Category Archives: writer life

Of Writing, and Thanksgiving, and Horses

I swear I will not let the holiday season catch me unprepared again.

I swear I will not let the holiday season catch me unprepared again.

I swear I will not let the holiday season catch me unprepared again.

You’d think I would have remembered all the hard-earned lessons from selling jewelry online in the 90s and applied them to the hybrid writing life. Plan for the Christmas season. Have Christmas promotions and product ready by September. Do not be scrambling to produce work in the middle of the season. But I was locked into teacher brain, not retail artisan brain, and so instead of scrambling throughout the summer to make sure I had my seasonal book production lined up, I was decompressing. It’s really only been the past few weeks, since just before Orycon, that I’ve been scrambling to get the writing finished and either published or submitted, much less run through beta editors.

Well. This is the last year that’s gonna happen. Next year I will know what my holiday season books will be and have them ready in plenty of time, instead of just in time. I’d also been counting on a small press publication which appears to be going nowhere. Sigh.

Meanwhile, I’m getting the last piece of the book I hope to have out by mid-December wrapped up now. It was supposed to be a short story. Now it’s careening recklessly toward novelette territory, and could spin off into its own novel. Maybe I’ll premier it as a serial story, and publish subsequent installments over the course of this next year. Hmm. Could publish it separately for free as well…Hmm.

Thanksgiving is going to be low key. I get up in the morning, go ride horse, come home, get cleaned up, cook gluten-free dressing (already made blueberry crisp and spelt biscuits), then go to a friend’s house for restrained debauchery. If I’m lucky I’ll get time to wrap up the story tomorrow.

Horse is definitely in rehab mode. While most of our work is still in walk and mostly in straight lines, I’ve thrown her a sop in the form of four laps of working trot (about a half mile, two laps per direction) and four long side of the arena canters (again, two per direction). We’re also doing haunches and forehand turns, as well as backing in circles. That’s enough to keep her happy, as she does seem to get tired of doing nothing but walking. She perks right up when she gets to think about using herself, and I’m up in two-point while doing it.

But at least the writing is moving along, the horse seems to be improving, and perhaps we’re getting more movement on other things going on in the life.



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Call for beta readers–Alien Savvy

Well, the rewrite/expansion of Alien Savvy went to nearly 22,000 words from 5,500, and it feels pretty much complete now, not truncated like the short story was. Lots more depth, lots more flow to it. I like the little bugger. I guess it really did want to be a novella.

But. I need beta readers, especially betas who remember 1962 and can spot potential anachronisms. Anybody want to read a sf-western crossover with lots of horse action in it? Free copy of the final version and reader’s choice of any of my other books available for those who want to volunteer.

And now it’s on to a couple of other stories, plus the beginnings of Netwalk’s Children. Kicking off my sorta NaNo following with around 2000 words today, gonna shoot for that consistently throughout the month.

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New things on the writing front

Right now I find myself playing with some of the writing things I am doing. Between editorial work and my own stuff in different stages of production (both self and small indie press), I’m juggling about five different projects and figuring out how to advance work on some others.

Additionally, Mocha’s white line disease flared again, in the old site, and I’m having to check on it daily, plus get her out of her stall for a little bit to do some light work. We are at the stage of doing White Lightning soaks (at 45 minutes) three times a week on the affected foot and last weekend I did maintenance soaks on the other three hooves. I was doing iodine and Epsom salts soaks every other day, but I’ve decided that maybe that’s a bit of overkill. So I’m just doing an iodine flush on the days I’m not doing White Lightning. Which is a chlorine compound (oxine) that, when mixed with vinegar, creates a gas that fumigates the hoof and kills the dang fungus that causes white line. This fungus is the same dang fungus that humans get in fingernails, and oxine/White Lightning works on it. It’s just a challenge to find ways to get the White Lightning to where the fungus is in a horse hoof, especially since the horse is walking on it.

Ergo, the gassy soak. Mix White Lightning and vinegar, and pour it into a bag that can contain the gas for an extended period of time. Regular hoof boots don’t retain enough gas by volume to be effective. So it has to be a bag, and the bags for sale are not cheap. But finding a bag that is a.) cheap and b.) durable requires some thought. I’ve found that gallon generic freezer bags reinforced with duct tape works nicely. Yes, I was raised redneck. Anyway. Tie the bag with a strand of whatever you have handy to tie with, and proceed to bribe entertain the horse for 45 minutes of hanging out in the crossties.

Yeah. Time consuming. So very glad I’m not teaching right now. As it were, once this hit, I realized I had to focus a bit more on the writing organization if I was going to keep the writing AND the book production together.

