Author Archives: joyceusagi

Announcing The Netwalk Sequence box set!

Well, I finally got it together and figured out how to do the Netwalk Sequence box set. Vellum was easy but I kept running into issues with making the image…but it ended up working, after all.

$12.99 for the entire thing–six books in one. That includes all the short stories connected to the Sequence.

Plus I finally came up with a blurb for the whole thing–

IN A TECH-DRIVEN FUTURE, CONTROL OVER A WIRELESS TECH WHICH ALLOWS THE CREATION OF DIGITAL PERSONALITY UPLOADS AFTER DEATH LEADS FOUR GENERATIONS OF POWERFUL WOMEN TO SOME HARD, DIFFICULT TRUTHS.

At first, family matriarch Sarah Stephens and her daughter Diana Landreth appear to agree on just how they’re going to manage that unexplainable, destructive, city-killing device called the Gizmo. The Corporate Courts appear to be an elegant solution to the problem. No one knows the Gizmo’s origins, but everyone agrees–the Gizmo must never, ever be allowed to run free again.

Or do they?

As Sarah seeks political power while North America disintegrates into chaos, Diana’s path leads her down a different way. Once Sarah becomes a digital personality upload, the choice of Diana as her host seems logical in the beginning.

But Diana’s daughter Melanie Fielding starts seeing problems with the acrimonious relationship of Diana and Sarah. Her alliance with Diana begins to change when she realizes that Diana will place the Corporate Courts over the well-being of Melanie’s daughter Bess.

The unlikely collaboration between Melanie and her brother Andrew Landreth-Stephens becomes more critical when they agree that protecting their children from whatever schemes the Gizmo is cooking up must be their priority.

Because the Gizmo has plans of its own…which may not be good for humanity in the long run.

Links here (ebook only, sorry):

Amazon

Apple

Kobo

Nook

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Dancing with Cataract

I used to be a special education teacher with a fascination for neurobiology and how the brain works. While I was a generalist, I had been exposed to a couple of cases where vision issues needed to be taken into consideration. Such cases called for a specialist associated with a neighboring county’s Education Service District. Vision Impairment specialists are not only rare in education, they’re very much prized (and there are times when I regret that I didn’t go into that subfield). That said, I seriously only had two confirmed cases of Vision Impairment in ten years of working in the field.

However, the class session for my special ed training cohort that covered Vision Impairment was utterly fascinating. Little did I know that the experience of that one session—including wearing goggles that simulated different types of vision impairment—would ultimately prove to be personally valuable.


It started sometime around April, 2022. I had been noticing that I was having greater problems than usual with sun glare on my desktop—which is situated so that reflections shouldn’t be an issue.

At first I didn’t think anything much about the situation.

For the last fifteen years or so, I have had issues with focus during certain times of spring and fall. A conversation with my optometrist at the time centered on the aging of my eye muscles, and slower focusing as a result. I had also noticed that sometimes during that period of sun angle, my eyes were unhappy and needed some additional time to focus.

I didn’t get excited.

I figured that this was just a worse case of my seasonal focus issues than usual, possibly an effect of dry eyes and spending a lot of time at the desktop instead of the laptop, which was failing (tends to happen, especially when you’ve drafted something like seven books or so of about 100,000 words each on the device, in the course of two and a half years. That tends to make laptops Very Tired. I had worn spots on keys and the space bar).

So I spent money on a mouse for my iPad and switched over.

I had bought said iPad a couple of years earlier because my eyes hurt when reading on my phone.

I figured this would make everything better, and that part of the problem was my laptop.

It wasn’t.


The blurring became more specific in location. Inside portion of my right eye. When I drank from a coffee cup, everything around the rim was as clear as it had been.

It became harder to see the temperature and time readout in the Subaru, located on my right side.

Bright sunlight hurt my eyes more. And, as several weeks passed, things were getting worse, not better.

I looked up macular degeneration. Nope, didn’t fit. Same for retinal detachment, which had been a worry since I had a sign of some old damage there.

I looked up glaucoma. Maybe, especially since my eye pressure readings were borderline at my last exam. Possible.

I didn’t think much about cataracts, simply because the changes were happening quickly. We had a friend who had needed surgery for glaucoma, so I was worrying about that, and knew I needed to act quickly.

I made an appointment with my optometrist.


The first big sign of trouble was when it took a lot of effort on my part and the assistant’s part to get good scans of that right eye. Left eye? No problem. Right eye? Trying to center in on those bright red dots proved to be more difficult than expected.

“It’s a fast-developing cataract, and you need surgery,” was the optometrist’s verdict. “Your glaucoma numbers are also pretty high, so you need to have that checked as well.”

Which was a complication. I do not have vision coverage, so I don’t go to the optometrists at Kaiser (my medical coverage). Multiple reasons for this choice, including dealing with opticians in the Kaiser shops who don’t understand people who do things like ride horses. The arguments that I’ve had about bifocal line placement, as well as finding frames where coatings don’t peel off the lenses, much less finding frames that will hold up to a horseperson’s lifestyle…yeah.

Nonetheless, I sent a message to my doctor at Kaiser requesting a referral, and citing the glaucoma numbers as a primary reason (they were up there).

The stately dance of managing my cataract had started.


“We’re looking at mid-fall for a surgery date,” the ophthamologist said when I finally got in to see him. “Sorry, but we’re backed up.”

He also dismissed the glaucoma as an issue. “Not concerned about those numbers. Let’s deal with this cataract first. My scheduler will contact you.”

So I went home and prepared to live with a cataract.


Coping with vision impairment, especially a fast-developing one, takes up a lot of cognitive effort.

At first it wasn’t too bad. I didn’t open the curtains in my office. I implemented some dry eye management systems such as running a diffuser with plain water to improve the humidity in my office. I took more frequent breaks.

After all, as a former special educator, I knew coping strategies were possible.

The blurriness got worse.


I found myself taking longer to get my daily words down. Lying down once or twice a day with a cold pack on my eyes ended up being necessary. It became harder to plow through any reading on a computer screen, and paper wasn’t any better.

But what was worse was the beginnings of cognitive fog.

It affected my reading comprehension. I had to read things more slowly and carefully. For a fast reader like I have been all of my life, needing to slow down was a frustrating exercise. Retention became a challenge. Tasks that had been simple became slow slogs.

The issues weren’t just tied to computers and reading. My close-up depth perception worsened. I stopped working on a couple of quilts because I didn’t trust myself to measure, cut, and sew accurately. Walking down stairs or an uneven slope became a challenge.

I worked out strategies, but the price for trying to cope and compensate was greater fatigue. I started postponing my applications for book promotions because the cognitive labor of facing the questions or even the applications themselves was tiring. Too much effort. I managed to get two books finished and released, but a third is still awaiting edits.

Schedules started falling apart in September. I could see how I was losing track of things, slowing down in writing production, spending more time lying down with a mask over my eyes, just to relieve the aches.

But I didn’t beat myself up over it. I was dealing with a vision impairment, yes, but one that hopefully could be fixed. I remembered that class session so many years ago, with the goggles. What was happening with my vision was simply a result of the cataract.

I kept telling myself that frequently, and planned for the possibility that things could get worse.


When things happened, they happened quickly. I qualified for Medicare and had a start date. A surgery date popped up, after I went on Medicare. I would have taken the offered date no matter what, because my vision was worsening week-by-week, but the Medicare piece made it simpler.

I went in for the pre-surgery scan. The technician called in a second person to verify the drastic differences between my eyes. My left eye was still good, but my right eye?

I couldn’t read the top line on a vision chart. Just too blurry.

And yet, every time I raised a coffee cup to take a drink, it blocked out the cataract. I had a temporary reprieve from vision impairment.

But there’s no good way to replicate that blocking. I tried.

“It’s a relatively uncomplicated cataract,” the opthamologist said.

I clung to that lifeline, because the speed of the cataract developing was worrisome.


I am one of those squicky people when it comes to my eyes. I don’t do contacts because I don’t like fussing with my eyes. Heck, I never did eyeliner because that was too much fussing around my eyes. So facing the prospect of cataract surgery, especially after watching the detailed video about it, required a bit of fortification.

It helped to have a number of friends who had already undergone cataract surgery.

“It’s nothing. You’ll be so happy afterward,” was what I kept hearing.

I clung to that reality.


The surgery itself was pretty uneventful. I was part of a production line involving several different types of eye surgery, all performed by my opthamologist. I noticed that there was space for thirty-eight beds in the Eye Procedures department, and I’m pretty darn sure they were all occupied by patients in different stages of preparation for surgery.

Soon enough, it was my turn to go in. I was nervous about the whole thing, especially because of my eye squickyness. I happily accepted the offer of a calming agent, especially since I was very explicit that I was nervous about the whole affair.

I saw bright colors while the surgeon worked.

And then it was done, and the blur was gone.


I’m taking my time to recover right now, listening to my body. It took a couple of days to get past the anethesia. My opthamologist wasn’t very restrictive—when I told him I had an old horse I needed to exercise to keep in shape, he advised me to give it three to five days, and not throw around any hundred-pound hay bales for a while.

I notice that my eye muscles are still adapting to this change—I had subconsciously developed some adaptive mechanisms where the left eye was compensating for the right eye. My eyes are still tending toward fatigue, but improving.

But I didn’t have any major focus issues. To date, the recovery has been uneventful.

I’m grateful for that.

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Nook Oops Special–Life in the Shadows

So I’m starting out my Nook Oops pricing special with the first book in the Netwalk Sequence series, Life in the Shadows.

Shadows is currently available at ALL VENDORS for $2.99, October 14th through October 20th.

It’s a collection of stories that chronicle the growing estrangement between Sarah Stephens and her daughter Diana Landreth, from short stories such as “Leave Him–or Else” to novellas such as “Shadow Harvest.” Because Diana and Sarah are powerful women working with world-changing technology, their off-and-on relationship has an impact beyond just themselves, especially when a war machine of unknown origin begins to destroy cities around the world. Ultimately, they have to make a choice between family and power. Will their alliance forged to manage the Disruption Machine endure, or will it fall victim to the choices they make? To what degree do the shadows of their past–including the shadows of the men they love–impact their decisions?

Shadows is a prequel of sorts to the Netwalk Sequence series. It’s possible to start with Book Two, Netwalk (on sale next week) but Shadows provides backstory for the entire series.

Here are the links to specific vendors:

Amazon

Apple

Kobo

Nook

Please check Shadows out! It’s also available to libraries through Overdrive and Hoopla, so if you want to read it but don’t have the cash on hand to buy it, please request it from your local library–and thank you to those of you who do purchase it or request it from your library!

 

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So. A thing happened with my books this year….

So. All these books I’ve been talking about? The Netwalk Sequence reissues, plus A Different Life: What If?, The Enduring Legacy, and Becoming Solo?

Guess what. Not a one has a link to Barnes and Noble, aka Nook, in the universal Books2Read link. Until this year, Nook has been my best-selling vendor.

I’ve been fretting about the dearth of sales on what has been my best sales platform to date, and, well, now I have a pretty good idea of just why that has been happening. No links to Nook.

I’ve gotten lots of suggestions from other indie writers about how to manually add those links in B2R. Taking a deep breath because that means nine books to fix (not the eight I had erroneously claimed on social media last night). But there are other issues I have to consider as well, most explicitly a.) how to republicize each book and b.) rebuilding trust in my readers that when I say there’s a link to Nook, there really is one.

Add in the issue that in the next two weeks I will be dealing with cataract surgery and the aftermath, plus gearing up to promote box sets for three series (once I make them, that is). There will be some conflicting issues for sure, and I’m thinking that perhaps the box set I most dread (the one with the Goddess’s Honor series, dreading because of all the short story pieces that will go into it) needs to be my first one. It’s the only series unaffected by this link issue.

So, what to do, what to do?

I’ve decided to start by running a reduced price feature on each individual book, starting on Fridays and running for a week. I’m going to call it the Nook Oops promotion. That means that every $4.99 book will be $2.99 for that week, and the $2.99 books will be $1.99, with the exception of Becoming Solo, which is brand new and releasing in time for the Halloween season.

It’s not much, but it’s something. I’ve added individual links to Barnes and Noble on every promo slide I’ve made for these books in the last year.

Will it work? Will I start seeing Nook sales again?

I don’t know. It’s worrisome.

Part of me splutters and growls because of course this sort of thing seems to happen to me, just about every damn time I start to gain some traction in this writing business. If it’s not an important reading expanding my market getting canceled because the venue’s ceiling fell in, or the big periodical that bought a story that would be a splashy debut losing important funding and the principal person behind it dying, or Covid happening just when I wrote a book that might be my Big Breakthrough…or…or…or….

One of these days, something’s gotta break in my favor, right? Right?

Time’s running out, though. I’ll be sixty-five in a few days. It’d be awfully damn nice to have one of these breakthroughs happen sooner rather than later.

Ah well, enough whining for now. I need to schedule price changes on a book and think about the promo for the upcoming week. Time to get to work!

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Some thoughts about short story drafting and serials

Illustration of office

I’ve been drafting a short story this week, which is somewhat of a new process since most of the last three years has been dedicated to novels and serial fiction.

It’s been an interesting experience going back to short fiction. Somehow, I seem to have integrated some of the process mechanisms I’ve developed for long form work into the process of short form work–namely, thinking in 1000-2000-word chunks. I haven’t been able to do it in quite that manner before, but I’m hoping the trend continues.

Meanwhile, I’m realizing that the process of drafting several works for serialization on Kindle Vella and Substack seems to have affected some of my drafting skills for short stories. The optimal length for a serial episode is really under 3000 words, whether it’s Kindle Vella or Substack. When carrying novels over to either format, I’ve split up chapters into individual episodes loosely based either on a single scene or several closely related scenes. My drafting for the serials has followed that pattern of writing complete scene sequences during a day’s work–a chapter usually takes about five days using this process.

