Cows Suffer Sex Discrimination

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge is always great. This one is right up my alley, so to speak.

Bert and friends
Bert and friends

A factoid: Do you see how they have paved a road across the lawn?  Cows and Native American foot traffic created Highway 99 North and South .

Whatcha mean I have a spotted pig on my nose? You wanna make sompin' of it?
Whatcha mean I have a spotted pig on my nose? You wanna make sompin’ of it?

Everyone should have a friendly bull or two in their front yard. One of the little guys got out one day, and wandered over to our yard. We had just finished sodding the yard, and it was still mushy. Hubby complained about his footprints in which we could have buried our cats without leaving a mound. By the way, these ARE the happy cows – no bulls – you read about from California .

happy cows?
Move over Bessie. I had that bin first.


The cows live here.  I say there’s some sex discrimination going on in this business. Cows do all the work, and have less luxurious living quarters. All the bulls have to do is play rodeo games, eat and chew the cud all day.



Visit Cee Here.


Reward: What Does It Mean To Me?

I think accomplishments reward me.

2015 ride home126Frankly there is no reward great enough to recompense a person for the amount of effort they put into a project.  For example, why blog? Is it because someone rewards you? Of course not. Most of us blog to communicate with the world, to share what’s happening that’s important to us. My last blog told the story of  Bob’s old barn, I fell in love with it just in time – it’s coming down. It was rewarding to take pictures and tell the story.

2015 Hengst Barn106I took the picture below of this same path Saturday on my way home from Visalia. It has changed. History is all about change. Today it looks like this.

2015 ride home128This crane cleared out olive trees, and the barn will come down soon to make way for a new field of fruit trees.

Today I met with a friend, Laile Di Silvestro, today who is helping me heal a sick and injured website for San Joaquin Valley Council for the Social Studies. My reward for the three and a half hours that we labored is a website that works a little better, a closer relationship with a talented and generous person, and –  totally unrelated, but I’m counting it as a reward – beautiful weather giving me scenery to photograph.

2015 ride home110Seriously, you’d think it was mid-summer in Montana to look at that sky. It’s a bit chilly, but not enough to deter anyone. We’ve all been praying for rain. That would be a reward.

2015 ride home105A few of these clouds rewarded us with a light drizzle, but not much rain. Most of our water comes from wells pumped from underground aquifers or nearby irrigations ditches.


2015 ride home104These pumps may not look beautiful, but water is a huge reward.

2015 ride home106

And we are rewarded by food, not only for us but for the cows that provide one of my favorite foods – cheese. Tulare County is one of the largest dairy producing counties in the world. We probably have more cows here than we have people. Most of them live near Visalia and Hanford in large dairies of up to 5,000 cows. Talk about a lot of work. If you don’t like cheese, it might not seem like such a great reward, but I love it.

2015 ride home119This is the dairy I used to pass everyday on my way to and from work.

2015 ride home117Those cows probably aren’t praying for rain, but I’m guessing that the people who live in this house on that dairy farm are.  I hope they get their reward. :)


For more entries about rewards click here.



Iconic America: Bob’s Old Barn

2015 Hengst Barn116

Who doesn’t love old barns? It’s un-American to hate barns, the image of rural life that once predominated in this country. Today the golden hour arrived with dark gray ominous clouds in the east and brilliant sunlight in the west blasting the spotlight on all the wildflowers in bloom on the foothills. I told Vince I wanted him to take me to the barn we had both decided would make a great photo shoot. I hope you agree with me.

2015 Hengst Barn104

He decided to drop me off, and let me walk home, so I took my time.

2015 Hengst Barn106

The weeds turned out to be nearly as interesting as the barn. They don’t look that high from the road, but in places they could do some intimidating. That black thing  holding out gigantic arms is me to give you some perspective on the height of this particularly lovely weed. I am five feet five inches tall.

I tried to take a selfie of me and the weed to show you how tall it was.
I took a selfie with this weed to show you how tall it was.

Along the way I found some items of interest. From the highway this field looks uninhabited, but wait till you see what I found. My favorite might be the road hugger.


2015 Hengst Barn170c

The road has gotten a bit overgrown, but the road hugger hugs on. But I also love the old trough.

2015 Hengst Barn201

I don’t know what that bulb is, but it added to the excitement of finding the trough buried in the greenery. However, this find can’t compare to the underground house I found just lying around next door to the barn looking like a well-read book lying on a nightstand.

2015 Hengst Barn161

I’m not sure what this blue container held, but I didn’t look for a spigot. I think it might have landed here from outer space. Bob used to launch rockets not too far from here. Maybe one returned with a present.

2015 Hengst Barn111

The weeds amazed me. If they’d been in the mountains I could call them wildflowers, but here on the valley floor, I know better.

2015 Hengst Barn203

They made a great  frame for my Bob’s barn.

2015 Hengst Barn179

I finally quit dallying and did what I came for. It actually still smelled like a barn inside.

2015 Hengst Barn145

Someone must have slept here a while back, and left their bed unmade.

2015 Hengst Barn146

I’m sure this bed belonged to a boy. It seriously looked like the kinds of things my brother hid under his bed, when he was a kid, except the old Halloween candy was missing here. Maybe I didn’t look hard enough.  What do you mean you can’t tell it’s a bed?

2015 Hengst Barn144

It would spring up and strike you if it were a snake coiled up like this. Klutzy me, I had to bounce on it a bit. (holding my camera securely against me, of course)

2015 Hengst Barn153

The guy must have gotten mad one night and threw the head off to the other side of the room. Maybe he just had a bad dream and lost his head. Either way this sissy road hugger that came in out of the weather ended up with a bed head on it, so it’s stuck there now.

2015 Hengst Barn123

Enough with the stuff. You came here to see a barn.

2015 Hengst Barn147

This barn has an open door policy.

2015 Hengst Barn128

The view out the back is wild. (flowers that is)

2015 Hengst Barn142

It’s got good bones, and lots of them.

2015 Hengst Barn155

The open floor plan is ever popular.


2015 Hengst Barn151

Good views from every door window  opening.

2015 Hengst Barn127

It’s built with long-lasting, high-quality parts.

2015 Hengst Barn219

Upon close inspection, I didn’t find any evidence of termite damage.

