Tim Pratt
SF and Fantasy Writer

Archive for the ‘Personal’ Category

Eleventine

Friday, April 22nd, 2011

Taking a break from editing to do a little scribbling and catch-up here. My online journal turned 11 years old on April 20 — entirely coincidental that it shares a date with Stoner’s New Year, as I was always far more into ingestible hallucinogens than smokeable euphorics, but it does make the occasion easy to remember. Eleven years ago I was in Boone North Carolina, living at the house on Jake Miller Road with my friend D and the rest of the boys, trying to direct my life post-college-graduation, hoping to be a published writer someday. I’ve been documenting my life online, with varying degrees of completeness, for nearly a third of my life now. At some point the future happened. Now I’m just living in it.

The beginning of the week was a bit rough. My kid’s school is closed for spring break, and we had to finish the May issue of the magazine, so we had the combo of deadline pressure AND all-officeboy-all-the-time. He was pretty good, considering he was bored senseless much of the time and everyone was too busy to play with him much. We got the issue finished on Wednesday, and then: my four-day weekend began. (With Thursday my delayed day off, and today a holiday.) Oh bliss. Well, work-and-bliss.

Yesterday morning began inauspiciously. My son started the day by throwing up, but didn’t seem sick otherwise, and didn’t repeat the unpleasant exercise — still, it lent a tinge of worry to the morning. While the boy breakfasted and played and so on, I revised my story “We Go Back” and sent it off to the editor. Let’s hope it meets her liking. Then I turned my attentions to the beautiful day and set off with my son. We went to the library and the playground and the post office and got some groceries. Thanks to the existence of the $1 a scoop ice cream place (four quarters gets you a good-sized cone) I was able to bestow infinite joy on my child despite being pretty broke. He had a scoop of banana nut. Oh, to be three years old, with so many ice cream flavors yet to be tasted…

In the evening, after the kid fell asleep, I tackled the simpler of the two editorial letters in my inbox, and got one novel revised and sent back. One down, one to go. (At least until I get the third editorial letter I’m expecting, probably next week. A writer’s work is never done etc.)

The kid doesn’t seem sick today… but he woke up around 4:30 a.m. and couldn’t be coaxed back to bed for more than half an hour. So… a rather earlier start to the day than I’d envisioned. I decided to take advantage of all these unexpected hours by working on the other novel edits, but my brain is protesting. Coffee may be in order.

Double-Barreled Infection

Wednesday, April 13th, 2011

The latest story in the Alphabet Quartet to be posted online is one of my faves: “N is for Nevermore Nevermore Land”. Subscribers to Daily Science Fiction got “O is for Obfuscation” in their e-mail today.

There are still some good things left in my big book sale, though various titles have sold out. I made enough yesterday to cover the shortfall in my tax bill and pay for the kid’s doctor appointment and medication — infections in both ears! — so thank you, thank you, thank you everyone who bought or spread the word. I’ll keep taking orders through tomorrow, probably, and will pack stuff up and mail it in the next few days.

My wife was also pleased to see the giant pile of books in our living room is now small enough that we can actually see the wall behind it. She wants to hang a picture there. Presumably to keep me from piling up more books later. Futile hope.

Despite all that time spent at the doctor yesterday, it was a good day off. The kid was in good spirits once he got some children’s Tylenol in him, and we did some grocery shopping and went to the library and ran around the park. I love my days with him. So glad I’m able to do that.

Life is about to get busy. I’m expecting editorial letters this month for Briarpatch, my Wizards of the Coast novel, and a pseudonymous book. So there are revisions in my future. I also have two short stories to write. (In my defense I’ve been thinking about them… but not so much writing.) Last weekend’s vacation was fun but, uh, yeah. Vacation’s over. Back to the pixel mines.

Wishing Makes It So

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011

Great review of Welcome to Bordertown from Colleen Mondor at Bookslut! Here’s what she says about my humble contribution:

In Tim Pratt’s “Our Stars, Our Selves,” Allie Land, “lesbian future rock star for hire,” is offered one of those classic fairy tale boons — an actual wish for anything she wants. Of course she learns a lesson but not the one you’d think, and her decision is the least lame one I have ever read in the wish-accepting business. Belligerent and ballsy, Allie is a standout heroine.

