Friday, September 26, 2014

First Frost

by Tam Linsey
Autumn is busy for me, scrambling to bring in the harvest before hard frost ruins everything. Winter arrives quickly and decisively here in the High North. So without further preamble, I leave you with photos and haikus from this week's first (and late, I might add) frost. Now back to my garden; it's supposed to get cold tonight.

Sun cuts through first frost
in gentle reminder that
winter is coming

On sigh of chill wind
the sun warmed curves blush crimson
and fall to the earth

Vines taken by frost
pumpkins glow with autumn's kiss
a call to harvest

Tam is the author of the Botanicaust series of post-apocalyptic romances. When she's not writing, you can find her in the garden or in the kitchen. If you'd like to read more about her self-sufficiency experiences in Alaska, sign up for her newsletter or visit her website.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

September in Alaska - by Lynn Lovegreen

By mid-September, summer is going or gone in Alaska. Depending on location and the weather, we might have the last gasp of summer, but we all know that’s all it is.

The days are crisp and there’s a definite chill in the evening. The sunsets are noticeably earlier. But if we’ve done our job right, we’re ready.

(See Sandy Shacklett’s post from Aug. 29.) 
The freezer is full and the firewood is stacked. We can enjoy the fall. 

Autumn is the time to settle in and enjoy the great indoors. If you’re into crafts, reading, other indoor hobbies, you can indulge without feeling guilty about wasting the daylight, missing out on camping and fishing and all that stuff. 

The kids are back in school, the summer to-do list checked off (or dumped), and it’s time to relax a bit.
Of course, with this group, it means more time to write. Fall is the time to finish that draft, start the new book, learn that new writing program you’ve been dying to try. 

In my case, it’s finishing the research and getting the draft whipped into shape. I’m looking forward to it!

Enjoy your September, whatever that means in your neck of the woods!

--- Lynn Lovegreen

Friday, September 5, 2014

The Family that Edits Together...

 I love to develop new tales and write new stories. I twist and turn characters.  I torture them, marry them off, give them heartbreaking experiences and renew their spirit with love and happiness. I give them children whom they love and cherish with all their hearts and heartbreaks. I take family members away in grisly accidents and send strangers into their lives to support and challenge them.  I can do anything in the world; right wrongs, cause wrongs, cause rights, make volcanoes blow and earthquakes rattle. I can save the universe in every book. Almost always there is a happy ending.  Sometimes that happy ending comes in the third book in the series, but what the heck. It's all a process, right?

Unfortunately there is more to writing a novel than simply creating.  If it was easy we'd all be New York Times Best Sellers, right? With the fun creative process always comes the drab dull part called editing.  I hate editing.  As a person who has dealt with non-dominant dyslexia since the name was coined, I find editing arduous and painful. It takes the joy from my shiny novel and dunks it in the glacial silt of Cook Inlet sucking it down like quicksand.

I am not a famous and rich Nora or a Cheryl, or a guy with buried pets, so I thought I had a great idea when I solicited both my husband and mother to help with editing. Free labor right? They are both really good at spelling, word definition and grammar. All the things I am not! And once they begin, they are definitely committed!

Well you know that aged old saying; the best laid plans of mice and men...

Now the first thing you need to know about these beloved individuals is that they have my best interests at heart and want me to be the next author sitting on the sofa with Oprah. That should be your first clue; Oprah's been off the air for a while now. 

Both of my darling relations are varying shades of concrete. Not the stuff you walk on. Not the color, but possessing the personality characteristic of being solid, in need of specifics and black and white information. A concrete individual needs facts, figures and objects to deal with (that’s what made my mom a great CFO and my husband a fabulous air traffic controller). There is no shade of gray, no fact left uncovered or undisclosed. It's rules, evidence and practicalities all the way. There is right and there is wrong, period. I used to teach this stuff.  I should have known better… are you getting the picture?

On page three of my manuscript, my wonderful mother who raised me to finish my dinner "because there were starving children in India", shook her curly white haired head and softly asked why I had spelled my heroine's name wrong. Then went on to elaborate on a tiny problem she just couldn't pass up; did I understand that my readers may not know what color of brown eyes she had if I just used chocolate as a descriptor since there were many shades of chocolate, including white. And did I want my readers to think my heroine could be an albino?

Albino? White chocolate? What? My main female character just went from a lovely African American woman with hair as black as coal, to an Albino whose name was misspelled.

Across the table, my lovely husband just had to tag team the situation by supporting my mother's point. Adding the fact that the unusual spelling of her name would probably cause my character to have a chip on her shoulder due to constant misspelling of her name which she most certainly carried with her from childhood. And did I want an unstable albino female as the main character of the book?

I had no answer for that one. I didn't even recognize my story at that point.

Six pages later, the love interest of my heroine entered the story. He was tall and totally ripped, spoke three languages and practiced karate.

Remember that curly white haired woman from above? She wanted to know what part of my handsome hunk of a character was ripped and how did a human get ripped in the first place. Were his clothes in tatters? What got ripped? And was one of the languages he spoke English, because if it wasn't then she wouldn't be able to finish the book. Was this novel going to be published in those languages so his friends could read it?

In the first place, my hero is a figment of my imagination and so are his friends. My primary language is English so the book is written in ENGLISH! 

I had to escape so out of the house I went, down the street and around the corner to the beautiful benches that sit on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean.  There I sat stewing over my volatile albino heroine and my disabled polyglot hero. Which was when I heard a couple arguing in a ratty old car in the parking lot behind me.

“Jan, you’ve got to stop using.  Your kids know. Your folks know. I know.  It’s destroying your life and the lives of everyone you touch. I don’t know how much more I can take.  You stole your kid’s lunch money for a fix. Come on… Look at yourself. You’re nothing but a skeleton...”

Okay... so maybe concrete isn’t so bad.  When I got back to the house they were on page one hundred and fifteen arguing over the description of my little ghost. How could I describe, with any accuracy, a thing that doesn’t exist?

I retreated to my loft where I write and began a new story about a drug addict and the man who...well, you’ll just have to wait for the book.

---Miriam Matthews

 'The Ghost of Port Chicago'

'The Good, the Bad and the Bet'

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Getting ready for winter...

This is Alaska and being prepared is still an important part of living here.  The weather is getting crisp, fall is here and winter is near.  Getting ready for winter will be happening in earnest.

For some people this is a sad time that marks the end of summer.  But, others will celebrate the change in season with a flurry of activities.  Harvesting is now in full swing.  Wild berries are almost done for the season with lots of jams, jellies and syrups in the cupboards.  Fish are being brined, smoked, dried, canned or frozen.  Vegetables are being picked, pickled, chopped, cut, blanched and prepped for storage.  And, depending on your location, hunting for the meat that will sustain you through the winter has started or soon to start.

Making sure you have enough firewood to make it through the winter, that is if you have a fireplace or woodstove to help you heat your home.  Checking for heat loss problems around windows and doors, and generally preparing for the cold that is coming.  Staying warm is the main goal, but cutting the cost down as much as possible is the second. 

The main goal, and what makes a lot of these efforts worthwhile, is being able to eat good food and stay warm, but cutting the cost down as much as possible is an added benefit and staying healthy is another.  And, getting things done just plain makes you feel good.

Next – wax those skis, tune up those snow machines, get out the ice auger and break out the winter gear!

--- Sandy Shacklett

Friday, August 22, 2014

Writing On The Road...

 — Okay, Not ON the Road, Because I Wouldn’t Write on a Road, Like With Chalk or Anything, But . . .

Well, you know what I mean, right?
I’ve been traveling quite a bit this year with Mr. Don. Mostly motoring, but I jumped on a few flights as well. Family commitments, a conference, more family—it all takes time. Hours in a car, then on a jet, with my brain thinking ahead on what needs to be done when we get there. But regardless of what Don and I are doing that requires travel, I still need to work. As an acquiring editor, I have authors depending on me to get their manuscripts ready for publication. I have submissions to read. And as a writer, I have my own deadlines on several projects.
So I write on the road. No chalk in sight, either.
It’s a balancing act, and I do mean balancing. In a mid-sized Suzuki on the freeway, working with a laptop can really be challenging especially since I have a heck of a time dealing with the little touch pad. What a major PITA . . . I’m borderline dyslexic on the best of days. At home I employ not only a trackball mouse but a full-sized ergonomic keyboard to keep my wayward fingers from hitting something that ends up looking like ‘KSDhsgosugsazb ,mmm.’

Earlier this year and on the road south, I fought with the stupid touch pad but couldn’t click on anything to save my soul. So I tried using my trackball by setting it on the narrow arm rest molded into the passenger door which was kind of ridiculous. But I was desperate for functionality and the ability to double-click with any kind of finesse. A Kensington trackball shaped like a triangle doesn’t balance very well on an arm rest that’s no wider than a wooden ruler. After enduring the ‘Laughter of Don,’ I tucked away my trackball and grumbled for the next several hundred miles we drove each day. But I did master the touch pad enough to complete final edits on a deadline manuscript.

 In two months we’re hitting the road again, and we’ll be gone for six months or so; Texas, the southwest, home to Alaska. We’ll be in the RV, on a plane, back in the Suzuki, and I’ll be doing my balancing act once more. Work goes on no matter what, and I’ve found I can blend it in with the more enjoyable aspects of being on the road without missing too much scenery along the way.

I think the best aspect of both my jobs is the flexibility of it. I can edit and write anywhere, anytime, and wearing anything I like. Or not, though I have yet to write in the nude. Perhaps that can be a future challenge. But not in the Suzuki. What if I spill my latte while I’m double-clicking?
Think of the damage I’d do to my laptop.

Char Chaffin is a member of AKWRA and CNYRW, a displaced Alaskan currently splitting her time between Fairbanks and Upstate New York. She has three books and an anthology published with Soul Mate Publishing and is also an Acquisitions Editor for Soul Mate. She’s hard at work on her fourth novel as well as another anthology and a project with ‘The Power of Three,’ a writing collective she shares with BFFs and fellow authors Cheryl Yeko and Callie Hutton. When she’s not writing or editing, she’s plotting.

Find her here:

Friday, August 15, 2014

Sunlight Moonlight

 One of the things I miss most about living in Alaska is the light cycle. Whenever I tell people I lived in Anchorage for several years I get the same question:  How did you stand the dark? The real answer is that everyone stands the dark because they know summer is coming and the dark will be pretty much banished. It all equals out.

But the truth is, I never had to “stand” the dark. I loved the weirdness of the shortest days of the year. I’ll never forget my first morning in Anchorage, looking out on a snowy December 2nd at 9:30 a.m. and seeing people at a bus stop, one person shoveling a sidewalk, and three more strolling casually along, as if it wasn’t pitch dark, snowing and illuminated by streetlamp. I was more astounded yet when, after the briefest showing of visible daylight, the night crept in around 2:30 p.m.

Truly weird. To an Outsider.

But I grew to love the short winter daylight. Not as much as the short summer moonlight, but the eleven dark months had their charm. And their usefulness.  (Okay, so it wasn’t dark for eleven months. Eight maybe. It just seemed like eleven.) But I loved burrowing into my little condo from October to May and learning how to use the time and the sense of being in a cocoon to become more productive.  It was in the long dark mornings and afternoons that I learned to write. I mean, what else was there to do besides put my nose to the grindstone and produce? Heck, I wrote three books during Alaskan winters. That was a dang good author apprenticeship!

And, there was summer. Glorious, 20-hour days of sunlight (when it wasn’t raining), and time for exploring, gathering information, doing research. I came up with multiple future plots during the stunning Alaskan summers. They are a dreamer’s paradise!

So here I sit, 15 latitudinal degrees, give or take, south of Alaska, and we have no such extreme cycles, but I could use one of them. It’s my unscientifically proven fact that there’s more time to work in Alaska than there is in Minnesota. I just sent in a rather ambitious proposal to my agent, who sent it to my editor, who has hinted that she loves it. But, if it’s accepted I’m warned—the books will need to be produced like that one recent famous movie:  (The)Fast and Furious(ly). I’m not known for my fast and furious writing ability. I need fewer hours of daylight in which to waste time.

See why I need a hermit month in an Alaskan winter?

Of course, it could be I just need a little self-discipline.

But an Alaskan adventure is more fun to think about. Somebody would find me a nice little bat cave (not literally) in an Alaskan basement or cabin, wouldn’t she?

And, if I were to come tomorrow, maybe I could get some lessons in how to promote two books coming out right in a row. What the heck—might as well throw in another first world problem:  how does one deal with back-to-back releases?

A problem to solve in another blog.

 Meanwhile, I really do have two new books coming out back-to-back. I’ve even got the covers to show you!  Whatcha think? As my editor said, “I’m not usually in favor of putting more clothing ON a cover model, but in these cases I think it’s well worth it.” And, I agree—I prefer leaving something to the imagination—and I can tell you, I’d definitely like to delve under these t-shirts and jean jackets. Guess what? The heroines in my two do more than delve . . .

Check ‘em out if you like:  both books are available for pre-order!  “Beauty and the Brit” releases September 2nd and “Good Guys Wear Black” on October 14th.  I’ll figure out how to promote them in the next couple of weeks – but suggestions are welcome! 

That’s it, since I can’t really wax any more poetic or dramatic on Alaskan daylight and moonlight. I’ll just end by saying—if one of you, my Alaskan buddies, finds me blinking in the dark on your front porch one night, you’ll know why.

--- Liz Selvig