Nurturing creativity with art, animals, and science fiction

Category: Artists Page 1 of 9

Four composite images from the post show eight “New Year Dragon” works of art, four each by featured fantasy artists Theresa Mather, Rachael Mayo, David Lee Pancake, and Randal Spangler, plus a total of eight book covers – four coloring books for adults by Rachael Mayo and four children’s books by Randal Spangler, all with a dragon theme.

My New Year Dragon Project

In February I devoted two blog posts and 16 different social media posts to a “New Year Dragon Project” display of dragon-themed artwork. When I discovered that this Chinese New Year’s animal was the Dragon, I immediately thought about all the amazing artists I know, who paint or sculpt – and indeed, specialize – in dragons. But for the sake of my sanity I settled on only four, whom I know well enough to anticipate they’d be willing to work with me on this project.

New Year Dragon Ladies

I decided to focus the first blog post of the Project on my two New Year Dragon Ladies I asked each to share four pieces and permission to reproduce them on social media and this blog post. All artwork is © by the artist, as noted on the imagery.

This is a square image with the eight artworks featured in this article arranged around a middle where it says, “NEW YEAR DRAGONS by Theresa Mather and Rachael Mayo.” Clockwise from top center the artworks are: “ “Chasing Wisdom,” “Celestial Dance,” “Heart of the Storm,” and “The Astronomer,” all by Mather. “Opal Paradigm, “Emerald Unity,” “Deep Rising 11,” and “Dragon Dance 6,” by Mayo.
Here’s the artwork celebrated in my “New Year Dragon Ladies” post. All artwork is © Theresa Mather or © Rachael Mayo, as noted on the individual compositions.

Practically the very first person I thought of for my New Year Dragon Project was Theresa Mather. I have rarely gone into a science fiction convention art show in the last two decades without a chance to see her latest work.

It also wasn’t hard to decide that Rachael Mayo would be my other featured New Year Dragon Lady. She may classify herself as an amateur at sf art shows, but she is an amateur in the most honorable sense of the word, a master who does the work for the love of it more than to make a living. She knows her craft through and through.

New Year Dragon Gentlemen

I conceived the two posts of the New Year Dragon Project to be a sort of “progressive art show.” The New Year Dragon Gentlemen post provided the second half. The “rest of the story,” if you will.

These posts were considerably longer on art than on words, but when the pictures are worth a thousand each, there should be little more to say. I hope you’ll enjoy these gorgeous pieces!

This is a square image with the eight artworks featured in Jan’s blog post arranged around a middle where it says, “NEW YEAR DRAGONS by David Lee Pancake and Randal Spangler.” Clockwise from upper left, the artworks are: “Eldar’s Secret,” by Spangler; “S’mine” and “Scrapper,” by Pancake; “The Literate Dragon,” by Spangler; “Solstice,” by Pancake; “A Gathering of Dragons” and “Devouring a Good Book,” by Spangler; and “Stormwind,” by Pancake.
Here’s the artwork celebrated in my “New Year Dragon Gentlemen” post. All artwork is © David Lee Pancake or © Randal Spangler, as noted on the individual compositions.

I’ve enjoyed David Lee Pancake’s wonderful resin sculptures for more than a decade. I love his artistry, his originality (check out his Vent Dragons for one notable example!), and his willingness to “go there.” I’m pleased for a chance to bring some of his work more attention. I hope you’ll be intrigued, and explore his website more fully.

And there was never any universe in which Randal Spangler would not have been one of my choices for New Year Dragon Gentlemen. He’s one of my husband’s closest friends. And over the years he and I have not only been friends but also business partners on several ventures. He’s the next-best-thing to family. Give yourself a little while to peruse his extensive galleries, and I think you’ll find his completely different, far more playful take on dragons has an enduring appeal.

This square design shows the covers of Randal Spangler’s four books (current count in Feb. 2024) on a variegated background. Clockwise from upper left: “Counting With the Draglings,” the newest title; “The Draglings Coloring Book,” “The Draglings Bedtime Story,” and “D is for Draglings.” All artwork is © by Randal Spangler. Covers are courtesy of Spangler’s website and (in the case of the coloring book) Amazon.
Please reference the links in the text below for purchasing information.

Books by New Year Dragon Project Artists

We normally don’t think of artists as also being authors (yes, that’s me talking, the exception that illustrates the rule). Two of our New Year Dragon Project artists also push against that expectation, although in less “text-dense” ways.

As I note in the linked blog posts, both Rachael Mayo and Randal Spangler also have books to their name. Rachel has created four coloring books for adults, working with Kaleidoscopia. Randy has a coloring book, but also a growing line of children’s books. He just produced a third children’s title, which is now available through his website.

This square image shows the covers of Rachael Mayo’s four dragon and fantasy art coloring books, each featuring 52 images and designed to be used by people of all ages. They are: Top row L-R, “Dragon Adventure” and “Dragon Adventure 2.” Second row, L-R, “Dragon Adventures 3, Dragons and Friends,” and “Dragon Adventures 4, Fantasy Drawings to Color.” All were published by Kaleidoscopia Coloring books, and all are available on Amazon. All artwork © Rachael Mayo.
Rachael’s four (to date: 2/28/24) coloring books are full of her wonderful art. Follow the links from her Amazon Author Page to find links to more information of purchase.

What did you think of the New Year Dragon Project?

These two posts were considerably longer on art than on words. But when the pictures are worth a thousand each, there should be little more to say. I hope you enjoy these gorgeous pieces!

And please leave me comments.

Do you like this “progressive art show” idea? Would you like to see more artists profiled on my blog posts in this way, perhaps as a “curated just for Artdog Adventures” kind of group show?

About the Author

I’m Jan S. Gephardt, and I’ve been writing this blog since 2009. Since I don’t want to let it die of neglect, even though I’m now too busy to write lots of individual posts. I still plan to come around as often as I can to post new things and keep readers up-to-date with recent posts we’ve run on The Weird Blog for Weird Sisters Publishing. It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s the best I can do for now.

I’m also a novelist, as well as being a paper sculptor. I’m currently in final edits on Bone of Contention, the third novel in my XK9 “Bones” Trilogy. The series centers on a pack of uplifted police dogs who live and solve crimes on a space station in a star system far, far away. It is scheduled for publication September 24, 2024.


Many thanks to Theresa Mather, Rachael Mayo, David Lee Pancake, and Randal Spangler, who provided all the artwork used in this digest post, the two longer “Weird Blog” posts, and the social media posts that were coordinated with this project. All of the artwork in this post is © by the artist listed in each copyright notice. See links in the text above for the book cover sources.

This year’s image is a book with bright bubbles and fairy dust rising from its glowing pages. The words say, “ConQuesT 54 June 2 @12:00 p.m. – June 4 @6:00 p.m.”

Going to ConQuesT

By Jan S. Gephardt

I’ve been going to ConQuesT or about as long as I’ve been going to science fiction conventions. I think of it as my “home con.” It’s sponsored by KaCSFFS (we pronounce it “KAX-fuss”), the Kansas City Science Fiction and Fantasy Society. I was “discovered” by Robin Wayne Bailey and his wife Diana J. Bailey, when I showed my artwork at a relatively short-lived convention at a local community college. That was back in 1982.

KaCSFFS friends introduced me to fandom, provided transportation and shared rooms at other conventions, and opened a new world of wonder and delight to me. I’ve always been grateful for their tutelage and their friendship. I’ve served several times as an officer of the club, most recently a stint from 2010-2017 as Communications Director. I also was the ConQuesT Art Show Director for three inglorious years (2011-2013), until the far more capable Mikah McCullough took over.

So going to ConQuesT is like coming home for me. These days, I’m much more of a program participant than I am concom, but the love hasn’t changed.

Photos of Jan at ConQuesT in Kansas City (in 1985 and 2012), plus at Archon 43 (2019).
Here’s a walk through the decades that I’ve been going to sf cons – and it’s telling that two of the three are from past ConQuesTs. (See credits and panelist identifications below).

Things I’m Looking Forward To

One thing I always look forward to is being on panels. I’m writing this post too early to know exactly what panels I’ll be on. I filled out the Panelist Questionnaire a while back, so I feel a fair amount of certainty that they’ll come up with something for me to do this year!

I’ve asked for an opportunity to do a reading, and expressed my openness to a number of other options. So I guess we’ll see.

Going to ConQuesT as a panelist in recent years has become even more pleasant for me than ever, because we have half-hour breaks between panels. This allows for follow-up conversations, getting from place to place, impromptu autograph-signings, and bathroom breaks. I wish more conventions would add this lovely feature.

I also look forward to seeing old friends at ConQuesT: some from Kansas City, and others “regulars” from other parts of the region. Many times con-runners will work the whole weekend at their own convention, then go to the next one nearby to relax and just be fans hanging out with fans.

And of course I’m looking forward to the Dealers Room and the Art Show!

This year’s image is a book with bright bubbles and fairy dust rising from its glowing pages. The words say, “ConQuesT 54 June 2 @12:00 p.m. – June 4 @6:00 p.m.”
For the first time that I can remember, ConQuesT will not be on Memorial Day Weekend. The convention also has moved to a new hotel. (Image courtesy of ConQuesT 54 website).

Our Dealers Table

Last year, some of my Kansas City friends invited me to join them at their ConQuesT dealer’s table. I’d been contemplating the possibility, but daunted by my persistent night-owl tendencies. No way was I likely to prosper running my own dealer’s table all alone if it meant being alert before 9 a.m. and attempting to make money selling only three titles! But they invited me to Try Something New and join them.

If you’ve followed this blog recently, you probably know that was a fateful first step. I subsequently shared tables at SoonerCon and Archon. This year, my son Tyrell E. Gephardt and I have roped our Household Morning Person, my husband Pascal, into joining us for this convention season. He’ll be the person who primarily runs the Weird Sisters Publishing dealers table.

We also are coming to ConQuesT with considerably more books than just the three “XK9 Book” titles I had with me last year. This year, we not only have the Weird Sisters book Deep Ellum Duet by my sister and co-publisher, G. S. Norwood.

We also have a wonderful range of other excellent books by some of our Kansas City Author Friends. They include books by the two friends who invited me to share their table last year, M. C. Chambers and Karin Rita Gastreich. They also include fellow “Mad Authors Party” friends Lynette M. Burrows and Dora Furlong. And how could we not bring books by our longtime friend Randal Spangler? All in all, it’s a great lineup!

The words say, “Look for Weird Sisters Publishing and Kansas City Writer Friends in the Dealers Room at the Convention!” The imagery includes covers for books by WSP authors Jan S. Gephardt and G.S. Norwood, as well as Kansas City-based writers Lynette M. Burrows, M.C. Chambers, Dora Furlong, Karin Rita Gastreich, and Randal Spangler.
This is the announcement I created about the table, primarily for social media.

The Art Show

For most of my history at science fiction conventions, I’ve primarily been known for my artwork. No one knew me as an author – even though I’ve always been both a writer and an artist. But it takes a LOT longer to finish a book than a piece of artwork. I actually had something to show, as an artist, that would back up my claims that I was one!

And it’s not as if art was ever a minor part of my life. I majored in visual art (printmaking and graphic design) as an undergrad. During both of my teaching careers, I was hired as an art teacher who also could teach publications. After a decade of commercial graphic design work and my “second art-teaching career,” my paper sculpture eventually opened doors to national juried fine art shows around the country.

I’m still doing paper sculpture, although the projects are fewer and farther between now than they have been in a long time. Most of my artwork these days is (once again) graphic design. And as an added bonus, I get to be the Art Director for Weird Sisters Publishing! But the art show still means a lot to me – as I discovered recently at DemiCon. Last year’s ConQuesT Art Show was another marvelous one, under Mikah’s skilled direction. I anticipate this year’s will be, too.

This is a montage of some of my recent paper sculpture. The artworks are: Top Row, L-R: “Common Cliff Dragon – Male,” “Gemflower Outburst,” and “Love in the Storm.” On the next row, L-R: “Overcoming Complications,”  pair from the “Guardians” series in yellow top mats, “Protector” and “Defender;” and “White Clematis with Dragons.” The lower pair of “Guardians,” in green top mats, are “Fierce” and “Brave.” All artwork is © by Jan S. Gephardt.
Here are samples most of my paper sculpture I’m showing this year. All artwork is © by Jan S. Gephardt.

Going to ConQuesT 54

All in all, I’m looking forward to going to ConQuesT this year. I’ve had decades of fun history there. The new Dealers Table project and Pascal’s attendance add adventure to the prospect. And I hope to see a lot of old friends, plus maybe meet some new ones. All of those things add to my anticipation.

Will you be there, too? If you are, I hope you’ll watch for my panels, check out the Art Show, and stop by my Dealer’s Table. Mention that you read this post, and I’ll make sure you get your choice of our badge ribbons!

And if you’re not going to ConQuesT – I know some readers live far away from Kansas City and it’s not practical – I hope you’ll enjoy my next post. I plan to share photos and write about the convention.


I don’t think I was ever sure who took the “historical documents” that show me at ConQuesT in 1985 and 2012, but I can identify my fellow panelists. In the 1985 photo they are L-R: Dell Harris, Ken Keller, me, and the late Roland Schmidt, my former co-teacher and a fantasy watercolorist. BTW, that’s my calligraphy on the name cards, back before desktop printing made them easy to print.

And in the 2012 photo that’s me on the left. Tracy S. Morris sits in the middle with her book Bride of Tranquility. At the right is fellow Kansas City writer, artist, and longtime sf fan Sherri Dean. I owe Tyrell Gephardt thanks for photo of me, masked up behind my then-current collection of signs, books, and S.W.A.G. at Archon 43 (2019).

Many thanks to the ConQuesT 54 website, for their header image. The designs for the social-media image about our Weird Sisters Publishing dealers table and the sampler of my paper sculpture are my work. My paper sculpture is, of course, my original multimedia artwork, all © by Jan S. Gephardt.

The cover art for my book The Other Side of Fear is ©2020 by Lucy A. Synk. Cover art for What’s Bred in the Bone is © 2019 and for A Bone to Pick is ©2020 by Jody A. Lee. The art for G. S. Norwood’s Deep Ellum Duet cover is © 2022 by Chaz Kemp. Many thanks to our Kansas City Author Friends, and in a couple of cases to Amazon, for their cover images. See embedded links above.

This photo by Pascal Gephardt shows the Weird Sisters Publishing Dealers Table at DemiCon 34. Tyrell Gephardt stands behind the table. On the left-hand side, from top to bottom of the display, are copies of Dora Furlong’s “One of Our Own,” then Lynette M. Burrows’ “My Soul to Keep,” “If I Should Die,” and “Fellowship.” On the table level are Jan S. Gephardt’s “The Other Side of Fear,” “What’s Bred in the Bone,” and “A Bone to Pick.” In the middle of the table, we attached badge ribbons to bookmarks and business cards with information about the books the quotes come from. To get a badge ribbon, table visitors also had to take the attached information. On the right side of the table, from top to bottom, are Randal Spangler’s hardbound, fully illustrated children’s books, “D is for Draglings™” and “The Draglings™’ Bedtime Story.” On the next level are “The Draglings™ Coloring Book” and the three volumes of Karin Rita Gastreich’s “Silver Web Trilogy,” “Eolyn,” “Sword of Shadows,” and “Daughter of Aithne.” On the table level are G. S. Norwood’s “Deep Ellum Duet” and M. C. Chambers’ “Midsummer Storm” and “Shapers’ Veil.” Tablecloth design is “Nebula 2,”

My last DemiCon?

By Jan S. Gephardt

DemiCon 34 may have been my last DemiCon. I have a lot of great history with DemiCon as an institution, and as an eagerly-anticipated annual event. I’ve blogged about it in this space for the last several years, as veteran readers of this blog may recall.

It was the convention that primarily inspired my 2019 post “Why I go to SF Conventions.” For a profile of DemiCon at its recent best, take a look at my 2018 post, “My DemiCon 29 Experience.” I had a wonderful time there.

Even the Pandemic didn’t kill my love for DemiCon. Their patient, helpful Joe Struss helped me create “My First Original Video” for Virtual DemiCon in 2020. And they looked as if they were coming back strong in 2022, as reflected in my post “The Best and Worst Time.”

But DemiCon 34 may have been my last DemiCon. At least for a while.

This is a predominantly dark gray image, featuring a drawing of an astronaut with wings against a dark sky with a yellow crescent moon. The words say “Starbase DemiCon: A New World. Des Moines Holiday Inn Northwest, 4800 Merle Hay Rd.
Image courtesy of the DemiCon Facebook Page.

A Series of Unfortunate Events

I figured we were off to another great start last fall, when I received an invitation to attend with a guest as a professional guest (this means the membership fee is waived because I’ll be “paying for it” by appearing on panels. It’s a normal-enough procedure, and I’m always happy to agree). I responded quickly to say quite truthfully that I was looking forward to it.

After that, however, crickets. (Okay, it was winter. But still). Finally in March I figured I’d better find out if they’d forgotten me. As it turned out, they kind of had. There’d been a reshuffling of the con committee in some way. My invitation and acceptance had gotten lost in that shuffle. But Amanda in Programming said of course I’d be welcome, and she’d find ways to fit me onto panels. No author reading, though.

Um, okay. Well, things could still work out. It didn’t have to be my last DemiCon. But unfortunate events and disappointments gradually accumulated.

This is a montage of some of the paper sculpture that Jan would have brought to DemiCon 34 if she’d found the Art Show information. The artworks are: Top Row, L-R: “Common Cliff Dragon – Male,” “Gemflower Outburst,” and “Love in the Storm.” On the next row, L-R: “Overcoming Complications,”  pair from the “Guardians” series in yellow top mats, “Protector” and “Defender;” and “White Clematis with Dragons.” The lower pair of “Guardians,” in green top mats, are “Fierce” and “Brave.” All artwork is © Jan S. Gephardt.
Woulda, Coulda, but missed it! Here’s some of the paper sculpture I would like to have shown at DemiCon this year. All artwork is © Jan S. Gephardt.

Art Show?

I couldn’t find Art Show information online. Turns out it was on their website and they did (let the record show) have an Art Show. It was listed under “Venue” in dim type at the bottom of their index page. I found “Dealers Room” on that drop-down menu, but somehow my eyes kept skipping over “Art Show” (second down after “Anime Room”).

I guess I was always in too much of a hurry to search the fine print. And, perhaps because of the concom shakeup, I also never received a contact from the Art Show Director. Usually I get a cheery email a few months out, asking if I’ll be showing art again this year. That really would have saved me, this year.

So, I didn’t bring any art (thought, “what’s the point?” and we were tight on space). Then, to my dismay, I discovered there was an Art Show after all. I tried not to be too upset, but I never could quite bring myself to go inside and see what was there. I suppose it should be no big deal in the grand scheme. But I was crushed.

Granted, a mistake I made shouldn’t be used as a justification to make this my last DemiCon. But it was one more, particularly searing disappointment on the growing pile of them.

This photo by Pascal Gephardt shows the Weird Sisters Publishing Dealers Table at DemiCon 34. Tyrell Gephardt stands behind the table. On the left-hand side, from top to bottom of the display, are copies of Dora Furlong’s “One of Our Own,” then Lynette M. Burrows’ “My Soul to Keep,” “If I Should Die,” and “Fellowship.” On the table level are Jan S. Gephardt’s “The Other Side of Fear,” “What’s Bred in the Bone,” and “A Bone to Pick.” In the middle of the table, we attached badge ribbons to bookmarks and business cards with information about the books the quotes come from. To get a badge ribbon, table visitors also had to take the attached information. On the right side of the table, from top to bottom, are Randal Spangler’s hardbound, fully illustrated children’s books, “D is for Draglings™” and “The Draglings™’ Bedtime Story.” On the next level are “The Draglings™ Coloring Book” and the three volumes of Karin Rita Gastreich’s “Silver Web Trilogy,” “Eolyn,” “Sword of Shadows,” and “Daughter of Aithne.” On the table level are G. S. Norwood’s “Deep Ellum Duet” and M. C. Chambers’ “Midsummer Storm” and “Shapers’ Veil.” Tablecloth design is “Nebula 2,” ©2021 by Chaz Kemp.
Our son Tyrell Gephardt represents at the Weird Sisters Publishing Dealers Table on Friday 5/5/23. This shot gives a good view of about half of the Dealers Room, as well as the books we offered. Photo by Pascal Gephardt. Nebula 2 tablecloth design ©2021 by Chaz Kemp.

A Very Tight Squeeze

The Big Convention Experiment for this year is a quest to answer the question: Can Weird Sisters Publishing present a profitable Dealers Table at sf conventions? Didn’t have to be super-lucrative, but at least breaking even would be nice. We tried to vary our offerings (and increase the odds of selling things) by including the work of selected Kansas City Author Friends Dora Furlong, Lynette M. Burrows, Randal Spangler, Karin Rita Gastreich, and M. C. Chambers, as well as my books and my sister G. S. Norwood’s Deep Ellum Duet. Happily, we did sell something from almost everyone. But did we break even? No.

Our first challenge was squeezing ourselves into the space. To say the Dealers Room was “cozy” . . . well, check out the photo above. There wasn’t room for our banner. In fact, it’s a good thing I’ve lost about 30 lbs. over the course of the past year (thank you, NOOM!), or I wouldn’t have been able to squeeze through to work the table.

Unfortunately, the aisle space was almost as constricted as the space behind the table. ADA compliance? Ouch! Not so much. The aisles were consistently congested each time I came in, but that doesn’t mean there was room for a lot of traffic. Yes, it was a small con. But as a semi-frequent visitor to the dealers rooms of many conventions, I can tell you I personally would have looked at the congestion and thought, “Nope.” Was that the experience that made me question whether this would be my last DemiCon? Well, no. Not by itself.

A helpful audience member took this photo before the “A.I. Meets SF” panel on Friday night. Left to right, panelists are Steven Southard, Jan S. Gephardt, and David Pedersen.
Taken before the “A.I. Meets SF” Panel on 5/5/23. L-R: Steven Southard, Jan S. Gephardt, and David J. Pedersen. Jan teamed up with one or the other of these men for all but one of her subsequent panels. Photo by Helpful Audience Member Number One, who remained anonymous.

The Best Bright Spot: My Panels

For me, the highlight of this convention was the panels. This is often true. For one, I love to talk about our genre(s), writing, art, and related topics. For another, I generally love working with the other panelists. Most are interesting, knowledgeable, and intelligent people, and would be so in any setting. A well-moderated, intelligent discussion with such people is a delight I relish.

Most of my panels teamed me up with either Steven Southard or David J. Pedersen. The “A.I. Meets SF” panel on Friday 5/5/23 included all three of us. I had a lovely time working with both of them. They’re bright, thoughtful men. I’d met and been on panels with David before, but a major high point of DemiCon 34 was meeting Steven. Our panel discussions were lots of fun, and we had large, intelligent, well-informed audiences. It was a mix of elements practically guaranteed to be both stimulating and fun.

I was on five panels. By the time we got to the final one on Sunday afternoon (where I joined Author Guest Rachel Aukes to discuss “Who Will We Meet in Space?”), I think everyone was exhausted. The audience barely outnumbered Rachel and me, and they seemed little disposed to talk much. But that somewhat “flat note” certainly wouldn’t have been enough, on its own, to make me ask, “Is this my last DemiCon?”

The first bedroom the “night persons” in the Gephardt contingent occupied had two inviting-looking beds with a built-in nightstand and wall sconces between them, with what looked like floor-to-ceiling glass doors and a small balcony facing west. In the photo, some of our luggage is stacked beside and between the beds.
Two queen beds and big, sunny windows provided a deceptively-inviting view. Photo by Jan S. Gephardt.

My Last DemiCon?

In my first book, What’s Bred in the Bone, there’s a chapter titled, “A Combined Weight of Awfulness.” I wouldn’t ascribe “awfulness” to my DemiCon 34 experience (with one exception). But disappointment after disappointment built up through the weekend. The convention committee seemed disorganized. There weren’t many panels that looked interesting to me, outside of the ones I was on. Readings by friends were mostly scheduled against my own panels, so I couldn’t attend them. I didn’t get many other networking opportunities.

But our discovery in one of our rooms would’ve sent us home immediately if we’d been there strictly as fans. A rash of distinctive red bumps rose on several sensitive square inches of my son’s skin. Then he found a rather distinctive little brown bug in his bed. And when you find one, you know there must be more. De-con efforts have continued since we got home, to make sure none infiltrated our luggage.

We had a dealer’s table. I’d made promises to be on panels. We’d bought a program book ad. So we accepted a change of rooms and stayed. But combined with all the other issues and disappointments, this was definitely the nadir of all my convention-going experiences in the more than three decades I’ve been going to conventions all over the country. So DemiCon 34 is likely to have been my last DemiCon. At least for a good long while.


Many thanks to The DemiCon 34 Facebook Page for their Convention header. The artwork displayed in my “woulda” montage is © Jan S. Gephardt. Many thanks to Pascal for the Dealer’s Table photo and to Helpful Audience Member Number One, for the photo of the “A.I. Meets SF” panelists. I took that room pic myself.

Artist Anne Taintor combines an advertising image from the 1940s or 50s of a woman at a stove with the caption, “Why, I’d be delighted to put my needs last again.”

Not Meant That Way

By Jan S. Gephardt

This week I read something that stopped me in my tracks with its unconscious bias. It hit me wrong immediately. I realized it actually was quite offensive. But ever since then I’ve been puzzling through the reasons why. Because it clearly was not meant that way.

What did I read? In this case it was a pair of 42-year-old microaggressions. What made it nag at me so much was that I wanted to be fair, combined the fact that they were not meant that way.

We’ve all heard about microaggressions and unconscious biases by this time. That is, we have unless we’re living under a rock or militantly Not Paying Attention. But unpacking exactly what counts as a microaggression – or how we can become aware of our unconscious biases (pro tip: we all have them) – isn’t clear for most of us. It all seems kinda hard to pin down.

That’s because it is hard to pin down. And that’s usually because we sense that something about it is offensive, even though it’s not meant that way.

Author David Brin, with his early novels “Sundiver” and “Startide Rising.”
David Brin has been an important voice in science fiction (and in science) for decades. Like every intelligent being, he has learned many things since he wrote the unintentional microaggressions quoted in this post. (World of David Brin).

The Origin Story for These Particular Microaggressions

The passage that made me stop and do a double-take came from Sundiver, David Brin’s first novel. That’s the one where he set up the universe for the “Uplift” series. The book dates to 1980 (Startide Rising, the sort-of sequel and the one that made the big, er, splash, didn’t come till 1983). I was reading it because I’ve been going back in time to read or re-read a lot of “vintage” science fiction lately.

Also, since I’m writing about an “uplifted” species, I thought I should refresh my memory of the novels that put that term into widespread science fictional use. I’d gotten roughly a third of the way into the book when I encountered the introduction of the character Helene DeSilva.

She’s been pre-introduced as “the best commandant a Confederacy outpost ever had.” When she first walks into the book, protagonist Jacob Demwa describes her as athletic, blonde, tall, and slender. She opens with a happy announcement in “geek-speak” about the mission. She is presented as a well-educated, capable, intelligent – even extraordinary – person. So far, so good. Brin is clearly bent on following a radical break with tradition in science fiction at that time: presenting female characters as, like, full-fledged, competent people. (You’re shocked, I know).

L-R, the covers for “The Other Side of Fear,” “What’s Bred in the Bone,” and “A Bone to Pick,” by Jan S. Gephardt.
The XK9s are uplifted police dogs who live on a space station. (Weird Sisters Publishing LLC. Cover art, L-R, is ©2020 by Lucy A. Synk, and ©2019 and 2020 by Jody A. Lee).

Insert Foot Into Mouth

Then her (male) boss introduces her this way: “this is Helene deSilva, Confederacy Commandant here on Mercury, and my right-hand man. Couldn’t get along without her.”

A little later, after Jacob learns her age and his reactions to her shift, she says, “I’ve worked too hard at becoming a woman, as well as an officer and a gentleman, to jump from ‘jail bait’ into Social Security.” She also makes it clear that, because he’s the only attractive man on the base who’s not subordinate to her, she’s interested in him sexually.

Oh, my. Where should I start? First of all, he didn’t mean it that way. (How many times have we heard have we heard that before?)

Microaggressions: Brief, everyday indignities that are verbal, behavioral or environmental, that they may not be intentional or unintentionally communicated to women, to people of color, to gay/lesbians that have an insulting message behind them that often time causes severe psychological distress and harm.” – Laurete Education, Inc., 2011
Microaggressors may say or do things that were “not meant that way,” but they’re microaggressions all the same. It’s not the intent, it’s the cumulative effect. (Terry Clarke Blog).

Trying to Imagine What That Would Look Like

Let me state right off the top that the purpose of this post is NOT to beat up on David Brin. I’m reasonably sure he had good intentions. In his daring first novel, which also involved many other complex scientific ideas and dramatic tasks to accomplish, the young author tried to walk what was still an extremely unfamiliar line in 1980.

Among all the other challenges, he sought to portray a woman as a confident, competent leader who was three-dimensional enough to also have “a female side.” But like many white, male science fiction writers of that period, he’d spent his life immersed in the overwhelmingly white and male world of “hard science.”

He probably had never been consciously aware of meeting a real live self-actualized professional woman of the sort he wanted to portray. Hypothetically, he thought they could exist. But he clearly wasn’t sure what such a being would “look like.”

In a Renaissance interior, a man holding a book and woman with embroidery in her lap sit in an elegant room with a younger woman standing nearby. The caption says, “You might have a Ph D in the subject, but according to this Wikipedia article I briefly perused . . .”
In a second Renaissance room, a man and woman stand behind a clerk sitting at a table holding a small scale. The caption says, “Let him finish showing you how it works, dear. Scales can be difficult.”
Nicole Tersigni creates satirical images of mansplaining and other belittling behavior. (Nicole Tersigni/NYTimes).

Unpacking the Part that was Not Meant That Way

But the unconscious assumptions embedded in these lines torpedoed his best intentions. Like many early attempts to do something unfamiliar, it was – perhaps awkward is the kindest way to put it. (And yes, I’m aware of the microaggressions embedded in that comment).

Let’s first talk about the odd uses of male characterizations that we almost never hear anymore: “right-hand man” and “an officer and a gentleman.” Used as they are here, both would today be seen as microaggressions. The assumption that underpins them is that a man (implicitly understood to mean “white, male, and well-educated”) is the ultimate standard by which everything else is measured.

If you’re metaphorically a “man,” you’re being praised as “best-quality,” even if you’re biologically not a man, and therefore (by inferred definition) inferior. It’s the obverse of the assumption that gave us “run like a girl,” “throw like a girl,” “drive like a woman,” and “scream like a little girl.”

In the first picture an old man sits in a chair with a young woman standing behind him. The caption says, “Careful with that equality talk. You don’t want to grow up and be a feminist.”
In the other a young peasant woman with a basket, a child and an older man confront a young gentleman in a top hat. The caption says, “I can see you’re very busy, but I just had to tell you that you’d be so much prettier if you smiled.”
Here’s more of Nicole Tersigni’s wry wit on obnoxious, condescending men. (Nicole Tersigni/NYTimes).

What Lurks Under the Words?

“My right-hand man. Couldn’t get along without her” sounds archaic to most of us today. That’s for good reason. Very few men these days remain unwary (or oblivious) enough to publicly refer to a powerful, competent woman as their “right-hand man.” Not if they expect to survive her wrath, that is.

I should note that the phrase “right-hand man” has a military origin. It dates to the 17th and 18th centuries. Also, it’s often equated with “my man Friday.” That one’s been in the vernacular since 1719, when Daniel Defoe wrote Robinson Crusoe. As you might recall, in that story Friday was an Indigenous man who acted as a servant to the shipwrecked Crusoe. A “man Friday” has been understood ever since as meaning a (racially inferior) servant or assistant. Doubly demeaning in its subtext is the appellation, “Girl Friday.”

“Couldn’t get along without her” is, if anything, even more condescending than the supposedly-flattering elevation to male status. It implies that she exists to ease his way. From there it’s a very short walk to the limiting traditional status of (and the often-unreasonable demands placed upon) a “helpmeet.”

Artist Anne Taintor combines an advertising image from the 1940s or 50s of a woman at a stove with the caption, “Why, I’d be delighted to put my needs last again.”
Anne Taintor comments on traditional women’s roles using mid-20th century ad pictures and biting sarcasm. (Anne Taintor/Bored Panda).

Military Missteps

The “an officer and a gentleman” example just piles it on higher and deeper. It again uses a phrase layered with military tradition. Also, it once again equates being superior (an officer) with being a man (which, of course, used to be literally true). And it lifts “man/gentleman/privileged being” up as the ideal thing to be.

If at this point you’re thinking those phrases really didn’t seem all that obnoxious to you, say hello to your own unconscious bias. Yes, I’m going on and on about a couple of stupid little phrases that weren’t meant to offend anyone. They were not meant that way. Just the opposite, probably. But that’s my point. These are microaggressions because while they may not be meant badly, when you open up the hood on them, they’re monstrous. They “merely” take it for granted that men are better than women. That’s all. Where could the harm possibly lie in that?

Confronting one’s unconscious bias is uncomfortable. It’s exhausting to be more mindful of the subtext that lies within the things we say. A whole bunch of the unconscious stereotyping has been baked into our understandings. So it’s normal to feel overwhelmed and defensive. Especially if people are offended, even though our words were not meant that way.

This is a succinct variation on the sound privilege makes when it gets pinched. (Quotemaster).

Exhaustion Happens, But it’s An Excuse with an Expiration Date

The first response of those who’ve lived their whole lives in a place of privilege, only to find it being challenged now, is often to push back. Aside from that, thinking is hard work. It’s exhausting. It takes a lifetime to build the habit of mindfulness. Worse, we’re going to get it wrong. A lot. Especially at first.

People who’ve always previously had the luxury of not having to worry about who they may offend won’t like this. It’s terribly inconvenient and uncomfortable. So much easier and simpler to attack others by complaining that they are “too woke” and unreasonably “politically correct!”

But most of the world, throughout most of history, hasn’t had such luxury. They’ve been forced to think about every word they say and everything they do in the presence of those with greater privilege. Now demographics are changing. Some population groups are growing. Census experts say the United States will lose its white majority and become a “majority minority” country by 2045. Parts of it have already gone that route. Other parts of the world are experiencing similar shifts.

“Microaggressions add up. No matter how confident people from marginalized or underrepresented communities feel about their identities, microaggressions create unsafe spaces and make individuals feel like perpetual outsiders.” – Mira Yang
Words from someone who can speak on the matter with authority. (The Daily Northwestern, Mira Yang).

Privilege Won’t Let People off the Hook Forever

The handwriting is on the wall. Currently-privileged, dominant-culture white people will become one of the minority groups in the country by mid-century. And unfortunately, contemporary trends give us little hope for a peaceful transition. It’s more likely entitled, privileged white people with power will fight any erosion of their privilege (and their license to offend others without consequences).

But microaggressions add up, and they can be stifling to the recipients. Decades-long trends tell us they’re growing less and less tolerant. Less willing to submit meekly to abuse. Given the kind of demographic shifts we face, it’s not hard to foresee more awareness about microaggressions. And that means the time will come when “it was not meant that way” will no longer be any defense.


The covers for David Brin’s novels and his bio photo all came from his website, “Worlds of David Brin.” Learn more about Sundiver here. Learn more about Startide Rising here. The covers of my (so far) three “XK9 books” about uplifted police dogs on a space station are courtesy of Weird Sisters Publishing LLC. Cover art, L-R, is ©2020 by Lucy A. Synk, and ©2019 and 2020 by Jody A. Lee.

Many thanks to the Terry Clarke Blog for the definition image for “microaggressions.” I’m doubly grateful to the New York Times and Nicole Tersigni for the wonderful glimpses into her book Men to Avoid in Art and Life. Thanks again, Bored Panda and Anne Taintor, for the “Put My Needs Last” image. Some readers may recall that I also used it in G. S. Norwood’s post “A Spotlessly Beautiful Home” last August.

I appreciate Quotemaster for the quote-image from Charleton Heston. And I deeply appreciate Mira Yang’s perspective as one who has been on the “receiving end.” Read her op-ed in The Daily Northwestern for a deeper look at her experiences.

Two Archon 45 headers.

An Archon to Enjoy

By Jan S. Gephardt

I’m a little over a week back from my last in-person science fiction convention. It truly was an Archon to enjoy. Archon 45 offered at least a little bit of everything I’ve come to love about sf “cons.”

This was, of course, far from my only Archon – and if you follow my blog, you know I’ve written about it in the past. You might enjoy some of my past posts about the Art, the Artists, the Writers, the Costumes, the anticipation, and my appreciation of their sensible Covid protocols last year. There were some great costumes this year, too, but I didn’t get very good pictures of any. For better photo coverage, take a look at Elizabeth Donald’s blog post, “Archon 45 is a smash!

Two Archon 45 headers.
Courtesy of Archon 45.

