Viiiictory, Ten Times

November 26th, 2014

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Yaay! Once again, I have completed National Novel Writing Month … this will be my 10th successful Nano. I’ve only been doing it 9 years, but this year, I started tackling Nano more often – in April and August. April was a success, but August I found I wanted to do more editing than writing, so I’ve officially succeed at Nano just 10 times out of the 11.

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I’ll let the August one slide, as it was really ambitious (and I also really try to reserve the time leading up to October for preparation for 24 Hour Comics Day) but when November rolls around, I get serious. This is the time all of my novels are born, and when I see a month start off with the kind of deficit you see above, I get cracking.

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I’m so serious about this, I take the whole week of Thanksgiving off every year just to work on this (something that is easier because my family is a rough plane ride back over Thanksgiving, and I see them every Christmas). But you know what? I want to enjoy my Thanksgiving … so I really poured on the juice near the end.

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The National Novel Writing Month site has some awesome word tracking tools, but I often turn off the Internet during Nano, and so I have developed my own Excel spreadsheet specifically for this purpose, which shows me, graphically, how much I need to write to get on track. Cells turn from red to white as I successfully get ahead of the game, and so by the end I was pushing 3-4000 words a day, trying to finish early. And I did, yesterday afternoon, at Panera Bread near my house.

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PHANTOM SILVER is one of the oddest books I’ve worked on yet. The plot has taken many strange twists and turns, including some that popped out of a deep harvest of some of the older material in my massive cuttings file. It’s also turning into a deeply personal story, as my exploration of ghosts has led to an exploration of my characters’ ghosts, and, by extension, since my characters are often based on me and my family … I am exploring the ghosts of my own friends and family as well.

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This picture was taken standing quite close to my father’s grave (not visible in the picture) and while my father won’t picture in the story … I’m having fun exploring Dakota Frost’s background, since she came from a (fictional) place in the South that is literally right up the street from where I grew up in real life.

But, as fun as it is … I’m glad to be done with this chunk. Already (since yesterday) I’ve finished a first draft of a short story in the Jeremiah Willstone universe (due at the end of December, for a Clockwork Alchemy special anthology) and I look forward to diving back into the editing of LIQUID FIRE, which is going *very* well. Hopefully you’ll see it soon.

No excerpts on PHANTOM SILVER, though; there are too many horrible spoilers for other books. You’ll have to wait on this one, and I know it will be a while, because SPECTRAL IRON and LIQUID FIRE and HEX CODE must come first; till next time.

-the Centaur

Within Striking Distance

November 22nd, 2014

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8 and a half days to go, 11K words remaining. Looks like we are going to do this… oh, an excerpt. Hard to summarize this one, there’s so many spoilers for parts of books that aren’t out yet:

“Most of the universe is made up of stuff that’s completely invisible,” Doug said. “Matter that we can’t see, holding the galaxies together; energy we can’t feel, pushing them apart. What if there’s a dark magic underpinning the world—undetectable, but influencing everything?”

Till next time.

-Anthony

P.S. DOORWAYS is still on sale. Go buy it lots.

DOORWAYS is on sale!

November 21st, 2014

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DOORWAYS TO EXTRA TIME, the anthology I edited with Trisha Wooldridge, is now on sale for 99 cents on Kindle! What a deal! If you ever wanted to know what would happen if you got an extra hour in the day, now’s your chance! And apparently this has done well enough for the anthology that it’s bubbled up in the Kindle lists:

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Any day where something I wrote or edited is running neck and neck with Ray Bradbury is a good day.

-the Centaur

It’s Nano, and I’ve been busy…

November 19th, 2014

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… working on Dakota Frost #5: PHANTOM SILVER. What’s this one about? Well, the first paragraph says it all:

“Tell me, Dakota Frost,” intoned the squat fae gargoyle, leaning forward, his wide stone face looming until his hooked nose took up nearly the whole of the Skype window on the screen of my shiny new MacBook Pro. “Have you ever thought of becoming an exorcist?”

As you can see, I’ve been busy catching up from a slow start:

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Between travel, food poisoning, and catchup on work and editing LIQUID FIRE, it took me until almost the 9th until I got on track, and even then I think it was the Night of Writing Dangerously that got me back on track.

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More on that later. Caught up on my word count today, and am even a day ahead, but I gotta go to work.

-the Centaur

And we’re off!

November 1st, 2014

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National Novel Writing Month is here again. For those who are just joining the party, it’s a challenge to write 50,000 words of a new novel in the month of November – and it’s also the event which finally broke through my creative barriers, helping me at last produce a complete publishable novel. I’ve done it eight times in the past:

  • 2002: DELIVERANCE (Frontiersmanship series #1, as yet unpublished)
  • 2007: FROST MOON (Dakota Frost series #1, published by Bell Bridge Books 2010)
  • 2008: BLOOD ROCK (Dakota Frost series #2, published by Bell Bridge Books 2011)
  • 2009: LIQUID FIRE (Dakota Frost series #3, forthcoming from Bell Bridge, 2014)
  • 2010: JEREMIAH WILLSTONE AND THE CLOCKWORK TIME MACHINE (Jeremiah Willstone series #1, forthcoming from Bell Bridge est. 2014)
  • 2011: HEX CODE (Cinnamon Frost series #1, manuscript in progress)
  • 2012: MAROONED (Serendipity series #1, manuscript in progress)
  • 2013: SPECTRAL IRON (Dakota Frost series #4 manuscript in progress, estimated submission 2014)

and now 2015: PHANTOM SILVER, which will be Dakota Frost #5. I’m planning on focusing on Dakota for a while now, trying to get books 4-6 to Debra (and my fans) so that they have six books in their hands, hopefully enough to tide them over while I get Cinnamon Frost, Jeremiah Willstone and Serendipity out the door.

