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Posts tagged with: short story collection

Digging for Change

We all have them — the metaphorical “books under the bed” that are better left where they are, to gather a patina of dust and cobwebs and never see the light of day. These things are a mess. Often it’s the first book you ever wrote, before you learned the finer points of plot and characterization.

My first manuscript is like that. It made the contest rounds (and even won the Jasmine back in 2006) under a number of titles (my favorite title was From Miss Bitch to Mrs. Rich, although it mostly finaled under the title Looking 4 Love) but, well, let’s just say that when my husband was trying to tell me to self-publish it earlier this year — “But you’ve already done all the work! Why not?” — I never took his suggestion seriously.  I know I’m not the world’s best housekeeper (understatement of the year), but there is no amount of polishing that could make that book something I’d want to release today. It served its purposes for what it was, my learning book. But it needs to stay balled up under the farthest corner of the bed … my preferred way of quickly cleaning up and making the rest of the room look quasi-presentable.

Okay, so let’s leave the books-under-the-bed, well, under the bed (or on the hard drive) and turn our attention to a different piece of furniture.

The couch.

I’m sure you’ve heard the old cliche about digging for spare change between your seat cushions. You may even have done it yourself once or twice (or a hundred times). But this can also be applied to publishing.

If a book under the bed is a hot mess, then the spare change in your seat cushions are the stories that are actually pretty good, but you’re not doing anything with them at the moment for whatever reason. Maybe it got great editorial — or contest –feedback, but didn’t sell. Or maybe it did sell, but it went out of print and you got the rights back. Either way, it’s just sitting on your hard drive at the moment, doing nothing for you.

Behold, my spare change, which just released today exclusively for the Kindle!

I had a few contemporary romance short stories just sitting on my hard drive, taking up space. Three of them (“She’s Got Legs” — which had received an 88 from snarky hard-ass Mrs. Giggles; “Love @ First Site”; and “Dancing Cheek to Cheek”)  had been published before, but one (“Birthday Gifts”) is brand new. I’d always liked these stories, but I figured they were too short to really do anything with them.

But then it hit me — why not bundle them as a super-short single-author collection? And yes, I do mean short. The entire ebook of 4 stories is around 15,000 words total. But I think 99 cents is a fair price for around 50 pages.

NY Times bestselling author Angie Fox calls the collection “sweet, sexy and laugh-out-loud funny!”

(Did I mention this one isn’t for teens?)

Jana DeLeon says “Amanda Brice has a voice that easily captures the self-deprecating humor and strength that so many young women have as they attempt to find their place in the world and the man of their heart.”

NY Times bestselling author Christie Craig describes them as “short reads that aren’t short on entertainment. Sassy humor and sigh-worthy. Amanda Brice delivers.”

And NY Times bestselling author Gemma Halliday says “If you’re in the mood for a sweet escape this holiday season, Amanda’s Brice’s Short and Sweet is just the ticket!  I loved all the stories in this collection. And anyone who is a ‘White Christmas’ fan will adore ‘Dancing Cheek to Cheek’.  The best things don’t only happen when you’re dancing… they also happen when you’re reading an Amanda Brice novel!”

Not bad for spare change.

And from now until New Year’s, it’s spare change for a good cause. A Jersey Girl at heart, I’ll be donating 100% of my author royalties from Short & Sweet: Four Fun & Flirty Tales to relief efforts for the survivors of Hurricane Sandy and to rebuild the shore.

I’ve also been inspired to dig out my first Golden Heart finalist, Party Like It’s 1899, from between the cushions and get it ready for publication. This one is a little dustier than the short stories — and I have to squeeze in the revisions around an already hectic writing schedule — so it’ll take longer to get it ready, but I’m aiming for Fall 2013. (And if it’s ready before then, say spring or summer, then bonus!) Here’s a sneak peak at the cover art.

Gorgeous, huh?

So what about you? Do you have any metaphorical spare change hidden in your cushions? Have you considered digging out an old story and giving it new life through self-publishing? Tell us!

THE LONG & SHORT OF THE SHORT & SWEET

I first met Sherry Isaac at Margie Lawson’s Immersion Master Class where 7 writers were corralled at Margie’s mountside home in Colorado for a week of 10+ hour days of writing and critiquing and learning.  It was an amazing experience and I recommend Margie’s classes to everyone! I hope to find an Immersion Master Class II to attend soon.

Within a few hours of meeting Sherry I adored her. She is one of those easy-going, fun-loving, warm individuals who can make you feel like you’ve known them forever. Within a day of meeting her I was awed by the breadth of her writing ability.

Sherry is an amazing author and an even better friend. Her first collection of shorts, STORYTELLER, debuted last month, July 2011.

Welcome, Sherry!!

*****

THE LONG & SHORT OF THE SHORT & SWEET
Sherry Isaac

My introduction to short stories was typical: high school English. No, I will not tell you how long ago that was, except to say that it wasn’t so long ago that I can’t remember my inaugural short, The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe.

Poe’s beat-by-beat unravelling of a guilty man’s mind is still my favorite. And what kind of a Canadian would I be if I’d never read Margaret Atwood or Alice Munro? (Gasp!)

Not once did I ever think I’d write short stories.

Novels were my love. When I admitted out loud that I was a writer and gave in to the craft, novels were my goal.

Lots and lots and lots of novels. Novels were what I read, novels were what I loved. Novels! I didn’t read short stories, not by choice anyway (exception: Poe, above). If I didn’t read them, why would I write them? First of all, my experience was limited–a twist on the old, write what you know advice. Second, short stories were, well, short.

For someone like me, who doesn’t know when to shut up, short story writing isn’t a very appealing venue.

Plus, I like to ramble.

Tom Hank’s character in A League of Their Own said ‘There’s no crying in baseball’.

And there is no rambling in short stories.

Why?

Because there’s no room.

Obvious, I know, but there you have it. Short stories are, by definition, short. And as Brian Henry, Editor and Creative Writing instructor teaches, “the length imposes certain restrictions”.

Shorter story, lesser word count. Easy peasy, right?

Wrong.

There is a quote, several versions, actually, attributed to Voltaire, Mark Twain and Blaise Pascal. “I didn’t have time to write a short letter so I’ve written a long one instead.”

Ask any advertising executive. Telling a full and compelling story in few words is a challenge.

If a novel is a cross-country trip on The Partridge Family bus, then a short story is a hop to the next town in a Mini Cooper. A short story, like a novel, has a starting point, a destination, and if you’re a plotter rather than a pantster, a map in the glovebox telling you how to get there–or a destination plugged into the GPS.

When the venue for your tale is a short story, you don’t have a lot of time. Or a lot of trunk space. You can’t pack all your favorite plots and subplots. One change of underwear, one clean shirt, one crisp dollar bill for the toll.

You can’t stop along the way to pick up friends. Extra characters complicate things. They can’t help it, that’s what they do. The “aim” of a short story is “to achieve”–once again I channel Brian Henry–”a single, concentrated effect”.

Throw a few friends in the Cooper and someone will want to drive. Someone will want to stop for souvenirs, another will need a bathroom break. The guy in the back seat will get queasy and ask you to pull over. All these complications are great in a novel but in a short story they take up space. Space you don’t have.

Just as you can’t stop and pick up friends on the way to your destination, you can’t stop for Kodak moments or take the scenic route. Grand descriptions take up word count. The prose has to be tight. Get on the highway. Get in the fast lane. Get to the end in 10,000 words, 5,000 words, 3,000 words. Or less.

One plot, often one character, not a lot of description to slow the story down. All of this means focus.

Short word count, short description, short list of characters. What else?

In novels, the author may slow down time in order to accommodate or enrich all of the layers in a story. A couple from different cultures need to fall in love, and that doesn’t happen over night. An ordinary housewife vows to save the world from rising gas prices, but first she must overcome her fear public transit. Who amongst us hasn’t rounded the corner on time only to watch the black plume of exhaust because the bus showed up early? There won’t be another #12 to the city for 17 more minutes.

To avoid these pitfalls in a short story, it’s best to keep the plot’s time frame short as well as focused.

Clamp down on the description, the build up, the gas. Does this mean a short story should be fast paced? Not at all, and most are not.

Short stories tend to be character driven. A choice, a trial, a internal change the character needs to make.

One plot, one character, one turning point.

Tell your short story right, and you just might be on the short list for literary greatness.

Winner of The Alice Munro Short Story Award, Sherry Isaac’s tales of life, love and forgiveness that transcend all things, including the grave, appear online and in print. Her first collection of shorts, Storyteller, debuts July 2011. For more information, or to order an autographed copy, click HERE.

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