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Posts published in “Urban Fantasy”

The Dakota Frost, Skindancer series … and all of Dakota Frost’s friends!

Camp Nano 2017: SPIRITUAL GOLD

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Yes, that's right! National Novel Writing Month's kid sister, Camp Nano, is back, and I'm once again taking on the challenge of writing 50,000 words in the month on Dakota Frost Book 6 ... SPIRITUAL GOLD!

(No, that ain't the real cover, that's 10 minutes in Photoshop working over a Christmas Tree Topper and a Hopi Plaque.)

For those a bit surprised that I'm working on Book 6 when Book 3, LIQUID FIRE, is the most recent published one, I want to make sure that when the next Dakota Frost book goes live there's no big hiatus to the following ones! So I'm working on the next three Dakota Frost books (and the first three Cinnamon Frost books together).

As for this one, I'll let the Camp Nano summary and excerpt speak for themselves:

Synopsis:

Dakota Frost just wants to ink magic tattoos and raise her weretiger daughter - but it's getting increasingly hard to do either as she gets drawn deeper and deeper into the magical world of the fae and the superspooks of the DEI. But when they bring a new problem to her door, she can't turn away - because she herself may be under attack ... from the world of her dreams.

Excerpt:

As we drew closer, it got harder to get a good look from the angle of the passenger window. I leaned back, then winced—the scabbard over my back had shifted to just the wrong position. I squirmed until the Salzkammergutschwert was off the center of my torso.

“Wait a minute,” Heinz said incredulously. “Is that what I think it is?”

“I don’t know,” I said pleasantly. “What do you think it is, Heinz?”

“You … packing a sword?” Heinz said incredulously.

I glanced over at him. “Sort of, yeah.”

“What the hell for?”

“You’re packing,” I pointed out.

“Yeah, but a gun,” he said. “That’s useful in a fight—”

“Most of the people I get in fights with,” I said, “won’t be impressed by a peashooter.”

“Ah, very sensible,” said Warstein from the front seat.

“You pack an anti-fae weapon.”

“Sort of, yeah,” I leaned up again, watching through the window as the MIRU shot over the I-64 bridge and through the giant hovering ring. Mr. “Seen it already” Warstein turned away from it with a condescending tone that made Heinz roll his eyes and glance at me for relief.

“You see,” Warstein said, even as one of the greatest wonders of the Western World slid stainless and gleaming past the glass behind him, “if Frost deals with the fae, she must face the fact that many fae are bulletproof, but highly vulnerable to cold iron, or enchanted swords—”

“What the fuck?” Heinz said, looking at me. “You’re telling me that’s Glamdring?”

“Another hat tip,” I said, mouth quirking. “You, ah, can view it as a magic sword—”

“So,” Heinz said, incredulous, “that fucking thing glow when orcs come around?”

“Not that I know of,” I laughed. “Not that I’ve ever met an actual orc—”

“Most magic swords don’t do anything we’d call special,” Warstein said archly. “Like the legendary vorpal blade, their primary capability is that they’re sharp, and made of metal that hurts the fae. A very few, like the, uh, the Saltgammerswort, are specifically anti-fae—”

“Salzkammergutschwert,” I corrected automatically.

“Gesundheit,” said Heinz.

“Excuse me?” Warstein asked.

“It’s called the Salzkammergutschwert,” I said. “It means the Salt Chamber Sword.”

“Which is where it was found,” Warstein said, “very good, very good. The Salz—ah—I can never pronounce it—the Salt Chamber Sword is one of the rarest of blades, a long, black sword of cold iron specifically forged to fight the faerie—”

“Not exactly,” I said. “Technically, it’s a magical radiator, not a sword, though you can use it as one because it’s nearly indestructible. The hilt wrappings are human work, but the blade itself is a faery artifact, repurposed—not a weapon, just something that happens to hurt them.”

Heinz looked at me strangely, then at the scabbard over my back.

