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.

Isabelle and Steel River Three

I wrote yesterday about how my cat, Isabelle, needed a new home. One of the people from work took her home to introduce her to the family, and since she brought back an empty pet carrier, it was evidently a successful introduction. I hope that Isabelle brings joy and light to her new family, and that they give her the love and attention she deserves.

Since this is supposed to be a creativity journal, rather than a diary, I should talk a bit about what I’ve been doing that’s creative during the long dry spell in this journal.

Since I last made regular journal entries, I have continued to play music and attend writing groups, though not with as much vigor as I did before. I needed some space and brain cells to deal with Real Life Occurrences, and keeping an online creativity journal was neither a priority nor a need. I gave up the reins of the West Side Books website, as well, and scaled back my involvement in writing groups from three groups to only one.

The music I have been playing has been primarily acoustic, and I have been playing with a trio called Steel River Three for about the last year. We have had several gigs and were even taped for a local access cable television production. We have a copy of that performance, and currently give out free DVDs at our shows.

SR3 is a good group. I have played with the two other members for a while now, both assisting them with short notice gigs for their other project, the Dante band and performing with them at a benefit for the Summit Apartment fire victims in January of 2003. (My old band, Eight Inch Weeds, also played at that benefit.)

Last night, I practiced four songs that we are adding to the set list for an upcoming show. It’s nice to have a small list of gigs on the schedule; it feels like we’re accomplishing something.

Isabelle

Isabelle
Isabelle
I have a wonderful tabby cat named Isabelle. She’s lived with me for over four years, and has never had any significant problems. Recently, though, another cat moved into the house. We introduced the cats through a closed door for a period of about two weeks, then let them meet, supervised. There was initially a bit of territorial juggling, but it seemed that things had evened out.

Until last week.

Isabelle suddenly decided that Artemis was no longer welcome in the house, and started attacking her. Now, Isabelle is a very small, thin cat. She weighs only about 6-7 pounds. Artemis is much bigger, and outweighs Isabelle by double, at least. This, of course, was no deterrent to Isabelle, who came away with large tufts of Artemis fur in every encounter.

We tried isolating Isabelle in a large kennel and keeping her in the same room as the other cats so they could see that she could hiss, but could do them no harm. Unfortunately, Isabelle became very agitated in the kennel, dumping her water dish into her litter and flinging mud all around the cage.

For me, that was the last straw. It’s clear that the message Isabelle is sending is that she will not allow Artemis to live in the same house with her. Unfortunately, since Isabelle is the aggressor, I feel obliged to remove her from the situation.

I have taken her to work with me today, and posted signs with the above picture, asking someone to take her in. If no one responds, I will have to take her to a no-kill cat shelter in Boulder this afternoon.

Isabelle and Hummer

Due to my wife getting off work late and the prospect of painting a ceiling in the dark, we didn’t get anything done on the house last night. But I did read up on how to use the power painter properly, so I can know which rules I’m breaking and why the final result won’t be what I expected. I should have enough daylight to get the ceiling painted tonight, though. All the pieces are in place, and all I have to do is hook up and paint. I might even be able to get it done before my wife gets off work.

I noticed some bare spots in our new kitten’s neck fur, where our older cat (Isabelle) has been carrying her around. Hummer, the kitten, is about 3 months old now, and has bonded well with Isabelle. However, I think Isabelle’s motherly instincts might be off on their timing. It’s almost as if she’s adopted the kitten, but thinks she is younger than she actually is. So, she drags Hummer all over the house. Isabelle is a small cat, and can’t manage to completely pick up Hummer by the nape of the neck, so she has to drag her. She has been dragging her around so much that I can see marks on the kitten’s neck through the thinning fur.

I’m concerned about that behavior, and I’m trying to break Isabelle of it, but the kitten seems unconcerned. She meows in alarm when Isabelle drags her around, but then when she breaks out of the grip, she immediately goes back to playing with her surrogate mother. I guess I will just have to monitor the situation and let Isabelle’s natural timetable follow through. As long as the kitten is not showing any other signs of distress, I think things are probably okay.