Adventures in Editing

In the early 2000’s, shortly after we purchased the Tucson house, a family member got a new job that came with not one but two company cars, making their Ford minivan, one on which they were still making payments, superfluous. So we offered to take it off their hands.

When it came time to head north for the holidays that year, we removed the back seat and used a piece of plywood to create a carpeted storage space that allowed our golden retrievers, Aggie and Daphne, some comfort while still providing space in which to stow luggage. The trip north was totally uneventful. Before heading back down in January, Bill took the minivan in for an oil change and a complete mechanical check up, during which everything seemed to be in order.

But …. Yes, I’ll bet you already saw that but coming, didn’t you! The trip back south was anything but uneventful. Just north of Grapevine on I-5, the engine gave a lurch. Bill managed to steer us onto the next exit to get off the freeway, but that particular exit, the one to Labec, had no services—as in zero. We finally managed to summon a tow truck.

Some tow truck drivers are just plain nuts, and that guy was a case in point. What followed was a harrowing seventy-mile drive to the nearest Ford dealership in Santa Clarita, with Bill and I jammed in the cab of the truck with the driver and with Aggie and Daphne sitting wide-eyed in the front seat of the minivan.

If you’re going shopping for a new vehicle, having the smoking remains towed into a dealership isn’t the best way to start a negotiation. Because of the dog and luggage situation, we obviously needed another minivan, and they had one on the lot, but purchasing it wasn’t easy. It took the remainder of the afternoon, and Aggie and Daphne were far better behaved than the two kids belonging to the couple at the neighboring desk who were also buying a car that day.

When it finally came down to brass tacks, the salesman offered us five-hundred bucks for our broken minivan, but only if we retrieved the missing back seat. Why the hell he needed it is more than I can understand! But off we went in our new minivan. We spent the night in Palm Springs on the way back to Tucson where we unloaded some of the luggage and loaded in the back seat. Then we drove back to Santa Clarita the next day.

In terms of car deals, that one came close to an old-fashioned shotgun wedding, and from then on, we referred to that minivan as our Ford Fiasco. Two years later, we traded it in on a Dodge minivan, which 285,000 miles later and handed down to our daughter is very close to giving up the ghost.

So yes, I name cars. The first vehicle I ever purchased on my own was a two-toned green Ford Falcon that I named Sidney, after a professor at the U of A, Sidney Schiffer. His was a night time class, and he had a headful of beautiful silver hair that took on a greenish tinge in the glow of the classroom’s overhead fluorescent lighting. The fluid drive Plymouth in which I learned to drive a standard shift without having to fully master using the clutch was Betsy.

In Nothing to Lose, you may have noticed Beau referring to his rented Ford Explorer as a Ford Exploder. Yup, that was me putting a few of my own oddball ideas into his head. And when I met my first Ford Focus? That name quickly morphed into Ford Ficus.

So what does this have to do with editing you might ask? I’ve spent the last several days doing another word-for-word reading of Blessing of the Lost Girls as I installed Bill’s corrections. And what did I find? Toward the end of the book, Lani Walker Pardee climbed into her “Ford Ficus” and headed into town.

Usually editing is a pain in the butt, but that one gave me a good laugh, and I hope it gave you one, too.

24 thoughts on “Adventures in Editing

  1. The meticulous editing is part of the craftsmanship that I appreciate in your novels – especially when I am reading something by another author (naming no names) which doesn’t seem to be edited at all. Great story, but when I want to read with red pencil in hand the enjoyment is tempered a bit.


  2. We have names for cars as well. We had a Ford Lariat pickup that towed our Wilderness trailer years ago. We said we were heading out with Larry and Wilma

  3. Yup! I’m sitting here laughing! And my current little black Honda is named Lic (short for Licorice) and has 411,000 km. on it, and a big rust spot where a student’s uncle hit it years ago when looking after my student. Maybe by the time Lic kicks the bucket, my mortgage will be paid off, and I can take on another set of monthly payments for a replacement vehicle.

  4. Absolutely – a great laugh combined with similar, although not so dramatic – set backs! Thank you for the great weekend “send offs”.

  5. I’ve only named one vehicle. In the early seventies I had a blue Chevy pickup named Myrtle. Why Myrtle? Growing.up, my dad had a truck of the same name. I drove my Myrtle for years. For some reason, I’ve never had the urge to name another.

  6. Yes, you made me laugh at the end!

    My best car name — and best car ever! — was my 1981 Civic hatchback, Goldie Honda. The current Prius, now 7 years old, stubbornly resists being named. The Mercury Sable with the rear-facing third seat, which I purchased during my brief step-family period because of its seating capacity, was also a money pit that earned the name “The Black Hole”. My grandmother had one she named Horrible Horace; my late brother-in-law had an ancient white thing with fins that he called Jaws.

    Each vehicle has memories attached. Lots of smiles. We have adventures in our cars, good and bad, and many of us keep them as long or longer than our houses.

