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Posts tagged as “Gaslights and Rayguns”

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

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 058

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gearhearts sketch As it says on the tin: trying to get to bed earlier and did a quick sketch. From the cover of a random comic "Gearhearts" in my inspiration pile. The sketch didn't turn out ... terrible ... in fact, the arms almost came out right, and it sort of looks like the cover. But as usual, doing one or two iterations of roughs would have helped the layout of the head and face. My eyes just seem to move around, man. Drawing every day. -the Centaur