Archive for December 2016

Derinkuyu   Leave a comment

I’m betting you’ve never heard of Derinkuyu. I hadn’t until I was researching underground cities for help envisioning the Dwarfholt in Daermad Cycle. Yeah, Derinkuyu was a claustrophobic’s nightmare city, but it served a Godly purpose.

The region of Cappadocia is well known for its vast labyrinth of underground cities beneath an equally impressive landscape peppered with ancient volcanic chimneys know as “fairy chimneys”. Over the years, various cultures carved intricate structures into and out of these chimneys, making for very unique and impressive architecture.

There are about 200 known underground cities in Cappadocia. There may be more waiting to be discovered.

In 1963, a Turkish man in the region of Cappadocia was making improvements to his house. He knocked down a wall in his cellar and stumbled into a secret room, which led to an underground tunnel, which opened up into a completely hidden ancient city.


The photos of the preserved city make me (a claustrophobic) itchy, but they also reveal how 20,000 people along with livestock and food supplies – could have lived 18 stories beneath the earth.

Derinkuyu is an ancient multi-level underground city discovered in 1963 in the Cappadocia region of Turkey

Subterranean tunnels in the city stretch miles and even connect Derinkuyu with other underground ancient cities nearby

This chapel is one of many different rooms in the city, including a school, communal living areas, kitchens and stables

Thought to have been created during the Byzantine era in 780-1180AD, the network of kitchens, stables, churches, tombs, wells, communal rooms and schools was most likely used as a massive bunker to protect inhabitants from the Arab–Byzantine wars that often targeted Christians.

During this time, cave-like chapels and Greek inscriptions were added to the ancient city, and about 600 entrances allowed people to come and go.

A storage room and storage pit were also uncovered in the underground city of Derinkuyu

Long tunnel and stairs wind through the city of Derinkuyu in Cappadocia

Another cave church was discovered within Derinkuyu, which is said to have been able to house 20,000 people

The city was most likely used as a massive bunker to protect inhabitants from the Arab–Byzantine wars or natural disasters

The hidden community is connected to other subterranean cities by tunnels stretching several miles.

A Turkish man stumbled upon the entire ancient city after he knocked down a wall in the basement of his home

Posted December 31, 2016 by aurorawatcherak in History

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Tax Effect in One Image   3 comments

Here’s an interesting graphic I ran across recently. Pink/magenta is negative (loss) while green is positive (gain). You can assume that Alaska and Hawaii are outliers because our migration rates are affected by not being attached to the contiguous 48, but take a good look at the states that are losing the most population and related income. Mostly high tax states. And then look at which states are gaining the most population and related income. Yeah ….


Posted December 30, 2016 by aurorawatcherak in economics

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Watch Who You Call Greedy   Leave a comment

The free-market society is often criticized or condemned from the root to the fruit for its alleged dependence on the unsavory human trait of greed. Socialists have always claimed that their system would replace one dependent on greed with one based on compassion and caring for the unfortunate.

Sounds good. We’re still waiting. Yeah, I didn’t think so.

Both theory and history have shown that socialism cannot produce the wealth that makes compassion and caring possible. Christianity aside, generosity flows from surplus.

Related image

The idea that the free-market system rests on greed has always been mistaken, perhaps a lie made up by a socialist propagandist who was pissed off that his own family wouldn’t keep him in comfort despite his refusal to work at remunerative employment, then was pissed off that his wife’s family stopped supporting his profligate lifestyle, and finally ended up living off the redistribution of Engels’s capitalistic salary. Yes, I’m talking about Marx. Well, at least Engels was a willing party to the theft of his income. You can’t say the same for tax-payers, who essentially hand over their income at the point of a gun to their heads.

Capitalism rests on allowing people to pursue their self-interest. I know … scandalous. How selfish sounding!

Self-interest is quite different from greed and often consists of the very opposite. People in general are interested in earning more income. One major reason for this desire is that they wish to have the ability to give to or take care of others more effectively. Generally, this desire is aimed first at their own families, but most generous people don’t give to their own families exclusively.

The amounts of money, time, and effort that people devote to making others happier or better off belie the slander of a free market’s dependence on greed. We see it especially at the Christmas season, but such transfers also occur throughout the year, amounting to an enormous proportion of how people in free-market societies use their wealth.

We have a lot of Chinese at our church and I enjoy interacting and learning about their society. They tell me that the alleged compassion and caring for the unfortunate that many have supposed support socialism is almost unheard of in China. Those who refuse to work there are thrown into prison where they are put to back-breaking labor. If they survive that, they usually are much harder workers when let back out into society.

According to my friend, Mila Andrepova, the Soviet Union showed a similar pattern of stern discipline to those who wouldn’t (or couldn’t) work.

The incentives inherent in socialism require that the socialist society become or remain lodged in poverty, thereby crippling its capacity for effective compassion and caring in the material realm. Socialism does not so much eliminate the greed that exists in a population as it alters the forms in which the greed can be directed and expressed.

Leaders of socialist societies have a habit of living lavishly amid the squalor of the system they control and despoil—Mao, Castro, and Chavez provide ready examples. Ordinary people in socialist societies, deprived of free-market outlets for the pursuit of their self-interest, must strive to better themselves and those for whom they care by struggling for political power, often diverting resources intended for the general public to their own enjoyment. Socialism does not build the generous character that socialist dreamers have touted.

Chinese communists were/are much more greedy for power and the lifestyle that comes with it than American capitalists because their only alternative was/is abject poverty. Li’li Wang Babcock, raised in Communist China during the Cultural Revolution, immigrated to US two years after Tianamen Square

Capitalism may teach that greed is good, but by creating more wealth and allowing members of society to direct that wealth themselves, it leads to more compassion and generosity than does socialism. Forbes noted this correlation back in 2008 when the US was being beat up over government contributions to Haiti.

Posted December 30, 2016 by aurorawatcherak in economics

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Obama’s Real Legacy   Leave a comment

My brother is a liberal who loves Obama and is thrilled with his legacy (shutting down Alaska drilling notwithstanding, which Jeff realizes will kill Alaska’s economy). I got to listen to him extol Obama’s legacy over Christmas dessert. Fortunately, Jeff allows people to counter his arguments (he was raised by our mother, after all).

Image result for image of the syrian civil warObama is feverishly trying to set his legacy in concrete. It’s the usual Democrat “lame duck” stupidity. While I agree with pardoning convicted felons, locking up Alaska’s offshore oil depositions is just plain national suicide, and stashing billions of taxpayer dollars in federal agencies that will then act as governments unto themselves, taking away freedoms one regulation as a time is equally stupid.

Hoo-haw! He’s running roughshod over the actual rights of some people in order to give the ill-informed what they think they need. Isn’t democracy great? The problem with this scenario is that no Obama lover seems to recognize that Obama’s primary legacy is not so warm and fuzzy and the damage it causes may go on for decades after Obama has passed from the public mindset.

The forgotten Obama legacy is ISIS, the Syrian civil war, and the resulting mass migration/invasion of Europe. Bluntly stated, the whole idea to bring “democracy” to Syria was hatched by the Obama Administration and probably mostly by the Emperor himself, which some enthusiastic encouragement from Hillary. The conversation probably went something like this:

Mr. President, if you topple this dictator and install an American-friendly puppet government in his place, people will remember you as a great foreign policy president and forget all about you literally bowing to dictators early in your presidency. Assad is ripe for the picking. His people hate him and you can make up any story you want … you know the Americans who love you will believe whatever you say. And those others … they’re pro-war anyway, so their protests will sound silly and racist.

When Assad refused to concede to Obama’s “superiority” and refused to step down as Obama demanded, Obama’s ego wouldn’t let it rest. It became an ego contest between Obama, Assad and Putin not because Assad and Putin were seeking to get into a pissing context with the Commander and Chief of the largest military in the world, but because Obama’s ego is so big that his pride couldn’t take it that Assad didn’t just do what he demanded.

Image result for image of the syrian civil warLiberals say “words matter” and that’s why they don’t call terrorism “terrorism”, but when all you do is tell lies, words actually don’t matter when they originate from your mouths. Liberals say calling terrorism “terrorism” gives the terrorist power. That’s ridiculous! Words do not give terrorists power. The weapons Obama gave them gives them power.

Bear with me a moment. The US has a long history of covertly arming “rebels” around the world. The Reagan administration sold weapons to Iran less than a decade after Iranians captured the US embassy and held US diplomatic staff as prisoners. They then used the proceeds of that sale to arm “rebels” in El Salvador. We know this because the US press reported on it throughout the end of the Reagan administration.

We did the same thing in Afghanistan in the 1980s and created al-Qaida in the process.

The media doesn’t mention all the blood Obama has on his hands. ISIS started as a small off-shoot of Al-Qaida that wanted to use more brutal tactics than its parent organization. ISIS could not have won the battlefield victories they have without major military weaponry from somewhere. Neither could the so-called “moderate” rebels, who are out-and-out terrorists the Obama administration  relabeled as “moderates” to justify funneling weapons to them. Terrorists blow crap up to inflict terror on a population. The “moderate” rebels blow crap up, thus inflicting terror on the Syrian people, causing them to flee their country.

When the war-weary American people demanded the US government opt out of involvement in the Syrian civil war, Obama found an al-Qaida-affiliated group to add to the chaos. Given the Kalashnikovs and other Russian-made arms found in ISIS hands, it’s likely the US is using our brand new NATO allies in Eastern Europe to arm them. Yes, Eastern Europe would rather have Putin distracted in the Middle East than breathing down their necks in Europe the way he is in Ukraine. We certainly know that American-made pickup trucks sold in the United States as used vehicles showed up in ISIS hands. This is how ISIS got the anti-tank missiles to take out Assad’s armor and anti-aircraft missiles capable of downing Assad’s aircraft. There’s obviously been continual re-supply of replacement small arms, ammunition, light artillery, food, clothing, medical supplies, and vehicles. These items weren’t picked up at garage sale. They were bought in Eastern Europe with American money, just as we armed the Iraqi puppet army after 2003. The United States thought these groups would topple Assad and then invite the US government to install an American-friendly regime through a rigged election where both candidates were groomed by US convert agencies years ago. Remember the Orlando shooter’s father?

Image result for image of the syrian civil warThe problem with this plan was that the Syrian voters fled Syria, taking their votes with them. These people are now all homeless. Europe, who ought to be really pissed off at the result of Obama’s pride, absorbed tens of thousands of refugees and more keep coming. The Obama administration has yet to admit they failed and give up this tragic course of action. They continued arming and training “rebels” over there and that kept the war going. Rather than cooperate with the nations fighting ISIS, they were training “rebels” to fight Assad, Iran, Russia, and ISIS.

You’d think Europe would wake up and smell the coffee and recognize that Obama administration is the responsible body for all of the bloodshed and refugees. I keep hearing hints of this realization on PBS, but they don’t want to come out directly and say Obama is directly responsible for the Syrian civil war dragging on for years and that only U.S.-supplied weapons made that possible.

Judging from al-Qaida (which ISIS is an off-shoot of), we can look forward to at least another two decades of attacks from ISIS. Al-Qaida began during the Afghan-Soviet War (another terrorist group we created to fight a government, too) and started operations against the West in 1993. They hit the World Trade Center with a truck bomb during Clinton administration. Europe better get used to terrorism attacks because they will continue for decades to come. The United States ought to realize we’ll soon see major attacks that will dwarf the last two mass shooting. We just haven’t seen ISIS’s version of 9-11 yet. When that comes, some of us will recognize that as President Obama’s true legacy, but I suspect that Obama lovers like my brother will blame the last or current Republican administration rather than their “hero”.

Posted December 29, 2016 by aurorawatcherak in Non-partisan

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The Trump Administration versus the Reagan Administration | David R. Henderson   Leave a comment

When I saw this article comparing Trump and Reagan I had to re-post it because Reagan is another presidential candidate I was vehemently against … and I turned out to be mostly wrong about him. Will time prove me wrong about Trump?  I don’t know. Will I admit that I was wrong? I hope I’ve learned that lesson. Lela

David R. Henderson

Found on

As someone who has, to put it mildly, not been a fan of Donald Trump (see here and here, for example), I’ve been pleasantly surprised by many of his picks for cabinet positions. Looking at them I conclude, at least for the present, that they are on average better than Ronald Reagan’s picks.

Image result for image of trump and reagan

Here are what I regard, given my current information, as the best picks, alongside the ones Reagan chose for that position. They are not necessarily in order of strength because I don’t know enough to do that.

I can think of worse things than being able to choose a school for your kids.Secretary of Education: Betsy DeVos. She, according to a Philadelphia Inquirer article meant to be a hit piece, is “an ardent school choice advocate.” The Inquirer adds, sarcastically, “Sorry, kids.” Right, because not being able to choose a school is what’s really good for kids.

Compare that to Terrel Bell, Reagan’s choice. Reagan had said during the 1980 campaign that he wanted to get rid of the newly formed Department of Education. But he didn’t try hard and his choice of Bell sent a signal that that wasn’t about to happen.

Secretary of Health and Human Services: Tom Price. Price has pledged to dismantle Obamacare. He even has a plan to do so. It’s not particularly to my liking, but just to have a plan going in puts him one up on Richard Schweiker, a “liberal” Republican Senator from Pennsylvania who was Reagan’s pick. Schweiker did not attempt any serious deregulation of healthcare. (Although, to his credit, he was a strong opponent of the draft.)

Secretary of Labor: Andy Puzder. Puzder has been an outspoken critic of minimum wage increases. If he persuades Trump to hold the line on the current federal $7.25 minimum wage rather than raising it to $10.10 an hour or even higher, he will have helped preserve jobs for at least a few hundred thousand people, mainly young people.

Compare that to Reagan’s pick of Ray Donovan. I worked for Ray in the Labor Department and found him to be a nice man and an opponent of raising the minimum wage. But he was fairly ineffective. Yes, there was a policy success: Reagan held the minimum wage constant in nominal terms. But that was more Reagan than Donovan. Puzder will have his hands full persuading Trump to keep his hands off.

Head of EPA: Scott Pruitt. The EPA is out of control. In a forthcoming review in Regulation, I lay out the problem with its push for higher fuel economy in cars. But it’s out of control in other ways too. Pruitt will likely rein in, and even reverse, some of its most extreme excesses. One good sign: he is a global warming skeptic. Maybe he’ll also avoid EPA-created environmental disasters like the 2015 Gold King Mine wastewater spill. Reagan’s pick was Anne Gorsuch, who did manage to deregulate but, as far as I could tell, didn’t do it well.

Those are the good picks.

There are some that could well be as bad as, or worse than, Reagan’s. I have two in mind:

Someone who says, “Good people don’t smoke marijuana” is not an ideal pick.Attorney General: Jeff Sessions. One of the areas where Obama made some progress was in laying off drug enforcement in states that allow medical marijuana. But Sessions would almost certainly try to reverse that progress. Someone who says, “Good people don’t smoke marijuana” is not an ideal pick. (Of course, even if it were true that no good people smoke marijuana – and it’s not – that belief would not be a problem if Sessions were willing to tolerate people being bad. But he’s an enforcer of (his) morals.)

Reagan’s pick was William French Smith. Smith federalized a lot of crime and amped up the drug war substantially. He also proposed a national ID card, a proposal that my late Hoover colleague Marty Anderson, then an adviser to Reagan, shot down by speaking out of turn at a Cabinet Council meeting. (See his Revolution: The Reagan Legacy, pp. 275-276.) Sessions could be worse than, better than, or equal to Smith.

CIA Director: Mike Pompeo. Pompeo has advocated the death penalty for Edward Snowden. That’s bad. On the other hand, Pompeo at least wants to give Snowden due process. That’s better than Hillary Clinton’s proposal for Julian Assange, which was to murder him with a drone, assuming this report is accurate. Reagan’s pick was Bill Casey, who got the United States heavily involved in intervening in Nicaragua. Both Pompeo and Casey were bad picks. It’s hard to know who’s worse.

I haven’t covered the whole waterfront. I also haven’t backed up the various judgments I’ve made here about the minimum wage, global warming, CAFE laws on fuel economy, etc. If you want to see my backing for these, do a search on my EconLog posts.

Source: The Trump Administration versus the Reagan Administration | David R. Henderson

Posted December 29, 2016 by aurorawatcherak in politics

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First Chapters   Leave a comment

Let’s face it: first chapters are hard.

Other writers know what I mean. You sit there staring at the first page … the blank computer screen … trying to figure out how to start.

When writing your first draft, you’re writing for yourself—getting to know your characters and their world. You should let everything spill out on the page free of your inner editor’s censorship. You have to get it out and onto the page.

The Willow Branch: Book 1 of The Daermad Cycle by [Markham, Lela]Revision is a different story. There’s a whole lot that ends up in that first-draft chapter that was extraneous info-dump that needs to be cut, but not deleted, because you can enrich the story later by scattering it through the book.

You’re going to end up with an opening chapter that’s much different from the one you started with. It’s possible your entire original Chapter One may end up being one of those darlings you have to kill.

I usually write the final draft of my first chapter last. That’s because I won’t know exactly what needs to be in there until I’ve got the ending all polished up, but I didn’t know that when I first started writing.

An ideal first chapter should do the following things:

1) Introduce the main character(s) 

Most writers start with an opening scene involve the protagonist on the assumption that whoever the reader meets first in a book is the character they’ll bond with. They don’t need to know a huge amount about the MC right away, but they need to know enough to care. We probably need to know gender and approximate age, but most of all, we need to know the emotions the character is feeling in the scene—preferably something the reader can identify with.

Here’s how I started Life As We Knew It:

She stood before the safe, one hand beckoning, the other holding the cloth-wrapped bundle. Her face hid behind the veil, but her large dark eyes were sad and angry. Shane slid up the wall, bracing himself in the corner, scrubbing tears from his stinging eyes with the heels of his hands. Time had come.

It had been years since he’d thought about God, let alone prayed. His heart had been certain that there was no god. Yet a verse floated up from some long-forgotten Sunday School.

… your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

“This is my kingdom come,” Shane whispered. “What I earned on earth and in heaven.”

Her eyes demanded his obedience and his legs complied. The locked safe was no deterrent as he knew the combination. Guns on the right, clips on the left. The 9mm felt light in his hand. Unloaded! He always unloaded when he came home from a trip. The clip slid easily home and the gun felt right. Heavy. Final.

She stood to his left as she had that night, clutching the bundle to her chest. Shane raised the gun as if to fire at her, but then turned it, put the barrel up under his chin, deep in the curve of his jaw and pulled the trigger.

I haven’t used any description of the protagonist, but we can tell he’s

  •  male
  • someone very familiar with guns
  • distressed about something to do with a Muslim woman
  • has some religious knowledge, but is not religious himself
  • is suicidal
  • and we can infer from the clues that he was probably a soldier in the Middle East

We can also identify with his distress at dealing with a horrific memory. My brother tells me that he HAD to KNOW what was coming in the paragraph that followed. And that’s what makes Shane a powerful character and gives a shove to the first chapter.

2) Make us care enough to go on a journey with that character. 

This is trickier than it sounds. What makes us care? There’s no formula and no one thing will work for every reader in every genre.

Agents and editors are always telling us they want a “sympathetic” protagonist, but that doesn’t necessarily mean somebody you’d like to have as a friend.

Shallow, narcissistic Scarlett O’Hara has fascinated readers for nearly a century. Would you want sociopathic serial killer Dexter Morgan as your best friend? Sherlock Holmes frequently drives John Watson to distraction. Even Jane Austen’s Emma is tart-tongued.

You don’t have to present us with a protagonist as flawed as those characters, but perfect characters aren’t that much fun. Characters need to have weaknesses. I led with Shane’s weaknesses in Life As We Knew It because those weaknesses make his strengths all the more powerful.

You can’t please everyone all of the time. Some readers like a kick-ass-first, ask-questions-later character, while others prefer a more thoughtful, honorable hero. It will depend on genre and tone. It’s probably best of avoid an arrogant, whiny victim “hero”. A hero needs to be brave in some way, so let us see the potential for that right away.

3) Set tone. 

You don’t want to start out a romantic comedy with a gruesome murder scene, or open a thriller with light, flirtatious banter. You want to immerse your reader in the book’s world from the opening paragraph. Since novelists don’t have music and visuals to set the scene, we need to use words to convey tone.

Long descriptions of weather or setting aren’t in fashion these days, but broad descriptive strokes can offer a lot in terms of setting the mood of your story. In Mirklin Wood, I set the mood with a rainstorm of epic proportion that makes it clear that magic is imposing a negative effect on the physical world. It conveys a heavy, oppressive mood that draws the reader into the world of Daermad.


4) Let us know the theme. 

If you’re going to be dealing with a particular theme, you don’t want to hit readers over the head with it. Foreshadowing  can provide hints from the first sentence.

Look at how William Gibson began Neuromancer, the novel that defined cyberpunk: “The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.” Gibson lets us know from the get-go this is about the dark side of technology.


In Madeleine L’Engle’s The Young Unicorns she begins by setting the stage:

Winter came early to the city that year. Josiah Davidson, emerging from the subway, his arms loaded with schoolbooks, shivered in the dank.November rain that blew icily against his face and sent a trickle down the back of his neck. He didn’t see three boys in black jackets and moved out of a sheltering doorway and stalked him.

You know right away we’re dealing with an urban environment, adverse weather and threatening thugs.

5) Let us know where we are.  

Readers don’t need a ton of physical description, but they need to know what planet/historical time period we’re in.


World building is absolutely critical in science fiction and fantasy, but in the first pages limit it to the absolute necessities and fill in the details later. Most new writers tend to tell us way too much about their fantasy world up front. You want to tell us just enough to allow us to picture the scene that’s taking place, but not bog down the action.

6) Introduce the antagonist.

An antagonist is someone/something that keeps the protagonist from his goal. You may think that an antagonist is not necessary if you’re writing a romantic comedy, but there is a difference between an antagonist and a villain.


An antagonist can be a whole society, an addiction, a judicial system, or anything that might thwart a hero from achieving his goal. A particular villain embodied as an individual Big Bad doesn’t not need to exist in a many plots, but something has to trip up your protagonist in order for his/her story to be interesting.

7) Ignite conflict.

We need conflict not only in the opening scene, but we need to see an over-arching tension that will drive your plot.

In the Hunger Games, the burning question in the opening scene is who will be chosen for the games. But the larger conflict is with the Hunger Games themselves. When the conflict of the opening scene is resolved, we still keep turning pages because of the underlying tension from a bigger story question—how will Katniss survive?

Conflict does not have to mean an actual battle. In fact, starting in the middle of a battle can be awfully confusing for a reader. It’s better to start with something like the heroine preparing for battle by stealing her brother’s armor after her father forbids her to fight.

8)  Give us a goal: tell us what your protagonist wants.

Readers need to know pretty early in the story what your hero’s ultimate goal might be. In The Willow Branch, we know that Padraig’s ultimate goal is to find the One’s True King. In Life As We Know It, the ultimate goal isn’t stated, but you can infer that Shane wants his family to survive the apocalypse.

The ultimate goal doesn’t always show up in Chapter One, but we do need a goal in chapter one that will lead to the ultimate goal. Shane has to survive his suicide attempt if he’s going to save his town and family, for example.

9) Present an exciting, life-changing inciting incident.

This incident has to cause something to happen that will propel us to the next scene—and the one after that—and through the entire book. Think of it as the explosion that launches the rocket of your story.

This one is easier for some genre writers.  If you’re writing a mystery, you can find a dead body and the story is off and running. In a romance the female protagonist meets the object of her future affections and absolutely hates him, vowing to keep him from whatever his goal might be.

In other genres, it may be tough to get the inciting incident close to the opener. I couldn’t end the world as we know it in the first chapter of Life As We Knew It, because I needed the readers to care about the characters and I couldn’t figure a way to do both at the same time. Just remember, most readers aren’t going to admire your lovely prose until you’ve got a story going.

10) Introduce the other major characters. 

“Major” is the key here. Don’t let minor characters upstage the hero in the opener. You’re probably better off without any minor characters in the opening scene. We’ve got so much stuff to cram in there, we don’t have much room for the maid/sentinel/pizza deliverer character who opens so many dramas.

The Willow Branch operates in two time periods. In the first scene of the past timeline, Prince Maryn is killed, leaving Lord Deryk, who is a major character in that timeline. In the first scene of the present timeline, I introduce Padraig and Ryanna, main characters of that timeline. I needed to enter a minor character, a seer whose prophesy sends Padraig on his quest for the king, but pretty much everyone else in the opening chapter is faceless and voiceless because they aren’t all that important to the future plot.

I like colorful characters and they show up from time to time in my books, but I try to keep these minor players out of my opener, so that readers don’t end up expecting them for the rest of the series when they will only be there for that brief time.

We have all ready a bestseller or a dozen that doesn’t follow these rules. Don’t ever take something I suggest as a hard and fast rule because what works for me may not work for you. These rules are suggestions. If your prose are so mesmerizing the reader doesn’t notice that you info-dumped them in Chapter 1, lovely. Most writers, however, are just not that good.

If your opener doesn’t do any of the above suggestions, just try this experiment. Ignore chapters 1 & 3 and look at Chapter 3. Does Chapter 3 give you a better beginning? Start there. Then feed readers the info from the first two chapters a little at a time later on in the book.

Posted December 28, 2016 by aurorawatcherak in writing wednesday

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Interview with Victor Acquista   2 comments

Today’s interview is with Victor Acquista. Welcome to the blog. Tell us something about yourself.

Facquista-sentientirst off, I would like to thank you for the interview. I am a full time author and speaker; although, this is my third career. My first was as a primary care MD and my second was as an administrative physician. I wrote Pathways to Health, non-fiction self-help book, which went on to get translated and is an Amazon bestseller in holistic/alternative medicine. I recently had a science fiction novel published: Sentient, an epic story of humanity’s defeat and resurgence following our near total genocide by a telepathic warrior species. There is a lot of social messaging in that novel. All my writing has an underlying intention to raise consciousness. I am very intrigued by the evolution of consciousness and have actively followed research in this field. I live with my wife in New Mexico and enjoy gardening and contemplation.



Tell us about your writing process.

I do not follow a disciplined writing routine in spite of repeated recommendation. When the muse grabs me, I try to hold that embrace as long as possible and write with fury. Slowly, I am working on having weekly word limits to achieve some modest goals.


What is your favorite genre … to read … to write?

In some ways that is akin to asking, “What is your favorite food?”  I tend to favour  books about spiritual growth and development, the evolution of consciousness, and non-fiction books in these genres when I read. In fiction, I enjoy a good sci-fi or fantasy novel and the occasional adventure novel.

I enjoy writing fiction as I find that allows the maximum flexibility in expressing creativity, bound only by the limits of imagination.



What are you passionate about?

To answer “life in general” sounds trite. I am passionate about exploring human capacities and potential and in particular how to develop/evolve  consciousness at the individual and collective levels.



Have you written any books that made a transformative effect on you? If so, in what way?


Yes. My first book, Pathways to Health—An Integral Guidebook is at one level a self-help book about health. At a deeper level, it is about personal growth and transformation. Part of the book, the Map Your Health Mission Designer, requires completion of a series of self-assessments based upon information presented in the book. Upon completion of the very assessments I had designed, I learned things about my own health that I was not fully aware of. The experience for me was quite profound and the insights were transformative.


Where do you get the inspiration for your novels?

I find inspiration everywhere – people, nature, conversations, or something I read or witness. In a way, I believe imagination provides a vast playscape of potential and at any time something might surface in the form of an idea for a story or a character or something poetic.


If someone who hasn’t read any of your novels asked you to describe your writing, what would you say?

I write cross genre in both fiction and non-fiction. All my writing is designed to be thought provoking and to challenge ideas or expand thinking in some way. My tag line on my author website and business card, Twitter and Facebook pages states: “Writing to Raise Consciousness”. This is not some fancy marketing slogan.



Are you a plot driven or character driven writer? Why?


I understand this distinction and recognize why this is an important distinction; however, I do not conceptualize my writing as favouring or emphasizing one over the other. The best novels I have read or written have  strong plots and memorable characters. I think these need to work together in a creative interplay. At times in a story, the plot elements are carrying the story forward. At other times, the story arc is driven by character elements. Strong dialogue and narrative exposition weave these pieces into what I hope is a compelling story that readers will enjoy and remember.



Do you write from an outline or are you a discovery writer?  Why?

I have a very loose outline about a particular chapter and a sequence of events, but I don’t know for sure how the contents of a particular chapter will unfold until I write the chapter. Sometimes revisions are needed. Sometimes the chapter will cause my loose outline to be revised. In some ways, I am often surprised by how a story is ultimately told or unfolds.



Was it your intention to write a story with a message or a moral?

Absolutely! Social messaging is an essential component that drives my writing. I’m not sure I could sustain the passion to write something that did not have some aspect of social messaging.


What do you want readers to think or feel after reading one of your books?

I would like them to become engaged in thought provoking and soul searching ways, to ask themselves some hard questions about certain aspects of their lives or society. I want them to feel a connection to the characters. My primary goal is to write something entertaining, but I want the reader to appreciate that there is something more than entertainment in the pages of a novel I have written. I want readers to feel excited enough to talk to their friends, or family, etc. about what they have read and why they enjoyed it.


Where can readers find you and your books?



Stay Tuned for Writing Wednesday   1 comment

Posted December 27, 2016 by aurorawatcherak in writing wednesday

Open Book Blog Hop – 26th December   Leave a comment

For this festive blog hop we’re writing about the best Christmas present we ever received, and the one present we really wanted but never got. There was never any fuss made about Christmas pr…

Source: Open Book Blog Hop – 26th December

Posted December 27, 2016 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

Dump NATO? Maybe …   Leave a comment

In his farewell address, George Washington warned against entangling alliances. For most of US history, the government mostly followed that advice. We were friendly trading partners with a lot of countries, but official allies with few. Thus, we chose to stay out of World War 1 until after Woodrow Wilson had been elected to a second term by extolling how he had kept America out of the war. We similarly stayed out of World War 2 until Roosevelt worked events around to make the American public think it was their idea. Following that world-wide conflagration, we seem to have forgotten Washington’s advice and gone whole-hog into the folly of military alliances … apparently thinking we’re somehow special and we won’t get any of human nature’s smelly muck on our hardly clean hands.

Do I sound jaundiced? I mean to. Just so you are not mistaken … I think the world would be a better place without manipulative interfering agencies like the UN and Nato.

Image result for image of NATO

Last summer, Donald Trump made a splash when he mused that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization was obsolete. He hinted that it might no longer be worth the huge American investment. As always, he hit a nerve and then moved on without offering many details. That’s back in discussion during the transition. European allies are concerned.

Interestingly, the British press admits that the United States pays an inordinate percentage of the funding for these alliances. The US pays 72% of NATO’s funding and more than one-fifth of the UN’s budget. That’s not including our actual military commitment across Europe.

The Soviet army is no longer a threat to Western Europe, which was what NATO was created to guard against. The alliance has been unwisely expanded from its original 12-nation membership to include 28 countries, absorbing many of the old communist Warsaw Pact nations and some former Soviet republics. NATO may have meant well to offer security to these vulnerable new alliance members, but it’s unlikely Greeks and Italians will volunteer to die to keep Russia out of Estonia. Today’s NATO pledges to many of its newer participants are about as believable as British and French ridiculous 1939 guarantees to protect Poland from its Nazi and Soviet neighbors. No NATO member during the 40-year Cold War invoked Article Four of the treaty, requiring consultation of the entire alliance by a supposedly threatened member. Turkey has called for it four times since 2003. The idea that Western Europe, beset with radical Islamic terrorism and unchecked migrations from the war-torn Middle East, would pledge its military support to the agendas and feuds of Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s increasingly Islamist and non-democratic regime is pure fantasy. Few NATO members meet the alliance’s goal of investing 2 percent of gross domestic product in defense spending. Instead, socialist Europe expects the United States to carry most of NATO’s fiscal and military burdens. RELATED: The Counter Putin, More

NATO may have meant well to offer security to these vulnerable new alliance members, but it’s unlikely Greeks and Italians will volunteer to die to keep Russia out of Estonia. Today’s NATO pledges to many of its newer participants are about as believable as British and French ridiculous 1939 guarantees to protect Poland from its Nazi and Soviet neighbors. During the 40-year Cold War, no NATO member invoked Article Four, requiring consultation of the entire alliance by a supposedly threatened member. Turkey has called for it four times since 2003. The idea that Western Europe, beset with radical Islamic terrorism and unchecked migrations from the war-torn Middle East, would pledge its military support to the agendas and feuds of Turkish president Erdogan’s increasingly Islamist and non-democratic regime is foolish insanity, but that is what the NATO agreement could lead to, so it would likely be American troops fighting and dying for Turkey.

Few NATO members meet the alliance’s goal of investing 2 percent of gross domestic product in defense spending. Instead, socialist Europe expects the United States to carry most of NATO’s fiscal and military burdens. Europe is increasingly seen as defenseless against Islamic terrorism, and unable to stop the immigration of legions of young male Muslim migrants from the war-torn Middle East. It is also viewed as a fat target for unstable (and increasingly nuclear) regimes. Many European nations count on U.S. subsidies to trim their defense costs so they can fund socialist entitlements. The European press than caricatures America as an over-militarized superpower bully for becoming what they have demanded we become for their benefit.

Meanwhile, NATO forces have not proven their utility in most instances. They were next to useless in Afghanistan and completely disastrous in Libya.

So is Trump right and we should let NATO die on the vine? Is a future without the alliance preferrable to the present costly and flawed NATO?

The past is prelude. Lord Ismay, NATO’s first secretary general, said that the alliance was formed “to keep the Russians out, the Americans in, and the Germans down.” I personally think the United States would be better off without it, but Europe probably wouldn’t be. The Soviet Union no longer exists, but Russia is still nuclear and aggressively expands wherever it senses weakness. They will always have to be watched. Germany is now in the European Union, and which has a larger population and economy than the United States. Germany still earns suspicion in Europe, whether because of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s destructive immigration policies or the equally unwise practice of rich German banks recklessly lending to bankrupt Mediterranean nations. A headstrong robust Germany will always have to be intergrated into any military alliance. The European Union never managed to unite its disparate nations into something cohesive and similar to the individual states of America. There are those who point out that the United States will always have a natural self-interest in preemptively keeping kindred Europeans from killing each other.

The West is increasingly under assault, the target of radical Islamic terrorists, gradually losing its superior position against Russia and China, and considered weak by rogue regimes such as Iran and North Korea. The issue is not whether NATO is still useful, but whether the alliance can reform itself before it implodes.

First, NATO must stop growing. It’s senseless imperialism to offer guarantees to nations that it would not protect in the real world. Yeah, the Baltic States are vulnerable to Russian aggression, but NATO troops in the Baltic nations threatens Russia’s sovereignty and ramps tensions up to the point of war. If Europe has a right to protect itself from Russian territorial aggression, should not Russia have a right to protect itself from European territorial? Turkey is, at best, a buffer state between Europe and the Middle East but autocracy and Islamicization are contrary to NATO principles and should be grounds for expulsion.

NATO should be wary of using its forces outside of Europe. Peacekeeping could be outsourced to individual members acting on their own.

Greater European military buy-in in the form of expenditures, equipment and troops should be required if the U.S in the alliance.

This is no longer the post-War era when the United States had a healthy robust economy while Europe was rebuilding from the ravishes of war. The US is $21 trillion in debt. We can’t afford to remain Europe’s military defense nanny. Things have to change. Europe’s economy is larger than ours. It’s time for them to step up to the plate and start acting like grownup nations defending their own borders.

Ultimately, I see NATO as one of several ways for World War 3 to come about. All it takes is a misunderstanding between Russia and NATO, or for Turkey to be invaded by ISIS, and the alliance becomes galvanized, requiring the United States to come to the rescue of our allies and drag the whole world into a conflagration there is no easy escape from. Have we learned nothing from the wars in the Middle East? Consider World War 2 or World War 1 when European entangling alliances dragged all of Europe and North Africa into war. The United States was able to stay out of those wars until later because we weren’t allied with Europe. Today, that is no longer the case. What happens if the inevitable happens and Europe comes under attack? Do we really think that at $21 trillion in debt, we can afford to fight another World War? NATO was never a very smart idea for the US anyway, but under current conditions we’re just asking to see what fighting a war you can’t afford on someone else’s behalf looks like.

Uh, wait … wasn’t that called Iraq? Syria? Libya?

Posted December 27, 2016 by aurorawatcherak in Foreign policy

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