Archive for the ‘Life As We Knew It’ Tag

On Killing A Society   2 comments

Writers spend a lot of time thinking about how to bump people off. Writers of dystopian fiction place that on a grander scale — figuring out how to kill the world as we know it.

Murder of individuals comes in many varieties. There’s the proverbial blunt object, a push off a cliff, the brake line “malfunction”. Murder of societies comes in varieties as well – nuclear holocaust, alien invasion, economic collapse. There are many ways to murder because depravity comes in many designs.

I remember reading a novel where a trusted spouse slowly poisoned her previously hale husband. Nobody suspected poison as the victim slowly withered and when eventually consumed, an unsuspecting coroner closed the case, listing the official cause of death as a long illness. The story in the book surrounded his niece asking questions and exposing the homicide.

In Life As We Knew It, I described the mortal wounding of America by nuclear terrorism. I don’t actually believe and therefore would not find it believable that there are foreign terrorists just planning to destroy the country for no reason. My brain keeps circling that central fact. Why would this happen? And I settled in part on poison because I see evidence for that in the world in which we live. You always wrap fiction round a grain of reality.

Fact. In its prime, the United States of America met every challenge. The Civil War devastated large parts of the nation and sucked the national soul dry, but America rebuilt into the world’s most prosperous economy, providing opportunities and better lives for millions. It was the sort of place where my great-grandpa Elmer could come from Ireland flat-broke, dodge the Civil War draft, and build a small fortune as a businessman afterward. It was a place where my husband’s great-grandfather Leo could also come from Ireland, get turned away from Ellis Island, go into Nova Scotia and enter the United States more or less illegally through the St. Lawrence smuggler’s boat and 20 years later be mayor of a New England town and a prosperous farmer. Full of ambition and energy, America became an industrial powerhouse powered by innovation that coined the terms “work ethic” and its derivatives “consumer,” and “middle class.”

Like the husband above, we drank deeply from life and enjoyed it immensely.

Then a generation arose that saw exuberance and activity as a negative. Theodore Roosevelt claimed that peace and prosperity were actually signs of incapacitation. We really needed to be involved in world affairs to be a truly grownup nation. JP Morgan and a host of well-bred businessmen insisted that America needed a central bank, elastic money, and an income tax in order to be fiscal sound. Woodrow Wilson said that the people shouldn’t have to worry our pretty little heads about governance. We could just let the “experts” handle it and go enjoy our lives. The administrative state could handle it all and Congress need not even be bothered by the mundane tasks of oversight. And while he was at it, we needed to involve ourselves in a European war. If someone disagreed with his diagnosis that the country needed these things, he threw them in jail.

The government refused to accept that the world’s healthiest and most robust economy could recover from the Depression of 1929 on its own, so Hoover and Franklin Roosevelt imposed higher taxes, deficit spending, unprecedented expansion of the regulatory state and crony capitalism, creating the Great Depression. Nowhere else in the industrialized world (Germany excepted) did the Depression of 1929 last longer than 18 months, because — for the most part — other countries allowed the economy to recover on its own, but the United States swallowed the elixir of Keynesian economic quackery, so suffered for 12 years.

World War 2 required still higher taxes, more debt and the government’s centralized control of the economy. In the 1950s and forward, every economic hiccup had to be tended to by our care-giving government, now grown to preeminent empire following the deadliest war in history. People called for a return of peace and prosperity, but the Military Industrial Complex and the intelligence-gathering arm of the government couldn’t allow that. We were told we needed continuous intervention around the globe and growing surveillance at home to keep us safe and “healthy.”

The vitality, risk-taking, ingenuity, individuality, integrity, and innovation that powered American greatness has been replaced with a desire for comfort, safety, and security without effort. There is no longer a connection between what we produce and what we receive. The dwindling few who work are duty-bound to support the rest of us. Coerced altruism is the requirement of the day according to the government, media, and academia.

Freedom is now seen as a danger to our society. More taxes, more regulation, more intrusion are seen as signs of health. We’re expected to give up our notions of honor and decency, control of our lives, our children’s educations, and anything else we cherish. We should care more about what we stare at on electronic screens than what we believe in our hearts to be true. Just do what the government says and everything will be great.

It’s hard to know when that last dose of poison will be administered. The country was already staggering when George W. Bush was president. President Obama may represent the fatal dose. Maybe the current election cycle madness is a symptom of collective insanity brought on by a century of political poison. It appears the patient realizes what is about to befall us, but do we have the strength to push the dram away?

With every election, government promises to change the dose of our poison by some degree or another, perhaps to prolong our death a little longer. And every time for decades now, we have fallen for that promise, never seeming to realize that we are ingesting poison.

This nation was born from a revolution for its freedom that initiated a dramatic experiment in representative and limited government, the protection of individual rights, and equality before the law. Yes, it took us a while to eliminate slavery and give women a voice, and for the economy to reach a point where the Industrial Revolution’s explosion of innovation and progress could free people from the drudgery of poverty, but the fact is we overcame those obstacles on our own, without the government’s all-caring, all-powerful strength. The government was small and incapable back when America was healthy and strong. In fact, those long ago Americans would have found such a government as we have today to be malignant and loathsome.

In my book, Americans don’t wake up soon enough, but here in the real world, it may not be too late. There are obvious stirrings against our oppressors. The Tea Party was a recognition by some of us that the government is poisoning us. Occupy Wallstreet was a glimmering that our economy is controlled by someone other than ourselves. Most people in the United States don’t realize we’re being poisoned and they certainly would be amazed to discover that the government is the poisoner, but we’re not dead yet either.

Some of us are waking up earlier than the rest and are sounding the alarm. Maybe it’s not too late. Waking up means realizing there is a big job ahead of us to clean up the mess we created, but it’s not beyond our powers to correct course … if we’re willing.

 

Sales Ends   Leave a comment

Life As We Knew ItLife as We Knew It is no longer on Kindle Countdown, but it is still a great action adventure start to a dystopian series at a good price and with a paperback available if you prefer.

I want to thank everyone who bought the book this last week. Readers make the writing worthwhile.

Posted February 9, 2016 by aurorawatcherak in book promotion

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Kindle Countdown Deal   Leave a comment

Life As We Knew ItLife As We Knew It is only 99 cents for the next few days.

When terrorism disrupts life as they knew it, cutting off transportation and communication, a small town must forge its own disaster plan.

Get It While It’s Reduced   1 comment

Life As We Knew ItLife As We Knew It will be on Kindle Countdown next week, starting February 2 through February 8.

I got an incredible compliment over the weekend. My brother read the book. He FINISHED the book. My brother is not a reader of fiction. He’s an engineer-y, math-y kind of guy. If I wrote a book on carpentry or aeronautics, he’d be excited and have had it done by New Years, but I wrote a fictional book about a terrorist attack on Kansas.

So, there are some things siblings must do for each other and my brother decided he was going to read an actual fiction book.

The first couple of chapters were slow for him and then he hit page 70 (which is when the action gets started) and he read it until he couldn’t keep his eyes open that night, got up in the morning for coffee and toast and finished the book by lunch. Now he wants to second book so badly he is grumbling that I’m also writing a fantasy series.

Yeah, I didn’t convert him into a fiction reader. His wife will give him the cliff notes on the fantasy. But it is an incredible compliment to me that he wants to read more of my books. I KNEW fiction readers would like what I write if they can discover it on Amazon and overcome their uncertainty of self-published authors, but I am encouraged that I have convinced a committed television viewer that books can be fun too.

Writer’s Prep   4 comments

Do you ever read a book and ask yourself “How did the author come up with this?” I do and so do some of my fellow authors, so come join us as we answer our readers’ curiosity.
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I could choose either of my two series to discuss, but I chose Transportation Project because of an Amazon review.

I started writing Life As We Knew It as a “relief” story while I was editing The Willow Branch. I always have at least one “relief” project in the wings behind my main project because it prevents writer’s block, but LAWKI had a life before it had that name or even the plot it ended up with.

 

Front Cover LAWKI no windowTransformation Project (and Life As We Knew It, Book 1) is a compilation of several stories that had been kicking around on my hard drive or in my psyche for many years.

I had long wanted to do a story centered around my Mom’s hometown in North Dakota and some of the people I know there, particularly an arm of the family who are deaf, thus Poppy Lufgren, who was originally a male, and Alex, the hearing brother who raised her. I had a half-dozen false starts with a story focused on them. Maybe a small town in North Dakota just didn’t hold my attention or I couldn’t quite capture the essence of Deaf culture.

