Daisy Update for June 29, 2012 – Pics with Melissa

ROUND UP

Another good Daisy week has just finished.  I’m really excited to say the advance check arrived!  Now, before you think I’ve just won the lottery, this check wouldn’t exactly cover a ton of items, and after thinking things through for quite a while, other than perhaps a dinner out with my hubby, I’ve decided that all of the money earned so far will be put back into Daisy through marketing efforts.

I went out this week and had new business cards printed.  When final artwork arrives for the book cover, I’ll have post cards and bookmarks made as well.  Then there will be ads to buy.  In today’s publishing world, the author is taking on more and more of the marketing responsibilities.

THE PORTRAIT

Photo of Liesa Malik

The author portrait, sans pipes and bookshelves 🙂

I think one of the best investments an author can make is in a good photographic portrait.  You know what I’m talking about–that picture of the author you see on so many book covers.  A lot of author photos look like snapshots someone took off their cell phone.  The big, professional authors, have celebrity shots taken with their patches-on-elbows-pipe-in-hand-and-bookshelves-behind-them kind of thing.

I was lucky.  My photographer is a friend, Melissa Butler, who is someone I met at my local ballroom dance studio.  Melissa is a wonderful person with a sharp wit and a kind eye. By day, Melissa works in software, but outside of work and dance, she uses her natural talent with photography to make people happy.

“Photography is a creative outlet for me where I try to frame pieces of the world in interesting ways,”said Melissa. She is mostly a self-taught photographer, but recently began taking classes to hone her skills. Her subjects vary, but include landscape, architecture, travel shots and “irony” photography.

When I asked her to do my portrait, she didn’t hesitate for an instant, even when I mentioned I wanted to put my dog in some of the shots.  Now that’s brave!

Photo of Liesa Malik with her dog, Prophet

Sitting with my ham-bone dog — but isn’t he beautiful?

We spent a few hours with me sitting in and around my house in what felt like over one hundred places and poses.  My dog romped and hammed it up for the camera, and constantly bugged Melissa for treats and attention.  She stayed calm and kept our portrait session fun.  Before she left we whittled down a cadre of shots to three or four that both of us agreed looked pretty good.

Then she went home and made the magic happen.  She took those handful of good shots and worked on each to “clean them up” with Photoshop.  Gone are wisps of uncooperative hair, lightened up are some wrinkles, softened are the backgrounds.  I couldn’t have asked for a better result.

When I asked her about her photographic aspirations, Melissa said, “I’d like to take great natural pictures of people that they are proud to show other people.”

Melissa, you sure accomplished that for me.  Thanks!

Here is Melissa’s flickr site.  Keep an eye out, as this photographer gains a great reputation and a potential second career.

The Mind’s Eye – A Writing Prompt

Imagine.

Even the word starts your brain ticking.  So many times I’m told that I have a wonderful imagination, and where do I come up with the things I do?  My answer is generally an impotent “I dunno, it just happens.”  But imagination, the mind’s eye, is such an important part of life, that it surprises me we don’t spend more time cultivating it.

Picture of blue snow

Write about something blue.

Here’s an experiment. For the next couple of minutes push the concept of “blue” out of mind. No blue.  Just try it.  Blue is not there.

I mean, look at your pets.  They need you, they want you and yet, you are the one responsible for interpreting their movements into full-blown human thought.  You have to “read” them and tell others that “Kona likes to take me for a walk” when you have no idea why the dang mutt drags you everywhere the second you slap on his leash.

Did you see Kona as the blue-black lab that is a neighbor’s dog?  But I told you NOT to think of blue.

Or how about that age old question, “Why are you late — AGAIN?”  Immediately, your mind has to come up with something plausible that will get you off the hook.  Hello imagination.

I reached for my copy of Stephen King’s “On Writing” when I started this post, because I remember that he has a wonderful example about how telepathy can be proved.  He uses the words, printed on a book page, to communicate with you about an image of a box, a bird and something else that I can’t remember (maybe it’s something blue).  But when he’s done, you really see the image, maybe not exactly the same as he, but close enough for communication between two minds, without a single word spoken.  What a cool concept.

Unfortunately, I didn’t find the specific example.  I got lost in quick dives into some of his other marvelously insightful thoughts.  That’s why I’m late writing this morning (at least this works as my excuse).

Another thing about imagination is that you can use it to caricature your world.  I mean, how long has it been since you read any of Dr. Seuss’s great books? Forget the charges of sexism and just enjoy the ride! He starts Sally and me in a perfectly normal house, but by the end of the story, we accept the wildest things that the Thing 1 and Thing 2 can do.

I believe that when you write, you do want to be honest, but the kind of honesty we readers are looking for is so in-your-face that only someone with real imagination can pull it off.  We have to stretch ourselves as writers to come up with stories worth remembering, so instead of starting a load of blue-jeans in a wash, we have to dump in so much soap that the machine starts to rattle on it’s legs, bubbles pour out the top and suddenly I Love Lucy is crying somewhere.  All this, just to make sure our readers remember that our heroine doesn’t like to wear blue-jeans.

When we go over the top with our imaginations, we create memories for our readers. Those memories can then magically mix with other memories of books, television shows, and personal experiences to help each person grow, learn and be the biggest person possible.

We plant a seed with each story we write, and if planted in a mind prepped with a fertile imagination, our story has the chance to influence and help others.  So go out and imagine the possibilities.

And then write a story…an honest story…an over-the-top and in-your-face story about something blue.

Then send me your story of 100 words or less. I’d love to hear from you.

Colorado – Too Hot To Handle Today?

No photos today.  You can see them on just about every news station in the country.  Colorado is on fire.  Our temperatures here are hitting record highs just when we need cool weather the most, and fires seem to be breaking out everywhere.  Of course, this is an exaggeration, but so many people, so many friends are at risk of losing one of the most precious things in life — their secure and happy homes.  Am I nervous?  Yes.

Is Littleton effected?  At the moment, not beyond being a part of the firefighting forces that will possibly go down to help in Colorado Springs, or over to Boulder, a mere 38 miles away.

I guess there is no such place in the world as “safe,” and I am grateful that our world community has learned to pull together in times of need.  When I lived in the Detroit area, natural disasters took the form of bad thunderstorms and the occasional funnel cloud or unusually cold weather in the winter.  There were constantly minor floods, but nothing like you see for cities along the Mississippi and other major waterways.  In Florida, we had the regular hurricane season, and I learned about flood zones, aquifers  and finding shelter without basements.  In Dallas, there were fires that would eat up whole neighborhoods, tornados and weather that could turn around on a dime.

Now, in Littleton, I am not as vulnerable as those living in the foothills, but it’s important to be aware of how to pack up and move out in the face of fire.  How to be prepared to lose “everything” to the hungry flames that gobble up thousands of acres at a time.  Most people in this country live on less than an acre of land, so when you hear that 32,000 people have actually been evacuated and more than 100,000 acres across the state have been affected, these fires are scary and big.

My friends and I have been experiencing the minor effects of fire — stuffy noses, headaches, dry eyes.  But I remember the Hayman fire of 2002.  It was started by a person having relationship problems and who took it out on our forests.  Here in Littleton, 96 miles away, the ash was thick in the air for days.  That was the worst fire in Colorado history, with 138,000 acres burned and the loss of 133 homes.  One woman died from severe asthma as a result of that fire.

Today, the Hayman fire is nothing compared to the combination of 2012 fires.  At least three people have died, tens of thousands have had to evacuate with as many more on “pre-evacuation” warnings and acre upon acre has been scorched.  Forget the money lost on this.

Please send positive thoughts to those in need.  And, if you want to help more tangibly, here is a Denver Post link you can use.