HODGE-PODGE & SELFIES….

Hodge-Podge was the name of a character I created for a children’s story back when I was in my twenties. He was an elf-like being who lived in a land filled with castles and crooks and a little dragon buddy. I liked Hodge-Podge because, like his name, he had a personality filled with so many unrelated traits that I could take him anywhere. He traveled between the wings of Finnegan, the aforementioned dragon, and together they made sure that the forest was healthy and all the woodland creatures were safe. That was over forty-tears ago and I realize now that little Hodge was way ahead of his time. I kind of wish I’d finished that project.

I haven’t thought about Hodge-Podge for decades and the only reason he came to mind now was when I titled this blog. It was to be a literal hodge-podge of lighter subjects to break the chain of heavier topics I have found myself pursuing lately.

Instead it’s just going to be a hodge (or a podge if you prefer) on one subject…selfies.

I appreciate that the majority of these photographs are meant to casually capture a moment with friends or a visit to some exotic location and that’s fine…they accomplish what they are meant to accomplish.

I am a big proponent of self-portraiture for many reasons but shots taken in a bathroom mirror do nothing for me and I don’t believe they do anything for the subject either. Before too many shackles are raised I will admit I’ve seen a few of these ‘selfies’ that were interesting photographs…in particular one that was shot in an old mine shaft. The subject was looking into the shaft, away from the camera (or phone) and I found myself trying to see what she was seeing. As simple as this photograph was, it drew me in. It was balanced and beautifully lit with a hidden story line that begged further thought. It’s the old “location, location” theory and in this instance it worked.

Aside from the obvious benefit of always having a model handy, a self-portrait can say so much about the person. After all, the photographer truly understands the subject…or does he?

In a self-portrait you have the flexibility of experimentation. Different locations, clothing, and moods dictate the leaning of the image and all at your own pace. Digital imagery has made this easier. You can shoot as many pictures as you want and choose only those you are comfortable with. In the end you see yourself as other people see you and then the realization sets in that you don’t see you as they see you. Seeing yourself through other eyes is a learning experience if you choose to explore it.

When I signed on to facebook I decided that I wanted my profile pictures to be different than the norm. I wanted them to say something about me and my interests. I have been a photographer forever and I had my own studio and darkroom back in the day but those days are gone. Today the glut of digital art programs is what stirs the creative stew a might. Surprisingly these programs are, for the most part, extremely easy to use and I’ve heard that some of them are even available apps for phone cameras.

The subject of self-portraiture could provide fodder for countless blog postings but I like keeping my comments to fewer than 700 words so I’ll end this one here. Suffice to say it’s easy to take those standard selfies and, with a little practice on the laptop, create images that are more memorable, interesting, and telling. Attempting serious self-portraiture could open up a whole new creative outlet and who knows…you just might get to know yourself better. Ain’t nothing wrong with that.

GRAPHIC1

COPYRIGHT…

For various reasons it’s been a while since I posted to this blog. Mostly it’s because I’ve been editing and rewriting the book but now that the snow has gone I have spent many hours cleaning up the result of my laziness last fall. All those leaves that didn’t get raked, the gardens that didn’t get cleaned, and the overall mess that disappeared when the snows came have commanded my attention over the last week or so. If I’m not guiding Evan Morris through some new adventure I’m driving to the compost site to deposit the results of my labors. As such I really had nothing to talk about….until now.

Copyright. A simple word really and one that I respect. As a photographer and graphic artist over the years I have always followed all the rules and generally if you credit the original artist for the photograph or illustration and use said material in a legal and morally sound fashion there is no problem. Of course it’s best to get written permission but when someone invites you to share said material as long as it has “copyright by…” clearly visible then I assume (bad move on my part) that it’s okay.

This only works if the person who’s asking you to include the “copyright by…” actually holds the copyright to all the elements contained…words and photographs.

I received a nice notification (I’m not being sarcastic, it really was a nice email) from WordPress regarding a photograph I had used in one of my posts. The photographer who actually owns the photo was upset (understandably) that I was using his image on my page. WordPress had already deleted the offending photo by the time I checked it out but I also deleted any and all images that I had taken from this source. As a point of interest other than these three images all photographs and illustrations contained in my blogs are mine completely. They are photographs I have taken…some modified…but all mine. The reason I chose to use those other images was that I have none that suited that particular subject matter. This is a case where no photo would have been the best plan.

