Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Anthologies: Collecting the Best of the Best – Part 4

Hi everyone!
This week, we’ll take a final look at anthologies. Although I’ve written three cat care books, two of my stories that appeared in anthologies were about dogs.
The first story, “The Silent Guardian” appeared in Haunted Encounters: True Stories of Departed Pets. This non-fiction anthology contains true stories of ghostly encounters with departed pets. The personal accounts explore the bond that exists between animals and humans—in this world and the next.
My story is about a ghost dog that I saw many years ago. As anyone who knows me will attest, I’m more curious about ghosts than afraid of them, and this intelligent apparition was no exception. Here’s a brief excerpt:
The Silent Guardian
…I picked up my book and resumed reading. A few minutes later, I felt the odd “being watched” sensation again. This time it was even stronger. I glanced up and gasped when I saw Robert’s dog, Chrissy, standing in the family room doorway, staring at me.
I shook my head, thinking this was some kind of an optical illusion, or that I had lost my mind. However, the basement room was well lit, and I could see the dog clearly. Common sense told me that Chrissy shouldn’t have been there. He had been put to sleep in May…
The book is available in paperback from Amazon.com. The link is:
Despite the title, my second dog story, “The Gray Ghost” isn’t about a ghost at all. It’s a tender, heart-warming story about a boy, his loyal dog, and coping with loss. “The Gray Ghost” was published in Joyous Publishing’s At Home and Abroad: Prize-Winning Stories, a collection of fifty-three contest-winning writings from 2007. Here’s an excerpt:
The Gray Ghost
Dwight zipped up his thick winter coat and quietly pushed open the screen door. “Come on Shadow, let’s go,” he whispered.
He didn’t want to wake Grandpa or Mom. His mother wouldn’t want him leaving the house to explore, but he couldn’t sleep. He’d slept most of the way here last night while Mom drove from their house in Cleveland to Grandpa’s farm in Kentucky. Mom had said that she couldn’t bear to stay home this weekend because the house held too many memories. He frowned. If Dad were still alive, they’d be home now. Thinking about his father made him sad, and Mom wouldn’t want to see him crying this weekend. After all, it was Thanksgiving.
Dwight broke from his thoughts as Shadow’s warm wet tongue tickled his fingers. He rubbed the dog’s head. No matter what, he still had Shadow. Since Dad’s death two weeks ago, he had slept with the dog curled next to him at night. He cried into Shadow’s short, gray coat when the sadness and sense of loss took over his heart.
He closed the screen door behind him and stood on the porch. The crisp early-morning air tickled his nose. He knew he shouldn’t walk too far from the house. If he did, Mom would fret that he’d exerted himself and baby him, just because he had asthma. Shadow padded next to him, his pink nose sniffing the air…
The book is available in paperback from Amazon.com. The link is:

These two unrelated dog stories show that writers can branch out in many different directions when it comes to short stories and anthologies. I’ve always said, “Write the story that’s in your head, then submit it. You never know who will buy it.” It’s good advice for any writer.
Next week, I’ll be posting my big end-of-the-year issue of my newsletter, Kelli’s Quill.
After that, look for a few changes to the blog in 2011!
Until next time,

Friday, December 17, 2010

Anthologies: Collecting the Best of the Best – Part 3

Hi everyone!

Today I’m continuing my look at anthologies. When editors/publishers decide to put together an anthology, the first thing they decide on is the theme. Whether it’s a general theme (love, death, happiness), stories that take place in a haunted house, or short stories about rabbits, all the stories in the anthology share a common, connective bond. But what if they all start off with the same first line?

The First Line is an online magazine that publishes short stories in any genre – the catch? – they all must begin with the same first line. Whatever sentence they give you has to be the first line in your story. For instance, if their required first line is “Jimmy saw the UFO land in the cornfield.” That has to be the first line of your story.

I’m pleased to say that my horror story “Guest of Honor” appeared in The Best of the First Line - The First Three Years anthology and was also featured in TFL on Tape (Episode 10) as an audio broadcast. What’s it about? Here’s a brief excerpt:

The party was only the beginning of what would happen tonight. Black candles burned in cast iron candelabras. The scent of musky, earthy incense filled the room. The occult craze was in full force. People were trying to summon Satan for petty things...

