Archive for the ‘#mondayblogs’ Tag

So Many Titles   4 comments

What’s on your “TBR” (to be read) list?

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=”32f2812b304c4632b29fb2be80aa1d50″ 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/32f2812b304c4632b29fb2be80aa1d50” 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=”32f2812b304c4632b29fb2be80aa1d50”]https://fresh.inlinkz.com/p/32f2812b304c4632b29fb2be80aa1d50

That Tower Might Crush Me

The Anatomy of the State (LvMI) by [Murray N. Rothbard]

I love to read and I have a collection of books on a thumb drive that are just waiting for me to read them. Uh, yeah — so many titles. All are worthwhile and I do get around to them occasionally when I’m traveling or if the Internet is down at the house. But then there’s the books on Kindle and the actual print books that sway my books shelves. I’ve read most of those at one time, but I’d like to go back and reread some of them again — someday.

What’s on My List?

Conceived in Liberty is a multi-volume series (on Kindle it pretends to be a single book) about the history of the United States — mostly before it was the United States. It’s really in-depth and it is from the perspective of liberty, so where liberty was growing and where it was nearly stomped out. You’d be surprised at some of the things Murray Rothbard uncovered. What we were taught in school — mostly not true. It’s written pretty well so it’s not as boring as some history books, but reading one chapter of a huge series doesn’t make a large dent in finishing the book. I believe I’ve been reading it for five years now–just occasionally. I haven’t even gotten to the French-and-Indian War yet.

Anatomy of the State is another Murray Rothbard book (thankfully not nearly so long) that I’ve been wanting to read for several years and I finally added it to my list a few weeks ago. I think I’ll tackle it this winter. It delves into history a bit, but it has a mostly political philosophy focus.

The fourth book in Brandon Sanderson’s The Stormlight Archives came out this year and I just bought Rhythm of War to add to my winter TBR list.

I’m trying to finish Apocalypse Never in the next few weeks. Michael Shellenberger is an environmental reporter who was an extremist environmentalist ideologue for a number of years who finally couldn’t ignore the evidence of real environmental science says he and his fellow ideological travelers are wrong on so many levels. It’s a great book because he is taking himself to task for his crimes against society at the same time he’s highlighting the various issues that fall under environmental extremism. I’m about 60% through.

Michael Malice published an anthology of great anarchist thinkers from the past called The Anarchist Handbook and I’m working my way through it one essay at a time.

My husband has asked that we read The Gulag Archipelago together this winter. I’ve previously read parts of it, but he thinks he could get through it if we did it together. I’ll read a chapter, he’ll read a chapter, somewhere around January, he’ll decide he’s done, and I might finish the entire book.

I also have some light and fluffy books on my list to act as breaks from the heavy stuff.

And then there’s my all-time favorite – the Bible. I’m currently working my way through the Epistle to the Romans.

My TBR Tower Is Much Bigger

I just keep adding to it, so I’m not going through the whole list here. I might read some shorter essays I have on the thumb drive. Or I might dive deeply into something like On Walden Pond. You just never know. Currently, I’m reading a lot of libertarian literature because I have to remake society in Transformation Project and I’m trying to figure out what their secret sauce ought to be. Plus, I just enjoy reading a different tack on the society I live in — how might it be more peaceful and less abusive. I’m pretty fed us with the duopoly and the constant fighting that is just digging us into a deeper hole, so I’ve sought out alternative viewpoints for some hope for the future.

What I Don’t Want to Share   10 comments

Oct 4, 2021 Does ‘show don’t tell’ ever run up against your personal prohibitions?

SHOW NOT TELL' IN STORY COMPOSITION | ACE ENGLISH

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=”d56877851c404b42ad70795e81e94f3b” 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/d56877851c404b42ad70795e81e94f3b” 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%20rel=</span><!– end InLinkz code –>[fresh_inlinkz_code id=”d56877851c404b42ad70795e81e94f3b”]https://fresh.inlinkz.com/p/d56877851c404b42ad70795e81e94f3b

Prohibitions

Let’s start off with the truth. As a writer, I believe showing is better than telling and I do it all the time. Now for a personal confession. I enjoy sex — in the privacy of my bedroom with my husband. It’s an intimate affair. Over the 35 years of my marriage, maybe the cat is sometimes a witness. When we were new-married we had a bedroom without a door and a dog who would jump up on the bed after we’d settled down for the night. She never interrupted sex. Maybe she too understood sex is an intimate affair. She’d also go behind bushes when she needed to go to the bathroom, as if she thought that ought to have some privacy too. We locked the door when the kids were old enough to barge. When we lived in a small two-room cabin, we’d have sex in the living room because we knew we’d hear them coming up the stairs from the bedroom. Once when we were camping, we looked up to see a very startled squirrel watching us through the tent screen. We started laughing so hard we couldn’t finish. A similar event happened once with a moose. We aren’t exhibitionists.

