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Posts published in “Steampunk”

Jeremiah Willstone and the Adventures of Liberated Women in an Age of Steam!

[twenty twenty-four day one two two]: fools try to win with tactics battles the wise avoid with strategy …

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A wise man once said, "Fools try to win with tactics battles the wise avoid with strategy, but true experts win with logistics only the wars that they cannot avert with policy." I think I'll give that line to Jeremiah, though in the series narrative she probably got it from her mentor, "The Last General", General Weiss I think it was.

-the Centaur

Pictured: Our late cat Gabby, who appears to have constructed for himself a crude fort of stone.

Viiictory, Thirty-Five Times

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the Camp Nano victory badge for 2023

Woohoo! After being just about as behind on a Nano challenge as I have ever been and still won, I managed not only to complete 50,000 words in the month of April, but to blow past it to 53,266 words! Hooray!

progress chart for PLAGUE OF GEARS this April

To be frank, that steep slope over the top there feels really good, and I'm quite proud of the effort that I put in to make sure I made it this Nano. But, to be equally frank, the steep slope there PRIOR to going over the top really su-u-u-cked, and I pulled two almost-all-nighters (and one actual all-nighter) to finish.

what, me eating breakfast before noon? it's less likely than you think, though I do like it

Early in the month, I prioritized Clockwork Alchemy, and the Social Navigation paper, and getting work done in our old house in California that we're trying to renovate. But once I was back in the East Coast, I really had to knuckle down, writing up to 6,000 words a day near the end.

deficits and progress on April's nano

But, by the end, I was so far ahead that the "velocity required" to stay on track actually went negative (as you can see at the very end of the graph). I broke 50,000 words yesterday, but I still had a scene in mind involving the Big Bad of the Jeremiah Willstone stories, the dreaded Black Queen, Victoria. I didn't want to lose that inspiration, so I wrote it today, and the next scene, which is starting to roll back together with other parts I've written already. So now will be a good time to take a break and take stock of my life, to resume editing Dakota Frost #4 SPECTRAL IRON, and to get my new consulting business, Logical Robotics, rolling.

twenty-one years of nano challenges

According to my records, I've attempted Nanowrimo challenges (Nanowrimo, Camp Nano, and Script Frenzy) 37 times, with 35 successes, producing over 1.85 million words in successful months. If I'm lucky, and I can keep up the pace, I may crack two million words next year - wish me luck. But I think it's more pressing to get the editing of the existing books done - so wish me even more luck with that.

Oh, one more thing, the excerpt:

“Alive, but deposed,” Jeremiah said, as the proboscis of the thing behind her touched the back of her head—then bit in with a sickening CRACK. “Aaah! Deposed in 1865—or enslaved by the Plague today,” she moaned, as it dug in. “It’s y-your … choice … your … Majesty—”

The Queen raised the pistol. “I am no-one’s slave,” she said, and pulled the—

Falconer Cadet Specialist Jeremiah Willstone awoke with a start. Staring at the ceiling, she tried to hold on to the dream … no. She knew better than that. It felt like a fading dream … but they were echoes of memories, the last remnants of some disruption in time.

The jumbled recollections were slipping away, the tangled thoughts dissipating: canaries and scarabs and plagues and queens. But she remembered at least three key things: there was a war on, in time; her memories would be out of date; and she had to rise to the occasion.

Jeremiah glanced at the clock: 4:45AM on a radium dial that did not look familiar—no, did not look like her style at all, a frilly elegant thing more French than Austrian. She looked over, found what she expected from seeing the clock, and considered. It was late enough.

“Oi, roommate,” Jeremiah sat up, feet off her cot. “Name, rank, year. No joke.”

The human computer on the cot opposite her groaned. “Wha—” the woman muttered, a dark-skinned woman with impressive curls and chest, who managed to make waking up seem elegant. Then one of the vacuum tubes in her head sparked, and she sat bolt upright, blinking.

“The Lady Westenhoq,” the woman whispered icily, then swiveled to look at Jeremiah. “Liberation Academy Cadet. And, like you, Cadet Willstone, I’m a first year.”

“Thank you, Lady Westenhoq,” Jeremiah said quietly, “but I meant the date.”

Westenhoq looked at her, then swiveled her own feet of the cot to face her.

“Eighteen-ninety five,” Westenhoq whispered. “Out drinking again, Mya?”

