This was a fun little Valentine writing exercise. I used a WORD GENERATOR to pick some words that I had to use in a romance story. A roll of the dice and we’re given three characters, mine were a BANKER, A COWBOY, and A BASEBALL PLAYER. I need to work in the adjectives PICKY, FAMOUS and ANGRY. And the whole scene needs to take place in a TAXI CAB. Well, okay, here’s my Valentine’s story writtene especially for my visitors. Please enjoy …

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The taxi driver set the gray-haired woman’s two oversized suitcases on the sidewalk of the Plaza hotel and handed the happy chihuahua’s leash to the doorman. She folded two bucks in his hand with a wink and a smile as if the five percent tip were an overpayment. He bent and kissed her on the cheek. “Happy Valentine’s Day Mrs. Bozeman. I hope you enjoy your second honeymoon with your beau.”

A sweet blush crawled up her cheeks. “Forty-seven years ago today Mr. Bozeman asked me to be his girl. Pinned me right there in the hallway before he went on to win the high school state basketball championship.”

He already knew that. “I suspect he’s thinking he won a whole lot more.” He bent and kissed her velvet cheek before climbing back into the taxi cabMikal rarely came to earth in human form, but today Cupid’s army worked special magic on lost souls and broken hearts. And every once in awhile they got to check on some of their most successful cases. 

“Mister, hey mister.” The young boy dressed in a cowboy outfit standing on the sidewalk and banging on his passenger window couldn’t have been more than eight or nine. “I need your help.”

He rolled down the window. “I’ve got someone to pick up, kid.”

“You can’t. I’ve got something important for you to do. Real important.” Determination furrowed his brow.

Mikal had a schedule and with only six more hours until the portal closed, he didn’t really have time for complications. He absently picked up the Starbucks cup, a double iced cinnamon dolce latte with whipped cream, his one vice whenever he had to hang out on earth. He shot the kid an indifferent look. “Where do you need to go?” Children were Gabriel’s problem, but it didn’t mean he couldn’t get this lost kid back to his parents. 

“You really drive this thing? I mean, I don’t mean to be picky or anything, but I woulda thought angels could fly or something.”

Mikal choked, whipped cream spraying on the steering wheel. “What did you say?”

He leaned into the car through the open window. “Listen, I saw your glow from upstairs. And all these people are going all gooey when they see you.” He hooked a thumb over his shoulder as an angry couple stopped, looked at each other and apologized, falling into a hug and deep kiss. The kid was right. It was part of the magic he’d been gifted.

“So if you’re not an angel,” the boy said. “Then I’m expecting the Men in Black to show up any minute.”

No one but the dying and animals usually saw him. But this kid had certainly piqued his curiousity. “No aliens here. Get in.” He flipped the roof light off so people wouldn’t try to jump in with them. “What do you need?” he asked as the boy climbed into the front seat. “Are you mooning over some girl and you want her to pay attention to you at recess?”

The kid rolled his eyes. “Think I’d bother you for something stupid like that? Sheesh, it’s my parents. My mom came here to talk to my dad. He’s a famous baseball player.” He shrugged. “She doesn’t know I know. I mean, he doesn’t live with us or anything and I’ve never met him, just what I see when we watch his games.”

“But she told you about him?’

“Nah, she told me my dad and her were divorced after she became a banker. That was awhile after I was born. But the way she said it, I never really believed her. I found some letters from him last year hidden in the back of her closet.”

“You shouldn’t be snooping in someone else’s stuff.” Mikal took a deep pull of his coffee.

“I wasn’t. Honest.” The boy studied him. “You don’t have any connection with Santa or anything do you?”

Mikal swiped his mouth with the back of his hand to hide his smile. “No, different cloud entirely.”

“K, well then the truth was I was looking for something.” He shrugged. “It’s not so much that I miss having a dad, but my mom, she’s so sad all the time.”

Mikal sensed there was something the boy wasn’t telling him, but he waited him out.

“I have cancer,” he said it so quietly as if the disease were his fault. Mikal could barely hear him over the rush of the traffic in the street. “I’m pretty sure I’m gonna die and I don’t want my mom to be all alone. I went looking to see if I could find something. And I came across all these gooshy letters and stuff from a guy named Kurt. He never mentioned me. I’m thinking he doesn’t know he has a son.” He toyed with the zipper on his windbreaker. “Kurt Dittrich is my mother’s favorite Yankee. She cheers for him at every game.”

“I’m not sure how I can help.” Mikal worked miracles, but not in such a short time if they were in different cities.

“You can help by making sure they fall in love again. Dur!” He shook his hands in the air. “What’s your job anyway?”

Mikal couldn’t help but laugh. “To bring people together. But they’ve got to at least be in the same place.”

“Yeah, well my mom’s here and my dad’s on his way.”

“How do you know?”

“I wrote to Kurt Dittrich and told him I was sick and I wanted to meet him and I’d be here at the Plaza today. Then I asked mom to take me to a broadway show on Valentine’s. She thinks I’m down here talking to the doorman and getting a cab.” His small hand wrapped around Mikal’s forearm and he covered it with his own, healing flowing directly into the child. The boy looked at their joined hands and smiled. “You just gotta use your angel magic and make them fall in love. Please, you just gotta. It’s my only chance.” Tears welled in his eyes.

“Jon! Jonathon Leavy!” A pretty blond in jeans and peacoat hurried out of the hotel. “Have you seen a little boy about this tall?” she asked the doorman.

“There she is,” the kid said. “Help me, please. Don’t let her leave until he gets here. Break your engine or something.” He opened the door and hopped out. “Please.” He waved his arm toward the door. “Mom, I’m right here.”

“Jon, you scared me right to–” She started toward them and barrelled into a man with a baseball cap and sunglasses, his head down. Their collision nearly knocked the woman over, but his strong arms wrapped around her waist and held her.

The man took off his glasses, his gaze going soft. “Kate? Kate Leavy?”

“Kurt Dittrich? It’s been … it’s been a really long time.”

“Yeah it has.” He brushed the hair from her face. “And you’ve grown even more beautiful.”

Even Jonathon could see the sappy way his mother looked at the man and he was pretty sure it had nothing to do with him being a famous baseball player. The angel had done his job. He turned to give him a thumbs up, but the taxi cab was gone. And he suspected … so was his cancer.

Copyright © Nina Pierce 2017
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HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY ONE AND ALL

I love the magic of this time of year. The wonder sparking in a child’s eye warms my heart every time. A life time ago I was a teacher and I got all choked up when the little ones would tell me about their Christmas wishes. There’s something magical about Kris Kringle and his elves.

My own children wrote letters to Santa every year. They lovingly laid out Christmas cookies and milk for Santa and carrots and water for the reindeer. They believed in the magic.

*** HOLIDAY SPOILER ALERT AHEAD ***

But why wouldn’t they? (Here it comes …) I left messy crumbs behind and cotton on the glass as Santa’s beard. (Yes, I said it … Santa never showed up at our house to deliver presents … it was all me and Mr. Nina … don’t be sad.) I used different wrapping paper on the “Santa” gifts. It was all very magical. And I loved it.
 
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Yes, I’m a writer. Yes, words are my livelihood. But trust me when I say they aren’t the be all end of all of my existence.

There are so many things that just don’t matter to me. A turn of phrase that’s just not right Like when my friend says “It’s water under the dam.” Yes of course it’s water under the bridge or over the dam, but I get her meaning. Whatever she’s talking about is done and let’s move on. (Now, don’t get me wrong, if Mr. Nina said that I’d be all over him like flies on rice … or something like that. *g*)

My point is, there are things that just don’t matter to me. They’re not worth fighting about or in some cases even getting flustrated. (Oookay, that is one of my pet peaves when someone mispronounces frustrated … but I digress) The point is I’m not going to scour the newspaper, magazines or other people’s blogs looking for errors. Lord knows, when it comes to this blog, the number, of errant, commas would probably, drive an editor insane. I refuse to throw stones or cast aspersions that may possible bring someone here screaming that I’ve masacred the English language. I do it every day. If not publically on my blog, then quietly as I pound out my next story. I’m terrible with “your” and “their”. Not because I don’t know how/when to use them, but I don’t always see when I’ve used them wrong. (Sometimes my heart aches for my hardworking editors. I love every single one of them!)

Still, there are people like Gene Weingarten who lament that the English language is dying a quiet, agonizing death at the hands of newspapers who are cutting back on the use of copy editors. Half the mistakes he pointed out would not cause me to hesitate … but then … that’s his point.
 
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This week while I’m taking a break from all the reconstruction (I think I actually can see the end coming very soon), I thought I’d share one of my favorite lists, this time from Andy Rooney. Here are some quotes of his that I found and thought they were very sage advice.

1. I’ve learned…. That the best classroom in the world is at the feet of an elderly person.

2. I’ve learned… That when you’re in love, it shows.

3. I’ve learned…. That having a child fall asleep in your arms is one of the most peaceful feelings in the world.

4. I’ve learned…. That no matter how serious your life requires you to be, everyone needs a friend to act goofy with.

5. I’ve learned…. That simple walks with my father around the block on summer nights when I was a child did wonders for me as an adult.

6. I’ve learned… That we should be glad God doesn’t give us everything we ask for.

7. I’ve learned…. That you should never say no to a gift from a child.

8. I’ve learned…. That love, not time, heals all wounds.

9. I’ve learned…. That the easiest way for me to grow as a person is to surround myself with people smarter than I am.

10. I’ve learned…. That opportunities are never lost; someone will take the ones you miss.

11. I’ve learned…. That one should keep his words both soft and tender, because tomorrow he may have to eat them.

12. I’ve learned…. That I can always pray for someone when I don’t have the strength to help him in some other way.

13, I’ve learned …. that nobody’s perfect until you fall in love with them. (And sometimes we fall in love because they’re perfect!)

Over the years I’ve had numerous jobs. And when I say numerous … I mean like over 50. Really. I’m the female version of George Plimpton. (Only he was into sports. And a writer. And he made TONS of money … but you know… kinda like him.)

Anyway, I started working when I was 15 at the local Micky D’s. This was the beginning of drive-throughs and when we used to make shakes the old-fashioned way, with a mixer. A squirt of flavoring and ice cream, then blend. That stupid machine and I didn’t get along. I can’t tell you how many times it exploded all over me. But my most memorable moment was when a container of strawberry topping slipped from my hand to the floor. It hit the tiles flat on it’s bottom which caused the most interesting eruption of strawberry sauce, easily 5 feet in the air. How do I know this? When it was done, it was dripping off my face and the brim of my hat, and down the front of my uniform. And all of this happened in slow motion in front of a lobby filled with the lunch crowd. FULL! Oh, yeah, that was a fun job.

Let’s see, I’ve worked at a jean store, a mortgage company, an aquarium, a frame store, a processing plant, an overnight summer camp, and a daycare. I’ve been a waitress, a “gofer” for a game warden, a science teacher, a lab assistant, a janitor, an ed tech, a tutor, a resident assistant, a substitute teacher, and a secretary at a job recruiter and a real estate office.

Some of those jobs I didn’t really like. Being a janitor in a girls’ dormitory wasn’t really something I enjoyed. I’m not even going into the whole bathroom situation. Nor the job working second shift at a processing plant for computer components. I spent the summer straightening wire leads with plyers and boiling components in oil to watch for bubbles. *shudders* Those were long days. But the summer I worked on an island off the coast of Maine at an overnight camp was awesome. Working as a lab assistant, teaching physics labs in college was pretty cool as well. And I didn’t really suffer when I worked as a waitress. All those people to visit with … yeah, it was fun.
 
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This is our new bundle of joy … Indiana Jones, Indie for short. It took us a couple of days to name this little guy, but after watching him bounce around the house and fly (yes, that’s the right word) off the furniture we figured his name fit his adventuresome nature.

This little guy was the runt of the litter, but what he didn’t get in size he more than makes up for in spirit. He has learned to scale a human (back or front) in 2 seconds flat (a bad habit that we can’t stop at the moment because it’s too darn cute). He can jump at least three feet both vertically and horizontally to reach sleeping spots. And has no problem taking on our older cat (who is easily five times his size) in knock-down-drag-out wrestling matches that make me wonder if he has all his marbles. And he has most definitely wiggled his way into our hearts.

