Jean Marie Ward

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My Capclave Schedule, 2018 Edition

Capclave Dodo 2018

Oops! I meant to post this earlier this week, but my current writing project had other ideas. I’m just glad it released its grip before the con began.

Capclave did me proud this year: six panels, an autograph session and two readings. It all takes place Friday-Sunday, September 28-30 at the Rockville Hilton and Executive Meeting Center, Rockville, Maryland. I hope to see you there—and remember, the autographing session always has cake…

Friday
4 PM: Writing at Different Lengths
Panelists: Nancy Kress, Suzanne Palmer, Jean Marie Ward (M), Alyssa Wong
Writing at a short length vs. writing a novella or novel. What are the differences, if any, in how to approach the writing of a short story vs. the writing of a novel. (Eisenhower)

6 PM: Humorous SF
Panelists: Darrell Schweitzer, Alex Shvartsman, Jean Marie Ward (M)
It’s easy to name the funny fantasy books, but what about the funny SF books and short stories? For instance, Unidentified Funny Objects is an entire anthology of funny SF. (Truman)

10 PM: Writing on the Job
Panelists: Marilyn “Mattie” Brahen, Barbara Krasnoff (M), Hildy Silverman, Jean Marie Ward
Is it better for a writer to have a non-writing job to save his/her writing energies for fiction or to use writing skills to make a nonfiction living on the idea that any writing improves fiction writing? And when should you quit your day job? Hear writers discuss the relationship between their day job and their writing. (Washington Theater)

Saturday
1 PM: What Makes Alternate History So Compelling?
Panelists: Tom Doyle (M), J. L. Gribble, Bjorn Hasseler, Alan Smale, Jean Marie Ward
Alternate histories continue to proliferate, though in accordance with Sturgeon’s Law, most fail the plausibility test, the storytelling test, or both. Why do the what-ifs continue to fascinate us, and what makes a powerful story in this subgenre? (Truman)

3 PM: Broad Universe Rapid Fire Reading
Panelists: Jeanne Adams, Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Carol Ann Douglas, Jennifer Povey, Jean Marie Ward (M), Joan Wendland
Broad Universe is an international organization with the primary goal of promoting science fiction, fantasy, and horror written by women. Members will be doing readings from their own works. (Jackson)

4 PM: Middles
Panelists: Wendy S. Delmater, Andrew Fox, Nancy Kress, Jack Skillingstead, David Walton, Jean Marie Ward (M)
So now that you’ve started your story, how do you put meat on its bones? How do you develop plot and character at short fiction and novel lengths? How many Aristotelian unites can and should you violate in your story? (Washington Theater)

6 PM: Use of Mythology in SFF
Panelists: Tom Doyle, Michelle D. Sonnier, Jean Marie Ward, Steven H. Wilson, A.C. Wise (M)
There are a lot of different mythologies out there, with both similarities and differences. How do we incorporate and adapt them when writing our stories? Norse, Greek and Roman myths are the most common ones used in genre stories but are not the only mythologies out there. What’s acceptable to adapt and change, especially when using a mythology from a culture not one’s own. E.g. dragons in Europe and dragons in various Asian countries have quite different motives and personalities ascribed to them. (Washington Theater)

7:30 PM: Mass Autographing and Awards Ceremony
(Eisenhower) Ends at 8:55 PM

Sunday
1 PM: Reading
(Lincoln) Ends at 1:25 PM

3 PM: Superheroine to Wise Woman: Creating Powerful Female Characters
Panelists: Cerece Rennie Murphy, Michelle D. Sonnier, Jean Marie Ward, A.C. Wise (M)
What goes into creating strong, compelling female characters in fantasy worlds? Speculative fiction authors discuss how to approach elements such as world-building, magic, special powers, and plot when crafting a multi-dimensional character, and how to avoid the pitfalls of the “Mary Sue.” (Jackson)

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Posted 3 weeks, 4 days ago at 9:28 am.

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#HoldOntoTheLight: The Bathroom Trick

Hold Onto The Light

Mom was a Jungian—sort of.

A World War II-era psychiatric nurse, she understood there are times when talking through a problem simply wasn’t enough. She knew the health of the mind was inextricably linked to the health of the body. She’d seen firsthand the devastating effect of shell shock, as well as the psychosis and personality changes suffered by her sister when a well-meaning fool burst a goiter on her sister’s neck. She also knew entire families could suffer with mental health issues, and it wasn’t a matter of fault. They were born that way.

To her way of thinking, we’re all born that way. Even people wired to be happy can find themselves devastated by circumstances beyond their control—the death of a loved one, terminal illness, injury and global catastrophe. Sometimes sadness or a feeling of utter powerlessness is the only rational response to a situation. As someone who’d experienced her share of tragedy, she knew grief was a natural part of the human condition. The trick was to prevent the sorrow from becoming more calamitous than its cause.

Safe, effective anti-depressants hadn’t been invented yet. So Mom and her colleagues explored other modes of treatment. Mom focused on the coping mechanisms developed independently by those who routinely struggled with depression. She was particularly struck by Winston Churchill’s way of dealing with his “Black Dog”. Whenever Churchill felt himself sliding into despair, he would go into the garden and lay bricks on a wall.

To a Jungian, the symbolism was obvious. The wall represented a physical and symbolic barrier between him and his troubles. But Mom took it further. Analyzing newspaper and magazine articles she found in the base library, she concluded Churchill’s deepest depressions coincided with moments where he felt most powerless. View in that light, the wall was also his way of exerting control over his world.

Few people in Mom’s orbit had the luxury of building a wall. Hell, if you were living in military housing, chances were you didn’t even have a yard. But control—Mom understood control. I used to describe her as a combination of the kinder, gentler qualities of Napoleon Bonaparte, Niccolo Machiavelli and Attila the Hun. Full disclosure: they didn’t have any. What they did have, however, was the ability to assess the available resources and apply them to the problem at hand.

Ultimately Mom decided the best alternative for building a wall was cleaning a bathroom. The two tasks shared many attributes. Cleaning a bathroom seldom qualifies as a daily necessity. It’s usually something you could choose to do. Or not. It involves manageable levels of physical labor (subsequently shown to help the body self-regulate its chemistry). It can be done in a limited amount of time. It offers tangible results. It harms no one, yet invariably leads to a sense of accomplishment. When I was young, she insisted it was the only viable therapy for a growing girl; a big, strong man like my dad could clean the stove. (What? You didn’t think she practiced her trade on Dad and me? See the historical role models listed above.) But later, after she finally sprang for a regular cleaning lady, she admitted any self-contained, productive activity could suffice, from washing the car to baking cookies for a friend.

Mom died twelve years ago, but I still use the “bathroom trick”. I don’t always clean a bathroom. Sometimes I don’t even bother with physical exertion. It doesn’t really matter what I do. The key is restoring a sense of control through a personal achievement, no matter how small.

Mom would have been the first to say the strategy doesn’t always work. Plus, it’s only a therapy, not a cure. But she believed that any strategy that took the edge off pain without causing harm should be shared. I share it in that spirit. If it helps anyone who reads this, I’ll consider it worthwhile. So would she.

***

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, Home 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 and the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.

To find out more about #HoldOnToTheLight, find a list of participating authors, or reach a media contact, go to https://www.facebook.com/groups/276745236033627/.

Posted 1 month, 1 week ago at 4:38 pm.

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Goin’ to Dragon Con, 2018 Edition

Dragon Con Logo

Dragon Con is almost here! I’ll be heading out Wednesday, abandoning spouse and house panther to their own devices. (They’re afraid…very afraid. ;-) ) I can’t wait to see my friends—and learn what author and Falstaff Books publisher John Hartness is planning for the threatened Virgo birthday bash. (The Westin Bar may never recover.) In addition, this will be author Joshua B. Palmatier’s first time in the Merchandise Mart as the publisher of Zombies Need Brains. Drop by and say hello if you’re going in that direction.

