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.

Little Things

Little Things

(song lyrics)

Some people try to ignore or deny
The Magic of being in Love
They bicker and fight and sometimes they might
Even give their lover a shove

But we know the way to make Love stay
Is to let the trust flow
Support and respect have the effect
Of helping true Love to grow

(Chorus)
A note and a rose on a soft white bed
The warmth of your breath as you kiss my head
Candles flicker gently in the air
Little things we do add up to a Love that’s rare

It just takes a few moments with you
To turn a frown around
And when I stay for the rest of the day
My feet don’t touch the ground

The Love that we give helps us to live
Through the tough times
Through hardship and wealth, sickness and health
Our Love continues to climb

A note and a rose on a soft white bed
The warmth of your breath as you kiss my head
A tender smile when one of us is blue
Little things we do add up to a Love that’s true

(Instrumental Break)

A note and a rose on a soft white bed
The warmth of your breath as you kiss my head
A hug on a darkened baseball field
Little things we do add up to a Love that’s real

— Stace Johnson, 1994

Moonlight Scarenade

Moonlight Scarenade

(song lyrics)

He sat in the dark of a cold city park,
Dried tears shining clear in the starlight.
As the full moon rose, he rubbed at his nose
And began speaking out to the night.

“If I talk to the Moon about my fears
Maybe she can put and end to these tears.”
Well, the Moon said hello and began to climb slow
Over a mountain horizion.

“See, there’s this girl I respect, and I feel we connect
On a level below the waterline.
She’s been a good friend, and I hope that won’t end
If I tell her why I’ve been cryin’.

I’ve told you now, Moon, about one of my fears.
Tell me, what can I do to stop these tears?”
The Moon held her say as she went on her way
Across a starlight horizon.

“I’m not in a place where I can offer with grace
The feelings that I speak of,
But it would be a sin not to let her in
On the fact that I’m falling in love.”

Well, he told the full Moon about all of his fears
But she did not a thing to end his tears.
Instead, the Moon said good night as she slipped out of sight
Beneath a valley horizon.

As he sat in the park, shivering in the dark,
He knew the risk he had to face.
Their friendship was strong, and he knew it was wrong
Not to put his fear in its place.

He called to the Moon that he’d face his fears
And get on with his life despite the tears,
But the Moon was long gone, and he looked to the dawn
Tinting the eastern horizon.

— Stace Johnson, 1993