Jeremiah Willstone and the Sorting of the Secret Post

May 21st, 2015

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If you love steampunk, flash fiction, or cool things printed on paper, come by Clockwork Alchemy this weekend. I’m pleased to announce that Thinking Ink Press is printing two pieces of ephemera for the con – the flash fiction Instant Book “Jagged Fragments” and the short story Snapbook “Jeremiah Willstone and the Sorting of the Secret Post.”

I had hoped we’d have JEREMIAH WILLSTONE AND THE CLOCKWORK TIME MACHINE ready for Clockwork Alchemy, but Debra, my editor at Bell Bridge Books, thought we should focus on getting Dakota Frost #3, LIQUID FIRE, out first – and she was right. That’s out right now, in fact, just in time for the con – I got the books early this week.

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But Betsy Miller of Thinking Ink Press suggested that I put something together for the con, thinking of three pieces I already had – the flash fiction pieces “The Secret of the T-Rex’s Arms” and “If Looks Could Kill” and the essay “The Rules Disease“. Not to be daunted by taking on too much, I decided I wanted a piece teasing THE CLOCKWORK TIME MACHINE.

So I wrote a brand new short story just for the occasion, “The Sorting of the Secret Post”.

Hand-printed copies of these books will be available at the con. We aren’t sure what we’ll do with these in the future – the beauty of instant books (books printed on a single sheet of paper) and snap books (chapbooks printed on conventional printers) is that they can be printed on demand for an event. We call them “ephemera” and they enable us to experiment with the printed word.

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Here you see Keiko O’Leary of TIP folding instant books (and Liza Olmsted of TIP scowling at a tax form). The editions we’ve produced this time just came together in time for the con. You can’t even have the first ones – Nathan Vargas of TIP bought the very first copies of both books, one-of-a-kinds that will never come around again.

“The Sorting of the Secret Post” in particular is a direct prequel to THE CLOCKWORK TIME MACHINE, but it isn’t clear whether we’ll reprint it once the book from Bell Bridge is out (though I hope we will, we haven’t decided). So come on down and get your copies … because whatever they become in the future, they’ll be something different.

-the Centaur

At Clockwork Alchemy this Memorial Day

May 18th, 2015

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This Memorial Day weekend, I’ll be at the Clockwork Alchemy conference in the Author’s Salon. I’ll have on hand the new steampunk anthology TWELVE HOURS LATER, plus of course the newly released third Dakota Frost, Skindancer book LIQUID FIRE, which, despite the presence of an airship, is firmly an urban fantasy novel.

If I’m not at my table, I will likely be appearing at:

  • The Science of Airships Saturday, May 23 from 2pm – 3pm in the San Juan Workshop Room
  • Steampunk Comics Saturday, May 23 from 6pm to 7pm in the Author’s Salon.
  • Writing Steampunk: Sunday, May 24 from 2pm to 3 pm in the Carmel Fashion Room

In addition to TWELVE HOURS LATER and LIQUID FIRE … I may have something else at the table. Stay tuned.

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-the Centaur

Meanwhile, at the Hall of Justice

May 18th, 2015

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There’s a current brouhaha in science fiction circles in which one group of (largely conservative) authors and bloggers (whom I read) got upset about how they were being treated by another group of (largely liberal) authors and bloggers (whom I also read) – and decided to stuff the nomination ballots for the Hugos to show how irritated they were.

The situation isn’t black and white – there are legitimate complaints on both sides – but it isn’t symmetric either: regardless of any legitimate differences, the side of the ballot-stuffers has engaged in some truly egregious behavior towards their fellow writers, towards the integrity of the awards process – and towards their fellow human beings.

Their complaint is that science fiction is being invaded by “social justice warriors” who put message over story, but, as one of my friends put it, you know you’re in trouble when your name for your enemies includes the word “justice”.

I am a social justice warrior.

I may have been raised in a conservative environment, I may have been a College Republican, I may be a devotee of Ayn Rand and my philosophy may be steeped in libertarian ideas … but I know what social justice is, I know why we need it, and I am proud to be one of the ones fighting for it.

Social justice is the simple concept that our society is structured in a way that systematically disadvantages certain groups, and that it is our moral responsibility to take positive action to make sure that our society does not continue to abuse them. That’s it, and both the factual premise and the moral conclusion drawn from it are simply true.

