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Posts published in “Fiction”

Things I make up for a living.

+4100 words …

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... 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

National Novel Writing Month 2009 Entry: Liquid Fire

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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

Frost Moon Back In the Hands of the Editor

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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

Blogging from the Convention Floor

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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.

An Odd Sense of Familiarity

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So I'm back in Atlanta for a few days to visit friends and go see my mother ... oh, come off it, I'm here for Dragon*Con.  But before that started, I had a whole day to recharge my Atlanta batteries - yes, visiting with several friends and hitting old haunts, but also seeing places that appear in the Dakota Frost series like the Flying Biscuit:



But I had a few chunks of downtime and a lot of work to do, so I dropped by Georgia Tech, browsed the bookstore - I love visiting college bookstores and browsing the textbooks: I like to know what universities are recommending students should be learning - and then plopped myself down in the embedded Starbucks to answer some email and try to push things forward.


But I found myself facing an odd sense of familiarity on the Georgia Tech campus.  Of course, I recognized the buildings I was seeing, and I didn't recognize anyone specific that I knew.  But a lot of people looked very ... familiar.  Not the students: the professors and researchers and general population of people milling around at Georgia Tech.



I lived in Atlanta for 18 years; fourteen of those were spent on the Georgia Tech campus and since then I've visited the campus regularly to see friends or browse the bookstore.  So it's possible that many of those familiar people are people I've seen, but don't remember.


Or it's possible that the culture of Georgia Tech - the clothes, the styles, the mannerisms - is something that newcomers pick up by osmosis, so even if I hadn't seen them before they've become like the people who I was formerly familiar with.  And that's what made the sense of familiarity so odd: it was sufficiently vague I couldn't really tell the cause.



Interesting ... I wonder what I would look like if I had spent 18 years somewhere else.


-the Centaur


I can be an idiot sometimes

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Portrait of the Centaur as an Idiot

I can be such an idiot sometimes ... or, put in other words, the right way to solve a problem is often much, much easier than the wrong way.

For example, if you're doing woodworking, you may use a modern steel clamp to hold a part tight to work on it. That sounds good and does the job. Of course, when you need to change the position of the part you must unscrew it, reposition the part and rescrew the clamp.

Historical Comics Panel with Dave Petersen

So far, so good ... but, according to David Petersen, the author of Mouse Guard, there is a better way. Petersen researched medieval woodworking equipment for his Eisner-award winning comic and found there was a simpler scheme involving a foot pedal and a lever, which had equal gripping power but could release and reapply pressure in seconds just by lifting your foot.

Moral: newer and more complex is not always better.

Fast forward eight hundred and fifty years. Robert Kroese, a colleague at the Search Engine That Starts With A G, has his own book that he's working on, and an associated web site Mercury Falls. On that site he has a form to enter an email list, and I thought, what a great idea! I should have a form where someone can send me an email list on the Dakota Frost site.

So I started looking into it. To make the form work, you need not only a web form, which is easy to set up, but also some kind of server program on the back end which can accept the results of the form and a database to store it.

Historically, I've had bad luck with scripts and databases on my web sites: Earthlink / Mindspring basically welched on the scripting features of their web hosting that I was paying for, and my next provider, Tophosting, screwed up one of my databases.

So I was hesitant, and I started thinking. Then it hit me...

Then It Hit Me

... there was a simpler way.

Instead of creating a form and the backend plumbing that goes with it, I should use the existing plumbing I had to achieve the same effect. What plumbing was already in place? A web site, a hosting provider, an ability to forward emails to a given address ... and a mail client with filters.

A Better Way

To make this work, I went to the GoDaddy control panel for Dakota Frost and set up a forwarding email: contact at dakota frost dot com. I had that sent to one of my catchall email accounts, and in Gmail I then set up a filter which collected all those email addresses into a single folder. Bam: problem solved.

Even if I want to do something more complex, this solution still works, as long as I keep looking at simple tools that are already available. For example, if I want an official email address list as a separate file, I could always download those email messages to the mail client of my choice, filter the messages to a folder, and grep over the email addresses in the file. For the scale at which I need to do it right now, the problem is still solved.

Moral of the story: the more you overthink the plumbing, the easier it is to stop up the drain. Keep it simple, and things should just keep flowing without effort.

