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Posts tagged as “Gaslights and Rayguns”

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

Day 054

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What, did you think I was not going to do Drawing Every Day just because I did a Photoshop graphic for the Lent entry?

steamgoggle sketch

So, today's exercise was something very difficult for me: abandoning a failed rough and starting over.

You see, many artists that I know will get sucked into perfecting a drawing that has some core flaw in its bones - this is something I ran into with my Batman cover page. I know one artist who has worked over a handful of difficult paintings for literally 2-3 years ... but who can produce dozens of new paintings for a show on the drop of a hat. But it's hard emotionally to let go the investment in a partially finished piece.

This is tied up with the Sunken Cost Fallacy Fallacy, the false idea that if you've decided a venture has failed you should cut your losses despite your prior investment in it. This is based on the very real ideas of sunk costs - costs expended that cannot be recovered - which should not be factored into rational decisions the same way that we should prospective costs - costs that can be avoided by taking action. The "Sunken Cost Fallacy" comes in when people don't cut their losses in a failed venture.

The "Fallacy Fallacy" part kicks in because in the real world costs do not become sunk as a result of your decisions. When a self-proclaimed "decider"(1) chooses to proclaim that a project is a failure, the value invested in the project doesn't magically become nonrecoverable based on that decision and the classical Sunken Cost Fallacy does not apply. I have seen a private company literally throw away a two million dollar investment for a dollar because the owner didn't want to deal with it anymore.

Fortunately, most artists are better businessmen than that. Deep down, they know any painting could be the ONE that gets them seen; deeper down, each painting is an expression of their creativity. Even if the painting has flaws, one never knows whether the piece will be fixable, even ultimately excel. I have seen paintings go through years of work and many difficulties, only to finally turn up amazing. Drawings, paintings and novels are like investments in that way, always tantalizing us with their future potential.

But, deep down, I feel like it's possible to do better than that. That by painting or drawing more, and being more ruthless earlier in the process, that it's possible to recognize wrong turns and truly sunken costs and to start over. Once a huge canvas has covered with paint over many months, or a large manuscript has been filled with words over an equal period of time, it represents an investment in images and ideas that can potentially be salvaged ... but a sketch or outline, now, that you can throw out straightaway.

You may not get the thirty minutes doing the sketch back, but at least you'll be starting in a better place.

In my case, I was starting here, the cover for Steampunk Gear, Gadgets and Gizmos I had lying about:

I started what I intended to be a quick sketch, and got partway into the roughs ...

steamgoggle failed rough

... when I decided that the shape of the face was off - and the proportions of the arm were even further off. I started to fix it - you can see a few doubled features like eyes and lips in there - but I decided - ha, decided - no, stop, STOP Anthony, this rough is too far gone.

Start over, and look more closely at what you see this time.

That led to the drawing at the top of the entry. There were still problems with the finished piece - I am continuing to have trouble with tilting heads the wrong way, and something went wrong with the shape of the arm, leading to a too-narrow, too-long wrist - but the bones of the sketch were so much better than the first attempt that it was easy to finish the drawing.

And thus, keep up drawing every day.

-the Centaur

(1) I'm not bitter.

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