Archive for July, 2006

7/30/06: A good weekend

Got a lot of chores done. Had a long talk with Sara from my critique group about the novella, which helped me understand that despite the logic and motivation problems, the story’s emotional core is in good shape and the problems are surmountable. Worked out a checklist of changes to make and began picking away at the edits. For breakfast this morning: blackberry pancakes. For dinner tonight: Chicken, Charred Tomato, and Broccoli Salad.

Life is good.

7/26/06: Canes of evil

When I got home from work today, the first step in making dinner was to take out the compost. As I headed out to the compost bin I noticed three spectacular blackberry canes looping over the back fence, like the Martian’s fingers in the commercials for the War of the Worlds TV show from a few years back. I wanted to go out and hack at them right then, but Kate restrained me for the sake of getting dinner on the table. It was a good thing she did. When I got out back, limb-loppers in hand, I found that the three big canes (the largest of which rose about ten feet high and was thicker than my thumb) were only the vanguard of a massive invasion force, thorny and heavy with fruit. I whacked at them for about forty-five minutes, and would probably have been completely overwhelmed except that our neighbors (the best neighbors in the entire universe) came by just then. Pat, who’s much taller than I, was just barely able to cut the tallest cane with the loppers at their longest extension, while Michelle and five-year-old Rowan gamely helped denude the invading canes of their evil (and delicious) seed-bearing fruit. While I cut up the canes and gingerly transferred them to the yard debris bin, the neighbors picked about five pints of berries and left one of them for us. I’m more than happy with the deal. They’ll be back for more berries in a couple of days. Writing news: Four of my stories received Honorable Mentions in Gardner Dozois’ Year’s Best Science Fiction: “A Book is a Journey,” “Circle of Compassion,” “The Ecology of Faerie,” and “Tk’Tk’Tk.” Which is, um, everything I published in 2005 except for “The Curse of Beazoel.” I’m going to go edit the novella some more now. Blackberries and yogurt await for dessert.

7/25/06: Pounding head against wall

Yesterday was a good writing day. I got my subscription copy of the September 2006 Asimov’s, including my story “Primates.” My name’s on the cover! Also, the issue has already been reviewed in Tangent Online, and I couldn’t ask for a better review: “Levine cleverly weaves a sense of humanity and empathy into the pages… [a] must-read.”

But when I finished up my evening chores, I found that the actual writing itself (I am editing the novella) was like pulling teeth. Even figuring out how to approach the task of writing down what I wanted to do in this editing pass was too much to contemplate. I gave myself a star for the day for sitting down and trying, but I think my total wordcount delta was about 3.

Today was better, but still nasty. The comments were fair, and consistent, but the problems they point out are deep-seated and difficult to resolve. I’m going to have to either change one of the main character’s most fundamental personality traits, or find a way to explain how he could wind up where he is despite it. And the other characters’ reaction to him makes them all unsympathetic. Not to mention some smaller, but still significant, problems of motivation and unexplained (in)action. If it weren’t that these comments were accompanied by statements like “some of the strongest work we’ve seen from you” I’d be despairing. As it is I just see it as a craft challenge. A big craft challenge.

After all this, I sure as heck hope it sells.

7/21/06: Back in the saddle

Finally broke my nearly-month-long non-writing streak yesterday; I’m incorporating comments on the New Orleans story from my alpha readers, preparatory to sending it to my critique group. After I send that off I’ll work on editing the novella.

In other writing news, I got another rejection, this one from F&SF for the twice-rewritten Jupiter story. Gordon appreciated the effort I’d put in but he still isn’t connecting with the story, alas. Asimov’s is next on the list for that one, but I just sent another story there. Must ponder whether to send it elsewhere or hold onto it until Asimov’s opens up.

Also, my robot servants found a brief review of “I Hold My Father’s Paws” in a Portugese blog. Google’s translation: “In this story of David Levine, the irrigation ditch between father and son is closed through one bizarra mesclagem of biotechnology with the desire so human being to be free of all the concerns.” My thoughts exactly.

Tonight we saw Hedwig and the Angry Inch, with local phenomenon Wade McCollum in the title role. The plot didn’t exactly hang together — in fact, I’m not really sure what happened at the end — but McCollum was amazing. I can’t imagine anyone else pulling off the vocal, physical, and emotional demands of that role. The next time he appears in anything, we’ll be there.

7/16/06: Back from Seattle

Just back from a quick trip to Seattle, where we enjoyed the hospitality of Hal and Ulrika O’Brien (and their very enthusiastic dog Sarah and cat Tinka) and attended not just one, but two Clarion parties: one at the home of Kate Schaefer and Glenn Hackney and the other at the home of author Greg Bear. The second, a Clarion tradition was an unexpected bonus, where we were treated to a delicious dinner and the sights of the Bears’ lakefront home as well as fine company including authors Terry Brooks and Kathleen Alcala. Other people we conversed with at one party or the other included Nalo Hopkinson (this week’s Clarion instructor), Mark & Elizabeth Bourne, Dave Howell, Luke & Julie McGuff, Jane Hawkins, Jerry Kaufman & Suzle Tompkins, Nevenah Smith, Anita Rowland & Jack Bell, Mary Kay & Jordin Kare, Nisi Shawl, Cyn Ward, Vonda McIntyre, Eileen Gunn & John Berry, L. Timmel Duchamp, Andy Hooper & Carrie Root, Marci Malinowycz, Margaret Organ-Kean, and many others.

In addition to the parties, we joined in a delightful dim sum expedition at Jade Garden (where they had spoo!!) and visited a couple of yarn shops and the U. District Farmers’ Market (where we acquired a couple of different apple ciders and several cans of locally-caught tuna). On the way to the Bears’ we picked up a baker’s dozen donuts at Top Pot, home of some of the finest donuts on the planet, where I also got an Ovaltine latte (?!).

This morning started with a delicious breakfast with our hosts at the Brown Bag Cafe in Redmond (where a single plate from the “light” portion of the menu provided brunch for both of us, with enough left over for dinner for both of us) followed by a side trip to the Museum of Glass in Tacoma. The most interesting bit of the museum was “Jane’s Hot Shop”, where a team of glass artists were at work on a life-sized skeleton in black glass; another intriguing exhibit featured glass dresses, cast (indirectly) from life. Much of the rest was, unfortunately, disturbing and macabre. Tacoma itself was also a mixed bag, combining dramatic architecture and natural views with charmless industrial areas.

Once returned home, we put some of the tuna together with new potatoes and lettuces from our weekly basket-o-vegies to make a nice Salad Nicoise, then I put the three stories rejected last week back in the mail (go me) as well as doing some other writing-related paperwork. And now, to bed.

7/13/06: Triple whammy

Well, after a long dry spell of no responses at all, I got three rejections in the mail today. Looks like Friday the 13th came on a Thursday this month.

To take a bit of the sting out, yesterday I received an email from someone with a slashed L in his name, offering to buy translation rights to “Tk’Tk’Tk” for Nowa Fantastyka, a respected Polish SF magazine. They also wanted electronic copies of two other stories for further consideration. Not too shabby.

Also, the Asimov’s rejection came with an invitation to autograph for an hour at their dealer’s table at the Worldcon. I’m pleased, and I’ll do it, though I doubt many people want my autograph.

I have written nothing in almost three weeks, and this doesn’t seem likely to change in the next few days. I finished up one story right before leaving for Anaheim, and the next thing on the plate was revisions on another story. Which, because my revision process involves spreading papers out around my writing chair, was exceedingly difficult to do on the plane. Then… well, I should stop even pretending I’m going to try to get any writing done at conventions. And when I got home I found I’d brought back a mild but exceptionally annoying cold, which I am only now getting over, and there was a pile of chores to do (about some of which, perhaps, more later) with what little energy I had left.

Tomorrow we’re heading to Seattle, to attend the Clarion party at the home of Kate and Glenn. We’ll be staying with Hal and Ulrika on Friday and possibly Saturday night, and would welcome an opportunity to get together with Seattleites while we’re there.

After I return I’ll put those three stories back in the mail and start in on the editing.

7/9/06: Have not dropped off face of earth, honest

Back from Los Angeles. Came home with a mild summer cold that is surprisingly persistent and enervating. Trip report coming eventually. No writing in over a week. Bad me. One piece of writing news: My Aeon Award shortlisted story “I Hold My Father’s Paws” can now be read online, for free, at Infinity Plus: Enjoy.