And Nanowrimo Draws to a Close Yet Again…

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Well, Nanowrimo has drawn to a close once again. I finished early, and then used the time through Thanksgiving to spend time with friends, family and my wife. Hence the gaps near the end:

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As you can see, the last few days have seen a few words added to the manuscript, but they’re mostly the addition of notes and other materials to make sure the story isn’t lost. However, the total added words: 52761. Success.

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Now it’s back to THE CLOCKWORK TIME MACHINE, and when that’s off to the editors, I hope that I’ll have my betas back for LIQUID FIRE so that too can go to the editors. Then I’ll be finishing SPECTRAL IRON. So it may be a while before I return to Serendipity to finish her story; until then, however, I will leave you this:

“But … our last Loremaster died of the plague,” Dijo said. “We’ve saved the data, of course, but all the stories are lost—”

“Then we’d better salvage the ones we can,” Leonid said, staring at Serendipity. She was rapt: she was a historian. And as young as she was, she probably hadn’t had the chance to collect living history. And he’d given her just that. “So, Serendipity … you up to the task?”

“Am I,” she said, flicking an ear, leaning forward. “Tell me the stories of your people.”

“Alright, but we don’t tell stories,” Leonid said, motioning to Beetle, who drew out his strumstick. “We sing them.” Serendipity’s mouth fell open, and Leonid smiled. “Beetle, you’ve got some pipes on you. Sing the Song of Iranon, and remind us why we keep fighting on.”

Beetle smiled, tuned the stick, then began strumming. He sang:

Into Teloth Station wandered a spacer,
The vine cowled, yellow haired Iranon.
His suit was torn
His cloak was frayed
From mining the rocks of the belt Sidrak—

Soon they were all singing, Serendipity more than a bit awkwardly—she had little rhythm, and clapped at odd places, unable to keep time. But she quickly learned the chorus and response, and by the last verse she was singing along with them.

The spacers of Teloth were dark and stern
With frowns they asked his course.

And he said:

I am the spacer Iranon
With a cowl of vines, and myrrhwax in my hair.
I came from the Arkship Aira
A ship I recall only dimly, but seek to find again.
I sing the songs learned in my youth
In that far off paradise
And my course is set to find my way home once again.

And he said:

My trade is making beauty from memories of my childhood
And my wealth is in dreams of the places I have known
And I chart my course by the light of hope inside me
The hope I’ll find again my near forgotten home
On the Arkship Aira
In orbit round the gardens of the Lotus Moon.

Fare well, spacers…

-the Centaur

Viiiictory … in … Spaaaace


For the 8th time, I have won National Novel Writing Month! This year, I knuckled down early, focusing on getting as much ahead as possible so I could coast early in the month. This really worked because my story soon started turning in unexpected directions as I mined the emotional relationships of the characters, rather than the overarching plot. And I think it worked well! Look at that:

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I was successfully able to stay ahead of the game essentially for the whole month, enabling me to finish several days early. I hope to keep writing, to core dump the ideas I’ve had about the story, as while it is wonderful to find unexpected elements of the story (including a shout-out to one of my oldest childhood toys and the origin of the Dresanian universe) there’s more to write.

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But now I can take a more leisurely pace, read the giant stack of books I’ve accumulated to help me flesh out the plot ideas, and turn it all into something more interesting. For example, here’s an interesting combination of plot and emotional interaction, none of which I ever really expected:

The mammoth city-sized collection of globules drifted by. Some were firm and puffy like gasbags; some soft like pillows, some trailing and drifting like punctured balloons. So many tentacles fell down from it that it looked like it was raining beneath. Slowly, the globules crested a ridge and began to sink.

Leonid’s mouth parted, but he maintained his firm, watchful, captain on deck boots-wide stance on the window, even though his legs had begun to cramp. Then the city slowly settled to the earth in a cloud of dust.

“It is a city,” Serendipity said. “Or something very much like one.”

“I’m not willing to give it that yet,” Leonid said, as the globules settled and burst, gas streaming up from some, gasbags lifting tentacles up from others, remarkably like towers. “But my mind is open to the possibility. Spores, your grandmother said.”

“Yes,” Serendipity said. “Perhaps the gasbags make the cities, and the spores that they release inhabit the cities. I don’t know—like she said, it appears most of the records of Halfway were sealed after the war. Damnit. And Greatgramma Clarice led me straight into this—”

“Sounds like a dick move,” Leonid said, “but you and your family are all geniuses. Let’s not give up on her just yet. Maybe she thought you were your grandmother’s granddaughter, that you were the right person to deal with Halfway.”

“Maybe,” Serendipity said uncertainly.

“One thing for certain,” Leonid said, smiling down at her, legs still firmly planted on the rail, cutting as heroic a pose as he could, “black sun or no, Halfway is a beautiful world—and we’re going to make the best of it.”

Then something slammed into the ship so hard it knocked him backwards into the soup.

So, my Nanowrimo winner’s t-shirt is on it’s way, I’ve “won” … but I’ve got a lot more to go to get this novel done.


-the Centaur

Breaking Horizon

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At some point over the past weekend, I broke 40,000 words on Nano. This is no time to get complacent: even though I’m a few days ahead now – only 6200 words from the end – and I’m supposedly on vacation, I may need to go back to work tomorrow to deal with a minor, well, not crisis, but something that demands my attention.

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So while that mountain above has impressive height and slope, it ends in a plateau, because the month of November is not done. And if you don’t retain focus, you can end on that plateau, because the end of November is friends and family and Thanksgiving and Black Friday and the year-end scramble at work, if you have one.

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SO while I have a lead, I’m going to do what I can to keep it. Speaking of which … I wrote 375 words between what I wrote above and the end of this article. Here’s an excerpt:

“So, still thinking Halfway was a steal?” Sirius asked. “Was it worth it to spend your inheritance on the hideout of a war criminal, no doubt on her way back here?”

“She’s not a war criminal, and she’s not coming back,” Serendipity said. “She’s a prolific and nurturing mother. She would never have left her grandchild behind, much less her own daughter. Same rules as Norylan’s parents: if she could have come back, she would have—”

“Nurturing mother doesn’t mean,” Sirius said, “she wasn’t a war criminal.”

“A few hard choices don’t a monster make,” Serendipity said. “She led the First Contact mission between Dresan and Murra. For all practical intents and purposes, she founded the Dresan-Murran Alliance, the most harmonious grouping of aliens in the universe—”

“Founded on annihilating everyone who didn’t fit that mold?” Sirius said quietly.

For a moment, Serendipity didn’t say anything.

“I can’t take responsibility for the sins of someone who wasn’t even my ancestor,” Serendipity said, “but I’ll defend the values they bequeathed to me, values they developed trying to learn from their mistakes. When my grandmother came, I could have had her kill you all—”

“Hey!” Sirius said. Then he punched her arm. “Ass!”

“Hey!” Serendipity said back, feeling her arm. “Ow—”

“No, you couldn’t have had her kill us,” Sirius said. “She would have sliced up that blaster, and maybe lopped a few arms, or perhaps just gut checked a few of Toren’s goons with the back end of her scythe blades. Your back was turned. She took the room in an instant—”

“She’s a killer,” Serendipity said. “You don’t know her—”

“She’s a First Contact Engineer and a pregnant mother,” Sirius said. “I saw her face. Yes, she’s scary—I’ve never seen anyone that scary—but I could also see relief when she saw we were children. I refuse to believe she would just windmill through us all, rolling heads.”

Serendipity stared at him.

“I’m not sure I agree with you,” she said, “but I think you’re also making my point.”

Back to work.

-the Centaur

On Their Way…


In only tangentially related Nano news, the beta copies of LIQUID FIRE are on their way to beta readers, and signed copies of DOORWAYS TO EXTRA TIME are on their way to the winners! Huzzah. I hope you enjoy them!

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Not that things are going poorly. They’re actually going quite well… UPDATE:

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Quite well indeed.

-the Centaur

Buck up, spacer

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One of the great things about National Novel Writing Month is that it takes you into places you never anticipated. Well, for most of this month I’ve been working on Section 2 of MAROONED, “Conflicted”, but much of what I’ve written today comes from Section 3, which I’ve alternately called “Determined” or “Galvanized”. And the following section logically follows from the setup of the story … but I had no idea that it was going to happen. No idea at all:

“Buck up, spacer,” Eslyca said. “We’re at war. We have to make hard choices.”

“Like Toren said,” Kyrnal said. He shook his head. “Doesn’t mean I don’t regret it.”

They watched, from behind the cargo bay lights, as Leonid’s crew kept punching. After a while, Eslyca got uncomfortable and shifted; then Kyrnal did the same thing, setting his hands and shifting his boots. But the crew below kept punching … and punching … and punching.

“How long are they going to keep this up?” Eslyca said. “Did she just say five hundred?

“How long can they keep this up?” Kyrnal said. “And I thought they’d gone soft—”

“YOU THOUGHT WRONG,” boomed a deep mechanical voice behind them, and Kyrnal and Eslyca whirled to see the huge fox-like head of a robot the size of a cargo loader loom behind them, two scorpion-like pincers rising from its tail. “DON’T MOVE!”

Kyrnal whirled and tried to reach for his gun, but the scorpion-pincer shocked him. Eslyca dove aside, but a giant mechanical paw scooped her back up, then Kyrnal too, bringing both of them together—and in range of those darting pincers.

The paws spun them about, and Krynal felt the pincer snap tight on the upper safety harness attachment of his softsuit—the hardest to reach. He tried to grab for it and release himself, but when his hand touched the pincer, he got shocked again.

Then the robot shoved them both out into empty space.

Wait … who are Kyrnal and Eslyca? What do they regret? Why are they spying on Leonid’s camp? What is Leonid’s camp training for? Who’s the robot? And will our intrepid young heroes or villains survive getting thrown out into space by this mechanical monster?

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A day or so ahead now, taking a break to run errands. Onward!

-the Centaur

Just Try to Get One Day Ahead.


Each day in National Novel Writing Month, you need to write 1,666 words. It’s the math: 50,000 words, 30 days, no excuses. The math seems simple: 50,000 / 30 = 1,666 and 2/3, so 1667 words will end you up with 50,010 words at the end of the month. So you may think you can get away with 1,667 words, or 1,666 with 20 words tossed in at the end.

It isn’t that simple.

As you can see from the graph, or from following this blog, some days you just can’t get 1,666 words done. You’re off your game, you’re off on a hike, or a distressed person shows up at your door in need of help. So, I prefer to say that you need to do more than you think you need to in a day – because you need to be caught up before you slip, or you’ll fall behind.

For 24 Hour Comic Day – a challenge to do 24 pages in 24 hours – I and my buddy Nathan at Blitz Comics recommend trying to finish each page in 45 minutes, so you can absorb the inevitable eating, drinking, bathroom breaks and pencil sharpening and still finish your pages on time.

For National Novel Writing Month, I recommend something simpler: just try to get one day ahead, as soon as you can. Work super hard to get that first day of buffer, and then, even if something happens to throw you off, you’re not behind.

So now, at lunch, I’ve finished my daily word count. I have a few errands to run – but tonight, I’ll try to add that second day’s worth of words, so that I’ll not just be ahead for the day, but ahead of the game.

-The Centaur

Life Intervenes


I’m still ahead on National Novel Writing Month, again on the skin of my teeth. Only by being already ahead. Because after I had dinner with my wife last night, after she retired to her art studio and I was just sitting down to finish my word count …

A disoriented older woman showed up on our street, unable to find her way home – and speaking no English.

Our neighbors found her first, and came by for help. We took her to our front porch and tried to calm her while the police were on their way. Slowly her English returned, and slowly we drew out her story: she’d been sick for a long time, she didn’t know where she was, and she just wanted to go home … to a mother and father who in her clearer moments she remembered were dead.

The police arrived, we all tried to comfort her, and then the presence of the police cars attracted the attention of the woman’s husband, who had been driving around the neighborhood looking for her. He confirmed what we suspected: his wife had Alzheimer’s, and could no longer remember her street address, or even her married name.

A moment’s nodding at the couch watching television, and when he looked up, she was gone, out in the street wearing slippers with her shoes in her hand. Alzheimer’s patients often have disrupted sleep or activity schedules, moving when other people expect them to be still – so this experience was by no means unusual.

For the record, report the loss of a loved one to the police immediately, so it will show up in the system if someone finds them.

She ended up safely home. Our prayers go with her.

Sometimes, writing must come second.

-the Centaur

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Still on track, by the skin of my teeth and writing to 2:20am


On track. A brief excerpt:

“We could always double bunk, if it comes to that,” Leonid said.

Andromeda and Serendipity both looked at him. Then shot daggers at each other.

“Why would you need to double bunk,” Serendipity asked. “This ship was designed for a crew of six hundred and fifty. It seems like you’d have plenty of bunks—”

“It’s the load of the oxygen farm—how large a space it can oxygenate,” Leonid said. “We used to have twelve segments, but we were down to six—before the crash. Now, once we get back to space, we’re going to need to husband things more carefully. For example, adding you and Norylan—”

“Yeah,” Sirius said. “I’ll bet you just chew up oxygen.”

“Not to mention calories,” Andromeda said.

“Hey,” Serendipity said.

“Seriously, both of you eat a lot,” Leonid said. “I’m guessing … six thousand a day?”

Serendipity seemed to weigh that. “I think that’s about right—for him,” she said, nodding at Norylan. “And I was pushing close to eleven thousand leading up to the tournament—”

“Eleven thousand calories a day!” Leonid said. “You eat for four people?

“In training, a human Olympic athlete can consume ten thousand calories a day,” Serendipity said defensively. “A normal centaur requires closer to six or seven, and an athlete like myself pushes closer to nine thousand on a regular basis—”

“Let’s budget nine thousand for starters,” Leonid said. “But Norylan—”

“Is an Andiathar,” Serendipity said. “Their metabolism is very different—”

“No wonder he was starving,” Sirius said.

“Don’t you have fights, tournaments?” Serendipity said. “Toren was huge. He’s got to be pushing four, maybe five thousand calories a day, even if he isn’t in training—”

“Six,” Leonid said. “That’s why I guessed what I guessed for you—”

“I’m a little out of his weight class,” Serendipity smirked. Her face fell slightly. “How did you all get this way? I mean, I know you were attacked by pirates. But there’s more to it than just one attack. You’ve got traditions for fighting, ways of decorating your suits—”

“Don’t you like them?” Leonid asked.

“Oh, I do,” Serendipity said, moving that thread of hair aside. “But … what made you decorate them? Did it develop naturally, or were you trying to intimidate the pirates? Or to impress each other? What are your stories?”

“You’re a historian,” Sirius said. “And this ship has seven centuries of history—”

“Seven and a half,” Serendipity said. “Tell me the stories of your people.”

“We don’t tell stories,” Leonid said, motioning to Beetle, who drew out his strumstick. “We sing them.” Serendipity’s mouth fell open, and Leonid smiled. “Beetle, you’ve got some pipes on you. Sing the Song of Irannon, and remind us why we keep fighting on.”

Onward into the deep…

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Why do we get ahead? So when we slip, we don’t fall behind.

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So my wife returns from a month long business trip, and the day after she gets back, we go hiking. Actually, we went to lunch, went shoe buying, went hiking, and then book buying, shop walking and dinner eating in Santa Cruz.


So zero writing got done yesterday.

“And that’s why I try to get ahead!” Because I know from experience with Nano that there are days that writing just can’t get done. Work catches up with you, life catches up with you, wife catches up with you. You’re too busy, or having too much fun, or too sick, or whatever.

Even if you do as I do and refuse as many events as possible during Nano, you can’t get life down to zero.

So it’s super important not to stop at 1,666 words a day. If at all possible, try to get a notch more – a few hundred extra words a day. Even if you get just 250-300 extra words a day, by the end of the week you’ll have enough buffer to take a day off. Not that I recommend you take a day off in Nano – but you’ll have the buffer if you need it.

So I’m back on track today – it’s 3 in the afternoon, I’ve finished my daily quota, and thanks to being ahead before, missing a day yesterday has left me merely on track, rather than behind. And I have at least two more writing sessions today, so I may get even further ahead. No excerpts today – writing near the end, all too spoilery.

Onward into the deep!

-the Centaur