Rock Stars, Bloggers, and Hidden Magic: The Wind in His Heart by Charles de Lint

Thursday, September 14th, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

The Wind in His Heart Charles de Lint-smallI met Charles de Lint when he was an unpublished author in the early 80s. We both hung out at the best bookstore in town, the much-missed House of Speculative Fiction in downtown Ottawa. There was a big fuss about his first novel, The Riddle of The Wren (1984), plucked out of the slush at Ace Books by legendary editor Terri Windling, but it was the bestselling Moonheart (Ace, 1984) that made us realize that Charles wasn’t just a local boy who done good — he was a major artist embarking on an extraordinary career.

71 books later, Charles is one of the most revered writers in fantasy. He’s been enormously kind to us over the years, even contributing a terrific story to the very first issue of Black Gate.  I asked Charles to tell us a bit about his latest book, and he was generous enough to send me this yesterday.

I’m excited to get back to writing for adults. It took me three years to write my new novel, The Wind in His Heart, pretty much double the time I’d normally take to complete a book, but this 545-page story was tricky to put together. It’s about a young man who works at a trading post and is the sole supporter in his family yet longs to go and explore the world; a rock star hiding from fame out in the desert; a teenage girl from an abusive family who gets tossed out of her dad’s car in the middle of the desert, and a blogger trying to come to terms with the suicide of her best friend. The story is about how their lives collide, and how they deal with their past and future. Many of my readers have been asking if it’s a Newford book, and the short answer is no, but it does have some Newford threads and connections.

This is a major new novel from one of the most important writers at work today. When word broke in our offices that it was arriving this month, there was frenzy to settle who would have the privilege of reading it first (Zeta Moore won; she’ll be reviewing it for us in a few weeks.)

The Wind in His Heart will be published by Triskell Press on September 19, 2017. It is 545 pages, priced at $7.99 for the digital edition. Read an excerpt in the Autumn issue of Faerie Magazine, and learn more at Charles’ website. And check out all our coverage of his previous books here.


Charles de Lint and The Little Country

Friday, May 22nd, 2015 | Posted by Violette Malan

The Little CountryIn talking about portal fantasies last time, I was moved to reread one of the more unusual examples of the sub-genre, Charles de Lint’s The Little Country (1991).

The book is in a very real sense two books, but it isn’t a simple play-within-a-play, story-within-a-story thing: Each book is being read by the protagonist of the other. The now-overused self-referential concept known as “meta” wasn’t so common when The Little Country was written, but it might have been invented to describe the novel. The book is extremely self-aware, something which even the protagonists are forced to recognize.

The two stories do run parallel to one another, but this isn’t a case of success in one world reflecting or depending on success in the other world, as we see in King and Straub’s The Talisman, for example. The characters don’t overlap, the settings aren’t the same, though you might say that the outcomes are. There is a physical object common to both worlds, a standing stone with an opening through which objects and people can pass. Both worlds have the tradition that passing through the stone nine times at moonrise effects some magical change – entrance into the land of the faerie, a cure for sickness or barrenness, etc.

In the thread which most resembles our world, Janey Little, a twenty-something traditional musician, finds a book in her grandfather’s attic – a one-of-a-kind hitherto unknown work left in her grandfather’s keeping by the author, an old and eccentric friend. The book is called “The Little Country.”

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Vintage Treasures: Charles de Lint’s Wolf Moon, and a Tale of Roving Booksellers

Sunday, April 27th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Wolf Moon Charles de Lint-smallIt pays to know excellent booksellers.

On Tuesday, Rich Warren, co-owner of Starfarer’s Despatch, posted a pic of Charles de Lint’s 1988 Signet paperback Wolf Moon on Facebook and later this brief review:

What a blast. Just finished this one this morning. A tale sympathetic to the Werewolf, and told from his point of view. I know there are De Lint fans who enjoy his urban fantasy (Newford) more but the great writing is still present in these older fantasies.

My comment was concise, but completely heartfelt: “I need this book! Rich, sell me one!”

I meant it, too. Wolf Moon was reprinted in 2004, with a generic urban fantasy cover, but the 1988 paperback original, which boasts a fabulous cover by Dean Morrissey, showing a werewolf relaxing in The Inn of the Yellow Tinker, is much harder to come by.

Three days later, I returned from my business trip to Las Vegas. I drove straight from the airport to the Westin hotel in Lombard, Illinois, and arrived shortly before the Dealer’s Room closed at Windy City Pulp and Paper, one of my favorite local cons (the write-up I did on last year’s is here). I wasn’t in the room five minutes before I heard a friendly voice calling my name: Arin Komins, Rich’s wife and the other half of the splendid enterprise that is Starfarer’s Despatch.

“We have a book for you,” Arin said. We found Rich and, sure enough, he pulled a beautiful, unread copy of Wolf Moon out of his backpack.

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A Circle of Cats by Charles de Lint and Charles Vess

Monday, September 24th, 2012 | Posted by John ONeill

a-circle-of-catsIt’s always a pleasure when two creators I admire collaborate. Case in point: A Circle of Cats, a Charles de Lint short story gorgeously illustrated by Charles Vess.

Although it’s very short (48 pages, at least half of which is full-color artwork), A Circle of Cats is a complete and satisfying tale. It tells the story of Lillian, a 12-year-old orphan who lives on the edge of a vast and very old wood with her aunt. One day, after all her chores are done, Lillian chases a deer into a part of the woods she’s never explored before. Falling asleep at the foot of a great gnarled tree, she disturbs a snake that strikes her three times.

As she lays dying, a circle of cats forms around her, for Lillian has found their ancient gathering place. The cats decide to intervene, and when Lillian awakens, she finds herself in the body of a kitten.

What Lillian finds as she explores the woods as a cat, and the strange creatures she meets, form the bulk of the tale. But as night arrives and her elderly aunt begins a desperate search deeper and deeper into the woods for her, Lillian’s efforts to find a way to return to human form become more determined. Ultimately, she learns that getting what she wants will require help from friends she didn’t know she had, and an unusual sacrifice.

Fans of de Lint and Vess’s earlier collaboration, the massive illustrated fantasy Seven Wild Sisters (Subterranean Press, May 2002), will find both the setting and some of the characters familiar, including Aunt Lillian, The Apple Tree Man, and The Father of Cats. De Lint and Vess also collaborated on Medicine Road (Tachyon Publications, June 2009), featuring the further adventures of the red-haired Dillard twins, Laurel and Bess, from Seven Wild Sisters.

While it is primarily intended for young readers, A Circle of Cats is still a fine introduction to Charles de Lint’s fiction, as it has all the hallmarks of his work, including fascinating characters, magical settings, and a story richly suffused in myth. Vess, the artist behind The Book of Ballads and three books with Neil Gaiman (Instructions, Blueberry Girl, and the illustrated version of Stardust), delivers his usual excellent artwork.

A Circle of Cats was published in hardcover by Viking Juvenile in June, 2003. It is 48 pages in full color, with a cover price of $16.99.


Charles de Lint’s Promises to Keep

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012 | Posted by Elizabeth Cady

promises-to-keepPromises to Keep
Charles de Lint
Tachyon (192 pp, $14.95, Paperback May 2011) 
Reviewed by Elizabeth Cady

Charles de Lint has become one of the big names in the worlds of Urban and Mythic Fantasy, and for good reason. At its best, his stories are beautifully crafted. They capture both the wonder of the everyday and the sheer strangeness of the otherworld that can intrude into our own. A key aspect of his work has been his creation of Newford, a fictional North American city. De Lint has, over the last twenty years, filled this city with a cast of characters that have by now become familiar friends to his readers.

