It is my pleasure to welcome fellow author M.H. Callway to Mystery Mondays. Madeleine and I met online and have since become friends. Her novel Windigo Fire was a finalist for the Crime Writers of Canada Arthur Ellis Award. She writes both short stories and novels, and she’s here to tell you about that.
SHORT STORIES VS NOVELS
I often give talks on how to get published to aspiring writers. One tip I pass on is to start writing shorter pieces. As an author, I found great encouragement when one of my stories was accepted for publication and/or became a finalist for an award. The boost gave me the will to continue and to believe that I had enough talent to pursue my writing dream.
That’s not to say that writing a short story is easy although it is easier than tackling a novel. To use a running analogy, it’s like preparing for a 5K as opposed to a marathon. You need good basic cardio to run a 5K and most people can finish, but running a marathon introduces a whole new level of complexity. It requires far more endurance, experience and will power – and you won’t be able to complete one without the right training.
Would that I had followed my own advice!
I had always wanted to write a novel so that’s where I started. In 2002, I began my learner novel. Ignorance was bliss so I wrote and wrote and wrote. I ended up with 140,000 words of mishmash. Patient author friends ploughed through my verbiage and gave me excellent advice. I revised the draft several times, reduced the length to 100,000 words and mailed it off to multiple rejections and a few near misses.
By now, it was 2006. The Crime Writers of Canada announced a short story contest and several of my friends planned to enter. We are always advised to write what we know and since I’d spent most of my career working in the civil service, I wrote a comic short story about two hard-working civil servants saddled with a new Boss from Hell. To my great surprise and delight, “Kill the Boss” won first prize.
“Kill the Boss” was picked up by Silver Moon Magazine and reprinted in Mouth Full of Bullets. It proved to be a turning point for my writing career, mostly because I’d devoted four years to improve my writing skills.
I spent the next few years writing short stories. In 2009, I decided to try novel writing again. That work eventually became my first published novel, Windigo Fire. Writing and publishing short fiction kept me going through Windigo Fire’s ups and downs and continues to do so while I wrestle with the next book in the Danny Bluestone series, Windigo Ice.
My short fiction starts with a simple idea. When I write a short story, I’m a complete pantser though I usually know how the story is going to end. Often I have the closing line in mind. What I don’t know is how long it’s going to take to get to the end. I simply write until the story is fully told.
I find the process of writing short fiction immensely freeing. Also since I tend to write long, I’ve started exploring the novella form. In our digital age, we aren’t as constrained to rigid word limits as we once were because of the mechanics of print publishing. Nowadays, too, readers have less time, so I believe that the novella form has potential to become popular.
Readers can now find my published stories and novellas together in my new book Glow Grass and Other Tales. It’s available on Amazon in print and digital form.
M.H. Callway’s Books:
A Canadian noir thriller.
Danny Bluestone, a young Native man, overeducated and underemployed, is drawn into an illegal bear hunt to escape his stultifying hometown of Red Dog Lake in Northern Ontario. Things quickly go violent and he must fight to survive both the killers and the wilderness.
Revenge, guide dogs, cats big and small, beleaguered ladies of a certain age and a cop with a tarnished heart, meet them all here in Glow Grass and Other Tales.
The characters in the seven stories and two novellas fight for justice even when their sense of justice is warped. The tales include winners of The Bony Pete and Golden Horseshoe awards as well as the finalists for the 2015 Derringer and 2016 Arthur Ellis Best Novella Award.