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: