Anthologies, Love Them or Leave Them?

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I seem to be running into more and more anthologies these days.  Name a publisher and I can show you a long list of anthologies they have published in just this year alone.  I am not sure what is driving this trend.  Are authors writing more short stories? Do publishers find it easier to publish short stories in an anthology rather than  release them on their own?  Torquere Press has their Torquere Sips.  Dreamspinner Press has Nap-sized Dreams but  is now only accepting stories under 15,000 words for use in their anthologies alone.  For the most part, I look to find short stories in anthologies these days.

What is an anthology? An anthology is a collection of short stories by various authors that is usually grouped together by a common theme.  I have seen anthologies where the stories all occurred in the same city, that was the common thread.  Or different stories about a group of friends, each having their own tale in the anthology. Think Hearts From The Ashes from Samhain Press, a favorite of mine, for an anthology along these lines.  And the number of authors found in each anthology can be anywhere from three to thirty!  An anthology is quite the diverse creature.

So why all the mixed feelings with regard to anthologies?  For some readers, its because they prefer a much longer story.  They want a novel.  These are readers who revel in the long view, jump with joy over complex characterizations and equally complicated story lines.  And for the most part, those can only be found in the novel or novella form.  Think banquet versus amuse-bouche (a one bite appetizer).  Some readers get frustrated with anthologies or short stories because they feel they just get engaged with the characters and plot only to have them end abruptly.  I understand that but often feel that is due to the quality of the short story being read.  A well done short story should leave a reader satisfied in every way, an increasingly rare occasion these days (see Scattered Thoughts Looks A Short Story Writing).

I think we need to look at anthologies a bit differently than we do with novels or novellas. And perhaps with a different expectation as well.  We all have our preset notions when it comes to novels we like.  And when we finish a novel, after having invested a certain amount of time and emotion, if it does not meet those expectations, than we are disappointed and frustrated with book and author alike. But an anthology can represent, should we choose to look at it this way, a chance to look at a compilation as something quite different. And rightly so, because there is a different expectation in the amount of time invested because of the shorter length as well as large quantity of stories involved.

Perhaps an anthology becomes a daunting proposal when you think of reading multiple stories one right after the other.  I get that as some of these collections are quite huge.    I used to just plow through the collection, one right after the other, only to find the stories running together towards the middle, a method that never seemed to do the authors or their tales justice.  Now I try to read them in short bursts and that has made it easier for me when not only reading but reviewing the anthology.  These are short stories, not a run on novel and they should be read as such.  I think we forget that at times because they have been grouped together in one volume.  But that fact doesn’t change the actuality that these are short stories, separate from each other except for an artificial grouping made by a publisher.

For me, an anthology is often a smorgasbord or even a Tapas Bar. A series of small plates or appetizers, instead of a formal banquet of a novel.   There will often be something familiar,  maybe a well-known or well-loved author or two.  And there will be surprises, new writers or authors never heard of before.  Or just maybe there will be a story from an author whose literary works you don’t normally connect with for whatever reason but here you find a story from them that just blows you away, giving you a new perspective on this author you normally pass on.  All those reasons and more make the anthology a format to be looked at with anticipation and with affection.  Think your goody bag at the end of the evening on Halloween. How did you approach it? Did you dump it all out at once or pick through the candies left inside the bag?  For me, the anthology is the Halloween goody bag.  There will be some apples, or a banana, along with Twix, or Mounds Bar to go with the Reese’s Pieces and Hershey Kisses at the end of the night.  You can read it all at once or pick through it, reading it a little at a time. Like some, love some, pass on others.

I have come to love anthologies for the jewels I have found inside, authors and stories alike.  Inside anthologies I have discovered the joys of a sloth shifter (Charlie Cochrane for Lashings of Sauce) or the grief of love lost and found again (Two Tickets To Paradise). Give them a try, they will undoubtedly surprise you.  And let me know, anthologies, do you love them or leave them?

Here are some of the anthologies I have reviewed:

Animal Magnetism

Closet Capers Anthology

Lashings of Sauce

Making Contact

Private Dicks Anthology

Two Tickets To Paradise

Fever Anthology

Unconventional At Best

Scattered Thoughts Best Books of 2012

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What a spectacular year for great books in every genre from historical to fantasy! I have read so many wonderful books and series this year that it is hard to even begin to narrow down the list, although I have tried. What makes a book great for me? So many things, that it needs its own list.

The books I listed here are ones that moved me to tears and made me laugh out loud, they took me to places I have never been to see sights fantastic, miraculous, and awe inspiring. I have watched dragons soar and seen twin suns set over alien worlds. Through these wonderful authors I have met people who continue to stay with me through the power of their stories and the connectedness that I feel with each of the characters I have read about. Sometimes the books have taught me something about myself and how I looked at others or just gave me a deeper appreciation for my fellow beings.

I have grieved with men who have lost their soul mates, been with them as they worked through the trauma and loss, and celebrated as they moved forward with their lives. I watched men fall in love, whether it be with shifters, wizards, or just a man they met on the side of the road. Love lost, love found or lovers rediscovering the best about each other…that seems to know no boundaries as far as who you are and what world you inhabit. It doesn’t even matter whether the story is set in the past or goes far into the future. The authors and books listed here are ones that I cherish and return to often to visit with them once more. If you haven’t already read them, I hope you will add them to your list of must reads, as they are surely mine.

Oh, and by the way, this list is not complete. There are some wonderful books still to be released in the last two weeks of December, and there are some that I just missed from my own reviews. So look to see a revised list after the first of the year. Really there is something for everyone here. Happy reading!

Best Historical Book:
All Lessons Learned by Charlie Cochrane (Best Series) review coming in 2013
The Celestial by Barry Brennessel
The Mystery of Ruby Lode by Scotty Cade

Best Short Story

Eight Days by Cardeno C
Fair Puckled by Bella Leone
Lily by Xavier Axelson
Leather Work and Lonely Cowboys, a Roughstock story, by BA Tortuga
Too Careful by Half, a Roughstock story, BA Tortuga

Best Contemporary Romance – Standalone

Fall Into the Sun by Val Kovalin
Marathon Cowboys by Sarah Black

Fallout by Ariel Tachna

Good Bones by Kim Fielding

Legend of the Apache Kid by Sarah Black

Mine by Mary Calmes
Play It Again, Charlie by RC CooperScrap Metal by Harper Fox
Sidecar by Amy Lane

The Cool Part of His Pillow by Rodney Ross

 Best Novels – Part of a Series

A Foreign Range by Andrew Grey
Acceleration by Amelia C. Gormley
But My Boyfriend Is by KA Mitchell
Chase the Stars by Ariel Tachna
Cherish, Faith, Love & Devotion 4 by Tere Michaels
Frat Boy and Toppy by Anne Tenino
Full Circle by RJ Scott
Hope by William Neale
Inherit the Sky by Ariel Tachna (Best Series)
Second Hand, a Tucker Springs story by Heidi Cullinan and Marie Sexton
Stars & Stripes by Abigail Roux (Best Series)
The Journal of Sanctuary One by RJ Scott
The Melody Thief by Shira Anthony (also Best Series)
Who We Are by TJ Klune

Best First Novels
The Cool Park of His Pillow by Rodney Ross
Shattered Glass by Dani Alexander
Inertia by Amelia C. Gormley (Best Series)

Best Supernatural Book:
A Token of Time by Ethan Day
Crucible of Fate by Mary Calmes (Best Series)
Druid Stone by Heidi Belleau and Violetta Vane
Ghosts in the Wind by Marguerite Labbe
Hawaiian Gothic by Heidi Belleau and Violetta Vane
Infected: Life After Death by Andrea Speed (Best Series)
Riot Boy by Katey Hawthorne
The Gravedigger’s Brawl by Abigail Roux

Science Fiction Books:
Emerald Fire by A. Catherine Noon and Rachel Wilder
The Trust by Shira Anthony

Best Fantasy Books:
 Black Magic by Megan Derr
Burning Bright by Megan Derr (Lost Gods series)
Chaos (Lost Gods series) by Megan Derr
Magic’s Muse by Anne Barwell
Poison by Megan Derr (Lost Gods series)
Treasure by Megan Derr (Lost Gods series)
Best Series – new books this year:
A Change of Heart series by Mary Calmes (supernatural)
Blue Notes series by Shira Anthony (contemporary)
Cambridge Fellows series by Charlie Cochrane (historical)
Cut & Run series by Abigail Roux (and Madeleine Urban) (Contemporary)
Faith, Love & Devotion series by Tere Michaels (contemporary)
Infected Series by Andrea Speed (supernatural)
Knitting series by Amy Lane (contemporary)
Lost Gods by Megan Derr (Fantasy)
Sanctuary series by RJ Scott (contemporary)
Sci Regency series by JL Langley (science fiction)

So Many Great Series, here are more of my favorites:

A Matter of Time series by Mary Calmes (contemporary)

Jewel Bonds series by Megan Derr (fantasy)

Superpowered Love series by Katey Hawthorne

Wick series by Megan Derr
Best Anthologies:

Three Fates
Animal Magnetism
Lashings of Sauce
Making Contact

I know that many books are missing but I just did not get to them this year, including JP Barnaby’s Little Boy Lost series, Andrew Grey’s Range series, and so many more.  Look for them in 2013.  Do you have a favorite I should know about?  Write me and let me know.