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It was the opposite of Dragon*Con. ReConStruction, the tenth occasional North American Science Fiction Convention held in Raleigh August 5-8, was the definition of low-key. Preliminary counts put attendance at only a little over six hundred. But that only meant a glorious lack of queues.

There were no lines for Raleigh’s famous rickshaw taxis when Jana Oliver and I strolled out of our hotel the day before the con. Or for the restaurants or the small museums which dotted downtown Raleigh. Or the panels and exhibits, which sometime seemed dwarfed by their facilities. This gave the proceedings a very relaxed feel and, as Lee Martindale pointed out in her entry “Con Trails”, encouraged folks to make things work in spite of glitches and unexpected hotel issues.


Flying Saucer Draught Emporium, Raleigh, NC (photo by Jean Marie Ward)

Lots of stand-out memories remain, even after the six weeks it took me to post this. Ada Milenkovic Brown organized the con’s Broad Universe Rapid Fire Reading and a pre-reading get together at the appropriately named Flying Saucer bar. The saucers, though, had more to do with beer than little green men. The saucers lining the walls were awarded for drinking a thousand beers at the bar. While we were there, a gentleman was awarded his third. Hmm, maybe little green men were involved after all…riding to the rescue on pink elephants.

My panels included a one-on-one with con toastmaster and Baen editor Toni Weiskopf (“Urban Fantasy make-over”), and Susan and Clay Griffith, the husband and wife writing team whose The Greyfriar will be released in early November (“Writing with someone close to you”). Fan guest of honor Juanita Coulson recounted the most wonderful stories about collaborating in SF’s Golden Age on the Writing in Collaboration panel with Chuck Gannon and me. But “Worst panel ever” will always hold a special place in my heart. Not only did my fellow panelists (Michael D’Ambrosio, Chris Garcia, James Daniel Ross and Lawrence M. Schoen) reduce me to tears of laughter, but a member of the audience later greeted me with the words: “Worst Panel Ever—best panel ever!” Music to this panel moderator’s ears.

The RFR boasted a large audience and eight accomplished writers. Everyone read at their best, too. Afterwards, most of us decamped to the party of the con: the launch party for Mary Robinette Kowal’s Shades of Milk and Honey. The party featured the author in picture perfect Regency dress, scented fan souvenirs and a musical performance by Mary’s father Ken Harrison on the saw. Yes, you read that right. He played the saw, the same carpentry implement most of us use to cut wood, and he made it sing. Mary called it “an analog theremin”, and that’s a very good description of the sound. The eerie vibrato tone lent a special magic to the selection of traditional tunes he played. Unfortunately, your reporter neglected to pack her notebook to record the titles, but I did get pictures.


Ken Harrison (left) and Mary Robinette Kowal at the launch party
for Mary's Shades of Milk and Honey. (photo by Jean Marie Ward)

Regular roomies (Jana and Gail, I am looking at you) know that I can’t go to a new city without cruising the restaurants. Jana and I stumbled on bu*ku, an elegant bistro specializing in “global street food” after our rickshaw ride, and we ate more than one meal at Sitti, a friendly but sophisticated Lebanese café. The city saved its most unique dining experience for last, however—with a little help from fellow “Broad” and Samhain author Marcia Colette.

Marcia brought me to Spize, a café run by a friend and colleague. Imagine divine Asian fusion sandwiches on the best baguettes you ever ate. The owner, an IT superstar who founded the café during a brief sabbatical, has the bread flown in from New York. Yet the café is both unpretentious and green. There’s something decidedly fantastical about that, too.

(Glutton for pun--er, want more? Click here for the rest of my ReConStruction photos.)
jmward14: (BenkeiSake)
I can now. The German and British rights to Jana Oliver's Demontrappers series have been sold in what Publishers Marketplace likes to call good deals. Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay! Book one is scheduled for a summer 2010 release, and it's going to be fabulous. The beta version blew my socks off. Can't wait to read the final.
Cheers and happy dances,
Jean Marie
*off to watch the Muppets play "Bohemian Rhapsody" again*
jmward14: (TopHat)

Been out of the loop this week not quite attending the Romance Writers of America's 2009 national conference. I decided to skip the conference itself but not the chance to see my friends. [info]cymreiges came early to visit and get a taste of the city. We cruised Adams Morgan on Tuesday. Wednesday we toured some of DC's choicest treasures: the Renwick Museum of American Art, the Freer (Asian Art and the extraordinary Peacock Room by James McNeill Whistler), the Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress (my favorite building in DC) and the infamous "Black Aggie" counterfeit of St. Gaudens' Grief, then topped everything off with a ghost tour of Alexandria. (Thanks again, Jana!)
Yesterday, I was honored to dine with the super women of From the Heart Romance Writers, RWA's online chapter at Cafe Paradiso. Great bunch of ladies, and I hope to be able to play more in their sandbox soon.
Today was party central. First came the Samhain Publishing bash. Senior editor Angela James opened her suite to an eclectic mix of Samhain authors (hey, Monica Burns, Allie Blue, Terri Schaefer and Leigh Wyndfield!), aspiring Samhain authors, fans and "friends of the family" like Jennifer Jackson and Lucienne Diver. My only regret was I didn't get to connect with two of my personal faves, cover artist extraordinaire[info]annecain and Kate Johnson. I think they were hiding from me. (And I'm so harmless; ask anyone!)
Afterwards, I ran into old friend Venus Campbell and her critique partner Lori. Venus and I met at the 2006 BEA. At the moment she's completed five novels and submitted none of them. Hmm, obviously someone needs a serious nagging. But other than that, she's almost perfect. And yes, I am hoping this will give her a little nudge. :-) Oddly enough, I ran into Marcia Colette while I was hanging with Venus and Lori, not at the Samhain party. Go figure.
Finally, the Harlequin party. This is the event all of RWA waits for, and they did themselves proud for their 60th anniversary. There were bars themed to the decades of Harlequin's operations. (The champagne was at the 1980s bar. Guess where I was...when I wasn't dancing, that is.) There were incredible desserts, a slide show of Harlequin covers and cover shoots (very funny). I finally got to congratulate [info]jer_bear711 on her Prism for Wicked Game and wave manically to a great many friends from my local RWA chapter, Washington Romance Writers.
I found a seat at the table with Jana, her agent Meredith Bernstein, her good friend P.C. Cast and P.C.'s charming dad, who was the unquestioned belle of this particular ball. Mr. Cast has the loveliest old-fashioned manners, and he dances! First he cut the rug with Meredith (and me, but mostly Meredith, whose sequinned skirt gave me serious skirt envy. Her blue pumps weren't bad either.) After that, the women wouldn't let the man stay in his chair. You have not lived until you've seen Nora Roberts twirling to "Jailhouse Rock" in the arms of P. C. Cast's dad. And P.C. snapped the pictures to prove it. I only hope she posts them. Afterwards, Nora confessed she needed to recover, because she couldn't keep up. "And I'm in good shape!" she added.
Mr. Cast is going to have some great stories to bring home to the missus. I suggested he bring her next time, and I think he will. This kind of good time is too good not to share. :-)


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Jody Lynn Nye (left), Anne McCaffrey (center) and Carole Nelson Douglas
Breakfast of Champions: Jody Lynn Nye (left) and Anne McCaffrey (center) read the newsletter of fellow author Carole Nelson Douglas (right).

For me, every Dragon*Con has a theme. This year’s was set by[info]martianmooncrab when she suggested we get together Wednesday evening, August 27. I thought we’d have tea and jabber.
Well, we had tea.
And jabbered. 
With Anne McCaffrey.

Yes, you read right, the Grand Lady of Dragons herself. Martianmooncrab was helping her at DragonCon, ably assisted by koolness and Anne’s son Todd. 

 

That lovely session set the tone for the entire con. Not a day went by where we didn’t run into each other or shared a meal. At the DragonCon banquet, I shared a table with a guy who claimed to have sprung the cork on the champagne when Anne became the first woman to win a Hugo in 1968. It was his first drink. He was fourteen. (Don't worry, the Statute of Limitations is long past on that one.  And he turned out okay. He's now a surgeon and runs the annual Dragon*Con blood drive.)


martianmooncrab & koolness

 

Even the darling spouse got in the act, FedEx-ing me copies of the Analogs containing Anne’s first Pern stories. He bought them when they were first released and suddenly couldn’t live without having them autographed. Then he wouldn’t let me mail them back or pack them in the luggage. I had to hand-carry them home. LOL

I wasn’t trying to be a fan girl. Honest. I was just trying to hang with martianmooncrab, who has the coolest earrings evah--tiny beaded portraits of Marvin Martian made for her by Elizabeth Anne Scarborough. Nothing beats Marvin Martian earrings. Nothing.


Jana Oliver (right) & me following the 2008 DragonCon Awards Banquet.

 

As for the rest of the best, nothing beats reuniting with friends you never see enough. I had a blast rooming with cymrieges and Carole Nelson Douglas. The Press Room Gang and I toasted missing friends. (Here’s looking at you [info]qnotku.) We dressed as pirates and got into trouble--but not so much I couldn’t make it to my panels.

 

A certain somebody who shall remain nameless scheduled me for a 10 a.m. panel the morning after the Cruxshadows concert. To be fair, we both thought they’d be scheduled for Sunday night, but such was not to be. Fortunately, the other panelists were brilliant and I had prepped enough to (literally) talk in my sleep. I did, however, call Susan Sizemore “Sue”. *headdesk* As somebody who spent her childhood insisting her name had two words instead of one, I’m especially sensitive to getting names right. So I’m going to be gnashing my teeth over this for years. 


(From left to right) Dead Authors C.S. Lewis (hobsonphile) & Mary Shelley (me)

 

Another stand-out panel was the Science Fiction/Fantasy Literature Track’s Attack of the Dead Authors Society, in which Van Allen Plexico tried to ride herd on John W. Campbell (Larry Davis), C.S. Lewis ([info]hobsonphile), Mary Shelley (me) and the one, the only Robert E. Howard (Joe Crowe). As you can see from the photo, Van wasn’t quite prepared to host REH for the third year running. My only regret was they were all behaving so nicely I didn’t get to thrash anyone with my fan. Playing an agnostic vegetarian on a panel with Lewis and Howard, I had such high hopes of it too. Dangnabbit!


Van Plexico (left) reacts to the introduction of Robert E. Howard (Joe Crowe, center) for the third running.  John W. Cambell (Larry Davis) looks so serene, he must've been expecting this.

 

This year, I also sat on a panel with a rock star. Ego Likeness singer/songwriter Donna Lynch penned the horror novel Isabel Burning, which meant she went the writers’ panel route too. Lovely, talented, bright and nice--it’s almost too much in one package. And to make things even more intense, Steven Archer, the band’s other half, is also an artist. His 365 Days of Blasphemous Horrors is currently running on the Weird Tales web site and on the LJ community [info]weirdtales_mag

 
The Ego Likeness Table: Donna Lynch and ?  Sure doesn't look like the Steven Archer you see on stage.

 

I really wish I could’ve seen this year’s Ego Likeness show, but with two concert tracks running every night of the con, even a music-crazy person like me was guaranteed to miss a lot. I made it to the Emerald Rose, Voltaire and CruxShadows shows. Those are a given. It simply isn’t Dragon*Con without them. And for at least the past two years, I have enjoyed a little bit of Ego Likeness at the end of the CruxShadows’ set. I also bought too much music and danced myself to jelly.

Read more... )

From another perspective, however, the most interesting concert was the Mindless Self Indulgence show. With a name like that you’d think they’d be a perfect DragonCon fit. The punk/industrial music worked fine. But security wasn’t prepared for a true mosh pit. I’m not sure if you can see it in this photo, but yes, they are getting ready to throw that guy on the stage. And he wasn’t the only one. Apparently, somebody was nearly crushed against the stage too, necessitating a call to the local EMT service. I can’t help wondering if the experience will affect next year’s concert program. 

Read more... )

 

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 Roomie Jana Oliver and I arrived safe and sound, and ate at a fabulous seafood joint, Croaker's Spot, in one of Richmond's more historic neighborhoods.  I never realized how much Richmond architecture resembles New Orleans'.  Hope to do some touring tomorrow in the Shockoe Bottom district to see if it's a general trend.  Meanwhile, I thought I'd post my RavenCon schedule in case anyone can make it.

Friday, April 25

6 p.m.  Reinventing Paranormal: Making Love to an Alien, Fairy or Werewolf.  For my sins, I'm moderating this one.  There are only three--count 'em three--listed victims...er, participants, and I happen to know one of my co-panelists, [profile] jer_bear711, is taking a train that isn't scheduled to arrive in Richmond until 4:45 p.m.  It's gonna be close, folks.  Plus, the panel's supposed to be about injecting new life into the tropes of paranormal romance.  This one should be really interesting.  Hmm, wonder if it's too early to bring rum.

8 p.m.  Opening Ceremonies.  Not much for me to do there except stand around looking harmless.  Another challenge.  Guess I have to forego the rum.  Dang!


Saturday, April 26

9 a.m.  The Best Little Series You Never Saw.  Yes, you read that right--A.M.  Needless to say, I've written up copious notes on all the TV shows I loved which never made it past their first or second season, and brought toothpicks to prop my eyelids open so I could read them.

Noon.  Blogging for the Modern Day Writer.  It's a craft panel discussing the utility of blogs for new and established writers.  I'm moderating this one too, but a host of people are on the guest list, so there should be a lot of opinions to choose from.

7-10 p.m.  Book Launch/Pre-Publication Party.  With dessert!  And liquid-type stuff (for which we may need to card)!  In honor of Jeri's Wicked Game (first in a new series, pub. May 13) and Jana's Madman's Dance (third in her Time Rovers series, pub. September), we'll be opening the suite to friends, relatives and anyone who will consent to take home a bookmark and promise faithfully to buy...er, express interest in the books, including With Nine You Get Vanyr.  (Hey, I'm sharing the room too!)

9 p.m.  Le Bad Anime.  I'm gonna miss part of my own party!  Wah!  But at least I'll be able to dis my least favorite anime in the fashion they deserve.


Sunday, April 27

9 a.m.  Urban Fantasy.  Yes, another day for the toothpicks.  I think the programming director hates me.  And she doesn't even know me!  *sob*  The description of this panel poses the musical question: "Why are there werewolves, vampires and ghosts in a world that should be primarily fey?"  That buzzing you hear is my next attack of Devil's Advocate coming on strong.

2 p.m.  The Popularity of Parnormal in Both Nonfiction and Fiction.  The juxtaposition of both should give this panel a nice twist.


Hope to see you there!
jmward14: (Default)
 The good kind--conventions where you get to attend panels and hang out with your friends and (if you're on the program) hopefully entertain other people doing the same.  So far, my 2008 schedule looks like this:

April 25-27, RavenCon, Richmond, VA
I expect to go a little wild at this one.  I'm rooming with [profile] jer_bear711and [profile] cymreiges, both of whom have fabulous new books coming out this year and want to celebrate the arrival of same.  They're actually contemplating letting me loose in a room party.  Heh heh.  And, oh yeah, there will be great programming too.  ;-)

May 17-18, Philadelphia Book Festival, Philadelphia, PA
This one's a little unusual for me.  It's a book fair sponsored by the Free Library of Philadelphia. Samhain Publishing has reserved a booth, and I volunteered to help out with sales, etc.  I've never worked a sales table before, but with everything that's going on at the fair, it's got to be a win/win/win situation.  I get to promote a good product, maybe even sign a book or two (yes, Virginia, turns out my mother-in-law's square apple pie recipe really is in The Write Ingredients--go us!), and after it's over I can visit family and friends in the area.

May 23-26, Balticon, Baltimore, MD
No roomie for this one yet.  (I think I'm on probation after getting a little too enthusiastic about the whole room party idea.)  But lots of wonderful programming and fabulous guests--besides me, that is.  One of the things I especially like about Balticon is you always catch folks with fabulous new books you never would've known about otherwise.  It doesn't hurt that the conventon celebrates new authors, either.  (Go Compton Crook Awards!)

August 28-September 1, DragonCon, Atlanta, GA
Oh yeah.  My favorite summer camp for wayward adults.  [profile] cymreigeswill be there.  [profile] hundakleptisiswill be there.  Carole Nelson Douglas...  DragonCon qualifies as a highlight of any year.  It's pure madness, but how can you not love a con with a parade, concerts and the Ms. Klingon Universe pageant?

October 31-November 2, World Fantasy Con, Alberta, Canada
I don't think I'll be playing on any panels for this one, but I'm definitely going.  This will be my first time attending a WFC where I haven't been running ragged trying to nail down interviews for Crescent Blues.  I get to be a fan.  And what a line-up!

Capclave, the local DC sf/fantasy convention is always on my to-do list.  But after the last couple of Octobers, I'm not making any plans just yet.  Of course, this means I may have to attend it as a fan too.  Oh, twist my arm!  :-)
Now to get back to what I should've been doing this afternoon--working on a short story involving a hapless interstellar transport gate repair person and a dragon who resembles my mother to an alarming degree.  It's ironic, I spent years trying to keep her from overwhelming me, now I'm trying to channel her for dialogue and it's hard.
I also need to get this info on Wardsmith.com.  I've let the site slide for far too long.  Oh well, now that the dh has put the finishing touches on the new and improved Hail Dubyus, our new webmaster will definitely have more time.  Once he's recovered, that is...  Mwahahahaha!
Cheers,
Jean Marie
 
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Three cons and two book signings in two weeks.  Yes, I’m crazy.  You had to ask?

Not only that, I'm crazy enough to post about all three.  With pics!  (At last, you say.)

 

Technically, RavenCon, Richmond VA’s very new science fiction/fantasy con, ran from April 20-22.  But unlike a lot of local sf/fantasy/horror organizations who sit around wringing their hands about where the next generation of fans are coming from, the organizers have mounted a real outreach program.  One that goes out into the local school system and…



Now it’s on to the next challenges.  First there’s the final polish on my ghost cat article, then it’s the beta read of a friend’s first novel.  Part of me is thrilled.  It’s always exciting when someone takes their first writing plunge, but I never know what to say.  It’s all about the sensation of fraud I mentioned earlier.  How can I pretend to be an expert when I know so little? 

 

Fake it.  As usual.  LOL

 

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This might not seem like a big deal, since With Nine You Get Vanyr has been in print since February, but actual bookstore sightings have been few and far between.  But the Pentagon Centre Borders persevered and, thanks to Samhain's new relationship with Ingrams, succeeded in ordering five copies.  (Thank you, Preston!)  Better yet, when I wandered into the store Sunday evening, there were only four left to sign.  Someone had bought one.  (Insert major happy dance here.)
Writers are soooo easy to please.  This raises the verified count of stores carrying Vanyr to four: Cover to Cover (you are carrying it, aren't you quietselkie, user asks nervously), the Landmark Waldenbooks, Turn the Page Bookstore Cafe and the Pentagon Centre Borders.  My uncle in Florida is doing his bit, dutifully visiting local stores and requesting it (all on his own too--I never thought to ask) but so far no luck.
It's been a good day for commerce overall.  My Inner Designer Junkie was unexpectedly sated by a visit to TJ Maxx.  Found a Just Cavalli jacket in my size at a deep discount.  I was so entranced by the print, I didn't notice the buttons were missing until I got it into the fitting room.  Can you say "deeper discount"?  *bg*  Better still, I had the perfect buttons waiting for it at home.  My spring/summer wardrobe is saved!
And I'm almost healthy too.  One more visit to the doctor should do it.  Then it's back to con reportage.  Jana Oliver has placed in the honors section of so many awards since RavenCon, I positively need to blackmail her.  Gotta figure out how she did it...besides writing a great book that is.  ;-)
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RavenCon was a wonderful, wonderful con.  Big thanks to Jana Oliver and Tee Morris for letting me play in their sandbox.  Ditto for the con organizers who did such a superb job.  RavenCon is turning into the little con that could, growing from 450 to over 700 attendees in just two years.  Can't wait to see what they do next year.
It was such a great con I came home with the dreaded Con Crud, so a detailed report--complete with the infamous Strawberry Pic from the equally infamous "Shaken, Not Stirred--Sex in SF & Fantasy Films" panel will have to wait.  But there's a teaser to be found on the Samhain Blog (it's my turn today), and as always there are some great articles on the Fantasy & Enchantment Blog.  With regards to the F&E blog, though, start with the second one from the top.  The April 25 writer is just showing off.  ;)

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Very briefly--to remind everyone it's Thursday Thirteen over at the Fantasy & Enchantment Blog.  Today it's fantasy names, and as a bonus, you'll find introductions to writers Dayna Hart and Melissa Lopez.
Yeah, I need to become a more active presence on F&E, but I'm trying to finish Highway from Hell and get it to the betas next week, and I'm crashing and burning on some copyediting jobs for Samhain.  With Jana Oliver (Sojourn), I'm also prepping a program for a high school in Richmond next week on history in sf and fantasy--two hours of unfettered access to all those young and pliant minds.  Mwahahahahaha!  Should be a great talk.  We plan to cover everything from Blood Ties to The X-Files, with a few kitchen sinks thrown in for good measure.
Will post more when I catch my breath.  Meanwhile, hope you're enjoying the return to more spring-like temps.

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Jean Marie Ward

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