“The short story challenge, “I heard from somewhere beside me. Two fellow writers were talking.

“Short story challenge?” I said. I’m always up for a challenge, and this sounded new, different.

“Yeah. You write a short story, at least two thousand words long, every week, for an entire year.”

The wheels in my head started to turn.

“You can totally do it. You write really fast,” one friend said (If you are reading this, you know who you are).

“I could,” I said. I drew that last word out like I was hesitating, but I really wasn’t. I was thinking about how I could do it, what set of prompts I would use that would last an entire year, and just as important to me, how I would share it with my readers.

That’s how the idea was born. Here are some more facts about the stories, and how you’ll be able to read them soon.

The Idea

Fifty-two weeks. That made me think of a deck of cards. I followed the idea further. Each card could be its own prompt. I could shuffle them—no, I could plan ahead maybe. No scratch that. Shuffle. That makes it more of a challenge, right?

Because I don’t know which card is coming next week. So I started to research things like bridge, pinochle, poker, and even go fish. What game would I use? I was going to write fifty-two short stories in a row, all the same universe, the same genre.

Then I would bundle them as I went along, into novella sized things, then a giant book at the end of the year. This fits in well with my Million Word Challenge that I’m undertaking this year. The first idea was to write fifty-two locked room type mysteries, similar to a game we played as kids. Then I read an article while doing research for something else (you never know where your next idea will come from) and I came across this:

The Solitaire Cipher

Spies use codes all the time, but there is one that is nearly unbreakable. It’s called the solitaire cipher, and you can read about it in detail here, and even create your own code if you want to. It’s a complex, six-deck shuffle algorithm that isn’t dependent on a computer or another device, just a deck of cards. Once you have gone through the complex code setting process, you take another deck of cards, manually arrange them just like the first deck, and hand it to the person you’re going to send the message to.

You never use the same shuffle to send two messages, so the code changes constantly. There are millions of possible code combinations, and although a complex computer program can break the code if you use it twice, the simple use of cards, done properly, will defeat NSA level decryption efforts.

So now if you and your friends really want to pass uncrackable notes in class, you have the tools to do so that even your smartest teacher can’t crack, unless they know the code and get their hands on one of your decks of cards. Of course, to decode it, they will need a couple of hours.

The Solitaire Organization

Take it one step further and imagine if you will (said in Rod Sterling’s voice) that there is a secret organization of some sort. Say that has to do with gambling. This organization uses the Solitaire code to communicate, but they also use playing cards as a part of their identity.

If you mess up as perhaps a customer of one of their establishments or as a member of the organization, another member of the organization might come to chat with you, collect the money you may owe, or administer some kind of sinister punishment.

That’s exactly the premise of this series of short stories. They have been fun to create so far, and I hope they’ll be fun for you to read. Here’s how it’s going to work.

You Can Read Each Short Story for Free (For a Limited Time)

Starting in February, stories will be posted on my blog here once a week and will stay there for a week. After that?

Well, after that they’ll be available for sale on Amazon and other eBook retailers. That’s just in case reading them once was not enough, or if you just want your own copy to read anytime you want. They’ll be .99 each.

Bundles and More Fun Stuff

Every once in awhile, I’ll be bundling stories in a novella format. When I have a few of those, probably around June, I’ll release them in print. There will be unique ways to win those print editions or to purchase them.

And the end of the year, there will be a HUGE print edition including all of the stories, including the exciting conclusion story, the one that ties all the other short stories together.

Once a month, I’ll send out a newsletter recapping all the different books from that month. Want to review them as they are published? You can get them for FREE in your chosen format by joining our review team, which gives you access to free copies of my backlist to review, along with things like the Capital City Murders series and more. All we ask is that if you get free books, you leave reviews whenever and wherever possible. While we can’t make you do that, we do appreciate everything you do to support authors.

Cutting the Deck and Picking a Card

Every now and then I will have a contest where the winner gets to tell me to “cut the deck” or shuffle what cards I have left. Or I will let the lucky reader pick a card from the hand I have in front of me at the moment.

The one who wins that chance will also win a cool prize, to be determined at that time. Are you ready to read and play along? Want to engage in a short story challenge of your own? Let me know by shooting me an email info [at] unboundnorthwest.com.

I look forward to what this year of stories will bring.