Monthly Archives: October 2013

Orycon Schedule

So here’s where I’ll be at Orycon and who I’ll be with. I admit to a snicker at the location of “The Suburban Survivalist” in the Alaska room. And if you want to listen to me rant about education, Friday night’s your time. Oh heck, this panel lineup argues for a lot of rantage. Grin.

Meanwhile, what to read, what to read? I’m reading Sunday morning, so turnout may be…abysmal. I’m hoping not, but we will see.

Moderator indicated by (*)

The Space Race: have we disqualified ourselves? Idaho Fri Nov 8 3:00pm-4:00pm. Can we still maintain an edge in space technology without heavy lift capability of our own? Will private industry pick up the baton? (*)Joyce Reynolds-Ward, Melinda Hutson, Arthur Bozlee

Education Today. Madison Fri Nov 8 5:00pm-6:00pm. Common Core Standards, Proficiency, High Stakes Testing…what’s going on in education today? Is our education system really that bad? Are today’s students dumber? Discussion by people who know what they’re talking about. Joyce Reynolds-Ward, Rory Miller, Sheila Simonson, Patrick Swenson, Roy Torley, (*)Joan Gaustad

The Death of the Stand-Alone Book. Madison Fri Nov 8 6:00pm-7:00pm. Trilogies, tetralogies–we’re not even sure of the right names for five, six, seven-book series! Where does the madness end? Is there no market any more for non-series books? Dave Smeds, Alma Alexander, Joyce Reynolds-Ward, Jean Lamb

The Suburban Survivalist. Alaska Sat Nov 9 2:00pm-3:00pm. With solar cells, satellite comm, compost piles, high tech vegetable gardens, 3D printers, and so on, how long before an ordinary tract home can go “off grid” in ways that would make the 70’s era survivalist recluse envious. How far will some people go to pull the plug? How many will do so? What difference will it make to society? (*)G. David Nordley, Dan Dubrick, Mary Rosenblum/Mary Freeman, Joyce Reynolds-Ward

Female Villains. Morrison Sat Nov 9 3:00pm-4:00pm. We often speak of writing strong female characters, but what about strong female villains that aren’t just caricatures? An examination of characterization that moves beyond the ever popular rape scenario that is often given as a primary motivation for women seeking revenge. Joyce Reynolds-Ward, Liz Gorinsky, S. A. Bolich, (*)Rhiannon Louve

Science Fiction as a Tool for Social Change. Hamilton Sat Nov 9 4:00pm-5:00pm. Many writers have put their ideals into their writing. Some have even tried to get people to follow those ideas. Elton Elliott, (*)Steven Barnes, Joyce Reynolds-Ward, Donna McMahon, Rhiannon Louve

Joyce Reynolds-Ward Reading. Grant Sun Nov 10 10:30am-11:00am. Joyce Reynolds-Ward reads from own works

If it Matters to Oregonians, it’s in a Tweet. Lincoln Sun Nov 10 12:00pm-1:00pm. Is traditional media dead and do we want it to be? Joyce Reynolds-Ward, Ann Gimpel, Donna McMahon, (*)Jack Skillingstead

Religion in Genre Fiction. Morrison Sun Nov 10 3:00pm-4:00pm. Depictions of actual, ‘modernized’ or adapted religions in genre fiction–the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. What’s been done and what could be done better with religion in fiction. Is the future atheistic? (*)Dave Bara, Guy Letourneau, Joyce Reynolds-Ward, Kier Salmon

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Crazy October

Wasn’t it just a few days ago that Mocha and I were at the horse show? It’s been close to a month now, and it seems like that whole time has just spun by.

Part of that has involved a welcome uptick in Day Jobbe activity–primarily extra duty diagnostic assessment at the high school. I’ve spotted former students, chatted with colleagues, and mentally noted some patterns that you don’t normally notice when you’re just testing your own caseload kids. Even before, when I had to do a flurry of testing, that involved younger kids with fairly similar backgrounds. At the high school, I’m seeing kids from different programs than mine, and the things I notice are interesting.

One pattern that I keep coming back to is that I am seeing how a lack of grammar knowledge is not just a composition issue but is also a comprehension issue. I’m chewing on that thought pretty heavily. Key element: it’s dang hard to pick out the main idea in a sentence or paragraph when a reader consistently confuses prepositional phrases describing the main idea with the main idea itself. Just sayin’.

