Tim Pratt
SF and Fantasy Writer

April Appearances

April 7th, 2014

April is a busy month, with no fewer than THREE opportunities to see me sign books and/or read things out loud in public.

On Sunday, April 13 from 2-3 p.m. I’ll be signing and chatting with people at game store Endgame in Oakland, as part of their “Intro to Adventuring” one-day gaming mini-con devoted to the Pathfinder roleplaying game. (I will, I imagine, mostly be signing my Pathfinder Tales books, though who knows, surprise me.) I’ll likely be loitering in the vicinity a bit before and after, too — the event starts at 10:30 a.m. and runs until 7 p.m. There are a couple of great beer bars in that neighborhood, so I’ll probably wander off for beer sometime if anyone’s interested in joining for that.

On Saturday, April 26 at 3 p.m. there’s a (somewhat belated) Flytrap launch party at Borderlands Books in San Francisco. I will be there with my co-editor and wife Heather Shaw and quite a few of our contributors, so I won’t be talking too much there, but you should come, it’ll be awesome, I’m gonna bring cookies. Confirmed contributors attending include Jessica May Lin, Nick Mamatas, Dominica Phetteplace, and Sarah Grey (we’re hoping some others can make it, too). We’ll be selling copies of the ‘zine, and even a few copies of the illustrated bonus story chapbook that’s otherwise available only to Kickstarter backers.

On Sunday, April 27 at 6 p.m., I will be taking part in a FreemadeSF Launch Party at Brick & Mortar Music Hall in San Francisco, with food, live music, and readings from people like Vylar Kaftan, Mike E. G., Mark Pantoja, and… Nick Mamatas and Dominica Phetteplace again. I’ll be seeing a lot of them that weekend. I did their first event last year and it was one of the most interesting and fun and delicious events I’ve ever done. I’m excited to be invited back.

I’m going to be hermit in terms of public appearances for a while after this, so come gaze upon the author while you can.

Lady of Misrule Kickstarter

March 10th, 2014

I’m running a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign for my next Marla Mason novel, Lady of Misrule. A $10 donation gets you the e-book, and when you give more, you get… more!

There are nine days left on the campaign as I write this, and it’s already funded, so the book’s definitely going to happen. I’m so close to hitting the stretch goal that will allow me to hire Lindsey Look to paint original cover art!

If you can give, or spread the word, I’d appreciate it greatly. It’s going to be a fun book, full of monsters and violence and banter.

Heirs of Grace: One Week Away

February 11th, 2014

My next novel, contemporary fantasy Heirs of Grace, is available for pre-order. I think it’s my best novel ever. It’s a serial, to be released digitally in five weekly installments beginning next Tuesday, then published in a collected edition. The whole thing only costs $1.99. If you’re capable of reading Kindle e-books, consider pre-ordering, hmm? Look at the gorgeous Galen Dara cover and be moved:

2013 in Review

December 27th, 2013

Looking back over 2013… it’s been a good year. One of my best years, honestly.

After thinking a lot about my levels of happiness, and what I could do to increase them, I made some pretty big changes this year, and have actually stuck with them for the entire year, which makes me think they might become habitual.

One was taking better care of my body, since I put on a lot of weight in 2012; I did not enjoy weighing one-eighth of a ton, so I started eating better and exercising more. I dropped about 40 pounds in 2013 — okay, after excessively rich holiday food it’s more like 35 right now, but I’ll get back there — and I feel vastly better. More energy, my clothes fit better (indeed, whole heaps of old clothes in the back of my closet fit again), and I’ve rewired my brain sufficiently that looking upon a plate of immensely greasy fried food no longer fills me with intense desire, but rather with queasiness. (I still have a weakness for ice cream, which I do indulge — because life is for living — but I indulge rather less frequently than I once did.)

The other significant change was fighting against my natural hermit-like tendencies, as I’ve come to recognize that spending time with other humans, especially if I’m drinking beer or playing games or taking part in other pleasant diversions with them, is crucial to my mental health. It is no longer entirely accurate to say I never go places or do things. I’ve made new friends and managed to spend more time with old ones, and it’s been great. Now if I go a week without drinking beer with people on a patio somewhere I get stir crazy, which is a huge change from my past mindset, when I was so introverted I barely interacted with anyone besides family and co-workers in the real world unless I was at a convention.

I was worried that socializing more would cut into my writing time or reading time, but mostly it’s replaced my video-game-playing time, so that’s a trade I’m happy to make.

Other adventures in 2013: Helping to run the first annual (we hope) Dragon’s Lair writing retreat up on the Russian River. Really, Heather did all the heavy organizing, so I mostly just got to hang out with awesome people and cook a lot of food and sit in a hot tub and talk about writing and, oh, yes, actually do some writing, too.

We took the kid to Disneyland in the spring (and went to Wondercon, since it was right down the street). We also made it to the Nebula Awards weekend in April down in San Jose (highlight: a dinner with Jay Lake and various other writerly types), and I went to local convention Convolution in  November and babbled on some panels. The only other substantial travel was an epic trip to Missouri to visit family with my son in July, which involved an unscheduled three-day stop in Chicago on the way home because of a plane crash at the San Francisco Airport causing our connecting flight to be canceled. The lovely Mary Anne Mohanraj put us up in her beautiful home in Oak Park for the duration of our stranding, and Chicagoan Holly McDowell took us to lunch one day, so as far as travel disasters go it was pretty fantastic.

I actually saw a bit of live music this year, after a few years of not going to shows. Heather wrote a haiku for a contest and won VIP tickets to the huge Outside Lands music festival in Golden Gate Park, which was amazing. Nine Inch Nails and Paul McCartney and lots and lots of other bands, and also foooood. Later I saw Sean Nelson and the Long Winters play a great show in San Francisco with a friend.

Other highlights that involved leaving my house: The family went to the Boardwalk in Santa Cruz in the summer, always a delight. We attended various festivals, notably Eat Real and the Berkeley Kite Festival. We went to a weird cool art thing, the Lost Horizon Night Market, which briefly sparked a desire in me to do weird cool art, which fortunately passed.

My kid got a bicycle for Christmas in 2012, and learned to ride it in January, and we spent much of the summer going on rides pretty much every weekend, tearing up and down trails all over the East Bay, some of the most fun I’ve ever had with my kid (which is a pretty high bar). The boy started kindergarten in the fall. Insert the usual stuff about how they grow up so fast, etc.; which is cliche, but so very true.

Our friend Dawson visited twice, for Heather’s birthday in January and for our son’s birthday in November. Heather had an amazing birthday cocktail party where we drank loooots of sidecars. At the other end of the year, in December, I had a birthday party (weird, but see above re: being more social) where I drank ridiculous quantities of bourbon. The boy’s birthday party involved many many bounce houses. We all celebrate in our own way.

There was some writing stuff too.

I published some books. My collection Antiquities and Tangibles and Other Stories came out in January, and I’m so proud of it. My banter-filled sword and sorcery novel Liar’s Blade was published in March, and it’s one of the most fun books I’ve ever written. The middle-grade spy novel I co-wrote with Andy Deemer, The Stormglass Protocol, came out in September and has picked up some great reviews. Anthology Rags & Bones, co-edited with my dear friend Melissa Marr, appeared in October and has been getting a fantastic reception. The e-book of my latest Marla Mason novel Bride of Death came out this fall, and will be available in print in January.

I’ve written a bit over 300,000 words of fiction and paid non-fiction this year. That’s mostly three full novels written in 2013: Bride of Death, an as-yet-untitled sequel to my book City of the Falling Sky, and contemporary fantasy Heirs of Grace (which may be the best book I’ve ever written). I wrote a few stories, too: “Bastard, Sword”; “Secret Storage,” with Greg van Eeekhout; “The Retgun”; “Revels in the Land of Ice”; “Batman and Wife”; “Seasonal Disorder”, with Heather Shaw;”Happy Old Year; and “Those Who Hunt Monster Hunters.” Most of those are out, or coming out, except “Batman and Wife” which I wrote to perform at a reading, and “Those Who Hunt…” which is on submission. The rest of the wordage consists of miscellaneous essays and reviews and such.

I sold some books, including two of the three I wrote this year, and another Pathfinder Tales novel I need to write next year. For someone whose career crashed and burned in 2009, I keep fairly busy.

Heather and I decided that, since our kid is a bit older now and we find ourselves with the occasional bit of free time, that we’d relaunch our ‘zine Flytrap, this time mostly as an online entity (though we’ll produce a limited number of print issues), paying professional rates for fiction. (Though SFWA just raised their rates, so we’re not paying pro rates by their definition anymore; oh well.) We did a Kickstarter to fund the magazine, and the new issue — Whole number 11, or Volume 2 Number 1 — should be out in February with great stories and art and non-fiction and poems.

I also ran a successful Kickstarter for Bride of Death, the new Marla Mason novel. It was, like, the fifth most successful publishing Kickstarter of all time for a little while there (though I’m sure it’s fallen drastically in the rankings since then, as there are more and more great projects funding every day). Still: I got paid about as much for that book as Random House used to pay me, which was pretty amazing.

I did some fun readings, including a really cool one at Brick and Mortar in San Francisco to launch publisher Freemade SF, which included an amazing “pop-up supper club” meal and live musicians playing onstage along with the readers. The Litquake event at SF in SF was also fantastic.

Lest this seem excessively pollyanna-ish, I’ll note there were of course some bad bits too, though nothing all that drastic. The IRS still seems to think we owe them thousands of dollars (they are mistaken; they failed to record a check we sent, though they succeeded in cashing it), and has been sending us letters for most of the year promising to research the matter in the next 45 days. (We get those every six weeks or so, funnily enough.) That’s been intermittently stressful. We’ve endured the occasional clogged drain, overflowing washing machine, or — just this week — plaster falling from the bathroom ceiling, which also made life annoying, but hey, we rent, and the landlord fixes things promptly. I had some wisdom teeth removed, and then a bone spicule worked its way partially out of my gum, causing much discomfort until my orthodontist filed it down. (Gross, sorry.) Occasional bouts of illness. But nothing epically bad.

Basically: I ate many fine meals (buffalo burgers! rabbit liver mousse!) drank many fine beers (Death and Taxes! Coffee and Cigarettes! Bony Fingers!), did many fun things, made delicious popsicles, read wonderful books, watched good TV, played amusing games, and generally fulfilled my general ongoing goal of making my life revolve around love and art and sustainable hedonism.

Taken On Grace

November 25th, 2013

Over the weekend I finished writing the first draft of Heirs of Grace, my twenty-something-th novel. (It’s probably the 21st novel I’ve written that’s going to actually be published. Or maybe the 20th, as my forthcoming The Deep Woods is right around 40,000 words, and could be considered a novella or a novel depending on which definition you use. I tend to think of it as a short novel. Which makes Heirs of Grace the 25th novel I’ve actually finished, since I have four trunk books that are complete but not really publishable. A perusal of my bibliography won’t allow you to come up with the same numbers I have here, since I’ve done a couple of pseudonymous work-for-hire books that aren’t listed there. Well. You see the confusion.)

I like this book a lot. It’s a contemporary fantasy standalone with some romantic elements — arguably what I do best, and certainly what I like doing most. I think it has some of my best writing, and jokes, and character stuff, and weird magic. I put everything I’ve got into this one. I hope when the time comes to read it in a few months, you’ll find it worthwhile.

Do people care about metrics? I find it interesting, to understand my own working habits, which are irregular and not really a model anyone should follow. I’m not sure why anyone should care about how anyone else works, though. It just seems to invite pointless comparisons. Most readers likely don’t care how you wrote a book — they just care about how the book turned out in the end.

But Heirs of Grace was a weird book for me, in many ways. I sold it as a serial to 47North, to be published in five novelette-sized chunks over successive weeks, then collected in a complete edition. So it’s a novel, but there are little mini-arcs to each individual section, too. Structuring it that way was fascinating, and gave a solid shape to what had been a somewhat messy book in my mind.

The deadlines were interesting, too. The first chapter was due at the end of September, and after that, I pretty much had a deadline every two weeks, so I was writing 15-20,000 words every couple of weeks — and revising them, so they were fairly polished when I turned them in. I blew one deadline because I got sick and needed a week-long extension, but managed to get the installment after that one done on time, so as a whole I hit my markers. I ended up writing 90,000 words or so over a span of about 50 days — not that I worked on it every day. I’ve always been a binge writer by preference. I like to take many hours at a stretch and produce many words, when time allows.

I stuck pretty close to my outline until this past week, when I realized my planned ending was stupid, morally reprehensible, and — worst of all — boring. I tried to think of a better ending, one that was earned and powerful. I talked out the implications of changing things with a friend at a cafe on Saturday, and I think I came up with something that works.

Those rolling deadlines and the tight time-frame — and the fact that this book is quite important to me, one of the most personal novels I’ve written since Briarpatch — gave my life a peculiar rhythm these past couple of months, and made me identify quite intensely with my characters. I find myself really missing them this morning. I’ll get to spend a few more weeks with them as I work with my editor on final revisions, but soon it will be time to move on to the next book.

I’m feeling happy and accomplished and bittersweet and melancholy today. So, you know. Like a human.

Books and Wonders

October 14th, 2013

I recently got a copy of Wonderbook (which you can order at Amazon and B&N and other places), a lavishly illustrated, weird, and delightful guide to writing imaginative literature, by Jeff VanderMeer. I contributed in a very small way with some text to make a “revision snake,” one of a series of informational diagrams in serpent form, detailing the revision processes of various authors for various books. Here’s the snake for my novel Poison Sleep, detailing the number of drafts I went through in that book, and some challenges I faced:

THIS BOOK IS FULL OF SNAKES and other wonderful things. It’s seriously one of the strangest, most interesting, and most browse-able books I’ve ever held in my hands. Check it out.

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There’s another book I should mention, too — my first middle-grade novel, The Stormglass Protocol, co-written with Andy Deemer, is out now. It’s a tie-in novel for a game about kid spies (appropriately called Stormglass, which Andy helped create), and I think it’s fun and fast-moving. It was a great experience, writing a book with twelve-year-olds in mind, though it might appeal to you grown-up types too. (It is not full of snakes. It is, however, full of bees.)

Bride of Death Cover Art

August 27th, 2013

Behold the cover art for my next Marla Mason novel Bride of Death, by artist Lindsey Look. I love it so much.

A Nightmare

August 18th, 2013

I seldom have nightmares, and when I do, I mostly enjoy them; they can provide really powerful, strange imagery to use in fiction. But I had a terrible one last night.

I was in the park, looking for my son, who I knew had wandered away. I wasn’t too worried yet, but I was getting anxious. I heard my son’s voice and went toward a lavishly-appointed tour bus parked on the grass. I climbed on board and walked down the aisle, and there was my son, dressed in strange fuzzy pajamas, curled up in one of the bus’s carpeted overhead bins, smiling. I said, “Honey, we’re not supposed to be in here, let’s go.”

Then a man appeared, holding a syringe in his hand, and stuck the needle in my arm. I tried to fight him, ineffectually, as my limbs and eyelids grew heavy. I thought, “No, no, this can’t be happening,” as afraid as I’ve ever been in my life. The man just stood there grinning as I stumbled against the seats and fell to the floor in the aisle. When I drifted fully into unconsciousness on the bus, I woke up in bed.

I opened my eyes to the dim morning light in the windows, and my son in bed next to me — he’d crawled in to join me around 3:30 in the morning — sleeping angelically. I felt a moment of pure relief…

And then I thought, “What if I’m still drugged unconscious on the bus, and this is the dream?”

I suppose I am sometimes still a horror writer.

Big Book Sale 2013

August 15th, 2013

Won’t somebody rid me of these troublesome books? –King Henry II, probably

The time has come for my more-or-less annual book sale. I just got another box of author copies, and books are filling up my house and tottering in dangerous piles. I also have quarterly estimated taxes due in September so money is welcome.

Here’s where you come in: Buy my books! (They make great gifts. Even if just for yourself.)

You can get signed and/or inscribed copies for cover price (I’ll round up to destroy any stray pennies), plus $5 shipping per book for mass market paperbacks and $7 each for trade paperbacks/hardcovers. The listed price includes shipping costs for the US.

For shipping outside the US, add an extra $10 to the listed price. (Overseas shipping has gone way up this year. Sorry about that. It costs nearly $20 to send a one-pound package to, say, Spain.)

Write to timpratt@gmail.com or post in the comments here saying what you want and telling me if you want them signed and/or personalized. I’ll do the math and tell you what you owe me and where to send the PayPal money.

First-come, first-served, which is why you should comment or e-mail instead of just sending money — I’d hate for you to pay for something I already sold. (First-time comments are moderated here, so don’t worry if your comment doesn’t show up immediately.)

I’ll run the sale for a week and a bit, from now until midnight PST on Friday, August 23.

Here’s what’s available. First editions, unless otherwise noted.

Marla Mason series:

Mass-market paperback of Blood Engines, $12 (16 14 copies available)

Mass-market paperback of Dead Reign, $12 (6 copies)

Mass-market paperback of Spell Games, $12 (5 copies)

Trade Paperback of Bone Shop, $20 (This is the pretty edition with the Dan Dos Santos cover art) (2 1 copy) Sold out!

Trade Paperback of Broken Mirrors, $21 (2 1 copy) Sold out!

Trade Paperback of Grim Tides, $21 (3 1 copy)

Standalone novels:

Limited edition hardcover of Briarpatch (These are unnumbered author copies) $55  (3 1 copy)

Hardcover of The Constantine Affliction (as by T. Aaron Payton), $34 (15 14 copies)

Trade paperback of The Constantine Affliction (as by T. Aaron Payton), $20 (15 14 copies)

Trade paperback of The Strange Adventures of Rangergirl, $19 (7 copies)

Trade paperback of The Nex, $20 (1 copy)

Mass-market paperback of Forgotten Realms: Venom In Her Veins, $13 (20 15 copies)

Mass-market paperback of Pathfinder Tales: City of the Fallen Sky, $15 (12 10 copies)

Mass-market paperback of Pathfinder Tales: Liar’s Blade, $15 (12 10 copies)

I’ll do an RPG bundle, too: Venom In Her Veins, City of the Fallen Sky, and Liar’s Blade for $40 if ordered all together.

Collections

Paperback of poetry collection If There Were Wolves, $15 (2 1 copy)

Trade paperback of collection Little Gods, $21 (Not the first edition that includes the poems, but the more attractive offset edition) (4 copies)

Trade paperback of collection Antiquities and Tangibles and Other Stories, $21 (4 1 copy) Sold out!

Anthologies I edited or have a story in

Trade paperback of Sympathy for the Devil (edited by me, Tim Pratt!), $23 (5 4 copies)

Trade paperback of Robots: The Recent A.I. edited by Rich Horton, $22 (1 copy)

Trade paperback of Witches: Wicked, Wild & Wonderful edited by Paula Guran, $23 (1 copy)

Trade paperback of New Cthulhu: The Recent Weird, edited by Paula Guran, $23 (1 copy)

Hardcover of Under My Hat: Tales from the Cauldron, edited by Jonathan Strahan, $24 (1 copy)

Inspired by Elizabeth Bear’s book sale, I’ll throw in a bonus chapbook or ‘zine from my hoard with each order.

That’s it. Make your wishes known.

Outsider

August 12th, 2013

The busier life gets, the less time there is to chronicle my life, so the only time I seem to reliably write about what’s happening to me is when there’s not much happening to me. I’m not going to pretend that I’m breaking the cycle, here — this post will go up and it will doubtless be weeks before I manage another. Mostly when I feel the need to crack wise or bloviate, I do so on Twitter (or facebook), but occasionally it’s fun to go on at greater length than 140 characters, so here we are.

The weekend was cool! My wife, the lovely, talented, and all around wonderful Heather Shaw, entered a haiku contest and won, getting us VIP tickets to Outside Lands, the big music festival in Golden Gate Park. We went this weekend, and it was awesome. Paul McCartney was hilarious and played wonderfully, Nine Inch Nails was badass, and we also saw some good other bands, some comedy (the latter in a Spiegeltent! As Eugene Mirman said, “Comedy is best performed in a hot wooden tent in the middle of the afternoon”), and lots of drunk/high people having the time of their lives. (I was only moderately drunk.) Also there was lots of good food and booze. I ate a lamb burger and sweet potato fries topped with bacon and marshmallow sauce and drank good beer and a great rye manhattan. Huge thanks to our friends Drew and Nicole, and to my sister-in-law Holly, for the heroic acts of overnight babysitting that allowed us to stay out late dancing in the misty rain.

I’ve got a book due in September (another Pathfinder Tales novel, I think my best one yet, unless I blow it before I finish writing), so I had to do some work over the weekend, too. I managed to get a decent number of words in on Saturday before we hit the park, and I didn’t go to the festival on Sunday (my wife went with her sister instead). I was solo parenting and watching my nephew on Sunday, but in practice that meant the kids played together and entertained themselves, so I got a ton of writing done — I managed to write about 12,000 words for the weekend, which is more than I’d gotten done in the previous two weeks. The plot is really starting to click along now, too. I’ve gotten to the part of the book when all I want to do is write. Which is good, since I still need to get a lot more pages done in the next three weeks.

I read and enjoyed Scott Lynch’s new Gentlemen Bastards novel, Republic of Thieves, and am almost done with Daniel Abraham’s new Dagger and the Coin novel The Tyrant’s Law. (In which bankers are a force for good in society! So you know it’s a fantasy novel!) I recommend them, though in both cases you should read the previous two books in the series(es) first.

To write my story “Antiquities and Tangibles” (about someone who finds a little magic shop and tries to buy happiness there, with predictable levels of success), I did a lot of research about happiness, from the philosophy of the ancients to popular self-help to theories in neuroscience to sociological studies. Since I’ve got a personal interest in being happy, too, as a human being, I took note of things I thought might help my life. There’s broad agreement that social connections are key to happiness, and since I spend a lot of my life sitting in my house alone making up stories about imaginary people, I decided to overcome my essential introvert-ness and at least try to see people in the real world more often. After a few months of that, I’m willing to call the experiment a success (though I’m spending more money on beer than I used to). I’m still an introvert with hermit-like tendencies, but going out once or twice a week and seeing people, or having people over, has improved my outlook on life significantly. There were a few years there when I felt like my life was nothing but work-write-parent-repeat, and having things start to open up again is good for me.

Other things of note!

The Kickstarter to revive our ‘zine Flytrap was a success! We’ll be opening up to submissions soon, and our first issue should come out early next year. We’ve already got some great art and non-fiction lined up. Details will be along.

There’s a trade paperback of my gonzo historical novel The Constantine Affliction, out tomorrow, technically, but it looks like you can get it today at your favorite online bookstores and possibly even places in the physical world as well.

As part of the Kickstarter rewards for Bride of Death, I promised to do a monthly advice column from my main character, cranky sorcerer Marla Mason. The first installment of Auntie Marla’s Good Advice is up now. I think it’s pretty funny, but then, I would, wouldn’t I?

I think I mentioned this before, but I started a tumblr to collect various quotes/dialogues/etc. from my son (known to twitter as officeboy), just to have them all in one place: The Officeboy Dialogues. The initial flurry of posts has died down as I’ve posted most of the best stuff, but I’m still updating it as he says new hilarious/smart/weird things. Like yesterday when he made some insightful comments about my hair.