The Hollow March Anniversary Photoshoot

Yes, you read that right. This frigid little month marks the fourth anniversary of The Hollow March‘s debut, and for that, I decided to have a little fun (AKA be a dork and play with sharp, pointy things). For those of you lurking about Facebook and Twitter, of course, this will come as no surprise, but yesterday I garbed up and got medieval on the Internet, essentially cosplaying as one of my novels’ main characters, Rurik Matair.

Blackstrokehat

The results were filled with grim shadowplay, filters, and were ruddy mysterious, but had the added advantage of a fancy hat and a scimitar. I would like to have kept both, but alas, neither was within my photographer’s purview to grant (woe is me).

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It has been a long, strange ride friends. In these four years I have not only seen birthed a series I had been dreaming up for the better part of a decade, but concluded it as well. Three books in four years; not too shabby for someone still fending off the latter half of their twenties, wouldn’t you say?

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Like the silliness? Want more? Want to dress up, too, or have great cosplays from other literature to share? Pop your thoughts and links into the comments, and share around. It’s an anniversary, after all, and that means it’s time for a party.

And for those of you that have stumbled across this site for the first time, and for whom this is their first introduction to me: where have you been? Here’s the link to my books, so you know who I am: http://www.amazon.com/Chris-Galford/e/B007A9XDXK/

Pure Michigan: Waterworld

RIVER_49

Welcome to Waterworld!

Water. Water everywhere! While many things have been occupying the eyes of the nation this week (and rightly so–many tugs of the heartstrings have gone to many corners of the U.S. these past few days), but locally, nature has been at the forefront of things.

Michigan, my home, is a land of water. It surrounds us. It pierces into the very heart of our state in its many rivers, lakes, and ponds. This is, truly, the Great Lakes State. Yet this week the state has been rocked by record rainfall. The end result: flooding. Massive flooding. And when I say record-breaking, don’t mistake me: the Grand River, in western Michigan, was predicted to hit a 24.76 foot crest today. Compare that to previous floodings here, as listed from the Grand Rapids Press

24.76 feet on April 21, 2013**
19.64 feet on March 1, 1985
19.54 feet on May 27, 2004
19.50 feet on March 28, 1904
19.29 feet on March 8, 1976
19.25 feet on April 3, 1960
19.25 feet on September. 4, 1986
18.83 feet on March 3, 1982
18.60 feet on June 9, 1905
18.5 feet on April 18, 2013
17.87 feet on February 25, 1997
17.84 feet on December 31, 2008

Flooding is not new here, but bloody hell, this one takes the cake. Large swaths of the city of Grand Rapids and western Michigan are going underwater. To prove that point, I took a little photographic adventure. Here are just a few things to show you what we’re dealing with up here. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Barreling through.

Barreling through.

No walkway for you.

No walkway for you.

RIVER_65

At least the cops get to bust out their boats!

At least the cops get to bust out their boats!

Waiting. Watching. Wondering.

Waiting. Watching. Wondering.

Under the Sea.

Under the Sea.

 

Kayak business? Probably booming.

Kayak business? Probably booming.

It was such a pretty house, too.

It was such a pretty house, too.

Beach? What beach?

Beach? What beach?

And the real kicker? More rain is expected to come…

Ideas: The Race to Completion

Distraction, distraction, distraction—

Idea!

Distraction.

distractions

Having a touch of ADHD, my mind has the unfortunate knack for bouncing around in a thousand different directions at one time. Ideas are a plentiful harvest, but they’re as distracting as they are engaging. It becomes hard to sift through, to settle down, and address a single point.

Relevance: I want to finish writing At Faith’s End. After that, I know I need to get to the third and final chapter of that saga, but I may need to take a little break before I pop into that little scene. Idea overload, and if I don’t get some of them at least started on paper, my brain is likely to reach critical mass and internal combustion, I am told, is an incredibly unproductive way to approach any day.