    • What is it about older Prius vehicles and not wanting to be named? I have a 2011 Prius that will not take a name. It’s just “the Prius.” Every other vehicle I’ve owned has taken a name, but not this one.

  7. Funny, and also sadly true in our experience with cars/Fords, which our son, a mechanic, says stands for Found On Road Dead, or Fix Or Replace Daily!
    Thanks for the laughs and memories!

  8. I have had Emmy (I cannot remember the make), Roundabout (Ford Pinto), The Truck or Chevy, Pony Express or Bluey ( Pontica), Callie ( Chevy Cavallier), and my very first new car in 2008, Yarrie (Toyota Yaris), she still ticking along. All the miles put on her are all mine.

  9. Your Naming of cars brought back a story of a adventure I had when I was young and dumb. I had a very used car (don’t remember the make) and I wanted to make a trip to California so just before I was ready to leave it had to be jumpstarted and it was connected wrong and needed to have some wiring repaired a friend of a friend helped me out. I got halfway through Oregon and the car started to smoke got to a rest area it was on fire. Was towed to a very small town garage and it was going to cost a very large amount of money to fix it the owner of the garage said he had a car he would give me for $50 and I had to put in a water pump. That went well the car seem to be OK (later I named it the embarrassment )so I went on to California visiting my brother and decided to go to Utah to visit a friend well on my way to Utah had flat tire put the spare on made it to Utah made it home. After that the cars seem to be Jinxed It got hit in parking lots it had mechanical problems I was going through an intersection and the car went one way the rear tire with the other way the axle broke that was the end of that car . I enjoy reading your books and the blog. Thank you for starting my Fridays off with stories

  10. LOL’d at Ford Ficus (and Fiasco and Exploder). I named my first car—also a Ford, also a fiasco—Christopher, aka the male version of Christine. It lived up to its name 🙂

  11. I just laughed so hard at that. Been lucky with cars. In 2016 my yearly sister visit in Phoenix wound up with me buying a car from an 92 year old guy at my brother in law’s dealership. His 2 kids wanted their allowance raised substantially so his new hobby was paying cash for a new car and then selling it when he had 1000 miles on it. It was a beautiful Chrysler with everything. Silver. Just sold it to my grandson because he was car shopping. And I noticed that I had gone 17 miles in the last 2 months so “she” just sits in my garage. The day he drove off he couldn’t believe it only had 19,768 miles on it. What can I say? I’m 84 and on oxygen 24/7 and traveling is no fun anymore. I’m good – looking forward to your new book!

  12. I too name my cars. My favorite was my first car Bette, a two tone green, one owner 1956 Chevy Belaire with all the bells and whistles of a 1956 cream puff. My current car, the red devil named, since I never before and probably never will buy a Ford Fusion again, such because I resent that I had to replace my green 2005 Chevy Malibu, Molly, that had a button that moved the driver’s seat as far forward as I need, and I no longer needed to use my toes for important stuff like braking and going. This was my seventh totaled car because I was in a hurry. I would like to be taller, but as is said by many, that’s not going to happen either.

  13. I had a Subaru Forester that named herself Belle. I loved that car, but had to sell her when my knee gave out. She was a stick shift and I was the only one in the family who could drive her. I traded her in for a new Prius, the first car I’ve owned who refuses to be named.

    My first car was Beetlebaum (remember Spike Jones?) a 1966 Plymouth Valiant station wagon with a V8 engine and heavy duty transmission. We went lots of places. Probably many places we shouldn’t have gone. Good times!

    • When we married, Ted had a 1965 Valiant – loved that car! We modified it by putting in bucket seats to replace the bench seats in the front, and a Hurst shifter. We also added seat belts (not mandatory back then) and more bells and whistles to our liking. When we went to trade it in for a 1970 Duster, the dealer had no idea what to call it! Miss that car so much…

  14. YES! Always name cars! But I could use some help on this one…I bought myself a white 2017 Ford Mustang for my 90th birthday….I love that little car and I have never been able to name it. “Sally” is out. Have I lost my creativity? Not “Daisy”. Oh, wordsmith, put a thought in my brain!

  15. My oldest friend Val, who learned to drive at age 29, named her first car, a black,
    vintage car of unknown brand, “Martha-” We all loved Martha, and were very sad when she finally had to go-
    I don’t drive, living in NYC where it was never necessary, but my husband does, and we live in a part of the city where it is handy to have a car, and we have parking attached to our apartment building- Our first car here in Staten Island we called “Percy-”
    I would say that your experience with that minivan, Judy, can be summed up as, “Never look a gift horse in the mouth!”

  16. I grew up on a farm in Iowa. Every farmer had a pickup in addition to the family car. My dad’s truck was a 1939 International painted a drab olive green. He painted the dome shaped cover on the radiator a bright shiny red. I don’t think it went very fast, but it served its purpose. He called it Blitz. After he died in 1974 Mom buried it out by the barn as no scrap people wanted it.

  17. I named my light blue, all electric car: Little Blue.
    It is a very small car compared to most.

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