Archive for August, 2023

New online class 10/15! “Plot Considered as a Four-Dimensional Array of Brightly Colored Beads”

So… I had this weird idea.

A few years ago I was thinking about plot, as I often do, and realized that the “plot” of a story is not necessarily the same as the “story,” which is also different from the “narrative.” It’s kind of counterintuitive and strange, but I think it’s helped me figure out how to get my hands around complicated stories and put them onto the page. I call it “Plot Considered as a Four-Dimensional Array of Brightly Colored Beads,” and now I’ve been invited by the Speculative Literature Foundation to present an online class about it.

Here’s the class description: “This is a new theory of mine in which I consider a story as a collection of related events, each of which occurs at a point in space and time. If you picture these events as beads, you can create a plot by stringing them together in chronological order. There may be more than one plot string, but plot is always chronological, because the events of the plot are connected by cause and effect (unless you are writing a time travel story). Once you have a plot, you can snip those strings into segments and lay them out, not necessarily in chronological order, in a single line which is the narrative of the story. Thinking of story in this way can lead to some interesting insights into the relationship between the events of the story, the cause and effect relationships between them, and the order in which they appear on the page.”

If you are interested in this class, it will be presented online on Sunday October 15, 2023 from 5pm to 7:30pm CDT. You can sign up here:

It’s an Enigma!

You may recall that I posted a few weeks ago about an auction that the WGA was holding to benefit the striking writers. Well, there was an item that I totally fell in love with and I just had to buy it. And now it’s here. It’s an Enigma Machine!!

Enigma Machine prop box   Enigma Machine prop   Enigma Machine prop paper tape printer   Enigma Machine prop mechanism

Not a real Enigma Machine, of course. It is actually a prop from the TV show Bones, episode “The Corpse on the Canopy.” But it is gorgeous! Also very heavy.

It was made by propmaster Ian Scheibel

Arabella of Mars trilogy acquired by Open Road Integrated Media

I am extremely happy to announce that my Nebula-winning Arabella of Mars trilogy has been acquired by Open Road Integrated Media. New ebook and paper editions of all three books should be available around the world in early 2024.

So what does this mean, exactly? Weren’t the Arabella books already published by Tor?

Well, yes, and the answer is a bit complicated. If you don’t care about the nuts and bolts of publshing, you can stop reading right now. Otherwise, strap in for some inside baseball.

First, you need to understand what it means for a book to “go out of stock.” Once upon a time that term meant that the publisher had sold all the copies in the warehouse and didn’t intend to print any more, so that the book was no longer available for purchase anywhere except as a used or “remaindered” copy. (“Remaindered” means that the publisher sold all the copies remaining in the warehouse at a discount to someone like Half-Price Books, who then turned around and sold them cheap. Remainders are often identified by a hole punched in the cover, or a line drawn across the page edge, indicating that they were not purchased for full wholesale price and are not eligible to be returned to the publisher by the bookseller for credit.)

With a typical book contract, when a book goes out of stock, the publisher has completely discharged their responsibilities regarding the book and the right to publish the book “reverts” to the author. The author is now free to publish the book themselves, or sell publication rights to someone else. But what does “out of stock” mean in the era of ebooks and print-on-demand? Can the publisher just squat on those publication rights forever, making little or no money for the author, as long as they can still produce a single ebook or POD copy? That’s not good for the author.

To get around that, most publishing contracts include a “reversion clause” which defines under exactly what circumstances the book is considered out of stock and the right to publish the book reverts to the author. My contract, which was negotiated by the excellent legal team at my agency Janklow & Nesbit, defines “out of stock” as earning less than a certain amount per semiannual pay period for two periods in a row, at which point the author may request reversion with a letter. (That amount is in the low three figures, for me.)

Now, a friend of mine mentioned back in February that she’d gotten a rights reversion on an old book of hers, and that prompted me to look at my contract and determine what might allow me to do that, since sales of the books from Tor had fallen to a trickle. Well, as it happens, I had just received a semiannual royalty statement, and the earnings on that were under the specified amount… and so were the earnings on the previous one. So I was eligible to request a rights reversion right away. I asked my agent, Paul Lucas, to send the letter, he did so, and Tor complied quite quickly.

Once those rights reverted, Tor stopped publishing the books immediately. This means that the only copies you’ll see on Amazon are used paper copies; new books, ebooks, and audiobooks are not available at all. Sadness! But rights reversion is actually a good thing for the writer, because it means that the writer can now re-license those rights to someone else, and hopefully begin making more money. Most writers these days who get their rights back use them to self-publish the book, doing all the work and keeping most of the money. But my agent suggested that, because the Arabella books were award-winners and had done pretty well in the market (the first book earned out and then some — meaning that it earned more in royalties than the advance I’d initially been paid — but the three books considered as a package did not) I might have another option. So he offered the books to Betsy Mitchell at Open Road Integrated Media. And she took them! I signed the contract last week.

According to their website, “Open Road Media is a global ebook publisher whose catalog includes legendary authors such as Joan Didion, William Styron, Alice Walker, Dee Brown, Pat Conroy, Gloria Steinem, Octavia Butler, John Jakes, Pearl S. Buck, Walker Percy, and Sherman Alexie. Driven by the mission of bringing great literary works back to life, Open Road Media partners with premier authors of classic and contemporary works, making their content available to readers around the world.” They specialize in taking books which have fallen out of print, or did not perform as well as desired, and marketing them anew. “We research what audiences are looking for, develop quality content, and then launch that content powerfully via our content sites, email and social. It’s a coordinated, data- and search-driven approach that’s worked beautifully for our own products, and we’re delighted to apply it to yours.”

Betsy tells me that she’s planning to market the Arabella books as Young Adult. I originally wrote them as YA books, actually, and indeed the first book won the Andre Norton Nebula Award for Middle Grade and Young Adult Fiction, but they also had “crossover” appeal for adults, and Tor chose to publish them under the Tor rather than Tor Teen imprint. Also the covers by Stefan Martiniere, which I dearly love, were aimed at an adult reader. Betsy is planning an entirely new cover concept and marketing campaign, about which I am very excited.

Another very exciting aspect of the Open Road acquisition is that the books will be available outside of North America for the first time! When I sold the books to Tor we included only North American English rights in the contract, expecting that we could get more money for World English rights (the right to publish the book in English outside of North America) from someone else. But, as it happened, though we offered those rights to several publishers, no one bought them. So the Arabella books were available in the UK and Australia only as imported paper books, never as ebooks. Open Road will be marketing their editions around the world.

My contract with Open Road does not include audiobook rights, so unfortunately there are no Arabella audiobooks available now or for the forseeable future. My agent and I are working on that now.

So! Big news! I’ll share the new covers and other information with you as soon as I can. If you want to be sure to get the news right away, please subscribe to my newsletter. There will be ARC giveaways and other cool stuff, and I promise I won’t send more than a few newsletters per year.

“Damage” translated into Farsi!

I have just received word that my Nebula-nominated story “Damage,” originally published at, has been translated into Farsi (Persian) at! If you happen to read Farsi I would love it if you’d give your opinion of the translation. I think the illustration is amazing and I’m charmed by what they did to my author photo.

Damage metaphorspace page1

Damage metaphorspace author

Please note that the website does not seem to display properly on my Mac unless the window is very wide (full screen on my laptop). So if you only see the sidebar and not the beautiful illustration, try making your window wider or reducing the zoom.

Sign up for my mailing list!

I’m getting ready to fire up my mailing list for The Kuiper Belt Job. I just sent out a quickie “do you want to keep getting emails from me?” message, to give folks a chance to opt out. If you didn’t get that email, and you want to hear my writing news (and get a chance to win an ARC or other goodies), you can sign up here:

KUIPER BELT JOB preorder links

Wow, it would have been clever of me to include preorder links in yesterday’s post. 🙄 Here they are!

Powell’s (signed!): (powered by local independent booksellers):

Barnes & Noble:


Ebook and audio preorders are not yet available.


Coming November 7 from Caezik SF & Fantasy: The Kuiper Belt Job by Hugo and Nebula winner David D. Levine!

Cover Reveal 2000x1125

In a Solar System well inhabited by humanity but far from settled, a gang of grifters and thieves — the scattered survivors of a big job gone very wrong ten years ago — must reunite to break the gang’s erstwhile leader out of captivity. But after ten years, no one is who they were… and some are not what they seem.

The Kuiper Belt Job is a caper story in space, a mash-up of Firefly, Leverage, and The Expanse. It’s an ensemble piece with complex character relationships and a twisty, compelling plot, but beneath the entertaining surface it raises deep questions about identity and personhood. In a world where minds can be copied, what does it mean to be “me”?

Preorder here!

Ebook and audio preorders are not yet available.

Post op

Dental procedure is done and went well. No pain, only pressure and numbness. No driving for the rest of the day, no strenuous activity for 3 days. I’m bleary but okay.

Dentists Hate This One Weird Tooth

As you may or may not know, I have This One Weird Tooth.

This One Weird Tooth

It is, in fact, the oldest of my teeth — my first adult tooth. When it came in, the baby tooth would not come out, no matter how I wiggled it. My parents shrugged and advised patience. The adult tooth did not heed this advice; it came in behind the baby tooth that refused to vacate. The recalcitrant baby tooth was eventually pulled, but the damage had been done.

To prevent a recurrence of this undesirable situation, I had to return to the dentist for each and every loose baby tooth, so that it could be evicted with pliers. This series of unfortunate and painful events led me to a strong dislike of dentists, which meant that I didn’t see the dentist for seven years after graduating from college. Eventually my girlfriend-at-the-time convinced me to mend my ways, and I went back. It took three painful visits to scrape my teeth clean, after which I became a reformed non-dentist-goer. Ever since then I have taken meticulous care of my teeth, brushing and flossing at least once a day and visiting the dentist three times a year. My teeth and gums are in excellent shape.

Except for This One Weird Tooth. My dentists and hygienists have been impressed, indeed amazed, at how well I have been able to take care of This One Weird Tooth and its associate gums, despite the fact that it’s too tight for a brush. I have worked out some gymnastics with floss that have kept it pretty clean, and regular dentist visits have made up the difference. But just about every time my dentist would suggest that maybe I should look into doing something about it.

At my last dentist visit the suggestions ended. “I’m giving you a referral to a periodontist,” she said, and brooked no further temporization. So off to the periodontist I went, where scans were taken and an extraction-and-bone-graft was scheduled.

CAT Scan

The procedure is tomorrow. I have drugs to take, including Ativan for anxiety, Zithromax for infection, and Advil for pain. I will be on soft foods for a week or two.

I do not want to do this.

It will be okay.

Goodbye, old friend.