I hope you’ll drop by a few of my panels, too. This year I have twelve. From the subjects and the other guests, they’re sure to be grand!

——————-
Title: Social Media as an Effective Tool for Authors
Description: Social media can launch your career–or kill it. What’s effective? What isn’t? Learn how to navigate the tricky waters of social media.
Time: Fri 01:00 pm Location: Embassy CD – Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)
(Tentative Panelists: Tyra A Burton, Denise Baker Camacho, Michael Chatfield, Jean Marie Ward, Lee Martindale, Aleron Kong)

——————-
Title: A Genre Is a Genre Is a Genre: The Proliferation of Genres
Description: Every time you turn around, it seems there’s a new genre on the bookshelves–or a sub-genre. Whatever happened to just science fiction or just fantasy or just…any genre you’d care to name? Our panelists discuss this. Is there any end in sight?
Time: Fri 04:00 pm Location: Embassy AB – Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)
Moderator / MC for panel
(Tentative Panelists: Jean Marie Ward, Claire M. Eddy, Bill Fawcett, Henry Vogel, Dr. Charles E. Gannon)

——————-
Title: Readings in Honor of Kathryn Fernquist Hinds
Description: Writers & friends celebrate the life of author, bard, poet, & teacher Kathryn Hinds with reminiscences & readings from her work.
Time: Fri 07:00 pm Location: Techwood – Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)
Moderator / MC for panel
(Tentative Panelists: Jean Marie Ward, Gail Z. Martin, Jeanne P Adams, James Palmer, Trisha J. Wooldridge, Catherine M. Scully)

——————-
Title: Ahoy, Mateys! Pirates in Popular Culture
Description: The drama and adventure of pirate history have inspired imaginations for centuries. Join us for some of our favorite pirate stories, including Pirates of the Caribbean, Black Sails, Treasure Island, Treasure Planet, The Goonies – even Cutthroat Island! No, we don’t know where the rum has gone.
Time: Fri 08:30 pm Location: Athens – Sheraton (Length: 1 Hour)
(Tentative Panelists: Tim Powers, Darin M. Bush, Michael J. Martinez, Jean Marie Ward, Sherrilyn Kenyon)

——————-
Title: Reading Session: Jean Marie Ward
Time: Sat 01:00 pm Location: Marietta – Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)
(Tentative Panelists: Jean Marie Ward)

——————-
Title: Her-storically Speaking
Description: Well-behaved women rarely make history, as they say. So we’ll be talking about some of the women who made waves, with a focus on pirates, Vikings, and detectives. History professors, writers, and all-around smart ladies talk about the stories we may not have been taught in history books.
Time: Sat 07:00 pm Location: Athens – Sheraton (Length: 1 Hour)
(Tentative Panelists: Octavia Randolph, Jean Marie Ward, Leanna Renee Hieber, Nancy Holzner)

——————-
Title: The Oldest Profession: History’s Most Famous Working Women
Description: History has a lot of unsung heroes, specifically in this profession. Contrary to what you may have read, some of the most notorious and celebrated madams and working women have shaped and often guided our history. This survey panel showcases some you should know about.
Time: Sat 11:30 pm Location: Athens – Sheraton (Length: 1 Hour)
(Tentative Panelists: Cecilia Dominic, Jean Marie Ward, Gail Z. Martin, Austin Sirkin, Valerie Hampton)

——————-
Title: Oops, I Sold My Novel. Now What?
Description: Selling your novel is Step One. Presenters will discuss what happens next. How do you make your first novel the success you dreamed about?
Time: Sun 04:00 pm Location: Embassy CD – Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)
(Tentative Panelists: John L. Flynn, Lucienne Diver, Leanna Renee Hieber, Michael J. Martinez, Scott Sigler, Jean Marie Ward)

——————-
Title: Ursula K. Leguin: Honoring a Grand Master
Description: The field lost a great voice last year when Ursula K. Leguin passed. We will be honoring the author of The Left Hand of Darkness and Wizard of Earthsea (among others) by discussing her work and life.
Time: Sun 05:30 pm Location: – Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)
Moderator / MC for panel
(Tentative Panelists:) Erika A. Domeika, Jean Marie Ward, Trisha Wooldridge

——————-
Title: Broad Universe Rapid-Fire Readings
Description: Tasty bite-sized readings from some of your favorite & soon-to-be-favorite authors.
Time: Sun 07:00 pm Location: Techwood – Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)
Moderator / MC for panel
(Tentative Panelists: Jean Marie Ward, Gail Z. Martin, John G. Hartness, K.M. Herkes, Linda Robertson, Trisha J. Wooldridge, Jeanne P Adams, Nancy Northcott)

——————-
Title: Win, Lose, or Draw
Description: Our annual try at getting our fellow fans to figure out what you’re drawing. There will be prizes for the winning team.
Time: Mon 01:00 pm Location: Embassy AB – Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)
Moderator / MC for panel
(Tentative Panelists: Jean Marie Ward)

——————-
Title: The Devil in the Details: A Lucifer Fan Panel
Description: A moderated fan-panel discussion of the hit show’s third season
Time: Mon 02:30 pm Location: Chastain 1-2 – Westin (Length: 1 Hour)
(Tentative Panelists: Kevin Bachelder, Eric R. Asher, Jean Marie Ward, Kristin Jackson, John G. Hartness)

Posted 1 month, 3 weeks ago at 3:18 pm.

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My Balticon 52 Schedule

Memorial Day Weekend is just around the corner, and we all know what that means—Balticon! Celebrate the real start of summer with a couple thousand of your favorite friends at Baltimore’s Renaissance Harborplace Hotel. Oh yeah, I’ll be there, too, with a wonderful selection of panels. Check them out.

Saturday
1 PM, Kent Meeting Room (Sixth Floor)
Broad Universe Rapid Fire Reading
Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Jeanne Adams, J.L. Gribble, Lisa Hawkridge, A.L. Kaplan, Gail Z. Martin, Cara McKinnon, Karen Wester Newton (w/a Carmen Webster Buxton), Jennifer Povey, Ken Schrader, D.H. Timpko, Jean Marie Ward (Moderator), Joan Wendland.

9 PM, St. George Meeting Room (Sixth Floor)
Reading with Ruthanna Emrys, Michael M. Jones, Jean Marie Ward

Sunday
1 PM, Guilford Meeting Room (Sixth Floor)
Writing the Spectrum of Feminine Strength
Jamaila Brinkley, Valerie J. Mikles (Moderator), Michelle Sonnier, Jean Marie Ward

5 PM, Gibson Meeting Room (Sixth Floor)
20 Years Later: Cowboy Bebop
Bugsy Bryant (Moderator), Christiana Ellis, Jean Marie Ward

6 PM, Homeland Meeting Room (Fifth Floor)
Useful Rabbit Holes for Writers—and How to Climb out of Them
Jim Beall, Marilyn “Mattie” Brahen, Mildred Cady (Moderator), Andy Love, Jean Marie Ward

8 PM, Room 8006
Making Fantasy Feel Real
Brenda Clough, Leah Cypess, Lisa Hawkridge, Jean Marie Ward

Monday
Noon, Room 7029
Writing for Themed Anthologies.
T. Eric Bakutis, Neil Clarke, Alex Shvartsman (Moderator), Jean Marie Ward

2 PM, Mount Washington Meeting Room (Fifth Floor)
Writing Intriguing Characters
Martin Berman-Gorvine (Moderator), Michelle Sonnier, D.L. Wainright, Jean Marie Ward, Joy Ward

If you want to learn more, check out the Balticon website and their online schedule. You know it’s going to be fun!

Posted 5 months ago at 9:10 pm.

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My Schedule for Capclave 2017

Lynn Perkins's DoDo

Capclave, my hometown con specializing in short fiction, is coming up this weekend. Don’t miss your chance to see our award-winning guests of honor, Ken Liu and Neil Clarke, as well as hang with the some of the friendliest writers and editors around. (Yeah, I’ll be there, too. But the rest of them are really nice. Honest.)
My schedule this year is particularly choice, encompassing a number of topics dear to my heart. I hope I’ll see you at the panels and readings. And as always, I come equipped with chocolate.

Friday
3 PM, Rockville/Potomac
Worldbuilding in Science Fiction vs. Fantasy
Are there distinctions in how worldbuilding is approached for a fantasy setting rather than a science fiction setting? Are there different approaches in how the result is presented to the reader? Are there challenges on one side of the fantasy/SF split that are less of an issue on the other? Panelists: Charles Gannon, Jean Marie Ward (m), Lawrence Watt-Evans, Allen Wold

7 PM, Rockville/Potomac
Write What You Don’t Know
Fantasy authors rarely get irate email from dragons saying they got it wrong. How to write characters from places and times that you don’t know but members of your audience do, and why it’s important to get outside your comfort zone. Panelists: Scott H. Andrews, Joshua Palmatier, Michael Ventrella (m), Jean Marie Ward

Saturday
11 AM, Bethesda
Broad Universe Rapid Fire Reading
Broad Universe is an international organization with the primary goal of promoting science fiction, fantasy, and horror written by women. Members will be doing readings from their own works. Readers: Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Jeanne Adams, Vickie Hartman DiSanto, Karen Wester Newton (aka Carmen Webster Buxton), Jennifer Povey, Janine K. Spendlove, Denise Timpko, Jean Marie Ward (m)

1 PM, Bethesda
Reading (30 minutes)

4 PM, Salon A
Use of Mythology in Science Fiction and Fantasy
There are a lot of different mythologies out there, with both similarities and differences. How do we incorporate and adapt them when writing our stories. What’s acceptable to adapt and change, especially when using a mythology from a culture not one’s own. E.g. dragons in Europe and dragons in various Asian countries often have quite different motives and personalities ascribed to them. Panelists: Jack Campbell, Carolyn Ives Gilman, Scott Roberts, Michelle Sonnier, Jean Marie Ward (m)

Sunday
3 PM, Frederick
The Economics of Magic
How do you use magic in your fantasy work so that it doesn’t become a get out of jail free option? When your characters use magic what are the costs to the magic user or the fantasy world? Should conservation of energy apply? Panelists: Scott H. Andrews, Jean Marie Ward (m), Lawrence Watt-Evans

Posted 1 year ago at 8:34 pm.

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My Balticon 2017 Schedule

Spring has sprung, and Memorial Day is less than a week away. You know what that means: Balticon! This year’s con will again be held at the Marriott Renaissance overlooking Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, May 26-29. I’ll be appearing on six program items, including two readings:

Saturday, May 27
Noon, Kent Meeting Room (Sixth Floor)
Writing Interesting and Effective Short Stories
Hildy Silverman (Moderator), Scott Edelman, Malka Older, Jean Marie Ward and Fran Wilde

3 PM, St. George Meeting Room (Sixth Floor)
Author Readings
Bjorn Hasseler, Jean Marie Ward, Ted Weber

6 PM, Kent Meeting Room (Sixth Floor)
Broad Universe Rapid Fire Readings
Jean Marie Ward (Moderator), Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Roxanne Bland, Lauren Harris, A.L. Kaplan, Gail Z. Martin, Cara McKinnon, Christie Meierz, Jennifer R. Povey, Roberta Rogow, D.H. Timpko

7 PM, Pride of Baltimore Meeting Room (Sixth Floor)
Mythology as a Basis for Speculative Fiction
Kim Hargan (Moderator), Tom Doyle, Ada Palmer, David Silverman, Jean Marie Ward

Sunday, May 28
Noon, Pride of Baltimore Meeting Room (Sixth Floor)
Social Media Promotion Without Being Obnoxious
Jean Marie Ward (Moderator), Melissa L. Hayden, Nathan Lowell, Hildy Silverman, Michael Ventrella

4 PM, Guilford Meeting Room (Fifth Floor)
Judging an Editor’s Work
Kay Baiman (Moderator), Jamaila Brinkley, Jennifer Levine, Jean Marie Ward, Joy Ward

Hope to see you there!

