bees and their current plight. From Facebook to Twitter (@savethebees1), social media feeds are abuzz. Morgan Freeman (whom, by the way, I can picture as Ailanthus in The Alchemists’ Council), has converted his ranch into a bee sanctuary. Even President Obama has recently spoken in favour of the bee.

Of course, General Mills Canada could well receive alchemical gold thanks to its new Bring Back the Bees campaign for Honey Nut Cheerios. Be sure to watch their “Helping is Our Nature” video when you visit the site. In under two minutes, the video manages both to move and to inspire. Indeed, General Mills reached its goal of giving away 35 million wildflower seeds to help feed the bees within mere days!  As the author of a book that features bees as manuscript lacunae (gaps or spaces left where the bees once resided), I had to smile when I first saw the resemblance between The Alchemists’ Council logo and Cheerios’ missing “Buzz” mascot:

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Whether the bees are present in their absence on cereal boxes or medieval manuscripts, thematically we all appear to be on the same page.


enlight90-5From 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.