Mystery Mondays: Jennifer Leeper on the Emotions Punch Of Short Stories

Today on Mystery Mondays, we’re doing something a little different. Author, Jennifer Leeper is here to talk about short stories. I think this is the first short story collection I’ve hosted, so it’s a bit of a thrill for me. Enjoy!

Short, Not Small by Jennifer Leeper

515-HrYG7AL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_Whether you’re a reader or writer of short stories, you know they can offer as much of an emotional gut punch or brain rock as a 300,000-word tome. Collections of short stories offer authors and readers the chance to quickly dive deep into the lives of characters and repeat this experience over and over between two covers. My latest collection, Border Run and Other Stories explores many characters within a relatively short word span, and I’m privileged to take you on a sampling tour here of these vastly different character worlds.

If the shoe fits

 In The Shoes, Carlos finds a letter from his abuela, who recently passed away, and in the letter she charges her family with conscientiously distributing her hoard of shoes. They can’t simply dump the house-sized pile of footwear at a thrift store, but must match each pair with the right feet. Not only does Carlos, his sister, and parents find it difficult to marry the shoes to wearers, but the result of hastily discarded pairs of shoes results in a horrific series of events that irreparably alters the lives of Carlos and his family.

The dead live on

In Book of the Dead, Violet Mora finds the “bucket list” Luca Barnes, the boy who bullied her in high school in the ashes of his family’s house that burned down after Luca fell asleep with a lit cigarette in his mouth. In the spirit of revenge, Violet decides to work her way through Luca’s list herself. Instead of revenge, however, Violet encounters Luca’s twin, Dominic, as she completes Luca’s objectives, and she experiences more than she bargained for when she took on Luca’s list.

 Take this job and shove it

In The Vortex, a man has been writing the same resignation letter in his head for years but he never actually submits it to his boss. Then, one day he decides to erase thousands of emails with one mouse click. He is set free and set off course all at once.

Though there are threaded themes of redemption, loss, and mortality across the 14 stories of this collection it’s the character development that allows each piece to stand apart. It’s not the word count that matters, but how words are used to bring lives on the page to life that counts.

Who Is Jennifer Leeper:

f792d207c31f8ddac4e71e9aaa583014_400x400Ms. Leeper is an award-winning fiction author who’s publications credits include Independent Ink Magazine, Notes Magazine, The Stone Hobo, Poiesis, Every Day Fiction, Aphelion Webzine, Heater magazine, Cowboy Jamboree, The New Engagement, Alaska Quarterly Review and The Liguorian.

She has had works published by J. Burrage Publications, Hen House Press, Inwood Indiana Press, Alternating Current Press, Barking Rain Press, Whispering Prairie Press, and Spider Road Press.

In 2012, Ms. Leeper was awarded the Catoctin Mountain Artist-in-Residency, and in 2013, Ms. Leeper was a Tuscany Prize Novella Award finalist through Tuscany Press for her short novel, Tribe. Ms. Leeper’s short story Tatau was published in the journal, Poiesis, and was short listed as a finalist for the Luminaire Award in 2015, and nominated by Alternating Current for Queen’s Ferry Press’ Best of Small Fictions of 2016 Prize. In 2016,

The Saturday Evening Post honored Ms. Leeper’s short story Book of the Dead with an honorable mention in its Great American Fiction Contest. Ms. Leeper’s short story The Bottle won second place in the Spider’s Web Flash Fiction Prize through Spider Road Press.

You can find Border Run and Other Stories at Barking Rain Press: http://barkingrainpress.org/border-run/ and Amazon. You can find Jennifer  and her other fiction on Twitter @JenLeeper1 or at her author website:

 

Mystery Mondays: M.H. Callway on Short Stories Vs Novels

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.

I love to hear from readers. Do visit my website and leave me your comments at www.mhcallway.com. Or you may contact me at mcallway1@gmail.com.

M.H. Callway’s Books:

 

12000831_10154197942864018_1649104801334232488_oWINDIGO FIRE

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.

 

 

glowgrassGLOW GRASS and OTHER TALES:

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.

 

 

Voices From the Valleys $0.99 USD

Tis the season for a sale, fa la la la la la la la…

Do you want to check out what British Columbian writers have in common? Have a hankering for Canadian fiction? Now’s your chance to read some Canadiana.

Voices From the Valleys is on for $0.99 USD.

Screen Shot 2015-09-22 at 7.33.47 AM

Deirdre Hunting Season is the first short story in Voices From the Valleys.  I’ve included an excerpt below it you’d like to try before you buy…

VOICES FROM THE VALLEYS – Stories & Poems about Life in BC’s Interior

Amazon.com  Amazon.ca  Amazon.co.uk

– 308 pages, 51 contributors, short fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry. All net proceeds go to Doctors Without Borders. The print version includes drawings and photos of BC.

This anthology for charity features entertaining short stories, fascinating memoirs, and thought-provoking poetry by 50 talented BC writers, depicting life in every region of the interior of British Columbia, Canada, from the ’50s to today.

Peruse the pages and you’ll find stories about challenging experiences in remote areas, experiences with BC’s deer, bears, moose, and other wildlife; harrowing experiences with forest fires, humorous people-watching stories, touching memoirs, tales of tragic incidents, stories about relationships, and funny-only-in-hindsight true stories.

You’ll find beautiful, thought-provoking poetry about early ranching life, rock climbing, a beloved motorcycle, the loss of orchards, prospecting, experiences with forest fires, encounters with wildlife, and other special moments from various regions in BC.

***

Deirdre Hunting Season

by

Kristina Stanley

 

Artemis

Goddess of hunting, wilderness and wild animals.

Grants strength to others.

 

Due to the shortage of deer in the area, our community restricted deer hunting to bucks with four point antlers. The doe in the area needed more males. Well, so did I. I was forty years old, and my buck just married a doe half his age.

The hard part … In our small town nestled in the valley between the Rockies and the Purcell Mountains of south-eastern British Columbia everyone knew everyone. I did the books for half a dozen businesses on Main Street and was known as the accountant with the cheating husband. That’s me. Failure at marriage extraordinaire. I’m a rule follower. I do good deeds. I volunteer. I’ve never even received a parking ticket. So what happened in my life surprised me.

The day mother nature blew the leaves off my tree, I came home unexpectedly. We’d hired a local company to clean our air ducts, and the guy doing the work was supposed to come the following day. He called and asked if I could meet him a day early. I rushed home, even though I was busy, unlocked the front door and headed toward the back of the house. I’d told him I’d leave the kitchen door open for him.

Fifteen years of marriage pin-holed to one moment. A naked woman standing in my kitchen, leaning against my sink, drinking water from my glass…

Here is where you can find the rest of the story and many others:

VOICES FROM THE VALLEYS – Stories & Poems about Life in BC’s Interior

Amazon.com  Amazon.ca  Amazon.co.uk

Call for Submissions: Voices From The Valleys

Are you a writer or aspiring author who is living (or has lived) in British Columbia, Canada?

Screen Shot 2015-09-22 at 7.33.47 AMWould you like to see your BC-based story or poem in print in a high-quality?

Cobalt Books is calling all writers and poets from the interior of BC (or who have spent time there), and surrounding valleys and the Kootenays, to submit a short fictional story, a short creative nonfiction piece (a fascinating true story, well told), or a poem for an anthology in which BC’s recent history, varied lifestyles, rugged landscapes, or stunning natural features play somewhat of a role.

Cobalt Books has enough submissions for the Okanagan Valley but is still looking for submissions from other areas of BC. You can find the full submission guidelines here. Submissions deadline: October 31, 2015.

Why am I promoting this one?

My short story Deirdre Hunting Season has been accepted for publication in this anthology, and I’d love to have other BC authors join me in this venture.

EXCERPT of Deirdre Hunting Season:

***

Due to the shortage of deer in the area, our community restricted deer hunting to bucks with four point antlers. The doe in the area needed more males. Well, so did I. I was forty years old, and my buck just married a doe half his age.

The hard part . . . In our small town nestled in the Rocky Mountains, everyone knew everyone. I did the books for half a dozen businesses on Main Street and was known as the accountant with the cheating husband. That’s me. Failure at marriage extraordinaire. I’m a rule follower. I do good deeds. I volunteer. I’ve never even received a parking ticket. So what happened in my life surprised me.

The day mother nature blew the leaves off my tree, I came home unexpectedly. We’d hired a local company to clean our air ducts, and the guy doing the work was supposed to come the following day. He called and asked if I could meet him a day early. I rushed home, even though I was busy, unlocked the front door and headed toward the back of the house. I’d told him I’d leave the kitchen door open for him.

Fifteen years of marriage pin-holed to one moment. A naked woman standing in my kitchen, leaning against my sink, drinking water from my glass.

***

The full short story will be published in Voices From The Valleys later this year.

In the meantime, if you’re looking for something to read and you haven’t read DESCENT yet, now is your chance before BLAZE comes out. Find it at: myBook.to/Descent

And if you have read DESCENT, I’d be very excited if you pre-ordered BLAZE.

Thanks for reading…

RePost of Capital Crime Writers Audrey Jessup Announcement.

Thank you to Capital Crime Writers for hosting the Audrey Jessup short story contest.  Also thanks to the judges who took the time to read all of the entries and thanks for the lovely evening out.

The photo is me looking surprised and happy 🙂

This is the blog they posted on Monday.

Congratulations to our Audrey Jessop Short Story Prize winner!

 

Kristina Stanley Audrey Jessup

 

Kristina Stanley walked away with the 2014 Audrey Jessop Short Story prize for her submission, “When a Friendship Fails”.

The awards dinner at The Heart & Crown in the Byward Market capped off a Capital Crime Writers’ mayhem-filled year.

A huge thanks to our judges and all participants. And it’s never too early to start working on your submission for next year.

Here’s the complete list of prize winners and honourable mentions:

FIRST PRIZE:   ‘When a Friendship Fails’ by Kristina Stanley

SECOND PRIZE:  ’The Moment It Fell’ by Wynn Quon

THIRD PRIZE:  ’The Ride Home’ by Linda Standing

HONOURABLE MENTION:  ’Act the Part’ by Jennifer Jorgensen

HONOURABLE MENTION:  ’Scapegoat’ by Nicholas Ashton