NaNoWriMo and a Life Update

Hellllloooooo, everybody. Wow, I’ve been gone for a long time. To be fair, I totally wrote a whole post right after my honeymoon, but I didn’t post it because I wanted two extra photos for them and I didn’t have them yet. And then I forgot about it.

But I’m back now. I got married. I went on my honeymoon. I went to Guam for a month. I wrote 8 episodes of a TV show. And I started a business.

So, yeah, I’ve been kinda busy. First things, first.

Being married is great! I love getting to see my husband everyday and getting to snuggle. I love getting to wake up next to him when I can (he usually wakes up before I do for work, so I get to see him in the mornings on the weekends).

We also had a ton of fun in Guam. It rained a lot while we were there, but we still managed to have a lot of fun.

Wild hair

My favorite part of the Guam trip was snorkeling. I brought my action camera with me and got a TON of great underwater snorkeling footage, which I’ll post later.

I really enjoyed my month in Guam, but I have to say, I am really glad to be back home. Since I’ve been home, I’ve been working on my documentary projects for TBN. So far, I have written 6 whole episodes, and I’ve got two that I’m still working on, which I should be done with sometime in December. The episodes go up in January, so watch TBN and keep an eye out for my name.

I also started a photography business. I did a bunch of free shoots in September to fill out my portfolio. Now I’m taking real customers. I’m also adding a photo booth aspect to the business, which is pretty cool. I’m planning on trying it out at a local farmer’s market.

Just today, I finally got my business license (I needed it for the farmer’s market) after a week of trying desperately to get it done. It was a whole ridiculous process that included me paying for a thing I didn’t need and having to get my money back, visiting City Hall three separate times and the court house once, and waiting a full week to get a copy of my lease from my apartment to prove where I lived.

*takes several deep breaths*

It was crazy, but it’s done now. I’m legal and ready to go.

In other, more fun news, NaNoWriMo is starting on Thursday, and I couldn’t be more excited. I’ve been wanting to do NaNo for years, but this is the first time that I haven’t had tons of homework to do around this time. It’s going to be awesome!

Technically, I’m not doing NaNo exactly as it’s supposed to be used. Instead of writing a single 50,000 word book, I’m going to be writing my third novella in the Deep Hollow series, which is only supposed to be about 20,000 words. I’m also going to be writing the script and outline for a podcast in the same universe (more on that later).

That’s about it for me. To all of my fellow writers who are doing NaNoWriMo, good luck!

And since tomorrow is Halloween, enjoy this adorable picture of a meerkat on a jack-o-lantern.

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Instagram #365photochallenge: The first 183 days

As I mentioned in my last post, I’m doing a challenge where I post a photo for every day of 2018. As of yesterday, I have done that for every day so far. Okay, technically, some days I skipped a few days and posted the missing photos later, but the end result is 183 days of photos.

I thought I would share some of my favorite photos that I have taken for the challenge and my thoughts on the challenge itself.

Day 1:

Day 1.jpg

This was the very first photo I took of the year. This is me and The Fiancé posing underneath the Michigan blanket that kept us warm while I watched my Carolina Gamecocks beat the Wolverines.

At this point, I hadn’t even had the idea to do the #365photochallenge. This was just an excuse to tease my favorite person about a football loss. The next day, while scrolling through Facebook, I saw a friend’s post about her own 365 day photo challenge. I decided that it looked like fun, so I hopped on the bandwagon the that day and every day since.

Day 12:

Day 12.jpg

This was an opportunistic photo I took while watching The Fiancé playing with a friend’s baby. It was just too cute not to share, even though I got my thumb in the shot. This is still probably the cutest picture I have of The Fiancé.

Day 13:

Day 13

Technically, this wasn’t my official #365photochallenge photo of the day. But the other one kinda stunk. So this is the one I’m counting. I wish I had the eye device a little bit farther up my face in the photo, but it’s still cool as is.

On a funny note, I actually used this photo months later to pinpoint the exact day I’d had my last eye appointment. Who knew Instagram could be so useful?

