A Few Words About “Jalopy Racer”

I mentioned last week that I had sold my story called “Jalopy Racer” to the Itty Bitty Writing Space anthology, which is currently rocking its Kickstarter campaign. At the time of this writing, it is 355% funded, with 17 days to go. During the first 48 hours of the Kickstarter, backers earmarked 256 copies of the book to go to libraries during a special promotion! Jason Brick, the Publisher/Editor, has done a good job of providing perks for backers, and I’m excited that the more the Kickstarter earns, the more perks they will receive. The most recent addition to the perks is that every backer will get a copy of the inaugural issue of Flash Fiction Aficionado magazine when it comes out! (Also, the more the project funds, the more the story authors get paid for their work, and that’s a good thing!) If you have already backed the anthology, thank you! If not, please consider supporting it. Who knows what Jason will come up with to reward you?

“Jalopy Racer” is a piece of flash fiction about the early days of informal stock car racing in 1950s New Mexico. My dad was one of those racers. He raced a 40s-era Ford with a flathead V8 motor, just like the main character in the story. The rules and safety features at community dirt tracks back then were very loose, and drivers rarely wore safety equipment beyond a pair of goggles to keep the dirt out of their eyes. Some cars even ran with open tops and no roll cages, as seen in this 1950s video of a jalopy race near Colorado Springs. (Warning: There are a couple of rollover accidents in this video. It’s unclear the extent of injuries suffered by the drivers, but nothing gruesome appears in the video.)

It was also common practice for young girls to present trophies to the winners, along with a celebratory kiss, so I made that part of the story. Our dirt track racer is determined to do what it takes to keep his rival from smooching his girl, who happens to be giving out the trophy that day.

The events in the story and the rival racer, McIntyre, are completely made up, but are inspired by stories my dad used to tell about his racing days. The racer’s family members (Winnie, Mary Ellen, and Gordy) are inspired by my mother, sister, and brother, respectively, though I honestly don’t know if they ever attended one of my dad’s races.

Somewhere, I have pictures of my dad’s race car, a ’41 Ford five-window coupe (I think) that he called the Purple Heart. I think he named it in honor of his brother, Wayne, who received a purple heart in WWII, and is the inspiration for my story “Chesterfield Gray“. When I find them, I will upload them, but for now, here’s a grainy picture of my dad from around the same time, with a different Ford that’s about the same age. (This one looks like a 1937 Ford Standard, judging by the hood and grille. Note the rear suicide doors; the handles for both doors are behind my dad.)

WhimsyCon Announcement

WhimsyCon is fast approaching! Steampunk aficionados from all around are dusting off their bowlers, drinking tea, polishing their goggles, and wondering if a dram of the Green Fairy is in order for these tempestuous times.

I’ll be there, opening the convention on Friday night with a musical performance on the Main Events stage from 5:30 to 6:20. I’ll also be on literary panels throughout the con, so please check my schedule below for anything you might want to attend.

WhimsyCon takes place on March 1-3, 2019, at the Hyatt Regency – Denver Tech Center location, and is run by Shiny Garden, a 501c3 non-profit organization dedicated to promoting fandom and diversity.

Schedule

Friday, March 1, 2019
5:30 PM-6:20 PM — Musical performance by Stace Johnson (Main Events)

Saturday, March 2, 2019
Sat, 5:00 PM-5:50 PM — Steampunk Poetry Slam (Mesa Verde A)
Sat, 7:00 PM-7:50 PM — Geek Songwriting (Wind Star B)
Sat, 9:00 PM-9:50 PM — Creating Multi-Cultural Steampunk Characters (Mesa Verde A)

Sunday, March 3, 2019
Sun, 2:00 PM-2:50 PM — How To Support Small Artists (Mesa Verde C)

A Good News Post

I’m really excited to announce two pieces of news. First, I received an informal acceptance notice from Itty Bitty Writing Space, an upcoming Kickstarter anthology of flash fiction edited by Jason Brick. The Kickstarter opens on January 29th, and this is Jason’s third Kickstarter flash anthology. Both of his prior anthologies funded successfully, so I’m optimistic that my story “Jalopy Racer” has found a good home.

“Jalopy Racer” is one of those stories that just needed to come out. It doesn’t really have a genre, unless you count it as adventure fiction, I guess. It’s inspired by my dad’s tales of being a stock car racer in southern New Mexico in the 1950s, and it basically told itself. I’m glad it has found a home in IBWS. I find it interesting that two of my last three fiction sales (“Chesterfield Gray” and “Jalopy Racer”) were inspired by family members, and neither are science fiction, my first love in writing. I guess that just goes to show that the words decide on their own what path they will take.

The other piece of news is music-related, and I’ve been bouncing off the walls waiting to share it. Thanks to the efforts of my friend Wulf Moon, I will be performing music at the Superstars writing seminar in Colorado Springs on Game Night next month! This is a private event, and only people who are Superstars participants will be able to attend, but if it goes well, there’s a chance it may become a regular event in the future. Moon and I plan to perform some songs together and I’ll do some solo performing, in a sort of filk/folk mix. I’ll bring lyric sheets for those who want to sing along, too. My thanks to Moon and Chris Mandeville for making this happen!

Reflections on 2018

When I look back at 2018, I have a generally good feeling. A couple of difficult personal events happened toward the end of the year, but overall, it was a good year, and a year of firsts for me. Let’s dig in.

Challenges

We’ll get the rough stuff out of the way first. November was definitely the most challenging month, with a storage unit fire early and the passing of a longtime pet near the end.

The remains of the storage unit fire (L), and Sophia, the Bewilderbeast (R)
(Like you couldn’t tell.)

About half my possessions were in the storage unit, and most burned up or were damaged beyond repair from fire and water, including a number of family heirlooms. Every few days, I think about something that I haven’t seen for a while, and realize I’ll probably never see it again. That stings a little, but it’s actually fairly easy to acknowledge that feeling and move on, since there’s no chance of recovering anything. As time goes on and the fire becomes more distant, it’s actually becoming something of a positive, because some of the items in that storage unit triggered painful memories, and resolving them through fire seems appropriate.

Sophia came to live with me and my ex-wife in 2004 (I think.) She was just a kitten, barely weaned. We named her after the goddess of wisdom, but it wasn’t long before we realized she was more oblivious than wise. Life happened to Sophia; she was more of an observer than an active participant in the world, it seemed. She loved shoes (especially leather) and strings, and was content to simply be in the presence of her humans, with minimal petting, unless she requested it. Her markings were exquisite; she was the most beautiful pet I’ve ever known, and I miss her.

Firsts and Successes

While 2018 had some challenges, it was also a year of artistic progress and firsts for me. I sold my first short story, a drabble called “To Be Human,” to Martian Magazine. That sale completed the hat trick of publishing fiction, non-fiction, and poetry for me, and I still owe myself a nice bottle of scotch whisky for doing that. I’ve decided that when I can afford it, I’ll probably buy an eighteen year old bottle of The Macallan, and only drink from it when I make a writing sale.

At the end of the year, I also sold my first poem to Star*Line, the official journal of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association. My hope is that it won’t be the last. In other poetry-related news, I was honored to host the Colorado version of the 40th Anniversary celebration of the SFPA at both Westercon 71/MALCon 6 and MileHiCon 50. At Westercon, the legendary Connie Willis joined us for the reading, and we read poetry from vintage Star*Line journals that were owned by the late Ed Bryant.

I also quietly launched a solo geeky music act, with performances at both Wester/MAL and the inaugural WhimsyCon. Seth Phillips, of Zero Day Exploits, invited me to play at his May the Fourth Star Wars party at Großen Bart Brewery, and I made a couple of appearances at open mics in 2018.

In September, I started a second job with the Inquisitr website as a writer. I wrote 42 articles for them, then transitioned to the weekend copy editing team. I’m enjoying the job and the extra income; it’s allowing me to get more musical gear so I can put on better shows.

Opportunity Ahead

Though 2018 is now done, it laid the groundwork for me to have more opportunities in 2019. Late in the year, I applied to an exclusive writing workshop for science fiction and fantasy authors called Futurescapes, which takes place annually in the mountains of Utah. To my surprise, I was accepted! The workshop takes place in April, and the resident writers this year are Ted Chiang, Mary Robinette Kowal, Dan Wells, and Fran Wilde. The workshop also features editors and agents, and assigns one professional from each category to every participant. I intend to focus on my partial novel, Half-Lives of Quiet Desperation, at the workshop; the sample writing I submitted to qualify is the prologue from that novel.

There is more music on the horizon, with WhimsyCon already inviting me to play music there again this year. (Hopefully MALCon will do the same, but that may be dependent on how well I do at WhimsyCon, because they are run by the same people.) I am also planning to participate in an informal music session in Colorado Springs next month, adjunct to the Superstars writing workshop.

I hope to be able to participate in the newly renamed Denver Pop Culture Con (formerly Denver Comic Con), but at this point, that’s not something over which I have control. Hopefully some friends will invite me to be on their panels, like last year. (Hint, hint, friends. 😉 )

I also hope to continue participating in MALCon and MileHiCon in 2019. I’ve been a panelist at those cons consistently, so hopefully that won’t change.

Finally, I have been invited to submit work for an upcoming publication with a post-apocalyptic theme, and I’m working on a story for that.

Goals

My goals for 2019 are simple:

  • Publish at least two short stories
  • Publish at least two poems
  • Perform at open mics more often
  • Drum up some music gigs
  • Write and perform at least two new songs
  • Complete Half-Lives of Quiet Desperation after attending Futurescapes

That’s probably plenty, especially that last one. The prospect of writing a novel scares me (which is why it’s not done yet), but it’s my hope that Futurescapes will knock that fear out of me or transform it into motivational energy.

Happy 2019 to all of you! May this be the best year of the decade for all of us.

MileHiCon 50 Announcement

Fifty years is a long time. MileHiCon, Colorado’s premier literary science fiction, fantasy, and horror convention turns 50 this year, and the organizers have pulled out all the stops. 

For the golden anniversary, organizers invited all surviving prior guests of honor to return, an impressive list of writers, artists, and fans. As of 10/15/2018, the following names are confirmed to be appearing:

Mario AcevedoPaolo Bacigalupi — Steven BrustLiz Danforth — Shaenon K. Garrity — Barbara Hambly — Stephen Graham Jones — Chaz Kemp — Ed Kramer — Jane Lindskold — Theresa Mather — Wil McCarthy — Jack McDevitt — Robert J. Sawyer — Jeanne C. SteinJohn E. Stith — Michael Swanwick — James Van Pelt — Robert E. Vardeman — Carrie Vaughn — KathE Walker — Connie WillisCourtney Willis — Lawrence Watt-Evans — Lubov Yegudin 

I will be moderating a couple of special events at this con, namely a 40th Anniversary SFPA / MileHiCon 50 poetry panel and, like last year, a panel remembering Edward W. Bryant, Jr. and his legacy. Publisher Jean-Philippe Gervais will be on hand to discuss and announce his seven year work in progress, the Complete Works of Edward W. Bryant, 1968-2018, a three volume compendium of Ed’s writing, authorized by Ed himself before he passed in early 2017.

My MileHiCon 50 appearance schedule is below. As usual, MileHiCon is being held at the Hyatt Regency Denver Tech Center location. The dates are October 19-21, 2018.

Friday, October 19, 2018
2pm — Tips on Being an Awesome Panelist (Wind River B) — A discussion ranging from how to improve your chances of becoming a panelist at MHC to ways to prepare to wow the audience. With Wil McCarthy (Moderator), Carrie Vaughn, Goth Hobbit, Meg Ward, Stace Johnson.

3pm — Roundtable: Finding Your Tribe (Bristlecone/Other) — Fandom, a subset of fandom (anime, gaming) or something completely different … how do (or did) you find your tribe? With Nonir Amacitia, Stace Johnson (Moderator).

Saturday, October 20, 2018
1pm — MHC Poetry Slam & 40th Anniversary SFPA Celebration (Mesa Verde A) — Celebrating 50 years of MHC and 40 years of the Science Fiction Poetry Association. Bring genre poetry to share — whether your own or some Rhysling winners penned by others that you love. All attendees will receive a theme-appropriate gift (while supplies last.) With Carina Bissett, JD Harrison, David Lee Summers, Stace Johnson (Moderator).

Sunday, October 21, 2018
11am — Ed Bryant’s Memory and Legacy (Mesa Verde C) — Friends of Ed, including the editor of the Bryant retrospective anthology, share memories and discuss the status of some projects related to Ed. With Jean-Philippe Gervais, John Stith, Stace Johnson (Moderator).

2pm — Bye Bye Net Neutrality (Wind River A) — What are the real-world effects of the FCC ruling, and what are the best and worst-case scenarios of what will happen? With Tim Anderson, Arlen Feldman (Moderator), Goth Hobbit, Stace Johnson.