For the Love of Valentine’s Day

Day 44 My Five Hundred Words Challenge.


It’s Valentine’s Day.
Maybe you think this is a manufactured Hallmark holiday, or you might really believe in the magic of love.
Romantic love is the big cliché for today. So let’s talk about a different kind of love, instead. A love that isn’t all Cupid and conversation hearts.
 Write about a time when love meant stepping out of your comfort zone, making a hard choice, or offering up a sacrifice.

As my blogging friends know, I’ve been writing my first romance/comedy novel since November.   Rewrite number five brings me to this episode that my friend Tonia Hurst suggested that I share with you today for Valentine’s Day.  Valentine’s Day knows no gender in love.  In kindergarten you learn that valentines are for everyone in the room.

Three friends, Trixie, Ann, and Sarah, went to Sarah’s condo for the weekend, where a series of misadventures struck. One disaster landed Sarah in the hospital, and brought Trixie’s new love, Nick, to visit from Southern California.   Today Trixie arises at 6:30 am, leaves the love of her life sleeping in HIS room, and drives 15 miles to the hospital to see her friend.

I don’t know that I would have picked this as a romantic moment, but you can decide for yourself.


Trixie:  unmarried friend in love with Nick

Sarah:  widowed friend always on the go, collapsed and had to go to the emergency room

Howdy Doody:  The nickname given to the nephrologist (kidney doctor) called in by the emergency room physician to run tests on Sarah.

Howdy Doody 3
Dr. Howdy Doody

Chapter Thirty-four

After Howdy Doody left, Sarah leaned back in the bed and adjusted the pillows.  Trixie walked up to Sarah’s bed, and sat down.

“Can you believe Howdy Doody getting in my face like that?  I’m bushed after that encounter.   He sure thinks he can push his weight around.”

“You sure gave us a scare, Sarah.  No wonder you were tired!  Sounds as though he’s targeting the sodas.  What a cutie.  I wonder if he is married.”

Howdy Doody 2

“Trixie, you enjoy playing Cupid now that he’s shot you in the heart.  Yeah, Sandstrom’s definitely my type.  He’s at least six feet five inches tall, and I’m only five feet tall when I stand perfectly straight.”

Sun streamed in the hospital room window making patterns on the bed.  Sarah traced them unconsciously as she talked.

“I recognize sarcasm when I hear it.  I think he’s perfect.”

“I need to research.  Can you find me a computer to use?”

“Sure, I’ll send my computer with the twins if they stop by.  You can call me and let me know when they are coming, or better yet, I’ll just leave it on the table.  Where are they?  Did they go out for some breakfast?”

“No, they went back to the condo to sleep.   How was your night?  Did you and Ann have dinner after you left?”

Sarah didn’t know that Ann had left.  Sarah wanted to discuss many things with Trixie, but her breakfast arrived, and she hadn’t eaten since breakfast yesterday.

“It is Sunday, right?” Sarah asked.

“Yes, at least you don’t have Alzheimer’s.”

Trixie was glad she had made it to the room in time to talk to the nephrologist.  Now she wasn’t as concerned that Sarah was not going to make it.  Sarah controlled her life. If Trixie had to bet on any of them living forever, it would be Sarah.

“This breakfast is awful, Trix.  Buy me a cinnamon roll and a decent cup of coffee.”

Old West Cinnamon Rolls, Pismo Beach
Old West Cinnamon Rolls, Pismo Beach

“Is there a better way to say that?  Have you ever heard of the word please, or better yet, would you please?  But the long answer is no.  Don’t draw me into your schemes for bringing you contraband.  I need to shove off.  Remember Nick is at the condo.  He’s not expecting the girls.  No telling what’s happened there.”

“Good idea, Trixie.  Hurry back, though.  I understand now when I hear nursing home residents yelling to get out.  I can’t believe I have to be camped out here when it’s seventy-five degrees and sunny outside.”

“Ok, I’ll touch bases with you later today, Sarah.”  Trixie told her.

“You know, don’t come back today.  Enjoy your time with Nick.  I’ll be fine.  Send the girls back as soon as they wake up.”

Sarah waved to her friend then settled back against the pillows and closed her eyes.  She was still pretty tired, and right this minute rest seemed to be the perfect prescription.

Sarah 1

Girls on Fire visits the editor this weekend, and expects to come home with a few band aids, but hopes to avoid major surgery.  Depending on the damages I’ll need to rebuild, this romantic comedy should be ready soon.

So do you agree with Tonia, that this has some merit for Valentine’s Day to fit this prompt?

Manny Here

Dear Friends,

I am writing for Mom this morning cause she has her nose in her book all the time.

TC at work2

I’ve been making some resolutions as I sit here on my travel blanket and have all my gear around me.

Manny studies his options

  1. I want to go somewhere else.  Mom wants me to write my own blog, but that’s her resolution.  Do your parents make resolutions for you?
  2. I am going to resolve not to get so mad at her for making resolutions for me.  After all she did send me all over the world with her friends.  I can’t complain or you will all revolt instead of resolve.
  3. I’m going to have more fun in 2014 without landing on my face doing it!

M & J in Frankfurt

What are your resolutions for 2014?

M & J landed

P.S. This was Justin and I in Frankfurt.  It was a blast!  I love Mom for letting me go.  Thanks Carol and Glenn, and of course, my friend, Justin.  🙂

How to Conquer the Mountain of Manuscript Editing

You think you’ve done a great thing when your screen is filled with words and maybe some pictures.  As you read each chapter and smile, your accomplishment amazes you.  Pity the poor NSA person who has to read every keystroke because you’ve already made many changes before you completed the chapter.

Manny in prison

You finish.  It’s 50,000 words, and there’s a plot, characters, a setting, all the things it needs to turn it in to NaNoWriMo.  So you cut, paste, send, and they send back a verification.  You are done.  Take it to the publisher.  Right?  Not so fast.  There could be an error or two.  Oops, that was almost a month ago, and what happened?  Maddie sent me a great article she wrote on editing, so I’m working through it, but here are some additional tips I’ve found as I’m climbing the editing  mountain RANGE.

Manny's Big Boy pants

  1. Put on your big girl/boy pants.  Be prepared that some people won’t like things, or that the mistakes will overwhelm them, or they will be bored.  I’ve done a lot of writing, so I know to expect this, but it is always difficult at first because you have been smiling at your cleverness for a whole month, and you think everyone else is going to be blown away by what a magnificent writer you have become.  You need some of that self-confidence, or you’d never write in the first place.  If your writing is really horrible, probably you’ll never hear from the reader again, so accept the criticisms as a good sign.
  2. Enlist the help of close friends and family.  My husband didn’t read every word. In fact, he got stuck on Chapter One, and hasn’t finished it yet.  Nonetheless, he has been a great help.  I’ve gotten ideas from lots of other readers, and we talk them over.  For example, one reader said, “Take Trixie where you’d never go, and let her respond.”  Do you know how difficult that is to do?  My thought was where in the world could I take her?  My husband suggested a male strip tease club.  Sorry, I’ve been there – only once when I was in my 20s, BTW.  I begged my date to take me when we were in the big city of San Francisco.  It was a shock to see how ugly those girls were.  We stayed a few minutes, and left. After shocking my husband with this information, we got down to business and brainstormed where I might “take Trixie” that I’ve never been, and he came up with a great idea that ended up not being a place at all.  It means some research and adjusting, but it is very doable, and I’m pleased with the results.  I’m still smiling, so far at my little creation.
  3.  Get readers from outside your family and local area to read and help you see what is unclear.  One reader told me to explain what made my setting unique.   MORE research comes into play at this level of revision.  I used several books about my target city.  I looked up controversies on the internet.  I spent quite a bit of time looking at what others said about where I set my story.  I am very familiar with the place.  The investigations gave me new perspective.   So once I had the feelings are on the paper, I needed to go back and add those things that are unimportant to me.  It might be different to you.  You might notice the way things look, and have to go back and add the emotions.  Everyone is unique.  I had to cut back on my dialogue, and give the readers a little background information.
  4. Don’t worry about people liking or disliking certain characters.  One reader told me she didn’t like the character that I based mostly on my personality.   Oh well, my favorite character ISN’T me.  I can go back and change things about her/him.  Give him/her different interests, reactions, looks, setting, family.  I can even change “me” into a man or my male model into a woman. You name it, with the flick of a finger, you and your friends (who are your other model characters) are no longer in the book.  So don’t get hung up on whether someone likes your favorite character or not. It’s nothing personal. Different people appeal to different folks. That’s good.
Manny and Justina
Manny and Justina, with just a few easy changes! 🙂

So now it’s all good, (for now).  Darla says I’ll be done when I’m 64.  But YOU are ready to follow Maddie’s plan of attack.

Many thanks to Carol, The Eternal Traveler, for the many pictures she sent of Manny traveling the world over.  The photoshopping is mine.  You can catch Justin at

Any guesses about where Manny is in these pictures?  Setting IS important, yes?



Jessie, the Family Gossip

You have probably guessed that once I finished the NaNoWriMo my novel wasn’t finished.  After JT told me I needed about 5-6 more edits, I decided he was right, and I haven’t stopped since, except to go to Hawaii.

The result is that I don’t get much else done except CCSS business.  My blogging has gone south for the winter, and these were my best months last year.  Would it be ok with you if I post a few excerpts from Girls on Fire and you can give me some feedback?  It’s 61,000 words so far, so don’t worry, Meme, I won’t post them all.

I’ve been recording the chapters as I edit to help catch errors.  So far it has just caused me to write more, and probably make new errors.  I’m including a recording of this portion to see how you like it.  I have a friend in Indiana who actually does this kind of thing, and I’m no professional, as you will hear.  I have a lisp.   I hope this audio works I haven’t done this before.

Could this be Trixie?

This is a brief phone conversation between Trixie, one of the three main characters, and her sister, Jessie, who is one year younger that she.  Trixie, aged 61, has never married, and met a man at a conference with whom she thinks she fell instantly in love.  He doesn’t call her much, but she hopes he will.

Excerpt Chapter Two

Excerpt from Chapter Two

The phone rang.  Where did I leave the stupid phone? The only nice thing about the stationary phones of her youth was that she could always find the big beige box that hung on the kitchen wall. Trixie ran to the back of the house towards her office, catching the phone on the last ring, but banged her toe on the chair as she lunged for the phone.  “Ow.  Oh hi Jess.  No I hadn’t heard.  She doesn’t feel like going?  Uhhuh. Yeah. That’s normal.   Her toenails hurt too much to go to work?  Mine hurts right now.  Oh yeah, I bumped it again.  Yeah.  OK. How’s that working out with..?  Uh Uhhuh. She did?  Seriously, she fell off the table?  I’m not even going to ask.  Good thing you keep up with the relatives, Jess.  I don’t have that much patience.  Uhhuh. You told who about Nick?  I don’t even know what’s going on about Nick?  Uhhuh. OK.  Sure.”  Jessie didn’t talk long, just long enough to get her unrelated news tidbits scattered throughout the family lines.

Jessie’s so concerned now that I might have a boyfriend.  Why did I even tell her?  Trixie knew from years of training not to tell privileged information, but Jessie was the official family correspondent.   She slurps in family information like a whale combs in krill. “Cousin Cammy has the flu.  Kurt, our neighbor Jessica’s son, has grown an inch a month for the past three months, and she has to buy all new pants for him. Trixie might have a boyfriend.”

“Oh well, Sammy I’m too old to care what people think.  Let’s see if Nick emailed me again.  Mr. Claws, get off the computer.  You know that’s where I want to go next, don’t you?  You love me too much.  Now let’s see if Nick thinks as much of me as much as you do.”

I have lots of new pictures of Manny, so hopefully I’ll have some of those to share as the week goes by.  Have a great week this week. Enjoy your holiday celebrations.  🙂



A Flurry of Book Reviews

When I have too much to do, I do more so that nothing gets done perfectly.  In November I chose to write 50,000 words for NaNoWriMo.  I completed the basic novel, but that drove me to read for the purpose of looking at plot, dialogue, description, and general organization of novels.  In December quest for improving my novel, so far I have read 5 novels, 2 on Kindle and 3 in paperback.  I clocked over 20 hours of plane time, not counting waiting in airports over the last three weeks, and when I couldn’t use my phone, I had a paperback to tide me over.  On my phone, I just finished By Reason of Insanity by Randy Singer, and The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler.  In paperback, I read Twilight by Sherryl Woods, The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling, and James Patterson’s Kill Me if You Can.  As an aside, if you buy a book in the Sacramento airport, you can return it and get 50% off the purchase price.  This works well if your plane doesn’t return at 10:35 p.m. and the bookstore open, and you’re not in a hurry to get to the hotel anyway.  I’ll give it to a friend.

The Casual Vacancy

The Casual Vacancy began with an unexpected death by natural causes of a leader in the local political system.  Though I read this one first, and it is one of the longest at 502 pages, it might be the most memorable.  Dowling separated dialogue with miles of description. …”they had a clear view of the dark skeleton of the ruined abbey that dominated the town’s skyline… (4)”  Right away you have a clue that this the setting will be in England, and the political system is church oriented.  The plot is intricate, and character development intense and intertwined.  Adults have their dramas, but their children’s interactions and deceptions are what drive the story to a dramatic finish.  Sex and bad language, graphic in places, wouldn’t necessarily be classified as erotic. This was the only 3 star book that I read, but it had 4,347 reviewers.  The sheer numbers of reviewers tell me that it deserves many more stars than it received.  The descriptions deserve hours of copious note taking to usurp her unique wording and turn them into clichés.


Twilight like The Casual Vacancy started out with a death, but this one was the murder of a pastor who worked with inner city children in Chicago.  The widows in both novels did not appreciate the charity work that their husbands did for impoverished, street kids, and had church members who did everything but demonstrate the love of Christ.  Both widows had been devoted to their husbands, but immediately had suitors. In Twilight, dialogue drove the story more than description. The sex in Twilight, while less graphic than Dowling’s novel, stimulated the reader’s romantic imagination.   To me it was a little unbelievable, and less of a model for my writing.  Nonetheless it was a New York Times Best Seller, so people clearly liked it.  Only 13 people have reviewed this 4 star book on Amazon, so here’s my chance!


Kill Me If You Can by James Patterson and Marshall Karp was strictly a mystery with fast action on every page.  Indicative of the rapid pace, the book had 104 chapters, one for every change of conversation, and conversation guided this book as well as Twilight.  The minimal description moved briskly in short, choppy sentences.  “The talking was a big mistake.  Those extra few seconds were what I needed.  I pushed Katherine to the floor and flung the medical bag at Marta.”

The main character is a likable assassin with a conscience reminiscent of Jason Bourne, but with the twist that the reader doesn’t know who the “ghost” killer is right away. The romance in this book is cut and dried, in and out, probably erotic from a man’s perspective, but does nothing for a female reader.  This book is also a #1 best-selling author, and according to the clerk in the Honolulu airport, it was their best-selling book.  Two hundred ninety-eight reviewers on Amazon gave it a 4 star rating, too.  Mind Candy


A page turner on my iPhone, By Reason of Insanity, was more of a John Grisham type novel with 110 action-packed chapters and 382 pages.  No sex, but hints of electricity dotted this murder mystery.  Lots of people died, and some were presumed dead who didn’t die.  While this reader didn’t suspect the suspect, I had no clue who the real killer was.  Usually I guess wrong when I try to figure out mysteries, and this time was no different.  I can’t even figure out the mystery when I’m writing it.  The creep I thought did the deed, turned out to be the one who saved the day, but you may get it all wrong, too, and so I may have just told the end of the story.  The descriptions were not as outstanding as J.K.’s but they kept the reader interested.  “There are a million guys who would swallow broken glass just for a chance to take you out.”  I might be moved if a guy said that to me, but it didn’t trigger any romantic feelings in me as a reader. Since this was an e-reader, I have no idea how high it was on the book selling list, but along with 143 Amazon reviewers who rated it a 4 star novel, I enjoyed Insanity more that both Twilight and Kill Me If You Can, and, like millions of other readers, and I enjoyed them.

Accidental Tourist

Finally, the e-reader that I read because I borrowed its title, The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler was probably my favorite because it was so funny.  Like all the other books except Rowling’s it had 343 pages, but only twenty chapters, 120 reviews and 4 stars.  The reader meandered through laughable drivel in this book to discover the plot hidden among the hilarious conversations and descriptions.

“Maybe you should put on your glasses.”

“Putting on my glasses would help you to see?” …

“Did you see the boy with the motor cycle?

“What boy?”

“He was parked beneath the underpass.”

It’s crazy to ride a motorcycle on a day like today.”

Their conversations don’t flow with each other, typical of many real conversations.  The protagonist inserts many of his own thoughts which are just as inane as his conversations with others.

The descriptions are as compelling, in my opinion.

“The car drew in around them like a room.  … Earlier the air conditioner had been running and now some artificial chill remained, quickly turning dank, carrying with it the smell of mildew.”

I have definitely smelled that in my car, haven’t you?  I would love to just clone this book, and publish it under my name, and I’d be done, but now I have to go back and polish mine, and try to make it as readable as Anne Tyler made hers.

I’ve had an enjoyable month of reading.  Unlike most of my reviews, I didn’t even consider Common Core Standards when I read the books.  These were all strictly for enjoyment and a little bit of studying the art of writing a novel.  I hope you will enjoy some of these novels as well.