Friday, September 18, 2020

Hacking Away At Your Word Count



by Linda Thorne

If you’re an author who has ever entered a writing contest, you’ve been subjected to maximum word count requirements. I found this to be the norm in contests asking for part or all of a work-in-progress novel and in every short story contest I ever entered.

It’s amazing how you can reduce those words. I’ve managed to take a 3500 word short story and reduce it to 1000 while still keeping the story line.

My first book, Just Another Termination,started off at 120,000 words. It was awful. So much needed cut. I took out a couple of non-essential characters and their roles, but there was a more fat to trim. I had way too much detail regarding how some events came about. I described how my character and her husband moved from LA to the Mississippi Gulf Coast and gave way too many details. Boring. When I finally published my book it was down to 80,000 words. 

I published this post somewhere three years ago. I'm not sure whether it was here on Make Mine Mystery or on Novel Spaces. I'm bringing it back re-written a little differently. 

I’ve heard that the current preferred length for mystery, thrillers, and romance is 70,000 to 90,000 words; although I personally consider 90,000 high, and 75,000 to 80,000 a better word count.

Things I’ve done to reduce word count:

Drop one of the subplots. I had too many in the first draft.

Get rid of a few characters. I had to do that with a couple of characters in Just Another Termination and hated it. I may have one too many in my current work-in-progress, A Promotion to Die For. I don’t know yet.

I know you are supposed to take out back story in the beginning and trickle it throughout. This has been hard in A Promotion to Die For, as so much back story is needed for a murder 30 years in my character's past. Critically acclaimed New York Times bestselling author Susan Isaacs wrote a book called, Lily White, where each chapter was either in the present time or in the past. The past chapters were in italics and the present ones in regular font until both stories met toward the end. I enjoyed this. In A Promotion to Die For I only have a few chapters that are written in back story. The people and occurrences in that history from three decades earlier surface soon in the present and the old cold case murder from back then is solved toward the end of the book in its current timeline.

Eliminate repeats. I can’t tell you how many times I can say the same thing in writing over and over. The reader gets it the first time. I’m not sure about other authors, but I find myself telling it to them again in a different way. This has to end and I usually get rid of it during the revision process.

No rambling over things you want to get in because of your beliefs. This is not about the author, but about giving the reader something interesting to read.

I’m interested in your experiences as authors and/or readers in words working without being too wordy.

Buy Link: Amazon Buy Link

Author Website:

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

The Rabbit Hole Seduction

                                     by Janis Patterson

No matter what we write, we’ve all been there. We’re writing along happily, the scene is working, the tension is building, our characters are behaving the way we want them to for once and - boom! - suddenly you need a tiny little fact without which nothing works.

Sometimes you can skip over it and finish the scene, vowing to go back and fact-check later (and sometimes you forget, for which fans will inevitably ding you) but often if the action is to proceed as you want it to you need an answer, as it might change the action.

In a way research was simpler before the internet. A trip to the library or the encyclopaedia if you were fortunate enough to own one, or a phone call to some authority, and you felt safe. You had done your due diligence and could feel fairly secure that you knew more about whatever it was than the majority of readers.

It’s different nowadays. Everyone has access to the internet, and let’s face it, a lot of information on the internet is confusing, contradictory and sometimes just plain not true. What’s a curious writer to do?

Research, research and more research. Some things are pretty immutable and easy to find out - the date of a battle, for example, or the reaction between two common chemicals. It gets a bit dicey, however, when you get into more esoteric stuff, for example, when did metal-spring hoop skirts become indispensable to ladies’ fashions? It’s fairly easy to find out the date of their first release (England, 1855 is the best date I can find) but when did they cross the pond to become available to Southern belles? What was a common recipe for home-made ink during the 1860s? And my own personal bĂȘte noir, did the 1916 Jordan Sport Marine automobile have a self-starter or were they only available with the old-fashioned and very dangerous crank? (Aeons of research have never yielded a definitive answer, so like my betters I have taken refuge in weasel words, saying that my heroine’s machine is an ‘experimental model.’ However, once the book is released I fatalistically await some reader to excoriate me for not having the correct answer. Sigh.)

I am beginning to appreciate why so many writers are now choosing to do urban fantasy, pure fantasy, science fiction, etc. Their world, their rules.

There are two main problems with research - one is that it takes time from writing, but this can be countered with the absolute necessity for at least believable accuracy. And yes, accuracy is important. I point to a Regency romance in a contest I once judged where the hero reaches into his pocket and pulls out a fountain pen, which although primitive ones were first patented in the 1830s were not commercially available until the 1850s, some thirty years after the Regency. When I counted this faux pas against the writer that absolutely furious young woman wrote me back, demanding to know why, especially since it was an old fashioned pen and who would know the difference anyway? Double sigh.

The second problem with research is its seductivity. You flip over to the internet to find out the date (say) whalebone was first used in corsets or the chemical formula for gunpowder and three hours later you are engrossed in reading the life cycle of the water nymph (dragonfly larvae) without really knowing how you got there, since neither dragonflies nor nymphs (insect or mythological) have anything to do with your story. Seductive, indeed!

Unfortunately, there is no cure that I know of for such a predilection to wander off into the arcane pathways of interlocking knowledge. After years of trying to discipline myself I have given up and allowed my mind to dive down the rabbit hole and follow the seductive lure of unknown fields. At least, for a while. You never know when you might find a nugget of knowledge that will enhance your story, or even give you a new one. (Yeah, like we really need new story ideas to add to the 200+ year stockpile we already have, right?) Besides, it’s inevitable. There is just too much fascinating information out there. We’re doomed.

(And I apologize for any weirdnesses in formatting - this new Blogger upload interface and I are not getting along well together! I don't see why companies insist on changing things for the worse!)