So. At Faith’s End is very nearly done. On my initial end, anyhow. Beta readers, editors, keep your eyes open—it’s coming at you soon. Curiously, it came out a good bit shorter than the first—though I imagine that’s probably better by most estimations. The wordiness—I do have a knack for it.

For Updates: Follow me on FB?

But I also have another novel in mind. Not in Lecura (the same world as this Haunted Shadows trilogy). Not even fantasy. Probably overplayed but—apocalyptic. As in, still happening, not post. And no, there would be no radioactive zombies. It would take place in America, though vague on specific settings. Main character? Probably a sniper. Thoughts? Concerns? Pleas of: oh God, Chris, no?

There are also some short stories I need to get around to tidying up, possibly more relevant to any fantasy interests out there—the short stories The Haunted Shadows is based on, actually. The Company of the Eagles. As you can probably guess, it’s a little more focused on who it followed, each is sort of serialized adventure-wise, but taken together paint the whole of around a year in Rurik Matair’s exile. It would likely be released in two collections.

And that’s for starters. I want to write scifi. I know this. I want to dig my hands in and mold that side of my imagination a little more—novellas, another novel, lord, but I do love to get off track.

It’s a curse. Somehow, it probably ties into the fact that I’m so very good at reading that it can be a distraction to the writing.

Snowpocalypse as presented by stoic Mr. Fane.

The following Public Service Announcement brought to you by stoic Mr. Fane.

Also: snowpocalypse. Particularly if you’re in the northeast. These are the times you wish you still had snow days.

Or quite possibly lived in Hawaii.

Passing Fancy

It is a simmering summer in a sweltering land. I sit, somewhere between the fire and the horizon. There is no sound but the rustle of the page.

Deep breaths. I am in the pages. The pages are in me. Drink them in. Names. Faces. Places. They wash over me and I am no longer I.

Nature breathes with me. Wind scatters pages as ashes on the pyre.

There should be anger. Deep breaths. No rage. Deep breaths. Hands once trembling, still.

Child eyes turn from the pages to the sea, the endless blocks of home on home, houses and fences and little green seas that sway in the wind, wood and bricks and the nothing of them all the little flags on the ships proclaiming to the sky: I will defy.

It is a moment of sight. Homes break, reconstitute into something more. Still no sound. I do not hold the breaths, though such fleeting time seems to earn it. The stillness. I notice it for the first time.

Yet still the wind—the caress. Rough pages, frayed by love spill against the flesh and there is a tingle of excitement.

Tiny thing, the voices say. Tiny thing in a big wild world you are alone and there is no one and nothing and this is all there is and all there will ever be. Words. Only words. There is a base between the covers, a trench beneath bare feet and sun lit dreams.

Mother may I, mother may I—where wanders fickle minds?

The child is alone, he knows, but there is no care. The stillness is in all things, the knowing and the drifting and the being all as much a part of the sound as the silence. Little boxes on the hillside—everyone’s all boxed up and the colors change and the words change but the fact doesn’t change. We don’t see. Somewhere between the ships the buoy fences blinded to the perfection of the rowing, the howl.

I will struggle, the boy says, mind drifting to the distant figures, roaring through the lands both dark and unforgiving. There are shapes. I feel them around me as the shadows of the clouds, the faces framed against the dimness of the light. They will move on. Yet they will never go.

The pen stretches long into the darkness between the posts. Waves crash against it and are consumed. Thirsting men surrender to the inky drink. Lead me away. Away, away. Passing black and white—the world, framed, in the brightness of the mind.

Do, the owl chirps. Do, do, do.

Life is in the doing.

Whoever said life is in the reading?

The tremble in the hand. It is there, always lingering. The horror and the beauty of the frame. The mind stretches further than the body can match. Do, do, do. Philosophers laugh in empty graves. Think, is the reply. Look. Breathe.

I am not breathing.

Escape. Flee. You see, you see the world and how can you ever go back I think and I am—blinking. No more wind. The moment slithers and slips away to the crinkle of the page.

