Archive for the ‘#mondayblogs’ Tag

Sublime Sunlight   17 comments

1,614 Sunlight Breaking Through Stock Photos and Images - 123RF

Is there a certain time of day when you are most creative? When you handle the ‘business’ side of writing? What’s your favorite time of day?

Rules:1. Link your blog to this hop.2. Notify your following that you are participating in this blog hop.3. Promise to visit/leave a comment on all participants’ blogs.4. Tweet/or share each person’s blog post. Use #OpenBook when tweeting.5. Put a banner on your blog that you are participating.<!– start InLinkz code –><div class=”inlinkz-widget” data-uuid=”9ca8ac45fdd94dc78bc4eb2cddcaa504″ style=”width:100%;margin:30px 0;background-color:#eceff1;border-radius:7px;text-align:center;font-size:16px;font-family:’Helvetica Neue’,Helvetica,Arial,sans-serif”><div style=”padding:8px;”><p style=”margin-bottom:15px;”>You are invited to the <strong>Inlinkz</strong> link party!</p><a href=”https://fresh.inlinkz.com/p/9ca8ac45fdd94dc78bc4eb2cddcaa504” target=”_blank” rel=”nofollow” style=”padding:5px 20px;background:#209cee;text-decoration:none;color:#efefef;border-radius:4px;”>Click here to enter</a></div></div><span style=”display: none;”><script async=”true” src=”https://fresh.inlinkz.com/js/widget/load.js…“></script></span><!– end InLinkz code –>[fresh_inlinkz_code id=”9ca8ac45fdd94dc78bc4eb2cddcaa504”]https://fresh.inlinkz.com/p/9ca8ac45fdd94dc78bc4eb2cddcaa504

When I Am Most Creative?

I’m definitely a night owl, and I have a fulltime job that occurs during the day. In some ways that’s great for me because I can work to make money when I would normally be sleeping and then when I get home from my money job, I can be most creative during the time when I’m most awake. It works for me. I do sometimes find the need to sleep confining, but I also only need about 6-1/2 hours of sleep, so that leaves a fair number of hours in which to be creative. When I retire or the book business starts supporting itself, I look forward to sleeping to noon and then working to 2:00 am writing books.

Business Time?

Of course, being an indie author means I’m also a small-business entrepreneur. While it would be lovely to just write and publish books, I know nobody would read them if they didn’t know they exist, so there’s marketing of all sorts that needs to be done. There’s posting on Facebook, Twitter, MeWe, and Parler, as well as Goodreads and there’s ads on Amazon. That all takes time and money, and I’ve discovered I can’t just let Amazon ads ride automatically because the cost will run away with me while other times the ads are priced so low they get no clicks. There’s a balance to be achieved where I spend no more than half of what my books earn, but I aim to spend less than 10% of what my books earn. Some months I manage that and sometimes I don’t.

Finding time to do book business is a challenge that I constantly fight with because it takes away from writing time. I’ve tried various times of day, but I most often use part of my lunch hour for marketing. I log in, get the job done and get out because I’m already in business mode and I also have a one-hour deadline, trimmed to 45 minutes because of the need to eat and use the facilities. That leaves my evenings free — mostly — for creative endeavors.

Favorite Time of Day?

My favorite time of day has nothing to do with creative writing and it is also seasonally influenced because I live in Alaska, which has such extremes of sunlight, so my favorite time of day varies with the seasons. In the summer, when we have about 19 hours of sunlight every day, my favorite time of my day is about 9:00 pm on any sunny evening when the sun comes around to the north side of our house. It’s still pretty high in the sky, so It turns the birch trees a green gold and scatters golden beams across our vegetable garden. It also lights up the headboard of our bed and, if I have my way, I’m sitting right there sucking up the rays. Seriously, the photo at the top of this article tries to capture the sublime moment of our summer evenings, but it doesn’t. I’m not sure a camera really can.

But in the winter, we get as little as 2 1/2 hours of sunlight a day (with about two hours on either side of civil twilight and I love to sit in my living room, which is on the south side of my house, and watch the low sunlight of a January midday filter through the steam from my coffee or tea as it wavers up into the dry indoor air of my winter home. Sorry I don’t have a photo, but this snap of what I can see outside a friend’s window at the same time of day will have to suffice.

Exploring Fairbanks, the Golden Heart City - Anchorage Daily News
Alaska Range

That’s the Alaska Range — Mts. Deborah and Hayes (Mt. Denali is just off the right side of the shot because you can’t see it from Dan’s house because there’s an upland in the way. That mist in the winter air is called ice fog and it occurs naturally at about -20 below zero near rivers and lakes. It’s actually ice crystals that collect near ground level. Those trees in the foreground are black spruce and the flat area beyond is the frozen but still moisture-producing Tanana River.

Posted July 19, 2021 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

Tagged with , , ,

Looking for Voices   15 comments

Are audiobooks the future of book sales? Do you have your stories on audio?

Rules:1. Link your blog to this hop.2. Notify your following that you are participating in this blog hop.3. Promise to visit/leave a comment on all participants’ blogs.4. Tweet/or share each person’s blog post. Use #OpenBook when tweeting.5. Put a banner on your blog that you are participating.<!– start InLinkz code –><div class=”inlinkz-widget” data-uuid=”de01953722184f988c5ec1ea08917ee4″ style=”width:100%;margin:30px 0;background-color:#eceff1;border-radius:7px;text-align:center;font-size:16px;font-family:’Helvetica Neue’,Helvetica,Arial,sans-serif”><div style=”padding:8px;”><p style=”margin-bottom:15px;”>You are invited to the <strong>Inlinkz</strong> link party!</p><a href=”https://fresh.inlinkz.com/p/de01953722184f988c5ec1ea08917ee4” target=”_blank” rel=”nofollow” style=”padding:5px 20px;background:#209cee;text-decoration:none;color:#efefef;border-radius:4px;”>Click here to enter</a></div></div><span style=”display: none;”><script async=”true” src=”https://fresh.inlinkz.com/js/widget/load.js…“></script></span><!– end InLinkz code –>[fresh_inlinkz_code id=”de01953722184f988c5ec1ea08917ee4”]https://fresh.inlinkz.com/p/de01953722184f988c5ec1ea08917ee4

Predictions

Someone hailed me a prophetess in a book review recently because I had riots and a deadly flu years before they showed up in reality, but I think I just got lucky and have no special ability to see the future. So, I hesitate to say something WILL happen. I can look at trends and make surmises, but predictions need a bit more accuracy than that.

