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

December is here, the year is almost over and the week ahead in Reviews

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Every year seems to go by more quickly than the last and 2012 is almost gone.  It has been a tumultuous time here at home,  in Maryland, and the entire northeast.  From the scorching heat and drought of the spring and summer months to the recent Derechos which brought high winds and flooding, it has been a regular smorgasbord of geological happenings and meteorological events.  We have had a major earthquake  from which the National Cathedral and the Washington Monument and other buildings have still not recovered from.  A heat wave and drought that killed much of the harvest from land and sea, with water levels down from lack of rain and snow to heat which baked the land and everyone on it.  We had high winds, tornados and of course flooding that still did not mitigate the low water table.  Really, 2012 has been our version of Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride and it’s not over yet.

Amazingly it was a year ago yesterday when I rolled out by my first blog, scrambling to get my feet under me and figure out what I wanted to say, what I wanted to review, and everything in between.  It took me a while to get my voice and now the mutterings can’t stop!  The thoughts keep tumbling out, rolling over one another like pebbles in a stream caught in a swift current, some concerned with vocabulary, others focused on eBook covers and design and more still on book content, reviews to be exact.  I hope I have helped some of you find your way to new authors or rediscover old ones that you have forgotten.  Later this month I will be rolling out my Best of 2012 lists, from Books to Covers.  I bet you have been making your lists too.  Let me know what book(s) is on them, and do you have a favorite cover artist, like Anne Cain, or even a favorite model?  Inquiring minds and all that.

So here’s to the beginning of the end of 2012.  I love this time of year, so much to reflect on and yet so much still to look forward to, including the holidays no matter which one you celebrate.  I’ll be talking to you soon.  In the meantime, look what’s coming up this week:

Monday, 12/3:                             Private Dicks:Undercovers Anthology

Tuesday, 12/4:                             The Journal of Sanctuary One (Sanctuary #6) by RJ Scott

Wed, 12/5:                                    Crucible of Fate (Change of Heart #4) by Mary Calmes

Thursday, 12/6:                           Too Careful By Half, a Roughstock story by BA Tortuga

Friday, 12/7:                                 Eight Days by C. Cardeno (a Christmas story)

Sat., 12/8                                         3 Dreamspinner Christmas Advent Calendar stories

So now I will leave you with a Vodka Christmas Cake recipe. You simply have to try this…

Once again this year, I’ve had requests for my Vodka Christmas Cake recipe, so here goes.

Please keep in your files as I am beginning to get tired of typing this up every year!

(Made mine this morning!!!!)

1 cup sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1 cup water
1 tsp. salt
1 cup brown sugar
Lemon juice
4 large eggs
Nuts
1…bottle Vodka
2 cups dried fruit
Sample a cup of Vodka to check quality. Take a large bowl, check the Vodka again to be sure it is of the highest quality then Repeat.

Turn on the electric mixer. Beat one cup of butter in a large fluffy bowl. Add 1 teaspoon of sugar. Beat again.
At this point, it is best to make sure the Vodka is still OK. Try another cup just in case.

Turn off the mixerer thingy. Break 2 eegs and add to the bowl and chuck in the cup of dried fruit.

Pick the fruit up off the floor, wash it and put it in the bowl a piece at a time trying to count it. Mix on the turner.
If the fried druit getas stuck in the beaterers, just pry it loose with a drewscriver Sample the Vodka to test for tonsisticity.

Next, sift 2 cups of salt, or something. Check the Vodka. Now slift… shift the lemon juice and strain your nuts.

Add one table. Add a spoon of sugar, or somefink. Whatever you can find.
Greash the oven. Turn the cake tin 360 degrees and try not to fall over.

Don’t forget to beat off the turner.

Finally, throw the bowl through the window.

Finish the Vodka and wipe the counter with the cat ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~