Archive for the ‘#mondayblogs’ Tag

Snapshots in Verse   7 comments

Or maybe it would be easier to say my favorite poet. Actually, I like a lot of poets. As you might guess from my last name, I am distantly related to Edwin Markham, who my grandmother met in her parents’ home when she was about 15. Supposedly, she’d met him as a younger child too, but she had no memory of it. By the time she was 15, he’d attained some measure of fame and that made meeting him all the more weighty, she said.

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Image result for image of stopping by the woods on a snowy eveningSo, I grew up with his poetry. I also grew up with the poetry of Robert Service and Omar Khayyam. Robert Service, of course, is the unofficial poet laureate of the frozen northlands, so I actually have several of his poems memorized from my days working in the visitor industry. I worked with the grandson of Langston Hughes and memorized one of his poems to surprise Cory once.
I admire poets quite a lot. What they do is similar to what I do, but it’s a special skill that evokes pictures and emotions in quick snapshots that I find difficult to do well.
But my favorite poet is Robert Frost. Down-home, rural, painting pictures with words, not horribly preachy, but making some salient points. I don’t know of any Frost poems I don’t like, and the one I selected as my favorite has close competition from about four or five others.
This one, however, actually inspired a scene in Book 5 of Transformation Project. When the book comes out, you’ll have to read it to see what I mean by that since Robert Frost’s poems are just not that apocalyptic.
Whose woods these are I think I know.   
His house is in the village though;   
He will not see me stopping here   
To watch his woods fill up with snow.   
My little horse must think it queer   
To stop without a farmhouse near   
Between the woods and frozen lake   
The darkest evening of the year.   
He gives his harness bells a shake   
To ask if there is some mistake.   
The only other sound’s the sweep   
Of easy wind and downy flake.   
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,   
But I have promises to keep,   
And miles to go before I sleep,   
And miles to go before I sleep.
You can just see a man in a sleigh or wagon, standing next to a dark wood with a lake nearby, his horse quietly bobbing his neck, wondering how come they’ve stopped. The snow drifting down in big snow globe flakes, some slight drifting out on the ice. No stars or moon to diminish the snow’s featured role, just the stark trees against the white sky and the slight tinkle of harness bells.
Way back in highschool, a teacher suggested the last stanza is a reference to suicide. Having read a lot of Frost even by then, I doubted it and still do. I think he was tempted to go for a walk in the beautiful deep snow, maybe make a snowman. But he had other commitments and he was a long way from his bed. He had a horse to put up and probably fires to mend. He didn’t have time for more than this snapshot of beauty on a snowy night. It was time to go.

Cost-Benefit Analysis   5 comments

This week’s blog hop topic is a “pro-con” list, which is really a cost-benefit analysis. This happens a lot at our house because:

  1. We’re not independently wealthy
  2. We’re debt-adverse

Currently, we have three major pro-con discussions going on, but the literary one I’m working on is probably of more interest to you than the one my son is doing on his college decisions.

Image result for image of a pro con listEvery time I publish a book, I find myself needing to do a pro-con list about what my next project will be. I have two series underway and a healthy back-list of stories that would like me to pay attention to them.

After I published Objects in View, I didn’t do this and the last six months have been … um, scattered, I guess. I revisited a literary fiction I’ve been playing with for years. Even sent it to the beta readers. The feedback I got suggests it needs more work. I wrote a short story submission for an anthology,  I’ll know in April whether that was accepted … or it could go in a book of short stories I’m considering. I have worked on A Threatening Fragility, the third book in Transformation Project, some and I have also worked on Fount of Dreams, the third book in Daermad Cycle, some. And, I’ve also dabbled with a YA and a mystery-romance that sort of want my attention.

Do you see my problem? I lost focus because I didn’t make a plan as to which project should be my primary project in this cycle. Time to correct that problem — starting with a pro-con list.

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So a basic “pro-con” list might help me to decide which book series to work on next. This is sort of a modified pro-con list because I have multiple jobs. Pro-con lists can be simple ticks in a box and the most ticks wins or the ticks can be weighted. Because I got busy and missed the deadline on this post, I’m not sharing all of my thinking with you.

Pros for working on Daermad Cycle next.

If I’m trading off on the series, it’s next in line as I published from Transformation Project last.

I thoroughly enjoy writing fantasy.

I’m at a point in the story where a lot of mystical elements and philosophic questions are coming to light.

The book cover for Fount of Dreams has already been done.

Cons for Daermad Cycle

Writing fantasy takes longer, so it will likely be another six months to a year before the book will be ready for publication, which is a long time between books

Daermad Cycle doesn’t sell so well as Transformation Project. They are different genres and fantasy sells less well than apocalyptic as a rule and I’m at a loss for marketing ideas.

Pros for working on Transformation Project next.

This writes fast. It’s set in a mostly modern world with people who think like ordinary Americans in an extraordinary circumstance.

My rabble-rousing on the blog acts as marketing for the books.

The third book really gets into the nitty-gritty of what is happening in the wake of the bombs.

Although the subjects are dark, I’m focusing on Cai more than Shane this book and Cai is a much less brooding character, so enjoyable to write.

Cons for Daermad Cycle

The cover is still in development.

I don’t want to lose momentum on Daermad Cycle.

It brings me that much closer to the dark turn in the series, which is artistically gratifying, but I suspect it will be depressing to write.

 

My decision?

The third book of Transformation Project – A Threatening Fragility — is my primary project for the next six months.

Because I always have a secondary and usually a tertiary project that I can go to when I get bored (so as to avoid writer’s block), Daermad Cycle 3 – Fount of Dreams – will be secondary and the rewrite my literary fiction What if Wasn’t will be the tertiary. My goal is to have A Threatening Fragility ready for publication mid-summer.

My Favorite Job   11 comments

This week’s Blog Hop topic is “What was our favorite non-writing job and why?”

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I don’t know what it feels like to be able to write full-time. I’m not independently wealthy, so I’ve always had to work a “real” job. My first job was working for my mother’s daycare after school. My second job was sweating to death in a laundrymat washing, drying and folding other people’s clothes. I’ve been a waitress, a newspaper reporter, all different kinds of cashier, a janitor, a house cleaner, a window washer, a hotel front desk clerk, a hotel maid, a professional photographer, a tour guide, a legal transcriptionist, a psychiatric transcriptionist, an administrative assistant and an administrator (which is basically an administrative assistant with responsibilities). I went to college to be a journalist, so you would think that would be my favorite job, but it really wasn’t.

Related imageMy top favorite job was as a front desk clerk for a campground here in Alaska. At the time it was the largest campground in Fairbanks with over 500 sites if you included all the tent sites. Norlite provided full-coverage camping – shower, laundry, dump station, motor home wash, water fill station, a convenience store, a liquor store, a small eatery, tourism information, about 40 full hookups, 100 electric and water hookups and hundreds of tent sites. On a full-to-the-gunnels day, we could host 1500 people from all over the United States and many foreign countries. And this site had a lot of tree-shaded sites, the owner’s garden and a watch goose. Yes, she was a goose who thought her job was campground security. If you’ve never had your behavior corrected by an irate goose, you have not learned discipline.

It was a great job! It paid minimum wage, but the owner Sarah was a gourmet cook, so we ate well. The first summer I worked there, it poured down rain from July 4 to Labor Day. And, I mean, POURED. Because we had to leave the office regularly, we were wet constantly — until I got smart and started coming to work in a tank top and shorts with rainproof sandals and a slicker. I’d come inside, hang up my slicker and be dry and warm because all of my clothes were dry. It took my coworkers weeks to figure out my secret.

The tourists liked me a lot. We weren’t allowed to solicit tips, but we could accept them if offered and the tourists would hire me to give them local tours during my off-hours. Sarah was big on us telling them about all the little out-of-the-way places they could visit, the tours they could book, the restaurants they could go to. I could convince tourists who planned to spend one night to stretch their stay to a week and bypass Anchorage entirely (they weren’t missing much).

