New Projects and Summer Plans

Phew! Now that it’s late-June and I’m firmly in the thick of my summer writing schedule, I’m happy to be able to announce several pieces of good news on that front.

First up, John Randall York and I will soon be publishing a short, 8,500-word book called Magic Things. It’s a pairing of two new short stories, both heavily illustrated by John, along with an afterword. It came about after I finally finished a story called “Applause,” which had been percolating for years, but needed that time to come together. After reading through it and editing it, I realized “Applause” and the title story, “Magic Things,” made a good match. I sent them on to John, and the project was born.

As it stands now, the stories are more or less polished. Also, John has already completed five interior illustrations (out of a projected ten or so), and is at work on the final cover, which (in my humble opinion) already looks beautiful. His work never ceases to amaze me. This will mark our eighth collaboration in 12 years, and I couldn’t be happier or more grateful for the forces that brought us together. It’s hard to believe we have yet to meet in person, but that certainly hasn’t slowed our collaborations down. Below is one of John’s finished pieces for it as a small teaser.

“Goodnight Moon,” by John Randall York

If all goes well, the book will be out in October or November…our projects tend to find their own timeframes, since rushing invariably equals sloppiness and poor quality. But considering how far along we already are, that seems a reasonable estimate. It will be published as an inexpensive paperback, and also as a $.99 Kindle e-book.

Beyond that, I finally feel comfortable stating that the third Uncanny Chronicles book has now found its legs. Writing each Uncanny book is basically like fitting pieces of a jigsaw puzzle together – but I also have to create the pieces. I’ve now created enough for this one that the basic overall picture is coming into firm focus, so I’ll be able to knock out the rest then finish arranging them. That will mark the completion of the rough draft. Then I’ll have to rearrange how some of them fit together, editing as I go – and once that’s done, the second draft will be too.

So after several years of working on it, with a big break in there to write Dark Nights and Candlelight and a short break to write what will soon be Magic Things, the completion of the rough draft for Echoes from the Valley: The Uncanny Files of Emil Fitzhugh is in sight. That’s my summer goal, and I’m enjoying the hell out of it. It’s been a big challenge, just like Darkness in the Valley was, but the challenge is a great part of the enjoyment and satisfaction.

Also, in the past I’ve hinted about another project in the works, and some have been asking about it. I meant to drop more specifics a while ago, but I still don’t feel comfortable expanding on it too much too soon – Covid put a hold on it, so there is little new to report, and in general, the process for these sorts of things tends to involve a lot of “hurry up and wait.”

What I can say is that The Uncanny Chronicles has been optioned for television and streaming by a very reputable production company that has created work I’ve greatly admired in the past. Being optioned is NOT the same as being green lit for actual production, but one can’t happen without the other, and the producer and director are very enthusiastic about the project. Will things move forward with it? Time will tell. But it’s an encouraging development that I think about now and then, even as I focus on what I can directly control.

Last but not least, I’m so happy summer has finally come around again after such a difficult year. I’m proud of how we tackled the challenges of teaching during the pandemic, with all the stresses, pitfalls, and learning curves involved, but I’m also hopeful we never have to face those particular challenges again. As part of the summer “detox” process from the ’20-21 school year, I’m taking a few small trips – the longest being what basically amounts to a “Van Gogh tour” to Manhattan, Hartford, and New Haven, to explore some museums I’ve wanted to visit – or revisit – for many years. All of them (with the exception of the Mark Twain House, which I’m also excited to see) are home to some truly breathtaking works by Vincent. So with any luck, this time next month I’ll be standing in front of “Starry Night” at the MoMA, “Two Sunflowers” at the Met, “The Night Café” at Yale University, “Vase with Red Poppies” at the Wadsworth Athenium, and several dozen others I’ve read about and have a deep desire to see in person. There is nothing quite like seeing an original Van Gogh, and now seems like the right time to finally begin making my long-term goal of seeing as many as possible a reality. His oeuvre is spread across the world, so the process will also open up a world of travel and new experiences. I’m ready.

Until the next time, here’s hoping you soak up the summer sun, admire the summer rain, and enjoy the little things in life as well as the big.


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1 Response to New Projects and Summer Plans

  1. Alessia F. says:

    Hey again Mr. Miller! Boy, if it hasn’t been a long two years. I mean, it’s almost hard to believe the last comment I made was before a pandemic swept the world. I’ve lived through enough major historical events, I think, this stuff gets tiring!

    It always makes me happy to see these work in progress illustrations. York’s style is just so whimsical and homey to me – it has a similar energy to the coziness I feel looking at Quentin Blake’s book covers for Roald Dahl. I took a class last spring on illustrating children’s books, and it was so cool to have a hands-on experience for that particular sphere of art.

    Covid and its relationship with my mental health, as exhausting as it was, helped me realize a lot of things. I’m not pursuing game design anymore, but rather going on a general path of illustration and storyboarding (the latter is really exciting me at the moment). While I feel like there’s a lot I still want to dip my toes in, it’s reassuring that I can still find something that I really enjoy! The uncertainty I have in my future is as prevalent as ever, but forward is the only direction to go!

    This particular summer was turned entirely on its head for me as well, unfortunately. But what I did find refuge in was a whole smattering of graphic novels! It was like discovering a whole new world. I had read comics before, but my appetite for these kinds of books was akin to my “big reading” phase in my elementary years.

    Some that I think you would like are “Blankets” by Craig Thompson (now my favorite comic of all time), “Maus” by Art Spiegelman, “Watchmen” (pretty sure you’ve read this one, haha!), and “His Face All Red” by Emily Carroll (a short webcomic, great for the spooky season).

    Always great to hear from ya!

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