Archive for the ‘#bloghop’ Tag

Economic Armageddon?   2 comments

The Great Recession. We have probably all heard of if not lived through a recession. If a recession occurred today, what would you do to sustain your lifestyle? What changes would you make?

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So, I’ve calculated that this is the 4th deep recession I’ve lived through. There was the 1970s Stagflation recession, the Alaska Great Recession of the 1990s, the US Great Recession of 2008 and still continuing by some definitions, and the current Alaska recession caused by OPEC manipulation of the oil markets.

I’ve studied enough classical economics to know that depressions and recessions are part of the natural economic cycle. They have occurred many times throughout history. While they scare the snot out of a lot of people, they aren’t as bad as we have been taught to think they are.

Image result for image of savings

The singer Della Reese once gave a quintesential definition of a recession and a depression:

“It’s a recession if you don’t have a job; it’s a depression if I’m unemployed.”

Seriously, a recession and depression are very similar. Generally a depression is more severe, but not necessarily in the long-run because prices fall along with wages, while in a recession wages fall while prices often remain quite high and sometimes even go up.

So, what would I do if another recession hit? Well, it’s more like — what am I doing now? When the Recession of 2008 hit, Brad and I had just paid off the majority of our debts (except our mortgage), which meant that we had a little more latitude than some of our friends who were debt-leveraged up to their eyeballs. We had been living a fairly spartan life for a few years to get our debts under control, so we didn’t particularly panic when jobs dried up. Brad opened his own company, sometimes took jobs with the union when he could and we learned to live on my salary. The hard part was when I lost my job in 2012, but I was only out of work for about six weeks. It wiped out our savings, but we met our bills.

Since then, we’ve not really reclaimed a lavish lifestyle. We don’t go out to eat. We don’t have a cable bill. We look for clothes at the second-hand store before we buy new. We burn wood to save money on diesel fuel. We don’t have credit cards. We use our debit cards, saving 20% in interest, and we bank our extra money as savings. We’re not as good as my mom was at it. We don’t have the kind of reserves I would like to have. Mom lived through an actual Great Depression. She was willing to do with a whole lot less than we are. We’re spoiled.

I think we’re probably better prepared for a depression than we are a recession because prices fall during a depression and it doesn’t take a math genius to figure out that prices today are way WAY over inflated. Just do a little research on how much it costs to manufacture or grow some items and how much it costs us to buy them. Yes, it should always cost more to buy something than it costs to create it — that is a necessary profit — but when you see such a wide difference, you can be assured a market correction will eventually come about. These days it’s being prevented by government interference in the markets, but eventually, it will become inevitable because we are way overdue.

People who have saved money in those instances are the fortunate ones because their dollars are stronger in a depressive economy. What’s more, banks usually tighten their lending standards, which includes raising the interest rate on loans, which means your savings interest rate also increase, so you make money on having money in the bank. Still, having savings in a recessive economy is still a good idea. It is certainly better than holding debt. Brad and I would hunker down, not change our lifestyle a whole lot, and wait out the crisis. Because his skills will be needed regardless of the economy, we’d still have an income, albeit not one we might wish we had. I’m still of a mind that if you can’t find work in your field, find work where there is work, so I would find something that would pay the bills … assuming my current job went away, which it might or might not.

I should also point out that in a national recession, Alaska almost always does better than the national average. We joke that we’re protected by the Great Barrier Reef of Canada. Canada really doesn’t have much to do with it, but our resource-based economy does. Because we have oil and minerals and demand for those does not go down during a recession, our economy takes less of a hit. Unfortunately, when the price of oil drops really low because OPEC decides to once-again corner the market, Alaska then struggles with a recession, which is what’s going on here now.

So what are Brad and I doing? Yeah, living a frugal lifestyle and banking as much savings as possible. If the markets started booming again like they were in the 1990s, we’d have enough sense this time around to sock it all away in the piggy bank and look to the future.

The secret to dealing with a true deep recession is to not spend all of your money or live a really lavish lifestyle supported by debt during times of plenty. Then, when things turn downward, you’ve got some wriggle room. By planning ahead, you eliminate the need to panic.

 

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Can We Stop Fighting Yet?   9 comments

September 11, 2001 – Where were you and what did you do when you heard about the 911 attacks? What did you do to move on?

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So I have previously blogged about my experience on September 11, 2001. I don’t wish to revisit those times, but to instead focus on healing, though as I typed this, four GA airplanes flew overhead in less than an hour, starkly reminding me of that day when the only planes in our hunting season sky were fighter jets.

Image result for image of 9-11Like virtually everyone else in the country, I was shocked, numb and confused on September 11. By September 12, I was grateful for everything I had. By September 18, I — along with almost everyone else in the country — was angry and wanted some payback.

A friend of mine had an uncle who had just retired from a financial firm with offices in the Towers. He had chosen “semi-retirement” as a mentor and he was supposed to be there that day for a morning meeting, but the weather was lovely and he decided to be decadent and go for a walk in the park instead. Thus, he was having breakfast when an airliner obliterated the boardroom where all of his colleagues were sitting. They never even got a chance to flee the building.

A coworker of mine had a brother who worked in the Pentagon building. His office was a long way from the center of operations, in the outside ring. He was invited down the hall for coffee and donuts to celebrate a coworker’s birthday and so he wasn’t in his office when it was destroyed by the terrorists using an airliner as a missile.

I live in a big military town, so I knew men and women who were almost immediately deployed to Afghanistan and who later returned emotionally and physically shattered.

I’ve also known at least a half-dozen contractors who spent time in Afghanistan and Iraq. One friend’s brother was killed over there. He was an unarmed electrician working to restore power to a city Saddam had deemed didn’t need power some 20 years before. He was up a telephone pole hooking up a transformer when a sniper shot him in the head.

Alaskans fly a lot and I am much more cognizant of what’s going on within an aircraft cabin than I used to be. I hate that I occasionally feel a moment of concern when certain types of men are on board. They’re probably innocent of what I am silently accusing them of. I get over it and I move on, but I won’t pretend it doesn’t happen. I’m told by two friends (one an immigrant from Iraq and another from Egypt) that they feel the same way in similar circumstances. They know they are not terrorists, but they aren’t so sure of Middle Eastern strangers, especially if they are speaking in Arabic. Our friend from Egypt can speak Arabic, so she says she always eavesdrops and always has had her fears allayed. She expresses sympathy for those of us who don’t have that skill. We’re not wrong to have those concerns, because we know for a fact that there were Middle Eastern passengers bent on our deaths. It’s foolish to think it can’t happen again.

But here’s the thing – over time, my anger waned and I began to realize that what we were doing “over there” wasn’t making us any safer and was probably making us less safe. My daughter and son are now of draftable age (women aren’t required to register yet, but they can be drafted – thank President Obama for doubling down on stupid) and I worry about them, which makes me more aware of the other mothers’ sons and daughters who might die or be maimed in wars that the United States has no business being in. You can disagree with me, but now that fracking has given the US the ability to  be a net exporter of oil (not that we are at the moment), why are we conducting these wars on foreign soil? We don’t need to. About one-quarter of the US debt is attributable to these wars we seem to have no intention of ever getting out of. The larger that debt grows, the more likely the country is to enter a Greater Depression from which long-term recovery is unlikely.

I had a Muslim coworker (Amisa) who I prayed with on that day 16 years ago. She is a nice gal who never meant anyone harm and she was as upset with what happened as we were. I knew “Mark” (Mahmood is his real name) for more than a decade before 9/11. I knew not all Middle Easterners were terrorists and I’ve had that long relationship to bring me back to sanity. I have since met Christine, who is from Egypt. I know other Middle Easterners on the Internet or through friends. My daughter belly-danced with some. I don’t excuse the behavior of terrorists, but I know they are a small fraction of the larger population. So I’m not angry at Middle Easterners or Muslims in general.

My faith teaches me to forgive and to hope for the future and I have tried to put that into practice. The world is probably no more dangerous than it was September 10, 2001. It just feels more dangerous. Human nature has sucked since the Fall. Why am I surprised that human beings can be so inhumane to human beings? I no longer want payback. I think my initial impulse was a mistake, but I also think the terrorists had payback coming and that the Afghan government should have gotten out of our way as we pounded Al Qaeda. Then we should have left and let them deal with the aftermath because at some level, the Afghanis were co-responsible for what happened. But 16 years of war … it shouldn’t have been longer than 16 months.

