Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Writing and Photography in the 21st Century

I have chosen two artistic occupations that have recently experienced similar technological advancements, leading to consumer/public indifference: Writing (as an Indie Author) and Photography. These different endeavors have both been clobbered by modern advancements. I embrace new technology, but recognize how it makes my artistic activities difficult.

Let's start with Writing. I am considered an Indie Author because I publish eBooks, and also have my own imprint and produce my own dead-tree books. Many articles, forum discussions and blog posts have expressed opinions on the Indie-produced products and authors. The technology that enabled this influx of tens of thousands of new authors (and even more titles) is not a fad (and in most cases, it's free!). Every month a new innovation is put on the market. In addition, the proliferation of social networking, especially blogs, encourage people that their words can be read by everyone (forever!). I became an Indie Author after decades of working in the traditional publishing marketplace (titles with HBJ, Westminster as well as regional publishers). That's where I started, and I admit, in 2002 I jumped on the electronic revolution as a faster way to get my books to an audience. But today it's easy for titles be lost in the increasing number of books by people publishing anything and everything with varying degrees of writing expertise.

The same is true with Photography. Early in this century, when digital cameras became a public consumer item, they fostered a plethora of shutterbugs. I've been shooting for more than four decades, and had my own darkroom for a while (an expensive, stinky condition). I'm pleased that today, taking pictures is no longer a costly activity of film purchase and development. Sharing with family and friends--and the world--is an easy upload. I switched to digital in 2003 when the top-end consumer digital had a whopping 3.2MP (wow!). I bought new cameras as the upgrades became available. Today, an actual stand-alone camera isn't even necessary. Almost all Internet-geared devices, from laptops to smart phone and tablets, have a camera built in, and social network sites encourage photo uploads. As with writing, professionals who developed their Art of Photography prior to the digital age--who were once considered having an elite talent--are now some of the billions who daily take pictures.

From a social development standpoint, I find all this fascinating. From an artist's point of view, it's troublesome. I'll be contemplating some of the ramifications in future posts.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Head Hopping is Aggravating to Read

There are times when I am absolutely bummed out by authors having too many "main" characters and switching point of view. They hop from one character's head to another. It has always seemed to be a quick fix way to tell a story. Rather than working out the literary strategies to relate a story from just one or two protagonists, the head hopping allows information to come forth without much stylistic creativity. Yet there are times…

When reading David Brin's Kiln People and Garcia-Roza's Southwesterly Wind I was struck by how appropriate it was to move in thought from character to character. I'll admit it took me a while to see the stylistic value in Garcia-Roza's book, but by the end, I knew it had to be written that way.

Both of those books were written by authors whom I consider skilled wordsmiths. I'm certain they thought out the complexities and made a conscious decision to employ this style.

In contrast, I think too many contemporary writers give viewpoints from many characters because they don't want to take the time to properly develop their story. They might consider this an "omniscient" viewpoint—where they can tell all, see all. But the omniscient style is much more distinctive, with the "narrator" having a distinctive voice and attitude. I like that style, and see very little of it.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Catch-Up Reading Won't Work

Over at goodreads I had set my 2015 reading goal for sixty books. At the beginning of the year it didn't seem too far fetched; my previous years were in the mid fifties. Why not up it a bit?

However, I didn't factor in two art exhibits as well as regional shows, and also poor health that sapped my energy even to read. I've barely made it to halfway of my posted goal.

I'm done with shows and exhibits, and my health has improved. I'm suddenly reading again. Four books in the last week; bt it's too little too late. I'll have to give more thought to what I post for next year.

Right now I'm off to my public library's Overdrive system to get some new titles. I'd like to get at least two-thirds of my goal completed.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Winter Photo Project #1

It's winter (nearly). My house has become a place for indoor photo projects. I was inspired by the "shallow" challenge at GuruShots: narrow depth of field, highlighting a specific portion of the subject. Although I had images in my files that would fit, I decided to create some new ones, using a few tips I recently read at an online photo site.

I set up my portable light box on my work table (where I usually mat and frame images). That puts it at a good height to arrange the tripod, and electrical outlets are nearby for the accent lights. Although the kit came with a mini tripod, the work space isn't deep enough to use it; the full-size tripod is more than adequate and has less chance of vibration, since it's so heavy.

So far, several images are satisfactory; I scrapped about thirty or so. I especially like the garlic pod with the garlic press in the background. The monotone of it appeals to me. But at GuruShots, the votes have favored the pills and prescription container.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Tweaks for Second Printing

As I prepare Blood and Bond for it's second printing, I keep making a few tweaks and changes. I have also caught a few glitches from the first printing I thought I had corrected in the eBook version. But no, a few still remained. How many times will I have to re-read this 105,000 word manuscript before it's really right?

The cover seems to be in good shape. After visiting several online bookstores and perusing the covers of mysteries, mystical, and contemporary genres, I think this will work.

Hmm. I can see that "A Novel of Restoration" doesn't show up too well in a small sized cover. Another tweak needed. (sigh)

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Frugal Mac & Cheese

We finally have winter weather in Montana and I'm marginally snowbound. My driveway is under about 4-6 inches of snow, which wouldn't be so bad except to get to the road is a 6% uphill grade. My 4x4 truck has a dead battery. Oh, well.
Living on the North Hills is nice because we get sunshine when the city/valley is still in the murk of smoke haze. The snow is receding, even though the temps are barely in the 20s.

Nonetheless, I'm being frugal and making meals that take more preparation, yet don't deplete my food supply. Yesterday, dinner was pork-fried rice.
Today I had mac and cheese, but since milk isn't a commodity I buy, I made the dish with whole-milk yogurt. I had read several recipes online, and made changes to meet my taste.
Here's my recipe for those who are interested.
Yogurt Mac and Cheese (2 servings)
  • 4 oz. (about 1 cup) pasta; (I cook mine in a microwave pasta cooker to which I've added a tsp. of olive oil and 1/2 tsp. of salt)
  • 4 oz. (about 1 cup) shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/3 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas (add to pasta during the last 2 minutes of pasta cooking)
  • 1/8 tsp. ginger powder
  • 1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • While pasta is cooking, coat the shredded cheese with 1tbsp of cornstarch.
  • When pasta is cooked, drain--but reserve the pasta water for later use.
  • Melt/heat a pad of butter or a tablespoon of olive oil in a pan;
  • add the coated cheese. Stir.
  • Add reserved water from pasta as needed; since it is salted, adding salt to the finished dish probably won't be necessary.
  • Add pasta and peas when cheese has melted.
  • Stir and add reserve water until the mixture is hot and at the consistency you like. Garnish with fresh basil.