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

Friday, August 8, 2014

Eklutna, Alaska

The small Village of Eklutna, Alaska lies about 25 miles north of Anchorage. It is the oldest Dena'ina village still inhabited in the Anchorage area and dates back about 
800 years.

Today Eklutna has only about 35-70 full-time residents left of the original hundreds living there less than 100 years ago, but tourists visiting the St. Nicholas Cemetery are in the 10-20 thousand range per year.

Want to know more?
St. Nicholas Church - Eklutna, Alaska
St. Nicholas Church is a blend of traditional Athabascan respect for spiritualism and Russian Orthodox religion.
The Dena'ina People believe that the spirit lingers for 40 days & nights, hovering above the grave. 
Therefore a house is built to accommodate the deceased person & their possessions. 
A favorite knife, gun, books or other items are placed inside with the spirit.

Sign in front of St. Nicholas Church - Eklutna, Alaska

Spirit Houses in St. Nicholas Cemetery - Eklutna, Alaska
Each small structure offers a resting place for those that have gone before. The colors represent the different clans. The elaborate decorations reflect the grief of the builder for a particular spirit. A house within a house represents a mother and child's death. A house with a fence around it is for someone who no longer lived in the village. 

You can see the Spirit Houses in the St Nicholas Cemetery on a guided tour for a small fee.

The Eklutna Lake area also houses a power plant and is the source of Anchorage's water supply. 

The area is a scenic getaway - only about a 45 minute drive from Anchorage.

You'll also find Eklutna Campground here, with over 50 camping sites, water, picnic tables, latrines and fire pits. There is a 15 site overflow also. For more information:

You can rent kayaks and paddle along the lake to view Mt. Bold or, further down, the magnificence of a glacier. Lifetime Adventures Alaska offers kayaks, bikes and camping equipment.



So, next time you're looking for something to do in Alaska, check out Eklutna!

Thanks for stopping by --- see you next time!
 --- Jae

Friday, August 1, 2014

Flying Into The Sun

 I left the RWA (Romance Writers of America) Conference, in San Antonio, late Sunday afternoon.

My flight to Anchorage changed planes in Seattle, of course. Seattle is practically our center of the universe. As I got to my gate in San Antonio and settled into a seat I nodded to a familiar face from the conference. 

We began to chat, and another, and another, and another friendly vibrating face joined our animated conversations. It turns out Seattle is also the center of the universe for several parts of the northwest. I felt sorry for the few passengers who were clueless as our mini-convention continued in the waiting area and they were inundated by the raucous banter being flung about.

Our chatter varied from craft and industry to decompressing into the expectations at home. Jobs waited, weddings were planned, children and grand-children were anxious to see us and we all looked forward to implementing the lessons we had learned.

There were so many lessons.

Lesson #1: Texas in July is hot. I’ve lived in Alaska too long to easily slide back into 90+ degrees and not be affected.

As I flew north from the late afternoon and evening of Texas and then Seattle I could see out of the airplane window headed north, the strip of sunlight growing wider and brighter - flying into the sun.
Flying home.

It will take weeks if not months to catalog the information, to network with new connections, to implement the astounding amount of material (books OMG, the books) I’m bringing back with me. As I consider what I gained from this convention it feels as if there is a mega-burst of information crammed into my head.

I highly recommend attending at least one National RWA convention. Passion and enthusiasm feed you for the week (because there is hardly time to eat) and overwhelming exhaustion takes over when you return.

I hope to see all of my friends, new and old, next July.