Thursday, October 6, 2011

Get Short

by Jaden Terrell

Joe (J.A.) Konrath has said that short stories are the best advertising in the world for an author's novels. Readers pick them up, like what they read, and decide to try the author's books as well. I've been reading a lot of short stories lately, and while all have been written, edited, or recommended by authors whose books I've already read and enjoyed, I think Konrath is right. (No surprise, since he's the guru of book marketing gurus.)

In the last few weeks, I've read stories from Fox Five by Zoe Sharp, Tough as Leather by Jochem Van der Steen (creator of the Sons of Spade review site), and Shaken: Stories for Japan, edited by Timothy Hallinan. Sharp and Steen have written anthologies featuring the protagonists of their novels, Charlie Fox and Noah Milano, respectively. Fox is a former special forces soldier now working in the private protection business, and Sharp depicts her with a crisp, engaging style that made me want to read more. Milano is a PI struggling to live a good life despite being the son of an infamous crime boss. His past has a way of intruding on his good intentions. There are some disturbing images in Tough as Leather, so it's not for the squeamish, but there are also some touching moments, and Milano is a sympathetic hero. Van der Steen is a Dutch writer, so there are a few awkward phrases, but there are also a lot of very apt descriptions, as when a carpet is described as "a red, fuzzy sory of thing [that] looked like Elmo had been skinned" and some great characterizations. Who wouldn't love a hero who serves his clients' tea in "the good china"--a Power Puff Girls mug and a Garfield mug missing one ear?

The third anthology, Shaken: Stories for Japan, was edited by Hallinan but also has stories by Brett Battles, Cara Black, Debbi Mack, Adrian McKinty, Gary Phillips, C.J. West, I.J. Parker, Dale Furutani, Wendy Hornsby, Vicki Doudera, Dianne Emley, Stefan Hammond, Rosemary Harris, Ken Kuhlken, Hank Phillippi Ryan, Jeffrey Siger, Kelli Stanley, and Naomi Hirahara. All proceeds from Shaken go directly toward earthquake relief in Japan. You couldn't ask for a more impressive group of writers, or for a better cause. And yes, I will seek out some of these authors and read more.

Other anthologies I've read lately are Twisted and More Twisted by Jeffery Deaver, and Killer Year, edited by Lee Child. Deaver, I obviously knew about from reading his novels, but some of the authors in Killer Year were new to me.

For me, it seems that short stories can interest me enough to make me look further, but finding them requires an editor or authors I recognize or a recommendation from someone I trust.

What do you think? Authors, do short stories draw in readers for your novels? Readers, do you find new authors through short stories, and if so, what makes you pick up the short story in the first place?


Ingpark said...

I've always felt that readers of short stories are a different group from readers of novels. The fact that short stories, whether published individually or in book format, don't sell as well as novels proves that there are fewer of those who love stories. It's also hard to get a story published, and that in spite of the fact that many short stories take comparatively more work and attention to put together.
And thank you for mentioning SHAKEN. I was honored to be asked to participate along with so many fine authors.

Kathy McIntosh said...

I've heard that short stories are good publicity for our novels, and keep trying to write them. However, I find them VERY hard to do well! As Ingpark said it takes a lot of work to make them work well.
Thanks for some ideas of anthologies to read.

Mark W. Danielson said...

I'm sure that short stories have merit, but I normally only read novels and suspect I'm not alone. However, I do enjoy short story collections. I just picked up one on the Wild West, and it has a surprising cast of authors including Charles Dickens. Books like this are perfect for airport reading.

Jaden Terrell said...

I like short stories, but not as much as I like novels. I'm trying to learn to write mystery & thriller short stories; all mine turn out to be fantasy or magical realism. Oddly enough.

Jaden Terrell said...

I.J., it was good of you to participate, too. I'm enjoying the stories very much.

Earl Staggs said...

I started with short stories and still love writing as well as reading them. I can work with different characters, styles and settings. Plus, I can finish one in weeks instead of the years it takes to do a novel. Recently, I chose 16 of my best published stories and put them together in a collection, imaginatively titled SHORT STORIES OF EARL STAGGS. I'm proud of every shortie I've written and couldn't stand letting them gather dust in my hard drive.