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[personal] Stepping out into the dawn

Going on another trail hike this morning, with Team E— and [info]mlerules. Breaking in my new/old boots with a (hopefully) better pair of socks. This afternoon I’ll put more time into the current short story project, a requested horror piece entitled “Spendthrift”. Plus hanging out with my kid.

Tomorrow is a busy-as-usual day, then I’m off to North Carolina prior to the crack of dawn on Tuesday. If you’re anywhere within striking distance of Greensboro, consider coming to my open dinner Tuesday night [ jlake.com | LiveJournal ].

I get home from that trip very late Wednesday night, more like Thursday morning. Thursday after Day Jobbery, I’m off to my gig as resident pro at Cascade Writers, which will take me right through the weekend.

This week, I also plan to finish this short story, send the latest revision of the Going to Extremes outline to my agent, turn another round of effort on a book outline I’m working jointly with [info]calendula_witch, and get back to serious revisions on Other Me.

Busy much?

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[personal] Taking the weekend off

The Going to Extremes outline is in the can, pending a few more days to steep and a light revision pass of the China chapter. I’ve completed my recent read through of Other Me, and need to let it steep a few days before I dig into more serious revisions. The Sekrit Projekt is in good shape and awaiting some business input next week. And I have a friend in town this weekend.

So I’m taking the weekend off. Possibly no blogging at all, possibly light blogging if I feel so moved. I’ll be back on the normal broadcast schedule next Monday.

Y’all play nice while I’m gone.

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[personal] Answers to open questions

Recently I put out a call for questions. In a stunning display of intellectual consistency and logical thinking, I now offer some responses to those questions. My thanks to everyone who participated.

Steve Buchheit: In the intro to “Witness to the Fall” in your collection, The Sky that Wraps, you refer to a lesson you learned about not hot-dogging the writing and paying closer attention to what you were doing and how that story took longer to write than the others to that point. “Witness” has a distinct difference in style, it feels more controlled and deliberate, more lyrical with stronger muscles flowing under the skin. It was much closer to the story you read at Confusion (which I apologize, I don’t remember the title). Can you elaborate more fully on that lesson you learned and how it continues to affect how you write (here I guess I’m asking about the process)?

JL: Honestly, Steve, I don’t remember what I read at Confusion this year. I was a month out of chemo and still fairly befuddled. That being said, this was kind of big deal. I made a fairly thorough blog post on this topic back in 2007, entitled The New Model Process. The heart of the post is this:

  • Write first drafts more slowly. This cuts my raw throughput almost in half, though I’m still quite fast by most rational standards. What I do with the slowdown is watch the words and the sentences far more carefully. Where I used to deliberately avoid revision or correction while drafting, with the exception of gross typos, I’m trying to be a lot more thoughtful about what’s going on in the word layer, the sentence layer, the paragraph layer, the page and scene as a whole
  • Stronger focus on revision. Make a line editing pass. Then make a characterization pass. Then make a plot logic pass. Then make a prose style pass. Look it over carefully, still taking great pains not to sand off the voicey edges. I think this is possible for me now in a way that it wasn’t five years ago because I have so much better a sense of craft and a much more finely tuned control. I think of this not as sanding down the draft — how I used to view revision, and why I had so much trouble with it — and more like lacquering a fine piece of wood. I’m adding finish, color and depth, while preserving the grain and character of what lies beneath.

I’ve long since internalized that New Model Process, and continued to see it evolve. A fairly clear example of the more recent evolution is in my novel writing process. In addition to the read aloud step I have added, I’ve gotten deeper and deeper into multiple, increasingly subtle revision passes.

As it turns out, I can only draft so slowly. If I write too slowly, it’s like trying to ride a bicycle too slowly. I just wind up falling off. But revisions continue to ramify and extend. Especially at novel length. So that lesson, five years later, is still echoing for me.

Michael: You haven’t mentioned your trip to Antarctica lately…Where are you in the planning stages? Are you still considering doing a kickstarter for it? Or are you waiting until your next scan to decide on these things?

JL: The Antarctica trip is still a goal. My focus has been on the proposal for Going to Extremes, which is the book that will document the trip. The hoped-for result is a sufficiently large advance on Extremes that the trip can be funded out of that. Alternatively, I may yet do a Kickstarter.