2015 Hengst Barn162R

But if someone from Central California ever advertises foothill acreage, filled with wildflowers, with a top-notch barn, you might want to take a look first before you buy.

2015 Hengst Barn205Thank you Bob for letting me take pictures of your barn. I loved it. :) I hope my blogger friends did, too.


Photo Challenge: Rule of Thirds

Rule of thirds challenges me unless I have a 9 grid overlaying the photo or viewfinder.  Since I’ve never seen a viewfinder like that, I confess that these shots became rule of thirds after the camera lens had long since left the scene.

A bird in the bush is worth two in the hand.
A bird in the bush is worth two in the hand. You wouldn’t want this bird in your hand at any price.

These shots look a little cloudy because dense fog covered the Woodlake Valley floor the day I took them.  I should have had my portrait done out-of-doors that day. This woodpecker may have had trouble finding his worm.  I prefer that he pecks at the ground instead of burying his acorns in my roof or pecking my siding.

Cross-Eyed Kitty hasn't lost the instince of hunting.
Cross-Eyed Kitty hasn’t lost the instinct of hunting.

Out to help me keep my yard bird-free, Cross-Eyed Kitty looks like a fierce hunter.  In reality, this beautiful old feral cat heard me, and came running so I could take him over to my house to eat from Mama and Scardy’s bowl.

Cross-Eyed Kitty poses.
Cross-Eyed Kitty poses.

We know he’s at least fourteen years old, but he may be a lot older. He looks great, but pick him up, and he’s all hair and bones.  He has the most beautiful blue eyes.

Rule of Thirds8

Cross-Eyed Kitty never acted feral.  As soon as he comes near, he rolls over for a rub.  I did not edit this photo as CEK took up exactly two-thirds of the picture if you don’t count his tail, which blends into the ground anyway.

peach blossom
peach blossom

Back home again after rescuing CEK from a hard hunting trip, I walked around the yard admiring the new blooms on the peach trees.  Woodlake Valley boasts hundreds, no thousands, of peach trees which grow in large orchards with military-perfect straight lines. Pink and white blossoms make this valley fit for a  spring festival. My husband’s sinuses do not agree.

Everything's peachy keen with TC History Gal.
Everything’s peachy keen with TC History Gal.

For more Rule of Thirds pictures click the WP icon.


Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: My Favorite Things, Chorus

When Tule Fog hits the Woodlake Valley, the best thing to do is stay home until visibility is better. By ten o’clock this morning the fog had dissipated some, and I wanted to do something fun.  I grabbed my camera and walked around the yard with no intentions, but to have fun in the fog.

Black BirdsI found this black bird on the spoon handle waiting for the four-and nineteen others to join him to bake in the pie. Little does he know what awaits him. We learned this song in nursery school, and sang it to the next generation.  Do you remember it? I found two tunes. Which did you learn?

Sing a song of sixpence,

A pocket full of rye.

Four and twenty blackbirds,

Baked in a pie.

When the pie was opened,
The birds began to sing;
Wasn’t that a dainty dish,
To set before the king?
The king was in his counting house,
Counting out his money;
The queen was in the parlour,
Eating bread and honey.
The maid was in the garden,
Hanging out the clothes,
When down came a blackbird
And pecked off her nose.
They sent for the king’s doctor,
who sewed it on again;
He sewed it on so neatly,
the seam was never seen.
Bird Encounter
This doggie scarecrow that guards our garden didn’t fare so well with his nose.The birds chewed his ear, too. Invisible seams didn’t happen. Maybe the doctor couldn’t see in the fog, or maybe he, like the brave pup, was a little rusty. Hard to tell. 
For a more adult chorus to illustrate these pictures try Leonard Cohen’s “Bird on a Wire.”
Click the icon for more of Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge Entries. 

Is Social Media the New Reader, Or Is It Just Laziness?

Don’t get me wrong, I love blogging and love my blogging friends. But I’m frustrated. When I’m busy, I spend my time on quickie social media and not my blog. I take a quick picture when I’m walking or driving, post it on Instagram, and maybe write a caption – BAM gone to all my social media accounts including WP. I don’t bother with my brand, floating like a misshapen cloud above the mountains, or edit, edit and re-edit only to find another error after I’ve posted!

Lazy blogging?
Lazy blogging?

Done.  It takes two hours for me – at a minimum –  to create a blog post – this small – that’s hard! (Granted I’m slow!)

I wish WP had a better way to share blogs, and here’s why.

Cat LoveIn Facebook I browse through the comments, pictures and memes sharing likes or a quick comment.  My wall is as cluttered as my work table, but I love it. If I want to find what you posted yesterday so I can copy it to my blog, I type your name in the search box, and bingo – your wall appears. I scroll through your stuff, take what I want, get to know you a little better, and I’m out.  I’ve joined some groups, become friends with some, and those comments show on my home page. I don’t have to click to find them. For those of us with slow internet, every click means wait, wait, wait.

Max Brooks will speak at the CCSS Conference on March 6th.
Max Brooks will speak at the CCSS Conference on March 6th.

Twitter is Facebook on speed. I meet colleagues, new contacts, and post news. It’s not impolite to follow others first. Many people follow me that I don’t know. I check them out briefly, and speed read through news. I don’t engage much more than a star unless its Rosy, Al or Ann, my blogging friends, or I’m working my California Council for the Social Studies accounts.

Author of Historical Thinking who changed the way we think about teaching history.
Author of Historical Thinking who changed the way we think about teaching history. He’s speaking at the CCSS Conference on March 6th, too.

On LinkedIn people have common professional interests. I like to endorse people I know, just to let them know I still think about them even when I don’t see them. I also post news. Like FB, it doesn’t take much time to browse. If I see something I want to read, I stop and read it.

I share what's in my inner storage shed.
I share what’s in my inner storage shed, but Photoshop out some details.

Blogging, however, is where I get to know people well. We are friends even when we’ve never met. But commenting on blogs is more difficult because I have to click on each blog, and sometimes they don’t load or take my comment. If it takes too long I don’t get it done.

Everyone looks better at the beach!  :)
More time to lay around.

So it is laziness, or do we need all types of social media? So please join me on FB if you consider me a friend @ TC History Gal Productions, or one of the other social media.

Do you need to lose weight? I do.

