Blog 

“Best-Laid Plans” published at Clarkesworld

I am very pleased to report that my short story “Best-Laid Plans” has just been published at Clarkesworld!

This story started at one of the “Idea to Outline in an Hour” workshops I present at science fiction conventions and writers’ workshops. In this workshop I walk the participants through a series of fifteen questions, which I originally got from my instructor Pat Murphy at Clarion West, which I have found reliably guide me from a vague idea to something with characters, setting, and structure that I can actually begin writing.

This particular workshop was at the Foolscap convention in September 2012, and in this case I started with the two-word idea “Space Mice!” and worked through the exercise right along with the participants. I don’t always do that, but in this case I did, and the outline I wound up with struck me as perhaps worth pursuing. But I didn’t get to it right away. In fact, it remained in a folder on my hard disk for over eight years.

As you may know, my wife Kate Yule was diagnosed with brain cancer shortly after I sold my first novel, Arabella of Mars, in 2014. I managed to finish the Arabella trilogy during her illness and death, but I didn’t have much energy left over for short stories. After turning in the third and final Arabella book, I started in on a new novel… but between grief, post-trilogy syndrome, a medical crisis of my own, and a global pandemic I didn’t finish it until late 2020. It wasn’t until February 2021 that I started to consider writing short stories again.

I’d been thinking for some time that the “space mice” idea I’d worked up back in 2012 felt like something compact, self-contained, and fairly lightweight, a good candidate for getting back on the short story horse. So on February 25 I started in on writing it, and by March 14 I had a draft. I sent it off to a couple of friends for their feedback, then after a few small revisions submitted it to Clarkesworld on March 29. On April 10 it was accepted, and after a few more small revisions it was published on May 1. That’s about the fastest I have ever gone from idea to publication! I hope you enjoy it.

The ebook and podcast are also available from Amazon, iTunes, and many other places.

The Forces of Light vs. the Cardboard Dark Lord

My body is a battlefield right now, on which the Forces of Light are combating… not the Dark Lord, but a cardboard cutout of the Dark Lord based on a portrait sent by my friends at Moderna. But though the adversary is fake, the battle is real, and I’m feeling it. Fever, body aches, lethargy. It’s not that bad, though, and it will pass soon. And when it has… I will have a standing army who know and hate that guy’s face.

Flights of Foundry this weekend

I will be at the Flights of Foundry virtual convention this weekend (April 16-18, 2021)! It’s pay-what-you-will and open to all!

Look for me at the following events:

  • Writing Contest Winner Showcase (Fri 6pm PST)
  • Surviving Your Debut (Sat 7pm PST)
  • Outline in an Hour workshop [FULL] (Sat 8pm PST)
  • Author Pro-Class: Considerations for Rising and Professional-tier Creatives (Sun 9am PST)
  • David D. Levine – Reading (Sun 4:30pm PST)

David’s Index for 2020

Novel words written: 26,615
Short fiction words written: 2,193
Notes, outline, and synopsis words written: 40,380
Blog words written: 1,492
Total words written: 70,680

New stories written: 0

Short fiction submissions sent: 0
Responses received: 0
Rejections: 0
Acceptances: 1 (translation)
Other sales: 0

Short stories published: 2 (1 non-fiction, 1 translation)

Novels completed: 1
Novel submissions: 0

Collection submissions: 2
Rejections: 5
Acceptances: 0

Online writing classes taught: 7

Happy new year!

(Not Really) A NaNoWriMo Success Story

At the beginning of NaNoWriMo I started a new novel with nothing more than a one-paragraph pitch, intending to do the whole thing by the seat of my pants (I’d never “pantsed” a whole novel before). Yesterday I sent a finished draft, about 102,000 words, to my agent.

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 space opera caper novel, 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”?

Oh wait, I left out one important detail… I started work on this book at the beginning of NaNoWriMo in 2017. It actually took three years and one month to get to this point.

Let’s back up a bit. I started writing Arabella of Mars in November 2011. Finished it and submitted it to Tor in October 2013. Got a three-book deal in October 2014. (Yes, it took a full year to get an acceptance. And another six months after that to receive the contract.) Then Kate was diagnosed with brain cancer and had brain surgery in November 2014.

Somehow I managed to revise book 1 by August 2015, and draft book 2 by June 2016, all while caring for Kate. I got my revision letter for book 2 in August 2016. Revised book 2 while Kate was dying, and turned in the final draft in October 2016 — the day after the funeral. I dove right into book 3 (I could have gotten an extension from Tor but needed something to do), submitted a draft in July 2017, and turned in the final draft in October 2017 (pulling two all-nighters to get it done by deadline). And then I stalled.

(Reality check: not only had I just finished a trilogy, and now had to start an entirely new world and characters for the first time in six years, but I had just had to write book 3 in 6 months and heavily revise it in 2 weeks… because my wife died. Not to mention Trump’s election. Of course I was stalled.)

I selected an idea for my next novel from among several candidates in October 2017 and started drafting in November 2017. But I only wrote a few thousand words during NaNoWriMo 2017 and then set the book down — it just wasn’t coming together. I spent most of November-December 2017 on copy edits for Arabella book 3. I wrote a standalone novella January-March 2018, but didn’t submit it anywhere. I’m still not sure if it’s any good at all. April-July 2018 I barely wrote anything at all. August 2018 I tried to resume work on the WIP but didn’t accomplish anything other than “noodling” — brainstorming, research, character sketches, and outlining. So in September 2018 I signed up for a “write a novel in 8 weeks” workshop through Literary Arts (basically a guided half-NaNo with a target of 50k words in 8 weeks). That went really well! I wrote about 20k words… and then I had an intestinal blockage and spent 11 days in the hospital, which knocked me on my ass. I didn’t write another word until January 2019.

Feb 2019 I got back on the horse, with 13k words at the Rainforest Writers workshop for a total of 43k. Plugged away March-August 2019. Sent a 60k partial draft to some friends for critique at a writing retreat on the coast in September 2019. Got a very encouraging crit from them and wrote 5k words at the retreat for a total of 65k. Kept plugging away October 2019 – February 2020, including 13k at Rainforest, for a total of 94k. And then the pandemic hit. No writing March-August 2020.

In August of this year I started to get my feet under me again, and after a few throat-clearing exercises (what Jay Lake used to call “writing-related program activities”) I returned to the WIP in September. I think I had reached the point in the pandemic where the situation was, if not actually improving, at least not changing as frequently, and so I had energy left for things other than worrying. I wrote pretty steadily in September and finished up a 104k-word draft at the end of that month. I revised it in October and November, including changing some character names and relationships and moving one large section from one PoV to another.

They say no novel is ever finished, only abandoned, and at the end of November I realized I’d reached a point of diminishing returns on revisions, so I decided to send it to my agent for his feedback.

I don’t have a publisher yet. There will likely be another round of revisions before it’s even submitted. It may not sell. But after three years and a month, it’s complete. Yay.

CoNZealand panel “Wild Cards as Alternate History” TOMORROW

Hey CoNZealand 2020 members! I’m doing a pre-con online panel on “Wild Cards as Alternate History” with Melinda M. Snodgrass, Max Gladstone, Carrie Vaughn, and Daniel Abraham! It’s at 1pm NZT 7/18, which in the USA is TOMORROW – Friday July 17 – at 6pm PDT or 9pm EDT. Hope to see you there! https://conzealand.nz/programme-events/programme