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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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.

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. ( 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?”

Book Review: Stay with Me by Becky Wade

Welcome to the first Rockelina Farm Book Review.

“Like Papa Bear in the Goldilocks story, Sam Turner had discovered a strange woman sleeping in the bed of a house he owned.”

p. 8

This sentence begins Stay With Me by award-winning author Becky Wade.

Stay With Me is a contemporary romance novel. It is 396 pages in print and is available in hardcover or paperback. We all read the Kindle version, though I had my concerns about letting the ducks have e-readers near the pond. Stay with Me is the first book in Becky Wade’s Misty River series.

Here is how our conversation went:

Louie: I love a good, heart-pounding romance novel.

Huey: That’s all you read, Louie.

Louie: Not true. I just like romances the best. When you get to the part where you know the two main characters are meant for each other, your heart just melts.

JD: That would be Genevieve Woodward and Sam Turner. Genevieve is a well-loved women’s Bible study author. She tours the country giving inspirational talks.

Sam owns a farm and runs a coffee house where he serves freshly baked pastries each morning.

Gen returns to her hometown in the Blue Ridge Mountains to investigate an anonymous letter she received implying her parents were guilty of some deep, dark secret. Successful people like Gen need to keep up appearances. In Gen’s case, this meant hiding a secret from her fans. She is physically affected by this secret and pulls off the road during the night before reaching her parent’s home. She falls asleep in Sam’s unoccupied cottage.

Dewey: This book is all about secrets. Gen’s got a secret, Sam’s got a secret, and Gen’s parents have a secret.

Louie: A lot of secrets.

JD: Gen and her sister Natasha investigate their parent’s past in search of clues. This leads them to a well-publicized murder the details of which are sparse.

Louie: And through it all, Gen and Sam fall in love.

Huey: Oh, give it a rest Louie.

JD: Yes, but all good romances have bumps in the road.

Dewey: These bumps nearly derailed the romance trolley.

Huey: You’re mixing metaphors again, Dewey.

“Relationships were painful and messy and beautiful and important. The mess came with the beauty. The pain came with the importance. That was life.”

p. 374

JD: Settle down guys. Who wants to comment on the writing style?

Dewey: I was fascinated by how Becky intertwined the many storylines. Especially the way she used mini-chapters to tell Gen’s childhood backstory.

Louie: The backstory was perhaps as riveting as the main story.

JD: Well said, Louie. I agree, Becky is superb at intertwining every aspect of the story. Plot, sub-plot, backstory, history, they all flow beautifully together. It was hard to put the book down. 

Huey: You mean tablet, JD.

JD: True. At least I never lost my place while reading.

Louie: One other thing. Becky’s ability to describe each detail of a scene was amazing. 

Dewey: I agree. There were times when I wondered if the dialog would resume. Don’t get me wrong, it always drew me deeper into the story. 

Huey: If this was a movie, I would definitely watch it again to get all the details.

Louie: It was so wonderful, I know I will read it again.

JD: So to wrap this up, the romance was good; the mystery about Gen’s parents was riveting; the back story tugged at our heartstrings; the pain being held onto by each of the characters was ultimately released through honesty and forgiveness…

Louie: And they lived happily ever after.

JD: We don’t know that, Louie. We will have to read the rest of the Misty River books to find out what happens. Thanks, guys. I appreciate all your insight. Enjoy some quiet time in the pond.

But we all agree it was a great read. We give it three feathers and one thumb up.

Rockelina Farm Book Club

Greetings and welcome to the Rockelina Farm Book Club. The members of the book club are me and the three residents you see above. From the front of the row are Huey, Dewey and, you guessed it, Louie. 

These three are dedicated to the club and you will often find them standing in their discussion circle. Huey tends to take the lead in discussions just as he does in the water. When there is confusion over what to do, the group turns to Huey for leadership.

Dewey has the best book smarts. He is very well-read and adds facts, figures, and trivia to the discussions. Dewey always has a suggestion for the next book to read.

Louie is kind and sensitive. We all appreciate the perspective he brings to the group. When Huey has an idea, Louie will often question the validity and call upon Dewey for factual information.

We are currently reading and discussing Stay With Me by Becky Wade. We should be done in a couple of weeks and will share our thoughts with you then. So far, the group is enjoying the book immensely. Here’s a short sample:

“Happy Halloween.” Sam’s voice. His Australian accent rippled over her like satin.

She twisted to find him standing nearby, fingers pushed into the front pockets of his jeans, a gray athletic shirt hugging his shoulders.

“Happy Halloween.” She looped a finger inside the neck of Owen’s Spider-Man costume. She didn’t want to get sucked into a Sam vortex and fail to notice her nephew toddling out of the church toward the nearest busy street.

