Category Archives: Netwalk Sequence

Musing over categories

COVER

Poor Netwalk’s Children. I think it’s the best book so far of the Netwalk Sequence, but it’s getting hardly any attention. Some of that is possibly the cover; more might be due to the difficulty of finding a good category to put the story in. I know that there are readers out there who would like the story. But where to find them, where to find them…especially through keywords!

One of the challenges is that the story is a cross between cyberpunk and multigenerational corporate family sagas. The cyberpunk aspect has to do with the nature of Netwalk and Netwalkers and their interface with the gadget not-so-fondly known as the Gizmo, a war machine of mysterious origin. The Gizmo is controlled by an international body known as the Corporate Courts, a legacy from the somewhat dystopian period of the mid-21st century when the government of what once was the United States went through multiple upheavals, the Middle East became the Petroleum Autonomous Zone (no, I’ve not written that story and I’m somewhat afraid to go there….). One of the Corporate Courts’s functions is the promotion and development of space colonies and space stations for various reasons, including industrial development as well as expanding human residency in space. Think of it as a means of providing an off-Earth governing body.

The multigenerational corporate family saga piece is that we see the social and political organization of this particular world through the eyes of the female corporate leaders of one family, the Stephens-Andrews-Landreth family. With Children, we enter the fourth generation of the story, with three generations alive and two digitally uploaded after her death. The uploaded matriarch, Sarah Stephens, knows a lot about the Gizmo and its ultimate aims, and doesn’t trust the damn gadget as far as she can throw it. Her son-in-law William Landreth, late husband to Sarah’s daughter Diana, is also an uploaded Netwalker and his opinion matches Sarah’s. However, Diana doesn’t necessarily agree with Sarah, which causes a problem since Diana is also Sarah’s living Netwalk host (Netwalkers need live hosts to recharge and stay sane). The connection between Diana and Sarah has been fraying for years but everyone’s been willing to work around it until now.

Will and Diana’s daughter Melanie, who is the head Enforcer (those who police and manage Netwalkers and their hosts) and also president of the family bioremediation/Netwalk chip producer company Do It Right (Netwalk grew out of the development of wireless communication with bioremediation nanobots and drones) has a lot to manage. Years ago she split with the Corporate Courts, maintaining links only through the High Space Treaty that controls space development and travel, because of the Gizmo’s effect on her daughter Bess. One of the mandatory elements of Corporate Courts leadership is exposure of their children to the Gizmo in order to improve and facilitate linkages with Gizmo resources including access to Netwalk, as well as bond them to the goals of the Courts. The Gizmo took a strong dislike to Bess and tried to kill her as an infant. A similar but less dramatic event happened when Melanie’s brother Andrew exposed his son Richard to the Gizmo.

Meanwhile, Melanie and Andrew have a contentious past history, including the two of them nearly killing each other in the early days of Netwalk when Andrew was possessed by the uploaded personality of their uncle Peter. However, since they’ve both become parents, they’ve been cautiously rebuilding their relationship behind closed doors. Publicly, they’ve not been allies. Privately, well, they aren’t best buddies but the connections have improved.

So that’s the backstory. In the book, the Gizmo starts manipulating people to break free from its restraints, focusing on Richard (Rick) as its tool to get to Bess and use Bess’s strengths. Melanie and Andrew make their new alliance public and find a new ally outside of the Courts. Sarah and Diana have it out and Sarah cultivates a relationship with Bess, who she wants to have as her new host.

POV characters are Sarah, Melanie, and Bess. With the addition of Bess we get a YA-type character but the book isn’t necessarily YA. So this is a mess of genres, and I’m trying to find the best label for the whole dang thing. “Cyberpunk” doesn’t necessarily cover everything that’s going on in the book. “Multigenerational family saga,” however, isn’t necessarily the first thing one thinks of when looking at cyberpunk. I guess I’d probably pitch it now as “Dallas meets Cyteen” but that still doesn’t give me a label. One friend suggested “regency cyberpunk” or “cyberpunk regency,” but then that has way too many echoes of steampunk, as I’ve discovered when trying out the label on other folks.

Dang. It’s a dilemma, for sure.

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Adventures in self-publishing

So today was designated as Make Chapbook for Worldcon today. I’d gone out of my way to make sure that the paper cutter came with me but I needed that for bookmarks, not chapbooks…and I realized that the long-arm stapler still lives in the garage in Portland and I’m up here in Enterprise. ARRGH. I called a local print shop, and they had one handy.

But. I had to format the chapbook first, and…well, while I had written instructions on how to transform it from Scrivener to Word, I’d left out a few formatting steps. And it had been eight months since I’ve last done this. Fortunately, I could refer back to the first chapbook I produced, both in Scrivener and in Word, and between the two I finally got everything put together. The cover ended up being easier than I thought.

The one thing I hadn’t counted on was how thick the chapbook was. It didn’t help that when I tried to use the print shop stapler, I inadvertently was trying to staple two chapbooks. Still, I came home, carefully rolled the back page, and used my heavy-duty stapler to do the job. Success!

The books are now stacked under a pile of heavy books to flatten them out. One reason I made them was so that I would have something light to carry around Worldcon for sale, trade, or giveaway. And the story?

Why this one, of course:cover

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Valentine Disruptions now live

cover

It’s also free through the 18th, 99 cents after that, at Amazon.

Blurbage: Between work, family, and national security obligations, it’s been years since Diana and Will Landreth have been able to plan a romantic getaway. Now they’re finally escaping…but the Disruption Machine crosses their path. Will they be able to capture the Machine and still have a romantic moment?

There’s a few landmarks in this story. While Diana and Will are the main characters, I’m also showing you a little bit about Sarah Stephens as well.

Valentine Disruptions is part of a new series of short stories, “The Disruption Chronicles,” about the effects of the Disruption Machine and its pursuit/capture on my characters and the world around them. When any place on Earth can be subjected to an unexpected, devastating, attack from a war machine with abilities above any known technologies, including the ability to deliver mutated quick-acting viruses, nerve gases, and radiological poisons, what does that do to attitudes, economies, and governments? I’m rather reluctant to dive full bore into writing a single book about it because every time I think about the idea, I bounce back. It’s a big concept, obviously. But it’s something I need to wrap my brain around because it’s foundational for the Netwalk Sequence books I still have planned–because the Gizmo is the Disruption Machine, captured, and the capture of Gizmo plus subsequent fallout is what broke Sarah, not to be repaired until after her death and Netwalk resurrection.

I first started poking at this idea in a Netwalk Foundations piece, Lucifer Has Fallen. That will come out in a revised version sometime this spring. I also plan to address the creation of the Corporate Courts, the alienation of Diana and Sarah, the death of Anne Whitman, and some other things in these shorts. I just can’t do them as a book. It’s too big, and…too many short arcs. They won’t come out in chronological order, either. However, I do plan to put them together in an omnibus and at that point they’ll be in chronological order.

Oh, and I finally figured out how one goes about creating a plain background in Gimp. This will speed up cover production mightily, especially for these short pieces where I don’t have much of a picture selection to use for the cover. I need to play with graphics more, but where the time will come for that…who knows?

Time to head out for the day. Have fun, folks.

Oh, and I’m beginning the serious outline blocking for Netwalk’s Children today. The Disruption Chronicles are crucial for my understanding of Children, helping me understand why I’ve been blocked for so long on that story. Now…it’s time to write it.

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Valentine Disruptions finished

Title says it all, came in at over 10,000 words. Of course when I start writing a romance, there ends up being bangety-bangs, pew pew, and lots o’ angst and family drama. Isn’t that the best type?

A wee snippet:

“What do you want, Francis?” Diana asked, hoping to draw attention away from her mother if Sarah was actually carrying a weapon in her gloves. She could be. God, she hoped Sarah carried a weapon up her sleeve.

“The Machine.”

“No!” Will and Sarah said together.

“Then you’ll die,” Francis said. “Starting with Diana and Sarah.” One of his skimmer gun turrets began to whine open.

