Posts Tagged ‘Gaslights and Rayguns’

Oasis

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015

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One of the roles conferences fulfill in my life is a chance to recharge. I’m driven to pursue writing, art, comics, software, entrepreneurship, publishing, movies – but I was raised to be responsible, so I have an equally demanding day job that pays the bills for all these activities until such time that they can pay for themselves.

Sometimes I describe this as having four jobs – my employment (search engines and robots), writing (primarily the Dakota Frost and Jeremiah Willstone series), comics (mostly related to 24 Hour Comic Day through Blitz Comics), and publishing (Thinking Ink Press, a new niche publisher trying to get awesome things into your hands).

Having four jobs means that you sometimes want to take a break.

That’s really difficult if you don’t have an excuse. There are literally hundreds of items on my to-do list that I could work on right now, all day and all night. If I finish one, a dozen more are clamoring for my attention – and that’s not counting the time I want to spend with my wife, friends, and cats, or the time I need to spend on exercise, bills and laundry.

But a few oases exist.

Layovers in airports are one of those: I deliberately arrange for long layovers, because between plane flights you have nothing else to do other than grab a bite and a drink in an airport restaurant, chill out, and read something. True, I often work on writing during layovers, but it’s big-picture stuff, researchy, looking at the picture on a scale larger than I normally do.

Conferences are even better. Whether it’s GDC, AAAI, Dragon Con, Comic Con or Clockwork Alchemy, conferences are filled with new information, interesting books, even more interesting people, which spark my imagination – right at the time that I’m in an enforced multi-day or even week-long break from my schedule.

For a long time, conferences have been a great time to pull out the laptop and/or notebook to write or sketch. The idea for the Jeremiah Willstone series started after I saw some great steampunk costumes at Dragon Con; I sold the Dakota Frost series after Nancy Knight saw me writing at Dragon Con and pointed me to my editor Debra Dixon at Bell Bridge Books.

More recently, I’ve been adding to this the power of ruts. This is something that I need to expand at greater length, but suffice it to say I used to think I simply had to do something different every day, every week, every month. I used to keep lists of restaurants and tried to make sure that I never went to the same one two days in a row, trying new ones periodically.

But then I noticed that I really enjoyed certain things, but didn’t always fully take advantage of them because of this strategy – great places to eat, cool coffee houses, and nice bookstores that I simply didn’t visit often enough. Often, on top of this strategy, my schedule would change, making it hard to visit them – or worse, they’d go out of business, and those opportunities were lost.

So I’ve started cultivating habits – ruts – to do the things that I like. Not too frequently – you don’t want to burn out on them – but if you do the same thing all the time, then you can be free to miss it any time. Even better, if you find a great thing that’s efficient – like a place to eat near work, with a late night coffee house conducive to writing – take advantage of it regularly.

Because one day it may be gone.

At conferences, I employ this strategy with a series of life hacks – go to breakfast before the conference to up your energy level and organize your thoughts, pick the best breakfast place for writing and reading, break for lunch at 11:30 to 11:45 to miss the lunch rush, and also find the best place where there are no lines and concentration can be had.

At GDC, I’ve found a good set of hotels near the conference, a few good breakfast joints on the walk to the Moscone Center and a few places to eat slightly off the beaten path that are pretty empty just before noon – and I hit these places again and again, pulling out my notebook and tackling problems which are really big picture for me, mostly related to future game projects.

At Dragon Con I do similar things – hitting the Flying Biscuit breakfast joint that appears in Dakota Frost, getting coffee at the Starbucks in the Georgia Tech Bookstore, hitting the Willy’s lunch counter that inspired the Jeremiah Willstone story “Steampunk Fairy Chick,” et cetera, et cetera; and at each one I pull out the notebook and work on big picture story ideas.

These places are real oases for me: a break within a break, a special place set aside for thinking within a special time already set aside for recharging. Because of how human memory works, sometimes I can even pull out a notebook (or an older notebook), find my place from last year, and pick up where I left off, plotting my future in an oasis of creative contentment.

This, of course, is my strategy, that works for me – but it works so well, I encourage you to find a strategy that works for you too.

-the Centaur

I’m Not Dead

Saturday, February 28th, 2015

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Seems like I need to post these once in a while … I am, indeed, not dead.

Since finishing National Novel Writing Month last year, I’ve all but disappeared from this blog. Those who follow Dakota Frost on social media know at least part of the story: I’ve been working on LIQUID FIRE, Skindancer #3, and have just sent it off to copyedits after several rounds with my editor, Debra Dixon (who helped me make it a much better book).

That’s not the only thing going on – I was also working on two stories for an unannounced project in the Jeremiah Willstone universe, desperately trying to finish a novella in the same universe, and working my ass off at the Search Engine That Starts with A G on a new project which I can’t talk about at all other than that it’s awesome.

Add to that working with Thinking Ink Press on the upcoming release of The Parent’s Guide to Perthes, with the Write to the End group on various other projects, with my friend Nathan Vargas on his M-Theory system, and my wife on her art projects, and it’s been a hell of a busy time.

But, yes, there were a few rounds of illness: more than one cold from air travel and food poisoning and some general bouts of the blehs – a week-long vacation is a GREAT time to catch up on that illness you’ve been putting off. A hell of a lot of that has been going around this year – I can think of a probably ten people who were out over the last few months.

I do worry about winter illnesses: my father used to get sick around the end of each year, and we thought it would eventually kill him. But it never did. And he stopped exercising from back pain, heart disease and long before the end. In contrast, I’m fine, healthy, exercising, recently taking in four hours of hiking with my wife in Monterey:

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So, to recap: not dead, just busy.

-the Centaur

Appearing at Dragon Con, Just a Little Bit

Sunday, August 24th, 2014

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I will be at Dragon Con this year, moderating a panel on Victorian Technology at Monday at 11:30am:

Technology of the Victorian era and how to exploit it in your stories or imagination!
We’ll discuss what technology the Victorians actually used and how it changed their world. We’ll also highlight inventions that should have changed the world but didn’t!

Monday at 11:30a in Augusta III

Anthony Francis (Moderator), Jean Marie Ward, Stephanie Osborn, Shay Mohn, Stephen Chapman

As usual, I will probably appear at the Writer’s Track, though those appearances are always fluid.

For the rest of the time, since I have no publications to announce at Dragon Con – my comics work being announced at Comic-Con and APE, and the work to do that is more than enough effort to consume all available time – I plan on enjoying the con, hanging out with friends, meeting up with the Dragon Writers, and remembering Ann Crispin.

More news as it happens, if it happens.

-Anthony

It was a good weekend …

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014

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… and not just because I sold 22 copies of my books at Clockwork Alchemy. Though that was a big part of it, the sales themselves aren’t what really mattered to me; it was that 22 copies of my books are in people’s hands, and they were in people’s hands because for the very first time, I had an author’s table.

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For the four days that I sat behind that author’s table, behind a fort of my books and my postcards and my wife’s steampunk gears and shelves and even a small tiger, I became part of a community of people – and not just even the wonderful people at the Clockwork Alchemy author’s alley, whom I hope to see again for years and years to come.

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No, I became a part of the broader community of science fiction authors, connecting with their readers through science fiction conventions, the way I myself first really connected with the science fiction community, after many years of reading alone. I’ve been a published author for years, and written in a small community for longer, but now I feel connected as never before.

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This is a new level of interaction, a new level of connection, a new opportunity for a whole family to create an author’s delight by buying their books and holding them over their heads like mouse ears. Somehow, everything feels more real to me, and I am more inspired than ever before to keep writing and to get the ideas in my head out … and into yours.

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I hope we both enjoy it! God bless,

-the Centaur

Sunday’s Events at Clockwork Alchemy

Saturday, May 24th, 2014

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Today’s talk on Real Women of the Victorian Era, led by the redoubtable T.E. MacArthur, went well. In a weird bit of synergy, an audiobook I was reading, Victorian Britain in the Great Courses series, had a section on Florence Nightingale which was not just directly relevant … it played just as I was driving up to the hotel. Perfect.

Tomorrow, Sunday, May 25th, I will be appearing on the panels Avoiding Historical Mistakes at noon in the Monterey Room (it is rumored that Harry Turtledove will be on the panel as well) and Victorian Technology at 2pm in the San Carlos room (not 1 as I said earlier), and giving a solo talk on The Science of Airships at 4pm also at San Carlos.

The rest of the time, I will largely be at my table above, which will look more or less like you see it above, except I may be wearing a different outfit. :-D

-the Centaur

I Have Landed at Clockwork Alchemy

Saturday, May 24th, 2014

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I have landed at Clockwork Alchemy. (Technically, I arrived yesterday). In 11 minutes, I am appearing on a panel on Real Women in the Victorian Era, even though it is not listed on my personal schedule.

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Oh, and I almost forgot: this is my very first booth of my own!

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More in a bit…

-the Centaur

The Weird Experience of Marketing Yourself

Wednesday, May 21st, 2014

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This Memorial Day weekend, I will be at the Clockwork Alchemy conference, appearing on three panels (Real Women in Victorian Times Saturday at noon, Avoiding Historical Mistakes Sunday at noon, and Victorian Technology, Sunday at 1) and giving one talk (my old standby, The Science of Airships, Sunday at 4).

Since I won’t be at my table the whole time, I decided to print up a series of postcards for all of my books using the service at Moo.com, which I and my wife have found to be great for printing customized business cards with a variety of artwork on the cover. I decided to do one for each book, showing the cover on one side and a blurb on the back.

But then I discovered that, just like for the business cards themselves, while you can have many different covers on the front, you get only one choice for the back. So what should go on that single back cover? What should it market? Then I realized: I don’t have a book coming out right away. These cards actually have to market … me.

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Ulp.

More precisely, the cards have to market my work. But I’m not a single-series author; I can’t (yet) pull a George R. R. Martin and just say “author of Game of Thrones,” especially not at a steampunk convention when my most prominent series, Dakota Frost, is actually urban fantasy. “Anthony Francis, author of Dakota Frost – who? Author of what? Ok, fine … but why is he here?”

So I have to list not just one series, but all of them, and not just list them, but say what they’re about.

After some thought, I decided to use some of my own comic art that I’d previously used on my business cards as a backdrop, but to focus the content of the cards on my writing, not my comics (sorry, f@nu fiku and Blitz Comics … there just wasn’t enough room on the cards or poster), unifying all of my books under a theme of “The Worlds of Anthony Francis”. I feel like breaking out in hives when I write that. It sounds so damn aggrandized and pompous. But strictly speaking … it’s accurate.

One of my worlds is the fantastic space of the Allied universe, where genetically engineered centaurs hop from world to world like skipping stones in the river (collected in the anthology STRANDED). Another is the hyper-feminist alternate history steampunk adventures of Jeremiah Willstone (collected in the anthologies UnCONventional and DOORWAYS TO EXTRA TIME). And yet another is the world of Dakota Frost, Skindancer, and the magic tattoos she can bring to life (FROST MOON, BLOOD ROCK, and the forthcoming LIQUID FIRE). And I hope you choose to read all of them! Enter the worlds, indeed.

But if I want people to read them, I need to tell people about them, in terms that make people, I dunno, actually want to read the books. Normally it’s a publisher who writes that copy, but they’re generally marketing a book, not me. I don’t yet have a publicist, and even if I did, the entire point of me is to do as many of the tasks of creative production myself as is practical, so I can speak at least quasi-intelligently about the process – case in point, the graphic design of the postcard above, which will be a blog post in its own right. But this isn’t about that part of the process; it’s about the feeling.

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One thing I’ve learned is that no-one knows that you write unless you actually tell them about it, and no-one buys what you write unless they know it can be bought. SO I have to do at least the first stab at this all by myself (not counting help from cats). I have to try to summarize my work, to bite the bullet and actually sell it, and to package that sales language up in ways that get it out to people – starting with a series of postcards to put on my table. And oh, yes, to blog it: to finally lift my head far enough above the waters to shout, yes, world, I am here, and no, I don’t need a life preserver: I need you to buy some of my books.

It still feels weird saying that.

I guess I’ll have to get over it.

-the Centaur

Pictured: the back of the postcards I printed for my table, featuring my own art; me, in a potential author publicity picture; and Gabby, helping me organize my book files and promotional materials.

Jeremiah Willstone Is on Her Way

Sunday, February 2nd, 2014

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At long last, I have sent to the publisher my fourth completed novel, JEREMIAH WILLSTONE AND THE CLOCKWORK TIME MACHINE: A Story of Love, Corsets, Rayguns, and the Conquest of the Galactic Habitable Zone.

This has been a long time in coming – in part because I had the not-so-bright idea of doing a related anthology, DOORWAYS TO EXTRA TIME, which has put me a solid year behind on my other writing projects – and in part because I had a lot of work to do. Lots of authors put their manuscripts through heavy revision, but the way I track changes gives a pretty clear view of my process:

Draft History
Started: September 7, 2009
Rough Draft: July 13, 2011
First Draft: March 10, 2012
Beta Draft: March 25, 2012
Beta Read: December 1, 2013
Gamma Edit: December 12, 2013
Gamma Draft: February 1, 2014

What’s less clear is the amount of research that goes into these books. For the story “The Doorway to Extra Time” I read parts of over 20 books on time travel. For THE CLOCKWORK TIME MACHINE, with its alternate histories and their intricate relationships, I read far more – dozens and dozens of books and hundreds and hundreds of web pages.

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Now all that’s done, and the book is off to Debra Dixon at Bell Bridge Books. Hopefully I’ve learned from previous edits what it takes to make a great book; if not, I’m sure she’ll tell me.

As always, I leave you with an excerpt:

Lightning gouged a chunk of the wainscoting an inch from Jeremiah Willstone’s head and she hurled herself back, bumping down the stairs on her tailcoat, firing both Kathodenstrahls again and again until the oak doorpanels were blasted into sparks and splinters.

Her shoulders hit the landing hard enough to rattle her teeth, but Jeremiah didn’t lose her grip: she just kept both guns trained on the cracked door, watching foxfire shimmer off its hinges and knobs. The crackling green tracers crept around the frame, and with horror she realized the door was reinforced with newly-added iron bands. She’d intended to blast the thing apart and deny her enemy cover, but had just created more arrowholes for him-or-her to shoot through.

Jeremiah muttered a curse: the doors weren’t supposed to be reinforced! The Newfoundland Airship Conservatory was a relic, near sixty years old—and electric pistols had barely been invented when it was built in the 1850’s, much less Faraday armor. Yet this lot of miscreants had managed to erect in a few days barriers proof to the most modern thermionic blasters. In over nine years as an Expeditionary fighting the mad men and women who sought to let Foreign monsters onto the Earth, she’d never encountered a force as well-prepared as Lord Christopherson’s.

It made sense—the man had been in the Victoriana Defense League, and had their full playbook—yet there were dark rumors that he’d been bankrolled by Restorationist forces who threatened not just the Crown, but the Liberation Jeremiah held so dear. Given her history with the man, she hadn’t found the rumors surprising—but the complete lack of women soldiers among his ‘footmen’ practically confirmed them. Lord Christopherson wasn’t just in love with the monsters: he wanted to upend the whole Victorianan order. The man had to be stopped.

As the foxfire dissipated, the crackling continued, and Jeremiah’s eyes flicked aside to see sparks escaping the broken glass of her left Kathodenstrahl’s vacuum tubes. Its thermionics were shot, so she tossed the electric gun aside with a curse and checked the charge canister on her remaining Kathodenstrahl. The little brass bead was hovering between three and four notches. Briefly she thought of swapping canisters, but a slight creak upstairs refocused her attention.

No. You only need three shots. Keep them pinned, wait for reinforcements.

Now that Jeremiah is on her way, I’m returning my attention to LIQUID FIRE, which has a due date of April 1st, with a hopeful publication date in August. Wish me well, and hope that I have a picture like the following for LIQUID FIRE ready in the next month or so…

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-the Centaur

Who Am I?

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

me in front of the bell bridge books promotional material for BLOOD ROCK

Who are you? Good question. I’m Anthony Francis, and I write stuff and make computers jump through hoops for a living.

What have you done? I’m most notable for the EPIC award winning urban fantasy novel FROST MOON and its sequel, BLOOD ROCK, which are about magical tattoo artist Dakota Frost and are therefore hopefully both more interesting than my ~700 page PhD thesis on context-sensitive computer memory. Also on the computer side, I’ve done some exploration of robot emotions.

What are you doing next? Forthcoming in the Dakota Frost series is the third book, LIQUID FIRE, and this November for National Novel Writing Month I plan to work on HEX CODE, the first in a spin-off series featuring Dakota’s adopted daughter Cinnamon Frost.

Are you working on anything other than Dakota Frost? I’ve also recently completed a rough draft of the first book in a new series, JEREMIAH WILLSTONE AND THE CLOCKWORK TIME MACHINE. A short story set in this universe, “Steampunk Fairy Chick”, will be included in the forthcoming anthology UnCONventional.

What are you working on currently? I’m also currently working on a fourth new series with the working title STRANDED, a young adult science fiction novel set a thousand years in the future, featuring a spoiled young centauress who must rescue a shipload of children who have crashlanded upon a world she wanted to claim as her own. This story’s set in the “Library of Dresan” universe from which this blog takes its name and which was setting of my very first unpublished novel “homo centauris”, which I am now happily milking for its 57 billion year backstory.

Anything else? I have a flash fiction story called “The Secret of the T-Rex’s Arms” to appear on the Smashed Cat Magazine. I’ve also published one short story, “Sibling Rivalry” in the Leading Edge Magazine. I have a webcomic, f@nu fiku, on hiatus. And I’m actively involved with helping people succeed at 24 Hour Comics through tutorials that I and my friend Nathan Vargas have put together at Blitz Comics.

Is that enough questions for now? Yes, it is. Please enjoy.

-the Centaur

Back at Comic-Con

Saturday, July 23rd, 2011

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I’m back at San Diego Comic-Con again … my con home away from con home (my con home being Dragon*Con). Comic-Con is also where I get to visit with 125,000 of my closest friends.

the crowds begin

Like Dragon*Con, San-Diego Comic-Con has grown far beyond its original roots. The
con is about far more than just comics: it’s now a full bore genre media event.

the convention floor

They’ve got sexy space girls …

star trek babes

… sexy space guys …

the 5th, 11th and 10th doctors

… and everything in between.

the total recall car and robots

And lest there be any doubt about what I meant, here’s what I took the closeup of in that last tableau … I am a roboticist after all:

the total recall robot

While I’m here, I’ll not just be renewing my creative juices … I’ll be working on the final proofs for BLOOD ROCK, which is due the day after I get back.

If only I had a way to get more time…wait, maybe I do!

me and the tardis

Wish me luck!
-the Centaur