This short story anthology is now available. I was substantive editor.
If I counted correctly, four of the stories have appeared in previous fiction anthologies, some of which were for charitable projects. Shawn would never tell you openly about this particular part, but nothing’s stopping me: for the charitable projects, he tried to pay me, but obviously I was having none of it. No big deal, right? Right…except that here’s the kind of honest guy he is. When he decided to republish them in a for-profit anthology, he turned around and tried to pay me for them after the fact. When I smiled and thanked him for the intent, but declined, he offered to take me to a Mariners game and host me at his and Dawn’s place. I figured I could accept that, so I said all right. We had a fantastic time at the game and on the drives there and back. Anyway, if you’ve noticed how much effort Shawn makes to put forth quality reading in an attractive presentation, do know that he treats his vendors with the same conscientious courtesy and fairness with which he treats his readership. No wonder his pre-publication people, like me, work extra hard to help his work to shine (not that it needs much help).
The good news is that at least 2/3 to 3/4 of the stories in this compilation are new material. The variety is appealing. Some of it is dark and even a bit paranormal. Some is autobiographical, telling stories from his youth. As you might expect, many touch upon familiar Inmonian themes: 1970s and 1960s nostalgia, music, etc. He experiments with the unreliable narrator, and in my opinion succeeds in this mode. The overall outcome is anything but predictable, with fresh styles and approaches as well as fresh plots and varying lengths. This might mean that few people will enjoy every one, but also makes it likely that no one will find it predictable from one story to the next.
So far it is only out in Kindle, but if you keep an eye on it, I suspect it will come out in dead tree.
Shawn decided to release two new Christmas-themed short stories this year. Christmas Town is the second.
Now, working with Shawn is a little different than working with most writers. A Falstaffian figure and somewhat of a mad-literary-scientist idea generator, he has a great deal of self-confidence. He also likes marketing, and does it very well. His storytelling skill is catching up to both of those important qualities. It is beginning to feel very much like working with baseball great Bill Veeck–and those who know me very well, and who don’t throw up at the mention of sports, will know what a compliment that is. Like Veeck, Shawn knows that it’s all about the public. Veeck didn’t watch baseball games from box seats or owner’s luxury seats. He used to sit shirtless in the bleachers with the fans who had bought cheap tickets. He would drink beer with them, talk baseball and boo the umpires. If Shawn drank (which he does not), and if he owned a baseball team, I suspect he’d do the same.
As an editor, I tend to evaluate a writer by how s/he reacts when you tell him or her of a serious flaw. The less confident and successful writers aren’t sure whether to cry and give it up, or fire me and seek someone to tell them how great they are in all areas. If I tell Shawn that something just doesn’t work, he fixes it. Sometimes I don’t know how to fix it, but he will figure it out. This is why he is making major strides as an author.
His newest release is a winner because, in addition to a good story, Shawn is developing an excellent sense of the moment–and how to handle it. With every new work, there is more show and less tell. Endings become much more difficult to predict. My job is getting more involved, because most of the low-hanging editorial fruit is going away. The task before me grows more invigorating. With most of Shawn’s books and short stories, my initial feedback is qualified praise. Not this time. Christmas Town came to me with great fundamental merit and no tremendous issues to resolve. I trust I helped a bit in resolving the minor ones, but I had good material to work with. If you have a dollar to spend on a very worthwhile Christmas story, this is an excellent choice.