I could say more about Nano, or do link salsa to the text above to provide references. But I’m not. I’m going to get back to writing; it’s already 10pm on Saturday November 1, and I’m only about 500 words in, when I need almost 1700. Arr, back to work, ye scurvy writer dawgs! It’s Nano time!

-the Centaur

Pictured: a creepy Halloween cat at a nearby hardware store, thematic because I’m shooting for a slightly creepier Dakota Frost tale this time around, focusing mostly on ghosts.

The IRONHAND Triathlon

October 4th, 2014

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So, it’s coming on like a freight train: the IRONHAND Triathlon, the new evolution of 24-Hour Comics Day that Nathan Vargas and I are hosting at the Alternative Press Expo October 4-5. Actually, it came on so fast, and I had to do so much to prepare for it, that when I had a little trouble finishing this blogpost, the actual event came up before I got back to it!

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APE is held at Fort Mason this year, and they gave us a space in the back provided by ComicsPRO, the comics retailer’s association. The tables were all right, but once Nathan, my partner in Blitz Comics, arrived and took a look at the scene, he put some thought into it and rearranged the space to make it more inviting.

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The end result is that our yellow tables made an arrow pointing at the Blitz logo, and there was now a central entry space where Nathan could put information designed to guide creators to “drop in” at the event.

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We had seven people signed up for the event, which we marked with nametags. Not all those people showed up, but many did, and we had a sizable table of people tackling at least one leg of the IRONHAND Triathlon.

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The pure 24 Hour Comic Day experience is unbroken – 24 pages in 24 hours, with no preplanning or preparation. But Fort Mason closes at 7, so we had to break up the event into three shifts of 8 hours each, the first at Fort Mason and the two latter ones nearby. But once we split it up, we decided to evolve the event further, and to encourage everyone to just drop in and draw!

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After some iterations on the signage, Nathan hit on “Creator’s Drop In Area” and enough messaging so people knew how to use the space. At the end, we had artists dropping in to draw without us having to explain anything, and I got to kick back at our table and draw and shoot the breeze with Marco of ComicsPRO and with Nathan.

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The event was a big success, and we then moved to the Sandbox Suites for the latter half of the event. We were a bit worried as we only had two people join for the overnight session (and one of those got lost in a bus snafu) but after a while we started to have more and more people drop in.

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We had the place to ourselves, so creators spread out over a few different rooms. I think we succeeded in creating a creative oasis for our creators, as some who had left earlier made it a point to come back and join us.

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More people joined in the IRONHAND Triathlon remotely, so Nathan is hard at work on the winners certificates, which will have laminated pieces added to them, one for each of the segments of the Triathlon they completed.

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We’re still chugging away, with Paxti’s pizza about to arrive, so I think I’m going to close this blogpost and get back to it. I may not be doing 24 Hour Comic Day this time – I did it last week – but I want all of our creators to be happy.

Excelsior!

-Anthony

Eight Years Plus Four

September 19th, 2014

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My wife and I just celebrated 8 years of marriage and 12 years together … we married on almost precisely the fourth anniversary of our first meeting, and it’s been a lot of fun!

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I can’t tell you how blessed I feel to be married to a beautiful and talented artist. And one who puts up with me and my crazy shenanigans … and encourages them!

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Thank God for our marriage; here’s to another 8 times 12 years more …

-the Centaur

P.S. If you’re reading this, Boobie … I love you!

Taking it Easy

August 28th, 2014

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I am in Atlanta now. What am I doing? Well, tomorrow at Dragon Con, John Hartness has graciously let me crash his reading at 1pm on Friday in the Hyatt Roswell room; then I plan on attending the Bell Bridge Books spotlight on Saturday at 2:30pm at the Hyatt Embassy room, and Monday at 11:30a in the Westin Augusta III room I will be moderating a panel on Victorian Technology.

But for now? I’m hanging with friends in Atlanta. Taking it easy…

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-the Centaur

Appearing at Dragon Con, Just a Little Bit

August 24th, 2014

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I will be at Dragon Con this year, moderating a panel on Victorian Technology at Monday at 11:30am:

Technology of the Victorian era and how to exploit it in your stories or imagination!
We’ll discuss what technology the Victorians actually used and how it changed their world. We’ll also highlight inventions that should have changed the world but didn’t!

Monday at 11:30a in Augusta III

Anthony Francis (Moderator), Jean Marie Ward, Stephanie Osborn, Shay Mohn, Stephen Chapman

As usual, I will probably appear at the Writer’s Track, though those appearances are always fluid.

For the rest of the time, since I have no publications to announce at Dragon Con – my comics work being announced at Comic-Con and APE, and the work to do that is more than enough effort to consume all available time – I plan on enjoying the con, hanging out with friends, meeting up with the Dragon Writers, and remembering Ann Crispin.

More news as it happens, if it happens.

-Anthony

Resurrecting Fanu Fiku

August 1st, 2014

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SO, I have this webcomic some of you may know about, f@nu fiku (that’s Fanu Fiku, stylized with an @ sign, because aren’t I oh so clever :-P ). f@nu fiku is about Xiao Dreamweaver, a fifteen year old girl who can travel between all possible combinations of all possible realities … only she doesn’t know it yet. What you may or may not know is that this webcomic is cursed.

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Early on working on f@nu fiku, I broke my arm in a karate match, forcing me to use guest artists and rough notebook scans for several months. I blogged that extensively, but what I did NOT blog – because it was too disruptive – was the failure of the computer and theft of the notebooks on which I did f@nu fiku.

Back then, I produced f@nu fiku on this great Windows laptop, but eventually its cooling fan gave up the ghost, and I decided – purely as an experiment – to try out an old Macintosh laptop that I had gotten in a clearance sale, since I already used a Mac at work. Four days in to this new laptop, I attended an art show in San Francisco – and my car was broken into.

Many books were stolen. My personal laptop was stolen. One of my writing notebooks was stolen, including the one with the original outline of the Dakota Frost series. My f@nu fiku sketchbook – in which I created the pages – was stolen. None of this was ever returned, of course, but I retained all the data, I had all the scans, and in theory I could easily have resumed the comic.

Only one problem: the laptop was stolen before I realized I couldn’t produce f@nu fiku on the Mac.

I edited f@nu fiku in Corel Painter (a creditable replacement for Adobe Photoshop) and lettered it in Xara (a powerful, but much easier to use version of Adobe Illustrator). Corel Painter exists for the Mac … but Xara does not. At the time, I was completely inexperienced at Adobe Illustrator, and found working on the comic extremely difficult.

What’s worse, at the time the Mac’s support for Python wasn’t so hot. I wrote the f@nu fiku webcomic software myself, but found that it adapted poorly to the Macintosh, requiring a partial rewrite of the image processing layer. I eventually got the software running, but by this point FROST MOON was taking off, and without meaning to, I let f@nu fiku drop.

Fast forward more than half a decade. I’m more committed than ever to Dakota Frost, but I’m also more involved than ever with the comic community – with Blitz Comics on the 24 Hour Comic Day Survival Guide, and with our umbrella organization, Thinking Ink Press. At Comic-Con, I got energized, and decided that I should resurrect f@nu fiku, perhaps even in print form.

At first it seemed impossible. Many originals were gone. Some of the completed art was corrupted. And all of the art was way, way too low resolution to be printed. It was depressing. And in truth, this is the real state I’ve been for the past few years on f@nu fiku: too depressed about it to come back to it, regardless of how much time I had. And I started to give up hope.

But it is a half a decade later, and I’ve learned to never give up hope. This was a hard won lesson: when I left the PhD program, I despaired of ever using my degree. Well, it took ten years, but eventually I returned to that work … and now, I’m using those skills more than ever. Over time, I’ve learned that the more patient and perseverant I become, the more I am rewarded.

So, when I started to lose hope … I really had just forgotten how paranoid I am about backups, and soon found the original scans AND backup copies of the completed art. And I had just forgotten how perseverant I have become, and how much I have changed my thinking about solving problems just like this one. And soon, after a little thought, I found a way to get high resolution images.

As before, I had a spare laptop lying around – this time a Windows 8 machine, that I’d tried as a replacement for the Mac (and quickly discarded for that purpose, though it isn’t really bad). And IT will run Xara, and IT could load all my old f@nu fiku files. I don’t know whether I’ll try to save these as Illustrator files, now that I’m comfortable with it, but regardless, I now have a way.

I almost always find that if you think something’s impossible, you’re thinking about it the wrong way … and a solution awaits you nearby. I don’t have to solve the nearly impossible problem of getting Xara to run on the Mac (I have tried virtual machines, but they were virtually impossible to use) but just the far simpler problem of using Xara on a PC to dump high-res images.

Now, I have almost 60 issues of f@nu fiku backlogged … more than a year’s worth, almost ready to go. It will take me some time to get all of them beaten into shape, to rework the fanufiku.com site, to get set up on tapastic and get a posting schedule going. But it will be worth it: it will not only break this creative logjam, it will help me prepare for new comic projects, like Quarry.

So don’t give up hope. It’s just an excuse – just a way to give yourself license to wallow in self pity and to fall into inaction. Often enough, the files are saved on backup, the original scans are on disk, and there’s a laptop laying around somewhere, waiting for the software to be installed on it that will give you the power to resurrect something you thought long dead.

You just have to have a little faith, and work a little harder.

-the Centaur

Pictured: the Windows laptop, with Page 1 of f@nu fiku successfully loaded in Xara.