Friday, January 19, 2018

On Whining

I confess I don’t like whining, and I don’t tolerate whiners well. It may be a character flaw, but I own it.

My daughter learned this early in life. If she tried whining, which she did a couple of times, I ignored her. She didn’t try it often. If she told me her problems, I listened and tried to help her find a solution.

I see a lot of whining on Facebook. Some people seem to use this as a platform to express self-pity. Sorry, they will get little sympathy from me unless they are actually doing something to change their situation.

I don’t mean sharing hard times. Several friends are currently fighting cancer. I want to know where they are in the battle. Others are enduring different tragedies, and I want to be there to support them. I’m talking about those people whose every entry is complaining about situations they could change if they wanted to. They just don’t want to.

This same intolerance led to a decision Larry and I made early in the writing of our first book, 31 Months in Japan: The Building of a Theme Park.

We could have told all about the problems and difficulties—and there were enough to fill a book. We didn’t skip the hard times, but we wanted to make the book a celebration of our team’s accomplishments, not a list of complaints.

Despite setbacks, budget problems, personnel issues, we managed to complete a world-class theme park ahead of schedule and under budget. Now, that is something to celebrate.

Please share your problems with me. I want to be able to be of support. My mother-in-love used to say, “You have to tell me what’s wrong. I can’t pray for you if I don’t know you have a problem.”

However, constant whining and feeling sorry for yourself will cause me to dismiss your perceived problems. It may be a huge character flaw or the result of a difficult childhood where I had to pretend everything was okay so my mother could save face. I don’t know where it came from, but there it is.

Does anyone else have this same intolerance?

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

About Book Covers

What should a book cover look like? Should it tell something about the story? Should it have people on it? Should it evoke an emotion?

The answers are “yes” and “not necessarily.”

One publisher friend says a title should contain no more than three words. The subtitle may contain more. A one-word title is ideal. Why? Because it stands out on the cover. Too many words have to be in a smaller font to fit.

I chose the title Ghost Writer for my fantasy/mystery/romance novel because it is a hint at the story. (The ghost was a writer.) Yes, I knew other books existed with the same—or similar—title, but book titles can’t be copyrighted, and this one was perfect. Larry mocked up an idea, and my cover artist, Karen Phillips, perfectly captured it.

This cover hints at the story itself: the girl running on the beach with the dog and the ghost looking out the window. This was Larry’s concept, and I have always loved it. In a group of other covers, this one is especially eye-catching.

However, one of my publishers didn’t want a cover to give away much of the story. She preferred “generic” images. In my opinion, a cover should intrigue a potential reader regardless of the image chosen. It should also avoid cliché images. (Eyes staring out from the cover have become far too common, in my opinion.)

For our historical novel, The Memory Keeper, Larry’s best friend and wonderful artist, Robert Schwenck ( allowed us to use his painting of the ruins of the Great Stone Church at Mission San Juan Capistrano for the cover. Our designer, Melissa Summers, created a beautiful cover from the painting.

As a reader, I don’t like to see people on covers. I’d prefer to picture them myself from the descriptions in the book. (One of my friend’s books has a person on the cover. Throughout the book, she is described with black hair. The cover image has blonde hair. One reviewer pointed this out and gave it a low rating.) For The Memory Keeper, the image is timeless and perfect.

Series covers should have related images. For Larry’s The McGregor Chronicles sci-fi series, the background for each book is a different NASA star field image. (Fortunately, these are in the public domain.) He creates the spaceships and other space gear shown. The specific items are unique to each book.

Book covers need to be memorable and eye-catching, especially on an online retailer’s site, where they are seen in thumbnail size.

Cover preferences are personal. Sometimes the author has a great deal of input into the image. Sometimes the publisher makes the decision without involvement of the author. We have been fortunate to have had a say on the covers for all our books.

What do you like to see in a book cover? What captures your imagination? What do you not like to see?

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Quick Reads

Almost time to celebrate! If you are ready for a quick read, then Larry and I each have one for you.

For many years, Larry and his friend walked around a lake at a neighborhood park every day at lunch. They saw many of the same people in their laps around the lake. As many of us do, Larry made up stories about who they were and what their lives were like. Unlike most of us, however, he wrote these stories down. The result is his book Lakeview Park: A Short Story Collection.

The book contains thirteen short stories, each with an illustration.
Many people enjoy Lakeview Park, and each one has a unique story. Between the pages, you’ll meet:
·     Clarence, who thinks he might have found a winning lottery ticket
·     Kuniko, a grandmother and widow who discovers that friendship can bloom anywhere
·     Wayne, a former guitarist who rediscovers the joy of music
·     Jenny, a mother whose husband is serving in Afghanistan
·     Carol, whose journalistic assignment teaches her more than she expects
·     Shirley, who discovers that some dreams are worth keeping
·     Alex, for whom friendship bridges age differences and soothes a broken heart
·     Gloria, who discovers her blessings and makes peace with her past
·     Alice, who loves to tell jokes, even though her memory is fading
·     Carl, who discovers that reality may hold more promise than long-held fantasy
·     Carolina, a ghost searching for her lost child
·     Tiffany, a teenager with hopes and dreams
·     George, whose life is ebbing, but not his love
·     Sheila, a young woman estranged from her family
·     Carlos, the groundskeeper who has devoted his career to the park
Lakeview Park is a collection of O. Henry-like slice-of-life stories about the people who frequent a fictitious park. These tales reveal folks of all ages, from a small child to the elderly.

Watch the video trailer for Lakeview Park here.

Lorna’s own solo work is a “beach read,” a fast-paced mystery/romance/ghost story, set in Laguna Beach California, called Ghost Writer.

This book contains my favorite character, the ghost, Max. The story is somewhat reminiscent of The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, but without the paranormal romance. It features two stubborn and opinionated characters, who clash but eventually learn from each other.
When unemployed computer programmer Nan Burton inherits a California beach cottage from her great-grandaunt, she’s delighted. But she’s in for a huge surprise: The house is haunted by the ghost of famous romance writer Max Murdoch (pen name Maxine DuBois) who insists Nan complete his last novel, threatening to keep her from sleeping until she agrees. The ensuing clash pits youth against the long-dead but still egotistical author with humorous and moving results.

Watch the video trailer for Ghost Writer here.

So if you want to unwind from all the craziness of the holidays, here are a couple of suggestions. Escape in a book!

Remember, all of our books are available in Kindle and NOOK formats. No worries about delivery before the twenty-fifth.

Wishing one and all a terrific holiday season and a blessed New Year!

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Escape to Space

Do you sometimes just just want to escape? Larry has always wanted to do so. As a kid, he wanted to be a spaceman. (They weren’t called astronauts at the time.) His favorite reading was science fiction, but for years he never wrote it.

However, in 2014, one of the members of our writing group began to write a sci-fi book. Larry’s interest in the genre was re-energized.

In February of 2015, he published The McGregor Chronicles:  Book 1 – Saving Mike.
This is a family story about two brothers, Matt and Mike. When Mike is kidnapped, Matt sets out to rescue him.

Once he finished the first book, he couldn’t stop. In May of 2015, he published The McGregor Chronicles Book 2 – Escape From Eden. In Book 1, Mike meets Tracy Warren. She learns her mother is being held on a private planed called Eden, so in Book 2, she and Matt, along with his other brother, Marc, sister, Maddie, and Federation Detective Jake Stevens go to Eden to free Tracy’s mother.
Of course, this book didn’t end the series. So in March of 2016, he published The McGregor Chronicles: Book 3 – Alien Invasion.
Their parents have not returned from a distant planet, so the McGregor children set out to find them. When they arrive, they encounter a real crisis, and they have to figure out how to respond. At the end of this book, of course, Larry had even more storylines to resolve. In February 2017, he published the next book in the series, The McGregor Chronicles: Book 4 - Kaùsan’s War.

