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[personal|travel] In Omaha

I’m in Omaha for Day Jobbery. A nice dinner last night with [info]garyomaha and [info]elusivem. We talked about current writing projects and whatnot.

Speaking of current writing projects, I batted a lot of cleanup the past couple of days. A bunch of things went out the door, including short fiction submissions, materials for three book proposals, and some new Sekrit Projekt stuff. Kind of rocketing along here. I have a modest nonfiction request to deal with, then I’m back on Sunspin, probably tonight, starting with a re-read of Calamity of So Long a Life then hitting the draft of book two, Their Currents Turn Awry.

Also of note today is that I’ll be guest teaching a literature class at the University of Nebraska at Omaha on my lunch hour. I’m looking forward to that, should be a lot of fun.

[books|writing] Little Dog: Son of a Bitch

The synopsis for book one of Little Dog, Son of a Bitch, is about done in both long form (writing document) and short form (selling document). [info]bravado111 and I made good use of our hang time together this weekend for some story conferencing, as well some parallel play writing time.

I also churned out first draft one-sheets for books two and three, just to show series direction as part of the sales proposal package. They’re currently entitled Whelp, I Need Somebody and Littermates. After a few final touches today, the package is off our desks for a while, at least until our agents give us feedback on the synopsis and other materials.

The current production plan is for [info]bravado111 to write the first draft in May and/or June, and me to do the initial major revision pass in June and/or July. This schedule should survive even if I have to go back into cancer treatment, which means we’ll have the book to first readers by the end of July, if not a bit earlier. I am happy to jam this in around Sunspin, simply to get it going.

It’s nice to see a new project gathering steam.

[writing] The state of play, updated once more

After correspondence with my agent yesterday, I can update the state of play on various projects.

Sunspin (four volume space opera): She really likes the revisions to volume one, Calamity of So Long a Life. I need to produce a short marketing-focused synopsis, about ten pages covering all four books, and she has suggested one more line editing pass for dropped words, et cetera. I’m feeling a little glassy-eyed about doing another line edit on the manuscript, but I probably ought to re-read it anyway in preparation for drafting the balance of Their Currents Turn Awry, which is my project for April and May. I only need another 100,000 or so words on that project to call it done in first draft, so it will fit nicely into that schedule. I expect to produce the synopsis over the next few days, and will come to grips with the line editing issue shortly thereafter.

Going to Extremes (nonfiction book about cancer, parenting and Antarctica): She is still reviewing the proposal, but likes it so far. We’re having a somewhat technical conversation now about cross-licensing and subrights and other nonfiction issues which are new territory to me. I won’t be doing any more new writing on this until she has given me full feedback on the proposal and we agree on what more we need to do for the submission package. I do feel some time pressure on this one, simply because of the timing of being able to make an Antarctic trip.

Little Dog (urban fantasy about a werewolf with achondroplastic dwarfism): Once [info]bravado111 and I wrap up the synopsis, which ought to be fairly soon, she will review it, as will his agent. At that point we’ll decide whether it makes more sense to go to market as a proposal, a partial or a full. Collaborator [info]bravado111 and I will be discussing the writing schedule today, actually, and working out between the two of us how to approach that question from our end.

Our Lady of the Islands (independent novel set in the Green universe): She wants to review this one more time, possibly have another revision round, then go to market, but not in the same immediate time as Sunspin. Since Calamity of So Long a Life will probably be going out in the next few weeks if not sooner, this means Our Lady can go out later this spring. Collaborator [info]calendula_witch and I are in agreement on this plan.

Short Fiction: I have now completed all requested short fiction due before the end of the summer. I need to send “The Cancer Catechism” into the requesting market, and later on in the year I have to write a Fathomless Abyss novella and a Cthulhu short. I have tentatively agreed to take on a couple of anthology invitations in June, when I have another month of Doing Miscellaneous Stuff on my writing calendar, but I don’t have guidelines for those yet. If you’re an editor and you’re expecting something from me that you suspect I’ve missed, please let me know.

Cancer: Of course, all of this is subject to change should next month’s re-tests show that my recently detected liver lesion is in fact a fourth round of cancer. I expect Sunspin to go forward mostly unaffected. Likewise Our Lady of the Islands. [info]bravado111 and I need to discuss a fallback plan for Little Dog if I get seriously sidelined, so status unknown there. Ironically, it’s Going to Extremes, the big, ambitious cancer book, that will likely be the most disrupted from a return of the cancer, simply because of timing. If I spend the second half of this year going through another round of chemo, there’s no way on God’s green Earth I’ll be fit to go to Antarctica during the southern summer of 2012/2013. Also, my short fiction and miscellaneous project work will fall off the table complete if cancer returns, as will most or all of my already limited convention and conference schedule.

A lot going on, and I like being this kind of busy. I just hate the uncertainty.

[links] Link salad is a regular Frankie fan

Subterranean announces their Spring, 2012 table of contents — Including my Sunspin novella, “The Weight of History, the Lightness of the Future”.

A photo of me and my siblings ca. 1974 — (Via [info]lillypond, a/k/a my sister.)

Girls’ Time Travel Attempt Leads To Suicide In China

Cube laser virtual keyboard for iPhone & iPad — :: wants ::

Cloning and resurrecting the mammoth? Not so fast

Human fossils hint at new species — The accompanying photo of a skull looks a lot like Darth Vader. Homo sith, anyone?

Disturbing and poignant video about a self-aware robot tests game-engine’s limitations — (Via [info]willyumtx.)

A 77-year-old man from Oklahoma cannot deny human-caused climate changeSlacktivist Fred Clark on Republican Senator Inhofe’s allegedly Bible based climate change denial.

Abortion bill raises KU Med accreditation concerns — Why would anti-science conservatives even care?

Georgia Republican Compares Women to Cows, Pigs, And Chickens — Stay classy, conservative America. It’s what you do best. And people, when you vote GOP, whatever your reasons, you’re enabling and endorsing a hell of a lot of very destructive crazy, just like this. Are you proud of your Republican party?

Democrats ride Romney’s Planned Parenthood remark — As well they should. Romney was being honest about the destructive GOP agenda. Keeping that in the minds of voters is the right thing to do.

Under what party did gasoline and oil prices reach their peak? Republican, of course — Not that the historical record stops the GOP from flat out lying about this.

Don’t you know that it’s different for hippies — Or why conservatives are protected from the consequences of their actions. Dixie Chicks vs Rush Limbaugh, anyone?

?otd: Was it great when it all began?


3/15/2012
Writing time yesterday: 0.5 hours (WRPA)
Body movement: 30 minute stationary bike ride
Hours slept: 6.0 (fitful)
Weight: 236.6
Currently reading: Blood of Orange by Lizzy Shannon; Requiem by Ken Scholes

[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?

[awards|repost] Obligatory story pimpage

As today is the last day for Hugo nominations to be submitted, I am reposting this one last time.

I didn’t publish much short fiction last year, due to the effects of my cancer journey on both my productivity at the keyboard and on my focus on marketing. Such writing time as I’ve had has remained focused on my novels. Nonetheless, a few things have squeaked out into the marketplace.

For my own part, I think the best of these is my Sunspin novelette, “A Long Walk Home”, which has been selected for Year’s Best Science Fiction volume 29. If you’re a Hugo or Nebula voter, I hope you’ll give it consideration.

Anyway, here’s the list.

Novels
Endurance (Green, volume 2), Tor Books

Novelettes
A Long Walk Home“, Subterranean Online
“The Decaying Mansions of Memory”, Untold Adventures

Short Fiction

“The Blade of His Plow”, Human for a Day, ed. Martin H. Greenberg and Jennifer Brozek
“A Critical Examination of Stigmata’s Print Taking the Rats to Riga” The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities: Exhibits, Oddities, Images, and Stories from Top Authors and Artists, ed. Jeff and Anne VanderMeer
‘Hello,’ Said the Gun“, Daily Science Fiction
“A Place to Come Home To” (with Shannon Page), When the Hero Comes Home, ed. Gabrielle Harbowy and Ed Greenwood
“They Are Forgotten Until They Come Again”, River, ed. Alma Alexander
“Unchambered Heart”, ChiZine
You Know What Hunts You“, The Edge of Propinquity

[process] Listening to the book

As recently discussed [ jlake.com | LiveJournal ], I have added a step to my novel manuscript revision process. I know from experience that reading a manuscript aloud always helps me find copy editing errors, infelicitous wording, word echoes and so forth. But I also dislike reading aloud at length, and especially all by myself.

The tension between knowing what was right and being pretty strongly avoidant about it was troubling. Something had to change. After much dithering, I finally had the MacBook Air read me the entire book aloud, using the GhostReader application, as recommend by commentor rip.

The voice in GhostReader is functional but primitive. It took me a little while to get used to the flattened, mechanical tones. Then I experimented with the reading speed to see how fast I could set the playback and still be able to make notes without having to pause the application.

What I did then was open GhostReader in one window and the Word document of the manuscript of Calamity of So Long a Life in another window. I simply listened, and whenever something struck me as wrong or off, inserted [brackets] in the text. Occasionally, if the fix was very easy, like a missing simple word, I would just make the correction on the fly. I didn’t try to sort out the larger issues, just marked them for later read through.

While I suspect that reading the whole manuscript aloud would have been more effective, I think I got 80% of the value of the readaloud by listening to GhostReader without wearing out either my voice or my patience. Also, this meant I could work on the book in public spaces and on airplanes without looking like a crazy person. Even coffee shops, despite what [info]scalzi says about that.

One of the minor problems of the process was when I went back through the manuscript, sometimes I’d have trouble figuring out why I marked a section. The answer to that, of course, was just to read it aloud to myself. Another minor problem was sometimes I’d go on a word hunt when I’d realized I’d used a crutch word, and then hit that point of neural fatigue where the word became a meaningless string of letters and stopped making sense in situ.

I’m extremely pleased with this outcome. GhostReader (or some equivalent) will be an important part of my writing from now on. It adds a layer of time and attention to my revision process, but that layer is worth a great deal more than it costs me. If you’ve never done this, I highly recommend trying it out.

[links] Link salad from the wells of disappointment where the women kneel to pray

In case you missed it, Mark Bourne’s eulogy: [ jlake.com | LiveJournal ] — Also, the photo montage displayed at his funeral.

My Sunspin short, “To Raise a Mutiny Betwixt Yourselves”, is reprinted online at BEst SF

Black Steampunk / Negra Vaporpunko — Interesting. (Via [info]goulo.)

Stupid Latin footnote abbreviations

Why humans have computers, and chimps are stuck with sticks

Oceans Acidifying Fastest in 300 Million Years Due to Emissions — Darn that liberal bias in reality!

Will Limbaugh apology quell controversy? — I really don’t understand why this is a controversy. This is much like the recent Pat Buchanan firing. The man has built an entire, incredibly successful career out of being aggressively offensive. This deep nastiness has made him the soul of the Republican party. Who could possibly be surprised now? More on this from an overseas perspective.

Santorum Can’t Run Away from Limbaugh, who is just taking Santorum’s ideas to their logical conclusion — Well, duh. Limbaugh’s hateful diatribes and nasty, fact-free manipulations have made him the monster from the id of conservative America a lot longer than Santorum’s been on the national stage.

Cruelty, Continued — Ta-Nehisi Coates on Limbaugh. [A]rguably the dominant trait of the conservative movement was cruelty.

George Will’s No-Confidence Vote

?otd: Who will serve and who will eat?


3/5/2012
Writing time yesterday: 1.0 hours (30 minutes of WRPA, 30 minutes on the Going to Extremes nonfiction proposal)
Body movement: 30 minute stationary bike ride
Hours slept: 7.5 (solid)
Weight: 236.0
Currently reading: 1491 by Charles C. Mann; Permeable Borders by Nina Kiriki Hoffman

[personal] Leap day mumblings and miscellaneous updatery

I do a fair amount of event work — master of ceremonies, charity auctioneer, and whatnot. Plus the occasional bit of improv comedy. Plus tons of convention panels. One important lesson I’ve learned over the years of being on stage or behind the podium is never try compete for attention with a cattle auctioneer. (Trust me on this.) No one can possibly be as loud, snappy or entertaining as someone who does that professionally.

Another important lesson I’ve learned in that situation is never try to compete for attention with a clown on a unicycle in a strait-jacket. (Trust me on this, too.) After he came on, I lost the audience completely.

Last night, I added a third rule. Never compete for attention with puppets. (Really, really, trust me on this.)

