Monthly Archives: July 2023

Writing Accountability Post #28

No, I didn’t go into the woods to write last week, though we did pick huckleberries one day and plan to go out again.

But I did get some minor stuff done–started planning The Cost of Power trilogy so that I can draft it out and do rapid release with it next year. I’m also going to do this with the Goddess’s Vision trilogy.

Looking back on the week, it seems like there wasn’t a lot that got done, but there was. It just wasn’t all about writing words. In some cases, it was about editing and promotion. I lined up some advertising and did an interview, plus set up a cover reveal for Fabulist and Fantastical Worlds. I also did some research involved with the Cost of Power trilogy, and have scads of notes to incorporate into planning. Oh, if this is even half of what I have been considering, it’s gonna be nice.

The other thing that is going on is that I’m now getting back to semi-consistent journaling. I’m doing it mostly at night, kind of a summary of the day. Of course I also get ideas that I need to jot down. Journaling is a good thing, because it usually means I’m ready to be poking at ideas and ruminating over drafting. I need it as a check on my progress so that I am on top of it.

What didn’t get done is anything to do with Goddess’s Vision, or Dragons of the Raven Alliance. With Vision, it’s just a matter of taking time to make those notes and plans. I know it’ll be like The Cost of Power once I get started with brainstorming–the ideas will flow, and before long, I’ll be ready to start drafting.

Raven, however…part of the problem is just working out the dynamics. I’m not sure where I’m going with that story, and I have to redo the worldbuilding foundations, which will mean revising the foundational story but if that’s what it takes for it to work, then that’s what it takes. Plus I’m not sure if I’m serializing it on Vella yet. We’ll have to see how that plays.

I think Federation Cowboy is going to be pushed back to an October release date but I’m not positive about that just yet.

The new computer glasses have made a significant difference in reducing my eyestrain–I somewhat needed them before the cataract surgery, but wanted to give my eyes time to adjust. The new glasses also have a blue blocker and that’s wonderful. It really does make a difference, and the coating is also anti-glare.

One thing I have decided is that I’m going to ease off in August. I have been working hard and it’s a good time to catch my breath. I want to plan and structure these upcoming stories and get it done properly, plus do research on new marketing and sales options for this fall. Additionally, since I’m planning two trilogies, I have the time to create a proper marketing plan for both of them.

There’s also a bunch of non-writing, life stuff going on, some that I can talk about, some not. One that I haven’t really been discussing is the world of horses. Mocha is declining, and it’s happening quicker than I like to see it this summer. Now maybe the move to new pasture yesterday will help, but then again, she’ll have a quick improvement, then further decline. Oh, she still looks good, but energy levels are fading. I don’t know. Something happened with her in March-April, and she just hasn’t pulled out of it. Nothing that required a vet visit, and when she did go for her routine shots and checkup in May, she passed everything with flying colors. But there was just something. Sigh. It’ll be eighteen years together in two weeks. Will we make it to nineteen? Will she make it to her twenty-fourth birthday? I don’t know.

In any case, I do a test ride on a new horse tonight. If he works out, Mocha goes on full retirement. And I’ll probably do that anyway.

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Know too much…or know too little?

Sometimes revelation comes in the tiniest of exchanges. In the middle of a discussion with a beta partner, she commented that in my book she’s currently critiquing (Federation Cowboy), I know the world too well.

That kind of rocked me back, because one of the stumbling blocks I’ve encountered in that particular world while writing that story is that I know too little about it. And the comment kept niggling at me until I spent some time thinking about why would knowing too little about a world appear to be knowing the world too well?

The book in question is a far-future political space opera with a lot of different sentient species running around in it. It’s really my first long-form attempt at far-future work (I’ve done this in short stories but this is the first novel), and one thing I quickly discovered is that worldbuilding for far-future space opera is just as complex as worldbuilding for epic fantasy. At least if you want to do it right, and, well, I kind of like doing it right and not being cheesy about it (I probably worry too much about my work appearing to be too cheesy and, I dunno, I think I might be too fussy).

However, for me, doing it right isn’t all about maps and moodboards and character sheets and all that stuff (I have massive problems with visualization, especially since I don’t like watching a lot of video and I don’t visualize scenes when I read–I hear it read instead. Yes, I’m one of those). Instead, doing it right is the little pieces that add a bit of authenticity to the story that resonates with a reader. The emotional set pieces that bring it to life. Not the layout of a palace or house or even anything more than a rough doodle of what lies where, but the bits and pieces of everyday life in that world. I’ve seen too many writers get sucked down the rathole of worldbuilding and end up with a massive pile of information about their creation but no story.

