Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Things Learned By The Editors and Organizers of GIFTS OF THE MAGI: A SPECULATIVE HOLIDAY COLLECTION

I met Chris Garrison, John Allen and RJ Sullivan in person at IMAGINARIUM 2014. Three fine gents who were immediately friendly and outgoing to a fellow writer new to not only writer conventions but to the joint publisher we work with.

When I heard they had put a collection of short stories together and were donating proceeds to charity, it was obvious to me they needed some space to talk about this undertaking and great anthology of very talented writers and authors.--PJW Dec 2014


SFG Publishing, a newly formed publishing label of the Indianapolis based Speculative Fiction Guild, is proud to present its first-ever release: a holiday anthology with all proceeds benefitting Indy Reads, a not-for-profit organization that provides tutoring to illiterate and semi-literate adults.

Gifts of the Magi:a Speculative Holiday Collection gathers original fiction assembled by editors and SFG members John F. Allen, E. Chris Garrison and R.J. Sullivan.

The editors made a list of up-and-coming new voices that they loved to read, checked it twice, and started inviting. Most authors offered an immediate and enthusiastic "yes", and contributed some amazing stories, all new and written especially for this collection.

In most cases, the editors received stories set within an author's series universe. Readers of fan favorite series can return to familiar settings and characters, such as the Coyote Series by Chantal Noordeloos and the Clockwork Republics tales by Katina French. NYT and USA Today Bestseller Debra Holland also revisited the fantasy world of her Gods' Dream Trilogy, and the anthology's editors each contributed a new story from their ongoing series.



RJS = RJ Sullivan
ECG = E. Chris Garrison
JFA = John F. Allen

1. How did this anthology come about? When was the idea born? Why?

RJS: For years I've been making "Blue Christmas" puns every holiday on my Facebook wall, the pun coming from the blue-haired punk girl protagonist of my paranormal thriller series. Originally I thought I'd do an original ebook short story titled "Blue Christmas" available for holidays this year. Then I thought I'd pitch it to Seventh Star Press as an in-house collection.

SSP was enthusiastic but they could not make room for it with the relatively short notice I'd given them. Understandable, but that meant waiting until 2015 and I'm not that patient. In the meantime, Chris and John were on board and drafting stories. Chris has a great deal of layout and organizational  talent and knows how to make software behave. John has the art skills you desperately need for a project like this. The three of us are local to Indy and are founding members of the Speculative Fiction Guild, a local writer support group. The three of us had collaborated at many levels--conventions, marketing, support, etc. So I knew we would work well together. We formalized the partnership over a conversation, divided up the duties, and it seems like overnight, we were off and running.

2. If this was a CLOSED or SELECTED AUTHOR SUBMISSION piece, how did you pick the writers for the anthology?

RJS: Speculative Fiction Guild (SFG) member Matthew Barron had the connections with Indy Reads, and SFG had held an event there a year ago. So we had a charity to support. After that, we just thought of authors we knew, liked, and knew well enough to approach. We gave priority to authors who had ongoing series, and by keeping it invitation only, we had no rejections and no slush pile--just a few rewrites. We filled 15 slots very quickly, and the high quality in many cases is stunning.

RJS: I think what I learned....or rather, what was confirmed for me, is that there is more than one way around a problem, and not to give up the first time you hear the word no. I had envisioned GofM as one thing, and when I found out that couldn't happen, I could have just accepted it. But instead I looked at other options, my own resources, and the friendship I'd formed with Chris and John, and I suspected, I hoped, we had the talent between us to get it done ourselves. So I didn't accept the "no" I was first handed, and instead found another way to get it done. Quite possibly, we made something as good or better than the original idea.

JFA: Coming together to produce Gifts of the Magi was a HUGE learning experience for me. It showed me how much is necessary to produce self published material and how to do it effectively. The collaborative efforts involved were inspiring to say the least. I couldn't have asked for a better group of fellows to work with and awesomely talented authors to contribute. 
ECG: Putting together Gifts of the Magi showed me that communication at the beginning saves a lot of trouble, and fixing things later takes a lot of time. I think by communicating the goals for the anthology early on, we got a great set of submissions from the invited authors that have an alchemical synergy that makes the book have something for everyone, and better than we could have planned. On the flip side, formatting is a LOT more work than I expected, especially if authors are left to their own devices in formatting. The work of making the whole look homogenous and clean while combining the different stories took arranging and massaging the text into a common form that would have been simpler had we specified what we needed for submissions in the beginning. It was a learning experience, and a valuable one. I'm quite proud of the result, both in content and form.

Stories for Christmas--authors for the New Year!

Find within this magical tome 14 NEW original holiday-themed stories of fantasy, horror and science fiction by a talented group of authors--plus one holiday essay. The tales from our Magi vary from the light and satirical to the dark and serious, and we've shuffled the deck to keep you guessing.

In "Unraveled" by A.D. Roland, a time guardian may have to choose between preserving reality or destroying the man she loves.

In "Freezy the Snow Demon" by Scott M. Sandridge. A snowman comes to life, but he's not a happy soul.

In "How Krampus Saved Christmas" by S.R. Roddey. Santa makes a terrible bargain in order to save Christmas.

On Christmas Eve, a furious fairy princess attacks a double-decker bus in E. Chris Garrison's "Christmas Special".

Two secret agents attend an exclusive Christmas party with an unusual price of admission in "A Quantum of Solstice" by J.P. Bastin.

In "The Dead of Night" by David Jobe. Soldiers in the midst of the zombie apocalypse try to find the Christmas spirit.

A boy and his father confront an alien creature on..."The Longest Night" by Matthew Barron.

In "An Ivory Christmas" by John F. Allen, a mercenary packing magical pistols battles a monster while Christmas shopping for her werewolf boyfriend.

Steampunk detectives find themselves fending off Christmas "elves" in "The Curious Case of the Cobbler's Christmas" by Katina French

Humans exiled to an alternate world blend alien and human holiday traditions in "A Season of Renewal" by Debra Holland.

A banished prince with a magic chicken finds a nearly drowned soldier--so says the storyteller in "The Warmth of Midwinter" by Marian Allen.

In "An Outlandish Christmas" by Chantal Noordeloos. Bounty hunter Coyote searches for a rogue elf.

A traumatized punk girl confronts the spirits from the worst night of her life in "Blue Christmas" by R.J. Sullivan.

In a dystopian future, Christmas is outlawed, as told in "This Thing Called Christmas" by Herika R. Raymer.

...And Shirley Jackson Award-nominated author Nicole Cushing reveals the holiday specials that she feels deserve "Lumps of Coal."

100% of all proceeds from this book benefit Indy Reads.

Gifts of the Magi: a Speculative Holiday Collection will be sold at Indy Reads Books, with ebook and paperback available online at Amazon. 


Indy Reads is a not-for-profit organization that relies on volunteers to provide basic literacy tutoring to illiterate and semi-literate adults. . "Our mission is to promote and improve the literacy of adults and families in Central Indiana. We believe that everyone should have an opportunity to learn to read, and our goal is to make Indianapolis 100% literate. Our programs include one-on-one tutoring, small group sessions, English as a Second Language instruction, and 'Literacy Labs' at neighborhood centers." Indy Reads operates a bookstore in downtown Indianapolis. Learn more at www.Indy Reads.org.