An Art Show to Enjoy

The Archon Art show is always a highlight for me. Not only do I always make a point of showing my artwork in the show, but I also enjoy looking at the strong showing of excellent art that usually shows up.

I reserved two panels, and I think I made a pretty decent showing. Sold a couple of pieces, which is an accomplishment (paper sculpture is hard to price at sf con levels). Cat Conrad was this year’s Artist Guest of Honor. It was fun to see him, and chit-chat a bit. He and I have been friendly acquaintances for a long time.

Many other “regulars” and favorites showed work, too. They added to the elements that made this an Archon to enjoy. Kansas City friends Rachael Mayo and Allison Stein came and brought their wonderful artwork (including gorgeous new 3D work by Rachael Mayo). St. Louis-area artists John E. Kauffman, Craig Skaggs, Brent Chumley, Mike Cole, and Eddie Wilson had Artists’ Alley booths, as well as an Art Show presence. Peri Charlifu, Arden Ellen Nixon, Theresa Mather, Sarah Clemens, and many more also had art in the show, so it added up to another great year of artwork at Archon.

Tyrell E. Gephardt and I both took photos of my Art Show display. I’m not sure whose shot this is. Artwork shown in the photo is ©2012-2022 by Jan S. Gephardt. The gallery of Cat Conrad’s artwork is a screen-grab of 9 publicly shared images on his website. His artwork is © by Cat Conrad.
Cat Conrad’s artwork is a screen-grab of publicly shared images on his website, © Cat Conrad. Jan S. Gephardt’s paper sculpture is ©2012-2022.

An Art Display to Especially Appreciate

But of all the artists in the show, I have to say I really thought Lucy A. Synk brought an unusually wonderful display. And that’s not just because about two-thirds of her panels featured artwork I commissioned.

it’s because there was an unusual quantity of gorgeous original oil, acrylic, and mixed-media paintings, and because several were impressively big. The show-stopper had to be her magnificent Oak Park Halloween painting, which I once blogged about. She also brought some of her mixed-media planetscapes, including the one that won an award at Chicon 8.

Of the “Rana Station” art, in addition to Jogging in Gaudí Park, First Responder, and Hildie, she also brought several “XK9 Portraits.” An all-around outstanding display! But don’t just take my word for it. She won Best of Show, Best Pro Artist, and tied with other artists for Fan’s Choice in the voting at Archon.

This is Lucy’s Archon 45 display, featuring two panels of “Rana Station” art (illustrations commissioned by Weird Sisters Publishing, LLC), and one of assorted other fantasy and science fiction artwork.
All of the artwork on Lucy A. Synk’s panels is ©2019-2022 by Lucy A. Synk.

Panels and Fellow Panelists

For me, a highlight of any science fiction convention is attending panels. In that way, too, it was an Archon to enjoy. I had a fun and lively group of artists, both in the audience (including Rachael Mayo, the ultimate word on dragons) and on the panel for “Do People Still Like Dragons?Brent Chumley, Allison Stein, and Lucy A. Synk officially joined me on the panel. It was mostly about the current state of the art market for fantasy & sf artists. But we quickly established that yes, people do still not just like, but love dragons. They are in no danger of going away.

I got to be the moderator for all of the panels I was on, which I very much enjoy. I like being able to make sure that the audience is involved and able to ask questions. And after a career in teaching I know how to balance out the speakers so everyone gets a turn.

Maintaining balance (and keeping the conversation mostly in English laymen could understand) was my primary challenge for the “Current and Future A.I.” panel! My co-panelists, Bryce Meyer and Jack Glassman are experts in the field, whom I’ve had the pleasure of moderating before. Both are brilliant  – and very enthusiastic. They love above all else to talk about their field. But they’re also respectful, and they take a cue pretty well.

L-R: Matthew Munro, Jan S. Gephardt, and Rhiannon Gonzalez, on the “Cartoons” panel at Archon 45.
Photo ©2022 by Tyrell E. Gephardt.

A Great Note-Taker for a Co-Panelist

The downside of being the moderator is that it’s very difficult to take notes. We had a wide-ranging conversation at the panel titled, “Children’s Cartoons and the Adult Viewer.” My family and I have enjoyed a number of these shows, such as Inside Job, Lower Decks, Centaurworld, She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, and The Owl House. My co-panelists were Nick Butcher, Rhiannon Gonzalez, and Matthew Edward Munro. They brought ideas and reactions about a range of other shows. So did several well-versed audience members. The conversation included straight-up Anime shows and game tie-ins, as well – but unfortunately I can’t tell you their titles.

As the moderator I also couldn’t take notes on “Best Indie Authors of Science Fiction & Fantasy,” either. But fortunately, I didn’t have to! Co-panelist and the other author on the panel, Rachel Neumeier not only took great notes, she turned them into a blog post! For my list, I drew heavily on a post I’d written last year, “Indie Women of Science Fiction.” You’ll see that list included in Rachel’s post, but my write-up expands a bit more on each author, so both might interest you.

I don’t believe Rachel mentioned Jerry Boyd, however. He’s the creator of the “Bob and Nikki” series (now up to 28 titles) Two of our fellow panelists, Cheryl Medley and Linda Wyatt were not writers, but avid readers, who like to specialize in Indie writers for several reasons. Cheryl wore a “Bob’s Saucer Repair” T-shirt (the title of “Bob & Nikki Book 1”) to the panel, but did complain that Jerry had failed to put his name on it anywhere!

The Author portraits of the indie women of science fiction featured in Jan’s blog post are Cheree Alsop, Amy DuBoff, Lindsay Buroker, Jennifer Foehner Wells, and M. D. Cooper.
See credits below.

My Reading

I always like to do a reading at science fiction conventions I attend – and I also love to go to readings, as anyone who’s followed my blog for a while can attest. Over the years I’ve written about authors’ readings at DemiCon, ConQuesT, several at SoonerCon, at Worldcons, the NASFiC SpikeCon, FenCon, and of course, at Archon. Having a chance to share my work with fans was guaranteed to help make this an Archon to enjoy!

This year, however, I didn’t have much advance-time to publicize my reading at the convention itself. It was set for the very first night on the con. So I used social media beforehand, to alert people. It must’ve worked! Most of the people who came were there for my reading. I was originally set to read with D. A. Roberts and Elizabeth Donald, but Roberts had to cancel his attendance.

I had therefore planned to read a slightly longer selection (essentially Chapter Two of Bone of Contention – I’d read Chapter One last year, and several of my listeners were there last year, too). But we ran into technical difficulties that made us run late, and I didn’t have time to read all of mine. I plan to serialize it, plus the next several chapters after that, for my Newsletter subscribers in coming months, however (in case you’re curious).

Elizabeth was able to read all of hers, though! It was a wonderful short story called “Sisyphus,” from her Setting Suns anthology.

L-R: Aaron Hollingsworth and Jan S. Gephardt at the “Hollingsworth & Weird” dealers table, and a clearer view of the Weird Sisters Publishing banner.
Photo of Aaron Hollingsworth and Jan S. Gephardt by Tyrell E. Gephardt.

Hollingsworth and Weird in the Dealers Room

I wrote quite a bit in my post just before Archon this year about my pre-con publicity, my special banner and table-cover, and my plans for sharing a dealers table with Aaron Hollingsworth. Most of those plans worked out pretty well.

I especially liked the chance to share Chapter One of my book What’s Bred in the Bone with prospective readers via a QR Code. A surprising number of people took a postcard, planning to read Chapter One that night and, if they liked it, come back the next day. Imagine my delight when they actually came back the next day to buy books! That definitely made it an Archon to enjoy!

I had a new toy, this time, a Square Terminal. It made things a whole lot easier. And it even prints out a paper receipt! I think exactly one person asked for one, but still! It has Weird Sisters Publishing’s logo on it and everything. Pretty nifty.

It says “Choose Your Next Great Read,” and shows e-reader visualizations of “Sample Chapter One of What’s Bred in the Bone,” and “Sample Chapter One of A Bone to Pick.” The left-hand QR code takes readers to the free download for Chapter One of “What’s Bred in the Bone,” while the QR code on the right leads to the free download for Chapter One of “A Bone to Pick.”
The cover art for What’s Bred in the Bone and A Bone to Pick is ©2019-2020 by Jody A. Lee.

An Archon to Enjoy – And I’m Already Looking Forward to the Next!

My Archon experience was good enough (and made enough money for me) to decide that Weird Sisters Publishing will have a dealers table from now on. Next spring, when the conventions start up again, I’ll actually have more titles (though people will have to wait a bit longer for Bone of Contention).

We plan to sell my sister’s two Deep Ellum stories as a single printed book, titled Deep Ellum Duo. We’ll also have print editions of the four novels in my late brother-in-law Warren Norwood’s Windhover Tetralogy. We’ll release all of these books this winter, so stand by for further updates on that!

All in all, as you probably have gathered, it was totally an Archon to enjoy. I’m already looking forward to next year!


Some of the photos and illustrations I’ve used here have also turned up in other posts or on social media. Anything not credited is a photo or montage of photos that I took and assembled. I assembled the other montages, too, but the images in them have several sources.

Both Archon 45 headers are courtesy of Archon 45. Tyrell E. Gephardt and I both took photos of my Art Show display. I’m not sure whose shot this is. Artwork shown in the photo is ©2016-2022 by Jan S. Gephardt. The gallery of Cat Conrad’s artwork is a screen-grab of publicly shared images on his website. His artwork is © by Cat Conrad.

All of the artwork on Lucy A. Synk’s panels is ©2019-2022 by Lucy A. Synk. I took the photos with her permission (indeed, her cooperation). I’m using them here with her permission.

The photos of me at the Cartoons panel and with Aaron Hollingsworth at the Hollingsworth & Weird dealers table are both ©2022 by Tyrell E. Gephardt. I’m using them here with his permission.

The images of the “Indie Women of Science Fiction” are courtesy of the authors’ websites or social media, via my blog post. This montage was originally published (with full credits) on The Weird Blog and the two “Artdog Adventures” blogs. The artwork on the book covers with the QR codes in the last picture is ©2019 and 2020 by Jody A. Lee.

L-R: Aaron Hollingsworth at a recent book-signing; the Weird Sisters Publishing banner for the dealers room table, and Jan with Weird Sisters books at Archon 44.

Packing up for Archon

By Jan S. Gephardt

This week I’m packing up for Archon 45. I’m set to depart on Thursday, and I have a very full weekend planned. If this blog post is a little shorter than some, it’s because this week, of all weeks, time is of the essence. In addition to all of the “necessary maintenance” stuff there is to do on any given week, packing up for Archon tops the priorities!

It’s a broad-spectrum effort. If you’ve followed this blog for the last several months you’ve been a secondary witness to a recent change in my approach to conventions. In May, for ConQuesT 53, I decided to Try Something New. I dipped my toe into the idea of spending part of my time at a dealers table, and it worked out better than I expected.

L-R: Karin R. Gastreich at her end of our table; M. C. Chambers and Jan S. Gephardt, also at our table.
We weren’t far from the Art Show – you can see it behind Karin R. Gastreich (L). At another time, M. C. Chambers and I posed for a photo. (See credits below).

Testing My Hypothesis

When it came time for the next convention, SoonerCon (#30 this year, in Oklahoma City, OK), I decided to test that hypothesis some more. Had my initial experience been a fluke? I had A Very Busy SoonerCon, and discovered that, no – it wasn’t just a one-off. That was a good experience, too. Nothing of that sort worked out for me with Chicon 8, the Worldcon in Chicago. Indeed, I actually ended up not going (“too expensive” headed a list of reasons), more focused more on Using My Time Well in other pursuits. Thus, I couldn’t test it further.

Until now.

I am packing up for Archon with some new equipment: A custom-made table cover (its design is based on a nebula image I licensed from Chaz Kemp, and I think it looks wonderful) and a 71-inch-tall banner to back up my end of yet another dealers table. This time we’re calling it Hollingsworth & Weird – once again, I’m depending on a trusted partner (who’s also a “morning person”) to make sure the table is staffed as much of the time as possible.

L-R: Aaron Hollingsworth at a recent book-signing; the Weird Sisters Publishing banner for the dealers room table, and Jan with Weird Sisters books at Archon 44.
As I’m packing up for Archon 45, I have lots of plans for this convention! (See credits below).

Introducing the Hollingsworth Part of Hollingsworth & Weird

In this case my intrepid partner is a Kansas City-area science fantasy writer, Aaron Hollingsworth. He’s worked with me before, and I know him as a trustworthy go-getter with a strong work ethic. He normally stakes out a place in the dealers room at the conventions he attends. He tells me he prefers to interact with readers individually, face-to-face, rather than participate in panels.

