Maps and Things

I meant to post this earlier, but today got away from me, so here I am: better late than not at all, right?

So I’ve been thinking about websites. My new novel, Blood Engines, is the first in an urban fantasy series (at least four books, and maybe more, if y’all buy a lot of copies of the first four). It comes out in about a month, so I’ve been working on adding some content to my website at www.marlamason.net (the main character’s name is Marla Mason, natch). Now, my website designing skills are stuck sometime in the ’90s, but my preferred aesthetic is for clean, simple, elegant designs, so I’m not too bad off — I wouldn’t have a lot of fancy stuff on the page anyway, even if I knew how to do it.

But presentation is secondary to content. Content is king, right? I put up a short story featuring the characters from the series. I made a separate page for reviews, though there’s not much there yet, just some advance blurbs and early notices. I had a main page with some pretty cover art (by Dan Dos Santos, long may he continue to make my books look so good) and some blurbage and verbiage about the novel. It was all very minimal. This past week I got inspired (or else I got bored; the difference is sometimes difficult for me to ascertain). So I added the first chapter of the novel (which is, I think, the best advertisement I can have for the book, apart from the aforementioned pretty cover), and then I wrote a snarky and (I hope) funny Dramatis Personae introducing the important characters (and, um, one important object. Dramatis Objectae?).

Finally I put up a map of my main character’s home city. Which is perhaps a strange choice, since the city is only mentioned in the first book, and doesn’t serve as a setting until book two, which will be out in seven months. Also, there’s the fact that I have the drafting skills of a monkey with spatial perception disorder. Nevertheless, I drew my crude map, and scanned it in, and wept at its hideousness, and fiddled with it in photoshop to make it less hideous, but, oh, boy, it’s still crude. I can only hope it’s charmingly crude.

Now I wonder — what else should I do? Some people have suggested that quizzes are fun. Perhaps that could be fun, though I’m not sure what site/program/quizmaker thingy to use. (Nor am I sure I can actually write a quiz, but I’ll try anything once.) Apart from that, well, unless people start sending me fan art I’m stumped. There’s precious little point in a discussion board at this point, since the books aren’t actually out. I begin to suspect that I’m just spinning my wheels, trying to exert some control on the uncontrollable (in this case “the uncontrollable” is “the success of my book”), trying to eff the ineffable. Still, it comforts me to be doing something, even if that something is just hand-coding HTML (shut up. I like hand coding. I find it very zen. Though if you look at my source code and have any knowledge of web design you will shudder and weep.) Futzing with my website is not exactly writing-avoidance behavior. It’s worry-avoidance behavior. And as such, I guess it has some value.

And, who knows, maybe some aspiring cartographer will see my map and realize their own feeble mapmaking skills aren’t so bad after all.

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  1. 1. Marie Brennan

    I quite liked the excerpt; good job selling me on Marla without falling into the sorts of pitfalls that would make her sound shrill or bitchy instead of engaging. (Though — pssst — it’s haruspicy, not haruspexy.)

    I tend toward keeping everything integrated into one website, rather than breaking stuff out for individual books; that way, I can provide content that isn’t book-specific, like essays or info on my short stories. Not sure what else you could post for this novel before it comes out.

  2. 2. Tim Pratt

    (Though — pssst — it’s haruspicy, not haruspexy.)

    Marla doesn’t think so. :)

  3. 3. Sarah Prineas

    One thing my publisher told me about the website is that readers (and this may be more true of kid readers…?) want to know more about the author than they get from the bio on the back flap. Frex, I told them that I write on a black MacBook with a dragon sticker on it, and they loved that (It’ll be on the website, anyway!). Also, even non-writers are interested in the writer’s process–I know this for sure from watching Good Ol’ Mike Jasper give a presentation to a bunch of Iowans at a public library out in Dyersville. He got TONS of questions–genuine interest–about how he writes. Even little things, like “I get my best ideas while doing the dishes,” are interesting.

    Lessee, what else. Well, you know I like the quiz idea. Haddayr suggested, for my site, outtakes from the book/cut scenes, letters from one character to another, journal entries, recipes, stuff like that. And Harper’s putting all that stuff on the microsite they’re doing for MT, so it must be viable. The DVD extras, to riff on what Toby blogged about today (!).

    Good luck with it!!

  4. 4. Lisa

    Really, really sorry to be nitpicky, but since you mentioned it, I had to go look at the code.

    It’s decently clean, though your capitalization scheme within the tags is wacky. Also, you misspelled “sans-serif” 4 times in the body CSS and the page padding is creating a horizontal scrollbar even on my 1280 screen.

    But I agree, coding HTML is very zen.

  5. 5. Tim Pratt

    Thanks, guys! I’ll keep pondering the subject.

    Lisa: Yep. My code is a mess. (In my defense, I cut-and-pasted chunks of that CSS from, hmm, I forget where, so they’re the ones who misspelled sans-serif! Though I must take credit for the misspelling of haruspicy in the novel excerpt. Call it a draw.) Perhaps someday I will be rich and famous and have web elves to do these things for me. :)

Author Information

Tim Pratt

Tim Pratt's stories have appeared in The Best American Short Stories, The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror, and other nice places, and have been nominated for Nebula and Hugo awards. Some of his short work is gathered in two collections: Little Gods, and Hart & Boot & Other Stories. His first novel, The Strange Adventures of Rangergirl, was a 2006 Mythopoeic Award finalist. His Marla Mason series of urban fantasy novels, written under the name T.A. Pratt, begin in October 2006 with Blood Engines, and continue for (at least) three volumes after that. He lives in Oakland California. Visit site.

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