On Anthologies and Small Press Beginnings

Following on from the spate of guest posts last month, I’m talking about creating anthologies and accidental small press beginnings at Emily Craven’s e-Book Revolution today. It is part of the week-long relaunch of the website.

“Digital publishing allows exploration of ideas without a strong, traditional  ‘commercial value’. Many of the financial risks associated with traditional forms of publishing do not apply to digital publishing. This makes it the perfect playground for experimentation.” Read the full article.

By leaving a comment you go into the draw to win one of two wonderful bundles of prizes (one which is the entire back catalogue of anthologies from the Chinese Whisperings and Literary Mix Tapes imprint). So hop on over and share your anthology experiences: good, bad, indifferent!

Other articles in the relaunch of the e-Book Revolution site include:

5 Mind Blowing Facts About Book Trailers – And How To Do Your Own

iBooks Alternatives – How To Make A Book App With Authorly

Author Branding – Being Judged by Your Cover

How To Get Your Print Books Into Your Local Book Store In 7 Steps

 

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Chinese Whisperings Anthologies: Still Free for 10 Hours

We’re stoked! Our Chinese Whisperings promotions has drive both The Red Book and The Yin and Yang Book right up the anthology and short story charts in the free section of the Kindle book store. As this goes to print The Red Book is hovering in there at #7 on the US anthology charts, and The Yin and Yang Book stuck at #2 behind a NOVEL! Don’t get me started on how being a professional PUBLISHED author also includes knowing the difference between a novel which is one of a series and an anthology which is a collection. Anyway…

The books are still free, but if you need additional incentive to download them… read on McDuff.

WHAT’S THE DEAL WITH YIN AND YANG?

Wednesday you read how The Red Book works – how it’s circular in nature, drawing from one story and adding and expanding it in the next. The Yin and Yang Book built on this idea, but rather than a chain story we created a “mated anthology”. A prologue sets the scene, and ends on a cliffhanger:

Medae Newman has stolen a priceless painting from her employer, but as she attempts to escape the painting is impounded, a victim of seeming bad luck as the airline Medae is flying with is shut down. Does she stay and try to retrieve the painting, or does she run?

We follow the consequences of each side of this decision, as Medae’s actions, and those of her pursuers, ripple out across the airport and the wider world. In The Yin Book ten female authors explore the consequences of escape, whilst in The Yang Book ten male writers imagine what would happen if Medae stays to retrieve the painting. Across both realities lives intersect, interact and interrupt each other. Characters live and die depending on this choice. Futures are written and unwritten for better or for worse as one act of revenge spirals out of control. Both realities clash head on to be resolved by a common epilogue which brings the story full circle.

Love, romance, sex, death, revenge, espionage, assassination, abduction, smuggling, politics, fraud, business rivalries, celebrities—and internet dating. All the joy and debris of human life which is an airport!

THE YIN AND YANG BOOK BLURB

7.30AM. THE INTERNATIONAL TERMINAL OF A MAJOR EUROPEAN AIRPORT IS POISED ON THE BRINK OF CHAOS.

7.35AM. PANGAEAN AIRLINES, EUROPE’S PREMIER CARRIER, IS PLACED INTO RECEIVERSHIP, CANCELLING ALL FLIGHTS AND IMPOUNDING THOUSANDS OF ITEMS OF LUGGAGE.

The Yin and Yang Book follows the complicated web of events stemming from a suitcase, a stolen van Gogh painting, one woman on the run from her employers and the consequences of her decision to stay or go.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Twenty writers came on board for this anthology. All the original Red Book authors returned, and were joined by a further twelve writers, including Yeovil Prize winner Dan Powell, Crooked Fang author Carrie Clevenger, thriller writer Richard Jay Parker, Friday Flash founder J.M Strother, Smudge’s Mark author, Claudia Osmond and prolific self-publishing star Laura Eno.

