Tim Pratt
SF and Fantasy Writer

Archive for September, 2010

77,000 Snakes

Thursday, September 30th, 2010

My vacation week has been splendid, though I haven’t been lolling about. Mostly I’ve been working on my Snake novel (which I’ll be able to tell you about soon, I think). This morning, around 10 am, I finished the first draft. The manuscript stands at 77,000 words, and 72,000 of those were written in the month of September. I was more diligent than I usually am, these past few weeks. There were only 8 days in September on which I didn’t write at all, and no more than two non-writing days in a row — much better than my usual pace. (For example, in both August and July, I only wrote on five days each month; for 26 days each of those months, I didn’t do a damn thing. Summer was exceptionally lazy for me this year, but I’d just finished Broken Mirrors, so I needed a break.)

Anyway, blah blah metrics. Wrote a lot, got a draft done. It’s 3,000 words short of the target length, but I know I need to add some setup and foreshadowing when I revise it, so it’ll get longer. I also need to put in some smells — it’s the sense I ignore most in my first drafts — and break up some long strings of pure dialogue with a little reinforcing/contrasting action to make it more interesting. Needs some more little character touches, too, for a few of the characters. I think the structure of the thing is pretty sound though, and the book’s not due until 11/1. A whole month to revise! How decadent!

Otherwise, I’ve been reading. Lev Grossman’s The Magicians is good, far better than I expected — I had the vague sense Grossman was sort of a fantasy genre outsider coming in to Show Us How It’s Done, and I was prepared to find it annoying, but I was wrong. I’m about 3/4 of the way through and I really love it. (I mean, the characters explicitly attempt to reproduce Dungeons & Dragons spells at one point. This is my kind of writer.) I’ve also been reading old comic book collections (The Age of Apocalypse, which was the only Big! Comics! Event! I halfway paid attention to in my teenage years, and which I think influenced me in obvious ways… see Broken Mirrors, for example.) Also been reading K.J. Parker’s The Fencer Trilogy (odd name, as the protagonist is only a fencer for the first part of book one) and enjoying it a lot, though it’s not as good as his later work. Full of great technical stuff about archery and bowmaking though, which was actually unexpectedly quite helpful, as a character in the Snake novel is an archer.

And in Life Stuff, I’ve been playing with my kid and enjoying my wife’s company, pretty much the usual. Heather and I went to the Wood Tavern for our 5th anniversary and had a truly divine meal. The cheeseboard alone was to die for. Nice to find time for a little romance outside the Land of a Three Year Old, where we usually dwell.

I go back to work on Monday, which means I still have a few days of vacation to enjoy without going flat-out on writing a novel. (I’m sure I’ll work some on other things; I’m still in a work mode, so I might as well use that. But I’ll read and watch TV and run around the yard with the boy more, too.) In the meantime –

Ooh, my agent just sent book contracts for me to sign. I’ll be able to tell you about this one soon, too, then.

Woodenosity

Friday, September 24th, 2010

My time travel short-short “Fiddle” is up at Daily Science Fiction.

I am on the very edge of the very cusp of the very rim of the very precipice of my vacation, and the view from here is glorious. (As my wife says: “Damn, how much vacation do you get?” Well, my workplace is fairly generous. After several years of loyal labor they start giving us extra vacation time each year, gradually accruing into a snowball of freedom. And since I only work four days a week anyway, I can string together nine consecutive days off — counting weekends — by using a mere four vacation days.)

Will I be jaunting off to Rio or Monaco or an island paradise? Well, not so much. My wife doesn’t have any more vacation for the year, for one thing, and solo island jaunts aren’t as fun. So I’ll be staying close to home. (I might take my kid on a day trip to Santa Cruz, if the weather stays so nice.) Mostly I’ll be trying to finish the first draft of the Snake novel. It stands at 50,000 words or so, with an ideal total length of 80,000. I hope to complete major narrative operations in about 75,000 words, living me a little room to expand things here and there during revision. I should be able to write 25-30K in nine days, when I don’t have to do anything else but play with my kid and hang out with my wife. Assuming I don’t pursue my napping career too extensively instead.

