Category Archives: The Ruby Project

A little taste of THE RUBY PROJECT

I’ve finished The Ruby Project Book Two: Ascendant, and am brainstorming the next book in the series, Realization, which I expect to get started on this week. I already have a rough concept of the plot but am still working out the motivations of a character who just marched into the last part of Ascendant and announced that she has Major Information About The Plot. This is a little drabble around the opening of Realization which will not be in the book (it’s all from Ruby’s POV). Nonetheless, I realized very quickly that Donna Martiniere (aka Donna-gran, the dowager Martiniere matriarch) has an important role to play…so here she is.


It’s a brilliant blue early autumn day with a cool wind blowing dry leaves across the vast expanse of lawn around the colonial-style house behind the tall iron fence with razor wire top and regular armed security patrols pacing the perimeter. Not that the old woman sitting in a wheelchair in her ground floor office pays any attention to the outdoors. She taps a stylus against her porcelain-coated teeth as she scans the comp projections in front of her. Occasionally she pulls up the loose-fitting and slippery old green and gold silk robe she wears over her blouse and slacks for additional warmth against a stubborn draft. It slides down her arms almost as quickly as she pulls it up, but it’s one of Louis’s last gifts.

At last Donna Martiniere shuts down the comp and spins her wheelchair to stare outside, though that is not where her thoughts are.

I am so, so old. She sighs with exasperation. And this news doesn’t make her feel any younger. She closes her eyes for a moment, exhaling deeply. For a moment this past summer she had hoped to be able to finally lay down her burden and rest. Her grandson Gabriel had reappeared from almost thirty-five years of exile, still desiring to repair the corruption within the family and its associated businesses. More than that, his wife Ruby was the sort of strong woman needed to pick up the threads of family responsibilities that Donna had managed for oh so many years. Her voice fit the tuning of mind control devices that Donna and Louis had created only to see their children abuse their purposes. Ruby—and Gabriel—had been Donna’s hope to steer the Martiniere Group away from the wrong paths that Louis and Donna’s sons Saul and Philip had chosen.

Granted, Gabriel showed a tendency to attack and then run rather than finish the job. Her fault. It was how he had survived Philip’s rages. She should have been the one to take in the boy when his family had been killed in a plane crash. But Donna hadn’t felt sufficiently confident to raise a difficult teenaged boy given her health issues at the time.

My mistake. My very, very great mistake.

If Gabriel had known thirty-five years ago that she shared his distaste for the human trafficking and manipulation of indentured workers that Philip was involved with, would he have gone into hiding?

We will never know.

And past poor choices couldn’t be changed. For better or worse, she had thrown her support quite publically to Gabriel just four weeks ago. Yes, the outbreak of the G9 virus left him disabled. But his reunion with Ruby gave Donna hope that Gabriel could stand up to Philip, with her substantial support. That Gabriel, Ruby, and their son Brandon could wrest the leadership of the family and their business from Philip’s grasp.

Gabriel’s first tangle with Philip and his cousin Javier ended in disaster. Infected with a G9 accelerant worse than his initial attack. Gambling on a fringe treatment that would restore him to full pre-G9 ability. Her reports tell her that his recovery progresses nicely. But she knows the price of that treatment. Risky. Dangerous. And when it fades….

Then a booster inoculation to protect Ruby against Gabriel’s future G9 flares backfired, leaving her sick in return, her degree of disability still unknown.

Which now presents Donna with the choices ahead of her. Gabriel and Ruby have set the chain of events into action that could achieve her goal at long last.

But do they have the health and strength to actually do it now?

Donna sighs. Turns back to her desk and unlocks a drawer. Pulls out a stiff leather case that looks like a hunter’s belt bullet carrier. Taps a combination into the lock before opening the flap to study the contents.

Instead of bullets, three vials nestled in the red velvet-lined case. Three remaining doses of the twenty left after Louis’s death. Donna has kept her husband’s secret safe, only sharing it with his brother Arthur when Arthur’s wife Nora fell ill. The serum works—somewhat—for Artie, but does nothing to help Nora any more.

Philip would kill her if he knew the vials existed. Pursuit of an anti-aging serum is but one of his goals. She has done her best over the years to keep the information from him.

The serum is far from perfect. It does not work consistently. The effects only last for five years. It can kill over time. There is a maximum tolerance and a final dose that allows for one last quick return to relative youth in her case, before a steep final decline. The lesson of Nora.

Her next dose will be her final one. Donna has held out resorting to this for many years, especially after experiencing the heart attack that may have been caused by a serum dose wearing off. Philip watches her too closely and she has not been ready to challenge him yet. For her to suddenly appear years younger, even middle-aged, will let him know that the secret was real.

And it is flawed. Dangerous. Expensive. Louis was right to keep it a secret, eliminating all traces of that particular line of research as anything other than dead ends. It hadn’t even been a good beauty treatment.

But it might give Gabriel and Ruby the strength they need to confront Philip successfully. Donna has reviewed all of Louis’s notes as well as everything available about cases like Ruby and Gabriel’s. She’s mostly confident that it will work.

Donna stares at the vials. At last she closes and secures the carrier, carefully placing it on her desk. She turns back and reactivates her comp. Hesitates before calling Justine, Philip’s daughter. How safe is the girl? She has joined Gabriel and Ruby’s side. Is providing logistical support for their work.

But she’s Philip’s daughter. How closely monitored is she?

At last Donna decides. Activates the screen.

“Donna-gran!” Justine smiles at her. “A pleasure to see you. But I’m kind of in the middle of things here—“

“I need one small favor from you,” Donna says. “I need to see Gabriel and Ruby. In person. At their private ranch.”

Caution tightens Justine’s face. “They would probably prefer to meet at Moondance. That is where Gabie prefers to do family business for—reasons.”

Moondance. Gabriel’s ranch, just as the Double R is Ruby’s. A beautiful location, but despite its excellent security, not the place where she wants to do this. No. The Double R, home of Ruby and Gabriel’s best laboratories, is where she needs to be. Where they produce top agricultural biobots. Private, isolated, and secure, in remote Northeastern Oregon’s Skene County. And, coincidentally, with access to excellent human cell studies. There she can safely monitor Gabriel and Ruby’s progress.

“It has to be the Double R,” Donna insists. “I have my own reasons.” Even though she’s handed over the authority of the Martiniere matriarch to Ruby, she still is able to project her own authoritative tones to compel Justine.

Justine chews her lip, worried, clearly torn between loyalties. At last older programming overrules newer programming.

“I’ll set it up, Donna-gran.” She scowls at Donna. “But I know damn good and well that you just used a compulsion on me. I hope whatever it is you want is worth it.”

She doesn’t like to see the anger in Justine’s eyes at being manipulated, the suddenly stiff, tense body that tells Donna that she has violated her granddaughter’s trust.

But necessity is a harsh mistress, and Donna Martiniere has stared necessity in the face too damn many times over her nearly one hundred years.

“I hope it is, too,” she says softly.

As always, it is a choice.

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Work-in-progress musings

So while I’ve had some down time after finishing The Ruby Project: Origins, I’ve been thinking very hard about character series arcs for the three Ruby books. Usually this involves sitting alone in the living room after hubby’s gone off to bed. I’m sipping on a shot of whisky or something of that ilk, and just letting my thoughts wander.

This project is the first time that I’ve tried writing a complete series before marketing or release. Back in the day, writers were discouraged from such behavior. You wrote the first book, then started shopping it around while writing something unrelated. But these days, especially in the era of self-publishing, one of the recommendations is to get a series written, then release it all within short intervals. Both of my existing series, Netwalk Sequence and Goddess’s Honor, were first written during the old days. Both series expanded further than I expected, probably because they were written over a span of years. In this instance I’m going to go ahead and write all three books before releasing the first one. I’m thinking it could be easier than writing a series over a span of years, especially since this is one that wants to be written in a white heat.

Not that this means the series is going to lack depth, at least judging from what I am seeing as I develop these character arcs. Along with the agtech stuff is a heavy dose of family politics, relationship stuff, and…yeah. Human trafficking comes up in these books as it intersects with technology and the development of a culture of indentured servitude as a response to financial ruin. Go broke and bankrupt? Sign your life over to a corporation for a number of years. Owe a lot? Welp, you’ve just become a slave.

So far everything’s been written from one character’s POV. I haven’t decided yet if I’m going to bring in other POVs or not.

In any case, the projected order is The Ruby Project: Origins, The Ruby Project: Ascendant, and The Ruby Project: Realization.

I suspect that work on the rough draft of Ascendant will start next week if what I’m doing now comes together like it should. Especially in this era of COVID-19. If it flows like Origins, it’ll be done by mid-April. Ideally, I’ll take a week off, and then it’s on to Realization.

I’ve done this once before, when I wrote three books in the Netwalk Sequence, ten years or so ago when I went back to writing. Netwalk and Netwalker Uprising ended up requiring significant rewriting work. Netwalking Mars was a total trainwreck and I ended up scrapping it, though pieces of it ended up in Netwalking Space. Part of that was due to some very improbable physics and…yeah. Character development really, really sucked. As it turned out, those books ended up being better but it took rewriting Uprising to include the Gizmo and issuing a second version of Netwalk to incorporate it.

But I have many more years of experience under my belt now, enough to not make those mistakes. Part of that also includes not releasing the first book until all three are finished, then doing revisions.

It’s not at all what the publication plan I drew up in January projected. COVID-19 kinda screwed those plans up. So this is the year of Ruby, and if I get lucky…then perhaps I’ll get the Vortex Worlds stuff started.

We shall see how things unfold.

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Writing process: THE RUBY PROJECT

One thing that any novelist worth her words soon discovers is that every book has its own process. Even though I have a more-or-less coherent and somewhat consistent process of outlining after fourteen or so books, I’ve discovered that each story warps that methodology in its own unique way. Just in the past year, Beating the Apocalypse effectively defeated me because in trying to take the novella/borderline novel Seeking Shelter at the End of the World to a larger story, I discovered a hole deep within the storyline and had to put that book aside because I wasn’t getting anywhere with it and I had other books to write. Choices of Honor (Amazon, Draft2Digital) refused to fit into my usual outlining mode after the first quarter of the book–and I figured out at about 60,000 words that this was because there was another story in the Goddess’s Honor series and I couldn’t finish the series with Choices. Judgment of Honor (Amazon, Draft2Digital) was reasonably well-behaved and fit the process, cooperating nicely with the scene-by-scene outline and not pitching me any big surprises (well, except for some of the things that Katerin learns about her parents).

And then I learned about an opportunity and came up with The Ruby Project. From the beginning, Ruby has had an energy and life of its own. Instead of my usual scene-by-scene outline and detailed worldbuilding and backstory processes, Ruby demanded that I start writing quickly. So I started with a rough outline. This changed to a synopsis once I’d finished three chapters because I was pitching the book.

Thank God that particular email got lost and that the particular person it’s going to understands the writing process. Because yesterday, on the verge of 40,000 words, Ruby jumped off of both the rough outline and the synopsis, big time. Now that particular word count is significant, because it’s usually at that point in the game where a writer realizes The Book Has A Problem. It’s normally because she’s tripped over the Muddle in the Middle and needs to rethink everything.

Fortunately, that’s not my problem with Ruby. Because Ruby is near-future science fiction with significant extrapolation from the rapidly evolving field of agricultural technology, I’m reading research as I write (literally, new things are being released weekly which affects the book!), which has…introduced some interesting plot twists that I didn’t foresee when I wrote the outline and then the synopsis. I had some rough ideas but the details are coming into focus. At this point, not only have conflicts shifted (and a new character I didn’t foresee introduced), but I now have a stronger concept of how the storyline specifics play out. But…while I have a general idea of where the story is going, and where it will end up, I have completely invalidated the current road map as expressed in both outline and synopsis. And with a novel like Ruby, which is literally ripping out of my fingers, not having a road map is somewhat…immobilizing.

I’m not a pantser–that is, I write much better when I know where I’m going, in part because I like to write twisty plot lines that require tracking details. Most of the time, the story innovations that evolve as a part of the writing process do not require significant modification and at about 60,000-80,000 words, I’m somewhat accustomed to throwing away the outline because the story has changed enough by that point that I don’t need it to write those last words. The only other story that has veered this much since I started the detailed outlining was Apocalypse, and it had other issues.

I finished my words yesterday and looked at the synopsis and went “oh, shit,” followed by many other swear words because I realized that the projected synopsis was completely invalidated by words I had written over the past week. Don’t get me wrong. They are good words, there’s some great plot twists, but…because this is a complex and twisted plot with a logical progression, in order to avoid plot holes and the need for an extensive rewrite once I was finished, I not only needed to rewrite the synopsis (which I need to resend), but because I’m pitching the book, I also needed to revise the first chapters to match the new synopsis. Now I’ve been scribbling extensive notes on the synopsis about projected revisions. I suppose the first symptom of “hold on, we’re going someplace else” was when I started crossing out entire synopsis paragraphs because I had already dealt with that issue. I realized that I had some pacing considerations to keep in mind, but the biggest thing was that with all the new stuff (that has emerged over the past week).

I literally had no idea where I was going to go with the words today.

So I went to the gym, fiddled around with stuff, and let things simmer. Then, about 11 pm last night, I sat down with Donald Maass’s Writing the Breakout Novel and a notepad. By the time I was done, I’d scribbled six pages of specific notes about Ruby backstory needs, things that needed to go into earlier chapters, things that needed to be cut, and…most importantly…where I was going to go with today’s words. And it was 2:30 am.

I got up at my usual time. My brain is sluggish, but I had promised myself that not only would I get my words down today advancing the story (fortunately I think I’ve got 2-3 days worth of notes), but that I would go back and polish up those first chapters and then revise the synopsis. Now that I’m done with this blog post, I’m going to post, then the rest of the day is all about the words.

Wish me luck.

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