Audiobooks are certainly a growing proportion of the book sales market and I feel safe in saying they aren’t going the way of the dodo anytime soon. I wouldn’t go so far as to say they’re “the future of book sales”. There are a lot of visually-oriented people who will still prefer to read books rather than listen to them. Personally, my mind wanders when listening to an audiobook while print books can hold my attention for hours. Remember when the forecasters insisted physical books were an endangered species? Well, they’re still more popular than ebooks, so….. Audiobooks are certainly growing in popularity and I think they’ll be part of the future market mix, but I don’t think they’ll replace or even overwhelm print sales. Variety is the spice of life and literary enjoyment.

My Books?

My books are not on audio for a couple of reasons.

The first is that I don’t like my voice. I don’t like to see myself on camera and I don’t like to hear myself on recording. I hear all my flaws and I don’t like it.

So I’m looking for audio talent, but I can’t afford to pay anyone (it makes no sense to spend money you will never recoup) and nobody ever responds to the royalty-share offers. My husband says he’ll do it (and he has a lovely voice), but it’s not as simple as he is willing. Audiobook production requires a quiet space, no background noise, no hard drive whir, etc., and he’s come to the conclusion that he might need to build a sound room to get the production values Audible requires in a house that requires a heating unit to come on about every half hour in the winter and the windows to be open in the summer.

But once I overcome those challenges, I definitely plan to produce audiobooks. I’ve had requests, but…yeah, it’s not as simple as “Good idea, let’s do it.”

Do Polar Bears Like Coke?   13 comments

What commercial do you hate? What commercial is your favorite? (YouTube link us if possible) Have you ever gotten an idea for a story from a commercial?

Rules:1. Link your blog to this hop.2. Notify your following that you are participating in this blog hop.3. Promise to visit/leave a comment on all participants’ blogs.4. Tweet/or share each person’s blog post. Use #OpenBook when tweeting.5. Put a banner on your blog that you are participating.<!– start InLinkz code –><div class=”inlinkz-widget” data-uuid=”977793030f7246a2a0b55412a4580e11″ style=”width:100%;margin:30px 0;background-color:#eceff1;border-radius:7px;text-align:center;font-size:16px;font-family:’Helvetica Neue’,Helvetica,Arial,sans-serif”><div style=”padding:8px;”><p style=”margin-bottom:15px;”>You are invited to the <strong>Inlinkz</strong> link party!</p><a href=”https://fresh.inlinkz.com/p/977793030f7246a2a0b55412a4580e11” target=”_blank” rel=”nofollow” style=”padding:5px 20px;background:#209cee;text-decoration:none;color:#efefef;border-radius:4px;”>Click here to enter</a></div></div><span style=”display: none;”><script async=”true” src=”https://fresh.inlinkz.com/js/widget/load.js…“></script></span><!– end InLinkz code –>Wordpress Shortcode[fresh_inlinkz_code id=”977793030f7246a2a0b55412a4580e11”]Unique URLhttps://fresh.inlinkz.com/p/977793030f7246a2a0b55412a4580e11

Commercials Ain’t What they Used to Be

Should the Polar Bear Still Sell Coca-Cola? | The New Yorker

All commercials are selling something and work to manipulate you into buying what they’re selling. That is one of the first things I learned in Marketing class as a journalism major.

I grew up in the 1960s and 70s when television commercials were all there were. Between every program, there’d be about four or five and sometimes a station break/ID. Then between the 12-minute scenes, there’d be two. There was no mute button and no remote, so the option to change the channel during the commercial break was a cumbersome one. Usually you used those times to get a drink or snack or go to the bathroom. Sometimes we’d talk about the program. Yeah, in those days parents and kids watched the same programs because the content was generally appropriate for all ages and most people only had one television set in the house. My mom really loved mystery shows, so we would often use those commercial breaks as an opportunity to guess whodunit. But also my parents would sometimes see things on the screen that they thought needed to be discussed. Do parents still do that now? Oh, that’s right, the kids are usually watching their own shows on the Internet, not even in the same room as their parents.

Notice, we were having these conversations when the television was on and we just ignored the commercials. If you turned off the television, the old vacuum tubes would cool down, so even if you timed the commercial break right, you’d likely miss the first part of the scene because the television had to warm up before it could broadcast.

People just learned the art of ignoring the chatter in the background.

What One Commercial Stuck With Me?

Well, let’s start by explaining that I grew up in Alaska where we often didn’t have access to the things being advertised. We typically had two items on the shelves — the fancy brand (like Charmin or Lays) and the store brand. I later learned in high school economics class that these items came out of the same factory and just received a different label and the fancy brand got advertising while the store brand didn’t. Mom was right! There were no differences other than price and hype.

So, the commercials often didn’t mean anything to me. They were advertising Seattle stores if they were national ads and we were a six-hour plane ride away from Seattle, so — yeah, why bother to watch them? We also got our television on a delay. We watched Thanksgiving shows at Christmas and Christmas shows in late-January. And, yes, the advertising was delayed too. Sometime around 1975, we finally got a satellite uplink here in Fairbanks and got same-day broadcast — though the 6 o’clock national news programs played at 4 in the afternoon…before anyone was home to watch them…so our local broadcast station would record it and play it at 6 o’clock. Again, commercials were for Seattle or California stores and activities and we hadn’t yet perfected energy-beam transportation, so why bother watching the commercials?

Man, were we glad when the Mute button became a thing. Our first one required you to physically get up and hit it on the television, but it was a step in the right direction. At least you didn’t have to listen to the commercials.

