Ross, Deborah J. 1947–

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Ross, Deborah J. 1947–

(Deborah Wheeler)


Born April 15, 1947, in Queens, NY; daughter of Allan (a printer) and Jane (a secretary) Ross; married Richard F. Wheeler (a Rolfer), May 3, 1969; married second husband, Dave Trowbridge (a writer); children: (with Wheeler) Sarah Madeleine, Rose Helene. Education: Reed College, B.A., 1968; Portland State University, M.S., 1973; Pasadena College of Chiropractic, D.C., 1978. Religion: Jewish. Hobbies and other interests: Martial arts—master's rank in kung fu san soo.


Home—Mar Vista, CA. Agent—Russell Galen, Scovil Chichak Galen Agency, 381 Park Ave. S, Ste. 1020, New York, NY 10016.


Pasadena College of Chiropractic, Pasadena, CA, instructor of physiology, microbiology, and neurology, 1976-80, and dean, 1980; private practice, chiropractor, 1979-91; writer. California Institute of Arts, library assistant, 1971-75; Westside YMCA, volunteer teacher of preschool gym, 1980—; Beethoven St. Elementary School, PTA volunteer coordinator and librarian, 1993—.


(With Marion Zimmer Bradley) The Alton Gift (science fiction/fantasy), DAW Books (New York, NY), 2007.

(Editor, under name Deborah J. Ross) Lace and Blade (anthology), Leda (Winnetka, CA), 2008.

Contributor of short stories to anthologies, including Witch Fantastic, edited by Mike Resnick, DAW Books (New York, NY), 1995, and Sisters of the Night, edited by Barbara Hambly and Martin H. Greenberg, Warner Books (New York, NY), 1995. Contributor, sometimes under name Deborah Wheeler, of science fiction and fantasy short stories to periodicals, including Fantasy and Science Fiction, Pandora, Realms of Fantasy, Spells of Wonder, and Marion Zimmer Bradley's Fantasy Magazine.


The Fall of Neskaya, DAW Books (New York, NY), 2001.

Zandru's Forge, DAW Books (New York, NY), 2003.

A Flame in Hali, DAW Books (New York, NY), 2004.


Jaydium, DAW Books (New York, NY), 1993.

Northlight, DAW Books (New York, NY), 1995.


Deborah J. Ross stated on her home page: "I grew up mostly in California, went to college in Oregon, grew my hair long, and protested everything during the sixties. It took me a long time and three academic degrees (bachelor's in biology, master's in psychology, doctorate in chiropractic) to figure out that what I needed to do in life was write. Writing is not only the thing that I have always loved, but a way to live gracefully with the unanswerable, the paradoxical, the human. At the end of the seventies, I hit total career burnout trying to be superwoman—dean of a chiropractic college and new mother. I dumped the career but not the kid and started writing seriously."

Ross's early work was mostly science fiction, and was published under the name Deborah Wheeler. Her first novel, Jaydium, is a time-travel story. In it, a character named Kithri's father dies, leaving her stranded on a desert-like planet that she hates. She mines jaydium (an element that makes faster-than-light travel possible) in an attempt to earn enough money to leave. She accepts Eril as a partner to earn the money faster. While the two of them are mining, a ghost appears and all three are thrown into an alternate timeline, when the planet is not a wasteland. They encounter an archaeologist studying the planet, but no other people until they are attacked by space pirates searching for jaydium. They escape the pirates but are thrown back in time to when the planet was mostly covered with water and inhabited by intelligent giant sea slugs. These creatures face a war. When peace cannot be negotiated, Kithri, Eril, the archaeologist, and the ghost flee. "The four humans, all loners, must learn to work together as a team for the good of all, something that doesn't come easily," remarked Vicky Burkholder in Voice of Youth Advocates. Tom Easton wrote in Analog Science Fiction and Fact: "There is an emphasis on the quest for peace [in Jaydium] that is unusual when so many novels focus on the quest for dominance and victory." In addition to Jaydium, Ross also published short fiction and another novel, Northlight, under the name Deborah Wheeler. At about the time she shifted her focus from writing science fiction to writing fantasy, she also began publishing her work under her birth name, Deborah R. Ross.

Ross acted as editor for Lace and Blade, an anthology of stories featuring "rogues, romance, and magic," according to Elizabeth A. Allen in a review for Fix. With tales that describe passionate encounters involving the nobly born, the supernatural, and a wide array of other adventurous characters, the collection is "targeted mainly at people who like a liberal dash of romance with their fantasy," said Allen. "Lace and Blade contains engrossing, swiftly paced stories that, in the main, offered equal parts high intrigue and cool characters."

Ross had a special relationship with author Marion Zimmer Bradley, a well-known fantasy writer who was the creator of many novels and short stories set in a world known as "Darkover." In 1980, Ross sent a fan letter to the more established writer, and the two began a dialog about writing and other common areas of interest. Eventually, they became good friends, and Bradley also served as Ross's editor for fiction submitted to the periodical Sword & Sorceress. As Bradley aged and her health declined, she and Ross discussed working collaboratively. "We recognized that my natural literary voice, as well as my vision of Darkover, was very close to hers," Ross recalled in an article on her home page. The two writers began to plot further Darkover adventures. To do a convincing job writing about a fantasy world created by someone else, Ross immersed herself in Bradley's previously published works and her notes, as well as newsletters and articles written by fans of the "Darkover" series. "At the time of her death, she had approved my outline for The Fall of Neskaya, and I had piles of notes for the next two books," explained Ross. "After she died, all my work had to be approved by her Literary Trust, which holds the copyrights to Darkover, and that is still true." The three books together make up the "Cling Fire Trilogy."

In the trilogy's first book, The Fall of Neskaya, the story concerns Coryn, a young man who is just developing a psychic power known as "Laran." In the book's second half, Queen Taniquel must deal with the death of her husband and the destruction of his army, as well as a pregnancy that is the result of a liaison outside her marriage. Eventually, the fates of Taniquel and Coryn become entwined. Reviewing this book for the SF Site, Cindy Lynn Speer admitted that she had wondered if anyone could do justice to Bradley's original work. She wrote: "Deborah J. Ross does, admirably. I could not tell the difference between her style and that of Bradley. Her additions to Bradley's book and world are seamlessly cool."

The next book of the "Clingfire" trilogy is Zandru's Forge. In it, Ross told the story of the time of the Hundred Kingdoms, a chaotic era of war on Darkover. It has been discovered that powerful weapons of destruction can be created with psychic power, and the story revolves around a bond between a royal heir, Carolin, and a child, Varzil, who has psychic powers. The two of them have a chance to end the war and create a peaceful world. Writing for Best Reviews, Harriet Klausner called this a "powerful" tale that is "so fulfilling and satisfying that it is impossible to put down."

The trilogy concludes with A Flame in Hali, described by Klausner in Best Reviews as "a brilliant finale to an exciting mini-series." In the story, Carolin has become king, and Varzil is one of his keepers. Together, they work to bring about an agreement that would ban all psychic weapons of mass destruction. Their work, and Carolin's life, are threatened by a spell that has been cast upon one of Carolin's old friends, who is now bent on destroying Carolin's entire clan.

Ross added one more tale to the Darkover canon with her novel The Alton Gift, for which Bradley is also listed as coauthor. Using her voluminous notes gathered from Bradley, Ross brought to life a tale of more modern days in Darkover. Romance and court intrigue are part of the story, along with plague and political unrest. A reviewer for praised the book, stating: "Ross is able to skillfully weave … a great story. The characters are believable, the descriptions of the planet and the complexities of the hierarchy of classes are well drawn, and the intrigue is at a par with Bradley."



Analog Science Fiction and Fact, November, 1993, Tom Easton, review of Jaydium, p. 165; June, 1995, review of Northlight, p. 162.

Booklist, July 1, 2001, Paula Luedtke, review of The Fall of Neskaya, p. 1991; June 1, 2007, Frieda Murray, review of The Alton Gift, p. 51.

Kliatt, November 1, 2002, Lesley S.J. Farmer, review of The Fall of Neskaya, p. 23.

Library Journal, June 15, 2007, Jackie Cassada, review of The Alton Gift, p. 60.

Publishers Weekly, June 18, 2001, review of The Fall of Neskaya, p. 64; May 19, 2003, review of Zandru's Forge, p. 57.

Voice of Youth Advocates, August, 1993, Vicky Burkholder, review of Jaydium, p. 171.


Best Reviews, (June 22, 2001), Harriet Klausner, review of The Fall of Neskaya; (May 10, 2003), Harriet Klausner, review of Zandru's Forge; (August 9, 2004), Harriet Klausner, review of A Flame in Hali.

Deborah J. Ross's Home Page, (June 8, 2008).

Fix, (March 1, 2008), Marshall Payne, interview with Deborah J. Ross; Elizabeth A. Allen, review of Lace and Blade., (June 8, 2008), review of The Alton Gift.

Romantic Times, (June 8, 2008), Jen Talley Exum, review of Zandru's Forge; Kelly Rae Cooper, review of The Fall of Neskaya; Natalie A. Luhrs, review of A Flame in Hali.

SF Revu, (December 30, 2007), review of Lace and Blade.

SF Site, (June 8, 2008), Cindy Lynn Speer, review of The Fall of Neskaya.

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Ross, Deborah J. 1947–

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