The long and the ‘shorts’ of it all

By Sally Carpenter

A short story anthology is like a box of chocolate—you never know what you’re going to get.

Like all small presses, Cozy Cat Press doesn’t have a big advertising budget, so publisher Patricia Rockwell is always looking for new ways to promote her authors. One year the authors joined together to write a group mystery, “Chasing the Codex” (I wrote chapter 3). Another year CCP published a cookbook.

This year Patricia wanted to release an anthology to showcase the writers. Instead of paying for one author, the reader gets 25 different voices to sample.

Submissions to the anthology were voluntary. Some writers had other commitments and some chose not to take part.

The anthology doesn’t have a theme because that proved too limiting. Some authors wanted to use an old story they had sitting in a drawer. Others wanted to write about their CCP series characters. Others wanted to pen something different than their books. In all, an eclectic mix.

This year I’ve been working on a novel to launch a new series, so it was fun to revisit Sandy Fairfax, the star of four books of his own. He has such a distinct personality that I jumped back into his voice with no effort.

The story takes place on a children’s TV show, an idea that sounded fun but not meaty enough to stretch into a 200-page novel. Besides, I’d already written two books set on a studio lot, so I wasn’t interested in rehashing that idea for another book. So the kids’ show was a simple concept suited for a short story.

In late spring/early summer this year I wrote “The Puzzling Puppet Show Caper.” My books follow chronologically, so this story immediately follows book four. I wanted to reuse a character from book two, but in reviewing that book I discovered the character couldn’t make a comeback. I created a new character to take its place. I’d forgotten how book two ended, so it’s always good to reread ones books now and again.

I manage to sneak in a recurring character, Sandy’s agent, who appears in all four books, and his girlfriend, who arrives in book two. Short stories have no room for subplots, so none of Sandy’s family members show up.

The time frame is shorter. The novels cover one to two weeks. The short story is set in one day.

Like the books, Sandy involves himself in a murder investigation and gets caught in a “death trap” at the end. He’s been in more cliffhangers than the Perils of Pauline.

Enough about me. I ordered the book because I’m eager to read how the other authors put a story together.

The other authors in the anthology are Amy Beck Arkawy, Allen B. Boyer, C.F. Carter, Linda Crowder, Glen Ebisch, Bart J. Gilbertson, Helen Grochmal, Lorrie Holmgren, Bret Jones, Mary Koppel, Elizabeth Lanham, Owen Magruder, Jane O’Brien, Joyce Oroz, David Pauwels, Emma Pivato, Joe and Pam Reese, Megan Rivers, Patricia Rockwell, Rita Gard Seedorf, Rae Sanders and Annie Irvin, Lane Stone, Margaret Verhoef and Carmen Will.

The print version is a larger size than the regular CCP paperbacks in order to accommodate all the stories—340 pages!

So if you’re looking for a tasty story this holiday season for yourself or as a gift, dip into the “Coy Cat Shorts” smorgasbord.

 

Christmas is Coming

by Janis Patterson

For once I’m way ahead of a deadline. It’s a situation that doesn’t happen very often, and I’m going to enjoy every bit of it!

A couple of months ago a couple of mystery writer friends and I were having lunch and somehow the subject of holiday anthologies came up. They seem to be a popular genre and – as all of us are always interested in upping our sales – the idea of us doing a Christmas anthology of murder mystery stories appeared (sorry, gang – I don’t remember whose idea it originally was) and everyone loved it.

My mind – like most writer’s – is a strange and fearsome place. Immediately a story began forming in the swirling and dangerous depths of my imagination and in spite of a looming book deadline, a much-looked-forward-to and lengthy trip to Atlanta to the NRA convention coming up and a vicious case of food poisoning (the worst I’ve ever had) I started writing immediately, much to the detriment of my current work in progress. Some stories just need to be told immediately.

Christmas is supposed to be such a happy time of family and presents and religious devotion, but it seems like I remember reading somewhere that more people commit suicide at Christmas than any other time of the year, which is horrifically sad. Even though I can’t call up the statistics, it seems I also remember there is always a jump in murders and assaults during the holidays as well – which is sad too, but it makes the season a natural for tales of murder and dark deeds.

I have always believed that stories should be just as long as they need be to tell the story. Our group had decided on novellas rather than full novels, and as novellas go, mine is short – truly a novelette (does anyone use that term any more?) at just over 15,000 words. But the story is a very small slice of time and a very concentrated tale with a sparse cast of characters, so that’s all it needed. I could of course pad the word count, but that would dilute the story.
The story? It’s a delicious mix of a family Christmas in a snowbound mansion and a horrible relative who is found dead on Christmas morning. He has been stabbed… and garroted… and poisoned. I have always believed in overkill. The title is, appropriately enough, KILLING HARVEY.

Anyway, the story was finished before we left for the NRA convention – for which I’m glad, as the convention gave me so much information and so many story ideas that my head is about to explode.

If all goes as planned, our anthology should be for sale online sometime mid to late November. If the project falls apart, I’ll release the story by myself. So – be warned : either way KILLING HARVEY will be available, so please plan to buy lots of copies. It will be the perfect virtual stocking-stuffer.

Now as my original deadline approaches with the speed and grace of a runaway train, I must get back to my work in process.