It’s not that I’ve got anything to hide. It’s just that I have nothing I want you to see.

So, no, I’m not going to describe sex to you in my books because that would be like inviting readers into my bedroom and that’s an intimate place. Just two people allowed. No lookie-luus.

Don’t Cheat!

We have a pretty strict rule in our marriage — Don’t cheat! I wouldn’t say that’s the secret to keeping a marriage together for decades — I think that’s probably forgiveness and grace for the other person’s foibles — but breaking that rule has ended more marriages I’m personally aware of than I can count on two hands. So, I always wonder how women (particularly) who write a lot of sex scenes manage to look their husbands in the eye after they’ve mentally cheated on him. Maybe there’s some trick that I just don’t understand, but I know I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t imagine Cai having sex with Marnie in all the intimate details, write that and publish it for the whole world to read, and then turn around and look my husband in the eye with a clean conscience. If you can do that, fine, and go about your life in peace, but I can’t…so I don’t. It’s kind of like masturbation. Does anyone fantasize about having sex with their spouse when they pleasure themselves? I haven’t found a lot of people who do. That doesn’t mean masturbation is evil — it’s darned handy when you’re separated from your spouse by hundreds of miles for months…or if you’re single…or if your spouse doesn’t mind (though never met a lot of those, either) — but it does mean that when you’re doing it, you’re mentally cheating on the person you promised not to cheat on and that’s a problem for me. Whether I do it in a book or just inside my head, that’s a problem for me and I don’t want it to become a problem with my marriage. Marriages are hard enough to hold together without adding that element to it.

Less Is More

So that’s one area where my personal prohibitions won’t allow me to “show don’t tell.” I strive to write realistic characters who have sex and pee and crap in the woods, but readers don’t need me to describe it. With very few exceptions, readers have had the experience I’m referring to and can draw their own conclusions. My characters get dressed a lot. Why would they be naked in a freezing-cold bedroom in the middle of the afternoon? Why would they visit the “squatting pits” while on campaign? Yeah, I think my readers are smart enough to figure that out. And that leaves me with more pages to “show not tell” about other things — wars, sorcery, how to rewrite a constitution, how to save someone’s life. There’s lots of things to write about. I don’t need to write about sex.

Kitchens Rule   20 comments

Sept 6, 2021

Does food play an important part in your writing? How about sharing a favorite recipe of one of your characters, or maybe one of yours?

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=”382df102d1a14994a3c0281549966f83″ 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/382df102d1a14994a3c0281549966f83” 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%20rel=</span><!– end InLinkz code –>[fresh_inlinkz_code id=”382df102d1a14994a3c0281549966f83″]https://fresh.inlinkz.com/p/382df102d1a14994a3c0281549966f83

Food in My Fictional Worlds

Food plays different roles in my fictional worlds, depending on the situation.

Daermad Cycle

I pay attention to details in Daermad Cycle (The Willow Branch and Mirklin Wood, Fount of Wraiths coming this year) as part of the world-building process of a Celtic fantasy world. The characters live in a feudal society where the farmers pay taxes in crops and merchants pay taxes in goods. Coin exists but it’s mainly used by people who sell services — innkeepers, for examples. This dictates the sort of food my characters have access to. The poor rarely eat beef because milk is a renewable protein resource. They know the nobility enjoy beef, so they pay their taxes on the hoof should a male calf be born to their milk cow. Pigs eat ANYTHING and their meat is tasty so poor people are more likely to raise them for meat. Sheep give you great cloth and can be eaten when they get old. Chickens give you eggs (another renewable protein source) and you can eat the extra males. The poor eat a simple diet of meat (often pork, mutton, and poultry) and vegetables (turnips and parsnips since potatoes don’t exist in their world), with barley bread. Barley porridge and bread for breakfast. The reason barley is so common is a function of taxes. The nobility demand a certain amount of wheat but they don’t require barley, so most wheat goes to the nobility in taxes while barley is sold for profit. What wheat is left over is sold to wealthier merchants at a higher profit margin. There are guilds that control the price of wheat to assure the poor can’t really afford it.

There’s also some geographic variation. People who live in the north rarely eat fish because they’re too busy growing food to spend them putting a line and hook in a stream. People who live in the south, along Celdrya’s coast, eat a lot of fish because there are fishermen catching and selling fish. Both the nobility and the commoners eat fish, but they tend to prepare it differently.

In Celdryan society everybody drinks ale because some Celdryans haven’t figured out not to put their midden heaps and outhouses next to the well and the alcohol in ale kills those nasty bugs. Even children drink watered ale. The nobility and wealthy merchants also drink mead and wine, but the wine is imported from Hanalan (a more southerly country), so only the wealthy can afford it. Only very well-healed taverns sell it, but ale comes in two varieties–light and dark. The dark has more alcohol and thus costs more.

The Celdryans eat what might be termed a Euro-medieval diet, but the neighboring Kin eat a more plant-based diet often with wild game meat and rye grain because they live in the mountains. They tend not to keep cattle, preferring goats for their milk and general hardiness. They also keep sheep and tend to eat mutton for special occasions. Drinking spirits is not as common as in Celdrya. Because they live in the mountains, they don’t have worry about human sewage and they actually do know that your outhouse and midden heaps should be far away from the cisterns.

My characters are both nobility and commoners, Celdryan and Kin. Padraig — the part-elven son of a Celdryan nobleman who chose to become a commoner — walks in both worlds, but I try to pay careful attention to what he eats when he’s with one group or the other. It matters. It’s a subtle backdrop to the stratification of society. I don’t draw attention to it, but it’s there for Daermad Cycle readers to notice if they care to.

Transformation Project

In Transformation Project, my characters are starving. It’s the apocalypse after all and food is running out. In the beginning of the series (Life As We Knew It), I spent a lot of effort to concentrate on what they were eating because I knew they’d soon be starving. I described the food Shane, Mike and Alicia ate at a Mediterranean restaurant. I identified the coffee Shane likes to drink. I described breakfast at the Lufgren Farm. I wanted to show that life was normal, even abundant in the life they knew. Even in Objects in View (Book 2), I did a little bit of food (and booze) focus because I knew where I was headed in coming books. Now, in Worm Moon (draft) there’s discussions of cannibalism. I imagine the Delaney family ate pretty much what my family eats, just swap out an occasional caribou roast with deer. And now, they down to “licking postage stamps for the calories” as the always-up-for-a-quip Stan Osimowitzc said in A Threatening Fragility.

Recipes

Fried Green Tomato Sandwich with Bacon and Pimiento - Taste and Tell

It’s fall here in Alaska and we’re trying to get our tomatoes to ripen before it becomes too cold for them. They’re all wearing plastic bags right now, but they might have another week. But if they don’t ripen before nature closes down the growing season, I will definitely make fried green tomatoes. So, here’s my recipe.

Ingredients (feeds four)

4 medium to large green tomatoes

2 eggs

1 cup AP flour

1/2 cup corn meal

Kosher salt to taste

Ground pepper to taste

Bacon

Frying oil – I prefer about a half-inch of oil in a cast iron skillet, but the lady who developed this recipe with me (a true Southerner transplanted to Alaska) likes to use a quart of oil (that’s too much for me. Opinions very.)

Preparation

Fry the bacon.

Remove bacon to draining plate.

Add frying oil to bacon grease. Heat pan to medium.

Slice tomatoes 1/2 inch thick

Dust with AP flour

Beat eggs with a splash of milk.

Dredge flour-dusted tomatoes in egg-mixture.

Dredge in corn meal. (If you like really crunchy tomatoes, dredge in eggs again and then toss in bread crumbs. I prefer Italian style when I do it. My son finds them overdone, so I tend to go with the simpler recipe).

Place the tomatoes 4-5 at a time in the hot oil and grease mixture. Flip when golden brown. When second side is golden brown, remove to a drain plate. Serve with bacon or as a Bacon-Lettuce-Tomato sandwich. (Even better with cheese).

BONUS

Add sliced potatoes and onions to the still hot pan and fry until done. Serve as a side with the bacon and tomatoes for a more dinner-like presentation. Add some bread to round it all out.

Quite tasty!

I wonder what my fellow blog-hoppers are cooking up.

Posted September 6, 2021 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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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

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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

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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.

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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.

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