Thanks to Lisa and the Novel Approach for welcoming me for this guest post to promote my new story “Wonderland” and the holiday anthology “This Wish Tonight. My prompt?:
“Knowing you had to stay within a certain word-count, was it difficult to resist the temptation of going deeper into the details of the apocalypse as well as further detailing the world as it existed in the story? And maybe the appeal of writing a story about finding love in an “end of the world as we know it” setting?”
Let’s see. 🙂
To the first point – I figured out a long time ago that when I am about to write a short story, I usually decide on the number of viewpoint characters based on story length. For stories up to 10K, I usually use just one; for up to 20k, I use two.
This isn’t a hard and fast rule, but it has helped me keep story length in check.
I actually used this the other way around for my story Between the Lines, which originally clocked in at 7.5k. Dreamspinner asked me to extend it to novella length, so I added the second character viewpoint, taking the love interest and fleshing out his part of the story.
For Wonderland, I had a max wordcount of 17k, and I knew I was going to use just about every one of them.
Some folks don’t like multiple character narratives and POV shifts. I thrive on them as a writer, hopping back and forth between them to show different parts of the story. But I do try to keep from hopping too quickly, and I NEVER hop heads in the middle of a scene without a scene break.
I also keep a close check on my word count as I go. These days I usually have a good idea where each story is going and where the midpoint is, so I write accordingly.
This story almost didn’t happen. I hadn’t planned to submit a story at all for the “This Wish Tonight” anthology – my schedule was just too jampacked. But the submission date was pushed back a bit unexpectedly, and I had a spot of time that came free about the same moment. So I set myself a word count per day and jumped in with keys blazing. 🙂
To the last question about the setting – this is actually the second post-apocalyptic story I wrote this year. The first one, “The Great North”, was written for another anthology that fell through, but it will be published on its own next year.
“Wonderland” started as an idea for a contemporary Christmas love story. But I am notoriously bad at writing contemporary, especially without some kind of magical realism twist.
So soon it was set in the future Then the zombies came and went. Not long after that, I decided to make one of the protagonists suffer with OCD because hey – I like to stretch myself as a writer. Which of course entailed oodles of research.
And finally, did I mention my guys are in their forties, like me?
It was fun to place them against an empty Earth scenario. To see what things looked like stripped down to just two people.
The story title and feel, by the way, was in part inspired by Annie Lennox’s stunning version of “Winter Wonderland.” There’s something deliciously subversive about her voice that speaks to me, and that set my mental tone for the story.
And yeah, there’s a twist. Guilty as charged. Some folks will see it coming, while others will be like “Damn!”, if my beta readers and reviewers so far are any indication.
Hope you enjoy the story – it was a thrill to write!
About the Anthology
Warmth, family, good cheer? Not everyone associates these things with the winter holidays. For some, it’s a time of longing and reflection. Mischief Corner Books invites authors to create stories set during the holiday season and centered on the fulfillment of a wish or desire.
Eve of the Great Frost by Wendy Rathbone
Remi has prepared for over a year to be the king’s gift at the annual celebration of the Eve of the Great Frost on the planet Niobe. Twelve men, taught under the tutelage of the Pleasure Master, hope to be the one (or one of several) chosen to spend an erotic night with the mysterious alien king who always wears a mask. But when Remi’s turn comes to be presented to His Majesty, everything goes wrong from a costume malfunction to breaking protocol. What happens next is a shock, and a night he will never forget.
Wonderland by J. Scott Coatsworth
Zeke is a loner his late forties, living in a small cabin in rural Montana. Nathan has been traveling across country on foot since the zombie apocalypse, dealing with his OCD in an empty world.
Zeke just wants someone to love. Nathan just wants to be home again.
Fate brings them together in a winter wonderland, but their own fears and baggage may tear them apart.
Is there still hope for love at Christmas, at the end of the world?
Fear of Fire by Gregory L. Norris
Glass Artist Lucius Price works desperately to create a holiday symbol intended to help the town of Villatopia heal from a rash of unsolved hate crimes against gay men. When he is targeted next and his studio set ablaze, handsome firefighter Oscar Ramos rescues Lucius from the flames, creating a different kind of fire during an unforgettable Christmas.
About J. Scott Coatsworth
Scott has been writing since elementary school, when he won a University of Arizona writing contest in 4th grade for his first sci fi story (with crayon illustrations!). He finished his first novel in his mid twenties, but after seeing it rejected by ten publishers, he gave up on writing for a while.
Over the ensuing years, he came back to it periodically, but it never stuck. Then one day, he was complaining to Mark, his husband, early last year about how he had been derailed yet again by the death of a family member, and Mark said to him “the only one stopping you from writing is you.”
Since then, Scott has gone back to writing in a big way, finishing more than a dozen short stories – some new, some that he had started years before – and seeing his first sale. He’s embarking on a new trilogy, and also runs the Queer Sci Fi site, a support group for writers of gay sci fi, fantasy, and supernatural fiction.