Tuesday, September 15, 2020


 That's the status of where we are at the moment. The Sequoia Complex fire (or something like that) is just above Springville where I live--but encompasses many, many acres. Some of the homes and cabins in the upper mountains have already been lost, including a popular pack station. 

The air is full of smoke and has been for days. Many of my friends not far from here had a mandatory evacuation, and were forced to leave. Lots of animals have been transferred to safe places down in the valley.

We received our Voluntary Evacuation notice via our phone, cell and landline about 9:30 Sunday a.m. On Monday I began gathering important papers, meds, things I didn't want to lose. A line of bags is sitting on the big table in my office.

The bad things about packing this stuff is I have to keep getting things out that I need.

This is the second fire that's come close to our home since we've lived here. Three years ago we had the Pier Fire and hubby and I packed the important stuff and stayed with friends in Porterville for 3 days. That fire was different, fierce but smaller acreage wise. We could also see the flames, which we can't with this one because the smoke is so thick.

Where will we go if we have to leave? I'm not sure. Several people have offered for us to come to their homes, but if we really have to go, it will probably be to one of our kids'.

I've written about fires many times in my mysteries, but believe me, it's far scarier when it's happening to you.

We're praying for the firefighters and for the fire to be contained. There are so many fires in the state as well as in Oregon and Washington that there really aren't enough firefighters and they are having to work too many hours.

My writing is not happening right now, not because of the fire but because of other things I need to do.

I'll keep you posted.


Tuesday, August 25, 2020

The Good and Bad of August

This is from my perspective, of course.

This is my birthday month--and yesterday I celebrated twice.

We had the pleasure of taking a road trip to my daughter's new home (long drive), staying for three days and spending time with two grown grandsons and their families--which involved 3 great grands including one we'd never met before. What a great break from staying at home because of the virus.

With the re-publishing of Wishing Make It So, all of my books have now been re-edited and made available on Amazon. This was written a long time ago, not a mystery, more of a psychological horror. And the bad is every venue for selling books have been cancelled.

We've had really hot weather and along with it fires have sprung up all over the state of California. So far, none near where we live, but the sky is so full of smoke we can't see the hills and mountains that surround us. Many people have had to be evacuated, some with only the clothes they were wearing.

In the past, we've had fires that were too close for comfort--close enough that we packed up my computer, insurance papers etc., and stayed at a friends' home for three days.

A couple of bears have decided to roam the neighborhoods and raid trash cans. One was spotted several times at the dump where people bring their trash to be hauled away on Fridays and Saturdays. (Not sure if that's good or bad.)  People like spotting and taking photos of these visitors.

I've gotten a good start on a new Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery. My police officer grandson gave me some good tips I can use in my plot.

Lots of annual events where I live have been cancelled--rodeo, Hot Summer Nights dance and party, Friday night concerts in the park, the Apple Festival, and more.

More good is we have a great and big family who help us out in many ways. 

Hope there is more good in your lives than bad.

Marilyn who also writes as F. M. Meredith

Friday, August 21, 2020

Welcome Saralyn Richard with an Interesting Post on Titles and Covers



Today I've invited award-winning author, Saralyn Richard, to speak here at Make Mine Mystery. This will be her second visit.

Titles and Covers

by Saralyn Richard

    “Prime real estate” for a novel resides in first impressions. That’s why finding the right title and cover are super-important. In my experience, a book title either comes easy or hard. Sometimes the working title sticks, making the final editing and publishing process go down as smoothly as a chocolate martini. Most of the time, though, I can’t be sure of a title until I’ve completed the book. I want the title to make sense for the reader, both before and after experiencing the book. I want it to pop off the cover and grab the reader’s attention with its pithiness or cleverness or emotional pull. I hope it charms and intrigues—I could go on and on, but you get the picture. I have high expectations for titles, and that makes choosing a title one of the most difficult tasks of the entire writing process.

   My newest release, A PALETTE FOR LOVE AND MURDER, started out as Brandywine Art Murder. Like it's prequel, MURDER IN THE ONE PERCENT, this book is set in the lush, elegant country of Brandwine Valley, Pennsylvania. The second book revolves around the art community there, made famous by the Wyeth family and other artists featured at the Brandywine River Fine Arts Museum. Detective Parrott investigates an art heist, which turns into a murder, a treasure hunt, and a palette-full of secrets.

    Enter the palette. I changed the title to A Palette for Murder. Nice, tidy title—not too many words to overpower the cover or become too hard to remember. I checked to see if there were other books with that title, and—uh, oh—there were three, one of them published fairly recently. I agonized over what to change the title to. I surveyed my email subscribers. I badgered my family and friends. I pondered over the book’s themes and characters and realized this book went beyondBarnes and Noble the boundaries of mystery and suspense. It was also a story about love in its complexity. I quickly searched for A Palette for Love and Murder, and, finding no other book by that title, voila! I had my title. 

    Next came the cover. Because this book is part of a series, I wanted the cover to resemble the Murder in the One Percent cover in some way, but not to replicate it. I wanted readers to be reminded of the first cover, but not to confuse it with the second. My talented cover artist, Rebecca Evans, knew how to achieve that. She used the same background as in the first cover, but this time she made the artist’s palette front and center. This was, however, no ordinary artist’s palette. First of all, the globs of paint are meant to be mysterious, even sinister. Some of the paint droplets resemble blood. And anyone who looks closely enough will see that she has embedded images from the story into the background of the palette. More edgy than beautiful, this cover fits a story where characters are haunted by their past experiences, where everyone has secrets to hide.

    What do you see in the title and cover of A PALETTE FOR LOVE AND MURDER? I’d love to hear your thoughts on choosing titles and covers, as well!

Award-winning mystery and children’s book author, Saralyn Richard strives to make the world a better place, one book at a time. Her books, Naughty Nana, Murder in the One Percent, and A Palette for Love and Murder, have delighted children and adults, alike. Look for A Murder of Principal to be released in January, 2021. A member of International Thriller Writers and Mystery Writers of America, Saralyn teaches creative writing at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, and continues to write mysteries. 

