And see below for an explanation:
Well, now. Over the last few years, I’ve written occasional short(er) pieces for anthologies. An anthology, for those unfamiliar with the term, is a collection of short stories or novellas (a novella is shorter than a novel, but longer than a short story), written by a number of different authors.
The notion behind an anthology is that readers who tend to read only within one genre will buy an anthology that features one of their favorite authors, but then will be exposed to other fine writers whose work they may want to explore further.
From my point of view, it’s just fun—and a nice mental break—to do these occasional short bits (I always do have multiple projects on the go; it keeps me from ever having writer’s block). As a side benefit, though, I then _have_ these pieces.
See, unlike the standard contract that covers publishing a novel (which normally says that the publisher can publish the book as long as it keeps selling above a certain minimal level), editors/publishers of anthologies normally make short-term contracts with their authors; they have the exclusive right to publish the story within a particular territory, but only for a relatively short period—after which, the rights to the stories revert to the individual authors.
So. What do you _do_ with, say, a 23,000-word novella? Well, prior to the advent of e-publishing, not that much. Unless you could collect several short pieces and publish them together as a book, that is. I did this with the first three Lord John novellas (“Hell-fire Club,” “Succubus,” and “Haunted Soldier”), which I (and Random House and a number of other, foreign publishers) published as a single volume titled LORD JOHN AND THE HAND OF DEVILS.
Ah, but now we _do_ have e-publishing, which offers new and entertaining possibilities! And I have five more short pieces, sitting here glowing with potential. [g]
BUT…bear in mind that bit above, about rights. The publisher of an anthology does have an exclusive right to publish a given story, within a particular territory, for a set period of time and/or in a particular form—and you can’t publish that story elsewhere until those rights expire and “revert” to you as the author.
So this leads us to an interesting situation. As I said, I have five short pieces (besides the three in HAND OF DEVILS):
“The Custom of the Army” is set in 1759, in London and Quebec, and while it probably _was_ all the fault of the electric eel, Lord John finds himself obliged to leave London for the wilds of Canada and the dangerous proximity of James Wolfe, the British general besieging the Citadel of Quebec. (“_Melodramatic ass,” was what Hal had said, hastily briefing him before his departure. “Showy, bad judgement, terrible strategist. Has the Devil’s own luck, though, I’ll give him that. _Don’t_ follow him into anything stupid_.”)
“Plague of Zombies” takes place in 1761, on the island of Jamaica, where Lord John is sent as commander of a battalion intended to suppress what seems to be a revolt of the escaped slaves called maroons. But things are not always what they seem. (_He rubbed the rest of the blood from his hand with the hem of his banyan, and the cold horror of the last few minutes faded into a glowing coal of anger, hot in the pit of his stomach. He’d been a soldier most of his life; he’d killed. He’d seen the dead on battlefields. And one thing he knew for a fact. Dead men don’t bleed_.)
“A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows” is the story of Roger MacKenzie’s parents, Jerry and Dolly, and takes place during WWII. (_It was cold in the room, and she hugged herself. She was wearing nothing but Jerry’s string vest—he thought she looked erotic in it–”lewd,” he said, approving, his Highland accent making the word sound really dirty–and the thought made her smile. The thin cotton clung to her breasts, true enough, and her nipples poked out something scandalous, if only from the chill. She wanted to go crawl in next to him, longing for his warmth, longing to keep touching him for as long as they had_.)
“The Space Between” follows the events in the novel AN ECHO IN THE BONE, is set in Paris in 1778, and concerns Michael Murray (Young Ian Murray’s elder brother), Joan MacKimmie (Marsali MacKimmie Fraser’s younger sister), Mother Hildegarde (yes, she’s still alive), the Comte St. Germain (ditto (surely you didn’t think he was really dead, did you?)), and a number of other interesting people. (“_What a waste of a wonderful arse,” Monsieur Brechin remarked in French, watching Joan’s ascent from the far side of the cabin. “And mon Dieu, those legs! Imagine those wrapped around your back, eh? Would you have her keep the striped stockings on? I would.” It hadn’t occurred to Michael to imagine that, but he was now having a hard time dismissing the image. He coughed into his handkerchief to hide the reddening of his face_.)
“Virgins” is set in 1740, and is the story of 19-year-old Jamie Fraser and his 20-year-old friend Ian Murray as young mercenaries in France. (_Ian Murray knew from the moment he saw his best friend’s face that something terrible had happened. The fact that he was seeing Jamie Fraser’s face at all was evidence enough of that, never mind the look of the man_.)
Now, some of these stories have already reverted to me, and some haven’t. Some will revert in one territory sooner than they will in another. Those that haven’t yet reverted will do so one by one, as their original contracts expire.
What this means is that while I could publish “The Custom of the Army” right now, anywhere, in any form I liked, I can’t publish “A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows” until this October—and “Plague of Zombies” doesn’t revert to me in North America (the US and Canada) until next April.
So. What we (my agents and I) have arranged to do is to e-publish the novellas with Random House (my usual novel publisher) in North America one at a time, as the rights to each one become available. Once all of the rights have reverted, we’ll be able to put the entire collection in the form of a printed book (and probably a larger e-book), but I didn’t want y’all to have to wait two years before getting any of these stories.
(Also, e-publishing gives you a chance to try a sample of Lord John (in case you’ve been debating whether to read that part of the series yet) easily and cheaply.)
Now, owing to differences in rights and reversions in different territories (and the generous accommodation of the publishers of one or two of the stories), we are able to publish a print volume in the UK/Australia/NewZealand later this year, including the first four of these stories. This collection, called A TRAIL OF FIRE, is scheduled for publication this October (yes! In 2012!).*
(Why A TRAIL OF FIRE? Well…as the cover copy says… “ _Trails of tracer bullets in the dark, and the fiery trail of a wounded Spitfire falling out of the sky. The trail blazed by night by the handful of heroic Highlanders who fought their way straight up a vertical cliff to stand on the Plains of Abraham in a fiery dawn. The burning of plantations in a Jamaican night, in a trail leading down from the mountains, straight toward Kingstown. And the trail of a torch burning green as it moves through the eerie surrounds of a Paris cemetery, down into the mysteries of the earth._”)
HOWEVER—“The Custom of the Army” will appear first in North America. It will be released as an e-book, on May 21st (that’s a month from now—mark your calendars
*Because of the rights issues, A TRAIL OF FIRE won’t be published in the US/Canada until all of the story rights have reverted in this territory. This doesn’t mean you can’t get the book, though; just that it will be a bigger nuisance. The book can be legally imported from the UK, so you would—for instance—be able to order it from amazon.co.uk, or the Book Depository, or to buy it from an independent book-seller who imports UK books (The Poisoned Pen does import British books regularly; if you order from them, you can also get the book signed. www.poisonedpen.com). The drawback, of course, is that it’s a lot more expensive, owing to the high price of British books and the shipping costs. The e-books—being e-books—will be pretty cheap, so you might want to just get these one at a time as they come out. If you truly can’t wait, though…you will be able to get the whole collection in print form in October.
**Since it’s very easy to include additional material in an e-book, “The Custom of the Army” will include introductory notes, Author’s Notes about the historical details of the story, and a complete “Chronology of the OUTLANDER Series,” which tells you where ALL the novels, novellas, short stories, etc. fit in relation to each other, and what time periods are covered in each one. Such a deal!