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.


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.

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WhimsyCon Appearances


WhimsyCon, the Colorado steampunk convention created by nonprofit Shiny Garden, takes place at the Hyatt Regency DTC on March 2-4, 2018. I’ll be on several panels at this con, as well as performing music on Friday evening and early Sunday afternoon.

I’m honored to be appearing in both music and literary capacities at this convention. I will also have a few copies of Edward Bryant’s Sphere of Influence (which includes my story “Chesterfield Gray”, as well as great stories from people like Connie Willis, Steve Rasnic Tem, Kevin J. Anderson, Mario Acevedo, Lucy Taylor, Bruce Holland Rogers, and Gary Jonas) to sell, for anyone interested. My schedule is below. I hope some of you can join me there!

(Note that this is a preliminary schedule, and may change without notice. Please be sure to check the current schedule before finalizing plans.)

Friday, March 2, 2018
Musical performance by Stace Johnson
Grand Mesa Ballroom A & B
5:30:pm – 6:20:pm
An hour (roughly) of music performed by Yours Truly

So Charming, Not Creepy
Mesa Verde C
8:00:pm – 8:50:pm
Make your convention experience better by learning how to approach people without being a creep. A discussion on etiquette, consent, common sense and enjoying fandom with respect. Audience is encouraged to share examples of good and bad interactions.
Sandra Wheeler, Stace Johnson

Steampunk Poetry Slam
Mesa Verde A
10:00:pm – 10:50:pm
Create poetry on demand to prompts given by the moderators and audience.
Stace Johnson, Voniè Stillson aka Lady Vo

Saturday, March 3, 2018
Learn to Love Your Writing
Wind Star A
5:00:pm – 5:50:pm
Everyone is their own worst critic. Stop worrying and love your writing: a motivational panel. How to stop hesitating because you feel your work isn’t “good enough” and put words on the paper.
J.D. Harrison, James A. Hunter, Melissa Koons, Stace Johnson, Veronica R. Calisto

Polyamory and Non-monogamy in Fiction
Wind Star A
10:00:pm – 10:50:pm
Panelists will review fiction throughout the decades with non-monogamous and polyamorous themes and how they have influenced current trends.
Catherine Winters, Eneasz Brodski, Shullamuth Ballinger, Stace Johnson

Sunday, March 4, 2018
New Authors Anonymous
Mesa Verde A
9:00:am – 9:50:am
Talk about what it’s like as a newbie in this crazy publishing world.
J.D. Harrison, Jessica Lauren Gabarron, Stace Johnson

Musical performance by Stace Johnson
Highlands Amphitheater
1:00:pm – 1:50:pm
Second musical performance by Yours Truly

Of Words and Notes

I mentioned a lack of self-discipline in my last post, and that it is one of the things that keeps me from being the writer I want to be. Continuing with that theme, this post is about practice.

“Practice makes perfect.”
Q: How do you get to Carnegie Hall? A: Practice.”
“Practice what you preach.”

Adages about practice abound, and it just makes sense to practice what I want to be good at, but I have a mental block about practicing writing. For some reason, I feel like I have to produce something when I write, and that creates pressure, pressure that shouldn’t be there during practice. Pressure is common in performing, or in producing a finished product, but it shouldn’t be a part of practicing. Journal writing and blogging are forms of writing practice, I suppose, and I should probably count them as such, but when I sit down to practice writing fiction or poetry, I feel compelled to produce something of quality, rather than just writing in a stream of consciousness or even basic expository style.

There is no shame in writing throwaway fiction from a daily prompt. Sometimes ideas might flow and the practice might lead to something bigger; other times, I might wind up with a loosely connected bunch of words that serve no other purpose. Why don’t I think that’s okay?

I play guitar, as well, and when I practice, I usually do so off-the-cuff, improvising, launching notes into the air to fade and disappear, with no record they ever existed. Unless I’m specifically practicing for a gig, I don’t feel the need to have a product at the end of my practice. I just play to get better and enjoy it, and there’s not nearly as much inertia for me to overcome before I start playing. It’s much harder for me to get the wheels rolling when I sit down to write.

But why? Functionally, there’s not much difference between throwing notes into the air and throwing words onto the page, so why do I have such a block against practicing writing, or more accurately, why do I feel the need to produce something of value when I write, but not when I’m practicing guitar?

I think I’ve turned fiction writing into my own personal bugbear, and with my recent story publication in Edward Bryant’s Sphere of Influence, I’m forced to challenge that bugbear. I want to capitalize on the momentum of this sale, and at first I was enthusiastic, even starting a new story from scratch for a different Mad Cow Press anthology. But after only a couple of days of writing, my momentum faded, and I stopped writing the story when I hit the brick wall mentioned in the last post. I know, I know, I should continue on with the rest of the story and figure out how to deal with the brick wall later. If I were in the rhythm of writing every day (or often, at least), I think I could do that.

Hence these blog posts. I didn’t make any new year’s resolutions this year, but I did set some goals. I want to write something at least five days a week. I also want to write 1,000 words of fiction on my WIPs each week. If I combine those goals, I could write 200 words a day and meet that goal easily, but I’m not going to lock myself into just doing productive writing. Some of those five days should be simple practice, probably from a writing prompt. An extended goal is to write one short story per month in 2018. At 1,000 words a week, that’s a reasonable goal, I think.

Heck, this blog post is about 630 words already. 200 words of fiction five days a week shouldn’t be impossible.

Dark Side of the … Movie?

I was in the grocery store today — the same one as before.  I was wearing my Pink Floyd shirt with a prism on the front.  The title of the album associated with that prism was printed across the top.  The courtesy clerk took special notice of it.

“What does your shirt say?  ‘Dark Side of the … Movie?’”

I faltered, but regained my composure quickly.

“‘Dark Side of the Moon.’  It’s one of the best selling albums of all time.  Came out in 1973,” I said.

“Album.  Huh,” he said.

Being the non-violent type, I just walked away.

2008 Resolution Results

Sporadically through the last year, I’ve followed up on how my numerous resolutions for 2008 were holding up. Here’s the final evaluation for 2008.


1. Write more consistently, whether journaling, blogging, or creative writing.

Although I haven’t blogged much more than the prior couple of years, I have done a decent amount of writing and website design to support writing. I became the webmaster and a contributing editor for Rough Road Review, a poetry and opinion journal with a distinctly southwestern flavor. I also scored another regular writing gig (see below.)

I mentioned in my last resolutions post back in May. Unfortunately, I just found out that is shutting down as of January 15, 2009. That’s a bummer. It was really a neat little site. I didn’t wind up contributing more than one piece to it, but I read a lot of the pieces on there. I will repost my one Ficlet submission here soon.

2. Find another outlet for article writing (since ComputorEdge has gone virtual.)

Back in May, I said, “… I did hear back from another [computer magazine], which is in its startup phase. We’ll see how that one works out.” It actually worked out very well. I’m now writing for Rocky Mountain TechLine at pro rates, and have been given assignments for four straight issues. W00t! The Editor/Publisher, Eric Wolferman, is wonderful to work with, and very encouraging. Through his influence, I think my non-fiction writing has taken a step up.

3. Publish some fiction. (Didn’t I say this last year?)

Um … Yeah. 2009, here I come.

4. Play more musical gigs.

My band, Steel River 3, played numerous gigs this year, and I have a new favorite coffeehouse because of it: Forza Coffee Company. Although I rarely drink coffee, the atmosphere at this place is wonderful, and the owner clearly cares very much about making his shop the best it can be.

5. Start teaching my stepson how to play guitar (his request, my responsibility to follow up.)

In May, I said, “It’s clear that Logan needs a Logan-sized guitar with standard tuning, but I haven’t had the money to get him one.” I’m pleased to say we did get him a Fender Mini Strat and amp, but I haven’t kept up my responsibility to teach him. For Christmas, I got him a new set of tuners for the Mini; the ones it came with don’t hold tune well. After I install those tuners and a fresh set of strings, we will work on the lessons.

6. Transplant my Variax electronics into a Carvin Bolt kit or Warmoth guitar body.

Money wasn’t there for this project, but I’m hoping to do it in 2009.

Physical & Mental Health

1. Learn how to get up earlier, consistently.

I have become more consistent about when I get up, though I stopped trying to get up as early as I was before, so this one was only a 50/50 accomplishment.

2. Utilize my handheld BalanceLog software to track my eating and exercising habits.

In May: “I haven’t been using it, but I’m at my lowest weight in the last few years. Go figure.” It’s amazing what can happen in a few months. Starting in September, I started gaining weight, and I’m just now starting to turn the trend around. What do you want to bet that if I had been tracking calories I wouldn’t have gained at the end of the year?

