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[twenty twenty-four day one two three]: 75% of the way there …

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Our Kickstarter for The Neurodiversiverse is over 75% now! And my co-editor Liza put together a wonderful video for the project, now available on the Kickstarter page (just click the header image you see below):

I already posted about this on social media but not here I think, so ... we've also gotten the molds for the neurodiversity rainbow infinity symbol pins, and expect to get a look at pin prototypes real soon now!

So, if you love science fiction, neurodiversity, pins, or science-fictiony neurodiverse pins, in celebration of an #ownvoices anthology about neurodiverse encounters with aliens, please back us and share!

-the Centaur

[twenty twenty-four day ninety-eight]: no, the anthill doesn’t come back stronger and better designed

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Above is what looks like a massive anthill at the border of the "lawn" and "forest" parts of our property. It's been getting bigger and bigger over the years, and that slow growth always reminds me of Mr. Morden's comments in Babylon 5 about the Shadows' plan to make lesser races fight:

JUSTIN: "It's really simple. You bring two sides together. They fight. A lot of them die, but those who survive are stronger, smarter and better."
MORDEN: "It's like knocking over an ant-hill. Every new generation gets stronger, the ant-hill gets redesigned, made better."

Babylon 5: Z'ha'dum

But the Shadows were wrong, and what we're seeing there isn't a redesigned anthill: it is a catastrophe, a multigenerational ant catastrophe caused by climate, itself brought to light by a larger, slow-motion human catastrophe caused by climate change.

Humans have farmed, built and burnt for a long time, but only now, in the dawn of the Anthropocene - that period of time where human impacts on climate start to exceed natural variation of climate itself, beginning roughly in the 1900s - have those effects really come back to bite us on a global, rather than local, scale.

For my wife and I, this took the form of fire. Fire was not new in California: friends who lived on homes on ridges complained about their high insurance costs as far back as I can remember. But more and more fires started burning across our area, forcing other friends to move away. Then three burned within five miles of our home, with no end to the drought in sight, and we decided we'd had enough.

We moved to my ancestral home, a place where water falls from the sky, aptly named Greenville. And we moved into a house whose builders knew about rain, and placed it on a hill with carefully designed drainage. They created great rolling lawns, manicured in the traditional Greenville "let's fucking force it with chemicals and lawnmowers to look like it was Astroturf" which we are slowly letting go back to nature.

In this grass, and in the absence of pesticides, the ants flourished. But this isn't precisely a natural environment: they're flourishing in an expanse of grass that is wider and more rounded than the rough, ridged forest around it. In the forest, runoff from the rains is channeled into proto-streams leading to the nearby creek; at the edge of the lawn, water from the house and lawn spills out in a flood.

Each heavy rain, the anthills building up in the sloped grass are washed to the mulch beds that mark the boundary of the forest, and there the ants start to re-build. But lighter rains can destroy these more exposed anthills, forcing them to slowly migrate back up into the grass. That had already happened here: that was no longer a live anthill, and unbeknownst to me, I was standing in its replacement.

No worries, for them or me; I noticed the anthill was dead, looked down, and moved off their territory just as the ants were swarming out of their antholes, fit to kill (or at least to annoyingly nibble). But the great red field there, as wide as a man is tall and twice as long, was not a functioning anthill: it was the accumulated wreckage of generation after generation of ant catastrophes.

In the quote, Mr. Morden was wrong: knocking over an anthill doesn't make it come back better designed. Justin got it a little better: the strongest and smartest do often survive a battle - but they walk away with scars, and sometimes the winners may just be the lucky ones. Conflict may not make people better - it can just leave scarred soldiers, wounded refugees and a destroyed landscape.

Now, the Shadows were the villains of the story, but every good villain needs a good soundbite that makes them sound at least a little bit good, and it's worth demolishing this one. "The anthill comes back better stronger and better designed" is designed to riff on the survival of the fittest - the notion that creating survival pressure will lead to stronger, smarter, and better individuals.

But evolution doesn't work that way. Those stronger, smarter, and better individuals have to have existed in the population in the first place. Evolution only leads to improvements over time at all if the variation of the population continues to yield increasingly better individuals generation after generation - and that is not at all guaranteed. The actual historical pattern is far closer to the opposite.

Now, people who should know better often claim that evolution has no direction. I think that's because there's a cartoon version of evolution where things tend to get more complex over time, and they want to replace it with another cartoon version of evolution which is blind and random - perhaps spillover from Dawkins' attempts to argue with creationists using his Blind Watchmaker idea.

But that's not how evolution works at all. Evolution does have a direction - just like gravity does. Only at the narrow level of the fundamental laws operating on idealized, homogeneous substrates can we say gravity is symmetric, or evolution is directionless. Once the scope of our investigation expands and the structure of the world gets complex - once symmetry is broken - then gravity clumps matter into planets and gives us "up", and evolution molds organisms into ecosystems and gives us "progress towards complexity".

But the direction of evolution is a lot more like the gradient of air around a planet than it is any kind of "great chain of being". Once an ecosystem exists, increased complexity provides an advantage for a small set of organisms, and as they spread into the ecosystem, a niche is created for even more complex organisms to exceed them. But, just like most of the atmosphere is closest to the surface of a planet, most of the organisms will remain the simplest ones.

Adding additional selection pressure won't give you more complex organisms: it will give you fewer of them. The more stress on the ecosystem, the harder it is for anything to survive, the size of the various niches will shrink, and even if the ecosystem still provides enough resources to support complex organisms, the size of the population that can evolve will drop, making it less likely for even more complex ones to arise - and that's assuming it doesn't get so rough that the complex organisms go extinct.

Eventually, atoms bouncing around in the atmosphere may fly off into space - just like, eventually, evolution produced a Neil Armstrong who flew to the moon. But pouring energy into the atmosphere may slough the upper layers off into space, leaving a thin remnant closest to the planet - and, so, stressing an ecosystem will not produce more astronauts; it may kill them off and leave everyone down in the muck.

Which gives us a hint to what the Shadows' real plan was. They're portrayed as an ancient learned race, so presumably they knew everything I just shared - but they're also portrayed as the villains, after all, and so they ultimately had a self-serving goal in mind. And if knocking over an anthill doesn't make it come back better designed, then their real goal was to keep kicking over anthills so they themselves would stay on top.

-the Centaur

Pictured: Me, near sunset, taking picture of what I thought was a live anthill - until I looked more closely.

[twenty twenty-four day seventy-three]: independent confirmation at last

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At last! Thanks to Bing, I found an online calculator whose numbers confirm the calculation I did on my own for the interplanetary distances from my story "Shadows of Titanium Rain"!

[ from based on data from ]

This is VERY close to the numbers I got from doing this in Mathematica based on the equations from (as I recall) the NASA page :

AND, despite a good bit of reading [ , ] I was not able to find a ready source which gave me a simple formula without solving a bunch of equations.

But the calculator gave the same result that I got earlier on my own.

SO! Failaka is a quarter million kilometers from Tylos.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

-the Centaur

[twenty twenty-four post nine]: failaka, tylos and dilmun to scale

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The star Dilmun, its planet Tylos, and the hypothetical exo-Io Failaka, to scale. For comparison, if our Sun, Jupiter, and Earth took those positions, this is what they would look like:

What's funny about the Dilmun system is that normally you have to say "planetary distances and sizes are not to scale". However, Tylos is so close to Dilmun, orbiting only 4 million kilometers away with a year of 1.25 days, that the top diagram IS to scale. And this is in real life, not fiction.

What an amazing universe.

-the Centaur

[twenty twenty-four day seven]: tylos and dilmun from failaka

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So! I'm working on a series of stories set on a tidally locked moon called Failaka, orbiting a "hot Jupiter" called Tylos around an even hotter star called Dilmun. I don't know if anything like Failaka exists, but Tylos is a real planet originally designated WASP-121b, orbiting a star called, um, WASP-121, about 850 light years from Earth.

Dilmun is a yellow-white star hotter and brighter than our Sun (itself white, not yellow), and Tylos orbits so close its parent star that its orbit takes one and a quarter Earth days, cooking the planet to a sizzling 2500 degrees Kelvin (about four thousand degrees Fahrenheit). Failaka is a cometary remnant, and if it exists, it could only survive in the shadow of Tylos, which itself appears as a bright orange, hot as a hot coal.

SO, to make the story more grounded, I worked out where Failaka would have to be (Tylos's L2 point, currently calcuated as about the distance from the Earth to the Moon), how relatively bright Tylos and Dilmun were, and how large Tylos and Dilmun would be in the sky, as well as their colors.

The above renders this in Mathematica. Tylos is the orange circle partially occluding the white disk of Dilmun behind it, and Failaka is the blue plain of ice below - ice which, if it really was this exposed to Tylos and Dilmun, would be rapidly sublimating away, as the plot demands that the planet "roll" due to an orbital shift, leading to plains of former darkside ice shifting into the light and rapidly disintegrating.

Oh, and the tiny dots to the right of Dilmun? The white dot is the Sun, in natural color. The next dot is the Moon, rendered in grey, as the moon's albedo is actually kinda like charcoal.

And now, a helpful safety tip: do not stand on Failaka where you can see this view of Tylos and Dilmun. The radiation would be thousands of times as bright as the Sun seen from Earth, and you would rapidly have a very abbreviated day.

If you see this unprotected, you will die.

The good news? Cremation is free.

-the Centaur

Sales for Dakota, Jeremiah and Nicole!

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So a number of sales are running this month featuring stories about Dakota, Jeremiah or Nicole.

First off, Dakota: on February 16-28 of this month, BLOOD ROCK will be back on sale for $0.99 wherever fine eBooks are sold - for example, Amazon and Barnes and Noble. BLOOD ROCK continues the story of Dakota and her weretiger daughter Cinnamon, facing their greatest challenge yet: getting Cinnamon into a good middle school. Oh, and there may also be magic graffiti, deadly fires, cranky werewolves, magical police investigators, and vampire romance. You should check it out.

Second, Jeremiah: the LATER series anthologies are on sale at DriveThruFiction through the 11th. Each features pairs of stories set in Jeremiah Willstone's time at Liberation Academy. We're adapting these for audio, so I feel this is a good way to get into this universe early!

Finally, Nicole. Everyone's favorite killer computer's debut story, SIBLING RIVALRY, is also on sale at DriveThruFiction: .

Also, a few of my friends who are published through Thinking Ink Press also have books on sale at DriveThruFiction:

The DriveThruFiction sales ends February 11, so strike while the iron's hot!

-the Centaur

P.S. Also, while I'm under the hood, let me point out that the new WordPress editor continues not just to suck, but to get worse over time, as it was markedly harder to write a blog post on the Library of Dresan than the Jeremiah Willstone and Dakota Frost websites, both on older versions of WordPress. It's harder to edit text, insert links, navigate texts, add lists, or add tags, and the tags no longer show the relative category sizes. "Modern looking" is not a substitute for usability, and never will be. End of rant.

Day 039

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More Space Hair Another attempt at space hair. I did a better job at creating dimension in the hair, I think, but fell for two classic blunders: first, the face is too large compared to the size of the head, causing the top of the head to appear cut off, and second, this first error was caused by me leaping too quickly from roughs to inks, which may not be a classic error for everyone, but is classic for me. Also the eyes are off angle: According to Google Image Search, this is also Zendaya. Apparently she would also make a good model for Porsche in addition to Cinnamon, up to heritage (while Zendaya has German, Scottish, and African ancestors - a good match for Cinnamon's mixed-race heritage - Porsche in contrast is Sino-Anglic, a Chinese/English derived centaur ethnicity which won't exist for another 500 years). Still, the exercise helped me expose a couple new art errors that I can now start to work on. Drawing every day. -the Centaur  

