Author Archives: joyceusagi

Writing Accountability Post #11

time icons over vintage background vector illustration

Whoa. I have never, ever been able to quantify the degree to which the time change from Standard to Daylight has thrown me off schedule like this. Oh, I knew it was a factor, but I didn’t totally understand the degree of impact until now. Some of this is also due to the change in daylight since we’re at the equinox–and, once again, I hadn’t quantified it until this year. Probably because until the last eight years, daylight hours hadn’t been a significant factor in horse time. I had access to an indoor arena with lights, so…the big change was being able to ride outside. Now I need to readjust my horse time–back in October I had started moving it toward noon because of approaching limited daylight hours, and had somewhat figured out how to work around that issue. Now it’s time to start shifting back to late afternoon because by May/June, I’ll want to be riding later, when the sun is going down. That works better for both of us.

But the weather this winter has also been a huge factor in keeping me unsettled. After all, I somewhat expect to have real winter in the mountains of NE Oregon. That’s a given. But we have remained cold and snowy a bit later than usual, and that also throws me off balance a little bit. Right now I’m out there looking for any sign of life from my bulbs, and there’s just not much. Too much snow and frozen ground–but I think it’s turning around pretty quickly.

I tell myself that nope, didn’t get much done this week. And yet…I look to see that I got two books up on Ingram (both republications). I started the process (with a new list) of transferring my newsletter from TinyLetter to Substack. I’ll be running the two newsletters in parallel for a while before I do the final move. We’ll see. I wrote and uploaded a new chapter of Federation Cowboy, bringing that book to around 38k words, and began work on blocking out the rest of the book for pacing’s sake. I’ve added some words to The Cost of Power, which has intensified the degree to which that story will deal with mind control programming.

Stuff is getting done. Just not as much as I wanted to have done by now, especially with Federation Cowboy. That book is a struggle, because I’m realizing that the amount of work that needs to go into worldbuilding in far future settings rivals that of a fantasy setting. Especially since this is a first book in what might end up being an occasional series, it’s a world where there are a lot of nonhuman sentient species and I’m trying to reflect the different ways they do things including speech, social patterns, and the nature of sentience itself. It’s a more complex world than I expected it to be.

All the same, even in spite of the assorted reasons, there’s another, huge factor. I find that I’m needing to do the work later in the day. Staying up later. My body still wants to be on Standard Time, and while that kinda works, I still do enough stuff where I rely on clock time that I need to shift my circadian rhythms to–ugh–Daylight Time. Doing writing work later in the day is not going to necessarily be a good idea in the long run, though we shall see. And I need to be able to do more active stuff in the morning as well.


Plus I need to get back to working out. I’ve been a bit too sloth-like the last couple of weeks.

So this is apparently the Week of the Wakeup Call. Let’s see if it really works.

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Writing Accountability Post #10

I’m now getting to the dangerous stage of any organizational process change. I recognize the phenomenon–a certain impatience, the thought that oh I really don’t need to do this anymore, I have the routine down, maybe it’s sufficiently internalized that I don’t need to go through this step when it comes to thinking about the executive meeting with myself every Sunday. Which always ends up becoming a big mistake, because then I am overconfident about the degree to which I’ve made these routines into habits and…yeah. Everything starts to slide, including productive patterns that haven’t quite made that final jump into habit. I overlook the reality that this past week was not as productive as previous weeks for various reasons, including body stuff, and that if I look back at what I have done this year already because of the new approach to organizing myself, these new methods work.

Yeah, this is a known failure point, not just for myself but for others who struggle with changing their processes. The 90-ish day of the method. When I was working with horses that were at the barn for rehab training, this was the period when old behaviors would start to crop up again, as a means of boundary testing. Same held true for students.

So this is why reflecting back (for humans) to see what has been able to happen is a good thing. I wish I had stressed that aspect more with my students. With the horses, it just meant a patient revisiting of early concepts and a restatement that the new rules are still in effect, no going back to the old ways.

And now I’m making myself push past this mark. I still need these organizational structures and probably will, in order to be an active and producing writer. There are no shortcuts.

What fell by the wayside this week was a lot of original drafting work. Oh, I did some edits on Federation Cowboy and got some new words down. But not every day, and not necessarily a lot of words. Cowboy appears to be one of those slow-moving works on the writing side of things, where I have to think about the process and the story. I think it is going to be a shorter novel, probably around 60k words, much like Beating the Apocalypse is. Which–would account for the slowness of the drafting. The shorter the work, sometimes the longer it takes to write. I’m packing a lot into this book and it shows, the more I work on it.

Other things. The dragon short story was the most popular of the freebies in the latest Smashwords sale. That makes me think that perhaps I should focus some energy into that particular world. I already have two of the stories written–Teacher-of-Dragons and Restoring Hope (currently out on submission under a different title). I can’t take it to Vella for drafting because Teacher has already been published, but perhaps I could turn it into an omnibus of sorts with Restoring and several other stories set in the world of the Raven Alliance. It might make more sense than pushing on with the Vortex books, which have their own issues. Hmm. The story might make a nice short book. Tales of the Raven and Dragon Alliance.

I seem to have finally settled into the new cover for Justine Fixes Everything. I didn’t like the previous image I had selected for assorted reasons, but this one evokes the mood of the book significantly better. Thematically, it hearkens back to the Netwalk books, which–Justine is heavy on the digital thought clones, which are a variant of the digital personality uploads in the Netwalk books.

I got the new version of Realization (light copy-edited interior, new cover) uploaded to Ingram and anticipate being able to approve it in a few days. Working now on the interior of Justine and plan to rerelease this week with the new cover, in hopes that it is a better match for the other People of the Martiniere Legacy books. Justine is the last of the revised Martiniere covers to be issued. Then it’s working on the paperback versions of the 2022 Netwalk books. Once I’m done with Netwalk, then I plan to redo the Goddess’s Honor covers and interiors. The interiors are…well, they were all done in Scrivener and there are issues. Fix those up while working on the new series set in that world, which is still being stubborn about telling me what it’s about. The Raven Alliance book may be the new distraction, or it may not be. We shall see.

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Writing Accountability Post #9

So, for a change, let’s have a touch of spring in the office picture photo! This one is from the spring of 2020, when I discovered that–alas–my lovely lilacs were prone to having ants on them, which became a challenge for bringing them indoors to admire. Sigh. But that was a lovely year for lilacs…and you can see some of the writing books on my office shelf. One of my office bookshelves, anyway.

This ended up being a fairly busy and productive week. For once, a lot of stuff got crossed off on the to-do list. I was thrilled to see it, but…sigh. Most of the stuff that got accomplished had nothing to do with drafting, and everything to do with production, promotion, and community service work. No craft work got done; and the most writing was finishing off and uploading a chapter to the Kindle Vella project. I need to pick up the pace on the drafting side of things. On the other hand, this week’s chapter was one of the difficult ones, because my characters decided that they wanted to be romantically involved. That provides a challenge because while they are formally married, the contract they signed requires them to negotiate intimate relationships, including whether they decide to reproduce or not. No, this is not near-future. This is far-future, in a somewhat puritanical world view where marital associations include contractual agreements between persons (sometimes of different species) who want the legal structures and protections of a marital agreement without the reproductive or intimate aspects. Everything is contractual in the Federation of Sentient Worlds. Doesn’t mean there isn’t room for love and intimacy, just that those get negotiated for the protection of all parties involved. That’s one reason why Federation Cowboy is taking me longer to draft than I expected.

I’m also circling back to some breadcrumbs I dropped in earlier chapters which are actually somewhat relevant to the story. This book is becoming more complex than I first thought it would be. Which is a good thing, really.

