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.

Friday, April 16, 2021

Letting Go

by Linda Thorne

I have a confession to make. I’ve let go of my second book. All 350 double-spaced pages with plot point I, plot point II, and a beginning, middle, and end. It remains ensconced within the depths of my computer, out of shape, uneven, and lumpy. When I try to push one lump down to balance the book, another protuberance appears somewhere else. I have changed the main subplot twice. Each change took over a year. Then I realized my subplots were taking over, minimizing the main mystery plot.

I was so obsessed getting my first book, Just Another Termination, published that when I had problems, I’d spend an incredible amount of time studying self-help books. I’d faithfully attend a weekly two-hour critique group. After driving into downtown Nashville, I’d wait my turn to have five pages of that book critiqued. Meanwhile I had a full-time job and a husband at home with health issues.

But I’ve changed. As I move closer to my 75th year I am slowing down, and other things take precedence. I used to write posts about balancing writing time with my day job. Now, I don’t bother. In hindsight they sounded a little whiny. My current day job is more than enough for me. My free time is saved to spend with my husband, enjoy the outdoors, read books, and watch movies. When I’m not working, I want to relax. I can’t imagine driving across town now for a two-hour critique group with only the hope of improving a few sentences.

Yeah, I know it is good for a second book in a series to come out within a reasonable timeframe from the first. That didn’t happen for me, so I’m not going to beat myself up for it anymore.
I still peck at my second book, A Promotion to Die For. This usually happens after reading a story or watching TV and something catches my eye that triggers an idea to solve a problem within my manuscript. Occasionally I’ll get lost in working on it for an hour or so.

These days there is so much of life I don’t want to miss out on. Spending my down time with the hubby is high priority. I’m overdue for retirement, so hopefully that will happen in 2022 and I may be able to dive back into A Promotion to Die For. Only time will tell how this plays out.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Still Waiting, So What Else Am I Doing?


Have not heard from my first readers yet, and yes, I'm getting anxious. It is so weird not to have a work in progress. 

So what am I doing? Well, I'm not planning the next Rocky Bluff P.D. tale which I could be doing but haven't thought up a victim, a killer, a reason for the murder, or the cause of death.

Instead, I've been doing jobs that bring in money. I've been writing program designs for people who want to have residential facilities. Because I had a facility for over twenty years and also taught Administrator and continuing education classes, I know the regulations that must be adhered too.

I've been working on a specialized home for adults with mal-adaptive behaviors and mental illness that has a set of new regulations. I've nearly finished with it. And I'm also working on a specialized home for children with a range of behaviors from autism to other behaviors. In some ways they are quite similar.

It's actually been quite interesting. Both homes require delayed egress devises on the outside doors, and a fence that is locked. This means special emergency rules need to be in place for the individuals who live there and the staff.

I once put a residential facility in one of my Deputy Tempe Crabtree mysteries, it was a big part of the plot. The neighborhood wasn't thrilled with having the home there. 

And of course, that's the pictograph of the Hairy Man on the cover--just as he appears in the rock cave on the Bear Creek Indian Reservation (in reality the Tule River Indian Reservation).

Dispel the Mist, ttps://www.amazon.com/Dispel-Mist-Tempe-Crabtree-Mysteries-ebook/dp/B07S7R5QN6/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=Dispel+the+Mist+by+Marilyn+Meredith&qid=1618152545&s=books&sr=1-1

I've also been doing some family things, the latest being my great granddaughter's baby shower. She's expecting her 3rd child. Lot of relative from her and her husband's side of the family were in attendance including my youngest daughter who I hadn't seen since last September. We had a great time at the shower and then later we had dinner with her and her husband. and lots of visiting, plus breakfast with them the next day before they headed home.

So it's not like I haven't been busy, every day is full, but I am anxious to get back to my latest.


Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Oh, My. I've Sent Off My Manuscript to First Readers


I thought this would be the last in the series, but I was wrong.

Yep, this is nervous time. 

This is the next offering in the Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series. I really thought when I finished End of the Trail that would be the last one in the series. However another idea popped into my head, and I was off and running. Well, not really running, but working away on my computer.

While I was writing, I was having fun like I always do when I'm writing. And I don't know about the rest of  you writers, but when I'm done, or think I am, I begin to have doubts.

I'm doing something different this time. After going over it myself and finding lots of misspelled words and other things I had to fix, I decided to send it off to two friends who'd long ago offered to take a first look at a manuscript. I've done it. It's now in their hands, and yes, I'm wondering if they'll even like it.

We'll see. 

By the time this appears, I will have returned from a research trip to Temecula, to check and see if some of the things I included in the books will really work.  Yes, this latest takes place in Temecula, one of my favorite cities in lower Southern California. I have relatives who live in and around there, so I'm familiar with the area, though I wrote about parts I haven't seen. I also made up a place and I needed to see if it actually works as I wrote it. More about that in a later post. 

Hopefully, by the time this is posted, I'll know what I have to do on the newest Tempe tale.


Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Cold, Challenges and Changes

by Janis Patterson

I’ll admit it - my writing schedule has gone to pot the last two months. And if you want to know the truth, I don’t care a bit. The Husband retired at the beginning of the year and even after 20 years of marriage (20! How did that happen?) it is a big adjustment to have him home 24/7. 

Before he retired we discussed with due seriousness that we both knew men who had retired after long and illustrious careers (like he did) and who died within six months (as I am determined he will not!) simply because they had no responsibilities and no direction. I am a quiet and reasonable person who rarely gives orders, but for this I made an exception. He can have 3 months of total relaxation. He can do - or not do - anything he wants. For 3 months.

We have 1 month to go.

In the meantime, we have been having fun - even during the recent Snowpocalypse, when we were without any light or heat for 30+ hours and the temperature outside went down to -1F. (Very unusual for our area, in fact almost unheard of!) We put on several layers of clothes and, wrapped in quilts, huddled in front of the gas fireplace. By the way, gas fireplaces put out LOTS less heat than a real wood one, but when it’s -1F who cares? It’s a fire... We gathered our dog inside the quilts with us and talked and laughed. When our teeth weren’t chattering, that is! 

So - what next? Actually, it has already started. After a career in science, The Husband is becoming involved in my career. It’s a big deal - he’s learning the business from a standing start, and has already aced putting up several ads for me! I am so proud of him.

That means he’s been taking classes, doing test ads and actually studying the business. It also means I have been trying to answer his questions and explain/justify things I really can’t, because I’ve always known them. It gets complicated. However - it’s wonderful to have a partner. I don’t know if we’ll make lots of money from this new partnership, but let’s face it - wealth really means more things than just money, and his interest in and support of my career make me a very wealthy woman!

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Revisiting the Topic, Include the Virus or Not


As I wrote before, I chose to include the virus in Not As We Knew It  because the Rocky Bluff P.D. series is in more or less real time. And no, it didn't impede any of the action as people have suggested it might. It actually gave ms some ideas to add to the plot.

Remember, our police officers are having to deal with the virus every single day as they go about their usual business, enforcing the law and protecting the citizens of the city or county they work for and in.

Wearing protective masks and gloves is mandatory in most places. I wear a mask when I shop, and when I enter a restaurant. I don't wear one around the people I see all the time. What I find annoying about the normal mask is I can't see people smile. And without seeing people's mouths sometimes I don't understand what they are saying, since I'm a bit hard of hearing.

Wearing a mask and being around people who wear them definitely keeps one from seeing emotion in someone's facial expressions. This could give a police officer a false impression of someone, and his/her reactions to an event. Something to consider if you do include the virus in a book. 

Another problem I have is when someone is wearing a mask and all I can see is his/her  eyes, I don't always recognize the person. This has happened to me twice with old friends I haven't seen for a while. And in another case, some man hollered a greeting to me in a grocery store and I had no idea who it was.

Because of all the above, I purchased a clear, full face plastic mask, and it's what I wore at the two in-person events I've been to recently. I have another mask I wear when I'm shopping because I keep it in my purse. 

For anyone who is interested, Not As We Knew It can be purchased for Kindle or in paper from Amazon. https://www.amazon.com/Not-As-Knew-F-M-Meredith/dp/B08NDT3FW5/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr= 

Remember, I write this series as F.M. Meredith.


