Drawing Art for My Novel Writing

Jun 10, 2017 by

Novel Writing With Pictures

I have 51 days left to finish revising my novel writing for The Voodoo Hill Explorer Club and to turn it in to SMU’s The Writer’s Path program.

I have spent time each of the past few days with iPad Pro and Apple Pencil in Adobe Sketch and in Notes drawing out scenes and characters of my book. Why would I devote time to drawing when I’m in a writing medium?

Creative writing is NOT about putting down emotions on the paper. Not expressly. Creative writing IS about drawing word pictures with words. If you aren’t telling a story with word pictures, you’re locked into telling your readers how you or your character feels. And that’s BORING.

So I have been stepping back from the keyboard and spending more time focusing on what I could see if I was in the scene with my characters. Not how I feel, that I mad that Rose dumped Kirk for Billy Banks, or that Billy Banks is a bully, or Billy’s mom is pretty hot. Those things can be told by drawing word pictures that set the scene. How does a character move his/her face? How are they sitting? Are they biting their lip?

Little Laughing Whitefish Falls

The Little Laughing Whitefish Falls, KI Sawyer AFB. Art done by Donny Claxton for The Voodoo Hill Explorer Club.

A crucial piece of the work is Little Laughing Whitefish Falls. The problem is, there is no place outside the back gate of KI Sawyer AFB in 1977. There is a Laughing Whitefish Falls, which is a beautiful place, but there is no Chimney Rock and a lagoon where kids and alike can jump from four levels into the water. The highest height is called The Devil’s Ledge. It’s 55-feet above the water. But it doesn’t exist.

Now Chimney Rock exists. It’s in Lake Martin, Alabama. The Devil’s Ledge doesn’t exist either, but there’s a piece of rock that sits at the top of Half Dome in Yosemite in California that’s called The Devil’s Diving Board.

Blend all that together and you have a whole new fictional place to build some incredibly important scenes around in The Voodoo Hill Explorer Club. I wind up using the lagoon from behind it, under it, down the face it, and from the four levels to jump.

So I decided if I’m going to write about it, I need to SEE what it looks like. The only real way to do that is to blend elements of each place into a piece of art. And this is where the drawing of the Little Laughing Whitefish Falls came from.

You might try doing this, too, in your own writing. It doesn’t have to look like a Norman Rockwell piece of art. It just needs to have enough visual cues in it that will prompt you in your writing, to help you draw better, more convincing word pictures and leave the emotional dumps and figuring out to the imaginations of your readers. They’ll love you for it. They will.

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Perspectives on Life

Feb 16, 2016 by

My late, maternal grandfather was an artist. One of the most important things he ever taught me was perspectives on life–the way of looking at the world.

When I was in second or third grade, grandpa brought me a small microscope to K.I. Sawyer AFB in the upper peninsula of Michigan on one of his visits. It had a little lamp he’d been using to reflect off the mirror under the specimen platform. But grandpa had done something quite clever. He’d used double-sided tape to stick colored specs of see-thru plastic to the mirror so as I moved the mirror and looked through the microscope, the specimen changed so I could see it, literally, in a new light.

In my teens, when we would visit the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art he’d encourage me to turn my head and look at the paintings sideways, even upside down if I could.

Years later, when we moved to Castle AFB in Atwater, CA, grandpa came out several times and would disappear during the days, no matter the season, to go up to Yosemite National Park. My love for this one area of the country has grown through the years and I make a trip to California whenever possible, now with my daughters, to enjoy this national treasure.

MORE ON PERSPECTIVES

I know several people in my world right now who are going through some fairly significant trials. The tasks before them, and me, seem monumental  to say the least. Here, look at this picture of El Capitan from the Yosemite Valley perspective.

El Capitan in Yosemite from the Valley floor.

El Capitan in Yosemite from the Valley floor.

That’s pretty ominous, isn’t it? If I’d not shot this with one of my grandpa’s film-based Canon’s in the late 2000s, I could blow it up and show you blue, red and green spots of humanity clinging to the face of El Cap, braving the forces of nature and working their way toward the top–like all of us do in the problems we face in this life.

I’ve never tried to climb El Cap, but my girls and I walked pretty close to the base of the face to look up. That is an even more daunting view.

FROM SENTINEL DOME

I’ve made no secret that when my time on Earth has come to its end, I should very much like to have my ashes sprinkled somewhere off the trail on the way up to Sentinel Dome. Probably not legal, no, but in the vast long run of the eternity to come, will it really matter if what remains of me is left in some off-the-beaten wind swept path? I think not. I desire this knowing that in spirit I will be in Heaven with my maker, but the thought of my ashes resting in view of Half Dome and the hundreds of miles one can see in a 360 panorama all around, well… I digress.

I want you to look at this second photo now, taken from atop Sentinel Dome in Yosemite, looking over at El Capitan.

El Capitan from atop of Sentinel Dome in Yosemite.

El Capitan from atop of Sentinel Dome in Yosemite.

Quite a different view, isn’t it?

I submit to you, those of you who feel like you’re at the base of a real-life mountain, that how you view your task is monumental to your success in overcoming it. El Capitan doesn’t look so big from higher up, does it?

Now imagine what our problems look like to our Lord, who rests higher still than these photos show.

PERSPECTIVE

Perspective is everything in this life. If we let the world around us dictate how we are left to see what is before is, the tasks will almost alway seem like they will be impossible to overcome.

I encourage you to consider these two photos regularly when life seems to be getting the better of you. Remember, God’s view is even higher than what we as humans are able to perceive. You should also know that you’re never alone in your walk. I promise, if you look hard enough, like the climbers half way up the face of El Cap, you’ll find someone who is willing to lend you a helping hand because they’re on the same walk as you, just maybe on a different path, higher up, or coming up from behind.

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A Note To My Grandchildren

May 2, 2014 by

A Note To My Grandchildren

It’s May 2, 2014 and at this point in my life, I don’t have any grandchildren. Just three wonderful teenage daughters who still are trying to figure out who and what they’re going to be in this world. Many days, even like today at my age of 48, I’m still trying to decide that myself. This morning in Arlington, I had breakfast with my long time friend and mentor, Ron Rose, and he began telling me about a work he’s writing and that prompted me to take on this simple task: Writing A Note To My Grandchildren.

But at this writing, the thing is, I do not have any grandchildren. That doesn’t matter, the Internet will be alive and well when I do and this will be cached away somewhere in cyber space for each to find and to ponder.

Point One

My Great-Grandparents, Clarence and Mamie Claxton are buried in Athens, Alabama, where they lived hard and raised many children. I go to the main cemetery in Athens anytime I’m in town to pay them my respects. Sometimes I leave my current business card on their headstone. I always say a prayer and talk to them, even though I only met my great grandmother “Momma Claxton” once that I can actually remember. We sat on her porch there in Athens with her while she shucked peas, I think.

I know so little about them and their lives. I don’t know about their sacrifices or what a normal day was like. Knowing how we Claxtons have been, they were honest and hardworking. Maybe an aunt or two of mine could tell me more, but nonetheless, this is all I remember about the Claxton side.

Of my mom’s side, I remember my great grandmother on Mom’s side, we called her Granny, and my grandpa’s mom, who could only speak Czech, we called Baba. Granny was Swedish and I remember visiting her apartment in Hobart, Indiana when we would pass thru between moves. She always seemed to have those powdered candy breath mints at her house. That was nice.

My own grandparents, Andy and Joyce Sheptak, my mom’s parents, were hard working. Grandpa was an artist and there’s a wooden carving portrait I’m sure one of your mom/aunts now have. It kind of looks like a heart and it’s a family treasure. If one of you ever get to have it, treasure it.

The artwork of the late Andy Sheptak. That's his pic below.

The artwork of the late Andy Sheptak. That’s his pic below.

Grandpa Andy wrestled with his liquid demons throughout his life but he was a great grandpa. Grandma Sheptak got bad arthritis in her latter days and died three months after your twin aunts/mom(s) were born in 1999.

Grandma Sheptak was always telling jokes. I called her on the phone all the time throughout my life and have dearly missed her being gone each and every day. In the years after she left us, I was able to draw closer to Grandpa. There were times when he would just cry. Once he said he tried some of the pain medicine she had been taking and later told his doctor he’d done so. His doctor helped Grandpa understand how strong the meds she was on really were. That greatly helped him let go of her and understand she no longer was in pain.

We buried your Great-Great-Grandpa Claxton on Sept. 10, 2001. That night, I flew back from Northern Indiana to Dallas not thinking anything significant about flying. The next day was 9/11 and I was glad to not have been stuck as I would have been away from your mom/aunts. As I write this, your dear, dear Great-Great-Grandma Claxton’s mind is withering away in the dark years of life. She was such a positive influence on me. She would bake. Made me Play Do from scratch once. And she taught me Southern delicacies like how to make gravy and chicken and dumplings. I never learned how to make her biscuits from scratch. I’m sorry. That would have been something good to have passed on.

My dad, your Great-Grandfather, still is alive, too. He’s a retired USAF B-52 pilot who helped bring to life me, three great uncles and a great aunt. My dad spent much of his career on alert in Northern Michigan ready to go attack the USSR, or he was flying, and later, in Montgomery, AL, he worked at the prestigious Air War College. He was great at military history and planning. He was happiest when he was flying. After he got out of the Air Force, he got a teaching certificate to teach high school kids algebra. He enjoyed it, but kids didn’t really want to learn and he wanted to travel.

My mom, your Great-Grandmother, raised the five of us. When your great Aunt Kim got old enough, your Great-Grandmother earned her nursing degree and then spent 20 years working at the ER in the VA in Montgomery, Alabama. She got a bunch of grandkids all of a sudden in the 1990s and insisted on being called “Be Bop.”  I have no idea why, but it stuck. If you ask your mom/aunts, they will light up when you say the name.  I promise. Even with her in Alabama and them mostly growing up in Texas, Bop still had a positive impact on their lives and they each loved her greatly.

So what was the point of all that? Simple. You now have some context of your family that’s probably not written down anywhere else and probably won’t be spoken about much when you’re reading this. I wish I had this about my Great-Great-Grandparents, so please regard this as a special treasure that I learned needed to be left behind because it was not left behind for me.

Point Two

There’s a 2013 movie called People Like Us, and in it, the lead character offers a young boy in it the six secrets to a happy life that were left to him by his father in the movie.

I’m going to repeat them for you here now:

The Six Rules

1. If you like something because you think other people are going to like it, it’s a sure bet no one will.

2. Most doors in the world are closed, so if you find one that you want to get into, you damn well better have an interesting knock. 

3. Everything that you think is important, isn’t. Everything that you think is unimportant, is.

4. Don’t s*** where you eat.

5. Lean into it. The outcome doesn’t matter. What matters is that you were there for it, whatever it is – good or bad.

6. Don’t sleep with people who have more problems than you do

These rules are simple and clear. They don’t need a lot of extra explaining. If you need some help with them, I suggest a conversation with your mom/Aunt Chandler.  She and I have talked about them. Hopefully I will have time with the twins before it’s too late.

Point Three

I don’t know if we ever will get the chance to meet, but I pray daily that we do.  I also want to encourage you to keep an open mind about your mom, dad, brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles. And your grandparents.

People at no matter what point in human history will make mistakes. Some of us fall into holes. There will be some days and some holes so deep you might think it’d be easier to reach up out of it and pull the dirt in on top of you. Other days it will feel like people, even the ones you thought were helping you, are tossing the dirt in on top of you on purpose.

Family members seem to get at odds with each other so easily and so often over the simplest of things.

Sadly, as a parent yourself many days from now, you will have to experience the tension of not talking to your mom, your dad, a brother, a sister, a son, a daughter, a grand child, etc.

Trust me. It will happen. And when it does, I encourage you to keep loving them and say and particularly write as few harsh words about them as you might. It’s going to be hard and it’s going to hurt, but keep praying for them and believing that in the end, someone is going to turn a corner and come around.  And if it needs to be you who turns the corner, do it when the time is right.

We all get forced to grow up faster and faster with each changing generation. I can not bare to think of the challenges and world you will have to face.

Point Four

Trust your faith. I have done what I can to instill it in your mom/aunts. But ultimately know how they relate to God is in their own way and as a parent, all I can do, and all they can do, is point a child in a direction we would hope they would go. Forcing doesn’t work. I’ve seen it and there are people still alive who might read this and think I was talking about them, so I shall stop there.

Point Five

Live your life honestly. Work hard. And fight like the Devil for what you believe in. The one thing people cannot take away from you in this life is your personality and your integrity. It is your job to protect both. They can pour cold water on your ideas and maybe even hold you back from time-to-time, but I encourage you to get back up and keep going. We Claxtons have seldom just had anything spectacular given to us. It’s been all work. I’m sure life is going to be very much the same for you. And remember, even if we were able to amass millions, in the end, we’re not taking any of it anywhere with us.

I’ve told your mom/aunts multiple times that Grandpa isn’t/wasn’t going to pay for any weddings for them until they each had/have set foot on at least three continents, worked in their own job, finished college and been on their own for a while. The order those things happen in is up to them, but to my dying day, I shall be suggesting the same thing to them and hopefully them to you, too.  Not doing those things is going to lead to avoidable failures, but you’ll also find, some people just have to make failures in order to actually learn something.

Final Point

My lineage ends with your mom/aunts because I wasn’t fortunate in God’s plan to have a biological son. So carrying on my legacy is left in a diluted way to you.  Know always, even as I write this in 2014, that I loved you very much, whether we are ever able to meet or not. There are many a days when I feel the presence of my three retired grandparents upon me, much as though you might feel a warm breeze touching your face as you view the passing sun at the end of the day.

I’ve asked your mom/aunts some day to leave my ashes off the beaten path near the Sentinel Dome area of Yosemite National Park in California, the side facing off toward Half Dome. To me, there is no prettier place on this earth and if you put me in a box some six feet under, I won’t be there anyways, for I shall do all in what cosmic power I have left to lift my spirit to that point anyway. Yes, I hope to be in the Heavens with our Lord, but what’s left of the physical me should be left where I have longed to spend the breadth of my days but was not able to.

Never let go of the beauty God has put into this world. Your mom/aunts can mimic for you how I would get excited about the beauty and power of the morning light, particularly at Yosemite, as beams of radiant energy from the sun pierced the treetop veil over the rocks and nature below. And as you sit along the water way at the foot of Bridalveil Fall and hear the rushing of the cold spring rapids racing toward the Merced, know that my spirit also will be there encouraging you to slow down, to stop, to breathe deeply and enjoy the beauty of what God has left us all.

Thanks for reading. I love you and your mom/aunts more than words here can tell. Love them back for me.

Grandpa “Daddy Claxton”

 

 

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Yosemite’s Merced River – How I got my iPhone 5s wet and it still works….

Jan 5, 2014 by

Yosemite‘s Merced River – How I got my iPhone 5s wet and it still works….

My iPhone 5s should NOT be working right now. It should have stopped working about 3:43 p.m. PST on 12.31.13.

I’m writing this not as a guide about what to do, but to actually report a miracle. Yosemite's Merced River

There I was. Out on the rocks along Yosemite’s beautiful Merced River. I had my Canon 60D in one hand. My iPhone 5 S was in my shirt pocket. I’d moved out along the edge of the slow flowing river in search of a shot. There really wasn’t one and so I turned to go back to the car. We’d stopped later in the day. We were the only car at this point.

And the former Ms. Julie Nelson, who was with me, hadn’t gotten out with me.  She was “napping” in the car. Tired from recent hikes and a busy week in the area. And so as I was making my way back, stepping atop this rock, quickly balancing and moving to the next I had gone about 15 feet and then … my balance turned back on the top of a rock and I knew immediately it was not going to go well.

Backwards I went.

Now having ridden mountain/dirt bikes and skated for years in Northern Michigan and then just dirt bikes in Atwater, CA as a kid, I’d taught myself some of the finer aspects of falling. You know, dropping, rolling, not landing on any one point so as to disperse the blow…. That sort of thing.

Thankfully, I was able to roll back into a sitting/laying position. And more thankfully, there were no pointed rocks. Just rounded ones and where I wound up sitting/laying in the river was more of a flattened rock. But when I hit, well, it wasn’t good. Part of my left side rolled into a small tributary of the river. I managed to keep the Canon in my right hand and above water level. But then I heard KERPLUNK. And I knew what that was. Still I checked my jeans pockets. Surely, I had just left my phone in my pants. My hand went into a part of the water where I thought I’d heard the sound. I was still on my back. I was already sore and already kinda worried I’d broken something. I was also very glad to know that I’d not banged my head, rendering me unconscious and causing me to roll into the water…. That very easily could have happened.

I called out for Julie at the top of my lungs. Still laying there on the rocks and partially in the water. I was able to look up enough to see the driver’s side window was partially opened. I yelled again. And again.

Finally, I decided it was okay to try to get up.  But I had to ensure the Canon stayed dry. And I checked my pants again. Nothing.

I looked up, and Julie was now out of the car and I’d been able to get up onto my knees. My hands when into the same pool as before. Mud.  Freezing cold water.  No iPhone.

And then I saw it, as pretty as you please.

My iPhone 5 S was about 10 inches deep in crystal mountain clear freezing cold water. It actually was a pretty sight framed around the rocks and the crystal-clear water, and terrifying at the same time.  iPhone 5Ss are not cheap to replace and there’s nothing Apple cares to do about wet phones except charge out the you know what for a new one.

In my hand went into the water, grabbing the phone.

About 10 steps closer to the shoreline, I’d rubbed it on what dry areas my pants had. And then I hit the top power button and to my surprise … the screen still worked.

A minute later I was trying to call Julie to see if a call would go thru. She could hear me. I couldn’t hear her through the built-in speaker. I put my headphones in and called my daughter. By that time Julie’d called to get dry rice ordered from Oakhurst. My iPhone 5s Case

When we got back to where we were staying, the phone went into the rice for a couple of hours.  It’s been five days now and it shows no signs of anything wrong.

Now, I do keep my iPhone 5s in a plastic case. It’s not an OtterBox. It is not supposed to make the phone water proof, though in this case, it seems to have kept the SIM card area of the phone dry. I’ve not opened it to see if the inside dot is still white or red. If it’s working, why jinx it, you know?

I’ve spent the past few days reading forums and message boards about iPhones and there’s no other story like mine. I don’t mean to rub it in. I’m just saying that part of the answer might be having a case like this that clamps tightly around the SIM card area. The speakers all work right. The headphone jack and charger jacks are working like nothing even happened.

I don’t know the brand of this iPhone 5s cover, but it was about $30 and it fits snuggly on the phone and thankfully, kept it in part from getting ruined.

And yes, I know I’m quite lucky.  In many, many ways.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Summer 2010 dreamline goal: Climbing to the top of Half Dome in Yosemite

Apr 10, 2010 by

Thanks to reading Tim Ferriss' book, The Four-Hour Workweek, I've set some new personal goals and dreams for my life. One goal for this summer? I am going to do the 18-mile hike to the top of Yosemite's Half Dome by the end of this summer.

Whew.  For an admittedly over-weight 44-year-old man right now, that may seem a little wacky, but when you get down to it, it's just the sort of thing I need to strive for.   YosemiteHalfDome

Too many points in my life of late have been scattered about.  Dreams of the happily ever after I'd longed for have ended like being in a dream and suddenly waking up and not knowing what day it is. 

And in many ways, I feel like there is just about only one direction to go right now and that direction is up.  So what's one of my favorite spots on earth?  Yosemite.  What's the visual highlight of the park?  Half Dome.

I'm not even going to worry at the moment of how I get there or how I move about when I get to the park.  All those things will fall into place over the next few months.  What I need to do now is focus my physical energies on getting my body ready for the hike and then the last bit of the climb to ascend the top of that granite icon. 

A friend suggested that might be a little difficult living on the plains here in North Texas.  Maybe so, but I'm working on that, too.  For one, my EA SPORTS Active is about to get a good dose of daily use. There also is a weight room with lots of strength equipment.  My apartment complex is rolling hills so I'm walking everywhere I go in the complex and doing less driving.  I made my last gallon of sweetened tea the other day. I'm back to drinking water and skim milk only.   No soft drinks.  No alcohol. 

I did something else healthy last night.  I went to bed at 10 p.m.  Yes, even on a Friday night.  And I didn't get up until 7 a.m. and took a nap a little later in the day.  My food consumption today has been reduced and I'm eating foods that are good for me once again.

Yosemite, I'm coming for you again in a few months.  Time to make some money, get myself back in shape and then go conquer this goal. It means that much to me.  And we all know what happens when we set a goal that seems just a little out of reach.  We work like the Dickens to make it become a reality.

So there we go.  You all know what I'm up to.  The encouragement and accountability is asked for.  Prayers are welcomed as well.  I can do this.  Wanna join me in the quest?  It's not a good thing to do alone.  The more of us who do this the better.  Are you up for the challenge? 

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Yosemite closed because of huge snowfalls, @ctemp asks if I’m stupid re #globalwarming

Jan 23, 2010 by

I don't believe in global warming.  Yes, we humans put out waste products that we shouldn't, but I think enough has been proven in recent months to show that many of our so-called "Climate Experts" have been cooking the books over the last 20-30 years and the whole damn thing is a hoax.   DaddyClaxton Blue Fl Hat 1

Sure, we could all do a better job of protecting mother earth.  And I do my part.  I do my best to conserve energy by turning off lights in the house, turning up the thermostats in the summer and down in the winter.  We do some recycling.  I have planted more than 40 trees on our lot here at the house since we moved in in 2006.  I do what I can to plant fresh flowers every spring, and get really pissed at jerks who throw trash out on to the roadways. 

Heck, I even called former Montgomery Mayor Emory Folmar once when two of his park rangers through cellophane cigarette wrappers out their windows at Buckboard and the Boulevard back in 1989.  The Mayor went into he who casts the first stone mode and I told him that we in the governor's office were very conscious about polluting and were part of the Don't Drop It On Alabama campaign.  He said he wanted to make sure "because two park rangers are going to get their butts chewed out over this."

But that said, I don't believe in global warming.  Like all things in life in this world, I think there is a time when things are going to go through cycles where it gets a little warm now, and it gets a little cooler later.  We've had ice ages, we have hot times on this planet and it appears to some we're headed into a new hot period, and to others, it appears that little is changing.

So today, when I opened my email, I found a note from Yosemite Blog saying that my favorite place on earth, Yosemite National Park, is actually closed.  CLOSED.  Maybe this has happened previously, but I've been a pretty close follower of things going on in my favorite place in the world and that's the first time I've heard that.  I know it can snow heavily there.  We were snowed in at our favorite retreat for two days in December of 2007 and that was really more of a light snow.   Ahwahnee

I made a tweet and referenced global warming this morning and @CTemp asked me if I was "Kidding or stupid."  I don't really care for such arrogance and a personal attack in tweets, so he's about to get blocked, but it just shows to go ya that if you question the validity of the myth of global warming, it nets personal attacks. 

Maybe @CTemp could have been nicer and said, well, here is my Web site where I have data that's not been doctored by the Climate Experts and I'd really like for you to consider this.  But he didn't.  And most of the global warming types I've encountered have chosen to make their attacks personal. And that's truly a shame because I believe in the possibilities of a healthy conversation.

So, @CTemp, if you would like to post a rationale explanation and information here, I'd invite that.  Let's leave the personal attacks, namely, implying that I might be stupid, to something else.  I'm a daddy blogger, if you haven't noticed and my kids read my blog.  Do you really think it's a positive thing for you to be suggesting that their dad is stupid?

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