Nurturing creativity with art, animals, and science fiction

Category: Authors reading their work Page 1 of 2

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.

IMAGE CREDITS

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.

IMAGE CREDITS

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.

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.

Demicon 34

By Jan S. Gephardt

It’s that time of year again: getting ready for “con” season, and specifically for DemiCon 34. Repeated blizzard events over several recent years have discouraged us from attending Capricon in February. This means DemiCon, an annual, early-May convention in Des Moines, Iowa, has become our “new normal” first science fiction convention of the summer season.

But for DemiCon 34, things will be a bit different from our usual. Some of the changes were planned, others not. Here’s hoping I’m in much better health and voice than I was last year! I’m also hoping that we have our typically pleasant DemiCon experience on the whole.

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.
Courtesy of the DemiCon Facebook Page.

A Couple of DemiCon 34 Disappointments

Let’s get these out of the way, so I can go on to the much-more-fun stuff. Due to a snafu in communications, I won’t be doing a reading at DemiCon 34. Readings are one of my favorite forms of “giving out free samples,” so I’ll miss it! To partially compensate for that, you might enjoy My First Original Video, which was filmed for 2020’s Virtual DemiCon (DemiCon 31, “Contaminated”).

In that video my son Tyrell Gephardt filmed me reading the first chapter of The Other Side of Fear aloud. That’s the prequel novella to my XK9 “Bones” Trilogy, which was released that year. It was as close as we could get to a live reading during the early months of the Covid-19 Pandemic. Perhaps you’d also like to read the “free sample” first chapter from one of my novels, What’s Bred in the Bone (XK9 “Bones” Trilogy  Book One) or A Bone to Pick (Book Two). Just follow the links to their Weird Sisters pages, where you’ll find them offered.

My other DemiCon 34 disappointment? There doesn’t seem to be an Art Show. I have a long history of bringing my paper sculpture to sf cons, and I’ve enjoyed showing (and selling) my artwork at DemiCon for many years. I also love hanging out with the artists who gather in greater numbers at conventions where they can show and sell their work!

This is a montage of some of the paper sculpture that Jan would have brought to DemiCon 34 if there had been an art show. 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.”
Here’s some of the paper sculpture I would like to have shown at DemiCon this year. All artwork is © by Jan S. Gephardt.

Panels Planned!

But another one of the things I love to do at sf cons will definitely be happening at DemiCon 34: panels! I have started pulling together notes for the five panels on which I’m scheduled! The first, AI Meets SF, is scheduled for Friday, May 5 at 6:00 p.m. I’ve been on a number of panels that discussed science fictional stories about artificial intelligence. But this will be my first discussion primarily about the potential for AI to write science fiction.

On Saturday I’m set for two more, a back-to-back pair. Thank goodness, they’re in the same room! Starting at 2 p.m., the first addresses a topic very near to my heart, The Role of Science Fiction and Fantasy in Predicting and Shaping the Future. That one’s pretty self-explanatory, I think. The other also promises to be a meaty topic: Pandemics Through History and Their Effects on Literature.

Sunday wraps up with two more. And again, they’re scheduled back-to-back. The first starts at noon, which will be a stretch for me, especially on Sunday of the convention! The rooms are next door to each other, so that should help me make it to the second one on time. At noon we’ll discuss Gadgets in SF. This is where we’ll talk about ways writers can incorporate speculative tech into their stories without grinding the story to a halt while they deliver a data-dump to explain how it works. Then, at 1:00 p.m., we’ll discuss life forms we might encounter on the Final Frontier in Who Will We Meet in Space? Should be fun!

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 Jan’s been going to sf cons. (See credits and panelist identifications below).

Our Biggest News for DemiCon 34

For the Gephardt household, the most important change at DemiCon 34will be our official presence in the Dealers Room. Not only will we have a Weird Sisters Publishing dealers table with all four of our books. We’ll also have a new member of the Gephardt clan at the con: my husband Pascal. My son Ty and I have traveled to sf cons for many years, while Pascal has always had obligations elsewhere.

But here’s the thing. Pascal is the lark among us night owls – the family’s Designated Morning Person. A lot of the Dealers Room schedule happens before 1:00 p.m., which means that someone has to be awake then to run it! Add to that the fact that he’s got years of experience traveling to art shows and Renaissance festivals with our friend Randal Spangler, and he was doomed to be drafted for this role!

Of course we’ll bring our own books: Mine are, as noted above, The Other Side of Fear, What’s Bred in the Bone, and A Bone to Pick. We’ll also have copies of my sister G. S. Norwood’s book Deep Ellum Duet, which includes both of her “Deep Ellum” novelettes, Deep Ellum Pawn and Deep Ellum Blues. But wait! There’s more! Speaking of Randy, he’s among the “Kansas City Writer Friends” whose books we’ll be offering at our table. It’s a way to expand our range of offerings and give our friends access to a new market (not to mention we earn a commission while we’re at it).

Weird Sisters Publishing Presents Books by Jan S. Gephardt and G. S. Norwood, plus Books by Kansas City Writer Friends Lynette M. Burrows, M. C. Chambers, Dora Furlong, Karin Rita Gastreich, Randal Spangler.
All cover images are courtesy of the authors, their publishers, or Amazon.

Our Kansas City Writer Friends

The covers of books by our “Kansas City Writer Friends” in the illustration above represent books that we’ll offer at our table. By Lynette M. Burrows, we’ll bring dystopian alternate history sf novels from the Fellowship Dystopian Series. They are Fellowship, My Soul to Keep, and If I Should Die. By M. C. Chambers, we’ll have fantasy books Midsummer Storm (romance novelette) and Shapers’ Veil (novel). By Dora Furlong, a science fiction novella titled One of Our Own.

In addition we’ll have the Silver Web Trilogy fantasy novels by Karin Rita Gastreich. They are Eolyn, Sword of Shadows, and Daughter of Aithne. And, as noted above, from Randal Spangler we’ll have hardcover, full-color children’s books D is for Draglings written with Lauren K. Duncan, and The Draglings Bedtime Story. Not shown in the illustration (because I couldn’t make it fit), we’ll also offer The Draglings Coloring Book.

