Archive for December, 2009


Really a Writer?

Hey everyone. Tim mentioned that several new denizens were moving into the Magic District, so I guess it’s time for me come out of hiding and claim some turf. I’m Kalayna Price, author of the Haven series. Book one in the series, ONCE BITTEN, is currently available, and the second book, TWICE DEAD will be released February 2010. I also have a second urban fantasy series which will be released by ACE in 2011. I hope to have more information to share on that series soon.

So far, I’ve spent most of my time in the Magic District peeking into open doorways, slinking down dark alleys, and observing the other writers. I keep waiting for someone to turn around and realize that I don’t belong here. That I’m not really a writer.

Okay, yes, I know: I’ve written a couple books, and one of them is even out there facing the world. But I still don’t feel like a real writer. It hasn’t quite sunk in. When people ask me what I do, it still doesn’t feel natural to reply “I’m a writer” or “I write books”. In fact, it is positively squirm worthy. And let’s not even talk about when people ask me what I write.

I guess it is kind of like growing up. At what point am I really supposed to feel like I’ve achieved that ‘grown up’ status? I have the sinking suspicion I will go directly from not-yet-grown-up to old. Hopefully I’ll settle more comfortably into being a writer before the equivalent occurs in my career. In the meantime, do me a favor and don’t tell the others I’m an impostor. And maybe someone can lend me a disguise? Do you think they make hats that say writer? That might work. ^_^

Okay, in all seriousness now, I am absolutely honored to have been asked to participate in this blog and be counted among the amazing authors gathering here. There is a lot of talent in the district. I look forward to communicating with everyone.

Have a happy and safe New Year!


New Forces for a Better Tomorrow

I’d like to take this opportunity to welcome a slew of new denizens to the Magic District. We the Founding Few have become increasingly busy, and most of us have, shall we say, slipped a bit on our original update schedule. We decided an infusion of new blood would be welcome — both by us, as we’re happy to expand our ranks and lighten the load, and by you readers, who’ll get to enjoy loads of new rants, meditations, observations, leaps of logic, leaps of illogic, and other such bloggy goodness by a whole new slew of up-and-coming fantasy writers. Now, play yourself a little mental fanfare, please, and I’ll introduce the new writers:

Kelly Gay

Jeannie Holmes

Michele Lang

Lisa Shearin

Kalayna Price

M.K. Hobson

Seanan McGuire

Paul Crilley

Some of those names may be familiar to you already, and some of them will be. We’ll begin a more robust update schedule soon (though I wouldn’t expect too much from us in this, that last dead week of the year as reckoned by the barbarous Western calendar… but 2010 will be a different story).

I, myself, have little of import to impart, but I thought I’d take a writerly look back over this long year.

Despite having my novel series dropped by my publisher, I continue to work a lot — I’m in the midst of a work-for-hire pseudonymous novel, which is due in a couple of months, and is about halfway done. It’s a great gig, since within the specific premise I’ve been tasked to write, I have near-total freedom to do whatever I want; the result is something that very much resembles a Tim Pratt novel, though my name won’t be on the tin. (I’ve auditioned for other work-for-hire jobs where I was literally given a scene-by-scene description of what to write, for the entire book, so this is a nice variant.)

My anthology Sympathy for the Devil is done and delivered (and has cover art). Editing an anthology was both a lot harder and a lot more fun than I expected. Putting it together and talking to authors was awesome, but some of the logistics of securing rights was difficult… I’ve never been on the editor side of that dynamic before. It was a useful and good experience, and I think the book is very cool.

Earlier in the year I published a bunch of short stories, had several reprints in various markets (podcasts, foreign magazines, etc.), got nominated for a Stoker Award, serialized a short novel for donations online (for pretty decent money, even), sold a couple of novels overseas, and had other nice things happen.

I revised a middle-grade novel, which my agent is now shopping around, and did a synopsis and sample chapters for a very cool project which she’s also shopping around, so I’ve got a lot of irons on a lot of fires. Let’s hope one of them heats up sufficiently sometime next year, shall we?

2009 was a hard year for me and a lot of people I know, a bad year in publishing and a bad year personally. And while the turnover to a new year is technically arbitrary and has no cosmic significance, I find that it does have psychological significance, and if enough people think 2010 will be a better year, then a sort of collective magic could indeed be worked in our personal lives, our industry, and our economy. Such is the might (and weakness) of consensus reality. So act as if we’re in the early moments of a better tomorrow, won’t you?

-Tim Pratt


“I can not die before my book is published”

Well, what a week it’s been.

So, as some of you are only too aware, I was pregnant with my first child. Was. That’s a past tense as of December 20th when my son, Nathan, became much less of an abstract concept and I almost became much more of one. Rest assured, however, thanks to my awesome husband and the miracle of modern medicine I am not posting this from beyond the grave. Both Nate and I are fine (though Nathan is not a happy camper to be here quite this early, but he’ll get over it), and although I’m spending Christmas in the hospital, I’m alive, my kid’s alive, and that’s the best present I could ask for.

What happened was eclampsia, an extreme and sudden case. Saturday night I had a bad headache and nausea, but that’s not so unusual for third trimester, so I wasn’t really worried. I threw up and went to bed… and woke up the next morning in the hospital with my husband telling me the baby is fine and I’m like “baby? what are you talking about?” Turns out I’d had a seizure and woken my husband, who called 911 when he couldn’t wake me. Since the only cure for eclampsia is getting the baby out, I’d had an emergency C-section as soon as I arrived at the hospital.

As the nurse is explaining all this and my husband is hugging me (I have the best husband ever, guys), my brain is going a million miles a second with everything that could have happened. She finishes the story with something like “you’re so lucky to be alive” and my first thought, before anything else is “Of course, I could not die before my book is out.”

Now, I’m not saying my need to see my published book created a miracle. Honestly, I had very little to do with the saving of my own life that night. But I can’t help thinking that deep down, the idea that I had something to see, something I’d worked so hard for that I could not die before realizing, helped to pull me through. When I think about how close I came to not waking up that morning, my brain shuts down and I can’t even comprehend it. All I know is that, thanks to my husband and doctors, I made it through. And let me tell you something, I’m not going to waste their work. I have some awesome ideas for this book you’re not going to believe, and I can’t wait to get back to work and try my hand at this whole mommy-writer thing.

One thing’s for certain, though: at the risk of sounding like a gushing new mom, he was totally worth the hassle.

Happy holidays, everyone! Keep safe, keep writing, and keep what matters close at heart.


xzcxvcxbvxxxxx and other brilliant words

Umm.. I think I was supposed to post earlier this week, but I’ve been fighting off the worst cold that any human has EVER been forced to endure. Fer real.

So, instead of anything brilliant or inspiring or even holiday-related, I’ll give you some of the brilliant inspirations that occurred to me while I’ll enduring my brave fight against the common cold.

How to continue to be a productive and brilliant writer when you feel like death warmed over:

1) Ignore that whole “needing to breathe” thing. Seriously, it’s overrated. 

2) Open the file. Peer blearily at it. Take a nap.

3) Check your word count. Set a reasonable goal.

4) Take more cold meds.

5) Get awesome and brilliant new idea for a plot twist involving olives and mentholatum. Write until the urge to nap strikes again.

6) Check word count. Realize that you managed 17 words before that whole nap-attack happened. Realize that the olives and mentholatum plot twist might not be so brilliant after all.

7) Whine and moan about your inability to breathe.

8) Move on to coughing and hacking. Settle on the couch with the laptop.

9) Wake up later to discover that you reached your word count only because you fell asleep with your cheek on the laptop keyboard and your brilliant new plot twist is xcvxvcvxvcvxcvxvcvxvcvxcvxvxvcvxvcxvcxvcvcxvcvxvcvxc

10) Roll with it and call it a day.

Happy holidays, y’all. 🙂


In the dead of winter

Darn you, Tim!  The one day I manage to get a post written while I’m stuck at the day job for more overtime, and you go and write it for me!  Of course, this could have been avoided had I checked the blog before writing but that’s not the point now is it?

Anyway.  Consider this post an extended comment on Tim’s post of yesterday.  In revenge the spirit of fellowship and goodwill, I’m going to switch off comments here and send any commenters to his post.

Onward.  Most of these aren’t strictly Christmas stories, but books that I find myself rereading in this season, for a number of reasons. Continue reading ‘In the dead of winter’


Christmas Stories

There’s a new Christmas story by Charles Stross, set in his Laundry universe of secret-agents / institutional government bureaucracy / Lovecraftian indifferent cosmic monsters: “Overtime”. Reason for rejoicing!

Other Christmas/fantasy/science fiction stories I adore (and read yearly):

Greg van Eekhout’s “In the Late December”, also listenable at Escape Pod.

Elizabeth Hand’s wonderful novella “Chip Crockett’s Christmas Carol,” from the late lamented Sci Fiction, but still available serialized on Hand’s journal: Part one, Part two, Part three, Part four, Part five, Part six, Part seven, Part eight, Part nine, Part ten, Part eleven.

I also re-read Connie Willis’s “Miracle”, my favorite of her many fine Christmas stories, which I don’t think is (legitimately) available online.

Got any favorites you’d like to share? (I’ll also accept Solstice stories, Mithras/Invictus birthday stories, Hanukkah stories, Kwanzaa stories, Winter Festival stories, etc. etc…)


The unexpected perks of publication

So we all know the obvious perks of getting a contract with a major publisher: a fantastic editor, outside verification of worth, money, your book in print (with a cover and everything!), etc. All of these things are the utmost peak of awesome, but there are other great parts of being with a publisher/having an agent, little perks no one tells you about… For example:

Perk 1: Free Books!

So I happened to mention to my editor at Orbit several months ago that I was excited about reading Soulless. Low and behold, what should appear in my mail box a few days later but a lovely ARC of Soulless! Friends, there is nothing more awesome then getting to read a great book… MONTHS before anyone else.  And that’s just one example. Sometimes books would just appear in my mail, awesome books, FREE awesome books by awesome people like Jeff Somers and Amanda Downum! Seriously bad ass, that’s what free books are.  This is not to be missed!

Perk 2:  Meeting Other Authors!

The first thing that happened when I got my agent (other than me nearly having a heart attack) was getting intr0duced to our own lovely Diana Rowland who, in turn, invited me to come and join her and some other bad ass people on a group blog (which is about to get a large influx of new bad ass people, stay tuned!). This kind of stuff (while not always on the level of awesome as joining the Magic District) seems to happen all the time once your name enters the published pool! My agent has introduced me to authors, so has my editor, my agent’s assistant, my editor’s assistant… it’s like they’re all in on this vast conspiracy to link authors together! Which is great because fantasy authors tend to be pretty awesome and interesting people you want to hang out with. I always thought that meeting other writers was something that happened slowly as you built a name, but it turns out they start you right out of the gate, which is great because your fellow authors are some of your best resources as a rookie. Amazingly awesome.

Perk 3:  Calls from New York!

Maybe I’m a total nerd, but there is nothing that makes my heart go pitter patter like pulling out my phone and seeing a 212 area code, then excusing myself because “I’ve got to take this call from New York.” Maybe it’s pretension, but it’s this stupid awesome feeling of “I’ve made it,” even when the call is just “hey, send us that form” or something equally banal. Bonus points when it’s your editor calling because she had this amazing idea that really is amazing, or because she wants to discuss things like cover art… squeee!

Sure writers don’t get health insurance, paid vacation, flex time, or 401ks, but there are other unique perks to the job that are not to be over looked, including the most important of all: being able to make a living writing stories you love AND having people read them. Can’t beat that with a stick right there.


“How did you learn to write?”

(Just a note, folks: this is going to be my last Magic District post for awhile. Between grinding away on Book 3 and the imminent publication of Book 1, and my own day job, and family stuff, I’ve got too much on my plate, so am trimming back. Not permanently, but consider me on hiatus for a bit. To quote Ahnold: I’ll be back.)

In a recent conversation I had with some other professional authors, one of them related an exchange she’d once had with a professor of creative writing. On learning that she didn’t have an MFA, this person asked, “But how did you learn to write, then? Who taught you?” This is not meant to be a commentary on academic elitism, note — I’ve gotten similar questions from family, friends, and random acquaintances, when they learn I’m a writer. It’s one of those questions writers get all the time at parties, right up there with “Would you like to write my book?” and “So what do you think of Stephen King?” (Lately that last question has been either Dan Brown or Stephanie Meyer instead. But I digress.)

Anyway, my answer to the “how did you learn to write” question is complicated. Continue reading ‘“How did you learn to write?”’


Tales from the Gray Cubicle

Warning: Probably some whining ahead.

I’m still trying to figure out this whole day job thing. I work 10-6 M-F in a cubicle job for a large financial company (hereafter referred to as ConHugeCo). It’s not a job that has any connection to my writing (unless I want to start a new branch of Financial Fantasy), and it’s a fairly reliable one. When asked about it, I usually say that it brings in the groceries and pays for insurance, and that’s about the extent of it.

Realistically, something that takes up that much of my time has to have more of an impact than that. And at times like these — when the revisions are just not coming together and the deadline is starting to loom — the tension between time spent writing and time spent earning money becomes a lot more worrying. And, of course, now is when we’re hitting the end-of-the-year crunch at ConHugeCo.

Over the summer, I’ve been lucky enough to swing some flextime, which made the difference when it came to getting Wild Hunt together (and certainly made a difference for this particular book). But that’s not possible at this time of year, so I’m suddenly balancing a lot more work on a lot less time. When the workload at ConHugeCo increases to the point of overtime for everyone, the writing takes on two new aspects. If, as now, I write before I go in to work, then no matter what else happens I’ve got that on my internal record of Worthwhile Things I’ve Done Today. (And after dealing with small frustrations all day, knowing that I’ve finished a chapter really does help.) However, it also means that by the end of the day, I don’t have much brain left.

In a purely intellectual sense, I know that the solution is to pick myself up and get the damn work done anyway, no matter how I feel. After all, I still have the mental space to work out plots and notes during the day (and over lunch, and when I have two free minutes plus a blank sheet of paper), so therefore the potential is there. But (and here’s where the whining really comes in) after a week or two of this, all I want to do is curl up somewhere and read popcorn fiction until I fall asleep in my chair.

Not only is this not the right response if I want to get any work done, it’s also a very spoiled response. I have a day job, after all, and one that has not done me irreparable harm; why am I balking at a little more work? The whole thing seems to be a matter of getting my mind right.

So for writers or artists or musicians out there who are juggling their work with a day job: how do you get your mind right? Is it all a matter of time management — writing during breaks or on your commute, finding time where there was none before? Is there a particular outlook or approach that helps you? I’d also like to know how stay-at-home parents manage to balance that and creative work, because goddamn that’s a job and a half. (From an outsider’s perspective, it seems the only thing that has any room to budge would be sleep.)  Is it all just a matter of not enough hours in the day?


It doesn’t get easier, but would we like it if it did?

Two years ago, before I had my agent or my publisher or any realistic hope of either, I was writing a book and having a hard time of it.

Continue reading ‘It doesn’t get easier, but would we like it if it did?’