So far, I’m noticing the same pattern with short stories. But the other piece is that I’m suddenly able to think through the arc of a short story, hopefully without turning it into the first chapter of a novel (which is my lamentable habit). Oh, the prospects will still exist, but…the current short story should be coming in at around 4ooo words.

This is–different. In the past I haven’t been able to chunk up the progression of a short story quite this easily. Haven’t thought through the beats of story and the character arc like this.

I’m tending to attribute this difference to serial writing. Now I’ve only really composed about three things specifically for Vella–Beating the Apocalypse, Becoming Solo, and Bearing Witness. And even at that, Apocalypse and Bearing Witness were both mostly completely written before I revised them for Vella. However, I started the process of integrating Word and Scrivener for long form work using those two stories in particular–breaking the story into episodes with separate files in Vella, then consolidating them into chapters later. Becoming Solo was really the height of this process. Then I carried it over into other long form work.

But somehow, in the process of divvying up sequences to post appropriately on Vella, I developed that mental construct which allows me to wrap my head around the structure I want for a particular piece of short form writing.

A learning process, I suppose, like any aspect of writing.

Will this trend continue? I certainly hope so. At the moment, my priority is to draft several stories for particular anthology calls. We’ll see if it results in saleable work. Once I’m done with that, it’s time to start work on a couple of other serials, plus worldbuild for that dang second fantasy series in the Goddess’s Honor world that I keep talking about. All of the shorts that I’m working on are tied in somehow to worlds that I’m fleshing out or thinking about doing more work in.

We shall see how it unfolds.

 

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New release and musing about inspiration

I keep lollygagging about putting up new posts. Oh, it’s not for a lack of ideas. It’s more an issue of energy, time, and…I dunno. I keep wondering if maintaining a website and a blog really works for me or not. Perhaps I need to fork over for a decent website. I dunno.

Then again, the issue of the cataract is a very real situation. I find that it tires me out–not so much physically but with mental fatigue because I’m coping. All to be expected–that’s how disability works, after all. But it’s still frustrating.

Especially since I need to be focusing on drafting short stories and getting a bunch of other stuff done. SIGH.

Anyway.

So here’s the latest work. Becoming Solo had its roots in a particular anthology. In its original form, it was rejected. I put it aside, occasionally tried to market it, but otherwise didn’t think much about doing anything with it until Kindle Vella happened. I looked at what I had, saw where I could turn it into a nice little short piece to put up on Vella–and here it is.

The essential conceit behind Becoming Solo is that magic in a certain part of the world–the Pacific Northwest–is managed through daemons, which are tied to a specific region. Daemon power is renewed through yearly Magic Fairs, which coincide with your everyday county fair.

So what happens to an area’s magic when a Fair becomes Lost?

*******

The inspiration for this story came from my days as a 4H Leader. The county that we lived in, with a strong tradition of being the first urban 4H program, decided to defund its 4H program. I provided a community club option for my county’s 4Hers at a neighboring fair–our project areas were small animals, tech, science, plus all the home ec stuff. One of my members, who was a powerhouse at our fair, waltzed into the new fair and easily dominated a very competitive field, especially in the Style Revue sewing division (in Style Revue, one not only makes an outfit but displays it in a runway walk–and it is competitive).

I used that experience to create Shadow the Question–but it took other experience to fill out the family spell matrices, the role of the Senior Council, and more.

******

So far, the story hasn’t really been one that I thought was big enough for a book. Oh, I could whip up a full-sized book, I suppose. As I wrote this one, other threads popped up that could make it longer. But. I couldn’t necessarily do it from Yesenia’s point of view. Her arc within this novella is more-or-less completed as a major character. And, as I look at possibilities, I just do not see a single character or set of characters that emerge as story leaders for anything long enough to be a book.

However, I do see possibilities in individual stories, not just about this fair but others. Shadow may have a story. So may Bright Star itself. Or other magicians. That’s why I labeled it as a “Bright Star Fair Witches” story–holding space for future stories in the series.

I’ll probably come back to it at some point.

But for now, here is Becoming Solo. A nice little short piece, at a reasonable price ($2.99).

Becoming Solo can be found on Amazon as well as Apple, Barnes and Noble, and Kobo. Due to size, it’s unlikely to come out in paper, unless I write other Bright Star Fair Witches stories.

 

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Ramblings about deconstructing empire in SFF

One of the things I’ve been struggling with as I contemplate my next big project is the role that Empire and monarchy play within many SFF stories. This ramble is me putting down some of my thoughts, working through the process, and sharing it with others. Why?

