Tim Pratt
SF and Fantasy Writer

Archive for March, 2011

Behold the Blather

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

A few weeks back Patrick Hester was kind enough to invite me to the SF Signal Podcast for a conversation with him and Karen Burnham, and the podcast is now live! (I am longwinded and arrogant, as per usual.)

On the podcast, I blather at length about the Alphabet Quartet. You can read all the stories so far here, and you can comment on those stories, and others, at the Daily Science Fiction Facebook page.

I also go on about The Nex, natch. I’ve sold 98 e-books this month. I’d be delighted to sell 100, because, um, I have an irrational fascination with round numbers?

Deathly Ill Deadlines

Monday, March 28th, 2011

Last week was a bit of an ordeal. We went to press on Wednesday for the April issue of A Certain Magazine, so that required the usual big push of hard work to finish. Wednesday night I did a panel on “The Radical Futures of the Book” with Nick Mamatas and Terry Bisson at Counterpulse in San Francisco, where we talked about e-books, self-publishing, the collapse of traditional publishing, Google, political writing, radicalism, and other things. I’m told it will be a podcast sometime, and I’ll link to it when the time comes, I’m sure. (I went to the panel straight after the end of a brutal deadline day, though, so I doubt I was at my best. I hope I struck the proper delicate balance of boorishness and being misinformed, for which I always strive…)

I took my day off with the kid on Thursday, and the boy started coughing in the afternoon. By evening it was clear he was suffering from a bad cold. He fell asleep in my lap after dinner and I put him to bed, but he woke up intermittently throughout the night, which wasn’t very restful. The next day he wasn’t any better — worse, if anything, wheezing terribly and feverish — so we took him to the hospital. That was more-or-less an all-day thing as they gave him steroids to help his breathing, then waited 45 minutes to see if he got better, then gave him more/different medication — rinse and repeat. He has asthma, so a bad cold can be pretty dangerous for him. By the afternoon he was buzzing on a steroid high and declaring himself “all better.” (Of course, he wasn’t, and when the meds wore off, he was a sad little dude.) But after a weekend of heavy asthma medication, he seems to be on the mend. My wife and I are sick now, too, of course. Having a pre-schooler means having your very own personal disease-vector right at home!

I did manage to get some work done, though, largely because deadlines loomed loomishly. I revised my novel over the weekend, and will send it off to the editor at the end of the week. The book turned out a lot better than I’d expected, and needed less work than I’d feared. A thousand thanks to my wonderful wife Heather for taking long stretches of childcare and allowing me to plow through making changes. I couldn’t do any of the worthwhile things I do without her.

Next week, I start working on some stories, and then my Pathfinder novel, City of the Fallen Sky.

I read Joe Abercrombie’s Best Served Cold (I’m kind of a sucker for revenge stories, actually, they scratch some primal mental itch for me), and liked it a lot, certainly enough to read the trilogy set in the same world. Not quite as good as K.J. Parker’s gritty fantasies-with-minimal-magic, but in the same vein, and most enjoyable.

Briarpatch Cover

Monday, March 28th, 2011

The good people at ChiZine Publications sent me something wonderful last week: The cover Eric Mohr created for my novel Briarpatch! (Coming 9/15/11.)

Briarpatch cover

It’s weird, dark, strange, and perfectly suited to the book. I’m so glad there are bridges on the cover, as this book has been referred to over the years mainly as “the Bridge novel.”

A Brief Feeling of Accomplishment, Followed by a Howling Void

Monday, March 21st, 2011

I finished that pseudonymous work-for-hire book on Saturday. I’m pretty pleased with it, though it’s going to need some cleanup and revision in the next week and a half, before I turn it in. It’s pretty sound structurally, though, so I think a few scenes added and tweaked here and there, and a vigorous line edit, should bring it up to code.

I’ve written 95,000 words of fiction since January 1. (And boy are my arms tired.) A whole book, and a novelette.

Next month, I have to write two or three commissioned stories, and will probably start work on my Pathfinder book, City of the Fallen Sky, which is due in August. Whee for gainful employment!

***

My story “Shark’s Teeth” is online at Daily Science Fiction (actually, it went up last Friday). It’s the latest Marla Mason story, both chronologically and in terms of composition, but it’s meant to stand alone even if you’ve never read a word about the character.

It could be an endpoint for the series, actually, though I’d like to write book 6 too. That might happen in 2012. I’ve been thinking about it, and have many ideas, but I also have A Thousand Deadlines between myself and the time required to serialize another novel. (And there’s another non-Marla novel I want to write first…)

***

The Nex e-book is still selling steadily since I dropped the price to 99 cents (you can buy at Amazon, or at Barnes & Noble). 77 copies at Amazon in just a few days. Pretty neat. I’m glad people are finally reading it.

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?

Storybook Stuff

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

I’ve sold about 50 copies of the 99-cent e-book of The Nex in the past couple of days, which is five times as many as it sells in an average month. Nice to be reaching a lot of new readers (though it needs to sell another 50 copies at this price point to match the royalties I made selling those ten copies at $4.99). I’ll be keeping my eye on it, but this is promising.

The Nex is now available for 99 cents at the B&N store, too, for you nook users.

If you bought it: thanks! Hope you like it!

***

It’s Wednesday, which means: A new story in the Alphabet Quartet! This time it’s “J is for Junk.” (And subscribers have already gotten “K is for Kinky” in their e-mail inboxes.)

***

Signed a couple of short story contracts this week. My horror piece “Hell’s Lottery” should be in the next issue of Bull Spec, due out in mid-April. This story has been sold twice before to magazines that folded before it could be published, so let’s hope the curse doesn’t continue, hmm? (And, yes: I told the editor about the story’s magazine-killing properties, and he boldly chose to accept it anyway.)

***

Wrote about 2600 words yesterday on the novel in progress. Total stands at around 85,000 words and the end is so very much in sight. And once it’s turned in, I won’t have another novel due until August! Why, that’s months away! In fact, that sounds like a problem for Future Tim.

I was going to take it easy in April to let my brain recharge, but I have about three short stories promised to people that I need to write, so I guess my brain will just have to switch to reserve power. (Actually, writing short stories is sufficiently different from writing a novel that it’ll feel like a refreshing change.)

If I Had a Dollar, I Might Give You Ninety-Nine

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011

The Kindle e-book of my science fantasy adventure novel The Nex is now 99 cents. (I’m continuing to experiment with price points. The book went from being my worst seller of the month so far to my bestseller of the month overnight. Though we’re still only talking a couple dozen sales. Most months I sell a couple hundred copies across all four titles I have for sale, the vast majority for the two Marla Mason books.)

I’m hoping the low low prices! will lead more people to try my work, and that some small percentage of them will become raging Pratt addicts. If you try it, and like it, tell your friends.

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…

The Life Aquatic

Thursday, March 10th, 2011

On Tuesday I spent nearly four hours at Aquatic Park with the kid. A good time, but it’s a strange park.

On one hand, it has the best free play structures in the East Bay: a huge complex of wooden, castle-shaped climbing areas, with lots of slides, bars, bridges, etc. Also swings, sandbox, and so on. The play area is mostly fenced-in, so the kid can run pretty free while I, say, sit on one of the many benches and read a book. It’s also got lovely views of San Francisco, lots of water, ducks you can feed, cool trees, plank bridges across streams, a pier, and other things a pre-schooler finds endlessly fascinating. (Some of it even stirs up my own worn-down sense of wonder: the trees with branches so thick they block the view of the sky, and so long they bend down until they touch the water, creating a sort of evergreen room you can sit in.)

On the other hand, it’s also the area’s major park for anonymous gay in-the-bushes hook-ups, so you have to keep an eye on your kid and make sure he doesn’t run unattended into said bushes, and make damn sure the men’s room is unoccupied before you take your potty-training child in to pee. (The Yelp reviews give a good sense of the park’s, shall we say, complex nature.) Honestly, most of the hook-up stuff is at the south end, while the playground is at the north end, so the worlds needn’t intersect, but I do find it an odd combo.

It was a good morning out, though. The weather kept threatening rain, but the rain didn’t materialize, and eventually the sun came out and it was very pretty for a while. We walked the whole length of the park and back and generally had a grand time. The kid even entertained himself enough at home in the afternoon for me to write a bit. And I actually refrained from playing video games at all. My restraint and self-control are incredible!

Of course, I played video games Wednesday. I’m not some kind of virtuous robot.