Monday, November 25, 2013
As we enter this festive time of year, I want to go against popular Christian rhetoric and say that it's okay to use the phrase Happy Holidays. In fact, I think our stance against this phrase is part of the reason groups are so adamant about removing manger scenes and religious carols from public places.
Within six weeks, people in this country will celebrate Thanksgiving, Hannukah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Boxing Day, Epiphany, New Years, and a whole host of other celebrations that I'm not even aware of. It takes a lot of gall for us to expect retailers to tell all of those people Merry Christmas.
It also displays a lack of sensitivity to insist on telling our Jewish friends Merry Christmas when we know they celebrate Hannukah. It's like people coming up and wishing you Happy Birthday! on your anniversary. You're glad that they want you to have a good day, but you really don't feel like they care enough to know you or take the time to personalize the sentiment.
Does this mean saying Merry Christmas is wrong? No! Of course not. If someone I didn't know wished me Happy Hannuah, I would thank them for the sentiment and acknowledge what it is - a wish for this time of year to be a good one. Now if they wished me Happy Kwanzaa, I might look at them a little funny, but I'd still thank them.
This is the season of Christ's birth. Christ didn't force people to believe in Him. He opens his arms and welcomes any and all who come, but He doesn't force them.
We need to stop expecting people who don't worship the birth of Christ to wish us a Merry Christmas. Instead we need to show them the love of Christ by loving them right where they are.
Even if they wish us Happy Holidays.
Tuesday, November 19, 2013
There's good and bad things to this.
The bad thing is that if a song sparks an inappropriate thought or sad emotion, it can be difficult to get rid of it. On the other hand, music's inherent ability to marinate in your brain makes it a great source for inspiration.
Whenever I'm working on a new manuscript, I turn to music to help me get to know my characters. I usually end up with a playlist of about ten songs that helps me define the main characters' arcs. I play it while I'm planning and writing and it helps with my character consistency.
It's not often I find a song to inspire my writing career as a whole, but recently I did. I think it's been out for a while and I've even heard it before, but I really listened to it a few weeks ago. It's now my theme song for my writing as a whole.
tobyMac: Steal My Show
You don't have to be pursuing a career in the public eye for the message of this song to resonate with you. Take time this week to let God have center stage in your life no matter what you're doing.
Monday, November 11, 2013
Right now, a woman named Judy Tyrer is creating a way for you to do just that.
The game is Ever, Jane and it's an online role-playing game. What that means is that you go online and create a character to live in this virtual world. You interact with other characters, try to better your character's position, and basically immerse yourself in this fictional world.
[caption id="attachment_371" align="aligncenter" width="584"] The current character selections for the demo program. Character customization is expected to be part of the final project.[/caption]
Online role-playing games have been around for a while, but they mostly deal with fighting and the like. Ever, Jane takes that concept and drops it into a village in the English countryside during the Regency.
A Chat With The Creator
I had a chance to sit down with Judy Tyrer and talk about her new venture. The interview is a bit long, but gives a great deal of information about the game. You can also scroll down for my initial thoughts on playing the game, the potential of the project, and why this is such a cool KickStarter project.
Why did you choose Regency England for your role playing game?
The Regency period is fascinating because of the way society clung to traditions. The upper classes were terrified after the French Revolution and instead of opening society, they locked it down. The social traditions provide a wonderful backdrop for a game allowing people to build status by doing all the socially correct things (morning visits, leaving cards, having just the right depth of bow or curtsy for the circumstances, etc).
I completely agree! This is one of the reasons I love writing in this time period. The accuracy is, of course, important for immersing yourself in a historic culture. What types of research did you do to construct an accurate Regency World?
I am still doing research and need to do a lot more. The game was based on the novels themselves in terms of setting up the rules. Beyond that I have a bevy of books from "Jane Austen: The Illustrated Treasury", "The Jane Austen Handbook", "What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew" (though I left it somewhere and need a new copy), "Jane Austen: Game Theorist" (not history, but fascinating), "Jane Austen: Good Manners", "Georgette Hyer's Regency World" and of course all of her letters as well as her novels.
In addition I have Annabel, who lives in London and whose ancestress lived during this period (a book is about to come out on her I believe, she was reading proofs at one point) and has a treasure of interesting personal family stories and insights. I often search the web, of course, and wikipedia is always a good source for references (I don't trust the articles as much, but they always link lots of great resources to check out).
I have some of those books! How will the game allow users to immerse themselves in Jane Austen's world?
[caption id="attachment_372" align="alignright" width="289"] Interacting with one of the other characters.[/caption]
Ever, Jane provides a sandbox based on Regency Period England in which they can meet other characters and develop their own stories together. Gameplay is based around a set of personality traits. So the first decision a player makes is what kind of character they want to play. Well they choose status above all else as Mr. Collins or will they choose Happiness, as Marianne does? But you must also choose what to sacrifice to improve. Mr. Collins would probably have sacrificed Happiness while Marianne certainly would sacrifice Duty. These initial choices set the tone for your character and help you make decisions.
We currently have invitations and gossip in the prototype. Invitations allow you to raise whatever trait you are working on, but requires strategic thinking. You need to understand the motivations of the character you are inviting for if you try to improve your status with someone who holds you in disdain and either rejects or begrudgingly accepts out of duty, your status may decrease instead of increase.
Gossip allows you to relay events from the world in a way that can either boost your friend's reputations or destroy those of your enemies. You can embellish the truth or, as Mr. Wickham does, outright lie. This pulls player into the story further as they must participate in events in order to have things to gossip about. If a player is being gossiped about sufficiently, they will get a notice that someone is looking at them strange, or other hints that will let them begin to wonder who is saying what about them. If I am lying about you and you find out, by asking one of the people I lied to, then whatever damage I was trying to do to you, perhaps lowering your status, will comeback twofold on me, lowering my status instead. And the more people who hear about the lie, the more devastating the results. I shall probably have to move to another village where no one knows me.
We are adding dinner parties, where status is shown by who enters the room first and who sits next to whom. These are wonderful events for gathering gossip. They will have mini-games such as cards and other parlor games fitting the times.
And we are adding balls where everyone will be hoping to dance with the suitor of their choice. The balls will require correct gowns, carriages, sufficient dance instruction, etc. There will be spontaneous balls after dinner parties, small country balls, servant's balls (they like to dance too), and the grand balls at the estate. If we get sufficient funding to add Bath and Brighton, we will add public balls.
The gentry starts Ever, Jane at either Mr. Button's School for Boys or Mrs. Hatch's School for Girls where they learn the necessary skills for coming out and entering society. From there they can travel back to their home villages.
Immersion itself comes from the story and the involvement you have with other players. My current character is at Mrs. Hatch's because that is where her two older sisters went. She will likely spend the first few days homesick and meeting friends that will help her take her mind off her family. I hope she finds a partner in crime who will bend the rules with her as she has never much cared for being the goodie two-shoes types her sisters are. She has chosen Happiness and could care less about her Reputation. I suspect she'll be losing more Status than she gains over time unless she matures.
Other than the upper KickStarter levels, will there be a way to attain higher status such as titles and estates?
Estates and Titles are available for purchase or as part of a higher level subscription. The economy is not yet designed, but as one raises in status, one's income increases making it easier to support more servants and family members. Our idea is to leverage the hierarchy of the world with a hierarchical subscription model and augment that with the ability to purchase items that aren't in your subscription level if you want for a special occasion. I don't want to limit players abilities to participate based on real world wealth, so we will need to have some form of advancement through the merchant class, perhaps requires a generation to move up into the upper gentry.
A Trip Through The Basic Game
You can download the basic game from the KickStarter project page. I took about an hour to play around and see what the game was like.
[caption id="attachment_373" align="alignleft" width="358"] A view of gameplay with the scenery in the background.[/caption]
While I play multiple styles of computer games, I've never been interested in the first person role play games. (Those are the games where you see as if you are the person. If you've ever played Sims, you know you can see all the characters from an aerial view. In Ever, Jane and games like it, you see as the character.) Learning the controls is taking a bit getting used to, but is becoming more second nature.
I walked around a bit. Learned about writing invitations and the like. Then I took a walk with a group of other players. We viewed some of the countryside and had a chat. Imagine a really involved chat room where you get to create a Regency persona. It was more fun than I expected it to be as we talked about views on love and marriage, Napoleon, and America's recent addition of Louisiana.
I suppose I must confess that I had to open a side window and Google some things to make sure I was getting my history in order.
I haven't yet gotten to spend enough time in the game to see much about the invitations or the gossip actions, but it is a lot of fun pretending to be walking around in the early 1800s.
Since many things are still in development, there isn't a whole lot to do, but the potential is very evident.
If you aren't familiar with KickStarter, it's a crowdfunding application that allows people to seek funding for their projects. People put an idea up on the site and they have 30 days to reach their funding target. Ever, Jane is just such a project.
They have created a demo to allow people to see the potential of the project, but they are currently seeking the funding to create the full scale game. You can see the KickStarter project page here.
Why It's Awesome
I'll be honest in that I don't know how much I'll get into Ever, Jane as a player. I've never played the role-playing games like before, so it might not be my cup of tea. But there's a reason it's worth supporting even if you don't think you'll play the game.
You can read more about the unusualness of a female oriented game written by female programmers in this GeekMom article. But the gist of it is that this game is breaking new ground. If there are more female oriented games and programs, there might be more girls interested in coding and programming.
I have a degree in Computer Science, and I can tell you, there weren't many girls in my classes. Even fewer in my field. It's been a while since I pounded out syntax instead of synonyms, but I remember the days well.
It's also a brilliant way to reach an entirely new group of people with the charms and awesomeness of the Regency period. I'm always a fan of that.
So check out Ever, Jane. And if you see Regina Audley walking around the village, be sure to say hi! (That's me!)
Friday, November 8, 2013
1. Remember the Underlying Message of Words
* This post I saw on Ashley Clements' tumblr is really interesting as it goes into the underlying meaning of a single sentence. As an author, the impression that words give of a person's attitude and motivations is extremely important. Click on the pic to go to Ashley's tumblr for the full post.
* Given that words have such meaning, let's make sure the words we write and say are worthwhile.
2. Remember to Be Yourself
Every author is different. They have their own voice, views, and style. Whether in writing or in life it is SO important to remember that you are an individual.
3. Remember to Take Care of Yourself - Body, Mind, and Spirit
* I, too, went a full week with taking my vitamins. This is an amazing accomplishment! The Hubs is so proud of me.
* The mentality I wished I'd had at school and the one I need now. I have so many opportunities to further my writing education and I don't utilize them.
4. Remember to Find (and Focus On) the Good
5. Remember to Have Fun
* On tumblr, there's been a 50 Days of Doctor Who challenge. I haven't been participating or following it much, but this one... I want this one to happen:
*And a good giggle now and then never hurts.
Monday, November 4, 2013
What is the pull of a series? The world. When the author has multiple books to work across, they have time to build a world of characters and culture that readers love to visit repeatedly.
Side characters that would normally be shallow and nearly meaningless gain more depth and appeal as they appear across multiple books.
In romances, readers get the opportunity to glance at their favorite couples' happily ever afters even as they watch the next couple fall in love. The deeper the world and tighter knit the characters, the more it feels like coming home.
So what is the key element to tie a series of books into the same world?
I watched my first Marvel superhero last year. The hubs and I were granted a rare weekend to ourselves. It didn't work out for us to go anywhere for the weekend, so we decided to just have movie night at home. We watched The Avengers and I was hooked. The weekend turned into a movie marathon and we watched Thor, Captain America, Iron Man, Iron Man 2, and The Incredible Hulk. Iron Man 3 was between theater and rentability at the time so we didn't watch it.
More recently we started watching Agents of SHIELD on television.
That was when I realized the true strength of the world Marvel was building. Samuel L. Jackson was on my TV screen and I wasn't watching a movie. Granted he was on there for only moments. It probably wasn't more than one day on set for him, but just that little touch tied the show so closely to the movies that you knew you were in the same world.
I would have thought that Phil Coulson, being a main character in both The Avengers and the television show would have been enough, but it was Nick Fury that really connected them for me.
For authors, I think that proves the importance of the side characters in building a world. It isn't enough to take a secondary character from one book and make them the main character in the next book. It's the little people moving in the background that really put your stories in the same world.
If you've followed me for a while you know I'm a big Julia Quinn fan. She has a remarkable example of a minor character making it evident that all your characters swirl around in the same fictional pot.
Lady Danbury appears as an eccentric, sentimental old lady in How To Marry a Marquis. She then pops up for a page or two throughout the Bridgerton series and the Smythe-Smith series. If you read all of Julia Quinn's books then you know and love Lady Danbury and seeing her again makes you smile. If you only read the one book, she provides a splash of comic relief in the guise of the wisecracking matriarch that you both fear and love.
Lady Danbury and Nick Fury are both stereotypical enough that you can feel like you know them in a just a few moments, yet developed enough over time that they feel real.
That is what you need in the background of your series. Secondary characters that the reader of a single book can appreciate but regular readers can love. Build a couple of those into your series and see a greater depth in your fictional world.
Friday, November 1, 2013
1. Remember to be inspired.
[caption id="attachment_332" align="alignleft" width="250"] Amazing Catch. Stuns even the batter.[/caption]
I pulled this gif from Hank Green's tumblr. (See the post here.) I love the awesomeness of this. Everyone is stunned that he makes this catch.
Aside from it being cool, it's a message for how important it is to practice and drill so that your reflexive reactions are right. The pitcher didn't have time to think about that catch. It was a reflex.
Who doesn't love a good underdog story? Go over to John Green's tumblr to see more about the story of a football (soccer) team in England that worked their way up to the professional league. Watch the video. Seriously. I think the announcers start crying. Besides, where else can you here an announcer claim to have soiled himself while narrating a game?
2. Remember Who You Are
3. Remember to Giggle
I did this. I might have nightmares now.
4. Remember to keep perspective.
Seriously. Who picked November for this crazy endeavor?!? Why not January or March? At least a month with 31 days.
5. Remember to get excited and have fun.
Did I finish it before I went to bed that night? You betcha.
What have you done this week that fits these categories?
Monday, October 28, 2013
But I know that every year, I pack them with my children. Every year I cry as I pray over those boxes. I read the stories of impacted lives and my heart soars. They cross my mind when I see toys on clearance after Christmas, when the crayons are 25 cents a box each August.
If you don't know about Operation Christmas Child and the shoeboxes, you can find out a lot at the website. The basic idea is to take a shoebox and pack it full of things like school supplies, hygiene products, and toys. Send that shoebox to a child in a less fortunate area of the world. Along with the wonderful goodies in the box, each child gets the opportunity to hear the Gospel of Christ.
I've done other Christmas charities in the past - Angel tree, adopt-a-family, Toys for Tots. They're great and worthy programs and people's lives are enriched through them, but for me it's ultimately the shoeboxes.
[caption id="attachment_327" align="aligncenter" width="949"] The shoeboxes being dedicated at church this past Sunday.[/caption]
Look at those boxes. Each one represents a child. A child that probably won't get anything else for Christmas this year or even for their birthday.
The best part of each of those boxes is the amount of love crammed in amongst the pencils and candy. It fills every crevice and space, settling between the crayons and toy cars, filling the balls, and resting between the soap and the toothpaste. I know in my house, the packing of the boxes is an epic event, done with the greatest care and loving intentions.
A small bundle, a tiny container, sent with love and the hope that the receiver will accept God's ultimate gift of salvation.
I think that's why I like the shoeboxes. They help us remember that Christmas is about a very small gift given with the largest of intentions and the biggest love of all. A baby in a manger, so small, so seemingly insignificant when compared to the stacks of Christmas presents I and most of my friends are used to having.
A manger, like a shoebox, was designed to hold something basic. But God used a manger, like He uses a shoebox, to deliver a gift so precious. That's the beautiful thing about love - it's condenses so easily into tiny packages.
So many times it's the little things that have the greatest impact.
I know it's October and even mentioning the word Christmas makes a lot of people scream, but the collection date for shoeboxes is coming up soon. Not only is it an easy way to potentially change a child's life, it's a great reminder before hitting to size and busyness of the holiday season.
For me, it sometimes becomes so easy to get caught up in giving more and more to those you love because you want them to feel that love. But when I pack a shoebox, I have to pack with such care and intention because the space is limited.
I want my days to be like that. Because a day is limited. A day is small.
Pack today with love.
Thursday, October 24, 2013
1. Things that reminded me people are awesome:
- This article about Dilbert creator Scott Adams responding to a one star review for his new book. Seriously great way to keep a sense of humor in the face of haters.
- This tweet from Josh Taylor (Blimey Cow):
- This guy who broke a world record for doing two things I can't do at the same time: knitting and running a marathon. Yes. You read that right.
- These pictures (Drawn by Isaiah Stephens and seen on a tumblr post by Ashley Clements). Lots of people are drawing pictures these days and I often see them posted around tumblr. A popular subject is fictional female characters drawn with ridiculously curvy bodies and tight, scanty clothing. What makes this set different is that these really well drawn pictures manage to utilize those aspects without creating overly sexualized images. Bravo, Isaiah Stephens.
2. Things that made me go Hmmmm...
This one is from Facebook, so I left the person's name out.
3. Things that made me go hehehe
This was retweeted by someone... don't remember who. I don't actually know this person, but I applaud his idea!
Who doesn't love a grammar joke?
4. Things that made me go YEA!!!
- Sherlock US release date is announced. January 19th! Woohoo!
- The Day of the Doctor is going to be shown in theaters in 3D. Tickets weren't on sale yet when I wrote this post, so I don't know yet if I'll have tickets, but the fact that it's even happening is pretty awesome.
5. Speaking of Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Stuff...
- Okay, yes, this is actually something I posted, but still... hilarious and awesome! Walking through the mall and this is the mannequin in Express. Very little doubt who influenced that fashion selection.
- This is a pretty cool article about what makes the TARDIS different than other sci-fi ships and why that's awesome.
- Finally this image released to celebrate the 50th Anniversary. It just looks cool.
[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="461"] This image from Doctor Who's Official Tumblr[/caption]
What was your favorite thing this week?
Monday, October 21, 2013
Where is this awesome, magical sand from?
Originally, it's from the fictional Unpubbed Island of Seekerville fame. If you don't know, Seekerville is an awesome blog for writers, particularly those who are not yet published. The idea is that aspiring writers reside on Unpubbed Island, trying to sail off into the sea of published novels. If you're a writer you should check it out.
More importantly though, the sand came from a friend of mine. She's been a friend of the Seekerville crew for a long time. They blessed her with a bottle of sand while she was struggling to get published. It wasn't long before she sold her first book.
A few months ago, my friend gave me her Unpubbed Island sand. She told me she believed in me and my writing, asked to be my mentor, and prayed for me.
That tangible reminder that someone who is in the business and knows what they're doing believes in me and what I'm trying to do is a powerful motivator when things get tough.
Never underestimate the power of a mentor. Don't be afraid to look to those ahead of you on your journey - they've been there, done that, and learned a few things along the way. And don't be too busy to look behind, either. There's a lot of benefit in offering a helping hand.
Thursday, October 17, 2013
Memorable Media Moments ~ Week of October 12
Some of my favorite Social Media shares of the past week:
1. Emma Approved
This actually started last week, but I wasn't doing roundups last week, so here it is! The long-awaited next book adaptation from Bernie Su and Hank Green (and a lot of other people, I'm not really sure who all is in on production.)
2. Doctor Who 50th Awesomeness
As November 23rd draws nearer, the Whovians are celebrating. Some of my fave moments this week:
~ The Day of the Doctor stills. Yes I got excited about pictures. John Hurt at the TARDIS controls = awesome anticipation.
~ This post about Martha. I actually liked Martha as a companion. I thought this was a good write-up about why she was awesome during her time.
3. The Things That Made Me Giggle
4. Things that Make Me Go Hmmm...
~ Also this: the most awesome customer service exchange on a live chat application ever. This is definitely a win. What if we all handled our problems with this kind of attitude?
~ Prologue and First Chapter of Julia Quinn's new book! I think this has actually been up for a while, but I just discovered it this week, so yea! Book comes out in a couple of weeks. That will be exciting as well.
~ Laurie Alice Eakes' new Regency released this week and we're partying over at Regency Reflections! Loving that the Inspiration Regency market is growing.
Monday, July 1, 2013
This is one of mine.
What's on your bucket list? Have you done anything off of it?
Friday, May 17, 2013
A picture of marbled nail polish really intrigued me. I decided to try it out. The results are less than impressive.
Have you ever attempted the marble polish? Did it go better for you? What's the last thing you tried from Pinterest?
You can check out my other Pinterest boards as well.
Monday, May 13, 2013
(Yes, I need to work on shortening my videos. No, I didn't realize there was a giant Pop Tarts box behind me until I was editing.)
What do you think? Are you a yes, no, or sort of?
Friday, May 10, 2013
Sunday, May 5, 2013
What do I really want to do with social media? Dis I have a blog just because I was "supposed to"? (The answer turned out to be yes, by the way.)
So after a lot of prayer and a bit of brainstorming, I'm setting out in a new direction. One that will, I hope, take me where I want to go. Without further ado, I present my vlog:
I hope you'll come with me as I change mediums and we talk about some fun things. If you go to my contact page, you'll see all the links to my various social media platforms. Stop by and say hi or let me know something you would like to have as a weekly conversation topic.
Thanks for stopping by.
Tuesday, March 19, 2013
So the new time focus is really paying off. I hope you will subscribe to this blog so you'll catch it when I write something that I actually find interesting and think will be of benefit to you.
In the meantime, get on over to Regency Reflections because we're having a contest! There's a brand new book out and we've got trivia, author interviews, and a chance to win an Amazon gift card. Yea!
Tuesday, March 5, 2013
Whatever the reason, death, even of someone not particularly close to us, makes us think. Are doing what we need to do? What things clutter my life that add little value? What kind of legacy am I leaving behind if I'm the one that up and dies tomorrow?
There's been a lot of death on the fringes of my life in the last two weeks. I've been blessed that those closest to me are in good health and still with me, but for many that I care about, death has touched their lives in penetrating ways.
The biggest thing about all these deaths is that none of them were expected. A car accident. A heart attack. Sudden kidney failure. Some within days, others within hours, another almost instantaneously. Gone from this world.
I must say it's led to a lot of introspection. There's a few things I've decided.
1. My time needs to be better spent.
I waste a lot of time. I am my own worst saboteur. I could create a lot more value by allocating my time better. One thing I'm doing is cutting this blog down to once a week. I have a limited amount of blogging time a week. While I love my readers, there's only about ten of you. My other blog has about 200. My limited time is better spent over there, for now.
Another thing I'm doing is reinstating my daily routine. I've let it slip with the doctor's visits and such that we've had in my family lately. It's time to bring it back. Get things under control so I can maintain them and do the special things I really want to do.
2. Tomorrow isn't a guarantee.
I know this. It isn't a new concept, but it's one I forget all too often. I want my book published. I want a writing career. But I've tarried in taking the next steps because I'm afraid - Both of rejection and success. I'm not guaranteed tomorrow. If there are things I want to accomplish, they have to be done today.
That includes things with my family. If I want to be the one to teach my daughter how to handle her rioting emotions or bake a cake or count money, I have to do it today. I may not have tomorrow with her.
3. My legacy is in jeopardy.
I've joked about my lack of housecleaning skills before. But the truth is, if I were to die today, the first thing a lot of people would notice is the wreck of my house when they came to visit my family and I would be remembered for the absence of that skill. I don't want that to be my legacy.
Too often the last thing my daughter heard before she went to school was me urging her to hurry and get her stuff together. What if she didn't come home? Is that the last of my words I want in her head? I'm taking time now when I part from my family - whether they are leaving or I am - the last words we say are caring and uplifting. I love you. God loves you. Things like that.
Time is short. Sadly, in a few months, I'll probably forget these lessons. But today I'm writing them down in an attempt to make them stick. Because one day death will hit a little closer. And then it will be too late to learn them.
Tuesday, February 26, 2013
This past month, I did a serial story with the other ladies of Regency Reflections and I realized how much better I write now than I did when I plodded through my first draft a few years ago. A lot of that growth is due to the writers' groups I have joined.
If you have something you enjoy, be it writing, cycling, reading or anything else, I highly encourage you to find a group that meets about it. The camaraderie I have formed with these other writers is immeasurably valuable to me.
Why are these specialized groups so important?
[caption id="attachment_251" align="alignright" width="300"] Me and Lindi Peterson at last year's M&M Conference.[/caption]
Let's say you love photography. You are perfectly happy spending twenty minutes taking pictures of the same thing, adjusting aperture, f-stops, and white balance until you get the perfect picture. Your non-photography enthusiast friends love your work, but couldn't care less about all the minute details you want to share and gush about.
Enter a group of other photographers. If you meet with other photographers, they will get it. Not only will they get it, they'll enjoy talking about it. They'll also have ideas on how to improve your pictures and you will have ideas for them.
Meeting with others that share your passion improves your own skills - and it saves your family and friends from desperately trying to appear interested in something they really couldn't care less about.
No time to attend meetings? Get online! There are email loops and groups and forums for everything! Some of my closest writer friends are only in my inbox. That doesn't make our connection any less valuable.
Do you belong to any groups? How have you benefited from hanging out with those that share your passions?