Simon Paul Wilson Interviewed Me at Quirky Fiction   Leave a comment

So, the month of May is drawing to a close. Blimey, where does the time go?

Anyway, time to post my least interviews of this busy month.

Today, I have the pleasure of introducing Lela Markham, author of ‘The Willow Branch’ and ‘Life As We Knew It’.

Author pic ditch

Lela is a fellow writer from the Breakwater Harbor Books clan and was one of the first to give me a warm welcome.

As per usual, I hope you folks out there enjoy the interview and will go support another excellent writer!

Here we go…

When did you decide that writing was the thing for you?

My mom said I told stories from the time I could talk, so I must have been around 2. Long winters in Alaska meant a lot of time hanging out in the basement, so I would make up stories to entertain myself and my friends. My 5th grade teacher made me write down one of my stories. I hated the process – way too contrived for me – but it ignited a passion that I couldn’t turn off. I’ve been a journalist, a technical writer, and an editor, but my avocation has always been storyteller.

I think long winters can be very productive for a writer :)

Tell me a little about your latest book.

Life as We Knew It is an apocalyptic tale that asks what would happen to ordinary if the United States were hit by nuclear terrorism, destroying transportation and communications hubs. The larger events of terrorism are the background for an intimate story of people trying to survive. This is Book 1 of the Transformation Project, which hit Amazon in March, so we will return to visit the people of Emmaus in about a year. Look for Objects to the Rear.

Front Cover LAWKI no window

Out of all your characters, which one do you relate to the most?

In the Daermad Cycle (which Book 1, The Willow Branch, was published last year), one of the main characters is Ryanna. I modeled her physically after my daughter (a tall, strong, slender dancer, which isn’t me), but I realized recently when writing some scenes for her that I had unconsciously used a lot of myself in her character. She’s caught between two races, comfortable with both, not loving the prejudices of either, a woman of faith who occasionally argues with her god, a young fool who has grown In wisdom as she has matured. I’m part American Indian, raised to be proud of all of my heritage and I see both sides of my heritage as both good and bad. My faith is complex and I am still growing as a person even now.

Willow Branch Blue White Recreation Cover

Do you listen to music when writing? If so, what kind and why?

I do and depends on what genre I’m writing or what the tone of the scene is. For example, writing the Daermad Cycle (a Celtic influenced epic fantasy) I listen to a lot of Celtic music – wild tunes for action scenes, gentler tunes for more intimate scenes. Transformation Project has a lot of rock music playing in my ear phones. I try to create a mood in my head with the music that helps me to envision the scenes. Since I write at home while the family is living life sometimes in the same room, it also helps to screen out the distractions.

Yeah, music does help to screen out distractions. Sadly, it is only partially successful!

What novelty item would you like to see spawned from your novels?

Wow, I had never thought of that before as I’m not much of a consumer. There’s a novel I’m working on that is about grief, loss and guilt. It’s provisionally titled “What If … Wasn’t” and the main character’s full tag line is “I’m living in what is.” Coffee cups, t-shirts, plaques – if I wanted to teach the world anything about reality it would be that we ought to live in reality and stop thinking the world is fair, because it’s not. What if wasn’t … so let’s live with what is.

What motivates you to put pen to paper (or fingers to keys)?

Characters show up from time to time to tell me their stories. I might as well write them down. If along the way, I can write about some of my beliefs in narrative form, then maybe I’ve made the world a slightly better place – or at least warned it about the messes that it’s making.

 Nice answer :)

Which book do you wish you had written?

There’s a lot of writers I admire for many diverse reasons and I enjoy their books greatly, but I am comfortable with not being them or writing their books. If I had to name my absolutely favorite book – The Young Unicorns by Madelaine L’Engle. Every time I go back to read it, I am incredibly impressed with how good it is.

The best thing about being a writer is…

Writers live dozens of lives without ever leaving the comfort of their living rooms. That can be said of readers too, but writers get to create the worlds we visit. That’s what I love about it.

I couldn’t agree more. 

The worst thing is …

The way non-writers really don’t get the writing process. Even readers who are very enamored of our books seem not to get that you don’t just sit down and crank out a good book as easily as they read that book. I have to suppress the eye roll when people ask “Are you finished yet?”


What next from Lela Markham?

