Tim Pratt
SF and Fantasy Writer

Archive for October, 2010

Pumpkin Hallowe’en

Friday, October 29th, 2010

My story “Shark’s Teeth”, a Marla Mason story which immediately follows the events of Broken Mirrors (but stands alone), will appear in a future edition of Daily Science Fiction. Yay! (I did a chapbook version of this story for some people who donated to the Broken Mirrors serial, but I wanted more than 75 people to read it, so I’m glad it will be made generally available.) Subscribe to DSF (it’s free) so you can read it right there in your very own e-mail.

My story “From Around Here” will, I’m told, be translated for publication in major Japanese SF magazine Hayakawa SF in the future. (Interestingly, the main character of that story has a role to play in my 6th Marla Mason novel, which I’m hoping to write next year.)

I’m now about 17,000 words into the new kid’s fantasy novel I started last weekend. I’m having such a wonderful time. I’ve written so much death and tragedy and misery in recent months, it’s nice to write a fun adventure. (Though bad stuff still happens — in fact, my characters are about to suffer a particularly devastating setback, which will set up for the back half of the book.) But mostly the book is dedicated to winning by running and thinking faster than the people out to hurt you, and that’s what life is all about.

I’m also having lots of those wonderful writerly experiences, where a throwaway line near the beginning turns out to be the perfect solution to an unexpected problem later in the book. And I keep stumbling over things in my research that are absolutely perfect for stuff I want to do in the book. Like, spooky perfect. Stephen King says sometimes writing can be less like creating and more like excavating something that already exists — that’s how I feel now. Like I’m meant to be writing this book. (And those who know me know I don’t believe I was meant to do anything; there is no fate or destiny — hell, some days I’m dubious about the existence of cause-and-effect, too.) Seems like a good sign. Then again, I felt the same way about The Nex, and nobody wanted to publish that, so who knows?

In life news: It’s nearly Hallowe’en! (Or “Pumpkin Halloween!” as my son calls it.) Pumpkins will be carved. We’ll take the kid trick-or-treating in his monkey costume. I’ll read my wife a scary story. (I usually read Glen Hirshberg’s “Mr. Dark’s Carnival”, but this year I’m thinking maybe “The Crawl” by Stephen Laws — not strictly a Hallowe’en story, but it does have a scarecrow in it, sort of.) Should be great fun.

Reasons to be *****ful

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

I have reasons to be stressful, but I’m trying to overcome them. Or, at least, my response to them. Some things are beyond my control, but I’m also screwing up things that are within my control, which is counter-productive, to say the least.

For instance, my toddler’s insane screaming refusal to go to bed — which has become traditional over the past few weeks, after years of him being a relatively unproblematic sleeper. My wife talked to a friend about coping strategies for this behavior (since our strategy of threats, bribery, bargaining, exhausted begging, etc. wasn’t really working), and we decided to try an incredibly calm approach. When he gets up, we just silently take his hand and lead him back to bed, put a blanket over him, and walk away. Don’t engage, don’t give him the feedback he’s looking for — which is any feedback at all.

He got up seven times, but after the seventh time, he stayed in bed, and it took much less time than usual to go from “It’s bedtime!” to actual sleep.

So I’m trying to be more relaxed about kid stuff in general. In the grand scheme of things, potty accidents are no big deal. Dirty hands can get washed. Usually when he does crazy break-the-world stuff, he’s just feeling lonely and needy, and giving him a little attention will calm him down. And when he’s truly crazy tantruming… well, there’s no rule that says I have to stand there and watch him bang his tiny fists on the carpet. I can wander off until he gets over it.

I’m also trying to eat better, since that’ll improve my energy levels. And I’m generally going to try and roll with the punches instead of allowing myself to be battered and shattered quite so easily. Life is long, and most of my current and seemingly insurmountable problems will fade into irrelevance in weeks or months. So, yeah. Trying to live in the moment AND take the long view. Should be easy!

