Monday, August 31, 2020

Author photos

I got large, round glasses around two years ago because the frames don't block as much of my vision as frames of glasses with smaller lens do, and because there's less distortion on the edges. 

They seem normal to me now, but sometimes I've been aware though that I look "less credible" to some or most people while wearing them, in part because they look somewhat Harry Potter-like. Credibility has been more important to me since 2013 or so when I started reading a lot of nonfiction books, doing research on nature and society, and writing about my research. So for my author photo that I just sent my publisher I used my credible glasses, with smaller lens.

This glasses topic was in my forthcoming novel, Leave Society, but it was deleted in an early draft. A draft from November 2018 said:

The next day, walking alone stoned, Li realized he slightly tilted his head back all the time so that the top part of his glasses frames wouldn’t block his vision. He realized that if he wore glasses with huge round frames, his whole body would assume a more natural position. Realizing people would think he was wearing atypical glasses just to be weird, he felt reluctant to do it.  

*Photos by Yuka Igarashi

*Update* After discussing with Yuka, I decided to also send a round-glasses photo. *Update*

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Leave Society third draft

I finished the third draft of my novel today. It's 1952 words or 2.4% shorter than the second draft. I worked on the third draft from July 29 to August 25. It's in four parts. I read and edited the first part once, then read and edited the second part twice and did the same for the third and fourth parts, then went through the whole book a final time. It's ~80,300 words now. My main method of editing for this novel has been to repeatedly go through it beginning to end. 

My editor thought the word "recovery" should be better defined, and I worked on that by copy-pasting every instance of "recovery" in the novel into another file, reading through it occasionally, and thinking of what to add or change. I previously did this with other threads in the novel too—a meta thread (in which the protagonist is writing the novel), a thread on "the mystery", a thread on microfireflies, a thread on the end of history, a thread on the partnership-dominator fall.

I had two files open whenever I was working on the novel. One was the novel. One was a file with unused material and metadata and other things, like a to-do list for the novel. In the latter file, I organized unused material into topics. I had/have these topics:

Big Bang
Cotton Field
Diet Coke
Drug phase
EMR—schumann resonance
Exercise inventions
Emergent properties
Emily Martin
Hutchison Effect
Kathleen Harrison

And so on. Here is an example of what unused material I had in a topic (for Daoism):

-In China, metaphysics was called xuánxué, the dark learning, he knew from Ellen Marie Chen. Its main texts were Zhuangzi, Daodejing, and I Ching or Book of Changes. Chen defined xuánxué, which also translated to “the mystery school” and was close to Daoism, as “the search for what humans consider to be the profoundest values and their efforts to embody these values.”
-on how Dao may have originally been a female deity represented by a circle, which bifurcated into yin and yang
-and Mágū, a Daoist deity associated with cannabis and caves. 
-on the Daodejing’s “emphasis on the feminine,”
-“origin was rooted in the worship of the Mother-goddess”
-Dao was playful, spontaneous
-Translate “dark” line myself—玄 之 又 玄
-玄 was in Daodejing 12 times
-Laozi was an older contemporary of Confucius.
-Daodejing is “a hymm to the power and love of Tao as the Great Mother.”
-Chen called death “merely one stage of Life’s endless transformations”
-that when people see something mysterious, they say very xuán. 
-In Daoism, wrote Chen, “the grotesque and deformed and weak” belonged more to the process of change and so were “closer to the Mother.”
-xuan—"black, dark; mysterious, profound, abstruse, arcane”
-and wrote the Daodejing before going, post-retirement, to live in seclusion
-which was attributed to Laozi (literally “old teacher”), and which Chen felt was more fittingly called “the old wisdom,” 
-of the trinity of birth-death-rebirth

Friday, August 21, 2020


I worked on Leave Society's acknowledgements' page today. The first thing I did was check what I put for Trip, my previous book and second book to have an acknowledgements page:
Thank you to my family and friends; to Kathleen Harrison, Finn McKenna, and Klea McKenna; to Tim O’Connell, Bill Clegg, and Angie Venezia; and to my publisher, Vintage.
Then I came up with this:
Thank you to my parents, parents’ dog, brother, nephew, uncle, aunt, friends, partner, editor (Tim O’Connell), agent (Bill Clegg), publicist (Angie Venezia), and publisher (Vintage).
I like it because it's a fractal summation of the novel, and could gently remind the reader a little of what happened, after they finish reading it, and because it's brief. An overly long acknowledgements page could make the reader forget what they just read, take them out of the dream of the novel.

My first book with an acknowledgements page was Taipei, which just said, "Thank you to my editor, Tim O’Connell, and my agent, Bill Clegg." Before Taipei, I didn't want to have an acknowledgements page. I didn't know who to thank, and it seemed somehow not fitting with the books I published to be thanking people at the end of the book. I felt too alone, and like I was working alone, and also like it was obvious from the books' contents who I was thankful for. It still seems obvious now, with my previous two books and next book, but I work more closely with my editor now than with my pre-Taipei books and also have an agent and a publicist (not a private publicist but the one who works at my publisher).

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Pruning completion

I've continued pruning this week. This will be my last pruning post. I've finished pruning. The past six days, I pruned 91, 151, 122, 66, 88, and 45 words, working by pen/paper and computer in morning for 2-3 hours and at night by pen/paper for around an hour. Part 3 of my novel is now 1030 words shorter than in the second draft. It went from 29,957 to 28,927 words. It took eight days to go through it twice. I pruned an average of 125.375 words per day. After I go through part 4—there are some things I want to transplant there from the other parts—the third draft will be done. I think the cover is being made now by my publisher. We reconsidered the title for a few days and decided to keep Leave Society. I'm looking forward to posting unused material that isn't pruned material in future posts in this weekly series. Here is what I pruned from Tuesday-Sunday (besides prunings of one or two words, which I didn't save):

-The other movements were fast. 
-Using pigments made from azurite, limonite, soot, woad, weld, and other minerals and plants
-had also been rectangular, one-roomed, and kitchened 
-the worst-seeming place for careful contemplation 
-seemingly life-long 
-Daodejing, 3422; The Bible, 13,220
-Li said there used to be more birds everywhere, that the title of the book Silent Spring referred to the eerie silence in many places due to pesticides inadvertently killing many birds. 
-He wanted to elaborate, but sensed he would seem and feel unreasonable. 
-Kay said at a book event the previous night in a group of people she’d said she’d been rolling cigarettes with organic tobacco, and there’d been no response. She’d felt like she had a secret. Li said he felt that way when researching nature and society. 
-or be able to live without a caretaker 
-The sharing brought them closer to one another. 
-corruption whistleblowers 
-send photos of food, or 
-and so he felt safe 
-and that he wanted to be weirder, so that when he encountered compelling yet obscure information, he’d feel encouraged to explore instead of ignore or suppress 
-and triggered health problems 
-They were on the platform where he’d escalated away from and immediately back to his parents the previous day. 
-Li flapped and deepbreathed while facing the waterfall. 
-“I have papers coming out that will be read in a hundred years." 
-Li said his nonfiction book referenced thirty papers. 
-That night, drawing in his room, Li listened to his dad talk on the phone to one of his employees. After a long silence, Li’s dad started talking again, repeating a question. Li’s mom, in the kitchen, interrupted him, saying she’d thought he’d been talking to his employee. “No,” said Li’s dad, and repeated the question. Li left his room smiling and saw his mom’s annoyed face. Seeing his smile, she smiled. 
-time, space, imagination 
-It still doesn’t feel right. 
-“There wasn’t any ‘will not’ when you left?” said Li. 
-“Maybe some people said it, but you didn’t know them,” said Li. 
-who’d lived until he was eighteen 
-like picking up blood test results 
-instead of trying to use it against her 
-wearing earphones at his desk 
-because he’d wanted to be near his dad. 
-At Whole Foods, Li realized Mike had a seemingly unique facial expression in which he flattened his cheeks in a kind of metaexpression, over which he could layer smiles, smirks, frowns. 
-He says when you view it like this, it can help you calm down, and do something. 
-except birthday and Christmas gifts 
-as he’d started doing in emails lately 
-leading from roof to height-staggered roof 
-or lipstick

Monday, August 10, 2020

More pruning

On August 6, I started noting how many words I pruned each day from the second draft of my novel, Leave Society, pruning on the screen and on paper in the morning and just on paper at night.

August 6: 67 words 
August 7: 99 words
August 8: 62 words
August 9: 234 words
August 10: 244 words

Here is most of what I pruned on August 9 and 10, from my four-part novel's third part, which is called Year of Mountains:

-"Yes,” said Li. “Japan’s government has been promoting forest-bathing since 1982.” 
-began playing in the station, priming the train’s arrival. 
-and steeped green tea 
-more movement and sunlight 
-Sometimes he wanted to get totally away, disappear for years. 
-which sometimes made him feel like he had to assuage both himself and his mom, compounding both their worries 
-an example of when going to a hospital had helped 
-as she always did when Li lifted her to something 
-collected leaves from inch plants, which regulated blood sugar, and aluminum plants, whose aesthetic he liked, then 
-Li’s dad said he’d dreamed they’d lost Dudu. He’d put up flyers that said two kilograms, white, poodle, and 0.1 concentration, a detail from his equations. 
-through armed invasion and land seizure 
-somewhat pessimistically, Li felt 
-as he’d planned to ask for months. 
 -“Du must have thought we abandoned her and that Auntie saved her,” said Li’s mom. “I believe this is why she loves Auntie so much.” 
-Li said he wanted to save “embarrassed” for its original meaning. 
-though he knew it could return stronger 
-Her ancestors all ate lamb. 
-Let the children's laughter remind us how we used to be. 
-“If I eat it all the time, then definitely…eating it rarely, how could anything happen?”
-lying on his back in his room, Li deep-breathed for two minutes, then held his breath to a timer. After around a minute, he had a YG. When he returned, he somehow believed he was in 4K in 2012. Clustering dread dissolved to relieved gratitude as he realized he was in Taiwan in 2017. 
-with a small toothbrush 
-with a wet nub of tissue paper 
-"Were they two females and one male?" said Li. 
-"We don't know what they were," said Li’s mom. 
-He noticed someone wearing a shirt that said “lifk is short” and he and his parents laughed, wondering if “lifk” was a typo of “life.” 
-searched “lifk,” which didn’t seem to be a word, and 
-the supposed founder of Daoism
-Li said he’d “at least look at everything in there.” 
-which was sometimes translated as “the way” 
-They entered a plaza where young males were seated cross-legged in groups, looking at phones. Li’s dad asked one of them what he was waiting for. He said an anime convention. 
-(once airborne he had to wait as he floated down)
-Anions could form indoors via plants, air ionizing machines, crystal salt lamps, and running water, he’d read.

Some of those I might re-insert, because I'm going through each part twice on this edit—pruning and then, while discerning the effects of my prunes and reviewing what I've pruned, pruning again.

Tuesday, August 4, 2020


This is the second post in my weekly feature where I post unused material from my forthcoming novel Leave Society. I've been working on its third draft. My editor had some small suggestions on the second draft, including to prune the second and third parts, Year of Pain and Year of Mountains, by around 1000 and 2000 words. Today and yesterday I pruned these sentences and fragments from Year of Pain:

-I wouldn’t have tested them like that. 
-That won’t help.
-“Maybe if you’re nicer to her, she’ll let you,” said Li.
-“And fish oil and chlorella,” said Li, putting capsules and tablets in a plastic bag.
-creating scar tissue
-Li didn’t respond. 
-and should get a blood test to find out
-he felt like he was blindly searching for a secret opening. 
-In the hall, on the way to the bathroom, he imagined someone watching him and feeling confused about what he was doing. 
-It caused chest constriction, lung fibrosis, fever, fatigue, and a hunched back. 
-Li said he was glad they listened to him.
-Li cried too, in a New York University computer lab, where he often teared while working on short stories.
-Another was serving two years for drinking beer in a state park. 
-with prison blueprints 

*UPDATE* I reinserted the sentence "Li cried too, in a New York University computer lab, where he often teared while working on short stories" into the novel as "Li cried too, reading his mom’s email in a New York University computer lab, where he often teared while working on short stories on sadness and loneliness." *UPDATE*