EXTREMES

EXTREMES

I’ve been a bit lax in posting about this over here, but hey, things have been fairly hectic, and after all, this long-suffering WordPress site is pretty used to getting neglected.

My third release for the year (not taking into account the likes of Triggered) is out now. More appropriately, it’s been out for just under a month. Of course, I am talking about Extremes, the latest collection I’ve self-published while on this challenge I’ve tasked myself of releasing at least a book a month for the year (or the equivalent of one book a month should circumstances arise-more on that later).

Extremes, as the name would suggest, is something that is entrenched firmly in realms of the extreme when it comes to horror. My previous collections (With Tooth and Claw from 2015, and Disquiet: An Assemblage of the Unnerving from February this year) are comprised of stories which are a little more eclectic, varying from the more restrained and tame, one might say, for me, but Extremes is unapologetic in where it dwells. This beast is made up of a selection of several of my more hardcore stories, those which splash around gleefully in the mud, blood, and the mire of splatterpunk stylings and extreme horror, though as noted in the description, they aren’t simply extreme in terms of content and themes, but also in regards to explorations of just what people can and will do when they are forced to confront various situations. We could all say we would never do certain things, or could never envision acting in particular ways, but until faced with a scenario where there’s not much choice left, who knows how things will pan out?

Folks will go to extremes one way or another.

EXTREMES PROMO

Eight tales are included in this book, and though many may have encountered the majority of them before (some were previously published in some pretty successful anthologies which hit large target audiences, and continue to do so), this is the first time they have all been assembled together in the same place, making it easier for those readers who’d like to immerse themselves in a whole book of my style of extremity, yet enjoy an assortment of different stories. They’re cultivated from a spread of different books from the last four years or so, though one of them was written many years ago before it found a home anywhere (mind you, at that point I wasn’t actively seeking to have stories published), and each of the stories, as well as being fairly unflinching and brutal content-wise, have their own reasons for being present and their own different messages and agendas.

All of them were great fun to write, in fact some of them rank as favourites of my own work, at least with regards to how much fun I had writing them and playing around with various characters. On top of that, there are several from this book that stand a good chance of being expanded into full length novels, or possibly novellas. In saying that, I’m not essentially referring to all the same characters resurfacing, since people who have read any of these stories know that not all of the same characters are left standing when the blood clears. Instead, I’m referring to the concepts created for some of them, the various settings, establishments, notions, lore, and so forth. A couple of the tales, for example, both take place in the same establishment, and I’ve been toying with the idea of writing a series of stories revolving around this place, or alternatively stretching it out into a novel. Most likely, the former idea would work better than the latter, but some of the other tales definitely are going to find their universes widened beyond mere short story form. Which ones they are you’ll just have to wait and see, since that won’t be happening any time soon-I’m inundated with myriad projects I want, and need, to get finished, many of which I’ve tasked myself with.

As opposed to the previous collection, Disquiet, which didn’t contain any specific theme bar the fact that all the stories within it were garnered from niche anthologies and books that didn’t have an overly wide readership on first release, Extremes is themed, and obviously so. These are tales from the darker end of the spectrum, the more visceral and unrelenting, leave-no-stone-uncovered approach to horror, and not for the faint of heart, but in addition to that, there are a few other elements which connect various pieces in the book. Have a read of it, and check all those out.

If you are new to my work and want to delve into it via the short story form first before investigating any novels, where your tastes in horror lie will depend on which book I’d suggest trying first. Disquiet is probably a more measured representation of my work, it definitely hosts some more mainstream types of stories, and more accessible material, but hell, if you came for the extreme, the bloody, the violent, visceral, explicit, insane stuff, then Extremes is the shit for you.

In fact, Extremes seems to be the shit for quite a few folk. Of the three books I’ve released this year, this one is both the fastest selling and highest selling so far.

On one hand this is surprising, on the other, not so much. Firstly, Harvester’s Trade, my initial book release of the year, which up until fairly recently was my highest seller, has been out for a couple of months longer, it is an all new story, and it is only a dollar in price. Extremes, however, has been out for less than a month, is the most expensive of all three books, and contains multiple reprints (albeit, never before available all together in the same place). That’s where the latter being most popular is surprising.