Day 038

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Porsche Face Redux Now that's more like it. Another exercise in making a face look like a face, except this time I was not using a real person as a reference, but older drawings of one of my own characters, centauress explorer Porsche Kirkpatrick-Saint George, from yesterday's entry. Here's a couple zoomed in shots: Porsche Reference Far Porsche Reference Near Differences in the new version: slightly narrower face to better fit what I currently understand about human proportions; slightly wider nose, because she's a frigging centaur and needs to breathe; slightly thicker neck, because even at 22-23 here she's supposed to be an exceptional martial artist (and lives in 1.7 gravities). Otherwise, I tried to abstract the older proportions and recreate the same person. I think I got close, but my faces are still not yet stable. I see I still have the same problem with the "errant pen" occasionally jerking and messing up my lines; I also see I could be making her giant mass of hair more dimensional and less flattened to two planes (though I note my time-traveling action archaeologist and her space hair predates River Song by quite a bit, even if Stephen Moffat beat me to the screen). Lots of work to do, clearly. Took me two hours. Need to do that in half or a third the time. Still ... ... drawing every day. -the Centaur

Day 037

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Cinnamon Sketch As it says on the tin. Fell down a rabbithole trying to clean up my files prior to doing my art, decided to cheat by posting a sketch I did earlier today, then fell down more rabbitholes since I apparently can't not experiment with coloring a sketch. For reference, here's the sketch from earlier, the first entry in a notebook that I hadn't written in in over 18 years: Original Cinnamon Sketch I came across this notebook just trying to find an appropriate notebook for a science idea (my sketchbook is at hand, but the science notebooks are ... buried in boxes?? Not sure) and found this one, a "commonplace book" filled with various ideas, including a life review from almost 20 years ago. I'm ... actually pretty happy with how things turned out over the last 20 years, between my wife, my novels, my comics and Google, but there's so much more to do. Finally, for reference, here's a piece of art I found while I was re-organize my files. This is from 24 Hour Comic Day, mind you ... a bit ambitious, I think, but this pre-break art I think shows the kind of work that I'm intimidated by when I try to get back into drawing: Porsche from the first 24hcd Yes, there's a lot to be improved with this art, but (a) my inking was a lot better, and (b) wow, I had forgotten how much the Porsche St. George character was supposed to be a "knockout". So much of what I've written / drawn about her since then has been the workmanlike space warrior stuff, not so much the original romance between the twentieth-century time traveller and the thirtieth-century centaur. Ah well. Lots of work to do before I can get back to that level of quality, even though I see a lot of work I need to do to improve upon that once I get there. Drawing every day. -the Centaur

Day 12

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Porsche and the Scythe at the Waterfall, Colored Day 11's drawing, colorized. Lots I would fix in the underlying drawing; many techniques of digital coloring I wished I had learned. But enough of that. Tired, going to bed now. Still ... Drawing. Every. Day. -the Centaur

Day 11

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Porsche at the Waterfall Hello, Porsche, my old friend; time to draw you again. Getting more comfortable with the Cintiq + Photoshop + Humanscale combo. But only had time for the inks today. Colors maybe tomorrow, or perhaps another drawing. Drawing every day. -the Centaur

Day 3

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Porsche and a Kettledrum Bit off more than I could chew this time, attempting to do full coloring layers. Had to give up about a third of the way through because it is way past bedtime, even for me. Not happy with the sketch or the result, didn't really get to flesh this one out the way I wanted to. Still, drawing every day. -the Centaur

My Dragon Con Virtual Mentoring Schedule

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I know it might be hard to believe, but I am not dead, despite 2020's best efforts! In fact, I am going to be at Virtual Dragon Con, participating in the Virtual Mentoring sessions!
2020 Dragon Con Writer's Track Virtual Mentoring Guests We have 30 established authors and other publishing pros who've generously donated their time and expertise to host 15-minute, one-on-one mentoring sessions with aspiring authors. If you're signing up for an acquiring editor or publisher, you are welcome to pitch your completed book! If you are meeting with an established author, the door is pretty wide open. You can ask about craft. If you're struggling with something specific, you can ask them about it. We have a number of indie authors, so if you're interested in self-publishing, you can pick their brains. Think about what you want to get out of this dedicated one-on-one session and choose your mentor accordingly.
So, who am I in all of this, if you're just encountering this link and haven't read my books or this blog?

Anthony Francis - Thinking Ink Press & Author

Session schedule: Friday - 4:30, 4:50, 5:10, 5:30

Secret origin: By day, Anthony Francis teaches robots to learn; by night, he writes the Dakota Frost urban fantasy series (FROST MOON, BLOOD ROCK and LIQUID FIRE) and the steampunk Jeremiah Willstone series (THE CLOCKWORK TIME MACHINE). He's also an editor, and co-founded Thinking Ink Press. Genres & expertise: I'm a science fiction, urban fantasy and steampunk author with experience in space travel, general physics, artificial intelligence, robotics, cognitive science, fictional magic and myth, and real and fictional military systems. Acquisition wishlist: we're looking for fresh voices in science fiction accessible to new audiences. We've recently published YA military science fiction and humorous cyberpunk novels featuring LGBTQIA characters, and have also published a series of steampunk anthologies.
If you're interested in talking with me about writing science fiction, urban fantasy, or steampunk, or would like to talk about a new book proposal of interest to Thinking Ink Press, the signup sheet for sessions is here: This is the first time we've done this virtually, but I've participated before in the live events (on the mentee end, rather than mentor :-D) and found it very valuable. So come on board, ask your questions, and help us make Virtual Dragon Con a success! Virtual Dragon Con is already running - and I've been on two recorded panels already for the Writer's Track, though I don't know when they'll air yet, just figuring that out myself - but please go check it out and help the world have fun in the face of the zombie apocalypse! -the Centaur  

Guest Post on Speculative Chic!

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What makes you hang on the edge of your seat? I call that a favorite, and I talk about some of my current faves over at the Speculative Chic blog! [embed][/embed] Go check it out!    

My Daily Dragon Interview in Two Words: “Just Write!”

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So at Dragon Con I had a reading this year. Yeah, looks like this is the last year I get to bring all my books - too many, to heavy! I read the two flash fiction pieces in Jagged Fragments, "If Looks Could Kill" and "The Secret of the T-Rex's Arms", as well as reading the first chapter of Jeremiah Willstone and the Clockwork Time Machine, a bit of my and Jim Davies' essay on the psychology of Star Trek's artificial intelligences, and even a bit of my very first published story, "Sibling Rivalry". I also gave the presentation I was supposed to give at the SAM Talks before I realized I was double booked; that was "Risk Getting Worse". But that wasn't recorded, so, oh dang, you'll have to either go to my Amazon page to get my books, or wait until we get "Risk Getting Worse" recorded. But my interview with Nancy Northcott for the Daily Dragon, "Robots, Computers, and Magic", however, IS online, so I can share it with you all. Even more so, I want to share what I think is the most important part of my interview:
DD: Do you have any one bit of advice for aspiring writers? AF: Write. Just write. Don’t worry about perfection, or getting published, or even about pleasing anyone else: just write. Write to the end of what you start, and only then worry about what to do with it. In fact, don’t even worry about finishing everything—don’t be afraid to try anything. Artists know they need to fill a sketchbook before sitting down to create a masterwork, but writers sometimes get trapped trying to polish their first inspiration into a final product. Don’t get trapped on the first hill! Whip out your notebook and write. Write morning pages. Write diary at the end of the day. Write a thousand starts to stories, and if one takes flight, run with it with all the abandon you have in you. Accept all writing, especially your own. Just write. Write.
That's it. To read more, check out the interview here, or see all my Daily Dragon mentions at Dragon Con here, or check out my interviewer Nancy Northcott's site here. Onward! -the Centaur    

