Tim Pratt
SF and Fantasy Writer

Archive for November, 2011

When in Doubt, Send in a Man with a Gun

Tuesday, November 15th, 2011

NaNo: Last night I wrote 1922 words, and the manuscript stands at 38,799. (I know, it seems like I would’ve just written one more word to hit the round number, but then why not write 200 more for the even rounder number? There’s no end to it when you let yourself get caught up in the significance of the arbitrary. Which doesn’t always stop me from doing so.) I was stuck on a scene, so I quite literally sent in a man with a knife. Which turned out to be exactly the right thing to do, I think.

Otherwise: Uh, I worked, at work. So that was workish. And did the usual evening things (cooking, washing up, TV). I played Skyrim a bit, though not as much as I might wish. I managed to slaughter a mine full of bandits and get my newly-acquired house carl killed, though, so that’s something.

I may take today off NaNoing. Can’t work on my lunch break because I have to do a bit of work on another book, and I’m on solo kid duty tonight. May be too tired. I should do some outlining instead. I’ve done two weeks without missing a day; tonight I’ll only write if I feel overwhelmed by inspiration.

Twelve days until I leave on my vacation. Time is slowing down a little more every day. That subjective slowness will last right up until the moment I arrive at my destination, at which point time will accelerate mightily, I’m sure.

The Rim of the Sky

Monday, November 14th, 2011

NaNo: I broke down and bought Skyrim. (Or, rather, asked my wife to buy it for me while she was out running errands. Which she did. Because she = awesome.) I was afraid buying that game would be the End of NaNo, at least for a day or two, and indeed I did spend a couple of hours playing last night, and had to tear myself away as midnight approached. I was prepared to mark down a “zero” for the day… but I hadn’t missed a single day yet. I thought, okay, sit, write for 15 minutes, get a few words down, so today isn’t a total loss.

I actually got 1,465 words written. Not quite the NaNo minimum, but okay for my purposes, as I’m a few days ahead anyway. I’m approaching the halfway point for the book, and this week I need to make some notes and work out some blocking and timeline issues so the rest of the novel runs smoothly. Exciting!

Besides killing bandits and undead not-Norsemen in a virtual world (where I am a sneaky backshooter by preference), what else did I do yesterday? Went to the park with the kid so he could launch rockets skyward and play in the sand for a while. Ran a few very boring errands around Berkeley. Watched some TV with my wife. Attempted to nap and failed. Your standard Sunday, really. But I love a nice unscheduled day.

And only two weeks until I get an Actual Vacation, a full week of relaxation. First one in nearly four years. (I mean, we went camping once for a long weekend, and did a day in Disneyland, but they were not exactly days of languor.)

Rex Klaw, Agent of R.O.C.K.E.T.

Sunday, November 13th, 2011

NaNo: 2001 words written yesterday. Zipping along nicely.

Otherwise, yesterday was pretty much All Party All The Time. We booked the Kindergym at the YMCA, so River and about a dozen of his friends (and some miscellaneous siblings) ran around madly climbing, building, jumping, giggling hysterically, and essentially bouncing off the (fortunately padded) walls. Then we retired to the party room for cake, freeform balloon bouncing, and some arts and crafts. River was beside himself with joy. Making your kid happy is a pretty good path to happiness for yourself, I find. Thanks to everyone who came! And special thanks to my awesome wife, who did pretty much everything in terms of planning and preparation, and made a beautiful cake besides.

The kid received an immense pile of gifts, and spent all afternoon and evening after we got home playing with them. One of the toys is a vast reconfigurable mass of interlocking machinery, so that you can make airplanes, rockets, helicopters with variable numbers of rotors, etc. It even has tiny spring-loaded missiles you can launch. But, best of all, it somewhat randomly comes with a big T-Rex that you can connect to the other parts too — so I created a missile-launching T-Rex with a jet-pack and helicopter blades (you know, for hovering). I also devised an elaborate mythology about his creation and goals. And, uh, River enjoyed playing with it too.

The kid and I were out in the yard until full dark playing with the “stomp rocket” one of his friends got him. (You know — a hose attached to a big air bladder you stomp on, fixed to a tripod, with little styrofoam rockets that get blown into the sky by the pressure of the expelled air.) Once he discovered he could get the rockets stuck in a tree, thus necessitating amusing antics on my part with a long stick to dislodge them, getting rockets stuck in the tree became the goal. Fortunately, his aim isn’t that good yet. I’ve promised him we’ll take the rockets to the park today… so I’d better do as I said.

Surf’s Up

Saturday, November 12th, 2011

NaNo: 2138 words written yesterday. The book’s total stands at 33,411, of which 23,512 have been written since November 1. The goal is to get to 60,000 words by the end of the month. (The book is due in February. I could knock out the last 30-40K in December, and have January to revise. This plan may not survive impact with reality.)

Yesterday I went to work, and worked, mostly laying out World Fantasy Convention photo spreads. Drove home in the rainy black dark. Once home I played with the kid a bit, and otherwise… mostly wrote, as you may have gathered. I also read Ken Bruen’s Headstone, the latest Jack Taylor novel. Just as bleak and brutal as always.

Today is the boy’s fourth birthday party! We rented the Kindergym at the YMCA, so a bunch of his school friends and he can run around like crazy for an hour, then gorge themselves on cake in the party room. Heather outdid herself decorating the cake. The kid wanted a Mickey Mouse cake, and we’re going on a beach vacation later this month (a trip which looms large in his mind), so we got cake toppers including Mickey on a surfboard, Minnie laying on a beach towel, plastic palm trees, etc. Heather baked a cake, frosted it with blue icing artfully swirled to resemble ocean waves for Mickey to surf on, and then created a “sandy beach” of atomized vanilla wafers for Minnie to lounge on. The kid will love it.

Eleventy

Friday, November 11th, 2011

NaNo: A mere 1,079 words last night! But, since I didn’t write those until well after 11 p.m., when I’d already resigned myself to actually writing 0 words for the day, I consider it a victory snatched from the jaws of extreme lethargy. Next up I get to write a polite interrogation, with lovely subtextual threats of horrible violence.

For those of you embarking on a three-day-weekend today, enjoy; for those of you observing Veterans Day in a more serious way, may it give you comfort. For those of you like me who are at work today as usual — well, so it goes. And for those of you who have the shared cultural referent of making a wish whenever you happen to glance at a clock that says 11:11 — today, make a BIG wish, because, I mean, it totally has to count extra. And if you still hold to the old ways and observe Armistice Day, I hope the minute of silence at that time gives you peace. And for those of you who are going to play Skyrim all day or all night or both, know that you have my undying envy. I’m not allowing myself to buy it until I get the draft of this book done, so it’ll be Christmas before I can slay dragons, I’d wager.

That paragraph was an odd mixture of the sacred and the profane and the banal, wasn’t it?

Totland

Thursday, November 10th, 2011

NaNo: Managed to write 3,295 words on Wednesday, about 800 on my lunch break, the rest in the evening. Nice to be back on track, even if I am still coughing disgustingly on an intermittent basis.

Sorry this update is so late. Thursday is my “day off” (AKA the busiest day of my week), so I had to do grocery shopping, hang a shelf, wash dishes, put away books, take the kid to the library, spend hours at Totland park in North Berkeley, walk a few miles in the interest of getting some exercise, etc. Any fiction writing I do today will have to happen after the boy goes to bed.

Make A Wish

Wednesday, November 9th, 2011

I am still sick. My coughs are more productive, and last night my writing was slightly more productive, too, but I’m still depressingly low-energy.

NaNo: 1715 words last night. Back on track, at least. The book is around 27,000 words long now. It’s going quite well. I’ll need to layer in some incidental weirdness and sensory detail and descriptions in revision, but I’m getting down the bones of the plot and the relationships, and the dialogue is good.

Life: The kid had a little family birthday party last night, just his parents and aunt and cousins. Cupcakes! Candles! Presents! He had a wonderful time, and was a little cherubic beaming smiling delight. (Of course, he went to bed late, and then woke up early, and was a giant mass of crankiness this morning as a result. Oh well. Everything balances.) He gets a party with his friends on Saturday. Birthdays are so fun at that age.

Now We Are Four

Tuesday, November 8th, 2011

NaNo: Only managed 1180 words yesterday, my lowest total since the month began. Not great, but I was sick, and actually expected to write nothing — my wife got a phone call, interrupting our Good Wife marathon, so I dragged myself to my chair and started typing. I’m still a few days ahead of schedule, so it’s not terrible, but I hope to get more done today.

Otherwise: it’s my son’s fourth birthday! This morning I asked him, “Do you want a birthday waffle?” He said, “Yeah!” I said, “It’s just like a regular waffle, but you eat it on your birthday!” (He did get to open a gift before school, though, and will get cupcakes and more presents tonight. We’re having a little family party for him this evening, and a party with his friends on Saturday.)

Not Quite Three/Very Nearly Four

Monday, November 7th, 2011

Happy Monday!

NaNo: 2900 words yesterday. I would’ve written more, but I had to do a bit of research. Sometimes I think the internet search histories of fiction writers and serial killers must be distressingly similar.

A few miscellaneous catchups:

My wife Heather Shaw and I sold a novelette collaboration to PodCastle — a Xmas story! We don’t have a final title yet, but it’s our “Christmas Carol/Ghost-Finder” mash-up. Basically, after Marley’s ghost departs, Ebenezer Scrooge goes out and wakes up a young occultist, and tells him, “Fix my spirit problem.” (It’s not really a “mash-up” in the usual sense — we only used a little bit of Dickens’s actual text, mostly in the dialogue from the spirits.) We couldn’t actually use William Hope Hodgson’s Carnacki as a character (the timelines of the stories don’t mesh), but we named our character Hodgson in homage. Anyway, I really like it, and you’ll get to hear it in time for the holidays.

I’ve been asked to write a (shorter) Xmas story for another podcast too. And so I shall!

Richard A. Lupoff gave my new novel Briarpatch a fantastic review.Briarpatch is pretty much sui generis. A couple of other novels do come to mind: Fritz Leiber’s Our Lady of Darkness and Douglas Dorst’s Alive in Necropolis.” Not bad company.

It’s my son’s fourth birthday tomorrow. Four years ago today, I was extremely anxious. And tomorrow, instead of worry, exhaustion, and emergency surgery, we get singing and cake! (Though we don’t get to welcome a new family member or see our lives utterly transformed for the better, so I’d still give the edge to the day of his birth in terms of awesomeness. Still though: singing and cake!)

Fallback

Sunday, November 6th, 2011

NaNo: 2450 words or so on Saturday, a few tapped out in the afternoon while the wife and kid ran errands (and after a lovely brunch), and a few in the evening. The novel sailed on past 21,000 words. It’s zoom zoom zooming along, and soon things start to get truly crazy in novel-land.

Daylight Saving Time ended. So my kid didn’t actually get me up at 6:50 am; he got me up at 5:50 am. And to think I once liked falling back, for that extra hour of sleep…