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The Real Estate Transaction

I warned you this house purchase was going to occupy my attention this month, didn’t I? Well, we’ve secured all the necessary documents (one of them three times), acquired a VA appraisal, inspected a house, a well, and a septic system, and we’re on track for loan approval by Friday and closing next week.

If everything goes according to plan, this time next Tuesday I will be signing several inches of documents in McCall, Idaho (a somewhat touristy mountain town that hugs the south end of Payette Lake and abuts Ponderosa State Park). That’s not where the house is located, but it is where the title company has an office.

Then I will begin the process of moving Spooky Man to his beloved mountains and cleaning old, unnecessary stuff out of the city house without a retired spouse underfoot. There’s also a lot of mountain driving in my future, but it will give me plenty of time to work out plot and character issues.

I’m a bit frustrated with my current work in progress (WIP), because I don’t have a character arc for the heroine. And I’m being distracted by the house thing, so I don’t have enough brain left over to dig into her problems. Luckily, after next week the distraction should be over.

Then, Miz Danae, you and I need to have a heart-to-heart talk that I’m not sure either of us is really going to enjoy. Fair warning my dear, I’m going to push you so far out of your comfort zone you might never fit back in it. Sincerely, Your Author.

Thanks,
Val

So we bought a cabin

Just after I got the manuscript uploaded for the paperback copy of Strike Force Cyber Warriors, Spooky Man and I made an offer on a house in the mountains, a couple of hours north of the city. He will be living there most of the time while I stay in the valley for my job and commute on the weekends.

It’s a nice house, bigger than our place in the city, and with no questionable neighbors within fifteen feet of either side. Also, it has been eating all of my attention for the last week and a half, and will probably continue to do so until the keys are handed over at the end of this month.

I’m still working on Finding the Briar Rose, but slowly. I’m also working on the story of “Testing Beta” (my working title), the third story in the Dozen Worlds series. And some other stories that are percolating, just…slowly at the moment.

And pricing things like washer/dryer sets. Great googly moogly, they’ve gotten expensive! On the other hand, my current in-town washer is olive green and almost as old as I am, so it’s pretty obvious I don’t have much experience with large appliance shopping. Wish me luck.

I’m also having a birthday this month, which is always nice and a good reason to list the things for which one is grateful—my health, my family (Spooky Man and the furbabies in the innermost circle), my friends, my work, both in the day job and in my writer cave…there’s a lot to be grateful for. It’s going to be a happy birthday this year.

And in the meantime, I need to split up Beta and Danae, so I can bring them back together to defend their piece of space against whatever made Earth cut them off so long ago. Bwah-hah-hah-hah-hah.

World-building for fun and profit

This is a reprint of an article I wrote last month for my local romance writers’ newsletter, so it’s mostly for writers.

Worldbuilding is the gentle art of making stuff up to create a believable reality that isn’t necessarily the one we live in. You might think, “Oh, I write contemporary small-town romance, I don’t need worldbuilding.” Unless you want to annoy real people in a real small town, you need world building.

It begins with reality and then turns left once in a while where reality turns right. How far left is up to you. In the early aughts, I wrote a (very bad) ghost-story novel. Most of it was set in a Queen-Anne style house in Seattle (allegedly), but part of it was set in the small town of Ahsahta, Idaho.

Now there is no Ahsahta, Idaho—there’s an Ahsahka, but that’s not my town. My town was a combination of Horseshoe Bend, Cascade, and a little bit of McCall. A mountain town, not too far from the capital city, with a good airport and some empty commercial buildings. A little down on its luck but scrappy. The name is from Ahsahta Press at Boise State University (yes, with the blue Astroturf and also a remarkably good English department), which at one time claimed it was a Native American name for mountain sheep.

It’s only in one or two scenes, but I knew exactly what downtown looked like and could have drawn you a map, compete with a few house and storefront elevations, because I realized this small town was a setting I could use again, and it would become a nice little theme connecting stories in a series. Of course, I haven’t written another book in Ahsahta (yet), but I know it’s there.

Place is only one aspect of world building, though. Culture (religion, race relations, economics, etc.) is another big one. In Blade’s Edge, I made a point of the technological society being metric, polytheistic and patriarchal while the non-technological society used Imperial units, worshiped a single (female) deity, and inherited from mother to daughter.

In another series I’m working on, I had to think about capitalism after humans leave Earth. Heavy, deep stuff. What I came up with—the “cartel” system—was a combination of multinational corporations and constitutional monarchies of a sort. Different than what we have now, but…based on what we have now.

Consider HP, one of my inspirations—I’ve never been an HP employee, but I’ve worked there on six different occasions in the past thirty years. And it has two name lines: Hewlett and Packard.

And yet another aspect you need to look at is language. Since I write science fiction romance, one of the things I was poked about early on was swearing, which I found puzzling. They weren’t upset because there was swearing, but they didn’t like the actual words used.

Now, I’ve always figured language evolves, so whatever you’re reading from a thousand or 1,500 years in the future is translated into current dialect, even if it’s set in the same “language.” But once I went through the process of deciding what would be bad, really bad, and the equivalent of the f-bomb to people who routinely traveled in space (rip, rust, and dust), I stopped getting the dings.

So world building can be as small as a word or two, or as big as a new socio-economic system. Now go make up things to bring your worlds to life.

The Strike Force Anthology

I have three intertwined novellas about the Strike Force, the off-Earth military branch that keeps order in the wilds of the Sol system. Seven years ago, There was a big fight between the owners and the employees of Ganymede Mining Consortium. The Strike Force was called in to keep peace, and the big confrontation on Ganymede ended in disaster — the artillery system malfunctioned and shelled the base: the hospital, the quartermaster corps, and all the immersed strikers in the electronic warfare company.

The cyber specialists were the only survivors, and only some of them — our three heroes went through years of regeneration and repair, and they’re not entirely human anymore. What do you do when you come back from the dead? Well, eventually, if the right woman shows up, you fall in love while trying to do something else.

Cover by the marvelous Kanaxa (kanaxa.com)

Preorder or Buy it here: Strike Force Cyber Warriors

Here’s the description:
They were strikers who fought from the Sol system network – hackers, gremlins, psychops, ghosts in the code.

Then they were called in as peacekeepers when the Ganymede Mining employees revolted against the company, but a friendly fire hardware malfunction shelled their bodies. Luckily, they weren’t at home at the time, and their bodies could be repaired.

Years later, they’re sleepwalking through life either in the service or retired from it, and a few good women…wake them up, while helping them solve the mystery of the root cause of their (temporary) deaths.

Open Mike at Club Bebop

Travertine Garcia is dead broke and Luna City’s air tax is due in the morning. She turns to her last hope, the open mike at Club Bebop. After a perfect performance in deep netdive, she flatlines and owner Joe “Glitch” Bannister has to get her to life support while she reintegrates. She’s everything he didn’t know he needed, a deep-dive performer with an ancient-tech interface who can’t carry a tune outside the net.

When the Blue Dragon gang kidnaps her while he’s off chasing down a rumor about the Ganymede conflict that got him temporarily killed, Joe’s ready to fight for the woman and the club; but it’s going to take both of them to save the venerable stage and each other.

Getting Lucky

Lucinda “Lucky” Burbank, multibillionaire Luther Burbank’s only heir, is broke and stuck on the moon, working two menial jobs to pay air tax and occasionally eat and look for evidence her stepmother arranged her late father’s accident.

Alexei “Sasha” Davidoff is babysitting Club Bebop and investigating the vid clip that might show the Ganymede Incident’s first stage. Someone else is in the archive, but he/she/it runs; he finally corners it in the Bebop office and it’s Lucky Burbank, who he sort of had a brotherly crush on while his body was rebuilding.

It’s going to take both of them together—with some help from Ganymede’s ghosts—to solve the mystery of what caused the friendly fire disaster seven years ago.

Kindness of Strangers

The last thing Chandra Ramasamy remembers is the burn of a bullet hitting her chest after hitting the escape pod eject button. Now she’s in a net-avatar conference room with a military officer telling her she’s been in bad cryosleep for seven and a half years.

Can she piece together what happened after her memory stopped and help him figure out what killed him and his soldiers? Well, the MarsCorp thugs didn’t quite manage to kill her seven years ago, and now she has the Strike Force on her side. He’s a little stiff, but deep down he’s a gooey-hearted mother hen. She can work with that, particularly if she can help take down MarsCorp as payback.

The Glamorous Life of a Novelist

I’m a part-time novelist. Like most writers, I have a day job, which is usually related to writing. For the past year and a half, I’ve been a localization project manager for a division of a multinational corporation that specializes in, ah, printing. Luckily, the products I work on localizing are for digital presses–the kind POD books are printed on. It’s a sweet gig.

I don’t do much promotion of my novels, because I’m trying to have a full-time job with colleagues in every timezone, a life, and a side gig—the novels are the side gig. But yesterday I had my first newsletter promotion, with Bargainbooksy. It was a nice sales bump but not Earth-shattering, but it also wasn’t the biggest thing on my radar.

The biggest thing was getting my lawn mowed, which sounds ridiculous, and almost is. My right hamstring has been acting up for about six weeks—it hurts if I stand too long, sit too long, walk too long or try to do anything “strenuous” (its definition of strenuous, not mine), so mowing has not been on its list of acceptable activities. Spooky Man’s back is even worse.

And the grass has been getting longer and longer.

I’ve been trying to entice a lawn service to mow it for about a month. After being ghosted by three of them, one finally called me back and…yesterday they mowed the grass! Just before it started raining again. And that made yesterday wonderful.

New people willing to give my first book a chance was wonderful too, but…my neighbors are much happier about the grass being a civilized length.

Ah, the glamorous life of a novelist. It’s almost as exciting as the international email argument over whether “square meter” means the same thing as “m2“, which also happened this week. My French and Spanish translators have Definite Opinions about such things. If only they were the same opinion, LOL.

The ‘Alien Mate Trope’ Problem

I write science fiction romance, blatantly and unashamedly. But, if you’ve ever read any of my work, you might notice that all of the couples are human. All of them.

And the aliens are alien. They look a little like lizards/dragons/dinosaurs, or maybe squid, except with five arms rather than eight-arms-plus-two-tentacles. And we mustn’t forget the glowing rocks with their group intelligence that can correct human nerve damage.

None of them are Star Trek aliens (human actors with extra bits glued or painted on). They’re not hunky alpha males or females who happen to be blue. And there is, quite definitely, no cross-species romance going on, for two reasons that are kind of related.

Reason number one is the entire euwww factor. I don’t buy the theory of panspermia, because we’ve never found anything even remotely resembling life (except that one microscopic possible bacterium fossil in a Martian rock) anywhere but Earth. Even the Martian rock was found on Earth.

I’m a chemist by training, so you can talk about amino acids in the comets until you’re blue in the face and I’ll be able to show you exactly how a non-life process can create them. Furthermore, DNA as we know it only uses four of them, and only in the levo configuration.

If there was more than one biome on Earth, one that used DNA containing different base pairs than C, A, G, and T, or one that used some other method of protein encoding altogether, would we even know it was here? Would we be able to recognize it as alive? Have we even looked?

All of which brings me to this: If you’re not willing to do that with, say, a chimpanzee, then you shouldn’t be doing it with an alien. Euwww. Maximum squick.

Why not? Two consenting adults and all that. Well…remember the part about using different proteins made from different base pairs? What happens when a foreign protein gets into your body?

Assuming your body can recognize it as a protein, your immune system attacks it. That’s how immunizations work; we inject the protein coat of a virus to program the immune system for the real thing. Sometimes your immune system gets a little too excited and you have an allergic reaction. A severe allergic reaction can kill you—the quickest way is through anaphylactic shock, where your throat swells shut and you suffocate.

That’s the second reason I don’t do human/alien romance: severe risk of death after the second kiss. As with all allergens, the first exposure doesn’t cause a reaction, because it programs the immune system to go into overdrive for the second exposure. Yeah, death by protein exchange could definitely be a problem, and I’ve never seen it considered in the Alien Mate trope. I guess it would be too much of a mood killer. Snort.

So, if you’re reading one of my books, all the couples are going to be human, or alien, but not mixed. Too dangerous…and much too squicky.

In unrelated but happy news, I just had my four-year checkup and I’m still cancer free. Yay!

 

New Book Out April 19

This is the story of Colonel Singh and what happens when he meets the elusive Chandra Ramasamy. Bwah-hah-hah-hah-hah.

It’s the third in the series of what happened to the Strike Force Charlie Company Electronic Warfare unit Ganymede incident survivors (at least the ones that still have biological bodies; the captain, Whisper, and Grimtoo & Ellcee will have their stories next).

Kindness of Strangers

Kindness

Always make sure your murder victim is truly dead…striker payback is usually with interest.

Strike Force Colonel Rahmsin Singh is almost as much machine as man, and he wants to know the root cause. Unfortunately, the woman who can tell him that is in deep cryosleep…her body mostly a freeze-dried husk that’s going to require a lot of regeneration, though her consciousness was protected.

The last thing Chandra Ramasamy remembers is the burn of a bullet hitting her chest after hitting the escape pod eject button. Now she’s in a net-avatar conference room with a military officer telling her she’s been in bad cryosleep for seven and a half years.

Can she piece together what happened after her memory stopped and help him figure out what killed him and his soldiers? Well, the MarsCorp thugs didn’t quite manage to kill her seven years ago, and now she has the Strike Force on her side. He’s a little stiff, but deep down he’s a gooey-hearted mother hen. She can work with that, particularly if she can help take down MarsCorp as payback.

And then get her body un-freezedried and working again. And, if they both survive, she might want to keep the universal soldier with the heart of gold.

At Amazon (Kindle)
At Barnes & Noble (Nook)
At iBooks
At Kobo

Status: Writing

I did jinx myself by putting a February publication date in print. I’m still working on Kindness of Strangers, but I’m getting it through the process this month; I have ten people keeping me accountable, including my diabolical husband, Spooky Man.

In an entirely unrelated topic that I need to get out of my brain, why do Americans write dates in the format Month-Day-Year? Most of the world uses either increasing or decreasing time units (day-month-year or year-month-day). It’s like we decided to do decreasing units and leave off the year, but then realized we need it so added it at the end as a parenthetical phrase set off by commas — yes, there’s also a comma after the year if it’s not at the end of a sentence.

I silently judge people who don’t close their parenthetical phrases. It’s not pretty, but it’s at least quiet. Just sayin’.

And Americans are weird. I have stories. But now I need to get back to this story. My reward for getting it done will be to post new furbaby photos.

Val

Stuck But Not Blocked

Writer problems.

For the last two weeks, I’ve been stuck at about 29,000 words on Kindness of Strangers. I’m not blocked, because I know what I need to write, but I open the file, read a few pages before where I need to start writing, and then stare at the page. After a heavy sigh and a sentence or two that will probably be removed the next day, I shut the file.

Usually this means there’s something wrong with the story—wrong point of view, bad plot turn, female protagonist is too passive/reactive…something that my subconscious (that woman in the basement) hasn’t chosen to share yet. Maybe it hasn’t quite got it figured out.

A lot of the time I get just beyond the halfway mark of a story where it stalls out. After hitting my head against a metaphorical wall for a while, I realize I’m trying to write the male protagonist as the hero. In my core story, the female protagonists are the heroes. And…OMG, it just clicked. Chandra isn’t active enough—she’s taking the initiative with the colonel, but not with the [blocked due to plot spoiler].

Ha! Now I can open the file without that sinking feeling. Some days it’s good to be a writer (and some weeks, well, it’s not).

With luck, I’ll have a lot of progress to report in a few days.

Why Bronchitis Stinks on Ice

After taking some time off for the holidays (and the mandatory shutdown at the day job), I lost two and a half weeks of January to a cold that went bronchitis. And that was me, the one who watches like a hawk at the first sign of a cold, because they almost always try to settle in my lungs (walking pneumonia back in high school left me susceptible).

It’s always worrying when, 28 hours after the first weird feeling, your doctor listens to your chest and says, “Wow. You just earned yourself a chest x-ray.” Luckily, said x-ray ruled out pneumonia, but showed a nasty case of bronchitis. Yay? Antibiotics and an inhaled steroid to get the coughing to work better, and I was on my way.

The constant coughing wasn’t too much of a problem (cough syrup kept it to a minimum and the Albuterol made it more effective), the rumbling and crackling when trying to breathe (or sleep) was annoying, but the bone-deep fatigue—probably from not being able to breathe properly—kept me from doing much of anything for two weeks. Do. Not. Like.

However, azithromycin is amazing. Six pills over five days and I’m back to me. Like. Very much.

So, now back to our regularly scheduled writing: finishing up the Kindness of Strangers novella to round out the first Strike Force anthology (Open Mike at Club Bebop, Getting Lucky, and Kindness of Strangers), plus telling the slightly skewed Sleeping Beauty story of Ekaterina Avondale’s parents, Dane Avondale (Hero of Ararat) and Aurora Ivanov (the Dragonkiller).

With luck, which hasn’t been in large supply for writing in the last few weeks, I should be able to get them edited, formatted, covered, and up for sale by the end of February (and I probably just jinxed myself by setting a deadline).

I’m also planning to release my first historical romance at the end of this month, under the pen name Jane Reynolds. Look for A Ruined Woman in about a week.

And then I can start on the writing I had planned for this year, LOL.

 

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