by Jacquie Rogers
Normally, the guest for Short Story Saturday tells us all about his favorite. I’m taking a different angle, since I came at short stories from a rather odd route. You see, I despised short stories when I was younger, mostly because of the dreadful reading assignments in junior high and high school, and I didn’t read another one until I actually wrote one in 2006.
Even then, I didn’t appreciate value of shorter fiction, although I quickly gained an understanding of the form — they’re not the same style of writing as novels. Some writers do better in short form, some are better at novels, and only a few are good at both. Now I greatly appreciate the talent of an author who can tell a compelling story in under 10,000 words, complete with characterization, conflict, and a satisfying ending.
With that in mind, I’m going to tell you where to get some terrific short stories. The first is a one-man anthology by Troy D. Smith, The Blackwells: Volume 1 (I haven’t read Volume 2, but it’s available). The Blackwells are brothers from Tennessee who set out for California in 1849. Naturally, they end up going their separate ways, each stumbling into exciting and sometimes scary adventures. Every single one of the stories in Volume 1 is excellent. We start off in true Western style with Max, who’s in the US Cavalry, fighting for his life against Indians, and the last story, The Wendigo, has a good dose of thriller because... well, there’s a wendigo. This volume shows the incredible range of Smith’s talents, much like a five-octave singer who’s just as at home singing opera as rap.
Another writer who is just as entertaining in short form as in novels is Robert J. Randisi. His story in Six-guns and Slay Bells: A Creepy Cowboy Christmas is Sheriff Santa and the Ghost of Two Gun Jim, a true delight to read and definitely a different take on Santa. I enjoyed all the stories in this Christmas anthology.
And about those Christmas anthologies—I love those best of all! And one of the authors in Six-guns, Cheryl Pierson, also has a story in Wishing for a Cowboy called Outlaw’s Kiss. Lemme tell you, that was some kiss! Debut author Kathleen Rice Adams shows her talent with a heartwarming story, Peaches. This anthology features another author who’s just as accomplished at short and long fiction — Livia J. Washburn, who wrote Charlie’s Pie. Loved the emotion and it has an exciting shoot-out, too, just in time for Christmas.
Which brings us back to Troy D. Smith, and his two Christmas stories, A Kiowa Christmas Gift in A Wolf Creek Christmas and O Deadly Night in the anthology of the same name. The first features Troy’s Wolf Creek character, Charley Blackfeather as he helps keep the peace between the Kiowa and the cavalry. The second features his other Wolf Creek character, Sam Gardner.
I can’t tell you which character I like best because they’re so different. Gardner is a lawman in the spirit of Wyatt Earp and gains more depth as the series continues — a very complex character. But then so is Charley Blackfeather, a Seminole/black scout who has endured war his entire life, is nearly indestructible, but is also very spiritual.
So there you have it, five anthologies with nary a so-so story in the lot. Christmas is a season when I love to get my fiction fix, but it’s also insanely busy. Sounds like short stories are just the thing! And you know what? At this time of year, I'll generally pick up a shorter work instead of a novel. I'm more surprised at that than anyone. But don't get me wrong — I've always loved to read novels, and always will. It's just an added bonus to enjoy these short stories, too.
'Twas the Fight Before Christmas (
, Book 9: A Wolf Creek
A Gift for Rhoda (Wishing for a Cowboy)