Day 29:

Day 29.jpg

This sunset photo was taken from the top of the new tower that houses the divinity school at Liberty University. The Tower of Bible, as some cheekily call it. If there’s one thing I miss about Liberty and Lynchburg in general, it’s the sunsets.

Day 56:

Day 56

A LOT of my daily photos ended up being picture of The Fiancé’s cats being adorable. Their names are Ratchet and Clank. I have no clue which this is because they are virtually identical. I’m thinking this is Ratchet, because he’s a tad darker, but in this light, it’s tricky to tell.

They hated both of us when the The Fiancé first brought them home, but they are much more cuddly now. They tend to back and forth in terms of power dynamics. We’ve noticed that whoever seems to be the alpha at a given moment will be the more friendly and cuddly of the two, and the beta will usually hide and run away.

Day 74:

Day 74.jpg

This was the first pretty good photo I posted during this challenge. I was starting to get back into photography and playing around with my old camera (pre-DSLR). I went out on a wet, snowy day and photographed some birds. From this point on, there are a lot more really good photos on my Instagram.

Day 81

Day 81

If you read my post about what I learned doing nature photography, you’ve already seen this photo. But it’s still worth putting on here because of the impact it had on me. This photo and other cool ones I got on this trip were important because they showed me that I was pretty good at this. This could be a fun hobby that I could turn into something else. If it weren’t for this trip and this photo, I wouldn’t be working on starting a photography business right now.

I also got engaged on this trip. So that was cool.

Day 102:

Day 102

I got really into hiking the last few weeks of my time at Liberty. This picture comes from a solo hike up on Liberty Mountain on a sunny day in early April. I was looking for birds, but instead I came across this eastern fence lizard. He let me get really close to him, and I got a cool photo out of the encounter.

Day 119:

Day 119.jpg

finally got my DSLR (a Nikon D3400), and after messing around with it for a few days, my friend here hired me to take her senior photos. This one was my favorite from the bunch. I had several friends ask me to do their senior photos in the next few weeks, and I used this pose for all of them because I liked it that much.

Day 131:

Day 131

It’s always nice to have friends that share your hobbies. I went on a hike with my friend here, and we both decided to take a version of this photo. She was fun to hike with because she understood my need to stop every few feet and take pictures. If you’re a photographer, I highly recommend going on photography hikes with other photographers.

If you want to follow my friend here, her handle is @eclecticrosephotography.

Day 133:

Day 133

I actually took this photo while waiting for a friend to show up for her senior photo session. This doggy’s name was Ajax and he was blind, as you can probably tell. He was soooo friendly! It was hard to get him to stay far enough away from me so I could take his picture. He really makes me want to do more pet photography.

Day 137:

Day 137.jpg

Another one of my favorite photos. I took it on a trek up a mountain with one of my best friends. He was such a cute little lizard, and I couldn’t help but take his photo.

Day 139:

Day 139

This is the only daily photo I didn’t personally take so far. Both my sister and The Fiancé both claim credit for this one, but I wasn’t there, so I can’t tell you who actually took it. A friend texted me afterward and said that my phone quote was his favorite from that day. It still makes me smile whenever I see it.

Day 149:

Day 149

Not all of my photos are so happy. This was the front of my car after I got clipped trying to get around a totally unrelated accident. I couldn’t see the guy coming because he was hidden in a tunnel behind me.

I was fine, though. And my car is fine now. Not looking forward to my insurance skyrocketing, though.

Day 179:

Day 179

This was a cute little toad which was just about as big as my thumbnail. I liked that I could see the little pads on the bottom of his feet. I took its picture while on a hike in First Landing State Park with The Fiancé. I got chewed alive by mosquitoes and biting yellow flies. I still have the welts and bumps from it, but thankfully, they aren’t as ungodly itchy as they have been in the last few days.

Day 183:

Day 183

 

And here we are at the end of the first half of the year. This was an assassin bug (I think…). I took its picture at Kiptopeke State Park out on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. One of these little guys hitched a ride on me and scared the tar out of me when I tried to get out of the car at the place we stopped at for lunch.

…….

It’s been a good year so far, and I love that I’ll have these photos to look back on at the end of the year. Who knows? I might even do it again next year.

