Archive for the ‘#writingcommunity’ Tag

A Spot of Greenery   4 comments

Do any of your characters garden? Or keep houseplants? How about you?

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=”1ea343d6a56a46b38667fbe3b57f2f87″ 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/1ea343d6a56a46b38667fbe3b57f2f87” 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=”1ea343d6a56a46b38667fbe3b57f2f87″]https://fresh.inlinkz.com/p/1ea343d6a56a46b38667fbe3b57f2f87

Fictional Gardening

Wow, I hadn’t really thought about gardens and my characters. I had to actually think about it. This is probably because I do a lot of my writing in the winters here when the weather precludes gardening.

In Daermad Cycle (Fount of Wraiths comes out tomorrow, October 26, getting it on pre-order only costs 99 cents, it goes up to regular price after the launch), Padraig does a lot of gardening because he’s an herbman. His job is to sell and prescribe herbs to people who are sick and injured. He spends the winter in Fount of Wraiths growing crops in the warm and rainy coastal plain. He enjoys watching the plants develop, knowing they will fill his saddlebags with the means to save lives.

Although Lord Howedd in Dun Llyr doesn’t get his own hands in the soil, his plans to grow vegetables under glass during the winter will have a powerful impact on the course of the ongoing war among the Celdryans, which will need to be resolved before the Svard fall on the kingdom.

Peter in What If Wasn’t actively hates the rose bushes his mother left behind when his father divorced her. This topic gives me something to think about for his future.

The town of Emmaus in Transformation Project is surrounded by corn fields. Many of the characters are farmers. Shane isn’t, but he owns two massive corn fields. His father Rob also isn’t a farmer (he’s mayor and he owns a feed store), but his family’s holdings include a Metis allotment that they grow corn on. Because of the EMP, they don’t have adequate heating in their houses, so house plants are mostly dead from the cold.

Welcome to My Life

My front window is filled with plants. Since everything else is icy white and gripped in an ice-nap for 5-6 months of the year, it really helps us to have hope for warmer days. I keep telling my husband we need to spread the greenery around, but he prefers them in one location, so whenever I put a plant somewhere else in the house, he moves it back. We have pothos (absolutely indestructible), spider plants (which spend the summers on our deck and are now HUGE), and a shamrock plant (very finnicky, but beautiful if you learn how to grow them). Pothos don’t mind growing in a northern window, even in the winter. They are like a foundation plant in most offices around here because they’ll even survive under fluorescent lights. I think our bedroom would look lovely with a plant on the corner of the highboy, but he keeps moving them back, so…. He loves his jungle window.

Pothos Plant Care 101: Meet the Vine That Thrives Just About Anywhere - Bob  Vila

In the summers we try to grow a garden. We have to start plants indoors in March and April. This year spring was late, meaning the plants didn’t get in the ground until the first week of June, so we really didn’t get a great harvest. We grew cabbages and broccoli. The broccoli bolted in the July heat and so we have a lot of stalks for soups in the freezer. We only got one meal of actual broccoli. The cabbages didn’t get big — they needed another two weeks when it snowed in mid-September. We literally harvested them in the snow. They’ll get added frozen to stirfry. We’re planning to try bokchoy next summer, probably with carrots. We usually only grow a handful of items because our garden area is only 20-30′ so we don’t have a lot of room. We either plant one half of the garden in peas or some years, we plant the whole garden. Peas are really good for the soil.

What we do grow a lot of are tomatoes and cucumbers on the deck. While our garden is on the shadier side of the house, the deck is in full sun about 15 hours in a 22-hour day. We start the plants indoors in March or April, then move the buckets out to deck in May. Usually, the tomatoes aren’t red by late August, so we move the buckets into the house. We pull them off as they redden. This year we harvested the last of the plants October 15 and we now have two huge bowls of red tomatoes and are eating my favorite sandwich – the BLT — every other lunch. The cucumbers plants this year were very pretty, but they didn’t produce any blossoms so our neighbors bees didn’t visit them and so there were no cukes. I have no idea why. We also accidentally grew some pepper plants, which also never produced blossoms or peppers. They were pretty, but sometimes gardening doesn’t work out.

So now I’m wondering what my fellow authors are up to about this topic. I suspect Richard Dee does some gardening.

Posted October 25, 2021 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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Rah-Rah, Let’s Go   6 comments

Are any of your characters fans of a particular sports team?

54,984 Soccer Player Stock Photos, Pictures & Royalty-Free Images - iStock

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=”eeee83e879de4536a0977993da180e69″ 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/eeee83e879de4536a0977993da180e69” 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=”eeee83e879de4536a0977993da180e69″]https://fresh.inlinkz.com/p/eeee83e879de4536a0977993da180e69

It’s the Apocalypse

In Transformation Project, my characters are living through the apocalypse. Terrorists destroyed the major cities and the long-line electric and communications grids and so there’s not a whole lot of time in their days to enjoy their favorite sporting teams, and even if the time was available, the electronics in their TVs and computers have been fried, and Los Angeles, New York, and Atlanta–the nexuses of all broadcast channels in the United States–are now all three nuclear wastelands. Shortwave radio and the spy nest in Jericho Springs are about the only sources of news from distant locations. The spies don’t care and the shortwavers are just figuring it out in February — five months after the events that altered the entire country.

In Their Before Lives

Before the bombs went off, my characters were living ordinary lives and, yes, of course, they followed sports teams. Rob Delaney, a career soldier before he “retired” to become a feed store operator and then mayor of Emmaus, Kansas, loved to watch the Army-Navy match-ups in football and of course he tuned in for the Super Bowl every year. His wife Jill would watch with him for the ads.

Both of their sons, Cai and Shane, played soccer in their younger years. Both followed the Colorado Rapids soccer team, although Shane often was out of the country and had to catch up when he came home. In Life As We Knew It, Shane describes his friend Mike as a super fan of Cruz Azul, the Mexico City professional fotbal team. Shane competed as a kickboxer in college and during his time overseas and did keep up with some MMA fighters. Click Michaels, the former-Chicago Times reporter stranded in Emmaus by the bombs, is a big hockey fan. Marnie Callahan Delaney is a huge fan of the Denver Broncos. And Jazz Tully, who spent her formative years training in dance, follows a Christian ballet company called Ballet Magnificat. Alex Lufgren played football in high school and was good enough to get a scholarship to University of Kansas as a Jayhawk. He had to turn it down when his parents were killed in a car accident and he found himself owning the largest farm in Emmaus and raising his toddler sister. He still roots for the Jayhawks. His sister Poppy was an avid fan of the Kansas School for the Deaf’s volleyball team, mainly because her mother played for the team and it feels like the only connection she has to the mother she doesn’t remember.

Under the Circumstances

With the exception of Cruz Azul, it’s unlikely any of these sport teams still exist. There’s something about the apocalypse that just prevents frivolous activities like sports from taking center stage. I suspect, as the country heals, sporting events will return, but they may not be the media events they were before the events of this series.

Other Series

Daermad Cycle is a Celtic fantasy set in a medieval society. I can’t envision what sort of sports they’d follow. The Dwarves versus the Elves — battle axes against bows. Funny image.

What If Wasn’t is set in modern times, but Peter has expressed no interest in team spectator sports. He’s an individual sports kind of guy – mountain biking, tennis, swimming, rock-climbing — his body against whatever looks exciting. Ben does enjoy watching baseball in the stadium (Go, Ducks!) and he will watch football with his family or friends when in season. Trevor is a dancer who is also a hockey fan, but he’s really too centered on pushing his body to the next level as a dancer (and then getting drunk afterward) to follow any sports teams. He just likes watching the games, preferable in the stadium. When I thought about it, I realized that most of the girls in this series are dancers, which is a team participation sport (don’t let the grace fool you), but I don’t think of any of them care about sports you can watch on television at all. I can imagine Alyse challenging the captain of the football team to a contest to see who can stand on demipoint longer. My daughter did that in high school. Bri won by over five minutes and she only stopped then because she was boring her audience and had made her point about the strength and fitness of dancers compared to football players.

This Author….

I don’t really follow sports teams myself. I grew up in Alaska where high school football exists, but Homecoming Game is always played in hypothermic conditions. So, I never really developed that rah-rah spirit. We went to a lot of basketball games when I was in school because they were indoors. I do enjoy the local teams I can see in the stadium — the Goldpanners baseball team were National League heavy-hitters when I was young, spawning grounds for Tom Seaver, Oddibe McDowell, Craig Nettles, Barry Bonds, James Winfield, Dan Pastorini and the Boone brothers (and about a dozen more). And, hockey — well, you can be on the ice six months a year here without a refrigeration unit. My cousins played and I was the backup to the hockey reporter when I was a college reporter. I covered a few games. The local newspaper always expressed surprise that a girl actually knew hockey. Women were rarely sports reporters back then and I never played. My knees and ice skates — not a good match-up.

I am vaguely aware of how the New England Patriots are doing because that’s my husband’s team (although he still really likes Tom Brady, so how we’re vaguely aware of how the Tampa Bay Bucs are doing). Most Alaskans root for the teams from wherever they are originally from and about 50% of our population is from somewhere else. If you were raised here, you’re expected to root for the Seattle teams, but neither my father or stepdad cared for sports other than Gold Panners baseball, so I only root for the Seahawks when they’re playing against New England — because my husband insists. Yes, I do know what’s going on on the field, but I really just don’t care other than for the particular game I am watching at the time. I do follow the Nanooks hockey team from University of Alaska-Fairbanks, but I’m not a very engaged fan. “Oh, they’re up in wins. That’s great. And against some tough competition? That’s better. Now, for something important — like how deeply in debt Congress is putting me.” I go to the Nanooks games maybe twice a winter and the professional team just never gets my notice. And I don’t like to watch hockey on television, so I’m not even sure I know any teams’ names.

That might explain why I don’t focus a lot on team sports in my writing. I’m not all that interested in my own life, so my characters are only marginally interested teams in theirs. My characters are almost all individual personal sports types because that’s who I am. Plus, it’s the apocalypse. They have more important things on their minds. If someone would create a team sport for generating electricity, they’d probably cheer for that.

Posted October 18, 2021 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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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.

Variety is Spice   13 comments

Sept 27, 2021 Have you experienced or witnessed genre shaming, where readers/authors degrade a genre? If so, how do you deal with it?

Genre Shaming | Washington Independent Review of Books

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=”6e12e292d33147e7ac9ae46222a54666″ 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/6e12e292d33147e7ac9ae46222a54666” target=”_blank” rel=”nofollow” style=”padding:5px 20px;background:#209cee;text-decoration:none;color:#efefef;border-radius:4px;”>Click here to enter</a></div></div><span style=”display: none;”>http://a%20href=</span><!– end InLinkz code –>[fresh_inlinkz_code id=”6e12e292d33147e7ac9ae46222a54666″]https://fresh.inlinkz.com/p/6e12e292d33147e7ac9ae46222a54666

Shame On You

“Why are you reading THAT?”

She meant well — this member of my Sunday School class who curled her nose up at my copy of Game of Thrones. She then picked up my copy of The Willow Branch, scanned the back page and then tossed it back on the stack.

“I thought you were an educated person.”

Okay, I could have gotten huffy and lost a potential friend, but I wanted to know where she was coming from.

“What have you against Game of Thrones?”

“It’s full of sex and violence. As a Christian, you shouldn’t be holding that stuff in your head.”

My husband would agree with her. He’s never read the book, but when we watched the first Season on disc and Jamie dropped Bran out a window, Brad was done! “How can you fill your head with that image?”

He likes horror films and I feel the same way about his preferred genre. I can take or leave the sex and violence in GoT, but horror creeps me out. It stays with me far longer than the sex scene.

Going back to my Sunday School friend, I then asked “well, what about the other book ‘The Willow Branch‘? Are you familiar with the author?”

Of course, Lela Markham is my pen name and so she didn’t realize she was about to majorly insult me.

“No, she’s a fantasy author and I just have no use for fantasy.”

“What genres do you read?”

“Well, I like Christian literature.” She bent over to look at the Left Behind series, which I stopped reading about five books in. “This is a great series. So Biblical.”

Uh … no! Clearly she didn’t read the same books I read. It’s preTribulation Millennial propaganda. I’m all down with the Bible, but this series tortures the Biblical clues to follow Tim LaHaye’s conception of how Jesus will come back. That wasn’t why I stopped reading it. I just couldn’t go any further after the main character survived a direct nuclear blast. I put up with the manipulative writing until that point and then I was done. In some ways, Shane Delaney getting hurt in Winter’s Reckoning was because I couldn’t have him do one more super-dangerous thing and not get hurt.

My friend expressed horror to find Harry Potter on my daughter’s shelves. I take it she didn’t understand the Kama Sutra or recognize Jack Kerouac. Her finger lingered on a sole copy of The Twilight series.

“How can you let your kids read this crap?”

How indeed! I don’t particularly care for the Potter series, but that’s just a personal style issue. All of Brianne’s friends read Harry Potter, so I read the first couple of books myself before I let Brianne read it and I didn’t find anything truly objectionable. A friend gave her that first book from The Twilight series and halfway through it she brought it from her bedroom and said “Mom, this is the worst book I’ve ever read. I can’t decide if this chick is nuts because she wants to have sex with a guy who considers her dinner or if she’s nuts because her alternative is a werewolf.” I don’t think she ever finished the book and I think she learned a valuable lesson about how a popular book series can be badly written. At some point, you just have to let your nearing-adult children figure it out for themselves.

Shame On You

My book shelves have a lot of books and a lot of examples for someone to shame. Pick a genre. Fantasy, science fiction, a handful of romances (not my favorite). Classics (Treasure Island, anyone?). Non-fiction. Mysteries. Adventure novels. My Friend Flicka. I have hundreds, maybe thousands of books, gathered over a lifetime of reading. They’re organized in broad genres. Some of them I haven’t picked up in decades. Others I’ve gone back to recently. 1984 got a lip curl from my Sunday School friend too.

There are genres I read voraciously when I was a certain age and haven’t read again. I’m not ashamed of having read them. I’ve simply moved on with my life. When Brianne’s boyfriend came to our house for the first time last month, he was amazed at how many books on my shelves he had read. Turns out we’re both fantasy nerds. We got into a long conversation about one of Asimov’s books. He’s got a winter plan to read all my books. I warned him he might not like the Young Adult “What If Wasn’t” series.

You Don’t Have To

I never read horror. That doesn’t mean I care if you read it. Go on, enjoy those books. Just don’t expect me to read them. You don’t like science fiction? Fine. I think you’re missing out, but I’m not here as the reading police. You don’t have to read those books if you don’t want to. Maybe we can find common ground here in the mystery section of my library. No. And, yeah, you’re right, I’m not into reading Amish romances and I’m pretty sure neither are the Amish.

Just because I don’t like a genre doesn’t mean it’s bad. It just means it doesn’t appeal to me. Just because you don’t like a genre doesn’t mean you should shame other people because they do like books of that kind. Sure, if you’re Sunday School buddies and they’re reading 50 Shades of Grey, you might want to discuss how that intersections with their spiritual walk, but people do a lot of incomprehensible things at times. When our kids were little, they weren’t allowed to watch The Simpsons because we felt it was disrespectful to adults. Our really good friends from church thought we were being too strict. We never yelled at them for letting our children watch the show while they were at their house. We knew — our kids told on themselves — but we also used the difference in rules between our two houses to discuss why the difference existed. During our daughter’s recent visit we learned she respected our choices after she’d had a few years to think about it.

Don’t Mess with Sleeping Dogs

Isn’t it great that the world is full of variety? You can enjoy romance novels. I can enjoy science fiction. Our buddy can enjoy War and Peace. My pastor can enjoy thick tomes on Christian history. We can all find things to read that capture our attention. Or we can avoid genres we don’t enjoy. Why is that a problem for some people? Why can’t they just let sleeping dogs lie?

Posted September 27, 2021 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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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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Thinking Outloud   9 comments

August 30, 2021

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” – Flannery O’Connor.

Authors have many reasons to write. Why do you write what you write?

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=”f57384aa086c4eb68d758039fbe426fc” 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/f57384aa086c4eb68d758039fbe426fc” 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=”f57384aa086c4eb68d758039fbe426fc”]https://fresh.inlinkz.com/p/f57384aa086c4eb68d758039fbe426fc

Many Reasons

Tarhe (1742-1818) - Find A Grave Memorial

I love that Flannery Connor quote which I first ran across in a high school creative writing class. I started writing when I was about 12, after a school assignment ignited something in me that I couldn’t explain. In that high school creative writing class, we were encouraged to keep a writing diary. I’d already been writing for my own amazement for a few years, so when my fellow students averred that it was hard to write something everyday, I felt perplexed. Although I didn’t necessarily write every day, I almost always wrote every day. Mad at my mom? Write something about it. Stunned when hundreds of people poison themselves in the South American jungle. Write something about it. Someone was mean to you for reasons you didn’t understand. Imagine them explaining themselves and write about it. I didn’t need a teacher to tell me to write every day. Some inner muse wrote nearly every day. The teacher merely validated that I was unusual among my peers, but I wasn’t nuts. Everybody has inner dialogues. Some of us write them down.

Over time, I found it was easier to fictionalize those inner dialogues. My characters increasingly began to say things I couldn’t say as me. Although my mom permitted reasoned arguments to her bossiness, I would never have screamed “I hate you!”, for example, but my characters could do that. Sometimes they’d say things I thought I wouldn’t ever think. I didn’t really think of it as talking to myself until I was in a college psychology class and the professor made an offhand comment about some popular novel which in his psychological opinion was the writer talking to himself (and, no, I don’t remember the author or the book). Hmm, now there was a thought.

When my characters said or did things I didn’t agree with was that me talking to myself? Maybe, sometimes. If so, I sounded like a schizophrenic arguing with his imaginary friend in the canned goods aisle (This actually happened in a grocery aisle on Saturday. The man was clearly holding two opposite opinions at the same time.) Well, there was evidence that I was insane. I had characters who clearly didn’t agree with one another and yet they were all me talking to myself. Did I need a therapist?

Healthy Internal Self Talk

I wrote for my own amazement for decades — occasionally submitting short stories to anthologies or writing as a newspaper reporter. As a newspaper reporter, my hallmark was balanced news. I’d try to find the other side of most stories. I got a lot of compliments from subscribers for my seeking out both (or more) sides of a story. My first editors encouraged that balance, but then I got a new editor who was empowered by a new publisher to slant the news. I couldn’t accept the balance being edited out of my articles, so I stopped being a newspaper reporter. These days, I still write non-fiction as blog posts — sometime as opinion, sometimes as fact-based reporting.

When I worked for community behavioral health, one of our psychiatrists picked up my writing notebook when he was visiting my office. It was a mistake. I jot ideas down as they come to me and they come to me during some of the most mundane ideas — like when transcribing a doctor’s notes about a client. He thought he was grabbing his own notebook. He was back in his own office when he flipped it open and realized his mistake, but instead of returning it to me immediately, he read it. He brought it back to me the next day and a) complimented me on not breaking confidentiality, and b) assured me I was perfectly sane.

“Everybody talks to themselves to work out what they think. Most people do it in their heads. Some people mutter to themselves out loud. Writers do it on paper.” Dr. Weineger

Reading What I Think

I’m a discovery writer. I never really know what I’m going to write when I start a story. It takes shape as I write and then read what I’ve written. At some point, the path forward becomes clear and I choose a goal for what I’m writing. Sometimes what I’ve written surprises me. For example, when I wrote a alternative historical fiction short story for an anthology a few years ago, I knew I wanted to do something with my mother’s tribe. Short stories are tough. You can’t ramble. But I did my research on the era — 1780s, Marietta, Ohio. I knew how history turned out, but I wanted to show that it might have been different.

Short stories are hard because you have a limited amount of space to create a world, introduce characters and make a statement. The prompt was for an alternative history fiction that focused on liberty principles.

I’d recently read a history of my mom’s tribe, the Wyandot. I’d learned some cool things. Tarhe, a legendary sachem (war leader) was a fascinating study — a warrior who sought peace with the white settler on several occasions only to see treaties violated and to lead battle after battle against the whites until the US army eventually forced a multi-tribe treaty and saw the Wyandot and Shawnee giving up half the Northwest Territories in order to achieve peace. Later, in the 1830s, the Wyandot sold their land around Sandusky Ohio and moved to Kansas, negotiating American citizenship for that decision. It changed the course of the tribe and its relationship to the American government was quite different from that of other tribes. I also learned that the women really ruled the tribe. They owned the land and did the farming. The men hunted and occasionally fought wars, but it was the women who decided the land division and declared war. The men then took over and committed all the atrocities on behalf of the tribe. I remember finishing the reading and thinking “Well, wow, why weren’t the woman ever involved in all these peace treaties?”

So when I started writing the alternative historical fiction, I wanted to focus on my tribe, but I also wanted to focus on something the readers would recognize. My tribe had been in contact with white men since the 1600s and already supported a large metis (half-breed) population by the 1780s, when white settlers pushed into the Northwest Territories while the US Constitution was being debated in Philadelphia. The next year, the Shawnee convinced the Wyandot (my people) into supporting them in a war against the settlers. I knew the Indians attacked settlements there and the whites fought back. Growing up, I heard both sides of the argument. The tribes were just defending themselves and their lands. The whites saw unused land and turned it to productive use and the tribes attacked them for no reason. I was raised by my Native American mother and my white father to believe there was truth somewhere in the middle of those narratives. The thing about alternative historical fiction is that you need to decide what the pivotal point is — something in history changed and that made all the difference. For me, it was George Washington’s letter to Alexander Hamilton discussing how he looked forward to the proposed stronger government to secure his land holdings in the Northwest Territories. Washington, suffering from arthritis, didn’t really want to be president, but he agreed with Hamilton that it would be worth it if he could enforce his claims to those lands, which were also a primary reason he supported the Revolutionary War. I don’t know if I’d ever read that letter before I started my reseach, but it opened my eyes to Washington’s corruption. “What if,” I thought, “this letter fell into the public domain during the ratification process?”

I started writing on that premise and the story “Pivot of Fate” (Agorist Writers Workshop Clarion Call 2 Echoes of Liberty) took shape based on that changed item. Rhode Island, which started with buying Indian lands, would have voted against ratification if Washington’s greed became known. It was a near thing there. Other states were also close votes on ratification. What if it didn’t happen? The United States would have remained under the Articles of Confederation. There’d be no standing army. The tribes outnumbered white settlers. Without a powerful US military (which would be authorized 1791 following ratification of the Constitution), the settlers would have needed to negotiate with the tribes if they hoped to survive at all. But there was a pivot of fate here. If the settlers didn’t have that power would the tribes have agreed to allow them to remain under certain rules? Tarhe was a legendary war chief of my tribe who was known for seeking peace on several occasions. Reading Tarhe’s speech in 1804 during a peace treaty negotiation (required because the tribal population, already diminished a century before by encounter with white man’s flu virus, had further plummeted in the wars of the last decade). I recognized Tarhe had sought peace back in the 1780s, but when the negotiations failed, he joined the warriors and for a while the tribes had been the victor. The difference came when the US army came onto the field and then the tribes started losing. I could change that in an alternative history. While Washington’s letter was a plot device, as I wrote, I informed myself how deeply I disagreed with the corruption that led to the ratification of the US Constitution and how much violence it permitted against people who, yes, fought back, but didn’t have the means to equal a coordinated Euro-American assault.

I don’t view the tribes as innocent victims of white oppressors. Read the transcript of Tahre’s speech and you encounter an intelligent man and brilliant military strategist who was just as blood-soaked as General Arthur St. Clair, the first US governor of the Northwest Territories. He’d been fighting against other tribes since he was a teenager, but by the 1780s, he saw the fighting as being counterproductive. While a lot of the sachems would negotiate a peace treaty for the trade goods the US Army would bribe them with, Tahre actually tried to keep the treaties until it became clear the settlers would continue to the use the Army against his people. (We know this because Tahre’s son-in-law was a white man, a child captive raised by the tribe, who acted as his translator and chronicler). If the US Constitution was never ratified, George Washington wouldn’t become president and St. Clair would never go to the Northwest Territories (I had him arrested for corruption as he was headed to the Territories). I postulated a mutually beneficial peace treaty forged by a relatively weak white settler population with a relatively strong tribal population. I involved the women so the treaty negotiations would actually have validity. All it needed was someone to host the negotiations, which is where the character of Lai came in — the anabaptist-trained son of a Wyandot princess and a French voyageur who believes in free trade and non-violent coexistence and can act as translator during the negotiations. He’s vaguely based on two ancestors with some tweaking of the timeline. And, in the end, the settlers and the Indians remain themselves. Neither loses to the other and there’s hope for the future.

I wrote a lot of stream of consciousness as I tried to figure out the story and I ended up with about five paragraphs out of a hundred that told me what I thought. It was way too long for a short story, so I rewrote it and it was in that first draft that Lai came into being and started telling me his (my) hopes and dreams for my long-dead people — hopes and dreams I didn’t even know I had. And, yes, of course, it’s too late to go back and take the road less traveled, but I hadn’t even realized that I wished I could step back into history and change that one thing – how the tribes and the settlers at Marietta encountered one another. And in doing so I realized that the US Constitution made the slaughter of the tribes possible. Without that, the settlers would have had to negotiate. Hinted in the story is that some of the sachems would not have played fair with the settlers, but I think Tarhe would have. Also in the story and much more strongly stated, is that the actual peace treaties never worked because they were negotiated with the sachems (war chiefs) rather than the women who in most tribes of the Northwest Territories were the actual owners of the land and were also the ones who told the sachems when to go to war. The men conducted the wars, but they had no authority to declare war. That was a function of the women’s council.

I finished the first draft and went “whoa, is that what I really think? The US Constitution killed the tribes? Where did that come from?” It came from a decade of study in which I’d encountered issues with the American government that caused me to be concerned by what I encountered. I’m a realist and I see no reason to go back and fight wars that ended centuries ago. You can’t change history and being angry at people today who look like my tribe’s enemies two centuries ago does nothing to change that history and does great violence to society today. History is a one-way street and I accept that. They didn’t choose the path of peaceful cooperation, but in an alternative historical fiction, I could show the possibilities of handling it a different way.

For now, it’s a short story, but some day, I plan to finish the story and show where I think the United States would have ended up if we’d never ratified the Constitution. I’ve drafted about 10 chapters to encompass Lai’s life, based on historical events that would have occurred in Lai’s lifetime, ending a short time after the Civil War.

Someday…someday.

A Glorious Quilt of Humanity   12 comments

Do you write diverse characters? If so, how do you avoid cultural insensitivity?

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=”ff418ba9669d48269e89779f3edc92ba” 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/ff418ba9669d48269e89779f3edc92ba” 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=”ff418ba9669d48269e89779f3edc92ba”]https://fresh.inlinkz.com/p/ff418ba9669d48269e89779f3edc92ba

Governor Sarah Palin in blanket toss, Point Barrow. | Accent Alaska
Governor Sarah Palin preps to dance the blanket

Diversity

Yes, I write diverse characters. I grew up in a very diverse state — Alaska — and my mother was part-Native American. No other members of our tribe lived in our community, but my mother was popular for blanket tosses at community gatherings because she was light — less than a hundred pounds — and athletic, so they knew they could send her high, and if she’d had sufficient beers, she might grace them with a somersault or a grand jete. So since she was useful, we were semi-adopted by the local Natives and also since she worked in the cafes, everybody knew her. My dad was less useful, but they allowed him along as her husband because Dad never met a stranger and they sensed that.

What? You’ve never heard of a blanket toss?!

The feature photo gives you a little idea what it looks like. They take a skin hide –often walrus or caribou and they stretch it and put handles along the edges. Someone climbs in the middle and a lot of hands take the edges and if the jumper and the pullers can coordinate it, they send the jumper high into the air. In the old days, the Eskimos along the coasts used it to spot whales. Today’s it’s an athletic exhibition often shown at the World Eskimo-Indian Olympics and the Intertribal Powwow. The blanket (mapkuq) is made of ugruk (seal) skins sewn into a circle or square. Pullers (naluaqtit) act like the springs on a trampoline, circling the blanket and rhythmatically pulling out to throw the blanket dancer (nalukataqtuaq) in the air. Heights of 20 feet are standard and I know Mom jumped 30 at least once. When they do it indoors, the goal of the Eskimo Olympians is to touch the ceiling. I’ve been the “dancer” a few times in informal “dances”. I’m a native Alaskan — as in I was born here, but I’m not Alaska Native, so I don’t qualify for the Olympics and frankly, I’m not very good. It is an honor to be invited to be one of the pullers and my husband is often invited because his best friend is an Eskimo fellow, he’s the adopted “white son” of an Eskimo ana (elder lady) and, when he was young, he had arms bigger than some men’s thighs. Although I’m small, I’m strong for my size, so I have been invited as a puller on occasion, though usually strangers doubt my abilities. I — uh, pulled my own weight, so to speak.

The beats are set by several men and boys playing drums. These were made traditionally from the skin of the liver or lungs of a whale, but today might also be made of synthetic materials. The men also sing songs (nalukataun[27]) for the dances. Following another prayer, the evening closes.

So, in my books, diversity exists not to make any sort of statement about diversity but because that’s the world I live in. Although our association with our long-time church ended a decade ago, many of my friendships come from that time and the church’s mission statement (at the time — I believe it’s not the same anymore, which is part of the reason we moved on to another church) involved a phrase about the church being a beautiful quilt we were presenting to God.

That’s how I view the world. I’m aware we all have differences, but I don’t think they matter. A quilt is made beautiful by contrasting colors, each square contributes to the whole and they’re not nearly so beautiful separate as when they’re all fit together in a glorious mosaic. That is diversity to me — not separate races who are (or should be) at odds with one another, but individuals who are distinct from one another as individuals and in the groups they associate with, but together make a harmonious whole based on contrasts. This makes society an interesting place, but we need to remember that if we clash unnecessarily, we tear the beautiful quilt apart and that would be truly tragic.

In Daermad Cycle, the Celdryans (descendants of 5th century Celts) and Kin (elves) are the two main races and they hold historic (and highly understandable) animosity toward one another. But other races are plotting to destroy them, so they need to set aside their differences to work together or they’ll both perish. Much of the series relates to how they come to do that — or whether they can’t, though they desperately need to.

In Transformation Project, Rob’s mother Vi was a member of the Kansas branch of my tribe, so the Delaneys have Native American cousins and some of Shane’s dark good looks are drawn from that ancestry. There are occasional references to traditions or ongoing ethics based on that tribal tradition and Rob’s white father’s embrace of that. That’s vaguely drawn from my dad’s interaction with my mother’s tribe. My husband has a more contentious relationship there not because of anything he’s done but because some Native Americans feel empowered to treat whites who are married to Native Americans with hostility these days. At some point that will be addressed in one of my books, but these folks are surviving the apocalypse so woke-ism isn’t really centerstage after they feed themselves.

Because I want my books to reflect American society in reality, the majority of my characters are white because 74% of the American population are white, so that shouldn’t seem odd to anyone. There are several Hispanics in the community because Kansas has a fairly significant Hispanic population, Lila and Vint Barrett are black, Brian is biracial, and Ami Ceylon is Egyptian by birth. They are all based on people I know — although they’ve all morphed into independent characters over the course of the books. My characters tend to do that and I let them because I get a better book that way.

Sensitivity

That’s complicated. First, I recognize that my own perspective is the only one I can truly understand. However, sometimes the story demands that I write from the perspective of one of my characters who happens to be a person of color and not a member of my tribe. And when the story demands that, I can’t be overly worried about what a random reader might think about my sensitivity or lack thereof. I refuse to be intimidated by the “woke” bullies and they can just go read books other than mine if they prefer politically-correct drivel instead. That said, I strive to be as honest and accurate in my writing as I can manage.

In A Threatening Fragility (third book in Transformation Project) I wrote a scene where Lila Barrett (a black woman) is lecturing Marnie Callahan Delaney (a white woman) about maternity. Marnie was totally in the wrong and Lila is delivering some much-needed mother wit. I wrote it like I thought my friend Janet would speak, knowing that Janet is passionate on that topic. Lila’s character isn’t based on Janet, but she’s a character that morphed from who she was based on and has taken on a life of her own. She used several phrases I’d heard strong black women say on that topic, tweaked for my story’s purposes. I wrote the scene from Marnie’s perspective because I haven’t been able to get comfortable writing from Lila’s perspective, and sometimes it’s just best to know your own limitations as a writer. That’s not a promise that I’ll never write from Lila’s perspective. It’s just an admission that I can’t get that far into her head…yet. When I got to the editing process, I asked myself just how far off the mark I might be with these handful of powerful statements, so I asked my friend Olivia to read the scene. She came back with “You been eavesdropping when my mama lectures me, girl?” I knew I’d captured Janet — who is Olivia’s mother — perfectly.

So, was it insensitive? Olivia didn’t think so. She pointed out that some of Marnie’s assumptions were wrong from her own experience, but then she paused and said “But you’d expect them to be, right?” Ever the social worker, Olivia understands that we can’t read each other’s minds. “We only think we can.” For fiction to mirror real life, Marnie can’t completely understand what Lila is saying, because that sort of insight is not true to life. Marnie’s subculture influences her just as much as Lila’s does and I don’t consider either subculture to be superior — they just are and that’s all the analysis they need.

When I finished the rough draft of Red Kryptonite Curve (Book 1 of What If Wasn’t), I realized there was only one non-white character (a black chauffeur) in the entire book and I kind of panicked a little. Where were all the Asians, Hispanics and Native Americans? Oh, my! And then I realized that I had visited the town that served as template for Port Mallory and maybe the reason there are no minorities in the book was because someone in Peter’s social class living in that town wouldn’t really interact with a lot of racial minorities outside of public school. His family’s wealth grants him the privilege to not really need to worry about race and he’s got enough problems of his own that he doesn’t really think about it. I accidentally wrote that into the story and I think it is 100% right for the story I wrote and the community I set it in. I tweaked a few things — mentioning that Peter’s maternal grandparents are Greek, which is pretty “diverse” for a New York WASP family to marry into — but in the end, I wasn’t going to shoehorn in some diversity characters like it’s some sort of literary affirmative action project. Dumpster Fire (Book 2) was slightly more diverse simply because I’m more aware of it now…and then where the series goes from here will involve a lot more diversity simply because of where Peter’s life is headed. It’s an organic development. I’m not trying to make any sort of political statements about race. I’m just trying to reflect the world as accurately as I see it.

Writing from Different Ethnicities

Because I grew up in a very diverse community and attended a church which often had a majority non-white membership I feel pretty comfortable writing from other cultural perspectives as part of an ensemble cast, but I doubt I’ll ever write a primary character who is a racial minority (other than Kin…which I think is safe since I invented them). Writing too many scenes from that perspective gives devoted critics ample evidence to misconstrue what you meant. I already get enough flack from the born-again Christian parsimonious believers in perfection who think if a non-Christian character says the s-word or engages in off-scene extramarital sex it’s a sign I’m a tare among the wheat, not to mention the commentators who can’t tell alt-right ideology from the libertarian Non-Aggression Principle. I will continue to strive for accuracy in my portrayals and not submit to bullies who make judgements based on their own ignorance, but I know when to avoid a fight I probably can’t win. Besides, I strive for accurate characterizations and if I can’t get into the head of the character, making them the center of the story would likely come off inauthentic.

I think it’s wise to know my limitations as a writer.

Posted August 23, 2021 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility   7 comments

What do you wish you had an unlimited supply of?

Today will require an endless supply of coffee or bail money | Etsy

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=”17633f18d42e4cbaada9aa3d43b85e61″ 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/17633f18d42e4cbaada9aa3d43b85e61” 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=”17633f18d42e4cbaada9aa3d43b85e61″]https://fresh.inlinkz.com/p/17633f18d42e4cbaada9aa3d43b85e61

So Many Choices

This appears to be a common theme for me–too many choices to choose from. I have to narrow the field somehow, so I decided to eliminate the pat answers of love and money. They were too easy to answer anyway and I wanted to write a longer article. Besides, as a Christian, I already experience the boundless love of God toward me, but as an apocalyptic writer, my experience of human love is that wishing I had boundless love from other people is asking too much, especially in these days of cancel culture, social media flame wars, and people taking absolute sides over mandates that don’t take personal needs and differences into account.

And I certainly don’t think endless money is very healthy for people. There’s something about human nature that too much wealth corrodes even good character. Looking back at the rich men and women in history, there’s been few who could rightly handle money. The few who did were very generous with their wealth while showing judicious wisdom in what they gave their money too. R.G. LeToureau comes to mind as a notable example of a man who didn’t think his wealth was a permit to treat others like serfs. While I’d like to believe otherwise, I can’t say my faith and character are to that caliber, so I would not want an endless supply of money.

There’s the classic example of wisdom. Solomon choose that and it made him a wise ruler. But he still married foreign wives who took him and his children, some of whom were the future rulers of Israel, away from the God who gave him wisdom, which doesn’t seem to be very wise. So I would choose not to complicate my life in that fashion. That way, my “superpower” shouldn’t go to my head and create a megalomaniac.

What Would I Choose?

After a great deal of thought and pondering various supplies that would be intriguing, I finally decided I would like to have an endless supply of good health. I’ve always been very healthy myself, though as I age, my joints complain sometimes, so I feel that would be the most beneficial for me and any extra I’m not using, I would pass to people around me and since it’s an endless supply, I could truly help a lot of people. I would strive to make my contribution anonymous. You’d just pass me in the grocery store and eventually realize you were perpetually well. I would strive to the utmost of my ability to keep my contributions anonymous, so as not to promote myself into megalomania. I might not even tell my husband and kids that I have this supply. And, by passing my good health along to others, I just might solve at least one aspect of our current cultural hate-fest.

You see, the problem with an endless supply of almost anything is that human beings just lack the character to use it appropriately. We always come to believe that it makes us superior to others and therefore justifies abusing them. After all, we’re trying to “help” them. Having observed such character failings in others, I don’t trust myself to be any better. I think God invented scarcity to keep us humble because a near-endless supply of everything clearly went to Adam and Eve’s heads. With great power comes great responsibility.

Posted August 16, 2021 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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Making A Choice   8 comments

Do you have a favorite piece of literature? What is it and why is it your favorite?

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=”d998e920d864496a8ba49f539989f0b4″ 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/d998e920d864496a8ba49f539989f0b4” 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=”d998e920d864496a8ba49f539989f0b4″]https://fresh.inlinkz.com/p/d998e920d864496a8ba49f539989f0b4

So Many?

The Young Unicorns by Madeleine L'Engle

I have a lot of “favorite” books and a lot of favorite authors. It’s hard to narrow it down to just one. I enjoy them all for different reasons and the genres range widely. Some of my favorites were encountered when I was a particular age and going back to them was a mistake because I no longer “get” the book. Others are old friends that I have read many times. I’m rereading Sorrow, Memory and Thorn by Tad Williams because when I picked up his newest book in Osten Ard, I found I didn’t remember much about the first trilogy. I am remembering it as I go along and I’m enjoying it all over. I love Ray Bradbury, Robert Heinlein, Charles Dickens, Robert Louise Stevenson, Louisa Mary Alcott, Mark Twain, Katharine Kerr, and Kate Elliott, and currently my favorite novelist is Brandon Sanderson. And, at the suggestion of PJ MacLayne, I’m enjoying reading the Longmire series.

And then there’s the nonfiction books and poetry. I like a broad range of reading.

But that’s not really the question, is it?

Do I have an all-time favorite?

Yes. Although I enjoy several books by Madelaine L’Engle, her third book in the Austen family series The Young Unicorns must be my favorite because I have reread it more times than any other book. Why? L’Engle was an amazing writer. You feel like you’re on the street of Manhattan’s Upper West side in many scenes. I asked my husband to read a few scenes because he lived in New York at one point and he said the same thing. Her word pictures are evocative. Her characters feel like people you might know. And she approaches moral questions and quandaries in a way that is both deft and searching.

“They’re a good family…One can tell a great deal around a dinner table…I think the closest we ever come in this naughty world to realizing unity in diversity is around a family table. I felt it at their table, the wholeness of the family unit, freely able to expand to include friends, to include me even through Austin’s and my suspicions of each other, and yet each person in that unit complete, individual, unique, valued.”

I don’t know a better definition of a favorite piece of literature than something you go back to over and over, unless it is one that stirs something so deep in your heart that you remember it for a lifetime.

The Greatest Book I’ve Ever Read

My parents made sure I read a lot as a kid and Alaska’s cold winters gave me plenty of time to do so and made me think it was my own idea. My parents, particularly my dad, wanted me to read all the great literature, so he bought a lot of books and sometimes we would read together. I think I was nine or 10 the first time I read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. I grew up in a largely postracial community. Alaska outlawed racial discrimination 15 years before I was born and people were pretty used to being integrated by the time I was old enough to be aware of racial differences. So, in some ways, Huckleberry Finn was my introduction to the whole topic of American slavery. Roots hadn’t mythologized it yet. The last movie adaptation of the book was the year I was born, so I hadn’t seen it on the screen. It was just some book I picked up off a shelf and opened. There was a scene early in the book about Huck’s father having DTs and I knew what those were because it had happened to some friend of my parents and I’d overheard the adults talking about it. But Twain put me right in Huck’s shoes as he experienced the horror and that sucked me right into the character of Huck. I engaged with his moral quandary of being on this raft with an escaped slave. Huck knew it was immoral to break the law and Jim was an escaped slave that the law said should be returned to his owner. Yet, about three-quarters of the way through the book, Huck had to make a decision about Jim, whose freedom is entirely in Huck’s hands.

“It was a close place. I took . . . up [the letter I’d written to Miss Watson], and held it in my hand. I was a-trembling, because I’d got to decide, forever, betwixt two things, and I knowed it. I studied a minute, sort of holding my breath, and then says to myself: “All right then, I’ll go to hell”—and tore it up. It was awful thoughts and awful words, but they was said. And I let them stay said; and never thought no more about reforming.”

What a powerful statement! One that has never really left me. Society can be wrong about so many things and yet we are responsible to God’s still small voice within us to obey Him rather than people who try to define right and wrong from a flawed human perspective. It’s an incredible lesson for young people to learn.

Posted August 9, 2021 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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