Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Dragon Writers  

dragon writers logo

The Dragon Writers, the alumni of Ann Crispin's 2002 Writer's Workshop at DragonCon, now have a group blog about our writing experiences. Oh, and you can get our logo on a t-shirt. Check them out...



Friday, April 23, 2010

It's finally happened...  

... in one of those instances which exposes really how shallow you are, I find myself gratified that it, indeed, has finally happened. What is it?

Professional recognition.

Since I was a child I always wanted to be a "real science fiction writer". For some reason, I got it in my head that this meant membership in the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. Not sure how that happened, but it did: the external approval of that group of strangers somehow came to matter to me. So I tried to join.

First I wrote a science fiction short story that got published in 1995 in The Leading Edge magazine, but when I checked I found that the Leading Edge was not eligible for SFWA.

Then I wrote an urban fantasy novel that got published in 2010 by Bell Bridge Books, but when I checked I found that Bell Bridge was not eligible for SFWA.

Then, I missed the deadline to register for Comic-Con this year, and decided, what the heck, I'll try to register as a professional. After all, I've written an urban fantasy novel, drawn its frontispiece, and even created a webcomic. And for years I've felt that comics are my future as a creator. So, what the heck, why not?


Dear Comic-Con Creative Creative Professional Attendee,

Thank you for registering for Comic-Con International 2010: San Diego

Please take a few moments to review your registration information...

Well. Allrighty then.

Yes, it's shallow of me to base some part of my evaluation of my personal self worth on the approval of others. Yes, this shows a deep-seated insecurity that needs to be addressed by a deep increase in maturity. Yes, yes, yes, I'll work on that. But still ...

... it's finally happened.
Well, enough basking. Back to work on Blood Rock. But wait - it is indeed working.

-the Centaur

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Good for you, Anthony.

In my opinion, it's not the appreciation of peer recognition that's bad, but the craving for it. Enjoy the bask.
# posted by Blogger Jim Davies : 4:42 AM
  Yes, I think you nailed it. Of course one should be glad to be a Comic-Con professional or SFWA member or whatever. I'm just a bit amused by this long-dormant desire which popped up ... "Oh hey wait! I published a book now! I wonder if I can get into SFWA ... awww." It's funny because it just doesn't normally fit into my consciousness at all, but the old wiring is still there, waiting to be activated by the right set of circumstances.
# posted by Blogger Anthony Francis : 12:54 PM
  Post a Comment

Tuesday, March 02, 2010


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Reading from Liquid Fire on the Radio  

Reading from Liquid Fire tomorrow at 7 on KFJC radio's Unbedtime Stories with Ann Arbor ... sorry for the late notice!

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Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Book Trailer for Frost Moon  

Amazing to see some of the concepts in the story brought to life ...

... and many of the "filler" images are actually going to create scenes in future books. :-)

-the Centaur
Crossposted on my Dakota Frost blog.

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Monday, February 01, 2010

Dakota Frost Reloaded  

revised version of dakotas composited

Dakota Frost in the ink, if not the flesh. Changes include a new face, facial tattoos fixed, left hand enlarged.

-the Centaur
P.S. And have I mentioned I really love my little "imagelink" program that automatically formats HTML inserts for images just the way I like them? Latest tweak is to copy it to ~/bin/ so I can run it anywhere I'm working at the command prompt.

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This ... this is WORKING ...  

revised version of dakotas face

Oh ... oh my goodness. I'm working on a revised version of Dakota's face for the frontispiece of Frost Moon and ... and ... "working" is not just a metaphor. This is actual work. I'm sketching, and soon after that I will be writing again on Liquid Fire or Jeremiah Willstone. As part of real work, and not just some crazy hobby anymore.

Too cool.

-the Centaur
Pictured: the revised face of Dakota Frost for the frontispiece, pre-cleanup and compositing into the original drawing.

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Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Process: Fiction Novels  

the centaur in a coffeehouse
Recently I commented on Facebook that I was working with editors on Frost Moon and a friend asked:
"I've always been curious about this process. Generally speaking, what kind of changes are they asking you to make?"
Well, my writing process involves many, many drafts before it ever hits the editors, so the changes are generally minor. I write large chunks of everything I write in a writing group, reading sections aloud and making corrections before the first draft is ever finished. I then print out the first draft, read it myself, and make corrections to produce a second draft, which I give to trusted "beta readers". Some of my beta readers give me very detailed comments, almost copyediting, so the "gamma release" that I send to the publishers is pretty polished.

However, the editors have an eye for the market and audience, and will generally ask to tighten things up. At Bell Bridge Books, you work with an editor who first tackles theme, plot and logic - in Frost Moon, she asked me to reduce the emphasis on the romance in a few places, to improve the clarity of the action, and to clear out some of the deadwood; in response to these changes I send them a revised draft. For Frost Moon, the same editor then did a closer edit with some suggested changes right in the text using Microsoft Word's track changes feature, focusing on on general style to sand off the rough edges - intensifying some scenes while muting others to make them more realistic. I tweaked these changes, she approved them, and then I sent them a cleaned up copy with all formatting and Track Changes removed - a "final author's draft".

From then on the editing of the document is in the hands of the publisher, so they know what changes are happening to the text. This goes through several stages. First was a "line edit" where a new editor looks at the sentence structure for clarity. That's what we're doing now through an email exchange and I have to say it's been a pleasant and professional process. Next up is a "copy edit" where a third editor specifically looks for errors that the I and the other two editors have missed. In parallel with the whole editing process they're also putting together the bio, acknowledgments, cover art, cover text, frontispiece, etc., usually generating the materials themselves but occasionally asking me for input or text or images (like the author's headshot above). Finally there will be "galley proofs" where we all look at a quasi-finished document for anything that looks wrong.

And once we're all happy with that ... then that will be it.

-the Centaur

Pictured: me, in Atlanta Bread Company, as taken by Bolot Kerimbaev at the time of this post. This will most likely be my author's picture on the back of Frost Moon

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Thursday, January 14, 2010

Frost Moon in the Publisher's Marketplace...  

... thanks to Bell Bridge Books:
Last but not least, our new fantasy series, SKIN DANCER, by debut author Anthony Francis, is careening through production and drawing absolute, total RAVES from early insider reads. Filled with adventure, humor, edgy characters and an incredible alternate reality, this story of a "magical tattoo artist" in modern Atlanta is going to rock the fantasy readers' world. Book one, FROST MOON, introduces the coolest heroine evah: tattoo specialist and "skin dancer" Dakota Frost, a tall, gorgeous, bi-sexual twenty-something whose tats are admiringly known as "Frost bites."

Ahem. I'm very flattered. I hope Frost Moon lives up to that description!
-the Centaur

Crossposted to the Dakota Frost blog...

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Monday, November 30, 2009

Viiiiictory ... Episode III  

Nanowrimo 2009 WinnerOnce again, I have completed National Novel Writing Month! This year's entry is the third in the Dakota Frost series, Liquid Fire. I'll have more to say about this later this week, especially the mad scramble to write 38,000 words in 10 days (oy). But until then, let me leave you with the synopsis of Liquid Fire: "Dakota Frost, a magical tattoo artist who can bring tattoos to life, is caught in a war between rival fire magicians over liquid fire - dragon's blood. An ancient order of pyromancers needs it to survive; modern fireweavers need it to perform their magic --- and Dakota Frost is the only person to have summoned a dragon in two hundred years."

Oh, heck, I'll throw in a repost of the first chapter too ... as edited:
“What is life? No scientist can tell you. Oh, the pocket-protector variety will say that living things move, eat and grow, wrapped up in ten-dollar words like ‘locomotion’ and ‘intake’ and ‘self-organization’. But these by themselves are not life: a waterfall moves more vibrantly than any animal, a fire eats more efficiently, a crystal is more organized.

“A worldly scientist, aware of the dance of the sexes, will mention the heat of metabolism, the fire of reproduction. But a fire eats to live just like we do, but faster: and where we breed in a slow dance of desire, a fire lives in a hot orgy of giving, casting off its own substance, flying sparks, glowing seeds, drifting through the air to start the cycle again. If metabolizing and reproducing were all there were to life, would not fire be alive?

“But life is not any one of these things: life is all of them together. It is the combination of moving and eating and organizing, of metabolism and reproduction, of a thousand things more. Put them all together, and you get more than you started with: a holistic—holy—combination that is more than the sum of its parts. Life is magic.

“Or more precisely, magic is life,” I said. Nowhere was this more clear than with my traveling companions, werekin and vampires whose very biology was woven with magic; but since they would not approve of outed just so I could make a point, I instead picked on myself. “I know this, because I’m a skindancer. I ink magic tattoos that only work because their magical lines are laid on a living canvas that powers them. Each tattoo is like a circuit, that captures the intent of the wearer and projects it out it into the world. But it is the flow of the blood beneath the flex of the skin that powers them: without that life, they’d be useless.”

I don’t know what got me on that dissertation, but when I was done, the airline stranger in the seat to my left—a cute granola girl, curvy almost to the point of chubby, with a refreshing patchouli scent and dirty blond hair so curly it looked like coils of copper wire, I mean, really, just my type, down to the nose ring—put her magazine down and looked at me quizzically.

“Lady, are you for real?” she asked.

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Worst. Vacation. Ever. - Till now.  

Ten days off to write! No trips, no vacations, no distractions. Just me and writing ... but: The "Terminator" version of the common cold. Car repairing turned car totaling and car shopping during hard raining. Cat fights and cat urine. And a desperate scramble to catch up in National Novel Writing Month turning what I love ... writing ... into a chore.

And then my wife came back Saturday night.

That was great, but things didn't get better right away. See #3 above, cat urine: our incompletely housetrained Gabby the Cat decided to urinate on a big soft squishy pillow to either
  • (a) reduce his insecurity by marking his protector's stuff with his scent (the official story as told by everybody's favorite cat books)
  • (b) show his irritation at his protector locking him in a room (what I strongly suspect based on my study of animal cognition, which might be summed up as saying "just because they can't talk doesn't mean they're completely unaware idiots")
... just as I had run a full load of laundry in the washer and thus couldn't wash it right away, just as I had to run to the airport so I had no time to dispose of it properly, and just in time for the heater to kick in and propagate the smell through the entire house by the time we got back.

Stepping through the door was ... an unpleasant moment.

But we persevered. We went out for a late dinner and talked about ... hell, everything. We crashed early, I got up at the ass-crack of dawn, fed the cats, went to church, put everything in the hands of God, and went back and slept till noon. By the time we awoke, it was clear that the pillow was the source of the smell and the tarps-plus-blankets wash-immediately-if-soiled solution was working to protect our home as we transition street cat to house-and-yard cat. We had a lovely lunch at our favorite restaurant (Aqui) and test-drove a hybrid (a Prius). Everything, once again, became OK, and it seemed like all the nastiness of that awful ten days rattling around the house mostly with myself, a virus and three irritated cats was at last over.

So: yesterday: 2094 words. Today: 2583 words. As of this moment, I am officially caught up on where I "should have been" for Nano, and I'm on track to finish by tomorrow. And we even have a plan to save our obstraperous little cat, who is mellowing out now that he has two people to entertain him (and to separate the cats from each other so they have time to mellow).

Best of all, my best friend is home.

-the Centaur
P.S. Thanks, God.

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Saturday, November 28, 2009

+5300 words  

Literally dead on +5,300 words, on schedule for today, only 1,280 behind what I would have done at 1,666 words a day ... and 6,280 words remaining to finish Nano.

Unlikely to hit all those tomorrow - my wife is returning from a business trip and she gets first dibs on the Centaur before he goes back to pulling the Nano wagon. But maybe this weekend.

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Friday, November 27, 2009

+3200 words  

... still on schedule, but still not ahead because I am still sick and crashed out for hours after Thanksgiving brunch (or maybe that was the turkey).

Still, Not good. I'd say it's time to go to the doctor but this on-again-off-again sniffle, cough, randomly crash out for three hours always seems like "it's getting better".

Even though it ruined half of my Thanksgiving day, I went to sleep last night actually thinking my cold was probably about over.

Today: carshopping, housecleaning, and, oh yeah, I need ~3800 words to stay on target, ~6500 to get back to where I should be if I'd been keeping up with 1666 words a day from the beginning, and 11,580 words to finish Nanowrimo completely.

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Thursday, November 26, 2009

+4500 words  

35,078 words, 6,588 behind, 14,922 remaining.

Here's to a productive Turkey Day ... and the slight possibility of actually catching up. It would require 8,000+ words. But, since I'm not doing much for Thanksgiving ... not traveling myself, wife out of town, only have a brunch with friends ... it' s just within the realm of possibility.

Cross your fingers.

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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

+7001 words  

30,289 words complete; 19,711 words remaining, 9,711 words behind where I should be: 40,000 words.

Surely I can make that up tomorrow, if not by Thursday.

Time for pound cake. Then bed.

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

+4600 words...  

...things progressing nicely. 23,288 words, 26,712 remaining. If I keep up this pace (not altogether likely, in fact, but here's hoping) I will actually finish Nanowrimo early.

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Monday, November 23, 2009

+4100 words ...  

... now officially up to a rate which would see me to the finish line, though I still am almost as many words behind (17981) as I have written (18685). And this is with me still being sick. Bleah.

However, the good news is that I fell in love with the book last night. This is something every author needs to do with their novel, at some point, or they're never going to do it the justice it deserves, if they finish it at all. Well, I fell in love with Liquid Fire on the streets of Oakland last night ... at least the streets of Oakland as seen through the eyes of Dakota Frost.

-the Centaur

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Sunday, November 22, 2009

35,500 Words To Go...  

... still a little slow, but pace picking up. Things progressing. Key discoveries in plot made.

Still, 35,000 words in nine days ... oy. I mean, Ok.

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Friday, November 20, 2009

+1000 words since last post...  

... things are moving again. Cough. Cough. Sigh.

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38000 Words in 10 days?  

Can I do it? Oh yeah.

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Liquid Fire @ 7479 words  

~20,000 words behind schedule, 42,000 words to go. Fortunately I'm taking off the entire week of Thanksgiving and hiding in an undisclosed location until I'm caught up. A further taste, of raw unedited text:

“Sooo…” she said, still staring across the aisle. “What brings you to San Francisco?”

“Oh, hell,” I said, leaning back in the chair. I felt the baby in the seat behind me reach at my Mohawk, grabbing a thread of purple before her mother pulled her back. “I’ve got quite the agenda, but mostly … negotiating with people to establish some new rules for magic.”

“Rules for magic?” Granola Girl asked, brow furrowing. “Really?”

“Well, that, some other, uh, business, plus taking my daughter to colleges—”

“Go back to the rules for magic bit,” Granola Girl said—and no, really, I’m not making fun of her; she ordered yogurt-and-granola on the flight out. “Magic isn’t just ‘more than the sum of its parts;’ it transcends the parts that invoke it. You can’t reduce magic to something less than what it is. If you start putting rules on magic—a tabu on mana—you’ll cripple it.”

I let out my breath. I’d heard all this before. Heck, I had to break all the rules I knew just to start practicing magic. But to keep practicing magic, you had to be really careful, or it would kill you. And recently, I’d found that it could kill other people too.

Reading it I can already see things I want to fix. Not now. Must press onward.

-the Centaur

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Sunday, November 15, 2009

It is amazing how mentally freeing it is...  

... to have just one more thing off your todo list. Really, I have just about as much to do now as I did before I finished the edits of _Frost Moon_. It's just that I feel much better about what I have left.

Completion. A wonderful feeling.
-the Centaur

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Saturday, November 14, 2009

Edits of Frost Moon sent to publisher  

That is all. I now resume my regularly scheduled Nanowrimoing.

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Of course, be real...  

...the idea you can make something happen if you "prioritize" it works only if you have enough time with which to make the time. Editing two novels and writing a third - all on deadlines, some of them tight - while working late many nights AND taking care of a new and extremely needy cat can lead to you crashing out repeatedly before blogging, and sometimes it's only after you've crashed early several nights but have been sniffling and coughing enough that only way you can sleep is on Nyquil that you realize, maybe, just maybe, you're fighting off a bug.

Meanwhile, Warren Ellis is fighting as many deadlines as I am while also writing a seven-volume epic mashup called War and Peace of the Worlds featuring the entire cast of Archie Comics turned gritty postmodern superheroes, is doing it all one handed on his Palm Pilot while using the other to lean on his cane as he climbs Mount Everest after having coughed up a lung ... and is still blogging three times a day.

-the Centaur

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Friday, November 06, 2009

Five Days Behind  

Between the new cat, work, finishing up Blood Rock, and business with Frost Moon, I've gotten far behind on Nanowrimo this month. But now I'm back on track, have finished a more detailed outline which solves some of my plot problems and gives me some fun crunchy stuff to work with ... and have finally caught up to my first day's target word count, ~1700 words (you need to do at least 1666 words a day to complete Nano). Hopefully things will speed up from this point ... need to do ~1933 words a day to finish successfully.

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Tuesday, November 03, 2009

National Novel Writing Month 2009 Entry: Liquid Fire  

Well, it is that time of year again: November, and National Novel Writing Month. This year I'm working on Book 3 of the Dakota Frost series, Liquid Fire, which features Dakota, firespinning, and dragons:
What is life? No scientist can tell you. Oh, the pocket-protector variety will say that living things move, eat and grow, wrapped up in ten-dollar words like ‘locomotion’ and ‘intake’ and ‘self-organization’. But these by themselves are not life: a waterfall moves more vibrantly than any animal, a fire eats more efficiently, a crystal is more organized.

A worldly scientist, aware of the dance of the sexes, will mention the heat of metabolism, the fire of reproduction. But a fire eats to live just like we do, but faster: and where we breed in a slow dance of desire, a fire lives in a hot orgy of giving, casting off its own substance, flying sparks, glowing seeds, drifting through the air to start the cycle again. If metabolizing and reproducing were all there were to life, would not fire be alive?

But life is not any one of these things: life is all of them together. It is the combination of moving and eating and organizing, of metabolism and reproduction, of a thousand things more. Put them all together, and you get more than you started with: a holistic — holy — combination that is more than the sum of its parts. Life is magic.

Or more precisely, magic is life.
As usual, I have a theme, plot, and know almost exactly how it will end. But more than the previous two books in the series, I feel like I'm stepping off into a great void, even though the magic of this book - firespinning - is an art I myself perform, unlike the tattoos featured in Frost Moon (of which I have none) and the graffiti featured in Blood Rock (of which I have done none). All I have to go on this one are love, fire ... and the nightmares from the Hadean.

Wish me luck.
-the Centaur

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Sunday, October 18, 2009

Writers in Their Creative Spaces  

the centaur in his native habitat: a forest of books
Recently a few friends (most recently Jim Davies) have sent me pointers to the Where I Write project, which shows off the creative spaces where many science fiction and fantasy artists do their writing. Some of the writing setups are amazingly spare; others are simply amazing. Check it out!

-the Centaur
Pictured above is one of my "creative spaces", though a fully accurate picture would probably show me at my local Barnes and Noble writing group or at Borders with the laptop and a Javakula from Seattle's Best Coffee.

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Frost Moon Back In the Hands of the Editor  

frost moon

Frost Moon, the first novel I wrote that ever got serious interest from a publisher, is now back in the hands of the editor. Things are looking good, we're on the same page for the first twelve chapters ... though, sadly, their 2009 schedule has filled and there's no way the book is going to come out before the beginning of 2010.

Now it's the race to finish the edits of Blood Rock by the end of October, so I can send it to my beta readers and start work on "Liquid Fire" for National Novel Writing Month...

Wish me luck!
-the Centaur

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good luck!!
# posted by Blogger Sandi Billingsley : 1:56 AM
  Post a Comment

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Back to Blood Rock  

The Internet.  A huge distraction.   You're writing happily away when suddenly you wonder whether your steampunk heroine ran into Einstein during her trip to Germany and, if so, was he young enough to date her.  Thirty seconds later Wikipedia tells you yes ... but thirty minutes later you mysteriously find yourself still researching the priority of relativity controversy.

So: the Internet goes off when I'm writing now, and I collect questions in a text file while I work for later research.  So far, this plan is working well.

Sent from my gPhone.

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Monday, September 21, 2009

Don't Try To Critique Dan Brown  

It's a fun thing in writer's circles to critique Dan Brown. Let me quote Tom Chivers in the Telegraph, who picked what he thought were 20 of Dan Brown's worst sentences, highlighting in bold one in particular I've heard other writers critique:

4, 3, and 2. The Da Vinci Code, opening sentence: Renowned curator Jacques Saunière staggered through the vaulted archway of the museum's Grand Gallery.

Angels and Demons, opening sentence: Physicist Leonardo Vetra smelled burning flesh, and he knew it was his own.

Deception Point, opening sentences: Death, in this forsaken place, could come in countless forms. Geologist Charles Brophy had endured the savage splendor of this terrain for years, and yet nothing could prepare him for a fate as barbarous and unnatural as the one about to befall him.

Professor Pullum: "Renowned author Dan Brown staggered through his formulaic opening sentence".

Professor Pullum, here, is Geoffrey Pullum, "famous" in my small circles for this small essay about why he thinks the first sentence of The Da Vinci Code is so bad:
I am still trying to come up with a fully convincing account of just what it was about his very first sentence, indeed the very first word, that told me instantly that I was in for a very bad time stylistically.

The Da Vinci Code may well be the only novel ever written that begins with the word renowned. Here is the paragraph with which the book opens. The scene (says a dateline under the chapter heading, 'Prologue') is the Louvre, late at night:
Renowned curator Jacques Saunière staggered through the vaulted archway of the museum's Grand Gallery. He lunged for the nearest painting he could see, a Caravaggio. Grabbing the gilded frame, the seventy-six-year-old man heaved the masterpiece toward himself until it tore from the wall and Saunière collapsed backward in a heap beneath the canvas.

I think what enabled the first word to tip me off that I was about to spend a number of hours in the company of one of the worst prose stylists in the history of literature was this. Putting curriculum vitae details into complex modifiers on proper names or definite descriptions is what you do in journalistic stories about deaths; you just don't do it in describing an event in a narrative. So this might be reasonable text for the opening of a newspaper report the next day:
Renowned curator Jacques Saunière died last night in the Louvre at the age of 76.

But Brown packs such details into the first two words of an action sequence — details of not only his protagonist's profession but also his prestige in the field. It doesn't work here. It has the ring of utter ineptitude. The details have no relevance, of course, to what is being narrated (Saunière is fleeing an attacker and pulls down the painting to trigger the alarm system and the security gates). We could have deduced that he would be fairly well known in the museum trade from the fact that he was curating at the Louvre.

If you agree with this assessment of Dan Brown's work, you might as well stop reading, because you've completely missed the point of what Dan Brown is doing. In fact, the key to what's wrongheaded about The Telegraph's list and Pullum's critique is contained in the very first sentence I quoted by Pullum:
I am still trying to come up with a fully convincing account of just what it was about his very first sentence, indeed the very first word, that told me instantly that I was in for a very bad time stylistically.

He's struggling to come up with that convincing account because the very first sentence of the Da Vinci Code wasn't bad. In fact, Pullum's critique inadvertently nails precisely what's great about the opening sentence: it incorporates newspaper style details like the "renowned" status of the curator and his advanced age even into its action sequences, effortlessly, as a way of grounding us in otherwise fantastic action.

At the end of this opening sentence, you not only know an old man is running for his life, you know he's very, very old, respected to the point of being famous, and knows the paintings on the wall so well he mentally categorizes them by artist, even if you personally have no idea who Caravaggio is. And by weaving massive amounts of detail through even the action sequences of the story, Dan Brown establishes an authoritative air which provides the necessary grounding for his fantastic tale of a secret Christian history.

The Da Vinci Code is a great book that attracted millions of readers by sucking them into a great detective story that seemed almost real - and the stylistic elements Pullum critiques above are precisely what enable readers to make that mental shift. I'm not sure why Pullum reacted the way he did, but I strongly suspect that he simply doesn't enjoy pure escapist literature - which is his right - but failed to recognize that was the reason behind his dislike and confabulated these erroneous rationalizations to justify that dislike - as the human mind so often does.

Similarly, both the Telegraph list and some critiques I've heard in writing groups sound like the blind application of writing workshop rules. But "rules" like "show, don't tell" aren't hard and fast rules; they are guidelines designed to help authors, and moreover guidelines whose importance changes as writing styles change. And if you read widely and deep, you'll find that a vast number of "great authors" and "classic works" violate each and every rule you can find in a writing workshop - or repeat many of the sins Pullum and Chivers outline above.

The Da Vinci Code is ridiculous escapist nonsense. But that nonsense is anchored by a fantastic-in-every-sense-of-the-word idea and grounded by what to an average person would seem like an immense amount of erudition. Brown's research will not satisfy experts in an area, and it still is escapist nonsense - but it is immensely well crafted escapist nonsense. If what The Da Vinci Code is is not your bag, then just say "I don't like The Da Vinci Code, because it took itself entirely too seriously for a bit of escapist nonsense" and leave it at that; don't feel the need to impugn Dan Brown's talent.

To finish, let me quote Chivers #1 bad sentence:

1. The Da Vinci Code: Title. The Da Vinci Code.

Leonardo’s surname was not Da Vinci. He was from Vinci, or of Vinci. As many critics have pointed out, calling it The Da Vinci Code is like saying Mr Of Arabia or asking What Would Of Nazareth Do?

This analysis is so bad, I'll just let it speak for itself. Oh, no, I won't. If by some chance you actually agree, stop and think for a moment until you realize what is so very, grievously wrong with what Chivers is saying here.

For the rest of us ... well, first off, "Da Vinci" does not read as "of Vinci" in English. And we're reading English here; and English can (and frequently does) go and appropriate any string of symbols it wants to refer to anything it wants, regardless of whether that string of symbols would make sense if it was transliterated. A brief search of Google or Amazon will reveal just how many people use that brief two-word string which now distinctively identifies that man. Your brain is designed to understand "The Da Vinci Code" as referring to the context of Leonardo Da Vinci. Get over it.

But more importantly, most of the rest of us can immediately recognize why "The Da Vinci Code" sent Dan Brown laughing all the way to the bank: it sounds really cool.

-the Centaur
P.S. In a violation of my usual style, I am not going to go obsessively read Leonardo da Vinci's Wikipedia page or dig through my mammoth library. I'm just going to let the essay speak for itself ... and if I'm wrong in some details, I'm wrong.



Agreed. The Da Vinci last name business is especially annoying. Like art historians never say that a painting is "a Da Vinci" or that something is "one of Da Vinci's best works."

Better not call Hans Christian Anderson just "Anderson." You know it just means "son of Ander." That's like calling Angelia Jolie Voightson.

Better put down that manuscript of "The Anderson Code," Mr. Brown.
# posted by Blogger Jim Davies : 11:18 AM
  The assumption that in his writing, Brown mimics the way nonfiction narratives would portray action sequences, is not entirely accurate. Brown's writing would not pass by the editors of a newspaper without significant revisions. They would advise him to be less formulaic and to--gasp--imagine he were telling a fictional narrative. Read this Baltimore Sun article, for example, about an undergraduate who killed an intruder with a samurai sword. It reveals details about the incident and the people involved in a less forced fashion. We don't learn until the second paragraph that Pontolillo is an undergraduate student at Johns Hopkins.

Also, the story does not pile on adjectives to the point of redundancy, in the same way as Brown. (The fact that he does this speaks to the novel's decidedly non-journalistic style. If he is writing in a newspaper style, why all the dramatic flourishes?) The article notes the length and sharpness of the sword, for example, but it doesn't expound on its worth, as Brown does with the Carvaggio. (A sword of that nature is no doubt quite valuable; Brown would have tried to use that fact to enhance the drama.)

Nonfiction narration can have good or bad style, too. Even if we assume this is the type of narration Brown is going for, it doesn't make his writing suddenly good.
# posted by Blogger Petroc : 10:00 AM
  Your defence of Brown would have more credence if he hadn't used the same construction in the midst of some hackneyed prose poetry at the beginning of Deception Point:

"Death, in this forsaken place, could come in countless forms. Geologist Charles Brophy had endured the savage splendor of this terrain for years, and yet nothing could prepare him for a fate as barbarous and unnatural as the one about to befall him."

The excuse that he's deliberately invoking journalistic style to sound more objective and authoritative rings less true when he does it in the midst of a paragraph that would make Edgar Allen Poe spit his coffee out.

And that ignores the many other bits of bad style in the opening scene alone, let alone the ones that reoccur throughout the novel. Pullum isn't the only linguistic to flag up Brown's stylistic ineptitude - indeed, one of my professors has done it to illustrate a point. The truth is that Brown, along with the likes of James Patterson and "John Twelve Hawks", is a purveyer of incredibly grey, shoddy prose that wants to be a screenplay, and his readers only demand prose that allows them to picture a film in their head. Until, that is, a film is made and the novel becomes utterly redundant.
# posted by Anonymous Jack : 7:23 PM
  Post a Comment

Sunday, September 13, 2009

I just learned a depressing thing  

warren ellis

I apparently started writing before Warren Ellis did. The bastard's only one year older than me, and his bibliography warrants its own Wikipedia page, whereas I have one (1) published short story.

Yes, yes, I know, I was busy getting a Ph.D. in Artificial Intelligence while Warren Ellis was pulling his fingernails out trying to climb the walls of the unholy well that is Marvel Comics. I don't care. I see this as just another sign that his insane writing skills are a result of a deal with Cthulhu or the Devil.

I mean to track this walking abomination down, pin him to the wall, and get him to confess what deal he made, with whom, and whether it's still open. I mean, my soul is not for sale, but we're just talking some temp contract work for tentacular star-spawn in exchange for the preternatural ability to sway the minds of men with the written word, hey, maybe we can work something out.

