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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Working on the trails

Last Saturday I got to ride a mule as part of ongoing volunteer work to open up local trails in the Wallowas and Hells Canyon. Alas, I don’t have pictures, except in my mind.

I’ve been wanting to ride a mule for some time now, so when one team leader said he had an opening for a mule rider, I jumped for it. The mule in question was Bat, female, a half-Belgian sorrel mule from a Belgian draft mare and a standard jack, trained to drive, pack, and ride. She stands about 15.2 hands high (that is, 15 hands, two inches), probably weighs about 1300-1500 lbs, has big bones, and is an older mule.

We went up the Wing Ridge stock driveway which is on the east side of the Eagle Cap Wilderness. The trail is not meant for most hiker use–it goes straight up a steep ridge with only a few switchbacks. As it were, we stopped frequently to let our party of three mules (two ridden, one packing, all mature older equines) and one horse (three-year-old gelding, big and stout, working on getting wet saddle blankets and experience) catch their breath. And trim a few annoying branches here and there as well. During one stop, a mated pair of ruby-crowned kinglets landed in the lodgepole thicket just a foot away from me, so close that I could have touched them had I wanted to. The female had some sort of fluff in her beak and the male’s ruby crown was flared out in mating display. It took me a moment to identify them because I’d only seen them in winter coat before, not spring and summer. They didn’t seem to be bothered by a rider so close to them.

The area burned in a hot fire thirty years ago, so it is full of skeletal, whited snags and young lodgepole and Ponderosa regrowth. In one place, the wind blowing through the snags moaned and howled in a convincing imitation of wolf calls–something the team leader pointed out with a chuckle, because while there are wolves in the area, it was clear from the equine calmness that what we were hearing was trees and not wolves.

Bat and I had the brief discussions that come along with experienced equine used to carrying riders of all skill levels, that is to say, she threw some brief tests at me and I let her know that while I deferred to her judgement on some things, it wasn’t all going to be her way. She wasn’t happy about the young horse coming close to her hind end and pulled faces at him, tossing her head at him with pinned ears as a warning. Except for the bigger head and longer ears, Bat’s expression was darned near identical to Mocha’s in a similar situation. There’s something both comic and yet more threatening when that facial expression comes from a longears, though. Mules seem to have more expressive and comic faces, but those big pinned ears are a definite threat–until they flop. Going downhill, she also kicked at him several times, popping up her hind end for a double-barrel warning.

But she was also calm and sturdy, and definitely sure-footed. More sure-footed than Mocha? That’s not the difference. What really shows up as the big difference between Mocha and a mule or the stouter horses preferred here is durability and stability. Mocha is much smaller than Bat at 14.2 hands high and about 1000-1100 lbs at her heaviest. Her feet are tiny in comparison and she lacks the support of a sturdy, solid frame of a standard-sized mule like Bat or even the typical frame of the stout phenotype of horses preferred in these canyons. She’s not bred to work this country, and even though she’s catty-footed and strong, she would break down a lot sooner than Bat. Not her fault. Bat’s extra bone and sturdiness makes her more stable when going downhill and rider balance is not going to throw her off too much. Mocha needs a more experienced rider who can keep their balance because she’s so light in comparison. Seriously. I’ve ridden Mocha down similar steep slopes and I could tell that I needed to work much less with Bat where I would have either dismounted or aggressively maintained my balance with Mocha. Bat has the body to compensate for a bad step in those conditions. Mocha doesn’t. There were moments when I really noticed that difference with Bat.

So that was interesting.

That wasn’t all I learned from this work trip. The team leader is an experienced packer and the son of an experienced packer. He used the Decker packsaddle with clip-on canvas bags (carrying hard hats, clippers, axes, backpack, and pulaski), then dropped ropes on each side to secure the loads and tie a four-foot crosscut saw on top. I had lots of questions about packing and watched, wishing I’d had a camera to take even more pictures.

And I got to use the crosscut saw! First time for that. We had to leave the stock after about two miles and continue on foot for about another three-quarters of a mile due to snowbanks with uneven consistency. For the most part, humans could walk across the top of the occasional snowbank without sinking in, but there still was the occasional postholing moment. Not at all safe for stock, even led instead of ridden. The young horse Had A Moment in one snowbank but all came out well. Our goal was to eyeball one nasty fallen log just before the wilderness boundary and decide whether hand tools would be sufficient, or if a chainsaw was needed (okay because it was outside of the wilderness). The verdict was that the chainsaw was needed, especially since there were several other tough logs that would be best done by chainsaw before we got to that one problematic log.

We ended up cutting 7-8 big logs. The most challenging one was about 12 inches in diameter and had fallen across the trail to hang up in trees on the other side, at about 8 feet high. When we passed on doing the other log by hand we decided to do this one instead.

Then we headed downhill to a waiting barbecue. The mules and horse got their own version of the barbecue by getting to hand graze for a little bit before the humans went off for burgers and beer.

Dang, that was fun.

 

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