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[writing] Closing in on “Rock of Ages”

This story keeps getting longer. My original estimate of 14,000 words has been blown wide open, given that I’m at 20,200 now, and probably going land somewhere between 22,000 and 24,000. That’s okay. This piece is contracted but not to tight length. With luck, I’ll finish the first draft sometime today.

A funny thing happened this writing week. Around the midpoint of the story there’s an extended scene that really bothered me when I wrote it. Something was wrong with the motivations of the secondary characters in the scene, and my protagonist essentially got away with something important in a manner which didn’t make sense either within the story’s internal narrative continuity or from an external plot-and-structure perspective. I flagged it for attention on rewrite, and even remarked upon the problem to several people.

Well, a day or two ago, while writing, five or six thousand words deeper into the manuscript, the reason for the problem in the earlier scene presented itself in a manner which also tied up some threads from the previous two METAtropolis. Everything made sense in retrospect. What had felt like a pushover at the time turned out to be a set-up, and well justified in terms of the larger story arc. Fred, my writing mind, had been way the heck ahead me of the whole time.

I love moments like that.

From a purely craft perspective, writing on chemo is always strange. My writing brain is asleep at least half the time, if not more. That means when I pick up the draft again, I’m not in the straight through flow state I often achieve when writing short fiction. It makes the project more like a novel, from a craft point of view, in that the writing process is more interrupted and acontinuous. I have to rely heavily on written notes and rereading earlier sections to make sure I’ve got the voice right, the information reveals going on in the right order, a decent amount of character continuity, and so forth. More work spread out over less time plays merry hell with my productivity.

I am sad that this is probably the last piece of fiction I’ll write before next May or June at the earliest. I may sneak in one or two much shorter stories before my brain evaporates, but I’m damned close now. And there might be a window of opportunity in January around my surgery break, depending on quickly and how well I bounce back from the chemo.

For now, I’m fairly pleased with this one.

Meanwhile, a little bit of WIP:

“Nice view, huh?” said Bibendum, his voice crackling over a dedicated suit-to-suit channel as he towed the both of them through empty space with a little powered sled to which the suits were closely tethered.

“You’re orbit-born, aren’t you?” Bashar asked, confirming an earlier thought. How had he gone all his life without ever seeing this view in person?

The kid replied in a disgusted tone. “You think they’d bother to lift someone like me out of the gravity well?”

“Is everyone up here like you?”

“No.” Then reluctantly: “I have Yonami syndrome. It’s a genetic disorder that’s unrelated to being conceived or gestated in orbit. One or more of my grandparents got into some pretty toxic stuff. I also have friable bones, from growing up here. I can never go down the gravity well. Not if I want to keep on living.” That sounded like a rehearsed speech.

Bashar could almost feel sorry for the kid. At least, he would have if Bibendum weren’t neck deep in trying to murder a million people on Bashar’s own home turf.

[writing] Pleasing progress on several fronts

An unexpected foreign rights check in the mail this week, as well as an expected-but-no-idea-when contract and a hoped-for-but-unexpected contract. This business is so weird. I made more writing money in three days than I’ve made in months. In order, Mainspring earned out in Germany in its first reporting period (or first year, I’m actually not completely clear on this) and paid a decent royalty besides, I got the METAtropolis: Green Space contract, and the Green novelette I just wrote, “A Stranger Comes to Kalimpura”, was accepted. I’ll formally announce the market for that acceptance when the editor blesses me to do so.

Pleased writer is pleased.

Speaking of METAtropolis: Green Space, yesterday I wrote 2,800 more words on “Rock of Ages” yesterday, to 14,000 words. I’d originally estimated this at 15-18,000 words, but the shape of the plot is heading more to 20-24,000 words. It’s unusual for me to be this uncertain of length, but some of my best work has come out this way, so I’m not going to complain.

I’m glad to have been writing. Chemo will shut me down today, and I won’t write again for at least a week, maybe longer. I really hope to finish this novella in my next cycle, because I’m not too far from the long-term dissolution of my writing brain as a chemo side effect. Once that grinds to a halt, based on prior experience, I won’t lay down new wordage until May or June of next year.

Some WIP:

He wound up seated – with a strap to keep him there against microgravity – in a semicircle of chairs facing a large virteo monitor in a small and otherwise featureless room. The woman who’d met him was there, along with a hard-bitten, whipcord thin Asian man who could almost have been Bashar’s age, and a much younger and doughier man with pink eyes and brittle hair who seemed to be suffering from a metabolic disorder.

“I’m Cherie,” said his host. “That’s Lu,” she pointed at the Asian man, “and Bibendum.”

“I’m Credence,” Bashar said. It was the name he’d used to get into Schaadt’s Shack, and thus – at least in a sense – was a verifiable identity. These people might be strangely naïve about physical security, but he’d bet every Euro he’d ever had that they were at the razor’s edge on data security.

“Where’s Feeney?”

“Dead.” His voice freighted with the conviction of a truly bald-faced lie, Bashar went on. “Killed in a dope grower’s cross-fire two days ago. I knew he had the meet up at Schaadt’s Shack, and so I went to keep it.”

