Category Archives: Netwalk Sequence

“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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Guests and Learning in Space

I missed writing yesterday for various reasons, including day job, housework and prepping for today’s guests–well, not entirely as I was also doing editorial work. No horse as by the time I got done with day job and other stuff, it was raining, getting close to dark, and not worth heading out to the barn. Today was bright and sunny but I had day job, guest prep, and…drumroll…prepping Learning in Space: Bess and Alex.

Learning in Space includes my three almost-winner stories: Tranquility Freeriders (Writers of the Future SemiFinalist), Too High to Fall (Anthology Builder Finalist), and Of Archangels and Fuzzy Green Mascots (Writers of the Future Honorable Mention as In Archangel’s Arms).

I’ve got almost everything finished for it except the front matter and a couple of other minor details, and then it’s going up wide. I’ve got a tentative blurb but need to work on it yet:

Bess Fielding and Alex Jeffreys are committed to a future in space with Bess’s family company, Do It Right. But that future comes with a steep learning curve in a place where the simplest mistake can be deadly…and not all those mistakes are naturally caused. Being a leader in new space technologies doesn’t stop sabotage from happening, however. As one of the leading production companies in space, Do It Right can be a target for the disgruntled and the ambitious. Nonetheless, Bess and Alex learn more about space and each other, until…good times come to an end….

With this book I’m just about done with Netwalk Sequence publications, except for the Disruption Chronicles.

Besides book work we had friends over for snacks and a casual card game session. A pleasant afternoon for all. The house is nicely mucked out and reorganized as a result, just in time for the holidays. Not that we have many visitors, but one never knows. I took the explicitly Halloween decoration down but the fall decor will stay up through Thanksgiving. I’m really tempted by a big ski-themed decoration I saw in Safeway as it’s hard to find nice ski-themed stuff. OTOH, we’re winding down on the skiing, possibly, so we shall see.

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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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