Dreyer’s English – Book Review

I recently acquired the book Dreyer’s English by Benjamin Dreyer from a discount store. This edition is “Adapted for Young Readers” and I will add new/young writers. While recommended for writers 10-15 years old, this 67 year old, found it to be a fun, educational, and informative reference.

Consisting mostly of short examples, it is very easy to follow. Similar items are grouped together. The book is organized into two parts. The first part covers daily topics such as: When should I use a colon? Is that comma in the right place? Should I write out the number 34? And, do I really need to use the word really in my writing?

Part too includes homonyms that you often sea in the wrong place. There is a section on words that are easily confused. These can effect, or is it affect your writing quiet, or is it quite a bit. Again, most of the page space is taken up by clear examples.

I am so happy I stumbled upon this book. If you can’t find one at a discount price, the Kindle version is only $6.99. If you are intimidated by reading a book that targets young people, you can get Dreyer’s English (for grown ups) as well. I plan to use my copy on a regular basis.

Mirror Mirror: Chapter 5

No, I haven’t gone into orbit. I just feel like I’ve taken “one small step” from a WordPress perspective. I have gained a much better understanding of posts vs. pages. This is a post. Like all previous posts it goes into the stack of articles on this page. Each button below points to a page. Using pages I can offer you a much nicer browsing experience with my book chapters.

I’m not an idiot and understand you all know how browser buttons work. You would get the hang of it without any instruction. But, as a youngster in the old-timers generation (A.K.A the baby boomers) I believe instructions are helpful. So very briefly, below you see three link buttons. The first takes you to the previously posted chapter. The next button takes you to the first introduction of my novel Mirror Mirror. And the last takes you to the newest chapter. On each of the chapter pages you will see similar buttons. The middle Home button on those pages takes you back to this page, with the latest posts.

So without further ado Chapter 5.

Mirror Mirror – Chapter 4

Will the Back to School Dance be a delight or a disaster for Ella? Let’s find out.

Mirror Mirror

Chapter Four

Ella walked through the main entrance. As she entered, she could hear music. The dance was being held in the cafeteria where she and Rosa had received the info packets on the first day of school. The night was themed on the millennium and the DJ was playing “Hanging by a Moment” by Lifehouse. Entering the room, she saw it was amazingly transformed from where she ate lunch. Most of the lights were off. Only colored lights on the floor pointing aloft illuminated the space. Most of the lunch tables were folded up and stored at the serving end of the cafeteria. The remaining tables were set around the perimeter of the room to allow places to sit. A beverage table was at the near end, while the DJ was at the far end of the room in front of the folded-up tables. In front of him were some color lights that moved and changed patterns in time with the music.

Looking around, Ella recognized a few people from her classes and a lot of older students from the grades above her. Being a freshman, she felt out of place, but that’s what the dance was for, to find new people and make some friends. She slowly walked around the outer part of the room watching a few couples dance in the center. Along the way she said hello to people she recognized.

The full loop was complete, and Ella was heading for the beverage table when a voice behind her said, “Excuse me. Can I get you something to drink?”

A bit startled, Ella turned around to see a beautiful specimen of manhood. She recognized him immediately as Jerry. Being just about her height, Ella easily examined his face. Dark brown hair with those cute curls, and a friendly smile. He wore a dark, but colorful T-shirt covered by a tan sport coat. The shirt had a beautiful pattern of the northern lights under a twisted cosmic ray pattern. The dress pants were a bit darker than the coat and complimented it nicely.

“Hello, Jerry. Yes, that would be great.”

“Soda or fruit punch?”

“I’m always a bit afraid of punch. Maybe just a white soda to start with.”

“Coming right up.” Jerry went straight to the beverage table, got two drinks, and came back. “Let’s go sit at the tables and get acquainted properly, OK?”

“Sounds great.” Ella was still in shock, but this meeting was going better than she could have hoped for.

When they sat down, Ella took the soda from Jerry. He began, “I’ve been looking for you since our unfortunate encounter in the hallway. We don’t have any classes together so it’s been difficult.”

“You ran me down by my locker. Maybe you will find me there in the future.”

“The truth is, Ella, I was afraid you wouldn’t want to talk to me after I accidentally ran you down.”

“You were so polite helping me up, Jerry. I was hoping to see you again for a proper introduction.”

 “Me too. I’m glad you chose to come to the dance. Where do you live?”

“I’m in the subdivision just west of Pilgrim and south of Mequon on Catskill Lane,” Ella offered with a smile and a twinkle in her eye.

“No way, I’m just to your west on Meadow Drive, east of Division. We’re almost neighbors.”

“That’s gnarly.” Rochelle giggled. “Imagine meeting someone just down the road. We probably aren’t that close cuz I’m on the south end of Catskill. But it’s biking distance until I get to drive on my own.”

“I know that feeling. Do you have your instruction permit now?”

“Yup. I’m just starting the behind-the-wheel practice with my parents. Tomorrow is my first day behind the wheel with them.”

“My dad has taken me out once, but it was just to get some soda at the quick mart.”

“Well, that’s more than me. But tomorrow my dad is taking me to our church’s parking lot to practice going up and down the aisles and parking.”

“That sounds great.”

Ella could tell that Jerry was feeling as comfortable as she did. Jerry was very polite and offered to get more soda when Ella’s got low. Ella didn’t notice any cigarette smell on Jerry. That would have been a showstopper.

This was like a dream come true. What could be better?

