So I now have Netwalk: Expanded Edition, Netwalker Uprising, Winter Shadows, Shadow Harvest, and Alien Savvy up on Payhip, and links are up on the appropriate book/series pages as well as below.
Tag Archives: Andrews Ranch
It’s been a busy week, but there was more going on during our trip than Spocon. We drove up to Spokane the day before. It was a lovely day for a drive, offering opportunities for pictures like this:
Lots more cool views than pictures. In the Spocon post, I talked about waterfall pictures. We took a long walk from the hotel (Fairfield) along the river and walked from the Upper Falls to the Lower Falls and I found these stunning shots along the way.
And many more.
Sunday, after my last panel and all the goodbyes, we hopped in the car and drove from Spokane to Enterprise. We had not driven the road between Spokane and Lewiston, so we enjoyed new views. One of the con attendees was puzzled that it would take so long to drive a short distance (4 1/2 hours for around 175 miles), at least until she pulled up the map on her iPhone and saw the various snaky grades…down the hill into Lewiston, then up the hill from Asotin. But it’s past Antone that things really get wild.
It’s called Rattlesnake Grade. DH and I have not traveled it for over thirty years, and we only did it once together. But we both had memories of a long, winding grade both up and down a steep canyon. We’d completely forgotten about all the plateau country on the Washington side before we got there. And, before we descended into the Rattlesnake, we spotted a pair of wild turkeys–tom and hen–scratching gravel at the edge of the highway. Cool.
The Rattlesnake takes thirteen miles to descend to the bottom of the canyon and the Grand Ronde River. Then it goes a short distance straight up the bottom of a creek before climbing the canyon wall. We stopped for pix before climbing.
And yes, people do travel this road regularly in winter, with ice, snow, and below zero temps. It is our shortest route to Spokane. Otherwise we have to go west through Elgin and Milton-Freewater to reach Lewiston and then head up.
On the top, near Flora, I had to slam on the brakes because a set of gangling wild turkey poults skittered across the road and, being young and fledglings and somewhat on the foolish side, they weren’t really eager to move for some big stupid stinky metal thing. That was still cool.
We stopped at Joseph Canyon Overlook. We’ve not been there for ages–I think it was after the fires of 1986. This is also the area where the upcoming Andrews Ranch (better title forthcoming!) is set.
And then we reached Enterprise and Farpoint, to discover that despite what we thought, the contractor had installed all of the windows. Even better, he had been able to get a full greenhouse window into the kitchen window (he had thought he couldn’t get one that would be big enough).
I am soooo happy about this. The window shelf is glass instead of wire like the one in the Woodstock house. I can haz planz.
And because it’s required, a mountain view.
Other stuff happened, mostly pleasant. And then we were off to home and another week in the life. But my, this was such a pleasant five day trip in many ways.
I am using the period where I’m letting Andrews Ranch rest before the rewrite to take care of some writing organizational work. No, not the bookkeeping and organizational paperwork. Rather, I’m fiddling around with outline notes, organizing research, making research plans, and reviewing short stories.
I don’t know how many other writers review what they have currently in circulation on a periodic basis. It’s something I like to do every couple of years, when I have most of my stories in hand and I’m not working on a bigger project.
Like now. At this point in time, I have eleven short stories that are making the rounds, aged anywhere from eight years to one year old. Ten of them have come back since I last sat down and sent out stories, about three months ago. These stories were out this last go-round anywhere from two days to a year, so it was a matter of timing rather than any big flurry of submission and rejection. A perfect time to review stories.
Age of the story isn’t particularly relevant to whether I circulate the piece or not; I’ve sold some work that I wrote a few years back and I think it’s an issue of either anticipating a market or else the type of story I wrote has come back in favor. Most of these stories are good in and of themselves and just haven’t found their home market yet. If they aren’t very good, they get trunked during these review periods. Some stories get put aside to be expanded into larger works. Now that I’m self-publishing some work, taking the time to expand some stories into novelette or novella form is a viable alternative. Generally, I let my mental notes about rejection feedback guide whether I do that rewrite or not. I’ve only done it with a couple of stories. Most of the time, I shorten a story. Sometimes I cut a secondary plot line. Rarely do I need to do huge edits–mostly, it’s just looking at the story and refreshing it for the current marketplace.
I also use this process time to clean up the circulating MS and do quick and dirty continuing copyedits (even when other eyes have gone over a MS I can still find a blooper or two!). But there are other, closer copyedits to do. For example, an older MS might have gone through a couple of word processor iterations and have some right margin issues. I still have some MSs with two spaces between sentences instead of one. I’m cleaning out tabs in favor of auto-indents. Occasionally there’s a space between the period and the hard return. All nit-picky little stuff, but they’re all things that can hang up the readability of a MS across different platforms.
Also, because I tend to use short stories as a means of exploring other secondary worlds, this review gives me a fresh chance to look at the world that a particular story is set in. Do I want to do other stories in that universe? A novel? If I do have ongoing worldbuilding in that universe, what insight does this particular story provide for character motivation? A lot of the work which has gone into writing the Will and Diana relationship for Andrews Ranch has illuminated the factors that come into play later on in the Netwalk Sequence with their granddaughter Bess. Understandable because I’m explicitly writing a generational saga in that universe. But they are revelations that might not have come to me if I hadn’t written Andrews Ranch.
I’m also laying out the research plans for the rest of this year. I have some big non-Netwalk Sequence projects that I want to get going, including a Weird West novella/novel (Bearing Witness) and a contemporary alternate world fantasy (Becoming Solo) centered around my experiences in 4-H as member, parent, and leader (think of 4-H competition as magical competition. Whole new perspective on Style Revue, Showmanship, and cooking contests). I want to write five new short stories to add to the circulation list, with a goal of getting the circulation list back up to twenty stories. I have two nonfiction self-published books planned. I have an urban fantasy novel that needs to have significant worldbuilding done. I’ve taken a run at it in four different stories and it’s still not quite right.
I also want to start using Scrivener for features other than layout and Compile for ebook publishing. It’s a matter of taking the time to learn the features and play with them, but that means being able to take an hour or so out of multiple days to do that, rather than begrudge the learning curve time because learning the skill takes away from valuable writing time. I need to start thinking about a post-day job writing schedule, where I have a regular pattern set up for household, horse, writing, and research time.
So there’s a number of things to do in this time that I’m letting Andrews Ranch simmer (including thinking about a new title, how to market the dang novella, and just what the cover is going to be). But this down time isn’t just me getting ready to collapse at the end of the school year only to recharge for yet another year; it’s a time for me to prepare for a new way of doing things.
Quite the challenge.
I swear, this story has been one of the hardest damn things I’ve ever written.
It doesn’t help that it started changing character from being a bog-standard futuristic SF tale to a futuristic SF western. The ending is a very traditional Western ending, in its way.
44k for the words, and the back half of it is completely rewritten and totally different. But a lot of that rewrite needs to be embellished and rewritten and made to coincide with Dahlia and Winter Shadows. It’s not going to be a May release; more likely a September release with the combined volume to include all three stories and an appropriate omnibus title.
And now for something completely different. Methinks I have a novelette that could be dusted off, rewritten, and published. I think that’s what will happen in May.
Netwalk’s Children also needs to be written but, damn it, given the depths of this series, I think it’s time I got away from the Netwalk Sequence writing for a while. Well, there’s the nonfiction project. I think it’s time to work on that. And perhaps there’s some anthology short story stuff in the works I need to think about….
But damn am I glad that’s done.
So I seem to be heading up to a climatic scene where Dan drags himself from his deathbed to see what all the commotion is about (this is the scene after the scene I posted today, with Diana and Will going for a little jaunt on the 9572). He knows his ex-wife Sarah, Diana’s mother, is already out there and loaded for bear. He’s dying of cancer. He figures out pretty dang fast that Parker Landreth landing armed, shooting at Diana and Will, means trouble. And we’re talking about someone who is a cattleman–progressive cattleman, okay, but still, a cattleman. A rancher, albeit, in the future. A former military man (Afghanistan). He knows his daughter’s father-in-law (Parker Landreth) means trouble, and….well, if you’ve been following my occasional Netwalk Sequence natterings, you know that Sarah doesn’t walk away from a fight. And she’s come to much the same conclusions about her daughter’s father-in-law. Diana’s parents don’t agree on much, any more, but a threat to their daughter and her husband…they understand that one very well. Keep in mind that Sarah comes from a timber production background, she’s a lumberman’s daughter with the lumber version of Dan’s cattle background.
Dear God, what I’m visualizing is more a cyber-Wild West Shootout at the OK Corral. Only Sarah and Dan both take out Parker and the other threat to Diana and Will’s continued happiness. Dan takes the fall this time.
Is this a cliche or what? Nonetheless, it resonates nicely with me.
Then again, that could be the absinthe talking–except that this was the thought process that kept tugging at me during the quiet times while proctoring tests this afternoon.
Needs careful scripting to stay away from cliches.
Comments? And if none of this makes sense, that’s okay, too. I’m putting this down as much for my thought process as much as anything else.
I swear I didn’t know that the 9572 could do this until today’s writing session….
“Warning,” a mechanical voice that sounded vaguely like Will’s droned, 9572-MAIN flashing to identify it as the speaker. “Incoming skimmer arming up.”
“We’ve got to get shielded!” Will snapped. “Dad’s coming in shooting. Di, we’ve got to get out of this skimmer, now! Francis, Sarah, get shields up fast!”
The 9572 glided forward, Will resting his hand on it as it flew through the cabin. Diana scurried to catch up.
“My hand too?” she asked Will as the skimmer door opened.
The skin erupted and a claw closed around her wrist as she slammed her hand down on the 9572’s skin. She didn’t have time to yell before the 9572 shot forward, yanking her off of her feet.
“Grab it!” Will bellowed at her. “Clamps!”
She struggled to wrap herself around the 9572 like she saw Will doing, gasping as it sped out of the skimmer. Clamps cranked down around her arms and the one leg she’d managed to snake around the 9572 but her other leg whipped free as the war machine dodged a shot from Anne’s Third Force team. Diana managed to wrestle her leg awkwardly onto the 9572. As it made contact, more clamps wrapped around the leg. She was grateful for the support as the war machine shot straight up, wobbling as her body strained against the fastenings.
“Flatten yourself!” Will yelled. “You’re throwing the balance off!”
“I’m trying!” she yelled back.
Diana managed to brush her midriff against the 9572. Yet another clamp wrapped around her torso and snugged it close to the war machine. The irregular flight steadied, and the machine arched into a tight parabola. Diana struggled for breath against the gravitational pull as a blast whipped past them. From the skimmer. From Parker Landreth’s skimmer.
Will growled something she couldn’t hear. The 9572 trembled under them.
Something detonated over Parker Landreth’s skimmer.
“Will! You didn’t!” she screamed.
She lost sight of Parker’s skimmer as the 9572 snaked around.
Breathe in. Breathe out. She fought to keep her breathing steady against the pull of gravity, and wondered just how often Will had done something like this in the PAZ. I’m glad I didn’t know about this capacity.
And then their flight slowed.
I’ve been trying to be diligent and mindful and eke out at least a few hundred words on Andrews Ranch every day. The climax in rewrite is so completely different from the original story that I have to feel my way through the story, almost on a frame-by-frame basis in the scene sequences. Diana does this, Will does that, and the conspiracies are mounting.
So yeah. Some of today’s words put down.
“Red?” she said.
Red steered Lakely past them to the door. “Yes.”
“You need to talk to my mother, Francis, and Anne. Promptly. You need to tell them to hold the military back. We’re activating the 9572 because Parker Landreth is coming in fast. We need to talk. Safely. We need the military to stand down and leave Will alone. We believe Parker Landreth wants to take me, Will, and the 9572. We need to activate it for our own safety.”
Red nodded. “It may take a moment.”
“You don’t dare waste time. Tell them I’m Landreth bloodbonded. They’ll have to take me with Will, as will Parker, and–I won’t let anyone take Will without me. You make sure my mother hears that.”
The skimmer door opened and Red left, pushing Lakely ahead of him. Will stared directly at Diana, though she could see the bleak emptiness lurking behind his focus on her.
“It’s not too late for you to split off from me and avoid this,” he said. His voice wobbled as he continued. “I–I wouldn’t blame you if you did. You’ve still got a future. Your mother would protect you.”
