Tim Pratt
SF and Fantasy Writer

Archive for November, 2011

Vacation: Day Three

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

We had such luck leaving the resort on Monday that we tried it again on Tuesday. We loaded up the car and drove over to The Coffee Shack, one of our favorite places to eat here, not so much because of the food (which is just okay) but because it’s perched up on a hillside with astonishing views, and because the deck is home to lots of adorable, tiny, tame geckos. As we expected, River loved the geckos, though he got a little fussy as we lingered over our bottomless cups of kona coffee.

On the way out, we stopped to wait while Heather bought some coffee. On the bulletin board I saw a real estate flyer for a weird house for a mere half a million bucks, on 2.5 acres, which also includes a guest house (bigger than my current apartment) and a straw-bale structure. Fantasized about buying it and running a little artist’s colony. But I guess I’ll have to pay off all that credit card debt before I start buying real estate.

We did some Grim Tides research (well, I did — my wife and kid thought they were just doing tourist stuff, ha). Went to the Place of Refuge, where I’ve been before, but this time I took notes, since I have a major scene set there. It was hot and muggy, so we decided swimming was in order. Drove around, rented some snorkel gear, and went to a beach. Good for snorkeling, not so good for playing in the sand and surf (too rocky), so River was bored. We drove back toward the hotel, and went to Anaeho’omalu Bay (where another major scene is set). That was a bit more fun for the boy, though less good for snorkeling, since it’s very sandy. Beautiful beach, though.

My wife and kid played while I walked the trail from the beach to the hotel (since my characters walk it, and I hadn’t seen it). A very fun and interesting path, past sea turtles and beautiful sea vistas and other neat things. A nice walk.

Back at the room, I put the kid to bed, and played some Skyrim (and fought Dwarven robots, as one does) while my wife wandered the hotel and hit hot tubs and things. A good day, though the beaches weren’t ideal. Today will be better.

Vacation: Day Two

Monday, November 28th, 2011

Much better today. Despite the fact that our insurance provider initially attempted to send us to a clinic on another island — good thing Heather looked up directions before it was time for us to go — we did finally get River’s ear checked by a doctor. The poor kid does have an infection (and he had a mild fever during the checkup), but the eardrum doesn’t appear to be perforated, so we don’t have to be excessively vigilant about his ears getting wet. Whoo! We’re not going to let him submerge his head, since the doc wasn’t 100% sure the eardrum was intact (his view was slightly blocked by some ear glop), but we’ll let him splash about. All it cost us was the $10 for the antibiotics. (We didn’t even get charged for the office visit, though I suspect a bill will be along eventually. Still: a lot cheaper than an emergency room!)

With his ear on the road to recovery, and painkiller in him to make him cheerful again, the day was a lot of fun, and yesterday’s crankiness is a distant memory. (All credit goes to my wife, who worked the phones with vigor and skill to get him seen by a doctor that our insurance would cover, which is harder than it should be, when traveling.)

So today is mostly a litany of good things: we hit the breakfast buffet early, where much astonishingly fresh pineapple was consumed. (Along with many other yummy things, including that mythical breakfast treat, available only at buffets, known as Enough Bacon. It is rare for me to get Enough Bacon.) We had to drive about 45 minutes south to see his doctor, where it was far less windy than it is at the hotel. (Which is still pretty crazy windy, though today was less so, and tomorrow should be even less.) So we stayed there after his appointment. Last time Heather and I came to the Big Island, back in 2005, we stayed in that general area, so we were able to find our way around with ease. We got an awesome lunch to go from Da Poke Shack, and found a little beachside park to eat it in. Then we walked around the park, where a couple of green sea turtles were crawling on the beach. I was chastised a bit briskly by a local woman for getting too close to the turtles. She clearly thought I was a haole tourist asshole who was going to go thump its shell or something; I actually hadn’t noticed the turtle, as my eyes were on the flat expanse of lava rock and its attendant tidepools, and when I realized I was getting close to the endangered wildlife, I stopped. (I am, of course, a haole, and very much a tourist, though I endeavor not to be an asshole, with varying degrees of success.)

I showed River some coral, and explained about the difference between rocks and coral and shells. We looked at the animals in some tidepools, and made a little tower of stones. Then we drove a bit further to a nice little beach, and played until nearly sunset. The weather was overcast but pleasant, and the weather was so wonderfully warm — it was pure delight to be in the ocean, bobbing on the waves, and great fun playing in the surf and making sand castles and moats and lakes with River. Really fabulous. The kid was in rapturous delight for much of the day, just grinning, clapping his hands, and saying “Yay!” (There was also a fair bit of “This is boring” and “I hate [inset noun here — sharks, turtles, dolphins, Hawai’i, the ocean],” mostly when he was between painkiller doses.)

We drove briefly with the top down on the convertible, but River didn’t like it — we think the wind wasn’t so great for his ear — and the sun was at a rather blinding angle, so we didn’t do it for long. More tomorrow, probably, when we go to Volcanoes Park.

Heather wanted to do a bit of shopping, so we drove over to a mall, and grabbed some dinner, and strolled around until 7:00 or so. The kid was fading by then, so we headed back up to the hotel. River slept on the ride back, and slept in my arms back to the room, and pretty much slept through getting put in his jammies and dosed with antibiotics. It’s exhausting, being sick and having so much fun. Now I’m in the room, where the wind is howling on one side of the room, and birds singing wildly on the other side. That’s more pleasant than it sounds.

It’s Heather’s night to stay in with the kid. I may head over to the bar and have a drink and read for a bit. The world is my bivalve.

Vacation: Day One

Sunday, November 27th, 2011

A rather inauspicious beginning, I’m sad to say. (We’re on the Big Island in Hawai’i. Looking back I’m not sure I ever mentioned where we were going. Anyway: it’s both a vacation, and some research for Grim Tides, the manuscript of which has several sections that say “Fill in details after you go back to Hawai’i.)

The travel itself wasn’t bad at all — we got to the airport late, but arrived at the gate just in time to stroll on board our flight, which was only about half full, so that was fine. The kid was very good on the trip, really quite patient, and all was well… except for his ear.

He’d told us late the night before that his ear hurt, and it still hurt in the morning. We got on the plane — unwilling to cancel our trip over an ear infection — and his ear began oozing a little gunk on the flight. No good. After we landed Heather spent literally hours on the phone to our insurance provider (who, after we expressed dismay at the prospect of being forced to go to a hospital a couple of hours away, said in bewildered tones, “But Hawaii’s not that big, is it?”) and calling various hospitals and clinics to see if we could get a doctor to see River on a Sunday — for less than five hundred bucks at a random emergency room, which turned out to be pretty much the only option. (And as for whether or not we’d ever actually get reimbursed by our own insurance for that? Who knows.)

Eventually we talked to a nurse who said, assuming the kid wasn’t in distress (he wasn’t — he didn’t even complain about it hurting after the flight, and has had no fever, etc.), that we could wait until Monday morning and go to the clinic, which is vastly cheaper. So that’s the current plan. Not the most fun way to spend day two, and the kid won’t be able to put his head in the water, which rather sucks for a tropical swim-based vacation. But at least it’s not any kind of serious illness.

After all that was settled, we tried to enjoy the day a bit… but it was windy. Really windy. Like, palm fronds torn from the trees and flung through the air at thirty miles per hour, outdoor chairs flipped over, paddle boats trying to tear loose from their moorings in the lagoon, pools filled with random crap blown from all over the island, type windy. Really rather windy. And the forecast, as I write this, is for the winds to continue until, oh, around Thursday. There are red flag warnings so we can’t swim at the beach, and our attempt to use the hotel’s little fake beach failed when a few gusts picked up sufficient sand to create what felt like a wind of knives, making my kid literally scream in pain. (Doesn’t Nalo Hopkinson have a story about windstorms of broken glass? Like that.)

The name of the place we’re staying means “Windy City,” which should’ve been a tip-off, though everyone here says this is unusually bad. It is warm and actually gorgeous weather-wise when the wind dies down.

The hotel is very pretty, too. There’s no in-room wifi, but to my surprise, there’s free wifi in some of the common areas, and we can even slurp the wifi from a nearby hotel restaurant if we sit on the balcony. Of course, with the wind blowing so hard, the balcony isn’t very pleasant, and I risk having my laptop torn from my hands every time I go outside… but still! It’s a nice surprise. I doubt I’ll be online much, but I won’t be as entirely disconnected as I’d expected.

This litany of sadness isn’t even touching on the annoyance of all the expenses that aren’t covered in the package deal we bought. (It was a pretty good deal, but once you buy insurance for the rental car, and upgrade to a car that’s actually large enough to fit a kid’s carseat and our luggage, and pay for hotel parking, it kinda eats into one’s mai tai budget. Fortunately, we’d already decided this trip was pretty much a big family Christmas present, so we’ll just be getting small gifts this year. I just hope the rest of the vacation goes better than today has.)