After they talked some more about their classes and finished their drinks, Jerry asked Ella if she wanted to dance. The DJ was playing “Where the Party At” by Jagged Edge, not one of Ella’s top 100, but danceable.

They spent about a half hour dancing, then a slow song came on. Jerry held Ella’s hands and Ella moved in close to Jerry. They put their arms around each other and rocked back and forth. Another slow one followed, and Ella melted into Jerry’s shoulder. The next song was fast again. Jerry stole a kiss on Ella’s cheek as he pulled away and said, “Let’s sit down for a bit.”

The night continued like that. Dance a little, hug a little, sit a little. At about 10:00, Ella said, “Jerry, I want you to know my dad will be picking me up at 11:30. I didn’t want that to be a last-minute surprise.”

“No problem. Let me get you something more to drink.”

Jerry went off to the beverage table and got a couple more cups of soda, but then Ella lost track of him. It wasn’t long before he appeared beside her again.

“Here you go, beautiful.”

Ella was sure she was blushing. She brought the soda cup up to her lips and paused.

“Jerry, this soda doesn’t smell right. What is it?”

“It’s cola. Try it.”

Ella took a small sip and crinkled up her nose. “What is this? It tastes weird too.”

“I just put some rum in the cola.”

“Jerry, are you trying to get me drunk?”

“No, honest! I thought you would like it.”

“I’m sorry, Jerry, but I don’t drink alcohol at all. Well, that’s not completely true. A couple of times we had Champaign for a celebration or a little bit of wine with a meal. We are Italian, after all. I really don’t like the taste and never want to get buzzed.”

“I’m so sorry Ella. I didn’t mean to force you into anything, and I respect your decision.”

“How did you get this into the school?” Ella whispered, looking quite concerned.

Jerry slipped out a small hip flask from his back pocket. “It’s easy to hide. I assure you I don’t drink much.”

“Really? I have my doubts.”

“My dad has different kinds of liquor in the house, and I’ve tried a lot of them. But I have never been drunk. I agree with you that it’s better to keep your wits about you.”

I hope that’s really what he believes. “Well, my fear is that I won’t know what’s going on.”

“I agree. Again, I am so sorry I put you in this position. I was trying to please you and made a horrible decision.”

“I forgive you, Jerry. There is nothing uncommon about drinking alcohol in this society.” He seems sincere. “What are you going to do with those cups?”

“Well either I drink them, or I dump them in the toilet. I’m afraid a teacher may see me do that. Please trust me, I won’t get drunk on these two cups. I didn’t put much rum in.”

“I trust you. Just don’t gulp them down.”

They continued to talk, and Jerry drank the two drinks. Ella took a couple more sips to see if they were really as bad as she first thought. They were. She didn’t want anything more to drink right now.

“Jerry, what happens to people who get drunk? Do they feel good? Why would they do that to themselves?”

“All I can tell you is what I’ve seen. When my dad drinks, he usually gets very quiet. Sometimes he even cries. I think he tries to forget about Mom’s death. I suppose each individual reacts a little differently. I’ve seen some guys get über-giggly. I’m sure you’ve seen TV shows and movies where they get angry and out of control. I guess I’m fortunate that I haven’t met many drunks in person.”

“I’m really sorry about your mom. I’d like to hear about her someday. I hope we get to talk about a lot of things in the coming weeks.”

It was after 11:00 now. When Jerry finished the drinks he said, “Let’s get some air outside. That would help me a lot.”

As they walked out of the room, Jerry threw the two cups away. They continued out the main entrance hand in hand. There was a lighted overhang that covered the sidewalk where cars could come and go. The night air was fresh and cool. Jerry put his arm around Ella to keep her warm. The clear sky revealed hundreds of twinkling lights. It was like a fairy tale to Ella.

Along the building was a row of shrubs. Jerry and Ella walked alone up and down the sidewalk for a while. The third time they were down by the shrubs, Jerry pulled Ella towards the building and behind the shrubs. The shrubs were tall and nicely spaced so it was easy to get between and behind them. Jerry cradled Ella’s head in his hands and kissed her on the lips. Ella tasted the Rum but didn’t mind the odd-tasting kiss. She kissed back and put her arms around Jerry.

The kiss continued long enough that Ella lost track of time. When Jerry stopped, he said, “It’s about a quarter after eleven. We’d better get back to the sidewalk. I’ll wait with you until your father comes.”

Still in a daze, Ella answered, “You’re awesome, Jerry. Thanks for caring so much about me.”

Jerry peeked out from around the bushes and pulled Ella out. Ella noticed that the stars twinkled a little brighter now. They got back on the sidewalk just as a few students came out of the building. Walking back to the waiting area Jerry said, “I am so glad I had the nerve to come up to you. I freaked out when you looked at me from the classroom the first day. I didn’t have the nerve to approach you then.”

“So, it was you. I must tell you, I had the weirdest feeling of tingles on my neck and arms that day. It made me look towards the door. My eyes were a bit teary from the stress of the morning, so I didn’t see your face clearly. But I knew you were looking at me. I hadn’t felt tingles like that before.”

“I don’t know anything about your tingles, Ella. But I do know you have been wonderful to me tonight. You have accepted me just as I am, and you forgave me when I tried to force booze on you.”

“Oh no,” Ella responded, “you are the wonderful one. So gentle and kind. How are we going to stay in touch if we don’t have any classes together?”

Jerry pulled out his cell phone. “Here’s my phone, put your number in it. I’ll do the same on your phone and we can start texting.”

“Here you go.” Ella handed over her phone and took Jerry’s. They typed in their personal information and exchanged the phones back. Jerry held both of Ella’s hands and looked into her eyes. Ella returned the deep gaze. Even in the dim light, Ella could see a sparkle in Jerry’s eyes. Was it from the overhead lights, the stars, or something much more personal? Another eternity passed and a car pulled into the lot and up to the sidewalk. It was Dad.

“That’s my dad, Jerry.”

“You can call me Jerr. Thanks again for the best dance I have been to.”

“I feel the same way, Jerr. I’ll text.”

“I’ll watch for it.”

Ella got into the car, buckled up, and just stared out the window.

“I see you met someone,” Tony said. He looks like a nice guy.

“I sure did, Dad. He is wonderful. I know you prayed for me. Jerry was very polite and gentle. He really treated me like a lady.”

“I am so glad to hear that,” Tony replied. “You can fill me in on the details later. Just relax and dream while I drive you home.”

Ella did just that. She dreamed of the next time she would be with Jerry. What could he add to that wonderful kiss?

Chapter 3 – Mirror Mirror

Greetings. You may see additional site changes as I search for a happy fit. Meanwhile, back to your heroes.

Mirror Mirror

Chapter Three

 

The Back to School dance was coming up quickly, as school had started just three weeks ago. Ella was psyched and had spent most of the week going through her clothes looking for just the right outfit to wear.

“Argh, I have nothing to wear,” Ella moaned.

“Not to be cruel, but that’s not true. You have lots to wear. Show me your top picks,” Rosa replied looking up from her homework.

“You don’t understand. This has to be perfect for me to meet someone.”

“I think I understand your reasoning. On a scale of awful to perfect, an awful outfit will give you an awful someone, but a perfect outfit will bring you a perfect someone.”

“Exactly!”

“But what about God’s involvement? Have you prayed about the outfit?”

“What? Why would God care about the outfit I wear?”

“Well, I think He would care on a lot of levels, but let’s stick to the basics. God cares about your life and your future so He would care about who you meet at the dance.”

“OK, I’ll pray about it, but I need to pick something first.”

“Really? Did you hear yourself just now? Let me pray for you, OK? I’ll make it quick.”

Ella looked at Rosa with her head tilted forward like she was looking over the top of imaginary glasses. Her mouth hung open and she let out a quiet sigh. “Sure, go ahead.”

“Father God, we know you love us beyond measure. Ella is very concerned she makes a good impression for the dance Friday and needs your help selecting an outfit. Please help her by giving her peace when she selects the outfit you want her to wear. Amen”

“Amen,” Ella echoed, not sure of what just happened. “I’ll give this another try.”

Ella went through her top choices again. This time she narrowed the choices to two, a green outfit and a blue outfit. She really seemed to like the blue outfit for some reason.

“What do you think, Rosa? Green or blue?” Ella held the two outfits up in front of herself modeling them one at a time for Rosa to review.

“I think the blue one for sure, sis. It has such a nice floral pattern.”

“Me too.” Then it hit her. It seemed Rosa was right about praying first. Ella didn’t pray much at all. It seemed to be limited to just before a big test and before meals when it was her turn at the family table. Maybe Rosa was on to something. “I guess you were right about praying. I do feel good about this choice. By the way, have you changed your mind about going to the dance?”

“No.” Rosa had her head buried in a history book while Ella was going through clothes.

“You afraid you’ll have too much fun or even meet a boy you like?”

“I’m afraid I will fall behind in my classes. These first weeks of high school have been a challenge. I admit I may be taking this too seriously but missing the first high school dance won’t ruin my social life. Maybe I’ll go to homecoming.”

Ella laughed. “By then all the boys worth dating will be snatched up. Early bird gets the worm.”

“Yes, but if you don’t know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else.”

“What? That makes no sense, Rosa.”

“Yeah, well, that’s why I have to study. My brain is mush right now.”

That’s exactly why you need to dance, to de-mushify your brain.”

“Now who’s talking nonsense?” They both laughed. Rosa got up and hugged her sister.

“I really hope you have a great time, Ella. I will pray that you meet someone really nice.”

“Thanks, sis. Maybe I’m making too much of this dance, but I’ve been looking forward to meeting boys in high school for so long now. I don’t want to miss any opportunities.”

“Why not put that blue outfit on and see what Mom thinks about it?”

“Great idea.”

 

Ella put on the blue dress and stood in front of the mirror. Her hazel eyes looked back at her. She turned left and right trying to see the dress from multiple angles. Falling just below her knees, the soft fabric was white with many shades of blue in the pattern. The flowers were nondescript roses with darker stems and leaves interspersed.

Ella’s long, dark brown hair turned golden at the tips and fell straight down her back just past her shoulder blades. The soft curls lived in the last twelve inches of hair. Rosa was less concerned about her appearance, though she always looked perfectly presentable. But when she did make a change, Ella made sure to copy it exactly. While they didn’t always dress alike anymore, Ella wanted their face and hair to match.

After trying a few more smiles, winks, and bashful looks in the mirror, Ella left to find her mom. Being a Wednesday, she was found in the laundry room beside the garage.

“Hey, Mom. What do you think of this outfit for the dance Friday night?”

“Is that this Friday already? Seems too soon.”

“Mom, it’s supposed to be right away after school starts. It’s the Back to School dance.”

“Of course. For some reason, I don’t think very clearly on laundry day. Maybe I should get you girls to do laundry more often so your old mother can think more clearly.”

“Maybe we should leave things as they are right now since Rosa and I are learning to drive. You wouldn’t want us to do laundry, cloud our thinking, and then go driving, would you?”

“Strangely that makes sense. So, what did you want?”

“My outfit, Mom. I’m thinking of wearing this to the dance. Does it work for me? I don’t want to scare off any boys.”

“Well, you certainly won’t scare off boys. I’d be more concerned that you will have to fight them off. You look great!”

“Aw, thanks Mom, you really think so?”

“Yes, I do. You look fantastic. Good choice. By the way, whose taking you to the dance and picking you up?”

“Uh, good question. You maybe?”

“I’m working. Better check with Dad right away.”

“Dad!!!” she yelled so the whole house could hear her.

“I’m in the garage,” came the muffled reply.

Ella ran out the door to the garage and found Tony by his workbench. “Dad, can you take me to the dance Friday night and pick me up afterward?”

“Good to see you too, sweetheart.” Tony looked up to see Ella a little out of breath and looking a little frightened. “Friday night? You’re in luck. Mom’s working at the Cucina but I have the night off.”

“Oh, Dad, you’re the best. Just saved my life.”

“Wow, this sounds like a very important dance. Really early in the school year though.”

“You and Mom need to get out more. It’s the Back to School dance, Dad. It has to be really early in the school year.”

“That does make sense. You know, you should wear that blue outfit you have on now. It makes you look great!”

“Wow, maybe you’re more with it than I thought. This is the outfit I chose to wear for Friday. I put it on to show Mom. She thinks I’ll have to bludgeon the boys off of me. Maybe I should take one of your hammers, Dad.”

“I’ll be a bit more pessimistic and say only the best boys will pay attention to you. How’s that?”

“That works. It runs from eight to midnight. I don’t want to get there too early, so maybe leave home at 8:30?”

“And how about if I pick you up at 11:30. You should have selected your future husband by then.”

“DAD! Eww! I just want to date right now.”

“Dating? OK. Sex? No.”

“I know, Dad.”

“OK, 8:30 Friday it is.”

 

Friday evening came much more quickly than Ella expected. By 7:00 she had her hair done and by 7:30 makeup, but not too much. Then her outfit and double-check everything in the mirror. Not bad, I’m ready before 8:00. Better find Dad and make sure he’s ready.

Tony was indeed ready and a bit nervous. This was his little girl’s first high school dance. He tried to prepare for the worst, a crying young woman who felt rejected by the world. But he hoped for the best, the boys would show her the respect she deserves. Regardless, he wanted to be the kind of father to his daughter that God had been to him, loving and caring.

Ella found her dad sitting across from the fireplace in the living room. As was often the case, Liam and the younger twins were hanging out in the family room also. “You ready, Dad?”

“I surely am. And you look great! If you’re ready, why don’t you sit down and just chill for a bit before we leave.”

“Wow, Dad, you said chill. Are you trying to be hip or something?”

“Hip? That wasn’t even in my younger vocabulary. Do you feel relaxed and confident for tonight?”

“I really do. I have tried to pray about tonight since Rosa prayed on Wednesday that I would find the right outfit. That worked, so I thought I had best try praying about the dance.”

“I certainly agree with that, Ella. We, humans, underestimate the power of prayer. It’s true God already knows what we will pray for, but you must remember that God is all about relationships. He wants us to spend time with Him. I’m very glad you started this evening by praying.”

Ella sat there and did relax with her father. She tried her best to set aside the concerns of meeting a boy and hoped she could just have fun tonight.

At 8:15 Tony said, “Did you want to leave now so we can get there at 8:30?”

“That sounds like a good idea, Dad.”

The two of them got up and went to the car. Everyone said “goodbye” and “have a great time”. The weather was really nice, so no jackets were needed. With her clutch bag in hand, Ella was glad she didn’t have to think of one more thing.

“I know you will take care of yourself, sweetheart,” Tony said as they drove out of the subdivision.

“I will Dad.” They pulled up to the school’s main entrance only a few minutes later. “See you at 11:30. I’ll call you if the evening becomes a disaster,” Ella said for her goodbye.

She chuckled and Tony felt at ease. “You know I’ll be praying for you, sweetheart.” As he pulled away Ella thought about the kind of Christian her dad was. He didn’t have to say he would be praying for her as he drove home, she just knew he would. Taking a deep breath, Ella walked to the building.

Mirror Mirror – Chapter 2

When we last saw our heroes, they had endured the unexpected registration line. After some struggle, they found their lockers. Now they need to find their first-hour classrooms.

Chapter 2 (Mirror Mirror by JD Rockel)

Rosa had been fidgeting as they worked the locks. Looking at the school map from her packet she said, “Ella before we find the classrooms I need to find the lady’s room. There’s one around the corner. Wait here for me, I’ll be right back.”

Ella stood by the lockers staring past the hustle and bustle around her. While she wanted to focus on the boys, her anxiety made that hard. On the walls between some of the classrooms were announcements and posters. A brightly colored poster with glittering stars caught her eye across the hall. She saw the word dance on the poster. Hmm, a dance. I need to check this out. She stepped towards the poster without looking to her side.

“Ouch!” The brief but sharp pain in her foot brought Ella back to reality. A body pushed against her and she tumbled backward onto the floor.

Landing on top of her, a startled voice said, “I’m sorry. You stepped out in front of me. Are you OK?”

Ella’s focus sharpened onto the most beautiful brown eyes she had ever seen. As she scanned up past his forehead, she saw softly curled hair of exactly the same color. “I think so,” she said.

“Let me help you up. Again, I’m so sorry.”

“It’s OK. I wasn’t looking when I started walking.”

The boy got up and reached down to help Ella. Taking hold of both hands, he helped her to her feet. Once standing, Ella found herself looking into a concerned but handsome face. “Hi, I’m Jerry. I guess I was moving too fast. Are you sure you’re alright?”

“Yes, Jerry. My foot hurts a bit, but I think it’s OK. I’m Ella. What a way to meet someone.”

“I agree, Ella. Maybe we can meet again under more controlled circumstances.” Jerry chuckled and Ella bashfully joined in. She bent over slightly to wipe imaginary dirt off her pants.

“That would be nice, Jerry.”

“I’ll look for you later, Ella.” Jerry took off down the hall and Ella watched him until he disappeared.

Rosa came up behind her sister. “Thanks, Ella. I really needed to go.”

“Huh?” Still dazed, Ella turned around. “Right. What were we doing?”

“We were finding our first classroom.” Holding the packet up in front of Ella’s face, Rosa said, “My classroom is A132.”

Ella shook her head and blinked her eyes. Glancing down at her packet she said, “Mine is A212. It’s not fair being split up for our classes. We’re learning the same stuff.”

“I don’t know. Maybe they got word that we were troublemakers in the past.”

Ella scrunched her eyebrows and lips, putting on her I’m not amused face. Glaring at Rosa she said, “That was a long time ago. I doubt they do such thorough background checks.”

Ella was the primary troublemaker of the past. Rosa, wanting to be the good sister, obliged Ella’s devious plans. While Ella never planned anything dangerous, switching places caused its share of unrest in the classroom.

Rosa looked at the map of the school again. “According to this, my classroom is on the other side of this group of rooms. Yours is upstairs on the second floor above our lockers. There are stairs at the end of this hall.” Rosa pointed towards the stairs.

“Come with me please, Rosa.” The encounter with Jerry had her head spinning and her stomach feeling queasy.

“Sure, sis. Joined at the hip, right?”

They pushed through the crowd of students and made their way to the stairs. Climbing the stairs, the room was easily found.

“I’m leaving you here, Ella, so I can find my room.”

“I understand. I’ll try to be OK.”

“You will be fine. I’ll pray for you on my way back downstairs. Maybe you’ll meet someone nice here. Look through your packet. There’s plenty to do while you wait.”

“Thanks, sis.” Ella tried to relax. She entered the nearly empty classroom and selected a seat straight in from the door. Slumping into the seat, Ella closed her eyes. Between the anxiety and some pain from the collision, tears welled up in her eyes.

Ella felt a chill, as though her neck got tickled by something and it traveled down to her stomach. Ella felt as though she was being watched. She looked towards the door and saw a boy gazing in. Even with tears in her eyes, she was sure he was looking at her. Was that Jerry? Ella blinked hard to clear her eyes and peered at the door. The boy was gone.

 

Ella’s wondering over what she saw at the door was interrupted by a girl to her left.

“Excuse me, my name is Emily. Can we be classroom buddies?”

Classroom buddies? Really? Emily was nearly as joyful as Joss, but without the deep dimples. Her wavy, light brown hair fell over her shoulders and down her back. The blue top she wore had shoulder straps that crisscrossed under her neck, framing her oval face. The slightest hint of a dimple highlighted her chin.

Ella turned to her left and said, “Hello. What do classroom buddies do exactly?”

“Oh, I’m just teasing. I’m hoping to make some friends right away. My parents moved here to Wisconsin from Pennsylvania over the summer. So, I don’t know anyone yet.”

“OK Emily, that’s fair. My name is Ella, short for Rochelle. I’ve lived around here all my life. I could help you find stuff outside of school.”

“Oh, that would be so helpful. Thanks, Ella. Finding good pizza and subs in a new town can be a formidable task.”

“I agree with that. Pizza is the holy grail of food. An adventure to track down, and once found, shared only with close friends.”

Emily and Ella both laughed. Maybe finding new friends wouldn’t be that hard, at least for girlfriends.

“Have you looked in your packet yet,” Ella asked?

“No. I was just about to when you walked in. I didn’t want to lose an opportunity.”

Ella looked around. She counted seven other people besides Emily. Perhaps she was shyer than she let on and hadn’t introduced herself to them. Or perhaps they all turned her down. Ella’s anxiety began to rise. “If you don’t mind, I’m going to look through my packet,” Ella said.

“That’s fine. I need to look at mine too. I’m sure we will have plenty of opportunities to talk.”

Ella sat straight forward at her desk and pulled all the papers out of her packet. The first page said, “Welcome to High School” with a photo of very happy-looking students and teachers. That’s reassuring. The next page was a statement of the school’s mission and Respect Pledge. Ella read through the Mission Statement. It called the school a “learning community where all people are accepted and supported”. I hope that’s true. It also spoke of responsible, productive, life-long learners with the community sharing a commitment to education. This sounded very positive to Ella. She now had a mission to make sure Mom and Dad were involved in her schooling. Of course, they had been, but this made it official for high school.

Is there anything fun to do here? She kept looking through the packet and pulled out the Germantown High School Student Handbook next. She got to page 18, Code of Classroom Conduct, and quickly flipped through the rest. Does anyone actually read this stuff?

Eventually, she found Athletics and Activities. Scanning the Clubs, a couple stood out: Best Buddies; Cups of Controversy; Emerging Women’s Salon; G-town Power; Men’s Choir – Now that’s a club I could spend time in. Ella imagined being the center of attention from a choir of men. Many of the others made no sense from their names. I guess I will have to do some research.

Halfway through the booklet Ella felt overwhelmed again and put it away. The next piece of paper described some other clubs and activities. Later. She glanced at the school activity calendar. Hmm, Back to School Dance. That’s what the poster was about. I will certainly check into that. Finally, she found her class schedule. She decided she was too tired to think about it. Putting everything back in the envelope, she slouched in her chair.

Another dozen students entered her classroom before the adult there spoke up. “Good morning, I’m Mr. Edwards. I teach math here. Welcome to first period.” Mr. Edwards was young. Ella figured he couldn’t be over thirty. With short brown hair and sideburns, Mr. Edwards looked quite amenable.

He continued, “If you have talked to anyone who attended Germantown High School over the past years, you know that they got their info packets in the mail. The printing company didn’t get the packets done in time. Therefore, you had the great pleasure of standing in long lines being bored to death this morning. As you are all freshmen, or should I say fresh-people to be politically correct, just go with the flow as you find your classes today.”

The class laughed. Mr. Edwards continued, “The bell to first period has been delayed today until everyone gets their packets. If you have looked inside your envelope, you may have been overwhelmed by the amount of information.”

That’s for sure. Ella was glad that her math teacher had some sensitivity to what she was feeling.

“All I will say is, don’t throw anything away. You will find the information useful eventually. Scan through it all and get an idea of where to find information. One thing you will definitely want to read in its entirety is the Student Handbook… NOT!”

Again, all the students broke out into laughter. Ella was feeling a lot better. Mr. Edwards continued his banter for some time. He was also responsible for issuing laptops to the students. Working off a list, he called off names. Each student walked up, signed the list, and took a laptop.

“OK, here we go. You can access the book material on the laptops, or… you can use these dinosaurs of paper books? Who wants a dinosaur?” A few students raised their hands. Mr. Edwards made short work of introducing the material they would be learning, and passed out class expectations and assignments. Throughout the necessary first day’s work, he kept up a good amount of comical banter.

It didn’t take long for the next bell to ring. “Remember what I said about running in the halls. Oh, never mind. Get out of here.”

The rest of the day involved going from class to class. Ella looked at her class schedule and the map during each class to find out where she had to go next. As time passed, her backpack filled with a few books and assignments. Fortunately, she had brought a notebook to keep track of all the information. She caught up with Rosa between lunches. Ella was upset that they didn’t get the same lunch period either. At the end of the day, she found Rosa at their lockers.

Rosa saw her coming. “Ready to go home, Ella?”

“I sure am. I’m exhausted.”

Walking to the bus Ella caught a glimpse of both Joss and Emily. They smiled and waved. There was no more feeling of being watched and she didn’t see Jerry’s face again. It was so strange. What would tomorrow bring? She was too tired to think about it.

Thank you for your attention. Stay tuned and invite a friend to read along with you. Any comments you have regarding my writing or the way the story is progressing are welcomed.

BTW, I am tweaking the look and feel of the site. You can use the menu at the right to find recent posts. The menu at the top takes you to each category. Enjoy.

  • Mirror Mirror: Chapter 10

    Rosa is a trusting sister. She doesn’t know that Ella and Jerry enjoy a secret rendezvous every Thursday night. But a chance encounter changes everything. Enjoy Chapter 10, and please share with your friends.

  • Dreyer’s English – Book Review

    I recently acquired the book Dreyer’s English by Benjamin Dreyer from a discount store. This edition is “Adapted for Young Readers” and I will add new/young writers. While recommended for writers 10-15 years old, this… More

  • Mirror Mirror: Chapter 9

    Do you like playing games? Maybe even role-playing? How about surprises? It’s time for Ella to experience Jerry’s surprise. I hope you are sharing the fun with your friends. Enjoy!

The First 100 Words

When I took my first “How to Write Fiction” class during COVID, I had already completed my novel Mirror Mirror. My mentor had lovingly informed me there was a lot I needed to learn. She didn’t say my writing lacked all the necessary components to have people continue to read past the first page. But as I went through the class, it became obvious that I needed to rewrite every page.

One of the elements of the class was the importance of the first 100 words of the book. It became an exercise for us to do and three others in the class were willing to review my attempts. My first attempt before I took the class started the book with the twins at age six. The family was getting ready to go on a picnic and poor dad couldn’t quite remember what was planned for the day. Of course, I thought it was great because it gave a back story for the rest of the book. In fact I had three or four chapters of back story before they entered high school. Looking back, it would have taken a dedicated fan indeed to sit through all that.

So, during the class, I realized I had to rewrite the first part of the book. I decided to start on the first day of high school. I concocted and interesting story line and wrote it down. But I needed those crucial first 100 words. I wanted intrigue to grab the reader’s attention. I didn’t want to let on too early that they were riding in a school bus. I decided to be creative and wrote this:

The trip in the transport vehicle to the complex did not take long. Rochelle sat next to her twin sister. She noticed a few of them traveling along. The conveyance stopped and the passengers formed a line to disembark. Once out, Rochelle and her sister stayed glued to one other. The pressing mass continued forward. Stepping inside the building, Rochelle grew anxious. A subtle pungency from them filled her nostrils. There were so many. They were surrounded. All shapes, sizes and colors. They perplexed her. The truth transformed her. Her future encompassed her. They were boys. This was high school.

WordPress note: If you would like to see the quote above in a larger font, so would I. I have a question into WordPress regarding this. In fact, the way different blocks express themselves apparently depends on the Theme you are working in. This Theme is called “Plane” and I like it better than the last one, primarily the way the menus are laid out. But all the Paragraph Blocks default to this small font.