Diana deliberately took his bandaged hand in her matching bandaged hand. “It was too late five years ago, when we made our wedding vows. God damn it, Will, we’ve got a future. We’ve got Do It Right. Maybe kids someday. I’m not leaving you alone to face–whatever. We’re in the right here. Either your father or Lakely put that war machine here. We didn’t have a god damned choice but to use your skills to defuse it. If that’s a violation of your interdiction, then those motherfuckers need to not be planning on using you for their purposes.”
A faint smile crossed Will’s lips as his hand tightened on hers. “Damn it, Diana, I love you. I don’t want to see you go through this, but damn it, I’m glad you’re staying.”
“I love you too. And we’re going to face this–together.”
This story section is damnably hard to write. Figuring out the tech and…yeah.
Here’s an example, from yesterday and today’s work.
The side of the device had opened as she joined Will. Long, slender, metallic claws with scythe-like talons extended from the opening as the first netspider grappled for a purchase to pull itself out. Will muttered codes but the netspider lurched onto the side of the device, raising itself high on its eight legs, preparing to leap. Diana’s skin crawled over old scars as she imagined those sharp claws digging into her skin. She still bore the marks of a Stephens soil sampler bot gone rogue in Vietnam, suddenly acting like a Landreth netspider.
“Stop, stop, STOP!” Will yelled. The netspider crouched. “Damn it, the thing isn’t listening to my overrides!” He yanked off his armored gloves and grabbed the netspider with his bare hands as it ignored him and launched itself at Diana. He screamed as the netspider dug into his palms.
Diana lunged to knock the netspider off of Will but he shook his head, moaning and gasping.
“No,” he said, his voice low, quivering with agony. He continued, speaking through deep, painful-sounding gulps for air. “No. Bloodbond. Have. To. Bloodbond. My. Control. Overridden. Shouldn’t be!“
Bloodbond? What the hell?!
Red lights began to flash less intensely in her overlays. Two turned yellow, then three, then all were yellow, as Will writhed in the grip of the netspider. Diana reached for Will but he shook his head again.
“Others. Watch. Use. Vocals. Stop.”
She stared at the device as a pair of claws waved from the opening, grappling like the first one had. Two yellow lights started to flash on the left side of her visual overlays.
“Left red!” she barked. It was similar to what she would have started to do to control a Do It Right or Stephens rogue bot.
The claws stilled but did not retreat back into the device. The yellow lights stopped flashing.
“Good,” Will groaned. “Secondary. Controls. Stable. Just…need…gain…primary–there!”
As all of her lights turned green, the netspider in Will’s hands crumpled into a glittering ball and he flung it back into the opening. Hands shaking, he brushed the other two claws back inside. Diana cried out as she saw his bloody palms. Will ignored her cries and placed his hands on the device, muttering code phrases as he left crimson smears of blood on the device’s skin.
As Diana watched, the blood faded away.
Will growled inarticulately. “Not enough.” He fumbled at his armored pants pocket and yanked out a knife, popping it open and slashing across the blood vessels across the back of his left hand.
He looked at her, grimacing as the blood spurted and he pressed the back of his hand against the device. “I need more blood to make the bond.”
“No. Will, there’s got to be a better way!”
“There is no other way, Diana.” The desolate, empty look he gave her chilled Diana to the bone. “Not with the 9572. Damn it, this one was supposed to be mine only!” Anger and anguish mixed in his voice. “But that bastard took her and twisted her, she doesn’t know me. Yet. But she will. Sooner or later, with enough blood, she will!”
“You’re talking about a machine as if it’s alive,” Diana breathed, staring as Will kept bleeding. Was it her imagination or had the device’s skin bulged to form a mouth? The skin rippled and a metallic fang extruded, plunging into Will’s hand. Helpless, Diana stared at Will and the device. “Oh god, Will. God.”
“What do you think I meant when I said Landreth Technologies required a blood price?” Will groaned and sank to his knees beside the device. “This is bloodbonding, Diana. This is interdicted LT tech.” He whimpered and leaned his head on the device. “It wants me back. Body and soul. Oh God. Oh God.”
“Will. No.” She wobbled to kneel beside Will, taking his other hand. It tightened on hers as hard as the armored glove would allow.
“Help,” Will moaned. “Secondary. Web. Activate. Novice. She’s going to take me, Di!”
“No she’s not.” Diana gulped. She pulled her hand free from his and yanked off her glove, grabbing Will’s dropped knife and slashing her own hand.
Will grabbed at her bleeding hand, but she yanked it away. “Di, no! Not like this!“
“It’s the fastest way, isn’t it?” She slammed her bleeding hand down hard on the device’s skin.
Will screamed as another fang extruded and plunged into her hand.
Last night I had one of those revelations about a story which sent me scrambling out of bed to take notes. I’ve been working on a difficult rewrite section of the Andrews Ranch novella, and what I figured out was another major missing piece of the Netwalk Sequence backstory and the Gizmo arc. It explains why the Landreth Technologies weapons were so exclusive, so prized, and why Will was so instrumental in the development of Netwalk. And why Bess is the way she is.
This has been one of the most difficult stories of the whole Sequence to write. I started it years ago, even before I knew I was writing the Sequence, and even then it was missing something. This was the missing piece, and it takes the story beyond being just the backstory for Will and Diana’s relationship and why the ranch became what it was.
But the idea’s only twelve hours old, and it needs more fleshing out. Nonetheless, I’m grateful to the backbrain for coming up with it just in time for the crucial scene. I didn’t quite get there today (have to go back and lay the breadcrumbs to make the scene work).
Anyway, have a taste of what’s about to happen…
As she spun uphill, a buzzer sounded in her ears.
HUMAN. FRIEND OR FOE?
God, she didn’t know this cue!
The heat signature was by a rock. She couldn’t see the person. Diana tried to whistle, but only soft air passed through her lips. She licked them and tried again, pursing her lips more tightly. A very faint note leaked out. She crouched low, lower than she already had to do to scramble up the steep, rocky slope.
Where the hell is Red? Surely she hadn’t gotten through this brush faster than he had?
She tried a single, soft cluck to zoom in on the rock, even as she heard a faint whistle in response. The rock suddenly popped out in stark detail. No rock, but a cleverly designed shelter of some sort. And the human using it was focused uphill, most likely on Will–
Then, faster than she could have anticipated, the human gathered itself up and launched toward Diana.
Repulsors! She scrambled and slid backward, but not fast enough as the man tackled her. They rolled downhill, over rocks. Diana wrestled with her captor, yelling inarticulately as she tried to break free from his grasp. They slid to a stop at the edge of a cliff, only the jagged points of a knee-high rocky outcrop keeping them from pitching over the edge.
She kicked and yelled as he pinioned her wrists, doing her best to break free as he tried to restrain her arms, slamming his armored hands futilely against the rocks. She heard the tell-tale click-click of Red’s weapon, and then Will yanked the man off of her.
“You son-of-a-bitch!” Will bellowed.
The other man attacked Will. They wrestled with each other, Will with a silent fury she’d not seen him express before. He viciously kneed the other man in the gut, going for deep body blows rather than wasting his time on the other man’s helmeted head. The other man went down and Will followed him, grabbing the man’s helmet and slamming it hard against the rocks, growling and cursing. Diana froze, unable to move, staring. He’s going to kill that man because he attacked me.
“Will! Stop! Will! Enough!” Red yelled. “Diana, help!”
She unfroze. “Left right red!” she gabbled as she dove to restrain Will.
“Get Will off of him! I’ll take care of the controller!”
Diana tried to wrestle Will away from the man. Strong as she was, despite her greater height and strength, it took every ounce of determination she could summon up to wrench Will away from the other man and push him uphill, away from the controller. Will fought her blindly, trying to squirm free. It wasn’t until she had him almost all the way to the controller’s blind that he finally stopped fighting her, breathing hard, hyperventilating and exhaling deep, sobbing breaths. Her heart pounded and she thought she heard a low, malevolent humming in her ears.
