Thursday, February 28, 2013

Real Men of Alaska

We thought we would try something new:

On the first Friday of each month, we'll be interviewing some of the rugged, intelligent, male specimens found in such abundance in the great State of Alaska.

Please Join us in Welcoming:

Tim, Mr. March 2013 - Real Man of Alaska

Welcome Tim, and thanks for being here today. As Romance Writers We Are Always On The Lookout For Hot Hunky Hero Types, So Please, Take A Few Minutes And Tell Us A Little About Yourself.

1: Were you born in Alaska, and if not, then how did you end up here? What do you do for a living, and what do you do for fun. (Age, height, fav. food, and any other statistics you are willing to share)

I was born in Anchorage Alaska. I have also lived in North Carolina and in California, but I moved back to Alaska because I love it here. I am 24 years old, 6 foot flat, 155lbs., my favorite food is spaghetti, and for fun I like to climb, dance, and draw still life.

2: What kind of woman appeals to you, and who do you let make the first move, you or her?

      I like a woman who is independent, intelligent, a good sense of humor, and natural beauty (low, if any, use of makeup). I like to make the first move, but at the same time I tend to be very passive, so it takes a couple of tries of increasing forwardness.

3: Where is your favorite place to take a girl on a first date, and why?

      It really depends on the girl. There is always the safe default of dinner and a movie, but why do that when you have access to a beautiful hike, or whale watching off Beluga Point, or some dance lessons? In short, I like to choose something that appeals to both of us.

4: What's the wildest experience you've had with a female companion since living in Alaska?


I have to say the wildest thing I’ve done with a female companion is something I like to call experimental dance. It’s like exploring movement possibilities and finding new ways to connect and move together.


5: Winter can be long, dark, and very cold here in Alaska. What are your favorite frosty pastime activities? And, what is the coldest temp you’ve seen/been in?


After enjoying a fresh snow I like to come inside and warm up with some hot cocoa and snuggle while watching a movie, usually under a blanket. The coldest temperature I have ever been in is -58oF, and yes, I went inside after playing in that weather to warm up with some hot cocoa.

6: And, if we ask about winter then we simply must inquire about the too short, wonderful summers. What are your favorite things to do during all those long hours of sunshine? 

I like to water ski at midnight. The lake is usually clear of traffic and smooth as glass. I also like to take advantage of the long lasting sunsets/sunrises and grab a few photos.

7: Alaskan men take their vehicles very seriously. What is your favorite mode of transportation – car, truck, snow machine, four-wheeler, airplane, skis, snowboard, etc., and why?

      My favorite form of recreational transportation is skiing. I love the feeling of racing down a hill with simple tools and remaining in control.

8: What is your favorite Alaskan animal – to see along the highway or on your dinner plate?

      My favorite Alaskan animal to see on my dinner plate is King Salmon. I’m salivating just thinking about it.

9: Have you ever wrestled a polar bear, mushed a dog team, panned for gold, eaten muktuk, done the polar bear plunge, climbed Denali, run the Mt. Marathon, or any of the other 'found only in Alaska' activities?

       I’ve done the polar bear plunge, panned for gold, eaten salmon eyes, eaten herring eggs, eaten sea weed (a common ingredient in chowder cooked at my house), climbed Mt. Marathon (out of season), and touched glacier ice.

10: In your opinion, what exactly is it that makes an Alaskan Male so wonderfully macho and appealing?

      Shouldn’t you be answering this question? If you must know, my best guess is the connectedness with an untamed nature, and the ability to survive. Then all you have to do is throw in some myths and legends.

11: What’s the biggest fish you’ve ever landed?

As far as weight, the largest I caught was a 46lb halibut. As far as length I caught a 37 inch ling cod (it‘s like a rock fish).

12: Other than making love under them, what is your favorite thing to do when the Northern Lights are out and putting on a show?

Science experiments on cosmic particles, just kidding. I just like to watch them with someone that I love, let it start a conversation and let the conversation go where ever it takes us.

13: And last but certainly not least, in your opinion, what is the most romantic thing about Alaska, and why?

      Besides the northern lights, long sunsets/sunrises, and the unbelievable scenery of Alaska?  I guess, in my opinion, it’s not really the place or individual things that are truly romantic, but how they are presented and who shows them to you. What makes the idea of Alaska romantic is the idea of being shown the wonders by someone who loves it for what it is, and you for who you are.

Well said - Thank you, Tim, for answering all of our questions and for being our very first:
Real Man of Alaska - Mr. March 2013!

Friday, February 22, 2013

"To sleep, perchance to dream: - Shakespeare

This morning I dreamt I was a back up singer for Fleetwood Mac. It was so fun. They were rocking the stadium and I was doing my back up ooos, ahhs and such to perfection. Stevie Nicks put her arm around me and called me a special guest and brought me up to the front of the stage.

I said, “What you’re hearing in this show is something you’ll never hear on a record. This is live!” The crowd went wild. What an incredible feeling hearing thousands of people roaring with joy and pleasure.

“Now it’s your turn to sing.” Stevie Nicks said to me.

“Uh okay,” I said. So I decided to sing “Wuthering Heights,” by Kate Bush. In real life I do not have the vocal range to sing this song. In my dream I did. So I started belting out the first few lines and then I couldn’t remember the rest. I was humming and lalalaing what I didn’t know. Then thankfully I woke up. Whewww.

What a crazy dream.

Dreaming is incredibly important to our health. In that 1/3 of your day you spend sleeping you are revitalized. Without sleep our bodies and especially our minds begin to degrade, eventually we will go mad and die. It is a form of torture to deprive someone of sleep. Those of us that have had sleepless nights know how truly evil it is to go without sleep.

Dreams are also the source of inspiration and understanding. Mary Shelley was inspired to write Frankenstein, as was Robert Louis Stevenson with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Sick with high fever in Italy while making Piranha 2, James Cameron saw the Terminator – a steel skeleton rising out of fire. Stephenie Meyer saw the pivotal scene that created the Twilight trilogy and Paul McCartney dreamt the melody for Yesterday. In the sciences, Dmitri Mendeleyev dreamt about the Periodic Table of Elements, Elias Howe dreamt about cannibals and sewing machine needles, which helped create the first sewing machine and Friedrich Kekule solved the chemical structure of Benzene in a dream.

In one of my favorite Bible stories, the hero Jacob is a dream interpreter and he saves people from famine by discerning what the Pharaoh’s dreams mean. Another favorite is the Hindu creation of the Universe, which came from Brahma’s dream, he awakened and said Om and the vibration brought his dream into this version of reality. In some cultures, dreaming is the true world and it exists before we’re born and will continue well after we’re gone from this plane.

Great minds like Freud and Jung invested a good deal of their work studying and defining dreaming. They knew its important place in the fabric of the human psyche. They wrote books and catalogs, spending time keeping track of their dream worlds and that of their patients.

In my writing, I try to include the sleeping dreams of my characters along with their hopes and aspirations. In fact the hero of my current historical WIP is a superstitious sailor who pays close attention to his dreams and those of the people around him. Ironically, last year I dreamt about him. He was in a museum exhibit digging a hole in the dirt to bury treasure. I was struck that his face looked thinner than I imagined and he was just a smidge taller than me. I researched and discovered that I am 5’7” the height of a tall man of that time.

Do your characters dream? What do they dream about?
 -Carmen Bydalek

Friday, February 15, 2013

The Three Legends of Valentine's Day

By Liz Selvig

In honor of yesterday being Valentine’s Day, I’m going to break the current string of Alaskan themes here on the Alaska RWA blog and share a little Valentine’s history. I promise this isn’t boring history – it contains bits of legend, a dose of intrigue and, of course, a whole lotta love.
Nobody knows for sure when, where or how Valentine’s Day got started. The Catholic Church claims three saints named Valentine. One was a priest from Rome. One was a bishop from Terni. One died in Africa. All three are said to have died on February 14.

Most church history points to the Roman priest Valentine, martyred in the third century, as the Valentine for whom the holiday was named. The legendary “mists of time” have made tracing the exact truth impossible, but three main legends have survived to explain the beginnings of our modern Day of Romance.
The first legend claims that in In 496 AD, Pope Gelasius decided to turn the Roman festival of Lupercalis/Lupercalia, a pagan fertility celebration observed on February 15, into a Christian celebration to honor martyrs of the faith. He named his holiday after St. Valentine and moved it to February 14th, the day before the old celebration.

A second story, one embraced by both Catholics and Protestants, says Valentine was a bishop during the time of Claudius II, who amassed huge armies of young men to help him in defending his vast empire. Claudius II believed that married men made poor soldiers because they missed their families and fought half-heartedly, so he banned marriage. Bishop Valentine disagreed with this policy and took pity on lovers who desperately wanted to be together. He would bring young couples to a secret place and unite them in marriage. When he was caught and imprisoned, he refused to renounce his faith or his belief in the rite of marriage so he was put to death for his beliefs.

The third legend tweaks Bishop Valentine’s story. It says that once Claudius II found out about the secret marriages, he had Valentine arrested. While in prison, Valentine healed his jailor’s blind daughter and fell in love with her. In a sadly Nicholas Sparks-ish ending, just before Valentine was put to death he sent his love a letter expressing his adoration. He signed it, “Your Valentine.”

With tissues in hand, I have to admit that, as a romance writer, I have to go with the reverse Romeo and Juliet as my favorite story. The idea of a kind-hearted clergyman, willing to sacrifice himself so true lovers can live happily-ever-after just warms my soul a little. He’s my idea of a saint!

We’ve come a long, long way since then. Valentine’s Day is no longer a religious holiday and lovers the world over embrace the romance of the day. We’ve made chocolate (long associated with having aphrodisiac qualities), flowers, greeting cards and sexiness the hallmarks of February 14th. Statistics say that 190 million cards, 110 million roses and $1 billion worth of candy (75% of that chocolate) are purchased annually for Valentine’s Day. 

It’s pretty amazing that, in light of what might seem like crass commercialism, the spirit of Valentine’s Day has never changed: lovers, mentors and suitors bringing romance to a world that will never have enough of it.

And, as romance writers and readers, haven’t we just known that forever?

I hope you all had a wonderful Valentine’s Day—may your love fests continue even now that the 14th of February has passed.

--- Liz Selvig

Friday, February 8, 2013

Displaced, Disjointed and Just Diss'ed...

I stay in Germantown, Maryland for the time being.
I don't really live there. It's too small to be a proper state. I bide my time until I can leave. Heck, I get out of the landing pattern and I'm over Pennsylvania. It's more like existence outside the realm of reality. Yes, Virginia, sadly I'm another displaced Alaskan who wants to go home! And I will.
My husband and I have been “outside” for four and a half years now, and I plan every day to head my car north and start driving. Sometimes I plan it more than once a day! My car has other plans and somehow I always end up stuck in gridlock on I-270 South headed for work.
But after twenty-three years in the land of the midnight sun, I will never be content until those wonderful northern lights turn my skin zombie green and my heart is freezing and happy once again.

Like Char Chaffin’s blog stated, once you’ve lived there, you won’t be satisfied anywhere else. And it’s true. I knew it from the first time I stepped out of the Anchorage International Airport that beautiful sunny day in 1984, took one look at the mountains and said to myself, “I’m home.”
I count myself an Alaskan. And after all those years, Alaska changes a person. I found a world of freedom in the far north. I found the love of my life and my soul mate. And I found a place to belong to, a place where I fit in. In fact, there are still two long troughs down the ALCAN where my heels dug in as we left Tok headed for Seattle!

First to Concord, California, then to Bethesda, Maryland, it’s been a long haul. Each day I wake up and promise myself humor will get me through, but living 'outside' has been hard on this Alaskan gal.
So here’s a little humor to get you through. Or maybe it’s just because misery loves company.
When I say “I love halibut”, the butcher hands me a three inch wimpy slice of flounder. With a smile! It’s been frozen three times and floats in some creamy colored liquid and wiggles like Jello.

*  When I tell someone I miss flying my plane, they invariably look incredulous and say “You’re a pilot?” That’s when I begin to feel like I have two heads and four purple tentacles.
No one ever said that to me in Alaska. They asked what kind of plane I had and if I wanted to go to Talkeetna for ice cream.
When the guys are planning a fishing trip and I ask for the date and time, they start to shake and tear up. They’re such delicate flowers here on the 'right' coast. And by the way, did you know Alaskans live on the 'left' coast? I've never understood that little intellectual jewel.
The local folks aren't extremely flexible when I expound on my perspective from the far north looking down on the lower 49. Maryland is about as far left as you can go before you hit France.
There is just no appreciation for expanding the mind, I guess.

It’s 40 degrees outside and I come to work in a light sweater. I stand out in the crowd of fellow commuters, bundled to the max in down coats, heavy scarves, sub-zero gloves and all manner of hats.
Why don’t they melt?

When it snows (Ohhhhhhhhhhhh - God forbid it snows in the DC area!) an inch, or even less, the entire eastern seaboard shuts down and people buy everything off the shelves of the grocery stores.
So, I ask you, what good does it do to buy ten loaves of bread, all of the canned soup and five gallons of milk for a winter dusting that lasts a day and a half?

Children don’t know what snow angels are, but they pray to them anyway. So do their parents.
They have a freeway, called The Beltway, that circles our nation’s capital. The speed limit is 65 mph. It’s about fifteen lanes wide.
I’ve never been able to do more than 25 mph on it.

*  One police officer writing a ticket on I-270 South at 6:30 in the morning can back up traffic for ten miles. Needless to say here, in this land of rich history and high powered politics, road rage is a life style!

When the President goes somewhere there is a big traffic alert on the news. He can tie the place up for a day just popping out for a Subway sandwich.
He seems like a nice guy but is he worth all that? At $3.54 a gallon for gas?
Thank God he stays on the 'left' coast. Or is it the 'right' one?
Why doesn't Subway deliver anyway?

The word MERGE really means stop and watch the traffic for about three minutes, scream something in Swahili, then pull slowly out in front of an on-coming Mac truck.

I can go to COSTCO and never hear an English word, even at the check-out stand. Apparently there is something magical about the parking lot that transports you to a foreign market high in the Himalayas.
The WalMart greeter speaks English on Thursdays.
On the flip side, I do get to practice my Spanish and Russian.
However, I still kick myself for not learning Pakistani.

Everything is beautiful. Even the dead deer I pass on the highway every morning. You can’t hunt them. You’re not supposed to feed them or harass them. They’re like squirrels – everywhere!
But the good thing is they are small, so when you hit them you can keep going with little damage to your car.
(Unlike moose and caribou that can total a Chevy S10)

Women are restricted from learning anything about car maintenance, let alone touching 'ooh-icky stuff' that involves machinery of any kind.
Like Xerox machines. Or printers. Or office refrigerators. get the picture.
But they wear great shoes!

While we’re on the subject of women and shoes, here they do everything in four-inch spiked heels. 
They shop, they ride the Metro, they work and walk around all day. It makes for some sick humor watching the interesting and unusual gaits that appear about 3:00 in the afternoon.
It's kind of like a cross between the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the Nenana Ice Classic.
From the look of things, it’s got to be really painful, with long-term disabling effects. I can’t even get my feet to go into four-inch spiked heels. My toes crawl up into my feet and refuse to come out!

Like in Alaska, lots of people have dogs. But here, dogs are generally tiny and live inside, rarely seeing the street of day. And if they should do a 'doodle' while on parole, the owner is bound by legal statute and neighborly disdain to pick it up in a county approved biodegradable, green plastic bag, wrap and tie it off and place it in the appropriate receptacle for 'doggy doodle'.
DO NOT PUT IT IN THE GARBAGE. There is a fine for that.
DO NOT PUT IT IN YOUR NEIGHBOR’S GARBAGE. You can be arrested for that. They take their 'doggy doodle' seriously here in Maryland.

They take their plastic bags seriously too. In fact you have to pay five cents for every plastic bag you get at the store. The people of Montgomery County must have been asleep when the politicians passed that one. Then again, politicians can be pretty darn sneaky here in the land of congressional aides and lobbyists...and plastic bags!

Every seven feet there's a National Park of some kind. Now, I have a fond place in my heart for National Parks, like, say, Denali. Big open spaces, glaciers, wildlife, fresh air, clean water… right.
My husband and I honeymooned on the side of Mt. McKinley and it was hypoxic heaven.
I never knew a National Park could be a broke-down stone barn with a pile of rubble off to one side. I guess when you have a bazillion people living in cramped quarters, you have to down-size.

Did you know that humidity on the east coast can exceed the temperature? And when that happens you can count on a power outage. They just seem to go together.
For example, July 4th last summer; it was 104 degrees and the humidity was about 300 percent. The out-of-doors smelled like a men’s hockey locker room after a three day tournament. People moved from air-conditioned homes to air conditioned cars to the air conditioned malls and restaurants. You didn’t dare really go outside.
Then the power failed. For four days. It was a moist sight. All the years I lived in Alaska, I only lost power three times. Go figure.
Here’s a little trivia for your humor bone – PEPCO is the most hated and least dependable power company in the United States. Guess who my provider is…

*  The plumbing in many places is so old it still trickles through original lead pipes from the 1800's!
They actually placard the drinking fountains to warn the unsuspecting public.
“This water may contain lead. Not safe to drink.”
Really? Isn't that rusty, smelly thing specifically for drinking water?
And what percentage of the individuals in this area can read English? What about those pesky children who have yet to benefit from public education? What about the blind? What about the entire younger generation who never take their eyes off of their iphones, ipads, iwhatevers?
I think it’s a definite plot to increase retardation in our nation! We need more people on unemployment?

*  Millions of people live in these things called apartment home communities that start in the LOW $700,000. Basically a high-rise. We used to call that a “project.” Like everywhere in the US, housing took a hit here as well. Those cramped project apartments dropped a good half a million. And the spin stops where?

Well, the spin never stops on the east coast. The pace never slows down. People never look beyond the three-piece suit and Lincoln Town Car.
And we spend more time in traffic than anywhere else in the United States!
You wonder why I want to come home?

Now all I have to do is convince my car!

--- Miriam Matthews

Friday, February 1, 2013

Who Says Size Doesn't Matter?

   I live in Alaska and I’m here to tell ya - Hell ya, size matters!

Alaska has 128 times more area covered by glaciers than all of the remaining states combined. 100,000 glaciers in all.

In the summer, in a big part of Alaska, we have 22-24 hours of sunlight. And in the winter, 22-24hrs of, nothing to do but loven, darkness.

We have 3 million lakes, and if you add in the rivers and streams, the number jumps to 6 million.

Alaska covers 586,400 sq. miles

It has 17 of the 20 highest mountains in the U.S., and 19 peaks over 14,000 ft.
Mt. McKinley, or Denali as we call it, is the highest mountain on the American Continent at 20,230 ft.

Alaska has bragging rights to 1/5 of the entire land mass of the continental U.S., and it is twice the size of poor little Texas.

It has more coastline than the entire lower 48 states at 33,000 miles. And, we have approximately three fourths of the entire world’s fresh water stored in our glaciers.

The largest gold nugget ever discovered in Alaska came from Nome in 1903. It weighed 155 Troy oz.

And of course, the very best thing about Alaska, the men way out-number the women!!!
(And what a group of men we have!)

So, the next time someone asks you 'does size really matter?' - just tell them, in Alaska it does!
 --- Maxine Mansfield