Skip to content

Category: fatheration

Not Quite Three/Very Nearly Four

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!)

Sandy Aygo

At WFC I did readings and met with editors and saw friends and went to parties and drank only slightly too much and interviewed an awesome writer for my day job and bought some books and finished writing a book, but that’s all standard con report stuff, and I’ve said it all or variations before. Instead I’ll tell you how the con was for my son River:

River was disappointed that there wasn’t more sand in San Diego. (I mean, as he pointed out, it’s right there in the name.)

He was also really quite angry that we were flying United instead of Southwest, because the Southwest planes are more colorful. (He asked one of our friends “what plane you fly on?” and when the reply was “Southwest,” he rounded on me and said accusingly, “I told you they come to San Diego!”)

He approved of the golf cart transportation at the hotel.

He hung out with our friend Sarah for a while, and was very enamored of the game they played, where they pretended to be lions and jumped out to scare passers-by. He later jumped out of the bathroom to scare his babysitter when she arrived.

He consistently called the dealer’s room the “Boring Room” but he liked the art show. We let him pick out a print; he went with a picture of a kitten and a baby dragon.

Mostly his days were spent hanging out in the pool, where he rode a giant inflatable dragon. He also enjoyed running around a couple of afternoon parties. He got a couple of autographs from writers, which delighted him. He collected postcards and bookmarks with a certain amount of zeal. He met a little girl two days younger than himself and ran in circles with her in the registration area.

We got a babysitter on Saturday night so Heather and I could both go out. He was strenuously opposed to having a babysitter — until she showed up with a bag full of toys. Then he looked at me and said, “Dada, why you still here? When you going?”

Things you can do with a (nearly) four-year-old around 6 am in the vicinity of the Town & Country hotel in San Diego: Ride up and down elevators. Throw a penny in a fountain. (He wished for a dinosaur, and was disappointed when a dinosaur didn’t materialize. I told him a dinosaur could take a while.) Walk across the bridge to the mall, pausing to marvel over the slimy water and to count ducks. Wander around an empty mall and peer in windows. Eventually, ride the trolley a few stops away and then back again, because preschoolers like trains.

While we were at lunch with our friend Greg, River said, “Do you want a cookie, or a diaper?” I said, “Uh, a cookie.” He said, “We’re all out of cookies, but we still have diapers.” It was like he’d independently created Eddie Izzard’s “Cake or Death” sketch.

River and my wife came to my reading. After 15 or 20 minutes, Heather wanted to leave, and told River they were going. He said, “Won’t that embarrass Daddy?”

One morning he was playing pretend on the bed and said to me, “I’m the king’s driver!” I said, “Way to aim high, kid.” Later he was jumping on the bed (we let him jump on hotel beds, because we are terrible people), and he said, “I’m the king of the jumpers!” I said, “That’s better.”

He dragged me away from Daryl Gregory’s (awesome) book launch party to hang out with him in a gazebo. He said to me, very matter-of-factly, “A gazebo is a kind of animal.”

And that was WFC!

Crawl Before You Can Walk

It is a cornerstone of my personality that I don’t like to go places or do things. (This is not entirely true; I like going to brunch, and Hawaii, and I enjoy doing readings occasionally, but mostly, I’m hermitlike by nature and action.) So this was a very eventful weekend for me. On Saturday I did a mini-panel discussion with recent Clarion West grad Mark Pantoja at CIIS in San Francisco, talking to a class of writers and artists about Kickstarter (the professor has been talking to the class about “autonomous practices” for artists lately; basically now to succeed outside the existing publishing infrastructure, engage with readers directly, etc.). It was a good class with smart questions, and we had an hour and a half, so it was even possible to move beyond the very broadest strokes and get into nuances a bit.

After the class I came back home to give my wife a little childcare break. (She heroically took the kid to a farm/pumpkin patch for many hours in the morning.) The boy and I spent most of our time exploring the back yard, playing “archaeology” (burying toy dinosaurs and digging them back up again), looking at spiders, and so on. Four years old is a great age. (Well, he’s actually still three, but only for three more weeks.)

In the evening I hopped on a train back to San Francisco to see a bit of LitCrawl. I hit Borderlands and saw Richard Kadrey, Thomas Roche, and Naamen Tilahun read (alas, Ray Garton was ill, and couldn’t make it). The store was packed and hot as a blast furnace, but the readings were good. Afterward I headed next door to the Borderlands Cafe, which I had never seen before (see above re: not going places or doing things) — what a fantastic space! It’s gorgeous. Specialty store + awesome cafe = Tim Pratt’s Ideal of Heaven.

Best of all, the spot where we read had open windows, through which a cool breeze blew. No monster-heat! My fellow readers were Steve Boyett, Seanan McGuire, and Kirsten Imani Kasai, who all did wonderful work. By the implacable rigors of alphabetical order, I read last, and rather than subject the audience to a fragment of my new novel, I read a bunch of short pieces — “Scientific Romance,” “Bacchanal,” “My Night with Aphrodite,” “Soul Searching,” “Ghost” — lots of fun, and the audience seemed to like it. I’d vaguely intended to go to the afterparty, but ended up hanging out at the cafe talking to my friends Chris and Maggie for an hour instead. It was immensely pleasant, and probably the right choice, as the alternative would have almost certainly led to me being hungover Sunday morning.

Of course, all that socialing meant falling behind on my writing for the weekend. I did manage to do what I think is the last revision pass on the Christmas Carol/Ghost Finder mash-up story co-written with Heather Shaw, and responded to editorial queries on my new story “Ill Met in Ulthar”, but I had to knuckle down and buckle down on Sunday to work on Grim Tides. My mad goal is to have a complete draft by Halloween, which means producing 30 to 40K words in the next two weeks. So, uh, that’s what I’ll be doing.

The New Math

My son has been fascinated by arithmetic lately, doing small sums and counting them out on his fingers — two plus two is four, three plus three is six, and so on. This morning he independently invented subtraction: “Three fingers, take away two, you have, one finger!”

I helped him do a few subtractions, but he was somewhat confused about zero, so we talked about that a bit, with examples: “If you have one banana, and you eat it, how many do you have left?”


“And if you have two bananas, and you eat two, what do you have?”

He replied, very seriously: “If you eat two bananas, you have a tummy ache.”

The Ice Man

Being a big slacker continues to satisfy. I haven’t done much with my evenings but play Alice: Madness Returns, watch the new Avengers cartoon on Netflix, and read the new Charles Stross novel Rule 34 lately. (All recommended.) I am beginning to get a distant itchy urge to write, but so far it hasn’t grown overwhelming. I think I needed this time to recharge.

I got some popsicle molds and have become a popsicle fiend. Besides juice pops for the kid, I’ve also made White Russian popsicles for my wife and myself. (Recipe: make a weak White Russian. Freeze it. EAT.) And I made some mocha coffee popsicles last night; yum. Soon I will experiment with margarita popsicles, cherry cream popsicles, and so on. This is preventing me from eating all the ice cream in the world, which is what I usually want to do in the summer, so it’s good. River likes to help me make the popsicles, though he hates waiting for them to freeze. Today we will go to Berkeley Bowl and consider their vast and mighty juice section. I predict pear nectar ice pops in my son’s future…

Why I Am Badass

Today I:

    Helped out with some emergency digital publishing problems at the day job by phone

    Did a load of laundry

    Washed dishes

    Read and sent corrections for the page proofs of Briarpatch (order early and often!)

    Wrote 1400 words of book reviews

And here’s why this is impressive: I did all this while solo parenting a three-year-old. Read page proofs between bouts of Lego building and pretending to be a witch. Did laundry while he ate peanut-butter-and-jelly. Wrote book reviews while he read picture books and played with building blocks at the library. Talked on the phone while helping him go potty (er, sorry, co-workers). And I even played with the kid at the playground and had a picnic lunch with him, too, so he didn’t end up feeling too ignored.

Fortunately, he fell asleep, so now I get to sit in the yard and read for an hour or so.

A lot of days, I fail. Today, I win.