“You’re wearing this Gesundheit thing now?”

I shrugged and smirked. “Sort of, yeah—”

“What are you talking about—oh my God,” Warstein said, excited and aghast. I reached up a long arm and popped the blade out of its scabbard briefly, and Warstein keened and wailed, more intense than a fanboy meeting Shatner. “Oh-my-God and aaaa! You’re wearing the literal Salt Chamber Sword? Oh my God. Oh my God! That’s a four million dollar blade—”

“Jesus,” Heinz said, tweaking his ear. “Shout it louder, why don’t—”

“I don’t need you advertising the value of my blade,” I said. “I really don’t.”

 

And so, Dakota's slow slide towards Gandalf continues ... never fear, she's never going to say "Fly you fools," nor is she going to come back from the dead with a snazzy white wardrobe. Damnit Francis you have to do that now ....

-the Centaur

JW&TCTM Release: February 23rd, 2017

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Jeremiah Willstone and the Clockwork Time Machine will be out next week - February 23rd, 2017! Order it on Amazon, review it on Goodreads, or ask for it wherever fine books are sold!

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From an Epic Award winning author comes a sprawling tale of brass buttons, ray guns, and two-fisted adventure!

In an alternate empire filled with mechanical men, women scientists, and fantastic contraptions powered by steam, a high ranking officer in the Victoriana Defense League betrays his country when he steals an airship and awakens an alien weapon that will soon hatch into a walking factory of death.

Commander Jeremiah Willstone and her team must race through time in a desperate bid to stop the traitor's plan to use the alien weapon to overthrow the world's social order. With time running out, Jeremiah may have to sacrifice everything she is to save everyone she loves.

"Addictive, sassy, sexy, funny, intense, brilliant." -Bitten By Books, on Frost Moon

Epic Award winner Anthony Francis writes the Dakota Frost, Skindancer series and the Jeremiah Willstone series while working on robots for "the Search Engine Which Starts with a 'G'."

Cover Reveal: JEREMIAH WILLSTONE AND THE CLOCKWORK TIME MACHINE!

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For those wondering what I’ve been up to for the last six months, the biggest thing is THIS …

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At long last, JEREMIAH WILLSTONE AND THE CLOCKWORK TIME MACHINE is coming to print! We’ll be picking the actual release date in the next few days, but I can’t think of a better gift for my birthday than seeing the cover of my new novel!

Here’s a sneak peek at the back cover blurb:

From an Epic Award winning author comes a sprawling tale of brass buttons, ray guns, and two-fisted adventure!

In an alternate empire filled with mechanical men, women scientists and fantastic contraptions powered by steam, a high ranking officer in the Victoriana Defense League betrays his country when he steals an airship and awakens an alien weapon that will soon hatch into a walking factory of death.

Commander Jeremiah Willstone and her team must race through time in a desperate bid to stop the traitor's plan to use the alien weapon to overthrow the world's social order. With time running out, Jeremiah may have to sacrifice everything she is to save everyone she loves.

"Addictive, sassy, sexy, funny, intense, brilliant." -Bitten By Books, on Frost Moon

Epic Award winner Anthony Francis writes the Dakota Frost, Skindancer series and Jeremiah Willstone series while working on robots for "the Search Engine Which Starts with a 'G'."

Prevail, Victoriana!

-the Centaur

Viiictory the Sixteenth

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Hooray! I have now successfully completed National Novel Writing Month sixteen times (out of eighteen tries, counting Camp Nanos and such), finishing the first 50,000 words of Dakota Frost #6, SPIRITUAL GOLD!

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It’s easy to look at the big cliff over the past few days and not realize how far I got behind, between getting sick, wrangling robots at work, and some damn election thing. That’s why I haven’t been posting much this month - I had to knuckle down to overcome this:

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The good news is, the more and more I do this, the better I understand how I’m doing. While I was behind, I wasn’t unsurmountably behind, at least not compared to my yearly averages:

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Over the years, I’ve tackled Nanowrimo many, many times, and this year tracked my average performance pretty closely:

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It is super late, and I’m tired, and I want to go hug my wife, who just woke up after a long winters nap when she finished work for an art show. So I’ll post excerpts later! Oh wait, here’s a little one:

“Mom, so help me, I swear,” said my daughter Cinnamon—her voice a growl, her whiskers aquiver, and one long clawed finger pointing menacingly in my general direction—“if you try to go off half cocked I will ground you until the heat death of the universe!”

How the worm turns. Onward! Or, on to bed.

-the Centaur

The Good News

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The good news is, the presentation I had today at work went very well. Yay robots! The bad news?

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Eleven days into Nano, and seven thousand words behind. Argh.

-the Centaur

Nanowrimo 18: Spiritual Gold

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So for the 18th time I’m taking on a National Novel Writing Month challenge (counting Camp Nano), this time starting Dakota Frost Book 6: Spiritual Gold!

Dakota Frost is the best magical tattooist in the Southeast, and is rapidly becoming the best magical investigator ... but what about magical medicine? When Dakota's called on to help with a zombie epidemic, is the solution simply finding a cure for a disease ... or stopping an implacable force determined to break down the walls between the living and the dead?

And an excerpt:

Those who live by the sword, die by the sword, or so the saying goes; personally, I like to say that those who acquire a dangerous magical blade ought to learn to use it properly, or they’re likely to die skewered, embarrassingly, by their own faerie lightsaber.

On that note, having the most powerful magical sword in the world sure wasn’t saving my ass today. For that matter, my ass was not well being well served by my martial arts training, my considerable magical expertise, nor even my vast library of magical tattoos.

Because I’m Dakota Frost, the Skeptical Witch, and while I am many things—the best magical tattooist in the Southeast, a Skindancer who can dance her tattoos to life, making me, allegedly, one of the most powerful magicians in the world—one thing I am not is a fencer.

“Ow,” I said, as my instructor whapped my ass, once again, with a springy wooden Japanese practice sword called a shinai. I stumbled away, swinging my own shinai back at her, as she stepped back and laughed. “No fair capitalizing on my … my stupidness.”

“It was your idea to add free form practice,” said Gina Ho, the secondary instructor at the dojo where I dilettanted at Shao Lin. She was an actual Olympic-grade sabreuse who’d agreed to train me after hours. “Pick a style and learn the basics before picking up that … that thing.

She jerked her head at the wall of the dojo, where I had piled my gym bag, my satchel, my folded leather pants, my carefully folded leather vestcoat, and leaning carelessly atop it all, an innocent-looking brown leather case with shoulder-slung strap. One had too look at it closely to realize that the handle poking out of the end meant the leather case … was a scabbard.

“You practicing?” asked Master Ho cheerfully, and Gina and I jumped. Gina’s uncle was a genial, balding Iowan of Chinese descent, whose Midwestern accent belied his deep roots in the Shao Lin tradition he’d received from his father—down to a near-supernatural ability to move around silently on his perpetually unshod feet. “No? Give her her money’s worth.”

“Money?” Gina grumbled. “Uncle Marcus, I’m volunteering to—”

“Remember your proverbs,” Ho said, mock-sternly. “Always listen to your uncle.”

“Fine,” Gina said, stomping off to the lockers. “Alright, Dakota, you get your wish.”

I smiled, bowed politely to Gina’s back, bowed to Master Ho … and then darted back to my things, hefting the long case, feeling its weight. “My precious,” I muttered, though I really wasn’t that attached; still, my eyes gleamed … as I drew the Salzkammergutschwert.

The Salt Chamber Sword was a dark metal sword, strangely angular, like a geometric S. Thirty one inches from tip to guard, tapered triangular, like a cleaver, the Salzkammergutschwert was forged from a strange lustrous metal as dark as hematite—not one blade, but two, back to back, with a hairsbreadth’s distance between them; they never seemed to strike each other, but resonated, like a tuning fork, leading to its other name … the Songblade.

Current theory was the Songblade wasn’t a sword at all, but a component of a larger faery artifact, some magical resonator which merely happened to be indestructible—and sharp, leading early humans to wrap its “hilt” with dark, oily leather straps enchanted for durability. Maybe that was why the hilt, thirteen inches from guard to pommel, was fashioned in two angled parts that didn’t quite align with the blade, but it gave the weapon a comfortable hand-and-a-half grip. Backing the resonator theory was a circular space in the pommel, showing all signs of being a setting for a magical gem; but that missing component didn’t prevent the Salt Chamber Sword from serving its primary magical function as a negative energy resonator … making it of great interest to a Skeptical Witch who knew a little physics.

But still, it looked like a sword, and was used like one, because it was indestructible.

Time to learn how to wield it.

More soon. I got 1500+ words done tonight! Just 48500 words to go!

Onward!

-the Centaur

Book Reading: 1pm Sunday

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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!

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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

Dragon Con! 2016! I’ll be there!

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So, Labor Day is rolling around again, and once again, I’ll be at Dragon Con! I’m actually on a boatload of panels this year, but the most important one is my book reading, Sunday at 1PM at the Hyatt! Come on by and help me make this room:

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look like this room:

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I’ll be reading from THE CLOCKWORK TIME MACHINE, from the Dakota Frost series including both the published trilogy and the forthcoming books, and also I’ll likely read some of my flash fiction pieces! Come and enjoy!

If panels are more of your bag, however, I’ve got plenty for you:

  • Friday

    • Avoiding Historical Mistakes
      Friday, 7pm, 204 J Mart 2
      Our panelists will not debate whether science fiction/fantasy, even steampunk fiction, NEEDS to be as historically accurate as possible within the limits of its alternative universe. Our interest in this discussion will be in writing historically convincing fiction and sharing resources.
  • Saturday

    • You've Sold the First Book, Now What?
      Saturday 10am, Embassy CD - Hyatt
      What happens next? Publishing professionals offer information about the industry--what they're going to do, and what you need to do for yourself.
    • Writing a Synopsis That Will Sell Your Book - MODERATOR
      Saturday 2:30pm, Embassy CD - Hyatt
      Writing a great synopsis may be harder than writing a book. These outliners and pantsers will offer suggestions to make the process easier.
    • 101 Fascinating Ways to Kill off a Character
      Saturday 10pm, Embassy CD - Hyatt
      Description: Our favorite writers recount some of the more interesting ways they've eliminated characters--or tried to.
  • Sunday

    • 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.
  • Monday

    • The Good, the Bad, and the Scary: Witches in UF
      Monday 11:30am, Chastain DE - Westin
      Witches in Urban Fantasy run the gamut from helpful to extremely dangerous and self-serving. Our authors discuss their characters as reflections of the category they fall into.
    • Secret History: Bet You Didn’t Know It Happened That Way!
      Monday 1pm, 204 J - Mart2
      Our alternate history authors and experts describe that variety of tales where the public and world at large have no idea what really happened behind the scenes. Many authors have written in the subgenre. Classic short stories and novels will be discussed.

Oh! Hey! I’m moderating one of them panels. Good to know! (Seriously, a year or two back I found out I was moderating a panel when I sat down, and I’d only found out about the panel ten minutes before). Regardless, come on down to Dragon Con and have fun!

-Anthony

Finished a rough draft of PHANTOM SILVER

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I just finished a rough draft of Book 5 in the Dakota Frost, Skindancer series. I’d love to sit back and reflect on all the novels I’ve finished (3 published, one at the editor, 3 more drafts finished, 3 more beyond that partially finished, one in the sock drawer, and one half-finished novel that got away from me) but I have contracts to edit. So, for now, I’ll just leave this here...

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Viiictory the Fifteenth

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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!

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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