Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Longest Yard

Well, here I am, test driving software.

"But wait," I hear you say, "isn't this... for, like, novel writing?"


"But... you don't write novels..."


"Novellas? Novelettes?"

Nope. Not them either.

In fact, 6 of my pro-rate published stories add up to 5000 words total. Which is not quite a novelette.

So... why Marshall Plan?

Well, you see, I wrote this discombobulated mess that is now up to 11000 words. I entered it in a contest in which many of my writer friends participated. I won't name them, but you know who they are - because they are fine, brilliant writers, all of them.

The discombobulated mess came  in second, of I think 16 or 20 or so.

Now, the fine, brilliant writers who competed are also the fine, brilliant judges who thought it deserved second place; but there was no way I was going to send the story out as-was. And recombobulation does not seem to be a writing skill I have so far developed.

Enter the Marshall Plan.

You know the mess of laundry on top of the dryer in your laundry room? The one that's been washed but not put away? The Marshall Plan is exactly like a wall unit wardrobe with drawers, hangers, presses and organizers, each labelled for the exact type of laundry that goes in it. It's a very nice wardrobe, with capacity to spare and clear, unambiguous labels. I've put away some of the laundry, and there is far less discombobulation. In fact, the empty drawers have already suggested what contents I need to create to fill them.

Preliminary grade: two thumbs up. It has already produced scenes I would not have written without it.

More to follow.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

How much is that zombie in the window?

This one is $3.99, available February 1, 2013. I'm in it, but you should buy it anyway.

The story I wrote for this issue is called "Last Man Standing," and it's a departure for me in many ways. First of all, I don't write zombies. They are far from my favorite trope; there's only so much they can do in terms of character development or witty repartee, and every time I try for a detailed physical description I get a flashback to the month I spent doing an elective with Connecticut State Chief Medical Examiner's office, and have to stop.

Excuse me. Be right back.

OK, I'm fine.

I also wrote it in dialect, which I don't usually do. I've written in accent (which is pretty easy; just use the word order of the character's primary language, and mess up the definite and indefinite articles in a way consistent with it - or dispense with them entirely if the accent is Russian.) I did that in "Durak," and it seems to have worked well enough. But the trap in dialect writing is to avoid stereotyping. James Herriott did an amazing job of making all his Yorkshire farmers sound like Yorkshire farmers while remaining distinctly different people; Albert E. Cowdrey still does the same for all his denizens of New Orleans in stories that brighten nearly every issue of F&SF. But what do I know? I speak fluent Brooklynese, and I used that in "Hither and Yon" but that's the end of my direct experience. So I took a chance. I wrote a story in a vaguely southern dialect, gave it a back-woods setting, and I sent it to an editor who lists her birthplace as Tennessee.

What was I thinking?

I was thinking she's a great editor. I was thinking that if I got it right she'd know, and if I didn't she'd know, too.

I was also thinking I'd love to be a part of this magazine which manages to be both different and good - and if it does a zombie issue, there won't be good old-fashioned brainivorous zombies shambling through it on their way to a shotgun wedding.

Which is fine, since my zombies definitely aren't.

Seriously, I hope you buy this issue (or have a subscription already) and I hope you like what's in it. It's an adventure, because: