Sunday, February 14, 2010

Guest Blogger: Mark H. Phillips (and he's got a Box of Texas Chocolates with him)

We’ve been blogging a bit lately on the art of writing short stories so today’s guest blogger, Mark H. Phillips, is a perfect fit—plus, he’s got a easy-to-enter contest.

Mark grew up in central Illinois reading the classics—especially Greek mythology, James Bond novels, and Batman comics. He’s a graduate of both the University of Illinois and Northwestern University. His work includes the Eva Baum mystery series (written with his wife, Charlotte Phillips), The Resqueth Revolution (sci-fi), "Death on the Bayou" in A Death in Texas, and "Truffles of Doom" and "The Invisible Hand Will Smear Chocolate on the Face of Tyranny" in A Box of Texas Chocolates.

Themed Anthologies
Mark H. Phillips

What better way to celebrate Valentine’s Day than with A Box of Texas Chocolates? As you might have guessed, that is the title of our writing group’s latest themed anthology, a multi-genre collection of short stories all having to do with Texas and chocolate. There’s mystery, suspense, romance, fantasy, science fiction—whatever your loved one’s heart may desire.

The Final Twist, a group of Houston writers, has produced a themed anthology each year for the past several years. The first two anthologies were mystery collections: Dead and Breakfast set in the wonderful world of Texas Bed & Breakfasts, and A Death in Texas which got rave reviews. A Box of Texas Chocolates is our group’s first multi-genre collection—our best seller yet and an award winner (New England Book Festival – 2009). It will be followed this year by Twice-Twisted Tales of Texas, a multi-genre collection all featuring distinctively Texan landmarks. The themed anthology process is getting so streamlined that we plan to release a second anthology later this year, a multi-genre collection that gets deep into the heart of Texas called Texas Underground.

Themed anthologies are a great way to get stories published, an effective spur to creativity, and are a way to pull a writing group together. So far, we’ve been lucky in reaching easy consensus on our themes. It probably helps that our members just all happen to be chocoholics. The brainstorming sessions are both raucous and fun. Everyone understands that the theme has to be broad—we want the most diversity and creativity possible within the connecting theme. Texas Underground is inclusive enough to allow both stories that take place literally underground and stories that explore sub rosa clandestine Texan culture.

Another factor in the success of our anthologies is the thorough professionalism of my fellow Final Twist members. Our writing group is all about getting material out there to our readers. We work on generating, peer-editing, publishing, and promoting our stories. It also helps that our members can produce with a hard deadline in place. Most of us are primarily novelists. Short stories are a refreshing change of pace, an opportunity to keep our fans aware that we are still writing, but never an excuse to stop working on our novels. Usually stories are produced and first round edited within a sixty day window. If your group members cannot be depended upon to produce quality material in that sort of time frame, themed anthologies could turn into a prolonged nightmare. You have to leave time to pull the project together, get it ready for the publishers, the inevitable last round edits, contracts, cover design issues, promotional engagements, blog tours, etc. Naturally everyone in the group has to be willing to pitch in; otherwise some poor soul will end up saddled with all that work and never get their own novel finished.

If you are looking for a way to make your writing group more productive I can recommend themed anthologies. Just don’t use the title that I’m still trying to get my group to accept: Texas Chili Cook-off Winners and Their Rip-Roaring Tales.

We’d like to share our award winner with one of you. To enter the drawing, hop on over to our publisher’s website, read about the different stories in A Box of Texas Chocolates, then come back here and use the comments to tell us your favorite.


Helen Kiker said...

My vote is for A Recipe to Die For by Sally Love. I must admit that she got a bonus point for her name.
How can you not love Love?

Helen Kiker

Carol M said...

I love chocolate and always have a hard time picking just one! The same goes for the stories in this book. They all sound good! I picked
The Bavarian Drop Killer by Cherri Galbiati. It sounds scary and I love scary!
mittens0831 at aol dot com

pennyt said...

I'm a mystery fan (and will look for the previous two books, since I wasn't aware of them! I'm also a big chocolate fan, so it was hard to choose, but I'll go with A Box of Texas Chocolates!

The Belle in Blue said...

Well, they all sound delectable, but I was drawn the most to the description of "Dying for Chocolate" by Laura Elvebak. I love it when the mild turn wild!

Cherri Galbiati said...

Thanks for your vote! I got a kick out writing Bavarian Drop Killer and had the best time creating the characters. Afterall, sometimes it can fun in a little murder...ummm "mystery!"

Cherri Galbiati

Laura Elvebak said...

Thanks to Belle in Blue for your vote. I, too, love it when the underdog gets even. It's really fun to write, too.

Anonymous said...

Thanks to Helen for her vote. I've awarded the bonus point to my sweet husband, Dr. Love, who suggested the idea for the story and for sharing his name with me. It was great fun to write.

Sally Love

Roxanne said...

They all sound good enough to eat, but since I love all things sci fi, I vote for The Invisible Hand by Mark H. Phillips. And I must say that group themed writing sounds like a lot of fun. I bet it was a ball to write this book.

Mark Phillips said...

Thanks Roxanne,
Glad you're a fan of all things sci-fi: There are too few of us out there. If you enjoy The Invisible Hand, tell me if you would like to see the characters in a novel. Also be sure to try my sci-fi novel The Resqueth Revolution.

Charlotte Phillips said...


You won the drawing, but I can't find an email address for you. Can you contact me off loop at markandcharlottephillips at gmail dot com?

Charlotte Phillips

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