Archive for the ‘#openbook’ Tag

Soundtrack for a Novel   3 comments

I am not a peace-and-quiet sort of writer. I grew up in a small house where my mom operated a daycare and Brad and I lived for several years, with the kids, in a small cabin. I can write anywhere and ignore the noise level.

Image result for image of classical music

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But sometimes music helps to set a mood that the general chaos of living cannot. Often we remember a great movie by its soundtrack and writing a novel sometimes has the feel of writing a movie. The soundtrack is only for me, but it has its place in my art.

Daermad Cycle was inspired by songs by Enya. Makes sense, right? Celtic music inspired a Celtic-flavored novel. And when I’m feeling distracted when I’m working on Daermad Cycle, I still listen to Celtic instrumental music or songs sung in Gaelic.

Big bold instrumental music inspires battles in my imagination, so often there’s a Manheim Steamroller song behind the ringing of swords in my fantasy books. Holst’s “Mars, Bringer of War” is currently my go-to for writing a complicated naval attack scene in Fount of Wraiths. The Verdi Requiem has a similar effect as does the 2nd movement of Beethoven’s 7th Symphony.

Prokofiev’s “Death of Tybalt” is a murder scene from Romeo & Juliet) that is fraught with tension, great for scenes where I might want people to distrust one another, so it gets used a lot.

When my characters start winning battles the 1812 Overture will probably be behind it.

Other types of scenes call for jazz or blues, but I might also plug in some big band, or even zydeco. Often, I just scan through lists looking for something that matches the mood of the scene I’m trying to write. I don’t need music for every scene, but if I’m having trouble getting into it, I head over to my music lists for some inspiration.

You might have noticed — I prefer to be inspired by music that has no words. I’m not a classics snob. I LOVE contemporary music and listen to it a lot, but I don’t want the words telling me what I should think while I’m writing. That isn’t conducive to writing my own story. Enya didn’t count because she was singing in Gaelic.

That “no words” goal makes it a bit more difficult to find music for contemporary pieces, but I don’t seem to need the musical inspiration so much when I’m writing in this world. As I’m moving into sadder and sadder times in Transformation Project, however, I’m starting to look for minor-key classics to inspire those scenes. Brad has suggested that I might need to find some Tchaikovsky or Mozart or zydeco or ska to lighten some scenes. He’s worried I might depress my readers, but the third book in the series, A Threatening Fragility, is about the breaking of our society, so sad and heavy is appropriate. Don’t worry. I’m not a naturally sad or depressed person, so my characters — most of them anyway — will not stay down long, but Brad is probably right that I might need some Vivaldi to lighten my writing mood when those scenes roll around.

 

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’s Relaxing?   7 comments

The topic on the Open Book Blog Hop this week is “What’s Your Go-To Relaxation?”

Alaskans live a pretty active lifestyle, so of course, my go-to relaxation is a bit … uh, active.

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My go-to relaxation always includes water, preferably hot water and low light. If I just want to relax for an evening, I fill up the bathtub and soak my cares away.

But my all-time relaxation strategy involves more than just sitting in hot water.

Image result for image of northern lights

If I have my perfect plan for relaxation, it involves some sort of exercise … hiking from Angel Rocks trailhead to Chena Hot Spring Resort (about 15 miles) along treeless ridgelines is my favorite, but that can only be done in warm weather. In winter, we drive the 60 road miles to Chena Hot Springs Resort, which is sort of an athletic feat because of the cold and the moose and caribou occasionally crossing the road.

When we go to Chena Hot Springs Resort, we plan several hours of ‘bathing’. There is something so relaxing about shedding the layers of clothing necessary to stay warm on the trip out there. Gloves, hat, coat, sweater, boots, socks, pants, undershirt … it’s one step at a time that just leaves the world back home in the locker.

The only gear you need at Chena Hot Springs Resort is a bathing suit and a towel and if your feet are sensitive — flip-flops or water socks. I leave my cell phone in the locker. My watch. Everything.

My first stop is one of the two indoor Jacuzzi tubs. Heating with hot springs water, they usually take a couple of minutes to get used to so I can slide down into the water. If I’m lucky, nobody but my husband joins me, but usually there are people already there. You can tell the old hands. They don’t talk. They sit with their eyes closed with bubbling water up to their shoulders. The newcomers feel the obligation to chit-chat … except the Japanese tourists. Even if they speak English, they also understand the importance of silence in the hot springs.

After maybe 10 minutes, we shift over to the “cool” pool. This is a shallow swimming pool where there are usually kids playing and splashing. We would skip it entirely except that it gets us ready for going outside. It is also heated by the hot springs water, tempered with cold water and the water runs about body temperature, which feels cool when you’ve been in the Jacuzzi. By bringing your core temperature back to normal, the outside air doesn’t seem quite so brutal.

Understand. We don’t go to Chena Hot Springs in the winter unless it’s below freezing, probably below zero. But the true relaxation zone is outside. Children are not permitted out there. Outside, you have a choice of a large Jacuzzi or the rock pool. We usually turn to the outdoor Jacuzzi first.

Image result for image of chena hot springs rock pool

Depending on the time of evening we get there and a whole lot of other variables, the northern lights will come out. We sit in the tub along with our fellow relaxers and watch these ribbons of color dance across the sky. If the aurora is active, we might spend hours in this tub. Sometimes we’ll stand up to cool off. Once we hung out there for four hours watching the lights.

Then there’s the rock pool, which is my ultimate relaxation spot. It never gets deeper than about four feet, so you have to squat a little. It’s a “natural” pool — it was created by the resort owner, but the water flows off the hot springs with just a tiny bit of tempering. There is snow on the huge rocks that surround the pool. When you get too hot, you can climb out on the rocks and cool down.

My favorite thing to do is go to an area where there are no other people and just float on my back. The fog from the rock pool prevents me from seeing the aurora, but the warm water and quiet chat of my fellow bathers just takes me into a zone where I could almost fall asleep (not recommended in hot water).

And then there’s the drive home, which oddly enough is also relaxing. We stay well below the speed limit, watch for moose and maybe listen to some classical music … once we regain radio reception.

Posted February 20, 2017 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop, Uncategorized

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Stay Tuned for the Blog Hop   Leave a comment

Featured Image -- 38271

What is your go-to relaxation? That’s the topic for the Open Book Blog Hop this week.

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Posted February 19, 2017 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

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A web site containing content written by BeaJay Mc Neice

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The invisible lady with invisible illnesses. But I am making it, one day at time.

PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS

LIFE IS WONDERFUL!

Raw, Raving Rants from a Struggling Writer

Sharing the fun, sharing the pain, sharing the inspiration!

hiddeninjesus

experiencing His joy

theoldfellowgoesrunning

My life's aspirations, inspirations and a little bit about running :)

Maria GH Blog

“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.” — Albert Einstein

Anaprose

I invite my readers to follow me on my writing journey.

Ups, Downs & Deviations

Poems and such about various things

The Bag Lady

The Secret of Change Is to Focus All of Your Energy, Not on Fighting the Old, But on Building the New - Socrates

Living in God's Pocket with ABI

Nurturing Compassion and Stewardship

lightenload

Come with me on a spiritual Journey!

Kvenna ráð

I write on rice-paper. If necessary I can eat my words.

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