Wednesday, September 15, 2021

The Plague of 'ist'

by Janis Patterson


I have to stop reading certain writers’ groups. The Politically Correct/hypersensitive/stupidity ratio is shooting off the chart, and as a practical, pragmatic, sensible person I have become a stranger in a strange land. It is unnerving how many modern ‘hot buttons,’ buttons that can be used as weapons against people (whether innocent or guilty), buttons that can destroy lives and careers (whether deserved or not) end in ‘ist.’ Racist. Ageist. Sexist. Speciest. Almost any word you can think of can be turned into a weapon with the addition of the word ‘ist.’ And the most tragic thing is they do not need to be true.


The latest kerfuffle, the one of which I am writing, began when a writer asked if having a main character lose the power of speech through mental trauma and then later recover through medical/therapeutic means would be considered ‘ableist.’ The number of responses saying it would be, as well as it being unbelievable, insulting and ‘miraculous’ was astounding. And terrifying. Remember, this was a mental problem, not a physical one and the character got therapy. It is ableist to have someone recover? It is a miracle to have someone recover? Remember, we’re talking about a mental trauma, not having an amputated limb regrow. I too would call that a miracle, but since when has responding to mental therapy been considered ‘miraculous’ and therefore unacceptable in a genre novel?


Apparently some think so, declaring that to have someone cured before they get their happy ending is unacceptable and ‘ableist’ and never happens, so therefore has no place in a novel. Other quibbles aside, whatever happened to the fact that fiction is made up? Yes, some people have problems and changes to their physical being. Some get well, some don’t. Some people get happy endings, some don’t, but is that dependent on their recovery or not? I don’t think so. 


In a book the solution to this dichotomy should not/should happen according to the story the author is telling, not be constructed to fit some dictated decree or  ‘it’s not like that in real life’ doctrine. Even if such controlling and overweening censorship were feasible it should not exist - people read fiction to escape; if they wanted real ‘real life’ all the time, they should read non-fiction. Or watch the news.


To take the silliness of this ‘ist’ mindset to a logical conclusion, apply it to murderers (fictional ones, of course.) If a person kills another with planning and malice aforethought, it is because it is the way he is and the choices he makes. To ‘change’ him by capture and punishment could be considered by these ‘ist’ slaves to be ‘lawist’ or ‘conformist’ and, as under the ‘ableist’ standard, would be unacceptable. 


Of course, this is an extreme example. What we must remember is genre fiction is not real life. Fiction is escapism. Part of the reason people read genre fiction is because they know that in the end the murderer will be caught, that the hero and heroine will have their happy ending, that the sheriff will save the town from the bad guys, that all will be well and be resolved to our satisfaction. If we are going to write genre fiction, we must remain true to the norms and expectations of our chosen genre.


On the other hand, as writers we must be careful not to perpetuate blatantly offensive stereotypes. A black man who ‘shuffles and jives,’ bowing and repeating ‘yes, massa’ and ‘no, massa’ and ‘you done sure be right, massa’ would be incredibly offensive - unless there is a hard reason necessary to the story, such as an undercover operative whom we know is just putting on an act to get his mission done. Even then we would have to be careful to make sure that the reader knows the ‘shuffle and jive’ routine is just an act to achieve an important result and not a characterization of the real character. 


An equally offensive image would be of an Hispanic, constantly dozing beneath his sombrero and avoiding any kind of work, or a white working girl who thinks of nothing but shoes and dates and has the IQ of a goldfish. Yes, I am sure that somewhere in this great wide world there are a few individuals who actually fit these stereotypes (stereotypes did become in to being because at some time in the past they existed, after all) but in this modern world they are basically inaccurate and offensive and should not be promulgated.


