Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A Leash of Greyhounds

"A Leash of Greyhounds" was written for the Valdemar anthology UNDER THE VALE, published on December 6, 2011. This means that I started writing it in December 2010. I was spending Advent (the liturgical season before Christmas—it starts around November 30) at a convent in upstate New York. I love spending Advent there; it allows me to concentrate on the religious meaning of Christmas rather than "shopping days until Christmas" and the holiday music piped everywhere. (I had a procedure at my dentist's last week. They usually inject anesthetic for it, but I don't like to have my face numbed up—not to mention the fact that the shots are frequently more painful than the work the dentist is doing—so I use self-hypnosis. I swear that the Christmas carols being played in the dental office were the most painful part of the entire experience.)

Anyway, last year while I was enjoying life at the convent, I was privileged to take the classes being given in the Novitiate. We were studying the formation of religious orders, and the Mother Superior assigned me a biography of Saint Jeanne, Baroness de Chantal (1573-1641), who founded the Congregation of the Visitation. The biography was written about two hundred years after her death, and I found the point of view rather strange. Perhaps in a Catholic country it is acceptable for a five-year-old to tell her father's Protestant guest that he's going to hell (the biographer seemed to think this behavior praiseworthy and evidence of her piety), but I can imagine what my father would have done to me if I'd ever been so rude to a guest! It may be different in a country where one is expected to be Catholic, but having been raised in the United States, where respect for other peoples' beliefs is an important part of our culture, I feel that telling someone he's going to hell is rude—not to mention arrogant. We're human; we don't know God's mind, and judgment is his prerogative, not ours.

But even her biographer criticized her reaction to her husband's death—or, more accurately, to his killer. The Baron de Chantal died in one of those stupid hunting accidents where an idiot with a gun can't tell the rest of his party from the animals they're hunting. He lived long enough to forgive the friend who had fatally wounded him and to ask his wife to do the same. The Baroness, however, was not in a forgiving mood. I really don't blame her; she loved her husband, she was only twenty-eight, and she had four children to raise without his support. Forgiveness took her many years and the repeated admonitions of St. Francis de Sales, who became her spiritual director three years after her husband's death.

So I had characters, conflict, and the beginning of a story. I added Lena, who had been a minor character in "A Charm of Finches," and some animals—the "leash of greyhounds" of the title—and I was off and writing.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

A Charm of Finches

"A Charm of Finches" was written for Mercedes Lackey's Valdemar anthology FINDING THE WAY, published in December 2010. (I also have a story in UNDER THE VALE, which came out today.) Obviously I'm still getting titles from my list of interesting collective names for animals. My heroine from "A Storytelling of Crows" is now living at the Temple of Thenoth, Lord of the Beasts, in Haven. This allows her to meet a lot more people than she did living in the Forest of Sorrows.

The idea for this story came from a discussion I had with Misty about what constituted a valid religion, as both of us are aware that religions created for fictional works (the Jedi Knights, for example) can end up with real-world followers. I sometimes wonder if the Percy Jackson series and other recent books using Greek, Roman, Egyptian, and Norse deities are causing people to start worshiping them again.

Given Valdemar's "there is no one true way" policy, it's impossible to say that a religion, however fraudulent and self-serving its origins, is not valid. This makes it necessary to find some other way to deal with its "priests."

"A Charm of Finches" is available from Kindle.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

National Novel Writing Month

November is over, and I've written more than 50,000 words; I am a NaNoWriMo winner! Hurray! (Also, whew. As someone in my RWA chapter wrote: can I have my life back now?)

Seriously though, writing enough every day to meet a goal is a really good habit to get into. I may cut back to 1,000 words a day, but I'm going to try to keep the momentum going. After all, 50,000 words isn't the complete bookI still have more of the story to tell.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Inquisition for Blood

"Inquisition for Blood" is the seventh story in the Treasures series. Michael Spence and I wrote it for SWORD & SORCERESS 25 in 2010. The title, as usual, comes from a verse in the Daily Office: "For when he maketh inquisition for blood, he remembereth them, * and forgetteth not the complaint of the poor." (Psalm 9, verse 12; Terce on Wednesdays)

Michael and his wife refered to it as CSI: Albion -- Albion being the extremely fictitious version of England where our stories are set.  I still have some of the e-mails we exchanged while we were writing this.  Excerpts include:

"Cordon rouge" is cute, but can we really assume that our readers all know French? They may be more apt to think it has something to do with food. [rather than being the red cord used to block off a crime scene]

Ramona read the draft and pronounced it "a bad story."

Ramona, as usual, is right. Cool as 'CSI: Albion' is, we need to get rid of most of it; our problem is finding the new Guardian. We also need a better explanation for why the briefcase suddenly turns up -- perhaps it should just remain at the crime scene; there's no good reason for it to be gone. I think we've got a bit too much deus ex machina in this story (the wandering briefcase, the Grail's effect on Belinda, the recoil going through the box the Grail is in -- especially because I believe the workroom is at the top of a tower), so I'll try to take some of it out.

Speaking of recoil, if the force that went through Lady Catherine didn't penetrate the wall, the recoil probably put holes in some of the seating but didn't make it out of the lecture hall (m*a=m*a, remember?). With a handgun, the gun absorbs most of the force because it has a greater mass than the bullet. Depending on relative sizes, a gun will push painfully into the webbing between thumb and index finger (which is why I can't handle a .38; it's too small for me) and/or climb upward. And if Belinda holds a stylus the way I hold a pen; she'd probably put a hole through the right sleeve of her gown. [We got rid of all the ballistics, which was probably a very good thing. For those of you who managed to avoid physics classes, in the equation above "m" is mass, "a" is acceleration, and you're eligible to serve on a jury in cases involving car accidents. Last time I had jury duty, the lawyers refused to take anyone who had studied physics, even if it was just one class in high school.]

