Jean Marie Ward

fiction, nonfiction and all points in between

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“Cat Pictures Please” with a side of Aeslin Mice

Hold Onto The Light

Don’t expect me to rip the bandage off any dark secrets in this year’s #HoldOntoTheLight essay. No, I’m not blowing off the campaign. Yes, there’s a blog ahead. But I’m not going to beat myself up about it. I’m snuffling through the infamous Post Dragon-Con Crud ™, and I lack the functional brain cells necessary for any kind of depth.

Which is the whole point. There are times even those of us blessed with a psychiatric nurse/expert Jungian for a mother and a personality default of Mean Girl can’t work up the energy for self-examination, much less meaningful social, political or emotional action.

And that’s okay.

Repeat those words. Say them to yourself and own them, because it’s not only okay, it’s important to your body and your soul to accept there are times when you need to be nice to yourself.

I won’t argue that disasters big and small crater the landscape—devastating hurricanes, earthquakes, political chaos, bigotry, war, famine, plagues, the fall of cultural icons and personal heartache. I also believe we need to throw our shoulders to wheel and do everything we can to address the problems we face. But not 24/7. The spirit may be willing, but the flesh is weak, and trust me, the flesh will do everything in its power to drag the spirit down to its level. When that happens, you do whatever you need to keep yourself going, no matter how silly or frivolous it might appear.

2006 and 2007 were two of the worst years of my life. My dear friend and cowriter Teri Smith suffered a fatal embolism in 2006, and my mother died the following year. To. The. Day. I got through it thanks to three things: my husband, my dearest and oldest friend Cath, and Duzie, the cat Teri and I rescued from the halls of her apartment building a few weeks before she died.

Duzie was my first cat. A better teacher in the ways of cat could not be found. He was gentle and tolerant, allowing me to cry into his soft fur as long as I wanted. But he had very definite views on his place in the food chain (at the top) and in the house (wherever he damn well pleased).

But he was also an old cat. He died in the spring of 2012 after a three-month decline. For those of you who don’t have pets, it may seem strange, but those three months were a nightmare flashback to the worst days of Teri’s and my mom’s death, with an added load of guilt, because I didn’t know what was happening, much less how to make it better. I should’ve been able to make it better. I was an educated human being, with all the advantages of 21st century veterinary medicine. Why couldn’t I help one small cat? And worse, the fear that whispered in the dark of night: Were my efforts to save him adding to his pain?

I quickly lost the ability to write. I expected that. It had happened before when my mom went on hospice care. So I knew the desire and ability would return once the worst of the grief had passed.

What I didn’t expect was losing the will to read. Oh, I could still make sense of words on a page. My comprehension was fine. But I lost all pleasure in the act. The lifeboat that had carried me through the worst of bad times was gone. Why? Because my emotional skin was too thin to suffer the conflict inherent in all good stories.

It took me a full two weeks after Duzie’s death to find something I could bear to read—Discount Armageddon, the first book in Seanan McGuire’s InCryptid series and the happiest, fluffiest novel she had published to date. I knew going in that everything would turn out okay. Along the way there was ballroom dancing, a found family of delightful oddballs, redemptive romance and, best of all, a colony of Aeslin Mice interrupting the action at the funniest moments to sing the oddest praises of the Price family.

Reading got easier after Discount Armageddon, but only because I didn’t push. I read for pleasure, not to impress anybody. If I felt like reading cozy mysteries or category romances, I did. Their formulaic structure was more than part of their charm; it was actively healing.

By the time Naomi Kritzer’s joyous short story, “Cat Pictures Please”, began collecting award nominations I was more than ready to vote for it. I had internalized the oversized truth contained in its small word count: it’s the little kindnesses that make us whole. Share cat pictures or dog pictures or gifs of hamsters in hats, and you could ease someone’s (or something’s) pain just enough to save the world.

The idea isn’t as far-fetched as it sounds. Life is a lot like airplane turbulence. You need to be sure you can breathe before you can take care of anyone else.

So cut yourself some slack. Pamper yourself with ice cream, cat pictures, Aeslin Mice or whatever soothes your soul. A little break won’t turn a mountain of problems into a molehill, but a little kindness just might make that mountain easier to scale.

You’re welcome. No need to thank me. As the lady and the AI said, payment is in cat pictures.

#

About the campaign:

#HoldOnToTheLight is a blog campaign encompassing blog posts by fantasy and science fiction authors around the world in an effort to raise awareness around treatment for depression, suicide prevention, domestic violence intervention, PTSD initiatives, bullying prevention and other mental health-related issues. We believe fandom should be supportive, welcoming and inclusive, in the long tradition of fandom taking care of its own. We encourage readers and fans to seek the help they or their loved ones need without shame or embarrassment.

Please consider donating to or volunteering for organizations dedicated to treatment and prevention such as: American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Hope for the Warriors (PTSD), National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Canadian Mental Health Association, MIND (UK),SANE (UK), BeyondBlue (Australia), To Write Love On Her Arms (TWLOHA) and the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.

To find out more about #HoldOnToTheLight, find a list of participating authors and blog posts, or reach a media contact, go to http://www.HoldOnToTheLight.com and join us on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/WeHoldOnToTheLight.

Posted 2 months, 1 week ago at 8:04 pm.

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Because some have forgotten

In 1883 a Jewish writer named Emma Lazarus was asked to write a poem to help raise money for the pedestal needed before the Statue of Liberty could be erected on what became Liberty Island in New York Harbor. She refused until southern writer (really southern–she helped sew the original Confederate battle flag) Constance Cary Harrison convinced her how important that statue could be to immigrants sailing into the harbor.

Ultimately she wrote a sonnet titled “The New Colossus”, after the statue which stood astride the harbor of Rhodes, one of the original Seven Wonders of the World. Since 1903 the words have hung within Lady Liberty’s pedestal. They read:

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

As someone who was in the Pentagon on 9/11, two corridors away from the point of impact, I reject the hypocrisy of those hiding their craven bigotry under the flag of national security. I stand with the Mother of Exiles. I welcome the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free. I live for the day when we once again open that golden door.

Posted 9 months, 3 weeks ago at 10:59 am.

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My Capclave 2016 Schedule

On Stranger Birds

On Stranger Birds by Steve Stiles

It’s Capclave season! If you’ll be in the Washington, DC, area this weekend, you couldn’t do better than to join us at the Gaithersburg Hilton for the MDV’s premier science fiction/fantasy literary convention. This year’s guests of honor will be Tim Powers and Sarah Beth Durst.
They’re even giving me some panels, too:

7 PM, Friday, October 7
Rockville/Potomac Meeting Room
Fictionalizing Real People
Panelists: Tim Powers, James R. Stratton, Jean Marie Ward (Moderator), Allen L. Wold
When you put a real person in a story, how much do you need to know about that person? What biographical information do you keep or leave out? What are the pro’s and con’s of writing such a character?

1 PM, Saturday, October 8
Salon A
Humor in Science Fiction & Fantasy
Panelists: Doc Coleman (M), William Freedman, Larry Hodges, Alex Shvartsman, Jean Marie Ward
When is it good to have a laugh? An exploration of not only humorous books, but putting humorous elements in a dramatic story.

10 PM, Saturday, October 8
Rockville/Potomac Meeting Room
Broad Universe Rapid Fire Reading
Panelists: Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Jeanne Adams, V. Hartman DiSanto, Kelly A. Harmon, Christie Meierz, Jean Marie Ward (M)
Listen to the Broad Universe Writers as they reveal their literary gems. Expect some extra members of the Universe to join the fun!

11PM, Saturday, October 8
Bethesda Meeting Room
Unused Secret Histories
Panelists: Tom Doyle, Bjorn Hasseler, James Morrow (Moderator), Jean Marie Ward
Tim Powers’ novels frequently use secret histories in which the recorded history does not change but the reasons behind the events are rather different. What historical events would make for a good secret history and what would be your explanation?

See you there!

Posted 1 year, 1 month ago at 7:54 pm.

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My Capclave 2015 Schedule

This weekend I get to see some of my favorite people at my hometown con, Capclave in Gaithersburg, Maryland. From 4 PM Friday, October 9, until 3 PM Sunday, October 11, we’ll be hanging at the Hilton and doing what writers to best: telling tall tales and partying until we drop. I’ll also have the last three copies of Tales from the Vatican Vaults available for purchase and autographing in the Western Hemisphere–at least until Hachette gets around to releasing it on this side of the Pond. (It’s currently only available for purchase in the UK and Australia.)

So come and join the fun. And if you’re looking for me, this is where I can guarantee I’ll be:

Friday 6:00 PM: Writing in Multiple Genres (Ends at: 6:55 PM) Bethesda
Panelists: Charles E. Gannon, Sunny Moraine, David Walton (M), Jean Marie Ward
In the 1940s and 50s, sf writers wrote in a wide range of genres, especially mysteries. Today’s writers are more likely to specialize in either SF or Fantasy (exceptions like L.E. Modesitt still exist.) What are the advantages and disadvantages to writing in multiple genres? Are the knowledge and skills gained from writing fantasy transferrable to SF, to mysteries, to romance? Should a writer use pseudonyms when writing in a different genre? Does it hurt one’s career, or does it refresh an author to write something different?

Saturday 2:00 PM: Workshop – Allen Wold Writing Workshop (Ends at: 3:55 PM) Seneca
Coordinators: Jean Marie Ward, Allen Wold, Darcy Wold
Allen Wold will lead a panel of authors in a hands on workshop. Learn many skills as you work on a short story. All you need is a pen and paper.

Saturday 6:30 PM: Reading – Jean Marie Ward (Ends at: 6:55 PM) Frederick
Author: Jean Marie Ward

Saturday 8 PM: Mass Autograph Session (Ends at: 8:55 PM) Salon A/B/C

Sunday 1:00 PM: Workshop – Allen Wold Follow-up (Ends at: 1:55 PM) Suite 1209
Coordinators: Jean Marie Ward, Allen Wold, Darcy Wold

Posted 2 years, 1 month ago at 1:16 pm.

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Hasta la vista, RWA

Ah, Romance Writers of America, you were afraid Gamergate wasn’t trashing women creators quite enough. So you’ve decided to vote in punitive membership requirements, including automated review software to determine whether a writer’s book qualifies for the exalted name of Romance.
I’d post a link, but in a move that almost qualifies as cunning, RWA has only posted the new rules and procedures in the members only section, split among several different releases and FAQs. But I can provide the full text of the letter of protest I wrote to my local RWA chapter, Washington Romance Writers, as soon as the proposed rules were shared with the organization’s members:

First off let me say I love you all, and everyone is entitled to their opinion on the proposed changes to RWA’s membership rules. This is mine.
The tax code isn’t magic. It isn’t foolproof, either. It’s a compilation of often conflicting Congressional directives, composed by bureaucrats and compounded in obscurity by changing fashions in legal language and punctuation. As a result, you can make it stand up and dance to any tune you choose. All you need to do is line up your intentions with the laws core requirements.
What are the core requirements of the law with respect to a group like RWA seeking to retain its tax-exempt status as a professional organization? Stripped of all the fancy language, the applicable requirements come down to this: RWA must define the professional group it will serve, its mission with respect to that group, and the goals it will pursue in the group’s interest in terms which do not conflict with the laws of the United States and its Territories.
In other words, no matter how you look at it, RWA gets to define its purpose, mission and goals. I have no problem with that. What I do have a problem with is the punitive terms of the proposed definitions, the outrageous provisions for enforcing those definitions, and the blatant indifference to the professional interests of the majority of its members, regardless of their status.
Genre is a marketing concept which only became the norm in North America within the past fifty years. It exists solely to help publishers and booksellers point potential customers to big bunches of books they might like without the need for personalized recommendations. It’s not a universal concept. Most European bookstores don’t organize their shelves that way.
In the past few years, RWA has turned itself inside out trying to define romance. Is it between a man and woman? Can a LGBQT love story qualify? What about a girl and an alien? A boy and his vampire? Werewolves and cat shifters? What about a story with hot sex scenes or more than one partner/life mate?
That’s not how the ever-consolidating number of big publishers looks at it. As far as New York is concerned, if the story focuses on a romantic relationship involving characters legally or culturally defined as adult, regardless of planetary or magical origin, and resolves itself into a happy ending, it’s classified as romance. If a story about Young Hannibal Lector hooking up with Shub-Niggurath struck the right note, they’d throw that in there, too.
Even this categorization is too particular for most readers. Unless you are an RWA member, a reader who exclusively reads Romance-with-a-Capital-R, or an attorney or CPA paid by an writing organization with an agenda, the term romance embraces everything from Nicholas Sparks to Sara Gruen to Charlotte Bronte (whose body of work would not qualify her for RWA membership, Jane Eyre notwithstanding). Remember, genre is a marketing construct without basis in law or tradition. It is whatever you say it is.
For example, the first winner of the Hugo, science fiction’s highest award, was Alfred Bester’s The Demolition Man. It was a futuristic police procedural mystery in which the only truly speculative element was telepathy.
Which means RWA has a lot of scope when it comes to defining itself as an organization dedicated to supporting the interests of professional writers in the romance genre. Do these proposed rules take advantage of that scope? No. Instead they restrict the definition of a professional writer of romance to writers blessed by circumstance with the time and contacts to produce what a small clique of individuals consider a published romance of acceptable length. It’s like an exclusive 1950s country club. “After all, we can’t have the *wrong element* taking tea in the clubhouse with respectable folk, now can we?”
If that wasn’t bad enough, they plan to enforce these exclusionary policies with a shadowy (and dubiously funded) cadre of monitors tasked to grub around in the members’ proprietary financial information like a Facebook data miner on steroids, and grade their output like a multiple choice quiz. The notion is preposterous and completely unparalleled in other professional writing organizations.
I’m not saying SFWA, MWA, Novelists Inc., or the rest are perfect. Far from it. But they’re a lot less hypocritical about determining member qualifications and rights. They establish their membership requirements right up front. They won’t take your money unless you meet those qualifications. Once you’re in, you stay in as long as you pay your dues, don’t commit any major felonies, and don’t unduly harass the other members. Not one of them can boast anything approaching RWA’s membership numbers, yet their various records with respect to insurance and catastrophic aid to members put us to shame.
How long did it take RWA to offer insurance? Would it have even happened without the Affordable Care Act? What’s RWA’s idea of catastrophic financial aid? A scholarship to Nationals. Riiiight.
This brings up another aspect of the proposed rules: their unmitigated cruelty to writers afflicted by bad health or impossible employment situations, or who are the primary caregivers of ailing loved ones. Those situations can last for years, and the recovery takes even longer. You think you can write saleable fiction in a situation like that? Don’t kid yourself. The notion that you can write through life-consuming stress without destroying your own health and creative spark is a lie promulgated by abusive bosses through the ages to further their own ends, not yours.
While we’re on the subject of abuse, let’s not forget the vagaries of the publishing industry—traditional and Amazon-dependent—which is currently going through more convulsions than RWA. For example, Macmillan authors can wait up to five years between the signing of the contract and the appearance of the first book in a new series. The tenure of an acquisitions editor can be measured in weeks. Their departure inevitably orphans writers and their works. Years and incalculable emotional and creative energy–energy and time stolen straight from the writing–can be spent unraveling predatory contracts.
Romance writers pride themselves on being nurturers. Yet these proposed rules are the opposite of nurturing. They penalize the very writers who most need and support of a committed professional organization. Published writers don’t stop being professionals or writers because circumstances beyond their control prevented them from putting new words on the page or shriveled up their sources of income. Yet for all their skill, they’ll have a more difficult time getting published than a shiny new face willing to accept an underfunded contract just to get their foot in the door. And if by some miracle these returning writers publish something that by all rights should be celebrated as a romance, how long will it take to reinstate them to full memberships?  Will they be vetted in time to compete for any awards for which they might otherwise be eligible?  We’re Washington writers. We know better; bureaucracy doesn’t work that fast. Ever.
For years romance writers have been sensitive about how we are perceived by the media and the general public. RWA National and chapter conferences even offer seminars on how to address the issue in public forums. If that worries you, think about how this will play on Stephen Colbert.
Think also about whether or not anyone ever questioned Thomas Pynchon’s status as a professional writer although he goes ten years between novels. Imagine how J.D. Salinger–and his agent–would’ve reacted if anyone tried to peer into his finances. Ask yourself if Mystery Writers of America has any plans to show Charlaine Harris the door now that her novels are shelved in the SF/Fantasy section. Then contemplate the sorry case of Harper Lee, in a fight to the literal death with publishers, agents and caretakers, all of whom claim to know what’s right for her. They all say they have her best interests at heart. They know what’s right for her. Do you believe them?
So why should you believe a professional organization who wants you to pay dues and yet seeks to limit your ability to exercise the rights of a full voting member? Do you think RWA has your best interests at heart? Consider the organization’s track record–how long it took to get insurance for its members, the years of fighting it took to recognize the legitimacy of erotic romance, the years it demonized e- and self-publishing, its dilatory and half-hearted responses to predatory publishers. Do you think you can trust these people to protect your rights as a writer *unless* you have a say in their deliberations? Why should you pay them to protect your interests if you don’t have a say in defining what constitutes your interests as a professional and a writer of romance?
That’s the heart of the matter for me. I don’t think I’d object so much to the new rules if it signaled RWA’s desire to collapse itself into a much smaller organization dedicated to serving a narrowly defined group of professionals, excluding all others. But they don’t want to reduce the number of members to the writing niche it proposes to serve. It wants to grow its non-voting membership and use their due to support the aims and interests of a much smaller cabal who will have absolute, unregulated power to determine who joins their privileged number.
That’s taxation without representation, folks. We fought a war about that against the British once upon a time, women as well as men—women whose efforts on the home front and occasionally in the trenches made possible the ultimate victory of Washington’s army.
One of those women on the home front was Abigail Adams. She wrote to her husband, later the second President of the United States, at the Continental Congress in 1776: “…remember the ladies, and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the Husbands. Remember all Men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care and attention is not paid to the Ladies we are determined to foment a Rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any Laws in which we have no voice, or Representation.”
But John Adams and the other delegates to the Continental Congress didn’t pay any attention. *They* were in charge, which obviously meant *they* knew what was best us simple-minded womenfolk.
Yeah, like that turned out so well. It was another hundred and forty years before American women were finally recognized as full citizens of the country they helped to create. We still make less than 87 cents on the dollar compared to men of equal education and experience. You’d think an organization founded by women supporting a genre primarily written by women would learn something from that.
I can hear the objections even before I hit send. “But I wouldn’t be a writer if it weren’t for RWA. The programs… My chapter… My friends… The fellowship…” To which I say it was never the organization or the paid officials whose salaries are paid by your dues.  It was the good-hearted individuals who make up local chapters like WRW–chapters who raise their own funds to pay for conferences, scholarships and monthly programs with virtually no support and considerable interference by the national organization–who helped you. Writers and aspiring writers who will continue to pay it forward with priceless volunteerism, support and encouragement regardless of what RWA National decides to do.
As for the national organization, well, at the moment I believe my professional interests as a romance writer–as a writer. Period–would be best served by donating my RWA dues to the legal defense of Dear Author in their fight against the defamation suit wrongfully brought by Ellora’s Cave. Dear Author is fighting for their First Amendment rights, and by extension, the First Amendment rights of every writer victimized by publisher malfeasance. I can get behind that.
Taxation without representation? Not so much.

The issues I raised in that open letter were just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Those in the group with financial management and legal background raised grave concerns about liability issues, copyright violations, etc. I hope they will share their concerns publicly in the days ahead.
Not that I expect it to matter to RWA officials, nor do I expect them to be swayed by the departure of members like me, who are appalled by the organization’s current direction. Romance is half the fiction market. RWA is too big to care. It is unsinkable!
Yeah, that’s exactly what they said about the
Titanic.
Now excuse me. Now that I
won’t be renewing my RWA membership, I’ve got checks to write.

Posted 3 years ago at 5:11 pm.

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Okay, that didn’t work

The subscriber button I posted on my website didn’t work with any of my email addies. So it’s off the sidebar, and I’m back to researching widgets. Ah, the glamour of the Intarwebs–not!

Posted 3 years, 4 months ago at 10:00 am.

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New Pinterest Boards & a Little Light Housekeeping

The scene on the bridge

Eddie on the bridge...with Luftwaffe. Art by Edd Coutts.

Most of the summer has been spent writing and prepping for Dragon Con. But tonight I decided to take a break and add a couple new Pinterest Boards.

The first new board, Glass Transit, celebrates the latest adventure of Eddie Woodhouse and Ducky Orr. Our hapless sorcerers were last sighted being sucked into a bottle on the dance floor of Ducky’s club. “Glass Transit” recounts what happens next. Yes, the Hindenburg is involved. As you can see on the sidebar, the story will appear in Hellfire Lounge 4: Reflections of Evil sometime this fall.

“The Wizard of Woodward Park” is the tentative title of the story I’ll be working on when I return from Dragon Con. Here’s hoping it makes the cut for The Clockwork Universe: Steampunk vs. Aliens. I admit, I’m doing my best to stack the deck. The editors have this thing for Daniel Craig. Okay, I can write that–and enjoy the description while I’m at it.

Already on the page are my pins for “The Clockwork Nightingale”, the story for Gaslight and Grimm. Today I finally finished revisions on the draft–the 16,000-word draft. Oops! Now I have perfect faith my critique partner will slash it to ribbons, but that won’t make it shorter. Here’s hoping Danielle Ackley McPhail, the editor on the anthology wasn’t kidding when she said there was “No such thing as too long.”

Finally, you may have noticed that the Twitter widget in the sidebar isn’t working as advertised. I am tweeting several times a day at @Jean_Marie_Ward, and all the tweets are public, but the widget refuses to register the fact. I think it’s time for Twitter Widget and I to have a little talk.

We’ll see how that works out. Meanwhile, happy August!

Posted 4 years, 3 months ago at 11:29 pm.

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Stop CISPA

Yeah, I know it’s usually cheating to post about how you’re not going to post for a while, but this is important. Thanks to so many reasons I refuse to rant about here, our personal privacy is being constantly eroded. I happen to think our Fourth Amendment rights are just as important as all the rest. So like many folks, I’m stepping away from the Internet on April 22. Just wanted everyone to know, and to say there will be pictures when I return–RavenCon photos and your first peek at Hellfire Lounge 4. Meanwhile, good luck on #StopCISPA Monday.

Posted 4 years, 7 months ago at 11:55 pm.

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Heading to RavenCon

Between deadlines and conventions, 2013 is shaping up as a wonderfully busy year.
For those of you who missed it, I was one of the guests of honor at James Madison University’s Madicon the first weekend in March. I had a great time with old friends and new, and as usual, I have the pictures to prove it.
This weekend will find me in Richmond at RavenCon. This year’s writing guests of honor are Kevin J. Anderson and Rebecca Moesta. The artist guest of honor is The Devil’s Panties creator Jennie Breeden. I’m looking forward to all their panels, but I confess, I’m especially looking forward to Jennie’s. Her web videos are laugh-so-loud-you-scare-the-cat funny, even when she’s hawking merchandise.
I can only hope to compete on my five panels. Yeah, you know what’s coming–my RavenCon schedule:

Friday

3 p.m., Room F
Steampowered–the Rage of the New Victorians
From werewolves to anti-zombie airship pilots, the Empire has struck back. What is it about this genre and time period that is so appealing. Is it the machinery? The celebration of intellect? Or is it the clothes?
Carl Cipra (Moderator), Laura Anne Hill, Jean Marie Ward, Susan Zee

11 p.m., York Room
Yes, But is it Funny? Comedy in Science Fiction
…And presumably everything else. This is the late night panel. You really think we’re going to stay on topic? Mwahahaha!
Jim Bernheimer, Bud Sparhawk, Jean Marie Ward (Moderator), Joan Wendland

Saturday

2 p.m., Anna Room
Judging a Book by its Cover
What are the latest trends in science fiction, fantasy and horror covers? What do you love–and hate–about book covers? And what are the latest trends?
Betty Cross, Jean Marie Ward (Moderator), J. Andrew World

4 p.m., Room E
Beyond Steampunk
Gaslight fantasy. Weird west. Dieselpunk. Cyberpunk. Explore the punked-out fictions that are not set in a British Victorian or Edwardian past.
Betty Cross, Laura Anne Hill, Jean Marie Ward (Moderator), Susan Zee

Sunday

1 p.m., Room E
The Discreet Charm of the Historical Fantasy
What prompts otherwise sane writers to spend years researching Imperial Japan, the Silk Road, or the Ripper’s London. How do they know when they’ve gotten it right?
Day Al-Mohamed, Maggie Allen, KT Pinto, Jean Marie Ward (Moderator)

Hope to see you there!

Posted 4 years, 7 months ago at 10:00 am.

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Old Town Synchronicity

You just can’t make this stuff up.
Last week, Diane Whiteside received a letter from a fan of her novel, The Shadow Guard. The fan was seeking the grave of Col. John Fitzgerald, aide-de-camp to George Washington at Valley Forge and prominent Alexandria cit mentioned in Diane’s book. When the usual sources (Wiki, Google, etc.) came up empty, Diane asked me if any of my friends at Alexandria’s historic Carlyle House might know. I promised to ask the next time I volunteer (sometime after Dragon*Con). In the meantime, I started rooting around in my local library.
Fitzgerald was the driving force behind Old Town Alexandria’s first Catholic Church, St. Mary’s, so I started with the records for St. Mary’s Cemetery, copies which are conveniently located in every Alexandria branch library. From there I went to compilations of The Alexandria Gazette obituaries and the records of the Hustings Court. (Fitzgerald was a big wheeler dealer on the local real estate front.) I confirmed his town home was located on the corner of King and Fairfax Streets, where the main branch of Burke and Herbert Bank now stands, but hey, that’s a no brainer. They’ve even got a plaque to that effect on the bank.
Today Diane and I met for lunch. By some odd quirk of timing, we drove into the Market Square parking garage in Old Town at the same time. We planned to lunch at O’Connell’s but power was off on that side of the street, so I asked, “Would you like to eat Italian? There’s Landini Brothers and Il Porto across the street. Which one would you prefer?”
“Landini Brothers–you mentioned it first.”
After lunch we headed for the Queen Street branch of the Alexandria library, home of the local history collection. Julia, the librarian on duty, wasn’t quite sure where to look. I’d already searched the St. Mary’s records. So we rooted around in the transcriptions of Alexandria tombstones. Nada.
Then Julia pulled out Ethelyn Cox’s Historic Alexandria Virginia Street by Street. It contained a page on Fitzgerald’s King Street warehouse which noted his burial site as Warburton Plantation, the present site of Fort Washington.
Oh, and the warehouse? It’s the same building where we ate lunch.
I love Alexandria.

Posted 5 years, 3 months ago at 7:21 pm.

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