Archive for the ‘#bloghop’ Tag

Sound of Nevermore   4 comments

What is your biggest fear? What random and innocuous thing makes your skin crawl?

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ClaustrophobiaLike everyone, I have things I fear, but I live my life fairly fearlessly. Alaskans are an adventurous lot. Just going blueberry picking risks encounters with bears and moose, both of which might try to kill you. I’m just back from weekend two of the annual blueberry hunt and encountered a lot of bugs while filling my bucket. I’m not creeped out by them. My town has a couple of dozen earthquakes a day, most too small to feel, but at least one 6 on the mag scale every year isn’t unheard of. I’ve flown in small planes (and fell asleep in them), I’ve gone white-water rafting, I climb middling-sized mountains. I carry a gun in the wilderness and in human situations where I think it might be needed. I also wear a safety belt when riding in a car. I have respect for things that could kill or injure me. I follow the rules of good sense with them. But I am not so much afraid as cautious. I take proper pre(cautions) to assure I’ll live through this dangerous activity.

Parakeets

But, of course, we all get scared sometimes. I have fears, but I overcome them for the most part. Like my character, Shane, I get uncomfortable in situations where the carbon dioxide level goes up. You could call it claustrophobic, but I don’t let it stop me from doing the things I want to do. I’ve been caving, though I would decline from shimmying through an opening that I couldn’t back out of. Is that fear or just good old-fashioned common caution?

But I do have a random, innocuous thing that makes my skin crawl and I don’t think this is a common phobia – I can’t stand the sound of birds wings. Yeah … I know … weird. I don’t know where it came from … we had a parakeet when I was a kid … maybe it pecked me … I’m not remembering. I suspect my parents made me watch The Birds at some point. That’s it … they traumatized me … we all damage our children sooner or later. Brad “made” the kids watch Signs with him and then convinced them there was an alien in the water-heater room. Our son couldn’t use the downstairs bathroom until he was 17 years old. It made him shudder to walk by the door of the water-heater room which is right next to that bathroom. His favorite activity is hanging by his fingernails from a more or less verticle surface with a substantial drop below him, so clearly, he’s not a fearful person either.

The sound of bird feathers rubbing together hits me on a deeply visceral level and makes me shudder. I like farm-fresh eggs and have entertained getting a few chickens, but … no. My husband likes birds and would like to adopt, but if he was gone for a trip, his bird would starve to death, so … no. The sound of the neighborhood hawk skimming low over our neighborhood … my skin is crawling just remembering it.

But I have an exception, however. Ravens are highly entertaining – sort of like wild dogs (and larger than some house cats) and so I don’t mind watching them play, but I probably would still shudder if I heard their feathers rubbing together.

Human beings are so incredibly complex, particularly in our psychology.

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Posted August 13, 2018 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop, Uncategorized

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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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Found Furniture   5 comments

Tell us about your favorite piece of furniture. Does it have a story behind it?

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While I really had to stretch to talk about wardrobe, I warmed to this topic of furniture.

BuffetWe have tried over the course of our marriage acquire furniture that has character and doesn’t cost a lot. But we like good quality, so most of our furniture comes from garage sales. A great headboard with a new mattress, a sofa recovered in slip-covers, six oak dining chairs around a table that could match, but weren’t purchased together.

My favorite pieces of furniture, however, weren’t purchased at all. My parents lived in several houses when I was growing up … when I say several, I mean about a dozen. They were renters for the first decade of their marriage and so we always just had whatever furniture came with the house. Mortgages were hard to get in those days here in the frontier town of Fairbanks, but the 1967 Flood changed that — the federal government guaranteed loans as part of the disaster relief. So my parents bought a little frame cabin that proved quickly to be too small for three people, so they bought another house with bedrooms.

Book shelfWhile we were moving in, the neighbor told us that the house had once been a showplace, owned by a son of the Nerland family. The Nerlands owned a furniture store in town — the furniture store really, before JC Penny opened. My mother loved to walk by their display window and point out the things she would buy if she just had that sort of money. But, of course, she knew that was never going to happen. She and Dad just didn’t make that kind of cash.

My folks had bought this house as a rental investment from a contractor friend of my dad. They’d scarcely closed on it when the renters decided to move back to Beaver. So, we moved in. The house had once been a showplace with plaster walls and a tin ceiling, but like every other house in town, it had required extensive remodeling after the Flood. The only thing truly impressive about it was that it had a parquet floor in the living room and actual built-in bookcases at the bottom of the stairs. We got about cleaning it up from the renters and while Mom was sorting through the junk they’d left in the cellar, she pulled a tarp off some items in the back corner and got really excited.

Coffee TableHeywood-Wakefield designed fine furniture in the 20th century and, of course, the Nerlands had brought some of it home. Why it ended up in the cellar when the house was sold after the Flood — well, I learned from the niece that her uncle and his wife had decided to move to the Lower 48 and couldn’t take all their stuff with them, so probably the furniture was just left in place and then moved to the cellar during the remodel. Either way, Mom got her good furnture. It included a wonderful gateleg table that was too large for our original home, so Brad traded it for the coffee table after several years of it sitting under a tarp in our shed. The rest of the collection became my mother’s and is now mine.

End TableThe buffet is my favorite. It was also too big for our original home, so it served several years as my clothes dresser to justify its existence, but it is now proudly displayed in the kitchen. It holds all kinds of things – overflow from the pantry, light bulbs, place mats and napkins, grooming supplies for the pets and the top is a perfect place to display my milk bottle collection and some family photos. The book case and two-tiered end table are in the livingroom along with the (unfortunately refinished) coffee table that serves as a television table now – we prefer a ottoman to a coffee table.

Because of my parents’ sort of nomadic existence when I was little and the 1967 Flood, I don’t have a whole lot of things that belonged to them, but even though these items were latecomers, my mother truly loved these pieces. They made her feel rich. She didn’t know how rich. At one point in the 1980s, I learned that my collection was worth more than my parents paid for the house it was found in. That was impressive, but I never intend to sell them. I just love their lines and sturdiness, their dings and the story behind them and I hope one of my kids will be willing to adopt them when I am no longer using them.

 

 

Stay Tuned for the Blog Hop   2 comments

BlogHop

We’re talking furniture this week. What sort of furniture do you think I would have in my house?

Posted July 30, 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.

 

Avoiding the Noose   4 comments

July 2, 2018

What skills do you have that would make you useful in the medieval time period and/or would get you condemned as a witch?

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Image result for image of witch hangingsGrowing up in Alaska we had all the modern conveniences … when we chose to make use of them. But I’ve done some bow hunting, I can skin an animal and tan the hide, I’ve done some trapping and I’ve cooked more than a few meals over an open fire. I can sew with a needle and thread (though I only do machine quilting, so that wouldn’t be useful). I can knit and crochet. I’ve done some weaving and spinning, candle- and soap-making. My skills in most of these modern crafts don’t really rise to the level of expertise today, but they would probably be useful to some degree in a medieval world.

I also can wield an ax and do my part at one end of a gang saw. Those are not skills women were usually known for back then, but hey, they’re skills.

Something really super useful that almost nobody living today knows how to do, but I do … I know how to make bread from natural yeast (what’s commonly called sourdough today) and how to bake that bread in a dutch oven. Remember, in Medieval times, they didn’t have ovens the way that we do now. You had to take your bread to a communal bakery where they baked it. But you can make pretty good yeast bread with a dutch oven over an open fire or in the coals of the fireplace.

None of those skills would get me condemned as a witch, but my husband says I have an uncanny ability to recognize con artists and various forms of manipulation. Some of this is because I grew up in Alaska “between the booms”. After the Gold Rush faded in the 1950s and before the Oil Patch opened in the early 1970s was the impoverished period of the 1960s, which happened to coincide with my childhood. In the poorest state in the union, there was always a miner or three coming around hoping my father would invest in their hole in the ground. My mother wasn’t as easily played as my dad and I think her analyses of their character must have rubbed off on me. I can spot a con man a mile away … a fact my husband recognized within an hour after I met his father.

Don’t get me wrong. My father-in-law is a charming man and, like everyone else, I enjoy spending time in conversation with him. He’s kissed the Blarney stone. Charm notwithstanding, he was a very successful businessman with the ethics of a snake. He can talk you out of your wallet and your fillings and he’ll be down the road 10 miles before you realize your mouth is hurting and you’ve got no money for the dentist. And I’m just about the only person in his life that likes him while being totally aware of his shenanigans. The Bible calls it “discernment of spirits.” My husband calls it my “super power.” My mom would have called it “common sense.”

We could blame my discernment on my rugged frontier-ish childhood, but I also worked in a community mental health center for 15 years and so have a lot of experience with manipulative people. So, a natural (or childhood-encouraged) talent for recognizing shenanigans was polished by experience. I just have a really well-exercised BS detector.

And, seeming to read people’s minds is sort of witchy behavior so …. I’d need to practice being subtle and using my superpower more carefully than I do now. Today, people are impressed by my intuition. Eight hundred years ago, they’d have hung me as a witch.

Posted July 2, 2018 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop, Uncategorized

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