Author Archive

Rah-Rah, Let’s Go   6 comments

Are any of your characters fans of a particular sports team?

54,984 Soccer Player Stock Photos, Pictures & Royalty-Free Images - iStock

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=”eeee83e879de4536a0977993da180e69″ 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=”” 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;”>http://a%20rel=</span><!– end InLinkz code –>[fresh_inlinkz_code id=”eeee83e879de4536a0977993da180e69″]

It’s the Apocalypse

In Transformation Project, my characters are living through the apocalypse. Terrorists destroyed the major cities and the long-line electric and communications grids and so there’s not a whole lot of time in their days to enjoy their favorite sporting teams, and even if the time was available, the electronics in their TVs and computers have been fried, and Los Angeles, New York, and Atlanta–the nexuses of all broadcast channels in the United States–are now all three nuclear wastelands. Shortwave radio and the spy nest in Jericho Springs are about the only sources of news from distant locations. The spies don’t care and the shortwavers are just figuring it out in February — five months after the events that altered the entire country.

In Their Before Lives

Before the bombs went off, my characters were living ordinary lives and, yes, of course, they followed sports teams. Rob Delaney, a career soldier before he “retired” to become a feed store operator and then mayor of Emmaus, Kansas, loved to watch the Army-Navy match-ups in football and of course he tuned in for the Super Bowl every year. His wife Jill would watch with him for the ads.

Both of their sons, Cai and Shane, played soccer in their younger years. Both followed the Colorado Rapids soccer team, although Shane often was out of the country and had to catch up when he came home. In Life As We Knew It, Shane describes his friend Mike as a super fan of Cruz Azul, the Mexico City professional fotbal team. Shane competed as a kickboxer in college and during his time overseas and did keep up with some MMA fighters. Click Michaels, the former-Chicago Times reporter stranded in Emmaus by the bombs, is a big hockey fan. Marnie Callahan Delaney is a huge fan of the Denver Broncos. And Jazz Tully, who spent her formative years training in dance, follows a Christian ballet company called Ballet Magnificat. Alex Lufgren played football in high school and was good enough to get a scholarship to University of Kansas as a Jayhawk. He had to turn it down when his parents were killed in a car accident and he found himself owning the largest farm in Emmaus and raising his toddler sister. He still roots for the Jayhawks. His sister Poppy was an avid fan of the Kansas School for the Deaf’s volleyball team, mainly because her mother played for the team and it feels like the only connection she has to the mother she doesn’t remember.

Under the Circumstances

With the exception of Cruz Azul, it’s unlikely any of these sport teams still exist. There’s something about the apocalypse that just prevents frivolous activities like sports from taking center stage. I suspect, as the country heals, sporting events will return, but they may not be the media events they were before the events of this series.

Other Series

Daermad Cycle is a Celtic fantasy set in a medieval society. I can’t envision what sort of sports they’d follow. The Dwarves versus the Elves — battle axes against bows. Funny image.

What If Wasn’t is set in modern times, but Peter has expressed no interest in team spectator sports. He’s an individual sports kind of guy – mountain biking, tennis, swimming, rock-climbing — his body against whatever looks exciting. Ben does enjoy watching baseball in the stadium (Go, Ducks!) and he will watch football with his family or friends when in season. Trevor is a dancer who is also a hockey fan, but he’s really too centered on pushing his body to the next level as a dancer (and then getting drunk afterward) to follow any sports teams. He just likes watching the games, preferable in the stadium. When I thought about it, I realized that most of the girls in this series are dancers, which is a team participation sport (don’t let the grace fool you), but I don’t think of any of them care about sports you can watch on television at all. I can imagine Alyse challenging the captain of the football team to a contest to see who can stand on demipoint longer. My daughter did that in high school. Bri won by over five minutes and she only stopped then because she was boring her audience and had made her point about the strength and fitness of dancers compared to football players.

This Author….

I don’t really follow sports teams myself. I grew up in Alaska where high school football exists, but Homecoming Game is always played in hypothermic conditions. So, I never really developed that rah-rah spirit. We went to a lot of basketball games when I was in school because they were indoors. I do enjoy the local teams I can see in the stadium — the Goldpanners baseball team were National League heavy-hitters when I was young, spawning grounds for Tom Seaver, Oddibe McDowell, Craig Nettles, Barry Bonds, James Winfield, Dan Pastorini and the Boone brothers (and about a dozen more). And, hockey — well, you can be on the ice six months a year here without a refrigeration unit. My cousins played and I was the backup to the hockey reporter when I was a college reporter. I covered a few games. The local newspaper always expressed surprise that a girl actually knew hockey. Women were rarely sports reporters back then and I never played. My knees and ice skates — not a good match-up.

I am vaguely aware of how the New England Patriots are doing because that’s my husband’s team (although he still really likes Tom Brady, so how we’re vaguely aware of how the Tampa Bay Bucs are doing). Most Alaskans root for the teams from wherever they are originally from and about 50% of our population is from somewhere else. If you were raised here, you’re expected to root for the Seattle teams, but neither my father or stepdad cared for sports other than Gold Panners baseball, so I only root for the Seahawks when they’re playing against New England — because my husband insists. Yes, I do know what’s going on on the field, but I really just don’t care other than for the particular game I am watching at the time. I do follow the Nanooks hockey team from University of Alaska-Fairbanks, but I’m not a very engaged fan. “Oh, they’re up in wins. That’s great. And against some tough competition? That’s better. Now, for something important — like how deeply in debt Congress is putting me.” I go to the Nanooks games maybe twice a winter and the professional team just never gets my notice. And I don’t like to watch hockey on television, so I’m not even sure I know any teams’ names.

