Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Loving it Short & Sweet with @NathanBurgoine

Given that May is short story month, it seems like a good time to talk about the shorter side of fiction.

Oh, who am I kidding? I've been waiting for May for just this reason.

To be honest, if you've ever talked writing or reading anywhere near me, you've likely heard me wax poetic about short fiction. But if you haven't? Let me be clear: I love short fiction. I love writing it, I love reading it, and I love how short fiction can open doors for new authors from both sides of the equation: giving first-time authors a shot at getting published through a call for submissions, and giving readers an opportunity to bump into a new-to-them author when they're reading an anthology.

That was my path, and the path of so many of my author friends. My first short fiction piece was "Heart," in an anthology called Fool for Love: New Gay Fiction edited by R.D. Cochrane and Timothy J. Lambert. In fact, there were quite a few people in that anthology who were getting published for the first time, and I've happily been following them ever since.

Not in a stalker way. In a reader way. Though to be fair, I did also get to meet most of them.

Now, for all my love of the forms of short fiction (be they short stories, novellas, or novelettes), I do know I'm not exactly in the majority. Quite a few readers are pretty vocal about not enjoying short fiction, and that's fine: we're allowed to enjoy different things. Heck, as lovers of romance, we sure know people get down on the genre as a whole, no?

I can't help but wonder, though, how often dismissal of the shorter forms of writing is done out of a lack of good experience. Or, put another way, how much of it should we blame on high school?

I know, I know, high school gets a bad rap. In the interest of being just as clear about how I feel about high school, let me be blunt: it was awful and you couldn't pay me enough to ever do that again. And even I, a lover of short fiction, pretty much disliked every short story we were forced to read for English class.

Like, a whole short story about teaching a dog not to be gun-shy when duck hunting? Who in their right mind decided that was something a group of sixteen year olds would find enthralling? For every "The Lady or the Tiger," (that one had the whole class chatting) there were a half-dozen stories that, in the hands of teenage readers, felt like the equivalent of watching paint dry.

So is it any wonder short fiction makes so many adults stop and shudder and recall chalk dust and classrooms and staring at a clock and hoping the minute hand will go faster?

In romance especially, the short story (and the novella) are, to me, the sweet dessert when I'm peckish. I can dive into a short story while I'm waiting for my turn with the doctor, or while I'm at a coffee shop on Sunday mornings with my husband, and get a full narrative. That little jolt of happiness is perfect alongside my hot chocolate or my tea, and leaves me smiling for the rest of my day.

During times when my time is crunched, it means I can keep reading. Back when I worked retail at Christmas, this was huge: I would almost stop reading entirely in November, and not start again until January. I'd sometimes re-read things I'd enjoyed, because I was too tired for the mental challenge of a new narrative. But once I'd discovered novellas and short stories? It was magic. In fact, the holiday novella is a huge thing, and I made it through retail Christmas after retail Christmas with tales like Eli Easton's Blame it on the Mistletoe, Anthony Cardno's The FirFlake, Brandon Witt's Teddy Bears, and Z.A. Maxfield's I Heard Him Exclaim.

Even better? I can finish the whole tale and not feel guilty if the to-do list is a kilometre long. Unlike "just one more chapter," the whole thing is likely the length of a chapter. So I read a story, smile, and get the laundry done. If I'm reading in bed, the end of a story makes a perfect lights-out moment, rather than realizing it's now three in the morning and I've got one chapter left on this novel but I need to be up in three more hours.

I mean, I still do that. But with an anthology, at least I can avoid it sometimes.

Although, sometimes this happens.
For me, one of the best things about the e-revolution in the publishing world has been the revival of the novella and short story. E-formats make novellas and short fiction portable (my Kobo is packed to the brim with short stories, anthologies, and novellas). Publishing a novella was a hard sell in the days of paper, as the costs of crafting the book, and the expectations of return on investment were pretty low from the point of view of the publisher. And I won't lie: it's not magically better now. Short story anthologies will likely never be on the same footing as the novella, and certainly they don't perform as well.

But man am I glad they exist. I wouldn't be anywhere without them. And I wouldn't have "met" so many amazing authors if I hadn't bumped into some of their short stories first. There are even novella series that function as shared worlds that invite you in to a familiar surrounding and let a new author give you a story with every instalment, like Kayleigh Malcolm's Craving His Love. The Black Hills Wolves series has over sixty novellas! Werewolf love at your fingertips, and what better way to try out a new author than with a genre you already know you love?

Okay. I'm going on and on about short fiction, and I'll stop after one more thing: side characters. This is another thing about short fiction where I often jump up and down and get really excited. You know how you read a great romance, and there's the best friend to the heroine and you just wish you could hear their story? Again, enter the novella or short story! After loving Heart Block, by Melissa Brayden, I loved one of the supporting cast, Lucy. And lo! Lucy got her own love story in the novella, Firework. This happens more often than you'd think, and is so much fun to track down.

So. Short story month. What about you? What was the last short story you read that you loved? Have you discovered an author through an anthology? What about novellas? Shared world series? Please let me know, as I'm always looking for more.


Speaking of short romance, my short story "Range of Motion," appears in Men in Love: M/M Romance from Bold Strokes Books. "Range of Motion" is about a personal trainer who can't keep his eyes off a particular client who comes in fairly regularly to run on the treadmill who realizes he might have missed his chance when the client stops showing. But when he does come back, weeks later, it's obvious something has happened, and the easy going smile is gone. He decides he'd like to put it back.

Spring approaches with the promise of new beginnings, fresh adventures, and the thrill of romance rekindled or discovered. Hot, sexy guys abound—meeting on the ball fields or the boardroom, at the theater or the classroom—falling in love and lust for the first time or celebrating a lifetime. Come join the rites of spring and indulge yourself in the passion and pleasures of our luscious men in love. Stories from some of today’s popular m/m romance authors explore the many faces of men in love: gay for you, seductions, weddings and more.


  1. Love the novella! Writing one convinced me I might actually be able to write a full-length novel. So I wrote three and now I'm back to the novella format. Love short stories too. Actually the last one I read was one of my own, Apartment 1209, to compare it to the novella I just finished writing, The Loft - Book Two. I'm editing the latter and wanted to examine the pacing and style of the previous. It's nice to be able to write a complete story in a couple of months, rather than the six months or more it takes me to write a full novel. Cheers for the literary short! xoxo

    1. That's another bonus I should have mentioned: novella writing can *fit* into a busy life.