Friday, October 9, 2020

Lawn Mower Summers

Today, my husband, soulmate, and partner in crime, Larry K. Collins, shares a memory from his childhood. 


For about three years, starting when I was eleven or twelve, I mowed lawns in my neighborhood to make extra spending money. Several of the neighbors gladly hired me for the chore.

I used my father’s push mower. It was old school. The forward movement of the wheels drove the vertically rotating blades which sliced against a fixed blade. A grass catcher hooked on the back and was held in place by a coat-hanger-like contraption hung from the mower handle. I turned the mower upside down, threw the catcher on top, and dragged it down the street to the selected house.



A year later, a young couple from the next street over heard about me and asked if I would do their lawn on a regular basis, twice a month for $20.00 monthly. Wow, a steady source of income. And the best perk was he had a new state-of-the-art, rotary-type power lawn mower I could use. On this model, a propeller type blade spun horizontally under a protective metal housing. The gas-driven engine sat on top, and grass clippings were thrown out an opening on the left side of the machine. The motor only worked the blade, so I still had to push it across the yard. I agreed to mow and edge the property.



The couple and their two daughters, one three and the other a year old, had moved in recently. He was a news announcer for a local radio station, and she a retired airline stewardess. In those days the airlines didn’t allow married stewardesses.

Their house was located on a curve, so the front yard was small, but the back was gigantic. Behind the house was a vast field of grass sloping down to a six-foot high concrete block wall on two sides. A detached garage and driveway completed the third side. There were no bushes or shrubs except for three sickly little rose bushes along the garage and a fifteen-foot high peach tree in the far corner. Near the rear steps from the house was a patio. Well, really a ten-by-ten square concrete pad set with two outdoor lounge chairs, the kind with plastic webbing screwed to an aluminum frame, and a low table of the same construction placed between. During the summer months, a small inflatable kiddy pool rested on the lawn nearby.

The first day, the wife led me to the garage. Her husband was at work. She pointed out the machine. Then I was left to figure out how to use it. After several unsuccessful pulls of the starter rope, I finally found and read the instruction manual, checked gas and oil levels, set the speed control lever on the handlebar to ‘start’ position and tried again. Success. One problem solved.

The instructions also said to mow the lawn in counterclockwise circles from the outside to the center of the yard. Grass clippings thrown from the mower would be reduced to mulch, which would become fertilizer. It worked well. Soon the lawn in the center grew so thick I could hardly push the mower thorough it.

My first pass around the yard was also almost my last. As I approached the peach tree, I heard a loud twang from the blade, and a peach-pit struck me in the groin. Ouch! I learned quickly to rake fallen peaches from around the tree first.

During the summer months, the wife would sunbathe while the children played in the pool. Often, one of her girlfriends and her two-year-old son would join them. Two wine glasses would occupy the small table. It was my first introduction to twenty-five-year-old ex-stewardesses in bikinis. I tried not to stare.

One eventful day, I was trimming the tall grass around base of the steps with my hand clippers when the phone in the kitchen rang. The wife, lying on her stomach leapt to her feet and ran past me up the stairs to answer. In her haste, she forgot she had unhooked the bra back-strap to prevent a tan line.

Her girlfriend, seeing my stupefied expression, burst into laughter.

Thinking back now, the neck strap was still tied, so I didn’t get much of a view. Still, since I vividly remember the incident after more than sixty years, it must have made quite an impression on my preteen psyche.

I mowed their lawn faithfully for several more years, but sadly, it never happened again.


Saturday, October 3, 2020

Yet Another Loss

 Marilyn the Crazy Italian is gone. Actually, she was Sicilian—and proud of it! Through her, I discovered that if Sicilians liked you, you became family. We became a part of her feisty, funny, loving Sicilian family, and we were blessed for it.

 Marilyn and Don Griffin were our neighbors. They had an only child, Donna. We had an only child, Kim. The girls were in the same class in school when Donna infected the whole class with chickenpox.


This is about how Marilyn looked when we first met.

When we met, Marilyn and I instantly bonded. I loved her irreverence and sense of humor. I think she liked my pragmatism. I was also a good audience and laughed at all her jokes. And she knew I loved her. We told each other the truth, and it mattered to both of us.

I loved her whole family: her crazy mother, Mary, her Auntie Dolly and Uncle Cliff (they were also neighbors), and Auntie Alice and Uncle Louie (she called him “Uncle Loulie”). We got to know all the cousins and enjoyed them as well. Over time, I also got to know her brother Sammy (Sal), too. He sold me a car once—one I adored.

 Kim and Donna were in the same Brownie troop, so we often saw each other at various meetings. When I took over the leadership, Marilyn became an assistant leader. This continued through several years of Girl Scouts.

 Larry and Don got along well. Both were the same age, very shy, and didn’t like large crowds. They sat at a distance together and observed. I remember one neighborhood Christmas party at our house. Everyone sat around the living room in a circle. Before long, Don and Larry had backed away to the far corner of the dining room where they could watch everything without engaging.

Our families began to spend time together at each other’s houses. About once a week, we ate dinner together and then played games. The guys’ favorite was The Ungame. I think they liked it because it wasn’t competitive. After a while, we abandoned the board and tokens and just answered questions. In this way, we all got to know each other very well.

 In 1980, Don fell at work. Because it happened on the job, his employer insisted he see their workman’s comp doctor. Early the next morning, we received a panicked phone call from Marilyn. Some of Don’s tests indicated something seriously wrong, and all the possibilities were fatal.

 Instead of leaving for work, we rushed to their house where we held each other and cried. Thus began several of the worst months of our lives. Don had leukemia, which at the time was an almost guaranteed death sentence. He underwent a bone marrow transplant at City of Hope, which appeared to be successful. However, as he was recovering, he had a brain aneurism and passed away. He was thirty-six years old.

Marilyn had a difficult time after Don died. Then, women couldn’t get a credit card in their own names. This motivated me to get a loan in my name only. I had to fight the bank to do it, but I got it—and paid it off in half the time.

Two years later, Marilyn married again, this time to Louis LaVella, who had two daughters. Family was always most important to her. She met her new husband through Parents Without Partners.

Unfortunately, Louis had severe heart problems. He died while on a transplant list, and again, Marilyn was alone.

Marilyn and Donna

Several years later, Marilyn reconnected with a former high school boyfriend, Fred Martin. Both were single, and their old spark rekindled. They were very happily married until Fred’s death in 2003.

Marilyn took Fred’s death very hard. She was at loose ends for several years. She finally joined a support group for widows and widowers. There she met Ray Bondeson. I remember when she called to invite us to their wedding. The big incentive for Larry was the red velvet cheesecake wedding cake!


Marilyn and I remained in touch through Facebook and occasional phone calls. We always talked about getting together, but we didn’t manage to do so. She called several weeks ago, and we spoke for about an hour, sharing memories of our mothers and families and our kids. She was very proud of all her kids and grandkids—including the step ones. She mentioned she was in the hospital, but for as long as I’d known her, she always had one or another physical issue. Hospitalization wasn’t unusual for her, and I didn’t think too much about it.

Her stepdaughter posted the news of her passing on Facebook. I am heartbroken to realize the phone will never ring again and I will never hear her smoky voice and hearty laugh at the other end.

Rest in peace, my friend. I’ll never forget you.

Friday, September 25, 2020

Celebration Delayed

 

Last night, we finally celebrated our 55th anniversary with dinner at the Anaheim White House Restaurant. It has been a favorite since a friend recommended it to us nine years ago. Early in the pandemic, we decided to support our favorite restaurants. We bought a gift certificate from the White House for a future meal.

 

Because of this purchase, we have been receiving emails about their reopening for dining—outside and distanced.

 

This week, we received notification of their Restaurant Week menu. When I saw it, I suggested we use our gift certificate to belatedly celebrate our anniversary.

 

The actual date is September 4, but we were too busy to really celebrate. After a rough few week, we both needed a relaxing escape. The email was just the prompt to take a much-needed break.

 

I requested a reservation, and we got it right away. Of course, it was a week night, so we didn’t have much concern. (There were quite a few others there—masked and distanced outside.) This menu is only active through Saturday.

 

We arrived a bit early because we had expected more traffic than we encountered. We valet parked the car and walked to the entrance, where we had our temperatures taken and used hand sanitizer.

 

Even though we were early, we were seated at a lovely table near the fountain. The weather was spectacular—comfortable with a light breeze and clear skies. (No smoke from the fires remained in the air.)

 

Our waiter, James, brought us water, and we just relaxed and enjoyed their playlist of older Italian songs. We finally relaxed and relished the evening and being together.

 

I know you want to hear about the food, and we would be remiss if we didn’t talk about it. (We neglected to take pictures of it as it arrived.) Each course was set in front of us, and then an ultraviolet light was wafted over the plate—additional precaution.

 

For our appetizer we both chose the Tempura Artichoke Hearts. Delicious! As we always expect, the presentation was beautiful. I tried to pace myself, so Larry “helped” finish mine.

 

For the salad course, we decided to order one of each. Larry had the mixed greens with a terrific passion fruit and ginger vinaigrette. I chose the Caesar salad. Both were served, once again beautifully, in an edible rice paper container.

 

As we were finishing our salads, the song “Walk Hand in Head” came on the playlist. Most people probably don’t remember it, but I have always loved it, and it was sung at our wedding. As Larry said, “Another nice anniversary gift.”

 

By the time our entrée arrived, live music by a singer with guitar began. He was delightful.

Actually, the entrée was the main reason I wanted to go. I adore Chicken Cordon Bleu, and it was included. It said it was served with “seasonal vegetables.” In this case, it was butternut squash puree. Absolutely fantastic.

Larry had a tougher decision. He finally settled on the Salmon Chocolat. (I suspect it was the promise of sweetness that won him over.) It was served with white chocolate mashed potatoes. He let me taste, and they were very good—and sweet—but I preferred my own meal.

Once again, Larry volunteered to “help” with mine. Because it was a generous portion, I just couldn’t finish it. He enjoyed both our entrées.

Of course, there was dessert. We consider ourselves somewhat expert on Crème Brule. During both our trips to France, we compared this delight throughout the country. (We decided the restaurant near the Eiffel Tower had the best.) Last night’s was equally delicious—creamy with crisp brûléed sugar on the top.


To our surprise, we also received a lovely “extra” for our anniversary. (We brought it home to eat later. (It probably won’t last out the day today!)


We had a wonderful evening and a genuinely joyous celebration.

How can it be fifty-five years? it has gone by far too quickly, but both of us would do it all again!

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Another Birthday!

 

Yes, I’m getting old. Next year I will reach the ¾ century mark. And you know what? I feel thrilled and blessed to have made it this far. Many in my family have not.


My father, Henry LaRay Lund, died at 37 when I was seven years old. He went to work one morning and never came home.


His mother, Margaret Imelda McNamara Lund, died at twenty-five when my dad was six. She left three children. My dad was the eldest. His sisters were three- and eighteen-months hold. Her children were raised by other relatives.


My maternal grandfather, David Methven, died at 54. He also went to work in the morning and never came home. Grandpa died in the old Broadway flagship store in downtown Los Angeles at closing time. Dad (his son-in-law) was with him. His last words were about me.

Dad died in the same store at opening time just over five years later.


My paternal great-grandmother died at 38 after giving birth to thirteen children. My grandfather was eight-years-old when his mother died. He was raised by an older sister—the same one who raised my dad after his mother died.

On the other hand, some of my ancestors lived a long time.


My mother lived to ninety-three, and her youngest sister will be ninety-seven on Friday. She is still sharp and a lot of fun.

 This year, with the pandemic going on, Larry still managed to plan a wonderful day. He invited two other couples over for dinner. He put up the awning in the back. It was the first time we had used this one. We haven’t done any in-person events since we bought it. Festooned with fairy lights, it looked magical after dark.