That might explain why I don’t focus a lot on team sports in my writing. I’m not all that interested in my own life, so my characters are only marginally interested teams in theirs. My characters are almost all individual personal sports types because that’s who I am. Plus, it’s the apocalypse. They have more important things on their minds. If someone would create a team sport for generating electricity, they’d probably cheer for that.

Posted October 18, 2021 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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Open Book Blog Hop – 11th October   1 comment

Stevie Turner

Welcome to this week’s blog hop. Today’s topic is ‘What’s on your TBR list?’

This is a scheduled post, as I’m currently away on the Isle of Wight with Sam and his sister and brother-in-law. I will answer any comments on Wednesday when I am back at home. Today is our 41st wedding anniversary as well, and I won’t be reading any of the books on my TBR list as we’ll be out celebrating!

I have many, many books on my Kindle that are in the queue to be read. I like to read memoirs/autobiographies, paranormal fiction and non-fiction, psychological thrillers, anything with a dry wit, and true life/faction family dramas. Here are some of them below. I don’t read much in the summer, as we tend to be away at the van a lot of the time and I prefer to be outside walking and cycling to…

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Posted October 12, 2021 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

Announcing Latest Book   3 comments

It’s been WAY too long to get to this point, but…

Fount of Wraiths (Daermad Cycle 3, an epic Celtic Fantasy) is available for Preorder on Amazon. You’ll save $5 over the regular price for the ebook if you order before October 26.

The Raven Rises While the Dragon Waits.

Lost, alone, and powerless in the Void, Ryanna must find the postern gate to return to Padraig and the struggle to mend the kingdom. But the Fount of Wraiths holds many unknown dangers and puzzling mysteries.

Padraig’s quest appears to be stalled, but mayhap he waits upon direction and for an ally to catch up. Meanwhile, the Svard build their forces to begin their attack on Celdrya while Gil works to bring in more allies to their cause against an unprepared kingdom.

The One works in mysterious ways, however, as forces marshal from the most unlikely of sources.

Book goes Live, October 26, and also goes to full price.

Posted October 11, 2021 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

So Many Titles   4 comments

What’s on your “TBR” (to be read) list?

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=”32f2812b304c4632b29fb2be80aa1d50″ 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=”” 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=”…“></script></span><!– end InLinkz code –>[fresh_inlinkz_code id=”32f2812b304c4632b29fb2be80aa1d50”]

That Tower Might Crush Me

The Anatomy of the State (LvMI) by [Murray N. Rothbard]

I love to read and I have a collection of books on a thumb drive that are just waiting for me to read them. Uh, yeah — so many titles. All are worthwhile and I do get around to them occasionally when I’m traveling or if the Internet is down at the house. But then there’s the books on Kindle and the actual print books that sway my books shelves. I’ve read most of those at one time, but I’d like to go back and reread some of them again — someday.

What’s on My List?

Conceived in Liberty is a multi-volume series (on Kindle it pretends to be a single book) about the history of the United States — mostly before it was the United States. It’s really in-depth and it is from the perspective of liberty, so where liberty was growing and where it was nearly stomped out. You’d be surprised at some of the things Murray Rothbard uncovered. What we were taught in school — mostly not true. It’s written pretty well so it’s not as boring as some history books, but reading one chapter of a huge series doesn’t make a large dent in finishing the book. I believe I’ve been reading it for five years now–just occasionally. I haven’t even gotten to the French-and-Indian War yet.

Anatomy of the State is another Murray Rothbard book (thankfully not nearly so long) that I’ve been wanting to read for several years and I finally added it to my list a few weeks ago. I think I’ll tackle it this winter. It delves into history a bit, but it has a mostly political philosophy focus.

The fourth book in Brandon Sanderson’s The Stormlight Archives came out this year and I just bought Rhythm of War to add to my winter TBR list.

I’m trying to finish Apocalypse Never in the next few weeks. Michael Shellenberger is an environmental reporter who was an extremist environmentalist ideologue for a number of years who finally couldn’t ignore the evidence of real environmental science says he and his fellow ideological travelers are wrong on so many levels. It’s a great book because he is taking himself to task for his crimes against society at the same time he’s highlighting the various issues that fall under environmental extremism. I’m about 60% through.

Michael Malice published an anthology of great anarchist thinkers from the past called The Anarchist Handbook and I’m working my way through it one essay at a time.

My husband has asked that we read The Gulag Archipelago together this winter. I’ve previously read parts of it, but he thinks he could get through it if we did it together. I’ll read a chapter, he’ll read a chapter, somewhere around January, he’ll decide he’s done, and I might finish the entire book.

I also have some light and fluffy books on my list to act as breaks from the heavy stuff.

And then there’s my all-time favorite – the Bible. I’m currently working my way through the Epistle to the Romans.

My TBR Tower Is Much Bigger

I just keep adding to it, so I’m not going through the whole list here. I might read some shorter essays I have on the thumb drive. Or I might dive deeply into something like On Walden Pond. You just never know. Currently, I’m reading a lot of libertarian literature because I have to remake society in Transformation Project and I’m trying to figure out what their secret sauce ought to be. Plus, I just enjoy reading a different tack on the society I live in — how might it be more peaceful and less abusive. I’m pretty fed us with the duopoly and the constant fighting that is just digging us into a deeper hole, so I’ve sought out alternative viewpoints for some hope for the future.

What I Don’t Want to Share   10 comments

Oct 4, 2021 Does ‘show don’t tell’ ever run up against your personal prohibitions?