Additionally, all the discussions about A.I. this week had me going over to some psychometric resources I know about (psychometrics is the study and creation of cognitive measurement) to see what that group of experts had to say. It’s somewhat more nuanced and more precise than a number of the popular journals are saying, and I have much more confidence in psychometricians than I do in tech folks who don’t necessarily understand the gritty details of cognition. Digging into those journal articles was a heavy slog, however, and made me realize that while I had to think a lot about it, I still possess a better understanding of what they’re talking about than people who haven’t worked adjacent to psychologists engaged in this study. I’m contemplating printing the articles out so that I can highlight, underline, and otherwise process the information in a form that works better for me (I simply don’t do well with deep reading on electronics. Part of it is the need to refer back, which is more difficult, and the note-taking process is more challenging electronically. Just the way I process). I suspect that I might have material for a blog, at least, if not an article, and there may be material for more than one article or blog in this rabbit hole. So I plan to allocate some time to this work in the next week, just to see what the possibilities are.

I discovered that the books I have up on Ingram are also available through Bookshop, so I spent this week putting those pieces together. I now have a shop on Bookshop, where I’m coordinating my series books and getting them together.

This being the first week of the month, too, I had a bunch of first-of-the-month things to pull together. Appointments, Zoom hosting, and more.

And, on a personal note, I seem to be spending a LOT of time lately updating my underthings. Well, it has been a few years, and some things wear out. Hopefully that ends reasonably soon. Still haven’t bought the new office chair because every time I look, they’re either not suitable or else the reviews are horrific (I always always always look at the one star reviews first). I want a chair that either doesn’t have arms or has arms that can be put up. That works best for me ergonomically. The absolute best chair–a rather expensive one, that I tried out at my son’s and would absolutely work size-wise, has ARMS. That while can be moved, still have a section that comes attached to the bottom, and will force my mousing hand into a position which it won’t like. SIGH.

Ah well. At least I seem to be getting stuff done. And promotion keeps happening.


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Writing Accountability Post #8

The accountability posts march right along. Since this is the last Sunday of the month, it’s the day to sit down and look at how well I did for the month.

The results were–surprising. The graphic above doesn’t go into a lot of details, but the main point? The process of planning, reviewing, and contemplating the goals I had set for myself, and taking a hard look at what has kept me from accomplishing some of those goals seems to be paying off. In the January summary meeting, I could only identify four things that really got done that month. February, though a shorter month, had eight things that got completed.

Now, granted, the to-do list is shorter as well in January. However, the February list also benefited from further clarity in some areas; most specifically getting a workable, organized promotion process set up by creating a number of spreadsheets (well, all right, THREE spreadsheets) to help me keep track of various aspects of promotion and marketing. One tracks online interviews and reviews; another events (both sales and appearances), and a third is…oh, I don’t know, I’d have to look it up but it’s there (correction: I do know and it’s sitting on my side desk. It’s the monthly promotion plan, broken down by week, and it’s printed out and tucked into my planner so that I can look at it, create graphics as needed, and check off to-dos).

One thing that has thrown me for a small loop is the whole AI kerfuffle. I have eleven short stories that I’ve had out on submission. At the moment, possible markets are either closed or else limiting submissions to once every three weeks after a rejection or acceptance. This somewhat causes problems with sending stories out to the top markets first, which is supposed to be best practice for submission protocols. It slows everything down, and…at this point, I’m having to change my regular submission day from once a week to once, maybe twice a month. And that is still problematic because rejections somewhat trickle in, bit-by-bit, and they don’t necessarily fit MY schedule. One of the challenges in managing ADHD is being able to set things up in an organized fashion so that I am not extremely dependent upon a faulty executive functioning process (I had an entire tracking protocol set up for case management when I worked in special education) to remember when stuff is supposed to happen. So–push submissions days out to every two months? Only once a month? Set up yet ANOTHER spreadsheet (or connected sheet) to track WHEN I can send a story out to the next market? ARRRGH.

I haven’t figured it out yet. I’m still struggling with how to make that work. Meanwhile, I’m just letting rejections flow back in. I created a folder in my email program which is labeled “Unprocessed Rejections” and am leaving it at that, until I figure out what to do next. Do I want to keep sending stories out, against a rising tide of AI competition? Wait and see what happens as magazines develop protocols to manage this new twist, just like they did when electronic submissions became dominant? While I’m becoming known (hopefully in a positive manner), I’m not sufficiently well-known that my name alone will get my foot in the door. Which means–still in the slush pile.