I strongly believe that the United States would act badly and disastrously if hit by a widespread act of terrorism. I see what our government has done so far (driving people out of their homes with their hands up while looking for the Boston bombers, for example) and I am pessimistic about the future. I see the huge national debt as very dangerous. I also see the reliance Americans have on technology as problematic. I don’t know how to say that in a normal life scenario without sounding like I’m preaching, but in an apocalyptic, I can show those beliefs in action and hopefully make them entertaining.

During the run-up to the 2008 Presidential elections, we were Sarah Palin fans. She was very popular in Alaska and nobody can argue with her record here, despite the questionable behavior afterward. Alaska’s government is currently being funded by the non-Permanent Fund savings she put aside during her brief tenure as governor. Thank you, Sarah, for looking ahead to $36 a barrel oil when it was at $98 a barrel. Not many Alaskans foresaw that inevitability.

On a 10-hour no-radio road trip, my then-teenage daughter and I collaborated on a verbal story that featured a Palin-esque politician trying to get away from an assassination attempt with the help of a mercenary — Shane Delaney — who was based on some 20-something action actor my daughter found attractive. It was a thought-experiment on “what would it actually take to fundamentally change the United States of America?” We chose my mom’s North Dakota hometown as our destination because it’s sort of near Chicago where the story began. By Alaskan-standards Los Angeles is also near Chicago. When we got Shane and the politician to Nowhere, North Dakota, they were helped by Alex — who is based upon a cousin of ours — the only hearing man in a deaf family (on the side that isn’t related to us) who raised his little sister after his parents died. In our cobbled-together story, Alex, Poppy and Shane were siblings and Alex was a bit peeved to have been left with the responsibility of raising a little sister while Shane just sent home money — that was Brad’s contribution.

The election ended and so did the story, except that I really liked some of the characters and the basic idea and I wasn’t really ready to let go of that question of “What would it take to transform the culture of the United States?” I tried drafting it and it didn’t take long to realize that we had “written” ourselves into a corner. Nowhere, North Dakota is nowhere near anything else. There are no big cities near it by Lower 48 standards. There’s no interstate. There’s just a lot of really flat country, barns and sunflower fields. The Palin-esque character had been my daughter’s creation and she didn’t really talk to me, so I had no source of tension for the story.

It hung out on my hard drive until I read William Forstchen’s One Second After and I knew I wanted to use terrorism and its affects on a small town in a book. Originally I used EMP and much of the rough draft was written under that premise. The town moved south into Kansas because Forstchen suggested that would be the hardest hit place and Kansas really is a crossroads of sorts with I70 and having been the navel of the aviation world. When a friend gifted me with American Hiroshima by Hugh Cort, I decided to make a change to a nuclear scenario because I really wanted to explore black flag ideas and I felt my book might be too evocative of Forstchen’s book.

I tried all sorts of different ways to get Shane, who started out as a mercenary, to have some connection to the attacks, but the character wouldn’t allow it. When I wrote the Rigby storyline, it seemed ridiculous that he would ever show up in Emmaus, Kansas, if he didn’t know anyone there. And, then my pastor’s son was arrested, tried and convicted of plotting acts of terrorism (yes, really! Google Francis Schaeffer Cox) and the back story of Shane grew from that. It gave me a reason to connect Rigby to the town and to Shane, but it also provides the source material for future storylines in the series because Anders McAuliff is brother to the imprisoned militia leader.

What sort of research do you need to write a book like Life As We Knew It? Apparently my life brings accidental research opportunities to me. I’m the only writer I know who is friends with the wife and parents of a convicted terrorist. I knew almost nothing about suitcase nukes when I started. My concept of nuclear attack survivability was a mixture of ideas from The Day After, War Day and a 24 scenario. The book shows my evolved understanding of how suitcase nukes differ from ICBMs. I didn’t know a lot about Midwestern farming. My mom left North Dakota in 1942 and the closest thing to farming I’d ever done on visits was milking a goat (which I learned in Alaska) and pitching hay (which I think was more entertaining for my cousins than helpful). I spent a weekend at a friend’s farm in Alaska and watched a lot of utube videos. I didn’t know much about the interstate system (grew up in Alaska, yo?).  I’ve now spent a lot of time on Google Street View. One course of research led to other courses of research. I knew a fair amount about guns, having grown up in the gun-culture of Alaska, but I’d never been a semi-auto girl until I started researching what sort of gun Shane would carry. Kansas being the navel of the old airplane world was an opportunity I (being from another big airplane state) couldn’t let go that will have huge impacts later in the series. Again, I grew up in a flying state, but I had to research GA airplanes. PTSD, which Shane suffers from, found its way into the story because of a disturbing story a friend told me about how Vietnam still haunts him. Although I worked in a social service agency for 15 years, I still needed to do some research on PTSD — its causes, its symptoms and its treatments. Creating a Middle Eastern country allowed me to not be tied to a real world timeline and required that I research countries in that area to provide myself with a back story that I may never share with readers. Yes, writers — good writers — do that all the time. Carl the schizophrenic is a compilation of several clients I knew in my 15 years of employment at a mental health agency, but I did some research in addition because I am not a professional social worker (I worked in administration). Jacob is based on a couple of older gentlemen I know from Fairbanks and his personality and life philosophy comes from the radio show Patriot’s Lament, but I also had to research what anacho-capitalists believe to give him some depth.

I rarely develop characters. They present themselves to me to tell me their story and I write it down. Sometimes I can guide the plot and the characters will cooperate, but most of my characters will not do things that are out-of-character, no matter how much I want them to. I loved the Delaney family from the original story, but Alex wouldn’t insinuate himself into the town’s business and I couldn’t get any of his relatives to become hearing so that Shane would have an excuse to be involved in town decisions. This is where Sarah Palin re-entered the story. She was mayor of Wasilla before she was governor of Alaska and whenever I played with her part of the story, when I wanted to still keep her doppleganger in it, I kept coming back to that leadership role. Nobody is more involved in town decisions than the mayor. Rob is a compilation of higher-level managers at work and a friend who owns a feed store in Alaska. He’s smart, he’s been a good manager of his town — and what I’m going to do with his character is going to surprise people.

Remember, it’s called Transformation Project. I’m not just dropping bombs and saying the world will struggle to return to normal and then it does. That story’s been done and I want to do something different. I’m fundamentally transforming the United States as we know it … eventually, over several books.

Kelly Williams is discussing this topic over on her Blue Honor blog. While you’re checking out what she has to say, check out her books. Isn’t that a gorgeous cover above?

Interview with Jacob Delaney   7 comments

This week the blog hop is about interviewing one of my characters.

Jacob Delaney is one of my characters from Transformation Project and I decided to interview him, quite frankly, because he’s an older fella and I don’t think he’s going to make it to the end of the series, so I wanted to catch him while he’s still talking to me.

Yes, I know that’s weird, but that is how I roll as a writer. My characters talk to me or they die, because I can’t write their stories without their cooperation. Jacob doesn’t appear when I think about where this series ends, so I have to wonder if we’ll be attending his funeral sometime after the third book in the series.

My interview takes place right at the end of Life As We Knew It.

Before we get started, check out PJ MacLayne’s blog and catch her interview with a character from one of her books.

Welcome to the blog, Jacob. Tell us something about yourself.

Thanks for having me, Lela. I’m from Emmaus, Kansas, the town I was born in. I’m 95 years old, a widower, a World War 2 veteran and a crop duster. I’ve been the mayor of my town and I own a feed store with my son, Rob. I have four children (two women and one man living, our eldest son died young). I have over a dozen grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. My daughters do not play a roll in the books and only three of my grandchildren live in Emmaus. One just got back from … well, he’s not saying. Let’s see, I like singing and flying and I’m a deacon and trustee at Emmaus Baptist Church. And I miss my wife, who died last year.

How long were you mayor of the town?

Six years. One term. That was enough. It was like herding cats. That was before I realized you don’t need to herd people. If you leave them alone, they’ll mostly figure out what’s good for them all on their own, but it probably won’t be what you thought was good for them, so maybe you ought to just figure out what’s good for you and let other people alone to figure it out for themselves. Which is not to say that you can’t give them your opinion when they ask.

Front Cover LAWKI no windowYou sound like an anarchist.

I am. Don’t get me wrong — I’m not for blowing things up and destroying society. I don’t hold to violence unless someone is being violent toward me. I just think we don’t need our neighbors banding together to decide what we should all do as a community and then forcing those who don’t want to go along into doing what the majority wants. That may be very democratic of folks, but it’s also dictatorial. Government’s not a bad thing when it represents a community outside of that community, but when it dictates to the people inside of its community, you end up with half the folks feeling like they’re not be represented and being bossed around by the other half. That’s democracy, which is no more than two rattlesnakes and a rabbit voting on what’s for dinner. It never works out well for the rabbit.

But you served as mayor?

Yeah, 45 years ago when I didn’t know better. A man can change his mind as he grows wiser with age and I did.

Interesting! Tell me what’s going on in your life right now.

Well, we were having a nice, if somewhat tense, visit with my grandson who just got back from parts unknown when some idiots decided to blow up the world … well, not the world, just select cities in the United States. Right now, we’re hunkered down in our storm cellars, basements and my concrete feed store waiting out the radiation rain. The Geiger counter says we’re okay for now. I guess when it stops raining, we’ll have to decide what we do from there.

Who do you think did the bombing?

How would I know that? And does it matter? The radiation doesn’t care who unleashed it on us. We’ll still have to clean up the mess they made no matter who they were.

Why do you think they did it?

Now, there’s a more intelligent question. Why indeed! If I were to conjecture, I think I’d guess they were angry at someone. They hit cities, not rural areas, so maybe they hate city-dwellers. They hit American cities, so maybe they’re angry at the United States. It’s not like we don’t deserve that — messing in other countries, dictating their politics, bombing their people. It was bound to happen sooner or later. But there are plenty of homegrown nuts who might have done it too. Half the country can boss around the other half of the country only so long before someone with a lower tolerance for totalitarianism blows a gasket and figures out a way to smash some china.

How many cities?

I don’t know. A dozen, maybe. Two within driving distance of here, I know. Denver and Kansas City are gone. Shane, my grandson, said it’s mostly transportation and communications hubs. If he’s right, then I think they meant to disrupt the United States, not destroy it entirely. Maybe it’s a foreign government that wants our resources. Maybe we owe them so much money we were refusing to repay. Maybe it’s Americans who are just tired of how far this country has drifted from its founding principles. LIke I said, it doesn’t matter who they are. We’ll still have to clean up the mess. Maybe we’ll do it better after.

You don’t sound hopeless.

Now what is there to be hopeless over? The world as we knew it just ended. All hail the past, get ready for the future. The sun will come up tomorrow and we’d better get ready for it.

Now that doesn’t sound very anarchist.

Sure it does. I’m very willing to come alongside my neighbors and help them clean things up … if they want me to. I just don’t think they have to do it the same way I do it.

What about your son? Isn’t Rob the current mayor?

He is. He’s going to have to decide whose side he’s on — the military or the town? My experience is that the military will roll up to our town line soon enough and they’ll have their own ideas of how we ought to do things and Rob’s going to have to say if the town will cooperate with that. He served 20 years in the military. It’s going to be hard for him to put that aside. He needs to realize that he can either represent the town to the military or represent the military before the town, but not both. We’ll see if he’s been listening to me over the years.

What do you think will be the most important thing for your community when the rain stops?

I’m not going to dictate to the community what it needs. They can figure that out for themselves. I know what I think the family ought to do and that’s secure food and medicine. Winter’s coming and the town is surrounded by absentee corn fields. I say we need to confiscate that corn and worry about paying the owners later.

Isn’t that stealing?

If the owners were in Chicago, Houston, Kansas City … can you steal from dead people? You don’t waste resources in a survival situation and, if we do, we pretty much accept that we’re going to starve. Think about what it means — the major transportation hubs destroyed — trucks and trains no longer have direct paths to get anywhere. We’re going to have to look to feeding ourselves at least for the near-future.

Won’t the military or FEMA bring supplies?

My son has been trying to get FEMA on the phone all day. No luck so far. The only reason we knew to hunker down before the rain got here was a National Guard report telexed to the local newspaper. That’s an organization that can’t handle a single storm, let alone dozens of terrorist attacks all across the country. No, we need to act as if we’re on our own. If they show up, we can be pleasantly surprised.

Do you think there will be more attacks?

Hmmm, now how would I know that? Just because I’m as old as dirt doesn’t mean I’m God. I can’t read minds. I guess you’ll have to check back with me later to see what’s happened.

Thank you, Jacob, for speaking with me during this crisis and I wish you luck in the coming days.

Watch for “Objects in View” to find out what happens to Jacob.

If you care to join the blog hop

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Thanks for Buying the Book   1 comment

Front Cover LAWKI no windowThe sale is over, but Life As We Knew It remains available on Amazon.

http://www.amazon.com/Life-Knew-Transformation-Project-Book-ebook/dp/B00UY6MKHG/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

For all those who bought the book —

THANK YOU!

You know who you are.

Jacquie Biggar-USA Today Best-selling author

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