Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Feathered Edge: A Woman Warrior's Tale

Last year I began this series on "the stories behind the stories" in this anthology of marvelous fantasy stories I was privileged to edit. I got about halfway through when life in the form of writing deadlines intervened. So I'm going to repost them and hopefully finish the series, then put them together in a companion volume. to The Feathered Edge.

"The Woman Who Fell In Love With The Horned King" is the second story with a woman warrior-as-champion/paladin. One of the most interesting things about putting together these anthologies of romantic, swashbuckling fantasy (2 volumes of Lace and Blade, and now The Feathered Edge: Tales of Magic, Love, and Daring) is the synchronicity -- or parallelism -- or "great minds work alike" thematic resonances. The first had 2 stories about Spanish highwaymen, and the second had 2 stories with Chinese generals. I'm not in the least surprised, but I am delighted and a bit awestruck by the way life works. The cover for The Feathered Edge could illustrate either this story or Sean McMullen's "Culverelle." You get to pick.

Now to the story. No, wait, background! I've loved Judith Tarr's work since I picked up A Wind In Cairo when it first came out. The horse got me into the book, as I'm a sucker for well-written horse characters, but the sheer mastery of storycraft, the depth and nuance, the use of language, all kept me wanting more. None of this should come as a surprise. Judy knows more about horses than any ten fantasy writers put together, and what she doesn't know, one or another of her nine amazing Lipizzan horses will enlighten us about. She's written the best guide to horses in writing I've ever seen, Writing Horses; The Fine Art of Getting It Right, and if you are a writer and need a horse in your story, it's a must-read.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Jaydium - Chapter 34


by Deborah J. Ross, writing as Deborah Wheeler

Chapter 34

The little village by the seashore was gone, along with its fairyland pier. Shattered therine lay everywhere, most of it in glittery splinters. Motionless gray bodies were heaped around the beach, clustered around the last remaining structure. A circle of quiet surrounded them, but off in the distance, towards the north, came muted, unintelligible hooting.

"Is this what=s left of your underground station?" Eril said.

Raerquel answered as they slowly circled the debris. "I had been hoping, without any degree of reasonableness, that this entrance would not be inundated with refugees."

"What do we do now?"

"There are several other entrances that we might reach."

"Won=t the same thing have happened there, too?" Lennart asked. "Mobs of frightened people trying to get to a safe place before all hell falls on them?"

"Very likely," Raerquel said. It guided the transport around the therine ruins and over the gently lapping water. "However, there is another entrance below the Council meeting platform, not known to the public."

"Your own private bolt hole," Kithri said, her voice bitter. "So the Council can get to safety while they let the brushies be blown to bits?"

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Feathered Edge: Raven Girl and a different American discovery

Last year I began this series on "the stories behind the stories" in this anthology of marvelous fantasy stories I was privileged to edit. I got about halfway through when life in the form of writing deadlines intervened. So I'm going to repost them and hopefully finish the series, then put them together in a companion volume. to The Feathered Edge.

Sheila Finch's "Fortune's Stepchild" is linked to other stories backwards-fashion. For so many of us, a tale or legend or bit of history so captured our childhood imaginations that forever after, it is a touchstone for "something wonderful and magic." Kari Sperring, for example, grew up dreaming of joining the musketeers and saving France. (Aside: I wonder if there's something about being British -- Sheila's an ex-pat Brit -- that lends itself to such inspiration; we on the other side of the Atlantic can read about Arthur and company, but he's not our Arthur.) At any rate, Sheila admits to a special fondness for tales about Sir Francis Drake (who was an amazingly colorful fellow, even if only a tenth of the stories told about him are true.)

Sheila's best known for her science fiction, including a series of stories about the Guild of Xenolinguists (one of which won the Nebula Award), but she's a writer of many and varied interests. I met her a gazillion years ago, if memory serves me right at the same convention at which I met Sherwood Smith, and thus began a long-running conversation. After I fled from Los Angeles to the redwoods of the Central Coast, we'd get together every so often at one convention or another, grab a few friends, and head offsite for the best fish restaurant we could find. And have meaty, thoughtful discussions on everything under the sun.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Jaydium - Chapter 33


by Deborah J. Ross, writing as Deborah Wheeler

Chapter 33

Silence woke him. Eril blinked and struggled to focus on the nearest wall. It was about three feet from his nose and he assumed he was seeing clearly, for it was just as blank and unbroken by window or door seam as the other three. And he was still hanging in the restraint web, alone in his tiny cell.

He tried to stretch and then wished he hadn=t. Even the slightest movement sent ripples of pain through his joints. He took a deep breath to clear his mind. It was no good. The air was stuffy, almost dense.

He could only guess how much of the day had gone by while he=d hung there, for the indirect lighting gave no sign of the sun=s passage. There was no evidence of his hosts or the food and water they=d previously provided. Or the execution squad he expected. Neither was there any news of his companions or the progress of Raerquel=s experiment on the far side of the ocean.

But news of war, that had surely come. Wave after thunderous wave had shaken the prison block while he=d hung there, helpless.

On the periphery of the spaceport, the prison building would be well within the first strike target zone, but Eril guessed the rumbling was caused by the blast of ships taking off under emergency scramble conditions. If the field had been bombed directly, he would not, in all likelihood, still be here to speculate about it. 

Now, as he struggled awake from his fitful dozing, he heard none of the previous bone-shaking racket, only sepulchral silence.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Feathered Edge: Culverelle Part the Second: Meeting Jemina Puddleduck

Last year I began this series on "the stories behind the stories" in this anthology of marvelous fantasy stories I was privileged to edit. I got about halfway through when life in the form of writing deadlines intervened. So I'm going to repost them and hopefully finish the series, then put them together in a companion volume. to The Feathered Edge.

 I received this email from Sean McMullen, author of "Culverelle:"

Relating to my story, I was re-watching Miss Potter (the movie on Beatrix Potter's life) on the weekend, and many of the Lake District scenes were shot at Derwent Water! So, Culverelle and Tordral meet Peter Rabbit and Jemima Puddleduck. That would be quite a story.
I wrote back that he'd have to write it himself. And he did.

"Good morning, Sir Gerald."

"Good morning, Jemima. And what have you and the other ducks been doing lately?"

"Oh bother the other ducks! I'm going on a date, it's so exciting. I met this nice Mr Elf yesterday, and he invited me to dinner. He said to meet him at dusk tonight, and to bring some things to help with the meal. Now what did he say? Bring a baking dish, some parsley, some chives, lots of breadcrumbs, olive oil, orange sauce – oh and an onion, bring a nice onion."

"And where is dinner to be?"

"I don't know, but I'm meeting him at the old footbridge."

"Indeed! Well, here's some advice for you. When you meet Mr Elf, someone behind you just might call out 'Duck!' If that happens, don't turn around and say 'Good evening', just flatten yourself on the path with your wings over your head."

"Good heavens! Whatever for?"

"If you don't,  you just might get an arrow through your poke bonnet."

… with apologies to Beatrix Potter.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Feathered Edge: The Australian Connection (Culverelle Part the First)

Last year I began this series on "the stories behind the stories" in this anthology of marvelous fantasy stories I was privileged to edit. I got about halfway through when life in the form of writing deadlines intervened. So I'm going to repost them and hopefully finish the series, then put them together in a companion volume. to The Feathered Edge.

Another of the writers whose work I got to know through the SFWA Circulating Book Plan was Australian Sean McMullen. I think the book was Glass Dragons, the second of his Moonworlds series. It's often challenging to begin a series in the middle, but this one posed no problem. Dragons and vampires and "War of the Worlds" and angsty heroes and radical organizers-of-the-people's-revolution, oh my! Well, not all in that first book, but it was enough to get me hooked.

So a little while later, I wandered into the Tor party at a WorldCon and there was Sean McMullen. I think the introduction caught me by surprise because the first words out of my mouth (after "Hello, I'm Deborah") were, "I love your work!" And received a glorious smile in reply, as if I'd just handed him a precious gift. And yes, it was. We create in such solitude, and reviews are such treacherous things when it comes to "did people like my book? did they understand it?" Then to come all the way to a different continent, to be surrounded by people you've heard of and maybe corresponded with but never met in person, and to have a fellow writer recognize your name and have read -- and remembered -- your work. What a joy!

That conversation was necessarily brief. If you've attended a publisher's party -- or any part -- at a WorldCon, you will understand why. Most communications at large conventions are sound bytes anyway, but when you add a crushing crowd, noise, and alcohol, it's many times so. But Sean and his work kept crossing my path -- we both love cats, we're both martial artists (or I used to be -- 30 years of tai chi and kung fu). By the strange synchronicity of publishing, when I returned to the pages of F and SF with my own work ("The Price of Silence," April/May. 2009), it was to an issue that had a story of Sean's as well. 

(The universe is still conspiring to bring us together: Sean and I both have stories in the March/April 2013 issue!)

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Feathered Edge: More Feathers and Masks

Last year I began this series on "the stories behind the stories" in this anthology of marvelous fantasy stories I was privileged to edit. I got about halfway through when life in the form of writing deadlines intervened. So I'm going to repost them and hopefully finish the series, then put them together in a companion volume. to The Feathered Edge.

One of the inevitable results of novel writing is that in order to keep the focus on this story (and not the two dozen others that spring up along the way), we have to rein in that natural desire. Myself, I must sometimes bribe secondary characters into staying secondary, by promising them stories of their own, or endowing their appearances with nifty, memorable details. Or virtual chocolate. Then we end up with outtakes, related stories, branching series, and the like. Sometimes, the worlds and casts-of-characters are so vivid and rich, and speak to us so deeply, that we return to them again and again. They provide the setting, background, culture, history for short stories that are complete in themselves, little jewels set in the larger imaginative tapestry.

"The Art of Masks," by Sherwood Smith, is one such story. You don't need to have read her Inda series or her many other works set in the world of Sartorias-deles in order to enjoy it. It's simply a slice of a larger world, complex and varied. But if you have, you'll see all the shimmering threads that lead off in the distance. At the first reference to the ballad of Jeje the Pirate Queen, I wanted to stand up and cheer -- it was like glimpsing an old, dear friend, just a flash and then back to the present moment. And yet, the story works just as well if you've never heard of Jeje before. Although you should. You really should.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Jaydium - Chapter 32


by Deborah J. Ross, writing as Deborah Wheeler

Chapter 32

For the next few days, Eril watched and waited for a chance to try wedging the door open. He kept the stylus with him, tucked in the folds of his cloth belt. The gastropoids who brought their meals were alert and careful, or maybe it was only his own rising tension that made them seem so. Each time one left, it would pause in the corridor outside before sealing the door, watching him with its expressionless head discs. He would turn away, hoping no hint of his impatience showed.

They passed the rest of the time exercising, eating and watching various programs on the broadcast unit. It had been installed with specially 'fixed= speakers in addition to the standard light panels. The only program that held any interest for Eril was the news, but Brianna took copious notes on other telecasts. Lennart and Kithri took shifts helping her, although they were seriously limited by the lack of a common written language. Everything had to be dictated and transcribed again.

One night, after everyone else had gone to bed, Eril found Kithri staring at the screen, studying a war report. She sat cross-legged on the floor, a sheet of seaweed film and stylus on her lap. As Eril knelt beside her, she bent and scrawled another note.

"Good news or bad?" 

"It=s hard to tell," she said, putting down the stylus. "I guess good, since they=re still talking." She ran her hands over her face, looking bleaker than he=d ever seen her. "You know what=s the worst of this whole mess? If I knew some good had come out of what Raerquel=s trying, it would make losing 'Wacker a whole lot easier. I don=t know why else I bother watching this stuff. It=s just a bunch of propaganda. But I keep hoping I=ll see something--some news about Raerquel, some breakthrough..."

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

GUEST BLOG: Catherine Lundoff on Organizations Building Diversity in Science Fiction and Fantasy

Science fiction and fantasy as a genre gives us the opportunity as readers and writers to explore new worlds, new futures and new concepts. As a reflection of the genre, science fiction fandom often prides itself on being very welcoming and inclusive. That said, sometimes both genre and fandom need some help achieving those goals. The organizations mentioned in this post are part of that help: sponsoring awards, increasing visibility of unrepresented writers and their books and providing support (emotional and/or financial).

I recently joined the Mother Board for Broad Universe . Broad Universe is a volunteer-run organization that promotes women writers of science fiction, fantasy and horror through podcasts, convention readings, book tables, panels, a listserv and various forms of social media. We run an ad in Locus every year celebrating our award winners (it gets bigger each time!) and do other forms of outreach and promotion. "Women" are defined as anyone identifying and presenting as female, as I found out when I asked.  I'm really enjoying being on the board and I'm hoping to see the organization grow and expand during my tenure.

One of the things I'm working on as part of my board duties is building bridges with other organizations in the genre. We're hoping to start doing some joint readings and events such as panels at different cons in the near future so that more readers and fans find out about us and the issues that we're working on.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Book Cover: Collaborators

More book covers...

Collaborators will be out from Dragon Moon Press in May. I'm using my old byline, Deborah Wheeler, to separate sf from fantasy stories.

Here's the publisher's description:

Collaborators: a complex tale of occupation and resistance, conspiracies, rebellions, gender, and power.

We’re pleased to announce the acquisition of Collaborators, a new science fiction novel by Deborah Wheeler. Noted for numerous short stories, two novels, and, as Deborah J. Ross, her continuation of Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Darkover series, Wheeler now offers a deep exploration of the gendered gaze and takes the reader behind the eyes of the other, from both directions, in a fast-moving tale of occupation and resistance.

A crippled Terran spaceship makes orbit around Bandar, a planet whose gender-fluid native race teeters on the brink of international war. As misunderstandings mount, violence escalates. Ultimately, it is up to the people on both sides who have suffered the deepest losses to find a way to reconciliation. About Collaborators, acclaimed writer C. J. Cherryh wrote, “This is first-rate world-building from a writer gifted with soaring imagination and good old-fashioned Sense of Wonder.”

“We’re really excited to work with Deborah, and proud to publish Collaborators,” says managing editor Gabrielle Harbowy. “It’s an intimate exploration of power, gender, and sexuality set in a richly-imagined world.”

Friday, February 1, 2013

Darkover Book Giveaway!

The lovely folks at DAW are offering 25 free copies of The Children of Kings over on Goodreads!

On The Cover of the Next F & SF

This is the issue that will contain my story, "Among Friends." And it's the first time my name has appeared on the cover of the magazine. I find myself unexpectedly but quite delightfully excited to see it!

Here's the Table of Contents. Doesn't that make you want to run out and buy the issue?


  • “Among Friends” by Deborah J. Ross
  • “Solidarity” by Naomi Kritzer
  • “The Assassin” by Albert E. Cowdrey
  • “The Lost Faces” by Sean Mcmullen
  • “The Cave” by Sean F. Lynch
  • “Code 666″ by Michael Reaves
  • “What The Red Oaks Knew” by Elizabeth Bourne And Mark Bourne)
  • “The Boy Who Drank From Lovely Women” by Steven Utley
  • “The Long View” by Van Aaron Hughes
  • “The Trouble With Heaven” by Chet Arthur
  • “Dislocated Heart/A Starpilot’s Post-Operation Note” by Robert Frazier
  • Books To Look For by Charles De Lint
  • Books by James Sallis
  • Plumage From Pegasus: Kozmic Kickstarter by Paul Di Filippo
  • Films: All Man-eaters Great And Small by Kathi Maio
  • Coming Attractions
  • Curiosities by Richart A. Lupoff

Jaydium - Chapter 31


by Deborah J. Ross, writing as Deborah Wheeler

Chapter 31

Eril jerked awake and scrambled to his feet, ready to suit up and sprint for the launching port. His needle jet would be tuned to go, Hank already sliding into the co-pilot=s seat. Heart pounding, he paused and looked around, his eyes searching the dimness. He could see only the blank walls of his own narrow cubicle, not barracks teeming with awakening pilots. No alarms shrilled through his ears. All he could hear were the normal sounds made by three sleeping people. From Lennart=s cubicle came gentle rhythmic snoring. Whatever had woken him must have been a dream, nothing more.

Eril lay back and tried to relax. Late in the war he=d snatched hours and minutes of sleep whenever he could. He=d learned to simply not think about the problems he couldn=t do anything about. Raerquel=s condition would wait until the morning--the matter was entirely out of his hands. What had happened with Brianna was a different matter. He went over the conversation in his mind, wondering if there was anything else he could have said or done. Since then, Brianna had made no overtures toward Kithri, although she was no longer openly hostile. Not that Kithri cared what Brianna thought of her.


The thought came to him how alike they were, as if they each had their own poisoned memories. He thought of Kithri watching her father die by inches and of all his own years of growing up, desperately hoping there had been some mistake and his father had been found, that any day he=d walk through the door...and the moment on his tenth birthday when he realized, finally and absolutely, that would never happen.

Well, there wasn=t anything he could do about those things, either.

In the end, Eril resorted to working out textbook navigational problems in his head until he drifted off to sleep.