Nurturing creativity with art, animals, and science fiction

Tag: the XK9 Bones Trilogy

This is the title quotation.

The best part of writing

The Artdog Quote(s) of the Week

Last week’s quote(s) addressed my need (parallel with those who participated in NaNoWriMo) to revise the manuscript for A Bone to Pickthe second book (still very much in progress) of the XK9 “Bones” Trilogy. And I’m trying to cultivate Mabel Wetherbee’s attitude that “the best part of writing is editing.”

This quote-image from Mabel E. Wetherbee via Authors Publish reads: "Goig back and editing is the best part of writing; it's like reading an interactive novel. 'Oh I wish the author used this word here or had this dramatic reveal there . . . oh that's right! I am the author!'"

The beta-reading review

I’ve been reading through comments from my beta-readers who’ve read my first “finished” draft. I’m preparing notes and girding up my loins, because clearly, “finished” badly needed those quote-marks. I get it. No first draft is perfect (EVER). Every writer knows that, going in. And while writing a first draft is exciting and interesting and it definitely has its thrilling moments, I’m not sure I’d call it “the best part.”

Reviewing betas’ comments about where they connected and where it fell flat is both helpful and a little daunting. More helpful than daunting, because I’m an optimist with a high opinion of myself, and I like a writing challenge. But I would definitely say reading a critique is not “the best part of writing,” either.

This quote from  Marian Dane Bauer reads: "Never think of revising as fixing something that is wrong. That starts you off in a negative frame of mind. Rather think of it as an opportunity to improve something you already love."

The best part of writing

No, the best part of writing, for me, is the feeling that “okay, this time I really nailed it” in the finished draft. This is the one that passes muster with the editor, and comes out on the other end of the long process of rewrites, reviews, corrections, and more rewrites. The refining process can be tedious and humbling, but it’s worth it.

I’m still a fair stretch down the road from that goal, at present. There are still a lot of dead-wrongs, ho-hums, near-misses, and partial hits to work through. But I must go through all of them, no matter how challenging they are, to get to the best part of writing.

This unattributed quote says, "Don't get stuck in your past, use it to fuel your future."

Fuel for the future 

As with any creative project, there are parallels between this editing project with how we live our lives. Unlike writing a story, it’s not possible to go back and change the things we’ve done in real life. They’re in the past. They’re done. But we can learn from them. We can look back and think, “if I had done this one thing differently, what would have changed? How could I have inspired a better outcome?”

I think if we are self-reflective, we (a) are prepared to confront life “ahead of the game,” and (b) are in a better position to learn from the past. It’s not exactly “editing the past to suit ourselves,” but more like interrogating the past to learn as much as possible from it.

In life, as in writing, the best part is how we mine the past for the materials with which to build a new and better future.

IMAGE CREDITS: Many thanks to Authors Publish, for the quote from Mabel E. Wetherbee (whom I can’t track down online! She’s allegedly the author of Whisper of the Hare and The Illusionist’s Pinbut I can’t find a primary source); to AZ Quotes, for the quote from Marion Dane Bauer, and to QuotesGram, via Pinterest (note QuotesWarehouse no longer seems to exist), for the unattributed quote about not getting stuck in the past, for the unattributed quote about not getting stuck in the past.

It’s the reading season!

Jan S. Gephardt reading, by Judith Bemis

It’s time to start practicing. A new season of readings approaches rapidly. That means I need to find scenes or chapters from my work that are relatively self-contained and appropriate lengths (usually 20-30 minutes), then start practicing, so I can read smoothly and clearly, and also build up my voice so it will last 20-30 minutes.

In addition to the conventions I’ll attend (I already know I’ll be scheduled for a full hour of reading at DemiCon 29, and I’ve requested to do readings at other conventions through the summer), I’ll also be participating in a panel discussion about writers’ groups, and doing a short reading at a meeting of the Kansas City Science Fiction and Fantasy Society (KaCSFFS), April 21.

That’s Saturday, April 21, 7:00 p.m., at The Writers Place, 3607 Pennsylvania Ave., Kansas City, MO 64111.

At the KaCSFFS meeting, I’ll share the “reading chair” in the Library at The Writers Place with two friends who also are writers.

Holly Messinger

One is Holly Messinger, author of The Curse of Jacob Tracy (2015 from Thomas Dunne Books) and the upcoming sequel, Curious Weather (due in 2019 from St. Martin’s Press). Holly plans to read from Curious Weather:

“When Jacob Tracy—Civil War veteran, ex-seminarian, and reluctant psychic—agrees to move into Miss Fairweather’s St. Louis mansion and study magic with her, he has one purpose in mind: to hunt down and destroy the necromancer Mereck, a predatory madman who has twice tried to make a meal of Trace and trapped Trace’s partner Boz in a monstrous half-life.

“Sabine Fairweather has her own grievance with Mereck, though Trace doesn’t know the details and doesn’t particularly want to. The woman may be a brilliant scientist and a powerful witch in her own right, but there is darkness in her and bitter secrets that threaten the tenuous faith Trace has in her.

“With Mereck’s minions circling ever closer, and old allies posing unexpected threats, Trace knows he and Sabine have no choice but to trust each other. But for that to happen, he will have to lay bare all the deepest secrets of her soul…and quite possibly her heart.”

Lynette M. Burrows

The other is Lynette M. Burrows, author of My Soul to Keep, an alternate-history thriller set for release from Rocket Dog Publishing this summer (stay tuned to her website for details). She will choose a reading from My Soul to Keep:

“Miranda Clarke lives a charmed life . . . until she breaks the rules.

“It is 1961 but the world isn’t the one you know. The Prophet Josiah Shepherd, backed by billionaire J. D. Wagner and the Isolationist movement, kept the United States of America from entering World War II. The Nazis control Great Britain, Europe, and Northern Africa. Unopposed, Japan rules the east. America is a theocracy, a land of righteous repression led by the Fellowship and its council of greedy white men.

A concept drawing of one of the deadly Azrael, by Lynette’s husband, artist Robert Burrows.

“Miranda’s parents are part of the Fellowship’s elite, the inner circle. Her father, the nation’s premier preacher-politician, is on his way to the presidency. And Miranda’s hope of living a quiet, private life vanishes. But when Miranda makes a break for freedom, she learns everything she thought she knew is a lie:

“Her vengeance-seeking aunt isn’t dead.

“Her parents and the supposedly benevolent Fellowship Council aren’t benevolent.

“And the terrifying tales of the angel-assassins called Azrael aren’t just stories.

“Miranda must escape a religious re-education prison, discover the truth behind her horrifying nightmares, outwit her mother’s deadly ambitions, and destroy the ruthless, cloned angel-assassins who pursue her—or die.”

I promise–having seen advance peeks of both books–they will be delightful reads.

Jan S. Gephardt, by Colette Waters

But wait. What about that third woman on the program? What’s her book about? Yeah, well, that would be me. My book is called What’s Bred in the BoneIt’s a space opera/mystery set in a future when Humans have found or created other habitats in the reaches of space. If all goes well, it’ll be available in summer or early fall 2018:

“XK9 Rex is a dog who thinks too much.

“When a spaceship blows up among the docks at the Hub of Rana Habitat Space Station, the implications reach to the highest levels of the tiny sovereignty. But Rex is sidelined by a rookie mistake that puts his Human partner Charlie in the ICU.

“Now he’s on the outside looking in: worried, lonely, desperate to get back to his Pack and his life’s-work. He and his Packmates have been engineered and cyber-enhanced to be the most advanced forensic tools available to law enforcement, by a famous genetics lab—underwritten by the military intelligence of Transmondia, the Chayko System’s dominant power.

Rex in a happier moment: giving Charlie’s niece Sophie a doggie-back ride, as envisioned by Lucy A. Synk.

“But the XK9s are more than forensic tools, and more than their owners, the Ranan Orangeboro Police Department, ever bargained for. When Rex strives to prove just how capable he and his Packmates truly are, he unmasks a secret that could destabilize the entire System—and places all XK9s everywhere in mortal peril.”

I hope you’ll join us–we’ll also conduct a short panel discussion about writers’ groups, possibly with Dora Furlong and Rob Chilson joining the panel. Remember, that’s April 21, 7:00 p.m., at The Writers Place in Kansas City.

IMAGES: Many thanks to Judith Bemis for the photo of me at the NASFiC last year (reading an announcement of Chesley Award winner–but it’s the best “reading” photo I have!); to Holly Messinger for the photo of her; to Macmillans for the Curious Weather cover image; to Lynette M. Burrows for the photo of her, as well as the photo of the Azrael by her artist husband Robert Burrows; to Colette Waters Photography for my head shot; and to Lucy A. Synk for the whimsical vision of XK9 doggie-back riding.


I had no idea what I was going to experience when I checked in.

I recently got back from my first-ever writer’s retreat, AKA Three Days as a High-End Hermit.

I’ve always had this daydream about holing up someplace with good room service and soundproof walls, so I could write nonstop for an uninterrupted period of time.

But my thrifty little self has always been a bit dubious about the value of it. After all, I’m not currently employed outside the home, so supposedly I have vast swaths of time at my disposal anyway. Right?

Of course, my Millennial offspring may both be gainfully employed, but they have moved back in to live with my Beloved and me in our semi-large suburban home because it’s cheaper, we have the room, and they’re saving their money.

One of Signy’s cats (Boots) has discovered
that the top of one of my Bettas’ tanks is
an awesome vibrator seat (warm, too).
So far, both Boots and Pokoyo the fish
appear to be co-existing okay.

But they’re both autonomous adults. Coordinating with them doesn’t take that much time. Of course, I do a daily morning-and-evening shuttle, because the parking at my daughter’s work is insane and we don’t live that far away, so it’s not that hard for me to drop her off and pick her up. Gives us a chance to catch up with each other.

We do have animals to care for and feed and get to the vet as needed, which I do a lot of the time (now that I have lost Jake, all but two of the fish are my daughter’s, but I like her dogs, cats, and even her blind lizard that has to be hand-fed daily). It’s not that much of a chore. Also, there are the usual housekeeping-business things (repairs, insurance claims, contractors) that usually fall to me because I’m home and available.

Oh, and I have regular dates for lunch, coffee, and/or art museum trips or writing workshopping with assorted friends, as well as regular check-ins with my 93-year-old father, who also lives nearby. But a woman can’t be a hermit all the time.

Really. I have lots of time.

This delicious little birthday cake greeted me
the first night. I took my time enjoying EVERY MORSEL. (Yes, the moon was solid chocolate).

For my birthday, my sister Gigi (also a writer, the best friend of a writer, and the widow of a writer) called my bluff this year. She booked me for a weekend at The Fontaine, an elegant little boutique hotel less than two miles from my home, on the west end of the Kansas City Country Club Plaza.

So, kind of dubious but willing to experiment, I packed my clothing, my computer, my sketchbook full of Rana Station visualizations, and my Journal . . . and I checked in.

OMG, the Fontaine is beautiful. Check out their website–but be warned. It doesn’t do them justice. Most especially it doesn’t do the warmth, friendliness and courtesy of the staff justice. I have rarely felt more welcome anywhere. From the moment I wandered in, I was greeted, guided, and offered any help needed–and that “TLC” treatment continued, without fail, no matter who I talked to, for the entire three days I was there.

But I also had some clear objectives and a lot of work to do. I had just sent the first novel in the XK9 “Bones” Trilogy, What’s Bred in the Boneoff to a collection of trusted beta-readers, charged with telling me where it “worked,” where it didn’t, and whether they liked it, preferably by the end of the month. I desperately needed to think about something else and let them read in peace, without getting little “Are you done yet?” “Is it okay?” and “Did you (oh, PLEASE GOD!!!) like it?” messages from me every couple of days.

Brunch was like the rest of the Fontaine: elegant, delicious, accommodating, and welcoming. I got totally spoiled!

I had a second and third novel in the trilogy to get a handle on. Yes, I knew in general what I planned to do with them. But specifically? Not so much. At least not in detail. My primary objective for the weekend was to build a timeline for the second novel, A Bone to PickI also hoped to rough in a good, much more specific plan for the third novel, Bone of Contention

On my normal schedule, I’d expect that process to take a while. Possibly a couple of weeks. How much better could I do, uninterrupted?

And I do mean uninterruptedI went to the lovely brunch each morning for a good, high-protein breakfast. I ordered supper in, either from Room Service or from a favorite local Chinese restaurant. I went on several “thinking walks.” Otherwise, I worked (or slept. I did some of that too. But when I did, I dreamed about what my characters might do in various scenarios. I was that immersed).

Suffice it to say I met my objectives, and then some. I got my second novel’s timeline done. I got my third novel planned out in semi-detail. I even got the next trilogy, and the one after that roughed in. I’m not sure I’ve ever gotten this much done, this coherently, in this short a time. Ever.

Any doubts I may have had are gone. The weekend was worth its weight in gold, as far as advancing my projects is concerned. Guess what I mean to do, once I’ve finished A Bone to Pick, and sent it off to my long-suffering betas?

IMAGES: All photos were taken by me. Feel free to re-post any of them you wish: all I ask is an attribution and a link back to this post. Thanks!

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