A Message of Unity During a Time of Division

But, of course, some commercials were universal. Fairbanks had Coca Cola. Alaskans thought the polar bear Coke commercials in the 1980s were hysterical. I know, it was supposed to pull at our heart strings, but…yeah, giving a coke to a man-eater just seemed like a dangerous idea.

Of course, the iconic Coca Cola commercial was I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke. That is probably still my favorite commercial of all time. It was just so well done and appropriate to the era. Yes, all commercials are manipulative and selling something, but this one also sent a great message. All races can find unity in something we share in common. I certainly hope it wouldn’t be a bottle of high-fructose corn syrup (Original Coke didn’t contain HFC in 1971), but the point spoke so much to my community in Alaska where races had been coming together over the shared issues of extreme cold, isolation and poverty for decades. This was pre-oil, when Alaska was still the poorest state in the union.

Although my mom’s best friend was a lovely person, her husband was a racist who would occasionally, when he’d have too much to drink, jab at Mom about her American Indian ancestry. Before you think, “How horrible!”, Mom would jab right back. The woman had a wicked tongue and knew how to use it. That wasn’t always a great thing when you were her kid who’d done something to anger her, but it was fun to watch when someone else needed a comeuppance. Les had lived in Alaska long enough by that time to know the people around him disagreed with him. Alaska outlawed racial discrimination in 1945 (yes, nearly two decades before the nation got around to it) and, even in the 1960s, we were a very diverse community, so Les and his opinions had experienced pushback in a community that had moved beyond him a long time ago. Still stuck in his ways, whenever the Coke Hilltop song would come on, Les would harrumph and subside into his chair like Archie Bunker after a well-earned lesson. Les knew he’d lost the racial argument with his own children (who were friends with me, my mother’s offspring). But more, he knew the world had changed and left racists like himself behind in its wake. It was a comeuppance without Mom needing to say a word. My dad would occasionally start whistling the tune when Les would be looking for a fight. If often shut him right up.

Which is why I found Coke Corporation’s actions visa vis race in this last year to be so ironic and frankly disheartening. Enough said on that topic.

Annoying Commercials?

Of course, I can think of dozens of truly annoying commercials. I know a lot of people who thought that “Where’s the Beef?” Wendy’s commercial was funny, but I found it annoying. The fact that the local Wendy’s stopped selling beef burgers last year caused that commercial to come to mind. There was one with a singing (and mounted) fish. I don’t remember what it was advertising, which might be my point. There was a Quizno’s ad that arrived here ahead of the food chain – singing rats singing badly – I know people who won’t eat at Quizno’s because of that commercial.

I hadn’t really watched commercials in years. There’s the Mute button and then when we had Dish, there was a feature that allowed you to click through the commercials. Then we cut the cord and the Internet, until recently, was commercial free. But, Youtube now has commercials and this last fall, during the election, we had to watch one, two, sometimes three, for Al Gross who was running for US Senate against Dan Sullivan. They played about every 10 minutes and you can’t really zap them, so….

Note to Youtube – figure out a way to put ads at convenient breaks in the show we’re trying to watch rather than interrupting it mid-sentence. Seriously. I’m not paying for Youtube television EVER until you fix that issue.

Note to politicians — annoying your potential constituents might result in them choosing not to be your constituents.

Al Gross did nearly 60 commercials, so I’m just going to post the one that annoyed me the most. The brief on this – Al Gross is an Anchorage brahmin (think the Cabots speak only to the Lodges and the Lodges speak only to God). His father Avram was a good guy (according to my dad, who knew him) who was involved in Alaska state politics. I think Avram wasn’t a brahmin (Alaska didn’t really have those back then). I think Al probably had a few adventures growing up here. You can drive to the woods if you live in Anchorage and back then, Anchorage was small. Because we lived right on the edge of a vast wilderness filled with primary predators, Alaskan teens lived pretty exciting lives when the Lower 48 idea of teen adventure was the mall crawl.

Do I believe Al had all those adventures from the commercial. No way! And nothing he listed (other than the lies) would have been considered a big deal when we were growing up here (we’re about the same age). So emphasizing that really torqued my Alaska-born-and-bred self because it was aimed at “cheechakos” –new residents who just moved up and don’t know anything about Alaska’s recent past. Al “took down” a grizzly bear? The story floating here in the state is “That’s the story he tells. Truth varies when you want a bear hide to hang on the wall.” My husband actually held off a grizzly bear with a chain saw, so I’m not impressed with Al’s story. Lots of Alaskans work the fishing fleet to put themselves through college. They didn’t let girls on the boats back then (unless your daddy or your husband owned it), so I worked a slime-line instead. Not impressed. And, never lie outright in a commercial. Avram got the loan for Al — banks don’t give 14-year-olds loans because minors can’t sign contracts. Even in the 1970s, Alaska banks were bound by federal law from offering loans to 14-year-olds.

So, aside from the style of the commercial and the fact that Youtube made us watch it and dozens of others over and over again for weeks, the lies he was telling got to me. I had planned to vote against Dan Sullivan for Senate, but Al convinced me he needed to lose the election in a big way — which he did. But it was more than that. The commercial I posted shows him wearing brand-new Helly Hanson rain gear. Nobody but tourists wears brand-new outdoor gear in Alaska. It makes noises in the woods whichscares off the wildlife and there’s a commonsense wives tale theory that the petroleum outgassing attracts bears. It reeks, I know that. My Helly Hansons are 25 years old, patched with innertube rubber and probably have another 20 years of wear in them. Once my husband pointed that out to me, I started watching and every commercial Al did showed him wearing brand-new and high-end clothes, which is a clear indication that he was making crap up. Then he had a commercial where his daughters were talking and you could see out the window behind them — at trees that don’t grow anywhere in Alaska, but are found in landscaped yards in California. Turns out, Al owns a mansion in Santa Barbara, California, and his family lives there full-time. They come back to Alaska for periods of time to qualify for the Alaska Permanent Fund dividend and to run for Senate. That doesn’t make him any worse than Dan Sullivan, but Dan at least admits his attachment to Alaska is through his wife, who was born and raised here. This libertarian was not going to help give carpet-bagger Dan Sullivan a second term, but Al Gross so annoyed us with his incessant commercials (and then I found out he doesn’t live here anymore) that I voted for Dan just to send Al packing. A lot of other Alaskans apparently agreed with me, though there’s rumors Al might run against Don Young in 2022. Either way, Alaska can get rid of Sullivan in 2026, after we focus on getting rid of Lisa Murkowski in 2022.

Commercials that Inspire Me

I got to say, I still try to avoid commercials, but Youtube doesn’t really allow you to do that, so I had to think of ones that had inspired me to the point where I might have learned something or that I want to put them in my writing. I think PragerU commercials have influenced some of my research and might have inspired some events in my novels. PragerU has a lot of videos that often deal with history or something going on in culture and that’s not what I’m referring to. Those are usually longer than the five-minute or less commercials that become attached to other shows — like this older one on how to reengage boys in learning and, hopefully, reengage the next generation of men in society. I don’t use these commercials to inform my opinions, but I sometimes learn things I didn’t know and then I go out to research to find out if PragerU is telling me the truth. Usually they are, but I don’t assume that. I fact-check them through my own research (as I do with most articles I encounter). Always question anyone claiming to be an authority. I don’t always agree with the PragerU commercials. While looking for this commercial I’d seen before, I ran into a Jill Simosian commercial where I just found her condescending, even though I largely agreed with her facts on public schools because I’ve already studied the topic.

And while looking for this commercial, I also found this one by Adam Carolla which echoes something my husband and son have been discussing for a while and a character in one of my WIPs has been trying to express. I like how Carolla presents a familiar argument without sounding like he’s lecturing. There’s not a lot to fact-check in the commercial but I did google Carollas bio and he wasn’t making up his childhood. I also ran across a video he did about the whole neighbor-calling-the-cops thing. That apparently also happened.

All advertising is manipulative and trying to sell something…but occasionally it’s just trying to sell a broader perspective on the blinders we put on ourselves. In many ways, truth and liberal thought are commodities just as much as sugar and butter. In our current strait-jacketed culture where we all self-segregate into our own information bubbles, I think it’s brilliant to advertise alternative viewpoints and hope they get attached to videos that present self-segregated opinions from an opposite perspective.

Last night we sat through one that pleaded with us to understand that the world is going to end in a decade if we don’t start giving polar bears cokes. That last part’s a joke, but not really — the commercial (which I couldn’t find as a standalone) suggested some things we should do to control climate change that might prove almost as dangerous as trying to give a coke to a polar bear.

Posted June 7, 2021 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

Tagged with , , ,

Information Rich   13 comments

Inspired by a comment on a recent post.

Discuss: It never fails to amaze me that ALL the books ever written are made up of just twenty six letters.

Rules:1. Link your blog to this hop.2. Notify your following that you are participating in this blog hop.3. Promise to visit/leave a comment on all participants’ blogs.4. Tweet/or share each person’s blog post. Use #OpenBook when tweeting.5. Put a banner on your blog that you are participating.<!– start InLinkz code –><div class=”inlinkz-widget” data-uuid=”d2fe7b5a64dd45ee99c2b6e275b9de74″ style=”width:100%;margin:30px 0;background-color:#eceff1;border-radius:7px;text-align:center;font-size:16px;font-family:’Helvetica Neue’,Helvetica,Arial,sans-serif”><div style=”padding:8px;”><p style=”margin-bottom:15px;”>You are invited to the <strong>Inlinkz</strong> link party!</p><a href=”https://fresh.inlinkz.com/p/d2fe7b5a64dd45ee99c2b6e275b9de74” target=”_blank” rel=”nofollow” style=”padding:5px 20px;background:#209cee;text-decoration:none;color:#efefef;border-radius:4px;”>Click here to enter</a></div></div><span style=”display: none;”>http://a%20href=</span><!– end InLinkz code –>Wordpress Shortcode[fresh_inlinkz_code id=”d2fe7b5a64dd45ee99c2b6e275b9de74″]Unique URLhttps://fresh.inlinkz.com/p/d2fe7b5a64dd45ee99c2b6e275b9de74

Teaching The Alphabet With Visual Sorting | Steps 2 Read

Information Density in Simplistic Form

The English alphabet is made up for just 26 letters that represent 45 sounds and a couple of letters we hardly use at all. Yet, a world of literature fills billions of books with very intricate stories written in myriad ways. How does it work that we can take such a basic system of communication and use it in such complex ways?

That is amazing to consider, but then I remember that the genome encodes billions of genes and can be represented by just four letters.

Consider math. It really consists of 10 symbols – 0-9 — and then repetition and recombination of those 9 symbols to create highly complex numbers.

Computer programing at its base relies on just two symbols – 1 and 0 — similarly combined in complex sequences to encoding information.

Information can be dense without requiring complicated symbolic systems.

Twenty-Six Letters with Myriad Uses

Of course, the 26 letters of the Eurocentric alphabet correlates — sort of — with the 45 sounds we make when we talk. Different languages, however, use the different letters in a myriad of ways. D in English is not pronounced exactly the same way as D in Spanish. If you speak both languages, you have a code-switch to correctly pronounce the words you read. Consider that the Hawaiian language uses just 12 of our letters to convey a lot of information. Their place names, for example, actually mean something. Conversely, Native American languages require extra symbols to stress the various ways speakers intonate the sounds, which can change the meaning of a sentence or a word. Both Athabaskans and Inupiats use far more “q” sounds in their language and while you’ll notice that if you read a page of text, when they speak, you hear a lot of sounds that are deep in the back of the throat, so it’s not really a “q”, but it’s what the translators are left with within the constraints of written English’s 26 letters.

Why Only 26?

English used to have a few other letters in its alphabet and some of them kind of make sense. I used to be a volunteer at our former church’s English & Citizenship school, responsible for teaching thousands of foreign-born folks to speak and read the English language and I can tell you that how English-speakers use the Roman alphabet can be confusing to people who speak other languages … and precision young English-speakers who are trying to learn to read for the first time.

Thorn: þ
This letter — which was pronounced “th” as in “them”. Although we combine t and h to make that sound, my son (who was a very precise human until his teen years) struggled with that combination. He couldn’t understand why the hard T got softened when combined with the “h”. He wanted me or one of his teachers to explain it. He wasn’t happy with the answer of “it just is that way.” Sometime in junior high school, he gave up the question, but when I shared this article with him while I was writing it, he remembered.

“I knew it! English can be so dumb!” He’d like us to start using this symbol immediately.

Wynn: ƿ
The Latin alphabet we use didn’t offer a letter with the “wah” sound popular to English speakers. Wynn filled the void, but not for long. Over time, it became popular to stick two double-“U’s” side-by-side to create the sound of wynn. Think “vacuum” and “continuum”. I don’t find the double-u to not make sense. Also, it looked like a “p” which would be confusing.

Yogh: Ȝ
The yogh sound entered during the Middle English to represent the back-of-the-throat “ch” sound (think: Bach). It disappeared thanks to the French printing presses, which decided to replace yogh with “gh.” It looks like a 3, so that would be confusing, but frankly, I would love to have a letter that represents that sound because “gh” creates guesswork for pronunciation. This is a similar problem to my Inupiat friends who have a similar (but more complex) back-of-the-throat sound that is rendered as a “q”, but isn’t really. Maybe we need another symbol that doesn’t look like a 3, but denotes sounds in the back of our throat. I had a friend in high school whose last name was “Back.” His father was descended from one of Johann Sabastian’s grandsons who migrated to the United States. So of course the question came up how the name morphed. Well, 1st generation Bach didn’t read English and someone had to write his name into the entry book. The name Bach ends with a back of the throat gutteral sound and the clerk probably didn’t know how to spell it, so he wrote it how it sounded — hence “Back”.

Ash: ӕ
You’ve seen it in medieval (when spelled mediaeval) or in aeon and aether. This is an example of Roman ligature, meaning the tying together of two letters, in this case “a” and “e.” Though it was dropped as a letter from English, it remains one in Danish, Norwegian and Icelandic. We do sometimes see words in English spelled with “ae”. This was another reading stumble for my son. Mr. Precision wanted to use the two distinct sounds. He would have loved the single combined letter that told him to blend the sound.

Ethel: œ
Another Latin ligature, this is the combination of “o” and “e” that can be seen in words like “foetus” and “subpoena.” Now in most cases, we replace this letter with an e. It maybe made sense in past times, but today, we doesn’t pronounce the “oe” sound, so it’s not necessary.

Ampersand: &
The ampersand was once considered part of the alphabet. In fact, that’s how it got its name. The end of the alphabet was “x, y, z and, per se, and.” Per se means “in itself, and,” meaning the symbol stands in for “and.” That became am-per-sand.

I think we could add two to four letters to the English alphabet to improve our rendering of how we pronounce some words to a better written equivalent. But the system we have right now works pretty well…most of the time.

Complexity Made Simple

Twenty-six letters to write millions of words filling billions of books. And here we are. We all pretty much understand one another because we have agreed on such a simple system that roughly correlates with how we speak the language. Who came up with it? It’s a product of the brilliance of spontaneous generation tumbled in the hands of millions of people, then polished by William Chester Minor and Daniel Webster who needed to make some decisions on standardization in order to produce the first dictionaries. Eventually we came to what works best for us. It’s possible it will change over time — just as my Inupiat friends have coopted “q” for that throat-clearing raven-clucking sound that characterizes their language. Because as an English-speaker who has tried to learn some of their language, I can attest it’s not a “q” and my Inupiat friends deserve a letter to use for that purpose. My son would vote for symbols for “th” sounds and “ae”.

Time will tell.

Describing It   3 comments

Let’s talk about book descriptions. Do you write yours before or after you write the story?

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How to Write a Good Book Description

Where Does My Cart Go?

I write my book description after I write the story. Why? Because I’m a discovery writer, so I don’t necessarily know what the best part of a story will be before I write it. That is revealed by my creative process.

I do have a basic goal in mind when I’m writing my series – “This book will focus on these events.” It’s how I can come up with a title for the next book and even sometimes a cover before the story is written. I know something will definitely occur in the next segment. But, sometimes, in the process of writing, a mundane event will become something special and so …

The book description is definitely a part of post-production.

Posted April 20, 2021 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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Random Ideas   8 comments

Do you get story ideas that you know you’ll never write?

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Yes, Of Course!

I think all writers have ideas pop into their head. Maybe we mull it over for a while. Maybe it’s just a fleeting thought nudged by current events. But we know we’ll never write them. Why? Well, it’s not the genre we’re working in…it’s not part of the series we want to finish…it’s way more complicated than the stories we usually write…we know we’re going to forget all about it in 10 minutes….

I’ve had stories crop up in my thoughts from time to time for all three of those reasons and so…I know I won’t write them but I do sometimes jot them down in my suspense file just in case a story does evolve from that random thought.

Yes, But!

I never planned to write Transformation Project series when I started it. It was a fun thought experiment with my daughter during a long road trip (Alaska, yo! All road trips are LONG.) The character of Shane, who changed considerably as we came to know one another, decided he wanted his story to be told and I finally sat down to write it and an entire series came from it.

I keep a suspense file for those random ideas because you never know when one of them will blossom into a writeable story.

Posted February 8, 2021 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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Chasing a Deadline   10 comments

How you keep focused during long writing sessions?

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Who says I stay focused?

No, really. I usually have two or three projects going at once. Focus may not be my thing.

Long Writing Sessions

I have them and they’re almost always character-driven. When a character is telling me his or her story, I write it down and sometimes it is so engrossing I don’t get distracted by other projects.

Those are the best times and distractions aren’t really a problem when that’s happening.

Editing, though?

Those are some long sessions as well and those can be distracting. I enjoy editing in many ways – it’s when the characters allow me to polish their stories to my own purposes (for the most part). But there’s those other projects calling to me, so I need to stay focused in order to get the best results.

How do I do that?

Coffee. A nice pot of coffee and a bit of scone helps. The act of getting up to get it actually gives me short breaks that help me to focus for long hours.

Genre- or scene-appropriate music, through earphones, so I can’t hear the world around me. If I can’t hear the neighbors doing something entertaining or my husband watching a movie or a U-Tube philosophy podcast, I am less likely to get distracted from my work.

A timer. Sometimes I go through periods when I can’t settle down and so if I’m struggling with that, I’ll set a timer on my phone. I say “butt-in-seat-fingers-on-keyboard” until it goes off. I also sometimes use the timer to break up my writing sessions so that I don’t wear myself out.

But Seriously?

I grew up in a small Alaska house where everybody did everything in the main room because the rest of the house wasn’t that warm. I learned early to concentrate even when there is activity around me. I can watch television and write at the same time — depending on what I am writing. I can handle the noise of my family — and in fact, miss it when it’s absent. Distractions are a part of life and sometimes that neighbor doing something entertaining is the kernel of a story idea, so ignoring them might not such a good thing.

Writing takes discipline, but it also takes observing and interacting with life. Sometimes I write for 12 hours straight with only bathroom breaks and maybe making a second pot of coffee. Other times, I write for an hour and then let life draw me away to reality. I let the story dictate what level of discipline I need to exercise in any given day. Right now, I’m trying to write a minimum of a 1000-words per day so I can finish the rough draft of “A Death in Jericho” before the end of January, but I recognize that too much focus on an enjoyable activity can look a little like obsession, so I won’t sweat the word-limit more than absolutely necessary. If I finish the rough draft by February 7, I’ll consider myself well-rounded.

Life Dream   13 comments

If you had unlimited money to start and maintain a business, what would it be?

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Unlimited Money, huh?

If that unrealistic dream were to happen … wow, I would probably have to wrestle my husband for which business we would support. He’d like me to support his, of course, and since today is our 35 wedding anniversary, I’d probably have to comply.

But if marital harmony were not in view …

Like, if we grew TWO magic money trees….

Fairbanks Alaska is a tough place for a local business even in the best of times and at least a dozen have closed their doors forever since March 2020. The bar where I had my first legal drink wasn’t a new business when I sipped (and almost spewed) the glass of chianti with pizza, but after 40 years in business as a dive bar with great bands and sometimes pizza parlor, even after rebuilding after a fire, The Marlin closed its doors for good this summer. The owner still owns the land and building, so there’s hope in the community that he’ll reopen, but he says he won’t. When I was an outside-sales person just out of college, my boss would sometimes take the crew to Sourdough Sam’s for breakfast. It was a new business back then (and it too survived a fire in the intervening years), but it’s now closed and the building and land are up for sale. Same for House of Kustom, one of the only decent furniture stores in town.

Meanwhile, the big box stores are open and selling cheap identical crap and identical food right and left. My son says this local Walmart has never had a better year in the 10 years it’s been open. It just goes to show that the government (even in a pandemic, or maybe because of it) prefers giant corporations that can be controlled and enriched by the government rather than small mom-and-pop companies that are free to do their own thing. We may well remember this era as the last for entrepreneurs and hometown restaurants and bars overwhelmed by a sea of big-box banality.

So, small business…best to have unlimited funds to keep the doors open or to pay the fines when the government tries to shut you down. Folks, I write apocalyptic fiction about people who go to war with the USDA’s cow cops over similar issues.

What would I do if that opportunity existed?

I’d open a LOCAL bookstore with a coffee and sandwich shop and places to sit down while you browse and I’d fill it with books — new and old. We used to have a really great used book store here in Fairbanks that had those features and I’d design my store along those lines. I’d also offer an opportunity for other local artists to display and sell their wares and maybe even do demonstrations of their art. I can envision local musicians playing in the background. I even know the building I’d buy to make it happen and since I have unlimited funds, I’d buy it outright to save on interest payments and have it super-insulated to cut down on heating costs — but I might also open some walls up with windows to let the sunshine in. That way, I could offer affordable rents to the small businesses that could occupy the rest of the space, which is a three-story former department store that has been mothballed for over 10 years.

Yes, I know, the building is uninspiring, but you’d be surprised what architectural elements can be added while the energy-efficiency is being boosted. Think Art Deco. I’m told that the shorter section — the most neglected shopping mall in Fairbanks is part of the building and it has a giant parking lot. It’s also just on the edge of downtown and right across the street from the library. You know what they say about location, location, location? It has location. The store closed because it was owned by a big chain that restructured and the building owner found it’s too expensive to remodel for a different use. But that’s not a problem if I have unlimited funds. Meanwhile, the building was used for the first time in a decade this past weekend for a Christmas bazaar, and it looked lovely all decorated for the holidays. It might even have space for an indoor playground to accommodate the entire family.

An artist’s coop isn’t really an original idea, but it is something my town needs. They’ve been started before, but funding (and therefore space) has always been an issue. Well, in this fantasy scenario … not anymore!

Posted December 7, 2020 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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Creative Balance   Leave a comment

Are adverbs really the devil? If they sneak in occasionally, does it mean the writer is lazy?

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Dogmas

Stephen King says,

“The road to bad writing is paved with adverbs.”

Soon, all good writers have to a avoid adverbs like they’re some sort of flesh-eating microbe. We just know that we’re failing — ourselves, our readers, our editors — if we use adverbs.

Sure, Stephen King has written a lot of best-selling books that give people the willies late at night. Do those books contain adverbs? Maybe a few. I’m thinking it’s pretty hard to completely eliminate one of the four building blocks of grammar and still write that many novels, but even if King is not a hypocrite, he’s still not the boss of me. I don’t buy that all writers must write like Stephen King. If only for variety’s sake, Stephen King should write like Stephen King and you should “do you”. I should “do me”. Other writers ….