Posted 1 year, 5 months ago at 8:04 pm.

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Misbehaving in real time

From today’s personal Facebook feed. (I’m better behaved on my author page. Honest!)
Reading the latest celebrity news out of Washington, my Pentagon analyst—er, writer brain started making a list:
- Orders inappropriate menu choices (overdone steak with ketchup, red wine with fish—same difference), From Russia with Love
- Cheats at golf, Goldfinger
- Owns sinister, overpriced resort in Florida, Thunderball
- Surrounds himself with aggressively perfect specimens of female pulchritude young enough for his daughter to babysit (Moonraker, Goldfinger, Thunderball, View to a Kill, Tomorrow Never Dies, etc., etc., etc.)
All we’re missing is “Throws underlings who disappoint him into his personal shark tank” from Dr. No—no wait, that’s how he uses the press.
Yep, if 45 were a character in a movie, right about now M would be ordering 007 to investigate.
You’re welcome, Hollywood.
The rest of you, blame Darling Spouse Greg Uchrin. This morning he woke me up by announcing in his best Sean Connery imitation: “He cheats at golf.”

Naturally, Darling Spouse couldn’t leave it at that. He promptly posted this comment from another of our favorite movies, His Girl Friday:
Hildy: ‘While hundreds of Sheriff Hartwell’s paid gunmen stalked through the city shooting innocent bystanders, spreading their reign of terror, Earl Williams was lurking less than twenty yards from the Sheriff’s Office where…’ Walter (dismayed): Wait a minute, wait a minute, aren’t you going to mention the Post? Doesn’t the paper get any credit? Hildy: Well, honey, I did that. Right there in the second paragraph. Walter: Who’s gonna read the second paragraph? Listen honey, for ten years, I’ve been telling ya how to write a newspaper story and that’s all I get?

Thirty-three years of togetherness—that’s what it looks like, folks. :-)

PS, Feel free to follow the links if you’re interested to see the rest:
My personal Facebook page
My author page
Any PR in a storm…

Posted 1 year, 7 months ago at 1:56 pm.

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The Annual Awards Eligibility Post, 2017 Edition

We writers ask a lot of our readers. Not only do we ask you to read–and love!–our stuff, we want you to buy it, rate it, review it, and yes, nominate it for awards. Reading and loving feeds our twisted little writer souls. But sales, promotion and awards are what pay the rent and keep the cat in kibble. (Trust me, you do not want to attempt stringing words together around a hungry cat. It never ends well.)

With that in mind, I’d like to say thank you again for everything you read and reviewed over the past twelve months. If your 2016 keepers happened to include any of my stories, I’d be thrilled if you nominated them. But the important thing is to recognize the work you loved in 2016. Awards are one of those rising tides that lift all boats. The recognition gives us all a boost.
To get you started, here are some links to the awards now open for nominations:

- The Dragon Awards

- The Hugo Awards

- The Nebula Awards

- The WSFA Small Press Award

And just in case you were trying to remember the details of that story you loved, here is the relevant information for my 2016 releases, including excerpts:

Story: “The Clockwork Nightingale”
Length: 16,000 words (novelette)
Publisher: E-Spec Books
Release Date: May 29, 2016
Excerpt

Cover of WERE-, an anthology edited by Joshua Palmatier and Patricia Bray

Story: “The Five Bean Solution”
Length: 9,200 words (novelette)
Publisher: Zombies Need Brains, LLC
Release Date: September 15, 2016
Excerpt

Tales from the Vatican Vaults (which includes “Cooking up a Storm”, my secret history story about the Burning of Washington in 1814–with voodoo) was published in the United Kingdom in 2015, but wasn’t released in the US until last month. I’m adding it to this list, because that 2016 US publication date means it wasn’t eligible for a Nebula until this year.