I have a wide circle of friends from all over the globe and I do not know - nor have never even seen - any living example of real people like those above. I respect my characters and stories too much to create any such stereotype. All writers should as well; yes, their stories are their stories and should be written according to their vision, but if they have the right to create as they will, they also have the responsibility to make the result believable, be it a tale of a murder in a small Southern town or the revolt of the three-eyed blue bipeds of the planet Durgam against the tentacled swamp creatures of the Union of the Arctue Galaxy. (I am not a sci-fi fan, and my poor earth-bound mind boggles at what an offensive stereotype of either race might be!)


So what is the take-away from this little diatribe? For me it is that all my characters should be living, breathing and believable instead of cardboard cutouts. That actions and events and reactions should be believable for the world that I have created, be it in a far-away galaxy or in the next town over from me. That a stereotype, be it ‘Politically Correct’ or no, is not only offensive to some or most, but it is lazy writing, and that might be the worst sin of all.


Tuesday, September 14, 2021

A Question for Readers

 What makes you buy a book?

Does a catch cover intrigue you? Or what about the title?

Do you look for books written by your favorite author?

Do you subscribe to any of those promos for free or .99 cent e-books?

Messages sent to you by Amazon telling your about the latest mystery or thriller or romance intrigue you enough to make you buy?

Here's how it is with me:

I have some author friends whose new books I will always buy.

I also have some authors who have series that I may usually buy.

Sometimes Amazon sends me a list of free books that I can choose one from--and yes, I usually find a book to try. Because of that, I've read several new to me authors with great books. 

Lately I've been purchasing mostly e-books for my Kindle. And to be honest, I have so many on there and so little time to read, it my be a while before I get to them all. Mainly I don't have a lot of reading time because I'm in the middle of writing another book--well more like the first quarter. 

I have other jobs I need to do, and my husband is at an age where h needs more attention. However, reading is still something I squeeze in whenever I have the opportunity. It's the best way to get away from whatever is going on in the world today.

I'll be interested to hear your answers to my questions.

Marilyn

And this is one of my favorite covers.



Thoughts on Being Indie-Pulbished

 

The latest in the Deputy Tempe Crabtree series


In case you don't know what that means, it's another way of saying self-publishing. 

I've been published every way possible: New York publisher (my first published book), publishers who turned out to be crooks--and yes, there are still a few of those around, several small publishers (2 who died and others who decided to close their publishing houses; some were good and produced great looking books. 

Good friends talked me into going the indie publishing route and offered to do a lot of the work. Didn't take me long to agree. Every book I'd had published was re-edited and re-published, some with new covers, others I was able to get the rights.

Now, 47 of my books and 2 short stories are now indie-published. 

What are the disadvantages:

Some might say having to do my own promotion. Well, I got little promotion from any of the other publishers--my book on their website was the main promo. A few did other things, but not much.

Yes, from the honest publishers I did receive royalties on the sales, though sometimes many months later.

When I did a big promotion there was no way to tell if it had any effect on sales. Because I can check Amazon to see how sales are doing, it's very easy to see how well a promotion worked.

When I need more paper copies of my book I can do the ordering myself. I don't have to wait for the convenience of the publisher.

Though of course I don't have the backing of a big name publisher, nor do my books make it into bookstores unless I've made the connection some how, I am quite satisfied with being an indie publisher.

I'm one of those persons why has to write, and at least my books are available on Amazon for people to order and read.

Those are my feelings about being and independently published author.

Feel free to share your thoughts with me.

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

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

I THOUGHT THINGS WOULD BE BETTER BY NOW

 

Didn't you?

I hoped we'd be back to normal in the writing world--but it hasn't really happened has it?

A big mystery convention was cancelled, and some smaller ones too. (The Public Safety Writers Association's conference was held as planned though some of those registered to attend backed out.)

I've noticed that some outdoor book events around the country have gone on as planned, while others have been cancelled. Instead of in-person book signings, podcasts are being done. Doing a podcast at my house would be impossible--too many people live here and are not necessarily quiet (kids) when asked. 

I'm signed up for two outdoor events in October--we'll see if they actually happen. 

