Now I Know the Problem

November 27th, 2016

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Hoisted from Facebook … what’s the biggest problem with the world today?

First I studied logic, and found out many people don’t know how to construct an argument, and I thought that was the biggest problem.

Then I studied emotion, and found out many people judge arguments to be correct if they make them feel good, and I thought that was the biggest problem.

Then I studied consciousness, and found out many people don’t argue at all, they post-hoc justify preconscious decisions, and then I thought that was the biggest problem.

Then I studied politics, and I realized the biggest problem was my political opponents, because they don’t agree with me!

-the Centaur

Pictured: Me banging on a perfectly good piece of steel until it becomes useless.

Viiictory the Sixteenth

November 27th, 2016

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Hooray! I have now successfully completed National Novel Writing Month sixteen times (out of eighteen tries, counting Camp Nanos and such), finishing the first 50,000 words of Dakota Frost #6, SPIRITUAL GOLD!

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It’s easy to look at the big cliff over the past few days and not realize how far I got behind, between getting sick, wrangling robots at work, and some damn election thing. That’s why I haven’t been posting much this month – I had to knuckle down to overcome this:

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The good news is, the more and more I do this, the better I understand how I’m doing. While I was behind, I wasn’t unsurmountably behind, at least not compared to my yearly averages:

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Over the years, I’ve tackled Nanowrimo many, many times, and this year tracked my average performance pretty closely:

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It is super late, and I’m tired, and I want to go hug my wife, who just woke up after a long winters nap when she finished work for an art show. So I’ll post excerpts later! Oh wait, here’s a little one:

“Mom, so help me, I swear,” said my daughter Cinnamon—her voice a growl, her whiskers aquiver, and one long clawed finger pointing menacingly in my general direction—“if you try to go off half cocked I will ground you until the heat death of the universe!”

How the worm turns. Onward! Or, on to bed.

-the Centaur

DEBRIS DREAMS is out!

November 19th, 2016

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Thinking Ink Press’s first novel, DEBRIS DREAMS by David Colby, is out now on Amazon! I’ve described the story as “The Hunger Games meets Gravity”, but to get a clearer picture, here’s the teaser:

The year: 2069 The place: Sun-Earth Lagrange Point L1, 1.5 million kilometers above the surface of the Earth The objective: Survive!

Sixteen-year-old Drusilla Zhao lives in the Hub, a space station used by the Chinese-American Alliance as a base to exploit Luna’s resources. Desperate to break free of the Alliance, a terrorist group from the Moon destroys the space elevator, space’s highway to Earth. In a flash, Dru’s parents are dead and she is cut off from her girlfriend Sarah on Earth. The Alliance declares war against the Moon, conscripting Dru and all the youth of the Hub. Dru is forced to become a soldier fighting in the lethal vacuum of space. Can Dru survive lunar terrorist attacks and find her way home to Sarah?

I’m especially excited that this novel features a cover by my wife, Sandi Billingsley! We’re working hard to bring you the next two books in David’s series, SHATTERED SKIES and LUNA’S LAMENT, so stay tuned – but in the meantime, check out DEBRIS DREAMS!

-the Centaur

The Good News

November 11th, 2016

The good news is, the presentation I had today at work went very well. Yay robots! The bad news?

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Eleven days into Nano, and seven thousand words behind. Argh.

-the Centaur

Sandi’s Latest Art Show is Today!

November 4th, 2016

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Saudi’s latest art show is today in downtown San Jose at 6pm! She’ll have 25+ pieces on display highlighting all aspects of her amazing creativity. The full details:

https://www.facebook.com/events/262434390823115/

PRESENTING THE ARTWORK OF SANDI BILLINGSLEY

Please join us for an evening of Art and Wine on Friday, November 4th, 2016 from 6 to 9 p.m.

1 Almaden Blvd, Suite 800 on the 8th floor

Please RSVP with Emilie at 408.287.6500 or emilie.slawinski@ampf.com

The site is the offices of Ameriprise Financial Services, but as far as I know, this is just an art opening – a series of events hosted by them for over a decade to support the arts in San Jose. Come check it out!

