new year, new site, new project


TL;DR: I am writing, or furiously attempting to write, two novels in 20 days, and posting all first draft copy as well as daily notes and occasional essays to Come stop by.

Hi all. I’m a little late with this, mostly due to frantically getting things up and running the past few days, but I have things to say! And a place to say them! So I’m running out of excuses for not getting them said.

I have a new author site. I haven’t decided the division of labor between the sites yet; as I imagine it, Cobbler & Bard will be pretty business-focused, the Pulchrifex Papers will continue to aggregate random non-writing-related stuff that grabs my interest, and if C&B takes off then PP will probably slowly die. Further bulletins as events warrant.

For those of you who do follow this site in any measure out of interest in my fiction, you should know that NOT ONLY will C&B be hosting that stuff in general in future, BUT ALSO I have a huge writing and meta-writing initiative that I’m posting up there RIGHT NOW, and will be through all of January. This is surely the place to start—so surely, in fact, that it’s sort of mind-croggling that there isn’t a permalink to that somewhere on the blog page, ah well another thing to do oh god.

And I am now officially way over my allotment of social media time for the day. So I do sincerely hope to see you over at C&B, and please share and comment if you like what I’m doing.

Henson on genre, part deux

On The Muppet Show, the young and annoyingly earnest Scooter gets to have his way—because his uncle owns the theater. Kermit, in order to put on his show, must keep him happy. Scooter suggests a number with a dancing poodle.

Kermit says, “It sounds, said the frog, displaying his artistic judgment, sappy.”

Scooter mentions his uncle.

Kermit adapts: “It sounds, said the frog, displaying his will to survive, wonderful.”

Ibid. (I’ve just discovered the “your Kindle highlights” page on Amazon — can you tell?)

Jim Henson talks about genre without talking about genre

[Henson:] I didn’t call him a frog.

[Interviewer:] Right, he was just Kermit the thing.

[Henson:] Yeah, all the characters in those days were abstract because that was part of the principle I was working under.… I still like very much the abstract characters and some of those abstract characters I still feel are slightly more pure. If you take a character and you call him a frog, or like Rowlf, our dog, call him a dog, you immediately give the audience a handle. You’re assisting the audience to understand; you’re giving them a bridge or an access. And if you don’t give them that, if you keep it more abstract, it’s almost more pure. It’s a cooler thing. It’s a difference of a sort of warmth and cool.… [I]n terms of going commercial and going broad audience, you want to reach the audience as much as possible, and you need those bridges.

Quoted in MAKE ART MAKE MONEY, Elizabeth Hyde Stevens

short fiction update

A few things brewing in the short fiction arena, though nothing along the lines of “sold a story somewhere” —

  • “Your Voice Everywhere I Go” is still at, where it’s been for nearly a year now; as before, this means some of the editors liked it, but the acquiring editors have yet to look at it, or at any rate have yet to decide.
  • “Continents of Summer, Firmaments of Sun” was rejected from THE COMMON and has been at ASIMOV’S for a couple of weeks now. No reason for optimism that it’ll be accepted, but at least I’m moving forward with it.
  • I’ve finished a draft of the first Department of Crimes against Scum story, tentatively titled “Suicide Scum.” Not totally sure what to do with it. It definitely needs revision; I think the next question is whether I bother trying to sell it or just put it straight on Wattpad and the stores.
  • “Dispatch from a Colored Room” continues to syndicate drib-by-drab on Wattpad, but it’s now finalized, so I could self-publish it whenever I want. I guess there’s not really a good reason to wait. (“Dispatch” is meant to be a free introduction to THE DANDELION KNIGHT, so there’s not a whole lot of point in trying to sell it.)
  • Perhaps most interestingly, I’ve either been invited or invited myself (sort of hard to say) to a Wattpad anthology of stories about summer. I’m simultaneously trying out a couple of things, one a typical-for-me wistful near-future literaryish story called “Summer Sister,” and one a story in the world of THE EIGHTH KING called “Sack of the Summer Palace.” I think I like the latter better, and will finish it regardless, but may not be able to keep it below the word limit.

This is mostly to remind myself that things are happening in my creative sphere, despite my constant nagging feeling like nothing is getting done.

Oh, right, here’s the first paragraph of “Sack of the Summer Palace”:

The Rafters of the World are justly and unjustly famed for many things. The mandarins of the Orchid Court praise the refinements of poetry, strategy, and agriculture that have draped our dry and craggy lands with the rich silk of a flourishing society; the lamas of the White Way praise the favor of the deities that brought us the great prayer-engines of the Iron Harvest, whose secrets are like oysters, sweet to the persistent mind and lacerating to the hasty; the half-civilized zealots of the River whisper in fear of our deadly snakes, which they describe in terms that violate the precepts of physics and physiology, and croon with longing at the merest mention of our unremarkable goats. But even the albino barbarians, who betimes blow in on the spars of shattered ships or stumble arrow-pierced across our border with the Grass, are clear on one thing: Ua is not a warm realm. Warm days there are, aye, and warm regions, especially in the south of Degyen where the tableland begins its kowtow to the sea; but the kingdom’s fame is for chill cliffs, tree-deep avalanches, bears and tigers with fur enough to hide a brace of Therku lumberjacks and warm their lunchpails.

the department of crimes against scum

I’ve been playing around with a concept. Imagine a near-future police procedural whose animating conceit is “The Department of Crimes against Scum,” an informal division of the police force that puts subcompetent detectives on crimes that no one really wants solved. The reason to make it near-future is to heighten the contrast with the sci-fi technosupercops who get the good crimes, and so I can fudge details about science and police procedure. “Of course I can get his location from his DNA—IT’S THE FUTURE.” Anyway, trying to worm my way into a short story here. First draft copy for sure, but maybe it has legs?

Penelope Jin ran her finger through a smear on a shard of plate glass fanging a shop window newly open to the bay breeze. “I have a suspect in custody,” she said to no one in particular, waggling the red-tipped finger around as though she was trying to figure out which way the wind was blowing.

“We know who did it,” said Peter Stone, looking over the scene: scorch marks, atomized gore, tooth and bone shards and bits of white cloth over a cordoned-off length of Third Street, just in front of the Bayview Opera House (which itself showed no scars). “We’re supposed to figure out whether he was acting alone.”

Jin contemplated her finger. “So you’re saying this could be two suspects.”

“Jesus, Jin, you know what I’m talking about,” he said. “Was he acting alone. As in, will this happen again?”

Jin sucked thoughtfully on the red finger; Stone turned away with a retching noise. “Hate crimes are usually associated with hate groups,” she mused. “But hate crimes against hate groups? Are there anti-hate-group groups? Is anyone missing from the local offices of the NAACP?”

“It’s not a hate crime if it’s against a hate group,” said Stone.

“Now you’re thinking like them,” Jin said darkly.

“Like who? The NAACP?”

“No,” said Jin. “You didn’t answer my question.”

“You didn’t answer my question.”

“You didn’t answer my question first.”

“They’re not going to tell us,” Stone said, as though reminding a child which shoe goes on which foot.

“The NAACP? Please, give me a pliers and five minutes with an intern and I’ll get the social security numbers of those people’s super PAC donors, hippies have no spine whatsoever in the clutch—”

“Not the NAACP, the department.”

“There’s your answer.”


“Shut up, rookie. Call it in.”

“You’re the rookie!”

“Yes, that’s what they keep telling you, isn’t it?” Jin murmured. She pursed her lips and made an odd sucking noise with her closed mouth. “Ah, that’s what I wanted to hear.”


“They haven’t locked me out of all the databases yet,” she said, almost dreamily. “This is living, Stone. This is how real work gets done. No janky intranet, no keyboards dusted with Cheeto pollen and lacquered with donut cum, no eight-inch monitor inside a three-ton cubical box with pixels the size of cold sores. How is it you people don’t hang yourselves with your own viscera every Goddamn day?”

the wattpad experiment

A couple of weeks back, I wrote about Wattpad. Since then I’ve published the stories that Amazon still hasn’t price-matched, but I’ve been a little bit reluctant to post new work, or work that’s for sale elsewhere. But I’m now far enough along with a work in progress that I think it’s worth doing.

For those who care about the “business” angle, the work in progress is a novelette or novella (it’s not done, so I’m not sure) set in the world of THE DANDELION KNIGHT, titled “Dispatch from a Colored Room.” I don’t intend ever to sell it; its role is to be a free introduction to the series. The Wattpad version will be somewhat unpolished, but I will assuredly post it to my various ebook retailers and try to make it free as soon as it’s actually done. So those of you who don’t have Wattpad accounts can wait for that, although I wish you wouldn’t. To encourage you to follow along, here are the cover and an excerpt:


They do not teach you, in the offices of Dawnroad Bank, how much it strains your credibility with clients when you’re standing on their doorstep shivering hard enough that you’re actually a little out of breath from it. Dawnroad Bank does not often pay personal visits to clients in the boondocks of the sinistral sixth. But Dawnroad Bank never leaves money on the table.

Think about where that’s gotten them now, when the skies are split like the bellies of week-drowned rats and you can’t take a bite of bread without gritting your teeth on black bone-ash.

Some of you are going to want me to get to the point. You know that’s not how it works. Who’s here tonight? I see Aurea Laclois, the only woman in this room brave enough to admit she’s whored to live so she could walk this stage; I see Ambrose Chrysaor, who still can’t talk after a Champion nearly strangled him backstage for the crime of playing his part too well. Everyone here has suffered something like, and not for any “point,” because any geometer will tell you that a point is defined as nothing. A thousand points adds up to empty space. And you’re here, listening to me, because you know it.

field work

Yesterday I did a little bit of field work for THE EIGHTH KING at the Princeton University art museum, which has an amazing collection of (among other things) Chinese art:

The Princeton art museum.

At the Princeton art museum, w/colleague.

Chinese temple guardian

Chinese temple guardian.

Another temple guardian.

Another temple guardian.

Tomb figurines.

Tomb figurines.



Fantastical animals.

Fantastical animals.