Sometimes anthologies set a broad standard for submissions and let the writers’ imaginations go wild. That was the case with the What If… science fiction anthology. The guidelines were simple. Submit a sci-fi story based on the premise of “what if…” Almost all fiction (for the most part), starts with “what if…” and writing a sci-fi tale with that as a premise can lead writers into many different directions.

In December 2009, my humorous short story “Not Your Ordinary Little Green Men” was chosen for inclusion in ReadMe Publishing’s What If?: Collection of Science Fiction Short Stories. Here’s an excerpt:

A young couple moves into an old Victorian house and quickly discovers they’re not alone.

…Sam grabbed a handful of yellowed “Not of This World” newsletters and dumped them into a trashbag. Everywhere he looked, he found books and pulp magazines about UFOs, aliens, and mystical creatures.

“No wonder everyone thought the old lady was a wacko,” he muttered. He glanced at the cover of a sci fi magazine. The poorly drawn illustration showed three little green men standing next to a rocket. He frowned. Maybe these magazines had given Margie the idea about the pixies, or maybe she’d been hearing the strange noises at night, too.

Anthologies are a great way for writers to get their short stories published. If you have an old story lying around that fits an anthology theme, why not submit it? You never know where it will lead. (And if you have a story that sort of fits – tweak it and submit anyway!)

Next week, we’ll look at two more anthologies – both involving dogs.

Until next time!


Saturday, December 4, 2010

Anthologies: Collecting the Best of the Best – Part 1

Hi everyone,
This month, I’m writing about anthologies. Several of my short stories have recently appeared in anthologies, so I thought I’d make this the subject of my December blogs.
When I was in grade school, I used to read anthologies of horror stories. (Yes, sixth grade to be exact.) Looking back I wonder why these Alfred Hitchcock Presents-type stories were in the school because most of them had black and white illustrations that could scare the pants off you.
The best (and most disturbing) short story was “Wendigo’s Child” by Thomas F. Monteleone that appeared in Monster Tales: Vampires, Werewolves, and Things. If anyone’s ever read it (and seen the line art drawing) you know exactly what I’m talking about. The last line still sticks with me decades later. “It was looking up at him.”
You can’t get much better than that. (And if anyone out there has a copy of the story, please let me know!! I don’t have one!)
In high school, I was hooked on horror anthologies. It seemed that every week another collection of spine-tingling tales would be released, and I would devour each book. The collections usually had titles like Horrors, Terrors, Fears, Nightmares, and featured a dozen or more stories. Every so often the anthology included a story by a famous author (Clive Barker, Robert Bloch, Stephen King) and the rest of the stories were written by… I don’t even remember.
But what I do remember was delving into the world of horror fiction and becoming addicted to the art of storytelling. Some of the stories came across as dull, others were okay, none of them kept me awake at night, but a few were memorable. Each story showed me how different writers handled the same genre, wrote in a specific voice, and created characters and plots in their own unique way. In reading these stories I learned what worked and what didn’t, I developed a sense for great openings and even greater endings, and I kept telling myself “one day, one of my stories will be in a book.” I was right!
In 2010 two of my horror stories were published in anthologies. “The Ape” was featured in The Four Horsemen: An Anthology of Conquest, War, Famine & Death. Published by Pill Hill Press, this collection of twenty-five short stories is based on The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
“Whispers from the Past” appeared in the Pill Hill Press anthology, Haunted. This book is a collection of forty-two tales about haunted places.
How did I get my stories published? I answered the call for submissions and sent in my highly polished manuscripts. I was pleased to discover that the editors liked what they read and chose the stories for publication.
Anthologies are a great way for writers to get their stories published and read by the masses. If you’re just starting out, it’s an impressive writing credit, and if you’ve already been published, it’s always nice to have your story included in a collection with other talented writers.
To read excerpts and learn more about “The Ape” and “Whispers from the Past” visit the Anthologies section (or Horror section) of my website: www.KelliWilkins.com
Next week, we’ll chat about my romance anthology, Naughty Nobles!
Happy reading,

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Exploring Horror Stories – Part 2


In my last blog, I talked a little about horror stories in general. Now I’ll get more specific. How does a person write a horror story? What makes a great one? How can you make a convincing story about a monster if monsters aren’t real?

First, it’s important to realize that horror can take many forms — gore-filled splatter-punk with buckets of blood… mysterious, cursed people living in isolated Gothic castles (or even tropical islands!)… psychological, unsettling horror that makes you feel uneasy… or your ordinary “classic monsters” such as vampires, ghosts, zombies, and werewolves. Each kind of horror story has its fans, probably because everyone is scared of different things (heights, monkeys, bridges, etc.). But whatever type of horror story you write (or read) there are a few universal elements that should go into any horror tale.

An important element in writing horror is to invent a believable horror universe where monsters, angels, vampires, and other paranormal elements are possible – and conflict with the characters you’ve created.

The TV show “Supernatural” is an excellent example of horror world building. The Winchesters go around hunting “things” for a living. They were raised believing that paranormal creatures were more than legends – to them, they’re 100% real, no question. That’s what every horror author has to do – make the reader believe in the element of horror (whether it’s a nightmare-invading serial killer, a 60 foot sea-creature, or a ghost) and take the reader on a journey with the main characters. The situations need to be plausible and told in a way that grips the reader, even if the premise seems a bit far-fetched (at first).

As with any story, the author has to establish a believable setting. Whether your tale takes place in a gritty, post-apocalyptic city or a foggy rural graveyard, you need to give your readers a concrete foundation of where the story is taking place. Use lots of details and props to make your descriptions come alive. Ask yourself why your story has to take place where it does, then take your reader there. My story, “Kropsy’s Curse” makes great use of setting. What’s better than a horror story set in a graveyard on Halloween? It’s available on www.fictionwise.com. The link is: http://www.fictionwise.com/ebooks/eBook17627.htm

Remember that all characters (even the monsters) need to have a purpose. Why are your zombies in Wegmans? Your readers will want to know why (and how) the events in your story are happening. Your job as a writer is to get readers to suspend their (dis)belief and buy into your story. This is done by giving characters a goal and following it up with in-depth characterization and details. You don’t have to go into a lengthy explanation, just give your readers a reason, have your characters believe it, and move on. In my story, “The Man in Apt. 3-A”, the main character really didn’t believe a vampire lived upstairs…until he met him. (Read it for free in the horror section of my site!)

And try to avoid clichés like the plague! Masked killers hunting campers in the woods, serial-killing cannibal families, miserable Goth vampires in ruffles, and mindless zombie attacks have all been done to… well, death. When writing horror, don’t be afraid to break patterns, make your characters different or have them go against the stereotype. Give readers something unexpected, turn a cliché on its ear, or use a different point of view — it’ll make your story stand out. Why not set your werewolf story in Hawaii? My flash fiction story, “Guest of Honor” uses setting, mood, and purpose to deliver a clever ending. It was featured in The Best of the First Line. Read more about it here: http://www.kelliwilkins.com/horror01.html

Remember, when writing horror, the only limit is your imagination!

Want more horror? Visit the horror section of my website: http://www.kelliwilkins.com/horror.html

Next week, we’ll see what happens when horror meets romance!

Happy Haunting,


Friday, October 1, 2010

Exploring Horror Fiction - Part 1

Happy October Everyone!

To celebrate my favorite month, my blogs for October will be devoted (in some way) to the horror and paranormal genres.

As most everyone knows, I write in several genres, including romance and horror. For some, that might seem an odd combination, but it works for me. One half of my brain writes the horror, and the half writes the romance.

Although I write hot and spicy romances for Amber Quill Press, I actually started out writing short horror stories. Since I grew up reading horror fiction and watching horror movies (the whole horror movie thing is a blog for another day) it only seemed natural. (After all, Halloween is my favorite holiday!) Later, I branched out into science fiction and published 40 or so pulp fiction-style sci-fi stories for the Sun.

In horror fiction, I get to explore different settings, plots, and characters that I couldn’t develop in romance. Sometimes after working on several romances, I’ll switch moods and write a horror story to give my brain and writing muscles a change of pace.

My horror short stories are more psychological/spooky/creepy than gory, and I like to explore the darker aspects of a story and not always give the characters a happy ending, as I do in my romances. It’s fun to take a seemingly normal situation (a Halloween party, a man living in an apartment, a boy with a grudge) and add a supernatural/horror element.

Recently, two of my short stories appeared in horror anthologies published by Pill Hill Press. (Both books are available on www.Amazon.com)

Haunted: An Anthology Of The Supernatural - contains 42 short stories about haunted places. Set in a haunted house, “Whispers from the Past” blends the paranormal with a startling bit of reality. Here’s a short excerpt:

Paul rolled over in the narrow twin bed and tried to ignore the faint whispers. No matter what he did, they invaded his mind like silvery moonbeams.

He closed his eyes and counted to fifty, hoping to focus on anything but those quiet sounds on the edge of his sanity. Ghosts did not exist, yet he was hearing eerie noises in the dead of night.

The whispers grew louder, more insistent. Now and then, he could make out a word or two in the hushed voice he recognized from long ago.

It can’t really be him. It’s just my over-stimulated imagination, or maybe the contest people are playing tricks on me.

“Stop it!”

He snapped back the bedclothes and stood up. The whispery voice fell silent.

To order the paperback, click here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1617060216/ref=s9_simh_gw_p14_i1?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=center-3&pf_rd_r=0Z66HE40JJ7NBMK2CXXB&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=470938811&pf_rd_i=507846

To order an electronic copy, click here: http://www.amazon.com/Haunted-An-Anthology-ebook/dp/B003VWCJ4Y/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&m=AG56TWVU5XWC2&s=books&qid=1279655717&sr=1-2

The Four Horsemen – An Anthology of Conquest, War, Famine & Death This anthology of twenty-five short stories is based on The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. In “The Ape” a young boy in South Carolina uses an unusual “toy” as a tool for revenge. Here’s a snippet:

South Carolina, 1961

Billy wrinkled his nose as he entered the dimly lit shop. The air smelled funny, like a mix of spices and smoke. He closed the door behind him, cutting himself off from the outside world.

His mind fired a jumble of warnings. Nobody knew where he was… he wasn’t supposed to be here… who knew what might happen to him?

He fought the urge to yank open the door and run, but he couldn’t. He had work to do. It had taken every bit of courage he had to get this far, and he wasn’t going to give up now. Everyone in town knew where the voodoo-lady practiced her magic—but no kid in fourth grade had ever been brave enough to come inside before.

The book link is: http://www.amazon.com/Four-Horsemen-Anthology-Conquest-Famine/dp/0984261036/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1273504039&sr=1-5

In my next blog, I’ll talk about what elements go into making a good (creepy) horror story, and share bits about my other short horror fiction. Links and excerpts from my other horror tales are on my website www.KelliWilkins.com

Until next time,

Happy Haunting!


Friday, August 20, 2010

Welcome to My Blog!

Hi Everyone!

Welcome to my blog! I named it Kelli's Quill - The Blog so readers can follow Kelli's Quill - The Newsletter, and now, Kelli's Quill - The Blog.

So what will I be blogging about? Books, the writing life, writing advice, reviews, and whatever else comes to mind.

I've created book pages on the blog. Each page shares links and book summary. It's a fast way to catch up on all of my romances. 

My goal is to post at least once a week. If readers have questions about my books, writing in general, or just want to say "hi" feel free to email me via the "contact the author" form on my website (www.KelliWilkins.com).

For anyone who doesn't know, I'm a writer of romance, horror, non-fiction, and just about everything (and anything else.) Readers (and the curious) can catch up on all my writings on my website. My books are also on www.Amazon.com - along with some pretty good reviews, I must say.

I've also been known to post my newsletter on www.Goodreads.com and (of course) www.Facebook.com.

Feel free to share this blog with your social media friends and pin the posts the you like the best.

Until next time,

Kelli A. Wilkins is an award-winning author who has published more than 100 short stories, 19 romance novels, and 5 non-fiction books. Her romances span many genres and heat levels. 

Her trilogy of erotic romance novellas, Midsummer Night’s Delights, Midwinter Night’s Delights, and Ultimate Night’s Delights was released in spring 2017. 

Loving a Wild Stranger was published in January 2017. This historical/pioneer romance is set in the wilds of the Michigan Territory and blends tender romance with adventure.

Kelli's third Medallion Press romance, Lies, Love & Redemption was released in September 2016. This spicy historical western is set on the Nebraska prairie in 1877.

Her writing book, You Can Write—Really! A Beginner’s Guide to Writing Fiction is a fun and informative guide filled with writing exercises and helpful tips all authors can use.

Kelli posts on her Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorKelliWilkins and Twitter: www.Twitter.com/KWilkinsauthor

Visit her website, www.KelliWilkins.com to learn more about all of her writings, read book excerpts, reviews, and more. Readers can sign up for her newsletter here: http://eepurl.com/HVQqb.