 We sat at separate tables spaced well apart. The canopy is ten feet square, so our chairs were close to the edges.

Larry ordered food from my favorite restaurant, The Harbor Grill, picked it up, and brought it home. Delicious!


He ordered beautiful flowers! They smell marvelous! He also got me a Chico’s gift card for when the pandemic is over.


Our Japanese son, Toshi, sent gorgeous flowers. I have both of them trained to go to my favorite florist. And they both know my taste.

 So, despite the situation this year, I had a marvelous celebration! And I celebrate my birthday all month, so the party continues.


Since I love giving presents to others on my birthday, the Kindle version of my book, Romance in the Time of Social Distancing, is FREE through the 28th 

 How do you feel about birthdays?

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Finding Closure

 In 2012 when we visited Spring City, Utah, the home of my paternal ancestors, we visited the Pioneer Cemetery. We located my great-grandparents’ and great-great-grandparents’ graves. Unfortunately, my great-grandmother’s headstone was broken. (It was in two pieces then, and later I learned it had broken in three.)

 I contacted the city historian and asked about someone to repair it. She told me the man who used to do the work had died. She said she’d see if she could find someone. Unfortunately, she was unable to find anyone.

 This is a private cemetery, so there are no funds available for maintenance. A distant relative on Ancestry told me occasional groups visited and cleaned up the grounds, but this happened infrequently. My cousins and I said we’d pay for the repairs but we were not able to find anyone to make them. To make matters worse, the originals were made of sandstone. This erodes easily and is brittle.

 Last summer, when we visited my grandfather’s brother’s family in Canada, I talked to several of my second cousins about the headstone. One had been to the cemetery and took photos. Not only was Mary Jane’s headstone still broken, but it appeared someone had tried to repair it. (He heard it was a Boy Scout troop.) It remained in three pieces, but now they had brown goop on the ends and looked worse than ever.)

 The Canadian branch of the family has a reunion every other year. During the reunion, relatives donated their handmade items for an auction. Everyone bid more than necessary. We took a couple of hardbound copies of our memoir, 31 Months in Japan: The Building of a Theme Park, and there was some competition for these. I bid on several items and won a few.

 During the weekend, one of the cousins suggested they use the accumulated funds to purchase a new monument stone for Mary Jane. I was thrilled with the idea.

 My second cousin, DeLoss, who lives in Utah, arranged for the new monument sign. He had it designed and installed.

 We were to have had a mini-family reunion in Spring City over Memorial Day to re-dedicate the new marker. However, because of Covid-19, the reunion was cancelled.

 Last week, DeLoss went to Spring City and took photos of the marker. He sent them to me. It turned out far better than I could have imagined.

On the front is a picture of a covered wagon. The family came by ship from Denmark to New Orleans. From there, they went north and joined a wagon train to make the trek to Utah. (They were Mormon Pioneers and helped to settle the state.)

On the back is the family name. Above it is my great-grandfather’s brand. They raised cattle, so my grandfather and his brothers were all cowboys. He was also a blacksmith. He had a forge in his backyard and used it until about a year before he died in his 80s.

 The small stone behind this one with the lamb on it is for my grandfather’s younger brother, Hollis. He was a twin and died as an infant. His twin brother, Collis, lived near us when I grew up, and I remember him well. He was a barber, and a very sweet, quiet man.

The new monument has both my great-grandmother’s name and my great-grandfather’s. His original headstone remains on the right. In time, it will probably crack and fall down, so I am delighted that both of them will be memorialized together.

Since 2012, I have wanted to see my great-grandmother properly represented here. When DeLoss made the arrangements for the new marker, I sent some money to help with the cost.

 I must admit, I was more than thrilled to finally see the finished monument in place. It is even more beautiful than I could have imagined,

 Family is very important to me. All of those who went before us are part of the fabric from which we came. Their lives created the foundation for who we have become. I am very proud of the brave people who left their homes to settle this country. And now, we have a fitting testament to their lives in Spring City.