MAC: Do you write faster writing fiction or non-fiction?

JL: Hah! I have no idea. I suspect the answer is that I write faster in fiction. I may know more after I’ve worked all the way through the Going to Extremes project, which will be my first foray into book length non-fiction.

[info]jetse: Is science fiction (or speculative fiction for that matter) wants to do something truly new, what should it do?

JL: Man, if I knew the answer to that, I’d be a bestseller, wouldn’t I? More seriously, I see at least two answers, pointing to two different facets of the question.

One is that we need to reach a wider audience. Younger. More entry level. And we need to reach them with books and stories that invite them back for more. If every kid that had read Harry Potter became a dedicated fantasy fan, our genre would rival romance today.

The other is that I think we need to continue to redefine our ideas and ideals. In some ways, SF right now is where rock and roll was in the early 1980s. Slick, packaged, overproduced and (relatively speaking) starved for innovation. I suppose that’s normal in the life cycle of any cultural or artistic movement. But if anyone is equipped to break the cycle, it should be SF, its writers and its readers.

I just wish I was smart enough to see how to do those things.

[info]jettcat: What is your one true cheese?

JL: Sottocenere al tartufo. ‘Nuff said.

[info]xjenavivex: Can you tell us a little more about your plans to write web series content?

JL: I do have some specific plans to write Web series content, but I don’t have a contract yet, so I’m not free to comment at any length. Let’s just say steampunk and hella fun, and leave it at that for now. When I can announce more, I will.

[info]xjenavivex: Also, what are some of your favorite comfort foods?

Do you like to cook?

Do you ever look back over your collection of pictures and find yourself inspired to write a new story?

JL: Comfort foods: I love boy food. Pub grub. Pizza. Burgers. Chips and dip. I’d love to reprogram myself on this one, but, well, there you are.

Cooking: I do like to cook. I’m competent but not expert, and have a few signature dishes which I’m quite good at. I’m also capable of following most recipes. But I live alone and eat a lot of solo meals, so I often don’t bother. Plus I have a fair number of people in my life who are much better cooks than I am. Easier to mooch off them.

Looking back: Sometimes, yes, my photo files inspire me. That’s one reason I have them, naturally enough.

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[writing] Update on goals and activity

Back in January, I posted my year’s writing goals [ jlake.com | LiveJournal ].

Here’s what I said about June and July:

June, 2012 — Initial revisions to Their Currents Turn Awry, release to my first readers.
July, 2012 — Take a break from Sunspin, pursue short fiction commitments.

In practice, what I did was reverse these two. I finished the first draft of Currents in mid-May, and decided to take my break in June rather than bulling into initial revisions. Then I spent a bunch of time on Going to Extremes and some other work. I still owe a couple of short stories this month.

However, next month I will not immediately start the Currents revisions.

Had a long talk with my agent yesterday about the state of the market, my books and my career. Because the sales process is ongoing, I won’t comment on how Sunspin is doing out there in the market. Suffice to say that with the overall issues in publishing, we’re looking for diversification.

This is actually a long-standing strategy of ours rather than a change in direction. One piece of that is already in play; the Little Dog collaborative project with urban fantasy author J.A. Pitts. That should be happening mostly over the summer. So is another element; Going to Extremes, the Antarctica/cancer book. The Waterloo Productions feature-length documentary project about me is tied into Extremes as well. I plan to have the finalized version of the book proposal off to my agent by Friday of this week, so we can hopefully go to market quite soon.

Where the change in direction occurs is that we’ve added two more elements, one of which will slide into my schedule prior to the restart on Currents. One is that I’ll be revising for market a YA science fiction novel I wrote a few years ago called Other Me. (Think Philip K. Dick identity paranoia for kids.) It got shelved simply because I was very busy at the time, and I’ve always had something else to do. Now I’m going to take a few weeks or a month to work through Other Me with a strong revision pass.

The other new element is an illustrated novelty book of sex humor. I now have a very good artist lined up, and will be developing the project over the summer with a probable deliverable next fall, depending on the art schedule. Still in discussions with my agent about whether this is an independent press project or a trade press project, though she is potentially interested in repping it to the trade press. I’m not going to say more about the project right now, because I want to see how it gels before discussing further detail in public.

There are also plans in the wind for some Web series scripting, along with the usual array of short story ideas and opportunities.

Sometimes I think there’s not enough going on in my writing life. Apparently, I am an idiot.

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[family|cancer] Back to the hospital (not me this time)

Yesterday afternoon, [info]tillyjane (a/k/a my mom) called me to come take her to the ER. I’d finished my Day Jobbery, just capped off an hour of writing time on Going to Extremes, and was preparing for another long interview take on the documentary project.

Instead, Donnie Reynolds, Lisa Costello and I loaded up into Donnie’s car and raced across town in rush hour traffic to pick up my mom at her primary care clinic and transport her to her ER. Donnie brought his “B” camera, because we were shooting for a documentary about the lives of me and my family, after all.

We got [info]tillyjane to the ER, where a four-hour wait ensued. Along with some guerrilla filmmaking. My mom’s housemate A— showed up after a bit. Eventually [info]tillyjane was processed and admitted, which led to about four hours of hurry-up-and-wait testing. We recognized our ER nurse from prior visits, and he recognized us. That’s a frequent flyer club you don’t want to be a member of.

IMG_2652

In the end, the tests were inconclusive. The symptoms which had caused her to be referred to the ER did not recur. My mom was sent home somewhat after midnight. She has specialist followups, probably next week. For now, she is fine. A— Donnie and Lisa are all Heroes of the Revolution for being there and keeping both [info]tillyjane and me propped up and going.

As for me…

Her symptoms are not mine to describe here, but suffice to say they were closely akin to what drove my original hospital admission and cancer diagnosis back in 2008. That possibility won’t be ruled out until after her specialist followups. I am very frightened for her, far, far beyond anything justified by the clinical evidence or current medical opinion. I know this is my emotional trauma over cancer shouting loudly in my ear. It’s not logical. But it is very real.

Even if the worst happens, we know what to do. And it’s likely enough the worst won’t happen. Of course, that’s what they told me about my initial presentation. Cancer wasn’t even on the top five list of likely diagnoses. That’s what they told me about my initial metastasis, that it wasn’t at all likely to ever happen.

Once more, I am feeling the burn.


Photo © 2012, Joseph E. Lake, Jr.

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

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[personal] Yesterday, all my, um… Wait, what?

So, about yesterday. Well, let’s see. Yesterday included:

  • Exercise
  • Blogging
  • Day jobbery
  • Two houseguests
  • Writing time on Going to Extremes
  • Almost three hours of documentary filmmaking at my house, part of that with my entire family in attendance
  • My parents’ 41st wedding anniversary, with a celebratory dinner
  • [info]the_child stressing out over preparations for her 8th grade graduation on Thursday

And that’s just the parts I can remember this morning. So, umm yeah? Remember how I was going to slow down the week after JayCon? Not so much.

Life, she is for living.

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[conventions] World Steam Expo, Day One

Yesterday was even more entertaining that Thursday. I cracked my happy ass out of bed extremely late by my own standards, hit the health club for some time on the stationary bike, then caught breakfast in the Green Room. After some bloggery and email time and whatnot, I had my massage — And how cool is it that World Steam Expo has a masseur on retainer for the pros!? — and then went exploring. This eventually involved use of the hot tub, among other things.

I spent a decent chunk of the day hanging out with the inestimable Howard Tayler, who created a truly impressive steampunk caricature of me. (When I get home, I shall scan and post this, but at the moment it is my badge art.) Howard is his own self hanging out in the Aegis room, which is basically a camp for combat geeks. Inside the Con hotel, these cats have a rappelling tower, weapons training with actual pointy objects, a bunch of Nerf weapons, and a Victorian encampment. They are pretty much a real life incarnation of the Black Briar group in J.A. Pitt‘s Black Blade BluesPowells | BN ]. The Aegis group helped me make a notable entrance to opening ceremonies.

Also spent a lot more time partying with The League of S.T.E.A.M. and a whole bunch of other folks, including briefly running across the few people besides Howard that I actually knew before I turned up here. Specifically, Gail Carriger, G.D. Falksen (who has an important planet named after him in the Sunspin universe) and Evelyn Kriete (who is responsible for me being invited to this convention). I caught the last part of the The Men That Will Not be Blamed for Nothing concert.

I even got a bit more work done on Going to Extremes.

Today I have lunch with Howard, a High Tea to host, and a plan to hear some more excellent performances. A bit more programming tomorrow.