“You ever think about who and what restrains me from doing my worst?” Will’s voice was dead and cold, reminding Diana of how his father spoke when issuing deadly threats.

“You dance to the Third Force’s tune.” The skimmer gun turret door stopped, half-open. “You got rid of your father’s weaponry. You’re still under indictment because they don’t trust you.” Was that a trace of uncertainty she heard in Francis’s voice?

“For a good fucking reason,” Will whispered, the ice in his voice sending chills down Diana’s spine and making the back of her neck prickle. “And if you think it’s the Third Force that’s tamed me, that kept me from turning into my father, you’re wrong. There are three reasons I submit and you’ve just threatened all three of them.” Light flared behind them, tracing over their heads, arcing toward Francis’s skimmer…

The skimmer exploded faint moments before the light completed its arc. Light flashed back to the Machine. Diana whirled and raced toward Will and the X-57. A second, smaller blast detonated over the Machine, overloading her sensors after the previous explosion so that the world went black. This one was close enough to shake through her body.

But the X-57 links held. So it still existed.

Will? The X-57 would protect him, wouldn’t it?

“Text links dead,” Will rasped, his voice still carrying that cold overlay. “Brenda, tear that skimmer wreckage apart for any traces of a body. Diana–” The coldness dominated Will’s voice but she heard the faint thread of pain. “I–” he gasped.

Will held himself upright as she joined him, studiously not leaning on the X-57 except for one hand locked around a grip the war machine had made. Diana groaned as she saw the crack in his face shield, a gash in the suit. Blood trickled from both nostrils and his entire body quivered.

“The X-57’s shielding me as long as I hold this grip,” Will said, his voice cold and far away, the tone she recognized now as Will the weapons designer keeping a hard lock on his own body’s weaknesses in the face of a life-threatening situation. The hard lock that had kept him alive during weeks of torture in the Petroleum Autonomous Zone.

She opened a thigh pocket. “I can do quick repair, that’ll keep you safe for a while, long enough to take care–”

“No, not the first thing.” Will swallowed. He pointed toward the Disruption Machine with his free hand. She saw the bright orange ball of what looked like plasma bouncing against the shielding. “You’re going to need to catch that before you do anything with me.”

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WIP–Valentine Disruptions

Just a few of the words from today. Diana and Will were supposed to get away from the kids on a much-needed Valentine’s date. But, well, stuff happened.

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

Two hours later, Diana followed Will up the draw, Brenda’s team fanning out to the sides with weapons locked and loaded. Will concentrated on his tablet’s tracking device while Diana and Brenda handled the comealongs for both the X-57 and the Disruption Machine. Diana also monitored the local transmission networks. She’d tried to send a personal message to Chen but the EMP, while localized, had taken down the Mei-lein networks in this section of Northstar. She had to settle for text over voice and hope that Chen picked up the careful nuances.

Someone will be out to check soon. They had to get to the X-57 and the Disruption Machine before Mei-lein. Diana wanted that data. For safety’s sake, they needed to reach the X-57 before anyone else did. The war machine still carried netspiders and despite Will’s best effort to teach it otherwise, its programming often reverted to defensive mode when deployed in capture and retrieve mode. Usually their contracts explicitly stated that either Will or Diana needed to be on the retrieval team.

But this wasn’t a retrieval job, and if there was one thing that Diana knew about how Chen Ti?rén thought, she knew that he wouldn’t overlook the sudden disruption of a local network. Nor would he let the presence of a Landreth war machine stop him from claiming the prize that the Disruption Machine represented. Besides the stated multi-figure award for capture, there was the information that this device must be carrying. She wanted that information for Do It Right. Not to give away to Iron Man Chen.

“Halt,” Will said as his tablet pinged loudly. He scowled. “It’s up there.” He pointed to the top of the twenty-foot cliff they stood under.

Brenda signed to the Security team. They moved in. “We can climb this cliff.”

“No.” Will scowled. “We’ve got to go around. The X-57 got damaged in the capture. I don’t trust it not to attack anyone but me and Diana, and we don’t dare pop up abruptly. We’ve got to backtrack and come at it on the level.”

“We can do that,” Brenda said.

One of the local networks taken out by the EMP quivered back into life. Diana ignored Will and Brenda as she traced the connection.

“Got to do it fast,” she said, interrupting Will. “Chen himself is on the way out to investigate. I’d say we weren’t the only one who IDed that Disruption Machine trace.”

“Okay, it’s a good thing we’re still in shape,” Will sighed. “Let’s go. Diana, can you com with Chen yet?”

She shook her head. “Not down here.”

“Take point,” Brenda told Red Morley. “Let’s hustle. Will, Di, let’s have you in the middle.”

“You’ll need us in front as we get close.”

“Not sticking you out there until then,” Brenda said flatly. “We’ve got to go, then let’s get going.”

Will nodded. Red wheeled, Brenda at his side. Diana and Will fell in behind Brenda and they headed back down the draw at a jog trot, Security tight around them.

“We’ve got a big problem,” Will said to Diana on their private com. “The X-57’s stats are veering toward rogue. That EMP stripped out some of my most recent programming.”

“How much have we lost?” God, she hoped it hadn’t reverted completely to the old Landreth structures.

“Won’t know until I get my hands on it. I’m thinking the crash didn’t help things, either.” He switched coms. “Brenda. Let’s go up here.” He waved at the steep hillside.

Diana looked at it and groaned inside as Brenda and Red smoothly swung around to angle up the slope. Hope my bum knee can keep up. Fortunately, Brenda slowed the pace and she didn’t twist her leg too badly as they climbed.

Her com buzzed as they reached the top. Diana checked her messages. One from her mother, another from Chen. She took Chen’s message.

Advice taken. Will follow your direction. Good. He still remembered her discreet codes from Vietnam. She’d referred back to the incident with failed Landreth chips which had turned bioremediation bots into netspiders.

But that message had come from too close a location for her comfort.

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Oh hey. Look what’s free just for Christmas week.

christmas shadows

Now free on Amazon for Kindle.

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00RDLBSBE

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.

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Plot noodling on Andrews Ranch

So I seem to be heading up to a climatic scene where Dan drags himself from his deathbed to see what all the commotion is about (this is the scene after the scene I posted today, with Diana and Will going for a little jaunt on the 9572). He knows his ex-wife Sarah, Diana’s mother, is already out there and loaded for bear. He’s dying of cancer. He figures out pretty dang fast that Parker Landreth landing armed, shooting at Diana and Will, means trouble. And we’re talking about someone who is a cattleman–progressive cattleman, okay, but still, a cattleman. A rancher, albeit, in the future. A former military man (Afghanistan). He knows his daughter’s father-in-law (Parker Landreth) means trouble, and….well, if you’ve been following my occasional Netwalk Sequence natterings, you know that Sarah doesn’t walk away from a fight. And she’s come to much the same conclusions about her daughter’s father-in-law. Diana’s parents don’t agree on much, any more, but a threat to their daughter and her husband…they understand that one very well. Keep in mind that Sarah comes from a timber production background, she’s a lumberman’s daughter with the lumber version of Dan’s cattle background.

Dear God, what I’m visualizing is more a cyber-Wild West Shootout at the OK Corral. Only Sarah and Dan both take out Parker and the other threat to Diana and Will’s continued happiness. Dan takes the fall this time.

Is this a cliche or what? Nonetheless, it resonates nicely with me.

Then again, that could be the absinthe talking–except that this was the thought process that kept tugging at me during the quiet times while proctoring tests this afternoon.

Needs careful scripting to stay away from cliches.

Comments? And if none of this makes sense, that’s okay, too. I’m putting this down as much for my thought process as much as anything else.

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Today’s Andrews Ranch

I swear I didn’t know that the 9572 could do this until today’s writing session….

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

“Warning,” a mechanical voice that sounded vaguely like Will’s droned, 9572-MAIN flashing to identify it as the speaker. “Incoming skimmer arming up.”

“We’ve got to get shielded!” Will snapped. “Dad’s coming in shooting. Di, we’ve got to get out of this skimmer, now! Francis, Sarah, get shields up fast!”

The 9572 glided forward, Will resting his hand on it as it flew through the cabin. Diana scurried to catch up.

“My hand too?” she asked Will as the skimmer door opened.

“Yes!”

The skin erupted and a claw closed around her wrist as she slammed her hand down on the 9572’s skin. She didn’t have time to yell before the 9572 shot forward, yanking her off of her feet.

“Grab it!” Will bellowed at her. “Clamps!”

She struggled to wrap herself around the 9572 like she saw Will doing, gasping as it sped out of the skimmer. Clamps cranked down around her arms and the one leg she’d managed to snake around the 9572 but her other leg whipped free as the war machine dodged a shot from Anne’s Third Force team. Diana managed to wrestle her leg awkwardly onto the 9572. As it made contact, more clamps wrapped around the leg. She was grateful for the support as the war machine shot straight up, wobbling as her body strained against the fastenings.

“Flatten yourself!” Will yelled. “You’re throwing the balance off!”

“I’m trying!” she yelled back.

Diana managed to brush her midriff against the 9572. Yet another clamp wrapped around her torso and snugged it close to the war machine. The irregular flight steadied, and the machine arched into a tight parabola. Diana struggled for breath against the gravitational pull as a blast whipped past them. From the skimmer. From Parker Landreth’s skimmer.

Will growled something she couldn’t hear. The 9572 trembled under them.

Something detonated over Parker Landreth’s skimmer.

“Will! You didn’t!” she screamed.

“Disable only!”

She lost sight of Parker’s skimmer as the 9572 snaked around.

Breathe in. Breathe out. She fought to keep her breathing steady against the pull of gravity, and wondered just how often Will had done something like this in the PAZ. I’m glad I didn’t know about this capacity.

And then their flight slowed.

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And Andrews Ranch continues….

I’ve been trying to be diligent and mindful and eke out at least a few hundred words on Andrews Ranch every day. The climax in rewrite is so completely different from the original story that I have to feel my way through the story, almost on a frame-by-frame basis in the scene sequences. Diana does this, Will does that, and the conspiracies are mounting.

So yeah. Some of today’s words put down.

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

“Red?” she said.

Red steered Lakely past them to the door. “Yes.”

“You need to talk to my mother, Francis, and Anne. Promptly. You need to tell them to hold the military back. We’re activating the 9572 because Parker Landreth is coming in fast. We need to talk. Safely. We need the military to stand down and leave Will alone. We believe Parker Landreth wants to take me, Will, and the 9572. We need to activate it for our own safety.”

Red nodded. “It may take a moment.”

“You don’t dare waste time. Tell them I’m Landreth bloodbonded. They’ll have to take me with Will, as will Parker, and–I won’t let anyone take Will without me. You make sure my mother hears that.”

“Got it.”

The skimmer door opened and Red left, pushing Lakely ahead of him. Will stared directly at Diana, though she could see the bleak emptiness lurking behind his focus on her.

“It’s not too late for you to split off from me and avoid this,” he said. His voice wobbled as he continued. “I–I wouldn’t blame you if you did. You’ve still got a future. Your mother would protect you.”

Diana deliberately took his bandaged hand in her matching bandaged hand. “It was too late five years ago, when we made our wedding vows. God damn it, Will, we’ve got a future. We’ve got Do It Right. Maybe kids someday. I’m not leaving you alone to face–whatever. We’re in the right here. Either your father or Lakely put that war machine here. We didn’t have a god damned choice but to use your skills to defuse it. If that’s a violation of your interdiction, then those motherfuckers need to not be planning on using you for their purposes.”

A faint smile crossed Will’s lips as his hand tightened on hers. “Damn it, Diana, I love you. I don’t want to see you go through this, but damn it, I’m glad you’re staying.”

“I love you too. And we’re going to face this–together.”

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More on Andrews Ranch

This story section is damnably hard to write. Figuring out the tech and…yeah.

Here’s an example, from yesterday and today’s work.

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

The side of the device had opened as she joined Will. Long, slender, metallic claws with scythe-like talons extended from the opening as the first netspider grappled for a purchase to pull itself out. Will muttered codes but the netspider lurched onto the side of the device, raising itself high on its eight legs, preparing to leap. Diana’s skin crawled over old scars as she imagined those sharp claws digging into her skin. She still bore the marks of a Stephens soil sampler bot gone rogue in Vietnam, suddenly acting like a Landreth netspider.

“Stop, stop, STOP!” Will yelled. The netspider crouched. “Damn it, the thing isn’t listening to my overrides!” He yanked off his armored gloves and grabbed the netspider with his bare hands as it ignored him and launched itself at Diana. He screamed as the netspider dug into his palms.

Diana lunged to knock the netspider off of Will but he shook his head, moaning and gasping.

No,” he said, his voice low, quivering with agony. He continued, speaking through deep, painful-sounding gulps for air. “No. Bloodbond. Have. To. Bloodbond. My. Control. Overridden. Shouldn’t be!

Bloodbond? What the hell?!

Red lights began to flash less intensely in her overlays. Two turned yellow, then three, then all were yellow, as Will writhed in the grip of the netspider. Diana reached for Will but he shook his head again.

“Others. Watch. Use. Vocals. Stop.”

She stared at the device as a pair of claws waved from the opening, grappling like the first one had. Two yellow lights started to flash on the left side of her visual overlays.

“Left red!” she barked. It was similar to what she would have started to do to control a Do It Right or Stephens rogue bot.

The claws stilled but did not retreat back into the device. The yellow lights stopped flashing.

Good,” Will groaned. “Secondary. Controls. Stable. Just…need…gain…primary–there!”

As all of her lights turned green, the netspider in Will’s hands crumpled into a glittering ball and he flung it back into the opening. Hands shaking, he brushed the other two claws back inside. Diana cried out as she saw his bloody palms. Will ignored her cries and placed his hands on the device, muttering code phrases as he left crimson smears of blood on the device’s skin.

As Diana watched, the blood faded away.

Will growled inarticulately. “Not enough.” He fumbled at his armored pants pocket and yanked out a knife, popping it open and slashing across the blood vessels across the back of his left hand.

“Will!”

He looked at her, grimacing as the blood spurted and he pressed the back of his hand against the device. “I need more blood to make the bond.”

“No. Will, there’s got to be a better way!”

There is no other way, Diana.” The desolate, empty look he gave her chilled Diana to the bone. “Not with the 9572. Damn it, this one was supposed to be mine only!” Anger and anguish mixed in his voice. “But that bastard took her and twisted her, she doesn’t know me. Yet. But she will. Sooner or later, with enough blood, she will!”

“You’re talking about a machine as if it’s alive,” Diana breathed, staring as Will kept bleeding. Was it her imagination or had the device’s skin bulged to form a mouth? The skin rippled and a metallic fang extruded, plunging into Will’s hand. Helpless, Diana stared at Will and the device. “Oh god, Will. God.”

“What do you think I meant when I said Landreth Technologies required a blood price?” Will groaned and sank to his knees beside the device. “This is bloodbonding, Diana. This is interdicted LT tech.” He whimpered and leaned his head on the device. “It wants me back. Body and soul. Oh God. Oh God.”

“Will. No.” She wobbled to kneel beside Will, taking his other hand. It tightened on hers as hard as the armored glove would allow.

“Help,” Will moaned. “Secondary. Web. Activate. Novice. She’s going to take me, Di!”

No she’s not.” Diana gulped. She pulled her hand free from his and yanked off her glove, grabbing Will’s dropped knife and slashing her own hand.

Will grabbed at her bleeding hand, but she yanked it away. “Di, no! Not like this!

“It’s the fastest way, isn’t it?” She slammed her bleeding hand down hard on the device’s skin.

Will screamed as another fang extruded and plunged into her hand.

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