Friday, September 24, 2010

A Very Happy Friday

It was almost Christmas for me today. I've been working on cleaning the house today and doing some other odds and ends. While I was seeing to those chores I kept an anxious eye on the window for the UPS truck and the mail. I kept a pretty solid watch until I went to the bathroom and I came back out to realize I'd missed them both.

The UPS truck delivered a box from Amazon, which is always a delight. I now have in my possession the second seasons of both Castle and Psych, two of my favorite mystery shows. Castle will be viewed with Bethany but Psych will be my own little treasure to sit and view as I process photos all month.

My order from Mpix came in today. I love the quality of the work at Mpix and they've never let me down once. I've been told their prices could be lower, but I don't mind paying for such high quality at the exceptional speed at which they work. I ordered three prints and I thought I ordered them matted. Turns out I ordered them flush mounted on matting material and while it wasn't what I thought I was ordering (my mistake, not theirs) the end result is very, very nice.

I ordered three prints, two of which will be shown at the next meeting of the Alleghany Camera Club Thursday evening and the third that was a test to see how the image looked printed. One of the two for the ACC was a photo of Bethany's and I have to admit that her shot is the best of the three. The other one for the club is one my favorite motion blurs. The assignment was bring in your favorite photo and explain why you took it and I think we've both accomplished that.

Speaking of my favorite photos, the photo included on this post is going to be added to this list. I really enjoy how clear and pure the water looks and I especially like the sharpness of the ripples. We were up there early in the day last Sunday and just happened to catch the light at the perfect angle for this kind of shot. I took it last weekend during a photo shoot of a young boy with his mom and grandma. As usual, it seems that I do some of my best work when I'm doing something other than what I'm supposed to be doing. I can't explain this phenomena, I just roll with it.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Change Of Perspective

I must admit to being something of a nerd. I'm not the painfully nerdy type you see on The Big Bang Theory or anything like that, but I do geek out on occasion. I can't wait for the next Star Trek novel to come out. I'm drooling over Firefly on Blu-Ray. I think Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel are two television series that were fine examples of drama, action and comedy.

That list could go on for a long time so let's just end it there.

The point is that among the things that I "geek out" about is good writing. I watch television shows and wonder what goes into making them. I read books and wonder how the author knew to take his characters in that direction. I want to know how it's done. I want to know the gritty, messy details that are covered up by the scenes. So I often watch the writer/director commentary on DVDs. (Yes, go on. Add that to the list of nerdiness in the first paragraph. It's OK.)

I've spent the week trying to get caught up on processing photos before the October rush. When I'm processing I usually flip on a disc or two of a television series that I have on DVD and just let it roll as I get into the groove of processing. Today I started out with Two and a Half Men and quickly realized I was bored with it. I didn't make it through the first 22 minute episode before pulling the plug. Instead I put in my Blu-Ray copy of Serenity, scrolled through the extras and put on the writer/director commentary.

I have a knack for being able to do one thing and listen to another. It's how I made it through school without ever studying. So as I processed I listened to what Joss Whedon talked about on the show. Some of it was interesting without being useful. I found the commentary on lenses he used during the shooting fascinating, though I doubt it will translate into photography usefulness. What I really focused on instead was the commentary on the characters themselves and I learned a few surprising things.

The first thing I didn't realize, though in hindsight I should have, is that the movie is Mal's story as told by River. The entire movie is wrapped around getting Mal from the dark place he starts at to the better place he ends at because of River's plight. Fascinating.

The second thing I keyed on was how the story itself was told, what little tricks of the trade were used to pull the viewer in and give him all the back story he needed without beating him over the head with it. Again, some of that I noticed, some of it I didn't.

What really struck me the hardest, however, was listening to Joss Whedon speak about the vision he had for the movie and the characters he'd created. Everything he did, every scene, every bit of dialog was aimed at bringing that vision to life. There wasn't a single bit of extraneous material.

But more importantly, Whedon had a vision. He knew what he was sitting down to create. He may not have known all the stops the story would take along the way, but he knew what he was creating. It was analyzed and thought through before the pen hit the page.

It made me realize that I rarely, if ever, have asked myself an important question when starting a project, namely this one: What is it I'm trying to do? What is it I'm trying to create? Why am I doing this?

Looking back I can see where that's hurt my creative efforts. I think I've only satisfactorily answered that question once, with The Crownless King. The Sixth Sword may very well come in a close second at that. Yet for the most part weak answers to those questions have made the quality of my work less than in could be, I believe, and have caused me to lack focus lately.

I'm not saying the past six months have been wasted, but I see now how answering those questions could have made me put the time to a better creative use. I can see now that I must readjust my perspective if I'm going to have a shot at a successful writing career at all.

Monday, September 20, 2010

A Declaration Of Autumn

I'm officially declaring it to be fall. It's decided. I don't care how hot it is. I don't care that the leaves have just started to change around here. It's fall. Deal with it.

I'm declaring it fall because Bethany and I picked up a soup recipe book at Kroger and I'll be breaking out the Crock Pot to slow roast a pork loin for dinner, kind of a warm up for the slow cooker work that will be done as the weather cools. It looks like the first fall like temperatures will be in for next week, so I'm going to get ready.

My first two days of this week are going to be spent at home. I'm going to change the lock on the front door. Then I'm going to strip all the Morning Glories off the porch (they're dying anyway) and get them properly disposed of. I may or may not break out the lawn mower for what I hope will be a final time this season. The deciding factor will be the shape of the yard after a close examination. I'm going to start my search for a good coat rack to place by the door and a welcome mat to match for those rainy days and weeks of wet snow like we had last year. Bethany's going to pull out the fall decorations and start spreading them festively throughout the house.

Bring on the cold weather, the awesome football and the seasonal foods. I'm ready for corn mazes and Halloween costumes and even to start thinking about a Christmas wish list and Hallmark ornaments. This is my favorite time of year and I'm declaring that it has arrived.

The Great Pumpkin should soon follow suit.

Friday, September 17, 2010

A Fun Friday

One thing I really enjoy about Fridays is the anticipation of the weekend and this one is going to be a good one. We have pictures to take and process, of course, but we're going to spend some time with a good friend playing the Wii and hopefully have some space to relax in there somewhere.

On the work front I just got off the phone with Heather Gladden and she's on board and sounds excited to get started on some stuff for our Druid project. I met with Devan yesterday and he left me with a better idea of where the story is going and some research materials to delve into Celtic history. All I need now is a new keyboard because this one just isn't making me happy when it comes down to spending quality writing hours at it.

The Druid project is going to be something a little different for Devan and I. We're setting out with the idea of writing a young adult novel and we're going to take the time to really hammer at this and use it as a benchmark to see where our writing skills are at. It will be a true collaborative effort and may even be something we take to an agent and see about making a career out of this writing hobby.

But before I can do any of that, the house needs to be cleaned before we leave for a very good home cooked dinner. Better get moving.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Looking Foward To Fall

We're back from vacation and while it was a good trip, I'm glad to be home. I'm not going to lie. I really like sleeping in my own bed and being in my own home. Family togetherness is great and all that, but there's nothing quite like home.

As I mentioned in the last post the writing is getting back on track. In fact, Devan and I are having our first meeting tomorrow about The Hunter and I'm looking forward to really discussing the vision of the novel and the series. I think it will go a long way toward speeding work along, particularly since it'll be the first time we've been able to speak in person about the project since he came up with the idea while he was in Iraq.

My current read is The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks. It's fun, but it's almost an homage to Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. I think that all the epic fantasy written in the 70s and early 80s has a strong influence of Tolkien, be it in the story itself or the style of the writing. Next up on the To-Read List is probably going to be Brandon Sanderson's The Way of Kings. It has a pretty interesting premise and I'm excited to see what he does with it. It will also give me a feel for his writing before I plunge into the late Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time finale, which Sanderson co-wrote after Jordan's death.

I don't know how the weather is where you are, but here in western Virginia fall is starting to creep in. The nights are getting cool and the morning temperatures are barely in the 50s. I've been told that the leaves are starting to turn in Bath County, which is north of where I live and a lot higher in elevation. I went with Bethany and her mom to chorale practice last night in Lewisburg and I could already see some fall colors in that particular westerly direction.

Looking at the calendar I see that September is half over. I love October. Bethany's filled this one with weddings, but even still I'm looking forward to it. Cooler weather, better football, great food and awesome books. Fall is also publishing season and a lot of great reads are published this time of year. Of particular interest to me is The Towers of Midnight by Jordan and Sanderson on November 2.

I'm also counting down to the time when I make my annual attempt at jambalaya. I've made it twice, both times on a cool autumn Saturday when I could smell it cooking in the Crock Pot all day. Last year was a fiasco wherein I learned that there is a difference between instant rice and regular rice. The year before was better, though it came out mushy. This year will be my third attempt at making it and I have hopes of getting it right this time.

Fall puts me in mind of soups and stews and other warm foods. We have a great recipe for homemade chicken noodle soup, which will no doubt be made one weekend, and Bethany loves experimenting with the soups. The cooling weather just seems to demand that more attention be paid to cooking and eating fine foods and I, for one, plan to answer that demand.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Back On The Wagon

I have to plead distraction over the past week and a half as my excuse for not getting any real writing done. Remodeling the bathroom has taken up so much of my time that it was all I could do to get a decent night's sleep before getting up and going at the day again. We finished that up last Friday and Friday melted into a weekend filled with family and friends.

Since it was a holiday weekend I didn't really accomplish anything written. Monday was an off day and so today, Tuesday, has become my Monday. And still, I'm not getting much of anything accomplished.

