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  • About Me
    I'm a budding novelist, after a long career as a newspaper editor and another as a public school teacher. Now I'm retired and have a freelance book editing business -- always someone else's words. Now I'm trying my hand at writing a book. I'm discovering the challenges of crafting a long piece of fiction.
    I'm a mom to two college-age sons who are lots of fun. I enjoy being outside, hiking, kayaking, building puzzles, playing word games and, of course, reading.

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  1. Opening scene: Introduce protagonist and secondary character and introduce the story and the setting. Inside the house, Nora looked for evidence of the mother she didn’t know she had. The couch cushions hung limply in broken sofa frames and a thick layer of dust covered everything. The lampshade skewed toward the window, as if someone was challenging the light to come in. Thick curtains that probably hadn’t been opened in years hung across every window and door. The carpet was the kind of dirty that no vacuum cleaner would be able to help. The rest of the house was a similar mess, even the bedroom that seemed to be the only one used. The mismatched sheets didn’t quite fit the bed and curtains blocked out the light. The drawers didn’t close on the lone dresser. In the closet, more clothes covered the floor than hung on the hangers. What was she doing here? She wondered. And how did so much go so wrong so fast? Two days ago she’d sat at the kitchen table of the woman she thought was her mother. She had never thought to ask her if she really was her mother. Why would she? That morning, an envelope had come in the mail from a lawyer in North Carolina. Nora didn’t know anyone in North Carolina. She thought it was junk mail, but it looked official, so she picked up her letter opener and tore open her life. She hadn’t decided yet whether she was glad. She hadn’t gotten past the anger. Thirty minutes after she opened the envelope, she walked into the kitchen of her mother’s house—the house where she’d grown up—and waved the papers in her mother’s face. That face, which had brought such love into her life, went white and her mother’s knees buckled. Her mother reached for a chair while she stood staring, demanding, not sure she wanted to know. “Why did this lawyer tell me my mother died? Who is he? Who is she? Who are you?” The questions were too big to answer. Her mother just stared. She had, of course, thought through this conversation a thousand times over the last twenty-two years. Every few years she was sure she would tell her. But every time she started, something got in the way. Mostly, her fear. What would this child she’s raised do if she knew who her mother really was. So she never told her. The moment was here, though. Problem solved. She wasn’t going to be the one who had to break the news. All that’s left is the explanation. Staring at the filthy kitchen in the house that now belonged to her, that had belonged to the person who apparently had given birth to her, Nora thought back to that conversation in that other kitchen, the one that would never feel the same again. “It’s true,” her mother told her. And now it was her turn to need a chair. “What do you mean? Who is this person?” Breath came hard as her mother tied her long brown hair into a bun on the top of her head. “I knew I should have told you, but I couldn’t ever do it.” “Do what? Tell me what? What’s going on?” Nora picked up a dirty dish and put it into the already full sink. She turned on the water, but couldn’t find any dish soap under the sink. Of course not. Why should she be able to wash this mess away? She plopped into a chair just as she had two days ago. She looked around, and thought about what her mother had told her. She couldn’t get the word “mother” out of her mind. Maybe it was still a habit, maybe it was true. She was too angry right now to know the difference.
  2. #1 THE ACT OF STORY STATEMENT Nora must come to terms with a history she didn’t know that she had and determine how that history will affect her going forward. She has to move to a new city, and piece together information provided by the characters, some of whom are dead but have left written words. #2 THE ANTAGONIST PLOTS THE POINT The primary antagonist is Stacey, the mother of Maria and Audrey and grandmother of Nora. At 17, Stacey’s goal was to get a boyfriend and find out what sex was all about. As a girl, she was second fiddle to her older sister and living with a mother who didn’t care too much for her. She got pregnant in high school and married David (a secondary antagonist), who ultimately forced her to give Maria away in a secret adoption arrangement. Three years later, Stacey and David have a second child, Audrey, whom they keep. Stacey treats Audrey with anger and resentment and occasionally gets drunk enough to tell her about Audrey’s older sister, Maria. After Stacey kills David, she is determined to live the teenage life she never had. Audrey gets in the way of Stacey’s plans, which makes Stacey treat her even worse. When Audrey gets pregnant at age 16, Stacey locks her in the house and sets out in earnest to find a man before she becomes a grandmother at age 34. David, a secondary antagonist, was Maria’s father. He was a self-centered senior in high school ready to get out of this small town until his grandfather forced him to marry pregnant Stacey. He entered into a backroom agreement to trade his daughter for a ticket out of town – ownership of a house in Belton and a small grocery store in that town. He didn’t know anything about grocery stores, but it was better than working in the textile mill and well worth it to get rid of the kid he never wanted. He was still stuck with his wife, which proved to be his ending. #3 CONJURING YOUR BREAKOUT TITLE Lost and Found Sisters in Deception The Giveaway #4 DECIDING YOUR GENRE AND APPROACHING COMPARABLES Then She Was Gone (Lisa Jewell) – tells a family’s history and the presence of a child who is difficult to explain. Ultimately, that child ends up where she belongs and with an understanding of how she got there. #5 CORE WOUND AND PRIMARY CONFLICT Raised by a single mother with a hidden past, Nora must confront a family history that threatens the bond that’s sustained her and decide how she’ll live the rest of her life. #6 OTHER MATTERS OF CONFLICT: TWO MORE LEVELS Primary conflict Nora’s inner conflict stems from learning about a history she didn’t know she had and figuring out her place in life when she suddenly doesn’t know if she can trust her mother, who has lied to Nora for and about her whole life. She has to decide whether she wants to know about where she came from and, if so, how much she wants to know. SCENE – The book begins with Nora opening a letter from a lawyer in Pennsylvania. She doesn’t know anyone in Pennsylvania, but the letter looked official so she opened it. In the letter, Nora learns that the person she always thought was her mother did not give birth to her. Nora confronts Maria, who tells her that she acquired Nora when Nora was a few months old. A woman handed baby Nora to her and asked her to take her and care for her. Faced with such a traumatic event, Maria decides to keep the baby and cut all ties to her parents so she doesn’t have to explain the baby’s presence. Nora arrives in Belton, N.C., and enters the house. As she is giving it a cleaning so she can stay there, she discovers a letter from Audrey (her biological mother) telling her that she has written the family history in a series of emails addressed to Nora. Nora must decide whether she wants to know the history and find out about the past she didn’t know she had. Another conflict Nora has is with the relationship she’s always had with the person she thought was her mother. Maria said Nora didn’t have a father or any grandparents and Nora has relied on her relationship with Maria for her whole life. Now she finds out that she has grandparents who would have loved to be involved in her life, and that her grandfather was behind the backroom deal that took Maria from her own parents. She’s angry that Maria was given away and that Audrey, her biological mother, wasn’t saved from that same environment. Secondary Conflict Nora must overcome the rage and confusion she feels at the way the women in her family were treated, and deal with her own sense of conflict about whether she wants to meet and get to know her grandparents, who were part of the plan that removed Maria from her parents 40 years ago. SCENE – Nora has been talking to Brandon, the lawyer who helped Audrey find Maria 22 years ago and who had grown up next door to Audrey. He has filled in some holes in the story that weren’t answered in the emails thus far. Brandon has been very helpful up until this point, but becomes less helpful when asked about the arrangement that ended with Maria going to the people who raised her. Nora decides that she wants to know the truth and that she must confront her grandfather. #7 STORY SETTING This book starts by juxtaposing two kitchens, one in western Pennsylvania and one in Belton, N.C. The protagonist is entering the Belton kitchen and wondering what she’s doing there while thinking back to the conversation she had with her mother in the Pennsylvania kitchen where she learned that she was just handed to her mother on the street when she was a baby. The idea of the kitchen as the center of the home serves as the starting point for the story the protagonist is about to learn. We won’t really return to the Pennsylvania kitchen, but will spend a lot of time in the house where the Belton kitchen is. The house was part of the deal that led to Nora’s adoptive mother being given away. Later, it’s the house where Nora’s biological mother grew up and where Nora learns the story of her history. The house sits in the town of Belton, which also has the local grocery store that was part of the plan to adopt out Nora’s mother. The grocery store is a setting where people from all over town come in and interact with Nora’s grandparents. A third location in Belton is the diner where Nora goes to work while she’s learning her history and where she meets many people who fill holes in her story.
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