Tuesday, June 8, 2021

#19 in the Deputy Tempe Crabtree Mystery Series


When I wrote the last book in the series, End of the Trail, I, along with many of my readers, thought it was the last one. The title was certainly perfect for the end of the long series.

But, guess what, ideas started popping into my head after I made a trip to visit my daughter and her husband. It was a great trip, and I went to see family--besides my daughter and son-in-law, two married grands and their families.

It was extra special because one of my great-grands was home from college to recover from bronchitis, and another grand who moved to Pittsburgh and started her own business was there with her new husband. 

As the days evolved, and I watched how my daughter and her husband enjoyed living in a 55-and- older gated community and how their days transpired, the ideas began flowing. 

This is a short tale, but I think a fun one. I know I had a great time writing it.

It's available from Amazon on Kindle or in paperback.


To purchase:


Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Slowly Coming Back


My first book signing in two years happened!

Was  it a great success? I wouldn't say that, except for family only two people showed up. One was someone I don't know very well, but she's all about reading series from beginning to end. And though she reads on a Kindle, she bought two books for a friend.

The other non-relative was a good friend who I hadn't seen since the pandemic began. She'd purchased my latest two book from Amazon and brought them for me to sign. And she also bought a book for a friend.

My granddaughter purchased 5 books in the Deputy Tempe Crabtree series for something she's doing for her 5 grand-kids--who are really little and won't be reading them any time soon. 

How many books I sold really has nothing to do with the best part of the two hour signing. Both of the women came at different times and so I had a chance to really visit with each of them--truly worth the effort I put into putting on the event. (And I had plenty of help doing that.)

And guess what? I'm ready to do another book signing, where I have no idea, but I'm ready. It is so heartwarming to meet readers and talk about books. 

I've also signed up for the PSWA writing conference--first one in two years. /https://policewriter.com

This is my favorite writers' conference, great for mystery writers. Plus, it's small with only one track so you don't miss anything, and you'll meet a lot of interesting people.

Marilyn Meredith, who also writes as F. M. Meredith


Friday, May 21, 2021

Book Reviews

 by Linda Thorne

About five years ago I wrote a version of this post for a blogspot now inactive. Being late for my post today, I thought I’d bring this topic to Make Mine Mystery.

Ah, reviews. Authors yearn for the good ones, will take the reasonable ones, and hopefully learn from those negative, but none want those posted by meanies with nasty unnecessary attacks. 

For the most part an author will welcome almost any type of review: the ever steady one with an accurate ending and a trustworthy opinion, but even a shallow review of three words: “I enjoyed this book,” brings a smile to my face. And I love to see the total numbers of the review count go up.

It's my understanding that Amazon will do a little more promotion for an author with twenty reviews, then maybe more at fifty. I’m not sure if this is accurate, but I have heard it several times.

Some people who read my book, volunteer to put up a review without my asking, but then never do. Maybe if I showed my true emotions when they first mentioned it—chanted cheers and did somersaults—they may have followed through. This happens more often than not.

I asked my publisher to add a blurb at the back of my book asking for consideration of a review. I’ve seen it in other books. I’m not sure it helps, but I don’t think a reminder can hurt.

In the January 2017 issue of Writer's Digest. Barbara Solomon Josselsohn wrote in the “5-Minute Memoir” section a short article on book reviews. She titled it “The Review Rat Race" and said, "...many authors will attest, customer reviews have become the holy grail of novel publishing." She also confessed wishing she could simply appreciate a compliment about her books without the drama of the sought-after book review jumping to the forefront.  

What about you? Do you go after reviews or just hope that they come? Do you have other resources that help you bring them in or are you relying
solely on those folks who read your books?

Author Website: Linda Thorne Website

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Coincidence - Friend or Foe?

by Janis Patterson

While there are those who say coincidences don’t happen, we all know they do. In real life, that is. In fiction one has to be very suspicious of them, especially if they providentially happen just in time to resolve all the complications of a book and bring about a happy ending. That’s cheap writing. 

Yes, I will say that again - coincidence to wrap up a complicated story in a quick, neat and tidy bow is cheap writing. I don’t care if your Great-Aunt Edna on the way to her reasoned but passionless marriage to a man she didn’t love just happened to run into her high school flame who had moved to Australia years before or a real-life detective on vacation in a far-away country just happened to meet the one real witness to an unsolved crime which happened two years before. I know things like that do happen (albeit rarely) but that’s real life. You see, fiction has rules; real life doesn’t.

That said, a coincidence can be a great starting point for a story. There’s no backstory to consider, no chain of events necessary to make the coincidence happen, no complicated explanations, no convoluted chain of action. Coincidences do happen. Two people from the same small town in Texas can meet on the Spanish Steps in Rome after many years without seeing each other. (This happened to my mother.) When stranded in a tiny Mexican coastal town you can run into a local frog-leg farmer who just happens to have been a member of the Boy Scout troop you began in North Texas over 40 years previously. (No kidding - this actually happened to my father.) But just try putting either of them into a book!

While admittedly coincidences do happen, at least in real life, imagine all the work and machinations and plot-twisting it would take to make a plausible ‘coincidence’ wrap up all the plot threads at the end of a story. That would be the worst kind of plot-driven story and every crack and seam would show. The ancients used to do it, of course, with the Deus ex Machina. The story would become so convoluted and so knotted that it would never work out. Thus the Deus ex Machina, a god who conveniently comes down from wherever and, rather like a second grade teacher with an unruly class, ruthlessly give orders that would sort out all the problems and misunderstandings. Such a device does get the story to the desired, but how very unsatisfying to a modern reader.

So feel free to use your chosen coincidence - but just to start a book. Be very leery of using one to end a book. And stay away from meddling gods! 

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

A Few Things That Drive Me Crazy

 When I'm reading a book, I want to know where things are taking place. Where in the world are the characters? 

Over the  years I've judged a lot of writing contests--and ever so often I've read a book with a good plot but had no idea where it was taking place. Or when the characters are who knows where, having a conversation.

Then there's the other problem where the author gives far too much description of everything, slowing down the plot. I think it depends upon the genre too. Readers of historical fiction love the details of the setting and characters. A fast-paced Western, detective novel, thriller needs to have the plot moving along at a quick pace. 

Though the reader doesn't need a weather report, weather can add a lot to the suspense of a story and problems for the main character. 

We do need to know what the main characters look like--but it isn't necessary to let the reader know everything all at once. When it comes to the taxi driver or some less important character, the reader needs to know very little unless that person is going to turn up again. 

Then some of the things in dialogue that are strange. One of the biggest is when one character tells another something that person already knows. The sentence often begins, "As you know...."  When the information could be given in the narrative.

How about having a person laugh a sentence? Or gasp a sentence? What I mean is something like this, "What kind of a get up is that," he laughed. Or, "I heard something," he gasped. Both would be fine as a sentence following the dialogue. The best kind of dialogue tag if you want to cut down on the he said, she said, is to use an action.

"Get out of my way." Jenny shoved her way through the crowd. 

Grandma put down the tea cup. "That was lovely, my dear."

And what about the heroine who knows there's a killer loose, hears a noise in the basement, and goes down there all alone?

So there are my pet peeves--what are yours?



Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Characters' Names


The first in the Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series.

How important is it to get the right name for one of your characters?

When I first started writing, I usually picked the first names of the good characters from people that I liked, and added a last name that seemed to go with it. Of course, I sometimes did the opposite for the bad characters. Later in my writing career I tried to use names that carried some kind of meaning, at least to me, that the person I'd created had a touch of evil. 

As time went on I began to learn some fairly good rules about names: Don't have characters with names that begin with the same letter and don't use names that rhyme. One of my own rules is don't pick a name that no one can pronounce because that drives me crazy when I'm reading a book and don't really know how to say the character's name. 

As time went on I needed more sources for names.

Of course, nowadays one can go on the Internet and find every kind of ethnic name, first and last, plus popular boy and girl names for any year.  And yes, I've used these sources a few times. However, for me a better way has been to jot down interesting names I see in the newspaper and to save any programs such as from graduations and stage plays. I'll pick a first name from one and a last name from another that seem to fit the character I'm creating. 

My character Deputy Tempe Crabtree's name is one of my great-grandmother's names. I thought it fit the Native American woman I'd conjured in my mind. (And by the way, Tempe is short for Temperance, and is pronounced Tempie.)

First in the Rocky Bluff P.D. series

For my main character in the Rocky Bluff P.D. series, Doug Milligan came about because Doug was my favorite cousin's name and I liked the way the name Milligan went with it. 

I'd like to hear from other authors how they choose their character names.


Wednesday, April 21, 2021

The Cutesy Crazies, or The Quirky Plague

                                                                                                                                   by Janis Patterson 

I like cozy mysteries - admittedly more the traditional kind (amateur sleuth, real world, adults who act like adults, lack of gratuitous sex or violence) than the currently trendy kind (talking animals, ‘cute’ jobs, ditzy heroines with shoe fetishes, witches and paranormal abilities, etc.) I do read both kinds though, as well as an occasional noir or hard-boiled one just for a little bit of variety. 

 However, like too much sugar or salt can ruin a dish and make it unpalatable I am noticing a disturbing trend in the ‘new’ cozy tales, namely a blatantly advertised cast of ‘quirky’ characters. 

 Now everyone has (or should have) at least one quirky person in their lives, if for no other reason to give them a laugh or at least make them appreciate the sanity of everyone else. When an entire village, or apartment house, or island or whatever physical location of the story is populated with nothing but quirky characters - and they are touted as one of the desirable draws of said location - I begin to feel that this is not so much a place of mystery as an open-air asylum. 

 You know the type I’m talking about - the grandmother who habitually crawls out windows because she wants to avoid the nosy neighbors. The heroine who puts herself into a known and extreme danger without a compelling reason, just curiosity. The cat/dog/horse/mongoose who not only investigates the crime but generally solves it, though it generally gives the credit to the heroine. Sometimes they even talk. 

And while I enjoy an occasional ghost story, the mysteries where the ghost becomes a helpful partner in investigating the crime, or a coven (or several) of witches solve crimes through their magic powers or just about anything like that can make a book fly headfirst into the garbage can. Don’t let me get started on shapeshifters or other magical entities... my thoughts on them are not suitable for public pixilation! I know many many people like all of these kinds of characters - they have to, or there wouldn’t be so many of them - but I don’t. Those of you who do, I wish you good fortune and much joy of them. I just won’t be joining you. 

 The most ubiquitous offense to my mind is the stupidity of these quirky characters. Some of them do things and say things that would get them arrested at the least and institutionalized at the worst, and with no visible reason other than they have to do it in order to further the story. And that, unfortunately, crosses the line from plotting/character preference into the realm of bad writing. I am a firm believer that characters shape the storyline - the storyline doesn’t dictate the characters. 

 So, to keep from appearing a total grump, I guess I should tell you what I do like. Real people, understandable people, people like you could meet at the store or church or live next door to, who are suddenly and irrevocably thrown into an extraordinary situation which they feel they must investigate either to save themselves or someone/thing that they love, or (depending on their character) to prevent a miscarriage of justice. Yes, there still are people like that. Perhaps they are nosy more than being involved, but asking a few questions of people is different from beginning the investigation by breaking into a deserted factory at midnight. And yes, these stories can have humor, but it is a real, organic humor that grows out of the situation rather than the author visibly thinking, “I need to put a laugh in here, so So-And-So has to do something quirky.” (I admit that is an exaggeration, but not much of one...) 

 I have a dear friend of many years, a lovely, accomplished and very intelligent lady who will not read anything which does not make her laugh. No matter the author, no matter the location, it has to be a cozy mystery, but if it doesn’t make her laugh out loud in the first five pages out it goes. I don’t understand that and think she is missing out on a boatload of good stories, but that is her parameter of reading pleasure, so joy go with her. Needless to say, we have agreed on the merits of very few novels. 

 So perhaps the best definition of what I like are scenarios in which I can picture myself or my friends being caught in and how we handle things which are to us totally alien - and none of us are ‘quirky.’ 

 At least, not much.