New Scifi Short Story: DAY OF SILENCE, DAY OF SOUND

News from Pixelvania Publishing, Writing

Cover for DAY OF SILENCE, DAY OF SOUND: An old-fashioned radio sits alone on a vintage chair in a blurry field of tall grasses, in hues of white and icy blue.

Johanna Reinhardt is alone at the outpost when it happens. The Machines have shut down, her husband is gone, and—imperceptibly, but surely—sound is disappearing from the world.

What might disappear next?

A dreamlike tale from the post-apocalypse.


An oldie-but-goodie short story to celebrate the new year.

Read an excerpt here at this book’s Pixelvania Publishing page.

Buy the eBook from your favorite retailer here (includes Amazon).

Happy reading!

Creative Lessons from 2018: Quit Wasting So Much Time. Get an App Blocker

Art, everyday, Thoughts on Entertainment, Writing

I didn’t come to this conclusion instantly.

First, I watched this great video about quitting the internet for a month.

Two ideas hit me hard from this video: 1) you never run out of content on the internet. Compare this to reading a newspaper. That  activity  has a definite endpoint. The internet…just keeps going. There is always something there to consume. 2) A lot of what we consume as “news” isn’t news but peoples’ opinions of the news.

Some of the sites I was on were like that–it’d take me 3 minutes to read the article, then 20 minutes to read the comments for that article. And I’d want to read a dozen articles from a site.

That added up.

But one day, just being sick and tired of feeling sore and stiff after too much tablet reading, I decided to get an app blocker for my Android tablet.

I chose StayFocused, for Android.

WOW it opened my eyes. Even though I didn’t have a lot of apps (like Facebook, Instagram, etc.) on some days, I spent hours on one or two of my little games. And many, MANY hours were spent just reading sites on my browser. Pointless! And here I am wondering why I can’t get my art and scanning done!

So I used the app to restrict the amount of time I spend on certain apps on certain days. And like the Firefox/PaleMoon add-on Leechblock, it can also ban an app during certain hours of the day. Pretty flexible!

The free version of StayFocused only lets you block 4 or 5 apps, but since only 4 or 5 apps plague me, it works just perfect for me.

PS using an app like Habitica or TaskHero can help you start building systems that will help you use your time doing things YOU value. Leechblock is great for desktop to block time-sucker sites during certain hours, and Neil Cicierega’s WORK! program keeps you accountable in the programs you need to be working in!

And here are two highly relevant Mormonads to use for your lock screen:

A clock with different silhouetted items - like a girl kneeling in prayer, a man running, a globe, a temple, a book - is featured against a bright yellow background. Black text reads: Spend Time Wisely. "Choose to do many good things of your own free will" (For the Strengh of Youth [2011], 3)

A girl trying to hold on to the edges of a cellphone while apps around her blur like a vortex. Text reads: Don't get sucked in. Pay attention to your family and friends. Your status update can wait.

Author Dean Wesley Smith was talking about Heinlein’s Rules on his blog last year. I can’t recall the exact post, but the more I read this quote, the more I realize it’s not just great creativity advice, but great LIFE advice:

“You won’t be able to stay on [Heinlein’s  Rules] for too long, but just keep climbing back on when you realize you have fallen off and you will make it.”

Of course, you can substitute “Heinlein’s Rules” with any practice you’re trying to grow in. The Gospel of Christ, healthy eating, exercise…the list is endless! I love this quote.

Never give up!

Creativity Lessons from 2018: Falling off, but getting back on again

Art, everyday, Writing

Creativity Lessons from 2018: Learning from Your Betters

Art, Writing

Writer Dean Wesley Smith wrote a post in late 2018 called Critical Voice Kills Everything. Apparently some people get so critical that they read to pick a book apart, even if it’s from an author who’s mega successful in their writing.

He recommended the following practice instead:

“Second, on a book you LOVED, ask yourself how an author did something in the book that you admire. A craft bit, a pacing, a dialogue scene, whatever. […]
If you liked the plot, outline the book to take that in more. […] You never tear apart someone else’s work, you study it for what they did right. A HUGE DIFFERENCE.”

