In all the years--more than 20--of my turning out mystery novels, I remained adamant that I couldn't write short stories. It was simply too tough to tell a tale in a few thousand words, or so I persuaded myself. Then along came my publisher, Echelon Press's redoubtable Karen Syed, who suggested I contribute a short story to an anthology she was planning. "But, I can't do short stories!" I protested. "Oh, is that so?" she responded calmly, dropping the subject.
She had got me thinking, though. To humor her--and myself--I tried a shortie, and I found that I really could weave a story in 5,000 words or so. The upshot was that I contributed a short story, "A Blaze in the Night," featuring my series character Steve "Snap" Malek, to a pro bono anthology of stories on fire. Titled "The Heat of the Moment" (Echelon, 2008), the anthology sends all its proceeds to the Fire Safe Council of San Diego County to help with the rescue work that organization did to aid victims of the San Diego area wildfires of 2007. None of the writers were paid.
Then Karen had another idea. Another pro bono anthology of stories about missing persons, with the proceeds going to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Once again I contributed a Malek-centered story, "A Phone Call from Rockford," to the 2009 Echelon book, titled "Missing." A dozen of us who wrote stories had the pleasure of signing copies of "Missing" at the recent "Love Is Murder" mystery conference in Wheeling, Ill., near Chicago. I leave it to others to decide the quality of my short stories, but I must say that I had a lot of fun doing them. Just don't tell Karen Syed, or she may ask me to write pro bono novels!