Wish us luck, a sympathetic doctor, cheap antibiotics, and calm winds…

But! Lest I sound too sad: I mean, we’re in Hawai’i. A bad day in Hawai’i is still pretty fantastic. (Mostly I’m just tired from traveling and generally grumpy. I think it’ll pass.) So good things: The artwork at the hotel is amazing, and there’s a lot of it. We spent lunch sitting outside eating and looking at dolphins, including a very boisterous baby dolphin. The vast resort where we’re staying has boats that run in canals, and a train line, to get to various areas of said vast resort — the kid loves, loves, loves riding on the boats, and doesn’t think the trains are too shabby, either. (And honestly, the boats are quite fun.) The pools here are lovely, and the staff has been amazingly friendly and helpful.

I’m feeling more hopeful now than I was when I started writing this account a couple of hours ago. We have a week ahead of us. I’ll let you all know how it goes.

Light in Dark Places

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011

NaNo: Nothing on Monday, nothing on Tuesday. On that book, I mean. I did actually complete revisions to City of the Fallen Sky, which included writing another 2500 words or so of new and bridging material, but it’s not on the NaNo book, so it doesn’t count. And the next couple/few days will be devoted to line-editing Grim Tides so I can send it to my copyeditor before I leave town on Sunday. Sigh and sigh and sigh…

Skyrim: Joined the Thieves’ Guild. Oddly, while I feel no qualms about burglary, or even just straight-up assassinating people, I do feel guilty shaking down shopkeepers and mugging people and running protection schemes. This is probably indicative of some profound derangement. I mean, that kind of stuff just seems petty. But I need a fence to buy all the stuff I steal, so there you go. The game is generally impressing me a lot. Leveling is less tedious than it was in Oblivion, and there’s more variety in the dungeons — I went into a cavern last night that had a hole in the roof, allowing in enough sunlight for a small forest to grow in its depths, and it was beautiful. And I enjoy sniping car-sized spiders and then, when they chase me, tricking them into flame traps. Super fun.

Real life: Hanging out with the kid, of course. He’s been especially sweet lately, and is so excited about Thanksgiving and our vacation that he’s pretty much vibrating at all times. It’s great to see him happy.

Near the City’s End

Monday, November 21st, 2011

NaNo: Sunday was also a no-words-on-the-new-book day. I plowed through a bunch of the requested editorial changes to City of the Fallen Sky instead. It’s got the more pressing deadline.

I also went grocery shopping for our usual Thanksgiving feast. I’ll do the turkey, the potatoes, the cranberry relish, and my wife will make stuffing and pie, and my sister-in-law will contribute casseroles and salad. Should be awesomely yummy. (It usually is.) I ended up doing a lot of general grocery shopping, too, because the holiday sale prices were just absurd — some things were 75% off, lots of buy-one-get-one-free deals, etc. (Why offer people incentives to shop when they would be shopping anyway?) Lugging a thousand pounds of grocery around with a four-year-old in tow is tricky, but at least we can eat well, and be merry. (Though I’m hoping that tomorrow we won’t die. I’d hate to die this close to my vacation.)

In Skyrim, I slaughtered a dragon or two, got stepped on by a giant (I wasn’t even fighting him — he was dragon-battle collateral damage), killed a murderer, and joined a wizard’s school. A busy day, but rewarding, by which I mean, I was rewarded for my acts of violence.

Mars and Mars and Mars

Sunday, November 20th, 2011

NaNo: No progress on the novel yesterday. Other novel projects have come piling into me, with deadlines more pressing than this one. I got through about a quarter of my line edits/minor revisions on Grim Tides yesterday, adding about 2500 words to the total count (though I wrote more than that, since I also cut several bits). So, while I didn’t NaNo at all, I certainly worked.

Today is likely to be no better in terms of NaNo production, as I intend to get as many editorial revisions to City of the Fallen Sky done as I can manage in four hours.

Otherwise, yesterday, the boy and I ran around town, pretty much. We went to the library, and got some ice cream, and went up to a park he likes in North Berkeley, where we played rocket ship, blew up asteroids, did not blow up any moons (“because moons have eyes and a nose and a mouth, so you can’t shoot them”), and visited “a lot of different Marses,” as he says — Regular Mars, Sand Mars, Stair Mars, Turtle Mars, Circle Mars, etc. I assume we were flying in some sort of multiverse-traversing craft, but what do I know? I’m just the tailgunner.

And last night I played more Skyrim, where I went from being an amateur murderer to being a professional assassin, which is progress, I think.

My Sunday began with a clogged sink in the kitchen and a pipe section that dissolved into powdered rust when I touched it. Not an auspicious start. The hardware store around the corner should be open in five minutes or so…

Eleven and a Half

Saturday, November 19th, 2011

NaNo: Not a single word written yesterday. I worked from 8:30 am to 8 pm yesterday at the day job, with a lunch break during which I was unable to write — it was a particularly brutal deadline day at the magazine — so, yeah, I was pretty much done working by the time I got home. I drank a couple of glasses of wine and played a lot of Skyrim instead.

As I’ve mentioned once or twice, we’re going on vacation soon. (We depart a week from tomorrow.) In the interests of not working while I’m on vacation, I have to do a lot of work before then. I got my editorial letter for City of the Fallen Sky, which my editor would like as soon as possible, ideally before I leave. I need to do a last pass through Grim Tides (which needs at least one new scene) to send to my copyeditor before I leave, so she can actually read the thing and send me corrections before I start serializing the book on January 2. I have to write dust jacket copy for a book that’s coming out early next year. And I’d like to get another 18,000 words or so written on the current novel-in-progress.

I am confronting the sad realization that I might not get everything done. My aim is to get as far through Grim Tides as possible today. My wife and I are dividing up childcare — she’ll watch him half the day so I can work, I’ll watch him the other half so she can (she’s got a freelance writing gig). And I guess I’ll try to get some NaNo words tonight after the boy goes to bed. It’s a work party… and nobody but me is invited.

Stories. For your buyings.

Friday, November 18th, 2011

NaNo: Another late writing session last night netted me about 1450 words. It’s deadline week at my day job, and the last couple of days in the schedule are always rough, and tend to turn my brain to mush by the time I get home. It’s remarkable I got any writing done at all, and since this is deadline day itself, tonight I may accomplish nothing. (I would not be surprised to work an 11 or 12 hour day today, though I hope we finish before that.)

Last night I… sat around a bit, in a mush-brained state. Played some Skyrim, walking up 7,000 steps to the top of a mountain and killing an ice troll along the way. (There’s something satisfying about spraying torrents of flame from each hand into the face of some virtual indigenous wildlife.)

I have posted some e-books to the Amazon Kindle store (BN.com will follow shortly). Some 99-cent stories for your reading pleasure:

“Little Better than a Beast,” a Marla Mason story, featuring time-traveling monsters and sexist jerks.

“Mommy Issues of the Dead,” another Marla story, this one set early in her career, when a semi-evil sorcerer hires her to plant a bomb inside a rival… who happens to be his brother. Soon Marla gets entangled in a truly dysfunctional family feud.

“The Christmas Mummy,” by Heather Shaw and I, a heartwarming holiday tale of mummies, ninjas, and other things.

“Rangifer Volans,” a very cryptozoological Christmas story, about the quest for that most elusive of all cryptids: the flying reindeer.

Raise Up the Sky

Thursday, November 17th, 2011

NaNo: I wrote 1900 words last night. Back in the saddle. Or, rather, back in the rocking chair in the corner by the bookshelf where I sit with my laptop and type.

Otherwise: I got my editorial letter for City of the Fallen Sky back, and it’s not a demand for a complete teardown (always a relief). Actually, it’s all fairly minor stuff, probably only four or five hours of work to get the novel into shape. Unfortunately carving out four or five hours to finish this book before Thanksgiving and our departure for our vacation is going to be tricky, at least if I want to do so without sacrificing forward momentum on drafting this other book. And, you know, giving up Skyrim, which is basically my only form of relaxation at the moment. I’ll just have to sleep less, I guess. (This is also deadline week at my day job, and my wife has a freelance gig she has to finish this weekend, so time is short all around.) Oh well. That’s the writing life.

Oh, and I have to do a last line-edit pass on Grim Tides to send to my copyeditor, also before I leave on vacation. Ergh. This is a bad week to lose my day off.

This is normally my day off, but we’re going to press on the magazine tomorrow (short schedule due to the upcoming holiday), so… I’ll be at work. And so will my kid. It’s the return of officeboy! Wish us luck.


Wednesday, November 16th, 2011

NaNo: No writing last night. I did do some writing-related stuff — copyedits to a story, some notes I’d promised one of my roleplaying game tie-in publishers — but no new words, the first day with no writing in 15 days. But a 15-day uninterrupted run is almost unheard of for me, so I don’t feel bad. I’m still a couple of days ahead of schedule, and expect to get a good number of words down over the weekend, too.

Life: My wife went out with friends last night, so I consoled myself by playing more Skyrim. I ended up committing a bit of highway robbery, I’m afraid. (But, look, if I try to make friendly conversation with you as we all trudge along the same remote road, and you call me a “dirty peasant” and then remark that you’re carrying a large number of valuables, what do you expect? Hint: you should expect me to shoot your bodyguard in the head with an arrow and then shower you with torrents of magical flame, all prior to stealing your stuff.)