Sunday, January 3, 2016

Metapost: 2015

Another year, another retrospective metapost.

Let's see. I suppose the most significant event in my authorial career in 2015 would be the publication of my novel Dragonfly by Hythloday House, a small but discerning publishing company.

Joking aside, Dragonfly is a self-published novel. It's self-published for what I assume are the usual reasons. Perhaps I might have eventually found someone to take it, if I had waited long enough. But all that time I was waiting, I could not be moving on to other projects. I make something like $2.50 on each copy I sell, electronic or paperback. At this point I've more than recovered the cost of production (due mainly to the large number of sample copies I ordered to get the cover just right), but sales have never really taken off. Which is unsurprising, as I don't go out of my way to promote it (or myself). Some people are very good at that sort of thing. I am not. My promotional method is to go on making new things in relative obscurity.

That said, a number of people have taken the trouble to buy my novel and read it, and I have gotten some positive feedback (see here and here, for instance), for which I cannot begin to express my gratitude. It's made me feel that I'm not wasting my time, artistically speaking, even if my audience remains relatively small. And my audience will surely continue to grow as I bring my series to completion.

So much of my energy in 2015 went toward the writing of a sequel, which I completed late in December, under the title The King of Nightspore's Crown. As it currently stands it's slightly longer than the first installment. Taking place against a truly amazing number of backdrops, it's the most significant juxtaposition of neolithic cultures with space-age technology since Yor, the Hunter from the Future. I hope to have it out sometime around the middle of 2016.

In other publication news, two of my stories, "Day of the Dragonfly" and "The Scale-Tree," appeared in Beneath Ceaseless Skies. My story "At the Edge of the Sea" appeared in the Best of 2014 anthology. Another story of mine, "Salt and Sorcery," was accepted for publication sometime later this year. It seems only fair to mention that I make far more money selling short stories than copies of my novel, so, if you like what I do around here and wish to support me and people like me, I hope you will consider supporting BCS through the purchase of subscriptions or anthologies.

I managed to do some art in 2015, despite being extremely busy. A number of paintings and drawings were directly related to my writing endeavors, but I also did some illustrations of local history. My favorite item was probably my map, shown to the left. I'm looking forward to doing a more extensive map for The King of Nightspore's Crown, though I'm not certain how it's going to work yet.

In August I had a one-man exhibition in Del Rio. It featured a sort of shrine to the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series and to vintage mass-market paperback art in general. Unfortunately I am quite isolated in my predilections here. I did, however, share the front page news with Donald Trump, which is something, I guess. An interview about my art appeared over at greydogtales in December.

The main complicating factor this year was the birth of my daughter. A joyous occasion, to be sure. But, in this vale of tears, joy is seldom unalloyed with grief.

Longtime readers will no doubt recall my adopted rooster, Pappagallo, who literally dropped into my yard out of a stormy April sky. I noted the last time I wrote of him that, while seemingly intelligent, he lacked the street smarts that the neighborhood feral chickens need to survive. Despite this, he managed to thrash the alpha male of the resident flock, an event he celebrated with an obstreperous hours-long crowing session.

But why, you ask, not without some trepidation, am I speaking of him in the past tense? Alas, while we were off having our baby, and a neighbor was watching our animals, Pappagallo vanished, never to be seen again.

The unseasonably warm weather at the time ended with a cold snap after we returned from the hospital. I observed the hatchling brood of a feral hen shrink from seven chicks to a single one over the course of several days. Burdened as I was with the grief of Pappagallo's presumed demise, it was too much to watch those little peeping fuzz balls vanish one at a time. So I captured the last of them, bought some chick feed, and began raising it in a box in my kitchen.

Over the next few weeks our chick (named Lucky by my children) grew and grew. One evening as she saw me passing by she began cheeping most piteously and insistently. I finally rolled back the mesh covering her box, and, much to my surprise, she flew up to my shoulder and perched there. After that it became a settled routine for Lucky to emerge each evening and sit on my shoulder while I washed the dishes. She was very affectionate, and liked to nestle down in a warm spot and pick at the loose threads on my clothing and tug at my hair with her beak, or walk back and forth from shoulder to shoulder across the nape of my neck.

Eventually our little hen moved to the back porch, after which she was released into the yard. She steadfastly refuses to join the feral flock that brought her into the world and remains very tame. Sometimes she still allows me to handle her. She comes into the house when coaxed, and flies up on my shoulder, which drives my wife crazy. Every day I go out the front door to find her waiting for me. She eagerly runs at my heels to receive her dish of feed out back.

In just a few weeks both Lucky and my daughter will be one year old. How the time flies!

An account of my doings this year would be incomplete without the list of books that I read; actually, the reason I started doing these retrospectives was to keep my lists written down somewhere. So here it is, my 2015 reading list, not including works in progress:
Quite a few of these are read-alouds with my older kids, who are five and seven. Their favorite was A Wrinkle in Time, which we read twice. In my own reading, I note numerous jungle stories and histories. Many, perhaps most, of the books I read this year were things I'd read before but, for one reason or another, wanted to revisit.

Most of the time I find reading to be its own reward. This year my reading paid off in the form of a raffle through the town library's summer reading program for adults. However, the coveted prize consisted of dinner for two at the local country club, of which I am (somewhat pointedly) not a member. A zoning board meeting gone bad (me vs. my filthy rich neighbors' contractor over an eight-foot-high security/velociraptor fence along our mutual property line) made me even less enthusiastic about hobnobbing with the upper crust of my little South Texas town.

As a result, I waited until the expiration date, which was December 31, to use my gift certificate. I took my five-year-old daughter as my dining companion. She was a perfect lady. I wish I could say the same of the woman who stopped by our table to introduce herself to my daughter (though not to me!) and kept insistently asking her name, despite the fact that my daughter had just taken a bite, and was requesting (with a demure smile and graciously upheld little hand) a moment in which to swallow. The lady's husband proceeded to ask my daughter if I was her "grandpa." My daughter's correction of this bizarre misapprehension (I'm in my mid-thirties and haven't a wrinkle or gray hair) produced an odd reaction, a mixture of surprise, suspicion, and/or condescension. I'm not too good at reading people, but these little incidents can occur only so many times before you start noticing a pattern. Here I suspect I committed the faux pas of being a hirsute Puerto Rican dining with a fair-skinned, red-haired little girl in the very place where some people go to see local categories preserved and distinctions maintained.

But let us not dwell on such anachronistic unpleasantness. The management was extremely hospitable, and overall it was a pleasant way to end the year. Of course we toasted (she with her sparkling cider and I with my whisky sour) Francisco Pizarro and William H. Prescott, to whom we owed our dinner.


  1. Sounds like it's been a great year. Looking forward to The King of Nightspore's Crown (and more map), and here's hoping 2016's as good as this one's been.