Friday, May 29, 2015

Special Price on COLLABORATORS

Collaborators, my Lambda Award Finalist/ Tiptree notable book, is on sale at for only 99cents. I have no idea how this happened -- publisher discount? The whims of Kindle? -- or how long this deal will last. Regardless, if you've been wanting an ebook copy, it doesn't get any better than this. 

Thunderlord snippet - Emergency

Please remember that this is a work in progress and drafts have a habit of changing drastically from inception to finished book.

From Thunderlord Chapter 20

Alayna felt another trickle, and then a cramping low in her belly, so sudden and sharp it took her breath away. She bent over with it. The spasm faded a moment later, but not entirely.  Not trusting to the steadiness of her hands, she set the candlestick on the stone hearth. A small spot of blood marked the front of her nightgown, but when she twisted the back around, she saw that it was drenched.

A knock at the outer door: “My lady?”

“Go away,” Alayna gasped.

What am I going to do?

\The door swung open. Though tears blurred her vision, Alayna made out Dimitra, holding aloft her own candle.

Vai domna, I am sorry to disobey you, but Sadhi heard a noise and reported it to me – Blessed Cassilda!”

The next moment, Dimitra grasped Alayna’s shoulders, turning her. Another cramp seized Alayna, worse than before. Then everything happened at once -- Dimitra shouted for Sadhi, hands lifted the sodden nightgown, lowered her to a bed spread thickly with towels, washed her with warm water – where had that come from, or had she lost track of time? – tucked layers of padding between her legs, pulled a new gown over her shoulders, eased comforters up to her shoulders --

“…Jerana, come at once…” Dimitra said, her back to Alayna.

Alayna, racked with yet another wave of pain, curled into a ball. I want to die, I want to die. What is happening to me? But she knew. She knew.

She roused a little at the sound of Jerana’s voice, a cool touch on her brow, a few murmured words, too indistinct to understand.

Help me. Help my babe.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Editing Tanith Lee (1947-2015)

Tanith Lee, one of the greatest writers of fantasy, died recently. I "came of age" in my own fantasy career reading her marvelous stories (even though we were born the same year) and had the delight of editing several of her short stories and in the process becoming friends. Many writers and readers have posted tributes to her. Here is a bit of my own story, originally written as part of a "behind the scenes" series for The Feathered Edge: Tales of Magic, Love, and Daring, which contained the third of the Tanith Lee stories I was privileged to edit.

What is there to say about editing a Tanith Lee story? You sit there, holding the typewritten manuscript that she sent you, and something in your brain turns itself into total fangirl jelly. But you already knew that.

To begin with, the first Tanith Lee story I worked on was for Lace and Blade (2008). She'd agreed to submit a story in the very early planning stages of that project, before I came onboard as editor. And it was my first gig as editor. Over the years, I'd worked with a bunch of different editors and had ideas about what worked for me, what didn't, and how I wanted to interact with writers "from the other side of the desk."  After years of participating in writer's workshops and teaching adult education classes in writing, I was all set to instruct and guide.

None of this prepared me for the experience of holding in my hands an original typewritten Tanith Lee manuscript.

The first, and most important thing, I had to do was to take off my fangirl hat and my fellow-writer hat, and affix my editor hat firmly to my head. This involved an excruciating change of gears. I made mistakes. Of course, I made mistakes. (And I learned how to clean them up.) I wasn't born knowing how to edit, let alone how to edit iconic authors in whose shadows I have long stood. Tanith herself encouraged me. She wrote to me, "On editing though - like writing, I feel strongly one must do what one feels is right. In me, of course, you run into an old war-horse, 40 years in the field, covered in armour and neighing like a trumpet." Which was a most gracious way of acknowledging that the relationship between an author and an editor is an organic process that, when at its best, is rooted in clear communication, deep listening, and respect. Not intimidation (in either direction), but a partnership in which both people have the same goal -- to make the story the best representation of the author's vision.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Thunderlord snippet - Wedding Night

Please remember that this is a work in progress and drafts have a habit of changing drastically from inception to finished book.

From Thunderlord Chapter 19

The bed was even colder than the air, for the fire’s heat had not reached this far. Alayna slipped between the sheets, curled on her side, shivering. The women continued with their teasing, but she was too cold to care. If she said anything, her teeth would surely chatter, and they would think she was afraid. Perhaps that was the point of being half-naked in a chilly room – she’d be so glad of her husband’s strong body to warm the sheets that she would not care what happened next.

“Do you want aphrosone, my lady?” That was Jerana, speaking low so only the two of them could hear. “It will make tonight more pleasurable, although you will not remember in the morning.”

Alayna shook her head. She might be cold, but she was not afraid. If she should conceive – and she prayed to the Four Gods and any others that might be listening that she did – she wanted, oh yes, she wanted to remember this first night together.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

In Which Deborah is Featured in an Author Interview

Yep, first in our local newspaper and now online, a conversation with the delightful Julie Horner, entitled "Painting the Fantastic Landscape." She said a lot of very lovely things about me and my work.

Here's my favorite bit:

Ross writes about things she has loved to read…”take me away to Dune or Middle Earth,” she says. But Ross points out that so much early science fiction was written by men (Heinlein, “who didn’t have a clue about women,” for instance) or by women under a male pen
name because it wasn’t fashionable in those days for a woman to write science fiction.

Many of Ross’ characters are women in “kick-ass” roles who drive conflict to non-violent solutions. Sci-Fi author, Tom Easton wrote about Ross’ writing in Jaydium, “There is an emphasis on the quest for peace that is unusual when so many novels focus on the quest for dominance and victory.” And in The Seven-Petaled Shield, females are the heroes. “From the outset, I knew that this story had to be told primarily through the experiences of women and would require a huge canvas…and a different kind of heroine.”

Happy author smile! 

[links] Fishing With Horses and other cool links

Fishing With Horses:  There are only about 11 horse fishermen in the area of Oostduienkerke but the two men I have photographed are the only ones who actually drag for the shrimp for part of their income the rest just do it for tourism of the town. I am not sure how much longer this old tradition will stay alive in this actual form but I am glad to have a chance to photograph these amazing draft horses and the men that work with them. The horses are so relaxed and I realized after going into the sea my self how much the waves have so much force and the sand shifts under you feet as you sink slowly into the wet sand. I think for these horses it is such a unnatural thing for them to do, but you can see that they have total trust that their riders will guide them and that is what true horsemanship really is, working with a trusted partner to get the required job done easily.Before mules were used for the job but because of the weight of the larger nets the Brabant draft horse is now used because of their tremendous strength and easy going attitudes. They could not have picked a better breed.

The Evolution of Snakes: “We infer that the most recent common ancestor of all snakes was a nocturnal, stealth-hunting predator targeting relatively large prey, and most likely would have lived in forested ecosystems in the Southern Hemisphere,” said Dr Allison Hsiang of Yale University, lead author on the study.

Science Fiction Fodder: Ether-Based "DNA":In the search for life beyond Earth, scientists have justifiably focused on water because all biology as we know it requires this fluid. A wild card, however, is whether alternative liquids can also suffice as life-enablers. For example, Saturn's frigid moon Titan is awash in inky seas of the hydrocarbon methane. Here on warm, watery Earth, the molecules DNA and RNA serve as the blueprints of life, containing creatures' genetic instruction manuals. An immense family of proteins carries out these instructions. A new study proposes that molecules called ethers, not used in any genetic molecules on Earth, could fulfill the role of DNA and RNA on worlds with hydrocarbon oceans. These worlds must be a good deal toastier though than Titan, the study found, for plausibly life-like chemistry to take place.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Baycon Schedule

I'll be a guest at Baycon in San Jose May 22-25. So far, I'm scheduled only for Friday and Saturday. If you attend, please come up and say hello...or stay for a panel or reading!

