Reflections on 2019

2020 is on its way. The year flew by, with no significant tragedies (knock on wood; there are still a couple of weeks left) and I was able to check off several mental boxes.

In my end-of-year post last year, I listed the following goals.

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

Time for the reckoning.

Publish at Least Two Short Stories
I succeeded at this, with flash fiction publications in both Itty Bitty Writing Space (see link at left) and Flash in a Flash, a weekly flash fiction newsletter. “Jalopy Racer” appeared in IBWS in July and “A Knight’s Tour” ran in September.

Publish at Least Two Poems
I failed at this, with no poetry sales in 2019, though my sale to Star*Line was published in 2019, so that’s something.

Perform at Open Mics More Often
I rocked this one (sometimes literally!) I performed at Lincoln Station‘s open mic night at least seven times, once with a full crowd of friends in the audience, and I’m getting to know the regulars there a bit. I intend to sign up for at least one more this year. I’m trying to play something new each time; it hasn’t always worked out that way, but I know I’ve played at least 15 different songs there this year. Thank you to all who came out to support me, and more importantly, to support live music and the venues that offer it.

Drum Up Some Music Gigs
I succeeded at this, as well. In addition to the open mic appearances, which are technically not gigs, I performed at WhimsyCon, Superstars, FutureScapes, Aurora Mini-Con, Denver Pop Culture Con (as part of a music panel), and the final Myths & Legends Con (MALCon 7.) I also participated in filk circles at MALCon and MileHiCon 51. I’m lined up for another performance at Superstars 2020 with the indefatigable Wulf Moon, Writers of the Future contest winner and ascending literary star, and hopefully Shiny Garden will want me back again for WhimsyCon in 2020.

Write and Perform at Least Two Songs
Success! Around the beginning of the year, I collaborated with the aforementioned Wulf Moon to create music for his song “Vampire,” and we debuted it together at Superstars. I also collaborated with Nathan Crowder to set music to his lyrics for a song called “Tacos and D&D,” which I debuted at WhimsyCon. I played both songs several times at gigs and open mics throughout the year. I also wrote an entirely new filk song set to the tune of Bon Jovi’s “Wanted Dead or Alive.” I called it “Scoundrel.” It’s about Han Solo, and I debuted that at the Aurora Mini-Con. I have a couple more filk songs in the pipeline, and I’m working on a solo acoustic Rush medley, which I can hopefully pull off at Superstars 2020.

Complete Half-Lives of Quiet Desperation
Yeah … that didn’t happen. I got great feedback on that partial novel at Futurescapes, but ultimately, I made no progress on that. I did start another piece that may become a novel, but novels seem to be my bugbear, so I’m going to try to let that project grow to what it wants to be, rather than force it into a mold.

Other Things Happened, Too
For most of the year, I worked part-time on the weekends for The Inquisitr website, initially as a writer, then as a copy editor. I enjoyed my time there, but had to leave that position late in the year because I got a promotion at my main job that requires me to be more available than before. I feel like I’m finally settling into the new position and not having to put out as many fires, which is nice. I’m grateful to both Inquisitr and my employer for the opportunities they have given me.

In July, Readercon took place in Boston. I was unable to go, but my late friend and mentor, Ed Bryant, was the Memorial Guest of Honor, and Readercon asked me if I would like to contribute a remembrance for their souvenir book. I was honored to do so and have my name appear alongside essays by Mark Barsotti, Steve Rasnic Tem, and Connie Willis. I couldn’t ask for my words to have better company.

Finally, I was a panelist at all of the aforementioned cons, and had the distinction of moderating some pretty significant ones. Thank you to the convention organizers for trusting me as a panelist and moderator. At the final Myths and Legends con, I participated in my first featured reading with Aaron Michael Ritchey and Lou J Berger, and at MileHiCon, I was ecstatic to have a spot in the autograph room next to Connie Willis and Carrie Vaughn!

Carrie Vaughan, Stace Johnson, Connie Willis (l to r)

Moving Forward
All in all, it was a great year of creativity for me, and I’m hoping to build on it in the coming year. 2020 is already off to a good start, with my first appearance at COSine in Colorado Springs scheduled for January and attendance at Superstars in February, complete with another Moon/Lyt collaboration (as Moon and I like to call ourselves.)

I wish you all the best of holidays, whatever your tradition. Watch this space for future announcements, and feel free to connect with me at any of the following venues online. (They are listed roughly in order of the amount I utilize them.) I look forward to hearing from you!