My 5-year anniversary is coming up (the traditional gift for the 5th wedding anniversary is “Wood”! The jokes just write themselves!). We’re getting overnight babysitting for the kid from my sister-in-law, and I’m taking Heather out to the Wood Tavern (the thematic name is pure coincidence) for a wonderful and lavish meal this weekend.

(And for those wondering: I got her a nice bokken as her wooden gift. Pervs.)

Sleep, You Old Vampire

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010

I’ve been distressingly low-energy lately, partly because I have the Family Cold, but also — I must admit — because my eating habits have deteriorated drastically in recent weeks, with too many meals (read: most) consisting of burgers, or sausages, or just chips and ice cream. Delicious, yes, but not energy-imparting. (I’ve been pretty good about getting better food into my kid, but not myself.)

So I’m going to work on fixing that. I’d love to get back to our tradition of having salad for dinner a couple of times a week, and other reasonably healthy meals the other nights, with bratwursts-filled-with-cheddar returned to the status of an occasional treat rather than a mealtime staple. I’m in the mood to start making soups and stews and such anyway, now that the weather’s turning colder and more damp (in theory, anyway — yesterday was 70 degrees and sunny).

Despite feeling pretty drag-ass, I’ve been writing, steadily if not quickly. The current novel project — I’ll call it the Snake book, just so I can call it something publicly — is growing by the rate of 1200 or so words per day. I expect to get more done on my weekend days, so it wouldn’t shock me to hit 50,000 words by next Monday, and I may even manage a draft by October 1. That would give me a month to do revisions before it’s due to the editor.

My kid’s been a lot of fun lately, though his sleep habits have been odd. He came to our bed to sleep with us a few days ago — no big deal, as he’d clearly had a bad dream or something. Then the next day he came to our bed again, a little earlier. Then again, even earlier. He always went back to sleep, in our bed, with only moderate parent-kicking and other demands, so it wasn’t terrible, but it was a bad trend.

Last night he came to bed at 1 am. So he got stuck back in his own bed with some brief snuggling and reassurances. We were prepared for a middle-of-the-night installment of Toddler Tantrum 2010: The Tantruming, but he settled down after some pro-forma squawking and didn’t rise again until 6:30. Let’s hope we’ve broken the cycle. Snuggling with him is awesome, and he won’t be this little and snuggly forever, I know, but it was starting to prove detrimental to his mother’s health, as she’s a light sleeper who has insomnia problems anyway. (I sleep like a rock, myself, and I’m also willing to relocate to the couch if the bed gets overcrowded, so it’s easier on me.)

We’re watching season one of Lie to Me, and enjoying it, though only the clinical psychologist interests me at all as a character — otherwise they all strike me as very thinly characterized, with identifying tics and gimmicks tacked onto cardboard cutouts of people. (Maybe the clinical psychologist is the same way, and I just like her tics and gimmicks more — or maybe it’s just that she’s the most likable character on the show). I do also like the guy who adheres to Radical Honesty, since that’s a cute gimmick that’s even somewhat justified by the show’s premise, but I think he’s been underutilized, pretty much just used as comic relief so far. I’ll keep watching it, though, because I like stories where people lie and get called out as liars constantly.

Secrets and Fictions

Friday, September 10th, 2010

What with the exigencies of parenting and having a day job and everything, I haven’t been producing fresh wordage at the prodigious rate I did while I was in Los Angeles. I haven’t slacked off entirely, though. I did a thousand-word essay on Wednesday, which will appear under a byline not my own to serve as publicity/extra material for a novel that also doesn’t bear my name. (I thought, being pseudonymous, that I wouldn’t have to do any publicity for this particular project. But, alas.)

Last night I did another 1200 words on the novel-in-progress, which I also can’t tell you about (yet), but which will, in fact, have my name on it. I think. I actually just this very morning signed and sent off the contracts for that book, which means I may be able to announce it in the next few weeks. (It’s one of three books eventually coming out from me — under my name! — that I can’t announce yet, and the need for discretion is eating me like a hungry hungry monkey.)

Speaking of books by other people: I read an old Lawrence Block paperback, Grifter’s Game (AKA Mona), which I loved, though the “hey daddy-o” old-school hipster lingo rather dated it. Nice con man/killer story though. Also enjoyed Enge’s World Fantasy nominee Blood of Ambrose. He does some wonderfully weird sword-and-sorcery. Tried a James Ellroy novel and bounced off it because the narrator was so aggressively unpleasant — and I like aggressively unpleasant narrators, usually! Not really reading anything just at the moment, therefore, though I dipped into Kessel’s Corrupting Dr. Nice a bit, prompted to browse through it after recommending it to a friend recently. Time to hit the library again. Maybe I’ll read the Dexter novels by Jeff Lindsay — love the show, so it’d be nice to see what inspired it.

In story news — I still sometimes read stories — I loved Rachel Swirsky’s “The Lady Who Plucked Red Flowers beneath the Queen’s Window”. It’s got a wonderful structure and cool weird magic. Also liked K.J. Parker’s “Amor Vincit Omnia” in the same publication. It’s got all that good K.J. Parker stuff — but with actual magic!

In poetry news: My poem “Ghost” is up at Cast Macabre for your listening pleasure.

A Desert Interlude

Wednesday, September 8th, 2010

So many things… My new online serial novel The Nex started this week, and will continue for 18 weeks total, with a new chapter every Monday. I love this book, so I hope you’ll read it, and donate if you like what you see. (There aren’t as many fundraiser prizes — not even close — as I had for Broken Mirrors, alas. It’s easier to generate goodies for a series than a standalone…)

I went to LA for five wonderful days, starting last Friday. The weather was such a change from the rather cold and dreary summer in the Bay Area — it was 104 degrees the first couple of days I was there, and sunny every day but Tuesday. I stayed with my dear friends Jenn and Chris, who set me up in their spare room, which was cozy and wonderful. The bulk of each day was spent writing — I got about 27,000 words written on a new novel during the trip — but we also had fantastic meals and took some walks and watched TV and went to see a movie (Scott Pilgrim, which I quite enjoyed) and shopped and even went to a party inhabited by Hollywood people, with an invite courtesy of my producer friend Anne. I got to see one of my favorite film/TV actors play shuffleboard, discovered that screenwriters are oddly impressed by people who write books, and had some great talks (and ate much great food). A successful trip in every respect, though I did miss my wife and kid dearly.

Just before I left for LA, I sent out the first batch of donor prizes for Broken Mirrors — just the bookmarks so far. I’ll send out the rest as soon as I’m able. I expect to get the chapbook printed within the next week or so, and hope to have the hard copies of the novel by month’s end, and the postcards will go out around then, and the comic will be printed, and artist Dan Dos Santos is going to send me posters and prints (though it takes a little while to get those made)…. I still expect all prizes to go out by year’s end, most sooner!

Now I begin my reintegration into Real Life. Alas, vacation, I hardly knew you.

Teeth and Voids

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

Last weekend I wrote a story — I think only the third one I’ve written this year — called “Shark’s Teeth”. It’s a fundraiser prize for people who donated forty bucks or more to Broken Mirrors. The story is set shortly after the events of Broken Mirrors, and might end up as chapter one of the sixth Marla novel (though some alterations would be required to make that work).

On my day off yesterday, since I had the wonder of Grandma babysitting, I got a lot more work done, revising an outline for a novel project, doing some research, working on “A Void Wrapped In a Smile”, laying out the chapbook for “Shark’s Teeth”, etc.

I hadn’t written much at all for the past two or three weeks, focusing instead on my TV watching, ice cream eating, watergun fighting, book reading, and playing with my kid skillsets instead. So it’s nice to be back into the literary groove. I’m gearing up for my little writing retreat this weekend, when I’ll flee to LA to stay in my friend Jenn’s spare room for a few days and produce copious quantities of wordage for a novel I still can’t tell you about because the contract isn’t signed and final. Almost, almost… (There will also, I’m sure, be nice meals and other diversions, but I plan to spend many hours per day writing. A rare treat, though I’ll miss my wife and kid.)