Thursday, July 13, 2017

Which are you: By-the-book? Or Goodbye-to-the-book?

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: We were JUST talking about this! Quickly—I had plugged in my Kindle to an outlet on our second floor. I bought a few books. I wanted to sync the Kindle. The Kindle said: To sync, please connect to wireless. I connected to wireless.  Instantly, every fire alarm in our house went off.

What what what?  Is there a fire? I raced upstairs, then downstairs, then down to the basement. NO fire. The fire alarm is shrieking: fire fire FIRE. (It talks.)  No fire.

How do I turn off the fire alarm, I wondered. Where are the instructions?
 
What instructions?  There are no instructions. We never had instructions. Ah. Why aren’t there instructions?

Anyway, the wonderfully talented Claire Booth has the good news about that.  (Have you read her first book, THE BRANSON BEAUTY? It's terrific.)

 And, happily, she has a brand new book in her series--and she's giving a copy away to a lucky commenter! See below for how, um, instructions on how to  win  ANOTHER MAN'S GROUND.


CLAIRE BOOTH:  Life is more fun when you don’t read the instructions.

Sure, it’s resulted in some lopsided IKEA furniture and perhaps some sketchy-tasting cookies.


But it’s also results in hilarious card games that follow no rules at all and detours through fantastic neighborhoods I otherwise wouldn’t have seen. It means the quicker hookup of all manner of electronics (try a few outputs until one works and voilà! You’re all set without having to wade through pages of tiny-print manual).

Where my anti-instruction attitude serves me best, however, is with my writing. I don’t have a mapped-out plot, or a manual of character backgrounds. Now, I’m not knocking these at all. They make a lot of sense. Just not for me. I’m in awe of writers who plot out an entire book before they start it. It’s like watching an astronaut train for a year on the International Space Station. Dazzlingly impressive, but not something I’m interested in doing.

When I write, I prefer to just get started. I sit down at my computer with a beautiful blank document, and I just go for it. This definitely means that I’m not a fast writer – there’s a fair amount of staring into space and wondering what the heck happens next? This can lead to panic, but I’ve learned to live with that. Because the trade off is the surprise. Getting surprised by my characters or the sharp turns my plot takes is the best thing in the world.

And I admit, I take a great deal of satisfaction in the fact that this works for me. Take that, rigid high school English classes! Did anyone else have to “brainstorm” assignments before they were allowed to start? Remember clustering? Outlining? I remember always thinking, “What if your brain doesn’t work that way?” Now I don’t have to follow those rules. Or a lot of other instructions, either.


Now, I’m certainly not advocating for ignoring traffic signs, or the dosage directions on prescription medications, or a diagram illustrating how to hold a power saw. I’m just encouraging the selective disregard of a map during a road trip or the ten-page rule booklet that came with the new board game.

What about you? Do you read the instructions before starting something? In what kind of situation could you see yourself choosing to not read the directions?

HANK: Well, I will confess I never—EVER—read the instructions. If there are indeed instructions. I just try to figure whatever it is out. Besides, the instructions never answer the questions you really have, am I right?

(And easy answer on the power saw. Don’t use a power saw.)


What do you think, Reds and Readers?  Are you a go—by-the book? Or goodbye-the-book?

And a copy of Claire's brand new ANOTHER MAN'S GROUND to one lucky commenter!

Claire Booth spent more than a decade as a journalist, much of it covering crimes so strange and convoluted they seemed more like fiction than reality. Eventually, she had enough of the real world and decided to write novels instead. Her Sheriff Hank Worth mysteries take place in Branson, Missouri, where small-town politics and big-city country music tourism clash in – yes – strange and convoluted ways. www.clairebooth.com.



ANOTHER MAN'S GROUND
It starts out as an interesting little theft case. Branson, Missouri’s new Sheriff Hank Worth is called out to look at stands of trees that have been stripped of their bark, which the property owner had planned to harvest for the booming herbal supplement market. At first, Hank easily balances the demands of the investigation with his fledging political career. He was appointed several months earlier to the vacant sheriff position, but he needs to win the fast-approaching election in order to keep his job. He thinks the campaign will go well, as long as he’s able to keep secret the fact that a group of undocumented immigrants – hired to cut down the stripped trees – have fled into the forest and he’s deliberately not looking for them.
But then the discovery of a murder victim deep in the Ozark backwoods sets him in the middle of a generations-old feud that explodes into danger not only for him, but also for the immigrants, his deputies, and his family. He must rush to find a murderer before election day and protect the vulnerable in Branson County, where politicking is hell and trespassing can get you killed.

