Monday, November 30, 2009

A Different Kind of Art

Sunday was an interesting day for me.
We had a wedding scheduled in downtown Roanoke. The bride was an hour late because of traffic issues, so this left me standing outside the wedding venue with the wedding party for just about an hour. There's only so much you can do to kill time with wedding portraits in that situation, so I started looking around for something to shoot.
The urban scene is full of interesting things to shoot. Signs, multicolored tarpaulins, interesting windows and people. On the way to the wedding, while we were searching for the location, I noticed a crowd of people dressed in all kinds of interesting fashions, waiting outside a club to get in. I also noticed, about half a block down the street, spray painted artwork on the side of a gallery.
Now the only thing I can compare this to is the graffiti on the rail cars that pass through the small town of Clifton Forge here and this was nothing like that. The art was complex and colorful and I found myself wondering how anyone could take the time it would take to create that if it was illegal. After all, wasn't the building's owner bound to notice someone spray painting the side of his building and call the cops?
So in my quest for something interesting, I wandered down the street toward the crowd at the club. I looked down the alley that opened up beside the art gallery and I saw someone standing on a ladder with a can of spray paint in hand. Immediately, I changed course and went to see what the story was.
I met this gentleman, one Scott Noel (and I hope I have his last name spelled right). As it turns out, the owner of the gallery commissioned him to paint the back quarter of the building and Scott has created an impressive black and white and somewhat abstract image.
The first thing that impressed me about it was the fact that it was black and white. The other artwork on the building was multicolored, full of yellows, blues and purples. Scott's work as all black and white, shades of gray and silver that boldly stood out against the other works. It had the kind of tone I that I try to achieve in my photographs, bold and demanding attention.
The second thing that impressed me was how he created it. As you seen the portrait I took, he has a piece of paper that has the artwork drawn on it that he's creating the piece on the building from. You'll find him in that alley, on a step stool with a can of spray paint in one hand and his drawing in the other, meticulously recreating the original on the brick. It's very impressive, both the design and the skill that it takes to pull that off.
Since he was kind enough to let me photograph him I left him my business card and promised to send him photos if he called with some kind of address, mail or e-mail. I wish I'd had more time to spend with him, but I had a wedding that booked my attentions about a year prior to meeting Scott. I'm still interested in the logistics of something like that, especially how he transferred the design from a vertical image to a horizontal image and how he managed the scale.
There's always a story. I'm willing to bet Scott's is pretty interesting. As a writer, I'm interested in the story and the process behind the art. As a photographer, I'm interested in the art and the artist.
The world is an interesting place if you take the time to look around a little bit.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Getting Published!!

Well, it's finally happening.

I uploaded the files this morning to CreateSpace for The Crownless King. Now it's a waiting game. They should be back with me via e-mail in the next 24 to 48 hours to let me know if the files are in order or if I need to tweak anything. After getting the go-ahead on the files, they'll ready a proof copy to send to me.

Very exciting stuff.

The Crownless King is actually my third completed novel, though my second to be published and my first ever without a coauthor. I should probably warn any interested readers that this novel has absolutely nothing to do with Chaos Reborn or The Chaos Chronicles. The sequel to Chaos Reborn is The Sixth Sword and, though it's currently in the stages of putting the final draft together, seems to be on an indefinite delay due to the fact that Devan and I have radically different schedules and are having difficulty in getting together to put it in its final form.

Crownless isn't what I would call a true fantasy. In this book, you won't find any magic, elves, dragons or anything of that nature. I did create my own world simply because it's much easier to play in your own world than it is to play in this one for a story like this. It's the story of one boy who turns into a hero, but whose story isn't what history stacks it up to be.

I started out early by wanting to create a hero that was at once as human as I am and still bigger than life. I found Sam in the recesses of my imagination and put my pen to work. I've often wondered how much of the history that we studied is actually true and those ponders begged the question: How many heroes never did the things that the legends tell us they did? How many heroes were only doing what they needed to do to survive and somehow got wrapped up in matters more complex than they ever dreamed?

With these questions in mind, I discovered Sam's story. You may think it odd that I say I "discovered" the story, but that's closer to the truth than saying I created it. Sam's story is, in part, my own. A great deal of Sam's character comes from my personality and some of his experiences come from my own life. There are some who think it arrogant to create a character and story like that, but what are our creations if not reflections of ourselves?

A great deal happens to Sam that never happened to me. And again, there are things in there that have. It's a very personal novel for me, but I believe that grounding my character so strongly in reality gave me a connection with him and gave me the ability to make him a human being before he made himself a hero, however unintentionally. It is my hope that my readers will connect to Sam on that level and therefore be more inclined to follow his story.

Here I have to say a few words about my illustrations. The first time that I ever saw a character I'd created brought to life in a portrait, it blew me away. Well, to keep a marked difference in this novel and The Chaos Chronicles, Heather Gladden handled the illustrations for me. She did an amazing job. Not everything she drew for me will make the book and it's a shame, because she did great work. I'd love to cram them all in there and let you see them, but she did five pieces that really hit hard with the tone of the novel so I kept it down to those five. I'll post the others up here as I get them ready and provide you with links to her blog. She's a talented artist and photographer who will have a long career ahead of her if she keeps this up.

I'll keep updating the blog as I know more about the official release of The Crownless King and hopefully it will be on the shelves very, very shortly.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Yay For Hallmark!

I bought my first Hallmark ornament of the season today!

Bethany and I were out wandering a little bit since she wanted to get out of the house after being cooped up all week recovering from surgery and we discovered that Hallmark was having its holiday open house. Naturally, we had to check it out. Not only did I get a new Snoopy ornament to adorn my tree, but we also picked up two boxes of Christmas cards that were on sale.

Snoopy always seemed to be in a class of his own and fits in nicely with the type of ornaments and decorations I like. He is undoubtedly one of the coolest comic strip characters ever. And I even found a collection of jazz Christmas carols that were right up my alley for the type of music I like to listen to. I'll have to convince Bethany of how great they are, but all good things come in time.

Granted, it was 75 degrees out today. Not exactly the snow covered scene I'm showing above, but hey, I'm in the Christmas mood and it should snow during Christmas. It's been a bit hot these last couple of days and tomorrow is going to be more of the same, but things are going to cool down after that.

I took this picture two years ago during the heaviest snow storm we had that year. We can't exactly do any kind of work during precipitating winter weather, so I stayed home. Alone. I was bored out of my mind. I read books, took pictures...even hiked down the road and back. I was so bored I even took a picture of my shower to see what a long exposure of it running would look like.

So today marked one year of wedded bliss and we celebrated with Bethany's first challenging meal since her surgery, a nice steak dinner. Now that we have all the major remodeling behind us and the two surgeries within the family, things look to be calming down a bit for us. We still have some pictures to process and, in fact, we have another wedding lined up for Saturday, but all in all we hope to be able to cruise into the holidays starting with two really good Thanksgiving meals.

For now, though, I'm going to wind up the day between the covers of The Coffee Trader by David Liss. He's really shown himself to be a quality writer and has happily filled my fall reading list. With the discovery of I've been able to fill that last pretty economically and I'll be looking to purchase the last two of his novels I haven't read pretty soon.

Friday, November 6, 2009

It Gets Cold In West Virginia

It gets cold in West Virginia.

Now this is the road to Grandma's house. I literally go over the hill, through the woods and snow to get to Grandma's house. It's tucked in a little valley between two ridges and regularly gets buried under feet of snow in the wintertime. I took this photo about a year ago when it snowed and Dad took me out driving so I could take some pictures. I remember seeing this broken fence and figuring it would make a good picture and getting out of the truck and walking over to it. I stepped off the road and into snow that was more than knee deep.

Tomorrow I've got portraits scheduled in the morning for Douthat. The weather is calling for a sunning 65 degrees and I hope that's the last real warm day we have for a while. I want it cold for Thanksgiving and I want it snowing for Christmas.

I've already set a day to decorate the house for Christmas. I don't know yet what we'll do for a tree, if we'll stay artificial or buy a real one, but I really want to deck the halls this year. The house has been pretty well completely redecorated anyway so I figure we may as well enjoy it.