Jilly Coppercorn is one of those characters, and she is central to many of his novels and short stories. In Promises to Keep, one of the latest entries into the Newford series, we learn more of Jilly’s troubled history. We know from her previous appearances that Jilly is a survivor of sexual abuse and a recovering addict, that she lived for a time on the street, and that she escaped that life to become an artist. Promises takes us back to that fragile time in Jilly’s life when she first escaped heroin and forced prostitution and began the long process of healing.

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A Review of Jack the Giant Killer, by Charles de Lint

Monday, September 13th, 2010 | Posted by Isabel Pelech

jackJack the Giant Killer, by Charles de Lint
Ace (202 pages, hardcover, November 1987)

Charles de Lint’s Jack the Giant Killer is an urban fantasy novel, but it feels more accurate to call it an urban fairy tale. It’s set in Ottawa and makes frequent references to streets and landmarks; I have a feeling I’d get even more out of it if I were the least bit familiar with the city. Fortunately, geographic familiarity is not required to enjoy this story.

Jacky Rowan has just been through a moderately poor breakup. Her boyfriend stormed out after declaring her a predictable, boring shut-in. Partly because of his accusations, partly because of feeling empty and numb, she cuts off her waist-length hair, goes drinking, and then wanders down to a park, reflecting on her life and whether or not it means anything.

She has a distinct impression of someone watching her from the blacked-out windows of one house, but before she has time to reflect on that, she witnesses what appears to be a biker gang chasing down what looks like a small man.

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The 2018 World Fantasy Awards Ballot

Wednesday, July 25th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

Changeling Victor LaValle-small Mapping the Interior Stephen Graham Jones-small Tender Sofia Samatar-small

The 2018 World Fantasy Awards Ballot, containing a whole bunch of books I haven’t read yet, has just been announced. The ballot is compiled by the voting attendees of the World Fantasy Convention, all of whom clearly read a lot more than I do. Where do they find the time? Don’t they have blog posts to write, like normal people?

At least I have my membership for the convention, so I’ll be there to watch all the excitement unfold. It’s still a few months away, so I a little time to get caught up. Wish we luck.

As has been tradition since 1998, the coveted Life Achievement Award is being given to two recipients. This year they are Canadian author Charles de Lint and DAW Editor-in-Chief Elizabeth (Betsy) Wollheim. Both are fine selections, richly deserving of this recognition.

The winners in every other category will be selected by a panel of judges. Here’s the complete list of nominees, with links to our previous coverage.

Life Achievement

  • Charles de Lint
  • Elizabeth Wollheim

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May/June Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction Now on Sale

Wednesday, May 16th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction May June 2018-smallThe big May/June issue of F&SF comes packed with stories by Gardner Dozois, Lisa Mason, Matthew Hughes (a new Argent and Sable tale), Albert E. Cowdrey, Black Gate writer Nina Kiriki Hoffman, and many others — all under a magnificent cover by Alan D. Clark illustrating “The Barrens” by Stephanie Feldman, featuring a group of high school students searching for a pirate radio station transmitting from the Pine Barrens of New Jersey, and the supernatural menaces they encounter on the way.

Victoria Silverwolf at Tangent Online calls the issue “an even balance of science fiction and fantasy… [with] a wide variety of imaginative literature.” Here’s a snippet of her review.

“Unstoppable” by Gardner Dozois concerns a prince obsessed with becoming the greatest warrior in the world. After murdering his way to the throne, he uses magic to become indestructible. It all leads to an ironic ending. This is an enjoyable tale, if hardly profound.

“Crash-Site” by Brian Trent takes place on a distant planet in the far future. Various characters are after a weapon recovered from a starship that crashed on the planet centuries ago. The main appeal of this science fiction adventure story is its technologically advanced setting.

Set in the 1920s or 1930s, “What You Pass For” by Melanie West involves magic white paint, which allows a man to give his fellow African-Americans the physical characteristics of Caucasians. He hates and fears his unwanted ability, and refuses to use it on himself, although this condemns him to a life of poverty. A dancer, forbidden to join a ballet company because of her race, demands the use of this power, even though she is already very light-skinned. This is a powerful story about appearances and reality.

“Ku’gbo” by Nigerian writer Dare Segun Falowo is a dense, complex fantasy with a plot difficult to summarize. Suffice to say that it takes place in an African village which is no ordinary community, and that it begins with a boy seeking to protect food from invisible rams. The many supernatural events and beings that fill the plot, and the author’s fondness for metaphors, make this a story which must be read slowly and carefully to appreciate its uniqueness.

Set in modern New Orleans, “Behold the Child” by Albert E. Cowdrey depicts an unscrupulous lawyer who uses a telekinetic little boy to kill his enemies. A rival lawyer and a private detective, both telepathic, fight to end his reign of terror. The narrative tone is often light, contrasting oddly with the story’s violence. The ending comes as an unpleasant surprise.

Read Victoria’s complete review here.

Here’s the complete Table of Contents of the May/June 2017 issue.

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A Dark and Eerie Journey: Melissa Albert’s The Hazel Tree

Tuesday, April 24th, 2018 | Posted by Elizabeth Cady

The Hazel Wood Melissa Albert-small“My mother was raised on fairy tales, but I was raised on highways.”

Melissa Albert, via her narrator and protagonist Alice, opens The Hazel Wood with these words. The careful reader will latch on to that “but” right away, a particle suggesting that there is a great difference between the two — fairy tales and highways. Alice, raised by a single mother in a series of flights from bad luck, bad bosses and broken leases, believes there is. She is, at the book’s opening, a very typical protagonist in Young Adult fiction of the last sixty years. Outsider? Check. Troubled past? Check. Few or no friends? Check. Alice has recently undergone a drastic change in circumstances, as her mother has married a wealthy New York businessman. This has brought her a stable home, a stepfather who is at least trying to do right by her, and admission to an elite private school. There is a young man with a similar degree of wealth and a troubled past of his own.

And then things take a sharp turn off the well paved streets into new territory.

If you’re a fan of de Lint, Gaiman, McGuire or del Toro, the first line warned you. Alice has grown up on the run, not so much from mundane bill collectors but from her grandmother’s legacy. Althea Proserpine (again, a name that should set off alarm klaxons faster than a Klingon battle cruiser) was a reclusive author who wrote only one book, a set of “Tales from the Hinterlands.” Alice’s mother is dismissive of the book, loathes its cultish fans, and is insistent on forever staying far, far away from Althea’s home, The Hazel Wood.

And again, if you know fairy tales at all, you know what happens next.

No matter how hard a parent tries to keep a thing hidden from her child, it will come calling. So back onto the highway Alice goes, to find the truth of her own origins, of the mysterious book, of its legacy.

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A Brief History of Pulphouse: The Hardback Magazine

Saturday, April 14th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

Pulphouse the Hardcover Magazine-small

In 1988 I had just started grad school at the University of Illinois, and finally moved out of my parent’s basement. I’d also left my book collection behind and settled into a small dorm room. I continued collecting, albeit in a much more cramped space, and as the years went by the book piles on the floor gradually grew into towering stacks that made moving around tough. I graduated just in time in 1991, before I completely ran out of floor space, and moved into my first apartment (with real bookcases!) in Wheaton, Illinois.

While in grad school I missed my regular runs to the shops to buy magazines, and during my periodic trips back to Ottawa I was hungry for any fiction mags I could find. My friends were talking about a strange book/magazine crossbreed titled Pulphouse: The Hardback Magazine and, curious, I picked up a few issues at the House of Speculative Fiction on my next visit. It turned out to be very impressive indeed, and over the next few years I bought copies whenever I found them.

Pulphouse was closer to a regular anthology series than a magazine; its quarterly issues varied between 243 and 311 pages, and featured a compelling mix of new and established authors. It was the brainchild of Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch; the first issue appeared in 1988, and it stuck to a quarterly schedule for three years, before wrapping up with issue #12 in Fall of 1993.

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