Posted in My Favorite Things

A Magical Place

My grandfather carved out the attic in my childhood home in Southern California for my sister and me. We called it “the playroom.” It was a magical room where dolls were my babies, and the wooden rocking chair soothed them to sleep. This is where I dreamed of being a mother. The hand-crafted kitchen cupboard with drawers, countertops, and a sink was filled with miniature cookware and plates with little roses around the edges. This is where I fantasized about being a wife someday, just like my mom. The turquoise-colored carpet that felt rough under my feet and the slanted roof gave me the sensation of being in a cozy cabin. The window at the far end could be opened when it rained, and the smell of wet leaves from the lemon groves behind our house was a scent I’ll never forget. The drops of rain sounded like pebbles hitting the roof. This is how I learned to love rainy days.

It was the perfect spot to read a good book and get lost in the adventures of The Trixie Belden mysteries. I learned the art of snooping or eavesdropping in the Playroom. I found the air vent in the floor connected to the air vent in the family room below. Hours were spent listening and gathering tidbits of data – just like Nancy Drew. This is where I dreamed of being a writer.

I hoped my children, one day, would have a little magical spot where they could dream about flying to the moon or being a detective solving crimes. Whatever the dream, every child needs a special place, all their own.

Posted in Practice Makes Perfect

Welcome to February

Updates and Excerpts

Happy Friday to all my friends and family. It’s hard to believe that January is already in the rearview mirror, and I just checked off the 3rd on my calendar. I have a sneaky suspicion that this year is going to fly by. February started with Groundhog Day, which I spaced because I have been battling a cold/flu/whatever the heck it is for the last 4 days. I whined about my health on my other blog (https://ptorresponders.blogspot.com/), which you can read. I will not spend time on this blog discussing how miserable I feel. Trust me, though…I feel cruddy. That’s all I’m going to say.

This blog is dedicated to my writing. As most of you know, I’ve been taking a couple of writing classes over the last several months, always hoping to improve my craft. I was allowed to share one of my short stories, Madison’s Plan, with the class. Each student would provide feedback, and I would edit (or not) accordingly. Some of the feedback was great, and I used it well. If I’m honest, I didn’t use all of the input. Rather than go into detail, I’d prefer to say that not everyone sees a story through the same eyes. But I digress…I made the edits, and after reading it through several times, I have decided to turn Madison’s Plan from a short story into a full-length novel. Not a long one, but approximately 275 pages, which still falls under the “novel” category. My excitement level for this little story has elevated from a 6 to a 12 on the 1-10 chart. I hope it’s something you will enjoy too.

Madison is the name of one of my granddaughters, who is currently 12 years old, intelligent, creative, and very much her own person. She is aware of the story I am writing. However, I must be clear that the story is not based on her life. Besides her name, there is nothing else in this story about her and where she is now. My first published short story is called Full Circle, about a young woman named Hannah. When I started seriously writing, I wanted to write five novels where each main character was named after my grandchildren. So I took their name and created a story set in the future. An adventure they MIGHT take. A path they MIGHT choose. This is fiction and comes from my dream world, not theirs. A few things might slip in that feel familiar, for example…Hannah, my granddaughter, loves animals and talks about being a veterinarian when she grows up. Hannah, in Full Circle, lives on a farm and desperately wants to be a vet, like her father, but circumstances don’t allow it. The story is about her journey of beating the odds and doing what she dreams of doing without hurting those she loves most. If interested, please look it up at https://www.amazon.com/Full-Circle-P-Torres I am thinking about rewriting Full Circle into a full-length novel and expanding the story of Hannah and Noah.

One more bit of information. I have a story about a 20-year-old college girl named Sophia! That is another one of my granddaughters. This story probably follows a little more closely about Sophia regarding looks. Example: tall, long, naturally curly hair, complicated issues about being so far away from home and family, mom and dad with the same names (which I will have to adjust to due to unavoidable circumstances). It’s a fantastic story of a young woman coming to terms with growing up, being away from home for the first time, figuring out what she wants from life, and how she handles the surprise of first love. I’ll be making adjustments after I finish Madison’s Plan. Stay tuned. Here’s the excerpt of my latest work in progress: Madison’s Plan. Enjoy, and leave a comment to let me know what you think.

Madison stared out her bedroom window and couldn’t believe the sun had passed the halfway point across the sky. Where had the morning gone? The tension in her neck and shoulders rudely reminded her that she needed a break. Shutting her laptop, she leaned back against the headboard and closed her eyes. Just five minutes; that’s all she needed.
Was it possible for the brain to explode from an overload of information or shoulders break from the weight they carried? She had no idea. She wanted to pull her comforter over her head and sleep for 24 hours. But she couldn’t. Why?
For one thing, her neighbor, Mr. Winslow, decided now was the perfect time to mow his grass. This also meant that Barstow, his overweight, super-spoiled poodle, would be barking non-stop until his master completed the entire front and back yard. No rest for the weary, her mom used to say.

Tired? Absolutely. But nothing could diminish the confidence seeping through her system regarding tomorrow’s exams. The hours, weeks, months, and years of hard work to make good grades were about to pay off. All the exhaustion in the world couldn’t throw a wet blanket on that feeling of being prepared.
She had traded fun and pleasure for study, volunteer work, and a part-time job at Grinders Café for the last four years for one thing: good grades, so she could get into the college of her dreams. She had a plan for her life, and nothing was going to get in the way of achieving it.

Her “dream board” became the perfect motivator. Paraphernalia from three different colleges lined her bedroom walls. Boston College, with the maroon and grey colors and the Eagle as their mascot, had been her first choice since the family road trip to Boston the Summer before her Junior year. Next came The King’s College in New York City, with the blue and white hoodie, displayed proudly. They have an excellent journalism program. Last, and certainly not least, is the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Go, Tar Heels! All three are close to the ocean and as far away from here as possible.
“Maddie, the phone is for you,” her little brother called out. “It’s Winston,” he added in a goofy tone, sure to irritate her. “Two little lovers sitting in a tree. K-I-S-S-I-N-G…” he sang down the hall.

“Shut up, you twerp. You’ll wake up, mom,” Madison whispered while she carefully maneuvered the creaky steps of the staircase. The “twerp” was her little brother, Todd, who held the old-fashioned wall phone out to her while fluttering his long eyelashes. Madison grabbed it and turned her back to him

“Hello, who’s this? She cringed. Why did she say that? Ugh…
Madison’s experience talking to boys on the phone leaned towards minimal. While she waited for Winston’s response, her short-lived confidence level took a nose-dive. No one believed she made it to her senior year without going on a date. She was mainly okay with that because she had a mission to accomplish and no time for drama. But sometimes, when she was being frank with herself, it did bother her. She kept telling herself she did not have time for socializing and all the crazy stuff that included. She needed to stay focused on her plan!

“Hey Madison, it’s Winston.” He paused, waiting for some kind of response.
“Okay…” she said hesitantly.
“Anyway, a group of us are going to the rink tonight, and I was wondering if you could take a break. You. know…away from the books…just to chill for a few hours?” He stopped talking again and waited.
“Uh huh…” she wasn’t sure what he wanted her to say, so she said nothing.
“I’ll be there at 7:00. Victoria offered to drive you home if needed.”
“Okay, but I can’t stay late. I need my rest because I have ACT/SAT testing tomorrow.”

Madison could now add tongue-tied and nerd to her resume. If she could kick herself, she would have. She had never been part of the “social scene” at school and in popular girls’ cliques. Thanks to a small town, there were only two elementary schools, two middle schools, and one high school within a 10-mile radius. That meant you would see the same faces in most of your classes year after year. There was no way to blend in or be invisible in this town. And yet, that is precisely how she felt. She was curious to know if that was a good or bad thing. This was just another reason she wanted to get out of this town.
Madison’s always thought of Winston as a “friendly competitor” if labels were needed. Spelling bee competitions and band in elementary and middle school. Then the high school debate team, chess club, marching band, and robotics. He was one of the most intelligent guys she knew. Since they were both high achievers, serious learners, and fierce competitors, Madison found herself comfortable around him. Except for now! What was wrong with her?

“Cool, I’ll see you there. Bye.” Winston ended the call.
Madison thought she noticed a little excitement in Winston’s voice and paused to think about that. Was he excited to talk to her or to end the call? Most girls would swoon if swooning was even a “thing” nowadays. Winston was brilliant, and from what she overheard Jenna McFaddin say while in the girl’s locker room after PE last week, he was “easy on the eyes.” She hadn’t had time to ponder that comment because she had her Chem class, and the tardy bell had just rung. Madison may be nerdy, but not blind. Why was she thinking about this now? Fantastic. Just one more thing to add to her list of complicated issues.
Slamming the gold-colored phone back on the wall, she shook her head. They were the only family in town with a wall phone that still had a cord attached! Her dad said having a landline was always a good thing in emergencies. She had a cell phone, but Winston didn’t have her number. And after that phone call, he probably never will.

Glancing at her mom sprawled out on the puke green-colored couch brought Madison back to reality. Her mom would be happy she was going out tonight instead of staying in her room, buried in books. On a good day, Julie Terrance was her daughter’s biggest fan. The problem was there were very few good days.

She dealt with the “nerdy” remarks from kids at school and didn’t even mind giving up the fun as long as she stayed on track with her plan. Help her family, go to college, and make something of herself. The question “Why?” came up regularly. Her answer? Because there had to be more to life than this Podunk of a town. This couldn’t possibly be all there was.

Pushing those thoughts aside, Madison pulled out a large saucepan and filled it with water. While waiting for it to boil, she cut celery, carrots, apples, and grapes. She arranged them on a plate and put the macaroni in boiling water. A glass of milk and a slice of bread with butter would top off the simple dinner for Todd. Adding all the ingredients to the macaroni, she stirred it up and put the lid back on. Rinsing the dirty dishes from breakfast off and loading them in the dishwasher, she heard the front door open and slam shut. Todd dropped his hockey equipment by the door and skipped into the kitchen.

“Hey, shorty, take your shoes off and wash your hands. Dinner’s almost ready.”
Todd lifted the lid on the pot of mac and cheese and took a deep breath.
“Hey, don’t touch that,” she swatted his hands away. “You must have won your game.”
“How did you know?” surprised that she knew.
“By the way, you skipped in here like a kangaroo! What was the score?”
“If I tell you, can I have a bite?” Todd’s face went from happy to pouty in two seconds.
“You know I could call your coach and find out, right? Fine…give me all the details, and you can have one bite before scrubbing up.” She never could deny this bright and precocious little brother of hers.
“We were tied 1-1 for the entire last quarter, then in the final four seconds of the game, Sammy slid the puck to me, and I got the shot, and we won! It was awesome, and the coach told me I was being moved from Squirts to Peewees! Can you believe it? I wish mom and dad had been there. Can I have that bite now?” Todd grabbed a spoon from the drawer, and his hand disappeared into the pot of macaroni and cheese.
“Yummy, that is scrumptious. You’ll make someone a lovely wife one day!” he ran from the kitchen before she could smack him upside the head. “When can we eat?” he shouted from upstairs.
“Just as soon as you wash your hands and face and set the table. Bowls, silverware, and napkins, okay? I cooked, so you set the table and clean up afterward. That’s rule #6.”

Madison stirred the Mac and Cheese once more and turned the burner off. She had no idea a 10-year-old could eat so much and still be hungry. Ice hockey was an extra expense for her dad, but Todd loved it, and they did everything possible to ensure he played. Hopefully, this simple meal would hold him over until breakfast. Madison loved Todd and would do anything for him. Occasionally the lines between mom and sister got blurred. As she pulled the cheery yellow Afghan over her mom, she hoped it wouldn’t be forever.