The next Darkover book, The Children of Kings, was released on Tuesday, March 5, from DAW Books. Here and in the following weeks, I'll also talk about how I met Marion Zimmer Bradley, how we came to work together, and a few thoughts on "playing in her sandbox."
I frequently am asked how I came to work with Marion and to continue her Darkover series after her death. Toward the end of her life, Marion suffered a series of strokes, which made it difficult for her to concentrate on novel-length stories. One solution to this problem was to work with a younger writer, supervising and editing as well as designing the story arc and characters. Marion tried collaborating with various writers, including Mercedes Lackey, whose own writing schedule proved too demanding for her to continue. I was one of the writers Marion considered because she had watched me develop from a novice to an established professional and knew my work, especially those stories I had written for the Darkover anthologies. She had seen what I could do in "her world," and often cited "The Death of Brendon Ensolare" (a "Lieutenant Kije" story set in the Thendaran City Guards) as one of her favorites.
We began work together as we had begun our relationship, first in correspondence, then in person. We'd settled on a time period and general story arc when I visited her for the last time. When I arrived at her home, she had been resting, on oxygen, but insisted on sitting up to talk. I knew she had been very ill, but seeing her made her condition so much more vivid for me. One of my best memories of her was watching her "come alive" as we discussed character and hatched plot points. Her eyes "glowed as if lit from within," to use one of her favorite descriptions, and energy suffused her whole being. I asked question after question and then sat back as she spun out answers. It was as if she had opened a window into her imagination and invited me to peek inside. Her secretary told me that she talked for days afterwards about the visit and how excited she was about the project.
We never got a second visit. She died a month later.
Marion had been a rock, an anchor, an inspiration, and a guide throughout my literary career. I expected we would have more time to work together, despite how desperately ill she was. I believed in the magic of that last visit.
It was magic. And, although I did not realize it at the time, it was also the passing of the torch.