IMG_4042Eating out has always been the primary entertainment in my family. I like to eat, and I have a healthy appetite. When I was young my eyes were too big for my stomach, but that has changed. Martha, sitting across from me, is doing the cleanse with me. Amanda doesn’t need to lose weight. She’s the President of CCSS this year, and all the weight of its world is on her shoulders. Elane has lost weight because she just doesn’t eat very much.

TransformationToday I started on a 10-day cleanse using Purium products that I ordered from my friend, Martha Infante. Unlike the woman pictured in the transformation guide, I am 63, 5’5”and this morning weighed 154. Vince took ugly before pictures of me, which I won’t scare you with unless I get appreciably better looking in the next ten days.

Amino Acid pills

So far I’ve had 5 pills that taste a little minty, and are full of protein, and 18 ounces of water. Right now I’m enjoying my morning green shake that tastes a little like grass, the kind that grows in your front yard. I have a headache because my face still hurts a little from my fall, and I’m cold from drinking so much water.

This tastes better than it looks.
This tastes better than it looks.

My philosophy about weight stems from watching my mother struggle through her last 20 years of life, and go through a divorce because my dad didn’t like her weight (among other things.) Keeping my weight at a manageable level has always been important to me because my mother weighed between 200 and 230 most of my life. The slimmest I ever saw her when she was active was 175, and she looked great. She was 5’4”. She had high blood pressure, and at 60 lost a kidney to cancer, and went on dialysis at 72 and lived to enjoy her 80th birthday. For 20 years she had several heart attacks that would have killed most people, but Mom functioned on about 5% of her heart, her arteries clogged, and valves damaged beyond repair. I credit her long life to a great attitude about life, good doctors, and no drinking or smoking.

Mom weighed about 150 when she was 80, and sharank to about 5'2".
Mom weighed about 150 when she was 80, and shrank to about 5’2″.

This summer my weight started creeping up. I lost my will to eat right and exercise. When Martha told me about a cleanse, I and decided to give it a try. If this is successful I’ll let you know.


Winter in Woodlake Valley

The scenes as I walked along Millwood Drive took my breath away. Maybe if I stayed in shape… Eventually my husband  picked me up and we enjoyed the warm photoshoot together.

original picture

While our eastern friends bury under mountains of snow, in Woodlake Valley we welcome a few inches of water on the valley floor and many feet of snow in the Sierra Nevada mountains. It rained this weekend, and in December, so while we get the most wonderful winter weather in the world, we wish for more precipitation so our wells won’t run dry. I took these pictures December 27th a day after it rained.  One rain yields instant green fields.

cropped picture in perfect obedience to the Rule of Thirds


The mountains glowed with the snow. Don’t you love snow from a distance? I experimented with composition, and used the trees to frame the picture, but couldn’t get a Rule of Thirds picture that I liked. I cropped it in Photoshop, and I’m still not sure which way I prefer so I’ll let you decide.

Old barn1

I love this old barn. However, beautiful winter weather doesn’t insure eternal life even for barns. I wish I knew an interesting story about it. Maybe someone who reads this post will have some insight that I don’t. Or maybe someone will make up a good story. As we came back from taking the shots of the netted trees which was my goal for the day,  my husband said, “I know the perfect place to take a picture.” We got to the barn, and he said “This is it.” What I had missed being so focused on using my zoom lens was that there was a path with no fence, and I could have walked up to the barn. How did I miss it? I’m so zoned in that I miss the obvious.

fruit tree in a bag2

As the road curves following the sandy bed of Cottonwood Creek, rows and rows of netted trees appear on the east. Slowly the daylight ghouls creep up on a lone kid-tree trapped in the center of the row as he tried to run away. They raise their arms and close in for the big take-down. He should have stayed in line.

in line

Netting provides protection for stone fruit trees from birds. The nets also prevent frost and insect damage. I don’t know how any fruit tree lives without its net. However, trees in most fields don’t have nets.

fruit tree in a bag

I shot this little tree with its see through gown, and thought it looked sexy. Vince disagreed and he thought eerie described it better.

cement buildingFrom a distance smoke seemed to pour out of the top of this building. On closer inspection with a zoom lens, the building grew a tree. Probably if I had climbed over the barbed wire and snuck up behind the structure, the tree would have pretended that it was no where close to that building all along. I staged this picture with these photogenic pieces of dead wood that had nothing more to do than lie there and look pretty.

I wonder if this is the building Bob Hengst built with friends to launch their rockets.


I’ll let you know.




Photo Challenge: Scale

desk messiness scale

On a scale of 1 to 10 with ten being the most organized and 1 being piled to the ceiling with recipes and newspaper clippings,  I would give my writing area a 4. It took over 500 words to list all the things on the desk.

On a scale of 1 to 10 of how interesting this information is with 10 being information  you want to go share with 947 of your closest Facebook friends, and 1 being you would kill yourself before you ever mentioned this to anyone, I would give this subject matter a 2. Trust me, nothing is worth killing yourself, not that I’ve ever tried it. If I was going to try to commit suicide, a messy desk would not rate even a 0 on a 1 to 10 scale and a post about it would rate even lower than that.

writing, blogging, book reviews, New_Office04

Nonetheless, I rate my desk/table very high on the likeability scale for several reasons. First and last, as you can see, I like to spread out when I write or study. A normal to large desk does not allow for me to pile up enough stuff that I can’t read all at the same time. I get a lot of comfort distraction from having papers all over the place when I write. Generally, when I’m writing, there is something I don’t know. So if I have my research right beside me, I can thumb through it and find the facts I need fairly quickly. If I have a tiny desk, notes and copies of articles end up on the floor. Soon I crawl around on the floor reading one article after another on my hands and knees.

desk chair

On a scale of 1 to 10  grading for reading comfort level, the hands and knees position is a 0 and my desk is an 8. The only reason my desk is an 8 and not a 10 is because it is too high, and I can’t figure out how the lever works on my chair to raise it.

Raising the chair should be easy, but on a scale of 1 to 10 my chair is a 1.  It is much easier to go into the bedroom and get a pillow and put it on the seat. My dog likes that better because if she had a choice of places to lie down, she always chooses the place with a pillow.

Kalev’s Scale

no pillow                                                                             pillow


1                                                                                                        10

You are welcome to rate my desk yourself on whatever scale you dream up. Better yet, rate your own desk. Or write about scale in a different way. In the Central Valley of California scale is a dirty word because a critter that lives on oranges is called scale.

my favorite skylight/plant shot
my favorite skylight/plant shot

I apologise that this post has nothing to do with showing scale in a photograph, or at least I didn’t pick that out.  Maybe you will find something scaly about this post, and if so, please feel free to comment.  If you read this to be inspired about what to post, then you might want to keep looking.

Here are some other ideas to inspire you.


Klutz of the Year Award: The Art of Falling Without Breaking Anything

I have awarded myself the Klutz of the Year Award. Any of you may claim this award for yourself, if you like. But tell us why you deserve it!



My mother said my small feet caused me to fall all the time. I’m glad I fell a lot as a child because now, as an older woman, I can’t blame it on my age or lessening agility. It hasn’t been more than two months since I fell out of my Prius. Actually I fell when I was trying to get into it while it was rolling backwards, and landed on my back with it coming at me, door first. My friend Robert somehow got into the driver’s seat and stopped the car before it hit me or anything else, then jumped out of the car and brushed me off. I couldn’t stop laughing. I laughed all night long.

falling 4

This time I tripped over a jut up in the sidewalk no larger than a half an inch or so. I managed to gash my forehead, scrape the entire top and side of my nose, and under my nose. I have a flexible nose! I only scratched up old scars on my face, ruined a pair of pants, and barely scraped the shape of California into my knee under a bright red nasty owie that alternates between hurting and nothing.

A man ran over from the restaurant that watched me fall, and tried to help, but frankly I wanted to sit/lie there for a minute. He left when I was so unaccepting of his help.  I was just hoping that my too-tight pants had not slid down. I felt drafty, and I knew I would have to bend over, and get on all fours to get up. Finally, with my friend Mary’s help I made it to my car, but every question she asked me, I heard this childish little voice coming out of me.

“Does it hurt?”


“Where, what hurts the most?”

“I don’t know.”

I went to the driver’s side and could hardly open the door. To credit me a little, I was driving Vince’s car and the remote key didn’t work, so I had to press this little spot on the key about 1/16″ or less in size with my shaky finger, to release the manual key, then turn the key correctly to fit in the lock, and finally to figure out which way to turn it.

I did all the steps wrong the first time, which led Mary to ask,”Can you drive OK?”

“I don’t know. I feel sick.”

“I’ll drive. You’ll just have to remind me how to drive your car.”

She got into the driver’s side, and I sat for a minute. She was late to work, but I thought, I’m not sure I can tell her how to drive.

The more she talked to me, the more nervous she got, I think. I cleaned the blood off my forehead to keep from looking so much like a zombie. It took a while to unzip my first aid pouch, but I managed to get a band-aid opened and on face without covering my eye. After a few minutes of rest, my stomach stopped churning. My head still hurt, but not so much that I could  think a little straighter. I got out, traded places with Mary, and drove her to work. I still had to drive nearly an hour to get home.

Vince just shook his head when he saw my face. I can’t say he smiled, but I can’t say he wasn’t trying really hard not to.

I didn’t want to go anywhere today, but I had promised to take pictures of two businesses and write articles for our Kiwanis magazine, “What’s Happening in the Foothills.” We always save these things until the last-minute, so I couldn’t back out. The deadline was Feb. 1st.

When I got to the Runway Cafe ten minutes late, Sally said, “Well you don’t look as bad as I thought you would. Do you have a headache?”

I had only been up about 40 minutes or so, and the Tylenol hadn’t taken effect yet. I told her I still had a little headache. So she told me about a woman, younger than I am, who had a headache from falling and died two days later. That cured my headache, but not my hypochondria. I’m feeling downright frisky right now in the middle of the night when I don’t dare fall asleep because I might not wake up. So that’s my story.

When I shared on Facebook about my most recent face first run-in with a cement sidewalk, I received condolences and some wonderful stories.


My friend “Tani” shared the funniest one.

The story of the amazing falling woman, aka me. It had rained earlier that day so was glad it stopped so we could go to the RV show at the fairgrounds. Hundreds of RV’s and people in the parking lot looking at row after row of RV’s, they had the prices in the windows and that is my reason for not seeing the pot hole, I was walking and looking up!! Leave it to me to step on the edge, twist my ankle and sprawl out face first. It took me a minute to realize nothing was broken only a small knee gash and palms scrapped up with asphalt. 3 people picked me up, I hobbled to the restroom and cleaned up. I’m outa there….at the end of the day we decided to have a nice dinner at one of the popular restaurants in Eugene, was happy we didn’t have too long of a wait for a Saturday night. Had a great dinner and as we were leaving by the restaurant’s main front area I noticed a really nice wine cellar and was curious to take a look inside. I was excited as I had never been in anything like that. So as I entered the cellar I did not see the step down at the doorway…yep…down again. I tumble into the wine cellar landing on my back. So there I am lying there in my big bulky coat, staring in disbelief, at the ceiling. All of a sudden I burst out laughing over that fact that I have actually fallen twice in one day in public. The hostess follows my hubby into the room only to find an old lady laughing hysterically on the floor of the wine cellar. They help me up and I continue to laugh as Paul escorts me quickly to the car. The next day….I’m really sore. The end


So would you like to claim the award for yourself? Have you been klutzy this year yet, or were you klutzy some other year? I’d love to pass this award on. If you tell a long story that you don’t want to waste in my comment section, and want to post it on your blog, feel free to post a link.


How to Write a Synopsis for Your Next Big Project: A Synopsis

A fallen ego maniac, I had the idea that because I am so old and have written for so long that I must know how to do what I do every day – WRITE — and be pretty good at it.  hahaha Teachers think that, you know. In our defense, we have to or the kids would eat us alive. Frankly, we spend our whole careers learning to teach writing, so we should know something. But the truth is…

BOV 2013 Purple 5

After tackling one new writing project after another….

  1. First a blog, (I’m still learning new things every day.)
  2. I braved a NaNoWriMo novel.
  3. Carol convinced me to take a children’s story class, and I wrote several (almost ready) children’s picture book stories.
  4. Then a local history book for Arcadia Publishing Co.
  5. Now back to my novel.

SFW misc Benches 2

…I admit there are a few many things that  I don’t know. (duh!) Now I’m checking first with other experts to see what they say.  Writing a Synopsis is a link to a Writer’s Digest page – links to several articles about how to write a synopsis. Here is a synopsis of my favorite by Beth Anderson.