Facebook: Personal page / Author & Musician page
Twitter
Instagram
YouTube
Pinterest
LinkedIn

Denver Comic Con 2018 Recap and General Update

My first Denver Comic Con as a panelist has come and gone, and I enjoyed myself immensely. Thanks to the efforts of superwoman Shannon Lawrence, I was able to participate in five panels over the three days of the convention. Here are some personal highlights.

Art

I picked up this beautiful piece of artwork by Chaz Kemp, one of my favorite local artists. Nearly every aspect of this piece has personal meaning to me, and I’m honored to own it.

 

"Insight" by Chaz Kemp

“Insight” by Chaz Kemp

 

I also stopped by the VisiColors booth and picked up some very cute stickers for my girlfriend.

 

VisiColors Stickers

VisiColors Stickers

 

Inspiration

I was lucky enough to get in the front row for Frank Miller’s Q&A session, though I couldn’t afford an autograph. Miller is by far my favorite comic book writer thanks to his incredible “Born Again” run in Daredevil. His economy of language and ability to tell a gripping story in so few words is inspirational to me. It’s no secret to people who have known me for a while that even though I haven’t collected comics for a long time, Daredevil is my favorite superhero, and seeing the man behind The Man Without Fear speak is a bucket list item I can now check off.

 

Comic book legend Frank Miller

Comic book legend Frank Miller

 

Also, after fighting my way through the throngs of people in the exhibitor hall, I finally found Connie Willis‘s signing table and she signed my personal copy of Edward Bryant’s Sphere of Influence. I’m honored to have a story in the same book as her, especially since it’s my first fiction sale. (I also got a free copy of Crosstalk, which she also personalized for me!)

 

Connie Willis personalization on the Prologue page of Edward Bryant's Sphere of Influence

Connie Willis personalization on the Prologue page of Edward Bryant’s Sphere of Influence

 

Artistic Growth and Exposure

After fighting through a writing slump in recent months, I feel like I’m finally moving again. With another recent sale to Martian Magazine (to be published online the week of July 23rd), I’m feeling motivated again, and event submitted a piece of flash fiction to Postcard Poems and Prose from my phone while at Comic Con. There’s a lot of my dad in that story, so it’s fitting that I submitted it over Father’s Day weekend, and I hope it does well in their “Clutch” contest.

I attended a panel on geeky songwriting (“I Sing and I Know Things”) featuring my friends Losing Lara and Seth Phillips, and Lara was kind enough to give me a shoutout about my upcoming Westercon 71 / MALCon 6 concert on Sunday, July 8th at 2 PM. Watch this space for a more detailed announcement about that con appearance, coming soon.

 

Seth Phillips, Will Plumb, and Losing Lara

Seth Phillips, Will Plumb, and Losing Lara

 

Big Audiences without Anxiety

I’ve been participating on panels at SF conventions for over 15 years, and I’ve helped organize them as far back as 1987. But Denver Comic Con is an order of magnitude larger than any other convention where I’ve appeared, so the panel attendees were an order of magnitude larger, as well. Here’s a shot of the audience for my final panel, on “Black Mirror and the Evils of Technology.” DeAnna Knippling did a masterful job moderating the panel, and the time flew by.

Audience for "Black Mirror and the Evils of Technology"

Audience for “Black Mirror and the Evils of Technology”

Even better, when I saw the size of the line before the panel and the number of people streaming in, I barely got nervous at all. The only time this introvert’s social anxiety really kicked in was when I was trying to thread my way through the exhibit hall during its busiest times. For me, that’s a major win.

 

General Update

My life has become very busy lately, between convention appearances, musical gigs, stories published, and everyday work and relationships. Add to that the fact that I’m currently displaced from the room I rent and living out of boxes because the owners of my home are renovating the basement where I live, and I would normally be freaking out. But I’ve realized that I’ve changed a lot in the last couple of years, and the positive changes are mostly due to things I have put in place myself. I told a colleague last September that I really wanted to focus on my writing and music, and good things are coming from that. Even the displacement has had positive effects; it has disrupted my normal routine enough that I’ve broken out of some habits that were taking too much of my time and reducing the quality of my sleep.

However, there have also been some challenges because of these positive changes. I’ve had to erect some boundaries in order to stay on track and not get behind. One of these is in the area of computer consulting. I’ve done consulting on the side for years, but I’ve never done it with a monetary focus; it’s always been about helping people resolve problems inexpensively. But if I want to keep up the momentum on my creative endeavors, I can’t accept any new clients, and I have to be judicious about helping existing clients. That means I’ve had to say “No” to some people who have wanted my help recently, and that’s a new — and difficult — thing for me.

