Press "Enter" to skip to content

Posts tagged as “We Call It Living”

What is Lent?

centaur 0

Lent

Twenty-Twenty, man! A year that sucked, followed by a year that sounds like "Twenty-Twenty Won" (and don't get me started on the third act of the trilogy, "Twenty-Twenty Too" ... not even the Sharknado team could have come up with the plots of the Twenty-Twenty franchise).

As we're recovering from last year - recovering from January of THIS year - the normal rhythms of life have been quietly reasserting themselves. Elections are followed by inaugurations. Winter weather will soon be followed by spring plantings. And Ash Wednesday will soon be followed by Easter.

"Two thousand twenty-one" in our calendar marks two millennia, give or take, since the birth of Jesus, the founder of Christianity, the world's largest religion. Today, "Ash Wednesday" in the Christian calendar marks the beginning of Lent, the solemn observance of Jesus's Crucifixion.

You can follow the links to find out what Lent and Ash Wednesday and Christianity and the Crucifixion mean to other people. But what I want to tell you about what they mean to me. Lent has always been a time for me to reconnect with my own faith, and each year I do that a slightly different way.

Lent celebrates Jesus's Resurrection, when He turned death into new life - and turned failure as a regional preacher into success at creating a world-spanning church. Prior to His death, Jesus went into the wilderness and was tempted for 40 days, which Christians emulate by giving things up for Lent.

Well, the pandemic has knocked a loop for most of the things that I normally give up for Lent: giving up meat (I'm mostly eating vegan), giving up alcohol (I try to avoid drinking at home), giving up soda (long story). While I've been blessed to not be starving this pandemic, it's still been a time of deprivation.

That got me thinking. I once heard someone suggest, "Give up Something Bad for Lent!" (as opposed to the normal giving up something good). Well, what about flipping it on its head entirely? What about, rather than giving up something bad for Lent, why not take on something good for Lent?

Normally I try not to talk about what I've given up for Lent - on the principle Jesus puts forth in Matthew 6:5 that praying for show is its own reward - that is, no reward at all. But again, flipping it on its head entirely, if I've taken on something good for Lent, why not take on something to share with everyone?

So, like my Drawing Every Day series, for the next forty days, I'm going to blog about what Lent means to me. And the key meaning of Lent, for me, is reconnection - dare I say, Resurrection? Christianity is supposed to be a "catholic" religion - catholic, meaning "universal," a religion for everyone.

The universality of Christianity means that it's for everyone. Everyone has free will. Everyone can screw up. Everyone can feel a loss of connection to God. And Jesus's role was to light the way - taking on our screwups in His death, and washing them away in His Resurrection.

SO, in the coming weeks, I hope to show you what I'm trying to connect back to every Lent. For some of you, this will be bread and butter; for others, this will be alien. Regardless, I hope I'm going to be able to leave you with an understanding of why every year I walk the path of Lent towards the Resurrection.

-the Centaur

Day 036

centaur 0

Tiny Lion

As it says on the tin. Quick sketched with a dry erase marker on 9x12 paper, then rapidly colored / filtered / rendered in Photoshop. Subject: one of the plush lions from my vast collection of genre toys that I once had on my desk at work - with the excuse that these were my motivation to keep working. "This is why I'm doing this: to be able to afford to enjoy that." 

So far, the motivational experiment seems to be working.

Drawing every day.

-the Centaur

Day 024

centaur 0

A New Car

NOW it's my car. A near-copy of my California 2010 Prius, minus 120K miles and plus a slightly darker interior trim, on the principle that it's a known quantity, and was darn cheap. The equivalent of a "quick sketch" but in Photoshop, just seeing what I could accomplish with the different brushes and tools.

Drawing every day.

-the Centaur

As for 2020 …

centaur 0

My frozen fountain ...

I'm sure most of you are familiar with the year that hell froze over, yes? Well cue the cartoon helicopter noises and ...

Penguins in a helicopter!

SEE YA, 2020! Wouldn't want to be ya.

Ok, OK, it's penguins in a helicopter taking off. Perhaps you had to see the video. Regardless, I am ready to take off and get OUT of here.

Actually, since I couldn't go see a ball drop or have a cocktail at my favorite coffee house or even climb the hill with my wife so we could watch the fireworks, I plopped in the scene from Star Trek: The Motion Picture where the Enterprise goes to warp (FAIR USE! or buy it here, director's cut of course - ask me how I know) and the moment the Big E gave Einstein the finger, I held up my glass and said, "Fuck you, 2020!"

The Enterprise going to warp

So anyway, 2020. Wasn't so bad, by itself. I mean, yes, yes, for the world, but for me personally, 2019 had its own brass knuckles. I lost my mother in 2019 and worked my ass around over the margins of that, so I had kind of hoped 2020 would be an upswing. But, no, I got the zombie apocalypse and an even newer reorg to deal with, and by the end of it I'd lost my uncle Boo. So I'd love to say how horrible 2020 was, but for me personally, it felt like Star Wars: Episode II: Attack of the Clones - that is, a repeat, trying too hard, that went on too long. (And remember back when we thought 2016 was bad?)

comic con panel 2020

Still, it wasn't all bad. I got to participate in many conventions online, and to see friends from all over the world that I otherwise wouldn't get to see. And it's the year we saw some truly bizarre things occur in the world of media, such as this little oddity ...

A female Captain Kirk?

Actually, I might sign up to see a show about a gender-swapped Star Trek (oh wait that's Star Trek Discovery OH SNAP I went there), but that's neither here nor there. This was the year almost all responsible church services went online ...

mass online at st. stephens

... and the year when we DID have socially distanced outdoor services, a police chase started in the background behind the priest during the Liturgy of the Eucharist. And hey, remember when this graph looked so bad? We didn't know how good we had it!

early in the pandemic

It's the year I learned the pomelo looks like a Lovecraftian monster on the inside ...

Inside of a pomelo, or Azathoth. Not sure.

(You eat it, it doesn't eat you, I promise. Tastes like a sweeter version of a grapefruit.)

And last but not least, it's the year I got this place put together the way I wanted it ...

The Futon Room

... and maybe the way other people wanted it too ...

The Office Room

... only to have circumstances force me to take it apart again ...

Moving boxes

But, in all honesty, they were good circumstances, if a bit bittersweet. Hopefully the new place will start coming together soon ...

The New Office Reference Shelf

So it wasn't all bad. While I really do want to tell 2020 to bleep off because of work and the pandemic, here's hoping that which does not kill us makes us stronger.

Still, what can I say? Hurry up, Aslan, we need you on the East Coast. Bring my wife and cats with you when you come. The other boxes can wait until the next trip.

Aslan in a Harry Potter Sorting Hat

-the Centaur

Bleak

centaur 0

a bleak winter day

Well, today I found out one of my dearest relatives, Uncle Boo, my dad's Mini-Me, so close to him that they took each other's driver's license pictures as a joke - though I could always tell them apart - just died of coronavirus at the age of 90. He hadn't been doing well and this was the final cruel blow.

https://www.legacy.com/obituaries/greenvilleonline/obituary.aspx?n=james-francis-boo&pid=197376995

His pride and joy was his family, and when not spending time with them, he was an avid golfer and sports enthusiast. Boo loved people and never met a stranger. Quick-witted and beloved by many, there was always a story ready to be told. He was a generous, kind-hearted man, and will be dearly missed by his family and all who knew him.

Boo always had stories to tell - some about my dad which made my hair stand on end! I'll always remember the calming presence he had after my dad's funeral, sitting at our breakfast table at the chair Dad always sat at, telling us stories of the Francis family of long ago. We'll miss you, Boo.

I don't even have any good pictures of him.

Thanks, 2020.

-the Centaur

Pictured: a bleak view out our window, all the leaves fallen.

Viiictory … and 1.5 Million Words

centaur 0

So it's that time of year once again: I've won Nanowrimo, again, by writing 50,000 words in the month of November; by my records, this is 28 straight wins (counting Camp Nano in April and July in the mix) for a total of ... holy cow ... 1.5 million words in successful Nano challenges.

Welp, I'm calling it: Nano is the most successful technique I've ever used to to boost my writing output --- more than morning pages, more than writing workshops, more than the Artist's Way --- with the possible exception of Write to the End, with which Nano is intimately intertwined (for me).

Now I hear my editor calling: How about boosting that editing output, Francis? I hear you. Writing I don't seem to have much trouble with, but between robots and the zombie apocalypse I've found it hard to get the necessary brain juice to edit the 7, no 8 manuscripts I have in the queue.

Come to think of it, why couldn't we have had the zombie apocalypse while I was writing about a zombie apocalypse? Covid would have been really thematically appropriate when I was working on BOT NET (Facebook zombies) or SPIRITUAL GOLD (actual zombie zombies).

But that was not to be. I don't know about you, but I find the whole zombie apocalypse thing wearing, not to mention the whole election thing. Add to that serious realignments at work, which meant basically reinventing everything I'd been doing to come back to the same place, and 2020 has been a full on freight train of suck.

Not that everything's been bad. I finished the bulk of a novel, JEREMIAH WILLSTONE AND THE MACHINERY OF THE APOCALYPSE, back in April, and I'm halfway through Dakota Frost #7, SPIRAL NEEDLE. We finished our patio here ...

... and started a grand new vegan cooking adventure together ...

And we even found and bought a new house, a very nice new place (it has turkeys) ...

... with a great space for my library and my wife's art studio, which we're in the middle of a slow motion move to while we renovate the old pad. These have been bright lights in an otherwise bad year. By you know how it's been: so stressful that - well, you've seen how much I've been blogging. I feel like this should be the best time ever in my life, yet 2020 has left me feeling a lot like this:

But, we have traditions which can help us through, like Thanksgiving ... oh, dangit Covid! So, ANYWAY, other traditions that do not involve Covid or Zoom, Nano traditions: the stats, and the excerpt. What did this month look like, Nano-wise?

This wasn't the hardest Nano I've handled ... I think the worst was being over 21,000 words behind in 2016 for PHANTOM SILVER, though briefly LIQUID FIRE in 2009 got almost that bad. Nor was it record-breakingly productive, like the astounding 25,000 words ahead finish on BOT NET 2017. This was a middle-of-the-road Nano, helped by really pouring on 12,000 words last weekend:

That was on purpose, so I could coast into Thanksgiving having finished, and spend a very nice dinner with my wife. (We had vegan muffulletas with authentic olive salad filling shipped direct from Central Grocery in New Orleans, which I highly, highly, highly recommend). That left November's work on SPIRAL NEEDLE comfortably in the middle of my previous efforts:a

And so, now, an excerpt ...

Too late, I realized the thickening arms of the octopus mist echoed the ghostly glow of the streetlights. “Teleporter! We’ve got to find a weakness!” I cried, flicking and snapping my wrist to loose a crossbow bolt, a feather from my origami peacock—an analysis spell.

The feather flitted out, replicating itself in the flood of magic, its unfolding structure revealing an intricate, oh so intricate pattern embedded in the misty galaxy. Unfortunately, Nyissa, far older and faster than me, had fired her own analysis glyph.

Our spells collided in a flash of sparks and feathers.

“Damnit,” I cried, flinching. “Only one of us needed to do that—”

“Sorry, was reacting to your idea, not your action,” Nyissa said. “I—”

A long black shaft lanced out—and with a terrific report, blasted Nyissa in the face.

Nyissa flew back. Her mask shattered. It would have been so romantic to scream her name and lunge my hand toward her—but both of us had been in fights so many times before, and I instinctively swung the Waystaff up, its spine catching bayonet and flipping the long gun upwards. The hooked beak hissed, striped cloak flapping, and I saw the thing whole.

Towering. Raptor-beaked. Cloaked in tattered striped cloth, draped over a flaring dark greatcoat. Black leather straps bound a tortuously lean torso seemingly rippled with twitching muscle. But the clawed arms fighting mine held what looked like a musket, the striped cloak looked like the ruins of a flag, and atop the thing’s plague doctor mask was a tricorn hat.

“What are you?” I yelled, shoving against the musket with the Waystaff.

The thing screamed at me, foul smoke erupting from its beak, and I flinched and gagged. It wailed at me with its musket, alternately clubbing aside the Waystaff and jabbing at me with the bayonet, as sparking smoke roiled into what I assumed was the musket’s flintlock—it was preparing to fire! I leapt backward, spinning through a knight’s move version of the Dance of Five and Two, hastily pulling together a spell: “Spirit of flame, act as my shield!

The plague knight screeched and dropped a grimy black ball into its musket—just as my Dragon tattoo uncoiled from my skin and looped around me in a helix of Technicolor scales and feathers. The plague knight fired with a clap of thunder—met by a gout of flame.

Wow! Excitement! Adventure! Tattoo magic versus magical monsters! And while we didn't get to see that much of the costumes in this excerpt, we've got cute vampires wearing sexy clothes fighting alongside our heroine in her long black vest / trenchcoat. What's not to like?

That is all for now. Until next time, please enjoy this picture of a cat.

-the Centaur

Viiictory, A to Z … Plus One

centaur 0

two hangry cats

Wow, um, pandemics. SO, short story, I've been having a rough one, which is why you haven't seen me on this blog. Perhaps the story of my suffering is a story for another time, because I just found this Camp Nano post back from APRIL which was never published because, wow, um pandemics. Congratulations to you, zombie apocalypse, for throwing me off my game! Yay for you, Miss Rita, I guess?