You get the point.

Adverbs are overused in bad writing

Most adverbs modifying verbs are unnecessary. Consider this —

  • The radio was blaring loudly.
  • The radio blared loudly.
  • The radio blared.

Just reading those three sentences tells us all we need to know. We don’t really need “loudly” to understand that a blaring radio is loud. It’s “blaring” after all, and the connotation of “blaring” includes loud. This is an example of a poorly-used adverb.

For subscribers to the “show, don’t tell” school of writing, writers who use a lot of adverbs evidence weak writing skills. Adverbs carry strong descriptions, preventing writers from expressing themselves clearly. Use an adverb like “angrily” and you don’t need to describe what actions a character engaged in that showed they were angry. The reader is just given the information that the character is angry.

“Joe angrily mopped the floor” tells the reader Joe was angry, but “Joe slopped soapy water over the floor, slamming his mop into the corners while muttering under his breath” shows the reader Joe’s rage. It’s more work, but it engages the reader in a more visceral experience.

I don’t hate on adverbs and I agree we should do the extra work to show rather than tell.

Not All That Bad

That doesn’t mean adverbs are literally the devil and we writers — particularly novelists — need to avoid them at all costs.

Adverbs are often redundant. “This is very heavy” is a great example of an adverb that is unnecessary because it’s modifying a adjective that doesn’t need to be modified. Heavy is, well, heavy. However, there are times when redundancy is a useful tool for a novelist or someone trying to make a sincere apology.

  • “I’m sorry.”
  • I’m so incredibly sorry.”

Depending on what the character has done, a simple apology won’t be enough. Red Kryptonite Curve ends with Ben telling Peter they can no longer be friends because his drunk driving hurt someone. Do you think Peter can go to Ben in “Dancing the Centerline” and say “I’m sorry” and all will be forgiven? He’s only going to have seconds before Ben walks away from him. “I’m so incredibly sorry” might give him a moment’s pause and Ben might listen to the next sentence or two if he emphasizes that he’s not just a little sorry for not listening to his friend in the previous book.

“I paid for the ticket. I’m attending the concert.” Okay. That conveys the meaning, but consider this —

“I paid for the ticket. I’m definitely going to the concert.” Technically “definitely” is an adverb, redundant, and unnecessary, but think about the meaning it conveys. It actually strengthens the feeling the character is expressing.

Most often, adverbs weaken the verb it is conjoined with, but not always. Sometimes, an adverb carries an emphasis that conveys a stronger sense of meaning. If you take “eliminate adverbs” as axiomatic dogma, you will miss the exception that might prove useful.

Gray Amid Black-and-White Rules

A rule that says “don’t ever” is black-and-white and traps us in corners we might not want to be in. Writing has no rules, unless you are a writer with a weakness you want to correct.

In truth, “don’t use adverbs” is a mutation of some excellent writing advice “be precise in your wording.”

  • The watermelon is very big.
  • The watermelon is enormous.

The second example is clearly more precise than the first. “Very big” is sloppy writing and doesn’t really give the writer the information he or she needs to know — that the watermelon is too big to lift. Both words are adverbs. One has a powerful place in the sentence while the other is filler.

At the risk of derailing this article into a discussion of passive versus active voice, the sentence would be better in active voice.

  • The enormous watermelon threatened to tip the wheelbarrow.

Although you could write the sentence without “enormous”, the adverb strengthens the image the sentence conveys. It doesn’t leave the reader wondering if the watermelon is just poorly placed. You know the watermelon’s size is the problem.

Adverbs can be important to the sentences we write, so long as we give them a role rather than use them as filler.

Adverbs are one of the four main parts of speech, together with nouns, verbs, and adjectives. They each perform a special purpose. We construct sentences using these basic building materials. When we omit all adverbs from our writing, we struggle to give important information about not verbs, adjectives and other adverbs.

Adverbs are often thought to end with “ly”, but any word or phrase modifying a verb, adjective or adverb is an adverb:

  • Rick smashed the zombie’s skull until his arm burned and flecks of rotted brain covered the sidewalk.
  • After surviving the exodus from New York, Joline would never trust another soldier.
  • Gregor stumbled back, avoiding Ilya’s grasp.
  • Janice faced forward because riding backwards made her motion-sick.

Almost no one objects to those adverbs because they convey necessary meaning in the sentence. Even “ly’ adverbs, used judiciously, can be powerful. Consider:

No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream. Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against the hills, holding darkness within; it had stood so for eighty years and might stand for eighty more. Within, walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone.

The Haunting of Hill House, Shirley Jackson

That’s from the opening of a novel that is considered one of the best setting paragraphs ever written and look at all the “ly” words. They convey incredible meaning to the point where I don’t think the paragraph would have the same impact if they were eliminated.

Adverbs mean everything if you’re writing to a specific word count. As a novelist, Stephen King can describe events in detail. Short stories often need adverbs to stay under a word count, as do magazine articles. Journalists use all words judiciously because they have a tight word count (typically 350 words) and they use adverbs when it carries important information. If you wish to convey a clear meaning and place your sentence in a particular context, adverbs are a useful tool.

Dialogue with Adverbs?

Consider the difference between these two sentences:

  • You missed the train.
  • Clearly, you missed the train.

By reading the first sentence, we know that somebody missed their train. The narrator could be anyone – a ticket officer, a friend, a random passenger.

The second sentence shows a degree of criticism. The adverb clearly, when used in this context, can show some level of scolding or disapproval because the person missed the train. If the writer wishes to convey such a meaning then the adverb is preferred.

  • Diana is an emotional person
  • Diana is an overly emotional person.

Most human beings are emotional, so the first sentence really conveys irrelevant information. Who knows if Diana’s emotions are a good or bad quality. We can’t determine the narrator’s opinion on her emotional state.

In the second sentence, the narrator clearly believes Diana is emotional to an excessive degree. It makes all the different in the narrative.