Reviews, media, and tour schedule may be found at

Buy Links:  Barnes and Noble   Amazon

Twitter Account


Wednesday, August 19, 2020

A Matter of Perspective

 by Janis Patterson


I have decided that I am a different sort of reader.

On one of my booklovers’ lists it seems there is a constant discussion going on. This particular list happens to be about a very specific kind of historical romance, a genre I have always loved, but sometimes these discussions get very heated. The author involved is noted for her historical accuracy and therein lies the problem.

The current discussion is - as it usually is - about aristocratic snobbery and unconscious racism. Personally I don’t mind either in historical fiction, as the stories in question were written in the past about a time even further in the past, and that was pretty much the way things were then. I said the author was renowned for her historic accuracy, didn’t I? However, some members of the list keep repeating how they loathe those particular attitudes and how they think they taint the stories. Of course that is their right - those antique attitudes are and should be loathsome by today’s standards - but the stories weren’t written about today, today’s society or today’s mores. As they were first published so long ago they weren’t even written for today’s people. They are a story of their time - not ours.

When I open a book, I am entering someone else’s world. By going there I am a visitor and should understand that by being there I accept their world as it was then. If it becomes too upsetting to me, I close the book and leave. The same ethos applies if the book is sci-fi or paranormal or futuristic or even today’s plain (or perhaps not-so-plain) world. It is the world of that book, the world the author has created for it - not for me or any other reader. It is an discrete entity in and of itself, and we should treat it as such. We are mere visitors, observers - not residents.

To give this a more concrete example, I can think of no worse fate than to live full time in a tiny glass-walled treehouse set high up in the woods’ canopy and accessible only by a twisting, dizzying, exposed staircase. That said, however, I thoroughly enjoyed a two day holiday there and would not mind going back - but not for more than a day or two. It is not my world. I am a visitor.

It’s the same with books and movies, and TV, and other entertainments. I choose to go there, wherever ‘there’ is. I choose to stay there. It is different from my real life. If I don’t like it, I can leave by closing the book or turning whatever it is off. Implicit in my going there is my acceptance that it is the creator’s world, not mine; the creator’s thoughts and history, real or made-up, not mine. It was not created for me. I am a visitor, not a participant, and as such part of the artistic contract is to see the story through the author’s and characters’ eyes and beliefs - not my own. If all I cared about was my own, I should sit at home and stare at the wall.

You cannot apply today’s mores and ideals to the past. As someone famous once said, “The past is another place. They do things differently there.” The past is over and gone, and if it offends you don’t go there.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

What Are You Missing Most as a Writer?

We've talked about this before, all the writing conferences and conventions that have been cancelled, plus the book and craft fairs.

So what do we miss besides the opportunity to sell books?

For me, it's not getting to see old friends and make new ones in the writing and reading community.

In July, my favorite conference of all, the Public Safety Writers Association's annual get-together had to be cancelled. I usually teach at the pre-conference workshop. I always get ideas for my books from the speakers and panels.

The Visalia Library had planned a big outdoor book festival for fall--of course that won't happen, all the libraries are closed.

One of the biggest book festivals in northern California held in Manteca held in the fall is a victim of the Covid 19 too.

My calendar for the 2020 was filled with conferences and book fairs to attend, plus speaking engagements at writers groups. All cancelled.

Of course, I've got copies of my books on hand that I expected to sell at all these places.

I've been busy, despite all this because all my books are now self-published in paper and for Kindle on Amazon. But, I don't know about my fellow authors, but for me, it's not as much fun to try and promote on line as it is to be face-to-face with a potential buyer and reader of one of my books.
Discussing a book in person is much more rewarding. And I miss this.

What I'm also missing in meeting with my writers' groups like the San Joaquin chapter of Sisters in Crime. I miss seeing the members, and I miss hearing the speakers. I miss the regular meeting of the Tulare-Kings Writers group. And most of all, I miss the weekly gatherings of our writers' critique group. I'm in touch with them via email, but it isn't the same.

What about you? What are you missing most as a writer or a reader?

Marilyn who also writes as F. M. Meredith

I'm busy writing the next book in the Rocky Bluff P.D. series, and the latest book in the Deputy Tempe Crabtree series is End of the Trail. 

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Time for a Redo on My Website

Over the years, I've had many changes done to my website. Once I'd finished the re-editing and self-publishing of all my books (with a lot of help), I realized I needed to update my website as much of the information, the books covers and the links were wrong.

I also wanted it to be de-cluttered. I didn't need the first chapter posted, and certainly not the places I'd be appearing as this isn't happening this year. 

I toyed with the idea of building a website from scratch so I could up date it myself, but decided that would be daunting even if I used Blogger or another of the do-it-yourself sites. Not easy when you have over 40 published books.  So I contacted the gal who has served as my web-maven for the last I'm not sure how many years and told her what I wanted.

Fortunately, she agreed, so now the updated website is ready. I'm sure I may find things to tweak, but it looks so much better.

You can check it our yourself: And yes, I kept them same URL because it's on all my business cards.  (Though now I really need to make new ones. Oh, well, one big project at a time.)

If you see something that should be changed, feel free to let me know.

And now I have time to get back to my writing.

Marilyn aka F. M. Meredith

The last (or is it) in the Deputy Tempe Crabtree series.

Friday, July 17, 2020

Killer Nashville, The Pandemic, and Me

The Killer Nashville Writers’ Conference, held annually in late August, recently cancelled under the ominous cloud of the COVID-19 pandemic. Did this surprise me? No, but my personal reaction and mixed emotions to this cancellation did.

In mid-March my employer sent me and many of my co-workers out of our offices and to our homes to conduct business. All this time, companies have been closing and people losing jobs, the stock market a miss-mess of confusion, my 401(k) drooping, and I continue to work from home. Yet, it was only when I recently heard that the Killer Nashville Writers’ Conference was cancelled that the pandemic felt truly real and hit home for me.

I’ve attended the Killer Nashville Writers’ conference every year since 2009. This year I held off paying the registration fee after watching what was happening in China. When we were told we were in a pandemic in March, I decided not to attend this year’s conference. Still, Killer Nashville went on preparing for the event, scheduling the panels and the presentations. They continued to work to make it happen right into this month.

Even though this was not a surprise, it still blew me away. Clay Stafford, the founder, stated online: “Thanks to all of you for a wonderful 15 years. I’m sorry, very sorry, we couldn’t pull it off.”

I’m sure many of you are aware of other author/writer conferences that have had to do the same thing. For some reason this felt personal to me.

A picture of the last time my husband and I went out to dinner on his birthday March 13th. Mexican food and Margaritas. Afterwards we went to Great Clips and got hair cuts. We’ve pretty much stayed home since. Bummer.

Amazon Buy Link

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

On Superwoman and Humanity

by Janis Patterson

Am I the only one tired of Superwoman? You know the kind of heroine I’m talking about - when challenged she can leap six feet in the air and take out half a dozen attacking bad guys with a symphony of martial-arts moves, all without mussing her hair or make-up. She has an encyclopedic knowledge of all kinds of esoteric knowledge and can solve a crime with a single piece of exotic evidence. Locked in a dungeon? She picks the lock with a hairpin, overpowers another gaggle of bad guys then goes home and cooks a gourmet dinner for her adoring stud-of-the-week.
Oh, there are other examples of Superwoman, some not as extreme but all redolent of the bad old days of the early feminist movement when average women were told they not only should be but were expected to be Superwoman.
Now I don’t want heroines to revert to the simpering, cloying wimps they were in the early days of the last century, incapable of much of anything except looking beautiful and allowing the hero to rescue them. They are just as unbelievable as Superwoman - and just as if not more annoying.
But - doesn’t there have to be some sort of a middle ground, one with which most people can identify? Of course there are extant examples in real life of both Superwoman and the wimp, but even their admirers admit they are rare.
I’ll admit I don’t like fantasy. Witches, shapeshifters, goblins, alternate worlds where the denizens have magical powers... they all leave me cold, and quite frankly I put both Superwoman and the incompetent wimp in that category of unbelievability. Now those of you who love fantastical stories, I wish you many joyous hours of reading and writing them... just don’t expect me to join you.
I prefer reality - at least, a reasonable simulacrum of reality. People whom you could know in everyday life, not the extremes. To me it is much more engaging to read about a heroine (or a hero, for that matter) who could be my next door neighbor - or maybe even me. Thoroughly human, with some skills others might not have but lacking others, yet all on a human scale. To me that is encouraging, heartening, something to strive for - that someone as ordinary as I can triumph in ordinary circumstances.
Maybe I should learn more about the denizens of fantasy worlds, get myself more in tune with Superwoman. Maybe not. I’m happy with ordinary fallible humanity. If they can rise above their very ordinariness and do great things, maybe I can too.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Putting One Foot in Front of the Other--Sort Of

All of the books in the Rocky Bluff P.D. series are now completely re-editrf and with new covers--and self-published. Here's the cover of the last one in the series:

Available from Amazon for Kindle and trade paperback:

Once these were all done,  I realized my webpage needed to be completely revamped. I spent a lot of time deciding what should disappear and what should be on it. I sent the new information, links, and covers to my webmaven. 

And while working on those files, I was reminded that I had some of my Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series on audio books and I'd never received any royalties for them. First, I had to get the rights back from the now defunct publisher. Took some doing with the help of Lorna Collins who did all the republishing of both series. The audio books can be accessed here:

The way I work, or plod along, is by making a list and tackling the most important or time-sensitive or hardest project first. I take great satisfaction in crossing what I've completed from my list.

"What's up next?" you ask.

It's time to get busy and write a new Rocky Bluff P.D. crime novel. I do have two pages done, but I need to do more research and planning for more crimes and what happens next in my characters' families. 

And like all the rest of you, I am praying for this virus to be over so we can get back to at least a semblance of normal life.

Marilyn who writes the Rocky Bluff P.D. series as F. M. Meredith

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

How has the Corona Virus Affected You as a Writer'

I've been hearing all sorts of comments about how the virus is affecting other writers, from even though they have the time, they haven't had the desire to write, to the other extreme, some love the fact that being confined to home has given them lots of time to write.

Which end of this answer are you, or somewhere in the middle?

To be honest, the writing part of my life hasn't changed much because of the virus. I am mostly staying home, except for forays with mask on to the grocery store.

What I miss most is all the events and conferences I'd planned on going to and were cancelled.

Because I had a non-refundable hotel reservation for San Luis Obispo for a conference that cancelled, my daughter, hubby and I packed up and headed over to the coast. For those of you who don't know, San Luis Obispo is a jumping off place for many coastal beaches.

Though we didn't get close to any people at the surprisingly crowded beaches we did watch the otters play at Morro Bay, and visited Pismo and other popular spots and saw a lot of great scenery at vantage viewing spots. Many of the restaurants had just opened following all the new rules, so we had some great meals too.

It's been long enough to know if we were exposed to anything, and we're all fine. It was a great get-away and certainly renewed all three of us.

As for my writing, I've been busily going over old books in my Rocky Bluff P.D. series that have been re-edited and making sure to catch mistakes. These books have all been published before, but oh, my, there are typos and goofs. They are all going to be self-published and some of them are already there on Amazon for Kindle and in paper.

Though we haven't been doing them in order, the first ones are done.

The series begins with Final Respects. When I wrote it I had no idea it would become a series.

