Still trying to limit my kids’ extra curricular activities

When my kids first started school, my goal was to not have them over scheduled with activities. In fact in January 2013, I wrote a post about keeping their activities to one extra-curricular activity per child.

Well, now that they are older (Lexie is 9 and Jase is 12), it has proven to be too hard to keep that one activity goal.

Jase receiving his second degree red belt in May 2017.

It all started last year when Jase was in fifth grade. He wanted to return to soccer, but he was still taking karate (which he began in kindergarten). Ok, I thought. Two activities were fine. Then during the first month of school, the middle school orchestra came to perform as a method of recruiting members. He wanted to do strings which was free (except for the violin rental.) So he ended up with three activities.

At that time, Lexie just had one – gymnastics.

A new school year has begun, and it is time to select activities for this school year. I don’t dictate what activities they join but the only stipulation is that once they start something, they must continue through that season/session. If after that they don’t want to continue, then they are free to stop and pick a new activity.

Lexie’s rendition of the Pokemon – Fennekin.

Lexie decided in August that gymnastics was not her passion and wanted to stop. She had been doing it for a year and a half. She loves art so I signed her up for an after-school art class that meets once a week for 12 weeks.

She also likes to sing so she will also be joining choir. This school group meets twice a week before school. She will have one performance during the holidays and a field trip to sing at another location – usually a nursing home.

Jase right now has two activities. He is still doing karate. He is currently a second degree red belt. He is also in the orchestra. Now orchestra is a class at his middle school, but I am also counting it as an extra-curricular activity as they will sometimes have after school practice, and they do have performances and competitions throughout the year.

While he currently has two activities and I would be happy with him limiting his extracurricular activities to these, I am still encouraging him to find a club at the middle school he might want to join. I think joining a club will be a great way to make friends at his new school. But if he doesn’t find one that interests him that is fine too.

As it is, I think two activists a piece are just fine for them. I like keeping them busy, but I don’t think kids need every minute of their day scheduled. They need time for homework, and of course they need down time where they can just have fun and enjoy their childhood.

Advertisements

Today’s Featured Author – Terrell Williams

Today, I welcome author Terrell Williams to my blog. He is on a virtual book tour promoting his book But My Soul is Black.

8 Things

Tell us 8 things about the characters in your book.

1) Bobby is an Anglo who finds out more about himself than he ever imagined when he gets an opportunity to become familiar with another culture and has to come face to face with physical confrontations if he stands up for what he believes.

2) Jimbo for the first time feels the pain of not ultimately being on the winning side in a quest for the woman he truly loves.  He learns the hard way that being vain is not a virtue.

3) Karen, the object of pursuit of both Jimbo and Bobby learns the difficulty associated with discerning what constitutes love vs. infatuation, and whether physical attraction is as important as someone who shows true care and concern.

4) Uncle Fred is the big boss who has high expectations of those he employs and who he cares about, almost to a fault.

5) Grandma knows her grandson Jimbo better than anyone, and he really needs her sometimes tough love yet compassionate guidance when he encounters problems of the heart that he does not know how to handle himself.

6) Jimbo is a proud young man with flaws, but he takes care of his business for Uncle Fred, which is why he was made foreman over the job.

7) Everyone needs a “Helen”.  A true friend who will tell you the truth, regardless of whether you like it or not.  Helen, Karen’s best friend, was just that type of person.

8) Karen is an amazing lady, with beauty, education, emotional strength yet compassion.

Book Blurb

Bobby has high hopes for his new life in Detroit, and he will not, under any circumstances, blow his chances by messing up a prime job opportunity at his uncle’s construction company. But his first meeting with his mentor, African American foreman Jimbo, turns out even worse than expected when it becomes apparent that Bobby is learning the ropes to become Jimbo’s boss.

As Bobby tries to navigate Jimbo’s understandable resentment, he must also wrestle with the misperceptions of Black culture that his Caucasian family has passed on to him. Eventually, the two men become friends as Jimbo recognizes that Bobby doesn’t hold the prejudices of his uncle.

But just as things start to smooth out, Jimbo introduces Bobby to the kind, clever, and stunning Karen—Jimbo’s favorite woman to string along. Confused by his strong feelings for this intriguing woman and frustrated with Jimbo’s flippant treatment of her, Bobby struggles with whether to pursue Karen…at the cost of ending his newfound friendship with Jimbo and sabotaging his future.

Taking a candid look at interracial romance and the human experience, …But My Soul is Black reveals the cultural misperceptions that harm us—and the love that heals us.

About the Author

Terrell Williams began life as the 2nd eldest son of 9 children (4 girls and 5 boys) and was reared in less than affluent circumstances. The second in his immediate family to graduate from college, he went on to marry a wonderful woman, and who eventually became the proud parents of 4 children (3 girls and 1 son who is also his namesake).

Mr. Williams enjoys reading and writing poetry, and he has written several plays that have been performed and were well received in Texas. The idea for his debut novel, But my Soul Is Black, lay dormant for many years until Mr. Williams finally finished the novel upon his retirement, fulfilling his dream of becoming a published author. His romantic tale tackles controversial topics such as interracial relationships, generational differences of conceptual thinking about life and love. This novel seeks to remind the readers of the interconnectedness we share as humans, as well as showing that truly, love transcends all!

You can find out more about Terrell’s book tour on Facebook.

You can purchase But My Soul is Black on Amazon.

Writing a novel – To Outline or Not to Outline

This post is the eighth in a series about writing a novel. You can check out the list of past topics at the end of this post.

You have developed believable, complex characters. You have selected your setting or built your world. And you have a plot idea riddled with conflict. Now it is time to write or is it? Nope. There is potentially more planning to do.

Some people like to sit down and just begin writing. They may have no clue where to begin and they want to start writing and see where the characters lead them. Or perhaps they start with a vague idea but either way, this method (often referred to as “pantser” since they are flying by the seat of their pants) can lead to more re-writing in the end as many of the scenes that don’t advance the story are deleted or re-written.

And then on the other end of the spectrum there are the real planners. These are the ones writing detailed outlines of where the story goes, sometimes even outlining each individual chapter. Actually, these “plotters” come in all different levels, and some may decide a one-page synopsis is enough.

There are, of course, numerous benefits for those who outline their novels.

1.) You create a well-developed plot/storyline

2.) You are never at a loss about what to write next.

3.) You can find problems with your plot or characters sooner (and correct them)

4.) Less rewriting

So, you decide you want to outline your novel before you write. How do you go about doing that?

Outlining methods

Snowflake method (aka Expanding Outline) – Here you start with a basic premise. (I found this example on another website.)

Jack and Jill get injured while climbing a hill trying to get water.

Then you expand on it.

Jack, the mayor’s son, is sent to fetch water. Jill comes with him. They get injured while trying to climb the hill where the well is located.

Then you expand on it some more.

Jack, who is the mayor’s son, is sent to fetch water for the town. His girlfriend Jill comes with him. At the top of the hill, where the well is located, the two are attacked. They attempt to escape but trip and fall down the hill. They are both injured.

You continue this process until every part of the story has the level of detail you want. This method can be very labor intensive. You can find out more about the method here.

Pure Summary/Narrative – On this method you write the story from beginning to end but in summary form. There are no descriptions or dialogues. You can pretty much do this one by bullet point, or you can just write it out almost as a synopsis.

  • Susan lives in the jungle.
  • She is struggling to survive with very few supplies.
  • Susan receives an unexpected visit from her daughter.
  • Susan decides to leave the jungle and live with her daughter in the city.

Headlight (or Flashlight) Outline – With this method, you plan out a few scenes or chapters. You plan just enough to get you writing. Once you have written that and reread it to see if you like where your story is going, then you do the next few chapters.

I write using this method. I find that it gives me some structure but also lets my characters dictate where the story is going. But I do have an end goal in mind – I just don’t have all the details planned in advanced.

Chapter by Chapter Breakdown – Some writers do a quick summary of what will happen in each chapter. Again, it can be almost like bullet points, or you can write even more as your guide.

These are really just a few of the methods, and as you can see some of the methods are very similar to others. Outlining had its benefits and if one of these methods doesn’t tickle your fancy, simple use Google and find other outlining methods that do.

And remember, if outlining a novel doesn’t work for you, don’t force it. There is nothing wrong with being a panster. There are many authors that plan and many who don’t. You just need to do what works for you. The most important thing is getting a comprehensive well written novel done.

Previous topics

#1 – Deciding to write a novel – Writing Myths

#2 – Three areas to develop before starting to write a novel

#3 – Finding a Story Idea and How to Know if it “good enough”

#4 – Developing Characters for your Novel

#5 – Major characters? Minor Characters? Where does everyone fit in?

#6 – Developing the Setting for your Novel

#7 – The importance of developing conflict in your novel plot

A Mouse in the House…again

It is the sound no parent wants to hear at 3 a.m. Lexie was crying. Now she is 9-years-old so she rarely wakes up crying. I stumbled to her room, assuming she had had a bad dream.

“I saw something,” she said. “I saw something crawl across the floor!”

Nikki

At first in my sleepy state, I assumed she had been dreaming. Then I noticed her cat Nikki was looking at a pile of toys by the closet. I had no desire to know what kept her interest (plus I had left my glasses by my bed) so I did what many women would do – I called for my husband.

Yes, I am thankful he was home because it was a mouse in the pile of toys. Now before you think we live in a shabby, mouse-infested place, let me assure you we do not. What we have is three cats, two dogs and a pet door that is always open. This means that at any time, any of these animals can bring home their latest catch.

We have had all sorts of live creatures – frogs, snakes, lizards, bugs, birds and of course mice. Many times I have had to try and chase these animals out of the house or pick up their dead bodies. While my husband hates snakes, I actually find them the easiest of the creatures to handle. Well, I guess handle is the wrong word. I don’t pick them up but they are easy to shoo with a broom out the door. Much easier than the birds that can’t seem to find the open door or the mice and lizards that run the wrong way.

Now the few mice we have had in the house are not tiny little mice that fit on your palm. These are field mice. Heck, for all I know they could technically be rats. It isn’t like I would know the difference. All I know is that I don’t want them in my house.

So, the other night, my husband came to our rescue. He trapped the mouse in a box and released him back outside. By now, we are all awake. The kids and I are sitting on Lexie’s bed. I reassure them that it is only one mouse and there are not likely to be more in the house.

They both request my husband check their rooms. He spends a good amount of time doing that while I talk to them about Nikki protecting them (even though she most likely is the reason the mouse was in the house.) We tuck them back into bed and return to ours. We are both surprised that the kids didn’t protest more about staying in their own beds.

We have spoken too soon.

A few minutes later, we can hear the kids talking. Lexie wants to sleep in Jase’s room but of course she doesn’t want to sleep on the floor. There could after all be a mouse down there. Jase’s bed is not really big enough for the two of them now. (I’m not sure it was ever big enough but they have slept in it together before.)

I bet you can see where this is going…yep, they both ended up in our bed. Thankfully, our bed is a King but even then, it is tight to have four people in it.

I know plenty of parents who allow one or more of their kids to climb into their bed at night and sleep. I have never been one of these parents. I like my space. I do not want a kid sleeping on top of me or kicking me in the legs or back. I simply don’t sleep well with them in my bed so it is very rare that the kids sleep with us.

But there it was 3:30 a.m. and we were all in the same bed. Nikki even tried to join us but I think she realized there just wasn’t room.

I’m happy that ordeal is done. I must say I don’t like additional live animals in the house at night. I would prefer the kitties keep their catches to the outdoors but I know that isn’t going to happen. So unless we are willing to make them indoor kitties, then I am just going to have to get use to the occasional nighttime visitor. I just hope my husband is here for the next one too.

Today’s Featured Author – Tanya R. Taylor

Today I welcome Tanya R. Taylor to my blog. Her latest book, The Contract: Murder in the Bahamas, is the fifth in her The Cornelius Saga and was released earlier this month.

Excerpt

Daniel J. Smith, a forty-eight-year-old colored man, sat alone in the diner across the street from Tinnedale Hospital. He was of medium height and build, which edged closer to the broader side of the scale, but handsome, nonetheless, by many accounts. The clear eye-glasses sat comfortably on the bridge of his nose as he perused the morning newspaper.

Glancing above the daily, he observed a man in a long, white coat a few tables away and a woman wearing a dark blue outfit with high-heeled shoes to match. A younger man sat a couple of tables down. He appeared to be just staring into space as he sipped his hot chocolate, the steam of which steadily curled into the air. Daniel was among the few who quietly sat that morning in Al’s Diner.

His mind drifted to the meeting he had the day before with Lucille Green. That’s the day he flew in from Florida for what was probably his fortieth visit to the city of Nassau. He could see her sitting on the porch of that old, clapboard house. The entire residence had a square footage which nearly matched the size of his master bathroom back home in Boynton Beach to a “t”. Lucille was easily tipping the scales at around three hundred pounds, and every crevice and wrinkle on her sagging skin that sunny day as he sat with her told of countless struggles across her eighty-two years of existence. Daniel couldn’t deny her strong personality neither as she spoke aggressively through her raspy voice.

“It’s a damn shame how they treated Jackie all those years ago,” she roared. “The woman had five small children to take care of before they cuffed her like a common criminal and hauled her off to court. And to think they’d really believe she murdered that woman.”

That woman? Daniel was clearly offended and had to set her straight.

“That woman…” he pronounced “…was my mother.”

The nerve of you was embedded in Lucille’s expression, laced with a tinge of sympathy over the fact that the poor dead woman did indeed give birth to him.

“Right. No offense to you, young man,” she went on. “But I tell you, without a shadow of a doubt, that Jackie Pearl Agatha Smith did not kill your dear mother. My sister didn’t have it in her. Believe me when I say that.”

Daniel recalled her glassy eyes being wide with conviction while she uttered those words.

“They let my sister languish in prison for a whole six years before she succumbed to cancer. She suffered and died in that God-forsaken place for a crime she didn’t commit!” Tears were welling in her eyes. “She was humiliated and her children had to grow up without their mother. That just ain’t right.”

“So did I, Miss Green. I was just three years old when my mother was murdered. I don’t know how well her kids managed as they were coming up, but I was sent to live in foster homes ‘til I turned sixteen. After that, I was on my natural own. They were hard years.”

Lucille didn’t respond.

“I can’t begin to tell you what my life was like, but you sit here practically swearing for your sister when she was tried and convicted in a court of law. Every appeal was denied, yet you say she’s innocent.”

“Young man, I don’t know what you expected before you came here, but if it was for me to look you square in the face and lie to you, I’m sorry I disappointed you. You don’t have to believe a word I said. You can go on believin’ the lies they all told you. But I’m sure you’ve seen from the court papers, each and every witness for the defense said my sister was a good wife and mother even after her husband of twenty years, your father, strayed from his marriage and tangled himself up with your mother. Not only tangled himself up with her, but had a bastard child on top of that!”

Stunned by her choice of words, Daniel, nevertheless, held his tongue. He was taught to respect his elders.

“How you think my sister felt?” Her gaze was intense. “All right, let me answer that for you: Like Hell! She felt like Hell! Yet, she stuck in there and continued doing what she always done. She cried for the longest time and was terribly depressed – all this while still havin’ to go to work, cook and clean every day, take care of the children and satisfy her husband every time he came back home from the fields for a visit. Knowin’ when he was away on that God-forsaken job, he was shackin’ up with your mother every chance he got. I hate to put it to you that way, son, but you wanted the facts. There they are! Although your father’s betrayal almost killed my sister, she never lifted a finger to harm your mother. I dare say the real killer has never been caught to this day.”

Daniel’s thoughts were slain by the soft tinkling of wind chimes hanging above the doorway as a tall, solidly built man with dark hair walked in, accompanied by a lady whose facial features closely resembled his. She was wearing black slacks and a light, pink blouse; her hair roped in a ponytail. Daniel immediately pushed the newspaper he had barely read aside and stood up as the couple made their way over.

Book Blurb

~ A golden opportunity that ends in disaster. ~

Many “well-to-do” and “have-it-all-together” people have had depressing thoughts and suicidal tendencies — not knowing who to turn to or confide in. They believe an outward show of success will solve their problems and subdue their inner demons, but “achieving it all” and “having it all” fail to erase that nagging emotional pain. Daniel J. Smith tried a few times to end his life, but failed, and finally he thought: “Maybe there’s a reason I’m still here”. Read his troubling story in ‘THE CONTRACT: Murder in The Bahamas’, book 5 of the Cornelius Saga Series.
Mira Cullen is prompted to fly out to The Bahamas to meet a man her brother Wade must introduce her to. Daniel Smith believes it’s providence that a chance encounter with Wade has resulted in him meeting the one person who could possibly bring to light and put to rest an age-old mystery involving his beloved mother. Smith, a product of “the contract”, which took place decades earlier — deems it an opportunity that literally sustained the lives of many, but in whose clutches also stole the life of the one person he loved more than anything else in the world.

Will Mira’s attempt to uncover the truth ultimately grieve the one who yearns for it? Or will the final discovery prove to be bitter-sweet?

About the Author 

Tanya R. Taylor is the author of several #1 bestsellers on Amazon.com as well as the Amazon UK and Canada stores. She has been writing ever since she could remember holding a pencil and published her first book titled: A Killing Rage as a young adult.

Tanya has worked in the Financial arena and is also a seasoned ghostwriter. She is the author of both fiction and non-fiction literature, and all of her books have made Amazon Kindle’s Top 100 Paid Bestsellers’ List in several categories. Cornelius climbed to #1 in the Teen & Young-adult Multi-generational Family Fiction category in November 2015. And her supernatural, suspense/thriller – INFESTATION: A Small Town Nightmare is a #1 multiple times international bestseller.

America’s Most Haunted tweeted about her ocean thriller: “With HAUNTED CRUISE: THE SHAKEDOWN, Tanya R. Taylor Joins Ranks of Horror Greats.”

Tanya writes in various genres including: Paranormal Romance, Fantasy, Thrillers, Science-fiction, Mystery and Suspense.

She has a passion for the welfare of children and her hobbies include: Reading, writing, and researching. She’s also keen on documentaries.

You can find out more about Tanya on Facebook or on her website.

You can purchase The Contract: Murder in the Bahamas on Amazon.

The importance of developing conflict in your novel plot

This post is the seventh in a series about writing a novel. You can check out the list of past topics at the end of this post.

In my series, I recently listed three aspects of your story that you need to develop before writing – characters, setting and plot. I have already covered characters (and a second post on characters) and setting. Today, I want to focus on the plot.

I touched on plot in my earlier post in this series called “Developing your story idea and making sure it is “good enough.”

So, what is a plot? It is a sequence of linked events that revolve around an attempt to solve a problem or attain a goal.

Basically, this means your protagonist (main character) wants something. She wants to fall in love. She wants to stop a war. He wants to escape an abusive relationship, or he needs to survive after his plane crashes in the mountains.

If whatever they want is easy to achieve, then there is no story. You cannot have a story without some sort of conflict. Your characters should not lead carefree, happy lives. They should face problems. They should search for something they cannot reach; they should strive for a goal but be prevented from reaching it.

Conflict is what compels the reader to keep reading to find out what happens next. Whether everything comes out right in the end or not, it is the chance things can go wrong that spurs readers to keep reading.

Since conflict is so essential to your plot, we are going to discuss first internal vs external conflict and then the five types of conflict.

Internal Conflict

An internal struggle is the part of the protagonist’s personality that prevents him from achieving whatever goal he is after. If he wishes to reconcile with his estranged father but feel his father should make the first move, his pride is the internal conflict. This type of conflict can reveal a lot about a character. Do they give up easily? Strive for what they want? How do they react when met with opposition?

External Conflict

An external conflict is something physical that gets in your protagonist’s way of reaching their goal. It could be the antagonist or an avalanche. When creating your antagonist, develop someone with just enough strength to present a solid challenge for your protagonist. Your hero might eventually figure out the bad guy’s flaws, but he is going to have to work to put all the pieces together. It is these plan disruptions that create the conflict in your story.

You don’t have to choose one or the other. There can be both internal and external conflict in your story.

Five Types of Conflict

Character struggles against another character

This type of conflict, also referred to as man vs. man, is the most obvious form of conflict. This is when a character struggles against another character in the story. This type of conflict can come in the form of arguments, conflicting desires, or opposing goals. The classic “good guy” vs. “bad guy” scenario is an excellent example of this type of conflict.

Character struggles internally

Sometimes you don’t need an outside force to provide the drama and tension in your story. Your character can struggle internally with their choices. This is also known as man vs. self. This is where your character faces moral dilemmas and emotional challenges. They can be facing a fear or deciding between an impossible set of choices. This could be a moral conflict of having to choose between honoring family verses ones own desires. It is an internal conflict with your character’s conscience.

Character struggles against nature

Sometimes there isn’t a bad guy in the story. Sometimes the struggle is to overcome nature. This type of conflict, also referred to as man vs. nature, is all about dealing things outside our control, whether it is the weather or a virus threatening to wipe people out. Stories about the triumph of human spirit over adversity never go out of fashion.

Examples of this could be your character is stuck in a desolate place (mountainside with no shelter, deserted island) or being attacked by wild dogs, birds or insects. They could be dealing with a plague, famine or virus outbreak. This is anything where your character struggles to survive.

Character struggles against society

When someone’s beliefs go against the societal norms, there will be conflict. It could be discrimination or being repressed by societal pressure. In this type of conflict, known as man vs. society, a character or a group of characters fight against the society in which they live. Examples of this could be fighting for your freedom or rights, which are being denied by society. It could be a struggle with poverty, political revolution, or social convention.

Character struggles against the supernatural

This one is usually found in certain genres such as fantasy, horror and science fiction. This is where the character struggles against poltergeists, robots, aliens, magic, or supernatural villains. The main character must have the strength (either internal or external) to defeat the fantastic enemy confronting him or her. Included in this area would be man vs. technology (such as computers or machines) and man vs. fate (fighting against destiny).

Now your story can have more than one type of conflict in it. Your main character may have an internal conflict on whether they should fight against their adversary. Just remember you need some type of conflict to move the story forward and to give tension to the plot. With no conflict, there is no story.

Previous topics

#1 – Deciding to write a novel – Writing Myths

#2 – Three areas to develop before starting to write a novel

#3 – Finding a Story Idea and How to Know if it “good enough”

#4 – Developing Characters for your Novel

#5 – Major characters? Minor Characters? Where does everyone fit in?

#6 – Developing the Setting for your Novel