IMG_7573

Luckily, Mary Robinette Kowal is so utterly charming that even when she is destroying you socially and crippling your book sales with a totally unfair comedic puppet show you can only be amused and enchanted. And we did have a good time being hosted by the terrific booksellers at the airport Powell’s. [info]the_child and most of the rest of my family were there, which was terrific. Some friends even turned up. And we did sell some books.

In other news, [info]the_child and I head out to Seattle this afternoon for Mark Bourne’s funeral tomorrow morning. I’ve got the eulogy in a full and nearly final draft. This is one of the toughest things I have ever written. My profound thanks to everyone who has contributed stories, information and time to review it.

In other, other news, somewhere in the next few days Calamity of So Long a Life (Sunspin volume one) will soon be tottering to a close. For obvious reasons I’ve been a bit distracted from my focus on that goal these past few days. So I’ll miss my self-imposed deadline of, well, today, by two or three days. It’s in a good cause, however.

I still haven’t had a chance to decompress and process my feelings even from the new cancer information of the past few weeks, let alone the deaths of Mark and Kathryn. I sort of wonder if I’m going to have a screaming meltdown at the Rainforest Writers Village this weekend. (Hopefully in the privacy of my own cabin, if so.)

Off to be busy. Happy Leap Day, everyone.


Photo © 2012, B. Lake

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

[travel|family] In and out and all about

This morning, [info]tillyjane (a/k/a my mom) and I are flying to Colorado. We’re off to Westcliffe to see my aunt acting in a play, The House of Bernarda Alba. Chilly family fun!

I’ll be back in Portland Sunday afternoon. Next Tuesday is the airport Powell’s book signing with Mary Robinette Kowal and me. We’ll be there from 5 to 7, so come on by if you’re in the area.

Next Wednesday, I’m off to Rainforest Writers Village through Sunday. That will be nice.

Somewhere in all this, I’ll be wrapping up Sunspin and sending it off to la agente. Go me! In any event, see some, all or none of you around the joint.

[process] Sequel-itis, or the part 2 blues…

Yesterday afternoon, [info]the_child‘s basketball team lost their first round playoff game. It was heart-breakingly close, a very good game, but in the end, the other team pulled it out to beat them by three points. After dinner with friends, we stayed up late (and tired!) and watched Kung Fu Panda 2imdb ], which we’d rented over the weekend and is due back Real Soon Now. Meanwhile, I’m thinking ahead to the second book of Sunspin, Their Currents Turn Awry.

All of these things are essential part two of something else. The playoffs were a coda to her season. Kung Fu Panda 2 follows on the success of the first movie. Currents, well, we shall see.

It’s hard to do something twice. I learned this writing both of the Mainspring and Green trilogies. The demands of the sequel/part 2 are very different. The challenge for the creator is how to maintain and build on whatever magic the original had, while still doing something new and interesting. So I worry a bit about Their Currents Turn Awry and the final two books in Sunspin. Once a reader has encountered Calamity of So Long a Life, their expectations are set. They have a view of the world that I have to both satisfy and expand upon.

Luckily for me, while very, very few movie sequels live up to their original (off the top of my head, the Toy Storyimdb ] cycle is the only movie series that truly pulled this off), there are plenty of sfnal and fantasy examples of successful series and trilogies. Writing is not the playoffs, and we’re not worried about box office take. Not exactly, at any rate.

Still, there’s nothing like a story the first time out of the wrapper, when you’re experiencing it like never before. How to keep that magic going…?

[writing] Being less of a chicken about the Sunspin readaloud

Apparently I am coming to grips with the reading aloud question [ jlake.com | LiveJournal ]. Yesterday I put in several hours on Calamity of So Long a Life with GhostReader, which seems to process about 45 pages per hour through its text-to-speech engine, working at a pace that I can track along with in the manuscript file.

This is both interesting and a little frustrating. I do suspect if I were reading it myself, I’d catch a few more things, but GhostReader is still helping me a lot. The flat, 1990s style computer voice borders on the distracting, and it’s not optimized for manuscript format, so scene breaks are handled a bit strangely. Still, this has gotten me past my logjam. I reckon another 12-13 hours of work to make it all the way through with GhostReader, then another few hours to clean up things as noted. Plus I need to process a couple of more sets of last-first reader feedback.

Still on track for the month end, and maybe a little earlier.