Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Jeremy Erman on "The Tower" 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 is available at Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, and other venues.

Here Jeremy Erman talks about his story, "The Tower."

Deborah J. Ross: Tell us about your introduction to Darkover. What about the world drew you in?

Jeremy Erman: I started reading Darkover novels in the late '90s when I took off a few years between high school and college. I loved the combination of fantasy and science fiction, and the fact that I could read the novels in any order I wanted. The Ages of Chaos especially appealed to me because they were more "fantasy" than "science fiction," but I was also fascinated by the origins of humans on Darkover, and wanted to know what happened to the original settlers. I searched for months until I found a copy of Darkover Landfall. It answered some of my questions, but not all of them!

DJR: What inspired your story in Gifts of Darkover?

JE: Ever since reading Darkover Landfall, I was fascinated by how quickly the original settlers abandoned Earth technology, and wondered if any of them tried to hold on to it even after most people decided it couldn’t be done. It occurred to me that decades after landfall there might still be people who remembered Earth, and their memories would essentially be the only records of Earth technology and culture on Darkover. What would such a survivor do with this knowledge, and how would someone born and raised solely on Darkover react to such an “alien” mindset?

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Horse story reprint sale

My short story, "The Hero of Abarxia," (When The Hero Comes Home 2), will appear in the For Want of a Horse. The editor is Evey Brett.
forthcoming anthology from Lethe Press,

Here's the Table of Contents:

Gentle Horse, by Cynthia Seelhammer
Griffen, The High Flye, byJames Baldwin
The Black Horse, a Celtic Folk Tale
The Rocking-Horse Winner, by D.H. Lawrence
The Horse of Brass, by James Baldwin
The Goose Girl, by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm
The Winged Horse of the Muses, by James Baldwin
Horseman, by Renee Carter Hall
Jack Pumpkinhead and the Sawhorse, by L. Frank Baum
The Eight-Footed Slipper, by James Baldwin
Dapplegrim, a Norwegian Fairy Tale
The Horseman in the Sky, by Ambrose Bierce
Sensitive, by Evey Brett
The Fox and the Horse, by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm
Al Borak, by James Baldwin
A Horse Story, by Kate Chopin
Ivan and the Chestnut Horse, a Russian Fairy Tale
The Goblin Pony, a French Folk Tale
Red Dust and Dancing Horses, by Beth Cato
The Dun Horse a Pawnee Folk Tale
The Magician's Horse, a Greek Fairy Tale
The Devil and Tom Walke, by Washington Irving
The Hero of Abarxia, by Deborah J. Ross

I'll post the release date when I know it.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

[archives] Blackberry Writing

I'll be head down into revisions of Thunderlord for a while, but on my morning walk, I noticed the blackberries are ripening. So here's a post from  a few years ago, Enjoy!

It's blackberry season, and as is my custom at this time, I went out this morning to pick from the brambles along our little country road. (We have our own patch, but the berries ripen later because it's in a shadier place.) I try to do this early, when it's cool and I'm not having to squint into the sun for the higher branches. As I picked, I thought about the story I'm working on (and currently stalled on 2 scenes-that-need-more), and also writing in general.

Blackberries are tricksy things. They can look ripe from where I stand, but turn out to be all red at the base. Sometimes I can tell the moment I touch the berry -- it's too firm and too tightly attached to the stem. I have to be ready to give up on what looked like a great prospect and move on. When I'm in the flow of picking, it seems I don't even have to think about this. Isn't this like a story that seems promising but doesn't yet have the necessary depth? Occasionally -- well, more than occasionally -- my mind gets set on "this berry gets picked" and I force the issue. I'll glare at the red parts and either pop the berry into my mouth ("for private reading only"). Berries that are almost-ready go well in oatmeal. I freeze quarts and quarts of them for winter breakfasts. They're too sour on their own, but they blend well, adding pleasantly tart notes. That's not unlike taking several different story idea, none of which can stand on their own, and setting them at cross-purposes to make a much more interesting tale.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Thunderlord Progress - First Draft Done!

First draft of Thunderlord is done! That's the good news. The um, challenging news is that it's 220,000 words long. Way too long, even for DAW. I have embarked upon the excision of flabby prose, tedious subplots, and extraneous characters.

Down to 208,000 and counting....