Prologue by Jodi Cleghorn (Ed)
Three Monkeys by Paul Servini
Three Rings by Chris Chartrand
Dogs of War by Tony Noland
This Be the Verse by Dan Powell
Providence by Dale Challener Roe
No Passengers Allowed by J.M. Strother
Thirteen Feathers by Rob Diaz II
One Behind the Eye by Richard Jay Parker
Chase the Day by Jason Coggins
Somewhere to Pray (Kurush) by Benjamin Solah
The Guilty One by Emma Newman
Excess Baggage by Carrie Clevenger
Where the Heart Is by Tina Hunter
The Other Side of Limbo by Claudia Osmond
Freedom by Laura Eno
Cobalt Blue by Jasmine Gallant
The Strangest Comfort by Icy Sedgwick
Lost and Found by Jen Brubacher
Kanyasulkam by Annie Evett
Double Talk by Lily Mulholland
Epilogue by Paul Anderson (Ed)

If your looking for a unique reading experience this is it. Until 5:59pm today The Red Book and The Yin and Yang Book are free. What are you waiting for? Oh, you don’t need a Kindle eReader – in fact you don’t need an eReader full stop. Kindle provides apps: for smart phones (short stories are perfect for phones!), computer and tablets. Really no excuse now…

Chinese Whisperings Anthologies Free on Kindle

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FREE! Yes, you read correctly. For the first time The Red Book and The Yin and Yang Book are free and complete. But only for the next 48 hours on Kindle. For those of you late to this blog, Chinese Whisperings was eP’s publishing foray and became in imprint in its own right at the end of 2012. It’s actually out of The Red Book which eMergent Publishing was born. All our successive publishing endeavours have stood on the shoulders of The Red Book. It’s where I cut my teeth as an editor and found even when I had my ‘bad cap’ hat on, writers were willing to come back and work with me again.

Once we’d pushed the boundaries of short story form, the anthology structure and collaborative writing, we did it again with The Yin and Yang Book, taking interconnected to a whole new level of madness with 22 writers!

WHAT MAKES CHINESE WHISPERINGS ANTHOLOGIES UNIQUE?

Each anthology is a collection of interwoven short stories by emerging writers handpicked from across the English-speaking world. Unlike other anthologies, Chinese Whisperings is created in a sequential fashion and each story stands on its own merits while contributing to a larger, connected narrative. It takes around nine months to complete each anthology because of this.

The Red Book has each successive writer taking a minor character from the preceding story and telling their story as the major character in the next story. Each writer also references events from the preceding story to tie the ten stories together. The anthology can be read forward, or backward, and you can begin with any story you want because of its circular nature. (I’ll focus a bit more on The Yin and Yang Book tomorrow.)

THE RED BOOK

In a small North American university town ten lives are intersecting…

Miranda reaps what she has sown.
Mitchell understands there is no resisting fate.
Clint dreams of forging a violent destiny.
Elizabeth is about to make a discovery.
Robin hides a terrible secret.
Simon hasn’t slept in ten days.
Sam is pursued by nightmares.
Susie has lost everything.
David has just been found.
Jake atones for past evils.

Ten ordinary people struggling to keep their sanity in an insane world.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Eight other hearty souls set off on the initial experiment with us, including Emma Newman who has gone on to publish From Dark Places and 20 Years Later as E.J. Newman and is currently working on the Split Worlds series. Jason Coggins has gone on to write three series of Bloggin’ Brimstone. Tina Hunter  co-founded Tyche Books last year under the name Tina Moreau. All eight authors also penned stories for the Yin and Yang Book and many have contributed to Literary Mix Tapes anthologies as well.

Mercurial Jodi Cleghorn (Ed)

Something Mean in the Dream Scene Jason Coggins

Kraepelin’s Child Annie Evett

Discovery Paul Servini

Innocence Tina Hunter

Not Myself Dale Challener Roe

Not My Name Jasmine Gallant

Out Of The Darkness Rob Diaz II

Heartache Emma Newman

One in the Chamber Paul Anderson (Ed)

If your looking for a unique reading experience this is it. And for today and tomorrow The Red Book and The Yin and Yang Book are free. Honestly it doesn’t get better than that.

