Friday, January 31, 2014

The Knitting, er, Writing Life

I'm always impressed by how often writers are creative in other ways. We're musicians, dancers, singers, sculptors, painters, and martial artists as well as story-tellers. (Or maybe these are all other ways of telling stories and it's all the same thing.) Many of us are also knitters or crocheters. That's one of Vonda N. McIntyre's beautiful beaded sea creatures on the right.

I like to knit for a lot of reasons. For one thing, I learned from my mother (and I still have a pair of her double-pointed needles from her own youth). I love the soothing, repetitive movements. I love that I can do it and something else at the same time. I love that when I'm done I have something beautiful and useful to give away. (I do a fair amount of charity knitting, which you can read about here.. I love that friends will scavenge yard sales for supplies for me, thereby creating a living "knitwork" of love throughout the community.

But most of all, I love the enduring lesson of Writing According to Knitting: It doesn't matter how many mistakes you made, you can always unravel the dratted thing and start over. Maybe other people don't need this lesson repeatedly drilled into their brains, but I do. For me, it's the essential underlying principle of revision. If a first draft, like a knitting project, is so well within my skill and comfort zone that I don't make any mistakes, all it takes is a light polish (read: blocking) and I'm done. But I'll never get any better that way. I have to try things I've never done before, often things that call for concentration, consistency, and staying in touch with the tension of my hands or the tension in the story.

It's fine to stretch beyond my abilities. In fact, it's necessary. And delirious and terrifying. But you know what? If I make an awful tangle of it, I can always go back and do it over. And over, until I either set the project aside until I'm more adept or my skills come up to snuff.

So take a flying leap off the edge of reality. Push the envelope harder than you thought possible. Try something you've always believed impossible. Take risks and then grow to meet them.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

"Going Silent"

When I notice that someone I've been following on a social media site (including a blog) has "gone silent," I want to know why. Some of this is idle curiosity of the gossip type. Occasionally, the reason can be much more serious than such happy occasions as the person taking a vacation or being buried in an engulfingly-wonderful work project. My own excuse for not posting more regularly this year is that I'm happily wending my way through editorial revisions (that is, revisions in response to feedback from my editor) for my June DAW release, The Heir of Khored.

On at least one occasion, quite a few years ago, the other person's silence was due to a life-threatening situation that prevented the person from obtaining help. Only the concern of friends who noticed brought the necessary assistance. (In this case, the person had been incapacitated and without food or water for 48 hours in a closed apartment in the summer.) I was one of the people that took action for our friend, asking someone local to to a welfare check on the person, and I came away from the experience with a profound respect for the power of social media to create positive communities that not only nurture and enrich our lives, but can literally save them.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

A minor bit of brag

My post, Contrary Writing Advice: Don't Finish This Story!, which appeared earlier in this blog, has been reposted to the blog of Science Fiction Writers of America..You read it here first!

Happy writer smile, and wishes for many playful, delicious story beginnings to you all.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Contrary Writing Advice: Don’t Finish This Story!

I love to take conventional wisdom and turn it on its head, following the tradition of rules are made
to be broken but first you have to learn them. Beginning writers make mistakes. At least, I did, and I don’t know anyone who’s gone on to a successful writing career who didn’t. At some point, either a teacher or a more skillful writer points out, “Don’t do this” and why it’s a bad idea. Sometimes we figure it out for ourselves. I wonder if in the process of expunging our mistakes we also ignore that kernel of wisdom or inner creative impulse that led us to make the mistake in the first place.

For example, we get told, “Avoid passive verbs, especially the verb to be.” But sometimes that is exactly the right verb and if we contort our prose to avoid it at all costs, we end up with…well, contorted prose.

The writing rule to Always Finish What You Start is equally worthy of a challenge, yet it rarely is. The rule is practically engraved in granite, creating a sense of obligation to slog through stories, no matter how much we’ve grown beyond them. We end up with trunk stories (stories that are so flawed as to be unsellable and are therefore relegated to the proverbial storage chest) when we could have been writing the very best new stories we’re now capable of. The second rule, to move on to something new, is a good one most of the time, as is the commiseration, Not every story succeeds. I’m all for taking risks in our writing with the understanding that we’ll occasionally go splat into the Quagmire of Drekness from time to time.

Is there any value to starting things we don’t finish? (Or allowing ourselves to not finish what we start?) That is, aside from dropping projects that just aren’t working and using our time and creative energy more productively? I think there is.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Sneak Peek: STARS OF DARKOVER cover!

  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
Cover designed by Dave Smeds

Look for it in June 2014 in both ebook and print editions.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

BOOK RELEASE: Ink Dance: Essays on the Writing Life.

I've put together a collection of essays on writing - craft, survival, inspiration, career, and many other topics. Here it is, new from Book View Cafe! If you've enjoyed my blogs here, check it out!

A cup of inspiration, a dash of understanding, and a generous serving of wisdom for writers new and old. From the desk of writer and editor Deborah J. Ross comes a collection of warm, insightful essays on the writing life: including getting started, negotiating with the Idea Fairy and creating memorable characters, writing queries, surviving bad reviews, dealing with life’s interruptions, confronting creative jealousy, and nourishing yourself and your creative muse.

It's available in epub and mobi versions (so you can read it on your Kindle or Nook, as well as other ereaders) and you can download a sample chapter. Only $2.99.

Monday, January 13, 2014

I Can Haz Bragtiime Now?

Over on The Book Smugglers, Andrea K. Host offers a grand and rich list of women writers of science fiction and fantasy. And she included me!

Here's what she says about my work:

Under the name Deborah Wheeler there are two science fiction novels: Jaydium (combining time travel and possibility) and the planetary adventure Northlight (where aranger in exile tries to track down a lost friend and discovers layers of conspiracy).

As Deborah J Ross, along with a number of books in Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Darkover world, the author has recently embarked on a grandly epic fantasy series revolving around a broken shield that is the key to keeping the whole world in one piece.

I am majorly stoked.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Azkhantian Tales - More Ebook editions

My short story collection, Azkhantian Tales is now available from Barnes & Noble and (And from Book View Cafe, the original publisher!)

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.Only $1.99!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Nice review of COLLABORATORS

Starship Reckless offers a thoughtful pairing of novels from 2011/2012 and now. Collaborators was one of the current novels discussed.

Collaborators shows how a non-terrestrial culture interacts  with a stranded human starship whose crew, bolstered by its formidable  technology, forgets that they are not gods and interfere heavily in the  politics of two adversarial nations.  The major conflict is nuanced by  ambiguities and dilemmas on all sides and at many levels.

Wheeler’s Quaker beliefs are visible (including the refusal to  indulge in charismatic saviors) and the parallels to the havoc wrought  by imperial-nation interventions on earth are clear.  The alien biology  and first-contact dynamics are handled unusually deftly; the narrative  polyphony weaves complex melodies and harmonies.  Wheeler’s world is effortlessly immersive and teems with fully realized characters.

(For those of you new to this blog, Deborah Wheeler was my former name and I still use it for novel-length science fiction. Although I am married to a Quaker and attend Meeting, I am myself not a member.)

Friday, January 3, 2014

For Your Award Consideration...

Now that 2013 is over, it's the season of award nominations.For those of you who might be
nominating work for the Nebula and Hugo Awards, here are my own offerings:


  • The Children of Kings (with Marion Zimmer Bradley), DAW, 3/13
  • Collaborators (as Deborah Wheeler), Dragon Moon Press, 5/13
  • The Seven-Petaled Shield, DAW, 6/13
  • Shannivar, DAW, 12/13


  • “Among Friends” (Quakers, the Underground Railroad, and a slave-catching automaton), F & SF (3-4/13)

Short story:

  • “The Hero of Abarxia”, When The Hero Comes Home 2, ed. G. Harbowy, Dragon Moon Press
  • “Pearl of Tears,” Sword & Sorceress 28, ed. E. Waters, MZB Literary Works Trust

Thursday, January 2, 2014

[Personal] 2014 - The Year of the Hike?

Photo by Cleo Sanda
2014 looks to be The Year of the Hike. Already been on one, in addition to jaunts with the West Park Women's Walking Society.

Some background. When Dave and I were courting, we developed a custom of hiking on Sunday afternoons, usually on the trails in back of my house, where we could take Oka. Somehow, those went by the wayside when we moved into our current together-house. We have access to a lovely road that leads into town (the afore-mentioned West Park) but it's paved and has only a few gentle hills. Recently we've been talking about getting back into hiking, taking advantage of our current dog-hiatus to go places we can't take a dog. So, Waddell Creek (Los Osos State Park) - just gorgeous. And as soon as I figure out how to get my phone to talk to my computer, I'll put up pics.

The West Park Etc. evolved from various pairs of us becoming exercise-buddies. The walk into town, a nice outing with the added benefits of taking stuff to the bank, post office, library, etc., is beautiful and there's not much traffic. Often, it was just me and one of my neighbors, one of whom also works at home, the other used to work night shift. In recent months, a musician has not only joined us but often is the Organizing Whirlwind. Thanks to my friends, I'm now back to doing that walk about five times a week, and I can tell the difference in my endurance and leg strength.

The incredibly mild weather has made these walks even more pleasurable, plus there's the push to get them now before it rains. When it rains. If it rains. Please Rain God, let it rain.