23 October 2014

NANO!


Okay. It's no secret that I use lolcats and other copyright-free images when I do blog posts, out of respect for the artists of the image.  It's also no secret, through maybe less well known, that I adore Allie of Hyperbole and a Half.  If you haven't read "This Is Why I'll Never Be An Adult," you are truly missing out.  Go read it and come back to finish.

NaNoWriMo is next month, which is National Novel Writing Month.  For those of you that aren't familiar with it, the objective is to write 50,000 words or more during the month and end November with a completed novel draft.  It's described as "30 days and nights of literary abandon."  Hoo-rah, baby.  I adore it.

So this brings me to today.  It's the 23rd of October (!) and it's my day to post.  So I go looking around for an image to use, maybe "Write all the words" or something from Allie's, now viral, meme.

Instead, I find the image above and died of teh funneez.

End of post.

I mean, srsly.  How do you top that?

If you're doing NaNo this year, look me up; I'm a.catherine.noon there and I'm volunteering as a Municipal Liaison for Chicago Region.  Hope to see you online or in person!

Write on!



--
“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”
- E.E. Cummings

**New** SEALED BY FIRE is available from LooseId LLC. An All Romance eBooks Bestseller!

The Chicagoland Shifters series:
Book 1 BURNING BRIGHT, available from Samhain Publishing.
Book 2 TIGER TIGER, available from Samhain Publishing. An All Romance eBooks Bestseller!

The Persis Chronicles:**Coming Soon!** Watch for EMERALD KEEP from Torquere Books, out April 2015!
Check out EMERALD FIRE, available from Torquere Books.Check out "Seeking Hearts", available from Torquere Books.

Check out COOK LIKE A WRITER , available from Barnes and Noble.
Check out "Taking a Chance", available from Torquere Books! An All Romance eBooks Bestseller!

My links: Blog | Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon | LinkedIn | Pandora
Knoontime Knitting: Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Ravelry
Noon and Wilder links: Blog | Taurus and Taurus (NSFW) | Website | Facebook
The Writer Zen Garden: The Writers Retreat Blog | Forum | Facebook | Twitter | Meetup
National Novel Writing Month: NaNoWriMo | ChiWriMo | Blog | Facebook | Twitter
Team Blogs: Nightlight | Nightlight FB Page | Beyond the Veil | BtV FB Page | Nice Girls Writing Naughty | NGW FB | NGW Twitter
Publishers: LooseId | Samhain Publishing | Torquere Press

25 September 2014

Autumn Is Here!


Wait, what?  What do you mean, Autumn is here!?  We were just having Spring, weren't we?

I found that this year zoomed by, particularly because the weather didn't really turn into Summer here in the Chicagoland.  Sure, we had heat, and we had humidity; but we also had an unseasonable amount of rain and weird days, so much so that my garden shows the results by having lots of greenery and not much fruit.  Tomatoes need sun to produce tomatoes, otherwise it's just a mediocre crop with lots of leaves.

I'm excited about Autumn, though I have a hard time believing it's already upon us.  The biggest news in my world is that I am one of four Municipal Liaisons for the Chicago Region of National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo.  As part of that team, I will help to plan the Kick Off Party, the Wrap-Up Party (called TGIO, or Thank Goodness It's Over!).  I'll also be helping to host write-ins during the month of November.

What has you excited this Autumn?


--
“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”
- E.E. Cummings

**New** SEALED BY FIRE is available from LooseId LLC. An All Romance eBooks Bestseller!

The Chicagoland Shifters series:
Book 1 BURNING BRIGHT, available from Samhain Publishing.
Book 2 TIGER TIGER, available from Samhain Publishing. An All Romance eBooks Bestseller!

The Persis Chronicles:**Coming Soon!** Watch for EMERALD KEEP from Torquere Books, out April 2015!
Check out EMERALD FIRE, available from Torquere Books.Check out "Seeking Hearts", available from Torquere Books.

Check out COOK LIKE A WRITER , available from Barnes and Noble.

Check out "Taking a Chance", available from Torquere Books! An All Romance eBooks Bestseller!
My links: Blog | Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon | LinkedIn | Pandora
Knoontime Knitting: Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Ravelry
Noon and Wilder links: Blog | Taurus and Taurus (NSFW) | Website | Facebook
The Writer Zen Garden: The Writers Retreat Blog | Forum | Facebook | Twitter | Meetup
Team Blogs: Nightlight | Nightlight FB Page | Beyond the Veil | BtV FB Page | Nice Girls Writing Naughty | NGW FB | NGW Twitter
Publishers: LooseId | Samhain Publishing | Torquere Press

22 September 2014

Autumn Equinox, Changing Seasons, Fall Television



Greetings, Kittens!

Fall has always been my favorite time of year. Driving through the Midwest watching the leaves change, bundling up in sweaters and snuggling down in blankets with mugs of cider. Everyone thinking about the holidays, and the world stretching before its nap through the winter.

There's simply something magical about this in-between time, where summer has not yet left us, and winter's grip is not yet here. This time of harvest and feast, of gathering and family. And of course, Halloween is around the corner which is its own sauce of awesomeness.

This year, the equinox starts around 10:30pm EST in my part of the world. As the day grows dim the new season will creep up, and then be upon us come morning in it's full glory.

Appropriately enough, it brings new television shows to sit down and settle in with over the cold months. Sleepy Hollow carries the theme of the turning season best. The sophomore drama returns to answer the cliff-hanger it left us with and to keep us guessing about the two Witnesses and the rise of the Horseman of War.

I'll be tuning in, bundled up in my sweater, snuggled down in my blanket, a mug of tea in hand, and welcoming the Harvest Time.

How will you be spending the Equinox?

~X

21 September 2014

Let's get ready to go IN THE VOID with a free short story!

With only a few weeks before IN THE VOID comes out it's time to look in on the Bonnie Belle and see what our favorite courtesans have been up to since the amazing events of IN THE BLACK!

***
“This is insane. And I love it.” Sam put her hands on her hips and shook her head. “You should write this up for one of those engineering ‘zines, Jen.”

They were floating in the corridor in front of the door leading to the landing bay, all of them crammed into the hallway.

The mechanic beamed. “Don’t give me all the credit. It took Belle only a few seconds to calculate how to fire the thrusters to back us up into position after venting our atmosphere. No more difficult than trying to maneuver into some of those little docking bays on the smaller mining bases.”

Sean clutched his medical bag tightly, straining to hear the smallest whisper of air escaping. Of all the deaths he’d seen and imagined, dying by suffocation or explosive decompression ranked up at the top.

“Sort of threading a needle, isn’t it?” Kendra had changed into a dark red track suit and leaned against the wall, floating with her arms crossed. “How are you going to get the pod through the hatch? It’s barely enough for us to get through, and the life pod’s got to be larger than the person it’s carrying, right?”

Jenny laughed. “Not through the hatch, silly.” She flapped her arms, reminding Sean of a flightless bird attempting takeoff. “There’re larger doors on each side we pop open for delivery of supplies. Bring the skids in piled with whatever you want or need—furniture, mattresses, the bigger items that can’t be broken down. If we had to bring everything through the single door we’d never get loaded in time.” She rapped on the door with her knuckles. “How we doing, Belle?”

“We have successfully backed up and captured the life pod,” the AI announced. “I am now preparing to seal the bay and restore atmosphere.”

“Any problems?” Sam swam up and down the short hallway, brushing by the gathered crew with each pass. “Life signs still good?”

“All is well with the survivor.” A roaring came from beyond the closed hatch, reminding Sean of a vacuum cleaner. “I estimate two minutes before you may retrieve the pod.”

Sean watched Sam make another circuit before speaking. “She’s got enough oxygen until then, right?” The last thing they needed was to go to all this work and lose the survivor at the last second.

“Affirmative. The pod is undamaged from the debris field. We have also captured other bits and pieces in the bay from the ship.”

Jenny rubbed her hands together. “Salvage. I doubt there’ll be much I can use on the Belle but who knows?”

Sam nodded. “About the debris...Were you able to avoid any biological, Belle?”

Translation—were they going to open the door to a horror of broken bodies and shredded arms and legs?

Sean saw April look down and mutter a soft prayer.

“Yes, Captain. By the time we were able to approach any and all biologicals were at a goodly distance, scattered among the ship’s remains. We captured only the life pod.” A loud pop came from behind the hatch. “Full atmosphere returned. You may enter at your convenience.”

Jenny twisted the handle and shoved hard on the hatch. It swung open with a whoosh of fresh, cool air, allowing them into the landing bay. She stepped back to give them all a clear view.

The sixty square feet of empty space in the back of the Belle wasn’t made to do much else than store equipment and serve as a holding pen for waiting customers. Sean used the open area as a jogging track, cycling past the tables and chairs strapped to the walls.

“Why aren’t we watching via the cameras?” Bianca whispered to him, a tremor underlying her words. “There’s a feed coming through, right? We could be in the galley and far away from this.” She gestured toward Jenny and Sam.
“Let them take the risk. They can call you in later.”

He couldn’t blame Bianca for her caution. She’d lost Halley not so long ago. The last thing she needed was to see more death.

He had seen enough for both of them.

“This sort of thing you need to see up close and personal,” Sean replied. “Can’t judge anything through a lens.”

Sam went through first with Jenny close behind. Sean swam through with the other four courtesans following.

“Be careful,” Sam warned. “Don’t smack your head on something.”

Debris floated around them, the largest no more than a fistful. Most of it seemed to be pieces of the hull with the occasional engine piece here and there.

It smelt too fresh. Belle had overdone the air freshener. There was something wrong about swimming through the remains of someone’s life with the laundry-fresh scent clogging up your lungs.

The life pod spun end over end in the landing bay. Sean swam over to the cylinder and grabbed one of the handles, steadying the pod. He looked in the viewport.

