Tag Archives: Netwalk Sequence

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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Writing short vs long

One thing I’ve really noticed about my writing process this year is the difference between writing short and writing long. When I write a short story, it seems as if it’s a struggle to wrest 500-1000 words out of my brain and onto the page. I end up making a lot of erasures, eliminate pieces, and often can’t see my way through to the end of the story in one sitting.

On the other hand, when I’m working on a novel, I can easily go through 1000-2000 words a day. Right now my current goal is to get 2000 words down on one novel, 1000 words on a second one. If I have several hours to work, it’s doable. When I’m working on a novel, it’s usually in 700-1000 word scene chunks and it just seems to unfold much more easily.

In part this is because my natural writing length is that of a novelist. Many of my short stories start out reading like the first chapter of a novel and need a LOT of pruning to eliminate that aspect of the story. I like complex plots with lots of twists and turns, but…you can’t do a lot of that in a short story (note the phrasing there; short story complexity often is not plot-driven but theme and character-driven).

Additionally, the novel can sprawl while every word in a short story has a purpose–sometimes even multiple purposes.

This year I’ve written four short pieces and am working on a novel. Of those shorts, one is a 6k word self-published short (Inconvenient Truths) tied into my Netwalk Sequence world and coming out on July 4th. Truths was intended to be a submission for one of the many new anthologies out there reacting to Donald Trump’s election. It didn’t fit (well, I thought it did, but I’m not the editors) and, since it was a Netwalk Sequence story, I decided that it could go out on its own.

(We won’t talk about why I’m finding it extremely difficult to write political fiction without placing it in the Netwalk Sequence world and evoking Sarah Stephens. Let’s just say that it’s my head thing and leave it. I could write several–many–political stories, but that would be violating the trust of people I know. The perils of being an ex-activist….)

Needless to say, I hadn’t really planned for Truths to happen, though it illustrates a crucial turning point in the Netwalk universe.

Another story, Exile’s Honor, is a Goddess’s Honor novelette that was somewhat planned for, and lays a foundation for elements within the current Goddess’s Honor novel, Challenges of Honor. I tend to use short stories as means to explore the series I’m writing, and Exile looked at an important development in Goddess’s Honor.

But then there are the other stories. Both are somewhat solicited, in that they’re aimed at anthologies that I was invited to participate in. One’s somewhat goofy and not at all political; the other has political elements but doesn’t move into territory that makes me want to revert to the Netwalk Sequence. Still, I agonized over both of them, and the goofy story requires more attention from me before I send it out. 500 words a day was the best I could do on either story.

Ironically, when it comes to publishing, short stories fill most of my traditional credits. Part of that reality is market-driven. Even in today’s tight publishing market, there are still more options to sell short stories to a legitimate publisher than there are novels. That’s just the way things work. The shorts may not earn me a lot of money, but they do earn something, which is what the novels (except for Pledges of Honor) don’t exactly do. On the other hand, given the amount of time it takes to produce a short story (especially on spec, where it can take anywhere from 2 months to 10 years to sell), I’m better off working on the longer works. For whatever reason, I find that the older short stories in my portfolio are the ones who sell.

So it is a puzzlement at times. Short stories earn me visibility and a shot at higher recognition. But they require a lot of energy, attention, sweat, and blood for me to make them work. Really, I need to write them, then shove them in a closet to marinate and mature before I send them out. I can’t count on them to be easily saleable, especially when writing a spec story instead of a solicited story.

Novels, on the other hand, are a lovely unfolding of a story, a pleasant ramble through the tale (even when I’m trudging through the midpoint of the novel). I can get them written, put them aside for a few weeks, then spend another month in revisions which creates a clean usable draft for editing purposes. It takes me about six months to turn out a decent 90,000-100,000 word novel from rough draft to final independent publication. But given the realities of today’s novel market, I’m better off marketing them directly to the reader (which requires production, cover work, editing work, and a lot more effort) rather than to publishers.

That said, one reason I’m working on two stories at once right now is that I am crafting one novel to send out to small and mid-level publishers. It’s a high-concept idea that has a nice little tagline and quick elevator pitch, and it might just be quirky enough to fit the demands of today’s market–or not, depending on what Marketing thinks. There’s only one way to find out, though, and that’s to send it out. I’m not planning to hit the Big Five with this one because I don’t feel like wasting my time waiting for it to take two to five years to work its way through the slush pile. But I would like to find a decent mid-to-small press where I could market some of the quirky standalone ideas I have.

The series stories? Not ready to market those elsewhere yet, especially since I want the freedom to be able to sell related short stories and the like. But the quirky standalone books? Oh yeah, if I could find a market for those…that would be a different tale.

So we shall see where this takes me.