You might enjoy his literarily-witty novels and novellas, such as The Broken Bards of Paris, The Broken Brides of Europe, and The Apothecary of Mantua. He’s also the author of numerous role-playing game supplements for D&D 3.5 and Pathfinder, most under the series names Shattered Skies and Porphyria.

Aaron Hollingsworth’s author-bio illustration, with 6 of his titles: the books “The Apothecary of Mantua” and “The Broken Brides of Europe,” and four of the RPG guides he has written.
Aaron Hollingsworth and some of the books he has written. (See credits below).

Let us not Forget the Weird Part

I’ll be there to represent Weird Sisters Publishing. We’re in the process of preparing my late brother-in-law Warren C. Norwood’s  vintage series, The Windhover Tetralogy for re-issue in new e- and paperback editions. But they won’t be ready till this winter. My sister G. S. Norwood has a couple of wonderful novelettes available as the Deep Ellum Stories – but they’re short works currently in e-editions only.

Thus, when I’m packing up for Archon this year, the only physical books I’ll have available to sell are still my three XK9 stories: the prequel novella The Other Side of Fear and XK9 “Bones” Trilogy Books One and Two, What’s Bred in the Bone and A Bone to Pick. This is the same lineup I’ve successfully taken to the other conventions this season.

Unfortunately, it’s a fairly small pile of books. In my opinion, it’s still too small to justify taking up a whole table, plus covering the membership and time of a dedicated “morning person” to run it. I’m eager to fill out the Trilogy next year with Bone of Contention, and to start offering Warren’s books. But I’m also very pleased that in the meantime I could find a tablemate who’s as reliable and proactive as Aaron!

Weird Sisters Publishing: We have tales to tell. This picture shows covers for The XK9 Series, Deep Ellum Stories, and The Windhover Tetralogy.
We have a growing list of tales to tell . . . but not all are in print yet! (The Other Side of Fear cover is © 2020 by Lucy A. Synk. The other two XK9 covers are ©2019 and 2020 by Jody A. Lee. The background nebula (also used for the dealers table cover) and all the rest of the covers are ©2019-2021 by Chaz Kemp).

And Speaking of Bone of Contention . . . My Reading!

I normally request to have my reading scheduled later in the day on Saturday, or even on Sunday of the convention. That gives me a good part of the weekend to promote it. But that doesn’t always happen. At Archon 45 it’s scheduled at 7 p.m. on Friday night. That makes it my first scheduled Programming item. No chances to promote it on panels before that! So I’ll have to rely on social media to alert people to it, and hope enough notice it to bring some listeners in!

Depending on who shows up and what they prefer, I have a number of options. There are a couple of scenes from Bone of Contention that I could share (I read an early version of Chapter One last time). I also have fun scenes from a couple of short stories I wrote as exclusives for my Newsletter subscribers (each month I offer them a free downloadable story or XK9-related project).

Which Shall I Choose?

Which story would you choose, if you attended my reading? Use the Comments section of this post if you’d like to weigh in with opinions. Can’t attend the reading, but you’re interested in one or more of these? Subscribe to my Newsletter!

The banner shows a 3D mockup of the story’s cover on an e-reader, an empty park bench, and the words, “Shady couldn’t see the entity on the bench in Glen Haven Park, but she could clearly smell it.”
Design and e-book text © 2021-22 Jan S. Gephardt (with help from 123rf and BookBrush). Shady portrait ©2020 by Lucy A. Synk.
Alongside a visualization of the story as an ebook, the words say: Happy New Year! In a “target-rich environment” of marks and johns, Charlie’s after grifters, pimps . . . and his crooked partner. Can he survive to greet the New Year?
Jan created this banner with a little help from her friends at BookBrush and 123rf. Story © 2021 by Jan S. Gephardt.
The banner shows a 3D mockup of the story’s cover on an e-reader, plus the headline, “What else could possibly go wrong?” Under that, it says, “Left to sift through a jumble of reeking, noisome trash for possible evidence, Officer Pamela Gómez and rookie Detective Balchu Nowicki strive to stay professional. They do their work well, despite the stench and the complexity of the site. But then their day gets worse . . . “ There’s also the credit line: “Cover artwork ©2022 by Chaz Kemp.”
Anywhere but Sixth Level Artwork ©2022 by Chaz Kemp. Story is ©2022 by Jan S. Gephardt.

Packing up for Archon, I Added Another Idea to Test: QR Codes!

As partial compensation for fact that the early reading has truncated some of my publicity efforts, I’m also trying a different “test project.” We’ll see if it turns out to be a good idea or not. You may have noticed that QR codes, those funny-looking splotchy square or circular patches, have started turning up in more and more locations. Some people find them irritating or inscrutable, but more and more of us have started using our smartphones to scan them for a fast link to a web page or other online material.

Earlier this year, Weird Sisters Publishing created downloadable versions of Chapter One for each of my XK9 “Bones” Trilogy novels that’s available so far. But it only just recently dawned on me as I started packing up for Archon that I could create QR codes to take people to those “free samples” even more quickly and easily (I know: Well, duh! Right??). So I generated a QR code for the downloadable first chapter of What’s Bred in the Bone and added it to the label on my postcards that I give out at the convention.

It says “Choose Your Next Great Read,” and shows e-reader visualizations of “Sample Chapter One of What’s Bred in the Bone,” and “Sample Chapter One of A Bone to Pick.” The left-hand QR code takes readers to the free download for Chapter One of “What’s Bred in the Bone,” while the QR code on the right leads to the free download for Chapter One of “A Bone to Pick.”
The cover art for What’s Bred in the Bone and A Bone to Pick is ©2019-2020 by Jody A. Lee. Scan the QR codes to go to the sample chapters, or click on the links in the titles. QR codes were generated via QR Code Generator.

But Wait! There’s Also Art!

Yes, I’m also bringing my paper sculpture to Archon 45. Lucy A. Synk will be there too, with most of her “Welcome to Rana Station” display from Worldcon (other than the artwork she sold there). You’ll probably see lots more about the Archon 45 Art Show in one or more future posts on this blog.

Meanwhile, if you’d like to see highlights from past Archon Art Shows, you might enjoy my blog posts Artwork at Archon 43 and Artists at Archon 44.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to finish packing for Archon 45!


Unless otherwise stated, all of the photography and graphic design in this blog post was created by Jan S. Gephardt. In the first picture, Deb Branson, my intrepid proofreader, took the photo of M. C. Chambers and Jan at their ConQuesT 53 table.

In the second picture, that’s Aaron Hollingsworth at a book-signing. It was held at Readers World in Sedalia, MO on August 13, 2022. Jan accessed it via Aaron’s public Facebook page. The photo of Jan with Weird Sisters books at Archon 44 by Tyrell E. Gephardt.

In the third montage, Jan got Aaron’s Author photo from his website, and acquired his book covers for The Apothecary of Mantua and The Broken Brides of Europe from Amazon. She represented his RPG titles with a screen-capture of four listings on that page of his website.

The fourth montage is lifted from the Weird Sisters website. It features the work of Lucy A. Synk, Jody A. Lee, and Chaz Kemp. The rest are graphics originally designed for Jan’s Newsletter (Sign up for it here!). See the credits in their cutlines with copyright notices and links to the sources’ websites.

These are some of the newest variations I’ve been exploring.

Bits and Pieces of Inspiration

By Jan S. Gephardt

Sometimes a creative person “takes dictation from God” (or the muse, or whatever divine inspiration you want to evoke). That’s when the flow is strong and all the words, strokes, notes, or steps come out just right. Other times we are like gleaners coming into a field after the harvesters have been there. That’s when we find ourselves scrambling to find bits and pieces of inspiration.

For the past few days I’ve been in the “scrambling gleaners” group. All over the place mentally. With lots of disparate “input” coming my way. The bits and pieces of inspiration are like little sparkling jewels scattered through deep straw. They’re there. But what do they mean? How can I bring them together into some kind of a “whole” that works?

“Take your inspiration from wherever you find it, no matter how ridiculous.” — Roy H. Williams
Words to live by. Especially the “ridiculous” part. (Quotefancy).

Bits and Pieces

A great example of “bits and pieces of inspiration” lurks in my studio. They are paper sculpture projects I started years earlier but for various reasons couldn’t figure out how to finish. These are not “failed projects,” mind you. They just have to wait to be rediscovered at an opportune moment.

You see, when it comes to creative projects, I follow the adage “never throw anything away.” This drives my “neatnik” son crazy sometimes. But I’ve learned the hard way. About the time I think I’m never going to need something, a serendipitous idea tends to happen along. All at once, it’s the perfect “writing prompt” for the next scene. Or it’s a handy piece of already-drawn, colored, sculpted, and assembled artwork to match with this other thing that didn’t work with the original concept.

I do this often in my writing. But it’s easier to illustrate the idea with my paper sculpture.

The first dragon of the pair: top, the original 2014 drawing on a circle. L-R below: The first of several compositions to “star” this dragon was “Blue Pounce,” 2016. Another variation is “Aka-Bekko Dragon,” 2017, featuring iridescent paint and a scale pattern based on koi fish.
From its start as a drawing in 2014 (top), this little dragon “starred” in several art pieces. At left, Blue Pounce, 2016. At right, Aka-Bekko Dragon, 2017, inspired by the colors of a kind of koi fish. All images are ©2014-2017 by Jan S. Gephardt.
The second, “under-dragon” made its appearance in 2016. Pencil and ink on a tracing paper overlay ensured the two dragons intertwined as I wanted. Then I tested a variety of colors for the next layer.
The “under-dragon” didn’t go through quite as many variations, but after creating it as a pencil and ink drawing on an acid-free tracing paper overlay I tested it in several colors. Artwork is ©2016 by Jan S. Gephardt.

A Tale of Two Dragons

For a long time I’d had a concept of trying to create a circular composition with dragons in midair. I tried several sketches and they just didn’t please me. Nothing looked quite right to me. Finally in 2014 I got a “leaping dragon” on a circular trajectory that I liked. But when I tried to do a “reflected” version of that sketch for the “other half” of the draconian air-circle, it didn’t work. They were awkward with each other. Their tails didn’t fit. It was just bad.

I needed a different dragon. Tracing paper overlays and more frustration followed. I did “dragon variations” on the first design for other purposes. I sculpted it in larger and smaller sizes and made it different colors. Created Koi-patterned approaches. Painted it with iridescent paint before I cut and sculpted it. Most of those experiments sold within a few showings, so people must’ve found them interesting. But I wasn’t satisfied.

“Common Cliff Dragon – Male” at left is Jan’s best-selling multiple original. It depicts a cliff-dwelling dragon in “mating plumage.” At right, “Coming Through!” features an assertive unicorn stomping through a patch of daylilies.
Left-to-right: Common Cliff Dragon-Male and Coming Through! are shown in roughly proportional sizes. Both are multiple-original paper sculptures are ©2012-2022 by Jan S. Gephardt (these multiple-original iterations of the edition were sculpted and assembled in 2016).

Sometimes it Works, Sometimes it Doesn’t

Of course, I was working on other artwork during this time, as well as writing (and repeatedly rewriting) the manuscript that eventually became What’s Bred in the Bone. That was also the period when I designed Coming Through! and Common Cliff Dragon – Male. Both of those worked exactly as originally designed. Why couldn’t all of my pieces do that?

Because they don’t, that’s why. Sometime in 2016 I finally drew a second dragon that I thought really interacted well with the first. I’d at last managed a good “Yang” to the first dragons “Ying.” They didn’t look like they were fighting, though, so I scrapped that thought. By this time it was 2016, and there was plenty of other strife in the world. But they still needed a background. They couldn’t just do their love-dance in a void. They needed context.

These are some of the newest variations I’ve been exploring. Each piece is 2-3 layers deep and each level has a different color under the same drawing. Bottom levels are darkest (greens, blues, and orange tones), and the upper levels are white. The largest is a 3-inch square. Smaller pieces are 1-inch squares or 1X2-inch rectangles.
Here are the latest “enigmatic pieces” I’ve been working on. The largest is a 3-inch square. It’s a decade-long project: the original ink drawings were made in 2012. All images are ©2012-2022 by Jan S. Gephardt.

Picking Through the Bits and Pieces of Inspiration

So I started digging through the boxes and bins of “parts” in my studio. I’d been doing paper sculpture for quite a while by then. It took going through various phases before I kind of “found myself.” That process had left behind lots of bits and pieces. And when I say “lots” I do mean LOTS.

Here are the contents of two more bins from my studio. They are designs based on a variety of flower and branch forms.
People familiar with my work might recognize some of these “art parts,” from finished pieces in which I’ve used other versions of them. You might even be able to spot some in other photos in this blog post! All images are ©2012-2022 by Jan S. Gephardt.

These bits and pieces of “art parts” vary in style and polish of execution. Some just don’t go together. Some ideas occur to me as a single composition that’s all one drawing. An example of that? Common Cliff Dragon – Male. (The linked blog post goes into greater detail than I can here). It’s made of several pieces, but I did a “base drawing” then made overlays for the parts that needed to be executed separately.

That “needed to be executed separately” part is the thing that all too often gets me into trouble. When I try to bring several pieces that I made separately together into one composition I sometimes discover that I’ve gauged the scale slightly wrong. Or I’ve unintentionally varied the styles. Or maybe the pieces just “fight” with each other visually.

Here are yet more bins full of “art parts.” Most are flower or plant forms, some of which have showed up in other pieces of my artwork. Others include a lioness and an assortment of dragons. Some of those dragons have appeared in my finished art, but not all.
Again, some of you may recognize a number of these “art parts.” Can you spot some of them in other photos in this blog post! All images are ©2012-2022 by Jan S. Gephardt.

Chaos Waiting for Order

When the “art parts” don’t play nice with each other, they go into my holding boxes with the other quarrelsome bits and pieces. I’m not planning to stop making paper sculpture anytime soon, and I’m a patient woman. I mean, seriously. If I were an impatient artist I’d be making some other style of art!

So I put them in a box with some of their other troublesome cousins, and I keep cooking up new things. Or new combinations of old things. Take the pair of brand-new originals I debuted at Chicon 8 last week. Both are the result of “voyages of discovery” through the bits and pieces that hadn’t worked all that well in earlier combinations. Or they did work well, but that piece came together, was sold, and I’d thought it was completed. In this case, I found a background in my files that offered interesting potential. Here’s how the “variations” came out.

Here are two different artistic expressions on the same background “base design,” each piece “recycles” paper sculptural bits and pieces in a different way.
Variations on a background: each of these original works uses a common background drawing, but for quite different creative statements. L-R: Overcoming Complications and Gemflower Outburst, both © 2014-2022 by Jan S. Gephardt.

Love in the Storm

Remember the “Tale of Two Dragons,” above? When I left off in that story, I finally had a dragon pair that I liked, but not a background. What to do? Seeking inspiration, I went back through my bits and pieces. Eventually I found a “crashing wave” that looked promising. It hadn’t worked out as the background of an earlier piece, but I figured I might need it sometime. For something.

Well, that might work, I thought. So I made three copies of it and went to work. With a little cutting and fitting, it created a great background (in my opinion) for my “air-circle” dragons. I stepped back, lived with it for a while, and realized the waves formed a sort of a heart-shape. Woot! Serendipity won the day! That’s the origin-story for Love in the Storm, now a steadily-selling limited edition of multiple originals.

A green dragon and a red dragon conduct a wild mating dance in an atmosphere full of crashing waves.
The original composition of Love in the Storm finally came together in 2016. This paper sculpture is ©2014-2016 by Jan S. Gephardt.

Bits and Pieces of Inspiration

I look upon my boxes and bins of “art parts” as bits and pieces of inspiration. They continue to yield up treasures from time to time, although sometimes it takes years. I’ll give you another example, The Silver Lady Appears.

I started with a set of Alhambra-inspired columns in 2012 and tried a bunch of ideas and combinations that didn’t work. No matter what I did with it, it looked like a stage-set waiting for the actors. Probably close to a dozen ideas “auditioned” on that stage. Nope. Nada. Nothing.

Nothing, that is, until I found a way to paper-sculpt and assemble acid-free tracing paper. Then the Silver Lady materialized on the stage that had been waiting more than half a decade for her. And at that point the piece came right together.

The Silver Lady appeared at last in 2020, on the stage that had been in the process of being prepared for her since 2012.
It took from 2012 to 2020, but she finally showed up. The Silver Lady Appears, ©2012-2020 by Jan S. Gephardt.

After all that, you probably know what kind of advice I’m going to offer to anyone who’s involved in a creative pursuit in any field. However you do it, be it in a journal, digital files, or half-a-dozen bins of “art parts,” don’t throw away your “didn’t quite work” ideas. You never know when your next project might need some of those bits and pieces of inspiration!


Most of the images in this post are straight out of the author’s digital files. All of the paper sculpture in this post is original artwork © 2012-2022 by Jan S. Gephardt. She also created all of the montages. Many thanks also to Quotefancy, for the Roy H. Williams quote at the top of the post.

Three photos focus on the three authors’ displays on the “Bad Bards and Beyond” sales table.

A Very Busy SoonerCon

By Jan S. Gephardt

SoonerCon 30 was a very busy SoonerCon for me. I had a chance to once again share one end of a sales table (this time in the Creators Alley). But I didn’t want to give up being on panels or in the Art Show. This was guaranteed to be a little crazymaking.

But it was so lovely to be back at SoonerCon! It’s one of my favorite conventions, as you can see if you look through my past blog posts about it. In a lot of ways it feels like an “adopted second ‘home con.’” SoonerCon has been very good to me, my artwork, and my books over the years!

So, during the Pandemic I contributed several sets of autographed XK9 books and one of my larger pieces of paper sculpture to their online auction fundraiser. I contributed to their Kickstarter, too. And I made sure I bought space for Weird Sisters Publishing in their digital and program Book advertising. In my opinion all of those efforts to support the convention are “Win-Win” efforts. When SoonerCon survives and thrives, my businesses have an excellent outlet for this and future years.

The Weird Sisters Publishing ads at SoonerCon 30 included three digital images at left, and a print ad in the program book.
Three digital ads and a print ad helped both SoonerCon and Weird Sisters Publishing. (images from Weird Sisters Publishing LLC).

A Very Busy SoonerCon Art Show

In its former home at the Reed Conference Center the SoonerCon Art Show was shoehorned into a relatively small space. Everything was cramped, and the sightlines were short. You couldn’t back up to view a whole panel without the risk of running into someone else’s art panel. Not so in their new home at the Embassy Suites by Hilton Norman Hotel & Conference Center!

This year the SoonerCon Art Show was enormous, and the artwork was of very high quality. I enjoyed wonderful displays from Artist GoH Elizabeth Leggett, plus Rachael Mayo, Lucy A. Synk, and almost everyone else I pointed out in my two ConQuesT 53 Art Show posts. Chaz Kemp, Peri Charlifu, and other notable members of the Convention Artists Guild turned out in force with large and beautiful collections.

Two photos from the SoonerCon Art Show portray Jan’s display of paper sculpture and Lucy A. Synk’s paintings and prints.
Two SoonerCon Art Show display panels show work by Jan S. Gephardt and Lucy A. Synk. (See credits below).

Other artists whose work caught my eye? Vanessa Green’s embroidery, Brooke Lydick’s quilting, and Rachel Karch’s striking mixed-media/polymer clay provided marvelous examples of striking work in unusual media. I loved the ingenuity of Joshua Cook’s imaginative metal sculptures of fantasy creatures (or are they machines?). Kelly Stoll, whom I understand to be Rachael Mayo’s sister, created exquisite fantasy miniatures on brooches and pendants. But the tour de force (and a top crowd-pleaser) of the entire, massive show were the amazing dioramas of Beth Lockhart. Lockhart also displayed beautiful painted gourds and chainmail dragons.

A Very Busy SoonerCon Panelist Schedule, too!

Before I knew I’d be holding down one end of a sales table all weekend, I had told the Programming people to “use me and abuse me.” At most conventions, my appearances on panels have been the major way I can communicate anything about myself, my artwork, and my books. I also (as I’ve mentioned a few hundred times in my blog posts) love to moderate panels, even though it’s extra work. The SoonerCon Programming people know this. They also seem to think I do a decent job of it, so I moderate a lot of my SoonerCon panels.

Two photos from my reading.
I love going to readings, but this year I only got to one: my own, along with (L-R: Selina Rosen, an unidentified audience member, Melinda LeFevers, Donna Frayser, and Tim Frayser. (See credits below).

A Very Busy Schedule, Indeed

This created the perfect recipe for a very busy SoonerCon programming schedule! On Friday I had two panels, one of which I moderated, plus an Author Reading. It was the only one I managed to attend. That night, the Art Show Reception provided a great chance to see the show and visit with lots of people. On Saturday, in addition to my Autographing session, I moderated three panels and enjoyed a late-evening Artists’ Chat. That turned out to be quite interesting and enjoyable. I hope they keep it on as a repeating feature!

On Sundays, I always ask not to be scheduled opposite Art Show check-out. Occasionally programming people ignore this, but I always appreciate it when I don’t have to throw myself on my son Ty’s mercy to avoid messing up the Art Show Staff’s teardown/load-out schedule. This time the programmers managed to both respect my Art Show commitment and schedule me for one last panel – a fun one called “Wry Wit for Writers: Humorous Fiction.” We laughed a lot, and I was pleased to be able to join the fun.

Three photos focus on the three authors’ displays on the “Bad Bards and Beyond” sales table.
L-R: Rie Sheridan Rose created a copper-pipe “Steampunk” rack to display her books, DVDs, and other materials. In the center of the table are polymer clay figures, magnets, four books and other items from Mel. White. On the other end is Jan’s display of signs and XK9 books. (See credits below).

“Bad Bards and Beyond” – Another Shared Sales Table

The final part of my recipe for a very busy SoonerCon came from the last-minute addition of the “Bad Bards and Beyond” sales table. (Our books and I are the “Beyond” part). This table was almost as successful as my table at ConQuesT 53. That’s even though all the other commitments meant I spent considerably less time working it. We may have been positioned at the end of a long hallway, but there was a lot happening “out in our neck.” Things never got dull that I saw, and traffic stayed pretty busy.

My table-mates were Mel. White (Dr. Mel. White, Ph.D., to be formal) and Rie Sheridan Rose, both from Texas. I’ve know Mel. for what seems like donkeys’ years through the conventions, and she and Ty have independently struck up a pleasant friendship. We memorably hung out a lot together at NorthAmericon ’17 in Puerto Rico. I’ve known Rie less well, but we’ve amicably bumped into each other at SoonerCon, FenCon, and probably others in the past. The three of us spent the weekend deciding we made a pretty good team and planning to meet again at FenCon . . . but then a development made it important to cancel my attendance at the September convention.

Jan traveled with Weird Sisters Publishing signs, copies of her books, and bookmarks to Archon 44 in 2021.
Here I am with my “traveling display” at Archon 44 in 2021. (Tyrell E. Gephardt).

Meet My “Bad Bards and Beyond” Table-Mates

Mel. White

Mel. White’s bio on her Amazon page (she doesn’t seem to have an author website) describes her as a “Professor, scientist, artist, author, educator, and former computer programmer [who] writes science fiction and draws webcomics.” She and the late Robert Asprin created the “Duncan and Mallory” graphic novels (there were three), first published by Starblaze Graphics, 1986-1988. Aspirin died in 2008. Mel. has written many anthologized stories over the years. With co-author John DeLaughter, she re-launched the “Duncan and Mallory” series in 2018.

She earned her Ph.D. in Information Science in 2014, and followed that with work on a degree in Egyptology. Mel. is an adjunct professor (Egyptology and Anthropology) at Dallas College Richland Campus. She also works on dinosaur bones at the Perot Museum and pursues other pursuits. A longtime and accomplished filker, her music is part of the reason we called our table “Bad Bards And Beyond,” though I’m less sure about the “bad” part.

Rie Sheridan Rose

I’m grateful that Rie has a website, where it’s been easier to find (dated) biographical information. When her bio says she’s “contributed to innumerable anthologies,” she’s not kidding! Her Amazon Author Page goes on for pages and pages. Most of the items listed are anthologies. She’s also a prolific poet, as well as a filker and lyricist (the other part of the “Bards” in the table’s name).

But she’s also up to twelve novels now, if her website’s “My Work” page is up to date. Many are fantasy works. She’s also the author of the 5-book Conn-Mann Chronicles Steampunk series, as well as other Steampunk books and stories. In the “Steampunk spirit,” she’d created a fun little book rack for her end of our table, made of copper pipes.

The “Duncan And Mallory” series in their original covers by Mel. White form part of a montage that also shows Mel’s “Syskitty” avatar, which she uses on Facebook, Rie Sheridan Rose’s author photo, and the series image for Rie’s “Conn-Mann Chronicles.”
My table-mates Mel. White and Rie Sheridan Rose have produced a number of interesting fiction projects. (See credits below).

As you can imagine, all of these elements came together to create a very busy SoonerCon 30 for yours truly. But, as SoonerCon always proves to be for me, it also was a fun, stimulating, and utterly worthwhile weekend. I’m already looking forward to next year!


Jan S. Gephardt took many of the photos in this post myself (as noted in cutlines). She designed all of the advertising and other graphics for Weird Sisters Publishing with skillful help from illustrations © by Chaz Kemp, Lucy A. Synk, and Jody A. Lee and used with authorization. The photo of Lucy’s artwork display was taken with her permission. My son Tyrell E. Gephardt took the photos of my art display in the SoonerCon Art Show. He also took the photo of me with all my books and signs at Archon 44 (2021).

The photos from my reading portray fellow authors/readers Selina Rosen, Melinda LaFevers, and Tim Frayser, along with his wife Donna Frayser and an unnamed audience member. All photos were taken with permission by their subjects.

The “Mel And Rie” Montage pulled imagery from several sources. The original three “Duncan and Mallory” covers are part of a screen-capture from Google Search. Mel’s Facebook avatar, “Syskitty,” came from her Facebook page. Rie’s author photo came from her Amazon Author Page. The “Conn-Mann Chronicles Series” graphic is courtesy of the Amazon page for that series. Many thanks to all!

A panoramic view of the ConQuesT 53 Art Show tops photos of Mikah and Renji (Kat is camera-shy).

A Show full of GoHs

By Jan S. Gephardt

The ConQuesT 53 Art Show was certainly a “Show full of GoHs.” Perhaps I should unpack that a bit. In fannish circles the acronym “GoH” stands for “Guest of Honor,” and is pronounced “go.” Every science fiction convention invites several headline guests. They appear, generally all- or most-expenses-paid by the convention committee, to attract people to the convention.

In the early years, the GoHs (plural for “GoH,” pronounced “goes”) were nearly all authors. And still today the “Author GoH” usually gets listed first. As conventions and sub-fandoms proliferated, though, we also began to see Media GoHs, Fan GoHs, Special GoHs. And – most important for this post, Artist GoHs.

I arrived at this post’s title when I wandered from display panel to display panel and realized “this really is a show full of GoHs.” I counted five (I apologize if I missed any!), including this year’s Artist Guest, who’ve been Artist Guests of Honor at ConQuesT in recent decades. There were so many, I decided to dedicate a separate blog post to them.

On the 2022 convention’s themed sparkly background, the graphic reads “ConQuesT 53, Memorial Day Weekend 2022, Sheraton Crown Center, Kansas City, MO. Guest of Honor: Donato Giancola, Artist known for classical realist depictions of the worlds of George R. R. Martin, J. R. R. Tolkien, & more.” This message is flanked by a photo of the artist and the cover of his book “Middle Earth: Journeys in Myth & Legend.”
Donato Giancola was the Artist Guest of Honor at ConQuesT 53 (image courtesy of ConQuesT).

Donato Giancola, 2022

Every few years an illustrator becomes such a master of the craft, and so universally-respected, that he or she becomes generally acknowledged as a grandmaster. Frank Kelly Freas, Michael Whelan, and a handful of others have reached that status. They illustrate their period’s most important books. Their work regularly receives Hugo Awards, Chesley Awards, Spectrum Awards, and more. They eventually tend to branch out into fine art, gallery representation, and their works become the centerpieces of museum gallery shows.

I’d say it’s probable that in recent years Donato Giancola has joined those ranks. A rising talent in fantasy, science fiction, and speculative art since the mid-1990s, he’s currently best known for his J.R.R. Tolkien illustrations in Middle Earth: Journeys in Myth and Legend and his Empathetic Robots Series. Long revered for his wonderful Magic; The Gathering card designs, his work displays a stunning technical expertise, little wonder he’s also a popular online teacher.

This screen-grab from a rotating series of background images on Donato Giancola’s website uses a detail from one of his paintings t back navigational images for New Art, Magic: The Gathering prints, proofs, and artworks, the Online Store, Techniques in Drawing & Painting instructional materials, and Gallery.
Donato Giancola’s website offers a trove of art resources. (image courtesy of Donato Arts).

Elizabeth Leggett, 2018

The next-most-recent guest whose work I spotted in this “Show of GoHs” is Elizabeth Leggett. I remember the year ConQuesT honored her as a particularly interesting time. That’s partially because I had more chances than usual to catch her panel appearances as well as enjoy her work in the show. It’s also because that’s the year she and my friend Lynette M. Burrows did a “cover reveal” at the convention. She painted the original cover for Lynette’s debut novel, My Soul to Keep (It’s still my favorite of Lynette’s covers, but genre conventions forced her to change it later).

I’ve been a fan of Elizabeth’s work ever since. Her website says “Elizabeth Leggett is a Hugo award-winning illustrator whose work focuses on soulful, human moments-in-time that combine ambiguous interpretation and curiosity with realism. . . . In 2012, she ended a long fallow period by creating a full seventy-eight card tarot in a single year. From there, she transitioned into freelance illustration. Her clients represent a broad range of outlets, from multiple Hugo award winning Lightspeed Magazine to multiple Lambda Literary winner, Lethe Press. She was honored to be chosen to art direct both Women Destroy Fantasy and Queers Destroy Science Fiction, both under the Lightspeed banner.”

Rachael Mayo, 2017

The year before Elizabeth became the Artist GoH, hometown favorite Rachael Mayo received that honor. Rachael is a friend, but even if she wasn’t, I’d have a special place in my heart for her wonderful, often vibrantly-colorful creatures. She persistently self-identifies as an “amateur” artist at sf convention art shows because she has a “day job.” But that has never dented her serious focus on materials, craftsmanship and mastery of skills.

According to Rachael’s Noble Fusion bio, her artful adventures in the publication field include a period when she produced several covers for Hadley Rille Books (including for my friend M. C. Chambers’ Shapers’ Veil), interior illustrations for Tremorworks: Demongate High Monster Manual, and work for now-apparently-inactive (?) Hive, Queen and Country Victorian miniatures. More readily available are Rachael’s beautiful and challenging coloring books.

Four images from Elizabeth Leggett’s online gallery and three from that of Rachel Mayo offer a taste of their work.
Take a deeper dive into the online galleries of Elizabeth Leggett and Rachael Mayo for many more visual riches. (See credits below).

Peri Charlifu, 2010

Few artists have found better success focusing on science fiction conventions than Peri Charlifu. A master of his craft (he mixes his own glazes, for example), he has normally sent his wonderful pottery creations (in sturdy boxes, nestled in carefully-crafted cradles of pool noodles and bubble-wrap) to some 40-50 shows each year. His entries are the objects of delighted admiration and spirited bidding everywhere they go, as far as I can tell. I don’t recall having ever been to a convention where the art show staff had unsold Charlifu ceramics to send back to him. And as anyone who exhibits their work at sf cons can attest, that’s saying something!

Peri began offering detailed workshops on how to conduct a successful art career, both at conventions and in his home state of Colorado. He and his ever-expanding group of mentees and associates created the Convention Artists Guild. The group had formed before the Pandemic, but it became a port in the storm for working artists then. Its weekly Virtual Art Shows offered a needed outlet when all the normal ways of doing business went on lockdown.

Peri was the Artist GoH at ConQuesT in 2010, but in many ways he’s “Primus” (his Convention Artists Guild title) among artists who exhibit their work at sf conventions. He’s not extremely tall, but even in this “Show full of GoHs,” he’s a towering (though always gentle) figure.

Theresa Mather, 2005

Theresa Mather’s visually-luscious fantasy art is another regular fixture at many sf convention art shows. She normally exhibits her work at more than 70 shows each year. In this “Show full of GoHs” she seems to shine on timelessly.

Theresa earned her place in this post when she was the ConQuesT Artist GoH in 2005 (I still treasure her T-shirt, and I’m not alone). She appreciates the convention art show staffs that handle her work as few other mail-in artists seem to (she never fails to enclose some little gifts for the staff). And her generous spirit shines through her work.

Like Peri Charlifu, she has a large, devoted fan base. Also like him, Theresa never took the more usual sf and fantasy artists’ route of working for book publishers or gaming companies. Instead, she relates directly to her followers. Although paintings and prints on paper are her normal fare, she’s also known for her elaborate paintings on feathers and rocks. Active in the field of antique carousel restoration early in her career, her bio says she has painted “suites of large-scale paintings for the crestings of five antique carousels and decorative paintwork for a sixth” (three of those are currently on public display).

Photos from Theresa’s panels after setup on Thursday night of ConQuesT 53, and a screen-grab of Peri’s pottery from the Aegean Goods Website.
The ConQuesT 53 display of Theresa Mather, alongside a gallery of Peri Charlifu’s pottery. (See credits below).

The Force Behind this Show full of GoHs

Before I end this two-part series of posts on the ConQuesT 53 Art Show (see last week’s post for the first in this two-parter), one more salute. I think it’s important to note that none of these artists would have a forum to show their art in a visually stunning and widely- respected art show, were it not for the leadership of Art Show Director Mikah McCullough and his devoted team (most especially including his wife Katarina Gibb, and, yes, his Corgi Renji).

During their tenure Mikah and Kat have modernized the show, improved its efficiency, and promoted it (most notably through the show’s Facebook Page) energetically. They care deeply about fantasy and science fiction art. They make sure the art placed in their care is handled gently, and completely accounted for from receipt through sale or return and payment to artists.

They’re the reason so many artists, including so many past and present Artist Guests of Honor, have found it worthwhile to send or bring their work year after year. They laid the solid groundwork for this “show full of GoHs.” And everyone who saw the show is the richer for their work.

A panoramic view of the ConQuesT 53 Art Show tops photos of Mikah and Renji (Kat is camera-shy).
Mikah (L) and his intrepid art show staff (to represent them, that’s Renji at right with stacks of mailed-in art in boxes) put on an awesome show Full of GoHs. (See credits below).


Fair use of copyrighted artwork is always a fraught question with artists profiled in blog posts. For this post, I’ve used only publicly-shared photos and screen-grabs of galleries on the artists’ websites. I hope that they’ll give you a taste of what each artist has to offer. For better, larger views of these wonderful pieces, please click on the URL links. Take some time to enjoy browsing the artists’ websites. Each one offers unique rewards and visual delights.

As noted above, the “Artist Guest of Honor” graphic for Donato Giancola is courtesy of ConQuesT 53. The peek at his website’s range is courtesy of Donato himself, via his website. The gallery-views representing Elizabeth Leggett and Rachael Mayo offer only small glimpses of what you’ll find on their websites.

Mikah McCullough took the photos of Theresa Mather’s ConQuesT 53 display panels. He posted them publicly on the ConQuesT Art Show’s Facebook for sharing, with her blessing. The detail from Peri Charlifu’s Aegean Goods gallery of pottery offers a partial view of his work’s range and sophistication. See much more of both artists’ work via the links.

Mikah also took (and posted) the photos of the ConQuesT 53 Art Show panorama. Ditto with his dog Renji with the mailed-in art boxes. The photo of Mikah himself is from his Twitter profile (photographer uncredited). Many thanks to all! The montages are Jan S. Gephardt’s doing.

The ConQuesT 53 Art Show in a panoramic photo that shows the entire display.

A Sampler of Excellent Artists at ConQuesT 53

By Jan S. Gephardt

ConQuesT 53 offered quite a sampler excellent artists. It really was a beautiful show, a credit to both the artists and the Art Show director, Mikah McCullough (ably assisted by his wife Katarina Gibb, and his Corgi Renji). I don’t have time or room to feature them all, but several of them impressed me with the range, beauty, and inventiveness of their work. Most had new things that I haven’t seen at ConQuesT before.

For the short profiles offered below, I have borrowed liberally from the artists’ self-posted biographies. Please note that I did need to edit most for length and to fit the needs of this blog post. However, it is not my intention to misrepresent the facts stated in them.

As for the artwork shown, “fair use” standards are always tricky when one hasn’t had the “bandwidth” (because of illness and family urgencies to attend to) to contact all of these artists ahead of time. Lacking their expressed wishes, I have only used photos that they themselves authorized to be publicly posted – either on their own websites or on the ConQuesT Art Show Facebook page. I strongly encourage you to explore their work at more depth on their websites.

The ConQuesT 53 Art Show in a panoramic photo that shows the entire display.
A panorama of the ConQuesT 53 Art Show, just prior to the end of the silent auction. (Mikah McCullough/ConQuesT Art Show).

Lucy A. Synk

Yes, I’m biased. And please note that this post’s sampler of excellent artists isn’t all ranked according to “who Jan knows best” order. But I just had to start here. As frequent readers of this blog know, Lucy A. Synk and I are close friends. She painted the cover art for my novella The Other Side of Fear. She is a member of my first-to-be-consulted Brain Trust (along with my sister G. S. Norwood and Dora Furlong), whenever I have new XK9 stories that need feedback. And readers of both this blog and my Newsletter know her as the artist who frequently creates developmental and promotional images of characters from Rana Station.

Lucy has exhibited her art at science fiction conventions, Renaissance Festivals, and art fairs.  She illustrated magazines and books in both the U.S. and Europe, most notably the cover for Andre Norton’s book Wizard’s Worlds. She also continued to hone her various skills in painting and portraiture. Through more than a decade of work in the natural history exhibit industry, Lucy painted murals and illustrations. She considers her Cretaceous mural, installed at the Burpee Museum of Natural History in Rockford, IL, the high point of that career (scroll down on this page to see the mural).

Lucy is now exploring new directions for her artwork. Experiments with “Dirty Pour” and Mixed Media techniques resulted in her Planets series and the fantasy sea/ship paintings. She also has created some wonderful new still-life and Plein Aire paintings, and has embarked on an ambitious series of paintings called the “Rejoicing in Our Differences” series.

Arden Ellen Nixon

No sampler of excellent artists at ConQuesT 53’s Art Show would be complete without Arden Ellen Nixon’s work. Especially not, since she’s recently returned to full-time “artist-ing” and had some new-to-me work in this show.

I first encountered Arden’s work when I was the Art Show Director at ConQuesT myself, back in the dark times before Mikah McCullough took the helm. Since then we’ve become friendly acquaintances (I once had fun giving her a tour of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art). Here’s what she has to say about herself and her art.

“Hello! I am Arden Ellen Nixon, and I will be your charmingly awkward artist this evening. It is my sincerest wish for my paintings to find the beauty in the dark–as with my extensive “Make-Shift Angel” series–the silly in the sublime, and the humanity shared by the creatures and the world around us. Legend has it that I could draw before I could walk. While I don’t know about that, I do know that I bought my first set of acrylics at thirteen. I found my starter set at a hardware store, of all places, on clearance for $13.75. “Why not?” I thought–little did I know! When not painting, you’ll find me pursuing my love of ancient history, watching soccer–Come On You Spurs!–with my husband, and visiting whatever zoo or museum is available at the time.”

The ConQuesT 53 displays of L-R: Lucy A. Synk and Arden Ellen Nixon.
L-R: Displays by Lucy A. Synk and Arden Ellen Nixon. (See credits below).

Jeff Porter

I worked with Jeff Porter on a few early XK9 developmental images, after I discovered his artwork at ConQuesT. Back then, he was deeply involved in creating the game “Xenofera,” which opened the door to a whole new avenue of illustration work for him. I’ve watched it unfold with great interest. I collected bits from his online bio for the introduction below.

Jeff, he is a freelance Illustrator from the Midwestern United States. He grew up in Kansas City, Missouri, and very early in life realized the passion he had for creating art. He graduated from Raytown South High School, and then joined the United States Marine Corps for a four-year tour of service as an artillery cannoneer. After the service, Jeff started attending art classes at Longview Community College and later the University of Central Missouri, graduating in 2009 with a degree in Commercial Illustration. In 2013, he received his MFA from the University of Hartford’s limited residency program under the guidance of Murray Tinkelman. He now spends his time staying busy working on projects and learning as much as he can about the field of art and illustration.

Mike Cole

I have no idea when I first met Mike Cole. He’s been a (very funny and enjoyable) fixture at midwestern science fiction conventions for a long time. Since he lives in the St. Louis area, there’s a good chance our first encounter happened at an Archon! But whenever we met, he definitely belongs in this sampler of excellent artists.

Mike has been drawing since he was three years old. He has been displaying his artwork at science fiction conventions across the country for the last 25 years. Currently he lives in St. Charles, MO in a multi-level comic book storage facility. A science fiction fan since the early 70’s, Mike has attended, volunteered, run, and doomed, (don’t ask) something on the order of 300 conventions. He is a working artist as well as creating award winning digital artwork, and covers for Yard Dog Press.

Screen-grabs from the website homepages of Jeff Porter and Mike Cole.
From the websites of Jeff Porter and Mike Cole. (See credits below).

Sarah Clemens

I first encountered the artwork of Sarah Clemens the same way I did Arden’s, the first year I was the ConQuesT Art Show Director. I’ve been delightedly following her work ever since. My daughter Signy is among her devoted fans (she’s collected several of Sarah’s prints). Sarah works primarily in oils, but has also tried her hand at rock-painting and sculpture. She’s probably best known for her “Magnus and Loki” series, about a cat and a small dragon who are partners in hijinks.

“Working in oils brings everything into focus,” Clemens writes in her online bio. “I have had to work in all types of media to make a living as an artist and I pride myself on doing well in all of them, but oils…they’re special. Perhaps it’s the sense of history and tradition that makes them unique. There is also something extraordinary about they way you can push the pigments around a canvas. Oil has a luminosity, a gem-like glow. Moving the to Southwest has given me new ideas for painting, and for the first time, I am doing landscapes and flowers, along with the figure studies I love so much.”

Sara Felix

I met Sara Felix through ASFA, the Association of Science Fiction and Fantasy artists. It seems to me that she’s been the President of ASFA for at least 2-3 terms (it’s a job that has burned out many people over the decades, so I’m in awe of her stamina!). And with no fewer than six Hugo Awards in her CV, she surely deserves to be included in my sampler of excellent artists!

Sara describes herself as a mixed media artist. Her works are typically done in alcohol ink, acrylics and resin. She also creates a weekly tiara for Tiara Tuesday and has created over 100 unique tiaras in the project. Whenever she can, she teaches online and in-person classes. They typically sell out quickly because she has a large following with her creations.

She has been guest of honor at multiple conventions across the states and shows at science fiction art shows when she can. Her design work includes two Hugo bases, the 2016 base and the 2018 Hugo base co-designed with Vincent Villafranca. She also has designed three WSFS Young Adult Award/Lodestar awards as well as the nominee pins.

Screen-grabs from, L-R, the “Magnus and Loki” online gallery of Sarah Clemens and the “Tiara Gallery” of Sara Felix.
At left, Sarah Clemens’ Magnus and Loki are always up to something. At right, catch a glimpse of the stunning beauty and variety of Sara Felix’s fantasy tiaras. Her “Tiara Tuesdays” are a regular social media feature. (See credits below).

The Convention Artists Guild

The Convention Artists Guild was strong with us, this ConQuesT, so naturally several of them belong in my sampler of excellent artists at ConQuesT 53. What is the Convention Artists Guild? Here’s how they describe themselves:

“We are a group of professional & semi-professional Colorado artists who participate in Convention art shows and events. Our work is exhibited in Art Shows and Vendor Rooms alike throughout the country . . . It is our intention as a group to provide: support, trust, collaboration, aid, resources, information, motivation, community, education and inclusiveness both within our core group and with the community in general.”

In addition to Founding Member Peri Charlifu, and Remote Member Elizabeth Leggett, both of whose work I’ll examine in greater detail next week, several other CAG members showed their work here. Three in particular caught my eye.

This header says: Convention Artists Guild, Colorado Chapter.
The Facebook Page header for the Convention Artists Guild. (Convention Artists Guild).

Mike Kloepfer

Mike is a Founding Member of the Convention Artists Guild. I think I first met him at a SoonerCon, but it was a while back. I immediately fell in love his luscious, painterly technique. His art looks a lot like it was painted in oils to me, but he actually uses acrylics. I especially love his sense of humor and his anthropomorphized animals. Check out his “Dogs of War,” as well as his “Flyboys” and “Animals of Adventure.” They all look like such interesting characters!

Here’s how he introduces himself on his website: “Hi! My name is Mike Kloepfer. My friends call me Mikey. I call my art mikeyzart. I create unique imaginative characters, creatures, and places – Fantasy, SciFi, and Whimsical art, as well as Portraits, Figures, and wildlife. As a professional artist for over 3 decades, my art and myself have appeared in many places: books and magazines, including The Artists Magazine, and Classical Drawing Atelier by Juliette Aristides; as well as galleries, art shows and conventions. I have been a technical illustrator for Microsoft, Boeing and COBE Laboratories, a map-maker for USGS, graphic designer, cartoonist, fine artist, and many other artistic occupations.”

Jim Humble

I first noticed Jim Humble’s artwork about a decade or more ago, at a science fiction convention – possibly at a DemiCon. He, too, offers wonderful, humorous paintings and prints of anthropomorphized animals. His Steampunk Kittens and Star Wars cats are especially fun. But this man has range. He also creates amazing resin and mixed-media sculptures (I particularly enjoy his amazingly intricate dragon sculptures). Give yourself some time to peruse his whole website. It won’t take long to see why he belongs in my sampler of excellent artists.

Here’s his self-introduction: “Some people think I was born with a pencil in one hand and some clay in the other. It’s pretty much true. I lucked out since my parents supported my art habit. In fact early on my mother and I baked one of my first clay pieces in the old oven. Of course it was crayola clay and it just melted and stunk up the house! Whoops! Live and learn.

“I’ve progressed since those days and still strive to improve. My life experiences have shaped my art in particular a 3 year stay in Germany and Europe. There my love of art (in particular the human form, gargoyles, grotesques and mythology) was really intensified. I’ve been pursuing my vision and passion to create now for more than 20 years.”

Brenna Deutchmann / Whimsical Whiskers

Brenna is another Convention Artists Guild Founding Member, and while she’s also a sculptor, she’s chosen the medium of fiber art. The result is unique, sometimes articulated, stuffed fantasy creatures that range from rather large to keychain-sized. She produces them under the name of Whimsical Whiskers LLC. As she explains on her website:

“All of our products are made with love and care. All of our products are original designs, and all production, sewing and construction are overseen by Brenna, who is the designer and artist.

Accessories and jointed dragons are handmade in Denver, Colorado and the USA by Brenna and local artisans. Each and every dragon is jointed, stuffed and finished by Brenna.

“Some of our products are my original designs but are produced off site in a factory. I work closely with my suppliers to ensure quality, softness of fabric, and ethical production. All are safety tested for age 0 (baby safe). These products include keychain animals, foxes, bunnies, silver and rainbow stripe dragons.”

Whimsical Whiskers’ “Dice Dragons,” a header from Humble Studios featuring a Steampunk Kitten and a mischievous-looking dragon, and a gallery of images representing Mike Kloepfer’s print series represent the three artists.
Clockwise from lower left, “Dice Dragons,” the Humble Studios header, and a “gallery of galleries” offers a representative sample of Mike Kloepfer’s artwork.” (See credits below).

I hope you’ve enjoyed this sampler of excellent artists whose work I enjoyed at ConQuesT 53!


As noted in the introduction, out of concern over fair use, I have only used photos that the artists themselves authorized to be publicly posted – either on their own websites or on the ConQuesT Art Show Facebook page. All montages were made by Jan S. Gephardt.

Art Show Director Mikah McCullough took the panoramic shot of the ConQuesT 53 Art Show on Saturday, May 28, just before the silent auction ended. He posted it on Facebook. Jan took the photo of Lucy A. Synk’s 2-panel art show display during Art Show setup on Thursday, May 26, 2022. Mikah McCullough took the photo of Arden Ellen Nixon’s display at about the same time – both with the motive of showing the two mail-in artists how their displays looked. Lucy gave me permission to share hers, while Arden and Mikah shared hers on Facebook.

Jan captured screen-grabs from the website homepages of Jeff Porter and Mike Cole. Likewise, the imagery representing Sarah Clemens is a screen-grab of part of her “Magnus and Loki” online gallery, showing six images, complete with itty-bitty watermarks. The one representing Sara Felix screen-captured nine of the wildly imaginative tiaras for which she is well known. To see more, please visit their websites!

The header image for the Convention Artists Guild came from the organization’s Facebook Page. Three of their members are represented by images in the montage below it. Whimsical Whiskers‘ “Dice Dragons” came from a Facebook image. Images representing Jim Humble and Mike Kloepfer are screen-grabs from their respective homepages. Many thanks to all, for helping me share this sampler of excellent artists!

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