Press "Enter" to skip to content

Posts tagged as “Dakota Frost”

I can be an idiot sometimes

centaur 0
Portrait of the Centaur as an Idiot

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

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

Historical Comics Panel with Dave Petersen

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

Moral: newer and more complex is not always better.

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

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

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

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

Then It Hit Me

... there was a simpler way.

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

A Better Way

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

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

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

Overthunk Plumbing

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

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

An Elegant Solution For a More Advanced Age

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

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

-the Centaur

Dakota Frost

centaur 0

That's Dakota Frost, in the flesh, penciled and inked by me, based on my own sketches, internet references for the Mohawk and tattoos, and the body of my lovely wife, who was kind enough to model for me.

I had to do some promotional flyers for Frost Moon, have talked to the publisher about a frontispiece; this may be it.

-the Centaur

How Long is Frost Moon?

centaur 0
Posting some Q&A; about Frost Moon from an email...
  • Q. How long is Frost Moon?
    A. Frost Moon is ~90,000 words. The version my friends and beta readers read was 87,000, but the draft the publisher and I are working on has expanded that to 91,000.
  • Q. How does that compare to a normal novel?
    A. "That depends." The scuttlebutt in the writing community led me to believe that are about 60,000 to 90,000 words, and I was shooting for 75,000 when I wrote Frost Moon. Since then I've done some research, and it seems like novels range from 60,000 to 100,000 with a sweet spot at 75,000 to 80,000 words ... but again, that depends:So, it looks like Frost Moon is typical for the genre.
  • Q. What format will Frost Moon be published in?
    A. The publisher is thinking Frost Moon will be a trade paperback, a slightly larger sized format that's easy to print on demand. However, depending on interest, this publisher will basically reissue Frost Moon in whatever size and format sells.
  • Q. Why aren't you mentioning the publisher's name?
    A. Two reasons:
    1. Until we have a signed contract that would be presumptuous, and
    2. Don't jinx it.


Hope that clears all that up...
-the Centaur

Frost Moon: Coming Fall 2009

centaur 0
Here's hoping I don't jinx it, but it looks like Frost Moon is going to be published. I'm working with the editor on what we hope is the final on-spec draft prior to signing the contract, but it appears we have time to get it on the print calendar for Fall. If we miss that date, the next date would be January 2010, but it's still coming.

Keep your fingers crossed!
-the Centaur

dub-dub-dub dot DakotaFrost dot com

centaur 0


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

I will still make the Library of Dresan the primary place to blog about my writing life, but I wanted a one-stop-shop for everyone who is interested in Dakota Frost to find out everything there is to know about the Edgeworlds universe and the tall, edgy tattooist that is Dakota Frost.

Not that there's much there now, of course, but it is a start.

-the Centaur

Frost Moon Revised

centaur 1
So, this weekend I finished the revision of Frost Moon, 2007's Nanowrimo entry, and have submitted it back to the publisher. Initially they sound pleased and hope to get back to me soon - very promising! I have deliberately not mentioned the name of the publishing house so as to "not jinx it" but once I hear back yea or nay I will spill the beans.

In the meantime, I have returned to work on Blood Rock, the sequel, now at 100,000 words and going strong. I suspect I'm closing in on the end here; the current word count includes a lot of notes that will be chopped in the final draft, so hopefully this will come in at under 120,000 words.

As I mentioned before, I have already started work on the sequels, Liquid Fire and Hex Code. I have ideas for many more in this series, and plan to keep doing them as long as they're fun. I'll put up more information when I do the site redesign, hopefully in April.

-the Centaur

Blood Rock at 80,000 Words…

centaur 0
Blood Rock is at 80,000 words, and is complete through chapter 26 (though I have written parts of chapters 27-57, including a huge chunk at the end right around the climax). It's getting closer ... I expect the first draft to come in somewhere around 90,000 to 95,000 words.

-the Centaur

Another battle won…

centaur 2

... I have just completed ~75,000 words for National Novel Writing Month 2008, which puts me over the top of my self-imposed target for November: 50,000 words more than I started with.

I had those extra 25,000 words to start with because I had planned to do two Nanowrimos back to back, thinking I could finish Blood Rock in October and start a new novel in November. Foolish mortal, who do you think you are, Asimov?

Blood Rock is the sequel to Frost Moon, last year's Nanowrimo entry. I have already started work on the sequels, Liquid Fire and Hex Code. I have ideas for many more in this series, but I plan to keep doing them only as long as they're fun.

Like its predecessor, I expect Blood Rock to top out at just under 90,000 words, so hopefully I will be able to finish the first draft in mid-December. Here's gunning for it!

-the Centaur

National Novel Writing Month 2008 Entry: Blood Rock

centaur 0

So ... it once again is National Novel Writing Month, the tenth edition of the yearly "contest" to write 50,000 words in a new novel in one month. I'm going to tweak that a bit: I've been working for the last month or so on Blood Rock, the sequel to last year's Nanowrimo entry, Frost Moon. Blood Rock is a return to the world of "skindancer" Dakota Frost, a magical tattoo artist living in an alternate Atlanta, and it's quite fun to get back to her universe. I'm already 25,000 words into it ... so for my Nanowrimo entry, I'm going to push this through to the end, roughly 75,000 words. The intro:

From the outside, my baby blue Prius looks as normal as can be: a streamlined bubble of a car with an aerodynamic rear-hitch bike rack, humming along on a hybrid gas/electric engine. She couldn’t scream ‘liberal soccer mom’ louder if she was a Volvo plastered with NPR stickers. Peer inside, however, and you see something completely different.

