On Their Way…

November 18th, 2013

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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

November 17th, 2013

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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.

November 16th, 2013

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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

November 15th, 2013

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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

November 14th, 2013

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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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Progressing…

November 11th, 2013

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Back on track, mostly. Head above water. That is all.

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

November 10th, 2013

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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.

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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

MAROONED back on track

November 8th, 2013

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I had brief lull yesterday – a shortened lunch, a shortened dinner, and then no coffee, since I had to pick my wife up at the airport (and then had NO intention of getting back to writing that night, we hadn’t seen each other in a month). I was a day ahead, so technically all I had to do was finish a day, in which case I was still on track.

But I liked being a day ahead. So I buckled down today, trying to get back to the point of aheadness that I was before yesterday’s slippage. All in all, I got over three thousand words done today, putting me back on track by almost two thousand words. Thirty one percent done, 15,259 added words! Excellent. No excerpt today – it’s all too spoilery.

Onward!

-the Centaur

MAROONED but not under water

November 6th, 2013

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So yet another day of Nano has rolled by and I’m still managing to cough out 1666+ words a day (the lighter blue lines above the red water line). I’ve added 11,795 words to the manuscript, which by my counter is just shy of 25% of Nano – roughly 3.6% ahead of where I need to be, or almost one full day (the surplus is the second, darker blue line in this visualization).

Since my seed was the largest I ever started with – 32,793 words, including the complete novella “Stranded” plus all the story notes I put together over the months since I wrote that story – completing Nano this year will leave me with 82,793 words, which I’m guessing will be very close to a full manuscript. Most of my novels clock in around 150,000 words, but this one feels like 90K.

Oh yeah, an excerpt:

“How do I know,” Toren said, “you won’t send soldiers to evict us once your people come back here, whenever that is—”

“Roughly fifteen months,” Serendipity said, looking at him sidelong. “And no-one can evict you. I am Governor of Halfway, and I’ve offered the crew of Independence oasis, and the ship a permanent berth. Leonid accepted. Halfway is Independence’s home port now.”

Toren rocked on his heels a little. “There is no port, you foolish—”

“That is a port,” Serendipity said, jerking her head at the spaceport. “It’s not a castle, it’s not a mansion, it’s not a secret lab—though I suppose to Norylan’s parents it was all of those things, to me it is the kernel of the civilization I hope to build here—”

“You build,” Toren said. “You mean to build a civilization—”

“It’s why I came here,” Serendipity said. “This port lay fallow for ten thousand years because a war cut off the spacelanes, and I was the first person to recognize that it might be restored, now that traffic has begun moving out here again—”

“Including from the Frontier,” Toren said, staring off at the port, “which didn’t even exist ten thousand years ago.”

“I had to move fast,” Serendipity said. “After all, you got here just when I did.”

Toren stared down at her. “You’re crazy. Crazy, you know that? When the Allies get here, they’re going to ship you off to a nutter’s pod. And I still don’t know whether me and my crew are going to have to flee when they come. And you know which of us is right?”

Serendipity’s eyes tightened. “No,” she admitted.

Toren’s eyes gleamed at her. “Me neither.”

Uh oh! Serendipity once again facing off with Toren? A dangerous development. What’s he figured out she hasn’t?

Onward into the deep!

-the Centaur

Still on track

November 4th, 2013

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MAROONED is still progressing. Taking a break now, but I’m keeping above the curve so far.

“Seren, this is serious,” she said. “We have a spacecraft to rebuild. If we can get this housing running again with a standard cabling software, we have to do it, whether his software is inclined or not. We can’t afford to romanticize your little pet—”

“He is not a pet,” Serendipity said. “He may be my ‘familiar,’ but he’s a full person, with a full person’s rights and responsibilities. This housing isn’t just a piece of equipment we can do what we want with. It’s his body, and we need his permission—”

“If we need the parts—”

“If Leonid needed some biomass to keep the oxygen farm running, would you be happy if he just threw you into the cycler?” Serendipity asked. “No? Wouldn’t that go double if you were in a coma, expected to recover, and they just decided to cycle you anyway, just because?”

Dijo stared at her with those odd contact lenses.

“Let me see him.”

Again she felt reluctant, but Serendipity realized that if she really wanted to be part of this crew, she had to recognize Dijo as her superior. Slowly Serendipity stepped back, reached in her satchel, and carefully brought out Tianyu’s still form.

Filled with mercury batteries, built on a thact frame, the minifox felt unusually heavy in her hands—dead weight, she thought, and cursed herself—and oddly small and sad. Without the millions of tiny motors fluffing his fur, he looked flat and drab, doubly so because of the soot.

Serendipity laid Tianyu down on the worktable between her and Dijo. “This is my best friend,” Serendipity said. “I mean that. More than my cohort, more than my PC’s, in some ways, more than even my parents. He’s always been there for me, when by right he could have chosen to go elsewhere. You will not treat him like a collection of parts.”

“Well,” Dijo said, leaning down, “he’s an impressive collection of parts—”

Serendipity reached down, putting her fingers under Dijo’s chin and lifting her back up. It was an easy move, an aikido move despite the initiation of force, and despite resistance she easily straightened Dijo back to standing. Dijo stepped back, a bit shocked.

“We have a ship to fix, I owe you help fixing it, and I’ll serve under you if that’s what you think I should do,” Serendipity said. “But this world is mine. It’s my responsibility to protect all the people within half a light year, even the ones you can’t easily see as people yet.”

Dijo raised her hands, licked her lips. She was scared.

“Please don’t hurt me,” she said.

Onward into the deep!

-the Centaur