Backing Up to Go Forward

In August 2021, I released a double collection of short stories—Murder by Any Other Name and Black and Blue in the Lilac City. I dubbed both “509 Crime Short Stories” and created a series separate from the 509 Crime Stories.

The books included characters in the previous six books and standalone tales to provide more color to the 509 universe. Significant personalities such as Shane McAfee and Tim Chambers show for the first time.

McAfee makes an appearance in the Flip-Flop Detective series. Both McAfee and Chambers star in yet announced 509 Crime Stories book.

Other characters such as Marlene Anderson, Junior, and Tiger get their backstories examined in various tales. Those three played significant roles in The Mean Street, book six of the series. Even Sheriff Tom Jessup (from The Blind Trust) gets a starring role in a story.

I thought setting the short stories aside made the most sense—much like the 509 Crime Anthologies.

However, the more I considered that move, the more I believed I had made a mistake.


book cover

One of my favorite authors is Lawrence Block. He writes a series of novels about a hired killer named Keller. The first book, Hit Man, was a collection of short stories. The following books were full-length stories.

This motivated me to release a collection of John Cutler short stories as Cutler’s Cases and make it the fourth novel in the series. Four of the included stories were written fifteen years ago when I wrote the original drafts for the first three novels. Another short story was written this past year to set up the fifth book in the series.

Can readers enjoy the John Cutler series without reading those short stories? Yes. However, those brief tales do provide significant insight into Cutler’s relationships and his growth as a detective and a person.

Pondering Cutler’s novels brought me back to my flagship series. Cutler lives in the 509. If his short stories were part of his main series, why couldn’t the same occur with the 509 Crime Short Stories?



Readers typically move from one novel to the next in a series, and Amazon is a great help for this. They frequently remind me to check out a favorite author’s latest book.

In examining the performance of my two short story collections, they have underperformed. There are several factors for that, but one of the major contributors (I believe) is that I set them in a different series. It was a mistake to do so, but one that I could easily correct.

Therefore, I moved Murder by Any Other Name (MBAON) and Black and Blue in the Lilac City (BABITLC) to the 509 Crime Stories. They became books 7 and 8 in the series, respectively.

The Only Death That Matters is now book 9. It is still set for release on August 8th. Nothing changed in the story arc of the 509. This move will help more readers know that MBAON and BABITLC exist.

The naming conventions are different for the short story collections. I decided to leave the titles as they are. It’s a way to contrast them from the other books. The MBAON/BABITLC ebooks and the paperback will remain priced lower than the other books in the series. Once again, it’s a way to differentiate them.

My overriding thought was this: a full-length novel, a 20,000-word novella, or a 2,500-word tale are all stories.

And if they take place in my flagship universe, then they should fall under the umbrella of the 509 Crime Stories.

What do you think? Do you read short stories?
Are you more likely to read the short story collections
if they are part of the central universe?

Back to blog

Leave a comment