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The two covers of Netwalking Space are now one

It wasn’t my intention to have two covers for Netwalking Space. But what happened was that I’d contacted my original cover artist, who had done the work on Netwalk: Expanded Edition and Netwalker Uprising to see if he could do this last cover. Which he did–the cover on the right side, with the title on the bottom.

It’s a gorgeous cover, and there’s nothing wrong with it–but. But! When I went to repackage it for the CreateSpace cover, nothing I did worked. I tried and tried, but I couldn’t get it to fit to CreateSpace specs. And he is busy at a day job, so…I turned to the designer of my fantasy series covers to have her do the paperback version. I decided to leave the ebook cover as is, and see if it sold.

Nothing.

So nothing was lost by switching the cover for the ebooks to match the paperback.

I think I’m going to eventually switch covers on the others, starting with the failed lousy cover I did for Netwalk’s Children. I do need to get to work on compiling the collection of the Bess and Alex novelettes (Tranquility Freeriders, Too High to Fall, and Of Archangels and Fuzzy Green Mascots). But this step is done.

We’ll see if it sells better now.

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Happy book day, NETWALKING SPACE

Netwalking full cover

0594-netwalking-space-cover

The paperback edition hasn’t quite cleared Createspace yet, but there’s the cover above! While the ebook cover was lovely, it just didn’t work in translation to hard copy. So the fantabulous Roslyn McFarland worked her magic, and lo…a hard copy cover! The woman on the front cover could be Bess, or Nora Achimade, or a couple of other characters…even Ekua the Netwalker.

But the ebook is out! Here’s all the information:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01N33JCVZ

Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/netwalking-space-joyce-reynolds-ward/1125476216

Apple iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/id1194878070

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/netwalking-space

The blurb:

78,954 alien devices appear just outside Pluto orbit, with a projected trajectory that ends at Earth…and the data shows they’re identical to the Gizmo war machine that destroyed ten Earth cities before it was captured and confined….

 

For four generations Bess Fielding and her family have led the battle to control the destructive Gizmo device that also allowed for the development of Netwalk, a digital virtual networking and communication system that allows personalities to upload at death. Bess, her mother Melanie, and her Netwalker great-grandmother Sarah have suspected Gizmo’s alien origin for years.

 

But when a fleet of Gizmo devices arrives at the Solar System, their focus on defending against this invasion is disrupted by disclosures of dark secrets from Sarah’s past. These revelations provoke a dangerous breakdown in Bess’s grandmother Diana, turning her into a Gizmo collaborator. Bess and her family must unite to save Diana and lead the fight to protect Earth—but who is trustworthy? Who is a betrayer? Who gets sacrificed to stop the invading fleet? Bess, Melanie, and Sarah are in a race against time and face tough choices…that will impact those they love.

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Writing process thoughts

If you had asked me a couple of years ago whether I was a pantser or a plotter when it comes to writing novels, I probably would have leaned more toward the pantser side of things. Yes, I had some rough outlines and ideas about where the books were going, but I also wasn’t about to tie myself down to the limitations of detailed plot planning. Nope. My process worked just okayfine for me without resorting to spending a lot of time on plotting. Worldbuilding, yeah. I had this concept that building the world and the characters would be enough–the plot would come.

Well, that worked for what I was doing at the time, when I was spending most of my time in one location, maybe writing a novel a year along with assorted short stories. Certainly I wasn’t working on anything book-wise that I needed to keep track of continuity of in earlier works. Plus I was working part-time and didn’t have the mental energy to spend working through detailed plotting exercises…or so I thought.

And then I decided I wanted to amp up the writing schedule. I needed to get two books a year cranked out, if not more, in order to get what I wanted to say down on paper. Plus I was facing a complex book, Netwalk’s Children,  part of a series where I had a LOT of stuff going on in a very short time frame. Added to the complexity was the reality that I was writing this first draft of a book I’d been struggling with during a long-distance move of most of our household to our second home in Enterprise. I couldn’t just putz around with editing and easing my way into the story every day before heading off to work. I needed to be able to snatch an hour here and there between packing and loading without doing any special invocations of the Muse to get back into the flow of the story.

What to do, what to do?

About this time, someone published a link to the matrices that J.K. Rowling created to track her characters. I looked at that matrix, and decided that something similar would fit my needs. Enter the Plot Matrix. For the Netwalk books (Netwalk’s Children and Netwalking Space) that meant I listed the major characters down the short side of a yellow legal pad. Then I went through the story pretty much scene-by-scene, noting what each character was doing at the time at this scene, color-coding by pen color to indicate which of the three POV characters was on stage.

It worked that first time. Not perfectly–I ended up tearing it apart and rewriting it about halfway through Children. That was a tough book to write in many ways, but having the matrix handy was priceless for drafting on the fly when I had the moments to write, and when I had to tear things apart midbook? It saved my rear.

The Plot Matrix was followed by the Scene Matrix for the rewrite. I sat down and created a similar document on the computer, landscape layout, where I started by listing page numbers for each scene, identifying viewpoint character, location, other characters in scene, scene summary, and rewrite notes as I went through the creation of the Scene Matrix.

OMG. The Scene Matrix was priceless for continuity rewrites. It gave me an understanding of the book that I had previously lacked.

Of course, next I decided to prove to myself that I didn’t need to use matrices for the next work. Beyond Honor was conceived as a short novel or novella and I didn’t think I would need the matrix for it. Ulp. I spent far too much time scrolling back-and-forth trying to keep track of things in that book, and I swore never again would I avoid the matrix.

So. Next up was Netwalking Space. Four POVs. Fast-paced story. I did the full-blown plot matrix for it–and guess what?

To start with, I somehow managed to avoid the muddle in the middle. I started work on the first draft on July 31st and finished it in early September. I was able to maintain a daily word count of 300-3000 words without killing myself over it. Disruptions didn’t mess up the work flow. Then I let it sit for a week before going back to create the Scene Matrix. Rewrites were relatively simple and it’s out to beta readers right now with a projected publication date in January.

And here I now go again. I have a short urban fantasy novel start that kind of petered out about halfway through 2015. I’d started it after Netwalk’s Children but before I got the rights back to Pledges of Honor, then dropped it when I got the Pledges rights back. One problem with Welcome to Klone’s Folly was that I didn’t have a clear picture of where I was going with the story. I had a rough idea of what I might want to do, but no details.

Well, that’s fixed. I sat down with what I have of Folly, and over the past week have hammered out a plot matrix for the darn thing. It was a bit harder than either Netwalk book because different characters, a standalone book, somewhat different genre. I might end up tearing this matrix apart in about 30,000 words…or not. It will be a good way to find out if this particular method works for a single POV urban fantasy or not. In any case, after I wrote the matrix, I found it easy to write the blurb/pitch/whatever.

It will be interesting to see if the method continues to work.

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Committing Prologue

I’m generally not a fan of prologues. But for some reason, this came to me as a possible prologue for Netwalking Space. Appropriate timing since I’m starting the rewrite tomorrow or Friday. So what do folks think about this?

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

PROLOGUE

Once there was a woman who discovered secrets about her origins. To keep those secrets from destroying her children, she became powerful and destructive herself, chasing after immortality to avoid her ghosts. But in living beyond death, this woman discovered those shadows had a deeper claim on her than ever.

Once there was a woman who loved a man who built war machines. Over their lifetime together, he weaponized his beautiful and terrifying wife as they sought to master the effects caused by the capture of the strange city-killing machine called the Gizmo. The powerful daughter of a formidable mother, this woman rose to political heights greater than any her mother had accomplished. But when her beloved lived beyond death, she could not endure the result.

Once there was a woman who was a dutiful daughter. She served as her weaponized mother’s enforcer, mastering the wireless technology enabled by the Gizmo that allowed humans to upload personalities into the virtual world of digital life. She learned to control and work with those who lived beyond death. But this woman chose her daughter over her mother, and in doing so, gained more power over those who lived beyond death.

Once there was a woman who loved both space and the devoted assassin-in-training who had grown up with her. She took custody of the great-grandmother who had lived beyond death, forging a collaboration meant to take on worlds. But this woman and the man she loved have been targeted by the Gizmo since childhood, under consistent threat by shadows of those who lived beyond death.

Sarah. Diana. Melanie. Bess. Great-grandmother, grandmother, mother, daughter.

The Gizmo stirs as it senses the approaching fulfillment of its original purpose.

But first it has to deal with these four women, alive and dead.

Perhaps the secrets of the eldest may provide the key it needs.

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Netwalking Space finished!

About six weeks and right around 85k in rough draft, but it’s DONE. I’ll probably putz around a wee bit with the ending tomorrow, but…it’s done, done, DONE.

Six weeks of intensive writing, at about 2000 words a day average with some days going as high as 3000 or 35oo words. I did hit 4000 one day, but that was a rarity. While the ending took a few right hand turns, for the most part the storyline followed my original plan. I don’t know if it was the consistent writing, or what, but for once I didn’t have to stop in the middle third to rewrite the outline and whip the plan back in shape. I’m very pleased with that prospect.

There will need to be some significant rewriting before I ship it out to beta readers. I know there’s some continuity needs with earlier books, and within the story. I also have a subculture with too many A names, and I need to figure out some handwavium for the science part in order to maintain the narrative tension.

But it’s pretty much a wrap for this last book of the Netwalk Sequence.

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Busy times, and a Netwalking Space snippet

Between school starting back up and trying to get the novel finished and preserving the fall harvest, it’s been a busy time. But I’m getting close to finishing the book–probably 85k-90k since I’m now at 80k and we’re at the climax. 5k to play that out, 5 more k to resolve. Cool.

So here’s some of what I’m working on today:

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

A prickling sensation like that of a swarm of insects with clawed feet scrabbled from her elbows down to her hands. Bess forced herself to relax as Alex/Sarah took over her hands, pushing past the springy resistance with three practiced twists. Stock and firing chamber were together.

The crawling feel reversed itself, climbing from fingertips to hands to wrists to elbows.

<Whew. That felt weird,> Sarah/Alex speeched.

<I’ll say so. Will you need to do the same thing with the barrel?> Bess balanced the half-assembled rifle in her left hand, working her right hand open, closed, open, closed until she could feel herself in it again. Then she shifted the rifle to her right hand and repeated with her left.

<No, the programming’s focused in those two pieces. Placement is more important.> More Alex than Sarah this time.

Light flashed at them. Bess ducked, careful to keep the rifle steady.

“I thought you two would try something sneaky like this,” a woman’s voice said over their radios. “Put that rifle down and raise your hands. I’m on the next ridge behind you.”

“Who the hell are you?” Alex demanded, stepping to shield Bess. He reached behind with his good hand and took the half-assembled rifle from her. He pressed several buttons.

Laughter. “I’m the ticket to your new forever.”

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The snark is strong with this one

Not sure how I feel about what I wrote today. Feels a little bit like jumping the shark.

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

Melanie triggered a Netwalk system-wide alert even as she raised her defenses.

<Entities of Third Planet, 3!G Star, 7!N2* Sector.> A picture of the Earth-Moon system with the sun behind it popped up. <This is The Nest. Prepare to meet your glorious destiny. Convert to the Wisdom of the Deep Mechanicals and join Our Nest in the stars.> An image of the Milky Way galaxy replaced the Earth-Moon system. <Release our flawed segment and compensate us for the services it has rendered to you so far.> An image of the Gizmo came next. <Failure to convert, release our flawed segment, and provide adequate compensation will result in unpleasant consequences.> Images of explosions, volcanic eruptions, and tsunamis followed. <We hope you will come to a wise decision. Have a pleasant day, may your data always flow smoothly, and cherish your nest always.>

Pictures and the voice faded from virtual. Melanie tightened the jaw she’d dropped while listening to the Nest.

“What—was—that?” she finally forced out.

“I—it’s authentic, Melanie,” Will said.

“The Nest? With that cheesy—“ she gestured with both hands—“demand letter? Or are they just crappy missionaries? Pay us compensation? For what? Netwalk?”

“It sure as hell sounds like a crappy twentieth century scifi movie,” Andrew said. “If I hadn’t seen it in virtual, though, I’d not believe it.”

“Pretty damn presumptuous,” Paul said. “Convert and join. Doesn’t exactly sound voluntary to me.”

“Unless someone’s pulling one king-hell of a prank on the whole system,” Melanie said. “I mean—“ She shook her head. “Join us or die? Pay us compensation? Release their failed segment?”

“That’s a key right there,” Will said. “The gadget didn’t do what it was supposed to do. Or something. But they want it back.”

“Shit.” Melanie slumped against her chair. “You know damn good and well that the Courts will happily give the damn thing back to them without an argument. But compensation and conversion? That sounds worse.”

“If they take the gadget back they’ll get the Shadow Chamber with it,” Will said. “Is that something we want to see happen?”

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Today’s snippet

Almost at 48k today….and things are getting crazy.

*******

<Save him, damn it!> She couldn’t do anything until she got this damn piece of junk landed, and right now they were headed for a rock field. She had no thruster power, and the yoke wasn’t working well. Emergency landing procedure. Bess clicked on the airbags. They inflated with a jerk. She gave up on the yoke and secured her helmet, then turned to Alex, writhing under his seat restraints. To her relief, he had managed to secure his helmet. She grabbed it to make him face her, wincing as he kept screaming, his eyes wide and nearly popping out.

“WE’RE GOING DOWN!” she yelled. “BRACE! EMERGENCY LANDING PROCEDURE!”

Despite it all, he nodded. She tried to guide him toward a safe crash position, but his limbs resisted.

<Damn it, Sarah, DO SOMETHING.>

<Can’t…Blocked…>

Bright white lunar surface coming up fast. One of them had to be alert upon landing. One of them had to function. Bess braced herself. The shuttle struck, then bounced high, flipping over. She lost track of the number of times they rolled. At last they lay still.

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