Tuesday, September 22, 2015

First Publishing Experience

By Ray Dean

Short Story: Fire in the Sky
Anthology: Shanghai Steam with EDGE Publishing

I like it when a trip down memory lane brings me a smile instead of a wince or a sigh. Going back to remember my first publishing experience is one of those happy moments. I was fresh from my first rejection, and while the comments from the editor wasn’t exactly what I’d call encouraging, I knew that it wasn’t a matter of giving up. I was going to keep going because as I only half-joke, it’s crowded in my head. And to keep the noise down I have to write.

So a notice popped up on a Steampunk site that I was a part of, looking for stories that had Steampunk and Wuxia as a part of it. Wuxia. I had to look that term up, do my research on the genre. Wuxia is a genre that originated in Chinese literature. Translated into English, it means ‘Martial Hero’  and includes elements of the common man/underdog, martial arts, superhuman feats. I have also seen magic or wizardry used in explanations of the genre.

This idea really struck a chord in me, a tremor of excitement. As a girl I would stay up LATE. Not just past my bedtime late, but Holy Cow I should be sleeping because I have Saturday morning dance classes but I don’t care LATE. Because, Friday night on Channel 13 had Black Belt Kung Fu Theater. I already watched Channel 13 because it also played the Samurai films that I loved so much, but the amazing choreography of Kung Fu movies was so very different from the Samurai films/tv shows. Samurai films centered around the Bushido, the rules and lifestyle of a swordsman in Japan and Kung Fu films would use any number of weapons, or none at all. The stunning choreography was something that I really appreciated. 

The next step was to find a story/setting that I felt would fit the genre. My first instinct was to go ‘West.’ Not just in direction by setting. I wrote my story set in Tombstone, AZ. Having been a frequent visitor to the “Town Too Tough to Die,” I knew quite a bit about the Chinese immigrants in Hop Town and thought a story centered around the mining claims would be fun to write, including the action sequences that were an integral part of Wuxia.

With my heart in my throat I sent off that story.

The email that came back a little later was a surprise, but not an immediate cause of full-out celebration. They liked my story, thought it was good… but not quite right for the anthology.

Yes, I was still breathing. Barely. Okay, there was more to the email, so I continued reading.

Did I have anything else that might fit?

I hope I don’t sound too much like a newbie, but there was no way that I was going to say no to that question. But before I could do anything I asked them if they wouldn’t mind telling me how the first story didn’t fit. I did when I sent it in, otherwise I wouldn’t have submitted it in the first place.

When the reply came back they gave me a quick overview of what didn’t seem to match the anthology and I was able to brainstorm another story. I gave her a quick summary of my idea, she gave me a time frame and I was off… writing… not in my head.

The second story was based on an article that I read in my son’s World History textbook. A letter written to the Queen of England by a scholar in China asking England not to import opium into China. The letter discussed the many ills of the drug and asked that the country stop shipping the product into China in payment for trade goods instead of silver. The ‘twisted mind’ in my head said ‘okay, we won’t bring it into your ports, but airships don’t need the harbor…’ How would the people of town react to the heavy handed actions of the British and their ‘end run’ around the law. Who would stand up to them and how?

Once the second story was completed and officially accepted for the anthology I received a contract in my email and things went on from there. A few rounds of minor edits back and forth, starting with the editor that made that first contact with me. From there the other editors weighed in and there were a few moments when we had short discussions about elements in the story. Part of the fun of working on a story set in a historical… but not so historical era in speculative fiction, is discovering possibilities and then making sure the world lives and breathes. There is also a certain amount of discovery, capitalizing on the strengths of everyone involved.

Once the edits were done, we got down to the business of setting up promotion for the release of the anthology. A Facebook page, a blog tour, and more. I wasn’t able to participate in the ‘live readings’ as I was so very far away from Canada, but I was able to see the pictures and read the recaps of all the action! 

As another part of our ‘release’ activities, we had a group post here on “Bad Girls, Good Guys, and Two-Fisted Action." It took a bit of organization to get it all together, but I really enjoyed the different answers. It was a chance to get to know the other authors as well.

The anthology was later nominated for an award and mentioned in Orson Scott Card’s book “Writing Fantasy & Science Fiction: How to Create Out-of-This-World Novels and Short Stories.”

I learned so much about submissions and editing from the folks at EDGE. And I’d like to add a huge thanks to Sean Taylor for having me write about my first publishing experience.