Archive for June 2018

#Book #Sale #$1.99 Thru 7.4.18   1 comment

Chaos changes everything!

Shane Delaney, a burned-out mercenary with a troubled past, returns home to small-town Kansas to heal his scars and quiet his demons, not planning to stay long enough for the townsfolk to reject who he has become.

He never expected the town to need his deadlier skills.

When a terrorist attack on distant cities abruptly transforms life as they knew it, the people of Emmaus must forge their own disaster plan to survive.

What would you do if the world as you know it ended today?

The people of Emmaus will find out.

Posted June 28, 2018 by aurorawatcherak in book promotion, Uncategorized

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Let’s Declare June 27 as Dues Freedom Day   Leave a comment

The Janis decision was all over the news on my morning commute so I was prepared when the union steward walked into my office and announced it was “union-busting” and practically put a pen in my hand to get me to “opt-in” to paying union dues. I’ve been a union member for about six years — not because I opted to become a member, but because I was not given a choice. It’s not that I object to the retirement fund or the medical insurance, but that I object to the political stances of the union which are almost never in agreement with what I believe about politics.

Image result for image of scotus union decisionI don’t do pressure as a rule. My father was a union organizer and I grew up serving coffee at the meetings, so I know all the tactics this Steward might wield. I also know that “talking shop” during work hours can get you fired. So I thanked him for the info and the card and said “I need to get back to work now.” I think he was honestly surprised that I didn’t weep over the Janis decision.

The card hasn’t hit the circular file yet, because I need to do some homework on the whole thing before I make a rash decision, but I think the Janis decision is a great thing and that we poor union slaves ought to celebrate June 27 as Freedom Day.

I don’t make a lot of secrets that I’m a libertarian. My union advocates for me to vote for the likes of David Guttenberg and Scott Kawasaki — both extreme liberals who are trying to institute an income tax in Alaska … when they aren’t favorably negotiating employee wages and benefits with the union that funded their campaigns.

Yeah, that’s collusion of the sort that, if they were in private business, would get them put in prison.  So, if I wasn’t opposed to voting for them because they want to take a chunk of the income I need to pay my bills with, I would be opposed to voting for them because they’re corrupt and possibly criminals.

But, watch! I’m willing to bet that over the next few months, as that card languishes in my suspense file, that my “brothers in employment” will exert some not-so-subtle pressure on me to comply with something I don’t agree with.

Posted June 28, 2018 by aurorawatcherak in Common sense, Uncategorized

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Open Book Blog Hop – 25th June   Leave a comment

Stevie Turner

Thanks to my techie support husband, I can take part in this week’s Open Book Blog Hop while I’m over on the Island.  We now have Internet for more than half an hour every day!

This week’s topic is ‘What historical event would you have liked to witness?

Ooh, there is more than one event I would have liked to witness, some historical and some not, so I’ll list them here:

1.  Life in Osborne House, Isle of Wight before Prince Albert’s death in 1861, from the privileged viewpoint of Vicky, Princess Royal, eldest child of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.

2.  The launch of the Titanic, in April 1912.

3.  To walk with Lord Tennyson on his regular perambulations over High Down, Freshwater Bay, Isle of Wight, now called the ‘Tennyson Trail’.

4.  To have seen the cobbled street of my childhood as it was 100 years before I…

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Posted June 25, 2018 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

Grand Sachem   2 comments

What historical event would you have liked to witness?

Rules:1. Link your blog to this hop.
2. Notify your following that you are participating in this blog hop.
3. Promise to visit/leave a comment on all participants’ blogs.
4. Tweet/or share each person’s blog post. Use #OpenBook when tweeting.
5. Put a banner on your blog that you are participating.

 

 

Wow, that’s a great question. As a history geek, it might be easier to ask what historical event I would NOT want to witness – which would be the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. I’ll stick with the movie version, thank you. That said, if they ever invent a time travel device, I’d take a grand tour of history and probably not come back.

Image result for image of tarheBut … honestly … I guess I have to narrow it to ONE event ….

I’m going to assume I’m a fly on the wall …. Following the prime directive of time travel, I don’t get to interfere in the event because space-time continuum pollution is a BAD thing.

Rather than a single event, I would like to follow a person and a series of events in his life. Sachem Tarhe is probably the most famous Wyandot Indian in history — a war-leader with a gift for diplomacy – variously known as  Tarhee, Tarkee, Takee, the Crane or – by the French – as Le Grue, Le Chef Grue, or Monsieur Grue.

Born near Detroit to a woman of the Porcupine Clan, Tarhe’s name might mean “tree”, which makes sense since he was 6 ft 4 in a day and age when six foot was considered tall. The name is now pronounced Tar-hee, but the earlier writers indicated that the accent was on the second syllable (so Tar-Hay). Tarhe was a warrior who served in most if not all of his nation’s battles, possibly even the Braddock fight when he would have been 13 or 14 years old. It’s known he was at Dunmore’s War and conspicuous at the Battle of Point Pleasant. He was a contemporary with Tecumseh, but they often disagreed sharply, especially on the need for peace with the white settlers and the value of negotiation.

