Cons and Ex-Cons — Warning! Long Post!

Fellow author T. Lee Harris and I attended Context science fiction convention this past weekend. As I said, her house-mate, Dale Yocum, drove us in his Volvo. The only thing cooler than riding in a Volvo would have been riding in his previous car, which was a hearse. But, as my grandmother used to tell me, “You’re big enough and ugly enough to know you don’t always get everything you want.”

The fact that she meant it to be amusing and I took it that way tells you all you need to know about the two of us.

So we made it almost all the way to Columbus when we came upon a wreck that shut down the bypass and we were shuttled off the edge of our directions print-out. We hadn’t brought a GPS. We pulled into a Mickey D’s to see if they had WiFi so we could boot up a laptop and pull a map. No go.

So I pulls out a pen and tablet and I sez, sez I, “I will use my audio/digital direction finder!”

And I was in luck: The place was full of guys in denim jackets with the sleeves torn off, some bald, some bearded, some missing teeth, some all three, all with prison tattoos.

I knew I was safe. I’ve never met a guy who looked like that who wasn’t kind and helpful.

Sure enough, a guy who looked like Elisha Cook, Jr., and who said he used to drive a tow truck, gave us simple directions that took us right where we needed to go.

T and I were on panels Saturday and Sunday.

T in the middle.

T moderated one on Historical Fantasy that was only T and Evan Dicken, which I attended. They talked about researching the details, sticking to facts and playing with the facts. Dicken said the interesting times to write about are the times when everything is shifting, such as when and where cultures clash. They talked about how uncelebrated “minor” people they come across in research or small details can be the basis of a story.

Babs, Faith, MA, James

We had different panels at the same time the next hour. You’ll have to ask T about hers. Mine was Books We Read As Kids That Influenced Where and Who We Are Now. I was on that panel with Babs Mountjoy and Faith Van Horne (who moderated). James O. Barnes joined us. Later, T said, “James Barnes was supposed to moderate our panel, but he never showed up.” Having almost done the exact same thing at Fandom Fest, I sympathized with Mr. Barnes. Heh!

Faith asked us to name one book that influenced us. Mine was Freddy The Pig. I think I won some listeners over to the Friends of Freddy. Okay, why were the Freddy books so influential? The offbeat humor. The strong characterizations. The dialog that’s very different for each character. The fact that the smallest, seemingly least significant creature — a spider, a wasp — is treated as an individual with a history, a “people”, a character, and a life goal. The off-hand backstory Walter R. Brooks tosses off for one of these miniscules that send you away from the book looking at every butterfly or stray dog as a Person.

Then I moderated Are Villains Necessary, with Mindee Arnett and Nicole Cushing. We talked about the difference between villains (bad guys) and antagonists (opposing goal from the protagonist but not “out to get” him or her). We talked about bad guys who think they’re good guys. We talked about the complexity of story and character in books for children and young adults.

On Sunday, we went to a Forensic Science Workshop, which I’ll talk about on Thursday.

Then I moderated a panel on The Many Faces of Criminal Investigation, which T attended. My fellow panelists were Toni L. P. Kelner, Addie King, and Linnea Sinclair. Toni has written many stories featuring crimes and investigation. Addie King is an attorney and has been an assistant prosecutor. Linnea Sinclair is a retired private investigator. I’m nosy.

Our last panel was Why Short Stories Are Still Worth Writing, which I also moderated. The other panelists were T, Nicole Cushing, and Brady Allen, whom we know from Fandom Fest and who agreed we should claim cousin on each other since we have the same last name. The consensus was that short stories are worth writing because there’s a tremendous market for them (mostly online), they’re fun to write, they take less time to write than novels, and they take less time to read which means readers can enjoy complete literary experiences even though they’re crunched for time.

Thursday, I’ll go through my swag bag, and I’ll also tell you about the Forensics Workshop.

Meanwhile, I’m posting at Fatal Foodies today about the food.

A WRITING PROMPT FOR YOU: What book that you read as a kid do you think influenced you in who you’ve become? Ask your characters the same question.



I was born in Louisville, Kentucky, but now live in the woods in southern Indiana. Though I only write fiction, I love to read non-fiction. The more I learn about this world, the more fantastic I see it is.

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One thought on “Cons and Ex-Cons — Warning! Long Post!

  1. Red Tash

    October 2, 2012 at 8:48am

    Addie King is also a friend of mine from NIPW! She’s part of Writerly Friends. Small world.

    Glad you made it in one piece!

    Permalink  ⋅ Reply
    • Author

      Marian Allen

      October 2, 2012 at 9:24am

      I’m going to have to get some of those ribbons made up that they give away at conventions to stick to badges, with the names of groups I’m in printed on them, to give to other people in the same groups. Then we can recognize each other at a glance. 🙂 It was great meeting Addie in person, even though we didn’t realize we already “knew” each other. 🙂

      Permalink  ⋅ Reply
  2. Jane

    October 4, 2012 at 11:08am

    Hi. Thanks for the second-hand visit to the Con.

    Permalink  ⋅ Reply
  3. Dan Antion

    October 20, 2022 at 10:29am

    This popped up on your post today. I think it’s from before I followed you. In any case, not that you will be surprised, “Danny Dunn and the Homework Machine”

    Permalink  ⋅ Reply

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