One possibility is that I use those short stories as Patreon rewards. Between those short stories and my previously printed stories, I probably have enough to last me for a while. Would I have enough subscribers to make a Patreon worthwhile? I don’t know. I’m not encouraged by my Substack subscriptions, and those are freebies. At the moment, I’m still sticking to the goal of writing one short story a month. Right now, they’re going to be reader magnets and worldbuilding tie-ins for my Goddess’s Vision series. Which is still in development (sigh).

Why do I have this mental image of moving huge piles of laundry when I think about this? Because that’s what a lot of what I am doing right now feels like. I have a lot of one-time organizing tasks to get done that, once I get them set up, will hopefully sustain themselves. But oh dear God, it’s processing to get to that sustaining mode that is such the heavy load.

Nonetheless, things are working. I’m making regular book sales. Nothing huge, but enough to be encouraging. I’m making my way through a backlog of things that got shoved off when the cataract started acting up a year ago.

I have decided that I’m going to work on adding a 100% Human Produced branding to my work. I’ll write more about this later, but my suspicion is that 100% human produced creative writing is going to become like handmade craft work. Perhaps I’ll add in my handmade craft work as well–and oh do I want to get back to having time to sew and design craft work as well as write. It’s just finding the damn time!

I’m using the new MacBookAir more. Right now, it’s where I’m doing the formatting for reissued work in Vellum. I can sit in my recliner in the evenings and get some done.

Plus–this is only the second month that I’ve been doing this. I know from my teaching days that oh yes, I am so capable of putting together an organized plan. I have created scope and sequence lesson plans for entire years. But…sustaining that organizational work frequently fell by the wayside (well, I was training a horse, working special ed, managing some home stuff, and writing…lots of stuff on the plate and lots more chaos than my current life).

Will I be able to keep this up?

I hope to do so. But we shall see.

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Bookshop link! And some blatherings about my stories overall

Well, darn it, I can’t get the new version of Life in the Shadows to load correctly into Bookshop!

(If you see a version of it there with a different cover, it’s the old version and no longer valid)

Oh well.

In any case, I Have An Announcement. All of the Martiniere books are now connected to Bookshop, so if you want to pick up a paperback copy of those books instead of the ebook version, it’s now available if you don’t want to go through the Big River. I’ve also organized the books by separate series, so they’re easier to find.

As I finish loading the Netwalk Sequence books into Ingram Spark, I’ll be adding them to the Bookshop listing.

Bookshop link.

And if you want to get Life in the Shadows in paperback, it’s available on Amazon or Barnes and Noble. Soon as I get the Bookshop list fixed, I’ll be adding that link. But don’t forget, it’s on sale for $2.99 at all ebook vendors.

At some point I want to talk about some insights I gained about the mother-daughter relationship by reading Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’s Blood of My Blood. It has some interesting perspectives on a parent who dedicates her whole life to ensuring her daughter has a better life than she does…only for said daughter to rebel and not marry as well as the mother had hoped.

But that’s a big undercurrent of the entire Netwalk Sequence–the relationship between mothers and daughters, and how even the best intentions can skew awry. Especially when mothers and daughters are not just political but business competitors. While that sums up the relationship between Sarah and Diana (the breakdown of which we see happening in Shadows), to some extent we see it with Diana and Melanie as well. Melanie and Bess, however, start trying to break the pattern. Can they do that, while dealing with all of the curveballs that come along with digital personality uploads, the Gizmo, and the schemes of the family matriarch who has a bit of power remaining to her, even as a digital personality?

Writing these shifting allegiances was…interesting. I keep muttering that it’s a darn good thing that my stories so far haven’t shown a tendency to jump worlds. That could make for some interesting fanfic, however–what would happen when Sarah Stephens meets Philip Martiniere (and which version of Philip is also relevant, since The Cost of Power is starting to reveal some interesting possibilities when Philip is not a total villain)? I have a feeling Sarah would eat the villainous version of Philip alive, simply because he’s so similar in many ways to Francis Stewart, who betrayed her. Except that Francis is more playful and fun than Philip, even when he turns toxic. Villain Philip is toxic, entitled, lacks a sense of humor, and would dearly love to be Emperor of the world. Sarah would just laugh in his face while dethroning him, either if they were both alive or in their forms as digital personality upload and digital thought clone.

