Tuesday, December 31, 2019

My Annual Year's End Quiz!!!

Did you keep your New Years' resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

My resolutions never change much: "Read a lot, write a lot, eat healthier, walk more, listen to more music."

As these go, not bad! The toughest one is "eat healthier," which is a back-end kind of thing: I have no problem finding newer healthier foods to like. It's staying away from the less-than-healthy ones that tends to trip me up! This is something I need to work on big-time.

As for the rest, it was a decent year. I wrote a fair amount (though a lot of my writing time this year was spent on editing existing manuscripts, so drafting was on the backseat for a chunk of the year). Reading was a constant, and I really have made effort to listen to more music!

Did anyone close to you give birth?

As the set of "people who are close to me" continues to age, I expect this answer to remain fairly constant: no one close, though some friendly coworkers and online acquaintances had babies, so yay!

Did anyone close to you die?

Two brothers whom I count among my best friends lost their mother this year in a frighteningly short battle with cancer--in fact, it was so short that it wasn't even much of a battle. She didn't even get to suit up to fight the damned thing. That was terrible. She was a terrific woman and her passing has left a big gap in the lives of a lot of people.

What countries did you visit?

Real ones? I never left the US. False ones? Plenty! I spent a lot of time in my own fictional realms of Emmenmore and Lazony, and hopefully you'll get to read about them in 2021!

What would you like to have in 2020 that you lacked in 2019?

Well, I have to wait until November for this, but I really hope to have a President-Elect.

What was your biggest achievement of the year?

I continued to develop relationships online and off, especially with people at The Geekiverse, where I continue to write articles and attend events. I had two signing events, one being at Nickel City Con, the area's biggest pop-culture convention. What fun that was!

Aren't they lovely! #books #bookstagram #sciencefiction #spaceopera #forgottenstars

What was your biggest failure?

I can talk about usual stuff like how I kept eating way too much sugar, but I'll go with something very specific because it just keeps sticking in my brain. Back in March I was asked to work a shift at a different location of The Company, because that location's person in my position was on vacation and they really needed some stuff done. One of the jobs was caulking the outer edges around a wall-mounted urinal, and...I completely screwed up the job. I didn't test the caulk I used first (it was a brand I hadn't used before), so I wasn't prepared for the ghastly ease with which it exploded from the tube when I applied pressure to the gun handle. I did what I could to minimize it, but what I should have done was just putty-knife it away and redo it. Unfortunately by this time it was the lunch hour and I was in the way of customers, so I just cleaned it up as best I could and left it. At the end of the day I left a note of apology for my total bungling of the job for my counterpart. I remain embarrassed about it now, nine months later. It goes to show that sometimes it's not the complicated jobs that screw you up: it's the simple ones that you should be able to do in your sleep.

On a less serious note, given my personal branding I am likely the only person on Earth for whom this counts as a "major failure," but...2019 was the first calendar year since 2010 where at no point did I receive a pie in the face.

I know. I'm as confused as you are.

What was the best thing you bought?

Two pairs of vintage overalls! Actually, I bought several pairs of vintage overalls in 2019 (I'm increasingly drawn to the vintage side of the clothing world), but these two pairs stood out strongly: a pair of raw-denim Lee hickory stripe overalls, and a pair of Gap overalls from a product line called "Oil Can," which I knew nothing about.

Double denim, day 2. I like it, don't @ me! #ootd #overalls #dungarees #biboveralls #vintage #lee #leeoveralls #denim #hickorystripe #denimoveralls #overallsarelife #vintageoveralls #doubledenim

New vintage overalls 1: I saw a *killer* price for these on eBay (under $20) and had to get them. I'd never seen these before. #ootd #overalls #dungarees #biboveralls #vintage #gap #gapoveralls #bluedenim #denimoveralls #overallsarelife #vintageoveralls

Whose behavior merited celebration?

It was a rough year for public behavior, wasn't it? In specific I'd say Greta Thunberg, the teenage activist from Sweden who has been working hard to focus humanity's attention on the increasingly disastrous climate change problem.

And thanks to the Democrats in the House of Representatives for impeaching the worst President in American history.

Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

Republicans don't really have it in them anymore to appall or depress me. Their ongoing fealty to Donald Trump and their dedication to pursuing the most odious set of policies ever continues to disgust, though.

Where did most of your money go?

Books, booze, going to movies, food, gifts, and vintage overalls.

What did you get really excited about?

Seeing My Fair Lady on the big screen! And Stranger Things 3.

Compared to this time last year, are you happier or sadder?

A bit happier. The Wife changed careers in late 2018, leaving a lucrative but deeply draining restaurant management career for banking work. The difference in her mental outlook, and therefore mine, is amazing.

Thinner or fatter?

About the same, give or take a pound or two. I need to make a concerted effort in this matter.

Richer or poorer?

Jury's out on that. (Same as last year.)

What do you wish you'd done more of?

As always, reading, writing, and walking. (Same as last year.)

What do you wish you'd done less of?

Eating crap that doesn't make me feel good. I need to adopt a more selective approach to the things I eat for flavor alone, and I've actually been making headway in that regard.

How did you spend Christmas?

With family.

Did you fall in love in 2019?

Of course! Love actually is all around.

How many one-night stands?

Ha! I'm not telling you that!

What was your favorite TV program?

We loved Stranger Things 3 and Dead To Me on Netflix, and we're enjoying the new ABC detective series Stumptown, which is based on a series of graphic novels that I liked a great deal.

Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?

Me level of disgust for the Republican Party continues to bury my Anger needle in the red, so.

What was the best book you read?

Here are the books I rated with five stars on Goodreads in 2019:

A Brightness Long Ago, Guy Gavriel Kay
On a Sunbeam, Tillie Walden
The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern
STAR WARS Omnibus: A Long Time Ago…., various
A Gentle Madness, Nicholas Basbanes
Maestros and their Music, John Mauceri
These Truths, Jill Lepore

(That last one I only gave four stars, but it should have been five. It's an amazing history of the United States, written just last year by an author I've only recently discovered.)

What was your greatest musical discovery?

A heavy-metal prog rock band called Ayreon. They're fascinating.

What did you want and get?

An impeachment.

What did you want and not get?

A new former President. And Les Miz tickets. (It played in Buffalo in mid-December, which is the last time I can afford theater tickets.)

What were your favorite films of this year?

Avengers: Endgame and Knives Out. (My long-form review of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker will have to wait for 2020, but...I am more and more of the opinion that it was not good.)

What did you do on your birthday?

Same as every year: I likely worked, and then a few days later went on vacation for our yearly trip to Ithaca.

How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2019?

Heh! It's just not changing, folks.

What kept you sane?

As an American, right now I'm just holding my breath before the final plunge.

Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

The afore-mentioned Greta Thunberg. Generations to come are not going to look with kindness upon my generation or the one before, and we've got it coming.

What political issue stirred you the most?

Of all the ones out there, climate change continues to be the big one, the changing of the game that we're completely ignoring.

Who did you miss?

Carrie Fisher.

Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2019:

Read a lot, write a lot. Listen to music. Go for walks and look at sunsets. Take all the pictures you want. Learn new things and try new stuff. If you have a dog, take him for walks. Buy books for your daughter, even when she complains that she likes to pick her own books (let her do that, too). Nothing fits your hand so well as your lover’s hand. Eating out is fine, but learn to cook things, too. Have a place to go where they know you and what you order. Don’t be afraid to revisit your childhood passions now and again; you weren’t always wrong back then. Overalls are awesome, it’s OK to wear double denim, and a pie in the face is a wonderful thing!

