200,000 Words of Cinnamon Frost

Milestones are coming. And the first of these is catching up on my wordcount for my Nanowrimo project this November, BOT NET!

Winning at Nano always feels like climbing a hill, but for me in particular it almost always feels like I start out sliding back down, Sisyphus-like, as I struggle to get a handle on the story.

But then there comes that magic point where I need to write 1,666 words in a  day and I. Got. Nothing.  Then I’m forced to be creative, and the real fun stuff happens, an event I call “going off the rails”. Hey, let’s try to embed a tweet!

So now things are back on track for the month, and I’m smack in the middle of where I normally am this time of Nano … Actually, it appears I’m ahead. Checking the stats … yep. At this point, I’m normally just shy of 6,000 words behind ( -5,984, though that estimate is numerically precise, it is not likely to be meaningfully accurate ) but today I am 169 words ahead of the Nano wordcount:

I’m one more thing too: 200,000 words into the Cinnamon Frost trilogy.

There are 3 published Dakota Frost novels: FROST MOON, BLOOD ROCK and LIQUID FIRE, and three more finished rough drafts: SPECTRAL IRON, PHANTOM SILVER, and SPIRITUAL GOLD. By my count, I’ve written about 900,000 words about Dakota Frost, Skindancer, the woman who can bring her tattoos to life. But in one sense, that’s expected: I planned Dakota. I wanted to write a character that other people who can relate to.

Cinnamon Frost, as I’ve said before, is a character I never expected. She shoved her way into the Dakota Frost universe, in one of those “step off into space moments”, and she shows no signs of leaving.

Cinnamon might say 200,000 seems significant because of how humans process patterns – how we love all those zeroes – but it’s just a number: 2*10*10*10*10*10. But somehow, it feels right to take it this far, and I look forward to writing the next 100,000 to 150,000 words that will finish her trilogy and give her a chance to live her own literary life.

Time to get back to it.

-the Centaur

P. S. I said milestones are coming. If you’ve read closely in this post, you’ll realize another milestone is coming soon. Stay tuned …

10,000 words into Nano

So, the good news: I just crossed the 10,000 word mark in Nanowrimo 2017!

The bad news: I need to be at 13,333 words by today!

The good-bad news is, normally I’m closer to 4500 words behind at this point of Nano, so I am ahead of where I am normally behind:

What can I. say? “Don’t get cocky, kid.” Back to it …

-the Centaur

Timeline 10(ab)”’

No progress on BOT NET for Nanowrimo yet today … yesterday I got my daily word count, but today I needed to core dump some ideas I’d been brewing about a Jeremiah Willstone novella, “Crypt of the Burning Scarab”.  I had a brain flash about how to make the plot work out, involving a twisty time travel paradox I haven’t seen before, and wanted to make sure I read up enough physics and math to make sure the idea made sense, then wrote it all down before I dove back into Cinnamon’s world of mathematical magic.

But you know your plot is complicated when you non-ironically need a timeline point 10(ab)”’ – that’s point 10, timelines A&B, variant 3 (prime prime prime).

Happy writing …

-the Centaur

Pictured: A few of the math/physics books I’ve been reading on this idea, plus the “GBC” (Goodfellow, Bengio and Courville) Deep Learning book which I’m (re)reading for work.

Nanowrimo 2017 in Process

“Okay, so … um, hi! I’m Cinnamon Frost, and I’m here to tell you that my biographer, Anthony Francis, is busy as fuck writing my next adventure, BOT NET, for National Novel Writing Month!  He’s real behind, so as soon as he finishes this post, he’s, like, seriously, getting back to creatin’ my universe!”

Thanks, Cinnamon! Sounds about right! I am now 1170 words in and 3830 words behind according to my spreadsheet. Time to get cracking!

I’ve got a laptop, a table and two and a half hours in the coffeehouse before it closes – GO!

-the Centaur

Viiictory the Seventeenth

Huzzah! I have once again completed Camp Nano, the little sister to National Novel Writing Month! This marks the seventeenth time I’ve written 50,000 words in a month!

This month was pretty rough between the recent book launches of THE CLOCKWORK TIME MACHINE and the reprint of TWELVE HOURS LATER, not to mention the upcoming release of SOME TIME LATER – plus a whole bunch of work at work-work teaching robots to learn when the darn things just want to not learn.

That left blood in the water for most of the month, but I really, really, really wanted to be able to take Sunday off and spend time at church, with my wife and cats, and getting caught up on stuff, so I powered through it, trying to make sure I didn’t just finish the 50,000 by my count, but also finished the extra ~1500 or so words caused by the discrepancy between the Camp Nano word counter and the one on Microsoft Word, which I use every day.

I was really struggling until I remembered working on my first Nano project, FROST MOON, in which I had to take my characters to the “werehouse” … which I had no idea how to write … but just dove in, creating some wonderful ideas that fleshed out the story wonderfully, including Cinnamon Frost. Well, this time I had Dakota and one of her friends heading to a Hopi kiva, and I had no idea how to write that either … so I just dove in:

The road dipped and weaved out of the green plains and into low foothills. We stopped at … shudder … a McDonalds-cum-gas station for fuel for us and the car, and I took over driving, as the roads got windier and the hills got higher and drier.

“Here,” Heinz said, pointing, as he checked the map we picked up at the gas station. We weren’t using our phones—what the DEI could scramble, it could likely unscramble—but he had his laptop out, WiFi off, and was crossreferencing Carrington’s notes. “Seventeen more miles.”

The off-ramp led us to an increasingly narrow series of roads connected at T-junctions, with houses and civilization fewer and fewer at each series of turns. Then we crested a hill and were confronted by a valley … the seat of the lone peak called Crown Mountain.

“Fuuck,” Heinz said. “This is important. This means something.”

“Hat tip, Agent Heinz,” I said, leaning forward. “Damn …”

Crown ‘Mountain’ was, technically, a mesa, set on a flat plain of mixed dirt and scrub like a medieval castle. An imposing shaft of rock, solid and red-gold in the afternoon light, rose nineteen hundred feet above the floor of the valley, surrounded by a cone of tumbled rock like slanted ramparts. Atop the shaft, erosion had cut notches like parapets, leading to the crown appearance that gave the crag its name. But our eyes were drawn to the notches cut in it by humans: the largest collection of cave dwellings this side of Mesa Verde … and the only cave dwellings in North America that had been continually inhabited for the last thousand years.

“Holy fuck,” Heinz said, as we drove closer and closer to that jumble of deep gashes, ancient caves, ruined mounds, decaying huts, old houses and new construction that was the town of … “Tuukviela,” Heinz said, reading. “Variously, Crown Village or Mesa Village.”

“Speak of the devil,” I said: an oversized sign read TUUKVIELA: POP 373.

Forgive the rough-draftiness of the passage, but I have the feeling that Crown Mountain, Tuukivela, the Padilla family kiva and nearby Montañacorona will perhaps recur in a later Dakota Frost book … but who knows? I had enough fun to write 7030 words today.

I’ll go into a bit more about why this was a significant milestone in my writing life tomorrow, because it’s 4:16AM and I need some fricking sleep. Till then …

Best of luck, fellow Camp Nano campers!

-the Centaur

Struggling to Get Started

Ugh. Once again, struggling to get started on Nanowrimo. It isn’t like I have one project struggling to survive at work and three others struggling to get off the ground, or two books to launch, or promotion on two books already out! Excuses, excuses, if I showed my normal graph it would just be blood in the water – I’m doing hundreds of words a day on Camp Nano when I need thousands.

But I also freely admit I’m cheating here. The events of Dakota Frost Book 6 are going to come back later – possibly much later, most likely somewhere in books 10-12 – and I got inspired to write that scene, which I write in the rough draft manuscript for SPIRITUAL GOLD until I decide into which book that scene will land. That inflates the word count of SG a bit … but it also gives me a very clear outcome to drive towards when I work on the scenes in this book that set up the scenes for that book in the far future…

Onward!

-the Centaur

Camp Nano 2017: SPIRITUAL GOLD

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

I’m so sorry, web …

… I had to install an ad-blocker. Why? Firefox before any ad block:

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Firefox after Adblock Plus:

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Yep, Firefox was TEN TIMES SLOWER when loading a page with ads, and it stayed that way because the ads kept updating. Just one page with ads brought FF to its knees, and I did the experiment several times to confirm, yes, it indeed was the ads. I don’t know what’s specifically going on here, but I strongly suspect VPAID ads and similar protocols are the culprit, as documented here:

http://techaeris.com/2016/06/14/vpaid-ads-hurting-internet-experience/

… publisher and website owner Artem Russakovskii took to Google+ and The Hacker News to share some of his findings concerning VPAID ads. He shows how VPAID ads can degrade a user’s browser performance:

“… after several minutes of just leaving this one single ad open, I’m at 53MB downloaded and 5559 requests. By the time I finished typing this, I was at 6140 requests. A single ad did this. Without reloading the page, just leaving it open.

A single VPAID ad absolutely demolishes site performance on mobile and desktop, and we, the publishers, get the full blame from our readers. And when multiple VPAID ads end up getting served on the same page… you get the idea.”

Similarly, John Gruber reports that a 500-word text article weighed in at 15MB – enough data to hold more than 10 copies of the Bible, according to the Guardian. Gruber links another post which shows that web pages can get more than 5 times faster without all the excess scripts that they load.

The sad thing is, I don’t mind ads. The very first version of my site had fake “ads” for other blogs I liked. Even the site I tested above, the estimable Questionable Content, had ads for other webcomics I liked, but experimentation showed that ads could bring Firefox to its knees. QC I always thought of as ad-lite, but guess it’s time to start contributing via Patreon.

The real problem is news sites. Sites were opening a simple story kept locking up Firefox and twice brought down my whole computer by draining the battery incredibly fast. I don’t care what you think your metrics are telling you, folks: if you pop up an overview so I can’t see your page, and start running a dozen ads that kill my computer, I will adblock you, or just stop going to your site, and many, many other people across the world are doing the same.

We need standards of excellence in content that say 2/3 of a page will be devoted to content and that ads can add no more than 50% to the bandwidth downloaded by a page. Hell, make it only 1/3 content and 100% extra bandwidth – that will be almost 100% more content than a page totally destroyed by popup ads and almost 3000% less data than one bloated by 10 copies of the Old Testament in the form of redundant ads for products I will either never buy or, worse, have already bought.

-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

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