Thursday, June 12, 2014

Editing in Process...The Very Best of Kate Elliott

The Very Best of Kate Elliott
Cover Art by Julie Dillion
The beauty of any "best of" collection is that it allows the reader to experience the full expanse of the author's writing and story telling. And, if the collection is indeed worth its (literal) weight, then the book will hopefully have some small treasure, a story unfamiliar to the reader, even if the reader is one of the author's biggest fans. That was true of The Very Best of Tad Williams (see my November 13, 2013 blog post); and it holds true on my most recent project, The Very Best of Kate Elliott, both from Tachyon Publications.

My commitment for the Kate Elliott project was to have the entire 113,000-word collection reviewed and copy edited by "early June." At issue, though, was that two-thirds of the overall word count -- approximately 75,000 words -- needed to be scanned in, and then the scanned files cleaned up (formatting problems, scanning errors, etc.). I completed all the scanning, and emailed the completed files to Tachyon on May 15. I then used the following week to prepare for BayCon 2014, held on the Memorial Day weekend, which I blogged about at length here. After recovering from the con, I then proceeded to work on the Kate Elliott manuscript files, all of which were completed -- on schedule -- the first week of June. (A bit of work had to be done during the intervening weekend as well to ensure that I completed the project by "early June.")

Given the sources of their original publication, the majority of these Kate Elliott (the pseudonym of Alis A. Rasmussen) stories were new to me. Six of the twelve stories, for example, were originally published in anthologies from DAW Books, only one of which, the DAW 30th Anniversary Science Fiction Anthology, edited by Elizabeth R. Wollheim and Sheila E. Gilbert (2003), was known to me. Of the other six stories, one previously appeared online only on, and another -- "On the Dying Winds of the Old Year and the Birthing Winds of the New" -- is original to this collection.

Regardless of the source of these stories, they are all as varied, and finely crafted, as the anthologies in which they originally appeared. My favorite story would have to be "A Simple Act of Kindness," which originally appeared in The Shimmering Door, edited by Katharine Kerr (HarperPrism, 1996). The story of Daniella, a young girl who, in some ways, feels safer out in a storm at night -- even a night and a storm such as this -- searching for lost sheep, than at home with her family (not the least of which is "her cousin Robert, who had been pestering her for months now, ever since her first bleeding came on her"). To set the scene:
Clouds massed, black and brooding, over the hills and the great length of forest that bordered the village of Sant Laon. They sat, almost as if they were waiting, and the wind died down and tendrils of mist and spatterings of rain were all that came of them through the day. At evening mass, at a twilight brought early by the lowering clouds, Deacon Joceran spoke solemnly of storms called up by unnatural means, and she warned all the villagers to bar their doors and shutters that night and to hang an iron knife or pot above the door and a sprig of rosemary above the window.
Unknown creatures, dark shapes, darker than the night, pass Daniella as she searches for the lost ewe. The thing the creatures seek takes refuge with its horse in the church, and Daniella follows it inside. the light of seven candles lit round the altar and protected by glass jars, Daniella saw it was no Thing at all but a young woman, dark-haired and dark eyed, her skin dusky colored like bread baked too long in the oven.... The horse was a fine beast, big-boned but not enormous, with an intelligent head—a nobleman's mount. Tied on beside the saddlebags were a tasselled bowcase of leather embossed with griffins and a quiver full of arrows. A small shield painted black hung from the saddle. The woman wore a sword at her belt.
Since this is a spoiler-free post, I'll only say that Daniella's selfless act that night brings her to the attention of these dark creatures, and you'll need to read the story (if you haven't done so previously) to learn the ripple effect this has on Daniella, her family, and the village of Sant Laon. It's certainly not a "happily ever after" story, at least for Daniella.

Here are the twelve stories:
The Gates of Joriun
Leaf and Branch and Grass and Vine
The Queen's Garden
On the Dying Winds of the Old Year and the Birthing Winds of the New
The Memory of Peace
With God to Guard Her
Riding the Shore of the River of Death
My Voice Is in My Sword
A Simple Act of Kindness
To Be a Man
Making the World Live Again
In addition to these stories, the author has also included four essays, all in print for the first time: two originally appeared on, a third appeared on SF Signal, and the fourth essay on Here are the four essays:
The Omniscient Breasts: The Male Gaze through Female Eyes
The Narrative of Women in Fear and Pain
And Pharaoh's Heart Hardened
The Status Quo Does Not Need World Building
These essays are an added bonus, and provide the reader with some insight into Kate Elliott the person as well as a foundation for much of her story-telling.

Lastly, I hope you are as knocked out by Julie Dillon's cover art as I am. In a one-pager entitled "About the Cover Art" in the book, Kate Elliott states that Dillon's art illustrates a passage from Cold Steel (Book 3 in the author's Spiritwalker Trilogy).

[Update, about two hours later]
I realized that I neglected to mention the introduction that Ms. Elliott wrote specifically for this collection. Subtitled "The Landscape That Surrounds Us," this new intro clocks in at nearly 3100 words and ten manuscript pages -- and sets the tone for the entire volume. The author writes at length about her childhood, growing up in rural Oregon, and how the life she led influenced her writing.


  1. Marty, I'm almost done going through the copy edits and I just have to tell you how amazingly clean these texts are, especially considering how many had to be scanned. You are amazing.

  2. Dear Kate,

    Thank you for the very kind complement. But you know, when I'm reading such "amazing" stories as these, it's like I'm not really working at all!

    Thanks again.
    Cheers, and all best wishes for the success of this collection.
    - marty

  3. The c-e will now inform us that we have used the word "amazing" too many times and can replace one of them with something else?


  4. Wait a minute... I'm the c-e! Actually, I was just using your word back at you; sometimes "amazing" just happens to be the appropriate word (no matter what the c-e says).