Saturday, December 15, 2012

Put this author OUT IN THE COLD!

Unless you're one of those big rockstar authors, the likelihood of a publisher in today's turbulent writing times handing you a big fat advance to fund the research you need for your next big non-fiction project is slim.  Very slim.
Enter this whole new idea of crowd sourcing. Here the public can weigh in the perceived value a project has and the author can endeavor to raise the money and hit the research road.
I have a friend (no really, I do have a friend!) and he currently has a pretty cool project up on Kick Starter. He's working on book about surfing in Alaska.  I shot and edited the video, so don't blame him if you don't like it, that's all on me. Check his page out and if you can afford to, chip in a few bucks to help Kris out. Too often authors with great ideas are left out in the cold, but in this case, Kris needs your help to hit the rough surf of Alaska and get Out in the Cold.

Monday, December 10, 2012

My First Annual Alaskan Holiday Gift Guide

Someone once attributed the quote "with great power comes great responsibilty" to comic book legend Stan Lee, but that someone was incorrect and the real someone who supposedly said this, in French, was Voltaire. Of course, I only know this because I lack both power and responsibility, otherwise I have no way of explaining why I discovered the source of the quote from Wikipedia and not somewhere with a little more academic clout.

But alas, as my nephews recently decided I was famous after seeing my photo beside a column in a recent op-ed piece in the Anchorage Daily News I've decided to use this fame to share, albeit responsibly, with the general public my First Annual Alaskan Holiday Gift Guide! Or perhaps it would be better titled:


[ First a disclaimer to all, these are Alaskan books that can be given to non-Alaskan and Alaskans alike. I am not paid to put the authors or creators of these books on my guide; however, I will gladly accept payment. ]

 Two must read Alaskan books from 2012. 

Eowyn Ivey's The Snow Child

Simply put, this is an amazing novel. There is a spellbinding magic at work here, that makes The Snow Child an instant Alaskan classic. Eowyn kindly wrote that my novel earned a place beside Velma Wallis's Two Old Women and Seth Kantner's Ordinary Wolves (two other books to add to your list!), but if any book deserves to be amongst those two favorites of mine, it is The Snow Child.

Kris Farmen's Turn Again
 From my blurb on the back of the novel:
“Kris Farmen’s Turn Again is a spellbinding masterpiece. A powerful epic with unforgettable characters, rich Alaskan history and culture, and an authentic glimpse at a time when humanity was forsaken in the name of progress. Farmen has crafted a haunting tale of mythical transformation and lost love. There is much to be learned from this modern parable.”
    —Don Rearden, author of the critically acclaimed novel, The Raven’s Gift


Crude Awakening by Amanda Coyne and Tony Hopfinger

If the Money and Mavericks don't get you, the Mayhem will. This is a must read about the dark and dirty days of Alaskan politics and greasy oil shenanigans. 

Heat: Adventures in The World's Fiery Places by Bill Streever.

This isn't out until Jan 15th, but you can pre-order to bring a little heat into your life! I was fortunate to read an early draft of Bill's book and if you liked Cold, then you'll love Heat. And if you haven't read Cold, well add that to your list too!


Joan Kane's The Cormorant Hunter is out in a new edition from the University of Alaska Press.  I can't say enough about the talent of this Alaskan writer. I find myself returning again and again to the poems in Joan's collection. A power and life exists in this work that borders on some sort of shaman at work in the words.

30 Years of publishing America's top writers. For fiction, non-fiction, or poetry you can't go wrong with Alaska Quarterly Review. And seriously. You can't find a better deal. Subscribe for your favorite reader or yourself now.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Working to Beat the Devil

Eskimo Medicine Man, Alaska. Exorcising Evil Spirits from a sick Boy.

 A favorite photo of mine from the Alaska digital archives. The photographer captioned it, "Working to Beat the Devil." Quite ironic when you consider the background and the history of colonization and the "work" put in to defeat shamanism.

Monday, December 3, 2012

After the Earthquake

Peering Down at What Could Be a Cold, Dark City.

From here on this crisp clear night in Bear Valley, far up on the mountain from the twinkling lights of Anchorage, I am trying not to imagine what I could be seeing --- nothing but dark, perhaps a few structure fires --- had the recent quake 5.9 quake been anything but a little hiccup compared to the devastation wrought by the 1964 Good Friday Earthquake.
We would be sitting around a warm woodstove, our small living-room lit only by the flicker from the fire. The emergency radio would be on, though I wonder who or what would be transmitting if the powergrid sustained damage. It's already near zero outside, and it would be a long night of tending the fire to keep the pipes from freezing, if they weren't already broken. We would be concerned for our friends and family in town, who have only natural gas or electricity to heat their homes, and for the safety of those coastal residents. I would be calculating food stores and in all honestly probably preparing for an early morning, and completely illegal, moose hunt. But then as I write this, I realize that might not be true, as when this quake struck I was home alone with my 18 month old son, so I wouldn't leave to hunt, not because I couldn't take him hunting, but because we'd be stuck here, waiting and hoping Annette would return home. See that's the thing about Anchorage, our city is so spread out, so much of our infrastructure built on unstable ground. We could only hope she'd be able to walk the thirteen miles up the mountain to our house, as the roads would be too damaged to drive. 
It would no doubt be a long and scary night for my son and I, and for you too if you live here, and you know what is scarier? It wouldn't be just one night either. Anchorage is built upon a tidal mud flat, we have one road in and out of town, and an airport built right beside the ever interesting Earthquake Park. If the quake was as big as the one in '64, and scientists say we will have one again, you can count on the city's transportation infrastructure being crippled. Repairs from the last quake took months to years to fix, and just look at the poor folks still suffering from Sandy if you don't think we would be waiting more than a day or two.

What is my point?


We Alaskans pride ourselves on how big stuff is here, big bears, big moose, big mountains, and this big earthquake. The thing is that Alaskans might brag about our history, but we don't seem to learn anything from it. I'm talking about myself here, too. We aren't ready for the big one. Individually or collectively. And I'm not just talking about Anchorage people here either, if you live in the bush or the interior and rely on Anchorage for your food and fuel, well, then I'm also talking to you, too. Individually we need to all have supplies and food stores, on hand, not to mention some sort of family plan (as the family cell phone plan probably won't be working) of how and where to meet up. Collectively we need to have plans at work and for our communities. It wouldn't hurt to run the occasional drill, but then follow-up with action plans and discussion.

We'll need warm shelters and food distribution centers.

We'll need leaders.

We'll need to figure out how to come together for warmth and comfort, just like they did in '64. In fact, there are many old timers still around; we could start by sitting down around the woodstove and listening to their stories, perhaps learn a lesson or two from them. It's going to take that and more.

[Curious where to start your preparations? I'll begin documenting and sharing my preparations here. But you could also get started really quickly with prepackaged kits like these.]   and an emergency food kit like this:

Saturday, November 17, 2012

49 Writers: Don Rearden: An Appeal, In Appeal, Unappealing

This post first appeared on the 49 Writer's Blog.

  An Appeal, In Appeal, Unappealing

I’m here at 49 Writers Headquarters lounging on a fine Italian leather couch and sipping an amazing mocha made by our incredible in-house barista, who also edits my novels, waxes my skis, and grades my students' essays for me.  Of course this Headquarters is completely fictional and exists only in my rather wild imagination, so it costs nothing more to our organization than a complete loss of credibility on my part for sharing such goofiness.
And yet here I am at said HQ, relaxing and trying to prepare myself for our annual 49 Writers Giving Campaign. The comfy seating arrangement and hot beverage helps, as does the nice neck massage I’m now receiving from the barista, who coincidentally has just finished another round of edits on a draft of my new novel and sent it off to her aunt, a senior editor at a major publishing house. 
Yes, life is good at HQ and none of this fictional world would happen without fine folks like yourself. You’ve helped build this place. Heck, you’ve even attended our real writer events and sat in on workshops with some of our amazing instructors. We couldn’t do it without our army of dedicated volunteers, without such support from the community of writers and readers, and without you. Yes, you. The real you, not the you I imagined sitting near our crackling woodstove, pecking away at your latest project.
You make all the difference, and that’s why the real you might be hearing from one of our board members in the next few weeks. We’ll be calling, emailing, or writing actual snail mail letters to solicit your financial support for the 49 Writers.  As a member of the board of directors for the organization, I’m learning all about how a small non-profit like ours stays in business. It takes thousands of volunteer hours, an incredible and incredibly hard-working director, and requires money.
As a member of the board of directors, one of our many tasks is to try to build a level of sustainability into the organization's budget. This requires us to make what is called an “appeal” for some level of giving to members, friends, family, companies, corporations, and Oprah.
Let me be honest, which I always am, even when I’m admitting to fantasies of a barista who grades my students essays for me --- this is the part of my duties as a board member that is most uncomfortable for me. Perhaps it’s something I need counseling for, or just another facet of my being from growing up in rural Alaska, where so many of the people I know would give me the parka off their back in a blizzard, whether I needed it or not. In short, asking for your continued financial support of 49 Writers does not “appeal” to me.  The use of “appeal” reminds me of my favorite Robert Frost poem “Out, Out” where the young boy’s arm has been lopped off by a buzz saw and he holds up his bloody stump “half in appeal.”
There is more to build on, and we are not the ones dead (yet, though you might consider putting 49 Writers in your will, just in case!), and so I must learn to suck it up and ask you not to give an arm and a leg, perhaps just a finger or two as I make my appeal.
Well that’s it. I’m back to reality. The mocha replaced by a cold cup of coffee, the barista replaced by my one-year-old son pulling on my pants leg; he’s ready to go sledding. 
As I close, and before you rush off to put a check in the mail or donate online here, I hope you’ll take note of the actual definition of appeal. You’ll see I’ve attempted to reach all levels of said definition in this appeal to you. I’ve been rather “earnest” and “arousing,” and made requests and referred to the higher court of Frost.
I’ve made an appeal to you, revealed how I am in appeal, and maybe I've been totally unappealing. I’ve done all that’s in my power here to be “attractive and interesting” as I entreat your support of 49Writers. I’ve done it all but ask a “higher authority” or “greater power” for help, but perhaps I’ll be asking my mother-in-law for a donation as well.   
Thank you for your continued support of 49 Writers!

Don Rearden is the president of the board of directors for 49 Writers and author of the novel The Raven's Gift which will finally be released in America on July 30th, 2013.  We can only hope the novel is wildly successful so that he clicks here, renews his membership, and substantially increases his yearly giving to 49 Writers.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Spring Throwback --- A Tundra Boardwalk

Haven't posted to the old blog in quite a while! Fall has fallen like the trees in the yard, bringing two hurricane strength storms, a Mac-tastrophe with a crashed laptop, and a leaking roof. Yup. I don't even need to get creative with the excuses.
The death of my beloved old Mac set me back several weeks on the two novels I've been working on. I have yet to decide if I'm going to pay the ridiculous price to retrieve the data from the fried drive.
Thus the ups and downs of the writing life, I guess. Reminds me of a board walk across the tundra, but perhaps with slightly higher peaks and valleys?

Here's a shot of one of the boardwalks in Bethel. Not quite as famous as the ones in Atlantic City, but there is always something to look at and you need to watch your step.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Wilderness Boys, Bug & Novel Jackets

 I don't normally post photos of myself with my boy, but today this photo from an adventure in the Alaskan wilderness a few weeks ago popped up on my screen and I thought I would share it. The scenic backdrop of this particular location (somewhere up the Takotna River) looks strangely similar to the first jacket cover of The Raven's Gift from Penguin Canada with the black spruce, taiga, tundra, and mountains in the background. 
The strange jacket I've got on is a bug suit, as the mosquitoes and no-see-ums were vicious, but they could have been worse, as we were actually able to uncover and snap a quick photo in the tundra cotton. The bugs in Alaska can be so thick at times that they will literally drive you mad. The little blood suckers fly into your eyes and nose and ears, and the hum can be unnerving, as if the very air around you has transformed into some sort of monster trying to devour any exposed flesh. I have seen caribou who have been driven crazy by the bugs. They run themselves to near death. Not a pleasant sight, and I've been there a few times myself. Had I the energy or the ability to run crazy across the tundra I would have. We humans don't have that option. All we can do is cover up and hope for a strong wind. You could bathe in 100% DEET until your nervous system failed, and the bugs would still feed on your carcass. Alaska bugs are no joke, hence the reason I was holding Atticus so tight, they little bastards would have carried him away.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

August and Fall in Alaska

And just like that, fall hath fell upon Alaska like a storm off the Bering Sea. Oh, right. This storm struck Alaska courtesy of the Bering Sea. The giant hurricane like beast appeared slightly smaller than Texas on the radar, and with it carried torrential rain, category one or two winds and the notion that summer in Alaska is over.
Folks on the Lower 48 don't quite get that idea. See, August is still summer in the rest of the USA, but not here in Alaska. Sure we might get a sunny day or two, but for the most part August means the leaves will begin to turn and that the majority of us can expect rain, winds, and silver salmon. Silvers are the official sign to put your sandals away and get your X-tra Tuffs back out.
August for me is winter preparation time. Actually right now I need to get off the computer and repair my leaking roof.  The rest of August, after I return from the bush,  I'll spend too many hours each week sawing and chopping wood to keep the woodstove crackling for all those cold winter nights soon to blanket our little mountain home. Sure I'll get a little writing done, but for the good majority of this month, I'll be swinging an axe...

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Writing Re-Charge, Alaskan Style

About this time every year I disappear into the Alaskan wilderness for a few weeks. I'm still actually visible for that duration, but by modern standards, I don't exist. No electricity. No running water. No phone.
Okay, so I'm not totally telling the truth. There is running water by way of the Takotna River flowing past the cabin. A small red Honda generator hums for a few hours each day to charge the laptop battery. And I could climb a tree and make an emergency radio-phone call if I needed. Important messages come by way of public radio announcements on KSKO McGrath. The only web connection comes when walking down trails in the morning and feeling the sticky spider snare on the skin of your face.
Yes, this is where I go to recharge my writing batteries and reconnect with the Alaska I love most...
The only tweets come from camp robbers and their friends. The status updates from beaver tails slapping the river. The calls from ravens, magpies, and late at night a wolf or two.
Here I'll spend several hours each day repairing sheds, the cabin roof, or cutting trees and clearing brush. Take a hike or two. Pick berries. Swat at and curse mosquitos and no-see-ums. Then at night I'll sit down at the table beside the crackling woodstove and write like mad in the perfect stillness.
And for those stormy rainy days, if I'm not curled up with a good book, I'll be hunched over the laptop working away at the next novel.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Preparation for US Publication

Of course I'm working on my new novels, but my brain is also quietly humming away with plans for the US publication of The Raven's Gift in 2013. I know I won't top the Alaskan launch party for the 2011 Canadian Edition, but I might just have to try!
I've got a couple cool publicity ideas and contests. I'll retool my book trailer. I'll devise some fun social media readings and interactive events. And who knows what else I'll come up with. See this is the new paradigm for an author. Your publisher expects you to do some heavy lifting when it comes to publicity. Trust me.
I knew that going into the game, thanks to several highly successful author friends. I anticipated this part of being an author, and for those of you who want to do the same, you should too.
The thing you can't forget is that the writing comes first! If you hope to continue being an author you must keep writing.
[Photo is the of the tundra of SW AK, where I grew up!]

Friday, July 27, 2012

The Circuitous Route of a Raven

My friends, a pair of Ravens
Raven's tend to fly in wild circuitous loops, at times with no apparent destination. Just when you think they might not be going anywhere, they suddenly veer off and seem to be right where they planned to go all along.
So too seems the story of my novel The Raven's Gift. Just this week, thanks to my incredible agents at Moveable Type and Baror International this particular raven first visited Canada, then hit Australia, and will take a slight detour to France next spring, and finally will land home here in the United States with a little black and white friend named Penguin. 
I have been humbled by the rave reviews from far off lands like Winnipeg to Brisbane with a few stops in between! The continual email and Facebook messages from people going great lengths to getting the book in their hands has been incredible.
 I couldn't be more excited to share with you the news today that Pintail, an imprint of Penguin, will publish The Raven's Gift next year. Stay tuned for more details and thanks again for all the support.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Good News is Like Floating

When you've worked hard on a novel and then send it off to your agent there isn't much you can do other than begin work on the next story, or in my case spend quality time with your family on a few adventures.
When good news does hit, there is a sensation that it isn't real, and indeed if you've been doing this long enough it might not be, but you still need to enjoy it. Celebrate the opportunities that come your way and cherish that sweet feeling of floating.

[I snapped this photo a few nights ago, while kayaking the Missouri River.]

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Incredible Support

As a writer on can only hope for support from friends and family, but when you also get it from your workplace? Well that, my friends, is the icing on the lake. (I just made that up, but it works, as in the North there is nothing better than when the lakes and rivers begin to freeze and you know winter is knocking!)

Here's that support I'm talking about:

Sent via smoke signal...

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Revising With A Machete

Yesterday I took a shovel and machete to the snow on my roof. Today I'm taking the shovel and machete to my latest novel. I had some promising early reads from several major US editors. 
I'm making some major changes to the original vision and voice, but like my house, the novel will be better off without the burden of a too complicated structure placed upon it.
Revision with a machete can be strangely relieving. You cut and hack and don't look back. Then you go in with the shovel and clean away the debris. What is left might still need a little work, but the heavy lifting is done. 

Sent from my iPhone

Monday, March 12, 2012

My Book On The Way To Nome

Last year Pete Kaiser delivered The Raven's Gift to Nome in the 2011 Iditarod. This year Pete is currently in 6th place with a serious shot at a top five finish! Perhaps that book was weighing him down lady year, as he narrowly missed a top ten finish!
Go Pete!