Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The McGregor Chronicles

My husband, Larry's first attempt at science fiction is now a reality. The McGregor Chronicles: Book 1 – Saving Mike is now available on Kindle and in paperback on Amazon.
Science fiction has always been his favorite genre for reading, but he’s never tried writing it until now. He might not have attempted it at this time except a member of our writing group decided on the genre. He was able to give her some tips for her book, and an idea of his own came to him.

As the story progressed, a romantic element appeared. Keep in mind, Larry is a plotter. Well, he used to be. He always planned his stories out from first chapter to last ahead of writing. But since we have been collaborating, he has learned to trust his characters. Unfortunately, they sometimes have minds of their own!

This book is light action/adventure featuring members of a spacefaring dynasty. Future books in the series will focus on other family members. Book 2 – Escape From Eden is completed and awaiting edit. He has begun Book 3 – Alien Invasion.

His latest project in conjunction with this first book has been to build a model of his spaceship. (All of the technical information in the book is based on real science. Once a space geek, always a space geek.)
His model making began after he saw the movie version of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. He came home and built the sets out of old scraps he founding the garage. Then he lined the bathtub with these ‘sets’ and spent hours playing out the movie.

When he first began in engineering, a scale model was built for every new project. He loved wandering through the model shop checking out all of them.

CADD removed the need for models except in one industry: theme parks. While he worked on Universal Studios Japan in Hollywood, he often stopped by to see the scale model of the park.

It was moved to our offices in the World Trade Center in Osaka where everyone could see it. The model became a sales tool to interest vendors, who wished to sell their goods in the park, and for investors.

In our book 31 Months in Japan: The Building of a Theme Park, the chapter called “From Model to Scene…” tells about how he and I and his boss rebuilt the model for the Jurassic Park waterfall when it arrived in Japan. The rockwork expert liked the model so well he had the center part shipped back to the US after the project was completed, so I guess we did a good job reconstructing it. All of Larry’s childhood model making finally paid off.

I must admit, I’m not a great sci-fi reader. I enjoyed the Star Wars movies and the Star Trek TV show. In fact, we had dinner every Wednesday night with friends so we could watch the new episodes together. And this week, when ‘Mr. Spock’ died, I must admit, I cried.

Do you like sci-fi? If so, you might enjoy The McGregor Chronicles. Not a big fan of the genre? You might want to try this one. It could make you a believer—at least in the author, Larry K. Collins.

Monday, February 23, 2015


For several years, we’ve done a presentation at conferences about how to write an ‘elevator pitch.’
What’s an elevator pitch? Imagine you are at a conference or convention or even in a random hotel or restaurant and you spot someone who might be interested in your latest work. This can apply to authors, but also musicians, artists, or anyone else who has work to sell.

You enter the elevator with that person, and you have about thirty seconds to interest them in your work. What do you say?

We teach a whole class on creating the perfect ‘hook’ in twenty-five words or fewer. The idea isn’t to tell the person the whole story, just to get their attention. For instance, the elevator pitch for our book, The Memory Keeper, is this:

Near the end of his sixty-ninth year, Acjachemen Indian, Tomás Romero, born in 1820 in San Juan Capistrano, recalls the events of his life.

It doesn’t begin to encompass the whole story, but it does include the name of the protagonist, his ethnic origin—which, in this case, is important—the setting, and the date. It also leaves the other person the opportunity to ask questions and engage in conversation.

The one for my book, Ghost Writer, is this:

Nan Burton loses everything: job, boyfriend, apartment, car. Then she inherits a cottage with resident ghost. In time, they each learn what really matters.

Again, it doesn’t tell the whole story. It gives the set-up (losing her job, etc.), the setting, and introduces the ghost. It even tells the outcome. Hopefully it leads the hearer to ask, “How?” This question can open dialogue. But be sure to have a business card handy so they can contact you at a later date.

We’ve written elevator pitches for all our books. We use them on the backs of the bookmarks we create as well as other marketing materials, including the business cards for each book.

Right now we’re working on the back cover blurb for Larry’s latest book, The McGregor Chronicles: Book 1 – Saving Mike.
Larry took a stab at it, but was having a problem. We finally worked together and came up with this:

Wake up, Matt, wake up,” an insistent voice repeats in my head.

From that moment, Matt McGregor’s life will never be the same. Upon awaking from cold sleep, Matt, co-captain of the space freighter, HC7 McGregor-15, discovers the ship abandoned and life support failing. Once he gets the systems started, he finds out his brother and co-captain, Mike, has been captured by space pirates. Matt immediately sets out to rescue Mike, aided by the disembodied voices. He is reluctantly paired with Federation Lieutenant Tracy Warren. How will they find Mike and save him? Can they work together, despite their differences? Will they survive the rescue attempt? And who are those voices in Matt’s head?

The purpose of a back cover blurb is to engage a potential reader. It must tell a bit more of the story so the person who is considering the book wants to read the rest. The blurb can also be used as the book description when listed online.

What do you think? Would you want to read this book based on the blurb? We’d like your input.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Valentine's Day and Romance

Next week is Valentine’s Day. This is the occasion when lovers demonstrate the depth of their affection for each other. For some people, this is easy and truly enjoyable. For others it’s never easy.

Larry has never been romantic. Period. Several years ago, I wrote his ‘non-proposal’ into “Finding Love in Paradise,” my novella for our anthology Directions of Love. When I took the chapter to our critique group, everyone said, “That’s not romantic.”

I turned to Larry and said, “See.”

Actually, this should have prepared me.

However, while we were dating, he bought me lovely gifts for every occasion. I wore one bracelet until the finish wore off it. I still have the watch he gave me for high school graduation, and I’d still wear it except the band is fragile.

The first rude awakening came on my birthday following our wedding. He didn’t ignore it. He gave me a card. An anniversary card. So for our first anniversary a week later, he gave me nothing.

When I asked about all the great gifts I’d received before we married, I discovered that his mother had reminded him of the date well ahead of schedule and took him to the store. Then she suggested items I might like. My mother-in-love was a GREAT shopper and really understood my taste. Larry? Not so much.

For at least the first ten years of our marriage, I can count the number of actual gifts I received from him on one hand—and that includes the smoke alarm I got one year for Christmas…

I tried to explain to him how much it hurt when he ignored important occasions like my birthday and Christmas, but he couldn’t seem to understand.

I grew up very poor, and these special occasions were the only times when I actually received anything selected especially for me—like clothing that wasn’t hand-me-down. I never got much, and it certainly wasn’t expensive, but I felt loved.

After many years—and even more tears—I finally got through to him that gifts for special occasions really mattered.

One year on my birthday, he really went over the top. He picked me up from work at noon with a bouquet of roses. Then he drove me to the local airport for a flying lesson. Since I’d always wanted to learn to fly, this was a real E-ticket! He said I had a choice: I could either complete the lessons and get my license, or we could take a trip to Hawaii. Since the airport we would have flown into the year before had closed, I opted for Hawaii. But that one lesson was spectacular!

For many years, I became very blue right after Valentine’s Day. The lack of any acknowledgement from the most important person in my life made the depression even worse. It took me a long while to realize the reason this time of year was difficult harkened back to my childhood. My father died on February 16th, two days after Valentine’s Day. Once I realized the connection, I was better prepared, and now it’s no longer such a hard time of year.

Here’s the good news: if you’re lucky, even the unromantic can change. Over the years, Larry has gotten better about his gift giving and thoughtful gestures.

One little—and very special—tradition he has begun is making sure I have at least one small gift in my Christmas stocking. Sometimes they are silly things, other times, pretty things, still other times, they are special things. This last year, he gave me two gift certificates for pedicures. I never had my fingernails or toenails done until a few years ago. I discovered I LOVE a pedicure. I don’t go very often, but it feels so indulgent when I do. When I opened the envelope, I cried. He nailed it (no pun intended—although he’ll like it).

In recent years, we have begun to think about downsizing. We really don’t need more stuff. So we’ve begun giving ourselves gifts of things and events we can enjoy together. Our Christmas gifts this year were our annual passes to Disneyland. We both enjoy going with visiting friends, but also just hanging out there together. For us, it is the perfect gift.

One lovely and appreciated gesture began after Larry retired. He began leaving ahead of me to go surfing. I was still working, so I’d get up after he left for the beach. Before he left the house each morning, he began to bring me a cup of coffee and kiss me good-bye. Even after I retired, he continued doing this, and he still does it every day.

Some people might not consider this romantic, but I certainly do.

Larry isn’t inherently romantic, but he has figured out what to do so I feel cherished and loved. Because it doesn’t come easily to him, it’s all the more special.

What makes you feel loved? Is the special other in your life romantic? How do they express it.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Traveling in the Car

By Larry Collins, Guest Blogger

One of the many highlights of our daughter Kimberly’s visit last month for me included singing in the car on the way to Disneyland.

As we approached the parking structure, Kim, now in her forties, and I (I’m seventy) were happily singing the duet “Love is an Open Door” from the movie Frozen. And yes, I’ve seen the YouTube videos. In my opinion, we were just as good.
Singing comes naturally to our family. My dad and his three brothers harmonized around the piano at many family gatherings when I was growing up. Lorna’s grandfather was a semi-professional lyric tenor, and her mother both played and taught piano. Her aunts, mother, and grandmother sang hymns in parts while doing the dishes each night.

For many years, beginning when Kim was little, our family spent several hours driving between our home and our parents’ place at the beach where we spent each weekend. To pass the time, our trio would sing. After working through the latest radio songs and “Doe a Deer” from The Sound of Music, we would begin one of our other current favorites.

A special one was a round recorded by Spanky and Our Gang. The actual title is “Pedagogical Round #2. It is one of the most difficult songs to learn, but one of the most fun to sing. It was also a good teaching tool to learn the scale, as each number in the song corresponds to a musical note. For each repetition, we increased the tempo until either someone faltered, or we broke into spontaneous laughter.
I have included the link to the YouTube video above so you can hear it for yourself. It went like this:

One, Three, Five, Eight, Seven, Six, Five, Four,
Three, Five, Two, Three, Four, sharp Five.
And the Eight is the same as the One, but an octave apart
Try to learn it by heart.

Another was Don Mc Lean’s “By the Waters of Babylon.” We liked this one so much we taught it and sang it at church.

We’d sometimes take hikes into Big Santa Anita Canyon. On those trips, we sang Art Garfunkel’s “Woyaya” from his album, Angel Clare in harmony. Some of the girls from Kim’s Girl Scout troop may remember this one.

In addition, we read on those long journeys. Whoever wasn’t driving read to Kim. We went through all the Little House books, including the biographies, The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, Stewart Little, Charlotte’s Web, etc.

All of us have wonderful memories of those long trips and the fun we had on our travels.

Did any of you have special rituals for fighting the boredom of a long ride? We’d love to hear about them.

Monday, January 19, 2015

A Wonderful Reunion

Today we fly home from Washington State after an eleven-day trip to attend the 2014 Rick Steves’ Tour Reunion. This event is held every January so those who shared a tour during the previous year can meet again in Edmonds. Many of the tour guides from Europe attend as well. This year, the little town of Edmonds hosted over 3000 people for this event!
Before the reunion last weekend, however, we visited with several of our friends who live in the area.

We started our visit with our dear friend Rev. Serena Sullivan in Tacoma. She had stayed with us in Dana Point for a few days last year, so we loved seeing her once again. We’d never been to this lovely city before, so we enjoyed exploring, and she was a great guide. Our friend is now retired, so she had discretionary time to spend with us.

We enjoyed the Glass Museum as well as the Natural History Museum. She drove us on a scenic tour of the area, and we wandered through the cute little shops in some of the charming areas of town. We even went to the show one evening to see “Into the Woods” in a charming old theater. Oh, and we ate in several wonderful restaurants.

While based in Tacoma, we drove to Woodinville o spend a day with our friends, the Newtons. We hadn’t seen them since about 1991, and really enjoyed catching up. We talked all day and still had lots and lots to share.

After several days in Tacoma, we checked into our hotel in Edmonds. While there, we went to Mukilteo to meet another friend from Whidbey Island for lunch. We hadn’t seen her in years, either. The Newtons surprised her by joining us. We all attended the same church many years ago, so once again, we had lots to catch up on. Fortunately, the restaurant wasn’t too busy because we occupied a large booth for well over three hours, and they allowed us to stay!

A couple of days later, we drove to Bellevue to spend the day with our friends, the Donovans. They are more former members of the same church family. They moved to Washington in the 1980s, and we have stayed in touch through the years. We visited them when we were in WA in 1991, but we haven’t been together since.

We were invited for lunch, but when asked to stay for dinner, too, we happily agreed. Another seven hours with still more conversation left for the future!

On Saturday morning, the day of the reunion, another tour member from our group, Mas, met us at the hotel, and we all drove together to the Edmonds Conference Center for the formal event.
What a great time! Nine of us (nearly half of our 21 tour members) showed up. One couple came all the way from Ohio! We laughed and talked and shared memories and caught up. Our guide, Virginie, had come from France, and we enjoyed seeing her again.

We were the group which had the most members present, and we won the prize—Gummy Bears!
We also had our photo taken with Rick, Unfortunately, Larry had run back to the car, and Dick took the photo, so both of them were missing. (We don’t have the copy of the photo yet.)

One Rick Steves’ tour requirement is for each person in the group to select a stranger to be their ‘buddy’ throughout the trip. When the group reunited at the bus or to start a new adventure, we did a ‘buddy check’ to make sure everyone was present. Mas was my buddy. Larry’s buddy, Dick, also attended. The relationships we had formed over the two weeks of our trip remained strong.

On Sunday, the company presented events for anyone interested in a future trip to ‘test drive a tour guide.’ Throughout the day, in three different locations, tour guides showed slides and described their tours. Then, if anyone was interested, the guides made themselves available for questions at the Conference Center.

We’d talked about going to Spain, so we attended the early presentation on the basic tour of Spain’s major cities. Since another presentation about a different tour of Spain was scheduled after one on Italy, we decided to sit in on that one as well. Rick himself provided the narration. We really enjoyed being reminded of all the great memories of our own Italian trip.

After the second Spain presentation, we decided to go to lunch, and who did we run into? Our friend Mas! We all ate lunch together, enjoying one last chance to connect.

After lunch, our tour guide, Virginie, took part in the presentation on the trip we had enjoyed. So we attended that one to give her support. She did a wonderful job! If we hadn’t done it already last year, we’d have been ready to sign up.

We took the opportunity to say goodbye to her once more before returning to the hotel late in the afternoon.

During the night, we had a six-hour power outage. When we woke in the morning, the power was back on, but some parts of the area were still in the dark. The wind and hard rain the night before had caused several severe outages.

After breakfast, we packed and drove to the hotel near the airport for our last night in Seattle—careful to avoid the traffic for the football game! (Seattle won, and the city went crazy!)
We checked in and then returned the rental car.

So today,we’re headed home, ready to get back after a terrific trip filled with visits with old friends and new ones, including those with whom we experienced the glory of France.