May 24, 2023

During our bimonthly meeting, writing club members read stories they have submitted for our Potpourri Project. Club secretary Teresa Pepper asked us to continue sending our work to be included in this anthology. Because I am focused on revising the fourth novel of my family saga, I looked for something I’d written that could be quickly modified and submitted. I hope you enjoy this humorous short story as I poke fun at myself.


I need to make a confession. I have always admitted that I am a “bookaholic.” Oh yes, I know the proper term is bibliophile. But, somehow, I think words with the -phile suffix have a sinister connotation. Maybe it’s because of the word pedophile. Or the fact that some people take their love to an extreme, like an ailurophile who has 30 cats. Anyway, it’s time for me to admit another long addiction. I’m addicted to clicks! Does that make me a clickophile?

My fixation began when I took a typing course in high school during the late 1960s. Like a drill sergeant our teacher conducted us. “Posture is everything. Back straight. Feet level on the floor. Roll a sheet of paper into the machine. Now, put your fingers on the home row. Keep your eyes on your textbook, not your fingers! Each stroke should be brisk and firm. Begin.”

Little did I realize the sound these ancient Underwood typewriters produced would become habitual. Each click was music to my ears. At first it wasn’t words which appeared on the paper. Instead, it was gibberish, such as “asdf” and “jkl semicolon,” repeated over and over. My typing staccato was very brief. Click clack, click clack, click clack. Then a ding! as I used the carriage return.

At first it was difficult to type with brisk and firm taps on the keys as she had directed. I sometimes pressed them too quickly. Click, cluck, crunch! The keys crashed together and stuck in mid-air. Snick, snick as I cleared the jam, then returned my fingers to the home row. Over time I built up strength in a muscle that I didn’t know my little fingers had. I spent weeks clickety-clacking nonsense before I typed my first word.

Our teacher placed a metronome on her desk to assist us with learning the cadence of this instrument. After several weeks of practice, I caught onto the tempo and became adept at typing, “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog”. This had a good beat; my fingers could dance to it!

I encountered an electric typewriter in my second year of typing class. Using a lighter touch allowed it to be played at accelerando speed. My typing skills increased to 80 words per minute as I mastered this piece. While it didn’t clack, each key stroke produced a comforting click as the “golf ball” whirled at break-neck speed.

Learning to run a 10-key adding machine even satisfied my click craving as its allegro joined my repertoire. I could run tapes that were six feet long without making a mistake that marred my tempo. Of course, this was back when this # symbol meant a number sign, not a hash tag.

Working at a water company, a mainframe computer was the next instrument on the scene. The 96-column card, keypunch machine had its own special composition. But I had to first master the numerical keypad. Its numbers were arranged like those on a push-button phone—backwards to an adding machine. At first it had a cacophonic sound as I learned a new rhythm. However, it wasn’t long before my fingers bebopped up and down the keyboard making a different kind of music. Clickety click, clickety clack, clickety click, clickety clack, clickety click. Then psst, tick, psst, tick, whizt, tunk as holes were punched into the card while it whizzed through the rollers and into a hopper.

With the advent of memory typewriters and word processors, the rhythm changed. Ctrl, Alt, and function keys were added to the ensemble. My fingers could still tap dance to a good beat and always return to the home row.

Personal computers of the 1980s brought discord to my harmony. Why did they say the mouse was “point and click”? This sound is too quiet to be called a click! It didn’t satisfy me. Instead, the need to move my right hand to use it annoyed me. But the pressed keys still made a clicking sound, and I learned to feel for the home row indicators as my hand moved back from using the mouse. Over the decades of my life, you could say, I became a maestro of clickety clacking.

As you have probably experienced yourself, it’s not long before a computer becomes outdated or even dies. The newer models do come with added features. Yet, over the years, these keyboards became made more of plastic and much less metal. These have also shrunk in size. For several decades now, I’ve used an old Compaq 386 keyboard with keys that click. It shows years of heavy usage, even though this console has been thoroughly cleaned numerous times. It is past time for it to be retired with honors. Do you think it would appreciate receiving a gold watch?

My recently purchased computer has a USB instead of a pin plug for the keyboard. Its keys are plastic and smushed together. I had to search to find the delete key when I first installed this device. In my opinion its design is flawed because I cannot conduct any musical score on this contraption. So, I splurged on a mechanical keyboard even though I’m not a gamer. Yes, I must confess, I gotta have my click!


May 17, 2023

You completed authoring a fantastic novel and want to share it with the world. Your next step may be self-publishing on Amazon. After beta reading a manuscript for another author, I found she made mistakes similar to my own. I’m not an expert, but I encountered several stumbling blocks along the way, so I thought I would share tips about what I learned. My video is about creating both an ebook and a paperback using Microsoft Word. Other programs, such as OpenOffice and LibreOffice, have similar functions available. It is based on a presentation I made to our writing group on May 10th.

Manuscript Formatting using Word

May 1, 2023

As I mentioned in my last post, the fiction writers group is creating a collection of short stories. We should submit ones that are between 1,200 and 1,500 words. Below is a memoir that I originally wrote about five years ago. I revised and submitted it yesterday.


Independence festivities kick off with a twilight parade. Since my daughter will perform, I leave work at 12:00 on Wednesday. Another hot, humid day. I’m drenched with sweat before I reach the Chicago parking garage. As soon as my minivan starts, I full-blast the air and check the time. Tessa’s babysitting my seven-year-old son, and she must be at school before 3:00.

Vehicles travel at a turtle-like pace as Chicagoans flee the heat for a long weekend at their Michigan summer homes. Time and traffic conspire against me. It’s 2:45 when I park.

Tessa is watching and opens the front door before I reach the porch. She wrinkles her nose as she hugs. “You’re really late. You need a shower. I’ve got to go!” Dressed in T-shirt and shorts, she slips on flip flops. She’ll change into her heavy purple and gold uniform at school. “Don’t forget I’ll be on the right-hand side.” An impish smile lights her face. “You’ll be surprised by what we play today.”

“Forgetting a water bottle? Need a ride home?”

“You know they always make sure we have enough water. I’ve got my key, so I’ll walk.” She rushes out the door.

“Jase, I’m home. Where are you?”

“In my room. Can Taylor come with us?”

“Sure. I’m going to shower.”

First, I phone my elderly parents. “Hello Mom. Are you sure you and Dad want to be out in this extreme heat? Okay. Tess said she’d be on the right-hand side, so we’ll meet across from the Kennedy Avenue butcher shop around 5:00. Oh, I just got home. She didn’t say she called. Love you.”

I shower then don shorts and a halter top. After applying minimal makeup, I go into the kitchen to add ice-filled water bottles to my tote. I want to get there before barricades block the streets. “Jase, we need to get a move on!” From his dejected look, I know Taylor can’t come with us. “Hurry up. Zorro needs his walk.”

He takes out the dog while I slip on sandals, then pick up his cap and my hat. Jase returns, takes his baseball cap and the tote. Outside, I start the van, blast the air, then glance at the clock.

“We don’t have much time, kiddo. How about Arby’s and then Dunkin Donuts for iced coffee?”

“Can’t we go to McDonald’s?”

“Not today. Want to split a large curly fry?”


It’s almost 5:00 when we reach Highland. Traffic barriers block Highway Avenue, so I navigate residential streets to reach the butcher shop. Its lot is full. I park three blocks away. Putting our food sack inside my tote, I then hand it to Jase. I make sure that he’s wearing his baseball cap, has drink in hand plus a bag for candy. I don my hat, sling purse over shoulder, place drink on roof, grab our camp chairs from the back, then lock up my van. I retrieve my iced mocha coffee and suck on it. Ah, that hits the spot. It’s too hot out here!

We walk back. At the stoplight, I check to see if any other relatives are there. Finding an open spot across from the shop, I put down my drink, shrug off our chairs, get them out of the carry sacks then set up. Jase drapes the blanket on the curb. We sit down to enjoy our beef and cheddars.

As I slather sun block on both of us, I see some relatives have arrived. I wave, wait for a stray car creeping down the street, then we jaywalk across. My cousins and I chat about the ongoing heat and mounting death toll. It’s now reached over a hundred. Deaths are most prevalent among elderly people living alone. No matter their age, everyone must be concerned about heat exhaustion.

