Archive for April, 2006

4/23/06: Another one in the mail, and other stories

Last weekend some people went to Norwescon, some to Minicon, some to Eastercon. We went to Sacramento for my uncle Ben’s memorial gathering. Ben had a big family — six kids, most with spouses and kids of their own — and many friends, so that there were nearly a hundred people in attendance. It was an occasion with more laughter than tears, and I got in some good conversations with my parents and cousins (special shout-out to my cousin Adam Levine of Not to mention some very good food. Our hotel had a noisy disco, but on the second night they moved us to a different room with a view of the lake, which offered a pair of geese with fuzzy little goslings and, as a special bonus, flittering bats. (Bats = good.)

Since then I’ve mostly been revising. I got a reply back from Gordon Van Gelder about my rewrite of “Titanium Mike,” and he liked the new fifth scene I’d written in which I put Mike on stage. So I revised the story one last time, to integrate the new scene and punch up the ending, and sent it in. I think this is the final version.

I also finished revising the Jupiter story — now titled “The True Story of Merganther’s Run” because “Merganther’s Drive” suggested a stardrive to some readers — and put it in the mail to Analog. (Okay, technically it’s still sitting on the sofa. But it’s in the envelope and will go in the mail first thing tomorrow morning.) It took me almost two full weeks to revise it, because I spent only half an hour or so per evening on it. I think I needed a break after completing my novella.

Speaking of the novella, I got it critiqued yesterday. The crit stung quite a bit, because I was pretty emotionally involved with the story and the comments, harsh though some of them were, were generally on target. But one critter pointed out that it wouldn’t have gotten such intense crits if it hadn’t touched a nerve in the readers. This story has considerable potential if I can just smooth out the rough bits. Also, it does seem to be the right length for the material, and I’ve identified four pro and five semi-pro markets that will take stories of this length. I’m going to take a little time away from it before attempting to revise it.

Also this weekend I had coffee with Jay Lake, visited the Portland Farmers’ Market (where we acquired lovely tomatoes and basil for a tomato-bread salad, plus a small container of ladybugs for the garden), and attended a bit of Wordstock, Portland’s annual “festival of the book.” We only went to one reading and barely bought anything at the book fair, but it was still nice to be in a space with thousands of people all of whom cared about words.

What next? First, I’m going to revise at least one of my older stories and either get it critiqued or put it right in the mail. Then I’m going to start in on a new story. It will be a fantasy, it will be set in the present or the past, and it will be short.

4/11/06: Endings are hard

Spent the last two writing days revising “Titanium Mike” according to comments received from Gordon Van Gelder (he’s already paid for it, but he had some line edits and suggestions), including writing a complete new scene at the end in which the legendary Titanium Mike actually appears on stage. But then, at the last minute, I pulled the scene out again because it changed the whole flavor of the story to have Mike be a character. I included the scene in my cover letter so that Gordon can tell me if it’s a better ending, because I am a waffler nonpareil.

Also, tonight I was interviewed by a high-school student (child of a friend) for a science fiction class he’s taking. All kinds of questions about “what’s the first book you remember reading” and “what was the most memorable thing that happened while you were trying to sell a story.” I feel so professional.

At work I have been learning Photoshop. Now I find myself looking at book covers and seeing the masks and layers that might have been used to produce them.

I’ve been meaning to mention what we’ve been having for dinner, because we’ve been cooking and eating very well lately. Käseschnitzel with gnocchi and red cabbage; sloppy joes (entirely improvised, and they turned out great); tandoori chicken with Gujerati cabbage. I like cooking with Kate, and the new kitchen is still wonderful over a year later. She also fixed me chocolate pudding, in a shallow dish so it would have plenty of the yummy skin on top, but, alas, it failed to set properly. Will have to try again soon.

Very tired. To bed now. Tomorrow: revisions on the Jupiter story.

4/9/06: And it’s off

Word count: 20919 | Since last entry: -52

A relaxed but fairly productive weekend. Got a bunch of mundane chores done, watched Neverwhere, looked over the galley proofs of “Primates” for Asimov’s, and did a quick editing pass over the novella and sent it to my critique group. I didn’t make a lot of changes (other than changing several names); I’m still very very close to it. Which is why we do critique. Amazingly, despite the thing’s length I have a long list of additional stuff I wanted to get in but couldn’t find a place to do it. Maybe this thing does want to be a novel.

Also, I just got word that UK webzine Infinity Plus has accepted “I Hold My Father’s Paws”, and it should be available online in about June. If you can’t wait until then or you’d rather have it on paper, you can order a copy of Issue 31 of Albedo One.

4/6/06: All over including the shouting

Word count: 20971 | Since last entry: 573

First draft’s done. (Throws confetti.) Almost twenty-one thousand words — that’s three or four normal short stories. The next one will be shorter, I swear.

A snippet:

“Peri and I leaned on each other, watching her go. ‘We’d better haul in that parasail before it blows away,’ Peri said to me after a while. ‘Start setting it up as a tent.’ Her arm was warm across my shoulders. I’d forgotten how much taller she was than me.

“‘In a minute,’ I said. ‘I’m enjoying the view.’

“We stood side by side, watching the sun rise over our new home.”

The panel tonight at the Mt. Hood Community College library with Jay Lake, M.K. Hobson, Ken Scholes, Doug Lain, Josh English, David Goldman, and Damian Kilby went off well. We were very nearly outnumbered by the audience, who listened attentively and asked perceptive questions despite being mostly non-genre readers. I did too much of the talking, as usual. If you’ve been following Jay’s LJ you’ve gotten a good taste of the kinds of things we talked about.

One of the questions was about the difference between writing novels and short stories. As it happens, I just wrote a couple of paragraphs on that very subject for the Clarion alumni newsletter, which I quoted, and I include them here in hopes you will find them worthwhile.

For me, writing short stories is like building intricate little puzzle boxes. I can put them together out of little scraps of whatever wood I happen to have lying around, and if a piece doesn’t fit I can take the time to file or carve or sand it until it’s right. It doesn’t require a detailed plan, just a general idea of what I want it to turn out like. And if it doesn’t work — if the chisel slips or the wood has an unexpected knot, or I think it’s fine but no one wants to buy it — I can sigh and set it aside and move on to the next.

Writing a novel is more like building a house. It takes months or years. You don’t have to have a detailed plan when you start, but if you don’t, you must be aware that you may find yourself having to rip out the foundation and re-do it before you can move in. Whether or not you have a plan, you’ll have to order large quantities of wood and nails and glue and paint — probably more than you will be able to use (but, with luck, you can use some of the leftover bits to make puzzle boxes). It’s so big that you can’t possibly get all the little fiddly bits perfect, so you shouldn’t even try, but there is plenty of cabinetry and finish work where you can show off your craftsmanship skills. But if it doesn’t work — and there are a million ways it can fail, many more than for a little puzzle box — you’ve wasted a year of your life and you’re stuck with this enormous eyesore that no one wants. Even if it does work, after you’ve moved in you’ll constantly be hitting your head on the doorway that’s too low or catching your clothing on a railing that needed more sanding. Either way, you’ll vow that either you’re never going to do this again or that you’ll get it right the next time. Maybe both.

4/4/06: Confirmation that I exist

Word count: 20398 | Since last entry: 334

Received in the mail today: a copy of issue 31 of Albedo One, containing my Aeon-Award shortlisted story “I Hold My Father’s Paws.” They very kindly put my name first on the cover, although one of the other stories in the same issue was the one that won the award. I suspect I have editor Roelof Goudriaan, a friend from way back, to thank for this. You can order your own copy here:

Also, my Hugo-nominated story “Tk’tk’tk” is now available for all to read, for free, in its entirety, on the Asimov’s web site:

Aaaand… I’m almost done with the first draft of the novella. One or two more nights of writing should do it.

A snippet: “Supporting each other, we shuffled to the airlock — the one that had been Epsilon sys lock before we’d torched it off and joined it to the growing assemblage of the crew lander. There we found, to our surprise, that we were already breathing Bianchon’s atmosphere. The crude welded seam joining the lock to the hull had parted from the stress of the landing.”

4/2/06: All over but the shouting

Word count: 20064 | Since last entry: 1432

Had a haircut today, and the person after me in the chair also happened to be a writer, and we spent an hour talking about mother-rapin’ and father-stabbin’ and all kinds o’ groovy things. I came home all jazzed up.

I’ve really been hitting my stride, wrapping up and writing some tough scenes that have been in my mind since the beginning. This is where all the secrets come out and the new beginning begins.

A snippet:

Peri was silent for a long time. Finally she said “We have to break it to them one at a time. Bring them in on the secret only when they’re ready.”

“I’ll accept your judgement on that. But when the time comes… I want to be the one to tell Thad. He told me the truth I needed to know, even though it hurt both of us, and I feel I owe him the same.”

Just one more scene left to write, an epilogue. Then I should probably give the whole thing a thorough self-edit before sending it for critique.

Once that’s done I have galley proofs on “Primates” and line edits on “Titanium Mike” before I get back to the new stuff. “Primates” will apparently be in the September issue of Asimov’s, which isn’t all that long from now.