At San Diego Comic Con 2009

My current excuse for not posting (other than feverishly trying to finish Blood Rock) is attending San Diego Comic Con 2009, the largest comic convention in the world. Here I’m seeing talks, meeting friends, working on Blood Rock, leaving flyers for Dakota Frost: Frost Moon, and enjoying the fantabulous nightlife in San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter:

Comicon and the Gaslight District

You cannot explain how large Comicon is; you must see it yourself. I could show you the mammoth Exhibit Hall / Show’s Floor / Noah’s Ark of a Dealer’s Room, but it is hard from a single picture to get the scale:

Comicon Dealer's Room

I could show you the external architecture, the huge steps and rounded escalator leading out of the upper levels (actually, the round escalator had just moved out of the picture at this point), but it is still hard to get the scale:

Convention Center Architecture

Perhaps only by showing the huge tide of people leaving after the Dealer’s Room had closed can you truly see how large the San Diego Comic Con is:

Comicon Human Tide

It can take up to thirty minutes to reach your car in the parking lot, as we unfortunately found out today when we joined for lunch some friends who had driven. Halfway to the parking lot, you can see the length of the Convention Center, and can see why it takes up a significant part of the city on Google Maps:

Comicon Megastructure

Comicon has been held 40 times over the last 39 years, making it a cultural event only slightly younger than I am. This year is also Green Lantern’s 50th anniversary, and the Con and its attendees are celebrating with special T-shirts, movie premieres, and of course, fan costumes:

Comicon at 40, GL at 50

It’s all sold out this year, officially 126,000 but rumored to be as many as 140,000 strong … but if you have even a passing interest in comics, movies or other popular arts, you should make at least one pilgrimage to check it out.

More later. Must crash.
-the Centaur

Dakota Frost


That’s Dakota Frost, in the flesh, penciled and inked by me, based on my own sketches, internet references for the Mohawk and tattoos, and the body of my lovely wife, who was kind enough to model for me.

I had to do some promotional flyers for Frost Moon, have talked to the publisher about a frontispiece; this may be it.

-the Centaur

How Long is Frost Moon?

Posting some Q&A; about Frost Moon from an email…

  • Q. How long is Frost Moon?
    A. Frost Moon is ~90,000 words. The version my friends and beta readers read was 87,000, but the draft the publisher and I are working on has expanded that to 91,000.
  • Q. How does that compare to a normal novel?
    A. “That depends.” The scuttlebutt in the writing community led me to believe that are about 60,000 to 90,000 words, and I was shooting for 75,000 when I wrote Frost Moon. Since then I’ve done some research, and it seems like novels range from 60,000 to 100,000 with a sweet spot at 75,000 to 80,000 words … but again, that depends:
    • The always entertaining Orson Scott Card weighs in, giving us this answer with many caveats: “a book feels like a normal novel somewhere around 100,000 words and is hard to publish at less than 75,000”
    • Wikipedia presents a range of evidence on the topic, ranging from Animal Farm at 30,000 words (typically considered a novella) to War and Peace at nearly 600,000.
    • Fantasy novels tend to be larger … 250,000 words is not unusual.For comparison, Atlas Shrugged is almost 650,000 words, and Lord of the Rings (considered to be one novel published in three volumes) is 525,000. Romance novels, on the other hand, tend to be shorter … 50,000 to 60,000 words.

    So, it looks like Frost Moon is typical for the genre.

  • Q. What format will Frost Moon be published in?
    A. The publisher is thinking Frost Moon will be a trade paperback, a slightly larger sized format that’s easy to print on demand. However, depending on interest, this publisher will basically reissue Frost Moon in whatever size and format sells.
  • Q. Why aren’t you mentioning the publisher’s name?
    A. Two reasons:
    1. Until we have a signed contract that would be presumptuous, and
    2. Don’t jinx it.

Hope that clears all that up…
-the Centaur

Frost Moon: Coming Fall 2009

Here’s hoping I don’t jinx it, but it looks like Frost Moon is going to be published. I’m working with the editor on what we hope is the final on-spec draft prior to signing the contract, but it appears we have time to get it on the print calendar for Fall. If we miss that date, the next date would be January 2010, but it’s still coming.

Keep your fingers crossed!
-the Centaur

dub-dub-dub dot DakotaFrost dot com

Dakota Frost has her very own web site now, at the eponymous http://www.dakotafrost.com/.

I will still make the Library of Dresan the primary place to blog about my writing life, but I wanted a one-stop-shop for everyone who is interested in Dakota Frost to find out everything there is to know about the Edgeworlds universe and the tall, edgy tattooist that is Dakota Frost.

Not that there’s much there now, of course, but it is a start.

-the Centaur

I can’t read what I want right now

Right now I’m working on Blood Rock, the sequel to Frost Moon, my novel about Dakota Frost, a magical tattoo artist who can create tattoos that come to life. It’s an urban fantasy novel set in Atlanta, where werewolves and vampires are real, magic was hidden by its own practitioners, and the counterculture of the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s dragged it all into the light. Each book in this series focuses on one new monster and one new alternative culture practice made magical: Frost Moon focused on werewolves and magical tattooing, Blood Rock focuses on vampires and magical graffiti, and the upcoming Liquid Fire focuses on dragons and magical firespinning.

I recently completed the revision of Frost Moon, and am trying to get back into my groove on Blood Rock. I heard an author (I think it was Steven Barnes) recommend that you should read about ten times as much as you write, and while I don’t strictly follow that I do believe you need to expose yourself to a lot of writing to prevent yourself from falling into your own linguistic ruts. (You should do a lot of living too, and observing that living, but how to do that is something you must discover for yourself).

SO I went to pick up a new novel to read. When I started Blood Rock, I had recently picked up Fool Moon by Jim Butcher. A few pages into it I saw the beginnings of a plot thread similar to one I’m exploring in Blood Rock and immediately put it down. I don’t like to read things similar to what I’m working on “because stuff can sneak in even when you don’t know it’s happening” – a sentiment by Oliver Platt that’s as true about writing as it is about acting. I wrote a story once about a man fighting a crazy computer, and later found entirely unintended similarities to an episode of the Bionic Woman that I hadn’t seen in more than a decade.

So, no Fool Moon for you, not right now. I read Ayn Rand, H.P. Lovecraft, Steve Martin and many others, but finally wanted to roll around again to urban fantasy. So I picked up T.A. Pratt‘s Blood Engines. I didn’t start it right away, and in the interim I attended a fire ballet at the Crucible out here in the Bay Area, and decided to set a scene in Liquid Fire out here in the Bay Area. So I open Blood Engines … and finds out it opens behind City Lights Books in San Francisco.

So I put that one down. I then said, hey, let me get out my copy of Our Lady of Darkness by Fritz Lieber, which people have recommended to me as a classic precursor of the urban fantasy genre. Flip it open: a reference to Telegraph Hill in San Francisco. Dangit! What about this other book in my pile, the Iron Hunt by Marjorie Liu? Also features a magic tattoos. Dangit! Dangit! Dangit!

So I’ve given up on reading urban fantasy right now.

Instead I’m reading Severance, by Robert Butler, a series of flash fiction stories each 240 words long – the estimated number of words that someone could pass through someone’s head after they’ve been decapitated.

After that, hopefully I’ll be done with Blood Rock, and I can pick back up with the always dependable Anita Blake series by Laurell Hamilton. I love Anita Blake and think she’s a great character, but Dakota Frost is my reaction against heroines that start off as uber-tough chicks before the first vampire shows up. I’m more interested in telling the story of how the uber-tough chick got that way, of showing how meeting vampires and werewolves and magical misuse would force someone to toughen up. Anita, of course, has been through that, and is more like a Dakota Frost t-plus ten years in the trenches. So it should be pretty safe to read Cerulean Sins.

Just no magical tattoos, graffiti or firespinning. Please. At least till I finish these three books.

-the Centaur

Blog Labels at the Library: The Not-So-Dewey Decimal System

Blogger lets you categorize your blog entries with tags – like Development, Pound Cake or what have you. However, they don’t provide an easy way to put these labels into your web page if your site is not hosted on a Blogger server, which the Library of Dresan is not. I’ve played around with this a bit, but have not yet figured out how to do it.

But the directory structure of the labeled blogs is simple – just the subdirectory “labels” and a bunch of eponymous files like “Mission to Mars.html” or “Sith Park.html”. So I’m going to put these labels up myself right now, and write a 10-line or so Python program that will do it for me later.

To make things easy, I’ve added an index.html to the labels directory, so you can just navigate to it to see the current list of labels. For historical interest, here’s what I’ve got right now:

More to come…
-the Centaur
Update: removed the image for this post after investigating the license and finding it was a GNU-style “poison” license that required GNUification of the entire post. Sorry, Richard, I appreciate your efforts to make things available to the world but you don’t get my blog entries in exchange. I can take my own dang photos.

National Novel Writing Month 2008 Entry: Blood Rock

So … it once again is National Novel Writing Month, the tenth edition of the yearly “contest” to write 50,000 words in a new novel in one month. I’m going to tweak that a bit: I’ve been working for the last month or so on Blood Rock, the sequel to last year’s Nanowrimo entry, Frost Moon. Blood Rock is a return to the world of “skindancer” Dakota Frost, a magical tattoo artist living in an alternate Atlanta, and it’s quite fun to get back to her universe. I’m already 25,000 words into it … so for my Nanowrimo entry, I’m going to push this through to the end, roughly 75,000 words. The intro:

From the outside, my baby blue Prius looks as normal as can be: a streamlined bubble of a car with an aerodynamic rear-hitch bike rack, humming along on a hybrid gas/electric engine. She couldn’t scream ‘liberal soccer mom’ louder if she was a Volvo plastered with NPR stickers. Peer inside, however, and you see something completely different.

In the driver’s seat, yours truly: a six-foot two woman with a purple-and-black Mohawk – short in front, a la Grace Jones, but lengthening in back until it becomes a long tail curling around my neck. Striking, yes, but what really draws your eyes are my tattoos.

Starting at my temples, a rainbow of tribal daggers curls under the perimeter of my Mohawk, cascading down my neck, rippling out over my arms, and exploding in colorful braids of vines and jewels and butterflies. Beautiful, yes, but that’s not why you can’t look away — its because, out of the corner of your eye, you saw my tattoos move — there, they did it again! You swear, that leaf fluttered, that gem sparkled. It’s like magic!

Why, yes, they did move, and yes, they are magic. Thanks for noticing. All inked at the Rogue Unicorn by yours truly, Dakota Frost, best magical tattoo artist in the Southeast.

Beside me sits a five-nothing teenaged girl, listening to a podcast on her iPod. Normally she’s dressed in a vest and Capri pants, but today she’s in a shockingly conservative schoolgirl’s outfit that clashes with her orange hair and elaborate tiger-striped tattoos.

At first what you see is easy to interpret: an outsider trying to fit in, or a rebel suffering a forced fit. But then your eyes do another double take: are those … cat ears poking out from beneath her head scarf? Did they move? And is that a tail? My God, honey, could she be one of those … what are they called … “were-cats”?

Why yes, her ears did move, and yes, she’s a weretiger. But didn’t your mom tell you it’s rude to point? She has a name: Cinnamon Frost. And she’s my adopted daughter.

Both the Prius and the weretiger in its passenger seat are brand new to me. I met Cinnamon only two months ago, visiting a local werehouse to research a werewolf tattoo, and ended up adopting her after a serial killer damn near killed her trying to get to me. I picked up the Prius right around the same time, a little splurge after winning a tattooing contest.

The adjustment was hard at first: Cinnamon took over my house and tried to take over my life. But my Mom had been a schoolteacher, and I’d learned a few tricks. In the first few weeks after she moved in I put the hammer down, never smiling, setting clear boundaries for her behavior and my sanity. Finally — when she got past the point of the tears, the “not-fairs,” and the most egregious misbehaviors — I eased up, and we once again shared the easy “gee you’re a square but I like you anyway” camaraderie we’d started with.

Now we were peas in a pod; whenever I went out she tagged along, riding shotgun, listening to her audiobooks while I jammed to Rush. The two of us look as different as can be, except for the identical stainless steel collars about our necks, but one minute seeing the two of us laughing together and you’d think I’d been her mother for her whole life.

But today my sunny bundle of fur was feeling quite sullen.

“Don’t worry,” I said, patting her knee softly. One of them will accept you.”

So how much do I need to write each day to do this? Some Python (apologies to the J fans out there, but my J installation was acting cruftly today and I’m just as fast if not faster coding in Python):

>>> for day in range(1,31): print "Nov %d:\t%d" % (day, 25000 + (50000 / 30.0) * day)
...
Nov 1: 26666
Nov 2: 28333
Nov 3: 30000
Nov 4: 31666
Nov 5: 33333
Nov 6: 35000
Nov 7: 36666
Nov 8: 38333
Nov 9: 40000
Nov 10: 41666
Nov 11: 43333
Nov 12: 45000
Nov 13: 46666
Nov 14: 48333
Nov 15: 50000
Nov 16: 51666
Nov 17: 53333
Nov 18: 55000
Nov 19: 56666
Nov 20: 58333
Nov 21: 60000
Nov 22: 61666
Nov 23: 63333
Nov 24: 65000
Nov 25: 66666
Nov 26: 68333
Nov 27: 70000
Nov 28: 71666
Nov 29: 73333
Nov 30: 75000

I’m currently at 26,744 words, so I have a lot to do today. For those people who are starting at word 0, here’s a slight variant of the above you can cut and paste to make your own writing progress chart.

>>> for day in range(1,31): print "Nov %d:\t%d" % (day, (50000 / 30.0) * day)
...
Nov 1: 1666
Nov 2: 3333
Nov 3: 5000
Nov 4: 6666
Nov 5: 8333
Nov 6: 10000
Nov 7: 11666
Nov 8: 13333
Nov 9: 15000
Nov 10: 16666
Nov 11: 18333
Nov 12: 20000
Nov 13: 21666
Nov 14: 23333
Nov 15: 25000
Nov 16: 26666
Nov 17: 28333
Nov 18: 30000
Nov 19: 31666
Nov 20: 33333
Nov 21: 35000
Nov 22: 36666
Nov 23: 38333
Nov 24: 40000
Nov 25: 41666
Nov 26: 43333
Nov 27: 45000
Nov 28: 46666
Nov 29: 48333
Nov 30: 50000

Have fun, everyone!

-the Centaur

Viiiictory…

For the second time, I’ve entered and “won” the National Novel Writing Month contest. This challenge is to start a new novel in November and to write 50,000 words of the first draft before the end of the month. And, by becoming a hermit, not responding to email, and writing over Thanksgiving, I did it!

The working title of the novel is Frost Moon (though over on my Nanowrimo profile I was still calling it “Skindancer” before I found out that the full moon that happens during the course of the book is a “frost moon”).

And now, the beginning of Frost Moon. Enjoy.

Frost Moon

I first started wearing a Mohawk to repel low-lifes — barflies, vampires, Republicans, and so on — but when I found my true profession it turned into an ad. People’s eyes are drawn by my hair — no longer a true Mohawk, but a big, unruly “deathhawk,” a stripe of feathered black, purple and white streaks climbing down the center of my head — but they linger on the tattoos, which start as tribalesque vines in the shaved spaces on either side of the ’hawk and then cascade down my throat to my shoulders, flowering into roses and jewels and butterflies.

Their colors are so vivid, their details so sharp many people mistake them for body paint, or assume that they can’t have been done in the States. Yes, they’re real; no, they’re not Japanese — they’re all, with a few exceptions, done by my own hand, right here in Atlanta at the Rogue Unicorn in Little Five Points. Drop by — I’ll ink you. Ask for Dakota Frost.

To retain the more … perceptive … eye, I started wearing an ankle-length leather vest that shows off the intricate designs on my arms, and a cutoff top and lowrider jeans that that show off a tribal yin-yang on my midriff. Throughout it all you can see the curving black tail of some thing big, beginning on the left side of my neck, looping around the yin-yang on my midriff, and arcing through the leaves on my right shoulder. Most people think it’s a dragon, and they wouldn’t be wrong; in case anyone misses the point, I even have the design sewn into the back of a few of my vests.

But those who live on the edge might see a little more: magical runes woven in the tribal designs, working charms woven into the flowers, and, if you look real close at the tail of the dragon, the slow movement of a symbolic familiar. Yes, it did move; and yes, that’s real magic. Drop by the Rogue Unicorn — you’re still asking for the one and only Dakota Frost, the best magical tattooist in the Southeast.

The downside to being a walking ad, of course, is that some of the folks you want to attract start to see you as a scary low-life. We all know that vampires can turn out to be quite decent folk, but so can cleancut young Republicans looking for their first tattoo to impress their tree-hugger girlfriends. As for barflies, well, they’re still barflies; but unfortunately I find the more tats I show the greater the chance that the cops will throw me into the back of the van too if a barfight breaks out.

So I couldn’t help being nervous as two officers marched me into City Hall East…

-the Centaur