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Category: fatheration

Officeboy Dialogue: Smallest Room in the House Edition

Let me give some background: Our house has one (1) bathroom. Our son has an uncanny ability to decide he needs to use the bathroom exactly when one of his parents is already in there, and often hovers outside the door making loud demands while the room is occupied.

Officeboy, in tones of wonder: What if we had THREE bathrooms?

Me: One bathroom each! That would be pretty great.

Officeboy, warming to the subject: What if our living room was a bathroom? And the room where you wait to go to the bathroom was a bathroom? And also the BATHROOM was a bathroom?

(I love that he refers to that space as “the room where you wait to go to the bathroom,” which for him is its chief function, I suppose.)

On another occasion:

Officeboy: We need more bathrooms.

Me: It would be nice. But it could be worse. When I was a kid, we had five people in the family, and we only had one bathroom.

Officeboy (Demands a full accounting of who those other four people are, where they live now, why he doesn’t visit them more often, if they’re all still alive, etc. Then says): What if you all had to go to the bathroom at once?

Me: Well, we lived out in the country, so the boys could just go out in the back yard and pee.

Officeboy (Thinks deeply): Can I pee in OUR yard?

Me: I don’t think your mother would like that. Or the neighbors.

I Like To Ride My Bicycle

So, awesome things: my kid can ride a bike! We got him a two-wheeler for Xmas, and after some discussion and research and talking to other parents, we decided to skip training wheels entirely. (They’re good for getting a kid comfortable on a bike and learning to steer, sure, but they just delay the inevitable necessity of learning to balance on two wheels and falling on your head a few times and so on.)

He’d messed around on the bike a couple of times since getting it, but last Saturday was the first day I really had time to devote an afternoon to helping him figure it out. We went down the block to the elementary school (where he’ll be at Kindergarten next year), because it has a big paved area and lots of paths, including a nice long wide straightaway. To simplify things for him I lowered the seat a lot, so he could put down his feet to stop if he panicked. We did the whole “you ride while I run alongside and keep the bike from falling over” thing a few times, then the “me letting go so you can coast” thing.

He picked it up remarkably quickly. Within half an hour he was pedaling around, though I had to give him a little push to get him started. Within an hour he was getting himself started, muttering “stomp, glide” to himself to remember how to begin the process. By the time we were done for the afternoon he’d pretty much mastered turning. We raised the seat to a reasonable height and went out again the next day. Once he adjusted to getting started with the seat up higher, he just merrily rode around (pursued by a little kid on a scoot-bike who adored him. I remember when my son was the little one chasing adoringly after older kids!). The only thing he doesn’t have the hang of yet is using the brakes to stop. He tends to put his feet down and drag his toes on the asphalt (ack, his shoes!) or just, like, steers into a hedge. But he’ll get it.

I gotta say, seeing him get the hang of riding, looking at the gigantic grin spread across his face, hearing his astonished delighted little voice shout “I did it BY MYSELF!” — it was the most enjoyable afternoon I’ve had in a long time. (On twitter I said teaching him to ride a bike was the most joyfully transcendent time I’ve had in the absence of hallucinogens, and it’s pretty true.) I’m excited to go out riding around on trails with him.

He’s basically been a great kid lately. We’ve been watching superhero movies together! (Though during last night’s film I had to try to explain what an “antihero” is, which is tricky given his clear 5-year-old morality.) He says he wants to be an artist and a writer when he grows up! (And he’s always asking us for help to spell things so he can write “stories,” which are admittedly mostly lists of animals and foods, and demands to be taken to Disneyland. But it’s a start!) We had to take him to the office with us yesterday because he had a holiday at school (but A Certain Magazine never sleeps), and he was basically great all day, and super helpful — which doesn’t provide much fodder for funny Officeboy tweets, but is way easier to cope with.

Most promising development: after years of him waking one of us up whenever he wakes up — even if it’s 5:30 in the morning (ohgodpleasegodnonotagain) — we finally convinced him to amuse himself until at least 7 am, pointing out that he’s capable of getting his own applesauce and yogurt for breakfast, and agreeing to leave out a tablet for him so he can play games or watch streaming video if he gets too bored. It’s worked for the past two days, and the collective mood of his parents is vastly improved.


A very busy weekend, but a lamentably small amount of it involved writing. I got a bit of work done Saturday morning before taking over parenting for the day, then took the boy to see Wreck-It Ralph (amusing, but not amazing) and out for hot cocoa. Night falls so soon that we walked home in the dark, which he found exciting.

Sunday I pretty much did the Dad thing all day, since my lovely wife was off learning how to shoot guns (something any writer who deals with such weapons in their fiction probably oughta do at least once). I took the kid into San Francisco, to wander at the beach and to visit the Palace of Fine Arts and (the main attraction) the Exploratorium. I hadn’t been there in a decade, and it’s still awesome. River and I killed many hours there before returning home.

Heather took the boy shopping after that, and in theory I could have written while they were out, but in practice I just took a nap. (It was a physically exhausting day, and I’ve got a mild cold so I get worn out pretty quickly.)

My schedule doesn’t ease up a lot after this. Deadline at work is sufficiently short this month that I’m not going to get my day off to write at home this week — I need to be in the office all five days. And the week after that has Thanksgiving, which is good for eating but lousy for writing. I have sadly let go of any real hope of getting 50,000+ words done on this new novel this month. I’ll keep documenting my progress, but barring surges of inspiration/unexpected free time, it’s likely to be less-than-stunning.

Word count (for what it’s worth): For the day: 1,346. Total: 12,593.

Notable Line(s): The fat Vegas-era Elvis in a rhinestone jumpsuit with the head of a hog, or the Spider-Man with the head of a fly, were maybe too on-the-nose, but what were you supposed to make of the hulking pro wrestler with a slit-eyed goat’s head, or the Marilyn Monroe standing on a vent with her skirts flying up beneath the long neck and delicate head of a swan, or the astronaut with his helmet tucked under his arm, revealing the gaping face of a trout?

Six Strange Thursdays

My son has been in public school for about six weeks now. He likes it a lot, and is doing really well. His teacher seems great, and he’s even got electives (or “enrichment”) classes in his after-school program — science, tee-ball, art. (He loves science.)

The weirdest part for me has been having my Thursdays free.

Many years ago I went to four days a week at my day job so I could get more writing done. Then, after my son was born, that day off became our “River-Daddy day,” which we spent together every week. We’d go to playgrounds, run errands, hit the library, museums, day trips into San Francisco, and just generally have various adventures.

Now, of course, he’s in school on Thursdays, and it’s left a weird emptiness in my life and disrupted all my routines. Running errands alone is way easier, but also more boring. Some Thursdays Heather takes him to school and I don’t even have to get out of bed at any particular time. (Sleeping in until I feel like getting up is quite bizarre. To think, before I was a parent, I used to do it every weekend. Incredible.)

I have no real new routine yet. I spent a couple of those days off just doing absolutely nothing of note (in my defense, I was sick one week, and beating Arkham City was an epic accomplishment). I just wandered aimlessly in my house and yard, then went to pick River up from school early and went to the library and got ice cream, trying to claw back some of our old fun activities.

One week, there was a rare convergence of schedules that allowed me to have lunch with my wife (we ate at 900 Grayson, and I had the Demon Lover, which is fried chicken on top of a buttermilk waffle smothered in gravy; yum). Then I went over to a cafe we like, Uncommon Grounds, and did some writing.

One week I went into San Francisco and worked at the Borderlands Cafe (Yes, there are perfectly nice cafes walking distance from my house, and a 20-minute train ride into the city was hardly necessary. What can I say? I was drunk with freedom).

Last week I did a writing day with my friend Maggie, which helped overcome my general aimlessness; I was productive! And had someone to talk to other than the cats!

I have no idea what I’m doing this Thursday, beyond the fact that I should get a story revised.

So, there’s still no routine in sight, but I seem to be trending toward a day devoted to writing (and grocery shopping and maybe some housework), topped off with an ice cream cone with the kid. The upside of losing the day off with my son is that I can, in theory, get a lot of work done that day instead, freeing up my weekends to spend with him (instead of making his mom entertain him while I write for hours and hours). This may even work out to be a net win. If I can just find the right groove to settle into.

At least the boy is having epic weekends. Saturday he had swim class, then I took him to the Habitot children’s museum/playspace. Sunday we went down to Santa Cruz and hit the beach boardwalk (Santa Cruz in the month after Labor Day is so glorious; perfect weather, way less crowded than summer), had lunch at Cafe Brasil, and dinner at Saturn Cafe. Yesterday (being Indigenous People’s Day in Berkeley, and thus a school holiday), he went to a day camp and had a field trip to a pumpkin patch/petting zoo/hay maze in Half Moon Bay. So we’re making up for the lost time.

The Couch of Transition

After much thought I figured out a new stretch goal for my collection Kickstarter: if I hit $7,000, I will create a Complete Stories e-book, containing all my published short fiction (minus a couple of work-for-hire things; but if I own the rights, it’ll be in the book). Everyone who donates enough to get the collection e-book (a mere $10) will also get the Complete Stories. And at least for the foreseeable future, the Complete Stories will be available only to Kickstarter backers. It would be a ton of work, but I think the end result — more than 100 stories! — would be pretty cool, so I hope it happens.


This is my son’s last week at his preschool. In a mere two weeks, he starts his new life at public school. It’s kind of mind-blowing. He’s super excited, though. He doesn’t quite grasp the melancholy aspects, yet.

We bought a new couch this weekend (our old one had busted springs for two-thirds of its width, so using it was like sitting on a melting marshmallow), and it came disassembled in several enormous boxes, so I created a vast outdoor box palace for the kid, dubbed his “houseroom.” It’s so nice to make that kid happy.


I haven’t quite finished all my work for the year. I’ve got a short story to write, and an anthology to finish up, and a review I promised to write, all due on September 1 — but after that, I don’t have any particular writing responsibilities (besides putting together the new collection), so I might start writing a new book, Heirs of Grace, just for my own enjoyment. I’ll have my Thursdays free, now, with the kid in school, and I can’t spend all those hours napping or getting daytime drunk. (Or rather, I could, but I wouldn’t enjoy it as much after the first few times.) I even came up with a name for my main character, so, hell, that’s the hard part taken care of.


The Impossible Dreams screening on Saturday was good! Pretty well attended for a mid-afternoon weekend non-kid-related library function (meaning that, counting me and the librarian, there was an attendance into the double digits — nothing like the dozens of attendees the typical children’s program event gets. I should’ve added some basic clowning or magic to my act!). I showed the movie and did a Q&A (a good crowd, with lots of good questions). Pretty fun. Afterward I got a beer with a couple of friends, then came home.

We’d anticipated nice weather, so Heather and I had a few people over for a cook out, but it turned out be cloudy and cool. (Curse you, weather shamans, and your flawed precognition!) Still: great mounds of grilled meat were prepared, and rare beers were consumed, and much conversation was held, lo deep into the evening.

Sunday was mother’s day, so River and I let Heather sleep in, and then gave her gifts, and took her out for lunch. Then I gave Heather the greatest mother’s day gift of all: freedom from being a mother. I took the kid on a train ride into San Francisco to fulfill one of his great dreams: to ride all the curved escalators at the Westfield mall. (I know. One of his favorite things lately is watching youtube videos of people riding the world’s longest escalators.) So we rode a great many escalators numerous times, bought some legos, and played some video games at the arcade. (By which I mean, he sat in front of a video game and pushed buttons and turned the steering wheel. He’s four. He doesn’t care if he’s really playing, at this point.)

A fun weekend… but I’m now even farther behind on my writing. Too much fun. I have to step things up this week. All play and no work makes for a blown deadline.

The PrattShaw B&B

Grim Tides is available in print! (Once I get copies from the publisher, I’ll sign and send them to the Kickstarter backers who donated at the appropriate levels.)


I have been super social lately, which is odd for me, as I am a hermitlike recluse. It helped that many of the visitors came to my house, instead of requiring me to emerge from my shell. There was Jenn Reese’s visit a couple of weeks ago, when she stayed over with my family while doing Bay Area events for her new book Above World. That was awesome — we got to hang out a fair bit in my living room, have brunch, wander around Berkeley, play board games, go out to dinner after her reading, and so on. Truly marvelous. I don’t see her nearly enough. We tried to convince her to uproot her life and move to Berkeley, with inconclusive results. It will be an ongoing project of persuasion.

Then this past weekend we had a whirlwind visit from my oldest friend Scott, his wife Lynne (also an old friend — I am startled to realize I’ve known her going on 12 years, though it’s nothing to the 27 or so years I’ve known Scott), and their adorable son Graham, who is a year younger than my own kid. They were visiting for a wedding, so they crashed at our place, and we entertained their kid while they attended the ceremony. We also managed to drink about four bottles of wine, to sit in the backyard enjoying the sunshine, to stay up too late, to have a nice brunch, and to hang out at a playground with them. But as good as it was to see the grown-ups, the best part was how amazingly well Graham and River hit it off. I’ve never seen my son take to another kid that quickly, and River’s a pretty friendly guy. They played together beautifully, and just seemed to endlessly delight one another. I’m so sad they live so far apart. I hope we can get them together more often in coming years.