Tales from the Vatican Vaults

Story: “Cooking up a Storm”
Length: 17,700 words (novella)
Publisher: Constable and Robinson
US Release Date: December 27, 2016
Excerpt

Hey, a girl can dream…

Posted 1 year, 9 months ago at 10:41 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 2 years ago at 7:54 pm.

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I Thought I Was one of the Good Guys : a #HoldOntoTheLight Post

A blog post in support of #HoldOnToTheLight SF/F Authors and Fans for Mental Wellness

Everybody wants to be a hero. Finding our cause might take a while, but it’s always there waiting.

For me the epiphany happened when I was an intern at the old Army Development and Research Command. I thought my office was great. My colleagues were pleasant, respectful and never asked me to make coffee a second time. (Back then men never made their own coffee. In my own small way I helped change that. All it took was a little lemon juice.)

Then the excellent colonel who ran the office went away on an extended training course. His temporary replacement was a part-time lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserves who thought his rank and gender entitled him to chase me around the office desks when nobody but the colonel’s secretary was looking. Accustomed to friendship and support from all the other women in the office, I approached her for help.

“Get used to it,” she sneered. “It used to happen to me all the time. Now it’s your turn.”

Her voice seethed with malice and a warped kind of triumph. What was wrong with this woman? Harassment wasn’t something you passed on like a family heirloom. It was something you fought, not just for yourself but for all the people who came after you. I resolved I would never be like her. I would fight for people being sexually victimized by their supervisors, colleagues, or anybody who thought themselves entitled to prey on others by virtue of their position or gender.

I was lucky. I found other allies, and together we encouraged the lieutenant colonel to return home seven weeks early. But I never lost my resolve to protect others from sexual predation. It led some interesting throw-downs with military officers, senior enlisted personnel and political appointees during my Pentagon years. But defending others made me feel useful and good, far beyond any of my bureaucratic achievements.

Caught up in my vision of myself as an anti-harassment crusader, it never occurred to me that I, too, could be a bully.

Don’t waste any sympathy the jerks who went trolling the interns, the summer hires and the secretarial pool. They deserved everything they got and then some. But the same ferocity that made me so good at fending off predators also left unintended damage in its wake. Government offices are surprisingly random. They bring together people of all backgrounds, education and personalities, and every single one of them has a breaking point.

Thirteen years after my encounter my life-changing encounter with the colonel’s secretary I was hired as the senior public affairs officer for the Defense Finance and Accounting Service. The job entailed managing corporate communications and public relations for the agency’s headquarters, operating centers and field offices. My center staffs included some exceptional writers and publications people, and I held them up as examples to the rest. I had high standards. I wanted us to be the best public affairs outfit in the Department of Defense. But I liked to think of myself as fair. I never insulted or belittled my public affairs personnel in front of their colleagues and peers. I always praised them to their supervisors and center chiefs.

I also judged everyone’s products—news releases, publications, outreach initiatives—against the best of the best. When asked for my opinion, I gave it. In detail. How would those who didn’t excel at writing, design or programming improve if I didn’t tell them when they got it wrong?

In case you haven’t noticed, I can be rather…forceful. I grew up on Army bases where even little skinny little girls in glasses learned to be wicked fighters. As an adult, when I finally graduated to the government’s version of the grown-up table, I was frequently the only woman in the room. I learned to pitch my voice low and hard, and to stare down men twice my weight. As a result, scary became my default setting.

I didn’t realize how intimidating I’d become until we held a conference for center public affairs officers in Indianapolis. Whenever I staged an agency-wide conference, I always scheduled a “fun event” where participants could mingle without worrying about official directions or agendas. At my request, the Indianapolis center made reservations at a restaurant/magic museum the evening before the conference’s official start.

