Jean Marie Ward

fiction, nonfiction and all points in between

DragonCon Debrief

Tuesday, September 11th, 2007 | Author: jmward14 | Blog | Comments Off

All right.  I admit it.  I was a DragonCon Bunny.  

The Press Room Gang: (from the left) Randi, Dorie, Dave (aka Silent Bob), me and Leigh.

You should be glad I didn’t look like this guy.

The Bunny who wasn’t me.

After seven panels (thank you 

and Nancy!) and an autographing session (someone actually wanted me to sign her book—and I didn’t even know her!) it’s a small miracle I didn’t.  Not that I would’ve cared too much.  I had a blast as usual.

For me, DragonCon 2007 offered a wonderful combination of old friends and serendipitous discoveries.  For example, I expected to have a great time when I learned Josepha Sherman was on the “Effective Tools for Making That First Sale” panel with me.  But I never expected sharing a panel with a military SF writer like John Ringo would be such a hoot.  If you’re ever a con where he’s speaking don’t walk, run to his panels.  He’ll be the guy in the kilt.  Word.

Star Roberts and the media liaison staff touched my heart by setting up a memorial to 

in the Press Room.  As Mel Boros said when we raised a glass of Apple Pie in her honor Sunday night, “Teri wasn’t the center of attention, but she was central.”  And sorely missed.  

On a much happier note, “the Press Room Gang” also included me in their costume nights.  The Bunnies came out to play on Friday night.  Saturday night, we transformed doctors and nurses (and somehow neglected to get photos).  Sunday night, we were pirates.  And good thing too—we probably couldn’t have gotten into the Pirate Gathering or the Secret Room Pirate Rave if we weren’t.

Dorie (right) and me Sunday night in the Hyatt Lobby.

Then there was the music.  Emerald Rose and the Lost Boys set the perfect “Pre-Con” tone with their exuberant sets Thursday night.  Voltaire is a DragonCon favorite for his Goth presence and gloriously geeky lyrics, but his shows always made me twitch.  It’s hard to dance to a solo troubadour.  This year, however, he brought a band and Friday night, as he promised, he rocked the house.  Caught a little bit of Ghoultown and a whole lot of Lost Boys on Saturday night—and went away with even more CDs to load on my iPod.

Voltaire (center, in vest) rocked the Hyatt’s Centennial Ballroom Friday night, August 31.

The Sunday night Cruxshadows capped their current tour and was the last show for Rachel McDonnell, their awesome violinist.  The show ran nearly two hours…and it wasn’t nearly long enough.

Rogue, lead singer for the Cruxshadows.

I didn’t spend as much time as I would’ve liked in the Art Show, which seemed smaller than it had in years past.  Was it really?  I don’t know.  The Grand Hall at the Hyatt feels smaller than the Marriott Marquis’ Imperial Ballroom.  But some things were definitely bigger—the smiles on everyone’s faces when we learned DragonCon regular Laura Reynolds won the 2007 Chesley Award for best 3-D work.  WTG, Laura!  

WTG, everyone involved—especially 

(SFLit Track), Nancy Knight (Writing Track) and Cathy Bowden (Star Wars Track).  My pictures, as many as there are on my Flickr page, just don’t do you justice.  Can’t wait until next year!

Posted 11 years, 6 months ago at 10:25 pm.

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Wednesday, May 16th, 2007 | Author: jmward14 | Blog | Comments Off

In fact, if you aren’t in the mood for a little cranky, you might want to leave right now.
A little cranky.  I can’t complain about life in general.  Not when I’m wrestling with plot bunnies–or in this case, plot bonobos wearing baseball caps of invisibility–for My Big Fat Olympian Wedding From Hell.  But all the ducks Denny Crain hasn’t shot seem to be nibbling the parts not wrestling with over-sexed pygmy chimps.
First, I don’t know whether to be worried about Duzell the Wonder Cat.  In the way cats do, he’s just missed the litter box twice in three days–almost like a guy who overshoots the rim.  Since the litter box is downstairs, and he’s still burying his solids, I’m hoping he’s merely decided to get finicky about the litter.  Even so, it’s a nuisance, and I’ve called the vet, just in case.  Duzie never ate any of the contaminated pet foods, so the problem should be, um, general pissy-ness on his part.  But I’m a Virgo.  Worrying is part of the job description.
Second, I’m really disappointed in the Compton Crook Award.  I’d hoped to submit With Nine You Get Vanyr for consideration in the 2008 awards.  I thought it met the qualifications.  It was a first novel for both 

and me.  It should be just the ticket.
Just received word they don’t accept collaborations.  Wha?  I can understand that if the collaboration is between an experienced author and a newbie.  You wouldn’t want to judge a book written with Anne McCaffrey or John Ringo as a first effort.  But when the book was written by two newbies who planned to write as a unit indefinitely?  That’s just not fair.
I know, I probably should rejoice.  My first solo novel will be infinitely better than my first effort.  I know so much more than I did when qnotku and I wrote Vanyr–not only about writing but also about the peculiar prejudices of contest judges.  (Yes, I include myself in the peculiar part of that number.)  There is an art to contest submission, and the longer I work it, the better I’ll design my books to win.
But the ban against all collaborations is flat-out unfair.  It’s unfair to 

who will never have a book to call entirely her own.  With Nine You Get Vanyr and Highway from Hell were both written in collaboration.  Even if 

finishes They Shoot Fairy Godmothers Don’t They for her, it will still be a collaboration, which won’t qualify.  Under this scenario,

‘s freaking genius for comedy and dialogue will never, ever get the recognition it deserves.
It’s also unfair to the other submitting writers.  It’s like the bad old days before the better micro presses were recognized by Romance Writers of America.  For many years it was impossible for even the good small electronic and electronic-to-print publishers to meet RWA’s sales requirements.  That meant writers working for good small presses with professional editing were eligible to compete in the Golden Heart (RWA’s big unpublished writers contest) against people just starting out.  
With Nine You Get Vanyr has all the joy and love inherent in first novels, but I sincerely hope it’s not the best novel I ever write.  

and I never planned it to be.  It was merely the best book we could write at the time.  It should be allowed to rise or fall against others of its tribe, not dismissed on a quirk which sets up a less than level playing field for future competition.
*insert grim laughter here*  You know, the whole thing seems so very Red State–give the goods to them that has.  And I’m just ornery enough to object to something that gives me a leg up…to someone else’s detriment.

Posted 11 years, 10 months ago at 2:40 pm.

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Friday, April 13th, 2007 | Author: jmward14 | Blog | Comments Off

At long last the revised version of Highway from Hell is done.  All except for two small descriptive paragraphs I’ve decided to change tomorrow–er, later today.  I plan to let it sit while I finish a copyediting job to die for (another Kate Johnson!)   Two days of proofing, and it’s off to the beta-readers with thee.  
I’m more relieved than happy.  This is the last book I’ll ever work with 

on.  I think that’s one of the reasons it was so hard to finish.  Finishing it means letting her go–writing solo forever, when all I want to do is sit down and swap stories with a friend.  
But stories don’t get told unless you tell them.  I hope the beta-readers will like our take on Orpheus and Eurydice.  Even more important, I hope they’ll tell me when I’ve screwed up the pacing, the dialogue and the bits that hurt.  I’m still a newb when it comes to the craft of writing.
Or should that be the Craft?  Stories are magic  The word gives meaning to the event, as qnotku always said.  I can only hope a little of her magic rubbed off on me.
Be good–or be bad if it’s more fun.  Just try not to exceed the bail fund.  And be sure to tell me all the juicy details.  ;-)

Posted 11 years, 11 months ago at 12:04 am.

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Win a Wishstone to Celebrate “Vanyr’s” Print Date & Poll Standing

Tuesday, February 20th, 2007 | Author: jmward14 | Blog | Comments Off

This has been a heck of a day–in the best possible way.  

- The print edition of With Nine You Get Vanyr went on sale.
- Preditors & Editors posted the results of their
2006 SF/fantasy Poll–and VANYR made #2.  (Thank you!  Thank you! to everyone who voted.)
- My bookmarks arrived (and they’re gorgeous!)
- My local Walden’s asked when I’d like a signing.

Whew!  qnotku would’ve been so proud.  To celebrate, I’m…

…opening’s first contest of 2007 here on LJ before it’s even posted on the site.  

The novel’s tagline is “How much would you give to live your fantasy?  Think fast–your Wishstone is waiting.”  For the contest we’re asking something a little different: How much would you give for a Wishstone*?

For a limited time (until April 14, to be exact) you don’t have to give anything. To celebrate our print release, hundakleptisis and I are giving you the opportunity to win a Wishstone or a set of three Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab perfume imps.  Or both.  

The grand prize of is a crystal egg suitable for storing wishes or containing demons, and three BPAL imps.  Two other lucky winners will receive three BPAL imp ears, sans egg.  The fragrances–guaranteed to evoke your inner goddess or the goddess of a woman near you–are keyed to the cyber-names of the Daughters of Reyah’s three top magic users:

* Bastet (for Thea, who changes into cats)
* Psyche (for Liz, the group’s mind mage)
* Kurukulla (a blend of lotus blooms and roses suitable for Anna’s cyber-identity of Circe)

Entering is simple.  All you have to do is send us the answer to the following question via our Contact Page:

In Chapter 15 of With Nine You Get Vanyr, readers discover the nine Earth women transmogrified by the Wishstone aren’t the only souvenirs Reyah brought back from our little blue planet.  She’s also Chosen a knight from among the players of an online computer game.  What is that knight’s name in Domain?

The winning entries will be drawn at random from emails with the correct answer received before midnight EST, April 14.  We’ll announce the winners on April 15 to give folks a reason to look forward to tax day for a change.

You don’t need to buy the book to win.  The answer can be found somewhere on the web site.  Plus, everyone who provides a snail mail address will receive two free bookmarks, one featuring Anne Cain’s luscious cover art and the other featuring one a warm and fuzzy cartoon from Hail Dubyus–one of the few. 

Yes, we will mail overseas.  Across the galaxy?  Well, I’ll need to talk to Madame Reyah about that…

* The management makes no supernatural claims for the Wishstone offered in this contest.  All we say is, sometimes, wishing makes it so.

Posted 12 years, 1 month ago at 9:25 pm.

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It’s Here!

Tuesday, November 7th, 2006 | Author: jmward14 | Blog | Comments Off

Tonight’s the big night!  The electronic version of With Nine You Get Vanyr is now available for download from Samhain Publishing.  
There are so many people I need to thank.  My husband Greg and Teri’s husband SJ for never doubting qnotku and I could do this–even when well-meaning friends told us we’d never pull it off.  All the beta readers who hung with us through what must’ve seemed like a hundred rewrites.  Our parents for instilling the love of reading and storytelling that made it possible to write.  Last but not least, our wonderful editor Jess Bimberg and Samhain Publishing for making this dream come true.  And how!  Look at that gorgeous cover by Anne Cain.  And the typography inside is just as lovely.
In honor of the event, there’s a contest running on the
WardSmith web site.  The winner will receive a download of the ebook and three Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab imps.  Please, don’t be concerned if the contest page flickers in and out.  We appear to have acquired gremlins…or ferrets.  ;-)   Besides, we have a work-around.  You can enter the contest here too.  Just send me the answer to the following question:

Which of the Nine Sisters used to work as an office manager?

The answer can be found among in the Nine Sisters section of the site.  You’ll find three excerpts there too.  Enjoy!

Posted 12 years, 4 months ago at 1:29 am.

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How do you say goodbye to your best friend?

Sunday, November 5th, 2006 | Author: jmward14 | Blog | Comments Off

Hail to thee, blithe spirit!
Bird thou never wert–
That from heaven or near it
Pourest thy full heart
In profuse strains of unpremeditated art.

Higher still and higher
From the earth thou springest,
Like a cloud of fire;
The blue deep thou wingest,
And singing still dost soar, and soaring ever singest…

We look before and after,
And pine for what is not:
Our sincerest laughter
With some pain is fraught;
Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought.

Yet, if we could scorn
Hate and pride and fear,
If we were things born
Not to shed a tear
I know not how thy joy we should ever come near.

Better than all measures
Of delightful sound,
Better than all treasures
That in books are found,
Thy skill to poet were, thou scorner of the ground!

Teach me half the gladness
That thy brain must know,
Such harmonious madness
From my lips would flow,
The world should listen then, as I am listening now.

Percy Bysshe Shelley, from “To a Skylark”

I practiced those lines over and over in the waiting room of the funeral home so I wouldn’t break out in tears when I read them at Teri Smith’s memorial service. It wasn’t enough. 

Oh, I got through the excerpt. With a group of friends and beta readers, I read my part in her favorite section of our book — the scene that shows the power of wishes and the bonds between friends. A gust of wind opened the door to the chapel as we began the reading. Everyone insisted it was Teri checking in.

It still wasn’t enough.

A Highlander fan group brought us together ten years ago. At first we circled around each other, as friends and writers, not quite believing we’d found the other half of our respective brains. Phone calls followed, lots of them, from ten o’clock in a Saturday evening to five the following morning. 

Our fan fiction morphed into original stories. We first met face to face at DragonCon, and the meeting became part of our personal myth — as did the flowers her soon-to-be husband sent all the way from England. She moved to Virginia. Her husband arrived a year later. They lived close enough for me to walk to their apartment, and for the last year, I did, almost every day.

