Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Another Non-Writing Related Post

This post has little to do with writing or reading; it has to do, instead, with photography. 

One of my hobbies besides writing is taking pictures. I especially enjoy using a camera to capture images the human eye cannot see. Primarily, this involves night photography. You can open the shutter of the camera for a long time so that what little light is present turns into something bright and strange and beautiful on the final product. Here is an example of what I mean . . .

(Water overlook, around Midnight)
This picture was taken a little past midnight when we had a full moon. The leaves on the tree in the foreground are a little blurry, and that's due to wind during the long exposure. This looks somewhat like a daytime shot, except there are stars and there is a lot more contrast. Here is the same location during the day, for comparison . . .

(Same location as above, during the day)
This was a few weeks before the night shot, so there aren't as many leaves, but it still is fun to compare the two. 

Another fun thing that you can do with night shots is play with flashlights. Check these out . . .

(A little out of focus—but still fun with the flashlight)

(Running up the stairs while spinning a flashlight)

(Running across a bridge, with a flashlight)
I'm still learning a lot about night photography. I like these shots, but I'd check out this site for some really cool ones using glow sticks. 

Taking picture of people at night is really, really hard because you either have to use a flash (which can work, but can also look foreign) or you have to hold really, really still. This next one worked out pretty well . . .

(I'm on the right side. Your right side, as you look at it now)
I like the hard shadows you get from the moon. That's my brother, on the left. We used our headlamps to get some light on our faces, as you might be able to tell from my brother's glasses. 

Another thing you can do with long exposures is change the direction the camera is facing midway through the shot, and then you get a picture that looks like this . . .
(Strange picture)

Since the moon was full, it was more difficult taking pictures of the stars. That's probably my favorite part of night photography, but it's pretty tricky to pull off. First, it's really hard focusing the camera in the dark. Next, if you want the long swirls you get from stars, you need to open the shutter for a looooong time (even though you can get slight swirls after a minute or two). But if you pull it off, it's quite surreal. It's easy to forget that the world is spinning, but when you see a photo you just took remind you of this fact, it's strangely humbling. I just look at the viewfinder and smile. 

(Somewhat out of focus, but still pretty cool)
 Finally, here are two shots that I especially like. The first is of a waterfall my brother and I hiked to. It's in a small valley, so it was especially dark and hard to photograph, but when you have the shutter open for a long time on flowing water, it looks unique (again, something you could never see with just your own eyes). The last picture is of a stream that we walked by (the one that eventually leads to the waterfall). The temperature had dropped significantly, and steam was rising from the surface of the stream as a result. And in the moonlight, it looked and felt downright mystical. 
(Waterfall at night)

(Steam rising from a stream in the moonlight)
Well, I should probably get writing. Just thought I'd share some of the other things that interest me. 

I believe knowing the hobbies of an author can enrich the experience of reading their work, although, I suppose, sometimes it's funner to figure it out simply by reading what they write! 

Anyway, at least this way you get to see some unique pictures.  


Thursday, May 23, 2013

Another Book Update

I'm not sure how many book updates I've done, and I know it'd be simple enough to figure out, but that would require me to exit out of this page (actually, I wouldn't even have to do that) and I'm too lazy for that. So here's another book update. 
(I've noticed if I have a picture in my post, I get more views, so I thought I might as well be ridiculous)
I've been working on short stories for the past few months and haven't been paying much attention to my book while my wife was reading the second draft and writing down her thoughts and opinions. It took her a little while because: she's working on her masters; she's working full time; and she's also in a book club. I wasn't rushing her either—it was nice being able to write four or five largish-short stories. 

But she just finished it the other night and handed me back the binder (199 pages of 1.5 spaced, 12 point Cambria (or 74k words)), and now I'm looking through her grammatical corrections and suggestions. She's already pointed out one major error that I will have to work on, but I'm also excited about that, because in fixing it I think the book has become more interesting. Of course, I have to be a little vague because I don't want to give anything away. Sorry about that. After I finish this process (and it's looking like this might take a little bit) I plan on asking a friend who teaches in the genre to have a look-see, and then, if she agrees to read it, I'll take her thoughts and corrections into consideration, then move on to seeing how many rejection letters I can get from agents (which, for some reason, I am oddly excited about).

So right now I'm working on draft three. Or perhaps it's draft 2.5, since I'm not doing a full re-write. Either way, if I were to be honest with where the book is currently at, I would say it's a decent to okay book, and after making some fixes and added a few layers of complexity, I hope to turn it into a good book. Not sure if I'll ever think of it as a great book. But it will always be my first, and so will hold a dear place in my heart, just like my first burger from IN-N-OUT, wherever you might be now . . .

Well, that post quickly turned from heartfelt to disgusting! Just making sure you were paying attention. 


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

An Update on the Sword and Laser Anthology

(There are more photos like this one below, I just added it at the top to intrigue the casual blog reader)
In my previous post, I mentioned that I'd been a bit lackadaisy about getting around to writing the short story I was going to submit to Sword and Laser's anthology. I was at a bachelor party for a friend, and I had a lot of yard work to take care of (excuses, excuses) and I was having a hard time finding time to just sit down and write. After writing that post, I had hundreds (no—thousands!) of fans email me, concerned that I wouldn't get the story done in time. It's due May 15th! they would yell at me. 

