deborahjross: (bench)
Thunderlord.jpgAcross genres, we accept the importance of bonds between brothers; I would argue that in speculative fiction, at least, we give less weight to the loyalty and emotional intimacy between sisters. This may be due to the domestic setting for sisterly concerns. Brothers march off to war together, but sisters hold hands when one is giving birth. If one or both is unmarried, sisters set up housekeeping together, often living their entire lives under the same roof. Yet the relationship between sisters opens many fascinating and challenging story possibilities.

I’ve found that once I step away from the models of male-bonding or male-female romantic love as the only possibilities for central relationships, my stories get a lot more interesting and also emotionally powerful. They don’t necessarily have to be the sole or pivotal bonds in a story. Just as in real life, they form a critical foundation for any social setting.

Thunderlord’s emotional heart is the relationship between the two Rockraven sisters, Kyria and Alayna. This being Darkover, I also included plenty of action and adventures — banshees and laran and bandits, oh my. Through all this — and a love story or two — the sisters are so integral to the tale that at times I felt as if I were channeling Elizabeth and Jane from Pride and Prejudice (or Marianne and Elinor from Sense and Sensibility). Sisters are not always close, but when they are, the relationships are complex, rich, and enduring. Lovers may come and go, the saying goes, but sisterhood is forever.

I didn’t set out to write “The Bennett Sisters on Darkover.” I began with a few pages of Marion’s notes on a sequel to Stormqueen, almost all of it backstory, and the title of the proposed book. I didn’t want to repeat the general plot of Stormqueen or its tragic ending, and I also wanted to experience whatever adventure the story took me on through the eyes of fresh, new characters.Read more... )

Although the Rockraven family isn’t anything like the Bennetts, I kept finding similarities: a noble but impoverished family, the pressure for one or both girls to secure the family’s financial future by their marriages, their wistful longing to marry for love, how the sisters are different but devoted to each other, and so forth. There are no balls in the neighborhood, no mother with imaginary illnesses scheming to “make a good marriage” for her daughters, no problem about the inheritance of the estate, and certainly no Mr. Darcy to be unpleasant to everyone. Practical Kyria deals with her family’s poverty by donning her brother’s clothes and trapping animals for food. Romantic Alayna dreams of love stories while understanding that such a happy ending means they must be parted, most likely forever. Distances on Darkover are much greater than in Regency England!

Kyria and Alayna made their entrance in my first draft as fairly conventional characters: the tomboy and the dreamer. I added Kyria – but not Alayna -- having inherited the Rockraven storm-sense laran into the mix, along with family legends of scandalous Great-Aunt Aliciane (who was Lord Aldaran’s ill-fated mistress in Stormqueen) and “The Rockraven Curse.” Kyria developed pretty much along the lines I’d initially set for her. When, for instance, she leaps on the back of a banshee, armed only with a knife, that does not present a radical departure from her character, as it would have been for Alayna.

Alayna, initially less interesting to me, nevertheless led me down some unexpected twists and turns. She grew more in the course of her adventures, in part because she had a longer distance to cover in terms of becoming her own person. She didn’t astonish me when she moved from timidity to desperation to heroism. Her compassion and her bravery in standing up for the people in her care did take me by surprise. I had no idea of her inner strength, a strength that comes from depth of heart instead of muscle and will-power.

By far the biggest revelations came from the minor women characters, in particular Ellimira and Dimitra. Ellimira, wife of the heir to the Rockraven estate and therefore chatelaine of the house, began as a fairly standard scolding, demanding older kinswoman. Not quite an evil stepmother (or, in this case, sister-in-law) but one laboring under the responsibilities of making too little stretch too far while somehow tending to her own children and husband. Yet when she bid Kyria and Alayna farewell, she presented me with a moment of insight: she has not seen her own family since her wedding, and if I knew nothing of whom she missed and what she had left behind, it was because she was such a private person, she would never volunteer that information and no one would ever think to ask, they were so busy either scrambling to obey her orders or trying to escape her notice. She never did tell me, but as this was not her story, I left her secrets for the reader to guess. Perhaps she will, in between counting the holes in the linens and nursing the baby who surely must have been born by now, suggest that I write it.

Dimitra made her entrance as the lady-in-waiting who takes Alayna under her wing upon her arrival at Scathfell Castle: competent, motherly, a bit chatty. Very quickly, it became apparent that she had a mind and agenda of her own. What was she up to with Dom Nevin? And why – money? a secret passion? rebellion against Lord Scathfell? When Nevin’s scheme was unveiled, Dimitra became the catalyst for Alayna’s kindness and sense of justice to overcome her timidity, and this later returned in a much more powerful way when Dimitra fell ill. Although a secondary character, Dimitra had a pretty remarkable story arc, moving from motherly guide to traitor to dying woman to loyal accomplice.

I hope you enjoy reading about these wonderful women characters as much as I did writing them. I lack Jane Austen’s wit and keen social insight, but if you hanker to read about women’s relationships and growth (along with adventure, thunderstorms, a banshee attack, and a couple of love-never-did-run-smooth stories), I hope you’ll check out Thunderlord.
deborahjross: (Tajji in meadow)
It's book release day! Let's party!

Lots of places to buy it: your local bookstore (yay!), Powells, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.
deborahjross: (Tajji in meadow)
Here's the cover for Thunderlord, to be released from DAW in August. The art is by the wonderful Matt Stawicki, who did the paintings for The Children of Kings and The Seven-Petaled Shield trilogy. (And yes, the resonances with Stormqueen! are deliberate -- this is a sequel.)

You can pre-order it from Amazon or Barnes & Noble in ebook and hardcover formats.
deborahjross: (Default)

Realms of Darkover, an anthology of short fiction including stories by Diana L. Paxson, Robin Wayne Bailey, Shariann Lewitt, Barb Caffrey and other wonderful authors, is set for a May 2016 release. In case you can't wait that long, here is a "sneak peak" at the cover by Dave Smeds.

In the future, I'll be posting a Table of Contents and interviews with the authors. Stay tuned!

deborahjross: (halidragon)
Second draft is done -- 173K words -- and off to the MZB Literary Works Trust for approval. Still on track for turning it in to DAW this fall.

Now I need an evening off...or a vacation...or something.
deborahjross: (halidragon)
Down to 187K words, getting the story flowing right along...

And having to set the timer for every half hour to remind myself to get up and stretch!
deborahjross: (halidragon)
199,000 and counting...

It's amazing to think I've already trimmed 20,000 words.

I'm past the initial flopping-around figuring-things-out part, so I'm doing more fine tuning and less draconian slashing.
deborahjross: (halidragon)
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....
deborahjross: (halidragon)
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.
deborahjross: (Default)
I have a tentative release date of August 2016.

(smiles, beams, accepts applause)

Now I have to finish the book...
deborahjross: (dolomites)

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.

Jane M. H. Bigelow talks about her story, “Healing Pain.”  


So many different things drew me into the world of Darkover that it’s hard to decide what came first. I think I may have started with The Spell Sword; I know I read it early on, and Andrew Carr’s adventures make  a wonderful introduction to the world. The rich detail of Marion Zimmer Bradley’s world, the fascinating paranormal powers that some people there had, the clash of cultures between Darkovan and Terran societies: I loved it all. I first found the books when I was working at a back-office job in a brokerage, and Darkover had the excitement and big questions that my daily life noticeably lacked. Life’s become more interesting since then, but I’m still hooked on Darkover.
That cultural clash inspired my story. 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?

I’m currently writing a short story about a young alien attempting to study earth culture in the middle of Denver, where I live. His attention to earth’s art and architecture reveals some surprising details of his own civilization’s history. Leaping several millennia here, I’ve done a short historical fiction piece set in Egypt’s Middle Kingdom just as the Kingdom begins to disintegrate. It’s for a still-untitled anthology created by the Egyptian Study Society; it should be published sometime this summer. There are also a couple of ideas that I thought were short stories but stubbornly refuse to stay within that length.

Speaking of novels, I’m revising a fantasy novel set in an alternate Bronze Age world where magic works, and both deities and donkeys may speak to people if it pleases them to do so. Layla’s a former gem thief turned jeweler. She had meant to leave politics, magic and love behind when she left Tzakende for the great trade city of Issrandar. Both her friends and her enemies have other plans. It’s one thing to fight the machinations of her old enemies the Exemplars of Order. When friends need help, Layla finds she can’t turn them down. An earlier book set in the Thilassthian Empire, Talisman, came out through Pronghorn Press. It’s currently available through Smashwords. 

There are certainly other Darkover stories that I’d like to write. They’re still more concepts than stories, but here are a couple.

I’ve always wondered why no one skis there. Wouldn’t cross-country skis be a useful way to travel the less mountainous areas, especially if you wanted to go quietly for your own private reasons?
Another idea begins when a Terran woman working at the spaceport attends a cross-cultural event in Thendara. She politely assures one of the few Comyn ladies present that the Terran’s mother does perfectly well without her, as the mother has nine other children to raise, and the eldest are old enough to be of help. How does the Comynara react? Is this a comedy or a drama, I wonder?


Jane M. H. Bigelow had her first professional publication in Free Amazons of Darkover. She has always been interested in history and in fantasy; Darkover fit her interests so perfectly that she no longer remembers just when she started reading about it. She says it’s wonderful to play in Marion’s sandbox again. Jane has published a fantasy novel, Talisman, as well as short stories and short nonfiction on such topics as gardening in Ancient Egypt.


deborahjross: (COK)
Over on my blog, I'll be posting snippets from the current work in progress, the Darkover novel Thunderlord. Hopefully, I'll get a new one up every Friday.

Here's the skinny:

I've been hard at work on the next Darkover novel, Thunderlord. Marion Zimmer Bradley, who created the world of Darkover, intended to write a companion book to Stormqueen, but died before she could write it. In the few fragmentary notes she left, she indicated only that it would take place a generation after Stormqueen and feature the son of Donal Delleray and Renata Leynier, raised by Lord Aldaran as his son and heir. I submitted a proposal to write this book, and both the MZB Literary Trust and DAW Books approved it. Because readers have waited for Thunderlord for years now and it may be some time before it's published (since it's not finished yet), now and in the following weeks I'll post snippets for your enjoyment. Hopefully, I will find something in each chapter that is neither too confusing nor gives away too much. Please remember that this is a work in progress and drafts have a habit of changing drastically from inception to finished book.
deborahjross: (croning)
Here's the beautiful cover, designed by Dave Smeds:

Table of Contents:

Introduction: Darkover, An Evolving World, by Deborah J. Ross (editor)

Learning to Breathe Snow, by Rosemary Edghill and RebeccaFox

Healing Pain, by Jane M. H. Bigelow

Blood-kin, by Diana L. Paxson

The Tower, by Jeremy Erman

Stonefell Gift, by Marella Sands

Compensation, by Leslie Fish

Green Is The Color Of Her Eyes So Blue, by DeborahMillitello

Renegades of Darkover, by Robin Wayne Bailey

Memory, by Shariann Lewitt

A Problem of Punishment, by Barb Caffrey

Hidden Gifts, by Margaret L. Carter

Climbing to the Moons, by Ty Nolan
deborahjross: (COK)
Now that the contracts with DAW and the Marion Zimmer Literary Works Trust have been signed, I can tell you what I’ve been up to: proposals for three more Darkover novels. Here are a few “sneak preview” details.

The first of this new group will be Thunderlord, the long-awaited sequel to Stormqueen! Marion intended to write this novel and left a couple of pages of very rough draft, essentially recapitulating Stormqueen! as backstory, but establishing that the central character (one of them, anyway) would be Renata and Donal’s son, the heir to Aldaran, set against a backdrop of the smoldering feud between Aldaran and Scathfell.

The Laran Gambit continues the timeline after The Children of Kings, bringing Darkover and the Star Alliance into conflict and pitting the laran of the Comyn against machine-generated psychic powers.

Arilinn takes us back in time to the founding of the most prestigious of Darkover’s Towers. (And I have a secret hope that if you readers adore Arilinn, I’ll get to write the stories behind the other Towers, too!)

Likely publication dates are 2016, 2017, and 2018, but you never know. Stay tuned for writerly inspiration and more details!
deborahjross: (Fall of Neskaya)

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

deborahjross: (Default)

I've been quieter than usual here and I thank you all for keeping the archives nice and warm. A little while ago, I posted various sorts of good news. Here's what's on my plate -- er, my computer -- now.

I'm about to begin editorial revisions to the third book of The Seven-Petaled Shield. It's called The Heir of Khored, and if you've read the first one, that will mean something. If not, you have a treat in store. Heir is a June 2014 release. It's so great to have the volumes come out about 6 months apart. And, I must confess, a bit odd to be plunging into #3 on the eve of the release of #2 (Shannivar).

