How To Write a Book Book – Excerpt

I have been working on this book for about a year and have about six months of work left on it. The information I present is a compilation of years of reading, going to writing conferences and five years of college english classes. This is a small excerpt from my chapter on Plots.

Plot Devices

Plot devices offer continuity or zing to the story. It is the unexpected accelerant or cohesion of storyline that can change the character, setting, or motivation and create a change of emotion for the reader. These are a few examples of devices.

Backstory – Often this occurs in the beginning of the book, but can occur anywhere in the book to explain the why of the character or the setting.

Flash-forwards and flashbacks are part of this concept of creating a backstory of the character or event. This device includes the use of telling the end of the story at the beginning of the book. Many movie screenplays begin with a small scene from the climax  or near the end of the story. Then the backstory is unfolded by the narrator to tell how the character got to this point in the story.  Starting a story with the death of a character is tricky and should be developed carefully.

Plot Twists – This develops as a character or circumstance presented is not what is seems. The character(s) may exhibit one personality but may present an action that shows them to be opposite from what they appeared. A circumstance may change in the denouement of the story as a bad guy shows himself to be a hero. This creates an unexpected outcome for the reader.

Acts of God – Not my favorite way of changing the story, but effective in global event or catastrophic event stories. Miracle stories are the best example, where a character is saved through divine intervention.

The Prize – The object everyone is pursuing in the story creates the reason for action and adventure. The movement of each character is a direct pursuit of attaining this prize. The prize might be another person, a physical treasure, or a key to a mystery.

Red Herring – The object, person, or event that shows up and makes the reader go, —huh? It might take the attention off of the real killer, the real problem, or the more important point. It is a way for the writer to add a plot twist, or create suspicion, or distract the reader. In my opinion, writers use it sometimes lazily when their story is otherwise predictable.

Framing – I mention this technique later in ways to begin a story. It is not as often used throughout a novel. However, it is used often in movies. A movie called “The Panic Room” is a perfect example of a literal frame of all action occurring to characters limited by a room in the house. Another way to frame the plot is to limit characters by gender or social class expectations related to their location, culture, or era of time. These are also framing techniques used often in movies.

Switching voice – This includes changing the point of view. The story may begin in first person, then switch to third person narrative, or advance to switching from the first person point of view of several characters. Split narratives offer two parallel stories from two characters in first person or third person points of view. It is a more complicated device that can bog down the movement of the story if not used correctly.

The journey – This is a simple structure of the traveling to or for something. It can be romance, adventure, treasure, escape, or seeking self-improvement. Each character acts based on the motivation of a desired outcome in the journey.

Plot devices simply make the story move in a specific direction. It leads the reader down a certain path, sometimes misdirected, in order to end up at a predestined place later in the story. Plot devices, plot structures, and plotting characters, all work in synchronicity to create a pattern of writing that draws in a reader and keeps them entranced in the story until it’s end.

 

 

Don’t you hate it when..?

I was noticing a girl in line the other day with a toddler who embarrassed her in the check-out line by taking off her clothes. I laughed even though mom was clearly angry.

I thought about all the embarrassing moments in my life that seem oh so funny now. Those moments are sometimes hard to live down, but as you learn how to not take life so seriously, those moments are just part of existence.

So, I decided to write down a bunch of those moments in time, some experienced by me and some by friends who may have not found the humor at the time.

Don’t you hate it when…

You realize that you are wearing socks that don’t match.

You realize that you are sitting in traffic with the windows down…singing, and see people  in the next car are laughing at you.

You are sitting at a stop sign waiting for it to turn green and cars are blowing horns because…it’s a stop sign dummy!

You are speeding to get where you are going and realize you passed a cop.

You wake up late for work, shower, dress, and jump in the car in record time….then you realize it’s Saturday and you don’t work today.

You water your plants and wash the car and it starts to rain–hard.

You have forgotten that you promised to donate a baked item to the church, so you swing by the store to buy it instead and see the preacher there and feel that God is giggling at you?

Your youngest child tells a coworker (when you run into her at the store) what you had said about her being a pain in the ass when you were mad after work one day last week?

You forgot to clean your bathroom before your book club group comes over and pray that your husband put the seat down?

Your toddler throws a conniption fit kicking and screaming on the store department store yelling “I hate you” and you want to disappear but instead pick up the screaming child and races to the car leaving a basket of items behind?

Your dog decides to pee on the leg of your neighbor while you stop to talk on a walk around the neighborhood?

You have days when you drop or break everything you touch?

You have had a bad day, and your husband or kids have found your stash of chocolate and eaten it all?

You come upon extra money but have so many bills you have to use it for that?

You get sick after weeks of taking care of your sick kids but no one takes care of you?

You trip on flat even pavement in front of many people! (Then you look down to see what imaginary thing tripped you and cuss at it.)

You go to a baby shower and have bought the same gift as another guest because you didn’t complete the registry at the store because you were in a hurry.

Go to a wedding and were responsible to bring something but forgot it and have to run to Walmart at 3 pm, dressed like a fairy princess in an ill-fitting dress and ugly shoes?

Don’t you hate it when you have plans and life just happens throwing a wrench in all your plans? This is just a simple list of little things that can happen to make us detour from our plans daily. Embarrassment and disappointment are temporary alterations to the agenda. These things do not cause tragic changes in life like death, divorce, or bankruptcy.

Get on with life, don’t let small stuff get you down. It is in these moments you learn more about yourself and have opportunities to do it differently. Most of my embarrassing moments in life I laugh at now and mark as great memories because they are part of who I have become.

“If you can’t make it better, you can laugh at it.”  Erma Bombeck

 

 

The Interview

The Interview

Most people really hate interviewing for jobs. I don’t. I have had maybe ten interviews in my life because six of those I was hired from.  I moved, and had life changes that forced me to go elsewhere.  I have always gone into every interview with the thought that I have nothing to lose and maybe an acquaintance to gain. Each meeting is an opportunity to market yourself to not only a potential boss, but to a potential client, or community contact that might benefit you in the future.  First impressions are remembered. I learned a lot from each interview experience.

A smile, Eye contact, clear thoughtful speech, and a calm demeanor will make you appear smart and approachable to the interviewer. Being honest but also keeping in mind what the interviewer wants to hear is important. But being prepared is as important as the interview itself. Make sure you investigate the company. Look them up on line and on the Better Business bureau website. This ensures you have something to talk about with the interviewer when they ask you if you have any questions for them.

Be prepared for common questions such as the following:

  1.  Tell me a little something about yourself.

This is not your cue to tell the interviewer what you had for breakfast, or why you wore blue today. This is your chance to tell them what kind of worker and human being you are going to be if working in their organization. It’s okay to tell them you are a married mother of one living near their workplace, and that you have been employed steadily for x-employer for so many years. It is a good idea to tell them if you are involved or support any charitable organizations or alumni associations, and if you do volunteer work. It is the time to tell them any special skills that might be important to the current job, or if you recently were relicensed at a skill.

2.  Why are you leaving your current or previous employer?

This can be a hard question to answer if you are leaving because of disputes with coworkers or employers. It is a good idea to use a political hat when answering the question. Use a tactic of answering a question but maybe not directly the question asked. Explain that there were differences of opinion in ethics of the ways a client was handled that made you rethink your purpose with the company. Perhaps you felt that your skills were not being utilized in your current position and there was no opportunity to expand those abilities in your current place of employment. Maybe it was a matter of money? Don’t say that. Just say that there is no opportunity to advance in the company or that you were seeking benefits that were equal to your skill set that were not utilized in your current position.This is an answer without skewering a specific person at your work.

3.  How will hiring you benefit my company?

This is a question that always make me cringe because there are so many ways you can answer this wrong!  I came up with a solution to this question. I may not know the company well, but I know me well, so I answer this way:

I give 100 percent when I am on the job. I show up on time, I work effectively and efficiently completing tasks on time if humanly possible. I respect those around me who do their jobs well, and learn from them by asking questions. I help others who are struggling if I can make their load lighter. I do not take shortcuts to sacrifice getting a job done right the first time. My goal is to make a difference and leave at knowing I did my very best to deliver work I can be proud of at the end of every day.

This is a long-winded version of what I have said on job interviews but it easily meets most employers ethical standards. The other questions I have been asked include those about my skill set, or how I would handle a certain situation. It is hard to address questions about a specific scenario, but they have one thing in common, a challenge.  The question about what would you do if– is meant to find out how you handle a challenging situation and if you will handle it with sense and maturity.

I usually go with what I think the interviewer wants to hear and what the job description tells you about the company. If you will be hiring into a bank and they ask you what if…..and it involves an unhappy customer that answer is very different than how you would handle a bank robber!  These answers need to focus on your ability to handle stress and a mature answer should include reasonable thoughts.

Example: Remove the unruly customer from the main lobby if possible and invite them into a closed office where you ensure them a manager will address their complaint straight away while doing so in a respectful and humble manner. This gives the person time to cool off and feel important. Also, offer that you would certainly follow the institution or company guidelines on situations such as this. That let’s them know that you respect the policy of the company as much as using common sense.

Interviewers are not trying to make you answer foolish questions or trick you into saying anything terrible. What they are doing is looking for someone special with common sense who meets the requirements, shows up to work, and works hard for their paycheck. It is your job to convince them at the end of the 30 minute meeting that you are that person they seek.

Social Media: Do not post on Facebook, Twitter, or any websites, any derogatory information about a previous employer even if the company is on the 5 o’clock news! It doesn’t pay to burn your bridges or damn a specific person on public forum because some day they might be the only person around after you have fallen and can’t get up! That’s called Karma. Use your heads people! Many employers today seek the employees out on social media sites. If you are posting graphic pictures, or posting drunk comments on Twitter,  you may be cutting off your chance to a better position.

Follow up:  When is it appropriate to follow up after an interview? You should ask at the interview, usually the end, if the decision of hiring will be by a certain date or when you can expect to hear of any decision. This is appropriate and will likely get answered more readily than upon a call back. It is important that you get the name of the interviewer and an email address, or a business card from the front desk.  This allows you to send an email in 24 hours thanking your interviewer for their time and for the information about their services. This shows your respect and appreciation to the interviewer and gives them a chance to remember who you are while they are interviewing others. Respect goes a long way to keeping your encounter current in their minds. If a week has gone by, it is acceptable to call for an update. If you get no response, it is reasonable to think you need to move on to the next interview someplace else. Good Luck on your interview process, and remember that you have nothing to lose!

 

 

 

 

Right and Wrong

 

When I was young, I had one of those moms who was loving, sweet, patient, and taught me all those wonderful things a lot of kids are not privileged to learn. She taught me the value of being loving to all people, and to love unconditionally. She taught me how to act with moral respect, and meet certain good ethical standards of demonstrating fairness, dignity, and respecting the individual rights of others not to act in those ways.

As I grew into womanhood, I met many people who did not have the same belief system, and who had no real pride in themselves exampled by the way they treated others. However, for the most part, I found that the place I lived was filled with kind and helpful people. I was raised in Indiana, where they coined the phrase, “Hoosier Hospitality”. I experienced this many times with flat tires, car wrecks, and stressors of life when others, most I did not know, reached out and helped me with all their heart.

Unfortunately, my current work place, in another state, is one of those places where I have encountered behaviors that I find unethical, and actions that my mother would have spanked me for.

In this place of business, we work on a quota based system of completion of work. In one instance, last week, my work was stolen from me and another took credit for it, followed by a supervisor that excused that behavior, and I was hurt and very angry. My supervisor apologized but stated there was no recompense because there was no violation of any company policy. I was perplexed by this “law of the jungle” mentality in an advanced society. I thought hard about why people find it necessary to use others, or take advantage of others in order to advance their work or position in life. Then I searched for definitions of ethics, morality, and the behaviors attached to those beliefs.

I found the definition of morality, listed by Webster as: “The differentiation of actions or behaviors between those that are distinguished as proper or improper”. The definition of Ethics followed as: “Ethical behavior tends to be good for business and involves demonstrating respect for moral behavior of honesty, fairness, equality, dignity, diversity, and personal rights.” But I didn’t really have to look those things up to know the difference between right and wrong, because I was held to a high moral and ethical code of honesty and love taught by my mother and father.

I also know from my childhood lessons that people who treat others poorly to advance their own position in life are to be pitied. Those people have a poor self-respect, identity issues, and usually a spirit that lacks depth that makes it impossible to be appreciative of others. Understanding does not resolve my anomosity toward this person’s actions, nor will it prevent him/her from doing unethical or immoral acts to others. However, understanding can help me to be proud that I have enough education, personal ethics,and enough morality that I will not stoop to any actions that drop me to that person’s level of indignant behavior. Age does that, makes you mindful of your actions.
I also have gained an understanding that I have a choice. I have a choice whether to accept the consequences of someone’s bad behavior or to stand up against it or remove myself from it. I will do both. I began searching for another place to work, which is an unfortunate because I was starting to like my job. Someone told me, “You will find unethical behavior everywhere you go.” Yes, I guess that is possible. However, I have to decide what kind of behavior I will tolerate or condone, and what kind of treatment I will allow to effect my life. I have chosen not to work hard for a company that allows and even encourages unethical behavior in order to advance the financial bottom line. That decision has led me to some great opportunities within 24 hours of making that mindful choice.

I have to meet my maker some day to be judged for every single indiscretion in which I knowingly turned my head and did not do anything to right a wrong, or help another. I have to face judgement for actions that define my weakest moments when I was not at my best. I have been successful in many areas of my life because of my values and my honesty. I have chosen to take a sometimes hard road but have never been disappointed by the blessings that God has given me as a result of my choices. Unlike those who find success by standing on the backs of others, I chose to rise above with pride and hard work, and I can look in the mirror and never feel ashamed.

She Talks to Chickens

She Talks to Chickens

So, I found a few poems I wrote about seven years ago. One of them, a little morbid, but it was for a project in poetry….She Talks to Chickens…..was requested for a poetry reading a few times and has been stretched and cut a few times over.  So I decided upon finding it I would share it. Country folk who grow and eat the food they raise get it. People who primarily eat food bought from stores and have never set foot on a farm may find it a little to ‘real’ for their taste. If you are sensitive, or work for PETA, don’t read any further.

 She talks to chickens,

Here chick- chick-chick—

Slipping on wet stones,

Her yellow plastic coat hangs stiff like an Easter basket.

Dappled legs bare between the coat and her husband’s rubber boots.

Strolling in a yard that smells of wet chicken feathers, dirt and rotten eggs.

Hunger waiting impatiently in her kitchen.

Little fingers peel hot potatoes with dull knives.

 

She spies the bird with two and a half wings,

Incessantly scratching at weed roots.

Three toed pfft -pfft -pfft…unearthing and pecking,

No longer a layer– It’s time.

 

Her voice calm against the grey day.

Here chick –chick- chick—

 

Feed thrown from her left hand,

Here chick- chick- 

 

Right hand holds the axe.

Here chick–

Left hand trades feed for two dancing feet in one swinging movement,

Head to stump…Swish and…Thump! 

Feet still scratching.

Three wings hang quiet against a yellow plastic coat.

Black rubber boots Squeak – Schritch – Squeak – Schritch on a stone path,

Small puffs of steam open from warm red drops hitting cold wet rocks.

 

Missing Books

I miss my bookstore. I miss being surrounded by the words lived by others.  They dreamed and imagined and put all their creative being at a moment of time onto a page, not knowing if it would ever be read.  I had a few cases of old collectibles and even some first editions in my bookstore. It was a used bookstore and writing center I opened in Columbus, Indiana.  Was it successful? Not really. I barely broke even by the beginning of year two, but it was heaven.  Six thousand books on the shelves, but Heaven for me was getting in a box of old books from a person cleaning out their garage or basement from their mom’s house. The books smelled old and musty. Covers were tattered with years of moving, shelving, and moisture wear. Most had not be read for years or at all. I had walls and floors filled with shelves and books. Every genre, every price, all cherished. I arranged displays every few weeks, developed writing classes, and helped local school kids create their first book.  It was such fun to use my love of writing and reading to share and teach others how to appreciate stories.

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I closed my book store 2 years after I opened in order to follow my husband to Texas. I cried a lot that week because it had also become a stopping point for several friends and other book collectors like myself. Packing was emotionally painful but friends and family made it easier.

I proved something to myself in owning a bookstore. I proved I was not a very good business person. I loved my stock too much and sold it too cheap. I paid to much for the used books I bought from customers. I paid too much attention to the books and not enough to the business of books. It was stressful and hard work since I was the boss and employee. Hiring a few helpers to relieve me for a half day here and there did help. I gave it my all and my heart. It did not disappoint but did not pay the bills either. It was a blessing to have had that opportunity.

Now I get my book fix by going to the library or a used bookstore and standing between the stacks, just reading titles. I pick up the oldest and most awful looking book on the shelf and read the first line on the first page and smile. The book is shelved again and I move onto the next. Sometimes I see a book inscribed by someone with love, dated and signed. I imagine the recipient reading it and I wonder if they ever read the tightly cracking book. It was obviously deposited on their shelf for years before feeling enough time had passed to not offend the giver by passing it on.

Books are so very personal. We pick books based on our experiences, our needs, or our values. The books on our shelves often represent our wide variety of interests or beliefs. The colors of the cover, the writing on the book jacket, the first line of the first page, all are a tactile addiction for the bibliophile.  That’s why I am almost ashamed to admit that I have an e-reader now.  It just made more sense with traveling often through airports. However, I still prefer the joy of holding a paper book in my hand.

While I don’t think I would ever want to open my own business again, it was a great time in my life that I will never forget. It combined my favorite things in life; books and sharing that love of books.

See you in the stacks!

My Right As A Christian Woman

My beliefs are not only influenced by my upbringing in the rural midwest, but also by the total of my life experiences and exposure to witnessing the worst treatment of women by men, and by other women who judge them. As I sat watching excerpts from the last presidential debate, I specifically wanted to view the discussion about abortion. Now, what I am about to say is going to be shocking to some Christians and Nurses because I am both, but here we go. I support the right of a women to decide what happens to her body, and that includes abortion. Yes, I support the laws created under Roe vs. Wade.

To those Christians who will argue to the death that allowing abortion is wrong, I say this: Abortion is not acceptable to me as a Christian. However, the right to decide between right and wrong is called free will.  God gave us this option way back in Eden, remember? He told us the rules, and we picked from the tree anyway.  How does this compare to the Roe vs. Wade law to allow abortions? It is offering us free will to decide for ourselves between right and wrong without imposing a judicial punishment. Moral judgement is for God, not humans.

I have the right to choose to read smut magazines, but I don’t. I have the choice to watch porn, but I don’t. I have the right to put my self in danger physically and mentally, but I don’t.  I have the right to buy an assault rifle and use it as I please, but I won’t. Life in this world is about choices, both moral and legal.When we limit our choices, we limit our potential to grow and learn.  God could have struck down Cain before he killed Able, but he didn’t. Jesus offers choices all of the time to his children and his disciples.  He had the power to stop Judah, but did he? No. He let him choose his path and learn from his mistakes at great cost.  But that is what a good parent does. And that is what good leadership represents also–allowing the choice.

Our government should allow each governing state to decide the limitations of the details on abortions if a woman so chooses to go that route.  If a woman chooses to kill another being, it is her soul at risk. Making laws to punish people for making a wrong choice does not work. If that woman wants an abortion, making it illegal will not stop her from doing it herself or going to a doctor wannabe who will do it for the right money. The original case of Roe vs. Wade, introduced in 1971, was asking that a women not be denied an abortion in any state. However, it also dictates limitations placed on timeliness of the abortion (first, second, and third trimester) be at the discretion of the individual states. Before you judge unknowingly to the facts, see the following facts:  (click on space before this parenthesis)

I have never understood how Republicans balk at this law that returns limitations of the law, giving power involving the individual, back to the states and out of the hands of the government. For example, consider GOP statements like: “Much of what the federal government does can be improved, much should be replaced, and much needs to be done away with or returned to the states.” This statement is directly from the mission statement opening on the GOP.com website.

Then I hear the rebuttal in my head, “This is a standard of morality and not just of individual rights. It is not legal to kill another human. Therefore this law is unjust.” Yet, you want all sorts of gun laws revoked allowing people tools intended to kill. In what way is it different to allow the tools of death-i.e. assault rifles – in the hands of millions? We have the right to make a choice to buy mass murder weaponry but we don’t have the choice to abort a baby who will be born with horrible disfigurement and lacking a whole brain, costing $100,000 to try to save with no hope of living more than a few hours outside of the mother’s womb? Sorry people, you cannot have it both ways.

You can insert morality issues into every circumstance and every law if you like, but it only serves to support your view and not the facts. The fact is that all people are created equal but most live in inequality, particularly women. Women are still the largest minority in pay per hour and in leadership in every institution, including our government. We have the God given right to choose good or evil, kill or be killed, and yes, even suicide. If God wanted all options off of the table don’t you think he would have removed the tree of wisdom from Eden all together? I mean why would he have put it there to begin with if it had not been a test?

I don’t believe that turning over the Roe vs. Wade law will save lives at all. I also don’t believe that every woman having the ability to seek an abortion will have one. No more than I believe the average gun owner will kill people just because they can. Statistics won’t show the amount of secret abortions that will continue and mothers lives that will be lost due to complications from a risky birth.  For hundreds of years prior to this law, women mutilated themselves, threw babies away at birth, and sought out any form of assistance necessary to end the pregnancy if it was unwanted. What this law does do is allow women the right to free will without legal punishment. It will allow all women to choose their path by freedom of choice, or to Christians –to eventually answer for their sin’s through God’s judgement. It is a choice that has been available to humans since our creation. The law is a guideline for individual civil liberty and not for a morality lesson.