I'm not sure whether all the e-mails we sent back and forth were longer than the story finally turned out to be, but it wouldn't surprise me. Collaboration can take a lot of work. Even though Michael and I have known each other since high school and our writing styles mesh well together, there's still a lot to discuss in the process of assembling a story. And we're very lucky to have his wife Ramona to help us.

"Inquisition for Blood" is in the second volume of TREASURES OF ALBION.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Early Thanksgiving

I have a lot to be thankful for today. I'm finally (almost completely) over the nasty colds that have been plaguing me—I've had two in the past month. I'm getting caught up on National Novel Writing Month, though I'm writing a mixture of a novel and two short stories.

I'm feeling well enough to exercise again, although I'm doing only two miles of Leslie Sansone's WalkSlim: 3 Fast Miles, which is my favorite exercise DVD. Still that's up from one mile, so it's progress. And I certainly need to exercise. Randall Garrett once complained that the IRS wouldn't let him deduct "the two necessities of a writer's life" — alcohol and cigarettes. For me it's Diet Coke and chocolate, which are not exactly slimming, and it's hard to explain to a guy why you can't give up chocolate. I've tried. I used to give up chocolate for Lent, until I discovered that See's Candies thinks that the Easter season runs through Lent and ends on Easter Sunday, instead of beginning on Easter Sunday and running for another five weeks or so. If I want Easter candy, I have to get it during Lent.

SWORD & SORCERESS 26 is now up on Amazon, both as a trade paperback and for Kindle. I don't know about Nook; last time I looked they had volumes 22, 23, and 24, but not 25, which came out last year. I'm glad I have a Kindle.

There are a lot of other things I'm thankful for: my family and friends, my church community, a roof over my head and enough money to keep it there. I know that I'm better off than many people in the world, which is why I give as generously as I can to charities that help others make their lives better.

Thanksgiving Day may be ten days away, but it's never to early to give thanks.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A Storytelling of Crows

I had a story, The School up the Hill, in the first of Mercedes Lackey's Valdemar anthologies, SWORD OF ICE in 1997. Then I skipped the next several volumes and didn't write another story until this one, written for CHANGING THE WORLD in 2009.

The title comes from a quiz I took -- and saved -- on names for groups of animals (the next two stories are "A Charm of Finches" and "A Leash of Greyhounds"), and the story is about a girl who lives next to the Forest of Sorrows and has the Animal Mindspeech gift. Given her lack of family, all of her friends are animals -- at least until the strange white horse with its injured human shows up.

"A Storytelling of Crows" is available from  Kindle.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Sick of Traveling

I'm not a great traveler, even when I'm healthy. When I'm trying to fight off a cold, it's much worse. I spent last weekend in San Diego at the World Fantasy Convention, which was a great con that I'd have enjoyed even more if I hadn't been sick. Then there was the trip home. I would think that one could get from Los Angeles to San Francisco with one takeoff and landing, rather than three (two of the landings were in Los Angeles, because they had a leak in one of the cabin doors)--but I guess that's just my opinion. I really, really hope that the proposed high-speed rail gets built.

I got home late Monday night feeling like something death wouldn't bother to warm over. Yesterday I was too sick to unpack, let alone do my blog. Today I managed to empty the suitcases, and now I'm going to crawl back to bed. Somebody told me that our immune system comes from the Neanderthals--maybe I just don't have enough Neanderthal in me. I seem to get everything going around, and then I stay sick for two to four weeks. It's a good thing I'm a writer--at least I generally don't have to worry about infecting my co-workers.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Sceptre of the Ungodly

For the 2009 anthology SWORD AND SORCERESS 24, Michael Spence and I wrote another "Treasures" story. This time, however, we were dealing with an anti-Treasure. For years I had been reading, in the mid-day Office for Saturday: "For the sceptre of the ungodly shall not abide upon the lot of the righteous; * lest the righteous put their hand unto wickedness." I thought that anything called the Sceptre of the Ungodly had definite possibilities, so I started with the title. Then Michael and I got together and decided to stick Edward with the job of Guardian for it, which made sense in view of his actions in earlier stories. Then we had the Sceptre get lost and turn up in the worst possible place for him to retrieve it from, so it's a good thing that he had Alyssa, who is the Guardian of her own anti-Treasure, the Blade of Unmaking, to help him.

"Sceptre of the Ungodly" is in the second volume of TREASURES OF ALBION.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Why can't humans have better anti-virus protection?

I got my 2011-12 flu shot over a month ago. Unfortunately, there are a lot of viruses it doesn't protect me against, including the one currently going through my church. The Sunday before last our deacon had it, this past Sunday our rector had it, and now it seems to be my turn. So, instead of writing my regular blog (which I'm afraid would come out as gibberish), I'm going to go back to bed with my iPod, which I bought mostly because I can put my Kindle books on it.

I'm currently rereading Heroes of Olympus, Book Two: The Son of Neptune, along with Book One: The Lost Hero (some people have comfort food; I have comfort reading). But before I crawl back to bed I need to download the new book I just bought, Wishes and Stitches, by my friend Rachael Herron. That will give me something good to read as I start to feel better, which I pray will happen soon.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Sixth String

I tend to write the majority of my short fiction for my friends' anthologies. "The Sixth String" was written for LACE AND BLADE 2, edited by Deborah J. Ross, and published in 2009. Like "Daughter of Heaven" in SWORD & SORCERESS 23, it was inspired by the exhibition Power and Glory: Court Arts of China’s Ming Dynasty, which was at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco the previous year. More specifically, it was inspired by the performances of Wang Fei, who played the guqin, a very old Chinese stringed instrument, on weekends as part of the exhibition.

I attended one of her early performances, and it was the most gorgeous thing I had ever heard. I went back. Repeatedly. I dragged my friends along. When she offered classes, I signed up and took them, despite an unfortunate lack of talent (I do better with woodwinds than strings). I bought CDs, including one by her teacher, Li Xiang-ting. And I listened to what she said about the symbolism associated with the instrument. The first five strings symbolize the five elements: Metal, Wood, Water, Fire and Earth. The sixth string was added by the first emperor of the Zhou Dynasty, which started around 1100 BCE. Given the amount of history the guqin has, I didn't have any problem making it magical.

"The Sixth String" is available for Kindle and Nook.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Scam Artistry

Traditionally each SWORD & SORCERESS anthology ends with a short, funny story. But in 2008, when I was editing SWORD & SORCERESS 23, I didn't get anything that qualified.

I had invited Mercedes Lackey to send me a story, and she said that she didn't have time to write one. But when I was desperate, she agreed to help. I sent her a first draft, based on incidents I had seen a few times in San Francisco, and she rewrote it, producing "Scam Artistry"--funny and under 1000 words long.

"Scam Artistry" is available for Kindle and Nook.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Daughter of Heaven

In "Daughter of Heaven" (Treasures of Albion #5), Michael and I decided to deal with Laurel's problems with the geas that kept her living with her brother and his wife: life in campus housing; not being able to work farther away than the Customs House; and the impossibility of avoiding her her ex-boyfriend. Of course we dealt with this by giving her an entirely new set of problems--and while she wanted to get away from campus, China was probably not what she had in mind.

This story was inspired by several things: a piece I saw in an exhibit at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, which we used as the Pin; an exhibit called Power and Glory: Court Arts of China's Ming Dynasty, which went from San Francisco to Indianapolis in 2008, allowing both Michael and me to see it; and a video about the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Ming Garden, showing how they brought the materials and the workmen--and the cooks--from China to do the installation.

"Daughter of Heaven" was published in SWORD AND SORCERESS 23 in 2008 and is in the second volume of TREASURES OF ALBION.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


I have spent a good part of the past month preparing TIGER BURNING BRIGHT for eBook publication. First I cleaned up the scanned file. Then, when I thought it was clean, I converted the file so I could read it on my PDA, which allowed me to find a lot more errors. It's amazing how much you notice when your screen displays about five words per line. But the truly amazing thing is that just after having gone through it twice, I still like it enough that I bought a copy for my Kindle.

TIGER BURNING BRIGHT was published in 1995. Marion Zimmer Bradley and Andre Norton had been part of a collaborative book five years earlier (BLACK TRILLIUM), and they decided to try the process again. The basic idea is simple: you have a few major characters, each author writes her character's part of the story, and one of the authors assembles the book. So Marion was writing the character of the Dowager Queen Adele, Andre was writing Queen Lydana, and Mercedes Lackey was writing Princess Shelyra (as well as several relatively minor characters). I was away at skating camp at Ice Castle (see the post for "Ice Princess") when Marion got sick again. I remember spending a lot of time on the phone plotting with Misty as I took over Adele's part. I must say that all the time I spent in a convent really paid off, as we created the Gemen (we didn't want to use Brother and Sister as titles, so we derived one from the Latin word for twin), the Temple, and the religion. Andre wrote Lydana, giving her jewelry-making skills as both a hobby and a profession to hide in, and Misty did nearly everything else. I'd e-mail my day's work to her each morning, we'd talk about it, and then I'd do another stint. It was actually a lot of fun. We've even talked about doing a sequel to it, but that would require finding some spare time in Misty's schedule, so I'm not holding my breath. Maybe someday.

TIGER BURNING BRIGHT is available in paperback, and for Kindle, Kobo, and Nook.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Crosswort Puzzle

"Crosswort Puzzle" is the fourth story in the "Treasures of Albion" series, written by  me and Michael Spence. Due to a geas placed on them, Laurel has to live with her brother Stephen and his wife Melisande until Stephen passes his Senior Ordeal, even though she, being a teen-age prodigy, has already passed hers. (Michael had finally finished his dissertation by the time we wrote this story). To make matters worse, her ex-boyfriend is still around, so she can't avoid him either. She does manage to get an internship off-campus, working in the Customs House. There, in an attempt to find a more efficient way to process all the documents passing through her hands, she accidentally lets something slip through that she should have stopped: a version of crosswort that Michael and I called "anti-St. John's wort." Instead of relieving depression, this stuff causes it.

This story also addresses an issue I've never quite been able to resolve about forgiveness: we're taught to forgive those who hurt us; but what do we do about forgiving those who hurt others--especially people we care about?