Pre-Order the Chinese Whisperings Anthologies

In 2009 we were struck down by the CW Fairy in the creation of The Red Book. In 2010 we found ourselves caught up in an airport, unable to move on during the writing of The Yin and Yang Book. So it almost seems auspicious in 2011 to be delaying our official launch because of an admin glitch putting us into a distribution holding pattern with Amazon.

But… it’s not all bad.

You can pre-order both anthologies now… here. The Red Book retails for $17.99 but we’ve got it at a special pre-launch price of $14.99 (plus p+h) and The Yin and Yang Book for $22.95 (normally $27.95 + p&h). We also promise to drop them in the post as soon as a new official launch date is set – even if this means the books get to you BEFORE the launch.


You’d think I’d be bummed… but it is just par the course for Chinese Whisperings. I can hope when the paperbacks are actually released, so will the CW fairy, the bad airport karma and whatever baggage we’ve accumulated over the past three years, ready to produce new and exciting anthologies next year, sans the publishing headaches.

While we can hope for check in cues which move efficiently in 2012, I know the airport toilets will just never be the same for me. And I doubt I’ll sit in a departures lounge, in the next ten years (maybe even longer), and not spend my time trying to spot characters from YandY. Such is the life at the helm of Chinese Whisperings…

Re-Imagined: The Yin & Yang Book

My brief for Chinese Whisperings: The Yin and Yang Book looked simple. Create a thief and have their stolen property confiscated in the demise of an airline. The difficulties came in writing a thief who appeared larger than life on the page (and no pressure, it was only the opening section of the book) but who really was nothing more than a sophisticated outline to enable the writers who came after me, Paul Servini and Emma Newman, to develop the thief into the character they wanted. If you like, adding colour, nuance and texture to her facsimile existence.

Keely/Medae

When I wrote Keely Jackson/Medae Newman I only knew two things about her – she would do anything to steal the painting and the set up for the crime had been a long one. That became the basis of her story. And it was a joy to see who she became in the end – not just through Paul and Emma’s eyes, but imagined also, in small and large ways, by Lily Mulholland, Dale Challener Roe, Rob Diaz, J.M Strother and Paul Anderson.

A Cast of Thousands

The other job I had, was to create a cast of minor character for the entire pool of writers to draw on. The majority of the characters the reader meets in the check-in line were in the original Prologue but were tweaked at the end to better identify the characters. I created not just those people in the line, but those on the bingo card. Important people from Medae’s life, who we never really get to know about (but I can see JJ as a young man, getting about the place in clouds of Jazz aftershave). As the anthology plays out, the reader sees into the worlds of the businessmen with their brief cases and slip on shoes, the woman with the oversized garment bag, the lady wearing Sunflowers perfume, the man with the Canadian flag on his back pack and sixteen other characters who zigzag in and out.

Rewind

If I had my time again and I wasn’t at the head of the cue: who would I choose?

I’ll let you in on a little secret – I almost got the chance to stand in the middle of the narrative and create a story, when we were on the verge of losing one of our writers. The character who most intrigued me, appears in “No Passengers Allowed” and “Kanyasulkam”: the woman with the baby on her hip and the other two boys, Josh and Henry, running amok. It was the line in Kanyasulkam which got me…“I might not look like her but I wouldn’t swap my kids and life for hers.”

When I read it, it immediately rang false – the type of thing you would say to a stranger (a glamorous stranger at that). I immediately saw her as a woman in an unhappy life (and I’m not just talking being stuck in an airport with three kids) She grew in my head to be a woman literally caught in purgatory – between a fantasy life she imagines will be better, but swamps her with guilt and a real life which consistently lets her down, but she feels compelled to stay in. A woman whose life is lost between five males: the two men vying or her attention and her three young sons.

How did she come to be caught in the turmoil? No, I’m not talking about the temptation of an affair. She’s in the chaos of the airport because she traded in the family holiday tickets, for one way tickets home to Australia on Pangaean, to leave her kids with her parents in Sydney and to go off and get head space, after he husband cancels his part in the family holiday to return to work to cover an emergency. I saw her answering her phone and having an argument with a man. A man who is begging her to stay, or to let him come with her. A man asking for a chance to be the man she needs. A man on his knees to her. A man, who it turns out, is not her husband.

I don’t know what happened to her and her kids. They’re still caught in the airport, their stories untold. I can tell you though, that woman reinvented herself and stepped into a sci-fi story, that hopefully one day you’ll get to read.

Tagged

I tag Jen Brubacher, Dan Powell, Claudia Osmond and Chris Chartrand our biggest supporters while  we created The Red Book. They saw something special in Chinese Whisperings (when we only saw a tangle of head aches) and read The Red Book imagining themselves in there.

So I ask you, our original supporters – given the complete cast of characters, who would you write if you had your time over again? And then give you the opportunity to tag another writer.

Re-Imagined: The Red Book

The Red Book focuses on the lives of ten individuals (Miranda, Mitchell, Clint, Elizabeth, Robin,  Simon, Sam, Susie, David and Jake) living in (or originally from) the same Northern American University town.  They all began life as secondary characters created by another author (except Miranda – given someone had to start the chain) and as such, belong to a much larger cast of characters who exist in the periphery of the main narrative arcs, on the fringes of the lives of the ten main characters.

Each author had their reason for choosing the character they pulled from the side and put centre stage. You can read some of the reasons in the blog posts running at the Chinese Whisperings site this week.

What if I had my time again?  Looking at the ensemble of characters – who would I chose to follow? Detective McNally, the police officer investigating the attack of Dr Mitchell Slovosky in Jason Coggin’s Something Mean in the Dream Scene, or Ronnie – Sam’s girlfriend in Jasmine Gallant’s Not Myself. What about Caleb Jones, the dead cleaner in Emma Newman’s Heartache.

No. If I could, I’d take up the siren call of the malevolent entity we christened ‘The CW Fairy’.

We’re introduced to her in Something Mean in the Dream Scene (though she’s a ‘presence’ – never specifically referred to as a ‘she’ by Mitchell) and a version of her is recognised by McNally on the front cover of a book in Slovosky’s office. She appears in Annie Evett’s Kraepelin’s Child as a pissed of female entity which only Brandon can see and is perhaps the ghost of Miranda which Clint sees lingering by the fence in the back alley at the end of the story. She returns as the beligerent entity in Paul Anderson’s One in the Chamber, possessing Kate and badgering P.I. Jake into the darkest recesses of his mind.

What I realised about The CW Fairy, is she attaches herself to men who are on the run. If you think I’m nuts, she actually comes out and accuses Jake of running away!

“She said you’d turn away. Even if you felt her, you wouldn’t believe me, you’d run away. You always do.” (Page 109)

Mitchell, in a way, is escaping his feelings – running from something so deep in his past he doesn’t remember why he’s numb (and no, I don’t believe its just the sleep paralysis robbing of him of his ability to experience and express his true emotions), Jake from his secret past and it is any one’s guess what Brandon and Clint are running from, one in his quest to stay perpetually high and the other for notoriety through violence. We never see what McNally might be on the run from – but as a police officer you could probably take a pick from several dozen gruesome things.

As such I wonder if she is also lingering on the periphery of the stories of Sam (on the run from his past and specifically people smugglers), Robin (on the run from a crime he lied about and the man who covered his lie), Simon (who is briefly avoiding facing up to remembering what made him stop sleeping int he first place) and David who is literarally escaping his old life.

I’d love to look behind these men’s lives through the eyes of the CW fairy and find what is actually there – especially those characters we only catch glimpses of, like McNally.And why she choses one man over another!

I always thought The Red Book was about staying sane in insane places – but looking at it through other eyes, I see characters all trying to escape from something (male and femal). Perhaps that is one of the factors which defines staying sane when the rest of the world goes to shit. Just trying to get the hell out of Dodge.

But at the end of the day, I’m more fascinated with who the CW Fairy originally was. Created out of the aether, or someone trapped in this state… feeding from these men. I have no idea. She still taunts from the outer reaches of comprehension with brief insights and nothing more.

Enough from me though. I tag Dale Challener Roe, author of Not Myself and ask him, who on the sidelines interests him? Given the chance to write now, who would he write? You can read his response: If I Had To It To Do Over Again.

Mercurial

A few years ago I wrote a little story called MERCURIAL. It started off as a [fiction] Friday short, based on a prompt where the main character in the story had become obsessed with something. In my story the MC was self-obsessed.

That story ended up being the very first story penned for CHINESE WHISPERINGS: The Red Book. Writing it out to its natural conclusion set the word limit for the stories – 3500 words. It is a little odd reading MERCURIAL now. My writing has moved on quite a bit since then. But I still have a soft spot for it because of the place it has in CW history.

Today, we begin the roll out of stories and reflections at the official Chinese Whisperings site,  in the lead up to the books’ release on Tuesday 11th October. Here’s a little of MERCURIAL. You can read more about how it came to be here.

***

The alarm went off, sending an agonising wave of pulses through Miranda’s head. She gritted her teeth, fumbling for the snooze button. Seven minutes to decide how the day would progress.When did I finally fall asleep? Had the light been seeping in through the Venetian blinds? Or was that yesterday? The day before?

Easing back from the clock radio, she unclenched her jaw and rolled onto her side, remoulding to the body pillow. Miranda forced beyond the headache, to take stock of the rest of her body. Her arms and legs ached, no better or worse than yesterday, and her bowels felt weak. Nothing new there. She moved her hands with slow, meticulous strokes over her swollen abdomen which had once been washboard flat and hard from daily abuse at the gym, then examined her puffy fingers now devoid of the rings she loved so much. The effort exhausted her.

Pushing through the fog wooing her back into the release of sleep, she reached once more and wrapped her fingers around the small diary on the bedside table. Lying in a haphazard manner on her side and placing the diary on the elongated pillow, Miranda scribbled down the symptoms. There would be more as the day progressed.

Erratic mood swings.

Unusual sweating.

Cold feet.

There had been new additions in the last week—fevers and sore glands. Or had she just failed to notice them before?

This little book was her testament to the truth, not the rambling hallucinations of a hypochondriac. The notes in her shaky script were concrete facts. Even if she was the only one who believed it.

The alarm burst to life again. Miranda moaned, crawling back across the yawning divide, grabbing her mobile and turning the alarm off. Every fibre of her body screamed with the effort to drag her legs over the side of the bed and sit up. The room spun for a moment. She tried to focus on the list of ‘W’ numbers, until she came to work. It only took two rings to connect to the outside world.

“Good morning Eloise.” Her voice weak, rasped, devoid of the ray of sunshine she’d always believed rippled through it.

“Ringing in sick again, Miranda?”

“I’m not feeling so good.”

“Of course you’re not.” Eloise had once been her friend and the sarcasm cut Miranda deeper than the obvious lack of empathy.

She is sitting in my chair. Schmoozing with my boss. Imagining that my job is… her job!

“You will need to ring HR about applying for holidays. You’re all out of sick leave.”

Eloise’s been in my personnel file checking my sick leave?

“But my medical cert…” Her voice fell in on itself and the words were barely audible.

“Take it up with HR. Some of us around here have work to do,” and the line went dead.

It took a while for Miranda to register the strange sound as her own weeping. Every day she detached further from her somatic experience to cope. It didn’t surprise her she failed to recognise her own crying. Last night she’d been completely disorientated when her new neighbour appeared in the dead of night to ask if she was okay. She hadn’t even realised she was upset, much less loud enough to bring him to her front door.

Someone else’s pain. Someone else’s problem. Someone else’s world falling apart.

The doctors ruled out everything after a plethora of tests. She did not have the Epstein-Barr virus, ruling out Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, the most obvious diagnosis given her symptoms. She wasn’t suffering from an autoimmune disease or an obscure tropical virus, compliments of the trip to Thailand earlier in the year. According to the tests she was a healthy young woman—who just happened to be wasting away while the world moved on.

Bad patient! Bad Miranda! Bad girl! Bad. Bad. Bad.

The collective agreement on her physical symptoms—psychosomatic in origin. Abandonment and mother issues from childhood causing her to will herself into illness. Self-hatred manifesting as self-punishment creating an imagined illness.

Psychobabble. Bullshit. Talking out of their asses. Not even I hate myself that much.