Friday, November 16, 2018

Short Book Reviews: Prohibition, Booze Running, and Demonic Possession in Roaring Twenties Long Island


My introduction to the work of Molly Tanzer was her novel, Creatures of Will and Temper, a 19th century urban fantasy revolving around The Portrait of Dorian Gray, and demonic possession. Creatures of Want and Ruin takes place in the Roaring Twenties on Long Island, New York. The common thread between the two books is the role of demons controlling human lives. Demons take possession of people who freely agree to the arrangement, granting their hosts long life, wealth, beauty, or in this case the ability to detect falsehoods and to compel others to tell the truth. In exchange demons receive various experiences that can come about only through physical incarnation. Some demons are benign, but others are highly malevolent. Demons pass summoning instructions through generations or encoded in children’s books, as is the case here.

In this story two women from very different walks of life encounter unsettling changes in the sleepy community of Amityville. (The Amityville Horror, it should be said, lies decades in the future and does not play a part in this story.) One of the women is a boat woman engaged in the moonshine smuggling trade during Prohibition. The other is the wife of a newly wealthy Gatsby type of social idler who finds herself increasingly alienated from her husband and his party loving, booze zwilling friends. Spooky things are afoot: illegal liquor that causes most people to hallucinate. a preacher who gathers bigger and bigger crowds, bent on ridding their community of immigrants and anyone who isn't a white Protestant. And creepiest of all, slimy fungus growths that appear and spread.

As in the novel the characters are engaging and the story moves right along. The creepiness grows, step by Lovecraftian step. Just when you think nothing more terrible could happen, something else goes disastrously wrong. Stopping the white nationalist mob and defeating the fungus-monster necessitate finding out the truth, which is where the bargain with the demon comes in. There are moments of sweetness, of courage, and of terrible but necessary choices. I loved every page of it and I'm eagerly looking forward to Tanzer’s next.

The usual disclaimer: I received a review copy of this book, but no one bribed me to say anything about it.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Sword and Sorceress 33 Author Interviews: Melissa Mead


Enter a wondrous universe…the latest volume of Sword and Sorceress, featuring stories from new and seasoned authors. Herein you will find tales of fantasy with strong female characters, with some version of either martial skill or magic. Not all the protagonists will be human, and sometimes the magic will take highly original forms, but the emotional satisfaction in each story and in the anthology as a whole, remains true to the original vision. The release date will be November 2, 2018.




Deborah J. Ross: Tell us a little about yourself.  How did you come to be a writer?
Melissa Mead:  I don't remember when I wasn't telling stories, even before I could write them.
My first attempt to write a story for publication actually came about when my then-husband suggested that I write a story for Sword and Sorceress, but they weren't open to general submissions at that time. My first submissions (and rejections) were in 1997. My first publication was in The First Line, in 1999.

DJR: What inspired your story in Sword and Sorceress 33?
Mm: Thinking that it's kinda creepy how so many girls in fairy tales end up marrying "Prince Charming" without knowing anything about him, or him knowing anything about her. And why WOULD the rulers of a kingdom need to invite every eligible maiden in the kingdom to a ball to get the heir to the throne married off, anyway?

DJR: What authors have most influenced your writing?  What about them do you find inspiring?
Mm: Gosh, probably more than I realize. I wish I had Terry Pratchett's wisdom and humor, Robin McKinley's gift for making familiar fairy tales come alive in new ways, and Lois McMaster Bujold's general brilliance. She writes the way I wish I did. And Gail Carson Levine inspires me not only with her work, but the wise and kind advice she gives to new writers in her blog. I'm sure I'm missing many more.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Love and Death: Would You Like a Little Romance with Your Action?

Crossing genres is hot business these days: science fiction mysteries, paranormal romance, romantic thrillers, Jane Austen with horror, steampunk love stories, you name it. A certain amount of this mixing-and-matching is marketing. Publishers are always looking for something that is both new and "just like the last bestseller." An easy way to do this is to take standard elements from successful genres and combine them.

As a reader, I've always enjoyed a little tenderness and a tantalizing hint of erotic attraction in even the most technologically-based space fiction. For me, fantasy cries out for a love story, a meeting of hearts as well as passion. As a writer, however, it behooves me to understand why romance enhances the overall story so that I can use it to its best advantage.

By romance, I mean a plot thread that involves two (or sometimes more) characters coming to understand and care deeply about one another, usually but not necessarily with some degree of sexual attraction. This is in distinction to Romance, which (a) involves a structured formula of plot elements -- attraction, misunderstanding and division, reconciliation; (b) must be the central element of the story; (c) has rules about gender, exclusivity and, depending on the market, the necessity or limitations on sexual interactions. These expectations create a specific, consistent reader experience, which is a good thing in that it is reliable. However, the themes of love and connection, of affection and loyalty, of understanding, acceptance and sacrifice, are far bigger.