“Hmm.” She glanced at Lu and Bibendum, then back at Bashar. “You got the maps?”

“Depends. Which maps do you need?”

“We can handle the blast distribution and hydrological calculations. We need the locations.”

[books|writing] The Sekrit Project Uncloaks: METAtroplis 3: Green Space

Now it can be told. is acquiring a third volume in the Hugo Award nominated and Audie Award winning series of original audiobook fiction, METAtropolis. The new volume, METAtropolis: Green Space, is mostly set in around the turn 22nd century and explores the long term consequences of the issues and trends raised in the first two books. This new audiobook will be edited by me and Ken Scholes, and include series alumni Elizabeth Bear, Tobias Buckell, Mary Robinette Kowal and Karl Schroeder, as well as adding Seanan McGuire. Ken and I will also have stories in the new book.

The first volume, 2009’s METAtropolis was edited by John Scalzi. 2010’s METAtropolis: Cascadia was edited by Jay Lake.

And for my own part, here’s a little bit of WIP from the initial draft of my piece.

Turning around, Bashar set the lettermail opener back down on the assistant’s desk. He smiled again, ignoring the panicked reek of sweat and urine. Exasperation was long gone from the twit’s face. “My apologies, son. I didn’t get the memo about which way the wind is blowing.” He gave the assistant a sharp nod. “Let me know if you need the name of a good dry cleaner.”

The security squad let him walk out of the office uncontested. Bashar was pretty sure this was against the new orders. He’d take his courtesies where he found them, however. His accesses hadn’t been shut off yet, because he passed through two staffed checkpoints and three automated ones without further challenge.

Bashar didn’t start breathing easily again until he was outside under an overcast Seattle sky. As easily as he ever breathed these days. His skin warmed quickly even with the cloud cover – the UV filter tattoos covering most of his body were doing their work, converting waste energy to radiant heat, much of which was being trapped by the thermal battery fibers in his clothing. Who needed an ozone layer when you had tattoo guns and micron-scale engineering embedded in your transparent ink?

[writing] “Spendthrift”

A few days ago, I finished the first draft (plus one light revision) of “Spendthrift” at 5,200 words. We’ll see how it goes with my first readers, and then with the requesting market. I kind of like it.

Meanwhile, some WIP: (more…)

[writing] Making with the write-y bits

Over the last two days, I’ve knocked out 2,300 words of a requested steampunk short story. It involves airships, so I’m trying to do something a little different. I mean, airships are to steampunk as lost heirs are to high fantasy. So, come on, do something new, right?

I’ve spent most of June either noodling around on book proposals and other miscellanea, or taking time off. In fact, I have a book proposal going right now for a new Sekrit Projekt which may or may not go somewhere, but it certainly won’t go anywhere at all if I don’t turn in the proposal. I’m also back to writing actual, you know, fiction, which is what this is really all about.

More to come, of course, but here’s a bit of WIP:


[writing] Chapter one of Going to Extremes is in draft

Chapter one of my sample chapters is in rough draft. This thing is raw, in several senses of the term. And it’s a real challenge to write in a nonfiction voice. I’m basically treating this like a giant blog entry. Almost conversational. This as opposed to my usual rather stylized fiction voice. Which in turn produces the odd sensation that I’m not really writing, not really working.

Interesting problem to have.

Meanwhile, a tiny bit of WIP: (more…)

[writing] Killing even more darlings

Yesterday I took a day off from Sunspin to let the book steep a bit in my writing subconscious before diving back in. (Though late in the day I did get back to it.) Instead I worked on revisions to my steampunk fairy tale novelette, “You Will Attend Until Beauty Awakens”. A combination of wise first reader feedback and my own confirming judgment have led to me delete an entire scene. Rescued from the cutting room floor, here it is for your perusal.

(Note this is first draft, the raw stuff, and because of the decision to cut it, I haven’t cleaned it up at all.)


[personal|writing] In which both progress and regress are made

Yesterday’s weather here in Omaha was beastly. The kind of weather that makes me wonder why anyone not under the supervision of a court actually remains in this place. In fact, this morning, when faced with 10 degrees, wind and ice patches on sidewalks in the predawn darkness, I gave myself a very rare bye on my morning exercise.

Day Jobbery yesterday was productive if lengthy. At home, if I get tired (and fatigue is still very much an issue), I can go sit in my easy chair for 15 minutes and read work email from there. No such option in the office, where you’re pretty much full on the entire time you’re in. It’s the little things that are wearing. Still, I’m holding up and doing well.

On the home front, [info]the_child did another high school visit yesterday. We are coming to grips with her choices for next year. And though some subjects are definitely harder than others for her, she remains diligent in her assignments, while playing hell for leather on the girls’ basketball squad. She makes me proud every day.

In my own world of assignments, I got another writing session in after work. 2,400 word in an hour on “You Will Attend Until Beauty Awakens”. Plus the plot sort of did this origami lurch and I now see what my subconscious was foreshadowing the other day. Fred, the little man inside my head, is way smarter than me. I’m sure glad he’s in there. Doubtful there will be writing today due to my work and social commitments, but there will be more tomorrow.

And a little bit of WIP… (more…)