kckconnects, July 2021 edition
Welcome to the July, 2021 edition of my newsletter. A reminder that this newsletter is coming to you after it was sent out to subscribers. If you want to be eligible to win books and other prizes, and you want to get the latest right away, scroll down to the bottom of this page and subscribe!
Hello! Hope you are having a wonderful, safe summertime, with loads of sunshine and tons of time to read. This month, exclusive to newsletter subscribers, we're going to begin with a teaser from my upcoming book, AN ACCIDENTAL ODYSSEY, along with a cover reveal! Then we'll introduce you to the marvellous Renée Sarojini Saklikar, who is debuting her epic fantasy story BRAMAH AND THE BEGGAR BOY this month. One of our lucky subscribers has won a copy -- could it be you? As usual, we have a whole slew of recommendations for your reading, viewing, listening and learning pleasure. Read on to find out about all we've got planned -- new adventures, books, giveaways and more!
To begin, as promised, an exclusive teaser from AN ACCIDENTAL ODYSSEY, coming this December: Gia Kostas is living her best life. Her internship as a food writer for NOSH may have ended, but she is about to marry one of New York City’s most eligible bachelors. But when Gia makes the snap decision to prevent a health crisis by chasing her father down, just what price is she going to have to pay – and how far is she willing to go? When I arrive at the university offices, the door to the Classics floor is open, which is a good sign. As I hurry along the corridor, the familiar musty scent of the place envelops me. The department is usually deserted and locked up tight on a Saturday, so the fact the door is not only ajar but propped open with a copy of Ovid bodes well. Unfortunately, when I poke my head into his office, there’s no sign of my father. Instead, I find his grad student, Evan, seated behind a pile of papers at my dad’s desk. He jumps to his feet as I come charging into the room. A bit of a pipsqueak at the best of times, Evan takes one look at my face and caves almost immediately. “He’s gone,” he says, his tone somewhat defensive. “He told me he has doctor’s permission.” “Gone? Gone where? He signed himself out of the hospital, Evan. And the last time I checked, the Classics department was not issuing medical degrees.” Evan steps sideways, effectively putting the desk between us. His voice takes on a pleading note. “I’ve – I’ve got a tutorial session in five minutes.” I yank my dad’s abandoned pill bottle out of my bag and rattle it in his face. “He left his meds, Evan.” Pointing up at the clock on the wall, I add, “He’s already overdue for one dose, which is putting him at risk of another stroke. I’m sure you wouldn’t want to be party to that — would you?” He swallows hard, and visibly blanches when I rattle the pill bottle again. “I — I didn’t know,” he whispers, his voice catching in his throat. “He didn’t say anything about medication. Only that he was feeling better, and that he had a flight to catch.” “A — a flight?” I sink onto a chair at the magnitude of this. As I do, my phone pings in my pocket, but I ignore it. “Dude,” I say, ratcheting my tone down from demanding to merely pleading. “I’m supposed to be somewhere else, too. But I’m really worried about my dad.” Evan glances at his watch, takes a deep breath, and then yanks out a file folder from the top drawer of the desk. “If he finds out I told you, he’ll kill me,” he says, faintly. I glance into the folder, and then meet his eyes one last time. “You’d better get to your session,” I say firmly. “I can take it from here.” Evan doesn’t wait to be told twice. He’s out the door in an instant, a trail of papers literally swirling in his wake. As for me? I glance back down at the folder. And this is how, less than a day after waving my magazine internship goodbye, and without tasting even a single morsel of wedding cake, I find myself on a plane bound for Athens, Greece.
I couldn't be more thrilled with this gorgeous cover. Like the cover for EIGHTY DAYS TO ELSEWHERE, it was designed by the incomperable Vi-An Nguyen. Those tentacles are SO dear to my heart! I hope this cover gives you a sense of Gia's incredible adventure, which will be coming your way in December. Pre-order links will be available soon -- watch this space!
- with Renée Sarojini Saklikar -
Renée Sarojini Saklikar was kind enough to allow me to interview her for my newsletter this month! She is a dear friend, as well as an incredible poet, author, and person. Renée's ground-breaking poetry book about the bombing of Air India Flight 182, children of air india, won the Canadian Authors Association Poetry Prize and was shortlisted for the Dorothy Livesay Prize. Renée’s second book, THE REVOLVING CITY: 51 Poems and the Stories Behind Them, edited with Wayde Compton, was a finalist for the City of Vancouver Book Award. Her most recent offering, LISTENING TO THE BEES, co-authored with Dr. Mark Winston, won the 2019 Gold Medal Independent Publishers Book Award, Environment/Ecology. You can find Renée on Twitter and at The Canada Project.
BRAMAH AND THE BEGGER BOY has been a labour of love for Renée for almost a decade, and we are delighted to help her launch this lovely story into the world.
And now, three quick questions with Renée...
kc: How has lockdown changed or affected your life, if at all. Better? Worse?
RSS: Both! My life during our pandemic is one filled with both rewards and challenges. I think like so many folks, some days are so filled with the “unprecedented” that everything can feel just too much.
You know, those zoom filled days that sometimes trigger migraines; nostalgia as I miss in person poetry and writing events (not to mention loss of income from in person reading cancellations); not enough exercise; loneliness as I have been by myself days on end. As well, there’s the stress supporting family and friends during these tough times.
On the other hand, when I look out to the world, where essential workers take on life risking work, where during our pandemic, there’s been injustice and inequity, there’s so much to be grateful for…I’ve had the privilege of being able to work from home, virtual teaching for VCC and SFU; and being alone, with my husband away in Victoria, I’ve been able to go deep into world building and writing my epic fantasy series.
Plus, on the weekends, we make time for long neighbourhood walks in our Joyce Collingwood community. Honestly, I’ve never walked so much! And I am reminded about how lucky we are to live in this place.
kc: What role does mythology play in your story-telling and poetry?
RSS: That’s such an interesting question. A huge role, as it turns out. Although it’s taken me a long time to realize just how big a role: I’ve always been drawn to sagas, epics, and long story cycles. Oh, and I love magic. I love the way magic and the supernatural, often embed themselves into myth.
And in that way of writers, we’re magpies, right? I draw on these traditions a lot in my work. I wanted to create an epic fantasy in verse that featured female heroes, such as Bramah who is “brown, brave, and beautiful.” I wanted to do my own re-working, re-claiming of mythologies dominated by Western and Eastern patriarchies, and in doing so, found myself creating my own mythologies.
The character of my epic hero, Bramah, first came to me after I got off at the wrong bus stop, pre pandemic times, along the Kingsway corridor in my section of east Vancouver.
Spending time with Bramah and world-building her community, lead me to create The Beggar Boy, the Four Aunties of the Wishing Well, and many more.
Following my passion for mythological sagas in both novels and in poetry, lead me to a break-through moment in my own practice: blending the traditions of both in the epic form.
I think on some level, I started absorbing the way that fantasy writers rework and play with myth.
One huge influence would be Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath! I think both these quintessential British/American poets immersed themselves in mythic texts and reading these poets lead me to that wily weird writer, Robert Graves. Well, game over, as they say.
Backstory details about my reading of mythologies:
During my ten-year poetry project, THOT J BAP, which stands for The Heart Of This Journey Bears All Patterns, my epic fantasy series, I’ve re-read mythic texts such as Homer’s The Odyssey, Dante’s Divine Comedy, John Milton’s Paradise Lost, and the ancient Indian poem cycle, The Mahabharata. As well as the collection of Arabic folk tales, known in English as The Arabian Nights.
Plus, I’ve revisited some of my favourite fantasy novels, such as:
Watership Down, by Richard Adams;
The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien;
The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart;
The Princess Bride by William Golding;
Octavia Butler’s The Parable of the Sower (terrifying)
kc: What is your most treasured possession?
RSS: I love this question! And, in fact, I have several treasured possessions. Here are just a few:
A smooth stone found in my favourite local park, the one with the linden tree.
My wedding ring, simple and luxe, a circle of diamonds.
An acorn necklace on a gold chain that my sister gave me.
All my thumb drives with ten years worth of work on my epic fantasy.
Seriously. For example, this afternoon, there was a rogue fire alarm in my east van apartment. The first thing I grabbed. My little box of usb/thumb drives that contain iterations of my epic. The wedding ring, handily, already on my ring finger. Insert emoticon here.
p.s. my newest treasure is a baby bee amulet necklace. A gift to myself, always hard to justify and yet…I wanted to celebrate with something special, the fact that I’ve persevered for ten years writing one really long poem. And here’s the thing, it’s not done yet! So the amulet is both reward and talisman. I’m writing an epic poem in a series of books. I need all the help I can get.
kc here. I'm so excited to read all about Brahmah and her adventures -- thank you so much, Renée. Looks like both of us have been spending a bit of time with Homer, lately!
Eighty Days update:
Want to get ready for Gia's jaunt around the Mediterranean? You can revisit Emma's travels through Scotland in FINDING FRASER, and Romy's crazy trip around the world in EIGHTY DAYS TO ELSEWHERE, at the links below. Please consider buying these stories from your local independant bookshop. You can also order your copy online here: Amazon | Chapters/Indigo | Vancouver Kidsbooks The Poisoned Pen | Barnes & Noble | BooksAMillion Indie Bound | Apple | Google | Kobo And after you've read them, be sure let me know your thoughts! kcdyer.com
entertainment AND learning to help you cope with our strange new world
Currently in the middle of CL Polk's WITCHMARK, the first volume in their Kingston Cycle epic fantasy series. The world-building that has gone into this story is incredible. CL was one of the featured authors on my blog in February, and if you're interested in an award-winning new story rife with high fantasy and drama, this is the book for you. RECOMMEND!
I've been a long-time fan of Anne Perry -- both as a person and as a writer. Lately, the pandemic has fostered a deep need of comfort-listening in me, and I can't recommend the audio version of her Charlotte and Thomas Pitt series highly enough. Yes, these books were written before the turn of the last century. But Davina Porter's perfect performance spirits you back to the solving of crimes on the mean streets of Victorian London, and the whole experience is a pure delight. Begin with THE CATER STREET HANGMAN, and you'll never look back. RECOMMEND!
The University of Alberta is offering an online course called Indigenous Canada for FREE. This course, taught by First Nations instructors, offers a twelve week survey of Indigenous history, practices and critical contemporary issues. Twenty-one hours of instruction toward the education of Canada's First Peoples that most of us were denied in school. This is a chance to educate yourself on these incredibly important issues. STRONGLY RECOMMEND!
what about you?
What do you love? If you send me your recommendations, I promise to share! Find something good? You can reach me by pressing the contact button, below.
Thanks for reading, and for sharing your time with me today.