So, how did I get over it? I don’t think we as a nation or I individually are over it. It’s not over until we can move on and we can’t move on as long as we are continuing to devote blood and treasure “over there.” But, for myself … I don’t fear Muslims anymore than I fear other potentially unstable people. I carry concealed now in situations where mass shootings might occur and I’m not going to apologize for that. If someone opens up in a movie theater while you and I are watching a movie, I might just save your life. I am reminded of dark thoughts every time the TSA feels me up so I can get on an airplane. I object, but Alaska is not connected to the Lower 48 in a way that makes driving somewhere feasible, so … it seems a shame that we have to submit to sexual molestation in order to travel because we refuse to  effectively handle the threat that still exists. There are better ways to do it than treating law-abiding American citizens like potential terrorists, but ….

I’m writing a series about terrorism. I haven’t revealed who the terrorists are, but some of them are Middle Easterners and some of them are another cultural group or three. I incinerated 30 million people in the first book. But I also have a lovely Egyptian immigrant in the third book. Why? Because I don’t think Middle Easterners are all responsible for what happened.  I try to show people working together is the norm, but I admit, in the third book, that might not always be the case. In some sense, Transformation Project grew out of the events of September 11, 2001, because those events made me ask:

What would happen if …?

I think after 16 years, I am largely over 9-11, but let’s be honest here … none of us can really be over it until we finally stop killing Middle Easterners who object to our invading their countries. Then and only then will true healing actually begin.

Posted September 11, 2017 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop, Uncategorized

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Surprised by My Muse   2 comments

I’m trying a new monthly blog hop on the 1st Wednesday of the month, hosted by the Insecure Writers Group (part of the Readers Gazette).

Their writers’ prompt for September 6 is:

Have you ever surprised yourself with your writing? For example, by trying a new genre you didn’t think you’d be comfortable in?

Why, yes, I have.

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Last year, a contact sent me an invite to join the Agorist Writing Workshop’s anthology project “Echoes of Liberty.” First, I had only written one other short story in 25 years. That had been a teaser for my fantasy series, included in an anthology of Breakwater Harbor Books authors, so it was a shoe-in (so to speak) and based in a universe I know very well. Second, the theme was alternative historical fiction, a genre I hadn’t read … well, maybe since high school. I’m a novelist. I’m a fantasy novelist. I don’t write short.

However, I had determined that there was a niche audience for my Transformation Project series among libertarians, voluntaryists and agorists, so the best way to crack that audience seemed to be to submit to the anthology … and, besides, I like a challenge. Alternative historical fiction with a libertarian theme … how hard could that be?

I did more research for that one short story than I have done for the entire Transformation Project series. I ended up writing three actual short stories. Two of them weren’t very good. I tend to be a character-driven discovery writer and they were all about plot and theme and … yeah.

“A Bridge at Adelphia” was worth a rewrite because the character of Lai could live beyond the project. It is based on the founding of what is now Marietta, Ohio, an area of the country where my mother’s tribe was active around the time that the US Constitution was ratified. My crux for the alternative history was that the Constitution failed to be ratified. And from there … well, I’m not going to give away the story, but it turned out pretty good and I met the theme’s requirements.

What surprised me, besides that I actually made it into the anthology, was that I enjoyed writing it and want to write some more. Lai has more story to tell. I may expand the short story into a full-length novel. It’s an interesting theme — what would have happened in North America had the US Constitution not been ratified? It is especially interesting to explore what might have happened to my mother’s tribe had the Articles of Confederation stayed in effect.

Edit Ruthlessly   2 comments

As writers, we’re also readers. What is a common mistake you see in many books? Offer suggestions for making a change. You can even share a paragraph from a book and correct it.

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Image result for image of manuscript editingI love to read and when I’m not writing, that’s often what I am doing. I love books by indie authors, but I also have favorites among the authors you’ll find in a mainstream bookstore.

Because I was trained in editing and have made my living at least partially editing the writing of others, I tend to notice errors and if they’re in a published book, they drive me crazy because I can’t fix them and, depending on the author, I wonder how they got past the professional editor.

Errors?

I have no opinion on the Oxford comma. They are forbidden in journalism writing, which is why I rarely use them, but it’s not technically an error to use it. If you don’t know what an Oxford comma is, google it. It’s useful information. My rare usage is reserved for those times when absolute accuracy matters.

So, what do I consider to be errors?

Well, there are the standard ones – were, where … there, they’re … it’s, its … affect, effect … lie, lay, laid, lain  — yes, those are different words with different meanings. Learn to use them correctly, authors! Grammar and spelling really do matter. Not all your readers are going to have editing skills, but they will enjoy your work more if grammar and misspelling errors don’t disturb their experience and that pays dividends. Learn the difference between a possessive word that ends with apostrophe then “s” (usually, with some exceptions like “its”) which is different from a contraction that might also end with an apostrophe “s”. Then there are plural words which still end in “s”, but have no apostrophe … ever. That frustrates me.

A while back, I was reading a novel by a traditionally published author and he had a huge continuity error in his book. Remember how in Lost the hatch took a lengthy hike to get to originally, but once they were using it all the time, they seemed to get to it in a few minutes of walking? That bothered me and this author’s error was similar. The rest of the book was good and I wouldn’t say don’t read it (which is why I’m not identifying it), but it did somewhat spoil my enjoyment of it.

In a similar vein, avoid anything that might knock the reader out of a willing suspension of disbelief. I was beta-reading a while back and the author used the American terms for currency throughout a fantasy novel. I understand why she did it, but it completely threw me out of the story. She admitted she did it for convenience sake and put some thought into a currency system for her world that will appear in the published book.

#1 Pet Peeve?

When I learned American Sign Language, I had to accept that some very similar seeming signs that sometimes have similar ways of speaking in English gloss very different concepts. For example, “see” and “look” are similar looking, but very different concepts and Deaf will laugh at you if you get them wrong.

  • “His eyes dwelt on her form.”
  • “His eyes ran along the floor.”
  • “His eyes were fixed on the sky.”

Well, let’s hope not. The hero should keep his eyes in his head. His gaze dwelt on her form. His gaze ran along the floor. His gaze was fixed on the sky. Let’s not give readers the word picture of eyes rolling around on the floor, cloud-hopping and/or groping maidens.

#2 Pet Peeve?

The overuse of the word “that” annoys me. For example, “that” isn’t needed after “said” about 99% of the time, yet even my graphic above uses it when it isn’t needed.

  • “It has been said that words are like inflated money …”
  • “It has been said words are like inflated money …”

There is a simple test for this. Can you think of any other verb that is normally followed by the word “that”?

  • “He climbed that the tree …” Nope
  • “She sang that the song …” Nope

You get my point, right?

Okay, so now you know. These things annoy me as a reader and I hope I avoid annoying others with same issues. Yes, we all make mistakes and an occasional typo making it to the finished book is understandable, but be ruthless with yourself so that you eliminate as few errors as possible.

Setting the Table   4 comments

August 28, 2017 – Favorite Foods. What are your favorites, something you could eat weekly or more often. Feel free to share a recipe.

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My parents were restaurant workers. Dad was a chef and Mom was a diner waitress. They even owned a restaurant together for a time. So, I grew up with a tradition of bravery with food and food preparation.

Do I have a favorite dish? Wow, that would be a tough one. I have a favorite broad cuisine – Asian/Oriental. I like a smattering of dishes across the continent. I’m not fond of really hot curries, but I do like milder curries. I’m frankly nervous of sushi because raw fish done wrong will kill you, but I do eat it sometimes. Generally whatever the equivalent of pad thai is in a specific country cuisine is my go-to meal option if dining in a Asian restaurant. I figure if they get that right, I’ll come back and try other dishes at a later time.

I’m fortunate to live in one of the most diverse states in the union. Asian/Oriental restaurants outnumber almost all the other cuisines combined. Oddly, most of these restaurants are owned by Koreans, but they offer other Asian cuisine and do a good job at it. But we also have Italian, Greek, Mexican (by real Mexicans), American Pub Style, Middle Eastern, Seafood, Cuban, Fusion, and, of course, American steakhouses. We even have some vegetarian restaurants. Because Alaska is such a unique place, we have Alaskan-style restaurants which concentrate on what can be flown in fresh by Alaska Airlines. Chena Hot Springs resort also specializes in greenhouse grown veggies from their onsite greenhouses.

Image result for image chinese fried riceBut the truth is, we don’t like to spend a lot of money, so we don’t go out to a lot of restaurants. Instead, I make a lot of meals at home. So, our admin suggested a recipe.I have tons, but this is my son’s favorite.

Chinese Fried Rice

  • Make several servings of rice the night before and allow to cool. This is very important. You won’t get good results with warm rice.
  • Cube up Chinese barbecue pork (you can use any meat, but Kiernan likes barbecue pork). This should be tiny pieces.
  • Heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable or canola oil in a wok. Beat eggs with water and make a thin omelette in the wok. Remove from wok and shred into bite-sized pieces.
  • Add more oil to the wok – you could splurge and add sesame oil. Don’t skimp. You want enough oil to coat the individual grains of rice when added.
  • Add a chopped up yellow onion to the hot oil. Add enough soy sauce to double the pan liquid — you can cut it with water if it’s too salty (or use low salt soy).
  • Chop up a red bell pepper (it could be any color, but again, Kiernan likes it that way).
  • Add spices. My favorite are chile powder, ground mustard, tumeric/curry powder, cinnamon. Flavor to taste. I can’t give exact measurements, but I’d guess about 1 tsp each.
  • When the onion is translucent, the pork and a bag of frozen peas and carrots. Stir. (Using frozen makes this a simple recipe. You can use fresh, but you will need to cook before adding to the rice which turns a 15-minute meal into an hour or more)
  • Add cold rice. Break up chunks. Stir to coat individual grains with spices and oil. Add the eggs.

Let mixture warm through. Serve hot.

 

Now my favorite weeknight meal. It takes 25 minutes.

  • Oil in the wok. Canola or vegetable will do. I find sesame is too strong for this dish.
  • Start rice enough for who you plan to feed.
  • Add cubed up pork (could be chicken, beef or shrimp) to the oil when hot.
  • Add onions and peppers. (I buy these as a frozen mixture for weeknight ease).
  • Add soy sauce (I preferred brewed).
  • Add spices. Tumeric, chile, ground mustard, ground ginger, cumin, cinnamon. Experiment for taste. Stir.
  • When meat is almost done, add one or two bags of frozen Asian vegetables. Stir. We also like to add kale, bokchoy or mustard greens to this, but it’s not necessary and is probably an acquired taste.
  • Pour some bottled sesame-ginger sauce over the warming vegetables. (I make my own, but that’s a lot work for just one meal, and the store brand isn’t bad).
  • Put the wok lid on and turn to low. Come back when the rice is ready. Put stir-fry mixture over rice. The melt water from the veggies and the soy sauce combines with the sesame-ginger sauce to make a great sauce that soaks into the rice.

Image result for image pork stir fryIf it takes more than a half-hour to prepare, you’re doing something wrong or making brown rice, which is a valid excuse. The coolest thing about this is that you can change up the flavors with different bags of vegetables or swap the rice for thin noodles (I prefer whole wheat durum thin spaghetti over Asian noodles, but you can do it YOUR way.) Sometimes we use chow mien noddles, adding them to the top of the dish while the veggies are reducing. It gives a crunchy-soft mix to the flavors.

 

Posted August 28, 2017 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop, Uncategorized

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On Staying Healthy   4 comments

Health & Fitness for Busy People – What little things do you do to stay healthy? Food, exercise, special vitamins, clothing, shoes, etc. What do you do that could help someone else.

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I have a full-time job and an author gig on the side. I have a husband and a son who still lives at home. I also do things in my community, primarily through my church. So, I am busy.

I’m also blessed. For whatever reason, I have a very strong immune system. I always have. But I’m half-way through my 50s in a family that regularly sees their 90s, so I’m trying to stay healthy for the long haul.

I typically wear flats or shoes with only a slight heel. It’s easier on your knees and back. The downside is plantar fasciitis which I developed for a while, but I started doing some exercises and it seems to have stopped.

Image result for image of walking in sunlightBecause the streets of Fairbanks are often covered with ice and snow, I go to the gym to work out. Some weeks I only make it once, other weeks I make it 3-4 times. I don’t do anything really spectacular. I ride an exercise bike or rotary trainer for an hour. Sometimes I lift weights. I don’t try to go fast and I’m not trying for any power-lifting records. I’m just trying to stay flexible and strong and to counteract the affects of living in a climate that doesn’t get enough sun in the winter.

So in addition to doing weight-bearing exercise, I don suncreen and use a suntanning booth once a week from October to April. I don’t strip all the way to bare. My goal is to get enough time in the “sun” to stimulate Vitamin D production. Like everyone else here locally, my Vitamin D production drops as the winter goes along, but tests show it doesn’t drop as much as many of my neighbors. That could be because of my Swedish blood (Swedes have adequate D levels, according to Alaska Fit), or because we eat a lot of salmon, but I suspect it has something to do with not being afraid of tanning booths. Cousin Rick, the immune system doctor, suggested it, with proper precautions.

D production is not just about bones. Deficiencies have been linked to daytime sleepiness, depression, autoimmune disease, insulin resistance, complications during pregnancy, muscle and joint pain, obesity, and problems with the thyroid to name a few. To top it all off, it’s been found that low vitamin D levels increases your risk of death by 26%. Wow. If you catch a cold several times a winter, it might be because you are Vitamin D deficient. It’s also important for blood clotting, thyroid function, and heart health.

So why don’t I just take pills? I do take 1000 mg (in the winter), but you have to take closer to 2000 mg a day on the 64th parallel to get as much Vit D as a 15-minute daily stroll in the sun on the equator would provide and 2000 mg a day — well, it has effects on my bowels and as bowel cancer runs in the family, but skin cancer does not, Dr. Rick suggested I spread my risk around. So, I enter the tanning booth with a tank top and shorts on, coating the exposed parts of my skin with SPF16, and I only do 10 minutes once a week. I’m not trying to get a tan (and I don’t), but to provide my body with some “sun” exposure when it is impossible to get because of the latitude I live at. It works, according to my blood serum tests.

Other things that I do to stay healthy —

Image result for image of a balanced mealI try to eat right. My diet includes a little bit of meat and a lot of vegetables. That’s not easy here in Alaska because our food must be imported, so veggies arrive here essentially flavorless, having been in suspended animation for two weeks. We buy a lot of frozen vegetables. Frozen carrots actually taste like carrots, by the way. I do eat carbs – bowel cancer runs in the family, whole grains are necessary. I don’t care for fluid milk, but I eat cheese and yogurt. We also have to eat frozen and canned fruit a lot, but we grab fresh fruit when it is in the stores and affordable and actually smells like something. If it has no fragrance, it’s going to be tasteless. You probably don’t have this problem.

I try to stand on one foot and on my toes for at least five minutes each every day. Sometimes that’s 1-minute five times a day for each. This helps with balance and core strength. My daughter the ballerina once stayed on her toes with arms in first position for 20 minutes to show the football team that they weren’t that strong.  One football team member made it 19 minutes, but he needed assistance to keep his balance after two minutes. Mere ordinary people get a lot of benefit from five minutes a day.

I also do Kegel exercises at least once a day, about 20-50 of them depending on time. What are they? Google them. If you’re a woman and you want to maintain bladder control into your 90s, they’re a good thing to do. I’m just saying …. And, there are side benefits, but I’ll let the Internet inform you of those.

Drink lots of water. Most Americans are dehydrated and we often eat because we confuse thirst for hunger. And, no, sodas don’t count, but coffee does (though it’s only about 90% effective compared to tap water). Also know that distilled water lacks the minerals your body is craving when it tells you its thirsty. Filtered tap water is okay, but distilled water is really pretty useless. Read the label of your bottled water. Some of it is useless and some of it is worthwhile. In the US, tap water is almost universally safe … (provided some idiot muni doesn’t try to save money by not including a corrosion inhibitor in a town with lead pipes, but I think Flint’s woes have put all the others on notice).  You notice I don’t mention taking calcium supplements. Fairbanks water is loaded with calcium and iron.

One final thing I do is rinse my nasal passages occasionally. The winter air here is very dry, so many Alaskans have sinus problems. I discovered that using a low-flow, high-volume saline rinse opens up my nasal passages, allowing my sinuses to drain, preventing headaches and reducing colds and allergy symptoms. It will also substantially shorten a cold’s symptoms. I use a squeeze bulb so I can remain upright. The netti pot is too much like self-waterboarding to me, but your experience may vary. If you live in a dry climate or fly a lot, I highly recommend it.

Statistically speaking, people who are part of a regular faith community tend to be healthier than those who are not and those who laugh a lot also tend to have fewer health problems. I’ve got those covered too.

Posted August 21, 2017 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop, Uncategorized

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Examining the Cubbies   2 comments

Make a list of interesting stats in your niche – Want to blow your reader’s minds? Create a useful resource of stats in your niche.

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So, when this topic came up, I had to think long and hard about it, because I wasn’t sure what was meant by “niche”. What particular niche are we talking about?

IImage result for image of author in genre silos‘m a member of several niches. I’m a multi-genre author, for example. I’m cubbied with born-again Christians (though I don’t write expressly “Christian” literature”. I’m a libertarian. I’m an Alaskan. This is probably just my dislike of categories that is rearing its head.

So bookish stats –

Print books are back (though you can’t tell it by my paperback sales). Apparently 571 million print books were sold in 2015, which is 17 million more than the year before. E-books are hovering around 25% of the book market, which actually makes me feel pretty good about my sales, which are growing but not setting any records. Adult non-fiction remains the largest print category. Hard cover books saw sales increases in 2015, but sale of mass market paperbacks saw a double digit decline.

Ebooks have proven they’re not just a fad. They’re here to stay. According to K-Lytics, 75,000 new books are added to the Kindle store every month so it looks like e-books have stabilized and they are selling. Part of the problem is that, in the US (the largest e-book market) over 1/3 of all ebooks don’t have trackable ISBNs, which makes it hard to monitor the market. (For the record, I own my ISBNs, I don’t get them “free” from Amazon).

Traditional publishers discourage the purchase of ebooks by pricing an ebook (that can’t be loaned or resold) the same, or even higher, than paperbacks, which means traditional publishers don’t see a lot of sales from ebooks. I’ve seen many of my traditionally published author friends struggle to make any sales at inflated prices, but you do want to price an ebook in such a way that people feel they are receiving quality.

According to Mark Corker (of Smashwords), ebooks priced at $2.99 to $3.99 sell, but books priced at $1.99 don’t. I find that interesting and a good reason to increase my book prices. Another niche I’m a member of is capitalistic entrepreneur.

Meanwhile, here are some cool statistics

  • 1/5 to 1/4 of ebooks are by indie authors.
  • Nearly 1/3 of ebook earnings goes to indie authors, who receive a higher royalty than traditionally published authors.

I’m a multi-genre author because when I look at my back catalog, I see I’ve always been a multi-genre writer. That can be a business decision. Not all genres sell equally well. Readers have preferences. The most popular genre is ….

Romance. Okay. Moving on … no, seriously … I couldn’t easily write a romance because that’s just not me. I walk in the woods with grizzly bears and I carry a gun. Just not all that sentimental. I could only do romance if it was mixed in with something else. But … but … it’s the biggest genre. Maybe I need to free myself to think differently in order to dip my toe into the genre that makes up 50% of the ebook market.

The good news is that other genres are gaining a substantial foothold with readers in the ebook market.

Science fiction and fantasy are the next most popular genre(s) in ebooks. I think of them as separate genres, but the industry mostly doesn’t. I’ve got a fantasy series underway and an apocalyptic series too. Technically, apocalyptic is science fiction even if it is set in a world we all recognize. I’m happily nested amid this combined genre that makes up about 12% of the ebook market.

The National Book Awards’ young writers prize, 5 Under 35, announced that the margins are in today. For the first time in its 10-year history, three of the five honorees were published by independent presses: the Dorothy Project, Ig Publishing and Hawthorne Books. With smaller print runs and often an intimate relationship with readers, these smaller houses are able to take bigger risks than their larger counterparts and are finding truly excellent writers outside the mainstream.

There are 5 large publishers (Penguin-Random House, Harper Collins, Simon & Schuster, Macmillan and Hachette), plus between 300-500 medium sized publishers and 86,000 small press/self-publishers. That’s me. Because I’m an independent author who publishes through an author cooperative, I am technically a small-press publisher. Self-publishing rose slightly in 2015, with more self-publishers reporting that they use consultants for editing and formatitng support. That will be an interesting research project in a year … to see if e-book quality by self-publishers has increased any over the last 12 months. We can only hope so.

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