Tuesday, December 31, 2013

End Of The Year Reading

The winter holiday season has always seemed to me to be a good time to strike out beyond my usual
reading preferences. Maybe that’s a relic from the childhood years when adult relatives would give me the books they thought I ought to enjoy, whether these were ones I would have ever thought of selecting for myself. And many were treasures indeed. So here are a few, genre and not.

Top of the list is the book I’m currently immersed in, An Equal Music by Vikram Seth. It appeared on our To Be Read Bookshelf. I have no idea where it came from, perhaps a box of books from one friend or another, left with me when they departed for another continent, to be read and passed on to the library book sale. I suspect I delayed so long in cracking its cover because it looked pretentiously “litrary” and is written primarily in present tense. I’m only reluctantly willing to tackle present tense, although given sufficient motivation, I settle into it nicely. To talk about the richness of characterization or the layers of story is really to say nothing at all about the book. What captured me and held me firmly was the wonderfully inventive, detailed description of how professional musicians – in this case, the protagonist being second violin in a world-caliber string quartet – experience classical music. After eight years of piano lessons, I have a glimmering from my own experience of what it’s like, but the book takes me right into the heart of chamber music, of the intense love and hate affair between a highly skilled musician and his instrument, and of the relationships between people who play together. Into this, Seth weaves stories of love won and lost, of rivalries and misunderstandings and sheer bloody-mindedness (the characters are British, don’t you know). The music is the real star, the living heart of the book.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Half Price Sale at Book View Cafe

In case you got a shiny new ereader or just feel inclined to nab some great reads at a great price, here's a half-price sale from Book View Cafe. Jaydium, Northlight, and Azkhantian Tales are all included, as are the anthologies I've edited.And many more to delight you -- science fiction, fantasy, romance, thriller, young adult, historical fiction...

Monday, December 23, 2013

Writing Through Crisis

 For much of my early career, I used to joke that I couldn't afford writer's block. I began writing
Cemetery, New Orleans, 2012
professionally when my first child was a baby and I learned to use very small amounts of time. This involved "pre-writing," going over the next scene in my mind (while doing stuff like washing the dishes) until I knew exactly how I wanted it to go. Then when I'd get a few minutes at the typewriter (no home computers yet), I'd write like mad. I always had a backlog of scenes and stories and whole books, screaming at me to be written. The bottleneck was the time in which to work on them.
I kept writing through all sorts of life events, some happy, others really awful and traumatic. Like many other writers, I used my work as escape, as solace, as a way of working through difficult situations and complex feelings. I shrouded myself with a sense of invulnerability: I could write my way through anything life threw at me!

Unfortunately, I was wrong.

Friday, December 20, 2013

The Artist Behind The Cover

My story, "The Hero of Abarxia" appeared in When the Hero Comes Home 2, edited by Gabrielle Harbowy, from Dragon Moon Press.The story was a particular delight to write because the hero was a horse and my love of horses was in full swing. Also, my friend Bonnie got to enjoy the story in pages proof form while she could still focus enough to read. The book has a beautiful cover, and here it is, with the proud artist.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Memoir, Cancer, And Tent Camping: My Friend Connie

When a friend or family member is diagnosed with cancer, the effects ripple through the community. If we and our friend are relatively young, we may feel shock but also a sense of insulation. We have not yet begun to consider our own mortality, or the likelihood of losing our peers to accident or one disease or another. It hasn’t happened to us yet and the odds are still in our favor, particularly if we don’t smoke or drive drunk, we exercise and eat many leafy green vegetables. As the years and the decades go by, most of us will see an increase in morbidity if not mortality in our friends. They – and we – may develop osteoarthritis or Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, all those common ailments of aging.  Some of us will get cancer.

When my best friend Bonnie was diagnosed with ovarian cancer about 5 years ago, she was the closest friend I had who had cancer. Since then, other friends have been diagnosed and some have died; Bonnie died in October (peacefully, at home). One of the things Bonnie did way back when was find support groups for women with cancer. Maybe it’s a holdover from the consciousness-raising groups of the 1970s, but it’s practically a reflex: whatever is going on in your life, you grab a bunch of women to talk it through. Do men do this, too? If so, it’s a secret from me.

It turned out that a cluster of women who were at college with us at the same time and who still lived in the area wandered through these groups at one time or another, or were otherwise associated with this community. Some have also died, some aren’t doing too well the last I heard, and some are thriving. One of these is my friend Constance Emerson Crooker.

Connie and I weren’t close in college, but it was a small school and everybody pretty much knew one another in passing. She wasn’t an avid folk dancer or a Biology major like me, but she and Bonnie stayed in touch so I’d hear about her from time to time. Connie was one of those who stepped up to the plate in Bonnie’s final weeks, and I was not only grateful for the extra and very competent pair of hands but for the chance to get to know her better.

Friday, December 6, 2013

A Holiday Gift For You

These are tough times for most of us, and they get especially tough when we want to give our loved
ones something special for the holidays. It’s also a season when we express our appreciation for one another.

So here is my gift to you – for yourself or to give to someone you love. I’m offering autographed copies of some of my books (and a few others), first come first serve, one per person. If you feel so moved, you can send some postage money my way by using the Donate button at the lower left. If there’s enough to cover my postage costs, I’ll offer a second round of free books.

Use the new Contact Deborah link at the upper left and let me know your first and second choices, and whether you’ll take one of my selection if they aren’t available. I’ll get back to you about where to send your book.

Here are the choices:
  • Hastur Lord (hardback) – 5 3 copies
  • The Children of Kings (hardback) – 2 copies
  • Zandru’s Forge (hardback) – 3 2 copies
  • The Alton Gift (paperback) – 3 2 copies
  • A Flame in Hali (paperback) – 3 2 copies
  • Shannivar (paperback) 3 2 copies
  • Dead Is The New Black, by Marlene Perez (autographed, paperback)
  • Evermore, by Alyson Noël (autographed, paperback)

Outside US? Sorry, I can't afford postage by myself; ask about sharing the cost.

Blessings and joy to all!
-- Deborah

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Who Needs Dialog?

I love to “talk shop” with other writers. I learn so much about my own process and my weaknesses because it’s always easier to see the flaws – and the strengths! – in someone else’s work. Recently, I had the mirrored experience of serving as a beta reader for another writer’s novel and receiving similar feedback on one of my own. The thematic similarities and differences between the two very early versions of the stories are irrelevant. What fascinated me was that we used dialog in diametrically opposed ways in our story construction: my friend’s rough draft read like a screenplay, and mine had comparatively little conversation. We’ll both end up with balanced manuscripts, but we’ve started from opposite places. 

Dialog, which is the transcription of what each character says, rather than a summary in narrative, is one of a writer’s most powerful tools. It’s also one that’s easy to abuse, either by using it too much or too little, or asking it to perform functions in the story that it’s not well-suited for. Certainly, it’s possible to tell a story entirely in dialog form, just as it’s possible to write a story entirely in narrative with zero dialog. Most stories fall in the comfortable middle zone, especially if they involve more than one character capable of speech.

When we write prose stories, we can choose to show action in a variety of ways, narrative being one, dialog another. Dialog isn’t very good for showing events at a distance; characters can be discussing those events or relaying them, but both are “off the scene” and hence have less immediacy. On the other hand, if the emphasis is on the reaction of the characters to those events, dialog can be of immense help. One of the strengths of dialog is that if skillfully handled, it can give us a window into a character’s inner state without being in that character’s head. Screenplay writers know this and use dialog to reveal character, to heighten and resolve tension, to create conflict, and to further the plot.

Which brings me to one of the things I saw in my friend’s manuscript. She came to her story with “screenwriter’s mind.” She used dialog not only to convey the content of conversations (relationship building, changing, exchange of information between characters, etc.) but to sketch out the action that she would later fill in with narrative. I’m a bit in awe of this since what little I know of screenplay writing has thoroughly impressed me with what a high-wire act it is to use only dialog and highly abbreviated descriptions of scene and action to tell a story.

Monday, December 2, 2013

STARS OF DARKOVER Table of Contents

I'm thrilled to announce the lineup of stories for the next Darkover anthology, Stars of Darkover, that
I had the joy and honor to edit, along with Elisabeth Waters. So many fine writers fell in love with Darkover and sold their first stories to Marion Zimmer Bradley, and then went on to stellar careers. The anthology will be released in print and ebook formats in June 2014, in time for Marion's birthday.

The stories are as awesome as the night sky over the Hellers.

Stars of Darkover Table of Contents

All the Branching Paths by Janni Lee Simner
The Cold Blue Light by Judith Tarr
Kira Ann by Steven Harper
Wedding Embroidery by Shariann Lewitt
The Ridenow Nightmare by Robin Wayne Bailey
Catalyst by Gabrielle Harbowy
The Fountain’s Choice by Rachel Manija Brown
House of Fifteen Widows by Kari Sperring
Zandru’s Gift by Vera Nazarian
Late Rising Fire by Leslie Fish
Evanda’s Mirror by Diana L. Paxson
At The Crossroads by Barb Caffrey
Second Contact by Rosemary Edghill and Rebecca Fox
A Few Words For My Successor by Debra Doyle and James D.Macdonald