It’s Coming Back…The Aztec Eagle

Written By: catherinewells | Categorized In: Book news, Enrique, EPIC Award, Speculative Fiction | Comments: 0

Gosh, to look at how long it’s been since I posted here, you might think I’ve been, well, writing or something.  In fact, I have been editing. I have a small press interested in The Aztec Eagle, which was a finalist for an EPIC Award way back in 2011. That publisher folded, and the book became unavailable in 2012. Sigh.

Now another small press is interested, and I have been working with their editors in anticipation of publication in 2022. This time around, I have amended the story to include a character absent from the previous edition, but part of the original concept back around 2000. Xopil is a companion spirit, a non-corporeal entity existing between particles of matter–which of course knocks the book right out of SF and into cross-genre. Publishers have been slow to accept cross-genre, so I removed Xopil for the 2011 edition.

But now he’s back.  So far, at least. We are not through the editing process, and Xopil is, well, a conundrum. As a companion spirit, Xopil follows the main character, Enrique, throughout his life. Xopil relates the emotions he observes in people to colors. Enrique is a sunny amber when he’s at peace, navy blue when he confronts an adversary, and churning with olive green when he’s physically unwell.  And when Lyla comes by, whoo, there comes that purple stuff Xopil really doesn’t understand. Enrique’s problem is he’s a poor kid with a big dream and many obstacles to surmount; Xopil’s problem is he can’t do anything about it. He can’t even communicate to Enrique that he’s there, although our perceptive hero sometimes wonders about that thing he can’t quite see, there at the edge of his vision. Hence the conundrum: Xopil does not influence the action. He is simply an observer with a unique perspective.

So Xopil gets mixed reviews from beta readers. Some don’t see the point, and his colorful asides can interrupt the flow. Others find his take on things humorous and charming, a whimsical and (pun intended) colorful aside. As the author, I find him useful in conveying feelings and motivations about which Enrique is often clueless.

I’ll keep you posted as the publication process proceeds. At the moment I’m feeling a little tangerine about it, with some streaks of umber doubt and a current of stubborn charcoal running through me. I doubt I’ll ever settle in to a soothing aquamarine.

Nice review of “Invasive Species”

Written By: catherinewells | Categorized In: Short Stories | Comments: 0

I was so pleased to receive an email from fellow Analog writer Guy Stewart praising my novella “Invasive Species” that is running in the March/April 2021 issue of Analog.  He said, in part, “I thought it was both fascinating and moving.  As an ANALOG writer myself, I read every issue with a somewhat critical eye; rarely just for enjoyment, but to be surprised by NEW IDEAS. “Invasive Species” had a new idea — but you didn’t get “lost” in the idea; the story was compelling …”

He ended the email by saying, “I’m sure I’ve enjoyed your stories in ANALOG in the past. But this one hit my heart and startled my mind…”  That’s my ambition in life:  to tell stories that hit people’s hearts, and make them think.

“Invasive Species” now in Analog

Written By: catherinewells | Categorized In: Short Stories | Comments: 2

I checked the Analog website this morning and found my novella “Invasive Species” is in the March/April 2021 issue.  It features a shape-shifting race trying to keep human incursion on their planet to a minimum.  Rath van Dorn has always tried to honor the native culture and its sensitivities, but now his wife is missing, and she is nowhere inside the designated Terran Zone.  He needs the natives’ help to find her, and he needs to invade their sovereign territory to do it.

Why 2021 is not like 1776

Written By: catherinewells | Categorized In: History | Comments: 0

As a sometime student of the American Revolution, I am disturbed by the notion currently floating around that the assault on the Capitol this month, and the sentiment driving it, are in some way like the events leading up to American independence.  Frankly, it is not, and here’s why.

At first blush, you might think the attack resembled riots and violence by the Sons of Liberty in the early 1770s.  Well, no more than it resembled riots and violence by mobs anywhere, in any age, and for any reason.  Mobs are a commonplace tool, often whipped up by demagogues in pursuit of some aim.  But people like Sam Adams, who incited the Sons of Liberty, were not out for personal power.  They did not intend to put or keep any particular man in authority.  Rather than an authoritarian regime, they wanted representative government.

If you learned American history in school, you might remember that by 1770 the colonies had their own legislatures and courts in place.  These had been functioning smoothly, keeping the peace and dispensing justice for decades.  But when the colonists protested that their rights as Englishmen had been abrogated, the Crown dissolved those elected legislatures and dismissed colonial judges.  This was, in fact, one of the things the Sons of Library protested.  The 2021 mob’s intent was to disrupt and defy their own elected legislature (Congress), rather than to defend its existence–without, I might add, presenting any representative body to replace it.  Nor were participants interested in the rulings of their own judiciary, which has repeatedly found no evidence of widespread voter fraud.  They chose one man’s opinion over judicial opinion.

Yes, the colonists eventually had to use force to achieve independence.  But it was not the mobs who achieved it, nor even who led the way.  It was people like John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and on down the list, people who respected the law and civil order who led the way.  They met peacefully and openly to draw up reasoned petitions, and when they had presented their grievances through every available political channel and been rebuffed,  when they resolved as an elected body to sever ties with the mother country–only then did they appoint George Washington to head an army.  Those were the men and institutions that achieved our independence–not the Sons of Liberty.

In 1776, the rebellion–yes, it was an insurrection–was against a legislative body (Parliament) for whom Americans were not allowed to vote, and an executive power (the king) they had not elected.  In 2021, the insurrection has been against a legislative body for whom we voted, egged on by an executive–also elected–who meant to impede their function.

See the difference?

One good thing about staying home…another sale!

Written By: catherinewells | Categorized In: Short Stories, Speculative Fiction | Comments: 0

It was quite a change for me to have to cancel travel plans, to have my choral groups discontinued, to not even get out to church, etc., etc.  Most of you are in the same boat.  So eventually I had no excuse not to sit down and work on a novella that had been sitting untouched for about a year.  And guess what?  I not only finished it, I sold it.  No, I don’t know yet when it will run–probably spring or summer 2021–but Analog is sending me a contract for “Invasive Species.”

The story is set on Parsa where the natives have leased a tract of land to a Terran mining company.  Once enslaved by another race, the Parsans remain almost obsequious in their dealings with humans.  Able to manipulate their physical form, they can closely mimic humans–in fact, they can hardly refrain from this inborn defense mechanism–and many of them work for the humans in menial positions.

Strict regulations that protect native cultures have forbidden humans from stepping outside the Terran Zone on Parsa.  But when Rath van Dorn’s wife disappears, leaving their infant daughter behind, Rath knows the only place she can be is beyond the boundaries of the Zone. He ventures out in search of kidnappers, only to find more duplicity and conspiracy than he ever imagined.

Americans don’t like to play defense

Written By: catherinewells | Categorized In: Uncategorized | Comments: 0

This is my latest insight into our response to pandemic:  Americans don’t like to play defense.

We’ve been raised on the mantra that the best defense is a good offense, so when faced with a foe, we want to attack it.  We want to send in the troops, bring out our handguns, slay the monsters.  We  don’t want to sit back in the bunker, wait out the siege, hide in our houses while the tanks roll by outside–we want to get out there and kill it.

But unless you have a degree in biochemistry, there’s not much you can do to attack this virus.  All we’ve been asked to do is play defense, and we hate that.  It’s no fun.  Wash our hands?  We’d rather dirty them digging the cursed thing out of its lair.  Wear a mask?  That’s like hiding.  We’re not afraid of any old virus, we’ll face it with our bare hands and bare faces and dare it to hurt us.  We’re Americans, we always win.

Picture this:  old Western, townfolk cowering silent in a cellar, hoping the raiders will pass by without finding them, when one idiot rushes into the street, guns blazing–and gives away the location of everyone else.  Please don’t be that guy.  Please don’t endanger everyone you meet. Wear the mask.  Wash your hands.  Stay at home if you can.  Respect those who are actually attacking the virus by falling into line and saying, “Go ahead.  We’ve got your back.”

I know you hate it.  I hate it too.  But we’ve got to play defense.

It’s here…! See July/August issue of Analog

Written By: catherinewells | Categorized In: Book news, Enrique, Short Stories, Speculative Fiction | Comments: 0

Greetings!  The July/August 2019 issue of Analog is now available online and in stores.  In fact, if you click on this link, you can actually read an excerpt of “The Quality of Mercy.”  Get a taste for it.  Yum.

Meanwhile, it looks like The Aztec Eagle is going to make it back into print later this year, with parts 1 and 2 combined into a single book  The second part (The Crystal Desert) was only up for a couple of days before the publisher shut down, withdrawing all files from the market.  Pretty sure Desert Moon Press will keep it available much longer than that.

“The Quality of Mercy” to run in July/August 2019 issue of Analog

Written By: catherinewells | Categorized In: Short Stories | Comments: 0

I just proofed the galleys for this short story, which features a researcher studying potentially sentient creatures, who is at odds with the military veteran helping her set up her base camp. It’s questionable which one has the worse temper.  The questions:  Are the beautiful, peaceful zohr really “people”?  And is something threatening them in their idyllic meadow?

After 30 years…”The Quality of Mercy”

Written By: catherinewells | Categorized In: Short Stories, Speculative Fiction, Writing and Publishing | Comments: 0

A long time ago, after the sale of my first novel, I tried to write a short story called “The Quality of Mercy,” about a researcher studying a proto-human species on a distant planet.  Her foil was a character who later became Soln Shipner in “Beyond the Gates.”  I don’t think I even sent it to my agent.  I may not have had an agent at the time.

Then during the years I was pitching to “Star Trek: TNG,” I wrote a spec script using the same story but integrating TNG characters.  Like my pitches, it went nowhere.

Last summer as I was cleaning out my files, I came across the script and thought, “I should do something with this.”  So I did.  Same basic plot, same theme, but with a new perspective (mine) and a new foil.  In the original version, it was the foil who learned something; in this one, it’s the protagonist.  Apparently I, too, have learned something in the intervening years, because Analog just offered to buy “The Quality of Mercy.”

I’ll pass along pub information when I have it.

“Native Seeds” in Lightspeed

Written By: catherinewells | Categorized In: AZ, Coconino, Short Stories, Uncategorized | Comments: 0

The issue of Lightspeed with a reprint of “Native Seeds” is now available online, for those of you who missed its premier in Analog.  The paper and ebook should be available through Amazon shortly.

Somehow I never had the opportunity in either venue to explain that this novella is a prequel to my Coconino trilogy, also available through online bookstores.  It’s set in southern and central Arizona after famine and other catastrophes have driven most of the population to colonial planets in distant solar systems.  Those who remain find themselves facing age-old questions about culture, survival, and self-determination.