Kelly McCullough writes fantasy, science fiction, and books for kids of varying ages. He lives in Wisconsin with his physics professor wife and a small herd of cats. His novels include the WebMage and Fallen Blade series — Penguin/ACE, and the forthcoming School for Sidekicks — Feiwel and Friends/Macmillan. His short fiction has appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies. He also dabbles in science fiction as science education with The Chronicles of the Wandering Star — part of an NSF-funded science curriculum — and the science comic Hanny & the Mystery of the Voorwerp, which he co-authored and co-edited — funding provided by NASA and the Hubble Space Telescope. Kelly on Twitter, Facebook, G+, ello

Friday Cat Blogging

October 14, 2016 in Cat Things, Friday Cat Blogging, Pets and other friends

Have you seen my monkey? I can’t find him anywhere.*


No monkeys here, but the feather toy is all MINE!


This is not my monkey. Is he down there?


Monkeys are overrated.


Yes, naps are better than monkeys any day.


I has a monkey, and he loves me.


I would also like to have a monkey, but he is out of reach!


Where oh where is my monkey? Is he hiding under this shirt?


Oh well. If you find my monkey, please tell him to come give me pets.


*With thanks to Matt Kuchta, Mandy Little, and Neil Gaiman for guest kitties.

Endorsements: Clinton and Feingold

October 14, 2016 in Politics/Public Service, Speaking Up

I don’t often post political things here on my blog because this webpage is primarily about the author side of my life even though I am also an elected county supervisor here in Wisconsin, or what most people think of as a county commissioner. This is one of the rare times where I’m going to go ahead and violate that soft rule and put on my politician hat for a few moments and make a couple of public endorsements.

First and foremost, I’m going to endorse Hillary Clinton for the office of president. I’m doing this both because I believe that she will make an excellent president and because I believe Donald Trump represents a genuine threat to American Democracy and that this election is a defining ethical moment for American voters.

On the one hand we can vote Hillary Clinton, an incredibly smart and capable woman who has dedicated her life to public service. She is a hard worker, a deep thinker about policy, and a tireless advocate for the most vulnerable among us. She has made mistakes, but I know of no human being who hasn’t and I strongly believe that she has learned from hers and used them as a spur to drive herself to do better the next time.

On the other hand we have Donald Trump, a man who has spent his lifetime building monuments to his ego, and who has built a campaign on feeding the worst impulses in the American character. From day one hatred, racism, bigotry, xenophobia, and misogyny have formed the underpinnings of his pitch to the American people and he has doubled down on those themes at every step of the way. The revelations of October are no surprise to those who have actually been paying attention to what he has said. This is who Donald Trump is, a narcissistic egotist who would cheerfully burn the world down if he thought it might warm his hands.

The choice between the two is very clear, and it my sincere hope that we will soon have the opportunity to address Hillary Clinton as Madam President.

I am also going to endorse Russ Feingold for Senator of my own state of Wisconsin. Again I have a number of reasons for doing  this. Number one, I believe that we need to send Hillary Clinton to the White House with a firm majority in both the house and senate.

We have seen what a Republican majority looks like in both of those bodies under the current political climate, and it is a never-ending string of opposition for opposition’s sake. The current Republican party has decided that its own political fortunes are more important than the health and well-being of the country, and they must lose and lose badly if they are ever to have any chance of returning to being a responsible political party who advances the country’s interests over their own.

I do not say this lightly or with any happiness. I believe that it is important to have a sane and responsible conservative party to keep those of us on the liberal side of things sharp and honest. Sadly, that party does not currently exist, and our current Senator Ron Johnson is a perfect example of the worst of today’s obstructionist Republican party. He needs to be retired.

So I am happy to endorse Russ Feingold, who has served in the Senate before under both Republican and Democratic presidents with honor and distinction. I don’t agree with every decision he has made, and some of them have irritated me deeply, but I believe that he has always made his choices based on what he believes is best for the country and best for Wisconsin.



Friday Cat Blogging

October 7, 2016 in Cat Things, Friday Cat Blogging, Pets and other friends

A Bear and Viking may fall in love, but where would they live?


Is this a riddle?


Practical question.


Well then, Massachusetts. Obviously.

From all the cats here at Chez McCullough,

Congratulations my Favorite Bear and her Viking!*


*For them as don’t know it, I’m referring to Elizabeth Bear and Scott Lynch, who are getting themselves hitched here shortly.


Friday Cat Blogging

September 30, 2016 in Critique, Friday Cat Blogging, Pets and other friends


I don’t even…


This is my dubious face.




Is there something wrong with that cat?


She thinks she’s an egg, or a bird, or…something.


So, that’d be a yes.


I like eggs and birds and somethings. They is all delicious!


Bored with twitter now. Going back to napping.


There Are 1,001 Right Ways To Write A Story

September 30, 2016 in Writing

I know that many writers need to disengage the critic* parts of their brain in order to create. But that’s not me.

Artist and critic go down the road hand in hand. That because my critic is more of a structural engineer to my artist as architect.

For me writing a novel is a lot like building a bridge. I know exactly where the banks are, and I have a good sense of the river bed.

Sometimes, I’ll find that in one of the places I wanted to put down a pier the river bed is spongy or otherwise won’t support the weight.

Then, I have to get creative about building a good foundation for that anchor point in the greater span, and it might take extra time.

But the real trick comes in building the arches to bridge gaps between supports. That can be tough, especially if I had to move a supporting pier.

By the time I put foot on the far shore, the bridge is usually sound and ready to cross, even if the deck might need significant smoothing.

The idea of wild experimenting off to the sides is alien to my process. Bridges fail when you do that, but others are building different sorts of paths.

