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Give Anthologies a Chance!

(This post first appeared on Val Muller’s Blog on August 31, 2016.)

Give Anthologies a Chance!

I’ll be honest: anthologies aren’t a great sell, perhaps rated just above poetry collections, yet I think shorts are wonderful to read.

On August 1, 2016, I published (under my imprint, MacKenzie Publishing) my first anthology, a book of 21 short stories by 21 authors, titled OUT OF THE CAVE.



OUT OF THE CAVE is packed to the brim with horror-themed stories suitable for teens and youth. And, despite anthologies not being the rage, I plan to publish another anthology next year, titled TWO EYES OPEN, this time for adults.

Two Eyes Open FB

People don’t have long attention spans anymore, so readers should be clamouring for short stories. I love shorts—both to read and to write. I’ve published several collections of my own stories and am always on the lookout for anthologies to purchase and read.

On August 2, Hope Clark, a successful author, was gracious enough to write a guest post on my blog that she titled “The Short Reality of Shorts.” She stated:

As a writer, short pieces scare me. As a six-time novelist and one-time nonfiction book author, I find comfort in longer prose. But I have to admit . . . there’s no writing more profound than a short that snaps in its delivery. Short fiction, flash fiction, memoir, and essays. It takes intense craft to make those pieces zing.

OUT OF THE CAVE is my “pride and joy” (to use a cliché). It’s my baby, and I don’t hesitate spamming and publicizing wherever and whenever (versus promoting my own writings). Sales have been “okay” though not as great as I had hoped. But, hey, I’m not dead yet; OUT OF THE CAVE can still be a best seller!

I created the cover for the book from a photo of one of the many caves on Phia Beach in New Zealand. Until I had completed the cover, I hadn’t realized a ghostly image peeked through the sunlight between the rocks. I first thought the “ghost” was Hubby and then, suddenly, recognized myself. Funny, because I have no recollection posing for that shot.

I lucked out when I snagged Steve Vernon, a prolific local (Nova Scotia, Canada) writer of ghost stories and such, to write the foreword to OUT OF THE CAVE. Part of his awesome foreword reads:

Kids of all ages CONSTANTLY live in the shadow of fear. Am I going to be good enough? Are my parents going to get divorced? Am I going to be popular enough? Will Dad lose his job? Can I pass that darned math test? Will those bullies leave me alone?

Fear—kids live in it constantly—and a good scary story teaches a kid how to deal with fear. And THAT, more than anything else, is why you ought to let your kids read all of the scary stories that they can get their hands on.

So let’s do that today.

Pick up this book and buy it and give it to your kid.

Let’s drag scary stories out of the darkness of the cave.

Several stories in OUT OF THE CAVE were written by local authors; others are from writers living in Japan, Mexico, the U.S. and other parts of Canada. The stories are a mix of horror, supernatural, suspense, mystery, and thriller—but totally PG13, suitable for teens 13 and up. Adults, too, would enjoy them, though those readers might want to wait for TWO EYES OPEN.

And speaking of my next anthology, TWO EYES OPEN, I need to snare a famous horror writer to write that foreword. I do have an individual in mind (perhaps another “Steve”?). We shall see….

Though I enjoyed the process of publishing OUT OF THE CAVE, the book was more work than I had anticipated. I gathered the stories, which resulted from a submissions call I widely publicized, and weeded the best from the bunch. I read each story several times, corresponded with the authors, edited the stories, formatted the book, and published it.

Whew! But all that effort pales in comparison to promotion and garnering sales.

Writers need sales. What’s the good of publishing a book if no one purchases and/or reads it?

My purpose for OUT OF THE CAVE was to encourage teens/youth to read. And who doesn’t enjoy an excellent ghost story?

Shirley, an adult reader/local purchaser, stated:

Good mix of disturbing stories. Some of the stories keep coming back to haunt my dreams. Not sure if I’d want to deal with kids in my house who might want Mommy reassurance after they experienced similar nightmares. All the stories are well-written and/or well-edited.

So, hey, give anthologies a chance—whether mine or another! OUT OF THE CAVE would make an excellent birthday, Christmas, or all-occasion gift for a son/daughter, grandchild, or other deserving youth. Purchase here!

Please leave a review, whether good or bad. Reviews help us indie authors capture sales.

OUT OF THE CAVE Facebook Page

TWO EYES OPEN Facebook Page

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The Spot Writers – “Synced In,” by Val Muller

Welcome to the Spot Writers. This week’s flash fiction comes to you from Val Muller, author of the young adult novel The Scarred Letter, a book dealing with bullying and truth in a world that lives a lie.

The prompt for this month: Opening sentence: “It’s still not clear what started it all.” Closing sentence: “What can be done to change that?”

Synced In

By Val Muller

It’s not clear what started it all. It may have been the Fitbit craze, the obsession over fitness-tracking watches and smartphone apps tracking movement, exercise, and calories. It may have been people’s use of GPS technology as a crutch, or the constant need to feel connected.

But now everyone at school was Synced In.

Except Charlie.

His parents were old school. Really old school. They’d home-schooled him until the tenth grade, at which point he needed the advanced courses offered at the local high school. When he first got there, he didn’t know how to log on to a computer, let alone use a mouse for that matter.

Not that many people were using a mouse anymore.

Now, the students held their fingers up to the sensor, and they were logged in, able to save their work, able to access countless databases. In gym class (they made Charlie take Gym with the freshmen), students logged into a computer terminal to track their pulses, their activity levels, and their caloric intakes for the day. Charlie was surprised there was no actual physical activity.

Charlie, who had not been Synced, flipped pages on an old-fashioned book with his old-fashioned finger and read about the benefits of cardiovascular work—without being asked to get up from his desk.

In fact, the teachers were all pretty lax compared to the books Charlie had read in preparation for life in public school. The teachers in the books were always sly and sneaky. They all seemed to have eyes in the back of their heads, to catch students sneaking around, and to have all kinds of clever ways of inspiring students into caring just a bit more about life.

Maybe books were art and life was life.

Or maybe life had just become too synced.

These teachers walked around with a small tablet attached to their belts the same way cops walked around with guns in the detective stories Charlie read as a kid. Attendance was taken as the students walked into the classroom—their Sync Chips scanned by each classroom’s infrared sensor. The teachers needed only to input Charlie’s presence manually, a task they did with the subtlest eye roll.

“Charlie, we need to get you Synced,” they would sigh.

They also had to manually enter his grades. With no finger sensor for him to log into the network, he could not complete the online courses the way the other students did. At first, he was met again with eye rolls. But after a while, his physics teacher seemed to enjoy the quaintness of a pen-and-paper activity. In the absence of immediate online feedback, Mr. Bloomton sat down with Charlie to review formulas and problem sets, to talk of theories and the best way to solve each assignment.

With the other kids, he simply checked their progress on his tablet, making sure the data fed correctly into his grading program.

Before long, Mr. Bloomton had spoken with Mr. Frierson, the public speaking teacher. The class couldn’t understand why Frierson abandoned the computer’s speech algorithm one day and asked the students to deliver an impromptu speech—actually standing in front of the class with everyone actually watching and not logged into their computers.

The next day, gym teachers around the school were perplexed at the irregular pulse rate and calorie readings reported from students’ devices, and they, too, spent time away from the automated programs. The students were especially tired that week, and parents came to visit—in person—with concerns about anomalous readings on their children’s devices.

With all the human interaction, teachers were more tired than usual, prompting calls from doctors’ offices calling for actual appointments rather than virtual ones. It made for a crazy week for most, but when Charlie’s parents asked him how he enjoyed being a public school student, he simply shrugged.

“A little different from what I expected at first, but now it seems to be a bit closer to normal. I probably would prefer to remain home schooled, but there is something unique about human interaction that I just can’t get at home. Besides, I need those upper-level science and match classes, so what can be done to change that?”


The Spot Writers–our members:

 RC Bonitz: rcbonitz.com

Val Muller: http://www.valmuller.com/blog/

Catherine A. MacKenzie: https://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter/

Tom Robson: Blog pending


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Wanna be a Spot Writer?

The Spot Writers has lost a member. Any of my writer friends want to join us?

We need one member to bring us back to four.

What do we do? With four members, each of us will only have to write once every four weeks. We take turns posting a prompt, then each of us writes a short story/writing at least 500 words. Every Thursday, we post each other’s writing to our blogs, with links to same on social media. The purpose is to promote our blogs, which, we hope, will bring attention to our  books for sale.

We have a lot of fun! Interested? Send me an email for more information.

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