Viiiictory Seven Times

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For the seventh time, I’ve won the National Novel Writing Month “contest”, completing 50,000 words of a new novel in just 30 days. Actually, it took me just 29 days. Woohoo!

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This year’s entry, SPECTRAL IRON, is the fourth book in the Dakota Frost series, my urban fantasy series featuring the best magical tattooist in the Southeast (and she’s not afraid to tell you that herself). SPECTRAL IRON was a bit of a detour from the work I was doing to edit LIQUID FIRE, the third entry in the series, but I’m glad I did: SPECTRAL IRON taught me a lot about what makes a book coherent and I can use that to edit LIQUID FIRE.

So what is SPECTRAL IRON about? Originally, I was thinking the story was about a villain that murders ghosts, but now it’s looking like the villain is a ghost who’s a murderer. Maybe. There are some very interesting plot complications developing. Let me see if I can pull out an excerpt that doesn’t give much away. Well, maybe it spoils a minor surprise, but it doesn’t give away the plot. This is the kind of thing they’d put in a movie trailer. Regardless … SPOILERS:

Now, all that was left was to walk down a hundred more yards of train tracks in the dark.

The dolly had left us, but the spotlight had not. The mobile klieg operator wheeled it forward, slowly, tracking me, Ron and Sunny as we walked down the pathetic, waterlogged track. The further we went, the more layers of mystery were stripped off, one by one, by the light.

By the end, we no longer stood in a chasm of night. We merely stood in a dilapidated warehouse loading bay, a long, low brick-walled chamber, weathered with graffiti, with chained-up wooden doors atop its loading dock and beer bottles in the puddles between its train tracks.

“Nothing here,” the Lady Nyissa said. “Nothing obvious, at any rate.”

I stopped before the back wall of the loading dock. It stretched up before us, a mottled wall of brick thirty feet wide and fifty feet high, with a notch cut out of its bottom right by the platform and another cut out the top by a door. Rusted zig-zag metal stairs led up to it.

“Well,” I said, putting my foot on the train-brake at the end of the tracks, staring down at the pathetic mud puddle rippling before us between the end of the tracks and the wall. “It looks like The Exposers have found another Al Capone’s vault.”

Oh, me and my dumb mouth.

From the water erupted a foul spray of black—topped by a bone white mask.

So, there’s a few thousand more words of brain dump to go, and then it’s back to editing LIQUID FIRE, revising THE CLOCKWORK TIME MACHINE, and working on the DOORWAYS TO EXTRA TIME anthology, oh, and revising my own story for the anthology, “The Doorway to Extra Time” … aaaa! But at least I have this year’s Nano victory to console me:

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Regardless, now that Nanowrimo and 24 Hour Comics Day and the Google Holiday Toy Collection are all behind me, I’m looking forward to getting back to my other projects, including all my writing, the Dakota Frost blog, and, heck, I dunno, my wife, friends and cats. Onward and upwards!

-the Centaur

One Day Ahead, Four Days To Go

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I’ve completed another 2237 words today. By my count, this puts me one whole day ahead of the game. You can see that a bit above, but even more clearly below, where the darker blue “cumulative progress” bar is just a notch higher than the level for a day’s progress. If I was right on target, 100%, daily progress would be at this point, but cumulative progress would be at 0.

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Well, again I don’t think I have a good spoiler free excerpt, so I’ll just close with … onward!

-the Centaur

Back on Track, Redux

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Back from vacation, back at work, but got a chunk of writing done this lunchtime. Back on track:

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If my calculations are correct, I am roughly one day ahead at this point (that is, I’m essentially starting today where I want to finish today). So my mountain of words is still over the top of the line:

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No time for an excerpt; back to work. But tonight, here’s shooting for one more day ahead!

-the Centaur

Back on Track, Redux

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Back from vacation, back at work, but got a chunk of writing done this lunchtime. Back on track:

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If my calculations are correct, I am roughly one day ahead at this point (that is, I’m essentially starting today where I want to finish today). So my mountain of words is still over the top of the line:

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No time for an excerpt; back to work. But tonight, here’s shooting for one more day ahead!

-the Centaur

Friendstop

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Saturday: day off in the City, seeing the Golden Gate, Tiburon and Union Square with good friends. Totally worth it.

Today: back to it, +800 words and counting.

-the Centaur

Me and my dumb mouth

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Axually, it’s Dakota’s dumb mouth at issue here, and while I’d love to include an extract … ssh, SPOLIERS! But the point being, the day after Thanksgiving, I’m back on track for National Novel Writing Month. And this includes an evening hanging out with my friends at the wonderful Nola restaurant I’m so fond of. No pictures of that (phone battery gave out) but I do have a followup picture from my solo excursion to Cocola Cafe in Santana Row, where I finished out today’s Nano:

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I’ve done Nano enough times that I probably could have skipped today and even tomorrow if I wanted, just to hang out with my friends who are in town (staying at another friend’s house). But this “vacation” isn’t really a vacation for me: it’s a writecation. Writing really is like a second job now: if I want to be a writer, certain things have to get done. In this case, it’s Nano, and sending off acceptances and rejections for DOORWAYS TO EXTRA TIME:

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You’ll note a little asymmetry there: my coeditor, who’s done this before, is way ahead of me contacting people about their stories. And those are just the acceptances. Argh. And then I’ve got to respond to Trish’s comments on my own story, which, while I was proud of it before, now looks like it will need a lot of work. Sigh. This is why I like working with editors, I tell myself, they make my stories better. Sob. At least Nano is on track:

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Of course, the second half of the story is a complete salsa, and I don’t know where it’s going, but there’s a building, and it’s on fire, and it’s a spectral fire, that only starts once a year, and there’s William Blake’s spirit guide riding a tiger, and oh yeah Cinnamon wears a Santa hat, then threatens to punch him in the gut if she meets him in a dark alley. So yeah, I’m having fun, even if I briefly hit a little plateau there while recuperating from all that turkey.

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Now, more mountain to climb! Onward!

-the Centaur

Thanksgiving: Mission Accomplished

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Once again, I have successfully written NOTHING on Thanksgiving Day, spending it instead with friends!

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Mission accomplished. What am I thankful for? My great friends that I’ve known for a quarter century.

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The wonderful food we all prepared (mostly) by hand on a holiday that’s not yet commercialized.

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Preparing my first nearly perfect pound cake in a few years (more on that later). Not to mention living in a land where we can all not just eat, but have dessert! Most of all, being far enough ahead in Nano to just hang out and spend time with friends without worrying about keeping myself caught up.

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As Fonzie would say, “Ayyy, little buddy.”

I don’t know how much more time I’ll have this weekend to hang out with my friends; if it wasn’t for Nano I’d be spending all my time sending out acceptances and rejections on DOORWAYS TO EXTRA TIME. But I do have to eat, so I’ll be having at least one and possibly two more nice meals with my friends. And I hope several long phone calls with my wife (away on business).

More things to give thanks for. The gifts, they don’t stop coming.

So, thanks, God, for everything.

-the Centaur

God’s Marines Wield Strange Weapons

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At last, back on track for National Novel Writer’s Month. I like the graph: I like seeing how the week of a software release has taken a neat chunk out of my progress, and how a few days on vacation gets things back on track again. This reminds me to continue taking of the week of Thanksgiving every year if I want to get new novels done.

The title comes from a scene I’ve just written, in which Dakota Frost is baited into a battle with a wand-wielding priest. Soon Dakota realizes they were set up — and figures out how to de-escalate:

The priest cried out, striking me with the back of his free hand.

I winced … then turned the other cheek.

The priest stared, drawing back his hand again. I reached up and put my thumbs through the straps of my backpack. Then I turned my head even further, exposing the cheek, eyes glaring at him sidelong in silent accusation. The priest frowned, then lowered his hand.

“Dakota Frost,” I said, extending mine. “Best magical tattooist in the Southeast.”

The priest stared at my hand dumbly, then realized he had a free one.

“Father Aidan Cosgrave, SJ.”

“A Jesuit,” I said. “Interesting to find a Jesuit wielding a wand.”

“God’s Marines,” Cosgrave said, “often find themselves wielding strange weapons.”

I’m over the halfway point of Nano now, with 6 or so free days on vacation to try to really get a head. Onward!

-the Centaur