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[writing|cancer] 2012 and further goals, more thereupon

As I said on New Year’s Eve [ jlake.com | LiveJournal ] regarding my 2012 writing goals:

For 2012, if I can stay out of the oncology unit, I plan to write the other 400,000 words of Sunspin, revise the first two volumes for submittal and publication, and write several requested novellas and short stories. […] Even if I do go back into cancer treatment, experience shows I can still be reasonably productive. If I metastasize yet again, I still plan to write another 100,000 words of Sunspin, as well as revise the first two volumes and write the requested short fiction.

That’s pretty much it in a nutshell. If my health permits, I’ll finish the first draft of the entire Sunspin cycle. By way of official news regarding that project, my agent and I have redivided it from three books to four for reasons of length. The titles now are:

Calamity of So Long a Life
Their Currents Turn Awry
The Whips and Scorns of Time
Be All Our Sins Remembered

Their Currents Turn Awry is the new title, and is now book two between the previously announced titles Calamity of So Long a Life and The Whips and Scorns of Time.

Also in Sunspin news, Subterranean Online will this year be publishing my novella “The Weight of History, the Lightness of the Future”, which is essentially chapter zero of Calamity of So Long a Life. So if you’re interested in this project, watch for that.

My more detailed 2012 plan for writing is as follows:

January and February, 2012 — Revise Calamity of So Long a Life for submission and publication, with a March 1 delivery date to my agent, and going to market shortly thereafter.
March, 2012 — Take a break from Sunspin, pursue short fiction commitments.
April and May, 2012 — Write another 100,000 words of Sunspin, edit into first draft manuscript of Their Currents Turn Awry.
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.
August, September and October, 2012 — Write another 300,000 words of Sunspin, edit into first draft manuscripts of The Whips and Scorns of Time and Be All Our Sins Remembered.
November, 2012 — Take a break from Sunspin, pursue short fiction commitments.
December, 2012 — Revise Their Currents Turn Awry for submission and publication, with a December 31 delivery date to my agent.

That will put revisions and submittal for The Whips and Scorns of Time and Be All Our Sins Remembered in early 2013, and then I’ll be done with the cycle and free to move on to other projects.

The huge open question is whether I go back into treatment this year. The gap between conclusion of my last chemotherapy sequence and the detection of the next metastasis was nine months. If I can squeeze out a year, all of the above will happen. Even if the worst happens and we find a new metastasis in February, at my next scan, I’ll still get the work through March done for certain, and probably manage the work planned through June, though it may take me several months longer to reach those goals, if I have to take time off for surgery or whatever. So at a minimum, I’ll get Calamity of So Long a Life out and Their Currents Turn Awry written and revised, even if illness forces me to push drafting The Whips and Scorns of Time and Be All Our Sins Remembered into 2013.

In a larger sense, I figure these days I’m about one to two years from dying at any given point depending on my next diagnosis. More swiftly, of course, of the cancer comes back in an inoperable location or otherwise excessively troublesome. So when I look down the road, at other projects such as Original Destiny, Manifest Sin, it’s with a less confident eye than I used to have. I figure my long-term goals beyond Sunspin aren’t so much goals as hopes. Here are the benchmarks, things I’m looking forward to living to see if I can manage it.

December, 2012 — The Hobbit part one released
December, 2013 — The Hobbit part two released
June, 2016 — [info]the_child graduates from high school

If I make it alive and in some form of health to June, 2016, I will have won. That much time grants me my daughter’s entrance into adulthood, and lets me see her start her own life. That much time grants me as many as five or six more books, at a minimum four more even if I spend much of the intervening years in treatment. And it lets me go back to Peter Jackson’s Middle Earth twice more.

And, well, if I don’t make it that far, I’ll spend as much time as I can with [info]the_child and write as many books as I can.

Thinking about it in those terms both focuses and trivializes my 2012 goals. Perhaps you can see how my thinking is bent as time passes. But this is the life I’m leading, and I’ll do the best I can.

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[books|writing] Keeping score on my novels

Not that anybody was asking, but in an attempt to corral my own thoughts, here’s a list of all the novels I’ve ever written/co-written or am committed to writing, time and my health permitting. I make this seventeen completed manuscripts, two in-progress manuscripts, and six on the table to be written. In addition to all of the below, [info]kenscholes and I have discussed doing a YA gonzo SF trilogy together, once he’s done with the Psalms of Isaac.

Who has time for cancer?

Written but unpublished

The January Machine (time travel/millenial SF, project abandoned)
Rocket Science (zero draft)
Death of a Starship (zero draft)
The Murasaki Doctrine (space opera/military SF, could not sell)
The Heart of the Beast (with Jeff VanderMeer, project abandoned)
Our Lady of the Islands (with Shannon Page, at my agent)
Other Me (YA lost colony/identity paranoia SF, awaiting rewrite)

Written, in progress or planned

Rocket Science

Death of a Starship

Mainspring
Escapement
Pinion

Green
Endurance (forthcoming)
Kalimpura (forthcoming)

Trial of Flowers
Madness of Flowers
Reign of Flowers (not a committed project)

Calamity of So Long a Life (in progress)
The Whips and Scorns of Time (to be drafted in 2012)
Be All Our Sins Remembered (to be drafted in 2012)

Original Destiny, Manifest Sin (American Old West fantasy/AH, to be drafted in 2012 or 2013)

Black Tulip (Dutch historial thriller/mystery, to be drafted in 2013)

The Rockefeller Plot (1970s diplomatic thriller with Ambassador Joseph Lake, in progress)
[untitled Biafran war novel] (1960s diplomatic thriller with Ambassador Joseph Lake)

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[process] Part the sixth and last of Consumers and Producers

Here is the final installment of this little series. I apologize for the delay in drafting and posting this one, but life got more than a little bit in the way. Once again, I’d like to extend my thanks to everyone who’s involved themselves in the discussion to date. For reference, and if you’d like to catch up on the various comments:

Part 1jlake.com | LiveJournal 

Part 2jlake.com | LiveJournal ]

Part 3jlake.com | LiveJournal ]

Part 4jlake.com | LiveJournal ]

Part 5jlake.com | LiveJournal ]

As I said before, Sunspin has caused me to completely re-engage with my own habits and practices as both a Consumer and a Producer. This series of posts has wandered pretty deeply into my experiences working on that project. Now I want to tie it back up with some thoughts, and some questions for you, who have been patient and kind enough to follow this far.

I value being a Producer very highly. It’s become a core part of my social and emotional identity. In the same vein, her mother and I have put a lot of effort in raising [info]the_child with a sense of what it means to be a Producer (I am a writer, Mother of the Child is an artist working in several media), so that she can have this set of choices available to her as she sets her paths through life.

But being a Producer definitely comes at a cost. As discussed, if nothing else, it interferes with one’s place in life as a Consumer. For me, at least, the energy and focus come out of the same time budget, out of the same emotional and creative spaces.

Being a Consumer is also a creative act, because consuming Story requires participation and interpretation. But origination, now that’s where the holy fire is for me.

Being a Producer has also influenced my life choices with respect to social activities and how I spend my time. I’ve mentioned before that I gave up television in 1994, and gaming in 1998. Those are forms of Consumption, forms of Story, but they’re also things that would quite readily and happily eat my brain. My sense of social scheduling is influenced as well, and the ways I allocate my time on a daily basis.

None of this is to complain. I love what I do, I love being a Producer. My writing has sustained me through some very difficult times in these recent years of cancer and life turmoil. But the cost is real, both directly and in terms of opportunity cost.

The rewards are more real.

My conclusion is that this is a choice. And surely Producer and Consumer are not a crisply dualistic set of contrasting choices. Surely they are a spectrum, and everyone falls in a different place. But I find the concepts a handy tool to use when analyzing both my life and my work.

As for you… how would you define yourself? Does this idea appeal to you or put you off? When you Consume, what are your choices? If you aspire to Produce, what trade-offs do you make?

In a sense, these are the prototypical questions underlying the writerly cliches of “where do I find time to write” and “where do I find ideas to write about”.

In a sense, this is real life.

Read more. Write more. Be well.

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[interviews] Yet another reader interview with me

Answering questions from the most recent reader interview of me [ jlake.com | LiveJournal ]. In addition, a friend sent me a good set of interview questions that I believe I shall address in a separate post some time in the next few weeks.

I hope you enjoy this as much as I did.

The questions, and my answers… Read the rest of this entry »

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[personal] Bits and pieces

I dreamt last night of waterspouts. An old nightmare, one I haven’t revisited in years. These looked like a cross between waterspouts and low-yield nuclear blasts. I was in Hastings, in the UK, with calendula_witch trying desperately to locate something or another which we couldn’t find, and kept stopping to photograph the monster weather menacing the town.

Parent meeting today at the_child’s school wherein the forthcoming classroom topic of reproductive anatomy was reviewed with us. This was a fairly amusing set of discussions, from my perspective, but for the most part I was the only one in the room laughing. I am either a cad, or notably unrepressed.

At lunch yesterday, I was explaining some of my narrative strategy behind Sunspin to my dining partner, a dear friend and delightful human being who happens to also be an author and thus is interested in such things. I was using the provided crayons to draw plot arcs on the butcher paper covering the table when it suddenly occurred to me that some of the techniques I’m experimenting with in writing Sunspin are in fact preparatory to what I’ll need to do for Original Destiny, Manifest Sin. Fred has apparently decided to use a half million+ word space opera as a dry run for a fantastic alternate history of the American West. Go me!

Hitting a party tonight, out and about in the morning, then tomorrow afternoon: momos! Go cook something good this weekend.

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[books] Sunspin

Apropos of nothing in particular, I now have proposed titles for the three books that compromise the Sunspin cycle. Apparently, the projects are queueing in my head.

In order:

  • Calamity of So Long A Life
  • The Whips and Scorns of Time
  • Be All Our Sins Remembered

This time, unlike my last two trilogies, I intend to write it as one continuous, planned arc. With luck, I’ll start drafting in January, take a break in March or April to revise Kalimpura, and then resume to be done with the first draft this project by summer. I figure a minimum of five elapsed (not calendar) months to lay down the first pass of this, and that’s if I write fairly short and at speed.

For those just tuning in, Sunspin is my planned Big Idea space opera, sort of a fusion of contemporary New British and 1970’s psuedofeudalism, with a blue collar tinge and a deep dose of paranoia. So far I’ve published about half a dozen short stories set in this continuity, and have an incomplete (at 70 pages) outline for the trilogy.

And yes, after Sunspin, Original Destiny, Manifest Sin.

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[personal|process] Reflecting on careers, mentorship and delivery dates

Being in Austin has put me in a reflective mood. I lived here for eighteen years, longer than I’ve ever lived anywhere, and possibly longer than I ever will again, depending on what the future brings me. Though I did not start selling fiction until after I moved to the Pacific Northwest in 2000, in some very important ways, my career began here. Specifically, in the hands of a particular writer.

I owe this person an immense debt of gratitude. She introduced me to such basics as manuscript formatting, cover letters, critique, and even the very existence of workshops. She mentored me from an unbelievably wet-behind-the-ears newbie, through the convinced-of-my-own-undiscovered-genius phase, through the I-resent-the-conspiracy-against-gifted-newcomers-that-is-publishing phase, and many of the other tiresome but apparently necessary evolutions in the process of my becoming an actual working author.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the bookshelf. When I started showing measurable success, instead of merely expending effort, my mentor found this challenging. When I started appearing in tables of contents, and on bookstore shelves, with a higher profile than she has ever achieved, this writer became one of my most savage critics — not only of my writing, but of my professionalism, my behavior, my blog presence, and even my fashion sense. She eventually drove me off a mailing list and out of a social circle with her profound and unrelenting unpleasantness.

I value friendship very highly, I am almost stupidly loyal, and I can be a slow learner, but in time I learned I had to shut this person out of my life and work. It only took several severe outbursts and a great deal of my own emotional distress to get me there. As a result, someone who’s name should be in the dedications of all my books is instead someone I have not seen or spoken to in years, and probably never will again.

Coming to Austin has somewhat forcibly and sadly reminded me of this 15-year arc of friendship which ended so very badly. And it reminds me that we writers tend to be jealous creatures. Another friend of mine in this business asked me a while back how my friendship with had survived his meteoric rise. The question surprised me, because in a very fundamental way, it would never have occurred to me that Ken’s success had somehow come at a cost to me. This is not a zero sum game. Even if it were, he’s my friend, and my friendship with him is not so cheap as to be damaged by a book contract. What kind of friend would I be if that were true?

Yet my first and greatest mentor turned out to be exactly that kind of friend to me. And oddly, my second great mentor, who was very important to me in the years after I moved to Oregon and first began publishing, hasn’t spoken to me since 2005, except once or twice out of social necessity. Which of course, has me wondering if there is some aspect of my behavior which is to account for this.

Now there is the fubar going on in our little well-tempested teapot about when writers are “supposed” to deliver books. I know personally almost everyone who has weighed in, and respect them all. My only comment is that I’m supposed to deliver the book when the contract says to do, and so far I haven’t missed one yet. Not even when I had cancer. There’s one book I will never contract until after it is done, for precisely the kind of creative reasons that and others have cited (Original Destiny, Manifest Sin, for those keeping score at home); but otherwise, the whole issue of creative block is almost as much a mystery to me as the issue of the sort of professional jealousy that can shatter a friendship.

These are big words, I know, and I almost certainly will be called upon to eat them some day, but for now I will say this:

My friends are my friends, and their successes only magnify our friendships.

My books are due when they’re due, and my own personal definition of my professionalism has me turning them in on time.

Maybe some day I’ll learn differently, but I sure hope not.

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[writing|personal] Miscellaneous updatery

More work on Green tonight. I’m through all of casacorona‘s comments, and starting into feedback from other readers. Also did some copy edits for my reprint in The Lone Star Stories Reader. That story, “The Hangman Isn’t Hanging”, is excerpted from Original Destiny, Manifest Sin.

On the cancer front, I am out and about more. That included lunch with kenscholes, and a doctor’s appointment later. Some good healthcare news from elsewhere in my family, which while not mine to tell here, was intensely relieving.

The fact that I haven’t been complaining lately is probably a good sign. The surgical wound in my abdomen itches and feels weird, but I can bend, sit, even cough, without more than moderate discomfort. The internal sutures still ache when I use my edited colon, but likewise only moderate discomfort. With luck, I’ll make it to the Locus Awards in Seattle at the end of next week. That would be my first big trip.

the_flea_king and Mrs. the_flea_king are in town this weekend, so I will probably see them (again) on Saturday. Likewise garyomaha and elusivem will be here Sunday. Father’s Day luncheon that day as well, followed by the Guerilla Surrealism Circus Featuring Barth Anderson and the Pips, at which I may be a pip.

With luck Green edits will wrap this weekend, and I can go into a final read next weekend.

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