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.