All in all, things definitely will be different at DemiCon 34. But then, change is the most constant thing about our lives. I’d love to see you at the convention. If you can’t make it, I plan to publish a follow-up after we get back so you’ll know how it went. And here’s hoping one thing that doesn’t change is having a fun and creative weekend at another year’s DemiCon!

IMAGE CREDITS

Many thanks to the DemiCon Facebook Page for a good pic of their header. All of the artwork in the paper sculpture sampler is mine, shown in a montage I made, from photos I took. All of it is © by Jan S. Gephardt. If you should choose to repost it, please do so with a link back and attribution, if possible.

As for the photos of me at conventions through the decades: 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. Might note that’s my calligraphy on the name cards, in an era before desktop printing made them easy to print.

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).

For the fourth illustration, I am indebted to the authors, their publishers, or Amazon, for the cover images of our Kansas City Writer Friends’s books (see their embedded links in the text of this post). The design is mine.

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!

IMAGE CREDITS

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!

IMAGE CREDITS

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.

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!

IMAGE CREDITS

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!

Two hall costumes and a display-model T.A.R.D.I.S. from “Dr. Who.”

The Best and Worst Time

By Jan S. Gephardt

I’ll spare you the Charles Dickens opening line, but DemiCon 33 Weekend really was the best and worst time I’ve had at a convention in ages. Regular followers of this blog have already figured out that I came home from it with a bad cold.

No, it wasn’t classic “con crud.” That’s some new thing you contract at a convention, when you encounter something your immune system can’t fight (possibly because you partied for several nights in a row). I came to DemiCon 33 with a scratchy throat, desperately hoping it would go away. It didn’t. Among other things, that really cut into the partying (like, ended it before it began).

I stayed masked, did my best to socially distance, and I washed my hands a lot. Since my son Tyrell Gephardt and I were teamed up for all our panels, I “let” Ty do most of the talking (for once – like I had a choice!). And I hope to God I didn’t become a vector of con crud to anyone else! It really was the worst I remember feeling at a science fiction convention, ever. But when you’re that far from home and you’re part of the program, you do your best.

Demicon 33’s welcome table.
The welcome table by the front door offered new arrivals information about DemiCon 33 and some of its features, as well as free face masks and hand sanitizer. (5/6/22 photo by author).

DemiCon 33 Was the “Best Time” Part

It’s really a pity and a waste that I was sick, because DemiCon 33 itself was awesome. The con committee did everything they could to welcome people back to con-going safely. Everybody seemed really happy to be there (that I saw), and they were all very warm and welcoming. A longtime friend gave me a tin of mints when I ran out of throat lozenges.

I took pictures in the hallways before they got really full. That was partly out of respect for people’s privacy, and partly because I tried to avoid crowds (or at least stay distant from them). I wasn’t coughing too much (and I was masked) at Opening Ceremonies, but after that I kept a lower profile. Don’t imagine from my photos that no one came, however. They did, and many of them were absolutely fabulous in their hall costumes.

But at a convention where one of the first people I met was a young person handing out “In Science We Trust” badge ribbons, people were (mostly) taking sensible precautions. Part of what makes this year a contrast of the best and worst time is that we’re all really lonely for a good “fhannish” get-together with each other, but we know we have to be careful.

Two hall costumes and a display-model T.A.R.D.I.S. from “Dr. Who.”
Fender Jack (AKA Corey) and Spencer the Klingon model their costumes outside the Missouri Room on the lower level of the convention hotel. Upstairs, a mock-up of Dr. Who’s T.A.R.D.I.S. stood by the front door across from the welcome table at DemiCon 33. (5/6-7/22 photos by author).

The Art Show

The DemiCon Art Show had a new crew at the helm, bringing the operation more fully into the 21st century via electronic record-keeping. They overcame tech glitches at the beginning. But I’m sure they fought for most of the weekend with the hotel’s less-than-stellar Internet service. Why do convention hotels so rarely provide good Internet?

The overall quality of the artwork I saw was outstanding. One of the best, in my opinion, was the wearable art piece called Dandy Lion. I didn’t get to the Masquerade, so I don’t know if it was entered there, but it’s a genuine piece of artwork all on its own.

I saw new work from longtime art show favorites Sarah Clemens and Theresa Mather, and I was impressed by the excellent craftsmanship and creative range of “Random Fandom.My own display was small compared to some in the past, but I’ve been busy with a lot of non-paper-sculpture work (writing, blogging and working on Weird Sisters Publishing  projects) during the Pandemic.

Jan’s DemiCon 33 paper sculpture display and a closer view of the mini-3D maps on the display table.
My paper sculpture display was small compared to some in the past that took up several panels, but I recently discovered that the mini-3D maps display much better lying flat, so I was glad for the corner of the table. (5/6/22 photos by author).

The Best and Worst of Panel Experiences

Ty and I were Team Gephardt at our panels – they scheduled us together for all three, and that was it. Just us. I had the best and worst time there, too. Best, because Ty is fun to partner with on a panel. He’s witty, well-spoken, and knowledgeable. Plus, we had excellent, (relatively) large, and very interactive audiences. That always makes it more fun.

But it was the worst, because the longer into the convention we went, the less voice and energy I had. I could croak a few thoughts, but Ty carried them, especially on Saturday. We were prepared, however. From the time we’d received our schedule, we’d been thinking about our topics. Then we put our heads together to find common themes, suggest possible lines of discussion, and make notes we could share in common.

Topics ran a pretty wide gamut. On Friday night, when I still had something of a voice, we led a very well-read and engaged audience in an “If This, then What?” set of adventures in alternate history. By Saturday, when it was time for “Smoke and Mirrors Steampunk,” I could still talk, as long as I kept it short (a great trial, to be sure!). And I had begun to sound like a foghorn. It’s a good thing Ty knows his Steampunk. Someday we’ll have to do a joint blog post on the sticky ethical wickets this subgenre presents, and its clouded future.

Photos of Jan at ConQuesT in Kansas City (in 1985 and 2012), plus at Archon 43 (2019).
I’ve been going to conventions for quite a while, and participating in panels almost as long. But I don’t think I’ve ever been completely unable to participate on a panel or reading before. (See credits and panelist identifications below).

As Saturday Waned, So did my Voice

I got a respite for my voice – and a chance to do one of my favorite “con things,” attend another author’s reading – after the Steampunk panel. Adam Stemple writes in an amazing range of genres, including horror, literary fiction, and heroic fantasy. Adam set up his three books on How to Write Fantasy Novels, then read completely other things: The Boy from Buanfar, Werewolf Elegy, and a great piece of character development from Galloch, second in the Mika Barehand Trilogy. Wonderful, funny, engaging stuff. Highly recommended!

By Saturday evening’s “What are an Artist’s Rights Online?” panel, I could say only about one word to every four to ten of Ty’s. But we had a good, sound outline, resources at need, and he is well-versed on many nuances of this topic. The audience was a little smaller, but they were interested and had great questions, which I’m happy to say that Ty answered very well.

Finally it was time for my long-anticipated reading. A straight hour of nothing but XK9s and me. I was doomed! Except, I wasn’t. It was the worst and best of times at a reading. Worst, because I could barely speak. Best, because good ol’ Ty came to my rescue yet again. He did an outstanding cold reading of What’s Bred in the Bone Chapter One, “A Walk in the Park.” If you’d like to see what he read, click here or on the Chapter title.

Adam Stemple reads at DemiCon 33.
Author and writing guru Adam Stemple read from several of his works, while displaying his How to Write Fantasy Novels series. (5/7/22 photo by author).

Yes it was the best and worst of times at a convention for me. But Demicon 33 itself was 100% awesome!

IMAGE CREDITS

I (Jan S. Gephardt) took all the photos used in this post, except those noted below. They were taken during DemiCon 33, May 6-7, 2022. Where people are shown, they gave me permission before I clicked the shutter. I particularly wish to thank Fender Jack (AKA Corey) and Spencer the Klingon for allowing me to photograph their costumes, and Adam Stemple for allowing me to photograph him during his excellent reading.

I don’t think I was ever sure who took the “historical documents” that show me at ConQuesT, 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, done back before desktop publishing made them easy to print.

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.

Finally, I owe Tyrell Gephardt thanks for photo of me at Archon 43 in 2019, preparing to do a reading. And most of all, I owe him an unending thank you for all he did to make the best and worst time I ever had at a DemiCon an overall positive memory!

Photos of Bookmarks, badge ribbons, and books barely unpacked from a crate surround a 2020 photo of Jan with some of her S.W.A.G.

Preparing for DemiCon

By Jan S. Gephardt

This week I’m preparing for DemiCon 33, to be held in Des Moines, IA May 6-8, 2022. There is a lot to do. Would you like a glimpse of my process?

My son Tyrell and I had been in the habit of attending 6-8 science fiction conventions per year before the Pandemic locked everything down. In our attempts to evade the roller-coaster of Covid dips and peaks, we dared to attend Archon 44 in person last October. But the Omicron surge (and an extremely untimely snowstorm) shoved us back into attending Capricon 42 virtually, last February.

Preparing for a virtual convention differs dramatically from preparing to go in person. There are logistics involved with both, but it takes far greater organization and effort to attend an SF convention in person. Either way, we have to iron out membership details, but an in-person appearance means making hotel reservations and lots more planning ahead. Not to mention hauling all our stuff several hundred miles to go encamp somewhere for several days.

The DemiCon 33 header says: “The After” – DemiCon 2022, Des Moines’ 33rd Annual Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Gaming Convention, May 6-8, 2022.
Jan and Ty are preparing for DemiCon 33 (header courtesy of DemiCon 33).

To Attend or Go Virtual, That is the (First) Question

Even as we’re preparing for DemiCon, we’re keeping a wary eye on the recent rise in Omicron BA.2 cases. I’m double-vaxxed and double-boosted (Ty’s too young and healthy to need the second booster). Both my Beloved and I are in a higher risk category because of our age. And my family also cares for my frail, 97-year-old father, whom we’d like to keep alive and well.

I know a lot of the country is young, healthy, and really, thoroughly beyondtired of being careful. For well or ill, however, my family still can’t afford to take undue risks with Covid. So it was with considerable caution that we decided to give DemiCon an in-person try. They’re following local health guidelines at the con, but we’ll definitely bring our hand sanitizer and masks!

Hovering above the undulating graph of Covid peaks and troughs during the Pandemic is a photo of a burning car, way up on top of a roller-coaster.
This is kind of how a lot of people visualize the Covid “roller coaster.” (See credits below).

When I go to a convention, I no longer go just as myself, but also a representative of Weird Sisters Publishing. That somewhat alters the advance publicity planning. For one thing, I decided this year to try advertising in conventions’ program books. This might raise awareness of our little company, and it also might help financially-distressed cons – which means most of them, these days.

Preparing for DemiCon Way Beforehand

Advertising means I must design an ad. Ad deadlines usually come a month or more before the convention. But it’s a way to represent, when we’re still too small to support a dealers’ table. We don’t have many titles in print yet (also, the hours I’d have to keep, to run a dealer’s table, might seriously end this confirmed old night owl).

But, few or many, preparing for DemiCon means I had to have some books. In stock. At the con.I have more on order, and I’m lucky to have what I hope are enough for DemiCon already in hand. We currently have print editions of my three XK9 books. That’s it for now, but not for long.

My sister’s Deep Ellum Stories are too short for individual print copies bigger than maybe a booklet. Those might be more expensive to print than I could ask people to pay. We’re holding out for an omnibus edition before we print it, once she’s finished the other two stories she’s planning. Starting this fall, once my late brother-in-law’s Windhover Tetralogy is back in print, I may have to make a different calculation about that dealer’s table.

Jan sits behind signs for all three of her books, plus G. S. Norwood’s two “Deep Ellum” stories She’s laid out bookmarks and copies of her books in front of them.
Here’s Jan, masked for Covid protection at Archon 44, October 2021 (photo by Tyrell E. Gephardt).

Long Live S.W.A.G.!

Lacking a dealer’s table, I am a mobile exhibit. I’ve made signs. I always carry a copy or two of each book. And I like to come loaded with S.W.A.G. for the freebie table or to give away at autograph sessions or my reading.

What is S.W.A.G.? I wrote an entire blog post about it, a while back. The acronym stands for “stuff we all get.” That is, free things handed out at a convention. For Weird Sisters, it consists of bookmarks for each book, a postcard that promotes What’s Bred in the Bone and my reading, and badge ribbons. I do have new bookmarks to hand out since the Pandemic: I had some made for The Other Side of Fear, A Bone to Pick, and my sister’s story Deep Ellum Blues.

Making bookmarks and badge ribbons are two other long-term projects, along with ordering books and making ads. I first have to figure out designs and badge ribbon one-liners. Then I compose and design them, and place my orders so I’ll have them when it’s time to go to more conventions. Preparing for DemiCon, plus preparing to have enough S.W.A.G. for the rest of the summer and fall, took a while.

Photos of Bookmarks, badge ribbons, and books barely unpacked from a crate surround a 2020 photo of Jan with some of her S.W.A.G.
A lot of work goes into the creation of “freebies” at conventions. (See credits below).

The Art Part

Anyone who’s seen me at a convention knows I nearly always have artwork in the Art Show. I’ve “always” been a visual artist. I was an art major (printmaking and graphic design) for my undergraduate degree (I minored in journalism). During my full-time teaching career, I worked as an art teacher who also taught some publications. But, although I steadily honed my writing craft in the background, in the early years the artwork always came first.

And after 40 years of bringing artwork to science fiction conventions, it just doesn’t feel right if I don’t have an Art Show display! Thus, preparing for DemiCon means gathering enough work for a display, getting registered, and preparing the paperwork needed.

If you’ve followed this blog, you have seen lots of “Here’s my art show panel at X” photos. I’ll probably post one of this year’s DemiCon display, too. Sorry to say, it will be smaller than in past years. Between writing fiction, working on my monthly newsletters, blogging, and working on covers for Warren’s Windhover Tetralogy, I’ve had less time than usual for paper sculpture.

Jan’s art show panel at Archon 43 in October 2019, when she won an award for “Best 3D” (photo by Jan S. Gephardt).

Panels, Readings, and Presenting Myself

Conventions, large or small, are entertainment venues that operate on thin profit margins. They often give panelists free memberships, but that’s not just because they love them. It’s because they’re relying on them to help provide a worthwhile experience for con-goers.

I spent too many years as a teacher preparing lesson plans to stomach just walking into a panel “cold,” and “winging it.” To me, that’s grossly unprofessional. But that means I must develop materials for panels ahead of time. My ideal? To go into a panel with enough material (even if I’m not the official moderator) to guide the panel into interesting discussions for the full time we have. If we don’t get to all (or any) of them, that’s okay, as long as the audience enjoyed the panel.

For readings, especially when I share a short time slot during a session with one or more other authors, I plan ahead. Readings are like auditions for my books, so I practice. I time myself to be sure I respect others’ time allotments. And, although it’s always a challenge at this end of the “con season,” coughing fits are not entertaining. I try to get my voice in shape, so I’m able to read all the way through smoothly.

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 Jan’s been going to sf cons. (See credits and panelist identifications below).

Preparing for DemiCon

As you can see, preparing for DemiCon – or any convention – takes a lot of work. I think it’s worth it, because I love science fiction conventions. If you also go to conventions and enjoy the special exhibits and/or panels, now you have a bit more behind-the-scenes understanding of what goes into them. And if you’re a newer creator, getting ready for an early-career foray to a convention, maybe this post has offered some ideas (the teacher in me hopes so).

And thank God the conventions are coming back! Many thanks to all the dedicated convention committees and their financial backers. And here’s a hope for the DemiCon committe, my fellow panelists and exhibitors, and all my fellow attendees, that with all of us preparing for DemiCon, it’ll be the best one yet!

IMAGE CREDITS

First of all, many thanks to DemiCon 33! Thanks for inviting me, for providing me with a venue to show and read my work to others, and thanks also for your header graphic at the top of this post!

I assembled the “Covid Roller Coaster” montage with two images: Statista provided the graph of Covid cases in the US from the start of the Pandemic through April 9, 2022. The burning roller coaster photo came from Inspire More’s article full of Covid-related memes (the credit there said only “Instagram”). Tineye Reverse Image search found it on a website I can’t access, back in early September 2014. Other hints in its early record on Tineye indicate a possible location in the Los Angles area, but that’s all I could find in a quick search.

SF Convention Memory Lane

I owe Tyrell E, Gephardt repeated thanks for photos of me at conventions. He took the one of me, masked up behind my current collection of signs, books, and S.W.A.G. at Archon 44 last October (2021). He also took the one of me at Capricon in 2020 with my then-full display of S.W.A.G., at my autograph session. And he gets further credit for the photo of me at Archon 43 in 2019, preparing to do a reading.

I took other photos of our S.W.A.G., as well as the wide photo of my Art Show display at Archon 43 in 2019. Sorry: the one at DemiCon 33 won’t be that big, because I’ve sold a lot of that artwork since then.

I don’t think I was ever sure who took the “historical documents” that show me at ConQuesT in 1985 (ConQuesT 16) and 2012 (ConQuesT 46), 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.

Jan S. Gephardt at Archon 44, with signs advertising Weird Sisters Publishing titles.

Authors of Archon 44

By Jan S. Gephardt

Last week I wrote about the artists. Now it’s time to write about the authors of Archon 44. Followers of this blog know that I recently attended Archon 44. As the “44” at the end indicates, this is a science fiction convention with a long history in the St. Louis metropolitan area. Their most recent venue is the Gateway Convention Center in Collinsville, IL.

My focus at conventions is mostly split between artists and authors. I had a shiny new book to promote, of course, with A Bone to Pick. Stranger to realize: because of Covid, The Other Side of Fear was also “new” at Archon 44. I’m happy to say I sold several of each!

Covers of “The Other Side of Fear,” “What’s Bred in the Bone,” and “A Bone to Pick.”
Jan’s XK9 books in story-chronology order, L-R: The Other Side of Fear, cover ©2020 by Lucy A. Synk; What’s Bred in the Bone, cover ©2019 by Jody A. Lee; and A Bone to Pick, cover ©2020 by Jody A. Lee. (Weird Sisters Publishing LLC).

As an old-school, fan-run regional science fiction convention, the Archon folks offer a full range of “phannish” diversions. There were a vigorous gaming presence, plus many filkers (sf/fantasy music composers and performers), filmmakers, podcasters, and others, along with the artists and authors of Archon 44. The hall costumes came out in force, as usual (See my 2018 and 2019 posts about them).

Panel Discussions with the Authors of Archon 44

Making sure I’m ready for my own scheduled panels (as well as the Art Show) is my top priority at any convention I attend. As I see it, panels are part of the reason people come. That means we panelists are an important part of the “entertainment”—an important element in the convention’s overall success. That’s why many sf cons comp the memberships of attending creatives who agree to be on panels.

But at most conventions there’s also some “downtime” between panel appearances. That’s go-to-the-Art-Show and Dealer’s Room time. It’s wander-the-convention-and-take-pictures time. And it’s go-to-other-people’s-panels time. But Programming kept me really busy this year. I asked for it, so I’m not complaining! I also had my usual stuff to carry, plus a cane (a reluctant but helpful concession). It made the logistics of photography harder.

Jan S. Gephardt with signs advertising Weird Sisters Publishing titles.
Here I am, complete with mask, signs, and S.W.A.G.: just one of the authors of Archon 44. (Tyrell E. Gephardt).

Developing Your Creative Brand

I had a couple of panels with other authors of Archon 44 on Friday, in addition to the art-oriented panel I wrote about last week. The first one, “Developing Your Creative Brand,” certainly could just as well have included artists, as well as filkers, podcasters, costumers, and more. But as it turned out, it was just two other writers and me—as well as a small but engaged audience. The other two writers, Cole Gibsen and Brian Katcher, each occupy a somewhat different YA niche.

Cole’s Experience

Cole, who was our moderator for this panel, has written YA and Romance, but her most recent book, Risen, published in 2018. It is the first and so far only one in Blood Eternal vampire series—but there’s a reason for that. She’s a dog trainer as well as a writer, and the vast majority of her time these days is taken up with her nonprofit, Got Your Six PTSD Support Dogs. That seems to be her greatest passion these days, and it’s where she’s invested most of her brand-building efforts.

Cole Gibsen’s author photo; book covers for “Written on My Heart,” “Life Unaware,” “Seared on My Soul,” and “Risen;” and the logo for her nonprofit, Got Your Six PTSD Support Dogs.
Author and dog trainer Cole Gibsen has written several YA Romance books and started a vampire series called Blood Eternal (Book One is Risen). But her current passion seems mostly focused on her nonprofit, Got Your Six PTSD Support Dogs. (Goodreads; Cole’s Amazon Author Page; Got Your Six on Facebook).

Brian’s Experience

Brian Katcher, similarly, has written a number of books, all in the YA field. He’s a librarian in his “day job,” and recently his kids began to age into his audience demographic. He’s been circling around the “contemporary YA” identity for a while. He tested the waters in YA science fiction with Everyone Dies in the End.

His most acclaim came for his book Almost Perfect, about a high school boy in a small Missouri town who falls in love with the new girl (who turns out to be transgender). It won a Stonewall Award for Children’s and Young Adult Literature in 2011, but it also caught some backlash later. Brian has written about his experience for this blog. Watch for it in November!

Covers for Brian Katcher’s books “Playing with Matches,” “Almost Perfect,” “Everyone Dies in the End,” “Deacon Locke Went to Prom,” and “The Improbable theory of Ana & Zak.” Also Brian’s picture.

It’s Never Too Late: Becoming a Successful Writer After 50

This was originally conceived as a “solo” event, a talk by Author Guest of Honor Alma Katsu. She convinced the Programming folks to open it up to additional “mature” authors of Archon 44. They reached out to several of us, which is how I ended up as the moderator.

Alma was right. We had a “deep bench” when it came to writers who are achieving success after age 50. Our conversation explored the reasons why we delayed our assorted launches into writing. Most came down to needing to earn a living while learning the craft and rearing children, which is certainly my story.

Alma Katsu at a book signing, and her “Taker” Trilogy.
This photo of Alma Katsu was used for her Archon 44 Guest of Honor photo. Her “Taker” Trilogy melded paranormal, historical, and romantic elements. Since then, she has focused mostly on historical fiction, with paranormal elements mixed in. (Goodreads; Amazon).

The Inevitable Question

We also had a chance to address the inevitable question, “if you were so talented and dedicated to your craft, why didn’t you start earlier?” I, for one, enjoyed calling out the entitlement and privilege that underlies the question. As if, of course, it’s that straightforward. As if, of course, everyone else in your life would be perfectly willing and able to support you until the literary world recognized your brilliance. And as if, of course, a true genius can only be devoted to one art.

So many fallacies! So little time! It was good to have a chance to stick pins in them. Not entirely surprisingly, all the panelists were women (imagine that), although men certainly can be subject to the same delays and issues.

Here’s a look at my other co-panelists. I’ve included a bit about their work in the cutlines.

