deborahjross: (Tajji in meadow)

My novelette, "Among Friends," (featuring Quakers, the Underground Railroad, and a slave-catching automaton) will appear in The Shadow Conspiracy III (edited by Phyllis Irene Radford and Brenda W. Clough, with this gorgeous cover by Dave Smeds). ("Among Friends" previously appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, March 2013). The book will be available June 28 in print and various ebook formats.

Here's the back cover copy:

In the world of the Shadow Conspiracy where the human soul has proven to be measurable and transferable to an automaton, the question arises: is the robot a person? The Emancipation Proclamation of January 1863 freed all the slaves in the states in rebellion against the Federal Government. What if that same document freed ensouled automata as well?

This third volume of the Shadow Conspiracy has seven stories that examine the question of humanity. We take you from an observation hot air balloon above the siege of Vicksburg to the soul-grinding Battle of the Crater, from simple farm folk who call themselves Friends, to the mysticism of Marie Laveau and Voudon. Our award winning authors ask the age-old question of what makes us human, what is the nature of slavery, and who deserves freedom? Only you can provide the answers.
deborahjross: (Jaydium)
For all you faithful Jaydium readers, a peek into my writing and revision process, with a rather embarrassing first draft of the opening for you to enjoy!

Deborah J. Ross: SPECIAL: Jaydium - Revising a False Start
deborahjross: (Jaydium)
I hope you've enjoyed this adventure through space and time. All the individual chapters are available to read online - Click on Read A Story. Or you can download the whole thing from Book View Cafe (And the files will play nicely with your Nook or Kindle, as well as other devices).

Next week, as a thank-you treat for following along, I'll share how I revised the first opening scene of the book.

Deborah J. Ross: Jaydium - Epilog
deborahjross: (Jaydium)
Chapter 35 of Jaydium, for your reading pleasure:

For a long moment, Duvach sat immobile and Eril feared it was too lost in its own alien emotions to help them. Then it extended a feathery tendril and brushed Kithri's cheek. A droplet glistened on the silvery strand.

"Water . . . salt water. The water of life."

Behind Duvach's heavy, inflectionless voice, Eril sensed its wonderment. Kithri, beside him, gulped and blinked, more tears streaming down her face.

"My Clan-superior Raerquel was right all along," Duvach murmured. "The light is in each of us, however strange our outer forms. Beneath all differentness, our waters flow as one."

Deborah J. Ross: Jaydium - Chapter 35
deborahjross: (Jaydium)
On the run in an alien city under bombardment:

"You think youire frightened now, you should have been the decoy for those pirates!" Brianna snapped. Kithri ducked her head and twisted, as if to pull away, but Brianna held her fast. "You listen to me! The one thing--the only thing that kept me going was thinking, Sooner or later that untranslatable bitch will find something that's too big for her to handle, and I'll be around to see it." <\i>

Kithri flushed and met Brianna's eyes. She stopped shaking. Her chin lifted. "Maybe you will, but it won't be now."

Deborah J. Ross: Jaydium - Chapter 34
deborahjross: (Jaydium)
Jaydium - Chapter 30

Eril's first impulse was to laugh in Brianna=s face. No one but his sister Avery could rant in such an operatic mode, and he thought Brianna would fare well in the comparison. But one look at Kithri's face convinced him that she, for one, was taking Brianna seriously.

"Calm down, Bri," he said as diplomatically as he could. "There's nothing to be gained by blaming one another. If there was a mistake, it was my mistake, not Kithri's."

"I don't blame her and I am quite calm already." Brianna began gathering the sheets of seaweed-film into meticulous piles, as if to underscore her rationality. "After all, she's had no more education than a herd-beast. Not a shred of decent methodological training. It isn't her fault--"

Kithri had started toward her own cubicle, but now she froze and turned slowly back. Her face flooded with color and her old nose break stood out as a chalky brand. She strode to the table and swept the entire contents--all of Brianna's notes, styluses, and specimens--to the floor. Still without a word, she shoved one fist a hairsbreadth from Brianna=s nose and made an emphatic gesture. Then she spun around and marched out the door.

Brianna looked at Eril, her eyes innocently wide. "What--what did she--"

"Never mind." Eril bent to pick up a pile of films. "You don't want to know what that meant."
deborahjross: (Deb and Cleo)
Deborah J. Ross: Jaydium - Chapter 29

"Forget what happened to me! What have we done to Raerquel?" Kithri reached into the cockpit and laid one hand on the gastropoid's silvery skin. There was no response, no change in its cool skin.

She started trembling. It was the coolness more than anything else that reminded her of her father's hand, how she held it through the long night until the last bit of body warmth had seeped away.
deborahjross: (Jaydium)
Things get more desperate as war looms even closer. Read the latest chapter on my blog.

