Monthly Archives: April 2023

Writing Accountability Post #17

Illustration of office

Ugh, another monthly accountability analysis day.

I suppose I should be easier on myself because I had a convention and travel to manage, and they didn’t happen during the same time period. But I was also wrestling with gut problems for part of the month. While I’m getting it under control, that still sucked up time and energy. I didn’t get much promotion done, and as a result I didn’t make much in the way of sales this month. Not my usual thing. But…this was also the month where a lot of the promo stuff I’ve been doing slowed down. My doing, primarily.

However, I did get the paperback edition of Becoming Solo posted. I am in the last part of Federation Cowboy (which was supposed to have been wrapped up in April). The Cost of Power has become a series and may be the one that wraps up the Martiniere Multiverse. I need to think on it some more, especially since I suddenly got a notion about Gabe not being the first Martiniere to find refuge in the Pacific Northwest. One of his ancestors, Etienne Martiniere, escaped the French Revolution by becoming a fur trapper, was at the Hudson’s Bay Company in Fort Vancouver for a while, and founded the Canadian-US Martiniere family branches.

Well, I’m on my way to getting somewhere with all this, I suppose. I’m becoming more and more fond of Federation Cowboy, because it’s really heading for some interesting elements. I’m about five thousand words out from the climactic confrontation, which means I’m on the slide down to resolution of this story. Will I write more in this world? Probably. One pair of characters, Blackburn (a military intelligence rabbit), and his interpreter, Laura Richardson, have appeared in a couple of other short stories. But at the moment, once the story ends…it’s on to other things.

May is going to be a month heavy on planning. And on promotion.

We’ll see how it all works out.

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Writing Accountability Post #16

Well, Indie Author Month has been a bust for me. I’m hoping this means that all the other indie authors are doing well, because it’s been my worst month for sales in 2023. I suppose it’s that I need to find further means of outreach, or that the people who bought things in January-March aren’t inspired to buy more of my books…which is a depressing concept. Either that, or the changes in social media have upset things once again. Which is always possible. But it’s one of those assessments which is totally depressing to consider.

Then again, I’ve slowed down on the social media promotion, which is probably a huge factor in the lack of sales. It took part of the week to clear up a problem with my gut. And then I needed to spend more time with family, and learn a social media site, and, and, and…

The simple fact is that production slowed down, both in putting together the paperbacks and in the actual writing. I really didn’t get that many words in this week, and can’t really explain it away by “well, I was doing promotion.”

I don’t know. April is not one of my favorite months, and it shows.

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Abdicating from the short story marketing dance

One thing that has changed in my writing process since the pandemic is that I find myself no longer willing/able/interested in writing short stories based on prompts. I think I sensed the rising issue with short stories even before the latest raft of attacks on the sustainability of magazine publication–the flooding from generative A.I.-written stories, Amazon discontinuing their magazine subscription service, and so on. Things were getting tight even before 2023, however. Back in 2020, however, I had a 50% ratio of stories I submitted that either had the magazine die while the story was under submission there, or else just–disappeared. At that point, I decided to suspend my short story submissions because with that 50% ratio, the time and energy spent finding markets just wasn’t worth the effort. I held out the option for responding to submission calls, but–at that point my focus was more on a rather ambitious self-published novel series that is still continuing in side spinoffs.

Time went by. I wrote some short stories for anthology calls, with limited success.

In the fall of 2022, I started sending stories out again. It worked well for a few months. Then I started seeing submission restrictions become more common and longer–requests to wait a week before sending in a new story after receiving an acceptance or rejection stretched out to a three-week period. Or a month. The strategy I had created in order to stay on top of submissions management got blown all to pieces, because it was based on being able to send work out once a week. With these new restraints, that meant a change to once a month.

But then there was the whole issue of writing to a prompt or a call. That’s an extreme form of writing-to-market, and rather limited because if you don’t sell to that particular prompt or call, then you have to put the story aside for a certain period time. Otherwise, you just join the flood of other writers who got rejected from that particular prompt or call and the editors know said story is a reject from that prompt or call.

I’ve had limited success in writing to prompt/writing to market. Most of my short stories sell ten years or so after they’re written. It was telling when I sat down to create a spreadsheet of previously published stories (as well as unpublished work) to group together as a potential collection. I ended up with enough material for several collections, in some cases requiring the writing of new stories to bolster what was already written. Dates of publication were also revealing, as was the number of stories sold per year. I’ve never sold a lot of short work, and, again, that ten-year interval between drafting and sale shows up multiple times.

The other thing is that I’ve never done well in writing a quick response/reaction to current events. I need to chew over something for a while before I can turn it into fiction without it becoming a diatribe or polemic. The stories I’ve drafted in such response tend to be didactic and not that good, and since I don’t care to read such response-type fiction, I obviously don’t want to write it (no shame to those who do this and can do it well–it’s not my yum and I have no desire to yuck someone’s yum). If I want to address a social issue, I somewhat want to do so as a subplot in a longer work rather than try to draft the type of thoughtful, mindful zinger of a short story that will resonate with the reader and linger in their thoughts.

Obviously, I’m not your person when it comes to writing-to-market. I flounder about when it comes to identifying the specific genre of my long-form works. I’ve finally settled on “science fiction western romantic” to describe the Martiniere books, because that comes the closest to making people understand what it is. Not romance necessarily, because I don’t hit all the tropes and points of a typical romance work. But romantic in the sense that relationships are involved in the works, and are part of the overall thought and consideration of things. And while I love the term “agripunk,” it’s just too confusing for too many readers and reviewers.

It’s too bad about the writing-to-market and the short story situation, really. Is my lack of interest/ability a reflection of aging on my part? Hard to say. I follow writers on social media who are capable of turning out those quick short stories in response to an event, a prompt, an incident. They’re able to turn them into stories quickly. Then I think about what I was doing in the days when I was turning out short stories in response to daily life and events. I was working full-time at a rather stressful job and had a lot going on. It was easier to focus on the short stories. Simpler to sketch out a response and draft it. I did not possess the attention span needed to create the worldbuilding and backstory for a decent novel during that era, so short stories were more doable then.

Does this mean I’ll stop writing short stories? Absolutely not. But from now on, my short stories will either be series worldbuilding stories (oh, I have a few of those sitting on my hard drive) or part of an interrelated collection of short stories that I self-publish. I plan to put out a collection this fall of my, for lack of a better term, fabulist short work that has already been published (with some unpublished works). At the same time, I plan to expand on my Teacher-of-Dragons short story world. I already have a second story in that world, and can do more to fill out a collection–in fact, I intend to draft Tales of the Raven Alliance as a Kindle Vella serial work, to be later released as an ebook and perhaps a paperback. As the rejections come back, I’m slotting those stories into specific future collections, depending on what type of story they are.

But I’m not getting back into the short story submission dance. That part of my writing life is done. I guess you can thank A.I. for that.

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Writing Accountability Post #15

This was not an impressive week for accomplishments, primarily because I haven’t been feeling well. My chronic IBS decided to go into a flare last week, and got worse this week. Which always happens this time of year. It’s somewhat of a rite of spring (no advice, please, I’ve been dealing with this for over forty-five years and either a.) have tried what you would suggest or b.) what you suggest doesn’t work for me). Improvement is happening, but because it eventually causes fatigue, it slows down everything. Including writing.

Add to that a virtual convention, with panels. I love doing conventions, virtual or in-person. In-person is off the table right now because of Covid risk and our high-risk status. So it’s virtual paneling, which essentially just takes the running around the convention piece out of the equation. Otherwise, it’s much the same when it comes to preparation, planning, and add in checking to ensure the tech works. Being “up” for the panels themselves.

On the other hand, I feel very good about this. Between social media chatter and paneling, plus notes, I have some ideas and new strategies to enact. Plus some possible idea sources for future panels/workshops to consider.

I am making progress, slowly but surely, on Federation Cowboy. I have more confidence in that story.

I also went back through The Cost of Power last night after a Flights of Foundry panel about the muddle in the middle, and realized that this story is more than one book. I need to think more about it, however, in order to do justice. I have three big concepts in this book. Mind control technology. Digital thought clones. Multiverse. I wasn’t planning to get into the multiverse aspect in this particular world, but…I think this world is the best one to explore some elements of it.

So. The Cost of Power is going to be its own Martiniere Multiverse subseries, just like A Different Life is, and the current WIP will have a different title when I publish it. And it’s entirely possible that those universes may intersect. I’ve been thinking about the third volume of A Different Life, which is going to be pretty dark. However, it may lead the Gabe of The Cost of Power into a different path, as a cautionary tale. We shall see.

Meanwhile, I need to develop the other work. Tales of the Raven Alliance, the Weird West with dragons story. Flesh out Goddess’s Vision.

And promotion. I’ve been lagging on that front, and I need to get back to it. Sigh.

So many things to do, so little time.

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Digital Thought Clones, AI, and…a new Martiniere Multiverse story!

So it started out like this:


I took one look at that Tweet and said, oh hell, here we go again with me calling out a trend before it happens. This is the sort of digital thought clone notion that I came up with in the Martiniere books.

Well, not quite exactly. The digital thought clone concept I conceived in The Heritage of Michael Martiniere, then expanded in Justine Fixes Everything: Reflections on Mortality as well as the ending of The Enduring Legacy was driven by Philip Martiniere’s desire (at least in one universe, because Legacy dragged a multiverse concept into that collection of related books) for immortality. Essentially, the concept was as Desai described above–the use of recorded data as well as digital records–with the addition of an AI algorithm that made the digital thought clone sentient with agency. It wasn’t the same as a digital personality upload (for that, see the Netwalk Sequence books), but I had started fiddling with the ideas in the Martinieres. Then I started thinking about what-ifs, other universes, and started considering the idea of a digital clone war across universes.

But I didn’t do that much with the notion back in 2021 and 2022 because both Heritage and Justine weren’t that popular, and I had other things–such as multiverses, where I could examine different aspects of the Ruby and Gabe story–to write. Plus non-Martiniere stories. Oh, I had considered the idea. I had even written a short story about digital clone wars that I submitted to an anthology, set between Heritage and Justine.

It didn’t sell, of course.

I kept poking at the notion, and decided to put it into The Cost of Power, the latest Martiniere serial on Substack (first chapter here), about a month ago. I was already writing a universe where Gabe and Philip reconcile, and while the twists and turns of the mind control technology plot were intriguing enough, by about 40k words I didn’t quite have enough juice in the plot to justify Philip’s rationale for mellowing toward Gabe. Even given that Philip knew that he had been manipulated by Walter Braun and the Braun family in an attempt to take down the Martiniere Group and the Martiniere Family.

Enter the digital clone wars. Where Gabe of the Legacy is facing off against an even more toxic and evil version of Philip, who killed Gabe in one universe. Where digital clone (digi) Philip is determined to eliminate the more positive versions of himself across the multiverse, as well as Gabe, Justine, and the other Martinieres who stand against him. Where the insidious mind control program of the Martinieres amplifies the effect of a malevolent digi with an agenda.

When I saw that Tweet yesterday, my immediate thought was to get this damn story up ASAP and see if it flies.

I have no idea yet how well it’s gonna do. Nonetheless, as the result of spotting a Tweet that had a number of reactions to it, I did some edits to the story, whipped up a quickie cover in Book Brush, slapped that story into Vellum for formatting, added an excerpt from The Cost of Power where bad boy digi Philip first makes his appearance, and here you are.

Digital Clone Wars…The Beginning is available for $2.99 at all ebook distributors. Links below.

The sentient digital thought clones (digis) of Gabriel Martiniere and Ruby Barkley thought that they were the only ones of their kind remaining after they defeated the digis of Gabe’s toxic father Philip and his tool Lily, their doomed granddaughter, in The Heritage of Michael Martiniere.

Then they discover that something or someone is manipulating digis—including that of their son Brandon, whose data was destroyed after his death. And Lily may be redeemable.

Can Ruby and Gabe manage to save Lily and her father Brandon?


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Writing Accountability post #14

What a contrast from last week. Yes, three inches of snow last week. Bare ground and crocus blooming this week. Life in the mountains. However, I think we’re on the upside of spring these days.

Sigh. This was one time where, yet again, I don’t really want to write this accountability post. I’m in one of those periodic down phases of production and sales. No one is checking out the books, my promotional energy is fading, and I’m really struggling with the whole thing. Another week where I have the perception that nothing happened.

And yet, it did. I experimented with the new-to-me creation of videos in Book Brush and made a couple for Broken Angel‘s book birthday. I don’t know that they’ve had much of an impact, and yet…baby steps, baby steps, I need to keep telling myself.

I made some progress on writing Federation Cowboy, and have an outline for completion. It’s going to be around 60k words, which is probably about right for the sort of book it is.

I started exploring further options for online discussion and promotion, especially since Twitter is now being a pain about Substack posts (this one will probably get throttled, but we shall see). I also took a social media class given by Allison K. Williams through Jane Friedman. That class requires a bit of digestion and consolidation of notes, along with a specific action plan because there were some excellent suggestions that were helpful. I. Just. Have. To. Do. It.

One of the grim things I’m considering is activity tracking for a few days. Just note everything and figure out what I’m doing when and where. Part of this is about energy management. I suspect I’m doing better than I think, but part of all this is finding balance.

And maybe, just maybe, I need to consider readjusting my goals. I’ve already put aside the dream of making it big. It hurts to admit that, but I am most likely always going to be an obscure writer with a handful of readers. I can’t go to in-person gatherings, and it’s becoming obvious that this is a necessity these days. Oh, I interact with people on social media, but that isn’t everything and you can only tell the same group of people so much about what you’re doing. I’ve paid for some advertising and promotion, but am reluctant to do the big social media expenditures because if I don’t see results from smaller $$, then what will I see from bigger $$$? I don’t have the $$ to pay for hiring someone to do it, and frankly, that aspect of promotion is far too daunting for me.

Obviously, while the above paragraph reflects reality, I still have a tiny wisp of that dream. I get just enough feedback to suggest that it might happen, or it’s close…but it has been close for so many years that it’s kind of ridiculous to consider.

Ah well. Time to get back to writing work instead of agonizing.

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Writing Accountability Post #13

This was the view this morning. About three inches here. It melted away during most of the day, but now it’s snowing again. However, we’re supposed to have temps in the 60s next Sunday. Will that happen? We shall see….

Another week where I’m wrestling with the very concept of doing this accountability work. Today was a big day and a first–the first quarterly assessment since I’ve started this tracking system. That meant I looked at my planned production schedule and–flinched. Yes, I’m running behind. Not just for the month but for the year. A big chunk of that, however, was figuring out promotion this month and trying to find a balance between promotion, authentic interactions on social media, and writing time. And horse time, and house time, and sewing time as well!

But I got things done this past month. The updated versions of the Martiniere books are now all up, and all I need to do is tweak the back matter once in a while. At this point, I’m focusing on getting the Netwalk books up–and I absolutely cringed when I looked at my Bowker ISBN listings. Netwalk has something like seven different ISBN versions, all for ebooks, none for paperback. SIGH. Yes, this reflects what was considered to be the thing to do during the early days of self-publishing. You got an ISBN for Amazon, Smashwords, and Barnes & Noble/Kobo because they all had different variants of epub. I eventually dropped getting ISBN for the proprietary Amazon ebooks, then moved to just using distributor ISBNs. Still, I wish I could have had those numbers for the upcoming paperbacks. Oh well. Another batch purchased from Bowker in my future. I’ve learned my lesson.

Daylight Saving Time also really screwed me up as far as productivity is concerned. However, one thing that is working is using my alarm to get up at eight. Yeah, yeah, that’s the easy life of a retiree, except that if I don’t watch it, I end up sleeping in more and more, and I don’t get as much done.

I am also backing off from trying to market short stories except as a part of a collection. I looked at the rejects I have right now, and decided it was time to hold them for a collection. I realized that I might be able to put together a Weird West collection with my Oregon Country short stories. Two are published; one isn’t, and since all three are on the longish side, they can possibly make a nice little grouping. I need to go back through and look at some of my other work as well. If one story comes back, then it would be a good part of a fabulist collection. I could pull out the longer version of that story and combine it with two, perhaps three others for another collection.

The rest? I may need to look at what’s SF and what’s not, and group them appropriately. I might actually have enough for two separate collections, so…four short story collections, potentially?

Wow. Plus the Tales of the Raven Alliance. One story is out on submission and I may just pull it when it comes back, and use that one for the foundation for a Kindle Vella set of stories before I publish it as a collection.

(And now I need to set up a spreadsheet collecting those stories…eiyiyi).

The Cost of Power is now at around 60k words, and might turn into another Martiniere short series. Or not. I wrote about half of those words in the past two weeks, in part because I had visualized the story to that point. Now I need to turn that energy to Federation Cowboy. I want to get both of those books finished so I can move onto the Goddess’s Vision series–oh, and once I finish rereleasing the Netwalk books in paperback, the Goddess’s Honor series–incorporating the connected short stories in some cases–will be the next to be reissued.

Plus I made two book bags, one for donation, the other for my projected online store where I’ll be selling my small quilting projects along with my books. That’s a long term goal. I also made spring decorations and summer decorations–just need to do fall, and then I’ll start making SFFnal versions for…online sales.

Busy times ahead.

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