Does your writing meander?
Does your writing meander? Writing a synopsis ill help.

Seven  Sentence Synopsis

  1. Write a sentence that tells what your book or article is about, and names the major characters.
  2. Explain the beginning in one sentence.
  3. The third sentence tells the end of the book. Don’t pull any punches here. Spit it out. The boy gets the girl. The gorilla dies. The tooth fairy drops all the children’s teeth into magic water, and they change into dentures.
  4. Write a sentence about each major point of action in the story, and put those between step two and three.

That’s it. Step one, done.

Step Two – Write a One Page Synopsis

  1. Use your same opening sentence, then describe the beginning in a paragraph.
  2. Write two or three paragraphs describing the major points of action.
  3. Finish with a short paragraph about the end of the book.  Again, you don’t try to trick any readers here. A synopsis is to sell your book to a busy agent.

Step Three – Write a Three Page Synopsis

Add more action points and obstacles. Add secondary characters. Tell, don’t show!

Step Four – Write a Six Page Synopsis

Add more action points and obstacles. Add secondary characters. Make sure the road-blocks get more obstacally as the plot thickens. Characters never come out unscathed until the end of the book where they emerge scratched and smiling, prize in hand, and not a hair out-of-place.

Step Five – Write a Twelve Page Synopsis

By the time you add more obstacles and action points, your book is finished. All that remains is to add the dialogue and describe the setting. The best part is you know how it’s going to end.  Those pesky characters can’t sneak up on you and write their own script. Oops. They can?  Yep, these experts say they can, so watch out.  However, you have it pretty much in control.

No David's nose

How to Write Essays to a Prompt for Tests, Work, or School

Sample Prompt: Explain a complicated process that you can do well to someone who doesn’t know how to do it.

If a writer knows enough about what he is writing about, he may omit things that he knows. Ernest Hemingway

Writing Is a Complicated Process                                         Do you struggle when you have to take a writing test, or write a report? As a teacher/consultant writing essays was my forté, yet writing to a prompt is a complicated task.  When I think about my professional life, I probably spent more time writing than almost any other single activity, either writing or grading essays for over 20 years.  Writing professionals have boiled essay writing down to a few steps which can be easily explained to someone who doesn’t write.  While most people THINK they know how to write if they can put words down on paper, they struggle to write even a simple five paragraph essay to answer a prompt.

Notice the blingy water.
Notice the blingy water.

Definition of an Essay

Commonly essays fall into four categories : expository, descriptive, narrative, and argumentative. Essays  convey information rather than tell a story, although they may use facts or short stories to persuade or convince readers to take action. An essay consists of three parts:  an opening paragraph, the body, and the conclusion.  Many teachers in our county use Step Up to Writing to teach this process to students and teachers alike.
  1. An opening paragraph restates the prompt stating three or more examples or facts.
  2. Body paragraphs expand on the three or four facts, one paragraph per main idea.
  3. The concluding paragraph points back to the opening paragraph and summarizes how the paragraph addressed the stated prompt.
PG and Pie
Ideas Matter: Brainstorm and Analyze  Before Writing 
Step Up to Writing  steps sound simple enough.  However, even though the process is simple, fuzzy ideas swim in the writer’s head and often come out jumbled.  Maybe the writer knows nothing about the prompt. Before I write anything I take a few minutes to ask myself questions about the prompt.  I usually jot down some notes in an informal list or outline.  If I can use the computer during the test or when writing for publication I search for a quotation and a definition or explanation of my topic. Most important: Make sure to answer the prompt.
  1. Analyze the prompt or break it into pieces.  Ask, “What DO I know about the prompt?  OR How can I relate it to something I know better and still answer the prompt?”
  2. Ask, “What can I write in a few paragraphs without repeating myself?”
  3. Consider, “Who is my audience?”
Research , Research, Research
Writing to a prompt is difficult for many reasons.  An author who does not know much about the topic may cut corners and merely copy the prompt word and repeat it multiple times throughout the essay. Unprofessional essays often start and end with the words, “Today I am going to write about (prompt words)”  This might be acceptable in first grade, but beyond that writers need to display more sophistication in their writing.
  1. Wikipedia is fine for quick bits of information partly because each entry has a bibliography which the writer can also check. It is good to have more sources than just Wikipedia. I use Google, but there are other ways of getting information quickly off the internet.
  2. Books and articles provide detailed information. Digitized books allow the writer to mark what he or she wants to remember and to sort out unnecessary information.
  3. If time is not an issue, articles and scanned documents can be processed into searchable PDF documents using inexpensive or free downloadable programs.
  4. When writers don’t have these options, note cards work well. I always note the title, author and page number, so I can go back and check my sketchy notes. I don’t take time to write detailed notes.
  5. Highlighting works well on printed material that the writer can keep.
  6. Post-it notes allow the writer to comment on materials and books he or she needs to return. Writers can color code these by book or article, topic, time period or any category they choose.
writing, blogging, book reviews, New_Office04
Weed Out All But the Most Important Information
Essayists can’t use it all.  According to the brain laboratory at UCLA, people have more than 70,000 thoughts per day. One short essay can’t utilize all these thoughts, so the first step is deciding which thoughts are keepers. When I write under pressure on a topic, use these techniques.
  1. Brainstorm on paper. Lists, webs, and tables all work well.
  2. Move to an outline. Find connections between the list of words. Sort them into categories. Writers may do this mentally, but it is more effective if they write it down. I use the old fashioned outline because it puts my thoughts into a hierarchy, most important first.Manny's Trip to Spain
Match Writing Style and Vocabulary to the Task
Prompt writing is a formal process.  Vocabulary, spelling, and style become issues.  My blogging style is informal, uses simple vocabulary and sentence structure, and I attempt humor. Formal writing style differs in several ways. 
  1. It uses a more academic lexicon or vocabulary.
  2. Sentence structure varies.
  3. The tone is generally, but not always, more serious.
  4. Each sentence starts with different words.  For example, after I have written this essay, I will go back over it and circle all the initial words.  If I have more than two or three of the same beginning word, I will change one of them.  I will look at how many of the same words I use within the sentence as well.  Word processing programs and the internet have dictionaries and a thesaurus at the writer’s fingertips, so there is no excuse for repeating the same word constantly. If the internet is not allowed during an essay, use the scratch paper to free-associate synonyms.
  5. Spelling is most difficult for me if the internet is not an option. When I can’t remember how to spell a word, I substitute a word I can spell.
  6. Punctuation errors show up, and even though there are differences about how to punctuate. Study Strunk and White before you take a test, or take it with you.
Ralph's remodel003
Keep the Conclusion Uncluttered
Students, test takers, or essayists who utilize these tips will have a passable essay for any project, exam, job application, or work-related report, and become an expert in writing to a prompt.
Related articles

Practicing Descriptive Writing Here – Brain Fog? – No, Real Fog!

It is not the clear-sighted who rule the world. Great achievements are accomplished in a blessed, warm fog.


If you can get away from it, fog is beautiful. This week Debbie Simorte, my Girls on Fire editor, asked me how the weather in Visalia could be sunny and foggy at the same time, like that was a Kansas City impossibility. When I drove to Los Angeles this weekend for a meeting, I had to drive almost to Tejon Pass before I found an example of what sunny fog looked like. Visalia had no sun that day, only fog. The freeway, I5 South, split the fog in half as it curled up for a nap against the mountains north of the Grapevine.


As I drove south, the light haze on east side of the freeway foretold of the clear skies awaiting me in Los Angeles. The beauty of the graduated fading fog enticed me off the freeway long enough to snap these pictures before I continued on my trip. I didn’t move much from one spot as I rotated from east to west to capture the entire scene for you.

My favorite feathering of fog

My favorite feathering of fog

Tinkerbell should be in this picture somewhere sprinkling magical fairy dust in the mountain canyons. It seemed unreal to me.

fog3 The arc of fog needed a rainbow marking its border, but none appeared. It remained stark white. Fog tried to bar the sun from entering the valley.  At about two in the afternoon the sun tried to burn a hole in the clouds as it had already done on the east side of the freeway. I couldn’t stay to see if it succeeded.



Not a dense fog
Not a dense fog

I stood behind the tree and tried to shoot up at the sun, but the effect didn’t please me.

foggy night
foggy night

I left the meeting at 4:29 PM the next day in a rush to get over the Grapevine while it was still light. Dropping into the Central Valley, the fog greeted me. It probably had never left. At at night fog no longer felt benign. I took this picture through my dirty windshield as I ripped through the fog approaching Bakersfield, I must have plowed the clouds away. On a closer inspection microdrops of dust on my windshield remained as a calling card of the fleeing mist. I look straight ahead. I could see clearly now. When I looked to my left, there it was. It hovered just off the freeway at a gas station ready to pounce on me again. Once Bakersfield’s lights no longer protected my car and me from the fog, the sky dropped puffs of translucent cotton air onto the road. My car became a vacuum cleaner sucking in white dust bunnies. The stronger the suction, the thicker the fog became. By the time I turned off the freeway onto a country road, I could see only three lines ahead of me. A car passed me going the other direction. I counted to six as I watched him in my rearview mirror, and poof, he was gone. Fog turned the roads I know so well into a strangers.

For those of you who have never experienced Valley fog, this is a taste of what the natives call “Tule fog.” How do you describe the fog in your area?

Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.


Social Mediadizing Social Media: Three Tricks That Didn’t Work – Exactly As Planned

I consider blogging social media. Yet we need to use social media for people to notice our social media. Today I experimented with social mediadizing my social media. I don’t know how it will go, but here’s what I did.


1. I edited my WP page about blogging and added a page, “Marketing Your Blog.”

2. I googled hashtags for Twitter because people told me to include # hashtags after the messages so that they go to more people. Google found several blogs that had already done the work of finding hashtags for authors, bloggers, photographers, editors… I cut and pasted some hashtags onto my new WP page and credited the blogs. Easy peasy.

hashtag tweeting3. Then I told my twitter world all about my new page on WordPress that will help me to market my blog using hashtags. At the end of the link to my tweet, I copied several of the recommended hashtags.  Hold on. I’m going to check my page views. Be right back… I’m back. (… means pause)

twiddle my thumbs

So far no one has noticed my new page, not one click, hashtag or no hashtag.  But my Twitter account buzzed all day. I got 2 new followers, 1 person retweeted a post, two people wrote their own description and referred their followers to my post, and 6 people liked it. That was pretty amazing to me.  Thank you Twitter friends. :)

While I’ve Twittered, I ignored my FB fan page, and I’ve lost one poor soul from my likes. Fell off my wall, like Humpty Dumpty and is probably lying in a broken gooey heap at the bottom of the internet somewhere dark and ignored.

Humpty Dumpty


Social media is like juggling. I get one media up in the air, and the others crash down on my head. It amazes me how many followers some of my Twitter-happy experts have. Into the K’s.

Really? Remember the 1960s ads that promised that you could make $5,000 from home without a high school education just by licking envelopes? I think I sent in a few envelopes when I was 10.



One tweeter published 200 more tweets than I did over the couple of years we’d both been tweeting, but listen to this – He had about 43K followers and I have 415. So I asked myself, am I tweeting too much? The less you tweet the better you feel, so don’t tweet yourself at every meal?

One self-proclaimed twitter expert said, “Tweet your posts two times a day because people might miss them otherwise.”

follow me


But If I do that I’ll end up with twice as many tweets as that 43K guy and have 418 followers, and he will tweet maybe two times and have 86K followers. (Not that I care, really, I think it is an interesting phenomenon.)

cat, pet, writing, blogging

This is pretty boring to most of you, but elementary teachers birdwalk.

writing description.
writing description.

Yesterday, when I wrote the description of the house that I thought I asked you to describe, I obsessed about the angle of the downward slope of the roof.  I drew it on a piece of paper, then I asked Vince to estimate it. Then I measured it with a protractor. He was right, 3 degrees.

Now does anyone honestly care that my fictitious character, Sarah Clay’s house in Girls on Fire has a roof that slopes from east to west by 3 degrees? I doubt it, but I probably spent 10 minutes trying to figure it out.

fingers crossed

By the way. it turned out that the way I posted my pictures yesterday some of you Ralph thought I needed a description of this girl with her fingers crossed. He came up with some creative descriptions.

