Five Reasons to Write Short Fiction

Writing Clip Art(2)jpgFor the first decade of my writing life, I worked solely on short stories and the occasional personal essay. I wrote everything from 100 word ‘postcard’ fiction to 3,000 word pieces in different genres. I wound up with fifty published short stories, and even won a few writing competitions. It was a great training experience for full-length novels, and here’s why:

  • With only a limited amount of writing time, it allowed me to create finished, polished work
  • I learned how to make every word count
  • I learned to meet deadlines
  • I learned to accept rejection and benefit from editorial critiques
  • I built a list of publication credits, which helped acquire a book publisher

Back in the day, I was fan of Canada’s literary magazines and subscribed to a number of them, so many in fact that I had stacks of unread issues, which took a long time to get through, but I did. I also learned that guidelines are firm rules, not suggestions. If my 2,000 word piece was actually 2,200 words, it could be automatically discarded.

One big reason for publishing success was that I listened to editorial advice. If I was lucky enough to receive feedback, I incorporated suggestions, resubmitted, and wound up published. The experience certainly helped me understand the process when I worked with book editors.

These days, I spend too much time working on novels to return to short fiction, but I still love reading the work of others in my writers’ groups. They remind me of those early days. They inspire me to think that writing both short fiction and full-length novels is doable at this stage of my career.

This must be why I was drawn to the attached link from, which lists Canadian literary magazines and journals now accepting fiction. Regardless of where you are in your career, I recommend giving short fiction a try.



#amblogging Editing in Bits and Pieces. Yikes!

self-publishing[1]As I’ve mentioned in earlier blogs, I like to work on more than one writing project at a time. It keeps my goal-oriented life focused and on track…mostly. One goal I completed last year was to finish the first draft of my first urban fantasy novel. It was a satisfying moment because I’d been thinking about the book off and on for about eight years.

During that time, I’d been writing and publishing mysteries which is my comfort area and something I know well. An urban fantasy that is centered around Wicca and witches required more research than I thought, and a wild stretch of imagination. As it turns out, it’s also stretching my editing skills.

Unlike my 70,000 word mysteries, this 100,000+ word book has five sections and over 70 chapters so far. Some of the sections take place in different periods of time. The book is written in present tense, which works for the sections set in current time, but I wondered about the sections set in the past, since they basically provide backstory.

After reading Manuscript Makeover and mulling it over, I decided to go back and write the sections those backstory sections in third person. By this point, though, I was already 250 pages into the second draft.

So, I’m back to section two (set in 1953) and am starting again. It’s slow-going as I’m not only changing the tense but adding new aspects and depth to the plot and characters. At the same time, I’m bringing earlier pages of that section to my writers’ group and making notes on section One that I’d thought was in pretty good shape, only it isn’t after all. I’m also waiting to jump ahead to pick up where I left off in section four (p. 250) before reworking the tense changes. All this going back and forth is leaving me dizzy, and I’m not sure that it’s working as smoothly as it could. That I only have a small amount of time each day to devote to it doesn’t help.

I remember listening to Diana Gabaldon speak at several Surrey International Writers Conferences (she even presented me with an award once), talking about how she writes a novel in pieces and at different places, then eventually knits them altogether. To this day, I don’t know how she does it. Having experienced a taste of editing in bits and pieces at different points in my manuscript, I’m beginning to think that the straight, chronological approach works better for me. I’ll know more once the second draft is finally finished. At this rate, however, I have no idea when that will be.

#amblogging Need Inspiration? Watch the Olympics

2018 OlympicsI remember writing about my admiration for Olympic athletes in the past, and for me it applies even more today than it did back then. I’m not an athlete and never have been. I am an author who’s always been passionate about writing.

Over the years, I’ve learned to deal with rejection, obstacles, setbacks, and occasional outright disappointment in my work. I’ve also learned the importance of perseverance, commitment, and finding new ways to improve and keep on learning.

Sounds a lot like what Olympians experience, doesn’t it? It’s incredibly interesting and moving to hear about the things they went through just to earn a spot at the Olympics.

We all keep going because this is how we choose to live our lives and because it matters to us, win, lose, or draw. This is why I’m still writing, still working toward goals, and still taking on new challenges.

Of course, writing is far less punishing on the body. Nor do we have TV cameras showcasing our successes and failures to the world. Unfortunately, we don’t get a nice shiny medal if we actually publish a book, although wouldn’t that be cool?

When You Find a Good How-To Book

Manuscript MakeoverIn my quest to read more nonfiction and improve my writing skills, I picked up a book that was recommended to me several years ago. It was a good decision. Manuscript Makeover by Elizabeth Lyon is one of the best how-to books on editing I’ve read in a while.

One of the great things I’ve found about how-to books is that they trigger ideas for improving my plots, characters, settings, and so forth. It happened several times throughout this book, which has caused me to go back and make key changes to the second draft of the urban fantasy I’m working on.

Now I find myself with three sets of notes to type up. One for the book review I’ll post. The second is a quick summary of editing tips I specifically need to address in all of my manuscripts. The third is to incorporate all of those notes I scribbled down about the urban fantasy.

The last section is entitled ‘Marketing’, but it’s not about promoting and increasing visibility. It’s about properly preparing your manuscript to submit to publishers. Lyon offers some really great tips on writing query letters and a synopsis. If you’re a fiction writer, I strongly encourage you to read this book. With any luck, new ideas will spring up for your work.


Follow-up to My Goodreads Giveaways

I didn’t know if there would be much response to my recent Goodreads giveaways, especially since I rarely participate in Goodreads groups. I didn’t promote the contest on their site, except through a blog post. But I did promote elsewhere, which seems to have worked out well.

The giveaway for my 5th full-length Casey Holland mystery, Knock Knock, began on Jan. 3rd and closed on Jan. 24th. 951 people entered the draw and 432 people added the book to their ‘Want to Read’ list. There were two winners.


The giveaway for my 2nd Evan Dunstan mystery novella, A Toxic Craft began on Jan. 10th and closed yesterday, Jan. 31st. 680 people entered the draw and 285 people added the book to their ‘Want to Read’ list. Also two winners.

So, all I really want to say is a huge thank you to those who entered the draws for copies of my books. It’s a great way to start the year. Now I just have to work on the rest of my promotion strategies.


Compartmentalizing My Life

mujerdetective-841x1024[1]I have a part-time secretarial job at a university. I’ve worked in a couple of different departments over the past five years, yet only a handful of colleagues from each department know that I’m a mystery writer who spends her free time plotting crimes and coming up with intriguing ways to kill people. You can see why I don’t advertise this fact, right?

Marketing-savvy folks will likely be aghast at my reluctance to discuss my books, and tell me that I’m throwing away plenty of selling opportunities. But the truth is I simply don’t feel that comfortable talking about writing while I’m being paid to do other things. And when you only work four hours a day, you don’t get lunch breaks to sit and chat.


Occasionally, on quiet days, someone will ask me a few questions, and I’ll answer them, but I don’t encourage these types of conversations. This week, a colleague asked to purchase a couple of books for birthday presents. While I certainly obliged, I handed the books discreetly to her while no one else was around.

Everybody has a private life and personal challenges, or hobbies…important parts of their lives that they don’t spend much time, if any, yakking about at the office. It seems only natural to compartmentalize our lives. There’s a time and place for each of those boxes to be opened and explored. I’ve learned to pick and choose my times wisely.

2017 Craft Fair Experiences

Craft Fair 2017After participating in several craft fairs this year, my anecdotal observations pretty much confirm the experiences of previous years, which are:

. Print still sells. My books won’t sell nearly as well by sitting on a bookstore shelf with thousands of other titles. Also, some of my customers said that they tried ebooks but didn’t like them. Sure, a few use iPads and Kindles, but people just don’t seem as excited about them as they once did.

. Customers are shocked to learn that the Chapters chain here in Canada collects 55% of every book sold. It’s the main reason I prefer to sell directly to readers, along with the fact that, in the past, my returned books have been damaged.

. The overwhelming majority of young families understandably don’t have time to read. Those pushing strollers rarely stopped by my table to browse unless they were shopping for a mystery fan in their family, which leads to point four.

. Mystery reader demographics haven’t changed in the 20+ years I’ve been selling books. The largest purchasers, and readers, of mysteries are women between forty-five and seventy-five years of age.

. New or would-be writers are still quite confused about whether to self-publish, find an agent, or look for a traditional publisher. I try to give sound advice without going into a long pros and cons list. Mainly, I ask them to think about what they want out of the publishing experience, and to do some research.

Since fees are charged (and they can be quite steep) to acquire a table at craft fairs, and there is often a jurying process, selling at these venues is always a gamble. You never know until the fair is well underway if you’ll earn your money back. As a vendor recently said to me, it’s always a rush when things are going better than expected, but you can’t count on the same results every year. It’s risky to base your expectations on previous year’s successes. So, we’ll see what happens next year because I’ll definitely participate again. I guess it’s the gambler in me.