Well, everybody, you can let out a big sigh of relief (just not all at once—lest we blow the Earth off it's orbit). I finished my story, edited it, and submitted it in time for the deadline. In fact, after submitting the story I wrote for Sword and Laser, I realized I could submit up to three stories, so I submitted another story that I had on hand. So, yeah. It wasn't much of a deadline, since it didn't really matter if I submitted a story or not, and most likely my story won't get accepted, but it feels nice to have a soft deadline and finish on time for it. 

I intend, after posting this update, to work on another short story. I've been thinking about it for close to half a year now. I originally had the idea while working on my book, but I didn't want to step away from writing the book to write the story, so I put it on the back burner. I think that was a good thing, because I've thought of several new elements to add to the tale that will make it more interesting. I won't say much, except that I was ready Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman when I thought of major parts for the story, and I expect the finished product to be in that same vein (minus the sex). 

Also, another thing I've been working on that has nothing to do with writing is . . . night photography! Now that the weather's warming up a bit in Minnesota I've been spending some time out of the house trying to capture the unique lighting of the night. Here are some photos (I suggest clicking on them to make them bigger):

(Self portrait, using a flash. 30 sec. exposure)

(13 minute exposure—you can see the Earth spinning!)

(Willow tree on golf course)

(Interesting horizon on golf course)

(This is a tree. I tried to climb it, but that first branch was too high.)

(I'm in this one, can you find me?)

(Pond at night)

(The 18th tee)

(I'm in this one . . . twice!)

Well, hopefully everyone's having a great May. 

Happy writing!


Saturday, May 11, 2013

Not Much Writing . . . Too Much Gardening

I've been trying to get a short story done so I can submit it to an anthology, and the due date is May 15th. As I look down at my calendar, I realize it's now May 11th. Crap. 

I've been keeping busy of late outside working on our garden. This past winter was pretty brutal—I've been living in the upper midwest my whole life and I've never felt cooped up so long. But now it's nice out and I see there is much for me to do out of doors, and it's been keeping me from the computer. Damn you nature!

(I homebrew, and I grow my own hops. Here's a shot of them coming out of the earth once more to kiss the sky)
Anyway, I will finish that story and submit it, I just don't really expect it to be published. First of all, I think they are going to get way more submissions than the last anthology I got accepted in (that one had around 200), and second of all, my story isn't that great. It's a good idea, but I originally meant it to be a book and now I'm trying to truncate it into a short story and it's not really working. The max word count for the submission is 7500, and I'm 200 away from that with a few scenes left to write. Yikes!

Well, I should get working on that, hope the weather is nice from wherever you read this!


Sunday, May 5, 2013

Neil Gaiman's New Book

I don't recall if I've mentioned this before on the site, but one of my favorite authors is Neil Gaiman. That might be apparent from my writing, which I like to think of as somewhat whimsical and subtly mystical. I would put him up in the top two in a list titled, Author's That Made Me Want To Write (The other author would be Patrick Rothfuss, if you're wondering). 

The first Gaiman book I read was Neverwhere, which is an amazing novel. I just graduated college and I figured I should be reading "smart people books" that my foolish high school and college teachers forgot to assign. So I started reading American Lit  Classics like The Great Gatsby and The Sun Also Rises and The Catcher in the Rye. After reading these books, I grew more and more disappointed, because I didn't care much for them. I wondered if something was wrong with me, that I wasn't overcome with awe at the genius of these great works. I just wanted to go back to the books I loved growing up, like The Chronicles of Narnia, The Golden Compass series, Harry Potter, Redwall, etc. But those were books about talking animals and fantastical places made for kids, and I was a college graduate and should be beyond that . . . right?

Luckily, it was around this time that I read two of the most influential books in my writing life. The first, The Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss, reminded me that, indeed, I did love reading. The second, Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman, made it clear to me that I wanted to be an author. I had always dabbled with the daydream of authorship, but that was the book that solidified the desire within me. 

After that I've read as much as I can by the two authors; which isn't hard for Patrick Rothfuss, and is much more of a task for Mr. Gaiman. Currently I am reading Smoke and Mirrors by Gaiman, a collection of short stories and poems. It's the last book by him that I haven't read (wait—just remembered I need to read Anansi Boys). 

So, needless to say, I am SUPER pumped about the release of his new book, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, due this June. I even went as far as to pre-order a signed copy, which you can do too. They won't be super rare, because he's signing ten thousand for this pre-order, but it also wasn't that expensive, and I really hope to get one of these . . . more interesting autographs.

(Gaiman autographs galore)

Apparently, his pen leaked through several pages, and this is how he remedied the situation. I think it's hilarious. 

I'll put up an entry during the summer after reading the book, and perhaps a picture of me next to his autograph. Yeah, I'm that big of a fan. It's kinda creepy, I know. 

Until later,