Cabbages and Kings

A diary by the authors of the Louis Kincaid series

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Location: Fort Lauderdale/Elk Rapids, Florida and Michigan, United States

We are the New York Times bestselling authors of the Louis Kincaid series and other stand alone thrillers. We have taught writing at major conferences for ten years.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Like a virgin...a short virgin

So I arrive home from my Vancouver vacation today to find two packages waiting for me. Not just any packages. Small cardboard boxes, and I know from their shape and size that they are from publishers. Books. My books.

I grab the knife and slit open the tape. My heart quickens as I pull back the cardboard flaps and peer inside. Is there anything sweeter than seeing your book for the first time? It's better than Christmas, man.

You published authors out there know this feeling. You who will be published someday have it to look forward to. And for me? After eleven books now, these books are even more special. I feel like a virgin, all shiny and new.

The books I got today are short story anthologies. And they contain the first short stories I have ever had published. The first short stories I have even written since the eighth grade.

The first anthology is already on the shelves: "Death Do Us Part," edited by Harlan Coben and presented by Mystery Writers of America. My story is called "One Shot," and in it, a middle-aged man returns to his old home in Detroit to try to find the key to unlock the truth about a childhood tragedy. It's written in the dark style of our Louis Kincaid series.

My fellow contributors include Coben, Lee Child, Laura Lippman, Ridley Pearson, R.L. Stine, Jeff Abbott and other terrific writers. I've already read most the stories and they are stellar -- as haunting and unpredictable as you're likely to find anywhere. I'm proud to be included because I wasn't an invitee; I had to crash this party. See, when MWA announces its anthology every year, it opens 5-10 slots to its membership at large (you don't have to be previously published at all to enter and a few of this year's writers are first-timers). You have to submit your story to a committee, which that narrows it down and sends the finals onto the editor for his or her choosing. I sweated mightily over this story, because no matter how experienced you are as a novelist, writing a short stories is like starting over. There are different rules and challenges. For my money, writing a good short story is a million times harder than turning out a full novel. There is no room for error; nothing is wasted. If one word is wrong, the thing falls apart.

The MWA experience gave me the courage to try again. But this time, I was invited, and I was so damn thrilled I almost peed my pants. When Joe Konrath decided to edit a collection devoted to hitmen called "These Guns for Hire, he corralled a wacked-out band of wombats and renegades. Listen to this line up: Ken Bruen, David Morrell, William Kent Kreuger, Lawrence Block, MJ Rose, Reed Farrel Coleman and many others. "Guns" hits the stores in October.

Kelly and I teamed up to write this story and it's a bit of a departure from our usual style. Dare I say, maybe even darkly humorous? It's about two almost loveable Memphis losers who team up to do in their nemesis on the eve of their bowling league playoffs. Kelly is a longtime league bowler with a lethal average so she knows her way around the back alleys. Me, I just tried to keep up. The title? Gutter Snipes. You can read the first page of our stories and the others at the the nifty Hitmen website by clicking here.

And if you're going to Bouchercon in Madison at the end of the month, I want to invite you to a couple of parties in celebration of these short stories and their authors.

"These Guns for Hire" authors will be gathering and signing Thursday Sept. 28 at Cafe Montmartre, 127 E. Mifflin Street, just a block from the conference hotel. We'll be there til the bar kicks us out.

And the MWA folks will be signing their "Death Do Us Part" anthologies at Boucheron as well. Day and Time to come. You'll get a free copy in your Boucheron goodie bag.

So, if you're in Madison, drop by and help us celebrate. You'll know me. I'm the blushing virign...the short one.


Blogger Jude Hardin said...

You're so right about short stories, Kris. They're a completely different art form. My all-time fave is Flannery O'Conner. Definitely a master. I haven't written one since college, but I need to try again soon. Maybe when I finish the PI novel I'm working on.

Both of these anthologies sound marvelous. I'm picking up my copies ASAP.


Welcome back!

9:05 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

Glad to have you back. I've got that anthology on my shelf & I'll read your story first. :)

As for short stories, I've published 2 and I've got a 3rd available to anyone who signs up for my newsletter (hint, hint), but I find short stories very, very difficult to write. (And read, but that's a different subject).

I think novels tend to grow. Short stories just sort of are. My problem with so many short stories is they don't actually have a beginning, middle and end, they just sort of bring in some snapshot of a period in time and they need--to my mind--more.

Having said that, I absolutely loved James Rollins' short story in the new Thriller anthology called "Kowalski's in Love." I thought it did everything a novel does, but in a short timeframe. Convinced me it was possible.

Mark Terry
(Yeah, I'll chill on the BSP soon)

1:54 PM  
Blogger PJ Parrish said...

Snapshot is an apt metaphor. Elaine Viets once explained it to me that you had to narrow your focus down to a single vignette, like coming into a movie at just the right moment. That's the hard part for me -- figuring out where the story begins.

Short stories are excellent exercises for the novel writer. Even if you are writing 300-pages-plus, you can learn about economy. Any fool can write a bloated book. It takes a real writer to make eveyr word count.

2:12 PM  
Blogger r2 said...

I bought Death Do Us Part. It is a terrific read.

I also think the title and cover artwork are fabulous.

BTW: I'm starting a blog based on what I've learned about advertising and marketing in my 30+ years in the business and how it relates to publishing. Check it out if you get a chance.

11:13 PM  
Blogger Elizabeth said...

I'm so BUMMED that I'm not going to Bouchercon!! I can live without four days of no sleep and too much gin, but the free copy of the book!!!

Geez...maybe I can steal a ticket...ya think? ;-)

Seriously, have a great time. And I can't wait to read your stories!

1:46 PM  
Blogger PJ Parrish said...

Thanks Elizabeth and all who have read the anthologies. It means alot to us contributors to know we aren't just doing these little things for ourselves.

4:29 PM  

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