In my own reading and writing, I prefer the widest definition of "love story."

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Monday, November 5, 2018

Sword and Sorceress 33 Author Interviews: Jennifer Linnea


Enter a wondrous universe…the latest volume of Sword and Sorceress, featuring stories from new and seasoned authors. Herein you will find tales of fantasy with strong female characters, with some version of either martial skill or magic. Not all the protagonists will be human, and sometimes the magic will take highly original forms, but the emotional satisfaction in each story and in the anthology as a whole, remains true to the original vision. The release date will be November 2, 2018.



Deborah J. Ross: How does your writing process work?
Jennifer Linnea: I have a day job, so I write for a few hours every morning before work. Sometimes I write in coffee shops, alone or with other writers, but most of the time I write in my home office. It’s a tiny room decorated with images from stories that have inspired me throughout my life – Jim Henson’s Labyrinth and Dark Crystal, R.A. Salvatore’s Drizzt novels, and Star Wars, to name a few. I also keep a shelf with my favorite speculative fiction novels, and another with books about writing. Everything else is pretty loose: some days I compose on a computer, other times I write longhand; sometimes I start with a writing exercise or journalling, sometimes I jump right in. But there’s always tea. Lots of tea in iron teapots and gaiwans and mugs with tigers on them. And once in a while, if I’m trying to finish a project, I set aside an entire day. Days spent writing are some of my favorite days. 

DJR: What advice would you give an aspiring writer? 
JL: Find people who can critique your work, and whose work you can critique. If the critiques all say the same thing – listen! Then rewrite. It will make your writing better, and help you self-correct in time. As a beginning writer, I thought a story had to be working in the first draft or it was a failure, but that’s not true. Rewriting critiqued manuscripts and helping other writers improve theirs was how I went from aspiring writer to published writer. (Incidentally, “The Secret Army” was critiqued by about six people and then rewritten into the draft I submitted to Sword and Sorceress.)

Friday, November 2, 2018

Short Book Reviews: When World-Building Isn't Enough

Revenant Gun by Yoon Ha Lee is the third and last volume of the trilogy, “Machineries of Empire,” that began with Ninefox Gambit and Raven Stratagem. I absolutely loved the first two books with the concept of a space-faring empire based on a mathematically derived calendar. It tickled my geeky self that to see mathematicians highly valued in a society. It struck me as weird and wonderful that a revolution could happen through the means of instituting a new calendar. In this universe exotic effects make space flight and many other things — including immortality — possible, and these effects are in turn the result of the way human beings conceptualize time. (Of course everyone is not on the same page about which calendar is the correct one.) I loved the way this creative intersection of mathematics and physics and culture interacted with the tendency of humans to form armies on opposing sides. I was intrigued, if sometimes a bit appalled, by the Immolation Fox, Shuos Jedao, a brilliant general who committed unspeakable atrocities many hundreds of years ago and whose physical remains are incarcerated in something called a black cradle but whose mind now occupies the body of a fairly ordinary woman in the soldier caste.

“Which one are you?” it asked Jedao-Cheris-whoever.

“Whoever I need to be,” Jedao-Cheris-whoever said. Their eyes were sad. “I used to be one person. I was a Kel. Now I have fragments of a dead man in my head.”

Revenant Gun begins with Jedao awakening in a body much older than his self-perceived age and quite ignorant of recent history, as well as all the things that he supposedly knows about military strategy. To my disappointment I found that the magic had gone out of the story arc. The gimmick of space flight by via calendrical manipulation had lost its luster, and the characters and their interactions seemed artificial and forced. There is one extremely nifty revelation about halfway through the book, which I won't say reveal because it’s a major spoiler. Suffice it to say that even though I found this on a par with the wacky and delightful inventiveness of the world-building in the first two books, it was not enough to sustain my interest through this climactic volume. I really wanted to see the revelation played out in all its consequences and implications, and was sadly disappointed.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Scrub Jay Cuteness




Scrub jays, despite the humdrum name, are wonderful birds, smart, fearless, and opinionated. Plus, beautiful blue plumage. My older daughter, an avid bird-watcher, caught this fine fellow in our back yard.




Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Autumn 2018 Newsletter

Deborah's Autumn 2018 Newsletter (from the redwoods)

(to view or subscribe, go here:

It’s a beautiful autumn here in the redwoods, a time of reflection and appreciation for the richness of life. (This is a longish letter, so look for the three dots on the lower left that mean [More].)


Publishing News

I’ve begun the process of bringing out print editions of my short fiction collections, previously available only as ebooks.