It’s not perfect, but I think I’m starting to develop a system. Which is good, because:

Shadow Harvest needs pictures, perhaps a cover revision (must do research first), then compile and check, plus PR copy. I still plan to release it at the end of October.

Alien Savvy is chugging along for release in November. This is a 5500 word short story that I’m blowing up into a novelette. The way it’s going (I added some scenes), I think it could easily crack 15,000 to 20,000 words. It’s an interesting little Cuban Missile Crisis-era Western story with aliens and UFO conspiracies, and features a nice little buckskin cutting horse mare. I have no freaking idea what the market will be for this story, but I’m having fun with it.

I plan to release an omnibus edition of Winter Shadows and Shadow Harvest in December.

Netwalk’s Children. Dear God, what can I say about Netwalk’s Children? This is the toughest book of the series, in part because I’m trying to be so mindful about it and I’ve also written a lot of words just playing with this world. I have also decided that this is going to be the book that I compose entirely in Scrivener, including the notes. I’ve gotta have a system with this series. It’s getting too big and too complex. That said, I’m finding it to be a help. Now I just have to get to the point where I’m ready to write.

Seeking Shelter at the End of the World (eTreasures Publishing). I should be getting galleys next week for a projected October 27th release. I also need to start promotional work, but the release date needs to be firmed up.

Plus there are editing jobs and beta reads to keep up with. How on earth did I ever do this when I was working? And there are move-related things which will become more imperative as time passes, and, and, and….

I am developing systems. I am trying things out. I’m reading books about writing and being mindful and conscious of what I am doing. I’m also thinking about where I want to go with this career, which comes back to–what do I want to write?

Growth is happening. I need to find my place to thrive. Perhaps that is coming…soon.

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Writerly musings

It’s been a productive writer and editor week. I finished the first round of edits on a freelance job and sent them back to the author, then got my second round of edits on Seeking Shelter at the End of the World (projected to come out from eTreasures Publishing in October), went through that, and sent it back. Ironically, finishing the first round on someone else’s book and having to go through my own second round happened within 24 hours of each other. Not that this is an issue. I found that I learned a lot from doing that edit on someone else (which is one of my patterns) and working on the other MS made it easier to edit my own. FYI, I’m not banging the drum pretty hard (yet), but I am available for editing services. I find that I like editing. Not surprising, since one of my favorite teacher times was working one-on-one with kids and their writing.

I’m in the homestretch for getting Shadow Harvest ready for October publication, and clearing the decks to start writing Netwalk’s Children (at long last). Whew. It’s been a long, hard struggle with both these works. Shadow Harvest started out as Andrews Ranch, but that title really didn’t work. I’m still not happy with my latest cover design, but that’s a skill set I also plan to keep working on. This one is really hard to put together because I have to figure out how to combine both SF and Western elements, and, well, that’s tough.

However, since the ebook of Shadow Harvest is going to have illustrations, I’m having fun planning the photos I’ll use. While I took some useable pix last weekend in the County, there are still a bunch more I need if I’m going to insert 2-4 illustrations per chapter. At ten chapters, that’s a lot of pix. As I go through my edits in Scrivener, I’m either scrounging through my collection of digital photos or listing the new photos I have to take–and that’s fun to contemplate as well.

Once I finish this pass of Harvest, and get to work on the pix, then it’s time to tackle the outline and writing of Netwalk’s Children. This is a tough book to plan and write, but it’s one that I absolutely have to structure before writing. It’s the middle book of the series; it’s a transitional book between generations; and there’s big stuff that happens. I’ve been advancing and retreating from it for a couple of years now, but it’s going to happen this fall.

I’m also planning on expanding and releasing another illustrated short novella in November, called Alien Savvy. It has some connections to the Netwalk Sequence universe but it’s a prequel to everything. Then in December, I’ll release an omnibus of Dahlia, Winter Shadows, and Shadow Harvest. Title yet to be determined.

Then I got a pleasant little egoboost when I searched my name during a break. Outside of the unpleasant reality of having to issue a takedown notice to a pirate site, I also discovered that a couple of my professional articles have been copied as references. The one which really tickles me is one that was included in the National Association of Special Education Teacher Special Issue on Learning Disabilities–link is here. I didn’t know about this but it makes me feel good. Alas, unless you have a membership, you can’t see it. Sigh. But it’s about the Patterns of Strength and Weakness identification model for learning disabilities, which is something I strongly believe in.

A good day in the writer life. And now for lunch, then barn.

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A productive day in writer life

So today was a trip to Clatskanie to help friend clear out his spring household water system (best done in the driest portion of the year, before the fall rains start). While DH and Friend tackled the spring, I opted out of the outdoor work. Didn’t want to dance with the potential for bees/wasps/hornets/other things that sting and I had writing and editing work to do. Besides, bushwhacking uphill through recently (as in four years past) logged brushland isn’t in my skill set. Former Logger Boyz waving chain saws are better suited for that game.

While the Boyz waved chain saws and other adventures (including relocating salamanders and patching the cistern) I stayed back and cooked dinner for starving Elder Boyz. A cruise through Safeway yielded a decent package of pork stew chunks from the rotten meat section (pull date NOW), frozen veggies, Ragu sauce, potatoes and tiny sweet peppers for snacks. After whipping up an impromptu stew to simmer in the oven, I finished off the first pass through a fun MS for edits, then jotted down notes for Netwalk’s Children. Hugely productive progress on that work today…to be continued tomorrow.

Additionally, I did a little hauling/stacking of firewood (the goal of tomorrow’s Clatskanie trip), nibbled on blackberries and raspberries, slipped out to the barn to observe the adult barn owl roosting in the rafters, and got some cool pix of a Pileated Woodpecker. Plus wrote.

Dang, I could definitely live like this.

So hey. Editor available. Reasonable rates. Want to figure out complex plot twists? Let’s chat.

Writer grrrl needs to support her chosen lifestyle without resorting to substitute teaching.

(And hey. I’m drooling at the possibility of sharing the Seeking Shelter cover. OMG, the last time I saw a cover this nice and right on was for Alma Alexander’s River anthology. It’s just that cool. Sweet!)

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And the title decision is….Shadow Harvest

Shadow Harvest. I’ve been agonizing over what to call Andrews Ranch for real, because otherwise it sounds too much like a Western instead of science fiction. While there are Western elements (a showdown at the OK Corral-type scene with a war machine in a barnyard), and a quasi-Westernish-theme (saving a ranch from corporate interests), at best it could be titled a Science Fiction Western. Yeah.

I kept thinking about its predecessor and twin story that I’m going to include to make up the omnibus I plan to publish in December, Winter Shadows. My original plans for that omnibus were to include Dahlia, Winter Shadows, and Andrews Ranch. But while Dahlia is part of the whole Will and Diana sequence, it really doesn’t fit except as a precursor to the other two stories. What happens in Winter Shadows comes to fruition seven years later in Shadow Harvest. So I’ve decided that the omnibus will be those two stories instead. That’ll be plenty, and there’s a title and thematic connection (the omnibus will also come out in a CreateSpace version).

And I do have a cover pic. Just haven’t made the cover yet.


Now it’s time to go back and discreetly insert some connections to Winter Shadows. Then off to the barn, meet up with a friend, then come home and work on an editorial project.

The days are just packed around here.

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Amazon vs Hachette

Want to know my real reaction?


So the latest volley in the Amazon vs Hachette wars is the same letter sent to Amazon book customers and Kindle Direct Publishing authors. Not going to link to it, it’s around. But my reaction? I think this response I wrote elsewhere (modified slightly) sums it up:

I have spent fifteen years as a sporadic political activist. One thing I did for a couple of campaigns was writing templates for  letters to the editor. Once you’ve done a bit of that work, it’s easy to recognize the product of a writing template.

So. Onward to the letters from Amazon. They’re superficial. They’re the same damn thing I see coming from a bunch of issue campaigns trying to sway public opinion. The only difference between these letters and a SuperPAC letter writing campaign solicitation letter is the issue.

And I’m not playing “swing the court of public opinion” game. Both sides need to sit down and negotiate. This is ridiculous, and if it spreads to other types of business organization, well, then….(ah. Hmm. Damn. Okay, it’s MY story idea, ‘kay?). No matter how you phrase it, though, politicizing what should be a negotiation between two corporations is really not a good thing. Businesses should not be run like the U.S. Congress of the Twenty-teens (and Congress shouldn’t be run like that, either, but that’s a diversion).

In any case, I have no interest in playing the game in the court of public opinion, because ultimately, neither Amazon nor Hachette are my customer. They are distributors, both of them. Readers are my customers, and these public opinion games as part of a business negotiation interfere with reader access.

It’s time to get back to the business of writing, publishing, and distribution. Amazon and Hachette, I’m looking at BOTH of you. Knock it off.

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Work in progress

Very rough, but from a short story I’m working on….


Of course. I always get stuck with construction jobs. All because she had opposable thumbs. Twenty-Four bowed politely to her mother, just enough to hide her anger.

I’m going to find a way to earn my own station and name through this negotiation, she resolved.

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Memories of Jay Lake


Jay in my lap at Norwescon 2013, with Kelly (Jude-Marie) Green in the background

My brain keeps nibbling at the fact that Jay is gone. I knew, we all knew, that this was coming. No one gets out alive and all that stuff, and Jay’s diagnosis meant that his time was coming like a lightly loaded freight train on a downhill track. But the brain still keeps kicking up thoughts and remarks and…well, all the stuff that comes up when you think of someone who’s been an important part of your life.

Not closely personal. Jay and I never went there; for one thing I’m quite married, and for another, despite his hugely wonderful and welcoming self, we were two very different people in areas which were important to both of us. I’m outdoorsy, active, and I play with guns. Jay and I talked about that quite a bit, but those differences would have been a huge difference between us. Also, even though I’ve currently walked away from faith, I still have an underpinning belief in Something out there which Jay lacked. Nonetheless, we had a delightfully fun and scintillating ongoing conversation about life, writing, and politics.

Actually, a discussion about faith was part of our first meeting. While I’m sure I encountered Jay in the con world before, it wasn’t until Potlatch 2007 that he and I sat down and became friends. I had decided to resume my off-again, on-again writing career and had at least one story burning through my fingers. The old Orycon concom crew was running Potlatch that year and brought me in as a minor volunteer. I’d heard of Jay before–a year or so earlier, I’d read Rocket Science in the capacity of an Endeavour Award first reader. We chatted, he politely propositioned me, I politely refused, and we continued to talk, late into the night. There was quite a cluster of us up in the top floor bar those two nights.

From there, I ended up joining Fireside Writers in its heyday at the Fireside coffee place on Powell. Nearly every Tuesday, I joined Jay and a pack of other writing people to pound away on our stories. After a certain period of writing time had passed, we moved on to dinner, usually at the Barley Mill but sometimes other places. Lots of talking about writing, career planning, more writing, and other stuff. Jay frequently took possession of a large, comfortable recliner. He cranked out words to the degree that the chair was somehow viewed as magical, and when he wasn’t there, we vied for the choice of the Chair of Many Words. One day, while working on what became “In the Forests of the Night,” he started asking who wanted to be in a story. One of the other writers volunteered and he wrote her in. A few paragraphs later, he asked for a second volunteer, and I stepped up. So I got written in as Ward, in the opening pages.

That’s what life was like writing around Jay. I learned how to write in a coffee shop by writing with him. Before then, I really wasn’t that great at writing in noisy, public settings. But by following his example, I got better at it and now, well. I grab moments in coffee shops, especially with my current work commute and all. Working at the same time, in the same place, with Jay was an education in and of itself in the nature of writing. There was focus–but we could also stop to discuss a challenge with the work. Above all else, we got infused with the spirit of the man’s psychotic persistence.

Psychotic persistence was Jay’s own term for his writing success, and when you look back over his career, it rings not just in his writing but in his battle with cancer. Cancer may have ravaged and attacked Jay, but by god, he turned around and battled it right back with the same spirit of psychotic persistence that propelled him to his stand in the speculative fiction writing world. It stands to reason, I guess, that he was felled by the sort of cancer that equaled him in psychotic persistence, something that was extremely aggressive and intractable. Even though most of us hoped that Jay would prevail, well, the big C won this one. But it was a no-holds-barred, all-out war.

That doesn’t mean the man didn’t have fun and didn’t bring fun to the people around him. The pranks we pulled at Radcon during the Radcon Bob era, including the cycle of pranking between Jay and Bob, were epic.

When I heard of Jay’s death on Sunday, I commented that the world is much smaller now. That is so very true. At the 2014 Norwescon, in the bar, we kept anticipating Jay’s arrival, even though we knew he wasn’t going to be there. I suspect that there will be many, many Orycons where we will keep thinking of and looking for Jay as well.

Jay kept giving. One of his last public appearances was a speaking engagement to my reading intervention classes. I’d had the kids read and respond to one of his posts about kindness. So he came up and shared with the kids. It is always hard to tell about kids as to whether the impact someone makes is large or not, but I think it stuck.

There is a Jay-sized hole in the world now. Eventually, those memories will ebb and the loss will feel less severe. But it is a loss, nonetheless. I am pissed at losing yet another friend to cancer, and I’m pissed that I won’t have more time to talk about writing, politics, and everything else with Jay.

Before we moved due to the closure of the Fireside, Jay was working on both Kalimpura and wrapping up the Clockwork trilogy. He was beginning to talk about Sunspin and the challenges of going off of a contract to write it. At the last JayCon, some of the cover poster boards made up for the Clockwork and Green books were raffled off. Thanks to Bob, I won the boards for Endurance and Kalimpura. I gave Endurance to Bob but, despite Mike Moscoe’s attempt to persuade me to trade for Green, I hung onto Kalimpura. At first I thought it was just because I liked the subject, but now I realize I wanted that poster because…well…it represents something that was part of my early writing life and the role Jay played in this latest manifestation of my writing life.


Goddamn it, Jay, I’m going to miss you. Shine on. You will be remembered.

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Noodling on writing plans–writing process post

I am using the period where I’m letting Andrews Ranch rest before the rewrite to take care of some writing organizational work. No, not the bookkeeping and organizational paperwork. Rather, I’m fiddling around with outline notes, organizing research, making research plans, and reviewing short stories.

I don’t know how many other writers review what they have currently in circulation on a periodic basis. It’s something I like to do every couple of years, when I have most of my stories in hand and I’m not working on a bigger project.

Like now. At this point in time, I have eleven short stories that are making the rounds, aged anywhere from eight years to one year old. Ten of them have come back since I last sat down and sent out stories, about three months ago. These stories were out this last go-round anywhere from two days to a year, so it was a matter of timing rather than any big flurry of submission and rejection. A perfect time to review stories.

Age of the story isn’t particularly relevant to whether I circulate the piece or not; I’ve sold some work that I wrote a few years back and I think it’s an issue of either anticipating a market or else the type of story I wrote has come back in favor. Most of these stories are good in and of themselves and just haven’t found their home market yet. If they aren’t very good, they get trunked during these review periods. Some stories get put aside to be expanded into larger works. Now that I’m self-publishing some work, taking the time to expand some stories into novelette or novella form is a viable alternative. Generally, I let my mental notes about rejection feedback guide whether I do that rewrite or not. I’ve only done it with a couple of stories. Most of the time, I shorten a story. Sometimes I cut a secondary plot line. Rarely do I need to do huge edits–mostly, it’s just looking at the story and refreshing it for the current marketplace.

I also use this process time to clean up the circulating MS and do quick and dirty continuing copyedits (even when other eyes have gone over a MS I can still find a blooper or two!). But there are other, closer copyedits to do. For example, an older MS might have gone through a couple of word processor iterations and have some right margin issues. I still have some MSs with two spaces between sentences instead of one. I’m cleaning out tabs in favor of auto-indents. Occasionally there’s a space between the period and the hard return. All nit-picky little stuff, but they’re all things that can hang up the readability of a MS across different platforms.

Also, because I tend to use short stories as a means of exploring other secondary worlds, this review gives me a fresh chance to look at the world that a particular story is set in. Do I want to do other stories in that universe? A novel? If I do have ongoing worldbuilding in that universe, what insight does this particular story provide for character motivation? A lot of the work which has gone into writing the Will and Diana relationship for Andrews Ranch has illuminated the factors that come into play later on in the Netwalk Sequence with their granddaughter Bess. Understandable because I’m explicitly writing a generational saga in that universe. But they are revelations that might not have come to me if I hadn’t written Andrews Ranch.

I’m also laying out the research plans for the rest of this year. I have some big non-Netwalk Sequence projects that I want to get going, including a Weird West novella/novel (Bearing Witness) and a contemporary alternate world fantasy (Becoming Solo) centered around my experiences in 4-H as member, parent, and leader (think of 4-H competition as magical competition. Whole new perspective on Style Revue, Showmanship, and cooking contests). I want to write five new short stories to add to the circulation list, with a goal of getting the circulation list back up to twenty stories. I have two nonfiction self-published books planned. I have an urban fantasy novel that needs to have significant worldbuilding done. I’ve taken a run at it in four different stories and it’s still not quite right.

I also want to start using Scrivener for features other than layout and Compile for ebook publishing. It’s a matter of taking the time to learn the features and play with them, but that means being able to take an hour or so out of multiple days to do that, rather than begrudge the learning curve time because learning the skill takes away from valuable writing time. I need to start thinking about a post-day job writing schedule, where I have a regular pattern set up for household, horse, writing, and research time.

So there’s a number of things to do in this time that I’m letting Andrews Ranch simmer (including thinking about a new title, how to market the dang novella, and just what the cover is going to be). But this down time isn’t just me getting ready to collapse at the end of the school year only to recharge for yet another year; it’s a time for me to prepare for a new way of doing things.

Quite the challenge.

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