Getting Derailed

On January 4th I wrote a process post about the new Goddess’s Honor trilogy I plan to be working on during 2021. While high fantasy, it is going to be pretty darn political as it deals with a successor picking up the pieces of a failing empire in the face of a bigger threat.

Um.

I was working on worldbuilding the morning of January 6th, and not following the news or social media. I stopped a little bit before noon to start a Zoom meeting I was hosting for my local Soroptimist chapter. I was greeted with the blare of someone’s TV and the news that there was a violent assault happening on the US Capitol, apparently with the intent to stop the certification of the results of the 2020 election.

That put paid to doing any work on the trilogy for that day—and, to be honest, I still can’t get back to it. Writing the aftermath of necessary but horrendous regime change is still just a little bit raw.

But I wrote a long essay about Writing the Revolution, which is available over on my political Substack (https://joyce14d.substack.com/p/writing-the-revolution). I brought forward a project I’ve been musing about for some time now, which was to transcribe and post two term papers I wrote while working in politics and getting my Political Science degree. In addition, I have a pile of clippings and giveaway literature from the ‘80s and ‘90s that focus on the rise of the then-titled New Christian Right. The process of sorting and analyzing that literature, then writing about it, is going to be one of my side projects throughout 2021, along with republishing political work I wrote during the ‘90s.

For years I’ve been saying that we were going to have major political problems in the ‘20s. This material is the basis for those assertions.

But what about fiction?

Sooner or later I’ll get back to the new Goddess’s Honor trilogy, which still needs a title. I haven’t liked a lot of the suggestions but it may end up becoming Goddess’s Oath or Goddess’s Vow. Burden was suggested but it isn’t quite right. It should still be on track for release in late 2021 or early 2022, nonetheless. I just can’t focus on it until things settle down a bit on the political front.

That doesn’t mean I haven’t been writing fiction. I have…but the only character who’s speaking to me right now is Gabriel Martiniere. The Martiniere Legacy trilogy is Ruby’s story, just as The Heritage of Michael Martiniere is Mike’s—but Gabe has things to say, especially about those years between getting together with Ruby up to the opening of Inheritance.

It’s not going to be a big book (ha! I said that about Heritage as well. We shall see). First Christmas Together will be part of it, and between other pieces and the one I wrote about the birth of Gabe’s son Brandon this week, I’ve got about half the material I need already.

It will include what happened during Gabe and Ruby’s divorce. Early days at Moondance and Gabe’s relationship with his second wife Rachel. The formative elements which forged him into the man who could effectively stand up to Philip Martiniere, remarry Ruby, become the Martiniere, and speak out as an advocate for the elimination of indentured servitude.

I’m looking at a possible April/May publication date for Broken Angel: The Lost Years of Gabriel Martiniere. So yes, there will be a fifth Martiniere Legacy book.

Justine is slinking around scheming about her book as well, but we shall see how quickly she decides to speak up after Gabe’s book comes out. She may decide to stay silent.

We shall see.

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Writing Process–Worldbuilding, Early Stages

So here I am again. Facing the need to start building the world, characters, and plot lines for a new series. Well, this one is kinda new. It’s a second trilogy in the Goddess’s Honor world. But still. Here I am at the beginning once more.

Last year, sitting down to build the world and write the entire trilogy all at once, then release all at once in the fall, actually worked well for me. One of my frustrations in working with a series is remembering all of those niggling little continuity pieces, especially as the world shifts while I get to know it through writing. The reality is that you can plan, plan, plan and plot, plot, plot all you want but once the characters start interacting with the plot, stuff happens to change their backstory and even some of the earlier events in the story. I found this to be quite frustrating in writing both The Netwalk Sequence and Goddess’s Honor. Not so much with The Martiniere Legacy because I could go back and retcon things. And even though The Heritage of Michael Martiniere was partially written after the main Legacy trilogy came out, I still did not have the frustrations that I did with Netwalk and Goddess’s Honor.

As a result, I’m going to do the same thing with this trilogy. My timing is pretty close to what I was doing with the Legacy, and I’m actually starting a wee bit ahead because I’m picking up threads from the end of Goddess’s Honor and Judgment of Honor.

At this point in time I don’t even have a series title or book titles. I know it’s going to be a trilogy. But considering that I really didn’t have titles for the Legacy books until pretty late, I’m not worried about it.

I’ve been poking around at the various characters and what they need to accomplish in the series-wide arc, not the individual books just yet. It’s rather like scattering a pack of Tarot cards and looking at each one.

The Major Players

Here is Heinmyets. He played a minor but significant role in the Goddess’s Honor books. He’s going to be a major player in these books, because instead of retiring after handing the leadership of the Two Nations (Keldara and Clenda) over to his grandson Linyet, he ends up with a major diplomatic role in the reconstruction of the land of Daran. I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about Heinmyets and the role he plays. His experience with the magic breed of horses, daranvelii, will also be significant.

Katerin ea Miteal is no longer simple Katerin Healer. Leader of Medvara, mother of the new Empress of Daran. But the lands of Varen look to her to fulfill a growing need, especially since the nations of Varen face a growing challenge to the east instead of the dangers of the Darani Empire renewing their colonial ambitions. And she has a new romantic interest in her life, after years of mourning Witmara’s father Metkyi.

Witmara ea Miteal, Empress of Daran, has a huge hot mess on her hands. Her predecessor Chatain en Ralsem focused on colonial expansion instead of maintaining the lands he already had. It’s up to Witmara to fix them and correct the injustices that have been mounting in Daran for generations. That includes a lot of special interests, including a long-term insurgency by the Matriarchs of Ternar that has only now come to light.

Betsona ea Ralsem, half-sister to Chatain and Witmara’s most prominent supporter in Daran. Her mother was Ternarese but she was never a candidate for Empress due to disability caused by a magical accident when she was young. She is also a target for the Matriarch’s insurgency and is a focal point for some of those special interests. The interactions between her and Heinmyets become crucial, especially as they take on a romantic element. Until Heinmyets, Betsona’s only romantic involvement has been with her servant Seijina. She’s key to Witmara’s success…or failure.

The Minor Players

Imnari, Headwoman of Wickmasa, is not who she appeared to be in the Goddess’s Honor books. The village of Wickmasa has been paradoxical for many generations, and Imnari is part of that.

Orlanden, lover of Haran, the late brother of the Mershaunten of Larij. He’s more than willing to leave Varen after Haran’s death, and serves as an aide to Heinmyets.

Tilvi and Tilyet–sister and brother, distant cousins of Katerin and Witmara. Senior staff in Medvara’s agriculture division, selected by the land to serve as guardians of the leadership when Katerin is not in Medvara.

Rekaré, new Goddess of Sorrow–still learning how to be a Goddess, and dealing with Stuff.

Seijina–no romantic interest between her and Orlanden, but doesn’t mean the two of ’em aren’t scheming.

So it’s still a case of spreading the cards, and concocting the big arcs. Then I sit down and start piecing together the small arcs for each book.

Projected writing start time is sometime mid-month.

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Welcome 2021…and 2020 writing metrics

2020 tried to go out like it came in, with me dealing with a gut bug. Fortunately, unlike the bug that made the 2019-2020 transition miserable, this one was easily tossed back, but I was still pretty tired out. Today, it’s all about allergies acting up. No idea what is going on unless the ol’ bod is taking me through a retrospective tour of the Bugs of 2020.

Meanwhile, I finished the last preliminary edits of The Heritage of Michael Martiniere. Now it’s waiting for the editor’s comments. When I finished this pass of Heritage on the 30th, that was pretty much it for the world of the Martinieres. I know it is now because it just feels different. Instead of Ruby, Gabe, and Mike haunting me, the characters from the next set of books (which will be set in the Goddess’s Honor world) started speaking up. Oh sure, I could write more about the Martinieres and I might just do that in the future. But for now, that world is done, save for the final touches on Heritage. It’s been productive.

I didn’t keep details of the exact number of words I wrote in 2020, but it’s easy enough to figure out by looking at the books.

Each volume of the Legacy came out at around 90,000 words each, so roughly 180,000 words on the base Martiniere Legacy story.

Heritage is right around 114,000 words.

First Meetings, That Martiniere Look, First Christmas Together, and A Belated Christmas Honeymoon add about 20,000 words to the total, maybe a little more. Add in another 6,000 word Martiniere story out on submission and that’s 26,000 words of Martiniere short stories.

Overall, that’s roughly 294,000 words of novel.

26,000 words of short stories.

Roughly 320,000 words in all. Perhaps another 10,000 in stories that got started but dropped, or were story sketches.

Eh, so I guess I’ll claim roughly 330,000 words written this year, not counting the blogging. I would say that speaks of a productive year. Then again, except for two trips to Portland and RadCon, I didn’t go anywhere.

I published Judgment of Honor, Inheritance, Ascendant, and Realization this year. No short story releases that I can remember.

This was the year I also decided to step off of the short story treadmill after realizing this summer that I could either be a short story writer vying to get my work published by others, or else I could focus on novels and promotion of novels. I simply lack the energy to do both at age sixty-three. The Martiniere books are some of the best I’ve written, and I think it is because I just threw the short story stuff out the door instead of trying to juggle books and short stories. That said, the Martiniere short stories also rank amongst some of the better shorts I’ve written, at least in my opinion (especially That Martiniere Look and First Christmas Together).

One of the reasons for stepping off of the short story treadmill is that it’s a numbers game. In order to be selling regularly, one has to have something like 15-20 stories written and circulating. My best sales happened when I had that much inventory. Just like having an extensive back catalog helps with selling books, having a lot of shorts available makes sales much more likely. I’d fallen off of writing short stories and had something like nine in circulation.

I looked at the numbers and decided that I’d much rather focus on novel series, and working on short stories tied to the books. For one thing, writing a short story outtake is really helpful when I’m trying to figure out some character dynamics. For another, short stories tied to a series sell books. They serve as an easy introduction to the characters and the series with less investment.

What am I going to do with the unpublished short stories I still have in inventory? Well, some may just molder in the trunk. Others may end up being self-published (for example, Moving On, a climate change dystopian story told in letters). Still others may be fleshed out in more detail or revised as needed. And if I see an appropriate anthology call, I’ll pull them out.

Making that decision was actually a bit of a relief, really.

So what lies ahead? Well, besides finishing off Heritage edits and production work, I’m going to revise the first two books of The Netwalk Sequence. Both Netwalk and Netwalker Uprising are not up to current formatting standards, and I find them difficult to read as a result. Plus there’s a bit of revision needed for series continuity and tech updates. Those two reflect the reality that one is ten years old and the other not much younger. Additionally, I have three separate cover artists in that series and it just doesn’t work. They’ll be the Author Preferred 2021 Series and I plan to rerelease them in September.

The new writing will be a trilogy set in the Goddess’s Honor world. I already knew this was going to be a thing because while I’d finished the series arc, there were still storytelling situations left in that world. The new series is going to pick up those threads. Witmara has to wrestle with all the problems that Chatain left her in Daran. Her mother Katerin ends up leading the coalition of nations that make up the Free Nations of Varen–and has to deal with the Divine Confederation and the Outcast God to the East. She appoints Heinmyets to be Varen’s ambassador to Daran. Betsona helps Witmara, then is attracted to Heinmyets–and discovers a new source of strength. Meanwhile, Rekaré is learning how to be a Goddess.

But there’s also some tiny bits of discovery, such as the Headwoman of Wickmasa, Imnari, being much, much more than she first appeared to be. Oh yessss, this world is starting to talk to me again. Worldbuilding starts in earnest soon.

Meanwhile, I’ve also decided that I need to develop more visibility this year. To that end I’m going to try to be more active on Substack, Instagram, Goodreads, and yes, Twitter. I took a couple of Jane Friedman classes on platform and social media, and they pretty much confirmed what I’ve been doing so far and where I need to go next. I have the two papers I wrote on the early development of the New Christian Right back in 1980-81 that I’m going to put up on Substack, and will probably summarize a bunch of my files of right-wing movements in the Portland area during the late 80s-90s over there as well. Substack is probably where most of my political writing will end up, as well as my professional writing work.

I have a crapton of photos that will probably start going up on Instagram. Mostly landscapes and wildlife, but they’re connected to my various writing worlds.

I need to figure out how to link this blog to Goodreads so that it automatically crossposts, just like it does to my Amazon Central page.

I actually worked out a schedule and everything yesterday–a general schedule. This next week is going to be all about plotting out the specifics now that I have the general framework set up.

Not that many years left. I need to kick out the jams and make whatever splash I can–and 2021 needs to be that damn turnaround year.

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Slowly detaching from a created world and cover reveal

Like the prelim cover for Heritage? It’s pretty reflective of the book, so it’s science fiction with horses and dogs. And despite his Martiniere veneer, Mike Martiniere is still an Eastern Oregon cowboy because that’s how he was raised. Even if he does come from a rich and powerful family that controls an international consortium. But Mike has to face up to what the heritage of being a Martiniere means, including who and what he is–the clone of a powerful, vicious, and autocratic man, Philip Martiniere, who saw Mike as a disposable means to achieve immortality. Mike is Philip’s thirteenth clone attempt, and the only one to survive his progenitor.

I’ve been living in Mike’s head since August. Unlike most of my books, where I start at the beginning and work my way through, The Heritage of Michael Martiniere has been written in self-contained short pieces written to address certain themes. In fact, one of the major chunks, the interactions between Mike and his great-granddaughter/niece Lily*, were amongst the last pieces written because I couldn’t get my head around Lily for quite a while. Once I figured Lily out, the whole last section of the book came together and was written more or less linearly. Let’s just say that I finally figured out how to incorporate some inspirations from watching Swan Lake into a story.