Well, why not? I’m conceptualizing a big theme and still in the worldbuilding phase. What better time to write something like this?

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Most of the time, Empire and monarchy are viewed in the context of being Good (while that is changing, there’s still a surfeit of kings, queens, emperors, and empresses in SFF).

And it’s not just any sort of monarchy/empire that gets a lot of representation (again, this is a broad statement, Things Are Changing), but a heavily medieval, heavily European-themed perception of hereditary rule.

Oldest children inherit leadership roles. There’s a whole hierarchy of nobility underneath them. It’s a very structured pyramid of who-does-what-and-you-are-fated-to-live-out-your-role. Add in a heavy dose of deterministic thought—not a lot of free will if you are the Chosen One—and patriarchy, and—colonialism, veiled or unveiled.

For those of us from European-origin cultures, trying to break free of that vise can be…challenging. It’s a far-too-familiar, far-too-friendly rut.

I can be just as much an offender as anyone else.

Even when I’m trying to do better.

#

My first real attempt at deconstructing empire is in my Goddess’s Honor series. As I contemplate writing the next series in that world (Goddess’s Vision), I keep wrestling with certain aspects of my personal and regional history, because not only am I the descendant of settlers, but my settler/colonialist history goes back far enough that I lack emotional resonances and ties to the Old Country.

(Wherever that is. Possibly Cornwall. Darned if I know otherwise.)

My resonances are with the land I grew up in—the home of one of the Kalapuya peoples. With the Columbia River Plateau country—home to diverse peoples. My family were and are wanderers, and for the most part my personal history is reflective of my ancestors, clear back to their murky origins someplace in the British Isles and probably the main European continent as well.

Poor dirt farmers don’t keep a lot of records, especially if there’s a lot of movement within each generation. I have a sibling who has put in some time working on our family’s genealogy, and one thing that stands out to me is that in the three hundred-some years that my ancestors have been in North America, very few of them have died anywhere near where they were born.

If I have any tradition, it is that of the wanderer. The choice to pick up and move on, usually for financial reasons.

This lack of family histories and traditions has somehow left me less interested in European-based stories over the years. Oh, when I was younger and that was pretty much all that was available, things were different. Like a lot of kids, I got into the notion of being fascinated by monarchy, and had a real thing for histories of Elizabeth I.

But that wore off, especially as I became more aware of Indigenous history and stories about the land where I live. I wanted to see something besides the Europeans. Something besides castles I could barely visualize, even if I looked at pictures. Monarchs that I might see on an occasional TV special.

I began to look at Pacific Northwest history as a possible inspiration, especially the conflicts between Indigenous peoples and my settler ancestors. Another facet is the degree to which my region has been and still is viewed as a place to extract resources, starting with the fur trade before moving on to fish, timber, minerals, and cheap hydroelectric power.

The problem of colonialism.

I wanted to see more fantasy in this setting. Heck, any fantasy that didn’t default to Europe, castles, and a medieval era that I could barely visualize much less resonate with. I wanted some glorious epic tales—that weren’t European.

But I also wanted to see colonialism—and empire—deconstructed.

So I set out to write what I wanted to see.

That became the Goddess’s Honor series.

#

I don’t think I was able to articulate as precise an analysis of colonialism as I would have liked to do in my Goddess’s Honor books. That series rose from a set of what if thoughts about how the colonization of the Pacific Northwest could have happened differently.

I didn’t get rid of monarchy in those books, but I like to think I subverted it.

First of all, the motivation for the Daran Empire to move into the land of Varen was initially not resource extraction but the condemnation and exile of the Rightful Heir. Alexran and his family fled across the ocean to Varen, where they found a place in a land—Medvara—still suffering from a curse-caused plague. They brought protection and healing resources. As time went by, more of the Darani people fled to Varen.

Eventually, we reach the situation where the series opens. The Emperor has decided to Do Something about those pesky relatives in Medvara—and oh by the way, Medvara has lots of resources of interest to Daran. Hijinks ensue, nasty stuff happens. The surviving daughter of the noble family manages to get away and find a safe place. She has a daughter who is somewhat the Chosen One, who ends up in exile herself.

The colonial critique, ineffective as it is, turns up in the last two books of the series. It ends with the Return of the Heir(ess), and other stuff happens.

However.

I knew I didn’t want to end the story there, though the series arc was complete.

#

The Returned Heiress becomes aware that she’s inherited an Empire in crisis. She has no particular loyalty or devotion to the existing system—she just wanted to stop the Big Bad Emperor. Her closest ally, the Big Bad’s disabled, scorned half-sister, has no reason to maintain the status quo.

So does the Returned Heiress decide to repair the Empire, or burn it all down?

#

Ironically, I’ve just finished nearly three years writing the “slow repair” version of this concept, in a near-future, agripunk form. When Gabriel Martiniere, the anointed heir, finally wins control of the Martiniere Group and the Martiniere Family, he spends the rest of his life battling the evil done by his psychopathic biofather. However, he fears that he’s essentially battling a Hydra—get rid of one issue, and half-a-dozen more crop up.

He’s invested in the system and his family, though. And that investment drives Gabe’s choices, both good and bad.

#

That’s not the case with the Empress Witmara.

She wasn’t raised in Daran. She finds much of the corruption and practices common there repulsive. As she discovers just how broken the Empire is, and how extensive the façade holding it together has to be, she needs to make a choice—long, slow repair that will last, or burn it down and let the chips fall where they may?

Or is there a happy medium?

#

I’m still working through this, but the most likely choices are either the quest for a happy medium or else burn it all down. I don’t think Witmara would go the route of burn it all down. But she’s insufficiently invested and/or inclined to take the long slow route of trying to preserve the Empire as is.

However, she’s also well aware that broken as the Empire is, there are still a lot of undeserving people who will suffer if it’s immediately thrown into chaos. She just has to look at the rising threat to her homeland from a realm that went the chaos route. And—they were allies of the previous Emperor, so they’re targeting her as well.

What to do, what to do?

#

There’s obviously a reason why it’s taking me a while to develop this series. Heck, I wrote the Martinieres as a diversion—though now, in retrospect, I think I was subconsciously working through the long, slow repair notion.

I know that I will eventually be writing the end of empire.

I just have to figure out what that looks like for this world.

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Smoke, fire, Worldcon, cataract, writing…oh my!

I took this picture last night, on my way back from my daily graining and check on Mocha.

The fire season is upon us, and is it ever a doozy. We were doing pretty well with rain accompanying thunderstorms until the next-to-the-last week of August, when a nasty set of thunderstorms passed through Northeastern Oregon and sparked off several big fires–to the east, the south, and the west, roughly. We are now at the largest fire complex in Oregon, but of course we’re not getting much coverage about it.

Typical. I’ve seen it before, when the only reason I knew what was going on was due to past connections with the area (I Have Very Cynical Thoughts but not ready to write about that yet).

In any case, there’s no immediate danger–so far. Today is the touchy day as far as Mocha is concerned–she’s located in a more vulnerable area than we are, and evacuation might be a possibility, though unlikely. The ranch is already dealing with evacuated horses from other areas, so if she can stay safely where she is, that’s a big plus.

But there’s wind, and dry thunderstorms in the mix, so it’s a day to be alert.

Meanwhile–let’s see. What has been going on lately?

The Netwalk Sequence reissue is complete, and now I feel comfortable putting it together in a box set (which will be its own craziness). Besides making a box set for it, I’m also going to be making box sets of the Martiniere Legacy series, the People of the Martiniere Legacy series, and the Goddess’s Honor series. Hmm. I’ve managed to complete FOUR series. How on earth did that happen?

(um, well, guess what I’ve been doing ever since Covid?)

At this point, I’m taking a break from big projects because, as I learned from doing the Netwalk Sequence revisions, this sort of production work eats my brain. Additonally, I need to have some down time after blasting my way through the three Martiniere series in nearly three years. I first semi-pitched the foundation for the Martiniere books to a small press publisher back in November of 2019, at Orycon. When they rejected the final project, I went ahead and…well, that’s how the main Martiniere Legacy happened. Four books there.

I ended up writing three character-based books tied to the Legacy–the People of the Martiniere Legacy. Three books there.

The Enduring Legacy kicked off a “what if” alternative version history. Two books there, the last of which (A Different Life: Now. Always. Forever.) will go into production once it’s been complete on Kindle Vella for the required number of days.

Nine books in that time period. Yeah, I’m a little frazzled. And that doesn’t count the rewrite of Seeking Shelter, Beating the Apocalypse, which I haven’t been promoting. But that was mostly-written, and just needed a push to get past some difficult spots. Nor does it count the novellas Bearing Witness or Becoming Solo, both of which were in the same position. I used Kindle Vella to push myself to get those stories finished. I have one more book in that position–partially written, that if I can get it drafted and out there, will be one less story niggling at my brain.

Now I get to think about new stuff–and what I am thinking about at the moment is breathing life back into my short fiction. It’s time.

But there’s another, more difficult world that I’ve been struggling with. Parts of it aren’t usable. They’re problematic, and reflective of my awareness level nearly twenty years ago. But there are some foundational ideas that I can breathe life back into, so I’m going to be looking at those possibilities.

Another thing going on, however, is that I’m in a position where I just plain have fewer spoons available to take on big new projects. The biggest thing is that I have a fast-growing cataract in the inside corner of my right eye. It slows down my work because of fatigue–both physical (eye muscles) and mental (coping strategies).

But hey, I’m a former special ed teacher! Figuring out coping strategies used to be my job!

Among other things, I’ve become a big fan of eyemasks with gel packs. I have a special one for bedtime that doesn’t involve elastic or Velcro to tug at my hair. Another, sequined one that I use to give my eyes a break during the day–I had bought it thinking it was useful for a sleep mask and, well, no. I keep the gel pack inserts in the fridge. The sequined one gets used for the other coping strategy, which is lying down with it on for an hour or so in the afternoon. Sometimes I nap, sometimes I just lie there and think. That’s been a huge help. I realized with the sleep gel pack mask that part of my problems involved facial muscle tension, and the cool pack really helped with that.

All the same, that plus the need to take more breaks than usual mean less productivity. And while I’m allegedly on “the list” for cataract surgery, everything is backlogged big time. I need to go rattle cages if I don’t hear anything today.

My laptop blew up and I’m trying to make do with my iPad when writing away from my desktop. It’s–not a perfect solution. I can draft on the iPad but not edit. Oh well.

So this is going to be a fall of short writing (um, for some definitions of “short”–I also plan to be working on stuff that will likely turn into novelettes), box set production and–the sorely hit-and-miss promotion piece.

Stay tuned, because I hope to be getting more out there soon!

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Happy Book Day, Netwalk’s Children!

Honestly, I think Netwalk’s Children is my favorite book of the series. By the time I got around to writing it, several years had gone by and I had written a lot of previous backstory which is now out in Life in the Shadows. By this point I was starting to get a feel for book structure ingrained in my brain. But–I was also writing it during a major move, and I had resorted to creating a complex scene matrix to help me be able to turn around and pick up the thread of the plot quickly–writing in dribs and drabs here and there.

Editing this book for republication was also somewhat easier than with the first two. But oh dear Lord, I am so not using <> to indicate mindspeech in the future. I kept it in this series, but nope, not gonna use it in the future. Italics, m-dashes, all of that will be more effective. Continuity edits were a bit more necessary, but….

Anyway. Over the hump now with this book. Two more Netwalk Sequence books to go, and then the box set this fall.

I’ve also adjusted my price points. Alas, $6.99 isn’t working for sales. And since I want to sell books, well…dropped my prices to $4.99, and am organizing to do a bit more promotion.

I’m also experimenting with using QR codes on Book Brush. We shall see….

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The political side of the Martiniere Legacy books

Revising the Netwalk books reveals just how political the Martiniere Legacy books–both the main series and the multiverse series–actually are. While Sarah Stephens is an old politico, Diana Andrews is a reluctant political leader, and we see a certain amount of organizational politics within the Corporate Courts, those books just aren’t political. They focus more on organizational and family structures, and the dynamics of power within interpersonal relationships. But there are no issues that could be classified as political. Certainly no significant social commentary. Some discussion of agency on a personal level.

Then again, some would argue that choosing to focus on four generations of powerful women dealing with a particular technology is a political choice in and of itself. I won’t argue with that.

But overall, the fact remains that the Netwalk Sequence books are really just not that political a series.

The Martiniere Legacy, however–

As I mentioned in a previous post about writing and politics, one of the reasons why I downplayed a certain degree of political content in the Netwalk Sequence was that I was still actively teaching. I erred on the side of caution, but, honestly, I also didn’t exactly have the skill level to insert much about politics in those books that wouldn’t look like overt preaching.

The Legacy doesn’t have that excuse. And, considering the main books were drafted in 2020 and 2021, it’s only logical that politics bled over into the series. While the series isn’t necessarily about politics, oh is it ever political.

First off, one part of this world includes indentured servitude for people who can’t pay off their debts. Of course, things go drastically wrong with indenture right away. Just because someone signs a five-year contract doesn’t mean that they are released from their servitude at the end of that five years–I don’t go into those details, but it’s referenced as a secondary plot point in the third book, Realization, and a little bit in the second book, Ascendant. The possibility of Brandon, Ruby, and Gabe being forced into indenture as a result of Brandon’s gamble that including his estranged parents in the AgInnovator agtech funding game show will earn a certain number of clicks in order to pay off his own debt drives the first book, Inheritance.

But the ramifications of indenture continue to unfold.

Thirty-some years before the opening of Inheritance, in Broken Angel: The Lost Years of Gabriel Martiniere, Gabriel Martiniere testifies in Federal court against the Martiniere Group experimenting with mind control on unwilling indentured people (note: a mind control technology that was first used upon members of the Martiniere Family first–Gabe provides an unwilling demonstration of it in action when it is triggered during his testimony) . That testimony forces him into exile and leads into a whole lot of other complications. Winning free from those mind control elements is just part of Gabe’s story.

Reproductive rights is a huge part of the Legacy. We see that most clearly in Ascendant, where two formerly indentured women who are part of the Family need to have hormonal leftovers in their indenture identification tattoos removed. As part of the process, we also learn that Gabe’s sister Justine has spent years as the secret organizer behind an organization called Rescue Angel, providing reproductive services to people in need. As we learn in Justine’s book, Justine Fixes Everything: Reflections on Mortality, the combination of Justine’s work with the Rescue Angel and the demand from the Family that she step up to fix things that her brother Joseph and father Philip have messed up within the Martiniere Group leads to her divorce from Donald Atwood. Her marriage to Donald was somewhat pragmatic in the beginning–she marries him to escape the coercion from Philip that she marry a much older man allied with Philip.

Tied in with reproductive rights is–well–women’s rights. The Martiniere Family possesses a lot of misogyny, starting with the internal requirements of male leadership based on Salic Law–the Martinieres descend from the Valois family, have married into the Bourbons, are also descendants of the Medicis and the Borgias. Gabe doesn’t agree with those structures. Justine is only allowed access to power within the Group because Philip sees her as neuter–a severe case of hydatidiform mole in her one pregnancy results in a hysterectomy. Another powerful Family woman, Kendra, dies with her family under suspicious circumstances after she allies with Justine. And even though the Matriarch of the Martinieres, Donna, is acknowledged to possess some power (due to her role in developing the mind control programming), her abilities and access are restrained by Family structures.

And even though Gabe is somewhat liberated, he still has unconscious elements of the Family’s misogyny, manifesting as protectiveness. His hope that not telling Ruby who he really is will keep her safe goes violently awry when mind control structures are used first to silence him, then force him into divorce. His choice to support his second wife’s oldest brother in taking mercenary action against Philip Martiniere’s not-so-subtle attempts to make himself a petty dictator in the Southwest leads to Rafe Alvarez’s death, and Rachel’s estrangement from her family.

Even after his true identity is revealed, Ruby has to kick Gabe’s butt a few times to stop him from being so protective.

And then there’s Philip Martiniere’s quixotic political ambitions. Philip clearly studied several contemporary politicians (we will mention no names, but…). He developed a religious cult, the Electric Born, coupled with secret research labs to take mind control even farther than the Martiniere Group could dream. He had a notion to force his grandson, Brandon (Ruby and Gabe’s son) into becoming the indentured, cyborged head of a private military force. He experimented with cloning–both physical and digital–as a means toward immortality.

Philip also bargains for a leadership role in a splinter political party. By 2059, I postulate four major political parties in the United States–The Real Truthers (extreme right wing Republicans), Honest Republicans (centrist Republican of the old school, the Never-you-know-who faction), Classic Democrats (centrist Democrats) and New Democrats (classic liberals, not Democratic Socialists or Justice Democrats). Of course, Philip hews to the Real Truthers.

But–nothing is as it seems. Gabe gets into a sticky situation with the New Democratic President in Realization. His daughter-in-law Pat Markey ends up running for President, with Gabe’s financial support. We don’t get much deeper than that into electoral politics, however. One reason why I made that choice is because the sausage-making that goes into electoral politics often isn’t much to write about–and I know more about electoral politics than legislative politics.

And then there’s the whole issue of cyborgs and clones. I don’t go very deep into those issues, but one key to Gabe and Ruby getting custody of Philip’s clone Michael is the assessment that Michael is a Martiniere Group property, and as the Martiniere-designate, Gabe is given the authority by the Board to take Michael from Philip. Ruby and Gabe then raise Mike to be his own self, not Philip’s clone.

Philip also created cyborgs from the sons of indentured women who were inseminated (via AI) by his adoptive son Joseph. They–along with Brandon–were intended to be the leadership of Philip’s cyborg military. While that didn’t get very far…the issues of body autonomy and control end up being a factor in Realization.

Well, this is getting long, and I want to post some links. Since Amazon is the main distributor that organizes books by series, these are Amazon links, to make it simple.

The Martiniere Legacy (Inheritance, Ascendant, Realization)

The People of the Martiniere Legacy (The Heritage of Michael Martiniere, Broken Angel: The Lost Years of Gabriel Martiniere, Justine Fixes Everything: Reflections on Mortality)

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