“Are you dressed as a . . .” He pushed his lips to the side, considering. “Russian folk singer?”

She laughed, which felt like a gift in the face of the uneasy feeling she’d been carrying since she’d seen the yearbook photo of her parents. She indicated her braids, jewel-toned cape, full skirt, lace-up boots. “Really? You don’t know who I am?”


“I’m Anna from the movie Frozen.” Her costume wasn’t a cheap knock-off. It was legit. After she and Natasha had decided to dress as Elsa and Anna, her sister had rented these costumes for them.

“Never saw it.”

“Frozen was something of a cultural phenomenon.”

“Among who?”

“Females worldwide.”

“Anna!” a little girl called, pointing at Genevieve as she ran past.

“See?” Genevieve said wryly.

Wade, Becky. Stay with Me (Misty River Romance, A Book #1) (pp. 276-277). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

When we return, we will share our thoughts on the book and Becky’s writing style.

For All You Do…This Blog’s For You!

Why do people write blogs? Here are the top 10 reasons from

  • To Share Knowledge
  • Hobby/Interest in Writing
  • Networking
  • Digital Nomad Lifestyle
  • Fame/Popularity
  • For Making Money
  • Advertising and Branding
  • To connect with like-minded people
  • To create awareness or get your voice heard
  • Self Promotion and build your personal brand
  • To find new jobs

Perhaps a more interesting question is,

“Why do you READ blogs?”

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

Only you can answer this question and I would love to read your comments.

You see, my reason for writing this blog is to provide you with what you want to read.

“Wait a moment,” you’re thinking. “There must be some ulterior motive.”

Guilty as charged, although Merriam-Webster defines ulterior motive as a “secret reason”. With the desire for full disclosure, here are my reasons for writing this blog.

  • I enjoy learning new skills. (Even WordPress)
  • I enjoy researching new ideas. (From philosophy to science.)
  • I enjoy sharing these ideas with others. (Without the desire to have you change.)
  • I have learned a lot of useful and humorous things. (I would like to share.)
  • I enjoy creative writing and would like to share some with you.
  • I enjoy teaching and hope some of what I teach will benefit you.

Reviewing the original list, I have some clarifying comments:

Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko on
  • To Share Knowledge – Absolutely.
  • Hobby/Interest in Writing – Indeed.
  • Networking – We can all help one another.
  • Digital Nomad Lifestyle – Absolutely NOT! I have a life away from the keyboard.
  • Fame/Popularity – We all want to be noticed, but not very important to me.
  • For Making Money – Also nice, but I’m doing fine, thank you.
  • Advertising and Branding – Maybe someday when I publish.
  • To connect with like-minded people – Absolutely. It’s so much fun!
  • To create awareness or get your voice heard – Not as an activist. But if you are reading, you are hearing my voice.
  • Self Promotion and build your personal brand – Again, maybe slowly over time.
  • To find new jobs – No, no… I’m trying to be a retired person.

So, again I ask, “Why do you READ blogs?”

I am so happy your are here. Please leave your comments below.

And please spread the word.

I’m a Writer…

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Yes, it’s true, I’m a writer. And I’m a published writer. Each time I add a post here on WordPress, I press a “Publish” button. In fact, I have also been published in a few newsletters. But that was long, long ago in a life far, far away.

I hope to publish a novel soon. It consists of 64,000 words. I think it’s great and some close friends agree. But my writing mentor (whom you will meet in the next post) stopped reading on page 22. She offered a number of suggestions that I have taken to heart. I suspect the version that does get published (please???) will have under 50,000 words.

So what’s with the number of words? Different story lengths are referred to by different names. For example:

  • Short Stories: 1,000 – 10,000 words
  • Novella: 25,000 – 40,000 words
  • Novel: 60,000 – 90,000 words

There was a contest once to write a story in the 140 word limit of Twitter. In my genre of Contemporary Romance, I should be in the 40,000 to 100,000 word range. So, great, I’m in the right range. Why should I feel I need to shorten my story?

Ultimately it’s the publishers that determine the length of what they publish. Go figure! And I have no idea who may consider publishing my story. So why am I concerned? Because my mentor’s books are generally shorter, and she’s been very successful.

But, I won’t toss my 64,000 words into the fire. (That would require setting fire to the cloud somehow.) I have a plan should the end result be shorter. Removed content will be posted here. Yes, that’s right, folks, you want to stay tuned. Of course, there will be a lot of content not in my stories that will be in my blog. And I intend to share the ups and downs of the writing craft as I learn them. And you will get to read snippets of what I’m writing along the way.

I look forward to hearing from you. (I just have to figure out how to let you comment below…)