A friend who was widowed young described her grief as a meat hook in the gut. You can’t breathe without your body twisting itself ever tighter around the very thing that’s hurting you. I wouldn’t presume to say I comprehend the magnitude of her loss or the emptiness facing Teri’s husband SJ. But I recognize the feeling.

Losing a friend isn’t as simple as amputating a limb or even cutting out your heart. It’s as if some generous symbiote took up residence within you, changing the way you see, think and feel for the better. When that guest of the heart is torn from you, you don’t lose one part of yourself, you lose something of every part. Suddenly, you’re missing the muscles of your arm, the sensation in your hand, the breath in your lungs, the toes you need to dance.

I can’t make tea without thinking of all the cups we shared, solving the problems of the world — and incidentally our own — as we finished the pot. She introduced me to anime. She found me when I got lost in my corset. Twice. Laughing, she explained the meaning of “circle jerk” and “cluster f-” and a host of other things the Colonel made sure his red-haired daughter never knew.

We started a magazine together. We mourned the death of our fathers less than six months apart. She shared her grandkids with me. She addicted me to BPAL. She found me outrageous shoes on eBay. She named my car. We wrote a book together and worked out the plots for a dozen more.  

She even gave me my cat. He appeared in her hallway on my birthday, and she knew, even before we exhausted all leads to finding the owner, the cat would belong to me. After all, hadn’t she told me I needed one just the week before?

The irony is I really do need him now, especially during the thousand times a day I get up to call her about something wonderful or silly or downright awful.  “We made Pammie play Pandora.” “Oh God, they’ve made a car that parallel parks by itself. We’ll never have to do the Chinese fire drill ever again!”

I think the worst part of losing my best friend is not being able to share my life with her. She owns pieces of my soul no one, not even my dearest love, ever occupied before. I never even knew they were there until she found them. Then she left them, and me, behind.

I hear the memories of her in my head, so clearly I could quote whole stories, complete with gestures and facial expressions. But that’s all I have. I’ll never have any more. I’m desperate to write them down, because if they fade, as memories will, I won’t even be able to hear her in my head.

And (Damn it!) I’m not ready to say goodbye.

Posted 12 years, 4 months ago at 1:30 pm.

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Post DragonCon Posting — With Pics!

Wednesday, September 6th, 2006 | Author: jmward14 | Blog | Comments Off

Finally flopping around on dry land after a total immersion weekend at DragonCon, my favorite summer camp for wayward adults.  And there were a lot of us this year.  *g*

Got to meet LJ friends <quietselkie> (aka Nina Merrill) and <lilithsaintcrow>, and their friend Christina, a super photojournalist.  Roomed with <qnotku>, <hundakleptsis> and Bree (their granddaughter unit).  Hung a little with another wonderful photographer, Milow, whose photos will be form the bulk of Crescent Blues’ 2006 DragonCon feature.  Shared one of my panels with FF&P’s Sue Kearney and another with Samhain author Rosemary Laurey.  Also chatted briefly with FF&P list mates Mary and Marcia.  Didn’t see any other FF&P listies or Samhellions.  Of course, in a stew of around 35,000 wildly partying people, we could’ve just missed each other.
I’ll cover the con in more detail for Crescent Blues <> in a month or so.  For now, suffice it to say the con was big.  As big as I’ve ever seen it.  Registration lines were around the block in front of the Hyatt mid-day Saturday and Sunday.  People reported four-hour waits for tickets.  Crissy Brashear, Samhain’s publisher managed to get into the back door of the con hotel Saturday afternoon, saw the lines and headed out again.
Although Crissy didn’t make it, the pens, business cards and flyers she sent did–and were much appreciated.  Qnotku spent four of her five Writing Track panels in her Samhain acquisitions editor persona, and interest was high.  Especially after Tor editor <claireeddy> described the Hell of Unsolicited Manuscripts on towering, industrial strength shelving she and her staff have to sift through on a regular basis.  Qnotku ran through all the Samhain business cards and wound up writing her contact info on every one.
In addition to my usual running around and taking pics for the upcoming Crescent Blues feature, I managed to sit on four panels in almost as many personas.  In my Writing Track panels, I either played fledgling Samhain author or crusty Crescent Blues editor. 
The odd panel out was Web Comics, where I was waaaaay out of my depth.  My dh runs his own political cartoon web site <>, but what do I know from web comics?  So I did what any good little journalist would do.  I appointed myself moderator and asked other people questions.  Seemed to work too.  J.P. (aka Xsarthis), editor of the subculture web site All Zombies Must Die <>, didn’t ream me a new one.  Of course, it helped that I’m almost as snarky as he is.  Almost. 
Speaking of the panels though, big thank yous need to go out to Ray Rappaport of the Comics Track and Nancy Knight of the Writing Track.  It’s always a privilege working with the programming tracks at DragonCon.  They frequently surprise you, but they never screw you.  And they’re all volunteers–like everyone else working the con.  Much appreciated, folks!
Since one good turn deserves another, I’m going to interrupt your regularly scheduled con report for a brief plug.  Nancy and photographer David Horton have a new book out, Exposing America: Photographs from August 1, 1864 through July 31, 1866.  During those two years, the U.S. imposed a revenue tax on all photos.  As a result, they now have a philatelic interest as well as historical and photographic.  Beautiful book and an amazing resource.  Check it out at <>.
Back from the break and you’re wondering who the heck I saw and what I did that was INTERESTING.  Geez, Lili and qnotku, hundakleptsis and Xsarthis aren’t enough for you?  Oh, all right.
The Brobdignagian Bards provided random filking in the Press Room Thursday night.  Queen of Comic Fantasy Esther Friesner told fortunes by Hamster-mancy in the Green Room Saturday night.  (Yes, you will have to read Crescent Blues to find out more.  I am that evil.  There will be visuals too.)
The Press Gang invited me to share in their group costuming event Saturday and Sunday, so “Madame Esther” wound up telling the fortune of “Miss Jeannie”, saloon girl.  Of course telling “Miss Jeannie’s” fortune wasn’t nearly as bad as lacing her into the requisite corset.  That dubious honor went to qnotku.  I expect to hear about it for years.  (No jpgs yet.  I’m hoping Milow will send a couple.  Alternately, I may scan one of the Press Room pics.  Bree did a great job with the make-up.)
No, I didn’t get lost in the corset…this time.
Sunday night’s harem girl group was uber popular.  Don’t think I’ve ever been stopped for so many photos–even when I wore The Dress in 2000.  The true fangirl moment of the con happened while I was wearing that outfit too.  I was at the table–with Shannon Butcher, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Roc editor Anne Sowards and friends–when Jim Butcher caught his first glimpse of the raw dub of the SciFi Channel show based on his Harry Dresden series.
You never saw anyone so happy in your life.  For Jim, it was Christmas, Fourth of July and Halloween all rolled into one.  I think Ed, one of the other writers at the table whose last name, alas, I never caught, said it best: “January is too long to wait.”

Kevin Sorbo at his solo panel on Friday.  Because qnotku promised to beat me if I didn’t post a photo, bad though it might be.

(From left to right) Derek Ruthven, Lili, vampire expert Michelle Bellanger and bestselling author Susan Sizemore used the Goth Track panel “Vampire: the Eternal Archetype” to discuss the different roles vampires play in fiction–from “Other” to metaphor. 

Tomak Baksik of NetherCraft Statuary created a life-sized Jabba the Hut for the Motor Lobby of the Hyatt.  It quickly became a con landmark–and THE spot to find the con’s many lovely “Slave Leias”.

Qnotku’s granddaughter Bree as a saloon girl.  Believe it or not, she’s only 14 and so pretty qnotku and hundakleptsis have to beat guys away with a stick.    

The panel title was “I Am Woman–Hear Me Roar”, and they did.  Panelists (from left to right): FF&P member Sue Kearney, Susan Goggins, Samhain author Rosemary Laurey, Writers Track chair Nancy Knight, Deb Dixon, Ace & Roc editor Anne Sowards, and Eric Griffin.

Milow (left) and Peggy Mitchell pause for a moment’s reflection in a Saturday evening Writers Track panel.

The old saloon never looked so good: Press Gang bud Dorie and her friend Scott before Saturday night’s Cruxshadows concert.

For the finale of Saturday night’s Cruxshadows concert, the band invited everyone in the standing-room only crowd onto the stage.  A lot of them made it too.  You can barely glimpse lead singer Rogue, in the white-splashed band shirt front and center on the stage.

Jim Butcher (left), Sherrilyn Kenyon and Ed at the Sunday night Goth Track panel “Down and Out with Harry Dresden”.

For those of you with an interest in blackmail, here’s the harem shot.  Everyone but yours truly works media liaison–and more–in the DragonCon Press Room.  Left to right: Randi, Dorie, Andrew, Leigh and (sigh) me.

Monday at the hotel room–This was the first and only time I could get the group to hold still.  And they only gave in because they couldn’t fight me any more.  Lili and Bree are the ones doing the sprawl on the bed. More or less upright (left to right): qnotku, hundakleptsis, quietselkie and Christina.

Posted 12 years, 6 months ago at 2:58 pm.

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