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How I Got Started and Second ChancesI first submitted to Harlequin when I was twenty-two. Twenty-two!! That was awhile ago, I'm afraid to admit. I wrote three manuscripts in my early twenties, and one was a finalist in The Golden Heart contest sponsored by Romance Writers of America, but that was as far as I got. By that point, with a young child and very little time, I was feeling discouraged and I decided to stop trying. I turned to short stories instead, and the first short story I wrote in 1999 was accepted by the British magazine The People's Friend. That was the first time I'd actually been paid for my writing, and what a thrill it was. My husband suggested we frame the check but I said heck no, we're spending it!
|Sister Sister |
Looking back, I attribute a lot of my development as a writer to that period of writing short stories (none more than 4,000 words). I learned about plot and pacing and tight yet nuanced conflicts. It was great! But after seven or so years I felt a pull back to novel-length romance, and I decided to try writing for Harlequin again. This time, the very first story I sent them sold (admittedly after multiple rounds of revisions!)
A scroll through my hard drive made me realize just how many short stories I had, and how I might be able to do something with them. So with the help of Lee Hyat from Author Sound Relations, I organized some of my favorite stories into themed anthologies, and she designed the covers and formatted them for Kindle. I have three anthologies up on Kindle so far, with at least three more planned. I'm excited to give these short stories a second chance, because I really did enjoy writing them. Here is an excerpt from Something Fishy, one of the stories in my romance anthology, Love, Laughter & Lucky Marbles:
The shop Mum mentioned is next to the florist's, a small, unassuming place with a red and white striped awning and a sign that reads "Murray's Fresh Fish." Basic.
|Bump: An Anthology|
I open the door, and the smell assails me before I've even got one foot in the shop. Even fresh fish smell, apparently.
The man behind the counter is a little older than me, with dark hair and eyes, and an apologetic smile.
"Sorry. The smell gets some people."
"It's not that bad," I say, although I'm aware I'm talking through my nose.
"May I help you?"
I glance at the fish, lying skinned and docile on beds of crushed ice. "I've been sent for two fillets of salmon."
"Sent?" He raises his eyebrows.
"Well... my Mum has this thing about salmon," I find myself saying with a little smile, although inside I'm wondering why I'm telling him this. "She gets it every year for my birthday."
He paused, leaning his elbows on top of the glass case of fish. "It sounds like there's a little more to this story than you're telling me."
"There is." I laugh and then admit baldly, "the truth is, I don't like salmon."
"I even hate it."
"Really." Are we flirting, I wonder, over fish? Beneath his elbows I can see a halibut's staring eyes.
"So. This begs a question."
"Yes." I wait, enjoying myself. My life must have dipped pretty low to be having a good time with the fish seller of Little Sheffington, but there you go. I don't care.
"Why," he says slowly, his eyes twinkling, "does your mother buy salmon for your birthday, if she knows you don't like it?"
"That is the question I've been asking myself for twenty years."
"Parents don't always want to listen," he says with a knowledgeable nod. "My mum insists on making me sweaters for my birthday. She's not a good knitter." He raises his eyebrows as if to say 'need I say more?'
"Have you ever told her your--ah--feelings on the matter?"
"Delicately. But I think it takes more of a sledgehammer approach, which would naturally upset family relations."
|Love, Laughter & Lucky Marbles|
Suddenly, our conversation fizzles out, and we're left staring awkwardly at each other. I'm very conscious of the halibut.
There are ten stories in this anthology, all slightly humorous takes on falling in love. I find a short story the perfect accompaniment to a cup of tea or coffee. Do you like reading short stories? Do you read them in magazines? To celebrate the release of these anthologies, I'll give away a book from my Harlequin backlist--either The Lone Wolfe or The Matchmaker Bride, your choice--as well as a copy of any one of my anthologies on Kindle! Let me know what you think.