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=”d56877851c404b42ad70795e81e94f3b” 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=”” 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;”>http://a%20rel=</span><!– end InLinkz code –>[fresh_inlinkz_code id=”d56877851c404b42ad70795e81e94f3b”]


Let’s start off with the truth. As a writer, I believe showing is better than telling and I do it all the time. Now for a personal confession. I enjoy sex — in the privacy of my bedroom with my husband. It’s an intimate affair. Over the 35 years of my marriage, maybe the cat is sometimes a witness. When we were new-married we had a bedroom without a door and a dog who would jump up on the bed after we’d settled down for the night. She never interrupted sex. Maybe she too understood sex is an intimate affair. She’d also go behind bushes when she needed to go to the bathroom, as if she thought that ought to have some privacy too. We locked the door when the kids were old enough to barge. When we lived in a small two-room cabin, we’d have sex in the living room because we knew we’d hear them coming up the stairs from the bedroom. Once when we were camping, we looked up to see a very startled squirrel watching us through the tent screen. We started laughing so hard we couldn’t finish. A similar event happened once with a moose. We aren’t exhibitionists.

It’s not that I’ve got anything to hide. It’s just that I have nothing I want you to see.

So, no, I’m not going to describe sex to you in my books because that would be like inviting readers into my bedroom and that’s an intimate place. Just two people allowed. No lookie-luus.

Don’t Cheat!

We have a pretty strict rule in our marriage — Don’t cheat! I wouldn’t say that’s the secret to keeping a marriage together for decades — I think that’s probably forgiveness and grace for the other person’s foibles — but breaking that rule has ended more marriages I’m personally aware of than I can count on two hands. So, I always wonder how women (particularly) who write a lot of sex scenes manage to look their husbands in the eye after they’ve mentally cheated on him. Maybe there’s some trick that I just don’t understand, but I know I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t imagine Cai having sex with Marnie in all the intimate details, write that and publish it for the whole world to read, and then turn around and look my husband in the eye with a clean conscience. If you can do that, fine, and go about your life in peace, but I can’t…so I don’t. It’s kind of like masturbation. Does anyone fantasize about having sex with their spouse when they pleasure themselves? I haven’t found a lot of people who do. That doesn’t mean masturbation is evil — it’s darned handy when you’re separated from your spouse by hundreds of miles for months…or if you’re single…or if your spouse doesn’t mind (though never met a lot of those, either) — but it does mean that when you’re doing it, you’re mentally cheating on the person you promised not to cheat on and that’s a problem for me. Whether I do it in a book or just inside my head, that’s a problem for me and I don’t want it to become a problem with my marriage. Marriages are hard enough to hold together without adding that element to it.

Less Is More

So that’s one area where my personal prohibitions won’t allow me to “show don’t tell.” I strive to write realistic characters who have sex and pee and crap in the woods, but readers don’t need me to describe it. With very few exceptions, readers have had the experience I’m referring to and can draw their own conclusions. My characters get dressed a lot. Why would they be naked in a freezing-cold bedroom in the middle of the afternoon? Why would they visit the “squatting pits” while on campaign? Yeah, I think my readers are smart enough to figure that out. And that leaves me with more pages to “show not tell” about other things — wars, sorcery, how to rewrite a constitution, how to save someone’s life. There’s lots of things to write about. I don’t need to write about sex.

Why Do We Hate This Guy?   17 comments

An Investment in Others

“For [the Kingdom of God] is like a man going on a journey, who summoned his [employees] and entrusted his property to them. To one, he gave five talents (a talent was worth about $25,000, so about $125,000). He gave two talents (about $50,000) to a second employee and to a third employee he gave one talent. He made this dispersal according to each worker’s ability. Then he went on his journey.

The one who received five talents went off right away and put his money to work and gained five more. In the same way, the one who had two talents gained two more. But the third worker who had received one talent went out and dug a hole in the ground to hide his [employer’s] money.

19 After a long time, the [employer of the workers] came and settled his accounts with them. The one who had received the five talents came and brought five more, saying, ‘Sir, you entrusted me with five talents and, see I’ve gained five more (so he now has a quarter-million dollars).

21 [The employer] answered, ‘Well done, good and faithful [employee]! You have been faithful in a few things. I will put you in charge of many things. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 

22 The one with the two talents also came and said, ‘Sir, you entrusted two talents to me. See, I have gained two more.’ (he now has $100,000). His master answered, ‘Well done, good and faithful [employee]! You have been faithful with a few things. I will put you in charge of many things. Enter into the joy of your master.’

24 Then the one who had received the one talent came and said, ‘Sir, I knew that you were a hard man, harvesting where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. See, you have what is yours.’

26 But his [employer] answered, ‘Evil and lazy slave! So you knew that I harvest where I didn’t sow and gather where I didn’t scatter? Then you should have deposited my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received my money back with interest! Therefore take the talent from him and give it to the one who has 10. For the one who has will be given more, and he will have more than enough. But the one who does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.  Matthew 25:14-29

Two Interpretations

I made a few changes to the text to update the story. There’s two ways to view this story. One is Jesus was talking about spiritual matters. God gives each believer talents and we’re supposed to invest them wisely for His kingdom. If we squander them, we’re wicked and we’ll be tossed out of heaven (this interpretation contradicts other parts of Scripture, by the way).

The other way is to interpret it as an economic tale. A wealthy man has some extra cash and other things to do, so he distributes some investment funds to three employees and then goes about his own business. He doesn’t micromanage them. Two of them understand what he wants — although the story doesn’t detail the conversation, I suspect there either was one or the employees had worked for him long enough to know what he wanted. Two of them got busy making a profit. The third guy, reasoning his employer was an abusive hard-ass, buried his investment seed money in the backyard. Eventually, the employer came back and asked for an accounting. The two entrepreneurs were praised for their industry. It doesn’t appear he asked for the money back (in the end, he gives the one unused talent to the one who “has 10”. Apparently, he’s going to allow them to continue to manage those funds.

Does that sound like an abusive hard-ass? It doesn’t to me. Would you like to work for him? He sounds like a great boss, actually. He invests in his employees, allows them to manage accounts, doesn’t micromanage, and he celebrates their successes with them. He gives them more responsibility when they’ve shown they can handle it.

But the third guy didn’t see it that way. He accused his employee of being abusive and Scrooge-like. You’d think this was a horrible man to work for. Why?

I’m-a Victim-Mentality

Apparently, the socialist assertion of “I’m a victim of the rich man” has been around for time immemorial. Jesus knew about it 2000 years ago. And many of us read this parable and assume the third guy was telling the truth about his employer…ignoring that he had two great interactions with the first two employees. He was generous, he was trusting, he just expected a return on his investment. There’s no real expectations asserted. He would have been happy with bank interest. But the third guy assumed he was not a nice man and so they didn’t have a good interaction. The employer who knew he’d been generous and trusting, was insulted by this man’s false assertion that he was not a good man. “You knew, did you? Well, okay, let me show you the guy you think I am. Get out! Don’t let the gate hit you on the way out.”

It’s hard to blame him. The third employee was pretty ungrateful for what he’d been given.

God Is Not a Cosmic Meany

We can learn multiple things from this parable. It doesn’t require just one interpretation. It’s also important to understand the context in which Jesus told this parable.

Jesus was preaching in a house and just prior to this parable, some men started tearing into the roof to lower a friend on a pallet down to Him because they believed Jesus could heal their friend’s paralysis. Jesus forgave his sins, which might have been a little disappointing to these men who had gone to all this trouble for this man to walk. But the scribes in the crowd were thinking “How dare He pretend He can forgive sins. He’s blaspheming, saying He’s God.” Of course, we know Jesus is God. He was just exercising the authority that was His by right. They were judgmental stone-chuckers. So, Jesus — knowing the hearts of men and reading their thoughts (they never said this aloud) said “Why do you think evil thoughts? Which is easier – to forgive his sins or to heal his legs?”

Let’s be honest. Forgiving sin is mostly invisible. It’s probably the harder thing to do, but it lacks the flash and bang of healing. Most skeptics would think “Uh huh, sure you forgave his sins. Delusional!” Jesus had addressed the paralytic’s bigger problem (sin is always our bigger problem), but just to assure the scribes knew they were thinking evil thoughts, He healed the man. They couldn’t deny what He did when the man picked up his pallet and left the room.

So, it’s interesting that right after this event, Jesus tells a parable about a generous rich man with two entrepreneurial workers and a third who thought he was a victim of a man who had done nothing but good for him.

God is highly generous with those He loves and for those of us who follow Him, there are rarely any regrets. I’ve never met a Christian who at the end of his life looked back and said “I should have been an atheist.” I’m sure a few exist, but I think they’re a minority.

And, yet, there are many people who have misapprehensions about God. They think He’s going to mistreat them. Some of that is the fault of Christians who do mistreat others, but more often than not, it’s simply a mistaken belief — a believe that God is a cosmic meanie and that if they give into Him, He’ll do them harm.

Rich People Can Be Good Guys

Let’s set out at the beginning — there are bad people in this world and some of them invest in businesses for nefarious reasons. Set that aside. They’re the minority. Most investors put money out there to help the business they’re investing in while also gaining a profit for themselves. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship. They combine their money with the industry of the investee. A hard-working investee will return a profit, though sometimes circumstances don’t work out. Investors know the risks of providing money to upstart ventures and investees should know that failing at an investment might mean that investor will not be available for the next venture. That’s not being mean. It’s called realism.

We too often destroy our chances in the world because we have an attitude that the world is against us — well, against “the little guy.” We refuse to try because we “know” the world won’t treat us right. “Poor people can’t get ahead.” Even when we meet generous people who are willing to help us, we hold a chip on our shoulder that will not allow us to take advantage of the help offered. “Yeah, I’ll make money, but they’ll make more money.” We self-talk ourselves right out of a beneficial relationship because we’re sure there’s something fishy about any “rich” person willing to risk their money on investing in someone who has less money.

But there are people in our world who look at all investors as evil. “The rich” are the source of every bad thing in society. They’re the reason people are poor. If they didn’t have all that money there’d be more for the rest of us.

For a whole host of economic reasons, this isn’t true. The rich are the job creators in a capitalist society and jobs are the pathway to prosperity. Sitting at home on government benefits is undignified, but it’s also limiting. You are stuck at a certain level of income and you can’t increase it legally (although there are people on government benefits who do engage in illegal activities to increase that limited income). One of the takeaways from the 1990’s Contract with America was that former welfare mothers had higher incomes from their jobs 10 years after they were forced to take jobs rather than sit at home. The wealthy generally create those jobs, either directly by the companies they own or indirectly through investing in smaller companies that then employ workers. Take their money away through taxation and they will create fewer jobs, either by curtailing their own business growth or their investment activities. And, that hurts poor people far more than their accumulation of wealth does.

Should Christians who are wealthy invest more of their spare cash in others? Of course — if indeed they actually have spare cash. One thing you learn if you interview the wealthy is that they often don’t have a lot of spare cash. Their money is invested in the businesses they own — the machinery of production, the buildings, the stock, the vehicles they use to transport that stock, etc. — or in the other businesses they don’t own, but do invest in. That money isn’t liquid. It’s value, not cold hard cash. But, yes, a wealthy person sitting on more than a year’s operating capital should probably consider being more generous with their money. Notice, I didn’t say they should give their money away. It’s a hard truth, but money given is often money wasted. People aren’t even grateful when you give it and they certainly aren’t grateful later when they’re out of money again and want more. Now, money invested and earned — that makes a difference in people’s lives. The rich person’s money mingles with the investee’s industry and creates something of real value.

And that only works if we accept that the rich people aren’t evil and if given the opportunity, can be a force for good in the world. And that’s understanding that in order to have 90 rich investors enriching the world through funding entrepreneurial ventures, you might need to accept 10 rich jerks who hoard their cash.

Posted September 30, 2021 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

Variety is Spice   13 comments

Sept 27, 2021 Have you experienced or witnessed genre shaming, where readers/authors degrade a genre? If so, how do you deal with it?

Genre Shaming | Washington Independent Review of Books

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Shame On You

“Why are you reading THAT?”

She meant well — this member of my Sunday School class who curled her nose up at my copy of Game of Thrones. She then picked up my copy of The Willow Branch, scanned the back page and then tossed it back on the stack.

“I thought you were an educated person.”

Okay, I could have gotten huffy and lost a potential friend, but I wanted to know where she was coming from.

“What have you against Game of Thrones?”

“It’s full of sex and violence. As a Christian, you shouldn’t be holding that stuff in your head.”

My husband would agree with her. He’s never read the book, but when we watched the first Season on disc and Jamie dropped Bran out a window, Brad was done! “How can you fill your head with that image?”

He likes horror films and I feel the same way about his preferred genre. I can take or leave the sex and violence in GoT, but horror creeps me out. It stays with me far longer than the sex scene.

Going back to my Sunday School friend, I then asked “well, what about the other book ‘The Willow Branch‘? Are you familiar with the author?”

Of course, Lela Markham is my pen name and so she didn’t realize she was about to majorly insult me.

“No, she’s a fantasy author and I just have no use for fantasy.”

“What genres do you read?”

“Well, I like Christian literature.” She bent over to look at the Left Behind series, which I stopped reading about five books in. “This is a great series. So Biblical.”

Uh … no! Clearly she didn’t read the same books I read. It’s preTribulation Millennial propaganda. I’m all down with the Bible, but this series tortures the Biblical clues to follow Tim LaHaye’s conception of how Jesus will come back. That wasn’t why I stopped reading it. I just couldn’t go any further after the main character survived a direct nuclear blast. I put up with the manipulative writing until that point and then I was done. In some ways, Shane Delaney getting hurt in Winter’s Reckoning was because I couldn’t have him do one more super-dangerous thing and not get hurt.

My friend expressed horror to find Harry Potter on my daughter’s shelves. I take it she didn’t understand the Kama Sutra or recognize Jack Kerouac. Her finger lingered on a sole copy of The Twilight series.

“How can you let your kids read this crap?”

How indeed! I don’t particularly care for the Potter series, but that’s just a personal style issue. All of Brianne’s friends read Harry Potter, so I read the first couple of books myself before I let Brianne read it and I didn’t find anything truly objectionable. A friend gave her that first book from The Twilight series and halfway through it she brought it from her bedroom and said “Mom, this is the worst book I’ve ever read. I can’t decide if this chick is nuts because she wants to have sex with a guy who considers her dinner or if she’s nuts because her alternative is a werewolf.” I don’t think she ever finished the book and I think she learned a valuable lesson about how a popular book series can be badly written. At some point, you just have to let your nearing-adult children figure it out for themselves.

Shame On You

My book shelves have a lot of books and a lot of examples for someone to shame. Pick a genre. Fantasy, science fiction, a handful of romances (not my favorite). Classics (Treasure Island, anyone?). Non-fiction. Mysteries. Adventure novels. My Friend Flicka. I have hundreds, maybe thousands of books, gathered over a lifetime of reading. They’re organized in broad genres. Some of them I haven’t picked up in decades. Others I’ve gone back to recently. 1984 got a lip curl from my Sunday School friend too.

There are genres I read voraciously when I was a certain age and haven’t read again. I’m not ashamed of having read them. I’ve simply moved on with my life. When Brianne’s boyfriend came to our house for the first time last month, he was amazed at how many books on my shelves he had read. Turns out we’re both fantasy nerds. We got into a long conversation about one of Asimov’s books. He’s got a winter plan to read all my books. I warned him he might not like the Young Adult “What If Wasn’t” series.

You Don’t Have To

I never read horror. That doesn’t mean I care if you read it. Go on, enjoy those books. Just don’t expect me to read them. You don’t like science fiction? Fine. I think you’re missing out, but I’m not here as the reading police. You don’t have to read those books if you don’t want to. Maybe we can find common ground here in the mystery section of my library. No. And, yeah, you’re right, I’m not into reading Amish romances and I’m pretty sure neither are the Amish.

Just because I don’t like a genre doesn’t mean it’s bad. It just means it doesn’t appeal to me. Just because you don’t like a genre doesn’t mean you should shame other people because they do like books of that kind. Sure, if you’re Sunday School buddies and they’re reading 50 Shades of Grey, you might want to discuss how that intersections with their spiritual walk, but people do a lot of incomprehensible things at times. When our kids were little, they weren’t allowed to watch The Simpsons because we felt it was disrespectful to adults. Our really good friends from church thought we were being too strict. We never yelled at them for letting our children watch the show while they were at their house. We knew — our kids told on themselves — but we also used the difference in rules between our two houses to discuss why the difference existed. During our daughter’s recent visit we learned she respected our choices after she’d had a few years to think about it.

Don’t Mess with Sleeping Dogs

Isn’t it great that the world is full of variety? You can enjoy romance novels. I can enjoy science fiction. Our buddy can enjoy War and Peace. My pastor can enjoy thick tomes on Christian history. We can all find things to read that capture our attention. Or we can avoid genres we don’t enjoy. Why is that a problem for some people? Why can’t they just let sleeping dogs lie?

Posted September 27, 2021 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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I Am Not An Insect!   6 comments

What is a side skill that has been useful in your life? Where did you learn it? Have you written it into any of your stories?

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What Skills Do I Need?

After all, I’m a writer. Besides the ability to write, I shouldn’t need to have any? Right. According to Robert Heinlein, that’s a wrong-headed way of thinking.

“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”

Well, there you go — a quite lengthy list of side skills that can be useful. So, I decided to see how many of those skills I can tick off.

Change a Diaper

Got this covered. Besides my own two children now walking around as functioning adults, I worked as a babysitter and as an assistant in my mother’s daycare center, so I’ve changed hundreds of thousands of diapers –even ones requiring pins –and I can add to Heinlein’s list that I know how to launder cloth diapers so that soft baby skin doesn’t turn blistered Actually, changing a diaper will play a small roll in the next book of Transformation Project “Worm Moon”.

Plan an Invasion?

It started as more of an infiltration. When I was a little kid boys thought girls had cooties, so us girls decided we would invade their tree fort, which meant tricking them into leaving it so when they got back they’d find us there. I got the bright idea of talking the enlightened male of the group into helping us with this and it worked. We got there, discovered their camp on the end of the woods wasn’t nearly as nice as our toolshed on the end of the woods and gladly gave it back to the boys, who then respected us a bit more — according to the enlightened one who I became friends with in high school. I haven’t used it in one of my books yet, but Transformation Project often sprinkles my side skills into the mix.

Butcher a Hog??

I was raised by a farmer’s daughter and my dad — a Merchant Marine trained chef. When Dad did his apprenticeship, meat arrived aboard ship in slabs and cooks butchered them into various forms for meals. Working shoreside, Dad often had friends who would bring their moose or caribou to him to butcher. Alaska is a hunter’s paradise after all, and while Dad enjoyed a good day fishing, he wasn’t really a hunter, so he’d get a portion of the harvest for his efforts. I observed/assisted in a few dozen butchered moose and caribou and as an adult those skills remain useful. I’ve never butchered a hog, but the concept is the same –drain the blood, cool the meat, don’t let the guts taint the meat, keep everything clean. Shane was in the process of butchering a deer during the events of Winter’s Reckoning.

Conn a Ship

No, I haven’t done this one, but I reserve the right to substitution. I know just enough to keep a small aircraft in the air. General aviation craft are as common here as cars. I don’t have a pilot’s license, but I’ve been allowed to take the controls of a light plane a few times and if I could afford to own my own airplane (insurance is pricy and so is the cost of the annual rebuild) I’d enjoy it quite a lot.

Design a Building/Build a Wall

Yes. Geometry is fairly easy. I’ve designed and helped construct a couple of toolsheds and a cabin in the woods that isn’t complete yet. I haven’t used it in my writing yet, but I suspect I will.

Write a Sonnet?

Not well. I realized many years ago that I was not destined to be a famous poet.

Set A Bone

It pays to have first aid skills when you might be hundreds of miles from the nearest doctors. Technically, I know how to set a bone, but I’ve never needed to use that skill. I did reset my own dislocated shoulder once. It was partially dislocated in a trip-fall incident and tractioned back into place on the hike out. I didn’t know it was dislocated until it popped back into socket. I thought it was just badly bruised. Ow! But, then, oh, so much better.

I used that incident, partially, in Winter’s Reckoning to describe Shane’s injuries.

Accidental first aid aside, I once removed a fishing hook from a friend’s thigh because none of us was ready to end the fishing trip. I stitched the wound closed too. He has a small scar. It hasn’t affected his ability to get a date.

Comfort the Dying

I’d probably suck at this. I’m one of those people who wants to be left alone when I’m sick, so I think I’d suck at the whole holding-of-hands-at-the-bedside thing. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve had several people die around me and I’ve been there for them, but they don’t really let you do the bedside ritual thing anymore. It takes special legal documentation to die at home in your own bed under your own terms now. But I do have a scene coming up in Transformation Project that will involve comforting the dying.

Act as an Independent Team?

I’ve taken plenty of orders in my life and given a few. That’s part of living in society, which is meritorious. My first job (other than baby sitter) was working as a cashier/folder in a laundramat that summer I was 16. Technically, I was the lowest of the low, but two days after they hired me, they left me on my own with a storeful of customers and a mountain of laundry. My “orders” were simple — fold laundry, greet people who dropped off dry-cleaning and laundry, fill out their paperwork, help customers with issues with the machines, have the laundry done by the date and time we said it would be done by, collect money, and keep people from trashing the place. Nowhere in that job description required giving orders. The first day alone, I looked up to find some exhausted young mother allowing her kids to “ride” the dryers. I didn’t bother to check with the manager (who was probably out-back drycleaning) to see if children were allowed to do that. They were risking their lovely little lives with equipment I was responsible for. I told the woman to make them stop and when she argued with me, I told her to gather her wet laundry and leave. She then burst into tears (which I hate — not a weepy female — and in Fairbank Alaska in the 1970s, men outnumbered women by at least 2:1, so I knew my boss could replace me with a boy in five seconds), so I “suggested” she leave her laundry to dry and take the kids across the street to the Dairy Queen. She left happy, though probably still exhausted, and no machines were sacrificed in the process. Turned out my supervisor (the company owner) had been watching me the whole time. He didn’t step in because “you had it.” I took the general orders I was given, issued my orders, defined what needed to happen in that context and acted alone as needed. In doing so, I was cooperating in a team of about eight people, most of whom I never met because they came to work after I left for the day.

Solve Equations?

Sure. I’m not a math whizz, but I can do basic algebra. I couldn’t do what Robert Heinlein also didn’t do in Martian Chronicles. His wife Virginia, an actual rocket science, did all the calculations for space travel to Mars. I couldn’t do that. But I can do basic math up to the geometric level.

Analyze a New Problem?

Isn’t that what we do when we set about writing a novel – we create a problem that now must be solved? What if someone hated America so much, they figured out a way to blow up 20 American cities? What happens then? Layer upon layer of analysis goes into a novel. But I also encounter dozens of problems every week that require analysis. I think analysis is a waning art in a society where people just react to the news without even questioning the sources.

Pitch Manure

Okay, so I did not grow up on a midwestern farm like my mother or the characters in Transformation Project. The manure I’ve pitched has mostly been dog manure. Alaskans have dogs and sled dogs live outside in the winter. Ideally, the manure is shoved in early spring before it’s thawed, but people who hire someone to pitch manure probably didn’t think that far ahead so I was standing in spring meltwater, dumping a pile of manure in a wheelbarrow while the yellow-eyed wolf-like dog who created the pile started at me like he wanted his poop back. I think you get the picture and I’ve used that experience a few times in my writing.

Program a Computer?

I’m not an IT professional and have never actually programmed a computer, but I’m a late-stage Boomer, which means the personal computer came on the market while I was in college, so I took a programming course because my journalism advisor suggested we would all need to know how to do this to file our stories someday. I learned how to write and run some very BASIC routines. Two years later, DOS came on the market and I’ve not done anything like programming since. However, that early experience has been very useful more me in jobs over the years. I’ve frequently been the “test dummy” for new software in jobs because I’m comfortable with the process of learning a new system and then passing the hands-on knowledge onto others.

Cook a Tasty Meal.

Not after pitching manure. But, yes, of course, Daughter of a chef and a diner waitress. I can cook. I enjoy trying new recipes. I enjoy watching other people enjoy what I make.

Fight Efficiently?

Okay, so Heinlein had a military career. I’m 5’1″. I’m not winning a hand-to-hand combat with anyone over age 12. But I’ve studied some fighting techniques. I’m sure our neighbors thought I’d lot my mind when my daughter and I practiced with staves in the backyard to see if what I was writing really worked. And, wooden swords with my son also raised an eyebrow or two.

Of course, I’d point out that the pen is mighter than the sword. I also have an intellectual rapier to wield that makes me equal in size to anyone else.

Die Gallantly

I hope when the time comes, I will. Whether you die in your own bed on a Sunday night in September or reloading behind the barricades of the zombie apocalypse, if you did the way you were meant to, with peace in your heart surrounded by people who hold you in theirs — that’s a hero’s death.

Posted September 20, 2021 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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Balanced Use of Swears   14 comments

Sept 13, 2021

How do you feel about the use of profanity, either in your stories or in what you read?

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Trending Toward Profanity

Opinion | The Case for Profanity in Print - The New York Times

In recent decades experts noticed a decided trend to use more and more obscenities, profanity and vulgarity in books written for almost every age.

First, let’s define term. Obscenity is a word or phrase that covers sexual or scatalogical references to the body or bodily functions (so f**k and s**t). The term also has legal ramifications that offend the sexual morality of a given time and place and so the Supreme Court says they aren’t protected by the First Amendment. Former Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart explained that he couldn’t define what kind of material was obscene, but he knew it when he saw it. In 1973 the SCOTUS ruled in the case of Miller v California that an expression must meet three criteria to be obscene:

1. The average person, applying contemporary community standards, would find the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest.

2. The work depicts/describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct or excretory functions specifically defined by applicable state law.

3. The work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value.

If the expression fails to meet any one of those criteria, then the literary work is not obscene. The “average person,” “community standards,” “patently offensive” and “serious value” are all fairly subjective terms, though. Even with the Miller Test, there’s no national standard for what classifies as obscene, and distinctions between protected expression and unprotected obscene expression vary among federal court districts.

Meanwhile, profanity is an expression that is specifically offensive to members of a religious group. The definition extends to expressions of a scatological, derogatory, racist, sexist or sexual nature. What is and isn’t profane mostly depends on the context and the company you keep. There are words we don’t say in church that we might use in the privacy of our garage when we hit our thumb with a hammer.

Vulgarity is generally coarse or crude language. It’s substituting a coarse word in a context where a more refined expression is expected. So that’s like substituting the word “butt” for the word “ass”.

Modern Writing

Swearing and vulgarity in creative writing is on the rise, especially from independent authors not associated with a large publisher. Some authors who use profanity in books believe they are representing the world as it is, and that using profanity makes their writing more authentic and powerful. One author says we need swearing to make our created worlds “bloom with color.” Other writers argue there are more effective ways to make fictional worlds “bloom”. For them, vulgarity is a cheap, convenient device to give the impression the book is up-to-date and realistic.

Important authors of the past wrote amazing works with vivid imagery, compelling scenes, and powerful characters without resorting to swearing or vulgarity. Examples are Homer’s The Odyssey (Homer), Cervantes Don Quijote, Dante’s The Divine Comedy, Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels. Yes, other great works of literature contain profanity, but most great literature is admired for its powerful imagery, descriptions, language and storyline, and not its dependency on swearing or obscenities.

Since the middle of the 20th century, society has witnessed a marked decline in spiritual and moral values throughout the Western World, including a distinct weakening of traditional sexual mores. There’s been a commensurate radical increase in the use of vulgarity and profanity in the writings of authors. This language and the accompanying behavior is fueled by the obscenities heard every day in sitcoms, movies, and on the street, in schools and the workplace. These trends can be destructive to the quality and value of literature, and they really don’t help sell books.

Target Audience

Although we say we don’t, authors must always consider their target audience. This necessity leads to the multiple genres in writing—science fiction, romance, mystery, crime fiction, historical, etc. Writers who desire to reach as many readers as possible within their chosen genres should seek to avoid shocking their readers with excessive profanity. Many readers today will not be offended by an occasional profanity word or vulgarity, but unless a reader is a member of a very small, specific demographic, the shocking words meant to bring color often pull the reader out of the story because they don’t relate to the continual vulgarity. At the same time, these readers will not reject a compelling book simply because it doesn’t contain profanity.

As an evangelical Christian who didn’t grow up in church, I’m not shocked by an occasional profanity. I also don’t consider myself a Christian author. I’m a Christian who also is an author. I strive to portray Christianity in a truthful manner, but I’m not writing “message” books. As such, I include an occasional profanity and vulgarity because that’s normal life, but I don’t use them as much as many writers in my genres do. I’ve taken some flack from readers for including it at all — “She says she’s a Christian and she dedicates the book to Jesus, but then she dishonors the Savior with swear words.” Uh, yeah, I failed to discover any Bible verses that said Christians should totally disconnected from the society around us and that writers who are Christians should pretend real life doesn’t exist. “In the world, but not of it” doesn’t mean we aren’t aware of modern society’s warts.

I did some research on the topic. Great authors such as Anne McCaffrey, Arthur C. Clarke, Mary Higgins Clark, Amy Tan, and Brandon Sanderson, published bestselling books with little or no profanity. Most top-selling books today by large publishers contain fewer than 40 swears, including novels depicting a great deal of violence. Some traditional authors who are self-proclaimed “potty-mouths” often have fewer than 100 swears in their books. I think it’s entirely possible that these authors’ publishers have a great deal of market research that shows that the “f-bomb” in every other sentence doesn’t sell well with readers. Independent authors would do well to take note of how the big publishers conduct themselves because they have big budgets to do market research. That doesn’t mean we have to follow every jot and tittle of the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association guidelines, but we should be aware of the big publishing house standards and strive for that level of professionalism.

Swearing as a Condiment

My own feeling is that authors who resort to swearing and vulgarity give the impression of lacking in class, education, sensitivity, intelligence, taste, and talent. Catcher in the Rye is a great novel, but what most people remember most about it was the overuse of a certain profanity. Punctuating your work with excessive profanity seems lazy to me. Some writing critics say when authors use profanity, they are telling the reader what is going on in the minds of the characters instead of allowing the reader to experience the emotion for themselves. An author’s job is to describe the characters’ emotions and psychological makeup. Profanity is just another “telling” example, like the overuse of adverbs.

My personal policy on profane words is similar to my view on adverbs. I’m not an absolutist. I use both as condiments. A hamburger that was mostly pickle, not even much meat or bun, wouldn’t taste right, but I personally always eat my burgers with a little bit of pickle. My characters use profanity rarely and at extremely appropriate times. When you’re falling off a cliff, it doesn’t make emotional sense to say “Gee, golly, boy-howdy.” I’m a Baptist Sunday School teacher and even I’d rip out with a “s**t” in that circumstance. I’m pretty sure my pastor might too. Thus, it makes no sense to me to limit my characters to mild curses when something stronger is appropriate. I personally don’t swear a lot in the course of my life, but I do know the words because they were an everyday occurrence in the town I grew up in — with a male to female ratio of 4 to 1 and most of the men being construction workers. And, I try to write a realistic world with real-seeming characters and so my characters swear occasionally — some more than others and some of them are offended by hearing others swear and embarrassed when they let one slip — kind of like ordinary people in America’s heartland where the Transformation Project books are set.

When I’m reading a book, I don’t care about an occasional swear, but I don’t like books that have a bunch of profanity for no legitimate reason. I read a book recently that has some scenes from the two main characters’ pasts and the guy of the two has an extremely potty mouth as a high school senior. He used the f-word as an adjective for just about every noun. But then in the current time line, he hardly swears at all — once in a conversation with a guy friend who still has a potty mouth and once when he’s upset about something and then he apologizes for it because he says it in front of a kid. I saw it as a way of showing how much he’d matured over the years. And that’s really the balance I wish to strike–not using euphemisms but not overdoing the use because readers are kind of turned off by it and I really feel that profanity is far too widespread in society and used in inappropriate settings when it doesn’t truthfully convey what it is meant to.

Posted September 13, 2021 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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Open Book Blog Hop: Sept 6   Leave a comment

Lines by Leon

Open Book Blog Hop – 6th September - featured image

Welcome to this week’s blog hop. (Thanks, Stevie for the topic.)

Does food play an important part in your writing? How about sharing a favourite recipe of one of your characters, or maybe one of yours?

Food is often mentioned in science fiction, from replicators in Star Trek, to food in pill form, and often yeast farms are mentioned. But there is one movie that I am always reminded of when it comes to food in the future, so when I wrote my post-apocalyptic stories and did a series called Found, which were writings and poems that were discovered in a desolate world, I had to include a reference to it:

  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…

View original post 12 more words

Posted September 8, 2021 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

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