I do have some in-person events coming up that I'm sure will happen because I planned them. I'm doing a book signing in the felllowship hall of our church on August 28th for The Trash Harem. I' did one there earlier in the year for Not As We Knew It. Not many came but I sold quite a few books and I had fun and some great conversations.

The Porterville Art Association has asked me to come and speak and have a signing for The Trash Harem in September in the Art Gallery. I did one last year there for Not As We Knew It. Many came, all masked, and I sold a lot of books. The Art Gallery has remained open all through the pandemic and had many art related events.

I've continued to do blog tours and other promotion on line, but it isn't the same as actually talking to readers about books. 

Now I'm beginning to wonder if we will ever get back to what it was like before.

Marilyn

Friday, August 20, 2021

Published Authors Often Start Off as a Wannabe

by Linda Thorne

Recently a contractor was doing some upgrade work at my home and noticed this framed picture of the cover of a Writers' Journal magazine (now defunct) on my office wall with pages from my story, "Hurricanes Don't Lie." You can't read the engraved words carved into the plaque, but it shows the title of the story, my name as the author, and then the words, "First Published Story 2007." My daughter sent this to me after having it framed and engraved. I had won 2nd place in the short story contest for that issue of Writers' Journal and received a $125.00 check. I then showed the contractor my published novel, gave her a free copy, and found out that she had always wanted to write a book. She asked me how I went about becoming a published author. I gave her a short, general synopsis, admitting that I'd now given it up until retirement from my day job. Later, this dawned on me as a post for Make Mine Mystery. Many who read this blogspot are published authors, some with books and/or short stories galore, but each published author has a story of how and why they made it happen, often starting off as a wannabe author.

There's all kinds of reasons for becoming a published author. You land a job in promotions or production and you realize you can write and want to take it further. You heard something that sparked the desire, saw a movie that drew you into in to such depth it created a desire to write a book. It could've been happenstance, parental encouragement, a thousand reasons. Then there are those with the unexplained itch that began brewing inside them years earlier coming to fruition when they finally must write “the book.” My motivation came from the later, “brewing” up to it. I can’t claim to be a career author since I already have a professional career that takes up a great deal of my time, but I have published a debut novel, many short stories, and a second book even though it needs a ton of work before I'd ever publish it.

If asked how to write a book and publish it, I can’t really speak for others, but I can tell you how I pulled it off. Here’s the skinny:

  • I bought a book on how to write a book. I followed the directions, made index cards, detailed plot points, drew up story lines.
  • I wrote the book with the plot and subplots that had been in my head for years. It took a year. When I read what I’d written, it didn’t sound like any book I’d ever read. It was far from good.
  • Key point. The fact my first draft was awful did not deter me. I took a pause, read more books in my genre, and edited my first draft. It was better, but it still didn’t read like a published book.
  • I joined a critique group and took pieces of my book to weekly meetings where they ripped it to shreds. It helped. Warning on critique groups. You need to get savvy on what to take away and throw away from a critique meeting.
  • I’d take month long breaks from novel writing to write short stories. I sent my polished shorts off to contests and magazines.
  • I learned from reject letters and when I published a short, I used it as a thermometer to tell me what level I'd risen to. Writing shorts and receiving feedback, improved my writing skills.
  • I’d go to the Killer Nashville Writers Conference year after year, pen and pad in hand, and go to every session on topics I had not yet grasped.
  • I read more self-help books this time on plot, structure, and basic rewriting if your manuscript. My 150,000-word book was now down to 110,000 and I started submitting it to publishers and agents like crazy, which stopped when I could no longer take the onslaught of rejection letters.
  • Instead, I started sending segments of my book to contests where the judges gave critiques. There were many, but some were especially helpful: The Sandy Contest, the Colorado Gold Writing Contest, and the PNWA Literary Contest. I never won, but I used every suggestion given by the judges and my manuscript was the better for it.
  • Then I found The Best First Traditional Mystery Novel Contest where I could submit my book in its entirety. It cost nothing and the winning prize was $10,000 along with publication. The only entry requirement was not to have already published a novel. My first submission did not make the finals, so I went back to the drawing board. My book was getting smaller, now down to 95,000 words. The second year, I did not make the finals again, but my assigned judge sent me an e-mail telling me it had promise. The judge assigned to me the third year, sent my manuscript to the finals, big step, but another author’s book won. I didn’t know how close I might’ve been to beating the winning author until the fourth year when I went to the finals again. This time none of the finalists were good enough for publication. That did it! I had more work to do and this time I needed to revise it for publication. I didn’t have time to wait another year to re-enter the contest.
  • I tore through my book again, taking pieces of it to my critique groups, using my self-help books, my notes from the Killer Nashville conferences, judges comments from various contests. I revised and revised and then began submitting my manuscript, now down to 85,000-words, to publishers and agents again. Bingo! Black Opal Books read my entire book and asked to publish it.

This was a ten-year run for me and a lot harder than I’d thought when I first started out. Was it worth all the work and frustration? Absolutely! That would take a whole other post to explain why. 

Amazon Buy Link


 Author's Page

Website

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

The Danger Challenging Professionalism

by Janis Patterson


I make a goodly portion of my income by writing, and I believe a lot of you do too. We are professional writers, and I think most of us are proud to be called ‘professionals.’ Professional has long had a meaning of “behavior, attitude and level of skills” with an ability to demonstrate “a conscientious, courteous and business-oriented manner.” (definition thanks to resume.com)

I wonder just how long that will last, because the rot is setting in and if we aren't careful it can spread. A large writing organization which has always touted itself as being a professional organization underwent a train wreck in December of 2019, the results of which jangle in the writing world even today. It involved charges and counter-charges of racism, some of the most vicious and vulgar language and name-calling I have ever heard anywhere and, according to some, the exodus of almost half its members and the disaffiliation of a number of its chapters.

When the dust cleared, even the much-respected yearly award program had been scrapped, re-formed and re-named. Torturous and much-publicized reconstruction of the entire organizational structure resulted in a practically new organization to which they happily gave the secondary appellation of 2.0. Some members were ecstatic, some were not.

While such violent and vulgar methods were lamentable, it is not unknown for organizations to reinvent themselves, though usually not in such uncivilized ways.

It is what came next that put the term ‘professional’ at peril. After the new rules and contest requirements were put in place - without any mention of removal for problematic content, note - and heartily trumpeted throughout the genre writing world, the contest was opened. Entries were made and judged and the winner selected.

Then the proverbial noxious substance hit the fan.

Although the winning novel had followed all the rules, had entered with proper protocols and been weighed by a number of trained judges, a smallish but very vocal segment of the membership raised holy hell, sending howling protests resonating through the organization’s forum. Anyone who dared question this recension of the award was immediately labeled a racist and told they weren’t wanted.

The problem? The book - an historical story - started with a (real) tragic event where the US Army waged war on some Indians (Native Americans? Aboriginals? First Nationers?). The hero (fictional) was repulsed by the action, yet as he was a US Army officer he followed orders and did his duty. Fast forward a couple of years; the hero has changed because of what he has seen and is doing good things, meets the heroine and love ensues.

So why the kerfuffle? According to the objectors, the book glorifies the massacre of Indians. Because the hero took part in the action, he cannot be redeemed, he does not deserve a happy ending, he should be damned by God, vilified and tormented forever in this world and the next. Even the idea of God’s love and redemption came under fire from the objectors. (Which, if you think about it, sort of parallels the fate of Confederate soldiers - it makes no difference what good you did in the last 50-60 years of your life, all that is counted and that which damns you forever is that you served 4 years in the army of the Confederacy, a belief which is equally illogical.)

Now I believe in liberty - you should be free to believe what you want to believe, you can read the book or not read that book or any book, you can say what you want to about it, you have the freedom to make your own choices. I have my opinions, you have yours. That’s the way things should be.

Not now. The screams from the objectors became so strident and insistent that IN SPITE of the book having fulfilled every requirement of the contest, IN SPITE of having been judged by a number of trained judges, IN SPITE of the contest rules having been clearly stated when the contest opened, the organization made the decision to ignore their own rules, ignore that the book had fulfilled all mandatory regulations, ignore that it had been judged best by judges trained by them, with the result the award was rescinded and taken away.

Just how professional is it for an organization - which prides itself on calling itself professional - to decertify a book which has fulfilled all the rules they themselves wrote after a long and arduous and very public couple of months? In effect, they wrote a contract and then based just on the feelings of some of the members simply ignored it.

How can anyone ever trust them ever again?

I don’t care about the content of the book, and I don’t care about the feelings - PRO or CON - of the members. What I do care about is the utter disregard for legality and the sanctity of their word. Professionals know once a contract is set, it should be fulfilled. Contest rules are a contract, and to change them after the fact is both dishonest and dishonorable.

Who is to say even if they fix this situation by writing other rules that they will live up to them the next time? Or what is worse, institute a draconian rule of censorship in which only approved subjects can apply? What’s to keep them from simply ignoring the new rules if the resultant winner in the next contest offends someone? If they behave in such a blatantly unprofessional manner this time, there is no guarantee they won’t do it again next time. Or the next time. Or the time after that.

Professional writing organizations should be just that - professional, honest, and true to their contracts. Otherwise they should not be called or regarded as professional.






Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Today is My Eldest Daughter's Birthday

 


“What has that got to do with mysteries or writing mysteries?” you ask. Not usually much, but in the case of The Trash Harem actually quite a bit. Not her birthday so much as my daughter herself. While talking about life in the 55 plus gated community where she and her husband now live, the title and the kernel of an idea for a new Deputy Tempe Crabtree was a part of her description of their new life.

Daughter Dana has always been a fan of my Deputy Tempe Crabtree mysteries. Before our latest visit to our daughter’s home, I’d decided End of the Trail would be the last in the series. Many of my readers thought it probably was too, though not everyone was happy about it.

While describing all the things they do, and especially the habit our son-in-law has settled into, an idea for a new Tempe mystery began forming. Once I mentioned it, Dana, and my other daughter, Lisa, who was with us thought it was a great idea. We talked about it some, and Lisa and I came up with some more ideas on the way home and I jotted them down in a small tablet.

Once home and settled, I began thinking more about the plot and the characters. When I write, the characters drive the plot, so I began creating the people who would inhabit this tale—who they were, what they looked like, their personalities and their importance.

From there the writing flowed. Of course there was some research to do about things I wanted to include—but research these days with the Internet is so much easier than it once was. I also sent a few emails to Dana asking her questions about things I needed to know.

Of course the story took on some twists and turns I hadn’t expected, but that’s what’s fun about writing.

Daughter Dana and her husband Mike

Marilyn

Official Blurb:

Deputy Tempe Crabtree has retired from her job in Bear Creek when friends, who once lived in Bear Creek and attended Pastor Hutch’s church, ask her to visit them in Temecula. The husband, Jonathan, is a suspect in what might be a murder case. The retirement community includes many interesting characters, any of whom might have had a better motive than Jonathan. There is also a connection to Earle Stanley Gardner as well as the Pechanga Old Oak. What is a trash harem? You’ll have to read the book to find out.

To purchase The Trash Harem

https://www.amazon.com/Trash-Harem-Tempe-Crabtree-Mysteries-ebook/dp/B096KZDPH8/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=The+Trash+Harem+by+Marilyn+Meredith&qid=1622899167&s=books&sr=1-1

Marilyn Meredith’s Bio:

She is the author of over 40 published books including the Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series, and writing as F. M. Meredith, the Rocky Bluff P.D. series. She’s a member of two chapters of Sisters in Crime and the Public Safety Writers Association.

Webpage: http://fictionforyou.com/

Blog: https://marilynmeredith.blogspot.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/marilyn.meredith