Archive for November 2018

SCOTUS Reconsideration   Leave a comment

Is baking (or at least decorating) a cake an art? If someone can be compelled to decorate a cake in violation of his/her religious beliefs, does that violate the concept of freedom of faith?

Contrary to popular belief, the Supreme Court never dealt with that issue in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case. It declined to deal with these issues, instead ruling narrowly in the baker’s favor because the Colorado State Civil Rights Commission displayed animus toward his religious beliefs. And Elena Kagan felt the question of whether the baker had refused to sell the couple of custom cake or any cake remained unanswered.

The decision is causing the Washington Supreme Court to go through the motions of reconsidering the Arlene’s Flowers case in light of Masterpiece, but there’s an Oregon case involving another baker that has reached the Supreme Court’s doorstep. Melissa and Aaron Klein are practicing Christians who owned and operated a bakery where they made and sold custom wedding cakes. An administrative law judge fined them $135,000 for refusing to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple, putting them out of business. The Kleins have provided proof that they had gladly served the couple in the past and merely objected to helping celebrate this particular ceremony, but an Oregon state appellate court upheld the fine.

Living according to one’s own conscience is the foundational principle of a free society, which is why freedom of expression is acknowledged by the First Amendment, which doesn’t just recognize your right to say what you wish, but it bars government from compelling you and I to say something you don’t agree with.

Cake decorating is definitely a creative pursuit, an expressive art form. If bakers are artists, they cannot be forced to convey messages that violate their beliefs, whether secular or religious values.

The courts have essentially been saying that only people who agree with same-sex marriage should be allowed to operate businesses related to weddings. That turns freedom of expression into a hollow principle. 

Although quite similar to Masterpiece Cakeshop, the Kleins’ case is neater, with fewer distractions unrelated to the core question of expression. For starters, there is no allegation that the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries showed anti-religious animus. Moreover, the Kleins did not sell off-the-shelf cakes to the general public; they created only custom cakes.

The Cato Institute is the only organization in the United States to have filed Supreme Court briefs supporting same-sex couples seeking to get married and vendors who don’t want to participate in those weddings, has now filed a brief supporting the Kleins’ petition to the US Supreme Court.

The Court should take the case to clarify that the First Amendment protects people from having to convey messages or express support for ceremonies with which they disagree. Klein v. Oregon Bureau of Labor & Industries presents an inquiry into the scope and nature of expression itself—and much like a good cake, we hope that the Court finds these issues too enticing to pass up.

Christmas #Book #Sale   Leave a comment

Posted November 29, 2018 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

Christmas #Book #Sale   1 comment

All #LelaMarkham #books are $2.99 or less for Christmas.

Open Book Blog Hop – November 26th   1 comment

Stevie Turner

This week the topic is:

When was the last time you did something for the first time?

As I grow older I definitely have become more unadventurous, however there are a few things that I’ve done for the first time this summer/autumn …

  1. Ate a persimmon (very nice they are too).
  2. Completed a 5 mile cycle ride with somebody 25 years younger (hard going).
  3. Sat in a kayak and paddled about (good fun).
  4. Slid down a water slide holding hands with my grandson (lovely).
  5. Completed a 2 mile steep uphill trek to the Tennyson monument at Freshwater, Isle of Wight (did this when younger, but this year for the first time as a 60 year old).
  6. Visited the Roman spas at Bath and the Clifton suspension bridge (recommended).
  7. Started to write a paranormal romance novel (17,000 words so far).  First time writing in this genre!
  8. Walked into Waterstones on the…

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Posted November 26, 2018 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

Keeping It Fresh   4 comments

When was the last time you did something for the first time?

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This was actually a hard question for me because I am always trying new things … new recipes, new hiking trails, new ideas, but those seem like they aren’t all that new because I’m always doing them. Does it count if I make a new recipe using techniques I’ve mastered decades ago? I didn’t think it did.

I eventually hit on what I am doing this November. I’ve done NaNoWriMo before as a challenge with a friend and wrote a deeply-flawed novel I have no interest in ever rescuing. I wrote myself into a corner and the main character refuses to speak to me, so it will languish on a disc in my archives and that’s probably it.

This year, I decided to do NaNoWriMo to rewrite a novel I think could be a great story with a main character that has been talking to me for two decades. When I write, I usually loop back to re-read portions of what I’ve written and to rewrite so things flow in context, but the rules of NaNoWriMo are that you write it in one run and you don’t edit. There’s no way I could do that with a new novel. I am firmly convinced the flaws of that earlier novel are a function of that process and it’s dead to me since I can’t write if the characters don’t talk to me. Apparently, I can’t even rewrite without character interaction.

This current novel concentrates on a young recovering alcoholic getting out of jail for a crime he deeply regrets. He wants forgiveness but knows he’ll never receive it. It’s loosely based on a  friend’s unfortunate years that deeply affected me when he told me about it. My novel is not his story, though he has been an adviser for some aspects of it.

What If Wasn’t has been written over several years. The plot makes sense, but a beta reader pointed out a lot of flaws. It’s episodic. The main scenes don’t appear to build on one another. It’s filled with bumper-sticker recovery language and way too much self-analysis by the main character.  A romance buds in it but I never pursued it because I was focused on the MC’s damage and painful past. The story itself needs to be deepened and made emotionally compelling.

So I’m going through and rewriting some scenes and then adding scenes that link the major scenes together. In the process, I’ve discovered a larger backdrop story that I didn’t realize existed that can act to drive some of the narrative. This time, I’m concentrating on making Peter more human and focusing not on his past, though he still has to haul that rotting baggage with him, but his way forward.

What I’m doing is a complete rewrite, save for a couple of scenes that impressed that beta reader, and I’m not looping back. Looping back is part of my established process, but this time I’m not doing that. I’ve written/rewritten 70,000 words this November and I’m getting to a great place in the story where the climax is about to happen. Peter thinks he’s ready to move forward and he’s about to be blindsided by a tidal wave he doesn’t see coming. I already wrote that – it was a point the beta reader thought worked well, but what follows it needs a huge rethink, to resolve that romance and to point Peter down the road to his future. I know there are continuity errors and that has me itching to loop back, but I’m not going to do it. I’m going to write those scenes this coming week. November 30 I’m going to close the rewrite, hopefully with the last scene written, and take a break from that story.

I’m learning a new skill, a difficult skill, a discipline I am not certain I will use in the future and know I won’t make it a centerpiece of my process, but I want to see if it can be a useful tool that improves my final product, maybe something to be added to a rewrite process. It certainly has sped up the rewrite and we’ll see if the novel is improved by it. I know this rewrite is better than what was written before. I also know it won’t be the final draft of this novel.

So when was the last time I did something for the first time? I’m doing it right now. 

Busting the Glass Ceiling   Leave a comment

I finally had two books bust the 1,000 ranking this week. YAY!

Life As We Knew It (Book 1 of Transformation Project) topped at 202 while Objects in View (Book 2 of Transformation Project) topped at 995. The third book in the series – A Threatening Fragility put in a respectable showing and the brand-new Day’s End (Book 4) had immediate sales. A great week. Thanks for all who made that possible.

Posted November 22, 2018 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

“Day’s End” Is Live   1 comment

Darkness Falls. 

They fought the USDA, but winning the battle didn’t assure their survival. The fundamental transformation of America is still underway and the next blow may be worse than the first. When the power grid goes down and stays down, people begin fleeing the cities in search of food and heat, forcing Emmaus, Kansas to re-evaluate what is important to them and what they owe strangers on the road going by the town. 

While some distant community members undertake perilous journeys home through a human landscape that is rapidly becoming unrecognizable, others face life-altering decisions right where they are.

Darkness is falling and a new day will dawn, seared in blood and fire.

The first three books of the series are free today in honor of their new little sister.

Posted November 20, 2018 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

#PreOrder “Day’s End”   Leave a comment

Day’s End launches tomorrow, November 20. While it’s on pre-order, it’s $1.99. Tomorrow it goes up to regular price, but the rest of the series will be on #free day.

Darkness Falls. 

They fought the USDA, but winning the battle didn’t assure their survival. The fundamental transformation of America is still underway and the next blow may be worse than the first. When the power grid goes down and stays down, people begin fleeing the cities in search of food and heat, forcing Emmaus, Kansas to re-evaluate what is important to them and what they owe strangers on the road going by the town. 

While some distant community members undertake perilous journeys home through a human landscape that is rapidly becoming unrecognizable, others face life-altering decisions right where they are.

Darkness is falling and a new day will dawn, seared in blood and fire.

Posted November 19, 2018 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

Open Book Blog Hop – 19th November   1 comment

Stevie Turner

This week’s topic is a good one:

If you had the option to know the date of your death, would you want to know?

Well, I can see advantages and disadvantages to this one.  On one hand it would be good to know when I’m going to pop my clogs so that I could hand over all my book sites and the running of them to Sam  (if he hasn’t lost his marbles by then),  and close down all my social media sites and say one last goodbye.  I’d be able to transfer my bank account over to Sam, and say goodbye to family and also friends at work.  I could jettison the majority of my wardrobes’ contents, to give Sam one less onerous task to do.  I could then live it up if I’m able to, and do all those things I’d wanted to do when I didn’t have…

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Posted November 19, 2018 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

When the Bell Tolls   3 comments

If you had the option to know the date of your death, would you want to know?

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The short answer is no, but there’s a longer answer that’s more nuanced. No surprise there to regular readers of this blog.

First, I don’t fear death. As a Christian, I believe death is a gateway to God’s kingdom where I will live forever in the presence of my Savior and some of my family and friends will be there also. No worries about death darken my mind. If I knew I was dying, I might be sad to be leaving some people and things behind, but a moment after I die, I won’t care because my existence will be wonderful. I believe that. Enough on that topic.

When I saw the topic, my mind went immediately to Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemene. He KNEW the hour of His death and it hurt so bad He sweated drops of blood. That’s actually a thing, by the way. In times of intense stress, some people secret iron, which oxidizes in the air and looks like blood.

Can you imagine knowing that you were going to die the next day and your death would be horribly painful?

I wouldn’t want to know that. I think that’s why in movies where the “hero” knows he’s going to die, you see a lot of frenzied effort in trying to reverse that inevitability. Or else they run around trying to make amends to the people they were estranged from. While that’s nice – to die with some closure in your damaged relationships – I think knowing the date of your death would keep you not focused on the here-and-now.

I could die anytime within the next 40 years. My mother’s family routinely live into their eighties and nineties and a few have broken the century mark. So I could live a long time, yet. Or I could get stomped to death by a moose tomorrow. If I knew I was going to live to be 100, I think I might not live life as urgently as I do now.  Maybe I wouldn’t say “I love you” to the people I care about quite so often. Maybe I’d dawdle in writing books. Maybe I wouldn’t go out onto the deck to watch the northern lights as often because “well, I’ve got 40 years to do these things.” Of course, knowing the date of my own death wouldn’t mean I’d know the date of my loved ones’ deaths. The other day, the UAF Geophysical Institute announced we’re entering a period of solar minimum. Now I’m wishing I’d seen more auroral displays last winter since they will be rare for the next few years. I’ve published eight books in the last four years and I can’t help wonder how many books I might have published if publishing had been different when I was younger.

Do you see what I’m getting at? I’ve missed a lot of opportunities because I thought I had time. As time now catches up with me, I look back and think “Wow, if I’d lived life like a moose would stomp me to death tomorrow, think about the things I would have done.” I can still do them and I think I have a few decades, but if I knew I was going to die in a year or two, I would stop publishing series because I wouldn’t want to leave my audience hanging. Would the world mourn that loss? I doubt it. But I would mourn that creative output.

Meanwhile, if I thought a moose would stomp me to death tomorrow, I might seek to avoid that fate rather than live my life and I don’t want to stop living in order to go on existing.

Not knowing the date of my death gives my life freshness and forces me to do things in the moment, but not put so much intensity into it that I look like one of those freaks in the movies who try to make amends with people they’ve hated in the last 24 hours of their lives. I live today as if tomorrow my life might end and I’ll have to face God with today’s sin to explain, and so I’m always trying to improve my contact with God and my relationships with others. But I also plan for the next four decades because I don’t know what’s coming and those plans give me joy and structure.

So, no, I don’t want to know the hour of my death. I don’t need to hear the bell toll. 

Posted November 19, 2018 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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