Posts Tagged ‘Gaslights and Rayguns’

Jeremiah Willstone and the Choir of Demons

Tuesday, 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!
Steam550x550.jpg

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?

Steam-close-550x570.jpg

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

Sunday, September 18th, 2016

stories-sold-2016-09-18.png

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

Saturday, September 3rd, 2016

circularstair.png

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!

reading2016.png

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

THIRTY DAYS LATER on sale!

Friday, September 2nd, 2016

Hey gang, I’ll be at Dragon Con’s Avoiding Historical Mistakes tomorrow at 7pm, but if you’re interested in a lot of good steamy stories, go visit your favorite e-bookstore, where THIRTY DAYS LATER is on sale for $0.99! Thirty tales of alternate history for a buck – you can’t beat that! And it has the two latest Jeremiah Willstone stories in there – “Fall of the Falcon” and “Rise of the Dragonfly”, so go check it out!

30dl-cover.png

-the Centaur

Viiictory the Fifteenth

Sunday, July 31st, 2016

Print

Once again, I’ve completed the challenge of writing 50,000 words in a month as part of the National Novel Writing Month challenges – this time, the July 2016 Camp Nanowrimo, and the next 50,000 words of Dakota Frost #5, PHANTOM SILVER!

Phantom Silver v2 Small.png

This is the reason that I’ve been so far behind on posting on my blog – I simultaneously was working on four projects: edits on THE CLOCKWORK TIME MACHINE, writing PHANTOM SILVER, doing publishing work for Thinking Ink Press, and doing my part at work-work to help bring about the robot apocalypse (it’s busy work, let me tell you). So busy that I didn’t even blog successfully getting TCTM back to the editor. Add to that a much needed old-friends recharge trip to Tahoe kicking off the month, and I ended up more behind than I’ve ever been … at least, as far as I’ve been behind, and still won:

Camp Nano 2016 July 31b.png

What did I learn this time? Well, I can write over 9,000 words a day, though the text often contains more outline than story; I will frequently stop and do GMC (Goal Motivation Conflict) breakdowns of all the characters in the scene and just leave it in the document as paragraphs of italicized notes, because Nano – I can take it out later, its word count now now now! That’s how you get five times a normal word count in a day, or 500+ times the least productive day in which I actually wrote something.

Camp Nano 2016 July 31c.png

Also, I get really really really sloppy – normally I wordsmith what I write as I write, even in Nano – but that’s when I have the luxury of writing 1000-2000 words a day. When I have to write 9000, I write things like “I want someoent bo elive this whnen ai Mideone” and just keep going, knowing that I can correct the text later to “I want someone to believe this when I am done,” and, more importantly, can use the idea behind that text to craft a better scene on the next draft (in this case, Dakota’s cameraman Ron is filming a bizarre event in which someone’s life is at stake, and when challenged by a bystander he challenges back, saying that he doesn’t have any useful role to fill, but he can at least document what’s happening so they’ll all be believed later).

Camp Nano 2016 July 31d.png

The other thing is, what I am starting to call The Process actually seems to work. I put characters in situations. I think through how they would react, using Goal Motivation Conflict to pull out what they want, why they want it, and why they can’t get it (a method recommended by my editor Debra Dixon in her GMC book). But the critical part of my Process is, when I have to go write something that I don’t know, I look it up – in a lot of detail. Yes, Virginia, even when I was writing 9,000+ words a day, I still went on Wikipedia – and I don’t regret it. Why? Because when I’m spewing around trying to make characters react like they’re in a play, the characters are just emoting, and the beats, no matter how well motivated, could get replaced by something else.

2209942304_e9f94d213a_b.jpg

But when it strikes me that the place my characters area about visit looks like a basilica, I can do more than just write “basilica.” I can ask myself why I chose that word. I can look up the word “basilica” on Apple’s Dictionary app. I can drill through to famous basilicas like the Basilica of Saint Peter. I can think about how this place will be different from that, and start pulling out telling details. I can start to craft a space, to create staging, to create an environment that my characters can react to. Because emotions aren’t just inside us, or between us; they’re for something, for navigating this complex world with other humans at our side. If a group of people argues, no matter how charged, it’s just a soap opera. Put them in their own Germanic/Appalachian heritage family kitchen in the Dark Corner of South Carolina, on on the meditation path near an onsen run continuously by the same family for 42 generations, and the same argument can have a completely different ambiance – and completely different reactions.

The text I wrote using my characters reacting to the past plot, or even with GMC, may likely need a lot of tweaking: the point was to get them to a particular emotional, conceptual or plot space. The text I wrote with the characters reacting to things that were real, even if it needs tweaking, often crackles off the page, even in very rough form. It’s material I won’t want to lose – more importantly, material I wouldn’t have produced, if I hadn’t pushed myself to do National Novel Writing Month.

Up next, finishing a few notes and ideas – the book is very close to done – and then diving into contracts for Thinking Ink Press, and reinforcement learning policy gradients for the robot apocalypse, all while waiting for the shoe to drop on TCTM. Keep your fingers crossed that the book is indeed on its way out!

-the Centaur

To think, I could be in epic crowds right now!

Thursday, July 21st, 2016

20160721_122339.jpg

And instead, I’m eating veggie quesadillas with salmon, reading about neural networks and reinforcement learning, and waiting to find if my jury number is going to be called. In truth, I miss Comic-Con this year, but I only have myself to blame for not renewing my professional registration, and in truth I need the time to work on PHANTOM SILVER.

Camp Nano 2016 July 21.png

As you can see, I’m way behind, in part because of my Tahoe trip, in part because I’m also trying to finish THE CLOCKWORK TIME MACHINE, and in part because work is cuh-RAY-zee. But I’m making progress; I just cracked 20,000 added words..

Camp Nano 2016 July 21a.png

Back to work. Comic-Con, next year.

-the Centaur

Thrown off the horse and back into the saddle

Friday, June 10th, 2016

20160531_105608.jpg

I have not yet finished dealing with the aftermath of Clockwork Alchemy, and yet I already find myself dealing with the prepwork for Dragon Con! But the good news is, once again, I’m a guest (well, technically, an “attending professional”):

Anthony Francis By day, Anthony Francis is a roboticist; by night, he’s an author and comic book artist. He wrote the Dakota Frost, Skindancer urban fantasy series including Frost Moon, Blood Rock, and Liquid Fire; edited the Doorways to Extra Time anthology; and published the steampunk anthology Thirty Days Later.

Yaay! Oh wait, that means I have to do panels. Aaaa!

Watch this space.

-the Centaur

At Clockwork Alchemy 2016!

Friday, May 27th, 2016

20150525_230724.jpg

Greetings, fellow adventurers! At long last, that time has rolled around again – Clockwork Alchemy, the Bay Area’s premiere steampunk convention. I’ll be here this weekend, most importantly for the launch of THIRTY DAYS LATER!

30dl-1000x1600-B&N.jpg

SO this year blogging every day was supposed to be a thing, but life is more important, and after taking care of my mom after her knee surgery, being there for my wife, and doing a good job at that thing I do that keeps a roof over our heads and food in the cats’ bellies, the next most important thing was … well, not 30DL, it was THE CLOCKWORK TIME MACHINE!

20160507_170226.jpg

But that ain’t out yet, as it is still in copyedit. We may go another round on this one. Whatever. I want this book to win the Hugo and I trust my editor, so we’re going to work on it and Get It Right. But AFTER making sure my editor did not send ninjas to have me killed, the next most important thing was launching THIRTY DAYS LATER on time!

index2.jpg

THIRTY DAYS LATER is Thinking Ink’s first full length fiction anthology, and we wanted to get this one right, or at least not so wrong that all the books were gone. Now that I am at the con with a giant pile of books, at last, I can breathe easy.

IMG_20160512_193548(1).jpg

Oh, and I can finish my slides for Saturday’s presentation. Aaaa!

-the Centaur

Two Jeremiah stories reviewed on Publisher’s Weekly

Thursday, May 19th, 2016

THIRTY DAYS LATER was reviewed on Publisher’s Weekly, and my two stories got a great review:

Each [story in THIRTY DAYS LATER] is broken into two separately titled parts, with events in the second part unfolding 30 days after those in the first. Anthony Francis, in “The Fall of the Falcon/The Rise of the Dragonfly,” uses that interval to work a crafty time-travel paradox into a futuristic tale of “infectious Foreign gearwork” run amok.

THIRTY DAYS LATER officially comes out June 1st, but you can order it now on Amazon! Check it out!

30dl-cover.png

They’re Heeere…

Friday, May 13th, 2016

20160513_000446.jpg

It is with an enormous sigh of relief that I can announce that THIRTY DAYS LATER will indeed be available by Clockwork Alchemy!

IMG_20160512_193548.jpg

Above is the stack of books as they arrived at my house today, and below is my smile when I inspected the shipment!

20160513_000542(1).jpg

I don’t even want to start to go into the snafus which happened at the last minute, because they are OVER! I can at last add this to the stack, and move on. More later on how THIRTY DAYS LATER is Thinking Ink Press’s first fiction anthology, how it features the next of the Jeremiah Willstone stories, and why you want to watch out for yaks and Sasquatch … but for now … they’re here!

20160513_004503.jpg

-the Centaur