The Freedom to Fail.

I want to talk about Hot Mess.

Hot Mess, as you’ll know if you’re a reader of our books, is a series of spec fic anthologies. They feature short stories from our partner authors, as well as from Tina and myself.

Hot Mess started as a bit of a lark, we were sitting around during our writer’s group meeting just joking about how awful we were. We had tried to plan a short story anthology before, but it never panned out. Too many cooks. We were joking around with titles, and Hot Mess sprang from the idea of writing a terrible anthology titled “Hot Garbage.”

Hot Mess was actually doable though, and the wheels started to turn.

It quickly became my baby. I was the only one with the time to both write for it and publish it. It took a lot of work and coordination, and I remember coming out the other side of the first edition an exhausted mess. There were some problems with that first edition, but it was my weird little brain baby, and I loved it.

The fact that the title began from an idea that we were all terrible authors has power, though, and  it has impacted the property’s destiny since its inception. Not that we’re writing garbage, and not that we’re trying to do a bad job: quite the opposite. We use a pretty meticulous cooperative editing process and I don’t think we’ve ever published a first draft.

It’s because we gave ourselves permission to be terrible authors.

It’s really easy to fall into the habit of thinking that you’re just playing make-believe at being an author, and I think this continues to be the case as you put out more and more titles. Hot Mess came to be a place where we didn’t have to pretend to be grown ups. We could try things out and not worry too much about it not working. Short stories are fairly safe places to experiment in the first place, and since at least one of us (that would be me) had very little experience writing short fiction, it was perfect.

In fact, in my biased opinion, it was the just the thing we needed to make magic happen.

We’re able to play when we’re writing for Hot Mess. We’re able to write whatever is tickling our brains on any particular day, and if it’s not working quite right we can fix it in post. We’re not asking anyone’s permission to put this stuff out. We’re not waiting for anyone’s approval. We’re writing what we want and letting our readers be the judge.

There are stories in Hot Mess that we’ve continued with just because we loved them. There are stories in Hot Mess that we continued with because you loved them. There are stories for Hot Mess that have novels in the works, in fact. Because we tried a thing, fell in love with it, and kept going with it.

Being able to experiment like that in public is very instructive and fun and incredibly freeing. I poured a lot of passion into the first edition of Hot Mess, and it’s finally starting to grow in the direction that I want it to grow. And I’m so happy, and so proud.