SO ANYWAY, what I'd like to announce, what I planned to announce at the end of April but forgot to post, and now what I have to doubly announce at the end of July, is that I have completed the Camp Nanowrimo challenge to write 50,000 words in the month of April!

And, um, then, I did it again in July.

Camp Nano Victory Banner

For those who don't know (how long have you been reading this blog?) National Novel Writing Month is a challenge to write 50,000 words in the month of November, and Camp Nanowrimo is a pair of choose-your-own goal sister challenges in April and July. I do 50,000 words each time, for 150,000 words a year. So far, I've done this (successfully) 27 times ... so my April Post was going to be "Viiiictory, A to Z" and there would have been some dang title for July, Plus One. But whatever, here's a graph of Nanos for you; from the dark line, it looks like my output this month (the dark line) was a bit more ahead of the game than normal (the average is the dotted line):

27 National Novel Writing Months

What was I working on?

This April, I mostly finished JEREMIAH WILLSTONE AND THE MACHINERY OF THE APOCALYPSE, a "novel" made from a collected set of short stories set in an alternate Victorian era filled with strong women, rayguns, and aliens . The first of these stories, "A Choir of Demons," was published in Aurora Wolf magazine, and collectively, they tell the tale of how Jeremiah grows from a wet-behind-the-ears Lieutenant to the leader we see in THE CLOCKWORK TIME MACHINE. My friend Tony Sarrecchia, creator of the Harry Strange Audio Drama, is helping me adapt these to audio.

This July, I started Dakota Frost Book 7, SPIRAL NEEDLE. Dakota, the best magical tattooist in the Southeast, faces a new challenge when her weretiger daughter Cinnamon gets mixed up in a lycanthrope attack, and Dakota will move Heaven and Earth to make sure Cinnamon is safe ... if she can just figure out who's trying to hurt her, and why? This book actually excites me about writing Dakota Frost again - vampire-werekin medicine, Colonial American plague doctors, and secret societies - even if it is perhaps is distracting me from finishing the editing of DF #4-#6 and Cinnamon #1-#3.

But the pandemic, and all the other business going on in my life, has drained my energy for the very difficult task of editing --- and drained my energy for many other things. (Hence no blog posts since my cats came back from the hospital, though they got sick again; they're fine now). In this crisis, some people have died, some are sick, some have lost loved ones, some have lost jobs, and many just feel like they've lost their minds. Fortunately, I'm on the good end of the spectrum: I have my wife, I have my cats, I have my job, and I'm still able to write. For all of that, I count myself blessed.

As for the rest ... well, I'm picking up the pieces and getting back on an even keel, step by step.

Please bear with me while I am beating off the bears.

-the Centaur

Pictured: two hangry cats. They were both sick, just prior to the pandemic, and that was rough enough that I thought I had real problems. Ha! I guess the coronavirus showed me. At least I'm getting to eat some tasty and delicious vegan food.

Vegan dinner, wife, and cat

My Novels and Nano

centaur 0

SO! I love to write, and four of my novels are published - FROST MOON, BLOOD ROCK, LIQUID FIRE, about magical tattoo artist Dakota Frost, and JEREMIAH WILLSTONE AND THE CLOCKWORK TIME MACHINE, about steampunk heroine Jeremiah Willstone.

You can read about the published ones at my Novels page, but even though life got a bit away from me this year, I haven't stopped writing - I have six more finished novels in the editing queue, not to mention half a dozen more in process.

And every single one of these novels, published or not, was largely written in National Novel Writing Month in November (or its sister challenge Camp Nanowrimo in April and July).

Nanowrimo is a 501(c)(3)that helps people find their creative voices - and certainly helped me transition from mostly not-writing to writing over a million words of fiction! (Way over, now).

Every year, I donate to the Nanowrimo foundation to help them not just keep the lights on but to support young writers everywhere with their Young Writers Program. This year, consider helping them bring literacy and creativity to more people all around the world!

-the Centaur

Renovation in Process

centaur 0

So you may have noticed the blog theme and settings changing recently; that's because I'm trying to get some kind of slider or visual image above the fold. I love the look of the blog with the big banner image, but I'm concerned that people just won't scroll down to see what's in the blog if there's nothing on the first page which says what I do.

So I'll be experimenting. Stay tuned!

-the Centaur

Pictured: Yeah, this isn't the only renovation going on.