The not so surprising is of course, all in the name itself. Extreme horror is no longer just a novelty, a place for intrigued souls to sate their curiosity or to tangle with the taboo, or to venture into when they’re no longer content with more accepted forms of horror. Pushing the limits, the boundaries, going to extremes as it were, isn’t just a thing for hardcore aficionados any more, and if it is, well, then there are a hell of a lot of them and the number is growing exponentially.

Extreme horror is massive these days, almost to the point where it is as universally accepted as much as any other subgenre or what-have-you. Nor is it looking like interest in it is dying out any time soon, in fact I’d say it is quite the opposite. Some things come and go, fads, trends, fashions, genres and subgenres, themes and tropes dipping in and out of favour, but some things maintain, they don’t fade away. Some become so engrained or entrenched that they’re hard to shift in any shape or form-zombies are a prime example of this; folks consistently maintain they are sick of zombies, that they’ve been done to death, that they’re over-saturated in media, and all kinds of shit like that, and in essence much of that is true, but nonetheless, zombies are mainstream now, and they’ve managed to lodge themselves there. They won’t be going away any time soon, because despite all of those above points, they’re still attracting readers of undead books, viewers of television shows and movies, they’ve become a mainstay. And extreme horror, despite any claims to the contrary, is also now a mainstay, and essentially has been for quite some time now. It only seems more evident these days when there are so many exponents of it out there now-some excellent, some good, some at the far other end of the scale-and and the visibility of it remains high.

It’s here to stay; much like the enduring entity that is the undead, extreme horror won’t be going away any time soon either, regardless how many people say, ah, it will die out, something new will come along to replace it. Something new may well come along and sweep along on a successful wave for a while, but that doesn’t mean extreme horror will die out or go away. Not as long as folks keep digging it, not while they keep looking for more extreme approaches to storytelling. Not while folks are prepared to go to extremes.

Anyway, in light of Extremes riding its own wave of success at the moment, I’m temporarily holding back my next release for a little while, to give Extremes some room to run. Technically, the next book should come out in April to stick with the book a month notion, but putting two out next month is the plan to combat that (this would be in relation to the circumstances I mentioned earlier), and to allow Extremes to hold court a little while longer. With that said, there will be a new book coming, and yes, it is new, not a reprint or not anything anybody will have come across before. Following that will be another with material that while largely new to most readers, is in fact quite old, decades old actually. Stay posted for further news regarding that.

In the meantime, if you haven’t yet gone to Extremes, what are you waiting for? Go on, get yourself a little messy.

What lengths would you go to in order to achieve what you want in life? To fit in and be accepted, to escape a dangerous situation, to attain success, or to attain freedom?
When faced with extraordinary circumstances of horrifying proportions what actions are you going to take?
When it comes to all of the above, and more, there are no limits to what people will do. Desperate individuals will resort to desperate measures.
Assembled together for the very first time are several of Jim Goforth’s most extreme horror stories to date, though not merely extreme in terms of content and themes. These tales delve into the great pains taken when souls are confronted with situations that require a severe response, plumbing the depths of depravity, perversion, brutality, horror, and fear.
Horrific events can unfold when people are prepared, or forced, to go to extremes.

http://smarturl.it/extremes

OUTNOW

 

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TRIGGERED

Cast your mind back a little to last year, and you’ll probably recall I mentioned something about a new experiment in extremity coming along some time in the future, from the twisted folks at WetWorks who brought you Rejected For Content (note-that means me; I am WetWorks, for those who weren’t aware, so technically, that phrasing was a little incorrect, but you get the gist).

Of course, that occasionally referred to experiment is Triggered, which as the name itself might suggest, is pretty self-explanatory in terms of its agenda, though not in terms of deliberately trying to push triggers, but more a case of exploring them, the reasons behind them and so forth.

triggered full wrap

I originally had the idea for Triggered (and also bandied around the notion of calling it Triggers, before settling on Triggered) quite some time ago, but due to the amount of other projects and things going on at the time-namely, Project 26 and associated works-I just sat on it for a while, before tossing it out there. I also considered making it an invite only anthology, since I know of plenty of folks who would do the theme justice, but ultimately I threw it open to anybody, which was definitely the way to go. I have no problem with invite only anthos, but in ensuring writers bring their A-game to something like that rather than just phoning it in because it’s a pretty safe bet they’re going to be in the book regardless, I always prefer the stipulation that just because you’re invited to submit doesn’t essentially mean the story is going to be accepted. Knowing you’re going to appear in a book opens up that possibility of scribbling a somewhat less than stellar piece or something below the standard of your usual work, so taking that assurance away and keeping everything on a level playing field makes writers strive to produce better work. Any future invite only anthos I run-if I ever decide to run any, that is-will be run like this. Yeah, you’re invited, but that in itself is no guarantee the story will get in.

Anyway, I’m completely off-track. Triggered was meant to be an invite-only entity, but it didn’t turn out that way, and I’m more than happy I did open it up because in the process of taking submissions I encountered several writers I wasn’t familiar with who brought some great work to the table. Some of the usual reprobates who I suspected would be right onboard with taking part in a project such as this also offered up some suitably macabre pieces which fit the theme well, each of the ultimately accepted works providing some very unique takes on the whole Triggered notion.

The concept of Triggered was not to deliberately seek out things that would be blatantly offensive, or solely intended to set people’s triggers off, or anything along those lines, but rather to delve deeper into what triggers various people, the reasons behind them, how different people react when faced with those things that trigger them. In this day and age, seemingly more so than ever, anything can serve as a trigger in some capacity. We have to be mindful of what we do, what we say, how we treat people, how we approach situations, because somewhere, somehow, something in there might flip a switch. Past experiences, overheard words, misconstrued actions, poor choices, a bad hand in life, comparisons, simple conversations through social media, all kinds of things, you name it. Anything can be a trigger to somebody, and unless you’re well aware of what might set it off, you’re not going to know until it is too late.

TRIGGERED(1)

After almost a month of being out, the book has been doing well, sitting up the top of the Hot New Releases in Horror Anthologies in both the USA and the UK for a period, and as hoped, drawing mixed reactions from readers. I don’t want all five star reviews and praise and all that sort of shit; I want folks to make deeper explorations of the tales and garner some understanding about triggers, I want an assortment of responses, and if that means people hate it, that works great for me. Eliciting and provoking responses from either end of the scale is what it is all about; yes, it is ultimately entertainment, but it is horrifying entertainment and it exists to horrify you, but to make you think as well. Read the book, and walk away with something from it, regardless of what it is, as long as it made you feel something. Nothing in Triggered is supposed to make you feel comfortable, and I’d suggest the scribes who presented pieces that appear in these pages do a fine job of ensuring that is the case.

In other Triggered related information, some have asked whether this new experiment is a successor or replacement for the Rejected For Content series. The answer to that is, no. There is still a lot of life in RFC, and a vast array of possibilities for that particular series to explore. After six volumes Rejected For Content is still going strong, still drawing in new readers, and still introducing new scribes with material that should most definitely be rejected on the grounds of content. However, given the amount of time I’m investing in various other projects-if you keep up to date with this site, you’ll probably have something of an idea of some of those-I wouldn’t suggest that RFC is essentially going to be a yearly release as it has been over the last few volumes. Rest assured, Rejected For Content 7 will still be coming, but I’m not going to boldly-or perhaps foolishly-predict when. There is every chance, with the tasks I’ve set for myself in 2018, that RFC7 will not be a major priority until much later in the year, if at all. But yes, RFC remains in WetWorks plans, there is much to do with it and it’s been a juggernaut that can’t yet be stopped.

As for Triggered, it remains to be seen whether that is going to extend to a series or not; I haven’t yet decided. It was initially intended to be an experiment, and it’s been a fairly successful one so far. What happens from this point on, we’ll wait and see. In the meantime before Triggered 2, or Re-Triggered, or Triggered Again, or I could be here all fucking day playing this silly title game, is even brought up in conversation, head on over and check out the prototype-Triggered itself.

Triggers. Everybody has them.

Some traumatic life event. A phobia. Something brought on by anxiety. Fear. Loneliness. Desperation. Desire. Rage. Memories. Hatred.

It’s how we react to them that shapes us.
Will they break us, leave us curled up and lost, helpless and hopeless? Or will they be the catalyst in making us snap? Triggered to run riot and rampage?

