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.

MALCon 2017 Panel Schedule

Myths & Legends Con 2017 hits the Ramada in Northglenn, CO on Friday,  August 4th, and wraps up on Sunday, August, 6th. Here is my official MALCon panel schedule. The room names are in parentheses.

Friday, August 4, 2017
5:00 PM: Unsung Villainesses and Heriones of Fandom (Serenity)
Bryan Fields, Tonya L. De Marco, Stace Johnson
Starting with Professor McGonagall, who are some of the great unsung heroines and villainesses of fandom?.

10:00 PM: Building and Cultivating Your Creative Community (Helms Deep)
Melanie Unruh, Sarin Tatroe (Sariochan Arts), Veronica Calisto, Stace Johnson
How do you find people with shared creative energies to build community that inspires and helps you grow as an artist, author, musician, crafter, etc? Learn how others have found and built safe, creative communities with a spirit of helping one another thrive.

—- —- —-

Saturday, August 5, 2017
2:00 PM: Wish You Were There: Worldbuilding (The Shire)
Amalie Howard, Sean Patrick Fannon, Veronica Calisto, Stace Johnson
There are two kinds of worldbuilding: the kind that describes the story’s world, and the kind that makes you wish you were there. Authors discuss the difference, and offer tips and techniques to help you bring your own fictional worlds to life.

4:00 PM: Serenity vs. Firefly: The Audience Quiz Bowl Game (Helms Deep)
Ana MacDonel, Pam Walker, Stace Johnson
Do you know more about Serenity and Firefly than your friends? Now is your chance to find out how much you know in this family-friendly and fun game where deep knowledge is pitted against recall speed.

6:00 PM: Verse in the ‘Verse: Poetry and the Firefly Universe (Kings Landing)
Stace Johnson, Bryan Fields
Readings of fan poetry, impromptu Firefly poetry, and any poetry based on Firefly topics. Bring your material to share or provide prompts to the panelists.

7:00 PM: Relationship, Sexual, and Gender Diversity in Fandoms (Helms Deep)
Catherine Winters, Layman Kingsford, Veronica Calisto, Stace Johnson
Sometimes representation of diverse relationships styles, sexualities, and genders is overt in fandoms, and other times they are fan created. What are some examples of non-cis/heterosexual/monoamorous relationships we see and are these characters authentic and fairly represented?

9:00 PM: Epic Rap Battles of Literature! (Helms Deep)
Jason Henry Evans, Thomas A. Fowler, Stace Johnson
Two teams go head to head in a rap battle where the topics are Harry Potter, Harry Dresden, Lord of the Rings, and more. Fight!

—- —- —-

Sunday, August 6, 2017
10:00 AM: Polyamory and Non-monogamy in Science Fiction and Fantasy (Terre d’Ange)
Jacqueline Koyanagi, Vivian Caethe, Stace Johnson
Panelists will review SFF genre fiction throughout the decades with non-monogamous and polyamorous themes and how they have influenced current lifestyle trends.

11:00 AM: Lord of the Rings: Myth or Mythopoetic (Helms Deep)
Aaron Michael Ritchey, Andrew Hallam, Stace Johnson
Tolkien’s works are often referred to as modern myth, but are actually mythopoetic. Our panelists explain the difference and how Tolkien fits into each.

Myths & Legends Con 2016 – Panel Schedule

MALCon 2016 is just around the corner — like, four days away! Here is my official MALCon panel schedule for those who are interested. It’s going to be a busy con! The convention will be taking place at the Ramada in Northglenn, CO, just off 120th and I-25, from August 12 through August 14. The items in parentheses are the room names where the panels will be convening.

Friday, August 12, 2016
7:00 PM: Critique Groups: Care and Feeding Without Getting Your Hand Bitten (Lawrence, KS)
Christopher Katava, J.A. Campbell, Stace Johnson
Many (most?) established authors will recommend “the right” critique group for aspiring writers. What are some of the things to look for and pitfalls to avoid? Be wary and be wise by knowing how to get yourself into the right company.

9:00 PM: Polyamory and Non-monogamy in Science Fiction and Fantasy (Serenity)
Emily Godhand, Nancy Kay Clark, Stace Johnson, Tanya Hixson
Panelists will review SFF genre fiction throughout the decades with non-monogamous and polyamorous themes and how they have influenced current lifestyle trends.

10:00 PM: Verse in the ‘Verse: Poetry and the Firefly Universe (Nevernever)
Stace Johnson
Readings of fan poetry, impromptu Firefly poetry, and any poetry based on Firefly topics. Bring your material to share or provide prompts to the panelists.

—- —- —-

Saturday, August 13, 2016
9:00 AM: Science Fiction or Science Fact (Serenity)
Brian Ziman, Stace Johnson, Veronica Calisto
How to make Sci-Fi more believable. The Plausibility of Sci-Fi concepts found in places like Firefly, Doctor Who and others.

11:00 AM: Commission Work: Designing Others’ Visions (Lawrence, KS)
Kathryn Renta, Sarin Tatroe, Stace Johnson, Tawny Fritz
Why is it so hard to design for someone else’s vision? Why have some of us given up on commission work all together?

12:00 PM: Writing in the 21st Century: What can we do now that we couldn’t do before? (The Shire)
Aaron Michael Ritchey, Stace Johnson, Tonya L. De Marco
Are there topics, characters, or situations that we can write about now that were taboo or forbidden in the past?

3:00 PM: Heroes and Monsters: What Separates the Two? (The Shire)
Paul Lell, Stace Johnson, Tonya L. De Marco
In modern and ancient times, there are figures who straddle the lines, being both monstrous and heroic. What separates the two; is monstrousness something characters are born to or do they have a choice; and are heroes those who are born to it or do they transcend their own monstrousness to become great.

6:00 PM: Story in an Hour (Serenity)
Carolyn Kay, Lou J Berger, Stace Johnson
Panelists and the audience will collaborate in a one-hour fun adventure, outlining a new story together.

10:00 PM: Incorporating Familiar Yet Larger than Life Characters into Fictional Worlds (Helms Deep)
Stace Johnson, Tonya L. De Marco
Writing fictional worlds means creating characters and situations to keep the reader engaged, but where is the balance? How to incorporate larger-than-life characters that are relatable yet interesting.

—- —- —-

Sunday, August 14, 2016
9:00 AM: Learn to Love Your Writing (Serenity)
Christopher Katava, Kevin Frost, LJ Hachmeister, Mike Cervantes, Stace Johnson
Everyone is their own worst critic. Stop worrying and love your writing: a motivational panel. How to stop hesitating because you feel you work isn’t “good enough” and put words on the paper.

12:00 PM: Marketing for Writers (Serenity)
Aaron Michael Ritchey, Kimberly Kennedy, Stace Johnson
Don’t publishers handle all that marketing mumbo jumbo? In this booming era of indie authors, hybrids, and small presses, what does it take to get your name out there? How does a writer market him or herself?