Today, I'm excited to participate in the cover reveal for Julia Ember's new YA Fantasy TIGER'S WATCH, coming August 2017 from Harmony Ink Press. I'm totally bummed that this is a full year away from being on my shelf, because it sounds amazing. Julia Ember is one of the amazing authors who has really heeded the call of "We Need Diverse Books" by writing compelling and beautiful fantasy with LGBT+ characters in settings that draw from cultural sources other than Medieval Europe. If you haven't picked up her first novel UNICORN TRACKS yet, I highly recommend it.
Sixteen-year-old Tashi has spent their life training as an inhabiter, a soldier who spies and kills using a bonded animal. When the capital falls after a brutal siege, Tashi flees to a remote monastery to hide. But when the invading army turns the monastery into a hospital, Tashi catches the eye of Xian, the regiment’s fearless young commander.
About the Author
Originally from the Windy City, Julia Ember now resides in Sunny Scotland where she learned to enjoy both haggis and black pudding. She spends her days working as a professional Book Nerd for a large book distribution firm, and her nights writing YA Romantic Fantasy novels.
A world traveler since childhood, Julia has now visited over 60 countries. Her travels inspire the fictional worlds she writes about and she populates those worlds with magic and monsters.
Find her online at julia-ember.com or @jules_chronicle.
Starward Tales Release!
The anthology STARWARD TALES is now available, featuring my science fiction Cassandra retelling, "As Dust Rolls Toward the Mountains." STARWARD TALES is a collection of short stories, poems, and visual art retelling legends, myths, and fairy tales as science fiction, published by Manawaker Studio.
Below is an excerpt of my story, "As Dust Rolls Toward the Mountains." This story was originally published in Kasma SF Magazine in April 2014, and I'm thrilled that editor CB Droege thought it was a good fit to reprint in STARWARD TALES. It will be a real treat to receive the physical copy of this book (though of course, it's also available in ebook). Apparently there will also be an audiobook version? I'll post about that when more details are available.
Cassie went blind the day before the asteroid struck. There had been no warnings from NASA or the White House, just as Cassie's loss of sight had not been foreshadowed by blurriness or headaches. Once blind, though, Cassie warned our mountain town about the asteroid. No one believed her, of course.
If you pick up a copy of STARWARD TALES, please leave an honest review! Books without reviews tend to sink into Amazon's black holes. Help keep this one sailing through space?
Story Behind the Story: It Pours
I took as many classes from Stephen Graham Jones as I could while I was at CU Boulder. Though probably best known for his new novel Mongrels, Stephen has a ridiculously long list of short fiction publications, many of which are very short flash or experimental pieces. One night I went to a faculty reading, where he shared a brilliant little flash story, and admitted afterward that he had written it during the commercial break while watching Star Trek. After his section of the reading was over, he sat in the back of the room and scribbled a brand new story while one of the other professors read.
As a graduate student trying to balance classes, teaching, writing, and life, it was both frustrating and inspirational to see how he could squeeze writing in anytime and anywhere. So I decided to write a story on my bus ride home from that faculty reading. I would start it as soon as I sat down on the bus, and make sure I wrapped it up before my stop.
“It Pours” is that story.
This was still during the time when I was mostly using idiomatic expressions as prompts for stories (see my “Working Like a Dog” post for more on this), and so this title comes from the phrase “When it rains, it pours.”
The first drops fell before I noticed the clouds that had gathered in the corner of my bedroom. I heard them, a slow drip that I attributed to a leaky faucet, or to an overflowing bathtub from the upstairs neighbors that I heard fighting all the time. But when I dragged my eyes up to the ceiling, straining, my whole face pulled by the effort of it, I saw the cumulus bunched into the corner like a clump of dust. I watched it spread across my ceiling. Drops plunked on pant legs, dripped off my arms. I laid straight as a corpse on the bed and let it happen, until every inch was soaked.
A few months after "It Pours" appeared in The Cafe Irreal, I investigated a strange URL that was sending traffic to my website, and discovered that someone had translated this story into Vietnamese and posted it on some kind of Vietnamese online magazine. I know unauthorized translations are a big problem for some writers, but considering that I was paid a token amount for the original, and the Vietnamese site was nice enough to include my bio and link to my website, I couldn’t really complain. Google Translate tells me the way they translated the title meant “Rain in the Room.” I’ve lost the link now, or maybe they’ve taken it down, but it was kind of fun to know that this strange magic realist story I wrote on a bus ride found a few fans in an unexpected place.
I often think that I need long hours and perfect conditions to get any writing done, but I need to remember one of Stephen Graham Jones' biggest lessons: there are dozens of pauses in each day that could be filled with words.
Today is release day for my anthology Speculative Story Bites, and I'm fully aware that most of the people in my life have no idea what I actually do as an editor and publisher. My colleague and friend Rhonda Parrish also wrote a great blog on this topic, answering the question, “So like, you just fix all the typos and then you get to have your name on the cover?”
The short answer: no, that's not what an anthology editor does at all.
First of all, this particular anthology is a bit of an oddball. Before I took over as editor-in-chief of World Weaver Press, I was reading submissions for another anthology we were supposed to publish. It was, however, to be the third in a series of anthologies, and when the plug got pulled on the second in that series, I couldn't exactly go ahead with publishing the third. Speculative Story Bites contains several stories I salvaged from that submissions period, several I salvaged from the other cancelled project, and several that I solicited directly from World Weaver Press authors. It's a bit of a mish-mash of stories, but I adore each and every one of them, and I hope readers will find at least a few they love. Most anthologies don't have that kind of complicated background, but this one is pretty special to me because it does.
So what does an anthology editor do? Without going into too much technical detail, here are the basic steps that an editor and/or publisher has to go through to bring an anthology to your bookshelf or Kindle.
Conceive a Theme or Angle
Since an anthology is a collection of short stories by various authors, it is usually centered around a theme. That theme may be broad—the theme of Speculative Story Bites is "speculative fiction under 4000 words"—or it may be narrow-- for example, Rhonda Parrish's anthology Corvidae is focused on fantasy stories about crows, magpies, and other "corvid" birds, and Kate Wolford's anthology Frozen Fairy Tales is all about fairy tale retellings set in winter. At this point, the editor and publisher must also decide on guidelines for writers, including how long or short a story can be, what genres are acceptable, and how much writers will be paid.
Solicit Stories or Open for Submissions
Soliciting means approaching authors individually to ask if they are willing to contribute a story. Opening to public submissions requires posting the guidelines to market websites such as Duotrope and Submission Grinder, sharing the call for submissions on social media, passing around handbills at conventions, hanging flyers in hipster coffee shops, or however else you plan to reach writers.
Read Slush and Send Rejections or Acceptances
"Slush" refers to the stories from a public open submission period. For the anthology that Speculative Story Bites was originally supposed to be, we received nearly 350 submissions. Some, I only read the first few paragraphs and could tell they were either not well-crafted, or not right for my vision. Others, I had to read multiple times to decide. Most stories received a copy-and-pasted form rejection, but some received personalized feedback about why they were not accepted.
Narrow Down the Shortlist
Once I picked the stories that were well-crafted and fit my vision, then came the gut-wrenching decisions about which ones to actually include. Maybe some are too similar to each other, maybe one just didn't fit as well as I thought, maybe another wasn't as memorable. These are the rejections I really hate to send. Usually at World Weaver Press, we seek a second opinion from another editor to help with this stage. For Speculative Story Bites, I had help from assistant editor Laura Harvey, as well as then-intern Rae Oestreich.
Issue Contracts and Payments
Payment terms should already be included in the submission guidelines, so writers know what to expect, but there are important details that need to be agreed upon about when payment will be issued, as well as what rights the publisher has to the story and for how long.
Edit the Stories
There are three stage of editing:
1) Developmental Editing: "This plot point doesn't make sense."
2) Line Editing: "This sentence doesn't make sense."
3) Copy Editing: "This comma shouldn't be here."
The way I prefer to do it, the primary editor for a book does the first two, and someone else (another editor or an intern) does the third. That means the very thing that most people associate with "editing" is not even the responsibility of the editor whose name is on the cover of an anthology.
Arrange the Stories
There's an art to deciding which story goes first or last in an anthology, and how to order them throughout for balance and emotional impact.
Format the Book
Often, this responsibility falls to the publisher rather than the editor, but since I'm both for this anthology, it's all on me. Formatting an ebook uses HTML markup language, and looks something like this inside:
Speculative Story Bites will not be available in paperback, but for anthologies that are, it requires a separate document designed according to the printer's specifications. Here, we get to have tons of fun with headers, section breaks, margins, kerning, leading, gutters, and various other typographical details that most people don't even realize exist.
Create Cover Art
Again, this is not usually the editor's responsibility, but the editor may at least have to contribute ideas or feedback on cover options. I made the silly little cover for Speculative Story Bites myself, and it was much simpler than the covers I made for Campaign 2100, Char, and Murder in the Generative Kitchen, largely because it is ebook only. Creating a full-wrap cover for a paperback is much more complicated. (We don't even mess with hardbacks...)
Upload to Bookselling Venues
Our books are sold at Amazon, BarnesandNoble.com, Kobo, and sometimes iTunes and Omnilit. Each one has slightly different requirements and systems. iTunes, for example, won't accept any file that includes Amazon links. Omnilit needs the cover to be a certain number of pixels. Amazon requires a different file format than all the others. Aside from just uploading the file and hitting "publish," this stage also requires selecting appropriate keywords and categories, and making sure the book description and author names all show up correctly.
Market the Book
Once you've created an anthology, you still have to convince people to read it. This involves some combination of sending copies to review outlets, bloggers, and street teams, hosting giveaways, sending out email newsletters, attending conventions, participating in blog tours, social media posting, paid advertising (preferably with effective venues such as Bookbub or EReaderNewsToday), and various other types of voodoo.
I hope this has provided some insight into how an anthology gets put together, and why an editor or anthologist may give you a death glare if you assume it's all about typos, Have questions? Leave a comment!
I know Hayley Stone because we both participated in a very cool writing mentorship program called PitchWars, in which aspiring writers are paired up with a more established writer to work on their novel manuscript and get it ready to submit to agents. Alas, my satirical science fiction novel,The Edge of the Universe, did not find an agent through this contest (in fact, I'm still working on ironing out the kinks my mentor helped me uncover), but Hayley did find an agent and a book deal. She's even paying it forward by volunteering as a PitchWars mentor in this year's program.
I had the chance to meet Hayley in person briefly at this year's San Diego Comic Con, where I secured a limited edition signed paperback copy of her robot apocalypse novel Machinations, available in ebook from Hydra, a digital-first imprint of Random House. Hayley was signing alongside Jason Hough, author of The Dire Earth Cycle. I'm sure that the publisher and event organizers thought pairing her up with an established author would increase Hayley's exposure. No doubt it did, but here's the thing: while I was waiting in line, I heard as many (if not more) people chattering about Hayley as about Jason. People weren't coming up and asking "Is this the line for Jason Hough?" They were asking "Is this the line for Hayley Stone?" True story.
Hayley was nice enough to answer a few interview questions for me. Check out her answers, and then go pick up her book!
SU: Even though your book is (currently) ebook only, your publisher printed up some bound galleys so you could do a signing at San Diego Comic Con. How awesome is that?! What was your experience giving a signing at such a big event?
HS: It was tremendously awesome! Seeing my book in print for the first time was a thrill, and I’m hoping the ebook does well enough to justify a print run in the future.
As for the signing itself, I was seated at the table the whole time, meeting with readers, but I was told after that the line for the signing was huge. Everyone at the Del Rey booth was supportive, and my editor helped keep things moving. I was also fortunate to get to sign alongside Jason Hough (The Darwin Elevator) who made me feel welcome and like I was already a member of the SFF authors crew.
The highlight of the signing, though, was definitely when a fan came through the line. She’d already read the book via NetGalley and was so enthusiastic about it! She even went as far as to recommend it to the other people standing in line. It felt like such an honor, and reminded me why I want to do this for a living. Having a reader make such an emotional connection to your story is wonderful.
SU: How was your Comic Con experience overall? What did you do when you weren't signing books?
HS: Attending Comic-Con for the first time—and as a published author, at that!—was one of the most surreal experiences of my life, and I won’t be forgetting it anytime soon. As far as what I was doing the rest of the time: I walked around the convention a lot, inspecting all the cool merchandise, and talking with other exhibitors. I also bought some Legend of Zelda fanart because of course I did. Gotta remember my humble LoZ fanfiction origins.
I was also invited to a party for Penguin Random House authors and other industry professionals which was as awesome as it sounds. At the party, I met Terry Brooks, Andy Weir, Kevin Hearne, Chuck Wendig, Victoria Schwab, and Indra Das, among others. In case you’re wondering, they’re all just as cool as their books and online presences suggest! As an up-and-coming author, it was incredible to be able to speak with them and get their thoughts on the industry and their own writing.
SU: Do you have any other readings or signings coming up? Where can readers find you?
HS: I’m considering attending New York Comic-Con in October, around the time my sequel releases, and quite possibly Emerald City Comicon next year. You can usually find me on Twitter (@hayley_stone), which is also where I’ll post any upcoming news in addition to my website, of course. And if Facebook is more your thing, I have an official author page here.
SU: What kinds of things did you learn from your PitchWars mentor when you were getting MACHINATIONS ready to query to agents?
HS: My mentor, Eden Plantz, provided great guidance on who to query, how to personalize, and how to respond to certain querying situations. With regards to the manuscript itself, I got into Pitch Wars as an alternate mentee, back when that was a thing, so we only did minor line edit touch-ups. I did learn that “There” is a vague/weak word to use when not referring to an actual physical location. It’s something I still keep in mind while writing.
SU: What books, authors, or films most influenced you in writing MACHINATIONS?
HS: Regarding books, if I recall correctly, I think I’d just finished Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins and was reading the Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin (A Storm of Swords, to be specific). I love Collins’ crisp first person and Martin’s characterization, as well as his knack for narrative escalation. All were qualities I adapted and drew into my own writing.
Ironically, when I wrote the first draft of Machinations, I hadn’t actually seen any of the Terminator movies yet so it’s always funny to me when people compare the two. Instead, Doctor Who had more of an influence on me, in terms of humor and personal taste, which might explain why the book has a more jovial feel to it than The Terminator.
SU: We know there's at least one sequel to MACHINATIONS—will there be more?
HS: All I can say at the moment is that I do have plans for a third book to conclude the series; however, it will depend on how well the first two books perform. But yes, I hope to write at least one more!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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Hayley Stone has lived her entire life in sunny California, where the weather is usually perfect and nothing as exciting as a robot apocalypse ever happens. When not reading or writing, she freelances as a graphic designer, falls in love with videogame characters, and analyzes buildings for velociraptor entry points. She holds a bachelor’s degree in history and a minor in German from California State University, Sacramento.
Machinations is her debut novel from Hydra/Random House. Its sequel, Counterpart, releases October 11th, 2016.