I emailed the photographer and apologized, stating my case as best I could. I have realized now that what is actually claimed as copyright is the phrase that accompanies the photograph, not the photograph. Fair enough and quite above board. I have also noticed that more recent images do contain the name of the photographer on a different line from the copyright. Again fair enough although I don’t recall seeing another name on the photograph that I used nearly a year ago.

I’m not upset about any of this (I have no right to be) and I fully accept responsibility for my misinterpretation or error that resulted in this copyright breach. I’ve learned a lesson and I’m passing that lesson on to you.

Once again I publicly apologize to the photographer. His photographs are of various subject matters and are truly outstanding and as much as I’d love to share a link to his work I feel I’ve already infringed enough upon his talent. If he reads this I invite him to post a link on this page if he so desires.

Taka

TITLE ME THIS….

I’ve had more than enough delays in getting this new manuscript together and just when I’m down to the last few pages before editing I find myself with another setback.

With “White Wolf Moon” I learned a lot of things. One of these was the problem with titles and/or author names when it comes to online searching. There’s a Michael Grant that writes a lot of books, mostly young adult, so I elected to go with “Mike Grant”. It’s still an issue when it comes to searches but a minor one that I can live with (as if I had a choice). But it’s surprising how many titles contain “White Wolf” or “Wolf Moon”.

My working title for the current project was “Of Old Men and Wolves”. Considering the content and the depth to which I dig into lifelong friends, relationships and wolves it seemed apropos. Today however I stumbled across “Of Wolves and Men” (which sounds like a great book BTW) by Barry Lopez and the hunt for a title is back on.

I don’t want the same search issues I had with “White Wolf Moon” which is why I’ve been steering away from the logical sequel titles that contain elements linked to the first book.

The title is obviously one of the most important parts of the process and while not many caught the double meaning of “White Wolf Moon” it did say what I wanted it to say. I also used a photograph for the cover that stood out as well. It is a morning river scene taken behind my house that was originally greens and earth tones but it was colorized blue to create a moonlit riverbank. I hope to use the unaltered original photo as the cover for the second book which would provide a not-so-subtle tie-in to the first.

RIVER02

But what text will adorn this cover? That’s the big question…again.

As I am the only one to know what this new book contains I should have a handle on what to call it. I thought I did. From the time I came up with “Of Old Men and Wolves” I loved the title and it made this book different from the other. Even though I’m using the same characters this manuscript felt new and different but thinking of it as the “sequel” again is tough. I think I’ll still call it “Of Old Men and Wolves” for now. I know there’s another perhaps more fitting series of words bouncing around in my head but I think I need to concentrate on finishing the inside pages first. I’m sure another title will come to me…hopefully sooner rather than later.

 

My Friend Flicker…

flick02After my stumbling block last week I’m finally back on track with some new writing but I promised Mary Ann I would post the above photo. I woke up one morning last summer to the most irritating sound of this critter pecking at the aluminum vent above my head. The photo is pretty much as it was taken, yes…the sky was that blue. Other than a slight crop and auto-level nothing has been done to it. Camera is a Fujifilm Finepix S1000.

Okay…back to work.

HEALTH ISSUES….off topic again.

MOONBOOK

The above photograph is all the promotion White Wolf Moon will get this time around.

I had a minor heart attack thirteen years ago although at the time nobody could convince me it was minor (just a warning shot I was told). I was pretty certain it was the end but the doctors were right and all is fine. For all these years I’ve been considered a “boring” patient in that all my test results have been “normal” and my cholesterol and blood pressure levels are static…no appreciable change…ever.

Until last week. All levels are up and, although not critical, they’re such a change from my norm it bears watching and a different medication. Doc asked me what had changed over the past few months and honestly I couldn’t come up with an answer other than I wasn’t doing my regular walks along the river and much less physical yardwork (due to winter, of course). Other than that I couldn’t think of anything. He assured me that a lot of it probably due to the lack of exercise I and should get back into something that pushed me a little.

On my drive home I went over the last few months, trying to figure out why all this had happened. I realized I have been on a computer far more lately what with the blog, sequel, and some music I’m trying to sort out but then it hit me….

