Ball, Margaret 1947-

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Ball, Margaret 1947-
(Kathleen Fraser, Catherine Lyndell)


Born 1947; married; children: two. Education: University of Texas, B.A., Ph.D. Hobbies and other interests: Quilting, playing the flute.


Home—Austin, TX.


Author. University of California at Los Angeles, former faculty member; has also worked as a computer software designer.


(Under pseudonym Kathleen Fraser) My Brazen Heart (romance novel), New American Library (New York, NY), 1985.

(Under pseudonym Catherine Lyndell) A Bridge to the Sky (historical novel), Domain, 1990.

The Shadow Gate (fantasy novel), Baen Books (Riverdale, NY), 1990.

Flameweaver (first novel in the "Tamai" series), Baen Books (Riverdale, NY), 1991.

(With Anne McCaffrey) PartnerShip (second science fiction novel in the "Brainship" series), Baen Books (Riverdale, NY), 1992.

Changeweaver (second novel in the "Tamai" series), Baen Books (Riverdale, NY), 1993.

No Earthly Sunne (fantasy novel), Baen Books (Riverdale, NY), 1994.

Lost in Translation (fantasy novel), Baen Books (Riverdale, NY), 1995.

Mathemagics (fantasy novel), Baen Books (Riverdale, NY), 1996.

(With Anne McCaffrey) Acorna: The Unicorn Girl (science fiction novel), HarperPrism (New York, NY), 1997.

(With Anne McCaffrey) Acorna's Quest (science fiction novel), HarperPrism (New York, NY), 1998.

(With Anne McCaffrey and Mercedes Lackey) Brain Ships (science fiction), Baen Books (Riverdale, NY), 2003.

Disappearing Act (science fiction novel), Baen Books (Riverdale, NY), 2004.

The Duchess of Aquitaine: A Novel of Eleanor (historical), St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2006.

Contributor to anthologies, including Betcha Can't Read Just One, 1993, Christmas Forever, 1993, Adventures in the Twilight Zone, 1995, Chicks in Chainmail, 1995, The Shimmering Door, 1996, Space Opera, 1996, Past Lives, Present Tense, 1999, and The Chick Is in the Mail, 2000.


With degrees in mathematics and linguistics, Margaret Ball pursued a career in teaching before becoming a prolific author of genre fiction. Of these, she has been most successful with her fantasies, science fiction, and historicals, including the 2006 novel The Duchess of Aquitaine: A Novel of Eleanor.

After publishing a romance novel under a pen name as her debut, she released A Bridge to the Sky under the pseudonym Catherine Lyndell. Set in the thirteenth century, the novel is about a young man who is first trained to be a monk, but circumstances lead him to architecture instead. Critics enjoyed Ball's descriptions in the sophomore effort, but complained about plot problems. This led Peggy Kaganoff to state in Publishers Weekly: "Despite its strengths, this tale is fraught with disasters and coincidences." After gaining considerable experience in the intervening years, Ball wrote the more recent historical novel The Duchess of Aquitaine, which earned much higher praise. The story of the twelfth-century French princess who eventually married England's Henry Plantagenet (Henry II) to become Britain's queen, the novel turns history into a romping adventure, according to reviewers. As one Kirkus Reviews contributor stated: "Ball embroiders the record outlandishly, but what a ripping way to learn a history lesson." Sarah Johnson likewise asserted in a Booklist assessment that the novel is a "compelling portrait of the younger years of one of England's most renowned royal women."

As the author of numerous science fiction and fantasy tales, sometimes in collaboration with such well-known authors as Mercedes Lackey and Anne McCaffrey, Ball has penned stories that reviewers have both praised and criticized. Many of the complaints have been about the lack of originality in her tales, but critics have also felt that Ball's writing skills have turned these books around into successful efforts. For example, in the fantasy novel Lost in Translation a young college student is transported to a parallel world, where she finds herself going to a college of magic. Respected fellow author Charles de Lint remarked in the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction: "The 'fish out of water' scenario … is what makes the book so enjoyable. The rest of the plot, unfortunately, isn't quite so memorable.… But Ball's prose keeps the story moving." Discussing The Shadow Gate, a fantasy set in twelfth-century France, Publishers Weekly critic Peggy Kaganoff observed: "While the plot is weak, there are some wonderful scenes" in this "sprightly fantasy."

Among Ball's more successful efforts are two science fiction tales she wrote with veteran Anne McCaffrey: Acorna: The Unicorn Girl and Acorna's Quest. The premise involves the title character, an alien who seems to be part unicorn and who possesses remarkable healing powers. She is rescued in space by three prospectors who adopt and raise her. The novels involve her adventures in a dangerous universe while she tries to discover herself and find her home planet. The stories are laced with humor, though some critics found the story of Acorna's relationship with her adopted family a bit too saccharine, while also declaring them entertaining yarns. For instance, a Publishers Weekly writer commented that the first Acorna book "gallops into a gulch of sentimentality" when the heroine rescues a planet of enslaved children. Booklist reviewer Sally Estes, nevertheless, called the novel "entertaining fare," while also declaring Acorna's Quest a "rousing space adventure."



Booklist, December 15, 1994, Roland Green, review of No Earthly Sunne, p. 740; June 1, 1997, Sally Estes, review of Acorna: The Unicorn Girl, p. 1669; July, 1998, Sally Estes, review of Acorna's Quest, p. 1868; April 15, 2006, Sarah Johnson, review of The Duchess of Aquitaine: A Novel of Eleanor, p. 36.

Kirkus Reviews, April 15, 2006, review of The Duchess of Aquitaine, p. 363.

Library Journal, June 15, 1997, Susan Hamburger, review of Acorna, p. 101; June 15, 2006, Anna M. Nelson, review of The Duchess of Aquitaine, p. 54.

Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, March, 1996, Charles de Lint, review of Lost in Translation, p. 52.

Publishers Weekly, May 25, 1990, Penny Kaganoff, review of A Bridge to the Sky, p. 54; December 14, 1990, Penny Kaganoff, review of The Shadow Gate, p. 64; November 14, 1994, review of No Earthly Sunne, p. 64; June 30, 1997, review of Acorna, p. 71; April 24, 2006, review of The Duchess of Aquitaine, p. 40.


Baen Books Web site, (September 1, 2006), Toni Weisskopf, "Website Interview with Margaret Ball."

Romantic Times, (November 26, 2006), Kathe Robin, review of The Duchess of Aquitaine. *