Jay Lake: Writer

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[books|publishing] Cover Reveal for Last Plane to Heaven

Last Plane to Heaven by Jay Lake

Read all about it at tor.com.


Cover design by Peter Lutjen, image © 2014 Tor Books.

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[personal|publishing] Sometimes they write letters

Yesterday I received one of those emails that a writer gets once or twice in a lifetime. A letter that made every hour of struggle and ounce of sacrifice and year of labor in building my writing career worthwhile.

The story’s not mine to tell, as it involves someone else’s child, but suffice to say that a book I wrote opened an important door for someone who was in great need of such a door.

This is one of the most basic reasons I ever wrote. I tend to assume most writers feel the same way. That we want to reach other people.

I reached someone. I am humbled and proud.

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[publishing] METAtropolis: Greenspace nominated for an Audie

I am pleased to note that METAtropolis: Greenspace has been nominated for an Audie for best original work. That is the audiobook industry’s highest award, comparable to the Hugo or the Oscar.

This is the category that METAtropolis: Cascadia won several years ago. Edited by me and Ken Scholes, our fabulous stable of writers includes Elizabeth Bear, Mary Robinette Kowal, Seanan McGuire, Ken Scholes, Karl Schroeder and myself.

Good luck to all of us, and the other nominees.

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[publishing|repost] 2013 bibliography for award consideration

I may have missed one or two things, but here is my 2013 fiction bibliography, for your information, and by request, for award consideration. As my illness slows me down, this grows ever thinner of course. I will amend this list as needed.

Novels

Kalimpura, Tor Books, 2013 — Book three of the Green trilogy

Novellas

Hook Agonistes”, with Seanan McGuire, Subterranean Online, Fall, 2013 — A collaborative story of future human enslavement and an unlikely messiah

Love in the Time of Metal and Flesh, Prime Books — Horror or contemporary dark fantasy, depending on your perspective

“Rock of Ages”, METAtropolis: Green Space, ed. Jay Lake and Ken Scholes, Audible.com — Selected by editor Gardner Dozois for Year’s Best Science Fiction 31

Novelettes

“You Will Attend Until Beauty Awakens”, Clockwork Fairy Tales, ed. Stephen L. Antczak and James C. Bassett, ROC — A retelling of “Sleeping Beauty”

A Stranger Comes to Kalimpura”, Subterranean Online, Spring, 2013 — A Green story set long after the events of the novels

Short Stories

“King of the Kingless”, Hex in the City, ed. Kerrie L. Hughes, Fiction River — One of my Portland wizards stories

“Spendthrift”, Coins of Chaos, ed. Jennifer Brozek, EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing — WWII and zombies in New Guinea

“Monsters in the Mountains at the Edge of the World”, That Is Not Dead: Historical Lovecraft, ed. Darrell Schweitzer, PS Publishing — Romans vs Chinese vs Cthulhoid horrors in ancient Samarkand

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[publishing] 2013 Bibliography

I may have missed one or two things, but here is my 2013 fiction bibliography, for your information, and by request, for award consideration. As my illness slows me down, this grows ever thinner of course. I will amend this list as needed.

Novels

Kalimpura, Tor Books, 2013 — Book three of the Green trilogy

Novellas

Hook Agonistes”, with Seanan McGuire, Subterranean Online, Fall, 2013 — A collaborative story of future human enslavement and an unlikely messiah

Love in the Time of Metal and Flesh, Prime Books — Horror or contemporary dark fantasy, depending on your perspective

“Rock of Ages”, METAtropolis: Green Space, ed. Jay Lake and Ken Scholes, Audible.com — Selected by editor Gardner Dozois for Year’s Best Science Fiction 31

Novelettes

“You Will Attend Until Beauty Awakens”, Clockwork Fairy Tales, ed. Stephen L. Antczak and James C. Bassett, ROC — A retelling of “Sleeping Beauty”

A Stranger Comes to Kalimpura”, Subterranean Online, Spring, 2013 — A Green story set long after the events of the novels

Short Stories

“King of the Kingless”, Hex in the City, ed. Kerrie L. Hughes, Fiction River — One of my Portland wizards stories

“Spendthrift”, Coins of Chaos, ed. Jennifer Brozek, EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing — WWII and zombies in New Guinea

“Monsters in the Mountains at the Edge of the World”, That Is Not Dead: Historical Lovecraft, ed. Darrell Schweitzer, PS Publishing — Romans vs Chinese vs Cthulhoid horrors in ancient Samarkand

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[food|publishing] The archive party

Yesterday we had an archive party. Friends came over to help prep and box the bulk of my paper archives for Lynne Thomas, the curator of Rare Books and Special Collections at Northern Illinois University. This seemed like a good time for food, as well.

Lisa Costello was here, along with Jersey Girl in Portland. Team E— came, as did two other friends. ([info]the_child was off seeing Swan Lake with her mother.) Jersey Girl made bacon explosion, which we supplemented with a cheese board, a salad, and brownies thoughtfully supplied by [info]the_child.

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The appetizers

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The base of the bacon explosion

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Putting down the sausage layer

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The complete bacon-sausage roll

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The foil comes off before the bacon is finished out

After we ate all that, we played Cards Against Humanity for the better part of an hour, then headed down to the basement for the packing, measuring and weighing.

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Packing the archives

We packed, measured and weighed 311 pounds of material to be shipped. As someone pointed out, I got started on my career before most of the editorial side of publishing went digital. I had a footlocker full of rejection letters, and boxes of critiqued and copy edited manuscripts. If I were to get started on a career today, about the only paper ephemera that would exist would be contracts, and even many of those are electronic.

To that end, I am also providing Lynne and NIU with the electronic side of my files. That, however, fits on a portable USB hard drive about the size of a deck of cards. Ah, progress.

At any rate, it’s good to be fully engaged with Lynne and NIU. It’s good to have those eleven boxes out of the house (and my footlocker emptied). It’s good to have taken care of one more darned thing as I journey further along the arc of my cancer.


Photos © 2013, Lisa Costello and Joseph E. Lake, Jr.

Creative Commons License

This work by Lisa Costello and Joseph E. Lake, Jr. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

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[publishing] More conversations with a copy editor

A while back, I had some interesting email exchanges with Anne Zanoni, the copy editor who worked on my single-title novella Love in the Time of Metal and Flesh for publisher Prime Books. (The book is due for release in July.)

Love in the Time of Metal and Flesh is a difficult piece. It’s about cutting, and extreme body modification, and an underground scene bordering on the criminal which leverages those kinks. In my view, the story is a Bildungsroman of sorts, about someone who is and remains profoundly innocent in a spiritual and social sense even amid extremes of sexuality and society. My goal when writing it had been to make the protagonist as genuine as I could, to be true to his internal perspective as a cutter and a body modifier. Not to sensationalize or moralize, but simply see the world from his perspective. I had a friend who is a cutter read an early draft, to try to make sure I wasn’t skewing the voice with my own heterornomativity and relative lack of kink.

In other words, I was working very hard at writing the Other.

Quoting with permission, here’s what Anne wrote to me and to publisher Sean Wallace:

This was the hardest story I ever worked on, novel, novella, or short fiction.

Going by the length, it shouldn’t have been. I expected to get done a lot sooner than I did. Then I read it.

The reason it was so hard is because of the subject matter.

Jay, thank you for being such a great writer. If you hadn’t been, if I’d had lots of writing problems to deal with, then this would have been much harder on me.

I read lots of dark fiction, and I work on it too — like the novels for Angry Robot. This story was more sick to me than “I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream” melded with a lot of other squicky things. It hit many of my squick buttons (except for inside the organs, those sections were pretty neat).

So, just thought I’d tell you both that.

After I did the first pass, I kept having to force myself back to work. I work on projects that I like and those that I don’t like, and some projects are a lot of stress and ones aren’t; and they’re all work. Some are more fun than others.

This isn’t a complaint. It was a learning experience. I’ve had fiction that I loved working on and which required more concentration because it was such fun.

I’m not sure if completely repelling the copy editor is a milestone or not, but it’s certainly new in my experience.

I never expected to find a story that I wanted to scrub from my brain every time I walked away from my work. And I wanted to run away, actually.

I was fascinated by this. My story had reached her, almost exactly in the way I intended. I replied to Anne:

Thank you. I think. :)

I’ll take that as a comment on the quality of the writing rather than a comment on the quality of my character.

Anne responded:

You’re welcome.

=grins= I suspect that almost breaking your copy editor ranks somewhere up there with distracting her so much she can’t work.

[…]

If I could make every cutter read your story, I would. Possibly runaways also.

Sometimes you reach people despite their professional filters. I have no idea how this story will be received critically or by the general audience. Given some of the reactions to my piece “The Goat Cutter”, I’m actually a bit nervous. But it’s the story I wanted to tell, told in the fashion I wanted to tell it.

So, thank you Anne.

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[publishing|cancer] Some good news, and some career thoughts

First of all, my recent Asimov’s steampunk lost colony religious novella, “The Stars Do Not Lie”, has been acquired by Gardner Dozois for next year’s edition of Year’s Best Science Fiction. I am quite pleased, and also more than slightly boggled to be included at novella length. I’m pretty familiar with word count budgets in anthologies, after all.