Overthunk Plumbing

Or, to translate this back into development speak: there are two kinds of solutions: solutions which are easy to think up, but take a lot of coding effort to make work, and solutions which require thought, but which can be implemented in staggeringly small amounts of code.

In this one, we have an extreme example: to make this problem work the "no thinking way" would require an HTML form, a CGI script, a database, and considerable configuration on the server side of my hosting provider. To make this problem work the "no effort way" required some thought, but in the end less configuration of my hosting provider and a few minutes setting up some email filters.

An Elegant Solution For a More Advanced Age

You see the same thing in software libraries: really good libraries don't take a lot of code, but that doesn't mean that they didn't take a lot of work. What happened behind the scenes was a lot of thought, wherein the library author searched the space of possible designs until he found a great one before ever publishing the library. You as the consumer don't see that effort, no matter how short or long it took: you only see the pure, parsimonious, elegant efficient piece of code that remains.

If you don't put thought into what you're doing, you might try it sometime. You'd be surprised how little thought can get you substantially improved results.

-the Centaur

At San Diego Comic Con 2009

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My current excuse for not posting (other than feverishly trying to finish Blood Rock) is attending San Diego Comic Con 2009, the largest comic convention in the world. Here I'm seeing talks, meeting friends, working on Blood Rock, leaving flyers for Dakota Frost: Frost Moon, and enjoying the fantabulous nightlife in San Diego's Gaslamp Quarter:

Comicon and the Gaslight District

You cannot explain how large Comicon is; you must see it yourself. I could show you the mammoth Exhibit Hall / Show's Floor / Noah's Ark of a Dealer's Room, but it is hard from a single picture to get the scale:

Comicon Dealer's Room

I could show you the external architecture, the huge steps and rounded escalator leading out of the upper levels (actually, the round escalator had just moved out of the picture at this point), but it is still hard to get the scale:

Convention Center Architecture

Perhaps only by showing the huge tide of people leaving after the Dealer's Room had closed can you truly see how large the San Diego Comic Con is:

Comicon Human Tide

It can take up to thirty minutes to reach your car in the parking lot, as we unfortunately found out today when we joined for lunch some friends who had driven. Halfway to the parking lot, you can see the length of the Convention Center, and can see why it takes up a significant part of the city on Google Maps:

Comicon Megastructure

Comicon has been held 40 times over the last 39 years, making it a cultural event only slightly younger than I am. This year is also Green Lantern's 50th anniversary, and the Con and its attendees are celebrating with special T-shirts, movie premieres, and of course, fan costumes:

Comicon at 40, GL at 50

It's all sold out this year, officially 126,000 but rumored to be as many as 140,000 strong ... but if you have even a passing interest in comics, movies or other popular arts, you should make at least one pilgrimage to check it out.

More later. Must crash.
-the Centaur

Dakota Frost

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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

How Long is Frost Moon?

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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

Frost Moon: Coming Fall 2009

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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

dub-dub-dub dot DakotaFrost dot com

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Dakota Frost has her very own web site now, at the eponymous http://www.dakotafrost.com/.

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

I can’t read what I want right now

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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

Blog Labels at the Library: The Not-So-Dewey Decimal System

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Blogger lets you categorize your blog entries with tags - like Development, Pound Cake or what have you. However, they don't provide an easy way to put these labels into your web page if your site is not hosted on a Blogger server, which the Library of Dresan is not. I've played around with this a bit, but have not yet figured out how to do it.

But the directory structure of the labeled blogs is simple - just the subdirectory "labels" and a bunch of eponymous files like "Mission to Mars.html" or "Sith Park.html". So I'm going to put these labels up myself right now, and write a 10-line or so Python program that will do it for me later.

To make things easy, I've added an index.html to the labels directory, so you can just navigate to it to see the current list of labels. For historical interest, here's what I've got right now:

More to come...
-the Centaur
Update: removed the image for this post after investigating the license and finding it was a GNU-style "poison" license that required GNUification of the entire post. Sorry, Richard, I appreciate your efforts to make things available to the world but you don't get my blog entries in exchange. I can take my own dang photos.

National Novel Writing Month 2008 Entry: Blood Rock

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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

Viiiictory…

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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