Not for me. I want to get the story bones set, then I can go back and figure out what adds those touches of verisimilitude to make the story relatable when I do edits. Lay down those beats and fill in the blanks later.

It’s easy enough to come up with that stuff in historical or contemporary work. Sure, you might need to research to get facts right, but the bits and pieces? Easy enough to set up and describe, but you don’t need to necessarily sit down and think about what does that look like and what function does it have? In most fantasy, once you have the setting together, then you can visualize based on the setting because most of it is going to be in a world close enough to ours. Far-future, however…

I really, really wrestled with this in drafting (which will probably mean significant editing when I get the book back from my beta readers), and made the decision to plug on ahead and just tell my story. I knew what I didn’t want to do, which was stall out when this was just going to be a short book (originally conceived to be a novella). But I knew when drafting that this decision meant a lot more work when I settled in to do those edits and revisions.

I’ve heard this “the writer knows the world too well” critique about books and made it myself about other writers I’ve critiqued, as well as received that critique myself. However, it wasn’t until this particular book that I realized that the opposite could be true…what looks like knowing the world too well so that it doesn’t show up on the page can also be a case of knowing too little about the world in question. But…that’s why you have beta readers and/or developmental editors. Sometimes, as in this case, you already know that this is a potential issue and that you’ll need to spend time on it. Other times, you don’t realize that you’ve fallen into the “I know the story but not everything I need to know about the world” trap until the beta or the editor draws it to your attention.

So how best to deal with it?

This wasn’t my first go-round with novelizing the short story in question. I quickly got bogged down in worldbuilding and put it aside for other work (namely, completing a near-future science fiction series and a fantasy series set in an analog of the Pacific Northwest). This time around, I made it a Kindle Vella project which meant I had deadlines and a schedule to keep. Which also meant–forging ahead with the story and drafting the story bones, while throwing in enough about the world to make it work. At the same time, I was working on a near-future science fiction western with romance and corporate skullduggery and a multiverse and…not only was that book set in a world I knew very well, but I didn’t have to keep creating new environments and new worlds and new species (I will not not not not NOT call differing sentient species “races.” Period. That is its own rant. I dislike using the word “race” when talking about differences between sentients, and WILL NOT use it). The differences between the two stories really made me exquisitely aware of the “knowing more about the story than my world” tendency that I can fall into, so when I heard that critique, I realized (after some thought) that what was really going on was that I don’t know that much about that world except to push the story ahead, and that what was going on was that I really knew too little about that world to fill in a bunch of minor details that would help others visualize the world, not that I knew too much about the world and was leaving things out.

With my process, I’m not sure that sitting down and trying to build the world completely first works. I’ve never been able to construct worlds in that manner. I’m not into worldbuilding for worldbuilding’s sake, but I respect those folx who really get into it. So for me, I guess I’m locked into redrafting and filling in the details in revisions.

But first I’ve gotta make sure that the story bones come together properly. Otherwise, I just lose track of story while building up the background, and that doesn’t work, either. Process is process, and everyone’s process differs.

All the same, this is something to keep in mind–sometimes, when the critique is that “the writer knows the world too well” and is skimming through necessary details that help the reader visualize the world better, the reality might well be that “the writer doesn’t know as much about the world as they do about the story.”

At least this time I knew this about the story when drafting.

Ah, the writing life. Always evolving. Always changing.

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Writing Accountability Post #27

The office doesn’t look quite like this anymore. But we are in the dog days of summer (already)!

I’m somewhat pleased with my productivity over the past week. Not only have I finished The Cost of Power but I’ve been contemplating what the trilogy might look like and I’m just about ready to start spending some quality time with the easel, paper roll, and so on to do serious brainstorm work, not just for that story but for the Goddess’s Vision trilogy. I keep going back and forth about whether I want to use Philip Martiniere’s POV because…I don’t know, I think the perspective might be useful. At the very least, I plan to write some more drabbles about Philip to help me figure this universe’s version out. I kinda have an idea but I’m not definite on it yet. One of the burdens that this version of Philip carries is that there are so many universes where he is a destructive force–and he knows it now. But due to his relationship with his younger brother Gerry, and a few other differences, he’s not that destructive person in this universe. And…this version of Philip deeply loved Gabe’s mother Angelica, regretted losing her to his twin Saul, and was absolutely torn up the first time he saw Gabe as a baby because he couldn’t claim him–yet.

Anyway, I also managed to get many small things done this week, in spite of the heat and the traveling. I’ve also started journaling again–I think that is a key for stirring up my brain and it’s telling when I don’t do it. Another factor that seems to be helping my productivity is getting a new pair of computer/reading glasses with a blue blocker and a slightly longer focal distance. One thing I’ve appreciated about working with this optometry office has been that they listen. When I say that I don’t want my reading distance at 18 inches but closer to 24 inches, welp, they write the prescription that way instead of what they think it should be. And…it’s a lot easier on my arms and shoulders, too. I prefer books and computers at a reasonable distance, thank you very much. In any case, my eyes feel a lot better and I’m less fatigued. Win-win, all around! We’ll see what happens when my distance glasses show up next week–I have single focus reading/computer glasses and single focus distance vision glasses–just works better for me than any form of bifocal or transitional lenses, and contacts are right out for various reasons.

Looking at what didn’t get done this past week, I also don’t feel too bad because I did a lot of the preliminary tasks that needed to be completed before I tackle the stuff that didn’t get done. Plus, just catching my breath after completing two books that were pretty much being written simultaneously over the past six-seven months. I’m going to have more of that happening soon, but this week I think is the time to do a bunch of foundational stuff. One thing I want to start getting in order is an online store to sell some of the hard copy books I have lying around the house. One set is for a series that has been recovered and reissued, another is for a series that is due to be recovered and reissued next year. I think I’ll also make some bags to go with the books as swag. In any case, I need to work toward getting that set up and ready to roll for the fall and Christmas season if I’m gonna do it this year.

And if I feel the urge to write something…well, there’s all those noodlings that need to be done regarding Philip’s character in the world of The Cost of Power. I’m going to make that the title of the series, and I kinda have a title for the just-completed work: The Cost of Power: Exile’s Return. Because in part the focus of this series is the reconciliation of father and son to fight against a toxic variant of the father. And other stuff.

Meanwhile, the easel is calling me. Or, at least, notes to scribble as I think about where I’m going with this series.

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Writing Accountability Post #26

It’s hot. I’m irritable. We’re taking care of business in the big city, which is going okay but the higher humidity mixed with heat is making me ache.

However, I’m also experiencing the “end of book; beginning of series” phenomenon with The Cost of Power. I’ve said before that this book (now books) would wrap up the whole Martiniere Multiverse thing. It seems to be happening as I realize the scope of what I’ve been doing with this book is much larger than two books. Three seems about right. I’ve brought in an element of science fantasy to mix with the other stuff and…I dunno, I might just call it science fantasy western with romantic elements. Nothing like throwing every concept possible into the stew pot, right?

Coincidences also add to the worldbuilding. I just read a neat little paper about conspiracy theories and the political roles they played in the 18th and early 19th century. Talk about the universe displaying synchronicity, because some of the threads in Power trace back to that era and specifically around the French Revolution. This was the perfect time for me to come across that paper. But…and this brings us back on track with accountability…it also points to the need that is arising for me to sit down and plot out what threads I have at the end of Book One that need to be carried forward…and some notions about when I’m going to tie them off. Some will happen in Book Two, others in Book Three.

There are also going to be significant research needs. I’m just not sure how much of the 18th/19th century I’m going to bring into this story. It might be fun.

This is pointing toward a need for at least a temporary office reorganization. I need space to spread out and think, then type notes into the laptop. I’ve been feeling restless about my office setup for some time now, but I don’t have a lot of options at the moment. I have two desks and hate both of them. One is totally unusable, so serves as a table for stacking stuff. I can’t use it for my computer effectively, and it’s too high for me to do paperwork/note taking/planning work. The other would probably be okay for paperwork, but it’s better than the other one for computer work, though that’s not saying much. I don’t see much possibility for resolving the desk situation soon, so…temporary alternatives.

Well, I guess the card table moves into the office for a while. I used it during the drafting of the main Martiniere Legacy at this point in time, for similar reasons. So why not do it now?

The other piece is that I’ll need it shortly for planning the Goddess’s Vision series, which is also nagging at me. Serial writing has somewhat taught me how to juggle two projects. I’m almost at the point of saying “no more Kindle Vella projects” as the bonuses appear to have played out–oh well, it was a good run and for once I grabbed onto something in publishing as it was a rising trend, and got at least a little bit out of it. In that case, I’ll be playing off the Martinieres and the Goddess books against each other for a while.

It is turning into the hot season. Cocooning in that office while scheming on writing plans sounds pretty good.

Meanwhile, this has been a productive week, overall, even with the traveling bit. Fabulist and Fantastical Worlds is now uploaded and on pre-order from all of the usual ebook distributor suspects. I’ve developed a low-key promo campaign for it. I’ll also put it up on Ingram for paperback orders closer to the release date (August 15th).

I have promotion booked for next month.

I finished a bunch of small projects around the house, including some office reorganization that has sparked these thoughts off. I took care of several tasks related to managing a volunteer organization’s committee and writing a press release for the same organization.

All in all, it’s not been too bad a week for getting stuff done. But I need to be able to just wheel around and move cards and paper and write notes on the easel.

Yep. Planning time ahead.

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Writing Accountability Post #25

Well, I’m on the way back to getting some organization set up in the writing life. I’ve managed to put up some promotional items, design some promotional slides, and…drum roll…not only am I closing in on the finish of The Cost of Power but I have new issues that need to be considered for the next book. Let’s just say that there are fantastical elements mixed in with the science fiction western bits. This one could be–interesting. We shall see. As it is, I’ll probably end up the week with something like 16-17k words written, which isn’t too bad, really. Perhaps more than that once I wrap things up tonight.

There were also a bunch of fiddly-foo items that were completed this week, some writing-related, but many not. The carpet in my office is suddenly showing wear, so I ordered a chair pad that isn’t one of those dang plastic ones with the sharp pointy bits. This one is actually a bit on the pretty side. Plus I settled in and took care of a medical procedure appointment (outside referral for something that has always been in-house before, pushed back to October of all things, and I need to call my insurer to make certain all the financial details are in place–in other words, a time suck). I also completed the interior layout for Fabulist and Fantastical Worlds and will be putting it up for preorder next week. And I signed up for an August promotion.

But…no writing got done other than Power. Well, duh, since I’ve been drafting around 2k words a day on this story, no wonder nothing else is getting done.

The weather is one big roadblock. I don’t do well in heat, and while it’s been pleasantly in the 80s here, it still tires me out and makes my gut unhappy. On the other hand, I may have found a solution for sleep issues, for the most part. Some sleep issues are still present, but at the moment, I’m doing better. However, I’ve also had a couple of rough nights, have slept in, etc. It’s really telling to see the difference that two hours can make in getting things done, even if I end up working until 10 or 11 pm.

The other piece is all of those multiple fiddly bits to do that just aren’t on anything other than my daily to-do list. Maybe I need to start tracking them, as well.

Eh, progress is happening. It feels slow, but I think when I look back at the year, I’ll feel much more productive.


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Some thoughts about character–Mike Martiniere

Sometimes characters just sneak up on you. They’re just secondary characters, not even a protagonist, someone you created to fill a needed spot in the story, but somehow, before you know it, that secondary persona has enough backstory and a sufficient story arc behind them that could fill a book or two. So, what can you do?

You write their story. In this case, The Heritage of Michael Martiniere.

Michael Marcus Martiniere, clone of Philip Martiniere, adopted son of Gabriel Martiniere and Ruby Barkley, was one of those characters. I needed something more in the plot of Realization, the third book of the Martiniere Legacy. A piece to fit in with Philip Martiniere’s cyborg schemes and, well–Philip in this series is enough of a sociopath that he would create clones with the intention of using them for parts and blood transfusions, and the later possibility that he could transfer a digital personality clone into a physical clone as a means to live forever.

It gave Ruby and Gabe an additional dynamic to resolve in that book, especially Gabe in dealing with the twin concerns of guilt over not being around while his son Brandon was growing up, and worry that he won’t see Philip’s clone as anything but a copy of Philip.

Michael–Mikey–Mike–rose to the challenge. The frightened, timid, hurting five-year-old clone who nonetheless had enough courage to stand up to his toxic progenitor and threaten to bite if Philip laid hands on him. But who also fell madly in love with horses when he first sees them, as well as dogs, unlike his progenitor.

I had to think hard about Mike’s arc. I decided that in this case, cloning meant being raised from birth to adulthood at a regular pace. I also added in the “Dolly factor”–accelerated aging, and susceptibility to the ailments that plagued Philip when the host tissue was harvested. Mike had arthritis at an early age. Heart attack at fifteen, which led to the discovery of cancer and then crippling osteoporosis. Besides being a clone, he needed cyborg heart and lung replacements, and later cyborg bone replacements in his arms and legs.

Besides the health issues, everyone around Mike also had to worry about the possibility that Mike might turn out to be too much like his progenitor, with the same sociopathic drives toward acquiring and holding power. He’s clearly heir to Philip’s intellect–Philip might have been evil and dangerous, but no one denied that he was brilliant.

Fortunately, for whatever reasons–a singleton rather than a twin, perhaps, or just the different upbringing, Mike is the opposite of his progenitor in many ways. That doesn’t mean Mike isn’t ruthless when he needs to be–he is a Martiniere, with all that implies. But the concern and care he received from Ruby and Gabe, as well as the others around him–Brandon, who accepts him as brother, Justine, who accepts him as nephew, and all the other Martiniere connections as well as Mike’s ties to his dogs and horses–means that Mike grew up being loved and understanding it.

And when Mike has to face off with Philip’s digital thought clone that is determined to possess him–it is the love and support of his connections that sustains him in that final battle.

The Heritage of Michael Martiniere is available on Amazon, Apple, Barnes and Noble, Bookshop, Kobo, and Smashwords (25% off at Smashwords through the month of July!). Links available here.

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Writing Accountability Post #24

The summer front porch evening office is BACK! Doesn’t quite look like this for 2023, but it’s close.

I sat down and did some looking at the first and second quarters of the year as far as sales were concerned, and was pleasantly surprised to see that Q2 sales were significantly better than Q1–however, that’s also reflective of a new release in February that got some much-appreciated support from Deborah Ross, amongst others, and reflects March sales that didn’t get posted until April. What doesn’t show up necessarily is the degree to which both Ingram and Amazon have supplanted Draft2Digital as my primary sales sites. D2D just went completely flat for sales in Q2, and I’m still not sure why. Barnes and Noble is now a complete and total bust, where previously it used to be my best venue. I suspect it has something to do with changes in their management, because it was pretty dramatic. That, plus the Books2Read links became unreliable. Sigh. I think it’s time to tackle Linktree.

Ingram has been a complete and total surprise this year. I hadn’t been selling much there until suddenly, with the release of A Different Life: Now. Always. Forever. books started to sell. Well, the paperback of Beating the Apocalypse did decently, too, as have some of the Netwalk paperbacks. I’m somewhat falling down right now because I haven’t really been keeping up with the process of editing and getting those paperbacks OUT. I swear, there’s something in the air that keeps holding those books back. Too bad, because as my first series, I really like those books and I think they’re pretty decent. Oh well. We shall see.

But this isn’t the first year that I’ve foundered on the rock of April-May-June when it comes to productivity, especially when it comes to promotion. Oh, some of it is due to health issues–cataract last year, reacting to Covid shot and a couple of other things this year–but that doesn’t really explain other years. I really hit the shoals in April. Possibly due to the time and seasonal changes. April is all about the time change, followed by the need to adjust the horse schedule to later in the day to reflect more daylight and warmer weather. Then comes May and June, with woodcutting and recovering from woodcutting days in between those woodcutting days. We shoot for anything from six to ten pickup loads in the spring, depending on the state of the woodshed and our health. This year, we hauled nine loads of wood.

This year, we also had work on the Portland house, which sucked up a week of time working hard and not doing much fun because we were either a.) working or b.) recovering from physical labor. Plus two weekend virtual conventions. One involved paneling, the other one didn’t, but that still took up time.

Essentially, what seems to happen from April-June is a lot of disruption at about the time that any new routine I might institute needs to be revised and reconsidered. And I think that’s where I flounder in the whole organization thing. I don’t always get back on track as a response to the disruption, and that’s not a good thing.

Still another piece is that my office setup for winter doesn’t always work for summer. I instituted some changes in ergonomics and rapidly became unhappy with the layout. I’ve since fixed it, but it’s entirely possible that I may need to reorganize my office twice a year to reflect the different needs of the season as far as what lives in my office, what sort of paper-sorting organization I need to set up due to what’s happening, and what my responsibilities may be, as well as expanding places where I can work (in summer) and contracting spaces (in winter).

When it comes to promotion, I really need to get my act together. Part of “getting my act together” includes reducing complexities. I sat down and made a list of my social media platforms, sorted them by “these platforms I can post something somewhere in some group on a daily basis,” those where “targeted promotion once a week” is appropriate, and those where “only when something new–blog post, cover reveal, new release–is to be posted.” I sorted them out, grouped ’em, and made that list part of my monthly promo plan list. We’ll see how well it works.

The other piece with regard to promotion is that I really, really need to organize how I solicit reviews and interviews. I’m very hit and miss on that aspect of organization, and I need some sort of system to make it function. Some of that is a result of dropped emails–I need to set up a daily time to review and either respond or delete responses. Not sure how I’m going to set that up.

My biggest problem is that I’ve written and published a lot of work without building the supports I need for easy promotion organization. Now I’m playing catch up, and it’s making me a wee bit frustrated.

Ah well. It just takes time. Deep breath. Onward.

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