Encountering the Black Dog

Tales of the Black Dog was Corrugated Sky’s first anthology.

When you tell someone that you’re a writer, the first thing they ask is what kind of things you write. The second question they ask is where you got your inspiration for a story or book, whether it’s fiction or nonfiction.

When we decided to form our own publishing company we put our heads together and came up with some themes for anthologies. The black dog legend has a long history and surprisingly is found in cultures around the world. For my story I was inspired by Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Hound of the Baskervilles” as well as traditional English ghost stories that I grew up reading. The atmosphere of a lonely country road, the local inn where the country folk harbor some dark secret, and being stranded or trapped in a place or situation that you can’t get out of are all part of the setting for these traditional stories, and they worked their way into mine.

During the summer when we were working on Tales of the Black Dog my husband and I went on a trip to Maine. We stopped at a coffee shop for a bite to eat and took our coffee and sandwiches outside, where there were tables and Adirondack chairs for guests to enjoy. I went back inside the shop for something, and when I came out there was a huge black dog sitting next to my chair as though it were patiently waiting for me to return. No kidding, this really happened!

My husband gave me one of those knowing looks, and I burst out laughing. I sat back down and for a few minutes the dog didn’t move from that spot. Yes, it was really weird, but despite reading old legends of black dogs being associated with death, I’d read other legends that said the black dogs were protector spirits, especially of women. I’m pretty sure it was a real dog, and that is was just a coincidence, but there’s always that small doubt … in any case, that particular black dog did a good job of protecting my chair and making sure no one else sat there until I got back!

And now we’re working on our third anthology, which is about zombies. I hope I don’t meet one of them!

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F-stops and All That

I’ve been wanting to get back into photography for quite awhile, but between work and work and more work I’ve been so creatively drained that’s it’s been a major chore even to finish reading a novel, for crying out loud. Well, no more. I signed up with Shutterstock to do some stock photography work. That was something I considered years ago, but the business model required so much time that I wasn’t able to meet the Big Guys’ specifications (travel, submit hundreds of photos at a time, etc.).

The business model has changed a lot in the last few years, and now there’s something called microstock photography. You don’t have to be a full-time photographer or submit hundreds of images — but of course, you still need to submit good work. By giving myself a “job” I will spend more time with my photography. I haven’t uploaded any images yet as I’m still filling out some paperwork and I need time to go through my portfolio and decide what will make good stock photography. Since I have some background in editorial work I have a bit of an idea what to expect, and I hope that works for me.

Approaching photography with the idea of purposely shooting stock means that I will also spend some time coming up with compositions. I don’t expect to do portraits or events; landscapes, buildings, and things that don’t move are more to my liking. I spent a season at a ski resort in New Hampshire taking photos of skiers and snowboarders, and it was pretty hard to get everyone posed without having them slide down the mountain while I was fiddling around with aperture settings!

So, I’m off to read up about stock photography (and get sidetracked reading about new camera gear and camera bags). I’ll be going to the Maine Astronomy Retreat at the end of July, and I’m hoping to have some more Milky Way photos that maybe I can turn into works of art or at least earn enough to buy myself a cup of coffee. So, I’m off to charge my camera batteries and scout out things around the house that would be interesting subjects for some still life compositions.

Losing Momentum

Nebble Lighthouse, which I photographed on a trip to Maine several years ago.

Cape Neddick’s Nubble Lighthouse decorated for the holidays. I photographed this on a trip to Maine in 2003.

This November didn’t exactly fill me with the drive to write, but I made myself go the distance and put in the requisite 50,000 words for NaNoWriMo. My draft isn’t something that I’m happy with, so I put it aside for other writing that’s on my active project list, which includes a short story, a novel, encyclopedia articles, and a nonfiction book (maybe two).

So I’m sitting here with a basic sketch for a short story that will appear in Corrugated Sky’s spring anthology. I have the characters already, and a basic premise for the story, but I’m trying to sketch an outline for the plot before I start the writing process. I tried a bare-bones outline for NaNoWriMo but ran off the rails at chapter three. This time I’m doing a bit more planning, and the scope of the short story should help me rein in the urge to keep writing and writing.

I’m blaming my lack of concentration on a mixture of boredom, stress, and frustration. We have noisy road construction in the neighborhood and I’m pretty much the only one “in” the office through the middle of the first week of January (I telecommute). It’s a recipe for boredom and stress, and this year has been a monster at work, too. No wonder I can’t get any writing done.

I can’t take a vacation right now, but I can look through my vacation photos and do something creative with them. The Nubble lighthouse photo was taken in 2003 and was one of the first photos that I scanned. This morning I played around with cropping the image and using some Topaz filters to add texture and ramp up the details. Leave a comment and let me know how you like it. Meanwhile, I need to get back to plotting an airship race for the spring Steampunk anthology.