May 5th, 2007


[personal] Idiot in the air

Last night while doing some logistical planning, I realized I am home 8 days between May 10th and June 15th, and that's in two separate chunks of time. In that 38 day (inclusive) period, I am going to San Francisco, Omaha, Missoula, Taos and Omaha again. I've always said I thrive on travel, we're about to see if it's true.

Oh, and selling Rancho Lake while buying Nuevo Rancho Lake, and rewriting both Stemwinder and Madness of Flowers in the same time frame.

After another post or two in the next few minutes, I won't be online much if at all today, I don't think, due to multiple social engagements of various sorts, starting with breakfast with kenscholes shortly. Regular broadcast service will resume tomorrow. Y'all play nice.

[personal] Some Answers to the Questions Thread

The questions thread is still active, if you want to drop in and ask me something. First batch of answers here:

jeffsoesbe asks: "the day job"? I thought writing was the day job for Jay Lake, Gentleman Adventurer.

No, actually, I have a full time job working for a very nice telecommunications company based in Omaha, Nebraska. Hence my 10-12 trips a year to Omaha. I work from home, but every three or four weeks spend a week at the office. I am also co-parenting the_child, so my writing career is compressed into a fairly narrow band of hours out of my waking life.

(In case you're wondering, I am a technical marketer and sales support guy, which means I do an enormous amount of writing there, but of a completely different sort than my fiction. I view this as cross-training.)

nymwae asks: How old were you when you decided writing was your passion? That's on my mind this morning, so since you're asking for questions... ;) Was there something specific that inspired you to begin?

Also, what were some of the doubts you had while writing your first novel? It's such a large project, and really intimidating at times.

dandyfunk asks: Could you elaborate on the process of cultivating a blog being parallel to cultivating a writing career? Which should start first?

When I said they were parallel, I was mostly thinking of the process of breaking in -- that is, slowly building a readership, improving one's own quality and consistency, finding a voice (or voices, in my case), then expanding. You could apply that template almost exactly to either blogging or a fiction career. The primary difference is that blogging is aggressively democratic -- you the content provider interact directly with consumers who vote with their clicks. Fiction is more like a republic -- you the content provider interact with editorial intermediaries, who then channel fiction to the people.

As to which should start first, that's a chicken-and-the-egg question. Write like you're always going to sell, blog like you always have something to say, and see what develops. The beginnings of my fiction career (slightly) predate the rise of blogging as a popular medium, so in my case that obviously came first. There's a handful of writers out there (scalzi, scottlynch) for whom blogging was what launched their fiction careers.

Also, only blog if you want to, not because you should. And if you feel like you're choosing between blogging and writing, choose the one that's more important.

~Matt asks: How do you manage to have so many ideas to churn out a story a week? I have a good dozen or so that I *will* work on--after the current project, natch--but I don't think I've had that many story ideas in all my time as a writer. Granted, nine years isn't that long, but still, you've got me wondering.

This is one of those "your mileage may vary" answers, but for some writers, myself included, ideas are by far the easiest part. I can riff five story ideas in a minute. Execution is what's tough.

One thing that muddies the waters of this particular discussion is the definition of the term "idea." For me it can be a thin thread indeed -- a felicitious turn of phrase, a strange visual image -- and I'm off and running. For some writers, an "idea" must have a character in a setting with a problem and some notion of the plot resolution before they'll consider it an idea.

This may be worthy of an extended post of its own soon. Thank you. You'll see a better answer then.

hoosier_red asks: How many batteries did it take to power that shirt? Enquiring minds need to know!

I just want to say one word to you - just one word.

Are you listening?


yourbob reminds me (politely): I had asked for a neighbor update

I'm very sorry, sir. We have attempted to assist the Neighbor in selling her house, but I think she's daunted by the complexity of the task. Mother of the Child and I talked this out, and decided we don't have the right to push her.

The older granddaughter has started community college with the intention of becoming a massage therapist, and seems to be on track. The younger granddaughter is finishing her junior in high school and continues to be difficult to herself and her grandmother.

jeff_h asks: How many rejections would you have to get for a short story before deciding to stop sending it out? What about a novel? Just curious.

My most-rejected short story sold on its 21st submission. Many of my stories sell on first send-out. (I might do a statistical post later.) I don't retire stories based on rejection count, but I do sometimes retire them if in reviewing them I realize they no longer stand for my best work.

Novels...different question. The Murasaki Doctrine has been rejected four times (I think), but I still like it a lot. It quite likely needs a major rewrite. Everything else I've submitted has been accepted (five novels, now), though there are several sitting on my hard drive that have never been submitted. Only one of those is in a kill folder, my very first, The January Machine.

blackaire asks: Is it true that the rotation of the earth is due to a giant hamster running on his wheel, and if so, who cleans the hamster's cage?

Ask not who cleans the cage, ask whom the cage cleans.

lt260 asks: I have read posts and heard some folks mention this at the cons: doing work as slush pile readers and copy editors. How does one acquire one of these positions? Will publishing houses hire neophytes or do they genrally stick to published authors, people with lit degrees, and so forth?

I believe the usual path is to work as a volunteer slush reader at one of the independent print or online magazines. I know that a number of them have distributed workforces, such as Abyss and Apex and Shimmer. You might start by hanging around on the blogs or chat boards of some of those magazines and getting to know the regulars and staff, so that you can be in the network the next time there's a call for volunteers.

I also know some editors, copy editors and slush readers follow this journal, so perhaps some of y'all would care to comment?

princejvstin asks: IF you were approached to do a two-novella book with another current F/SF writer of your choice, intended to be a complimentary writer to your own, who would you pick to have their work alongside yours, and why? I am thinking of a modern version of the old Ace Doubles.

Ooooh. Nice question. Where to begin?

Well, I'd pretty much have a stroke if anyone every asked me to stand up next to Gene Wolfe. In the terms you phrased the question, I'd have to say I'd burst with pride to be paired with Jeff VanderMeer, Jeffrey Ford, K.J. Bishop or China Miéville, just to name a few examples.

cithra asks a question that I'll answer without reposting it here.

Of course, you silly person. How couldn't I?