Avon Van Hassel

Building Worlds and Filling Them With Magic

*Content warning, this post deals with themes of death- including that of animals- and grief. None of it violent, but it may be upsetting to some, all the same*


January started, honestly, the best it has started in years. I got some energy in my stocking for Christmas and used it to batch and plan all of my social media for the whole year, including all of my blog posts, Facebook and Instagram posts, YouTube scripts, and newsletters. I even wrote a little on January 1st. I honestly haven’t had so good a January, in years.


February 7 was one of the worst days of my life.

Even now, writing this at the end of March, I’m struggling to find the words. I’ve written and talked so much about it, but so much of it stills doesn’t feel real.

A friend of mine had had a rough weekend, so I had spent the Monday wrapped up with him, trying to get to the bottom of what was going on with him. However, I realised that I hadn’t heard from my best friend, Breanna, in a while. That wasn’t fully unusual- we all knew that we’d been muted years ago and that sometimes she would do a social media detox for 24 hours or so to deal with her anxiety. When my messages were still going unseen more than 24 hours later, I started to get worried.

Breanna had therapy on Tuesday mornings, but my worry was getting too much for me, so I got my mum to go with me early to check on her. When we arrived at her house, I found her front door unlocked, and her sitting in her chair by the door, passed away.

The next few days are a blur. We called 9-1-1, and I got to work notifying as many people as I could think of. Our friend, Katrina, came up from LA the next day to help us catch and find homes for Breanna’s cats. I’m so indebted to Katrina and their Kitten Rescue Los Angeles connections, that I can’t adequately express it. Breanna loved the hell out of those cats, she wouldn’t have wanted them to just be abandoned.

Also, the day after we found Breanna, her house was broken into, and all of her electronics and her purse were stolen. I didn’t care about the value of the items, but her list if medications were on her phone and tablet, and she would have been signed into Tumblr on her laptop, so that was a whole community of people who wouldn’t know what happened to her. Not to mention the My Favorite Redhead episodes that she had yet to edit and upload. I had hoped to finish them as a tribute to her.

To this day, March 31, we don’t know what happened to her. As far as we know, the coroner hasn’t even started investigating. She is a big hole in my life that is impossible to navigate around. I cannot exaggerate how much of my life she was involved in. RenFaire, mermaiding, rollerskating, our religions, our podcast- she was even the editor for my books. I saw her 4 days a week, we’d been friends for over 20 years, she spent holidays at our house.


While all of this was happening, Cassie was rapidly losing weight. She had had digestive issues and was on a special diet, but around Christmastime, she started losing weight and I was just keeping an eye on it. The loss became dire at the beginning of February, and every day was a struggle getting her to eat anything at all. Eventually, I took her to the vet for an appetite stimulant and the vet instead found an enormous tumour attached to her liver. In her weakened state, we didn’t think she would even survive the car ride to LA to see a specialist, even if we could afford it. And she had zero chances of surviving the operation. In the end, I had to make the decision to say good-bye. I had had her for 13 years, from the day she was born in our pool shed to the day she passed at the vet’s office. In the end, I lost my two best friends inside a month.

From the day I announced on Facebook about Breanna’s passing to today, the outpouring of love and affection has been overwhelming. The way we deal with grief in our society is so strange. So many people offered to help in physical ways like offering to bring us food, even more offered to be available emotionally. So many people asked what they could do to help, and I just…I didn’t know what I needed, I wanted desperately to ask for help, to let these people hold me up and carry me, but I didn’t know what to ask for. I can cook and do laundry- grief doesn’t stop me doing that. And I can’t keep saying the same thing over and over in each individual chat. So, how can they help? Just by default, I had to isolate. I didn’t want to, I didn’t feel like a burden who had to carry the weight alone, I just didn’t know how to identify what I needed, let alone form the words to ask.

Luckily, some friends I do have in town took the reins. One friend invited me to a pizza party to meet his friends, and another decided that we were going to join a book club. Both things were very fun and I enjoyed myself very much.

Since then, I have lost a cousin, and another friend lost their dog who I loved very much. Also, one of Breanna’s cats, her beloved Mochi, was too ill from a long illness, and couldn’t be saved, even after he made his long journey to the FELV suite at KRLA. So, it’s just not been a great time, really.

But it’s not all bad news. A couple of days after Cassie passed, I made the decision to adopt another cat. Some people wait a while to get a new baby, but the silence and the emptiness of my room was just shredding my mind. I couldn’t take it, I’m built to have a cat. I already had Cassie when my previous cat passed, I had never been without a cat for 25 years. So, I did some research, and friends and family kept and eye out, and eventually, we found a little all black soot sprite in Fresno. I filled out the adoption form, and the next day, we went and picked her up. My little Artemisia feels like a fresh start, a new beginning. I call her my voidbaby, not just because she is solid black, but because she works hard to fill a void in me. We were told that she was shy almost to the point of having special needs, but almost immediately, she started purring and making biscuits, and in just a few days, she was exploring and playing. Shy, yes, but she is trying hard to settle in with us, and I’m just so happy to have her.

Finally, last week, I catsat for my Katrina, while they were showing at WonderCon. It was a delicious little vacation, with beautiful weather, darling babies, and all the rose matcha boba floats I could keep down. They also talked me into starting Stardew Valley, so that was an even deeper escape.

So, the beginning if 2023 has been a rollercoaster with gradual inclines and steep drops. I’m not ok, and I’m not going to be for a long, long time. I may never be. But I’m not alone, I have a fantastic support network, I have a therapist, I have a new love, and I have my work. I’m not sure I would say things are looking up, but I’m working hard to keep my head above water. And before you worry about me pushing everything down, I am taking time to grieve and feel my feelings when they come up. I’m just not letting them paralyse me. I worked too hard to claw my way out of my Covid depression, and I don’t want to go back there.

Camp NaNo

I’ve written about Camp NaNo before, but since I’m not sharing that, this year, I’m going to touch briefly on it, here. National Novel Writing Month is an event held every November, where you try to write a 50,000 word fiction novel in 30 days- start to finish, single author. Camp NaNo is two events in the spring and summer (April and July), where the rules are a but relaxed. You can set your own word count goal, write whatever you want, and in July, you even get an extra day. It’s for the aspiring writer for whom NaNoWriMo is too intimidating.

This year, I will be working on my fourth Beanseller novel, and hopefully get it off the ground.

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