It’s been a long time since I’ve posted any kind of update about my probably now long-anticipated second anthology, Marked by Scorn: An Anthology Featuring Non-Traditional Relationships. When I put out the submission call, I had recently moved to the San Francisco Bay Area, and was looking for a creative project I would be able to sink my teeth into once I had some time, after the majority of the renovations on our new home were complete. At the time, I wasn’t yet involved in the improv community, and I didn’t know how much time that pursuit was going to occupy out of my life. Then there was a point in reading submissions where it felt so arduous that I wasn’t sure I was ever going to be able to read them all. But I didn’t want to let down all the fantastic submissions I had already read.
Now, I could probably go into detail sometime about what makes me want to avoid reading a submission, but I would much prefer to focus on the things I like, and highlight what works for me. I did read every single submission, but there were a number of submissions that made me wish I hadn’t decided I was going to be the kind of editor that made sure she read everything to the very end because there were things that happened early on that meant I knew I was going to reject it. If I ever edit another anthology in the future, I know I’m going to have to prioritise my time in a way that means I won’t continue reading something when I feel like that.
I made selections and got the contracts out and returned months ago. I believe I had them all back by the end of October. What has held me up since then has primarily been because I wanted to write my own story for the collection, featuring the characters on the book cover that didn’t already feature in one of the stories. Could I have commissioned someone else to write such a story? Perhaps, but I didn’t want to. I already knew what the story was going to be about.
In September of last year, I was badly addicted to binge-watching Supernatural, wanting to catch up on the series. When I was up to season 10, which wasn’t on Netflix yet, I started re-watching the series from the beginning, and season 1 is what I was on when I realised I really wanted to do something about their lack of female hunters problem. As much as I love the series (and I do; I have plans to go to the convention in San Francisco in December this year), they really don’t have enough prominent female characters. I started wondering how I could write something with female hunters, and realised the mermaid mythology I created for Adrift and other short stories I’ve had published elsewhere was perfect for it, since my mermaids have certain powers against men that do not work on women, giving women a unique advantage to hunt them. And, though I had not previously written any mermaid hunting stories, I did know exactly how they’re capable of dying.
But having the idea of what I wanted to write didn’t always help it get written. Most of it was handwritten in a spiral notebook that I carried around with me when I was riding BART, because that seemed to be the best time to force myself to actually get something down. When I was in that mode, I was able to use my improv skills to just write and connect the dots to understand the character and story better. But getting in that mode didn’t happen frequently enough, and I didn’t always carry the book with me. It took me a few months to knock out the first half of the story (though part of the reason for that was because I had another anthology I wanted to write something for, that had a submission deadline of November 30, so I focused on that first—and ended up not having it accepted anyway. It’s still a good story, in my opinion, and would’ve been appropriate for Marked by Scorn, but I’m going to edit it more at a later date and see if I can find somewhere else for it).
In order to write the second half of the story, which I finally named “Flesh and Stone,” I had to block my access to Facebook so I couldn’t use that as a procrastination technique, and then in five days, I knocked out the final 3,200 odd words thanks to lack of Facebook, and the holiday period so I was down to only one improv commitment that week. I sent the story to a couple of people for feedback, and I have some editing to do still, but I’m hoping this will mean I can get on to the other minor tasks I have left for the book and launch the crowdfunding campaign for it by the end of January.
There are moments when I feel like I’m letting my writers down, not getting the book out earlier. But I don’t want to rush the process and get it out with a half-assed attempt at the editing. I want them to be proud of the finished product. After all, that’s why I’m publishing a couple of the same writers who I published in Amok: An Anthology of Asia-Pacific Speculative Fiction — they liked that book enough to want me to publish their work again.
Since I wanted this post to be about the long process I’ve been through to complete the book, I’m not going to go into more detail about the other stories yet, or reveal the book cover, but I hope to be able to share that information soon.