Well. That was 2018.

This is going to be one of those yearly summary posts–some good, some bad, some whatever. 2018 has been another one of Those Years. You know, the sort where you’re flailing about at everything, trying to get things going and stuff just keeps happening…and happening…and happening. I made some book sales, found some cool new fans as well as kept up contacts with old fans, did stuff with the horse, and etc.

Not that it’s been a particularly bad year…it’s just been one of Those Years. Crappy moments and shining moments, all wrapped up together.

Part of the reason (besides politics which is absolutely horrific, horrible, crappy, ick, and I’m totally back in fretting about apocalyptic scenarios–well hey! I’m writing an apocalyptic book right now and the next fantasy book will also be apocalyptic in tone so I’m right on track here!) is that I think I really started kind of feeling my age this year. The area that has suffered the most has been this blog. Writing-wise, I’ve been chugging along, though not as faithfully as I would like. I think the sales of Pledges of Honor are finally slowing down…but I’m not going to gripe, because it has been selling steadily over the past three years, ever since I published it back in 2015. Sales still occasionally pop up for the Netwalk Sequence series, though no one really seems to go too far with it. I…have plans to do something about that.

Pledges did earn itself a Semifinalist position in the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off. I had hopes for higher, but c’est la vie. A review is supposed to come out for it next week from one of the reviewers.

So let’s look at Joyce’s Year in Writing, Horses, and Health.

Writing:

I published two books and edited an anthology, for starters.

Challenges of Honor, the second book in the Goddess’s Honor series, came out in the spring. It hasn’t sold as well as the first book, but you know, things can change.

Blurb and linkage for Amazon here.

Linkage for Books2Read here. (Apple, Nook, Kobo, etc)

Klone’s Stronghold, a contemporary fantasy featuring a mix of supernaturals, cryptids, and family issues in the isolated Bucket Mountains of NE Oregon, came out in the summer. It’s not done as well as I had hoped; nonetheless I’ve got some ideas for a sequel to it.

Blurb and linkage for Amazon here.

Linkage for Books2Read (Apple, Nook, Kobo, etc) here.

I’m currently working on a rewrite of a previously published novella, Seeking Shelter at the End of the World. The new title is Beating the Apocalypse. It’s not going to look much like the original. I’ve added two viewpoint characters, eliminated at least one and maybe two deaths in the course of the book (though I do kill others), am at about 20k additional words, and am making it a MUCH more complex book.

I also edited a themed anthology, Pulling Up Stakes, (includes my Oregon Country story “To Plant or Pull Up Stakes”) and am working on a second one, Whimsical Beasts (which will include my story “The Wisdom of Robins”).

Pulling Up Stakes Amazon details here.

Short stories also happened this year. I wrote the following Goddess’s Honor tie-in shorts:

Return to Wickmasa (post-Pledges of Honor) B2R (includes Amazon), Cleaning House (post Challenges of Honor) B2R (includes Amazon), and Unexpected Alliances, B2R (includes Amazon). I’ve decided not to mess with loading short stories directly to Kindle but will load them into Kindle via Draft2Digital.

I wrote Going Gently for the Netwalk Sequence universe. B2R (includes Amazon).

“The Cow at the End of the World” came out in Well, It’s Your Cow, edited by Frog Jones. Amazon.

I have two new stories in circulation (“A Quilter’s Stellar Sandwich” and “My Woman Left Me, My Dog Hates Me, and There Goes My Truck”). I’m also marketing a novella, Bearing Witness, which is a weird alt-Western set in a universe I’m now calling the Vortex Worlds. I was originally going to self-publish it but decided to try my luck with the trad pub market so far. I’m underwhelmed, so it may go on the publishing schedule this spring.

Then I started playing around with Medium. I’m not very diligent about posting essays there yet, but I do have a few up. I’m also toying with writing a poem a week and posting it on a separate blog page. I plan to switch hosts in this coming year, and have temporarily set up a site on wordpress.com. I’ll be transferring the whole domain at some point here. Just works better for me than what I’ve been doing.