Different triggers engender different responses. They can be completely anticipated, they can be unexpected. They can be mystifying. They can be horrifying. They can be deadly. Sometimes they can be switched on, never to be turned off.

Everybody has triggers. Anything can set them off.

CAUTION

Some books come labelled with a trigger warning to advise readers that the material contained within has the potential to generate unpleasant responses.

This book however, has no such thing.

Instead, the whole work in its entirety is one great big trigger warning.

ttp://smarturl.it/triggered

PhotoFunia-1497952739

 

 

Kevin "The Holtoning" Holton

Self-published work is sometimes a gamble. This is Jim Goforth’s first foray into the self-pub world, and I assure you, he’s doing it right. Harvester’s Trade is exactly the type of succinct, hard-hitting work an author should be producing, regardless of how they publish. Read it here, or read the review below:

This story of visceral horror is an excellent debut into the world of self-publishing. Jim Goforth, a highly regarded writer of this genre, certainly doesn’t hold back, keeping the adrenaline running from start to finish. It’s a quick read–more a sprint than a marathon–but this need to keep things to the point doesn’t impact the ambiance at all.

With ten characters getting relatively equal page time, it can be hard to keep track of them, but they’re distinct enough, and leave enough of a mark on the story, that this problem goes away within the first few pages…

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HARVESTER’S TRADE/DISQUIET

HARVESTDISQUIET

If you’ve been playing along at home, then you’ll probably be aware that I’ve been doing a little dabbling in some self-publishing. In which case you might also be aware that I set myself something of a challenge (perhaps a foolhardy one, but that remains to be seen) to release at least a book a month this year, be they full length novels, novellas, collections etc.

If you haven’t been playing along at home, you should be all caught up now. Doing some self-pubbing, making potentially ridiculous plans to release a book a month, not just a story, but full books. Got it.

Now, as I mentioned in my original post addressing these notions, these books aren’t all going to brand new, they aren’t going to be things rushed out just to meet the challenge, and it doesn’t essentially mean I will be sitting here crazily trying to bang out a book a month. I have a lot of stuff already written, some complete things, others well on the way to being finished, and a bunch of different ideas. What I will also be doing is compiling an assortment of collections, some which will feature new stories, some which will be themed, some which will see tales drawn from anthologies and publications which didn’t have a very wide readership.

Anyway, two months in and I’m on target so far.

My first foray into self-pubbing land came out in January, with the novella, Harvester’s Trade.

HARVESTER'S TRADE

Ten of the country’s most notorious felons have just been shackled, chained, and blindfolded, and bundled onto a prison bus, with no explanation.
With no knowledge of their destination, this dangerous collective of murderers, rapists, thugs, and violent offenders widely assume they’re being transferred from their current facility to another, or split up and relocated among multiple others. That isn’t the only theory.
Devoid of sight and information these prisoners also suspect they’re bound for other potential fates. Execution. Accidents. Never making it to their assumed transfer facility.
Ultimately, they are all wrong.
Instead, they are being released.
However, it isn’t as simple as it seems. There’s a catch, and it isn’t merely being dumped in the middle of nowhere, miles from civilization, with no food, water or means to protect themselves. From each other, or from anything else.
There are promises of a sanctuary existing somewhere out here in the wilderness, a location where they will be absolved of all their heinous crimes, should they manage to make it there.
Now, dusk is approaching fast and they’re about to discover why nobody wants to be stranded out here once darkness has fallen.

http://smarturl.it/harvesterstrade

Following that, in February, was the collection, Disquiet: An Assemblage of the Unnerving. This book is one of those aforementioned examples of compiling stories derived from previous publications which, for various reasons, slipped under the radar and didn’t hit a large target audience. Granted, some folks will have read some of the stories published in there before, but some will have not. The various books they were in range from niche anthos to battle anthos to books that featured specific themes. Here, they are all gathered together, and while there’s no theme threading them together, their presence all in the same book might afford them a little more visibility than they received in those prior publications. In any case, check it out.

DISQUIET(3)

Disquiet breeds not only in those deep, dark corners and places where we might commonly be frightened to venture into. It isn’t just confined to cemeteries, dark woods, and ominous, abandoned realms, though these are places that heighten those senses of unease.
Fear can spring forth on a simple train trip; it can creep in to pervade a once beloved hideaway, a secret place, it can invade the sanctuary of a happy household. Nowhere is impervious, and nobody is immune. That fear can be irrational, or it can be a portent that something terrible is about to happen.
In Disquiet: An Assemblage of the Unnerving, that lurking fear is wholly justified. Terrible things are going to happen.
Dredged up from the dark, twisted recesses of Jim Goforth’s imagination are the tales contained within this book, each one a different excursion into disquieting domains. From the reserved to the extreme, and everywhere in between, these are stories to horrify, to unsettle, to prove you are right to be afraid.
Though most of these have appeared before, in niche anthologies or publications which had limited readership, they’re now all gathered here together for the first time, in an assemblage of the unnerving.

http://smarturl.it/disquiet

Both of these books have a few variant covers, considering I tinkered around with a couple of things before deciding on which ones to run with. Harvester’s has two different versions, Disquiet has four. Maybe one day I’ll actually post those alternates, and discover folks might have preferred the ones I didn’t elect to use. Who knows?

They’re also definitely in need of a couple of reviews, Disquiet in particular, so if you have read either or both, slapping up a review on Amazon would be highly appreciated. Good, bad, ugly, it doesn’t matter, as long as it’s a genuine review. If you loved them, say so. If you hated them, say so. If you were ambivalent about them, same deal.

If you have read them both, and need something else to read, stay tuned. More books will be coming. At this point in time, there are four separate entities I have for upcoming months, though I haven’t yet decided in which order they will emerge. These include (titles subject to change)-From the Vault, Havoc Vulture, Extremes, and Headbanging Horror. 

And of course, keep your eyes peeled for a variety of other projects which should be surfacing this year, including Triggered, Plebs 3, Rejected For Content 7 and more. None of that is set in stone right now, aside from Triggered which will definitely be coming very, very shortly. As for the rest, we’ll just have to wait and see what time allows.

As always, too many projects I want to get done, never enough time to do them all.

Then there’s the follow-up to Undead Fleshcrave: The Zombie Trigger. I need to get cracking on that one too. My wife keeps asking me when I’m getting that one done, since she has a particular dislike for a character that survived the first book. She wants him dead, and she wants him dead now! So maybe I better keep him around a bit longer.

And on that note, head on over and check out Harvester’s Trade, and Disquiet: An Assemblage of the Unnerving.

Book Review: Carnival of Chaos

Posted: February 24, 2018 in Uncategorized

HorrorAddicts.net

What do you get when you add a missing proprietor, disgruntled carnival employees, suspicious police officers, a nerdy best friend, hulking goons, freakish sub-humans, and two bloodthirsty brothers? You get Carnival of Chaos, an unpredictable and enjoyable first entry in the Festival of the Flesh series.

The story begins with the disappearance of Chippy the Champ, proprietor of the Classic Circus Carnival. A menacing man called Mister E has taken control of the carnival and his vision doesn’t gel with the previous owner’s. Mister E wants to offer horror-themed entertainment and not all the employees agree. Enter, Loco, Blades, Stix, Angelique, Minx, Cleo, and Ben. These seven oppose Mister E and his usurpation of the carnival. They are joined by Jason, the surprising main character of the book, a man with a crush on the beautiful Angelique.

Mister E doesn’t deal well with resentment. He not only fires the…

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HorrorAddicts.net

Snaring a ticket to this carnival doesn’t ensure fun and frivolity

Threatened, assaulted, and ultimately dismissed from their jobs, a group of disgruntled ex-carnival workers swears vengeance on the sinister new boss responsible for their state. Coercing even the most unwilling amongst them to join in on the revenge mission, the collective wait, biding their time before returning to the carnival grounds under cover of darkness. Plans for regaining lost property and enacting some simple retribution swiftly turn deadly when a series of grisly discoveries are made.

Now, having unwittingly involved them in something insidious and monstrous, this miscreant collective are being hunted by a relentless force. As more people are sucked into the maelstrom, innocent and nefarious alike, they’re all about to find themselves on an escalating nightmare journey into a brutal world of unimaginable pain and perversion.

Snaring a ticket to this carnival doesn’t ensure fun and frivolity…

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This was an article I knocked up for JEA’s Newsletter a few months back, so in the interests of sharing it with anybody who might not have caught it then, I’ll publish it here too.

SO YOU WANT TO PUT TOGETHER AN ANTHOLOGY?

So you want to put together an anthology?

Sounds like a fairly simple straightforward proposition? Well, actually, yes and no.

Assembling an anthology seems to be one of those activities with polarising opinions. Some folks absolutely love it, while at the other end of the spectrum are those who swear they would never do it again. I’m well entrenched in the former camp, but I’ll go into my various experiences with anthologies a little later on.

For now, we’ll deal with basics, and what could be more basic than understanding the terminology, or in fact, exactly what an anthology is.

I’m know I’m not alone in being a little astounded by just how many folks-and here I’m talking about actual authors-who don’t seem to know the difference between an anthology and a collection. This happens with alarming regularity across social media and elsewhere, with somebody making a grand announcement that they have their own anthology coming soon, or such and such is writing stories for their anthology, or I’m putting together a pile of my stories for my anthology. Closer inspection of course, reveals that what said individual is actually referring to is a collection, given all those stories which will be appearing in that book are penned by a solitary author.

An anthology is made up of several stories contributed by myriad authors, while a collection is comprised of several stories all written by just one author. Fairly simple notion, yet one which seems to not be as widely known as it should be.

Then there are those books which feature a fairly heavily weighted percentage of stories by one author, yet also include a few stories from different folk. Technically an anthology per se, but pushing the boundaries of the simple definition there.

Anyway, that’s neither really here nor there; the main point here is if you’re aiming to assemble an anthology be mindful of just what constitutes it. If it is to be made up of all your own stories, well, that’s not an anthology at all. Refer to above points.

I’m no authority on anthos, so don’t take anything I make mention of here as the gospel (except that part about knowing the difference between anthologies and collections-that is the gospel. Can’t expect folks to take you seriously if you don’t learn that distinction); this is more a case of highlighting some of the challenges one might encounter when dealing with them.

Aside from what I’ve already hammered home pretty solidly above, there are no hard and fast rules. Story length is variable, overall book length is variable-that’s all up to the discretion of the individual in charge. Genre, theme, open theme, all of that is wide open to interpretation, unless one has a very clear vision of what they want to present in their particular anthology.

In the event you are specifically searching for submissions and pieces that address a very particular theme, and anything which doesn’t match this criteria won’t be looked at, it’s best to make that painfully clear in your open call. This also relates to genre. If you’re planning on sticking to just the one, make sure that is what you state-again, there are no rules existing that preclude you from having no theme whatsoever and taking stories from every genre under the sun; it might just be a little bit of a harder sell. This is only personal opinion, but an open theme, open genre anthology isn’t something I’d delve into-too broad a scope, no specific defined audience there.

I’m not going to explore the whole accepting submissions, the less fun part of rejecting pieces and providing critique or helpful reasons why certain stories were rejected, or contracts-all of that in itself would be enough to comprise another article-but I may do a follow-up piece later on which does cover all these bases. All of that is part of the process, and perhaps tosses up some of the reasons people hate the compiling of anthologies and wouldn’t do it again for the life of them. Which is perfectly understandable. It can be a challenging process indeed, but like I mentioned earlier, I’m one of those weird folk who dig all of the various elements which are involved.

In any case, once the aforementioned things are all dealt with and in place, one of the most important things with getting your anthology right is establishing a Table of Contents (hereafter referred to as a TOC). That might seem like a no-brainer, but it isn’t merely a case of tossing stories in any which way, or just whacking them up in the order you received them, or something along those lines.

Different people have their different ways of constructing TOCs, but rest assured, the way you arrange this could either make or break your book, and either ensure readers continue reading or pass it up in favour of something else.

This has been well-established before by many others, so I’m just reiterating what has been previously addressed, but I’m a firm advocate of opening up your anthology with one of the strongest stories, if not the strongest, in the arsenal of accepted pieces. I stand by this, whether one is an antho virgin, making their first foray into the assembly of one, or the book you’re constructing is the latest instalment in a long-running successful series. Granted, the latter type might stand more chance of being read by an already established fanbase, but kicking it off with a great story is just going to further cement desire to read on and explore the rest of the stories. As for the former, don’t cruel your chances to gain that readership and build on it, by slapping a TOC together haphazardly and placing what is perhaps a weaker story as the opener.