The Wyandots were prominent in the defeat of Braddock in 1755. A Huron/Wendat from Lorette, Quebec, commanded all of the Indians in the battle. Although there was French support, it was truly an Indian victory. A contingent of Ottawa warriors led by Chief Pontiac were at Braddock’s defeat. Tarhe supported Pontiac at Detroit eight years later, so it would be interesting to know if the older man noticed the young Wyandot at that early age.

Pontiac depended heavily on the Wyandots in 1763. The chieftain whom Parkman refers to as “Takee” was almost certainly Tarhe. Another Wyandot, Teata, went along (with some reluctance), but his group of Wyandots never exhibited the enthusiasm of Tarhe’s followers.

Historians identify the Wyandots (also known as Wyndake) as the premier warriors of the Midwest and victories at the Battle of Bloody Bridge, Fort Sandusky, Presque Isle and elsewhere could hardly have been won without the Wyandots’ contribution. By 1763, when barely 20 years of age, Tarhe was regarded as a leading warrior.

Tarhe became Sachem – a war leader, but he never became chief, which carried the title of Ron-Tun-Dee, or Warpole. Although regarded as a very brave man, Tarhe was not considered a truly great warrior by his own tribe. The Wyandots loved and respected him but they believed Round Head, Zhaus-Sho-Toh, Khun, Splitlog and others to be superior warriors. In a nation of warriors excellence was commonplace.

The Grand Sachem was the titular head of the warriors of the Wyandot nation (women were the chiefs of non-war matters … including land distribution, which is why when whites negotiated with the sachems, the agreements were not wholly binding under Indian tradition). Truly great war chiefs (Grand Sachem) held the title of Sastaretsi. Wyandots didn’t have royalty, but the title of Sastaretsi was in actual practice often inherited. developing a hereditary line of chiefs. If Sastaretsi died without a suitable heir, the tribal council (controlled by the women) selected a successor.

Such an occasion arose in 1788 when Too-Dah-Reh-Zhooh died. he was better known by his many other names, such as Half-King, Pomoacan, Dunquad, Daunghuat and Petawontakas.

Tarhe was chosen to be the successor of Too-Doh-Reh-Zhooh. There is no record of any other member of the Porcupine Clan having become Sastaretsi up until that time. Sachems had always come from the Deer, Bear and Turtle clans. Tarhe, a Porcupine, had exhibited unique abilities as war leader and was selected by general consensus to guide the Wyandots in the desperate days as the new American military sought to gain control of the old Northwest Territory that included Ohio and parts of Michigan. Although he assumed the duties and powers of Grand Sachem, it is not believed that Tarhe ever assumed the title Sastaretsi.

And, I’d like to know why. Tribal legend says he was a fairly humble  man, so perhaps it was a personal choice. Some folks assume it was clan bigotry, but he was given all the power of Sastaretsi which puts the lie to bigotry. So why didn’t he assume the title?

Tarhe had already gained the respect of the various tribes and of the French, British and Americans long before this time. In 1786, Tarhe and his son-in-law, Isaac Zane, were listed among the witnesses to a United States treaty-signing with the Shawnee. Zane was a captive white raised in Wendat culture. He was later reunited with his white family, but chose to return to the Wyandots. He later married Tarhe’s daughter and served as Tarhe’s primary interpreter.

Tarhe became Grand Sachem in 1788, a critical time when the American government sent Arthur St. Clair into the Ohio Territory to reestablish peace (and pave the way for the founding of Marietta, Ohio, which was being built as Adelphia (brotherhood) at that time). St. Clair had been instructed to offer back to the tribes some lands north of the Ohio River and east of the Muskingum River in exchange for disputed territory where settlers already were. St. Clair defied orders and instead threatened the tribes with attack and then bribed several pliable chiefs into a one-sided agreement called the Treaty of Fort Harmar on January 9, 1789.

 

I’d love to be a fly on the wall in 1788 to see what transpired … to actually know rather than just surmise why Tarhe agreed to this devil’s deal. Was it because he was brand-new as Grand Sachem? Some historians believe the women tribal leaders might have instructed their freshly selected Grand Sachem to sue for peace at any cost. Did his interpreter not explain the negotiations properly? I kind of doubt that because Isaac Zane was a tribal member whose sympathies lie with the Wyandot and by all accounts he spoke English and Wendat fluently.

In later years, Tarhe helped negotiate many treaties as Grand Sachem, attempting to hold his tribe together, serve the other tribes in the area and relinquish each parcel of land only after the pressures had become unbearable. It makes no sense that he’d agreed to the Treaty of Muskogum as a successful and intelligent war chief only two years before, but then he’d agree to accept the Treaty of Harmar which completely contradicted that earlier treaty. After the Harmar treaty broke down, he personally led the fights against Clark, Bouquet, Harmar, St. Clair and Wayne. Although Tarhe was eventually defeated, both his enemies and his friends knew he was dedicated first and last to the welfare of his people.