Horse:

Mocha turned 18 this year, and is fully a mature, opinionated mare. But we achieved a bucket list goal by winning a show series buckle in the local show series in the Ranch Horse division. So I now sport a genuine, honestly-won, silver belt buckle.

She was pastured up by the east moraine of Wallowa Lake this summer, so we spent some time riding the moraine and doing Real Trail Horse stuff. She loves it. One day she was edgy and energetic so I sent her straight up the side of the moraine (actually a fairly steep climb), with plans to sidehill it if she encountered problems. She didn’t.

She went into the winter looking the best I’ve seen her in a long time, her back completely filled out around the spine and minimal sign of rib. Nonetheless, she’s getting up there in years so I’m not pushing her. She’s let me know that she really, really likes the idea of gaming as opposed to rail classes but OKAY WE WILL DEAL WITH STUPID RAIL STUFF IF THERE’S GAMING (keyhole and barrels are her favorites). As long as she enjoys the notion of “turn and burn” we’ll keep doing it. We did our first winter lope under saddle a couple of days ago (it’s been a not-so-good winter for riding outside) and she was full of energy, ready to go, and everything you want to feel with a mature horse living outside 24/7.

Health and Other Stuff:

This is the year that the teaching stuff has pretty much gone away. I substitute occasionally, and will be teaching a writing class in February, but otherwise–my long-term substitute gig abruptly ended at the end of the semester in January, and I’ve not been actively drumming up anything other than writing coaching business. I think it’s time to move away from K-12 teaching–I’m ready.

This year I feel like I’m really starting to get with it in quilting. I’ve made two small quilts and a bigger one as well as several small wall hangings. I think I will start working toward art quilt wall hangings for the science fiction and fantasy market. Other craft work is “meh”. I do have a few fans of my jewelry but not enough to put much energy into it outside of the occasional bazaar. Well…I might start trying the science fiction art show circuit again.

Health-wise, I had a real wakeup call in the fall of 2017 when I had problems hiking because my hips were too tight and I had issues. Plus I was having leg spasms bad enough that I could watch them go in waves down my right leg at their worst. Things were not good. I hurt a lot. Not the earth-shaking, major pain-killer pain, but that dragging soft-tissue coupled with arthritic pain that no traditional doctor takes seriously in a woman, especially if you can’t/won’t handle muscle-relaxants for the soft tissue stuff. And then there was the persistent shoulder issues.

Then I discovered a shiatsu massage pillow. That led to acupuncture and chiropractic work in addition to my regular massages because I realized part of the relief I was feeling came from adhesions getting broken loose. I also got smart about living in the world of ice/snow and bought hiking sticks and Yaktrak shoe chains to reduce the risk of falling (still happens but not as much). I started using a neck pillow for any drives over two hours. Additionally, I started using CBD and THC topicals, as well as oral CBD. Things aren’t perfect, but I can move again. There’s one troublesome spot in my right hip which has plagued me for thirty-eight-some years, thanks to a fall while jogging, but it’s much improved from what it’s been over the last ten years. What’s even more encouraging is that I have the urge to move again. I want to work out. My muscles are tight on a three-day cycle, but it is absolutely not the same sort of thing as I was experiencing before.

I’ve also gone back to using moisturizer and makeup. Part of it is that I have an excellent source of mineral-based makeup here in Enterprise–Wild Carrot Herbals has their company store here (as well as their warehouse/manufacturing headquarters) and they carry a nice line of makeup. I went back to my favorite Elizabeth Arden Ceramide-based moisturizers and foundation. It really does make a difference, and the moisturizer holds up to a lot of winter weather. I do need to find something different for hot summer days, though….

In any case, it’s been a year. I’m hoping to be more energized in 2019–if anything, that’s my goal for the year ahead. I want to advance my writing, perhaps expand my craft work into art shows, and otherwise.

I’ll probably put up another post about 2019 goals tomorrow. We’ll see.

 

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That moment when you realize…

…that dang, you have been working.

One of the things that happened today was work on a couple of press releases, one for a book reading/signing/informal Q and A about self-publishing at JaxDogCafe in LaGrande in December, and the other for a three-hour self-publishing workshop I’m doing with Fishtrap in February. I decided that perhaps for the bio I should mention how many anthologies I’ve been in, how many books I’ve published, and how many short stories I’ve published (some of which are anthology repeats).

The numbers startled me.

Twelve books. Doesn’t count the one I pulled from eTreasures publishing.

At least twelve anthologies (I think I missed a couple that aren’t on Amazon).

And at least twenty self-published short stories…many of which are either series world-building stories or anthology reprints. That doesn’t count the ones that I’ve published in various magazines–so add at least ten-twelve more that don’t show up in my Amazon page.

Um. Okay. Wow. Does this mean I’m at the point of accumulating a sufficiently significant body of work that I might someday become an…overnight success? Dare I hope?

We shall see.

Meanwhile, even though I’m not officially doing Nanowrimo, I’ve been productive. As in I’ve blocked out a full story, written an essay, written a story, and am getting ready to write that blocked-out story (and wrote a story in October). I think I’ll be starting Beating the Apocalypse in December…somehow I just couldn’t do it in the heat of summer.

I think things are getting back on track writing-wise. Yay.

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“Going Gently” is pretty much finished

Or so it seems. It’s a rough draft finish, of course, and I think that I’ll probably polish it and release the polished version for sale in December.

Meanwhile, I’m going to make it available to my newsletter subscribers in rough draft form, with a cover that reflects that status. In some ways, this was a tough story to write while also being compelling. It was about death, and transition, and aging. Not sure I’m completely satisfied with the ending–I never am, especially in the roughs–but it did come to an end.

Will this be the final Netwalk Sequence work? To be honest, I’m not sure. I left some loose ends hanging because they’re relevant to the backstory in Star Shepherds (which is not going to be started until I get some other projects out of the way and do some necessary research). I may go back and tweak a few of those because one new character (who will be very relevant to Star Shepherds) doesn’t get enough foundation. But I couldn’t do that until I finished the story, and, well, gotta have time to format it into reading form and get it ready to go on BookFunnel.

But make no mistake, this is a transition story between Netwalk Sequence and Star Shepherds. I may write a few more stories set in this time period as world building for Star Shepherds. I just don’t know yet. There’s other writing I need to get done, which also includes some work on getting spec stories out instead of self-pub stories. And then there’s Beating the Apocalypse, which I’ve delayed starting because I thought I was going to have some conflicts that have now gone away.

I may still put off starting up Apocalypse until later in the month so I can get some short writing done. We shall see.

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A snippet from “Going Gently”

Um. Complications are happening today…here’s a little teaser. I swear, I didn’t know this was going to happen….

************

“That’s a relief.” Bess’s eyes narrowed and she stared at the globe. “Sarah. You’re worried about Kylee. Why?”

“If I could feel her so intensely before birth, what are these aliens going to think if they’re at all engaged in the virtual world? She’s got power in virtual. Untrained, unfocused, but she’s strong enough to get the attention of potential predators. We know the Nest claims that Earth’s early transmissions and virtual presence attracted them. What if Kylee is drawing these new aliens? What if they want to use her like the Nest wanted to do to you and Alex?”

Bess’s brown face went ash-gray. “I thought this was the kind of thing the Nest protected us from.”

“So did I.” Sarah’s form flickered and jagged flashes of green pixels pulsed from the top to the bottom of the hologlobe. “What’s up with the globe?”

Something slugged Melanie’s thoughts in virtual, an oppressive and hard blow almost as strong as her stroke had initially felt. She flailed back against the pressure and it eased. Her panic ebbed as the heaviness faded and she realized it wasn’t another stroke. Her head still throbbed but now she could identify the weight as a strong virtual presence.

*********

So yeah. I’m going to make the rough draft version of this available to my newsletter subscribers on September 5th. It may not be finished, or I may decide that I’ve reached the end for now (I do plan on coming to a stopping place), then come back and revisit it in October/November to have it out as a full release in December.

Yummy. This story is getting to be very interesting…..

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Going Gently…the new Netwalk Sequence story

Like I said yesterday, I had no real intention of opening the Netwalk Sequence again.

But this story, I tell you…it’s at 4300 words and growing. At this point, I’m looking at a probable novelette length. I don’t think it’s a novella, but I’ve been putting down a lot of breadcrumbs that could sustain a longer story than just 5000 words.

In this story, we’re seeing Melanie after a stroke, with her brother Andrew near death from cancer, and…one more crisis is thrown at them, at the end of their lifespan. I started moving past the basic mechanism of that original story concept to deal with these characters who are facing the question of “do I upload into digital life and why”–where the why may affect the long-term survival of humanity.

The question of aging, in a world where digital life is possible. It’s…interesting.

In any case, I expect to have it ready in rough form for a newsletter giveaway. Actual publication will be probably in November or December. Totally unplanned, but…worth it, I think.

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Netwalk Sequence…redux, and introducing Star Shepherds

I hadn’t planned to write anything further in the Netwalk Sequence after I finished Netwalking Space, at least not for a while. Oh, a far future version was on the publishing schedule (Star Shepherds),  but as for anything immediately after Space?

Not really.

And then a particular scene kept popping into my head when I drowsed off to sleep. An old Melanie and Andrew on the Moon, Andrew near death, and in need of Melanie’s assistance.

The scene kept haunting me. Why did Andrew want Melanie to come to the Moon so urgently, at an age and fragility when it would be daunting? To say goodbye, true–but there was something more going on.

Well, it’s a story. Possibly an introduction or worldbuilding for the foundation of Star Shepherds. I should be done with it in time to give it away for my next newsletter release. Let’s just say it’s an interesting premise.

(and if you’re not already subscribed to my newsletter, leave a comment or message me)

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Wrestling with a story–Beating the Apocalypse

This summer has been about the complete rewrite of a novella as I expand it into a full-length novel. Seeking Shelter at the End of the World came out from eTreasures Publishing over three years ago. It wasn’t one of my premium projects at the time (that honor went to a series, Netwalk Sequence) and I had been recruited to submit something to this small press because of my placement in an anthology that was an award finalist.

Well, cool. I had a short story and a novelette set in the same world, so I stuck them together to make a novella and sent it off, along with Pledges of Honor.

The writer-publisher relationship didn’t go well. I took the rights back to Pledges based on several technicalities, but I left Seeking Shelter alone to ride out the rest of the three-year-contract. It hadn’t been a priority and I had other projects ahead of it on the to-do list, certainly not enough to justify buying out the contract for early rights reversion. As near as I could tell, it wasn’t exactly selling that much, so I focused elsewhere–finishing the Netwalk Sequence, expanding Pledges into its own series (Goddess’s Honor), writing a fun short contemporary fantasy novel (Klone’s Stronghold).

Then things blew up a little over a year ago. I discovered that wait a minute, the story WAS selling (I had to make a right royal witch of myself to get a royalty report), and in the meantime I’d been noodling around with some concepts that would dovetail very nicely with the ending of Seeking Shelter. I thought it would be easy to repackage and get that story right back out there. But I wasn’t going to touch it until I had my rights back in hand (which proved to be a Very Good Idea, for Reasons–getting those rights back took a fight and I walked away from the promise of print publication, and for the record, I’m really glad I did). Still, I thought turning the book around and getting it out again wouldn’t be that hard.

Uh–no to the easy.

Seeking Shelter had suffered from a crappy first edit, of the sort where you send it back with blistering comments about how editorial recommendations don’t match the industry-standard basics (um…punctuating speech tags as action tags and vice versa, for one). Even as a less-experienced editor at the time I knew this editor screwed up. Fortunately, the second editing round was better, but I winced when I finally took a look at the story once the paperwork was done and I had rights back in my hot little hand. Dear God, it was a mess.