Marilyn who writes this series as F.M. Meredith

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Who Are You Again?

 by Janis Patterson

As someone once said, it’s always something.
After decades - centuries - of respecting proper grammar, pronouns, tense, sentence structure, conjugations and all the other bits of pieces that comprise language and forms so much of communication, writers are being asked to learn a totally new - and distressingly flexible - set of personal pronouns.
Now there are people who are intent on messing up the concept of language. In a politically correct move some who believe they are more than one gender are not only using different pronouns for themselves, they expect others to use them as well. Some use ‘they’ referring to their singular selves. Some make up pronouns. Some commit even more unforgivable grammatical mayhem. One person interviewed calls itself ‘It.’
Whatever my personal feelings about these people are people have a right to live their lives as they see fit, as long as it’s legal. They can call themselves what they want to when they’re among their intimates, but who on earth would agree that they should be allowed to change the shape of the language?
Language is communication. Language conveys ideas and feelings and information and all kinds of things, but the basis of language is understanding. Both parties - the one speaking and the one listening - have to have a common ground, not only a knowledge of what the words they speak mean, but a certainty that they both know the same meanings.
For example, there are many languages in this world, and in each language there are many examples of beautiful writing. But - unless you speak that language, those writings are nothing to you. Someone could be reciting the most exquisite words in the world, but if you don’t know what they mean you hear nothing but polysyllabic babble. There is no common point of reference.
Now that might be something of an overdrawn example, but the principle is true. Language is shared communication.
Say someone wants itself to be referred to using ‘tym’ rather than ‘he’ or ‘she,’ as in “Tym is my friend.” Or someone refers to itself as ‘they’ rather than ‘I,’ as in “they want to go to the mall” meaning that the speaker wants to go to the mall. Unless you are personally acquainted with this person, or know of its preferences, you won’t know what they’re talking about.
Language has rules. For example, ‘they’ is plural - not singular. ‘Tym’ is a made-up word, signifying nothing.
We are writers. Our job is to communicate, to share ideas and situations and information. If people don’t understand what we’re saying, we are not doing our job. And it will lose us readers. Another possible pitfall is that writing is forever, and the words that are currently trendy may be totally incomprehensible in a decade. Or less. Yes, language changes and mutates, but it is a natural process, not a fiat declared by a tiny minority, a minority that can’t even agree on which of their new words are right.
Again, people have the right to refer to themselves as they wish. They do not have the right to demand that others use those same words. There is no standardization to these new manufactured words/meanings, and the definitions are too fluid to last.
Call yourself what you want, but don’t mess with the language. Posterity - and those who believe in clear communication - won’t thank you if you do.

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Oh, oh, Late Again

I  do have a good excuse though, I am crazy busy.

I took my rights back for my Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery series. I loved the publisher, but he's just too busy with life and too many authors to work with.

The books are all being re-edited and self-published. The re-editing and the actual publishing are being done by my good friend, Lorna Collins, and her hubby is doing the covers.

My part in all this is going over each book for any more errors, typos and in some cases bits of the plot that need to be fixed. The ones being done first, are the books the old publisher hadn't gotten to yet.

The first on, Angel Lost, is one of my favorites in the series for many reasons.

As usual, there is a lot of family things going: 

1. Officer Felix Zachary's wife, Wendy, is having problems as a new mother.
2. Sergeant Navarro's mother may have Alzheimer's.
3. Officer Ryan Strickland receives some unsettling news about the new baby he and his wife are expecting.
4. A man is exposing himself to unsuspecting females jogging on the beach.
5. Officer Stacey Wilbur is busily planning her wedding to Detective Doug Milligan
6. The newest officer on the RBPD has an underlying problem no one knows about.
7. The vision of an angel is making a nightly appearance in the window of a downtown store.
8. Gordon Butler does an heroic deed.

As I was going over this book, when I came to the end, I shed a tear. Sounds crazy, but it had been a long time since I'd revisited Angel Lost.

Some of the situations were based on events that actually happened--of course with a new spin. 

If you haven't read it yet, it can be found on Amazon for Kindle and in print.

Marilyn though I write this series as F. M. Meredith.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Concern, Cash and Capitulation – My Love/Hate of KU

                                                                              by Janis Patterson/Janis Susan May

According to some, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly but expecting different results. I guess I’m insane, because I’ve been avoiding Kindle Unlimited for years. Why? Because I hate even the threat of a monopoly.
Let’s face it – the ‘Zon is closer than a lot of people – myself included – think to becoming a monopoly in ebook sales, and if that goal is accomplished, how long do you think we writers will be receiving those lovely 70% royalties? On the other hand, the ‘Zon is the 800 pound gorilla in online book marketing, and that is a very real fact with which we must deal.
I have long touted the desirability of going wide, of having my books available on numerous platforms, of supporting diversity in sales venues. (In the interest of full disclosure – I will admit to having a couple of short stories exclusive to the ‘Zon for various reasons not germane to this discussion.) However, going wide can be dangerous to one’s bank account.
The ‘Zon’s exclusivity program of Kindle Unlimited, which they push shamelessly, is ruthless. If you aren’t in KU, your books get shoved down... way down. I have typed in the exact title of one of my wide books, both with and without quotation marks to show search for entirety and by word, yet in neither instance did either show up until the fourth or fifth page. The pages of books that did show up were all KU titles – some of which did not even share a single word in their title with mine.
Even with such a handicap regarding discoverability, the biggest chunk of my income is from the ‘Zon. The other venues, which I have worked so hard and done without in order to support, offer only trifling sales. And no, they don’t advertise or push my books either.
So – the question becomes, how much can I afford to support a principle when it is not supporting me? I am fortunate; I do not have to depend solely on my writing income to survive – however, it is a part of our household income. I repeat – how much are we supposed to give up in order to support a principle? One of the writers whom I have mentored, as well as several other professional friends, are in KU and making very respectable sums on page reads alone. And no, none of them are ‘book stuffing’ scammers of any stripe – just hard working writers with good stories to tell.
I’m a good writer, too, I work hard and I have good stories to tell. I’ve won awards and been on several best-seller lists (all in Europe – go figure!) but I’m buried so far in the search engine heap my books may never see the daylight of solvency.
So I have come to the conclusion that the least I can do is experiment. I’ve decided to pull some of my better-selling books from other venues and place them in KU. If they do well, I’ll move them all. To those of you readers who use non-‘Zon venues and devices, I’m sorry I shan’t be available to you, but let’s be honest - if you had bought my books I wouldn’t have to be doing this.
I still hate even the remotest hint of a monopoly.
I hate bankruptcy even more.