If you want to keep up with my #365photochallenge journey, you can follow me on Instagram at @ratherbewriting2018.

An overdue life update

Y’all. Let me tell you, the last few weeks have been some of the craziest, most stressful, and most fun weeks in my life. Aaaaand I’ve been neglecting my blog just a teensy bit. So here is the overdue life update I’m sure all three of you who read my blog have been looking forward to.

First off, I graduated from college, so that’s pretty cool. The ceremony was wet and cold, leading to the photo below.

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I actually didn’t get sick, amazingly.

The actual commencement part of the day was… immensely unimpressive. I don’t know whose bright idea it was to invite the ancient Jimmy Carter to be our speaker, but he was baaaaaad. Seriously, the entire speech was him bragging about what he’d accomplished, complaining about conservatives (who made up the vast majority of the crowd), and telling the new grads how much the world stunk.

So inspiring.

Thankfully, my department’s smaller degree conferring ceremony was significant better. I even won an award for my achievement! I had no idea about it until I looked at the program. Another one of my friends also won an award, so my friend group had a blast during that ceremony.

I’ve also been planning my wedding to my awesome Fiancé. It’s a little stressful, but ultimately very rewarding. We’ll be getting married on July 21st, and couldn’t be much more excited.

Then, it’s off to the Cedar Point amusement park in Ohio for the honeymoon. A few days later, we’re spending time with The Fiancé’s family in Michigan camping. And then a few days after that, we’re  driving all the way back to Virginia to get on a plane to go to Guam for a week or two for The Fiancé’s work.

Woof. *wipes brow*

It’s a lot to do in a short amount of time, but it’s going to be a ton of fun as well. I especially look forward to the Guam part of the trip. Even if The Fiancé and I will both be working for quite a bit of it, there will still be plenty of time to swim in gorgeous tropical waters and take pictures all over the island.

My professional life has been exciting as well. I was contracted by Trinity Broadcasting Network to write two episodes of a TV documentary series that they are producing. For money.

 

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Source: Giphy

 

It has been a blast researching the topics and learning how to write for a medium I’m not entirely used to. I’m hoping to get a few more gigs over the next few weeks.

In my free time, I’ve been hanging out with The Fiancé and my family. I also started a Dungeons and Dragons group with my family, The Fiancé, and two of my friends, with yours truly as the DM (dungeon master, for those of you not quite on my level of geekiness). It’s really cool to get to invent characters and storylines for people to play out. It’s also incredibly frustrating when the players don’t just do the thing I set up for them... I may have to do a full post on DnD at some point in the future.

Of course, I’ve also been (more or less) keeping up with my Instagram (@ratherbewriting2014) 365 photo challenge. I’ve found that it can be – pardon the pun – challenging to post a photo every day, but still a lot of fun. I’m planning on doing a post about my favorite photos from the first half of the year in the next few days, once I hit that mark.

That about covers the life update that this blog has been sorely lacking. I hope all of my lovely readers have been having a good summer.

RIP My Computer

My final semester of college is starting to wind down. I have two major projects left to finish and some photos from a senior photo shoot I shot for a friend to edit. So of course, now is when my good computer decides to crap out on me.

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Okay, technically, it’s not totally dead. The display cable that connects the screen to the computer body is what died. Still, it is effectively dead, since I can’t use it anymore.

I actually sent it off to the Lenovo people to have them fix it since it’s still under warranty. They won’t be done with it until after graduation. Soooo, I’m going to be living in the computer labs at Liberty for two weeks so that I can get all of my work done. The last time I lived in a computer lab was when I had awful roommates and didn’t want to go back to my room. All things considered, I’ll take the broken computer.

I am not completely without laptop, thankfully. Sort of thankfully. Thankfully-ish. It’s… not great. It took five times of restarting it just to get it to stop fatally freezing when I first opened it up again for the first time in months. It runs like a manatee on land pulling a semi-truck laden with lard.

(Yes, I am proud of that sentence.)

I’ve got it functioning a tad bit better now, but editing literally anything other than Microsoft Word files (and sometimes not even that) gives the computer a heart attack.

https://giphy.com/embed/uprwwjptZW4Za

The upside is that, because I can’t do anything else productive at home, I’ll be doing a lot of writing in the next two or three weeks. Probably a lot of photography too because I just discovered a new place to hike and I’m currently obsessed with nature photography.

Here’s a few of my (woefully unedited) recent photos.

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If you want to keep up with my writing, follow me on Wattpad. I’ve got a new story, called Deep Hollow, that I’m releasing a chapter at a time. It’s about dragon people.

What I’ve learned doing nature photography

I’ve been learning more about photography and videography in an attempt to diversify my skill set ahead of graduating from college. A few weeks ago, I decided that since I’ve got a halfway decent camera, and I was going to have a lot of free time on my hands while camping, I ought to give nature photography a try.

And I love it!

I have always loved hiking and being in the great outdoors. Now, I just added a camera to mix, and it’s SOOOO much fun. But also enlightening. So I’m going to share some of what I learned on my first nature photographer adventure (along with some of the pictures I captured).

1. Nature does not want to be photographed

Most of the animals I took pictures of were birds. You probably already know this, but birds move. A lot. My camera is a simple point-and-shoot affair that doesn’t have the greatest shutter speed capabilities. Basically, if it was moving, I couldn’t take pictures of it.

I got a lot more blurry photos like this:

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And a lot fewer nice, perfectly-focused, crisp shots like this:

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That robin was about 3 feet from me by the way. That’s another part of this lesson: nature will run away from you. For my best shots (with the exception of the overly-courageous robin above), I had to sit far away from my subject and sit very, very still. That segues nicely to my next lesson.

2. Patience is a virtue, especially in nature photography

While I got some of my photos just by walking around, for many of them, I had to sit in one place for a long time. This wasn’t easy for me, as I’m fidgety by nature. It was also freezing with the wind blowing fifteen miles an hour for three of the days I was camping.

Still, patience got me one of my absolute best photos. I was out hiking with a friend and The Fiancé (yes, he’s The Fiancé now. I’ll do a full post on it later), and I saw this gorgeous osprey. It flew off as soon as we walked onto its part of the trail, but I saw it circling over the water. I thought that it might come back if we sat down and waited.

And it did. I got some decent long-distance shots, like this one:

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As you can see, it’s a little blurry, but I thought I could get a better one if I got closer.

Of course, he flew off again as soon as I got within range. This time, he flew off to another part of the island where we could hear him cawing at us. I realized that he was trying to draw us away from his nest. The Fiancé volunteered to go hike over to the other part of the island to try to scare him back.

The plan worked perfectly, and I got a few more awesome shots of this majestic bird:

Best osprey - edited

3. Auto-focus is garbage

I have a pretty good camera for a point-and-shoot (I’m looking to upgrade to a DSLR soon). But my biggest complaint with it is the lack of manual focus. There were many, many times on this trip that I missed a shot because I couldn’t get the focus right.

It’s not bad if the subject is the only thing in the shot, but it gets tricky when the shot is more crowded. Take this photo for example:

Northern Mockingbird 2

This mockingbird is almost perfectly in focus. But the auto-focus clearly decided those leaves in the background were more important to focus on than the bird. I had a lot of instances like this, and it was incredibly frustrating to have an animal holding still long enough for me to take its picture, but then still have the photo not come out right because of the auto-focus.

Every once in a while, I got an awesome shot despite the auto-focus. For instance, this brown thrasher:

Brown Thrasher 1 - Edited

4. Sometimes, even a good photo needs a little correction

I’ve been learning Photoshop in the last few weeks, in addition to learning more about photography. In fact, several of the photos above have been lightly Photoshopped. And I do mean lightly. I mostly used the program to brighten or darken the subjects or the background, so that the viewer’s eye is drawn toward the animal and not something distracting in the background.

The photos I got were pretty good on their own, but they usually needed a little something to make them pop more. The trick is to preserve the spirit of the original as much as possible.

Here is the photo I probably shopped the most (original first):

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It was a decent photo to begin with, but I thought it was a little over-exposed (basically, too bright) in certain places and a little too yellow for my tastes.

Wildlife of Dreher Island - 4

I like this a lot better. I darkened the leaves in the background as well as the log the turtle was sitting on and the one near his head. I boosted the saturation on his shell to make it more noticeable. Finally, I re-colored the water to give it a red instead of yellow tinge.

Most shots don’t need this much work, but they almost always need some kind of work. Like I said, it’s not about really changing the photo to something it’s not, but instead, it’s about making the photo you have even better than it already was.

Write for My Magazine! (You know you want to)

You probably don’t know this, because I’m pretty sure that I’ve never mentioned it on the blog, but I started a literary magazine a few months ago. It’s called Estuary. At first, it was just supposed to be for high school students, which worked well for approximately one issue. I don’t quite have enough (okay, I don’t have nearly enough) content to justify putting out a new issue, but I’d really like to. In light of that, I’ve decided to open the magazine up to people of all ages. I wanted to write about this on my blog because I know I have a bunch of awesomely talented people who follow me. I’d like to give you guys a chance to write for Estuary.

Let me give you a bit more information. First and foremost, I’m not going to pay you. Sorry. Estuary is a free magazine that I digitally distribute through an e-mail attachment. The magazine in its current format has several categories.

Poet Garden– This is the first section in the magazine. Basically, it’s exactly what it sounds like; a place for poetry. I currently have one poem in there, and it’s mine, so I am badly in need of content for this section.

Our Opinions– This is one of the most fun sections and the only one that has a topic. This section is for debating and arguing. Like I said, fun. The topic for this issue is “Global Warming: Fact or Fake.” If you like writing the occasion persuasive essay, this section is for you. I really don’t care what your opinion is on the subject, so don’t think you’re going to offend me. The point of this section is to get all sides of the argument. I don’t have any articles for this one yet, so you’ve got a great chance of being in the magazine if you decide to write something. In case you were wondering, the topic for the last one was “Evolution vs. Creationism.” It was lively to say the least.

In the News– This is the current affairs section. I’ll accept any articles about things that are happening now. For example, articles about the current situation in Egypt are just as welcome as articles about which celebrity recently became pregnant. This issue will be coming out in late January or early February, so keep that in mind. I’ve actually never been able to use this section because in the last issue, no one wrote anything for it.

Story Corner– One of my favorite sections. This one is for short stories. All of the ones I have right now are serialized. Try to keep the stories relatively short, because this is a popular section. I have a few stories already, but I wouldn’t mind a few more.

The Gallery– This is the artwork/photography section. Well, it should be the artwork/photography section, but all I got last issue was photography. At least it was beautiful photography. However, this issue, I’m looking for more artwork. This can mean paintings, drawings, sculptures (pictures of them, anyway), and more. I’ll also accept more photography, but understand that I’m going to give more preference to any non-photo artwork that is sent in. I think I have around three pictures for this section so far.

Review– This section is for reviewing anything that you’ve seen, read, or played. I’ll accept book reviews, movie reviews, TV show reviews, and game reviews. This is another section that I wasn’t able to use last issue because of lack of interest.

Hobby Shop– This one is about all of the things you do. Your hobbies, interests, sports. It could be writing, stamp collecting, biking, knitting, anything. Just write about what you like to do. Pretty simple. I don’t have anything for this section yet, so you got a good chance of being in the magazine if you choose you write.

Talk to Me– This is the section for letters and comments that people have written about the magazine and the articles inside it. Obviously, I couldn’t put this section in my last issue since it was the first one. If you’re interested in starring in this section, you’ll have to read the magazine first. I’ll explain that in a second.

Alright, that’s all of the sections in Estuary. If you are interested in writing or sending in artwork for the magazine, just e-mail me at estuarymag@cox.net and I’ll send you the guidelines for submission. If you’re interested in receiving a free copy of the last magazine or having your name added to the e-mail list, email me at the address above. Also, please, please, please share this with people you think might be interested. I really need the submissions.

P.S. Go like the magazine’s Facebook page while you’re at it: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Estuary-Magazine/507798772623505?ref=hl