At the time Seeking Shelter was released, cli-fi was just starting to become a thing. The two stories had never quite been fully integrated–the short story piece, “Canaries,” was good enough to earn an Honorable Mention in Writers of the Future but it lacked sufficient worldbuilding to carry the premise. I could see where adding on the concepts I’d been noodling with over the past three years would be enough to make it a longer, better, book.

All right. I had the extension premise to work with. Slap that onto the back end of the existing story and get it back out there, right?

Uh, no.

Characterization of the antagonist reared its ugly head, since he was created from the finest cardboard. Ick. So I started digging around in what might motivate this guy (as well as fixing up a few things, bringing a dead secondary character back to life, creating the antagonist’s love interest, and…and…and.).

One thing kept leading to another. There’s been times when I’ve thought about walking away from this project, but on the other hand, the more I started poking at this world, the more promise I saw in it. Over the course of the last month or so, since Fishtrap, I’ve taken a deep breath and decided to go big with the story. It deserves much more than a slapdash, half-assed rewrite.

But finding the right path for this book hasn’t been easy. Various notes on paper and in Scrivener tell the tale. I decided the antagonist needed to have a voice. I went down various plotbuilding rat holes and dead ends. Meanwhile, we’re going through a horribly hot and dry summer which makes my brain fuzzy (I am SO not a hot weather person), while giving me inspiration.

All the same, I’m now at the point where I feel as if I can wrap my hands around the basic plot. I’ve added one more point of view, and today I did preblocking preparation so that I can sit down with my favorite yellow legal pad in landscape layout to block out the entire book. I still need to build elements of this world but now I KNOW the backstory and can go from there with it.

It’s a complete rewrite now. The first round rewrite just wasn’t enough. Bandaids and warts are visible. I’m going to start fresh, though there will be copying and pasting from the latest version into an entirely separate document. I may do this one in Scrivener to make things easier on me; at the very least things are going to be swapped back and forth between Word and Scrivener as the situation requires. Portions of the first 2/3rds of the book are written but as it stands, instead of 20,000 to 40,000 more words, I need to add about 60,000 words.

But I’m going to do it. This book is going to be much more kick-ass than its progenitor. Instead of Seeking Shelter at the End of the World, it’s now Beating the Apocalypse. I still intend to end it on a positive note–but there’s going to be a lot more to it than there was before. I’m projecting a late 2018/early 2019 publication date, just because I don’t think this one is going to come along easily. I may end up doing like I did with Klone’s Stronghold and putting it aside to get a Goddess’s Honor book, Choices of Honor, done (along with short stories, essays, and poems. It’s time to get back into spec short story writing). Choices is already semi-blocked out and I just need to do a few more prep things before I get rolling on it.

I’m still planning to put out the middle-aged ski bum memoir, Ski Days, this November. Most of that is taken from blog posts I wrote over the years about skiing.

It’s gonna be a fun ride.

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Summer Fishtrap 2018

I’m sitting on my porch in the summer warmth, working on my writing outside until the sunlight and warmth makes it uncomfortable to be outside any longer. Not that much writing has been going on until now, because I’ve been digesting and organizing my notes from this summer’s Fishtrap Gathering of Writers.

Fishtrap is just that kind of writer’s conference. The organization’s overarching theme is “promoting clear thinking and good writing in and about the West.” To that end there are workshops—the good writing portion—and then keynotes and addresses and afternoon discussions—the promoting clear thinking portion. It’s not a Fishtrap without both elements—and this year, the two portions came together quite smoothly—even for, or perhaps, this year, especially for, a science fiction and fantasy writer.

This year’s theme was “Living Upstream,” and the particular workshop I chose was “Write for Change, Live Upstream,” taught by Laura Pritchett. The “Living Upstream” theme ended up focusing not only on environmental issues but the intersection of environmental issues and social justice. The thematic portion flowed into daily discussions with other attendees simply because of issues they were struggling with in the themes they chose to write about—whether it was the current cli-fi apocalypse I’m rewriting to other writers’ subjects, including novels about white supremacists and racism in Oregon.