And just watching him has made me think about how I approach life and more specifically, my writing. There are so many new things Indie encounters every day, yet I haven’t seen him shy away from any of them. He fearlessly goes through his day with a cocky arrogance that makes me laugh … and I totally admire. Which made me think that I should approach my writing that way.

When I first began this adventure I didn’t know enough to stop my muse from playing gleefully. We romped around wherever the spirit led us. But then I learned some “rules” and well … started to worry more about whether the story I was writing would be good enough. And the more I write and learn, the more cautious I become. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve floundered because I was overthinking a particular scene, too worried about how the readers (and reviewers) might not like a particular approach.

I want to boldly write my book and shut off my internal editor. I’d love to jump into scenes with both feet, eyes closed and land where I may. I keep working on it. Perhaps some day I’ll be able to achieve that goal and get back to when writing was a joyfully journey into new settings and characters.

How about you? How do you approach life? Do you feel (like me) that more experiences seem to make you more cautious … in everything.


This is the third installment of my self-publishing series. This week I’ll cover formatting and cover art.

To check out information on traditional publishing vs self publishing, click HERE and my post on editing and proofreading can be found HERE. And now that you’ve got that manuscript polished and ready, it’s time to put the package together and formatted for uploading. Many authors choose to do their own formatting. I always tell authors … if you typed the manuscript, you can do your own formatting for upload.

Before your manuscript is ready for formatting, you will need to add the FRONT MATTER for the digital book. Following is information I include on its own page.

Optional Pages:

  • REVIEWS: Many authors choose to include reviews of the current novel or prior published novels
  • DEDICATION and/or acknowledgments

An acknowledgment is a special thank you to anyone who may have helped you with your novel, whether it’s a professional who helped with research, a critique group who helped in development or a special nod to your editor or cover artist. That would be included in the acknowledgment section.
 
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writing2Hello, my name is Nina. I am the world’s worst speller. I will be suffering from this until the day I die … or stop writing … whichever comes first. My family thinks it’s hysterical that I went into this line of work.

But that’s not what this post is about.

When I was in 7th grade we had an assignment to make a list of as many homonyms as we could discover. (Words that sound alike, but are spelled differently). I am a competitive cuss and I went through the dictionary scouring for words that sounded the same. I had a reeeeally long list when I went into school the next morning proudly passing in my homework, confident I’d have the most. But it wasn’t to be … David Zobel had the most! How dare he? Of course he was the state spelling bee champion that year, perhaps that had something to do with it. He had a humungus vocabulary. I came in second. Man, did that stick in my craw!
 
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iStk_Paper_LgeThis is the second week of my self-publishing series. Please check HERE for the first installment where I talk about the costs of self-publishing.

The decision to self-publish can feel daunting. But you’ve decided to make the leap and now what? Well, the first step is to prepare your manuscript and chances are … you’ve probably already done it.

When I first started writing a decade ago, email and digital books were just beginning to take off. It was customary for an author to format their Word document in Courier New font, double-spaced. This format most emulated a typewriter and averaged 250 words per page. When printed, the number of pages in the manuscript gave the publisher an idea of the number of pages in the finished print book. We tabbed our paragraphs and underlined anything that was going to be italicized so it was easily recognizable by the formatter. Manuscripts were printed and sent by snail mail to the publisher who hand edited them with a red pencil. (I mention this, because there may be some of you looking to re-release previously published books in this format and your manuscript would need to be stripped of all that formatting before your novel can be published digitally.)
 
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MannersIt seems this discussion comes up every now and again. The whole “where have manners gone?” situations that just make me scratch my head.

A few years ago my son was hanging at our house with his girlfriend. A friend of hers stopped by and I spent some time enjoying these young adults. At some point I had drifted away from their conversation in the family room and went to work on the computer in my office, only semi aware when the young lady got up to leave. I didn’t tune in until she tripped on something in the kitchen on her way to the door. (I don’t leave lights on in empty rooms, hence she was stumbling through the dark.) Mortified, I shot my mother’s evil eye at Little Boy Blue and sent him running for the door to escort out his company.
 
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