I think that the key thing to know is that there are 1,001 right ways to write a story, and what you as writer need to do is find the right one for you even if it sounds crazy or completely unworkable to every other writer you know.

*inspired by this twitter post series by Hall Duncan  in response to another one by Chuck Windig. Both screen capped below.

screen-shot-2016-09-30-at-11-00-58-am screen-shot-2016-09-30-at-11-02-14-am

Tales From the Other Side of My Life

September 28, 2016 in About Kelly, Politics/Public Service

Last night was one of those great meetings where it was genuinely fun to be an elected official. Agenda item: awards and recognition.

In addition to being an author, I’m what most people think about as a county commissioner, though that’s not the language we use here. My county is a largely rural, midwestern county with a university town in our micro-metro area, part of which I represent.

Last summer our local 4H cow judging team took the state championship, and then went on to nationals where they also won. This is unusual for two reasons, my county is relatively tiny and most state teams are an all star slate instead of a single county team.

Until they came before the board to present on that last fall, I didn’t even know we had a cow judging team, much less what it does. But they cheerfully educated us on the topic.

Having won nationals, our cow judging team was invited to the international competition in Scotland. The county helped pay their way. Last night they came back in to report on how they did and to thank us.

Fun for me both because we helped them along and because I have spent many happy weeks in Scotland where I was married in 1994. So, lots of slides of places I know.

But, even better, they did very well. For the world cow judging competition, they split our four person team into two sub teams. They took 3rd and 6th place. They also took 1st individual, and 1st individual for showmanship.

The young woman who was their lead person on the report was the one who took 1st individual. She was poised smart, and focused. She was also a dead ringer for Hermione Granger, which warmed my geeky heart.

So, why do I bring all of this up?

Because, these smart and talented young people from a tiny rural county were significantly helped by local government. Too often, we hear about government getting it wrong. I thought it was worth pointing out a place where government got it right.

It’s also worth pointing out that in a representative democracy, WE are the government. Me more directly than many, but it always comes down to us, either as the people making and implementing policy, or as voters choosing who will do those things for us.

This is exactly why I am now serving my 5th term despite low compensation, and the drain on time and energy that I could be sinking into my primary job of writing fiction. Because it’s important, and someone needs to do it.

Me And My Creative Brain: A Dialogue.

September 26, 2016 in About Kelly, Kelly Vs. Morning, Silly

Brain: Ooh ooh ooh!
Me: What? It’s three in the morning.
Brain: I figured out the whole unicorn thing.
Me: What? The? Hell?
Brain: No, it’s great.
Me: It’s not great, it’s three in the morning.
Brain: No, I’ve got this.
Me: All right, It’s obvious you won’t let me sleep. Tell me.
Brain: *assuming an erudite English accent* It’s the equinox!
Me: …the hell.
Brain: *in accent* You see, the mistake is easy. Vernal instead of virginal. Right?
Me: *blinking* Not sure where you’re going with this…
Brain: *in accent* And equinox. Equi meaning center and nox…well, it doesn’t mean horn, but it sounds like ox and oxes have horns. Easy mistake.
Me: *in accent* First, it’s oxen…oh gods, now I’m doing it.
Brain: *in accent* See! It makes perfect sense. Vernal equinox and virginal unicorns.
Me: Go back to sleep, brain.
Brain: *drops accent* Not till we tell Laura, she’s going to want to hear this.
Me: Not at three in the morning.
Brain: Sure she will.
Me: I may not be _good_ at self preservation but I’m pretty sure on this one.
Brain: *pouts*
Me: *sigh* All right, I promise I’ll jot it all down and we can tell her first thing in the morning.
Me: Brain?
Me: You’re asleep already aren’t you?
Brain: *snores*
Me: Fucker.

Addendum from a few hours later with Laura.

Me: *sighs* My fucking brain.
Her: That’d be a good autobiography title for you.
Me: O.o
Her: *chuckles*

Friday Cat Blogging

September 23, 2016 in Cat Things, Friday Cat Blogging, Pets and other friends

Just take the damn picture and let me get back to sleep.


Like dis!


Even looking at that makes me all yaaaaaaaaaaawnie.


You McCullough cats are super lazy.



Daily Writing Habits

September 20, 2016 in About Kelly, Professionalism, Writing

I was asked when I write and for how long, but there’s no simple answer because time at keyboard has never been my writing metric. So, it can vary quite a bit day-to-day and has varied even more over time.
When I was starting out I wrote mostly in the late afternoons and evenings after my college coursework, from 4-6 hours. While Laura was in grad school I wrote 6-8 hours a day most days while she was at school—basically 10-6.
For the early Blade books I was writing mostly 9-12 in the morning with a second, smaller bite at the apple starting around 2. With the later Blade books and middle grade stuff I’ve often been doing most of my writing 3-5 in afternoon.
Some of the variability is writing speed. When I was starting out I wrote 2-4k words in 6-8 hours, of which maybe 1-2 was ultimately salvageable. Now I typically need to write 1-2k words a day for a deadline and I can use 85-95% of what goes on the page in a session. That can take anywhere from 1-6 hours to write depending on whether I know what happens next or not and if I’m in flow state.
I also used to do most of my thinking about the book while I was at the keyboard and trying to write. These days, that part of the work is quite often a separate step that involves walking and talking to myself. That, and I have a lot more non-writing tasks that are part of my job these days.

Friday Cat Blogging

September 16, 2016 in Bees, Cat Things, Friday Cat Blogging, Pets and other friends

So, I’ve been thinking about running for president…


We will totally vote for you!


Wait, was that hive full of angry bees?


We’re in too!


That’s like ten pounds of hen of the woods mushrooms.


Well, actually, mushrooms are known for being informed voters.

Wait, who’s the frog voting for?