Tuesday, December 28, 2010


Another year, another Darkover anthology. I tended to write stories for the Darkover anthologies as if they were homework assignments, and I wrote quite a few of them about Hilary Castamir, who was the first Darkover character I identified with. For this story I gave her a friend who was a ghost, and I threw in a reference to the Sisterhood of the Sword, which Marion had created several novels earlier as a precursor to the Renunciates. Because the story is set during Hilary's early years at Arilinn Tower, Damon Ridenow and Leonie Hastur are also characters in it.

"Playfellow" is available for Kindle and Nook.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Dance at the Gym

"Dance at the Gym" was written for The San Francisco Chronicle and was published September 17, 1987. To the best of my recollection, it was in the People section. The paper sent a photo to several Bay Area writers and asked them to write a story about it. The word limit was 1000 words; this story is 700. Obviously, I was not the writer they sent this to--they sent it to Marion, who frequently said that she got her best ideas at novel length. The photo sat propped up on the mantel in the living room for several weeks while she tried to come up with something. Then I got an idea, partly from the dances that my boarding school arranged with a nearby military academy (I think they assigned our dates by height) and partly from West Side Story. This was the first piece I wrote under the byline "Marion Zimmer Bradley"--in this case because I was more comfortable with the assigned length. Unfortunately, as her health began to fail, it was not to be the last.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A Woman's Privilege

"A Woman's Privilege" was started at one of MZB's writing workshops. She did them almost every year, and I always attended them (I was in charge of the hand-outs anyway). We'd start Friday night with a first sentence, and by Sunday afternoon we'd have the major elements of the story done. Finishing and editing it was done after the workshop, but once the basics were there, the rest of the job wasn't too hard. I don't remember exactly where I got the original idea, but I do remember being in the basement doing laundry when a friend remarked to me that salt water and blood have a lot of the same elements. This story evolved into my first novel, CHANGING FATE, and I've been writing about these characters on and off ever since. "A Woman's Privilege" was published in SWORD AND SORCERESS III in 1986.

"A Woman's Privilege" is available for Kindle and Nook.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Child of the Heart

"Child of the Heart" appeared in the third Darkover anthology, FREE AMAZONS OF DARKOVER. It was published in 1985, which means I wrote the story in 1984. There were quite a few people who complained to Marion about the rule that required the male children of a Free Amazon to be fostered away from the Guild House by the age of five. All of the arguments I heard, however, were from the point of view of the mother. I appeared to be the only one who wondered how the child would feel about it, which is what gave me the idea for this story.

"Child of the Heart" is available for Kindle and Nook.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Cold Spell

"Cold Spell" was another milestone in my career; it was the first story I sold to somebody other than MZB. Of course, I was still selling to somebody who knew me, but I considered it progress. The story was written for Andre Norton, who was editing a shared-world anthology called MAGIC IN ITHKAR. The participating authors chose trades for their characters, and I picked candle-making because it was something I could actually do. Eirthe Candlemaker appears in some of my later stories--as well as some of Marion's, because Eirthe and Lythande (one of Marion's characters) became friends and occasionally encountered each other in the course of their respective journeys.

"Cold Spell" is available for Kindle and Nook.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Tell Me A Story

"Tell Me A Story" was my first published non-Darkover story. Of course, it was inspired by living with Marion, and it was written for GREYHAVEN, an anthology of stories written by members of her extended family. Marion often said that she kept a time warp on her desk for losing important papers. She didn't really need one--when I first entered her office it was impossible to see the floor--but it was a running joke. That's what gave me the idea of writing a story about a time warp capable of swallowing her things.

"Tell Me a Story" is part of my collection MAGIC IN SUBURBIA, which is available in paperback and Kindle formats.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


It was 1981, and I was still writing Darkover short stories. Actually what happened was that Marion Zimmer Bradley was editing SWORD OF CHAOS, the second Darkover anthology. Because I lived in her household and worked as her secretary, I was helping assemble the anthology. There was a story titled "Escape" that was accepted for the anthology; but the ending of it gave me nightmares, so I wrote "Rebirth" as a sequel to it--or perhaps an antidote. I was always prone to nightmares; when I was a child I couldn't even watch The Wizard of Oz on TV without getting them.

"Rebirth" is available from Kindle.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Alton Gift

This is the short story I wrote in 1978, not to be confused with the novel of the same title, which is completely different. The story was inspired by two things: a scene in one of the Darkover novels where someone using the Alton Gift actually did kill someone; and the fact that I was living in my parents' house while they prepared for my younger sister's wedding. My mother was planning the wedding reception--followed by a major party for her friends--in our back yard, and wedding planning can be very stressful for everyone in range. There was a lot of drama and fussing, and I already had a full-time job plus a full-time course load for my Master's degree.

I wrote this for a Darkover short story contest that MZB was running, and the rule was that stories had to be submitted anonymously. I was living in Connecticut, but the company I was working for had a plant in North Carolina (oddly enough, in a town named Marion). I put postage on the envelope and sent it there to be mailed from their mail room, so Marion (the person, not the town) had no clue that I'd even entered. The story took second place in the contest, and I finally told Marion I'd written it when she came for a visit. Fortunately, there was a chair behind her, because she was so surprised she fell over. It might have been better, however, if it hadn't been a rocking chair.

"The Alton Gift" is available from Kindle. It is also in the anthology THE KEEPER'S PRICE.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Keeper's Price

I started this story shortly before I met Marion Zimmer Bradley.  I had been reading THE FORBIDDEN TOWER, and there was a brief mention of Hilary Castamir, a trainee Keeper who couldn't do the work because she got so sick every month. Given the fact that I spent three days every month in bed taking painkillers with vodka (I don't recommend this, but I truly didn't care if I died), I could easily identify with Hilary. I wrote the first draft of this story, and then Marion did a rewrite to make it more in line with her vision of her world. I later discovered two things: (1) I had endometriosis; and (2) one of Marion's friends when she was living in Texas had it too, which probably explains Hilary's illness. Marion always used to say "It's all grist for the mill." It's certainly true that the oddest things turn up in one's writing.

THE KEEPER'S PRICE (the anthology, which includes the story) is available for Kindle.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Where do you get your ideas?

Writers are frequently asked "Where do you get your ideas?" There are some flip answers: "a post office box in Schenectady"; "I keep a little old lady chained in the basement"; etc. The problem is that the question is too general. Ideas come from all sorts of places, and the writer doesn't know where all the ideas came from. But if the question is "Where did you get the idea for this story?" then there's a chance that it can be answered.