Now I know the true reason for Christmas, the birth of our savior Jesus Christ. And I give thanks for that reason. But I also really enjoy all the fun decorations and traditions. Last year was such a new experience being newly married and then having the crisis erupt the day after Christmas that we didn't really get anything settled in as far as traditions.

That's going to change this year. We also didn't get nearly as much decorating done inside the house as I would have liked. That's going to change this year too.

Anyone out there have any fun traditions? I'm always up for something cool and Christmas-like, so pass 'em along.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

A Fine Fowl

This owl looks cold.

It's a barred owl sitting atop a tree at the Warm Springs Mountain overlook not far from the airport. Bethany saw it and I crept up to it until I was standing about 15 feet away. I had a few moments of some amazing shooting before the owl swiveled its head, looked at me and decided I was interrupting it's peaceful nap and flew off to a quieter place to snooze.

And it was as cold as this picture makes it look.

There's nothing really artistic about this photo. I had opportunity and a camera, so I snapped everything I could in the all too-brief time that I had this beautiful bird for a subject. I think I wound up with about fifteen photos total, including this one:

I wish I could have somehow done something more artistic that just these portraits, but you do the best you can with the experience you have under your belt and the time you have to work with.

On a completely unrelated note, I think I've finally pinned down the software I need to convert the manuscript for The Crownless King into pdf form so that I can get it sent off. Now I just need to get off my tail and get it taken care of. There's some minor processing left to put things together before shipping. Bethany's taken on a tremendous load of processing photos, thankfully (because I really hate that aspect of the wedding business) so I hope to find some time to get this done. It will definitely be out before Christmas, though the question of when, exactly, is up for some debate.

I apologize to all you dear readers out there looking for a little philosophical meandering along life's road. It's been a long couple of days. Bethany's surgery went perfectly yesterday and she's now going through life without a gall bladder. I didn't get much sleep last night as I tried not to bump into her (after all, she'd just had surgery 12 hours before and was hurting) and tried to wake up during the night to make sure she was still doing OK. Fortunately, she's doing pretty good other than the pain and soreness that I'm sure accompanies any surgery.

It's time for me to lay my weary head down and get a little sleep. Perhaps tomorrow I'll meander philosophically down life's road with you, dear reader. Until then...good night...

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Star Charts & Moonbeams

Thought I'd go just a little bit abstract tonight. Well, not so much abstract as to just where my mind goes sometimes when I let it wander and don't really pay attention to where it ends up.

We watched the premier of "V" tonight on ABC. Bethany wasn't a fan, but she doesn't get into the sci-fi as much as I do, which is cool. Science fiction is usually either done really well and amazing, like Joss Whedon's "Firefly" or is done horribly and isn't worth the effort of picking the book up off the shelf, much like 90% of the science fiction that's out there.

I'm one of those people that look up at the stars and wonder what's out there. I get aggravated every time I hear someone complain about NASA's budget or ask why we should waste our time going back to the moon. We live on a planet that makes up an infinitesimally small fraction of the galaxy, much less the universe. How can you not look up and wonder what's waiting for us between the stars?

Just looking at the stars is akin to looking back in time anyway. Any number of those stars could have burned out years ago and the light from that explosion just hasn't reached us yet. There's no way of knowing for sure. And they're beautiful. The heavens are filled with comets and planets and nebulae and things of unimaginable wonder that we haven't even discovered yet.

I'll be the first to tell you that all the alien abduction stories I heard and read about as a kid scared me. Some of them are just a little too real, a little too detailed and have too many common details in cases that happen on different continents to make me just ignore them. Yes, I believe in aliens. I'll admit to it. Personally, I hope we meet them someday and they're more like the Vulcans from Star Trek than whatever those things were from Independence Day.

I look at the stars and think about the stories that can be told between them. Space is infinite in all directions and the stories that can be told among stars are numbered just as greatly. I sometimes wish I lived in that Star Trek universe where mankind travels the stars just to explore them. I hope one day we get there. Until we do, I'll have to content myself with telescopes, star charts and dreams.