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Children's & Fantasy/Sci-Fi Books


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Action Figures Come To Life

Finally, a use for all those collectible action hero figures gathering dust on the shelf, thanks to Hot.kenobi and the mad geniuses at Bored Panda.

“Japanese photographer Hot.kenobi plays with his action toys and uses photography to tell their entertaining stories. Osaka-based Hot.kenobi creates a universe where box office rivals DC and Marvel comics (sometimes Disney’s Star Wars as well) not only battle each other, but also have some fun in both surreal and everyday situations. Most of his compositions are explosive and feature a lot of movement, perfectly supplemented by special effects and a healthy dose of humor.

Whether it’s Hulk smashing a can of soda, or Spiderman trying to ‘play’ Captain America’s shield on a CD player, these images bring the colorful personalities of unlikely friends and foes.”

Action Figures

Action Figures

Action Figures

Action Figures

Action Figures

Action Figures

Action Figures

Action Figures

Action Figures

Action Figures

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Put a Cuttlefish On It!

Not familiar with cuttlefish? Wikipedia offers some fun facts about these amazing cousins of squid and octopuses.

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Fans of the TV series Portlandia are familiar with the expression “put a bird on it!” It’s a scientific fact that putting a bird on things spruces them up, and makes them pretty.

In celebration of my new picture book, LITTLE RED CUTTLEFISH, and in acknowledgement that cuttlefish are way cooler than birds, we’ve created the hashtag #PutACuttlefishOnIt. Some examples are below. A free cuttlefish.png download is available to help you Put A Cuttlefish On It.

You’re welcome.

Gollum
“The rock and pool, is nice and cool, so juicy sweet. Our only wish, to catch a fish.” #PutACuttlefishOnIt

IronMan
Although it’s not mentioned in the Avengers movies, Iron Man has a pet cuttlefish. #PutACuttlefishOnIt

Sanders
This cuttlefish made an unexpected appearance at a Bernie Sanders rally. #PutACuttlefishOnIt


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Helpful Advice for First-Time Convention Attendees

I’m a children’s book author, with a love of fantasy and science fiction that stretches back to elementary school, where I repeatedly borrowed WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE from the library. It should come as no surprise, then, that I enjoy attending and moderating panels at pop culture conventions like San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC), WonderCon, Condor, and San Diego Comicfest.

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The folks at Eventbrite requested that I leverage my convention experience to write a post offering helpful tips. Want to have fun at a convention? Of course you do! I divided my suggestions into two categories: for convention attendees and for convention panel moderators. WonderCon

WONDERCON 2016: Moderating a children’s literature panel with (l to r) Barney Saltzberg, Caldecott-winner Dan Santat, Bruce Hale, NY Times bestseller Antoinette Portis, and Caldecott-winner Jon Klassen

FIRST-TIME CONVENTION ATTENDEES

Conventions offer a variety of activities, including: individual presentations, art exhibits, book signings, vendor displays, movie sneak peaks, and themed discussion panels. Here are some tips for first-time attendees to get the most out of their convention experience:

  • First things first: purchase your badge(s). This must be done WELL in advance for high-demand events like SDCC.
  • Plan your lodging. If you attend a big convention from out of town, a nearby hotel reservation (or gracious friend’s house) is a must, preferably near public transportation.
  • Plan your transportation. How will you get to the convention, and if you drive, where will you park? Public transportation is a great choice to avoid parking hassles at heavily-attended conventions.
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  • Plan your activities*. Review the convention schedule to decide which events you will attend. Some conventions may offer multiple enticing events at the same time; the convention equivalent of Sophie’s Choice. *Or not – some people enjoy choosing events as their mood dictates throughout the day. “Not that there’s anything wrong with that.”
  • Review in advance the convention facility map to see how close the events are located to each other. This is particularly important if events are scattered across multiple buildings, like at DragonCon and SDCC. Hence the importance of the aforementioned “Plan your activities”.
  • Wear comfortable clothes and shoes. You will likely be doing a lot of walking. I’d recommend NOT wearing a costume at your FIRST convention, because it adds some complications. But, if you MUST wear a costume, see my costume-specific suggestions at the end of this list.
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  • Bring a friend and a mobile phone, both fully charged. It’s more fun with a friend, and a phone will help you reconnect if you attend separate events. You’ll also want to have your phone (or camera) so you can take pictures of pop culture icons, displays, cosplayers, and other strange persons.
  • The more popular the event, the bigger the line. In some cases, lines are so long that you may not gain admittance. This makes me sad. So, move briskly from one event to the next if they are in different rooms. In the most extreme cases, like Hall H at SDCC, you must get into a line the prior evening to obtain a wristband to even be eligible for entry. What!? Why is Hall H so popular? In a word (well, two words), movie stars. My honest advice for first-time attendees is to skip such events. You essentially commit ALL your time to getting in (and staying in, see below) that room. I prefer to attend multiple interesting (but less sought after) events where I’m actually likely to get a seat.
  • If you miraculously manage to get into a room with multiple events that interest you (e.g., Hall H at SDCC), stay there. SDCC does not clear rooms of attendees between events. But if you leave (for say a bathroom break), you will not be readmitted. Hence the importance of the aforementioned “Plan your activities”, including how much liquid you imbibe. Now you know why Howard Wolowitz wears a “stadium pal” in Big Bang Theory Season 4 Episode 8.
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  • Ask permission before taking a photo of someone. I’ve never had anyone decline, but it’s the polite thing to do.
  • Don’t bogart the talent. Sometimes, you may encounter panelists (more true of authors than movie or TV stars) outside a convention room just prior to the event or at a signing. It’s fine to politely introduce yourself, offer them kind words, and request a signature. But once you’ve had your turn, let someone else interact with them.
  • There may be sexy or scantily dressed cosplayers in attendance. The normal rules of society apply – you don’t get to touch them! You don’t want to vex a superhero.
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  • Bring credit cards and cash if you plan on buying stuff. There are often very tempting purchases in exhibit halls and artist alleys. But don’t buy more than you can carry. Hence the aforementioned advice to bring a backpack. Sherpas are also very handy for carrying your stuff.
  • Bring food and water. If you’ll be attending for a full day, you’ll want to eat and drink. You can visit convention food stalls, but they are typically pricey, and can involve waiting in LONG lines. I advise against drinking alcohol. You’ll be in tight quarters and challenging conditions, so you’ll want to keep your manners and wits about you.
  • Bring a hat. This suggestion is relevant only if you are planning to wait in a long, outdoor line, such as for gaining admittance to the coveted Hall H events at SDCC. It can be sunny and hot, and a hat can help keep you cool.
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  • Bring a 4″ diameter cardboard poster tube. This suggestion is only relevant if you plan to purchase artwork or posters. A tube will enable you to carry your paper treasures without risking them getting bent or torn. I wouldn’t go smaller than 4″ diameter, or you’ll have trouble rolling, inserting, and retrieving your artwork. Plastic tubes are on sale at some conventions for about ten bucks.
  • Bring a back pack. It’s not only good for carrying your food, water, hat, and poster tube, but it enables you to schlep your purchases hands-free.
  • Don’t cut in line. This is unfair to others. Some conventions, like SDCC, do a great job of organizing lines for panels, book signings, etc. Be a good citizen and follow the rules. Don’t make me stop the car!
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  • When walking about the convention, expect to move slowly due to thick crowds. Look where you’re going. Don’t text and walk at the same time, or you may get a Harley Quinn mallet in the face.
  • While this may be difficult given the density of some convention crowds, if you stop to look at a display, speak with someone, take a photo, or pull an item from your backpack, step toward the display or wall so as to leave a pathway for others to pass.
  • Don’t walk in front of people if it is clear they are taking a photo of something. Conversely, take your photos quickly so you don’t make people wait long. “None shall pass!”
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  • COSTUMES offer advantages and disadvantages. They can be great fun to wear and are natural icebreakers, offering others a reason to interact with you. However, some preclude you from being able to wear the aforementioned handy backpack. Some costumes can make accessing your wallet, eating, or using the bathroom a challenge. Some costumes can be heavy, hot, or otherwise uncomfortable to wear. Others can limit the ease with which you can see or breathe. Bulky costumes can make it hard to maneuver, especially down crowded exhibit hall aisles. And some are SO bulky that you need a friend to accompany you, just to help you get into and out of it (for aforementioned food, water and bathroom breaks). Fake weapons typically require you have them checked and tagged as safe.
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FIRST-TIME CONVENTION PANEL MODERATORS

As mentioned above conventions often offer themed discussion panels. Such panels are typically organized and hosted by a moderator. As a panel moderator, your job is to ensure an entertaining and informative experience for BOTH the audience and the panelists. A panelist should be a good steward of everyone’s time so that all the panelists can engage with their fans. Here are some tips for first-time convention panel moderators.

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SAN DIECO COMIC-CON 2015: Moderating a fantasy literature panel with (l to r) New York Times bestselling authors Brandon Sanderson, Maggie Stiefvater, Kami Garcia, Jonathan Maberry, and Zac (Heather) Brewer

  • Once the convention approves your panel, provide logistical information to your panelists. They’ll need to know prior to the event where the panel will be held, when to arrive, how they get their convention badge, whether they can bring a guest, who else is participating on the panel, how the panel will be run, how to get a hold of you, whether they’re allowed to give out swag, and if there will be a signing event after the panel.
  • Don’t assume everyone in the audience knows who your panelists are. Prior to the event, communicate with your panelists or look at their website so you can give an accurate introduction. Do NOT ask panelists to introduce themselves (I’ve actually seen that).
  • The audience will almost certainly have questions for the panelists, but just in case (and to get the ball rolling), prepare some questions of your own in advance.
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    WONDERCON 2015: Moderating a children’s literature panel with (l to r) Salina Yoon, Brian Won, Newbery Honoree Jenni Holm, Pura Belpre Honoree Joe Cepeda, and Caldecott Honoree Molly Idle.
  • I like to create a PowerPoint presentation for both introducing the panelists and showing the questions I’ll ask them. It’s not required; only diehard moderators do this. But, in my experience, attendees enjoy a visual element like images or videos. Let the convention organizers know in advance if you’ll need a projector, audio speakers, etc. Bring your own laptop and VGA/HDMI connector. Bring a spare copy of your files on a thumb drive and a printout of your introductions and panelist questions, in case your computer fails.
  • Guide your panelists. Ask questions in such a way that more than one panelist can respond. If panelists aren’t responding because questions don’t apply to them, then ask those individuals a question directed solely at them. If, on the other hand, a panelist speaks too long, don’t be afraid to gently break in and redirect to another panelist.
  • Control your audience. An effective introduction will get the audience excited to hear from the panelists. When I open up a panel for audience questions, I ask them to raise their hands, and select them one at a time. Some conferences will have a standing mic set up, at which panelists can line up prior to asking their questions. If there is no such mic, I will repeat audience questions so everyone in the room can hear it. If a question meanders, I will gently ask the person to state their question. If a question is inappropriate or somehow puts the panel in an awkward position, I will move on to the next audience question. Again, I’ve prepared questions in advance, just in case the audience runs out of questions.
  • Remind the audience at the end of the panel of the time and room where the panelists will subsequently be doing a signing event.

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SAN DIEGO COMIC-CON 2014: Moderating a sci-fi & fantasy literature panel with (l to r) New York Times bestselling authors Jonathan Maberry, David Brin, Jim Butcher, Rachel Caine, Jason Hough & Marie Lu.

I hope that these suggestions make your convention-going experience a fantastic one! If you have additional ideas, feel free to submit them via the Comments section. I hope to see you at a convention some time.

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The author, Henry Herz, wearing a costume that does not impede his ability to
see, breath, eat, walk, or access his mobile phone. Claymore sold separately.


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Day 1 of San Diego Comic-Con 2016

Here is a photo journal of my first day at San Diego Comic-Con 2016 #SDCC2016:

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Family cosplay of the terrific animated movie, The Incredibles.

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Speaking of The Incredibles, director Brad Bird (who also did the amazing Iron Giant movie) was in the house.

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Inflatable T-rexes terrorize an unsuspecting convention-goer.

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The talented picture book author/illustrator Ben Hatke (JULIA’S HOUSE FOR LOST CREATURES, NOBODY LIKES A GOBLIN) was interviewed by the rockstar fantasy novelist Patrick Rothfuss (THE NAME OF THE WIND). They stare with disdain at lesser mortals.

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And in the audience was fantasy novelist Laini Taylor (DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE series, DREAMDARK series).

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Yours truly with the blurry, but still talented Ben Hatke.

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Four goddesses of the YA fantasy pantheon: Alexandra Bracken (DARKEST MIND series), Kami Garcia (BEAUTIFUL CREATURES series and THE LEGION series), Mary E. Pearson (THE REMNANT CHRONICLES series), and Marissa Meyer (THE LUNAR CHRONICLES series).

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The bright and snarky urban fantasy author Seanan McGuire (OCTOBER DAY series). She said the audience could ask her anything (if they dare).

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As luck would have it, author Mary Robinette Kowal was there to accept the challenge, and asked Seanan about the time she was a phone sex operator.

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Apparently Star Wars wookies come in all kinds of girly colors.

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In the kind of ridiculous mashup you only see at Comic-Con, a mother and son cosplay as Ms. Frizzle (THE MAGIC SCHOOLBUS) and demon hunter Constantine.

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An incredibly accurate cosplay of the Floki character from the TV series Vikings.

13UrukHai

“What do you mean I can’t get into Hall H!?”

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“Your puny wall cannot keep us out, Donald Trump.”


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Interview with fantasy novelist Sherwood Smith

Sherwood Smith studied in Europe before earning a masters in history. She worked as a governess, a bartender, an electrical supply verifier, and wore various hats in the film industry before turning to teaching for 20 years. Her first book was published in 1986. To date she’s published over forty books, nominated for several awards, including the Nebula, the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award, and an Anne Lindbergh Honor Book.

SherwoodSmith

For what age audience do you write?

Anywhere from middle grade to adult. Mostly fantasy, with some science fiction, historical romance, and a couple of contemporary stories.

Tell us about your latest book.

My latest book is Lhind the Spy, sequel to Lhind the Thief.

Henry: Lhind sounds like a jack of all trades. Like her creator.

What do you hope readers will get from reading that book?

First and most important, entertainment! These are meant to be pleasant wish-fulfillment reads, though I can’t help slipping in explorations of family, moral awareness, and questions of personal agency.

What aspect of writing do you find most challenging?

Rewriting. I am a visual writer, which means I see the story in my head and write it down. That’s the easy fun part.

After that, the real struggle is to try to look past the images to determine if the words I’ve chosen actually get the images, sounds, tastes, and smells onto the page, or if they are just functioning as hypertext for rewinding the movie in my head, which does my reader no good, not having a functional tinfoil hat for me to beam my images directly to their brains!

Seeing what words I wrote down is difficult for me, and I can do upwards of twenty-five drafts for a tough scene, and still not be sure the words are the right ones.

Henry: I’m still trying to get the image out of you in a tinfoil hat out of my head.

What is a powerful lesson you’ve learned from being a writer?

That just because I might feel passionate, or deeply moved to the point of anguish, about something I wrote, the reader is not necessarily going to feel that passion. Though readers will often toss off a careless “That was a stupid book,” or “That sure was a piece of trash,” I think I can confidently say that no writer sets out to write a bad book. Behind every book is a writer who worked hard, and believes their book to be good, special, unique.

As for me, I have a tough time trying to find the words to get that passion across—and even if I manage successfully for one reader, I have learned from reading reviews that another reader will yawn and flit away to something they find more interesting.

Henry: I use the analogy of foods when I talk to my kids about writing. Some people may like pizza with anchovies, and others may not. Since it’s a matter of taste, they are both right.

What has been a memorable experience that you never would have had if you had not been a writer?

Someone writing to me to say that my book saved their life.

Henry: I. Cannot. Beat. That. Achievement unlocked.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Read, read, read. Read as widely as you can, about everything. Read outside your favorite area, so that you don’t end up rewriting the kind of story you love most. And if you do at first, that’s okay, because it’s good practice.

Observe real people doing real things. A writer needs to try to understand the world before she can reflect it—and maybe even change it. Learn how to rewrite earlier than I did, which means learning how to give and take critique in a constructive way. And most of all, have fun! If you don’t have fun, your reader won’t.

Henry: I can’t emphasize enough how helpful my critique groups are to improving my stories. If we have blind spots, we don’t know about them (by definition). So, outside pairs of eyes are invaluable.

Do you have any favorite quotes?

“It is certainly not then—not in dreams—but when one is wide awake, in moments of robust joy and achievement, on the highest terrace of consciousness, that mortality has a chance to peer beyond its own limits, from the mast, from the past and its castle tower. And although nothing much can be seen through the mist, there is somehow the blissful feeling that one is looking in the right direction.”
—Vladimir Nabokov, Speak, Memory

and

“But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.”
― George Eliot, Middlemarch

Do you have any strange rituals that you observe when you write?

Nope. I learned early to write anywhere, anytime, no matter how noisy or quiet. But when I was a young teen, I wrote everything by hand, and for a while I was so nearsighted (before I got glasses) that I bent closer and closer to the page, until my nose would sometimes get black ink on the end from touching the page. Especially when I wrote late at night by the light of the streetlamp across the street, while my sister was asleep in the other bed.

Henry: I hereby proclaim that “She’s got ink on her nose” to be an idiom denoting intensely hardworking.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

Immortality (with good health) because there is not nearly enough time to travel where I wish to, to learn the languages I would love to speak, to read all the books and hear all the music and see all the plays and talk to all the people.

Henry: No one’s asked for that in any of my other interviews, which is surprising given how useful that power would be.

If you could have three authors over for dinner, who would it be?

Jane Austen, Andrzej Tadeusz Bonawentura Kościuszko, and Christine de Pisan. I don’t know how much they would have to say to one another, assuming they could make themselves understood, but they all sound like they were endlessly witty and fascinating, the women would have a great deal to say about writing, culture, and the agency of women, and Kościuszko would have much to say about his sympathies and ardent beliefs in the rights and the freedoms of ordinary human beings, though he consorted with rulers of a number of countries.

Henry: My guests always forget to invite an interpreter. Wikipedia helpfully offers:

Andrzej Tadeusz Bonawentura Kościuszko – February 4 or 12, 1746 – October 15, 1817) was a Polish-Lithuanian military engineer and a military leader who became a national hero in Poland, Lithuania, Belarus, and the United States. He fought in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth’s struggles against Russia and Prussia, and on the American side in the American Revolutionary War. As Supreme Commander of the Polish National Armed Forces, he led the 1794 Kościuszko Uprising.

In 1796, Kościuszko emigrated to the United States. A close friend of Thomas Jefferson, with whom he shared ideals of human rights, Kościuszko wrote a will in 1798 dedicating his American assets to the education and freedom of U.S. slaves.

Christine de Pisan – 1364 – c. 1430 – was an Italian French late medieval author. She served as a court writer for several dukes (Louis of Orleans, Philip the Bold of Burgundy, and John the Fearless of Burgundy) and the French royal court during the reign of Charles VI. She wrote both poetry and prose works such as biographies and books containing practical advice for women. She completed forty-one works during her 30-year career from 1399–1429. She married in 1380 at the age of 15, and was widowed 10 years later. Much of the impetus for her writing came from her need to earn a living to support her mother, a niece and her two surviving children. She spent most of her childhood and all of her adult life in Paris and then the abbey at Poissy, and wrote entirely in her adopted language, Middle French.

What is your favorite creature that exists only in literature?

The phoenix, the bird of fire, light, and renewal.

Henry: Ironically, Phoenix, AZ is home to many snowbirds.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Travel, talk to people, listen to music, eat good food, play with the dogs, and of course read.

What would you like it to (accurately) say on your tombstone?

Sherwood Smith loved life.

Where can readers find your work?

All the usual on-line booksellers, plus sometimes brick and board stores might carry a few of my books. If one is to order on-line, I encourage people to try Book View Café, a consortium of writers whose volunteer labor means we get most of the royalties. My books with them are here: http://bookviewcafe.com/bookstore/bvc-author/sherwood-smith/

Henry: Thank you for joining us, Sherwood. This interview is also posted on the San Diego Children’s Books Examiner.


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Fun at WonderCon 2016

My sons and I made our annual pilgrimage to WonderCon to enjoy great art, revel in geekiness, and meet lots of interesting people. Here’s a samplingWC2016-05

Josh & Harrison outside the LA Convention Center

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The BACONNATION food truck. It’s porktastic!

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Not to be outdone is the Godzilla-themed MeSoHungry food truck.

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Why, yes, I WAS wondering what a Star Trek-cat mashup would look like. Scotty is a Scottish Fold! Chekhov should’ve been a Siberian.

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Captain Mexico and Mexican Punisher and a Trump pinata saying “Por ser un pendejo”. Well played, guys.

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Harrison as a dwarf barrel-rider from The Hobbit at The OneRing.net booth. He’s got the long hair – just needs a beard and some scale mail.

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My sons in front of our books at the Mysterious Galaxy booth.

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Josh with a Type-2 Energy Weapon, more commonly known as the Gravity Hammer – a powerful, two-handed melee weapon used by the Jiralhanae in the Covenant Empire. Or so I’m told.

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A quick photo prior to our panel. From right to left, authors: Barney Saltzberg, Josh Herz, Harrison Herz, Dan Santat, Bruce Hale, and Lisa Yee. Lisa was not part of our panel, but she is legally required to be present when Dan is in public. 🙂

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I secretly brought a furry trapper hat to make a THIS IS NOT MY HAT joke. Little did I suspect that all other four male panelists would be sporting hats. From right to left: Jon Klassen (including priceless expression), Antoinette Portis, Bruce Hale, Dan Santat, Barney Saltzberg, and Henry Herz.

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Me looking all moderatory while Bruce Hale answers a question from the audience.

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Me looking like the cat that ate the canary because I’m signing books with Jon Klassen, Antoinette Portis, Barney Saltzberg, Dan Santat, and Bruce Hale.

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This is Jon Klassen, but THIS IS NOT MY HAT. I’m wearing Bruce Hale’s famous fedora!


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Interview with Hugo Award-winning sci-fi & fantasy author Tim Pratt

Tim Pratt’s fiction has won a Hugo Award, and he’s been a finalist for Sturgeon, Stoker, World Fantasy, Mythopoeic, and Nebula Awards, among others. His books include three short story collections, most recently ANTIQUITIES AND TANGIBLES AND OTHER STORIES; a volume of poems; contemporary fantasy novels THE STRANGE ADVENTURES OF RANGERGIRL, BRIARPATCH, HEIRS OF GRACE, and THE DEEP WOODS; science fantasy THE NEX; steampunk novel THE CONSTANTINE AFFLICTION (as T. Aaron Payton); various roleplaying game tie-in fantasy novels; and, as T.A. Pratt, eight books (and counting) in an urban fantasy series about sorcerer Marla Mason. He edited anthology SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL and co-edited RAGS AND BONES: NEW TWISTS ON TIMELESS TALES with Melissa Marr. He works as a senior editor for Locus magazine, and lives in Berkeley, CA with his wife Heather Shaw and their son River. Find him online at timpratt.org.

PrattTim

For what age audience do you write?

I have published lots of adult novels and a couple of books aimed at middle-grade readers (age 8-12, more or less).

Tell us about your latest book.

It’s called THE DEEP WOODS, a novella (or short novel, depending on how you count) out from PS Publishing, a marvelous British small press. (The cover art by Galen Dara is fantastic. She’s so good.) It’s essentially a coming-of-age tale about a boy who gets lost in a mysterious wood full of supernatural weirdness, makes friends with another boy who’s trapped there, and tries to help him escape. With lots of fairy lore, video games, hairsbreadth escapes, jokes, banter, villainy, surprises, and sweetness. Suitable for readers from age ten on up, I would think. (My hope is that kids and adults will both find lots to like in it.)

Henry: I’m a huge fan of urban fantasy. This fall, my bedtime picture book, MABEL AND THE QUEEN OF DREAMS, will be published by Schiffer. It features the Fae Queen from Mercutio’s soliloquy in ROMEO AND JULIET. It’s like urban fantasy with training wheels. I’m getting young readers hooked so they’ll read your books as they get older. You’re welcome.

What do you hope readers will get from reading that book?

Pleasure, combined with an uncontrollable need to convince all their friends and family to buy copies.

Henry: Nice – working both the creative and business side of things with your answer.

What aspect of writing do you find most challenging?

I love drafting like I love eating ice cream or having sex; I love revising like I love doing logic puzzles; I love line-editing like I love perfectly organizing a bookshelf; I hate reviewing copyedits and the second round of proofreading because by then I’m getting pretty tired of my own words. They all have their own challenges, though.

Henry: I hear you. At less than 500 words, my picture books can sometimes have 20 revisions. I find the biggest challenge knowing when to stop revising.

What is a powerful lesson you’ve learned from being a writer?

The personal lesson is “I don’t know what I think about anything until I write it down.” A more universal lesson is discovering that stories are *really* important to people, and can really change the way they understand, and even live, their lives. As such, I don’t agree much with people who say “Calm down, it’s just a story.”

Henry: So true, particularly for young readers. I hear stories all the time about how books influence the path of people’s lives.

What has been a memorable experience that you never would have had if you had not been a writer?

I guess “nice meals with lots of writers” isn’t quite what you mean. I almost drowned in a hot tub at a writing workshop once after I had some drinks without accounting for how the high elevation would impact my tolerance.

Henry: Meeting other writers is a valid answer. Sure, blame the elevation on your lightweightedness. 

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Write a lot, and read more than you write.

Do you have any favorite quotes?

There are certainly things I say when the situation warrants:

“The best way out is always through” (from Frost, though I usually misquote it as “the only way out is through.”)
“De gustibus non est disputandum.” (Latin for “there’s no arguing about taste,” basically.)
“Not my circus, not my monkeys.”

Henry: I think Churchill said, “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” Your last one reminds me of John Bigboote from the movie Buckaroo Bonzai – “I’m not from this planet, monkey boy.” I always loved the idea that an alien would use an evolutionary slur to insult a human. And that he’d be particular about how his human alias was pronounced.

Do you have any strange rituals that you observe when you write?

I am opposed to rituals. I fear they would burn cognitive paths I would have trouble escaping. I like being able to write on buses or waiting rooms or bars.

Henry: Or drunk in Jacuzzis? The cognitive path less taken.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

The ability to stop time, because then I might finally have enough time to do everything.

Henry: That is the most popular answer to that question. Usually writers mention it as a way to help meet manuscript deadlines.

If you could have three authors over for dinner, who would it be?

I get to dine with living authors fairly often, so I’ll go with the dead: Joanna Russ, Theodore Sturgeon, and William Faulkner, who all hugely influenced me in different ways.

Henry: Hello and welcome to Dining with the Dead. I’m your host, Tim Pratt. That reminds me of the old Steve Allen TV show, Meeting of the Minds. Wikipedia helpfully offers:

“Joanna Russ was an American writer, academic and feminist. She is the author of a number of works of science fiction, fantasy and feminist literary criticism such as How to Suppress Women’s Writing, as well as a contemporary novel, On Strike Against God, and one children’s book, Kittatinny. She is best known for The Female Man, a novel combining utopian fiction and satire.”

“Theodore Sturgeon, born Edward Hamilton Waldo, was an American science fiction and horror writer and critic. The Internet Speculative Fiction Database credits him with about 400 reviews and more than 200 stories. Sturgeon’s most famous work may be the science fiction novel MORE THAN HUMAN (1953). MORE THAN HUMAN won the 1954 International Fantasy Award (for SF and fantasy) as the year’s best novel and the Science Fiction Writers of America ranked “BABY IS THREE” number five among the “Greatest Science Fiction Novellas of All Time” to 1964. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame inducted Sturgeon in 2000.”

William Faulkner – Shame on you, if you haven’t heard of him.

What is your favorite creature that exists only in literature?

The fauna of mirrors, which are rooted in Chinese mythology but were made more widely known in Borges’s BOOK OF IMAGINARY BEINGS (which inspired China Mieville’s fine short novel THE TAIN).

Henry: Great answer. The mirrors remind me of the “veil” often used in urban fantasy to separate our world from the world of the Fae. Once again, Wikipedia to the rescue:

“The Chinese myth suggest that an alternate universe exists beyond mirrors. Upon entering the fauna of mirrors nothing is like the world has ever seen. No color, shape, nor size is the same. The creatures that dwell within the fauna are not like any creatures that inhabit the earth. Once the fauna was open, and creatures from both dimensions could pass through freely. There was always harmony between the both worlds, but one day that harmony was disturbed and the worlds came to be at war with one another. In turn, the portal had to be closed to avoid controversy.”

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Work at my day job, play with my kid, hang out with my wife, drink whiskey, read books, watch horror movies, drink beer, eat cheese, wander around the Bay Area.

Henry: I’m looking you up the next time I’m in the Bay Area for an evening of whiskey, cheese and horror movies. We will stay well away from Jacuzzis.

What would you like it to say on your tombstone?

He Was Not Particularly Frightened By Goats

Henry: Nor Did Sheep Perturb Him… Though Pigs Vexed Him. I admire a man with realistic goals.

Where can readers find your work?

Bookstores, with luck, and all the usual places online. There are details at http://www.timpratt.org. Oh, and I have a Patreon, where I send a new story each month to supporters, so $1 a month gets you 12 stories a year: https://www.patreon.com/timpratt

Henry: Thanks for joining us, Tim! This interview is also posted on the San Diego Children’s Books Examiner.