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Posts tagged as “Gaslights and Rayguns”

Appearing at Dragon Con, Just a Little Bit

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I will be at Dragon Con this year, moderating a panel on Victorian Technology at Monday at 11:30am:

Technology of the Victorian era and how to exploit it in your stories or imagination!
We'll discuss what technology the Victorians actually used and how it changed their world. We'll also highlight inventions that should have changed the world but didn't!

Monday at 11:30a in Augusta III

Anthony Francis (Moderator), Jean Marie Ward, Stephanie Osborn, Shay Mohn, Stephen Chapman

As usual, I will probably appear at the Writer's Track, though those appearances are always fluid.

For the rest of the time, since I have no publications to announce at Dragon Con - my comics work being announced at Comic-Con and APE, and the work to do that is more than enough effort to consume all available time - I plan on enjoying the con, hanging out with friends, meeting up with the Dragon Writers, and remembering Ann Crispin.

More news as it happens, if it happens.


It was a good weekend …

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… and not just because I sold 22 copies of my books at Clockwork Alchemy. Though that was a big part of it, the sales themselves aren't what really mattered to me; it was that 22 copies of my books are in people's hands, and they were in people's hands because for the very first time, I had an author's table.


For the four days that I sat behind that author's table, behind a fort of my books and my postcards and my wife's steampunk gears and shelves and even a small tiger, I became part of a community of people - and not just even the wonderful people at the Clockwork Alchemy author's alley, whom I hope to see again for years and years to come.


No, I became a part of the broader community of science fiction authors, connecting with their readers through science fiction conventions, the way I myself first really connected with the science fiction community, after many years of reading alone. I've been a published author for years, and written in a small community for longer, but now I feel connected as never before.


This is a new level of interaction, a new level of connection, a new opportunity for a whole family to create an author's delight by buying their books and holding them over their heads like mouse ears. Somehow, everything feels more real to me, and I am more inspired than ever before to keep writing and to get the ideas in my head out … and into yours.


I hope we both enjoy it! God bless,

-the Centaur

Sunday’s Events at Clockwork Alchemy

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Today's talk on Real Women of the Victorian Era, led by the redoubtable T.E. MacArthur, went well. In a weird bit of synergy, an audiobook I was reading, Victorian Britain in the Great Courses series, had a section on Florence Nightingale which was not just directly relevant … it played just as I was driving up to the hotel. Perfect.

Tomorrow, Sunday, May 25th, I will be appearing on the panels Avoiding Historical Mistakes at noon in the Monterey Room (it is rumored that Harry Turtledove will be on the panel as well) and Victorian Technology at 2pm in the San Carlos room (not 1 as I said earlier), and giving a solo talk on The Science of Airships at 4pm also at San Carlos.

The rest of the time, I will largely be at my table above, which will look more or less like you see it above, except I may be wearing a different outfit. :-D

-the Centaur

I Have Landed at Clockwork Alchemy

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I have landed at Clockwork Alchemy. (Technically, I arrived yesterday). In 11 minutes, I am appearing on a panel on Real Women in the Victorian Era, even though it is not listed on my personal schedule.


Oh, and I almost forgot: this is my very first booth of my own!


More in a bit…

-the Centaur

The Weird Experience of Marketing Yourself

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This Memorial Day weekend, I will be at the Clockwork Alchemy conference, appearing on three panels (Real Women in Victorian Times Saturday at noon, Avoiding Historical Mistakes Sunday at noon, and Victorian Technology, Sunday at 1) and giving one talk (my old standby, The Science of Airships, Sunday at 4).

Since I won't be at my table the whole time, I decided to print up a series of postcards for all of my books using the service at, which I and my wife have found to be great for printing customized business cards with a variety of artwork on the cover. I decided to do one for each book, showing the cover on one side and a blurb on the back.

But then I discovered that, just like for the business cards themselves, while you can have many different covers on the front, you get only one choice for the back. So what should go on that single back cover? What should it market? Then I realized: I don't have a book coming out right away. These cards actually have to market … me.



More precisely, the cards have to market my work. But I'm not a single-series author; I can't (yet) pull a George R. R. Martin and just say "author of Game of Thrones," especially not at a steampunk convention when my most prominent series, Dakota Frost, is actually urban fantasy. "Anthony Francis, author of Dakota Frost - who? Author of what? Ok, fine … but why is he here?"

So I have to list not just one series, but all of them, and not just list them, but say what they're about.

After some thought, I decided to use some of my own comic art that I'd previously used on my business cards as a backdrop, but to focus the content of the cards on my writing, not my comics (sorry, f@nu fiku and Blitz Comics … there just wasn't enough room on the cards or poster), unifying all of my books under a theme of "The Worlds of Anthony Francis". I feel like breaking out in hives when I write that. It sounds so damn aggrandized and pompous. But strictly speaking … it's accurate.

One of my worlds is the fantastic space of the Allied universe, where genetically engineered centaurs hop from world to world like skipping stones in the river (collected in the anthology STRANDED). Another is the hyper-feminist alternate history steampunk adventures of Jeremiah Willstone (collected in the anthologies UnCONventional and DOORWAYS TO EXTRA TIME). And yet another is the world of Dakota Frost, Skindancer, and the magic tattoos she can bring to life (FROST MOON, BLOOD ROCK, and the forthcoming LIQUID FIRE). And I hope you choose to read all of them! Enter the worlds, indeed.

But if I want people to read them, I need to tell people about them, in terms that make people, I dunno, actually want to read the books. Normally it's a publisher who writes that copy, but they're generally marketing a book, not me. I don't yet have a publicist, and even if I did, the entire point of me is to do as many of the tasks of creative production myself as is practical, so I can speak at least quasi-intelligently about the process - case in point, the graphic design of the postcard above, which will be a blog post in its own right. But this isn't about that part of the process; it's about the feeling.


One thing I've learned is that no-one knows that you write unless you actually tell them about it, and no-one buys what you write unless they know it can be bought. SO I have to do at least the first stab at this all by myself (not counting help from cats). I have to try to summarize my work, to bite the bullet and actually sell it, and to package that sales language up in ways that get it out to people - starting with a series of postcards to put on my table. And oh, yes, to blog it: to finally lift my head far enough above the waters to shout, yes, world, I am here, and no, I don't need a life preserver: I need you to buy some of my books.

It still feels weird saying that.

I guess I'll have to get over it.

-the Centaur

Pictured: the back of the postcards I printed for my table, featuring my own art; me, in a potential author publicity picture; and Gabby, helping me organize my book files and promotional materials.

Jeremiah Willstone Is on Her Way

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At long last, I have sent to the publisher my fourth completed novel, JEREMIAH WILLSTONE AND THE CLOCKWORK TIME MACHINE: A Story of Love, Corsets, Rayguns, and the Conquest of the Galactic Habitable Zone.

This has been a long time in coming - in part because I had the not-so-bright idea of doing a related anthology, DOORWAYS TO EXTRA TIME, which has put me a solid year behind on my other writing projects - and in part because I had a lot of work to do. Lots of authors put their manuscripts through heavy revision, but the way I track changes gives a pretty clear view of my process:

Draft History
Started: September 7, 2009
Rough Draft: July 13, 2011
First Draft: March 10, 2012
Beta Draft: March 25, 2012
Beta Read: December 1, 2013
Gamma Edit: December 12, 2013
Gamma Draft: February 1, 2014

What’s less clear is the amount of research that goes into these books. For the story “The Doorway to Extra Time” I read parts of over 20 books on time travel. For THE CLOCKWORK TIME MACHINE, with its alternate histories and their intricate relationships, I read far more - dozens and dozens of books and hundreds and hundreds of web pages.


Now all that’s done, and the book is off to Debra Dixon at Bell Bridge Books. Hopefully I’ve learned from previous edits what it takes to make a great book; if not, I’m sure she’ll tell me.

As always, I leave you with an excerpt:

Lightning gouged a chunk of the wainscoting an inch from Jeremiah Willstone’s head and she hurled herself back, bumping down the stairs on her tailcoat, firing both Kathodenstrahls again and again until the oak doorpanels were blasted into sparks and splinters.

Her shoulders hit the landing hard enough to rattle her teeth, but Jeremiah didn’t lose her grip: she just kept both guns trained on the cracked door, watching foxfire shimmer off its hinges and knobs. The crackling green tracers crept around the frame, and with horror she realized the door was reinforced with newly-added iron bands. She’d intended to blast the thing apart and deny her enemy cover, but had just created more arrowholes for him-or-her to shoot through.

Jeremiah muttered a curse: the doors weren’t supposed to be reinforced! The Newfoundland Airship Conservatory was a relic, near sixty years old—and electric pistols had barely been invented when it was built in the 1850’s, much less Faraday armor. Yet this lot of miscreants had managed to erect in a few days barriers proof to the most modern thermionic blasters. In over nine years as an Expeditionary fighting the mad men and women who sought to let Foreign monsters onto the Earth, she’d never encountered a force as well-prepared as Lord Christopherson’s.

It made sense—the man had been in the Victoriana Defense League, and had their full playbook—yet there were dark rumors that he’d been bankrolled by Restorationist forces who threatened not just the Crown, but the Liberation Jeremiah held so dear. Given her history with the man, she hadn’t found the rumors surprising—but the complete lack of women soldiers among his ‘footmen’ practically confirmed them. Lord Christopherson wasn’t just in love with the monsters: he wanted to upend the whole Victorianan order. The man had to be stopped.

As the foxfire dissipated, the crackling continued, and Jeremiah’s eyes flicked aside to see sparks escaping the broken glass of her left Kathodenstrahl’s vacuum tubes. Its thermionics were shot, so she tossed the electric gun aside with a curse and checked the charge canister on her remaining Kathodenstrahl. The little brass bead was hovering between three and four notches. Briefly she thought of swapping canisters, but a slight creak upstairs refocused her attention.

No. You only need three shots. Keep them pinned, wait for reinforcements.

Now that Jeremiah is on her way, I’m returning my attention to LIQUID FIRE, which has a due date of April 1st, with a hopeful publication date in August. Wish me well, and hope that I have a picture like the following for LIQUID FIRE ready in the next month or so…


-the Centaur

Who Am I?

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me in front of the bell bridge books promotional material for BLOOD ROCK Who are you? Good question. I'm Anthony Francis, and I write stuff and make computers jump through hoops for a living. What have you done? I'm most notable for the EPIC award winning urban fantasy novel FROST MOON and its sequel, BLOOD ROCK, which are about magical tattoo artist Dakota Frost and are therefore hopefully both more interesting than my ~700 page PhD thesis on context-sensitive computer memory. Also on the computer side, I've done some exploration of robot emotions. What are you doing next? Forthcoming in the Dakota Frost series is the third book, LIQUID FIRE, and this November for National Novel Writing Month I plan to work on HEX CODE, the first in a spin-off series featuring Dakota's adopted daughter Cinnamon Frost. Are you working on anything other than Dakota Frost? I've also recently completed a rough draft of the first book in a new series, JEREMIAH WILLSTONE AND THE CLOCKWORK TIME MACHINE. A short story set in this universe, "Steampunk Fairy Chick", will be included in the forthcoming anthology UnCONventional. What are you working on currently? I'm also currently working on a fourth new series with the working title STRANDED, a young adult science fiction novel set a thousand years in the future, featuring a spoiled young centauress who must rescue a shipload of children who have crashlanded upon a world she wanted to claim as her own. This story's set in the "Library of Dresan" universe from which this blog takes its name and which was setting of my very first unpublished novel "homo centauris", which I am now happily milking for its 57 billion year backstory. Anything else? I have a flash fiction story called "The Secret of the T-Rex's Arms" to appear on the Smashed Cat Magazine. I've also published one short story, "Sibling Rivalry" in the Leading Edge Magazine. I have a webcomic, f@nu fiku, on hiatus. And I'm actively involved with helping people succeed at 24 Hour Comics through tutorials that I and my friend Nathan Vargas have put together at Blitz Comics. Is that enough questions for now? Yes, it is. Please enjoy. -the Centaur

Back at Comic-Con

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the gateway to comic-con I'm back at San Diego Comic-Con again ... my con home away from con home (my con home being Dragon*Con). Comic-Con is also where I get to visit with 125,000 of my closest friends. the crowds begin Like Dragon*Con, San-Diego Comic-Con has grown far beyond its original roots. The con is about far more than just comics: it's now a full bore genre media event. the convention floor They've got sexy space girls ... star trek babes ... sexy space guys ... the 5th, 11th and 10th doctors ... and everything in between. the total recall car and robots And lest there be any doubt about what I meant, here's what I took the closeup of in that last tableau ... I am a roboticist after all: the total recall robot While I'm here, I'll not just be renewing my creative juices ... I'll be working on the final proofs for BLOOD ROCK, which is due the day after I get back. If only I had a way to get more time...wait, maybe I do! me and the tardis Wish me luck! -the Centaur

Rough Draft of The Clockwork Time Machine

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jeremiah willstone, complete I just completed a rough draft of my fourth novel! My first steampunk work, JEREMIAH WILLSTONE AND THE CLOCKWORK TIME MACHINE, clocks in at 90,000 words of completed story! [caption id="attachment_1128" align="alignnone" width="580" caption="The Title Page and Draft History of THE CLOCKWORK TIME MACHINE"]done with the rough draft[/caption] Here's another excerpt for those who like a tease ...
With Patrick’s blunderblast slung over her shoulder, Jeremiah whizzed through the streets on her autocycle, discharging its cylinder flat out, its teakettle scream and clanking frame adding another layer of mist and noise to the steam and bustle of Boston. Her legs were tensed, her knees bent against the pedals, half to jump the cycle over curbs, and half to keep the juddering vibration from the cobblestones of Beacon Hill from rattling her tailbone clean off. She squealed to a stop before the Moffat’s, pulled the cylinder and tossed it to a street urchin. “Top me off?” she asked, hopping off onto the sidewalk with a whirl and pulling her bag out of its basket in one smooth motion. “Yes, ma’am,” the boy said, taking the cycle. His eyes lighted on her vest, her denims—and on the big brass buttons on her lapels, a steering wheel, sword and airsail overlaid with a stylized V. “Are you an Expeditionary?” Jeremiah smiled. “Yes,” she said, ruffing his cap so that tufts of blond hair showed. “Maybe one day you’ll become one too. Polish the brasslite a bit and there’s a second shilling in it for you. Quick now; I won’t be long.”
I've got some cleaning to do and a whole 'nother draft before the beta readers can see it, but still ... on to LIQUID FIRE! -the Centaur

60,000 New Words

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Hit the 60,000 Word Mark!Victory! 72,037 words, 60,164 of them new. Boo-yah! I leave you with this:
“Fair enough,” Jeremiah said. “Alright. We know where we’re going, and how we’re handling this. And we all know who we’re facing: the Baron Abinger, who handed us all our hats on his last encounter. Be on your guard.” She looked up at Lord Birmingham. “Sir, I have said what I need to say,” Jeremiah said. “I now place myself in your hands. This ship, and this mission, are yours. At your discretion, Godspeed.” Lord Birmingham straightened. “Thank you, Commander,” he said. “All you need do is let Lady Georgiana and I guide you through the dark heart of Georgia, and then the rest of this mission is yours.” “Then take us away, sir.”
Now I go take nap now. -the Centaur

Cracked 70,000 Words

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58,000 Added Words Just reached 70,000 total words in THE CLOCKWORK TIME MACHINE ... 58,735 total added during this month, so it looks good to hit 60,000 words tomorrow. Woohoo! As usual, Nano's raw rough-drafty stuff, but here's where we are in the story (suitably snipped and edited not to give too much away):
The engines of the Machine spun up with a terrific rising whine and discharged all at once, lightning in a bottle, illuminating the entire diving bell interior with a crackling foxfire glow. Even the handcuff that pinned her left hand to a support arch shimmered as the transelectric field rippled through it, but as she was grounded to the same pole it left her with little more than a shudder. As the Clockwork Time Machine rattled and clacked, ticked and swayed through the tunnels of possibility, Jeremiah hunched in a little ball by the pillar in her bloodied shift, her left hand high over her head, twisting uselessly in the cuff as two footmen stood over her, watching, their six-strings at the ready. It made her feel small and helpless, even though they’d made the mistake of cuffing her bad hand; but she hadn’t the heart to do her usual scheming for escape. She had to see this through.
-the Centaur

68,669 words … 56,755 of them new

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Two days of Nano left ... God willing, there's a good shot I'll make 70,000 total words, perhaps even 60,000 added words. Progress continues!

I Can’t Stop Writing

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[caption id="attachment_810" align="alignright" width="300" caption="At Work on the Clockwork Time Machine at Borders"]At Work on the Clockwork Time Machine at Borders[/caption]I've "won" National Novel Writing Month for 2010, but I just can't stop writing. I know I have bills to pay, books to edit, projects at work, and a massive cleaning project in my library ... but THE CLOCKWORK TIME MACHINE has me right now and I can't stop. But ... really ... is that such a bad thing? Since I've "won", I've written 4200 more words, 2600 today alone. Fantastic! -the Centaur

Viiiiictory … A New Series

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Winner's Badge for Nanowrimo 2010Once again, I have completed National Novel Writing Month! This year’s entry is the first in the Jeremiah Willstone series, THE CLOCKWORK TIME MACHINE:
On an alternate Earth, the feminist revolution started a century early, technological progress doubled ... and Mary Shelley's granddaughter Jeremiah Willstone is an adventurer defending the world in a flying airship! She's used to fighting off monsters with nothing more than goggles, an electric gun and the advice of a half-human computer, but what will she do when her own uncle changes the rules of the game ... with a Clockwork Time Machine?
I've posted a few snippets in this series ... let me see if I can find one which doesn't give any key plot elements away.
With Patrick’s blunderblast slung over her shoulder, Jeremiah whizzed through the streets on her autocycle, discharging its cylinder flat out, its teakettle scream and clanking frame adding another layer of mist and noise to the steam and bustle of Boston. Her legs were tensed, her knees bent against the pedals, half to jump the cycle over curbs, and half to keep the juddering vibration from the cobblestones of Beacon Hill from rattling her tailbone clean off. She squealed to a stop before the Moffat’s, pulled the cylinder and tossed it to a street urchin. “Top me off?” she asked, hopping off onto the sidewalk with a whirl and pulling her bag out of its basket in one smooth motion. “Yes, ma’am,” the boy said, taking the cycle. His eyes lighted on her vest, her denims—and on the big brass buttons on her lapels, a steering wheel, sword and airsail overlaid with a stylized V. “Are you an Expeditionary?” Jeremiah smiled. “Yes,” she said, ruffing his cap so that tufts of blond hair showed. “Maybe one day you’ll become one too. Polish the brasslite a bit and there’s a second shilling in it for you. Quick now; I won’t be long.” “Yes, ma’am,” he said, walking the cycle off. Jeremiah turned to the tottering three-story shop, glancing up at the enclosed balcony jutting out from the newer brick buildings around it. Beneath the balcony, carbide-etched into the thick window of carbonate glass, were the words: MOFFAT’S MECHANISMS & MYSTERIES Her mouth quirked; as usual, today she was in the market for a bit of both.
Unlike last year, I didn't have to write 38,000 words in only ten days. But I did do pretty well; I still have a few days of writing left and I'm going to try to push further on the story. [caption id="attachment_797" align="alignnone" width="450" caption="Victory Point for Nanowrimo 2010"]Victory Point for Nanowrimo 2010[/caption] Prevail, Victoriana! -the Centaur

One. Day. Ahead.

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At last a day ahead...

At last, a day ahead on Nano ... 28580 words out of a needed 26666 ... even ahead of tomorrow, which needs 28333 ... excellent, it's all falling into place...

-the Centaur

“Then we shall follow,” Sir Alice said. “Commander Willstone!” “Yes, sir?” Jeremiah said, standing at attention. “It seems that Lord Christopherson has cracked the secret of travel to the past,” Sir Alice said, her own objections, once overcome, completely forgotten. “Outfit the Prince Edward with one of his own devices and hunt that blackguard down to the very ends of time,” she said. “I’ll see no-one destroy Victoriana on my watch, much less undo Liberation!” “Yes, sir!” Jeremiah said. “Prevail, Victoriana—” Lord Birmingham cleared his throat. “Sir Alice, might I remind you that the destination the Lady Georgiana has charted is over the dark heart of Georgia?”

Caught Up At Last

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33,569 words. 21,696 of them new. The goal for November 13: 21,666. I know technically it's November 14, but I'm going to bed now and have a full day ahead of me in which I only need to write the nominal 1,666 words, so I am officially caught up at this point. And as the graph shows, finally the rising tide of words completed has caught up with the solid line of words desired. Yaay! Here's a bit to tide you over: rough drafty stuff, as all Nano is, but it's getting the scene set down the way I want it:
Jeremiah stepped out into the street, taking in the smells and sounds of Boston: cold air, wafting soup, crackling leather, fragrant horses, whirring gears, walking feet. God, she loved this town. “Here you are, Commander,” a young girl said, walking her cycle up. “Thank you, dear,” Jeremiah said, pulling the boy’s two shillings out and adding a third for the girl. “Apportion it fairly among you.” “Yes, Ma’am,” she said—then gasped. “Oh my goodness!” And Jeremiah followed her gaze to see the Prince Edward shimmering into existence above them, a rope ladder tumbling down towards her. “All right!” she said, leaping up onto a horse-tie, then into the air to catch the ladder. Her weight brought it down, just slightly—taking tension in the rope, of course, not lowering the Prince Edward—and as she swung back she reached down towards the girl. “Heave it here!” “Are you all right, Ma’am?” she cried, even as she raised the cycle. “Never better!” she said, seizing the cycle with her free hand. Predictably the Edward didn’t wait, and in moments she was rising above the street, holding on to the ladder with one hand and the bike with the other, trusting the boomsman to keep her clear of the buildings as she ascended into one of those singular adventures that enlivened her life.
Off to bed. -the Centaur

Slowly Climbing The Hill

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Well, National Novel Writing Month is progressing slowly but surely so far; I'm behind, but not super behind, and most importantly, not falling further behind: and the daily deficit is keeping constant. Today I have some extra time, so I will try to get caught up completely. You can see how far I've gotten on the graph below: [caption id="attachment_734" align="alignright" width="450" caption="Progress on Nano So Far"]Progress on Nano So Far[/caption] I'd say this is procrastination, but it really does help to know just how far behind I am, and how much I need to write each day to catch up. Plus, I can reuse this Excel graph next year (this is actually a slight refinement of last year's Nano graph for Liquid Fire). Also, to save time, for the first time I'm using WordPress's scheme for inserting and saving images, rather than my own. Downside: problems if I need to leave WordPress, but I'm a big boy now, and can write my own converter and URL rewriter if I need to. Upside: time, of course. Oh, I almost forgot ... the excerpt! Here's where we are now:
Without a second thought, Jeremiah decked the guard. One fist, one punch, flying out, clocking her jaw and laying her out, ten feet out on the tile. The gun spun away, impacted, fired, the deadly bullet shattering a storefront of glass. There were shouts, screams, and panic, but to Jeremiah’s delighted horror the crowd did not scatter like civilians. A dark-suited man saw the guard fall and came at Jeremiah; a frilly young girl in a beret saw the gun and dove for it. “Capital,” Jeremiah said, ducking one punch, blocking the other, popping the man on the jaw, then kneeing him in the groin when he didn’t fall. “Absolutely capital!” she said, kicking the gun away into the glass just as the bereted girl seized it. Jeremiah clamped both hands on the girl’s arms to neutralize her, lifted her up, and said, “I’m so proud of you!” before head-butting so hard her beret came off and she fell back in a sudden spray of hair, eyes rolling. “We should go,” Patrick said, shepherding Georgiana out of the darkened cave of the restaurant. “Did you see,” Jeremiah said, blocking another punch, kicking her new assailant in the gut, then decking a third man. “These people have spines!” “Very much so,” Georgiana said. “Good for them, but for us—” “Fear not!” Jeremiah said; there were no more instant heroes popping out of the crowd, but there were still the shouts and screams and now whistles blowing, so it was very definitely time to go. “Follow me, thataway!”
Onward! Wind up your braces, let's do this... -the Centaur