Yay me!

This is a small glimmer of good news in what has otherwise been a discouraging couple of years for me in my career. Cancer and its discontents have cut my overall productivity by at least half. My mortality odds combined with my treatment paths mean I’ll likely not write very many more books in my lifetime — two if I’m a little lucky, maybe a few more if I’m a lot lucky. Even short fiction is a real challenge. I expect to be able to finish “Rock of Ages”, my METAtropolis: Green Space novella, before my brain fries out completely, but I won’t likely write any more new fiction before June of next year.

All of this means the Sunspin project is two years behind schedule. It means due to productivity issues and a lack of ability to respond to market requirements, I’ll be pretty much losing my shelf space in the Tor stable after Kalimpura is published. It means my short fiction output has tumbled to handful of stories a year. It probably means my career is never really going to come back, unless we beat some serious odds and put this cancer down and I have some years of run room to build back up to my old pace of writing.

At the same time, my social and public role in the field continues to diminish. I’m not at World Fantasy Convention right now due to chemotherapy. I won’t make any convention or public appearances between now and Memorial Day of 2013 at the earliest. Depending on how quickly and vigorously my cancer comes back after this round, my window for future appearances may be slim to none.

I’ve said off and on having cancer is like dying by degrees. The disease drives everyone around me to distraction, desperation and beyond. It saps my energy, my time, my parenting, my writing, my ability to love and live. It’s eroded everything from my publishing career to my sexuality.

Loss. So much of my life is loss.

Yet still I write. Still I celebrate my successes, such as this YBSF nod. Still I plan future projects and seek creative ways (such as collaboration) to get existing projects to market. Because as sad and dire as this all makes me feel, I don’t give up.

I just wish I didn’t have to fight so hard to retain less and less every year.

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[publishing] The Fathomless Abyss

So I’m part of this shared world project being run by Phil Athans and Mel Odom. It’s called The Fathomless Abyss, and is a pretty neat little deal. Lots of details on the world and the publishing concept here at Phil’s blog. We’ve got a pretty cool bunch of contributors, including Philip Athans, J. M. McDermott, Mel Odom, Cat Rambo, Mike Resnick, Brad Torgersen and of course, me. My story in the initial release is “That Which Rises Ever Upward”, and deals with grand ambition among people with limited means.

In the spring, we’ll be releasing a series of novellas set within the shared world, one by each contributing author. I haven’t written mine yet, but inspiration will surely strike.

Cover art © 2011 by Matts Minnhagen is pretty nice, too.

Fathomless Abyss cover art by Matts Minnhagen

Watch for a December release, just in time for your holiday reading needs.

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[publishing] Out of contract blues

Now I’m going to complain about something that will probably irk some of the aspiring writers who read this blog. It’s one of those established writer problems that can look ridiculous from the outside, but is perfectly real and serious from the inside.

I’m out of a trade publishing contract for the first time since 2006. And it feels very weird to me.

Mainspring was originally contracted by Tor in 2006 for a 2007 release, along with a second book to be named later, which was eventually Escapement. Near the end of that contract cycle, Green and Pinion were contracted. Near the end of that contract cycle, Endurance and Kalimpura were contracted.

Well, now it’s 2011 and I’ve delivered Kalimpura for 2012 publication and, well, here we are. It’s not that Tor and I have parted ways. It’s not that we haven’t parted ways. We simply haven’t had the discussions, nor have I entered into discussions with any other trade publishers.

Some of this is my own doing, as I decided to write the Sunspin series as spec books rather than proposing them to Tor. Some of this is the cancer, which has stolen half my writing time in past two years, slowing down my ability to deliver a spec book in time to propose it to Tor, or anyone else, within my usual contract cycle. Longtime readers may recall that had I not experienced another metastasis this year, I had planned to write all three volumes of Sunspin by this fall. The book package would have been ready to go to market last summer, except for cancer.

And now, thanks to the travails of chemo and my resulting inability to execute on important revisions recommended by la agente, Sunspin‘s first volume won’t be ready to go to market before next February or March at the earliest. So I’m going to stay out of contract for quite some time to come, unless we take the rather unusual step of trying to sell on proposal plus unrevised draft.

All of which makes me feel very weird and insecure about my career. I’m in danger of missing the 2013 publishing cycle. I’m going to take a financial hit, to boot, simply because of delayed contract and payment timelines. But mostly, I worry about simply disappearing from view.

So I’ve got the out of contract blues, magnified by my cancer woes. And it doesn’t make me very happy. Another penalty of cancer, another thing being taken from me by this disease.

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