Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Joy of Short Stories

I have friends who love to turn out long books. For some writers, 150,000 words a pop is nothing. The mammoth novel has never been my favorite form. If I have to pick my natural length, it would probably be the novella. And the short story is also a treat for me.

Too bad I wasn’t born soon enough to take advantage of the golden age of short stories in the Nineteen-Twenties and Thirties. Back then, the major writers like F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and Edith Wharton could live off the income from stories—sold to popular magazines such as Colliers and The Saturday Evening Post.

I read a lot of those stories later when I was an American Studies major at The George Washington University and then as a graduate student at the University of Maryland. And I loved them.

But my fondness for the form actually started earlier, when I discovered science fiction as a kid. From the age of ten until into my twenties, science fiction was a lot of my leisure-time reading. And the most frequent variety was the short story.

I’m going to skip over decades when the short story declined in American culture, mostly due to the dying out of the magazines that published them. It’s more fun to go right to today’s resurgence of the market. And I’ll credit the rebirth to indie publishing. You don’t have to be invited into an anthology to write a short story today or find a magazine that still buys them. You can write the stories that stir your creativity and publish them in e-format.

Some authors are doing them to keep readers happy between novels. Others are writing them because they have an idea they want to explore that won’t work in novel form but may be perfect for a short story.

I’ve done a couple of them myself—AMBUSHED and HOT AND DANGEROUS—as well as a novella, CHAINED.

All of them are the kind of fast-paced romantic suspense I’ve been writing for years, where a man and a woman fall in love against a backdrop of terrible danger. The risks intensify the emotions building between them. And the hero is likely to be a guy with paranormal powers that add to his sexual appeal and his warrior skills.

I’m loving the freedom that the indie market has opened up for writers—especially the ability to publish stories of any length you want. And luckily for us, readers are appreciating these shorter works, too.

What’s your favorite story length for leisure reading? Or do you love the freedom to choose what’s best for your mood of the moment?

And stop by Lunch Time Reads at http://bit.ly/TYxidH , where you can find some great short stories by favorite authors, each for 99c.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Authors Unleashed

Where do you get your ideas?  That’s the question I hear the most from fans and people who don’t spend their lives writing fiction.

I used to give a flip answer---that I bought them from a little shop in Ellicott City, the charming old town just down the road from my house.

Now I tell the truth.  If you’re a writer, ideas for stories whirl around in your mind all the time.  You just have to choose which ones you’re going to develop.

Until a few years ago authors were restricted to writing the stories publishers wanted to buy.  Now there are no restrictions.  You can write anything you want, publish it yourself, and sell your work to readers.

I jumped into the indie market just over a year ago with a novel, DARK MOON, a novella, CHAINED, and a short story AMBUSHED.  During 2012 I added another novel, DARK POWERS, and a short story, HOT AND DANGEROUS, all the while keeping up my “day job,” writing for Harlequin Intrigue, Sourcebooks, and Carina.

This month, I’ve put several of the above titles together into a DECORAH SECURITY COLLECTION that’s doing really well on Amazon.

Indie publishing is a wild ride with some big advantages and also some disadvantages.  Nobody tells you how long to make the book.  If you have an idea that will work better for a short story than a novel, you can go write and publish it. And nobody censors you.  If your bad guys tend to use the F word when they’re angry, they can sling the trash talk with the best of them.

Then there’s the book cover. Over the years, I’ve been disappointed by so many of the covers my publisher has provided for my books.  Now I get to pick the guy, the pose and the background.  It’s exactly MY vision of my story, which is more satisfying than you know.

And it doesn’t matter if romantic suspense is “in” or “out” or if an editor wants paranormal or not.  I can do it my way.

Of course, you don’t have the support of a big publishing company behind you.  You pay the  cover artist.  And you need to find a good editor and a copy editor---if you want your work to be as polished as possible, with no typos or pesky spelling mistakes.  Then you either learn how to put it up on Amazon and other sites, or you find someone to do it for you.  After that, nobody is going to push your book but you. You’ve got to stay active on social media and interact with fans.  Which is fun, since it keeps you connected with the world from your writing cave.

There are frustrations in the self-publishing business.   But the control over my work outweighs them.  Next up in the DECORAH SECURITY series is ON EDGE, a prequel telling  how Frank Decorah got to be the head of Decorah Security.

I’ve got a couple more projects on the drawing boards as well, which means there’s lots more work for me ahead.  And I hope a lot more reading fun for you.