Monthly Archives: August 2015

WIP notes

OMG, the current work in progress is a complete pantser frolic. Or at least as pantser as I can get these days. While I have a rough outline sketched out on paper and a length limit in mind (which means I’m watching word count as a part of my pacing), the rest of it—characterization, names, settings—is completely freeform and random except for occasional notes scribbled down when traveling. I don’t know if it’s because this particular story demands this style or if I just needed a break from the tight structure of Netwalk’s Children. Either option is possible.

I don’t even have a solid name for this story yet. It started out as Welcome to Klone Lane, and then part of it became Welcome to the Mudhole Gathering, and now it’s operating under the working title of Klone’s Folly. I wrote part of it as first person, part as third, and spent a day rewriting the third to put it back into first. Originally the setting was going to be pretty much mundane with intrusions from the supernatural, but now it’s in a world where the presence of elementals and cryptids are accepted…and where such beings might be an ill-kept national defense secret. How does it work? I dunno yet. Right now the back brain wants to go on an absolute, total romp of a story and I’m cruising along for the ride.

I needed this. To be honest, I have some stories planned that are just this sort of thing—a total pantser rip—and others, like Children, where I’m working with complex themes and structure.

So I’m having fun with the adventures of Reeni Dutta, special education teacher on the run from a possessive blood-sucking elemental ex-husband and his coterie, tutoring an unruly group of cryptid kids who may be getting trained to be weapons in a mysterious war of mages—and aren’t what they seem, either. I call it Jane Eyre meets Frankenstein’s Monster.

But oh, the rewrite and beta reading is gonna be tough.

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So it was a Worldcon

And it almost didn’t happen for me. See, the horse has been having health issues, and given the expense of the beast, if it looked like I needed to stay home to take care of her, well…as late as the Friday before the con, it was questionable because she was showing signs of colic. That subsided with no incident, fortunately, though the original attack of what we thought was founder/laminitis kept on bothering her. But it wasn’t quite what I thought was founder/laminitis, things didn’t look right…but she was in good spirits so we decided to go. Plus I had Sergeant-at-Arms commitments for con staff, so I needed to figure out what was what so that I could ensure coverage should I not be able to go. Which didn’t happen, fortunately. But.

Well. There’s been a bit of fire around Enterprise of late. Nothing particularly close when we left, except for a wee bit of fire north of town, along the route we were taking. Going to Spokane was all right, though, even with all the smoke. The first day was a bit of a challenge, though, simply because I was using both a walker and a peg leg to get around and keep the pressure off of the sprained ankle. It didn’t take me long to bag the peg leg and stick with the walker. I could put my knee on it, crouch down like a ski racer, and actually make some decent time around the Convention Center doing that, and the walker also provided me with a solid rest for my main Stuff Bag.

Then I discovered that walkers seem to render me invisible at parties. The first night’s party was a wee bit distressing when I figured that out. I usually like to socialize, but between the awkwardness and the invisibility, it certainly Wasn’t Fun. Nonetheless, I got back to the hotel at a reasonable hour, because I had the WSFS Business Meeting to do logistics for as Sergeant-at-Arms. I recruited some helpful friends, and between them we got things up and rolling for four morning meetings.

The gig was enlightening, and I have to say that WSFS Business Meetings are conducted with much more wit, humor, and grace than I’ve encountered either in teacher union meetings (including OEA Representative Assembly) or Democratic Party Central Committee gatherings (both state and county). Much of that was due to the good humor and grace of Kevin Standlee, who’s hands down the best chair I’ve ever had to work with. But a lot of that was also due to the hard work put in by the committee overall to prepare for the meeting, again including Kevin and his wife Lisa as well as far too many others that I can’t name for memory reasons or other stuff. But there were a lot of other good folks helping to coordinate logistics, including CART transcription technology and ASL signing along with the regular PowerPoint agenda slides.