Inspiring the Next Generation of Science Fiction Writers on Friday at 12:00 PM (with Juliette Wade, Colin Fisk, The Winner Twins) If hard science fiction is literature about the future, what is the future of hard science fiction? Where will the next generation of hard SF writers come from, if what young people are reading now is stories about wizards, vampires, and mutant superpowers? How do we entice and encourage them to think seriously about life in the future, and to write about what they imagine?

Transgender Issues in SF&F on Friday at 1:30 PM (with Jacob Fisk, Jean Batt) LGBT speculative fiction stories almost always focus on just the "L" and the "G", ignoring the many other gender identities. Some people even consider "LGBT" to be too limiting, and use "QUILTBAG" instead (for Queer/Questioning, Undecided, Intersex, Lesbian, Transgender/Transsexual, Bisexual, Allied/Asexual, Gay/Genderqueer). What issues do people who identify as transgender, transsexual, or intersex face in real life? Can representations of these identities in SF/F literature and media, such as in the movie "Predestination" (based on Heinlein's "--All You Zombies--") help them be accepted by mainstream society?

Pink Hockey Sticks: Raising a gender neutral child in a highly gendered world on Friday at 4:30 PM (with Susie Rodriguez, Jean Batt, Kay Tracy, Alison Stern) How do you roll with it when your long awaited and imagined little princess wants to wear Batman shoes with her tiara and thinks ballet class is a good place to practice her hockey skills? How to raising a tiny Woman of Wonder and the challenges of doing it in our society and in general.

Themed Reading: Mythical Creatures on Saturday at 11:30 AM (with Marie Brennan, Cassie Alexander, Sinead Toolis) Dragons. Unicorns. Centaurs. All different, yet all are creatures from the genus Mythical. Hear authors give their spin on tales about mythical creatures (also known as "cryptids").

Constructing Fictional Cultures: Sex Without Shame on Saturday at 1:00 PM (with Boston Blake, Diana L. Paxson, Lance Moore) A fundamental aspect of any culture is its attitude towards sex. An unspoken but common attitude present in many people in modern-day culture is that sex is shameful. This is shown through common behaviors such as married people who don't talk with their spouses about their sexual desires or sexual dissatisfaction, women who don't report having been raped because of the shame that they feel, and women who don't carry condoms because they are afraid of slut-shaming from their sex partners. How would a society that felt no shame about sex be different from ours? What would be the advantages and disadvantages? Would a modern-day reader with a traditional upbringing find it too difficult to relate to fictional characters that lived in such a culture?

Friday, May 15, 2015

Thunderlord snippet - Duty

Please remember that this is a work in progress and drafts have a habit of changing drastically from inception to finished book.

From Thunderlord Chapter 18

When Alayna arrived back at her chambers, every detail of the sitting room had been made perfect, from the perfectly laid, brightly burning fires to the bouquet of dried strawflowers in an exquisite vase of polished green stone. The chair pillows had been plumped and precisely placed. Dimitra herself stood waiting, hands loosely clasped before her. She inclined her head and curtsied, as a servant to her mistress, as she had not done before. Her eyelids still looked puffy, but her hair had been tidied and her expression revealed nothing of what she had just endured. She waited for Alayna to speak.

We can never be friends after this, Alayna thought. But then, we never were.

She began to compliment Dimitra on how pleasant the room was, but then held her tongue. It was Dimitra’s responsibility to ensure that these rooms, and clothes and meals and anything else Alayna might fancy, were all provided. After all, no one thanked a man for fulfilling his duty.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The Tajji Diaries: Pet Insurance

When we adopted Tajji, she was just under 10 years old. The life expectancy for her breed, German Shepherd Dog, is 9 to 12 years, although we’ve known dogs that made it to 13 or 14. Fifteen would be a far outlier. Our last GSD, Oka, made it to 12 ½, the last half year under treatment for lymphoma. We agonized over that treatment, since he was otherwise healthy and there was a good chance it would buy him another year of life. He tolerated the chemo well, as dogs often do, and until about 48 hours before he died (from leukemia, which lymphoma sometimes turns into), he was romping with his favorite blue horse ball. The thing is, we didn’t have pet insurance for him, and of course once he’d been diagnosed with lymphoma, that made it a pre-existing condition, which made it impossible. Our budget, already shaky, took a major hit.

Fast forward now to Tajji. Healthy, strongly built…but geriatric. Could we even get insurance for her and if we could, would it break the bank? After some looking we found a company* that allowed us to choose the deductible and percentage covered. I think there was an extra package that covered maintenance care, vaccinations, and the like, but what we wanted was catastrophic coverage. We’d gone the route of hoping for the best and then having to deal with a financial as well as a medical emergency. Now we made the assumption that in the few years we’d have Tajji something would go wrong.

This happened sooner than we imagined.

Monday, May 11, 2015

What Color Are Sunsets on Mars?


Wonder how many science fiction novels got that one wrong?

"The colors come from the fact that the very fine dust is the right size so that blue light penetrates the atmosphere slightly more efficiently," said Mark Lemmon of Texas A&M University, College Station, the Curiosity science-team member who planned the observations. "When the blue light scatters off the dust, it stays closer to the direction of the sun than light of other colors does. The rest of the sky is yellow to orange, as yellow and red light scatter all over the sky instead of being absorbed or staying close to the sun."

You can read the whole article on the JPL site or here for a cool animation.

Ty Nolan on "Climbing to the Moons" in GIFTS OF DARKOVER

On a wondrous planet of telepaths and swordsmen, nonhumans and ancient mysteries, a
technologically advanced, star-faring civilization comes into inevitable conflict with one that has pursued psychic gifts and turned away from weapons of mass destruction. Darkover offers many gifts, asked for and unexpected. Those who come here, ignorant of what they will find, discover gifts outside themselves and within themselves. The door to magic swings both ways, however, and many a visitor leaves the people he encounters equally transformed.

I asked Ty Nolan to talk about his story, writing, and the future of Darkover.

Deborah: Tell us about your introduction to Darkover.

Ty: From the time I learned to read I always had my nose in a book on science fiction or fantasy. One of my prize possessions was a postcard from Issac Asimov. While everyone knew him as a science-fiction writer (and the creator of the Laws of Robotics), he also used to do a monthly column in a magazine and I was in awe of his brilliance.  His ability to knock out a well-written and researched essay was amazing. I wrote to him (I was 10 years old) and told him one day I wanted to be an author and asked him how did he know so much about everything. He wrote back he was not an expert in everything, but he just managed to sound like one.

Then one day I discovered Stormqueen! Which had one of the best covers I had seen at that time. That’s what got me hooked on Darkover. I want to also say Marion Zimmer Bradley (I had the honor of meeting her more than once—my first professional sales were to her) also impressed me with a work completely different from the Darkover or Avalon universes—The Catch Trap. It was the first “gay novel” I had found, and even though I haven’t read it in years, there are still scenes I vividly remember. It’s set in the post WWII era, when love between men was illegal. MZB details the societal pressures they had to deal with on a daily basis. They work together as trapeze artists in a circus.

What about the world drew you in?

I’m an American Indian and my family has always been very connected to our culture. The concept that in the future, Colony Ships would sail through space and that many were intended to maintain their cultural heritage was quite striking to me. In the Star Trek Voyager series, there’s a similar idea of Native American colonists, rather than the Celtic influence of Darkover. I grew up hearing our traditional legends and stories. I often felt a strong connection with pre-Christian Celtic culture, which has a lot of parallels to Native American cultures and even some of the legends seem very familiar. That made Darkover even more fun to explore. I’ve also been curious about gender issues, and have taught courses on the subject when I used to be a University Professor. Just so, MZB’s depiction of the Chieri  was so interesting to me I introduced one into my own contribution to Gifts of Darkover, and had my female Main Character aware of her own Chieri heritage.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Thunderlord snippet - Considering Letter-writing and Reputation

Please remember that this is a work in progress and drafts have a habit of changing drastically from inception to finished book.