-the Centaur
P.S. Actually, Mr. Ellis, I have no intention of tracking you down. First off, as a Christian I can't do any soultrading; second, I'm afraid if I actually met you it would be too much like Death meeting Alan Moore.



Saturday, September 05, 2009

Blogging from the Convention Floor  

marriot marquis at night

Ah, Dragon*Con: that magic time in September when 50,000 of my closest friends get together to transform four hotels in Atlanta into a gateway to another world.

most aliens are less cute than alf

Dragon*Con has some of the best costumes you'll see this side of an Anime convention - much better than what you'll find at the much larger San Diego Comicon. Practically everyone is dressed up and some of them are amazing.

the panels

Another real draw is the fantastic variety of panels. There are literally dozens of tracks at Dragon*Con and programming goes on until 11:30 pm or later - and there are often social events until 2 and 3 in the morning.

the costumes

After the panels it's fun to just peoplewatch; you can do it for hours.

a picture of me? but why?

Women dressed up get quite a bit of attention - though sometimes, as in this case, they seem more surprised to have people taking their picture than you'd expect for all the effort they've put into their costumes.

cylons are less impressive without helmets

Another piece of the fun is the sheer variety of fans. You see of course people pulling off Cylons ... somewhat less impressive with the helmets off...

omg it's dakota frost

You see costumes that mean something only to the viewer, as in this Dakota Frost lookalike...

force push

The ubiquitous Jedi, in this case posing for a photo taken by a Sith ...

a heartwrenching tale

... and then finally sheer randomness by simply creative people.

even sith love slave leia

Fans love taking pictures of fans - it was quite interesting sitting with a Sith shutterbug, watching him take pictures of passing Poison Ivys and Slave Leias.

jedis gone wild

But then some people wanted to take pictures of him ... and then, bizarrely, two women wanted to have their pictures taken fellating his lightsabers. Utterly weird, and a great source of amusement to us and the other people at our table.

derrick and doublebladed sabers

But ultimately that's the fun of Dragon*Con: not just seeing Jedi taking pictures of Sith, but running into old friends dressed as Jedi taking pictures of old friends dressed as Sith. Because in the end its the friendships that make Dragon*Con more than just a fan playground or a party: it's a family.

centaur blogging from the convention floor

From the Dragon*Con Convention floor(1), this is your Centaur reporting. Good night, and good luck.

-the Centaur

(1) Technically, sent from my hotel room because connectivity on the con floor was too poor.

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Sunday, August 23, 2009

Now we know where your loyalties lie...  

... in case there was any doubt:

tell me about your webcomic

No, really, I'm interested.
-the Centaur

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Not being very nice ...  

... even to myself:

tell me about your blog

But sometimes it is necessary.
-the Centaur

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Sunday, August 02, 2009

It was only a dream...  

My friends Fred, David, Derek and I were on an Edge vacation somewhere - I don't quite know where - and Fred had rented a convertible to drive us around town. While we were there, we heard that they were going to blow up a mall as part of shooting some movie, and we decided to show up to watch.

We pulled behind a massive structure like Phipps Plaza in Atlanta, waiting in a long narrow street cutting through the big grassy fields behind the mall. There were a few other onlookers, maybe in the hundreds, but we pulled up in our convertible just as they were about to get started, so we didn't even get out.

Then the mall detonated. The parking structure behind it collapsed, tumbling down like the proverbial deck of cards. Giant concrete columns, easily three feet across, were tumbling over like dominoes.

Then something went wrong - one of the timed explosions was too powerful, or maybe there was a boiler overlooked in the security office underneath the parking deck. A secondary blast sent dozens of concrete columns flying, giant treetrunks sailing through the air - one of them right over us.

I looked up, frozen, as the column seemed to hang there in the air, long enough that it seemed to stretch out of our field of view to the left and right, wide enough to kill us. Then it began to shift in my vision, and I realized it was going to fall in front of us.

In that moment, I realized missing us would not be enough. I shouted, "Back up, back up, back up!" and Fred put the convertible in reverse. The column crashed to the ground in front of us and began rolling forward, bouncing - it would have rolled straight over the top of the car, flattening us. We screeched backwards, but quickly the column rumbled to a stop, and Fred stopped the car.

"Wow," Fred said, looking back at us. The column covered the whole road in front of us. More concrete columns were scattered all over the field, but miraculously no bystanders had been killed. "Normally I'm the first one to react. Good catch Anthony!"

I was not so sure.

Thinking over it later, there was no way Fred could have responded in time from my shout to put the car in reverse and start moving; he must have already been acting when I leaned forward and yelled in his ear, and in the confusion of events interpreted things after the fact to think that he'd reacted to my warning.

But what really struck me while Fred was congratulating me was my memory of that moment where the column was hanging in the air: that moment where I knew it was going to fall and hit or nearly hit us, and I didn't say anything because I was frozen. If we had to rely on that reaction time, we'd all be dead.

Must go faster.

Thank God, it was only a dream....

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The easiest way to ruin a poem  

The easiest way to ruin a poem
is to read it like a poem
with stilted voice and stately oration
designed to show the poet's construction
- poetry, as read by "poets"
who learned in English class that
"poetry is the highest form of language."

I do not agree.

Poetry is distilled emotion,
concentrated essence of the darlings a novelist must murder,
packaged up with that punch that took Emily Dickinsons' head off.

Poems should be read
as if by Robert Frost's neighbor,
with sinewy hands moving rocks through the darkness,
springing forth to hurl them through our defensive walls:
the poet as savage.

Poetry should be many things:
inspiring, depressing,
comforting, enlightening,
homespun, heartwrenching.
It should never be safe.

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Monday, May 18, 2009

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

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Sunday, May 17, 2009

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: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

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Friday, May 08, 2009

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

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Tuesday, May 05, 2009

dub-dub-dub dot DakotaFrost dot com  

Dakota Frost has her very own web site now, at the eponymous

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

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Friday, April 24, 2009

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

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Friday, March 27, 2009

Shooting from the hip versus shooting straight  

One of the reasons I blog is that it forces you to shoot from the hip and not polish things. For example, in the "Why I Write" article I used the word "quite" 3 times in a few sentences and I forced myself to hit "Publish" rather than going back to wordsmith it ... because "shipping is a feature". An article published is better than one in a sockdrawer, even if it is only published to a blog.

But even I have my limits. When I was reading over the article again and realized that I consistently spelled Allen Ginsberg as Alan Ginsburg, even though I copyedited it and checked it against the Wikipedia article, I found I had to go back and fix the article.

And I also fixed the "quites".

Oh well. I suppose that no matter how much you try to make yourself commit to publishing over polishing, there's some amount of polish that must be done ... sooner or later, published or not. If there are real mistakes, you gotta fix 'em.

Han still shot first, though.

-the Centaur

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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Why I Write  

When I first came across Allen Ginsberg's Howl in an audiobook of modern poets reading their own work, I was struck by the raw power of his prose:

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by
madness, starving hysterical naked,
dragging themselves through the negro streets at
dawn looking for an angry fix,
angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient
heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the
machinery of night,
who poverty and tatters and hollow-eyed and high
sat up smoking in the supernatural darkness of
cold-water flats floating across the tops of cities
contemplating jazz...

It goes on in this vein for a while, containing challenging material for the late 1950's which led to obscenity trials and quite a bit of controversy.

I was reminded of the poem when I went to the City Lights Bookshop recently, a liberal bookstore with its own rich history that was influential in nurturing the Beat generation of poets. Pictures of Ginsberg adorn its walls, including one in which he clutches what at the time was his only bowl.

