Archive for the ‘Blog Hop’ Category

Mightier than Swords   2 comments

What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?

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Words have incredible power in the hands of good communicators. They can raise you to the highest heavens or drop you from 30,000 feet without a net. They can make you feel wonderfully competent or grossly inadequate. However, the power of words is not in the words themselves as in the power the listeners invest in them.

My first experience with the power of language was in realizing that language could be distorted so as to wield power over others.

I don’t remember exactly how old I was – maybe 10 or 12 – when my father began to have trouble calling himself a “liberal”.

Related image

I grew up in Alaska where the discussion of politics is an indoor participation sport. The adults loved to argue politics and they thought it was their responsibility to teach the youngsters, so we were expected to pay attention and formulate our own opinions. Alaskans are and were actually really well-read. Long, dark, cold winters mean we have a lot of time for intellectual pursuits. We have great public and university libraries and they are well-used. This meant that much of what the adults were talking about was backed up by study.

My mom was a conservative non-partisan old-style feminist (she liked men, definitely wanted them in her life, but she didn’t think she should bow to them). My dad was a lifelong Democrat union organizer who would not recognize the Democratic Party of 2019. I knew my parents didn’t agree politically, but they weren’t at each other’s throats. When I stand back and look at it with a long lens, I think they really didn’t disagree on any of the big issues. Mom thought her money did her more good in her purse than in the pocket of some government official and Dad trusted the government a bit more than she did. Dad could call himself a Democrat and feel just fine with that. Mom felt she was lying if she promised fidelity to a single political party, so she was a registered non-partisan so she could vote for whichever party she preferred that election. That was about the extent of their political differences.

But in 1970, maybe 72, Dad foresaw where the Democratic party was headed and he started having trouble calling himself a “liberal”. He’d been struggling with this idea for a while when I overheard the conversation. How long is a mystery to me as Dad died before I was old enough to really pursue the topic, but he and my mom were talking about the McGovern campaign for President (1972) and Dad said he didn’t think the Democratic Party was still the party of liberals. He found the newest crop to be intolerant, abusive children who wanted a lot of stuff for nothing. Sound familiar? Yeah. He foresaw that. He didn’t know what to do about it and it bothered him, a lifelong committed Democrat, that he was expected to vote for policies and politicians who did not represent what he thought of as “liberal values.” (see the image above for the traditional definition of “liberal” and the image below for the modern progressive-liberal.

Mom hit it on the head that day when she said “They sound a lot more like the progressives from back when we were kids.” The conversation then moved onto whether the progressives were Republican (Teddy Roosevelt was) or Democratic (Woodrow Wilson was) and I don’t recall my parents exploring the change in the word “liberal” at the time. It stuck with me because I was already developing into a language geek and here was a word my dad had been using for 50 years that no longer had the meaning he associated with it.

Image result for difference between classical liberal and progressive

I know from my adult studies in history that the American progressives got their political and philosophical hats handed to them. They were completely discredited when they were infiltrated by the socialists and so, they spent a few decades in obscurity. They then came back in the 1960s, relabeled themselves “liberals” and took over the Democratic Party. They took advantage of the growing post-modern sentiments to claim “language has no meaning and we can define these historical words to mean anything we want.” Dad was sensing that change. Without the internet at the time, he couldn’t locate cogent arguments for why it was happening, but he knew it was.

When Hillary Clinton ran in 2012 and again in 2016, she used the more-correct term of “progressive” to describe herself, perhaps sensing that the term “liberal” had been flogged to death by the illiberal Democrats. That still doesn’t really solve the dilemma of people like me who subscribe the traditional liberal principles like freedom and self-sufficiency, but can’t use that term without invoking the warped definition of the word.

Dad’s lost word isn’t the only word that has been warped into a new meaning in the intervening years. My parents, who were young adults in World War 2, wouldn’t recognize how some people in our era define “fascism”, just as I now am perplexed by how some people define “racism” and “sexism”. This could be a much longer article if I focused on all of the word games post-moderns use to change the tenor of conversations. Dad’s struggle with the word “liberal” was my first recognition that how we use words can damage our relationships and ability to dialogue with one another. It stuck with me going forward because it’s always in the news and it involved some of my dad’s most fundamental beliefs and relationships. I’ve often wondered where Dad would stand politically today and I suspect he’d join Mom and me in the non-partisan camp, suspicious of political parties in general.

Words have meaning, which in the hands of good communicators comes with power, and in order for us to communicate, the meanings need to be understood by all. Unfortunately, the post-modern belief that words are malleable and the meaning can be changed whenever and however the user of the moment likes is harmful to meaningful communication. It’s one of the reasons Western society is tearing itself apart today. Some of us have redefined words to meanings that the users of those words never agreed to. Further, we misapply these redefined words to others without even bothering to find out if the words actually apply to them. Then some in society repeat those redefined words over and over in order to denigrate those they disagree with.

There’s a famous saying – the pen is mightier than the sword, meaning that the minds of people are won by persuasive arguments and not brute force. Words have power. The American revolution, according to John Adams, was wrought in the minds of the people (via the words of pamphleteers like Thomas Paine) a long time before the shot heard round the world on Lexington Green. I want to believe that we can make changes in society through reasoned debate on topics that affect all of us, but when we change the meanings of words without telling our rhetorical opponents, we game the debate process to our own benefit. It’s time we stopped that and agreed on a common vocabulary, so we can talk, know when to agree or disagree, and not have to make enemies of people whose words we redefined to mean something they didn’t mean.

Just a thought.

Male Mystique   13 comments

What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?

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What an interesting question to ask and answer, especially from an Alaska woman’s perspective.

I essentially grew up in a foreign country. Alaska in my childhood was a rugged frontier world that got limited television. The male-female ratio was four to one. Even today, Alaska has a fairly male-oriented culture. Women certainly participate fully in the society here, but we are participating in what are traditionally “men’s” activities. Alaska is where men are truly men and women win the Iditarod. So, hunting, fishing, mountain climbing, dog handling, chopping our own wood and hauling our own water. Yeah, I also quilt, which is a traditionally “women” activity that my husband sometimes helps me with. Many of the “male characteristics” that I’m going to discuss below are cultural features here in Alaska that are practiced by both men and women.

Coming from that perspective —

I enjoy writing male characters and the majority of my main characters are male. Good thing because I write apocalyptic and fantasy fiction and the bean counters say more men read those genres and, maybe, not surprisingly, they prefer their fiction from the male perspective. I don’t know exactly why male characters assert themselves in my head more often than female characters. It could be because I grew up the way that I did, so I may have actually had more experience with men than women and few of the women I grew up with were of the girly sort. You’d get awfully lonely in your tiny little minority if you didn’t join the guys and so women of my mother’s generation embraced the outdoors long before that became a thing in the Lower 48. I think it’s one reason so many women reacted negatively to Sarah Palin – here was a woman who clearly embraced her feminine side, but sounded a lot like a man. That’s the Alaska culture.

The fact is, I like men. I like spending time with them. I like the way they think — usually. I am fascinated by the differences I hear from them compared to my female friends.

This is a conversation I overheard between two guys at work the other day.

“New boots?”

“Yup! Big Rays. Sales over tomorrow. You catch the hockey game?”

A similar conversation between women would have included the colors the shoes came in, the other stores or online outlets it was available at, the price including that there is a coupon code to apply to it, and whether the women though that style of shoe made their feet look chunky. Then they would have talked about similar shoes they own and what clothing they have that will go with the shoes and how they feel about that clothing. Maybe they caught the hockey game, but their lunch hour is over so they won’t discuss it.

Just writing that last paragraph made this woman who was born with the male shopping gene, want to fling myself off a cliff just to end the fictional conversation.

I’ve never found men to be a mystery because there were so many around me as a child. I’m married to a verbal guy and we’re not shy about talking about the things that make him tick. He understands it’s research for writing, but it also helps me to understand his moods and aspirations. I’ve learned that men don’t always think like women, even women like me who don’t think much like other women, but there’s more similarity than differences. We agree on most of the big things. It’s just how we arrive at our agreement that differs and I respect those differences.

Men tend to know their worth, which many women see as egotistical. Men don’t beat around the bush. They say what they mean and mean what they say and they tend to not care if you’re offended by honesty. They are convinced by facts and once convinced are usually difficult to displace from their position. They thus have stronger opinions than women (who tend to want to placate opponents) and they will strongly argue their opinion and refuse to apologize if you don’t like their stance. It’s not that they don’t feel. It’s that they recognize feelings are subjective and therefore, they’re suspicious of them. They also don’t talk as much as women and when they do, they want to discuss world events rather than personal topics and they really prefer to keep their feelings to themselves. You can ask them what they feel and they will tell you want they think — and then, they might tell you what they feel. Women feel first and think later — and by the way, most women won’t admit that. It’s why we seem much more emotional than men and why they accuse us of being irrational. From their perspective of think-before-you-feel, we are irrational. Women will tell you what they feel even if you don’t want to know while, more often than not, you have to infer male feelings from slight facial expressions, gestures or actions, which is an incredible gold mine for writers.

Men are typically results oriented, so when they see a problem, they immediately want to fix it and prefer to be in charge of the project, so they can achieve the goal and move onto something else. In contrast women will talk about a problem and how they feel about it for hours and then, often, sweep it under the rug to not deal with it until it oozes out again as a bigger problem. Alternatively, they’ll give it to their significant other to fix or form a team to deal with it. This tendency to not fix problems drives the result-oriented male crazy, by the way, and is a primary reason the so-called “helping” profession of social work is 75% staffed by women. Men want to fix irreparable problems and, when they can’t, they burn out and go take jobs in the construction field where they confront problems that they can solve through their direct efforts.

Men are strongly influenced by images — particularly of women, and most especially of naked women — but they tend to forget the details women remember the tiniest nuance of. They do think about sex a fair bit, but not as much as portrayed in the media and believed by women who don’t hang out with men. They can have a relationship with a woman that is not sexually-oriented provided she respects male boundaries. Keep your clothes on, don’t touch, don’t flirt and above all don’t talk about sex unless you’re willing to have sex with them because that stimulates parts of their brain that interfere with the whole friendship dynamic.

Men tend to take more risks than women, who have historically had to take care of the kids. Fear excites men, who tend to look beyond the fear to how they’re going to survive the risk. Women may think that is reckless, but men think of it as a good reason to get up in the morning.

Men are less detail oriented than women — unless it involves something where details MATTER – like bridge design or the exact angle of a miter joint.

Men want to move on from conflict after it has been “settled”. They want to kiss and make-up and be done with it. They don’t want to talk about the feelings associated with an argument into the wee hours of the night and rehash every little detail of the argument because they don’t even remember the details.

Woman – “Why’d you make that facial expression when I mentioned Cheryl?

Guy (thinking) – “we discussed Cheryl?” And, “what facial expression? I don’t have facial expressions.”

And since he can’t possibly win an argument about an event he doesn’t fully remember, he will roll over and face the wall and refuse to talk to the woman further, because he was done with this argument hours ago and he doesn’t have any feelings (that he wants to share) to discuss.

All of the above are generalities that are good to know as a writer, but shouldn’t define a character. Slavish devotion to stereotypes makes for poor character development. The plumbing between the legs and how it affects the mind is of less importance than people think and I like to write characters who are not stereotypes, so my readers can feel like they might meet this person over the fence while their dogs sniff each other’s butts.

The difference matters

So what’s the hardest part of a female writing male characters? The difficulties are ameliorated by being a female who grew up in a male majority culture, but there are things I have to watch myself on. Remembering the little details that are distinct and lend credence to the male perspective is critical. Men put on their pants and socks first and then put on their shirts, even their undershirts. I recently beta read a romance novel and the writer twice had the male main character put on his shirt first and then his pants. That’s how (most) women dress. Guys don’t (and by the way, I’ve checked this with “experts”). It’s a subtle difference that means the world for selling to a male reader that the male MC is really a male.

Men’s shirts button from the right and women’s blouses button from the left. Why? I have no idea, but the zippers on our jeans are also reversed. I love to wear men’s 501 shrink-to-fit button-fly jeans, but using the other hand to work the buttons did take some getting used to (well worth it for the comfort!). Again, it’s a detail to remember for selling that this is a male protagonist and not just a female character with three-day scruff.

When two men shake hands, they clasp firmly and they actually shake hands. When a woman “shakes” hands, she just gives a man her hand but she doesn’t move it. She keeps her hand motionless. Guys don’t know what that means and they find it a little shifty — unless it’s a really pretty girl and then they don’t care. I freak them out because I shake like a guy and they’re not used to that. Generally, when women meet each other, they don’t shake hands unless their boss is there and he did, by the way.

Women see thousands of shades of color and men see about 32. It has to do with the cones in their retinas, so there aren’t a lot of exceptions (though there are a few). A woman might say “grab the lilac napkins” and then get irritated that her guy grabbed the maroon napkins, but seriously, he just sees purple and he went for the ones that seemed less washed out.

Women have a better sense of smell than men. I have a scene in A Threatening Fragility where Shane and Jazz are walking by a flower garden. I had to rewrite it from her perspective because she could smell the different flowers while Shane just smelled flowers … and they are all purple, pink and blue — not the 50 shades she would see that I mostly chose not to put in the book out of deference for my male readers.

All those little touches need to be kept in mind so that as a woman who writes male MCs, I’m selling the notion that these are really guys and not women who can stand up when they pee. I think I do a pretty good job. And because I don’t have a slavish devotion to intersectionality, I think I do a pretty good job of showing men as human beings with different characteristics. In Transformation Project, Shane is taciturn by nature while his brother Cai is a bit of a chatterbox. Shane often uses controlled violence to solve the community’s problems while Cai worries about the results of that violence. Shane’s heart is pretty hardened, but his father Rob can cry over somethings. In “What If Wasn’t” (WIP) Peter, who is a guy just out of prison for killing someone in an accident, wishes he didn’t feel the emotions he feels, but he’s helpless against them and so, sometimes, the people around him know he’s feeling them. He’s probably the hardest to make sure I’m not depicting a woman who can stand up when she pees, but I strive to create different men who aren’t stereotypical. You can check out my books at this link and let me know how I’m doing.

I wonder where my fellow blog-hoppers struggle.

Posted June 10, 2019 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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First Among Favorites   8 comments

From all the characters you’ve created, which is your favorite and why?

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Wow, this could be a hard one simply because I’ve been writing since I was 12 and a lot of characters have been my “favorite” at one time or another. How to choose a favorite among favorites? That’s like asking the parent of a large brood of children to choose their favorite. You love them all and a good parent would love them equally. But some of them, you might like a little bit more than everyone else. You might want to spend time with them slightly more than you want to spend time with others. Or, if you’re like me, and you have had different best friends over the course of a lifetime, it’s a similar situation. I had a best friend when I was a child and we still know one another, though we aren’t really close friends now. I had a best friend in high school and into college and we are still Facebook friends and I will go out of my way to see her if we’re in the same geographic area, but we don’t talk every day. I had a best friend when I was in my 20s (she’s was the matron of honor at my wedding), but she moved away just prior to the Internet getting underway and I haven’t been able to track her down, so that friendship has withered. I have a best friend now and I’m married to him. I like spending time with him, but if I were to be honest I can think of some other people I’d rather spend more time with. His “best friend” status has to do with how long and how well we’ve known each other, not necessarily about shared interests. We share some, but not all. Trust me – when I start talking quilting or writing, his eye lids droop and I only pretend to want here about his technical endeavors.

So, clearly this “favorite” thing is complicated.

Who is my favorite character among the hundreds that have traipsed through my mind in my writing career and why?

It’s a tossup between Shane Delaney of Transformation Project and Peter of (the yet-unpublished) What If Wasn’t? Since readers can’t go out and get to know Peter (yet), I’m going to focus on Shane Delaney. These are two very different characters and I like them for different reasons. Shane gets the “favorite” label because he’s published, but it was a hard decision to make.

Why do I like Shane? He’s someone I could sit down with over coffee and interview and enjoy spending an evening getting to know. Not that he would talk to me or tell me his secrets, because Shane doesn’t do that. He’s dark and complex, which is also sometimes why I don’t want to write him. He’s a mercenary who was forced to work for the government, which in turn forced him to work as a mercenary, and he doesn’t like either of his two masters. He’s loyal, but he’ll cut his losses in a heartbeat if he needs to — and mourn later, if he has time. He’s got PTSD from the things he’s had to do that haunt him. He’s the ultimate realist who will make the pragmatic decisions no one around him wants to make. He’s the non-believer in a devout family, but he’s not angry at his family. He still loves them and (mostly) respects their beliefs, even though he has rejected them. He’s the serial monogamous in a family of faithful men. He’s totally male and yet he enjoys the female mind (and body, but this is largely a PG series). He’s 26 going on 96, but he wasn’t born mature. He is still a work in progress. He’s stubborn, but he can learn from his mistakes and the mistakes of others. He is tough and can take physical and emotional pain, but he has a breaking point and he came home to avoid shattering, only to have circumstances force him to keep going and resist shattering. Shane is brutally honest about his failings and does not indulge often in denial, though he does often tell those who want to help him that his inner life is none of their business.

A third factor in why I like Shane so much is that I don’t absolutely know where he is headed. I do know he’s coming to a crisis and that several of the big questions of his life will need to be answered … if he survives. I can’t see beyond that crisis, so I don’t know his outcome. The character has surprised me a few times, so I’m not at all certain what choices he’ll make.

As a discovery writer, I love when my character’s hijack their plot and take it in an interesting direction. Not all characters will do that and that’s okay, but when I have a character like Shane who is very much his own man — that’s golden, and that’s what makes him my favorite — for now.

Posted May 20, 2019 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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Finding Time   10 comments

If you didn’t have to sleep, what would you do with the extra time?

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This is kind of an easy question for me because I can almost not sleep during the “midnight sun” period of May 15 through July 15. I can sleep two or three hours a night and feel just fine, energized by the sun, which only goes below the horizon for about two hours a night. We barely experience civil twilight.

Unfortunately, it’s a trick you can’t sustain. You do have to sleep occasionally. The human brain requires sleep because you need to dream. If you don’t dream while you’re sleeping, you’ll start to hallucinate while you’re awake. So while you can stay awake fairly easily here above the 70th parallel during the summer, sooner or later, you have got to sleep to replenish your acetylcholine levels. If you don’t do that, you’re going to end up in the psych ward. It’s usually what happens to bipolars who crash and burn.

I only need about six hours of sleep a night and I can function just fine. In the summer, that stretches to two or three hours a night with about every third night needing six hours. A psychiatrist I worked with in Community Mental Health had a theory that people like me can short ourselves on sleep because we are very imaginative and that is sort of like dreaming while awake. And maybe that’s what’s going on. I don’t know for sure. During those times when I’m not sleeping and other people are, I am … of course, writing or researching for writing. Sometimes I’m reading a book by another author.

The Alaska lifestyle is a little different. It’s not unusual for us to get off work at 5 pm, grab some food from the grocery store and set out on the hiking trail. The wilderness is so close here, we can be in the woods within an hour. And we can hike until midnight because the sun doesn’t go down until about 1 am during the solstice. Then we’ll flit home and sleep until 7 am. It’s not unusual. Lots of people walk around with that glowy look that says they haven’t sleep a full night in weeks. It’s just the way it is.

Therefore, if I didn’t have to sleep at all, I’d probably expand what I am doing now – read, write, research, hike, maybe quilt (in the winter) – although maybe our lawn would get mowed more often or our car washed occasionally. Eight hours more of life would be quite a gift. And, I would definitely need to build some more bookshelves because I’d spend a lot of that extra time reading.

I wonder what my fellow authors would be doing if they didn’t need to sleep.

Posted May 13, 2019 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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Buying Stock in Kleenex   6 comments

Have you ever made yourself cry (over what you did to a character) while writing a book?

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Oh, yes!

Easy answer. Of course, there is so much more to it than that.

Let’s start with the knowledge that I am not a particularly sentimental female. I didn’t cry at the end of Beaches, for example, though two of the men who came to that movie with their wives did get a little shiny-eyed. I was with them while the other two ladies were wetting tissues like crazy and the third guy announced a sudden need to warm up the car even though it wasn’t particularly cold outside.

I did cry during Schindler’s List – that scene where they destroyed the ghetto and the little girl in the red coat haunted my dreams for sometime after and I still choke up if I see it now. The inhumanity toward our fellow human beings can make me cry.

I’m pretty sure the last book (by another author) that made me cry was when Paula broke up with Jordan in Whatever Words You Want to Hear. It wasn’t that she broke up with him so much (he so absolutely deserved that!) as the knowledge that she knew his enablers were pulling back and he was going to flounder and probably end up shipwrecked. I felt what Paula felt at that moment and it touched me as deeply as it did her. So 25-30 years ago I didn’t cry at a sad movie (though I did feel the ethos), I cried over the inhumanity of humans, and I did cry over a girl-coming-of-age-while-loving-a-guy-who-wasn’t-going-to-come-of-age book. Just not a crier unless something hits me at an extremely deep level. In some ways, that’s good because I know when I’m writing a scene that if it makes me mist up, it’s going to make many women cry and some men feel it in their adam’s apple.

Generally, when I kill a character it is because he or she stops talking to me. I often characterize writing as characters show up in my head and want to tell me their story. If they stop, then what do I do with them? If I can send them on a long journey from which they never return, I do, but sometimes the answer is to kill them. And kind of like a friend who has decided they no longer want you as a friend, I sometimes mourn the loss of the relationship. It’s hard to let go of a great character. They’re a little like people in real life. Nobody wants a beloved friend to move away or die. They do, though. So in life, same in fiction. But that’s not a crying event for me because they broke off the relationship. I regret the end of my relationship with them, but if they don’t want to be my friend, I won’t waste tears on that. And in fiction, often that means the character’s death and that’s just a consequence of them not talking to me any longer.

Transformation Project is an apocalyptic series. It wouldn’t be realistic for my characters to not die during the apocalypse, but even living is painful. Being inside Shane’s head can be depressing. The guy has PTSD and he started the series with a gun in his mouth. That was literally the first scene I ever wrote for him and I kind of thought he might be one of those characters who died before he even got started. I didn’t cry during that because I remember being pissed off that this great character was not going to be around to share his story. He’s found a reason to stay alive in that his family and their town need his skills, but things aren’t getting easier. He’s had to kill people in sleepy Emmaus, his hometown that was too boring for him to stay in after high school, where he came in hopes of healing to emotional scars of war. He’s not getting to do that and the reality of what he and his fellow townspeople are living through touches his soul and it touches my soul. If I mist up while writing it and still feel like crying when I reread it, I know I’ve hit a sweet spot. The thing is, Shane rarely cries from his pain. He thinks he deserves it. And since all characters are really me, I often don’t cry while I am writing his viewpoint. It’s later, when I reread it that I go “Why am I so mean? I stink as a deity. I truly truly suck!” Or sometimes when I’m writing his family’s reaction to his actions, I feel what Jill or Cai feels for him and then I cry. If that sounds a little disassociative identity disorder, you don’t know many writers. All our characters are really us and so we can cry for what one character feels about another character who would never elicit tears from us.

I’ve brought this book up before because I truly plan to publish it someday … and that day is getting closer – What If Wasn’t – is a new adult novel about Peter, a young man who will have to deal with the consequences of his drunken actions killing someone he loves. That story is tough to write and I do cry. I hate that I’m putting a nice person with a drinking problem through all this pain. I want him to get well without hitting rock bottom and bouncing a few times. Peter hates it too. I can hear him saying “I will go to rehab. Just don’t make me do this.” Sadly, he has to because that’s the story he told me initially and so his fate is sealed. And, though the character does seem to want healing, I’m not necessarily going to give him a happy ending. Because, you know, that’s not how real life works

I let my son read a section a while ago. Keirnan is a sweet kid (well, 20) who isn’t afraid of feeling emotions and when he finished, his voice was all hoarse and he said “Wow, Mom! Readers are going to cry over this.”

There you go. I figure if I can make me – a not-sentimental person – cry while I’m writing it, readers ought to need to stock up on tissues. And the whole point of good literature is that it makes us feel at a deep visceral level.

Job done!

Posted May 6, 2019 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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Alaska is Weird   8 comments

What’s the most unusual expense you’ve had?

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Well, let’s start by saying I’m ducking the finer point of this assignment. My most unique expense is not for public consumption. I’m a pretty honest person as a rule, but there are some aspects of my life that I don’t want to share and they involve other people and I’m choosing not to invade their privacy. Anonymity has its purposes and I choose to exercise them on this topic.

But —

Alaska is a weird, weird place, so a lot of our activities are probably unusual to folks in the Lower 48.

Typically, our summer spray-on insect repellent bill runs about $50.

We spend about $70 on ice when we catch our annual quota of salmon in Chitina.

I don’t know how many people buy sap taps and berry buckets – snow sleds with Kevlar glides for towing behind a snow machine – an electric chainsaw for cutting up moose – an Army poncho circa 1970 — saddlebags for our dog.

I own a personal body alarm. Not to scare away rapists – I have firearms for that — but to scare away bears. If you shoot a bear, you disrupt territory, which means you end up starting all over with a new bear that doesn’t know you’re scary. So, instead, we use the personal body alarm to convince the bear who hangs out on our cabin site that he doesn’t want to get too close. And once he’s learned that lesson, we want him to live a long and bearly happy life because training a bear to fear you is something you don’t want to do that often.

According to the IRS, an unusual expense might include a one-time charge for something – like the patent filing fee I paid for my husband’s utility patent on his advance in the art of heating.

Posted April 29, 2019 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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Don’t Complain   6 comments

Many of us wax poetic at the end of winter and the return of spring. Let’s swap that around. What’s the one thing about spring that you can’t stand?

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It’s considered a sign of mental illness, the equivalent of a “red flag” situation, to complain about spring in Alaska. We have six months of winter. Snow fell in October and in April. Some of those six months the temperature never rises about 0’F.

So, when the sun finally gets high enough in the sky (March) for the snow to start melting and for you to feel some warmth when you lift your face skyward – you’ve got NOTHING to complain about. You survived another winter and soon the days will be 22 hours long and everything will be green and growing.

But that’s not the blog assignment, so ….

At the risk of my neighbors deciding to call the mental health center to report a seriously unhinged individual –

I hate mud and spring in Alaska is mud season. Our mud isn’t normal mud. Our soils are very fine and they don’t have a lot of organics in them, so they cling to everything. You WILL track it into the house where it WILL dry on the floor and get sucked up by the heating system, which WILL circulate it throughout the house, so that you WILL be dusting it for the next six months.

There! Complaint made. That said, shhh, it’ll hear you and decide it ought to be winter again. Snow in May sucks worse than mud in April.

Posted April 22, 2019 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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