Interestingly, I am way off my normal schedule here, even my normal convention schedule. I’m not sure what clock I’m living on, but it’s neither Jay time nor Con time. I’m just going with the flow. Which it turns out is remarkably difficult for me to do. I feel twitchy about not being up at 5 am exercising (hard to do when you’re going to bed at 2 am) and why I’m not writing more.

But I’m here to have fun, which I am decidedly doing; and to see and be seen, which I am decidedly doing.

Is this what time off feels like?

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[conventions] World Steam Expo, Day Zero

Yesterday waa a fine day. I got up too early, to be driven to the airport by [info]lillypond, a/k/a my sister. The flights to Detroit were uneventful, other than being about 40 minutes late getting into DTW. I was able to start digging in to revising the Going to Extremes outline on the plane, plus answering a ton of email. Also had several pleasant conversations with various fellow travelers.

Arriving at World Steam Expo was an interesting experience. It’s been years since I walked into a Con cold, not knowing anyone or anything. (I think I know maybe two or three people here.) So once I got settled, I hung out in the lobby and talked to various folks. Eventually I fell in with low persons (a/k/a The League of S.T.E.A.M.), who led me into bad ways (a/k/a Abney Park). Strong drink was consumed, and gutter language was used. A few regrettable incidents may have occurred. I went to bed highly entertained around 2 am, which is the latest I’ve stayed up in forever.

Plus as a special bonus, I ran into @howardtayler, who in addition to being a brilliant cartoonist and storyteller, is also well on his way to becoming one of my favorite people anywhere, ever.

My schedule today consists of a massage. Oh, how shall I cram it all in?

See some, all or none of you around this joint.

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[writing] Their Currents Turn Awry is complete in first draft

Yesterday I finished the first draft of Sunspin book two, Their Currents Turn Awry. This wrapped at 149,100 words, which represents 82,500 new words since April 1st, working from an existing stub of 66,600 words.

I wrote those 82,500 words over 37 elapsed days, with 10 of those days off from writing, mostly due to cancer stress. That’s an average of 2,200 words per elapsed day, 3,100 words per writing day. Given that my minimum target for myself on novel production is 2,500 words per writing day, five days per week, I met my productivity goals in that sense.

The book has a couple of problems I’m aware of, mostly around the way the scenes are structured. Writing a dozen POV characters is kind of different for me. Not to mention the whole interlocking-protagonist-so-there-is-no-antagonist thing. No Evil Overlords here, sorry. Just people with conflicting agendas working toward differing ends. Kind of like real life, except I worry that there won’t be a sufficiently satisfying moral dimension for reader cookies.

(And therein lies another essay, about whether or not we need Voldemort and Sauron, but that’s not in the scope of this blog post.)

So I’m pretty happy. I gave myself to the end of May to get this done. I’m going to take a few days, possibly this entire week, for a brain break, then I’m on to the copy edits of Kalimpura, which in a fit of nearly stunning irony arrived in my inbox a few hours after I finished Their Currents Turn Awry. After that, I’ll be working some more on the book proposal for Going to Extremes.

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[personal|photos] A wee bit of updatery

Last night I slept eight and half hours. Then I got up and went for a two-hour walk this morning, including the hidden canyon stretch of the Springwater Trail. I always feel good when I’m walking like that, which makes me wonder why I don’t do it more often.

While down in the greenery, I ran across these two gentlemen:

mallards

(Sorry for the blur, this is a tight crop of a phone cam shot taken from a distance.)

A bit later, walking past the police station, I saw another group of birds:

IMG_2409

Clearly, there was a theme to the morning.

Laying low today, except for [info]the_child‘s late afternoon lacrosse game, and a possible dinner with [info]lizzyshannon this evening. (We’re still discussing logistics.) Likewise laying low tomorrow except for taking [info]the_child to choir practice. The only other things I am doing are morning bloggery, writing time on Their Currents Turn Awry, and packing for this coming week’s travel.

The week itself is going to be a mother bear of a trip. Even so, I’m close on the book, and expect to be done within a few days despite travel silliness. I’ll take a couple of days’ brain break, then be back on Going to Extremes. But this weekend… low and slow.


Photos © 2012, Joseph E. Lake, Jr.

Creative Commons License

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

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