From Thunderlord Chapter 17

As soon as Dimitra took her leave and closed the outer door behind her, Alayna began rummaging through the entire suite for paper and pen. She pulled out drawers and opened boxes, pushed aside hanging garments and lifted up piles of folded shawls and underthings. She found a couple of books, expensive ones on vellum, bound in fine leather, but nothing to write with, even if she had been able to remove a corner scrap.

Nothing, nothing, nothing! Was this a deliberate attempt to prevent communication, or didn’t fine ladies need to write letters?

Apparently not.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Today's moment of galactic glory

Some time in the far future, some 4 billion years from now, the Andromeda Galaxy will merge with our own Milky Way. How will that change the night sky, assuming there are any sentient beings on Earth to view it?

NASA scientists wondered, too:

I find this evocative, glorious, and sad all at once. Not sure why the sadness. But as a writer and lover of science fiction, I'm all fired up to put it in a story.

Read the whole article on our Milky Way here.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Barb Caffrey on "A Problem of Punishment" in GIFTS OF DARKOVER

On a wondrous planet of telepaths and swordsmen, nonhumans and ancient mysteries, a
technologically advanced, star-faring civilization comes into inevitable conflict with one that has pursued psychic gifts and turned away from weapons of mass destruction. Darkover offers many gifts, asked for and unexpected. Those who come here, ignorant of what they will find, discover gifts outside themselves and within themselves. The door to magic swings both ways, however, and many a visitor leaves the people he encounters equally transformed.

Gifts of Darkover will be released May 5, 2015, and is now available for pre-order.

Here Barb Caffrey talks about her story, "A Problem of Punishment."

My introduction to Darkover was due to two books I picked up at the same time: The Shattered Chain, and Sharra's Exile. After that, I wanted to read as much about Darkover as I could, because the heroines and heroes appealed to me. They were flawed people doing the best they could amidst immense challenges, but had the additional benefits laran offered, too. I was a bit too young to understand things like the multiple marriages Kennard Alton alluded to or truly understand things like Magdalen/Margali Lorne's bisexuality, but that didn't matter; all that mattered was story.

Over time, though, I have grown to appreciate these other things, because they're a hallmark of what society is all about. (Well, maybe not the multiple marriages quite so much, even though we have a basis for that in many parts of human history. I prefer my relationships to be a bit more one-on-one than that.)

As for the future of Darkover, I believe it remains bright. There are new facets to Darkover being discovered all the time -- especially because of the novels of Deborah J. Ross, which have added much to the discussion. I'm glad to add my small part to that conversation.

I hope to write more about my character Fiona n'ha Gorsali's childhood with her father and mother (Fiona was a very minor player in The Shattered Chain, and I first wrote about her in Stars Of Darkover). I think there's a wealth of information there, and I'm quite interested to figure it out. (The education of the first female judge on Darkover is a story well worth telling!)

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Thunderlord snippet - Unwanted Attentions

Please remember that this is a work in progress and drafts have a habit of changing drastically from inception to finished book.

It's getting more challenging to find snippets that don't give away too much of the plot, but here's one I hope will tantalize.

From Thunderlord Chapter 16

After a few days of giving Shayla knitting lessons, much to her mother’s relief, Alayna began attending the women’s musical gatherings. They were fewer, for winter was fast approaching, and those who had come to Castle Scathfell for the lord’s wedding must hurry to arrive home before snows closed the passes. Much of the time, the gathering consisted of Alayna, Marianna, and Shayla.  Jerana sat in a corner with her eyes closed, one hand over her chest, but did not sing or play. Dimitra played the flute and rryl, although she claimed to have no voice for song.

Shayla begged Alayna to teach them new songs. At first, Alayna had not the heart to sing, or to sing anything but the saddest laments, but after several requests, she made an effort for the sake of her new friend. They sang rounds, and “A Summer’s Lass” and several versions of “Fra’ Domenic’s Pockets,” which had them all laughing uproariously. Alayna wiped her eyes and realized how long it had been since she’d laughed.

“Very good! So charming!” Dom Nevin applauded from where he stood inside the opened door. He strode to Alayna, took up her hand, and brought it to his lips. “My dear, I had no idea you were such a songbird.”