Friday, May 15, 2020

by Linda Thorne

Wordiness that clogs up your communications is often caused when you use filter words, something I confess comes naturally to me. I may be worse than others because someone has called me on it my entire life. Not just high school and college English or literature teachers, editors, and critique group members, but friends and family.

Let me give you some examples of common filter words. Notice our five basic senses are among them, below, in bold and underlined.

Assume,  Believe, Can (or Able to), Feel, Decide, Hear, Know, Notice, Realize (or Note), See, Seem, Sense, Smell, Taste, Touch, Wonder

Filter words separate and distance the reader from the action. They add an extra layer that the reader must wade through while, in the process, being robbed of the story's urgency. Normally, the reader is forced to follow the story only through the character’s perspective. 

This is something I work hard to minimize, but the minute I let my guard down--that moment I relax wanting to talk or write effortlessly--filter words flow from the communication. Somehow, this habit became ingrained into my being early in life. You may not fight it as much as I do, but most people will muddy a story or communication with filter words at least on occasion.  

Compare the examples below with filter words and without.

F: Joannie looked like she was going to pass out. When I heard her moan, I felt the need to hurry over to catch her.
NF: Joannie’s face turned white and her legs wavered beneath her. When she moaned, I hurried over to catch her.

F: I felt pure panic when I realized I had left my wallet on the store counter across the street. I decided to whip around to face the traffic. I heard car horns and vehicles whooshing past, but I knew I had to hurry back. When I saw the first break in the traffic, I ran.  
NF: Pure panic hit me. My wallet – I had left it on the store counter across the street. I whipped around to face the traffic. Car horns honked and vehicles whooshed past. With the first break in traffic, I ran.
See the difference?

Like any rules in writing, there will be times you’ll need to use these words. When they’re unnecessary or overused, the simple fact is they’ll slow your story down.

I enjoyed reading up on this topic, something I need to refresh myself on often, and then sharing it with all of you.

This was a nice break from these stressful times. Stay safe.

Amazon Buy Link - Kindle Selling now at $0.99 

Author Website

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Latest Deputy Tempe Crabtree Mystery Now Live!

I did it! For a while I wasn't sure I'd actually get there, not because of COVID-19, but I couldn't seem to get myself motivated to finish it.  My writing group is not meeting right now and I've grown quite dependent upon their critiques and feedback. Yes, I did sent it out to them via email for their input, but it isn't the same.

Finally, my good friend, editor and publisher, Lorna Collins prodded me a bit and I buckled down and finished it. She's a great editor and once she went over it and I did the fixes, and ran some questions by her, the book was sent off to Amazon. (Her husband designed the cover.)

I had to make some hard decisions with this book. The big one was will it be the last? Even now I'm not sure, as I've got an idea developing for another. One of the reasons I've been thinking about whether the series should end or not is my age. I feel great--well, mostly--but it is getting harder to do the promotion part of writing. (And all the in-person events for now have been cancelled, even a book fair I usually do in October.) Though we're all hoping to see the end of this virus soon--who know how long it will be?

Life goes on despite the changes we're facing. I'm fortunate in having lots of family in my home and close by, so I'm not lonely. I do miss the ones that live afar though and will be thankful when we can all visit.

So, about the new book. The End of the Trailis available on Amazon for Kindle and in print.

To buy:

What are you  up to these days?


Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Moving Right Along--or What's Next?

Like all of you, I've mainly been sheltering in place, though I do venture out to the grocery store once in a while dutifully wearing a face mask.

My .99 cent sale for Murder in the Worst Degree is over, and the result were 91 people purchased the book on Kindle. Certainly nowhere the number of books if it had been free, but this was the  publisher's choice. Plus, it had been free once before when it was with the first publisher. But who knows, maybe it will encourage some of these readers to try some other books in the series.

While staying at home, I've managed to finish my latest Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery. I going over it, looking at suggestions and corrections from my critique group (we're doing it via email these days), and then I'll send it off to my editor.

When all that's done, I'll start planning the promotion which will  not at this time include any in-person events until this darn disease is under control. Maybe I'll do a blog tour.

I'm also getting thought about the next Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery, and the big question is, should I include what we are all going through now or not? Fellow authors, what are you going to do about this big chunk of history (when it is history) in your next mysteries?

I'd also like to hear what you're doing during this stay-at-home time.

See you in May. And I'll share the cover of the new book.


Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Should You Self Publish? Or Not?

 by Janis Patterson

While browsing on Facebook this morning (instead of working on my current novel, my bad!) I found a post asking writers what made them choose self publishing over traditional publishing. I just had to answer. By the way, my answer is specific to me, and is not intended as a dictum to anyone. To self publish or not to self publish is a decision only the individual writer can make.

Though I do still traditionally publish rarely (a dear friend is a publisher, and I love doing business with her) I chose self publishing because I hated the ‘writing by committee’ aspect of traditional publishing.

Think about it. Most of the major publishers won’t even look at a manuscript without the intervention of an agent, which means that your story must go through an agency’s first reader who will ‘suggest’ changes to be made before they will show it to the agent, so you do them. Then if all goes well the agent will ‘suggest’ changes to be made before offering representation, so you do them. The agent then shows the book to an editor at a publishing house, who (again if all goes well) will ‘suggest’ more changes, which if you do them will get your book handed to the acquisition editor, who will probably ‘suggest’ more changes before the book goes to the editorial committee, who – you guessed it – will ‘suggest’ more changes. Then the book gets a content editor, a continuity editor, a proofing editor – all of whom will suggest changes, which you do. (And this is a good-case scenario – your book can be shot down at any step of the process!)

Then – tah-dah! – in another 18 to 24 months your book is on the shelf. The only thing is, the book that comes out more than likely won’t resemble much of your original story. Writing by committee.

By contrast, in self-publishing I can tell my story as I want to and make sure that my story is the one the readers receive. I do hire editors and make my story as strong and good as it can be, but through the process it remains my story with no alien ideas or sub-plots or character changes grafted on to fit the whims of others. The basic bones of my story – if they are good – are not changed to suite the whims of those who determine if it should be published or not.

Make no mistake – self-publishing is a lot of work. Fiddly, picky but essential work. It’s not hard, though, and your story remains the story you wanted to tell – not a conglomeration of various peoples’ ideas. I have a friend – an accomplished and seasoned writer – who under a multi-book contract wrote a romance novel with a Montana rancher as the heroine and an insurance agent as the hero. I read it. It was a lovely book. Then she got a letter from her editor ‘suggesting’ that she change the locale from Montana to the Florida keys, make the hero a deep sea diver and the heroine a secretary. And that is not the worst tale I have heard of editorial re-writing!

Self publishing comes down to control. You control the story. You control the cover. You control the price and the distribution. You control whether it will be ebook or paperback or both. You control the timeline – no more waiting years for the book to come out. (Am I the only one getting the lead-in to the old Outer Limits tv show here?) You control the publicity – which you would most likely have to do with a traditional publisher anyway. Plus, so many traditional publishers limit you as to the number of book you can release in a year; that decision is now yours, which is wonderful for us fast writers. These days there are ways to get your book considered by libraries (impossible during the early days of self publishing) and foreign markets.

One drawback to self publishing is that it costs money – you need to hire editors; you need to hire a cover artist; you need to hire a formatter; you should buy ISBNs even though with some retail outlets that is not necessary. (I always say if you’re going to play with the Big Boys of publishing, play by their rules and conventions.) If you’re so inclined, you can learn to do all of this yourself – except editing. You always need another set of professional eyes on your book. Yes, there are companies – some legit, some the worst kind of money-grubbing vanity presses – who will do this for you. Some are kind of reasonably priced, some are extortionate. Personally I cannot think of paying a great deal of money to do what I can do myself, but then I was raised to do what I can do well and hire the rest out. If you do decide to go with a ‘helping’ company, do your due diligence.

As I said, self publishing does require a certain amount of outlay up front, but you can control how much. On the credit side, you will probably make more money than with trad publishing. Since I’ve been self publishing I sell a markedly fewer number of books than when I was traditionally published – but I’m making a lot more money. 60-70% of cover price sure beats 3-6% of net! I’ll take the money – and the control of my career!

Self publishing is not a decision to make lightly. Investigate, think about it and then do what is best for you. I have, and I love it!

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Having a .99 cent sale on Murder in the Worst Degree

Thanks to the pandemic we are all stuck at home. Writing conferences and conventions have been cancelled as have many book and craft fairs. So what are we to do as far as promoting our books?

For me I'm still writing and sending out my monthly newsletter, posting on Facebook, writing new posts for this blog, and another I'm on monthly, and my own personal blog.  I welcome other authors to be a guest on my blog.

And, I've decided to offer the newly updated and with a new cover Kindle copy of Murder in the Worst Degree for .99cents from April 20 through April 24.

This is one of my all time favorites in the Rocky Bluff P.D. series, for several reasons. I love the members of the tiny police department located in the fictional beach community of Rocky Bluff. I love writing about them and what's going on with their families and those they love. I enjoyed the new characters who appear in this book, including the old guys who hang out in McDonald's and the strange homeless lady.

When I wrote this, despite contacting Amazon, the reviews from the old version have not been moved to the new version, so I'm posting one of my favorite reviews here:

Although Murder in the Worst Degree is the tenth book in F.M. Meredith’s Rocky Bluff PD series, you don’t need to have read the nine previous novels to pick up on the action. I think the several characters would’ve been easier to keep track of if you’d read the earlier books, though, so this is a hint that you might want to read a couple of those first. It doesn’t take long before you learn who is who, however. And you'll find the setting—the California coast—so vividly depicted you can almost taste the salt air. I loved the foggy scenes.

The story begins with a couple surfer dudes discovering the battered body of an elderly man in the water. Turns out he didn’t drown, which brings a murder investigation to the fore. Suspects are rampant. The men and women of the Rocky Bluff PD are soon knee deep in not only contending with the murder, but with a new chief of police, and what may be a serial rapist on the loose. Then an earthquake hits. Good stuff, for sure.

F.M. Meredith ties up all the loose ends concerning the mysteries, and doesn’t neglect the drama of her character’s lives in this most enjoyable short novel.
--C.K. Crigger

5 Stars
If you haven't read Murder in the Worst Degree  yet, I hope you'll give it a try.
Marilyn Meredith who writes the Rocky Bluff P.D. series as F. M. Meredith

P. S. All the reviews were moved.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

The Coronavirus Makes Many Changes

I read what I wrote the second Tuesday of the month, and so much has changed since then.

The two conferences I mentioned have been cancelled, as has the regular meeting of one of the writers groups I attend. And of course it all began with the cancellation of Left Coast Crime which I hadn't planned on attending, but was looking forward to hearing all about it via Facebook.

Now the big problem lies in taking care of oneself, trying to find toilet paper and food in the stores.

Though I'm in the group that's supposed to stay at home, I must venture out to try and find what we need to exist.

One thing about staying home most of the time is I'll get a whole lot more writing done. I've also done a lot more praying. I'm a praying person anyway, but now I have a new topic to pray for: the health of my friends and the end of this new virus.

What about the rest of you? What are you doing these days with all the new rules we all have to follow?


Wednesday, March 18, 2020

The World Gone Upside Down

by Janis Patterson

I don’t know about you, but right now I don’t know if I’m on my head or my heels. I didn’t realize The Husband and I did so many things, had so many meetings, went to so many organizations until they started cancelling one after the other like a cascade of dominoes. A simple trip to the grocery store became a frustrating expedition, where the shelves were empty and the store hideously crowded with people. I spent two days and many stores getting sufficient supplies for some elderly (90+ years old) members of our family, an exercise that was annoying and time-consuming. Some of the overreactions of the shoppers could almost be regarded as amusing – as in two grown men fighting over a package of toilet tissue.
Then today (I’m writing this on Monday evening) everything doubled, trebled, then went right off the ‘scary weirdness’ chart. Our mayor announced at 5 pm that beginning at midnight all bars and restaurants would be closed except for car-side delivery takeout – no dine-in allowed. Not only that, but our school district is closed. No restaurants, no schools, no… I have no idea what’s going to be forbidden next. They even canceled the iconic St. Patrick’s Day Parade, for Heaven’s sake!
I am not going to touch on politics, but I’m of two minds about the way this situation is being handled. Yes, this virus is serious, but is it enough of a threat for such draconian measures? I don’t remember this much hysteria for the H1N1 (aka swine) flu a couple of years ago. We cannot just do nothing, so we must do something, but are we doing too much?
For example, I fear that a lot of restaurants and small businesses – which operate on narrow margins in the best of times – will fold permanently with an extended enforced closing. Worse, their employees – most of whom work for minimum wage and live paycheck-to-paycheck – will suffer almost immediately. One of my restauranteur friends is providing bags of rice and beans for his employees – boring fare, but nutritious, and at least they will be able to eat. And my worries are not limited only to food service workers or small store clerks. Far too many people in our society have nothing put by for a rainy day and are dependent on receiving a regular paycheck. Now it seems the monsoon is about to rage around us and it’s too late for many to prepare.
And there are other, less immediate but more personal casualties. Next month I was to go to the American Research Center in Egypt International Conference in Toronto where, in a first for both ARCE and me, naming rights for three characters in a novel I would write especially for ARCE would be auctioned off as a fund raiser. The international publicity had already started when – because of the coronavirus – the conference was cancelled. The auction… who knows? It’s dead at the moment. There is always next year, but by next year it will be old news, all novelty gone, and who knows what will happen between now and then? Even if it comes back next year, it can never be the same. This could have been a breakout for me, and I grieve for its loss.
We must realize, though, that it is indeed an ill wind that blows no one good. Bars and restaurants are closed. Schools are closed. In many places gatherings of more than 50 people are forbidden. Social interaction (in person, at least) is discouraged. People are going to be pretty much stuck at home. So what are they going to do? You can only watch so much tv, play so many board games, do so many chores. What’s left, that will entertain and yet not expose you to the dangers of public places? Books. Especially ebooks, which can be ordered over the internet, meaning more sales for more authors. In the long run, perhaps something good can come from all this. If it is allowed – Amazon has already announced that it is focusing on immediately need supplies such as food and medicine, and that books are way down on their priorities. We can only hope they mean physical paper books and not electronic ones, which shouldn’t present any shipping difficulties. It is Amazon, though, so who knows?
However – to drag this subject kicking and screaming back to the writing of mysteries – it’s a rare situation that a writer can’t use in some fashion. Just think of all the plots that can spring out of this flirtation with real-life dystopia. In a few months I predict a flood of books with plots that can be traced back to our current situation.
I just wish they were fiction.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Getting back to writing and promoting mysteries..

This has been a rough time, not only for me, but our whole community.

Nearly every time we go to the town of Porterville, we pass near the burned out remains of the library. I've taken two loads of books, including the complete works of Louis L'Amour, to the place where they are collecting books. I've hugged my favorite librarian.

As an added problem, my husband and I both came down with the flu. (And yes, we had our flu shots.) My granddaughter and her family who live with us came down with it first and shared. It was a wingdinger. Hubby spent several days mainly sleeping. I found I did better if I got up and did my usual.

My usual has been doing some writing that actually brings in money and when I had a break from that working on my latest Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery. It's been slow-going.

I have managed to get to my critique group finally. And I've attended my Sisters in Crime chapter meeting, as well as another local group of writers I belong to.  And that brings me to another topic, promotion. That groups is going to be discussing promotion at this month's meeting. We are all to share what we do.

Of course there are obvious things such as giving presentations. (I was supposed to give one this month at our library--now out of the question.) And going to book and craft fairs in order to sell your books--also writers conferences and conventions. (Some folks are staying home from these because of the new virus.)

Everyone should be promoting their books on Facebook. I've found that always results in a few sales. I only do one book at a time and try to find something new to mention about it. I post here twice a month, once a month on the Ladies of Mystery blog, and I have my own blog, I love promoting others on my blog too. If you'd like to be on it, just let me know.

I have an email newsletter that goes out once a month, and to subscribe all you have to do is give me your email address. That's a fun one. Some of my subscribers respond back to me like I wrote the letter just to them.

I tweet occasionally but am not good at remembering to do it.

Upcoming are two writing conferences I'm going to: Writers of Kern Spring Conference where I'll have a table to display my books. (I'm mainly going because they have some great speakers.) And I'm also scheduled for the Central Coast chapter of Sisters in Crime, writing conference coming in May.
I'm helping with that one, and will also have books for sale.

How about sharing some promo ideas that have really worked for you?