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A Writer’s View: Short stories a hot writer’s market

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Photo courtesy Guest Blogger Sue Ann Jaffarian

Photo courtesy Guest Blogger Sue Ann Jaffarian

Since I was a kid, I have loved short stories.  Amongst my favorites were “The Ransom of Red Chief” and “The Gift of the Magi,” both by O. Henry, “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson, and “The Telltale Heart” by Edgar Allan Poe. They packed fun, poignancy and terror in just a few short pages, providing word for word a powerful punch.

Short fiction has always been with us, but in the past few years it has been enjoying a resurgence in popularity.  When print magazines and online e-zines, always a great place to shop stories, started to fold or accepted fewer stories, many authors and writing associations joined together to publish anthologies with central themes, creating a reading smorgasbord for readers like me. Two of the best, though by far not the only great ones, in the past few years have been Politics Noir edited by Gary Phillips and Shaken, Stories for Japanedited by Timothy Hallinan.

Before this year, I had two short story publishing credits. One, titled “Ho Ho Homicide,” was in a holiday anthology a few years back and was recently purchased to be reprinted in a 2011 Christmas anthology.  My other published short story, “Love Bytes,” can be found in a romance anthology called Love At Large.

Now with the rocketing use of e-readers, short stories have another venue through which to reach readers. Priced anywhere from free to $1.99, short stories have become a hot commodity on Amazon.com and with other e-book retailers, and I have thrown my hat into the ring.

In spring of this year, I came up with an idea to write a series of short stories with a central theme and release them individually over the course of a year.  The series is called Holidays From Helland follows Zelda Bowen, a 30-ish, single woman living in Southern California, as she endures one crazy holiday after another with her dysfunctional family. The stories are funny and often heartwarming and heartbreaking.  The first one, “The Rabbit Died,” was released in June. The second, “Pull My Paw,” came out in July, and the third in the series, “Where’s Your Daddy?” has a September release. The first two have done remarkably well and have set the pace for the stories to come. I am planning on ten in all. They sell for $0.99 each and are available for Kindle and Nook.

Photo: Cover for new short story, "Where's Your Daddy?" by Sue Ann Jaffarian

Photo: Cover for new short story, "Where's Your Daddy?" by Sue Ann Jaffarian

Unlike my mystery novels, these stories are being published by me as an independent, and may open the door for me to publish novels in a similar manner in the future. I’m certainly not opposed to going that route and many traditionally published authors are now doing it with great success. It’s a brave new world for authors willing to take chances and step outside their comfort zone.

So what happens to Zelda and her clan when I reach the tenth story in the series? Will I abandon the idea of selling short stories online. Not on your life! I find these condensed tales fit well with my novel writing and allow me to stretch my author legs. They take less time to write than a novel and are less stressful, filling the gaps between book deadlines like creamy grout. I’ve already developed another short story series idea that will be totally different than anything I’ve written to date.  It will start up as soon as Holidays From Hell finishes up next spring. So stay tuned.

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In addition to short stories, Sue Ann Jaffarian writes three acclaimed mystery series: The Odelia Grey mystery series, The Ghost of Granny Apples mystery series and the Madison Rose Vampire Mysteries. She is also a full-time paralegal in Los Angeles and a motivational speaker. Check out Sue Ann’s website and  blog.

On Saturday, September 17, 2011, 2:00 pm, Sue Ann will be at the Buena Vista Branch Library (300 N. Buena Vista Street, Burbank, CA) presenting a free writer’s workshop:  “Turning Agent Woes into Agent Wows” discussing how to put your best foot forward when approaching agents.

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