The reason I have all this time to be on my butt in front of a screen is because the book shop I worked at closed. I’d spend days on my feet walking the entire store oft times carrying flats of books, sometimes banana boxes full. I’d be hopping up and down on milk crates to put books on the top shelf and I usually did the few block walk to the bank during the day. This is the exercise I’ve been missing. There were days I’d come home exhausted from the physical part of the job and now there is no part of my life that affords me that workout. It may not seem like a lot of exercise compared to someone who does a real physically demanding job (most of those guys are pretty fit) but it was a routine and now it’s gone. I’ve known so many people who retire and within a year or two health issues creep in, most gain weight (which I also have done), and a few have had serious heart attacks, one fatal.

The snow is starting to melt, we actually have grass in both yards, so I’ll soon be back to my walks along the river but I’ve also started going up and down the basement stairs for no other reason than they’re there. The first couple of times I could only do it three times without feeling pretty dragged out. That was two weeks ago. I just did it seven times and although I’m huffing a bit I figure I could go another couple of climbs but I don’t want to push it too much yet.

Besides it was on one of my climbs that I came up with the idea for this blog.

I also started a water regiment a week ago. A friend of mine suggested it and damned if it doesn’t seem to work although it might be a combined effect with the exercise as well. Simply I wake up in the morning and before my coffee and cereal (or toast) I down two glasses of water, again really tough the first few times. Before lunch and supper I drink one more glass and another one sometime between supper and bed-time. I don’t know if it’s psychological but I seem to be less tired and feeling a bit better about things in general but whatever it is…it’s good.

Anyway my little rant, such as it is, is done and it’s time to get back to work on my sequel….

 

AUTHOR PHOTOGRAPH

For me one of the toughest things related to the publication of White Wolf Moon was the author photograph. In years past I had my own darkroom and studio and I still dabble in some experimental self-portraiture for the profile shots on my personal facebook page so I decided I should do my own shot for the book.

Takb

My author photograph (above) ended up being a more typical presentation than I would normally accept as a portrait but everything I had done previously just didn’t feel right.

I believe an author shot should also tie in with the content of the book. As my lead character is an ex-folksinger/writer from the sixties, I felt that the author photo should reflect this in some way. A lot of it is simply pose, attitude or location. The photograph can still be studio-done but with a bit of a flair that conveys the leaning of the book it represents. Nora Roberts is a pretty good example. As Nora her author photos lean toward the romantic with soft tones and simple backgrounds but as J.D. Robb she’s dressed in detective black against a cityscape of train stations and the like.

The photograph below is the one that I favored as capturing more of the ‘feel’ of Evan Morris but it didn’t translate well to black & white and the smaller size.

Taka

From a personal standpoint I still prefer this one but it’s not as “commercial” as the one I eventually used. Which one sells my character (or me) better? I don’t know. I have been strongly identified with Evan, most people saying that they see a lot of me in the character; that, in fact, I am Evan…but the character is based on someone else. Someone I knew in those days. Back then people used to say we were much alike. Neither of us could understand it but after writing (and especially reading) White Wolf Moon, I can now see the similarities. I also think he would have preferred the second photograph but he’d also acknowledge that the more commercial pose is still best for an author portrait, especially the first time around.

Like I said at the outset this was one of the toughest parts of the process but, based on the reaction and comments the photo has garnered, I’m almost sure I made the right decision.

Almost….

BAD SEEDS….

blog02

They suffer a wrath due in part to environmental circumstance.

Bad seeds.

They call ’em weeds.

From my ‘photo-words’ file again…I’m really enjoying digging through this old stuff.

It was a pretty good day yesterday as well. I’m now at 11,300 words into the White Wolf Moon sequel draft…three more on-line sales (THANK-YOU!!!), two new WWM facebook ‘likes’ (THANK-YOU!!!), and three new blog followers (THANK-YOU!!!).

I think I’m finally starting to get the hang of this!

Mike.

Paths….

Paths

Life’s journey.

Paths that lead to Evermore

Paths that twist and turn

Then not so surprisingly

Twist and turn some more.

The above photograph was taken in 2010 along the North Thompson River in Kamloops. This part of British Columbia was engulfed in forest fire smoke. The thick acrid blanket lay heavy everywhere but the light of the filtered morning sun created quite an ethereal scene. I didn’t think the little camera I take on my walks would be able to accurately capture the mood of the moment but it came pretty close. The air was warm and still, there was little noise, and the world was orange…it was like walking through an old master’s painting.

(Text from White Wolf Moon)  

http://www.facebook.com/mikegrantwwm?ref=stream

CREATIVITY AND RAMBLIN’ AGAIN…

Storm

One of my creative writing chairpersons once told her group that not everyone is creative and insisted that we, as writers, were the special ones. She was partially right. We are special but so are all the painters, photographers, sculptors…anyone who can take an abstract and create a concrete that can be shared and appreciated by all those who might be interested is special. As far as not everyone having latent creativity within…bull residue. Is the cat burglar who invents a way to by-pass the latest electronic security system any less creative than a poet or a painter? I think not.

Where there is thought there is creativity.  Not everyone has the ability to express their creativity in an accepted form but that falls under the heading of ‘talent’ and talent can be taught. Creativity must be nurtured without restraint within these teachings. Creativity is an abstract. So too is talent. The result of the two is concrete. A photograph, painting, or poem that could not exist without both.

Now the ramblin’….

Other than a nagging cough my cold is behind me…so too is Christmas. It was a good holiday season, family and all…good food and lots of fun with grandkids but there’s always that letdown on the 26th. It seems we build and build for Christmas Day then suddenly it’s gone. Devoid of the gifts that for weeks had promised surprise and excitement the tree now stands naked. The halls may still be decked but they’re quieter now and the turkey chills in the fridge promising a few more left-over dinners. Rather than buying each other gifts this year my wife and I decided we should treat ourselves to a new flat-screen television. The old analog is into its sixth or seventh year and it takes longer to warm up these days (as do I) so we elected to retire it to the basement. I was told by everyone that I’d spend a lot more time watching television with a new big screen but so far I can’t see many reasons why I would. The Big Bang Theory looks pretty much the same only bigger and other than Haven, the Voice and perhaps X-Factor (I’ve lost all interest in Idol), I don’t watch all that much actual television. I do like movies though and after watching one last night on the new Blue-Ray I am looking forward to seeing some of my Alien/Predator flicks on the bigger screen.

I’m now officially retired and learning to both relax and to discipline myself, in particular my time management. It’s too easy to check emails/facebook/blog in the morning then play on the computer or to sit on the couch with a cup of coffee and read. I’m just getting into Jubilee Hitchhiker, the Life and Times of Richard Brautigan by William Hjortsberg. It’s an 852 page behemoth of about 9 point text so I’m figuring I’ll be at this one for a while. I think I may have to schedule an hour or so a day just for reading although I’m not one that welcomes schedules easily…thus my time management problem.

I’ve been away from the sequel to White Wolf Moon for a week or so and I think this is a good thing. I opened up the file this morning and re-read what I’d done with a little more critical distance and there are areas that I’m not quite as comfortable with as I first thought. As for the book itself, it’s been a good two weeks. I’ve sold a few more copies and picked up four ‘likes’ on the White Wolf Moon facebook page plus had some good comments. It’s also been recommended for two book reading clubs so the book part of my life is rolling steadily along.

All in all things are shaping up quite nicely for the year ahead.

LIVING VICARIOUSLY

As it is with all writers, the characters I create are very real to me and it isn’t just that I base most of them on the traits of people I know. It’s more than that. I can see them, I can hear their voices, and I can read their minds…okay, they can read my mind but either way it’s good. As Evan I can take care of business in ways I couldn’t in real life. It’s akin to Walter Mitty, James Thurber’s wonderful character who imagined himself as pretty much anything he wanted. Unfortunately old Walt wasn’t usually as successful in his endeavors as he’d like to have been whereas Evan usually manages to work things out.

In a previous blog I mentioned the fence-tagging incident. I really can’t do much about it as I have no idea who did it but after presenting the situation to Evan I discovered that he had managed to get the perpetrator’s vehicle plate number (artistic license). He and a buddy are currently contemplating both legal and not-so-legal methods of laying a little “hippie justice” on the kid. I shall seek my revenge vicariously.

To complete this reality of character for the reader I created the Evan Morris book and lp recording pictured above. I use both in the video trailer but on the White Wolf Moon facebook page I’ve used them as teaser photos and referred to them as actual items that I’ve found from Evan’s past. I’ve had people go to itunes to find a copy of his album and search the web for his book, record, or any other information they can find on Evan Morris. In an earlier blog I posted the photograph that gave Jenn her last clue as to Evan’s identity.

Illusion complete…not quite.

I’m working on a cd of original Evan Morris songs that, if I can pull it off, will be a part of the next book. I’ve already written and recorded one track and I have three almost completed. While I’m not certain of when, or even if, I’ll have it all together, it is giving me that extra touch of realism to help fuel the sequel to White Wolf Moon.