Friday, September 28, 2012

Wild Men of Alaska

The Russian translation of the word Alaska literally means: “Where the sea breaks her back.”  
As a writer setting my stories in Alaska lends unlimited possibilities for my heroes and the women who fall in love with them. Since I married my own Wild Man of Alaska, I know my subject well. I love men who are larger than life, who operate outside the norm, and have their own code of ethics that might or might not coincide with the law of the land. The conditions in which they live requires them to be problem solvers, men of action, leaders, and physically powerful. What’s not to love?

For the women reading this, the current men to women ratio in Alaska is seven men to every one woman. That’s right I said SEVEN. Until you can get the funds together for a plane ticket and go after your own Wild Man of Alaska, you can get “Lucky” in DREAMWEAVER.

“Lucky” Leroy Morgan is a man so wild he’s pushing the limits of death to be with the woman he loves.

A desperate man...
“Lucky” Leroy Morgan led a charmed life, until he was murdered. Now he’s stuck in Limbo, unwilling to move on after catching a glimpse of the future he was supposed to have and the amazing woman who was destined to be his. Using the Northern Lights as a conduit back to earth, he attempts to seduce her in her dreams, hoping to anchor himself to the physical plane. If he doesn’t win her heart, he’ll be forever lost.

A tempted woman...
Gemma Star is fairly conventional considering her hippie upbringing. Her biggest fear is that she’ll end up like her Tarot card reading mother, who isn’t all there. When Gemma starts having out-of-this-world sex with a dream lover, she starts to wonder if she is losing her mind along with her heart. What if her crazy mother is right? If she continues consorting with her Dreamweaver will there be lasting consequences to her soul?

Will their love survive? Or is it just a dream...


Barnes & Noble:

To learn more about the Wild Men of Alaska check out Lynx in MOOSED UP and Skip in IMPACT. Then you will be ready to met Sergei, my wild Russian, in BEARING ALL coming soon in November.

I’d love to hear about the qualities you look for in a larger than life hero when needing to lose yourself in a good book. We’re all friends here, so feel free to share.

You can learn more about Tiffinie Helmer at or her facebook page where she shares great facts and amazing pictures of Alaska and the Wild Men who live there.

--- Tiffinie Helmer

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Alaskan Harvest

All of us Alaskans are getting ready for winter. Time to harvest what we can!

Most of us have salmon &/or other fish in the freezer. (When we had our recent windstorms, most of my friends and family were most concerned with how long the freezer could go without power--can’t let all that good fish go to mush!) In our house, we have 22 red salmon from the Copper River, thanks to my husband’s hard work dip-netting this summer.

Our freezer also has 2/12 cups of blueberries we picked at Hatcher Pass. (We ate fresh or cooked the rest but saved enough for a pie or crisp when we need a taste of summer.) And there are 2 quarts of rhubarb from the huge plant we share with our next-door neighbors. I’ve dried and bagged herbs tucked away in the pantry. (My marjoram was prolific this summer; the oregano did okay.)

I love to eat Alaska broccoli and carrots. I find they’re sweeter than the ones in the grocery store. Those I don’t grow in my own garden, but I buy as often as possible at farmers’ markets. I have 6 baggies of broccoli in the freezer that I cut up and blanched. There’s a bag of carrots in the refrigerator I plan to add to next weekend.

In the dead of winter, when the sun’s only up for four hours and I can barely remember what the summer sun feels like, it feels great to eat the salmon or berries or veggies and bring a piece of summer back. Plus, this is all-natural food I am proud to feed to my family.

Here’s a recipe for berry crisp that you can try with your own berries wherever you live. (Any kind of berries will do. If they’re frozen, just thaw them first.) I usually make this without measuring, so you have permission to “eyeball” things and add or subtract as needed for your own taste. :-)

Place 2-3 cups of berries at the bottom of a 2-quart casserole.
Sprinkle a little lemon juice on them if you like.
In a separate bowl, mix 1 cup oats, 1/4 to 1/2 cup flour, 1/3 to 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1 tsp. of cinnamon, 1/2 tsp.nutmeg and allspice.
(Optional: add 1/2 cup nuts or granola.)
Mix together and cut in 2 tbl. butter or margarine.
Spoon oat mixture on top of berries.
Cook in 375 degrees oven for 30 minutes or until berries are bubbling and crisp is golden brown.

 --- Lynn Lovegreen

Monday, September 17, 2012

Alaskan Yukon Sci-Fi Writers

On Saturday at the Alaska Writers Conference I was standing behind stackable chairs arranged facing a lectern when the man beside me pointed out a woman seated across the room. "Who would think she’s a science fiction writer. She sure doesn’t look like it." The woman had gray hair and large glasses, not all that different in appearance from Lois McMaster Bujold, one of the current top science fiction writers. I scampered over and introduced myself to Sue Ann Bowling and begged some bookmarks for her two novels, Tourist Trap and Homecoming.

Unfortunately, both bookmarks disappointment me. One has a tiny picture of what might be a dogsled in whiteout conditions. The other has what seems to be a nebula but could just as easily be a jellyfish. The copy, lengthy endorsement quotes, give nothing about the plot of the books. I would have dismissed her books as poorly written but talked with the author. Tourist Trap is bout Roi who has a crippling disease caught only by the elite of his society, a society which has developed on a planet resembling Paleolithic Alaska. Okay, I’m interested.

The presentation from the lectern was on a subject I’d heard multiple times so I walked out quietly. In the hallway, I encountered Libbie Martins, who also writes science fiction. We escaped into the bar to drink Alaskan Amber. Libbie showed me her science fiction short story. I only was able to read a few paragraphs, but seems to deal with some interesting social issues. She also told me that Sue Ann Bowling’s writing is excellent.

All of this led me to thinking about Alaskan speculative fiction writers. I think we could help each other more. If Sue had a dependable critique group, her fellow writers could have headed off the problems with the indecipherable covers on the bookmarks. RWA is a wonderful organization but joining it isn’t an option for all SF writers. During the remainder of the conference, I jotted down names and collected business cards.

At this juncture in the publishing market, traditional publishers are dropping midlist authors, aiming only for best sellers or that is what I gather from my growing stack of reject letters. Here is a quote from a recent addition to the stack;

"I am very selective about taking on new clients since the publishing industry has become so narrow in its focus and harsh in its treatment of debut and midlist authors. Projects must have stellar world building, characters that leap off the page, pacing that is relentless and a story that entices the reader to take its journey with the characters. I know that’s a tall order, but if your writing is lacking in any of those areas, I must pass on it."

Reading between the lines I understand that agents want immediate success. They want to know from reading only the first page that the book will be in instant blockbuster. It’s a reasonable decision from an economic stand point, yet I’ve read that for years the books of Lois McMaster Bujold earned only pizza money. I’ve also seen numbers that show John Scalzi’s writing earned less than 1000 dollars per year for about five years. And I critiqued the opening of The Hunger Games before it was published. It’s a good story but I didn’t pick it out as a best seller from reading the first chapter in draft form.

It seems that midlist and new authors, jilted by traditional publishers, are increasingly turning to self-publishing. An Alaskan author, Tam Linsey, has recently self-published her dystopian novel Botanicast. She did her own cover, and the entire book from writing to marketing is excellent. I’d like to learn from her as well as from Sue Anne Bowling and others Alaskan and Yukon SF writers. What amazing people!

Unfortunately, the rest of the SF community hasn’t caught up. Science Fiction Writers Association doesn’t accept independent authors or unpublished authors as members. This leaves us all working on our own.

But I’m thinking, why should writers in Alaska be bound by decisions of the SFWA board? We can get together and support each other without approval from a board which meets thousands of miles away. I’ve started making a list of SF writers in Alaska and Yukon. As of this morning I have the names and e-mail addresses of thirty-five writers. My intent to set up a Yahoo group and a page associated with The Alaska Writers Guild. If nothing else I want a list of all the SF writers in Alaska and Yukon. I expect my list will be long. It’s possible that we are the largest category of writers in this corner of North America.

--- Eve Marlinspike

Thursday, September 6, 2012

UNSAFE HAVEN - The Book of My Heart

     Hi all! AKRWA member Char Chaffin here, one of those displaced Alaskans now living in the Lower Forty-Eight and missing Alaska like only a sourdough can. I’m in Upstate New York on a sixty-acre farm that hubby Don and I love, but let’s face it, it’s not Alaska.  (::cries::)
     When I started writing in earnest, I still lived in Fairbanks and I always knew someday I’d write a novel set in Alaska. I decided I’d set it in the town I knew the best. Sixteen years in Fairbanks made me an expert of sorts, right? I also figured I’d still be living in Fairbanks when I was ready to plot it out.
     Plans change and life tosses you curves all the time. We moved, and my plotting ideas changed, too, so I put my Alaskan story on hold.

     I began UNSAFE HAVEN last year when I was visiting Fairbanks, helping daughter Sue Ann, son-in-law John, and newborn granddaughter Faith Charlene. I had two wonderful months with my girls and my guy, and I savored each and every day because I knew I’d have to make it last quite a while until I could get up to see them again. I thought to myself, “Okay, I can extend the warm fuzzy being home gives me, by starting my Alaskan novel set in the Interior.”
     Alas, wrong region.
     My heroine, Kendall, wouldn’t have felt safe in Fairbanks. It’s too accessible. Anyone can just fly right into Fairbanks International Airport, handy as you please. Easy accessibility to The Last Frontier is a wonderful thing. But not when a character has to escape a sociopathic fiancĂ© and run for her very life. That’s when the remote regions come in handy.
     I decided on Southwest Alaska, creating a small, predominantly Native Alaskan village set about a hundred miles from Bethel in an area surrounded by small lakes and a low mountain range. Because I did want it to be somewhat prosperous, I created a zinc mine near enough to the village that a decent, twelve-or-so mile road would be necessary. Just long enough of a road to hook my village to its slightly bigger (but not prettier) sister village of New Mina (also fictional), on the Kuskokwim River. I researched terrain and tundra to make sure I could describe the flora with enough accuracy that my readers would be able to ‘see’ my village of Staamat.

     Actually, I pictured Staamat as a cross between McCarthy and Skagway with a population of maybe two hundred. Except Stammat isn’t the least bit ghostly.
     Now I had my setting, obscure enough that a person could stay easily hidden but not so obscure that a determined sociopath wouldn’t be able to find my girl. I gave Kendall a lovely face and form but her true beauty is on the inside where it counts the most. She’s tall, slender, with golden brown curls and eyes that have witnessed more than her share of pain and horror. She’s very leery of men, and for good reason. Alaska is a place of sanctuary for her, a final hiding place where she doesn’t have to answer questions about herself, where she can live a safe life. Romance is the furthest thing from her mind when she gets to Staamat.
     Then I threw a monkey wrench into her plans and gave her a hero.
     A Native Alaskan cop with a big heart, a need to protect and a real love of family seemed like the perfect match for my vulnerable Kendall. My hero, Denn Nulo, is tall, muscular, amber-eyed and black-haired, devoted to his little sister, and wants to cherish Kendall. He’s got a dry sense of humor and a strict sense of right and wrong. When he and Kendall meet, there are plenty of sparks: hers are reluctant and his are eager.
     After that, the story kind of wrote itself.

     Writing what you know is a lot of fun, I must admit. But writing in familiar yet unknown territory is even more fun. Especially when Don willingly joined in and helped with some of my research. I’d say, “Here’s what I want to do,” and he’d jump on his laptop, make a few clicks and shake his head. “You can’t do that, but you can do this,” he’d say.
     UNSAFE HAVEN was a labor of love the way any novel is, when it comes from a writer’s mind and heart. You pour your blood onto those pages and hope they’ll gel into a story others will enthusiastically embrace. All along the way, you question yourself: did I put enough cliffhangers and plot hooks into it to keep my readers engaged? Is the romance romance-y enough, are the characters fascinating, the scene settings detailed, the overall tone a real page-turner? Will my cover art make a browser do a double-take? Will my book blurb fire them to fork over the cash to buy it?

Well, here’s my cover, so you can see for yourself...
...and here’s the book blurb, which hopefully will leave all of you panting for more:

For Kendall Martin, a small, remote village in Southwest Alaska seems like a good place to start over. On the run from an abusive relationship, she leaves everything familiar behind and begins a new life as owner of a small souvenir and sportsman trading post in picturesque Staamat.

Denn Nulo knows everyone in town: he’s the Chief of Police in Staamat. He’s lived there all his life, except for his college years, spent in Anchorage. Originally planning on practicing criminal law and living in Anchorage permanently, Denn is forced to change his plans when he receives word that his widowed mother has passed away, leaving his young sister, Luna, alone. Denn comes back to Staamat to care for Luna.

     When Kendall meets Denn, she begins to believe there are truly good men in the world. Denn is everything she wants: strong, loving, dedicated to family, protective...and patient. There is instant attraction between them, but Kendall is leery of men and Denn craves a serious relationship that includes marriage and children. Their courtship is a conflicting mix of hesitancy and passion, with Luna desperately needing a mother figure in her life, cheering them on.

As Kendall learns how to trust again and her romance with Denn grows more intense, a local woman who’s had her eye on Denn for years releases a torrent of damaging jealousy. . .and the nightmare from Kendall’s past discovers where she’s hidden herself.
     UNSAFE HAVEN is available at Soul Mate Publishing, Amazon and Barnes & Noble. I hope you enjoy reading about Denn and Kendall, taking a short vacation from your day, and spending it in Staamat, SW Alaska, in the fabulously fabulous Last Frontier.

     --- Char Chaffin

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Sunday, September 2, 2012

Book Reviews

Recently there was a flash in the pan example of ‘Author Behaving Badly’ in regard to a review of her freshly released #2 NYT book. The details of he said/she said/someone else responded in defense/OMG CALL THE COPS- is not important.

What is important, in my humble opinion, is that in the grand scheme of things book reviews are either completely irrelevant or devastating depending on who writes them, reads them or pays attention to them. We’ve all listened to our favorite author bemoan a bad review. They stink! The review of course and the brain-dead imbecile using a crayon that wrote it.

A review cuts right to the heart of what we DO. We work hard and we deserve good reviews. The first ones for a book are especially important to justify the sacrifice we made to put that book out. We bled on those pages!

We live in a new world of 'e-everything' but we were raised in the old world where traditional publications and trade related magazines meant something. We paid attention to them because everyone else paid attention to them. Regardless of the fact that Author 'A' wrote the worst book of her career. Word of mouth may have said that or politely worded reviews said she/he could have done better but, hey it is Author 'A' after all. And notice it took two years for the reviews to catch up with the publication and by then there was a new book out so, no harm no foul.

Today, regular book review sites are valuable to some for their 'e-immediate' information. We each find a site or four that we appreciate and we trust the reviewer to be anywhere from HARSH to I only review books I like because I don’t want to offend anyone. Then there is Anonymous who can say any number of things and the repercussions are non-existent except to the writer. But, the same equation works for AMAZING reviews because some of those were written by paid professionals.


Yup!! For a paltry $999.00 you too can have 50 reviews: Terrific book, Will change your life. Lyrical and gripping, Stunning and compelling.

When that bit of financial information came across my desk this week it became crystal clear that writing books is still about writing the best damn book you can and then starting the next best damn book you can write.

Or, you could begin making a bundle of $ by writing reviews on demand for Author 'A' who still puts out a book a year based on reputation alone. 

So, for what my opinion is worth—it’s just a book review.

 --- DeNise Woods