And that started me thinking about what Ginsberg might say if we had a chance to meet and he could read some of my work. And that made me realize that I'm not trying to do what Ginsberg was trying to do at all.

Ginsberg's work was raw, powerful, lyrical. He experimented with form, filled it with deep emotion, and used it to catapult the secret frustration, struggles and shame of a repressed generation straight out into the light, exposing drinking and drugs and sexuality and homosexuality and protest and jazz to a world that wasn't quite ready to receive it for precisely the same reason that it desperately needed to hear it.

Sometimes that needs to be done, but I don't care about doing that at all.

I want my work to be honest, but I'm not interested in throwing things in people's faces to wake them up. I believe in illuminating worlds that are rarely seen, but only to create interest, not to expose secrets. I do feel deep emotion, but often drain it from my work because rage blinds me from seeing my opponent's point of view. I rarely experiment with form and often when I do, I regret it. Where Ginsberg was raw, powerful, and lyrical, I try to be smooth, balanced and direct.

But that's a post-hoc analysis, derived from what I like about Ginsberg and how it differs from what I write. It isn't the first thing that came to mind about my writing, which was: I write what I like.

I like to write stories that I like to read. I write science fiction because I enjoy hard science, space opera(*), Star Trek and Star Wars too. I write urban fantasy because I like Anita Blake and Mercy Thomson, and Interview with the Vampire and Buffy the Vampire Slayer too.

I constantly have stories running through my head, more than I could ever write down. I've written many, many short stories and novels, only a few of which have gotten published or seen the light of day, but that's slowly changing as I put more effort into publishing.

But at the end of the day that doesn't matter, because I can still read my stories. I'm not writing to make other people happy. I'm not writing to change the world. I'm writing to produce more of what I like to read.

That, and my head would explode if I stopped writing.

I hope some more of my writing will get published, that you all get to read it, and that some of you enjoy it. Until then, please enjoy this blog ... which I write for the same reason I write science fiction: I enjoy having blog posts to read and will continue to produce more of them that I like.

-the Centaur

(*) I fully understand that categorizing Larry Niven as "space opera" will be construed as a terrible insult by people who don't understand the difference between the kind of SF that he wrote and the kind Hal Clement wrote. Uncharitably, these are probably the same people who insist on the distinction between "sci fi" and "science fiction" or draw some mental distinction between "Trekkies" and "Trekkers", and they can all just go away. For everyone still reading, Larry Niven is one of my favorite authors, but if your stories include hyperdrives, you're writing space opera and not hard science fiction, even if your space opera is filled with real hard SF elements.

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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Frost Moon Revised  

So, this weekend I finished the revision of Frost Moon, 2007's Nanowrimo entry, and have submitted it back to the publisher. Initially they sound pleased and hope to get back to me soon - very promising! I have deliberately not mentioned the name of the publishing house so as to "not jinx it" but once I hear back yea or nay I will spill the beans.

In the meantime, I have returned to work on Blood Rock, the sequel, now at 100,000 words and going strong. I suspect I'm closing in on the end here; the current word count includes a lot of notes that will be chopped in the final draft, so hopefully this will come in at under 120,000 words.

As I mentioned before, I have already started work on the sequels, Liquid Fire and Hex Code. I have ideas for many more in this series, and plan to keep doing them as long as they're fun. I'll put up more information when I do the site redesign, hopefully in April.

-the Centaur

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Up to here, I thought I had figured out the pattern of your book titles, "a 5-letter word followed by a 4-letter word". Is there any way you could name your sequels "Fluid Fire" and "Hexen Code"?
# posted by Blogger bolot : 10:01 PM
  Post a Comment

Friday, December 05, 2008

Blood Rock Radio  

At 7am on January 28th, I will be reading 20 minutes out of Blood Rock on Ann Arbor's radio show on KFJC 89.7AM, a radio station broadcasting out of Los Altos, California. Thanks to the Nanowrimo community for helping to set this up, and thanks to Ann Arbor!

-the Centaur

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I think that's 10am EST. I will try to listen on the netcast! (available from the website for the radio station)
# posted by Blogger Jim Davies : 4:45 AM

That is all.
# posted by Blogger Gordon : 5:52 AM
  Congratulations! I will be tuning in - already on my Google Calendar.
# posted by Anonymous Greg Traylor : 12:25 PM
  I bungled and put 7 PM into my calendar. Is it archived anywhere?
# posted by Anonymous Greg Traylor : 7:18 PM
  Post a Comment

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Blood Rock at 80,000 Words...  

Blood Rock is at 80,000 words, and is complete through chapter 26 (though I have written parts of chapters 27-57, including a huge chunk at the end right around the climax). It's getting closer ... I expect the first draft to come in somewhere around 90,000 to 95,000 words.

-the Centaur

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Sunday, November 30, 2008

Another battle won...  

... I have just completed ~75,000 words for National Novel Writing Month 2008, which puts me over the top of my self-imposed target for November: 50,000 words more than I started with.

I had those extra 25,000 words to start with because I had planned to do two Nanowrimos back to back, thinking I could finish Blood Rock in October and start a new novel in November. Foolish mortal, who do you think you are, Asimov?

Blood Rock is the sequel to Frost Moon, last year's Nanowrimo entry. I have already started work on the sequels, Liquid Fire and Hex Code. I have ideas for many more in this series, but I plan to keep doing them only as long as they're fun.

Like its predecessor, I expect Blood Rock to top out at just under 90,000 words, so hopefully I will be able to finish the first draft in mid-December. Here's gunning for it!

-the Centaur

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Congratulations, Anthony! And speaking of Asimov... Science fiction writer Harlan Ellison once said, referring to Asimov's impressive output, "Isaac Asimov had writer's block once, It was the worst ten minutes of his life."
# posted by Blogger bolot : 12:45 PM
  Hooked. Need more. Now. :)
# posted by OpenID kshuler2002 : 4:50 PM
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Sunday, November 02, 2008

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

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Sunday, September 28, 2008

Frost Moon Submitted  

Friday afternoon I finished revising Frost Moon, and Friday evening I submitted it to a publisher.

Frost Moon was my 2007 Nanowrimo entry and is my second completed novel. 9 beta readers helped me out: Sandi, Barbara, Wally, Fred, Diane, Gayle, Mel, Liza and Keiko; sorry to everyone who didn't get a copy but if you don't really bug me about it I'll forget.

The final document that went out was the 42nd revision with a word count of 87737.

Cross your fingers!
-the Centaur

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Good luck from the Cinnamon Fan Club!
# posted by Blogger Gordon : 7:22 PM
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Thursday, June 05, 2008

The plan for June...  

... dig up all the draft posts I never finished, and do one of:
  • Finish and publish them
  • Abandon and delete them
  • Decide they need further work
Up so far: deleted a post which was an early draft of "He Has No Idea", and refurbished (as best I could, three years later) for publication a draft post on "I Hope No-One Closes Off the Internet". Enjoy.




Friday, May 30, 2008

Oh hai ... I can has writing novels now?  

... we're over 30 posts in a month now.  Mission accomplished, and without even using fake fill-me-up posts like this one.

There are a few topics left, but they can wait till June.

I can has novel writing now?
-the Centaur

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Sunday, May 25, 2008

I've got 2 hours ...  

... so do I blog or work on my next novel?

Sorry guys.  Work calls.

-the Centaur



Sunday, May 18, 2008

You're a Tiger  

You're a tiger.
You hide
in the tall grass.

You're a tiger!
You hide
in the tall grass.

I scritch behind your ear
and you fidget for me
Can't I see
you have important work to do?

Go now,
defend our home
from the flitting birds

and the tiny lizard
tailless marauder
you bring home again and again
held delicately in your jaws.

-the Centaur

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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Pleasure and Pain, Fiction and Science  

I really enjoy writing fiction, but I find writing science painful. And I just realized one reason why: stories are narratives, and since I write stories in chunks of scenes, the incomplete narrative can still be absorbingly interesting - like surfing past a few seconds of a movie on TV.

But papers are hybrid beasts: they report data and argue about what we can conclude from it. Since I write papers by core dumping my data then refining the argument, what I'm subjecting myself to when I edit my paper is a poorly argued jumble based on a quasi-random collection of facts.  It's not all bad - I do work from an outline and plan - but an outline is not an argument.

This hit home to me recently when I was working on a paper on some until-now unreported work on robot pets I did about ten years ago. Early drafts of the paper had a solid abstract and extensive outline from our paper proposal, and into this outline I poured a number of technical reports and partially finished papers. The result? Virtual migraine!

But after I got about 90% of the paper done, I had a brainflash about a better abstract, which in turn suggested a new outline. My colleagues agreed, so I replaced the abstract and reorganized the paper. Now the paper was organized around our core argument, rather than around the subject areas we were reporting on, which involved lots of reshuffling but little rewriting.

The result? Full of win. The paper's not done, not by a long shot, but the first half reads much more smoothly, and, more importantly, I can clearly look at all the later sections and decide what parts of the paper need to stay, what parts need to go, and what parts need to be moved and/or merged with other sections. There are a few weak spots, but I'm betting if I take the time to sit down and think about our argument and let that drive the paper that I will be able to clean it up right quick.

Hopefully this will help, going forward. Here goes...

 -the Centaur

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Sunday, May 11, 2008

A Nice Problem To Have  

So my friends are reading Frost Moon and giving me feedback, which I'm letting pile up while I get other work done (and so my committment to what I just wrote can evaporate to the point I can read it objectively). But I've already started the sequel, Blood Rock.  I wrote a lot of Frost Moon in the Barnes and Noble Writing Group at Steven's Creek, but I've avoided reading Blood Rock there because I thought it might be a spoiler for my alpha readers who were still reading Frost Moon.

Now I know holding the new chapters back was a good idea.

My mother-in-law just finished Frost Moon and said "I can't wait for more!". So I sent her the first chapter of Blood Rock, which she immediately printed out intending to read it.  But Sandi's dad got to it first.  He's read part of Frost Moon, but had stopped and was waiting for his wife to record it on tape so he can listen to it on his long over-the-road trips. But he sees Blood Rock lying around, picks it up, and BAM! page one, gets a huge spoiler for the ending of Frost Moon.

There are obvious spoilers in the first chapter of Blood Rock: the central character of the series is still alive, as are other people whose fate was in doubt.  I was worried that people would find that out, but in all truth you could guess that from the fact that it's a book in a 'genre' series and not a 'literary' one-shot novel.  It's going to be a story about someone's continuing adventures, not about the unfortunate events leading up to someone's untimely death.

But there are also NON-obvious spoilers: who the main villain was, what he was doing, and what happened to him.  I won't go into any more details, but suffice it to say these are MUCHO spoilers if you haven't finished the first book.  I hadn't been worried about that, but in hindsight this is blindingly obvious.  So I am very glad I didn't read this at the writing group!

As my mother-in-law and father-in-law both pointed out, it's rare for a book in a series to give away the ending of another book in the series.  And so I need to be careful about how I refer to the past.  While I can't hide the end of Frost Moon - it's integral to the plot of Blood Rock - I can instead hold these revelations back to the last possible minute.  And now that I think of doing that, it seems like it will make the point when I refer to it even more of a shock.  Nice.

I've never had this problem before.  It's a nice problem to have... :-)




Saturday, May 10, 2008

How hard it is...  

... to keep up the pace of daily blogging when you have Real Life to do!  I'm working on a scientific paper (and several novels and stories and a comic) and already this month have come up with three blog posts - Delusionaries, Biblical Spam and the Joy of Xi - which are too complex to just dash off, so they've been languishing.  If I get a chance I'll tackle one of them tomorrow after the next draft of the paper is done.  Until then ... post!  And let the chips fall where they may.

-the Centaur



Monday, May 05, 2008

Regurgitating Slashdot...  

... does not constitute true "blogging," unless you really have something new to say about the topic.  Same goes for the tip you just found on Lifehacker.  Perhaps, the curmudgeon in me says, keep the "me too"s and "+1"s to yourselves?

But, I'm a hypocrite; half the tricks I learn and shiny sparklies I find, I only get because some other blogger has read it  (out of the dozens of other blogs I don't subscribe to), decided it was good, and regurgitated it into my waiting Google Reader.  So keep it coming ... I guess.  But I still need something more than "check out what I saw on Slashdot."

-the Centaur



I feel that way about my main blog. The problem was I was finding so many cool little things, but often would not have anything new to say about them. I would either post them to facebook or think of the specific friends I wanted to share them with and email it. I would always forget somebody.

Eventually I decided that my main blog would only be for my thoughts about something, and I created a new blog (Jim Davies Identifies These Things As Cool) for regurgitation. At least people know what they're signing up for.
# posted by Blogger Jim Davies : 5:04 AM
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Don't Get Overly Ambitious  

If you're going to blog once a day for a month, it's important not to get overly ambitious about the articles you're going to write each day.  I started off with the idea I'd finish all the waiting blog posts I had sitting around, write down my definitive thoughts on several key topics, et cetera.

The outcome of this bright idea? Well, sitting "right next" to this article in Qumana is a blog entry on "delusionaries" which proved too big to chew in a couple of small bites.  So I'm going to spit this one out, cut it up into smaller bits, and try again.  Stay tuned.




Sunday, May 04, 2008

How Easy It Is To Fall Off the Wagon!  

Not even the first week and I skipped a blog entry.  Shame on me - and I was even online yesterday.

It's very easy to "fall off the wagon" - to decide to change how we want to live our lives, but then let our day-to-day habits, plans, and interactions carry us through a course of actions that contradicts that.  A Christian theologian would make some noise about the fallibility of man; a cognitive scientist would natter on about automatized behaviors, capture errors and the illusion of conscious will.  But the long and the short of it is that we're really bad at this.

I can point to a number of wagons I've fallen off repeatedly: regular exercise, martial arts training, doing the physical therapy exercises for my knee, calling all my friends at the beginning of the month, taking the laundry out of the dryer as soon as it beeps.  But other wagons I hang on to tenaciously: feeding the cats twice daily, watering the lawn, attending the weekly and monthly writing groups.

At first blush this is the diference between things that have immediate feedback (mewing cats, wilted plants, written stories) and those that don't (it can take months to notice changes in your waistline).  But I find that this even applies to things that don't have immediate feedback - like writing my "weekly snippets" at the Search Engine That Starts With a G, a performance tool that I regularly use even though I'm the only one that apparently reads them.  True, if you don't send snippets you get reminders about it; but most people ignore them, just like I ignore many, many other automated reminders I get.  So that's not it either.

So some wagons are easy to fall off of and others are easy to hang on to.  Why is that? I could go off and do a typical blogger speculation, but let's leave it at this for a moment: why are there some things that are so easy to decide to do (or not to do) regularly, while other habits are so hard to make or break that it seems nearly impossible?

'jes wonderin,
-the Centaur



Invisible May 3 post! Oh noes! :-)

I think the missing element you're looking for is ENJOYMENT! I bet you like/love writing group and maybe even weekly snippets. But exercise is hard and usually dull and nobody enjoys limiting their portions.
# posted by Blogger Gordon : 6:48 PM
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Thursday, May 01, 2008


Recently I heard a friend say "2008 was the year the bloggers died" - because almost all of his friends who were bloggers stopped posting. Well, shame on us. SO, in the tradition of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) I announce Anthony's Blog Writing Month (AnBloWriMo) in which I will attempt to put up one post per day for the next month. Hopefully this won't amount to boring all of you to tears, but will instead serve as a useful reminder to me to get my backlog moving again. Of course, those two things aren't mutually exclusive...

Here goes - this counts as number one.
-the Centaur



Cool! Daily 'taur updates. I think I'll play too. Think of it as Artist's Way Daily (web) Pages.
# posted by Blogger Gordon : 8:50 PM
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Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Look ma, no tubes!  

Now this could really prove useful - Google Docs are now offline:

As long as I have an Internet connection, every change I make is saved to the cloud. When I lose my connection, I sacrifice some features, but I can still access my documents (for this initial release, you can view and edit word processing documents; right now we don't support offline access to presentations or spreadsheets - see our help center for details). Everything I need is saved locally. And I do everything through my web browser, even when I'm offline (the goodness that Google Gears provides). When my connection comes back, my documents sync up again with the server. It's all pretty seamless: I don't have to remember to save my documents locally before packing my laptop for a trip. I don't have to remember to save my changes as soon as I get back online. And I don't have to switch applications based on network connectivity. With the extra peace of mind, I can more fully rely on this tool for my important documents.

I've avoided using Google Docs except for a few small things, but maybe this could win me over. Unfortunately this is not available on every account yet:

If you don't see an Offline link in your Google Docs account, don't worry, it's coming. We're releasing this feature on a rolling basis. You should see be able to enable the offline feature for Google Docs soon.

But they claim it's coming. This is developed with GoogleGears, which anyone can use to make a web app that's offline.

The first thing you need to run a web application offline is the ability to start it without an Internet connection. This is the purpose of the LocalServer module ... Applications that are more than just static files have data that is typically stored on the server. For the application to be useful offline, this data must be accessible locally. The Database module provides a relational database for storing data ... When synchronizing large amounts of data, you may find that the database operations begin to affect the responsiveness of the browser. The WorkerPool allows you to move your database operations to the background to keep the browser responsive.
Very interesting...


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This is now available for me, BTW. More info as I see how well it works.
# posted by Blogger Anthony : 10:00 PM
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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

82,732 Words  

I just finished the first draft of a new novel in two and a half months.

And immediately copied it to my USB key:

While I have started many novels and written many short stories, Frost Moon is only the second novel I've managed to complete --- thank you, Nanowrimo. The first was a much longer epic science fiction novel, homo centauris, that I wrote over fifteen years ago (has it been that long?) but which I never managed to get published. I worked on several others since then, but the closest to completion is an earlier Nanowrimo entry, tentatively titled Deliverance, set in the same universe, which I plan to finish while my alpha readers tackle Frost Moon.

Whew. I feel like celebrating --- but why do I not feel like taking a break?
-the Centaur

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Sunday, January 13, 2008

More useless tidbits...  

The first draft of "Frost Moon" is now at 75,000 words. It's turning out longer than my previous estimate (no big surprise for anyone who has suffered through all 698 pages of my Ph.D thesis) but since it is just a few chapters shy of being done I don't think it will be much longer ... somewhere between 80,000 and 90,000 words.

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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Useless tidbits about my daily life...  

... "Frost Moon" is at 60,000 words, and I've completed up to Chapter 20, the final three chapters, and a scattered salsa of much of the remaining third of the book. At the current rate I should finish up a first draft of around 75,000 words sometime in mid February, woohoo!

Not that any of you should care, other than that posting here keeps me moving ...
-the Centaur

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Saturday, December 01, 2007


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

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Congrats Anthony! That's badass!

I've written 50,000 words in a month before, but they were barely coherent. You're writing things that somebody may actually read, and I'm seriously impressed. Keep it up.
# posted by Blogger the andy fossett rock supreme : 8:47 PM
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Thursday, October 26, 2006

"Aha!" he said, "mine'll be self-referential!"  

Telling a story in six words? Unbelievable, until you see the evidence! Over on Wired:
Very Short Stories. Writers needing exercises, try it out!

-the Centaur
P.S. Technically I realize that the above is an essay told in six-word sentences, not four separate six-word stories, but then many of the "stories" over on Wired are really haiku-like phrases that set a scene. So sue me.



Saturday, August 12, 2006

Torturing Our Characters For Your Pleasure  

I've been a part of the "Dragonwriters" writing group since 2002, when a group of people who attended Ann Crispin's Dragon*Con writing class decided that they wanted to stay in touch ... and did. We eventually came up with a slogan for our group ... "Dragonwriters: Torturing Our Characters for Your Pleasure" based on the idea that authors should put their characters through the wringer in order to create interesting stories. Well, now we have a t-shirt based on this idea:

-the Centaur



Wednesday, June 07, 2006

The Visual Writer: Always Interesting  

A shout out to Scott Cole and his always interesting Visual Writer site, which is more comprehensive than I could possibly describe in a few short paragraphs. If you're at all interested in improving your writing, the philosophy of words, or the philosophy of the human condition, you should check it out.



Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Centaurs In Space III  

Continuing the translation of "articles" to modern blog entries... Part III of Article 30 from December 31, 2003.

Last in the series "Centaurs in Space", with text drawn from my short story "Death Wish" and images drawn from my sequential adaptation of the same story.

Death Wish
by Dr. Anthony G. Francis, Jr.

...then the remains of the shuttle slammed into the black surface of the asteroid.

Porsche flinched at the impact, then glared as the sparking hulk of the kyore carrier tumbled past the jagged scarp that had caught the shuttle and impacted the far end.

The edges of the black expanse seemed to shiver, and glowing bits of kyore scattered across the far end of the dumbbell like pretty little fireworks...

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Thursday, December 18, 2003

Centaurs In Space II  

Continuing the translation of "articles" to modern blog entries... Part II of Article 30 from December 18, 2003.

Second in the series of "Centaurs in Space", with text drawn from my short story "Death Wish" and images drawn from my sequential adaptation of the same story.

Death Wish
by Dr. Anthony G. Francis, Jr.

...The mission started well enough: a thousand light years in a trusty B4 shuttle, charting a star factory trailing the shock wave of the Perseus spiral arm. Two days out, and the routine was starting to settle in: dust clouds curdled here, disks of collapsing gas there, and blue supergiants everywhere, burning the candles at both ends.

It looked to be an uneventful jaunt, and she was already getting an itch to see her husband back on the Dragonfire...

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Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Centaurs In Space I  

Continuing the translation of "articles" to modern blog entries... Part I of Article 30 from December 10, 2003.

Done Been Gone Too Long. Well, friends, it's been almost 9 months since I've updated the site. In that time, I've been through crunch time on a major project, bought a new computer, took a road trip from the Stanford Linear Accelerator, through the Pacific Coast Highway, and ultimately to the Grand Canyon, wrote another 10,000 words on my novel, started a new comic book, and been sick twice (once including a trip to the hospital).

Which is still no excuse for not posting. I'm going to try to rectify that soon ... until then, let me tide you over with some art. With no further ado or departure from my sterotypical subject matter, I present "Centaurs in Space" ... first of a series of 3 sketches for the upcoming comic "Death Wish".

Death Wish
by Dr. Anthony G. Francis, Jr.

Ten seconds to impact, the centauress leapt out an airlock without a spacesuit...

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