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)

Friday, July 6, 2018

Historical Accuracy

I am currently working with a first-time author who is writing a historical novel about a time and subject about which I know very little. This, in fact, is why I was excited to edit her story. I enjoy learning new things.

However, a very short way into the book, some red flags arose. She had her character traveling on a railroad traveling north to south just prior to the Civil War. I looked up the name of the line she had used and discovered it didn’t exist—ever.

\When I questioned her about it, she said, “I just used literary license and made it up.”

Uh no.

Readers of historical fiction—especially those who read about the particular time in which she is writing, would have her head for such an invention. Readers are passionate about accuracy when it comes to their favorite periods and locations, and authors must research everything they write.

I have been known to close a book and throw it away (or remove it from my Kindle library) for blatant inaccuracies. I know devotees to particular eras do the same. Even when writing contemporary fiction, research is still important.

The more reality you include in your fiction, the more believable it becomes. So, where can you use literary license, and where should you strive for absolute accuracy? Larry wrote a blog for me a few years ago where he describes it better than I could. The following is from his blog.

In our second mystery, Murder in Paradise, our protagonist, Agapé Jones, retired NYPD detective, was supposed to drive from Honolulu to Hale’iwa. While doing research on Oahu, I drove the same route, noticed the outrigger canoes parked along the Ala Wai Canal, and shopped at the Foodland in Hale’iwa. Then Agapé did the same things in the book. We know our readers will never forgive us if we mess up their town. And if our hero drives the wrong way on a one-way street, we’ll never hear the end of it. [One reader, who had lived on Oahu, said he knew exactly where he was every minute—a testament to the value of the research.]

While I write a story in a real place, I surround myself with photos, clippings, and maps of the area I intend to write about. Anything to keep me grounded in reality.

Sometimes a picture will inspire a scene. In Murder in Paradise, I had the grandmother character tell the story of growing up as a child on the North Shore and visiting the Hale’iwa Hotel, a beautiful Victorian-style inn featuring a two-story lanai and luxurious dining room. Opened in 1898, the building was torn down in 1952. As inspiration, I purchased several early photos of the old hotel from North Shore Photo Hawaii and hung them on the wall over my computer. The pictures themselves never appeared in the book, but my descriptions became more accurate because I could visualize being there. Hopefully, I passed my vision on to the reader.

Lorna and four friends created the fictitious town of Aspen Grove, Colorado, as the location for their romance anthologies, Snowflake Secrets, Seasons of Love, Directions of Love, The Art of Love, An Aspen Grove Christmas, and …And a Silver Sixpence in Her Shoe. This allowed the authors to invent shops, restaurants, churches, B&Bs, etc. to fit their novellas. They placed Aspen Grove in the mountains west of Denver on the road leading to the ski resorts. Even though it is fictitious, it needed to have the real look and character of the area. Aspen Grove became a composite of several real towns.

Walk down the main street of Idaho Springs and you expect to see Daisy’s Diner and the Book Nook. Wander along the lakefront in Georgetown to find Drew’s log cabin, and on through town a stone building houses the Presbyterian Church. Several readers have remarked they would love to visit Aspen Grove. So would we. [But we have come close in these two small Colorado towns. Idaho Springs is shown below.]

Not only do the locations need to be correct, but also the specific time period. The events, language, customs, clothing, and props must all fit the era.

In historical fiction, it is even more important to do accurate research. Our historical novel, The Memory Keeper, concerns life at the San Juan Capistrano Mission between 1820 and 1890 as seen through the eyes of a Juaneño Indian.

For inspiration, an original etching by Rob Shaw, published in 1890 by H L Everett, showing the mission grounds, hangs over my computer and did so during the writing of the book.

Our bibliography ran eleven pages. We also enlisted the aid of the San Juan Capistrano Historical Society, mission docents, the local San Juan historian, and a Juaneño native storyteller as beta readers for historical information. We weren’t satisfied until they were satisfied with the accuracy of our details.

That said, I have to remind myself. Never let the facts get in the way of the story. Too many details can turn a good story into a boring history lesson. In the end, the research should support and enhance, but not overwhelm. We must choose which facts to include, leave out, and make up. If we’ve done our job, our readers will become so involved with the plot and compelling characters, the facts will blend in. They’ll never know how much research went into it. But we will.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Why Authors Need Business Cards

Several months after we published our first book, 31 Months in Japan: The Building of a Theme Park, we attended a writers’ conference because we were finalists in their contest. This experience proved to be one of the most valuable events in our writing careers. We met some terrific people (some of whom have remained good friends). We networked with other industry professionals. But, perhaps most valuable, we got lots of excellent advice and information.

One of the speakers was a marketing expert. In addition to the usual recommendations (have a professional-looking website, join LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc.), she emphasized getting business cards—and using them.

We already had cards, provided by the publisher, and had given them out during the conference, but the speaker pointed out why they were important and other ways they could be useful.

A primary reason to have cards is to establish yourself as a serious writer. Once your first book comes out, you are a published author. You need to emphasize your professionalism. Your website LinkedIn profile, author page on Facebook, and your cards all convey this idea.

For the first romance anthology, my second book, Snowflake Secrets, I made my own cards. Staples and other office supply stores carry blank cards.

At first, we had cards printed for each book and passed them out ahead of publication to increase interest. used to offer free cards for just the price of shipping. You had to use one of their basic designs, but fortunately, we liked them. This is still the least expensive source we have found. We are on their mailing list, so we also get additional special offers.

Once we were multi-published, we realized we needed author cards with our basic information on them. These are the ones we now use most often. Sometimes we use the generic designs. At other times, especially when they have a sale, we create our own design. This one is one of theirs.

For series books, we sometimes create one card to span the series. We did this for the first book of Larry’s sci-fi series The McGregor Chronicles: Book 1 – Saving Mike because we always knew he’d write more. (Book 5 is ready for publication, and he’s halfway through Book 6.)

So, how do we use them?

First, we always carry them wherever we go. If we meet someone and start to talk about our books, we can hand them a card and tell them to visit our website. (it’s listed on the card.) Since we now have seventeen published books between us, sending them to the website makes sense.

We have given out cards while standing in line at Disneyland, at the mall, and lots of other unexpected places. I recently gave on to a lady in a store. I think she used it because we sold one of the books we had discussed on about the same day we talked to her.

One of our favorite uses is when we eat in a restaurant. We usually pay with a credit card. When we sign the receipt (or leave a tip), we take out a card and write “Thank You” on the back. First, it is a nice gesture to the wait staff. Second, they may remember you. Of course, you have to leave a nice tip, but we always do.

We did this one day, and our waiter returned with two other ladies. One was the restaurant owner, and the other was an organizer of an upcoming event at the restaurant. Since the whole event focused on the history of San Juan Capistrano, about which we have written, we were glad to know about it. We attended, met some valuable contacts, and handed out more cards.

You never know when someone will use your card. We have been contacted by people who told us they had been given one of our cards by someone else.

I once worked for a company where, on the second day of employment, every employee received a box of business cards, whether or not they dealt with vendors or customers. When I asked why, I was told, “This is the cheapest form of advertising.” We have always felt the same.

Since Claire’s book, Trust the Wind, was published on her birthday, I had cards made for her as her birthday present. This time, I chose custom ones.

One of my dear author friends has separate cards made for each of her books and uses them to create interest prior to the book’s launch. She attends many author events, conferences, and book fairs where she can hand them out.

Do you have business cards? How do you use them?

Tuesday, June 19, 2018


We first met Claire Crafts when she was eight-years-old. Her younger brother broke a window in our house, and his dad brought him and his sisters to the house. In Claire, I recognized a kindred spirit. Thereafter, whenever I saw her, we had long discussions about writing.

When she was ten, she joined our critique group. Being surrounded by published adult writers did not intimidate her, and we made no exceptions when critiquing her work. Because several of our authors were writing young adult novels, Claire’s input became invaluable.

At first, she wrote historical short stories, ala Little House on the Prairie. (All her young heroines were named “Millie,” and all the fathers were dead in her families. Her own father started to wonder about this particular plotline.)

As she progressed, she decided to write a novel. She started several, but never completed them. Part of the problem was she tried to write from an adult point-of-view. She also attempted to write about places and events about which she had little knowledge.

Finally, last summer when she was fifteen, she not only began but completed a lovely coming-of-age romance novel. She shared it with the group and received positive feedback.

On April 30, her sixteenth birthday, her novel, Trust the Wind was published on She took the cover photo, and Larry did the design and layout.

So far, she has earned more royalties in six weeks than any of the adults in our group has ever earned in the same period!
Claire has several more books in her queue, including a book of poetry.

Encouraging the creativity of this very talented young lady has been a joy for all of us.
We have just helped our grand-niece complete her first fantasy novel. Savannah is only eleven, and she is also exceptionally talented.
Her mother told us about the book last Thanksgiving, and she sent it to me. Imagine my surprise when I read it and found it was better than some submissions I have received from the adults for whom I edit.

Savannah understands how to tell a story, how to create a story arc, character arcs, tension, and suspense. She has an impressive grasp of language and understands the value of dialogue. We went through the manuscript and identified a few issues, but overall, it was well done.

We promised her as part of her Christmas present we would help her publish it. We intend to keep our promise.

Larry created a wonderful cover, and the final edit is completed.
As soon as we work out the financial details, we’ll publish this one as well.

Like Claire, Savannah has more books planned.

Seeing the enthusiasm and talent of these young writers brings us a great deal of satisfaction.

Another young lady of fourteen has just joined out critique group. We’re anxious to see what she produces.

Have you ever had the experience of mentoring someone? Did you have mentors? How much difference did they make?