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Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Themed Anthologies

I love short stories. I love to read them, and I love to write them.

While there are several well-paid venues for short stories (Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine and Woman’s World come to mind) most short stories will never find a “home” that lucrative.

But that doesn’t stop those of us who love to write them.

I find calls for themed anthologies to be a welcome challenge. They spur my imagination and provide an outlet for works of short creative writing. Some are organized by groups such as chapters of Sisters in Crime, or by presses.

They may not pay much (sometimes nothing at all) but they are fun. And I often find that the other contributors are skilled, recognized authors. It’s an honor to be included in the same book as many of them.

In the past few weeks, I have had the pleasure of seeing one of my stories, "Tarnished Hope," released in the Malice Domestic anthology, "Murder Most Conventional." The theme there was, not surprisingly, conventions.

Another, "Frozen Assets," was released in the Chesapeake Chapter of SINC’s "Chesapeake Crimes Storm Warning," which asked for stories with a strong weather component. I used an urban winter storm.

Along with fellow WWK blogger Warren Bull, I am awaiting the release of "Black Coffee," an anthology due out this month from Darkhouse Books. Warren has two stories in the anthology, "A Christmas Journey" and "Killer Euology." Mine is "Last Laugh," although we did talk about renaming it "Bitter Dregs." 

My writing critique group has released an anthology each year for the past several years, and we are busy assembling another. Theme: paranormal. I am working on a werewolf story and a gate-to-hell story. We will pick one to include.

Of course not all my submissions have been accepted. I haven’t been able to get a story in any of the anthologies put out by the Guppy Chapter of SINC, although I do have one under consideration now. Word on it should be out this month.

I also submitted an entry to the Bouchercon "Under the Oaks" anthology, released at the last Bouchercon in Raleigh, but once again, I was not successful.

Presently I’m working on a submission for next year’s Malice Domestic Convention anthology, "Murder Most Historical." I started a story set in the 1870’s in the Catoctin Mountains in Maryland, but I’m finding it a real challenge. Practically every sentence presents a need to do research. (Were working-class men’s shirts pullovers or did they button? Were they made of linsey-woolsey? Did a man need to wear at least a vest over the shirt for him to be considered “dressed” when he went into town? How about when he was working?) I’ve always admired people who could write realistic-feeling historical fiction, and I have an even greater admiration for them now.

Do you enjoy short story anthologies? Have you ever tried to write for one?


Barb Goffman said...

I love anthologies. Like you, I enjoy the challenge of crafting a story that meets the requirements of a story call, as well as the creative process a story call can induce.

For readers who haven't read KM's stories in Chesapeake Crimes: Storm Warning and Malice Domestic: Murder Most Conventional, you definitely should. They are excellent stories (both of which I had the pleasure of editing).

Margaret S. Hamilton said...

Hey Kathleen, I'm writing a historical story right now and like you, am stopping at almost every sentence to fact-check. So thankful for the internet and an old Life book of photographs.

E. B. Davis said...

I love writing shorts for themed anthologies. I find it a challenge and love to see what all the other writers come up with to exemplify the theme. Crossing my fingers for my submission to the next Chesapeake Crime's volume!

Shari Randall said...

Kathleen, I can't wait to read your latest story in the Chesapeake Crimes series. I've read two of the stories in the book already and they were terrific. (Yes, one was Barb's story!)
I love the challenge of writing to a theme. I've had stories in two of the Chesapeake Crimes anthologies and it was a blast to be part of the party. Good luck, EB and to all who have submitted.

Gloria Alden said...

KM, I also like writing to a theme. I wish I'd bought one of those anthologies you were in when I was at Malice. Meanwhile I'll be working on the next Malice anthology, although the odds of getting in there with so many Malice writers submitting is slim.

Warren Bull said...

Thanks for the mention. I love anthologies. The odds of being one of the twelve or so best stories is better than the odds of being the single best novel to the publisher.

Kait said...

I love to read anthologies, but I have never, ever submitted to one. Strange since I cut my teeth writing shorts. I have to say, this group of books has definitely expanded my TBR list! Well done to all.

KM Rockwood said...

Thanks, Barb. Your editing resulted in much stronger stories. And I will never look at snow "swirling" the same again.

Margaret, It's been a revelation to me how much I don't know about the period and setting I'm trying to write! I just discovered that the town's name changed after the date of my story, so instead of using a made-up name, I may just revert to the old one.

E.B, it's not exactly a "crap shoot," but some of those anthologies get so many good entries, it must be hard to sort through them. I've tried to stay away from fairly common characters and situations, figuring that a lot of really excellent writers are going to submit using them. Since I tend to use on-the-edge-of-society characters, so far that hasn't been hard. But still no guarantee of success.

Warren, did you just get the galleys for Black Coffee? I did. Only minor corrections. At least, I hope. I always worry I missed something.

Kait, the anthologies are such fun! Especially if your story is accepted. And if it's not, you still have a pretty much finished story to submit somewhere else.

Tina said...

I've always loved reading them -- now I am learning to enjoy writing for them (especially co-writing, as I'm doing with Jim Jackson for an upcoming anthology entitled Fifty Shades of Cabernet). So many new frontiers to explore without the long-term commitment of a novel!

KM Rockwood said...

Gloria, I know what you mean about the odds being slim. But if you don't submit one, you know for sure you aren't going to have a story in there. And if you write a good story that isn't accepted, you can look for a good "home" for it. My last not-selected-for-Guppy anthology found a place in "Over My Dead Body."

Tina, that does sound like fun. I haven't co-written with anybody, but I'd be open to it with the right person.