Monthly Archives: April 2015

People Pleaser No More

Cool

 

I could’ve titled this, “I Can’t Please Everyone, But I Sure Have Tried.” This probably started in my family of origin where I strove to get good grades thus pleasing my parents, to have lots of friends, to be well liked by the teachers, and on top of that I wanted to be cool.

I wish I could say when I got into adulthood I was untouched by the expectations of others. Hardly. Those ‘great expectations’ were often heavy on me. I wasn’t performing well enough on my job (though I seemed to be doing as well as other employees). My house didn’t pass ‘the white glove test.” Remember that, when your mother-in-law, or your snarky older sister, or that holier than thou church lady comes, rubs her white glove across your coffee table and horror-of-horrors, absolute panic-time, she finds dust. Of course, since then I’ve learned a little known truth: dust is a wood preservative.

I can say that at one point in my life, right before I started my serious fiction writing journey, I twisted myself inside-out to make everything perfect for others in my personal world, to create a happy picture. Some had absolutely no appreciation of my efforts, while a few others actually disdained my efforts and actively tried to wreck them. So, I tried harder and the upshot was I lost myself in the process, for a while. For a while I was in a place of desperation. That was nearly eight years ago, when I banged out a really terrible first effort at a murder mystery novel. Writing fiction helped bring me back to me…back to the woman God sees when He looks at me.

Now that I’m a tad older than 39, I’ve learned categorically, no matter what I do, somebody’s going to have an opinion about my actions. I can prove this by taking a cursory look at social networking sites. Don’t you just love when somebody takes a stand, perhaps a faith stand, and they get castigated?Maybe they’re out of step with the mainstream. Maybe they hold traditional core values and they dare to express that… and they get figuratively stomped on. Other, do nothing types, sitting in their pajamas in their parents’ basements barrage them with insult upon insult. Some do not merely want to win the present argument, they seek to destroy the other person.

When this happens to me, and it has happened to me, I refer to, hold onto, put my feet down firmly, and stand on Scripture. Romans 8:1 [NASB] Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (2)For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.

Eagel 2

 


KILLING KENNEDY ~ a review

Killing Kennedy

Just finished reading Bill O’Reilly’s KILLING KENNEDY. What an amazing book.  Especially in laying out the Kennedy presidency and that time in American history that was Camelot . Wow! I got totally swept up in the class and grace of that era, though much of that was only a public face (the white washing of what went on in back rooms and behind closed doors). Still, the book made me yearn for a bit more panache in public life today. Despite the “cleansing,’ it’s clear they believed in public dignity and JFK believed in heroic deeds.

I wished O’Reilley had gone more into the findings of the Warren Commission and how they arrived at their conclusions and more importantly, why he agrees that Oswald was the lone shooter. Would have liked more depth there. Still a terrific book.

I’m fascinated by the Camelot era in American history. My initial reason for purchasing the book was as research for the next novel in my detective/espionage series. I’m a research hound This third book in my Veronica “Ronnie” Ingels/Dawson Hughes series will have throwbacks to the Kennedy assassination.  A shadowy figure in this real life political drama will be impact to the outcome of my novel.


The Family Meal Has Been Hijacked

Mac 'n Cheese with tomato slices before it goes into the oven. Trust me it beats Kraft.

Mac ‘n Cheese with tomato slices before it goes into the oven. Trust me it beats Kraft…oh,there’s bacon on top too.

 

 

 

 

Cooking is fun. It must be. Millions watch cooking shows with regularity. In fact more watch cooking shows than actually cook.

 

 

 

Christmas Eve in my family has traditionally meant a meatless meal.

Christmas Eve in my family has traditionally meant a meatless meal.

 

 

One of the things I loved about my childhood was sitting down at the dinner table which we did every night. I particularly loved the holiday table at my grandmother’s house. It was so comfy, Uncle John told the funniest stories, and the food was great. There’s really nothing quite as good as the aromas coming out of a kitchen when a home cooked meal is being prepared. When you’ve eaten a good home cook’s Sunday friend chicken with homemade mashed potatoes and gravy, Kentucky Fried Chicken just doesn’t cut it.

 

I recently read that in 1900 the average American family ate only 2% of meals out of the home. By 2010 Americans ate 50% of their meals out of the home. When they were home eating “together” it was quite usual for each family member to microwave their own frozen meal. If they actually sat down at the table together with their individual nuked food, it would be for less than 20 minutes.

 

IMG_0848

I cook. I love to stand in front of the stove and stir what I’ve got simmering in a pot. I love to open the oven to check on my baked chicken and revel in the garlic and onion aromas wafting over my kitchen and into the rest of the house. That’s wonderful and pleasurable to me. Sitting down at a set table and eating a well prepared, home cooked meal is pretty close to heavenly. It warms the cockles of my heart hearing: “I’ll have another helping of sweet potatoes” or “Wow, these carrots are good, can I have more?” or “pass the grated cheese.”

 

I could tell you studies show that kids who regularly sit down to a meal with their families are more well-adjusted than kids who don’t. I could point to research suggesting children who eat at home with their families have better grades and get into less trouble. I could ask you if you knew eating meals at home protects girls from anorexia and bulimia. But what I really want to tell you is how much fun it is to eat together. How great it is to cook together in the kitchen, and carry the platters out to the table.

 

Watching cooking on TV is fun. I do it all the time. But cooking at your own stove is more fun. Trust me. Shopping at the supermarket should be a wonderful sensory experience. There are red, round, ripe tomatoes waiting to be sliced and added to a sandwich. Yum. Anyone can do that. There’s a package of chop meat that would make a few hamburgers to share with family and friends and they won’t taste like the cardboard burgers you get at a fast food place. Put it on a good roll you got in the bakery section and plop one of those fresh cut tomato slices on it. Then eat! Eat! Enjoy the people at the table eating with you. After all, community starts at the dinner table.


I’m So Tired of Angry, Bullying Cowards!!!

BullyAngry, bullying people get a kick out of being terrorizers who intimidate others into doing their bidding. I refuse to see them that way, refuse to give in to their pressure. I think of them as stud-muffins (super cool in their own minds but with a soft, cowardly core). Jerks, is another term that comes to mind. They’re infantile, and this game of theirs is so played out.

 

They splatter their anger all over others
Anger isn’t the same as becoming or feeling angry. We all experience anger, much of it justified. Life is hard, we get knocked around and we become angry. Mature adults learn to control it, to get over it, and not let it rule them. What is disturbing is the trend in our post-modern world is to live angry, to have anger as the premier emotion. We see this on the internet, individuals blasting away at others, literally trying to destroy reputations and lives.

 

The Bible, a book of great wisdom and inspiration, that uplifts and enhances my life, says: BE ANGRY, AND yet DO NOT SIN; do not let the sun go down on your anger. [NASB, Ephesians 4:26] Here we see that anger is not a sin. Well, what is sin? The word sin literally means missing the mark. The emotion of anger is natural, but rehashing it, nursing and feeding it until it becomes a monster is definitely missing the mark. (Note: the italicized yet was not in the original Scripture text. It was added by editors.)

 

Why do anger-mongers do what they do? The payoff to over-the-top anger is intimidation. In their own minds, bullies feel like big shots…powerful. Many times, those wielding intense anger like a sword find they tend to get what they want. So, they ratchet up their anger to even higher decibels to get more of what they want. In the face of this type of outrageous anger, others may quake in fear and give in to them.

 

This is a societal problem and it’s becoming one of great magnitude. So, what can individuals due? First of all, we can refuse to sink to their level. We must raise the bar, not lower it. We must not allow their anger to goad us into debasing ourselves. If possible, ignore the bully when he/she is in intimidation mode. They feed on attention, deny it to them. Do nothing to reinforce the image they have of themselves as powerful and commanding. When forced to deal with their tirades, do so in a calm and rational manner.

 

How about, don’t give the anger-monger status within your group? Don’t give him/her standing. When an innocent member of your group (work team, neighborhood, etc.) is verbally attacked by a bully, stand up and give the injured party moral and verbal support. It takes a little backbone to set things right. Should the bully engage in physical confrontation, call the police.


When a Crime Fiction Writer Throws ‘Bait and Switch’ at the Reader

Bait

I got an interesting email response to my last post from fellow Christian writer Mary Vee. She stated she hated it when an author broke my “rule #5 for writing detective novels.”

 

Rule #5: The criminal should be introduced early in the story, amidst a field of plausible red herrings.  There’s nothing worse than having the criminal sprung on the reader, out of the blue, at the last minute. There could be more than one culprit. So, secondary culprits can be introduced later. Still, it’s sort of cheating to wait till the very end even for those to be brought into the story line. Don’t want to give the reader a bait-and-switch feeling. Finding out who the killer is at the end ~ good. Introducing the killer at the end ~ bad idea.

My author friend said she’d read several novels that had done that (dropped the killer into the story at the  end and then wrapped it all up neatly) and she disliked them terribly. She felt as if she’d been robbed…cheated. Then she got even stronger saying perhaps “embezzled” was the word she was looking for because the author has set her up and then let her fall.

Tipped Hat

She went on to say that if the clues were there and she got caught banking on the wrong killer, if she got caught in a “red herring snare,” well that was just pure fun. Hats off to the author.


Writing A Detective Novel ~ The Rules

Investigation

 

 

As in life…some rules can safely be broken, others can’t. Determining which is which often demonstrates who is the proficient writer and who is not.

Quite a few of the rules for writing detective stories are similar to those for writing murder mysteries, suspense novels, and thrillers. Others are very different.

BASIC RULES:

1. The story must have a detective, or detective partners as its main character(s). These can be duly sworn police detectives, fire department arson investigators, licensed private investigators, FBI special agents, homeland security investigators and the like, or military police officers of high enough rank to be investigating crimes. They are law enforcement professionals on the case to solve a particular crime or series of crimes.

2. The story must have a victim or victims. Usually there is a dead body, preferably more than one. But the crime could be kidnap, or arson that did not result in murder, or perhaps eco-terrorism resulting in corpses or not. The crime could involve the brutalization or killing of animals (especially if the detective is a park ranger). Most often there is a human murder or murders.

3. The detective story is an intellectual game, much like solving a puzzle or playing chess. There are opponents in this game. The detective is pitted against the criminal. They must be equally matched for it to be a good game. Although the reader knows the detective is going to win, for it to be a compelling story,  it has to feel at times, as if the criminal might triumph over the detective. The criminal must be clever enough to inflict some mental, emotional, and/or physical damage on the detective(s).

4. The old axiom was that the criminal’s identity must be unknown to both the detective(s) and the reader until the very end. This is still largely true. If the criminal’s identity is know the story becomes suspense. Lately, there’s been some line blurring in this area. In the modern market place, many genres have blurry lines.

5. The criminal should be introduced early in the story, amidst a field of plausible red herrings.  There’s nothing worse than having the criminal sprung on the reader, out of the blue, at the last minute. There could be more than one culprit. So, secondary culprits can be introduced later. Still, it’s sort of cheating to wait till the very end even for those to be brought into the story line. Don’t want to give the reader a bait-and-switch feeling. Finding out who the killer is at the end ~ good. Introducing the killer at the end ~ bad idea.

6. The crime should also be introduced at the beginning. It’s been said within the first three chapters. The first chapter is best. Opening up in the very midst of it, helps grab the reader’s attention. The specific crime must fit the criminal’s psyche and personality, and he/she must have had the know-how and ability to commit said crime.

7. Supply plausible and understandable clues that both give hints as to the identity of the criminal, and also clues that point to others who are merely red herrings. Also leave clues as to the motive for the crime(s).

8. In days gone by, it was almost written in stone that the detective story is simply one of detecting, that no social issues must be brought into it and certainly no romance. This is no longer the case. Readers enjoy a detective protagonist with a social conscience, or definite lack thereof. It makes him/her more interesting. In the same way a love interest for the detective often gives her/him an Achilles’ heel which the crafty criminal can take advantage of. The Christian detective story must have inspirational or redemptive elements to it. However, in the detective sub-genre, the overwhelming majority of the plot must be about the protagonist detective(s) detecting and solving the crime(s), or else it’s not a detective story.

9. The crime must not be solved by super-natural or extraordinary means. The criminal can’t be caught via psychic powers, magic, assistance from ghosts, aliens from another planet, or the like. Those scenarios make the story speculative fiction, not a detective story. Although in today’s world, it’s entirely possible to have a spec fic detective story, but that book would not be shelved with detective stories in a book store. Then again, you might hit a bookstore where it would be. Go figure.

Murder


%d bloggers like this: