Archive for the ‘#amwriting’ Tag

Stay Tuned for Cover Reveal of “Thanatosis”   2 comments

Book 4 of Transformation Project is in the last days of rewrite before heading to betas and editing. And, the cover is ready.

Cover Reveal Brown Wrapper for Thanatosis

 

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A Study in Grays   8 comments

Who is your favorite antagonist/bad guy/villain in your books and why? What makes him/her tick?

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This is actually a hard post to write, as evidenced by the fact that this is the third draft. I don’t really like to write villains. I prefer pitting my characters against difficult situations. In Transformation Project, it’s a world that is falling apart after an apocalyptic event. In Daermad Cycle, it’s a vengeful Celtic goddess and the characters who serve her. For the most part, I don’t write negative characters as villains, though I suppose they serve as antagonists at times. They are people challenged by their times, doing what they deem best in the situation, but they aren’t necessarily evil. They’ve just chosen a negative path in a dark situation. I like giving “villains” a reason for their villainy and things that they love. I want you to almost like them and to believe that if things were different, they could be your neighbor and you might not utterly hate them. And I believe in the ability of redemption to change people, so it’s hard for me to write true villains.

TP Cover Montage

In Transformation Project, Paul serves as the primary antagonist against Shane who, while the “hero”, is hardly a night in shining armor. Paul is just one of those small-town guys who likes to push people around and Shane has hated him since the 9th grade. But Paul used to be in love with Jazz, who is Shane’s at-arms-length love interest, and the two have a complicated history that is going to eventually cause a clash. But Paul isn’t written as totally evil. He likes small children and dogs. He’s a thief, but there are lines he won’t cross. And ultimately, he just wants Jazz to love him and he even wishes Shane didn’t hate him. There may be a little bit of a theme here because Gilyn in Daermad Cycle has the same basic motivation … trying to find love when you’re the villain just never seems to work out.

Daermad 2 Book Compilation

The only true villain in Daermad Cycle is Talidd, but he is far from my favorite villain because he’s too evil to redeem. I don’t enjoy writing him. You can assume he’s going to do evil things because that’s how he is written and that really limits what range I can use with him. And I so hated having written him that way that he now plays a substantial role in the historical sequences because it shows how he got to be the Black Master. This gives me an opportunity to show how any of my characters with similar gifts might be tempted to use them for what they suppose are beneficient reasons, but are ultimately for an evil result.

I suppose Gilyn, also an antagonist in Daermad Cycle, is my favorite “villain” because he is redeemable. Or at least I’ve left him with hope of redemption. He’s done some awful things because he’s being driven mad by a Celtic goddess. Currently, he is building a coalition of antagonistic races against the Celdryans (humans) and the  Kindred (elves). His mother was Celt, his father Kin. Why would he choose to do such horrible things to the people who gave him life? He once loved a half-elven lass (Ryanna, who is one of the heroes of the tale), but he did horrible things to her too. He knows the rules of society, but he doesn’t really care about them and never did. When he breaks them, he cares more that it might ruin his scam than that someone might get hurt. And, yet, he does want to be accepted and loved. That’s what makes him tick. He just wants to be loved and feels that he isn’t. To earn the “love” of the Celtic goddess, he’ll do anything … even make war on his own peoples.

I suppose that’s what makes him my favorite. He is complicated which makes for complex writing. And he could go either way … become the true villain he seems destined to be or finally find redemption and surprise everyone, including himself … and me. I love it when my characters surprise me, which might explain why I don’t really write villains … because what is the fun of writing a character that you know is going to act a certain way?

Posted August 6, 2018 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop, Uncategorized

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Alaska Chic   8 comments

Featured Image -- 57641July 23, 2018
Let’s talk wardrobe. Do you gravitate to one color? What is your go to style? What shoes do you prefer?

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Alaska is still a frontier and so, like many frontier folks throughout time, we tend to dress casually, in keeping with the lifestyle we lead. In fact, my office is so casual that we have dress-up Mondays because a Jeans Friday would look like any other day. There’s really no place in the Interior where there’s a dress standard – no restaurants that require you wear a tie, for example. Such a restaurant wouldn’t have any customers, so they wisely don’t think too highly of themselves.

Glacier ChicWhich is not to stay that we don’t dress up if we feel like it. This week is our version of Founders Days – we call it Golden Days, and men and women both dress in the clothing that was fashionable in the 1910s when Fairbanks was founded. I am walking in the parade tomorrow and will probably wear my Golden Day dress, but I’ll wear tennis shoes under my shirt. That will be the most dressed up I’ll go all year … probably. (We woke up to the brightest and hottest day of the summer so far and so I wore shorts and a sheer blouse because, much as I celebrate our town’s past, I celebrate not getting heat stroke more).

I really am not a big “style” person. I’m small for one thing, so finding clothes that fit and don’t wear me instead of the other way around is a challenge. I’ve never understood some women’s obsession with shoes. I own about three dozen, but that includes summer shoes (can’t be worn in winter), hiking boots (two pairs), and winter boots (five pairs, including bunny boots and muck boots). My dress shoes might have a kid heel, otherwise I prefer flats or a slight wedge. I made peace with being 5’1″ a long time ago and decided to be kind to my spine, knees and phalanges.

Bunny bootsI have two very different styles for work and leisure and they vary by season because we have real winter and real summer here and transition seasons that last about a week each. Additionally, my job interacts with the public, so though the office culture is casual, I feel personally responsible to present a professional appearance. In the winter, that means business casual suit jackets over a nice top and slacks. In the summer, that means a dress or a nice top and a skirt. I dress these up with scarves. But I do relax my standards for Fridays, though I doubt more than my coworkers notice because I basically dress like they do. On dress-up Mondays, they dress like I do on a standard day.

Fabrics are important in a town where there is always construction in the summer — so even my officewear is machine washable. It’s just too expensive to dry-clean outfits every week. We do have a couple of women in the office who do that, but I prefer to spend my income on something that doesn’t need to be done again next week.

During my off-hours, I wear jeans (or shorts in the summer) and t-shirts with sweaters or fleece over that for the winter. I generally wear this casual attire everywhere — including church because I feel I’ve done my time with dress-up at work and Alaskans are so casual about clothes that people in three-piece suits will sit non-judgmentally next to someone in jeans. My favorite color is green, but shades of orange are a close second and blue is a close third. Often, I mix these colors together and I like bold shades to offset the prohibition against ruffles and strong patterns that overwhelm small people.

Fox trappers hatRounding out any Alaska woman’s wardrobe is outerwear – coats, hats, gloves, etc. And we really have three seasons for that — summer, fall/hunting and winter. I don’t have a distinction between work and casual in this gear — except for fall. I would refrain from wearing my blood-stained hunting jacket to the office — though some of my male coworkers would not. In the summer, I usually carry a sweater or light fleece jacket with me because even on hot days, you just don’t know that the weather might turn or that a public building is overdoing the air conditioning. The sun is up most of the night around here, so you can go to a movie at 7 o’clock and it could be 90 degrees out. Inside the air-conditioned theater, you need a sweater. Then when you come out at 9:30, it’s still 75 degrees, so you take the sweater off.  In the fall, that sweater gradually gets layered with another sweater or maybe a water-resistant jacket. And then winter comes and it’s time for the heavy coats – usually hollofill coats to my knees with hoods. But I also have a Carhhart coat for outdoor work and my own pair of bunny boots.

But no Alaska woman’s wardrobe would be complete without fur. I do occasionally wear the mouton parka I inherited from my mother (pretty heavy), but my fox trapper’s hat is only appropriate when it’s really cold out, I’m going to a dog mushing event or I want to tweak the political sensibilities of people who really need to mind their own business.

Now for a funny Alaska story – too bad I don’t have a photo.

We went to an orchestra performance one really cold January. Cold to us is -20*F (-29*C). It was colder than that, maybe -40. I wore a green woolen dress, fancied up with an ivory scarf. Under it, I wore my thermals and a pair of my daughter’s leather boots with wool socks (because her feet are two sizes larger than mine so I could actually get the wool socks in the boots and because it was COLD). There was this woman down by the stage dressed in a glittering red sequined evening gown. She really looked the part with a fur coat and jewelry. But during the interlude, we met in the bathroom and I looked down to realize she was wearing bunny boots. She blushed and laughed and explained she’d left her shoes at home by accident and so it was either wear her outerwear boots or go barefoot. To which I said “It’s Alaskan chic. We should have the consignment store feature it as a hot new trend.” Apparently she told that story enough that it got around because a local boutique actually did feature that as a display the next winter with the caption “Alaska Chic.”

Watch This Space   Leave a comment

July 9, 2018

Have you written any books or stories that you haven’t published? Tell us about them. Do you have plans to release them in the future?

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I’ve been writing since I was 12, mostly for my own amazement, so I have a large back catalog that I can dig into for new stories. While I’ve mostly published fantasy and apocalyptic science fiction, I’ve got several works in progress that are moving toward completion at various speeds.

This fall, the fourth book in Transformation Project “Thanatosis” will launch. The draft is in rewrite mode currently. And the draft for the third book in Daermad Cycle “Fount of Wraiths” moves closer to completion every time I get bored of doing Transformation Project or when I have a break between books. I try to do that after each book because variety is the spice of life and I always have a primary project and a secondary project so I don’t get bored and risk writer’s block.

TP Cover Montage“What If Wasn’t” is the closest to publication of my WIPs. It’s a literary fiction (or a New Adult, human interest drama) tale inspired by a friend of ours who did four years in prison. Bern did an interview with me a few weeks ago. Of course, I’m a fiction writer, not a biographer, so it isn’t really his story. It’s “inspired by”. The character of Peter is nothing like Bern and the details of his crime are quite different. But some of the struggles he has reintegrating into society and some of the things that happened to him in prison are things Bern has told me about. I really hope to publish it sometime in the next year or two, but it’s not ready yet. The draft needs a major rewrite.

I also have a YA that is a full draft, but also needs a major rewrite. Oh for the time to accomplish it.

For the last few years, I’ve participated in the Agorist Writers Workshop‘s anthology series, Clarion Call. This spring I wrote “An Investment Returns” which was an adventure set in Alaska. The characters of Dan and Mallory have inspired a mystery/thriller/romance that I feel might finally be an Alaskana project worth following. We’ll see. It’s not a primary project, but the ideas are flowing. It’ll be at least two years before anything might be published on that because the opening scene is temporarily held by AWW.

The one I’m most excited about but is definitely the hardest to do is an extension of my alternative historical fiction started in “A Bridge at Adelphia” (also in a Clarion Call anthology Echoes of Liberty). I postulate that the US Constitution is never ratified because: a) James Madison has one of his famous illnesses and so was unable to push the ratification efforts; b) that George Washington’s letters about land and the need for a “controlling power” are made public and people come to believe that he wants to be king (these letters are actually public today, but at the time, they were private). Patrick Henry’s convention speech was more widely published and swayed some state legislatures; d) that Arthur St. Clair’s manipulation of his post as President of Congress (under the Articles) so that he can be appointed governor of the Northwest Territory is discovered and made public; e) just one state refused to ratify early on and that convinced the others not to. It’s a fun project because I get to mess with history, to show how tiny tweaks in the circumstances around the Constitutional ratification might have derailed the whole process. . It’s also a hard project because I have to decide what might have happened if the Articles of Confederation had continued in force. Indian relations on the western frontier would have been different because the US would not have been able to mount a big army to force their desires on the tribes … and that was covered in the short story. I think Ohio would have become a state even without St. Clair’s influence. Washington DC would have never existed and Philadelphia would be the US capital today. I plan to follow the life of the central character, with snatches of his life in short story form, so the book ends in 1860s (upon Lai’s death). I’m still staring at that subject of slavery and how it will resolve under the AofC as opposed to how it did resolve under the Constitution. Without a big army, whatever would the North have done to force the South to give up its economic livelihood? That could be the subject for another book, you know?

And, then I have a whole list of projects I would like to do, but are no more than a few notes here and there. But who knows? Maybe I”ll get to them, someday. Watch this space.

 

Not Living Up to the World’s Standards   1 comment

A new post on Christian Creative Nexus.

https://deliatalent.wordpress.com/2018/06/18/not-living-up-to-the-worlds-standards/

What makes a Christian creative a Christian?

I had to ask myself that question recently when someone with an axe to grind posted a review of one of my books that said, in essence, that I wasn’t a Christian because I don’t think the Army would walk on water and hand out flowers during the Apocalypse.

Sigh.

Image result for image of christian vs worldly standardsI grew up and now live in a very military town. About one-quarter of my friends and family are either in the military or were once in the military. I know some lovely military people. I also have had plenty of experience with jerks who were jacked up on the power of being in the military. There’s that dichotomy in human nature that doesn’t go away if you ignore it. The Transformation Project series focuses on how ordinary people, including military and civilian authorities, react in an apocalyptic situation where their command structure has been fractured. I don’t show all individuals with military authority acting in a heroic manner because I personally know people who wouldn’t act honorably in a situation where they’re given that kind of power and no oversight.  The news has covered some of these people. I believe there would be more of them if the command structure that is in place no longer existed. I have other military characters who do act honorably … and some of them die for that stand. That’s the only defense I’m going to offer.

Circling back to my original theme of “in the world, but not of it” … must Christian creatives stand for certain secular societal norms or be deemed “not Christian”?

Being a Christian is defined by one thing. You can discover it in Romans 10:9-10.

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.

Do you believe that Jesus Christ is God, Savior of mankind and your soul and do you confess that publicly? Your lifestyle should adhere to that and your politics are part of your lifestyle. Whether you support the military, love policemen, eat apple pie, or spend Mother’s Day with your mom isn’t really addressed in the Bible, therefore, they are personal decisions that each of us make individually.

“Art, though, is never the voice of a country; it is an even more precious thing, the voice of the individual, doing its best to speak, not comfort of any sort, but truth. And the art that speaks it most unmistakably, most directly, most variously, most fully, is fiction; in particular, the novel.” ~ Eudora Welty in On Writing.

Writing a novel is about addressing truth as the author sees it. A lot of Christians are very supportive of conservative political causes that I can’t find anywhere in the Bible. There’s nothing wrong with that – most of the time. We live in this world and the politics of the secular world affects us. When my taxes go up, I have less money to give to the church, which I feel spends social welfare funds much more wisely than the government does. I vote accordingly. We should all care if a politician believes it is okay to kill babies in the womb. We should pray for people caught up in the cycle of drug addiction or alcoholism, pornography or polyamory. The Bible is clear on many issues that Christians ought to have an opinion on and the Bible tells us what that opinion should be.

Image result for image of christian vs worldly standardsThe Bible is less clear on our involvement in those secular programs designed to address some of the world’s evils. I harbor doubts about how Jesus would feel about some secular programs American Christians are expected to support simply because we’re expected to support them. As a Christian creative who wants to reach a larger audience than just Christians who read religiously-oriented literature, I have given serious thought to which subjects for which I’m willing to fall on my authorial sword. I made a commitment to show Christian characters as human … with flaws, while showing their beliefs respectfully. I have every admiration for our Savior, not always the same feeling toward His followers. I try to show the world as I see it and not as I would like it to be, recognizing that it is fallen and so are the people in it. And, yet, I struggle with where the lines are because it’s not so simple as the Christian publishers make it seem. Because I’ve rejected those made-up constraints, I have to set new ones of my own – ones that I hope are Biblically-based, but not ignoring this world as it really is.

What about you? If you’re a Christian creative trying to reach a secular audience, do you find it difficult to push the “Christian” boundaries in a Christ-centric way without upsetting the “standards” people have applied to Christian creatives?

Psychology with a Paranormal Twist   2 comments

What’s the strangest medical or psychological condition you’ve ever given to one of your characters?

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I worked in a community behavioral health center for 15 years, so it shouldn’t be too surprising that I am fascinated with the workings of the human mind. I also live in a community with a strong military presence, so post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is on parade in our town.

TP Cover Montage

Shane Delaney in Transformation Project was a mercenary, but turning war into a financial exchange didn’t protect him from the pain that follows killing people whose only crime is defending their homes from invaders, of which you are one. He feels guilty, he doesn’t sleep, he can’t talk about it, and he sees things that aren’t there, which are all clinical symptoms of PTSD.

I’m a speculative fiction writer. Throwing in a little fantasy with the apocalyptic feels natural to me, so I’ve added a twist … Galina Greyeyes. She was an ancestress of Shane’s grandmother and a Wyandot woman who does actually appear in the annals of the Wyandot sojourn in Kansas. I created a story of harm and familial haunting for the past century and a half. She appears in different guises to certain men of Greyeyes descent and those men have almost always ended up killing themselves.

Call it PTSD with a paranormal element.

Suffice it to say Transformation Project is not a paranormal series and it is grounded in a reality that could happen, but I like playing with that question of whether Galina is just a figment of Shane’s psychological damage or she’s a demon assigned to a particular family. I won’t say anymore because I’m halfway through the series and Shane isn’t done dealing with his past, but suffice it to say, if she’s a demon, she doesn’t have to be amenable to treatment.

Setting Makes the Gem   Leave a comment

My friend Jane Bwye asked me for a guest post recently and here it is. The topic was novel setting.

Setting Makes the Gem

Today, Lela Markham shares a valuable message about settings for a book. A very warm welcome to my long-standing friend from Authonomy days; we are privileged to have you with us, Lela – over to you.

*** 

Some years ago, I had the opportunity to interview a jeweller. As part of the interview, he showed me some of the gems he was working on. I was unimpressed. Sitting there on his work table, they were dull and uninspiring. He was apparently used to that reaction because he then showed me what makes gems sparkle. He put uninspiring jewel upon jewel on a black velvet cloth and suddenly, they sparkled.

“Setting is everything,” he explained.

I am a character-driven writer. They appear to me when I least expect them and they want to tell me their stories, which is what makes the plot. Given that beginning, I focus my writing on relationships and how characters interact and react to one another. Setting is an afterthought … and yet, it is everything.

LMarkhamIt’s the writing equivalent of the black velvet cloth or the jeweller’s setting. It is what makes characters sparkle.

None of us live in a void space. We’re all surrounded by the world we live in. I live in Alaska, where the grandeur of the setting definitely can overwhelm the character, but it also shapes the character. People here cannot help interacting with the environment and even large personalities learn you must adapt to it.

When writing, I try always to remember that my characters can’t live in a void space any more than I can. They need a backdrop to sparkle against. Far more than simply a geographic location or an era that makes a nice backdrop for the characters to work out the plot in front of, setting creates a mood and atmosphere that directs the plot and challenges the characters.

For a gem, it’s all about how the jeweller cuts the stone. Similarly, it’s the little details that provide the sparkle by teasing the senses. What would a newcomer or even a resident see, hear, taste, smell or feel if they arrived in your story’s world that moment? Ever notice what people smell like when they haven’t seen a shower for a few days? The sky is blue, except when it isn’t and then it may be all sorts of colours during sunset, sunrise, as a storm is gathering or a tornado is about to hit. What does wind sound like as it sighs through palm trees? Different from how it sounds when it sighs through pines. If there’s an ocean to the east and a desert to the west, the wind from each will feel different on your skin. Small details are pennies that pay big dividends.

While the grand backdrop grounds the characters in reality and provides the reader with something to hang their imagination on, small details evoke the senses and bring the reader into the story.  Whether you start out with a setting that fulfils these requirements or add them later as I do, they are essential to good storytelling and make all the difference in how your story engages the reader.

Author pic ditch close-upLela Markham is the pen name of an Alaskan novelist who was raised in a home built of books. Alaska is a grand adventure like none other with a culture that embraces summer adventure and winter artistic pursuits.

A multi-genre writer, Lela has published tales of fantasy, alternate history, apocalyptic and political satire, but she’s also got works in progress for literary fiction, new adult, YA, mystery and, her nemesis, romance.

Lela shares her life with her adventuresome husband, two fearless offspring and an extremely-happy yellow Lab.

 

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