Saturday, May 18, 2019

The Cookbooks

I have been fortunate to have been involved in the publication of three cookbooks through the years.

The first was in 1996 when Community Presbyterian Church of San Juan Capistrano decided to collect members’ favorite recipes as a fundraiser for the Friends of Music. The result was The Gift of Christmas.

My friend, Anne Larson and I copied, standardized, and edited the recipes, and then Larry did the layout in a now-obsolete publishing program. The completed book was printed at a local copy shop and spiral bound. Margaret Stephenson, whose idea this was, designed the cover. This book contained not only some of my recipes, but also those of my mother, grandmother, and mother-in-love. Many of them were favorites at church dinners and potlucks.

In 2015, friends asked if we had any copies. We re-published it in both Kindle and print forms as a fundraiser for the church preschool and kindergarten. It is available on Amazon and other online sellers as well as through the church office.

The second cookbook came about when my friend and fellow author, Ilene Schneider, suggested creating a cookbook of the recipes featured in our books published by Oak Tree Press. The book included author photos and information about our books.

It languished for a couple of years due to illness of the publisher. We decided it was time to publish it. Another Oak Tree author, Mary Montague Sikes, allowed us to use her beautiful artwork for the cover, and Recipes by the Book: Oak Tree Authors Cook became a reality. It is also available in a full-color edition. This one is also available as an ebook and in print.

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

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

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

This has been a surprise hit! For a couple of months, it was Marilyn’s bestselling book!

Larry produced the covers for all of these.

Now all three will live on in perpetuity. Makes me feel really good.

If you like to cook, check them out!

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day, and I am once again reminded of the mothers in my life.

First, of course, is my mother, Vera Methven Lund Mansfield. She didn’t have it easy. Widowed at age 36, she was left to raise my brother and me as a single parent, at a time when there were few single parents. She had no job skills and was totally unprepared for this role, but she did it. And I miss her.

When I married, the week after my nineteenth birthday, I was blessed with my mother-in-love, Letha Collins. She always wanted a daughter, and I was. I never received a birthday card that said anything except “To Our Daughter.” She introduced me as her daughter, and occasionally confused people. She was my friend and as loving a mother as anyone could ask for. And I miss her.

Growing up, we also had Wilma Sehnert in our lives. Mom had to work, but Wilma was always there for us. She was the one we went to when we had problems. She showed her love for us in so many ways. It wasn’t until we were grown that we realized what a huge role she had played. I miss her.

I had many other women who served in mother roles during my lifetime. All of them left no doubt they loved me. I am grateful for them. And I miss them.

Of course, I need to mention Kimberly, who made me a mother. I was blessed with an independent daughter who often tried my patience, but who has always been her own person. Along the way, she became one of my best friends. She now lives in Texas, and I miss her.

On Mother’s Day this year, I honor all of them and all of you who serve as mothers to the children in your lives. I have been blessed with other children from Japan and Spain who are part of our family and are in my heart. They all live at a distance, and I miss them, too.

Honor your mothers tomorrow and every day. They deserve it.

Monday, April 29, 2019


In addition to my regular editing jobs, and trying to get back to my own writing, I have undertaken the task of helping my dear friend, Marilyn Meredith, self-publish new editions of all of her books with her former publisher, now defunct.

I started with her Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series. There are eighteen books in the series, including the most recent one, Spirit Wind. It had been scheduled for release several months before she was informed the publisher was going out of business.
Fortunately, the cover art had been produced and approved, and she had a copy.

I need to note here, Mundania Press, her former publisher, commissioned a brilliant artist, Niki Browning, to create all new covers for this series last year. They are GORGEOUS! Marilyn was fortunate in that Mundania gave her permission to use them.

Larry is creating the spines and back covers for these. They are a tremendous challenge because he has tried to replicate the mottled backgrounds so the covers flow seamlessly to wrap the book. He is doing a superb job!

We started with the new book because it needed to be available for purchase. Then I began the process of re-publishing the rest of the series.

Wingbeat had not been available for several years. Fortunately, Marilyn had her final draft and the new cover. It is now available, too.

Next, she wanted one of her personal favorites, Seldom Traveled, done. She wants to do some promotion using this one, so I put it at the top of my list.

This one posed a particular challenge for Larry since the cover file we received contained some additional text—behind the title! He had his work cut out to remove it, but he did.

Next, we tackled Intervention. Copies of previous editions were available—with the older cover—but none with the new one. I love the stylized great blue heron on this one.

At Marilyn’s request, we took on A Cold Death next. This was the last book published by her former publisher. (She writes two different series and creates a new title in each series every year.) The spine was a particular challenge for Larry, but it looks seamless—and beautiful.

Now, I am working on the first two: Deadly Trail (the prequel to the series) and Deadly Omen. 

Since the editing on this series was very inconsistent, I have re-edited and re-formatted all of the interiors. I have also tried to standardize the fonts and overall look so they feel like a coordinated set. Fortunately, Marilyn has always written well, so her edits go pretty quickly. (I spend a couple of days on each one.)

We’re making great progress, and Larry is keeping up with the print covers. I can’t wait to see the whole series on a bookshelf with all the books in the same format (trade paperback) with the coordinated covers.

Many thanks to Mundania Press (especially Dan Reitz) for allowing Marilyn to use all of the artwork and responding so quickly to the requests we’ve made, and to Niki Browning for her extraordinary talent. Her covers make the series come alive.

Still a lot of work to do, but I am excited about being able to help my dear friend and favorite mystery writer make this complete series available for the foreseeable future.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Where the Sweet Peas Grow

Sweet peas have always been my favorite flower. When I was a little girl, my dad planted them every year. During the spring, the scent of sweet peas assaulted me every time I went into the backyard—and I loved it!

While they were blooming, we had bouquets in the house, and it, too smelled glorious. (My mother loved them, too.)

At the end of each season, Dad carefully took the seeds from the pods and saved them in a jar in the garage for planting the next year. Then he threw the vines over the back fence into the vacant lot. After several years, they germinated, and sweet peas grew along the back fence. Eventually, they expanded into our next-door neighbor’s backyard as well.

In addition to the sweet peas, Dad planted a lilac bush right outside of my bedroom window. He was told they wouldn’t grow in the California climate, but his did. I woke up all the summer to the warm aroma of lilacs. I still love them as well.

Dad died when I was seven. I tried to plant sweet peas myself afterward, with mixed results.

Several years ago, I discovered that South Coast Farms in San Juan Capistrano grew and sold them. Each year, I drive by and always stop when the sweet peas are blooming to buy some. The season is short, but each time I have a bunch in the house and inhale the scent of my childhood, I smile.

This morning as we were running errands, Larry said, “I have a surprise for you.” He wouldn’t tell me what it was. We drove across the freeway and went up La Novia. We drove to the top of the hill. There, covering about half a mile next to the road, along with the mustard and other wildflowers, were sweet peas—a carpet of them.

They shows as pink, but the photos don’t show them well. However, with the windows rolled down, the distinctive aroma filled the car—and my heart. One of the best surprises ever!

I was wearing my flip-flops, so I couldn’t climb the hill, but Larry got out and found some close to the road. He brought a few to me. Better than a dozen roses!

I came home and put them in a small vase with three of the buds from my rose bushes.
I am surrounded by one of my favorite scents—and sheer joy!
Do you have a favorite smell? What is it, and why is it special to you?

Monday, April 1, 2019


Over the last few years, I have observed a disturbing trend in publishing. Many, if not most, of the small and mid-level publishers I know have gone out of business, leaving their authors wondering where to go and what to do.

The first to affect us personally was Whiskey Creek Press. The owners were very close friends, and our relationship with them was a personal as well as business one. Health issues forced them to sell their company. They were fortunate. At the time, another publisher, Start Publishing, was interested in obtaining the company. We had seven books with them, so it was easier to leave them with the same publisher, especially since they maintained the original website, even with the change in ownership. They also contracted with Simon and Schuster to distribute our ebooks.

In 2016, the publisher of Wild Child Publishing/Freya’s Bower closed her publishing house. At the time, she explained that Amazon’s changes had made it impossible for small-to-mid-sized publishers to stay in business. Other publishers followed.

The same year, the owner of Oak Tree Press, Billie Johnson, had a massive stroke. It was not her first, but she had recovered from an earlier one, so her authors hoped she’d do the same this time. After a year with no royalties, I decided to request my rights back and self-publish my book, Ghost Writer. Some others did the same. However, in 2018, Billie died, and many of her authors were left without a publisher.
I have helped some of these to self-publish their books, but others are still trying to figure out what they will do.

Next to succumb was Desert Breeze Publishing, one of the most ethical houses I ever worked with. I edited for them for a few years. They also published several of my friends’ books. A couple of years ago, the owner had a serious car accident. She has been in nearly constant pain ever since. This, combined with the Amazon system’s policy changes, led her to stop doing business.

The latest publisher to fold is Mundania Press. This was one of the most respected of the mid-level publishers. Through the past fifteen years or so, they acquired several other small presses. However, they have been unable to pay royalties for a few months. Sadly, they, too, have given up.

When Oak Tree closed, our dear friend, Marilyn Meredith had her Rocky Bluff PD mystery series as well as quite a few other outliers published through Oak Tree. Another publisher, Aakenbaaken & Kent (also a friend), took the series and is currently re-publishing it. Larry and I self-published the others under Marilyn’s name. They now belong to her, and she gets all the royalties.

Her Tempe Crabtree mystery series was published by Mundania. We told her we would do the same with these. There were sixteen previously published books plus a new one, which should have been released months ago. She sent me the files, and Spirit Wind it is now available as of last Saturday in paperback and ebook. (Marilyn used my name for a character in a previous book, and she is back in this one—perhaps my favorite of all.)
In addition to the seventeen books in this series, Mundania had also published several of her other freestanding books. Thank goodness, Marilyn kept all of her files. (We share the same birthday, and we’re both very organized.)

So, now I’m at work trying to re-edit and re-format all the manuscripts. She has all the front cover artwork—thank goodness because these are gorgeous! But Larry has had to re-create the back covers and spines. This one turned out beautifully, so we are optimistic about the rest of them.

Many other authors are now left high and dry with no publishers and few options. Most do not have the skills necessary to self-publish their books.
The publishing industry has undergone a complete change during the thirteen years since we published our first book—and not necessarily for the better.

Have you had any experiences with being abandoned by a publisher?

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Work Families

During my working years, I was blessed to work for several companies where the employees became like family.

In 1978, I went to work for CF Braun & Co. Larry had already been employed there for thirteen years at the time. For the first six months, I was on probation (standard at the time). I felt as though I had to prove myself worthy to work there.
Once I had passed the test, however, I could have stayed for as long as I wanted. Many employees had been there for forty years or more. I was a “lifer” and would have stayed until retirement. Except, it wasn’t an option. The company was sold twice. With each sale, they lost customers. I left because we didn’t feel it was prudent for both of us to be employed by the same company.

During my seven years there, many fellow employees became closer than family. (Larry worked for the company for over thirty years in several different iterations and owners.) Even after both of us left, we remained in touch. We are still close to most of them, and we have groups on both Facebook and LinkedIn where we continue to share information.

About ten years later, after we moed to Orange County, I went to work for HC Power, inc. Once again, joining a new company was not an easy transition, and I felt I had to prove myself. However, soon these fellow employees became like another family.
I left in 1998 to work for three years in Japan. During my absence, the company was sold to PowerOne. I was asked to return in 2002 when we came back from Osaka, and I felt right at home once again. However, about eight months after I returned, PowerOne announced they were moving the manufacturing offshore and closing their California facilities.

We were such a close group, for the first two years after the company closed, we met on the first Friday of each month after work—just because we missed each other. We have groups on Facebook and LinkedIn to keep in touch.

In January, we suddenly lost one “brother,” Mehron “Ron” Khatiblou. I had worked with him in Engineering. I was out of town on the day of his memorial service, so I was unable to attend.
His month, we lost another “brother,” Raul Valerio, my former boss, in a paragliding accident. Last Friday, the “family” joined his family and friends to celebrate his life. I loved seeing everyone but wished the occasion had been a happier one.

The next place I worked, Downey Savings and Loan, was another extended family. Once again, few people who worked there ever left. I was employed there for seven years.

I adored the people. However, at the end of 2008, the FDIC closed the company—another victim of the banking collapse. I stayed on until mid-2009 to help with the closure.

Once again, we continue stay in touch through Facebook and LinkedIn. We have gotten together several times, and we all still miss seeing our friends.

My last job was a contract for Parker Aerospace, a subsidiary of Parker Hannifin. And once again, I felt as though I were coming home to a family. Many employees had been with the company for forty years, and few people left.
Even though I was only there for one year, I felt as though I had been at home.

Some people are lucky enough to work for one of these kinds of companies. I was blessed to work for several, and I continue to be grateful to count former employees of these companies among my close friends.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Lost and Found

My father died in 1954 when I was seven and my brother was four. We also lost contact with most of my father’s family. My paternal grandfather bailed. He was an alcoholic, and he and my mother actively disliked each other.

In 1923, when his wife died leaving three children, the oldest of whom was my father at six, my grandfather sent them to live with his older sister. They only saw their father on holidays until my dad started high school. Then he came home and brought the girls with him. He took responsibility for his two younger sisters until they graduated from high school themselves. I have always wondered if my grandfather felt guilty for not raising his own children.

One of my aunts, Rose, lived in Redding with her family. My dad had cut ties with her several years earlier because of her abusive husband, so we hadn’t seen any of them for some time. When I was eight or nine, her children were in our town to visit their paternal grandmother. (Unbeknownst to us, two of our great aunts also lived in our town. My father had nothing to do with them, either, because of their lifestyle. But my cousins visited.)

Their mother called and asked if the kids could come to our house for a couple of days. My cousin, Margaret, and I were close in age. We had such a wonderful time together. Even though she was only there for a couple of days, we both remember it as a great experience. However, we didn’t see each other again for many years.

My dad’s other sister, Mary Evelyn, lived with her family in Sacramento. She and my mother loved each other very much. She was in the military in WWII at the same time as my dad. My mother wrote each of them daily.

She had four children. However, her husband spent several years in and out of mental hospitals. She always worked full-time. As a single parent, so did my mother. The distance between our two families made visiting prohibitive, and long-distance phone calls were far too expensive. Over time, we lost track of her family as well.

After Mary Evelyn’s husband died, she moved to San Diego, where she began to do genealogy research. She located my brother, who gave her our contact information. When she called for the first time, we invited her to lunch the following Saturday.

When she and my mother saw each other, it was clear they still loved each other. From then until her death several years later, we saw her every few months. She attended our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary celebration. I adored her and treasure every minute I got to share with her.

My cousins on my dad’s side of the family remained lost until I located a couple of her children on Facebook. They led me to their siblings as well as Margaret. My family now felt restored.

On Memorial Day of 2011, Mary Evelyn’s son, Roger, invited us to his home for a barbeque. His sister, Suzanne, also came. What a joy to be reunited with them.
Roger, Suzanne, and me
My cousin Margaret was also supposed to have been with us, but she was unable to make it. A couple of weeks later, she was in Orange County. We made arrangements for her to go to church with us and to see my mother in the nursing home. What a great blessing. This was the last day Mom was lucid.

Me, Mom, and Margaret
In March of 2013, Margaret and Suzanne came to Dana Point for a few days. During the time they were with us, we visited San Gabriel Mission and found our grandmother’s grave together. I had tried to locate it years before, but had been unsuccessful. This time, we found it as well as the graves of her brother and her parents.
Lunch in Dana Point: Larry, me, Margaret, Suzanne
Four cousins at our grandmother’s grave: Ron, Margaret, Me, Suzanne
Roger and Suzanne flew down for our fiftieth anniversary celebration. They were the only members of my dad’s side of the family to attend, and I felt very blessed to have them!
Suzanne, Larry, me, Roger
Last September, we drove to Sacramento to meet Roger and Suzanne’s younger brother, Ted. Roger’s twin, Steve, was supposed to come, too, but he wasn’t able to make it. Ted was in town for a high school reunion. This was the first time I ever met him. Unfortunately, none of us thought to take any pictures. Roger barbequed, and we had a great time. We also met Suzanne’s daughter, Sarah, and her family.

In October, Sarah called to say she and Suzanne were coming to Orange County to go to Disneyland and celebrate Suzanne’s birthday. We took all of them out for dinner. This was the first time I had ever been able to celebrate Suzanne’s birthday with her.

Last Wednesday morning, we received an early phone call from Roger. He could barely breathe, but he said he had nearly died the night before. (I still haven’t heard all the details.) He wanted to tell me how much he loved me and how thankful he was that we had been able to reconnect after so many years.

I told him how much I loved him, too. He said how blessed he felt with a wife he adored and a loving extended family. I told hm to save his breath and that I was going to put him on two prayer chains. Later in the day, he called again to be sure to tell my brother he was loved as well. (They had seen each other at our fiftieth anniversary party.)

The next day, he called again and told me to call off my prayer warriors. (Didn’t happen.) He said he was feeling much better with only a couple of other tests to be completed. He sounded optimistic and ready to get back to his activities.

On Saturday, Sarah called to tell me Roger had suffered a heart attack during the night. He didn’t survive. I am heartbroken, and at the same time, I feel so very blessed to have found him again. We shared wonderful memories, and we had closure.

I will always love Roger and remember him with love. I told him the first time I met Ingrid, “She’s family, and I’m keeping her.” I meant it then, and I mean it now.

RIP, Roger, until we meet again. Thank you for loving me and allowing me to love you.

Roger and Ingrid. This is my favorite photo of them.

Saturday, February 23, 2019


Almost nothing is more frustrating than losing a dear friend and not knowing why. This happened to us a number of years ago.

Our dear and valued friend, Lynne, simply disappeared. She moved without sending us her new address. Her phone number and email address changed. We were left frustrated and missing her.
I found a new address for her, and sent her cards every few years. We never received an answer, but at least, they were never returned. Still, we often thought of her and hoped she was doing well.

We received word last month that she had died while on a cruise in November. We probably shouldn’t even have known about it except a friend’s step-daughter went to school with one of Lynne’s relatives. She let her step-mother know about the funeral, and she let the rest of us know.

Larry was ill the day of the funeral, but I went. We had been given the wrong address, and I drove around for a while before I located the church. Even though I left very early, I was a few minutes late for the service and sat in the back.

I loved hearing from her family about her more recent years. I felt as though I had caught up with her life. And I was glad and thankful I had gone.

A couple of weeks ago, we received a phone message from “Lynne’s relative” asking to speak with us about her. We played phone tag until last Monday when we finally connected. What a precious gift!

He said he was going through her things and came across the letters and cards we had sent over the years. This told us a great deal. She had kept them because they were important to her! And we knew she knew we cared about her.

We talked for about an hour sharing Lynne stories. Many of them made us laugh, and her relative enjoyed hearing them as much as we enjoyed sharing them. He told us a bit about her life after we saw her the last time.

We all felt she had cut herself off from her old friends in order to protect his privacy. (He is a very public figure, and she lived with him and took care of his children.) He expressed his surprise and dismay that she had made the choice. “I never would have asked her to do it, and I would have objected had I known.”

We had looked for closure to this relationship, and his thoughtfulness provided more than we could have imagined.

We still miss her, but now we feel satisfaction knowing she knew how we felt about her. She kept our messages, and it told us we mattered to her as well.

Have you ever lost a friend and felt the need for closure? How did you handle it? Did you ever find a satisfactory ending?

I’m grateful we did.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Cat in Space

Today, Larry guest blogs on cats in space. Enjoy!
In the third book of my science fiction series, The McGregor Chronicles, I included a cat named Qittah as one of my characters. Why an animal in space? Animals have traveled as pets or helpers on almost all the journeys of explorers and colonists throughout history. Cats and dogs were used to control stowaway vermin on long sea voyages. Cattle, sheep, and horses were brought aboard for use at their final destination. When mankind travels to the stars, I’m sure animals will accompany them.

Why did I choose a cat? Cats are independent, opinioned, self-sufficient, but if they find you worthy of their love, they can be devoted and affectionate. My cat doesn’t talk, do magic, or anything beyond the ability of an ordinary feline, but her presence greatly affects the wellbeing of the other characters and the outcome of the story.

After reading the history of the first cat in space, I knew this was the creature I wanted.

In October of 1963, the Centre National d’Études in France was set to rocket a small feline, a male named Félix, into space. After all, the Soviet Union had all ready sent dogs into space, and the Americans used monkeys. France was eager to join the space race with Félix. Rumor has it, on launch day, it was discovered that the intended little astro-cat had gone AWOL. A more likely reason was that the selected male cat had gained weight and could not fit in the restrictive carrier. The flight had to be delayed until a suitable replacement could be found to take his place. Her name was Félicette, a shorthair “tuxedo style” kitty.

On October 18th, 1963, Félicette jetted 130 miles above Earth on a liquid-fueled French Véronique AG1 rocket, soaring high above the Algerian Sahara Desert and into the history books. After her successful landing, French scientists at the Education Center of Aviation and Medical Research (CERMA) studied Félicette’s brain waves to see if she had changed at all since her voyage. CERMA officials later reported Félicette had made “a valuable contribution to research.”

You’d think Félicette would have received the recognition due her. However, The French commemorative stamp published after the flight shows a different, longhair cat incorrectly identified as Félix, thus adding to the confusion as to the gender and name of the real first cat in space.

So Qittah as a traveling companion is not very far-fetched.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Sick on Vcation

We just returned from a visit with our daughter in Plano, Texas. The day after we arrived, Larry started sneezing and coughing and blowing his nose. He kept feeling worse as it started to move into his chest. The congestion grew worse, so we went to a walk-in clinic. (I am always a bit wary of colds because when I get them, they often turn into bronchitis.) Turns out it was just a bad cold. The doctor gave him medication for the cough and inflammation, but Larry spent a couple of days out-of-commission.

I started taking Zicam right away. I eventually came down with the bug, but I was only affected for a couple of days—and no infection.

This isn’t the first time we’ve been ill on vacation.

I remember one memorable trip to Hawaii when I was miserably ill. Kim was with us. I spent a couple of days in bed while Larry and Kim enjoyed the beach. I pushed through for the rest of the trip, but I was dragging.

In 2015, we celebrated our 50th anniversary. Kim came from Texas for the party. A couple of days afterward, she became quite ill.

I’d had knee surgery the month before and was still recovering. I suspect my immune system was somewhat compromised, because I became ill with bronchitis—in spades. I went to the doctor, and she prescribed a round of antibiotics. When the first prescription didn’t help, she prescribed a second.

A couple of weeks later, we flew to Hawaii. I thought I was getting better, but by the end of the first week on Maui with our friend Suzi, I felt even worse. We flew to Honolulu, and the next morning, we went to the walk-in clinic. The doctor said I still had a bad infection. He prescribed a double dose of medication. I was out of it for a day or two. I kept going, but between my knee (still very painful) and the infection, I was pretty miserable.

Of course, I recovered—finally. This may have been the last time I was ill until this past week

Larry almost never gets sick, but when he does, he gets very ill. I also rarely catch anything, but I have noticed a change in location can introduce new germs. (The doctor in Plano said Larry probably caught something on the plane—despite our taking Airbourne before we boarded.)

We’re now home and pretty well recovered. Sleeping in our own bed helps with getting enough rest.

Have you ever been ill on vacation? It’s pretty miserable.