Scott and Lynne and Graham had to depart pre-dawn on Sunday to catch a flight back home. But that was not the end of my socializing! Oh no! Heather had a social engagement on Sunday afternoon, so River and I hopped in the car to visit my friends Chris and Maggie (and their houseguest An) at their place in Moss Beach. The drive was kind of boring for the boy at first (lots of traffic on the bridge, my iPod spontaneously erased itself so no good music), but once we got south of San Francisco and started going down Highway 1 he liked it — seeing the ocean and the cliffs.

The visit was lovely. River was initially scared of their dog — as he will tell anyone and everyone, “I’m scared of big dogs, I only like little dogs” — but he warmed up to her later, and even got his fingers licked. We all hiked over to the beach, so River could look at tide pools, play in the sand, examine shells, wade in the surf, look at distant slumbering seals and express skepticism that they were seals, and throw rocks into holes in the sea cliffs. He was sufficiently entertained that the rest of us were able to exchange a few words of actual grown-up human conversation. It was very generous of them all to let their afternoon be shaped by the whims of a four-year-old.

We went back for dinner, wonderful pasta and chicken with cream sauce, and fresh bread (a meal designed to be picky-preschooler-friendly; a very kind gesture). Also: very good sangria. I would have had a lot more than one glass if I hadn’t needed to drive home by River’s bedtime. And we talked! Largely about the books of Stephen King and, by extension, about writing. We had the ritual Exchange of Books that writers so often do when they visit one another, and an additional exchange of baked goods, before the boy and I had to depart. Alas!

We got home, I transferred my sleeping son from the car to the bed, and Heather and I spent a wonderful rest of the night together. It’s been a fabulous couple of weeks. Normally being so social exhausts me, but it turns out, when it’s people I feel sufficiently comfortable around, it’s actually quite pleasant to interact with other humans!

Epic! Journey!

Since I’m going to be gone for a week starting Sunday, I decided to give my son a more-than-usually-epic Thursday. Now, Thursday is generally my day off from the day job and my kid’s day off from preschool, our “River-Daddy Day,” but we usually content ourselves with hitting the library and the playground and running some errands — fun enough, but not fun enough to make up for a week of fatherlessness. So!

The boy loves boats. He’s ridden on the ferry from Oakland to San Francisco exactly once, ages ago, and still talks about it. So after a morning spent sculpting with play doh, we got our things together and took the train over to downtown Oakland. From there we strolled down to the waterfront and looked at the water for fifteen minutes or so until the ferry arrived. The kid was an ecstatic bundle of grins.

The boat ride is really too short for his taste, only about half an hour, but he enjoyed it immensely. He’d been asking me that morning, rather randomly, if we could “Go to a playground with a big rocketship,” and — what luck! — the Raygun Gothic Rocket Ship sculpture is in place right near the ferry building, so I took the kid over to check it out. (While he approved of the rocket, he was disappointed that he could not climb inside it or around on top of it.)

From there we wandered through the Farmer’s Market (honey straws!), and over to the Vaillancourt Fountain (which to me always looked like a big giant heap o’ tetanus, but River thought it was magical), where he got to walk on the stepping stones above the water, to his delight.

From there we wandered through a mall in vague search of food (no success — nothing the boy wanted to eat). He tired of vague perambulations and decided we needed more focus in our life, so we walked up to Columbus Ave and started going north, toward a playground and points beyond. We grabbed a couple slices of pizza at the little hole-in-the-wall pizza joint by City Lights Books. River marveled at the TransAmerica pyramid and (slightly less at) Coit Tower.

We dodged tourists for a while (I actually have nothing against tourists, as I am often a tourist myself, but they do tend to stand in bewildered clumps in the middle of sidewalks. Our stroller needs a cowcatcher), then found a playground. River insisted on playing, even though I knew there was a bigger more awesome playground a few blocks farther along — but it worked out, because he quickly bonded with a little girl, and they had a marvelous time running around together.

After he was playgrounded-out, we continued walking another mile or so up to Aquatic Park (not to be confused with the identically-named Aquatic Park in Berkeley, where we also go sometimes). River quickly divested himself of shoes and socks and got his pants rolled up so he could go wade in the bay surf.

Have I mentioned the weather was gorgeous? Temps in the ’70s, gentle breezes, no ice wind, no fog, beautiful sun. I lounged on the steps and watched the kid dabble his toes in the water. (He met a couple of brothers from Seattle just a bit older than him, and they played together wonderfully for an hour.)

I could have stayed for another two hours, honestly, it was so pleasant… but wrestling the giant stroller onto a train in the crush of rush hour didn’t appeal, so around 4 o’clock I changed him into dry clothes and we headed south again for a BART station. It wasn’t too crowded, and we both got seats. River snuggled contentedly against me on the ride home.

Then I made asparagus-potato soup and drank a beer and collapsed and got up again so I could give him a bath and put him to bed and wrote this.

A good day, but wow, I’m tired. Then again, walking 5+ miles (much of it pushing a stroller) will tend to wear one out…

Chaos and Trains

I worked a lot this weekend, writing the first chapter and a half (and a synopsis) of the current novel, a work-for-hire job I think I’ll just call “the spy book” here for now. So that’s off to the publishers — let’s hope they like it, so I can continue to zoom onward in the same vein. I had a conference call with the main guys running the project last week, and told them my ideas for the storyline, and they were super enthusiastic, so I have high hopes. We seem very much on the same wavelength about how this book should go.

There’s a new chapter of Grim Tides up: “Meet Elsie Jarrow”. This is the chapter that properly introduces my favorite villain of the entire Marla series — probably my favorite of any antagonist I’ve ever created.

My wife and I have a reward system for our son. If he behaves, does his (largely symbolic at this point) chores, is helpful, etc., he earns points on a chart, and when he gets enough points, he gets a reward. Last night he cashed in a bunch of points to get a “movie night,” in which he was allowed to stay up a bit past his bedtime and watch a movie of his choosing with us on the couch. He picked The Iron Giant, which my wife had never seen, so that was fun. He was pretty good, too — engaged with the movie, and had a lot of questions, and was also quite rapt during some of the spectacle parts, and laughed a lot at some of the funny parts. I don’t think he entirely followed the plot, but he got the gist. We’ll do it again sometime.

In a couple of weeks I’m taking a train down to LA. I know, wacky, but on such short notice it’s cheaper than flying, and I can work on a train more comfortably than I can on an airplane. Besides, I’ve never been on a train trip, really (commuter trains don’t count), and the Coast Starlight route is supposed to be quite beautiful. I’ll be staying with my dear friends Jenn and Chris, who are letting me invade their guest room for a week of intense writing. Friends like them are a great help when one has a short deadline. It’s much easier to focus on writing if I’m not in my own home/town, where it’s too easy to get distracted by running errands, cleaning up, playing video games, etc. (And, yes, I’m cruelly leaving my wife as a solo parent for a week. But it’s okay — she’s doing the same thing to me later this year. We’re nothing if not equitable.) I’m excited. With luck I’ll be able to get half or two-thirds of my first draft done that week.


Chapter 6 of Grim Tides is live! “A Mother’s Love.” In which Marla talks to someone from her past in an attempt to save her future.

I finished revising a novel over the weekend, and sent it off to the editor. So: whee! (This is a pseudonymous book, so no further details available at this time. I hope the editor likes it, though. I’m pleased with how it turned out.)

Now I have a story/novelette to write in the next two weeks, and then, most likely, I leap into a short-deadline work-for-hire gig I just got last week. I have to produce a 70K novel (and some ancillary material) in about 2.5 months. Doable? Certainly. Fun? Well, we’ll see. It’ll be a lot of work, but the pay is pretty good, so I’m happy to have it.

I have another novel due on June 15 as well. So, basically, for the next five and a half months, I will be a whirling machine of unceasing labors. (Actually, I have some anthology work to do in June/July/August too, though that’s less strenuous than writing books.) At least the back half of my year is relatively uncluttered. I may just sit around and play video games for the last five months of 2012. Or write a spec novel for fun.

I did some family funtime stuff over the weekend, notably a trip to Yerba Buena Gardens with the wife and kid, so the boy could madly run around, climbing up things and sliding down other things and riding a carousel. The weather was gorgeous. Nice to spend time with them while I can, as I’ll likely be spending most of my weekends in the near future buried in writing/editing/etc.