Break the Rules When You’re Ready

I’m an overly educated writer (who just used an — gasp — adverb). Do you think I didn’t run across hundreds of rules while getting a Master’s degree in Journalism? Of course, I did.

Some people, especially editors, treat writing like there’s a checklist of dos and donts that must be followed. There are rules that are useful and then there are rules that render us weak writers writing weak books.

Of course, we should know the rules and make use of them to improve our writing. Of course, we should take advice from bestselling writers like Stephen King. There’s nothing wrong with that. I have a checklist of my known weaknesses that I use to improve my self-edits. Again, there’s nothing wrong with that. I also keep a list of items to bring with me on business trips, so I don’t have to waste a lot of time going “Do I have everything I need?” Checklists are useful tools.

The trouble comes when an established writer’s experience (or the experiences of many established writers) becomes dogma. You need to “do you.” Establish your own style rather than copying King’s. Hemingway wrote in a specific style that I admire, but I don’t write like him — unless my POV character is that sort of person. See, how that works?

Writing is an art and art has “suggestions”, not rules. Whether it’s Stephen King who has sold millions of books or me who has sold somewhat less (currently), our “rules” are just advice and, yes, some advice is worth following. Correct spelling, for example, is highly useful for conveying meaning to readers. Using active voice rather than passive voice will almost always create a better story. Don’t overuse adverbs is equally good advance. Don’t use adverbs at all is a bridge too far. Rules are sign posts, common elements we find in great stories, but there are also amazing stories that break some of the rules, rejecting conventions when it makes sense.

Be aware of the rules and the risks inherent in breaking them, but remember, you’re an artist. Trust your intuition and don’t be intimidated by the clipboard Nazis with the checklists who think stories should all be alike. Consider what they have to say because they may be catching problems you don’t, but don’t take their advice as gospel. Enjoy your creative freedom while remembering that rules can be parachutes that will save your life.

See, balance! As important in writing as in trapeze acts and checkbooks.

Sky Dancer Clan   9 comments

As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?

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A Word on Spirit Animals

Spirit animals are an important part of Wyandot culture (my mother’s culture). Our tribal clan system is designated by animals. The Wyandot tribe was anciently divided into 12 clans, which each had a local government, consisting of a clan council presided over by a clan chief (sachem). The names the clans called themselves were:

Big Turtle, Little Turtle, Mud Turtle, Wolf, Bear, Beaver, Deer, Porcupine, Striped Turtle, Highland Turtle, Snake, and Hawk.

The order was important for the line of travel and for tribal encampments. On the march the warriors of the Big Turtle Clan marched in front, those of the Little Turtle Clan marched next to them, and so on down to the last clan, except the Wolf Clan, which had command of the march and might be where its presence was most necessary. The tribal encampment was formed “on the shell of the Big Turtle.”. This means that the tents were arranged in a circular form as though surrounding the shell of the Big Turtle. The Big Turtle Clan was placed where the right fore-leg of the turtle was supposed to be and the other clans were arranged around in their proper order, except the Wolf Clan, which could be in the center of the enclosure on the turtle’s back, or in front of it where the turtle’s head was supposed to be, depending on what the Wolf clan decided. In ancient times all Wyandot villages were built in this order, and in the tribal council the clans took this order in seating themselves, with the sachem either in the center or in the front of the door of the council chamber.

Most of the clans are extinct now and a lot of Wyandot who claim to be members of an extant clan are really more Caucasian and a mix of Wyandot clans, but the animals they were named after were meant to be the totem of that clan – your spirit guide, to use modern terms. Supposedly, the spirit behind the totem animals gave Wyandots power and comfort. I seriously looked into this as a teenager and college student, before deciding that as a born-again Christian, I could not partake in it. My only spiritual guide is Jesus Christ and I make nothing equal to or greater than Him. I don’t need to. He is more than sufficient.

What others do is not my concern. That’s just a personal decision on my part, and explains why I’m not going to select a spirit animal for this exercise.

Mascots and Avatars However …

But there’s another way of looking at it. The animals were not spiritual guides, but symbols for the tribe – avatars, if you will. After all, my high school had a mascot. The malemute is a husky dog that is very popular here in Alaska. There’s nothing spiritual about it. And, for years I have used the avatar of the aurora borealis on my social media sites.

Why?

It’s a long complicated story involving a nickname given to me by a college professor – the Aurorawatcher. I’ve shared it before. You can find it here.

I wouldn’t claim an animal as my mascot just because — well, it is just too close to the totems of my tribe and that kneeling at another altar thing, but I do claim the aurora as an avatar. Why?

Aurorawatcher

It’s beautiful and majestic and ethereal. It changes. You could watch the aurora every night for decades and never see two that are alike. And, they are mysterious. There’s a lot that’s known about the sky dance today, but there is a great deal that isn’t known. And, above all, if you haven’t experienced the aurora for yourself, I can only give you a taste of what it is like to stand out in the cold and stare up at the sky. It’s changing, whipping across the black velvet sky, sending out long tendrils, sometimes moving fast and sometimes barely moving … pulsing colors and flickering white and … and they can last all night or fade after a few moments.

It reminds me a lot of Christian faith, which is another thing you must experience to understand. I can only give you a taste of it if you haven’t experienced it for yourself. That’s not a failure of the faith, but a testament to it not being made up. It easy to explain that which is manmade and so much harder to explain that which is transcendent of human minds.

The aurora’s dance is also somewhat like how I write my books. I’m a discovery writer. I experience the stories as I write them. I rarely know where they’re headed before I get there. It’s only on rewrite that I can (somewhat) herd the story. I know the high points of a series, but I can’t tell you when my creative mind might fling out a pulsing arm of color that will surprise me as much as it surprises my readers. The dance of the northern lights has the same unpredictable, genie-in-a-bottle feel. Beautiful, mercurial, hard to capture. It’s not static, it’s always changing, and when it fades tonight, I know it will be back tomorrow.

Posted November 11, 2019 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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