Archive for February 2020

Cat Herding 101   11 comments

Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?

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Defining Terms at the Outset


Let’s define our terms first. A writer is someone who writes. An author is someone whose writing is published. A novelist is someone who writes fiction.

Do we assume the author who wrote Essentials of Modern Refrigeration (a book on my husband’s shelf in the family library) had strong emotions about refrigeration? How about the Chilton’s Manual on Ford Taurus 1995-2010?

Yes, writers produced those books and I’m thinking neither of them wept over any chapter of them, although I can assure you my husband has shed a few tears over that stupid California car in our driveway. It will someday be replaced by a nice sensible Subaru or a Jeep that’s old enough to vote. (We both hate modern electronics and want cars that we can work on).

Can someone be a novelist if they don’t feel emotion strongly?

Can AI Write Novels?

That’s a more nuanced answer, isn’t it? Afterall an AI recently penned a road-trip narrative novel and some of its lines made me go “hmm, that’s interesting.” Starting with “It was nine seventeen in the morning, and the house was heavy”, 1 the Road reads like a Google Street View car  narrating a cross-country journey to itself. It’s a tour of the built and noisy world interpreted by a machine. It’s surveillance-technology fiction, written by the same species of technology that is conducting the surveillance and processing the data. What might an AI teach us about a world already so totally impacted and sculpted by the data it gathers that a human writer can’t? For the record, to a natural-rights libertarian who believes in human individuality, it was … pause-worthy. I didn’t consider it great literature for some of the same reasons I don’t think Jack Kerouac’s Benzedrine-fueled On the Road was great literature, but the AI’s view of the American highway system did make me think, and unsettled me enough to stir dystopian sci-fi novel possibilities in my imagination.

For now, let’s just focus on the humans.

Novelists deal in the arena of feeling and emotion. Our books thrive on the conflict wrought in the character’s emotions. Obviously, a novelist must understand emotion and the best way to understand it is to feel it, but is the writer required to be a hot mess with internal conflicts similar to the character? I hope not.

I am currently working on a YA that is the start of a series that will follow the young adulthood of Peter – a hot mess whose internal conflicts are going to lead to dark places. I’ve never been a teenage boy and I’ve never engaged in some of the behaviors Peter engages in. I keep giving my 21-year-old son chapters of the first book to read and he’s starting to say “Mom, did you read my mind when I was 17? You’re scaring me.”

Write What You Know?

Or Understand What You Write?

Clearly, I am not writing what I personally know. I was last a teenager decades ago, but I’m not Peter. I am drawing off of my own experiences and conversations I had with my kids and their friends. I’m feeling Peter’s emotions, but they are not my emotions. To a large degree it is a cerebral process of applying knowledge in the arena of emotions.

I worked in community mental health for almost two decades. I was an administrator, not a clinician, although that line blurred often because I wasn’t afraid to interact with clients. Much of what I say in the next few paragraphs pertains to what I learned from that experience.

Feeling requires introspection, which necessitates identification with the character and empathy for what he or she faces. But, the story’s action and its characters are vehicles through which the reader creates her own emotional experience. The goal is not to get readers to feel what the characters feel per se, but to use the characters’ emotional conflict as a device to get readers to feel something on their own.

Recent neurological research suggests the mind must assess a feeling in order to experience it fully. Despite the modernist advice to “show, don’t tell,” readers need some processing of feeling by the character to register it meaningfully. This means allowing characters to think about what they’re feeling, which makes the feelings both more concrete and more personal and creates time and space for readers to process their own feelings. If the writer attempts to connect the reader to the character’s feelings, then the reader must be able to ask if they feel the same way or if their feelings differ.

Does this mean a cerebral writer be a good novelist? Hemingway was a pretty strict advocate of “show, don’t tell” and his novels impacted me powerfully. I love reading Hemingway, but I long ago departed from his journalistic just-the-facts style to a novel style that focuses on revealing a character’s emotion through a particularly dramatic scene or a series of scenes that culminate in a devastating reveal or reversal, plunging the character, and hopefully the reader, into a powerful emotional event, followed by a scene that has some introspection, permitting characters and readers alike to take a breather and process what just happened.

I use that technique a lot in Transformation Project. There’s a traumatic event or series of events followed by a time of the town turning inward and characters analyzing what just happened. Within those “resting” scenes, the point-of-view character often registers and analyzes the emotional impact of recent events, comes to a somewhat logical conclusion about the meaning of those events, and makes a plan of how to proceed going forward.

Peter will do the same thing, though this younger character will have fewer skills for how to analyze his emotional experiences because 17-year-olds live “in the moment” and it’s hard for them to see what tomorrow might look like.

If You’re Going to Herd Cats, You Must Understand Cats

My hope is readers will process their own emotions and interpretation of events while the character is doing so, not necessarily in parallel or even consciously.

And there’s a proviso here – it needs to be brief because I don’t want to bore or alienate readers who may be ready to move on. The point isn’t to over-analyze the character’s feelings, but to clear a space for readers to examine their own feelings. And, frankly, in most of our lives, we spend very little time in introspection because we’re too busy cleaning up the messes our actions cause.

A character changes through the emotions he experiences and through the evolution in self-awareness this process allows. This gradual metamorphosis creates the story’s internal arc, providing the character an opportunity to move step-by-step from being at the mercy of his emotions to mastering his feelings, providing a means for the reader to traverse an arc of her own, expanding her emotional self-awareness … hopefully.

I can only write it. Herding readers is a lot like herding cats. You have to set up the conditions where they think it’s their idea to go in the direction you suggest — which leaves open the possibility that they will choose a direction you didn’t plan. I love when someone gets a message from my books that I didn’t consciously intend.

So, yes, you can write if you don’t feel strong emotions, so long as you understand how to evoke strong emotions in others, but I think you have to have some feeling at some level to know how to pull on the heartstrings of others. I don’t think we need to worry about artificial intelligence replacing novelists.

Posted February 10, 2020 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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Con Artists, I say   1 comment

What is the most unethical practice in the publishing industry?

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As a libertarian who believes in free-market principles, I categorically support the right of a publisher to engage in whatever business practices they think will make a profit.

Now, turn that around. I also categorically support the right of the authors who deal with that publisher to engage in critical thinking and to reject business practices they think might harm them.

Members of the publishing industry—authors, publishers, peer reviewers—should be held accountable for maintaining ethical practices. We’re not talking laws here, but voluntary exchange between parties. Yes, it’s not always easy keeping others on the straight and narrow. Whether in search of financial or personal gain, some bad eggs do exist within the industry, attempting to bait-and-switch unsuspecting authors.

Stop being unsuspecting. Educate yourself so you are not taken advantage of. That is wholly within your control, though I readily admit it’s not a fun process.

How do I know this? Well, I encountered some of those bad eggs in my journey to self-publication as a novelist.

Predatory publishers, publications, and conferences proliferated in the past decade amid the increase of self-publishing (sometimes called open-access publishing). These predators offer various “pay-to-play” models with benefits that you can’t possibly refuse – and a lot of authors fall prey to these con artists.

Predatory Publishers

So, let’s say an author stumbles upon this brand-new, full-service Open Access publisher. It looks stellar – cheap and convenient. Nice. But, hold on. How do you know it’s not trustworthy – otherwise known as predatory?

Predatory publishers don’t care about quality. They care about netting a quick profit through various charges or a one-size-fits-all fee that equals your mortgage for a year. These publishers may even willingly take unpolished work, especially if they offer in-house peer review and/or copy editing services. Be cautious of publishers guaranteeing acceptance after paying a fee. Be double-cautious if the publishers lacks review transparency and/or offers a short turnaround for publication. Although this all sounds wonderful, it is not sound publishing practice. If they’re promising your novel will be published for a low-low fee of thousands of dollars and they have the juice to make it a best-seller, hit pause and think.

Too good to be true = con artist.

In the end, after about my third query with one of these wolves, I decided to self-publish. I wanted to maintain control of my product, to assure its quality and to own my publication rights. I had a bit of an advantage because I had worked in an adjacent field of publishing, so I already knew such practices existed — there have always been predatory vanity presses out there. But, man, it’s scary out here in the cold and dark by myself.

Learn to Trust Someone

I eventually started a discussion with an author friend who is part of the author cooperative Breakwater Harbor Books which is my publisher of record. We each still own our books and we each still have to find editors, cover creators, format-services and marketing firms to help us where we need it, but we also can help each other from time to time and if a reader cares about whether a book has a “publisher” they will see a dozen other authors published under this boutique publisher.

Which, by the way, is the only advantage of most self-publishing companies. You give them your money, they take control of your book, they may screw it up or improve it, they may stick a great cover on it or a bad one, they may market it or they may expect you to do all of it (and that’s usually the case), and you will get five percent of the royalties rather than 70 percent … after you pay them thousands of dollars.

I held onto my rights and the quality of my work. What did I give up to join the cooperative?

Some trust. Because we use each other as beta readers, we have to trust that our fellow stable members are not going to steal each other’s copyrighted manuscripts. My ISBNs are listed in my own name, so BHB can’t claim to own them, but I have to trust that Scott and Cara and the other authors are not going to take me to court to claim they own my published books. Although we have verbal agreements to that effect, we didn’t involve lawyers and frankly, we didn’t need to.

Ethics absolutely matter

Far more important than the law, ethics (or morality) are the foundation under-girding society. The law can be absolutely on the side of the predatory publisher who has taken your money, somehow relieved you of the rights to your book, and is now letting it languish in their basement. Ethics, however, are on your side, so it’s best to avoid those unethical publishers and be brave – step out on your own and make your own choices, accept your own risks, and leave the con artists standing there with their hats in their hands.

Posted February 10, 2020 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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Jesus Freak   Leave a comment

Posted February 9, 2020 by aurorawatcherak in Christianity

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Broke Clock Right Twice a Day   Leave a comment

I’ve opposed Lisa Murkowski since she became my senator, but she’s right this time.

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Princess Lisa — Bane of Alaska

Lisa Murkowski became a Senator because Daddy gave her his seat. If you’re unfamiliar with Alaska’s politics — here’s the short version. Frank Murkowski was the junior senator from Alaska for over 20 years when he decided to run for Governor of Alaska and won. One of his first acts as governor was to fill his vacant US Senate seat. There were a number of highly-qualified candidates — including Sarah Palin (who would take Frank’s governorship away from him four years later), but Frank appointed his daughter, an Anchorage attorney who had been in the State Legislature and whose constituents accused of being a Republican in Name Only.

She’s proven herself to be exactly that and there are plenty of Alaska voters who don’t support her, but somehow she pulled off a win as a write-in candidate after she lost the GOP primary in 2010. I’ve never voted for her. I always support someone else in the primaries and I voted Libertarian in the general last time. I don’t like nepotism. I don’t like Lisa (small-population state, so yes, I’ve met her). I don’t like her politics.

But even a broken clock is right twice a day.

I was a Never Trumper before the phrase was coined, but I don’t hate the consequences of many of Trump’s policies. The economy shows he’s not a complete idiot and the economy affects all of our lives. Even in Alaska, where there’s been an oil-price-related recession for the past six years, we feel the improvement over the Obama administration’s policies. I honestly believe Trump is a buffoon and a crooked businessman, but I also believe impeachment should be reserved for egregious crimes, not for doing the job of president in rooting out American corruption in allied nations. I wanted a full Senate investigation with every witness possible called because I firmly believe the investigation would pull down the Departments of State and Justice, the FISA court and half of Congress on both sides of the aisle. It would wake the country up to the incredible corruption that has been growing at the federal level for decades. And, yeah, it might bring down Trump too, but I’d happily sacrifice him to a legitimate draining of the swamp. Never Trumper. Don’t really care what happens to the man.

But I also think the unconstitutionally conducted, highly partisan nature of the current impeachment proceedings are just opening the door to impeaching every president going forward. This is NOT the way to get rid of a president you don’t like. Mount candidates who have something worthwhile to say and you win the next election. Don’t use impeachment to try an distract voters from how truly bad your candidates are. Reserve impeachment for egregious crimes — not having sex with an intern and trying to root out the corruption of American officials in foreign countries. One is the stupidity of man and the other is the job of the president. Even going back to Andrew Johnson — firing your cabinet member though Congress had passed a law saying you couldn’t do that — even Republicans recognized it was a partisan maneuver designed by Republicans to remove him from office by any means necessary and voted for against partisanship.

Lisa Murkowski is right

“I worked for a fair, honest, and transparent process, modeled after the Clinton trial, to provide ample time for both sides to present their cases, ask thoughtful questions, and determine whether we need more.

The House chose to send articles of impeachment that are rushed and flawed. I carefully considered the need for additional witnesses and documents, to cure the shortcomings of its process, but ultimately decided that I will vote against considering motions to subpoena.

