Photog

Way back in the days before digital cameras, when we all used film, I used to take a lot of pictures. I had a Pentax ME Super, which was an awesome little camera, and most weekends I’d be out and about taking pictures. Almost always black & white because I also used to develop and print the pictures myself, using my kitchen as a darkroom. It was fun, and I got some pretty good stuff back then. But all that kind of fell by the wayside when I moved to the US, and for the last couple of decades I haven’t had anything more than a pocket digital camera, or more recently of course the one built into my phone.

A few weeks ago I got to thinking about photography again and decided to treat myself to a new DSLR as a daddy’s day gift to myself. After doing some comparison shopping I decided on the Nikon D3400. (The other one I looked at was the Canon EOS Rebel T6; both cameras are, or were, available in a kit with two lenses and a case which saved a bunch of cash, but in the end I decided that the Nikon had more going for it despite the additional $50 on the price tag – 24 megapixels vs. 18, for one thing, and the Nikon has much longer battery life. The T6i is much closer to the Nikon in specs but is significantly pricier.)

I’ve taken the kit out a couple of times so far, and I’m planning on a short trip out later today. One thing I learned is that the 70-300mm zoom lens that comes in the kit isn’t up to much, because it doesn’t have Vibration Reduction; that means when I zoom out all the way I need to find a way to steady the lens otherwise I get a bunch of motion blur. So yesterday I replaced that lens with a VR equivalent – which cost more than what I spent on the camera kit in the first place, but I think it’ll be worth it – and I’m looking forward to getting out later to see how it compares.

(Which reminds me of a Rule Of Thumb from my old camera days, when we didn’t have VR and other neat features: to minimise or eliminate camera shake, use a shutter speed matching the focal length, or faster. For example, if you’re zoomed out to 250mm, then set the shutter speed to 1/250 seconds or better.)

We have a bunch of designated Natural Areas and Open Spaces within easy driving distance of the house, and these are great places to get some nature photos. So far I’ve visited a couple, and got some pretty good pictures of ducks (with added bonus ducklings), dragonflies, a Monarch butterfly that settled on a thistle not six feet from me, as well as some landscape shots of lakes and rivers and trees. And ants, because one of those designated natural areas is riddled with ant hills. Here’s an example (resized down from the 24 Mpix original due to file size constraints):

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Want to see more? I signed up as a Shutterstock contributor, and I’ll be uploading the best pictures there. As of this moment there are only a couple of dozen pics in my portfolio but I’ll be uploading more regularly, so if you’re interested check in from time to time. You can see it here: https://www.shutterstock.com/g/peterjford.

Until next time…

Everything Is Horrible

A couple of years ago I’d have said that the situation we have today was impossible. I mean, come on: an incompetent, racist, sexist, criminal traitor, ushered into the White House by a foreign power – and still there eighteen months later despite all the damage he and his gang have done and continue to do; and on top of that a significant portion of the people who voted for him are still behind him even, claiming to stand by the constitution as he tears it up and burns it a page at a time. Yeah, I know: half of any population is below average intelligence – but this is the country that put men on the Moon. You’d think people wouldn’t be so okay with being lied to multiple times every day. But they don’t seem to care. Rather, they seem to love it that they can bring out the inner racist without shame. And boy, it’s an eye-opener to see that so many people are racist douches.

It’s depressing. It was bad a few days ago, but what’s being done to the families of asylum-seekers is too much. It seems to get worse with everything passing day. (The thing that prompted this post was an article pointing out that the immigration issue is heading in the direction of ethnic cleansing. Here. In America. And what’s really scary is that it’s believable.)

I’m having problems staying focused on day-job concerns, and writing is out of the question at the moment. I feel a need to get the hell out of the house – head out and take a long walk somewhere, maybe take my camera and get some pictures. But (sigh) I can’t – responsibilities and all that. So it’s back to the grind, and try to take my mind off the bad crap for a while.

More Progress YAY

For the first time in weeks I’ve actually hit a thousand words in a day, and I’m not done yet. That might not sound like much but given the problems I’ve had over the last few months getting back into writing, that’s a big thing for me. I got started, and it was slow, then something just kind of broke – the dam burst and suddenly everything just started to flow.

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I need to take a break for food, then it’s back to work. If I can make this a 2,000 word day, I’ll be really happy.

UPDATE: it’s about 8pm and I’m stopping. This has been the BEST writing day for a long, long while – 2,500 words, no less. One more scene and Chapter 4 is done. Man, does that make me feel good. Time for something to eat and a Dos Equis, and some Father Brown on Netflix.

Progress

It’s slow, but it’s some progress: work on Britannia One (sequel to Mr. Gunn & Dr. Bohemia) is grinding along slowly. I set a personal deadline of the end of August to complete the first draft, but at the moment I don’t think I’m going to hit that mark; I’m averaging only couple of hundred words a day, and I need to be doing much better than that. It’ll be done when it’s done, I guess…

Too Many Projects…

I’ve been trying to work on too many writing projects at once. Some people can manage that. I thought I could manage that. It turns out I can’t. I’m paralysed by too many things in my head – while I’m working on one thing, thoughts about the other projects start to surface and get in the way.

Enough. I’m taking the rest of today off to sink a bottle or three of Dos Equis and watch a few episodes of Shetland. I need to take my mind off the writing projects and clear my head.

Starting tomorrow, I’ll be working 100% on Britannia One. Nothing else will be allowed to intrude until I’ve made some serious progress.

That is all.

Two Projects

It’s been a while since I posted…

Things have been kinda hectic. Again. So this is just a short post, to say that I’m currently working on two projects in parallel:

The first is the Mr. Gunn & Dr. Bohemia sequel that I’ve mentioned in earlier posts. That one’s going a little slower than I’d like, mostly because it’s so long since I wrote the timeline, it’s actually a bit difficult to work out the story.

That sounds weird so let me put it another way. Start with a story – any story. As you tell it, everything fits in place, right? Something happens, and that leads to the next thing that happens, and it all makes sense. There’s a overall Big Picture – a beginning, middle, and end, and the things that happen – the scenes – are the bricks that make up the story as a structure.

Now take that set of scenes and stick it on a shelf for three years, then look at it again. At first, all you see is… a set of scenes. No continuity – it’s as if you can’t see the thread of the original story; it’s hidden away behind the scenes.

That’s kind of where I am with that. It’s as if I’ve forgotten the Big Picture of the original story and I’m having to reconstruct it from the individual bricks of the scenes in the timeline. At this moment I’m reading and re-reading the timeline scenes to get my head around the Big Picture. Once I’ve got that clear in my mind, things should go along much faster.

The second project is a screenplay…

BMOGtitleSnip

I’ve written a handful of screenplays, but it’s been a long time since I did one (I just checked… the last one I did was in 2006). Something I was reading a couple of weeks back got me thinking about screenplays again, and suddenly I felt the urge to do another one. My old screenwriting software died when I “upgraded” the old laptop to Windows 10 (“All Your Software Is Compatible!“*) so the first thing I had to do was find a new program for that, and I ended up getting Fade In.

At the moment I’m working on the timeline of the story, which is a Science Fiction thing (as you can probably tell from that title: Box Made of Gravity). That’s coming along nicely and I expect to be able to start actually writing a spec script in another couple of weeks.

It occurred to me that I could/should create a new site page with the PDF versions of those old screenplays… they’re WGA registered, after all, but at the moment the only place anyone can find them is on the Zoetrope web site. So I’ll be doing that sometime soon. Watch this space.

snarky reference to the earlier post about Microsoft

Gunn & Bohemia: The Sequel

If all goes to plan I’ll have three – count’em, three – books coming out in 2018. Exciting times!

The Artemis Device* is under contract and currently undergoing copy editing. That’s been slow going, but I’m hoping that the pace will pick up now that the holidays are behind us.

Phantasms & Magicks* has been submitted to my publisher and I’m waiting to hear if they want to take it on. Fingers crossed, but if they decide they’re not interested I’ll almost certainly self-pub. Either way there’s no reason it can’t be out there this year.

Last but far from least, Britannia One* – the sequel to Mr. Gunn & Dr. Bohemia – is at the writing phase; I expect to have a first draft completed around the end of April, which could put publication somewhere around October**.

There’s a little bit of a story behind Britannia One. I actually started work on a sequel in 2014, not long after G&B was published. Then, life happened. We moved house, which threw writing work into a tailspin for a while. On top of that, while I thought the story I’d developed was pretty good, I wasn’t happy with the timeline. So for various reasons I put it to one side.

I decided a couple of weeks ago that I was ready to pick up from where I’d left off. For some reason I was under the impression that I’d stopped somewhere in the middle of developing the timeline.

So I was pretty surprised when, just the other day, I went back and reviewed what I had. The timeline was done; not quite correct – it needs a couple of changes – but complete. I had a line drawing of a map showing the area where most of the story takes place. Not only that, but there were two first-draft chapters already written. What was most surprising was that, until I looked at it, I’d completely forgotten that I’d got that far.

That’s why work on it is already at the writing phase, when I hadn’t mentioned anything about the prep work here; all the groundwork is already done. I just need to tweak the timeline a little bit, and I want to make a couple of changes to the supporting characters. That’ll take a day or so, then I can start pounding keys.

I’m planning to post regular updates here as the work goes along. Watch this space.

* working titles

** total guesswork