Everyone arrived on time except one center public affairs officer. We waited for her until the group nearly lost our reservation. She still didn’t appear. We double-checked her hotel and the restaurant—it was a magic museum, after all. But she wasn’t in her room or in collusion with the magicians.

Since her boss, the center director, could be capricious, we figured it must be something work-related and settled back to enjoy the meal and the show. Recovering reporters and marketing types have a reputation as heavy drinkers, but we all went light on the alcohol. The night was pouring rain, and all of us out-of-towners had gotten lost at least once on the way to the restaurant. We didn’t want to risk something worse on our way back to our respective hotels.

By mid-meal I was worried. Where was the missing public affairs officer? Yeah, her boss could’ve sent her on a snipe hunt, why didn’t she call and tell us about it? We had some of the best public affairs officers in the department at that table. Between us we could fix whatever her director might have broken.

This was in the Dark Ages before cell phones, so I couldn’t call more than a couple of times from the restaurant. She didn’t answer no matter how long I let it ring. I returned to my hotel and called again. She still wasn’t answering. Now I was really alarmed. I decided to call every hour until midnight. If I didn’t reach her by twelve my next call would be to the police.

I finally connected around eleven. She sounded groggy and upset, like I’d woken her after she’d cried herself to sleep.

I asked her what was wrong. Why hadn’t she come to the restaurant? Everybody missed her.

“Really? Really?” she practically shrieked. “Well, I couldn’t. I couldn’t find the damn place. I got lost downtown. In the rain. I wound up going the wrong way on a one way street. Then this cop pulled me over. And…and…” Her voice broke on a sob.

“Oh no, [Name Redacted], are you all right? Do you need me to pay your ticket?“

“No, I’m not all right! My husband’s in the hospital for a double bypass, and I’m here in Indianapolis for this stupid conference, and a cop pulled me over and now I’m going to lose my job.”

“Your husband’s in the hospital?” I repeated stupidly. For a double bypass? My mind boggled.

“What are you doing here?” Why didn’t you tell me?

“Why do you think I’m here? I’m attending your stupid conference. My center director told me I had to come. He said it was important. You could get me fired. I can’t get fired. My husband has a bad heart. I need this job.”

Your center director said what?

I wouldn’t…

I never…

But in a way I had. This public affairs officer had come up through the secretarial ranks, which gave her a distinct inferiority complex with respect to those of us who’d always been classified as professionals. She never worked on newspapers or studied publication design, which meant she bore the brunt of my “helpful” opinions. I’d never given her a reason to trust me or believe I had her best interests at heart. To her I was an unfeeling, judgmental harpy who kept shoving her into a mold she couldn’t possibly fit. I never praised her for all the things she did right. Hell, I never bothered to find out what they were.

I spent the next fifteen minutes apologizing and trying to find some way to help. Had she received a ticket? Did she need me to pay it?

No to both. She was already crying when the cop pulled her over. He let her go with a warning and drew a map to get her back to the hotel.

Did she want to go home? I’d clear it with her center director. Hell, I’d figure out a way she could stay with her husband for the duration.

No, she wanted to stay. She wanted to do her job.

I was humbled. I was horrified. I was sickened by the unintended consequences of my actions. I was disgusted with myself in ways I hadn’t been disgusted by anyone since that long-ago secretary refused to help me with that jerk of a reserve lieutenant colonel. How did this happen? I thought I was one of the good guys. Yet I behaved like a bully. I terrorized a colleague into abandoning a desperately ill spouse out of fear for her job. She was so afraid of me and what I might do, she couldn’t bring herself to tell me what was happening until it was almost too late.

The experience changed me in many ways. Most importantly, I learned it wasn’t enough to prevent others from doing harm. We need to police ourselves. We’re all heroes in our own minds, but nobody gets a pass for good intentions. The road to Hell is paved with them, after all. What matters is our actions and how they affect those around us. Or to quote an instruction more venerable than any contained in the U.S. Code: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Speaking from personal experience, it’s never easy. But it’s always worth it.

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Posted 2 years, 1 month ago at 10:50 am.

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