Posts belonging to Category forthcoming fiction

Guest Post – “Death by a Thousand Shortcuts” according to Sean Williams

As well as getting out and about talking about things elsewhere on the Net, I’m inviting other authors to share their thoughts here to entertain you. This week, Sean Williams has obliged with a particularly interesting piece taking the long view of the writer’s life.

Sean Williams was born in the dry, flat lands of South Australia, where he still lives with his wife and family and a pet plastic fish. He has been called many things in his time, including (somewhat ostentatiously) “the premier Australian speculative fiction writer of the age” (Aurealis), the “Emperor of Sci-Fi” (Adelaide Advertiser), the “Lord of the Genre” (Perth Writers’ Festival), and the “King of Chameleons” (Australian Book Review) for the diversity of his published output.  That output includes over forty novels for readers all ages, one hundred-plus short stories across numerous genres, the odd published poem, and even a sci-fi musical. He also likes making up new words. He is a multiple recipient of the Aurealis and Ditmar Awards and has been nominated for the Philip K. Dick Award, the Seiun Award, and the William Atheling Jr. Award for criticism. He received the “SA Great” Literature Award in 2000 and the Peter McNamara Award for contributions to Australian speculative fiction in 2008. His latest series are Troubletwisters, a fantasy for middle grade readers co-written with Garth Nix, and Twinmaker, a near-future thriller for young adults (and old adults too). Over forty bonus short stories set in the Twinmaker universe are available online here. In 2014, Sean and Garth co-authored the third novel in the New York Times bestselling Spirit Animals series, Blood Ties.

Sean Williams was born in the dry, flat lands of South Australia, where he still lives with his wife and family and a pet plastic fish. He has been called many things in his time, including (somewhat ostentatiously) “the premier Australian speculative fiction writer of the age” (Aurealis), the “Emperor of Sci-Fi” (Adelaide Advertiser), the “Lord of the Genre” (Perth Writers’ Festival), and the “King of Chameleons” (Australian Book Review) for the diversity of his published output.  That output includes over forty novels for readers all ages, one hundred-plus short stories across numerous genres, the odd published poem, and even a sci-fi musical. He also likes making up new words. He is a multiple recipient of the Aurealis and Ditmar Awards and has been nominated for the Philip K. Dick Award, the Seiun Award, and the William Atheling Jr. Award for criticism. He received the “SA Great” Literature Award in 2000 and the Peter McNamara Award for contributions to Australian speculative fiction in 2008. His latest series are Troubletwisters, a fantasy for middle grade readers co-written with Garth Nix, and Twinmaker, a near-future thriller for young adults (and old adults too). Over forty bonus short stories set in the Twinmaker universe are available online here. In 2014, Sean and Garth co-authored the third novel in the New York Times bestselling Spirit Animals series, Blood Ties.

A funny thing happened on the way to finishing my first novel.

I realized that writing is hard.

Every writer has that epiphany. It’s important because without it we’re doomed never to improve. If writing a first novel seemed easy to you, then you’re either a flat-out genius or you weren’t paying attention. Hint: there are precious few people in the former category.

Saying that writing is hard is not to say that it can’t also be fun. It can also be all-consuming, therapeutic, any number of other things. But it’s tricky getting the words in the right order. Imagine lining up 80,000 dominoes so they’ll fall exactly the right way. (If you’d done that in the 70s, that would’ve earned you a world record.) Why should it be any different with words? Not to mention the fact that words come in all different shapes and sizes, and fall in so many different ways . . .

The good news is that, as with everything, you get better with practice. I learned this by writing a second novel, and a third. I sold my fifth, and I kept writing. By book ten or so I began to suspect that I had grasped the basic premise of the novel as a thing one spins out of nothing, as opposed to something one buys in a bookstore, fully formed. My books were being picked up by publishers, and they were even occasionally winning awards and appearing on bestseller lists. Practice was demonstrably making better.

And then, around book twenty, another funny thing happened.

It came upon me suddenly that, when writing, I wasn’t really thinking about stuff that had caused me great concern back when I was new. Sentence structure, dialogue, metaphors . . . all that stuff seemed to have vanished from my conscious process, leaving me feeling as though I was mechanically stringing words in a line. It didn’t feel hard anymore.