Friday, July 17, 2015

Thunderlord Progress Report

It's been a while since I've posted about my writing progress on the next Darkover novel, a sequel to Stormqueen. I'm currently fine-tuning the penultimate chapter and embarking upon what I presume will be the final one. It's turning out much better than I hoped, but perhaps that it because the "how I feel about the work in progress" swings like a pendulum from "the worst drek ever penned" to "wow, this is really good!"

I should have time to do another pass, making sure that a character who can't knit in chapter 25 isn't teaching someone else in chapter 13. Then it goes off to the MZB Literary Works Trust for approval while I am out of commission during my cataract surgery (one eye, then the other 2 weeks later).

I'm still on track for turning it in to DAW in the fall.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

[links] A Poodle Velociraptor and Other Cool Stuff

Lori Duron, who writes the blog Raising My Rainbow, offers 8 Books That Teach Kids About the
Fluidity of Gender and the Importance of Acceptance.  She says:

My husband and I have been committed to showing our son positive examples of differently gendered people in literature. We’ve read the following books countless times and always encourage an open dialogue about what it means to be a boy, a girl, a human. More importantly, we use these books to teach about love, acceptance, equality, empathy, and the beauty of diversity. Read these books to your child to help them better understand their gender identity and be a better friend to the boy who has long hair and wears a skirt or the girl with the short spiked hair who only wears pants.

An ancestor of Velociraptor had feathers, and most likely so did the Jurassic World terror.

Velociraptor would have been a feisty little feathered poodle from hell, not a drab scaly reptilian monster like in the Jurassic Park films,” added Brusatte, who is a paleontologist at the University of Edinburgh’s School of GeoSciences. He co-authored the study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, with paleontologist Junchang Lüof of the Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences. The scientists came to their conclusions after studying the near-complete and exceptionally well-preserved skeleton for Z. suni, which lived around 125 million years ago in what is now the Liaoning Province of northeastern China. Like Velociraptor, it was adromaeosaurid -- fast-running, feathered, sickled-clawed dinosaurs that were close relatives of birds. Z. suni weighed around 25 pounds and, most strikingly, had short, 14-inch-long arms covered with long feathers that looked like quill pens. Today’s eagles and vultures sport a similar type of feather.

Images of Pluto from New Horizons are in the news, but we're continuing to discover new things about Mars, including that its crust may contain silica-rich rock typical of continents.

With the help of a rock-zapping laser, NASA's Mars rover Curiosity has detected Red Planet rocks similar to Earth's oldest continental crust, researchers say.
This discovery suggests that ancient Mars may have been more similar to ancient Earth than previously thought, scientists added.

Mostly, I try to keep this blog a politics-free zone (with a few exceptions that touch on my personally, like the death penalty). But occasionally a bit of news tickles my fancy so much, I need to share it:

The Board of Supervisors in Santa Cruz County, California, have taken a bold step. The County has decided that they will not do business, including investment services or bond issuances, with five major banks that the Justice Department found to be associated with felonious acts in May of this year. 

Monday, July 13, 2015

Various Thoughtful Posts for July

Meet the Wendiceratops, named for discoverer Wendy Sloboda:
Unlike any other dinosaur, this creature’s skull is ringed with bone protrusions that curl inward toward the animal’s nose like gnarly crochet hooks. “They remind me a little bit of a weird sea anemone or something,” said Ryan, the curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. 
The dinosaur also has a medium-sized horn over its nose. The researchers suspect that it had horns over its eyes as well because its relatives, like Triceratops, boast prominent eye horns.  The researchers hypothesize that the dinosaur’s lavish array of horns may have helped it attract mates, “just like modern birds, which have all these ornate plumages and long feathers and short feathers,” Ryan said. Another possibility is that the horns allowed males to demonstrate their strength and fitness to the opposite sex, just as big-horned sheep butt heads to determine who will get to breed with the female.

BookEnds on "The Death of the Midlist." Ever since I can remember, writers have been lamenting 'the death of the midlist.' Midlist is just that, neither best sellers nor abysmal failures. If that sounds blah, remember that this is where some of the finest writing falls. Writing that isn't mass appeal mind candy but is solid enough to generate a modest but loyal following. 

Here's the truth as I see it where the midlist is concerned. Authors who languish in the midlist are not going to be given contract after contract just to remain midlist authors. That's not what the midlist is about (at least not these days). The midlist is a place for publishers to grow authors from. Its where great books go to grow. A publisher will always have a midlist of some sort because a publisher will always be buying new books from new authors and somewhere along the way someone is going to have numbers that aren't top selling numbers, but aren't at the bottom either. When those authors come along the publisher is going to look at those numbers to see which direction they are going and what can be done to boost that author, those books and those numbers into the top selling range.
When rumors abound that a publisher is cutting the midlist it isn't mean that a publisher is taking out one kind of book over another, it means the publisher is making room for more. Have I ever told you that I'm an eternal optimist?

From Astronomy Picture of the Day, gorgeous clouds in Rho Ophiuchi
Fine dust illuminated from the front by starlight produces blue reflection nebulae. Gaseous clouds whose atoms are excited by ultraviolet starlight produce reddish emission nebulae. Backlit dust clouds block starlight and so appear dark. Antares, a red supergiant and one of the brighter stars in the night sky, lights up the yellow-red clouds on the lower center of the featured image.

Friday, July 10, 2015

The Price of Silence audiobook!

My novelette, "The Price of Silence," (F & SF 2009, Honorable Mention, Year's Best SF) is now available as an audiobook. You can listen to the first 5 minutes or so, most of the opening scene, free.

If text is your thing, the story is available from Book View Cafe. Amazon,  and Barnes & Noble.

I can haz author happy smile now?

Barb Caffrey of Shiny Book Reviews had glowing praise for The Seven-Petaled Shield.

THE SEVEN-PETALED SHIELD is spiritually deep in a way I rarely see in fantasy. Ms. Ross did an outstanding job in rendering a strong and quiet woman who takes comfort in books, and shows just how relevant such a heroine can be. (I could live without Zevaron, quite frankly, but I know he’s needed for the sequels.)
Bottom line? THE SEVEN-PETALED SHIELD is an exceptional epic fantasy, one that’s deep and broad in ways that I’ve rarely seen. More epic fantasy should be like this. Highly recommended!

Buy it at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Powells, or your local bookseller. 

Thursday, July 9, 2015

The Tajji Diaries: Patience and Progress

Eye contact
One of life’s aggravations is that all too often things happen in their own time and not when I think they should. Writing progress, weight loss, getting from hither to yon on the freeway, you name it.

Dog training definitely fits in this category. Sometimes they “get it” right away; you can see the lights go on in their eyes. Then they’re delighted that things make sense. It must be frustrating to them to not understand what we are asking them to do and why we are unhappy with them. I think that’s why positive (reward-based) training works so well, because it provides a way for us to tell the dog that he did what we wanted. Anything besides the desired behavior -> no cookie, try again. Desired behavior -> cookie! Happy dog -> let’s do it again! We’ve paired something we want the dog to do with something wonderful. Complex behaviors can be broken down into component parts and chained, with lots repetition so they become one flowing behavior.

Behaviors that are naturally part of the dog’s repertoire are easier to train, especially if the dog offers them just by being a dog. This requires patience and precise timing of the reward. Since it’s highly unlikely we’ll be able to offer a treat within a second of the desired behavior, we use a marker, like a clicker or “Yes!” that the dog has come to associate with the reward. Then we have to set up a training environment in which the dog has the choice to offer the behavior we want, or something close to it that can be then shaped. For example, if we are training “Down,” instead of luring the dog with a treat, we bring the dog into an enclosed space (so there are some limitations on what the dog can do) and wait. And wait. And wait. Until the dog lies down, which is then rewarded. Rinse and repeat. Usually, the dog will soon begin lying down  many times in rapid succession. Then we add the cue word. It may take longer for the initial connection, but once that’s made, the dogs joyfully perform the behavior. It’s fun to watch dogs that have been trained this way. At the beginning of a new session, they run through all the behaviors they’ve ever been rewarded for, watching carefully for the trainer’s response. Often they’ve learned how to try new things, the doggie version of being creative.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Summer Illness, Reading Joy

My summer began in a rather inauspicious manner with a round of bronchitis that lasted the better part of 3 weeks. Long story, the highlights of which are a history of previous episodes, the discovery that I am highly allergic to marijuana smoke, which lead to an asthma attack, which promptly turned into bronchitis, and Deborah in her inimitable fashion had not one but two relapses. Only one of which was my fault for doing too much too soon. (I am now the proud possessor of the relevant inhalers.)

Enough whinging (British friends: is that the right word?) One of the very, very few upsides of this illness was that I had to stay in bed. A lot. After the initial phase of sleeping all day, I started reaching for my pile of To Be Read books. Ah, books! How would we get through bed rest without them? Here is a sampling of the stories that helped me through the tedium:

Judith Tarr: Kingdom of the Grail. I’d picked this up at Powell’s Books, that amazing bookstore in Portland OR (see below), and then got distracted by other things. It’s historical fantasy, with the emphasis on a wonderful blending of fantastical elements. We all know the story of King Arthur and the Holy Grail, right? Tarr sets her story not in King Arthur’s time but that of Charlemagne, with one of the King’s Companions, Roland, as the hero. Add much Grail-centered magical subterfuge, an ancient evil bent on acquiring the Grail, and a sorceress who transcends time and culture. Oh, and a love story. Of course. Oh, and some very nifty horses.

Carlos Ruiz Zafón: The Shadow of the Wind. This gem was on my husband’s TBR shelf, and I almost didn’t pick it up because of the mainstream-looking cover. Imagine my delight when the story opens with a visit to “The Cemetery of Forgotten Books,” where you get to choose one book, just one book from the thousands of musty volumes, that you promise to keep alive, to make sure it never disappears. For the narrator, that book is The Shadow of the Wind, by Julián Carax, and from the very first paragraph, his life is never the same. Especially when a mysterious figure appears, bent on destroying every copy of every book Carax wrote, all of which were dismal publishing failures so they’re rare collector’s prizes anyway, not to mention addictive. After a while, the story devolves into part mystery, part suspense thriller, but that opening, which spoke so eloquently about the magical power of books, had me hooked. It’s not exactly fantasy/science fiction, but it’s definitely one for us book-loving fanatics.

Jo Walton: My Real Children. An elderly woman who lives in a nursing home suffers from
confusion. Does she have four children…or two plus a beloved stepchild? Is the door to the right or the left? Is this dementia…or something else? Once her life was one stream of events, until a single decision changed everything. This sounds like your usual parallel-universe story, but the focus is on the intimate, everyday lives and relationships of the women she becomes, executed with such nuanced sensitivity that when you’re inside the story, it feels like it’s real history. For all its domesticity, the book moves right along. I loved every page of it.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Gifts of Darkover: Behind the Stories

Writers find inspiration in many places: an image, a line of dialog, a character, a question, or the burning desire to know more. Here, in a fascinating peek into the imaginations of talented writers, some of the contributors to Gifts of Darkover share the origins of their stories. (This material appeared previously in individual interviews.) Available in trade paperback and ebook editions at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other venues.

Jane Bigelow (“Healing Pain”): What happens when someone wants the best of both worlds, not just for themselves, but for their people? Taniquel’s father might have lived if the people around him had been able to combine Terran and Darkovan medical knowledge instead of each fearing and discounting the other’s resources. Taniquel also must deal with a question that transcends cultures: How do you rebel effectively against people who genuinely, but mistakenly, believe that they have your best interests at heart? People whom you respect, like, and even love?

Barb Caffrey (“A Problem of Punishment”): How did Fiona's parents meet? What was her father Dominic, who I already knew had been a judge before her, really like? And what had made Gorsali fall in love with him, and he with her? A romantic story of a smart man and an accomplished woman against the background of the Hellers appealed to me, especially since they fell in love prior to the Terranan returning to Darkover and didn't have many role models that would've helped them out. Now, as to why I felt Dominic, a judge, could fall in love with a Renunciate? Dominic has seen it all in his courtroom, and knows how to size up people quickly. Because of that, he has fewer prejudices in certain respects than others, and he has far more respect for the charter of the Renunciates than do most other men because he has far more respect for the legal system. Because of that, I felt he could see her as an equal partner in time...and that way, love could potentially grow (or at least a strong attraction).

Margaret L. Carter (“Hidden Gifts”): The guidelines for Darkover stories often mention “unusual use of laran.” I wanted to do something with one of the most unusual laran phenomena, teleportation, which (I think) is shown in the novels only in the context of matrix work. What experience might make a person unaware of the extent of her power desperate enough to perform such an act on her own? For a protagonist, I chose one of my favorite character types, the “Ugly Duckling” who discovers her “swan” traits only when pushed to her limits. In a way, this story echoes my first Darkover tale, “Her Own Blood” (in Free Amazons Of Darkover), which also features a nedestra heroine discovering her laran.