Deborah Millitello, with her fantasy “Baramayan Chronicles” books “Mourning Dove” and “The Wizard and the Warrior.”
I discovered that Deborah Millitello is somewhat elusive online, but I found an author photo and a fantasy duo, the “Baramayan Chronicles.” (Word Posse, Amazon, and Amazon).
Lettie Prell with covers for “The Three Lives of Sonata James” and “Dragon Ring.”
Author Lettie Prell is best known recently for her wonderful short fiction, much of which is available online, some for free. Her novella The Three Lives of Sonata James is available as an ebook. So is her only novel to date, Dragon Ring. (Amazon, Lettie’s website, and Amazon).
Rachel Neumeier with Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and two 3-book series from her prolific collection: The “Tuyo” series and the “Death’s Lady” series.
Originally a botanist, Rachel Neumeier now writes Young Adult fantasy novels, raises and shows dogs, and works as a tutor. She has written numerous books. Among the most recent are her three-book “Tuyo”(at left) and “Death’s Lady” (at right) series. (Amazon, Rachel’s website, and Amazon).

The Space Races

Saturday’s panels started with one I’d really been looking forward to. The introduction to “The Space Races” read: “Some stories have mankind becoming more and more homogenous until race is no longer an issue. Others have racial, religious and other groups all heading off to colonize their own ‘home planet.’ Which do we think is more likely, and are there positive aspects to both systems?”

Anyone who’s read my work knows I am pulling for a diverse future, based on the understanding that a diverse system (of any sort) is more resilient. In every age, the centers where different people from different backgrounds have been able to come together (ideally, mostly in peace) are the most vibrant, creative, and prosperous. I was all ready to pour cold water on the idea that “divide or homogenize” are our only choices.

Alternative Views

Unfortunately, I didn’t find much backing for my idea among other authors of Archon 44. Rachel Neumeier, one of our panelists, took an evolutionary genetics point of view. She wasn’t interested in cultures, so much as biology. We’ll either inevitably homogenize or break into multiple sub-species variants, was essentially her take.

The other two panelists, Grant Carrington and Adrian “A. J.” Matthews, pretty much fell in with the “we’ll self-segregate” philosophy. Their predictions seem based on the idea that most people prefer to be comfortable, and differences make us uncomfortable. Therefore, if we make it to space, we’ll settle in our own little separate places, our “segregated neighborhoods” and “gated communities.” I’d love to think we’ve learned better, but contemporary trends do seem to make my take look too optimistic.

Covers for Grant Carrington’s “Down in the Barraque,”Time’s Fool,” and “Annapolis to Andromeda.” Also, a photo of Grant playing guitar by a microphone.
Author Grant Carrington has been publishing short science fiction since at least 1971. Meanwhile, he pursued a career as a computer programmer for Goddard Space Flight Center and other academic, corporate, and government entities. He also sings and plays guitar. His three books are widely available from Brief Candle Press. (Amazon).
The 5-book Veronica Nash series starts with “A Dangerous Quality.” Adrian “A. J.” Matthews wrote them.
The writer behind the 5-book Veronica Nash historical fiction murder mystery series. Adrian “A. J.” Matthews hails from Britain, but he currently lives in Ohio. (Amazon; Archon 43).

Sustainable Creativity

Once again, this topic could have been addressed by creatives in any field, but the folks on the panel were all (except for me) there solely as authors at Archon 44. Meg Elison and Christine Amsden rounded out the panel. The prompt for the panel said: “Maintaining a creative routine during life’s interruptions, whether big or small.”

As the moderator, I had imagined we might talk about some of the issues involved in remaining creative during Covid lockdowns, but lockdown was a topic everyone else wanted to put in the rearview—and then floor it, looking straight ahead.

Christine, who is legally blind, talked about the digital tools she uses to deal with her disability. We discussed more timeless issues for remaining creative, too. How do we balance our time? How do we manage an outside job and writing? What about interruptions from kids and other family members, including companion animals? Our answers, as timeless as the questions, boiled down to setting reasonable boundaries, being flexible, and persevering, whatever comes.

Meg Elison’s many books include “The Book of the Unnamed Midwife,” “The Book of Etta,” “The Book of Flora,” “Find Layla,” “Big Girl,” and “Near Kin.”
Author Christine Amsden may be legally blind, but it doesn’t stop her from writing. She is probably best known for her 7-book Cassie Scot paranormal series. (Christine’s website; Amazon).
Science fiction writer and feminist essayist Meg Elison is a multiple award honoree and a prolific author who “writes like she’s running out of time.” (Amazon).

Virtual Pros and Cons

Even as the moderator, I wasn’t sure where this panel would go. The topic was efforts by sf conventions and individual creators to stay active and deliver content in the midst of a pandemic when everything went virtual.

As it turned out, I needn’t have worried. The small audience and one of the panelists, massage therapist and filker Jan DiMasi, all had deep experience as conrunners who’d had a baptism by fire over the past two years. They’d learned far more than they ever expected to, about the ins and outs of virtual conventions, and were eager to compare notes and “war stories.”

A Tale of Two Publishing Experiences

The other panelist besides me was another of the authors of Archon 44, Elizabeth Donald. She is founder and coordinator of The Literary Underworld, a journalist, and grad student pursuing dual masters degree programs at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. As her bio says, “In her spare time, she has no spare time.”

She spoke about the challenges of producing journalism conventions online, and described a downturn in business for The Literary Underworld, when they were no longer able to travel to sf cons. This provided a contrast with Weird Sisters Publishing’s experience. Since we are currently introducing ourselves almost exclusively online, we’ve seen our sales grow during the pandemic.

Elizabeth Donald, with covers for her books, “Setting Suns,” “Nocturne: Infernum,” and “Moonlight Sonata.”
Journalist and dark fiction author Elizabeth Donald has won several awards for her fiction and has written many books, including the “Nocturnal Urges” and “Blackfire” novel series. She is the founder and coordinator of The Literary Underworld authors’ group. (Elizabeth’s website; Amazon).

The One Reading I Did Go To!

