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

Publication and Convention Announcement

It’s been a busy summer, and it keeps getting busier. Today, I’m happy to announce that Itty Bitty Writing Space, the anthology of flash fiction containing my story “Jalopy Racer”, is available for purchase on Amazon! I should be receiving my contributor’s copies soon, and three copies are on their way to libraries as part of the Kickstarter early backer perk. The link to purchase a copy is at left.

If you happen to pick up a copy of IBWS, please consider writing a short Amazon or Goodreads review. It really helps us authors with product visibility on the Amazon website!

My other announcement is that I’ll once again be participating in Myths and Legends Con on August 9-11, 2019, as a panelist, writer, and musician. This may very well be the final MALCon, so please try to make it!

The location for MALCon has changed this year. It will be held at the Radisson Denver-Aurora, located near the intersection of I-225 and Parker Road, 3155 South Vaughn Way, Aurora, CO 80014.

My panelist schedule is preliminary and subject to change, so please check this link for any last minute changes. Without further adieu, here’s my schedule:

Friday, 8/9/2019
Fri, 5:30 PM-6:20 PM, Musical performance by Stace Johnson (Arapahoe Room)
Fri, 9:00 PM-9:50 PM, So Charming, Not Creepy (Golden)

Saturday, 8/10/2019
Sat, 12:00 PM-12:50 PM, Intro to Filk (Pikes Peak A)
Sat, 2:00 PM-2:50 PM, Verse in the ‘Verse: Poetry and the Firefly Universe (Golden)
Sat, 3:00 PM-3:50 PM, Author Autograph Mega-Session (Arapahoe Room)
Sat, 5:00 PM-5:50 PM, Geek Songwriting (Pikes Peak A)
Sat, 7:00 PM-7:50 PM, Storytelling via Songwriting (Golden)
Sat, 8:00 PM-10:50 PM, Open Filking (Pikes Peak A)

Sunday, 8/11/2019
Sun, 10:00 AM-10:50 AM, Polyamory and Non-monogamy in Science Fiction and Fantasy (Evergreen)
Sun, 12:00 PM-12:50 PM, Author Readings – Ritchey, Berger, Johnson (Mt Evans)
Sun, 2:00 PM-2:50 PM, MALCon Farewell Session (Golden)

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?

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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.

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