Building a Writing Career—The Real Secret Handshake

There is one thing you can do to build your career in this field that will help more than anything else, a secret handshake of the writing biz. You know what it is, though it may not occur to you immediately. Who wants to take a swing at it?

*a hand shoots up*

Write the best story you possibly can, every time?


Okay, two things. But really, writing the best story you can is the ante you need to pay just to get into the game. Without that you don’t even get to play. Anyone else want to guess?


I see some hands up and I’m pretty sure some of you know the answer, but since this is a pre-canned essay, I’m going to have to type it myself anyway.

Be professional.

I’m letting that sit out there all alone because it’s really really important. Science fiction and fantasy publishing is a business, and it’s actually a very small one at the professional level. If you were to take every single SFWA eligible writer in the entire world and put them together in one place you’d have a group roughly the size of my wife’s high school student body. Admittedly, it was a large high school, 2,000 plus students, and the group gets bigger when you add in all of the agents and editors, but due to agent-writer and editor-writer ratios that still doesn’t take you outside the large high school range.

Think about that for a moment. A large high school. If you went to a big school think about how fast information moved through the student body. Think about the way that if you did something notable as a freshman it stayed with you for the next four years because everybody knew everybody at least a little. Even if you went to a smaller school (my graduating class was 17) you probably still have a feeling for the scale just from being immersed in pop culture.

So, in terms of community size and reputation building, professional science fiction and fantasy, is basically a large high school. The plus side of this is that everyone knows everyone else, and at its best the community functions like a tight-knit village with lots of mutual support. The minus side of this is that…everyone knows everyone. If you have a public hissy fit (and the internet counts as public) when you get a particularly brutal rejection letter it may hang there in the background of your reputation for the rest of your career.

Fortunately, there’s an easy fix for reputation management. Be professional. Remember that if you want to make writing your career, it’s just that—a career. Remember whenever you post something online about writing that you’re pretty much posting it on the wall labeled “my professional reputation.” Don’t punt deadlines unless you absolutely have to, and then manage the fallout in a professional manner. Tell your editor what’s coming as soon as you can see it. Apologize. If you’ve got a fan base that you interact with online, make sure to keep them as up to date as possible.

Above all, treat people with respect and kindness as much as possible. Personally, I’ve found that this is a good idea in general for managing my life. Your millage may vary there, but it’s really important for your professional interactions because those will have a huge effect on your career over time for a very simple reason. Editors are people, and they buy stories for a lot of reasons.

Primarily, editors buy stories because they believe they will sell, but after you get over that basic hurdle (see writing the best story you possibly can every time above) other factors start to come into play and right up at the top of the list is how they feel about the writer as a professional. Does the author produce a reliable product? Do they do so on time? Is the author easy to work with? Can they be trusted not to do anything that will alienate fans? Etc.

Now, I will admit that if you sell 100,000 hardcovers every time your name appears on a dust jacket you can get away with all kinds of crappy behavior—though many will think the worse of you. But if you’re underselling and so is captain-difficult-to-work-with, I can tell you who is going to be the first cut from the list and it’s not the writer who acts professionally.

So, yes, Virginia, there really is a secret handshake. It’s called professional behavior, or more simply, being polite and meeting your obligations.

(Originally published on SFNovelists June 11 2009, and original comments may be found there. Reposted and reedited as part of the reblogging project)

Editors Are Not Supervillains

Contrary to the opinion of any number of beginning writers, editors are not supervillains hunched over their desks scheming fresh ways to crush the souls of unpublished writers.

In point of fact, they are deeply invested in your success. The only person in the world who is anywhere as close to as invested in that story of yours being a work of undiscovered genius as you and your most supportive friends and family are is the editor who is about to read it. Trust me on this.

First off, the editor is dying for something new and good to read. They have just read bits of several stories that are so bad they want to claw their eyeballs out, and have done so knowing that, that which has been seen can never be unseen. They have read any number of stories that are meh at great cost in time, and they have read a few that were so close that they were holding their breaths and rooting for this author to make it across the line, only to have it go flat at the end. This is no fun. Successful stories are.

Second, they make what little money they make in this industry by publishing successful stories. If you send them an awesome story, you are helping them buy lunch. This is a very good thing when you’re a starving editor and not trivial.

Third, the discoverer of new talent gets some of the credit for that talent. The bigger the talent the more reflected glory there is. Discovering the next Nnedi Okorafor or Jim Hines gives you major editorial bragging rights. And if you find the next Neil Gaiman, well: Wiktory!

Fourth, and most important, editors edit because they love the field. The slush pile is not a fun place to dig, and finding a gem there is cause for major celebration. I know a lot of editors, and watching their faces light up when they talk about helping to launch the career of some new writer whose work they can love is a truly joyful experience. They know exactly how hard it is to make it in this world, and how much it will mean to that undiscovered writer to have the validation of that first acceptance letter. They know they are going to make a writer’s day, or maybe even their whole year, and they absolutely love that they get to do that. It is one of the things that keeps editors going on the bad days.

The editor is not your enemy. They want you to succeed, desperately and sincerely.

On Plotting/Outlining and the Benefits of Experience*

I find that after ~16 highly outlined novels, I mostly don’t need that scaffolding these days. The outlines have become internal to my head.

To elaborate: I find now that if I know where I’m going (almost always before I start the book) I no longer need to do much advance outlining. The things that I need to make a coherent story of the target length with all the bits that are needed for something to be a story are in my head in a very firm way.

If X is my goal then U, V, and W have to happen structurally to provide the story beats. It’s much less mechanistic than that, but that’s more or less how it works now. I know that the plot tools will be there when I need them, so I can focus on the themes and character and bigger picture.

I started to get the first flashes of it around novel number 10 and I’ve been using it ever since, but it really kicked in solidly with Crossed Blades, which was number 17.

This is almost entirely a function of experience. I’m up around 4-5 million words of fiction written counting all the stuff that fell by the wayside. I’ve got around a million words in print, another million that’s forthcoming or that I expect to publish, and 2-3 million that ended up on the cutting room floor.

That last 2 million plus was at least as valuable as the stuff I kept, since it represents reflection and change. I used to cut ~4 words for every survivor when I started. These days the ratio is reversed, but it took 20 years to get here.

The process has allowed me to create heuristics for writing a Kelly McCullough novel, heuristics which I constantly work to improve as I strive to become a better writer.

It’s that experience and that practice at solving the problems of writing a novel that allowed me to write Blade Reforged in 100 or so days and have something I could turn in without massive rework. Likewise, writing Drawn Blades in 88 days.

It used to take me a year to write a novel because I had to do a lot of backing and filling that I can avoid now. Mind you, I prefer to have 150-175 days, but it’s nice to know I can do it in less when I have to. Unfortunately, the only way that I know of to get there is to hammer out the work day after day and year after year.

*Importing and expanding my contributions from a Twitter conversation about plotting/outlining with Paul Weimer, Tobias Buckell & Damian G Walter

Writing and Self Promotion, A Dialogue With Myself

I’m not at all convinced of the value of self promotion, but I’ve got a book coming out in just a hair over two weeks and I end up going back and forth on the subject. It goes a little like this:

MythOS comes out in 2 weeks!

That means that you’re at the point in the launch cycle where you should be frantically trying to do ninety and nine kind of promotion, right?

*cricket noises*


No…Maybe…I really don’t know…but probably, no.

Wait, isn’t that heresy. I mean, your publisher isn’t going to do a whole lot since you’re midlister and this a late book in the series. If you don’t do it, no one will, shouldn’t you be panicking?

There’s something to that. My promo budget is almost certainly minimal by publisher standards. At the same time, I’m not going to spend my way to a successful book launch. Not without a lot more money than I’d ever earn back, thus negating the point of the whole exercise. Even that assumes facts not evidence, i.e. that anyone knows how to apply money to the problem of book promotion in such a way as to generate significant sales for midlist books. If it could be reliably done, the publishers ,who have a lot more experience at the whole thing and a lot more books to sell, and hence greater incentive, would already be doing it.

But what about things that don’t cost much money? Shouldn’t you be frantically running around trying to drum up free publicity?

To an extent, sure. I’ll do any interviews that anyone wants to offer me. But checking in with my radio and print and bookstore contacts takes about an hour. What next? I could spend a ton of time to generate more effect, but I’ve got the same problem there that I have with money. Time is more expensive than money since there’s no way to get it back and there’s a diminishing returns effect that kicks in very quickly. In general, I think most self-promotion is a bad use of a writer’s time

Really? Why is that?

Anyone who is good enough writer to get something published, is almost certainly a damn good writer. This is for the simple reasons that the odds of success are lousy. I’ve got a highly specialized skill set for writing and none of the specialized skill set involved in promotion. That being the case I’m almost certainly better off investing the time and effort I’d spend on promotion in making my next book irresistible. I’ll have more fun that way and I’m more likely to be successful.

Okay I can see that, but I still think you should be out stumping for your book. Got anything else?

How about the numbers argument? Lets say that by doing a ton of promotion I can move a few hundred copies of my book that wouldn’t have sold otherwise. 20 at this signing over here. 50 by appearing on local radio. 50 by going to a con that I wouldn’t otherwise have gone to, and so on.

That’s great!

No, it’s not. A few hundred copies doesn’t really matter that much when a moderate print run is 10,000-20,000 books. Take my first book, WebMage. In the first six months I sold an average of 75 copies (mmpb) a day, every day. That earned out my advance plus ten percent. That was fabulous and I was delighted. But I need to double it.

Double it?

In order to make a marginal living I need to sell at least 150 mass market paperbacks a day every day for the rest of my life +inflation. Ooh, better double it again. To make a decent living I’d need to bump that up to something more like 300 a day. To crack six figures it’d have to be ~800 a day. Now do you see why I’m not that excited about spending many hours to sell a few hundred extra books?

I guess so. But you make it sound like there’s no way to win at this game.

I don’t think there is, not through self-promotion. I would love to believe that I could come up with a self-promotional effort that would have an ongoing several hundred books per day kind of impact on my sales and that wouldn’t eat up so much time it would be counterproductive in terms of writing the next book (or preferably the next several books). I’d also love to believe that my cats will support me in my old age….

That’s depressing. All right, Mr. Pessimist, so what do you suggest a writer does about it?



It’s very simple. Write. If I take the same energy it would take to do a ton of self promotion and I focus it on what I’m good at–writing books—I can produce a complete extra book (or maybe even two) a year. Given that the best promotion that I know of is to have another book come out, one that’s as good or better than the last one, that seems like a simple bet. Especially when I consider that in addition to a new book’s impact on backlist, a new book generates its own sales to add to that books sold per day number. Not only will it promote my books in the best way possible, but it brings in new revenue and it’s a ton of fun. I love writing. That’s why I’m in this business.

Oh, I guess that makes sense. So, you’re not going to do any promotion?

I have a simple rule for promotion: It should involve no money, no time, and no effort.

That sounds like no promotion, all right.

Not quite. I’ll do a little. Here and there. Take this blog post, for example. I’m willing to bend my rules a little for pure promotion’s sake, but not much. I’ll spend some time, a little effort, a couple of bucks. I will also bend them for things that I enjoy doing, like cons, readings, and interviews. I’m a social person and an escapee from the theater asylum. I like meeting new people and being out on stage. I would do these things even if I wasn’t writing, though the book sure helps get interviews. I’m just not going to get wound up about the whole thing.

Any last thoughts for the folks who’ve made it all the way to the bottom of this post?

Yep. If you’re a writer who doesn’t like doing promotional things, or if you’re not good at them, don’t feel guilty about keeping your self-promotion to a minimum. Even if you do enjoy promoting yourself, realize that it’s a trade off. Time spent on promotion is time spent not writing, and writing is the point of the whole thing. Isn’t it?

(Originally published on the SFNovelists blog May 11 2009, and original comments may be found there. Reposted and reedited as part of the reblogging project)

Book Proposals…I’ve Gotten to Kind of Like Them

So, I’ve been working on the proposal for a successor series to the WebMage books. The funny thing is that somewhere along the line, writing book proposals went from being an awful task to kind of fun.

Because of where I am in my career, I no longer have to have a completed book to synopsize, and it’s much easier to plump a cool idea out into a book outline then it is to condense a novel done into one. That helps…a lot. It also doesn’t hurt that I’ve been working on the screen porch on a lounger surrounded by cats and a beautiful Wisconsin spring. But the most important change is that I’ve done this enough (way more than 20 times) and read enough successful proposals (30-50) that I no longer worry about the mechanics. It’s just another form of the story/play that is what I love most about my job as a novelist. I feel like I am finally becoming truly comfortable in my skin about all of the aspects of being an author.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that I will continue to have a career under this name, because that’s entirely dependent on book sales, and I have very little control on that front beyond writing the best book I can every time, which I would do anyway, just for me. But that’s just how the business works. I guess the point of the post is simply this:

It gets better.

Every one of those writing tasks that seem daunting now, eventually gets easier and less painful. Keep practicing, keep growing, keep sending stuff out, and some day, when you’re not expecting it, the tasks that seemed impossible once might even have become fun.

(Originally published on the Wyrdsmiths blog  May 5 2009, and original comments may be found there. Reposted and reedited as part of the reblogging project)

Covers and Credits (like D&D only it stings more when your characters die)

I just wrote this in regards to a question about queries and not having any professional writing credits:

It’s always incredibly difficult to land an agent. But the writing credits issue has very little to do with it. I know that’s something that’s very hard to believe when you’re first starting out (I certainly had enough trouble getting it into my head) but credits have almost zero impact on acceptances. 99.9999 percent of the time the story gets accepted or doesn’t based on its own merits and the current needs of the editor or agent and nothing else really matters. The only exception to that is if you’re at the stage in your career where your name sells lots of copies all by itself and that’s only true of a very small portion of the folks at the top of the field.

What a writing credit does is tell the editor or agent that you’ve done this successfully in the past, which has the effect of resorting your place in the submissions stack. I still get rejected by editors all the time–far more often than I got accepted in fact. I just get rejected much faster than the new writer because when I send something in I go to very close to the top of the stack of things to get looked at. Considering the pace of publishing, that’s a distinct advantage because it means I can get my work in front of more editors faster, which in turn means that I’m more likely to find the right editor for a piece sooner, but it’s an advantage of time-to-response, nothing more. Every pro that I know gets rejections, and mostly lots more than they get acceptances.

Okay, that’s the bad news. The good news is twofold.

First, agents don’t expect to see a whole lot of submissions with credits listed on them. The period in time when a writer is most likely to be looking for an agent is when they are at the beginning of their career and they have no writing credits. Any agent who is actively taking slush is expecting that the vast majority of what they see is going to come in with no credits attached to it and is expecting to make decisions based on the query and the writing. That’s just how things work at the beginning of careers, so don’t sweat it. Really.

…yeah, I know. My saying that isn’t going to make a lick of difference in the worries department when you’re looking at the query and trying to figure out how to make it look better. But try to keep it in mind anyway.

Second, and this is the part that’s really really hard to internalize. The agent/editor is on your side. The only people in the whole world who want you to succeed more than the agent or editor does are members of your immediate family. I know that sounds crazy, but it’s not. Most agents and editors don’t make a whole lot of money and they work horrible hours. They’re in the business for the same reason that writers are. They love books with a passion that’s very close to unhealthy. There is nothing that makes an agent or editor happier than pulling a book out of the slush, starting to read, and not being able to stop. Every agent or editor I’ve ever heard talk about finding those gems in the slush pile just lights up. There’s actually a thread about it on Making Light right now.

One final note. I started in short stories. The cover letter that I sent with the WebMage short story which started my career was built on top of a blank that Steve Brust showed me when I was starting out. It looked pretty bare and I was nervous about it, but the story sold, and here I am. Here’s the letter minus my no longer valid contact info:

<Address line 1
Address line 2
phone number
email addy
July 21, 1998>*

George Scithers,
Editor, Weird Tales
123 Crooked Lane,
King of Prussia, PA 19406-2570

Dear George Scithers:

I am enclosing the Contemporary Fantasy short story WebMage for your consideration. I hope that you enjoy it.

Please write or call if you have any questions.


Kelly McCullough

That’s it. Really, don’t sweat the credits. At the beginning of the game they just don’t matter.

*portion within <> was top right rather than top left

(Originally published on the Wyrdsmiths blog April 21 2009, and original comments may be found there. Reposted and reedited as part of the reblogging project)

Query Info Dump

I got a question about queries and collaborations and figured that the response I put together might be of some interest to folks here. So, with all identifiers removed:

Start with the collaboration stuff:

An agent will deal with a two-author book in pretty much the same way they’d deal with single author book: Does the query make me want to read the material? If so, does the book make me want to represent this(these) client(s)? Then they’ll go from there.

My agent reps at least one pair of authors and I know others who do as well. The submission will look pretty much the same as it would if there were only one of you, with the exception that you’ll have two names in all the places where there would normally be one. Assuming that you get an agent and they find you a publisher for the book, you might end up under a pen name if the two of you and your agent and publisher decide that’s the best way to market the book, but that’s a ways down the road. Even in that case, your agent would submit it to editors under both names. Pen names really only come into things after a story or book has sold.

Personally, if it were me, I’d want to put the book out under both names for a variety of reasons, not least of which is that if you ever split your writing partnership up it makes it much easier for both of you to maintain writing careers going forward. Somewhere around here I have a link to some things to think about in terms of contracts for books written as collaborations for books sold before being written (which again would be some distance down the road from where you’re at now). If you’d like, I’ll see if I can’t dig it up. Let me know.

Now on to Queries:

Queries are tough. Part of the reason that you’re seeing a hundred different ways to write one is that there really is no standard way to do it. I can point you at a couple of great resources for queries and the plot synopses that go with book proposals. My friend Joshua Palmatier put together a couple of projects where authors in the field posted the query letters that got them their agents and the same with synopses. There’s more on the synopsis project including links to stuff I’ve written on the subject here.

Let me also point you at another set of useful resources. First, Kristin Nelson is a very smart agent who blogs, and she put up a bunch of really fantastic posts on querying and pitching. I’ve linked some of them here. And of course there’s info at the Wyrdsmiths blof. Most of wyrdsmiths writing posts up to about the middle of last year have been indexed by topic here. Also, I’ve put together a topical index of the Miss Snark agent blog which includes tons of good advice on the agent process. That’s here.

That’s all for now.

(Originally published on the Wyrdsmiths blog April 15 2009, and original comments may be found there. Reposted and reedited as part of the reblogging project)

Kindle, Text to Speech, and the Author’s Guild

It is with extreme caution that I dip a toe in these waters, but several people have now asked me what I thought of the Author’s Guild position on the Kindle II, and particularly how it may cause real harm to blind or visually impaired readers, and…I do have an opinion. I know that’s a shocker, isn’t it.

To begin with and just to be absolutely clear, I’m in support of the Kindle’s voice feature being generally available. I feel that the benefits to those who have difficulties reading are greater than the potential future hazards to author income.

Now, on to the explanation, which requires some set up. Start with my understanding that (due in part to ADA mandates) all modern American book contracts always include a voice rights for the disabled clause. So, for example, when Minnesota Radio for the blind wanted to broadcast WebMage, that was automatically an allowed usage. I didn’t even hear about it until the book had been running on the radio for several weeks. Had it been the case that they’d had to ask, I’d have been delighted to give permission, but that’s neither here nor there. The important first point is that audio rights for the disabled are automatic, and I don’t know of anyone who is opposed to that.

Next step, the Kindle II and what the author’s guild is trying to do. If the Kindle’s voice feature was aimed only at the disabled audience I am quite certain that the AG would not oppose this. However, it’s a generalized feature and that means that anyone can use it.

Now, an excellent argument can be made that this in no way competes with actual audio book rights because there’s simply no comparison between a talented voice actor and a machine conversion of text-to-speech. A counter argument can be made (and this is I think at the core of the AG objection) that that’s true now, but…what if in 20 years text-to-speech advances enough that it does become a real competitor? If that happens and no protest was made at this point, a court could well find that in not protesting the Kindle II, authors waived their rights to protest the new advanced technology for which they are now not going to be paid. For that matter, what about non-fiction where intonation and story-telling don’t really matter?

Since the publishing industry has a long established tradition of grabbing rights and not paying for them, the changing technology puts the AG in the position of either protesting Kindle II in a way that makes them look really bad right now, or not protesting it and possibly causing significant loss of revenues to their membership at some unknown future point, or, possibly, tomorrow for non-fiction. Now, as I said at the outset, I think the generalized good of allowing the Kindle to use text-to-speech outweighs the possible risks to future authorial income, but at the same time, I sympathize with the fact that it puts the AG between a rock and a hard place. It is not nearly as easy a question as it seems.

So, no, the AG is not insane or evil, just in a difficult position and quite probably wrong.

(Originally published on the Wyrdsmiths blog April 13 2009, and original comments may be found there. Reposted and reedited as part of the reblogging project)

Don’t Worry About the Words

They’re just not all that important.*

I’m in a mood to commit writer heresy today. So here it is:

I don’t really care about the words.

Let me repeat that: I don’t care about the words. On an individual level they really don’t matter to me. Neither does the punctuation. Even the meaning is negotiable, at least at the sentence level and paragraph level.

What I care about is the story. It doesn’t matter to the story whether something is ebon or charcoal or plain old black. Any of those or none of those might serve depending on the surrounding words, the tone, and what I want the reader to take away from the story. Even then it’s not a fixed value.

When I first write the sentence containing the word meaning (black) I could use any one of dozens of words, depending on what tastes right, or nearly right, in the moment. If I really cared about the word as a unit, this is a point where I might end up slowed down or even stopped for a long time while I found the exact right word. But knowing that it’s the story that matters, not the specific word, I can just go ahead and drop in something that approximates what I need and move on.

Sometimes the initial choice is the word that I end up using. Sometimes it gets changed on the second pass, where I move through as a reader and try to make the whole thing feel smooth. Sometime the word goes away along with the sentence or paragraph that holds it as I realize that (black) would be better placed earlier or later, or implied, or that the reader doesn’t need to know, or that (blue) would serve the story better.

It’s not until my very last polish pass before sending something out that I start to get nitpicky about the words. Even then I don’t really sweat the details too much. I have been at this for a while and I know that nothing is final until it has gone to press, and even then there might be later editions.

My agent might ask for changes. My editor might ask for changes. I might write a sequel or a related piece before the original is published, and that might necessitate changes. I might put it aside for a time and come back and make changes.

All of those changes will affect the words, shifting meaning, nudging flow, altering tone, restructuring scene and paragraph and sentence.

I don’t really care about the words.

I care about the story.

2013 update (adding in material from my comments on the original post):

1) For me looking at the words is all about story, not about phrasing. Attention paid to the words is a side effect.

2) My contention would be that story is the sum of words at the aggregate level and that too many writers spend too much time worrying about words on the individual level, focusing on making a specific sentence work exactly right rather than focusing on how groups of sentences go together to convey information.

I write poetry as well as novels, and for poetry I care about the individual words in a way that I don’t at novel length. The process of writing poetry is fundamentally different for me. It’s much harder and orders of magnitude more time consuming, because with poetry I’m looking at things at the individual word level as opposed to the paragraph or scene level.

With a novel I can usually find a half dozen ways to convey a bit of information any of which is roughly as good (in my eyes) as any other.

3) Here’s another way to look at it. Write a novel in German. Get three really good translators, one English, one American, one Australian. Have them all translate the original novel into English. There will be significant differences in the words from translation to translation, but the fundamentals of the story should come out reasonably close. That core story is what I really care about.

4) Don’t get married to one particular word or phrase.

Books aren’t static creations, not until the very last instant before going to press. Writing is a dynamic process and losing sight of that is a good way to tie an anchor around your ankle.


*Your results may vary. All normal restrictions apply. Caveat emptor. There are a thousand ways and one to write to a book, every one right. Etc. etc. etc.

(Originally published on the Wyrdsmiths blog December 18 2008, and original comments may be found there. Reposted and reedited as part of the reblogging project)


This is going around:

Age when I decided I wanted to be a writer: 23
Age when I wrote my first short story: 23
Age when I first got my hands on a good word processor: 23
Age when I first submitted a short story to a magazine: 23
Rejections prior to first short story sale: 90
Age when I sold my first short story: 31
Age when I killed my first market: 31 (my 3rd sale)
Approximate number of short stories sold: ~30 (2013 update: ~35) (it’s complicated)
Age when I first sold a poem: 32
Poems sold: 3
Age when I wrote my first novel: 23
Age when I first sold a novel: 37
Novels written between age 23 and age 37: 7
Age when I wrote the first novel I sold: 32/33
Number of novels written before that: 3
Age when that novel was published: 38
Total number of novels written: 13 (2013 update: 20)
Books sold: 6 (5 novels, 1 short story educational thingie) (2013 update: 13)
Books published or delivered and in the pipeline: 5 (2013 update: 12)
Number of titles in print: 4 (2013 update: 9)
Age when I was a Writers of the Future winner: 33
Age when I became a full-time novelist: 28 (kept man)
Age now: 41 (2013 update: 46)

(Originally published on the Wyrdsmiths blog December 2 2013, and original comments may be found there. Reposted and reedited as part of the reblogging project)