As longtime readers of this blog know, one of my favorite things to do is go to other authors’ readings. I’ve blogged about readings at SoonerCon several times. Also at DemiCon, ConQuesT, FenCon, a Worldcon, and a NASFiC. But the only reading I attended at Archon 44 was my own. I’d asked that it be scheduled later in the weekend, so I’d have more time to promote it. Programming obliged, and scheduled it on Sunday of the convention. So, out of all the authors of Archon 44, I only got to listen to Van Allen Plexico and Kurt Pankau.

I came to the reading prepared to read any of several works. After all, both The Other Side of Fear and A Bone to Pick both were “debutantes” at Archon 44. A query revealed that some in the audience remembered how I’d read the first chapter of my then-newly-in-progress draft of A Bone to Pick at Archon in 2019. Did I happen to have something like that to share?

As it happened, I did have an early scene from my first draft of Bone of Contention. I call it Shady and the Not-So Diplomatic Appscaten. I read it,, it was well-received, and I later turned it into a downloadable “extra” for subscribers to my monthly newsletter. If you’d like to read it, scroll down for a way to subscribe!

This banner shows a cover I fabricated for my newsletter subscribers’ downloadable copy of “Shady and the Not-So-Diplomatic Appscaten,” with the selection’s first line: “Shady couldn’t see the entity on the bench in Glen Haven Park . . . but she could clearly smell it.”
I made this banner for my newsletter subscribers, after I created a downloadable version of the selection I read at Archon 44. (portrait of Shady ©2020 by Lucy A. Synk; photos from 123rf).

What did the Others Read?

A current work-in-progress gave Van Allen Plexico his material. He read the opening for his upcoming work Solonis: Master of Space and Time, from his “The Above” series. Previous books in the series are (in order) Lucien: Dark God’s Homecoming, Baranak: Storming the Gates, and Karilyne: Heart Cold as Ice.

Van Allen Plexico with his “Sentinels” series.
Longtime and honored writer Van Allen Plexico has been writing short fiction for anthologies recently, but he’s probably best known for his 9-book series “The Sentinels,” illustrated by Chris Kohler. He also hosts the White Rocket podcast. (Amazon; Amazon).

Kurt Pankau read a selection from his science fiction western High Noon on Phobos. Yes, “science fiction westerns” are a thing. The selection he read was pretty campy, but the story was set on a megastructure in space that involved an agricultural component (elements I’ve thought about a lot). I looked into it later, and decided to give it a whirl.

In the long run, I found the justification for rangeland and livestock on a modified ringworld around the Martian moon Phobos to be far-fetched. But this book doesn’t take itself at all seriously. It’s played for laughs, and I did laugh. You can read my review on Goodreads.

Writer Kurt Pankau and the cover of “High Noon on Phobos.”
Author Kurt Pankau is a computer engineer in St. Louis who most often writes short fiction, but he made an exception: his “silly space western,” which he originally published under a pseudonym. (Kurt’s website, photo by Kathy Schrenk; Amazon).

IMAGE CREDITS

I have seriously overdone it with the images on this one, and I undoubtedly could have broken this post into several. But I only have time to post once a week, and you’d still be reading about Archon 44 a month from now, at that rate. To make up for cramming them all into one post, I wanted to represent each author with their own small montage. To keep this section from being about a mile long on a post that’s already too long as it is, I’ve tried to make sure the credits are listed in each cutline.

the logo for Archon science fiction convention

Because Archon’s Doing it Right

By Jan S. Gephardt

I am happy to report that I’m going to Archon 44 after all. Why? Because—and only because—Archon’s doing it right.

The Email That Changed Everything

At left, a vaccination map of the US, shows Missouri’s vaccination rate is less than 55%, and Illinois is less than 70%. At right, the most current chart available at publication time shows that on Sept. 20, 2021, there were 207,974 new COVID-19 cases in the USA.
The vaccination map at left is by Josh Renaud, courtesy of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The chart at right is from The New York Times, via Google.

You may recall that a few weeks ago, I very reluctantly decided to withdraw from this year’s FenCon, a Texas science fiction convention that my son and I have come to love. I had been watching the COVID-19 trends in the St. Louis area and growing more and more convinced I’d have to do the same with Archon. But then I got the Email That Changed Everything.

“The Archon Chairs have decided to require vaccination OR a negative COVID test within the previous 72 hours,” the email said. “Documentation is required for both. . . There are no exceptions to this policy.” This is such an unusual and—sadly—BRAVE position to take in this part of the country that I actually gasped.

Archon 44 Co-chairs Alan DeVaughn and Scott Corwin are boldly going where many regional convention chairs have feared to go. And while they’re at it, they’re going “all the way.”

The state of Illinois has mandated masks for indoor public spaces for anyone older than 2 years old,” they wrote. “The mask must cover your nose and mouth, unless you are eating or drinking. If you are asked to put your mask on by an Archon staff / committee member and choose not to comply, you will be asked to leave. There are no exceptions to this policy.”

At left, protesters hold up signs with slogans opposing vaccine requirements. At right, protesters from a different group hold up signs with anti-mask slogans.
At left, protesters demonstrate against vaccine mandates (photo by John Lamparski, via The Atlantic). At right, anti-mask protesters in Kalispell, MT (courtesy of the Flathead Beacon).

Archon’s doing it right.

Yes, Archon’s doing it right, and I couldn’t be more pleased. I plan to honor their commitment to follow both science and good sense in the best way I know how: by coming with my books, my artwork, and my work ethic. I’m scheduled for nine events and panels—and I plan to show up for all of them as well-prepared as I can possibly be.

I’m also going to do everything in my power to promote their event—for example, on this and my other blogs, and on every social media platform where I have a presence. Because Archon’s doing it right, they have earned my heartfelt gratitude and loyalty.

If anyone reading this was on the fence and wavering about coming to Archon, please make this policy your deciding vote for going!

Oh, and a word to the wise: book your hotel reservations (use the link on their homepage to get the convention rate) as soon as possible. Historically, they fill up fast!

This montage shows views from Archon 42 and 42, held in 2018 and 2019. Above are two art panels. Below, two views of the Gateway Center, one in sunshine and the other in rain.
Top L, artists Brent Chumley, Rachael Mayo, and Allison Stein discuss creating fantasy creatures in 2019. Top R, Rachael Mayo and several attendees discuss art materials at a 2018 panel. Below, R-L, we had much sunnier weather at the Gateway Center in 2019 than 2018. (All photos by Jan S. Gephardt).

I Have History with Archon

As I noted in the article on my Events Calendar, Archon has been around for a while.

The “44” in Archon 44 means this annual convention has been around for a while. G., Warren, Pascal and I all went to earlier Archons when we were just starting in fandom. And a few years ago, Ty and I started going to them again. If you follow my blog, you might remember posts I’ve written about hall costumes at Archon 42 and 43, and the Art Show.

It’s a well-established convention, run by people who generally know what they’re doing and find excellent ways to make it a good weekend for attendees.

After years in the funky, rambling, since-demolished Henry VIII Hotel in St. Louis proper, the convention has found an excellent new home in the Gateway Convention Center and DoubleTree Hotel in Collinsville, IL.

Throughout my career, I’ve had some great moments, and met some wonderful people at Archon.

Photos from the “writing side” of Archons 42 and 43, held in 2018 and 2019. These photos show a variety of people engaged in panel discussions, readings, and demonstrations.
At left, EMT Kevin Hammel conducts a highly informative 2019 presentation on gunshot wounds, for writers who want to get it right. Top center, a 2018 panel on Diversity in SF, which included, L-R, Jennifer Stolzer, Kathleen Kayembe, Camille Faye, and Debbie Manber Kupfer (M). Top far right: I prepare for my reading in 2019. Below center L-R: Donna J. W. Munro, Marella Sands, and Christine Nobbe chat with the audience before their readings in 2018. Below R, Jennifer Lynn discusses Shamans, Druids, and Wise Women in a 2019 presentation. Photos by Jan S. Gephardt, with the exception of one (guess which) by Tyrell Gephardt.

But that was then. What about Now?

ecause Archon’s doing it right, I’ll have an opportunity to show off my new book (readers who’ve followed this blog in recent weeks probably noticed I have one) sooner than next February (looking at you, Capricon 42). And I’ll get to display my artwork in an in-person display for the first time in almost 2 years.

“A Bone to Pick” by Jan S. Gephardt, envisioned as an ebook on the left and as a trade paperback on the right.
Jan’s new book A Bone to Pick became widely available in a variety of formats after Release Day, September 15, 2021. Cover artwork © 2020 by Jody A. Lee.

I’m scheduled for an autograph session on Friday, a reading on Sunday, and seven panels (several of which I’m moderating). I love doing those things, because they give me opportunities to have great conversations with other panelists and audience members. I get to meet creative, interesting new people (and so can you, if you’ll join us at Archon). And I also get to re-acquaint myself with people I haven’t seen for a while.

I’ll come equipped with an expanded collection of S.W.A.G., badge ribbons and bookmarks for all (or—if that last order doesn’t arrive in time, at least most) of the books and stories Weird Sisters Publishing has produced so far. If you’re a subscriber to my monthly newsletter, and you tell me so at Archon, I’ll even have an exclusive-offer “I’m a Member of the Pack” badge ribbon for you.

Here’s Jan at her Autograph table, surrounded by S.W.A.G.
Jan at her Capricon 40 autograph table (photo by Tyrell Gephardt).

Introducing “Stripped ‘Scripts”

Also because Archon’s doing it right, my son Tyrell will have a first opportunity to present his new service to authors, called “Stripped ‘Scripts.” Through it, he’ll bring his skills as a developmental editor to a new audience.

What’s a developmental editor, and why would a writer need one? In the movie industry they’re sometimes called “script doctors.” While that name gets applied to services from high level plot-revision to hands-on rewriting, the idea is basically that when a plot or a manuscript has gone off the rails, dead-ended somewhere, or developed another kind of structural dysfunction, all hope may not be lost.

A good developmental editor can look it over and offer an analysis. They’ll often have a better idea of what’s wrong and how to turn it into a structurally sound story than an author who’s “written themself into a corner” and run out of ideas. I’ll freely admit that my stories have benefitted from Ty’s “big picture” view. I also appreciate his fresh takes on cultural adjustments to varied technical innovations, and his martial-arts expertise.

Here’s a photo of Ty, along with his business card for Stripped ‘Scripts
Photo and developmental editing business card design are both courtesy of Tyrell Gephardt.

Because Archon’s Doing it Right, We can Relax and Have a Great Con

I know I’m not the only science fiction fan who has missed going to conventions. I’ve blogged elsewhere about why I love science fiction conventions. Not rubbing shoulders with other writers and the fans who keep us afloat has been disappointing, but necessary during the pandemic.

But although it seems as if it’s taking forever, it’s now in our power to make this fourth wave the last one. It’ll be a bit longer, no thanks to the purveyors of an unprecedented flood of misinformation. But we can do it. Spread the word. Speak up in support of those who are doing it right. Kindly (if possible) help to educate those who are sincerely confused.

Science, technology, and government services (sometimes government really isn’t the problem!) have given us the tools we need. They’ve placed research, growing understanding of this virus, and three phenomenally effective vaccines within our grasp. We’re the taxpayers who’ve underwritten much of this historic work. We now have the right and privilege to avail ourselves of these new tools and understandings.

And because Archon’s doing it right, we now can do it at a science fiction convention!

IMAGE CREDITS:

Many thanks to Archon’s Facebook Page, for the logo header image. The map showing vaccination rates in the United States was created by Josh Renaud for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The chart of COVID-19 cases in the United States is regularly updated by The New York Times, accessed 9/21/2021 via Google.

The montage images from Archon 42 and 43 are all by Jan S. Gephardt except for one, taken by Tyrell E. Gephardt (of Jan’s reading). Ty also took the one of Jan at her Capricon 40 autograph table. Moreover, he provided the photo of himself, along with the image of his “Stripped ‘Scripts” business card.

Many thanks to all!

Page 1 of 2

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén