Inside the Hive Mind
The Pitfalls and Delights of Anthology Participation
Until a year and half ago, my understanding of what comprised a hive mind was limited to seeing Disney films of honey bees doing the waggle dance to communicate the direction and distance to a nectar source or to watching the evil Borg take over everything on Star Trek, all the while intoning, “Resistance is futile.”
And then, in May of 2014, I suddenly became part of a hive mind. I joined three other historical romance writers to publish a Regency Christmas anthology.
I’d previously had a story in an anthology, but this was a traditionally published sci-fi one where authors submitted stories and were chosen by the editor who, along with the publisher, was the final arbiter of everything. It was just like selling a story to a magazine.
This time the participants were all either acquaintances or friends. We opted to be democratic in our decisions. We all had experience and expertise, and we would contribute equally. We would become a hive mind.
We quickly discovered our good intentions didn’t quite work. While we were a hive, we had no queen, so we all tended to ignore the others’ butt-shaking waggle dance and fly off in our own direction. It took us days to come up with the title, Christmas Revels, and a week to design a cover that included all the different elements various people held dear—red background, snowflakes, silhouette—without this cover becoming the proverbial horse-designed-by-a-committee giraffe.
Progress was slow. It became apparent that if we were going to get a book out in time for Christmas, our hive needed a queen. Or, as we discovered worked best for us, a number of queens.
Each participant brought her own specific strengths to the project, and we decided to use these strengths for the benefit of all. Here is the division of labor our group arrived at:
· The Contact Queen – Only one person can upload the book to the vendors. This hive member would then have access to the vendors’ dashboards, receive the royalties, and distribute the honey, er, money. In a company, she would be the Chief Financial Officer—a position of trust and ongoing responsibility.
· The Grammar Queen – Since our hive was well-supplied with advanced English degrees and we were cheap, we opted to self-edit. This meant that each manuscript went through three take-no-prisoners critiques, with rewrites in-between. The last critique belonged to the Grammar Queen, whose word on form was law. Content, however, was the decision of the individual authors—after much input.
· The Tech Queen – On the whole, we were not a tech-savvy group, but two of our number had previously Indy published, so at least they had some idea of what was involved. Between them, this duo of willing workers managed to format the print version and to create the cover. We wisely chose to hire a professional to do the e-book formatting.
· The Media Queen – This person had the onerous job of getting the word out when the book was published. Fortunately, two of our number were multiple Golden Heart finalists and had contacts in the Romance community who could suggest promotional possibilities. The other two still can’t figure out Twitter.
· The Queen with a Sting – aka the Woman with the Whip. This was the schedule maker and enforcer. Not the easiest of jobs, but a necessary one requiring the willingness to be part cheerleader and part tyrant.
Now, it is obvious we had five Queens and only four people. In some cases, the Queen was a two-person team. The important thing was to give everyone authority in her area of expertise. This all worked amazingly well! We published only a little behind schedule, we became close friends and had fun putting the anthology together, some money dropped into all our pockets, and we provided a book that our readers evidently enjoyed.
And because everything did turn out so well, we decided to do it again. The second attempt was much easier, since we had the organization already in place. We went with the inspired title of Christmas Revels II and changed the cover from red to green. Two weeks of work condensed into a matter of minutes. All aspects seemed to be equally streamlined. This time we hit the market ahead of schedule.
Even after publication, our hive keeps buzzing with lots of ideas and camaraderie and joy. Could there be a Christmas Revels III in the future? At this point, it is uncertain, although I do keep hearing the Borg whisper, “Resistance is futile.”
I wish the same wonderful adventure we enjoyed to all those who decide to form their own hive to create an anthology. The final golden product is worth the few missteps and stings you may encounter along the way.
Christmas Revels II
Four Regency Novellas
Let the Revels begin—again! Four new stories with four distinctive voices.
The Vicar's Christmas – Margaret Trent never needs anything or anyone, but when two London solicitors show up on her doorstep, she needs a hero. Enter Henry Ogden, mild-mannered village vicar. Hardly the stuff of heroes . . . until adversity brings out unexpected talents.
A Christmas Equation – A chance meeting between a reluctant viscount and a self-effacing companion revives memories of their shared past—a time when they were very different people. With secrets to keep, Sarah Clendenin wishes Benjamin Radcliff gone . . . but he’s making calculations of his own.Crimson Snow – A trail of blood drops leads Jane Merrywether to a wounded stranger—the only person standing in the way of her wicked guardian becoming an earl. John Rexford, long-thought dead, has returned to claim his inheritance and his promised bride . . . if he can survive a murderous Christmas.
A Perfectly Unregimented Christmas – After years at war, Viscount Pennyworth returns to his ancestral home to find some peace and quiet and to avoid the holiday he loathes. But four naughty boys, a bonnet-wearing goat, a one-eyed cat, a family secret, and one Annabelle Winters, governess, make this a Christmas he’ll never forget..
Hannah Meredith is an English instructor who escaped to become a real estate broker when she discovered more people wanted houses than grammar. An abiding interest in English history and the vagaries of the human heart led her to write historical romance. She currently has four available: KESTREL, A DANGEROUS INDISCRETION, INDENTURED HEARTS, and KALEIDOSCOPE. Hannah was also a contributor to the original CHRISTMAS REVELS. She’s been married to her high school sweetheart for nearly half a century. She and her “half-life” picture may be found at http://www.hannahmeredith.com and http://www.facebook.com/HannahMeredithAuthor