At the very least, I can remember that I also have reasons to be thankful and cheerful, as well as full of stress.

Goats. Monkeys. The Usual.

Monday, October 25th, 2010

We took River to a pumpkin patch over the weekend, which also had a petting zoo and a bounce house. Here’s a picture of River squealing delightedly over a goat. Good times.

I did a story for that Monkeypunk online charity project I mentioned, so you can go read “At the Monkey Party” free right now. (And play “spot the fictional simian!”) If you like it (heck, even if you hate it, or find yourself utterly indifferent), please donate to help provide clean water to people who need it.

Chapter 8 of The Nex is up, with much running, and chasing, and other adventuresome things.

I gave in to a whim and started writing a new book, a contemporary fantasy adventure for kids. I don’t have a ton of time to work on a novel, since I have some other projects with actual deadlines pressing in, and as a result, I’m going to try and get a draft of this done quickly. Managed around 6,000 words over the weekend, and since the whole book will only be 45-50,000 words long, it’s a solid start.

On Sunday, it poured rain endlessly in an enchanting patter patter patter down the windows. Fall has come to the Bay Area. I welcome it… though in three months I’ll be begging for the sun to return, I’m sure.

Lake Monkey

Thursday, October 21st, 2010

How exotic and unfamiliar: I seem to have a moment to catch my breath.

I joked on twitter recently about doing an anthology called Monkeypunk collecting simian SF stories (of which there are many). Now there’s going to be an online monkeypunk anthology, running simian stories to support charity: water, which brings drinking water to developing countries. Send ‘em your monkey stories! I’m gonna try to do something for them myself.

My story A Lake of Spaces is up at Cast Macabre for your listening pleasure. Warning: contains f-bombs and cowardice.

I finished revising the Snake novel. Now Heather’s reading it, and will tell me if I missed anything. If so, I’ll fix it. If not, I’ll send it off to the editor in a week or so. Because I finished that book, and because I’m waiting for feedback on an extensive outline from another editor, I’m temporarily between big projects, which is leaving me feeling weirdly adrift and with way too much free time. Why, I’ve gone to see movies this week! One movie, anyway. The Social Network. I don’t know or much care how closely it hews to reality, but I thought the writing was sharp, the characters interesting (if almost none entirely sympathetic), and the use of unreliable narration with the frame story was very clever. (The entire movie is composed of flashbacks, with people relating stories from two separate “present” moments at legal depositions, and since characters in the “presents” openly disagree with and contradict some of those flashbacks, I think it’s fair to say nothing onscreen in the “past” is meant to be particularly reliable.)

I also watched some horror vignettes and old Alfred Hitchcock Presents episodes and forgettable action flicks via the wonder of streaming Netflix. But I’m getting itchy to work again, and may have to commit short fiction soon.

My kid is doing wonderfully. He’s taken to wearing his lion costume from last Halloween around the house, like it’s a smoking jacket or something. It’s too small for him — the “feet” reach halfway down his shins — but super cute nonetheless. He’s chosen to be a monkey this year (the first time he’s really had a say in the matter). In past years he’s been a caterpillar and a lion, so we’re continuing with our animal (perhaps even jungle?) theme.

I can’t remember if I mentioned that our cat Marzi (named after the protag of Rangergirl, not vice-versa) was missing, but she’s been found, holed up in the neighbor’s shed, so that’s one potential tragedy averted.

We went to press at work this week, so I didn’t get my usual Tuesday off — I’m home today instead. So it’s time to finish my coffee, shower, and load up the kid for an epic journey to Trader Joe’s, the playground, and the hospital to get his new glasses. The life of a globetrotting fantasist like myself is one of unending excitement.

Angels and Hell and Grass and Excrement

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010

Various excitements lately. My story “Angel of the Ordinary” is up at this week’s Drabblecast. It’s only the second piece I ever published, way back in 1999, but I’m still very fond of it.