He is nearly finished with the next in the series: The McGregor Chronicles: Book 5 – Nina’s Revenge. He has also begun on Book 6.

Do you enjoy reading science fiction? Do you like family stories? If so, you will enjoy Larry’s sci-fi series. And if you prefer to listen to books, the first two in the series are also available as audiobooks.

Do you have any sci-fi fans on your gift list? These would make great gifts.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Another Book Suggestion

Here’s another suggestion for Christmas gift books. Do you live in cold country? Want to take a virtual trip to Hawaii? Do you (or your friends) like mysteries? Do we have a great gift suggestion for you.

Our mysteries are set in Hawaii!

We wrote the first one after attending the old Maui Writers’ Conference in 2005 after the publication of our first book. 31 Months in Japan: The Building of a Theme Park. We met a fellow who was working security for the conference. We only talked with him for about ten minutes, but when we walked away, I said to Larry, “We have to write that guy.”

The result was out first mystery, Murder…They Wrote, set at a writers’ conference in Hawaii. Whiskey Creek Press (now Start Publishing) published the book in 2010. (Our ebooks are now distributed through Simon & Schuster.)

“What if a retired NYPD officer is asked to investigate a mysterious death at the National Authors Conference where various attendees offer their theories and suspicions? Murder…They Wrote answers this question as Agapé Jones, retired NYPD detective, tries to determine the truth surrounding the death of Robert Dyer, noted poet and critic. Confusing and confounding him are Robert’s award-winning romance novelist ex-girlfriend, current young girlfriend, ex-wife, recently discovered illegitimate daughter, agent, an action/adventure author, famous psychic, long-time friend, and the mysterious countess. While Agapé enjoys getting a chance to exercise his old skills, his wife, Geraldine, isn’t pleased, even though she talked him into volunteering as head of security for the conference. Peopled by a cast of quirky and deliciously amusing characters, Murder…They Wrote will quickly engage the reader. It is filled with accusations, theories, twists, turns and surprises. The authors each have unique personalities and bring them to the creation of the fictional authors.

Two years later, we published the second in the series, Murder in Paradise. This time, the action takes place both on Maui and on Oahu as Agapé becomes a special investigator.

“On an early morning paddle, Agapé Jones' outrigger team finds a body in the water off Maui, thrusting him into unexpected danger. Agapé Jones, retired NYPD detective, is asked to act as special investigator in the murder of famous surfer Philip Fowler, the son of Hawaii State Senator Thomas Fowler. The assignment takes Agapé to the North Shore of Oahu where he discovers that he’s investigating more than just a murder. The young man had no enemies, and Agapé is frustrated by little evidence and few possible suspects. Agapé enjoys exercising his old skills, but he misses his wife, Gerry. He encounters several people who become more than acquaintances, and in the end, discovers the truth. Murder in Paradise allows readers to discover the answers along with the detective while experiencing a virtual trip to the real Paradise that is Hawaii.

This book was a 2012 EPIC eBook Award Finalist.

If you are stuck in the cold and want to escape to Paradise, try reading one of our mysteries. Or give them as gifts to friends who are tired of the cold weather.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Another Gift Suggestion

Here is another suggestion for a book for holiday giving. Take a virtual trip to Japan. Find out what it was like to live there. Learn how we managed to do business with the Japanese. Discover the wonderful experiences we enjoyed during our stay there as well as some of the frustrations. 31 Months in Japan: The Building of a Theme Park is part memoir, part business book, part travel, part theme park construction, and a lot of fun.

While we were in Japan, every two weeks or so, I wrote an essay on something we had seen or done or observed. (Today, they would probably be a blog.) By the end of our stay, I sent my pieces to over 150 people via email. I discovered some of them passed them on to other people.

When we got back, several friends said I should put them into a book. This seemed like an easy task—until I actually started to do it. I discovered the original stories didn’t translate well into a cohesive narrative. They became my source material, but with only a couple of exceptions, I ended up rewriting everything.

