Jay Lake: Writer

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[links] Link salad knows you can’t sleep alone in a strange place

Audible.com has two more of my books up: Rocket Science & Death of a Starship

Rowling and “Galbraith”: an authorial analysis — This is pretty interesting stuff around language geekery and automated textual analysis.

Your Favorite Movies Laid Out as Vintage Treasure Maps — This is weird and cool. (Snurched from Steve Buchheit.)

31 More Images Of Hot Steampunk Girls & Guys — Ah, costuming. (Via [info]martang.)

U.S. Pat. No. 1,926,420: Monkey Dog Saddle — I’ve been on dates like that.

Exercise in a Pill? The Search Continues — (Via David Goldman.)

Scientists put nature’s infinite playlist on iPods to monitor wildlifeWireless listening posts allow remote real-time IDs of tropical species.

North Sentinel Island — I’ve heard of this place. Very strange.

Growing Your Own Bridge — These are elegant and beautiful. (Via [info]threeoutside.)

Flying with a little help from friends — This is crazy cool robotics. (Via Steve Buchheit.)

Space-Time Loops May Explain Black Holes — Also the state of my sock drawer.

British space penetrator passes icy test — Bang bang, shoot shoot? Somehow this is very Buck Rogers (Snurched from Steve Buchheit.)

A Waterspout in Florida — I have always wanted to see one of these. I have been through fires, foods, hurricanes. I’ve even seen a volcanic eruption. But never a tornado or a waterspout.

Why Ancient Earth Was So WarmGreenhouse gases in the atmosphere kept the planet toasty, model shows.

Thousands of Years of Rising SeasA study estimates the ultimate effect of greenhouse gases on ice sheets, after the gases have persisted for hundreds of years.

Behold, the six types of atheists — Hmm. Interesting but simplistic. (Via [info]garyomaha.)

One hell of a deal: Pope Francis offers reduced time in Purgatory for Catholics that follow him on Twitter — Is that really how God does things? I’m damned glad I’m an atheist, so I don’t have to keep up with this kind of ludicrous score keeping.

Robertson Wonders If Obama Is A ‘Crypto-Muslim’ — This isn’t a difference of opinion. This isn’t contrasting governing philosophies. This is lunacy, pure and simple. This is your Republican party.

The Banality Of Richard Cohen And Racist Profiling — Ta-Nehisi Coates hits hard on the more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger strain of racism.

Health Plan Cost for New Yorkers Set to Fall 50% — Obamacare is a real disaster, isn’t it? What’s this country coming too when people pay less for a better service from a conservative ideal that happened to be sponsored by a Democratic president? This is the very definition of creeping Socialism.

Titles of Laws as Propaganda — This is a function of soundbite culture as much as any thing, I think.

US ties outweigh intelligence ‘squabbles’ – PutinRussian President Vladimir Putin has said bilateral relations with the US are more important than “squabbles between special services”.

QotD?: Can you sleep with somebody else?


7/17/2013
Writing time yesterday: 0.0 hours (chemo brain)
Hours slept: 6.75 hours (solid)
Body movement: 0.0 hours (away from home)
Weight: n/a (away from home)
Number of FEMA troops on my block supplying black kids with Skittles: 0
Currently reading: Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation: A 28-Day Program by Sharon Salzberg; Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey

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[links] Link salad wakes up in a heat wave

Jay Lake Pre-Mortem Readathon, review the first — A review of my novel Rocket Science.

Saturn’s Hyperion: A Moon with Odd Craters — It looks like a wasp’s nest to me. Which leads to some very disturbing story ideas…

Memorial for dead bees at Wilsonville Target — That’s my Oregon.

Japanese earthquake literally made waves in NorwayThe magnitude 9.0 Tohoku quake in 2011 turned fjords into giant resonators.

BIG Plans To Snap Together An Homage To Lego

Apple seeks ‘iWatch’ trademark in Japan

Falling chain of beads — A cool science video from smart people in the UK. (Thanks to [info]willyumtx.)

Ladybusiness Anthropologist Throws Up Hands, Concedes Men Are the Reason for Everything Interesting in Human Evolution — Snerk.

God, cancer, and Jay #2: The easy questions — More from my friend [info]daveraines, a UMC pastor.

Heatwave grounds US flightsSeveral flights have been cancelled due to the record-breaking heatwave affecting parts of the US. It’s too hot in some places for the airplanes to fly. Weather is not climate, but the aggregate of weather is. Nothing to see here, citizens. Just move along and stay tuned to Rush Limbaugh.

Sorry Now?What do the liberal and moderate lawyers who supported John Roberts’ nomination say today?

Don’t let DOMA fool you — the Supreme Court is restricting your rights — This is Bush’s enduring legacy: making America safe for angry white men.

Justice Kennedy Denies Motion To Halt Gay Marriage — Where’s. The. Harm? The only harm gay marriage has ever offered is to expose the moralizing bigotry of religious zealots as lies.

My Gay Mormon Dad — Another painful post from Feminist Mormon Housewives trying to reconcile the illogical diktats of faith with reason, morality and plain old common sense.

Milwaukee Priest Sex Abuse Records to Be Released deal reached in federal bankruptcy court between the archdiocese and victims suing it for fraud called for the documents to be made public by July 1. Victims say the archdiocese transferred problem priests to new churches without warning parishioners and covered up priests’ crimes for decades. Proving once again that the Catholic Church’s favorite Bible verse is Matthew 19:14, “Suffer the little children.” They just forgot the rest of the verse.

Penn. Lawmaker Censored On House Floor From Speaking On Gay RightsState Rep. Brian Sims’ (D) remarks during a part of the House session where representatives are allowed to speak openly were cut off almost immediately by a procedural maneuver. State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R) objected to the remarks on the grounds that Sims was speaking out “against God’s law.” See, if you’re a conservative, that whole First Amendment religion thing only applies to Christians. The right kind of Christians. And that whole separation of church and state thing is just a liberal lie. Are you proud of your Republican party?

Paula Deen And A Certain Kind Of Racism — Yeah, well. (Via [info]danjite.)

How Other Countries Handle ImmigrationCountries struggle to find the best way to deal with immigrants knocking at their doors.

The Anatomy of the Occupy Wall Street Movement on TwitterA study of the social network behind the Occupy movement shows that the most vocal participants were highly connected before the protests began but have now largely lost interest, say social network researchers.

Is WikiLeaks Now An International Political Party?

Kerry: Spying ‘not unusual’ in international relations — Yeah, well. Good luck with that.

QotD?: How hot is it where you are?


7/1/2013
Writing time yesterday: 0.0 hours (breakfast meeting about literary estate)
Hours slept: 6.75 hours (interrupted)
Body movement: 0.5 hours (stationary bike)
Weight: 247.8
Number of FEMA troops on my block attempting to secure minority voting rights despite the recent Supreme Court ruling: 0
Currently reading: Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation: A 28-Day Program by Sharon Salzberg; Snuff by Terry Pratchett

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[process] Mature characters with backstory

Saturday evening I was texting with [info]bravado111 (urban fantasy author J.A. Pitts) about how much we both liked Saladin Ahmed’s Throne of the Crescent Moonjlake.com | LiveJournal ]. John observed that the book read like the fourth volume of a series, and compared it to the original Star Wars movie, now known as A New Hope.

This got me on to thinking about mature protagonists, a topic which has already been on my mind somewhat of late. Mature characters come with their own backstories, their own histories. (For that matter, so do infants, but in dramatic narratives, people with fully formed life histories are usually more interesting.)

Among my books, Rocket Science, Mainspring, Escapement, Pinion, Green, Endurance and Kalimpura all center around young protagonists. Death of a Starship and the Flowers books deal with people in middle age. (The Before Michaela Cannon, core protagonist of Sunspin‘s ensemble cast, is 2,000 years old, so she’s a bit of an outlier.) With those younger protagonists, a major aspect of the story being told is their own journey to maturation and discovery of their life path. The older protagonists have a lot of backstory and implied action embedded in their preferences, desires, choices and reactions to the unfolding of the plot.

Certainly that latter effect is what Saladin achieved in Throne of the Crescent Moon. Hence [info]bravado111‘s reaction. Those characters had been around a long time, had experienced many prior adventures, had lived.

What I’m now chewing on is whether I think it’s a bigger challenge to write a youthful protagonist or to write an older protagonist. How does this affect the reading experience? Green and its subsequent volumes would be very different books if she were middle aged at the time of the action. Some of the key underlying themes of Sunspin would be null and void if Cannon weren’t literally the oldest human being who had ever lived. And Ahmed’s Doctor Adoulla Makhslood wouldn’t be anything like he is if he were still living in the bloom of youth.

Food for thought, indeed. What’s your take, as either a reader or a writer, on the age of protagonists?

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[process] It gets easier, it gets harder

As most of you reading this know, I have been working on Kalimpura lately. 21,900 words of first draft in the last three days, thanks to a bunch of time hanging around on airplanes. So far the prose is flowing well and the story is holding together nicely. Fred has introduced several interesting elements that were not in the outline, but generally, I am hewing to plan.

I have several process observations that arise from this experience.

1. Outlines have become more important to me. I wrote Rocket Science without any outline at all. I wrote Trial of Flowers from a five paragraph outline. Mainspring had an outline about twelve pages long. And so forth. Kalimpura‘s outline from which I am working right now is close to thirty pages. (And to note for future use, Sunspin‘s outline, which is nowhere near finished, is about seventy pages.)

I used to hate outlining because it seemed to take all the fun out of writing. For me, writing has always been about the joy of discovery. It’s like a specialized form of reading, except I’m channeling the story through my fingers instead of my eyes on a page. In the time that I’ve matured (or at least developed) as a writer, the outline has gone from a hated, mythical beast, to a necessary chore, to an invaluable tool.

Really, who knew? Besides everyone else, I mean.

2. This is the second time I’ve written a third book in series. (Pinion being the other, of course.) As I believe I observed while writing Pinion, it’s a rather different experience that writing a standalone or initial book. So much of the worldbuilding, characterization and discovery is in place. I have to touch on bits of it so a reader who’s starting with this book won’t be lost, but I have it internalized. That means that writing this book is a different experience for me. I am far more focused on plot and inter-character dynamics because that other stuff is already in place and not crying for attention. And much as I had this experience with Pinion, I think it’s likely to make a somewhat different kind of book.

Now if I could only figure out how to deliberately leverage this phenomenon in future projects.

3. My process evolves as well. This is profoundly unsurprising, of course, as a matter of principle, but still jolts me a bit when I encounter it. For example, one of my very firm guidelines for years has been not to revise while I’m drafting. I have seen many writers come to grief on the need to perfect a sentence/paragraph/scene before they can move on to the next, and thus never get to the other end of the project. My view has always been that it’s much easier to revise something already finished at least once on the page than it is to revise something still in your head. And frankly, if you want to be a commercially successful writer, I think this is probably close to essential.

Obviously at my production rates on this draft I have not gone into a revision spin cycle. But almost every day when I sit down to write, I find myself going into the previous day’s work for changes and clarifications, and in at least one case so far, major redirection.

Other things are changing, too. It’s fascinating to observe.

4. Per the above items, some things have become easier with time, others have become harder. My facility for laying down sentences is quite well-tuned. The act of writing, as it were, has developed into something nearly autonomous. Unless I choose to focus on line level style issues (as sometimes I do), I can rely on my skills there without having to consciously monitor them and adjust course.

On the other hand, my sense of point-of-view continues to ramify and develop. The more I learn about that subject, the less I understand it. This makes me question basic techniques in my writing, as well as try new ones in an attempt to address that unease. For whatever it’s worth, my two most complex pieces ever for point-of-view purposes are “America, Such as She Is”, and The Baby Killers. I couldn’t even begin to describe to you in any real detail what I did in those two novellas. In the case of Kalimpura, point-of-view choices I made in Green provide me with some very tight constraints that I need to continue to respect. Still, there are ways to work within and around those constraints to do things I didn’t used to be able to do as a writer.

That sense of having at least occasional access to a capability that remains mysterious to me is both challenging and fascinating. At least in part, this sense of always having a new learning curve to climb as a writer is part of why it keeps working for me. My sense of discovery has broadened.

Just some rambles, but it’s been so long since my life has been calm enough for me to reflect on and talk about process that I’m damned pleased to be able to make them.

What have you learned about your own writing lately?

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[links] Link salad wakes up and wonders what the day will bring

A reader reacts to Rocket Science

You’re Staring at My Story’s Package (1)Scrivener’s Error on copyrights and book editions. Fascinating stuff, if you’re into the business of books.

The Underwear Railroad: 1906 — A rather strange train photo from Shorpy.

Millis: Approaches to Interstellar Flight — Some fascinating stuff here for you skiffy writers.

NASA talks global warming — As usual, the facts are biased against the conservative worldview. Not that this slows them down for a moment…

GOP Trying To Exploit and Contain Populism At The Same Time — Conserative blogger Daniel Larison proves once again why I’ve come to admire his writing so much. He hits the nail on the head about much of what bothers me in the current conservative political stance, writing from the inside of the movement.

GOP Rep King feels heat for suicide bomber sympathies — White male tax protestor flies plane into building? Conservative hero. Muslim radical flies plane into building? Decade-long war on terror. Cognitive dissonance much, GOP?

Nicaragua prevents treatment of pregnant cancer patient — Welcome to the magical world of conservativeland, where even maternal death and the orphaning of an existing child doesn’t matter when measured against the rights of a ten week fetus. Proud of yourselves, guys? This is the future you’re making for all our daughters.

The gathering storm — Roger Ebert on privatization, public services, and where the money went. The GOP has been captured by a far-right movement that places its abstract ideology above practical needs and concerns in the real world. Well, it does. You can see that when Tea Partiers demonstrate against their own self-interest. Very much worth the read, especially if you think you’ll disagree with him.

NYTimes Public Editor Declines to Recommend Retraction for Multiple Erroneous Reports on False ACORN ‘Pimp’ Story — This is kind of inside baseball for political media junkies, frankly, but it’s an excellent example of how the liberal media isn’t. That “liberal media” meme may have been Atwater and Ailes’ greatest single success, it’s so false and so toxic to actual political reporting in this country, and has effectively converted the entire national media into a Right Wing echo chamber for the past three decades.

?otD: Who moved my cheese?


2/25/2010
Writing time yesterday: 0 hours (exhausted)
Body movement: 30 minute stationary bike ride
Hours slept: 7.0 (slept well)
This morning’s weigh-in: n/a (forgot)
Yesterday’s chemo stress index: 6/10
Currently reading: [between books]

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[links] Link salad, mostly weird science edition

A reader reacts to my novel Rocket Science — They liked it.

Ebooks and issues of entitlement — From Booklife, an excellent overview.

“Dear Media, from Science” (No.1) — This is a scream. (Via Bad Astronomy.)

Spray-on liquid glass — Weird and cool materials science. (Thanks to .)

Zoologger: ‘Living beach ball’ is giant single cell — Weird science, dept of benthic biology. (Thanks to .)

Toward an Interstellar Archaeology — Wow. This is a must read for anyone interested in hard SF and/or SETI.

Physicist discovers how to teleport energy — Cool beans.

A little telescope goes a long wayNASA astronomers have successfully demonstrated that a David of a telescope can tackle Goliath-size questions in the quest to study Earth-like planets around other stars. Their work, reported today in the journal Nature, provides a new tool for ground-based observatories, promising to accelerate by years the search for prebiotic, or life-related, molecules on planets orbiting stars beyond our solar system. (Via .)

?otD: Bits of my creation, is it real?


2/4/2010
Writing time yesterday: 60 minutes
Body movement: 30 minutes on stationary bike to come
Hours slept: 9.25
This morning’s weigh-in: 228.2
Yesterday’s chemo stress index: 7/10
Currently reading: [between books]

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