Fearing self-delusion (and the collapse of my career) I immediately stopped to read the ms over from the beginning, braced for the terrible news that I would have to find something else to do with the rest of my life. Interpretive dance, perhaps.

What I saw on the page amazed me.

Sentences were shaped, dialogue was natural, metaphors were not just present but effective . . . Where had all this come from? If I hadn’t written it, who had?

The answer is obvious in retrospect. My subconscious, honed by more than a decade of producing publishable material, was beavering away even when it felt as though the words were pouring forth without effort. Writerly chores had become instincts that I barely needed to think about anymore.

I had grown a writer-brain inside my ordinary brain. To get it working all I needed to do was give it a nudge like a clockwork toy and let it wobble across the page.

Having a writer-brain felt like a levelling-up gift from my former self. It was as though I’d finished an apprenticeship. Or built a supercharged motor. Now I could get into the driver’s seat and peel out.

It was around then that I started experimenting in new ways, doing things like having characters speak solely in the lyrics of British electro pioneer Gary Numan or trying to create my own religion Writing is supposed to be hard, I figured. Playing it safe is the art-killer.

And while this is absolutely true, I don’t think it’s true in the way I thought it was back then. Because another funny thing happened just recently, this time around my forty-third novel . . . something I’m still coming to terms with.

Aside: Let me just say that writing careers are like the words they’re made of, in that each is unique. There are lots of different trajectories across the creative landscape. I like to write lots of different kinds of things and I like to write quickly. It’s possible I would’ve written better if I’d written more slowly, but it’s equally possible I would’ve gotten bored and pursued that dance career. You’re not going to tell me that I’m a failure for churning out so many books just like I’m not going to tell you that you’re a failure for having fewer. Or more. Or whatever. You measure your successes and failures your way. You’re on your own journey. We’re waving as we go by, checking out each other’s scars.

I say this because, whether you’re a career writer who’s written forty books or four, you might one day go through a year like the one I’ve just had, where I sincerely felt as though I’d forgotten how to write novels. Not short stories, film scripts, or poems (I was never particularly good at the last). Just novels. And it wasn’t that I had suddenly lost the ability to string a sentence together or any of those basic skills. The writing-brain was still there. I had simply forgotten how to maintain it.

To go back to the car metaphor, it was as though I’d built a Lamborghini from scratch, but then done nothing but drive it around. I hadn’t tuned it. I hadn’t changed the oil or the tyres. I had relied on my subconscious to do the work without realizing that it was getting tired and I was getting lazy.

And eventually, after one lap too many, the engine light came on, a puff of black smoke coughed out the exhaust pipe, and everything juddered to a halt.

There’s nothing as startling as running headlong into a glass wall. It took me months to work up the courage to try again. In the meantime, I read a bunch of wonderful books and experimented with new forms, which might be the equivalent of getting back under the hood and replacing the spark plugs (I don’t know that much about cars, to be honest). I began to pay closer attention to what I was doing, and noting where mental shortcuts were causing problems I wasn’t seeing, because if the process of creation is subconscious, then sometimes our critical engagement with those creations is out of our conscious control. Which is bad. We can’t fix what we don’t understand.

Me and my writer-brain, I realized, we’re like an old married couple. We grew apart. That’s what happens when you take each other for granted. Every relationship requires nurturing, even your relationship with your art, and I forgot that, to my detriment.

When my writing-brain started up again, I found it to be just as capable as before . . . but different, which I guess is inevitable after a year of fallow time and introspection. In that frustrating time, I learned a lot about myself, about the kind of stories I like and the stories I want to tell.

Writing is hard. It takes effort and concentration. There’s no right way to do anything, only the way that works right now–which may never have worked before and might not ever work again.

But that’s not a disincentive. Not at all. Because if funny things didn’t keep happening to me along the way, my writing career might start looking a lot like work . . .

Sean’s new book, Hollow Girl is the conclusion to the Twinmaker trilogy, hailed as “mind-boggling” (Locus), “a philosophical marathon” (Kirkus), and “a gripping sci-fi story of friendship, identity + accidentally destroying the universe” (Amie Kaufman).

And just look at that cover art! (Click to see it full size)


A writing update – let’s hear a cheer for anthologies!

While I’d very much like to be under contract for some novels, with the upcoming expense of Junior Son’s university years ahead, it’s actually a very good thing I’ve not got deadlines like that to handle at the moment, given the way EU digital VAT has eaten my life this year…

So I am intensely grateful to have anthology invitations to keep me writing amid all the hassle of trying to reform EU legisation…

‘Fight like a Girl’ is a collection forthcoming from Kristell Ink – details here – and that has a story from me that just happens to be set a few years ago in the Lescari Wars, for those interested in Einarinn fiction. Obviously, there’s no need to be familiar with that scenario; the story stands alone for newcomers to my work. So do click on over to find out who’s writing alongside my tale Coins, Fights and Stories Always Have Two Sides.

Next year will see me having another crack at Science Fiction! Fox Spirit will be bringing out an anthology Eve of War and I have a story in what promises to be another very strong and interesting collection. Details forthcoming in due course.

If you can’t wait for that, and are keen to read something new by me but simply couldn’t spare the cash to contribute earlier to the ‘Temporally Out of Order’ anthology, now’s your chance to buy the mass-market paperback or ebook. My story’s called ‘Notes and Queries’ and I wrote about my inspiration for it here a while back.

Once you’ve read that, or if you’ve read any of the previous anthologies edited by Joshua Palmatier and Patricia Bray, you really should check out this new Kickstarter, looking to fund two new collections, one on Were- well, whatevers, and one on alien artefacts. I’ve signed up for Alien Artefacts, and that’s definitely a go, as you’ll see the Kickstarter is already fully funded. New authors joining the fun now include David Farland (aka Dave Wolverton) and CS Friedman.

But wait! You can still make a real contribution to enhancing these anthologies, along with snagging some very fine advance goodies and bonuses for yourself.

For instance – Katharine Kerr (author of the Deverry fantasy series and the Nola O’Grady urban fantasy series) will join the anchor authors of the WERE- anthology if we reach $12.5K. (I’m particularly excited about this one as I have admired her writing for literally decades!) Then Jean Marie Ward has donated an ebook of a novelette called “Glass Transit” for those that pledge $6 or more if we reach $15K. And much, much more besides.

So do check out the kickstarter! And if you’re an aspiring writer yourself, start brushing up your ideas about aliens and/or were-creatures. There will be open submission slots available for both anthologies and Joshua and Patricia are genuinely interested in seeing new work and giving new voices their first chance at publication.

And meantime, alongside Cheryl Morgan of Wizards Tower Press, I’m working hard on preparing the Aldabreshin Compass ebooks for release soon, really soon… And yes, I know I keep on promising this but honestly, cover art and map reveals will be forthcoming shortly. Trust me, they’re worth the wait!

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go and prepare for tomorrow’s HMRC Digital VAT Working Group meeting…

Alien Artefacts and Were-(whatevers)! Another chance for me to write some SF!

As regular readers will know, ZNB is a small press run by Joshua Palmatier, with the able assistance of Patricia Bray, that’s establishing a solid reputation for anthologies exploring all manner of quirky corners of SFF. They really do have a knack for finding subjects to inspire and entertain both writers and readers. Because one of the most fun things about writing for a ZNB project is seeing what everyone else comes up with!

Here’s the newest book they’re proposing – or rather, books. This new Kickstarter will fund TWO science fiction and fantasy anthologies, titled ALIEN ARTIFACTS and WERE-, containing approximately 14 all-original (no reprint) short stories each from established SF&F authors in the field – including Phyllis Ames, Jacey Bedford, Patricia Bray, David B. Coe, Walter H. Hunt, Faith Hunter, Gini Koch, Gail Z. Martin, Seanan McGuire, Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Steve Miller & Sharon Lee, and Jean Marie Ward, and me, plus others. Because as well as anchoring these anthologies with stories from established authors, ZNB also offer open submission slots for other writers – with professional pay rates and cover art that any author would be proud to see on their book jacket.

Alien Artifacts:
Life is out there. Alien civilizations have grown and died and been reborn again since the dawn of the universe. Some of those civilizations have left behind signs of their existence, hidden in the ruins on unexplored planets or floating in space in the form of ghost ships. In this anthology, 14 of today’s best short story writers will tackle what could happen if, in our exploration of space, we run across some of these ancient alien artifacts. Will they catapult humanity to new technological heights … or reveal our darkest secrets and destroy us?

Edited by Patricia Bray and Joshua Palmatier, this anthology is the one I’ve signed up for and will contain approximately 14 stories with an average length of 6000 words each. You’ll also be enjoying short stories by: Jacey Bedford, Walter H. Hunt, Gini Koch, Gail Z. Martin, Seanan McGuire, and Steve Miller & Sharon Lee.

We’ve all read hundreds of stories about werewolves … but what about the less famous of the were-clans – the werelions, wereducks, and wereferns? These underrepresented families need to come out of the dark, full moon or not! From light and humorous to dark and serious, this anthology will explore other varieties of were-creatures and tell their stories. No werewolves allowed! This anthology will include short stories by: Phyllis Ames, Patricia Bray, David B. Coe, Faith Hunter, Gini Koch, Seanan McGuire, Danielle Ackley-McPhail, and Jean Marie Ward.

Cover Art:
The images that will be used to design the cover art are commissioned pieces called “Alien Artifacts” and “Were-” created by Justin Adams of Varia Studios. The concept cover art for “Alien Artifacts” has been completed and you can see it over on the Kickstarter page. That’s where you’ll find other scheduling details, and the full range of fun offers, special rewards, add-ons and stretch goals

It’s a measure of the enthusiasm readers already have for ZNB projects that this Kickstarter is already more than half funded within its first 24 hours. No, that doesn’t mean you can sit back and relax. Head on over to make sure you don’t miss out on the early backer incentives and to guarantee those stretch goals!

If you’re not yet familiar with ZNB’s collections, do check out Clockwork Universe: Steampunk vs Aliens and Temporally Out of Order. Before striking out independently, Joshua and Patricia also masterminded After Hours: Tales from the Ur-Bar and The Modern Fae’s Guide to Surviving Humanity, both of which are well worth reading.

Temporally Out of Order – more proof that I am still a writer!

Regular readers will hopefully recall the kickstarter for the proposed SF anthology, Temporally Out of Order. It was all inspired by a typo on a sign author and editor Joshua Palmatier saw on an airport phone booth. No science fiction/fantasy writer could possibly pass that without wondering what “temporally out of order” could mean for modern day—or perhaps not so modern—gadgets, such as a cell phone, laptop, television, radio, iPod, or even the microwave or refrigerator!

I was one of the ‘stretch goals’ and I wrote about what inspired my particular story idea here.

Well, we didn’t make that particular stretch goal but the anthology overall was funded (and then some!). So what was I going to do with my idea? Well, reader, I wrote it and submitted it for one of the collection’s open slots. To my intense satisfaction, it was accepted and will be part of this intriguing table of contents.

“Reading Lists” by Seanan McGuire
“Salamandar Bites” by Elektra Hammond
“Black and White” by David B. Coe
“Dinosaur Stew” by Chuck Rothman
“Not All Is As It Seems” by Faith Hunter
“Batting Out of Order” by Edmund R. Schubert
“Grand Tour” by Steve Ruskin
“A is for Alacrity, Astronauts, and Grief” by Sofie Bird
“The Spiel of the Glocken” by Laura Resnick
“The Passing Bell” by Amy Griswold
“Destination Ahead” by Laura Anne Gilman
“Where There’s Smoke” by Susan Jett
“Alien Time Warp” by Gini Koch
“Cell Service” by Christopher Barili
“Temporally Full” by Stephen Leigh
“Notes and Queries” by Juliet E. McKenna
“Temporally Out of Odor: A Fragrant Fable” by Jeremy Sim

The publisher’s currently designing the ebooks and paperbacks and we should see a summer release, maybe June, more likely July or August. Check out the ZNB online store for information on how to preorder. Otherwise, keep an eye on your preferred online retailer – and as soon as I know listings are up, I’ll pass that on.

Mid-month update

I don’t suppose you’ll be in the least surprised to learn that campaigning against the new EU VAT legislation on crossborder digital sales continues to take up a lot of my time. We are now collecting evidence on just how unworkable the supposedly simple system is – and that is thankfully getting the attention of various MEPs and MPs. Updates here, from EU VAT Action and here on the other blog I started to handle this issue.

Since all this means making noise about other things like the representation of women in SFF is taking a back seat, I’m particularly pleased to see this on Marianne de Pierre’s blog

So here’s the thing guys… I need your help. I began my Research Masters on Future Feminism today, and I’m compiling a list of contemporary female SF authors (not fantasy, not YA, and not straight SF romance) who have been published in novel length work since 2000.

I’d love to hear who your favourite female SF (post 2000) author is so I can add them to my reading list. Please leave the names in the comments section and I’ll add them to my main list. I’ve made a solid start, but there are many more! I’ve alphabetised by surname.

Do check out the blog and see if you can add to the list?

In other news? Well, I’ve had a short story accepted for an anthology and am currently turning that from a draft into a final version thanks to the editor’s helpful feedback. It’s nice to be tackling some fiction again!

In between times, I am working on prepping the texts of the Aldabreshin Compass novels for their ebook editions. We’re also briefing an artist for cover art. The plan is to get all four done at once so we can release them in alternate months later this year. I’m also seriously considering writing some related short stories as re-reading the books has tempted me into tugging on a few lingering loose threads…

Once that’s all underway, I’ll turn my attention to getting the River Kingdom novella ‘The Ties that Bind’ out as an ebook as well as a collection of the short stories I’ve written in that setting.

Meantime, the novel I wrote last year is doing the round of agents… Reactions so far remind me just how subjective this game is. I’ve had ‘thanks but no thanks’ responses like ‘Aspect A is great but I’d really be looking for more Aspect B’ to set against ‘Aspect A is lacking for me, though Aspect B is very well done’. Plus the always baffling ‘I really like Aspect A and Aspect B… but I don’t quite love the whole thing enough to represent it…’

So on we go…

Where did I get my ‘Temporally Out of Order’ idea?

So we’re halfway through the Kickstarter today and at time of writing this, we’re a hair under 80% funded. Hopefully by the time you’re reading this, we’ll have passed that milestone and be well on our way to fully funded and better yet, the stretch goals.

I really want to see us hit those stretch goals. Because I really want to read those extra stories. Yes, I really want to write one of them, because I’ve got an awfully good idea… Would you like to know a little about the puzzle that’s prompted it?

Let me tell you something that my younger son has discovered. He’s eighteen and being very musical, he and a similarly talented pal go busking in Oxford. We all live within striking distance of the city and the lads are properly licensed by the local authority and obey all the relevant regulations. On a good day, especially in the tourist season, they can do very nicely, thank you. Even on a quiet day, they’ll earn more that they would spending their time stacking shelves in a supermarket on minimum wage.

One of the entertaining things as we count and bag up the money for banking is spotting the foreign coins. They’ve been doing this for a couple of years now and have amassed a couple of dollars in US quarters from various states, along with one Sacagawea dollar and some nickels and dimes. They get a few Euro coins and coppers each month so that all goes in the family travel fund. Other coins have come from Egypt, China, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Ukraine, Finland, Norway, Hungary, India. They can’t cash such small amounts of coin but that’s not a problem. They’re interesting in their own right, to show how far folk travel to visit Oxford, and the gesture of appreciation for the lads’ music is, well, appreciated.

Then there are the old coins, and they’re a real curiosity. Every so often, we’ll find a coin that’s no longer legal tender here in the UK. Outsized ten and fifty pence coins that were withdrawn from circulation years ago. Even older, pre-decimal coins. Half crowns. Sixpences. We’ve even had some from Europe; pre-Euro francs and centimes and a couple of Deutschmarks. Here’s a picture of the latest; a 1962 old penny. That’s older than me!

1962 Penny

Who goes out, let alone on holiday, with a pocketful of outdated small change and gives it to buskers? Why?

No, that’s not what my story’s going to be about. Not directly, anyway. But you can’t expect a puzzle like this not to get a writer’s imagination working…

So if you want to read the story, and haven’t yet backed the Kickstarter? Well, over to you.

A Knight in the Silk Purse: Ghosts of Taux (Tales of the Emerald Serpent Book 2)

Do you remember Tales of the Emerald Serpent? The shared world anthology I’m part of, funded by Kickstarter? With its interlinked stories by a host of great writers, further enhanced by truly splendid artwork? All set in the mysterious city of Taux with inspirations drawn from Central American and other mythologies as well as the authors’ and artists’ fertile imaginations.

If so, you’ll recall we ran a second successful campaign and now the second volume is here! This anthology is even more intricate and ambitious. Our returning characters are caught up in official investigations as a Paladin tries to uncover the truth behind a gruesome murder while the Festival of Flowers fills the city with perfumes and parades, the perfect cover for some and their dark secrets…

Once again, I had tremendous fun writing my story, featuring Zhada the Lowl (a race of dog-headed men). If you’ve been at all curious about his romance with one of the city’s leading merchants’ daughter, you should definitely be reading this.

And yes, we’re discussing possibilities for Volume Three. We’re having far too much fun to stop, if we can possibly arrange it.

(I’ve linked to Amazon UK but obviously both books are available via Amazon US as well)


My World Fantasy Convention Schedule

Here’s how my schedule looks for the next few days.

I’ll be arriving in Brighton around 2pm on Thursday so hope to be at the con by 3pm.

I’ll be at the Gemmell Awards from 8pm, and at the Legends Anthology launch thereafter, not least since I have a story in the collection and given the rest of the line up, I’m eagerly anticipating reading the rest.

On Friday, I’m on the ‘Broads with Swords’ panel at 4pm with Laura Anne Gilman, Robin Hobb, Trudi Canavan and Gaie Sebold. And yes, I know, that title… but our full brief invites us to talk about new female writers in this particular area and I’m very keen to share some of my recent reading.

I’ll also be at the mass-signing on Friday evening from 8pm, and if that doesn’t suit your own plans, I’ll be signing at the Solaris stand at 4pm on Saturday.

On 10am on Sunday morning, I’ll be joining my fellow authors for the launch of Tales of Eve, from Fox Spirit Books. There’ll be juice and fizzy drinks to revive you after your Saturday night and lots of fun as we celebrate this venture.

In between times, I’ve got a few meet-ups planned, and have some panels ticked to attend. If you see me around, feel free to say hello.

Assuming I get everything packed and sorted in time to get my train(s) tomorrow morning…

Right… ironing…

Unexpected Journeys – Editing an Anthology for the British Fantasy Society

This has been a whole new experience for me. I’m used to reading my fellow authors’ published work for review purposes, and I’m used to reading submissions from aspiring writers when I’ve been teaching. But putting on the Editor Hat and discussing work in draft from my professional equals? That’s not something I’ve done before…

Why have I been doing this? Well, I’ve been going to FantasyCon, the British Fantasy Society’s annual UK convention for the past decade or so and last year, Lee Harris, the current Chair asked me to edit a new anthology for the BFS with a particular focus on epic fantasy. I understood what he was asking and why. The BFS is a fan-run organisation with a focus on speculative fiction from horror to epic fantasy. It so happens most of the volunteers, who do all the very hard work without which such organisations simply cannot exist, have been personally more inclined towards the horror end of the spectrum and this taste has been reflected in the society’s publications – one of those unintended consequences.

Meantime, the growing attendance at FantasyCon (an event open to all, not just BFS members) has shown the keen appetite for epic fantasy among those attendees, not least in the packed-out rooms for the fantasy-discussion panels and the interviews with Guests of Honour such as (but not limited to) Raymond Feist, Gail Z Martin and Brent Weeks. So this year sees two anthologies from the BFS, one horror-themed, and one specifically epic fantasy, to cater to all tastes.

When I agreed to take this on, I had quite a few decisions to make. Some were easy. At the project’s outset, I was doing my second stint as a judge for the Arthur C Clarke Award and was Chair of the forthcoming Eastercon, EightSquared, scheduled for the last weekend in March 2013. So there was simply no way I could declare this an open-submissions anthology and give the necessary, critical attention to however many hopeful stories might land in my inbox. I just wouldn’t have the time. This was going to have to be an invitation-only anthology.

What sort of stories would I include? I decided I wanted tales which appreciate the core strengths of epic fantasy; compelling heroes (male and female), battles with swords and sorcery, facing down evil both intentional and accidental, a sense of myth and mystery. I also wanted to celebrate the way our beloved genre is currently flourishing with so much more than simple tales of high adventure or the concerns of kings and wizards. Epic fantasy now offers complex stories of personal growth, of mature reflection, exploration of the rights and wrongs of power. These novels feature people and places from hovels to palaces, enriched by so many more cultures and history than the genre’s original quasi-European inspiration. All threaded through with magic, danger and wonder.

But who to invite? This really was the hardest decision of all, because the collection was only going to have eight stories. I could so easily list a couple of dozen excellent authors currently writing the sort of stories I wanted without pausing for thought. So I have done my best to find writers with different styles and approaches spanning the current breadth and depth of epic fantasy. Hopefully there will be something to satisfy each reader’s particular enthusiasms alongside something they haven’t encountered in their reading thus far, whetting their appetite for more.

The stories are –

A Thief in the Night by Anne Lyle
Seeds by Benjamin Tate
Steer a Pale Course by Gail Z Martin
The Groppler’s Harvest by Adrian Tchaikovsky
Oak, Broom and Meadowsweet by Liz Williams
The Sin Eater by Stephen Deas
King Harvest Has Surely Come by Chaz Brenchley
The Queen’s Garden by Kate Elliott

Reading these in draft was definitely a new experience. I’m used to being edited myself but now I was the one looking to nit-pick and ask awkward questions as I put myself in the place of the reader unfamiliar with this author and their work. Fortunately, working with talented professionals, there wasn’t too much of that to do, and our discussions were very amiable. Then I had to pick up my red pen and copy-edit, looking at the fine detail of the actual word-smithing. Actually the main thing I had to do was put my red pen down and sit on my hands, to make very sure I was only highlighting things which needed to be changed for clarity and flow. The temptation for me as an author, to think how I might have written a sentence differently, had to be sternly resisted. Otherwise I risked overlaying the rhythm and character of another writer’s prose with elements of my own writing style. That’s most definitely not an editor’s job.

Then I had to find some cover art. ‘Oh… help…’ was my initial reaction – swiftly followed by ‘thank goodness for the Internet!’ I began browsing various genre artists’ websites and discovered that, as well as their published covers and other art, some were displaying pieces of work which had been commissioned but for some reason or other, had never been used. These were available to be licensed. So I began hunting in earnest for such a picture which would somehow simultaneously manage to reflect the very different stories now gathered together. You can imagine how thrilled I was to find ‘Soldier and Sword’ by Geoff Taylor – one of epic fantasy’s most enduring and admired artists (among his other work – if you haven’t seen his wildlife art, do check out his website).

And now we’ve been doing the final proof-reading and the book is due to go to print. That’s both a relief, as the job’s finally done, and unexpectedly nerve-wracking, as I must wait to find out how far readers think I’ve succeeded in my aims. In the first instance, those readers will be current BFS members and those who join in the forthcoming months. Obviously, the authors retain the rights to their stories and they will doubtless appear elsewhere to delight their fans. For the moment though, this book is a gift from the British Fantasy Society to those who support it and I am very pleased to have been a part of the project.

Soldier and Sword by Geoff Taylor

A Knight in the Silk Purse update – wow!

Let’s just have a quick look…

Well, as of this morning, 6th June, here in the UK, we’re already a third of the way to our first target in under twenty four hours. Whoo hoo. Though of course, that’s not nearly the sum of our collective ambition. As you will see from the stretch goals, we really want to see this as a whole series of books, and we’ve been kicking around some awesome ideas between us these past couple of months.

Incidentally, thanks to Martha Wells, here’s a link to buy Tales of the Emerald Serpent on Nook if you prefer, or hard copy via Lulu so you can see exactly what we’re doing.

Meantime, I will go and get on with writing the next instalment of my Aethernet Magazine story, The Ties That Bind.

And yes, I will be sorting out a blog post about what I’m currently writing and why, just to bring you all up to date.