Author Archives: shirleymclain930

About shirleymclain930

I'm a retired RN enjoying my retirement to the fullest. I liked adventure and travel and making friends. I have 6 dogs and 1 cat. They are like having a house full of three years olds. Now for the rest of the story. My Granddaughter and her husband now live with us and they have 4 dogs and 4 cats along with a giant Flemish Rabbit. My Granddaughter has now added beautiful, Olivia to our household. My fourth Great Grandchild. They are a large part of my life and I can't imagine them not being around. I spend most of my time sitting in front of my computer working on my latest book or talking about Essential Oils. On the personal side, I'm married to a wonderful man who spoils me and I love it. I am very much a country girl. I love living on our 5 acres on Pole Cat Creek watching the deer and other animals occasionally stick their​ heads out of the trees. It's a fun life.

What is an Epilogue?

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This article was written by Jerry Jenkins and sent to me today. I thought I would pass it on. Enjoy.

Full disclosure: I’m not a huge fan of Epilogues. That’s not to say they’re all bad.

In fact, I’ve ended several of my novels with Epilogues.

Done right, they can be a powerful way to leave your reader satisfied.

But beware! Approach your Epilogue wrong and you can ruin the end of your story.

So, let’s talk about what they are, whether you need one, and, if so, how to write one.

What Is an Epilogue?

As you might imagine, an Epilogue is the opposite of a Prologue, so it comes at the end of your novel as opposed to the beginning.

The word comes from the Greek epilogos, or “concluding word.”

It’s intended to provide closure and resolution, and it’s often set in the future to explainwhat becomes of your principal characters.

The questions are whether or why a novel needs an Epilogue. 

I agree with many editors who insist that a story with a strong ending shouldn’t need an Epilogue. 

Still, as I’ve said, not all Epilogues are bad. Done properly — and under the right circumstances — they complete your story and tie up loose ends.

So how do you determine whether your novel needs an Epilogue?

First, don’t mistake an Epilogue for an Afterword.

  • An Epilogue ties up loose ends from the story.
  • An Afterword focuses on how your novel came to be — largely to promote you and any of your other books. 

The most important aspect of a good Epilogueis its purpose.

It should either show the reader what happens to your main character after the story ends (for instance, jumping ahead a few years and showing your character with a spouse and a child) or it should pave the way for a sequel or even a series.

One thing an Epilogue should never do is reiterate your theme or remind your reader the moral of your story.

If you didn’t accomplish that in the story itself, an Epilogue will not fix it.

Most importantly, after reading your Epilogue, your reader should leave satisfied, never confused. 

What an Epilogue Should Never Do

  • Leave the reader wondering what it meant.
  • Compensate for a weak ending. 
  • Be long or complicated. 
  • Serve as a cliffhanger. You can hint at a sequel, but a cliffhanger will only frustrate your reader.

When To Use an Epilogue (and when not to)

As celebrated editor Allister Thompson puts it, “If there’s nothing else to say, don’t be tempted to say it!”

Effective Epilogues 

Look up these Epilogues online and compare them. 

1: Moby Dick by Herman Melville

This Epilogue shows how you can use one to release tension. Moby Dick closes at such a frenetic pace, the Epilogue serves to reassure the reader that Ishmael survives the shipwreck and is rescued.

2: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

This Epilogue is set 200 years after the story and focuses on a historian who reveals he found Offred’s story and transcribed the tapes.

3: Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling

This Epilogue provides a glimpse of Harry and his friends 19-years in the future. 

4: Animal Farm by George Orwell

This Epilogue covers Manor Farm many years into the future. It tells the fates of the main characters.

How To Write an Epilogue in 3 Steps

What Is an Epilogue

Step 1: Set Your Epilogue in The Future

Provide space between the end of your novel and the Epilogue. 

How long depends on your story. It may be a few days or hundreds of years into the future. The key is what you want readers to know about what’s become of your characters.

Step 2: Set Up a Future Narrative

An Epilogue can set the scene for a sequel. Tell just enough to make clear that more is coming.

Step 3: Don’t Forget Your Hero

If you’ve written a great protagonist, your readers will want to know what happens to him next.

Epilogue FAQs

1: How do I start an Epilogue?

The best place to start is the future:

  • What’s become of your main character?
  • Answer any other questions your reader might have

2: How long is an Epilogue?

As long as it needs to be, but the shorter the better.

Get to the point and wrap it up.

So Should You Write an Epilogue?

Most books DO NOT need an Epilogue.

Write a strong ending and you shouldn’t need one. But as I’ve said, at times an Epilogue can work. It’s your call, and that’s part of what makes you an author.

Twenty is My Name

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Twenty is My Name

“I told you nothing is coming out my mouth, Lucas.” The Captain of Interpol sat down at his desk, swiveling around to face Lucas, the reporter for the Stockholm Gazette.

“Captain, you must tell me who is twenty. He is world-famous, and he doesn’t work for you and Interpol. I think the man could get away with murder as popular as he is now.”

“No one is above the law, not even Twenty,” the Captain said.

“Come on, give me something to put in my story. I’ll be sure Interpol gets all the credit.” Lucas pulled his note pad out of his pocket along with a pen and posed himself ready to write down what the Captain said.

“I don’t know anything more than you do. I got my knowledge from the Commissioner. You are wasting your time. You’ll have to find yourself another source.”

“There is another question for you, Captain, and it has nothing to do with Twenty. Answer it for me, and I’ll go away. Lucas had his pen ready to write.

The Captain straightened out in his chair and put both hands together on top of his desk. “Okay, ask your question and then get out.”

Lucas smiled as he looked at the Captain. “You are a lead Captain at this joint. Why did they put you in this shitty office?”

Looking around the room, the Captain chuckled. “This room is not bad; I’ve had worse. It’s everything I need: my desk, computer, printer and a couple of bookshelves. There is even artwork on the wall. That tapestry came out of my ancestral castle in Scotland. Just because it doesn’t look like it came of HQ Magazine doesn’t mean it isn’t a great office. Now, if there is nothing else, I want to get to work.”

“You didn’t answer my question completely,” Lucas stated.

“What did I leave out?”

“Why were you put in here when I know the other offices are professionally decorated.” Lucas swung his arm around in a circle indicating the entire office.

“They put me in here because I asked them to. It’s what I wanted. Now get the hell out of here and let me work.” The Captain smiled as Lucas stood.

“I know this is not your style, so something else is behind you having this office.”

“Lucas Arnold, if you do not leave this second, I will make you pay.”

“Now, now, dad, don’t get your Jockeys all twisted. I’m going. Thanks for letting me talk to you,” Lucas said. He opened the door and stepped out. He was sure to close it behind himself.

The Captain wanted to be sure Lucas left the building before he spoke. “All right, Twenty, you can come out now.”

The tapestry fluttered and then pushed out into the room. A man with jet black hair and baby blue eyes stepped out from behind. He had females panting after him as if they were in heat. “That secret room is a godsend for people like me who wants to keep hidden.”

“That’s all well and good, Twenty, but what do you have to report?” The Captain asked.

“The only thing I found out for certain is the Russian Prime Minister flew to the Seychelles to meet with the Vice President of America once a month for the past six months. Something big is in the works, but I don’t know what yet,” Twenty said.

“You have to go to the Seychelles and stay till you find out what is going on,” the Captain said.

“Are you sure you want me to stay. I think I should follow the Prime Minister. Especially since I’m already established in Russia.”

“You can follow him if you want, but you be on that island whenever there is a meeting. Do I make myself clear?”

“Yes, loud and clear. I’m to play the part of a spy instead of an assassin. Maybe you can change my nickname from Twenty to Killer.”

“That will never happen, Twenty. Your job is whatever I tell you to do. You’ve assassinated twenty world leaders over the years without any questions. You’re excellent on the job, and there won’t be any changes to your name.”

“Well, Twenty is a great number. I’ll leave now and get back to my dull life of bookkeeper for Putin.”

“Goodbye, Twenty, and please leave by the same route you came in.”

The tapestry fluttered, and Twenty was gone.

Amanda’s New Life

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Amanda’s New Life

This is a Flash Fiction story from my book Shirley’s Shorts and Flashes. A book of short stories with genres from romance to the supernatural. There is something for everyone to enjoy. amzn.to/15HB87j I hope you enjoy this little piece. It’s something beside Covid-19.

by Shirley McLain     4245 Words

The bed was empty, but Amada knew it wouldn,t be empty long.  Jasper would be sure she met her quota for the day.  This endless, meaningless sex was not what she had planned for her life.  If it weren’t for my asshole stepfather and spineless mother, my life would be different.  I couldn’t stay there and let him continue to use me.  My mother didn’t believe me when I told her what was happening.  I think she knew, but she didn’t want to stay by herself.  She let that creep stay around, so I didn’t.  I’ve learned how to take care of myself, and she could’ve learned also.

The sheets on the bed were changed and Amanda took a quick shower.  She felt little of the filth on her was washed down the drain.  She was just getting out of the shower when the doorbell rang.  She knew it would be her next customer.  With the towel wrapped around her body, she opened the door.

What a surprise, there was a child about six years old standing at her door.

“Hi there, what can I do for you, sweetie?”

“Are you Amanda?”

“Yes, my name is Amanda.”

The child reached into her pocket and pulled out an envelope and handed it to Amanda.  Amanda’s name was written across the front of the envelope in an unfamiliar handwriting.

 “What is your name, Darling?”

“It’s Annie Lynn.”  The child kept shifting from one foot to another, looking around.

“Well, Annie Lynn who brought you here?  Come in so I can close the door.  Standing in the doorway in a towel doesn’t look too good.  So how did you get here?”

“I was put in a taxi and the driver was told to bring me to this address.”

“Where are your parents?”

“I don’t have any.  I lived with my Nanna until two weeks ago, when she died.  I stayed with a friend of hers until today, and she sent me here.”

“Let me read this letter, and maybe it will tell me why you were sent to my door.”  Amanda opened the letter and started reading:

               Dear Amanda Thomas, you do not know me, but I was a friend of Frances Jones, who was the adopted grandmother of Annie Lynn.  This is going to come as a shock to you, but Annie Lynn is your daughter who you adopted out at birth.  She no longer has any living relatives.  Before Frances died, she told me to contact Mr. Andrew Paul, her attorney when she died.  I did as I was requested to do and was mailed a letter, with instructions only to read it when Frances died.  I received the letter two days ago.  I was informed you were Annie Lynn’s mother and your address.  I was also instructed to send Annie Lynn to you.  That is what I have done.  Enclosed you will find the birth certificate showing you are Annie’s mother and no known father.

at the Don’t bother trying to find me, because you won’t. The child did not know me, and I do not live within two thousand miles. Annie is a sweet girl, so take loving care of her. You are all she has.
“Annie Lynn, do you know why you are here?”
“Nanna’s friend said I would be living with you from now on.
“I can’t explain everything right now, but I will explain as soon as I can. Right now, let’s put your suitcase in the bedroom, and I’ll get dressed, so we can get something to eat.”
Amanda knew she’d to get out of her house before the next john showed up. She had to be able to think and decide what to do. She couldn’t believe someone could just send a little girl to a stranger. I guess I did that very thing when I gave her up for adoption.
Amanda quickly dressed in a pair of blue jeans, tee-shirt, and tennis shoes. She and Annie Lynn caught the subway to Amanda’s favorite Italian restaurant.
“Do you like spaghetti, Annie? It’s one of my most favorite things to eat.”
“It’s my most favorite thing. I like it with garlic bread. Can I have bread with it?”
“Certainly, I’m going to have some myself, along with some big fat meatballs.”
Annie didn’t talk much. She would answer a question when asked, but otherwise, she sat and looked at Amanda. Amanda smiled at her and tried to make lighthearted talk, but Anne Lynn didn’t want to engage in conversation.
“Tell me about your parents, and Grandmother, Annie.”
“My Nanna told me my mama and daddy were in a car wreck and went to see Jesus. I was just a baby. I stayed with my Nanna, and that’s all I know. I do have a picture of them that Nanna gave me. My mama was pretty. She had dark brown hair like mine, and it was long too, just like mine.”
“I’m sure she was because you certainly are. I think you and I aren’t staying at my house tonight. We are going to buy a pair of PJ’s and a toothbrush and then we are going to a hotel. I think we will have an adventure tonight since we are getting to know each other. What do you think of that idea?”
“Ok, whatever you want to do.”
Amanda knew she couldn’t go back to her house because of Jasper. He would be waiting for her, and there is no telling what he would do. It wouldn’t matter in the least if there were a child around. She couldn’t have Annie hurt.
They finished their meal and made their way back to the subway. Amanda knew of a hotel they could stay at that Jasper knew nothing about. It would give her time to think and decide what to do. They got off at the mall entrance and walked to JC Penny’s buying clothes for the next day and some PJ’s. They went on to CVS Pharmacy and bought toothbrushes and toothpaste. They were ready for the night. They got back on the subway and rode to the station closest to the Twin Towers Memorial. She had a friend who lived in China town. Ming owned a small hotel. She would give Amanda and Annie a room for as long as needed.
Ming had once been one of Jasper’s girls, but she got lucky and was able to get away from the business. She went home to her family, who accepted her back with open arms. The hotel once belonged to her parents, but since their death, it’s hers.
Amanda opened the front door to the hotel, stepped into the small lobby with Annie right on her heels. Ming was sitting at the desk looking at a magazine. When she looked up and recognized Amanda, she immediately ran out with open arms to hug Amanda.
“Hi Ming, How are you doing?” It’s so good to see you again, my friend.”
“This is a surprise, Amanda. I am so glad to see you. Who is this pretty young lady?”
“This is Annie Lynn; she is living with me now. I’m wondering if you could put me up for a couple of days. I have to make some decisions, and I need a quiet place to think.”
“You didn’t even need to ask. Let me take you to a room with two beds. We need time to talk a little later. I am on the night shift tonight, so just give me a call anytime. She took a key off the hook behind the desk and walked them to the elevator. You are on the third floor in 312. It is one door down from the elevator on the right.”
“Thanks, Ming, you don’t know how much this means to me. I can’t thank you enough.”
“You don’t have to, that is what being a friend is all about. I will talk to you later.”
Amanda and Annie Lynn found their room without any problem. It was nice and clean with two queen size beds plus a microwave, refrigerator, and coffee pot.
“We will have a fabulous time camping out here and getting to know one another. Are you tired, Annie? It has been a busy day for you. Let’s get you a bath and put your PJs. Then we can watch some TV until you get sleepy.”
Annie Lynn went into the bathroom and started running water for her bath. Amanda made sure she had a towel and washcloth. Annie climbed in the tub and tried to lean back, but she was too small to hit the back of the tub. Amanda laughed and turned the water off and handed her the bar of soap.
“Let me know when you want me to wash your back. I’m going to be watching TV while you are in the tub. Amanda left the door open to the bathroom and sat down on her bed. She took her cell phone out of her purse. She had twenty-four messages. “I’m not even going to look at these things. I am sure most of them are from Jasper, wanting to know where I’m. This is the end of that life for me.” All of the messages disappeared with a push of a button, and she felt relieved not to have to deal with Jasper anymore.
Annie Lynn finished her bath, and Amanda helped her dry off. After Annie put her PJ’s on, they both laid down on one of the beds and started watching Finding Nemo on the TV. Annie Lynn seemed to enjoy watching it.
Amanda couldn’t keep her mind on the TV. She kept running the words from the letter repeatedly in her mind that this child was hers. Amanda never thought she’d see her again. She remembered seeing the little, tiny bundle held in front of her, right after delivery. How small her hands were, and her large dark eyes were trying to focus in the light. Then they left with her, and that was it. She never saw her daughter again. She left the hospital two days later and went to her friend’s house. That friend was the one who introduced her to Jasper.
After her recovery from giving birth, things started to change at the friend’s house. It got so bad she couldn’t stay there anymore. Jasper was there to take her to his place, and she could stay there. I was a sixteen-year-old girl who’d just given her baby away, was abused at home, felt unloved, and unwanted. Besides that, I didn’t have a choice without money.
One thing led to another, and Amanda finally started turning tricks for Jasper, to keep him from beating her. Over the last six years, she’s made a lot of money. She gave Jasper what he thought his cut was, but he didn’t know what the john’s were paying her. She saved enough money so that she could support her and Annie Lynn for a long time. She could go back to school to get her education.
Annie Lynn had drifted off to sleep. Amanda left the bathroom light on, turned the TV down low, and went to the lobby to talk to Ming.
“Hey, Ming, can you talk now?”
“Sure, come on behind the desk and sit down. I appreciate the company. I was beginning to get sleepy. Let me get us a cup of coffee. It has been a while since you and I have gotten to visit.” Ming walked over to the counter in the breakfast area and fixed two cups of coffee. When she sat down again, she turned and looked at Amanda.
“Why are you here, Amanda?”
“Ming, Annie is my daughter. I had her adopted out at birth, but the adopted family is now dead. She arrived back to me today. I can’t go back to the life I had. I have to decide what I’m going to do. I have a lot of money saved in an account Jasper doesn’t know about, so I don’t have to worry about money.”
“If you had money, why did you continue that life?”
“What else was I going to do? I couldn’t go back home, and turning tricks is what I know. I was making a substantial amount of money, and most of the time, I wasn’t unhappy. I just need time to think about what I want to do now.”
“You know you are welcome to stay here as long as you need to. Jasper might be in New Jersey, but you know as well as I do if he wants to find you, he will.”
“Yes, I know Ming. I won’t be here but a couple of days. By then, I’ll know where I’m going. I do appreciate your help.”
“I told you before, that is what friends are for.”
“I’m going to go back up to the room. I don’t want Annie Lynn waking up and not finding me there. I will talk to you tomorrow.”
Amanda went back to the room, and Annie was still sleeping soundly. She put on her PJ’s and turned off the TV and bathroom light and crawled into bed. She wasn’t sure if she would be able to go to sleep or not.
She tossed and turned most of the night. She kept running everything over in her mind and trying to decide what to take. The clock on the bedside table showed three A.M. when she finally drifted off to sleep. She then started dreaming of her mother and father.
Amanda’s eyes popped open at eight the next morning. Annie was sitting up in bed with the TV playing on low and was watching cartoons.
“Good morning,” Amanda said. “Did you sleep well?”
Annie just looked at her and nodded her head up and down.
“How about we get dressed and go get up some breakfast. Do you want to do that?”
“Sure, I like pancakes.”
“Then the pancakes it will be. I’ll find out the address of the nearest IHOP (International House of Pancakes). They make a great pancake breakfast. I hope you have a large appetite.”
They got up and got dressed, brushed their teeth, and headed downstairs. Ming was just getting ready to go off duty.
“Good morning, Ming. I hope your night went all right. Where is the nearest IHOP? We want a pancake breakfast this morning”.
They got the directions they needed and left the hotel. It was a beautiful day with a bright blue sky and warm sunshine. The IHOP was not far, so they walked and enjoyed the sun.
Amanda chatted away while they walked, but Annie Lynn was quiet. Amanda was hoping as Annie gets to know her, she would open up a little bit. Stop pressuring yourself, Amanda; this is only her second day with you. Give her time to adjust.
They had a fabulous breakfast and walked down to the waterfront to watch the boats coming and going. As they sat on a bench looking out at the water, Amanda had the urge to talk to her mother. She took out her cell phone; looked the ringer was turned off, so it couldn’t disturb her or Annie. She had twenty messages. She deleted every one of them without listening to the first sound. She hoped her mother would be living in the same house, and that ass she was married to wouldn’t be home during the day. She dialed the number she remembered. The phone began to ring. After the fourth ring, Amanda was about to hang up when a female voice said, “hello.”
“Hello, I would like to speak to Martha James, please.”
“This is Martha James, how can I help you?”
“Amanda felt this lump begin in her throat. She wasn’t sure she could speak. “Mama, its Amanda.”
She could hear her mother scream, “Oh my precious girl. Where are you? How are you? I can’t believe I’m finally getting to talk to you.”
“Mom, I’m in New York right now, and I’m doing well.”
“Amanda, will you come to see me?”
“Mom, I can’t come back there as long as your husband is around.”
“Oh, Amanda, he hasn’t been here for six years. He left not long after you did. I’m living here by myself. Please come home. We have so much to find out about each other. I love you, and I don’t want to lose touch with you again.”
“Mom, I love you too. I will be home in two days, and I am bringing someone for you to meet. No, there is no husband. It’s going to be a surprise. I will see you as soon as I can.”
Amanda hung up the phone and turned to Annie Lynn. “Annie, we are going to Oklahoma to visit my mama. We may even stay there.”
“Are there Indians there?”
“Yes, but not like the ones you see on TV, our Indians look like you and me, except their skin is darker. I think you will like Oklahoma. There are many lakes, rolling hills, cows, and horses. It’s a lovely place to start a new life. How about us starting a new life in a new home?
“Can I meet the Indians?”
“You certainly can, sweetie.” She gathered Annie Lynn in her arms and held her close. She said a silent prayer thanking God for sending her daughter back to her, and giving her a chance to reunite with her mother.

18 Common Word To Leave Out of Your Writing

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18 Common Word To Leave Out of Your Writing

It’s a familiar scene: you’re slumped over your keyboard or notebook, obsessing over your character. While we tend to agonize over everything from structure to backstory, it’s important to weigh how you write something too. A perfectly constructed world is flat on the page if you use feeble, common words. When you’re finished constructing your perfectly balanced world, do your writing a favor and take another pass to weed out these 18 haggard words.

Good

High on any list of most used English words is “good.” While this word may appear to be the perfect adjective for nearly anything, that is precisely what makes it so vague. Try getting more specific. If something’s going well, try “superb,” “outstanding” or “exceptional.”

New

Another of the common words in English is “new.” “New” is an adjective that doesn’t always set off alarm bells, so it can be easy to forget about. Give your writing more punch by ditching “new” and using something like “latest” or “recent” instead.

Long

Much like “new,” “long” is spent, yet it doesn’t always register as such while you’re writing. Instead of this cliché phrase, try describing exactly how long it is: “extended,” “lingering” or “endless,” for example.

Old

“Old” is certainly one of those common words that means more to readers if you’re specific about how old a subject is. Is it “ancient,” “fossilized,” “decaying” or “decrepit”?

Right

“Right” is also among the common words that tends to slip through our writer filters. If somebody is correct, you could also say “exact” or “precise.” Don’t let habit words like “right” dampen your writing.

Different

Here’s another adjective that falls a bit flat for readers, but can also easily be improved by getting more specific. Saying something is “odd” or “uncommon” is very different than saying it is “exotic” or “striking.”

Small

“Small” is another adjective that is too generic for writing as good as yours. Use “microscopic,” “miniature” or “tiny” instead. Even using “cramped” or “compact” is more descriptive for your audience.

Large

Just like relying too much on “small,” we tend to describe large things as, well, “large.” Specificity is a big help with this one too: could your subject be “substantial,” “immense,” “enormous” or “massive”?

Next

Whenever we describe something coming “next,” we run the risk of losing our readers. Good options to make your reading more powerful include “upcoming,” “following” or “closer.”

Young

Another case of being too generic is what makes “young” a problematic adjective. If you want your writing to be more captivating, try switching “young” out for “youthful,” “naive” or “budding.”

Never

“Never” is also among common words to use sparingly. Not only is it a common, stale descriptor, it’s also usually incorrect. For something to never happen, even one instance makes this word inaccurate. Try “rarely,” “scarcely” or “occasionally” instead.

Things

“Things” is another repeat offender when it comes to worn out words. Another word where specificity is the key, try replacing “things” with “belongings,” “property” or “tools.”

All

Just like “never,” “all” is an encompassing, absolute term. Not only is “all” unoriginal, it’s not usually factual. Try using “each” and “copious” instead.

Feel

“Feel” is also in the company of common English words. Try using “sense,” or “discern” instead. You can also move your sentence into a more active tense: “I feel hungry” could become “I’m famished,” for example.

Seem

“Seem” is bad habit word we are all guilty of using. Regardless of how well you think your sentence is constructed, try switching “seem” out for “shows signs of.” “Comes across as” is another good option to give your writing more power.

Almost

Another easy adjective to let slip by, “almost” is a wasted opportunity to engage your readers. “Almost” is more interesting if you say “practically,” “nearly” or “verging on” instead.

Just

“Just making” it or “just barely” affording something isn’t very descriptive. To truly grab a reader, we must do better. Try “narrowly,” “simply” or “hardly” to give your phrasing more weight.

Went

Last but not least, avoid using the common word “went” to describe your subject. “Went” is a word that lacks traction. Try using “chose,” “decided on” or “rambled” to truly grab your readers.

My Top 10 Favorite Books and More

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By: Shirley McLain

My top 10 favorite books to read you are going to cause you to think that I am taking the easy way out when I tell you what they are. I’m a very eclectic reader as well as a writer. One book may be a mystery and the next a fantasy. It’s just whatever strikes my fancy at the time.

My most favorite books are the series by Diane Gabaldon “Outlander.” I could list every book and tell you about each one, but I won’t. The main reason is there are eight of them, so I’ll list the titles. I fell in love over and over with every one of them.  If you haven’t read the books I highly recommend them.

Outlander (1991)

Dragonfly in Amber (1992)

Voyager (1993)

Drums of Autumn (1996)

The Fiery Cross (2001)

A Breath of Snow and Ashes (2005)

An Echo in the Bone (2009)

Written in My Own Heart’s Blood (2014)

Right now there is a series on TV based on the book series. The books are better, but I continue to watch the series because it brings back those books so vividly to my mind.

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My next favorites are the “Harry Potter” series. This series contains seven books by J.K. Rowling. This is a series of fantasy books that shows you how good overcomes evil (very simplistic view). I liked the fact I was able to watch Harry grow from a baby to a young man with children of his own in the movies, but it was more fun letting my imagination run wild while I was reading the books.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (“Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” in the U.S) (UK release: 26/06/97; US release 9/01/98)

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (UK release: 2/07/98; US release 6/02/99)

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (UK release: 8/07/99; US release 9/08/99)

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (UK & US releases: 8/07/00)

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (UK & US releases: 21/06/03)

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (UK & US releases: 16/07/05)

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (UK & US releases: 21/07/07)

Since I’m so into gothic times I loved the architecture of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. It would be a great place to live and explore all its hidden rooms.

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My next favorite is the “Thorn birds.” Some may think it’s an oldie (1977) by Colleen McCullough. Set primarily on Drogheda—a fictional sheep station in the Australian Outback named after Drogheda, Ireland—the story focuses on the Cleary family and spans the years 1915 to 1969.

There was a TV Series made from this book that I enjoyed also but as with Outlander the book was much better.  I loved the depth of the characters especially, Maggie Cleary and Father Ralph de Bricassart. If you ever get the chance to read this book, I believe you will enjoy it as much as I did.

I have read many books over the years, some more than others. To be honest most of them I can’t remember their names. These I’ve mentioned above are recent memories. If you’re not enjoying the book you are reading, stop reading it. There are too many for anyone not to find something they enjoy reading.

I have published an eBook on Amazon called Princess Adele’s Dragon which is a young adult, fantasy. Check it out at this link: http://amzn.to/25lUOYM  If you like what you see, it’s free if you belong to Kindle Unlimited.

My latest book is out but only in hard and soft cover at this time. It’s called “Thomas Gomel Learns about Bullying.” I am waiting for the eBook to come out. I was told it would be five of six weeks after the hard copy books were published. This book was written to appeal to both the parent and child in dealing with abuse.  Check this out.    amzn.to/2PcneDv

Pandemic, 2019-20

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Pandemic, 2019-20

This blog is from a friend of mine on FanStory. She is living in Canada and wrote this piece about the Pandemic that has reached our shores. There is valuable information and I encourage all to read it. Everything she says about Canada, just think the USA. It is still very applicable.

My views on the Covid19 outbreak.

Venice Carnival

Do all the good you can, in all the ways you can, to all the souls you can, in every place you can, at all the times you can, with all the zeal you can, as long as ever you can. John Wesley

Mark Twain: The two most important days of your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why.

By D Dawn Munro

Copyright 2020

C/net: “SARS-CoV-2 is the virus responsible for the disease COVID-19, which has claimed over 1,300 lives and sickened tens of thousands of people, primarily in the Hubei province of China where it originated. We are well aware of the frightening toll it is taking. Now we also have a better look at the virus itself.”

That was as of little more than a week ago. Now the death toll exceeds 2,600 and the confirmed cases top 80,000.

Complacency is strongly discouraged. While panic is anything but helpful, ignoring the warnings is equally dangerous.

We need to err on the side of caution. For once, Canadians need to take a more active role in caring for Canada’s interests rather than downplaying the risks… Proper hand washing — great. But hardly enough protection…

The window of opportunity may already have closed for containing the spread of this virus. Self-quarantine, for example, by those found to have been exposed, is a little too optimistic a view, in my opinion — are we willing to gamble the lives of our loved ones, ourselves?

I say that a two-week compulsory quarantine is little enough to ask.

It’s going to be a year and a half before there’s a vaccine. How many lives will be lost by then?

How many countries do not even have the capability to test for Covid19 exposure? Yet there is nothing to stop anyone from boarding a plane and heading to Canada from anywhere in the world.

Prime Minister Trudeau, don’t let this be one more case of “I should have when I could have.” There are too many on record as it is. Not on your watch, necessarily, but we MUST be proactive in 2020. With an incubation period quite possibly in excess of 14 days, what good is checking for symptoms at airports?

Please. Consider closing our borders. Make quarantine compulsory. It’s only for two weeks and a small enough sacrifice to make if it is going to save Canadian lives.

Just my thoughts… WHO agrees.

“We must focus on containment, while doing everything we can to prepare for a potential pandemic”-@DrTedros #COVID19

Proper hand washing:

I wish I had been able to download the most current news reports here, in Toronto. The next best thing is to advise friends and family to stay current with local news because the changes in numbers are unprecedented day-to-day.

Here is one from South Korea just two days ago–if what is happening in other countries is any example, it is undoubtedly worse today:

Thank you for reading.

Paradise Found

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Paradise Found

This is my memory that I put down on paper (computer) for a FanStory contest that turned out not to happen. I decided I would share this with you. Shirley

………..

This is a memory from way back in the 1900s. Well, how about 1990. I was living in Hawaii and enjoying my life. This memory happened when my sister, Sharon, came over for a visit.

I planned for us to go to the big island and spend a few days playing tourist. I was so excited to get there because I would finally go deep sea fishing. I had fished nowhere except the creeks, and lakes around home.

We checked into our room that overlooked the ocean and she couldn’t believe how green everything was.  Eastern Oklahoma remained brown in color by the time she arrived in September. We spent the first night looking around the resort and just enjoying our time together.

The next morning I was to meet Captain Chris Fischer to take Sharon and I fishing.  There was one other person going with us besides Chris’s crew and that was Mr. Farnsworth.

Six boats set out from the pier the same time we did. We traveled out to sea ,but I  have no idea how far. The waves were slapping us around. The crew helped Sharon and I get our poles set . We could see the other boats from where we set. I know I couldn’t see the shore. My sister got  seasick almost immediately. She was even wearing a patch behind her ear for seasickness I felt so bad for her. She lay up on the side of the boat, feeding the fish.

It didn’t take long for Mr. Farnsworth, to hook a small Mahi-mahi. That was all that was caught for several hours. I was watching both the poles for Sharon and me. She was still feeling quite green. Suddenly my pole zinged. Chris told me to see in the chair and she strapped me in and handed me a pair of gloves. I reeled the line in. It felt as if I was trying to drag a whale in. 

I fought that fish for an hour and then brought him in.  Well if I’m honest, it might have been Sharon’s pole I caught the Ahi on, and Chris’s crew pulled the line while I reeled.

We gave that Ahi to the Captain and I had my picture made with that big Yellow Fin Tuna. We thought about having it mounted for our dad. When we were faced with the cost and shipping we quickly changed our minds.  What a memory.

Healthcare in America

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Healthcare in America

Healthcare In America Is Already ‘The Best In The World’

This was posted in 2014 and it still applies today. Please let me know what you think of universal healthcare and why. Shirley

One of the more positive sounding admonitions from health care reform opponents was that the United States had “the best health care in the world,” so why would you mess with it? Well, it’s true that if you want the experience the pinnacle of medical care, you come to the United States. And if you want the pinnacle of haute cuisine, you go to Per Se. If you want the pinnacle of commercial air travel, you get a first-class seat on British Airways. Now, naturally, you wouldn’t let just anyone mess with someone’s tasting menu or state-of-the-art air-beds. But like anything that’s “the best,” the best health care in the world isn’t for everybody. The costs are prohibitively high, the access is prohibitively exclusive, and the resources are prohibitively scarce.

What do the people in America who “fly coach” in the health care system get? Well, at the time of the health care reform debate, they were participating in a system that was, by all objective measurements, overpriced and underperforming — if you were lucky enough to be participating in it. As anyone who’s fortunate enough to have employer based health care or unfortunate enough to have a pre-existing condition can tell you, health care for ordinary people already involved all of those things that we were told would be a feature of the Affordable Care Act — long waits, limited choice, and rationing.

When the Commonwealth Fund rated health care systems by nation, the top marks in the surveyed categories went to the United Kingdom, New Zealand and the Netherlands. Ezra Klein examined the study, and observed:

“The issue isn’t just that we don’t have universal health care. Our delivery system underperforms, too. ‘Even when access and equity measures are not considered, the U.S. ranks behind most of the other countries on most measures. With the inclusion of primary care physician survey data in the analysis, it is apparent that the U.S. is lagging in adoption of national policies that promote primary care, quality improvement, and information technology.'”

Death Panels

The only thing that perhaps matched the vastness of the spread or the depth of the traction of the “death panel” lie was the predictability that such a lie would come to be told in the first place. After all, this was a Democratic president trying to sell a new health care reform plan with the intention of opening access and reducing cost to millions of Americans who had gone without for so long. What’s the best way to counter it? Tell everyone that millions of Americans would have increased access … to Death!

The best account of how the “death panel” myth was born into this world and spread like garbage across the landscape has been penned by Brendan Nyhan, who in 2010 wrote “Why the “Death Panel” Myth Wouldn’t Die: Misinformation in the Health Care Reform Debate.” You should go read the whole thing.

But to summarize, the lie began where many lies about health care reform begin — with serial liar Betsy McCaughey, who in 1994 polluted the pages of the New Republic with a staggering pile of deception in an effort to scuttle President Bill Clinton’s health care reform. As Nyhan documents, she re-emerged in 2009 when “she invented the false claim that the health care legislation

in Congress would result in seniors being directed to ‘end their life sooner.'”

Nyhan: “McCaughey’s statement was a reference to a provision in the Democratic health care bill that would have provided funding for an advanced care planning for Medicare recipients once every five years or more frequently if they become seriously ill. As independent fact-checkers showed (PolitiFact.com 2009b; FactCheck.org 2009a), her statement that these consultations would be mandatory was simply false–they would be entirely voluntary. Similarly, there is no evidence that Medicare patients would be pressured during these consultations to “do what’s in society’s best interest…and cut your life short.”

But the match that lit the death panel flame was not McCaughey, it was Sarah Palin, who repeated McCaughey’s claims in a Facebook posting and invented the term “death panel.” As Nyhan reports, Palin’s claims were met with condemnation from independent observers and factcheckers, but the virality of the term “death panel” far outstripped its own debunking. To this day, the shorthand for this outrageous falsehood remains more firmly planted in the discourse than the truth.

One thing worth pointing out is that Palin, in creating the term “death panel,” intended to deceive people with it. In an interview with the National Review, Palin admitted: “The term I used to describe the panel making these decisions should not be taken literally.” Rather, it was “a lot like when President Reagan used to refer to the Soviet Union as the ‘evil empire.’ He got his point across.” Of course, while Reagan was exaggerating for effect, he wasn’t trying to prey on the goodwill of those who were listening to him.

he Affordable Care Act Is A “Jobs-Killer”

Naturally, the GOP greeted anything that the Obama White House did — from regulating pollution to flossing after meals — as something that would “kill jobs.” The Affordable Care Act was no different. As you might recall, Republicans’ first attempt at repeal came in the form of an inartfully named law called the “Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act.” But did the health reform plan threaten jobs? Not by any honest measure. Per McClatchy Newspapers:

“The claim has no justification,” said Micah Weinberg, a senior research fellow at the centrist New America Foundation’s Health Policy Program.

Since the law contains dual mandates that most individuals must obtain health insurance coverage and most employers must offer it by 2014, “the effect on employment is probably zero or close to it,” said Amitabh Chandra, a professor of public policy at Harvard University.

As McClatchy reported, the “job-killing” claim creatively used the “lie of omission” — relying on “out of date” data or omitting “offsetting information that would weaken the argument.” The Congressional Budget Office, playing it straight, deemed it essentially too premature to measure what the effect the bill would have on the labor market. At the time, Speaker John Boehner dismissed the CBO, saying, “CBO is entitled to their opinion.”

Perhaps, but lately, job growth in the health care industry has bucked the economic downturn and health care has remained a robust sector of employment. And it stands to reason that enrolling another 30 million Americans into health insurance will increase the demand for health care services and products, which in turn should trigger the creation of more jobs.

Is there a downside? Sure. More demand, and greater labor costs, could push health care prices upward even as other effects of health reform push them down. But it’s more likely that repealing the bill will have a negative impact on jobs than retaining it.

7 Story Structures

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I took a writing class under Dean Koontz and this writing was for the class. I may have shared it sometime ago but it’s always worth rereading. Have a blessed day. Shirley

1. Dean Koontz’s Classic Story Structure

This is the structure that changed the path of my career as a writer.

It catapulted me from a mid-list genre novelist to a 21-Time New York Times bestselling author.

I’m a Pantser, not an Outliner, but even I need some basic structure to know where I’m going, I love that Koontz’s structure is so simple. It consists only of these four steps:

1. Plunge your main character into terrible trouble as soon as possible. Naturally that trouble depends on your genre, but in short, it’s the worst possible dilemma you can think of for your main character. For a thriller, it might be a life or death situation. In a romance novel, it could mean a young woman must decide between two equally qualified suitors—and then her choice is revealed a disaster.

And again, this trouble must bear stakes dire high enough to carry the entire novel.

One caveat: whatever the dilemma, it will mean little to readers if they don’t first find reasons to care about your character.

2. Everything your character does to get out of the terrible trouble makes things only worse.  Avoid the temptation to make life easy for your protagonist. Every complication must proceed logically from the one before it, and things must grow progressively worse until….

3. The situation appears hopeless. Novelist Angela Hunt refers to this as The Bleakest Moment. Even you should wonder how you’re ever going to write your character out of this.

Your predicament is so hopeless that your lead must use every new muscle and technique gained from facing a book full of obstacles to become heroic and prove that things only appeared beyond repair.

4. Finally, your hero succeeds (or fails*) against all odds. Reward readers with the payoff they expected by keeping your hero on stage, taking action.

*Occasionally sad endings resonate with readers.

2. In Medias Res

This is Latin for “in the midst of things,” in other words, start with something happening. It doesn’t have to be slam-bang action, unless that fits your genre. The important thing is that the reader gets the sense he’s in the middle of something.

That means not wasting two or three pages on backstory or setting or description. These can all be layered in as the story progresses. Beginning a novel In Medias Res means cutting the fluff and jumping straight into the story.

Toni Morrison’s 1997 novel Paradise begins “They shoot the white girl first.”—the epitome of starting in medias res.

What makes In Medias Res work?

It’s all in the hook.

In Medias Res should invest your reader in your story from the get-go, virtually forcing him to keep reading.

The rest of the In Media Res structure consists of:

Rising Action

Explanation (backstory)

Climax

Falling Action

Resolution

3. The Hero’s Journey

Made famous by educator and widely published author Joseph Campbell, it’s often used to structure fantasy, science fiction, and horror novels.

J.R.R. Tolkien used The Hero’s Journey structure for The Hobbit.

Step 1: Bilbo Baggins leaves his ordinary world

Baggins is happy with his life in the Shire and initially refuses a call to adventure, preferring to stay home.

The wizard Gandalf (soon to be his mentor) pushes him to accept the call.

Baggins leaves the comfort of his Hobbit life and embarks on a perilous quest across Middle Earth, getting into all kinds of trouble along the way.

Step 2: Baggins experiences various trials and challenges

Bilbo builds a team, pairing with dwarves and elves to defeat enemies like dragons and orcs.

Along the way he faces a series of tests that push his courage and abilities beyond what he thought possible.

Eventually, against all odds, Bilbo reaches the inmost cave, the lair of the fearsome dragon, Smaug where the ultimate goal of his quest is located. Bilbo needs to steal the dwarves’ treasure back from Smaug.

Bilbo soon finds he needs to push past his greatest fear to survive.

Step 3: Bilbo tries to returns to his life in The Shire

Smaug may have been defeated, but the dwarves face another battle against others and an orc army.

Near the end of the novel, Bilbo is hit on the head during the final battle and presumed dead.

But he lives and gets to return to the Shire, no longer the same Hobbit who hated adventure.

4. The 7-Point Story Structure

Advocates of this approach advise starting with your resolution and working backwards.

This ensures a dramatic character arc for your hero.

J.K. Rowling used the 7-Point Structure for Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

The Seven Points

Hook: your protagonist’s starting point

In Philosopher’s Stone, this is when we meet Harry living under the stairs.

Plot turn 1: introduces the conflict that moves the story to its midpoint.

Harry finds out he is a wizard.

Pinch point 1: applies pressure to your protagonist in the process of achieving his goal, usually facing an antagonist.

When the troll’s attacks, Harry and his friends realize they are the only ones who can save the day.

Midpoint: your character responds to conflict with action.

Harry and his friends learn of the Philosopher’s Stone and determine to find it before Voldemort does.

Pinch point 2: More pressure makes it harder for your character to achieve his goal.

Harry has to face the villain alone after losing Ron and Hermione during their quest to find the stone.

Plot turn 2: Moves the story from the midpoint to the resolution. Your protagonist has everything he needs to achieve the goal.

When the mirror reveals Harry Potter’s intentions are pure, he is given the Philosopher’s Stone.

Resolution: The climax. Everything in your story leads to this moment, a direct contrast to how your character began his journey.

Harry defeats Voldemort.

5. Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake Method

If you like outlining your story, you’ll love The Snowflake Method.

But if you’re a Panster like me (someone who prefers to write by process of discovery), a story structure like Dean Koontz’s Classic Story Structure or In Medias Res might feel more natural.

The 10-step Snowflake Method

Start with one central idea and systematically add more ideas to create your plot.

Write a one-sentence summary of your novel (1 hour)

Expand this into a full paragraph summary, detailing major events (1 hour)

Write a one-page summary for each character (1 hour each)

Expand each sentence in #2 into a paragraph summary (several hours)

Write a one-page account of the story from the perspective of each major character (1-2 days)

Expand each paragraph you wrote for #4 into a full-page synopsis (1 week)

Expand your character descriptions into full character charts (1 week)

Using the summary from #6, list every scene you’ll need to finish the novel

Write a multi-paragraph description for each scene

Write your first draft

6. The Three-Act Structure

This formula was used by ancient Greeks, and it’s one of Hollywood’s favorite ways to tell a story.

It’s about as simple as you can get.

Act I: The Set-Up

Introduce your main characters and establish the setting.

Brandon Sanderson, a popular fantasy writer, calls this the “inciting incident”—  a problem that yanks the protagonist out of his comfort zone and establishes the direction of the story.

Act II: The Confrontation

Create a problem that appears small on the surface but becomes more complex. The more your protagonist tries to get what he wants, the more impossible it seems to solve the problem.

Act III: The Resolution

A good ending has:

High stakes: your reader must feel that one more mistake will result in disaster for the protagonist.

Challenges and growth: By the end, the protagonist needs to have grown as a person by overcoming myriad obstacles.

A solution: All the trials and lessons your character has endured help him solve the problem.

Suzanne Collins’s bestselling young adult trilogy, The Hunger Games, uses the three-act structure.

7. James Scott Bell’s A Disturbance and Two Doorways

In his popular book Plot and Structure, Bell introduces this concept.

A Disturbance early in the story upsets the status quo—anything that threatens the protagonist’s ordinary life.

Doorway 1 propels your character to the middle of the story. Once he goes through this door, there’s no turning back.

Doorway 2 leads to the final battle. It’s another door of no return but usually leads to disaster.

The Umbrella Academy by Gerard Way uses this story structure.

Upon hearing that their adoptive father has passed away (the disturbance), six siblings return to their childhood home.

Here they learn the world will end in a few days (Doorway 1). While the siblings try everything in their power to stop the potential global apocalypse, they unwittingly create another threat amongst themselves.

This leads to a final battle (Doorway 2).

Exploring the Dark Side of Diet Soda

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Good Morning, today I’m switching gears. As some of you know and now everyone will know that I’m having Bariatric surgery when I get through jumping all the insurance hoops. The end result is I’m now receiving lots of information.

This morning I received a copy of Herbaly Tea’s blog which I thought I would share with you. I know a lot of people who are drinking diet soda and do not know the risk they are taking.

Diet soda is specifically advertised to people who want to lose weight.

Obesity is widespread all around the world, and research says that it just keeps getting worse. Losing weight is an important goal for many of us, which is why there’s a huge market for the sugar-free versions of popular drinks or snacks.

The way these products are marketed makes them sound like the solution to weight issues. Many people looking to lose weight start with switching to diet products. And what’s not to love about diet soda? It tastes almost right, and you know for sure that it’s sugar-free.

But in reality, diet soda is a danger to your health. It’s important to take a moment and look at what the research says about it. It’s not pleasant.

The Problem with Diet Soda

What exactly makes diet soda a risk to your health?

To get the taste right, diet soda manufacturers use a variety of artificial sweeteners. While sweeteners aren’t all dangerous, many of them pose a risk to your health. Diet sodas mainly contain aspartame, a widespread sweetener which has many negative side effects.

Aspartame has been linked with a number of conditions, which include:

  • Cancer
  • Dementia
  • Weight gain
  • Headaches
  • Depression

For now, researchers are still working on proving or disproving the connection between aspartame and these conditions. But there are a few things we know for certain.

The Aspartame in Diet Soda Leads to Weight Gain

Instead of helping you lose weight, diet soda causes weight gain. For people already struggling with obesity, this can mean a major backslide. An increased body weight puts you at risk of many diseases and it also decreases your life expectancy.

So how does this artificial sweetener cause you to gain weight?

Consuming sweetened drinks may change your eating habits without you noticing. These sweeteners cause you to consume more calories. Even if you’re trying to be mindful about what you eat, they may cause cravings which will ruin your diet plan.

There’s a Link Between Diet Soda and Heart Issues

Columbia University and the University of Miami conducted a ten-year study on 2,500 people from New York. At the end of the study, they found that people who drink diet soda are likelier to suffer a stroke or a heart attack.

After analyzing data from nearly 60,000 women, the University of Iowa found that the difference is really significant. Women who drink two or more diet sodas a day are 30% likelier to have heart problems. Their chances of dying of heart-related issues are 50% higher than average.

So, What Can You Do?

Even if science fails to find more links between diseases and aspartame, it’s clear that the best thing to do is avoid diet sodas.

But it can be difficult to give up on a habit. In general, we drink soda to feel awake and energized. The taste is another reason why soda is so well-loved across the world.

If you want to stop consuming both soda and diet soda, the best thing to do is to find a good replacement. In other words, choose a refreshing and delicious drink that will power you through the day.