Thursday, March 16, 2017

NYC Part V - On Broadway

Our New York weekend adventure continued on Saturday night with our attendance at a Broadway show.

How do you feed a group of 270 people at one time in New York City? The planners of this trip faced this challenge, and they met it well. Since the group was from Plano, TX (a suburb of Dallas) the organizers chose the Dallas BBQ, of course. The restaurant was in Times Square, and since many of us had tickets for a show, the location was perfect.
We took over the entire second floor, packed into long tables. When we sat down, pitchers of water, lemonade, iced tea, and soda as well as bowls of coleslaw were already in place. When most of us wereseated, service began. We each received a large plate with a rack of ribs, quarter chicken, French fries and cornbread—far too much for one person to finish. We passed the plates down the table, like a family meal.
We sat with Kim and Maribeth, but we also had the chance to meet a few of the other choir members. When one of the gals discovered we were authors, we enjoyed a long conversation about writing. She said she wanted to read some of our books, so we were pleased.

During the meal, we heard a commotion behind us, and turned to see Michael W. Smith. He had stopped by to welcome the group to NYC. He seemed like to be as nice a guy as we had expected. We were all pleased to see him.

For dessert, ice cream sandwiches were passed down the table. Larry ended up with two since Kim didn’t eat hers.

Prior to the trip, we were given the opportunity to purchase tickets to a Broadway play. We selected Aladdin. We prepaid for the tickets, and Kim picked them up before she left Texas. We had a little time before the show, so we walked down a block, then crossed the street where we could get a good look at the marquee.
The temperature was still just above freezing, so we waited in the entrance until we could take our seats. A stand with a lamp had been set up, so of course, we had to pose while rubbing it.
We had a long wait, but the doors finally opened, and we found our seats.
We had expected this show to be an expansion of the play we had seen several times at Disney’s California Adventure, but it was somewhat different. We were especially fortunate because we saw the original Genie, James Monroe Iglehart, in one of his last performances before he left the show. We enjoyed it very much, and now we can say we’ve seen a real Broadway show!

Next week: Worship at the Brooklyn Tabernacle on Sunday morning.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

NYC Part IV - Holy Ground

Last week, I described our bus tour of the city. This week, our visit to the 9-11 memorial.

The Big Bus stopped about three blocks from the 9-11 memorial. Everyone disembarked with us, and we made our way through the ice and slush and wind toward One World Trade Center in the distance. Because of our tight schedule, we had no time to go up in the tower, nor did we have time to visit the museum. They’re on the list for our next tip.
We heard the sound of water before we reached the plaza. We approached the pools and were moved by the many names engraved deeply into the granite. Here and there, a flower had been placed into the deep groove of a letter—a reminder of the families and friends of those who were lost and who continue to miss them. The footprints of the original towers struck me as enormous. The sound of water cancels out the sounds of the city as it falls from the outer rim to pound onto a second level. Then it flows into a small, square pool, where it finally drops into an abyss at the bottom and disappears from sight. Just as the towers fell and disappeared. Holy ground.

Larry circled the pools while I remembered the events of the day as if it had been the day before. We woke early and turned on the TV as usual to see the weather and traffic reports. Suddenly, the local feed shifted to the national news. Behind the reporters, smoke billowed from one of the towers. They announced a small plane had crashed into it. The incident was believed to be an accident—until another plane hit the second tower. I turned to Larry. “We’re at war.”

I watched as first responders rushed to the scene, and then as the towers crumbled. I remember the ‘ghosts’ who ran from the disaster covered in ash. Specific images of people remain vivid in my memory. I kept waiting for an announcement about a movie being filmed, hoping against hope this was a joke. It wasn’t.

As I stood next to a pool reading the names, it began to rain. Larry said it was just the spray from the falling water, but I was sure God’s tears blended with my own. Sacred space.
We headed back toward the bus stop. As we turned, I spotted an enormous structure next to the museum. From the end, it looked like a giant dove, whose wings consisted of thin concrete ribs. We were freezing and decided to step inside to warm up. The interior resembled a giant cathedral. Between the ribs, large glass panels revealed the surrounding buildings. We have been to the Crystal Cathedral in southern California several times. This space reminded me of the church. The sides of the interior met in a tall pointed arch.
As we looked down, we noticed a stage. We found it easy to imagine a concert in the space. The lower floor was lined with shops and stores. Two more levels rose along the sides. We found our way to the next floor down and followed it around to the exit closest to our next stop. We discovered this building, known as the Oculus, is actually the transportation center for the memorial site. Although no trains were running, this soon will be visitors’ introduction to the memorial. Beautiful, functional art.

Before we left, I wanted to visit St. Paul’s Chapel, George Washington’s church. I had read about this special location. It survived several major catastrophes untouched to become a source of comfort for survivors and first responders. For weeks following September eleventh, those working on the site were fed here. They slept in the sanctuary and found comfort from the congregation and clergy.
On our way, we passed the graveyard. The fence surrounding it was used for memorials in the days following the collapse of the towers. I looked to the right and spotted one of the old headstones in three pieces. I immediately remembered my great-grandmother’s headstone in the old cemetery in Spring City, Utah. We stopped there while on our road trip in 2012. I was moved just by seeing the names of those people from whom I descend. I have inquired a couple of times about having the headstone repaired, but the person who used to do the work is no longer available. Because this is a private cemetery, I assured those I spoke with that we would be happy to pay for the restoration. When I mentioned it to my cousins, they also said they would contribute. The last I heard, it is still in pieces, just like the one at St. Paul’s.

Larry took photos of the old gravestones while I entered the chapel. A preschool class colored on the floor in the center of the sanctuary. I smiled when I realized this was the perfect image for this special place. It isn’t a dead museum. It is a living place where the congregation continues to worship and serve. Testament to faith.

We re-boarded our bus, deeply moved by our short visit. By the second stop, everyone else had left. Once again, we claimed the very front seats on the second level. Our guide turned off the microphone and moved to the seat behind us.

He shared his story of that infamous day in 2001. He lives in Brooklyn. At the time, he was attending Columbia University, just a couple of blocks from the World Trade Center. The school announced an accident in one of the towers. Unlike management in the towers themselves, those in charge told the students to evacuate the school immediately.

As he left, he saw a huge cloud of smoke and ash rise above the city streets. He headed toward the bridge and passed “ghosts” covered with ash. Since no transportation was available, he began to cross the bridge, along with many others. He said he developed a new respect for the bridge. Today he never crosses it without remembering his escape from the city. He said he loves sharing his love of the city and his experiences with visitors. I wish we had asked his name—another friendly and memorable person we met in New York.

Sacred space. Holy ground. Divine locations. We are still processing their emotional impacts.

Next week: Our night on Broadway.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

NYC Part III - Bus Tour

Last week, I continued the story of our NYC adventure. This week, I share our few hours of free time in the city.

We woke early in hopes of seeing Kim before she and her group left for the day. Their choir group (over 230 members) was divided into “family groups”’ of about twelve. For some reason, we were assigned to a different group than Kim. (At the time, it felt like a mistake, but subsequent events proved we were exactly where we belonged. Why am I still surprised when these things happen?)

When I texted Kim, we found she and her friend, Maribeth, were at a nearby restaurant eating breakfast. We decided to get oatmeal at the Starbucks in the hotel lobby so we wouldn’t miss her when she returned.

On her way in, she picked up our envelopes with all our credentials and tickets for the following two days. (Since we missed the meet-and-greet the previous evening, we hadn’t received ours.) Thank goodness, she knew who had them, so we were finally “official.”

Each family group was assigned a mission project before they left Texas. When we signed up, we decided to pass up this opportunity in order to do a few hours of sightseeing. (To be honest, the nature of the projects wasn’t described, and I was afraid of straining my bad knee if too much walking was required.)

After we bid farewell to Kim and the others, we went to the concierge desk to inquire about a bus tour of the city. With limited time, this seemed the best option.

When we got there, another group was busy with their plans, so we had to wait. Within a couple of minutes, we were joined by another guest. I nearly always talk to people when standing in line (to Larry’s eternal embarrassment). So, I struck up a conversation. This fellow bore a striking resemblance to one of our colleagues from Universal Studios, now sadly passed away.

I don’t remember exactly how the conversation drifted to Japan—possibly because of the USJ logo on the back of our jackets. It turned out this man had spent his earliest years in Takarazuka where we lived while in Japan. His family had moved to Chiba where one of our Japanese students lived. He worked for a steel company and now lived in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Our time in line passed quickly thanks to Nose (pronounced “no-say”). We always enjoy talking about our time as expats, and he was most interested.

When the concierge was finally available, we booked tickets on the hop-on-hop-off Big Bus tour of the city.
Most people aren’t aware of what an architecture junkie I am. Had I not been an English major, I might have studied the subject in college. Manhattan has one of the most amazing arrays of styles anywhere on the planet. And I was in heaven.
As we reached the stop, a new bus arrived. We were able to get the very front seats on the upper deck. All glass in front of us afforded an unobstructed view of the city. Even though the day was a bit overcast, we still had a great view.

I nearly had to pinch myself as we drove the streets and passed famous landmarks. A couple of blocks from the bus stop, I looked down to see the marquee of the Knickerbocker Hotel. I’d read stories of this place, and now we were there.
I have always loved deco style, and directly ahead of the bus, stood the Chrysler Building, every bit as beautiful as its photos.
I recognized landmarks, like the Empire State Building and the Flatiron Building, long before our tour guide identified them. He gave us a wonderful overview of the city and its history. For a couple of history buffs, his enthusiasm and knowledge were most welcome.

We traveled through Chinatown, the neighborhood of iron buildings with their ornate railings (reminiscent of those we had seen in New Orleans and Melbourne, Australia), Times Square, Wall Street, and all the other famous areas of the city. I was actually there, after all the years of wanting to visit! And we had met more friendly, smart, and welcoming New Yorkers.

Next week: standing on Holy Ground.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

NYC Part II - Dining

Last week, I told you about our arrival in New York City. This week, I continue our saga.

During our three-hour wait for a taxi in the cold and wind, I texted Kim to let her know what was happening. She and her friends went on to the meet-and-greet before we arrived at the hotel. She mentioned they had eaten dinner at Bobby Flay’s restaurant, Bar American, around the corner from the hotel. She told us it was expensive but excellent.

We had eaten very little during the day, and the long wait plus the extended trip into the city meant we were starving by the time we reached Times Square.

We checked into the Sheraton and decided to go to the restaurant Kim had recommended because it was nearby. The walk was cold and slushy, but it wasn’t very far.

From the moment we entered, we felt welcomed. The number of staff nearly equaled the number of diners. We were shown to a nice table with white linens (which I love), offered menus, and were asked if we would like to check our coats. We declined because we were still a bit chilled. The waiter noticed the Universal Studios Japan logo on the back of my coat and asked about it.
When he brought our beverages, we began a delightful conversation about Japan and the Universal park. Our waiter, Hector, was originally from Venezuela. He had considered visiting Japan, so he asked lots of questions. We thoroughly enjoyed meeting him.

We ordered our meal, and enjoyed the bread selection while we waited for our entrees. I ordered the spinach salad. I also ordered the sweet potato gratin. It sounded interesting, and I wanted to try it. Larry ordered the blackened sea bass.

The salad was delicious with crispy, thick bacon, feta cheese, and a poached egg on top. The gratin consisted of paper-thin slices of sweet potato layered with cinnamon and nutmeg, baked in an individual ramekin. It tasted a lot like pumpkin pie filling (which I adore). Larry enjoyed his sea bass and helped finish the sweet potatoes.

Of course, he also had to order dessert: chocolate crème brulèe. I was full, but I tried a taste—and it was terrific!

The entire meal was delightful and the perfect end to a stressful day. Once again, we met lovely, friendly New Yorkers and discovered why the city is famous for its food.

Back at the hotel, we didn’t even bother unpacking, but climbed into bed, full and ready for whatever the morning would bring.

Next week: our bus trip around the city.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Welcome to New York City

New York City has been on my bucket list for a long time. Larry has been there on business several times. His first visit was in 1957 as part of the Boy Scout Jamboree held at Valley Forge. But I’d never been there.

Late last year, our daughter, Kim, told us about the invitation her church choir (Prestonwood Baptist) had received to sing at Carnegie Hall accompanying Michael W. Smith. She knew we were in because 1) he is one of my favorite Christian composers and performers, and 2) NYC was already on my list. We signed up to attend as non-singers as soon as we were able.
Before we left home, we checked the weather. Wednesday had been sixty degrees and clear. A huge blizzard blew in on Thursday, bringing between nine and fourteen inches of snow. LaGuardia shut down for most of the day.

We checked the status of our flight on Thursday night, and it still showed on schedule. So we got up at 3:30 a.m. (after an excited sleepless night), showered, dressed, and picked up our friend at five. She had agreed to drive us to the airport before she went to work. Our car would remain at her house until she picked us up on Monday night.

Our 6:55 flight still showed on schedule on the Departure board when we arrived. Thank goodness, we have TSA Pre-Check. We have always had it since it started, probably because we are old and have done a lot of flying.

After an uneventful flight, with a stop in Chicago, we arrived at four-thirty p.m.—a half hour early. Since we were scheduled to attend a welcome get-together with the group at eight, we were certain we’d have lots of time to get there. WRONG!

Before we left the baggage claim area, we donned our Universal Studios Japan all-weather coats. These were issued to the team shortly after we arrived in Osaka. I guess they knew as Californians, most of us wouldn’t have suitable clothing for winter in Osaka. And were they ever right! We debated packing them for NYC, but decided to take them. So glad we did! They also provided great conversation starters.

We walked out to the taxi line. The temperature was below freezing (30 degrees). The line snaked back and forth a few times, but it didn’t appear daunting. We moved very slowly for over an hour until we reached the street. We thought this was the end of the line. However, we were wrong.

We crossed the street to find another, even longer, line. This one went down about three blocks, made a turn and then doubled back, and it barely moved. In fact, we stood in one spot for over half an hour. When we finally made the turn, we saw what the problem was: no taxis. None. Traffic, inbound and outbound, was at a standstill. Only one cab came by every five minutes or so.

After three hours standing in below freezing temperatures and driving wind (the temp dropped as we stood in line), taxis began to arrive, two or three at a time. Even the airport staff said they had never seen traffic this bad. (When we got to the hotel, the news was full of the LaGuardia mess.)

We finally settled into a cab, frozen and exhausted, at close to eight p.m. We watched the driver’s GPS as it redirected him from route to route. The bridges around the airport were blocked. He apologized for the detours. We actually had a nice conversation on the way to the hotel. Our first encounter with a NY cab driver, and he was polite and accommodating. Another stereotype blown away, happily.

During the ride, we thawed our extremities. We have never been so happy to see a hotel!

Next week, our New York adventure continues.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Beta Readers

We are dependent on our beta readers for feedback on our finished manuscripts before publication.

Beta readers are non-professionals who read a written work before publication, sometimes before the final edit. We ask ours to suggest ways to improve mechanical elements, like grammar and spelling, plus the overall story, characters, or setting. They are not expected to proofread or edit, but can make suggestions in these areas. Beta readers can identify such issues as plot holes, continuity, believability, and fact-checking.

Even though I am a professional editor, I can miss errors in my own work. I also work so closely with Larry on his books I can miss elements. We especially appreciate readers who haven’t read other books in a series so they can let us know if information is missing.

Once the story is complete, we still have several items to finish before the book is published (acknowledgements, dedication, promo, back matter, etc. plus the cover design). This is the point where we ask for beta readers.

We usually ask our beta readers to get their comments back to us in about two weeks. Sometimes they get a little longer.

Sometimes we ask friends. More often, however, we put out the word on social media. For some of our books, we receive so many requests we have to limit the number. We like a few readers who are already familiar with our work along with a few who haven’t read previous books.

We expect our beta readers to read the book in the timeframe we request. We expect them to give us feedback—both good and bad. We need to recognize any errors or issues so we can correct them. We also ask our readers for a one- or-two-sentence short review to include in the book.

No. I am always disappointed when someone is enthusiastic about reading a book and then doesn’t follow through. Sometimes, they never respond after we send them the advanced copy.


If this sounds like something you would like to do, please comment on this blog, and I’ll keep you in mind for our next release.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

About Bob Martin

Last year, I had the pleasure of editing a great action novel, Bronx Justice, written by Bob Martin. I asked him to share how he came to write this book. Here are his answers. [Lorna]

Joining the NYPD was a forgone conclusion for me. I come from an NYPD family. I followed my father and older brother onto “The Job.” Like them, I started with the rank of Patrolman. There were no female police officers in the 1970 NYPD, so Patrolman was not considered a sexist term. In 1974, when women joined our ranks, the title was officially changed to the more politically correct Police Officer.
As I was retiring, after thirty-two years, my son took the baton and joined the ranks of the NYPD. We were heading to the one-hundred-year mark of family service to the Department when he switched and joined the FDNY-Fire Department New York.

I was in no way disappointed with his decision then, and wake up each day now, overjoyed with his move. Police work has always been a dangerous calling. But, the upheavals of the last few years have made it more dangerous than ever. The assassination killings of police officers in Brooklyn, Dallas and Baton Rouge have confirmed my feelings. My boy is much better off as a firefighter than a cop.

I began my writing career while still with the NYPD. I was attending college and wrote a paper for a course I was taking: NYPD History. I interviewed a legendary Queens Homicide lieutenant, Dan Kelly, who had been doing murder investigations for over thirty-five years. My teacher, an ex-cop, thought the story was worthy of publication. It ran in 1991 in The Badge, the magazine of the Fraternal Order of Police. That started the ball rolling. I have had numerous articles published in newspapers and magazines.

Last December, my first book, Bronx Justice, An NYPD Novel, based on a real case, was published. For that, I owe a debt of gratitude to the woman whose blog you are reading, my phenomenal editor Lorna Collins.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Remembering My Uncle

My uncle, Frank George, died on January 4, 2017. He was 95 years old and had lived a full and rich life. My cousin, David, and I were privileged to speak at his memorial service. I'd like to share what I said about him.

My earliest memory of my Uncle Frank was of him teasing me. I must have been around a year old. I toddled into my grandparents’ breakfast room where Uncle Frank was eating. He handed me an olive and told me it was candy. I took a big bite. I must have made a face and started to cry because my grandfather, who arrived just in time to see my response, scolded Frank. He, of course, thought it was funny. To this day, I can’t stand olives, and Frank continued to tease me and everyone else.

Frank was a big kid who always had the best toys.

His favorites were cars. My mom told me about my Aunt Evelyn hanging out down the street at Frank’s house when they were in high school. She would return with grease on her face and clothes. Grandma’s response was predictable, after scolding her, of course. “What will the neighbors think?” I always suspected they thought Evie was crazy about Frank. They would have been right, and she remained crazy about him for another seventy-five years.

They were engaged the night of my parents’ wedding and married a year later. Frank had just turned twenty-two, and Evelyn was just short of her twentieth birthday.

This was during WWII, and Frank was in the service. After their marriage, he was stationed in Washington D.C. as a Link instructor. This blue box was the original virtual cockpit with which he trained pilots. When the war ended, they returned to California. Since housing was in short supply, they moved into my grandparents’ house.

Frank bought a gas station with a repair facility nearby. His love of all things cars continued.

My cousin, David, was born in 1945, just ahead of the Baby Boom. I came along in 1946 in the vanguard. In 1949, all three sisters contributed to the boom. Mom gave birth to my brother, Ron, in May. Aunt Muriel had David's sister Eileen in August, and the twins, Kathy and Karen, came along in December.

They were quite a challenge since they were on different feeding schedules and had different food allergies. Frank was busy with his business, and Grandma helped out, but the situation was stressful. According to my mother, they sought counseling and were told to schedule a date night once a week. They left the kids with a sitter and spent an hour or so alone together. Their date nights lasted the rest of their lives.

They loved dancing. This was the era of the jitterbug. You’ve probably seen films of guys lifting girls over their heads and tossing them through their legs. Since Frank was at least a foot taller than Evie, he was able to execute these maneuvers easily. Mom told me about Evie returning home with her chin rubbed raw from scraping against Frank’s suit.

They continued to take lessons for years and to go dancing once a week. They joined their dance group on a dancing cruise, and they had a ball. At our daughter’s wedding reception, they dominated the dance floor.

In 2011, Aunt Evie had a stroke one evening when they were out dancing. They told me the first time she was allowed out of bed, Frank took her in his arms and danced her around the room. At our fiftieth anniversary celebration in 2015, we invited them to join us for a short dance. They still put us to shame.

When I was about twelve, they hired me to stay with the twins during their Friday date nights. I always appreciated this because they provided spending money I wouldn’t have had otherwise.

The routine was always the same. They picked me up in the evening. The kids and I ate dinner. I put the kids to bed, watched 77 Sunset Strip, and spent the night. They drove me home the next morning—after breakfast. Uncle Frank sometimes cooked. His specialty was pancakes. I learned to love yogurt and fruit on my pancakes from Evie and Frank.

They had installed a great pool in their back yard, making their house a favorite place to visit. For my fifteenth birthday, they conspired with my friends and David to throw me a surprise pool party. What a terrific occasion.

After they moved to San Mateo, Larry and I visited often. Aunt Evie always found a cool new restaurant or tea room or place to visit. Sometimes she and I left the guys and Kim at home and went shopping. On one occasion, we returned and the guys told us about “fixing” the ski boat. The rope in the bow had broken and required a new eyelet. Since Kim was the only one small enough to fit in the bow, she was elected to crawl in and help secure the new eyelet. She still remembers the incident and the fiberglass cuts she got. She had a ball.

Both in Monterey Park and San Mateo, the garage and driveway were filled with cars and car parts. Frank’s non-operational Cushman motor scooter and the Metropolitan moved with them. Frank said he’d get them operational, but not until a couple of years ago was the Metropolitan finally restored. It's still in the garage. I don’t know if the Cushman ever ran. [Their son-in-law, Jay, told me he found the Cushman when he cleaned out under the house. It still doesn't run.]

In addition to the cars Frank collected over the years, he also loved cameras. He always had the latest and greatest—as well as all the accessories: lenses, filters, tripods, monopods, etc. When they lived in Monterey Park, he created a dark room where he printed his own photos.

He had one of the first movie cameras I remember seeing. He started with a sixteen millimeter, then graduated to 8 millimeter, super 8, and finally to digital. We loved it whenever he brought out the projector and showed us the old movies. He always said he’d convert them to video, but I don’t think he ever did. He later became a wedding videographer, and he did a great job.

Evelyn and Frank loved to travel, and Uncle Frank always took lots of slides. We visited often, and Frank saw us as a captive audience for his latest shots. Whenever they showed them, Evelyn complained because he took few landmarks and never included people. He took lots of bridges—without any identification of location. He also loved to stand in the center of little European villages and shoot he main street in one direction and then the other. No signs identified where he was. Aunt Evie’s kibitzing provided the most fun.

On one visit, I woke early to find Uncle Frank in the kitchen with a thermos and disposable cups. I asked what he was doing. He said each week during the winter he took a thermos of hot chocolate or coffee to the curb for the trash collectors. A small gesture, but such a thoughtful one.

For most of their marriage, Evelyn took care of Frank. Following her stroke, he became her caregiver. I don’t know why I was surprised, but I was. I think the girls were as well. Yet, he took this role seriously.

We visited them about six weeks later, and I was stunned at the amount of progress she had made. I give Uncle Frank a great deal of the credit. He watched her every move and made her do her physical therapy. He also cared for her tenderly and with patience and good humor.

When I was preparing Uncle Frank’s video, Karen sent a photo of Evie saying good night to him in the nursing home. Karen said her dad wanted to come home so he could tuck his sweetheart into bed. 

That pretty well sums up their relationship. All of us would love a relationship with the same devotion. They lived it, and we are all better off for having known them.

Here is the link to the YouTube video I created for the service: