"No matter how terrified you may be, own your fear and take that leap anyway because whether you land on your feet or on your butt, the journey is well worth it."
-- Laurie Laliberte
"If your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough."
-- Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage."
-- Anais Nin

Sunday, September 4, 2011

What prompted you to take on this project?

Heh, I keep asking myself the same question, but this post really isn't about me. Still, I want to share some exciting news with my readers. On February 16, 2011, I posted a short story called "Prey." On August 15, I pulled it. Here's why:  Author Bernard J. Schaffer (@ApiarySociety on twitter) tweeted something about the Kindle All Stars Project and that he was looking for short stories from anyone who wanted to submit one. He was assembling an anthology for which he would act as editor. He said he would accept any stories that made the cut regardless of the author's level of status or experience. I checked out his website and his Goodreads author page, then I sent him an email. Within 24 hours, I pulled "Prey," cleaned it up a bit, renamed it, and emailed it to him. Now here I am, just over two weeks later, acting as the coordinator for the book's social networking promotion. 
Yes, "Prey," in its newly renamed and vastly improved condition, will be in the book. So there's my big news.

But this post isn't supposed to be about me. It's about a man with the vision and the drive to take this wild idea and turn it into something, dare I say, Noble? I have quickly learned that Bernard doesn't do anything half way. He released this idea into twitterland on August 15th, and by the 17th he had already secured the blessing of, and a quote from, the man who inspired it, Harlan Ellison*. He's currently running himself ragged in an effort to get the book out in time for Christmas shopping. AND he's having to deal with some challenges along the way that are, at the very least, comedic. I'll let him tell you more in his own words. On August 29, Bernard sat down for me and answered a few questions about the Kindle All Stars Project.

LL:  What prompted you to take on this project?
BJS:  It was a fit of madness.  I released a book in May, a book in June, have a book in editing right now with Karen The Angry Hatchet, and was halfway through the first draft of another book when it suddenly occurred to me that I needed to be doing more.  Insanity.
By the time I realized that this is a project that only a babbling lunatic would attempt, I’d already opened my big mouth and it took on a life of its own. 
That being said, I am happiest when caught in the thrall of a whirling dervish.  To me, it’s fun.  Even when it isn’t.    

LL:  You didn't initially set out to make this a charity project. What affected your decision to donate the proceeds to charity?
BJS:  The idea was never to make money with the book.  It was always to promote the literary proficiency of authors working in the Kindle format and try to expose one another to our own audiences.  My first thoughts were of seeing if anyone was actually interested.  Once I realized they were, and how big the project could be, it just made sense to donate the money rather than trying to divvy up .99 per book between a dozen authors. 
Incidentally, it only took me a single day to make that realization.  I thought of the idea for the project on 8/15 and committed to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children on 8/16.

LL:  How were the responses from your authors when you made that switch?
BJS:  Mostly positive.  Truthfully, if anyone had balked at the idea I’d have played whack-a-mole with their head.

LL:  Why did this particular charity end up on your radar?
BJS:  I’ve had professional dealings with the Center, and they are absolutely badass.  They fight child pornography all over the world and really are a living light against one of the most insidious horrors afflicting us today. 

LL:  How are you finding the duties of working as the editor?
BJS:  It is infinitely harder than I thought it would be.  Karen (The Angry Hatchet) has yelled at me multiple times over the years about staying in an “active voice” and “show don’t tell.”   I find myself constantly scolding authors for not doing those exact things.  It’s like she’s my Mom and her curse has come true that she prays all my kids turn out as rotten as I am. 
Then again, I’ve read some great stories from truly inspiring writers.  It’s very fulfilling to help someone reach their fullest potential.  I’ve gotten some heartwarming letters from authors whose gratitude makes it all worth it. 

LL:  How quickly did you begin receiving responses/manuscripts?
BJS:  Hours after the announcement. 

LL:  How many are you juggling right now?
BJS:  5 stories are done.  16 are in review.  3 are waiting for responses to my editing suggestions.    1 is waiting for actual, official, bonafide permission to include.  And then there’s mine, which is halfway done in first draft form.

LL:  How many stories do you expect to have for the finished project?
BJS:  As many that live up to the quality of work everyone is putting forward.

LL:  Is the project living up to your initial expectations?
BJS:  It’s far, far exceeding them.  If you’d asked me two weeks ago to place a bet on whether I’d be in contact with Alan Dean Foster or Harlan Ellison anytime soon, I’d have laughed at you.  Yet, it has come to pass.

LL:  You're obviously very passionate about your writing. Are you feeling that same passion coming from your authors?
BJS:  Anybody willing to put up with me as an editor is clearly devoted to writing.  I’m used to engaging in mortal combat with Karen, so I have to remind myself that not everybody takes kindly to being told they screwed the pooch on something.

LL:  You've been able to get at least one big name attached to the project. Can you tell us who?
BJS:  Of course I can.  But I won’t.  Not yet. 

LL:  When do you expect to be able to get the finished project out and available?
BJS:  The deadline is September 15th for submissions.  I’m hoping to have all of them edited and finalized by the end of October.  That leaves November for formatting and a cover.  I’d like to have the book available between Thanksgiving and Christmas for people. 

LL:  Other than the obvious, Amazon, where do you expect to make the book available?
BJS:  The book will be available for Kindle and in print.  My goal is to show people who are still committed to print books that there is a quality of work going on in the digital world that they are missing out on. 

LL:  The mantra in the publishing industry these days seems to be, "anthologies don't sell." How are you maintaining your determination to make this a success?
BJS:  Anthologies don’t sell.  Neither do young adult, horror, non-fiction, or any other “category.”
Good writing sells.  Personable authors with a clear message who can connect with their audience sell. 
I wrote a Sherlock Holmes book that has everybody saying the “F-word” and it’s the Number One Sherlock Holmes book on Kindle right now.  If I can sell that, we can sell this.  And even if it only makes a few bucks, it’s money for a good cause. 
Plus, Harlan Ellison called me his pal, so what the hell.

*In 1967, Harlan Ellison released a collection of short stories entitled Dangerous Visions. Thanks to Bernard  Schaffer, we have Ellison's blessing and we intend to prove we deserve it.

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