Will kept staring at the man. “Lakely, you mother-fucking goddamn child-raping son-of-a-bitch,” he gulped, his voice somewhere between tears and anger. “You mother fucking son of a bitch!” He lunged forward to attack again, but Diana grabbed Will and spun him around so that he faced away from the man. It took all of her own willpower to shut down the waves of cold fear and dread that made her want to sink into a fetal curl. Lakely. Albert Lakely. Oh God, is this him?
“Will,” she said firmly. She couldn’t give into her own emotions. She had to be solid for Will. She had to get his attention back and off of Lakely, for their own good, so they could defuse the machine. “Will. Will!”
The sinister hum grew stronger.
The controller chuckled. “Landreth, you sure made my job one hell of a lot easier by bringing your wife along.”
The hum escalated into a whine. Yellow lights started flashing. Will startled.
“Oh my God. Diana! The damn thing’s activating!” He darted past her, scrabbling uphill fast.
Yellow changed into red on her overlays as she struggled up the hill behind her husband.
Diana and her little sister Rita, at the ranch…
BTW, Rita appears in Netwalker Uprising as a cousin. Ulp, no, she’s Melanie’s aunt. Now I’m thinking that Melanie might not know this detail because, reasons.
“And now we get another look,” Will said. He angled the skimmer around a rocky point and sent the skimmer straight up, paralleling the canyon wall.
“God, it’s bare,” Diana said, shaking her head as she looked at the slope.
“We’re here.” Will throttled back as the ranch buildings came into sight. Diana spotted Rita racing her sorrel pony across the pasture, riding bareback with only a halter and lead rope, as they glided in for a landing.
“I’m sending a request to Stephens to see if they’ve got any access to mineral data,” Diana decided out loud. She quickly drafted a short message to one of her contacts inside Stephens Rec and sent it off as Will settled the skimmer, then moved around it gathering up their things. She packed away her tablet and picked up her own bags. Will opened the door and Diana heard the hoofbeats as Rita galloped up.
“Will! Diana!” Rita slid off of Spooky, quickly unbuckling the halter and setting the pony free before crawling through the fence rails to bounce eagerly outside the skimmer door. “Mom said you were coming!”
“Just a moment.” Despite herself, Diana smiled. Her younger sister’s excitement was contagious. She lugged her bags over to the door and Brenda grabbed them, leaving Diana free to step out of the skimmer. Rita charged into Diana, grabbing her in a fierce hug, fiercer than usual. As Diana held Rita, she felt Rita tremble and realized her little sister was fighting back tears.
“Ree-ree, what’s wrong?” she asked in a soft voice, worry rising. Rita wasn’t a crier.
Rita snuffled and buried her face deeper into Diana’s belly, arms wrapping even tighter around Diana. Diana gently stroked Rita’s cheek. Rita moaned something into Diana’s torso.
“I can’t hear you, Ree,” Diana said, dread gripping her as she eased Rita’s stranglehold on her waist. She dropped to one knee so that she looked upward into Rita’s face, twisted as it was with the effort not to cry.
The Andrews’s don’t cry. It had been part of her own indoctrination when growing up.
“Is it Dad?” she asked, her voice even quieter than before.
Rita nodded violently, drawing in a deep, shuddering breath. “He’s really sick today, Di.”
Diana pulled Rita into a big, deep hug of her own. “It’s okay, Ree,” she whispered. “You can cry about this. I–I want to cry, too.” She buried her head in Rita’s shoulder, and they leaned into each other, trembling with partially contained tears. She heard Will, in a low voice, directing Brenda and the rest of Security around them and was grateful for his quiet support. Rita’s reaction brought the fact home even more than ever.
Their father was dying.
She had to save their home, so Rita could charge around on Spooky. If it’s even still safe for her here–I’ll make it safe for Rita.
At last Rita’s shaking eased. She straightened up and blinked down at Diana, rubbing away the dampness that trickled down her cheeks with a grubby hand.
“Let me do that,” Diana said. She used her thumb to brush away the tear tracks.
“This might work better.” Will nudged her shoulder. Diana reached up and he tucked a tissue into her hand.
“Thanks.” She flashed him a quick smile. He nodded, resting his hand gently on her shoulder. Diana gently wiped Rita’s eyes. “We’re still tough Andrewses,” she told Rita. “We can cry but still be tough. ‘Kay?”