Friday, November 29, 2013


Forgive me for standing on my soapbox, but Thanksgiving is the most important holiday of the year.

Now, don’t get all weird on me - I’m not discounting the other important days. Your birthday, Christmas, Hanukkah, there are others. But, Thanksgiving is important.

Friends, Black Friday is not a holiday!

Cyber Monday is not a holiday.
Counting the shopping days until Christmas is not the way to celebrate the love, joy and GIVING THANKS for the season.

This year, we moved directly from school clothes and Halloween to Christmas tree lights, fuzzy blinking sweaters and fudge.

Thanksgiving is the day I look forward to all year. To give thanks for the fact that I won the life lotto. I have electricity and the wherewithal to have a computer. My little home is warm and dry and filled with everything I could ever need. I have an abundance of food to share with friends. It would be with family except they’re too far away, but my telephone works, and I have the technology to let my grandson shoot me with his nurf-ball gun. We laugh. Life is good.

There is something so terribly wrong with shopping on Thanksgiving.
For forcing the clerks to forgo turkey with grandma to be at work at some ungodly hour so Uncle George can get fifty dollars off the latest game of the year.

I remember a little adage, What if they gave a war and nobody showed up, remember that one? Well, what if they had a sale and nobody came? Take a stand - don’t go shopping until it’s time to go shopping. I promise I won’t get on the reason-for-the-season Christmas soap-box.

But, I’m here to remind us all that Thanksgiving is the day. The one day we slow down, consider the traditions of the day, and give thanks for the life we have built for ourselves.

Sometimes, buying brown ‘n serve is just as good as the time it took to make homemade, because sitting on the sofa with Aunt Harriet, this year, may be your last chance to ask her how she made cranberry sauce.

Life is precious and short and Thanksgiving is only one day. Stay home or spend it with friends, eat too much, laugh until your sides hurt, cheer you favorite football team, pass around the newest family baby, drive slow, be safe and have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

I love you all,

--- DeNise

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Hi there!

Greetings from the 49th state! 


Land of cold, snow, ice, and incredible views.

Now -  I live here, but I don’t do much outdoorsy stuff. In fact, my son, Benjamin --- (who is getting married in Peru next summer, which will turn me into a tourist at Machu Picchu) --- Ben has informed me that what I do is pretty much portable. I write. I need a laptop. I’m portable.

He’s right.

However, if you’re considering (or already deep into) a career as a writer, there is one thing you probably don’t consider, but need to. Your health. Trust me, nobody else is going to make sure you get exercise and eat right. Except maybe a personal trainer. Which brings me to the rambling reason for my BLOG today: 

Alaska. In November. And outdoorsy stuff.

First, I want to introduce you to Coal.  He’s eleven. In dog years, he’s what…closing in on 70? You’d think he’d be slow. Easy-going. Ready for his nap. 

When I took this photo, he was hiding under his “I’m a very nice dog” exterior. Looks harmless, right? 

Oh. You would be so dead wrong. When it’s time for one of his walks, Coal makes a personal trainer look like a marshmallow. He has zero patience. And gets ready with a collar and leash. He doesn’t know what my problem is and why I take so long. And he chews me out as I get dressed for stalling him.

Now,  I like walking. I’m in great shape. (or so they tell me at the yearly physical) And I really do like taking Coal for his walks. He loves it. His tail is always wagging. And we meet all kinds of other people during walks when the weather is nice. 

Babies in strollers. Other dog-slaves (also known as owners). Joggers. Hand-holding couples out for a stroll. 

And I have to tell you. The views are incredible. 

I bought a really nice camera a couple of years ago just so I could take photos of the gorgeous views. 

Here’s one I took last month. 

Thirty days ago. What a gorgeous autumn day. Isn’t it nice?

My camera works great…except in winter. 

I discovered a few things. The little camera buttons are impossible to find and push with gloves on. Everything is blurry because it’s really hard to keep from shivering - especially if you take the gloves off. 

It’s hard to do anything in the dark, since I use one hand to hold the leash and one for an LED flashlight thing. If I go flash-less I get great shots of big black nebulous stuff. And if I keep the flash on, I get shots of the closest subject at hand, which turns out to be Coal’s behind. 

I had given up taking winter photos (due to the above) even when the full moon is hovering atop the mountains or the aurora borealis is making colored stripes in the sky. The views are incredible. Breathtaking. But alas. I don’t have the right camera.

Then came November 2013.

What is going on with the temperatures? I’m trying to write an inferno type setting for my next Vampire Assassin League novella. It’s hot. The cover is hot. Everything about it says heat.

It’s already January temperatures up here. We have a solid ice shelf to walk on. Temperatures are in the negatives. 

I managed to get this shot, not to advertize any businesses, but to show I’m not making this up. 

It was -5 (Fahrenheit) the other morning.  That’s like -20 something in Celsius. 

You might also notice the incredibly colorful mess of light in the frame. That must be another issue with using my digital camera in freezing conditions. (No need to call the UFO people. It really wasn’t there)

Now. I carried mail in Wyoming for three years. I was on a walk-out route. That means I walked for six hours every day, in all kinds of weather, carrying up to 35 lbs of mail in a satchel. 
I do recall days outside that had a wind chill factor of -60. (They were brutal) 

I realize now, however, that those days were good training for my work-outs with Coal. Ah. Coal. My physical trainer. He makes me take him three times a day. Twice for 20 minutes. Our last walk in the evening is 30 minutes. This is not optional. He just gets his way. And he knows it.