I chewed on this for a while and later formed this reply:

Thinking back on [the above] part of your post this morning I realized this part fits in really well with how I try to improve as a visual artist. Find work/artists you love, study what they did and how they did it, and adopt the things you like into your own work through practice. You’d ***never*** study a master artist to nitpick him/her!
(And if artist X does feature Y really well or often, but not Z…then you find another artist who does Z well and adopt them, too! Choose from the whole buffet of artists!)


In related news, a fellow Mastodonner posted this great quote from the legendary Phil Tippet (pardon the language at the end)

 

Phil Tippet explains how special effects were done in his day--without so much nitpicking!

My increased writing output of the last couple of years is the result of by heeding advice like the above: don’t noodle something to death! Better to do the best you can at the time, get it out there, and start on the next fun project.

Super artist Noah Bradley once posted this on his Mastodon feed:

Sketches are a really important part of my process. Until you’ve done an actual sketch, there’s almost no way to tell if an idea is worth pursuing.

So sketches are a low-investment way to trial an idea. If one turns out particularly well, I can spend the 20-30 hours to finish it up.

I’m glad he posted this, because my reply helped me articulate a lesson I’d learned earlier in the year:

I’m finally waking up to this idea (esp in thumbnailing towards a specific end). Often I have a great idea in my head. While it’s up there, the ideal image is too amazing for me to even try and tackle. But if I start thumbnailing and playing, suddenly the abstract is concrete, and when it’s concrete, I can see what needs to be done to get the piece going where I want it. Thanks for your terrific reminder.

Noah’s reply:

Absolutely. It’s so easy to stay stuck in your own head and get so wrapped up in thinking an idea is perfect without actually making it.

Creativity Lessons from 2018: A Thumbnail a Day Keeps the Perfectionism Away

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Here’s why:

“The Mona Lisa has a huge social media presence. Her picture is everywhere. But she doesn’t tweet. She’s big on social media because she’s an icon, but she’s not an icon because she’s big on social media.”

(from this entry from Seth Godin’s blog)

I keep coming back to a piece of advice I saw for selling markets ages ago: make cool stuff and tell everyone about it! the end.

Creativity Lessons from 2018: Quit Worrying About Your Social Media Presence

Art, Writing

It’s not perfect, but it does what I want.

I came across this quote on my Mastodon.art feed many months ago, attached to what I thought was a very cool picture. I boosted it, but also had the presence of mind to write it down on a Post-It note that I stuck above my computer*.

As far as I’m concerned, it deserves to be listed alongside the greatest art quotes of all time.

I come back to frequently. Because as a perfectionist-in-recovery it’s so easy to want to noodle and noodle (or sometimes NOT EVEN START) on a piece until you feel it is “perfect.”

But “perfect” isn’t the point, not to the viewer. The point is to evoke something.

Lots of things I enjoy evoke joy or laughter or awe or mystery without being absolutely flawless. (And sometimes, the flaws even add to my reaction!).

This quote’s helped me say, “You know what? I could noodle/add/whatever a ton more on this, but at this point, IT’S DOING WHAT I WANT. So even though it’s not technically perfect, I can be satisfied with it.”

And then I get to move on to the next thing!

*I didn’t write down the original speaker, though! If you’re the originator of this quote, I’d be delighted to credit you!

 

 

 

 

Creativity Lessons from 2018: The best quote for artists and creators suffering from perfectionism

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New short story collection! MIDWINTER MAGIC

Art, New from Pixelvania Publishing, Writing

Cover for MIDWINTER MAGIC: A stylized glowing reindeer leaps against the blue Northern Lights

Once upon a time, magic left the world for a night. It sighed back in through the scullery door in the morning with the cat, but by then, the Queen of the Northern Elves had fallen into a deep sleep, and, greatly diminished, the returned magic could not wake her.

From the author who brought you The Purrfect Christmas and A Gingersnap Cat Christmas comes an enchanting collection of three original yuletide fairy tales, written in the tradition of Jane Yolen and Ursula Vernon.


A little Christmas present from me to you. If you like reindeer, Santa Claus, elves, and mythic origin stories, you’re probably gonna dig this.

Buy from your favorite eBook retailer here (includes Amazon)

More info and excerpt here on MIDWINTER MAGIC’s Pixelvania Publishing page.

Scribus Success Story: A Gingersnap Cat Christmas (paperback print novel)

Indie Publishing Friends, Writing

 

Scribus Success Story - book interior with epigraphs and illustrated title page

Epigraph and Title page for A GINGERSNAP CAT CHRISTMAS. Scribus actually had an option to cameo the image like that!

Indie authors, paperbacks can be done in Scribus, and they can be done beautifully!

A Gingersnap Cat Christmas is a holiday fantasy I wrote for middle-schoolers. The POD paperback (whose interior I formatted in Scribus) is available through Amazon.com.

About the project: Having just missed my Christmas 2017 publishing deadline for the Gingersnap Cat ebook, I vowed to use the extra time in 2018 to teach myself Scribus, with the goal of having Gingersnap ready for print before Christmas 2018.

 Before this project, the last time I’d touched the Big Name desktop publishing program was back in college for a single assignment in a single class…so I really felt like I was starting from scratch! I learned the basics using the Getting Started with Scribus tutorial, and also by working on a single-page newsletter for my church.

I used Scribus 1.5.3 on Windows 7, and chose 5.5.x8.5” for the trim(overall book) size.

  • Completed Size: 199 pages
  • Initial Margins: Inside = 0.875in, Outside=0.625in, Top =.625in, Bottom =.75in. (Note! While these are the settings I used at the beginning of the project, they had to be readjusted after the author proof showed the body text getting sucked into the gutter, see “Challenges” below).
  • Typefaces (fonts): the interior body text was done in Fanwood Text Regular 13 with a fixed 19.5pt line spacing. The interior heading typefaces are Firefly 11 (title), and the Classiq Regular Italic Choix 11 (author).
  • Cover: Designed in the open source vector program Inkscape, but Scribus took care of converting the exported PNG to print-ready PDF. (The kitties were painted in the open source raster art program Krita)

This project was completed just before Amazon migrated all Createspace projects over to Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), and was so created according to Createspace specifications.

Scribus Success Story - book interior with a running header and a chapter heading

A sample of the novel’s interior.

Challenges: Though I thought I had automatic hyphenation turned on, but I don’t think I ever saw automatic hyphenation function work, so when needed, I inserted the hyphenation manually.

After setting up my left and right Master pages, I started by making each chapter its own file, applying paragraph and italicized styles (my italics weren’t transferred from MS Word), then adjusting the tracking (spacing between words), widows, orphans, etc. Once finished, I added each chapter to the main book body file.

This worked well initially, but since this was my first typography job, I wound up tweaking the tracking inside the much larger main file, which meant I had to deal with a slowdown in program speed. But if I had completed all my tracking 100% to my satisfaction in the individual chapter files, then added them to the main file without touching them afterwards, it wouldn’t have been a big deal. Scribus was still usable during this time—it just required a little patience.

My biggest technical hurdle was shifting text blocks—first when my corrective tracking caused pages to switch from left-side to right-side pages (and vice versa), then shifting the text blocks away from the gutter and down from the top after I got my first author proof back. (I recommend all authors set their inside margin wider than you think you’ll need!) Luckily Gregory Pittman came to my rescue with his very helpful shifting script! (He was also kind enough to modify the script to include vertical shifting after an email exchange. Mr. Pittman is a gentleman and a scholar!)

I found Clif Graves’ previous Scribus Success Story   invaluable as both guide and inspiration, along with John Osterhout’s Scribus templates  and DJ Mills’ “Creating Print-on-Demand Interiors and Covers Using Scribus” tutorial.

I’ve had numerous compliments on the look of the Gingersnap Cat Christmas paperback—and now that I’ve done it once, I look forward to using Scribus to publish print versions of my other short stories and novels.

 

New Horror Story: THE GIRLFRIEND WHO WASN’T FROM DELAWARE

Art, News from Pixelvania Publishing, Writing

Cover for THE GIRLFRIEND WHO WASN'T FROM DELAWARE - A giant hand made of blue static reaches down to pluck an apartment out of a building like a Jenga blockApartment walls are thin.

Reality may be thinner.

Ray Belga lives in the ugliest apartment building in town—but at least it’s quiet. Until a mystery neighbor’s fridge starts acting up.

At least…Ray thinks it’s a fridge. But he’ll soon learn you can’t trust everything you hear through apartment walls…


I hope you enjoy this (slightly twisted?) story about a guy with noisy neighbors. Just in time for Halloween!

Buy from your favorite eBook retailer here (includes Amazon)

More info and excerpt here on THE GIRLFRIEND’s Pixelvania Publishing page.