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Friday, November 5, 2021

Fantasy Author Gail Z. Martin: The Story Behind the Story—Anthologies

A lot of writers start their careers with short stories. I kinda backed into writing them after I’d already sold my first book series.

My book contract called for a minimum of 175,000 words per novel. I could go over that, but not under it. No problem. Then a friend asked me to do a story for an anthology—maximum of 8,000 words. Terror! How could I possibly write something with a beginning, middle, and ending for so few words?

Then I realized that word limit was roughly equal to a chapter. I could write a ‘chapter’ that conveyed an exciting event and built out the characters. I didn’t want to disappoint my friend, so I agreed to do the story.

That very first short story, Among the Shoals Forever, ended up being part of the history for a series I didn’t know I was going to write at the time—which came about because of another short story.

My editor at the publisher I was with at the time asked me to write an urban fantasy story. I’d only ever published epic fantasy at that point, but I said I’d do it. That story was Buttons, which introduced Cassidy Kincaide and Trifles and Folly. The anthology won some awards, and the publisher asked me to do a series—Deadly Curiosities—based on that short story.

Fast-forward a decade and I’ve now been an invited participant in at least 50 US/UK anthologies both as Gail Z. Martin and as Morgan Brice, my paranormal MM romance alter-ego. Writing a short story no longer gives me heart palpitations, except for figuring out how to fit it into an overcrowded schedule.

Most of my short stories are extensions of the worlds I write about in book series—sort of like extra episodes that occur around and between the books. That lets me explore smaller incidents that don’t belong in one of the books and wouldn’t be enough for a whole book, but that are fun to share and which provide some additional glimpses of the world and the characters. Eventually, those stories revert from the anthologies and we do a collection of them by series. (I’ve done five so far with a sixth coming soon.)

Occasionally, I’ll do a stand-alone story. They aren’t my first choice because it’s harder to do something with them after the rights revert and they don’t have a natural audience like the stories set in my series do. But if the prompt is intriguing, I’ll do it mostly because a friend asked. All of those tales have been fun to write, and a few stand out as some of my most-requested stories at readings. They challenge me because I’m starting with nothing but a prompt, and sometimes they take me far out of my comfort zone. But it’s worth it to support a friend’s anthology and they say it’s good to do something that terrifies you to keep growing. It’s worked out well so far!

This year, I contributed stories to Heart2Heart4 and Fables Retold as Morgan Brice (both limited-time anthologies that have already reverted) and the upcoming Ring in the New at Caynham Castle. As Gail I wrote stories for three more upcoming anthologies: a Poe-themed collection by Falstaff Books; Whisper Wude’s The Four ???? Of The Apocalypse; and Fantastic Books’ Three Time Travelers. We’re also bringing out Trifles and Folly 3, the third collection of Deadly Curiosities stories.

Short stories stretch my creativity and provide a fun writing challenge. They let me support my editor friends and participate in a group project with other writers, whom I inevitably get to know better. Several of the collections I’ve been part of over the years have supported charities. Anthologies can also be a great way for readers to try out new authors and discover new favorites.

That’s the story behind the (short) stories for me!

What’s new in 2021? Plenty!

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Gail Z. Martin writes urban fantasy, epic fantasy and steampunk for Solaris Books, Orbit Books, Falstaff Books, SOL Publishing and Darkwind Press. Urban fantasy series include Deadly Curiosities and the Night Vigil (Sons of Darkness). Epic fantasy series include Darkhurst, the Chronicles Of The Necromancer, the Fallen Kings Cycle, the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga, and the Assassins of Landria. She and co-author Larry N. Martin write the Spells Salt and Steel, Wasteland Marshals and Joe Mack Shadow Council Archives Adventures. As Morgan Brice, she writes urban fantasy MM paranormal romance. Series include Witchbane, Badlands, Treasure Trail, Kings of the Mountain and Fox Hollow series.

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