Author Archives: joyceusagi

Packing away the Broken Angel notes

I’m packing away the notes I made for the last Martiniere Legacy book, Broken Angel: The Lost Years of Gabriel Martiniere. Did the first revision, then segued into a second revision after watching the interview with the Sussexes on Sunday night because some of the things that Harry said? Could have come right out of Gabe’s mouth, especially the part talking about keeping his wife and child safe.

It’s kind of the end of an era because this is the last Legacy book. Oh, I might write some more in this world, but for all intents and purposes, it’s finished. Now I need to think about promotion…and if there’s one thing I realized about the February book, The Heritage of Michael Martiniere, it’s that I need to be thinking about promotion and emphasizing that both of these books are standalones. Mike’s book happens after the trilogy and you don’t need to read the trilogy first. Gabe’s book happens before the trilogy. So I need to be thinking just how I’m going to market and promote these books.

Gabe’s book was not an easy one. He endures a lot. But he also had some very bright moments. I’m actually glad I wrote this book, and for once, this is a prequel that really did need to wait for the other books to be written before it came out. As it were, I tweaked some bits of Heritage after finishing the rough draft of Broken Angel. I thought about tweaking bits of the trilogy, and then said “no, the trilogy is Ruby’s point of view. This is how Gabe remembers things, and Gabe’s memory has been tampered with, plus Gabe…lies. To himself as well as others. It’s a survival technique.”

Now it’s poking at things, coming up with appropriate back cover/promotional copy, and thinking about how to promote the book.

But first I’ve gotta also get things tweaked for Heritage.

Which…it’s available, and it’s a nice little standalone. Check it out.

(Huh. Pasting in the ‘zon link pops up the following. Not so much for the Books2Read link, which gets you Apple, Kobo, and Barnes and Noble)

https://books2read.com/u/4Dgv8P

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On writing diverse characters…baby steps

This Tweet (and my response, which was that I figure it’s time to add more queer and BIPOC secondary characters when I see complaints) pretty much sums up my attitude. I may be an old cishet white woman, but by god, the worlds I create do not need to look fishbelly-pale. Or het. Of course, that also means I have to work around other issues, such as watching out that I don’t fall into stereotypes…which is hard. Damned hard. And often requires self-examination and a lot of learning. But I’m willing to make mistakes and learn from them because, again, I want to write worlds that look and feel real, even when writing about the rich and privileged (which pretty much sums up the Martinieres).

Honestly, this post has been a hard one to write. I think this is the third? fourth? attempt, because I keep pulling back. Wondering if I should do this. Imagining what the attacks could be from either side of the aisle.

But damnit, at some point I have to say it.

I don’t want to write fishbelly-pale worlds. I don’t want to write all straight worlds. But. I am cishet, white, old, and female. Even with sensitivity readers, I struggle with the concept of speaking for others. Hey, for me, it was tough enough to switch into the male characters of Michael Martiniere and Gabriel Martiniere. I don’t normally write primary male characters, but in this situation I saw the need to do so for both The Heritage of Michael Martiniere and Broken Angel: The Lost Years of Gabriel Martiniere.

For me, that solution has come through peopling my worlds (except in my fantasy, where by golly, it’s all different and I ain’t writing Europeans) with a widely diverse secondary cast.

But however you want to put it, I do my best to keep those worlds from looking straight and fishbelly-pale.

I don’t want praise for that. I don’t need praise for that. Frankly, I think this approach should be the norm.

I’m still working on improving how I write diverse characters, but you know what? Just because my depictions aren’t perfect doesn’t mean I won’t keep trying (and tripping over new obstacles).

It’s all a growth process. And the more I learn about what a diverse world looks like, the more I like it.

So I’m a work in progress. I’m not what I was years ago, and that’s a good thing.

 

 

 

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On writing about a clone

While I’ve been working away on Gabe’s book, Michael’s book has been slowly going through the post-drafting process. I didn’t want to do the final touches on Mike until I finished with Gabe, just in case I came across issues from the past which could impact Heritage. As a result, I’ve not been talking enough about Mike.

Time to change that, especially now that Mike’s book is now out. So…some general thoughts about writing Mike as a clone.

********

One choice I made early on, after doing some research, was that I made Mike a reflection of the condition that his progenitor Philip was in at the time that his cells were taken. This is assuming that cloning of a full human would look rather like that of Dolly the Sheep, and that the clone would need to mature from infancy rather than be cultivated into an adult form. I also made the decision that Philip had ulterior motivations, including trying to integrate a digital clone of himself into one of his physical clones at some point. But Philip had a more pragmatic attitude toward his clones, viewing them as a source for blood and plasma to help him fight off cancer.

Essentially, Philip had dreams of immortality, both physical and virtual.

Mike was the thirteenth of thirteen cloning attempts, one of only four successful clones (which is also fairly realistic). Even with genetic screening and editing, he still carried a toxic physical legacy from Philip–arthritis, heart disease, and cancer. At one point, Mike gets access to his cloning records, at a fairly young age, to discover that even with intervention his lifespan will likely be short.

So Mike’s assorted health problems play a big role in The Heritage of Michael Martiniere. When we first see him as a five-year-old, he’s barely recovered from a blood draw that nearly killed him. And because Philip is old, mean, and narcissistic, he had little Michael subjected to chemotherapy before the blood draw in order to maximize his own treatments. Needless to say, five-year-old Mikey has health problems when Gabe and Ruby rescue him. He’s been raised in a laboratory and not exposed to the outside world at all. Even after his rescue he has immune system problems that means he gets sick a lot.

He has some huge psychological issues as well. Mikey doesn’t like doctors. He doesn’t like certain procedures–for good reason. But all the same, he has a good ten years or so before the health issues start showering down on him.

However, there’s always the specter of Philip hovering over him. How much like his progenitor will Mike turn out to be? Is he fated to become just like Philip? I lean pretty heavily onto the nurture side of the argument, but all the same, that’s an issue which haunts Mike–and his guardians–as he grows up. That doesn’t even get into the issues of Martiniere mind control manipulation and the existence of Philip as a digital clone just hanging around out there, seeking to fulfill his dreams of physical immortality.

(I have been thinking about digital thought clones for some time–that’s the foundation for the Netwalk books. When I saw some writeups on digital thought clones this winter as I was finishing Heritage, I realized that yep, that’s what I have been contemplating and anticipating.)

In any case, adding in the physical and psychological burden that a clone like Mike might have to deal with makes for an interesting story/thought experiment. Additionally, he’s being raised in a privileged family, because, to be honest, privileged, moneyed people are the only ones who will be able to afford the luxury of a clone like Mike. But it doesn’t make that process any simpler, or easier. And that was something I wanted to portray. Complete with the drama that is the obscenely rich and powerful Martiniere family.

***********

I didn’t think Mike’s book was going to be a big one. Maybe about 40,000 words or so. I hadn’t really planned it out but was writing it in self-contained segments as a break from intensive linear writing.

Boy, was I wrong. It became a full-sized novel.

And it’s out now in ebook.

Amazon

Books2Read (Apple, Nook, Kobo, etc)

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Wrestling with Broken Angel–Martiniere Legacy issues

Musings about character building and dynamics on the current work in progress.

I knew that writing Gabe’s book was going to be a challenge. One of the dynamics is the degree to which Gabe has to balance his love for Ruby with the growing number of lies he has to tell because he’s operating under a false identity. That was an issue even when I was writing the main part of The Martiniere Legacy. Why didn’t Gabe come clean to Ruby about who he really was and why he was on the run before the mounting weight of all the lies forced their divorce when he reached a crisis point? Full disclosure to the woman he loved would have been the simplest solution.

And yet he didn’t do that.

Maintaining those lies without disclosing them to Ruby is Gabe’s biggest flaw. His secrecy and paranoia, in the guise of protection. By the time of The Heritage of Michael Martiniere, Gabe’s learned his lesson. He imparts it to his father’s clone, Mike, as hard as he can.

And yet Gabe took a HUGE secret to his grave which ends up having a major impact on his son Brandon, Mike, Ruby, and others (and is a significant driver of the climax of The Heritage of Michael Martiniere). In the end that part of him that sought to protect those he loves by being paranoid and secretive not only destroys him, but it hurts those dear to him. He tries to recover before he dies by means of leaving videos triggered by search algorithms, and the groundwork for him to be able to eventually manifest himself as a digital clone, but none of those measures would have been necessary if he had Just. Told. Someone. Preferably Ruby.

So part of Broken Angel: The Lost Years of Gabriel Martiniere has to deal with that flaw in Gabe’s reasoning and build it so that Gabe’s reactions make sense. Gabe is spooked and scared, plus he still carries the weight of being beaten and mentally abused by Philip, the man he thought was his uncle (but was really his father) as well as some rather freaky mind control conditioning. Think of the Martinieres as modern-day Borgias, and perhaps that gives you a picture of what’s going on. Gabe is paranoid about eating and drinking in public because the Martinieres can and sometimes do slip nasty things into consumables to either reinforce mind control programming or kill someone. Or they do the same thing on clothing (I lifted Alexsander Navalny’s Novichok poisoning via underwear only using a psychotropic as one experience Gabe underwent). Gabe’s granddaughter Lily turns out to be particularly deft at doing this, which causes problems for Mike in Heritage.

The other piece is that Gabe is fundamentally a very decent man, in spite of lying his head off to keep his identity secret. He really is a woman’s dream partner in so many ways. Sometimes I think I’m writing him to be too nice, and then I remember. He’s lying to Ruby. When Gabe panics and decides that it’s best to force a divorce, he does some very ugly things to her as a cheating spouse. Some of that is under the influence of the Family’s mind control, because Philip wants to shred Gabe and make him suffer before pushing him into suicide. Gabe manages to fight off the suicide triggers (with the unknown assistance of the woman assigned to bring him down), but at the cost of completely destroying his relationship with Ruby, the woman he deeply loves. It takes twenty-one years and another crisis before Gabe and Ruby reunite.

And that’s basically the result of flawed choices that Gabe made.

It’s not easy to write. I find myself dodging some difficult sequences, just like I did when drafting Heritage. There are just some parts I can’t write, and others that I have to work my way toward carefully.

That said, Gabe’s book is not as big as Michael’s book. I’m about halfway through it right now, at something like 29,000 words, and on the brink of writing the toughest part. I have no problems with hitting the deadline to put it out in late April.

It’s not all grim, either.

But when it gets dark…hoo boy.

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Writer craft example–Willa Cather, Song of the Lark

I’m a fairly broad reader in that my reading often covers a range of genres and purposes. I like reading a variety of works, though graphic details and too dark a setting and story usually ends up putting me off and not finishing what I’m reading.

Most of the time I tend to be a pure reader–that is, I’m reading for enjoyment. But there are times when my reading enjoyment extends to savoring a rather deft piece of writerly craft. I’ll end up rereading those sections and enjoying them because I appreciate the effect that the other writer is trying to achieve. Sometimes I’ll even study it deeper, thinking about how best to apply that to my own work.

I had one of those moments recently, while reading Willa Cather’s Song of the Lark. The protagonist, Thea Kronberg, is on the brink of breaking through as a top opera singer. She’s visiting with her long-term lover Fred Ottenburg and a life-long backer, Dr. Archie, when The Call occurs–essentially, the climax of the book. And the way that Cather handles it is just–marvelous. See below. Note: omniscient point of view. And Sieglinde is the part; Walküre the opera. Different formatting conventions from a different era.

******

Fred caught up the telephone and stopped the buzz while Thea went on talking to Dr. Archie about Landry. Telling some one to hold the line, he presently put down the instrument and approached Thea with a startled expression on his face.

“It’s the management,” he said quietly. “Gloeckler has broken down: fainting fits. Madame Rheineckler is in Atlantic City and Schramm is singing in Philadelphia tonight. They want to know whether you can come down and finish Sieglinde.”

“What time is it?”

“Eight fifty-five. The first act is just over. They can hold the curtain twenty-five minutes.”

Thea did not move. “Twenty-five and thirty-five makes sixty,” she muttered. “Tell them I’ll come if they hold the curtain until I am in the dressing-room. Say I’ll have to wear her costumes, and the dresser must have everything ready. Then call a taxi, please.”

Thea had not changed her position since he first interrupted her, but she had grown pale and was opening and shutting her hands rapidly. She looked, Fred thought, terrified. He half turned toward the telephone, but hung on one foot.

“Have you ever sung the part?” he asked.

“No, but I’ve rehearsed it. That’s all right. Get the cab.” Still she made no move. She merely turned perfectly blank eyes to Dr. Archie and said absently, “It’s curious, but just at this minute I can’t remember a bar of Walküre after the first act. And I let my maid go out.” She sprang up and beckoned Archie without so much, he felt sure, as knowing who he was. “Come with me.” She went quickly into her sleeping-chamber and threw open a door into a trunk-room. “See that white trunk? It’s not locked. It’s full of wigs, in boxes. Look until you find one marked ‘Ring 2.’ Bring it quick!” While she directed him, she threw open a square trunk and began tossing out shoes of every shape and color.

Ottenburg appeared at the door. “Can I help you?”

She threw him some white sandals with long laces and silk stockings pinned to them. “Put those in something and then go to the piano and give me a few measures in there–you know.” She was behaving somewhat like a cyclone now, and while she wrenched open drawers and closet doors, Ottenburg got to the piano as quickly as possible and began to herald the reappearance of the Volsung pair, trusting to memory.

In a few moments Thea came out enveloped in her long fur coat with a scarf over her head and knitted woolen gloves on her hands. Her glassy eye took in the fact that Fred was playing from memory, and even in her distracted state, a faint smile flickered over her colorless lips. She stretched out a woolly hand. “The score, please. Behind you, there.”

Dr. Archie followed with a canvas box and a satchel. As they went through the hall, the men caught up their hats and coats. They left the music-room, Fred noticed, just seven minutes after the telephone message….

******

So what makes this scene work?

First, we have a nicely intimate gathering of three long-term friends, relaxed after a meal. Then…the call. We have the conflict of time and preparation.

But. Thea does not immediately spring up and get started. Cather points out three times that Thea does not move right away. Yet she’s aware of what her time to get there and be dressed will take–for a part she has only rehearsed, not sung. She observes that she can’t remember the part she has to sing at that moment. But when she does move, she knows exactly what she needs. Dr. Archie is to get a specific wig. Fred is to call a taxi, pack some shoes, then play appropriate music from the opera. The entire process takes seven minutes…and without saying so, due to the careful staging and presentation of details, you as the reader know that Thea has thought over exactly what she would need to do should this opportunity fall into her lap. Even though she’s somewhat startled by it, she takes the time to think through what is needed and to be there for the chance of a lifetime. Quickly.

There’s also the little character-building elements, even though this is toward the end of the book. Thea is clearly someone who notices everything. She knows the timing of her travel and the length of the opera. She opens and closes her hands while thinking, a detail that points to her tension. When she does act, she moves quickly and decisively. But she is not so wrapped up in herself that she fails to notice that Fred is playing the piano from memory.

And within a few hundred words, we have slow-fast-slow pacing occurring. After this snippet, Fred and Dr. Archie put Thea in a cab, where she studies the score with the light on as the cabbie races her to the theater. Fred explains to Dr. Archie–and us–while they follow in another taxi just how and why this moment could be the making of Thea’s singing career.

For me, it’s the mix of pacing and the small elements that make this work so well. The slow-fast-slow pacing of that moment of realization that the make-or-break moment is HERE. And we see that Our Heroine has been preparing for just that sort of lucky lightning strike so that she can take advantage of it, in an economy of words.

It’s those three moments where Cather observes that Thea does not immediately get up that really make the scene.

She doesn’t move, but calculates the time needed for her to arrive and be ready.

She doesn’t move, but she opens and closes her hands rapidly while reassuring Fred (and probably herself) that she knows the part.

She doesn’t move, but she tells Dr. Archie that she’s temporarily forgotten what comes next. And that her maid (who would have known exactly what she needed) has been dismissed for the evening.

But she does know what to do, so that when she does move, she does so quickly, in under seven minutes.

When I first read this passage, the craft involved sucked me back into reading and rereading it.

That doesn’t happen very often.

 

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Getting Derailed

On January 4th I wrote a process post about the new Goddess’s Honor trilogy I plan to be working on during 2021. While high fantasy, it is going to be pretty darn political as it deals with a successor picking up the pieces of a failing empire in the face of a bigger threat.

Um.

I was working on worldbuilding the morning of January 6th, and not following the news or social media. I stopped a little bit before noon to start a Zoom meeting I was hosting for my local Soroptimist chapter. I was greeted with the blare of someone’s TV and the news that there was a violent assault happening on the US Capitol, apparently with the intent to stop the certification of the results of the 2020 election.

That put paid to doing any work on the trilogy for that day—and, to be honest, I still can’t get back to it. Writing the aftermath of necessary but horrendous regime change is still just a little bit raw.

But I wrote a long essay about Writing the Revolution, which is available over on my political Substack (https://joyce14d.substack.com/p/writing-the-revolution). I brought forward a project I’ve been musing about for some time now, which was to transcribe and post two term papers I wrote while working in politics and getting my Political Science degree. In addition, I have a pile of clippings and giveaway literature from the ‘80s and ‘90s that focus on the rise of the then-titled New Christian Right. The process of sorting and analyzing that literature, then writing about it, is going to be one of my side projects throughout 2021, along with republishing political work I wrote during the ‘90s.

For years I’ve been saying that we were going to have major political problems in the ‘20s. This material is the basis for those assertions.

But what about fiction?

Sooner or later I’ll get back to the new Goddess’s Honor trilogy, which still needs a title. I haven’t liked a lot of the suggestions but it may end up becoming Goddess’s Oath or Goddess’s Vow. Burden was suggested but it isn’t quite right. It should still be on track for release in late 2021 or early 2022, nonetheless. I just can’t focus on it until things settle down a bit on the political front.

That doesn’t mean I haven’t been writing fiction. I have…but the only character who’s speaking to me right now is Gabriel Martiniere. The Martiniere Legacy trilogy is Ruby’s story, just as The Heritage of Michael Martiniere is Mike’s—but Gabe has things to say, especially about those years between getting together with Ruby up to the opening of Inheritance.

It’s not going to be a big book (ha! I said that about Heritage as well. We shall see). First Christmas Together will be part of it, and between other pieces and the one I wrote about the birth of Gabe’s son Brandon this week, I’ve got about half the material I need already.

It will include what happened during Gabe and Ruby’s divorce. Early days at Moondance and Gabe’s relationship with his second wife Rachel. The formative elements which forged him into the man who could effectively stand up to Philip Martiniere, remarry Ruby, become the Martiniere, and speak out as an advocate for the elimination of indentured servitude.

I’m looking at a possible April/May publication date for Broken Angel: The Lost Years of Gabriel Martiniere. So yes, there will be a fifth Martiniere Legacy book.

Justine is slinking around scheming about her book as well, but we shall see how quickly she decides to speak up after Gabe’s book comes out. She may decide to stay silent.

We shall see.

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Writing Process–Worldbuilding, Early Stages

So here I am again. Facing the need to start building the world, characters, and plot lines for a new series. Well, this one is kinda new. It’s a second trilogy in the Goddess’s Honor world. But still. Here I am at the beginning once more.

Last year, sitting down to build the world and write the entire trilogy all at once, then release all at once in the fall, actually worked well for me. One of my frustrations in working with a series is remembering all of those niggling little continuity pieces, especially as the world shifts while I get to know it through writing. The reality is that you can plan, plan, plan and plot, plot, plot all you want but once the characters start interacting with the plot, stuff happens to change their backstory and even some of the earlier events in the story. I found this to be quite frustrating in writing both The Netwalk Sequence and Goddess’s Honor. Not so much with The Martiniere Legacy because I could go back and retcon things. And even though The Heritage of Michael Martiniere was partially written after the main Legacy trilogy came out, I still did not have the frustrations that I did with Netwalk and Goddess’s Honor.

As a result, I’m going to do the same thing with this trilogy. My timing is pretty close to what I was doing with the Legacy, and I’m actually starting a wee bit ahead because I’m picking up threads from the end of Goddess’s Honor and Judgment of Honor.

At this point in time I don’t even have a series title or book titles. I know it’s going to be a trilogy. But considering that I really didn’t have titles for the Legacy books until pretty late, I’m not worried about it.

I’ve been poking around at the various characters and what they need to accomplish in the series-wide arc, not the individual books just yet. It’s rather like scattering a pack of Tarot cards and looking at each one.

The Major Players

Here is Heinmyets. He played a minor but significant role in the Goddess’s Honor books. He’s going to be a major player in these books, because instead of retiring after handing the leadership of the Two Nations (Keldara and Clenda) over to his grandson Linyet, he ends up with a major diplomatic role in the reconstruction of the land of Daran. I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about Heinmyets and the role he plays. His experience with the magic breed of horses, daranvelii, will also be significant.

Katerin ea Miteal is no longer simple Katerin Healer. Leader of Medvara, mother of the new Empress of Daran. But the lands of Varen look to her to fulfill a growing need, especially since the nations of Varen face a growing challenge to the east instead of the dangers of the Darani Empire renewing their colonial ambitions. And she has a new romantic interest in her life, after years of mourning Witmara’s father Metkyi.

Witmara ea Miteal, Empress of Daran, has a huge hot mess on her hands. Her predecessor Chatain en Ralsem focused on colonial expansion instead of maintaining the lands he already had. It’s up to Witmara to fix them and correct the injustices that have been mounting in Daran for generations. That includes a lot of special interests, including a long-term insurgency by the Matriarchs of Ternar that has only now come to light.

Betsona ea Ralsem, half-sister to Chatain and Witmara’s most prominent supporter in Daran. Her mother was Ternarese but she was never a candidate for Empress due to disability caused by a magical accident when she was young. She is also a target for the Matriarch’s insurgency and is a focal point for some of those special interests. The interactions between her and Heinmyets become crucial, especially as they take on a romantic element. Until Heinmyets, Betsona’s only romantic involvement has been with her servant Seijina. She’s key to Witmara’s success…or failure.

The Minor Players

Imnari, Headwoman of Wickmasa, is not who she appeared to be in the Goddess’s Honor books. The village of Wickmasa has been paradoxical for many generations, and Imnari is part of that.

Orlanden, lover of Haran, the late brother of the Mershaunten of Larij. He’s more than willing to leave Varen after Haran’s death, and serves as an aide to Heinmyets.

Tilvi and Tilyet–sister and brother, distant cousins of Katerin and Witmara. Senior staff in Medvara’s agriculture division, selected by the land to serve as guardians of the leadership when Katerin is not in Medvara.

Rekaré, new Goddess of Sorrow–still learning how to be a Goddess, and dealing with Stuff.

Seijina–no romantic interest between her and Orlanden, but doesn’t mean the two of ’em aren’t scheming.

So it’s still a case of spreading the cards, and concocting the big arcs. Then I sit down and start piecing together the small arcs for each book.

Projected writing start time is sometime mid-month.

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Welcome 2021…and 2020 writing metrics

2020 tried to go out like it came in, with me dealing with a gut bug. Fortunately, unlike the bug that made the 2019-2020 transition miserable, this one was easily tossed back, but I was still pretty tired out. Today, it’s all about allergies acting up. No idea what is going on unless the ol’ bod is taking me through a retrospective tour of the Bugs of 2020.

Meanwhile, I finished the last preliminary edits of The Heritage of Michael Martiniere. Now it’s waiting for the editor’s comments. When I finished this pass of Heritage on the 30th, that was pretty much it for the world of the Martinieres. I know it is now because it just feels different. Instead of Ruby, Gabe, and Mike haunting me, the characters from the next set of books (which will be set in the Goddess’s Honor world) started speaking up. Oh sure, I could write more about the Martinieres and I might just do that in the future. But for now, that world is done, save for the final touches on Heritage. It’s been productive.

I didn’t keep details of the exact number of words I wrote in 2020, but it’s easy enough to figure out by looking at the books.

Each volume of the Legacy came out at around 90,000 words each, so roughly 180,000 words on the base Martiniere Legacy story.

Heritage is right around 114,000 words.

First Meetings, That Martiniere Look, First Christmas Together, and A Belated Christmas Honeymoon add about 20,000 words to the total, maybe a little more. Add in another 6,000 word Martiniere story out on submission and that’s 26,000 words of Martiniere short stories.

Overall, that’s roughly 294,000 words of novel.

26,000 words of short stories.

Roughly 320,000 words in all. Perhaps another 10,000 in stories that got started but dropped, or were story sketches.

Eh, so I guess I’ll claim roughly 330,000 words written this year, not counting the blogging. I would say that speaks of a productive year. Then again, except for two trips to Portland and RadCon, I didn’t go anywhere.

I published Judgment of Honor, Inheritance, Ascendant, and Realization this year. No short story releases that I can remember.

This was the year I also decided to step off of the short story treadmill after realizing this summer that I could either be a short story writer vying to get my work published by others, or else I could focus on novels and promotion of novels. I simply lack the energy to do both at age sixty-three. The Martiniere books are some of the best I’ve written, and I think it is because I just threw the short story stuff out the door instead of trying to juggle books and short stories. That said, the Martiniere short stories also rank amongst some of the better shorts I’ve written, at least in my opinion (especially That Martiniere Look and First Christmas Together).

One of the reasons for stepping off of the short story treadmill is that it’s a numbers game. In order to be selling regularly, one has to have something like 15-20 stories written and circulating. My best sales happened when I had that much inventory. Just like having an extensive back catalog helps with selling books, having a lot of shorts available makes sales much more likely. I’d fallen off of writing short stories and had something like nine in circulation.

I looked at the numbers and decided that I’d much rather focus on novel series, and working on short stories tied to the books. For one thing, writing a short story outtake is really helpful when I’m trying to figure out some character dynamics. For another, short stories tied to a series sell books. They serve as an easy introduction to the characters and the series with less investment.

What am I going to do with the unpublished short stories I still have in inventory? Well, some may just molder in the trunk. Others may end up being self-published (for example, Moving On, a climate change dystopian story told in letters). Still others may be fleshed out in more detail or revised as needed. And if I see an appropriate anthology call, I’ll pull them out.

Making that decision was actually a bit of a relief, really.

So what lies ahead? Well, besides finishing off Heritage edits and production work, I’m going to revise the first two books of The Netwalk Sequence. Both Netwalk and Netwalker Uprising are not up to current formatting standards, and I find them difficult to read as a result. Plus there’s a bit of revision needed for series continuity and tech updates. Those two reflect the reality that one is ten years old and the other not much younger. Additionally, I have three separate cover artists in that series and it just doesn’t work. They’ll be the Author Preferred 2021 Series and I plan to rerelease them in September.

The new writing will be a trilogy set in the Goddess’s Honor world. I already knew this was going to be a thing because while I’d finished the series arc, there were still storytelling situations left in that world. The new series is going to pick up those threads. Witmara has to wrestle with all the problems that Chatain left her in Daran. Her mother Katerin ends up leading the coalition of nations that make up the Free Nations of Varen–and has to deal with the Divine Confederation and the Outcast God to the East. She appoints Heinmyets to be Varen’s ambassador to Daran. Betsona helps Witmara, then is attracted to Heinmyets–and discovers a new source of strength. Meanwhile, Rekaré is learning how to be a Goddess.

But there’s also some tiny bits of discovery, such as the Headwoman of Wickmasa, Imnari, being much, much more than she first appeared to be. Oh yessss, this world is starting to talk to me again. Worldbuilding starts in earnest soon.

Meanwhile, I’ve also decided that I need to develop more visibility this year. To that end I’m going to try to be more active on Substack, Instagram, Goodreads, and yes, Twitter. I took a couple of Jane Friedman classes on platform and social media, and they pretty much confirmed what I’ve been doing so far and where I need to go next. I have the two papers I wrote on the early development of the New Christian Right back in 1980-81 that I’m going to put up on Substack, and will probably summarize a bunch of my files of right-wing movements in the Portland area during the late 80s-90s over there as well. Substack is probably where most of my political writing will end up, as well as my professional writing work.

I have a crapton of photos that will probably start going up on Instagram. Mostly landscapes and wildlife, but they’re connected to my various writing worlds.

I need to figure out how to link this blog to Goodreads so that it automatically crossposts, just like it does to my Amazon Central page.

I actually worked out a schedule and everything yesterday–a general schedule. This next week is going to be all about plotting out the specifics now that I have the general framework set up.

Not that many years left. I need to kick out the jams and make whatever splash I can–and 2021 needs to be that damn turnaround year.

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Slowly detaching from a created world and cover reveal

Like the prelim cover for Heritage? It’s pretty reflective of the book, so it’s science fiction with horses and dogs. And despite his Martiniere veneer, Mike Martiniere is still an Eastern Oregon cowboy because that’s how he was raised. Even if he does come from a rich and powerful family that controls an international consortium. But Mike has to face up to what the heritage of being a Martiniere means, including who and what he is–the clone of a powerful, vicious, and autocratic man, Philip Martiniere, who saw Mike as a disposable means to achieve immortality. Mike is Philip’s thirteenth clone attempt, and the only one to survive his progenitor.

I’ve been living in Mike’s head since August. Unlike most of my books, where I start at the beginning and work my way through, The Heritage of Michael Martiniere has been written in self-contained short pieces written to address certain themes. In fact, one of the major chunks, the interactions between Mike and his great-granddaughter/niece Lily*, were amongst the last pieces written because I couldn’t get my head around Lily for quite a while. Once I figured Lily out, the whole last section of the book came together and was written more or less linearly. Let’s just say that I finally figured out how to incorporate some inspirations from watching Swan Lake into a story.

*(um. It’s complicated. Mike was adopted and raised by his biological son Gabe after being rescued from his creator/progenitor Philip at the age of five. Lily is the daughter of Gabe’s son Brandon)

I’m jokingly calling Heritage “literary science fiction,” because while it’s near-future and has technological/cyberpunk elements, it’s also very focused on relationship, emotion, and what it means to be a clone to that clone as he grows up and has to deal with all the BS that goes with being a clone. It unfolds bit by bit, piece by piece, as Mike comes to terms with the physical, psychological, and political toxicity of his progenitor Philip…and to some extent, the Martiniere family. Mike is a very broken person because of what he inherits from Philip. But so are the people who raise him.

Anyway.

Yesterday I finished the first revision, which for me means taking paper edits of the rough draft and incorporating them into the main document. It’s the beginning of walking away from the story. It still has to go to edits, but the essential act of original creation has been completed.

For some reason I’m finding it hard to let go of this creation. Last night I actually came up with ideas for two more books in this setting…one, Broken Angel, about Gabe, and the other, Rescue Angel, about his sister Justine. Not ready to write those stories just yet but they could end up being a 2022 project. All the same, I have to wonder if the degree to which I immersed myself in the world of the Martinieres is due to the nature of the story, or the nature of writing something like this during Covid? I did achieve a lot while writing these books–approximately 270,000 words in the trilogy, Heritage at 115,000 words, and assorted short stories at around another 30,000 words. So close to 400,000 words this year, all in one world. That’s more than I’ve continuously written in a single setting before now. Part of this was due to the decision that I wanted to write the whole darn thing all at once before doing something else, unlike in the past when I was alternating Netwalk and Goddess’s Honor books.

Covid is a factor, all right. Without my other usual activities, this year in writing has basically been go to the computer, futz around on line, write for a while, go do some other stuff, then write some more. However, that decision to work in one world until I reached an endpoint in the major story arc was a huge chunk of this year’s production and it’s affected me in other areas.

I haven’t made jewelry. I haven’t made any quilts.

It’s just been writing, riding the horse, and getting out into the woods.

But now that I’m having to detach myself from the Martinieres, I’m finding it hard. Like I said…at least two more possible books. At least. And while I’ve written this world from the top layer, there are lower layer pieces that could be written as well.

I hate to say goodbye, but in the next week or so, the last pieces of this world get wrapped up and move from creation to production.

I’ll miss them.

 

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Random post-book thoughts

I finished The Heritage of Michael Martinere this last week–Wednesday, or maybe it was Tuesday, I can’t be certain now without going back to look at the Facebook/Twitter posts. Almost right away, I came across an article which not only clarifies something I did in Heritage but also somewhat underpins and supports the elements of The Netwalk Sequence. Food for thought, but it kind of blows up part of the ending of Heritage…and gives me something to think about for the next book, should I choose to write another Martiniere book. Which I think I may…there’s some elements I can still mine in that world. The whole indentured servitude/body modification issue…what happens when indenture gets wiped away quickly? What impact will it have on society? I’ve written about this from the upper end…now how about the everyday end?

Thinking about it. One problem is that I don’t feel confident about writing that kind of story. That might be an exercise that is good for me. On the one hand.

On the other…so many people write about the gritty side of things. I’m not sure I want to join those ranks, necessarily, and the everyday life in that particular world might not look so nice. Gotta think about it.

Then again, I do leave an opening at the end of Heritage for Mike and JoAnn to further that story. We shall see. I’m resisting the urge to print it out and do those revisions because I need to think about that major ending revision pretty darn hard. And Heritage is already at 117,000-some words.

But there’s other things going on besides the book and thinking about the next project (I always try to have December as a not-large-project month).

Mocha’s sore and I think it might be age plus frozen ground with no snow cushioning. And she did tweak something. I broke down and ordered a quarter sheet to go under the saddle when I ride, because I suspect that her back muscles are tight and perhaps a little extra warmth when riding might be useful. We’re doing short rides with a focus on bending and flexing–and the other day she suddenly came right after doing a little bit of two-tracking. Meds kicking in or she finally got warmed up? I don’t know for sure, but at her age it doesn’t hurt to pamper her a little bit.

We are reorganizing the house–all this time in it during Covid kinda has helped us revise our organization. A couple of chairs got relegated to the basement (one is an extra we don’t use but can come out post-Covid for visitors, and the other is my porch rocking chair that stays out once weather gets good in the spring). But there’s some other system stuff going on.

I generally start bringing the grooming caddy for Mocha inside once the weather consistently drops below freezing, because it has wet stuff in it that doesn’t take well to freezing. Because I also keep horse cookies in the caddy, I’ve been concerned about attracting rodents into the house so I’ve had it in the main house, which eats up space. This year, I’m keeping the caddy in a big garbage bag in the basement. Same for the big garbage bag. Soon I’ll be moving saddle into the basement and definitely the bridle I’ll be using most of the time so that it isn’t constantly cold. I’m also rotating halters because of possible fomites on gates etc when I’m at the ranch, and I want to keep all of that stuff out of the main house. Which means my boots also live in the garage instead of in the house.

I do like that setup. It’s much more efficient and then I don’t have a whole bunch of horse tack in the main house. The Western saddle is going to be the big challenge, though. It may just keep living in the horse trailer tack room.

We went for a “get OUT of the house” drive yesterday, first up to Wallowa Lake and then in the grain and hay fields to the east of town. Saw elk, a fox, lots of deer (both whitetail and mule), assorted raptors including eagles, and took some artsy photos.

But for the most part we’re hanging out and staying away from Covid. It’s a quiet life right now. I’ll take it.

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