Yeah, I’ll take that.

Our trip to LA for Literary Orange and Disneyland looms. Just have to get our key to the cat/housesitter and pack our bags and find the cooler and print out our maps and and and… So excited. It’s just four days, and a good 12-14 hours of it will be spent driving, but it’s the closest thing to a vacation we’ve had in ages, and I can’t wait.

Notes from a Weekend

Monday, April 4th, 2011

Yesterday I finished The Sorcerer’s House by Gene Wolfe, and found it to be entirely awesome. It has all the usual Wolfean unreliable narration, elision, indirection, misdirection, and nested weirdnesses, but in an altogether more accessible mode than in many of his other books. It was quite a page-turner. (I was a bit trepidatious about reading it, since I have an idea for a book that involves someone inheriting a house owned by a sorcerer, but I was pleased to find pretty much zero overlap between the things I’m thinking about and the things he did. Though of course my book won’t be as good as his; because he is Gene Wolfe.)

***

My wife banged her head at the playground on Friday, hard enough to make her nauseated, and has been a bit woozy ever since. (A visit to the emergency room and a scan of her head indicate no lasting damage or blood on the brain, but they think she got a concussion, and she may suffer aftereffects for days or weeks afterward.) A bit scary, but she’s all right.

We had a picnic in the park on Saturday, enjoying the insanely warm weather. (It’s been in the 80s in recent days.) The picnic was our kid’s idea, actually, so we packed up sandwiches and hummus and fruit and cheese and other goodies, spread our blanket on the grass, and had a wonderful lunch before setting the boy loose on the playground.

***

Did I mention I turned in that book that was due on April 1? I did. My wife read it last week and spared me from some terrible continuity errors. She continues to make me look smarter than I am. Glad that’s done. Next on the to-do list is a new short story, which I started plinking away at on Sunday.

***

Wife and kid went to Wondercon on Sunday. There’s photographic evidence: My son on the Iron Throne, with my wife as the power behind the throne. (He dressed as a pirate for the con. Though he debated about going as a monkey, or a monkey-pirate hybrid, as revealed in this brief video.) After they got home, I took the kid for a long walk around Berkeley, ending up at a playground, where instead of building sandcastles he dug sanddungeons. Or maybe sandoubliettes. (Seriously: dig a hole, put toys inside, cover hole with the lid of a bucket, and finally cover lid with sand, making the hole invisible.)

A good weekend. They usually are. And next weekend, we’ll be in LA for the Literary Orange festival, and Disneyland, and swimming in the hotel pool, and going to the beach, and so forth. Should be glorious.

Whatever the Opposite of Oblivion Is

Thursday, March 17th, 2011

I thought I didn’t have anything to write about, but looking over my recent entries they’re all word count this and e-book that and look here’s a story the other. So here’s what’s going on that’s not writing related.

I commented to my wife Heather this morning, in a tone of some alarm, that nothing in our lives right now is actually wrong. This situation cannot endure, of course, but for now, I’m cautiously pleased about it.

I went to FOGcon last weekend, except I didn’t actually go to FOGcon at all — I did briefly enter the hotel lobby a couple of times. (Heather actually did things at the con, but I wasn’t feeling well Friday night, and so stayed home, and I took kid duty while she did fun convention stuff on Saturday night.) We took our kid into the city on Saturday and had lunch with a bunch of convention-going people — Jenn and Chris and Jed and David. Nice to see so many people all at once, though the need to keep my child from hurling his lemonade at passers-by made me a bit distracted. Afterward Jenn and Chris joined us for a stroll to Lafayette Park (right next to the mansion where Danielle Steele lives), which River loved — they have an old-school metal merry-go-round of the potentially-lethal sort I adored as a child, and the boy and I spun ourselves unto heights of extreme dizziness. (And despite walking too far and spending too long out and losing track of time and letting our parking meter expire, we didn’t get a ticket. Small miracles.)

