31 May 2014

The Balticon Saturday Six That Growed

Wiped from turning in a story that went on too long and baking too many cookies, I didn't take as many pictures as usual at this year's Balticon. But I still had too many to narrow down to six. Balticon, the Maryland science fiction and fantasy convention held over the Memorial Day weekend, is like that. Mind-boggling and often disorganized, it's always crazy fun.

Marty Gear, the patron saint of Maryland costumers died last year, but his spirit definitely lingers in the Balticon Masquerade. Take this amazing stag, who is prepping for a turn onstage Saturday, May 24. The real eye holes are hidden beneath the orange glass eyes, and the jaw moved when the costumer spoke. BTW, the person inside is a woman.

Marty Gear also provided the motivation behind Stephanie Burke's gorgeous hand-painted kimono. She'd been promising him to create a Steampunk kimono for the Masquerade for years. This year, she did.

Meanwhile, you couldn't walk down a hall of the Escher Inn of the--I mean, the Hunt Valley Inn without seeing the towel over the bolt signifying a room party. The one two doors down from my roomie and I featured absinthe and this guy, who sang about "That Guy", the jerk you don't want to meet at a con. The filker was excellent and the song, spot-on.

I encountered this pair in the bar. The lady had the best clockwork stockings ever, and Buddha was having a grand time encouraging folks to rub his belly.

Even Super Mario Brothers were there.

Even I dressed up this year. Twice! No one caught a photograph of me in my Steampunk finery for Friday night's Zombies Need Brains launch party Friday night. (Remember how wiped I was before the con? Add in a four-hour drive that should've taken ninety minutes. Rinse. Repeat.) So I made sure to get a shot of my faerie gear for Sunday's Dark Quest Books launch party.

About those cookies--this photo shows the reason for all the baking. In addition to launching the line's new books, Dark Quest Books editor Danielle Ackley-McPhail turned the launch into a surprise 30th anniversary celebration and fundraiser for author CJ Henderson and his wife Tin.

The place was packed. I'm almost scared to see what Danielle cooks up when the Silence in the Library anthology for CJ, Dance Like a Monkey, is released later this summer. I may wind up chained to my stove for a week. On the plus side, folks REALLY liked my ginger cookies.

Finally, on the last day of the con, I captured this image of Guest of Honor Brandon Sanderson (right) and a fan dressed as the Mulian Alegretto from the anime RahXephon. Look at that headdress! Not only that, her manicure matched the costume perfectly.
Speaking of perfect, guests of honor don't get much better than Brandon Sanderson.  He managed to be funny, charming and instructive for four full days. And yeah, I got the interview. ;-)
Need more Balticon goodness? I've posted more photos on my Flicker page. Enjoy!

29 May 2014

Writing What Scares You

I used to think I was a fearless writer.

Many writers worry about relatives or friends reading their sex scenes. I have no shame.

Many writers worry about finishing a story. I always get to the end.

Many writers worry about how people will judge them from their stories. I never did.

Until now.

I just completed a book that's the fourth full-length novel in the Phoenix Institute superhero romance series. It's entitled Phoenix Inheritance and it's due out next March.

I've never been so afraid of hitting send to my editor.

Why? Because it's essentially a book about motherhood and I'm terrified of being judged for how the heroine thinks, feels and react to her son, who is autistic.

That's because this heroine, Renee, is closer to me than any other heroine I've written. I'm a mother. I have an autistic son.

I'm already aware that some people judge me harshly for my choices about the best way to raise him. We're already so judgy in this country about parental choices and that judgement increases exponentially if you have a kid with special needs. But I know in real life that my son is happy and improving each year, so I can shrug off any judgements about what "they" think I should do and just follow what helps my son.

But now I've written a fictional heroine with a similar problem to send out into the world and I've never been more scared, not just for those not familiar with autistic kids but for those who deal with them every day. Did I explain it well enough? Is her fictional son realistic on the page? And does Renee seem far too occupied with her frustration and fear and thus seem bitchy? Will people hate her?

And, of course, I mean will people hate me?

Then I ask myself: if I'm so scared, why did I write this book?

Hah. Good question. Mostly, I wrote it for my son because any small understanding about autism gained by the public from reading a book makes things better for him in the future. I wrote it because I wanted people to know that "autistic" doesn't mean broken and that those with autism can have bright, happy futures. I wanted to write it to show how families can stick together and help each other.

And I wrote it because this was one of the few times I had to write a particular story.

Is Phoenix Inheritance all about autism? No, I hope it's a great lover's reunion story, mixed in with some intense action and some really sweet moments between a father, mother and their son.

They say writing a book should scare you. I've never understood that.

I do now.

Corrina Lawson is a writer, mom, geek and sometime superhero. She's the author of a new steampunk detective novel, The Curse of the Brimstone Contract, the Phoenix Institute superhero romance series and the alternate history Seneca series. In her non-fiction identity, she's the Content Director at GeekMom.com and blogs for CriminalElement.com.

26 May 2014

Memorial Day Thanks

I sit typing at my desk as the golden sunlight slants through an ancient pepper tree dancing on the breeze outside my window. It's a regular day, a peaceful day, full of life, promise and hope. Love.

I am free.

My children are safe, sound, and watching a silly irreverent show on a television.

My husband has a great job that pays him for his service. I have two great jobs that I love.

Our house is more than enough, our paychecks more than enough, our healthcare, education, food much more than enough. We breathe fresh air, drink sparkling water, sleep at nights.

We can go to church, to school, to vote because we are free.The men and women who died for this country made it so.

There are not enough words to thank those who risk paying the ultimate sacrifice for me and my family. But on this beautiful Memorial Day, I am deeply grateful. Thank you for serving in the military.  God bless you and your families. And God bless the beautiful United States of America.

Kimberley Troutte

20 May 2014

Jean Marie's Balticon Schedule

The merry month of May is about to get a little merrier. That's right folks, it's time for Balticon!

This year's con will run from Friday, May 23, all the way until Memorial Day Monday, May 26, at the Hunt Valley Inn, Hunt Valley, Maryland. Brandon Sanderson is our writer guest of honor, but he's only the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Unfortunately, as of Monday evening the con has neglected to post the rest of its guest list.  Or its final program.  (Insert headdesk here.)

But there will be lots of writers, artists, dances, parties, costume competitions and fun.  There will also be programming.  How do I know this when it's not on the web site?  Because they have posted a preliminary program! With parties! Here's my part in the festivities:


4 p.m.: Beyond Medieval History
A look at the challenges and possibilities of fantasy inspired by time periods other than medieval Europe. Jean Marie Ward (M), KT Bryski,Val Griswold-Ford, Tom Doyle and Joshua Palmatier (Chase)

6 p.m.: Writing the Economics of Magic
A discussion examining how to address economics when building a world in which magic is a major factor. Collin Earl, Brandon Sanderson, Jeffrey Lyman, Jean Marie Ward, Eric Hardenbrook (Salon C)

9-11 p.m.: Zombies Need Brains Launch Party
Celebrating the start of the new small press Zombies Need Brains and its first SF&F anthology Clockwork Universe: Steampunk vs. Aliens. Come join us for some snacks, meet some of the authors contributing to the first anthology, and learn all about ZNB and what it hopes to do in the future! Joshua Palmatier (M), Gail Z. Martin, Jason Palmatier, Jean Marie Ward (Parlor 1026)

11 p.m.: Developing a Sense of Propriety
Advice from SF/F Fandom on how to avoid creepy behavior; how to tell your friend that his/her behavior is totally Uncool, instead of watching in silent horror; what's harassment and what else--while not harassment--is still unacceptable public behavior. Debi Chowdhury (M), Leona Wisoker, Don Sakers, Jean Marie Ward, Mildred Cady


2 p.m.: Flipping the SF Archetypes
Maybe humanity isn't the good guy on the intergalactic playing field. Maybe the mad scientist is just a jerk, not an evil genius. Maybe... Scott Roche (M), T Jackson King, James Daniel Ross, Jean Marie Ward, Steven H. Wilson (Salon B)

4 p.m.: Broad Universe Rapid Fire Reading
A buffet of short reads from some of today's most exciting women authors. Jean Marie Ward (M), Reesa Herberth, Elektra Hammond, Gail Z Martin, Michelle Moore, Kelly Harmon (Pimlico Room)


7-10 p.m.: Dark Quest Books Launch Party
Those Bad-Ass Faeries are back in Dark Quest Book's all-new volume, It's Elemental, along with plenty of other great new titles. Come help the authors, editors, and the publisher celebrate the their spring releases, including Baba Ali and the Clockwork Djinn by Danielle Ackley-McPhail and Day Al-Mohamed, In All Directions by David Sherman, Beginning a Beginning by Danny Birt, Trouble on the Water, Consigned to the Sea, Tales from Rugosa Coven by Sarah Avery, as well as the anthology Trust and Treachery, and a special guest appearance by Hellfire Lounge 4: Reflections of Evil. Join us for food, fun, and as always PRIZES! Danielle Ackley-Mcphail (M), N.R. Brown, Keith DeCandido, Mike Mcphail, CJ Henderson, Phoebe Wray, L. Jagi Lamplighter, Judi Fleming, Danny Birt, Peter Prellwitz, Lee C. Hillman, Jeffrey Lyman, Neal Levin, James Daniel Ross, Jean Marie Ward (Con Suite)

Friday evening, you'll also be able to find me at the first part of Gail Z. Martin's and Jon Sprunk's Reign of Ash/Blood and Iron launch party in Parlor 1026, from five until my six o'clock panel. Gotta support my roomie, don't you know.  :-)

Regarding the Zombies Need Brains and Dark Quest launch parties, aspiring writers take note: the editors and publishers will be there. In particular, I know Joshua Palmatier, ZNB's publisher, is starting to pull together his next anthology and recently posted what he looks for in a story at the Magical Words blog.

Like I said, there are lots of reasons to head to Balticon this weekend. And then there's MEEEEEEE!

Happy Memorial Day, however you choose to spend it!

08 May 2014

Happy Birthday to Meeee!

I wandered out of bed today to write my post for the blog and noticed the above image on Google.  I thought, "What? Who's birthday is it?" Now, don't be silly, of course I know it's my birthday, but how does Google? So I clicked on it, and it's me. Wowsers.

Part of me is weirded out. I mean, sure, I put in my birthday on my Google+ page, but this?  Another part of me is flattered, like holy cow, that's slick.  Another part of me is aware that this is the new reality: marketing firms know a lot about us and the good ones, like Google, will use it to interact with us in ways that feel social.  Twenty years ago it was birthday cards from friends. Now it's birthday greetings from companies (and they weren't the only ones, just the most startling to find on my search page when I went to look for a lolcat image).

What about you? What's the most startling thing you utilize regularly that a few years ago was never heard of? Or, if you feel up to predicting, what do you think will be the startling thing of the future?

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

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: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!

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
Publishers: LooseId | Samhain Publishing | Torquere Press

04 May 2014

Getting ready to go "In the Black"!

It's May - a very busy month for me! I'll be appearing at the Pennwriters Conference in Lancaster, PA in the middle of the month to give a talk on digital-first and digital-only publishers, the pros and cons of signing with this new wave of publishers. Then at the end of the month I'll be at Uniontown Mall in Uniontown, PA for the first ever Pennsylvania Literary Fest!

And of course... May 12th marks the release of the first book of my new series, "Tales from the Edge". "In the Black" (book 1), gets you right into the action with a space brothel murder mystery.

But, as the writing books say, show don't tell. So let me show you the first meeting between Captain Samantha Keller and Marshal Daniel LeClair...

“You wanna go?” Sam whispered. “You wanna go?” Her pulse was racing. She felt a bead of sweat run down her back, pooling at the base of her spine.

This wasn't some kid fresh off the boat. This was an old-timer with impressive biceps straining the sleeves of his dirty jumpsuit. That was okay. She had energy
to spare. And it’d been a while since she’d gotten physical with anyone.

It wasn't sex, but it’d do for the moment.

“You feeling lucky?” she said, waiting for him to make the first move. She motioned him forward.

Something shot by her left ear.

She froze.

The miner watched her with widening eyes, rooted in place. A trickle of drool began rolling out of the left side of his mouth. His eyes rolled up showing only the whites.

He passed out. His arms rose in front of him, giving him a movie monster look. All he needed was to start roaring and goose-stepping forward.

Sam spotted the tiny dart in his chest, the small, dark green tufted needle almost invisible against the dirty oil-stained shirt.

“You seem to have an interesting effect on men.”

The low voice behind her brought Sam back around, automatically assuming a combat stance with her hands up, fingers balled into fists.

He stood there, two fingers on his right hand up to his forehead in a mocking salute. The other hand held the standard law-enforcement weapon of choice, the
P-112 pistol. Her mind went through the identification process. Official issue for the military or the Marshal Service, not something handed out to station security.

The lightweight weapon fired either tranqs or bullets, and she’d just seen the tranq side of it.

“He’ll be awake in an hour or so. United Nations Service Marshal Daniel LeClair at your service, ma’am.”

The leather jacket, dotted with UNS patches from various bases and a set of identification pips on the lapels, was snug on his broad shoulders, and tight jeans hung low on his hips. A white T-shirt finished off the informal uniform, matching his short white hair.

He smiled at her, a sheepish twist to his lips. The only thing missing to make the cowboy image complete would be a hat perched at a rakish angle on his head.

“Family trait. My father had a full head of white hair by the time he hit twenty,” he replied to the unasked question. “You must be Sam Keller.”

“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” she snapped back.

He holstered his weapon and stepped toward her, his smile dissolving into a confused grin. “Helping.”

Sam punched the miner in the ribs, not hard enough to break them but enough to leave a reminder for when he woke up. “This is my ship and those people are under my protection. I don’t need your help to take out the trash. I can deal with these idiots.”

LeClair put up his hands and stopped. “Whoa there. I just figured—”

“You figured you’d save a damsel in distress.” Sam walked up to him and jabbed her index finger into his chest. “First lesson of working with me is that I’m as tough as you are, Marshal.” She eyed him. “Probably tougher. So don’t think I can’t handle myself or get the job done.”

LeClair grinned. “I think I’d like to see you handling yourself.”

The angry words fell away from Sam’s mind, leaving a black hole. She stared at the lawman, uncertain what she’d just heard.

He didn't look away, not giving an inch.

Two could play that game. Not bothering to be subtle, she mentally undressed him, exposing rock-hard abs and a body built for action. All-night action like one of the heroes in those detective novels she’d been devouring.

God, I've lost it. I’m getting hot for a damned cop.


If you're interested in seeing more of Captain Keller and Marshal LeClair drop on by and pick up "In the Black" here at Amazon, B&N or Carina Press!

03 May 2014

Crowdsourcing Part Two: Platform, Platform, Platform

"Don't you know she's pooped?!"
(Madeline Kahn as Lili von Shtupp in Blazing Saddles)
Yeah, I know May is supposed to be "The Lusty Month" here at Beyond the Veil, but I'm not in the mood. I'm too tired--the principal cause of lost libido across all sectors of society, according to a study I read some time ago, which I'm too tired to look up.

The cause of my exhaustion is six weeks spent pitching, hawking, shilling and strong-arming people into supporting Monkeying Around for a Good Cause, the Indiegogo campaign to help fellow SF/Fantasy writer and beloved curmudgeon CJ Henderson in his battle with cancer.

I don't regret a minute of the time or the effort. As always when the writing community pulls together for one of their own, I'm awed by the kindness of strangers and how a writer's reach can extend far beyond their words. I'm also so grateful to my fellow bloggers at Beyond the Veil for letting me pimp the campaign here, when most of them don't know CJ. BtV's own Sheryl Nantus was even in line to write a story for one of the stretch goals.

But we didn't get there. We did great by most measures. The final tally was $10,000, 33 percent above our fully funded level, but when you compare that with Athena's Daughters, which funded at five times it's initial level...

Which brings us to the meat of today's blog. The determining factor in the two campaigns was not the product. The anthology built around CJ was awesome. The campaign was packaged by the same team, and had the same crazy band of hucksters pounding the social media. No, the determining factor was the platform.

Indiegogo has less than one-tenth the reach of Kickstarter.

So why didn't we go with Kickstarter? We couldn't. Despite having a guaranteed deliverable, Kickstarter called it a charity and wouldn't touch it. Silence in the Library Publishing argued against this every which way. But Kickstarter would not be swayed.

As someone later explained to me, Kickstarter wants to see itself as the ultimate boutique emporium, the place for the rare and rarefied, patronized by all the Cool Kids. But its users are all about the bargains. They want to buy in cheap on the ground floor of something that will later give them bragging rights. Charity falls outside the emporium model. Charity means funding an intangible, which might as well be giving something for nothing.

With that outlook, it's not surprising Kickstarter won't touch what it defines as charity. (How it defines all those "deliverables" that never show up is another matter, but I digress.) I wonder if the founders realize their stance is essentially saying: Charity Isn't Cool. I also wonder if they'd care.

It didn't help that in the middle of the campaign Indiegogo faced its own deliverables crisis, and muffed it royally. But that, too, is a digression, because even before the kerfuffle hit, our numbers were still below our Kickstarter numbers by a factor of three.

So, the takeaway? If you're looking to crowdsource a product, hie thee to Kickstarter. You'll start out in a better place and stay there. However, if for some reason you need to go to Indiegogo, Go-Fund-Me or some other platform, offer to decapitate someone by name in your next story. The crowd will go wild.

But that, my sweets, is a story for another day. Can't you see I'm pooped?!

01 May 2014

Thursday Thirteen: Thirteen Reasons to Monkey Around for a Good Cause

May Day!  May Day!  May Day!

We have an emergency here. The clock is running down on an important Indiegogo campaign and opportunity to support one of American genre fiction's national treasures, CJ Henderson.

CJ is down for the count with a horrible cancer, and under treatment (we all know what that's like--horrible!) is in no condition to write or sell at cons, his sole source of income.  So some of the top writers in fantasy, science fiction and romance (why hello, Sheryl Nantus!) have come together in an anthology where all the proceeds except shipping and mailing go straight to CJ.  And those of you who know what a rigorous bitch I am know I don't make such claims lightly.

What's in it it for you? Let me count the thirteen ways.

1. At $10, the basic anthology includes some of fantasy and science fiction's biggest names: Kevin J. Anderson and Rebecca Moesta, Maggie Allen, Jack Dann, Ed Greenwood, Joe Haldeman, Nancy and Belle Holder, Tanya Huff, Gail Z. Martin, Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Jean Rabe, Mike Resnick, Hildy Silverman, Janine Spendlove, Michael A. Stackpole, Anton Strout, Kelly Swails, Robert E. Vardeman, Elizabeth A. Vaughan, Bryan Young, Jean Marie Ward (yeah, me--got a problem with that?), Gene Wolfe, Timothy Zahn, and of course, the man himself, CJ Henderson.

You do romance so you don't know who these people are?  No problem.  I got some video right here:

2. Joe Haldeman

3. Gail Z. Martin

I also got pixels on the page.

4. Kevin J. Anderson

5. Jack Dann

6. Tanya Huff

7. But that's just the start.  The more people fund, the more authors we add. People like Aaron Rosenberg, Alan M. Clark (who did our wonderful cover), Allan Gilbreath, Alma Alexander, Tera Fulbright, Cynthia Ward, Davey Beauchamp, Dylan Birtolo, James Chambers, Jeff Young, Jennifer Brozek, John Hartness, Maxwell Alexander Drake, John French, Jonathan Mayberry, Keith R.A. DeCandido, KT Pinto, Michael Ventrella, Misty Massey, Patrick Thomas, Pete Prellwitz, Sheryl Nantus (I did mention Sheryl, didn't I?), Stuart Jaffe, David B. Coe, Vicki Steger and Mike McPhail.

I've got some video of them, too:

8. David B. Coe (aka D.B. Jackson) 

9.  Keith R.A. DeCandido

10. Somebody who isn't in that list but who is most definitely in the table of contents (you heard it here first!): Jody Lynn Nye.  Yeah, I have video for her, too.

11. Videos of crazy people dancing like monkeys.

12. Stopping Danielle Ackley-McPhail from posting more creepy pictures of monkeys.  (They're worse than clowns...Well, maybe not today, but most of the time they're really, really creepy.)

13. The man himself, CJ Henderson.  They say a picture is worth a thousand words.  I'm hoping his video is worth more, for him and for all of us.

CJ Henderson

Please, fund.  The Indiegogo link is:


Thank you.

Jean Marie Ward