24 Jun 2013, 7:09am

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Pratt’s writing advice, with my addendums.

Tim Pratt posted a letter he sent to a writer who wanted to be published by a big New York publisher and it’s full of great advice. If you’re looking for advice on becoming a pro (or you’re just generally interested in that sort of thing) you should give it a read. It’s good stuff.

I would add a few things, though. First, if you’re looking to find out who is the agent for a specific writer, I find it’s much easier to just Google Specific Writer agent before I try searching their websites or acknowledgements in their books. If you Google Tim Pratt agent, you find his agent’s name right in the previews on the Google search page. If you do the same for me, you have to click through, but it’s the work of a few seconds. Super easy.

Second, rather than pay Publisher’s Lunch, I’d drop by the database of Agentquery. You can click the checkbox for one (or more) genres, then do a search (recommended: Put a “not important” in “Actively seeking new clients”), and you’ll get dozens of names of legit agents.

Sadly, it will be in no damn order at all, as far as I can tell. However, it’s easy enough to copy pasta their data into a spread sheet, then sort it by, for example, the agency where they work. It’s boring work but it’s damn easy to do.

Agentquery is also kind enough to link to agency websites. Info on their own site trumps anything you might find on other websites, such as whether they’re currently accepting queries (that’s why I suggested “not important” above).

After that, it’s a good idea to plug the agent’s name into the “Search This Forum” box at Absolute Write’s Background Check board, just in case they’re clueless or a scam.

A further bit of advice: if you’re making a list of agents and you decide you don’t want to submit to one (let’s say you are querying a science fiction novel right now but plan an epic fantasy series in the future, and discover a great agent with no interest in fantasy) it’s best to change the text of the agent’s information to a nice bright color like red rather than delete them outright. The reason is that this can be very time-consuming, and you don’t want to waste hours or minutes researching an agent you’ve already decided against once.

And that’s all. Good luck. #SFWApro

29 May 2013, 8:24am

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I am a dummy sometimes: marketing as luck-seeking behavior

As a followup to yesterday’s post about our bias toward survivors, skill, luck, and the creating of luck, I wanted to make one little note here about how wrong I’ve been on one aspect of book marketing.

It’s often said that publicists and marketers will do all sorts of things to get the word out about a particular book, but they know that 90% of it will be wasted effort–they just don’t know which will be in the 90%, so they do it all.

For me and a lot of other people, I suspect, this sounds like a poorly-researched, poorly-planned activity. How can you not know what works and what doesn’t? Why not just find out what’s effective? Do polling/market research/whatever to answer questions like: Do book reviews in Locus sell copies? Do convention appearances? Do radio interviews?

Obviously, this wouldn’t be easy but it sounds doable. What’s more, there’s money on the line and if there’s one thing that begs for careful research into the acquiring of it, it’s money.

But that’s because I hadn’t really thought about it correctly. As mentioned in yesterday’s post, people who are lucky tend to put themselves into new situations often. They’re flexible. They don’t try to control situations. They try new things.

Yesterday, while I was mulling over the prospect that it was my own damn choices that made the Twenty Palaces books so unlucky, it dawned on me that the whole point of “90% is wasted effort” is that it’s luck-seeking behavior. It’s putting information out into the world hoping that it starts catching people’s attention in a big way. People will say things like “I took out an ad on Reddit Fantasy” or “I did a guest post for [Name Author]” or “I got a nice review on [Non-Book Site]” but that’s a kind of suvivorship bias, too. The book was marketed and publicized in a lot of ways, but those were the times that luck hit.

Maybe that’s obvious to everyone in the world but me, but this is my blog, so…

Here I’ve been thinking that most marketing is Not Useful. Maybe I should rethink.

24 Dec 2012, 7:15am

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Worst Rendition of O Holy Night ever

Not to be missed. No matter how bad you think it is, it finds a way to be even more hilariously awful.

Merry Christmas, to those who celebrate.

6 Oct 2012, 10:15pm

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To hell with it.

I’m just going to straight up embed this comic. Source!

Read more like it!

5 Sep 2012, 7:06am

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What we talk about when we talk about gorillas who teach at Oxford

Over on the LiveJournal version of yesterday’s post, I had someone say they were surprised to hear that I was working on a project called KING KHAN. I thought, Have I not talked about this?

Let me give you a quick rundown on this project, what it is and what it will be.

Back in April, indie rpg company Evil Hat was having a pretty good run on a Kickstarter. They were trying to fund a trilogy of books based on their Spirit of the Century game, which is a pulp-adventure game with an emphasis on the 1920-30s, and it was doing well enough that they set some stretch goals. One of those was for me to write a book featuring a particular reader favorite character: Professor Khan, an intelligent gorilla who teaches at Oxford.

After some discussion, we decided that I was going to write a book that had Professor Khan visit Los Angeles in the studio era. There’s a mysterious death, a stolen weird-science maguffin, and lots of high-strangeness of the lightning gun/shrink beam/hopping ghost variety.

And it’s funny. At least, it’s supposed to be funny. There’s action, naturally, but I’m hoping the characters and situations will be amusing and uplifting. Did I mention that it stars a gorilla who teaches at Oxford?

Anyway, I’m nearly finished with the first draft (it’ll be a short book, probably 70K or less) and, after a polish, will send it off and get back to EPIC FINALE WITH NO DULL PARTS. No rest for the weary.

16 Jun 2012, 10:53am

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I don’t need to see more characters taking a piss

Lev Grossman has a fun list of 20 things he wants to see characters in fantasy novels do more often. Someday I’ll do a list of all the reasons the internet is about lists, but this one is pretty fun.

However, I don’t much need to see characters peeing, unless it’s important to the story. Are they trapped somewhere for a long time? Are they showing their contempt for someone? Go for it. Otherwise, leave it implied.

Also, number 1, forgetting things, wouldn’t fit the sort of stories I like to read or write. For most of us, the expectation is that characters will perform to the best of their abilities. If the troll army is marching through a forest, the elven ranger might be able to successfully elude them while the city tax collector could not, but we expect both to do their best. This is why we invented the term “idiot plot.”

Frankly, fiction is artificial enough without adding complications from obstacles like “I swear I packed our weapons!” It seems too much like author manipulation.

As for number 19, I figure worlds on the other sides of portals would be pretty much like ours, in the most basic way. I mean, if I’m not taking up arms against the Dark Lards in our world, why would I believe myself capable of doing it in another?

14 Jun 2012, 7:02am

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Short fiction on the donation model

All around cool guy Saladin Ahmed is giving away a Sword & Sorcery tale on his website, with a request for donations. Times are tough for a lot of people, but as someone with out-of-date prescription glasses, I can tell you how incredibly hard it is for a writer who struggles to see text.

Give the story a read and, if you like it, send a couple of bucks his way.

8 Jun 2012, 7:46am

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If it’s from Pixar, it must be good

Pixar, right? They make good movies that are affecting and also make sense. Sort of a rare thing now.

Anyway, Pixar story artist Emma Coats has been basic story “rules”.

Now, I’ve mentioned before that there is really only one rule: Be interesting. However! Her advice is pretty good. I especially like #6 and #15, and I’ve recommended people do #10, #12, and #20 already. I should probably be better about #2 and #5.

But it’s good stuff.

30 Sep 2011, 4:59pm


Okay, okay, you guys, jeeze

Since folks are pestering me about it*, here’s a list of the old games I bought at Half-Price Books:

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Part 1)
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Dragon Lair
Elven Legacy Collection

My general rule is that I don’t buy games based on other media because they suck so often, but I made an exception for Harry Potter since my boy is a fan.

In truth, I have no idea if these are good games or not. I played Dragon Lair way back in the day when you had to put coins into a machine for it, but the others are completely unknown to me.

We’ll see how lucky I am.

* Note: This is not true. I just wanted to post this list.

29 Sep 2011, 1:25pm



I get my internet through Qwest MSN, which is reasonably affordable and doesn’t make me want to stab people to death.


The big problem with MSN is that their webmail is a complete fucking disaster. For ex: A friend posted to a mailing list I’m on about adapting scripts to prose, and my webmail response turned five or six paragraphs into ONE 225-WORD BLOCK OF TEXT!

Microsoft! HOW CAN YOU BE GETTING THIS SO WRONG! When I hit the enter key, it’s because I want to put in a line break! If I do it twice, it’s because I want there to be a blank line between two small blocks of text!

THIS IS THE CUSTOM OF MY PEOPLE! We call them “paragraphs.”

Seriously, how fucking useless can you be? How can this be a big challenge to you? Just leave my fucking line breaks in place so I can email people without looking like a dumbshit. Do I really need to change my email address/ISP/email client because of your incompetence?

No! No, I do not. I’m not going to change anything. YOU ARE GOING TO FIX THIS PROBLEM!

27 Apr 2011, 9:29am

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Let the rage begin

Here’s a news article that encapsulates so much of what is wrong with my country. Parents discover that high school English teacher writes racy novels.

Let’s start with the way it was written. The byline is “Staff” so I can only assume no one had a keyboard to type out individual sentences, since this reads like they tried to cut and paste the article from outraged emails. Maybe they could only use their mouse with the right click?

Let’s continue with the article itself: Why do these parents care what their teacher is doing in her free time? Times are tough and people need to make ends meet. If the woman has a second job, let her work.

Second, who cares if she’s teaching high school during the day? Is she reading erotica to her students in class? Is she pointing out the best porn sites on Tumblr (as opposed to letting the kids find that themselves)? No? Then STFU. If it bothers you that your kids know their teacher writes erotica, don’t tell your kids. It’s called having common sense.

What’s more, I remember being a teenager. I didn’t need any encouragement to think about sex in the classroom. I was a teenager! Thinking about sex was pretty much the only thing I was competent at.

What’s more, who cares if teens think about sex? Really, do you think you can control them that much? Quick note to those parents: When your teen rides in a car looking out the window, they’re thinking about sex. And that’s not a bad thing. It’s healthy. It’s what they’re supposed to do.

But of course I expect this poor woman to lose her job, since kicking around teachers is the new national sport.

Now I have to go back to this thing I’m supposed to be revising.

Bedbugs in NYC

How bad is the bedbug infestation in New York City at the moment? We’re trying to plan a 4-day trip to Manhattan for the summer (after watching the Ric Burns documentary, my son is anxious for the trip) but only for a few days. We’re looking at the Cosmopolitan Hotel for our stay, but I need to be able to tell the fam something reassuring about being bitten in our sleep.

Also, other hotel options would be welcome.

5 Things Make a Post

1) I have three things left to do before I send Twenty Palaces to my agent: clean up some formatting issues like chapter headings, spellcheck, and check every instance of “him” in the script to see if I should have changed it to “me” when I went changed the book from a third person pov to a first person pov. So incredibly dull but I’m really catching some embarrassing errors, like “I jumped to his feet.” Oh well.

2) Here’s my Norwescon schedule:

Friday: Whatever I want.
Saturday: Whatever I want.
Sunday: Stay home and hang out with my son.

Hah! I’ll be there as a regular attendee, mainly to look around and see whatever this is to be seen. It’ll be my first convention, so I don’t expect to know anyone. If you’re going to be there and you see me, please feel free to say hello. I look like this. Also, I have a terrible memory for faces and names, so don’t be offended if it takes me a couple of seconds to “place” you.

3) Seattle is enduring the coldest April on record. I’m sorta sick of it.

4) Revisions on Twenty Palaces have taken control of my life. I can’t wait to send them off, if only so I can go back to responding to comments promptly (as opposed to passive-aggressively complaining on my blog, like this post) and reading books. Honestly, I can’t wait to spend some hours every day reading.

5) This NY Times article (only available if you haven’t used up your 20 articles/month) isn’t the first time I’ve heard that fidgeting has a powerful effect on weight gain and loss. I’ve been using my standing desk more often (thanks to the Topricin my wife just bought me) but I attribute most of the weight I’ve lost recently to the fact that I’m getting the sleep I need. I still have a long way to go, of course.

4 Apr 2011, 5:07am

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Here’s a video of my new house and property

What it says in the subject header (and tag).

If you’re reading this on Facebook, here’s the link.

Three things I’m thinking about

First, we were due to get 2-6 inches of snow last night, but something crazy apparently happened and the snow fell and stuck everywhere but right here in Seattle. I know there are some of you out there who are sick of snow, but I have a little boy here who wants to slide down a hill on a flattened cardboard box. We need some kid weather.

In fact, it’s snowing right now but nothing is sticking. I should probably bring him home a treat.

Second, I’m working on this thing, and it’s taking way longer than it should. Even when I devote hours and hours to it, I only plod through a couple thousand words. Tim Pratt, on the other hand, just kicked out an 8,000 word day (yes we are supposed to compare ourselves to other people, so hmph on you). It’s frustrating and annoying.

Third, with regard to the second point, I’m seriously considering a week-long internet fast. It wouldn’t be enough to finish this project, but it would help. Has anyone done it? What did you think?

17 Feb 2011, 6:48am

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New post at Antipope

My new post is up at Antipope: It’s about the (just passed) 80th anniversary of the premiere of Legosi’s Dracula. Did you know that Universal made a second Spanish language version of that movie at the same time as the Legosi version? English-speaking actors did their scenes during the day and Spanish-speaking actors used the same sets at night.

I compare them and discuss revision. Check it out, if you want.

31 Jan 2011, 6:46am

1 comment

More pix from the Twenty Palaces trailer shoot

This is the last weekend for pickups for the trailer for the Twenty Palaces trailer. I think so, at least. Production is going on down in L.A. and I’m not sure whether they’re planning to get every last shot. I think so, though.

Here are some pics:

Twenty Palaces shoot 3

You know what always improves a movie? Trains and train tracks.

Twenty Palaces shoot

Not what you want to find on the floor of your garage.

More at the set.

Randomness for 12/25

1) Bronte Sisters Power Dolls! Video.

2) Burglar posts a photo of himself w/ stolen loot on his victim’s Facebook page. The cops were notified, but said burglary is such a low priority they wouldn’t bother with the case. Luckily for the victim, his dad writes for the Washington Post.

3) How A Christmas Story should have played out.

4) Rudolph (You Don’t Have To Put On The Red Light) Video.

5) The True Meaning of Christmas at Everything is Terrible. Video.

6) Santa Clause is Coming To Town, recut as a horror movie trailer. Video.

7) Comics writer Bob Haney’s version of Batman Saving Christmas.

22 Nov 2010, 12:12pm

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Guess what I found in my email inbox?

A notice that “A Glimpse of Darkness”, the several-thousand word short story co-written by me with several other urban fantasy authors is now available for pre-order on Amazon.com. If you’re a Kindle reader, check it out.

Book trailer wrapup post, snow, and happiness.

In fact, I returned home yesterday afternoon after picking up my son at my wife’s work. It was snowing then and it’s snowing harder now–it’s not accumulating on concrete but it is on lawns, roofs, cars, etc and it’s really beautiful. I know some of you live in very northern climates and hate the snow–it’s dangerous, too–but I find it gorgeous and peaceful. Later, if it sticks a little more and this cold I seem to be building to goes away, I’ll be heading out with my wife and son to cardboard sled down the hill behind our home. (Yeah, it’s good to see them again.)

As a followup to my Los Angeles trip, there needs to be an English word that means “work that is fun but also satisfying,” because that’s what I did this weekend. The book trailer shoot, (see day one and day two with photos of the main characters from books one and two, as well as the ghost knife prop, sets and production process) was exactly this sort of thing. It was work, it was fun, and it was very satisfying to do. Writing is like this, often.

The guys at Wyrd are doing a great job. Seriously. When they asked me what I wanted in the trailer, I wrote a script that seemed cool and somewhat ambitious. They took that and ran with it, making the shots more complicated, adding effects, motion, conflict, all sorts of things. Honest-to-God, I was amazed at what they’re doing. The actors have been terrific, the footage is beautiful, and the work everyone has been putting in is profoundly humbling.

But! “Fun, satisfying work” needs a word of its own, so we can describe some of the best moments of our lives and better tell young people what they should be striving for.

What should the word be? Is there one in a foreign language we can steal borrow, or do we need a portmaneau?

Added later: To followup on Shecky’s comment on my main blog, I will now be promoting the word “vocate” as a verb form for vocation.

  • The prequel to Child of Fire: see here for more details

  • Starred review from Publishers Weekly

  • Starred review from Publishers Weekly

  • Named to Publishers Weekly's "Best 100 Books of 2009" list. Get the audiobook here.

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