Friday, December 29, 2017

In Troubled Times: How Stories Save Us

Stories can heal and transform us. They can also become beacons of hope.

Quite a few years ago, when I was going through a difficult personal time, I came across a book about the inherent healing power of telling our stories. No matter how scattered or flawed our lives may appear, as we tell our stories, we gain something. Patterns emerge from seeming chaos, and our lives begin to make sense. It may be dreadful, agonizing sense, but even tragedies have order and consequence. I found that over time, the way I told my story changed, reflecting my recovery process and new insight.

The mirror side of story-telling is story-listening. While a confidential diary or journal can be highly useful, having someone hear our words can be transformative, especially if all that person does is listening. Not judging, not analyzing, not wondering how to respond, just taking in our words, a silent partner on our journey. Often we feel less alone in retrospect, no matter how isolated and desperate we might have been at the time. Additionally, a compassionate listener invites us to be kinder with ourselves.

Perhaps this is how Twelve Step programs work, apart from any Higher Power mysticism or Steps: that by simply hearing our own voices relate our histories, and having the experience of being heard, we open the door to viewing ourselves through the lens of new possibilities.

Personal storytelling calls for discretion, of course. Although it may be true that “we are only as sick as our secrets,” casually (or not-so-casually) violating a confidence from someone else is not the same as choosing to include the listener in our own private lives. Some of us never learned healthy boundaries about what is safe to share, and when, and with whom. We, or others, can be harmed by indiscriminate broadcasting of embarrassing, illegal, or otherwise sensitive information. The kind of storytelling I’m talking about, on the other hand, is as much about the journey as it is the facts.

Stories can get us through dark times by giving us hope and inspiring empathy. Stories work by creating a bond between the narrator or central character and the listener/reader. Who wants to read a story about a person you care nothing about? And if that appealing character has a different history or journey, or learns something the reader never experienced, so much the better. We accompany them into darkness and out again.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Today's Wisdom from Middle Earth

"The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater"

― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

Monday, December 25, 2017

Lace and Blade 4 Author Interviews: Dave Smeds

Just in time for Valentine's Day, Lace and Blade 4 offers a bouquet of sensual, romantic, action-filled stories. Order it from online booksellers in ebook and paperback editions. The Table of Contents is here.



Deborah J. Ross: Tell us a little about yourself.  How did you come to be a writer?

Dave Smeds: I loved fiction from an early age. I was particularly drawn to stories of imaginary worlds, or at least by settings that were in effect imaginary, such as Mars as depicted by Edgar Rice Burroughs. At age fifteen, it occurred to me I might be able to write a short story or two. I did that. The result was crap, of course, but every time I did another story or fragment of a novel, I could see how to improve. (It was, as you might imagine, REALLY OBVIOUS how I could improve.) I felt driven to eventually write something at a level I’d want to read if someone else had written it.


DJR: What inspired your story in Lace and Blade 4?
DS: There is a great deal of me in “The Wind’s Kiss.” The fulfillment I feel in being a father. The contemplation of the pioneer life led by my ancestors as they moved westward, often literally dwelling right at the edge of civilization, first settlers on the scene. The vital need in our hearts for passion between, and admiration of, one’s lover. However, there is also a more specific inspiration for this particular piece. In August, 2016, I was finally able to take a journey through Nebraska. For the first time in my life, and quite possibly for the last time, I visited the grave of my great great grandmother, Marancy Alexander Warner. The land there has a windswept, deeply conscious aspect. I wanted to install that presence in my fiction as soon as possible, and as it happened, that sort of setting and mood was perfect for what I wanted to write for Lace and Blade 4


DJR: What authors have most influenced your writing?  What about them do you find inspiring?
DS: In the early days, I never thought of myself as deeply influenced by any particular author, except perhaps in the sense that I loved to write sword-and-sorcery, and back then, anyone doing that was standing on the shoulders of Robert E. Howard and J.R.R. Tolkien. In retrospect, I see L. Frank Baum’s influence upon the way I structure a story. Baum did not write The Hero’s Journey. He wrote The Heroine’s Journey. That is to say, he wrote books in which the protagonist — usually a girl — makes alliances, as opposed to the Campbell paradigm where a young man pulls himself up by the bootstraps, stands alone, and takes sole credit for defeating an antagonist. I prefer the complexity and subtlety of The Heroine’s Journey.

DJR: Why do you write what you do, and how does your work differ from others in your genre?
DS: At first I wrote to prove I could do it. Next I wrote to earn money. Both motivations, in my view, demanded that I write the best work I could, so in that respect, I have no regrets. But I write now with the awareness that an author of fiction has an obligation to inject meaning into an essentially meaningless universe. That’s our job as human beings. We are creatures of pattern recognition. It’s our chief survival trait. But a fiction writer must do it better than anyone. Hard to do. However, at this point in my life I’ve proven I can write many types of fiction and I’m at a point where I don’t need the money, really, so what keeps me putting the words down on the chance it will move a reader in a way that would not have happened otherwise. As said, hard to do. I try anyway.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Today's Wisdom from Middle Earth

“I wish it need not have happened in my time," said Frodo.

"So do I," said Gandalf, "and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

Monday, December 18, 2017

Lace and Blade 4 Review in Publishers Weekly

Lace and Blade 4 will be released Valentine's Day 2018, a delicious collection of romantic, swashbuckling, inventive, poignant fantasy stories to delight the senses. Look for interviews with the authors, coming soon. It will be available in ebook and trade paperback formats at the usual vendors.







Dave Smeds’s “The Wind’s Kiss,” ... captures not only the imagination but also the heart, leaving behind a sense of peace and longing. India Edghill’s “Pawn’s Queen” follows a young woman on the path to her own destiny, seamlessly marrying a feast for the senses with the darker whimsies of magic and duty. Marella Sands’s excellent “The Game of Lions” focuses on the strength of bonds between sisters and teammates. The ... stories evoke wonder and excitement.

--Publisher's Weekly

Friday, December 15, 2017

Marsupial Lions, Dinosaur Ticks, and Other Wonders

This ancient marsupial lion had an early version of ‘bolt-cutter’ teeth


Actual lions evolved on a different fork in the mammal genealogical tree, but Australia’s marsupial lions got their feline nickname from the size and slicing teeth of the first species named, in 1859. Thylacoleo carnifex was about as big as a lion. And its formidable teeth could cut flesh. But unlike other pointy-toothed predators, marsupial lions evolved a horizontal cutting edge. A bottom tooth stretched back along the jawline on each side, its slicer edge as long as four regular teeth. An upper tooth extended too, giving this marsupial lion a bite like a “bolt cutter,” Gillespie says.

Auroral glory from Norway. 


The setting is a summit of the Austnesfjorden fjord close to the town of Svolvear on the Lofoten islands in northern Norway. The time was early 2014. Although our Sun is nearing Solar Minimum and hence showing relatively little surface activity, holes in the upper corona have provided some nice auroral displays over the last few months.

Dinosaur tail discovered trapped in amber



Fragments of dinosaur-era bird wings have been found preserved in amber before but this is the first time part of a mummified dinosaur skeleton has been discovered, McKellar said.
The tail section belongs to a young coelurosaurian -- from the same group of dinosaurs as the predatory velociraptors and the tyrannosaurus.



Dinosaur parasites trapped in 100-million-year-old amber tell blood-sucking story



Fossilized ticks discovered trapped and preserved in amber show that these parasites sucked the blood of feathered dinosaurs almost 100 million years ago, according to a new article published in Nature Communications.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Today's Wisdom from Middle Earth


"Faithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens"

― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Monday, December 4, 2017

Holiday Ebook Giveaways

Tis the season to be enjoying free ebooks and an introduction to the great offerings at Book View Cafe.

For the month of December only, I'm offering free copies of my short story collections. You can choose the format (mobi, epub) and they're DRM-free, so you can switch reading devices; they're yours forever. Contact me at the email below and I'll send you a coupon to download the collection of your choice. Follow the instructions to side-load to your ereader.


Transfusion and Other Tales of Hope

From the ancient Indus Valley to post-apocalyptic California come fourteen tales of love, redemption, and hope…and occasional humor.
The vampire has known only evil since he was made, until an unlikely friendship reconnects him with life… Two women mourning two dead mothers tread the boundaries between grief and obsession… A ghoulish spirit haunts a refugee in Renaissance Venice… A healer discovers a dying man with the heart of a dragon on her doorstep… Two boys travel back in time to discover the true nature of Tyrannosaurus rex… A mother vampire, struggling to raise two vampire children in Hollywood, encounters her biggest challenge yet: the PTA.

A short fantasy potpourri of dragons and toads, horses and thieves, mothers and daughters, and lovers and villains, with an occasional salamander.
A magical pearl turns a young girl into warrior without pity… A dragon bound to an amulet of amber seeks the aid of a forest wizard… A bitter, crippled fairy plots revenge on her captors… A vampire stalks back alleys, seeking to turn the tables on those who prey on women… The hapless apprentice to a sorceress gets her wish fulfilled… The Arabian Nights meets Hamlet, with a feminine twist. 



Across the Azkhantian steppe, warrior women ride to battle against foes both human and supernatural. From the world of The Seven-Petaled Shield come four fantasy tales, originally published in Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Sword & Sorceress.
Prophecy links a mother and daughter in an unbreakable bond... A young woman defies tradition to become a shaman... When twins are magically divided, the survivor searches for the other half of her soul... A warrior woman discovers that to wield a magical blade dishonorably carries a heavy price.
This collection includes a previously-unpublished Introduction and a sneak peek at The Seven-Petaled Shield.

Contact me at mail@deborahjross dot com

Friday, December 1, 2017

Holiday Book Giveaways

'Tis the season when my thoughts turn in gratitude to you, my devoted readers. Your response to my work has buoyed me through many a crisis of confidence, and I continue to be awed by the way shared stories enrich and heal all our lives.

This year, I'm trying something new in addition to the usual selection of free copies of my books. As usual, postage reimbursement would be appreciated but is not required. Use the Donate button at the very bottom left It's wayyyy down there, so keep scrolling).


Purchase The Seven-Petaled Shield and I'll send you the next two volumes (Shannivar and The Heir of Khored). Send me a copy of the receipt or an image of the book (or cover on your ereader) at my email below, as well as the address to send the books (and any inscription).  If you already have all 3, I adore you! I'll give you a free copy of the ebook companion short story collection, Azkhantian Tales.



Autographed bookplates. Email me with your address and how many you'd like.




Books:

Hastur Lord (hardback)
Zandru's Forge (hardback)
A Flame in Hali (paperback or hardback)








I also have a few review copies of the hardback edition of Thunderlord. While you are not obligated to post a review, that's the general idea and would be much appreciated.



More specials will follow next year. Stay tuned!


Contact me at mail@deborahjross dot com