“Aliosha Popovich” by Kate Baylay, from a collection of Russian Fairy Tales. Used by kind permission of the artist.
Back in the age of print magazines, I made my first professional sale to a fellow named John O’Neill who published a gorgeous quarterly called Black Gate. We went through three deep revisions on that manuscript, a process we both enjoyed enough that, after I finally produced a version of “The War of the Wheat Berry Year” good enough for John to buy, he asked if I had anything else featuring that heroine. And I did. To our surprise, my novella “The Imlen Bastard” needed only a little polish to be ready for print. And so it took its place in the publication queue. Forthcoming from Black Gate, I said of it in my author bio all over the internet, for a few years.
Those years were hard on print magazines, and they weren’t much kinder to online fiction markets. “The War of the Wheat Berry Year” appeared in BG‘s last print issue. Ultimately, John stopped publishing fiction online before “The Imlen Bastard” could make its debut here.
But to me it’ll always be a Black Gate story.
So when I found an artist, Kate Baylay, whose work felt like my favorite old BG print covers — luscious, menacing, full of subtle story implications — I knew I’d found the right cover artist for “The Imlen Bastard.” Everything else I wanted to do with the self-publishing project that has grown up around the novella came together for me quickly after that. Best of all, Kate Baylay embraced the manuscript, and we’ve had so much fun going over the story together to find the most iconic moments for interior illustrations.
Then I enlisted superstar editor Betsy Mitchell — now retired from Del Rey after a career of editing people like Naomi Novik, Michael Chabon, William Gibson, and Octavia Butler — to give the novella an editorial boost. I figured, there’s a difference between standing as the longest piece in a magazine issue and standing alone as a book. I’m still kind of amazed that she took me on as a freelance client, when she’s in a position to work only on manuscripts she really enjoys. So that boded well.
At first, we all agreed that I’d launch a Kickstarter campaign over the summer, but then I got shortlisted for the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award. I held off on self-publishing for a few months so I’d know whether to say Finalist or Winner in my promotional material. After the award, I needed to readjust my hubris levels — a story that’s done me the kindness of coming to me to be written deserves the best promotion I can give it, and now I had to work up more brazenness than ever before on my stories’ behalf. Brazenness is harder than it looks. This month, with the thank-you notes for the award all written and sent out, and a trophy to feature in my Kickstarter video, it was finally time.
I clicked on the launch button at noon. You can find the campaign here.
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