Writing, Photography, and NNWM-2K15

I’ll take things in reverse order, so first up . . .

NNWM-2K15 Update:

Yes, I’m posting another chapter of my NNWM-2K15. This is the chapter that has me a bit hesitant. Yes, I wrote two more chapters after this one. The problem is that some of the reveals here will shape the direction of the ending, and I’m not sure about that particular direction. However, I’ve not had my head straight on this for a number of weeks now. I’m posting it, and then I’ll trust I can work things out later.  

The next post will contain Chapter 26 of the 2015 NaNoWriMo work-in-progress and it will go up immediately after this post goes live. It’s password protected. Since it’s been a while, click HERE for the previous stuff.

Please, don’t ask for a password just to make me feel good. Especially, don’t ask unless you’ve read the first few chapters and know that you are interested in reading more. Unless you intend to read it, don’t ask. I will not feel hurt, I will not cry myself to sleep, I will not hate anyone who chooses not to read my effort. I will, however, get a little miffed if I get asked for passwords by a bunch of people and then only my usual four or five readers actually read the stuff. 

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Photography  Update:

When we first moved here (“here” is Colorado) the idea was to ‘be retired.’ A great idea, it was. Except . . . anyone knows what ‘be retired’ means? As newbie retirees, one of the things we did was join a senior hiking group. Senior is a relative term; the requirement was “50 and over.” We joined them on a number of hikes. The Catamount Trail was one of the hikes. You can read a brief trail description HERE, or a longer account HERE (the latter one is from someone a bit like me; they offer a detailed and lengthy report of the hike along with numerous photos. But not quite like me when it comes to religious beliefs, but that’s a different matter).

For those who won’t click on the links, it’s only a six miles hike but it has a 1,700 feet elevation change.  Anyway, let’s look back at April 27, 2006.

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The above was shot at the start of the trail, just before beginning the climb over the mountain through a number of switchbacks. 

I should mention . . . part of the reason for revisiting these shots is trying modern post-processing on photographs taken with my then camera, the Nikon D100. Plus, you know, these are from before I had a blog. But, really, mainly to play with processing options now at my fingertips. 

Take, for instance, this next shot . . . 

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I like that scene, but look what I can do with Topaz Impressions . . . 

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Those are both painting filters. Yes, I know some people just prefer the “natural” shot, but part of the reason I play with these is to potentially use these techniques for doing the covers of books I (might) self-publish. For instance, this next filter might be perfect for a fantasy cover.

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Of course, some filters don’t make as much of an impact . . . 

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It simulates the technique of a famous painter whose name escapes me right now. 

Anyway, I do like hiking the mountains around here . . . 

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. . . in part for the combination of rocks and trees.

I particularly like shots of the trail on the side of the mountain. 

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Below, through the opening in the trees, you can see U.S. 24, the road that goes through Ute Pass. The road I drove every workday for seven years as I traveled to and from Woodland Park and Monument. 

At this point in the trail we were nearing the top of the mountain, and like most hikes we took around here, we see very little wildlife. I would have liked for the above to look more like this. 

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Once you crest the mountain (big hill, really) you get a good view of the surroundings. 

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Below, you can see Crystal Mountain. The hills on the other side of U. S. 24 are now brown from having burned during the Waldo Canyon fire.

Anyway, we never did make it to the Catamount Reservoirs. One of the members of the hike had a fear of crossing streams, so she planned on waiting while we all went ahead and made the return leg. Melisa didn’t want to leave her alone in the middle of nowhere, so both of us stayed with her. I didn’t mind as it gave me the opportunity for more focused and leisurely shooting.

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I particularly liked this shot. 

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Of course, I can now do much more with it than I could ten years ago . . . 

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A nice treatment, but once again I default to the Da Vinci Sketch for adding mystery and perhaps even a small amount of dread to the scene . . . 

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What I would not give to be able to draw like that!

Oh, I know . . . I would not give hours and hours of practice stretching into years and eventually decades. Nope! Clicking the mouse is effort enough. 

Anyway, back in them days I snapped fewer photos than I do now, something for which my readers are about to give thanks as I only have three more shots.

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All of these can be seen in their original size in the associated SmugMug gallery HERE.

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Writing Update:

I put this last because based on the readership numbers, writing is the last thing people are interested in when they come to my blog.

“Wait a minute, now! You put the NNWM-2K15 update right up front! What’s up with that!?”

Good point . . . that’s an active project that people are waiting for. Sure, there may be only four (actually, there are only three . . . I’m counting myself when I say four) readers, but they are important; they deserve more attention than I’ve given them. I fear next time I’ll probably only have two readers (still counting myself). Anyway, writing update . . . by the way, there are no more photos after this; readers seeking visual gratification should stop here.

Three agents out of eleven sent me rejections. Still waiting on the rest. Also, one short story rejection out of four. Still waiting on the rest. I could send out the rejected story, but I wanted to rotate them through the four markets I had picked. 

Unfortunately, stuff happens slowly in the publishing world. I might have to pick a fifth or even sixth market as I wait for answers on my first choices. Something to tackle next week. 

Further reflections on Viable Paradise. As previously stated, I think the workshop helped my writing and my confidence . . . to a point. Last night I reviewed and scanned all the notes and feedback I received during the group critiques and during the one-on-one. Really, there’s mighty little there. 

No one commented/rated my writing per se. Not in the group critiques (students and teachers) and not in the one-on-one (teachers). Sure, we were told that just by being accepted at the workshop we should consider ourselves in the upper percentile of writers and that our efforts should be publishable; all it takes is perseverance. 

I was hoping for something along the lines of actual feedback on the writing (style, voice, and so on). Sure, I could assume it was all good . . . but take the rejections I’ve received: I’m told little beyond “this does not fit our current needs”, also known as “it’s not you, it’s us.”

This is fairly typical. Editors and agents are swamped by requests, and they can’t answer in detail to every submission. On the other hand, there are editors and agents who write detailed rejection letters, especially when they are attracted to the submission story but it needs a bit of work.

Assuming for a moment all the rejections will be form letters (likely) I still will have no clue if what I’m submitting just plain sucks, it’s too strange for them, it’s not strange enough, it leaves them bored and yawning, or if it’s good enough and they really don’t have a need for that particular material at the moment.

That’s what I hoped from the workshop: an assessment of what I write. Again, as I look back at everything now that I am a bit removed from it, I got nothing that I would consider a compliment or a detraction to my writing. I got feedback on a few points of the story I submitted, but neither a solid condemnation or solid compliment on my writing, on my story, on my prose, and so on. I did hear a fair amount about what I wrote not exactly being what people usually read. That’s bad news for me, obviously, because out of a diverse group no one in my critique groups “read the kind of stuff I wrote.”

BUT . . . that’s the whole point of critique groups, right? You look at the writing. I might not like a particular car, but I could certainly look how it’s put together, if it runs well, if the tires are inflated, if it comes with an engine. 

Saying “I don’t drive this type of car so I can’t judge it” is a valid response if you are asked to judge that particular car for it’s class-related merits. But everyone drives cars. There is basic knowledge there that can still generate a critique, right? Apparently, not so much.

I could conclude that I’m middle of the road, plain generic vanilla on a paper cone. Nothing to throw away, but also nothing to brag about. That would be the optimistic view. 

Optimism aside, I’d like to have known if that’s the case. In fact, I was mentally prepared for having my writing effort shredded by brutally honest but useful critiques. 

“Hey, Disperser. Read your story. Not bad writing, BUT . . . really, we can find these a dime a dozen. Where’s the social statement, the character angst? The torrid alien sex scenes? Your characters are cardboard (or too vivid, or too vapid), your action unbelievable (or too mundane, or too wooden), and I’ve seen better plots when looking at swampland.”

See, that gives me stuff to work on, stuff I can strive to improve, actionable stuff, especially if they follow it up with:

“Here’s what you need to improve: make the reader care about the villain, throw in more nuanced plot twists and turns, cut back on the dialogue, and make sure you add sex scenes. Everybody who is anybody is writing sex scenes, preferably with elves. No! Dragons! Dragons are making a comeback!” 

“Really!? Dragons are making a comeback? Because I got a couple of dragon stories . . . “ 

“No, man, I’m just yanking your chain! Dragons! Pfft . . . what an ultra maroon!” 

So, I got some vanilla rejections and I have no idea if the rejections mean they have no slot for what I write, of if my work is the equivalent to what might be produced by a blind monkey slinging multi-colored feces. 

At this point, I should remind people that I think I write good. Some of my readers think I write good (my readers being three people). 

BUT . . . there is a big difference between “good” and “publishable.”

I should also point out I am not discouraged. I’ll keep submitting. Only when my last options are used up will I consider self-publishing (and perhaps not even then). 

Finally (about time, some of you are saying), beta readers. More and more and more of the advice I read points to beta readers as being key to producing good work. For a variety of reasons I will not get into, like it or not, I’ll never be awash with beta readers. And, that’s fine. 

But, it got me wondering . . . when did beta readers become a thing? Like, did Asimov, Niven, Hemingway, Heinlein, Vonnegut, Zelazny, or other greats have beta readers? I tried researching the matter but had no luck finding answers. 

I hoped to bolster my confidence a bit, you see. If they made it without beta readers making their work publishable then perhaps I too have a chance. No, I don’t equate myself to the great authors of yesteryear, but they too were once, one presumes, struggling writers looking to break into the publishing world. Did beta readers help them get there or did they lifted themselves out of the muck of commonality?

Anyway, I should put this to bed as it’s starting to sound kind of whiny. Whiny people seldom get published, don’t you know. 

That’s it. This post has ended . . . except for the stuff below.

 ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ o o o o o o ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Gather Rounds

Gather Rounds

Astute persons might have noticed these doodles, and correctly surmised they hold some significance for me, and perhaps for humanity at large.  

If you click on the doodle, and nothing happens, this is the link it’s supposed to go to: https://disperser.wordpress.com/2011/12/26/palm-vx-and-i/.

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Note: if you are not reading this blog post at DisperserTracks.com, know that it has been copied without permission, and likely is being used by someone with nefarious intention, like attracting you to a malware-infested website.  Could be they also torture small mammals.

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Please, if you are considering bestowing me recognition beyond commenting below, refrain from doing so.  I will decline blogger-to-blogger awards.   I appreciate the intent behind it, but I prefer a comment thanking me for turning you away from a life of crime, religion, or making you a better person in some other way.  That would mean something to me.

If you wish to know more, please read below.

About awards: Blogger Awards
About “likes”:   Of “Likes”, Subscriptions, and Stuff

Note: to those who may click on “like”, or rate the post; if you do not hear from me, know that I am sincerely appreciative, and I thank you for noticing what I do.

. . .  my FP ward  . . . chieken shit.

About disperser

Odd guy with odd views living an odd life during odd times.
This entry was posted in Colorado, Fiction, Musings Stuff, Personal, Photo-effects, Photography, Photography Stuff, Scenery, Writing, Writing Stuff and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to Writing, Photography, and NNWM-2K15

  1. sandra getgood says:

    I’m glad you’re not giving up….getting the attention of the right person has got to be like winning the lottery, but sooner or later, am hoping that someone will say to another editor, “I just read this, and it’s not my cup of tea at all, but it has possibilities. why don’t you take a quick look at it, and see what you think?” If your work finds the right person, maybe they will tell you what’s good, and what needs changing to appeal to their readers, and you’ll get a foothold. Or even a hand-hold. I hope so.

    Like

    • disperser says:

      Thanks, Sandra. I’m right there with you on that. Honest, I’m pretty sure at some point something will sell. It will probably be a short story well before any novel, but nothing I ever did in life got me instant success. It may not sound like it, but I’m a patient person.

      . . . also old, so, you know, there is a real world limit to my patience..

      Like

  2. oneowner says:

    I never did well with group walks/hikes because my main interest was photography (and not necessarily landscape photography) so I was either rushing ahead or (mostly) lagging behind. We work at our own pace. Otherwise it’s not fun.

    Like

    • disperser says:

      Yeah, that was the case in that walk. If I go with just Melisa, I can usually take some liberties and have the walk turn into “waiting for Emilio to take his photos”. Of course, I have to be somewhat judicious in that regard or it ceases to be a walk altogether.

      Like

  3. Love the sketch and painting effects on your photos! But the originals are always my top favs! Too bad you have to live and hike and shoot in such an ugly place! ;-) :-P
    CO is one of my fav states…maybe my favorite…my youngest lived there for eight years and I visited her 2 to 3 times per year. But then her job moved her to another state.
    Please don’t give up on your agent-finding, and writing-submitting, etc.!
    I won’t tell you the stories of how many well-known writers got rejected a billion times before something happened for them. You can google those stories yourself, and you probably already know them. So hang in there, Emilio!
    HUGS!!! :-) Wishing you and Melisa a beautiful whee-kend!!! :-)

    Like

    • disperser says:

      Let’s see . . . a billion times . . . assume a half hour for each submission, twelve hours a day . . . make that ten hours (a man’s got to eat and stuff) . . . say twenty submission a day seven days . . . no, make that six days a week. Times fifty-two weeks . . . no, make that fifty weeks . . . so, 20x6x50 = 6,000 submissions a year.

      1,000,000,000 / 6,000 = 166,667 years

      . . . I’m thinking I might run out of time. Posthumously is the only realistic expectation I can aspire to.

      Seriously, in the words of Commander Taggert, “Never give up! Never Surrender!”.

      Also, paraphrasing Dr. Lazarus, “By Grandma’s bonnet, by the Sum of Numbers, I shall be published!”

      And thanks; have yourself a great weekend as well.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve got a post drafted on beta readers. I’m ambivalent. In some cases editors act as beta readers. I did do a non-editing beta read (hence the post) and the author seemed to find it helpful. Enough to act on some of my suggestions. It was also a paid-for one, so it was a neat and tidy affair, rather than you read mine, I’ll read yours and we’ll both tell each other how good we are, which is the down side of betas.
    I think critique is like book reviews. We don’t need to like the subject matter or story to appreciate a story is well written, so your car comparison is apt.

    Like

    • disperser says:

      Coincidentally, I just read this piece: http://writerunboxed.com/2016/01/23/ouch-my-feelings/

      If I have one criticism of Viable Paradise it’s that they put too much emphasis on the “gentle approach”. Personally, I went there with the expectation of having my words torn asunder, and it didn’t happen. So, I left there with no clear understanding of where the totality of my writing sits relative to that of a publishable work. I expected comments on the plot, and I got some, but pretty bland ones. I expected comments on my the pacing, characters, and action, and they too were pretty bland. No excitement, not hatred . . . hence my description of “plain vanilla” and why I started to think I got in because there were only 24 candidates.

      Mind you, I did learn other things, and as a writer I think I’m more aware of how my words land on the virtual paper (good or bad).

      That said, beta readers . . . my experience so far has been mixed (very little experience with beta readers). The first thing I want (and this is me, personally) is to know if they enjoyed reading the story. In a way, everything is secondary. In fact, I’ve told the few beta readers I’ve had to not finish the story if they are not drawn into it, if they don’t feel compelled – for whatever reason – to keep reading it.

      “it didn’t grab me” is the most important feedback when combined with “I really wanted to read it”. That’s different than “not my cup of tea” (me and poetry). The former means I done screwed up. They wanted to read it, and my presentation sucked.

      Note: it’s different if one person says that, versus five or ten readers. Unfortunately, I usually have just one beta reader. Two, if I’m extraordinarily lucky.

      Note 2: ETA – this is long. If not interested or have little time, stop here.

      Past that, one can get feedback that borders on rationalization and is of little use.

      Using an analogy, it’s like if I eat a meal that was OK but nothing special and I’m asked to vocalize what I didn’t like about it . . . I’m going to find stuff I did not like. I’ll rationalize that something or other is the reason I was not impressed with it. Because I was asked to do so.

      I would do the same thing if asked what I liked about it.

      Mind you, I’ll try to do that honestly, not making anything up, but whatever I highlight was first and foremost uninteresting, hence my assessment of “it was OK”. Beyond that, I’m elevating various aspects above others because I’m asked to find something, and I will do so because that is what is expected of me.

      I differentiate that feedback from detailed feedback on the mechanics of the plot (plot holes, unbelievable coincidences, unrealistic premise, etc), characters not acting as real people, impossible action, etc. That’s the useful feedback; things that take people out from being immersed in the story.

      The other thing I ask is for readers to be brutally honest . . . they either don’t believe me, or I am an exceptional writer who is dang-near flawless (except for spilling errors and that there fancy grammar stuff). A genuine gift to the literary world.

      I’m hoping that’s the case, but I think the truth is closer to people just being nice.

      That said, I’m not criticizing the practice of being nice . . . when giving feedback, I try to not just tear stuff apart. For one piece at the workshop, I had to talk to the advisors . . . I thought the writing was pretty bad. They suggested concentrating on advice that would be helpful to the writer, so I toned down my feedback to generalities. During the group session, I heard echoes of what I ended up saying, meaning that the writer did not get honest feedback. In their place, I would have rather people had been more brutal.

      On the other hand, I could see where it might have destroyed that particular person. On a side note, they did receive better feedback on the one-on-ones with the authors in residence (I asked them after the fact).

      Anyway . . . beta readers . . . do you know if this is a recent thing, or did the big name writers of the last century also made heavy use of beta readers? I ask because the term was relatively new to me as late as ten years ago. Then again, I was never that involved in the writing community, so I might have missed it.

      Like

  5. AnnMarie says:

    Yes, I can really see your book covers having your own marvelous photos processed with the Da Vinci pencil filter . . . it suits them (and you) perfectly! Here’s an idea . . . you can have them all include your disperser wolf silhouette somewhere on them as your trademark! And here’s another idea . . . you can take the above idea or leave it. And your choice won’t affect my liking the idea nor will it prevent me from expressing more ideas!!!

    Like

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