Tim Pratt
SF and Fantasy Writer

Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

The Couch of Transition

Tuesday, August 14th, 2012

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.

Impossible Dreams Film Live

Monday, August 6th, 2012

The short film adaptation of my story “Impossible Dreams,” directed by Shir Comay, is now available to view in its entirety! (In Hebrew, with English subtitles.) Take 22 minutes and enjoy. Previously seen only at film festivals, a couple of small screenings, and in my living room a few times.

Shir took my basic story and very much made it his own, but if you want to read my original version, it’s online at Wired.com.

Speaking of short stories, we now enter week two of the Kickstarter fundraiser for my next collection, Antiquities and Tangibles, which is doing better than I’d hoped. If you’d like to read the book when it comes out, $10 gets you the e-book.

I’ve finished writing a couple of stories in the past few weeks — “Snake and Mongoose” and “A Cloak of Many Worlds,” both related to the Marla Mason series. (The first is set immediately after Grim Tides, and the second is about some secondary characters in the series.) They were both written as prizes for Grim Tides Kickstarter donors, but fear not, they’ll be available in a future collection of Marla Mason stories. Which I’ve got nearly enough stories to fill, now.

Project Manglement

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

I don’t force myself not to work, if I want to work, when I’m taking a break; the point is to do what I want, after all, and the intrinsic motivation of making something cool is often invigorating, while the extrinsic motivation of racing a deadline can be stressful. (It doesn’t have to be, really, if you manage your time well, but I had some unavoidable crunch times this year.)

So I’ve been thinking about projects. And project management. Here are some things I want to do, or have been approached about doing, or need to do, put here largely for my own organizational reference… but also as a glimpse into the mind of a working writer who can’t really remember how not to be working:

A story for the Rags and Bones anthology, “The Cold Corner,” which I expect to get drafted this weekend.

A Marla Mason story (for a chapbook promised to my Kickstarter backers), “Mongoose,” which is already half-written, which I will try to finish by month’s end.

A story about Marla’s cloak, “The Cloak: A Selective History”, for the incredibly generous Kickstarter backer who gave me crazy amounts of money in exchange for a new story about a character of his choice produced as a single-copy chapbook. (I will probably also send him some other goodies, as he funded a third of my goal singlehandedly…) I imagine I’ll write that one in early August.

A story about Mecha-Cthulhu (Of course there’s already a steampunk Lovecraft anthology in the works; nothing new under the sun, etc.) purely for my own amusement.

A story about Mr. Li (of “Captain Fantasy and the Secret Masters”) that I promised my friend D I would write for him. To do sometime this fall.

A new story — I’m not sure what yet, the ideas are still vague — for my next collection, which I will probably call “Antiquities and Tangibles and Other Stories.” Then I get to see if I can sell a collection again.

A contemporary fantasy novel, Heirs of Grace, which I will fiddle around with for the next year or so, probably. It’s not sold, so there’s no hurry.

A new Marla Mason novel, tentatively titled Bride of Death, which will be (I hope) funded by a Kickstarter, which I’ll launch either this fall or next spring, depending on when some other projects get scheduled.

Another Pathfinder Tales novel; maybe two, if I come up with a good idea. And there’s a chance I might be asked to do a sequel to another work-for-hire book I just finished.

I like that to-do list. It’s a good mix of self-indulgence and actual jobs. As opposed to my earlier list, which was all actual jobs, with actual expectations.

First Lines

Friday, July 6th, 2012

I’ve seen the beloved First Lines meme going around again, so I figured I’d join in. Here are the opening sentences of several works-in-progress.

“Why have you brought me here, doctor?” the Chairman asked, in a voice like the stillness just before a storm.

— [Undisclosed work-for-hire book]

I’m the goddess of death, but only part time.

Bride of Death, Marla Mason #7

(Yes, I’m toying with writing it in first person.)

I thought that thing where a long-lost great-grand-uncle you’ve never heard of dies and leaves you a house was just something that happened in the movies: but here I am, standing on his front porch, hoping I won’t get tetanus from touching the rusty doorknob.

Heirs of Grace

I left home more than twenty years ago, and haven’t been back since; so why do I still think of it as home at all?

— “The Cold Corner”

Because she couldn’t think of any other way to survive, Marla Mason called a council of war.

— “Mongoose”

The thing that was not a cloak opened its three-score eyes and saw an ugly blue sky.

— “The Cloak: A Selective History”

And that’s it. Not so many works-in-progress, really; I even have reasonable expectations that I’ll finish all of them.

The Deep Woods

Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

Good news! I can now announce that my fantasy novella/short novel The Deep Woods will be published by the great British small press PS Publishing. I’ve been a fan of PS since I first read Geoff Ryman’s V.A.O. a decade ago, and have been hugely impressed by their publications over the years — especially their dedication to publishing novellas, which are one of my favorite forms in the genre, but hard to find homes for. I’ve wanted to work with them for ages, and I’m thrilled to have the opportunity. This book is one of my favorite things I’ve ever written, and I’m glad it’s going to see print, especially since PS can be relied upon to produce beautiful editions. The book should be out in spring 2014.

In other book news, the e-book of my science fantasy adventure The Nex is still free to download at Amazon, but this is the last day. Tell your friends. Unless they hate free stuff.

Twofer Tuesday

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

So it turns out that with the day job, fatherhood, husbandhood, and the busiest Deadline Season of my life, this journal is one of the things that gets left undone. (Other things include: basic hygiene, exercise, cleaning my house.) I am managing to twitter near-incessantly, so if you’re simply dying for my company, follow me at twitter.com/timpratt.

I had a pretty great day on Tuesday. In the morning, I got word that I’d sold a short novel/long novella to a publisher I’ve wanted to work with forever. I don’t want to be more specific until I have a contract (lest it turn out to be a cruel, cruel joke), but I will say it’s a book I loooove and am so happy to send off to a good home. That means I have at least one book of fiction coming out in 2014, so that’s nice.

Later on Tuesday, another of my editors got in touch to ask if I’d be interested in writing a sequel to one of my books, to which I replied, “Yes, please,” so that will also likely see print in 2014, assuming all goes to plan.

I’ve sold two stories on the same day before, and I’ve sold two books to the same publisher on the same day before, but I’ve never sold two books to two different publishers on the same day before. One of those little achievements it never occurred to me to even wish for. (Granted, “sold” is a bit of a stretch for the second one, since it was more of a, “Hey, are you interested in doing this?” and won’t even see a contract for many a month, but I’m counting it anyway.)

I celebrated with ice cream. Perhaps I should stop celebrating things with food. But it’s the habit of a lifetime.

21 and Done. Or, Alternately, Sweet Sixteen.

Monday, March 26th, 2012

Another Monday, another chapter of Grim Tides! Go read “Jaws” for more murderlicious funtimes.

I had a busy weekend. A pleasant one. Friday night our dear friend Susan, visiting from New York, came over for a few hours of conversation and take-out food. So nice to see her! It’s been literally years.

Saturday, my wife and son took off for Tahoe so the kid could play in snow for the first time. I wish I could have gone! But I am in a world of deadlines. So I stayed home and wrote a large number of words instead. So many words. But I did not finish the draft of my novel in progress, and indeed, I soon realized I was writing a whole lot of words I would have to throw away, because my climax was stupid and terrible and all wrong. I could feel it, but I just kept on writing my way through, figuring I could get some of the falling action right, at least.

Sunday morning we all headed for Mama’s Royal Cafe to have brunch with Susan and our friend David and his girlfriend Meredith (who impressed my boy with her origami skills). Yumminess and good talk ensued, and the kid was very well-behaved, which is impressive considering we had a long lingery meal. I took the boy away afterward so Heather and Susan could hang out.

The kid wanted to see a new playground, so I found one online we hadn’t been to yet, and we drove up. It was a pretty decrepit old playground, really — swingsets with no swings, a nearly 80-year-old clubhouse all boarded up, blocked off, and in dire need of repair — but it had some really pretty trails, too, and nigh-infinite numbers of steps switchbacking along the path of a creek with lots of little waterfalls. We hiked up and down and all around until we got bored, then drove over to Codornices Park, home of a giant concrete slide. My kid has done the slide many times before, always with me, sliding down together. This time, he wanted to try it on his own. And, lo, he went down the slide a bazillion times! We also stomped through some creeks and went through the tunnel to the rose garden and so on. Good clean exhausting fun.

Once we got home, I wrote some more, completing the falling action and figuring out how to fix my crazy broken climax, then going back and writing that. So that’s the draft of my 21st complete novel. It’ll be my 16th published novel in seven years. (I’ve got four trunk books that will never see print, and another that’s still out on submission. I have a few books under pseudonyms that aren’t listed on my website. My bibliography is best described as “it’s complicated.”) It’s been a busy almost-decade.

I also read Stephen King’s The Wind Through the Keyhole, which is very enjoyable. It’s The Dark Tower 4.5, an interstitial book that has no bearing whatsoever on the series as a whole, and it’s actually a story-within-a-story-within-a-story. The most deeply-nested story is an awesome standalone short novel, and the rest of it is pretty pleasant too.

So that was my weekend. Not too bad at all.

La La La

Thursday, March 1st, 2012

I am in Los Angeles! (And have been here since around 8:30 on Sunday evening, when my train, the Coast Starlight, rolled into town.) I am safely and cozily ensconced in the home of my friends, writer supercouple Jenn Reese and Chris East. (Jenn’s new book Above World is available for sale now, so go buy it!.)

They kindly agreed to let me hide out in their house for a week so I could obsessively focus on getting some words down on a work-for-hire novel I’m doing under a short deadline. I’m hoping to get the novel halfway drafted, which seems doable. Sunday through Wednesday I managed a total of just over 25,000 words, and I’ve got today, tomorrow, and Saturday on the train to produce more. It’s going well, I’m having fun, and etc.

I can’t write all the time, of course, so there’s been a bit of socializing and reading and introducing Jenn to the wonders of Adventure Time. So far there’s only been a single day where I stayed in the apartment without venturing outside. I’ve had a couple of nice meals with Jenn, and we might go see a movie, and I’ll do dinner with both Jenn and Chris on Friday. (I catch the train back to Berkeley on Saturday morning.)

I’m more than halfway done with my writerly retreat. Sad! But also okay, since I miss my wife and kid terribly. This is Thursday, which is usually my day off to spend with my kid, and instead, he’s in preschool. It’ll be good to see my family again. Especially if I can have 30+ thousand words of a novel behind me.

Chaos and Trains

Monday, February 13th, 2012

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.

Coyote Lovely

Tuesday, February 7th, 2012

Hey, it’s a new week! That means there’s a new chapter of Grim Tides up, “Death Makes an Offer”. Enjoy!

On Saturday and Sunday I wrote a fantasy novelette, tentatively titled “A Tomb of Winter’s Plunder.” 8100 words in two days — not bad, and I’m pleased with how it turned out. We’ll see if the editor likes it.

I’m poised to begin a new work-for-hire project which includes some pretty short deadlines, but I’m waiting on some material from the publisher before I can begin. In the meantime… I have nothing due! The decks are cleared! I’m taking this opportunity to play Fallout 3 and read Reamde by Stephenson and The Drowning Girl by Kiernan and play with my kid and generally not work. Because soon, life will be nothing but work. Wall-to-wall, dawn-to-midnight work.

We had a fantastic weekend, really. I made apple-cinnamon pancakes for the boy on Saturday, and we spent the morning at a playground in Berkeley, where he made lots of new friends. In the afternoon Heather joined us for a little picnic, and set up a playdate for River with our friend Dan’s son. I wandered off to write the rest of the day away.

Sunday I wrote in the morning while wife and kid ran errands, then we all loaded up and went to Coyote Point, where there’s an especially awesome playground, with a 40+ foot play structure that includes one of the longest enclosed slides in the state. River went down the slide approximately eleventy bazillion times. A fun and fine outing, with weirdly springlike weather persisting. Sometimes life’s okay.