Monday, July 22, 2019

Summer 2019 Newsletter

Here's my summer 2019 newsletter. If you want more news like this, plus snippets, freebies, and more, please subscribe here.

Summer in the Redwoods 

The spring rains have finally ceased, the garden is bursting with awakening vegetable and flower plants, and it's a bit of a challenge to keep writing when I just want to be outdoors, enjoying the wonderful weather. I often get the sense of how very nourishing this season is. So many of the winter's struggles have been laid to rest, and projects I've been working on are -- like the blossoms and vegetables -- nearing maturity. I send all my friends and readers wishes for a joyous, fruitful summer.

Publishing News

Announcing A Heat Wave in the Hellers, and Other Tales of Darkover -- the new collection of my Darkover short fiction!

With the permission of the Marion Zimmer Bradley Literary Works Trust, I've gathered all my Darkover short works in one volume. I'm excited about this project for many reasons, including that these are some of my favorite stories, that I got my professional publishing start in Marion's anthologies (Free Amazons of Darkover and the first Sword and Sorceress) and especially that I now have the opportunity to share with you my previously unpublished Darkover tales. The Introduction and Table of Contents are below. In the title story, written as a birthday gift, I sent Marion herself to Darkover to solve a planetary crisis. Needless to say, the gift was received with delight.

For the cover, I was delighted to have this beautiful original painting by Hannah M.G. Shapero, who also did the cover for Hawkmistress!

A Heat Wave in the Hellers will be released on October 1, 2019, but it's now available for pre-order in ebook and print editions. It will also be available in print through Ingram, so if your local bookstore uses them as a distributor, you can order it.

Amazon Kindle here. Print edition here.
Barnes & Noble. I'm still working with them, so check pre-order availability soon.
Book View Cafe will have both mobi and epub versions, released on October 1.

A Heat Wave in the Hellers

In my early thirties, just after my first child was born, I hit day job career burnout and decided to work part-time from home. A friend invited me to join a writers’ group. Although none of us knew what we were doing, I came home from the first meeting so exhilarated that I drafted the story I’d been playing in my head for the last year. No one told me it was crazy to write a novel in six weeks with a new baby. It wasn’t very long, and it was utterly unpublishable, but it reminded me of how important writing had been to me since the time I could hold a pencil.

About this time, I wrote a letter of appreciation to one of my favorite authors, Marion Zimmer Bradley. To my surprise she wrote back, three pages of single-spaced typewriting. At that time, the Friends of Darkover held periodic writing contests and published its own fanzine. I sent her a couple of stories (including “The White Oudrakhi”) and received encouraging feedback. When Marion began editing the first Sword and Sorceress, she suggested I send her a story for consideration. I was as elated by the invitation as if it had been an actual acceptance, and threw myself into writing the best story I could. I succeeded, and she bought the resulting story (“Imperatrix,” under my former name, Deborah Wheeler).

When I submitted a story for the second volume, Marion telephoned me. “Now Deborah,” she said, “I’m going to take your story, but I’m sending it back to you for revisions.” With that, I made the leap from all-or-nothing sale-or-rejection to working with an editor. My manuscript returned to me covered in red ink, with comments like, “All thuds are dull” and “Overwritten.” Don’t fall in love with your words, she was saying. Make them serve the story.

The next Darkover anthology to come along was Free Amazons of Darkover, and I ended up writing not one but two stories for it. The first was so serious as to be downright grim, a blood-drenched parade of suicidal honor and equally pointless last stands. (It’s not included in this collection for obvious reasons.) The second one, “Midwife,” popped into my mind and demanded to be written. The image of a Darkovan banshee (gigantic, flightless, carnivorous bird) imprinting on a human (in this case, a Free Amazon lost in the mountains) ran away with me, with hilarious results. I pounded out the story in a frenzied two days on my mother’s old electric typewriter. Marion was as delighted with it as I was awestruck: it was my first “attack story,” one that practically wrote itself.

Marion didn’t buy every story I wrote, but she read most of them. Juggling young children and part-time career, I was able to finish only a few short pieces a year, one for the annual Darkover anthology, one for Sword and Sorceress, and sometimes one that wandered around in search of a home. More editorial notes followed. I like to think I was improving, but Marion understood when outside critical feedback is helpful and when the act of writing itself, story after story, is the key to development. Perhaps the most valuable advice she gave me during these years was to “play it out,” to not abbreviate or undercut pivotal events but to give them full dramatic scope and to explore the nuances of each moment.

In those early days, before authors had to be paranoid about copyright infringement, Marion encouraged other writers to “play in her sandbox,” in her special world of Darkover. Instead of original world-building, I learned to pay attention to what she had already created. In other words, writing in the world of Darkover was very much like researching historical fiction. This wasn’t always easy, as Marion used to say that she never let consistency interfere with a good story. In the end, telling stories set in her world was as much about respecting the spirit of that world as it was reproducing details.

Toward the end of her life, hampered by a series of strokes, Marion wrote in collaboration with several other writers. I was one she considered because she had watched me develop from a novice to an established professional. When she asked if I would like to work with her, I was just emerging from a particularly difficult time of my life. The offer was an extraordinarily precious gift.

We discussed the basic details by mail and then I drove up to see her for a face-to-face session. She’d been resting and was on oxygen, but she insisted on sitting up when I came in, and soon we were deep in discussion. I knew she had been very ill, but seeing her made her extremely frail condition so much more vivid for me. One of my memories of that visit was watching her “come alive” as we discussed character and hatched plot points. Her eyes “glowed as if lit from within,” to use one of her favorite descriptions, and energy suffused her whole being. It was as if she had opened a window into her imagination and invited me to peek inside. Her secretary told me that she talked for days afterwards about the visit and how excited she was about the project.

We never got a second visit. She died a month later.

Marion had been a rock, an anchor, an inspiration, a trusted friend, and a guide throughout my early literary career. I expected we would have more time to work together, despite how desperately ill she was. I believed in the magic of that last visit. It was indeed magic. And, although I did not realize it at the time, it was also the passing of the torch.

I went on to finish that trilogy (The Fall of Neskaya, Zandru’s Forge, A Flame in Hali) as well as subsequent posthumous collaborations (The Alton Gift, Hastur Lord, The Children of Kings, Thunderlord). Last fall I turned in The Laran Gambit (my editor tells me the title will certainly change). I'm now hard at work on Arilinn.

I’ve also followed in Marion’s footsteps as an editor. In 2014, the Marion Zimmer Bradley Literary Works Trust resumed publication of the Darkover anthologies, welcoming back fans and seasoned professional writers, many of whom had seen their literary debuts in Marion’s anthologies. I co-edited Stars of Darkover with Elisabeth Waters and then took over the editorial mantle for subsequent volumes.

The Trust, which holds the copyright to Darkover, has graciously granted me permission to use my Darkover short stories in a single-author collection. Here are the tales that first took me to Darkover, from “Midwife” to “The Death of Brendon Ensolare,” a twist on the story of the imaginary Lieutenant Kije, and which Marion cited as one of her favorites. A couple of early “bonus” stories, one never before published, follow those edited by Marion herself. Only one other story needs explanation, the very last, and you will find my comments directly before “A Heat Wave in the Hellers.”

I hope you find the journey as marvelous and enriching as I have.


A Heat Wave in the Hellers
Table of Contents

The Death of Brendon Ensolare
“Acurrhir Todo; Nada Perdonad” — A Tale of the Hundred Kingdoms
A Midsummer Night’s Gift
Cradle of Lies
The White Oudrakhi
The Carthon Connection
A Heat Wave in the Hellers

Snippet from TheLaran Gambit (the final text may be different)

The sky was on fire.

Bryn Haslund halted outside the thirty-story tower housing the psychiatric clinic in which she worked, glanced upward, and forgot to breathe. A glory of orange and violet filled the sky over Terra Central, capital city of the Star Alliance. If she had not known better, she would have thought she was witnessing an aurora borealis frozen in time. Beyond the filmy layers of brilliance, a ruddy glow bathed clouds that were piled high like mountains. She felt as if she were gazing into a faraway country, a land of fjords and rolling plains, of hidden valleys and breathtaking peaks. A place where anything could happen.

Then the light shifted, muting the sunset colors. The mountains sagged into formless, gray-bellied shapes. A wind whipped through the corridor of the street, wrapping Bryn’s long coat even more tightly against her body. Dust stung her eyes. Although the layers of her coat and bodysuit provided sufficient insulation for a brisk autumn day, goose bumps covered on her arms and legs. This wasn’t a physical cold but one of those odd premonitions she’d had since her teen years.

Nothing more than the stress of the day, she told herselfShe’d been working too hard and seeing too many patients, too many severely damaged children. Her habitual overwork left her drained, vulnerable to half-formed fears, no matter how she struggled to maintain her professional distance.

Bryn returned her attention to the street before her, noticing more uniforms than usual: city police in traditional navy, but also pairs and fours of StarGuard troops in gray camo, blasters prominently displayed. She frowned, wondering what the interstellar infantry were doing, patrolling Terran streets.

On the windows of the tower across the street from hers, the ad panels flashed the familiar circle of chain links with the laurel crest of the Star Alliance. In the center, wreathed by the stylized emblem of linked planets, First Minister Arthur Nagy beamed his paternal smile above the motto, Together, The Future. Almost every building large enough for ad panels bore a similar message: Together, The Future. Together, The Stars. One Alliance, One Hope.

Bryn glanced skyward one last time. Above the distant roof line, the clouds had faded to rust-tinged gray. Magic existed only in the minds of her young patients. And not even then, given what some of them had been through. She saw the fortunate ones, the survivors. It had started a generation ago, with war games on Ephebe, a thinly disguised power grab on the part of the old Expansionist Party. Now Renney and Thetis were under martial law, clashes between StarGuard and rioters had leveled several cities on Enoch, and as for Campta. On Campta there had been no survivors, neither adults nor children. So far, psych treatment for indigent minors was being paid by government funds. With rumblings about budget cuts, no one knew how much longer that would last, which is why she had worked late today. She’d be cutting the time close, joining her sister’s family for dinner before their father’s public speech.

Weaving between the other commuters, she hurried to the nearest tram stop. A quarter hour’s ride would bring her to the plaza interchange where she’d take another that would take her to the district of her sister’s apartment. The next multi-car tram was so densely packed, there was no possibility of squeezing onboard. The one after that was equally full. Bryn had never seen the system so crowded. Sooner or later, she told herself, the rush would thin out. Meanwhile, there was nothing to do but wait, unless she wanted to start walking.

Voices rose and fell around her, the conversations sometimes heated, sometimes subdued. The surges in intensity reminded her of the ocean tides from a family vacation on Thetis when she was eight. Here and there, she caught phrases or a sentence or two. Ordinarily she would have tried not to listen, but today she could not shut it out.

The woman to her right was talking with her companion about the planet Renney, complaining about the embargo. “I don’t for a minute believe this business about terrorists. For heaven’s sake, it’s an artist colony!”

“Not the whole world, surely. And artists are notoriously naive about the risks —”

A pair of students, university by their ages and striped scarves, pushed their way between Bryn and the two women so she missed the rest of the conversation. A man behind her demanded to know why anyone couldn’t get a private vehicle license these days. Bryn had never hesitated to use public transport, not on her salary. If she ever needed the use of a private car, she could borrow one from a member of her family. Her sister, Saralyn, and brother-in-law, Tomas, owned one, garaged outside the city, and their father had the use of a Ministry car and chauffeur. Bryn had never used it, which was a point of pride. She was a professional, a child psychologist specializing in trauma recovery, which she’d studied hard to achieve and had never had any of it handed to her. Not some pampered socialite who’d never had to work a day in her life.

“-- who might be listening!” said a man’s voice. Bryn glanced in his direction and saw a man in a worn coat bending close to the two women she’d overheard earlier. He was turned so that she could not make out his features. Just beyond him, a pair of men in StarGuard gray headed in their direction.

Bryn forced herself to remain where she was, telling herself that she was in no danger. She hadn’t done anything wrong.

No one should be subject to this kind of intimidation. Bryn gathered her nerve to move closer and, if necessary, intervene. But the agitated man had disappeared by the time the first StarGuard arrived.

“Identification!” the StarGuard said to the two women. People around them pulled back, pressing against those behind them.

One of the women held out her hand to be scanned, but the other, the younger one, folded her arms across her body. “You can’t just stop us like this, with no reason.”

“Shut it,” her companion said. “Are you trying to get us both arrested? What with the Vainwal situation —”

For the past month, the city had seethed with rumors that the planet Vainwal was on the brink of secession from the Star Alliance. As far as Bryn knew, the vote hadn’t happened yet. The ambassadors were still trying to broker a compromise that would keep the wealthy pleasure world in the Alliance. What First Minister Nagy would do if they failed no one knew. That was why her father’s speech tonight was so important. If saner heads were to prevail, saner voices must first be heard.

And, she reminded herself, if she wanted to get to Saralyn’s on time to listen to the speech with the rest of her family, she’d have to take her chances with the next tram, no matter how jammed.

The next tram approached but did not slow noticeably. All four cars looked full, so it wasn’t taking on any more passengers. Judging its speed and clutching her shoulder bag so it wouldn’t swing wide, Bryn leapt onto the running board. She grabbed an outer pole just in time to avoid being thrown off. Just as she caught her balance, the movement of the car caused her to collide with another commuter.

“Sorry!” he exclaimed, as he steadied her with his free hand. He was young, about her age, and so ordinary looking — medium height, medium weight, medium coloring, unremarkable clothes, no distinguishing features — her gaze slid over him. She would have forgotten him the next moment, but he wasn’t finished speaking.

“Didn’t see you — although I can’t imagine how. Here —” he moved to create a narrow opening into the interior of the car and guided her through it, so that he now stood between her and the street.

Bryn’s skin prickled. She was used to drawing attention in public with her auburn hair and honey-dark skin, an unusual combination for any world. But this time, something felt off about the encounter. She’d had these feelings from time to time, intuitive leaps or hunches or just plain luck that made her distrust what she was being told. As a therapist, she had learned to trust her instincts about when a child was lying.

Now she pulled back, as much as the packed interior of the tram car would allow. “Think nothing of it,” she murmured, carefully keeping her eyes from young man’s gaze lest he interpret it as encouragement.

The tram jerked and slowed to a crawl as it entered an open plaza and began a turn. It wasn’t designed to carry so many people, packed together so tightly. A goodly portion were getting off, those in the center of the car pushing outward. Bryn glanced around for an escape route. An older man, easily as wide as two of her, blocked the way she had come.

“I’ve been terribly rude,” the young man said, lowering his voice and leaning closer. “Please allow me to make amends — dinner together?”

She wavered between annoyance and scorn. Even if her heart had not been engaged elsewhere, she would have found this clumsy ploy rude. “We don’t know each other,” she replied stiffly. “And I am expected elsewhere.”

“A drink, then? Just a short one? At this rate, the tram will stall out, and it will cost you hardly any time at all.” He offered a smile that provoked a crawling sensation in Bryn’s gut. If he wasn’t lying outright, he was certainly hiding something.
Welcome to my newsletter (in the redwoods)
I love hearing from my readers as much as I relish sitting down to talk shop with fellow writers. Over the decades, I've networked through GEnie (remember GEnie, anyone?),, LiveJournal and other social media sites, and my blog. Now I'd like to communicate with you in a way that's better focused on what you want to hear. Over the coming months, I'll be offering snippets of stories in progress, information on how to submit to the anthologies I edit, free offers, photos, recipes, personal notes and more. I promise to not deluge your Inbox -- after all, I do have books to write -- but I hope we will have a grand time in these literary visits.  
-- Deborah

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