The other three summers I worked there were HOT! These were also huge years for Alaska tourism, so we were always full. And there was always something going on. Snow on the 4th of July … yes, snow. It was HOT out when some of the visitors came in to tell me that it was snowing. I didn’t believe them because I was covered with sweat, but there really was white stuff coming out of the sky and melting into rain about two feet from the ground. There was the bear that wandered into town and spent a couple of hours rooting through a dumpster some tourist left open. There was the biker gang that stayed with us all one summer and acted as unofficial security. As their leader put it “We don’t piss in our own nest.” They might have been murdering people at the Rendevous, bu they were wonderful to us. One day some guy showed up to demand that we tell him where his wife was. She was staying with us to get away from his abusive self. When he started yelling at me, I wondered if I could get to the shotgun (yes, shotgun) fast enough to get him before he hurt me, but in walked two of the biker gang ladies who backed him out of the office and slapped him silly all the way to his truck. His wife stayed with us for the rest of the summer before she caught a flight to the Lower 48, but he never came back. While some people might think an incident like that was scary (and it was for a moment), it is one of those I look back on fondly.

There was the prostitute who pulled her trailer into the campground every spring and stayed until Labor Day. She was from the Mat-Su area, but had discovered that the construction crews here liked a nice tumble between jobs. Fairbanks has a long history of prostitution and we have our home-grown lot, but Wendy was very professional. We all knew what she was doing, but Sarah had an agreement with her that she would keep it subtle and it was fine. Sometimes the regular tourists would come in all atwitter about “that trailer”, but when asked, they had just realized that there was a different guy there every few hours. She wasn’t noisy or rude. They just thought that sort of thing was illegal, so why weren’t we doing something about it? Sarah would always say, with a wink, “That’s our entertainment committee.” Nobody ever called the cops, and because she worked all hours, Wendy was an additional set of eyes for nighttime campground security.

My third summer there was hot and the forests around Fairbanks were aflame. We had about 1500 people in the campground that day when a big rig pulled up outside, followed by two vans. A couple of men got out and asked if they could rent a tent site and some place to park this huge truck. Sarah and the brash man in charge agreed on three tent sites and she told me to lead them back to the “field”. It was hot and dusty and I had to go 5 mph on the little moped we used to led campers to their site. The young man driving the big rig remembers that my tank top was soaked in sweat and my braid was dripping water (I think I’d rinsed myself with the hose not long before they arrived). It wasn’t a great first impression, but he was amazed by this tiny little girl who took absolutely charge of a giant truck and his father, who is known to be a maverick. I admit that I didn’t see Brad other than as the guy behind the windshield. A couple of days later, we met formally as I was doing a rent audit and then later that day he came into the office to buy ice cream and just wouldn’t leave. We went out that night and the rest is somewhat infamous.

I could tell a hundred Norlite stories, but you should get the idea. It was outdoors, fun, interacting with the public, extremely service oriented, owned by entrepreneurs, casual, a little different every day, and filled with a lot of unexpected encounters. It was also a great place for a writer to get to know people.

And, wow, now I feel like writing a story based on it.

Posted March 6, 2017 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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The Greatest Story Ever Told   4 comments

The question for this week’s blog hop is “What is the greatest story ever told?”
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In terms of literary reference, that would be the Bible. Themes from it can be found in pretty much every Western book published prior to World War I and a majority of them up to World War 2.

Image result for image of a biblical battleThat said, the Bible is a huge source. There are literally hundreds of stories in the Bible. I always thought it was cliche for a writer who is a Christian to write stories based directly on the Bible, but a while ago a friend challenged me to do just that. I haven’t done it yet, but I’ve found about a half-dozen that I like that haven’t been done yet … as far as I know … so it doesn’t seem so cliche.

If you’ve never heard of Japhthah before, don’t feel bad. He’s a second player in the Book of Judges. You can be excused for missing his story. I was teaching a Sunday School lesson on the Roll Call of Faith from Hebrews and his name appeared. I’d never near of him before, so I had to research him.

The story begins with Israel again forsaking God and failing to serve Him. In a twist of irony, the “gods” Israel was worshipping belonged to the nations that God’s people had conquered in battle because Yahweh had given them the victory. Instead of worshiping Him, Israel is worshipping their “gods”.

 

To teach them a lesson, God turns the idolatrous Israel over to be slaves of the Philistines and Amonites, which afflict Israel for 18 years. God loves His people enough to discipline them with the goal of bringing them back to Him. Eventually, Israel repents, which is the first time Israel acknowledges her sin in the Book of Judges.

Okay, could be a standard Bible tale right now. Israel drifts away from God, God disciplines Israel, Israel returns to God.

Even though the Israelites confessed their sin, their repentance is short lived. God had granted them victory in the past, but rather than asking Him for a battle strategy, the Israelites seek out a human leader, rejecting Yahweh’s authority over them.

Jephthah was the illegitimate son of Gilead. His half-brothers had driven him out of their community and gone to live in Tob where he became a warlord, surrounded by other aggressive thugs. Jephthah’s brothers are unaware that they rejected the man who would be their savior. God has a good sense of humor. Jephthah turns out to be the most gifted guy in the family. God chooses the weak and foolish people of this world to shame the wise and strong.

As the Israelites face off against the Ammonites, Israel realized they need a general to lead them into war, so they ask Jephthah to be their leader. Jephthah responded: “Why now? You dogged me out, and now that you’re in need, you come crawling back on bended knee?” Jephthah and Israel agree that if he destroys the Ammonites he will become their “head and chief”. In this dialogue, Jephthah shows a lack of faith and manipulates the elders with shrewd diplomacy. He uses his powers of persuasion to assure himself of leadership.

In an attempt to avoid war, Jephthah preaches an eloquent and persuasive sermon to the King of Ammon. Basically, he says:

  • God gave Israel the land that they now occupy. Israel has lived on the land for centuries.
  • If the Ammonites declare war on Israel, they will be fighting against the Lord, which will result in disaster and defeat.

Jephthah tries to reason with the King of Ammon, but in the end, the King disregards the message.

As the battle between Israel and Ammon begins, Jephthah makes a vow to God that if He delivers the Ammonites into his hand, he will offer the first thing that comes out of his house upon his return as a burnt offering. It was a totally unnecessary vow, given in an attempt to manipulate God. Jephthah is a loud-mouthed braggart who wanted to look good before other men.

They win the battle, so when Jephthah comes home to Mizpah, his only child — his daughter — comes out to greet him. He tears his clothes and mourns that his daughter will now be sacrificed. He sent her away for two months to travel about with friends. Her final fate is not entirely certain. Textual critics believe that she was pledged to God’s service rather than actually killed. The reason they believe this is the emphasis on her virginity. Jephthah sacrificed a lasting legacy. Since there are other places in the Old Testament with a strong opposition to human sacrifice, I tend to believe this version of  the story, although I could write it either way and make it believable.

In later years, Jephthah turned on Israel. The tribe of Ephraim is insulted because he didn’t take them to fight the Ammonites, but Jephthah responded that he had called on them, but they didn’t show up. Jephthah and his men fight Ephraim, capture the land, and play a game of Bible Password. The death toll reached 42,000! Jephthah exacts revenge when offended and does not know the true character of the Lord or the content of His law.

I love flawed characters. They are so much more fun than perfect characters. I also like stories where God overcomes the flaws of people.  To me, Jephthah is an example of how God uses flawed people to accomplish His purposes and then gives him credit centuries later, even though he remained imperfect.

Posted February 27, 2017 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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What Is Love?   5 comments

What is love? How do I show it to my loved ones? Given that tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, this seems like a very appropriate topic.

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Love is a mystery because it isn’t just one thing. Is it an emotion? Is it action? Is it a mixture of both? People with a scientific mind sometimes explain all the feelings involved by proclaiming that love is simply a chemical reaction in our brains and is therefore nothing truly real—just a random byproduct of human brain chemistry developed through millions of years of human evolution.

As a Christian, I take my definition mostly from Scripture, where I learn that love is not solely an emotion and not solely an action, but that it is the Christian lifestyle.

In John 13:34-35 Jesus commanded Christians:

I give you a new commandment – to love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one anotherEveryone will know by this that you are my disciples – if you have love for one another.

This wasn’t a random comment. Jesus told his disciples to “love one another” three times. Obviously Jesus was stressing something of high importance. When we think of the word “love,” even in the Christian sense, we think of it as being accompanied by that “warm, fuzzy” feeling. I personally don’t feel that warm, fuzzy feeling with every single person I meet, whether they’re Christian or not. So does that mean love is absent? Absolutely not. This is because Christian love is not a feeling; although strong feelings can be involved. It’s a lifestyle.

A Pharisee once asked Jesus what the greatest command was, to which He replied:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 46  22:38 This is the first and greatest commandment. The second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  All the law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:36-39).

Similar to this, Jesus said:

In everything, treat others as you would want them to treat you, for this fulfills the law and the prophets.(Matthew 7:12)

This is where we get the cliché, “Treat others how you want to be treated,” also repeated in Luke 6:31.

Paul the apostle wrote:

Owe no one anything, except to love one another, for the one who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. For the commandments,Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not covet,(and if there is any other commandment) are summed up in this,Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. (Romans 13:8-10).

Because I wouldn’t want someone to commit adultery with my husband, I choose not to commit adultery … not just with my body, but also with my mind. Because I want other women not to lust after my husband, I work strenuously to not allow lust for anyone other than Brad to enter my mind. That means I don’t read erotica, as one example of a broader application. Similarly, I wouldn’t want someone to murder one of my loved ones, so I don’t intend to murder anyone. I would not want anyone to steal from me, so I don’t steal from others.

WebA more concrete definition of how we love people as Christians comes from 1 Corinthians 13:4-7:

Love is patient, love is kind, it is not envious. Love does not brag, it is not puffed upIt is not rude, it is not self-serving, it is not easily angered or resentful. It is not glad about injustice, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

This passage is the cliché of all weddings, which I believe is the primary reason why people mistake this passage as delineating human love in the romantic sense. Paul was talking about Christ-like love, not romance, but we can still use this passage as a guideline to love our significant other, so long as we recognize that it’s describing Christ-like love, not solely a romantic love.

It’s easy to do things for people by just going through the motions or out of obligation, but if you don’t love what you’re doing it for the benefit of that person and for the glory of God, then it means nothing. We aren’t expected to be 100% perfect in this First Corinthians list, but it has been given to us as a guideline on how to love others as Christ does. We ought to pray that Christ empower us to love in these ways to the best of our ability.

 

Posted February 13, 2017 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop, Uncategorized

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A Message to My Fans   Leave a comment

January 30 – write a letter to your fans. You might want to check my fellow bloggers and get back with me because this was a hard one.

But I did it ….

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Hi there, fans! Welcome to the blog.

Let me dispel immediately any notion you might have that I am writing from a garret or an ivory tower. There are probably writers who do live like that, but I wouldn’t know because I’m a crazy person who lives in Alaska where reality will push through the walls and freeze you solid if you try to ignore it.

In keeping with Alaska culture, I live a pretty practical life. I have a money job, two kids (both old enough to vote now), a husband and a yellow Labrador who is so cute if you look up “adorable” in the dictionary, you will find a picture of her. We heat with wood and haul diesel as a supplement. In the room where the wood stove blazes away, the walls are lined with book cases, some of them two books deep. Writing is something I do because I can’t not write. That’s not a mistaken sentence. Writing flows from me at every turn and I don’t know how to turn it off.

Fortunately, I don’t want to turn it off. It’s how I entertain myself and how I exorcise my demons and discipline my angels. The side benefit is that I can now share those stories with you.

I try to imagine who my fans are, but it’s really hard to tell based on the reviews on Amazon. I get such a variety. I also write in multiple genres, so I know I have different sorts of fans. Who reads high fantasy anymore? Hey, if you would like to introduce yourselves to me, feel free to drop a line on the blog or hit my email address. I know you’re out there. Someone’s buying and reading the books, but I don’t hear from you, so ….

I hear from fans of Transformation Project – libertarians and conservatives, people who like apocalyptics, some preppers. But again, I love to hear from folks because knowing who my fans are helps me to be a better writer.

A writer really hasn’t reached self-actualization until her writing has been read and appreciated. So thank you! You will never know how much you mean to me. I hope you will show how much my stories mean to you by leaving a review on Amazon, but even if you don’t … know that I smile to myself when I see that someone bought a book or read some pages. Some weeks my jaws ache from smiling and that’s a good feeling.

You’re also welcome to contact me, ask me questions, try to wrestle some hints from me on future plots … or even give me ideas of what you would like me to explore. No promises because manipulating my characters is similar to herding cats, but a writer can never have too many plot ideas and who better to get them from than her fans?

The days are getting longer here. There was still some sunset left in the sky when I left work last night. I went home and did some mean things to the nice people of Emmaus, but I’m also working on a satirical short story for an anthology. We still have 2 1/2 months of winter here regardless of what Phil the groundhog says, so expect to see another book out soon. I’ve got a literary fiction at the beta readers right now. Yes, a literary fiction! I might try my hand at a mystery next.

Thanks for reading … not just my novels, but also my blog posts. Hope you’re all well and curled up somewhere warm reading.

Lela Markham

Posted January 30, 2017 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop, Uncategorized

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What Makes A Man   3 comments

Post background information on your characters (possibly things that will never be in the books, but are back of who they are)

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lifeasweknewitIt’s an interesting question … what makes a man? We are all the sum total of the things that have happened to us from birth to any moment in time. These experiences determine how we react in any given circumstance. They are the foundation of who we are today. It’s a question

It’s a question authors ought to ask about our characters because answering that question gives a character depth. You don’t necessarily need to share the answers with your readers, but it helps if you know the answers for yourself. It’s the difference between a flat one-dimensional character and a multi-faceted person who lives on the page.

Since my characters just sort of invade my brain rather than my constructing them, I often don’t know what makes them tick until long into the writing process. They will suddenly react to something in a certain way and I’ll go “hmm? Now why’d you do that?” Generally, these characters will not allow me to redirect them, so I have to answer the question – What made you the way that you are?

In Transformation Project (an apocalyptic series that currently includes Life As We Knew It and Objects in View), I have two brothers who are very different from one another. They were raised by the same people, have the same sister, in the same town, only a couple of years apart in age. They even dated the same girl … and one of them married her. So why are they so different?

To a certain extent, the difference started before birth. Their mother’s pregnancy with Shane was more difficult — he was very active, he was early, he gave her morning sickness for eight months. He was a more demanding baby, prone to colic, and impossible to put on a schedule. He crawled early, walked at eight months, and climbed the stairs before he was a year.

Meanwhile, Cai was an easy pregnancy, a calm baby, who slept through the night by six weeks, and reached his milestones only a few weeks ahead of other kids. The first child, he was immediately one of the bright kids when he got to school and would eventually be valedictorian. He excelled at team sports, was the prom king, and a good church kid. He went on to a great college career, followed by law school, followed by taking a job as the City attorney for Emmaus. He’s paying off his student loans by living with his parents. The only bumps in his road have been getting a girl pregnant and her deciding to get an abortion and marrying his brother’s long-time sweetheart after his brother left town with no intentions of returning. He’s just an easy-going, practical guy, voted most likely to succeed.

objectsinviewShane also did very well in school. He could have been the valedictorian, but his girlfriend beat him out of it. A pivotal moment for shaping his life happened when he was about 9 and was tossed from a horse, causing a dislocated shoulder. It was a somewhat remote location, which required him to get back on the horse and ride to help. He liked individual sports – wrestling, kickboxing, running and horseback riding. He lost his virginity at 14 to that long-time girlfriend. He also drank and smoked pot. He had no use for church growing up, even though he admires his grandfather’s faith. He fell in with his girlfriend’s father, who supplies alcohol to dry Kansas counties. He worked other local jobs in high school too. He was an adventurer who liked to push the edge of safety. He studied to become a pilot and ran up student loans, then got caught selling pot to someone at college, which brought him into contact with his roommate’s father, an FBI agent who needed someone from Emmaus to act as a confidential informant with a militia just outside of Emmaus. Although that operation turned out well for the government, it blew up in Shane’s face by estranging him from his girlfriend and her father. This required him to flee town. His grandfather innocently connected him up with a small air freight company (owned by the son of a friend) that turned out to be controlled by a drug cartel, which caused his current handler to recruit him as an informant. That later led to deployment to the Middle East, which had its own set of influences good and bad.

So, now, in the maelstrom of the post-apocalypse, these two men react to what comes their way in very different ways. I like playing with the two characters, knowing that they won’t act the same. Because I find force characters to do things against their wills results in wasted writing time, I sometimes have to adjust my plot to please the characters. I suspect Shane and Cai will scare each other to death and that they will secretly admire one another’s technique while being utterly incapable of imitating it. I also suspect, if the series goes on long enough, that they’ll learn from each other … at least to know when to get out of the other’s way.

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