So what happened in 1788 that he didn’t defend his people’s’s interests? There are legends that claim Tarhe chose not to accept the “gifts” St. Clair offered.  There’s the theories about the women and his interpreter. I never heard one in which people accused Tahre of being greedy, though it is said of other war leaders who signed the treaty. I’m not sure which of these I believe and I’d rather know for certain. This man is a hero of my tribe. Did he deserve that honor? I wish I knew.

The last battle Tarhe fought in personally was Fallen Timbers in 1794. The Indian alliance in the Ohio region was tattered by that time and Fallen Timbers was a devastating defeat for them. The only tribe to fight with distinction was the Wyandots. Pinned down near the river, they suffered heavy casualties — of the 13 chiefs who entered the battle, only Tarhe survived and he was severely wounded.

Most Indians realized their cause was lost after Fallen Timbers. The British had promised to support them if they attacked the American settlers and then failed to do so and the tribes could no longer assemble a force capable of opposing Wayne. Almost all of the Indian leaders in the Midwest responded and pledged peace at Greenville in July 1795. A notable exception was Tecumseh. At this great assemblage of Indians who met with Wayne, the acknowledged leader of the Indians was Tarhe, and a principal interpreter was Isaac Zane, his son-in-law.

During the lengthy negotiations Tarhe made several speeches. The following example of his eloquence gives some measure of his intellect:

“Elder brother! Now listen to us. The Great Spirit above has appointed this day for us to meet together. I shall now deliver my sentiments to you, the fifteen fires. I view you, lying in a gore of blood. It is me, an Indian who caused it. Our tomahawk yet remains in your head- the English gave it to me to place there.

Elder brother! I now take the tomahawk out of your head; but with so much care you shall not feel pain or injury. I will now tear a big tree up by the roots and throw the hatchet into the cavity which they occupy; where the waters will wash it away to where it can never be found. Now, I have buried the hatchet, and I expect that none of my color will ever again find it out. I now tell you that none in particular can justly claim this ground- it belongs in common to all. No earthly being has an exclusive right to it.

Brothers, the fifteen fires, listen! You now see that we have buried the hatchet. We still see blood around, and in order to clear away all grief, we now wipe away the blood from around you, which together with the dirt that comes away from it, we bury with the hatchet in the hole we have made for them, and replace the great tree, as it stood before, so that neither our children, nor our children’s children can ever again discover it.

 

Brother! We speak not from our lips, but from our hearts, when we are resolved upon good works. I always told you that I never intended to deceive you, when we entered upon this business. It was never the intention of us Indians to do so. I speak from my heart what I now say to you. The Great Spirit is now viewing us, and did he discover any baseness or treachery, it would excite his just anger against us.”

 

Echoes of Liberty (The Clarion Call Book 2) by [Walsh, Richard, Andersen, Diane, Brumley, Bokerah, Knowles, Joseph, Markham, Lela, Chiavari, Lyssa, Biedermann, Heather, Schulz, Cara, Johnson, Mark, Mickel, Calvin]Chief Tarhe died in November 1816, at Cranetown near Upper Sandusky Ohio. The funeral for this 76 year old man was the largest ever known for an Indian Chief. Among the Indians coming from great distances was Red Jacket, the noted leader and orator from Buffalo, New York. The mourners wore no paint or decorations of any kind and their countenance showed the deepest sorrow.

By the way, I have been so fascinated by this question that when asked to write an alternative historical fiction short story with libertarian influences, I chose to focus on what the Treaty of Harmar could have been if only someone had had the vision … and the US Constitution had not been ratified. “A Bridge at Adelphia” can be found in Echoes of Liberty, a project of the Agorist Writers Workshop, which comes out with an new anthology this fall … and, yes, I have another story in it, a modern Alaskan take on the fable “The Mouse and the Lion”.

And now that I think about it, it is really sad that the prime directive of time travel is don’t interfere because I would love to see what America would have become if Europeans had assimilated to American Indian culture rather than just flooded in and took over. I suspect we’d be different and, hopefully, better, retaining both elements of our combined culture.

Stay Tuned for the Blog Hop   Leave a comment

Featured Image -- 57569

This week we’re answering the question “What historical event would you have liked to witness?”

Rules:

1. Link your blog to this hop.
2. Notify your following that you are participating in this blog hop.
3. Promise to visit/leave a comment on all participants’ blogs.
4. Tweet/or share each person’s blog post. Use #OpenBook when tweeting.
5. Put a banner on your blog that you are participating.

 

 

You gotta know I’m not giving the Miss America Pageant answer.

Posted June 24, 2018 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop, Uncategorized

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Let’s Discuss Violence   1 comment

A tour around the Internet says some portion of the population is really worried about dying from gun violence … so worried they’re willing to disarm everyone in hopes that will keep them safe and to jail anyone who disagrees.

First, they need to calm down. Your chance of dying of gun violence in the United States is about 30,000 out of a population of 360 million. That’s less than 1% risk. You’re far more likely to get run over by a bus or  bitten by a mongoose than killed with a gun.

Image result for image of violenceSecond, disarming the law-abiding won’t disarm criminals or the police (rather the same thing these days) so it won’t reduce violence … it will just shift how it is done. As a small woman, I am not defending myself against the physical violence of a large man unless I have a gun, which means I am much more likely to become a victim of non-gun violence if I am disarmed. Americans use guns between 100,000 and a half-million times a year to defend themselves from violent crime. My mother was one of those people when I was in junior high and the men she frightened away from our house (by brandishing a gun) went down the road and raped a classmate of mine. Needless to say, I think the ability to defend yourself is non-negotiable.

But let’s take a look at what are the most common gun-violence deaths.

Suicide accounts for 63% of all firearm deaths in the US. It’s the most common gun-related death. And, no, the answer is not “take all the guns away and people will stop killing themselves.” I worked in the mental health field, folks, and I saw this scenario way too many times. The client would be placed in the hospital, their guns (if they had any) would be confiscated, they’d be released and someone would find them hanging in the woods by a rope. Or they’d slit their wrists or they’d save up their anxiety meds and overdose. If someone wants to kill themselves, they will find a way to do that … and do, even while in hospitals for treatment. If violating the right of self-protection was the answer to suicide, Poland, with some of the strictest gun laws in the world, would not have a suicide rate 50% higher than that of the United States, which has some of the more lenient gun laws in the world. Leaving healthy people helpless at the hands of criminals or government thugs will not significantly reduce suicides … which still account for 63% of all gun violence.

Road rage situations.  About 100 people a year die from incidents involving a gun during a road rage incident and in most cases, they were described as the aggressor in the incident, who got out of their car to confront someone they considered to be a jerk and that “jerk” defended themselves with a gun because they preferred not to be beaten to death by an angry driver. And, yes, they could be included in another figure further down.

Gangs. Violence is the accepted norm among gang members, resulting in many becoming victims of gun violence. According to the Center for Disease Control, a staggering 80% of gun homicides are gang-related.

Illicit drug trade. Yes, we could argue that drug laws are likely to result in gun violence from cops, but it’s also true that people already on the wrong side of the law are more likely to commit gun violence than the law-abiding population.

Abusive romances. I’m all about letting people put their pasts well and truly in the past, but we should acknowledge that someone who has previously physically abused a partner is more likely to do so than are those who haven’t.

Gun Free zonesOne study showed that 98% of all mass shootings happen in these places. Gun-free zone signs tell violent people this is a spot where they will encounter little immediate resistance to killing large numbers of people. As for everywhere else, assuming you’re in a state or community that allows concealed carry, these predators may be deterred since they have to wonder if there’s already a good guy with a gun on the property. It might be an explanation for why only 2% of mass shootings occur outside of gun-free zones, but it also explains why states with constitutional carry rarely experience public mass shootings.

Human predator. A significant number (about 700 each year) of gun deaths are justifiable homicide wherein a victim successfully defends themselves from criminal assault. Which, when you think about it, is amazing. If Americans protect themselves from violent crime 100,000 times a year with a gun, but only 700 predator-humans are killed … that says that an awful lot of concealed carry people de-escalate situations while having a gun in their hand … or it could mean that the predators run away when confronted with a gun.

Irresponsible gun owners. There really is no such thing as an accidental discharge of a gun. Someone pulled the trigger or caused a situation in which the trigger was pulled by an inanimate object. Still “accidental” shootings account for 4% of all gun-violence deaths. If you know someone who breaks any of the four rules of gun safety, they are one of a tiny minority of gun owners who give the rest of us a bad image.

Thankfully, the odds of anyone in the U.S. dying from gun violence each year is exceedingly low … about 30,000 out of 360 million people — so less than 1%. Now can we have a conversation about what to do with the behaviors around guns that cause these shootings rather than trying to disarm everyone in a futile attempt to end violence?

Not Living Up to the World’s Standards   1 comment

A new post on Christian Creative Nexus.

https://deliatalent.wordpress.com/2018/06/18/not-living-up-to-the-worlds-standards/

What makes a Christian creative a Christian?

I had to ask myself that question recently when someone with an axe to grind posted a review of one of my books that said, in essence, that I wasn’t a Christian because I don’t think the Army would walk on water and hand out flowers during the Apocalypse.

Sigh.

Image result for image of christian vs worldly standardsI grew up and now live in a very military town. About one-quarter of my friends and family are either in the military or were once in the military. I know some lovely military people. I also have had plenty of experience with jerks who were jacked up on the power of being in the military. There’s that dichotomy in human nature that doesn’t go away if you ignore it. The Transformation Project series focuses on how ordinary people, including military and civilian authorities, react in an apocalyptic situation where their command structure has been fractured. I don’t show all individuals with military authority acting in a heroic manner because I personally know people who wouldn’t act honorably in a situation where they’re given that kind of power and no oversight.  The news has covered some of these people. I believe there would be more of them if the command structure that is in place no longer existed. I have other military characters who do act honorably … and some of them die for that stand. That’s the only defense I’m going to offer.

Circling back to my original theme of “in the world, but not of it” … must Christian creatives stand for certain secular societal norms or be deemed “not Christian”?

Being a Christian is defined by one thing. You can discover it in Romans 10:9-10.

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.

Do you believe that Jesus Christ is God, Savior of mankind and your soul and do you confess that publicly? Your lifestyle should adhere to that and your politics are part of your lifestyle. Whether you support the military, love policemen, eat apple pie, or spend Mother’s Day with your mom isn’t really addressed in the Bible, therefore, they are personal decisions that each of us make individually.

“Art, though, is never the voice of a country; it is an even more precious thing, the voice of the individual, doing its best to speak, not comfort of any sort, but truth. And the art that speaks it most unmistakably, most directly, most variously, most fully, is fiction; in particular, the novel.” ~ Eudora Welty in On Writing.

Writing a novel is about addressing truth as the author sees it. A lot of Christians are very supportive of conservative political causes that I can’t find anywhere in the Bible. There’s nothing wrong with that – most of the time. We live in this world and the politics of the secular world affects us. When my taxes go up, I have less money to give to the church, which I feel spends social welfare funds much more wisely than the government does. I vote accordingly. We should all care if a politician believes it is okay to kill babies in the womb. We should pray for people caught up in the cycle of drug addiction or alcoholism, pornography or polyamory. The Bible is clear on many issues that Christians ought to have an opinion on and the Bible tells us what that opinion should be.

Image result for image of christian vs worldly standardsThe Bible is less clear on our involvement in those secular programs designed to address some of the world’s evils. I harbor doubts about how Jesus would feel about some secular programs American Christians are expected to support simply because we’re expected to support them. As a Christian creative who wants to reach a larger audience than just Christians who read religiously-oriented literature, I have given serious thought to which subjects for which I’m willing to fall on my authorial sword. I made a commitment to show Christian characters as human … with flaws, while showing their beliefs respectfully. I have every admiration for our Savior, not always the same feeling toward His followers. I try to show the world as I see it and not as I would like it to be, recognizing that it is fallen and so are the people in it. And, yet, I struggle with where the lines are because it’s not so simple as the Christian publishers make it seem. Because I’ve rejected those made-up constraints, I have to set new ones of my own – ones that I hope are Biblically-based, but not ignoring this world as it really is.

What about you? If you’re a Christian creative trying to reach a secular audience, do you find it difficult to push the “Christian” boundaries in a Christ-centric way without upsetting the “standards” people have applied to Christian creatives?

What Prisoners Want   1 comment

LELA: My guest today is long-time friend Bern S. He was a close friend and our entry into jail ministry. The friendship came first. We agreed we wouldn’t use your full name … that you’ve had enough of being infamous. So tell us a little bit about yourself.

BERN: I’m originally from the Northeast by way of Texas, but I’ve lived in Alaska for 35 years, so I think I can call myself an Alaskan legitimately. Right?

LELA:  Definitely. Alaskans don’t hand out that title casually, but you’ve done auto repair at 40 below zero, had the wits scared out of you by a bear, and hold a black belt in Copper River salmon fishing, so you definitely qualify. And you’re married to an Alaska-born woman and have Alaska-born children. You get bonus points.

Related imageBERN:  Ooo, like extra credit!  Love it! So your audience now knows I’m a family man and a salmon fisher. I also am a Christian who goes to church when I feel like it and an inventor of wood stove accessories. But that’s not why we’re here today, so ….

LELA: It’s been, what, 24 years?

BERN:  Coming up in September, yeah.

LELA:  You ended up in jail, right?

BERN:  For four years, yes. I don’t like to talk about it, but I stalk you on Twitter and this gal was going after you, so I called you up and said “Interview me!” You didn’t even know she was having a meltdown.

LELA:  I knew, but I was ignoring it. So, we’re not going to talk about what you did to go to jail. That’s in keeping with my belief that felons should have their records expunged when they’re done serving their time. If I could do that for you, I would.

BERN:  I know that. You’re one of the few people who knows the whole story. You’re also one of the few people who has supported me through all of it and I appreciate that.

LELA:  Ain’t nothing good in me. Tell me about prison.

BERN:  Yeah. It sucks. You think the punishment is having your rights taken away from you and visiting your family through glass, but there’s a lot more to it than that.

LELA:  Like?

BERN:  I think people think this is whining ….

LELA:  People think any complaint by a prisoner is whining. Just accept your punishment.

BERN:   Right. Out of sight, out of mind … unless you’re family or a good friend.

LELA:  So, whine away, man! Let them believe what they want.

BERN: Okay. If anyone qualifies for PTSD diagnosis, it’s gotta be prisoners. Not all the guards are bad. Some treat you human, but the whole system is set up to make you feel helpless and hopeless. I’ve had 20 years to think about this and they just want to break you down in hopes that you will never want to go back there again. They change cellmates, like, almost daily. You maybe get to have the same one for a month or two, but not usually. You get to know a guy and then he’s gone and you have no idea what this next guy is all about. Maybe he’s just trying to do his time like you are, maybe he’s an abusive asshole … and anything in between. And you’re sharing an 8×10 cell with him, so you are going to know each other far too well by the end of the first day.

LELA: That sounds chaotic.

BERN: It drives home that you have zero control over your life.

LELA: And you think that’s the point?

BERN: I hope they have a point. I know, you don’t think they have a point.

LELA: That’s how I’m going to write it when I use it, yeah.

BERN:  They wash all the clothes together so your underwear ends up blue or tan. I’ve heard that some prisons it’s pink. It drives home the fact that you’re sharing underwear with hundreds of guys. And then there are the scrubs and deck shoes you have to wear. At least at Spring Creek I got to wear sort of street clothes because I was one of the workers.

LELA: You got to work in prison?

BERN: I was one of the few. I wasn’t a career criminal. I had skills going in and so I got the highest paying job in the complex – 60 cents an hour doing maintenance.

LELA: By maintenance, you mean plumbing, heating, electrical repair … not janitorial.

BERN:  Technically, but when one of the guys in Mike Mod would flush his pants to cause a disruption on a Sunday morning, I’d end up having to clean up the backup, so in reality …. But the State of Alaska no longer does prison industries anymore, so I’m not even sure that my job would be available now.

LELA: Why’d they close down the prison industries? I know they used to make coffins at Spring Creek and there was a furniture store and they used to wash all the Alaska Marine Highway linens at Lemon Creek.

BERN: They said it was financial, but I don’t know how you could get cheaper than paying someone 30 cents an hour to wash clothes.When I would do maintenance, the real workers would never go into the really yuk places and they didn’t clean up feces. That was all me. And I was glad to do it because it meant I was doing something and I got paid.

LELA: Talk about how important that is.

BERN: Doing something or getting paid?

LELA:  Both.

BERN:  Boredom is the biggest punishment. I missed my family. I missed trees. I missed my dog. But I could focus on a date when I would get out and that got me through that. I’d write letters to my wife and talk to my little girl … and my dog … on the phone. But it was the day-to-day that just ate me up. You’ve got nothing to do. The prison library is mostly a joke. There are fewer books on their shelves than on yours. And if I had to read another Zane Grey novel …. There was schooling available then too (not anymore) and I made use of that. But the fact was that I couldn’t fill all the hours I had and working helped with that. Working eight hours a day at 60 cents meant I had $4 a day. I could buy shaving creme or a pad and pencil or an anniversary card for my wife. If I saved up, I could get a gift for my daughter without having to ask my wife to put money on my books so I could buy it.

LELA: I hear it in your voice. It’s humiliating even 20 years later.

BERN: Humbling but not as bad as the mind-numbing boredom of staring at four walls with nothing to do and knowing tomorrow would be exactly the same. Imagine doing that for two and a half years.

LELA:  I can’t.

BERN:  C’mon, writer chick, I bet you could if you tried. Guys would get into trouble just to break the monotony. Of course, that didn’t work out for them because they ended up in segregation staring at even closer walls and sometimes it added to their time. I was fortunate that I had a job to go to because I served exactly the amount of time I was required to serve and not one day more and I didn’t lose even an hour of good time. I couldn’t have done that with nothing to do.

LELA: Good time?

BERN: If you’re good, they take one day off your sentence for every three days served. So, I was sentenced to six years to serve (with probably after), but I only actually served four years.

LELA: And you served the last 18 months in a halfway house, right?”

BERN: That was a whole other kind of humiliating and frustrating, but the good thing there was I could go to a legal job with real wages. I remember how annoying it was that the halfway house would put it in an account and refuse to let me have more than about 20 bucks. I wanted to be able to contribute to my household and they wouldn’t let me. “Well, what if your wife decides to leave you? You’re going to need that money when  you get out.” My release counselor actually said that. I was, like, “man, if she didn’t leave me yet, she’s not planning to leave me now.” Meanwhile she’s driving a car that’s falling apart and working two jobs trying to keep our daughter in clothes and I’m still having to ask her to help me with my expenses. It sometimes seems like they were trying to break up marriages.

LELA: A friend who was a prison guard claims that is part of it and a part he really regretted being a part of.

BERN:  Tom?

LELA:  Yeah.

BERN:  One of the ones who treated us like humans and the administration made him pay for that.

LELA:  He’s enjoying his retirement. So, then you got out. You’re still married. You have two children … they’re adult-ish now. You own your own business. You own a home. You vote in elections.

BERN:  My wife is made of tough stuff … like one of those aspen trees that grows on the bluffs in Chitina. I can’t say enough good things about her. I kind of had to start my own business because the felony kept getting in the way. It just kept coming up. You’d think that after 20 years it wouldn’t be an issue, but employers … well, their insurance companies, anyway … never let you forget.

LELA: Which is why the borderline anarchists are working on a ban-the-box law. I’ll keep working to my dying day to make our criminal justice system stop stigmatizing people for life. It might not work, but I’m not going to stop. Is there something you want ordinary people to know about you and people who have been through what you have been through?

