Friday, January 24, 2014

Editing in Process...The Very Best of F&SF, Volume Two

Very Best of F&SF V2After completing my copy edit of the Kameron Hurley novelette, I resumed work on my current project for Tachyon Publications -- volume two of anthology The Very Best of Fantasy & Science Fiction, edited by Gordon Van Gelder.

Back in 2009, in celebration of sixty years of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Tachyon Publications released the anthology The Very Best of Fantasy & Science Fiction, which contained 23 stories from some of the best names in the genre: Ray Bradbury, Shirley Jackson, Kurt Vonnegut, Philip K. Dick, Ursula K. Le Guin, Stephen King, Karen Joy Fowler, Ted Chiang, and Roger Zelazny, to name just a few. I copy edited this initial F&SF anthology in March 2009 -- and now, nearly four years later, I had the opportunity to work on volume two.

Here's the Volume Two table of contents:
Introduction by Michael Dirda
"The Third Level" by Jack Finney (1952)
"The Cosmic Charge Account" by C. M. Kornbluth (1956)
"The Country of the Kind" by Damon Knight (1956)
"The Anything Box" by Zenna Henderson (1956)
"The Prize of Peril" by Robert Sheckley (1958)
"'—All You Zombies—'" by Robert A. Heinlein (1959)
"A Kind of Artistry" by Brian Aldiss (1962)
"Green Magic" by Jack Vance (1963)
"Narrow Valley" by R. A. Lafferty (1966)
"Sundance" by Robert Silverberg (1969)
"The Attack of the Giant Baby" by Kit Reed (1976)
"The Hundredth Dove" by Jane Yolen (1977)
"Jeffty Is Five" by Harlan Ellison® (1977)
"Salvador" by Lucius Shepard (1984)
"The Aliens Who Knew, I mean, Everything"
      by George Alec Effinger (1984)
"Rat" by James P. Kelly (1986)
"The Friendship Light" by Gene Wolfe (1989)
"The Bone Woman" by Charles de Lint (1993)
"The Lincoln Train" by Maureen F. McHugh (1995)
"Maneki Neko" by Bruce Sterling (1998)
"Winemaster" by Robert Reed (1999)
"Suicide Coast" by M. John Harrison (1999)
"Have Not Have" by Geoff Ryman (2001)
"The People of Sand and Slag" by Paolo Bacigalupi (2004)
"Echo" by Elizabeth Hand (2005)
"The New York Times at Special Bargain Rates"
      by Stephen King (2008)
"The Paper Menagerie" by Ken Liu (2011)

Each of these 26 stories is a classic in its own right.

If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, then you know I have a penchant for the humorous, sardonic story -- and R. A. Lafferty's "Narrow Valley" fits this requirement perfectly.

In 1893 the remaining 821 Pawnee Indians were given land allotments of exactly 160 acres; they were to live on the land and pay taxes, "the same as the White-Eyes did." But Clarence Big-Saddle had other ideas, and performed a Pawnee chant over his land: he had no plans to ever pay any taxes.

"Clarence Big-Saddle lived on his land for many years, and he paid no taxes. Intruders were unable to come down to his place. The land was sold for taxes three times, but nobody ever came down to claim it. Finally, it was carried as open land on the books. Homesteaders filed on it several times, but none of them fulfilled the qualification of living on the land."

Then one day, many decades later, the Rampart family arrived in town and filed paperwork on this one tract of land that still remained open. After filing the paperwork at the courthouse, they climbed back into their camper and headed to the property, all 160 acres of it.

The easiest route to the property was through the short pasture belonging to cattle and wheat farmer Charley Dublin. So the Ramparts stopped at Dublin's house, and he escorted them to their property:

"Well, Rampart, this is the fence and the end of my land. Yours is just beyond."

"Is that ditch on my land?" Rampart asked.

"That ditch is your land."

And that's just the beginning of this 5,300-word treasure.

The Very Best of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Volume Two will be published in July, but why wait: preorder your copy now.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Editing in Process...Kameron Hurley

The Body ProjectSometimes, everything -- well, almost everything -- just seems to work out, or so I like to believe hope. For example: I worked for Night Shade Books for nine years (which I blogged about here, including a list of the 125 books I worked on during that time period), and then dealt with the demise -- and resale -- of the company. By the summer of 2013, with no new incoming projects from Night Shade, my workload had decreased dramatically, a huge concern for me as a full-time freelancer. But then Bradley P. Beaulieu, a former Night Shade author with whom I had never worked before, contacted me about a book project. He wanted me to line edit and copy edit his collection, Lest Our Passage Be Forgotten & Other Stories -- financed through a Kickstarter campaign -- which he planned to self-publish. My blog post on Brad's collection is here. Brad later referred me to Barbara Webb, who contracted with me to copy edit her novel City of Burning Shadows (here) -- a novel worthy of your "watchlist" -- which Barbara also plans to self-publish. Those were two of my one-on-one author projects in 2013 that came about from my work with Night Shade Books.

Enter 2014: Most recently, I had the opportunity to work with another former Night Shade author, Kameron Hurley. Her new novelette is "The Body Project": a story in her Bel Dame Apocrypha series, which includes the novels God's War (a 2012 Nebula Award nominee for best novel), Infidel, and Rapture. I was fortunate to have worked with Kameron on this trilogy during my stint at Night Shade.

So I was thrilled when I received Kameron's email regarding this new project: we freelancers are always thrilled when a new income opportunity presents itself, but -- and more importantly -- I was especially thrilled because I would have an opportunity, albeit briefly, to work with Kameron once again (a true pro) and to visit once more, as it were, the world of Nyx, Rhys, Anneke, and the bel dames.

Kameron informed me that the story takes place during the seven-year gap between chapters 4 and 5 of God's War; the novelette is meant to be a sort of introduction for those who haven't yet read the trilogy. And for those of us who have read the books, the story provides further insight in to what drives the protagonist, Nyxnissa so Dasheem.

Here are the two opening paragraphs to "The Body Project":
The man's rugged visage—hanging from the upper window of the tenement building—was captivating. The rest of him was less so, as it was a mangled wreck of shattered limbs and shredded torso strewn all over the street at Nyx's feet.

Nyx toed at the burst flesh of his admittedly once-fine form, now split and oozing a sour blend of offal that brought to mind the pungent stink of rotten bodies at the front. That memory, paired with the profile of the man's head, sparked a sudden familiarity. She had a powerful feeling that she knew him.

This brief excerpt is typical of the gritty, hard-edged writing of the entire trilogy. For me, upon first reading God's War, it was like a breath of fresh air had come in across from the desert.... Different, but not unlike when I read William Gibson's Neuromancer, shortly after the book was first published.

"The Body Project" has been posted online for your reading pleasure courtesy of publisher Del Rey UK, to help promote the UK publication of the Bel Dame Apocrypha trilogy. In addition, the novelette has been published as an ebook on both the Amazon US and Amazon UK sites. If you're going to buy the ebook, don't hesitate: the current promotional price of 99¢ will increase on February 1.

After I had completed the copy edits -- and Kameron had had sufficient time to review them -- she sent out the following two Twitter posts, on January 10 and 14, respectively...

...Which obviously provide me the opportunity to toot (tweet?) my own horn.

And don't forget: the ebook is only 99¢ (£0.77 in the UK) until February 1.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Editing in Process...Barbara J. Webb

Midnight in St. PetersburgMy latest project is by author Barbara J. Webb and is not the novel pictured to the left. The novel I worked on is entitled City of Burning Shadows, which the author plans to self-publish. In the meantime, I'm pointing you to her previous novel, Midnight in St. Petersburg, volume one in The Invisible War series. But I'll be sure to post here when City of Burning Shadows is published. The wait will certainly be worth it.

Unfortunately I don't pimp myself as much as I should. In addition to the work I do with publishers, I also work directly with writers: new and novice writers, self-published writers, and contract writers who understand the value of an editor and copy editor. I'd like to point you to one such project, Bradley P. Beaulieu's self-published short fiction collection Lest Our Passage Be Forgotten & Other Stories. If you have an interest in chatting with me about a project, you'll find my email address listed under my blog profile. I don't attend as many conventions as I used to, but should you see me at a con, please feel free to come up to me and introduce yourself, and let me know you would like to talk about a project. And this should up my pimp quota somewhat....

But back to this project: Barbara Webb sent me the first chapter of City of Burning Shadows prior to our signing an agreement to work together on this project. I was impressed with the quality of her writing in this opening chapter and didn't come upon any obvious editorial issues through my initial read. But more important, this one chapter presaged a great novel that I wanted to read further. Here's the end of that first chapter:

...I couldn't afford to lose this job.

Getting myself killed provoking fights was one thing. Starving to death in the street was a whole other. Not that I'd probably live long enough to starve. I'd be another headline: former priest of Kaifail beaten to death, or burned alive, or strung up with his intestines hanging out for the crows. People in this city were nothing if not creative in their punishments for those of us they blamed for the state of things.

All this was still fresh in my mind when the intercom on my desk pinged. "Mr. Drake?" The security guard. "There's a man down here asking for you."

Was there any way this could be good? "Who is he? What does he want?"

"Says he needs to see you. Says you know each other." The guard's voice dropped, whispering into his microphone: "He says he was a priest."

Just like that, I was back on my feet. "I'll be right down." Because I hadn't learned my lesson yet about getting involved. Because I didn't have enough to worry about these days. Most of all, because I thought it would be good to see a friend.

In other words, I hurried back downstairs because I was an idiot.

The blunt, choppy sentence structure hints of the noir detective story. The priests have the ability to perform magic, but the kind of magic present in this story brings to mind Charles Stross's Laundry Files stories: magic via technology. There are conspiracies, and plots within plots.

Whatever tool you use to make notes to yourself -- a journal, Google Keep, MS OneNote, Evernote, or just plain old sticky notes -- make this note: Barbara J. Webb and City of Burning Shadows. As I previously said, I'll post on this blog when the book is available.

Added March 14, 2014:

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Dear Indie Author Community:

An open letter from author J. M. Gregoire to all indie authors.
A must read.

Dear Indie Author Community,

Something bad is happening in the Indie Author Community. Several bad things, in fact, and if something isn't said to you, you're going to ruin your writing career before it ever gets started. What is about to follow in this letter is not an "I know everything" bomb. This letter is to serve as what should be common sense for all of us. All of this I have learned through experience as a jaded reader, a disappointed fangirl, a pissed off book blogger, a screwed over event planner, a disgusted indie author PR rep, and a fellow indie author who wants to see the community as a whole succeed. This is an Open Letter meant to try to bring the Indie Author Community back to respectable place where we can all be taken seriously.

There are a good many indies out there I no longer have respect for. Now, to understand the gravity of that statement, you must understand this: I absolutely love indie authors. I love the basic idea — you can tell your story without the media or some suit telling you what to write and when to write it. The "we don't need them" mentality is one of the factors that kept me from even considering publishing years ago. When the self-publishing boom hit, I thought it was a fantastic idea! Take out the middle man and bring stories down to what it really should be — a relationship between the storyteller and their audience.

All of that being said, I have become all those things I have listed up above. A jaded reader because the market is being flooded with books that are not ready to be published. A disappointed fangirl because of all the authors that feel just because they're published, they are somehow above everyone else...and treat them as such. A pissed off book blogger because once upon a time, writing reviews was FUN and now if I don't like a book, I can't just SAY SO (even POLITELY, mind you) without running the chance of having the author flat-out attack me and drag my name and the name of my book blog through every mud puddle they can find. A disgusted indie author PR rep because I keep watching indies spit in the face of the people who are the very reason they exist. A screwed over event planner because there are so many authors out there booking themselves for events and then not following through on their commitments. An indie author who is just sick of seeing her community drown itself....

If you've gotten this far, you need to read the entire open letter on J. M.'s blog.