-the Centaur

Nanowrimo 18: Spiritual Gold

November 1st, 2016

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So for the 18th time I’m taking on a National Novel Writing Month challenge (counting Camp Nano), this time starting Dakota Frost Book 6: Spiritual Gold!

Dakota Frost is the best magical tattooist in the Southeast, and is rapidly becoming the best magical investigator … but what about magical medicine? When Dakota’s called on to help with a zombie epidemic, is the solution simply finding a cure for a disease … or stopping an implacable force determined to break down the walls between the living and the dead?

And an excerpt:

Those who live by the sword, die by the sword, or so the saying goes; personally, I like to say that those who acquire a dangerous magical blade ought to learn to use it properly, or they’re likely to die skewered, embarrassingly, by their own faerie lightsaber.

On that note, having the most powerful magical sword in the world sure wasn’t saving my ass today. For that matter, my ass was not well being well served by my martial arts training, my considerable magical expertise, nor even my vast library of magical tattoos.

Because I’m Dakota Frost, the Skeptical Witch, and while I am many things—the best magical tattooist in the Southeast, a Skindancer who can dance her tattoos to life, making me, allegedly, one of the most powerful magicians in the world—one thing I am not is a fencer.

“Ow,” I said, as my instructor whapped my ass, once again, with a springy wooden Japanese practice sword called a shinai. I stumbled away, swinging my own shinai back at her, as she stepped back and laughed. “No fair capitalizing on my … my stupidness.”

“It was your idea to add free form practice,” said Gina Ho, the secondary instructor at the dojo where I dilettanted at Shao Lin. She was an actual Olympic-grade sabreuse who’d agreed to train me after hours. “Pick a style and learn the basics before picking up that … that thing.

She jerked her head at the wall of the dojo, where I had piled my gym bag, my satchel, my folded leather pants, my carefully folded leather vestcoat, and leaning carelessly atop it all, an innocent-looking brown leather case with shoulder-slung strap. One had too look at it closely to realize that the handle poking out of the end meant the leather case … was a scabbard.

“You practicing?” asked Master Ho cheerfully, and Gina and I jumped. Gina’s uncle was a genial, balding Iowan of Chinese descent, whose Midwestern accent belied his deep roots in the Shao Lin tradition he’d received from his father—down to a near-supernatural ability to move around silently on his perpetually unshod feet. “No? Give her her money’s worth.”

“Money?” Gina grumbled. “Uncle Marcus, I’m volunteering to—”

“Remember your proverbs,” Ho said, mock-sternly. “Always listen to your uncle.”

“Fine,” Gina said, stomping off to the lockers. “Alright, Dakota, you get your wish.”

I smiled, bowed politely to Gina’s back, bowed to Master Ho … and then darted back to my things, hefting the long case, feeling its weight. “My precious,” I muttered, though I really wasn’t that attached; still, my eyes gleamed … as I drew the Salzkammergutschwert.

The Salt Chamber Sword was a dark metal sword, strangely angular, like a geometric S. Thirty one inches from tip to guard, tapered triangular, like a cleaver, the Salzkammergutschwert was forged from a strange lustrous metal as dark as hematite—not one blade, but two, back to back, with a hairsbreadth’s distance between them; they never seemed to strike each other, but resonated, like a tuning fork, leading to its other name … the Songblade.

Current theory was the Songblade wasn’t a sword at all, but a component of a larger faery artifact, some magical resonator which merely happened to be indestructible—and sharp, leading early humans to wrap its “hilt” with dark, oily leather straps enchanted for durability. Maybe that was why the hilt, thirteen inches from guard to pommel, was fashioned in two angled parts that didn’t quite align with the blade, but it gave the weapon a comfortable hand-and-a-half grip. Backing the resonator theory was a circular space in the pommel, showing all signs of being a setting for a magical gem; but that missing component didn’t prevent the Salt Chamber Sword from serving its primary magical function as a negative energy resonator … making it of great interest to a Skeptical Witch who knew a little physics.

But still, it looked like a sword, and was used like one, because it was indestructible.

Time to learn how to wield it.

More soon. I got 1500+ words done tonight! Just 48500 words to go!

Onward!

-the Centaur

Reading “One Day Your Strength May Fail” at the Los Gatos Lit Crawl

October 9th, 2016

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Hail, fellow adventurers! I’ll be reading my flash fiction short, “One Day Your Strength May Fail” at the Los Gatos Lit Crawl this Sunday – today, in about twelve hours, eek! Axually, my reading will be closer to four, but as part of the Los Gatos – Listowel Writers Festival, and organized by the Flash Fiction Forum, a whole passel of writers will read from 3 to 5 all over the city:

3:00pm – Los Gatos Coffee Roasting Company – featuring :

  1. Kevin Sharp – Saturday Night & Sunday Morning
  2. Victoria Johnson – Broken Dreams
  3. Lita Kurth – How to be my Revolutionary Boy
  4. Pushpa McFarlane – Bring on the Harlequins

3:30pm – Carry Nation – featuring:

  1. Susannah Carlson – The Whale’s Bargain
  2. Bob Dickerson (and Ina on banjo) – River Bird
  3. Caesar Kent – Weekend Work Program
  4. Parthenia Hicks

4:00pm – The Black Watch – featuring:

  1. Maria Judnick – Walking the Line
  2. Caroline Bracken – Five
  3. Keiko O’Leary – The Golden Beauty of Carlina Johansen, Author of Milliner’s Dreams
  4. Anthony Francis – One Day Your Strength Will Fail

4:30 pm – C.B. Hannegan’s – featuring:

  1. C.K. Kramer – Kendra
  2. Jade Bradbury – Blam
  3. Beth Collison
  4. Tania Martin – Brut 33

Lots of great readers will be there, including Keiko O’Leary of Write to the End and Thinking Ink Press reading her fascinating and disturbing story “The Golden Beauty of Carlina Johansen, Author of Milliner’s Dreams”, along with many other authors who are mainstays of the Flash Fiction Forum reading stuff I haven’t heard before. Come check it out!

-the Centaur

Pictured: Something I ate in Los Gatos once, as I could not easily find other pictures I’ve taken of Los Gatos.

Jeremiah Willstone and the Choir of Demons

October 4th, 2016

Jeremiah Willstone returns to your aerograph dial in her latest cylinder of two-fisted science adventure: “A Choir of Demons”, published this October 1st on Aurora Wolf magazine!
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Michael Pennington, the editor of Aurora Wolf, did these two super fun digital illustrations of Jeremiah for the story, which he graciously agreed to let me use to promote the story – a tale of Jeremiah’s very first adventure out of Academy. It’s one thing to have an great reputation. It’s another to be thrust too much responsibility too soon. On her very first day as an Expeditionary, Jeremiah is called on to fight what appears to be a choir of demons – but is she up to the task?

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An excerpt:

Bharat looked at her thoughtfully. “Well, Lieutenant,” he said, handing the dispatch to her. “Looks like your bailiwick.”

“A … police matter, sir?” Jeremiah said, her voice unexpectedly rising; most unbecoming in a soldier, but she hadn’t expected to be sent on a formal mission on her very first day. Navid clearly had talked her up too much! “With respect, sir, I’ve not even completed orientation—”

“You’re wearing the tailcoat,” Lord Bharat said firmly. “Aquit it well. Dismissed.”

Jeremiah clicked her heels, whirled and marched off, her head positively spinning. What were the protocols? Who were the players? She was going in blind! She tried to pump the dispatcher for details, but he sternly sent her on her way: the plea was urgent.

And so, within the hour, Jeremiah found herself halfway across Boston standing beside a detective policeman opening the bloodied front door of an artisan’s shop. Even as the hardbitten woman’s shaking hand cranked the passkey, Jeremiah steeled herself.

“Not sure whether this is an Incursion,” the detective muttered, “but it sure as hell looks like Expeditionary business.” The lockpick engaged, and the spattered door swung open with an ominous creak …

To read more, check the story out at Aurora Wolf! And stay tuned for more Jeremiah in upcoming anthologies and the novel THE CLOCKWORK TIME MACHINE!

-Anthony

Persistence is Rewarded, Despair is a Mistake

September 18th, 2016

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So I’m proud to announce that “A Choir of Demons” was just accepted by Aurora Wolf magazine, with a projected release date of October 1st. More news as that gets finalized, but I’m more interested right now in the process by which this story was sold. Had I acted on feedback which made me despair on the story, I might have changed it ways that ruined it for its right home.

As I’ve documented before, I once sent my stories out to many places, only to get discouraged, and created a narrative that I’d sent them out until I exhausted the markets, and gave up. The reality was that several stories I told myself were no damn good actually got great feedback, but the markets that wanted to publish them went out of business.

Maybe those markets went under because they weren’t accepting better stories, but actually, many, many magazines went out of business right around that time, so I really was in a market contraction – and a time crunch, as I quit work on stories as my PhD ratcheted up, as I cut back writing because of RSI, and because I helped found a startup.

But when I started sending things out again, things got much better. I still get only a 15% acceptance rate, so on average I need to send a story to half a dozen markets or more before I get a success. But my latest story, “A Choir of Demons”, a steampunk police procedural which I wrote specifically for Analog or Asimov’s, wasn’t getting a lot of traction: it racked up almost a dozen rejections.

Most were form letters, but a few had detailed feedback. But that feedback was strange and contradictory. One complained that the beginning of the story didn’t get inside the character’s head … when the first two pages were primarily the protagonist’s reactions to her situation. Another complained the story wasn’t sufficiently standalone, when I tried to make it specifically standalone. And so on.

I was considering a major rewrite, but remembered Heinlein’s famous advice for writers: “Write. Finish what you write. Send your work out. Keep it on the market until sold. Only rewrite to editorial order” and so reactivated my subscription to the story-market service Duotrope, finding another dozen markets I hadn’t seen on the free listings on the similar site Ralan.

I have to give kudos to Duotrope – I found three markets that each responded almost immediately. The first two gave me prompt but nice rejections. The third was Aurora Wolf – whose editor passed on a few kind words which essentially called out “A Choir of Demons” as the kind of thing that they were looking for.

Had I limited myself to just a few markets, I might not have found a right home for “A Choir of Demons”. Had I changed the story to mold it to fit the markets that didn’t want it, I might easily have broken the things about the story that made it a good fit for its ultimate home.

So persistence is rewarded – but the road of persistence can get lonely at times, and it’s easy to lose your way. Don’t despair while traveling that road, or you might drive off the road straight into a mistake.

-the Centaur

Book Reading: 1pm Sunday

September 3rd, 2016

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So, Dakota Frost and Jeremiah Willstone fans, come to Dragon Con this Sunday at 1pm and you’ll get to hear me read from both series! I’ll be reading from one of FROST MOON or LIQUID FIRE (depending on how many fans in the audience there are who have read each book) and from THE CLOCKWORK TIME MACHINE. Also, I’ll likely read one or more of my flash fiction pieces, probably “Solomon’s Baby” and possibly a few other short pieces depending on time.

  • Reading: Anthony Francis
    Sunday 1pm, Edgewood – Hyatt
    Anthony Francis reads from the Skindancer series, from THE CLOCKWORK TIME MACHINE, from his flash fiction work, and answers your questions!
  • Steampunk/Alternate History Is Here to Stay
    Sunday 8:30pm, Embassy CD – Hyatt
    Is the Steampunk market soft? Writers discuss keeping the genre alive and kicking. How to infuse your Steampunk/Alt History novels and stories with new life.

Later, I’ll be talking more about steampunk at 8:30pm as well. Also, at 10am on Monday, not on the schedule, I’ll be on a panel about starting a small press. Drop on by, and I hope you enjoy!

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Pictured: a cool staircase because it’s cool, and the neat badge schedule things they give us to tell us where to go when.

-the Centaur