Still around…thoughts on building a story

Wow. I’ve not blogged since April. That’s been a HUGE omission, all things considered.

But I have an excuse. I think. Fictional, but real, because I’ve been cranking away hard on Justine Fixes Everything.

And then there were trips to Portland once I had the second Covid vax, and dealing with the reaction to the second vax, and then a trip to Yellowstone…yeah.

It certainly hasn’t been due to a lack of writing ideas, and I actually did write a blog after the Yellowstone trip. But it ended up being kinda whiny and bitchy because there were a lot of unmasked people, and judging from their license plates, I don’t think they were vaxxed! I decided to delete that blog because it just was problematic in a lot of ways.

Mostly, though, the lack of blogging has been because Justine Martiniere has decided to speak, and it’s a LOT of speaking. Up around 86k words right now, as a matter of fact, projected to be about 100-110k. Justine is old, a bit bad, and somewhat mad. That said, compared to her father Philip, Justine is pretty damn sane and ethical.

She’s always been the difficult Martiniere Legacy character when it comes to ethics, however. When she first appeared in Inheritance, Gabe didn’t know what side she was on at first. That says a lot, because he rescued her from abuse at the hands of their father when she was a teen. Until she rescues Gabe, Ruby, Brandon, and Kris from a confrontation with Philip, she’s clearly a morally ambiguous character. She continues to play that role throughout the core Martiniere Legacy trilogy (Inheritance, Ascendant, Realization). We see her aiding and abetting Ruby in figuring out whether she can succeed in the Martiniere world. She brings about the meeting of Ruby and Donna-gran, which results in Ruby receiving Donna-gran’s blessing and encouragement to remarry Gabe. She is revealed to be the Rescue Angel, a legendary figure fighting for women’s reproductive rights, especially for indentured women who have no agency or control over their own bodies. But she’s also an arms dealer and a security consultant. When Gabe makes his play to the Family and the Group to supplant Philip as the Martiniere, the Family and Group head, it’s Justine–now revealed to be his sister, not his cousin–who orchestrates the entire process.

Justine’s the logistics person who manages things and makes things happen, period. We see her even more in that role of the Family’s fixer in The Heritage of Michael Martiniere.

To understand Gabe, especially the Gabe we see in Broken Angel: The Lost Years of Gabriel Martiniere, we have to understand Justine. Half-brother and sister, the children of Philip Martiniere. One raised as his daughter; the other as his nephew. And during the thirty years of Gabe’s exile from the Martiniere family, they went through parallel experiences. Finding their loves. Forced into divorce by their father, for very different reasons. Both seeking to confront and destroy Philip because of his megalomaniac and sociopathic behaviors, including human rights violations involving mind control programming and experimentation. The pathways they fall into to bring about that shared goal are very different–and yet similar. Gabe becomes part of his brother-in-law’s mercenary company to fight Philip’s attempts to become a regional strongman and dictator in the American Southwest and South. Justine ends up performing the duties of the Martiniere-in-waiting without the title, because of her gender, for a few years. Then she also goes into the private army business, albeit as part of her work against growing restrictions on reproductive rights.

But those roles are just a small part of what they do during those years. Gabe’s more the idealist; Justine the pragmatist.

The other piece is that Justine Fixes Everything has two major but parallel plots. I’ve not done this kind of story before. One plot, the A plot, for lack of a better term, is the gradual build toward becoming who she is when she and Gabe meet again in Inheritance. The other plot (B) is Justine dealing with one final crisis before her death, involving digital cloning and the rise of a threat she thought she had dispensed with years before. We see her past through the stories she tells in the A plot. The B plot is reaction to those stories, and the growing realization that she has one more major fight to conduct.

Coordinating those two threads so that they peak simultaneously has been the challenge. In some respects, I’m somewhat pantsing this story rather than the rigorous plotting I’ve done in the past. I can get away with it for this story because I have a timeline which has become my continuity reference (and oh dear God, some of the flexing I’ve had to do to make story work has been hair-pulling). For me, pantsing is harder to do than writing with a defined road map. I’m finding that the story is eating more of my brain during the day, so that it’s hard to do a lot of other intellectual things such as…non-novel writing. It will be a relief to go back to some more structured work, I think.

But this book requires a lot more thinking about motives and scheming. Justine has reasons for everything she does. But until I started writing this book, I didn’t realize the degree to which her life has been a role play.

She married Donald Atwood to escape her father, then fell deeply in love with Donald.

She’s asexual, but feigned some very public relationships as a means to protect herself and others (I think I’m going to write another blog today about sexuality in my work so far, because there are some patterns. Besides, it’s Pride month. A good time for it).

She divorced Donald Atwood as a means to hide their underground political work and keep him safe when he was in poor health. She feigned relationships with two men to cover up their relationship, to keep them safe (and her, too, let’s be honest–and one of them was a valuable ally). She managed to break into her father’s hidden records to discover the degree to which he was engaged in downright evil behavior, and yet was able to work with him. Part of that lies in how she thinks of him. During the core Legacy trilogy, she always refers to Philip with cutesy but denigrating epithets–“Daddy-dear.” “Daddy-dearest.” “Daddy-poo.” That’s because we don’t see what she’s really thinking of him.

In her book, from her point of view, it’s “Daddy-damn-dearest.” “Daddy-damned-dearest.” “Daddy-fucking-dearest.” Justine hates her father but I suspect that only Donald knows how deep that hatred goes. Gabe suspects, of course, but it’s not until she tells these stories that he knows–and it’s not Gabe himself who finds out, it’s his digital clone.

And no one but Donald (and the people they enlist to help them hide it) knows the depth of her love for him.

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