State of the Pixelvania, August 2019

Introduction

Like a lot of entertainment, much of story writing is an invisible process to the end audience. While I’m hard at work on projects, y’all see nothing but a silent website. I want to change that.

At the same time, I don’t want to post for the sake of posting—that would just add to the tsunami of digital clutter that’s already got us addicted to checking our devices (read: miniature slot machines). With that in mind, I’ve decide to start a semiannual post, tentatively titled “The State of the Pixelvania” where you can get a picture of what’s going on around here and what might be showing up in the future.

This semiannual post was inspired by a recent video by Christopher Barnatt at ExplainingComputers.

What I’ve Been Working On: New Stories

Last year I realized I had a fair amount of stories under Horror and Humor but not even a scant handful in Wonder. Yet here I am on a purple website, calling myself a scifi/fantasy author! So I set out this year to fill out the Wonder section of my works, starting with a one-story-a-week challenge in Feburary! It…didn’t go so well.

This was also the first year I’ve tried submitting to the magazines. It’s been a good experience, though I haven’t had any stories accepted yet! Let’s look at this year’s crop o’ stories so far.

DEBUTS AND DRAGONS

A talking dragon fantasy I dropped in January in order to start the February challenge. Once the dust settled from the February project, I wound up finishing it in June. I love the characters in this one, and some really crazy dragon names, too! Being a midlength piece, there’s not a lot of magazines that will even take a look at it, so even though it’s being shopped around, it may not be long before you see it here…

THE CAPRAMANCER NEXT DOOR (working title)

The prompt for this one was “neighbors.” This was the story that kicked off the February challenge. It’s still not finished. X3 (In fact, it’s my current active project. I remind you, it’s August now.) But it’s pretty cool, given that it’s about a mage, her herd of dimension-crossing goats, and a neighbor with a quite a secret!

THE WITCHING LICENSE

The prompt for this one was “regrets.” A gentle contemporary fantasy about second chances and dancing on tables. It was started in the second week of February, finished in April (though in my defense it turned into a midlength piece.) This garnered some nice feedback from the editors I sent it to. To be released just as soon as I get these prints proofed. Watch this space!

HELLO, WIZARD

The last story I worked on in February, based on a prompt about receiving notes in solitary confinement. A dark fantasy short story (whoo! An actual short story!), it was finished in March and is currently being reviewed by a magazine. Fingers crossed it gets in! Getting a story in a magazine means more eyeballs on my work, which is just what I need right now!

What I’ve Been Working On: Paperbacks

The Backlist

During all of that, I experimented with putting The Bureaucrat into a nonstandard-sized paperback (Why it’s nonstandard for Print On Demand beats me–I modeled the size after several William Sleator books on my shelf). The results were swell, but paying shipping for a single proof was a bummer. So I made a big list in Habitica and knocked out a few more print shorts in a nice batch. Most are live now, while the rest should be approved soon!

A Cover Makeover

In the process of going through my backlist, I realized my current ebook cover for Out Where the Sun Always Shines wasn’t going to be big enough for the print version. I had two options: remake the current cover on a larger scale, or gird up my loins and paint a brand new one—a wraparound cover, in fact. I put off painting it for a long time since I wasn’t sure if my portraiture skills were up to snuff for the pro market (and then I had to go and add a train!) but I buckled down and finally did it. Here are the results (you know I love a good makeover!):

Out Where the Sun Always Shines (Cover) - A man facing the mountains during a rosy sunset.

Out Where the Sun Always Shines (Cover) - A man in the shadows smokes a cigarette, whose smoke swirls around a woman looking wistfully off into the sunset.

I’m happy with how it came out; I think it does a lot more to hint at the story than the last one.

My First Large Print Title: THE WITCHING LICENSE

For its upcoming paperback release, I decided to create both a the paperback version of The Witching License in both regular-sized and large print, following the specs from the Council of Citizens with Low Vision International An Affiliate of the American Council of the Blind Arlington, VA. It looks really different, but I hope it will increase accessibility to seniors who wanna read it on paper!

STEEL CITY, VEILED KINGDOM

We are on the FINAL LEG of fixes for Steel City, Veiled Kingdom. *Screaming* Gosh I want that published this year. SO BAD. After that, just the front and back matter, proofing, and I can finally die*.

Oh, I also made a back cover for the print version (using the fabulous art from Katie Payne), check out a preview, you patient people, you:

Thumbnail image of STEEL CITY, VEILED KINGDOM's print cover

Future Plotting and Scheming

  • Write companion stories set in the world of Debuts and Dragons and put ‘em in a collection—my goal is 9 short stories OR 4 midlengths OR 1 novellas 2 midlengths. Who knows.
  • Finish the Magic Fashion Frenchies series, starting (duh) with number 2, Salute a Pooch, which already has a couple of chapters written.
  • Continue nosferatu novel (AKA Steel City’s standalone spinoff prequel). Finish someday.
  • Continue formatting backlist books for print—next batch is either the remaining Christmas books or the short novels Love Potion Commotion! or The Girlfriend Who Wasn’t from Delaware.
  • Also format Love Potion Commotion! in large print?? Is there an audience for this??
  • Refresh the cover for Love Potion Commotion! with an eye towards branding the series.
  • Finish some ancient stories I have lying around.
  • Share A Gingersnap Cat Christmas with local churches.

Finally, while you wait for me to get moving on all these plans, here’s some…

Entertainment I’m Currently Jazzed About

RED THUNDER, by John Varley

Don’t be fooled by the cover—this isn’t military scifi! I made that mistake and almost missed out on one of the greatest scifi adventure novels I’ve ever enjoyed—lots of laughs, gasp-out-loud scenes, and characters my heart was sad to say goodbye to when it was over. I’m still going over favorite scenes in my head. Now, I enjoyed The Martian (the book, I mean; I don’t want to watch Matt Damon ruin space again), but Red Thunder blew it out of the water. You really sense a master at work with a colorful ensemble cast you’ll root for the entire book.

The single downside to this book—and this will only affect a certain few of you, mind—is that AC/DC’s Thunderstruck will get stuck in your head every time you look at the cover.

Seriously, folks, if I had the power, this would be debuting as a streaming series by Christmas. I rate it 11/10 Pixel Snackies. You can buy it direct from Mr. Varley himself (he’ll even sign it!), or on Amazon, natch.

EERIE, INDIANA

This ’90s TV show popped up on Amazon Prime for streaming. If you liked Gravity Falls (loved it), please know its creator says he was influenced by this show (Oh! Now I see it!) New Yorker Marshall Teller is a new kid in the seriously weird town of Eerie, Indiana. (Pretty much everything you really need to know is in the intro sequence, and said better than any summary I could write here.) This is like if Edward Scissorhands (the suburbia part, anyway), Monsters (also on Amazon Prime!), and The Twilight Zone had a baby.

The kids are charming, the special effects great, and there’s some fine messages and conversation starters here without being preachy. It’s funny and adventurous and suspenseful without being disrespectful or grimdark like so many paranormal shows seem to require these days. Can’t believe this wasn’t on my radar before. I could’ve easily used twelve more episodes of it, easy. *sniff*

5/5 Pixel Snackies

Bonus: Easy Recipe

Tropical Toppin for Yogurt

I put this easy toppin on plain yogurt mixed with almonds, which is how I can eat plain yogurt now when I previously vowed I never would. Also works well with cherry-berry frozen fruit mix; 1 tbsp honey to 1 cup berries will do ya!

  • 1 cup frozen mango chunks
  • 1 cup frozen pineapple bits
  • 2 tbsp honey

Combine all in mac-n-cheese style pot. Simmer and stir ‘til honey is dissolved and fruit softened. Remove from heat and allow to cool. When cooled, store in resealable plastic container and chill in fridge.

Thanks for reading!

See you in February for the next State of the Pixelvania Publishing post, sponsored by Pixel J. Cat, ESQ and Associates: The Purr-miere Contract Negotiation Law Firm for cats handling disputes with their staff. Remember: they’re only human.

Photo of Pixelvania's mascot, Pixel J. Cat, an orange tabby with a small plush walrus toy

Pixel J. Cat, ESQ, in a high-powered meeting with his secretary, Mr. Walrus, on catnip dependency litigation.

 


*Actually, I STILL can’t die, because I’m hip deep in the standalone spinoff prequel (AKA nosferatu novel), and am champing at the bit to write one character’s standalone spinoff sequel, currently imaginarily titled The [Something Something] Conspiracy. So I guess the world is stuck with me for a while.

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