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Posts published in “Writing”

The art, craft, and life of writing.

[seventy] minus fifty-nine: what a beautiful evening

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After truly terrific hailstorms, we were treated to a truly awesome sunset.

And, got some work done on editing SPECTRAL IRON: Dakota Frost #4. FINALLY, getting the rewrite of the slow section rolling with some good Dakota Frost action segueing right into an ambulance ride.

That's more like it.

-the Centaur

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.

[sixty-six] minus fifty-three: i made it

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I finished Camp Nano. It's late, I'm tired, I have church in the morning enjoy a random picture, victory post tomorrow.

-the Centaur

[fifty-five] minus thirty-six: back to work

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break that fast

No, I'm not giving up on blogging at a rate of once per day this year, even if I am already roughly forty percent behind. But my top focus now that I'm outside the Google firewall is to get back to work: after two and a half months of uncertainty following my layoff from Google, the paperwork is now done: the End Date has passed, the Severance is signed, the laptops have been shipped back to the office, and, excepting a bit of COBRA / IRA business, I be done with all that.

sending back the laptops in their special return box

But my research isn't done. Coincidentally, I had a few scientific papers-in-flight going when the layoffs happened; not coincidentally, I dove in to making sure those went out. One is under review, with a possibility that we may need to open-source the code, but another has already been published, at the Workshop on Human-Robot Interaction in Academia and Industry. This is a "splinter paper," a small topical paper we forked out of a larger journal article in preparation, and that journal paper needs to go out.

Nor is my work done. Today is Camp Nano, the start of yet another 50,000 word challenge, and I hope to finish the novel-in-progress, JEREMIAH WILLSTONE AND THE PLAGUE OF GEARS, which my friend Tony Sarrecchia is helping me adapt into a series of audio dramas. And I need to finish editing Dakota Frost #4, SPECTRAL IRON, at which I recently made a lot of progress solving plot problems - and for which I recently conducted a research trip to Jack Kerouac Avenue to scope out the site of a battle.

jack kerouac attack

That doesn't even count the game artificial intelligence work I want to do, or the games I want to write, or the drawing I want to do, or my new interest in music, or the regular robotics research I want to get started under the Logical Robotics banner.

My point is, "work" for "the man" should not define you. At least, it doesn't define me: it inspired me, definitely, in many ways, but as for now ... I'm tanked up with my own projects, thanks.

Back to work.

-the Centaur

Pictured: Breakfast of the First Day of the New Era, sending back the laptops, Jack Kerouac Alley.

[twenty-three] minus twenty-one

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Restarting the numbering a little bit so we're capturing 'blog per day' (day of year: 44 - blog series: 23 = 21 behind). Up late doing various stuff, so here's a neat shot from a parking garage in downtown Berkeley, after I did my traditional artist date "visit a couple of cool bookstores, get some nice food, find a coffeehouse to work on my book." The road in question is just chock full of theaters and other artistic venues, so there's often quite the interesting crowd milling about when I'm heading from the garage to grab some food.

-the Centaur

[twenty] plus eighteen: time to rip off the bandaid

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Image apropos of nothing. Nevertheless, avoidance behavior has gone on long enough ... soon it comes ...

-the Centaur

Pictured: Another shot of the real place in Palo Alto which must have subconsciously inspired the Librarian's Favorite Ramen noodle shop, from an unpublished story.

[nineteen] plus nineteen

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This is a place, a very real place in Palo Alto, but in an even more important sense, this is an unreal place, the location of a very special ramen noodle shop that exists only in my mind. The strange thing about this real place is that I don't think the fictional place (from an as-yet unpublished story) is consciously derived from it; yet the ramen shop (fictionally located in the dark glass arch) fits so precisely between the stairs upwards on the right (fictionally, to the upper terrace, only opened for special parties) and the tunnel to the left (fictionally, leading off to the chef's domicile) that I can only imagine this real place, which I have walked past so many times, must have burrowed its way into my subconscious and provided me with the layout I needed for the ramen shop when I needed it.

I've seen this before in stories where an image I encountered years earlier subconsciously wormed its way into a story - most notably, when names and resonances of Wargames and The Bionic Woman wormed their way into my first published story, "Sibling Rivalry", without me realizing it until much later.

Funny how the mind works ...

-the Centaur

[twelve] plus eight, OR: don’t skip a day, or you’ll be sorry

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Yeah. The microblogging will continue until the posting rate reaches 1/day.

I feel that one problem I have with "daily blogging" is that quick posts are no problem. But if I have a longer idea - but can't finish it in time - I then forget to do a shorter post to make up for it.

And missing a post itself is a problem. What I find when trying to build a regular practice (daily blogging, taking karate twice a week, whatever) is that if you skip one time, even for a "really good reason", then mysteriously the next two or three times you'll HAVE to skip for "unavoidable" reasons.

In this, case in point, I started writing a longer article on debugging software. There was more to it than I expected - I had wanted to make an off-the-cuff comment, and found my thoughts rapidly expanding - and then the next day I was flying, and the next day catching up on work, and the next day owed my part of the annual report to the church board, and so on. And then its DAYS later and boom no posts. I think at this point I am 8 behind in numbered posts, though there were a few un-numbered ones which I would count, except, if I don't, it makes the problem harder, which helps build the discipline I'm trying to build.

SO! Let's get back on that horse then. Update metadata, hit publish.

-the Centaur

Pictured: my evening work ritual, 2-3 times a week when I'm not having dinner with my wife, is to go to some place to eat (preferably one with a bar or high top tables, so I can stretch out my bum knee), crack open a book, and read a chunk of a chapter while having a nice meal. Most of my books get read this way.

Well, I did it …

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... I finished Nano for the umpteenth time. But it's just shy of 3am, so I am going to hit the hay and do my usual "Viiiictory N times" post tomorrow.

-the Centaur

P.S. (It will be "Viiictory, 34 times", for 1.8 million words written in Nano).

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