Given the partisan nature of this impeachment from the very beginning and throughout, I have come to the conclusion that there will be no fair trial in the Senate. I don’t believe the continuation of this process will change anything. It is sad for me to admit that, as an institution, the Congress has failed.

It has also become clear some of my colleagues intend to further politicize this process, and drag the Supreme Court into the fray, while attacking the Chief Justice. I will not stand for nor support that effort. We have already degraded this institution for partisan political benefit, and I will not enable those who wish to pull down another.

“We are sadly at a low point of division in this country.”

Partisanship is Killing the Country

We aren’t improved by engaging in partisan assaults on our institutions of government. Trump isn’t the real threat any more than Obama was. They’re both just front men for an undercurrent philosophy that wants control of what used to be a culturally strong, economically vital nation — a nation that could rise again if only given the chance. Neither side is particularly right or good. We might even argue that there is no side — that it’s all political theater designed to keep us enthralled so the power-brokers can use citizens as mere pawns for the benefit of the party elite. Just look at the deficit. The Republicans harangue against debt when Democrats are in power — as well they should because debt is dangerous to the stability of a country. Democrats complain Republicans are wasting money that should go to the “poor” whenever the Republicans are in charge (although this time, they’ve found it difficult to do so after the outsized deficits run by Obama). Is there a dime’s worth of difference between the parties beyond their rhetoric? I fail to see it. So is partisanship about the issues or is it about keeping us enthralled by partisan politics so we won’t start asking inconvenient questions?

I still won’t vote for her in 2022, but Lisa Murkowski’s right on this issue. The House conducted an undercover, rushed and flawed impeachment for partisan purposes. They chose charges that have no criminal correspondence and then failed to make their case beyond a reasonable doubt. They then expected the Senate to do their job for them, but they insisted the Senate only call the witnesses the House managers wanted. They were going to dig in their heels and refuse to allow them to widen the inquiry into the Huner Biden Affair, the Steele Dossier, Carter Page, and the FISA court warrant. There was no way the Senate trial could be made fair under those rules because it’s not abuse of power if Biden (with Obama’s permission) really did stop an inquiry into Burisma. If one president does it and it’s okay, then how can it be abuse of power when the next president does the same thing? Continuing the partisan show would just expose the Senate — as the impeachment has exposed the House — to be seen as a political kabuki theater of the absurd. I’m not arguing that the Senate isn’t absurd. I’m trying to show you that the process has been so flawed because it’s not about what the president did. It’s about who wins the 2020 election … by any means necessary.

Elizabeth Warren Publically Threatened John Roberts and the Supreme Court

I’m not sure what Warren thought she was going to accomplish. I can speculate. Nancy Pelosi and Adam Schiff designed the House impeachment to make Trump unelectable in 2020 and to assure Democrats would increase their majority in House. I think that failed because they failed to make a “beyond a reasonable doubt” case in the House. Their case had so many holes they even convinced a couple of Democrats to vote against it.

The Senate trial was also designed to make Republicans look partisan and flip the majority there in the fall. I don’t know if that was successful before Warren asked her question, but I think she sunk Democratic chances. She also sunk her own chances to be President of the United States.

“At a time when large majorities of Americans have lost faith in government, does the fact that the chief justice is presiding over an impeachment trial in which Republican senators have thus far refused to allow witnesses or evidence contribute to the loss of legitimacy of the chief justice, the Supreme Court and the Constitution?”

Warren made herself look wholly partisan and divisive and she convinced Lisa it was time to stop sitting the fence and vote on more witnesses or not. Lisa, who is really a left-leaning centrist, doesn’t want to destroy the system that gives her a comfortable living, so she voted to reduce the partisanship by shortening the show. I wouldn’t be terribly surprised to see Lisa running for President in 2024 as a centrist or even an independent candidate.

What’s This Impeachment All About?

That’s the question we ought to be asking ourselves. Did this sort of nonsense happen in the Clinton impeachment — the Nixon impeachment — the Johnson impeachment? Those were partisan attacks treated like trials rather than Wild West shoot-em-up theater. I’m torn between saying the Democrats lost their minds and are now unable to conduct themselves as grownups or sticking with my original analysis that this is all some massive bipartisan show to distract the public from something bigger — perhaps just to keep us from asking the more important questions —

Government This Dysfunctional

When a system that has acquired such outsized importance in our nation becomes so dysfunctional, it begs for thoughtful analysis. For me, the answers are:

Get rid of partisan politics. Either eliminate both major parties (though they may be doing this to themselves by their behavior) or get rid of all ballot-access laws so that third parties can have viable, full-throated voices in the election process. Currently, the barriers for entry for third parties are far too high, which means people are left voting for the lesser of two evils instead of a candidate who represents their personal values.

Reduce the federal government back to what the Founders envisioned. Return us to a state-based federation cooperating on a few issues that make us all safer — immigration, national defense, and interstate trade. Render what happens in Congress and the White House less important.

Ask yourself — how are these people any smarter than I am? Why can’t I be in charge of my own life without their guidance? Why can’t I work through my local and state governments to tell the federal government what to do rather than the other way around?

If watching the impeachment has not taught you that all of Washington DC has been taken over by the lunatics, you aren’t paying attention. Go spend a week on You-Tube watching the whole mess from both sides and you’ll agree with me.

And, when you do, decide to take control of your own life, because truthfully, we don’t need the elites to tell us how to live our lives. Let’s govern ourselves so that the lunatics no longer have jobs. We do not need them to tell us how to live.

Lela Markham is an Alaska-based novelist and blogger interested in a wide variety of topics, often from a libertarian viewpoint.

Posted February 6, 2020 by aurorawatcherak in politics

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My Next Book is on WattPad   Leave a comment

Club Class

(Every so often, I dream about walking in on Laren and Sam. I don’t remember what I did before that. I’m just in the hallway outside the guestroom when I heard a giggle. Thinking Alyse was teasing me, I opened the door and Sam’s head came up from a part of my mother’s anatomy that I thought belonged solely to my father. Details have washed over time, but I remember the surge of horror I felt. I knew about sex, I wasn’t shocked by seeing it. I just always imagined walking in on my parents and being embarrassed, not this stranger with my mother, which ripped my world apart. I didn’t know Sam at the time, but my memory always informs the dream of who he is to me now. Though totally in the wrong doing what he was doing in my father’s house, he had the grace to be embarrassed, to grab for a pillow to cover himself and to toss a blanket toward my mother, who has no grace at all. Beautiful Laren Dellinis Wyngate (now Braddock) sat up in all her glorious nudity, her eyes shining with a blue electricity I already knew to fear. Instead of wrapping herself in the blanket and trying to explain to her traumatized 12-year-old son that sometimes adults do incomprehensible things, she reached for me –. )

I jolt out of my doze, the lingering sensation of my mother’s fingers on my chest following me into waking as if there’s no gap of five years. The sleeping pod that seemed cozy a couple of hours ago now becomes an airless coffin that is too short for my body. I fling my long legs out into the aisle, shoving the strangling blanket away. Sweat coats my back and forehead. The plane outside the pod slants ominously. Except for a passenger reading a book across the aisle and a steward hovering in the service niche, Club Class is asleep. I taste vomit at the back of my throat, so push to standing and stumble barefoot to the head, shaking, my head pounding. My stomach clenches and turns inside out, dumping its content into the toilet. It’s been more than 24 hours since Collin and I bid a lushy farewell to one another in the hotel bar in London. I can’t still be hungover. Lacking Tylenol, I wash my face, but – yeah, I still feel like crap.

When my stomach clenches again, I pull the trigger myself because sometimes it’s just better to get the crap out at the front end instead of letting it work its nasty way through to the end.  I dry-heave a couple of times and then spew my stomach lining into the toilet. A hotflash sears through my body.

I’m washing vomit from my mouth when a polite tap sounds on the door and a clipped British voice asks if I’d like my bed turned into a seat and breakfast now or would I prefer to sleep longer. Sleep? That stroll down memory lane had no resemblance to rest. We’re still four hours out from JFK. I can’t go back into the coffin. Since it appears I’m done puking and my temperature is returning to normal, I opt for breakfast and a book.

“And a bourbon and water straight-up.”

The steward casts me a skeptical look. British Airways lets you drink at 18, which means I don’t technically qualify, but you can buy some excellent ID for a fraction of a trust-fund kid’s weekly allowance. Mine says I turned 21 in April. The first swallow settles my stomach and knocks back the headache. I want to drain the glass and order another, but I’m not stupid. Although my fake card worked just fine all across Europe, I know not to push my luck. I am an experienced rule-breaker. I nurse that drink for an hour, then eat fruit, yoghurt and a bagel for breakfast, before ordering my next one. 

“That must be some great fake ID.”

Jorga Persons, America’s latest superstar female action lead, sits down in the unoccupied seat in my seating pair and times her comment so the steward is out of earshot. She’s gorgeous, though the reality is less awesome than the cinematic version. She’s wearing an ordinary pair of black yoga pants and a lime-green tunic with russet embroidery on either side of the vertical slit that doesn’t quite invite me to look at her breasts. She can’t be more than college-aged herself, so I sip my bourbon and branch before I reply to her. Her glossy brown hair and sparkling blue eyes belie the muscles I can see in her forearms. She grins at my poker face.

“You are Governor Wyngate’s son, right?”

Now comes the calculation. My actual birthdate is accessible to anyone with Google, but I’m pretty sure the steward doesn’t care so long as I behave myself. Do I want the high-profile actress to know my secrets or do I want to engage in a few hours of flirting with an “older woman”? I could get huffy and tell her to go away, but where’s the fun in that? I could pretend she’s mistaken me and offer to buy her a drink. I could admit the truth and offer to buy her a drink. I could pretend I misunderstood the line of questioning and buy her a drink.

“Cosmopolitan, right?” I signal the steward, who indicates I can wait a moment. I smile with a slight nod.

“Not this early in the morning.”

I could point out it must be night somewhere, but it technically is about four in the morning for those of us on London Time.

“Irish coffee then?”

“You (are) a bold one.” I smile. She smiles back. Her pink lips invite kisses. I know nothing about her besides her movie, but I know she didn’t grow up rich because her left bicuspid slightly pushes over the tooth in the front. I don’t care about that. Kids who grew up in a more reality-based childhood tend to be more down-to-earth, is all. “Just coffee, no additives.” She says this to the steward as he comes up beside her.

It wasn’t like I was going to make it into the Mile-High Club if I plied her with enough adult beverages, so I wait for her to make the next verbal move.

“You noticed what I drink?”

She sure asks a lot of questions.

“Always been curious about what they taste like.”

“Order one and find out.”

“Can’t. Allergic to limes.”

“Seriously?” Her face sobers. “How did you find that out?”

“Drank a big glass of limeade after a mountain bike race. It wasn’t the first time I’d drank limeade and I’d noticed it caused a tickle, but my throat closed down that time.”

“Wow. So like what happens to people with bee stings?” I nod. “How old were you?”

“Middle school. Have not drank limes since.”

“You haven’t touched them in the last half-decade?” I smile at her because we both know she’s trying to get me to admit my age.

“It’s been longer.” Barely. “My hands get itchy when I do.” Not technically true. My hands get itchy from contact with lime juice. I have successfully cut limes for friend’s margaritas by just touching the peel and then washing my hands immediately after. I’m not going to answer her query about my age and she seems to realize that.

“I guess your curiosity will have to remain unsatisfied.”

“I guess.” I smile slyly. “Unless the taste is worth the visit to the ER.”

“It’s not.” She’s got a tiny crease between her eyes. I’ve perhaps pushed it too far. Europe may have made me bolder than is wise.

“Then I guess I’ll never know.” I sigh, then shrug. I don’t really miss limeade, so I think I can live without satisfying my curiosity about cosmos. “Were you in Europe for a movie or fun?”

She chuckles.

“Most people think being an actress and fun are the same thing.”

“It’s your job. Are jobs fun?”

“I don’t suppose you’ve ever had one.”

Ouch! It’s not my fault my dad has money.

“I’m in school.”

“That’s not the same thing.” She’s still smiling and I don’t know where she’s headed. No, I’ve never had a job. I expect I’ll never need the money, but I kind of think I don’t want to do nothing all my life either. My father, uncle and grandfather have jobs after all. The steward sets a small tray with the coffee and sugar and cream on the table and asks if there will be anything else. She says no, sips her coffee and pins me with her bright blue eyes. “I saw your video.”

Wow. Does everybody in the world have a Google alert for my name? If I rolled up to a village in the Amazon jungle, would they whip out a smart phone and show me a video of my finest hour?

“It’s not my video. I didn’t post it.”

“No, but you feature in it. It’s not like I film the movies I’m in. Did you enjoy your debut in film?”

I hated half the people in our hotel bringing it up.

“I would never put up a video like that.”

“So, you’re not a dick, just an ass.” I blink at her. She keeps smiling as she breaths deeply in and out. Oh, baby, she does that well! “I’m not trying to be mean.” She stares at me as I exercise my best poker face. I’m glad my book is in my lap. Can I feign annoyance while rising in her presence? Wow, tough one! “And you are apparently mature enough to know that. Who was the guy with you?”

My cousin Collin interfered with my attempt to bribe the chick to delete the video. He pissed her off and guaranteed it was going on the Internet. Some versions of the video play the whole interaction.

“Collin’s my cousin.”

“Was he supposed to be your chaperone?”

“Not really, why?”

“He’s just a dick …” She gives me a long side glance. “I hoped he wasn’t a friend.”

“You know what they say – you can choose your friends, but you’re stuck with family.” I’m not really enjoying this conversation now, and I want to take a long pull off my drink, but she’s watching me and that’s not the time to be stupid. “And, you’re right. He is a jerk, but my dad pushed him at me.”

“Did he – Collin — push all the ale on you?”

I smirk.

“Nah, I kind of did that to myself. British ale has a higher alcohol content than the beer I’m used to.”

“Ah, which explains peeing in the fountain.”

I can’t help it. I blush. I was a little drunk that night, but mainly, I just really had to go to the bathroom.

“It wasn’t my finest moment.”

“Good you know that. So you asked me if my job is fun.” She tilts her head like she contemplates her answer. She might have a future as an actress beyond action star. “It is and it isn’t. When I first did ‘Death Con’, I thought I was having a great time. There was a lot of drinking and nobody said no to the 16-year-old. My off-camera behavior almost cost me doing the second picture, so now I watch myself. I’ll be legal to drink in the United States in January.”

I’m not sure what to say to that. She was drinking underage just like me and she still drinks, though I think she stopped at one. She’s headed somewhere and I haven’t figured it out yet, so I let her continue.

“And I see a great-looking, otherwise intelligent guy making an ass of himself in a foreign country, clearly withdrawing from a binge on the plane, and then drinking bourbon for breakfast. I get it. Hair of the dog and all that. I just needed to say something.”

She takes her coffee tray to her own seat, leaving me with a very good reason (not) to have a third drink, which is kind of annoying. What’s the use of flying Club class if you can’t enjoy the adult beverages? I appreciate that British Airways recognizes me as an adult, since my ID says I can vote and die in a war. I just wish everyone else would quit trying to make my decisions for me. I only drink the two straight-up bourbon-and-waters in the eight-hour flight across the Atlantic. I want a third and I’m nowhere near drunk, just mellowed enough (not) to get on another plane for Florida, to go visit my mother, who couldn’t care less what I was up to in Europe. The dream reminded me she comes with her own complications. Facing the music that is my father is better for me. Just.

Keeping Track #OpenBook Blog Hop   Leave a comment

February 3, 2020 How do you keep track of the books you read? Oops! Did someone say I was supposed to do this? Keep track of what books I’ve read? Because I don’t. Yes, there have been …

Source: Keeping Track #OpenBook Blog Hop

Posted February 4, 2020 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

Blog hopping. So, you call this a system?   Leave a comment

Richard Dee’s Blog

Posted February 4, 2020 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

Open Book Blog Hop – 3rd February   1 comment

Stevie Turner

Welcome to another edition of the ‘Open Book Blog Hop’. This week’s subject is:

‘How do you keep track of all the books you read?’

Since I began writing I’ll be the first to admit that I do not read as much as I used to. However, last year I tried to rectify this, because hey… if everybody is writing and nobody is reading, what’s the point of writing in the first place (lol)?

To this end I joined the Goodreads’ reading challenge, and challenged myself to read 12 books in 2019 – one book per month. I actually managed 18, and was quite surprised! You can see all the books I read by clicking on the link:

I’ve now joined the 2020 reading challenge on Goodreads too. I’ve read 2 books so far, and again hope to read more than the 12 books I’ve challenged myself to. Goodreads…

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Posted February 4, 2020 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

A Leaning Tower   5 comments

How do you keep track of the books you read?


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.

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I’m old-fashioned and prefer my books of the paper variety, although I also read books on computer because they’re cheaper and easier to carry with you on the airplane.

In the Event of An Earthquake … RUN!

Keeping track of the books I read is pretty easy, then. There’s this double stack in the corner of our bedroom. One stack are books I want to read or am in the process of reading. The other stack are books I’ve read. Eventually that stack will be distributed to the bookshelves in our house because – well, that stack gets so high it starts leaning and that could be an injurious situation. We do have earthquakes here, after all. Our shelves are (loosely) organized by genre. My anal husband wants them to be alphabetized. I wish him well in that endeavor.

If I want to know which physical books I’ve read, I can just look through the earthquake-risky stack or check out the bookshelves in the house. Except for my husband’s shelf of technical manuals and my daughter’s double shelf of books in the living room (my son has a similar shelf, but he keeps his in his bedroom), I’ve read just about every book on those shelves — some of them multiple times. And we literally have hundreds of books. For years, we kept a spiral- bound notebook where we wrote down titles. I’ve been working on an electronic version so the books will be Excel-searchable, mainly because our daughter acquired some books that were already on our shelves.

Welcome to the 21st Century

Although I prefer books I can hold in my hand and smell the paper and ink, I do sometimes read e-books. I’ve recently been trying to learn how to write a romance and to me, the best way to do that, is to read some (good) romances. Since romance tends to irritate me (and did even when all books were physical), there’s no reason to seek a visceral experience from them. I am, after all, analyzing them to improve my own skills rather than to enjoy a bit of escapism (though that’s part of the analysis), so I buy them electronically. Kindle keeps track for me. Easy-peasy. And, I am not a member of Kindle Unlimited because I prefer to own the books I read. I conducted an analysis of my reading habits and determined that KU would be an extra expense because I’d still go out and buy most of the books I read.

Some books are EXPENSIVE to acquire in hard copy. Most non-fiction books are crazy priced and then you have to factor in shipping time to Alaska (it can take a week with “overnight” shipping) and shipping costs to Alaska (the Jones Act adds 30% compared to the Lower 48), so electronic is often easier and the only way to read non-fiction affordably. Pretty much my entire library of libertarian literature is electronic. Some are acquired through Kindle, but a lot more are free downloads from Mises Institute or one of the other generous libertarian think-tanks. Those are stored on a disc under a file “Books to Be Read” and I keep track by moving the books I’ve read into a sub-folder listed “Read”. I recently created another sub-folder titled “To Read Again” because there are books that I know I only scratched the surface on. I’m on my third reading of Lysander Spooner’s “Treason: The Constitution of No Authority” and I feel like I’ve caught 10% of what he wrote in what is essentially a long essay. And, you might be catching a theme — few books are ever read-and-done. If they’re good books, keeping track of whether I’ve read them is immaterial because I’m likely to read them again. Hence, why I prefer to own the books I read.

Ethical Considerations

I don’t borrow books from the library much anymore. I prefer to own, but the primary reasons for not borrowing from the library are two-fold.

As a libertarian, I’m ethically challenged by a library supported by property taxes paid by people who may never use the library — so why am I using it? Well, I’m working on not using it. That’s a topic we can discuss outside of the blog hop.

For this article, my principle reason is I don’t have a lot of time to read, so I want to be efficient about it. While I can tear through a non-fiction looking for the ideas and information I need for my next novel, I am going to slow down and enjoy a fiction read, recognizing that it’s going to take longer than the two weeks the library allows. There are a few fiction books out there I read decades ago that I wish I could find now, but I can’t remember the title or the authors name. It would have been so much better if I’d bought the book. Yes, there’s a cost to buying books electronically, but if it’s a good book, I’m going to want to own it anyway, so borrowing from the library is just an extra step I’m not convinced is worth it (nor am I sure it’s ethical). Our library here is thoroughly in the 21st century (now), so I can borrow books electronically and listen to audio books (which my brain isn’t patterned for). My library account comes with an electronic system for keeping track of the books I’ve read, whether I’ve returned them (useful!), and it also pesters the snot out of me to read related books (not so useful). Again, easy-peasy, except I get halfway through a good book and go to Amazon to buy it because, again, I prefer to own the books I read.

Old Fashioned Methods

So, I keep track of which books I’ve read by browsing my home library, scanning through Kindle, or my computer. I want to be a real nerd and have an Excel spreadsheet because it’s tiring looking through hundreds of books and because about a year ago I bought “Ender’s Game” for my son only to find my copy of it tucked back into the second rank of books on a bottom shelf in our sci-fi section where I’m pretty sure I looked before I bought him his copy.

I wonder how my fellow blog-hoppers keep track. Maybe I can learn something.

I Just Need U   Leave a comment

Posted February 2, 2020 by aurorawatcherak in Christianity

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