I’m in Daermad Cycle mode right now. I’m working on Mirklin Wood, which is the sequel to The Willow Branch and also working on a short story for a Breakwater Harbor Books anthology that will be a stand-alone in the Daermad Cycle universe. That’s been interesting to write because it’s my first short story in 25 years, so it’s sort of like remembering how to ride a bike. Hopefully, I’ll be done writing both by August so I can start the editing process for Mirklin Wood, which I hope will publish by the end of the year.

Front Cover

Thanks for the interview, Lela! 

Here comes Lela’s bio and links:

Lela Markham is a pen name. I grew up in Alaska in a house built of books. Long winter nights meant a lot of time in the basement curled up with books or acting out what we’d recently read. It was a great environment to breed a writer. I told stories from the time I could talk. A teacher made me write one down in 5th grade and that ignited a passion in me that has never gone out. Alaska is a grand adventure like none other with a culture that embraces summer adventure and winter artistic pursuits. I’ve been a journalist, worked in the mental health field, and currently work for the State of Alaska, but my avocation has always been storyteller. My husband is extremely adventurous, my kids are fearless so we spend a lot of time hiking into the woods where be dragons — another excellent experience for a writer.

The Willow Branch (Book 1 of Daermad Cycle)
Life As We Knew It (Book 1 of Transformation Project)
Book Page (FB) The Willow Branch
Book Page (FB) Transformation Project

Posted May 28, 2015 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

Minority fighting for Alaskans on budget – Fairbanks Daily News-Miner: Community Perspectives   Leave a comment

I completely disagree with Rep. Kito. The minority wants to hit pause on any economic development in Alaska to fund programs that have shown themselves to be short-term boondoggles that have zero return on investment. We don’t need more people in Alaska sitting on one welfare roll or another. We need people working and growing our state.

Minority fighting for Alaskans on budget – Fairbanks Daily News-Miner: Community Perspectives.

Medicaid expansion will cover working Alaskans making up to $54,000 (for a family of four) who must currently pay a premium employer provided medical insurance. Many of these people are State of Alaska employees who pay $200 a month for insurance.

Let’s think about that. $54,000 a year, $2400 a year in premiums — they need “free” medical care???? The cost to the state under the current federal scheme seems reasonable until you remember that the federal government is $18 trillion in debt and currently borrowing more than 25% of its annual budget. What happens when reality sets in?

Alaska will be on the hook for the full cost of this program and probably unable to opt out. That’s billions of dollars. Which means this is a program that will eat the state budget, chew up the Permanent Fund and leave us with NOTHING.

Posted May 28, 2015 by aurorawatcherak in Alaska

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Interview with Alan Place   1 comment

Alan PlaceToday’s interview is with Alan Place, extremely prolific author from the United Kingdom.

Before I start, I would like to thank Lela for this opportunity to tell you about my work.
On viewing my various pages on book selling sites, you would get the impression that I’m prolific – I was. I was more prolific than it appears at first glance, many of my books are collections of stories; the award winning Chronicles of Mark Johnson is a good example. The first book in the series, is eight short stories combined. I haven’t done much recently. It is isn’t writer’s block – I never get that – I have lots of stories to write. My problem is more personal, depression.
Tell us about yourself, Alan.
I was born in North Yorkshire – the county has changed its name since – to me it will always be North Yorkshire. My mother’s family are fishermen in the North Sea. I dedicated my last novella – A Sailor’s Love – to the people who live/ work on the coasts, and in the fishing industry. One of my uncles was in the lifeboat service, and was involved in a big rescue of the mouth of the river Tees. I put a fictional account of this rescue in my book Lifeboat Heroes. The accident at the beginning happened to another of my late uncles.
After leaving college I joined the Royal Air Force, during my six-year term I was posted to Germany, and Ireland. I was in Ireland at the time of the Maze Prison hunger strikes. When I left the RAF, I got a job in the Bristol Museums service for 14 years, before I was laid off with depression after my father passed away; since then (20 years ago) I have been unemployed. Owing to an inherited illness I am now classed as legally disabled, and will soon be housebound as my illness progresses.
I’ve lived in the Bristol area since I was 7 – we moved when my father got a job down here – and I’ve lived in Bristol since I got married in 1985. Our family consists of me, my wife, Linda, our five children, and my stepson. We are a cat family, and have several rescued furry family members, as well as four dogs.
Before my injury, I used to be an avid gardener, and for many years grew Fuchsias. I do miss my gardening, but as I can’t stand for long, gardening is a thing of the past. I used to be a reasonable amateur photographer for many years, and rarely went anywhere with a camera close. Many of my friends will tell you that I don’t boast about my successes as a writer, which is true, I rarely sing my own praises. I think it is better to have someone else tell people who good you are
What was the first story you wrote and how old were you?
I had my first published story when I was in my teens, it was printed in a UK men’s magazine called Knave. The story was about a young couple making love on a bus on their way home. I’ve had many articles printed, in various types of magazine from motor sports to country music. Four years ago I had what was to become my most popular ghost story published on line –The Old Church ghosts – was published in a special Halloween edition of Vintage Script magazine.
When did you decide you wanted to be a published author?
I think I got my first thought of being a writer when I was about 6. The first book I read – The Silver Sword – made a huge impact on me. In the time in between life took over until my injury four years ago, when I became disabled with a torn tendon; it was then I started to rethink my approach to writing.
I couldn’t pin down a genre in your books. Do you have a preferred genre?
I gained a rep for writing ghost stories four years ago I prefer to think of my stories as spiritual stories, they are more about lost souls trying to come to peace, than scaring people. My big success is in the Sci-Fi genre, where the Forgestriker series is a huge hit on Barnes & Noble Nobody is more surprised than me, I hadn’t written Sci-Fi until last year.
I don’t have a preferred genre, I see myself as a writer, and I can change my style to suit what I feel like writing at the time. One of my current stories is a wartime romance/mystery spanning the 1930’s. I also wrote a series of PI stories which were praised by a former Queensland police sergeant, and my short Medieval story To Elfenmere was praised by a lady with a BA in medieval studies.
What are you passionate about?
I love nature in all its forms, when I thought I was going to die – Christmas 2013 – my view on life changed. Little things people take for granted, wind on your face, rain, and listening to birds talking came to mean a lot more to me. I am not against any religion, but I am against people who try to force their views on me. I am not racist, but I believe jobs should go to people who have lived, and worked in the area; not to any foreigner who can undercut the wage structure the unions fought for. I am an advocate for natural healing, and using herbs in cooking.
What is something you cannot live without?
Books come top of my list. I am an avid reader/ collector of signed copies. TV doesn’t bother me, I haven’t had a TV for over four years, and apart from a few series, I haven’t missed it.
So tell me about the books?
My hit series of seven books – Forgestriker – is about the struggles of a group of soldiers sent on what was to be an easy journey. The aim was to set up a radar station on a distant planet to track a rogue ship. Nobody told the men that the planet had became a fortress for their enemy – did the elite know/ care? The story starts in Sons of Baal with the men fighting a rear guard action, and boarding Forgestriker, to find out her controls have been so badly damaged in the fighting, they cannot be altered from a course set for dead space. As the men fight to gain control control of the ship, they are contacted by a deserted space station, who/ what is hailing them?
What’s been your best seller so far? (Tell us about it … or even the top 3).
The best seller by a long way is the second book in the series – Forgestriker (129) – probably because it bears the same name as the series. My second best seller is the opening book in the series – Sons of Baal with 69 sales, and the third best seller is the third book in the series Return of the Lost with 24 sales. All these are sales on Barnes & Noble, as a series, apart from the last in the series – Caldera Awakens – every book has out sold my Amazon best seller Holding Richmond (12 sales).
I’m going to drop you off at a remote Alaska cabin for a month. It’s summer, so you don’t need to worry about freezing to death. I’m providing the bug spray (a necessity in the north) and the food. All you have to do is enjoy the month. How do you spend it? What do you bring? If you bring books, what are they?
Top of the list is my Ipad, and camera, so I can record the wonders of nature. I would probably use the information gained for a story, as I did when I went to Canada to see a friend – who has since left this world – when I returned I wrote Nerja. I would spend the time walking in the woods, finding peace away from the pressure of the modern world. I found that solace helped my writing. I would take some history books with me, I am interested in the history of any area I visit, I would be interested to find out if there were any unsolved mysteries in the area; I often use these for development into stories.
What are your literary plans for the future?
I have a number of ideas I wish to expand over the coming months. From expanding the hit series to writing a new romance mystery, and I intend to write a third book in the award winning stories of Mark Johnson – hoping for a few sales. I recently joined Google books, and I hope this will entice a few sales, it has already produced sales for my PI stories of Pat Canella, something Amazon hasn’t done in four years.
Anything else you would like to say.
I would like to thank you, Lela, for having me on your site. I would also like to thank two special friends, my good friend/ editor Julia Petrakis, who puts up with my ups & downs, and never fails to be there for me; and my friend Ruth Slattery, who is my biggest fan, and a constant support.
Links — books, websites, author pic, cover images                               

Stay Tuned for Writer Wednesday   Leave a comment

This week’s interview is with multi-genre novelist Alan Place.

I may also have another article on developing novel characters.

Posted May 26, 2015 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

What if Character Went Viral? – Part 1   1 comment

What If Characterr Went ViralI entitled this whole series as “What if character went viral?” because I think character is a lost principle in our era.

I daresay most of us don’t know what character even means. When I googled it, I got a lot of articles about how to write great characters for a novel. While fiction does imitate life, life should probably not imitate fiction. Sadly, that is no longer true.

What is character? It is a pattern of behavior, thoughts and feelings based on universal principles, moral strength, and integrity combined with the courage and fortitude to live by those principles every day … even when it is inconvenient, unpopular or even illegal. Character is evidenced by your life’s virtues and the “line you never cross.” Character is the most valuable thing you hold and nobody can ever take it away, although you can trade it away for temporary popularity or convenience

Character is essential both for individual success and for our society to function successfully. Each individual must do his or her part every day by living a life of integrity. Integrity is adhering to a moral code of honesty, courage, strength and truthfulness – being true to your word and values. When you don’t exhibit integrity, other people get hurt, but you actually hurt yourself even more.

When you cheat, any “success” gained by that cheat is false. Breaking a promise shows that your word is meaningless. Lying deceives others. These are just some examples that will destroy your reputation because they represent the broken trust others have put in you. Without your good reputation and trustworthiness, your relationships fail.

Damaged relationships undermine your life. When you destroy the relationships with your friends, you will have no friends. You will be isolated and alone. If a student cheats, she is taking unfair advantage to put herself ahead of others without deserving it. This is why, if caught, such a student often faces broad consequences to her academic record and her job prospects forever.

When a businessman makes a promise to customers and doesn’t deliver, he destroys his relationships with his customers, who will go elsewhere … resulting in failure of the business.

My father-in-law is a highly attractive man who managed TWICE to build a multi-million-dollar electrical contracting business. By the world’s estimation, he was a success (TWICE). But he was also crap husband (three times) who neglected his children, cheated his business partners and failed to fulfill his contract obligations. He’s now old, more or less broke, alone, and his children are not all that attentive to his needs. So was he really a success? He doesn’t feel like one these days.

Breaking your relationships breaks the foundation for success in your life. How do you define success? Well, as I showed with my father-in-law, that defintion really matters. If we define success in school as having higher grades that everyone else, cheating becomes just a means to an end. If we define success as beating the competition at all costs, then lying to our business partners or cheating our customers seems like a good idea. If we define a successful marriage as a fantastic sex life that scratches all of our itches, we’re likely to go from one spouse to another as the excitement fades. If we define successful parenting as our children being just like us …. My father-in-law is dealing with the fact that the only child who regularly contacts him of his own free will is the son who is the least like him – Brad, my husband, who lives in Alaska and has chosen to make far less than his skills can earn to spend time with his kids.

Your good character is the most important asset you have. It’s a lifetime in the making, but you can destroy it in a minute and it is nearly impossible to regain. It’s more than just your reputation. In fact, what other people think of you is the least important part of character if you are a Christian. Your true character is revealed when no one else is looking or when everyone else is insisting that a questionable path is the true one. Character does not waver in the societal winds.

More on that in future posts.

Posted May 26, 2015 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

Does minority want shutdown? | Juneau Empire – Alaska’s Capital City Online Newspaper   Leave a comment

Does minority want shutdown? | Juneau Empire – Alaska’s Capital City Online Newspaper.

The fact is that this is not a one-issue conversation. The writer is right and the Legislative majority is right at this point in time about refusing to expand the budget, but the long-term fiscal picture requires killing some of the sacred cows of the majority as well. Yes, use the earnings reserve, but require pay back as revenues come in and then have a serious discussion about how we want to fix our fiscal house in the long term.

Posted May 26, 2015 by aurorawatcherak in Alaska

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My Turn: Too much risk with house minority positions as Medicaid expansion questions loom | Juneau Empire – Alaska’s Capital City Online Newspaper   Leave a comment

My Turn: Too much risk with house minority positions as Medicaid expansion questions loom | Juneau Empire – Alaska’s Capital City Online Newspaper.

The battle in the Alaska Legislature explained.

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