Part of the reason for it today is Batman: Arkham Asylum for the Xbox 360. That game is insanely good. It's Batman as he was meant to be: dark, brooding and squaring off against the Joker with the lives of countless innocents hanging in the balance. It doesn't really get any better than that.

I also finished reading The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins over the weekend. Without really spoiling anything, it was a great young adult series that I found to be very entertaining. Devan was the first to recommend it, and then Dick, and when I have a recommendation from two literary opinions that I highly respect I have no choice but to dive into it. I was hooked quick and never wiggled free until I finished the series. I hope that Collins writes more. It will be interesting to see if her success will continue.

I'd like to say that I'll be making great literary strides myself this week, but that's just not going to happen. We're leaving Thursday morning for Tennessee to spend a few days in Pigeon Forge on a family vacation. I'll be doing some cooking and a lot of reading if my plans hold up. There's also a pool table and a Pac-Man game at this cabin we're staying at. I'm amazing at both, so I feel like they'll occupy my attention a good bit.

For a moment here I've questioned my dedication to writing. I went a few solid weeks of writing every day until the bathroom renovation broke my cycle. Even still, I've been making notes in my head and on paper as I've worked. I'm always writing in my head (I know it sounds like a cheat) and go through a few drafts before it makes it to paper. I don't think my dedication's wavered, but I think that it was slammed by a project that just consumed my every day for a week.

I got back on the wagon this morning in the weight room with Bryan. It's time for me to get back on the wagon with the writing too.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Why, Georgia, Why?

We finished up the bathroom Friday night at about 8:30. I still have about fifteen minutes worth of finishing touches to lay down, but for now, it's finished. I know I promised pictures and I'll provide 'em, but at this point that almost seems like work so I think I'll let it be.

The bathroom took a toll on us both. We both were up 'till 2 a.m. every night since Monday trying to finish it off. All the dust we stirred up, combined with the lack of rest and decent food along with the first stirrings of fall have been enough to kick me in the butt and tweak my allergies. Thankfully, after a lazy day of Sunday rest, I'm feeling better than I have in almost four days.

So I've picked up my guitar for the first time in a few weeks. I set it aside a while back to focus on my writing and had some favorable results. Now that Devan is back from Iraq things should start moving in a better direction there at a quicker pace. In the meantime, music has been tugging at me and I'm back to practicing my guitar.

This is part of the reason why I so rarely master a talent: I can't focus on just one thing that I'm interested in long enough to become amazing at it. There's just so much out there that's fun and I really do want to be able to play just about anything on the guitar.

I stumbled on a lesson for John Mayer's Why, Georgia? off of his first album, Room for Squares. I love that song. It has an amazing intro that goes from intermediate to expert in the face of a few measures. It's been difficult since I haven't kept up my practicing, but I'll get there.

Saturday was a great day filled with good food and good friends. Patrick and Amber came up, as did Chris and Sarah and Bethany's sister, Heather, was in and we all spent the day playing games, cooking and swapping stories. It was the kind of good times that we need to have more often and I'm going to try to make a point to experience more frequently. In the past two year's of life it's been too easy to get caught up in the big events that I've almost forgotten that it's the little things that make life worth living. It may be too late for a New Year's resolution, but I'm making it nonetheless.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Stuff Of Legends

When last I left you breathlessly awaiting updates in blog land I was about to tear in to the bathroom. The tearing started Monday morning and it ended up being much more involved than I thought it was going to be.

But that's OK. My Plan A usually leaves a little something to be desired. My Plan B is usually the stuff of legends.

Bethany and I have been hard at it for the past three days. Monday was the stripping and prep work. Tuesday saw the painting of the paneling, the removal of the old sink and the discovery that the vinyl floor would have to be replaced and that the paneling didn't quite cover on one side of the wall since the new sink was shorter. The new vanity, naturally, doesn't quite jive with the old plumbing. With Bryan's assistance (and without it there'd be no new sink installed) the required piece will be in hand and installed tomorrow. The light installed nicely, which was about the only thing that went right yesterday.

Which brings me to today. The painting is done inside the bathroom. There's still a little bit of the trim work left to be dipped in white, but 98% of the painting is finished. I took a quick trip to Lexington today and picked up the new floor and the new panel, which doesn't quite match but it's the best I can do and it's going to work. Tomorrow I plan to unhook the vanity, lay the new floor, slide the vanity back into place, have Bryan secure the plumbing, and then reassemble the bathroom, all in plenty of time for Saturday's epic gathering.

So if everything goes according to my plan, and there's absolutely no reason it should because nothing has so far, by this time tomorrow night I'll be soaking in my tub in my newly finished bathroom. I promise to post pictures when I'm finished.

But it's 11:40 p.m. and time for a late dinner.