*(um. It’s complicated. Mike was adopted and raised by his biological son Gabe after being rescued from his creator/progenitor Philip at the age of five. Lily is the daughter of Gabe’s son Brandon)

I’m jokingly calling Heritage “literary science fiction,” because while it’s near-future and has technological/cyberpunk elements, it’s also very focused on relationship, emotion, and what it means to be a clone to that clone as he grows up and has to deal with all the BS that goes with being a clone. It unfolds bit by bit, piece by piece, as Mike comes to terms with the physical, psychological, and political toxicity of his progenitor Philip…and to some extent, the Martiniere family. Mike is a very broken person because of what he inherits from Philip. But so are the people who raise him.

Anyway.

Yesterday I finished the first revision, which for me means taking paper edits of the rough draft and incorporating them into the main document. It’s the beginning of walking away from the story. It still has to go to edits, but the essential act of original creation has been completed.

For some reason I’m finding it hard to let go of this creation. Last night I actually came up with ideas for two more books in this setting…one, Broken Angel, about Gabe, and the other, Rescue Angel, about his sister Justine. Not ready to write those stories just yet but they could end up being a 2022 project. All the same, I have to wonder if the degree to which I immersed myself in the world of the Martinieres is due to the nature of the story, or the nature of writing something like this during Covid? I did achieve a lot while writing these books–approximately 270,000 words in the trilogy, Heritage at 115,000 words, and assorted short stories at around another 30,000 words. So close to 400,000 words this year, all in one world. That’s more than I’ve continuously written in a single setting before now. Part of this was due to the decision that I wanted to write the whole darn thing all at once before doing something else, unlike in the past when I was alternating Netwalk and Goddess’s Honor books.

Covid is a factor, all right. Without my other usual activities, this year in writing has basically been go to the computer, futz around on line, write for a while, go do some other stuff, then write some more. However, that decision to work in one world until I reached an endpoint in the major story arc was a huge chunk of this year’s production and it’s affected me in other areas.

I haven’t made jewelry. I haven’t made any quilts.

It’s just been writing, riding the horse, and getting out into the woods.

But now that I’m having to detach myself from the Martinieres, I’m finding it hard. Like I said…at least two more possible books. At least. And while I’ve written this world from the top layer, there are lower layer pieces that could be written as well.

I hate to say goodbye, but in the next week or so, the last pieces of this world get wrapped up and move from creation to production.

I’ll miss them.

 

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Random post-book thoughts

I finished The Heritage of Michael Martinere this last week–Wednesday, or maybe it was Tuesday, I can’t be certain now without going back to look at the Facebook/Twitter posts. Almost right away, I came across an article which not only clarifies something I did in Heritage but also somewhat underpins and supports the elements of The Netwalk Sequence. Food for thought, but it kind of blows up part of the ending of Heritage…and gives me something to think about for the next book, should I choose to write another Martiniere book. Which I think I may…there’s some elements I can still mine in that world. The whole indentured servitude/body modification issue…what happens when indenture gets wiped away quickly? What impact will it have on society? I’ve written about this from the upper end…now how about the everyday end?

Thinking about it. One problem is that I don’t feel confident about writing that kind of story. That might be an exercise that is good for me. On the one hand.

On the other…so many people write about the gritty side of things. I’m not sure I want to join those ranks, necessarily, and the everyday life in that particular world might not look so nice. Gotta think about it.

Then again, I do leave an opening at the end of Heritage for Mike and JoAnn to further that story. We shall see. I’m resisting the urge to print it out and do those revisions because I need to think about that major ending revision pretty darn hard. And Heritage is already at 117,000-some words.

But there’s other things going on besides the book and thinking about the next project (I always try to have December as a not-large-project month).

Mocha’s sore and I think it might be age plus frozen ground with no snow cushioning. And she did tweak something. I broke down and ordered a quarter sheet to go under the saddle when I ride, because I suspect that her back muscles are tight and perhaps a little extra warmth when riding might be useful. We’re doing short rides with a focus on bending and flexing–and the other day she suddenly came right after doing a little bit of two-tracking. Meds kicking in or she finally got warmed up? I don’t know for sure, but at her age it doesn’t hurt to pamper her a little bit.

We are reorganizing the house–all this time in it during Covid kinda has helped us revise our organization. A couple of chairs got relegated to the basement (one is an extra we don’t use but can come out post-Covid for visitors, and the other is my porch rocking chair that stays out once weather gets good in the spring). But there’s some other system stuff going on.

I generally start bringing the grooming caddy for Mocha inside once the weather consistently drops below freezing, because it has wet stuff in it that doesn’t take well to freezing. Because I also keep horse cookies in the caddy, I’ve been concerned about attracting rodents into the house so I’ve had it in the main house, which eats up space. This year, I’m keeping the caddy in a big garbage bag in the basement. Same for the big garbage bag. Soon I’ll be moving saddle into the basement and definitely the bridle I’ll be using most of the time so that it isn’t constantly cold. I’m also rotating halters because of possible fomites on gates etc when I’m at the ranch, and I want to keep all of that stuff out of the main house. Which means my boots also live in the garage instead of in the house.

