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

LIQUID FIRE on Sale!

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Good news, friends of the Edgeworld! If you’ve caught up on the first two Dakota Frost books and want to try the third, you’re in luck – the Kindle edition of LIQUID FIRE is on sale for $1.99 through the end of the month! Will our lonely tattooed heroine finally find a girlfriend? Will her daughter finally get recognition for her mathematical skill? And will the ancient cadre of wizards out to rule the world let them have a free minute to enjoy a frappe at their favorite bookstore … or will they find themselves fighting fire ninjas to the death in a struggle for control of the spirit of a hatching dragon? Read LIQUID FIRE and you’ll find out!

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-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

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

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

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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