Not that the whole thing was full of doom, gloom, and despair. If anything, the focus was on empowerment, whether we heard about Tim Z. Hernandez’s search for the names of 28 Mexican deportees killed in a plane crash in 1948 while being sent back to Mexico in All They Will Call You, to Kathleen Dean Moore, Kim Stafford, and Gary Ferguson exhorting writers to think about the interdependence of systems, how we celebrate a dying world, realizing the connection between environmental degradation and social injustice, the blindness of privilege and how to repair it, and accepting our role as word warriors.

Speaking of word warriors, let me tell you about Tim Z. Hernandez, because if you’ve not read him yet, you should be. He initially resisted the lure of All They Will Call You, because he had already written about the 40s and didn’t want to be known as someone who only writes about that period. But as time passed, he realized that he was the one to do the work, to find those names so they could be placed on the mass grave for the deportees (while the white people killed were found and bodies sent to their homes). He tried to talk to the families, but only found three (or was it four?) by publication, then a few more to bring the total to seven. At the end of his kick-ass presentation, he brought us all to tears by reading the names of the deportees killed in the crash and having the audience repeat “Presente” for each name. I bought the book and devoured it, and I tell you, you need to read it. Even though it is set in the 1948s, his account of how some of those people killed in the crash made the decision to come to the US for bracero work is heart-rending—and still relevant today. The search for the names, the histories of those who died—it’s all that and more.

I’m still processing what I learned and discussed there. I left the workshop with poems, essays, and story ideas—and a deeper understanding of what I need to do with Beating the Apocalypse. Sometimes we need to look beyond genre to focus on that clear thinking and good writing…and this year was one of those moments when it all came together.

Even for this speculative fiction writer.

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On names and Klone’s Stronghold

Back when I was in junior high, I discovered that someone else shared my first and last name (but thankfully not the middle name). Since the other Joyce had a propensity for getting into trouble, I started using my middle name at school and other kid activities. But it wasn’t just a simple use of my middle name, Marie–I used variants of my name such as J. Marie, Marie J., Marie Mary, and so on.

That pretty much continued from 7th through 12th grades. Then the other Joyce and I took different routes, with only occasional confusion between us (there was yet another Joyce, an insurance saleswoman), such as the time the other Joyce had a baby with an ex-brother-in-law, and people got confused because they thought it was me.

So I tend to be a bit blase about people using multiple names for themselves. That hasn’t caught up with me until Klone’s Stronghold. Reeni and her uncle Jayanesh exhibit the same casualness about Reeni’s real name, which is Marie Irene. But it gets flipped around by Jayanesh and Reeni herself. I thought about correcting it when working on the final draft, but decided to let it stand because I wanted the usage to make a statement about Reeni’s confused identity. From Jayanesh, it shows his contempt for what Reeni truly is. From Reeni, it reflects her own confusion about her identity. It also gives me an opening to explore just why Reeni flips her name around in the next book–I could have put it into Stronghold but it just didn’t fit.

However, when I start work on Book Two next year, I intend to work with this concept of identity a bit more.

I promise.

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New book day! KLONE’S STRONGHOLD

Well, release day was actually YESTERDAY…but I wasn’t feeling well, and I’ve learned that doing promo work while not feeling well is not always the best thing to do.

Anyway, it’s out! My first foray into long-form contemporary fiction, Klone’s Stronghold, is now available online!

In a world of supernatural beings, not knowing what you are is dangerous.
 
After Reeni Dutta’s ex-husband Karl attacks her at a music festival, she finds a refuge teaching cryptid construct children at Klone’s Stronghold in northeastern Oregon’s isolated Bucket Mountains. But things are not as they seem at the Stronghold, from the older proprietors of a nearby store and the Stronghold’s leader Alexander Reed Klone, to Reeni herself. She discovers it’s not just Karl who seeks to control who and what she is, but forces from her past that threaten her present. Can she learn the truth about herself and do what is needed in time to defend the Stronghold?
 
Available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBooks, Kobo, and other places.
Books2Read link (takes you to Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and iBooks) https://www.books2read.com/u/m2vZDG

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