To "clear the boards for action," as it were, I finished the first, very rough draft of an "Attack Novel." That is, one that so grabbed me that I wanted to write it, even on spec. Depending on how extensive the revisions my editor wants for Heir and when the deadline is, I'm hoping the keep the excitement of this project going, at least long enough to send it out to a beta reader. A beta reader is someone I trust to take a look at the whole shapeless mess and give me an overall reaction. Beta readers are to be treasured and showered with chocolate.

I'm also working on an anthology that I've been keeping silent on until the lineup of stories was complete. Stars of Darkover (to be published by the Marion Zimmer Bradley Literary Works Trust in time for Marion's birthday, June 2014) is just that -- an anthology of stories by "Marion's writers" and "friends of Darkover," superb professional writers all. Once the contracts are done -- very soon now! -- I'll be able to post the Table of Contents. Stay tuned!

And if that isn't enough, I'm putting together a collection of my essays on writing, life, and the care of the creative muse. InkDance: Essays on the Writing Life will come out in January from Book View Cafe.

deborahjross: (Shield #1)
I haven't dropped off the face of the Earth, despite the long absences. I've been wrestling with some physical problems that severely limit my computer time, and here's how I've been spending that limited time:

Getting ready for the launch of Collaborators (as Deborah Wheeler) from Dragon Moon Press, including a series of blog posts about world-building and creating a gender fluid race. I'll post a link once it's available, along with snippets.

Editorial revisions for Shannivar, the second book in The Seven-Petaled Shield trilogy. The first one, by that name, is coming out next month. You can pre-order the first one here.

Description: Eons ago, a great king used a magical device—the Seven-Petaled Shield—to defeat the forces of primal chaos, but now few remember that secret knowledge. When an ambitious emperor conquers the city that safeguards the Shield, the newly-widowed young Queen, guardian of the heart-stone of the Shield, flees for her life, along with her adolescent son. And much adventure ensues...

Putting together a collection of short stories, Azkhantian Tales, which will be released from Book View Cafe June 11. These stories, originally published in Marion Zimmer Bradley's Sword & Sorceress formed the foundation for the world of The Seven-Petaled Shield and its cultures. There's a new Introduction about the process of exploring that world, as well as a sneak peek at The Seven-Petaled Shield.

Putting together a proposal for my agent to do magical things with. News will follow when I have it.

Working on editing 2 anthologies. News will follow as release dates approach.
deborahjross: (Fall of Neskaya)

The next Darkover book, The Children of Kings, was released on Tuesday, March 5, from DAW Books. Here and in the following weeks, I'll also talk about how I met Marion Zimmer Bradley, how we came to work together, and a few thoughts on "playing in her sandbox."

I frequently am asked how I came to work with Marion and to continue her Darkover series after her death. Here's a bit of my own journey into this marvelous world.

Marion Zimmer Bradley had published several novels set on the world of The Bloody Sun when I first discovered Darkover with The World Wreckers (1971). The Planet Savers and The Sword of Aldones had come out in 1962, followed by The Bloody Sun (1964, revised in 1979) the YA Star of Danger (1965) and an Ace Double, The Winds of Darkover (1970). The early Darkover novels were action-adventures, solidly written but also well within the fantasy genre. The World Wreckers (1971) pushed the boundaries of acceptable topics. Although a secondary plot, the evocative love story between a Terran man and a hemaphroditic chieri brought up issues of sexuality and gender in ways I had never before read. I believe it was Marion's first "breakthrough" in the Darkover series, and it firmly established me as an avid fan.


The next two Darkover novels added depth and complexity to my experience of Marion's special world, and I admired Marion tremendously for not shrinking from presenting provocative questions. In Darkover Landfall (1972), she confronted a shipload of marooned colonists not only with a strange world and their deepest fears, but the necessities of survival. To the outrage of many in the burgeoning feminist movement, Marion depicted a situation in which, for the human colony to have a future, every woman of child-bearing age must contribute to the gene pool. She went on to ask what kind of cultural mores -- towards monogamy, towards intergenerational sexual relations -- would then evolve. The Spell Sword (1974) continued the idea of telepathic intimacy and non-exclusivity.

Read more... )
deborahjross: (COK)

The next Darkover book, The Children of Kings, was released on Tuesday, March 5, from DAW Books. Here and in the following weeks, I'll also talk about how I met Marion Zimmer Bradley, how we came to work together, and a few thoughts on "playing in her sandbox."

I frequently am asked how I came to work with Marion and to continue her Darkover series after her death. Toward the end of her life, Marion suffered a series of strokes, which made it difficult for her to concentrate on novel-length stories. One solution to this problem was to work with a younger writer, supervising and editing as well as designing the story arc and characters. Marion tried collaborating with various writers, including Mercedes Lackey, whose own writing schedule proved too demanding for her to continue. I was one of the writers Marion considered because she had watched me develop from a novice to an established professional and knew my work, especially those stories I had written for the Darkover anthologies. She had seen what I could do in "her world," and often cited "The Death of Brendon Ensolare" (a "Lieutenant Kije" story set in the Thendaran City Guards) as one of her favorites.
Read more... )
deborahjross: (Default)

The next Darkover book, The Children of Kings, will be released on Tuesday, March 5, from DAW Books. In answer to questions asked by many readers, I'd like to share some background on the book. In the following weeks, I'll also talk about how I met Marion, how we came to work together, and a few thoughts on "playing in her sandbox."

Marion's original concept for Darkover centered on the clash of cultures, so for this next book, I wanted to bring the Terran Federation back into the picture, but not in a nice sedate and friendly way, but in an OMG-terrible-crisis-about-to-descend-upon-us way. I also have long had a secret longing to run away to live with the chieri, and Kierestelli (Regis and Linnea's daughter, from Hastur Lord) kindly offered to take me.

Writing in the Darkover universe is very much like writing historical fiction. Marion explored so much of this world and its history that I can't "make it all up as I go along." One of the frustrating and yet exhilarating aspects of tackling a Darkover story is that Marion never let things like geography interfere with telling a good story. Although a number of fans produced maps of Darkover, she refused to endorse them, saying that she never knew when she might need to move things around. She also appreciated that Darkover had evolved as she herself had matured as a writer. In the Note From The Author for Sharra's Exile, she says,

One result of writing novels as they occurred to me, instead of following strict chronological order, was that I began with an attempt to solve the final problems of the society; each novel then suggested one laid in an earlier time, in an attempt to explain how the society had reached that point. Unfortunately, that meant that relatively mature novels, early in the chronology of Darkover, were followed by books written when I was much younger and relatively less skilled at storytelling.

For this tale set mostly in the Dry Towns, I used as background not only The Shattered Chain but a very early (1961) “proto-Darkover” novel, The Door Through Space. The Door Through Space contained many elements familiar to Darkover readers, from jaco and the Ghost Wind to the names of people and places (Shainsa, Rakhal, Dry-towns). Marion was exploring a world in which Terrans are the visitors, and adventure lurks in the shadows of ancient alien cities. She drew upon and further developed this material in The Shattered Chain (1976).

These books reflected the growth of Marion’s vision, but each of them was also part of the times in which it was written. 1960s science fiction novels were often tightly-plotted, fast-paced, and short by today’s standards. Most, although by no means all, protagonists were male, and female characters were  often viewed from that perspective, what today we call “the male gaze.” By the middle of the next decade, publishers were interested in longer, more complex works. Not only that, the women’s movement and the issues it raised influenced genre as well as mainstream fiction, opening the way for strong female characters who defined themselves in their own terms. If Marion had written The Shattered Chain a decade and a half earlier, I doubt it have found the receptive, enthusiastic audience it did. Her timing (as with The Mists of Avalon or The Heritage of Hastur) brilliantly reflected the emerging sensibilities of the times.

Now we live in a different world. This is not to say that the previous struggles have been resolved, but that much has changed in the social consciousness from 1976 to today. In writing The Children of Kings, I considered how Marion’s ideas about the Dry Towns (and any patriarchal desert culture) might have changed over the last three decades. The Shattered Chain, with its examination of the roles of women and the choice (or lack of choices) facing them, focused on only a few aspects of the Dry Towns culture. What if we went deeper, seeing it as complex, with admirable aspects as well as those we find abhorrent? With customs that we cannot truly comprehend but must respect, as well as those that resonate with our own? With men of compassion and women of power?

As the Dry Towns developed in my mind, I turned also to the theme that had characterized the early Darkover novels—the conflict between a space-faring technological race and the marvelously rich and romantic Domains, with their tradition of the Compact and the laran-Gifted Comyn. And now, I add to that mix the ancient, kihar-based Dry Towns.

I hope you find this book as rich and rewarding to read as it was to write.


deborahjross: (Default)
Deborah J. Ross

May 2017

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