Category Archives: The Martiniere Legacy

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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Writing plagues and pandemics–and Covid-19

I started out 2020 feeling horribly sick.

No exaggeration. About a week after we got back from Portland in December, a few days after Christmas, I came down with an unusual gut bug that knocked me flat. It was annoying because I was working on this exciting new project that I planned to use as a what-the-hell, let’s see if something happens with tradpub big book. Most of these bugs knock me down for a couple of days, but this one kept me tired out for weeks and affected what I could and couldn’t eat for much longer than usual. My brain was fuzzy. I kept looking up norovirus and shaking my head because it wasn’t a match. But it was also clearly something I’d not had before, because my body wasn’t reacting in its typical manner to the usual gastroenteritis flare. New Year’s Eve featured a binge watch of Good Omens with my husband because I figured I needed something fun and positive to bring in 2020, and I was sick of reading books at that point.

At that point Covid-19 was just a whisper on the horizon. When I went back to working on the big project, I incorporated reading I’ve done for years about pandemics into the world I was building for this new book, then called The Ruby Project. The G9 virus was polio-like in that it often left survivors with serious side effect syndromes. I was thinking about polio when I created the G9, but also some accounts of Ebola survivors as well.

It’s not like thinking about pandemics is a new thing for me. I read The Hot Zone back when it came out; the same for Laurie Garrett’s The Coming Plague. Then, when my son was showing rabbits in 4H and I was a leader as well as a Fair Small Animals Division superintendent, a new-to-the-US virus popped up in rabbits. Calicivirus, otherwise known as Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease (as well as some other names). While in a different class of hemorrhagic virus from Ebola (Ebola is a filovirus, RHD a calicivirus), the effect was essentially the same. Rapid onset illness and death. But while Ebola in humans is a body-fluid-borne illness, RHD in rabbits is airborne.

And at the time no one really knew how effectively RHD spread or how quickly it could mutate and jump species.

I looked into writing a pandemic novel based on the spread of a RHD-like virus. The insidiousness of RHD isn’t just that it’s airborne, it’s that it is persistent and, unlike Covid-19, soap and water doesn’t get rid of it. Calicivirus is a damnably persistent virus that does transmit via formites (i.e., particles on shoes, surfaces, etc) as well as being airborne. But I rapidly backed away from it because things were just too damn grim. I couldn’t live in that headspace to write.

Nonetheless, I started slipping plague and pandemic elements into the backstories of what I wrote. In my short story Slow Dancing in 3/4 Zombie Time, (available here), the story isn’t so much about zombies as it is about a post-pandemic, post-apocalyptic scenario where a father has to make choices about his family’s survival. If you look closely, the backstory of The Netwalk Sequence series includes plagues caused by war machines and alien artifacts. The backstory of the Goddess’s Honor series postulates that a magical curse created at an Empress’s funeral as part of a leadership battle between siblings ends up causing a virulent world-wide plague that decimates the population of one continent. When the losing sibling flees to that continent, the surviving peoples welcome their presence For Reasons, primarily to fill a political vacuum in one of the hardest-hit peoples. It almost happens again in a later generation when the feud is reawakened.

And then there’s The Martiniere Legacy, formerly known as The Ruby Project. My initial use of the plague/pandemic theme was not at all based on Covid-19, but on that regular reading I’ve done about pandemics. I knew that sooner or later we’d be hit by a Big Nasty, and that would cause hardships. Heck, when I look back to my earliest Netwalk Sequence notes, I was postulating that it would be happening (along with civil disorder) right about….now.

(I do wish I could find the notes I wrote in 1992 where I break things out based on the two possible outcomes of the general election. My vague recall of those projections was rather grim, no matter who got elected. Now I’m regretting that I didn’t find a means to become a more visible pundit, because based on what I was writing in the 90s, my projections ended up playing out in a reasonably accurate manner)

So I had a couple of mysterious plague/pandemic issues hit in the backstory.

And then, when I was close to finishing Inheritance and realizing that I was working on a trilogy, in late February and early March, Covid-19 exploded.

I got sick again, this time with something flu-like.

This time I wasn’t looking for comparisons to norovirus and gastroenteritis in my moments when I felt well enough to look things up online, but between Covid-19 (such as we knew then) and flu. At the time there was a minor mention that perhaps this bug had a gut component. But my late-December/early January illness didn’t fit what we knew then about the spread of Covid-19.

Unlike the earlier bug, this one behaved pretty much like what I would expect from flu. A nasty, godawful flu, but flu nonetheless. Except that it really hit me hard.

I kept writing. As Covid-19 exploded and we went into lockdown, I completed Ascendant. As resistance to lockdown soared and the Black Lives Matter protests happened, I completed Realization.

At this point, I’m in an editing phase with The Martiniere Legacy, all three books. I’ve considered incorporating more references to Covid-19 in the books. Eventually I decided that no, I wasn’t going to do that, for three reasons.

1.) The setting is 2055. We still don’t know what an accurate reflection of the impact of Covid-19 will be several years out on peoples’ behavior, but going by the responses to the 1918 flu and polio, there may not be much in the way of behavioral changes. Economic and political–oh hell yes, this is a major disruptor.

2.) I have to go back and create different mindsets for behavioral impacts related to disease transmission. To do it right means some pretty intensive rewrites, and writing projections. No. I’d much rather write that from scratch.

3.) I’m not a writer who does well trying to chase current trends in long form writing, and I’m hit or miss in short form. Some people are very good at coming up with these topical ideas quickly for both long form and short form work. I need more time to process the impact of these trends. Part of this is just due to the way I think when extrapolating from current events. I need time to read, think, scribble notes, and then start shaping characters and stories. If anthology calls appear that match something I’m already processing, I can jump on a trend in short form. More often than not, though, I just can’t do it. The work is superficial (to my reading), and I don’t work well that way.

My near-future science fiction work after this will include Covid-19 behavioral and societal impacts, because then I’ll be building stuff from the ground up and I can see trends better. But outside of a very few points in The Martiniere Legacy, Covid-19 is not the bad bug du jour. The unnamed flu that triggers Gabe’s panicked separation and divorce from Ruby–yes. The G9 that cripples Gabe–yes. And my two bugs that I experienced during the writing of the Legacy are mildly reflected in the work.

More than that–no. Not this go-round.

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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A choice to write older characters…Gabe and Ruby in THE MARTINIERE LEGACY

One thing I decided to do with The Martiniere Legacy was to make my main protagonists, Ruby Barkley and Gabriel Martiniere Ramirez, specifically in their 50s/60s. In part this was due to the nature of the story. Ruby and Gabe needed to have an extensive past history that impacts their choices throughout the trilogy. Both Gabe and Ruby have reasons to win the Superhero that are tied to years of debt and struggle, and the hope that finally they can not only pay off their bills but also use that cash to launch projects that have been years in development. We don’t see much of Gabe’s Moondance Microbial projects because he eventually gets wrapped up in Martiniere family issues, but we do see a lot of Ruby’s RubyBot, a biobot that not only monitors field conditions down to nearly the plant level and reports back regularly, but can perform limited pest/weed control and water stress management in different forms (some of this is also due to author limitations because I can wrap my head around biobot development much more easily than the rapidly changing field of microbials–thanks in part to research for The Netwalk Sequence).

On a different level, another reason to write older protagonists was to hearken back to what was becoming an ongoing theme through the books–how people grow, change, and reunite. I doubt that I’ll write much in the way of side stories about Ruby and Gabe’s early years together, especially since that would require a deeper consideration of how Covid-19 eventually plays out in society. There’s just too much in flux (and I’ll write about my choices with regard to Covid-19 in another post). Another reason is that we see enough of that era through Ruby’s memories and the times that she and Gabe talk about the past while trying to figure out their future, and how they’ve been unknowingly manipulated by their enemies. Gabe and Ruby have to make conscious choices about how their past ways of handling relationship issues created problems, and how to fix them. We end up seeing a lot of this self-examination in Ascendant, where they actively start building a future together. To succeed they both have to reinvent not only themselves but a relationship that was abruptly terminated twenty-one years earlier.