It’s your responsibility to understand the kind of society in which you live, to recognize how it is stacked against some groups of people within it, and to try to level the deck, and, because this advocates change, it often gets associated more with liberals trying to improve our world rather than conservatives trying to preserve what’s already good about it.

But your responsibility to work towards social justice does not mean that it’s your obligation to support the policies of some particular liberal who happens to think that he or she owns social justice. Ronald Reagan had a point when he said “Yet any time you and I question the schemes of the do-gooders, we’re denounced as being opposed to their humanitarian goals.”

Our society stacks the deck against all kinds of people: all races, creeds and colors; liberals and conservatives, the marginalized and the rich, laborers and businessmen, criminals and the honest. There’s almost no place in our society where some collection of wealth or poverty, some amassed prejudice or complacency, or some unjust law or lawlessness doesn’t trap someone in a place where they get the short end of the stick – and the policies that cause this are both liberal and conservative.

But one of the biggest traps we’ve had is sexual prejudice: the discrimination against and marginalization of people based on their sexual orientation, identity, or preferences. When I was growing up, being “gay” was an insult; when I was a teenager, it was OK to marginalize and mock gay people; when I was in college, memorably, a young gay man was beaten, tied to a fence, and left to die. We’ve come a long, long way since Stonewall … but we still have a lot farther to go.

That’s why I’m so proud to see LIQUID FIRE appear high on the list of Lesbian, Gay, Transgender and Bisexual eBooks on Amazon. Dakota Frost, the protagonist of my series, is bisexual (and so am I) and my series is filled with as many races, genders and politics as I can fit: white and black, gay and bisexual and straight, liberal and conservative and noncommittal.

But my first goal is always to tell a good story.

When I start writing a Dakota Frost book, I have a little formula: I pick an alternative culture practice and make it magical, I pick a monster and a guest monster, and I pick a disability. For FROST MOON, that was magical tattooing, werewolves and vampires, and blindness; in BLOOD ROCK that was magical graffiti, vampires and werewolves (just switching the prominence), and Tourette’s Syndrome; in LIQUID FIRE, that was magical firespinning, dragons and vampires, and deafness.

But those are only seeds: I let each of those things give me ideas … then I give them the prominence that they deserve as I tell the story. For example, in FROST MOON and BLOOD ROCK, the disability was an important plot hinge, making things happen; in LIQUID FIRE, the disability was a feature in the background – still important to the plot, but not center stage.

The same is true of race, or politics, or sexual identity. I include them in my stories because they exist. Showing people both black and white in Atlanta represents the real racial makeup of Atlanta. Making my protagonist date first a conservative agent and then a liberal activist represents the real political makeup of America. And having my bisexual protagonist date a man in one book and a woman in one book represents the real nature of sexual relations in our world. But it always serves the story.

My books depict magic because it’s fun and entertaining, but deep down, they represent a reality: they use that reality to ground the tales of the fantastic so that you can stay engaged and interested. But even reality must serve the story: good books employ not realism, but verisimilitude: the carefully crafted appearance of reality which orchestrates a reader’s perceptions to compensate for the fact that they’re reading the “reality” depicted in the book, not actually living it. Authors are always slicing and dicing reality to make sure that their readers are captivated by their tales, and I’m no different.

My goal is for everyone to be captivated by my books. But by showing that last slice of reality, the one often sliced out – the slice that shows the full spectrum of sexual expression in our world – I hope my books do more than captivate everyone; I hope they provide a small ray of hope for anyone different who wonders whether there’s anyone like them – and gives them a hero they can relate to.

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Her name’s Dakota Frost. I think she’s pretty cool. Go check her out.

-the Centaur

P.S. David Colby was the friend who came up with the phrases “you’re in trouble when your name for your enemies includes the word justice” and “because they exist,” and while I already had similar ideas, I have shamelessly stolen his wording. :-)

It’s Official

May 15th, 2015

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After what seems like forever attending as a fan, and at least a decade of being an Eternal Member, it’s finally official: I’m a “guest” of Dragon Con:

Anthony Francis

By day, Anthony Francis works on search engines and robots; by night, he writes science fiction and draws comic books. He’s the author of the Dakota Frost, Skindancer series including Frost Moon, Blood Rock, and Liquid Fire, and is the co-author of the 24 Hour Comic Day Survival Guide.

Technically I’m an “Attending Professional” as I am at San Diego Comic Con, but at least now I will appear in the program, which will hopefully make it a bit easier to find out where I am supposed to be.

Last year, I was about to head to dinner with a friend and recalled that there was an interesting sounding panel. “Hang on a bit,” I said over the phone, “let me see who’s on this panel.” I checked. I was listed as one of the panelists. I quickly excused myself from dinner and ran down to the Writing Track, about a minute or two before the panel started. “So,” I asked, “who’s moderating?” All eyes swiveled to me, and I quickly pulled out the program to figure out exactly what I was supposed to be moderating.

It was a great panel. But I like a little warning, and hopefully being a bit more official this year will help.

See you at Dragon Con Labor Day weekend, or if you’re in the Bay Area, at Clockwork Alchemy this Memorial Day weekend … if you bring me a copy of LIQUID FIRE, I’ll sign it for you. I might even sign other books too. :-)

-Anthony

LIQUID FIRE and TWELVE HOURS LATER

May 6th, 2015

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I think I’ll be posting this everywhere for a while … LIQUID FIRE, my third novel, is now available for preorder on Amazon. I talk a bit more about this on the Dakota Frost blog, but after a lot of work with beta readers, editing, and my editor, I’m very proud of this book, which takes Dakota out of her comfort zone in Atlanta and brings her to the San Francisco Bay, where she encounters romance, danger, magic, science, art, mathematics, vampires, werewolves, and the fae. It comes out May 22, but you can preorder it now on Amazon! Go get it! You’ll have a blast.

And, almost at the same time, I found out this is coming out on May 22 as well…

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TWELVE HOURS LATER is also available for preorder on Amazon Kindle and CreateSpace. Put together by the Treehouse Writers, TWELVE HOURS LATER is a collection of 24 steampunk stories, one for every hour in the day – many of them in linked pairs, half a day apart … hence “Twelve Hours Later”. My two stories in the anthology, “The Hour of the Wolf” and “The Time of Ghosts”, feature Jeremiah Willstone, the protagonist of “Steampunk Fairy Chick” in the UnCONventional anthology … and also the protagonist of the forthcoming novel THE CLOCKWORK TIME MACHINE from Bell Bridge Books. (It’s also set in the same universe as “The Doorway to Extra Time” from the anthology of the almost identical name).

And, believe it or not, I may have something else coming out soon … stay tuned. :-)

-the Centaur

Hustle and Bustle at the Library

May 6th, 2015

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I’ve felt quite harried over the past few weeks … and talking with another author, I realized why.

In April, I finally finished my part of Dakota Frost #3, LIQUID FIRE – sending comments to the publisher Bell Bridge Books on the galley proofs, reviewing cover ideas, contributing to the back cover copy, writing blogposts. I also as part of Camp Nanowrimo finished a rough rough draft of Dakota Frost #4, SPECTRAL IRON. But at the same time, I had recently finished a short story, “Vogler’s Garden”, and have been sending it out to quite a few places.

In May, we expect LIQUID FIRE will be out, I have two stories in the anthology TWELVE HOURS LATER, and I have three guest blog posts coming out, one on “Science is Story: Science, Magic, and the Thin Line Between” on the National Novel Writing Month blog which has gotten some traction. And I’ll be speaking at the Clockwork Alchemy conference. Oh, and I’m about to start responding to Bell Bridge’s feedback on my fourth novel, THE CLOCKWORK TIME MACHINE.

Holy cow. No wonder I feel so harried! But it’s all for a good cause.

-the Centaur

Pictured: a friend at work shattered his monitor and inadvertently made art.

I stand corrected

May 2nd, 2015

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I stand corrected. I thought I’d succeeded at Nanowrimo eleven times, and technically that’s true. But it turns out that I’ve taken on a Nano challenge thirteen times and succeeded at it twelve – because of Script Frenzy.

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Script Frenzy was the event that predated Camp Nanowrimo in April – a challenge to write 100 pages of a script in the month of April. I took on Script Frenzy once, in 2012 – I think that may have been the last year that it ran. Since 2014, I’ve been doing Camp Nanowrimo, and won at that twice. So every time I’ve taken on an official Nano challenge, I succeeded.

That’s a little over a half a million words. Wow.

But I took on Nano one more time, on my own – in August of 2014. Perhaps because I lacked the support of the community – this was an “unofficial” Nano on my part – or perhaps because the book needed more editing than writing, I only got 10,000 words into the challenge that month. But I’m still very happy how it turned out.

So, to confirm: viiictory, twelve times.

-the Centaur

Viiictory the Eleventh

April 29th, 2015

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Woohoo! I just completed Camp Nanowrimo 2015, writing an extra 50,000 words on my novel SPECTRAL IRON! And, for special bonus points, I basically ran out of novel – I finished the end to end rough draft a few days ago, and to get the final few thousand words I had to actually go back through and start fleshing out and polishing! Double woohoo!

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This makes this not just the eleventh time I’ve finished Nanowrimo, it makes it the first time I’ve finished a novel during the month. This draft will need a heck of a lot of editing, but it is finished end to end and I had to come up with some very inventive stuff to get it there in the month – which, as always, is the beauty of Nanowrimo.

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As you can see, I spent most of this month in the red, because I started off dealing with nine kinds of crazy. I actually can’t remember all the stuff that happened – I remember editing on LIQUID FIRE and nonsense at work and disasters at home and a truly horrific tax situation – or wait, i do remember it all, I just don’t want to.

Regardless, I was able to power through in three big chunks, getting close to 3000 words a day most days and 4000 to 5000 words a day when i really cut loose. And some of the things I discovered as I churned forward, cleaning up the plot, took the book from “where is this going” to “I can’t do that, can I?” to “O.M.G. that’s an AMAZING idea!” which I now love.

Lots to do to clean this up. Can’t really show an excerpt – all of this stuff is too near the end of the book. Spoilers.

But still … viiictory.

Now, on to the edits of … THE CLOCKWORK TIME MACHINE! After a nap.

-the Centaur

North, South, East, West … and Wonder

April 26th, 2015

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Has it only been 3 days? Since 1:37AM on Friday morning and now, I’ve written about 10,000 words. And I’m hoping to get 1,000 to 2,000 more words done tonight – ideally, 3,300 which will put me up to date on Camp Nanowrimo, so I can start to RELAX at last. But it’s left me a bit loopy, especially with static at work and from neighbors and with my wife’s art show coming up rapidly.

Oh hey, a quick aside on that:

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You all should go to the Color Me Free show by my wife Sandi Billingsley, which starts this Friday at Kaleid Gallery in downtown San Jose – opening reception from 7 to 11, this Friday, May 1st.

Okay, back to procrastinating on these three thousand words. That looniness has been very, very creative! The story is really fleshing itself out in strange and unexpected ways. I quote a discussion with a fellow writer who’s helping me research the science of the magic of the faery kingdom. Looking it over … hmm … seems pretty spoiler-free. So here is what I told her:

I discovered something about the fae in the Dakota Frost universe which I totally think you will appreciate because you also design faerie worlds. I can explain to you more the next time I see you on Tuesday [at the Write to the End group], but I figured out where they’re from, why they left, how they got here, why they’re so weird about names and fates and everything, and even why faerie is strange and pathless!

Ok, the last one I got from that crocheting book [Crocheting Adventures with Hyperbolic Planes]: faerie has hyperbolic geometry … and hyperbolic geometry cannot be contained in normal three dimensional space. It’s like having a map with north, south, east, west and one more direction – the map folds up, wrinkles up like those crocheted hyperbolic planes – and the worst part will be the boundary of the human and faerie worlds, where, forced into a place where it won’t fit, it ultimately wrinkles over and starts crossing over itself! Neat, eh?

Well, at least I think it’s neat. Faerie has five cardinal directions: North, South, East, West … and Wonder! How inspirational! Onward! Only … a whole normal day’s writing ahead of me. Aaa!

Still … onward, into wonder!

-the Centaur

Climbing the Mountain

April 24th, 2015

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I recently was talking with Debra Dixon, my editor for the Dakota Frost series, and we realized that if we wanted SPECTRAL IRON, Dakota Frost #4, to come out next year, we needed to get a final book (from me) in her hands by January to have time to edit it before year was out.

Given that when we had this conversation we had not yet finished LIQUID FIRE (book 3) and I have yet to edit THE CLOCKWORK TIME MACHINE, this caused some understandable panic.

So, rather than keeping to my schedule to work on part 2 of PHANTOM SILVER (book 5) during this April, I decided to bump up my schedule and work on part 3 of SPECTRAL IRON so I’d have a draft done early this year.

I think it’s working – the story is coalescing – but as you can see from above, the copyediting and page proofing of LIQUID FIRE ate up a lot of my time to write SPECTRAL IRON.

So I’m scrambling. Probably few blog posts until this month’s 50,000 added words are done.

Onward!

-Anthony