deborahjross: (halidragon)
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!
deborahjross: (Default)
I had a lot of fun on Juliette Wade's "Dive Into WorldBuilding" hangout. It was great to have a chance to talk about The Seven-Petaled Shield...and a bit strange to see myself on video. Here I am!

We were very fortunate to be joined by author Deborah J. Ross, who came to talk to us about her wonderful trilogy, The Seven-Petaled Shield. She told us that it was inspired by an exhibit of Scythian art that she saw, and was a way for her to branch out beyond the tired tropes of pseudo-Celtic and Western European fantasy.

The Scythians were nomadic horse-riders in the central Asian steppe. They had shamans called enarees who, among other duties, would be asked to test the truthfulness of any charges brought against someone in their community. Enarees were men who wore woman's clothing and occupied a cultural niche in between the men's world and the women's world. One fascinating thing about them was that they kept the Romans at bay for hundreds of years.

Deborah began by writing four short stories set in a fantasy version of the Scythian world, known as Azkhantia. She wanted to write a novel, and found the right additional axis of tension when she realized she's referred to a place called Meklavar as "where witches dwell." She then expanded Meklavar into a society based on very ancient Judea. The Meklavarans have a very old written scripture, and literacy is very important to them, as is the knowledge of languages. Any given Meklavaran will typically know 3 or 4 modern languages and 2 extinct ones. Their magic is based in the scriptural stories.

She elaborated on this using parallels from the real world, where echoes of earlier goddess-based religions remain in scriptures of the traditions that followed them. She was also inspired by the tale of King Solomon's seals and the genie. When something has been pent up - something that needs very badly to stay pent up - we can forget things, and wind up in trouble. In The Seven-Petaled Shield, the empire of Gelon goes after Meklavar, and accidentally releases an evil genie.

The story focuses on the viewpoint of women, in part because she didn't want it just to be "Lord of the Rings with a twist." In this world, the solutions to problems can't come by the sword.

The "Seven-Petaled Shield" of the title is a set of seven magical jewels. Six of these occupy the points of a six-pointed star, and the seventh lies at the center. Each jewel has a different kind of power associated with a particular attribute (courage, strength, etc.) The six brothers with the jewels were magically linked and were able to defeat the evil power of Fire and Ice, which was made up of incompatible elements left over from the creation of the universe.

The story begins with the siege of Meklavar, in the person of Tsorreh, the young second wife of the king. Deborah explained that she wanted Tsorreh to be young, but old enough to be educated and have strong cultural heritage. She is part Mekalavaran and part Isarran (Isarre is something like Phoenicia.) In the siege, she chooses to save the library, saving the things that make her people unique. Just before she and her son flee, she inherits the central gem of the shield, which changes her power and perceptions. Her biggest strength is in making friends and having compassion.

Deborah wanted to make sure enemies were not demonized, and she wanted to explore how to resolve conflict in non-violent ways.

During the story, Tsorreh's son Zevaron believes that his mother has been killed, and becomes consumed by desire for revenge. Deborah explained that she drew on her own experience of her mother's murder to explore his character. In the end, she says she is the person she wants to be, and not defined by that experience. Her journey to healing is reflected to some extent in the story. She also looks at how people come to believe that "your pain will be over when X is destroyed."

There is love in the story, though Tsorreh's first marriage is political. Deborah says almost all her stories have love in them. The meeting of Zevaron with the Azkhantian warrior Shannivar was one of her earliest imaginings for the story.

Deborah placed the emergence point for Fire and Ice at the northeast corner of the steppe. She therefore did a lot of research on Mongolian life. Horses and camels are very important to the people there, and friction between clans is far less because just staying alive in this environment is so difficult. The culture as a whole comes to support the border clans who are those who clash most often with outsiders.

Deborah describes Shannivar (for whom the second book was named) as a very clear viewpoint character, easier to write than some of the others. She was excited to see Shannivar illustrated on the cover of the book as Asian, wearing clothing she could reasonably fight in! Shannivar's place in the Azkhantian culture allowed her to explore the question of how the culture might reasonably balance women fighters with the need for family and child-raising, as well as the need for a high birth rate. In Azkhantia, men and women are pretty equal until they are teens -they all ride, shoot, hunt, etc. Then they can participate in a ritual called The Long Ride, which is a status-raising activity. Once they have killed an enemy in battle, which is a prerequisite for marriage, women come under more pressure to settle down and take part in more settled activities like raising children and making felt for tents. Shannivar, however, is not interested in marriage because she wants glory.

One fascinating element of the story is how both Shannivar and Tsorreh experience love, but in neither case does that love hamper their drive or their power to achieve what they want.

Reggie asked, "How did the finished story diverge from your plan?" Deborah said that she knew the characters would have to find the various pieces of the shield, but initially had no idea how that would be accomplished. She had also put a lot of importance on a prophet character who bore some resemblance to Jesus - but he ended up being less important in the final draft. Shannivar's story was initially the last third of the book, but Deborah decided she needed to develop the details of Tsorreh's captivity. She wanted everyone to have internal journeys as well as external. Shannivar was given more room to develop from a talented girl to a war leader.

Deborah told us the moving story of her friend Bonnie Stockman, who was her best friend and taught her a lot about horses, helping her to develop Shannivar's relationship to her two horses. Deborah dedicated the book to her, but Bonnie became very ill before the book was to be released. DAW printed a single 8.5"x11" copy so that she could see it before she passed away. Deborah had very glowing words for DAW's relationship with her and their willingness to get her involved in the choice of her own cover art, by Matt Stawicki. She would like to see The Seven-Petaled Shield turned into an ongoing series - and so would I!

Thank you so much, Deborah, for coming to speak with us about your amazing books.Here's a link where you can purchase them.

And here's the video of our discussion, if you'd like to learn more!
deborahjross: (Default)
This went up on my blog a couple of days ago. No reason why you folks shouldn't play, too. Leave comments here or there.

The third book in The Seven-Petaled Shield trilogy came out in early June, and I have a box of author's copies sitting here begging to be sent to good homes. I'm happy to oblige them, but I make certain assumptions:

You've read the first two books (The Seven-Petaled Shield, Shannivar) and
You've liked them well enough to want to know how the story ends.

So here's the deal. Write a review of one or both of the earlier volumes and then post a comment here. You don't have to divulge where you put up the review -- online booksellers, your own blog, your town newspaper, social media sites, whatever -- I'll take it on faith that you did. That way, you can say what you thought without the apprehension of the author peering anxiously over your shoulder.

On August 4, I'll choose 5 names at random from the commenters (so the cutoff time will be 9 am Pacific Time). I'll pay media rate postage within the US, although donations are as always welcome. For outside the US, we'll negotiate, maybe splitting the postage.

Hope you enjoy the books, have fun with the reviews, and let the commenting begin!
deborahjross: (Default)
Sometimes, when you first see the cover image for a book you've labored long and hard over, you just want to dig a hole, climb in, and pull a heavy rock over the opening. Other times, it's so gorgeous, so true to the spirit of the book, you can hardly breathe for excitement. That was my joy in this cover. It's not accurate to the details of the story, but it so embodies the central conflict -- and oh my, yes, Shannivar is back!

The book comes out in June 2014, but you can pre-order it now. Barnes & Noble,, Powell's or your local bookstore.
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)
Horse people form extraordinary, loyal, and sometimes contentious communities. The same is true for readers (and writers!) of science fiction and fantasy. (And for martial artists, and musicians, and . . .) When two or more of these interests coincide, the results can be magical.
The second volume of The Seven-Petaled Shield, titled Shannivar, touches many of the areas of passion in my life. A strong woman hero, a martial artist, a horsewoman, her wonderful horses, a love story (me being a romantic at heart), a quest . . . One of the people I’ve shared a love of horses and adventure with is my friend Bonnie, about whom I’ve written in the last few posts.

Bonnie and I became fast friends over folk dancing and wild adventures during our college student days in the 1960s. Later, when she fulfilled her dream of owning horses, she carried me back to my own high school years, when I rode my own horse over the golden hills. When I’d visit, we’d ride together, clean stalls together, talk endlessly about horse temperaments and training, and swap tall tales “in the saddle.”
Read more... )
Much to my delight, Bonnie  began studying tai chi chuan, which I had practiced for 4 or 5 years before being seduced by kung fu (30 years total). During those years, I’d delved into the women sf/f writers martial arts cabal. One of those adventures took place at a women’s martial arts camp, where I took a seminar in tai chi sword. I’d kept the sword even after I switched to kung fu, and earlier this year I brought it up for Bonnie to use in her sword form class.

It was therefore luminously clear to me that the Dedication to Shannivar belonged to Bonnie. Who else would understand the references to gaited horses (Bonnie rode Tennessee Walkers), the strategies of a long distance horse race, or the enchantment of a dance when all elements come together as a glorious whole? The only question was whether she would still be here to see its publication.

For the several years while I worked on revising the trilogy as a whole, all 3 books at once and scheduled for release 6 months apart, her health declined slowly and I was hopeful. And close-mouthed. Then everything changed with her hospitalization and greatly shortened prognosis. Shannivar was due to be released in December, and I feared she wouldn’t make it that long.

I sent off an email to Joshua Starr at DAW, my publisher, and explained my concerns. The book was well into production. I’d proofread the pages and seen both the preliminary cover sketches and the final painting. But the ARCs would not come along for a little while. Josh printed up and bound a copy with a mock up cover (the painting, but not the final design) and mailed it to me out here.

I presented it to my friend. Thank you from both of us to Josh, and Kate and Betsy and everyone at DAW.
Deborah and Bonnie

deborahjross: (Shield #1)
The Seven-Petaled Shield was inspired by four short stories that Marion Zimmer Bradley bought for Sword & Sorceress. Now they're together in one collection (with a gorgeous cover by Dave Smeds!) Here's the skinny:

Across the Azkhantian steppe, warrior women ride to battle against foes both human and supernatural. From the world of The Seven-Petaled Shield come four fantasy tales, originally published in Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Sword & Sorceress.

Prophecy links a mother and daughter in an unbreakable bond.

A young woman defies tradition to become a shaman.

When twins are magically divided, the survivor searches for the other half of her soul.

A warrior woman discovers that to wield a magical blade dishonorably carries a heavy price.

This collection includes a previously-unpublished Introduction and a sneak peek at The Seven-Petaled Shield.

Only $1.99 in DRM-free multi-format 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: (Deb and Cleo)
I've been a bit scarce of late, slowly recuperating from Awful Viral Ickies (most likely H1N1, although docs in this county don't test any more, they just presume anything that flattens you is that one). I'm still resting alot and taking things very easy, doing all the Bronchitis Prevention Measures.

The amazing thing, well one anyway, is that I actually got a chapter written while I was sick. 20 pages or so on THE HEIR OF KHORED, the third book in THE SEVEN-PETALED SHIELD. This in itself is not miraculous, a fairly low output when I'm doing rough draft. I am, however, majorly stoked that I got anything done. I found myself thinking about it at all odd non-coughing times -- a very good sign of Things To Come.


deborahjross: (Default)
Deborah J. Ross

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