Archive for November 2021

My Childhood Library   6 comments

What was your favorite young reader novel growing up?

By the Shores of Silver Lake (Little House on the Prairie Book 5) by [Laura Ingalls Wilder, Garth Williams]

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Hard Question

I didn’t grow up in a normal place or with normal parents. My dad (well, both my parents, but especially him) loved to read and he regularly bought books for me that he thought I should read. So I read Treasure Island, Oliver Twist, Litttle Women and numerous books people would consider serious literature right along with the “young reader” books the school recommended. I even had to look up the definition of “young reader” before I could write this blog post. My first thought at the question was My Friend Flicka. Most people are familiar with the movies and think the book must be pretty “young”, but I reread the book a while ago and it was written with adult language. So it’s not an easy question for me to answer. I didn’t grow up with the “young reader” emphasis that most people, including my children, grew up with. My daughter would say Harry Potter series and my son would say Rick Riordan, but they would both say Chronicles of Narnia played a huge role in their early reading life. I read it to my daughter one summer and then she read it to her brother one summer.

What Was My Favorite

So, setting aside the great literature my parents expected me to read to concentrate on the books the schools recommended I read….

My favorite book(s) in that realm were The Little House Books. They hadn’t been made into a television show yet. I didn’t read them in order. I read On the Banks of Plum Creek first. It was a required reading assignment in third grade. It wasn’t the first full-length book I’d read (My Life by Hellen Keller and My Friend Flicka came before). I then read the books that came after and then went back and read the whole series from The Little House in the Big Woods. My favorite of the series is On the Shores of Silver Lake.

Because my parents encouraged me to read books other than what was encouraged by the school, these books were my escape to read “easy” books and while I still enjoyed the weightier volumes, my favorites remain the ones that were age-appropriate for me.

What’s the Priority?   9 comments

Which part of your book do you spend the most time on? Beginning, middle or end? Something else?

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As The Wheel Turns

I tend to look at my books as a wheel that turns and different parts become important at different times. So I don’t know that I consistently work on just one part of my books. Because I write series (for the most part), the beginning of the book is often dictated by the ending of the previous book, in which case the works already been done. Am I concentrating on the ending or the beginning? That’s a puzzle and maybe I’m doing both at the same time.

Some books need more attention in the middle. There are pivotal scenes found there and some of them need a lot of attention while others don’t. Some write themselves and others are a struggle. Some rely heavily on previous books, which requires a lot of continuity research, while others are more stand-alone and fun to write because they sparkle like new diamonds.

Characterization

One thing that is always a priority for me are my characters. It’s THEIR story that they tell me which I put into a format for the readers to enjoy. So at the back of my mind is always the question of being true to their personalities and the stories they’ve told me. I have leeway to adjust their stories, but I can’t distort them or the characters will dry up as a story source. I’ve had that happen enough to know not to push it. Compelling characters need to be protected even from their creator and they especially need to be honored by me as their creator. They’re not just there to serve a purpose of my own design. They know that. It’s important for me to remember that or they’ll “walk off the set” and leave me unable to write the next book. Oh, my!

Settings

Although I tend to let my characters dictate the plot for themselves, I do like to include at least one or two striking descriptions in every book. That will often get a great deal of my attention, even though it is rarely even a page of published writing. I want the reader to feel like they’ve been there, but I don’t want to overwhelm them with too much detail, so I will write and then rewrite the section until I have it exactly how I want it in one, two or three paragraphs. There are some setting descriptions in Daermad Cycle for instance that took me a month to write.

The Story Dictates My Efforts

I think I don’t follow a standard pattern from book to book. The priority for each book may be slightly different. And that’s fine because the story should get the attention it deserves rather than some rote ritual I perform. Probably the only things I do for every book is do a word search for the helping verb “was” because it is indicative to passive voice construction which I see to minimize and then I also like to listen to a text-to-speech version of every book before I send it to my editor and after it comes back. It just catches errors my eyes don’t see. But that’s editing, not writing.

Good, better, best…eventually, you have to let a book rest.

Posted November 22, 2021 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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Magic in the Air   4 comments

Nov 15 With the slew of holidays coming up at the end of the year, do you have a watch list of shows/movies you like to watch to celebrate? What are they?



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My Holiday Favs

It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown

Holidays involve a lot of tradition and I love many of them. For me, it all starts around Thanksgiving which is my favorite holiday. Because I grew up in Alaska pre-TAPS construction, I actually grew up watching Thanksgiving television specials at Christmas and Christmas television specials sometime in January, which may be why many of the movies I’m going to mention play a dual purpose for Christmas and Thanksgiving for me.

Although a lot of people consider it to be a Christmas movie, I love to watch It’s a Wonderful Life during Thanksgiving weekend. I feel that it is a perfect message of “Be grateful for what you have and the contributions God allows you to make. You never know how much good you’re doing while you’re just living your life.” I think it’s a great way to set up the beginning of the lunatic commercial season and we usually would play it instead of going to Black Friday sales.

When our kids were young, we’d often watch Home Alone because it was a fun silly comedy and it had a similar message to Wonderful Life — “Don’t wish your world would change just because you’re annoyed over minor things. You might get your wish and come to regret it.”

We remain big fans of Peanuts’ holiday-themed cartoons – It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and A Charlie Brown Christmas, as well as others. There are a number of perennial TV specials that played when I was a kid and still love when I can find them. We’re slowly adding them to our Vudu account as I rediscover their names. I wish I’d been able to locate them back when our kids were little. I like the older versions of classic Christmas tales like A Christmas Carol.

I don’t particularly care for more modern Christmas-themed movies as they often center around cruel humor or they lack an understanding of what Christmas (and Thanksgiving) are about. I clearly don’t require a religious theme, but an understanding of the cultural significance of these holidays is necessary for me.

One exception is my husband’s favorite “Christmas” movie – Die Hard. I enjoy it too, but not as a Christmas movie. He loves it, though, so we watch it just about every year.

Posted November 15, 2021 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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Mouse in the House   10 comments

Do you still have a treasure from childhood, can you tell us about it? How about any of your characters?

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And The Water Rose Up

Remembering the historic Fairbanks flood of 1967 | Community Features |  newsminer.com
My parents’ trailer in the 67 Flood was just out of the upper right corner of the frame.

In 1967, Fairbanks experienced a massive flood. It had been a warm summer, the snowpack that often sticks around as glaciers from year to year melted and filled the rivers to higher than normal levels. Then a typhoon in the Pacific pushed a storm over the Alaska Range into the interior. It poured for a week and all the rivers flooded, including the Tanana River, which is a big wide braided river that normally floods all its islands before it comes over the banks.

My parents owned a trailer about 100 feet from the Chena River, a tributary of the Tanana, which actually ran backward as the Tanana swelled. The Chena was predicted to crest below the flood level, but the Tanana’s flood left the Chena’s water nowhere to go, but over the banks into my parents’ home.

Thus, my childhood mementos mostly got wet and had to be thrown out.

But I Do Have A Few Things

My dad worked about 50 miles away, so his room at the worksite didn’t get wet, so I have a few photos from when I was a child. My mom’s jewelry was in an upper drawer that never got wet, so she was able to retrieve that. Nothing valuable, but they mean something to me.

Of course, after the flood, life went on and I look around my house and see some things that matter to me. There’s an Eskimo doll dressed in real furs that a family friend brought back from Barrow. A pair of beaded moccasins (another gift from that same friend). A Russian nesting dolls’ set. A ceramic wishing well braced by boy and girl figurines. My mother’s modest collection of Depression glass. An ivory scrimshawed bracelet my dad bought on one of his trips. A stuffed mouse one of my brother’s mothers-in-law made for one of my birthdays.

He’s a craft-market kind of mouse. It might cost $15 to buy something like him at this year’s Christmas Market. Although he has sat on a bedroom shelf for many years, occasionally dusted, he doesn’t usually hang out center stage, but when my dad died, I remember hugging Mouse and crying. My husband’s mom died about 10 days ago and I found Brad in the bedroom, hugging Mouse and crying. He remembered me telling him about what I did when my dad died and he thought it would help with the big empty feeling he was experiencing. And it did.

My Characters Special Treasures

Daermad Cycle (The Willow Branch) is a medieval fantasy, so my people don’t have a lot of possessions and treasures as rare.

Peter in What If Wasn’t series doesn’t appreciate his treasures yet and I won’t reveal the future, so…

In Transformation Project, my characters live in a town that’s been around for more than a century and live in houses with long-established families. Since the EMP took out all the power, Shane wears a wind-up watch his grandfather Jacob gave him when he was a kid. It kicked around in a drawer for a long time, considered useless, but he dug it out after the other watches and phones died and he thinks about his grandfather when he checks the time. It’s not a supremely practical memento.

He also inherited his grandfather’s 1959 Dodge Ram, which was very well taken care of and highly coveted since the EMP destroyed most modern cars.

Jazz Tully owns her grandfather’s 30-06, a rifle he carried in World War 2 that he used as a hunting rifle for many years. She loves the connection she feels with her grandfather when she handles, cleans, loads, and shoots it. She took her first deer with it when she was 12.

What is precious to us is a very individual thing. My husband points out that among my mementos is a large freeform orange-red ashtray. Nobody in my household smokes and you’re not invited to smoke if you visit my house, but the ashtray belonged to my parents and I fill it with potpourri. It helps me to remember my parents. I also have their coffee cups. They only had one each — Brad and I have about two dozen. When I see those cups I remember the folks sitting at the table drinking their morning coffee and probably using that ashray. I also have my dad’s radio he took with him around the whole world when he was a merchant mariner. It still works, but one of these days I need to get it into a repair person to clean it up and replace the vacuum tubes. Brad, whose parents moved often and really weren’t that good of parents, didn’t leave him much. He has a seaman’s clock, which I’m thinking Richard Dee might be familiar with. Brad’s grandfather was a merchant mariner (we have a theme) and I guess that’s how he kept track of time. It still works, but we don’t wind it often because it goes off every 15 minutes in a complicated system of chimes that tell you what time it is. Since our reticular systems are not attuned to the meaning of the chimes, it just keeps us awake at night. But it looks beautiful sitting on Brad’s desk.

Posted November 8, 2021 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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Who Am I?   4 comments

Did you write under a pseudonym? Why?

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.<!– start InLinkz code –><div class=”inlinkz-widget” data-uuid=”ad7cf22cb5cc4893bd07ec71c7936b06″ style=”width:100%;margin:30px 0;background-color:#eceff1;border-radius:7px;text-align:center;font-size:16px;font-family:’Helvetica Neue’,Helvetica,Arial,sans-serif”><div style=”padding:8px;”><p style=”margin-bottom:15px;”>You are invited to the <strong>Inlinkz</strong> link party!</p><a href=”https://fresh.inlinkz.com/p/ad7cf22cb5cc4893bd07ec71c7936b06” target=”_blank” rel=”nofollow” style=”padding:5px 20px;background:#209cee;text-decoration:none;color:#efefef;border-radius:4px;”>Click here to enter</a></div></div><span style=”display: none;”><script async=”true” src=”https://fresh.inlinkz.com/js/widget/load.js…“></script></span><!– end InLinkz code –>[fresh_inlinkz_code id=”ad7cf22cb5cc4893bd07ec71c7936b06”]https://fresh.inlinkz.com/p/ad7cf22cb5cc4893bd07ec71c7936b06

Hiding In Plain Sight

Yes, I write under a pseudonym. Why?

I think I’ve used this maxim before. “It’s not that I have anything to hide, there’s just nothing I want you to see.”

Wise Advice

My husband is related to Ben Sliney, the National Operations Director who (on his first day in his new position, September 11, 2021) had to order all the airplanes in the country on the ground. A decade later, Ben, upon hearing I was planning to publish my first book, suggested I should use a pseudonym. “Don’t do anything to invite the public into your life. You’ll never get them out.” Also, my legal first name combined with my husband’s last name is a mouthful — not a public-facing kind of name. In fact, I don’t even use my legal first name among people I know face to face. My parents never called me by my legal first name–not even when they were mad at me. I got a combination of their nickname for me and my middle name.

So I took a family name with a famous writerly connection — my grandmother was cousin to the poet Edwin Markham — and a nickname given to me in college and became Lela Markham. It’s not that you couldn’t figure out how to peek behind the curtain to find my real identity, but it keeps the public out of my life so I don’t have to share details that I would rather keep private. Not that I’m in danger of becoming famous, but you never know. Following wise advice seemed like a good idea. You could find me, but hopefully, no fans will show up in my driveway…unlike Ben who has had people taking pictures of him through his bedroom window as well as receiving death threats from people who believe he was “in” on their favorite conspiracy theory.

It also allows me to say things on social media that my employer might not appreciate. I absolutely believe we have a right to speak our mind in public, but there are lots of people who don’t agree and that means a little anonymity protects our freedoms.

Posted November 1, 2021 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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