Short Story News

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.

ahmmAfter 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.

Does that look like a great murder weapon, or what?

Does that look like a great murder weapon, or what?

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. rubaiyatFor more information: 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 and


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14 Responses to Short Story News

  1. Susan Breen says:

    Thanks for this post. I do write short stories as a way to try and understand the characters in my novel. I like to write a story from a different character’s point of view. I also just wrote a story involving Maggie Dove, the protagonist of my series. I love the short form and being able to finish something and send it out.

    • Hi, Susan,
      I know what you mean about being able to finish something and send it out. Unfortunately for me, it often takes me as long to get a short story ready to submit as it does to write an entire 75,000 word novel!

  2. Barb Goffman says:

    I love writing short stories. I just wish I could create more time in my schedule to do so.

  3. David Plimpton says:

    Kathy Lynn,

    Thank you for the informative discussion of short stories and anthologies, and congratulations on your successes in those arenas.

    I love short stories and for years, even before I began “seriously” writing fiction and nonfiction 8 years ago, I read many of the Pushcart and “Best American” anthologies with so many amazingly brilliant short stories.

    A few years ago I started submitting short stories, including chapters of the novel I am writing that might qualify as stand alone short stories, to literary journals, including contests.

    Not much success. So I vowed to get serious and early this year wrote a 5800 word nonfiction piece entitled “The Horseplayers”, based on my mother’s beginnings in the poverty of rural, White Trash Kentucky and her escape to Chicago where she became a model, and her education at Arlington Park playing the horses. She continued the endeavor in the East, where at 15 or 16 I became her chauffeur and companion for many trips over many years to tracks in New York, New England and beyond to play the ponies.

    Based on extensive research I’ve submitted it to 30 journals (ones that permit simultaneous submissions, which most d0) and have 18 rejections (some with kind encouraging words). Every time I get a rejection, I go over the story, make any improving changes I spot and submit to 2 more journals. I have dozens and dozens possibilities lined up, based on my research as to submission periods, any genre preferences and emphasis on nonfiction, which is usually less than poetry and fiction (see

    The anthologies, particularly the annual Pushcart, are rich sources of literary journal listings. The contributor listings in most journals also list where else contributors have been published. So, for example, if I read a good nonfiction piece in a journal, many of which I have subscribed to in the process of submitting my short story, I can see where else the writer has been published. See also the Writer’s Digest annual Novel and Short Story Writer’s Market editions, and:, the latter having a vary comprehensive alphabetical listing of literary journals.

    As reading the “About” sections of literary journals shows, most journals are very competitive. See also a list of journals based on levels of competitiveness at: The prize contests are even more competitive than general submissions.

    I’ve started to write two more short stories, but along with work on my novel and trying to get “The Horseplayers” published, I can’t seem to find time to finish them. I’ve got to get organized, I guess.

    • Hi, David,
      I sympathize with the difficulty finding time to work on additional projects. I think that’s one reason it takes me so long to finish a short story. I manage a draft and then it sits, sometimes for years, before I figure out what I need to do to make it work. Best of luck with all your submissions. I’m a firm believer in never giving up. The story I mentioned about the Boston Post Cane? I tried to sell the first version of it way back in the 1980s.

  4. Barb Ross says:

    Hi Kathy/Kaitlyn–

    As you know, I love short stories, both reading and writing them. I buy the Best American Short Stories every year as well as The Best American Mystery Stories. This year, I am super excited about the Best American Mystery Stories 2016, because it will contain a story by one of our Maine Crime Writers, Bruce Robert Coffin, which was published by Level Best Books in my last year as editor there.

    • Hi, Barb,
      Level Best always puts together great anthologies, and the teams of editors, past and present, have done a great job selecting the stories. Of course, I might be a tad biased, since the last story I had in one of them ended up as a finalist for the Agatha. And, of course, the year before that, one of your stories from a Level Best anthology was a finalist. Here’s hoping that tradition continues, too.

  5. bocamp says:

    To each his own. I’m not a fan of the short story genre. I like the longer novel format where the characters and their surroundings are developed, particularly in series format such as those Liss MacCrimmon series. I love reading about the town and the character’s lives as much as I do the mystery itself. Just one reader’s opinion.

    • I’m delighted to hear that you’ve been enjoying Liss’s adventures. True confession: for reading, I prefer longer formats, too. And, to be honest, I’m awfully picky about what constitutes a MYSTERY short story. It’s only recently that, as a reader, I’ve started to appreciate the shorter form at all.

  6. Peter Murray says:

    Thank you for this post. Earlier I was working on a novel that has been a long time coming. I took a break and because of circumstances, very rare and wonderful, I had time to work on a short story I had started last week. Interrupted, I took the time to check out today’s post. How timely! I happy to report that my first published short story will also appear in the Windward. I look forward to meeting you.

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