Tag Archives: shorts

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 Short Reality of Shorts

This week (yesterday, in fact) is the release of MacKenzie Publishing’s first anthology, OUT OF THE CAVE: twenty-one stories by twenty-one writers suitable for youth 13+. Suspense, mystery, horror, supernatural…what more could a teenager (or adult) want? And, for those of you in the Atlantic Provinces, you will recognize Nova Scotia’s Steve Vernon, who wrote the Foreword. OUT OF THE CAVE is available as an e-book and print book on Amazon and Smashwords



Hope Clark has graciously written today’s guest post, “The Short Reality of Shorts,” which (coincidentally) coincides with the release of MacKenzie Publishing’s book of short stories. Hope is an inspiration to all writers! Her blog http://www.FundsForWriters.com is always pertinent and reaches 35,000 readers every week. And her books are well received. What more could an author want? (Further info on Hope and her books is at the end of this post.)

Thank you, Hope, for this post!


The Short Reality of Shorts by Hope Clark

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 that a short that snaps in its delivery.

Short fiction, flash fiction, memoir, and essays. It takes intense craft to make those pieces zing. So when the Killer Nashville mystery conference asked that I contribute to their mystery anthology, I almost choked. Sure, I write mystery . . . 100,000-word mysteries. But to take crime, clues, and characters and mold them into a 3,000-word package, scared me senseless. But I accepted the challenge.

And I think “Rich Talk” turned into some of my best writing.

Every novelist sooner or later pens a short story. And those shorts, while, um, short, often become more memorable than longer works. Ask Stephen King. Shorts exercise different writing muscles. The reader isn’t allowed a lull, and each sentence carries more weight. But that twist in the end . . . that wow factor . . . shows the power of words, and therefore, the power of you as a writer. Shorts must deliver serious oomph.

Anthologies of shorts can be power houses. With anthologies ranging anywhere from ten to maybe fifty stories, each tale has to represent the theme with enough talent to make the reader want to read the others. A heavy responsibility upon each author as well as the editor compiling the collection. But when an editor has a keen eye, and the slush pile of stories is great and deep, an anthology can turn into an admirable portfolio credit for all involved. And a treasure trove for readers.

Memoir and creative nonfiction hold the same responsibility, and the same demands are made of their authors. Though the pieces may be taken from reality, like the myriad Chicken Soup anthology tales, they must still read like a short story with a solid beginning, middle, and nice-and-tight swing around ending. Reading like good fiction, creative nonfiction recalls a moment and spins it into a concise, well-told tale. It just happens to be steeped in real life.

So many writers start with shorts because book-length material rattles them. The thought of so many chapters intimidates them. Me? I’m just the opposite because I know the tight, well-constructed thought process that goes into a successful short. And every time I read one that resonates, that tells a story with a snap, crackle, and pop, I so wish I’d written it.

I’ve just released Echoes of Edisto, the third book in my Edisto Island Mysteries, and I’ll continue writing my books, but here and there now I’ll make myself create a short. Why? Because those muscles need exercising, and the sharpness of talent that goes into a short is admirable indeed. I also want to be that kind of writer.


BIO: Hope Clark is founder of FundsforWriters.com, a newsletter and website that reaches 35,000 readers every Friday. She is also author of the Carolina Slade Mysteries and the Edisto Island Mysteries, with the newest release being Echoes of Edisto. www.chopeclark.com

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“Between These Pages” – Josh Hick’s Review, Part 2

Indie Book Review by Josh Hicks: Between These Pages, by Catherine MacKenzie, Part 2 of 2:

This is the second half of my review for Between These Pages, a short story anthology by Catherine MacKenzie.

The first half of Between These Pages was good, but the second half is definitely my favorite.  With respect to the other authors I’ve reviewed, Between These Pages is probably the best book by an independent author that I’ve read over the course of this year.  It was well-written, and contains a lot of interesting topics, especially the half I’m about to review.

1.    Quota:  This interesting story stood out almost as much as Island Lovers, but, being a fan of science fiction, I enjoyed this one more.  This sci-fi story could best be described as a population-control horror story (if such a genre ever existed).  A man must fill his quota of death, or else.

2.    Between the Good and the Bad:  This is an erotic story about a character (Vanessa) that is a cross between witch and vampire.  The main character uses her abilities to kill people who she believes deserve to die, because they are evil, or to end their misery.  One of my favorites.

3.   The Mannequin:  One of the most memorable stories in the entire book, a wife pretends to be the mannequin that was created in her likeness in order to catch her husband having an affair.

4.    Molly Mulligan:  This is a story about secrets.  Molly Mulligan has a family secret, and her children want to know the truth.

5.    Afterword:  In one of the more tragically compelling stories of this book, a woman kills her husband, assuming he was having an affair on her.  This story is extremely well written, and memorable.

6.    Trapped in the Swallow:  A man and wife go on vacation to New Zealand, and one of our main characters finds herself stuck in a sinkhole.

7.    Tart Thorns among Silken Threads:  This is a story about a woman who continues to marry men, and kill them, to inherit their possessions and live a life of luxury.

8.   Footprints in the Snow: Catherine MacKenzie pushes boundaries with this story about a controversial topic.  A woman once requested to be put out of her misery if her illness took away her quality of life.  Will her husband live up to his end of the bargain?  Will she still want him to when the time comes?

9.   Blood Dreams:  An old woman claims that her caretakers are draining her blood, but people think she’s delusional.  The marks on her body are real, but what about the bats flying overhead?

Who would like this book?  Previously, in the first half of this review, I said Between These Pages was geared toward women.  That remains true for the second half as well.  However, Catherine MacKenzie has written a book that can be enjoyed by a variety of different readers.

Here are some of my personal reactions to the second half of Between These Pages:

“Afterward”:  This was the story that had me on the edge of my seat.

“Quota”:  The first, and only, science fiction story in the book.  I was happy to see something from the sci-fi genre in this book, and even happier to see how well it fit in with the rest of the stories.

“Between the Good and the Bad”:  I’m not an expert in the commercial success of books, but if I could make a suggestion to Catherine MacKenzie it would be MAKE AN ENTIRE SERIES BASED ON THIS CHARACTER!  The main character of this story, Vanessa, is sexy, violent, and already has a great story.  She’s a witch and a vampire.  She’s a renegade who kills people based on her own judgment.  She’s sexually promiscuous without shame or apology.  Vanessa, in my opinion, could sell a lot of books.

“Footprints in the Snow”:  This is my favorite story in the entire book.  The story evokes strong emotions of what it means to be alive, and what it means to experience the process of dying.  Cathy MacKenzie tells her story as a work of fiction, but the real-world implications are hard to ignore.

Between These Pages was an excellent read.  Support Catherine MacKenzie by downloading her book, and let her know what you think of her stories.

The e-book is only $2.99

Available on Smashwords


Available on Amazon


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