Tim Pratt
SF and Fantasy Writer

Archive for the ‘Personal’ Category

Six Strange Thursdays

Tuesday, October 9th, 2012

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 End of Deadline Season

Monday, July 9th, 2012

I hereby declare an official end to Deadline Season. There is much rejoicing throughout the land. Of my house.

The first half of this year (and a bit) were brutal. I wrote about a quarter of a million words, raced to hit deadline after deadline, and did a ton of other business-y stuff, revised a few books, did a few stories, worked on an anthology… all on top of day job, parenting, husbanding, etc.

But now the last novel I owe anyone this year has been revised and sent off. I am, admittedly, not entirely devoid of work — there’s still anthology editing going on, and I owe a few short stories over the coming months, and have promised a few reviews — but stories and editing are vastly easier than writing all those novels, which all had very tough deadlines (for various reasons). My nights and weekends are now no longer filled with endless work-work-work. I am so relieved and at peace. I wake up in the morning and feel psychically lighter.

Why, this past weekend, I actually went places with my wife and son! (Normally — for the past many months — my wife has taken him out of the house for at least a half day on Saturday and Sunday, sometimes a whole day, so I can get ungodly heaps of work done.)

We went to the Temescal Street Fair Sunday, and had a great time. Saturday I actually went and sat in a cafe by myself and read a book for a while! (And worked on a short story a little bit. Maybe I’m not so good at the not-working.)

I actually really enjoy writing. It’s writing under multiple deadlines, all of which I’m afraid I might blow, that stresses me out. And I’ve been working flat-out, doing three or four books a year, for… well, for years, honestly.

Which is why I’m taking things easy for the back half of 2013. I need a break — or I’ll break.

I’ll do this anthology work, write a few stories, some poetry. Maybe I’ll work on a contemporary fantasy novel I’ve wanted to do for a while (it is not stressful, as it has no deadline; the motivations are all intrinsic). But mostly I will hang out with my wife and son, see some friends, play lots of video games, sit in the yard and drink beer, do more cooking… Oh. I’m so happy, y’all.

My wife is going to be happier, too, since she won’t have to bear the brunt of childcare. And I am assured that I’m a pain in the ass to live with when I’m stressed, so she is already celebrating the return of the Tim Pratt of old.

Of course, my work schedule for 2013 is already filling up… But after a few months of downtime, I’ll be eager to work again anyway.

Curvaceous

Monday, May 14th, 2012

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

Tuesday, May 1st, 2012

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!

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.

Epic! Journey!

Friday, February 24th, 2012

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

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.

2011 Was

Saturday, December 31st, 2011

I am a great fan of the symbolic. For whatever reason, the symbolism of New Year’s — an arbitrary moment chosen to begin anew — is profoundly powerful for me. A year is a good unit of time: short enough to be measurable and memorable, but long enough to get a sense of trends and developments. It’s a time to make course-corrections, and to see if my life is where I’d like it to be — and, if not, to figure out what actions are within my power to bring my dream life into line with my real life. (Of course, there’s no fighting the external and the unexpected, and conversely, no use fretting over such things: I do my best these days to worry about things I can, loosely speaking, actually control. Or at least influence.) It’s also a time to celebrate achievements, assuming I had any.

So, as always, a look back at my past year, with a particular emphasis on writing stuff, because that’s where most of my energy goes.

I wrote about 370,000 words of fiction and non-fiction (that doesn’t count blog posts, e-mails, or the thousands of words I write monthly at my day job — just books, stories, articles, reviews, etc.).

Most of those words went toward novels. I completed a pseudonymous work-for-hire novel in the spring; wrote the entirety of my roleplaying game tie-in City of the Fallen Sky over the summer; completed my new Marla Mason novel Grim Tides this fall; and have written about 50,000 words of another pseudonymous book this winter (though this one is original, not a tie-in or work-for-hire). I didn’t quite manage to write four entire novels this year, but it was a near thing. I also did revisions and copyedits and so on for various novels written previously, including Venom In Her Veins and Briarpatch.

I wrote some short stories which I subsequently sold: “The Carved Forest” (forthcoming in an anthology); “We Go Back” (an original commissioned by Escape Pod); “The Secret Beach” (published in Fantasy Magazine); “Ill Met in Ulthar” (forthcoming in an anthology); and “A Fairy Tale of Oakland” (an audio original commissioned by Drabblecast.) With my wife Heather Shaw I co-wrote “The Ghost of Christmas Possible” (audio original commissioned by Podcastle.) I also wrote “The Haunted Mech Suit,” which isn’t sold yet, but is out on submission.

I sold other books, too, most notably an anthology called Rags and Bones, co-edited with the marvelous Melissa Marr, which should be in bookstores in 2013. I also sold audio rights to my self-published novels Broken Mirrors and Bone Shop to Audible, which is awesome — especially since they commissioned original covers by Daniel Dos Santos! Also sold a couple of those work-for-hire books. Maybe my best year ever in terms of books sold. (I tell you, my career has really taken off ever since it crashed and burned after I got dumped by Random House. I’ve been really busy since I became a failure.)

I published a few things this year. The big one was my novel Briarpatch, which has been very well-received critically, to my great pleasure. (The book means a lot to me.) In addition to the stories mentioned above, I also published “A Void Wrapped in a Smile” in Basement Stories; “Antiquities and Tangibles” in Subterranean; “The Alphabet Quartet” (suite of 26 flash stories in collaboration with Jenn Reese, Heather Shaw, and Greg van Eekhout) in Daily Science Fiction, published one per week from January – June 2011; “Hell’s Lottery” in Bull Spec; “Little Better than a Beast” in Those Who Fight Monsters; “Shark’s Teeth” in Daily Science Fiction; and “Our Stars, Our Selves” in Welcome to Bordertown (that was kind of a dream come true, as I loved the Bordertown series as a teen). My poem “Lion Heart” appeared at Apex magazine — the first poem I’ve published in ages.

A bunch of my stories were reprinted (or rather published in audio form) at assorted podcasts — “Terrible Ones,” “On a Blade of Grass,” “Hart and Boot”, “From Around Here”… others I’m forgetting, too, I suspect. Podcasts have become a huge part of my career, and many of them reach audiences larger than those of the major genre magazines. The future is an odd and wonderful place. I sold some print reprints, too, though not as many.

Remarkably, there were even developments at my day job (I’m senior editor at A Certain Magazine). I wrote a few book reviews, after a couple of years of not reading much SF/Fantasy at all. I conducted a couple of interviews for A Certain Magazine, solo, which I’d never done before — I sat down with Nick Mamatas, and with Sarah Pinborough. (You’ll be able to read both interviews next year.)

I ran a Kickstarter campaign to fund my Marla Mason novel Grim Tides, with a goal of raising $6,000. I raised over $11,000. My fans are the greatest people in the world.

I got into self-publishing some more, putting up a bunch of single stories for sale in various e-book formats, mostly. Thanks to Jenn Reese of Tiger Bright Studios for doing a bunch of awesome e-book covers for me. Keep her in mind for your cover designing needs; she rocks. At my agent’s prompting, I looked into the ACX audiobook exchange, where authors can connect with producers and narrators to create audiobooks, and we made a deal with the amazing Mary Robinette Kowal to narrate an audiobook of my debut novel The Strange Adventures of Rangergirl. With luck, it’ll be available next year.

I got to see the first film adaptation of my work, a short film by Israeli director Shir Comay, based on my story “Impossible Dreams” (it’s fantastic). I optioned my short story “Morris and the Machine” to an indie filmmaker. My beloved producer and friend Anne Rodman renewed her option on the Marla Mason series (and those wheels are still turning, though Hollywood is a strange and vast place full of dangers, so I expect nothing).

Okay, okay, non-writing things!

My three-year-old became a four-year-old. Fatherhood continues to be pretty awesome. His glaucoma is under control — and he’s old enough now that he doesn’t have to be anesthetized in order to have his eye pressures checked, which is huge and good. He got stitches for the first time, after getting a cut over his eye. (He’s precocious; I was seven years old before I got stitches.) The kid swam with dolphins! He learned to count to 100! He can spell his name! He is generally fantastic. Such a great kid. One of the best parts of my life.

My wife started working full-time at A Certain Magazine (as a bookkeeper, mostly, though like everyone there, she does various things). Having her at my workplace is awesome, and our financial terror has gone from constant to intermittent (mostly around quarterly tax payment time), which is a nice change.

I did a bit of traveling. I went with my wife and kid to Southern California, as I was invited to be on a panel at the Literary Orange festival at UC Irvine. (The opportunity to take the boy to Disneyland, accompanied by our dear friend Jenn, may also have been a factor in our decision to make the trip.) I went to Worldcon in Reno, and later to the World Fantasy Convention in San Diego, both with my wife and kid. I got to meet a few of my editors (James Sutter and Fleetwood Robbins and Brett Savory and Sandra Kasturi) in person, which was great.