Anyway, there’s some other stuff going on involving the Day Jobbe that I can’t talk about at the moment, and it’s tied into personal life stuff. Potential positives all around, but…can’t talk too much yet.

Writing is in a shambles at the moment. Between testing and wrestling with our new student database program to produce not just grades but IEPs for three students just before conferences, I’ve not had a lot of mental energy for writing. Some of the other stuff going on has interfered as well. It’s frustrating but very real. However, during conferences today I did get some words down. Not a lot, but…Becoming Solo really does need focus and attention. I have to do a LOT of writing, and soon, to meet deadline. But now that that first big set of IEPs is over except for paperwork corrections, and conferences are over and I’ve figured out the new gradebook (for now), things should stabilize. Maybe.

Conferences. Things started going south the day before when kids came up to me practically in tears because they were flunking my class. And these were my A students.

What the ?!#@?!?

I quickly figured out that the damn student management database software had blown up again. Luckily, a bit of wrestling with it straightened things out, and I learned a piece of valuable information. All I’ve gotta say, though, is that if a database designer DOESN’T MEAN to have the main page of a grade book to produce reliable grade calculations, then turn off the capacity to enter grades in that screen. Period. I know enough about databases to know it’s doable.

In any case, I fixed the gradebook, printed out progress reports, and started my parent meetings with abject, heartfelt apologies to student and parent; explained the circumstances, apologized again, and handed the corrected grade over. Several kids were facing grounding over that damn gradebook screwup, and I feel horrible about it.

As it were, I had one of my biggest turnouts ever for conferences. But it was tiring and difficult, with intense meeting time mixed with dead time (we were in the gym rather than in our rooms). But running to 8 pm on Thursday, then getting back up the Mountain for more meetings by 8 am was tiring. Still, I feel like it was a productive set of conferences.

But dang, I’m tired. And October is almost over. Where did it go?

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Grr. I hate this story.

So it appears that, for a novella, the I hate this pile of absolute, stinking dreck mode wants to hit about 5000 words in. Interesting.

Basically, it’s only been the last year or so that I’ve been playing with drafting and writing novellas. The pacing is–different. By now, when it comes to a full-blown novel of about 100,000 words, I’ve got a certain comfort level as to where what plot element is going to go when, and just about how many words I want to develop a particular scene sequence in, and just when the blahs strike. But this is the third novella-type project I’ve developed, and I’m only now seeing how and where and why I struggle with it. Trying to find just enough complexity without overloading the plot is the big challenge.

I’m also writing a whimsical sort of quasi-young adult-themed story here as well, involving magic and sewing and coming-of-age-against-odds plot tropes. It’s out of my usual element, but it’s a story I want to tell. I developed the idea from another story that got rejected, so it’s also a redesign project. I’ve done that type of blow it up, redesign it, and recast the tale sort of writing before. Just not at this length.

So it’s a learning curve, but because I’ve been wrestling with Andrews Ranch, I realized where the problem spot is. At this point the goal is to press on through, get the words down, insert brackets bemoaning a particularly infodumpy and clunky section to rewrite later, and plan on extensive rewrites. The story is twisting and changing as it comes out, and it’s damnably unruly right now.

Feh. Doesn’t mean it’s an easy process.

A complicating factor is that I took on some additional contract work at the Day Jobbe. It’s nice to have, but very intense and exhausting. I leave early on those days and don’t get many words in before I go, and when I return, I’m usually so wiped out I can’t write. Ah well, it’s half over. I’m glad for it, but–it adds to the distraction for this work.

So goeth the writing life. I have other things to write so this needs to get done in first draft. Then I can work on something else and get perspective on this one.

Still, it’s definitely a spell where I’m at grrr–I hate this story mode.


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Hunting 2013


For the first time in a couple of years, we had a hunting trip where we could see the mountains the whole time. Not just the Wallowas, but the Seven Devils.


We also stayed in a nice little cabin at Wallowa Lake–for three adults, that ended up being the cheapest and most pleasant alternative. Once again, we kind of went through the homesick phase while we were visiting the County. Even though we only lived there for six months over thirty years ago, that six months was when we lost our hearts to the place. It made us heartsick to leave, but it was the best thing to do at the time, as a young couple without the means or experience to make it in the ranching world. I was nowhere near being able to make it as a writer, and we just didn’t have the supports to try to make it in other viable areas.

But we’ve always dreamed of going back, of living the kind of outdoor life we’ve always loved to do. Despite all our dreams of other places, the Wallowas have had our hearts for years, and the Wallowa country doesn’t let go easily. It also provides fodder for gorgeous pictures.


The required Grouse Creek picture–setting of “Cold Dish,” recently reprinted in Netwalk: Expanded Edition.

Another hunter girl pinup pic.


No buck deer spotted where we could see them this year. No grouse spotted, either. That was okay. We had a good two days back in the woods and at the lake. I got two nice hikes in, one on Saturday afternoon where I spotted kokanee and did some writing.


On Sunday morning, the family wandered down to the lake and we spotted a pair of eagles.


And a lot of daydreaming about other types of lifestyle happened, too.

Nonetheless, it was a lovely visit and an all-too-short relaxing time. At some point I hope we can spend more time in this heart place. But the reality of that is still very far away, especially for people like us with responsibilities, duties, and–well–obligations.

Dreaming is still pretty darn nice, though.

And now it’s time to get back to work.

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Netwalk Foundations Monday: Who Protects the Protectors?


It’s the first Monday of October, and time for another Netwalk Foundations piece!

Who Protects the Protectors is a closer look at the relationship of Angela Garcia and Nik Morley, the heads of Melanie Fielding’s Do It Right Security team.

Here’s a taste:

Where’s Nik?

Empty bed next to her. Angela Garcia flung her right hand over to Nik’s side of the bed. Barely warm. He’d been gone for a while.

Damn it. She pressed the heels of her hands into her eyes and drew in a deep, calming breath, trying to summon up enough energy to investigate further. Nik shouldn’t be alone so soon after this last solo assignment. She needed to find him and make sure he wasn’t sleepwalking or having flashbacks from his long virtual exposure. He’d pleaded fatigue to their usual post-mission debrief and decompression. She’d let it slide this time.

Obviously she shouldn’t have.

Kindle version here, epub version here, PDF version here.

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The horses of the Netwalk Sequence

Horses? In a high-tech science fiction story?


Guess I’m in a horsey mood these days, post-horse show. Whatever the reason, last night I started thinking about a post on the horses in my Netwalk Sequence world, et voila! The concept came into being.

Granted, some folks are going to raise their brows at this. Horses in a neuropunk family saga? Horses as a part of a futuristic world where digital personalities upload and an unknown entity wreaks apocalyptic havoc on the world until restrained by an international coalition of corporate interests? You betcha. After all, it’s my world, my creation, and if I want flying cars, horses and skiing in it–yep, it’s going to happen. Besides, the horses function as a grounding purpose as well as being part of the identity of the Andrews-Stephens-Landreth-Fielding family, with heavy roots in Eastern Oregon ranching country to contrast with the timber barons on the other side of the family. I’ve not brought this in, but certainly the ranching background was a formative influence in a young Diana Andrews Landreth’s life and a factor in the development of the skills that made her a formidable bioremediation leader. The ranching background affected Diana’s mother, Sarah Stephens. Even though Sarah’s marriage to Dan Andrews didn’t last very long, horses were a much-loved part of Sarah’s few years on the Andrews Ranch. Diana made sure that her son and daughter, Andrew Landreth Stephens and Melanie Landreth Fielding had horse experience, though only Melanie really took to it.

And there’s more. Without further ado, here’s some of the horses of the Netwalk Sequence world.

Missy. Missy appears in my unpublished short story, “Alien Savvy,” about a sweet little buckskin cutting horse mare who saves her owner Hank Martin from alien attack by her ability to maneuver safely around aliens and lock into herding behavior which scares the aliens off. The Martins are neighbors of the Andrews Ranch, and the deal that Pete Andrews strikes with Hank Martin to get him back on his feet after the devastation on his cattle herd caused by alien attack leads to the foundation of the famous Andrews Ranch strain of cutting and reining horses. “Alien Savvy” hasn’t sold and probably won’t sell to a traditional sf market because of the horse and alien factor. It is very early in the Netwalk Sequence, and maybe I’ll just self-pub it as a Netwalk Foundations piece (do NOT get me started on my perception of editorial short story biases about horses in the sf genre, okay?).

Mocha. Yes, this is my sweet little Mocha in several different guises. Missy’s great-granddaughter Mocha put the Andrews Ranch on the performance horse map with her cutting ability. Diana rode a Mocha daughter to several championships when she was a girl in her late teens and early twenties; one of the few things that both Dan Andrews and Sarah Stephens agreed upon with regard to their daughter during this time was their pride in Diana’s horse show accomplishments. Melanie rides a Mocha granddaughter, also named Mocha, during her flight in Netwalk: Expanded Edition, and Mocha also makes a social appearance in Netwalker Uprising.

Kokanee. A little dark bay mare that is the original Mocha’s descendant and a daughter of Diana’s championship mare. She’s a low-key presence in the upcoming Problems at the Andrews Ranch, and Diana gets righteously angry at her estranged father-in-law for wanting to buy her. Kokanee is Diana’s hope for continuing her father’s breeding program, even as she also struggles to build Do It Right as a viable international bioremediation technology company. One of her foals sires Melanie’s Mocha.

Charlie. Fiesty and grumpy Appaloosa ranch gelding who is Dan Andrews’s last mount. Charlie never did have the temperament to go to shows but he could go miles on a daily ride and had a comfortable amble gait that was easy to sit–perfect for an older rancher. But he had enough spark to pretend to be a bronc when first saddled up on a cold morning. It was all bluff and play, though. Dan never let it become more than that, and he enjoyed Charlie’s antics up until his last rides.

Griffen. Rental Appaloosa that Diana rides in Problems at the Andrews Ranch, when she goes to meet Nez Perce land acquisition negotiator Joaquin Ridge, a former boyfriend and old high school buddy.

There are other horses I’ve not put a name to yet. Bess, Melanie’s daughter, doesn’t take to horses in the same degree that Melanie does, and yet she finds peace in interacting with horses. Alex Jeffreys really takes to horses and he rides a black silver dapple Rocky Mountain gelding. Alex and Bess find uses for miniature horses in space settings, and develop a strain that–well, let’s wait and see where that goes, shall we? That part still needs development.

Needless to say, the equine element of the Netwalk Sequence is an understated but very real presence.

Hey, it wouldn’t be my world if I didn’t have horses in it, now, would it?

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A typhoon of a horse show

Not joking.


You can kind of see it in this picture. That was Saturday, and Sunday was even more so. I thought I’d taken pictures of the epic storm, but no, I guess I was battened down outside of Mocha’s stall, watching the typhoon remnants rage.

It was a good show. I put up detailed results on Facebook and I won’t go into those details here–except to say that Mocha did very well in Trail classes. Half of our ribbons were firsts and seconds overall, and we placed in over half of our classes, with the majority of placements coming from all three judges. Not too bad for folks who only show once a year!

Part of the excellent results came from focused training. I started prepping for this show in July, and, despite a few sidetracks from horse and human health stuff, we kept to a pretty consistent training and conditioning schedule.

In any case, the storm was in full steam when we got to the fairgrounds. In past years, it’s been a pretty fall show with decent fall weather. This year–nope. Full-blown mid-latitude cyclone. At least it wasn’t as crazy as the infamous 1962 Columbus Day storm that did significant damage and was quite powerful.

Horse and rider prep pictures:


This was the mane styling for Mocha for Saturday and Sunday. Friday night reining, we just went without braids.


Just before reining classes, putting on my chaps. I’m still wearing my wool hiking hat from REI, to be swapped out for helmet (Friday night) or expensive felt show hat (Saturday and Sunday).


Rail view during reining. She kept trying to drift out, didn’t want to steer right, I wasn’t locking into her, she wasn’t happy with her boots and the footing. But we still placed in one class and would have placed in the other if I’d not lost count of my last spin.


Thundering along. Her ears are forward, she’s looking where we’re going, at least.

And then there was Trail.


Trotting the tarp.


Pulling the drag around the cone.

We had two late nights, with the weather making things nasty and late on Saturday. 99W closed down and we had to come home by way of Forest Grove and Hillsboro.

Nonetheless, I’m proud of my little mare. We’ve worked hard and we did well at this show, all things considered. She did a good job, and, thanks to a nice bale of orchard grass hay, stayed very happy all weekend munching away on good roughage to keep her calm and her gut stable.

A good horse show. I’m happy.

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