I’ll admit representation plays a small piece in my choice. Ruby as the POV is the voice of a 50-something woman who has successes and failures in her life but who has not been defined by her relationship with a man for many years. We don’t see enough of that sort of thing except in (sorry for fans of these sort of stories) mundane literary works where an older woman, usually a recently divorced housewife, is struggling with issues in everyday life and her conflicts never rise above “how do I pay my bills?” “How can I fall in love after being dumped for a younger woman?” Why can’t an older woman be working with tech stakes, threats, AND personal issues? Why not an older woman with agency, determination, and a history of doing what is needed? After all, the personal issues do add an additional layer of conflict to the external stakes for Ruby and Gabe. And I do admit a certain degree of annoyance at stories that sideline older women to cottages and gardens and playing grandma, nothing more.

But another piece is that age also brings with it some tangible personal limitations. Gabe starts out the story crippled by a post-G9 virus syndrome. He wrestles with medication issues (and I probably understated those). Ruby is in better condition, but she has fatigue, aches, and pains. Neither have the strength to do what they could have done twenty-one years earlier. And that adds an additional layer of complication, especially in a profession that is as physically demanding as ranching and farming. The clock is ticking on both of them, even more than it would be for younger protagonists.

I’m hoping that readers like this perspective. But we shall see.

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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Lessons from writing a trilogy all at once–THE MARTINIERE LEGACY

Once I realized that the basic story of The Ruby Project had expanded into a trilogy arc, I decided that instead of writing one book, then releasing, etc etc over the course of a year or two, that I would just sit down and write all three books sequentially. One reason for doing this was utter frustration, based on my previous experience with writing series (The Netwalk Sequence, Goddess’s Honor).

When I wrote Choices of Honor and Judgment of Honor, I found myself needing to go back to previous books to maintain continuity in the Goddess’s Honor series (we won’t talk about the continuity messes in The Netwalk Sequence, which I plan to go back and fix in the ten-year-reissue in 2021). Yes, I’d been writing side stories to fill out the backstory of the series, but there were the niggling little details and things I would have done differently based on what I knew about the main characters by the end of Judgment. At that time, I swore that I would either have the full arc of the series in mind and create detailed bibles and synopses to make the damned thing work over the course of several years, or else I would write them all first and then release them. The Ruby Project-now-The Martiniere Legacy appeared to be the sort of series where writing them all first, then release, would be effective. I had several reasons for doing this.

First, I had a strong conception of the overall series arc as well as the individual book arcs. I knew where I was going to end up, and that goal became clear toward the end of Inheritance. The stories divide neatly into parts of Gabe and Ruby’s story in their progression toward that goal–and it is both their stories, from Ruby’s point of view. Both Ruby and Gabe grow and change within each book, as they meet each challenge thrown at them while focusing on the overall goal. This series was particularly easy in that respect. I don’t know if that reflects experience on my part or the nature of the story. Legacy does fall into nice, rational divisions. It might have been a more difficult endeavor to do this with the Netwalk books, but then again, that was my first series and I was still figuring things out.

Second, the overall word count of The Martiniere Legacy is around 280,000 words, similar to that of John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. I read Steinbeck’s Working Days (his diary of writing Grapes) while writing Ascendant, and noticed significant process similarities, particularly in daily word count and the concern about pacing myself too quickly toward the end. 280,000 words is doable in six months, which fits my typical drafting pace.

Third, instead of poring over 3-4 books while writing the last one, I could simply refer back to what I had written in the previous two. While writing Ascendant, I had Inheritance up on my desktop screen while composing on my laptop. While writing Realization, I had both books up on the desktop. This was a huge change from my previous process. Not only could I refer back to what I’d written in a previous book, but if I needed to change something to fit the turns that the other books took (I had waaaay too many consecutive conspiracies at one point and needed to prune them back as some were stronger in the end than others), I could tweak it. I didn’t realize how big a deal this could be until I was actually going through the process of laying down breadcrumbs to hint at future developments. While I tried to write each book so that it could be read alone, I really needed to have those links to get it done at the end.

There were other bits and pieces that came along with this process. I planned book and series arcs for each character, though some drastically changed (Justine, for one). There were still pieces that didn’t get explicitly fleshed out (Justine as the Rescue Angel, though there’s a lot of hints). I had a 5″ x 8″ notepad where I made a lot of these notes and I liked that process so well that I think I may buy a replacement pad when it’s gone. Not just the size but the weight of the paper as opposed to legal pads really was noticeable. A little thing, but it can make a difference when organizing and shuffling papers while working.

It also didn’t hurt that I was in Covid-19 lockdown while writing the Legacy. There have been days when I wanted to escape from this world into that of the Legacy. Even with all its problems it just was a cheerier place to be.

Will I do this again? Probably. Not so much with the next book–the probable sequel to Klone’s Stronghold, which will be Stronghold Defender. At this time I don’t know if I’ll have a followup book to Defender, or if Klone turns out to be a prequel for another trilogy. Still thinking about that. I need to rough out what Defender is going to look like. One drawback with this process, for me at least, is that I end up not being able to do a lot of other writing. Again, I don’t know if it’s reflective of circumstances in the world around me or if it is a comment on the nature of the Legacy.

I do plan to write another book in the world of the Legacy, however. It’s going to be short and probably stylistically different, perhaps nothing more than a novella. But a character that comes on board late in Realization has a story to tell, so I’m going to try to write it. I’m also going to be writing and releasing little sketches tied to pieces of the Legacy as well. We’ll see how it goes.

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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So I did a thing…THE MARTINIERE LEGACY

Once upon a time little Joycie-poo thought she was going to write a Big Book. It was going to include future agricultural technology, horses, a feuding couple, a game show that provided funding for agricultural technology, more horses, and whatever else it was going to take to make it a Big Book. I was going to call it The Ruby Project. And if the one publisher I pitched it to based on a concept and a quick sketch decided to take a pass after I finished and submitted it, well then, I bought a membership to the World Fantasy Convention, with plans to pitch it there.

This was pre-Covid 19, of course.

Things change. First, The Ruby Project became a trilogy once it became clear that Covid was going to play havoc with my plans for WFC. One of my characters, the slimeball ex-husband, stood up and said “I wasn’t like that and I had my reasons for acting like I did.” As I dug further into Gabe’s motives, the story blew up. All righty then. It became The Ruby Project Book One: Origins, The Ruby Project Book Two: Ascendant, and The Ruby Project Book Three: Realization. Partway through  Ascendant, I started feeling uneasy about the titles. The overall trilogy arc covered more than just the RubyBot, the source of the name. And Origins really wasn’t about the origins of the trilogy arc.

I kept on writing. Toward the end of Realization, I realized that a.) The Martiniere Legacy summed up the trilogy arc much more effectively, and b.) I absolutely hated the title Origins. It didn’t hurt that I had named a reoccurring horse character Legacy and realized that hey, that resonates in a lot of ways with what I’m writing. So the overall series title was fixed, but what about that damned first book? I noodled around, but it wasn’t until the last few days of drafting Realization that I finally discovered the title for Book One. Inheritance.

Oh yeah. Inheritance summed it all up.

Well, I wrote the last words of Realization today. Tomorrow I’ll do the final edit pass. And then it’s off to edit Inheritance for both continuity and revision purposes before sending it off to edits.

One reason I sat down and wrote the entire trilogy over a period of six months was that I had promised myself at the end of Judgment of Honor that I would never, ever, ever write a series without either a.) creating the whole world and continuity for the entire series in advance or b.) writing it all at once and then editing. Goddess’s Honor was my second series, and I kinda blundered into it without thinking much about continuity. By the time I was done with it I was tired of paging back through the entire volume of work to make sure everything made sense.

It was…an interesting experience made increasingly weird by the first six months of 202o. There have been days when I looked at what I wrote in despair because Real Life was becoming even more weirder than what I was writing.

I plan to write a few blogs about this process because, well, I learned more than a few lessons from it.

But not tonight.

And oh yeah. I now have covers. So here they are:

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