Friday, November 27, 2015

27 November Black Friday Art

For today only, Fine Art America (FAA) is offering Free Shipping for any product to anywhere in the world. Considering the shipping costs are nearly as much as the actual product, this is a pretty good deal.

The company has fourteen fulfillment centers in five different countries, and I, as a FAA artist, have often wondered if they couldn't do a bit better on their shipping costs. But today is the day when none of that matters. Yahoo! I hope many people take advantage of this, not just for my products (photos, photo art, digital painting, digital sculptures) but for any of the FAA artists. Perhaps the company will see the benefit of reduced shipping fees--or no shipping fees. So many other companies do this, I'd think it could work.

So go buy some of my art work at FAA! TODAY! FREE SHIPPING!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Discussion Group Guide A Good Idea?

I'm carefully preparing a new print version of Blood and Bond and debating on whether to call it 'A Novel' or 'A Novel of the West' or maybe 'A Novel of Redemption'. That last could be a grabber. This and the possible use of a Discussion Group Guide are currently my major concerns.
    The Guide
  • How would you categorize Blood and Bond? Is it a contemporary western? A book of spiritual discovery? A mystery?
  • Kae Cheatham uses a George Herbert quote at the start of the book: "…for things of this world depend on such a train of unseen chances that if it were in man’s hands to set the tables, still he would not be certain to win the game." How do you think this relates to the story?
  • The author has built intrigue into Blood and Bond. Were you able to predict certain things before they happened, or did the author keep you guessing?
  • How important is the setting to the story?
  • Are the male and female characters realistic? Which character could you relate to best and why? Talk about the secondary characters. Were they important to the story? Did any stand out for you?
  • Blood and Bond has an element of romance. Do you feel the love aspect enhanced or detracted from the story?
  • Kae uses many surreal and metaphysical events. Do you consider this American Indian spirituality? Did Kae effectively develop these elements? If so, how? If not, why not? Did you find those elements interesting or disturbing?
  • Has Eddie CloudRunner's character changed by the novel's end? If so, at what points in the book do we see him change? Do other characters evolve during the story? If so, how? If not, was that a detriment?
  • The novel is presented with three different points of view: Eddie CloudRunner, Beth Hardemann and Jess Stanton. Was there one perspective, one series of passages, that you enjoyed reading more than the others? Why?
  • The title of this book could suggest a gothic or horror story. Did what you read fit with the first impression? Would another title have been more compelling for you?
Anyone have any suggestions?

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Illness Frustration

There's an element of illness that stays the same whether you've got a life threatening condition, a chronic debility or an aggravating run-of-the-mill cold; that element is the frustration of being incapacitated.

What I'm experiencing is neither life threatening, nor run-of-the-mill, but the frustration has been abundant as this condition (some sort of auto-immune thingy that doctors can't identify) has been with me in varying intensities for more that two years. I thought last month it was finally going away, only to have it show its rash in new areas of my body, including my face. I informed the doctor.

Antibiotics were prescribed—not the one I'd taken before that did little good, but a new Rx. Okay.

And it worked! Cleared off the facial problem, made dormant the itchy blotches that laced my back. Oh happy day!

Until my body reacted to the Rx and left me nearly incapacitated and wracked in pain. I had to cancel participation in the last big art show of the season, and was limited to huddling under covers (body temp was under 97.5 for 36 hours), only able to eat an occasional spoonful of yogurt and drink water. Struggling out to feed my horse morning and evening took all my energy. Was off line for two days (rare for me)!

That was last week. I'm a bit more mobile now, and was able to remove the art exhibit from D A Davidson at the required time. The large pieces are still in the back o the car, as lifting them is a chore. The Rx has affected my joints. My pharmacist added this drug to my list of allergens: penicillin, all steroids, and now tetracycline. My doctor didn't prescribe anything new, even though I didn't finish the run of that Rx. Wait and see. Maybe it worked. That's what I was hoping, too.

Yet yesterday evening, the itching and infection started again on my instep—a place where the whole mess first popped up two years ago.

Frustration. I have difficulty concentrating when the irritation is bad. Certain clothes cause reactions on my skin. I haven't been out to do any photography for ages; my writing is limited to copy-editing--nothing creative. And then there's the "homework": fencing that needs to be shored up before the winter snows get bad, replace the headlight in the car; dust, vacuum,...but with a last art show of the season looming in 10 days, I do the minimum, and I'm loathe to do anything that might exacerbate this condition and keep me from participating.

Tomorrow I'll feel better, I keep telling myself. and Remember what it was like last year at this time (5 times worse)? Don't be such a wuss!

But frustration remains.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Sea World Prompt

KaeCsImages Orca image taken in the San Juan straits
The recent news about the changing status of orcas at San Diego's Sea World, reminded me of a poem I wrote a couple of decades ago. My subject is a dolphin, but it applies for orcas and all the creatures caught up in the human entertainment industry.

When I wrote this, I was also thinking of people who, intentionally or by accident, get caught in situations not to their liking. They are often hemmed in by perceived obligations or expectations of others. Trying to break free of those can be arduous, but the strong keep trying. They maintain an inner focus while fulfilling responsibilities; they don't give in to conformity and eventually can break free.

The sea creatures caught in the various amusement parks are considered some of the more intelligent of mammals. We can't know the full impact of their captivity. I hope the Orcas adjust well once they're away from the watery amphitheater.

© 1997 Kae Cheatham
All Rights Reserved
Breaking the Surface at Sea World 

Their eyes warned how unwise it would be
for her to go against the norm.
They were groupers in the channel bottom,
while she was a dolphin,
cutting keen lines in the current, careening
small pools, seeing blue above but restlessly sensing
the top of the tank. Smiles clung
to her movements—a wet suit of obligations—
and she fumbled along the planned ways,
eager for space. Rebounding
dreams were her guide.
When the ceiling moved, her first leaps
scalloped the water, tested the edge. She dove,
gathering strength while repulsed by obscurity. Big fish gaped
and gagged on her upward surge.

"To the sea!" she called.

Breaking the surface
she sailed in air,
arched in foreign light.

Far away—
past plastic seats and steel,
beyond unmoving waves of asphalt,
stone and glass—
morning tide crashed on saline beaches.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

No Mo NaNoWriMo

I'm out. The NaNoWriMo challenge has beat me. I really thought I had my intended project planned well, with a preliminary outline and several pages of notes. I was going to write the third book in the Gem of the Galaxy Series. Ha!

I whizzed through ten pages with ease, then stalled out. True, I had to get ready for the Downtown Helena Art Walk (Friday, 6 Nov), but I thought once I was through with that I'd jump in and knock out lots of words for this challenge. I tried...floundered...rethought the whole thing. It wasn't working.

When I'm writing articles or nonfiction for a specific cause or deadline, no problem; but certain incentives have to be in place for me to be productive with my fiction. First and foremost is a dynamic character. Not just the idea of one, but a character whose predicament and/or goals are firm in my mind. I might not have the final solution to whatever the conundrum, be it emotional or universal (often it's both), but I know what is driving this character. That is what my story centers on.

I'm reminded of a phrase by Writer's Digest columnist Nancy Kress in her book Characters, Emotions & Viewpoint: "Characters are the common denominator in fiction…without believable and interesting characters, you don't really have fiction at all…Character is the key."

Most of my fiction has started with a character and situation almost leaping to mind. True, I've had to jiggle things a bit, especially in the historical fiction where facts of the day play a role in the story development, but I have always had the essentials of my character. The character of Ellen Hargrove, in Kansas Dreamer had to be fiddled with quite a bit before I was satisfied. That novel is one where the story was strong, but the main character needed a lot of tweaking.

Unfortunately, this NaNoWriMo experience has not induced a strong character or story. I'm thinking the challenge just isn't my thing. The one year I completed my 50K words, I developed an OK story with passable characters—and I never finished it. Four years ago I didn't sign up for the challenge, but I used the November writing incentive to finish the languishing science fiction novel Dead Heroes. I worked daily to rewrite and amplify segments, and to smooth the manuscript into a  completed project. I published the finished story in winter 2012.

So this year, after a false start and abundant frustration, I am bowing out of NaNoWriMo and focusing on the several "nearly there" projects that will benefit from an intensity of effort. I credit the challenge for jump-starting my previous ambivalence to these on-the-shelf projects. I expect winter 2016 will see the results of my efforts.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Dictionary Fun

I really like words: using them, knowing definitions and etymology. I should have been a lexicographer. Online dictionaries and thesauruses offer ways to spend time, when I should be doing other things, yet not feel like I'm wasting time. I'm learning something, after all!

The annual 2014's Top Ten Words are posted at the Merriam-Webster online site. I checked it out. In the explanation it's stated: "...The results, based on approximately 100 million lookups a month, shed light on topics and ideas that sparked the nation's interest in 2014." 

How can they know the words were in response to anything other than curiosity? I assume they have a program that registers the date and time a word is looked up (I wonder if it also collects IP addresses?), then someone (more likely some program) correlates that with national/world events.

M-W also has a Top Ten TREND words (different parameters in the above program, no doubt), and a Top Ten most frequently looked up words. It's pretty interesting, but I find the juggling of statistics, and the "newsworthiness" (the pages information is always picked up by the media) is a bit iffy. The word of the year for 2015 will be published in December. I wonder what that word will be. 

The entire site has myriad interesting pages and segments (although also filled with many monetizing ads and columns; I guess that's what keeps it free, so I shouldn't grumble). The "Words at Play" page has interesting vocabulary tidbits. Just the thing for not wasting time when I should be doing something else.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Nanowrimo Dilemnas

NaNoWriMo Logo
Names have been driving me nuts. Rather, the lack of names. I find it difficult to fashion a story without character names in place—especially the primary characters. I spent an hour or developing names. I haven't yet attributed any to characters. That's the next step. This certainly isn't adding to my daily NaNoWriMo word count!

A related concern to this is the number of characters that seem to be developing. Each of my already-published novels, both sci-fi and historical fiction, contain quite a few characters. The primary characters are rarely more than three, but secondary characters are numerous. I'm certain the more characters I fashion, the longer and more complex my story will become—and hence, the longer it could take to write. I won't give names to walk-ons and hopefully that will limit my thinking and writing to the primary story.

Photo Art Exhibit in an Evening

Downtown  Helena's Fall Art Walk is this Friday, 6 November, and I will have some digital sculptures and other photo art at SIGNS NOW. This Helena franchise of SIGNS NOW often prints my images on metal and other mediums. I pleased to be hosted by them.

My friend Louise Ogemahgeshig Fischer will also be there, with her impressive metal work. Large pieces with her American-Indian themes, that she cuts freehand from recycled metal with a plasma cutter.

The Art Walk runs from 5 - 9, and if you're in the area, here's a list of all the venues and artists

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

NaNoWriMo It Never Goes as Planned

Into day three of NaNoWriMo, and already having my story twist and turn. My word count is okay, but I quickly realized that my prologue doesn't work. Keeping with the challenge admonishments, I haven't gone in to change it, merely made some notes. I wrote Chapter One with the planned changes in mind.

I've found the use of voice-recognition software quite helpful. I use a version of Dragon that I purchased a few years ago when they were running a holiday special. Dragon makes it easier to get my thoughts onto the page. Of course, a few problems pop up, especially since I'm writing a science fiction piece: names of characters are often comically rendered. After day-one of dictating, I spent nearly an hour training the voice activation to get the spelling I wanted. It goofs every now and then...but so do I.

Once that draft is in place, I go through it with a regular keyboard and catch the goofs (its and mine) and add needed embellishment to the descriptions and story. So far, so good.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

My Other Hat: Photography

I've been a part of the photo challenges at GuruShots for more than a year. I don't join every challenge, but it's fun to add images that I don't display in my online gallery, or even when I participate in art shows.
Some of these are images I've liked but never thought had a lot of potential in a wider market. Here are a few.
More reflections--a post in a puddle in the rain

A pumpkin cross-section
Bark gone, exposed pine

Reflections in office building windows
Not too many challenges have been for the abstract and digital art I create.
Arced tree-trunk

This shows a bit of my eclectic visions when I use my camera. My Gurushots gallery has even more.