Friday, August 7, 2020

Managing Audiobooks

 In addition to my own audiobooks, I have also managed them for several of my clients. They are time-consuming but fun to work on. It is different to hear your words spoken by others. As an author, I often see something unexpected when someone else interprets my stories.

My first venture into the world of audiobooks was Ghost Writer back in 2015. I was fortunate to get a very good producer off the bat. The producer is the narrator of the book. This is NOT just a reader. The person had to have the right tone and be able to act out the story using only her voice. Jean’s audition sounded perfect. We have since worked together on three other books, and I am currently working with her on another. She has agreed to produce the last three of the romance anthologies.

The next audiobook was The Memory Keeper. We actually started this project in 2014 before Ghost Writer and had several people audition for it. The person we chose was a teacher born in Wisconsin who lived in the south. However, we wanted the story told by someone who had a slight Spanish accent. This was also a challenge because we had several Native American (Acjachemen) words. Aaron worked very hard to get them just right. The effort was worth it because we ended up with a terrific audiobook as a result. This one took quite a while to complete.

Aaron went on to record Larry’s short story collection, Lakeview Park, as well as the first two books in his sci-fi series, The McGregor Chronicles.

Our memoir, 31 Months in Japan: The Building of a Theme Park, proved to be a major challenge. It contains Japanese words, and we really wanted two people to produce it. I had worked with a couple on the terrific recording of our friends Leonard and Luanna Rugh’s book, Promises Kept: How One Couple’s Love Survived Vietnam. (They were technologically challenged, so I took care of the production process for them.) We waited for the producers to complete the Rugh’s book before they started on ours.

When they were about thirteen chapters in, I suddenly had no contact from them. They did not answer emails and wouldn’t respond to messages on Facebook. After a year, we gave up and cancelled their contract. (I still don’t know what happened, but the guy got a divorce, and his subsequent posts on Facebook were a bit strange.)

We tried putting the book back out for audition with little success. The couple of people who auditioned could not pronounce the Japanese words correctly. Finally, we found Andrew. He had lived in Japan for a year and aced the language. After a long wait, this one was finished in 2018, and we are pleased with the result.

In the meantime, I had edited an anthology of short stories set in Hawaii called Passion, Paradise, Murder. I worked with a wonderful producer on that audiobook. So, when it came time to turn our mysteries into audiobooks, I turned to him.

Since he lives on Maui, Paul knows how to pronounce all the Hawaiian words. He recorded Murder…They Wrote and Murder in Paradise, and we are delighted with them.

By the time we were ready to record The McGregor Chronicles: Book 3 – Alien Invasion, Aaron was no longer available. So, we hunted for another producer. We found one we liked very much. He did about nine chapters, then we didn’t hear from him for quite a while. When we did, he wrote that he had been in a serious auto accident and could no longer manage the recording. We were sorry for him and wished him well. So, the hunt began anew.

Finally, Dan auditioned. He was truly the answer to our prayers! He had a warm and engaging voice, and we have enjoyed working with him. Our most recent audiobook is The McGregor Chronicles: Book 4 - Kaùsan’s War.

A fun experience was working on the production of our grand-niece’s YA fantasy novel, A Wolf’s Magic. This book was published on her twelfth birthday, so we needed a young-sounding voice for it. We were lucky to get Traci, and she did a fabulous job!

 In addition, I have managed the production on several other audiobooks for my clients, and I’m currently working on two more for them.

 Audiobooks are challenging, both for the author and for the producer, but they are also very satisfying when they are finally completed after all the hard work!

 Do you listen to audiobooks? What do you look for in an audiobook?

Friday, July 31, 2020

Another Farewell

On Tuesday afternoon, while checking Facebook, a strange post showed up saying our dear friend Suzi O had passed away. I couldn’t believe it. So, I messaged the person who made the post. It was true. I was blindsided.

 

We knew her in high school as Elaine Benioff. She was in Larry’s class, two years ahead of me. My best friend was in the same class, and I knew many of her friends. (At his reunions, I often have had to tell him who the people were because I knew more of them than he did.)

 

I remembered her because of her gorgeous long, blonde hair.

We attended Larry’s 20th class reunion in the fall of 1982. On the Sunday morning, following the big celebration on Saturday night, many of us ate brunch in the hotel. We sat with Elaine, now called Suzi. (In high school, she used her middle name. After she graduated, she switched to her first name: Susan. It morphed into Suzi. Her married name was Osborne.) During the meal, we found out she lived on Maui. We had planned a trip there not long after the reunion, so we made arrangements to visit her while we were there.



At the time, she ran a small newspaper, and we met her in the office. She also had become a minister and conducted weddings. Her logo read: Get Married on Maui. She did this for many years. We spent the afternoon with her and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. From then on, we visited with her each time we went.

 

We attended their subsequent high school reunions and always spent time with Suzi. She was pure joy and a bright light. We looked forward to being with her. We laughed a lot.

 

When she came to Orange County, she often stayed with us and made our house her headquarters.

 

Suzi experienced a house fire and lost her home. She put whatever remained in storage and moved back to Fresno, California. Her mother had started having health issues, so Suzi felt she was needed here.

 

She began to make one or two trips to Bali each year, getting to know people and buying handcrafted items from the local artists: bags, clothing, scarves, tablecloths, jewelry, wooden carvings, gift items etc. (If you read the book Eat, Pray, Love, you may remember the guru mentioned in the book. Suzi knew him. She showed us pictures and told stories about him.)

 

She arranged for “Bali Boutiques,” hosted in private homes (sort of like Tupperware parties), where she sold her wares. I hosted several of these for her and invited my friends. The best part of hosting was having her stay here. She usually arrived the day before, and we played. She often stayed for a few days afterward, and we had more opportunities for fun.

 

In August of 2010, we held an Arts Festival at our church. When I mentioned it to Suzi, she immediately said she wanted to take part. She secured a space and sold her items there. She did very well.

 

The day of the festival was my birthday. I stopped by her booth and pointed out a couple of items I really liked. Unbeknownst to me, she talked Larry into getting me a gorgeous blue stone pendant. I love it and have worn it often.

 

By the next time she came, she had found new venues: senior living centers. Some worked well for her. Others, not so much. But her joie de vis was contagious. She genuinely loved people, and they were attracted to her. On one trip down to Orange County, one of her senior homes cancelled. She asked if I knew of any. I told her about the one my mother had lived in, and she made arrangements for a show there. I went along with her since I still knew many of the residents and staff. We spent a fun day. I don’t think she made too much money, but she charmed everyone, and we laughed a lot.

 

In 2012, they celebrated their 50th class reunion. The party was held in Balboa. We invited Suzi to stay with us, but she wasn’t even sure she could make it because her mom wasn’t doing well. She said she’d meet us at the party, which she did.

She left early to drive straight back to Fresno. Her mother died shortly thereafter, and she moved back to Maui, the place she loved best.

 

In 2015, Larry and I celebrated our fiftieth wedding anniversary. A week later, we left for a two-week vacation in Hawaii. Our first stop was Maui, where we stayed a week with Suzi. She had planned activities for every day we were with her. She got tickets for Noises Off at the local theater. Suzi was very active in the theater, appearing on stage several times,

 

We joined some of the other theater folks for dinner before the show. We really enjoyed this delightful farce.

 

On Friday night, Kahului held a street fair with food and music and booths. Mostly, we walked the main street with her as Suzi met and greeted friends. We became convinced she knew everyone on the island.

Another day, we arranged to have brunch with the gentleman who inspired the protagonist of our mysteries, Agapé Jones. We invited Suzi to join us. Not too surprisingly, she and he already knew each other as well as many mutual friends.

 

We were plotting a new mystery at the time and were looking for a senior living facility on Maui to include in the book. I had mentioned this to her before we arrived. Being Suzi, she’d arranged for a tour of the best facility on the island, where her friend was the director.

 

On Saturday morning, we went to the marketplace at the college. I found a beautiful caftan and several gift items. Larry bought a T-shirt.