“No, and I … think I’m going to start going by Jeremiah.” She rubbed her face. “Sounds more professional, and pet names remind me of my uncle anyway. But, since you knew my nickname and used it freely, I … take it we’ve worked together before.”

Oh, have they. Prevail, Victoriana!

-the Centaur

Pictured: Breakfast at Stax Omega, lots of graphs, and the Camp Nano winner's badge.

Dragon Con 2022

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Well, it's that time of year again ... 65,000 of my closest friends have gotten together in five hotels and two convention halls in Atlanta to celebrate all things science fiction!

My schedule is below. I worked right up to the start of the con, so am just now posting this two days later, but for the benefit of the time travelers in my audience, I'll include the first two panels:

  • Thursday
    • 8:30pm - Start Now, Research! - Hyatt Embassy EF
      How much research is enough? How much is too much? When do you stop doing research and start writing?
  • Friday
    • 7:00pm -  The People Who Live in Your Book - Hyatt Embassy EF
      Characters rise off the page and become people--if they're well-crafted. Discover ways to make this happen in your fiction.
  • Saturday
    • 10:00pm - Stories Needed: Get Yourself Invited into an Anthology - Hyatt Embassy EF
      There's an anthology being published that might just work for a story you have in mind. Or, when you hear about an anthology and KNOW you have a story for it, what do you do? Get some professional help from our pros.
  • Monday
    • 10:00am - Writing About Star Trek - Hilton Galleria 2-3
      There are thousands of worlds within Star Trek, and thousands of topics to talk about. Where do we start? Join a panel of published writers to discuss what's worth discussing in Trek books, articles and more
    • 1:00pm - Where Do You Get Your Ideas? - Hyatt Embassy EF
       This is a question that every writer gets asked by everyone they know. What is the answer to that question?
    • 2:30pm - Predicting the Future - Hyatt Embassy EF
      Where in the world is fiction headed? Do the old tropes still work? What's fresh and new for the future?

At each panel, I'll be giving away signed copies of the writing inspiration book Your Writing Matters by my friend Keiko O'Leary. This is the latest release from Thinking Ink Press, and we're very proud of it! No matter where you are on your writing journey, I think this book can probably help you, so come on by!

See y'all tomorrow!

-the Centaur

Viiictory, Thirty-Two Times

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Well, after a long hard month and many ups and downs, I have successfully completed Camp Nanowrimo, one of the three yearly National Novel Writing Month challenges to write 50,000 words of a novel in a month - and this is my 32nd time claiming viiictory!

This was one of the more challenging Nanos for me, as April is our quarterly planning month, and on top of that we decided to switch managers within our team and to switch to semester planning in our org. So that led to a dip in the beginning, where it was hard for me to get my groove.

The blood on the deck continued almost to the end of Camp Nano. This month's project was my third go at JEREMIAH WILLSTONE AND THE FLYING GARDENS OF VENUS, and I found it particularly difficult to get momentum as the story is more complicated than normal, with a new protagonist Puck taking center stage in addition to Jeremiah. You can see the dip compared to past Nanos:

I felt like I was struggling and stumbling with the story, writing and rewriting scenes, trying out different alternates (I count these as words written; editing can come later). However, as I rolled into the end of the month, these struggles started to pay off, as I understood better what was up with Puck, why so many weird things happened around her, and what role they played in the story.

Over the years of doing Nano, I've reached this particular point of the enterprise many times - a point which I sometimes call "going off the rails". This is the point where the story seems to gel, and I think it happens when I go from exploring the logical consequences of a set of characters in a situation - which is where I start almost all of my writing - to creatively injecting things into the story that could not be predicted from its beginnings. These still need to be grounded in the plot and consistent with the characters, but there's a difference between the things you typically expect to happen in a scenario and truly creative innovations which cannot be predicted from the setting alone - what the Mythcreants writing team calls Novelty in their ANTS framework (Attachment, Novelty, Tension and Satisfaction).

Over almost 20 years, I've had this creative spark, this "going off the rails" many, many times, and stories always seem better for it. I have tackled 16 Nanowrimos so far out of 34 monthly challenges (also counting Camp Nano and Script Frenzy) and have successfully completed it 32 times.

Each time for me, it's facing those middling slumps, facing the places where I've fallen out of love with my own story, that ultimately kickstart my creativity into high gear and make me fall in love with my work again.

That happened this time, even though I wanted to give up. I know Nano doesn't work for everyone, so your mileage may vary, but for me, as I've often found in other arenas of my life, you sometimes have to work just a little bit harder than you want to to reach an outcome which is far better than you have any right to expect. That was true with Cinnamon, originally a side character in the first Dakota Frost about whom I have now drafted three novels, and it is turning out to be true here with Puck as well, the Girl Who Could Wish, now turning into a truly interesting twist.

Oh, an excerpt. Let me see if I have some rough draftiness lying around here ...

“It’s an ecosystem,” Puck murmured. “There’s a whole ecosystem in the floatbergs—”

One of the jellyfloats wandered under one of the falls, and screamed, terrifyingly human-like, as it steamed and melted—and then Puck realized what the liquid was: sulfuric acid. This was an upper-atmosphere floatberg, its engineered bacteria designed to harvest sulfuric acid from the air—and as the floatberg disintegrated, the collected sulfuric acid which had not been processed was now spilling out in uncontrolled streams, destroying whatever had inhabited this cavern.

“I’m sorry,” Puck said to her little audience. “I … I think it’s too late.”

One of the bigger parakeys, with a crest, hopped up on her knee.

“Is that a vest?” she said, touching a bit of what looked like cloth. “You … you can’t be intelligent creatures, now can you? How could you start a whole civilization up here? Floatbergs only go back a few hundred years, and they don’t last for more than months, maybe weeks—”

The parakey chieftain, if that’s what it was, cheeped at her.

Puck drew a breath.

“I wish this cave could be saved,” she said carefully. The crowd of parakeys cheeped and beeped, and the chieftain pawed at her and cheeped even louder, like a little screech, and she relented. “Alright, a proper, non-conditional wish this time. I wish this cave would be—”

The bottom dropped out from beneath them.

Poor Puck! She can't seem to cut a break. But at least I know who and what she is now, and how she's related to Jeremiah, and can therefore move forward with this story with confidence.

Prevail, Victoriana!

-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: https://www.drivethrufiction.com/product/372242/Sibling-Rivalry .

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.

Days 189-192

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Well, something weird happened with my blog which interfered with updates, so, boo, but nevertheless, it cleared up on its own despite my best debugging efforts, so ... yay? #nervous_laughter  And updates. First, here's a quick concept sketch from JEREMIAH WILLSTONE AND THE FLYING GARDENS OF VENUS of the antagonist character "the Parasolite" ... or, more properly, one of her bodies:

the parasolite concept sketch

The Parasolite prime interrogating Puck in her throne room. Looking at both of these, I'm not getting the length of the human leg correct; I need to work on body proportions as much as faces.

parasolite and puck

After a long day of writing Camp Nano (oh, I'm doing FLYING GARDENS OF VENUS for Camp Nano) I gave up and did this quick sketch of Brainyon, the brain-jar spider-boy shown earlier, drafted as a mercenary by our "Robert De Niro in Casino"-styled protagonist / antagonist:

brainyon again

Concept sketch for the Parasolite Prime.

parasolite prime

Drawing every day, even if I can't always post.

-the Centaur

Day 186

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puck and the skywall cleaned

Re-sketch of Puck on the skywall, using a lightbox. That really cleans it up.

Drawing every day.

-the Centaur

Days 181-185

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Just because I was on vacation doesn't mean I wasn't drawing ...desk toy sketches

Above, a sketch of some desk toys ... below, I think it was a from-memory quick sketch of Indiana Jones, but I find that hard to believe.

jones sketch

Below, test sketch of Puck climbing a skywall from JW&TFGOV.

puck climbing

Test sketching the shape of a face ...

face sketch

And another quick sketch of Gabby.

gabby

Drawing, even a little, every day.

-the Centaur

P.S. Monterey is, as always, awesome.

Day 178

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puck sketch with flats

Another take on Puck from JEREMIAH WILLSTONE AND THE FLYING GARDENS OF VENUS, a quick sketch with roughs in non-repro blue, Pigma rendering, and flats in Photoshop - through which process I discovered she was black with blonde hair. Concrete descriptions for the representational win! Below, a quick sketch over non-repro blue of the Wings of Wisdom or Wisdom's Folly, the ramen sailshop where Puck works. All she wants to do is serve Venus some ramen, man, cut her a break.

wings of wisdom

Drawing every day.

-the Centaur

Days 174-177

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Just because I haven't been posting doesn't mean I haven't been drawing. Day 174 was a super quick Sharpie sketch of a face from one of my steampunk desktop backgrounds; it was too much of a quick sketch to be able to recover some of my initial mistakes:

Dim Horizons Face Study

Day 173 was a quick character sketch of Puck, the point-of-view protagonist of a new story I'm working on, JEREMIAH WILLSTONE AND THE FLYING GARDENS OF VENUS:

puck character sketch

Day 176 was a quick sketch of Byron (or Brainyon) from JW&TFGOV:

byron character study

Day 177 included some quick sketches of speakers at the Embodied AI Workshop, which I was monitoring today; I'm not going to identify the speakers because (a) privacy and (b) many of these are terrible:

face sketches
pen tests

Drawing every day.

-the Centaur

Day 168

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eckener sketch

Dr. Hugo Eckener, the "Pope" of airship pilots. Even though I carefully noted the angle of the head, I nevertheless tilted the eyebrows wrong - and even caught myself doing it. But, even though I saw the problem, and did some work to correct it, it was too late to recreate the fullness of the face:

eckener headshot

The comparison shows a 5 degree tilt and 10 degree horizontal squash, but, frankly, there's no way to make everything line up no matter how you stretch it, as the nose is misproportioned compared to the eyes, which led the dent on the face on the left side of the page compared to the original.

eckener comparison

Ah well. Drawing every day.

-the Centaur

The Codex of Quills

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The Codex of Quills

Not sure if I mentioned this or not, but there's an ongoing round-robin story going on at the Clockwork Alchemy website, The Codex of Quills! My episode is the current one up, #4. Here's a summary so far:

A steampunk serial adventure with a new author every episode!

The Codex of Quills – Episode 1: The Hedgehog

by Dover Whitecliff

Hot. Smoky. Irritating. Any or all of which could pertain to the wildfire-permeated valley air, or the mélange of personalities on the bus. Or the perfect description of Kilpatrick’s commute from the cubicle farm to the coffee house off the freeway.

Cold Brew. That’s all I need. Thirty ounces of caffeinated goodness with just a pirouette of cream will erase Monday and make everything better.

... read more ...

The Codex of Quills – Episode 2: The Woman

by Katherine L. Morse

“Super Mondo chai, please. Two raw sugars.”

Please just get your drink. I have a date with destiny…or insanity…and I really need a cold brew. “Super Mondo cold brew, um, please.”

The woman who had just ordered rocked back on the heel of her ankle boot and commented, “Super Mondo is a good choice. You’re going to need the caffeine for what lies ahead.”

... read more ...

The Codex of Quills – Episode 3: The Pony

By Shelli Frew

Kip tentatively opened his eyes and peered around the shop. Only, it wasn’t the bookstore. Instead of the marine cryptobiology section, the shelves displayed rows and rows of lace, some slightly singed at the edges. A large quantity of star charts and compasses replaced the teen romance. Strangest of all, by far, was the old person giving Kip a pointedly annoyed look. The eyes peering out from behind their shiny spectacles looked like goat eyes. Small antlers sprouted from their head and when they opened their mouth to speak, Kip spied sharp teeth like a cat.

“Young creature, I do say! I did not request any messengers this day. And your friend has damaged some of my lace!”

... read more ...

The Codex of Quills – Episode 4: The Vampire

By Anthony Francis

“This the right grave?” Kip eyed the blockish monument; most of Highgate Cemetery was a gothic tour through Victorian willies, weeded to ruins and taking his calm with it, but this imposing rectangle and dour, bearded bust were clean, had fresh flowers, and bore the improbable name KARL MARX. “Seems … I dunno, too high school econ—”

Lieneye the pony snorted, as if to neigh, Are you doubting me? Extrapolating from the rules for talking animals—don’t piss them off—Kip thanked the diminutive steed and dismounted. He barely had to lean before his foot hit flowered gravel.

... read more ...

Only four episodes are up, but I can't wait to see where it goes next, for I have NO idea where that is. :-)

-the Centaur

The Science of Airships at Clockwork Alchemy 2021

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the science of airships
Hail, fellow adventurers! Clockwork Alchemy goes virtual this year, and tomorrow at 10am I'll be on a panel on the Science of Airships with moderator Laurel Anne Hill and fellow panelists Madeline Holly-Rosing and Mike Tierney. We'll be talking about everything we can fit in 45 minutes, including:
  • Zeppelins, dirigibles and blimps: what do all these terms mean?
  • The history of airships, starting with an airborne chicken.
  • The science of airships, including innovations for flight.
  • The failures of airships - what brought them down?
  • The future of airships - airships on the drawing board!

Sign up here, and the full schedule is also online.

We're the first panel, at 10am Saturday, and our panelists include:

Laurel Anne Hill [Moderator]

Laurel Anne Hill—author and former underground storage tank operator—grew up in San Francisco, with more dreams of adventure than good sense or money. Her close brushes with death, love of family, respect for honor and belief in a higher power continue to influence her writing and her life. She has authored two award-winning novels: The Engine Woman’s Light (Sand Hill Review Press), a gripping spirits-meet-steampunk, coming-of-age heroic journey, and Heroes Arise. Laurel’s published short stories and nonfiction pieces total over forty. She has served as a program participant at many science fiction/fantasy conventions, including the World Science Fiction Con and World Fantasy Con. She’s the Literary Stage Manager for the annual San Mateo County Fair, a speaker, writing contest judge, and editor. And she’s even engineered a steam locomotive. For more about her, go to http://www.laurelannehill.com.

Madeleine Holly-Rosing

Madeleine Holly-Rosing is the writer/creator of the award-winning Boston Metaphysical Society graphic novel series. Previously self-published, it is now published by Source Point Press. The series also includes the award winning prequel novel, A Storm of Secrets, and an anthology.  After running eight successful crowdfunding campaigns, she published the book, Kickstarter for the Independent Creator.  Other comic anthology projects include: The Scout (The 4th Monkey), The Sanctuary (The Edgar Allan Poe Chronicles), The Marriage Counselor (Cthulhu is Hard to Spell), The Glob (Night Wolf), The Infinity Tree (Menagerie: Declassified), and the upcoming, The Birth (Stan Yak Vampire Anthology).

Michael Tierney

Michael Tierney writes steampunk-laced alternative historical fiction stories from his Victorian home in Silicon Valley. After writing technical and scientific publications for many years, he turned his sights to more imaginative genres. Trained as a chemist, he brings an appreciation of both science and history to his stories. His latest novel is Mr. Darwin’s Dragon. Visit his blog at www.airshipflamel.com.

Anthony Francis

By day, Anthony Francis teaches robots to learn; by night he writes science fiction and draws comic books. Anthony’s best known for his Skindancer urban fantasy series of novels including the Epic eBook Award winner Frost Moon and its sequels Blood Rock and Liquid Fire, all following the misadventures of magical tattoo artist Dakota Frost trying to raise her weretiger daughter Cinnamon in Atlanta.

Anthony also writes the Jeremiah Willstone steampunk series, following a young female soldier in a world where women’s liberation happened a century early – and so, with twice as many brains working on hard problems, the Victorians invented rayguns and time travel. In addition to her debut novel Jeremiah Willstone and the Clockwork Time Machine, Jeremiah appears in a dozen other stories, including “Steampunk Fairy Chick” in the UnCONventional anthology.

Anthony is co-editor of the anthology Doorways to Extra Time and a co-founder of Thinking Ink Press, publisher of the steampunk anthologies Twelve Hours Later, Thirty Days Later, and Some Time Later. He’s the artist of the webcomic fanu fiku and he’s co-author of the 24 Hour Comic Day Survival Guide. He’s participated in National Novel Writing Month and its related challenges over 20 times, recently cracking one million words written in Nano.

Anthony lives in San Jose with his wife and cats, but his heart will always belong in Atlanta. To learn more about Dakota Frost, visit facebook.com/dakotafrost or dakotafrost.com; to learn more about Jeremiah Willstone, visit facebook.com/jeremiahwillstone; to learn more about Anthony and his appearances, visit his blog dresan.com.

You can also take a look at my previous presentations on the science of airships, which I've been doing on and off for about 10 years now, for more details ...

Hope to see you virtually there, or in the air!

-the Centaur

Day 2

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Rough sketch of Jeremiah and her antennae Little sketchier this time. But 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: https://form.jotform.com/202435857025050. 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  

Viiictory, A to Z … Plus One

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two hangry cats Wow, um, pandemics. SO, short story, I've been having a rough one, which is why you haven't seen me on this blog. Perhaps the story of my suffering is a story for another time, because I just found this Camp Nano post back from APRIL which was never published because, wow, um pandemics. Congratulations to you, zombie apocalypse, for throwing me off my game! Yay for you, Miss Rita, I guess? SO ANYWAY, what I'd like to announce, what I planned to announce at the end of April but forgot to post, and now what I have to doubly announce at the end of July, is that I have completed the Camp Nanowrimo challenge to write 50,000 words in the month of April! And, um, then, I did it again in July. Camp Nano Victory Banner For those who don't know (how long have you been reading this blog?) National Novel Writing Month is a challenge to write 50,000 words in the month of November, and Camp Nanowrimo is a pair of choose-your-own goal sister challenges in April and July. I do 50,000 words each time, for 150,000 words a year. So far, I've done this (successfully) 27 times ... so my April Post was going to be "Viiiictory, A to Z" and there would have been some dang title for July, Plus One. But whatever, here's a graph of Nanos for you; from the dark line, it looks like my output this month (the dark line) was a bit more ahead of the game than normal (the average is the dotted line): 27 National Novel Writing Months What was I working on? This April, I mostly finished JEREMIAH WILLSTONE AND THE MACHINERY OF THE APOCALYPSE, a "novel" made from a collected set of short stories set in an alternate Victorian era filled with strong women, rayguns, and aliens . The first of these stories, "A Choir of Demons," was published in Aurora Wolf magazine, and collectively, they tell the tale of how Jeremiah grows from a wet-behind-the-ears Lieutenant to the leader we see in THE CLOCKWORK TIME MACHINE. My friend Tony Sarrecchia, creator of the Harry Strange Audio Drama, is helping me adapt these to audio. This July, I started Dakota Frost Book 7, SPIRAL NEEDLE. Dakota, the best magical tattooist in the Southeast, faces a new challenge when her weretiger daughter Cinnamon gets mixed up in a lycanthrope attack, and Dakota will move Heaven and Earth to make sure Cinnamon is safe ... if she can just figure out who's trying to hurt her, and why? This book actually excites me about writing Dakota Frost again - vampire-werekin medicine, Colonial American plague doctors, and secret societies - even if it is perhaps is distracting me from finishing the editing of DF #4-#6 and Cinnamon #1-#3. But the pandemic, and all the other business going on in my life, has drained my energy for the very difficult task of editing --- and drained my energy for many other things. (Hence no blog posts since my cats came back from the hospital, though they got sick again; they're fine now). In this crisis, some people have died, some are sick, some have lost loved ones, some have lost jobs, and many just feel like they've lost their minds. Fortunately, I'm on the good end of the spectrum: I have my wife, I have my cats, I have my job, and I'm still able to write. For all of that, I count myself blessed. As for the rest ... well, I'm picking up the pieces and getting back on an even keel, step by step. Please bear with me while I am beating off the bears. -the Centaur Pictured: two hangry cats. They were both sick, just prior to the pandemic, and that was rough enough that I thought I had real problems. Ha! I guess the coronavirus showed me. At least I'm getting to eat some tasty and delicious vegan food. Vegan dinner, wife, and cat

Viiictory to the Twenty-Fifth Power!

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SO! After yet another National Novel Writing Month, I have added yet another 50,000 words of rough draft to my writing output - making this the fourteenth time I have won Nano, and the twenty-fifth time I have won one of the Nanowrimo or CampNanowrimo challenges! Woohoo! This month wasn't so bad, though there was a bit of a dip around the time I was writing report cards for our robot learning systems ("Little Johnny 5 tries very hard, but needs to work on his cornering!"). But, as usual, the week I took off for Thanksgiving "vacation" put me back on track: Yes, one day I did indeed get 6000+ words written, which was a record for the 25th of the month, but nowhere near my record of 9074 words - written on the 30th(!) of November 2016, in what I recall was a delerious mad dash sitting on my sofa wracking my brain to produce enough words to make my goal for PHANTOM SILVER. Frankly speaking, that sucked, and since then I have redoubled my efforts to ensure that I'm never THAT far behind. So this month looks typical. It's interesting to me how much Nano has become a part of my life. First tried in 2002, first made into a yearly habit in 2007, and first made into a thrice-yearly habit (Camp April, Camp July and November Nano) in 2014-2015 ... now I've done Nano 27 times, with 25 successes, for 1.36 million words of rough draft ... it's a heavy feeling. Do I want to keep doing this? Absolutely. I wish I had more time to, like, edit my books, so I didn't have a backlog of 6 finished novels, 2 novellas, and 5 partially finished novels. (Gulp!) But I like having a roof more, and the time and money to pay for my laptop, my nice dinners, and my late nite teas and mochas, so, teaching robots to learn by day it is, for the time being. One of the most interesting things for me is how Nano breaks through your creative barriers. When I started on MACHINERY OF THE APOCALYPSE, then titled TWO YEARS OF HELL, I had the idea of writing an action-adventure steampunk hard science fiction story around computer science concepts, and conceived it as a connected tale made of 16 short stories  --- two to the fourth power, a number beloved of many computer scientists. But as I've written, the story has sprawled out from my original design, and there are at least two, perhaps three set pieces which may demand their own stories. Or perhaps existing stories will have to be cut or deleted. I don't know; I just create the worlds, but once they exist, they follow the laws of physics (plot and character physics). Here's an excerpt from one of those diversions, which may or may not make it into the final design:
The dark doorway loomed before her like a maw. Jeremiah steeled herself: she had been her at best a handful of times, but she felt like she knew every rivet of the damned hatch, felt like she was right back to waiting on the damn Keepers while they prepared themselves. Oh, she did not, did not, did not want to be back here. Yet she was, not a child, but a Major. She straightened, nodded. “Major?” asked Thompson, looking back at her. “You look a bit green.” Jeremiah smiled, to give herself a moment to speak. What would a cracker-jack young major say? Or … wasn’t that putting on airs? What would General Weiss have said? Perhaps she should just be … honest? “Good eye, sir, but I don’t just look it: I feel it too,” Jeremiah said, forcing a grin—was that fake, or did she just want to take this in the best humor possible? “Every time I’m here, it takes me right back to my childhood.” “Childhood?” Thompson asked. The white hairs in his saltpepper eyebrows sparkled as his brow beetled. “Why were you here as a child?” “I, foolishly perhaps, asked to see the thing that killed my mother,” Jeremiah said. “And … foolishly perhaps, the powers that be let the granddaughter of Benjamin Willstone get what she asked for.” Thompson stared at her strangely, then turned away. “I would have let you,” he said at last. “Seems to have been the first step into forming a fine soldier who doesn’t flinch.” “Oh, I assure you, I flinch,” Jeremiah said. “Just not from duty.” “That’s the Major Willstone of my reports,” Thompson said. He leaned over and said a bit cheekily. “I hear you scream like a girl even when you’re firing both blasters at point-blank range—” “Why, I never—” Jeremiah colored. “Well, that does speak to character—” “Yes, yes, it does,” Thompson said, “and to good sense. Alright, in fairness: the report just said ‘cried out in shock before blasting the thing,’ but one could imagine the girlish scream—” “Oi!” Jeremiah said. “Wait, what thing was this?” “Er,” Thompson said, as the hatch opened. “I … don’t recall. Frankly, Major, with your record, the monsters start to blur—” “Not all of them,” Jeremiah said, striding forward with a projected confidence she absolutely did not feel. “Have a look at that.”
Enjoy. Back to writing! -the Centaur

My Novels and Nano

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SO! I love to write, and four of my novels are published - FROST MOON, BLOOD ROCK, LIQUID FIRE, about magical tattoo artist Dakota Frost, and JEREMIAH WILLSTONE AND THE CLOCKWORK TIME MACHINE, about steampunk heroine Jeremiah Willstone. You can read about the published ones at my Novels page, but even though life got a bit away from me this year, I haven't stopped writing - I have six more finished novels in the editing queue, not to mention half a dozen more in process. And every single one of these novels, published or not, was largely written in National Novel Writing Month in November (or its sister challenge Camp Nanowrimo in April and July). Nanowrimo is a 501(c)(3)that helps people find their creative voices - and certainly helped me transition from mostly not-writing to writing over a million words of fiction! (Way over, now). Every year, I donate to the Nanowrimo foundation to help them not just keep the lights on but to support young writers everywhere with their Young Writers Program. This year, consider helping them bring literacy and creativity to more people all around the world! -the Centaur

Viiictory #23

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Wow, I just won {Nanowrimo|Camp Nanowrimo} for the twenty-third time!

For readers of this blog who have missed, like, 75% of my posts over the years, National Novel Writing Month is a challenge to write 50,000 words of a new novel in the month of November, and Camp Nanowrimo is its sister challenge in April and July. I adapt this to write 50,000 words on top of whatever I'm currently working on, and have been doing it since 2002.

This is my 25th Nano or Nano-like attempt, and my 23rd victory. (Interestingly, my two failures were times that I tried Nano on my own, without the motivation of the Nano "Validate your Project" button).

This month, because of friggin' March, man, I started out pretty far behind, compounded by my robot work and the fact that I was working on JEREMIAH WILLSTONE AND THE MACHINERY OF THE APOCALYPSE. This is less a novel than a series of loosely connected novellas, each slightly different in setting and tone, and has been my most research-heavy project to date. But, nevertheless, I got back on track and climbed the mountain.

Interestingly, a couple of the days in there were my most productive writing days ever - 7,000 and 8,000 word days, right up with the 9,014 word day that I did once on the last day of Nano. I didn't want to do that again - I wanted to take today off - so I powered through 8000 words on Saturday, finished with 2,600 words on Sunday, and leisurely wrote 2,000 words today unpacking a few of the ideas I had that were still fresh.

And now, the traditional excerpt:

“So,” General Weiss said, sitting down. “You desire to become one of my acolytes?”

Jeremiah glanced over at him, trying to contain her glare. “I desire to learn, sir.”


“What I have to teach is not easy to learn,” Weiss said, patting her leg. “It requires long-term commitment, supreme dedication, self-sacrifice—”


“Are …” Jeremiah felt her brow furrow, tried to control it. “Are you aware of—”


“The nature of your injuries?” Weiss said. “Yes, I heard you were reckless.”


No, sir,” Jeremiah said. She hit the switch to raise her bed until she could look the man more closely in the eye. “I have been injured, repeatedly, because I have been sent into the line of fire without adequate support, repeatedly, and I did my duty, repeatedly.”


“The story goes is that you tried to leap across a city street, four stories up.”


“No, sir,” Jeremiah said. “A monster that had killed dozens was about to make its escape, and I leapt for it, sir, dragging it down to the street, possibly saving hundreds more lives—well, that’s debatable, but I definitively stopped it, at least that is not in dispute—”


“No, no, you’re quite right about the outcome of the operation.” Weiss rubbed his hands together. “And whether I think you’re reckless in the large, I would never dispute the actions of a operative in the clinch. But do you know why the enemy exposed itself to you?”


“I …” Jeremiah said. “But it didn’t. We caught it, and tracked it—”


“Yes, yes, and let’s not dispute that either,” Weiss said, leaning forward. “A hypothetical. Imagine you had two operations running, physically separated, one large and important, one … less so. To protect them, you can run recon missions looking for the enemy, but the enemy might find them. You can run ten recces in the operation period. Where do you put them?”


“Er, well,” Jeremiah said. “Proportionally on the more important—”


“No,” Weiss said. “You run five. All around the least important one. Why?”


“Er …” What clues had he given? “The larger force, is well, larger. It can defend itself.”

“Yes. And?”

Jeremiah’s eyes narrowed. “You want the recces caught?”

“No, not really, but I do, yes.”

“But the smaller force, exposed—”

“And overwhelmed,” Weiss said, “by a mass mobilization of the enemy. Away from my primary force. Now the other five recces probe ahead of the main op, clearing the way while the decoy fights for its life. If done properly—if the decoy force is given both a true objective and the best chance of success, their fight for their lives will only attract more enemy forces. If they win, you have a true two-front victory. If they fail, you don’t even need to send reinforcements—the moment the main force engages the enemy, the enemy will naturally pull back.”

Jeremiah’s brow furrowed.

“Yes, yes, there are many specifics which would make this kind of plan succeed or fail,” Weiss said. “To truly instruct you, we’d need to work through many more patterns, then make them concrete for the kind of forces you will end up commanding—”

“All of them,” Jeremiah said.

“What?”

“I’m going to command all of them,” Jeremiah said. “My aim is to be Minister of War.”

“Oho,” the general said. “Then we have a lot of work to do. Tell me why the thing exposed itself to you. Quick, now.”

"They're—" Jeremiah's mouth fell open. "The things are wearing us down."

Sounds like they have a lot of problems on that boat. The first of the stories in THE MACHINERY OF THE APOCALYPSE is already out: A Choir of Demons, at Aurora Wolf. For the rest ... well, you'll have to wait a bit. Enjoy!

-the Centaur

Jeremiah Willstone on Sale

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Jeremiah Willstone and the Clockwork Time Machine is on sale!

Hail fellow adventurers! My first steampunk novel, Jeremiah Willstone and the Clockwork Time Machine, is on sale through the end of the month! The Ebook is only $0.99, so now's a great time to instantly gift yourself with a trip to Victoriana! You can find it at Amazon, Nook, Kobo, Apple, Google Books, or wherever fine books are sold. If you like action, adventure, corsets, rayguns, or a peek at an alternate history where women's liberation happened a century early, check it out!