With my usual trepidation, I set up an account, carefully noted the code for the discount, and uploaded the files. To my dismay, I got a series of error messages in red letters. The result was overwhelming paralysis. It was hard enough to get this far and make all these check-the-box decisions, but then to be told the this or the that didn’t meet their requirements and the results would be dreadful, was more than I could cope with. I saved the draft, signed off, and binge-watched Grey’s Anatomy for the evening. The next day I returned to the fray, determined to “do science” and investigate just what they meant by “inferior results.” I ordered a proof copy.

 







The proof arrived promptly. All the aspects the website got so upset about turned out just as polished and crisp as anything out of a traditional publisher. The interior in particular is elegant and easy to read. With the matte cover finish, the book has an exquisite “hand feel.”

Plus…I did it myself. Well, with a lot of help from my friends, which is why you’ll see the BVC logo on cover and interior. Plus…you can order it through your favorite bookstore as well as online vendors. Or here, through the BVC links. Isn’t that nifty?

Over the next months, moving at the speed of volunteers, I plan to release print editions of my other collections. I have some exciting brand-new projects in the works, too, and those will come out in print and electronic editions simultaneously.

Read more about my adventure here.

A Few Thoughts on Technology and Transitions


In my personal life, my younger daughter graduated from medical school in May, which occasioned a cross-country trip for the rest of the family to celebrate with her. She’s begun her residency in Family Medicine at a (more or less) local hospital but has warned me that I likely won’t see her for the next 3 years. It’s always amazing and heartening how much inspiration we can draw from the next generation, whether they are our own children or someone else’s. My daughter dragged me, kicking and screaming, into the world of social media, into getting my first stupidphone, and into video chatting (during her medical school years). Now these technologies are part of my everyday and work life. I think it’s good to keep learning new things, to use our minds and bodies in different ways. One of the challenges of these new computer-based technologies is that they require us to use different methods of thought. The transition, for example, from keyboard-based word processing programs (like WordStar for DOS, the one I first used) to graphics-based (Windows) programs entailed a different logic and hand coordination. And both of them are a far cry from the old typewriter.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Sword and Sorceress 33 Author Interviews: Pauline J. Alama


Enter a wondrous universe…the latest volume of Sword and Sorceress, featuring stories from new and seasoned authors. Herein you will find tales of fantasy with strong female characters, with some version of either martial skill or magic. Not all the protagonists will be human, and sometimes the magic will take highly original forms, but the emotional satisfaction in each story and in the anthology as a whole, remains true to the original vision. The release date will be November 2, 2018.



Deborah J. Ross: Tell us a little about yourself.  How did you come to be a writer?
Pauline J. Alama: I had great teachers.  My second-grade teacher, Mrs. Dorothy Mutch, assigned a lot of creative writing, which led me to the life-changing discovery that writing stories was like playing pretend, except better, because I got to keep my pretend game, show it to other people, sometimes even see it light them up the way it lit me up to create it. What could be better than that?

DJR: What inspired your story in Sword and Sorceress 33?
PJA: I love the ocean, so I decided that was where my sword-and-sorcery buddies Ursula and Isabeau should go next. I think I also had in mind a poem by James Joyce that I sort of vaguely remembered, “I Hear an Army,” with images of riders coming up out of the sea. Now I look back at the poem and I think I may have misunderstood it as well as misremembering it, but that’s all right: I gathered what I needed from it, like a bee from a flower. Sometimes only half-remembering a source is best for creativity. The landscape of the story is partly Rhode Island, where I spent some time musing over different forms of seaweed, and partly Normandy, where I visited Arromanches, one of the D-Day beaches, walking barefoot in the sand beside my history teacher husband, listening to him talk about a very different sort of army coming out of the sea.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

CITADELS OF DARKOVER Table of Contents



I've completed the lineup for the next Darkover anthology, Citadels of Darkover, and here it is, a banquet of delicious stories featuring fortresses of the heart as well as those constructed of stone. Release date is next May, but I'll be posting author interviews and the cover reveal as we go along.


DANCING LESSONS
By Evey Brett
SACRIFICE
By Steven Harper
BANSHEE CRY
By Marella Sands
THE KATANA MATRIX
By Lillian Csernica
SIEGE
By Diana L. Paxson
SEA-CASTLE
By Leslie Fish
FIRE STORM
By Jane M. H. Bigelow
THE DRAGON HUNTER
By Robin Rowland
FISH NOR FOWL
By Rebecca Fox
DARK AS DAWN
By Robin Wayne Bailey
CITADEL OF FEAR
By Barb Caffrey
THE JUDGMENT OF WIDOWS
By Shariann Lewitt

Friday, October 26, 2018

Guest Blog: Tara Gilboy on Why Adults Should Read Middle Grade Novels

Please welcome Tara Gilboy, a Middle Grade author whose novel, Unwritten, was released on October 16*. My review of it is here. Stay tuned for her upcoming blog post on writing for Middle Grades, too!




Why Adults Should Read Middle Grade Novels
by Tara Gilboy

I don’t read adult books.

