I was born in New York's Hudson River Valley, in the city of Peekskill, during the so-called “baby boom” Peekskill is also the birthplace of Mel Gibson, PeeWee Herman, and one of the first nuclear reactors in the US. The Gibsons moved to Australia shortly after Mel was born. PeeWee and I just kept on drinking that supercharged water.
You may draw your own conclusions from this.
Family legends confirm that I've been a storyteller pretty much from the moment I learned to talk. I quickly learned that character, pacing and plot were important to any work of fiction, but that nothing was more important than believability. Parents cannot be convinced that there are monsters under the bed, but they will spend hours looking for mice or squirrels.
I discovered my father's typewriter long before I learned to read and decided that any machine which had so many moving parts and made such amazing noises was going to be a major part of my life. I've been an only child most of my life and filled my world with imaginary friends.
I didn't play with them.
I watched them play with each other, then I wrote about them. I kept this up until I got to college, the University of Rochester, class of 1969, where the real world was, at long last, more interesting than anything I could imagine. At first I majored in hard science— astrophysics— but migrated to the humanities because they understood that life did not begin until noon and never scheduled 8AM organic chemistry labs. I'd gotten two degrees in European history and was well on my way to my Ph.D. when my advisor pointed out that, given the natural rise and fall of demographic curves, tenured university faculty positions were going to be as scarce as hen's teeth for the next twenty-five years and my education was turning into an expensive hobby. (He was right, too.)
He suggested I get myself a real job, so I became a computer programmer, which in those days (after dinosaurs, before IBM 360's) was a wide-open hands-on field. Companies were eagerly hiring warm bodies to computerize decades, even centuries, of handwritten data.
I vanished into the dusty archives of a huge insurance company and might have remained there forever, but fate— masquerading as the New York City Bankruptcy Crisis of 1976— intervened. The powers that were, in recognition for my tolerance of dust, silverfish, and the occasional mouse, made me the least significant member of the state taskforce charged with deciphering the city's arcane pension funds. My job: take a forklift full of key-punched cards— representing a quarter century of police, fire, and sanitation force records which had been stashed in leaky closets all over City Hall— and load them onto "modern" magnetic tape! (Deleting, of course, the ones the mice, roaches, and whatnot had mangled beyond all electronic interpretation.) When I was finished, senior members of the task force would prove actuarially what everyone already knew intuitively: there was no earthly way New York City could meet its obligations.
Throughout that long winter and spring, while decoding one ancient algorithm after another, I contemplated life in the Big Apple without police, without firefighters and— especially— without garbage collection. The state did eventually decide to bail the city out; I decided to bail out of the city.
I headed west. I got to Ann Arbor, Michigan, where bagels were fresh, lox was airlifted daily, and the sky was frequently blue and rarely green.
Still, it took one more major turn of events to get me back to my childhood dreams. In January of 1977 I headed for the airport to fetch Gordon Dickson back to Ann Arbor for the annual science fiction convention. (My Ann Arbor acquaintances being old-time SF readers and convention-goers.) The temperature hadn't seen the plus side of zero degrees Fahrenheit for a week and the brake cylinders on my old New York car finally said “enough.”
They gave up the ghost on the airport access road. I came to in an emergency room. The less said about the balance of that afternoon, the better.
Except that Gordie felt guilty: Someone he didn't know from Adam had very nearly made the ultimate sacrifice to get him to the convention on time. I guess he felt a karmic need to make a sacrifice in return: He offered to read such prose as I could manage to produce. It was an offer that I could not refuse. Propped up by pillows and crutches, and still suffering the hallucinations of a fractured skull, I began DAUGHTER OF THE BRIGHT MOON.
Poor Gordie. He later confessed that I was, beyond doubt, the least-promising would-be writer ever to cross his bows. He swears he did his best to discourage me, and that he wasn't at all subtle, but I never got the message. I'd been given a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to become what I'd always dreamed of being and a simple thing like a style charitably described as “academically turgid” wasn't going to get in my way.
Fortunately for me, by the time I was rid of my crutches and Gordie might have considered his karmic debt fully repaid, with interest, I'd taken his blunt lessons to heart and tried to incorporate them into DAUGHTER. Gordie sat back after what must have been the ninth or tenth rewrite of chapter one and said, with a look of astonishment, that it was good and I should start chapter two.
The rest, one might say, is history. A year after my accident, with DAUGHTER finished but advisedly left behind, Gordie squired me through the editorial gauntlet at the 1978 Boscon. I was initiated into the ranks of soon-to-be-published writers and never looked back.
There've been many ups and downs since 1978. Any creative lifestyle can be categorized as ``life without any visible means of support.'' I married Bob Asprin and spent most of the 1980's as a step-mother— a role which, especially for a fantasy writer, comes with a whole lot of emotional baggage. Since I started, I've written thirteen novels. I also wrote for and eventually wound up co-editing the THIEVES' WORLD shared-world anthology series which ran for twelve volumes before going on hiatus. Courtesy of TW, I've been invited into other shared-world anthologies— often in exchange for the “inside scoop” on how I handled story continuity, not to mention egos and deadlines.
In 1993, during the throes of a prolonged but ultimately amicable divorce from Bob, C.J. Cherryh suggested that when the dust cleared I might relocate to Oklahoma City (where the locals had a lot of experience with dust and which, she assured me, was not outside the known universe). I first crossed the Mississippi with great trepidation, expecting all my Hudson River-based mitochondria to rise up in revolt, but they adapted to the change in water and I made the move in January of 1994, when, for the first time since 1977, we went two weeks without seeing the plus side of zero on the thermometer. But negative numbers seemed felicitous for me.
While in Oklahoma I continued writing for ACE but also began writing game-based fiction for TSR (now Wizards of the Coast)’s Dungeons and Dragons milieux, (which has just published NETHER SCROLL, my sixth book under their imprint).
In 1997 I decided to get back on the eastern side of the Mississippi and moved to Central Florida to be closer to my retired parents. At that time I joined forces with a new publisher, DAW Books which published JERLAYNE in March 1999. JERLAYNE is a story that combines the elves of Fairie with the streets of New York City. I’m still working with ACE which in July of 2000 published OUT OF TIME the first of a series of novels about a librarian who belatedly discovers that she has the talent (and obligation) to travel back in history to free people from curses. I’ve since written two more books about my librarian, Emma Merrigan: BEHIND TIME, published in 2001 and TAKING TIME which, I hope will be published in the latter part of 2003.
For the past two years the bulk of my time, though, has been taken up with the resurrection of THIEVES’ WORLD. SANCTUARY, the “epic” TW novel was published in April of 2002 and TURNING POINTS, the first all-new TW anthology in more than a decade, came out in November of 2002.
Right now, I’m hard at work on the fourth book about Emma (I’ve tentatively titled the series “Orion’s Children,” but ACE hasn’t said yea or nay to that idea yet), assembling a TW reprint volume (FIRST BLOOD) and putting together the second anthology.
What can I say? It keeps me off the street...