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Today we are spotlighting Joyce Reynolds-Ward's
Enter below for a chance to win a full set of the Netwalk Sequence
(Shadows, Netwalk: Expanded Edition, Netwalker Uprising, Netwalk's Children,
and Netwalking Space) from Joyce Reynolds-Ward's
78,954 alien devices appear just outside Pluto orbit, with a projected trajectory that ends at Earth…and the data shows they’re identical to the Gizmo war machine that destroyed ten Earth cities before it was captured and confined….
For four generations Bess Fielding and her family have led the battle to control the destructive Gizmo device that also allowed for the development of Netwalk, a digital virtual networking and communication system that allows personalities to upload at death. Bess, her mother Melanie, and her Netwalker great-grandmother Sarah have suspected Gizmo’s alien origin for years.
But when a fleet of Gizmo devices arrives at the Solar System, their focus on defending against this invasion is disrupted by disclosures of dark secrets from Sarah’s past. These revelations provoke a dangerous breakdown in Bess’s grandmother Diana, turning her into a Gizmo collaborator. Bess and her family must unite to save Diana and lead the fight to protect Earth—but who is trustworthy? Who is a betrayer? Who gets sacrificed to stop the invading fleet? Bess, Melanie, and Sarah are in a race against time and face tough choices…that will impact those they love.
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Q & A with Joyce Reynolds-Ward about Netwalking Space!
Tell us about Netwalking Space.
Netwalking Space is about four generations of women responding to an alien invasion of the Solar System, and how their past choices affect their present ability to respond to the threat. These four women--Sarah, Diana, Melanie, and Bess, have all been part of a larger effort to contain an artifact called the Gizmo, a mysterious war machine that destroyed ten cities before it was captured by Diana and her husband Will. So when 78,954 alien devices identical to the Gizmo appear at the edge of Pluto’s orbit, of course these four women will play a lead role in combating this invasion. Except that the Gizmo has ideas and notions of its own, and it is using dead, digitally uploaded personalities--Netwalkers--to aid the invasion. But shadows from the past with their own agenda disclose dark secrets that Sarah has tried hard to bury. As a result of these disclosures, Diana becomes a collaborator with the Gizmo. And while there are Netwalkers aiding the Gizmo, there are many other Netwalkers joining in the fight against the Gizmo’s peers, such as Sarah and Will. An additional dynamic is that due to environmental and political catastrophes, political structures have changed to the degree that corporations and corporate leaders overtly control much of the Earth governments. An entity known as the Corporate Courts manages corporate law as well as maintains custody of the Gizmo. Diana is prominent within the Corporate Courts, while Melanie and Bess have withdrawn from active participation in the Courts.
What initially inspired you to write Netwalking Space?
I have been writing in this world for some time, and wanted to tie up all the pieces I’ve left hanging in this world while writing a book that could stand up on its own without reading the others in the series. Clearly I’d love it if people like Netwalking Space so much that they go to the other books, but it’s not necessary.
The initial inspiration for the series came from a comment from my husband while we were out camping on the lip of Hells Canyon--”what would it be like to see this canyon from the point of view of a hawk?” That proceeded to my developing the concept of a wireless communication system with bioremediation nanobots, and then I came up with the concept of a mysterious war machine, the Gizmo. Because society is so disrupted at that time, no one is sure of its origin…..
Tell us little about the characters Netwalking Space.
The four main characters are Sarah, Diana, Melanie, and Bess.
Sarah is a Netwalker (digitally uploaded personality at death) who still seeks to manage her descendants, help defend against the Gizmo, and actively participates in advising her great-granddaughter, Bess, who hosts Sarah in an implanted chip (Netwalkers need to stay connected to a living person for a charge and to receive tactile input to keep them sane). Manipulative but devoted to Bess, she hides a soft side that has been buried under a hard facade for years.
Diana, Sarah’s daughter, used to host Sarah. Diana and Sarah have been opponents for years but have always agreed on the need to contain the Gizmo until Diana learns some traumatic secrets about Sarah’s past. Diana has always been uncomfortable about dealing with Netwalkers and aggressively controlled Sarah until it was time for Sarah to move to Bess. She loved her husband Will deeply, to the degree that she trusted his ability to design weapons and bond her with his favorite war machine. When Will died and became a Netwalker, that left a deep chasm in Diana’s life from which she has never recovered.
Melanie, Diana’s daughter, spent years as the person who got things done in the family company, Do It Right, while Diana engaged in political activity and high level business negotiations in the Corporate Courts. She is considered to be the strongest Enforcer capable of managing and controlling Netwalkers. She misses her late husband, Marty, and sometimes wishes that he had become a Netwalker, even though the way he died meant that he could not operate free of the Gizmo-influenced Netwalkers. She is one of the most talented living operators working in virtual digital worlds.
Bess, Melanie’s daughter, longs to explore space. Grounded on Earth for a year while she integrates with Sarah, she’s impatient to get back to the space station DIR 1 and her beloved, Alex, and get on with further expansion of space exploration and development. Bess is even better in virtual than her mother.
What was the hardest part of writing this book?
The conflict between what I wanted to do with the story and the reality of physics. You can only do so much handwavium to gloss over the vast distances just within the Solar System--otherwise, most of the action would have taken place on Mars rather than the Moon. I could explain the actions of the alien fleet because, well, we don’t know their tech.
Some of the scenes with Diana were very difficult. The scene where she blows off Melanie and her brother Andrew after turning rogue was one that was deeply wrenching, especially when Melanie gulps and sends out a warning which is, basically, capture Diana or kill her, whatever it takes to stop her.
What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?
I have to admit that I laughed my head off while writing the first contact message from the invading fleet to Earth. It was cheesy! Over the top! Cliche-ridden! But none of my beta readers nor my editor had a problem with it, perhaps because the first reaction from Melanie and others after hearing it is WHAT? Can you really BELIEVE this? It’s like a cheesy SF movie! A bit meta, but quite fun. And in my head (but not in the book), some of that comes from the fleet picking up on years of old bad TV alien invasion sf.
What are your future project(s)?
I am in the process of developing the second book of my fantasy series, Goddess’s Honor. Besides the first book in the series, Pledges of Honor, I’ve produced a prequel novella, Beyond Honor and a couple of related short stories. The arc of the Goddess’s Honor series is about a powerful woman who is destined either to challenge a vengeful Goddess and replace her or else restore her family’s right to rule the Daran Empire--but questions whether she wants to make either choice. I anticipate releasing Challenges to Honor in mid or late summer.
I am also pulling together an omnibus of novelettes written about Bess and Alex, Learning in Space, that have done well but not won in competitions--one was a Writers of the Future SemiFinalist, another an Anthology Builders contest Finalist, and the third a Writers of the Future Honorable Mention.
After those two projects, I plan to finish a rather fun urban fantasy that is a bit of a cross between Frankenstein’s Monster and Jane Eyre, with Sasquatch and a sassy heroine. I hope to sell that one to a small press. Then I want to release a Weird West novella that I’ve been working on sporadically between other projects.
Long term, I have a rough plan for a far-future sequel to the Netwalking Space world called the Star Shepherds. It’s nowhere near ready to be developed yet as I’m still contemplating the concept.
Now an exciting excerpt from Netwalking Space!
Excerpt from Chapter Four, Netwalking Space
By this point in the book, our heroines are scrambling to deal with the threat posed by the alien invaders. Diana has learned awful secrets about her mother Sarah’s background which has driven her to ally with the Gizmo device that seeks to aid the alien invaders. Bess is en route to replace Diana in charge of space station DIR 1, but Diana has fled the station for an unknown destination. Melanie is trying to talk to Diana but she won’t respond—so her brother Andrew makes contact. They’re hoping for a solution…only things get worse.
“God damn it!” Melanie threw her virtual squeeze ball hard, then flinched as it boomeranged about the hologlobe’s boundaries, ducking when it zoomed by her head.
She had been trying for three hours now to raise her mother. She had strained the strength of this globe to maximize her reach into space, but Diana had locked herself out of any contact through her Netwalk chip. Even Melanie’s careful use of Burnout hadn’t boosted the signal as much as she wanted. That doesn’t bode well at all.
She growled and pinged Zack.
Will answered her.
It took him a few seconds to respond, and when he did, his speech was slow.
Another pause. Regret tinged his tones.
She felt a quick virtual touch on her forehead.
Melanie powered down the hologlobe and stood, stretching her cramped muscles. She went back to her desk and pulled up her comm globe, calling Andrew.
“What’s the news, Mel?” Andrew looked disheveled instead of his usual neat self, his silver hair in disarray and his face lined with fatigue. “I’ve got a space set up for Mom. Security at the Observatory is prepared to take her into custody.”
“I’d get your station Netwalk crew out there to stop her. Just in case she’s carrying a payload from our little friend at the Courts.”
Andrew frowned, his focus on a secondary globe to the side of his comm globe. “Doing that now. Hmm. We actually have a Class 1-rated Netwalk host and Netwalker on that station—Rick’s recommendation from a couple of years back. Kari Burnash, hosting Mari Sandoval, who was one of my best comm specialists. Lost Mari in a skimmer crash. Both good and competent people.”
Mari and Kari— Melanie pulled up her data, confirming her memory. I remember them from Netwalk schooling, and not just because their names rhyme. She quickly skimmed through their records.
“I remember them from training and just checked my data on their training. They’re a good pair. Kari’s almost strong enough to be an Enforcer.” Melanie hesitated, then sent a text to Nik. Make damn sure you’ve got a strong Enforcer with you. “I’m having Nik bring a full Enforcer, though. God only knows what’s been done to Mom’s mind.”
I’ll take Cat, Nik texted back.
Good. With any luck, Diana still trusted Cat.
“Do you think she’ll trust anyone you send?” Andrew asked.
“I’m sending Cat McCauley from DIR 1. She worked with Diana and Sarah for years.”
“That should work,” Andrew agreed. “Hopefully this will go off without a hitch.”
“Hopefully. Meanwhile—I talked to Will. He thinks that Mom might listen to you if you try a voice contact. She isn’t answering any of my pings. Maybe if one of us could get through—he doesn’t think he can.”
“Give me the linkage and I’ll try, but no guarantees.” Andrew made a face. “Ever since we pulled out of the Courts, she’s been cool to me as well. I went over to your side—the enemy—in her perspective.”
“Sending it now.” Melanie tapped up the link and forwarded it.
“Actually.” Andrew hesitated. “Could you monitor my call? I don’t think either one of us should talk to her without other ears listening live. Yeah, I could record it, but I’d feel one hell of a lot better if you were monitoring in real time.”
“Me plus Will?”
Andrew pursed his lips, thinking, then nodded. “Family intervention.”
“I’ll get him.”
“Bringing Will in now,” she said to Andrew. Two eyeblinks, and Will formed within the globe.
“I’m here,” Will said out loud. “Son, I think having us listen in was an excellent idea. I’m glad you thought of it.”
A faint smile touched Andrew’s lips before it faded. “Call it moral support if you want. Or keeping it within the family. Calling now.”
Beep. Beep. Beep. Melanie tapped her fingers on the arms of her chair as the link pinged through several connections. Buzz. Buzz. One more and Drew would get the same canned message she had—
“Hello?” No visual, just voice. Probably pod comm programming. “Andrew?” Harsh, croaky voice so unlike Diana’s usual fluid alto tones. Crying or pod atmosphere? She tapped her thought out as a question forwarded to Will, then turned on her personal recorder.
“Mom, what’s going on?” Andrew’s voice carried just the right tone of relaxed concern. Not enough to put Diana on guard—Melanie hoped—but enough to convey worry. “Why did you leave DIR 1? I’ve got a place set up here for you. Comfortable and away from all things Netwalk. We need you here to be the liaison for the Courts.”
“Drew, I’m sorry. I have things to do.” Diana’s voice sounded distant.
“Couldn’t you have talked to me about what happened first?” Andrew asked, the suggestion of a pleading note in his voice.
Coughing—or was that an attempt to hold back tears? If it were Bess as a young teenager speaking, Melanie would have guessed tears. But her mother?
“I can’t.” Diana’s voice choked. “Too many tainted people.” The remote tone returned. “Too many abominations.”
“What do you mean?” Andrew asked.
A snarky pitch crept into Diana’s voice. “You mean you haven’t talked to Sarah yet? Or is she still hiding secrets from us?”
“I know about the family history,” Andrew said, speaking slowly and carefully. “It’s a bit of a shock. More to Melanie and Bess than me. Peter dropped hints to me over the years so it’s not completely out of the blue. But Mother—“
“A shock? Is that all you can say about it?” Diana’s voice rose hysterically. “Do you realize what that makes us? All of us? My God, for all I know I’m just like Peter! I’m just like my damned brother! We’re abominations! Abominations supporting even worse abominations! We’re cursed!”
“Mom—“ Andrew tried to break in as Diana continued to rant. Melanie buried her head in her hands, sick at heart, her gut tightening. She had never heard her mother blow up like this, raving irrationally. Never. Diana’s typical anger was cold rage, not irrational ranting.
“Couldn’t you have at least talked to one of us? To Dad?” Andrew pleaded, his voice quavering, clearly as stricken as Melanie was as Diana kept repeating abomination, we’re abominations.
That silenced Diana.
“Mom. That doesn’t change who we are now. What we’ve done. Why didn’t you try talking to Dad if not me or Mel?”
“Because he’s dead!” Diana snarled back. “He died thirty years ago and that—thing—that calls himself by your father’s name is just another one of those damned Netwalkers! The two of you are conspiring against me! You sold out to Sarah and your sister ages ago! Why should I trust you?”
Melanie shook her head, her heart aching as her mother screamed at Drew. The news broke her. Damn that gadget. Damn whatever it was that led her to the Bitter Archive.
“Mom, please,” Andrew begged. “Please. Just listen to me. Let me help you. Come stay with me here at Stephens. Let’s talk about it. I promise you, no Netwalk at my house. No Netwalkers. Please, Mother. Please. Whatever you’re planning, don’t do it. I know this is hard to find out about our origins. I’m—I’m still in shock about it. More than shock, you’re right. But we’ve got to think about what else is going on. We’ve got a potential invasion on our hands. Please.”
“You may call it invasion. I call it purification,” Diana said. “You’ve never understood the beauty and the power of the Gizmo. None of you have. Not your grandmother, not your sister, none of you.” A sobbing gulp. “I should never have listened to your grandmother and your sister. I should have kept faith with Gizmo. It’s never failed me. But I can make it up now.”
Melanie raised her head, chills running up and down her spine at the changed tone in her mother’s voice. Almost like she’s begging the gadget to forgive her. Oh God. How deep does it have its claws in her?
“Mom, don’t.” Raw fear echoed from Andrew. “Don’t do anything you’ll regret later.”
“I’ve done plenty to regret over the years of my life,” Diana retorted. “Now I’m going to make amends for my past choices.”
“What are you going to do?”
“Wouldn’t you like to know?” Diana turned coy. “You’ll find out soon enough. I never thought I’d live to see the end of days, but it looks like it may be my privilege to bring it.”
End of days? No. No. Melanie wanted to reach out to her mother but she couldn’t speak, couldn’t move. Horror surged through her. She’s going to sell us all out.
“Mother, please. Don’t do this, whatever it is you’re going to do. You have problems with us. Come deal with us directly. Don’t take it out on the rest of humanity!”
“Humanity has been contaminated by Netwalk,” Diana said, her voice falling into a rote pattern as if she were repeating words she had been coached to say. “Humanity needs to be cleansed and purged.”
“Say your prayers, Andrew. Maybe you can be saved. Acknowledge your abomination before God.”
Melanie gulped back a sob of her own. She tapped out a message to Alex, Nik, and Bess as Andrew continued to try to reason with their mother, only the occasional crack in his voice revealing his emotion.
Assume Diana Landreth to be dangerous and hostile. Stop her no matter what it takes.