3. Ride my bike or walk to work more often. (If I get up earlier, this is not a problem!)

I did a bit of riding, but not enough, this summer. Currently, my bike is disabled (damn goatheads!) and the load of stuff I carry to work has increased, so I need to get a backpack. Both fixes are cheap, though.

4. Schedule dental appointments to get my teeth taken care of.

I attended my dreaded dental appointment, and my suspicions were confirmed. I will need a two-stage deep cleaning, and then oral surgery to remove three wisdom teeth that came in crooked. (The fourth grew in sideways, and is technically impacted, but the dentist recommends leaving it there because there is no chance it will ever erupt.) Unfortunately, we ran out of flex plan money in September, so I had to postpone the above procedures until 2009.

Financial Health

1. Get the amp out of the pawn shop, and never put it in again.

2008 was a horrible year as far as music equipment goes. Add to this list a 1996 Takamine acoustic-electric, the Carvin Bolt guitar kit I built in honor of my Uncle Leslie (see pic below) and a Fender Cyber-Twin Ver. 2.1 amplifier. I hung on to my Variax modeling guitar because it was the most versatile for playing gigs. The year ended on a positive note, however. I was lucky enough to receive a beautiful new Epiphone acoustic guitar from my wife and sister-in-law for Christmas. Right now, my Variax is in the pawn shop, but I will be able to get it out by the end of January. One of next year’s goals will be to set up an emergency fund to prevent the need for pawn shop patronage.

Carvin Bolt Guitar (from kit):  Leslie

2. Continue to provide quality computer consulting, but stop devaluing my services as much.

Consulting work continued to grow throughout the year, to the point where I had too many consulting jobs at one point and had to start turning them down. I think I did better regarding the value of my services, but there was one special circumstance in which I basically worked gratis. I don’t regret that, though. I did it for the right reasons, though I probably put it at a higher priority on my list than I should have.

3. Keep current on space rent, car payment, mortgage, and car insurance.

Things are looking up financially. We are current on our mortgage and space rent, car insurance will be paid this weekend, and we have eliminated the car payment altogether. We voluntarily returned our worthless van to the dealer, who then sold it at auction for $167.50. Yes, you read that right. We are stuck with a large balance on the loan, but that will be going away in the bankruptcy we decided to file in October. By the end of February, we should have paid off the bankruptcy attorney so we can remove that debt, as well as a number of other judgments (medical, etc.) that are threatening our livelihood.

It seems odd to say that things are looking up because we’re filing bankruptcy, but that’s becoming a sign of the times, I think.

4. Make a spending plan (a.k.a. budget) and stick to it.

I didn’t do too well with this, but I did what I could. I already have a more balanced spending plan in place for 2009.

5. Track finances better with Quicken on computer and handheld.

I utterly failed at this, because we lived paycheck-to-paycheck all year long. Hopefully 2009 will be better.

Home Improvements

1. Clean cat boxes daily.

This resolution started out well, and finished very poorly. I will definitely need to reaffirm this one.

2. Help more with household chores without having to be asked.

I think it’s safe to say that I improved overall in this area.

3. Reduce household clutter gradually (this will help mental health, too.)

As of late August 2008, this became impossible. Lannette’s father and sister moved out to Denver and lived with us (at our invitation, of course.) Her father has since found another place and moved into it, but her sister is not at a point where she can afford to live on her own yet. As long as we have an extra person living in the house, we will have to live with clutter, and I’m resigned to that.

4. Upgrade my computer (new mobo, RAM, and video.)

I actually accomplished this one in its entirety! Of course, it helped that my old motherboard completely died, so I was forced to upgrade.

5. Replace carpet with hardwood flooring throughout the house.

Money to do this was simply not there in 2008. Hopefully we can do this after the bankruptcy is finalized.

6. Landscape yard.

Well, my neighbor certainly did his part to help with this. He put a lot of work into building a partial low wall where we had discussed putting one. He used all the materials he had, but then I was unable to afford the materials we needed to finish the job.

7. Install carport/awning.

See #5 above.

Overall, I think I made some progress in all categories, which is not so bad. I still have room to improve, and I will need to recommit to some goals, but I’m ending the year knowing there’s hope, and that’s worth a lot to me.