I do like that setup. It’s much more efficient and then I don’t have a whole bunch of horse tack in the main house. The Western saddle is going to be the big challenge, though. It may just keep living in the horse trailer tack room.

We went for a “get OUT of the house” drive yesterday, first up to Wallowa Lake and then in the grain and hay fields to the east of town. Saw elk, a fox, lots of deer (both whitetail and mule), assorted raptors including eagles, and took some artsy photos.

But for the most part we’re hanging out and staying away from Covid. It’s a quiet life right now. I’ll take it.

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Holiday meals with my characters.

While cruising through social media this morning, I found a reference to a site talking about Thanksgiving with assorted science fiction and fantasy families. I thought about it a little bit, and decided it might be fun to do the same with my fictional families.

The Netwalk Sequence

First of all, I kinda did this already with Christmas Shadows (Amazon link here). From the blurb:
FOR the first time in years, Diana Landreth is looking forward to a quiet Christmas at home with her family. Or can she? Her mother, a leader in the new Third Force government, has become strangely uncommunicative. The random, disruptive attacks by rogue war machines on cities worldwide may call both Diana and her husband, Will, out to capture the machines. Then Diana learns that her mother’s ex-lover may be involved in the mechanisms that created the Disruptions.

It’s going to be one heck of a Christmas Eve dinner.

Yeah, that pretty much sums things up in that world. You’re gonna have lots of political scheming going on. There should probably be a therapist on site because there are a LOT of problems with the Stephens-Landreth-Fielding family. Meals go along with personal, political, and corporate negotiations. Lots of tense meals or else refueling in order to take on some big problems with physical demands. Holiday dinners in this world are gonna be fraught, even in calm times, because someone’s always got an agenda. Even if it is just close family members. Would I go to a meal with one of these folks? Maybe one or two of them in private. But the family as a whole? Um. No. I have more respect for my sanity than that. I don’t recommend you do it, either.

Goddess’s Honor

Food can be almost ritualistic in this world. Witmara decides to make breakfast pancakes en route to challenging the Emperor Chatain in order to settle her nerves. Her parents Katerin and Metkyi have a lovely dinner after a scary encounter with Zauril’s military forces, the day before they’re part of a challenge to Zauril’s leadership. Katerin’s assistant Colerei quickly finds her preferred role as baker, cook…and preparer of Katerin’s medical salves in Pledges of Honor. When meals are political, though…things do get tense. These folks are the ones you want to eat with on a road trip, though. You will eat well. I’d probably have a meal with them. They’re like having a chill Thanksgiving with your family of choice, and nice and quiet. Maybe not entertaining, but quiet.

The Martiniere Legacy

Let’s just get this out of the way right from the beginning. The Martinieres are fucking paranoid and they need to be. They exist in a world where public banquets can have adulterants that make attendees susceptible to mind control manipulation, and not a one of ’em trusts even events put on by friendly allies because the Martinieres developed a LOT of that technology. Besides, having one of ’em show up at your event can result in–um–interesting situations such as cyborgs attempting assassinations. And in the work in progress (The Heritage of Michael Martiniere) , Mike detects an attempt to drug him and kill his wife JoAnn. Ruby and Gabe have a huge argument during their first meal in public after their divorce, while working through issues that lead to their reconciliation. But their first marriage concluded with a big fistfight at an expensive restaurant that got both of them arrested.

Privately, though? Oh hell yes, I’d go to a Martiniere family meal, especially at Ruby’s Double R Ranch. Ruby raises her own veggies–legacy of the world in that mid-21st century era and food shortages. She has been known to grind her own grains for flour, plus her lab manager is experimenting with distilling from the ranch’s grains. And they have grass-fed ranch-raised beef…and locally-sourced other meats as well. A turkey on that table might just be one that one of the Martinieres hunted…or you could end up with venison. It would be good food and fun, though if I were you I’d plan to stay overnight if you go to a private Martiniere big dinner. You’ll get stuffed and the alcohol flows freely. But there will be music, entertaining conversation, and dancing, and you’ll have a good time. The Martinieres work hard and play hard.

The other part is that they tend to be grazers. Lots of deli trays and veggie trays for these folks because the Martinieres are busy people and lunchtimes in particular tend to get consumed on the run. Though Mike does have a special fondness for pain au chocolat.

Anyway, it was kinda fun to think about the role that special meals play in my worlds….

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2021 Awards Eligibility Post

Taking a deep breath because I’m not sure how well this is going to work, but damn it, I sure do believe in these books.

I have already nominated Inheritance (the first book of The Martiniere Legacy) for the Neukom and Dragon Awards, but I would certainly appreciate more Dragon nominations and votes when voting time comes around! Also planning to submit to the Endeavour Award.

Anyway. My major candidates for awards eligibility this year are…the three books of the main Martiniere Legacy series (Book Four, The Heritage of Michael Martiniere, will be coming out in late February/early March, depending on editing and cover processing). The trilogy fulfills an overall arc and Book Four is a standalone. Not sure if that means it’s eligible as a series.

Awards eligibility: Novel, possibly series.

What The Martiniere Legacy is about:

In the year 2059, climate change, economic uncertainty, and significant debt frequently leads to indentured servitude for individuals. That includes ranchers and farmers. Some of the more daring resort to competing in the AgInnovator, a game show that provides funding for agriculture technology innovations, in hopes of financing the launch of creative agtech solutions without crossing that fine line that will throw them into the indentured ranks.

When AgInnovator introduces a new competitive category, the Superhero, to commemorate their 25th anniversary in 2059, the finalists include ex-husband and wife Ruby Barkley and Gabe Ramirez. Through the competition Ruby and Gabe discover that a malign purpose underlay the causes for their divorce. This shadowy inheritance threatens the future of their son, Brandon, a producer of the Superhero segment of the AgInnovator. In order to save Brandon from being forced into the ranks of the indentured, Gabe has to acknowledge his hidden past as a member of the powerful Martiniere family. He must vie with his cousin Joseph and Joseph’s father Philip for the leadership of the family company, the Martiniere Group.

As Ruby, Gabe, and Brandon delve deeper into the secrets of the Martiniere legacy, they discover secrets upon secrets. Not only is Gabe not who he once thought he was, but Philip and Joseph have condoned interdicted human experimentation on indentured workers. Indentured workers are being held beyond the expiration of their contracts, not just in the Martiniere Group, but in other companies. And now a new class of indentured workers appears with significant body modifications and programmable loyalties. They aren’t quite cyborgs…but how far away from being cyborgs are they?

Inheritance: The Martiniere Legacy Book One

Rancher Ruby Barkley and her ex-husband Gabe Ramirez are competing head-to-head for the AgInnovator game show’s new one-shot award, the Ag Superhero. The winner walks away with $3.75 million per year for five years, with no accountability or need to re-earn the Superhero, unlike the Innovator’s other awards.

But issues beyond those raised by their long-ago acrimonious divorce face Ruby and Gabe. Fence cutting. Rogue biobots destructively ranging beyond programmed parameters. Physical attacks. And the realization that they may need to reunite to save their son Brandon from indentured servitude.

Then the secret shadow of Gabe’s hidden inheritance reveals itself. Will he step up to the Martiniere Legacy—and what role will Ruby accept in any future they may share?

Amazon link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08JYJNN7B

Other stores: https://books2read.com/u/b6ZNZ6

Ascendant: The Martiniere Legacy Book Two

Six months after the triumphant collaborative conclusion of the AgInnovator Superhero game show, Ruby Barkley and her ex-husband Gabriel Martiniere still struggle with the professional and personal fallout from their victory. The Superhero money allowed Ruby to launch her line of agricultural biobots. But one of the RubyBot spinoffs, the Defender, leads to unsettling revelations about crop tampering using body-modified indentured workers. Their son Brandon uncovers even more disturbing information about the abuse of indentureds as he campaigns to end it. All of these disclosures lead back to the Martiniere Group, the family corporation controlled by Gabe’s malevolent uncle, Philip Martiniere.

Meanwhile, Ruby and Gabe wrestle with what form their resumed relationship will take, as Ruby contemplates whether she wants to take on the role of a Martiniere wife. The revelation that Gabe’s father is not who they thought, and Philip’s attempt to force Ruby away from Gabe once again confirms her decision. But the need to rescue one of Brandon’s valued indentured informants turns celebration into catastrophe. Will Ruby and Gabe be able to recover from this disaster—or will Philip triumph yet again in his campaign to destroy Gabe?

Amazon link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08KHNTKT9

Other stores: https://books2read.com/u/bwd5Wy

Realization: The Martiniere Legacy Book Three

The indentured labor wars heat up as Ruby Barkley and Gabriel Martiniere struggle with medical complications that interfere with their fight to stop the sinister goals of Gabe’s father Philip. Discoveries by their son Brandon about the degree to which Philip and the family corporation, the Martiniere Group, are involved in unethical, interdicted human experimentation push them into accepting a questionable treatment to speed their recovery.

Philip’s direct challenge initiates Gabe’s final push to take over the Martiniere Group. Ruby and Brandon consolidate family support behind Gabe. When a high-profile assassination attempt at a political banquet reveals the existence of cyborged Martiniere descendants and clones of Philip intended to provide him with replacement parts, Ruby and Gabe must take action. One clone—Michael—still survives.

Along with their bid to win control of the Martiniere empire, Ruby and Gabe now face the dilemma of what is to be done with Michael. Can they save both the family and Philip’s clone—or should they even try?

The realization of their dreams is within Ruby and Gabe’s reach. Can they fulfill it while still remaining true to themselves?

Amazon link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08KHP5D4G

Other stores: https://books2read.com/u/4NLAR8

And thank you very much to anyone who buys and/or reviews and nominates these works!

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Happy Book Day, INHERITANCE!

The Martiniere Legacy didn’t exist, even in concept, a year ago. I was wrapping up the Goddess’s Honor fantasy series and poking around at starting work on a much-postponed Weird West series (but was still wrestling with issues of colonialism and all that not-so-good stuff, trying to articulate how to write an anti-colonialist settler narrative. Still working on that). And then I learned that a friend was taking book pitches to kick off his small press at OryCon.

What the hell, I thought. I tossed around ideas, and kept coming back to “embattled ranch woman seeks financing to promote a biobot that will save her ranch from being sold out from under her.” I was starting to get fascinated by the exponential growth in agricultural technology and approaches to agriculture that would directly address climate change. But I wasn’t seeing these innovations being reflected in current science fiction, whether it was traditional publishing or self publishing. Hmm. And I knew that the friend had an agricultural background. So why not?

I worked up a rough pitch in twenty-four hours, and got modest encouragement. So. I started focusing on The Ruby Project, as I was calling it at the time. I spent two months reading agtech articles and poking at the story.

It became more complicated, as the ex-husband who was supposed to be the baddie of the story rebelled, telling me that he had a complicated backstory that I needed to think about. All of a sudden issues of debt-caused indentured servitude became a part of the story. Ruby and Gabe had to work together to keep their son Brandon safe. And then a drive from Portland back to Enterprise added an additional element when the Gorge radio station started talking about Small Business Revolution, an online game show where small cities competed against each other to earn cash prizes and promotion from an affiliated PR firm.

Huh, I thought. And so the AgInnovator was born.

But I still needed a driver for just who wanted to see Ruby and Gabe divorced, and who had a big enough grudge to keep coming after them, to the point of endangering their adult son.

Enter the Martiniere family and Philip Martiniere.

And then enter Covid-19. The Ruby Project became a trilogy, and then The Martiniere Legacy.

And now Book One, Inheritance, is out today.

It’s available on Amazon, Kobo, Apple, and Nook. Except that…sigh. Nook is currently problematic because Barnes and Noble has been hacked. THANK YOU 2020….NOT!!!

Anyway. Here are the links.

The next two books in the series come out on October 31 and November 15th, so you won’t be kept in suspense for very long…and they are available for preorder. Paperback copies can be ordered through the Books2Read link.

AND THANK YOU FOR BUYING AND READING!!!

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Life in perpetual smoke

First of all…I am (at the moment) nowhere near any active big fires.

However, the Oregon wildfires have had some impacts on me–emotionally, as places I knew as a child and young adult either went up in flames or have been under threat. But I’ve had a lot of friends affected by the fires. Some have lost homes and vacation cabins. So far no deaths. The Holiday Farm fire near Eugene was very visceral, especially as my old high school was first an evacuation center, then was under assorted evacuation warnings. The small valley northeast of Eugene where I lived from ages 9-20 was evacuated and under threat. One of my favorite places in the Eugene-Springfield area, the McKenzie River corridor, was hard hit by the fires. And while I knew places up the Santiam, I just never have had the same connection to Detroit etc that I did to Blue River. Difference between childhood and adult lives, I guess.

There’s been a more tangible affect from the fires, though, and that’s been heavy smoke. Ever since the winds shifted back to a normal seasonal flow of sorts, my small town three hundred miles from those big Cascade fires has been buried in smoke. Not to the same degree as Portland, Seattle, Salem, and Eugene…but still hovering around 200 AOI for nearly a week.

One problem is that my sinuses (but fortunately not my lungs, apparently) are very reactive to smoke. Legacy of growing up with heavy cigarette smokers and then spending several weeks every summer experiencing smoke from grass seed field burning in the lower Willamette Valley. Back in the 60s and very early 70s there weren’t many regulations about field burning, and it was considered necessary to sterilize the field against weeds and other problems after harvest. I do remember the awful day (Black Tuesday? Friday?) when Eugene and Springfield got socked in with smoke so bad that the skies were a lot like we’re seeing in pictures of the Willamette Valley under 500+ AQIs.

After that, there were plans to only burn when the winds blew in a certain direction. But…that brought the smoke from the Willamette Valley into that little valley where I lived. It wasn’t at the same sustained level as the current wildfire smoke–that is, it would clear out from day to day. All the same, I had a lot of smoke exposure. When I became an adult, my reactive sinuses kept me from doing a lot of barhopping because…well, I’d get nailed by cigarette smoke. Going to a bar to hear a band–or just about any venue in that era–meant dealing with smokers and exposure issues.

When the wildfire smoke settled in here, in NE Oregon, at first I wasn’t too worried. We’ve dealt with heavy smoke before and I wasn’t reactive.

Not so this time. By the second day of heavy, choking smoke, my sinuses were shutting down and I was having problems. Oh, the pulse oximeter said I was all right, so it was just the sinuses flaring bad. I ended up grabbing one of the N95 dust masks with valves to wear inside to see if that helped, and started running a small essential oil diffuser with just water in it to see if that helped (note: I CAN’T DO OILS WHEN MY SINUSES ARE LIKE THIS. PLEASE DO NOT START RECOMMENDING THAT I USE OILS OR HERBS OR ANYTHING AROMATIC. THE SCENT MAKES THINGS WORSE IN A SINUS FLARE. I WILL YELL AT YOU IF YOU DO.). It did, and I didn’t need to take any decongestants–yay.

That was a week ago. I’m still wearing the mask during the daytime because my sinuses are much happier with me when I do.

Yesterday, I took advantage of diminished levels to ride my horse from one pasture to another. It knocked me out afterward because “diminished levels” still meant an AQI of 170 or so.

But progress is happening. The AQI is declining by ten points a day now. We have an air purifier on order, as well as a bigger humidifier/diffuser.

I can even go for short periods during the day without wearing the mask.

All the same, this is one thing from my childhood that I really am not thrilled about reexperiencing. Sigh.

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As the story twists….

I’m deep in the weeds with The Heritage of Michael Martiniere, and starting to realize that there may be at least one other book dealing with this character. When I first thought about Heritage, it was because I wanted to continue the story of a character who shows up toward the end of  The Martiniere Legacy Book Three: Realization. I’d pretty much concluded a trilogy arc in Realization, and Heritage was intended to focus on some issues that attracted me: namely, Michael coming to terms with being the clone of a toxic, manipulative, man (Philip Martiniere) with significant health issues that Michael was intended to help remedy. I also didn’t intend to write the story in a linear fashion but focus on specific issues and relationships that shape Michael’s progression.

Parts of the story are chugging along quite nicely. Mike has flaws. He’s significantly damaged, not just physically but mentally, by what happened to him before he was rescued by Ruby and Gabe, the protagonists of The Martiniere Legacy. Writing short pieces about how that damage gets addressed is coming along quite nicely, and not writing it linearly means I can pop from one self-contained section to another (Scrivener is proving to be quite useful for this purpose). There are some rather dark scenes that I can work on until I’ve maxed out, then jump over to something not quite as grim.

Well, for the most part I can do that.

But there’s one relationship that keeps evading me, and I realized yesterday what it is and why it is.

Lily. Biologically, she’s Mike’s great-granddaughter. She’s the daughter of Brandon, who as Gabe and Ruby’s son serves as a sort of mixture of big brother and father figure to Mike. Lily’s conception was not supposed to happen as her mother Kris was still under the influence of indentured hormonal and birth control tags. Such conceptions are known to happen in this world, but for the most part they tend to miscarry due to…not very nice distortions of the development process. What isn’t known until Lily is a pre-teen is the cognitive impact of those tags on psychosocial development. Everyone worried for a while that Mike would turn out to be like his progenitor Philip, who was…toxic, manipulative, etc, etc.

But it turns out that Lily is the one the family should have been worried about.

And that’s what I’m struggling with. The interactions of Lily and Mike. Mike is seven years older than Lily. He ends up having to confront her because Lily tries to revive the institution of indenture, and leads a cult venerating Philip.

I’ve had a hard time writing Lily and Mike. Yesterday I realized why. It’s a different book from Michael’s coming to terms with himself as Philip’s clone and his struggles with being a clone. In a lot of ways, realizing this is a huge relief. I’m not ready to write those confrontational scenes. Hell, to write Lily.

So I’m going to write a few notes to myself, and keep on working with the central issues of Heritage. While I’m not necessarily looking forward to what dealing with the structure of this book will be once I know it’s completed, moving the conflict with Lily out of the book except for side references in other self-contained units, makes my focus on Michael’s clone issues more central…which it is supposed to be.

That’s a relief.

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The Martiniere Legacy: Book One, Inheritance; Book Two, Ascendant; and Book Three, Realization will be released in Fall 2020, along with side stories and sketches. More specific information can be found in my newsletter which comes out toward the end of each month. Sign up for my newsletter at https://tinyletter.com/JoyceReynolds-Ward for release dates.

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