Taking Stock

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What you see above are (almost) all the author’s copies I have of all the published fiction I’ve written. Why am I taking stock of all this now? Well, at Clockwork Alchemy, this happened:

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I sold many, many other copies of my books and a solid dozen copies of FROST MOON – nearly cleaning out my stock of my first novel. I’d ordered twenty when LIQUID FIRE came out, but between that dozen, a few for a shelf at work, and a box that I sent to BayCon, I was left with just two of them. Time to order more.

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I’m in the writing game for the long haul, so I generally order 20-30 copies of any book or anthology that my work is published in (less or more if the publisher has a deal on sending a specific amount). Generally, north of 20 is a good number – I just sold out of 20 FROST MOON, but it can take a few years to sell out of 30 copies of an anthology. Your mileage may vary.

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Along with the books are piles of swag, postcards, t-shirts and various display materials which I organize into boxes so they can easily be taken to conventions. After several iterations of this, I’ve grown to keeping the stock in one big box, the swag in another box, keeping an empty “useful box” for extra copies on the first day of a convention (or a few copies for a smaller event like a signing) and all the oversized books and display materials needed at a full table in another box.

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This way if I want to go to a con, I can just grab a couple boxes and go. If I want to go to a con where I’ve got a table, everything I need is in just a couple more boxes, all of which fit in a couple shelves (more or less) in one bookcase.

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For a local con where I have a table, like Clockwork Alchemy, I go all out, so I need a couple more boxes of props, a display stand, and some tablecloths and an antique easel on loan from my wife. But the results, I think, are impressive.

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At least, thanks to my helpful assistants (thanks!) …

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… it helped me sell a lot of books, and hopefully, make a lot of new fans.

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Time to order more FROST MOON …

-the Centaur

Clockwork Alchemy in Transit

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No time to blog this proper – things are moving too fast. But here’s a flyover of Clockwork Alchemy in pictures.

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There’s an awesome dealer’s room … with droolworthy clothes (not my size, or it would be mine):

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There’s an awesome art show, with epic props and artwork:

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And I do mean epic:

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There are amazing costumes of all kinds …

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… with bleedover from Fanime and Baycon:

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There’s an awesome Author’s Salon organized by the redoubtable volcano lady, T.E. MacArthur …

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… and featuring alternate historian Harry Turtledove, Madeline Holly-Rosing of the Boston Metaphysical Society, Kaja & Phil Foglio of Girl Genius …

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… and me!

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Many people at Thinking Ink Press helped out, either getting materials together prior to the con or helping out at the table …

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… and we managed to make many fans happy by bringing them LIQUID FIRE!

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… and much more! For the very first time … someone bought the first Skindancer trilogy as a bundle!

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Let’s end on that happy note, and I’ll have more tales of the con soon! One more day to go…

-the Centaur

Jeremiah Willstone and the Sorting of the Secret Post

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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