Archive for the ‘#openbook’ Tag

Speed Control   7 comments

Do you have any tips on controlling pacing in your stories? How do you manage it?

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It’s their story, but..

As a discovery writer who lets my characters tell me the story of their lives, I think pacing is one of the hardest writing goals to achieve. I earnestly believe that great characters drive the plot and their story matters more than just about anything else in the story, but sometimes they get so caught up in minutia that I have to move them along. Other times, they tell me story after story of unending motion and I have to slow them down. It’s all in trying to take the needs of the audience into account.

No matter how interesting a character might be, 20 pages of them making breakfast will wear down any reader and make the delete the book from their Kindle. So what do I do to keep things interesting?

It depends on the series. Transformation Project is much more of an action-oriented plot than What If Wasn’t or Daermad Cycle. And, yet, a fast pace isn’t always effective even for an apocalyptic. You need a balance between slow and fast scenes and probably some scenes that are moderate in pace too. It provides variety and that keeps the reader interested.

I do this by writing different types of chapters filled with sentences that are dissimilar.

Step on the Gas

When I want to speed up the pace or write an actual scene, I shorten my sentences to give them a sense a urgency. They take less time to read, so readers actually experience it that way. I get directly to the point and skip the unnecessary descriptions.

Short pithy exchanges of dialogue go a long way toward speeding up the pace. I try to add an element on confrontation and to let the way the characters use their words convey their underlying personalities.

The other thing I like to do to press on the accelerator is to employ cliffhangers. I’ll get to the climax of an action scene and hit the brakes, switch to a quieter scene and let the reader wait before resolving the action.

Using very active verbs that connote movement also contributes to the speed of the plot. A fight scene increases the pace as it adds a sense of urgency and danger. Even in What If Wasn’t, it sometimes pays to speed up the plot with something busy and quick in movement, to keep the reader interested.

All these make the reader feel as though he or she is rushing through the story. Everything contributes to the sense that the story is driving forward to an important arrival and we aren’t paying attention to anything else.

Now Slow It Down

Even thrillers need to slow down and smell the roses sometimes. I don’t want to wear my reader out by never giving them a rest.

You know how it is with a Beethoven piece — there’ll be a section of big music with a lot of movement and then suddenly it will be slowed down to just a piccolo and a violin pretending to be a bird in a forest glade? That’s kind of how I want my writing to be.

Slowing the pace means writing longer sentences and longer paragraphs and sometimes even longer chapters. My characters talk about their pasts, their philosophies, the day-to-day struggle of living after the apocalypse. I increase the number of passive voice sentences, but only by a little bit. I want to slow my readers down, not put them to sleep. My characters notice their setting–slower pacing is a great time for description. They also notice their own internal dialogue more. Now is the time to do some world-building.

Alternatively, since I’m writing series, a slower-paced section can be accomplished by shifting my focus to a secondary storyline. My stories are less a straight-road and move a web of interconnecting characters all with their own lives and stories to tell. Subplots are a great way to provide respite from the faster pace of the main narrative. These plot sloughs create great territory for flashbacks (which PTSD-sufferer Shane Delaney experiences often), backstory, character enrichment, or laying the groundwork for future plot. That said, I have to disallow myself some subplots as you can overdo and devolve into rabbit-chasing. I love subplots and characters, but I need to keep my reader in mind when I’m writing to publish.

I often keep the subplots I delete as story fodder for a future rainy day. I never know when the information you’ve put in a bit of writing will become a full-fledged plot someday in a future book.

Posted August 1, 2022 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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Creative Cover   8 comments

Do you create your own covers? Work with a cover artist to design them? Hand your ideas over to a professional and let them come up with a design? Buy a pre-made cover?

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Cookie Cutter

So before I answer the question, I thought I’d explain why I don’t buy premade covers. Some are actually quite lovely, clearly created by professionals. However, readers do indeed judge a book by its cover and if your cover looks like a couple of dozen of others available, that’s not a great advertisement for your book. I get it! Custom covers cost a lot of money and if you’re not an artist, you shouldn’t do your own cover. But if you can avoid have a cover that looks like someone else’s cover, you should.

History

When I first decided to look into this self-publishing thing, I joined a group on the internet called “Authonomy.” You had to have a cover for your draft book and you got a lot of feedback from your fellow authors. I was trying to figure out what I should use when my daughter, who is an artist, wandered through the room and offered to help me out. With her help, I selected a photo of an Alaska painting that we would later learn belonged to our bank — a weird coincidence. It was beautiful. Mountains and a haunting moon that was part of the narrative of The Willow Branch. It said it didn’t have a copyright and I wasn’t using it to make money. Several months later, I happened to be walking down a back corridor in our bank and saw the painting on the wall. I asked about it. It was done by a local artist and they had no idea the image was on the internet. They said it was okay to use it, but I knew the cover of the published book would need to be different. Fortunately, I knew an artist.

Bri created a lovely otherwordly image that contained the elements of the painting, but from disparate elements and I used that in the first publication of The Willow Branch. She also did my next book cover, for Life As We Knew It. I really loved the cover of The Willow Branch, but the cover for LAWKI didn’t quite suite me, but she was doing it for a roof over her head and three squares, so I was grateful for what I got.

Then I was performing a backup one evening when we had a brownout, which fried my backup device and corrupted my cover images. Bri had just left to tour the Lower 48 as a musician and I was stuck.

She put me in touch with a friend of hers who could help me. We really didn’t agree on book cover design, so he showed me how to use a photo editing program. We really struggled with recreating the cover for The Willow Branch, although he did take my instruction on the cover for Life As We Knew It. We liked each other personally, and he insisted I had enough artistry to do my own covers if I took my time. Furthermore, I’d taken typography courses in college as part of my journalism degree. And I have a friend with similar skills who thought it would be fun to help.

I do my own…with help

I helped Bri’s friend Alex recreate The Willow Branch and Life As We Knew It covers, but I’ve primarily done my own since. I seek feedback from others and sometimes my friend Lauri helps me with suggestions or does some of the photo editing. The images on the cover of Objects in View are all photos I’ve taken. My covers are essentially collages of images clipped from other photos. We also use our husbands and kids as evaluators. Each cover is unique to the book I’ve written and so far I’ve only second-guessed myself on one. I’m not sure I’ll go with the cover I selected for my next, as-yet-not-published book. While I like the basic premise, I’m not sure I like it enough. For now, it’s a placeholder in the previous book for what comes next. One of the joys of self-publishing is that you’re not stuck with a cover you don’t like. If another one comes along that you like better, you can always swap out.

Posted July 19, 2022 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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What That Makes You   7 comments

What assumptions do people make about you when they hear you are a writer?

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Making Assumptions

I suppose you’ve heard the old saw about what making assumptions says about you?

Enough said on that topic since this is a family-friendly blog.

Assumptions Made About Me

I’ve only really encountered three assumption from people who learn I’m a writer.

The first two are perhaps understandable. What do nonwriters know about the lives of writers?

First, they assume I’m unpublished. Twenty years ago, they would have been correct because back then the big publishing houses could control the gateways to publishing, but that’s changed in recent years. It’s an understandable assumption but an incorrect one. I wrote for my own entertainment for a long time, but now I write for the entertainment of a paying audience.

Then, upon hearing I’ve actually published 15 novels, they leap to another incorrect assumption — that writing is all I do. This is not true. I have a life outside of writing (or my life includes writing) and I also have a money job that pays for things like the mortgage, medical care, and funding my retirement. It takes a lot of effort and no small amount of luck to become a self-published author whose writing pays the bills. I’m not there yet. Because I don’t assume stuff, I am not expecting to quit my job before my retirement plan reaches maturity.

The third one is an assumption that I find annoying. They leap to the assumption that published authors make a lot of money and therefore I’m rich. This is most annoying when it’s my husband’s relatives making these assumptions. My books do make money, but they don’t make me rich. In fact, if you look at the lives of truly professional writers, you quickly learn that most aren’t rich. Even the ones who work for a big publishing house make middle incomes.

And, so this third type of assumers truly earn my first comment. There’s no such thing as a free lunch, folks, and I don’t have a huge bank account. Maybe someday my books will get the readership (and the earnings) I believe they deserve, but for now, they’re a hobby that pays for itself.

Introducing   8 comments

How do you come up with the names for your characters?

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Naming Conventions

I write in several genres, so naming my characters varies depending on what book I’m writing.

In Daermad Cycle, which is a Celtic-inspired fantasy, there are several races of peoples and of course they have different names. It wouldn’t make sense to just select names at random. For the Celtic names, I google Celtic names and then adapt to the novel’s naming conventions. For the Svard names, I google Scandinavian names. Those are pretty easy. However, there are no real-world equivalents for Kindred names because they are the indigenous population of a fictional world. I created a naming convention — paternal last name first, clan name second, first name last — and then I just began goggling names from various cultures around the world. I slowly developed a sense of what I thought the Kindred would consider to be good names and then I set about deciding what my characters, who mostly already existed, should be called.

In Transformation Project and What If Wasn’t, these are stories set in more or less contemporary America. Transformation Project is set in Kansas, but based loosely on the North Dakota town my mother grew up in. The culture of that town is a mixture of German-, Scandinavian-, and Irish-descended people. I mostly troll online telephone directories for American Midwestern towns. I find last names I think work for my fictional community’s ethnic structure and then I separately find first names that I think go well with those last names. I’ve run across some truly interesting names in my telephone book searches, but I (regretfully) choose not to use them as they are because I don’t want anyone with a unique name feeling as if I somehow stalked them.

What If Wasn’t is set in Long Island, New York, and I pretty much did the same thing, although the name Peter is one I’ve always liked and my husband doesn’t, so since it couldn’t be our son’s name, I set it on my main character. I wouldn’t want my child to go through the tough times Peter has been through. The name Ben Anderson actually is a real person’s name, the best friend of a high school friend of mine who gave his friends as much reason to be sad as Peter does. I guess it’s kind of a tribute to a guy I haven’t seen in 30 years.

Some names just come to you. In What If Wasn’t, there’s a character called Grey. He’s the father of Trevor Grey, one of Peter’s friends, and he’s also Alan Wyngate’s best friend (Alan is Peter’s father). He was Grey from about 30 seconds after I started writing the character and I didn’t really give much thought to his real first name. When I wrote the third book in the series, I found I needed him to have a first name for official reasons. Why would a man call himself “Grey Grey?” Well, if he had a dorky first name, that would be a good reason. So, I listed out a bunch of names my generation considered to be dorky back in our day and Melvin stood out. Of course, a lot of those kind of dorky names from back then are being revitalized and coming back into use, but that doesn’t mean Melvin Grey has to like his name. He’s a rich eccentric businessman. If he wants to just have one name, why not? It works for Cher and Bono.

So, I do have a method to naming of characters, but sometimes the method can be a little obscure. Sometimes, I just like a name. For example, Jazz Tully in Transformation Project. I worked with a woman several years ago who went by Jazz. She explained her real name was Jessica, but her toddler brother couldn’t manage Jess. It came out as something like Jazz, so she collected this nickname. I knew Shane’s eventual love interest would be named Jazz before I even sat down to create the character because it’s a name that should be used.

On the other hand, Marnie Callahan Delaney, Cai’s wife, was never supposed to be Marnie. The character had been around in my head for a while. I knew her personality, but not her name. When I wrote the initial scene with her in it, I choose “Marnie” (a friend’s name) as a placeholder, fully intending to try out names for her later. But when I got back on edit, the character had accepted “Marnie” as her name and resisted changing to the name I’d researched and selected.

I’ve said before that my characters can develop opinions of their own and if I try to push too hard, they stop talking to me, so I let her keep Marnie, even though it meant I had to reset Maggie’s name. She’s Marnie’s mother and I knew she would name her two daughters with a first initial that corresponded to hers and her son with a first initial that corresponded with his father’s. Although I never wrote the scene, I created one in my head where Maggie and Jason argued over the name change of their daughter on the day of her birth and in doing so, I convinced the character of Maggie–a very strong-willed woman–to accept her own name change. I also had to reset Marnie’s sister’s name to Marie, but since the character is dead when the series began, that was easy. Dead characters in my novels have no opinions, for which I am grateful.

I wonder how my fellow writers develop names for their characters.

Posted May 16, 2022 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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It’s a Business   9 comments

May 2, 2022

What did you do with your first book “paycheck?” (Thanks for reminding me of this idea, Richard.)

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Where have I been?

First, I want to apologize for being absent the last few weeks. My husband had trade shows and I was helping. I just couldn’t get my act together for the blog. And our kitchen ceiling sprang a leak last week, so…yeah. Life got in the way.

I Reinvested

I know, so boring, but truthfully, I try to approach this venture as a business. The Willow Branch owed me money that came from my paycheck and it was tempting to go spend it on a nice lunch or celebratory dinner, but that would just mean the book still owed me money, and I had less money to invest in making the book profitable, so I reinvested those first earnings into advertising. Two years passed before The Willow Branch had paid back its initial investment and then I took my husband to a celebratory dinner courtesy of the book paid for from actual profits.

I know, so capitalistic! But with each subsequent book, I’ve gotten better at marketing until now the books generally pay off their initial investment within three-to-six months of publication. It’s still a hobby, but it is a hobby that pays for itself because I treat it like a small business.

Posted May 2, 2022 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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On Being an Adult   1 comment

Where were you at 21? How does that reflect in your writing today?

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Grown Up

These days, a lot of young people are not anywhere near being adults at 21. I’ve noticed some of my daughter’s friends are still relying on Mom and/or Dad when they’re nearing 30. Certainly that’s common with my son’s age group of 23.

When I was 21, it was common for young people to be out on their own, holding down jobs, sometimes having kids, definitely paying their own bills. Even those of us who were going to college had bills to pay and usually worked at least in the summers. My mom didn’t make a lot of money. She owned a daycare center and that hadn’t yet become a license to steal. Her major goal in life (besides living indoors) was for me to graduate from college, so she and I worked out a deal. I would work for her running the errands a daycare provider finds difficult to do and that would pay my rent and board. I was an adult in all other ways. I paid my own tuition, I provided my own transportation, and bought my own clothes. In order to do this, I worked a full-time job plus a part-time job in the summer and a part-time job in the winter, plus running those errands for Mom all year long. Sometimes I’d step in at the daycare and give Mom a break, There was no internet back then, so errands had to be done in person (the US Postal Service was not quite as dysfunctional as it is today, but close enough that Mom didn’t trust it to pay in-town bills). Along with helping in the daycare, that usually worked out to about 10 hours a week. I studied to the squeals of small children in the living room. I took as many of my classes early in the morning so that I could head back to the house in the afternoon to help for an hour or two. While I did socialize, I couldn’t really afford to waste my time because it was limited and I really couldn’t afford to waste my money because that was hard won from 60-hour weeks.

Consequences

How does that affect my writing today? Everything we do in life has consequences and we can’t help but put a little of ourselves into our writing.

My main characters tend to be hard working people who don’t rely on others unless they absolutely have to. They’re the kind of people who face giant tasks a bite at a time without despair because they know hopelessness won’t get them very far. While some of them can be dragged down by major events, you’ll rarely see a main character of mine who doesn’t eventually climb out of the pit and start working toward their goal again. And they very rarely whine that their circumstances were someone else’s fault.

It’s how I was raised by my Greatest Generation parents and it’s how I have lived my life. My favorite characters are people who have a bit of myself or someone I admire in them.

I have a full-time job and produce at least one, sometimes two (and during Covid, three) books a year. I wouldn’t say I’m a workaholic because I would being writing regardless if I made a profit or shared it with others, but I do like to keep busy and I find I am happier and healthier if I have stuff to occupy my mind. I guess I could read more books instead of write them, but I enjoy writing too much to give it up.

Posted March 29, 2022 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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Adopting My Own Chaucers   5 comments

Do you have a favorite secondary character in your books? Or a favorite sub-plot?

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A Knight’s Tale shows the power of a well-written secondary character to capture the heart of the audience. We all adored Heath Ledger’s servant-turned-night, but it was Paul Bellamy’s character of Chaucer that got all the attention.

In other examples, there’s the fine comic characters Shakespeare sprinkled throughout his plays. Many of us remember their lines more than we remember those of the main character.

Favorite Byways

Secondary characters and subplots can be all sorts of fun because I feel freer to experiment with them, be a little quirky, do the unexpected.

Since I write series, there’s a lot of subplots that are side channels to the main story arc. I’m not sure I can identify something as a subplot. Some of these little detours have become important elements to the main plot that will bear fruit in later books.

Favorite Second Bananas?

This is where I have an easier time answering. Some of my favorite secondary characters might become primary characters in later books, but this is where they stand currently.

Stan Osimowitz, mayor of Mara Wells, is a secondary character I almost always enjoy writing. He’s loosely based on some men I knew growing up. Always ready with a quip, Stan makes wry comments about his world on a daily basis.

For the exact opposite reason, I enjoy writing Alex Lufgren (also from Transformation Project). Alex is earnest and moral and he absolutely loves. Originally, I thought he’d be a main character, but so far he’s been a back-burner slow development and yet, think he’s going to do some big things in future books. Why? Because I know the story he’s telling me. It’s totally consistently Alex, but it’ll surprise some folks.

Over in the What If Wasn’t universe, Trevor Grey remains my favorite side character who has the potential to carry a book all on his own. Trevor is bigger than life — bold, quirky, and a good friend despite the complications that are hinted at from time to time. I especially enjoy that he has no filter because when the obvious needs to be spoken, Trevor can be counted on to blurt it out. He’s got a lot of potential as a character and that’s what I want in side characters — to give me an opportunity to use them for something bigger. As you read, you just know there’s more there than meets the eye, so where is the character going to go next. I’m not telling, of course, but Trevor won’t disappoint, I promise.

In the What If Wasn’t series, my favorite side character became a main character in the third book — Clotilde Matrim Wyngate burst out of her mousy role as the family housekeeper to reveal herself as Alan Wyngate’s young wife. I knew that was coming from the first book, but I didn’t really know who Tilly would be until I started writing her and I couldn’t be more pleased with her transformation. She will also have a future in the rest of the series.

Side Characters and Subplots

I think they provide enormous opportunities to play with a story a bit, to do things you can do with your main characters and create some fun variety from the main plot. Especially with writing series, I need to toss in some variety to freshen the story while continuing toward the final destination.

What We Don’t Know   6 comments

What is the strangest bit of information you’ve run across while doing research for a story? Or maybe the strangest word?

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Research, then Research Some More

Strange facts are bound to show up if you research for an apocalyptic book series. There’s a lot of things I don’t know…or didn’t until I started to write. For example, my town of Emmaus in Transformation Project is set amid Kansas corn fields. I’d driven through Kansas, I’d seen the corn fields and I knew a few things about corn that the average American doesn’t know because my mother grew up on a Midwestern farm, but really, I didn’t know what I needed to know to write from the perspective of an Emmaus farmer. That became obvious when a alpha reader from the Interior Writers’ group said “I don’t think you can eat ethanol corn.” I needed to know that for sure because it was vital information for my town surviving until spring. You CAN eat dent — ethanol corn. Like all corn, it needs nixtamalization with food-grade lime or wood ask to release the nutrients for human consumption and it isn’t tasty eats, but you can eat it.

In a related topic, we all know horses and cows can sleep standing up, but did you know they can only dream when lying down? I’ve never seen a horse have rapid hoof movement like dogs have rapid paw movement, but my uncle who owns horses assures me they do move their legs like their running when they dream.

While researching general aviation aircraft so Shane’s piloting would be true to life, I learned a cloud can weigh more than a million pounds. That seems so odd for something you can fly a plane through, but it also explains why sometimes planes crash when they encounter such a cloud. The next time I flew through a cloud in a GA aircraft, I considered that fact and hoped the pilot knew what he was doing.

While doing research for Daermad Cycle, which is set in a Medieval alternate reality, I learned that forks were once considered sacrilegious because they were seen as “artificial hands.”

Did you know you can nose-print your dog if you want an identifying record? I actually learned that from my brother who used to have some very expensive show dogs. In related trivia, the human tongue — just like a finger — has a unique-to-you print.

Stan Osimowitz, mayor of Mara Wells in Transformation Project, was an interrogator in the military many years ago. I originally planned him as a character who would engage in such things as water-boarding, but then the character developed a personality of his own and I haven’t found a willingness to torture people. However, if he ever needs to, I now know that if your entire fingernail is removed, it would take about six months to grow from its base to tip.

Strangest?

I’m not sure this counts as THE strangest information I’ve learned, but it made Transformation Project possible. In researching nuclear bombs I learned that suitcase nukes are not ICBMs. Make no mistake, ICMBs would contaminate a wide swath of territory radiating out from where they hit. Not only would nobody survive within the blast radius, but radioactive materials would get up into the atmosphere and kill people at least hundreds of miles away. Because of weather patterns, clouds would carry death around the globe.

But suitcase nukes sit near the ground and they don’t have a lot of force behind them. Yes, they would catch the buildings on fire around them and kill everyone for quite a distance, but they don’t blow a hole in the ground and toss a lot of radioactive dirt into the air. The area of radioactivity resulting from them is smaller. They’re also a much lower yield so their area of damage is less. They are still bombs and a horrible instrument of mass destruction, but they’re more easily contained by tons of concrete.

I also learned that the US power grid and most of our electronics are completely vulnerable to an electromagnetic pulse, which can be caused by a nuclear bomb launched into the upper atmosphere. It wouldn’t necessarily increase radiation levels on the ground, but it would shatter our electrical grid, destroy modern cars, and render any computer connected to the grid at the time of the pulse into a paperweight. Oddly, some devices would survive because they were unplugged and turned off during the EMP event.

These bits of scientific knowledge really don’t classify as “weird”, but they are quite different from what we were taught in school. I grew up after my brother’s half of the generation hid under their desks in drills that were meant to keep them alive. My half of the Boomer generation (what is sometimes called the Jones Generation) scoffed at the idea you could survive a nuclear war. We’d seen Planet of the Apes after all and we knew it would be the end of thinking mankind. War Day came out when I was in college, suggesting you could survive a limited nuclear war…maybe. But when I set out to discover the best way to do the apocalypse, I really was convinced surviving nuclear war wasn’t possible. Then I ran across a fascinating war-game scenario in which suitcase nukes could be used to disable up to two dozen key cities in the US. About 50 million people would die instantly, but the rest of the country would not be irradiated. It’s the evidence I needed to write a believable story about people surviving a nuclear terrorism attack on 18 American cities.

Well, what else is a novelist going to do with such information but write an apocalyptic series?

Posted March 14, 2022 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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I’m Not Mocking You   5 comments

Can you speak in an accent that isn’t your own? Can any of your characters do this? How do you indicate that in your stories?

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No Natural Accent

My daughter can manage several believable accents and so can her father. I am not a natural mina bird like they are. However, I will pick up the accent of someone I’m talking to and I find this is quite common among people born and raised in Alaska.

This may be because Alaskans don’t have an accent of our own. We are a state of migrants. In the Al Pacino movie Insomnia, a character explains:

“The thing about Alaska — you’re either born here or you’re running from somewhere else.”

Insomnia

While we aren’t all criminals on the lam, almost every born Alaska has parents who came from somewhere and sometimes from different somewhere elses. My mom was from the Midwest. Her father was the child of a family of Canadian immigrants (some of them only one generation removed from Europe). Her mother was a American Indian mother whose father was from Ireland. My father was from a Washington state logging town populated almost entirely by Scandinavians and his father was born in Sweden, while his mother was raised in a Swedish-speaking community in the Midwest. Although Dad didn’t sound like Frances McDormand in Fargo (unless he was playing around) or a character out of Vikings, he didn’t sound completely “American” (whatever that means) either. Mom had a decidedly Dakotan accent (think Lawrence Welk, if you’re familiar). I assumed I sound like a mixture between the two, but my husband, who has lived a lot of places before landing in Alaska, says I have “Army-brat accent.” You really can’t pin me down.

And then I go and make it harder by imitating the people I’m talking to. I’m not trying to mock them or fake their accent. I simply pick up some of their ways of speaking. And it’s really a cultural thing because I hear other born-Alaskans doing the same thing. When I talk with my friend Kai who is from Taiwan, I’ll pick up her cadence and I’ll change some of my pronunciations to hers, especially if they’re Chinese words. If I’m speaking with my friend Francesca, I’ll pick up some of the tones of Puerto Rico. If I’m speaking with my Australian-born coworker Jeff, I’ll take on some of his accent. People originally from other countries are impressed when I can say their name on the first try.

My theory? Alaskans don’t have an accent of our own, and the culture around us was always in flux when we were kids. This may be changing now, as I think I catch hints of a developing accent from my kids and their friends, but when I was growing up, born Alaskans were a minority in our own state , so that we adapted to the incoming immigrants rather than the other way around. For example, we call narrow bodies of flowing water “streams” here, but many of the Midwesterners and Southerners who lived here during the Pipeline construction call them “cricks”. No, not creeks. Cricks. If I’m hanging out with an immigrant from those regions, I will often adopt “crick” and “far” for fire, and several other examples that my husband always remarks on. If I’m hanging out with his family, I’ll often start dropping my R’s, though I don’t put Rs where they don’t belong. Although my inlaws would call my friend Johnna “Johnar”, I wouldn’t, because it’s not her name. But North Boston becomes Noht Baston, because that’s how they say it. Most people who are not from Louisville, Kentucky, call it Lu-E-vil. I call it “Lu-ah-vul” because that’s how people from Louisville say it. Same with New Orleans. It’s “Nu-ah-lins” and the “s” is almost silent. My husband’s home state is New Hampshire, which most people pronounce as New Hamp Shire. It’s not. It’s Nu-ham-sha, according to the locals.

If I’m trying to fake an accent that isn’t my own, and have no native speaker to cue from, it’s probably going to be Texan or Oklahoman, and I’m also pretty good at Tidewater because three of my long-time pastors have been from that region between the Pine Barrens of New Jersey and the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Texans and Oklahomans were very prevalent in Alaska when I was in high school, so I had a lot of practice at matching their accents. Also a good friend is from Georgia, so I could perhaps pull off his accent.

Truthfully, it’s getting harder to do that as Americans now listen to newscasters all the time and so our accents are moderating and became less distinctive over time. There was a period of time when many of our newscasters were from Canada, so children ended up speaking a combination of their parents’ accent with a sidecar of Ottawa public schools. Because Appalachians and folks from the Ozarks are often treated with disdain in our society, they will often drop their accent when they leave the holler (how they say “hollow”) and then end up sounding a lot like Brad Pitt when he’s not trying to sound like an English gypsy.

My Characters

Shane Delaney can do accents. That is brought up by Marnie when she’s talking with someone about Halloween. Like my daughter, he’s a musician, so he picks up cadences and pronunciations. So far he hasn’t gotten to use them much, although in my current work-in-progress Worm Moon, he does an impression of the local vet who is from Wisconsin — so sounds a lot like Frances McDormand in Fargo. That movie had zero to do with North Dakota, by the way. It took place in Wisconsin and I’m told by friends who moved from there that it is an accurate depiction of their accent.

Shane is also fluent in Spanish and sounds like a Chicano when he speaks.

Shane’s handler, Grant Rigby, is a master of dozens of faces and the accents that go with them.

Book Vandalism   7 comments

Let’s start a war. Do you dog-ear books or use a bookmark? Do you ever make notes in your books?

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Dad’s Long Arm

My father was a book-phile from as far back as I can remember. My mother loved to read too, but she was less fussy about her books. Dad must have gifted me with a hundred bookmarks when I was a kid. He definitely didn’t like dog-earing or, worse, setting down a book open and breaking the spine — Mom’s favorite way of keeping her place. He also didn’t believe in writing in books. He always said you should leave the book in good condition so the next reader could enjoy it.

The only exception to this was his Bible. Thankfully, he did make that exception because I now know a lot about his faith that he always refused to talk about because I can most decipher his margin-note code.

Me?

I usually use a bookmark (or receipt, or twig, or…), but if nothing is handy, I will dog-ear a book rather than lose my place. I make notes in non-fiction books, but not in my Bible. I keep a separate notebook there. That way if I need to replace my Bible, I don’t lose all my notes.

It doesn’t drive me crazy if other people make notes in a book, although I’m always perplexed by people who do it in a fiction book. I’m sure there’s a reason I can’t figure out.

Posted February 28, 2022 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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