To get a bigger font, I need to select it manually from the Typography tool on the right. I can select S, M, L, or XL. This is in M. I cannot find a way to change the default as S seems too small to read, even on my desktop.

Back to my first 100 words. The kind souls who reviewed this for me asked, “What do you mean by them?” “A conveyance? The complex?” “Are you writing a Sci Fi novel?”

“No,” I replied, “I am writing Young Adult Romance.” Try again. Still trying to retain some mystery:

The trip in the bus to the complex did not take long. Rochelle sat quietly next to her twin sister, Rosalinda. She noticed a few guys traveling with them. The vehicle stopped and the passengers formed a line to disembark. Once outside, Rochelle and her sister moved as one; the pressing mass pushing them forward as the sun beat down. The cool breeze did not seem to reach them. Stepping inside the building, Rochelle grew more anxious. A subtle pungency from them filled her nostrils. There were so many. All shapes, sizes and colors. They perplexed her. Her palms grew damp. The possibilities intrigued her. They were boys. This was high school.

More questions for me. “The word complex still sounds like a Sci Fi story.” “Saying the pressing mass seems strange.” This was hard! And to keep it all in 100 words. They said, “When you say did not take long don’t you really mean was short?”

Well, the last suggestion does help with word count. More importantly, it made sense. So what you saw in the first half chapter I provided is my current offering. I won’t say it’s done, but I will say it sets the stage and gets the two of them to school.

The bus ride to school was short but bumpy. Rochelle sat quietly next to her twin sister, Rosalinda, trying not to fall off the edge of her seat. She noticed the boys traveling with them. Their commotion added to her anxiety. The vehicle stopped and the passengers formed a line to disembark. Once outside, Rochelle and her sister moved as one, the pressing horde pushing them forward. Stepping inside the building, Rochelle’s heart beat faster. A subtle pungency from them filled her nostrils. There was such a variety compared to her last school. All shapes, sizes, and colors. Her palms grew damp. The possibilities intrigued her. They all looked like men, not boys. Welcome to public high school.

And no, it’s not 100 words. It’s 118 words.

Meet the Twins

Book Review – Pesto and Potholes

Pesto and Potholes is one of Susan M. Baganz’s earlier books. It is the story of Tony DeLuca and Renata, who have experienced heartbreaking relationships. They vowed never to pursue another relationship. Then they met one another. As the title suggests, their road to romance was filled with potholes. Though Tony was a bit more willing to take another chance with this beautiful young woman, Renata had been hurt much more deeply and resisted along the way. And Tony’s hot temper doesn’t help either.

I highly recommend this fun book as a look into what God can do in one’s life. It will also give you the back story of Rochelle and Rosalinda’s parents. Keep reading here and you can meet Rochelle (Ella) and Rosalinda (Rosa), the heroines of my story, Mirror Mirror.

Now it is my pleasure to introduce my fictional friends Ella and Rosa. They are twin sisters born to Tony and Renata DeLuca. I have had the pleasure of getting to know the girls over the past year. They have agreed to let me chronicle their adventures as they start high school. Rather than tell you about Ella and Rosa, I will let them introduce themselves.

Hello. I’m Ella DeLuca. I’m so excited to start public high school. My parents put Rosa and me in Christian schools since kindergarten. It’s been OK, but there weren’t many opportunities to spend quality time with boys, if you know what I mean. Now I will be free to meet a lot of boys and not have well-meaning adults watch over me so closely. I can’t say my parents have been oppressive at all, but there are times I wish I could do what I want. I guess that’s part of high school: spreading your wings. I realize that my studies are important, but I’m not as focused on academics as my sister is. All she has been talking about is what we will be learning. I want to have fun, and academics can get in the way. I’m sure you will see what I mean as you read what Mr. Rockel writes about us.

Hello. I’m Rosa DeLuca. It’s a pleasure to meet you. My sister Ella and I have lived in Germantown, Wisconsin all our lives. Our parents are great and have provided us with a great home and a wonderful education. It can get a little crazy at home with my four siblings. Some days I’m not sure if my twin sister or the little twins are worse. Mom and Dad are dedicated Christians and have helped us learn what living for Jesus is all about. I’m concerned about my sister. While she has been to all the same church groups as me over the years, I don’t think she really understands the importance of trusting God as I do. I’m looking forward to high school so I can prepare for some sort of career. I have no idea what yet, but I’m sure that will become clear in the next few years. I wasn’t too excited about letting Mr. Rockel write about our lives, but the idea has grown on me. I hope you will enjoy reading about our adventures.

Thank you, girls. As I said, the sisters were born to Tony and Renata. May of 2011 was a joyous year for them. Being born in 2011 means they started high school in August of 2026. I realize that may be a bit mind-bending, but this is a novel. So as this unfolds, you will be looking a bit into the future. Enjoy it. I will give you parts of a chapter so the post doesn’t get excessively long. Shortly, I will let you receive a chapter at a time by e-mail if you so desire. As always, I ask you to bear with me as I continue to learn WordPress.

The adventure begins…

Book Review – A Husband for Christmas

I have mentioned my author-friend Susan M. Baganz before and she is releasing a new Regency based novella. I had the privilege of reading it before it is released on Amazon October 14. You can pre-order it now.

Susan M. Baganz

This was my first Regency read. I started another of Susan’s Regency novels but was pulled away. After reading A Husband for Christmas, I’m ready to try again.

What a wonderfully fun, quick read it is. At only 79 pages, I finished in a couple relaxing evening. There are words from the Regency England period (1811-1820) that I had to look up, but context was usually enough to make them understandable.

From the book jacket:

Miss Adelia Donovan’ s mother decides that it is time for her daughter to have a season. Addy resists the notion, but her stepfather’ s heir, Lord Oliver Westcott, encourages the endeavor. Little does Addy expect to feel excitement at the prospect of gaining a husband—and disappointment when the one man she wants to court her shows more interest in setting her up with others than pursuing her himself.

I strongly suggest you NOT read the rest of the synopsis. As short as the story is, you will quickly see where it is going. No sense ruining the fun. For the same reason, I am breaking the rules of book reviews and NOT telling you any more.

Whether you love Regency books or just want a heart warming story to read, don’t pass this book up. A Husband for Christmas will be a book you pick up at least once a year.

I give this book a very fancy 5-star rating. At only $2.99 for the e-book, it’s almost free. Please share this with a friend.

Spatzle Speaks: Angel of the L Train (Book Review)

Another great book review from Spatzel Baganz.

Susan Baganz

Mom has enjoyed the writings of author Penelope Marzec and her latest release, Angel of the L Train was exceptionally well done if you were to ask Mom. But that doesn’t matter because as her dog I rule this part of the blog so only my opinion really counts.

Thea Ahern is recently hired by a New York City gossip rag called LetSlip. She’s eager to work and earn money to support her mother’s nursing home care, but in the process has to hide her heritage. After a tragic incident on the subway, she assists a man who was brutally attacked and saves his life. Now the papers dub her the Angel of the L Train. Suddenly her anonymity is challenged as people see the resemblance between her and her mother who used to be a famous actress.

John is asked to shadow Thea because his boss believes her…

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CCWC

For every interest, there is a conference. As my interest is writing Christian Romance, I virtually attended the Colorado Christian Writers Conference last week. Since my interest is fiction, I attended “Building Rock-Solid Fiction” presented by Tim Shoemaker. https://www.timshoemakersmashedtomatoes.com/

Tim is an accomplished writer and speaker and the marriage of those two strengths came alive in this workshop. When I started writing about a year and a half ago, I had a lifetime of experience researching topics and writing essays that nobody read. My desire to write Christian Romance came from reading the Orchard Hill Church series by Susan M. Baganz. (https://susanbaganz.com) Susan is a dear friend from my time living in Wisconsin. I was unaware that she had become a published author.

Susan M. Baganz

I think it was a Facebook post that convinced me to look at her writing. She writes in two genres: Christian Romance and Gothic Regency. I confess the Gothic Regency is not my style, but I became immersed in the book PESTO & POTHOLES. I believe she has six books written in this series now, all available on Amazon.

What prompted me to start writing was the very end of PESTO & POTHOLES where we learn that the heroine has given birth to twin daughters. I thought, what would happen when these twin daughters grew up. And what seemed would be more exciting was if they were identical twins.

I wrote chapters all the way back to when they were six years old. They were good action chapters. They were funny chapters. They were useless chapters I came to learn when I took the fiction writing class that Susan taught at last year’s conference.

I needed immediate action to draw the reader’s attention. I decided to start with high school. How would their “twinness” affect their relationships? What would their romances look like? When I looked at Susan’s time frame for PESTO & POTHOLES and added 16 years, I came up with the year 2026.

That presented a bit of a challenge. It isn’t that far in the future, but as I quickly learned, my personal experience in high school (back before electricity, just kidding) was different in many ways from today’s experience. Fortunately, the story’s location is where I grew up in Wisconsin so I could figure out the streets and towns easily enough.

I also learned that to capture a reader’s interest, the first 100 words of a story are crucial. Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite. I had a few contacts from the first conference that helped review it and I got much closer. But as it turned out, what I ended up with worked very well for a 25th-century Sci-Fi novel. Start over.

To give you an idea of where my first novel currently sits, I have saved a draft that has 50,000 words, in 35 chapters. Compared to Susan’s work that’s a little long, so I don’t feel bad splitting it up. Unlike her book series which has new main characters in each book, mine will follow the same sisters.

This conference has given me much more work to do in the body of the book and (don’t tell anyone) I am cutting out all of the ending chapters. But I have plans for that part of the story. It is still good stuff and has some very exciting moments, just not for the first book. Let me provide you with the snippet that starts my book.

Please comment and answer Rochelle’s question at the end of the snippet below. I look forward to hearing from you.

Mirror Mirror

August 2026
     The bus ride to school was short but bumpy. Rochelle sat quietly next to her twin sister, Rosalinda, trying not to fall off the edge of her seat. She noticed the boys traveling with them. Their commotion added to her anxiety. The vehicle stopped and the passengers formed a line to disembark. Once outside, Rochelle and her sister moved as one, the pressing horde pushing them forward. Stepping inside the building, Rochelle’s heart beat faster. A subtle pungency from them filled her nostrils. There was such a variety compared to her last school. All shapes, sizes, and colors. Her palms grew damp. The possibilities intrigued her. They all looked like men, not boys. Welcome to public high school.
    “Rosa, what do you see all around us?”
    “You mean the mass of humanity?”
    “No, silly. All the boys. Imagine the possibilities.”
    “Right, like getting distracted. But that’s not what you mean, is it?”
    “Of course not. I’m talking about meaningful relationships. You should be thinking the same. We didn’t have a chance to interact much with boys at our last school. Everything was too proper in the Christian school. Now the prospects are endless. What should we do first?”