Brandi Jo Newman, another person who stole Another Day’s picture and photoshopped her out of it. :(


Tell me what you did this weekend.  I hope you did something more useful yesterday than I did.

And how do you mediaize your social media?

Thanks for the pictures, Google.

Writing Description: What Are Your Tips?

Write posts on Word. Save posts often. Will I never learn? I deleted a picture from my blog post, and the entire post disappeared.

writing, fiction, Visalia, Sarah's house, Beverly Glen1

Vince sells real estate. Yesterday I rode to Visalia with him to take pictures of places in my book I couldn’t remember well enough to describe. I am not good at writing riveting descriptions. I get lost on the cracks or shadows in the road, and miss the important details. Or my mind focuses on an imaginary conversation between me and a real person, two imaginary people, or me and someone imaginary, who might be real, but would never talk like we do. This takes so much of my attention that I probably should never drive. Vince asks me if I remember going places. Sometimes I wasn’t with him, so I have a good excuse for not remembering, but just as likely, I sat right next to him having an internal conversation.

blogging, books, Visalia, Tulare County
blogging, books, Visalia, Tulare County

Since I struggle with descriptions I rely on others to help me. George Pilling wrote a great book, A Walk Around Visalia. He’s told me what trees grow where, which neighborhoods my characters would choose, and what’s around them. He had a gorgeous picture of the house I pictured for Sarah. Yesterday Vince and I found it in person.

writing description.
writing description.

I spent about 20 minutes writing a detailed description of this picture. I ignored the cracks in the road.  How would you describe the house picture?

fingers crossed

I promise I won’t copy… OK, not without your permission.

Why It’s a Good Reason to Delete “Shitty Drafts” and a Short List of Tips to Improve Them

writing, fiction
writing, fiction

The naughty words are from Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life.  Anne didn’t write me and tell me to cut my drafts, “shitty” or otherwise. In fact, she gave me permission to write them.  My editor Debbie Simorte told me it was a good idea to delete them from my blog, for the same reason spammers give me.

“Your site is rife with errors.”

Rife with Errors

Excuse me, Ms Spammer, “rife with errors.” I have a few too many, I admit, but I think rife is harsh.

But Debbie agreed, even though she didn’t put it like that.  Editors look at your site. If they see a Work in Progress (WIP), see it even has an acronym, they wonder if the rest of the story will be a WIP.

Internet users
Internet statics users Worldwide



To the 10 faithful Girls on Fire world-wide readers, I apologise, but you’ve already read it anyway. So no apology needed, right? To the 3.05 billion internet users who hadn’t seen it yet, I’m sorry, but you will have to buy the book when it comes out.

Anne Lamott’s Stages of Drafts and Tips to Get Through Them

1. DOWNDRAFT:  First draft – get it down

  • Avoid so much draft three – dental work –  by setting your page the way publishers will want it – even if you are just practicing.
    • double space
    • indent paragraphs
    • use only one space between sentences instead of the old-fashioned two. The best way to do this is to turn on the little button ¶ that hides in various places depending on what program you use. This magic button shows you how many spaces you have everywhere.
  • Write out small numbers.  Just get in the habit while you are putting things down. It makes it easier later and it doesn’t slow down your spontaneity.
  • Sometimes in the middle of your editing you have to draft an entirely new chapter to fill in the holes. I did that today. Forgive yourself and with that chapter you are back to stage one.

    Down Draft - Ger 'er down!
    Down Draft – Ger ‘er down!

2. UPDRAFT:  Second draft – fix it up

  • Ask someone like you husband who never read a romance in his life to read it.  His insight will astound you.  You will learn how men think, and more importantly how he thinks. He will be really honest and say things like, “You can’t wrestle a washer full of water. Have her turn off the water like this. Come here.” Or “This sounds petty like she is making fun of the blind. Pick a different cause. Why did she say something stupid like that?”

    Editing - picky picky
    Editing – picky picky

3. DENTAL DRAFT: Third draft – check each tooth

  • This is a job for another pair of eyes. A very picky pair. This person finds errors that run between chapters like “Ted is 88 in chapter 2 and 89 in chapter 1.” Or  “Why did Vanessa move away from Sarah’s into a hotel.  I like her living with Sarah, but then you have to deal with her comments to Tani in Chapter 2.
  • This is where you also pick up the extra space between sentences, commas on the inside of quotation marks, and misplaced commas in general,
  • Eliminate passive verbs and redundant words

What I realized is that we  weave a net when we birth fiction characters, just like life.  When we edit one thing we may miss the other connections that one statement makes. You need those extra eyes.

That’s it for today.  Thanks for the pictures, Google.

Notes on Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life – funniest book ever.  I can hardly get through this.  I’m 17% done.  I have written something since I was old enough to write.  No pressure to publish, just love to write.  Can’t help myself really.  It just flows out. Anne Lamott can tell you exactly what happens.

What should I write today? the autobiography of my childhood, or a book about the history of – oh say – women?


“You sit down to write… what you have in mind is…a history of-oh say- say women. …Then your mental illnesses arrive at the desk like your sickest, most secretive relatives.  … After a moment I may notice that I’m trying to decide whether or not I am too old for orthodontia, and whether right now would be a good time to make a few calls, and then I start to think about learning to use makeup and how maybe I could find some boyfriend who is not a total and complete fixer upper, and then my life would be totally great… Then I think about all the people I should have called back before I sat down to work and how I should probably at least check in with my agent and tell him this great idea I have and see if he thinks it’s a good idea, and see if he thinks I need orthodontia-if that is what he is actually thinking whenever we have lunch together…”

Maybe you will be better at finishing this book than I am so far.  As soon as I start reading, I have to write the same thing that happened to me only in a different way.

So I’m trying to get through at least one more chapter without stopping to write any more of her funniness.

HOWEVER, I’ve been on a writing roll since 12-27, but husband told me yesterday.  I thought he meant 12:27, but that’s another argument. (minor, minor one folks)

The other day after rewriting Girls on Fire for at least four hours, I took a break to take the dog outside.  The good news is that I had dressed.  Many days I don’t change out of pajamas until I know I have to go somewhere, and now I hate to leave the house for any reason.  But that day, I did throw on some jeans and a t-shirt I’d been wearing for a day or two.

Retirement MMP & K

My hair was still rumpled in a way only women with hot flashes understand.  The straight bangs that used to be thin and straight are now fluffy in all directions.  The back of my hair sticks out about an inch from my head then falls limply leaving a huge part the size of my  hand in the back.

bing car

So I walked out on the front porch and waited for the dog, who I’ve ignored all morning, and who drives up but the Bing car.  Maybe you’ve never seen the Bing car.  It’s white with a black sign on the side that says Bing.  On the top is a 5 or 6 foot pole, and on top of the pole is a camera(s).  The Bing car drives down your road at about 30 miles an hour shooting pictures from all angles from the camera(s) perched on top of the car.  The result will be pictures you can zoom down to see your street at any angle.  I’ve always worried that one of these cars will shoot through the fence in the backyard when I’m skinny dipping at midnight so no one will see me.  So far, until last week I’ve been safe, but last week the Bing car drove down my street.

Road Trip
Road Trip Yes, it took plenty of gas.  

I wouldn’t worry as much, but the picture that is up on Google has been there since we had our GMC motor home, which was about 6 years ago.  So I’m obsessing that this horrible series of shots of my bad hair day will be up there for everyone to see for the next 6-7 years. What if I become famous?  Will newspapers pick this up and publish it?

Now do you see why I’ve only read 17% of this wonderful book?  You’d better read it yourself instead of waiting for a book review from me.

How are you today?

Getting More Traffic: How Effective Are Scheduled Topics or Columns for a Blog?

This question stemmed from a conversation I had with Leanne Cole, a blogging friend from Australia.  We both scheduled posts and compared. Her audience grew and mine did not.  I wrote about it in August 2013, and that article drew a large audience. I thought I would repost it, but it rambled. Looking back over the history of my blog gives this post a different perspective.

blogging skills, non-fiction
blogging skills, non-fiction

Over a three-year period my statistics remained consistent when I posted regularly.  “How to” commentaries got the most traffic. However, when I experimented briefly with scheduling columns, the number of visitors dropped.   In spite of the brevity of the trial, there are lessons to learn from my failure to increase traffic.

  1. Weather – I blamed decreased traffic on the weather. Why not?
    • In Northern Hemisphere summers people have time off and are active outside and traveling.
    • In the winter and spring they are busy with holidays.
    • That just left the fall. I am a teacher. School starts in the fall. Teachers look for new ideas. My advice is to schedule topics in the fall.
  2. Consistency – Consistency means that week in and week out the scheduled column appears. Forget what you read in #1, and don’t blame the weather.
    • Realistically scheduled pieces extend beyond a season, and seasons differ with international audiences.
    • Historically newspapers set the journalistic standard when they featured columns each week. Readers came to expect a certain type of writing, humor, or information from a columnist. Click here for a world-wide list of columnists.
    • Consistent blogging about topics requires knowledge, research, and interest. Readers look for fresh information on a topic of interest.
  3. Topics – Topics must interest others as much as they do the writer to increase traffic.
    • Topics that work best stay within subgenres of the blog’s emphasis. In order for one writer to cover five topics credibly, they should relate their column to a theme: travel, photography, writing, book reviews.
    • Column titles need to hook readers yet be reliable and generic.  Post titles with a surprise element generate readers.  But with continuing material readers want to know what to expect such as “Dear Abby” or “The Rest of the Story.”
  4. Writing quality – Writers have one shot at building a lasting audience per reader.
    • Quality writing takes time for 99.9% of writers. Anne Lamott in Bird by Bird gave me courage to fail at writing, and rewriting. Writers need to count in failure time, and match the number of columns they write to the amount of available time they allot to the project.
    • Poor quality writing repels readers, creating long-lasting effects on a blogger’s statistics.
    • It is harder recapture a reader’s interest with the same weekly column if the first one they read was poor. Posts are more forgiving.
  5. Interaction with other blogs – This a necessary element for unknown bloggers, and most of us are unknown.
    • Blogging columns today have a different purpose than newspaper columns used to have because of the writer’s ability to interact with readers. It takes time to comment to readers who visit your blog. It takes more time to reciprocate and visit their blog and respond to their piece.
    • Writers who fail to connect with readers, will get few return visitors unless they are already famous.
    • Return visitors create the genre of blogging, and without them, why blog?

Laurie and Paula copy

My 2013 conclusions:

“The moral of this post is that I will get around to changing my schedule eventually, or rearranging it, but I’m going to keep on and try to lose a few more viewers for a little longer. Then I’m going on a real push to get serious about blogging, and bring my followers up to at least 5,000, and my total views per month to at least 20,000.

However, before I do that, I’ve got to get my best-selling book written and published, and have a showing of my photography at a famous California art gallery.  I’m also thinking about becoming a body-builder and I’m definitely going to start taking Yoga, so I can teach it until I’m 95 years old.

Gosh, I have so much to do before I retire for good.  I’d better get going.  First, I’m going out to lunch and shopping with Paula…”

Blogging is hard

My 2015 Conclusions:

  1. My experiment failed because I did not know enough about five different topics to write off the cuff about them every week. I was unrealistic and narcissistic to think I could do justice to multiple unrelated topics.
  2. My titles were not clear: “Sordid Stories.” The title had alliteration, but it portrayed a foggy idea. Sexy, Criminal, Gossip? My intentions were unclear. I tried to be funny, which did not work over the course of my experiment.
  3. Be happy with the successful goal of going to lunch with Paula, or change your tactics.

Thanks for the images, Google.

What are your conclusions?


Streaming Thoughts

Dentist Lincoln Park Chicago

A healthy smile is a beautiful smile

Hoxton Spanish Tutor Info

This site is the cat’s pajamas

The Book Review Directory

Over 100 Book Reviewer Bloggers Listed

Suzie Speaks

The Adventures Of a Thirty-Something Life

TC History Gal Productions

writing and blogging my professional blog

Sohinee's Blog

Random Subjects!

Joseph Doyle & S.F.I.Ireland Helping Community by Sharing Globally.

Our community shares & cares for all our affiliates, helping them realize their dreams of a better way of life.

Whittier Real Estate

Search all homes on the Whittier Real Estate market. Look through a variety of Homes available. View all Whittier Homes For Sale and find a great deal!

Christine R

Trying to keep the brain cells alive.

sallyhanan's blog

A writer's blog


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,346 other followers

%d bloggers like this: