Sunday, November 18, 2018

Give Memories

As we said in the first sentence of our book The Memory Keeper, “In the end, only memories remain.”
When I look back on my life, I remember few of the “things” I received over the years, but I remember many special shared moments. For this reason, we have tried to give each other special memories for holiday gifts for quite a while.

For several years, Larry’s birthday gift was a box at The Hollywood Bowl. We were lucky enough to get a four-place box in the very back row for every other Friday night. (They usually had a waiting list of several years, but we got one the first year we applied.) It was in the center, so the view was good, even though we were at the back of the section.
In addition to the box, we had valet parking and tables. He got to choose who would go with us and the meal I would fix. I had a set of menus I could pack to go. His favorite meals were quiche and salad or a fried rice ring with sweet-and-sour-chicken. All meals included salad, rolls, dessert, wine, and aperitifs.

We took unbreakable Corelle dishes and stainless flatware in special washable bags plus pewter wine, water, and aperitif glasses. We packed everything into a rolling bag, along with fabric tablecloths, matching cloth napkins, a bud vase with a rose, candles, and candle holders. Since we always sat next to the same people, we got to know them. Our neighbor called dinner “competitive dining.” We loved it. We saw some terrific performers such as Itzhak Perlman, John Galway, Arthur Fiedler, John Williams, and many, many others.

The last performance of the season came near Kim’s birthday. They alternated the 1812 Overture with Handel’s Fireworks Music—complete with fireworks. Her dad let her choose who would come with her. A couple of years, she invited her grandmother. Another year, she asked her best friend. We spoke with Arlene not long ago, and she told us she remembered going there with us. She also remembered the amaretto pie I made.

For her eighth or ninth birthday, we took Kim to see Annie. Another year, her party included taking her and a couple of friends to see The Wizard of Oz at the outdoor theater in Laguna Beach. We also took her to see Andres Segovia at UCLA when she was quite young. We sat in the first row of the balcony, and she spent the evening mesmerized. We had tickets for the Ambassador Auditorium. There, she fell in love with The Kings Singers.

We’ve all received wonderful gifts through the years, but those which gave us special memories were, and continue to be, my favorites.

Toys breakwhether children’s or adults’, but memories last a lifetime.

Do you ever give memories? Which ones do you remember?

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Today I am in tears—once again: tears of grief, tears of frustration, tears of anger. How many more times must mass shootings happen before we take reasonable action regarding the availability of guns? How many more times must this happen before we impose sane restrictions on the size of magazines? How many more innocent lives must be lost before we take on the NRA and impose logical guidelines for gun ownership?

 I thought twenty-eight deaths—including small children—at Sandy Hook would to it. It didn’t.

 When sixteen people were killed in San Bernardino, California—far too close to where I live—I thought, Finally. Now someone will act. No one did.

 When fifty died in the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Florida, I was sure congress would act. It didn’t.

 I hoped the fifty-nine deaths at the Harvest Festival in Las Vegas would spur legislation. They didn’t.

 I thought twenty-seven deaths at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas would move congress to act. They didn’t.

 I thought seventeen deaths at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School would do it. It didn’t.

 Now, yet again, we have thirteen dead and many more injured at a bar in Thousand Oaks, California. Most of the victims were college students. And once again, I am heartbroken.

 Unfortunately, I no longer expect to see any action to actually curb the proliferation of extended magazines, which allow many, many shots in a very short time. I am numb to the shock and grief and anger.

 I miss my country where people felt safe in their homes, in public places, at school, and at work. I continue to pray for the families of those who have been lost. I continue to pray for our leaders to exercise courage and act. 

I need to hang onto hope. But it has become nearly impossible.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Marilyn Meredith - Tangled Webs

Today I host my good friend, Marilyn Meredith. She writes two different mystery series. Today, she will tell you about her long publishing journey with her Rocky Bluff PD series. Welcome back, Marilyn.

A Sane Person Would Have Given Up

Yes, I’ve had that thought many times as I’ve lost one small publisher after another, but I’m one of those “never-give up” people.

I’m going to tell you about my publishers for the Rocky Bluff P.D. series. It all began when a few people were talking about electronic publishing. I’d written Final Respects and was trying to find a publisher for it. During that time period, authors perused the large book of publishers put out by Writers Digest. It’s where I found a publisher looking for police procedurals, and my mystery was accepted. But—this publisher was only going to publish it in electronic form. I accepted the contract. The book looked great, but it had to be read on a computer, and the process to buy a copy was difficult. The publisher failed.

Time passed, and the Rocket eBook reader came on the scene. The next publisher I approached with the book did paper and ebooks. He published Final Respects and Bad Tidings, and though I knew books were sold, no royalties came my way until I complained. We parted company.

A publisher recommended by a friend accepted the next two books in the series, Fringe Benefits and Smell of Death, and did a bang-up job producing paper and ebooks but decided publishing was not what she wanted to do.

I met Billie Johnson, the publisher for Oak Tree Press. We became good friends, and she took on the next books in the series. The books looked great, I received royalties, and we were both happy for a long time. Then something unexpected and terribly sad happened: the publisher had a stroke, and the company could no longer continue.

What now? Mike Orenduff of Aakenbaaken and Kent is in the process of republishing all the books in the series. The latest is Tangled Webs. I am delighted to be with this new company.
As an aside, some of my stand-alone books were also published by Oak Tree Press. My host for today, Lorna Collins, who is also a dear friend, volunteered to edit and publish them on Amazon for me. I’m so grateful to her for doing such a huge job for me.

Am I bit crazy for not giving up? Maybe, but I don’t think so.

You can purchase Tangled Webs here:

Too many people are telling lies: The husband of the murder victim and his secretary, the victim’s boss and co-workers in the day care center, her stalker, and Detective Milligan’s daughter.
Marilyn Meredith writes the RBPD series as F. M. Meredith. She once lived in a beach town much like Rocky Bluff and has many friends and relatives in law enforcement. She’s a member of MWA, 3 chapters of Sisters in Crime, and serves on the PSWA Board.

Facebook: Marilyn Meredith
Twitter: @marilynmeredith

Tomorrow I’ll be talking about speaking engagements:

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

My Favorite Photo

This is now officially my favorite photo. My high school friend and her husband visited with us a few weeks ago. One item on their agenda was a visit to Mission San Juan Capistrano. Both had gone there as children, but they hadn’t seen it lately.
 We had a wonderful day using both the audio tour from the mission and Larry’s comments about how specific places related to the story we told in our book, The Memory Keeper.
We arrived shortly after the mission opened, in time to see the Mission Garden Angels working on the grounds. This army of volunteers trims, plants, weeds, and generally takes care of all the flora in the mission every Wednesday morning. They maintain the water lilies in the fountains and keep the whole place looking its best. While there, we ran into several friends, including docents, the executive director, and the buyer for the mission store. We told them Lola, The Parrot Who Saved the Mission was published, and we expected our first copies at any time. Most of them remembered her name from a presentation we did for the docents a couple of years ago.
When we returned home, the package with our copies had arrived. We were able to send one home with our friends for their grandson, Taylor. Yesterday, she posted this photo to my Facebook profile. I am delighted. The look on Taylor’s face is exactly the reaction I’d hoped for when I first started this project. As of this week, both the store at Mission San Jun Capistrano and the Cottage Gallery on Los Rios carry the book. We hope all children who now visit the mission will know the name Lola and her story. Do you have your copy yet? It’s available on Amazon in print or ebook. It’s also available through our website. But if you are visiting San Juan Capistrano, why not pick up your copy at the mission store? We donate a portion of the sale of each book to the mission to help preserve this jewel.

Friday, October 12, 2018

How We Met Lola

Over a year ago, while researching the sequel to The Memory Keeper, Becoming the Jewel, Larry discovered a newspaper clipping about Lola, Father O’Sullivan’s parrot.
This was a new story to us. Further research led us to other information about the parrot. In the book Capistrano Nights by Charles Francis Saunders and Father St. John O’Sullivan, we found a reference to her. And we discovered that the copy of a Charles Percy Austin painting in the mission actually contained the bird. (We had seen this picture many times and had never noticed the parrot.)
Further research revealed yet another image of the bird, Joseph Kleitsh’s Sunday Morning.
A while ago, we were asked to do a presentation for the mission docents about the history of San Juan Capistrano in the 1800s. At the end, we asked who knew about the parrot. Only one person raised a hand. We asked if anyone knew the bird’s name. No one did.

We later found additional articles about Lola. Her death was reported in newspapers across the country. She died just a few months before Father O’Sullivan himself, and he buried her in the old cemetery behind the chapel. Father O’Sullivan was first buried in a cemetery in Lake Forest, but he was later moved to the old mission cemetery. He and Lola ended up in the same place, just where they both would have wanted to be.

We felt it was time for Lola’s story to be told. We decided to tell it from her point of view for children. I wrote the text, and Larry did the illustrations.

This story felt like a gift and also a responsibility. The information came to us as unbidden. The only question we had was: who was the young man pictured in the clipping? We knew it wasn’t Father O’Sullivan. By this time, he was too old.

A few months ago the Blas Aguilar adobe in San Juan was restored and reopened to the public. We attended the celebration the day the museum was reopened. I walked into the bedroom and looked around. Suddenly, I saw a photo with the same young man in it. His name is Juan Jesus Aguilar. We finally had all the pieces.

The book is now published and is sold at The Cottage Gallery on Los Rios in San Juan Capistrano. It will soon be available at the mission store.
Have you read it yet? Did you enjoy it? Even those who have written several books on the history of the town had never heard the story. But now everyone knows about Lola and how she saved the mission.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018


My last blog was on why I hate change. The battle continues.

During the past three weeks, I have published five books. All of them were with KDP Print since CreateSpace is going away. Sadly, it is no longer an option for new books.

This one was already in process before the mandatory switch, and everything went smoothly.

Then, I tried the second edition of the cookbook, Recipes by the Book: Oak Tree Authors Cook.

Here is where the conversion from CreateSpace to KDP Print became an issue. They changed the rules between the platforms, and I am not a happy camper about it. Since this was the second edition of one I had published previously using the publisher's credentials, I expected the process to be seamless. Not so.

KDP Print limits the number of authors/contributors for their print versions. (KDP doesn’t for the ebook.) This one has twenty-six contributors. The platform only allowed me to enter ten of them. I contacted them, and they added the rest—for the ebook version only. They say they can’t add more to the print book. I filed a ticket about it, and I won’t close it until they resolve the issue.

They also have not linked the versions on the Amazon page, even though I entered the ISBN of the print version when I created the ebook. (Both versions have all the numbers on the copyright page.) I made another request today, but I’m not holding my breath because of the author listing issue.

The original cookbook had two versions: black and white and full color. We wanted to create second editions of both. KDP Print changed the rules for their cover art. We had to change the black and white cover twice, and the one for the print version four times. (Recipes by the Book: Oak Tree Authors Cook – Full Color)

The interior is identical to the ebook version. I have requested that it be linked to both versions of the print titles. I’m not optimistic. Although we started this one near the beginning of the month, it only went live this morning.

The next book was for our grand-niece, A Wolf’s Magic.

We had worked with her for months on it, and Larry created a fabulous cover. It was ready to be published in May. However, it was delayed. This one was formatted for CreateSpace, and it gave us no issues, for which I am most grateful.

The final book for the month was Lola: The Parrot Who Saved the Mission.

This book had been in process for well over a year. A friend, whose artwork I loved, was supposed to do the illustrations. However, she had family issues and art shows, so her part of the project was delayed. When it became obvious she wouldn’t be able to complete it at any time soon, Larry decided he wanted to give it a try. He brought Lola to life.

This is a little-known but true story of Father O’Sullivan’s pet parrot who saved Mission San Juan Capistrano. When we mentioned the parrot to the docents last year, only one of them knew about the parrot, and none of them knew her name. This book just begged to be written.

We only had one hiccup with it and considered ourselves fortunate.

I ordered author copies of a couple of these and was disappointed to see that they had charged me tax for them. I had filed my resale license number with CreateSpace when I first published on that platform and was tax-exempt from then on.

When I complained to KDP Print about it, they first said they had no way to send author copies without charging tax. I received a whole treatise on how Amazon is required to charge tax. (I know. I remember when the whole issue arose in the first place.)

I wrote back, patiently explaining that we sell most of our author copies to retailers, and THEY are responsible for collecting the taxes. With the current system, tax is paid twice for the same items. Their reply included a link for tax-exempt status for Amazon itself.

I don't want tax-exempt status for all of Amazon. I purchase a lot on Amazon, most of which is for my own use. I am happy to pay tax on those items. I only want tax-exempt status when I purchase author copies of my own books. I have patiently explained this several times, but the only options I appear to have at the moment are to opt in or opt out of the status on the entire site. However, far too many of us will be affected by this issue CreateSpace. So, the battle continues.

Have any of my author friends run into issues with the transition from CreateSpace to KDP Print?

Saturday, September 8, 2018


I HATE CHANGE. There, I’ve said it. I like everything neat and in order. (Does this make me a good Presbyterian?) I work much more efficiently once I get into a routine. I like to keep things in the same place so I can find them, even in the dark.

I have no idea how some people function in the midst of chaos. I have a couple of friends who seem to live in a whirlwind. If life doesn’t shake things up enough, they create their own havoc.

I have other friends whom I have threatened to report to the Hoarders TV show. I would say I don’t know how they function except I know they don’t do it well.

I was raised by dirt and clutter Nazis. Both my mother and grandmother cleaned and scrubbed and vacuumed every day. If we left anything out of place, they threw it out. Heck, even if our things were put away, we often came home from school to discover our toys and other possessions gone. My mother always had the same answer: “You don’t need it.” (Is this why I’m a bit of a pack-rat today? Could be. But everything has to be put away so I can locate it later. Fortunately, we live in a large toy box.)

My computer came with a new keyboard. I’m still not used to it. Some of the keys are in different places, and the touch is a bit harder than my old one. Some don’t register as well. I don’t slow down well, as some of you who have worked with me and my former bosses can attest. So, I now spend far too much time editing and correcting. This does not make me happy!

The latest threat to my well-being is Amazon’s switch from CreateSpace for print book publishing to KDP Print. I manually migrated all of the books we previously published, and everything appears to be okay. However, I haven’t purchased any copies yet to be sure.

Larry’s latest sci-fi book, The McGregor Chronicles: Book 5 – Nina’s Revenge, was in process before the switch. The copies we received look fine, and they did not reject the cover.

However, I am republishing an old cookbook, and have gotten three error messages. I uploaded the original using the publisher’ credentials, so we had the original cover Larry designed using a CreateSpace template. Each time we got an error message, he changed it to be compatible with the requirements, and each time, it came back.

The ebook cover published just fine, but the one for the paperbacks (there are two of them with the same cover since one has a B&W interior and the other is in color) kept bouncing. Today he downloaded the KDP template and rebuilt the cover. I have uploaded it yet again. If they don’t accept it this time, I am planning a very loud and unpleasant phone call to them as a follow-up on the many emails I have already sent.

Yesterday I uploaded another book prepared with a CreateSpace cover template. Yet another error message. So, Larry will rebuild it using the KDP template. However, he will probably wait to see what happens with the cookbook. No sense in expending the time if we have to engage in another battle.

My armor is ready, and my sword is drawn.

PS: As I was writing this, a technical service representative called. We were able to figure out what the issues are. Fingers crossed…

Do you deal well with change? If so, please tell me how you manage it.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Lost in History

I haven’t blogged for a couple of weeks because most of my time has been spent trying to remember events of the past forty-five years. In 2019, Community Presbyterian Church of San Juan Capistrano will celebrate its 100th birthday. I was asked to help put together a book to chronicle the events of the church during its lifetime. No small task!

When we let people know we were doing this project, supporting material appeared from closets and file cabinets and shelves. Those who knew where items were stored in the church unearthed them. And several people began to research and amass data from the internet and the historical societies of San Juan and Dana Point.

Original church building
Then began the process of sorting through all the material and deciding what to include and what to leave out. (Much of the historical material was about the cities of San Juan Capistrano and Dana Point but wasn’t directly related to the church.)

Then, several of us began to compose the articles. As they were completed, I received them. We also began to post pictures on the church group on Facebook and invited others to do the same. We asked the members of the group to identify the people shown in the photos.

We have contacted those who participated in the events for their input, memories, and corrections.

If everything had been left as originally received, the book would end up at over 1000 pages! So, ruthless editing has been required. This will still be a large volume (or two, maybe).

Since we were present from 1972, I have many first-hand memories of events from this point to the present. We have also gone through our own photo albums (probably at least three dozen) to find photos. We have also gone through at least another three dozen of the church’s. Each dig through the archives uncovers another event we need to write about.

Fortunately, the unofficial historian of San Juan (she has written several books about the city) is not only a descendent of one of the founding families, she was also a member of the church for many years. She is beta reading the oldest material—the historical stuff—to validate the facts. (Sometimes these are in conflict. Local legends clash with the recorded data.)

We keep receiving more photos. Although they are delightful to see, many are too old and faded to use. Others are too far away or blurred to identify anyone. Still others are interesting but don’t really tell the story we are trying to convey. We have had to limit ourselves to not more than two photos per article—a difficult task!

Each photo we decide to use has to be adjusted in PhotoShop. Since they will appear fairly small, I need to crop them to show only the critical parts. Then I have to make sure they are at least 300 dpi. Photos can’t be dragged and dropped into the text, so they have to be inserted in a specific spot.

All the articles have to be formatted for publication, and the styles have to be consistent from article to article so we can combine them in the final manuscript.

I have probably spent forty and sixty hours a week for the past couple of months on this project, and there is still quite a bit to do.

We have targeted the end of the summer for receipt of all the material and responses. Then I’ll combine everything into one cohesive book. Once all the final material is combined, I will start at the beginning and do a complete edit of the entire manuscript—including more deletions.

We hope to have the book ready for publication by the beginning of next year. Our intention is to have it available for Kindle and in print on Amazon. We also expect to have copies available at the church. This will be an expensive book to produce and purchase because many of the photos are in color, but it will be a valued keepsake for those who shared in the experiences.

So, if you don’t hear from me for the next couple of months, you know what I’ll be doing!

The church today in its new location (as of 1968)