The Appeal of Historical Anthologies

Today, I welcome friend and fellow author Cryssa Bazos to the blog. Cryssa and a wonderful group of authors have collaborated on Betrayal, which has just been released. Make sure you snap up your copy soon – it’s a free download available through Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and Apple Books.

Here’s Cryssa to talk about the wide appeal of historical anthologies.

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Since its beginning, the anthology was used to showcase poetry collections, but over time it expanded to include short fiction. There has been a recent resurgence of anthologies that has followed a trend towards shorter fiction. With social media permeating every aspect of our lives and a general explosion of streaming and online binging, our attention span has understandably shortened. Anthologies are now experiencing a renaissance, thanks to the changing needs of readers. But can they appeal to historical fiction readers?

Size once mattered for historical fiction. It was accepted that it usually took a great many words to build the past credibly. There are histories to weave in, contexts to set, and details of everyday life to showcase. Fans of the genre generally favoured large, plummy tomes, where they can lose themselves for days without surfacing in the present world. Consider favourites like Sara Donati’s Into the Wilderness series, or any of Sharon Kay Penman’s work. 

But a collection of historical short fiction can still offer a rich experience. Here are a few considerations to tempt the historical fiction reader to explore the genre through an anthology. 

1. Bite-sized stories

Computers and the internet were supposed to make our lives easier and more efficient, but there is so much more vying for our attention. Not everyone has time to read more than an hour here or there, in between appointments and meetings. This is where historical anthologies shine. They offer a taste of the past which can be consumed in one sitting. A reader doesn’t need to make a lengthy commitment as they would to a series or a nine-hundred page novel.

2. Variety

The anthology has the advantage of being able to bring different authors together in one collection. Stories may be connected by theme, as in the case of our new anthology Betrayal where the stories explore treachery and betrayal in its various forms. Stories may also be linked by a historical artefact, like a piece of jewelry, that moves through each story and touches the various characters through the ages. A collection may also explore a single historical event through differing perspectives. Regardless of how the collection is organized, the reader is given an opportunity to thoroughly explore history through various lenses. 

3. Discover a new author

Everyone has their favourite authors, the ones whose work they will auto-buy the moment they learn of a latest release. Sometimes it’s hard to take a chance on a new author particularly for an established series. Anthologies give the reader the opportunity to find a new author with bite sized stories. At times the work can link to an author’s series, but even if it doesn’t, the author’s style may speak to the reader and spark an interest in their work. 

4. Discover a new era

It’s easy to get rooted to our preferred reading, and anthologies offer an excellent way to test the waters of a new historical era. It’s great way to travel back to a different time and learn more about histories you would otherwise not explore.

Historical anthologies may be short fiction in a genre that prizes lengthy stories, but they are hardly lightweights. Instead, they are highly concentrated nuggets to savour and enjoy. There’s no better time than the present to expand your reading and dip into an anthology collection. You may discover a portal to another era, guided by a fresh new author. 

Cryssa Bazos is an award-winning historical fiction author and a seventeenth century enthusiast. Her debut novel, Traitor’s Knot is the Medalist winner of the 2017 New Apple Award for Historical Fiction and a finalist for the 2018 EPIC eBook Awards for Historical Romance. Her second novel, Severed Knot, is a B.R.A.G Medallion Honoree and a finalist for the 2019 Chaucer Award. Visit her website for more information. 

About Betrayal

Betrayal, treachery, treason, deceit, perfidy—all names for the calculated violation of trust. And it’s been rife since humans trod the earth.

A promise broken

A mission betrayed

A lover’s desertion

A parent’s deception

An unwitting act of treason

Betrayal by comrades

Betrayal by friends

Could you resist the forces of misplaced loyalty, power hunger, emotional blackmail, or plain greed? Is there ever redemption, or will the destruction visit future generations and even alter history? These questions are still with us today.

Read twelve tales by twelve accomplished writers who explore these historical yet timeless challenges from post Roman Britain to the present day. 

Betrayal is a free download available through Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and Apple Books. 

DON’T MISS OTHER POSTS ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION.  FOLLOW A WRITER OF HISTORY

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from AmazonNookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on FacebookTwitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.

Readers on Reading … Richard from the UK

Today, I’m pleased to have a reader from the UK providing his thoughts about reading. Welcome, Richard.

Please tell us a little about yourself. My name is Richard Tearle, I am a retired Civil servant from the UK and I review Historical Fiction for a well known online blog.

In your opinion, what is the power of fiction? At its best, fiction can take you into a world you don’t know, with characters you’ve never met in situations you cannot imagine. Historical fiction gives you insight into that world, those characters and those situations that you may well know something of.

What kind of stories are you drawn to? Any you steer clear of? Mostly Historical Fiction, of course, but also Fantasy and some thrillers.

What aspects of an author’s writing make you feel like you’re ‘immersed in the novel’s world’ and/or ‘transported in time and place’. A style that fits the character or situation, but wouldn’t necessarily work in a completely different book. The abilty to ‘grab’ the reader in the first page and remain ‘grabbed’ until the last.

Which books read in the past year or so stand out for you and why? In all honesty, far too many to list here.

How do you decide what books to buy? What influences your book purchases? I rarely have to buy books nowadays, but any new Bernard Cornwell, Joe Abercrombie or John Connolly are a must. Basically, anything else that attracts my attention but it will generally be Historical Fiction.

Is there anything about where you live or your particular background that influences your fiction choices? I live in Lichfield, Staffordshire, near to Tamworth and Burton-upon-Trent, all of which are rich in Mercian history.

If you’re a book blogger or run a book site, please tell us a little about your focus and features. The site I ‘work’ for (it is voluntary and unpaid’) is called Discovering Diamonds and is run by author Helen Hollick. We deal mostly in Indie authors as they have few outlets of this sort and we believe that Indie authors are for the most part, the equal of established mainstream authors. Its also the best ‘job’ I have ever had!!

If there is anything else about reading fiction, the kind of books available today, or the way reading is changing that you’d like to comment on, please do so. Reading fiction is rather like watching a dramatisation instead of the equivalent documentary – much more fun but probably not as accurate. I think that e-books are the future, though they may mean the death of libraries, which will be sad. More and more authors are going Indie and self publishing which may have an effect on the way mainstream publishers dictate what they want readers to read.

Sounds like you’re a busy man with all your endeavours, Richard. Thanks for taking the time to be interviewed and for supporting Discovering Diamonds – a very important endeavour that is much appreciated by the historical fiction community.

You can reach Richard at his art site and on Facebook or at the Tearle Family site.

That Essential Element … For a Pirate by Helen Hollick

Helen Hollick has written a series of nautical Voyages based around her fictional pirate, Captain Jesamiah Acorne and his ship, Sea Witch, but her latest UK release in paperback is a non-fiction book – Pirates: Truth and Tales published by Amberley Press, which explores our fascination with the real pirates and those who are favourites in fiction. Today, she drops anchor for another interesting addition to her on-line two-week Voyage around the Blogs … over to you, Helen.

What would you regard as ‘essential’ for a pirate? A cutlass? A bottle of rum? A buxom wench? No. He needs a ship. Without a ship a pirate wouldn’t be a pirate he’d just be a thief – unless he had a horse, in which case he would be a highwayman.

Most pirates stole their ships, upgrading to something bigger and faster, or something a little more sea-worthy than their current one. They also did not appear to have much imagination when it came to re-naming their stolen prize as there were quite a few vessels named Ranger, Rover or Revenge. But when writing fiction we have the freedom to be a little more inventive. I named pirate’s ship Sea Witch because the lead female, Tiola, is a midwife, healer – and white witch.

I came up with the idea for an adult pirate adventure soon after thoroughly enjoying the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie, The Curse of the Black Pearl. It was enormous escapism fun. I wanted something similar to read, but couldn’t find anything: plenty of young adult, plenty of ‘straight’ nautical fiction, nothing with a charmer of a hero and a touch of fantasy written specifically for adults though. So I wrote my own. I had intended it to be a ‘one off’… I am currently writing the sixth voyage in the series, seventh if you count an e-book-only novella prequel, When the Mermaid Sings.

However, writing an adventure/fantasy yarn with strong characters and exciting situations for them to fall into and get out of relatively unscathed was one thing, creating the whole novel with that essential sense of reality, quite another. I did use ‘poetic licence’ with some historical dates here and there, but because I also included a touch of fantasy I needed to ensure the believability throughout. I did this by writing the nautical details as accurately as I could, thus blending fact (hopefully seamlessly) with fiction.

Problem. I have never been aboard a moving tall ship (the Cutty Sark and HMS Victory do not count!) Writers are so often advised ‘write what you know about.’ Which can be somewhat limiting, especially if you write historical fiction. Ah, but that is where the magic comes in: the skill of being able to travel through the mind to the world of Imagination where anything is possible. Although a hefty chunk of serious research helps.

I read all I could about anything that involved sailing tall ships: non-fictioon and fiction. I soon discovered that there are limits to using certain phrases such as ‘clew up there’, ‘ship ahoy’ and ‘weigh anchor’, so the imagination came into play for putting these phrases into different contexts and situations. Interestingly, I rarely came across ‘splice the mainbrace’ or ‘shiver m’timbers!’

To get the right feel of a ship, the sounds, the movement, the hard work involved (maybe fortunately, not the smells!) you cannot do better than watch that excellent movie Master and Commander. A brilliant movie about life at sea.

The craft of creating a good, enjoyable novel is to immerse your readers in the tale from the very first opening sentence, and then carry them on through a journey of wondrous adventure – be it in a novel of historical content, a contemporary romance, science-fiction, a mystery or thriller or whatever genre you prefer to write. It can be an amusing tale, a romantic one, a scary one, sad, nail-biting, thought-provoking – but every novel must be a doorway that opens into another world. Transporting a reader into that imagined place through creating a sense of believability is a wonderfully exciting thing to be able to do. And we, as authors, should thank the Muse every day for gifting us the ability to bring pleasure to our readers. And for helping us to bring such inspiring characters to life. © Helen Hollick

Many thanks, Helen. Wishing you lots of success with Pirates: Truth and Tales. I certainly enjoyed getting to know your favourite pirate in Ripples in the Sand!

Pirates: Truth and Tales by Helen Hollick 

It was a harsh life for those who went ‘on the account’, constantly overshadowed by the threat of death – through violence, illness, shipwreck, or the hangman’s noose. The lure of gold, the excitement of the chase and the freedom that life aboard a pirate ship offered were judged by some to be worth the risk.

Helen Hollick explores both the fiction and fact of the Golden Age of piracy, and there are some surprises in store for those who think they know their Barbary Corsair from their boucanier.

Everyone has heard of Captain Morgan, but who recognises the name of the aristocratic Frenchman Daniel Montbars? He killed so many Spaniards he was known as ‘The Exterminator’.

The fictional world of pirates, represented in novels and movies, is different from reality. What draws readers and viewers to these notorious rogues of the high seas?

What are the facts behind the fantasy?

FOR MORE ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION FOLLOW A WRITER OF HISTORY (using the widget on the left sidebar)

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.