Parent-child interactions are going pretty well. The boy is basically potty trained at this point, which is awesome. He hasn’t even had an accident in days. (To provide context for people who haven’t shepherded a child through this process: this is easily the biggest deal in my LIFE at the moment. I no longer cope with vast quantities of feces on a daily basis. Life is, therefore, wonderful.) The boy is a total sweetheart, except for brief interludes where he’s a fire tornado of apocalyptic rage. I took him to the dentist last week (his doctor’s name is Dr. Lopez, but he calls her “Dr. Locus,” which may indicate he spends too much time at the office with me), and he was awesome, totally chill, no freak-outs, just curious about the whole process. (His teeth are good, too.) He gets a bit stir-crazy when we can’t go to the playground because of the incessant rain, but the rainy season will be over soon, so that problem will take care of itself.

And next month: a big road trip down south to L.A., ostensibly so I can be on a panel at the Literary Orange festival at UC Irvine, but the reason I happily accepted the invite is so we can take the boy to Disneyland. (I’ve never been. Is it fun?) Yay for adventures!

Oh: and I’m reading Lawrence Block hitman novels, and playing lots of Oblivion (still sniping and thieving my way across the country — great fun), and really, that’s about it, but what more do I need for entertainment?

All That I Can Think About Are…

Friday, March 11th, 2011

I went to bed last night well past midnight, after watching images of the horrible disaster in Japan, and was awakened at 6:30 by a robo-call about the west coast tsunami warning. Donating to the Red Cross is probably a good idea today, and you can give $10 by texting REDCROSS to 90999.

Everything else seems a bit trivial in comparison, but I may as well post the bits of this blog post I wrote yesterday.

My story “Shark’s Teeth” appeared in Daily Science Fiction today, for subscribers. It should be available for everyone to read on the website in a week. This is the chronologically-latest (so far) Marla Mason story, set after the events of Broken Mirrors. (But it should stand alone fine even if you’ve never read a word about Marla; in some ways, it’s a reboot for the series.) I sent the story as a chapbook to readers who donated to the serial of Broken Mirrors, but it should be new to most of you.

The Alphabet Quartet continues — we’re up to “I is for Inertia” on the website!

Looks like I’ll be going to Fogcon tonight. See some of you there. I might possibly drop in on the bar tomorrow as well, but I think I’ll just stay home and work on my novel instead, as the end is increasingly in sight. (I’d be more likely to go if the hotel were near a BART station, but since it requires transfers to get there on public transit and I hate driving, I probably won’t make the journey twice.)

Powers of Ten

Friday, March 11th, 2011

That census thing!

2011: I’m 34, living in a south Berkeley CA apartment with my wife and son, approaching my tenth year working as an editor at a trade publishing magazine, with a thriving career as a story writer and a cobbled-together career as a novelist.

2001: I was 24, recently relocated to Santa Cruz CA, sharing a house on Maple Street with my friend Scott and an astronomer of our acquaintance. I worked as an admin and copywriter for a disability advocacy company. I was in a long-distance relationship with a lovely young woman from back home in North Carolina. But on St. Patrick’s day I met Heather Shaw at an event held at her house, and promptly fell for her, courted her, and eventually moved from Santa Cruz to Oakland to live with her in a shared house, and got a job at the magazine where I still work.

1991: I was 14. Living in Dudley NC with my mom, dad, brother, and sister in a doublewide trailer. In, what, eighth grade and then ninth grade? So maybe hanging out with my friend Scott, watching TV, running around in the woods behind my house, and writing extremely bad stories about zombies, along with Twilight Zone and The Dark Side pastiches. I think that was the year I got my first ever rejection from Weird Tales.

1981: I was four. Living in, maybe, West Virginia? I’m not entirely sure. My mom moved around a lot with me until I was 5 or so.

1971: I was not even a glimmer. Heck, my mom was only 13 at the time…

Take It To The Taxman

Monday, March 7th, 2011

Events of eventfulness in recent days include:

Getting our taxes back from the tax guy. The terror I feel holding that envelope is unlike any I’ve felt since, oh, applying for colleges, or my first two or three ever rejection letters . (Or, well, last year, holding the envelope from the tax guy. Or the year before that. Or…) But in the end, the damage wasn’t too extensive. We owe a bit less than my own best-case-scenario back-of-an-envelope calculation suggested, which means we can actually afford to pay taxes without going to a guy named Slick Eddie and taking out a loan with kneecap collateral. (Because as bad as it is to owe Slick Eddie, it’s better than owing the government. The government doesn’t screw around.) Don’t get me wrong, paying what we owe pretty well wipes out my savings, but that’s fine. Having no money in the bank is pretty typical. And now that’s done for another year, at least. For once I’m not paying last year’s taxes with this year’s income, which is a nice change.