If you take selfies, post your six favorite ones:


A possible future author photo. And I'm digging the red-plaid-with-overalls thing, "Hee Haw" reminders be damned! #authorphoto #selfie #ootd #overalls #dungarees #biboveralls #vintage #lee #leeoveralls #denim #bluedenim #denimoveralls #overallsarelife #vi

In my library. #authorphoto #selfie #ootd #overalls #dungarees #biboveralls #brandedzace #hickorystripe #denimoveralls #overallsarelife

A nice afternoon writing session! Getting through this round of edits nicely. Then...drafting Book II! #amwriting #writersofinstagram #writerinoveralls #editing #fantasy #overalls #dungarees #biboveralls #vintage #gap #gapoveralls #bluedenim #denimoverall

Adventurers! Yay, adventure! #Cane #dogsofinstagram #greyhound #greyhoundsofinstagram #ChestnutRidge #wny #orchardpark #spring #nature #hiking #trees #overalls #dungarees #biboveralls #carhartt #denim #bluedenim #denimoveralls #overallsarelife #doubledeni

Hanging at The Violet Barn, a plant place in Naples, NY. If you're a violet collector (like The Wife), check it out! #africanviolet #violetbarn #naplesny #fingerlakes #overalls #dungarees #biboveralls #vintage #lee #leeoveralls #denim #bluedenim #denimove

That last one is my favorite self-photo of this past year. I just really like the way that photo turned out. I took this one while off by myself at this place on the shores of Canandaigua Lake that breeds African violets, while The Wife was perusing the plants.

Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:

Sometimes this is easy, sometimes less so. But with the decade ending along with the year, I'll go with Freddie Mercury and friends, in their end credits song to Flash Gordon, "The Hero":

So you feel that you ain't nobody
Always needed to be somebody
Put your feet on the ground
Put your hand on your heart
Lift your head to the stars
And the world's for your taking

All you gotta do is save the world!

So you feel it's the end of the story
Find it all pretty satisfactory
Well I tell you my friend
This might seem like the end
But the continuation
Is yours for the making

Yes you're a hero!

And with that, here comes 2020 and the 20s with it. Let's do this!

Thoughts, photos, and videos of the decade just gone by

Wow, another decade is in the books. We're on to the Twenties.

My feelings on the Teens are rather mixed. Societally, worldwide and nationally, I think 2010-2019 represent at best a series of missed opportunities and at worst some serious regressions. But for me personally? The decade was pretty damned good, for the most part. I got ahead professionally at The Day Job, and my writing career continued to advance, even if it took routes that I didn't entirely expect when 2010 dawned. But this was the decade I got back to hard-core fiction writing after the emotional upheavals of the Aughts made writing deeply difficult.

In 2010 my attitude was, "I wonder if I can write that space opera book." As 2019 exits, I've published three of the books in that series with the fourth coming right along for release in 2020. I've published the first book in another series, and I currently have four other novels drafted and awaiting my push into the world. I was a lonely blogger, and now I'm kind-of still that...but I'm also a writer for The Geekiverse, where I get to geek out about things of my choosing.

I launched my official author site as well, ForgottenStars.net. I haven't been nearly as consistent as I should have been with that space, and even now I'm struggling to figure all that out. Hopefully in 2020 I'll start to "get my shit together" a bit on that score. I'm trying to add some structure to my creative life, because I'm finding as I get older that the scattershot approach isn't nearly as conducive to getting things done in a productive way as it was when I was younger.

As far as my "personal brand" goes, I guess it stayed pretty much the way it always was. Books, music, movies, food, drink, nature, occasional travel, and let's not forget the bib overalls and the pies in the face! I probably have to admit that at this point I am a collector of bib overalls (when you set up eBay email alerts for specific things, it's time to admit that you're collecting them), and I continue to find delight in getting hit in the face with a pie.

Anyway, I've been photographically documenting my adventures for years, first on Flickr and then more recently on Instagram. Here is a small selection of the goings-on of the last decade. Lots of nature, and overalls, and dogs and cats, and pies! These are not presented particularly chronologically.


Midway at Dusk

First step into the sea!

Nose to nose!

'Tis rather hard to write like this. #Lester #AmWriting

Casa Loma: Ceiling in the Solar

OPRR XI: Looking across the tracks

Cane is alert. Knox Farm State Park, East Aurora NY

Watching for something.... #Cane #DogsOfInstagram


Overalls and R2D2 scarf

Reviewing notes. FORGOTTEN STARS III isn't gonna publish itself! #amwriting

Not gonna lie, folks: this adjustment is not going spectacularly well. However, there are moments. #DogsOfInstagram

Milady In Blue. #sterlingrenaissancefestival #renfest #renfaire

Our knight engages in pre-joust braggadocio. Alas, he did not win the day. #sterlingrenaissancefestival

Screwing #tools

Lakeside ruin #Buffalo #the716 #wny #LakeErie #greatlakes #outerharbor

The Dumas Bridge, green at last! #KnoxFarm #eastaurora #wny #spring #nature #hiking #trees

Library Cleaning Day means a new collection of faces staring at me from atop my desk! #tobyjug #antiques

Owl 1: Whilst hiking I heard a bird call very close by. I looked up and saw this beauty looking down at me. #owl #birds #ChestnutRidge #wny #orchardpark #summer #nature #hiking

No, I am NOT scheming an attack on my brother. Why do you ask? #Carla #dogsofinstagram #pitbullmix #pitbullsofinstagram

Water frolicking

My toy. I wants it. #Carla #dogsofinstagram #pitbullmix

Upper and Middle Falls, Genesee River, Letchworth Park #letchworthstatepark #wny #waterfall #river

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

This dee-oh-gee can give coolness lessons to The Fonz. #correctimundo #Cane #DogsOfInstagram #greyhound

The dee-oh-gee and me, Taughannock Falls.

The Earth plinth on the Sagan Planet Walk, with one of Earth's progeny. #ithaca #ithacaapplefest #saganplanetwalk #overalls #dungarees #biboveralls #hickorystripe #zacedenim #brandedzace

This is my "Holy shit this water is COLD" face. Ayup. #ChestnutRidge #wny #OrchardPark #summer #hiking #nature #stream #runningwater #pool #swimminghole #huzzah #overalls #dickiesworkwear #bluedenim #dungarees #denim #taketheplunge

Splat! The meeting of Pie and Face

Hair, bib, and whipped cream.

I pied myself today as part of the #porphyriapiechallenge. Why this challenge? Because a big part of these is raising awareness, and I had never heard of pprphyria, which is a pretty rare condition, apparently.

Happy Birthday to Me! VI: The pies go in my face, Huzzah!

Guess what happened to me today....

A Profile in Pie

2/3 She deploys the pie.... #pieintheface #overalls #Dickies #bluedenim #plaid #cosplay #mylittlepony #nightmaremoon

This was a week that just cried out for a pie in the face! #pieintheface #overalls #Dickies #bluedenim #plaid

Splat 5

ICYMI: Check out my Pi Day post on the blog (link in profile)! Happy Pi Day, folks! 😊 #piday #piday2018 #overalls #vintage #key #hickorystripe #dungarees #biboveralls #pieintheface #pieinface


Pies, Prismafied

Pies, Prismafied

Pies, Prismafied

I also occasionally make videos and post them to YouTube. I've thought about "vlogging" in the past, but I've never really found the time or motivation to get into all that (though I don't rule out appearing on other peoples' shows and such). Mostly my videos are just forays into me getting hit with pies. Here are the ones I made in the 2010s (links only--I don't want to take up a ton of space embedding them all):

How to Properly Dispose of Three Coconut Cream Pies
Anatomy of a Pieing
A Pie in the Face is a Wonderful Thing! (A compilation)
Smush or Splat?
The Porphyria Pie Challenge (pies self-administered)
Pi Day 2015 (pies self-administered)
How to play the Pieface Game if you don't have the game (pies self-administered)
Pielexa: A new treatment for RBF! (repurposed footage)
The Evil Lurking Pie-wielding Cosplayer of Chestnut Ridge
Pi Day 2016
A retirement gift for my friend Joyce: She gets to pie me
Pi Day 2018 (a silent movie...I like the way this one turned out!)

Goodness, that's a lot of pies in my face in the 2010s, especially when I consider that I didn't even get pied in 2019. I suppose I could stop, but where's the fun in that!

Anyway, those are my thoughts on the decade that's just ending. Let's bring on the new one. Even if my 2010s weren't that bad, the world needs a better decade. Badly. And it's in our hands to make it happen, folks. So let's get it done!