Amazing news for Canadian readers!

Up until now I’ve used Amazon’s CreateSpace print on demand (POD) service for paperback editions of my books. It’s great for indie authors because there’s zero upfront cost, formats are very flexible, and the books are printed and shipped quickly. The final product is trade paperback quality and although ebooks have always been my primary focus, there are many readers who prefer the old-fashioned dead tree experience. Personally, I’m on the dead tree fence. Some books I read on my Kindle, others “in person”.

The only issue I ever had with CreateSpace was that the books were printed in the US or UK. That meant that Canadian readers had to pay international shipping rates, making my books very expensive for friends here in Canada. Well, NO LONGER! As of October 8, CreateSpace books are available directly on the store.

Here are the links for books 1 and 2 of the Embodied trilogy: Silent Symmetry and Starley’s Rust.

And here’s where my fellow Canadians can purchase a weighty paperback tome of my psychological mystery (set in Montreal), The New Sense.

It’ll be a rainy fall day in Montreal tomorrow – the perfect occasion to snuggle up with a good book. Happy reading!

A great story is a great story…

Read about the amazing success story of Romanian author Eugen Chirovici (EO Chirovici) who published 10 novels in his native country with some success, then moved to Britain with his family three years ago and is now likely to earn seven figures from his first English-language novel.

The article I’ve linked to makes it sound like Chirovici’s success is out of the blue, but a little research shows this to be far from the truth. His non-fiction works have already been published in the US, he’s a member of the Romanian Academy of Sciences and holds three (!) honorary PhDs in Economics, Communication and History.

I’m a big fan of Vladimir Nabokov (be sure to read the Alfred Appel annotated version of Lolita first), and Chirovici is another Eastern European author who also goes to prove that English doesn’t even need to be your first language if you have imagination, storytelling ability and, oh yeah, maybe a touch of genius.

Fantastically adventurous new book by Zachary Thomas Dodson

Goodreads interviewed author/designer Zachary Thomas Dodson about his debut book, Bats of the Republic: An Illuminated Novel. It looks and sounds like a stunningly crafted multi-layered adventure set in the past and the future.

As the Goodreads article says,

With hand-drawn illustrations, meticulously detailed maps, a novel-within-a-novel, and even a sealed envelope the reader must not open until the final moment, Zachary Thomas Dodson’s debut novel is a feast for the imagination.

Read the article for some fascinating insight into Dodson’s process.

Broken Pencil reviews Starley’s Rust

Reviews are always nice. Nice reviews are even nicer! Check out what Toronto indie culture and zine mag Broken Pencil had to say about Starley’s Rust besides this:

Dutton is in his element crafting together a sci-fi adventure with a good blend of sincerity and humour that, without such a fine balance, can be the downfall of any YA fiction.

Mysterious Crystals and Dark Matter Galaxies

It’s been a great week for the science behind the science fiction behind the Embodied Trilogy. A huge population of ultra dark galaxies has been discovered. And the reason they’re ultra dark? Guinness! No, wait – dark matter!

I’ve almost finished writing the third and final book in the series, and dark matter is a key story component. These galaxies are chock full of the stuff. As it says in the article, “The authors of that study used this information to put an upper limit on the percentage of dark matter in the UDGs, but it was very high – up to 98 percent.”

Samarium hexaboride, doing its crazy thing.

This might be samarium hexaboride, doing its crazy thing.

Another recurring element in the trilogy is crystals (specifically formed into pyramids and spheres). And, wouldn’t you know it, this week scientist have discovered a property of an already super-duper-mysterious crystal called samarium hexaboride that is baffling physicists. Although insulators and metals are essentially opposites, Cambridge University physicist Suchitra Sebastian explained that somehow samarium hexaboride is “a material that’s both. It’s contrary to everything that we know.” The article in Wired explains: “Calling to mind the famous wave-particle duality of quantum mechanics, the new evidence suggests SmB6 might be neither a textbook metal nor an insulator … but ‘something more complicated that we don’t know how to imagine.’”

Things that we “don’t know how to imagine” are meat and drink to any science fiction writer, but it’s especially exciting when something you’re working on right now reflects the latest real-world research. On the other hand, the Embodied Trilogy is soft sci-fi, not a prediction of the future, so don’t expect beings from an ultra dark galaxy to show up anytime soon juggling crazy liquid crystal balls.

I found the animated GIF above on a web page covering the same subject. I don’t know if it’s samarium hexaboride (and I wish I could credit the creator) but it’s so fascinating and science-fictiony that I had to post it here.




The quantum mechanics of fantasy-sci-fi

I’ve written before on this blog about how cool it is when real-world science intersects with the sci-fi fantasy that I write. Now here’s an example that really warms the cockles of my brain:

“Over the past few years, the European robin, and its quantum “sixth sense”, has emerged as the pin-up for a new field of research, one that brings together the wonderfully complex and messy living world and the counterintuitive, ethereal but strangely orderly world of atoms and elementary particles in a collision of disciplines that is as astonishing and unexpected as it is exciting. Welcome to the new science of quantum biology.”

I’d never heard of quantum biology when I wrote the following line in my soon-to-be-published YA novel Starley’s Rust: “…the mental gateway between you and the Embodied works through quantum fluctuations in your brain.”


A quantumly quute robin.

I certainly didn’t want to make my beings telepathic in the traditional paranormal sense, because the trilogy has a true sci-fi base, so I needed an explanation for how they could “get inside” a human’s mind. But it turns out that were the Embodied to exist (and who’s to say that they don’t!?), they could actually communicate with humans using a quantum mechanism like the one that robins use to navigate:

“Studies of the European robin suggest that it has an internal chemical compass that utilises an astonishing quantum concept called entanglement, which Einstein dismissed as “spooky action at a distance”. This phenomenon describes how two separated particles can remain instantaneously connected via a weird quantum link. The current best guess is that this takes place inside a protein in the bird’s eye, where quantum entanglement makes a pair of electrons highly sensitive to the angle of orientation of the Earth’s magnetic field, allowing the bird to “see” which way it needs to fly.”

The Embodied trilogy’s genre is either urban fantasy or soft sci-fi, but when I read an article like this I wonder whether it might even be regular sci-fi. Or even plain old sci.


Photo credit: <a href=””>freebird4</a&gt; / <a href=””>Foter</a&gt; / <a href=””>CC BY-NC</a>

The fiction of genre

Rod Serling, creator of the classic TV series The Twilight Zone (not a big field full of vampires, btw) once said that, “Fantasy is the impossible made probable. Science fiction is the improbable made possible.” It’s a neat definition, but unfortunately not super helpful when trying to define the genre of my upcoming book, Starley’s Rust. Why? Because the young people and medium-aged adults who buy YA lit don’t apply Serling’s definition; they apply their own, which in turn is based on how the marketplace defines the wide variety of genres and sub-genres that books fit into.

I’ve covered this subject before, with a little help from Shakespeare (he just did some proofreading) and came to the conclusion that book 1 of the trilogy, Silent Symmetry, was a paranormal mystery love story. But this always bugged me because it over-emphasized the paranormal aspect and didn’t mention either fantasy or sci-fi. The reality is that the Embodied trilogy is very soft sci-fi with major elements of fantasy. Yes, there’s love, but it certainly couldn’t be called a romance in either the Twilight or Harlequin sense. There’s a mystery, but it’s not what drives the plot, and the main character is no detective. There isn’t really any paranormal activity in the traditional sense either. But here’s where things get tricky, because the trilogy’s same fuzzy borderline between sci-fi and fantasy also borders on paranormal phenomena (not ghosts, but “psychic” mind control). The trilogy is actually straddling three genres. Good thing it has three legs.

Romance-anatomy, genre fiction, and romance.

I call them all novels, but apparently they’re a romance-anatomy, a genre fiction novel, and a romance.

Things get even more complicated when you start to research the academic analysis of literary genres. It turns out that a few hundred years ago, the novel itself was a genre because all people read were poetry and biographies and other non-fiction work until Cervantes and Defoe came along with their really long, made-up stories. The current New Yorker magazine has a fascinating article about the history of the genre in fiction and how tangled it has become.

The article quotes Canadian literary critic Northrop Frye, who divided novels into four distinct categories: novel, romance, anatomy, and confession, with a definition for each. It took me about thirty seconds to pick out three books mentioned in the article from my bookshelves, each of which, according to Frye, isn’t just a different genre, but an entirely different kind of book (of the three, only Crime and Punishment is a novel, apparently).

So now that I’m editing my editor’s edit of Starley’s Rust and requesting reviews in advance of its January publication date, the genre question has reared its ugly head again. The thing is, there’s an overarching category for these kinds of novels with non-realistic settings or features, and that’s “speculative fiction”. Sounds great, except that label doesn’t help readers figure out whether they might enjoy reading the book. And the main reason for that is that readers have so many options available to them that each genre has splintered and splintered again into a multitude of sub- and sub-sub-genres (not even counting market-based categories like “young adult” and “chick lit”).

Readers seem to be looking for very specific kinds of books. Even “vampire” isn’t accurate enough because there are “scary” vampires and “sweet” vampires and never the twain shall meet on the same nightstand. That’s why I designated Silent Symmetry as belonging to a clumsy, hyphenated mutant genre (could “sweet mutants” be a niche genre too?). But that’s really not good enough, I realize now.

Yes, the Embodied trilogy is speculative fiction. Absolutely 100%. It has distinct elements of fantasy, but also distinct elements of sci-fi. What you don’t want is to mislead anyone though, or put people off who might actually have enjoyed the book just because they saw the words “science fiction” and immediately thought they were zipping off to faraway planets or futuristic times. Fortunately, there’s another element in the trilogy that I’d overlooked and is an accepted sub-genre of speculative fiction: urban fantasy. Eureka! the Embodied trilogy isn’t swords-and-sorcery like The Lord of the Rings, but it does have a fantastical (spoiler!) and a terrifying (spoiler!) so fantasy fans will be happy.

There you have it. Right now, the Embodied trilogy is an urban fantasy. With some soft sci-fi. And a love story. With paranormal overtones. And a mystery. Although the biggest mystery of all is whether I’ll change my mind again when I write book three.