I wrote: only about 8,000 words over the weekend instead of the 10K I’d hoped for, but it’s fine. They’re good words, and I should still finish the first draft in a week or so. I think the book’s structure is solid, so revision should be limited to cleaning up character stuff, seeding in some foreshadowing, line-editing, etc.

I played video games: still playing Oblivion, a game which contains vastnesses. I did the Mage Guild quest-line this weekend, and am now the Arch-Mage. Nothing like shooting necromancers in the back with arrows and blasting liches in the face with magical fire. Quite satisfying.

I played with my kid: he is awesome. He actually spontaneously apologized to his mother after he had a tantrumy tired freak-out meltdown. He was all screams and kicking, and after he calmed down, he said, “I’m sorry I yelled mommy,” and went on to specifically apologize for the specific things he’d yelled at her about. We were stunned. We always try to tell him we’re sorry if we do mean loud things, and apparently that’s made an impression on him.

So, really, another wonderful weekend. Library books were acquired, and brunch was eaten (at La Note — yum), and the kid and I dug in the muddy back yard and discussed the beneficial qualities of earthworms, and generally enjoyed life.

Tenner

Thursday, March 3rd, 2011

Yesterday I wrote 10,200 words on my novel-in-progress. So, you know — a ninth of the novel in a single day. Not bad. (Clearly, this means I should be able to write a novel in nine days, right? I mean, that’s just MATH, people.)

I usually have one or two 8K or 10K days on any given novel, generally as the end approaches and I start to generate momentum. I’m still about 25 or 30K short of the end here, though. I’ve got 29 days before the book’s due. Should be doable, though it won’t be the most thoroughly revised book I’ve ever turned in. I can clean it up a bit in the editorial process as necessary, though. I’ve gotten to the point where I’m enjoying it, which is nice. The dominoes I’ve been setting up are all starting to topple.

Obviously with that much writing I didn’t do a lot else yesterday. Took a walk to the library. Did a bit of grocery shopping. Read the first couple of trade collections of the Scalped comic (how had I never heard of that series before?). Played some Oblivion, where I did a fair bit of thieving and murdering and pillaging. Had dinner with my wife and kid.

Pretty much a perfect day, really.

Having a Ball

Monday, February 28th, 2011

Got a bit of writing done over the weekend — a couple thousand words — but mostly enjoyed myself. I’m taking another vacation day (Wednesday) to do nothing but write, so I could afford a bit of goofing off. So goof I did.

Heather bought a jumbo fun ball at CostCo. (Wow, it gets crappy reviews there. Huh. Ours is fine so far, though most of the kids who played in it were well under the weight limit, which may be why.) It is essentially a giant hollow faceted spheroid you can cram full of children. We took it over to the park on Sunday and I spent half an hour or so pumping it up — it has a zillion different nozzles, which is annoying, but I guess it means if one cell pops, the structure doesn’t collapse. River looooved it, and rolled around inside for hours. It was like the pied piper for all the kids in the park, too, and for most of the afternoon he had a flock of insta-friends taking turns spinning around inside, helping to roll it, etc. (Mostly I ran alongside to make sure they didn’t run over any picnickers.) Pain in the ass to blow up, and equally a pain in the ass to deflate, but he enjoyed it enough to make the annoyance worthwhile.

Also: we had a picnic with good sodas and chips and mac & cheese and chicken fingers and such. Immensely pleasant.

I did a bit of reading, too — the Witches volume of Fables (good), and the Crown of Shadows trade of Locke and Key (awesome). I went to a comic shop — Dr. Comics, in our old neighborhood, since Comic Relief has closed and not yet been reborn in its new incarnation — and picked up the first few issues of the Keys to the Kingdom arc of Lock and Key, because I love it so madly. I’m almost through the wonderful A Book of Tongues by Gemma Files; can’t believe I waited so long to read it.

I played some Elder Scrolls: Oblivion (because the joy of getting an Xbox 360 years later than anyone else is having awesome older games available for cheap), and I like it a lot. I seem to be tending toward thievery and skullduggery in my play style, which comes as no surprise at all.

Life is good.