I took a week-long family vacation to the Big Island of Hawai’i (though it was partly a research trip for Grim Tides), and it was marvelous, except for my kid’s ear infection and my wife’s strep throat…. Other fun things that involved leaving my house: the Solano Stroll (my kid loves a street fair); the Eat Real Festival (my favorite annual excuse to wander around eating everything that looks yummy); reading at the LitCrawl portion of LitQuake; doing a talk about self-publishing and crowdfunding for a college class; a couple of memorable special occasion dinners with my adorable wife.

I sure like video games. I started the year playing a ton of The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion, and the end of the year playing lots of The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim. It’s pretty much the perfect series for my tastes as a gamer. Portal 2 was also super fun.

I got seriously into making popsicles over the summer. Both boozy popsicles and non-boozy. My chocolate popsicles are awesome. This is not arrogance; this is merely fact.

I read around 175 books (that’s approximate — I lost my list of books read when my computer hard drive dramatically died. Didn’t have a backup of that file for some reason, so I’m reconstructing from my library account history, etc.) That sounds like a lot, but it includes a ton of comic collections/graphic novels, which I read fast, and more re-reads than usual…. I had some nostalgia for old favorite books this year, and dipped back into some Stephen King and Terry Pratchett favorites.

All in all: a pretty great year. Too much work, and not enough play, but I’ll keep adjusting the ratios.

Lately, my kid has been talking a lot about what he wants to be when he grows up. He’s asked me what I wanted to be when I was a kid, and I told him: a writer. Which is what I am, despite taking a few knocks along the way. I really am living my dream life. Oh, there are bad particulars — I’ve had some unpleasant experiences this year in the publishing business (some at least partly my fault, some the fault of others), and there have been illnesses I could have done without, and certainly a fair share of simply bad days — but the overall arc of my life is moving in a good direction. My usual wish at the beginning of a new year is a line from that old Counting Crows song: “Maybe this year will be better than the last.” But this time, I’d be happy if this year is merely as good as the last.

In Which I Encounter Wildlife

Wednesday, September 14th, 2011

Tuesdays are trash days at work. (That also used to be my day off; I didn’t have to help take out trash and recycling for ages. It was awesome. Oh well.) Yesterday we all forgot to do trash, until I was the last one in the office. At 5:25 a co-worker called, having remembered, so I sighed a heavy and long-suffering sigh and said, “Oh, I’ll do it.”

I gathered all the recycling and lugged it outside to the big gray bin. I gathered all the trash and lugged it out to the trash can. Then I picked up the little green pail of organic waste, took it to the big green waste recycling bin, lifted the lid…

And saw a filthy, shit-covered, terrified, twenty-pound raccoon staring up at me. I shouted profanity and jumped back about a few feet, letting the lid fall closed. Then I pondered my options. Leave it as a surprise for the trash guys in the morning? Open the lid again and risk getting a face full of leaping terror with needle teeth streaked with panic feces? (Keep in mind: I had to pick up my kid by 6 o’clock in order to avoid a $10-per-minute late charge at the preschool, a 15-minute drive away, so I had a ticking clock situation.)

Eventually I just gently tipped over the bin, flipped open the lid with a broom handle from a safe distance… and waited. The raccoon didn’t come out, its nightmare of confinement now made even more scary by the arrival of a roaring giant. So I banged on the can a bit to encourage it, and that just made it crawl deeper inside. I stood around for a while and tried to make myself unobtrusive and eventually the raccoon scurried out, caught sight of me, freaked out, and ran into the neighbor’s walled yard.

Who knows how long it had been trapped in there — less than a week, surely, but otherwise…

While I was picking up the green bin (and finally throwing out our old eggshells and coffee grounds), a large female deer wandered up from the woods and stood about four feet away from me, as if expecting to be hand-fed. We see deer a lot here in the hills, but they tend to be a lot more skittish than that. I said, “S’up, deer?” And the deer walked off, also into the neighbor’s walled yard. I was like, “Is there a Disney princess in there or something?”

In fact, the whole experience of my workplace has the flavor of a Disney movie, as directed by David Lynch. I know that, sounds extreme. But I haven’t mentioned the insane pregnant squirrel who lives in our plum tree. One of my co-workers has been feeding the squirrels peanuts, which has made them fat, complacent, and confident. But the pregnant squirrel has gone mad, and is so aggressive she chases people up the stairs, stands on the thresholds of doors chittering wildly, and will occasionally rear up on her hind legs and gaze at us through the sliding glass doors for minutes at a time like an obsessed stalker. The other day she came at me frantically, so I tried to shoo her with a broom, and she started climbing up the broom. I ended up having to shove her right off the edge of the deck, where she promptly ran up a tree and started screaming at me.

Next time, I’m getting help to take out the trash.