BERN: We’re people just like you. Some of us went into the system for something we didn’t plan and would take back if we could. Others made law-breaking a career, but you know, they don’t put people in jail for that in Alaska anymore. Human have brains and deserve better than staring at four walls for years on end. But more than that, there’s dignity in work and in getting paid real money for real work and prisoners deserve dignity. The reason I called you up was that the person going after you was totally wrong. I’m not illiterate or retarded and neither were most of the guys I was in with. Don’t make the mistake of thinking drug-dealers are ill-informed or idiots. They worked in a system that involves the voluntary exchange of goods. They ran a business, even if the government didn’t get a cut. So it’s not up to suburban housewives and college graduates with a degree in social fluff to decide for us what we can and cannot do with our lives and what few options we have when we’re inside. I participated in a university scientific experiment that involved giving a periodic blood sample and keeping track of what I ate. I actually bought my wife flowers for Valentine’s that year. I got asked last year to take part in a follow-up to that study and I did. If it was a good cause, I’d be glad to take part in an experiment like that now. There’s one where you get to spend a couple of weeks in a closed-up hotel while they try to expose you to the flu so they can develop a vaccine. They pay you $5000 for it. I’m trying to figure out how to put my name in for it because it sounds like easy money … depending on what the actual paperwork says when I read it. I’m obviously going to read that pretty carefully before I sign my name on the dotted line. But more than that … the flu kills and so I think an actual effective vaccine against it would be a good idea and I’m willing to help with that. And you see, that’s where I’m trying to find significance in my culture … a feeling that I’m still a contributing member of society even if society thinks I’m a pariah.

Your troll was partially right … in a broke-clock-right-twice-a-day way — that there were some awful things that happened in the past. Prisons were awful back in the day for very different reasons than they’re awful now. There were medical experiments that were done on prisoners that were cruel and just wrong. You knew about those?

LELA:  Sure. The LSD experiements and the Malaria Project come to mind. There were a lot more than that, but I’d have to look them up to remember them all. But those were decades ago (literally 40+ years ago) and prisoners prevailed in court and are now some of the most highly-protected medical research subjects in the country.

BERN: Absolutely. There are laws — informed consent laws that prisons and medical researchers have to abide by these days. You can even consult your own lawyer before signing. And there’s always a prisoner advocate about to consult too. They won’t let you not consult them. Your troll apparently doesn’t know about those. Which isn’t very surprising. A lot of people don’t actually study anything. They read something a website they agree with writes and they just agree with it without checking the facts. They do it on both ends of politics. And then again, there’s all the people who have never talked to someone like me, let alone anyone actually in prison now, and just assume crap as if they know. There’s this attitude … I run into it even now … that if you’ve ever had a run-in with the law, you must not be very bright. Sometimes I want to just grab people by the shoulders and scream “You could be next, you naive idiot.” Of course, that would be considered assault so I’ll settle for saying it on your blog.

LELA:  They’d probably arrest me for it too. Thank goodness for the internet where you can’t actually shake someone to death. Yes, there are ethical concerns in prisoners taking part in research. There are ethical concerns in non-prisoners taking part in research. It’s research and you could die of the flu if given the flu. But I can’t help think that people like her who object so strong have bought the line that research can be done with computer models instead of actual living subjects. They scream and yell about animal research, never asking if that means the drug will be tested directly on humans and then they scream and yell about human research … and I’m not sure what they think the alternative is. And yet if they get some condition, they want to be treated. Maybe doctors should just start saying “Well, sorry, but we had to stop that research because we couldn’t get enough test subjects.” Then they’d sue the doctor for not treating their condition.

BERN:  Your uncle is a researcher, right?

LELA:  Cousin … yes. I can’t imagine where MS treatment would be today if the attitudes that prevail now were in existence in the 1970s through the 90s.

BERN: More to our topic, HIV research was stymied in the 1980s by concerns about using prisoner research subjects. There’s more IV-drug users in the prisons than in the general population, but you know, they might feel coerced if asked to take part. Imagine how many people died because there were all these huge hurdles to allowing someone like me to take part in a clinical trial just because I was behind bars.

LELA:  And the amazing thing to me is that my advocating for that got me hit with a label of not being compassionate.

BERN:  There’s a lot of phony compassion out there … people who haven’t got a clue, but are certain they know better than the people who are actually involved. They define compassion oddly. And they frequently base their opinions on the opinions of those who haven’t been involved. Nobody should ever be forced take part in something they don’t want to take part in. Everyone should have a choice. Prisoners are pretty good at saying “hell, no!” when it’s something they don’t want to do because they’re already doing something they don’t want to do. But not understanding the basic need for people to have significance … to feel like they’re contributing to society … that seems pretty uncompassionate to me. Yeah, you need to make sure they know what they’re doing, but let people who have so few choices in life make their own choices about whether to give a little blood or whatever. It might just help them to feel like a worthwhile human being again.

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/should-prisoners-be-used-in-medical-experiments/

 

Open Book Blog Hop – 18th June   1 comment

Stevie Turner

This week the topic is:

What’s your opinion on authors giving away their books for free?

My opinion changes on this one.  To start with I decided not to give away any books for free.  I came to the conclusion that $1.95 (the price I settled on in 2015) was not too much to pay for one of my books, and readers did buy a fair few.  In 2015 I sold 1142 books, and just under 1000 in 2016 (in August 2016 I had my best ever month at 179 books sold).

Then the rot set in during 2017 with pirated copies everywhere on the Internet.  I received almost daily Google notifications that my books were ‘free’ for downloading, even though I had not authorised this. I decided to try and draw honest readers in by offering one of my books for free during February, March and May 2017.  All…

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Posted June 18, 2018 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

Books as Business   3 comments

What’s your opinion on authors giving their books away for free?

Rules:

1. Link your blog to this hop.
2. Notify your following that you are participating in this blog hop.
3. Promise to visit/leave a comment on all participants’ blogs.
4. Tweet/or share each person’s blog post. Use #OpenBook when tweeting.
5. Put a banner on your blog that you are participating.

 

 

TP Cover Montage

Well, there’s that word “feel”. And while I feel a lot, I try not to base what I think on it because feelings are as changeable as the wind in April (er, March, for Lower 48ers) and books are a business and business requires a strategy, not a lot of emotion.

So, what do I think of authors giving their books away for “free”?

I think giving books away with no cost to the reader is a good short-term way to generate interest in a series or an author who has more than one book, but it’s not without cost, so you really can’t call it “free.”

There’s all the time and effort the author put into the book. That’s a cost to the author. Yes, authors have a right to give away whatever they want. I would never argue that someone doesn’t have a right to give away their stuff. But I hope authors would pause and think about this.

You get what you pay for. A boss of mine way back in college used to say that to people who wanted her to give them a lower price on what she was selling. She gave a great service for a fair price … the price the market would bear. Her business was finally ended by the government getting into competition against her and giving her service away for “free”. Well, not exactly. What she sold for about $15 a night cost the taxpayers of the City of Fairbanks $130 a day. It didn’t kill the business outright, but every year it siphoned off enough business that eventually she closed because she wasn’t making a profit any longer and, so you see the cost of “free”. Draw your own conclusions about what I mean by that story.

The Daermad Cycle (2 Book Series) by  Lela Markham

When I first published The Willow Branch I didn’t sell a lot of copies. I played around with the cost and I still didn’t sell a lot of copies. I had The Willow Branch on Amazon and Smashwords and it just wasn’t selling. A friend suggested I make it “free” on Smashwords, which eventually causes Amazon to drop it to free. But then another friend posted a blog article about how long it took the New Testament to become the best seller it is, suggesting authors really need to be more patient. I prayed about it and decided to put the book on Amazon Select for six months.

That was a hard decision because I don’t believe in monopolies and Amazon Select is a monopoly. I would prefer to be spread across a lot of channels, but I did it as an experiment. I still didn’t sell many books that first six months, but I hadn’t been idle. I published Life As We Knew It. It’s not the same series. It’s an apocalyptic set the day after tomorrow rather than a high fantasy. I put it on Select at the get-go as another experiment. And it slowly began selling, easily overtaking sales for The Willow Branch.

Meanwhile, I wrote the next book Mirklin Wood and got a surprise — two books in a series sell better than one book by itself. I’ve since published Objects in View and A Threatening Fragility in Transformation Project and seen the same phenomenon.

Now, I’m not completely against price manipulation to attract attention. I offer The Willow Branch at no charge to the reader from time to time, usually putting other books on sale that day. It does get attention, though it gets more attention when I place Life As We Knew It at no-cost for a day. That’s the difference between genres. Thriller/apocalyptics sell better than fantasies.

Hullabaloo on Main Street: A Satirical Look at America's Bubble Battles by [Markham, Lela, Sliney, Laurel]Ah, but there’s something else to consider. Kindle Unlimited is available to anyone who is willing to pay for Amazon Prime. You get two books per month included-in-the-price with AP, which means that pricing your book appropriately is important if you want to attract readers through KU.  I keep experimenting with pricing and seeing what works and what doesn’t. According to Mark Coker of Smashwords, the sweet spot for pricing an ebook is $3.99. But I’m hearing from others that we might want to boost the price of our books because you want KU readers to feel they’re getting their value’s worth So, if you get two included-in-the-price books for about $10 a month, maybe your book needs to be $4.99 or even $5.99. I haven’t gotten that daring yet, but it’s a thought. And, since Christmas, I’ve made a fair amount of change off Unlimited.

I also have a book that isn’t sellling at all. Hullabaloo on Main Street is a slim novelette and political satire that’s been on Select for a year and it’s just not doing what I wanted. So, free, right?

No. Instead I’m going to put it on Barnes & Noble and a few other sites to see if my instincts about spreading a wider net are correct. I’ll play around with the price and see what happens. And if that doesn’t work, I’ll put it on Kindle Select at 99 cents and just stop worrying about it. I put time into every book I write and I hope lots of people read them, but I also know that I’ve earned some coin for doing the work. Maybe people will find it by accident while checking out my other books. Since it happens to be about our current stupid political climate, maybe I’ll be hailed as a prophet at some future time.

So, there you have it — what I think on the subject of “free” books. I treat my books like they’re a business and, yes, I have an emotional attachment to them, but I don’t lose sight of the bottom line. Giving away my books devalues my efforts and talents and is unnecessary because they do sell … mostly … when I exercise some patience toward that goal. And my next book Thanatosis should be coming out this fall. And because this is the fourth book in a series that is selling, I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for it to be free.

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