Posts Tagged ‘Gaslights and Rayguns’

Viiictory the Fifteenth

Sunday, July 31st, 2016

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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!

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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:

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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

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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.

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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..

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Back to work. Comic-Con, next year.

-the Centaur

Thrown off the horse and back into the saddle

Friday, June 10th, 2016

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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

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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!

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They’re Heeere…

Friday, May 13th, 2016

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

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

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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!

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-the Centaur

THIRTY DAYS LATER reviewed by the Punkettes

Saturday, April 23rd, 2016

Excellent news – THIRTY DAYS LATER has been reviewed by the Punkettes!

Need help steaming up your Summer? The other day I made myself a cup of tea and sat down to read the THIRTY DAYS LATER anthology put on by Thinking Ink Press. I wasn’t expecting the soirée of steam/clock infusion. I soon found my tea turning cold and me turning the next page. Thirty Days Later is full of interesting diverse stories that will appeal to a wide variety of readers with sightings of Royals, ghosts, dragons, Japanese folklore, spies, and even a Sasquatch(?!).

Very cool! Go check the review out, and remember, THIRTY DAYS LATER comes out in a couple of months!

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Not Ducking Questions, Just Working

Monday, March 28th, 2016

Between a crash course in learning deep learning and full court press on THE CLOCKWORK TIME MACHINE, I’m far behind on far too many questions. So even though my good buddy Jim Davies just hit me with a comment on a post which I want to riff on in at least five blog posts, I’m afraid for the next few days I need to focus on getting caught up on THIRTY DAYS LATER.

Back to work.

-the Centaur

She is Sent

Sunday, March 27th, 2016

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Also on the note of resurrections, the latest version of JEREMIAH WILLSTONE AND THE CLOCKWORK TIME MACHINE is winging its way back to the publisher. Apropos, that I sent this back at Easter: this book has been through so many drafts that I’m starting to feel dizzy. I expect there will be at least one more, though, so I’m prepared.

Lots more work to do. For now, though, back to SPECTRAL IRON.

-the Centaur

All the Transitions of Tic-Tac-Toe, Redux

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2016

What was supposed to be a quick exercise to help me visualize a reinforcement learning problem has turned into a much larger project, one which I’m reluctantly calling a temporary halt to: a visualization of all the states of Tic-Tac-Toe.

What I found is that it’s surprisingly hard to make this work: all the states want to pile on top of each other, and there are a few subtleties to representing it correctly. To make it work, I had to separately represent board positions – the typical X’es and Oh’s used in play – from game states, such as Start, X Wins, O Wins, and Stalemate.

The Mathematica for this is gnarly and a total hack; it probably could be made more efficient to process all 17,000+ transitions of the game, and I definitely need to think of a way to make each state appear in its own, non-overlapping position. But that will require more thought than my crude jitter function above, the time it takes to run each render is way too long to quickly iterate, and I have a novel to finish. I don’t want to get stuck in a grind against a game known for its stalemate.

Ugh. You can see the jumble there; it’s hard to see which transitions lead to X’s or O’s victory and which lead to stalemate. I have ideas on how to fix this, but I want my novel done more and first, dag nab it. So let me give you all the transitions of Tic-Tac-Toe in their full glory (22.8mb). I could say more about this problem – or I can say what I have, call it victory, and move on.

On to the novel. It’s going well.

-the Centaur