Sometimes I wish I could clone myself so that I could have WriterStace, PoetStace, MusicStace, FriendStace, and ConsultingStace for various tasks. When it comes down to it, though, MeStace is my default setting; I don’t need to create him, and he takes precedent over all others, perhaps for the first time in my life.

A word about the GDPR

On May 25, 2018, enforcement begins on a new set of European Union (EU) regulations designed to protect the privacy rights of consumers online called the General Data Protection Regulations, or GDPR. These regulations are designed to protect EU consumers globally, not just within the boundaries of the EU, so it has the potential to affect American businesses and websites that have customers in the EU, even though the regulations are not part of the United States legal structure.

The idea is that if a person in the EU visits and gives personally identifying information (PII) to a website anywhere outside the EU, their personal information is protected because they are making the transaction from within the EU, even though the transaction itself may not take place in the EU. For instance, if someone from France visits this website and opts into the email subscription form at left using their email address, they are giving me personally identifying information, and it is my responsibility to be transparent about what that information will be used for, as well as providing the subscriber with the ability to opt out of the subscription easily if they so choose. Since I don’t actually sell anything through this website or my consulting website and don’t do business in the EU, my exposure appears to be limited to the caretaking of email addresses. At least, that’s how I interpret the research I’ve been doing.

To that end, here is my official statement regarding my intent for the PII of my site visitors.

  • I will never sell your personally identifying information. I will never give it to anyone without directly asking your permission first (and likely will never give it away for any reason.)
  • The regulations state that any opt-in features should require active input from the user, like checking a checkbox that is not already prepopulated or another “binary choice given equal prominence.” This site already complies with that, because a user must type in an email address and actively click a Subscribe button to join my site’s subscription list, which I then manage personally, not through any third party.
  • This website is the only entity authorized to use any personally identifying information gathered from visitors (email addresses, in this case), and it will only use that information for purposes of notification about website updates or direct interaction initiated by visitors to the site.
  • You are free to leave the subscription list at any time. Just visit the Contact page and let me know you want your address removed. I will comply as soon as I am able, after which you will receive one confirmation email from me at the address you provided on the Contact form, but no more subscription or site related emails after that.
  • Per the requirements of the regulations, I will begin keeping private records documenting how and when visitors provided me with personally identifying information, what that information consists of (email addresses), and what the visitor is consenting to (email notifications of new blog posts or relevant site-related changes.)

If you have any questions or concerns, please use the Contact page to let me know. Thank you for your time and understanding.

Stacy A. Johnson
Owner and Maintainer, lytspeed.com
May 23, 2018

On the Shoulders of Giants

I have many things to be thankful for this year. My life is going well in many regards, and this fall has been fantastic, mostly because of one big piece of news. On November 24th, the book containing my first fiction sale came out: Edward Bryant’s Sphere of Influence. This completes the hat trick of selling fiction, non-fiction, and poetry, so I can finally cross that item off my bucket list.

I could not have picked a better market for my first story sale. EBSoI is a tribute anthology to one of my mentors, Edward W. Bryant, Jr., whom I’ve mentioned on this site dozens of times. My story, “Chesterfield Gray” (which I’ve also mentioned on here numerous times), is in fine company, because stories by Connie Willis, Steve Rasnic Tem, Kevin J. Anderson, Mario Acevedo, Bruce Holland Rogers, and Ed Bryant himself appear in the volume, as well as work by more than a dozen other writers and friends. I’m honored to have my work share the same pages as these giants of the industry. Thank you to Chuck Anderson and Jim LeMay, Editors of the anthology, for inviting me to submit my work and ultimately including me.

But those aren’t the only giants upon whose shoulders my story stands. In addition to passing through two of Ed’s writing groups, “Chesterfield Gray” was also critiqued in Melanie Tem’s writing group and by my first mentor, Leonard “Red” Bird. It’s thrilling to me that all three of the people whom I have considered mentors weighed in on the story at one time or another, and that it was ultimately deemed of high enough quality to be included in the anthology.

So, Melanie, Red, and Ed: This one’s for all of you.

February Word Challenge, Day 14

(If you’re wondering what this is about, read this.)

My five random words for today’s exercise are kennel, denim, genius, creeper, pocket.

Chosen word for free association: creeper
unsavory dude, mechanic’s dolly

Exercise:
To Harold, “Creeper” was never an insult. It was just a nickname he got because he spent so much time under cars on his mechanic’s dolly. He even made a trucker hat that said “CREEPER” across the top. He never understood what all the chuckles were about; he just thought he made people happy whenever he came around.

When the authorities showed up at his garage to charge him with harassment, it was a complete surprise.