As other relatives arrive, we exchange hugs. I’m shocked when I see my cousin’s daughter Stacy. She and Tessa are the same age. Though they attend different schools, they are usually involved in similar activities. I’m surprised she isn’t playing in her band and cannot believe the amount of makeup she’s wearing. She looks tawdry.

At 6:00, the police brigade appears six blocks south. It’s time to go back across. Jase settles on the blanket. Hand shading my eyes, I search for my parents. The parade’s starting. Why aren’t they here? Relieved, I finally see them.

I rush down the block to retrieve chairs from Dad’s shoulder and take mom’s tote bag. “Where’s Paul?”

“He dropped us and went to find a parking spot. Because of him, we couldn’t get close.”

My oldest brother never gets anywhere on time!

Once they are settled, I give both parents a kiss. Moisture beads Dad’s face. “Would you like the last of my drink?”

He sips, then takes off the lid and grabs a chunk of ice. As he runs the ice across his forehead, I hand him a napkin. Glancing at Mom, she’s wearing a long-sleeve, turtleneck shirt with a blouse over it and has brought a jacket. “Aren’t you hot?”

Mom shakes her head as she waves to her sister’s family and receives answering waves. Paul appears carrying a sack of sandwiches and a carton of drinks. Settled into the chairs, we chat while they eat.

It’s almost twilight. Police motorcycles reach our section of the avenue and make several figure-eight passes. Several top-down convertibles follow, politicians sitting atop the backseat, tossing out candy and gum. I keep an eye on Jase. Making sure he doesn’t run into the street to grab any. I’m proud to see he isn’t greedy; he makes sure younger nearby children get an equal share.

I watch for Gavit’s marching band uniforms but pay more attention to my parents. Both have survived tough surgeries. I worry about them. A closer examination assures me they’re okay. I lean close to mom. “Is Dad putting on weight again?”

“Oh, you know how he is. Monday, he went to Ultra and bought cookies. Before bed, I found the empty sack in the trash.”

Sighing, I shake my head. “Did Tessa invite you to tomorrow morning’s parade?”

“Yes. Your father said he’d like that.”

“Want to meet for an early breakfast and stake out a spot near the restaurant?”

“Sounds good.”

There’s a lull in the parade. I take a long sip from my iced bottle, then ask Mom and Dad if they’d like some. As I pass it to Dad, I notice my son’s flushed face. “Jase, sit down and drink some water now.”

He’s upset for a moment, then up to grab more candy. A parent grins at me as he hands her toddler a sucker.

At last, I spot purple and gold. “She’s coming!”

The parade slows turning the corner onto Highway, nearing the judging stand. This means her band will perform in front of us. I ready my camera.

Are the students overheated? Will Tessa keep in step? Will her notes be off-key?

Marching in rhythm, Gavit’s band approaches, then stops. Tess glances over and smiles for a second before composing her face. The drum major blows his whistle, then the drums thunder. I’m astonished by the cadence of Fleetwood Mac’s Tusk.

Legs flashing up and down, they march in rhythm. Other instruments chime in as the band weaves in formation. One side moving left, the other right; merging in an exquisite blend of movement and melody.

The day’s worries disappear. Time slows.

Trumpet at her lips, Tess dances in tempo, weaving, dipping, twirling. Her sounds are crisp, clear, sweet. The last rays of sunlight make her auburn hair appear like a copper halo fanning out beneath her plumed hat as she moves. Focused on this girl in front of me, I marvel at her grace. My camera is forgotten.

Dad shouts, “Go Tessa!”

She ignores him, concentrating on her steps and music. I see a confident young woman strutting her stuff.

Amazing! When did she become so poised? Where has my little girl gone?

She’ll turn thirteen next month and will start high school this fall. Like a flower, she has burgeoned, but it wasn’t until now that I realized just how much.

The band finishes. Volunteers now squirt water into each student’s mouth. There’s another smile and a wave from my daughter before the group marches away from us.

The remainder of the parade passes in a blur. I don’t recall saying goodbye to my family or returning home.

My daughter will have memories of other parades, such as performing in Hawaii last spring. There’ll be plenty more before she leaves for college. After all, Tessa has three more parades tomorrow. But, for me, this will always be the memorable one, the one I cherish. The one when I recognized her womanhood.

April 26, 2023

Members, who didn’t do this last meeting,  read their short stories for our Potpourri Project, then we discussed these. Our group members should also submit other stories for our project. We plan to create and publish this as a collection.

After this, our Subject Matter Expert Ron Benedict asked attendees to: Come up with a picture that represents your life. Think of it as a scene’s opening image, and write a paragraph about it. Each one of us read what we’d written to the other members. Here’s mine:

The ’67 Chevy Bel Air hugged the right side of the highway next to a dangerous drop-off as a ’64 red Thunderbird, horn blaring, roared past.

“Be careful Joe.That drop-off is so sheer. You shouldn’t have moved over. That idiot should have waited for a passing zone.”

I heard my best friend Marsha snicker. I glanced over and saw she was imitating her mother. I suppressed a laugh, then returned to my reading. This road terrified me. Concentrating on the book kept me sane.


April 12, 2023

A month ago, each member of my writing group was asked to create a short story of 1,200 to 1,500 words and received two images. We were instructed to follow these rules:

  1. Come up with a character, setting, or event;
  2. Associate the character, setting, or event with a strong emotion;
  3. Create a main conflict for the character, setting, or event;
  4. Create an inciting incident or goal;
  5. Escalate the tension;
  6. Experiment with form and structure;
  7. Create a strong beginning with a strong action, insight, and opening line;
  8. Draft a middle focus to prevent that middle slog;
  9. Try not to edit until you’ve written the story, and only give backstory if it is necessary;
  10. Write a memorable ending.

The first photo showed an empty path in autumn. The second had an elderly couple walking a similar pathway in a green landscape along a river. Below is my historical fiction short story:



Confused, I woke to profound silence. The rain which had drummed a steady rhythm on the windows had stopped. I stood up from George’s desk and glanced outside. More fallen leaves lined the meandering pathway where we took our daily walks. Late afternoon sunlight filtered through the trees. I needed to return to the hospital. What time is it?

Plucking a tissue from the box, I cleared mucus from my nose. With a fresh one, I dabbed tears from my eyes. Our antique grandfather clock had stopped because George wasn’t there to wind it. After checking my cell phone, I reset the hour and minute hands, then inserted the key into its winding hole. Turning it, I prayed this wasn’t a bad omen. A wedding present, the clock had kept a steadfast pace through our lives.

Returning to his desk, I sank into the seat and fiddled with his journal, contemplating the words I’d found inside it. I wasn’t alone in keeping a secret. Maybe it was time for me to reveal mine. I thought about the comfortable life we’d shared.

George and I were high-school sweethearts. My parents refused to allow me to marry when he got his draft papers. I’ve never truly forgiven them. They had said, “You’re too young. You must finish school. If you’re still in love when he comes back, you’ll have our blessing.”

Later that night, we’d consummated our love in the back of his ’58 Star Chief. We got together as often as we could before he left for boot camp.

Angry with my parents, I wanted to be out from their rules. I spoke with my guidance counselor as soon as school began. By shifting two classes from spring to fall, I could graduate in December. She helped me complete the nursing school application to Ohio State University.


Paula slammed her textbook down and glared at me. “Miriam, what are you going to do about your pregnancy?”

Startled, my cheeks flushed. “How did you know?”

“Been there. Done that.” She smirked. “Why would you wear a girdle when everyone else wears pantyhose? Or eat so many saltines?” Paula approached and laid a hand on my shoulder. “Anyone who looks close will soon see it. They’ll kick you out of school, and I don’t want a new roommate. How far along are you?”

“About five months.”

She bit her lip. “That may be too far along, but I think I know of a man who can remedy it.”

Paula nursed me through his butchering. With her help, I kept my grades up and didn’t lose my scholarship. Not wanting to see my parents, I took a job at her uncle’s department store and stayed with her family over the summers.

George’s letters grew more sporadic and redacted. People protested the continuing war. Appalled, we watched the horrific TV broadcast in May of 1970 as our National Guard opened fire upon students at nearby Kent State.

George’s mom called me in early June. They had received news he was officially listed as MIA. I refused to believe he was dead. He had to be alive.

After we graduated, Paula and I shared an apartment and worked at the same hospital in Columbus. She soon fell in love with Harry who was an intern in the obstetrics program. He became a permanent fixture in our apartment. In January 1973, the three of us celebrated the judgment on Roe vs. Wade which legalized abortion. This was the only bright spot in my life. Every day I prayed for some news of George.

Paula married Harry when he completed his residency. He accepted a job at Chicago’s Michael Reese. I was helping them pack for their early April move when the phone rang.

“What? Can you repeat that? When? Yes, I’ll come.”

Harry approached with a box in his arms. “Miriam, what’s wrong? Are you all right?” He set the carton down. “Paula, come here.”

I opened my mouth. My legs crumbled. Wetness on my forehead. Hands being patted. Voices calling me. He picked me up from the floor and laid me on the sofa.

I took a deep breath, then rushed to get the words out. “I’m okay. That was Mrs. Wright who called. George will be home on Friday. They’re planning a celebration and want me there.” I brushed away tears. “I can’t believe it. Isn’t it wonderful?”

Paula wanted to remain with me a few more days, but I insisted that they shouldn’t change their plans. They needed to find an apartment before next Monday. After a brief argument, I did allow them to drive me to Zanesville.


George returned home with a leg injury. After surgery, he still needed to use a cane. Withdrawn, he refused to share his POW experiences. “There’s no way to change what’s past. Please leave it alone.”

We married in a simple ceremony as soon as he completed rehab. He moved into my apartment and enrolled in the university. “I think I’ll go into engineering. What our construction battalion accomplished was a marvel.”

We lived frugally on my wages for our first six years. After he earned his degree and was employed, we purchased our home in the Columbus suburbs. Our life together was happy, though we remained childless.

But, George’s behavior had been somewhat odd ever since his Seabee reunion two years ago. He would get up in the middle of the night to write. He’d said, “Oh, just jotting down some memories. Maybe I’ll write a book.”

I smiled. “Let me read it.”

He said, “Please wait until I finish. If I ever do.”


Glancing at the clock, I stuffed his journal in the drawer. I rushed to get scrubs for my midnight shift then drove to the hospital. He was dozing when I entered his room. After placing my bag on the windowsill, I leaned over and kissed his cheek.

George opened his eyes. “Ah, you’ve come. Was afraid you wouldn’t after reading my journal.” He pushed hair away from his forehead. “Do you want a divorce?”

I sighed. “No, don’t be silly.”

He frowned. “There’s more to tell you that’s not in there.” The IV beeped as he scratched his nose.

I adjusted its drip. “Go on.”

He remained silent looking at me for several seconds. “Maybe you should sit down.” He waited while I sat.

“My buddy Ralph brought a woman with him to our Navy reunion. She’s my daughter. Her name is Chimi.” George bit his lip. “I love you and wasn’t sure how to tell you I’d been unfaithful.”

“How do you know she’s yours?”

He fiddled with the bed sheet. “She looks a lot like her mother. Plus she had a photograph of us in Da Nang. It was taken about three months before I was captured. I had no idea there was a child.”

Not wanting him to have another heart attack, I grasped his hand to calm him. “Tell me more about Chimi.”

“She and her husband immigrated here in the early 90s. They live in Des Plaines and have two teenage children.” He gnawed his bottom lip. “I know you always wanted children, but I refused to adopt. Could you accept this child of mine into our family?”

I nodded. “We’ll invite them to spend the holidays with us.” I rubbed his hand. “I have a secret to tell you too.”

George smiled. “I know. Paula let it slip several years ago. She explained why she and Harry didn’t have children. A bit tipsy, she mentioned your ordeal too.”

While I worked my shift later that night, I decided to retire. This way I could devote constant care to my husband when he was released. I turned in my notice before I visited George the next morning.


As always when we took our daily stroll, George protectively cradled my left arm. Early morning sunlight lit the pathway. A nip in the May air from the river water made me glad we’d worn sweaters. We discussed the invitation we received yesterday. Chimi’s son Mike would graduate from DePaw at month’s end. We both agreed we should go. I thought we should fly into O’Hare then rent a car.

George expounded the merits of driving. “This way we wouldn’t have a deadline of when to return. We could see a Cubs game, go to the Museum of Science and Industry, take a walk on the Magnificent Mile, and spend several days with Paula and Harry,. There’s a lot we could do in Chicago. Wouldn’t you like to visit your best friend?”

I patted his right hand. “Yes, that’s fine dear.”