Ruby wouldn’t face any romantic competition from Diana, Melanie, or Bess because Gabe is completely enthralled by Ruby. And despite their similar ranch origins, I don’t think Diana and Ruby would have a lot to say to each other. Nor Melanie, nor Bess. Ruby would be at best a colleague and business competitor, not a collaborator. She might collaborate with Sarah, but Sarah’s dark side would be a significant deterrent because Ruby is straightfoward and doesn’t care to play the manipulative games that Sarah enjoys. That would be the drawback for Ruby with any of the Netwalk Sequence women. Sarah, Diana, Melanie, and Bess are more manipulative than Ruby, and Ruby wouldn’t have much time for that.

Justine, however…she would probably have a good chat with Sarah. If those two started scheming, watch out! That said, as characters, both Justine and Sarah exhibit a tendency to keep their cards close to their chest and not communicate to me. I think I’d classify them as my Trickster characters. Both exhibit the ability to come out on top and overcome any setbacks that get thrown at them. I could see those two working together toward a common goal that benefits a lot of people, while advancing themselves.

Ah, the possibilities. Not that I intend to write them any time soon, just because I have other things to do. But Philip meeting Sarah, or Justine meeting Sarah?

Hmm. Hmm.

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Life in the Shadows sale and paperback version now available!

One of the things I’ve decided to do is slowly but surely get my entire catalog up and available in paperback through Ingram Spark and its extended distribution through bookstores. Oddly enough, when I started to try to make a cover for it so I could do the simultaneous release of ebook and paperback versions of the new edition, I could not make this cover work. No matter what I did, it just refused to come together. Was it lack of experience using Book Brush or my cataract messing with my vision so that I couldn’t focus properly? Hard to say. This cover happened very quickly, and without the problems of the previous attempt.

Nonetheless, given the winter weather sweeping across the country, this seems like a really good time to be focusing on this book and this series. Shadows opens with a confrontation between mother and daughter, after daughter has returned from sneaking off to go skiing with her forbidden love. Which gets even more into corporate politics, because in the world of the Netwalk Sequence, corporations have gained a lot more overt political power. We somewhat see the evolution of the Corporate Courts (though that was never the intent of these stories) as a means to control a mysterious device. Shadows details the progression of the growing estrangement between Sarah Stephens and her daughter Diana Landreth, set against the politics and the technology they’re both working with. While this is a story collection, it has a definite through line of telling that story, and…many of the stories within Shadows, including “Winter Shadows,” “Shadow Harvest,” and “Cold Dish” explicitly take place in winter settings. Though for the skiing piece, you have to wait for the next two books in the series to have any significant ski scenes!

Honestly, most of this book was drafted when I still taught at Welches, up on Mt. Hood, and was skiing at Timberline. In many ways, I still miss those days. I’ve toyed with the notion of pulling together my old ski blogs from LiveJournal and putting them up as a Ski Days book. So far, however, I’ve just not had the time nor the energy to put it together. Will I? Maybe.

However, those ski days on Hood still resonate within me. I really got into the culture up there on Hood, and the Netwalk books reflect that experience as much as they do the corporate soap opera, the mother-daughter dynamics across four generations, the implications of digital personality uploads, and my projections of the politics of the mid-to-late 21st century.

Life in the Shadows is on sale for $2.99 in ebook through March 31st as well as now being available in paperback. After March 31st, with (hopefully) the rest of the series available in paperback, the ebook price will go back up to $4.99.

I’ll probably spend some time over the next few weeks occasionally talking about this series. A retrospective, of sorts, perhaps pointing out some Easter Eggs in the story for those who know the area. There are some interesting pieces about it.

Here’s where you can find Shadows. Note that both Amazon and Barnes and Noble now link to the paperback:

Amazon Apple Barnes and Noble Kobo Smashwords.

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Writing accountability post #7

I’m not sure what’s happening with this book, but I’m suddenly selling copies like mad on Ingram. Could it be promotional help due to an excellent interview with Deborah Ross? Possibly. I have another excellent interview with J. Scott Coatsworth that released today, so we’ll see. Now I’m just hoping I don’t get hit with massive returns!

I bit the bullet and did my writing income books for 2022 and started for 2023. My Draft2Digital income dropped significantly, but it wasn’t until I was working on getting links for an interview that I figured out why. My usual sales source, Barnes and Noble, didn’t publish The Enduring Legacy until a few months after its release. Ouch. B&N, normally my best seller, fell significantly and hasn’t recovered. Thankfully, Apple and Smashwords seem to be filling in the blanks, along with a mild assist from Kobo. But my Ingram sales started picking up. That gives me an additional incentive to make sure that all of my books are eventually available in paperback form–and I need to fix my older books that were formatted in Scrivener. While I’ve done that for the Netwalk Sequence books, I need to do that next for the Goddess’s Honor series. Which is going to be–a job, especially since those books will probably need new covers due to adjustments in pagination. We shall see. It’s a big job, and I’m not sure I’m ready to get to that yet. I learned my lesson from doing the Netwalk books last year!

However, I managed to wrap up the worldbuilding short story for the new Goddess’s Vision series in development. I’ll probably send it off to the NIWA anthology because it somewhat matches the Harbinger theme for this year’s anthology. It will end up being a reader magnet for the Goddess’s Vision series no matter what–I’m trying to get into Heinmyets’s head because he is going to be a big part of that series.

I also got another chapter written for The Cost of Power, which takes that serial up to the end of June before I have to worry about running out of material. Not that I’m too worried, because I think that book will finish long before the serialization does. It gave me a nice breathing space for Federation Cowboy, which will be next week’s focus. I’d like to get a couple of chapters in with that book. My sense is that it’s going to turn out to be about 60K words, which means I’m about a third of the way through the whole book. But it could surprise me. We shall see. I still need to introduce the Memaj issue, and get everyone to the Federation Congress, where stuff really gets exciting. Not that it hasn’t been exciting at this point….

I finished revising the print interior for the first Netwalk Sequence book, Life in the Shadows. Hopefully, I can get the cover designed and the whole thing uploaded to Ingram today. Then I started work on the interior for the print version of Beating the Apocalypse and yikes…it’s pretty telling that this was about the time that my eyes started misbehaving. I have a mess to fix.

Today also needs to be taking a deep breath and diving into creating some sort of coherent, doable, promotion plan. I’ve been blocking out pieces of it already with my new spreadsheets–well, it’s time to start integrating them into planning.

I keep thinking about direct sales, but a reminder that sales tax is an issue made me step back and reconsider. I need a venue that handles the taxes because I am just not gonna dive into that mess on my own. SIGH. That may slow things down significantly.

Overall, then…a fairly productive week, with a bunch of stuff crossed off of the weekly to-do list. Hopefully I’ll get some other pieces crossed off today.


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Love, Romance, and relationships in the Martiniere books

a in love young couple on haystacks in cowboy hats

I hadn’t really been focusing much on relationships in my books before I started writing the Martiniere books. Oh, they were there, but there was no particularly vivid romance, no toe-curling, passionate, to die for relationships. The closest might have been the relationship between Bess and Alex in the Netwalk Sequence books. But even then, they grew up together, and were just there for each other. Sarah–well, her relationships ended badly. Diana and Will have kept most of their relationship private. Melanie and Marty drifted together at work.

Then I started writing what became Inheritance. Right off the bat, Gabe Ramirez started yelling at me that I had things all wrong, and it didn’t happen the way I wanted to write it. Originally, he was going to be a thoroughgoing cad. A womanizer, a gambler, a bad guy that Ruby was well rid of when she divorced him. One of the forces that Ruby had to struggle against to keep the Double R Ranch.

Not what Gabe became after he kept yelling at me–an aristocratic heir on the run because he dared speak out in court against the abuses within his family’s privately held company. Who had a history of trauma to match Ruby’s. Who would keep silent about his real identity for fear of the consequences for Ruby should she know and he be discovered, until he was silenced by the use of mind control techniques that made him look like the worst of philanderers. Who carried a torch for Ruby even after he remarried, and once widowed, longed to be back in Ruby’s life. Who was willing to face certain death in order to protect Ruby and their son.

But Ruby’s side was just as intense. She never got together with anyone else after her divorce. She still held deep feelings for Gabe, leading to long-simmering anger when he remarried several years after their divorce. Once she learned who Gabe really was, she had to learn to trust him all over again because Gabe’s betrayal, even though caused by drugs and mind control manipulation, injured her so deeply. Then she also wanted to prove herself worthy of her aristocratic beloved.

I hadn’t really delved that deeply into a relationship until Ruby and Gabe. They met at a rodeo–Gabe on the run, hiding as an itinerant ranch hand and saddle bronc rider, Ruby as a barrel racer and rodeo court princess. Ruby catches Gabe’s eye with her horsemanship as she rides her barrel horse through a huge bucking fit during a competition, while being verbally harassed by a drunken bronc rider with whom she has a history. He follows her out of the arena because he wants to see what happens next with the woman and the horse, and because he’s itching to confront that drunken yayhoo. For his part, once he starts talking to Ruby, he realizes that she is not just a beautiful, highly-skilled horsewoman but is brilliant in their shared field, ag robotics. Ruby is taken by this handsome bronc rider who is polite, mannerly, accepted as friendly by her quixotic mare, and knows his way around ag robotics. Plus, once she finds out he’s on the run (he tells her he’s evading indenture bounty hunters wanting to force him into servitude because of the debt he owes for his education), there’s an aura of the forbidden around him. She doesn’t know how long she’ll have with this darkly handsome, brilliant, polite man who’s also good with horses.

And with that element…boy, did the story ever take off.

I have written a different way that the two of them got together, in a world (theĀ A Different Life books) where Gabe’s younger life, while still traumatic, had different trauma factors than in the original Martiniere Legacy stories. In this case, they meet when Gabe interviews Ruby for a big financial grant, the Martiniere Grant, to help develop her vision of biobots in a world with rapid climate change. He’s coming off of a bad breakup where he was somewhat of a trophy for his ex-girlfriend, who didn’t like how hard he was working toward his goal of a leadership position within the family-held company. And his ex didn’t like horses. Ruby’s brilliance and her horsemanship attracts Gabe. He bails her family out of a major financial crisis in part to spite a business competitor with whom he has a significant bad history. But the attraction between them happens quickly.

Beyond Ruby and Gabe, however, there’s the relationship between Gabe’s sister Justine and her beloved, Donald Atwood (chronicled in Justine Fixes Everything: Reflections on Mortality). Originally, Justine and Donald marry to allow Justine to escape from the control of her abusive father. It’s a very transactional relationship at the beginning, but Justine and Donald build it into true love. However, political circumstances force their divorce. Donald is in poor health, and the two of them have committed to significant underground political action supporting reproductive rights, as well as battling her father. On the surface, they’re estranged–but in reality, they protect each other.

And then there’s a third relationship in the Martiniere books, as told in the second book of the A Different Life series, the just-released A Different Life: Now. Always. Forever. The story picks up several months after the conclusion of the first A Different Life book, featuring Ruby’s friend, Linda Coates, who has a significant history of her own. After Ruby hires Linda as her executive assistant, Linda meets Gabe’s executive assistant and cousin, Armand Martiniere. Over the course of their first weeks working together, they fall in love. But, of course, being a Martiniere story, there’s a lot of outside political nastiness that complicates everything.

It’s been an interesting romantic ride with these relationships. At the moment I’m not writing anything particularly romantic (well, except for a different Martiniere variant now serializing on my Martiniere Stories Substack, where Gabe reveals himself after they’ve been together for four years). The current work in progress, Federation Cowboy, has the protagonists participate in a formal marital association contract in order to simplify their work, but there’s not a romance–maybe. Still in the first third of the book, and the characters may yet surprise me.

For whatever reason, however, the Martinieres seem to be romantics in their relationships, even when there’s a pragmatic reason behind them happening. Especially with Gabe and Ruby.

At this point, I’m really glad that Gabriel Martiniere stood up and started yelling at me, because it’s nice to be able to write an epic relationship like the one he and Ruby have. It’s been a good ride.

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Writing accountability post #6

Well, the computer pictured is no longer part of my life. It’s in the process of being recycled. Ah well, it had a decent run and helped me produce many books.

This week has been a bit discombobulated as far as writing was concerned. We had to make a quick run to Portland for medical stuff–one appointment got cancelled, but it was the less important one, so that’s good. The other–a routine bone scan to check on the state of my 65-year-old bones–went off smoothly, and odds are pretty darn good from the one glimpse I got that I’ll get a verdict of solid bones. However, a Portland trip pretty much means at least two days lost to getting much done on the writing front. I did manage to deal with some interview stuff, etc etc, but otherwise?

Fortunately, I had somewhat accounted for this. Originally, my plan was to spend Portland time drafting my promotion plan for 2023. Well, that didn’t happen. All the same, I had some thoughts about Federation Cowboy on the way down and where I’ll take it–not as far as my original plan went way back when during my first planning for it, but still, given everything that is now popping up in this story, quite appropriate. Plus I got some work done on a worldbuilding short story that might get submitted to the NIWA anthology–or not, depending on what I think of it when I get the darn thing finished.

This is one of those weeks where looking back at my to-do list and looking at what did get done was a big ego boost. Federation Cowboy episodes are now loaded on Kindle Vella through March 22nd. That’s a bit of relief. I started on that Harbinger story for NIWA–or not, if not, it’s still a good worldbuilding story. I filled out a number of interview questionnaires, which was great!

And one of the huge, HUGE things–I sat down and created two spreadsheets. One tracks events that I will be connected with and might want to do promotion for. All events–from NIWA book table sales and podcasts to currently scheduled promotions through Draft2Digital, to convention appearances. The other tracks interviews and reviews that are scheduled WITH LINKS.

I can’t believe I haven’t done this before. For one thing, this means I can look back and request more appearances after a year or two has gone by. I just–how could I have overlooked this?

The other thing is that I started work on a promotion plan that is a completely different approach from what I’ve done before. Instead of focusing on a campaign for each individual book and series, I’m taking a broader view and asking “what needs to be done for backlist series? For new releases? For events? For promo discounts? For interviews?”

Another aspect that I can’t believe I haven’t thought about before now.

Oh, I still have a lot to do. The coming week has worldbuilding, that short story, hopefully some more chapter work for both Federation Cowboy and The Cost of Power. I also need to do production work to bring Life in the Shadows out in paperback, and the wide/paperback version of Beating the Apocalypse. Those need to have some promotion of their own happening, too.

But maybe, just maybe, I’m getting a handle on things?

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Happy Book Day! A Different Life: Now. Always. Forever.

Happy book birthday, A Different Life: Now. Always. Forever.

NAF started as a kind of lark. I got the idea about one of Ruby Barkley’s friends just out of the blue, once I had finished the first A Different Life book. Originally, it was going to be just a wee bit of fluff. Something to lighten up my mood and put up on Kindle Vella, and continue Ruby and Gabe’s story, from the perspective of Linda Coates, Ruby’s best friend in college. And–also about Linda finding the love of her life.

Um. Well. It ended up having quite a bit of commentary about right-wing politics, while still having a romance at the core of it. All the same, it does have a happy-ever-after ending, even though everybody goes through a LOT during the course of the story. And I enjoyed writing about one of Gabe’s lesser-known cousins, his executive assistant Armand Martiniere, one of the Canadian Martinieres. Like most of the Martinieres, Armand is quite polite, mannerly, and charming…except when those he cares about are threatened.

Linda has quite a bit of her own baggage, tied to the death of her grandmother Jenni Coates, an Oregon State Representative. Jenni Coates’s death had a huge impact on everyone in the Coates family, especially since it also drew them into corporate warfare at the lower level. When Ruby offers Linda the job as her executive assistant, Linda sees it as her way out of a no-win scenario involving her creepy brother-in-law Clyde. She didn’t expect to fall in love, much less with a Martiniere….

Available at the usual suspects.



Barnes and Noble



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