Still, the attitude of the attendees (in spite of the urgency felt to deal with Hugo nomination issues) also made a huge difference. Many of these folks are fans of long standing and remember a LOT about processes. But that doesn’t mean people couldn’t have fun. This was the first time I’ve had someone pass out a Meeting Bingo card with the names of frequent speakers on the card to fill out (before the meeting) and announce Bingos as the frequent speakers spoke. On the third day, one particular fan created a filk (sf folk song) to sum up his position, and sang it to the crowd. That was another first.

But overall, my job was more about making certain that people with disabilities had physical access to following the meeting and being able to comment, making certain that we had a table set up for members to sign in and pick up agendas, and on one day to alert the convention center crew that we needed to have a divider removed between two rooms. Simple little stuff that nonetheless makes meetings work. I’m pleased with the job my team and I did, and proud that we had a lot of people happy with our work. Between all my volunteer gigs and ten years of middle school teaching, I can wrangle people pretty well, especially when given a good support team.

Besides that, I spent some time at the NIWA table promoting books, and meeting up with friends. My ankle definitely slowed me down just because wrangling the walker was still tiring. After a morning’s meeting I wasn’t that eager to bounce out and socialize/self-promote, which meant Worldcon was much more mellow than I had planned. Which was okay, I guess. I wish I’d been able to contact more people I knew–I saw some folks in passing that I would have liked to have spent more time with, but couldn’t for various reasons.

The Hugo Awards themselves were anti-climatic. I decided it would be better to watch on the big screen in Guinan’s Place (a bar setup in the convention center) than in the auditorium itself, especially since that meant I could get a drink or two. The Campbell Award kind of signaled to me that the hard-line anti-puppy vote was in full force, and that became even more evident when No Award was issued in the editor categories.

For the record, I did not vote a complete No Puppy slate. I read all the works. Didn’t mean I completed them, mind you. Too many of the short story competitors made me want to reach for a red pen to do edits and the novelette/novella categories were the same. I didn’t like the results for the editors because with a couple of exceptions, all those folks are solid pros who got caught up in something they had nothing to do with. Additionally, I’m a bit jaundiced about the claims of 40/50-something white men (yes, yes, I know they’re not the only ones but they’re the most visible) that they’re not being recognized. It’s a power play for recognition, and it has succeeded to a small degree. No, I don’t think they will push out people of color or of non-cisnormal sexuality. That boat has sailed. Those groups rightfully have a place at the table and rightfully so, in my opinion. It’s the only just thing.

But. My sense is that the demographic that will get pushed out by these Puppies happens to be mine, quite frankly, because middle-aged white men throwing temper tantrums about their perceived lack of recognition end up dominating the slice which we share. Many older women who’ve deferred writing because of family responsibilities and day jobs end up discovering that they’re not cute enough, edgy enough, or connected enough due to past and current family responsibilities. When faced with a question of fairness, most of us tend to take the stance that “hey, it’s only fair that these discriminated groups have representation.” I believe that, because it’s right. Period. What I don’t like is the feeling that I’m being marginalized, though, because I’m a white woman over 50–and I’ve seen enough ageism in the employment market to recognize it in other settings. It’s annoying as hell to deal with.

The last day turned out to be more hectic than I anticipated. The little fire in the Wenaha-Tuscannon Wilderness that laid down nothing more than smoke on our way to the con blew up on Thursday night, leading to the evacuation of the small town of Troy on the Grande Ronde River and Level 2 evacuation alerts along the road we would have taken home. And then I saw that the barn was on a Level 1 alert due to the Falls Creek Fire up Hurricane Creek. Between that and a report that Mocha was still sore, I had to leave the con at noon on Sunday and rush back to Enterprise. We got here, I was able to talk to the barn owner about the situation (better than I thought, though she had to evacuate horses from the other fire).

And…Mocha looked crippled as heck. I picked up the offending hoof, started to pick it out…and got a spurt of white-brown fluid oozing from by her toe. Abscess. Hopefully it’s just a simple abscess which has been plaguing her over the past few months and not subacute founder. It actually explains her quick apparent recovery and relapse. There are ways it could be bad…but we’ll see. I’ll know in an hour.

So that was a Worldcon. Fun in many ways, opportunities missed in others, but…I did a good job at what I was supposed to do and that’s huge. Not able to promote my writing as much as I could have wanted, but these days I’m not always sure that’s a doable proposition. And I did have fun, plus came home with a select choice of books. Don’t know if there’s another one in my future, but one can always hope.

(Hint: buy books, buy books, buy books….)

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Of Wind, and Grass, and Fire….

Too many years ago I wrote a review of Norman Maclean’s Of Young Men and Fire, about the deaths of fourteen firefighters in Mann Gulch in 1949, using the title above. I was experimenting with a particular voice, thinking about trying to break into creative nature writing. That little review is one of the pieces I kinda like, more of a mood piece reacting to the work rather than an out-and-out review where I mused on the likelihood that those of us going out to the woods could get caught in a similar situation.

And then the thing hit the street on July 5th 1994. The day before fourteen firefighters on the South Canyon fire on Storm King Mountain in Colorado died in similar circumstances as the firefighters in Mann Gulch. The timing rocked me back a wee bit, but I guess it only had a meaning for me as we went camping through another dry, hot summer with high fire danger.

Time passed. We got too busy to do a lot of camping, and started focusing on other things. Woodland fire was a concern but only as it affected specific events, plus we went through several cool summers.

Now we’re back in a long, hot, dry summer. We’ve moved back to a rural community where fires can affect our lives not just by air quality but whether we can go out to the woods to harvest firewood, where we travel, and possibly even where the horse lives. We notice things like how green the grasses are under the trees and how many little burn scars by the interstate are new since the last time we drove through.

We survey the horizons, and pay attention to wind patterns and cloud formations in the hope that lightning will bring rain. Most of all, we think about the autumn rains to come.

But the rains are still at least six weeks out. That’s a long time when the world around you is a tinderbox.

Six weeks or more of thinking about wind, and grass, and fire.

Hopefully thinking is all I’ll have to do about it.

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Summer ebook sale!

Hey folks, I’ve got a pre-Sasquan special going on right now. From now through the end of Worldcon (August 23rd), Netwalk: Expanded Edition and Netwalker Uprising are available for 99 cents at the usual places. Here’s the links.

Netwalk: Expanded Edition on Amazon  and Nook

Netwalker Uprising on Amazon and Nook


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A preview of coming attractions

So while I’ve been moving and rearranging the life, and not at all keeping up with my ambitious publication schedule, there’s been a lot of other things happening in my writing world. If everything plays out correctly I should have at least three big projects hitting this fall, possibly four depending on rewrites and drafting times. And short stories. I need to keep writing short stories.

Project #1—Netwalk’s Children.

Finally. It’s done and in edits. The third book of the Netwalk Sequence is my most challenging one yet, because it’s the turning point of the series. The point of view is beginning the shift from Melanie to her daughter Bess. There’s major revelations about the real nature of the mysterious machine known as the Gizmo which the Corporate Courts were created to restrain and guard. There’s also some examinations of multi-generational family dynamics, the nature of digitally uploaded personalities, and a lot of hints about the revelations to come in the final book of the series, Netwalking Space. That doesn’t mean I won’t write a few more things in the Netwalk world—there’s still a set of The Disruption Chronicles to finish and publish as an omnibus. But Space will finish out my primary vision for the Netwalk Sequence. I’ll probably start work on it next spring with a goal of getting it out in time for Christmas 2016.

Netwalk’s Children should be out in October or November, in time for Orycon.

Project # 2—Pledges of Honor

Originally, I sold this work to a small press publisher. Stuff happened, and I got the rights back. Pledges is my high fantasy with a setting based on the late eighteenth-early nineteenth century interior Pacific Northwest instead of medieval Europe, about the transition of a young woman into a God. Well, that’s the series arc but not necessarily a book arc. The series and the books beyond Pledges are still in development. I’m wrestling with anti-colonialism themes in this one and Pledges barely touches those because its POV character is an outsider who turns out to be an insider. Let’s just say that the basic motivation of this story was the question, “What happens if colonial exiles united with the people they were supposed to colonize to overthrow the original, corrupt colonial empire?” A difficult subject and one I want to do right, because I want my colonial exiles to be the ones who get assimilated. Flipping of the tables, one might say. And I’m operating from the assumption that a society that has moved into its colonial conquest days is eventually going to fall.

Pledges has gone through a number of edits, so I just need to fix breadcrumbs hinting at later developments in the series plus make a final pass through it. I’m hoping to have it out for Christmas 2015. I have a kernel for the second book left over from an internship with Nalo Hopkinson, but boy does it ever need work. Nonetheless, I’ve got some ideas and will be talking more about this series once I get more pieces of it together.

Project #3—Do It Right in Space: Bess and Alex (working title)

This is going to be an omnibus release incorporating two already published novelettes and a novella I’ve still got to put up about Bess and Alex from the Netwalk Sequence. Tranquility Freeriders earned me a Writers of the Future SemiFinalist nomination but it’s not found a lot of love since. In any case, it’s about ambitious interns who figure out how to use skis for emergency evacuations on the Moon. Originally I wrote it for a Heinlein Society contest, then decided I didn’t like the contest constraints and sent it to WotF instead. Too High to Fall was a Finalist in a Story Builder contest and came out in Shelter of Daylight a few years ago, and is a space station mystery centered around a surprisingly stealthed dead skimmer near space station DIR 1. Of Archangels and Fuzzy Green Mascots was developed in a James Gunn short story online course I took a few years ago. It earned an Honorable Mention in WotF but didn’t find much love when I tried to sell it, so I’ve expanded it into a longer work to fit into this omnibus. It’s another space station mystery dealing with sabotage and the Gizmo.

Should be a Christmas 2015 release. Archangels is out on Amazon as a Kindle Unlimited short, and I’ll be running a freebie on it around Sasquan time.

Possible Project # 4—Klone Lane/Klone’s Folly

This is supposed to be a fun little romp of a novella—my Jane Eyre meets Frankenstein in the contemporary interior Pacific Northwest. Reeni grabs at a job as a tutor in an isolated mountain compound to get away from an abusive ex-husband. But she finds out that not only is her ex Karl not human, but neither are her students. Still in early drafts, so I don’t know how far I’ll get with it. I may not get it done before 2016, depending on what happens with the other projects.

Possible Project #5–And other stuff.

I also plan to write more short stories on spec as well to specific anthologies—have two of those prospects that I need to develop right now. I’m also branching out into creative nonfiction and am trying to write those essays as well.

So. Lots going on.

Project #6– Newsletter announcement

I will be releasing my first newsletter in a few days. I don’t plan to spam folks so you should be getting posts about 3-6 times a year, depending on my convention and release schedules. Besides cool pix and stuff that won’t show up on either Facebook or the blog, I’ll be doing a giveaway directly from the newsletter. Stay tuned for further details.

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Adventures in self-publishing

So today was designated as Make Chapbook for Worldcon today. I’d gone out of my way to make sure that the paper cutter came with me but I needed that for bookmarks, not chapbooks…and I realized that the long-arm stapler still lives in the garage in Portland and I’m up here in Enterprise. ARRGH. I called a local print shop, and they had one handy.

But. I had to format the chapbook first, and…well, while I had written instructions on how to transform it from Scrivener to Word, I’d left out a few formatting steps. And it had been eight months since I’ve last done this. Fortunately, I could refer back to the first chapbook I produced, both in Scrivener and in Word, and between the two I finally got everything put together. The cover ended up being easier than I thought.

The one thing I hadn’t counted on was how thick the chapbook was. It didn’t help that when I tried to use the print shop stapler, I inadvertently was trying to staple two chapbooks. Still, I came home, carefully rolled the back page, and used my heavy-duty stapler to do the job. Success!

The books are now stacked under a pile of heavy books to flatten them out. One reason I made them was so that I would have something light to carry around Worldcon for sale, trade, or giveaway. And the story?

Why this one, of course:cover

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