Monthly Archives: July 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Martiniere Legacy: Book One, Inheritance; Book Two, Ascendant; and Book Three, Realization will be released in Fall 2020, along with side stories and sketches. More specific information can be found in my newsletter which comes out toward the end of each month. Sign up for my newsletter at for release dates.

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No more short stories

In a lot of ways, this is a hard post to write. I’ve sold plenty of short stories. Earned placements in competitions including Writers of the Future (SemiFinalist, Honorable Mention x 2).

But I’m done with submitting unsolicited short stories to markets. Period. It is no longer worth the misery and the time it takes away from writing books.

I’m not writing this as a disgusted or frustrated amateur. I’ve been writing and selling short fiction off and on since 2008, plus a short stint of submitting shorts in the 90s before life complications pulled me away from writing fiction for a while. I know William Shunn’s submission format backwards and forwards. I have Ralan and the Submission Grinder bookmarked. I’ve had things published in anthologies, including ones that have placed in competition. I actually have a sale to a SFWA-qualifying market (and a couple of those anthologies paid SFWA rates).

What I haven’t done has been obsessively turning out short work and putting the effort in that is required to make the sales in this era. Look. At one time I had twenty stories out at a time for submission. Most of them have sold. For a while there I was trying to build up that number while writing novels, but then the short stories kind of fell by the wayside and I started focusing on novels and self-publishing, which means…writing a lot of novels and building a backlist. In the last year I’ve completed five novels in rough draft (two now published, the next three this fall as part of a quick-release trilogy). With that sort of focus my short story production and tracking kind of died. But now that the trilogy is progressing through edits, I have time to look around. I had thought about working on some shorts that I’d made notes for future composition.

And then I opened up my submissions record spreadsheet. The sense of dread that clutched my gut almost made me cry. Still, I carefully noted the stories I had recorded as out for submission, then searched through my email to see if I could account for all of them. Here’s what I found:

8 stories total

4 stories clearly rejected (2 within 48 hours with the good rejections…ie, not a fit but we like your work, please send more. Longer sub periods were similar. That’s my standard rejection these days)

2 stories at markets that died

2 stories that appeared to have fallen through cracks somewhere in the submission process (and yes, I had sub confirmation emails, one had been requested for a further hold)

I almost burst into tears at the thought of the several hours of work ahead. Clicking through open markets at Ralan and the Submission Grinder. Winnowing out the weird formatting requirements, the cut and paste in email only markets, the “if you don’t hear from us you’re rejected” markets, the weird subscription processes for submitting to some markets. And then the speedy rejects anywhere within 24-48 hours. If I were truly dedicated to writing short stories, I’d be writing and updating my submissions weekly. Write a new short story every week. Rejects back out within a week. That’s the sort of grind that short fiction success requires…and the markets are narrowing. Additionally, I have this suspicion that part of short fiction success may be visibility on social media, especially on Twitter. Networking through workshops. I’m not connected very well these days, certainly not as well as I was back when I was selling more short fiction. Plus I’m cis-het, white, female, and over sixty. Not exactly the burning demographic for a lot of short fiction markets.

Did I really need to keep flogging this dead horse of short fiction writing for traditional markets?

After all, I’ve republished some of my short stories as ebooks and chapbooks to sell at bazaars and in-person events as loss leaders. I’ve self-published short stories that are outtakes of events in my two series, The Netwalk Sequence and Goddess’s Honor. They do sell.

I looked back at those statistics. Half clearly rejected but with the sort of positive rejects that writers keep getting told “that means you’re getting close! Keep it up!”

Yeah. Tell that to someone else. Been doing this for a while.

But it’s the other four that pushed me over the edge. The dying markets. The work involved with submissions falling through the cracks. And then contemplating the work that needs to be done to send out the six whose fates I know. And at that point I just said enough. I’ve had it. Had it with quirky formatting requirements. Had it with weird submission portals. Hell, some of those portals make Kindle look simple. Had it with digging through market listings where when you click through, you can’t back away fast enough because of political considerations (some of these stories are horror and hoo boy, there’s some weird and toxic stuff out there).

I. Have. Just. Plain. Had. It.

So I’m dropping out of the commercial short fiction market. I’m going to make covers for my remaining stories as I have time, and they’re going up for sale. If and when I ever do in-person events again, I’ll make more chapbooks, or perhaps offer a chapbook collection through an online store or something. But now it’s goodbye to that damn submission sheet. Goodbye to formatting games. Goodbye to bizarre submission portals. Goodbye to trying to trace stories that fell through the cracks.

Nobody’s gonna miss me in that market anyway. But I can and will sell a few stories in ebook and chapbook, and they’ll get read. I know that one for sure.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Martiniere Legacy: Book One, Inheritance; Book Two, Ascendant; and Book Three, Realization will be released in Fall 2020, along with side stories and sketches. More specific information can be found in my newsletter which comes out toward the end of each month. Sign up for my newsletter at for release dates.

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