I finished the first couple of chapters, but then I realized I needed Larry’s input. I told him what I wanted. Then I waited. And waited. A couple of months later, he came back with something. Only his was very different from the book I had started. I couldn’t figure out any way to incorporate it into a cohesive narrative. I gave up on the project.

Fortunately, a good friend asked about the book. I told her our issue. She invited us to attend her critique group. “Bring what you have to a meeting. Maybe someone can help you figure out how to make it work.”

One of the other writers suggested we look at the material we wanted to include and see if we could identify each chapter by who wrote it. This made sense. So, we began again.

As we worked on the manuscript, we shared information. We also did two complete rewrites. During these, some of Larry made its way into my chapters, and some of me made its way into his. Yet, our unique points of view remained.

We finished the first draft after two years. We did a great deal of fact-checking with our colleagues to be sure we accurately conveyed the events.

We began to look for an agent. The one we found loved the book, but he couldn’t figure out how to market it. It was about Japan, but it wasn’t a travel guide. It was about doing business with the Japanese, but it wasn’t specifically a business book. (Although, it was on the Forbes 500 list of recommended books for several years. It might still be, as far as I know.) It was about the expat experience, but it wasn’t exclusively about it. And it was about building the theme park (Universal Studios Japan), but it wasn’t limited to the construction, either. After several months, the agent returned our manuscript to us.

By this time, the park had been completed nearly four years earlier, and public interest was waning. We decided to subsidy publish the book ourselves. I researched all the available companies and chose the one with the best reputation. They also were running a special. (This was right after the holidays, a slow period for them.)

We submitted the manuscript. The editorial review gave us several items to address—including the need to reduce the size of the book by at least 100 pages. We also faced a deadline. If the book was submitted for publication by April 1, we would receive an additional thirty copies of the paperback. We had only one weekend to complete the edit.

I stayed up for seventy-two hours straight cutting the manuscript. Larry worked for several hours, too. In the end, we made the required publication size, and the book was even better with the cuts.

We had originally intended to use a photo showing us in the park for the cover, but the publisher said it didn’t have good enough resolution. Again, we were up against a deadline. Larry made a couple of pencil sketches of the five-story pagoda in Kyoto and the entrance arch for Universal. He faxed them to me. He said he would draft them when we got home that evening.

However, I loved them just the way they were. I am a fan of Japanese sumei painting. I like its lack of precision. I showed the sketches to several of my colleagues, and they agreed with me.

When we got home, I mocked up the cover design, with the text and blue-green ombre background. We sent it to the publisher, and they approved it.

We met our deadline.

The book is still sold around the world on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Surprisingly, the hardbound version sold well on the Amazon UK website. We know it has been recommended by word-of-mouth to expats teaching English in Japan.

We returned to Japan in 2011 for the tenth anniversary of park opening. We remain very proud of the world-class park we helped create.

Friday, November 24, 2017

The Aspen Grove Anthologies

When the cold weather arrives, I often think of sitting, covered in a warm quilt, reading a book. My favorites are romance anthologies. I got the idea for our Aspen Grove Romance Anthologies on just such a cold night.

I wrote the prologue for the first book and sent it to an author friend, Sherry Derr-Wille. I knew her work, and I felt it would be perfect for the project. She immediately agreed. I asked a mutual friend and another author friend, Christie Shary, to join us. Snowflake Secrets was born.

Unfortunately, our mutual friend became very ill and was unable to continue with the project, so I asked another of my author friends. She agreed, but a week or so later, decided she wouldn’t have the time. Another friend, Luanna Rugh, overheard our discussion and asked me about the project. By the time we finished our conversation, she had already written the first chapter in her head.

One of Sherry’s publishers, Oak Tree Press (now owned by Start Publishing), loved romance anthologies. We had a contract for this book even before we finished it.

We decided to create a fictional town, Aspen Grove, Colorado, as our setting. I had lived in Colorado for a year, Christie’s brother lived there, Luanna had driven through the state several times, and Sherry lived in Wisconsin, so she knew all about seasonal weather. I chose Idaho Springs and Georgetown as the inspirations, but Aspen Grove is wholly fictional.

We had so much fun with Snowflake Secrets, we all decided to do a second. For this one, each of us took a different season and wrote a novella—all of them set in Aspen Grove. In our first book, each of the novellas was written in the first-person voice of the character. For this one, Seasons of Love, we wrote in third-person. (It is the only one of the anthologies written in third-person.) My novella in this one, “Winter’s Song,” is based on a real couple, Dan and Amy. I even play a role in the story. Can you guess who I am?

We liked writing together, and our publisher asked for another. For this one, we each chose a compass direction. I set mine, “Finding Love in Paradise,” in Hawaii and Japan, both places I know well. This book, Directions of Love, won the 2012 EPIC eBook Award for best romance anthology.

I had already written about Christmas, but I felt we needed an anthology dedicated to the season. For this book, An Aspen Grove Christmas, we added Cheryl Gardarian. This was her debut as a published author. This book is Luanna’s husband’s favorite, and Larry has read it many times because he enjoys it, too.

Christie decided not to join us for the next anthology, The Art of Love, so we were back to four authors. We each took an art form, and crafted a story around it. The inspiration for my story was the last name of a friend from work: Amalfatano. It sounded as though it could have been the name of a winery. This novella, “A Shot at Love,” is set in Aspen Grove and the wine country of California and features a photographer.

Number six in the series, and probably the last, came about one day when Luanna and I were talking about the old rhyme: Something old, Something new, Something borrowed, and Something blue. I mentioned that you don’t often hear the last line: …And a Silver Sixpence in Her Shoe. We called Sherry and Cheryl. Each of us had one stanza we liked best. I took “Something Old,” inspired by my mother’s wedding dress. When the cover artist couldn’t find a photo of exactly the right dress, I sent her a picture of my mother in hers. It is now on the cover of the book.

So, if you are looking for a sweet romance to warm a cold, winter night, or you know someone who enjoys romances, please consider one of these as a gift.

Friday, November 17, 2017

The Cookbooks in My Life

With the holidays approaching, you may be looking for gifts. Since The Cooking Channel and cooking shows have become so popular, cookbooks have become prized gifts. I have been involved with three of these.

My first venture into the world of cookbooks occurred in 1996 when Community Presbyterian Church of San Juan Capistrano decided to collect members’ favorite recipes as a fundraiser for the Friends of Music. The result was The Gift of Christmas.
A friend and I edited the recipes, and then Larry did the layout. The completed book was copied at a local copy shop and spiral bound. A church member designed the cover. This book contains not only some of my recipes, but also those of my mother, grandmother, and mother-in-love. Many of them were favorites at church dinners and potlucks.

In 2015, a friend asked if we had an extra copy. We decided to re-publish it in both Kindle and print form as a fundraiser for the church preschool and kindergarten. So, it is available once again.

The second cookbook in my life came about when my friend and fellow author, Ilene Schneider, suggested creating a cookbook of the recipes featured in our books, to be published by Oak Tree Press. The book was to include author photos and information about our books. I did the layout for publication, but the book was put on the back burner because of health issues of the publisher.

It languished for a couple of years until we decided it was time to get it out. Another Oak Tree author, Mary Montague Sikes, allowed us to use her beautiful artwork for the cover, and Recipes by the Book: Oak Tree Authors Cook became a reality.

This one is also available for Kindle and as a print book.

The most recent one I have been involved with is the resurrection of Marilyn Meredith’s Cooking for a Big Family and Large Groups.

This one was published so long ago, even Marilyn had forgotten about it. I ran across an old copy on Amazon, or I wouldn’t have known about it. The only copy she had was a three-hole punched copy typed on a typewriter.

I scanned the old one and converted to an electronic file, then edited and formatted it for publication. The cover is a photo of our dining room table.

Larry produced the covers for all of these.

So if you are considering a cookbook as a holiday gift, take a look at these. All of them contain great recipes and much more.