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

Review of Dead Cow Pants (Torquere Sip) by Julia Talbot

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Rating: 4 stars

Shay has returned a changed wolf to the pack he left for the big city.  Shay is now painfully thin, and way too quiet for his best friend, Darius, who remembers his friend the way he used to be.  Darius thinks a pair of leather pants will do wonders for Shay’s confidence but Shay may just be the only werewolf in history to hate the smell of leather!  Shay believes leather smells like dead cows and refuses to wear any dead cow pants. But Dar has more than missed his friend and figures helping him rediscover his self confidence might just lead to something both have  wanted all their lives. Now if he can just get him to put on those pants!

How can you not love a short story about a werewolf who eschews wearing animals products?  Julia Talbot gives us an adorable story about two best friends reuniting and the unspoken love that has been there all along.  My only quibble with this story is that Talbot delivers such wonderful characterizations and then puts them in a plot that just begs for more backstory.  What happened to Shay after he left the pack?  Why is he so thin? What was going on with Shay to make him leave the pack to begin with?  The story left me with so many questions because I became invested in these characters from the start and loved what little I knew of them.  At any rate, terrific short story full of two intriguing questions and one author’s twist on the werewolf genre.  Great job.

It’s Almost Halloween and The Week Ahead in Reviews!

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The leaves are starting to turn some startlingly beautiful fall colors, crimson, rich golds and brilliant shades of orange.  I love this time of  year.  I love pulling out favorite sweaters and my feet love the warmth of my Uggs and my winter slippers.  My morning coffee tastes better when the first sip is taken outside watching the birds start their morning trips to my backyard feeders.

My pumpkins were carved and what a time that was.  The wild weather during the growing season has made for some unusually thick pumpkins, great for professional carvers.  Not so great for the amateur.  Not only did I manage to destroy all the little carving implements I bought for pumpkin carving, I also broke 2 kitchen knives, bent a steak knife and ended up swinging a huge thing that looked like it should have been carried by Jim Bowie in the wilderness.  I am talking hours here, folks!  So what should occur when I put it outside?  Well overnight and into the next morning, I had visitors that appreciated my pumpkin on an entirely different level.  They ate it!  Sigh.  Oh well, at least someone enjoyed my efforts.

There are so many great books being released now that I am getting a little overwhelmed, but in  a good way.  So this is my schedule for next week.  If it does play out this way, well chalk it up to my Fall crazies and Halloween overload:

Monday:                           Love Comes Silently by Andrew Grey

Tuesday:                           Chase The Stars by Ariel Tachna

Wednesday:                     Mine by Mary Calmes

Thursday:                         Gleams of a Remoter World by Fiona Glass

Friday:                              Torquere Sip Short Stories

Saturday:                          Theory of Attraction by Cleon Lee and Just A Summer Fling by Lily Grace

Any how that’s what I am aiming for in addition to pulling out my witch’s costume and putting new feather in my hat!  The ghostly jester skeleton is hanging in the breeze and the raven is soon to follow.  So much to do……