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Sometimes You Get a Gift (Reprise)


It looked like a scrap of paper somebody tossed on the street -- but such a pretty scrap. Depending how I tilted my head, the crumpled material swallowed the late afternoon light like black velvet or shimmered like blue sequins.

The paper fluttered as I crouched beside it -- not paper at all, but a butterfly with wings shading from velvet black to the exact blue of the sky just after sunset. It moved sluggishly on the warm asphalt, as if it couldn't get up the energy to fly.

Not many cars drive up that end of the street, but some do, and I didn't want something so beautiful crushed beneath their tires come morning. I found a stick by the curb and tried to persuade the butterfly to hop aboard. No dice. The butterfly apparently didn't consider the stick any better than the blacktop. It turned up its antenna at a nice leaf too.

Danged critter -- did it have a death wish? I didn't want to pick it up by its wings. The butterfly held them at half-mast, forming a "V" to its body. What if I damaged them trying to help? It would be too easy to break something Nature never intended to be bent in the first place. You can't splint a butterfly's wing. You can't even replace the powdery scales.

In desperation, I put my hand on the ground. I didn't expect it to take me up on the offer. Local squirrels, chipmunks, birds, opossums, even raccoons gorge on the seeds and nuts my husband and I scatter over the patio, but shy away from actual contact. I used to know a company of squirrels brave enough to risk hand-feeding -- but only if you offered whole pecans. Over the years, I caught and released my share of fireflies and ladybugs too, but you can't compare a slow, hard-shelled bug to a scrap of living tissue paper.

The butterfly walked into my palm as if it had been waiting for me to extend my hand all along. Its tiny feet delicately picked their way up my wrist and settled on the sleeve band of my raincoat. It allowed me to carry it back to the park, settled on a suitable frond of grass and tented its wings for the night.

In my first editorial for Crescent Blues eight years ago, I wrote about the perfect dead Emperor Moth Pat Elrod found on her porch. When she asked a shaman friend about it, he told her: "Sometimes you get a gift."

I likened the gift of that moth to the gift of Crescent Blues. But I was wrong. You can't compare a magazine to a dead thing, no matter how remarkable. Thanks to the gifts of friends and strangers, CB lived, prospered and took flight. Hopefully, it also gave something back to its readers and the wonderful community of creative people it celebrated.

Now like the black swallowtail I set on the grass, the magazine needs to tent its wings and sleep.

Shortly before the 2005 holidays, our webmaster Stephen J. Smith suffered a severe attack of pancreatitis. Once the hospital system got hold of him, they refused to let him go. Over the course of his months-long recovery, the lives of everyone associated with Crescent Blues underwent major changes -- most of them good.

S.J. saw electronic publication of his first book, Cyberius III (published under the name S.J. Willing), by New Concepts Publishing. He didn't get to celebrate too much at the time -- it happened while he "rested" most uncomfortably in a local ICU. The book received great reviews (including a four-star review in Romantic Times -- almost unheard of for an ebook) and snagged several top ebook honors, most notably Ecataromance.com's Best First Romance Ebook Award for 2005.

In March, Samhain Publishing offered CB Assistant Editor Teri Smith and me a contract for our fantasy novel, With Nine You Get Vanyr. A boutique publisher with brick and mortar distribution through the Borders Group, Samhain plans to release the novel in electronic format in November 2006 and in print three months later. Samhain Publisher Crissy Brashear followed up this leap of faith by taking an even bigger one -- signing up Teri as an acquisitions editor and yours truly to do final line edits. I think she liked the idea of signing up the Meanest Women in Cyberspace. It makes her seem meaner than either of us -- not a bad rep for a tough-minded publisher.

Then, just last month, Teri opened her home to her 14-year-old granddaughter. Ladies and gentlemen, after a long and difficult developmental phase, the Crescent Blues staff finally achieved…adolescence?

With so many things on our plates, Teri, S.J. and I can't give Crescent Blues and its readers the attention they deserve. Therefore, rather than lower our editorial standards, we will make our temporary hiatus permanent as soon as we publish the backlog of reviews and articles acquired while S.J. recuperated. In addition, we will stop purchasing new material and accepting books for review, effective immediately.

Once we complete the last of our new postings, we plan to turn CB into an archive so that the interesting stories, well-informed opinions and flat-out great writing of our contributors can continue to delight readers new and old. We retain that option thanks to the folks who kept us alive through S.J.'s absence.

Sunil at our web host, Websulting, for posting the hiatus notice on our Table of Contents. Thanks, Sunil, your banner not only explained the situation to our readers you reduced our stress levels at a very difficult time. Although as an editor, Teri assures me I lack the emotional organ everyone else calls a heart, you saved my blood pump an awful lot of grief, and I really appreciate it. It was service above and beyond the call of duty.

I'd also like to thank one of our writers, Jen Foote for volunteering to post reviews. As an editor herself, Jen understands the importance of new content to the health of a site. Due to a number of circumstances beyond everyone's control, it didn't work out. But all of us deeply appreciate Jen's willingness to pitch in. In addition, I thank all our writers for their patience and good wishes. Whatever you believe, when someone hurts as much as S.J. did, good wishes, thoughts and prayers never go amiss.

Finally, I'd like to thank our readers for sharing in those good wishes. Glad to see you back and hope you'll enjoy the articles and reviews we planned for your New Year's entertainment, including our exclusive interview with romantic suspense great Jasmine Cresswell and our end-of-year review wraps.

Thank you all for the gift of eight wonderful years. It's been a privilege to share the journey with you. I almost added "even if we never travel this road again." But it struck me I shouldn't write "never". You can't trust the word. Crescent Blues may take flight again someday. After all, I never expected to hold a butterfly in my hand.

Jean Marie Ward

Jen Foote: The Good, the Bad, and the Nasty of 2005

Moira Richards: A Woolf Trilogy

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