A wide-eyed woman stared at him, her mouth open as she screamed something unintelligible.

Welcome to the Bonnie Belle.

***

It's going to be another rocky ride for the men and the women on board the Bonnie Belle again as they find themselves the target of space pirates determined to relieve them of their cargo and possibly their lives.

Pre-order this new voyage on the Bonnie Belle at Amazon, B&N, iBooks and Carina Press!

And while you're waiting to board check out this FREE short story! Interlude 1.1 is available at Amazon, B&N, Smashwords, and many other ebook retailers including Overdrive and ebook lending services.

Out on the edge of civilization anything and everything can happen - especially when you're not ready for it.

When Jenny, the chief mechanic for the Bonnie Belle hops off to work a deal with the local black market she ends up bargaining for more than just fresh fruit.



It's a good time to come on board the Belle - why not see what the fuss is all about?

20 September 2014

The State of the Ward

In a word: Busy.

Every since Memorial Day, I've been up to my eyebrows organizing and formatting the collection of stories, art, nonfiction and historical photographs which will make up Unconventional Fantasy--the huge, five-volume ebook anthology celebration of forty years of World Fantasy Con. The first four volumes are with the proofers, and I'm finishing up the fifth.


Note: I said "finishing". I ain't done yet, and all the final files have to be with the company making the thumb drives by October 1 to be ready for distribution at this year's World Fantasy Con.


Nervous?  Me?


I'm practically vibrating. On the other hand, that could just be the caffeine.


But I had to take time out to let everyone know that two of the books I've been waiting for all summer have finally arrived at real and virtual bookstores near you.


First out of the gate, the paper version of Athena's Daughters, the 22-story anthology of stories about strong women by strong women, is now available for sale by all the usual suspects: Indiebound, Amazon and Barnes and Noble. In addition to my story "The Gap in the Fence" which holds the coveted last story spot (user buffs nails and hums with pride), Athena's Daughters features stories by Mary Robinette Kowal, Sherwood Smith, Gail Z. Martin and Diana Peterfreund AND an introduction by astronaut and space shuttle commander Pam Melroy. Can't beat that.

But I'm going to give it a shot--a photograph, to be precise of The Management inspecting copies of that other book I've been waiting for: Clockwork Universe: Steampunk vs. Aliens. It's got Steampunk. It's got aliens. It's got my story, "The Wizard of Woodrow Park", starring a chicken secret agent in a human suit, academic politics and Chihuahas. What more could you ask?
Excerpts?  Well we've got them right here:

"The Gap in the Fence"


"The Wizard of Woodrow Park"


But obviously new releases and encyclopedic anthologies weren't enough to maintain my full operating level of madness. I had to get involved in another Kickstarter, run by Zombies Need Brains, the same folks who produced Clockwork Universe


Temporally Out of Order features gadgets, timey-wimey and seven amazing anchor authors--David B. Coe, Laura Anne Gilman, Faith Hunter, Stephen Leigh, Gini Koch, Seanan McGuire, and Laura Resnick--authors I pre-order, which is a very small number indeed. The stretch goal authors ain't too shabby, either--Juliet E. McKenna, Jack Campbell, and me!


To say nothing of all the wonderful swag you get on top of the perks of pledging. For example, the first 400 backers will receive A Rain of Pebbles, an ebook containing all the short stories in Stephen Leigh's Alliance Universe. And there will be more special incentives as the Kickstarter continues. To say nothing of its awesome cover painting by Justin Adams of Varia Studios.


Check it all out here.
But that still wasn't enough for me. The weekend of September 26-28 I'll be at the Baltimore Book Festival. When I'm not participating in the SFWA programming track, you can find me at the Silence in the Library Publishing and Dark Quest Books tables doing my best to shill books. 

Come and check it out...and bring more caffeine!

Jean Marie Ward

28 August 2014

Hair


So.  As some of my readers know, I take public transit a lot, though less often now than in previous years.  But I still do take the train weekly and the bus several times a week.

Near my office is a Veterans Center, where veterans of the United States Armed Services can go.  There's a bus stop right in front of it, which just so happens to be the bus I take home in the evening.

One day, I walk over there and...

Well, you have to see it first:


Someone forgot their hair.

Huh?

Yup, you heard me.  Click on the picture to enlarge it, if you don't believe me.  There, on the sidewalk, nestled up next to the building, lay someone's... hair.

Huh?

Yeah, it didn't make any more sense the second time I typed it, either.

Chicago.

Who knew?





--

“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”
- E.E. Cummings


**New** SEALED BY FIRE is available from LooseId LLC. An All Romance eBooks Bestseller!

The Chicagoland Shifters series:
Book 1 BURNING BRIGHT, available from Samhain Publishing.
Book 2 TIGER TIGER, available from Samhain Publishing. An All Romance eBooks Bestseller!


The Persis Chronicles:**Coming Soon!** Watch for EMERALD KEEP from Torquere Books, out April 2015!
Check out EMERALD FIRE, available from Torquere Books.
Check out "Seeking Hearts", available from Torquere Books.

Check out COOK LIKE A WRITER , available from Barnes and Noble.

Check out "Taking a Chance", available from Torquere Books! An All Romance eBooks Bestseller!

My links: Blog | Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon | LinkedIn | Pandora
Knoontime Knitting: Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Ravelry
Noon and Wilder links: Blog | Taurus and Taurus (NSFW) | Website | Facebook
The Writer Zen Garden: The Writers Retreat Blog | Forum | Facebook | Twitter | Meetup
Team Blogs: Nightlight | Nightlight FB Page | Beyond the Veil | BtV FB Page | Nice Girls Writing Naughty | NGW FB | NGW Twitter
Publishers: LooseId | Samhain Publishing | Torquere Press

26 August 2014

Jean Marie's 2014 Dragon Con Schedule

Yeah, I’ve been a Bad Blogger. In my defense, I’ve been hard at work on Unconventional Fantasy, a huge anthology celebrating the fortieth anniversary of World Fantasy Con, coming up in Crystal City, Virginia, this November.
About the only thing I’ve had time for is convention appearances, and one of the biggest is coming up fast. I’m about to leave for the World’s Biggest Summer Camp for Wayward Adults: Dragon Con. We’ll be taking over downtown Atlanta, August 29 to September 1. There will be parades! Music! Gaming! Films! Puppetry (no foolin’)! And of course, panels like the these:

 -------------------
Title: Just the Facts, Ma'am...
Description: Writers of non-fiction looking for a career boost? This panel is geared toward perfecting your craft--and discovering new outlets for your work.
Time: Fri 02:30 pm
Location: Embassy D-F - Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)
Panelists: Jean Marie Ward (moderator), John L. Flynn, M. B. Weston, Stuart Jaffe, Anya Martin, Teresa Patterson)

 -------------------
Title: Athena’s Daughters Signing
Description: Meet the writers of Athena's Daughters at the Artists Alley table of cover artist Autumn Frederickson.
Time: Fri 04:30 pm
Location: Grand Hall West - Hyatt (Length: 1.5 Hours)
(Panelists: Autumn Frederickson, Jean Marie Ward)

 -------------------
Title: Athena’s Daughters Authors Meet and Greet
Description: Meet the talented ladies behind the popular Athena's Daughters anthology, featuring heroines of all ages and stories for the entire family
Time: Sat 10:00 am
Location: A708 - Marriott (Length: 1 Hour)
(Panelists: Janine K. Spendlove, Gail Z. Martin, Jean Marie Ward, Diana Peterfreund)

 -------------------
Title: SciFi Spies
Description: Secret agent/spy fiction has always overlapped with SF in a big way, from futuristic gadgets to flying cars to laser cannons in space.
Time: Sat 11:30 am
Location: Embassy A-B - Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)
(Panelists: Van Allen Plexico, Jean Marie Ward)

 -------------------
Title: Their World Forever Changed: Chaos and Heartbreak on Lost Girl
Description: A moderated fan-panel discussion of the hit show. (Note: this is a fan panel. No cast members will be appearing on this panel.)
Time: Sat 08:30 pm
Location: Chastain ED - Westin (Length: 1 Hour)
(Panelists: Jean Marie Ward)

 -------------------
Title: Who Needs Dystopias When You Have History
Description: From infant sacrifice in Carthage to the Inquisition, history offers some of the darkest times and places you NEVER want to visit in a time machine.
Time: Sat 10:00 pm
Location: Augusta 3 - Westin (Length: 1 Hour)
(Panelists: Jean Marie Ward (moderator), A. J. Hartley, D.B. Jackson, Katherine Kurtz, Gail Z. Martin, Kathryn Hinds)

 -------------------
Title: Broad Universe Rapid Fire Reading
Description: A program of bite-sized readings from some of your favorite Broad Universe authors.
Time: Sun 11:30 am
Location: Vinings - Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)
(Panelists: Gail Z. Martin, Janine Spendlove, Jean Marie Ward, Trisha Wooldridge)

 -------------------
Title: Lifestyles of Science Fiction
Description: Science fiction doesn't only explore scientific possibilities but also social ones.
Time: Sun 10:00 pm
Location: Embassy A-B - Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)
(Panelists: Diane Hughes, Jean Marie Ward)

 -------------------
Title: Victorian Technology
Description: A panel discussion of the technology of the Victorian era and how to exploit it in your stories or imagination!
Time: Mon 11:30 am
Location: Augusta 1-2 - Westin (Length: 1 Hour)
(Panelists: Jean Marie Ward, Stephanie Osborn)

 -------------------
Title: Win, Lose or Draw Description: SF style.
Description: The traditional convention-closer for the SF Literature Track. Once again, I'll be hosting a competition based on contestants ability to get others to decipher their artwork. There will be prizes, too.
Time: Mon 01:00 pm
Location: Embassy A-B - Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)
(Panelists: Jean Marie Ward)

 Looking forward to seeing you there!

Jean Marie
JeanMarieWard.com

31 July 2014

Music To My Ears


I was a musician before I was a writer.  Music touches us in ways words cannot, and it transports us magically to other places.

My recent discovery is the band, Imagine Dragons, which combines some of the 80's alternative elements with choral elements that I adore.


Another one I've been enjoying is Sail, by AWOLNATION.


These songs share a very angsty element along with a kind of anger, centered around creativity.  They mirror where I'm living in my mind and writing right now.

What about you?  What are some of the songs on your personal soundtrack?





--
“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”
- E.E. Cummings

**New** SEALED BY FIRE is available from LooseId LLC. An All Romance eBooks Bestseller!

The Chicagoland Shifters series:
Book 1 BURNING BRIGHT, available from Samhain Publishing.
Book 2 TIGER TIGER, available from Samhain Publishing. An All Romance eBooks Bestseller!

The Persis Chronicles:
**Coming Soon** EMERALD KEEP, Book II, from Torquere Books. Coming late 2014. 
Check out EMERALD FIRE, available from Torquere Books.
Check out "Seeking Hearts", available from Torquere Books.

Check out COOK LIKE A WRITER , available from Barnes and Noble.
Check out "Taking a Chance", available from Torquere Books! An All Romance eBooks Bestseller!

My links: Blog | Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon | LinkedIn | Pandora
Knoontime Knitting: Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Ravelry
Noon and Wilder links: Blog | Taurus and Taurus (NSFW) | Website | Facebook
The Writer Zen Garden: The Writers Retreat Blog | Forum | Facebook | Twitter | Meetup
Team Blogs: Nightlight | Nightlight FB Page | Beyond the Veil | BtV FB Page | Nice Girls Writing Naughty | NGW FB
Publishers: LooseId | Samhain Publishing | Torquere Press

22 July 2014

The Importance of Villainy

Looking for a little Arabian Nights to go with your Steampunk, have we got the story for you! Today's guest blogger, writer/editor Danielle Ackley-McPhail talks about the challenges she and co-writer (and fellow editor) Day Al-Mohamed faced in re-imagining Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves for the Victorian Age--and our own.  Take it away, Danielle:

Stories are about conflict. Internal, external….it does not matter, as long as there is a something for our hero to overcome. Nowhere in fiction is this more prevalent than in faerie tales. Above all else, in faerie tales, there must be a villain. Why, you ask? Because as cautionary tales, these stories are about overcoming danger—or falling victim to it. Without true risk there is no payoff in a faerie tale. No happily ever after without the chance that the prize will slip through the hero’s grasp.

In my recent novel Baba Ali and the Clockwork Djinn, co-written with Day Al-Mohamed, villainy abounds as is only fitting for a novel based on the tale Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. You remember the tale, don’t you? The humble and poor man who finds a cavern of treasure hidden by a band of thieves is one most of us have heard as children in one form or another. Our version is a steampunk envisioning steeped in the magic of the original and honest in the threat to our Ali, a faithful tinkerer’s apprentice who finds himself guardian to a shah’s treasure trove.

Inheriting a sacred charge from his father, Ali must find a way to thwart the band of thieves who have taken control of the cavern where these riches have lain protected for many years. Our challenge? How to transform a tale everyone knows? How do we achieve the risk…the tension sprung from the danger of our thieves, when virtually everyone knows how the story plays out?

The key is in the villains. With so many in this tale we needed to wake fear in the readers’ hearts by capturing the very essence of evil. A sorcerer who cannot die, who will not be freed until he completes his task: capturing the treasure and delivering it to his master. A powerful man. A ruthless man. One with no respect for anything beyond his own desires. One like Rassul Maroun…

Baba Ali and the Clockwork Djinn
by Danielle Ackley-McPhail and Day Al-Mohamed (Palomino Press, 2014)

Come, Best Beloved, and sit you by my feet. I shall tell you a tale such as sister Scheherazade could have scarce imagined… 

In the Nejd there is nothing at all…except secrets. A band of thieves wish such secrets to remain hidden. 

In England, far from his desert home, Ali bin-Massoud serves as apprentice to the famed Charles Babbage. One night a mysterious box is delivered by a clockwork falcon and Ali’s world is never the same again. Heartache, danger, and thieves mark his journey as Ali is summoned home at the death of his father. 

It will take faith, knowledge, and yes, love to realize his destiny, and more than a little skill with steam-driven technology. Can he unravel the mystery of the puzzle box and the clockwork djinn before it is too late? An ancient legacy and Ali's very life depend on his success. 

Hear you the tale of Baba Ali and the Clockwork Djinn...

Excerpt:

In silence the riders galloped across the desert, their tack silenced and their horses’ hooves covered in cloth. Moonlight limned them like specters gliding over the sands. Dread clung to their robes. Swinging down before their mounts had fully stopped, they hurried into their lair, a cavern whose stone roof rose above the desert, a deeper shadow in the darkness.

 Handing the reins to others of their band, the men strode to their leader, Rassul Maroun, who sat at a marble table ignoring them as he studied a scrap of parchment. The returning men knelt before him, heads bowed and the backs of their right hands pressed to their foreheads in tight fists. Torchlight flickered over thick silver bands engraved with identical markings visible across their inner wrists: a coiled viper poised to strike emblazoned over crossed khanjars. They knelt there on aching knees for long silent moments as their leader finally let his gaze rise from the parchment.

“Tell me of your success,” Rassul ordered, his voice rumbling low, like the threat of a pending storm. He stood slowly, aware of the impression he made as his lean, well-muscled body unfolded from the chair to tower above all present. He walked toward the prostrate men, his steps whisper soft. Stopping in front of one, Rassul traced the symbol on the man’s wrist before shoving the hand aside to grip the man’s chin tight, forcing his gaze upward until their eyes locked.

 The man trembled, blinking furiously as he swallowed hard. “The horse fled too swiftly, master,” the unfortunate man answered. “We followed but could not draw near enough before it reached the gates of Wadi Al-Nejd. The guards took the beast in and closed the gates.” He gulped again, sharp, as if swallowing a plump date. “We could follow no further.”

Rassul tightened his grip, almost pulling the man up by his jaw. “Your orders were to follow that beast and learn from where it came, that we might ensure no other knows the secret of our lair.”

“Yes, master.”

Rassul dragged the man to the table and tapped the surface. “Allah has blessed you with two eyes, that you might see the world. Do you see this?”

“Yes, master.”

“Are you certain? Because with the sanctity of our cache at risk it is important to be absolutely certain. Would you swear by Allah?” As he spoke Rassul moved his hand to the back of the man’s neck in a lighter grip. Beneath his fingers the thief trembled. “What is it you see?” Rassul asked.

“A m-ma…ma…” The man could not finish.

Rassul tsked. “I think you are not certain at all,” he said after a moment of the man’s stammering. Locking his grip hard on the man’s neck, his hand took on the glow of power as he slammed him forward into the table’s surface. Bone crunched against unyielding marble and the body went slack. Rassul let go and it slid to the floor, trailing crimson streaks from the edge of the parchment to the rim of the table.

“It is a map,” Rassul said as he spat on the corpse. “May Allah forgive you your foolishness…and your failure.”

He snapped his eyes upward and locked gazes with every one of his men, including the corpse’s partner, who still knelt, as yellow piss slowly pooled around him.

“Learn from this, in case any of you are uncertain.”

Casually, Rassul stepped over the body and once more perused the map. “Wipe out all knowledge of this map. Destroy any copies. Do this before all other things.”

#

Award-winning author and editor Danielle Ackley-McPhail has worked both sides of the publishing industry for longer than she cares to admit. Her published works include Yesterday's Dreams, Tomorrow's Memories, Today’s Promise, The Halfling’s Court, The Redcaps’ Queen, and, Baba Ali and the Clockwork Djinn, written with Day Al-Mohamed. She can be found on LiveJournal (damcphail), Facebook (Danielle Ackley-McPhail), and Twitter (DMcPhail). To learn more visit www.sidhenadaire.com. 

Day Al-Mohamed is author of Baba Ali and the Clockwork Djinn, co-written with Danielle Ackley-McPhail. Day hosts the blog Unleaded: Fuel for Writers. Her work is available in Daily Science Fiction, Oomph, and GrayHaven Comics' You Are Not Alone. She is a member of the Cat Vacuuming Society of Northern Virginia Writing Group, Women in Film and Video, and a graduate of the VONA/Voices Writing Workshop. She can be found online at www.DayAlMohamed.com and @DayAlMohamed. 

Links:

Goodreads

Kindle

Paperback

BN/Nook

07 July 2014

Catching up with Bianca D'Arc

It's been a while since I posted here and it's been sort of a whirlwind the past couple of months with not one, but two new releases and a whole lot of convention prep. In early May, KING'S THRONE came out, adding to the String of Fate miniseries. I had been wanting to get back to this story for a very long time.

Everything seemed to come together for this book after some initial behind-the-scenes hiccups. The cover is now one of my all-time favorites. The editor was available when I needed her and did a fast, great job. I was able to turn it around quickly after months of delay from the behind-the-scenes stuff I made reference to. (It had nothing to do with the content of the book, but rather how it was going to be published.)

And then in early June, BOBCAT came out. It's the 4th book in the Redstone Clan miniseries. Just one more Redstone brother to go now! BOBCAT - in conjunction with KING'S THRONE and the books that will follow these - starts to draw a complex storyline to a head. We're getting to the point where it's become obvious that all my paranormals are related. They all happen in the same, contemporary paranormal world and the heroes/heroines are all fighting against the same enemy.

It's the epic battle of good vs. evil and within the next two books, everything is going to come to a crashing, exciting crescendo.

I'm working on the next book in the String of Fate trilogy right now. It will be called JACOB'S LADDER and I hope to have it out later this year, quickly followed by the final Redstone Clan book, titled MATT.

I'm also working on a few rewrites of old stories and sci fi romance books that I am playing around with. To be honest, things are a little stalled at the moment as I prepare for convention travel. I'll be going to my first RWA (Romance Writers of America) conference in about 2 weeks, followed quickly by the AAD (Authors After Dark) con in Charlotte, NC, in early August.

Travel and con prep sort of disrupts my whole life and writing schedule for about a month or two before I leave and a week or two after I get back. Going to a con as an author requires a heck of a lot of preparation. There are promotional items to design, order and somehow get to the convention site. There are plans to be made for parties, signings and other appearances. There are new clothes to buy and plan. Bags to pack. Packages to ship ahead...

You get the idea. Lots and lots of little tasks that require a ton of planning and busywork. Not my favorite thing, but since I rarely get a real vacation (I can't remember the last - maybe 2009?), traveling to cons is my only real getaway from my day-to-day existence. I enjoy them. Sort of. I love seeing chatting with other authors and especially readers, but the actual travel is a hassle and a half! And there's a certain amount of recovery time after I get back where I'm pretty much useless as a settle back into my old routine and catch up on sleep. ;-)

I hope I get to see some of you during my travels this year! If you see me at a con, come on up and say hello. I love talking with people and I promise, I don't bite. ;-) Meanwhile, I need to make the most of my time before all hell breaks loose and get some writing done. Back to the grindstone!

29 June 2014

"In the Black" - new excerpt!

You haven't bought "In the Black" yet? Not even with RT Times Review calling it "a fast-paced tale of murder & mystery in outer space"  and giving it 4/5 stars?

Let's see if I can tempt you with some delicious goodies...

*****

A puff of cold air slapped her bare back.

She froze, suds running off her skin.

The fact that Etts hadn’t screamed in alarm meant only one other person could have opened the stall door and now stood there watching her.

She waited.

The low voice brought goose bumps to her exposed skin. “Captain. Glad to see you took advantage of my offer.”

“Marshal.” She didn’t turn toward the open stall door. “Thank you for making it.”

“You’ll be glad to know that the transport left without incident.” He didn’t say the name; he didn’t have to. He wasn’t going to taint this moment with that name.

She was grateful for that.

“That’s good. Hope they fry the bastard.” Sam reached for the washcloth and poured a good amount of liquid soap on it. She could see him out of the corner
of her eye, watching her through the semi-clear glass.

She didn’t have the urge to hide her scars. There weren’t many and they’d whitened and faded over time, but some of her lovers had cringed at seeing them.

They hadn’t lasted long. In every sense of the word.

Daniel chuckled. “We’ll see.” He walked back and forth in front of the shower, a slow, leisurely pace. “You found everything okay?”

“Yes, thank you.” She looked at him through the door, her heart pounding like it was her first combat drop all over again.

Time to put up or shut up. He’d be leaving soon and she needed to get him out of her system.

“Could I impose on you to wash my back? I can’t quite reach back there.” She rolled her shoulders.

He grinned. “Thought you’d never ask.” He took a step forward, then stopped. “One minute. No use getting my uniform wet.”

Daniel slid off his jacket and tossed it over her pile of clothing. He tugged his T-shirt out of the top of his jeans and pulled it upward, annoyingly slowly.

She forgot about the hot water running down her face.

*********

The sequel, "In the Void" comes out in October - so why wait to hop on board the Bonnie Belle?

Don't forget! "Everyone loves a Mercy woman." (or man, as "In the Void" will attest to...)

Available at Amazon,  B&N   Carina Press 

Also on Goodreads!

28 June 2014

Writing What You Don't Know

Wanna know a secret?  Most writers don't like to talk about their work.

Oh, we'll glibly babble on about the origin of a story...if it makes a good story. The safe-for-work antics of other people's editors are fair game...so long as we've filed off all the serial numbers. (You never know when you might have to work for that nutjob--I mean, respected senior editor.)  Our research is even better.

Notice something about all these things we like to talk about?  The farther away the material gets from anything that might make us uncomfortable, the easier it is to talk about. When it touches on our (many) writerly insecurities..not so much.

Which brings us to this month's theme and why it's hard for me to blog about it. I'm a heterosexual female from a relatively privileged background. What business do I have writing from an LGBQT perspective, ever? I can't know what it's like from the inside.

As somebody who goes to extreme lengths to research her fiction, that bothers me. It bothers me that I don't know what it was like to walk the streets of fifteenth century or the corridors of the Hindenburg just before it exploded, too. But in both those cases, the only people who care whether I get it sort of right are other history nerds, and even for them the issues are purely academic. If I misstep in my depiction of LGBQT characters--or characters of color or characters with physical or emotional challenges--people could get hurt. 

I hurt my characters. A lot. I challenge them every way I can think of. It's what writers do. I want to challenge my readers, too. But I don't want to hurt them by being an idiot about something I'll never know.

At the same time, the world is not populated entirely by privileged heterosexual females. I'm good with that. I'm boring in real life, and if my stories were only about people like me, they'd be boring, too. So I write about women and men at all levels of society, of all countries, races, and orientation. 

Perhaps the most important human character in "Fixed", my story in The Modern Fae's Guide to Surviving Humanity, is a gay vet tech based on one of my favorite coworkers. The original was a retired military officer who was built like The Refrigerator. Seriously, if you just saw this guy's face and his shadow, you would NOT want to meet him in a dark alley. But once the lights went on, you'd find yourself looking at someone with the fashion sense and mannerisms of Nathan Lane. Incredibly nurturing, too. So I could really see him working with lost and injured animals. But mostly I loved the way he talked and his own idiosyncratic way of taking no nonsense from anyone. He brought an incredible brio to the story. I loved writing his lines and how much his presence made everything better.

A lesbian couple were the main characters of "Personal Demons," my story in Hellebore and Rue, the award-winning anthology about lesbian magic users. The story is all about the cost of magic--and how that cost might not be what you think. For Anita, my exorcist, the cost was the alienation of her lover Deborah's affections.

I confess I used a lesbian couple because it made everything worse. Anita is a tantric sorceress, so there is a sexual component to her magic. Her lover sees this up close and personal in the middle of an exorcism. If a man had seen what Deb had seen, he would've felt betrayed, gotten angry and left to get drunk. It would've been nasty. There would've been a cost. But a man never feels soiled--polluted--in the same way a woman does. So his girlfriend has congress with demons. All he has to do is wash himself off and he's good to go. But a woman takes her lover inside her body. It's a whole different level of intimacy. You cannot simply rinse away a demon's touch, even at one remove. 

Having made that decision, I tried to treat both characters as if they were me. How would I feel in their respective positions? It's the only way I know to respectfully step in someone else's shoes. 

I'd like to think I got their emotions right, especially since sooner or later a story will demand another character who isn't me or anything like me. I want very much to get it right every time, because no matter where we come from, what we believe or who we love, we're all human beings. We deserve that dignity, in fiction as much as real life.



25 June 2014

Requiem for a Dream



Sometimes it seems like a dream. You have a great agent. She gets you a good deal and you have a contract. You've been through editing and copyediting and filled out all the forms for artwork. You're almost ready to see your manuscript turned into a real book.
Then you wake up.

I had one of those rude awakenings last week. Strange Chemistry, the YA imprint of Angry Robot books that was supposed to published A Curse of Ash and Iron, my YA steampunk fairy-tale retelling, was cut. Effective immediately. Contract canceled.

No book.

It's taken me awhile to put into words how this made me feel. Sick. Upset. Like the world fell apart. I mean, it happens in publishing. It's business. But it's really hard not to take it just a little personally, not to feel like someone has punched you in the gut. I cried. My agent cried. We can't believe we got so close only to have the rug pulled away. It's like a bad joke. I had booked a very big trip to the midwest to help promote the book at a con with the publisher. No publisher. Nonrefundable tickets. Fortunately I have other books I can push. Not so lucky for other authors who were making their debut.

But it could have been worse. There are many authors who were left with books in limbo after already being published. Or left in the middle of a series.  At least I hadn't booked a venue for the launch party yet. But it was a close thing. I feel for the staff, who might have been let go from their jobs. As least I have my book back right away and can move on.

So, not requiem for THE dream. Just this one. The outpouring of support for the imprint and the authors has been overwhelming. A lot of people wanted to read those books, including mine.People kept pre-ordering it evenI after the news.

We'll find a new home, and let everyone know when and where.

23 June 2014

A New Bride for My Hubby

This is my hubby's big milestone birthday month. And we're not in a panic, no.

Years ago, when he was but a babe, he promised himself he'd be driving a Porsche 911 before this birthday struck. He did NOT want to look like one of those old guys speeding through a mid-life crisis. I promised him a new bride to ride shotgun. Okay, the wife is still me, but I was determined to be a fitter, skinnier, stronger version of the gal he married twenty-five years ago.

Well...let's just say there's no new car in the driveway and I'm still rockin' the same jeans I've been trying to ditch for a smaller pair. What in the heck happened?

Life. Sometimes she steps in our path and gets tangled up with our feet. We've had much bigger things to plan for, like college graduations for two of the best kids on the planet. And feeding them. Who knew how much teenage boys could eat?

But we've kept the big promises to each other and have a glorious life together. Hubby is still test-driving Porsche 911's though, so maybe that counts?  I've got to say the sexy fox does look smokin' hot behind the wheel. Gosh, I love that man no matter what he drives.And if he scrunches his eyes just so, I might actually look like the skinnier bride I promised.



That's not to say I've given up on my promise. No way. It just takes a little longer to lose those inches than I remember. I'll rock a new pair of jeans, one of these days. Hey! Maybe next big milestone. Either that or wait until he can't see anymore and do the next best thing...lie.

Until then, happy birthday, baby.

Readers: Have you made promises that were a bit difficult to keep? What did you do about it?

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