Monday, March 1, 2021

[shameless self-promotion] Tanja Nathanael Reviews Collaborators

 Here's what literary scholar Tanja Nathanael says about Collaborators:

A deeply sympathetic portrayal from my friend and author Deborah J. Ross of the havoc that ensues when a damaged Earth ship arrives on an alien world. Misunderstandings and tragedies occur on both sides as a result of language and cultural differences. Most especially convincing, the Bandari--the feline gender fluid native population of the planet--are deftly constructed in terms of their biological, emotional, intellectual, and political motives. Like all good #scifibooks , Collaborators engages with the ethics of alien encounters and the consequences of making assumptions based on one's own limited world view.

Happy author smile!

Buying information:

Amazon (ebook and trade paperback) 

B & N (ebook, trade paperback, and hardcover/laminated cover) 


Ingram: (for your local bookstore orders)

Trade paperback: 9781952589003

Hardcover/dust jacket: 9781952589027

Also available from GooglePlay, Apple, and Overdrive

Friday, February 26, 2021

Short Book Reviews: Magical Hands as a Tool of Racial Justice

Trouble the Saints
, by Alaya Dawn Johnson (Tor)

The core of the magic in this edgy, often disturbing fantasy is that the anguish of slaves was so deep, so powerful, that it created a spell persisting to the modern age. This takes the form of bespelled hands – hands that can detect a person’s darkest secrets, hands that can tell the future – and hands that crave justice. In 1940s New York, the descendants of those slaves, men and women gifted with magical hands, often end up on the wrong side of the law. Phyllis, the first of these characters, is an enforcer for a white mobster, his “avenging angel.” Her best friend, Tamara, dances with a snake and tells fortunes at the mobster’s night club. And Dev, who loves them both, is a bartender by night and police informant by day. But someone has been targeting Blacks and harvesting their hands…

Trouble the Saints is a difficult book to describe. It’s not an easy or comfortable read, but it is an important book, fearlessly delving into issues of racism, injustice, murder, greed, and forgiveness.


Monday, February 22, 2021

Creating Characters in a Shared World

One of the most challenging aspects of continuing Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Darkover series--or any world invented by another author, for that matter--has been the portrayal of characters that are not my own. Most were created by Marion herself, but some came from one or another of the writers she had worked with before me. A case in point is Marguerida Alton, who began as a small child in Marion’s books but was brought to adult life, much to the delight of many readers, in the Darkover novels written by Adrienne Martine-Barnes.

To begin with, writing someone else’s characters is a no-win situation. No matter how carefully you, the new writer, study what has been done before, pouring through notes and out-takes and letters as well as published material, you’re going to get something wrong. Or perhaps not wrong but different. This is primarily because we are all individuals. Each creative vision, each way of working with characters, is unique. Added to that are the variations inherent in each story.

Friday, February 19, 2021

Short Book Reviews: My Introduction to Rebecca Roanhorse's Work

Black Sun
, by Rebecca Roanhorse (Saga)

This novel was my introduction to the work of Rebecca Roanhorse, of whom I had heard a great deal. From the beginning, I was struck by the originality of her world and cultures that were at once relatable and quite different from the typical Western-European-derived canon. Set in a fantasy pre-Columbian (or non-Columbian?) Central America, the story weaves together the lives of disparate characters, who will all come together at “the Convergence,” a predicted eclipse. The story is told from multiple points of view, jumping back and forth in time. This is often a recipe for reader confusion and disengagement, but I found the characters compelling enough to hold my interest and to welcome each new section. I found the jumps in time distracting and largely unnecessary, but I admit to a personal preference for chronologically linear stories. In the end, though, it was the novelty and richness of the world that enchanted me.

Monday, February 15, 2021

Yet Another Evacuation, The Report

Half a block from us

I live in the mountains in a redwood forest in Central Coast California. I love this place and the deep serenity it has brought me. But there’s a down side to every locale, and wildfires are part of the ecology of this region. Much of the plant life, including redwoods, has evolved to survive and even thrive with periodic conflagrations. Humans, on the other hand, aren’t too fond of having their homes burned down, so they put out little fires, allow underbrush to build up, and are loathe to control flammable invasive species (like broom). Increasingly long, hot, dry summers that are the result of climate change turns the region, like many in the West, into a tinderbox. Last summer’s freak lightning storm ignited thousands of small fires that merged into huge ones. I’ve written earlier about my experience being evacuated and watching, day by day, as fires engulfed this area but the heroic efforts of fire fighters spared my own street.

Almost as soon as the mandatory evacuation orders were lifted, local authorities began an campaign of education and preparation for the next phase of this rolling disaster: debris flows. Debris flows are a type of mudslides.

Debris flows … are fast-moving downslope flows of mud that may include rocks, vegetation, and other debris. These flows begin during intense rainfall as shallow landslides on steep slopes. The rapid movement and sudden arrival of debris flows pose a hazard to life and property during and immediately following the triggering rainfall.1

In other words, debris flows are rivers of cement 15 or more feet high and moving at up to 40 mph. If you can see it, it’s too late. There’s no way to prepare except to get out of the way. Debris flows caused massive property damage and over 20 fatalities in 2018 in Montecito, Southern California. Our local agencies were understandably concerned.

We all studied the maps of debris flow risk and watched the weather forecast. November and December passed with only occasional gentle showers, well belong the threshold for triggering a debris flow. Some of us began to relax, hoping for a dry “La NiƱa” year. Old timers warned that often the real rains don’t set in until January. They were right.