It is the first moment truly seen.

Summer comes but once. It never leaves. The rest—passing strange on the road toward that stillness. One will learn to breathe again.

In Nature

“We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.” ~ Native American Proverb

Nothing clears the mind quite like a weekend in the mountains. A (surprisingly) stifling heater in the cabin didn’t hurt of course, but it just made the impact of walking out those doors and into the sunny, snow-struck earth all the more striking. Now it’s back to the real world. At least I face it refreshed.

On the Road to Colorado, Day 3

After a massive rain storm hemmed us hotel guests in last night, preventing any extensive exploration of the area (not that there was a terribly large amount to see, from the look of things—barring some sort of children’s fort dedicated to Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show), morale for the Nebraska leg of my journey was not particularly high. After a few drinks at the hotel’s bar with a few of my fellow patrons (apparently drunk people, locked in by rain, occasionally enjoy a writer!) and a power sleep, though, I discovered two amazing things.

  1. Quality Inn, for all its talk of water conservation, did not have a low-flow shower, and that meant the shower was fantastic.
  2. Quality Inn does not skimp on its breakfast. Trays of tater tots, bacon, and ham; bowls of fruit; cartons of milk; a fine array of cereal. There was even eggs, for those of you silly creatures that can partake of such things. Personally, I loaded up on bacon, toast, OJ, and a bowl of fruit loops (you know, for my health). Breakfast of champions? I think so.

After that, I undertook the final leg of this journey…

Today’s journey began in North Platte, Nebraska. From there, I traveled 270 miles in about 4 hours (for once, the time Google and Tom Tom actually told me it would take…though my version of the trip included stops and photo look-abouts, so I still win) to Golden, Colorado.

Nebraska:

It occurred to me that I forgot two very important things to the Nebraska experience that fortunately still applied on the third day of this trip. To truly understand Nebraska, you must expect:

  1. Bugs. You don’t even know. Huge bugs. Lots of bugs. Machine gun bug massacre on my windshield level of bugs. For God’s sake, in my hotel, they even had a sign saying, “So we spray for bugs, but the bugs win—expect them in your hotel room, and it’s not our fault!” which I must say is very distressing.
  2. Construction. I thought Michigan loved construction, but Nebraska has (literally) 12 miles stretches of highway down littered in those orange cones, and the dreaded 35 mph speed limits. Get behind a semi there, and you’re pretty well doomed to the waiting game. And what a long, terrible waiting game it is…because the scenery surely won’t save you.

Back to the descriptions, though, the road bloomed in darkness and in rain clouds on the third day of the trip…spat a few globs of rain at me, and then went on to being just a grey haze. And let me tell you, if anything can make the Nebraska experience a little more uncomfortable instead of the same old blue sky on those same old green plains, it’s adding a grey cast to the whole affair. There weren’t even layers of clouds to break it up…it was just one continues grey slab.

Colorado:

First thoughts: Hills! Sweet and holy changes in elevation! AND NO CORN!

Quickly replaced by: Oh, God. Where did the hills go? It’s…it’s even more dead than Nebraska. Seriously, words cannot begin to describe—it was the lonely, barren prairie you see in all those classy westerns. To truly appreciate how dry it is here, observe:

 

The first picture is the Platte River, from North Platte, Nebraska. The second image is the Platte River, as seen in Sterling, Colorado. Yes, note the distinct lack of actual water there. Oh dears.

Kiwanis Cove

Speaking of Sterling, though, I stopped there to refuel, hit the rest area, and poke around the local nature area, as I was informed my brother and sister-in-law wouldn’t be about in Golden until 5…and I still had another hour’s time change to go through (Colorado is 2 hours behind Michigan, by the by). I got some pretty shots around “Kiwanis Cove”…and then I met some dogs.

Yes, dogs. A pair of wild dogs. They just, appeared out of the trees, lowered their heads, growled, and started to advance. Experiencing an, “Oh, crap” moment, I started to jog in the opposite direction. Naturally, they quickly overtook me. Curiously, they seemed content with me as long as I jogged. When I stopped—they growled, in the I’m-going-to-eat-your-face sort of way. When construction workers caught their attention though, I’m not ashamed to say I bolted the rest of the way to the car. Then I hit the road and tried to forget Sterling. Goodness.

After that, though, it was sparse towns. Eastern Colorado was even worse than Nebraska for finding gas. They actually had signs for towns that read, simply, “No services” – none, none at all. And though you had the continuous feeling of rising, the barren expanse about me made me eventually go, “Where’d the corn go? Bring back the corn!”

And the temperature was a thing to behold. In Sterling, still at about Nebraska’s elevation, it was 72 degrees. I swear I crossed like two rises and suddenly it shot up to 86…and kept jumping until Denver, for a total of about 93 degrees. Closer to the sun. Oh yeah.

Obviously, though, I made it (and the barren fortunately transformed into those mountains I do so love), and so now, this is essentially my back yard…

Win.

On the Road to Colorado, Day 2

Quote of the Day: “The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.” ~ G. K. Chesterton

Iowa—

America, husked

beneath wide skies.

Morning began early, to the sounds of two Hispanic maids quarreling in the parking lot. Oh dears. Nonetheless, it woke me in time for a good shower and the most important meal of the day: breakfast! Even if said breakfast consisted largely of Cheerios. I might have partaken also of the inn’s crescent rolls but they looked distinctly…more brown and less crescent-y than I would have hoped.

Regardless, breakfast provided the opportunity to meet my fellow guests—an asian couple that quickly departed, a pair of Israeli backpackers (who insisted to me that coffee is the greatest proof of God…alright, I’ll roll with it), and a young Native American family headed to Chicago (and yes, if you’ll note, that means one of these groups snuck in when I wasn’t looking during the night…thus ruining all that cozy space I had! I mean…THREE people in a hotel besides me? Madness. Two is just right.)

But after that breakfast of kings, it was back to the road…

Today’s journey began in Des Moines, Iowa. From there, I traveled 402 miles in 5 ½ hours (Tom Tom and Google both told me it would take 6 ½ – once again, technology is thoroughly walloped by my likely lead foot).

Iowa: There wasn’t a terribly large amount more to see. Lots of Windmills. Some of the flat gave way to trees and hills as rivers loomed. I-80 wound into a riverside city, to become one of the busiest and most congested bits of real estate I’ve seen since the highway through Chicago.  A bridge formed the border (thankfully toll-less) between Iowa and its neighbor, one city flowing effortlessly into another, and Omaha forming the welcoming party on the other side.

To Sum: Nebraska.

Nebraska:

  1. Initial thoughts: wow, look at all the green and the hilly nature of this place…maybe it won’t be at all as people described…
  2. Quickly followed by: Oh God. It flattened. Where did variation go? Where is height? I can see for miles…
  3. Which in turn made me miss and better appreciate the cloudy skies of yesterday. Though I was never hit by any real rain, the wide open spaces, and the stormy nature of the sky allowed me to see great variations in level, character, and color in the sunset-speckled clouds. Today, there was just open blue. The end result was a surge of boredom as everything blended into one another. Blue and flat green…that was my road.
  4. Along the way, I did see  that even here comes the occasional spurt of originality, in the form of a T-Rex Scarecrow guarding a Nebraska Corn Field. And this sucker was a good story tall. Rawr, indeed.
  5. On a whim, I decided to re-engage the radio. 94.1, I discovered, had surrendered itself to a bizarre mix of Katy Perry Pop and Will Smith Hippity Hoppin’. It was amusing, for a while. Then the pop saturated my soul too deeply and had to be expunged.
  6. As bad as that could be, though, what was worse was the lack of gas stations. There were numerous villages along the highway, yet many of them had a motel or dining establishments…but no gas stations. Where do these people get gas? Worse, on hitting central Nebraska, a grievous switcharoo transpires…
  7. The heartlands.

    Unleaded is now “Super” Unleaded. It costs 20 cents more than the unleaded many of you know and love. Unleaded has ethanol in it now, and to boot, I can get real ethanol, which they seem to be encouraging…but it’s all just there to screw with my head I think. Ah, corn country.

  8. By this point, the radio descends into either Radio Static or Country. Neither is optimal for sanity.
  9. Sign of the day: A bumper sticker reading: “honk for my beaver.” This Minnesota man – yes, it was a man, and his plate said Minnesota – is clearly a strange sort.
  10. North Platte looms, and with it, apparently, parks dedicated to Buffalo Bill. Also a fort. And my latest inn…

Quality Inn Bedroom...

North Platte, Nebraska. It has a gorgeous river view, I’ll give it that. Beyond, I would not recommend it to any of you travelers out there. If you do head that way, though, I would recommend somewhere other than the Quality Inn. The wi-fi is shoddy, the view and the room itself are obviously…both less efficient than my previous lodging was. Still, the rooms do come with both a fridge and a microwave, so that’s something at least.

Next stop? The final leg of the trip—on to Golden, Colorado.

Another night, another room view - they're gonna spoil me with these sights, aren't they?

On the Road to Colorado, Day 1

Quote of the Day: “A traveler without observation is a bird without wings.” ~ Moslih Eddin Saadi

Rockford, MI

This week the Den is taking a bit of a twist in functionality as all words are twisted into my strange version of a travel log. That’s right, the day has come at last, and I have hit the road for the mountains of Colorado! Presently, I’m actually writing this to you from a nice little hotel in beautiful downtown…Des Moines, Iowa.

I hope you enjoy the peek into my mind and into my little road adventure, but to those of you coming here for poetry…I do hope you’ll forgive me for stepping out for a week or so! Promise I’ll have poems again once this little poet’s all settled in…

Now then, what was there to see? Well, let us reflect…

Today’s journey began in Rockford, Michigan. Hurrah for suburbanite America in all its glory. From there, I traveled 514 miles in 7 ½ hours (Tom Tom and Google both told me it would take 8 ½ – take that technology!). Along the way:

Hour 1: Morale is high, even when 94.1 abruptly changes from its alternative goodness to a firebrand evangelist preacher. Fearing that the Wells Hall preacher from MSU has tracked me down somehow, I quickly turn to 97.9 and don’t look back. Also, something in my back seat is squeaking. A lot. Madness.

Hour 2: 97.9 Turns to country. Twang twang. Scenery is pretty as the squeaking ceases. Sanity stabilizes with the emergence of the i-Pod. All is well.

Indiana: Oh hi Indi—oh? That was Indiana? But I didn’t even…well, that’s gone, I suppose.

Chicago: Chi-town. The windy city. The—OH GOD DID THAT GUY’S HUB CAP JUST BURST OFF ON THE HIGHWAY!? Fortunately, no one is harmed in the resulting evasive swerving of cars. 97.9 has returned from the dead as some sort of classic rock station. I hesitantly listen on. First toll booth—despite slow traffic at points, it’s probably the quickest trip I’ve taken through or around Chicago.

Illinois: Corn. Corn. Hill! Corn. Also a lot of semis. However I did see our…

Sign of the Day: Actually, this one was graffiti, but nonetheless…on a bridge somewhere outside of Chicago read the words, “Jesu rock around yo soul.” Given the prevalence of “He is coming soon!” signs elsewhere in this state, I do hope he shall wield better grammar than his heralds.

And it's all for little ol' me...

Iowa:
1. The great old Mississippi River! (By the way, the Mississippi River actually took me a count of 28 Mississippis to cross. Tsk tsk, false advertising.)
2. Now, I won’t deny it, after that, there was lots of corn, and a lot of flat…expanse. Regardless, I must say any time I’ve seen a river in this state, breathtakingly beautiful scenery has surrounded it. Vibrant trees, hilly dips, flowers, verdant everything…and then of course, more corn.
3. By God. The biggest truck stop in the country!—and all I can think is…Damn, look at all those trucks. Also of note: they did not have the lowest gas price in the state. Don’t give in just because it’s big!
4. Give me curves in the road. A bridge. Anything. BREAK THE MONOTONY.
5. Oh dear, glad I’m not going the other way. That is a semi. Those are a lot of ambulances and cops. And that…oh, that’s an emergency helicopter there to airlift someone out. Eek. Traffic on that side of the road? Backed up 5 miles. Everyone’s out of their cars taking pictures. I don’t fiddle with cameras while driving, so tough noogies to you readers.
6. Des Moines! First thing I notice…factories. Smoke. And an interesting array of clouds that lead me steadily to…

Best Western! See my hotel room? And that’s all for me, because they don’t really vary in their room types.

Best part? I’m apparently one of only three, yes, THREE guests in the entire hotel right now. In the words of the desk manager: “So, you know…don’t get too rowdy, or something.”

Rock on, good sir. Rock on. And right adjacent to my hotel? A gas station, a Cracker Barrel, and a Mexican place. (On which note I must say, Los Tres Amigos, you have been proven woefully deficient. While you charge $9 for your combos, and $2 for your drinks, EL RODEO charged a mere $7 for its combos, and $1 for unlimited refill drinks! I have seen your inferiority exposed!)

And thus ends, day one. Tomorrow? Nebraska. I must store up my courage tonight.

View from my window. What, you thought I was staying IN La Quinta? Goodness, note that sign's in the OTHER parking lot, silly.

Google+ For Photographers

Yes, bow before me, for I was one of those rare, select, elite few to receive Google +!—by which I mean, oh boy, one of my media friends shot me an invite to the latest social network everybody.

If you want to read up more on the basics of Google+ and its “circles” of influence—ah, you see what I did there?—follow that link to learn more about the network. For me, however, the immediate question was how Google+ might appeal itself to photographers, while crossing my fingers and hoping against hope it wouldn’t have the save decidedly unsettling service agreements as Facebook.

So far, I’ve not been disappointed. While lacking the Facebook “like” pages, that allow you to essentially build up your studio, image, what-have-you, Google+ does have its own worthwhile contributions:

  • Circles. Yes, it all comes back to circles. Not only do they allow for quick organization of your photo-related contacts, they essentially allow you to set up a group for your photography information, and to quickly locate those contacts you may wish to check up on, communicate with, etc.
  • Picasa! Remember Picasa? Yes, well, it actually has purpose now. Long oppressed by flickr, photobucket, webshots and the like, Google+ has now revitalized Picasa to store its images, for all intents and purposes remodeling it into Google+ Photos. Nice, easy storage system, with largely unlimited album capability, and the potential for videos up to 15 minutes long.
  • Lightbox. Keeping in the Picasa vein, when you enter an album, Picasa reconstitutes the images on the page to be more visually pleasing, and clicking on one opens it in lightbox, giving you a nice viewing space—and full details on the photo, too.
  • Lack of Facebook licensing woes. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Google’s classic slogan “Don’t be evil” works its way into the distinctly mundane terms of service versus Facebook’s “gotcha” politics. Still – take care, because they do reserve the right to modify your images as they please…
  • “Scrapbook.” It’s essentially a nice mini-portfolio that opens your main page. You can upload up to 5 images here to go right alongside your profile, to be displayed right under your name. Good for highlighting your work if you want people to link off a certain website…
  • No apps! Sure, it’s not photo related, but bloody hell—no more getting bogged down with Farmville and Mafia Wars invitations!

In short, it’s sleek, it’s efficient, and it’s got potential. Check it out, if you grab an invite, and feel free to add me to your circle, if you feel I’m worthy!