Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Make a Decision--Stay out of Jail

Most young people who are jailed wound up in trouble with the law because they failed to make a decision.

They just went along with the decisions others made—others who made decisions to rob filling stations or beat up on that person they thought dised them. Not sure if that statistic still applies, since it was quoted in the ‘70s, but I wouldn’t be surprised.

One of the things I did in my checkered educational career was tape textbooks for blind students at the local community college, and it came from a social work text that belonged to a young man who was planning to counsel prisoners.

That text and this week’s prompt, added to a comment Hubby made on the way home from Panera (my favorite place for breakfast) on Monday, made me think about decision-making. It’s one of the most fundamental acts we have to learn to do—and do well—before we enter the adult world, yet nowhere are we taught how to do it. Possibly for that reason, many of the people I know whose lives are less than satisfactory have made a series of perhaps not bad, but not really good, decisions. I remember reading a magazine article once when I was a teen that suggested making a list of the good things and another of the bad things about any particular action we were considering. It helped, but it wasn’t enough. For one thing, it didn’t take into consideration others who would be affected by the decision.

The particular book I taped used a decision-making paradigm that consisted of concentric circles. In the “bull’s-eye” was the decision maker, the person who would be most affected by the result.

In the next circle, the decision makers put the names of those who would experience secondary effects from their decision: wives, children, parents….  In the third circle went the names of those who would suffer tertiary effects: close friends, co-workers… .THEN they made their columns, a pro column and a con column for each person.

No longer can you come to a decision because it makes you feel good. Now you have to think about all those who might suffer—or benefit—from your actions, and in what ways they might suffer or benefit. You might even be inspired to talk to them about it.

I think this paradigm is a much better approach to decision-making than any other I’m acquainted with, even though that’s all I can remember about it. It’s relatively simple, but forces the decision-makers to realize their actions have a ripple effect on their world and what those effects might be—unlike the old two-column method. 

Do schools now teach decision-making? What kind of paradigm do they use?

Monday, December 24, 2012

A Werewolf's Christmas Morning

Natalie awakened early Christmas morning, a childhood habit she had never been able to break, and went to open the three gifts that, lacking a Christmas tree, she had arranged on an end table in the living room. Mildred and Henry had given her a casserole dish with a card that said, "Since you won't be coming to see us as often now--" and included Mildred's recipe for the chicken dish Natalie liked so much. Bobbie had gotten her a leather journal with a note suggesting that she use it to keep track of "events." Dr. and Mrs. Persky, or rather Mrs. Persky, obviously, had gotten her a beautiful lace blouse.

After breakfast, Natalie sat for a moment looking at the small pile of gifts and realized again how lonely she was. Past Christmas holidays had been spent on the farm with Grammy, and they always went to church on Christmas morning. She felt a sudden need for a packed sanctuary and  families with babies crying during the sermon and children asking questions in stage whispers, and the lace blouse would be perfect to wear.

The service was everything she expected. Sitting in the pews with families dressed in red and green, listening to Christmas carols and smelling the pine boughs boosted her spirits a little. As she started to leave when the service ended, someone called her name. She turned to see Michael. She nearly didn't recognize him because he was wearing jeans and a sweater that matched his eyes and was holding a stocky, blond, three- or four-year-old boy.

(From "When the Moon Is Gibbous and Waxing")

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Next Big Thing

Katriena Knights, http://katrienaknights.blogspot.com/ , http://katrienaknights.kabeka.com/ , https://twitter.com/crazywritinfool , aka KC Myers, tagged me for The Next Big Thing, a series of blogs by authors from many different genres and parts of the country. Each author answers the same ten questions. Below, read my answers:

1) What is the working title of your next book? (or it can be your latest release)

Since I’m such a slow writer, I’m going to do both. My latest release is “When the Moon Is Gibbous and Waxing.” The working title of the book I’m writing now is “Dark Moon.”

2) Where did the idea for the book come from?

The first book grew from a nightmare I had. I woke myself (and my husband) growling. The first scene in the book is that nightmare. The second book follows the same characters five years later, when Michael resigns from his job and winds up crossways with a group of vampires.

3) What genre does your book fall under?
Both books are urban fantasy, not quite young adult nor the erotic urban fantasy often written for adults. I think of it as a cross over between YA and adult, or maybe PG13 in movie terms.

4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
I would definitely leave this up to the casting director, because all my favorite actors are in their 60s now. : - ) I don’t know enough actors today to have a clue, but if Dennis Quade were 20 years younger, he’d make a good Michael. Natalie has kind of an Audrey Hepburn look, but with long hair and amber eyes.

5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
First book: A young scientist learns she’s a creature of myth and nightmares being hunted by another creature like her, and fears the man she loves can never accept what she is—if he survives the full moon.
Second book: Natalie learns werewolves aren’t the only mythological being that is real, and while these new evil creatures are no danger to her, they could be the death of the man she loves.

6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I’ll probably seek out a small independent publisher for “Dark Moon” just as I did for “Gibbous Moon.”

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

I’ve jokingly said “Gibbous Moon” took 20 years. Actually I wrote off and on for several years while I was working 10-hour days and earning my bachelor’s degree. Then I threw the manuscript into a drawer and didn’t touch it for years. I took it out and finished it later during 30-minute lunch breaks over about a year before throwing it back into the drawer for several more years. A couple of years ago, I pulled it out again and added one more chapter before hacking out 40,000 words and starting to submit it. I hope the second book doesn’t take quite so long—or is quite so wordy.

8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

One thing I’ve noticed about urban fantasy is that much of it seems to fall into one of two sub-categories: YA or erotica. My books are probably closer to the former than the latter, but not really YA either, so it’s hard to make a comparison. What I’m really aiming for is something like Jim Butcher’s Dresden series, though heaven knows it’s presumptuous of me even to admit that.

9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Natalie and Michael did. I know that sounds strange, but I think many writers will understand. They just kept after me until I wrote their story. In fact, Michael wasn’t even supposed to be more than a walk-on, and he refused to leave because he had fallen in love with Natalie. My daughter, the aforementioned author Katriena Knights, getting her first book published before I did was pretty inspiring too. : - )

10) What else about the book might pique the reader's interest?

When Natalie begins to understand that she murdered two men during that first blackout, she misinterprets Michael’s interest in her as suspicion likely to lead to her arrest. Can he gain her trust? Can she save him from the Rogue Werewolf, who’s leaving a trail of shredded corpses across the U.S. as he travels east to find her? 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Wish a Werewolf a Merry Christmas

Christmas is coming, but Natalie isn't feeling the cheer. She's just discovered she's a werewolf, and she's afraid that the police officer who's trying to make friends with her has ulterior motives.

Natalie had awakened cold and hungry—really hungry. The only food in her refrigerator was a quart of milk. She stood in her kitchen and drank it directly from the carton, then pulled on her clothes and coat and went out looking for something to eat.
            She wound up at the restaurant in the mall and wondered why until she realized she wanted a steak—a very rare steak. She had to be persuasive to get the waiter to serve her a rare steak at 8 a.m., but she finally convinced him by ordering eggs and toast with it and telling him she worked nights and this was really her dinner. The other diners seemed to be avoiding looking at her plate as the red juices flowed from the meat and soaked into the bread.
            As she ate, she considered last night. Had she really seen what she thought she had? She remembered something about fangs in a strange, wild face, but she didn’t think she turned completely into a wolf like most of the werewolves in the movies.
            Unless she was hallucinating like the psychiatric patients in the books she read, she could not deny that she was far from being an average human. She really was a werewolf, no matter how absurd it seemed, and she could not deny she had killed those two men. But they had been planning to harm her. She was sure of that.            
            Alexei thought his soul was lost because he killed, and Nikolai emphasized that it was self-defense, as if killing was a rare thing for them, not a monthly occurrence as the movies showed. So while her ancestors might be the reason for the werewolf legends, she couldn’t believe she was the stuff of those legends.
            “Good morning. Would you mind if I shared your table?”
            Natalie jumped, startled out of her reverie, and looked up to see a policeman’s uniform. “Yes—I mean—no—I guess not.”
            “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you. My name’s Michael Clary.”
            Natalie knew she had seen him before, but couldn’t place where until she connected the uniform he wore to the officer who’d approached her at the lab the morning after the first episode. Yes, this was the same policeman. She had been too nervous to notice detail, but this was the same muscular body and gentle blue eyes. Why is he here? Please God, they can’t know I killed those men.
            “That’s a strange breakfast,” he continued.
            “I woke up hungry.” Natalie knew her voice sounded strained.
            “You must have had quite a night.” He was one of those rare people who smiled with his entire face. Even his nose, which was fairly prominent and looked like it had been broken at least once, crinkled at the bridge. Natalie felt herself blush.
            “I got involved in a project and forgot to eat yesterday.”
            The waiter brought him a menu and he waved it away. “Just give me what she has. But make it medium.”
            Surely he wouldn’t be ordering a meal if he was here to arrest me. “You said it was a strange breakfast.”
            “It is. But I just got off duty. It’s my supper.”
            His dark blond hair was creased above his ears as if he had been wearing his hat a long time, and his uniform shirt was rumpled. Still... She looked around the restaurant to see several empty tables.
            “Do you eat here often?” she asked.
            “On a policeman’s salary? No. I just thought I’d get a cup of coffee or something while I waited for the mall to open.”
            “You didn’t order coffee.”
            “You whetted my appetite.”
            His steak came, and they ate in silence as Natalie turned his last statement over in her mind. If Jack the Jock said that, it would be accompanied by a leer. But Jack the Jock wouldn’t know the word whetted. If he wasn’t here to arrest her, then why was he here? “What were you going to buy?”
            “A book."
            She must have looked surprised.
            “I read! I read a lot!” He looked so hurt she had to smile.
            “That’s the first time I’ve seen you smile. You should do it more often. Why are you always so serious?”
            All her fears poured back. “Things haven’t been going according to plan lately.”
            “That bad?” He looked genuinely sympathetic.
            To find out that you’re a creature of evil, that your responsible, moral life, your wishes and your will mean nothing at all? A Sunday school lesson flashed through her mind. “I feel a little like the Psalmist. ‘Will the Lord reject us forevermore and never again show favor? Has his unfailing love now failed us utterly? Has God forgotten to be gracious, has he in anger withheld his mercies?’ Something like that.”
            When she looked up, he was staring at her with a thoughtful expression, and she was suddenly embarrassed. “My grandmother dragged me to Sunday school every week when I was growing up.”
            “My mom and dad dragged me, literally sometimes, to Sunday school, too. What is it? Boyfriend trouble?”
            “Oh, no, I don’t have a boyfriend.”
            He looked as if he was filing that away somewhere.
            Natalie took the last bite of steak and blood-soaked bread off her plate. “It’s been nice meeting you, Michael, but I have some movies I have to return.”
            He stood up with her. “See you around. Merry Christmas.”
            As Natalie walked back through the mall to the parking lot, she mulled over their conversation. The evidence suggested that he had, indeed, been on duty all night. She decided he might have been telling the truth, that he had just accidentally found her there. The police station was across the street, after all. But why did he choose to sit with her when so many other tables were empty? Her heart began to pound again. Please, God. I didn’t mean to kill those men. Please don’t let them find out about me.