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    Tuesday, October 3, 2017

    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 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

    Sunday, September 10, 2017

    "Cat Pictures Please" with a side of Aeslin Mice



    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 (tm), 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 over-sized 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


    Sunday, August 13, 2017

    All the cool kids posted their Dragon Con schedules last week. But I held out until I could be sure I had a reading. Thanks to John Hartness of Falstaff Books, now I do! On Saturday afternoon at one o’clock you can hear me read a teaser from “Blood and Strawberries”, the urban fantasy novella Falstaff will be publishing in 2018!

    But I’m getting ahead of myself. Although the con’s programming folks hope their schedules are firm and good, things can change up to the minute we start the panel. Heck, I’ve sat on panels where things continued to change even after we took our places at the table. Wild as they seem, many of the details of my story “Protective Coloring” in Gilded Dragonfly Books’ new anthology The Rise of the Phoenix were drawn straight from con life.

    But enough with the shameless self-promotion. You’re here for the schedule–and a fine one it is!

    The Oldest Profession: History’s Most Famous Harlots
    Description: History has a lot of unsung heroes, none more surprising as its harlots. Contrary to what you may have read in the history books, our present has been shaped and often guided by some of the most notorious and celebrated madams and working women. This survey panel showcases some of the best!
    Time: Fri 10:00 PM Location: Athens – Sheraton (Length: 1 Hour)
    (Tentative Panelists: Faith Hunter, Cherie Priest, Jean Marie Ward, Misty Massey)

    Falstaff Books Reading
    Description: John Hartness and the writers of Falstaff Books read from their new and forthcoming titles.
    Time: Sat 1 PM Location: Piedmont – Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)
    (Tentative Panelists: John Hartness, Darin Kennedy, Jay Requard, Joelle Reizes, R.R. Virdi, Jean Marie Ward)

    No Ordinary Town: A Midnight, Texas Fan Panel
    Description: A moderated fan-panel discussion of the show based on the best-selling book series by Charlaine Harris
    Time: Sat 05:30 PM Location: Chastain 1-2 – Westin (Length: 1 Hour)
    (Tentative Panelists: Jeri Westerson, Jean Marie Ward)

    Lost Worlds: The Science Fiction of Arthur Conan Doyle
    Description: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is best known for Sherlock Holmes, but he also wrote sf. Our panelists help to shed light on these works.
    Time: Sat 07:00 PM Location: Embassy AB – Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)
    (Tentative Panelists: Bethany Kesler, Jaym Gates, Jean Marie Ward)

    The Deviance and Depravity of Victorian England
    Description: The repression of the Victorian era meant depravity of the most devious kinds behind closed doors. This panel goes over the pornography, taboos, sexuality, and gender identity of those naughty Victorians. We’ll also be including visual examples from the era for the oh so mature of audiences.
    Time: Sun 01:00 AM Location: Athens – Sheraton (Length: 1 Hour)
    (Tentative Panelists: Sara E Neathery, Jean Marie Ward, Karianne Gottschalk)

    1632: The Ring of Fire Series Author Roundtable
    Description: 1632 and the subsequent novels, anthologies, and sprawling speculative fiction work of Eric Flint, Charles E. Gannon, and other authors who have contributed to anthologies have expanded this 17th Century Alternate History work into a grand shared world to be enjoyed, explored, and discussed.
    Time: Sun 04:00 PM Location: Augusta – Sheraton (Length: 1 Hour)
    Moderator / MC for panel
    (Tentative Panelists: Jean Marie Ward, Eric Flint, Dr. Charles E. Gannon, Griffin Barber, Toni Weisskopf)

    Playing in Someone Else’s Universe
    Description: The rise of indie publishing and crowdfunding has led to an increase in shared world anthologies and other projects, many in well-established fictional universes. Panelists discuss the challenges they’ve faced adapting to worlds not of their own making.
    Time: Sun 05:30 PM Location: Embassy AB – Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)
    Moderator / MC for panel
    (Tentative Panelists: Jean Marie Ward, Dr. Charles E. Gannon, Kacey Ezell, Todd McCaffrey, Griffin Barber)

    Collaborations, Critique Groups and Beta Readers
    Description: Today’s writers find creative help in ways writers of the past didn’t have access to. What’s right for a writer depends on many things. This panel discusses whether a collaboration, critique group or beta reader is the perfect choice–and how to find them.
    Time: Sun 07:00 PM Location: Embassy CD – Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)
    Moderator / MC for panel
    (Tentative Panelists: Jean Marie Ward, Jane Yolen, Jake Bible, David B. Coe, Mercedes Lackey, Richard Lee Byers)

    Beyond Victorian: Alt. History in Other Cultures and Eras
    Description: if you can’t bear the sight of one more crumpet, how about nativepunk, retrofuture, or “Amish sci fi”? There’s a multitude of cultures and eras and subgenres that are begging to be explored. Our panelists explore new lands and times into the various aspects of alternate history.
    Time: Sun 08:30 PM Location: Athens – Sheraton (Length: 1 Hour)
    Moderator / MC for panel
    (Tentative Panelists: Jean Marie Ward, Margaret S. McGraw, A. J. Hartley, Michael Bunker)

    Win, Lose Or Draw
    Description: Our host, Jean Marie Ward, puts contestants through their paces testing out their artistic abilities in getting teammates to guess names, places, things from science fiction and Dragon Con itself. There will be prizes!
    Time: Mon 01:00 PM Location: Embassy AB – Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)
    Moderator / MC for panel
    (Tentative Panelists: Jean Marie Ward)

    Looking forward to seeing you there!

    ###

    Wednesday, May 24, 2017

    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!

    Sunday, January 29, 2017

    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.

    Thursday, January 19, 2017

    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 



    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.



    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!

    Tuesday, October 4, 2016

    My Capclave 2016 Schedule



    It’s Capclave season! If you’ll be in the Washington, DC, area this weekend (October 7-9) 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 (Ends at: 7:55 pm)
    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 (Ends at: 1:55 pm)
    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 (Ends at: 10:55 pm)
    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 (Ends at: 11:55 pm)
    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!

    Monday, September 12, 2016

    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.

    #

    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/.

    Tuesday, August 30, 2016

    My Dragon Con 2016 Schedule

    Almost forgot the promotional part of running away to join the circus that is Dragon Con—my schedule! Hope to see you there. This year’s con is sure to be more amazing than usual, since the Dragon is turning thirty. My, they grow so fast. I remember when it was just a little wyrm, too small and too young to vote... ;-)
    Happy Labor Day Weekend, everyone!

    Time: Fri 08:30 pm Location: Embassy CD - Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)
    Title: Social Media as a Tool--not a Trial
    Description: Face it, savvy authors use social media to their advantage. But, it's a two-headed demon...Secrets of taming that beast.
    Moderator / MC for panel
    (Tentative Panelists: Gail Z. Martin, Jean Marie Ward, Debbie Viguie, Sheila English, Julie Kenner)

    Time: Sat 02:30 pm Location: Embassy AB - Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)
    Title: Getting it Wrong and Living to Tell About It
    Description: Writers aren't perfect. (I know, shocking, isn't it?) Sometimes, they get their research wrong, or publicly insert both feet in their mouths and try to run with them. Sometimes, they even change facts on purpose. Panelists talk about the times they screwed up, and how they fixed it.
    Moderator / MC for panel
    (Tentative Panelists: Jean Marie Ward, L. M. Davis, A. J. Hartley, Milton J. Davis, Roshani Hitesh Chokshi)

    Time: Sat 04:00 pm Location: Piedmont - Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)
    Title: Reading: Broad Universe
    Description: The ladies & gentlemen of Broad Universe read snippets from their work.
    (Tentative Panelists: Gail Z. Martin, Jean Marie Ward, Trisha J. Woldridge, John G. Hartness, Clay and Susan Griffith)

    Time: Sun 08:30 pm Location: Embassy AB - Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)
    Title: Kicking You Out - What Throws You Out of a Story?
    Description: You're reading a really good book, caught up in the storyline. Suddenly it happens. A factual mistake, a really bad typo, a favorite character suddenly acting totally wrong...or something else. What is it that can kick you totally out of the world the writer is presenting?
    Moderator / MC for panel
    (Tentative Panelists: Jean Marie Ward, Trisha J. Woldridge, Chris A Jackson)

    Time: Mon 01:00 pm Location: Embassy AB - Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)
    Title: SF Win, Lose or Draw!
    Description: Compete with fellow fans in getting your team to decipher your drawings of words, phrases and items from around the SF world. The winners will receive prizes and accolades.
    (Tentative Panelists: Jean Marie Ward)

    Time: Mon 02:30 pm Location: Chastain DE - Westin (Length: 1 Hour)
    Title: The End of the Line: A Lost Girl Fan Panel
    Description: A moderated fan-panel discussion of the beloved series' last season, and whether or not it provided closure and a satisfying ending.
    (Tentative Panelists: Kevin Bachelder, Jean Marie Ward, Valerie Hampton, E.J. Stevens)

    Tuesday, May 24, 2016

    My Schedule for Balticon 50

    Taking a moment away from baking double batches of molasses cookies and pecan snowballs to share my tentative schedule for Balticon 50. Why did I tantalize you by mentioning baked goods made with butter and sugar and vanilla and all sorts of wonderful things? Because they and a lot of other homemade goodies will be waiting for you at the E-Spec Books Launch Party on Sunday night. I’m also bringing chocolate to the Broad Universe Rapid Fire Reading Sunday afternoon.
    This means you’re coming to Balticon, right? Right?
    Can’t wait to see you there!

    Saturday 1-1:50 PM, Guilford (Renaissance)
    Writing: It's My Job AND What I Do For Fun—Our panelists discuss how awesome it is having their job be something they love to do: the work itself, the fan, the other authors they meet, the places they get to visit.
    Panelists: Carl Cipra (Moderator), Keith DeCandido , Jody Lynn Nye, Jean Marie Ward

    Saturday 6-6:50 PM, St. George (Renaissance)
    Steampunk and Urban Fantasy Readings with Keith R. A. DeCandido, Christine Norris, Jean Marie Ward, and D. C. Wilson

    Sunday 3-4:20 PM, Pride of Baltimore (Renaissance)
    Broad Universe Rapid Fire Readings—The woman of Broad Universe are back with flash readings to tweak your appetites!
    Panelists: Randee Dawn (Moderator), Roxanne Bland, Carmen Webster Buxton, LJ Cohen, Vonnie Winslow Crist, Kelly A. Harmon, Lisa Hawkridge, Tamara Siler Jones, Paula S. Jordan, Gail Martin, Jody Lynn Nye, Jean Marie Ward

    Sunday 7-9 PM, MD Salon B (Renaissance)
    E-Spec Books Launch Party—The authors contributing to Gaslight and Grimm, The Weird Wild West, The Side of Good/The Side of Evil and Defending the Future invite you to help them celebrate! Panelists: Danielle Ackley-McPhail, R. S. Belcher, Danny Birt, Keith DeCandido, John L. French, Eric Hardenbrook, Kelly Harmon, Chris Hiles, Emily Leverett, Diana Bastine, Gail Z. Martin, Mike McPhail, Bernie Mojzes, Christine Norris, Jody Lynn Nye, Ken Schrader, Bud Sparhawk, David Lee Summers, Jean Marie Ward, Robert Waters, Jeff Young

    Monday 12:00 - 12:50 PM, Parlor 8029 (Renaissance)
    What's Hot Short Fiction?
    Panelists: Sarah Pinsker (Moderator), Alex Shvartsman, Michael Underwood, Scott Edelman, Jean Marie Ward