Also: I sold my story “Hell’s Lottery” to Bull Spec (and my wife Heather Shaw sold her hilarious flash piece “Excrement” to Daily Science Fiction. A good week!) My SF story “On a Blade of Grass” will be reprinted on Escape Pod, I think in text and audio form (whoo). Not many people have read that one; it appeared in the Subterranean Press e-mail newsletter, a couple of years ago.

I and various other, ahem, “Next Big Genre Stars,” did a Mind Meld feature at SF Signal about which of our stories new readers should seek out.

I’ve done lots of work in the past week — revised an outline for a work-for-hire project, and polished up “A Void Wrapped in a Smile” and created the edition-of-one chapbook for the donor who commissioned it, and am deep into revising the Snake novel. Zoom zoom zoom. And yet, I’m very nearly caught up on my work, which means I can start writing more short fiction soon!

We recently got a burr grinder for coffee, and it really does make a difference. The coffee is sooo much yummier in the mornings now. Small things like that make life better.

Chapter 6 of The Nex is up — introducing the Steam Colossus! Great fun. (You know, I read the whole book in one shot to do a final line-editing pass before I started uploading chapters, and at the risk of sounding ridiculous, I can’t believe nobody wanted to publish the thing. I think it’s easily as good as my other books. Ah, well. What do I know?)

Broken Mirrors and The Nex are now available for the iPad via the iBookstore, and Broken Mirrors is available at Barnes & Noble for the nook e-reader. (The Nex will be there soon, and I may get Bone Shop into those stores, too.) I continue to slowly conquer all.

Two Good Things, One Bad Thing

Monday, October 4th, 2010

Three things of note, including a piece of big news I’ve been dying to tell you about for a while, and some bad news:


  1. I sold my contemporary fantasy novel Briarpatch to ChiZine Publications. (This is the book I have previously referred to as the Bridge novel and The Light of a Better World. Titles are hard.) It should appear in 2011 — currently scheduled for August. There will be a fancy, pricey, signed limited-edition hardcover (my first hardcover for a novel!) and an affordable trade paperback.

    I first published in their online magazine Chiaroscuro years ago, and have been really impressed by the stuff ChiZine has published since they started doing their book line — especially Gemma Files’s debut novel, the Robert J. Wiersema novella they did, and other good stuff. Thanks to publishers Brett and Sandra for taking the novel, and to my agent Ginger for negotiating the deal. I’m so excited. This book is hugely important to me. You’ll all finally get to read about Darrin and Bridget and Ismael and Orville Troll and the Wendigo and the Queen of Bears and and and… It’s a book about secrets, lies, betrayals, hidden worlds, bridges, magical thinking, suicidal ideation, the redemptive power of love, the failure of love to conquer all, the poisonous nature of nostalgia, the quest for purpose, and other things.

  2. Chapter 5 of The Nex is live — only 13 more to go!

    If you just can’t wait to read the book, or prefer reading a whole novel in a gulp: The Nex is available as a Kindle e-book now too. (Here’s the link to the UK Kindle store for all you Brits.)

  3. My wife Heather had her hours slashed in half at her day job, so our financial stability — never that stable to begin with — is now downright precarious. The timing’s bad, too. I got a chunk of money recently for the Marla Mason movie option and promptly used it to pay some taxes, pay off many outstanding bills, buy some long-delayed household necessities, and to have a lavish anniversary dinner. If I’d known we were going to take such a financial hit, I would have hoarded the money more. If you know of any freelance gigs she might like, let me know. Heather’s a great writer with experience doing general non-fiction, book reviews, catalogue copy… most kinds of commercial writing, really. And in the meantime, if you’ve been thinking of donating for The Nex, now’s a good time. This really sucks. We were feeling somewhat financially stable for the first time since she spent six months unemployed last year, and now the rug’s been jerked out from under us. I’ll just have to hustle harder and write more stories. Nothing motivates like panic.





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