Tuesday, December 26, 2023

So You Want To Be An Author

So You Want To Be An Author

       Christmas is over. You are thinking about what is ahead in 2024. I know you. You have a story to tell. You’ve often thought, “I should write that down.” It may be something you experienced. It may be a story you would like to preserve for your family. 

       Or…maybe it’s a story you can see becoming a movie. Don’t laugh. It happens.

        Me? I always wanted to write books. Novels. I love to read.

Found fhe Formula for Novels Here

        However, being a devourer of books does not necessarily make you a publishable author. So I did my research. I actually have a book out about what I learned called Writing to Publish: A Roadmap to Success.  (And yes, that is a live link to the book’s Amazon page.)

            I’m looking at this post as a “guide” for you as you start crafting your story.


Step one: Identify a problem your main character must address. 


        A good book always starts with the problem. It may be an event or conflict that jars our protagonist to the core or a simple disruption to the life our protagonist knows that he or she must address. It may be a bone shattering event or the hint of impending doom. Somehow, some way, the reader knows the protagonist is suffering or going to suffer on the first page.



Step two: Create a list of obstacles your character has to overcome for everything to work out.


A well-written novel takes the reader through a series of obstacles. These are problems that arise, issues to overcome, suffering to be endured or challenge forcing our hero to find inner strength he or she never knew existed. The character presses on, despite the obstacles, reaching that place where he or she can finally breathe. 

Pressing on…persevering. It’s tough. The protagonist may want to throw it all in from time to time but something inside (or circumstances beyond the person’s control) cause your protagonist to keep going. This is the largest portion of the book. Through this part of a good book, the protagonist discovers inner strength he or she never knew existed. The character grows, rises to the occasion, becomes a better person, and gives the reader hope that the outcome will be a satisfying one.


Step 3: Identify the “last straw.” 

It is that final battle your character faces. It may be an internal battle or a physical battle taking place in the latter portion of the book. The protagonist may still have a bit of growth ahead, but by this time, we know he or she is an overcomer. We've seen the development of strong character in our protagonist. We have hope. We can see the path ahead more clearly now. 


Step 4: Craft a satisfying end.


A good book…a truly satisfying novel has a satisfying end. The loose ends are tied up. Or at least addressed. And in a truly good “stand alone” novel "good" wins out over "evil." Always.


That is pretty much Story Structure in a nutshell.


You’ll hear speakers and mentors talk about story structure. They’ll offer you a template similar to this one complete with diagrams of story arcs. I’ve looked at books that told me to craft my story with “X” number of words dedicated to the first third of the book or to create a physical map for my story. But if you do all of those things you are basically using the story structure I talk about here. Where did I get it? 


Well, I’ve heard all my life that answers to every question you have can be found in the Bible. 

And sure enough, I discovered story structure in the Bible.


I was reading the NIV translation. I often journal my reflections as I read my Bible. This “story structure” comes from the book of Romans. You’ll find the full text in chapter five, starting with verse three. Here’s what I wrote in my journal that morning:


“… ‘suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us.’ That’s it. That’s story structure by THE book.”


Suffering. Perseverance. Character. Hope.

“And hope does not disappoint.”


Who knew the Apostle Paul would turn out to be my writing coach? 

Tuesday, December 19, 2023

Negotiating Christmas

 Negotiating Christmas


I married Tom Waters a week before Christmas. I was eighteen years old. We each brought to our marriage a few Christmas expectations. My family always opened gifts on Christmas Eve. His family opened gifts on Christmas morning. 


That’s fine, but the unstated expectation from each of our families to be present at their respective houses for gift opening left us trying to figure out what gifts we opened in our own home…if any. With a little negotiation on our part, everything eventually worked out.


When my daughters married, they faced the same dilemma.  It was hard to see everyone. Especially since our second daughter’s in-laws lived in Michigan. 

Thank you, Kendall for the Photo

We worked it out by celebrating every other Christmas at our house and on the off Christmases we hosted the Thanksgiving meal and weekend, which turned into what my family renamed “ThanksChristmas”. 


Mike and I are celebrating our first Christmas as a married couple. Mike’s side of the family is in Florida. Most of mine is up north. My mom and two of my daughters (with their husbands and children) live in Ohio. My middle daughter and her family live in Wisconsin.


Mike and I plan to celebrate Christmas in Florida first, then travel the day after Christmas to Ohio to celebrate with all the kiddos and my mom there. 


Because Christmas is on a Monday this year, all of the school aged children…and those members of the family working in the field of education…will be in school through Friday, December 22. So really, our first opportunity to gather is the following week. 


It worked out. This year. 


But anytime you bring families together, there is a period of negotiating how you spend your time during the holidays. It can be tough. 


It may require making a few hard decisions about what traditions to keep, ditch, or reshape. 

Mike and I are open to creating our own Christmas experiences and traditions. I’m sure our Christmas will always involve family and friends. And if you read last week’s blog you know cookies will likely be a part of Christmas in the Tyler household for years to come.


If you missed that post you can find it HERE.





Tuesday, December 12, 2023

Filling the Christmas Cookie Jar

 Filling The Christmas Cookie Jar


Okay, True confession. I don’t actually have a Christmas Cookie Jar. 


The cookie jar Mike and I have is clear glass and used for any occasion. It is usually filled with store bought lemon cookies or gingersnaps. 



*          My grandmother baked dozens of cookies              in preparation for the holidays. 

*          My oldest daughter and her husband’s family have long engaged in a cookie bake this time of year. 

*          When I was a teacher, I baked cookies with my students…or rather made some of those “no-bake” creations. 

*          My mom always made fudge which is technically not a cookie, but I’m willing to “settle” for creamy chocolate any day of the week. 


For this post, I decided to share a couple of favorite recipes for your holiday consumption.


Mike willingly sacrificed himself to taste test these holiday treats. Thank you, Mike. 



This first one is from my sweet sister-in-law, Jackie Waters. I have the recipe written in her own hand tucked in my cookbook. Jackie has been celebrating Jesus in heaven for the past few years, but tasting these holiday treats brings back fond memories.



            Graham crackers

            1 stick butter

            1 stick margarine

            1 C. sugar

            2 packages Hershey Bars


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Line a small cookie sheet with the graham crackers.

Melt the butter and margarine.

Stir I sugar and bring to a boil.

Boil for 4 minutes, stirring constantly.


Pour mixture over graham crackers.

Bake at 350 for 10 minutes.

Remove from oven and place Hershey bars on top.


Wait a few minutes then spread the chocolate over the entire pan.

Put in the refrigerator to chill.

Then… break apart and enjoy! Store in an airtight container. 


Breakaway Bars



I am actually not sure where I got this recipe. I have it scrawled in the back of a church cookbook. Since I can’t always read my own handwriting, I wasn’t all that sure the recipe would turn out right, but according to my taste tester, they are “just right” and “really good.”



2 C. Sifted flour

1 T. ground ginger

2 t. baking soda

1 t. ground cinnamon

½ t. salt

¾ C. shortening

1 C. white sugar

1 egg

¼ C. dark molasses

2 T. Cinnamon & 2 t. Sugar mixed


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Flour mixture: Sift flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon and salt TWO times, stirring between.


Shortening mixture: Beat the shortening until creamy, then beat in the white sugar adding the egg and molasses and beating until the mixture is fluffy.


Sift one third of the flour mixture into the shortening mixture. 

Blend. Sift remaining flour mixture into the dough and mix thoroughly.


Pinch and roll the dough into 1” balls. Coat with cinnamon sugar mixture.


Place two inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes.


Gingersnap Cookies


I’m also making Oatmeal Raisin cookies. You may not think of them as Christmas cookies, per se, but they are Mike’s favorite so they’ll be in the jar for sure.



So what favorite cookies will fill your jar this Christmas? I really want to know!

Here are a couple of pictures of the baking process in the Tyler household:

A few simple ingredients...


 And a cookie sheet!

The Key to Gingersnaps is in the Sifting... 
Sifting Again...and Sifting Again...
You get the Idea.

Tuesday, December 5, 2023

The Christmas List

The Christmas List: 

A Post of Possibilities

If you have children or you are like me with a gaggle of grands, this time of year can be a challenge. What do you possibly buy for the under thirteen crowd? 

I know a lot of people give money. That's okay, but if you are looking for a gift to wrap, I offer this post of possibilities. And you can use it for this year or next.

When my three daughters were young, we lived on a tight budget. That can be tough at Christmas. It is one reason I started shopping all year round.

Every year I bought each of them 

  • ·     some sort of art or craft, 
  • ·     something musical, 
  • ·     a book, 
  • ·     something to challenge their thinking skills, 
  • ·     something collectible.   


This is how it worked: If I was out and about in January and came upon a sale of a craft kits, I would sort through them, looking for something suitable for at least one of my girls. 

If an author came to my school, I would purchase an autographed copy of a book for each of them. As items went on sale in one of the categories, I would buy them, often wrap them, and put them away in my gift closet (an old chest of drawers I salvaged for such a purpose).


I think you get the idea. 


It worked for us. My kiddos always had a decent Christmas without the stress of last minute shopping nor the drain of funds in a single month. Of course, we often added other items to the gifts under the tree, but the stress wasn’t there.


When I started this practice, I had never heard of Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences. In fact, he first presented the notion that people think and learn in different ways a few years after my third child was born and long after I had put this notion of shopping all year long by categories. 


Gardner’s early theory suggests there are “seven ways of knowing.” 


Linguistic-This one has to do with words. Reading, writing, riddles, word games, and so forth. ("Hmm...perhaps a book?")


Logical/mathematical-This one has to do with reasoning, logic, problem solving, and numbers. ("Maybe something to challenge their thinking skills?")


Musical-This one is about rhythm, song, listening and making music. ("Imagine that!")


Bodily/kinesthetic- This area applies to sports, dance, and movement.


Spatial-This one is where we find drawing and painting and puzzles. ("Did someone say something about arts and crafts?")


The last two in his early work were Interpersonal and Intrapersonal ways of knowing.

Unwittingly, we were hitting four of Gardner’s seven ways of knowing with Christmas gifts.


The girls didn’t always get what was “trendy,” but they always had a great Christmas. The gifts fed their hearts, minds, and souls. And apparently, helped them access those different ways of thinking and learning.


The Something Collectible? Well, that made them unique.


Allison collected porcelain dolls.

Danielle collected music boxes.

Kendall collected …everything. I eventually narrowed it down to “Cherished Teddies” and added to her collection each year. 


Allison still has a few of her treasured dolls. 

Danielle still has her music boxes.


Kendall held onto her Cherished Teddies for quite a while before making a killing on them at a yard sale. (Of course she the one who went into business.)


And if you are curious about the theory, you can find a pretty good article for parents and grandparents HERE: 


Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Marriage 101: Agree to Disagree

 Marriage 101: Agree to Disagree


I was once part of a Bible study group where the leader shared a few basic “rules” before we started. He said there would be times we didn’t agree; there would be topics where our life experiences shaped our thinking in differing ways. 


Our first rule for the group was to bathe everything we said in love. The second was that we had to agree to disagree. 


Appreciating differing viewpoints is essential to any good relationship. 


I have always enjoyed the story of the five blind men and the elephant. As each touched a different part of the animal he would describe what it was. 


“A wall,” one of the men offered as his hand met with the broad side of the beast.


“No,” said another as the elephant’s trunk wound around the man. “It is a great snake.”


The one with a large ear flapping back and forth before him declared it a fan while the one holding the tail was sure it was a rope.


“You are all wrong,” said the one wrapping his arms around the animal’s leg. “It is a tree.”


It is all about “Perspective.”


Some people see rain. Others watch for a rainbow.

Is the cup half empty or half full?


Perspective. How you view life.


When Mike and I married, my mother gave us some outdoor furniture and a beautiful piece of outdoor art as a wedding gift. Once Mike put it up, we stood back and admired the piece. It reminds us of our backyard. 


“Of course it will look better once the house is painted,” Mike said.


On that we agree. Totally.


We have a plan to paint the outside of the house a much lighter color. A white or off-white is what we are considering. Right now it is dark. Not dark brown but more of a brownish orange-ish color.


Mike called it copper.

I called it gingerbread. 


Perspective. Based on life experience.


Mike worked for the electric company. 

Mike saw wires. 


I was a teacher.

I baked gingerbread with my students. We made “gingerbread houses” out of graham crackers and icing.


For a brief time, the color of the house became a point of serious discussion.


We held copper pennies to the surface. Copper is bright and shiny. Unless it is an old penny, of course. 


We held a gingersnap cookie against the wall. I insisted gingerbread, the soft cake, is not the light brown of gingersnaps. Nor is it dark brown.


We asked others.


Through it all, though, we respected the other person’s opinion. We decided we were both close...but each color was off a bit.


Then, one day while Mike was watching football and I was working on a book, it came to me. 


“The house is the color of butterscotch pudding!” I called out. Mike agreed.


(Of course he was watching football. But I’m calling it done. And waiting patiently for the new paint and painters to arrive.)

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

What's on Your Plate?

 What’s on Your Plate?


As I write this, I am preparing for Thanksgiving. It will be a small gathering. 

My family in Ohio and Wisconsin will be “doing their own thing” as they say. I was thinking about our large family gatherings. The cleaning and cooking, setting the table, and the long to-do list I live by the weeks prior to the holiday.  


I occurs to me I often talk about having “too much on my plate” when facing a new challenge or opportunity. 


As in…

“Would you like to join our women’s club? We have a wonderful time and serve the community.”

“I’m sorry. It sounds interesting, but I have     too much on my plate right now.”


I am not making excuses. I really do have a lot going on. 


I am, after all, a newlywed. Mike and I knew each other as teens, but we are still getting to know each other as adults. That’s a good thing. 


We bought a house that needs some updates and decided to live in it a bit to discover exactly what we want to do. Now we are working with a builder to discuss our next step.


My writing became muddled after Tom died. Sure I published a few short stories and I kept my blog going. Yet, in truth, I have been as unsettled as the characters in my books. 

Now I am writing again. I am working on a novel with a character I know and like. I’m in my writing zone, but it takes time and daily effort to write a book.


I’m sure we all have a lot to do. 

Some, like me, have a spouse, kids, even grandkids. 

Some of my readers have jobs they leave drive to daily.

All of us have work to do around the house.

Active in your church and community? Great.


I’ve often heard it said, “If you want something done, ask a busy person.”

There is truth in that. 



It’s a “plate.” Not a “platter.”


So my advice….now that I’m old enough to give it…my advice is to take a close look at all you take on. 


Weigh your options before you dish up more than you can handle.


Decide what is the meat, your main course. Stay true to that.

Be sure to add some veggies and fruit. They keep you balanced.

Leave room for dessert. Everyone needs something fun in life.


Of course a small diversion here and there…something akin to a sprinkling of salt or pepper can add a little spice to life. As long as you don’t go too heavy on the spice and cover the main course so much you lose your taste for what’s important. 


Let me hear from you.


What is your “main dish” in life…or what is your favorite “dessert”? How do you find balance on your “plate”?


And when you do feel a little overwhelmed... Remember these words:


            “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, giving thanksgiving, present your request to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ.”

Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV)


Wishing You All a Wonderful Thanksgiving and Holiday Season!

Tuesday, November 14, 2023

The Eleventh Hour

 The Eleventh Hour


Eleven o’clock on the eleventh day of November. 


The eleventh hour… “the last possible moment before it’s too late.”


The eleventh hour on the eleventh day of the eleventh month.


That was when peace negotiations began in 1913, bringing World War I to an end. Armistice Day. A day to lay down arms. Armistice Day eventually became Veterans Day and is officially recognized each year on November 11. 


Don’t worry. This post isn’t a history lesson. It is a post about friendship and an appreciation of the freedom and peace we share because of others who were willing to take a stand.


The day before the official celebration recognizing Veterans Day, seven of us met at a small café near the Veterans Memorial Park and Museum in Tampa, Florida. All of us grew up in the area. All but one of our group graduated from the same high school, Chamberlain. Our high school had established a plaque in the park with the names of those classmates we lost in Vietnam. Names we recognized. Boys we knew.


The Chiefs We Lost in Vietnam
(Thank you Sandee LaRocca for this shot.) 

We walked through the park, sharing stories of our fathers and grandfathers, of uncles and friends who were forever marked by the blood of fellow soldiers in nearly every modern war starting with World War II. 


The men study the names
of those we knew and lost

Mike’s dad, Hugh Tyler, dreamed of becoming a doctor. As the next to the youngest of ten orphaned children, his ambition may have seemed unattainable. But Hugh Tyler was not to be stopped. He worked hard all through school and entered the University of Florida in the pre-med program. 


Then came World War II.


Mike’s dad stepped up to serve his country. Because of his pre-med classes, he served as a medic. He was acting in that role on June 6, 1944. D-Day. The carnage was unimaginable, the beach red with blood. Advancing soldiers had to step over the shattered bodies of their friends and comrades, shot down in the water or on the now blood soaked shore. Hugh Tyler returned from the war forever changed. He decided on a career as a dentist instead of medicine. 


My Uncle Noah returned from Vietnam a highly decorated Marine in an unimaginable war. He was honored for his heroism, but what I remember most was the haunting effect Vietnam had on him. I remember him putting his boots up on the chest of drawers every night. He explained to me it was a habit. In Vietnam, it was a way to keep water and snakes out of his boots.  And I remember the nightmares... and my mother in the next room, praying him through them.


Veterans Park isn’t merely to honor those fallen soldiers, it is also recognizing and honoring those who pushed through the oceans and swamps, hiked the deserts, and climbed the rocks. Those who fought on land, in the air, and on water. 


Those men and women who sacrificed time with their families so we could spend time with ours.


The park is a peaceful place. There are no sounds of gunfire. No fear of attack. No rumblings of army tanks or strafing by airplanes. It is a place of reflection and honor and commitment. 


As I ponder the experience, it strikes me how we as a nation are becoming desensitized to the vulgarity of war and the carnage of lost battles. We tend to cast off the painful memories often trapped in the minds of soldiers, expecting them to recover… to “get back to normal.” 


Now we watch wars unfold on television. If the sounds of gunfire are too intense, we turn the volume down. We don’t hear the cries of those who have fallen. We don’t smell the smoke. If it becomes too difficult to watch, we turn it off. 


This week many people across our nation recognized Veterans Day with parades, salutes, and celebrations. 

But for the seven of us, it was a quiet walk through a peaceful park, buoyed by gratitude for those who went before us.

Thank you ahead of time for sharing this post.


Tuesday, November 7, 2023

A Week to Treasure

A Week to Treasure

I spent this past week in Ohio. 


I stayed with my mom at her house the first two nights. It was sweet to wake up to the smell of fresh coffee brewing and the sound of my mother singing as she moved around the kitchen.


Throughout the week we found time to play a couple of our favorite games like Backstreet Rummy and Farkle. We toured my youngest daughter’s house, which is almost ready for her precious little family to occupy and we attended the musical “School House Rock” to watch my oldest granddaughter perform. She has a wonderful voice. 

I’m not saying that just because I’m her grandmother. The girl landed a solo in the performance that was excellent.


Mom and I attended church together on Sunday. It is the church where my children grew up. The church where all three girls were baptized. The church where all three walked down the aisle on their father’s arm to leave our household for their own, bringing three good men into our family.


It’s the church where we all gathered in 2014, this very time of year, to say our goodbyes to Tom.


Mom spent a couple of nights with me as well. We pulled a few weeds from the front flowerbed. Then, after I’d put some of the power tools and lumber away in my basement workshop, Mom swept the floor of sawdust and bits of wood left behind. But again, we didn’t tire ourselves with all work. We visited and played a few more games. 


My stay in Ohio was a full week. Seven wonderful days. 

I was blessed to have time with family and friends. We celebrated my son-in-law’s birthday at Olive Garden. My grandson, Spencer, was home from college. He and I had a sweet conversation by the fire pit one night and his older brother, Joshua, wrapped his arms around me with one of his amazing bear hugs.


My youngest daughter, Kendall and I completed a beautiful prayer walk at her church. 


My oldest daughter, Allison, came to my house to set up the Christmas tree so that when Mike and I return in December we’ll be ready to celebrate. 


I am one of those people who can easily fritter time away. This week? This week was different. It was a time to pack in every moment possible. I connected with friends. I held tight to family. I even managed to do a few things around the house.


Here are a few pics.

My Sweet Family...and a Star is Born!

Fire Pit with the Family!

The Tree is Ready!