Tag Archives: photography

The big blue

This photo, and all below, were taken with a Nokia Lumia smartphone on 15 February, 2013 along the 17-Mile Drive, California.

This writer requires moments spent near the ocean.  Usually Capitola suffices, but I also enjoy Ocean Beach in San Francisco, Santa Cruz too.  Five years ago my husband and I spent our anniversary in Monterey, where we explored the 17-Mile Drive.  Since then, we’ve returned to Monterey, but not the actual 17-Mile Drive.  Last year we were thwarted by the Pebble Beach Pro-Am, but this year, we paid attention to dates for that tournament.

Such a beautiful blue

I really wanted to see this section of the California coast, even if it’s nearly ten bucks to get in.  I look at it like taking the Benicia Bridge instead of driving east to I-5, saving five dollars, or driving over the Golden Gate Bridge, now up to six or seven bucks.  Sometimes a cost is enacted, but the splendor is worth it.

Rocky shore

It’s the colour of the water for me, different from The Hook, or anywhere else I’ve been, a multitude of blues light and dark, greenish at times, sparkling and bright.  It’s the rocks forming the shore, rough and ancient, as if it’s not 2013 but 1813 or 1613.  It’s one lone cypress, growing out of a cliff, like a sailor’s beacon.

Spray

Five years ago we used our good camera, but this trip was another outing for the smartphone (a Nokia Lumia), and I’m quite pleased.  No zoom of course, but here I prefer the wide vista, so much beauty to capture.  It brings out the novelist in me, a panorama of life that can’t be harnessed in only a few paragraphs.

A fence mars the view, but my husband hoisted my camera over the barrier.

A fence mars the view at Sunset Point, but my husband hoisted the phone over the barrier.

I’m a wordy author, so my photos are often that large in scope.

To the right of the Lone Cypress

There are so many beautiful places on this planet, but I am drawn time and again to the ocean.  I love its strength, vastness, endlessness.  I’m taken by its roar and waves, scents and spray.  I’m enraptured by the changing hues and tides.

Trees and shore

But mostly I cannot escape how it is constantly different, even if this section of coastline appears as if from hundreds of years ago.  No moment is the same, no wave identical to another.  The glints from the sun, the hum of cliffs drenched, as if life careens into the shore, then retreats; it’s like tales being told, then retold.

The Lone Cypress

How many love stories, ghost stories, mysteries, and dramas exist?  There are only so many themes, but an infinite way to express them.  Maybe that’s what brings me back to the water, the reminder that no matter how plebeian or ordinary are my ideas, they are mine, no way for anyone else to tell them.

Tree and water

I’m just the interpreter, translating the essence, be it through smartphone photographs or collected sentences.

Confessions of a recovering workaholic

Hi, my name is Anna.  It’s been twenty-two days since I started slacking off…

That’s how this post starts, as that is truly how I’ve been feeling since 2013 began.  Today I went to Capitola, took too many shots of the beach.  Recently I got a new phone, a smartphone, my first.  It has an eight megapixel camera; if I could have gotten a phone sans internet with that good of a camera, I would have.  Unfortunately that doesn’t exist, but it was handy to send my eldest a text from the beach, and a picture to go along with it.

All photos taken today with a Nokia Lumia, 8 megapixels.

All photos taken today with a Nokia Lumia.

Going to the beach happened a lot more often when I wasn’t publishing, but I’ve had my nose to the monitor long before I released The War On Emily Dickinson.  I documented a year of intense scribbling that had little to do with anything more than pumping out first drafts and poking around just a wee bit at other novels.  Part of my previous doggedness was that I am so blessed to not work outside the house.  I was a SAHM, now I’m a SAHWife.  But just because I’m here all day (when not at the beach) doesn’t mean I’m eating bons-bons and watching TV.  My butt has been in the chair solidly since 2008; five years of writing novels, editing novels, publishing novels.  I think I’m due for a rest.

But it’s hard pulling myself away from the project at hand.  Or what comes with publishing; The Timeless Nature of Patience was shipped to Apple on 5 January, has yet to appear.  I wrote to Smashwords last week, received a reply yesterday that Apple doesn’t like the word ‘free’ at the beginning of the book.  I was requested to remove it, upload the new version, then write back to the customer service representative so she could reship it to Apple.  Well, the only place where ‘free’ is written is within the Smashwords License Notes, right after the book’s title.  I spent yesterday reading through Timeless Nature, searching for any typos; if I have to upload it again, it might as well be without glitches.

But today I wanted to try out the new camera.  After breakfast and a few chores around the house, I loaded up my bag; folder for the courageous idea, phone, iPod (which I will use as my media center), headphones, scarf, extra shirt, as it was supposed to be quite pleasant at the beach.  Part of the fun is the drive itself; I crank the tunes, sing at the top of my lungs, pretend I’m the guest of the week on Top Gear, trying out the Reasonably Priced Car.  (I tend not to dawdle on Highway 17 heading to the water.)

Meanwhile, as I’m just minding my own business, trying to not work, another novel idea pops into my head, not fair!  Over coffee and biscotti at Gayle’s in Capitola, I wrote some notes; we’ll see how that idea settles.  But once that was done (the work never ends), I gathered my bits, and drove to The Hook.  The day had warmed nicely; I removed the sweater, put on a light long-sleeved shirt, grabbed the phone, heading to the water.  Unlike last week, the tide was relatively high, but by my return to the car park, it was waning; low tide was supposed to be at about two p.m.

I still haven’t heard from Smashwords if I need to change the license notes, but I certainly enjoyed my outing.  And I’m thinking about what it means to make time for oneself that has nothing, or as little as possible, to do with the work.  The work, my my my…  Until only recently, I had not realized how pervasive the work had become.

It’s not work for which I am compensated monetarily.  It’s not work for which I punch a time card.  It’s nothing more than all that sits within my soul that isn’t connected to my husband and family.  It’s very tethered to God, in that there is no way on earth I could do this without divine guidance.  However, it is still up to little old me to GET IT DONE.  Git’r done, as my dad would say.

Dogs

So, since 2008, I’ve been writing and revising and plotting my poor old brain to not quite mush, but close.  Now having pulled back the reins, letting the horse have a gentle trot, dude!  It feels…  Strange, liberating, a little like playing hooky.  I know why I’ve pushed myself; what else should I be doing?  I am not the type to sit on my hands; even while watching football this past weekend, I was crocheting, in part to keep my fingers busy, and to not watch every single frame of movement.  I’m good at peeking up just as the ball is hiked.  But then back under my glasses went my eyes, double stitch after double stitch.

I don’t like to dawdle on roadways or at home.

But now the brakes are definitely on; I’ve been farting around all month, for me.  Yes, I’ve read over Penny Angel twice, I’ve read through most of Timeless Nature once.  I’ve been plotting Forever of One Heart (which at this point means making the playlist and mumbling plenty of story to myself).  Now I have another idea to consider, plus I’ve been tweaking the playlist for A Normal Life Book 3, which I think I might write in April for Camp NaNo.  It’s not like I’ve been lounging on the sofa all month.

Surfers

Well, I did last week when I wasn’t feeling so great.  And it drove me positively NUTS!  I can’t stand being idle; it’s like napping.  I hate taking naps, oh jeez, makes me cranky to even think about it.  And I have no idea why I am this way, maybe homeschooling the kids?  That took a lot of work on everyone’s part, and since I was the planner, well, you see where this is going.  We homeschooled for nine of our eleven years in England, then moved back here, putting our son and youngest daughter into American high school.  Which was okay, education-wise, for them.  It was bizarre for me; so much time, what to do with it all?

As you can guess, I started writing.  Well, I started editing my first NaNo project, which ended up being published in 2009 by a small press.  But by January 2008, I had four novels written, was on my way.  And for the last five years, I haven’t quit.

It’s funny, thinking back on our return to America; so many things changed.  I returned to my native state having written a novel, with no clue to what that actually meant.  It meant my arm was twisted by my eldest to participate in NaNoWriMo, then many years later I’m at the beach, texting with her, sending photographs, thinking about the latest story idea.  Maybe that’s why I’ve not slowed down previously.  I have more plots than sense.

Maybe not as many plots as beach pictures, but I’m starting to see my forty-seventh year in the distance, and time is short.  Sure I might live to one hundred five, or I might kick off a whole lot sooner.  But I have so much I want to express, many ideas before I sleep.  That was just one of the reasons I went indie, but it is one of the biggest to spur my workaholism.  Yet, I am fully aware that what needs to be written, revised, then released will be written, revised, then released.  I am very thankful for my faith, not just to keep me going, but to steer me in another direction, like over Highway 17, to Gayle’s for a latte and biscotti.  Yes, I wrote out the basis for a novel while sitting there, but afterwards I left that folder in my car, picked up a phone that is probably smarter than me.  Then I headed west from the car park, to the edge of forever.  I am a writer, no question about it.  I’m also just a gal who loves the ocean.  I love the water, my husband and kids, football, crocheting, blogging, chocolate, and English tea, with a little milk.

I think I’ll make myself a cuppa right now.  There is no time like the moment, and it’s not always about writing and publishing.

Aches and pains and clouds

Well, I don’t have the flu, but yesterday was spent hunkered on the sofa, cold toes and achy limbs covered by a blanket.  I even napped; I detest napping, but by one thirty I couldn’t keep my eyes open.  I woke at a quarter after three, my son making a pizza in the kitchen.  We have a small house, maybe fifteen feet from the couch where I stirred to where he was trying to be as quiet as possible.  But the oven door makes a horrendous shrieking squeak; not even WD-40 fixes it.

I’m still feeling niggles along my arms today, also feeling a little… down.  I’ve decided to go off the news; I just can’t hear anymore about Syria or Lance Armstrong, not even my beloved 49ers.  If San Francisco wins on Sunday, perhaps I’ll peek at a few articles, but as I went on a news sabbatical during Lent in 2012, fed up to the eyeteeth with election hoo-haa, I’m again on information overload.  Some of my stories emerge from current events, well, humph.  I’ve enough plots to last a few years.  I’d rather concentrate on other things.

Taken in the barnyard of my childhood home, looking west.

Taken in the barnyard of my childhood home, looking west.

Like clouds; as a teenager, I was nuts for clouds.  Not the rain that might fall from them, that didn’t happen often in California.  More was the whimsy and colour produced by clouds and light, by sunsets or blue skies.  This morning, I was posting a shot from last week’s low tide onto my Tumblr, noting how I have always been a little obsessed by the decorated horizon.  With this need to not know so much, I’m brought back to ancient times when cameras required film, there was no internet, I read newspapers.

Ah yes, the good old days…

My only aches back then were of so wishing to have a few extra bucks to develop a roll (or five) of film.  I wasn’t thinking much about writing; I was listening to a lot of music via cassettes and a boombox, snapping clouds while living in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by stillness.  Well, it was quiet until I cranked the music to 11.

I pass by that gate every time I drive to my parents' house, but the barn and other outbuildings have collapsed, and I don't have the heart to see if that horseshoe still secures the gate to the post.

I pass by that gate every time I drive to my parents’ house, but the barn and other outbuildings have collapsed, and I don’t have the heart to see if that horseshoe still secures the gate to the post.

It was quiet when I took these shots, standing in our barnyard or on a two-lane highway in the center of Northern California, entranced by the skies overhead.  I don’t know when I got my first Walkman, but I wasn’t using one when these photos were taken, in the mid 1980s.  Just me and a camera, some basic Kodak film, nothing special about the equipment.  My first childhood camera was an Instamatic with the ice-cube flash.  By high school I had moved up a little, but no zoom, nothing more than a small device able to capture huge skies in a single click.

Looking south, just past my house.

Looking south, just past my house.

I was probably daydreaming, thinking about one day living in a big, exciting city (be careful what you wish for).  I did long to live in Britain; that’s due to Kate Bush, who I am listening to right now.  I recall an English assignment during my senior year of high school; we had to write chapter titles for an autobiography.  Mine included something about living in London when I was thirty or thirty-one.  So, I was hoping to one day traverse the ocean, but it was an ethereal fantasy.  My life was these clouds in the quiet hush of Northern California, far from anything thrilling.

Looking toward the house, one of the grain silos on the right.

Looking toward the house, one of the grain silos on the right.

Now I look at these shots, wrapped in an aching wistfulness for that silence.  I’m sure at the time I thought it was too silent, unless the tunes were blasting.  But as I took these photographs there was no music, maybe just the hum of a passing truck, maybe clatter of siblings back at the house.  Or maybe it was only me and the clouds and a camera.

Looking westward

For a few brief moments, that was all there was.

Charting another course

It’s a chilly morning here in Silicon Valley; grass is crunchy, breaths are puffs.  I know this because I stood in our doorway, peering to the white-tipped front lawn as my husband left for his walk, wearing his silly hat.  He wore it last night as we strolled the sand at The Hook in Capitola, a very low tide providing all the stretch of beach one will see for many months.  The tide was at -1.5 feet at 4.14 p.m. yesterday; I have never seen it so low.

All pictures from The Hook, Capitola, California; low tide on 11 January, 2012.

All pictures from The Hook, Capitola, California; low tide on 11 January, 2012.

I love walking the beach when the tide is out; I feel like I’m traveling on a new part of the earth.  Late yesterday afternoon my husband and I, along with many others, took advantage of nature’s willingness to bare some of her beauty.  This morning is crisp and cool, not that the beach was overly warm yesterday, but what a difference a few hours makes; today at ten a.m. the tide crested at 6.3 feet.

What impressed me yesterday was for how low the tide was, the sand was still wet.  The water had peaked yesterday morning at nine a.m., had probably stayed fairly high for much of the day.  But by four in the afternoon, another world was revealed.  And now it’s covered again, waves smashing against the cliff.

Tides are cyclical; maybe writing is too.  For the last two years, publishing has been my focus, which means big revisions, formatting documents, choosing covers.  (I don’t do the actual designing, but I give my two cents.)  I wrote some in 2012, but not as much as in the last few years; I know this because I just examined my writing timeline; good grief, it made me dizzy.  For a time I was spewing manuscripts like I would never get another chance to write.

During those days (mid 2009-mid 2011) I also took a lot of photographs in Capitola.  How I managed all that, well, I wasn’t publishing for most of that time.  The other thing I noticed in the writing timeline was how quickly a novel went from conjuring the plot to plunking it on the keyboard; a matter of days for some manuscripts.  I’m glad I have that timeline, even if it made me a little nauseous.  Amazing what the brain and body can manage when the right conditions exist.

Like watching the tide, so low, but I’ve seen it smashing against the cliff side, gotten attacked even.  My husband was a little leery, wondering if I wanted to walk along the waves last night.  I smiled, said getting biffed by the ocean once was enough for me.  All I wanted to do was set my feet on ground rarely trod.  That sort of low tide happens once or twice a year.

I feel a little like that now, slacking on the publishing while returning my attentions to writing.  Don’t get me wrong, the thrill of releasing books is pretty darn heady, a giddy bliss setting a novel in cyberspace for all eternity.  For as long as the internet exists, as e-readers continue to light, my stories live and breathe, as beautiful to some as the ocean is to me.

My husband on the left, in his adorable and silly hat.

My husband on the left, in his adorable hat.

But there wouldn’t be any publishing without writing.  The creative shove as a vague notion becomes concrete notes and a playlist, oh man, that’s just as intoxicating as uploading a formatted document.  One of those courageous new ideas has been gnawing at me; I’m listening to the playlist while writing this, spent early yesterday afternoon sorting details.  I’ve edited a couple of chapters on Penny Angel, but more yanking my chain is a novel still with no firm title, but a thumping heart that has wedged itself deep in my soul.

I can’t say which is more pleasing; publishing a book or pondering its beginnings.  Both are magical, like low and high tide.  I think I like low tide better; I’m leaving my footprints in the sand, even if for only moments.  I can’t be a part of high tide, other than observing and snapping it.  As for outlining/plotting a novel and publishing one…

That’s sort of like the chicken and the egg; can’t have one without the other.  I will say this, plotting is less stressful, more enjoyable.  It’s freer, but the payoff isn’t nearly as visible.  Many books remain cloistered in the hard drive, their existence only as dates on the timeline; when I came up with the idea, started writing it, then completed it.

A published novel earns a blog post, a gorgeous cover, readers.  But all the books I’ve released stand upon the shoulders of those dormant; if not for those previous words, the published ones wouldn’t exist.

When I pounded out all those stories, it never felt like work, in that I had no control over plots and ideas; I typed what came into my head as easy as breathing.  Publishing is far more intense, and while I don’t wish to go back to those more carefree days, I am enjoying slacking off a bit.  Going to the beach was necessary, especially with my hubby along.

I was worried the sun was too low, but the colours were just perfect.

I was worried the sun was too low, but the colours were perfect.

Also just as lovely was plotting out the next book before we traversed Highway 17, before the tide slipped so far away.  Now he’s on his walk, the tide is high, and I’m mulling over where am I right now.

I’m a novelist, charting yet another course of this journey.  It’s always in some new place, even if I’m just sorting out one more angsty drama.  Like the tide, once again pulling from, then smashing into, the shore.

Small (and major) delights

I’m nearly done revising the last Alvin’s Farm novel, the next book in the pubbing queue.  Today I’ll look over the last chapter via my iPod, then read over the Word document.  Depending on how that goes (minimal tweaks, hopefully catching any last typos), that will be it.  If I tweak more than is good for me and the book, I’ll plop another version of it on the iPod, then one more glance at the Word doc, sort of like wash rinse repeat.  Releasing that novel will be a major thrill, in that the series will be complete, whew!  The small delight is just some prose I stumbled across in the revising, and what it means to me.

Each author reaches that point; reading some bit of their book and being stunned at how perfect it is.  Writers are always aware it could be better, but sometimes…  Sometimes we actually nail it, but you can’t go galavanting with a banner in your hand screaming, ‘I just wrote the most fantastic line of dialogue!’ or something equally ostentatious.  Yet, in the solitude, reading over those rather brilliant paragraphs or just one sentence, I couldn’t help but think, ‘Hot damn!  That is totally it!’

This morning I peeked at a photography site that always blows my mind; Patrick Latter is a blessed, hard-working genius.  He recently visited Hawaii, and what I absorbed this morning has to be included in this post, for two reasons.  1) To make your day just a little more beautiful.  2) I wonder if a photographer feels the same as I do when viewing a scene that will be snapped and forever immortalized.  In those seconds, maybe just one, as the picture is recorded, what do they see?

Books go through so many revisions, but once a picture is captured, well, cropping and tweaking commence, but the prep work for a photograph is before it has been taken.  Maybe that’s similar to how writers research, outline, etc.  That small moment of taking the picture is akin to how I write, word after word after word.  What remains afterwards, in the finished novel and photograph, is what remains forever.  Or in some cases, as long as the internet holds.

I’m probably not getting across all I want, I’ve not yet had any tea.  I just wanted to note that sometimes writers get it right.  (Or this writer is pretty darn close.)  Patrick Latter couldn’t have gotten it any more correct in Hawaii, or in any of his other shots.  Maybe it’s a nature versus nurture thing.  Maybe I need my morning cuppa.  Maybe beauty really is in the eye of the beholder.  If nothing else, it’s Monday, I’m almost done revising what is (currently) my favourite novel written by yours truly.  In a few minutes, I’ll have some tea.  Life is indeed very good.

A hidden garden (or two…)

A few posts back, I used a photo noting the way in, and Jill Weatherholt asked if that was my garden.  That shot was from an English garden; our village hosted an annual Hidden Garden Day on the first Saturday of July.  Some years, like this year, were sopping wet; we heard from a friend that any sun would be appreciated.  But sometimes England suffered from a hose-pipe ban (water rationing), and in 2006, that was nearly put into effect.  We didn’t know it would be our last summer in Yorkshire, so blithely we tromped from open house to open house, admiring gardens small and large, a variety of flora and ideas.  Back gardens (and a few in front) are all what the gardener has in mind.

Much like a writer; so many genres and novels sprout from our multitude of experiences and perspectives.  Only so many plots, but that never got William Shakespeare down!  Down the centuries stories still pour like the ever-raining British skies, or the endless California sun.  Summer was in force yesterday; I wore shorts and a t-shirt on my road trip, running the A/C on my way home.  It might be the middle of October, but try telling that to the Golden State.

But back to hidden gardens…  Floral beauty was the biggest thrill on that warm, un-Yorkshire-like day, and I took many pictures, which now I treasure like gold.  Of course I imagined we would be there for years  but life has a way of changing on a dime.  Instead of sitting at home, watching Wimbledon, I trekked about our small, tucked-away hamlet, with its school, few pubs, post office, and a branch of the surgery (doctor’s office) from the nearby town, following on our map which gardens were on display.  Friends joined us, a large crowd in our relatively tiny village, not far from York.  Those days are idyllic upon reflection; a warm summer’s day, long sunshine permeating well past nine p.m.  On the day, 2 July 2006, I held my husband’s hand when not shooting the landscapes or chatting with pals.  My eldest came along, but she hadn’t yet told me about NaNoWriMo; my goodness, how events sit as place markers   On that day in 2006, I wasn’t even considering noveling.

Or living in America, only another English day, rather stunning for the perfect weather, if not a bit dry.  It was simply one more event in my British life, as if it would always be that way.  But days slip away, all the more reason to capture words and plots.  Who knows what tomorrow will bring?

So many lives, moments, characters…  Even in cats, and bassets of course.   They were all loitering behind those gates, as if each was a novel, hoping I would brave the adventure.  Lush blooms on winding vines, or plants in pots, all sorts of stories waiting.

I didn’t expect to leave that village as we did, abruptly and premature.  Or that’s how it felt, at the time.  But I came back with one NaNoWriMo in my back pocket, pictures on hard drives, memories as abundant as the rain there, the sun here.  No correct balance, sometimes that’s how it goes.  Sometimes the gems stay hidden for ages, like no one will ever find them.

But sometimes the gate swings wide, all kinds of gifts waiting.  Maybe you’re NaNo’ing this autumn, or just poking about that garden, waiting for the rain.  It’s all part and parcel of the whole, which is constantly changing in gorgeous, unexpected ways.

Discovering new worlds

Currently I am rocked between several landscapes; the space-themed WIP, modern sport, 1950s black and white New York City.  The latter is courtesy of Vivian Maier, a photographer who chronicled New York, Chicago, Canada and anywhere else she went.  I learned of Ms. Maier from a good friend who is also a photographer.  Maier’s site is sitting among space shuttle and MS tabs (that’s to do with book research);  my youngest daughter scolds for how many tabs I leave up, but I don’t clear them out until a project is completed.  And in the case of Vivian Maier, I might leave that one up for a long, long time.

That daughter might gripe about tabs, but she carries a deep affinity for old family snapshots, of which we have plenty!  She probably won’t be interested in Maier’s world, like another universe compared to 2012.  But that’s one of the biggest reasons I’m so captivated.  Maier’s eye is so sharp, also tender; children and old people are her main subjects, and do check out her self-portraits, just stunning.  Her story is novel-worthy, over 100,000 negatives taken in her lifetime, found by collectors after she couldn’t pay for the continued storage.  I peruse thrift and antique shops for old pictures, using them for inspiration.  I see Maier’s shots in a similar manner to those I pick up for a dollar here, two bucks there; lives documented, but where did they go, what did they experience?  These shots are of my grandmother and her two sisters.  I know exactly what happened to them; but what of all those others?

In writing, I flesh out characters, building worlds around them.  Maier’s pictures are real-life, nothing fictional.  These shots are of relatives long gone, but a part of my heart, my history.  I am blessed to have known them, and blessed to comprehend a little of those days.  My daughter will share the stories, the photographs, that lineage.  Perhaps it’s a Facebook world, but in viewing Maier’s vista, considering my own ancestors, the past swirls like the sci-fi panoramas I conjure.  So many lives of which to tell, so little time to note those journeys.