 

Later that evening, she hosted a potluck party. Included were some of the same people with whom we had eaten dinner the night of the play. We took part in one of her traditional games: a version of charades where we acted out the names of famous people. We broke into two teams. Although some of the players were quite competitive, it was more about the camaraderie and laughs. Oh, and the great food. We stayed up late because no one wanted to go home.

 

In 2017, Larry’s class held their 55th reunion. Suzi came and stayed with us. She arrived early, and we spent some time with her. We attended the event together, and had a great time, as always.

2017 – Photo by Gary Bosley

The following morning, she left to see Fr. Ed Benioff (a cousin, I think) installled as pastor of Church of the Good Shepherd in L.A.  She took a dedicated copy of our book "The Memory Keeper" to him as a gift.

She later went to a spa near San Diego. While there, she ran into our friend, the inspiration for our retired detective. We didn’t know he was in town and didn’t see him, but she did.

 

Last October, they held a 75th birthday party for the class. Suzi had planned to come, and we had expected her to stay with us. Unfortunately, she had to cancel. Her landlord wanted her to move so he could rent the house to a family member.

 

While in the moving process, she fell and broke her back. Thank goodness, she had great friends who helped her with the move and took care of her until she healed.

 

Through the years, we remained in touch through email and Facebook.

 

Her birthday parties became legendary on Maui. We always received an invitation, but somehow, the timing never worked out. She had entertainment—some of the best musicians in Hawaii. A large crowd turned out for the food and music and dancing, and she had a ball.

 

Because of the virus, her usual extravaganza didn’t happen last month. But we expected to see her again once the current situation allowed travel.

 

This is why the news of her death was such a shock. She had cancer. Later, I learned that when she died, she was surrounded by friends and lots of love.

 

I am grateful for the wonderful memories we shared with her, and we will miss her terribly.

Suzi’s birthday 2018 – photo by Bruce Forrester

Somewhere in heaven she is organizing a big party with some of her friends like the recently departed Willie K. And she is laughing. Aloha, Suzi!


Friday, July 24, 2020

REPUBLISHING ACHES AND PAINS


This week, my dear friend, Marilyn Meredith, writes about the republishing process. In the past several years, she has now republished almost all of her books as self-published.

It all began when my good friend, Lorna, urged me to self-publish the Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery series. She and her husband had already done the same for my Deputy Tempe Crabtree series when the publisher closed its doors. Lorna and I both re-edited every book in the series, and her husband, Larry, redid the new covers for publication. And of course, Lorna did the actual job of putting the books on Amazon as trade paperback and for Kindle.

When the publisher of the RBPD series passed away, another publisher picked up the authors’ books, including mine. However, I had so many, the republishing process was slow. I’d already experienced the advantage of the Crabtree series being self-published because of my ability to actually see what books were being purchased, and if the promotion of a particular book worked.

As with the other series, the process began with Lorna editing each book and then my going over it, too. This was an eye-opener. These books had first been heard and critiqued by my writers’ group, re-edited by me, edited by the first publisher, then the second publisher, but Lorna discovered many mistakes, and then, I went through them, too. Not only did I find more mistakes like simple typos, but also character’s name changes, and a few discrepancies. Despite all that work, I’m sure we still missed some errors.

Larry redid all the covers, each one in a different color, with a wonderful RBPD badge on each one. An entire set of the books creates a wonderful rainbow.

The whole series is now available on Amazon.

This may sound easy, but it was a lot of work. At times, I wondered if it would be worth it—and I’ll bet there were moments when Lorna wished she hadn’t urged me to switch to self-publishing.

I must say, I wasn’t up to doing this myself. I’m at a stage in life where I have trouble learning how to do new things. None of this would have happened without Lorna’s and Larry’s expertise, and I’m forever grateful.
If you’d like to start at the beginning of the series, here’s the link to Final Respects:

However, each book is written as a stand-alone. There are continuing characters, but the crime or crimes are solved by the end of the book.
One of my favorites is Murder in the Worst Degree.
https://tinyurl.com/yagpv3hq  The Kindle version of this book will be FREE from today, July 24, through the 28th. If you downloaded the old version, you may want to try this one. See if you can find any differences.
Marilyn writes the RBPD series as F. M. Meredith. She is the author of over forty published books. She lived for over twenty years in a beach town with many similarities to Rocky Bluff. She’s a member of two chapters of Sisters in Crime, Public Safety Writers Association and other writers’ groups.



Friday, July 17, 2020

50th Anniversary 9/5/2015 Casey’s Thoughts


I recently went through the photos of our 50th anniversary and created a video of the celebration and party. (September 5, 2015. Most photos by Heather Taylor) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qeuEBcKPNXg 
I also found the audio recording of the ceremony. I have now transcribed each of our speeches. This last one is from my brother-in-love, Casey Collins.

I’m Casey, Larry Collins’s brother. To you, it’s an introduction, but to me it’s a title, and it’s a title I’ve always been really proud of. Larry mentioned we grew up in an awesome family. Our parents were terrific. There is quite a span in age between Larry and me. Because of the war, WWII, and a few other issues, I was seven years younger.
Casey 2 & Larry 9
Larry 12 & Casey 5
Larry was always there to take care of me. I was the tag-along. He would let me go with him and was incredibly kind and amazingly nice to me because I wasn’t always someone to be nice to. We had a really, really close relationship. He introduced me at an early age to surfing and skateboarding and motorcycle riding, all kinds of great activities.
Surfers circa 1969
Larry didn’t have a lot of girlfriends. Most of them weren’t interested in having his little brother hang out with them. So, I kind of got pushed to the side.

Lorna was different, and that’s why she’s my favorite. She was the one who let me tag along with them when Larry went surfing and when they went to the movies and activities. She was awesome. She didn’t separate me from my brother.

Larry saved my life in the ocean one time. I think he probably saved a lot of lives.

I wanted to mention how Lorna gained my respect. Larry was a surfer, and surfing isn’t the glamorous, beach party thing. When they were married, Lorna would go with us early in the morning to the beach. We lived in Alhambra, so we were always going to Santa Barbara or San Diego to surf. She earned my respect by the way she handled it.

For example, we would leave the house at oh-dark-thirty in the morning because we had a one-hour or two-hour drive to get to the specific surfing spot where we wanted to go before it got light. We surfed both in the winter and the summer, so the conditions could be a bit rough. The beaches we went to were either covered in rocks or the sand was full of seaweed and flies. Lorna would record us surfing on 8mm film. Then she would sit in the car and read.

About ten o’clock, the sun would start to break through to make a pretty day at the beach. This was about the time we’d load up the car and head back home because we were done for the day. It seemed so difficult for her to do, but she never complained.

When I was fifteen-and-a-half, I got my learner’s permit. I was allowed to drive with my brother because he had a license. So, I was allowed to drive on our surf trips. Lorna had a Ford T-bird, and she would let me drive it to the beach.

[Here is a video--from old home movies―of all of us going to the beach together with Casey driving: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XPyrJaJ4zF8 ~Lorna]

Somewhere in there, I gained a sister, because she was really great.

As a couple, they faced some challenges. Our family was so close, but no matter where it was—Chicago or Denver or later on Japan—they had to leave their friends and family, pack up Kimberly, and off they would go. I think it was actually great for them. They had no one else to rely on but each other. They really built a strong relationship at that point.

Then, they were apart a lot. Larry was in Turkey and Alaska and other places where he spent weeks on business. It kept him away from Lorna, but it made them stronger.

They were always kind to each other. They were always encouraging. They enjoyed each other’s company wherever they went. It’s still obvious they like each other a lot.

Fifty years ago, at Marengo Avenue Methodist Church, they made a vow that they would love, honor, and cherish each other. I know God smiled at that time. Not because of that moment, but because of this moment.

September 4, 1965 - Family

It’s fifty years later, they kept that vow. And they are ready to renew it again. It’s something to be proud of. Congratulations on fifty years, and we love you both.
September 5, 2015