"I was wrong about you," Lennart said slowly. "What I said before the hearing..."

"We were all swiping at each other. You were just--"

"Shut up and let me apologize! I can't hold you accountable for the crazy things your Federation did, any more than I can blame Kithri--or Raerquel. Even Bri, with all her academic bullshit, she'd stand on her head to save these folks. Protesting all the while that her only interest was as a scientist. Maybe in my time, it was people like you that kept us from destroying it all."

"Hey, don't go making me into a hero," Eril said with an embarrassed laugh. "I'm just your everyday fly-boy. I followed orders, I didn't make policy."

"Maybe things would've been better if you had..."
deborahjross: (Jaydium)
Dawn came and the crystalline walls glowed with a faint iridescent sheen. Eril couldn't remember falling asleep, just lying there, staring at the expanse of featureless luminescent gray. Wishing he could see the stars. Feeling the emptiness inside him. The not-caring that made his promises empty syllables and turned his life into one long bid for escape. He was human, he told himself, not hollow. He cared--about the Fed, about Raerquel and the future of its world. Yet something had gone out of him even before he jetted down to Port Ludlow in search of the brushie duopilot who was his only hope. Maybe in the bars and alleys of New Paris, one crazy scrape after another. Maybe as far back as Albion.


Eril winced at the memory. Compared to Kithri, he'd lost nothing there.

He sat up, his hip and shoulder bones aching. When he reached his arms above his head and stretched, his spine popped. Next to him, close enough so she could easily have touched him in her sleep, Kithri lay on curled on one side. In the far corner, Brianna had tucked up in a fetal ball, her back to the others. Lennart sat and stared blankly ahead, his legs folded in a complicated and uncomfortable-looking arrangement. His hands open lay, palms up, on his knees.

Eril clambered to his feet and continued his stretching. Even making allowances for the unforgiving sleeping surface, he felt stiff. He didn't like the thought of getting old. But at the rate they were going, they would none of them live that long.

None of us, he repeated to himself. Not just me, none of us.

Deborah J. Ross: Jaydium - Chapter 26
deborahjross: (Jaydium)
We're going to die anyway, all of us. You think your little studies of alien architecture are going to save this planet?"

Brianna offered no reply. Kithri looked at the woman and two men who had, in a few days, gone from strangers to people she'd die for. She had no strength to argue with them. She barely had enough for herself. All her instincts, all her experience urged her to keep silent, to stay out of it. There might be nothing she could do, or she might die anyway. She thought again of her father, wrestling alone with his own choices, his own unknown future. How much more difficult it must have been for him with a child, perhaps already knowing he was dying. All these years she=d blamed him for being a coward because he=d run away.

"You do whatever you want," she said, closing the door on everything that had gone before in her life. "Me, I'm going to go out fighting for something besides my own skin."

Deborah J. Ross: Jaydium - Chapter 25
deborahjross: (Jaydium)
If it's Friday, Kithri and her friends are about to be caught up in the aliens' interstellar war...

Deborah J. Ross: Jaydium - Chapter 20
deborahjross: (Jaydium)
Orycon ate my weekend, so I failed to connect with the internet last Friday to blather about Chapter 18 of my serialized sf novel, Jaydium.<\i> The question of whether vertebrates in general and mammals in particular (our heroes included) qualify as persons is debated.

Deborah J. Ross: Jaydium, Chapter 18
deborahjross: (Jaydium)
Today's chapter of Jaydium includes the scene I dreaded would end up on the cover: my heroine, Kithri, is (a) naked because she's come through a time portal; (b) being approached by a gigantic silver slug. (who then informs her of the impossibility of vertebrate sentience). Instead, Vincent Di Fate gave me a rainbow crystal city...and a frankly phallic space ship.

The gastropoid came closer in a gliding movement. This time, instead of recoiling in horror, Kithri watched it curiously. It did not ooze along on a carpet of slime like the slug it superficially resembled, but propelled itself on a rippling ridge of muscle. The movement of the flesh suggested some sort of internal pumping mechanism or hydraulic system. That would make sense, since there would be no bony skeleton to support so much mass. She couldn't be sure. Her training in xenozoology was sketchy at best, most of it centered around the two alien races that were known to the Fifth Fed. Her textbooks hadn't even considered the possibility of invertebrate sapience.

"I am a scientist studying vertebrate life forms, my particular interest being mammalians," the gastropoid said. "Your species is most unusual, if you will forgive any inadvertent discourtesy in my saying so. I have never had the opportunity to converse with an intelligent vertebrate before. All the mammalians we have studied have been nonsentient."

Deborah J. Ross: Jaydium, Chapter 16
deborahjross: (Default)
It's Jaydium Friday, and Kithri matches wits with the pirates, with surprising results.

Deborah J. Ross: Jaydium, Chapter 15
deborahjross: (Jaydium)
Chapter 12 of Jaydium is up today, in which pirates enter the picture...

She stepped into the room, moving silently toward the bunk. Just as she cleared the party-opened door, she caught a flash of movement from the side. She couldn't see it clearly, only an instant of looming shadow before the man-shaped figure burst from the corner and lunged at her. Without thinking, she whirled and brought her stungun up. A booted foot lashed out and collided with her forearm. It was a glancing blow, jerked short, enough to break her aim but not make her loosen her grip entirely. Her arm muscles went numb; she grabbed the stungun with the other hand--

Before she could fire, her assailant fell heavily to the floor beside a bunk that had been concealed by the door. If she'd opened it all the way, she would have seen him plainly. "Kithri?" The voice was slurred but recognizable.


He grinned crookedly up at her and said in a harsh whisper, "You are a welcome sight!"

The next instant, she'd tucked the stungun through her belt and was kneeling at Lennart's side. A trickle of dried blood ran from his hairline down one cheek. Like Brianna, he was chained to the wall, so that another inch would have moved Kithri entirely out of his range. A quick glance around the room revealed no other hidden prisoners.

"What the hell is going on?" Kithri said in a low voice. "Where's Eril?"

"Damned pirates took him back to the city."

"Pirates," Kithri muttered as she inspected his wrist cuffs. She didn't recognize the mechanism, nor could she identify any mechanical hinge closure. "They found my jaydium--I saw."

"They must have been monitoring Brianna's transmission," Lennart said. "They knew we had a cache, and that there's a source somewhere in this planet."
deborahjross: (Jaydium)
And not only are we not i/n/K/a/n/s/a/s on Stayman any more, but relationships are about to get complicated. Here's the link.

"Eril and that Brianna, I've seen their type before," Lennart nodded. "They're always so excited about what they're doing, they never look to see who's bringing up the rear."

"And that's us?"

"In a matter of speaking. I don't know what your story is, but I always figured that being a loner was the price of space flight. It never seemed like too much to pay before. Most other people couldn't understand what I wanted, anyway. But maybe it was the opposite, that I never got close to them because I knew I'd only have to leave."

"So you pushed them away... Are you telling me I do the same thing?"

Lennart shrugged. "I'm not saying it's bad to do that. You make your choice and you live by it."

"But I didn't choose this!" Kithri's nerves sizzled. "I had nothing to say about any of it! First I get dragged off Albion, then the goddamned war strands us in the dustpit of the universe, and now this crazy place--"

"And you're pissed at Eril because he sees it as a chance instead of a dead end?"

Something hot and red welled up inside Kithri until she could hardly see. "Why should you care what I feel?"

"Because you could use a friend."

For a moment Kithri saw herself reflected in his eyes, saw beauty in the taut, muscled grace of her body, the ragged curls. He stood before her, his big hands at his sides. The sky was light enough to reveal the startling red-brown of his eyes.

"A...friend," she repeated, heart pounding.

He smiled, one corner of his mouth turned down. "And so could I. Whether we stay here or make it back to your Fifth Fed, nobody's going to run me through a weekend refresher course and zap me back into space. I'll be lucky to get a job pushing a broom."
deborahjross: (Default)
In which Eril, Kithri, and Lennart find they are not in Kansas any more...

He couldn't move, not even his eyelids. He could barely breathe as an iron band held his ribs like a vice. Something warm and steely clamped tight over his mouth. Prickles of ice flared up all over his body.

Air! screamed his burning lungs.

Calm--he had to stay calm. Just one breath, he swore to himself--one breath, nice and slow. Air in...air out...

Panic receded to a muted roar.

Air in...air out... He could feel a faint, shallow movement in his chest. His heart raced loud and strong in his ears. Cold sweat covered his face.

The next thing Eril felt was a slight stinging on his temples as something was torn loose.

"Ccan yyou unndersstand mme?"

The words reverberated in his ears with a curious, distorted echo. Somehow he managed to open his eyes. His vision whirled, doubled, and finally came to an uneasy fusion. A moment later he made out a slender silhouette backlit by artificial yellow-green light, bending over him. The clamp over his mouth was suddenly released. He felt a gentle touch behind one ear.

"There, the translator should be working better now." The voice was light, flowery and unmistakably feminine. "The sound-duplication effect will fade as your auditory associational cortex filters out the redundant signals. You can understand me, yes?"

Deborah J. Ross: Jaydium, Chapter 10
deborahjross: (Jaydium)
the plot thickens...

Just one night won't hurt anything, Eril told himself, knowing full well that he was rationalizing. The truth was that he wanted the city to himself for a little longer, before it swarmed with Federation scientists.

Read it here (and previous chapters are up - click "Read A Story" for the index)


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Deborah J. Ross

May 2017

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