“Sibling Rivalry” returning to print

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sibling-rivalry-cover-small.png Wow. After nearly 21 years, my first published short story, “Sibling Rivalry”, is returning to print. Originally an experiment to try out an idea I wanted to use for a longer novel, ALGORITHMIC MURDER, I quickly found that I’d caught a live wire with “Sibling Rivalry”, which was my first sale to The Leading Edge magazine back in 1995. “Sibling Rivalry” was borne of frustrations I had as a graduate student in artificial intelligence (AI) watching shows like Star Trek which Captain Kirk talks a computer to death. No-one talks anyone to death outside of a Hannibal Lecter movie or a bad comic book, much less in real life, and there’s no reason to believe feeding a paradox to an AI will make it explode. But there are ways to beat one, depending on how they’re constructed - and the more you know about them, the more potential routes there are for attack. That doesn’t mean you’ll win, of course, but … if you want to know, you’ll have to wait for the story to come out. “Sibling Rivalry” will be the second book in Thinking Ink Press's Snapbook line, with another awesome cover by my wife Sandi Billingsley, interior design by Betsy Miller and comments by my friends Jim Davies and Kenny Moorman, the latter of whom uses “Sibling Rivalry” to teach AI in his college courses. Wow! I’m honored. Our preview release will be at the Beyond the Fence launch party next week, with a full release to follow. Watch this space, fellow adventurers! -the Centaur

That Sock Drawer

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Sock Drawer 2016-01-07.png

What to do with the stories in your sock drawer?

For those of you who don’t know, the “sock drawer” is where short stories go to die, named after the place you file manuscripts away after you’ve exhausted your efforts to sell, edit, or burn them. Stories go through a life cycle:

  1. You Get the Idea: Sometimes, this is no more than a title. Most people stop here.
  2. You Start the Draft: You actually start writing! Most people never get here.
  3. You Finish the Draft! Most people who get to Stage 2 never get to Stage 3. Believe it or not, this is the hardest part.
  4. You Edit the Draft! Some people get stuck forever here, or skip this entirely, like bloggers. :-)
  5. You Let Other People See It! I call this the ”beta” stage because I generally don’t let people see stuff until I’ve edited it.
  6. You Send It Out! You send the story or novel out for publication.
  7. It’s Accepted Right Away! Editors ALWAYS accept stories, right?
  8. ???
  9. Profit!

Actually, MOST of the time markets don’t accept what you send them. From what you see above, it seems like I’ve got a pretty good acceptance rate, but that’s actually counting by stories. If we instead look at how many times I sent them out:

Story Acceptances 2016-01-07.png

Yeah. And even that’s a bit exaggerated, since I get invited to write a lot of stories, so if i was to tease the data apart to look at my cold-call rejection rate, I would get very depressed. So really there are a few more stages which can happen after you send things out:
  • You Keep Circulating Your Work: If first you don’t succeed, try the next magazine or site on the list.
  • You Revise Your Work: A clever editor’s comment, or more insight, leads you to rework your story. Go back to Step 4.
  • You Get Stuck: You don’t know how to fix your work, but aren’t ready to give up yet. You’re essentially at Step 3.
  • You Give Up: You convince yourself the work can’t be fixed … and dump it in your sock drawer.

As you saw from the first diagram, I’ve got a small handful of stories in my sock drawer … not that I’ll never think of going back to them, but if so, it will probably be a ground-up rewrite harvesting the manuscript for whatever good ideas I’ve got. But I also have a larger tranche of stories I haven’t quite given up on yet, ones I think I can salvage, but which aren’t as important as my novels.

But if I’m not working on them, are they in the sock drawer, or not? Some of those stories went out to a dozen or more places and got as many rejections. Others I sent to one or two places, or nowhere. And if I read them again, what would I think? Is it worth going back to them? If it’s a choice between working on Dakota Frost, Cinnamon Frost, Jeremiah Willstone, or Serendipity the Centaur, I’m going to choose one of them over a short story I wrote back in 2001.

So why am I digging back at the boundary of Stalled and the Sock Drawer?

Recently, a friend told me about a short story submission deadline that was closing fast. I looked at my list of stories I’ve sent out to find one to send … but I’ve gotten much better at sending out my work, so, surprisingly, I didn’t have anything to send. So I had a choice: let the deadline pass … or find my best unpublished story and send it out.

I actually do have 2 or 3 stories on my shortlist of “this story is really good, but it never made it” but I want to edit these before I send them out again, so I thought about letting the deadline pass. Then I realized that if I never go back to those stories, I might as well consider them dead. I always mean to revise them - I have a folder of comments and notes on them - but somehow I never get around to it. So I needed to commit: lob the lot into the sock drawer, or take action.

I found the best of these that fit within the word count limits of the magazine. Then I reformatted it according to William Shunn’s manuscript guidelines, to give it the best chance for success. The very act of reformatting it gave me a new eye on the story … and I realized that inside that 10,000 word manuscript was a great 8,000 word story screaming to get out.

I didn’t have time to make those changes before the deadline. I did a quick edit, I fixed a few minor warts … and I sent it out.

If they like it, hopefully by the time they get back to me, I’ll have a great edit ready.

If not … I’ll have a great edit ready for someone else.

In the meantime, I added a tick to the count of Circulating Stories in the following graph...

Submissions 2016-01-07.png

… and blogging about it added a tick to this graph:

Building Inventory 2.png

Since I’ve seen, and done the alternative … sitting on stories forever ... I think this is was the “write" thing to do.

-the Centaur

And we’re off!

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National Novel Writing Month is here again. For those who are just joining the party, it's a challenge to write 50,000 words of a new novel in the month of November - and it's also the event which finally broke through my creative barriers, helping me at last produce a complete publishable novel. I've done it eight times in the past:

  • 2002: DELIVERANCE (Frontiersmanship series #1, as yet unpublished)
  • 2007: FROST MOON (Dakota Frost series #1, published by Bell Bridge Books 2010)
  • 2008: BLOOD ROCK (Dakota Frost series #2, published by Bell Bridge Books 2011)
  • 2009: LIQUID FIRE (Dakota Frost series #3, forthcoming from Bell Bridge, 2014)
  • 2010: JEREMIAH WILLSTONE AND THE CLOCKWORK TIME MACHINE (Jeremiah Willstone series #1, forthcoming from Bell Bridge est. 2014)
  • 2011: HEX CODE (Cinnamon Frost series #1, manuscript in progress)
  • 2012: MAROONED (Serendipity series #1, manuscript in progress)
  • 2013: SPECTRAL IRON (Dakota Frost series #4 manuscript in progress, estimated submission 2014)

and now 2015: PHANTOM SILVER, which will be Dakota Frost #5. I'm planning on focusing on Dakota for a while now, trying to get books 4-6 to Debra (and my fans) so that they have six books in their hands, hopefully enough to tide them over while I get Cinnamon Frost, Jeremiah Willstone and Serendipity out the door.

I could say more about Nano, or do link salsa to the text above to provide references. But I'm not. I'm going to get back to writing; it's already 10pm on Saturday November 1, and I'm only about 500 words in, when I need almost 1700. Arr, back to work, ye scurvy writer dawgs! It's Nano time!

-the Centaur

Pictured: a creepy Halloween cat at a nearby hardware store, thematic because I'm shooting for a slightly creepier Dakota Frost tale this time around, focusing mostly on ghosts.

And Nanowrimo Draws to a Close Yet Again…

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Serendipity Banner v1 Small.png

Well, Nanowrimo has drawn to a close once again. I finished early, and then used the time through Thanksgiving to spend time with friends, family and my wife. Hence the gaps near the end:

MAROONED 2013-11-30.png

As you can see, the last few days have seen a few words added to the manuscript, but they're mostly the addition of notes and other materials to make sure the story isn't lost. However, the total added words: 52761. Success.

MAROONED 2013-11-30a.png

Now it's back to THE CLOCKWORK TIME MACHINE, and when that's off to the editors, I hope that I'll have my betas back for LIQUID FIRE so that too can go to the editors. Then I'll be finishing SPECTRAL IRON. So it may be a while before I return to Serendipity to finish her story; until then, however, I will leave you this:

“But … our last Loremaster died of the plague,” Dijo said. “We’ve saved the data, of course, but all the stories are lost—”

“Then we’d better salvage the ones we can,” Leonid said, staring at Serendipity. She was rapt: she was a historian. And as young as she was, she probably hadn’t had the chance to collect living history. And he’d given her just that. “So, Serendipity … you up to the task?”

“Am I,” she said, flicking an ear, leaning forward. “Tell me the stories of your people.”

“Alright, but we don’t tell stories,” Leonid said, motioning to Beetle, who drew out his strumstick. “We sing them.” Serendipity’s mouth fell open, and Leonid smiled. “Beetle, you’ve got some pipes on you. Sing the Song of Iranon, and remind us why we keep fighting on.”

Beetle smiled, tuned the stick, then began strumming. He sang:

Into Teloth Station wandered a spacer,
The vine cowled, yellow haired Iranon.
His suit was torn
His cloak was frayed
From mining the rocks of the belt Sidrak—

Soon they were all singing, Serendipity more than a bit awkwardly—she had little rhythm, and clapped at odd places, unable to keep time. But she quickly learned the chorus and response, and by the last verse she was singing along with them.

The spacers of Teloth were dark and stern
With frowns they asked his course.

And he said:

I am the spacer Iranon
With a cowl of vines, and myrrhwax in my hair.
I came from the Arkship Aira
A ship I recall only dimly, but seek to find again.
I sing the songs learned in my youth
In that far off paradise
And my course is set to find my way home once again.

And he said:

My trade is making beauty from memories of my childhood
And my wealth is in dreams of the places I have known
And I chart my course by the light of hope inside me
The hope I’ll find again my near forgotten home
On the Arkship Aira
In orbit round the gardens of the Lotus Moon.

Fare well, spacers...

-the Centaur

Viiiictory … in … Spaaaace

centaur 0


For the 8th time, I have won National Novel Writing Month! This year, I knuckled down early, focusing on getting as much ahead as possible so I could coast early in the month. This really worked because my story soon started turning in unexpected directions as I mined the emotional relationships of the characters, rather than the overarching plot. And I think it worked well! Look at that:

MAROONED 2013-11-27.png

I was successfully able to stay ahead of the game essentially for the whole month, enabling me to finish several days early. I hope to keep writing, to core dump the ideas I've had about the story, as while it is wonderful to find unexpected elements of the story (including a shout-out to one of my oldest childhood toys and the origin of the Dresanian universe) there's more to write.

MAROONED 2013-11-27a.png

But now I can take a more leisurely pace, read the giant stack of books I've accumulated to help me flesh out the plot ideas, and turn it all into something more interesting. For example, here's an interesting combination of plot and emotional interaction, none of which I ever really expected:

The mammoth city-sized collection of globules drifted by. Some were firm and puffy like gasbags; some soft like pillows, some trailing and drifting like punctured balloons. So many tentacles fell down from it that it looked like it was raining beneath. Slowly, the globules crested a ridge and began to sink.

Leonid’s mouth parted, but he maintained his firm, watchful, captain on deck boots-wide stance on the window, even though his legs had begun to cramp. Then the city slowly settled to the earth in a cloud of dust.

“It is a city,” Serendipity said. “Or something very much like one.”

“I’m not willing to give it that yet,” Leonid said, as the globules settled and burst, gas streaming up from some, gasbags lifting tentacles up from others, remarkably like towers. “But my mind is open to the possibility. Spores, your grandmother said.”

“Yes,” Serendipity said. “Perhaps the gasbags make the cities, and the spores that they release inhabit the cities. I don’t know—like she said, it appears most of the records of Halfway were sealed after the war. Damnit. And Greatgramma Clarice led me straight into this—”

“Sounds like a dick move,” Leonid said, “but you and your family are all geniuses. Let’s not give up on her just yet. Maybe she thought you were your grandmother’s granddaughter, that you were the right person to deal with Halfway.”

“Maybe,” Serendipity said uncertainly.

“One thing for certain,” Leonid said, smiling down at her, legs still firmly planted on the rail, cutting as heroic a pose as he could, “black sun or no, Halfway is a beautiful world—and we’re going to make the best of it.”

Then something slammed into the ship so hard it knocked him backwards into the soup.

So, my Nanowrimo winner's t-shirt is on it's way, I've "won" … but I've got a lot more to go to get this novel done.


-the Centaur