I’m sure folks have elected to construct their TOC deliberately as such, building up to their best stories in an escalation of quality, tension, or what-have-you depending on genre, but personally I’d never be inclined to go that way. Considering the first few pages of any book are important, you might be able to get away with that with a novel, but not so much anthologies. That kind of slow-burn approach usually leads to story skipping, and ultimately book skipping all together.

And by the same token, don’t do the same in reverse. Having all your best stories gradually winding down until the end of the book features less remarkable ones is liable to engender a negative impact as well.

Before I proceed, I’ll just slip this in here. In an ideal situation, all of the stories selected for your anthology will be stellar pieces, top shelf stuff and whatnot, but in reality, some things are always going to stand out more or appeal to readers most of all. Of course different readers have different tastes, so what one thinks is the best tale may not be regarded as such by another person; it’s all a matter of opinion. Furthermore, if you’ve run one of those anthologies which wasn’t one with a deadline, but rather an open-until-full situation, then you’re left with whatever stories you okayed to fill up the book, and in the grand scheme of things, these might not essentially be the best of the best. There’s a high chance you’ll be contending with a few stories which though solid and well-suited to the particular theme you sought, might fall into that unremarkable category. Constructing your TOC in a certain way to highlight your strengths and distract from any potential weaknesses is a skill you’ll be wanting to cultivate.

Now, back to the last item of the TOC. You want to kick the book off with a bang, and you want to do likewise at the end. An equally strong story as your opener, or your second strongest, or if you so choose, even the best weapon you have in the armoury should be the concluding number. Leave your readers with something memorable, something ticking over in their heads. Hook them right in with the opener, leave them reeling with the closer, and between these two big bookends, keep things interesting and well thought out.

How you do that is entirely up to you, but it could be a case of somewhat similar stories following a logical progression; or it could be starkly different tales chasing one another like some deliberate paradox. Perhaps, if like me, you choose to compile anthologies in the horror genre, you might choose to alternate between shocking and subtle from story to story, juxtaposing brutality with more understated finesse, lulling a reader into a false sense of security before unloading another balls to the wall slugger that leaves them shell-shocked. It is an art form of sorts, and for me, one of the most challenging, yet most rewarding parts of creating an anthology.

There are no sure-fire methods or secrets to ensuring a certain anthology is going to be a bona fide hit, or a big seller, or a massive success. Well, there are certainly ways of shoring up the chances of the book’s success, but even then that is no guarantee. Here I’m referring to bolstering the ranks of your TOC by the possible inclusion of a big name author or more in your selected genre, whether they elect to write something new for it or graciously allow the inclusion of a reprint, but not everybody putting together an anthology is going to be afforded that luxury. Nor is it a guarantee that the name alone will be enough to pull in prospective readers, especially if a reprint is involved. It’s a fair bet diehard fans of said big name author have already come into contact with that story and buying a book on the strength of that alone may not be enough. It’s a gamble, it’s a lottery, it’s a risk.

Since I dwell in the horror domain, and have zero experience with how things operate in say, romance or science fiction or other types of genre, I can’t really wax lyrical on what sort of things are big in their anthology sphere, but I’d imagine, just as in horror, one never knows what is going to be hit and what will be a miss.

Horror itself is a funny entity in that there will be no guarantee in what is going to take off like a rocket anthology wise. Some things seem to be constantly in vogue, while others wax and wane, though innumerable factors may determine whether even those things which have eclipsed trend status and slipped into mainstream acceptance succeed or falter. Once more, if you’ve elected to make an anthology revolving around one of the most popular subjects imaginable, but have a line-up of complete unknowns or newcomers, that’s a gamble. Stacking one side (the theme), while being light on the other (the personnel) is a risky approach which may or not pay off, and same goes for reversing the scenario. Either way, it’s up to the individual to explore and discover what works.

I’ve personally been involved in anthologies in various capacities that represent both sides of the coin; the successful, and those that slip beneath the surface without making much of a ripple at all.

Most folks who know me will be aware that I run a little anthology series which goes by the name of Rejected For Content. This particular entity has been an enormous success, and I’m currently in the process of editing volume number six, such has been the favourable reception to what has pretty much become an unstoppable juggernaut. In its inception, like most ideas kicked around, this was a gamble, an experiment. However, it was a successful one. It dropped at a perfect time into a sea of readers keen to be immersed in the extreme, the taboo, the affronting and sometimes offensive, and from a brainstorming conversation between a handful of folk it went from strength to strength. I wouldn’t hazard a guess as to what else I might have a hand in that would be likely to replicate that success, but inevitably there will be varying degrees of success and failure along the way, and I look forward to that. As should anybody else launching themselves into the world of anthologies. What worked for Rejected For Content won’t necessarily work elsewhere. Its emergence at a time when folks were desiring new levels of extremity assisted it to the point where it now has a hardcore fanbase (and naturally, the opposite end of the scale).

Mere gross-out attempts or shock just for shock value's sake isn't, and hasn't ever been, what Rejected is all about. There has to be solid stories anchoring all of the extremity or it's

Yes, extreme horror has been on the rise for a little while now and continues to be rising, but invariably, like the omnipresent zombies as a theme, it will reach saturation point and folks may start looking around for something else to alleviate that flood of extremity. Nobody has the ability to predict what that something else is going to be, so the best bet in regards to creating your own anthologies is not to follow the same formula and go for the common and overused themes in the hope they’re going to reap rewards, but rather think outside the box a little. Find that something else, even if it is left of centre. As it’s been well-established over the course of this article, assembling an anthology is one hell of a gamble regardless of theme. So rather than borrow from oft-used ideas or try to replicate the success of previous offerings by riding too close to what you suspect made them the hit they were, go for that little something different. The market can be fickle, riding trends isn’t essentially going to reap any reward, but that something different might just be precisely what the market is looking for.

Now, having said that, and having also referred to zombies earlier, I’ll make mention of an anthology experience that tends to go against some of what I just said.

As you might or might not be aware, J. Ellington Ashton Press has been rolling out a series of books in a massive creation that is known as Project 26. This is a collective of books comprised of anthologies, novellas, and novels, covering each letter of the alphabet, coming out in lots of four in completely random letter order.

Among these has been the anthology Zombies: Zero Hour which I took on-board as editor. The particular topics/themes of each book in the project were decided and established quite some time ago, and at the time, I’d have not elected to run with the undead subject, for no other reason other than the fact that they are often over-represented in horror fiction. When the original editor for this book dropped out, I opted to take over it and another one of the P26 anthologies also lacking an editor. Most surprising to me has been the fact that of the two anthologies, and indeed some of the others, the zombie-centric book has been most successful. This either goes to show, that I know absolutely nothing about what is likely to sell, or more likely, that as I’ve mentioned a few times around various places, that zombies are now one of those things which have surpassed mere trend status and comfortably settled their rotting corpses into the mainstream, where pockets of undead fiction fans will always be inclined to read about them. However, that in itself is still no guarantee that a zombie-based anthology is going to be a winner. The books comprising Project 26 have come out with plenty of publicity and attention, alongside teasers and information to prepare readers, excite them and make them look forward to what might be releasing next, so relying on just the notion that it’s zombies selling because zombies sell isn’t really going to push a book far.

 

Putting together an undead anthology with or without established names then letting it loose without any fanfare or press release, or promotion of any sort, and then expecting it to be a chartbuster because, hell, it’s zombies, isn’t realistically going to achieve much of anything. Expectations of success and reality are two vastly different things.

ZombiesZeroHourFinal1

SotS Cover

I’ve had the great fortune to helm anthologies that have garnered decent levels of success, and I’ve also been able to appear several times in anthologies alongside some of the absolute giants of the horror genre, which is an honour and a joy that never gets old, and I’ve also had stories appear in niche anthos that have had very minimal readership, some to the point where they’re no longer in print. Some of the latter were based around themes which I certainly dug, and imagined many others would have enjoyed too, but for whatever reason, the books themselves just didn’t take off at all. All of which demonstrates that there is no guaranteed success, there is no secret that can be unlocked.

So you want to put together an anthology? Go ahead and throw yourself into it. Hopefully some of this will prove beneficial to you. And best of luck.

 

 

Jim Goforth, 2017