I'm pretty terrible at these updates.
- Still querying the novel described below, but the letter is different now. Different, but more or less the same. It's a brutal, quiet grind.
- Publishing new short fiction now and then.
- Submitting a collection of short stories and flash about parents and children in various fairy-tale worlds, which is currently called The Bedtime Emptying of Our World.
- More than 100% recovered, physically-speaking, from last year's small brush with cancer, mountain biking with more strength, liveliness, and speed than ever.
- Worrying about my daughter Mabel going to kindergarten in August.
- Worrying about a lot.
Reading (and very much enjoying) I Keep My Exoskeletons to Myself by Marisa Crane.
Writing. Working on a new project about communions and querying my novel. Enjoying my time re-learning and expanding my craft of prose poems and flash, thinking about longer stories, and generally loving the entire process again.
And because the query letter from January is stunningly out of date, why not share the current pitch with the rest of the world?
If you don’t like the story your memory tells, what lengths will you go to rewrite it?
At midnight in the Arizona desert, Pilot deletes the constellation of Cassiopeia from a night sky bleached with light pollution. A few cubicles over, a co-worker mysteriously disappears, and their work—seeking utopia by deleting anything dangerous, obsolete, or extinct from our world and our memories—changes forever. Tiger, Pilot’s boss, finally has enough evidence to identify the decommission’s fatal flaw, how it deletes anyone who no longer fist into the world that remains, but the only person who can help Pilot find the fix is the daughter he’s no longer allowed to remember—lost five years ago due to the very same flaw. To reunite his family, and protect others from being torn apart, Pilot must journey into a treacherous world built from everything we’ve forgotten.
THE STAR CASSETTE connects the portal fantasy of Alix E. Harrow’s THE TEN THOUSAND DOORS OF JANUARY to the search for connection and redemption in the harrowing world of Emily St. John Mandel’s STATION ELEVEN. It will appeal to readers who enjoy a literary/upmarket blend and a literary take on a genre premise, much like Yōko Ogawa’s THE MEMORY POLICE, grounding mystical technology and strange worlds in lyrical prose and the stories we tell about our life’s constellations—our families, both biological and found.
Reading Walk the Vanished Earth by Erin Swan.
Yes, I did indeed have testicular cancer. Or "have"? I'm still not entirely sure.
The good news is that my treatment—surgery—seems to have caught everything. I'm fully recovered, and while it's too early to use "cured," my prognosis is extremely good—at least if you ask my oncologist. My most recent CT scan and chest X-ray looked clear as day.
Getting my life back on track with loads of new perspective on health and family and luck.
Reading Liu Cixin's The Three-Body Problem.
I'm on a monthlong sabbatical. It was meant to be a month to dedicate to my novel—which, despite my entry from way back in January, is indeed not "done"—but it's transitioned into a period of recovery.
TMI, but it's your fault for being here and reading this: I'm recovering from a single radical inguinal orchiectomy as part of a potential diagnosis of testicular cancer. I won't know for sure until a pathologist is able to run additional tests on the testicle that was removed, which means I'm now (as of July 1) in another waiting period. There's a chance the pathology reports come back negative, and we removed non-cancerous tissue that was causing me discomfort for months, which is still a win-win.
Depending on the diagnosis, my life will take a simpler or more complex path in the next few months. But, for now, I'm renewing my focus on what matters: recovering, spending time with family, writing, planning for the future.
I'm extremely grateful and lucky to have the resources I need to take this time. Part of my work this month is recognizing and thinking about this country's toxic healthcare system, particularly toward those who are under- or un-insured, and the privilege I have in being able to take an entire month off work without too much impact to my family's financial situation.
Reading Ada Limón's The Hurting Kind and Allegra Hyde's Eleutheria.
My novel, The Commission of Dark, is "done." As done as I can make it myself. I started this project more than 4 years ago, just before the birth of my first daughter, and I've never been more proud of anything I've worked on creatively. At this point, I'm working on a query letter to send to literary agents with the hopes of finding a new advocate for my work and (maybe more importantly) some external feedback on this thing I've spent an absurd amount of time working on in isolation.
Here's the bulk of the query so far (as of Jan 10):
In a future fraught with light pollution, where every night sky is as starless as the one above Times Square, a middle-aged man named Pilot works on a growing team of decommissioners to rid humanity of its memories of everything we’ve lost. iPhones and despots, industrial toxins and whole constellations.
But when the decommission’s founder feels called to answer an insidious question—has he built something good or monstrous?—Pilot finds himself transported to a world built from everything we’ve forgotten—including Ette, his own stargazing daughter. With allies in both worlds, including Ette’s old best friend, a marauder of streetlights and well-lit stadiums, and a prodigious intern bent on undermining the decommission from the inside, Pilot endeavors to save what remains of the daughter he lost by ushering in a new era of dark.
The Commission of Dark reads like the constellation formed by Susanna Clark’s Piranesi, Matt Bell’s Appleseed, and Alix E. Harrow’s The Ten Thousand Doors of January as it explores the nature of myths—including those created in fatherhood, diaspora, or found families—and the lengths to which we might go to rewrite our own stories.
I've queried a few agents so far, and now comes the waiting game.
Of course, I'm also continuing to build Commit Copy. The last few weeks before the holidays were super productive, with lots of good chats with potential new clients that are exactly the kind of people I want to work with, and now I'm waiting for a lot of new projects to sign on the dotted line. If everything works out the way I hope, it'll be a huge burden off my back to help me focus more on writing (like the novel) in 2022.
Oh! I got some professional photos taken of me for the first time ever. Very exciting stuff. I'm hoping they'll do double-duty as an official-looking author photo for my personal/creative projects and something business-y for my freelance work. I need to review the gallery and tell the photographer what pictures I want to go with, but I've been putting it off, mostly because I'm afraid of my own face.
Reading Susanna Clarke's Piranesi and E. Lily Wu's On Fragile Waves.
I just finished a new-to-me novel by a dear friend and I'm so hopeful for its future.
I've been up to quite a bit since my last update.
In November, I launched a new copywriting business focused on open-source companies & startups—Commit Copy—after stumbling across the idea at the beginning of the month. I was working through a "challenge" organized by The Copywriter Club, and was focused on defining my niche, when I realized that my experience in open source is one of my unique differentiators as a copywriter. I understand the unique challenges these businesses face, and I've worked in every facet of marketing them: web copy, content marketing, email, documentation, community, and so on.
No more Nurse Media! I'm pretty excited to move beyond the name, which wasn't as valuable as I'd once thought it could be. While the whole nurse tree thing was fun, it didn't really mesh that well with the type of copywriting business I wanted to run in 2021 and beyond.
I wonder if I should change the name of my LLC to something other than Nurse Media now...
Both my daughters caught COVID at the beginning of November, the younger having picked it up from daycare, but fortunately they're both just fine. I can't recommend taking care of two toddlers while trying to launch a new venture, but the work got done eventually.
Still working on that novel. Almost done. Agents beware...
Reading Lincoln Michel's The Body Scout.
We're in the middle of a pretty phenomenal monsoon here in Tucson, Arizona—this July was the single wettest month on record—so the desert is particularly green and lush. I've been enjoying that as much as time allows, mountain biking and running and frog-hunting and taking pictures of old plants with new growth.
My younger daughter turned 1 in the end of July. She's walking now, reminding me of just how far you can go even when your steps are short, and you fall often.
Working on the fourth draft of my novel, The Commission of Dark, in my fourth year of working on it. Both the most grueling draft and year yet.
I'm in the process of rebuilding my copywriting and copy consultancy, Nurse Media, after taking a two-year break to work full-time at an infrastructure monitoring startup. I'm excited to apply everything I learned—the intersection between documentation, technical writing, and educational products—to some new efforts for both myself and others.
Speaking of which, I'm beginning to dig into a much larger project around how writing on the web could be a hell of a lot better, and that maybe MDX is the future I've been waiting for. I'm starting to see the closing of a loop that began 10 years ago, all about how writers can be more productive, creative, and influential when writing for the web. More on this soon.
Reading Brian Evenson's Song for the Unraveling of the World.