A word on shorts from this month’s speaker

Man in shorts and sandals


By Earl Staggs

I’ve been fortunate to have a number of short stories published in magazines and anthologies. Some were reprinted two and three times. Each one filled me with warm fuzzies when it went out into the world and came back with an acceptance. I’m as proud of my short stories as I am of my mystery novel, MEMORY OF A MURDER. After they were published and had their time in the limelight, I retired my shorts with loving care in my hard drive.

Not long ago, I thought about them. Each one represented a ton of time and hard work and bore my sweat stains. It bothered me to think of them gathering dust in a cold, dark storage sector, languishing as nothing more than anonymous kilobytes of data. They served me well in their time and still had a lot to offer. After all, writing doesn’t have an expiration date. If it had, we’d never have heard of Poe, Doyle, Chandler, Hammett, Hemingway and the rest

That’s when I decided to publish a collection of my short stories.

I couldn’t include all of them, so I had to make hard choices. I felt like a father forced to decide which of his children would go to the party and which ones would stay home.

Even before I began choosing stories for the collection, I had another decision to make. My stories tend to cover the gamut of sub-genres from hardboiled to softboiled to humorous. After a lot of thought, I decided to include some of each. I like variety when I read and I know other people do, too. When I open a short fiction magazine, I find an assortment of sub-genres inside. Why shouldn’t my collection be the same?

With that decision made, I began selecting stories to include. One was a relatively easy choice. That’s the one that brought home a Derringer Award from the Short Mystery Fiction Society

After that, it got tougher. Mollie Goodall is one of my favorite characters and has appeared in half a dozen stories. As sheriff of a small county in Texas, she mixes humor and a warm heart in administering her duties. I selected three Sheriff Mollie stories for the collection, including the one in which she has to deal with a naked man on a rooftop.

On the hardboiled side, I chose the one about a street-weary cop who steps outside the box – and the law — to deal with a murdering drug dealer who beat the system and walked free. Another hard and gritty story selected concerned a woman forced at gunpoint to recall a horrible event she thought she’d flushed from her life twenty years ago.

And so it went until the grueling selection process was finished. I ended up with sixteen stories, totaling a little more than 53,000 words, the size of a small novel. But that only brought me to another challenge.

Now I had to do the formatting required to publish it. Being a technical dummy didn’t stop me from diving into a sea of unfamiliar terms and procedures. What’s HTML? What’s a pixel? These and other mysteries kept me thrashing around in muddled waters for weeks.

Halfway through the project, my wife stuck her head in the door to ask, “How’s it going?”

“Horrible!” I wailed. “I can’t take any more. I’m going to jump off the roof and kill myself.”

She sighed. “Again? Well, make it snappy. Dinner’s almost ready.”

Somehow, to my own amazement, I made it through the formatting process, and my collection, SHORT STORIES OF EARL STAGGS was ready to go live as an ebook for Kindle, Nook, Sony, and all other electronic readers.

But having no better sense, I jumped back into unknown waters and published it as a print book through CreateSpace.

I don’t mind saying I’m proud of the way it turned out, but I’m also proud of myself for getting it done without losing my last few ounces of sanity. You’ll find all the information about it over on my website: earlwstaggs.wordpress.com

While you’re there, you can read Chapter One of MEMORY OF A MURDER, my first mystery novel, which earned thirteen Five Star reviews.

You’ll also find two of my short stories there. One is “The Day I Almost Became a Great Writer,” which some say is the funniest story I’ve ever written. There’s another one called “White Hats and Happy Trails,” about the day I spent with Roy Rogers.

Thanks for allowing me to visit here and talk about my favorite subject – writing.

Best regards to all.

Earl Staggs

Derringer Award winning author Earl Staggs has seen many of his short stories published in magazines and anthologies. He served as Managing Editor of Futures Mystery Magazine and as President of the Short Mystery Fiction Society. His novel MEMORY OF A MURDER earned thirteen Five Star reviews online at Amazon and B&N. His column “Write Tight” appears in the online magazine Apollo’s Lyre. He is also a contributing blog member of Murderous Musings and Make Mine Mystery. He hosts workshops for the Muse Online Writers Conference and the Catholic Writers Conference Online and is a frequent speaker at conferences and writers groups. Email: earlstaggs@sbcglobal.net Website: earlwstaggs.wordpress.com

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