Kaitlyn Dunnett/Kathy Lynn Emerson here, mostly Kathy, to talk about short stories. Like many writers, I tried my hand at the shorter form of fiction first. Other than a couple of sales of stories for ages 8-12, I was a complete failure at it, partly because I was trying to write science fiction/fantasy, not my natural element, and partly because, although I don’t write particularly long books, the length I gravitate toward is in the 60,000-75,000 word range.
After about 1985, I gave up trying to write short and stuck to novels. It wasn’t until much later, when I was asked to contribute a story to an anthology titled More Murder They Wrote (introduction written by “Jessica Fletcher”) that I gave short story writing another try. The result was “Lady Appleton and the London Man” in 1999, the first in what is now quite a long string of short fiction featuring my series character, Susanna Appleton, Elizabethan gentlewoman, herbalist, and sleuth.
After that, I was invited to contribute to several other anthologies. I was pleased, of course, but I also knew that if I was invited, they would probably publish whatever I submitted. There was only one way to deal with doubts about my ability to write a short story—I had to have one accepted by either Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine or Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine. I tried Alfred first and beginner’s luck was on my side. They accepted “Lady Appleton and the Cautionary Herbal” for their March 2001 issue. In 2004, a collection of my short stories about Lady Appleton and her friends, Murders and Other Confusions, was published by Crippen & Landru.
This year, I have two new short stories coming out. One with a modern setting, “The Boston Post Cane,” will appear in Level Best Books’ Best New England Crime Stories: Windward in November. “Lady Appleton and the Creature of the Night” in their December issue will mark my tenth appearance in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine.
Why, you may be wondering, did I decide to focus on short stories in this blog? It was partly because the topic fits in so well with a campaign called “We Love Short Stories” that was recently launched by Sisters in Crime. Its aim is to promote the genre and provide helpful information about writing and marketing mystery short stories. This is great for everyone and with luck will lead to more interest in publishing short fiction. For more information: http://www.sistersincrime.org/page/ShortStories But I had another reason for picking this subject, too. Next spring, just in time for Malice Domestic, Wildside Press will be publishing Mystery Most Historical, the new Malice Domestic anthology. That in itself is pretty exciting. But wait . . . there’s more. At the same time, Wildside will also be bringing out my second collection of short stories. It is titled Different Times, Different Crimes and, as the title suggests, contains stories from different eras. Some, like my medieval “The Reiving of Bonville Keep,” are previously published tales, but others, like “Calendar Gal,” are brand new and set in the present day. In two of the stories, the sleuth is a professional photographer who first appeared, as a secondary character, in the ninth book in my Liss MacCrimmon series, The Scottie Barked at Midnight.
So, that’s all my short story news (for now!). How about you? Do you write short stories? Do you read them? I’d love it if you’d share your thoughts in the comments section below.
Kathy Lynn Emerson/Kaitlyn Dunnett is the author of over fifty books written under several names. She won the Agatha Award for best mystery nonfiction of 2008 for How to Write Killer Historical Mysteries and was an Agatha Award finalist in 2015 in the best mystery short story category for “The Blessing Witch.” Currently she writes the contemporary Liss MacCrimmon Mysteries (Kilt at the Highland Games) as Kaitlyn and the historical Mistress Jaffrey Mysteries (Murder in a Cornish Alehouse ~ UK in December 2016; US in April 2017) as Kathy. The latter series is a spin-off from her earlier “Face Down” series and is set in Elizabethan England. Her websites are www.KaitlynDunnett.com and www.KathyLynnEmerson.com