"Crosswort Puzzle" first appeared SWORD & SORCERESS 22 in 2007 and is also in the first volume of TREASURES OF ALBION.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Pride, Prejudice, and Paranoia

"Pride, Prejudice, and Paranoia" was the third story in the "Treasures" series that Michael Spence and I have been been writing together, although Michael wrote most of this one. Like its predecessor "Salt and Sorcery" it deals with Stephen's Senior Ordeal (Michael was still working on his dissertation when this was written). Stephen's wife Melisande finally managed to get him to take it, and he failed ("I told you I wasn't ready"). So Melisande has to figure out why he failed. Unfortunately for family amity--and teenage love--it turns out that his little sister's boyfriend had something to do with it.

"Pride, Prejudice, and Paranoia" first appeared SWORD & SORCERESS 19 in 2002, and it is in the first volume of TREASURES OF ALBION.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Bed of Roses

"Bed of Roses" was published in SWORD AND SORCERESS 18 in 2001. The idea came to me from some historical research I was doing for a book about Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar (1043-1099), better known as "El Cid," that Marion Zimmer Bradley planned to write. Because some of the books were in Spanish, and my undergraduate major was Romance Languages, I got the job of doing preliminary research.

Among the many reasons that the Moors conquered nearly all of Spain in only seven years, while it took the Christian kings almost 700 years to get it back was the way the kings handled inheritance. A king would unite (by conquest, marriage, and the deaths of his wife's relatives who had a better claim to a throne than she did) several kingdoms into one. He would be powerful; they'd call him "the Great"--and then he would die....

Fernando I, who was crowned "Emperor of Spain" in 1056, died in 1065. He left five children: Sancho, who inherited Castille; Alfonso, who inherited Leon; Garcia, who inherited Galicia; Elvira; and Urraca, who was given the city of Zamora, which was located in the middle of Leon. Even if Urraca hadn't already had a close relationship with her brother Alfonso, their interests certainly coincided now. And naturally, the fighting began; Garcia's kingdom fell to his brothers, and Sancho and Alfonso turned on each other in a war for control of the rest of their father's lands. By 1072 Sancho controlled all of them--except for Zamora. While he had surrounded and besieged the city, Urraca still held it against him. As the story goes, she persuaded Vellido Dolfos, one of her nobles, to go to Sancho, pretending to a deserter who would show him a way into the city, in order to assassinate him. His reward was to be a night in her bed. History records that Vellido killed Sancho and escaped back into Zamora. The stories say that Urraca kept her word--after a fashion. Vellido spent a night in her bed, in chains, and was executed the next day for his assassination of King Sancho, her brother. This left the kingdom to Alfonso--at least until he died. He was succeeded by his daughter, who was also named Urraca.

So that's where the idea of a night in the bed of an unmarried girl as a reward came from, along with how to cope with this demand if she didn't want him in her bed.

"Bed of Roses" is available for Kindle and Nook.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Salt and Sorcery

"Salt and Sorcery" is the second story in the Treasures of Albion series and the first one that Michael Spence and I collaborated on (the puns are his fault). It was written for SWORD & SORCERESS 16 and published in 1999.

This story is set several centuries after "The Blade of Unmaking" and introduces some new characters: Stephen; his long-suffering wife Melisande; and his precocious younger sister Laurel. Stephen is what my father called a professional student (come to think of it, he said that about Michael; sadly, he didn't live long enough to see Michael finish his PhD). At the time we wrote this story Michael was working on his dissertation. So we used that situation for our story, making his wife the protagonist. (Michael's wife was very helpful, and we dedicated the story to her.)

I particularly remember one discussion:
"We need to give her a motive for wanting him to take his Senior Ordeal..."
"Wait a minute, we're giving her a motive for homicide!"

Fortunately for Stephen, Melisande is a Sensitive, so no matter how exasperated she gets, she's not going to kill him. And fortunately for Michael, his wife really loves him.

"Salt and Sorcery" is in the first volume of TREASURES OF ALBION.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


CHANGING FATE was my first novel. Like several of my friend's novels, it started as a short story: "A Woman's Privilege" in SWORD AND SORCERESS 3, published in 1986.

During the summer of 1986 I was writing the book as a serial and sending it to Madeline L'Engle, who was a friend of mine. Her husband was in the hospital with cancer, so I sent her a chapter a week to give her something to distract her from the problems of her daily life. By the time he died in September, I was almost done with the book. I finished it in November, and went back to writing short stories.

A couple of years later Andre Norton created her Gryphon Award. I didn't pay much attention at first, thinking I wasn't eligible because of all the short stories I had in print. But she and Marion and Julian May were working on BLACK TRILLIUM, which meant that I went to Florida with Marion. (She needed someone to do her insulin injections and she didn't drive. During that trip I discovered she couldn't read maps, either, which probably explains the geography of Darkover.) While the three authors were coming up with a Bible for the Trillium universe, I was talking with Andre's secretary, who commented that Andre wasn't getting as many good novels as she had hoped and suggested that I submit something. I stared at her in surprise and said "But I'm not eligible, am I?" She assured me that I was, so I sent CHANGING FATE, thinking that Andre might at least enjoy reading it.

The next thing that happened was that I was awakened on my birthday by a call from Russell Galen, my agent (when you're in California and your agent is in New York, he's usually at work long before you're up--and sometimes before the sun is up. He asked "What on earth is the Gryphon Award?" Still half-asleep, I explained what it was, and he said, "Well, you've won it." This meant that I attended in 1989 Worldcon in Boston to accept the award. Shortly after I got home from Boston, Marion had a major stroke, followed about six months later by a heart attack that the doctors all expected would kill her, so I was too busy dealing with her life to have time to worry about mine. While I coped with that, Russ sold my novel to DAW Books.

CHANGING FATE was published by DAW Books in 1994. It earned out its advance and then went out of print. I got the rights back, and it is currently available in paperback,  for Kindle, Kobo, and Nook in eBook form, and as an audiobook from iTunes and Audible.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


In 1998 Marion Zimmer Bradley held what turned out to be her last Fantasy Worlds Festival convention. At that point Marion was working on SWORD & SORCERESS 16 and Marion Zimmer Bradley's FANTASY Magazine, but she was always happy to have an excuse to do another anthology. One of her employees came up with the idea of a limited-edition (500 copies) anthology for the convention, so he and I got to put together the convention while Marion, Rachel Holmen, and Margaret Davis edited and published the anthology MARION ZIMMER BRADLEY'S FANTASY WORLDS.

In my "free" time, I wrote "Change-Child" for the anthology. It's a short story in my Fate series, taking place between CHANGING FATE (DAW, 1994) and MENDING FATE (2017).

"Change-Child" is available for Kindle and Nook.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

"Death, Taxes, and the Writer" and other advice

In 1998 I wrote two articles for writers: "What Have You Done with my Manuscript?" was originally published in the June issue of Speculations and described the process of dealing with manuscripts in Marion's office; "Death, Taxes, and the Writer" was in issue 41 of Marion Zimmer Bradley's Fantasy Magazine.

The first article was in response to the writers who kept asking for the status of their manuscripts right after they'd submitted them. The second was inspired by the horrified dismay of a guy who had just discovered that he had to pay self-employment tax, but had failed to save the money to do so because he had never heard of self-employment tax, and by several writers who died without wills, forcing Marion to figure out how to pay royalties to estates in conditions that rivaled Jarndyce and Jarndyce (see BLEAK HOUSE, by Charles Dickens).

Manuscripts are easier to deal with now that electronic submissions are the norm -- I'm certainly glad not to have to deal with piles of paper and folders of SASEs. Inheritance, on the other hand, has NOT become any easier. So if you are ever going to be paid royalties, do the editor a favor: make a will, and leave your royalties and copyrights to one person or organization. It's hard to split $1.27 among four heirs.

Both of these articles are on the Marion Zimmer Bradley Literary Works Trust website, along with several articles Marion wrote. I've always liked "Why Did My Story Get Rejected?"

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Dragon's Horde

In 1997, when this story was written, Raul S. Reyes and I were both working for Marion Zimmer Bradley, which kept us rather busy. So we decided to collaborate on a story for SWORD AND SORCERESS 15, and we came up with "The Dragon's Horde." I contributed the Dragon, and he contributed the Horde. The dragon had been in several of my earlier stories, beginning with "The Birthday Gift" when she acquired (a) Princess Rowena, and (b) the idiots who kept trying to rescue Rowena, ignoring the fact that she was perfectly happy living with the dragon. So the dragon decided to outsource the problem, beginning by making a pregnant mercenary an offer she couldn't refuse.

"The Dragon's Horde" is available for Kindle and Nook. It is also part of the collection THE PRINCESS, THE DRAGON, AND THE FROG PRINCE, available for Kindle and Kobo.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Blade of Unmaking

"The Blade of Unmaking" is the first story in what became the "Treasures of Albion" series -- stories about mystical treasures or anti-treasures held by a succession of Guardians. It appeared in SWORD AND SORCERESS 14 in 1997. I'm sure that I'm far from being the only teenager who ever wanted to kill herself, and judging from the popularity of the panels on "Abuse Themes in Science Fiction" at conventions, I'm not the only one who had a difficult relationship with a parent. So it wasn't hard for me to come up with the idea of a dagger that would make whoever picked it up want to commit suicide -- or murder.

"The Blade of Unmaking" is in the first volume of TREASURES OF ALBION.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The School up the Hill

I wrote "The School up the Hill" for SWORD OF ICE, the first of Mercedes Lackey's Valdemar anthologies. She's still doing the anthologies; I just sold "A Leash of Greyhounds" to UNDER THE VALE, which will be published this December. As frequently happens to me, the idea came from a casual reference in one of her books about the teachers from the White Winds mage school coming down to the village to fix any damage done by the students. One of my favorite things about writing is that I can ask the question "what if...?" and then go off at a tangent.

"The School up the Hill" is available for Kindle and Nook.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Our Fathers' Gold

"Our Fathers' Gold" was written for the anthology SPACE OPERA, published in 1996. I took the anthology title a bit more literally than most of the authors and wrote about staging an opera, Das Rheingold, in space. I had spent seven years as a supernumerary (the equivalent of an extra in a movie) at the San Francisco Opera, and I had been a Nibelung (dwarf) in Das Rheingold twice, so I was familiar with both the opera and the challenges of staging it. Anyone who has ever heard Anna Russell's marvelous rendition of the plot of Der Ring des Nibelungen (a four-opera cycle by Wagner that must be heard and/or seen to be disbelieved) probably remembers that at the end of her account she points out that the whole thing could start over again. So I made my protagonist a daughter of one of the Rhine-maidens and got her involved with Hagen and Loki, which is more than enough trouble for a girl to be in.

"Our Fathers' Gold" is available for Kindle and Nook.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Midsummer Folly

"Midsummer Folly" was written for the anthology IN CELEBRATION OF LAMMAS NIGHT, published in 1996. It started with a song called "Lammas Night" written by Mercedes Lackey, and each contributor to the anthology wrote a story based on the song. It was fun, because the song set up the basic conditions of the story but ended just as the heroine had to choose which of two spells to use. Lammas is a pagan festival midway between the summer solstice and the fall equinox, hence the "Midsummer" part of my story title.

"Midsummer Folly" is available for Kindle and Nook.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Trees of Avalon

"Trees of Avalon" was written for the anthology RETURN TO AVALON, published in 1996. While there are many great characters from the Arthurian legends, I didn't choose any of them for my protagonist. I've always loved trees, and I wondered how the tree that Merlin was imprisoned in would feel about having him there. So I wrote a story about that from the dryad's point of view.

"Trees of Avalon" is available for Kindle and Nook.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A Prince Among Frogs

"A Prince Among Frogs" appeared in Marion Zimmer Bradley's FANTASY Magazine, issue #30, published in January 1996. As I mentioned previously, I don't write nice linear sequels; this story is a sequel to "Weather Witch" (from an earlier issue of the magazine), "Things That Go Grump in the Night" (from the anthology THINGS THAT GO BUMP IN THE NIGHT), and "Dragon in Distress" (SWORD & SORCERESS 12), none of which is related to each other until characters from each story find themselves together in this one.

While the frog prince is a classic, the idea of having one spend the day watching television was inspired by the ex-husband of a friend of mine. I was having lunch with her parents one day after the divorce, and I blurted out, "He'd have been just as much use to her if he were a frog!" Sad to say, they agreed with me.

"A Prince Among Frogs" is part of my collection MAGIC IN SUBURBIA, which is available in paperback, Kindle, and Kobo formats. It is also part of the collection THE PRINCESS, THE DRAGON, AND THE FROG PRINCE, available for Kindle and Kobo.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Blood Calls to Blood

"Blood Calls to Blood" was written for CHICKS IN CHAINMAIL, the first of Esther M. Friesner's Chicks anthologies, which was published in August 1995. The ideas came from several places: the local Renaissance Faire, where one actually could buy chain-mail bikinis, my experiences in the Citizen's Police Academy run by the Berkeley Police Department (if your local PD runs one, I highly recommend it), and life with a professional author--and her library. PSYCHIC SELF-DEFENSE is a real book, and the instructions for making holy water are on page 176.

"Blood Calls to Blood" is part of my collection MAGIC IN SUBURBIA, which is available in paperback, Kindle, and Kobo formats.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Dragon in Distress

Organized authors write sequels. My stories probably require advanced math to keep track of (topology, maybe?). This is especially true when I get together with my friends and we combine worlds.

Mercedes Lackey and I wrote "Dragon in Distress" for SWORD & SORCERESS 12, which was published in July 1995. This means that we wrote it in 1994; the contract date is May 14, 1994. As I recall we did the original plotting in the hotel pool during the Fantasy Worlds Festival -- I remember us hanging on to a pair of kick-boards and moving back and forth along the pool as we talked (probably one of the few times authors actually got physical exercise while working). We used Rowena and the dragon from "The Birthday Gift" and Tarma and Kethry from Misty's "Vows & Honor" series and had their worlds collide. Then at the end of the story we sent Prince Florian into yet another world, thus setting him up to be a character in "A Prince Among Frogs" (which is a sequel to both "Weather Witch" and "Things That Go Grump in the Night").

"Dragon in Distress" is available for Kindle and Nook. It is also part of the collection THE PRINCESS, THE DRAGON, AND THE FROG PRINCE.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Ice Princess

"Ice Princess" is the only story I ever wrote in the middle of the night; it was written between midnight and 3 AM on two successive nights. It was the summer of 1994, and I had just returned from Ice Castle, an international training center for ice skaters, which was my favorite place to go for vacation. I got plenty of exercise during the day (two freestyle sessions, a lesson from my coach, dance class, and workout time in the gym), and at night I was alone in my cabin with my laptop so I could write in peace. And every morning at breakfast at least one of the skaters would ask how much I had written the night before. It was very motivating.

One afternoon I was sitting around the swimming pool with a skater named Sharon, and she asked if I ever put real people in my stories. I told her that I usually didn't, and she remarked that she would like to be in a story. A few days later I returned home to find Marion and Rachel in a flap because the cover illustration for issue 24 of Marion Zimmer Bradley's FANTASY Magazine was not going to arrive in time. This meant that the cover story had to be moved to the next issue, and they needed a new cover and story. They had some paintings from David Cherry available, and they said if I could write a story to go with one of them, they'd use it for the cover story. I picked the painting I liked best, and wrote a story for Sharon.  When I handed it in, Rachel looked startled and said she had been joking. I told her I wasn't joking, and that they were going to pay me the cover story rate. They did. The story was reprinted in THE RANDOM HOUSE BOOK OF FANTASY STORIES in 1996.

"Ice Princess" is part of my collection MAGIC IN SUBURBIA, which is available in paperback, Kindle, and Kobo formats.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A Capella

"A Capella" was my story for the last of MZB's Darkover anthologies, SNOWS OF DARKOVER, which was published in 1994. The story is another Darkover "out-take" -- I took a few characters I liked from HEIRS OF HAMMERFELL, added a couple of new ones, and set the story shortly after the book ended.

The reading period for SNOWS OF DARKOVER was a disaster -- due to some legal problems, everyone who submitted a story had to sign an agreement drawn up by Mrs. Bradley's lawyer before she could even look at the story. I was doing the organizational side of things, as usual, and the piles of manuscripts and legal documents took over every flat space in my bedroom because (a) the manuscripts couldn't go into the office until we had the signed form, and (b) it was always a battle keeping manuscripts and SASEs organized during an anthology reading period. We weren't quite drowning in paper, but we were close.

These days, thank God, it's much easier -- mostly because there's no paper involved. I will start reading for SWORD & SORCERESS 26 this Saturday, and I expect to get a lot of submissions, but they'll be RTF attachments to e-mails, which I can read without having to print them out.

"A Capella" is available for Kindle and Nook.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


"Connecticat" was written for Andre Norton's anthology CATFANTASTIC 3, which was published in 1994. The story was a collaboration with my friend Raul S. Reyes; he supplied Tibetan Buddhism, while I supplied life in Fairfield County, Connecticut. Talk about a clash of cultures!

Raul and I visited my parents in New Canaan once, and I told him we were going into New York. My father did the commute daily, so I was startled when Raul asked, "How many days do I pack for?" He spent most of his life in Texas or California, where going to another state was not a day trip. It's funny how many assumptions you never question until you encounter someone with a different set.

"Connecticat" is part of the collection MAGIC IN SUBURBIA, which is available in paperback, Kindle, and Kobo formats.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Destined for the Tower

"Destined for the Tower" was written for the Darkover anthology published in 1993. The idea came from a remark made to Diotima Ridenow in SHARRA'S EXILE: "I had thought you destined for the Tower..."

So once Marion decided on TOWERS OF DARKOVER for the anthology's title, the story of why Dio was not in a Tower was a natural choice. I collaborated on this story with Deborah J. Ross during a visit to her home in Southern California. Deborah's first novel also came out in 1993, so her daughters were used to seeing Mother write. What they were not used to was watching the process happen outside of her head. Listening to the two of us toss ideas back and forth until we agreed on a coherent story gave them a very different view of the creative process.

"Destined for the Tower" is available for Kindle and Nook.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Birthday Gift, part 2

I just got an unexpected package: a book entitled Wielka księga fantastycznego humoru, tom.1. It's a Polish translation of The Mammoth Book of Seriously Comic Fantasy, and it has my story "The Birthday Gift." In Polish, the title is "Dar urodzinowy."

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Birthday Gift

This story is based on one of my favorite fairy tales; it's about a girl who was kind to a strange woman at the well and was given a gift that made every word she spoke produce a flower or a jewel. But it did occur to me that, in real life, this might be very uncomfortable.

As I mentioned in one of my earlier posts, I don't write nice linear sequels. My stories link together in sprawls that are worse than my family tree (and I have five people who are my double second cousins). This story is followed by "Dragon in Distress" (a collaboration with Mercedes Lackey that has Tarma and Kethry as characters), which is followed by both "A Prince Among Frogs" (which is also a sequel to "Things that Go Grump in the Night" and "Weather Witch" -- which were not originally related to each other) and "The Dragon's Horde" (written with Raul S. Reyes). My characters jump from one story to another -- and sometimes from one universe to another, they hook up with my friends' characters, and they generally behave in a way that makes them difficult to keep track of. But I have fun with them.

"The Birthday Gift" is available available for Kindle and Nook. It is also part of the collection THE PRINCESS, THE DRAGON, AND THE FROG PRINCE, available from Kindle and Kobo.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Meeting of Minds

I wrote "Meeting of Minds" as a birthday present for my youngest sister, who collected tropical fish (and provided the technical details for this story). Once I was dealing with animals, it was natural to make the protagonist a MacAran, like the heroine of Marion Zimmer Bradley's novel HAWKMISTRESS. (I've been accused of naming my character after Disney's Little Mermaid, but if I did, it wasn't a conscious decision.) Because Marion wanted something short and funny for every anthology she edited, she bought this for LERONI OF DARKOVER, which was published in November 1991.

This story produced what is still my favorite fan letter. The writer said, "I had terrible luck with my tropical fish. They all lived."

"Meeting of Minds" is available available for Kindle and Nook.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Out of the Frying Pan

"Out of the Frying Pan" is a sequel to both my story "Cold Spell" in Andre Norton's shared-world anthology MAGIC IN ITHKAR and Marion Zimmer Bradley's story "The Wandering Lute" about Lythande, her mercenary magician/minstrel. Marion originally intend her story for an Ithkar anthology and used my character Eirthe Candlemaker, but Andre rejected it on the grounds that it was not enough about Ithkar. Marion did a find-and-replace changing "Ithkar" to "Old Gandrin" which proved that Andre was right, and "The Wandering Lute" was first published in F&SF magazine. Because Marion had used my character for her story, I got her permission to use Lythande to help solve Eirthe's problem: what would she do once her partner, whose curse cancelled hers, was gone?

"Out of the Frying Pan" is available for Kindle and Nook.

"The Wandering Lute" is also available for Kindle and Nook.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

A Proper Escort

RENUNCIATES OF DARKOVER was the eighth Darkover anthology Marion edited. For years she had been grumbling about the large number of stories in the slush pile that fell into categories she called "Subject A" and "Subject B." Subject A stories were about a Free Amazon finding a man she could love and trust, and Subject B stories were about Dyan Ardais finding a woman he could love and trust.

For several years I had been threatening to write Subject AB: Dyan Ardais and the Free Amazon. This was the year I finally did it.

"A Proper Escort" is available for Kindle and Nook.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Lesser Twin

"The Lesser Twin" also appeared in the short-short story issue of Marion Zimmer Bradley's FANTASY Magazine (issue #9). In addition to all of the short-shorts (under 1000 words), there was a long story for each section, and this was the one for the Fantasy Section. "Long" in this case is about 2800 words, so it's very much relative.

By this time I had spent over a decade in Berkeley, and the novelty of the environment had long since worn off. I had seen too many men who treated women as interchangeable sex objects and too many women who tolerated such behavior. I had finally come to understand what the minister leading a retreat for our church youth group meant when he said, "Sex isn't bad. Sex is too good to be cheapened." I grew up in a very sheltered environment where people got married, had children, and stayed married until one of them died, so I didn't really have any reference for "cheap" sex when I was a teenager--especially while I was in a girls' boarding school.

This story was inspired by a friend of mine who told me she was in love with a man who had a new mistress every year or so. My initial reaction was incredulity, followed by the belief that she had lost her mind. She got over it pretty quickly, but by then I had written this story.

"The Lesser Twin" is available for Kindle and Nook.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Weather Witch

I tend to approach a lot of my writing in the spirit in which I used to approach my homework in school -- hence my unofficial motto: "It doesn't have to be perfect; it has to be Thursday." But "Weather Witch" actually was a homework assignment. I don't remember now exactly when I wrote it, but I believe it was sometime between 1975 and 1977.  This is a good example of why you should save everything you write; even if it doesn't sell in its original form, you can always adapt it as part of your later work. I hung on to this for well over a decade, until MZB was doing a short-short story issue of Marion Zimmer Bradley's FANTASY Magazine. She needed really short stories, and it just so happened that I had one handy.

"Weather Witch" is part of my collection MAGIC IN SUBURBIA, which is available in paperback and Kindle formats.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Gunnora's Gift

I wrote "Gunnora's Gift" for Andre Norton, who asked me to write a story for a Witch World anthology she was editing. This story was actually written between "Sin Catenas" and "Golden Vanity"; it was one of the times when something gets written, submitted, and accepted, but doesn't get published for a few years. It used to take about a year from the time a book was turned in to the publisher to the time it was published. Publishing can be done much more quickly now that submissions are already in electronic form and don't have to be typeset from a paper manuscript.

"Gunnora's Gift" is available for Kindle and Nook.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


Living with Marion was a real education. Before I met her I knew very little about opera; after a few years in her household I could sing arias in the shower. (We took a water exercise class together at the local YMCA, and we used to sing duets in the shower there. We must have sounded reasonably good, because nobody ever complained. Some people even complimented us.)

Naturally, given Marion's love of opera, her house contained an entire library of opera videos. One day we were watching a tape of Orfeo ed Euridice, an opera by Gluck that tells the story of the musician Orpheus, who attempts to bring his dead wife back from the underworld. There are many versions of the myth, and in most of them he fails, but in this opera she is eventually returned to the world of the living. As we finished watching it, I turned to Marion and said, "Is it really the act of a loving spouse to bring someone back from heaven?" Then I wrote "Shadowlands" for SWORD AND SORCERESS 6. I guess you could call it my version of the myth.

"Shadowlands" is available for Kindle and Nook.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


I got a lot of my ideas for Darkover stories from minor characters or incidents in the Darkover novels. In this case the basic idea came from a reference in FORBIDDEN TOWER where Callista mentions that Hilary Castamir, while they were at Arilinn Tower together, encountered a layer of fire in the overworld and came back to her own body to find her feet physically burned. I wrote the first draft of this, and then Marion did a pass through it, so this story is a collaborative effort.

"Firetrap" is available for Kindle and Nook.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Things That Go Grump in the Night

"Things That Go Grump in the Night" was another first in my career. It was the first time I sold a story to someone who didn't know me personally. It appeared in an anthology called THINGS THAT GO BUMP IN THE NIGHT, edited by Jane Yolen. After spending a decade in Marion's household and being the person in charge of bringing order out of chaos (or at least finding things in the chaos), I would have been happy to have a brownie to help me!

My favorite story in the anthology, however, wasn't mine. It was Bruce Coville's "Duffy's Jacket"--a wonderful story about what happened to a boy who was always forgetting where he had dropped his stuff.

"Things That Go Grump in the Night" is part of my collection MAGIC IN SUBURBIA, which is available in paperback and Kindle formats.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Golden Vanity

"Golden Vanity" was written for the first issue of Marion Zimmer Bradley's FANTASY Magazine. Although I was never particularly active in the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism), most of the rest of the family was, so I heard a lot of stories. SCA combat works on the principle of acknowledging the blows as if they had been made by steel weapons (instead of rattan), so a fighter can be "killed" while not sustaining any injuries worse than bruises.

"Golden Vanity" is part of my collection MAGIC IN SUBURBIA, which is available in paperback and Kindle formats.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Sin Catenas

"Sin Catenas" was written for FOUR MOONS OF DARKOVER, published in 1988. Marion based casta (the language spoken by the Comyn) on Spanish, and my B.A. is in Romance Languages, so I took her phrase for formal marriage, di catenas, and changed the starting preposition to sin, which is the Spanish word for without. The idea for the story came from a brief mention in FORBIDDEN TOWER of Lady Crystal Castamir, whose husband forced her to foster all of his bastard children. I suspect that this might be rather annoying to a legitimate daughter.

"Sin Catenas" is available for Kindle and Nook.