In the driver’s seat, yours truly: a six-foot two woman with a purple-and-black Mohawk – short in front, a la Grace Jones, but lengthening in back until it becomes a long tail curling around my neck. Striking, yes, but what really draws your eyes are my tattoos.

Starting at my temples, a rainbow of tribal daggers curls under the perimeter of my Mohawk, cascading down my neck, rippling out over my arms, and exploding in colorful braids of vines and jewels and butterflies. Beautiful, yes, but that’s not why you can’t look away — its because, out of the corner of your eye, you saw my tattoos move — there, they did it again! You swear, that leaf fluttered, that gem sparkled. It’s like magic!

Why, yes, they did move, and yes, they are magic. Thanks for noticing. All inked at the Rogue Unicorn by yours truly, Dakota Frost, best magical tattoo artist in the Southeast.

Beside me sits a five-nothing teenaged girl, listening to a podcast on her iPod. Normally she’s dressed in a vest and Capri pants, but today she’s in a shockingly conservative schoolgirl’s outfit that clashes with her orange hair and elaborate tiger-striped tattoos.

At first what you see is easy to interpret: an outsider trying to fit in, or a rebel suffering a forced fit. But then your eyes do another double take: are those … cat ears poking out from beneath her head scarf? Did they move? And is that a tail? My God, honey, could she be one of those … what are they called … “were-cats”?

Why yes, her ears did move, and yes, she’s a weretiger. But didn’t your mom tell you it’s rude to point? She has a name: Cinnamon Frost. And she’s my adopted daughter.

Both the Prius and the weretiger in its passenger seat are brand new to me. I met Cinnamon only two months ago, visiting a local werehouse to research a werewolf tattoo, and ended up adopting her after a serial killer damn near killed her trying to get to me. I picked up the Prius right around the same time, a little splurge after winning a tattooing contest.

The adjustment was hard at first: Cinnamon took over my house and tried to take over my life. But my Mom had been a schoolteacher, and I’d learned a few tricks. In the first few weeks after she moved in I put the hammer down, never smiling, setting clear boundaries for her behavior and my sanity. Finally — when she got past the point of the tears, the “not-fairs,” and the most egregious misbehaviors — I eased up, and we once again shared the easy “gee you’re a square but I like you anyway” camaraderie we’d started with.

Now we were peas in a pod; whenever I went out she tagged along, riding shotgun, listening to her audiobooks while I jammed to Rush. The two of us look as different as can be, except for the identical stainless steel collars about our necks, but one minute seeing the two of us laughing together and you’d think I’d been her mother for her whole life.

But today my sunny bundle of fur was feeling quite sullen.

“Don’t worry,” I said, patting her knee softly. One of them will accept you.”

So how much do I need to write each day to do this? Some Python (apologies to the J fans out there, but my J installation was acting cruftly today and I'm just as fast if not faster coding in Python):
>>> for day in range(1,31): print "Nov %d:\t%d" % (day, 25000 + (50000 / 30.0) * day)
...
Nov 1: 26666
Nov 2: 28333
Nov 3: 30000
Nov 4: 31666
Nov 5: 33333
Nov 6: 35000
Nov 7: 36666
Nov 8: 38333
Nov 9: 40000
Nov 10: 41666
Nov 11: 43333
Nov 12: 45000
Nov 13: 46666
Nov 14: 48333
Nov 15: 50000
Nov 16: 51666
Nov 17: 53333
Nov 18: 55000
Nov 19: 56666
Nov 20: 58333
Nov 21: 60000
Nov 22: 61666
Nov 23: 63333
Nov 24: 65000
Nov 25: 66666
Nov 26: 68333
Nov 27: 70000
Nov 28: 71666
Nov 29: 73333
Nov 30: 75000
I'm currently at 26,744 words, so I have a lot to do today. For those people who are starting at word 0, here's a slight variant of the above you can cut and paste to make your own writing progress chart.
>>> for day in range(1,31): print "Nov %d:\t%d" % (day, (50000 / 30.0) * day)
...
Nov 1: 1666
Nov 2: 3333
Nov 3: 5000
Nov 4: 6666
Nov 5: 8333
Nov 6: 10000
Nov 7: 11666
Nov 8: 13333
Nov 9: 15000
Nov 10: 16666
Nov 11: 18333
Nov 12: 20000
Nov 13: 21666
Nov 14: 23333
Nov 15: 25000
Nov 16: 26666
Nov 17: 28333
Nov 18: 30000
Nov 19: 31666
Nov 20: 33333
Nov 21: 35000
Nov 22: 36666
Nov 23: 38333
Nov 24: 40000
Nov 25: 41666
Nov 26: 43333
Nov 27: 45000
Nov 28: 46666
Nov 29: 48333
Nov 30: 50000
Have fun, everyone!

-the Centaur