Most people give me strange looks when I say this. I’m an author, after all.  And a grown up. Why wouldn’t I want to read adult books?

I think my friends and family assume it’s a phase. They are always trying to give me books after they’ve finished them. This one will convince you to read adult books again. Nope.

Now don’t get me wrong: there are many adult books I like. I have a few favorites, and from time to time, I will reread them. I love Jane Austen, Stephen King, and Amy Tan. Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian is a favorite, as is Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See. It’s not that I think there is anything wrong with adult books. It’s just that I like middle grade books better.

As I sat down to write this blog post, I realized I’d never really considered closely why I prefer middle grade over adult novels. Whenever anyone asked me, I’d always given the easy answer: “well, it’s because I write them.” (Which seems like the very responsible, professional, “adult” answer.) Or even worse: “ I don’t know. I just like them better.”

But middle grade books are important. For children, yes. But for adults too.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Herpes, PTSD, Organ Transplant Rejection, and Stars: Short Science Articles

How to make organ transplants last: New approaches try to train the body to welcome the replacement parts

A discussion of various strategies to prevent rejection in transplanted organs: 

Because transplanted skin has a high likelihood of provoking an immune attack, researchers were skeptical that faces or extremities could be transplanted, Cameron says. But people who have gotten face and hand transplants have needed surprisingly few drugs to minimize rejection. A recipient gets a bit of a donor’s immune system, in the form of blood-producing bone marrow stem cells within the donor’s jaw, hand or arm bones.

No one knows which, if any, of these approaches will free transplant recipients to live without fear of rejection. None of the techniques has been vetted enough yet, and none has worked for everyone, Luo points out. Each patient may need a different strategy or a combination of rejection-soothing therapies. Researchers need to push ahead on all fronts and not be afraid to explore other strategies, she says: At this stage of research, “we just cannot be … fixated on one idea.”



The Cat's Eye Nebula



Cat's Eye Nebula (NGC 6543) is one of the best known planetary nebulae in the sky. Planetary nebulae have long been appreciated as a final phase in the life of a sun-like star. But only more recently have some planetaries been found to have halos like this one, likely formed of material shrugged off during earlier active episodes in the star's evolution. While the planetary nebula phase is thought to last for around 10,000 years, astronomers estimate the outer filamentary portions of this halo to be 50,000 to 90,000 years old.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Sword and Sorceress 33 Author Interviews: Margaret L. Carter

Enter a wondrous universe…the latest volume of Sword and Sorceress, featuring stories from new and seasoned authors. Herein you will find tales of fantasy with strong female characters, with some version of either martial skill or magic. Not all the protagonists will be human, and sometimes the magic will take highly original forms, but the emotional satisfaction in each story and in the anthology as a whole, remains true to the original vision. The release date will be November 2, 2018.



Deborah J. Ross: Tell us a little about yourself.  How did you come to be a writer?
Margaret L. Carter: Reading Dracula at the age of twelve lured me into classic horror, then fantasy and “soft” science fiction. Especially in the horror genre, I read everything I could find, mainly in the public library, because I didn’t have much money for books at that age. I started writing to get more of the kinds of stories I wanted to read. I particularly wanted fiction sympathetic to or from the viewpoint of the “monster.” Those stories were hard to find in the 1960s, so I created my own. My first publications, in my early twenties, were a pair of horror anthologies I edited, Curse of the Undead and Demon Lovers and Strange Seductions (which go to show how much easier it was to break into mass market paperback at that time than it is now). Soon afterward, I wrote a book on vampirism in literature, which was released by an obscure small press, the first non-subsidy publisher I could find to accept it, not a good experience overall. My first professional fiction sale was a story in a Marion Zimmer Bradley anthology, Free Amazons of Darkover!

Friday, October 19, 2018

No Book Review Today, So Here Are Some Stars...


Globular star clusters are collections of stars arranged in a roughly spherical shape because they're so tightly bound by gravity. They're some of the oldest astronomical objects known.





The dense globular cluster M15 is one of about 170 globular star clusters that still roam the halo of the Milky Way and is about 13 billion years old. Hubble-based measurements of the increasing velocities of M15's central stars are evidence that a massive black hole resides at the center of dense globular cluster M15.

Image Credit & CopyrightBernhard Hubl (CEDIC)

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Auntie Deborah on Fanfic and Creativity

A young writer asks, "Will writing fanfic ruin my creativity? Is it a good place to start my writing career?"

Auntie Deborah answers:

Your question reminds me of a panel I was on some years ago, all of us pro writers with significant trad pub cred, and all of us appreciating the role of fanfic (both the fanfic we wrote, read, and was about our own work). I think fanfic is neither here nor there in terms of being a career path on its own. I would never instruct an aspiring writer to write fanfic instead of original work. At the same time, I would never tell a young writer to not write fanfic if that is what they really want to do. (Just don’t try to sell it or you will run afoul of the copyright holder’s attorneys!)

At its best, fanfic is the equivalent a love letter to the creators of the world and characters. It arises from the joy you feel in that particular world. But more than that, it’s a way to begin writing, to get in touch with that inner wellspring of words and scenes and characters. The important thing is to write and write and write until you find your own stories. That may mean following the fanfic plot lines as they morph into something quite different from the original (be sure to file all the serial numbers off) or setting aside fanfic in favor of something that’s original from the onset.

As for ruining creativity, I think that’s nonsense. No one really understands what that is, anyway. Most stories are riffs on others, perhaps dreams based on childhood bedtime stories, bits of visual imagery, ways other works have stayed with us and become mushed up in different combinations in our minds. I think the most important way to cultivate creativity is to let your imagination follow what delights you. Follow your passion, as Joseph Campbell advised. If that’s into the world of Star Trek or Harry Potter or The Lord of the Rings, just notice what parts are the most wonderful to you. Pay attention to what’s the coolest thing that might happen next — that’s where your creativity will be most nourished and where you will discover your authentic voice.

Thanks to Nina Kiriki Hoffman for the photo.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Sword and Sorceress 33 Author Interviews: Evey Brett


Enter a wondrous universe…the latest volume of Sword and Sorceress featuring stories from new and seasoned authors. Herein you will find tales of fantasy with strong female characters, with some version of either martial skill or magic. Not all the protagonists will be human, and sometimes the magic will take highly original forms, but the emotional satisfaction in each story and in the anthology as a whole, remains true to the original vision. The release date will be November 2, 2018.




Deborah J. Ross: Tell us a little about yourself.  How did you come to be a writer?
Evey Brett: I wrote stories when I was a kid and through high school, then I went to music school and stopped reading or writing anything that wasn’t college-related. Toward the end of my degree, I was having a hard time with music and needed a different creative outlet, so I started writing a bit of fan fiction. My first trunk novel started as a Star Trek TNG/DS9 crossover. I soon realized that would never sell, so I transposed the plot into a fantasy world and went to the library for writing books so I could learn how to write better. I took some community college classes with some very good writing teachers, and got into Clarion, and eventually started selling stories.

DJR: What inspired your story in Sword and Sorceress 33?
EB: I actually wrote this story for a different editor who asked for something from me but eventually turned it down. Since then it’s been through a couple overhauls and I’m glad it found a home.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Author Interview: Tara Gilboy


Please welcome Tara Gilboy, a Middle Grade author whose novel, Unwritten, comes out on October 16*. My review of it is here. Stay tuned for her upcoming blog post on writing for Middle Grades, too!

Deborah J. Ross: Tell us a little about yourself.  How did you come to be a writer?
Tara Gilboy: I am, first and foremost, a reader. Books and stories have always been one of the most important things in my life, and I’ve wanted to write pretty much since I learned to read. I still have some of the stories I wrote in elementary school. My mom recently gave me a letter I wrote to a publisher when I was in third grade, asking if I could write books for their series. (Apparently she never mailed it!) Unfortunately, until I was in my twenties, I had never actually met a writer, and so writing started to seem like this kind of “impossible dream.” Then in college, I took some creative writing classes, published a couple short stories, and worked as an editor at a literary journal, and I realized: “Hey, I can really do this!” I completed my MFA in creative writing at the University of British Columbia, which ended up being very humbling and also one of the most formative experiences of my writing life.


DJR: What led you to write MG and how is it different from YA or adult fantasy?
TG: Even though I have always loved children’s books and read tons of middle grade (and actually my first ventures into writing were always in middle grade, which is what I wrote for fun), when I was in college and started seriously pursuing writing, I focused on adult fiction. I am embarrassed to admit that I was a bit of a literary snob, and I had these really pretentious ideas about writing. My sense of story was virtually nonexistent, I sneered at plot, and I was writing a lot of “purple prose,” these kind of overwritten sentences, way too much description and exposition. But a lot of my stories left me feeling cold. I wasn’t in love with the stories and characters. I remember in my first year of my MFA at UBC, I was taking a novel-writing workshop and working on an adult novel that was this really serious historical piece about a marriage and a woman finding herself within her marriage. I was really struggling with it and couldn’t wait for the workshop to be over so I never had to look at the novel again. At the same time, I was taking a class on writing children’s books and reading all these amazing middle grade novels and having wonderful class discussions about them, and I realized that I was happiest when I was writing these kinds of stories. At the end of the first year, I changed my thesis genre and never looked back.

I think middle grade differs from adult fantasy (and to some extent, YA), in that it is really condensed into its essential elements – there is no room to digress or go off on tangents or you risk losing your reader. Middle grade readers have great eyes for what actually needs to be there in the text, and when I am writing middle grade, I am ruthless about cutting. I am also very careful about structure and pacing when I am revising. I want to keep the reader turning pages without making things feel too rushed. The focus is always on telling a good story, which is what I love so much about these books. I also think middle grade tends to look inward, where characters really make sense of their own identities, who they are, whereas in YA, the books tend to look outward, with the main characters finding their place in the world, which makes sense, since YA readers are often on the cusp of leaving home in just a few short years.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Author Interview: Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff on The Antiquities Hunter


From New York Times bestselling author Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff, a new private detective series featuring Gina “Tinkerbell” Miyoko, who goes undercover in the Mexican jungle to hunt down a ring of thieves responsible for looting pre-Columbian archaeology sites. Here I chat with Maya about her latest book.

Deborah J. Ross: How did you come up with Gina S. Miyoko?

Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff: I honestly don’t remember except that she arose from a dream I had, the plot of which (yes, my dreams often have plots) I don’t remember. I knew I wanted to write her as the protagonist of a mystery novel, and I knew I wanted her to be different from the female P.I.s I’d read. I love mystery and crime fiction but I noticed that all the female protagonists were alienated and broken and party to dysfunctional relationships. I wanted Gina to be flawed and have enough pain in her life to be relatable, but I also wanted her to be part of a very functional, if quirky family and support network. Among the Japanese names I was considering, Gina Suzu Miyoko meant, “Silver Bell Temple;” Tinkerbell became an inevitable nickname. And her personality just grew out of that.

DR: And Russian Orthodox witches?

MKB: Around the time I was developing Gina and the characters that would surround her, I was reading a book entitled THE BATHHOUSE AT MIDNIGHT: An Historical Survey of Magic and Divination in Russia (WF Ryan). I was reading it because the novel I was working on at the time (MAGIC TIME: ANGELFIRE, from Harper-Voyager) had a Russian ex-pat as one of the central characters. Okay, and also I’m Russian-Polish on my father’s side and have been fascinated with the folklore and history of Slavic culture since I was a child. Probably more so because my grandmother was so adamant that I not be taught anything about the Old Country but be brought up thoroughly American. In any event, the book sparked the idea that I wanted Gina’s mother to be Russian and fascinated by arcana. She was originally going to be a psychologist, but by the time I started writing the book that became THE ANTIQUITIES HUNTER, she had morphed into a cultural anthropologist and folklorist.

As tends to happen with these things, as I began to write the characters, they essentially told me who they were.  I’m sure you know the feeling—as if the character is inside your head whispering sweet somethings to your Muse.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Sword and Sorceress 33 Author Interviews: Lorie Calkins


Enter a wondrous universe…the latest volume of Sword and Sorceress, featuring stories from new and seasoned authors. Herein you will find tales of fantasy with strong female characters, with some version of either martial skill or magic. Not all the protagonists will be human, and sometimes the magic will take highly original forms, but the emotional satisfaction in each story and in the anthology as a whole, remains true to the original vision. The release date will be November 2, 2018.



Deborah J. Ross: Tell us a little about yourself. How did you come to be a writer?
Lorie Calkins: I’ve been writing since I was about three. I would scribble in a blank notebook, trying to make lines that looked like my parents’ handwriting.Then I’d “read” it back and tell my stuffed animals what the “story” said. Sure wish I had recorded those tales in a more reproducible manner. My stuffed animals thought they were Really Good.
The writing comes pretty easily for me, actually. The two things that are absolute hell for me are determining whether the stuff I wrote is worth showing to anyone,and trying to sell it.

 DJR: What inspired your story in Sword and Sorceress 33?
 LC: I like to turn things inside out and see what color the lining is. You never know what you’ll find. Fairy tales are fun like that, because everyone already thinks they know how the story goes.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Short Book Reviews: Imagination as a Super Power


More wonderful Middle Grade reading...
The Marvelous Adventures of Gwendolyn Gray, by B. A. Williamson (Jolly Fish) 

This delightful adventure crosses worlds of imagination with a singularly creative young heroine. At times the settings reminded me of A Wrinkle in Time, Kidnapped, Peter Pan, and The Never-Ending Story, to name a few. Humor tempers the seriously creepy villains, and the dramatic story moves right along with more than its share of twists and turns. Gwendolyn Gray is not only a resourceful and sympathetic heroine, but someone I would have loved to play with as a child. My only reservation about the book concerns the audience, since Gwendolyn is adolescent, but the length of the book and the complexity of the world place it more in the YA/teen niche. Regardless, I look forward to more imagination-fueled adventures.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Today's Moment of Art




 Mountain and Falls, California, by Albertus Del Orient Browere (1814 – 1887)

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

NORTHLIGHT on sale, this week only!



 October 2-8, 2018, Nortlight in multi-format ebook edition from Book View Cafe for only $1.50.

She’s a Ranger, a wild and savvy knife-fighter, determined to get help in finding her partner who’s lost on the treacherous northern border. He’s a scholar who sees visions, eager to escape the confines of city life and the shadow of his charismatic mother. With the assassination of a beloved leader and the city in turmoil, the two have only each other to turn to. What begins as a rescue mission turns deadly as together they unravel the secret that lies beneath Laurea’s idyllic surface.

REVIEWS
“A beautifully constructed fantasy with characters who grow and mature before the reader’s eyes and who are engagingly human while being fantastically heroic. Her writing flows and the point of view switches are interesting and exciting. This book is a keeper.” — Rickey Mallory, Affair de Coeur
“A style and manner reminiscent of McCaffrey’s Crystal Singer series.” — The Bookwatch
“An unusual saga that starts slowly but builds to a startling climax.” — Sherry S. Hoy, Kliatt
“Solid characters and a well-designed world make for good reading.” — Philadelphia Press
“The plot moves briskly from crisis in Laureal to capture by the Norther barbarians to discovery of the true meaning of the Northlight of the title, with ample foreshadowing from the mysterious spooky something in the air of the frontier. And the culmination quite satisfactorily evokes the sense of wonder.” –Tom Easton, Analog

Monday, October 1, 2018

Sword and Sorceress 33 Author Interviews: Jessie Eaker


Enter a wondrous universe…the latest volume of Sword and Sorceress, featuring stories from new and seasoned authors. Herein you will find tales of fantasy with strong female characters, with some version of either martial skill or magic. Not all the protagonists will be human, and sometimes the magic will take highly original forms, but the emotional satisfaction in each story and in the anthology as a whole, remains true to the original vision. The release date will be November 2, 2018.




Deborah J. Ross: Tell us a little about yourself.  How did you come to be a writer?
Jessie Eaker: When I was in elementary school, I would painstakingly write out my thoughts and stories, along with accompanying illustrations, and keep them in a special binder which I fantasized about publishing.  I loved making up stories about rockets, robots and dragons.  (I didn't much care for unicorns--they were too hard to draw.)  When I hit middle school and on into high school, I entered what I now consider my great input phase--I read everything I could get my hands on.  And out of that I began to craft my first stories.  But as fate would have it, one of my high school English teachers gave a very harsh criticism of one of my works.   I was devastated--my fantasy of being published evaporating in a moment.  But then I got angry.  My story couldn't be that bad.  I resolved right then and there that I was going to prove to that I could be a published author.   Of course, it took me another fifteen years to actually develop enough to pull it off.

DJR: What inspired your story in Sword and Sorceress 33?
JE: "All In a Name" was inspired by my youngest daughter's pregnancy and their search for a suitable name for the baby.While they offered us hints as to what it might be, she and her husband had decided they would keep the name secret until the baby was born.  It nearly drove us crazy not knowing and we feared it would be some off-the-wall name that would permanently scar the child. 

Friday, September 28, 2018

Short Book Reviews: Magic, Medicine, and PTSD


Witchmark, by C. L. Polk (Tor) is one of the most unusual and compelling love stories I’ve read this year. The setting, very much like England in the throes of national PTSD following the First World War, a magic-yielding aristocracy, a conflicted hero, and so forth, are familiar enough to be recognizable, yet integrated into a freshly imagined world.

A brutal war has dragged on to end in a draconian peace. Men returning from the front are all too often shattered in mind as well as body, although the effects of their trauma are poorly understood. In our own world, WW I veterans were said to suffer from “battle stress” or “shell shock,” and both were associated with cowardice or lack of moral strength. In this world, however, some of them carry a spiritual darkness within them, visible only to those with magical sight. One such is our hero, working as a physician under an assumed name to escape the enslavement of being a “second-class” magician. He alone makes a connection between the dark presence and the reports of his patients that a mysterious he wants them to murder their loved ones. Creating a metaphor for dissociation born out of guilt and trauma is one of the things I love about fantasy. In this case the darkness is also a real, separate thing, related to the retaliation plotted by the losing side in the war, but again, I found myself wondering at the parallels between Polk’s vengeful, decimated vanquished and the rise of the Nazi Party following the Treaty of Versailles. One of the hallmarks of thoughtful fantasy is how it invites us to look at our own world, our own lives, through new perspectives.

Witchmark, however, is not at all a diatribe about the root causes of war. It’s an intensely personal story of a man who, fleeing one sort of persecution (the exploitation of his magical talents), dedicates himself to healing and then, without meaning to, gets caught up in increasingly larger crises. Through this all, he forges a connection-of-the-heart with a man of another race, an Amaranthine, this world’s version of Fae. Like Fae, they are immortal or nearly so, and are said to be incapable to loving as humans do. All of this makes the slowly evolving love story between Miles Singer and Tristan Hunter both tender and bittersweet.

The book has a lot of different elements, from the murder mystery that launches the action to the politics of the hospital where Miles works, to the aristocratic magic-wielders who subjugate those of lesser talents, to the international politics, to the bicycles criss-crossing the city. It would all be too much in the hands of a less skillful author, but Polk introduces each aspect of the setting, characters, traditions, and drama in such an easy, natural fashion, they all fit effortlessly.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

My Story in It Happened at the Ball

My story, "A Borrowed Heart," appears in the new anthology, It Happened at the Ball, edited by Sherwood Smith.

Here's the skinny:

The pleasure of your company is requested.

Graceful feet tracing courtly steps.
Eyes behind jeweled masks meeting across a room of twirling dancers.
Gloved hands touching fleetingly—or gripping swords...

Anything can happen at a ball.

You are invited to enjoy these stories of fancy and fantasy from thirteen authors, framed in the splendor and elegance of a ballroom. Be it at a house party for diplomats and thieves, or Almacks in a side-universe in which the Patronesses have magic, or a medieval festival just after the plague years ...

Prepare to be swept into the enchantment of the dance!


"A Borrowed Heart" first appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (Sept/Oct 2011), and was later reprinted in their Russian-language "Best of" magazine (2012). It also appears in my collection, Transfusion and Other Tales of Hope (2015).



You can buy the ebook at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Apple/ITunes. A print edition is coming soon.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Sword and Sorceress 33 Author Interviews: M P Erickson


Enter a wondrous universe…the latest volume of Sword and Sorceress, featuring stories from new and seasoned authors. Herein you will find tales of fantasy with strong female characters, with some version of either martial skill or magic. Not all the protagonists will be human, and sometimes the magic will take highly original forms, but the emotional satisfaction in each story and in the anthology as a whole, remains true to the original vision. The release date will be November 2, 2018.




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

M P Ericson: I've been writing stories since I could hold a crayon. Somewhere I still have one I wrote when I was four. Also I was read to a lot, and taught myself to read. There were always plenty of books around. My grandmother owned a bookshop, and I pretty much lived there as a young child. I read everything I could reach. It was my dream to get my own stories up on the shelves with all the others.


DJR: What inspired your story in Sword and Sorceress 33?

MPE: I'd written a story from Katti's point of view (Crossing the Dead Line) and got interested in the relationship between her and Elyse. I've studied law and trained in martial arts, so exploring the contrast between the two was fun. Liane turned up at the practice ring, and the story grew from there.


DJR: What authors have most influenced your writing?  What about them do you find inspiring?

MPE: Tolkien is my biggest influence – I read The Lord of the Rings as a child, and it blew me away. The sense of a new world taking shape in the ruins of an old one resonated with me. I grew up in Sweden, where Viking Age rune stones and Bronze Age rock carvings are part of the landscape. Most of my stories have traces of an older and deeper story somewhere in the background, which the characters aren't quite aware of.

Astrid Lindgren and Maria Gripe inspire me with their wistful tone and clarity of style. PG Wodehouse and Terry Pratchett with their offbeat humour and startling use of language. And Jane Austen with her mischievous wit. Those are the other main influences. But I have a magpie mind, I pick things up from all over the place.


DJR: Why do you write what you do, and how does your work differ from others in your genre?

MPE: I'm usually trying to capture an idea. Mood and tone are important to me, like in music or art. Perhaps there's an intensity in my work that's a bit different to most. A mythic quality, if you like. Being a migrant has probably affected me as well. My characters tend to be on the move, travellers in one sense or another. And I'm interested in relationships between people, what they see in each other and how that reflects themselves. Theodora Goss may be the closest in the genre. I'm a great admirer of hers.


DJR: How does your writing process work?

MPE: I start with an image. Something that pings the story circuits at the back of my mind. Then a character shows up, and then an opening line. That's when I start writing. Usually by the time I get to the end of the first page I know what's coming next, and then I carry on until I find the ending. If I go completely off the rails, I start a fresh draft and seldom look back. So by the time I have a complete draft I'm pretty much where I want to be. Revisions tend to be light. Sometimes I realise I'm missing a scene, or have one in the wrong place. Apart from that it's mostly tidying up, correcting typos and so forth.


DJR: What have you written recently? What lies ahead?

MPE: I wrote an underwater story about a shark recently (At the Edge of the Watching Deep), which was interesting. I've got some novel ideas brewing as well. I'd love to get back to the Battlehawk series.


DJR: What advice would you give an aspiring writer?

MPE:  Find your own process. There's so much great advice out there, but most of it probably won't work for you. That's OK. Just keep writing your own stories, and trust them to reach the right readers eventually. And do have an actual real life as well. Everything you experience becomes rich material for fiction, sometimes in the most unexpected ways.


M P Ericson lives on the edge of a moor in Yorkshire, England, with an assortment of spiders and mice. Her stories have been published in magazines and anthologies all over the world.