79 comments:

  1. Claire, I can relate to your unhappiness with those English classes that made us brainstorm and cluster and outline . . . none of which ever seemed to have anything to do with the writing assignment.
    Your Sheriff Worth sounds like a character I’d like to get to know, so I’m looking forward to reading your book . . . .

    Okay, loading books onto my Nook has never set off the smoke alarm [which is located in the kitchen doorway, so whenever I am cooking it goes off with amazing regularity despite the fact that nothing is ever burning] . . . .

    Do I read the directions? Occasionally, but most of the time I just ignore them and dive right in . . . and I always disregard those evil maps.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sometimes they are very sensitive, right? A little bit of smoke… And the whole thing goes crazy. But it is a good thing to have. Are they supposed to be in the kitchen?

      Delete
    2. Joan, I completely agree on the maps! What fun are they if you get where you're going without seeing something new?

      Delete
  2. Claire, this sounds like a wonderful book and now I have to know just why Sheriff Worth wasn't looking at first. Well done. I guess I'll find out if my Kindle is going to set off the smoke alarm this time.

    I too tend to ignore instruction manuals. Somewhere deep in my mind is buried the thought that if I have to read the instructions, I probably shouldn't own the thing! Power saws included.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Exactly! Plug it in, turn it on, go.

      Delete
    2. Kait, that's a good rule of thumb. If I end up having to read the instructions, why do I have it??

      Delete
  3. Sorry to hear about your fire alarm issues Hank. I know I hate it when they go off, or when the battery is getting low and they start beeping out of nowhere.

    I read the instructions when it comes to something I don't already know how to put together or use but not religiously or anything. Just enough to get the thing set up properly.

    And Claire, the book sounds amazing. The book's description really seems like it is right up my alley.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jay, thanks so much! If you do get a chance to read it, I hope you'll let me know what you think!

      Delete
    2. Yes, I am still baffled about what happened!

      Delete
  4. Claire, I write that way, too, and when I get stuck I draw pictures. Congratulations on the new book!

    My favorite instructions are on the ice cream carton.
    Open this
    flap first

    And I always do.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. HAllie! I want to see you flapping.

      The other day Jonathan and I were out for a walk, and there was a sign in someone's yard saying "do not turn around in driveway." Guess what I did?


      Delete
    2. Hallie, there are instructions on ice cream?! I never knew that! Now I might be forced to go buy some, just to see . . .

      Delete
  5. As someone with an abandoned career in writing software manuals - yes, I made a good living writing INSTRUCTIONS - all you ignorers make me say, Wha?! But for writing fiction, I'm right there with you, Claire. I might "plot" the next scene, but usually it's when I'm writing it, or taking a walk just prior to writing it. And it's working fine for me. Hank, I've synced my Kindle and never turned on the smoke alarms. How did you ever get them to stop?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It was truly a quandary, Edith, because I had no idea! , looked for a fire, worried about calling 911, and wished that the alarms would stop. Then they did. I'm not sure there's a connection, though. :-)

      Delete
    2. Edith, on behalf of don't-readers, I thank you. Because someone, somewhere (in my house, that would be my husband) does read them. And then things work properly. Instead of mostly/sort of properly. So thank you!

      Delete
    3. Haha, you are welcome! Glad to be of service. And we did win award for our books. But I'd much rather win awards for my mysteries (actually have a few nominations under my belt, plus a Silver Medal).

      Delete
  6. And one of my favorite cartoons is from mad magazine, where a guy is standing in a public bathroom with the towel machine in pieces on the floor. And he is looking at the sign on the wall which says: "to get towels, pull down, tear up."

    ReplyDelete
  7. In the middle of the first night in my brand new just built house the smoke alarms went off, all 7 of them. My little granddaughter was sleeping with me and we just wanted to get away from the noise! It never even occurred to me there might be a FIRE. (There wasn't). I had taken the seats out of my van for moving so we grabbed pillows and blankets, the dog on a leash and ran down the steps to the car. Except with so much to carry and hold I accidentally pressed the panic button on my key fob! Seemed like hours before the builder finally showed up (he was sleeping). No one ever knew what set those things off; there was no smoke, no fire, just noise. He told me that next time I should just pull the breaker. If there were any written instructions for a case like this I never read them but I probably wouldn't have understood them if I did.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Judi, even if I'd read the instructions - in a situation like that, I probably would have forgotten them. What did your granddaughter think of the adventure?

      Delete
    2. It sure was memorable for her - we still talk about it, 8 years later. I don't know if she's ever written about it for a school assignment though. That was just one of the adventures we have had.

      Delete
  8. Welcome Claire. I look forward to your books.

    In another life as a nurse manager, I wrote tons of instructions. We called these procedures. In fact, I quite enjoyed this task, setting standards of performance, all that. It was and is important that medical and nursing professionals have standards, no kidding. Even low ones.

    But in my personal life? I only read the manual when something goes wrong. For instance, our new dishwasher stopped admitting water a couple of months ago. If it hadn't been Sunday, I would have called the repair center; it was still under warranty and why do anything else. However, I chose to read the manual. Who knew there were filters? Not one but two! And who knew they should be cleaned monthly. So I stood on my punkin head, cleaned both filters, and Bob's your uncle. Next time this happens, I'll know precisely what to do. Or maybe I will clean the filters a couple of times a year.

    Just for tickles and grins I read the whole manual while I had it in hand. I learned all sorts of wonderful things, like disabling the bottle washing function results in a shorter cycle, and who has bottles to wash anyway? I even noted the loading recommendations, although of course they were all wrong.

    Instructions are for emergencies, unless the emergency is an appendectomy. Otherwise, save them somewhere in case intuitive action fails.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I like the way you think, Ann! Why read it before you need it?

      Delete
    2. Question for you… When you wrote the instructions, did you actually do the thing you were instructing people to do? Sometimes it seems like the writers of such things don't actually try to do that thing.

      Delete
    3. Yes Hank. I actually, for instance, inserted a urinary catheter in a Muslim man. Talk about sweating

      Delete
  9. We had a smoke detector that always went off because it was outside the bathroom door and the steam from the shower tripped it.

    Like Edith, my career is in writing instructions. I often joke - ruefully - that I'm paid to write all the stuff people ignore.

    Whether or not I read instructions depends on what I'm doing. Setting up new electronic equipment? Rarely. Assembling a table from IKEA? Always.

    But I usually don't use "instructions" when I write. I'm more like you Claire. I just start. I might throw down a few ideas at first. When I get stuck, I use a trick from one of my critique partners and think "what is my villain doing?" That usually jars loose an idea and I can sketch out the path for the next few scenes. Like that old saying about driving at night with your headlights - you can't see the end, but you can make the whole trip that way.

    Mary/Liz

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "What is my villan doing?" I love it. Can I use it, too? That's a great imagination kick-start!

      Delete
    2. I'm quite sure my friend won't mind. =)

      Mary/Liz

      Delete
    3. I love the write into the headlights metaphor. It's one audiences understand, too. I'll say, "You can't see Maine from here. But if you keep driving into your headlights, you'll get to Maine." ;^)

      Delete
    4. Which means you know who the villain IS.. :-)

      Delete
    5. Edith, it's one of my favorites.

      Hank, not always. But I quite often know what he or she would be DOING regardless of identity. For example, I think I know who my villain is right now in one WIP. He/she would be trying to get rid of a gun, obviously without it being traced back. Therefore, I know what my sleuths need to be doing.

      Mary/Liz

      Delete
  10. For someone who loves the written word, I usually go for the pictures and diagrams, especially when putting something together. Instructions go in a drawer, never to be seen again, unless there's a problem. Unlike Ann, I will usually try to figure out the problem myself before calling in a repair person. That must have been some 'hot' book you were putting on your kindle, Hank!

    Claire, I have sorely missed books set in that part of the country--haven't had my fix since Joan Hess stopped writing her Maggody series--going to look for your series right now!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Flora, I'm so glad you like my setting! Have you ever been to Branson? I'd love to compare notes!

      Delete
  11. Oh, I must read your books, Claire! How did I miss them to begin with? I grew up just north of Springfield, Missouri, and watched the Branson boom with great interest as "we've always done it this way" townspeople ran head-on into the "this is how we do it in Nashville and Vegas" folks at all the big theaters. The locals wanted the money, right enough, but why couldn't the outsiders all be conservative Christians who were at least some kind of cousin thrice removed? Y'know, the way they'd always done business before? It was a show unto itself.

    I think I combine the instruction-following and the seat-of-the-pants styles. I needed the instructions to program my dang computerized thermostat, because it was NOT intuitive, but I'm all in when it comes to turning down a new street that looks interesting. In fact, I've talked native-born Dallasites around traffic jams via back streets they never knew about; I discovered the routes by my random explorations (okay, and getting lost a lot) in the seven years since I've lived here.

    A lot of my work involves making a plan and following it, but unexpected issues always come up, and often make the whole thing more interesting. The problem with plans is that they never hold up without hiccups and glitches. If you fall all apart when your lockstep plan encounters an "operational variant" you're going to spend all your time on tranquilizers. I prefer to rename those unexpected issues "opportunities for serendipity." It sounds more fun that way, when I have to pull on my waders and step off the path into the swamp.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Gigi, you and I need to take a road trip somewhere! And in one paragraph, you perfectly described the Branson boom. My husband grew up there, and his folks just shook their heads as it was happening.

      Delete
    2. Claire, I can vouch for road trips with Gigi. You would have a great time!

      Delete
    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
  12. I find that instructions are usually useless and I have to figure out the assembly by myself. Your books would be greatly enjoyed and sound captivating.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much! Let me know what you think!

      Delete
  13. My son-in-law gave me an electric knife sharpener for Xmas. I didn't open the box until a couple of weeks ago because I didn't want to figure out the instructions. Turns out, all you have to do is plug it in.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ha!That's great. I fully endorse just plugging in something new and seeing what happens!

      Delete
    2. Yeah, some instructions are overly simplified!

      DebRo

      Delete
  14. I always heard that you can tell an engineer because they refuse to look at instructions.
    The book sounds enticing.
    libbydodd at comcast dot net

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That makes sense, Libby. Wouldn't an engineer have a greater base of knowledge to pull from in the first place, and so not need the novice instructions?

      Delete
    2. I always assumed it was more a touch of hubris!
      Libby

      Delete
  15. Claire, the book sounds great!

    I always read the instructions first. Always. Sure, I skip the stuff like "don't plug in and turn on while standing in the full bathtub", but the "hold this switch before pulling trigger" (string trimmer) or install with paddle facing left (mixer) I read. I read the instructions before I even take anything else out of the box! Maybe it's a guy thing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Okay, I'll give you the string trimmer! I'd probably read those instructions, too. You sound like just the kind of person that a non-reader needs around! And thanks for your kind words about the book!

      Delete
    2. And if there are instruction books,, I do keep them, at least. When things go wrong I use the troubleshooting section. Sometimes it will say question: The screen is black. Answer: Is it plugged in? What would we do without that?

      Delete
  16. I have to admit I'm terrible at reading instructions. If things look to complicated, I ask my hub, who sees putting things together/making them work as a challenge. Me, I just want to get on with things.

    On the other hand, I read recipes, and I do outline and plot. So I guess it just depends on how our brains are wired.

    Claire, your book sounds wonderful. I spent a lot of time in the Arkansas Ozarks growing up, so I think I'd love the feel of the setting. Another to add to TBR! And congrats!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The Ozarks certainly are beautiful, aren't they? Getting more and more crowded, though, which is too bad.

      Delete
  17. Claire, your book sounds really interesting. As someone else said above, Sheriff Worth sounds like someone I will want to get to know.

    But I seem to be in the minority on this topic. I actually do often read directions, and I have greatly lamented the trend away from providing directions. In words. Now, things come with these little icon sequences that are meant to communicate something, but I rarely know what. I've even coined a term for my problem: I'm iniconerate. Kind of like illiterate people are with words and innumerate people are with math. I can't look at the little icons and diagrams and make sense out of them. Give me words, please. In sentences. With punctuation. Sigh.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I thought--iniconerate??? And then though--oh! Hilarious! Sometimes I figure them out by saying them out loud. Fire, stairs, oh, I get it.

      Delete
    2. I love iniconerate! What a fantastic way to describe it - and I think that's me. Too many little stick drawings and I just put it down and walk away!

      Delete
  18. I must admit I tend to be an instructions guy. I at least skim them. Except for my new computer. I've only looked up the few settings that need to be changed. (Seriously, why is the default for the function keys not the functions they do?)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know! They do that so you have to read the instructions :-)

      Delete
  19. I bounce between studying the instructions and throwing them in a drawer for future reference. I also swear a blue streak when no instructions come with whatever I buy. I HATE having to go online to get instructions. HATE. I want them pre-printed, in the box, for me to read or ignore. Claire, I read Branson Beauty and thoroughly enjoyed it. We had a family reunion for some of us in Branson many years ago. We enjoyed it but wondered how the locals live with all the tourists and traffic.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Pat, thank you so much - I'm thrilled you enjoyed it! And I agree, the traffic can be horrendous. Thanks to my mother-in-law, I now know a few backroad avoidance manuevers.

      Delete
  20. I read the instructions when putting things together and the highlights when it comes to usage information. My husband and I differ in that, when it comes to cooking a new recipe, he always wants to play it by ear, but I always think you should follow the recipe the first time and then improvise.

    Claire, I love getting a peek into your writing process. I usually outline, but for my current book, I'm just writing. It's scary to do it this way, but your confidence in this approach is inspiring!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Ingrid! Keep at it - I'd love to know what you think of using that process (or no process) when you're finished!

      Delete
    2. I never outline--not big picture. I have an idea, I start, I think of some things, I go on. A person once described it to me as "emergent design." Isn't that a great way of looking at it?

      Delete
    3. Yes, I'm hoping it's "emergent design" and not "emergent disaster"!

      Delete
  21. When I was in high school, all our book reports had to be done in outline style. I would usually love reading the book, but hate having to report on it in such a manner.

    (I'm responding from a bench outside of my office building and having to flick ants off my lap every now and then. Ugh.)

    I get a lot of laughs from reading certain kinds of instructions. On Monday I'm having some minor outpatient orthopedic surgery. The surgery center instructions include the following: "You must not walk home from your surgery." Darn!

    And my new hair dryer came with the usual instructions not to use it in the shower or on someone who is comatose. It's funny until you realize someone must have tried these things!

    Deb Ro

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That almost sounds like a writing prompt, Deb! "You are blowing drying the hair of a comatose person...

      Delete
    2. I love that! And it does seem odd… I know what they mean by it, of course, but " don't use your hairdryer near water?" I mean… Isn't it to dry your wet hair?

      Delete
    3. Exactly, Hank! Why would you use a hair dryer on dry hair!

      Delete
    4. That's a good point, Deb Ro! Somebody sometime must have tried those things. Either that, or it's a group of liquored-up lawyers in a room imagining worst-case scenarios. :)

      Delete
  22. I hate reading instructions, but I sometimes do. The new coffee maker had instructions I had to read to set it up, and once I calmed down from thinking I'd never make it through them, I was able to correctly put the charcoal filter in and know what button to click for what I wanted. My coffee makers before had all been Bunns, and they were much more straight forward to set up than this new Cuisinart. I may still go back to a Bunn.

    TV set up is why I have a husband. Hahaha! I know my limits and electronics set-ups are beyond them. However, I was able to manage my lap top, because my husband wasn't home when it was delivered. I know, it sounds like I just refuse to learn certain things, and that is correct. My frustration threshold is low on instructions. I've had my son put together a couple of furniture items because he is excellent at reading instructions and following through with no stress involved. My daughter, too, is more adept than I am.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. HA.Don't get me started on turning on the TV. How hard can it be? Come to our house and find out.

      Delete
    2. Kathy, you're more patient than me. I can't handle a complicated coffee maker. It is completely beyond my capabilities in the morning. I can barely do simple!

      Delete
  23. Timely topic for me today. Unless I am replacing the light switches and outlets in the house, I usually ignore instructions. A few days ago, the washing machine stopped mid cycle. I shrugged and scheduled a repair technician. We decided to clean around the machine prior to the service appointment. My daughter pulled out the machine and we found the cord dangling from the outlet. Sheepishly replugged the washer, and cancelled the appointment; wrote mental note: next time Look at manual's Troubleshooting section.
    Claire: I drew a few stick figures concerning this event. I so admire those who venture into fiction writing w/o a 'safety belt'. I agree life is more fun when you realize it does not come with an operator's manual.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Coralee, we are of like mind!

      Delete
    2. True story: yesterday morning, Jonathan clicked on the bedroom TV to watch the early news.He clicked and clicked and CLICKED. What is wrong with this, he kept asking. He was fuming. I said, um, here.
      And plugged tv the back in. Apparently the cleaning people unplugged it to plug in the vacuum.

      Delete
    3. Doesn't that make you feel like a genius?! It does when I get to do that!

      Delete
    4. Yes indeed. I try not to gloat. Xx

      Delete
  24. Oh, I have been burned by Ikea, so I try to always at least look at the instructions! We had to redo half a bed frame. Ugh. So excited to see another book out by Claire Booth and thanks for the chance to win!!!

    ReplyDelete
  25. Ikea is absolutely the worst for assembly, isn't it? Especially redoing something! And thank you so much for your kind words!

    ReplyDelete
  26. Claire is picking a winner soon--watch this space. What a wonderful day--thank you, dear Claire!And everyone--you will love her books.See you all tomorrow. xoxo

    ReplyDelete
  27. I am instructionally challenged !Usually have to call customer service of the product to walk me thru it/ still can t get my rug shampooer to work right!

    ReplyDelete