So. It’s Alaska. Winter temps. 

I’m going outside for a bit. I know what to do. For this kind of weather, you just need to dress right. Start with all kinds of light layers (at least two on the legs. Three on the upper body. I even have a snowsuit for January but I just started wearing that.). 

To get ready for our walk, I start with my ear head-wrap. Then the uber-thick cowl my daughter made for me. Then the neoprene face mask. Then my Eagles hat. I figure if it keeps NFL football players warm, it’ll work for me. My goggles. Up here, freezing my contacts to my eyes is a possibility. (For our night walks, I wear my own real, thick glasses) 

Here is a close-up. 

I look pretty much like a sci-fi creature. 

I’ve now advanced to my next-to-the-thickest gloves. Two pairs of socks – the outer pair is extra large - and I have snow boots with such heavy-duty cleats on them, they weigh over 2 lbs each. 

I know. I was complaining. My hubby weighed them. He told me to think of it like I’m wearing ankle weights to work out. And I’ll be in fantastic shape for Machu Picchu. Ha. Ha. Ha. (He is such a comedian.)   

Here is what Coal and I look like just starting out on during our daylight walk.

  And here is a pic of those boots and our path.

You’re probably wondering why on earth I do this. 

Well. I’ve got some great reasons. 

I really love my Labrador – and he is worth it. 

It’s really great exercise. You have no idea how good it feels to come in where it’s warm and snuggle beneath an afghan. 

And the views really are breathtaking. 

I decided to try to get some images again. This time I took them during the day walk. And nobody else is out here walking. So. What do you think?

Anyone want to join us?

--- Jackie Ivie

Friday, November 15, 2013

Why I Love Alaska

As of late, my local RWA chapter has been blogging about all things Alaskan. I’m not a well-seasoned or elegant blogger, my sisters are much better at it. But after careful consideration, I’ve decided to share what I love most about this enchanting state.

There’s so much…

Of course, I love the fact that most of the important accomplishments in my adult life occurred here; my wedding, college/graduation, my first house, my career as an environmental scientist, and the publication of my first novel.


Although these are all blessed events, I found something even more valuable within the boundaries of this vast playground— a real home.

I’ve lived in six other states (Pennsylvania, Texas, Colorado, Maine, New Hampshire, and Delaware).

None of them compare.

 There’s something magical about the fresh air, ice cold water (from the tap), seeing snowcapped peaks every day, eagles overhead, moose stripping bark off my front yard birch trees, the seemingly endless days/nights, a crackling fire in my fireplace on a frosty evening, Christmas, the first snow, the first warm day in summer, eating a reindeer dog in downtown Anchorage, a hockey game, flipping through all the cable channels with reality shows focused on Alaska and grinning because I live here, all the wonderfully tiny villages and towns I’ve visited (reachable only by plane), salmon and halibut, humpback whales surfacing in the water only a few yards away from me, a carriage ride downtown in the dead of winter, getting to wear boots and jeans to work every day and having it considered fashionable, four-wheeling to the edge of a glacier, hunting, fishing, hiking, men (very handsome), the cultural experiences I’ve had, and most of all—just being here.

That’s it.

 Alaska isn’t for everyone. It’s a hard place to thrive if you’re opposed to dark cold winters.

However, if you’re one of the lucky few to call it home, you know what I mean—its paradise.

--- Violetta Rand

Friday, November 1, 2013

Real Men of Alaska

Mr. November 2013


As Romance Writers, we are always on the lookout for Hot Hunky Hero Types. This month we welcome Seth.

Here is what Mr. November 2013 has to say:

First, some basics:

Were you born in Alaska, and if not, then how did you end up here - how long have you been here?

What do you do for a living, and what do you do for fun.

Age, height, favorite food, and any other statistics you are willing to share.

(Just remember, we are a PG 13 site & blush easily) J

I was born in Alaska, raised in Alaska - 25 years.

I am a gunsmith - playing with fire, going to a range, mostly outdoorsy stuff.

I am 25, 150 lbs and 5'11.

What kind of woman appeals to you, and why?

Gun-loving German women.

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

Gold mines up in Hatcher's pass.

What's the wildest thing you've ever done in Alaska since you’ve lived here?

It's a tie between: falling into a frozen river and living - and driving a doorless jeep cherokee.

Winter can be long, dark, and very cold here in Alaska. What are your favorite frosty pastime activities? (not counting the obvious of course.)

And, what is the coldest temp you’ve seen/been in?

Watching movies , playing games, working on my rifles, and the coldest I have seen was -40.

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?

Being outside working, out at any rifle range long enough to accommodate my guns.

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

Ural Motorcycle and Ural 4320 6x6 truck.

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

Bear, on both counts, very tasty.

What exactly is it that makes an Alaskan Male so wonderfully macho and appealing?

We do things on our own, and make things happen that people don't believe, even when they see it.

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

18 inch red salmon, no idea on weight.

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

Chill by a warm fire and enjoy the show.

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

The privacy we enjoy, very easily.

Our Thanks to Seth for this interview and his candid answers!

To our Readers: Please check the AKRWA Blog each Friday for a new topic, and come back the First Friday of each month to meet new Real Men of Alaska!

Until next time...keep your fire burning!