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Posts tagged as “Across the Transfinite Canvas”

“Stranded” back from the editor!

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"Stranded," my young adult space pirates story set in the Library of Dresan universe, has been provisionally accepted by Bell Bridge Books and I'm responding to the edits now. It's set in a distant future where humanity has spread through the galaxy in two groups - one, the Dresanians, citizens of the grand and sparkling intergalactic civilization known as the Dresan-Murran Alliance, a mammoth polyglot alien culture of which humanity is the tiniest part, and the other, the Frontiersmen, humans who fled the Allied takeover of Earth to found their own civilization at the edge of the deeps --- but at least it's human.

What happens when these two groups collide?

Serendipity snapped her fingers. The map of the Alliance collapsed into the tiny glowing sphere, which leapt from the tree and flew into her hand. Tianyu scampered up onto her shoulder and rubbed her cheek, and Serendipity rubbed him back as the farstaff chimed.

“Let’s go on an adventure,” Serendipity said—and in a twinkle of light, they disappeared.

An adventure she wants? An adventure she'll get.

If the editor and I can beat the story into shape, it will come out later this year in an anthology called STRANDED, and later my space pirate sequence of stories will be collected into a novel called MAROONED. The alien child pictured above, Norylan, is actually from the sequel to "Stranded", "Conflicted", which will form part 2 of MAROONED. Got that? Good.

All coming Real Soon Now to a bookstore or ereader near you!

-the Centaur

Pictured: Norylan, a child (sort of) of the Andiathar, the dominant species of the Alliance, drawn by yours truly while working through story notes, photographed by my phone (you can even see the shadow of my hand in the original shot below), and colored (also by me) in Photoshop as an experiment for doing "quick" (ha) art for a blog post. There's a lot I'd like to do to fix this piece of art, but then that would fail my intent of making this a quick experiment.


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Visualizing a Punch List

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Me and my buddy Nathan are refreshing BLitz Comics, our online tool to help us (and you!) break through logjams of creativity and just get DONE making comics! (Yes, I know, I'm writing a script, finishing a novel and editing a third, but the Earth continues in its orbit and to get stuff done you've got to just go do it).


To get started, we reviewed the site, page by page, and put together a punch list of things we wanted to update. "Punch list" is a housing industry term I picked up from my wife, a decorative painter, but which I find most people in the software industry know as well: a review of things to do to call it DONE, generated by a complete walkthrough of the home or site in question.


What we plan to do with the site, well, you'll have to see. However, it struck me that our 200 words of punch would make great input for a Wordle, which helps us visualize what we're doing and see how important we think it is. You see that Wordle above. Clearly, the sidebar and the showcase may be getting an update ... :-)


-the Centaur

How Crazy is Comic-Con?

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How crazy is Comic-Con registration? I logged on at 8:00am this morning to get in the waiting list and by the time I cleared the "waiting room" for the signup page (at 9:10ish) it was completely sold out. This is what I saw when it finally "let me in" to register: I hate to do it, but I have to lay the blame squarely on Gmail. Comic-Con sent me a registration form, I clicked on the link at 8:00am, just like they told me to ...
The wait is over! Comic-Con 2012 badges will go on sale at 8:00 a.m. PST on Saturday March 3rd, 2012. To access the EPIC online registration website, click the following link: (link deleted for security reasons)
. The link kept timing out, as one might expect from an overloaded system, but after 5 or so minutes of click ... timeout, click ... timeout, I started to get suspicious. But the problem wasn't in the site ... it was in something Gmail was doing to the URL. Clicking on it didn't work; copying the link location didn't work. Copying just the text and pasting it ... got me in at 9:10AM. Too late. Ah, Gmail, can't live without you, but every once in a while... BANG! ZOOM! To the moon. Oh well, here's hoping I get in as a professional like I did the last two years ... this year I have even more claim, I guess, as I have a second book out, appear in two more books, and am involved with Blitz Comics. Crossing my fingers! -the Centaur Pictured: Lots of stuff. Fair use and whatnot ... parody, informative commentary, transformative and educational uses, and so forth.

Last gamma comments for STRANDED in…

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Alright, the last gamma reader comments for "Stranded" are in. (Gamma, because this is actually the second round of beta readers. :-) "Stranded" is the first novelette of three in a planned YA space adventure novel with the working title MAROONED. This will be part of a trilogy including MAROONED, PURSUED, BESIEGED, SHANGIAIED, COMMANDEERED ... oh damnit I've done it again, haven't I? "Stranded" is also the novelette I adapted for 24 Hour Comics Day. Don't know if I'll get back to that as I have already 3 books plotted out in this series and parts of the next two outlined. Hope to get "Stranded" the novelette out to the editor in the next two weeks for inclusion in an anthology maybe later this year (with MAROONED coming out next year we hope). When "Stranded" is away, then it's back to LIQUID FIRE (finishing the draft) and THE CLOCKWORK TIME MACHINE (polishing the draft to send to beta readers). -the Centaur

“He likes to take pictures of his food.”

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Those familiar with my Google+ stream will have noticed I take a lot of pictures of food, generally posted in my album Cuisininart (pictures of food - cuisine in art - cuisin-in-art - a riff on cuisinart - get it? No? Oh, you don't WANT to get it. Oh well.). This got started because I wanted to do restaurant reviews on this site. I love eating out; I'm a definite foodie, and I think a lot about what makes a good restaurant, from a dive bar to a five star. I've evendone a few reviews but I noticed I wasn't writing reviews because I wasn't taking pictures. I prefer using pictures in blog posts based on the ideas of my good friend Jim Davies (and seconded by my wife Sandi Billingsley) who both think pictures make blog posts stronger. This is basic comics theory: words and pictures are stronger together. So I started taking pictures. As usual, I found I was really good at collecting input, not so much at producing output. I was taking pictures all the time and not doing things with them because most of my free time is spent writing. Around the time Google+ came out, I had a brainflash: why don't I just post the pictures I've taken as a way of using them up. So I created the Cusininart album ... which prompted me to take more and more pictures, even without reviews in mind. I got so good at taking pictures of what I was eating it became a joke. My wife once explained it to a friend joining us for dinner: "He likes to take pictures of his food." Which in turn prompted this post of me explaining this to you. But I'm trying to turn this into more than just random photographs. Following the example of people like Jim Davies, Andy Fossett and Waldemar Horwat, I'm trying to make this a learning experience, to discover how to take good pictures of food. What I've found so far isn't scientific by any stretch of the imagination; consider this lessons learned from a few case studies.
  • Don't use your camera's flash. As many of you probably already know, camera flashes wash out the pictures. Don't use it unless you absolutely have to; try increasing the exposure of your camera to instead.
  • Take lots of pictures. Take pictures of each dish, of the whole spread, from more than one angle. It's not just that two or three shots of each one helps you avoid loss to a blurry jiggle; it gives you more choices for the article.
  • Take pictures from different angles and distances. Thirty to forty-five degrees seems to be a good angle, but you should experiment with closeups, overhead shots, distance shots. You'll be surprised what looks best once you review the pictures later.
  • Most of the shots should be of food. For what I want to achieve in my albums, having most shots be of food works best. Restaurants are less interesting than their dishes, unless it's a special restaurant. One out of five is OK.
  • Keep it candid. It actually helps to take pictures before you've eaten, and even to spend a moment posing some of the food. But don't waste a lot of time on it: the immediacy of the dishes in their natural arrangement is often enough.
I'm sure I could refine that list more. Perhaps I will after I spend more time experimenting more systematically, maybe even throwing in findings from food I have cooked. But until then ... that's what I've learned from taking pictures of my food. -the Centaur

The Stack is Growing

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FROM THE WRITER'S ANONYMOUS 12-STEP SUPPORT GROUP MEETING: Hi, I'm Anthony Francis, and I'm an author. ("Hi, Anthony!") To feed my addiction, I get stuff published.

My first published novel, the urban fantasy FROST MOON featuring magical tattoo artist Dakota Frost, won an EPIC e-book award. It's out in paperback, Kindle, in German as SKINDANCER, and soon to be audiobook thanks to the wonderful reading skills of Traci Odom. The second book in the series, BLOOD ROCK, came out last year to good reviews, and the third book, LIQUID FIRE, will come out later this year. A spinoff series starring Dakota's daughter Cinnamon Frost, HEX CODE, will come out next year, also part of a planned trilogy.

One of my short stories, "Steampunk Fairy Chick," was recently published in the UnCONventional anthology. The story, featuring steampunk adventurer Jeremiah Willstone, is based on a novel called THE CLOCKWORK TIME MACHINE (again part of a planned trilogy) which I've got in rough draft form with a possible release late this year or early next year. Another of my short stories, "Sibling Rivalry," was published in The Leading Edge magazine in 1995, but is now available on my web site. I also write flash fiction. One of my flash shorts, "If Looks Could Kill", was just published in THE DAILY FLASH 2012 (pictured above) and another, "The Secret of the T-Rex's Arms", was just published in Smashed Cat Magazine.

My nonfiction research papers are largely available on my research page, including my nearly 700-page Ph.D thesis (hork). I and my thesis advisor Ashwin Ram have a chapter on "Multi-Plan Adaptation and Retrieval in an Experience-based Agent" in David Leake's book CASE BASED REASONING: EXPERIENCES, LESSONS AND FUTURE DIRECTIONS, and Ashwin, Manish Mehta and I have a chapter on "Emotional Memory and Adaptive Personalities" in THE HANDBOOK OF RESEARCH ON SYNTHETIC EMOTIONS AND SOCIABLE ROBOTICS.

I have more writing in the works, including a novelette called "Stranded" set in the Dresanian universe from which this blog takes its name, and more writing on the Internet. But what I list above is The Stack At This Time - what you can get in print. Enjoy!

-the Centaur

It’s Better to Be Done

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I am very interested in promoting creation. I think the world would be a better place if more people wrote, drew, painted, sculpted, danced, programmed, philosophized, or just came up with ideas. Not all ideas are great, and it's important to throw away the bad and keep the good - but the more ideas we can generate, the more we can test.

One of the biggest problems I see in unprofessional, unpublished or just unhappy creators is not finishing. It's very easy to start work on an idea - a painting, a novel, a sculpture, a program, a philosophy of life. But no matter how much you love what you do, there's always a point in creating a work where the act of creating transforms from play to work.

Whether you stall out because the work gets hard or because you get distracted by a new idea, it's important to realize the value of finishing. An unfinished idea can be scooped, or become stale, or disconnected from your inspiration. If you don't finish something, the work you did on it is wasted. More half finished ideas pile up. Your studio or notebook becomes a mess.

If you don't finish, you never learn to finish. You're learning to fail repeatedly. The act of finishing teaches you how to finish. You learn valuable skills you can apply to new works - or even to a new drafts. I know an author who was perpetually stalled out on a problematic story - until one day she made herself hit the end. Now it's on it's fourth draft and is really becoming something.

The tricky thing is you have got to put the cart before the horse: you've got to finish before you know whether it was worth finishing. This does not apply to experienced authors in a given genre, but if you're new to a genre, you have to finish something before you worry about whether you can sell it or even if it is any good.

You don't need for something to be perfect to finish it. I know too many amateurs who don't want to put out the effort to finish things because they don't know whether they can sell it. No. You've got a hundred bad programs in you, a thousand bad paintings, a million bad words, before you get to the good stuff. Suck it up, finish it, and move on.

Procrastination is a danger. This is the point in the article that I got distracted and wrote a quick email to a few other creators about ideas this (unfinished) article had inspired. Then I got back to it. Then I got distracted again doing the bullet list below and went back and injected this paragraph. The point is, it's OK to get distracted - just use that time wisely, then get back to it.

Finally, sometimes you just need help to finish the first time. The biggest thing is to find a tool which can help you over that hump when it stops being fun and starts being work - some challenge or group or idea that helps you get that much closer to done. To help people finish, I'm involved with or follow a variety of challenges and resources to help people finish:

  • Write to the End: It's not a critique group; it's a writing group. We meet almost every Tuesday at a local coffee house and write for 20 minutes, read what we wrote, and repeat until they kick us out. We normally hit three sessions, so I usually get an hour of writing in every night - and hear a half dozen to a dozen other writers. Inspirational. Our web site contains articles on writing, including my new column The Centaur's Pen.
  • National Novel Writing Month: A challenge to write 50,000 words of a new novel in the month of November. This seems daunting, but Nanowrimo has a truly spectacular support group and social system which really helps people succeed at the challenge. Even if you don't "win" the first time, keep at it, you will succeed eventually!
  • Script Frenzy: Write 100 pages of a script (play, screenplay, or comic script) in the month of April - another event sponsored by the creators of Nanowrimo. This is an event I haven't yet tried, but am planning to tackle this year to get back into screenwriting (as part of my 20-year plan to get into directing movies).
  • 24 Hour Comics Day: It's a challenge to produce a 24 page comic in 24 hours, usually held the first weekend of October. I've tried this 3 times and succeeded once. It's taught me immense amounts about comic structure and general story structure and even improved my prose writing.
  • Blitz Comics: Because I failed at 24 Hour Comics Day, me and my buddy Nathan Vargas decided to "fake it until we make it" and to put on a boot camp about how to succeed at 24 Hour Comics Day. We produced a Boot Camp tutorial, a 24 Hour Comics Day Survival Kit - and along the way taught ourselves how to succeed at 24 Hour Comics Day.
  • Other Challenges: There are a couple of events out there to create graphic novels in a month - NaGraNoWriMo and NaCoWriMo - though both of these are 2010 and I don't know if either one is live. (If they're not active, maybe I'll start one). There's also a 30 Character Challenge for graphic artists to create 30 new characters in a month.


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Finally, I want to finish with what inspired this post: the Cult of Done. I won't go too deeply into the Done Manifesto, but from my perspective it can be summed up in two ideas: posting an idea on the Internet counts as a ghost of done, and done is the engine of more. Get your stuff done, finish it, and if it's still half baked, post it to force yourself to move on to newer and better things.

The plane is landing. Time to get it done.

-the Centaur

Credits: The BlitzComics guy is penciled, inked and colored by me and post-processed by Nathan Vargas. Joshua Rothass did the Cult of Done poster and distributed it under a Creative Commons license. This blog post was uploaded by Ecto, which is doing well (other than an upload problem) and is probably going to get my money.

Why You Need to Turn off the Internet in Nano

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HEX CODE has an epigraph, a quote by Cicero. I'm not sure whether it will stay in the final book, but it sums up the theme of the book for me perfectly:
Nature urges Man to wish that human society existed and to wish to enter it. —Marcus Tullius Cicero, first historically verified werewolf.
The quote is my own tweak of a couple of different translations of this quote by Cicero - and of course Cicero wasn't really a werewolf. But I wanted to look up something about him, some damn thing about his tomb or whatever (not knowing at the time he'd been assassinated by the state and probably has no tomb) and made the stupid mistake of checking on Wikipedia. The sorry result, 30 minutes later, is what you see above. I'm turning off the Internet now, and I hope if you're doing Nano you do too. Because I think XKCD put the problem with Wikipedia best: Wikipedia is a wonderful thing ... but browsing it isn't writing. Get back to work, nanoers! Onward! -the Centaur

Ahead of where I need to be, behind where I want to be

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Well, I'm ahead of schedule for Nanowrimo ... or am I? I've been determined and lucky enough to complete at least 1667 words every day, so I'm ahead of where I have to be. But I'm trying to be crazy this year. At first I thought I would do TWO books, but now I'm thinking I want to do ONE book at twice the rate. Why do this to myself? Well, one reason would be to finish early. I could start a second book if I wanted to, or finish the first book, or, God forbid, actually use the week of vacation I've taken Thanksgiving week as a fricking vacation rather than a writing marathon. Or maybe it's because it takes Nanowrimo out of a safe place. Unlike 24 Hour Comics Day, I've succeeded every time I'd tried at Nanowrimo. Trying to write twice as fast takes me out of that comfort zone. If I fail, well, I'll still almost certainly succeed at the Nano challenge. If I succeed, well ... then maybe I can write 100,000 words in a month. And the most important thing about writing is writing. The more you write, the better you get. (The second most important thing is getting prompt, high quality feedback; the third most important thing is taking the feedback seriously and acting on it. But I digress). I've finished today's quota of 1,667 words. But yesterday I slacked, also only writing about 1,667 words. To keep up the accelerated pace, I need to catch up, to write almost 3000 more words today. But it's only 3:52 in the afternoon, and I have the whole day ahead of me. So here's seeing what I can do ... and I don't think I can lose, either way. -teh Centaur

24 Hour Comics Day, Redux

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24HCD at Sunnyvale No, I'm not doing 24 Hour Comics Day 2 weekends in a row ... but my buddy Nathan Vargas is. He's the other half of Blitz Comics and through an odd set of circumstances involving the Alternative Press Expo we ended up signing up for a 24 Hour Comics event at Mission Comics 1 week before today, the official 24 Hour Comic Day. (And I completed mine!) my 24 hour comic ... in my lap I owe too many people too many things (fixing my wife's computer, finishing edits of "Steampunk Fairy Chick", finishing a draft of STRANDED, doing an interview, scanning last week's comic, etc) to do 24HCD again, but after tonight's Doctor Who finale I did drop by around midnight tonight with donuts and good cheer. Krispy Kreme (and Pizza) We hung out, gave donuts to the security guards, and watched some Batman fan film. Then, while the toiling artists toiled, I spent some time cleaning up the images from last week's 24 Hour Comic Day (which I had scanned while watching Doctor Who). I just finished, it's only been two hours, but it already feels like another 24HCD! However, I'm happy with the results, and will do 24HCD again next year. I particularly like the dual page spread from Stranded, but I'll hold it back until I get the whole comic uploaded to Dresan.com and will instead tease you with the first page of the novella: The first page of the adapted STRANDED novella. Onward! Upward! Homeward, for me! And best of luck to the toiling comickers here in Sunnyvale! -the Centaur