Saturday, February 20, 2021

The Role if Any of the Coronavirus Pandemic in Today's Novels

by Linda Thorne

I’ve read many articles claiming the 1918 pandemic did not have a major impact on the written word despite its immense human and economic toll. I’m wondering if this will be the case with our pandemic. Will it make a mark in American literature or appear as the backdrop in novels set during its timeframe?

When this pandemic started, my husband and I watched old science fiction movies about pandemics, some reruns, others for the first time. We found these interesting because of the ability to relate to the similarities of our own crisis. I have read that others rushed to pandemic fiction books and movies for the same reason. 

But what about writing fiction now if your story is set in today’s world? The novels I have read over the past few months, even though up to date, do not mention the pandemic. There are no germs, no masks, people do not fear crowds, socializing. For those I've read written by author friends, I’ve asked the question. Some said their book was already written prior to the pandemic and they didn’t want to change it. Others admitted they started and finished their novel after the pandemic began but were too sick of it to include in their story. Others have unfinished manuscripts set in current time, and confess they are ignoring the pandemic. If you’ve seen novels that include it, I’d be interested to know.

What do you think? Has the pandemic created a hurdle that needs addressed when writing modern-day fiction?

Amazon Buy Link

Author Website

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Publishing - A Basic Primer - Part Three

by Janis Patterson

Hope you had a lovely and romantic Valentine’s Day! We didn’t do much - just exchanged cards and shared a bottle of our favorite Veuve Cliquot champagne while watching some unfortunately not very romantic movies on tv. (The Husband prefers action-adventure movies and I prefer having my romance in real life, so we’re both happy with the way the evening turned out!)

I hope all of you are warm and safe during this terrible weather. We were without power for 30+ hours and the low was -1F! Not fun...

As promised, here is the third part of my originally conceived of two part series on the varieties of publishing. Nothing every really goes exactly the way you want it to, does it?

In the first two installments I covered the basics of and differences between Traditional publishing and Self publishing. Now I’m going to talk about a fairly new version of publishing, the Hybrid. I do so with some trepidation, as while I have published many times in both Trad and Self, I have never done Hybrid. So - if I make any egregious mistakes and you know Hybrid, please elucidate in the comments.

As its name implies, Hybrid is a melding of both Trad and Self where - basically - the writer pays for most everything but the mechanics of production are done by the company. It sounds as if it were a panacea with everything perfectly set out, but if things sound too good to be true they usually are. Hybrid pubbing can run the gamut between wonderful and supportive and worth it to just about the worst scam that can be imagined, costing the writer many thousands of dollars and delivering little to extremely little to - in a few sad cases - nothing at all.

In an ideal scenario the writer produces a book and contracts with the Hybrid, who produces a good editing, a good cover, a flawless format and uploading to the chosen market)s) and decent publicity with the writer bearing the cost. It is a true collaboration in every way, with the writer involved in every step. The author benefits from the radiated glory of being published by an imprint of a well-known and respected house. (The reader rarely knows or cares that the MyNewBook imprint is a hybrid arm of BigPublishingHouse and not a regular imprint.) Like the Cinderella principle mentioned in the Trad pubbing blog, it does on occasion happen like this - but very very rarely.

In the worst case scenario the writer produces a book and contracts with the Hybrid, who gives a slap-dash editing if any at all, an execrable cover, a so-so formatting and the only publicity is a listing on their usually pathetic website. Sometimes this kind of Hybrid demands that you give them your email and sometimes snail mail contact lists so they can aggressively market to your friends, relatives and other contacts. Unfortunately, this is more often about soliciting new authors for their publishing services than about selling your book. Sometimes it is difficult to tell the difference between these low-life Hybrid outfits and a pure scam dedicated to separating a writer from his money.

Yes, I am a cynic, but I’ve been in this crazy business a long time (since 1979) and know how bad it can get.

Worst of all, these kind of Hybrids offer low royalties, some as low as the genuine Trad publishers - literally pennies on the cover price. Getting your money - whether much or little - is the next problem. Sometimes writers never see a cent or even get a statement of how many books have been sold. If any. The line between Vanity and these low-type Hybrids is sometimes very blurred.

Now before you inundate me with emails praising your Hybrid publisher, let me say that there are good ones out there. Some are very good. Some are honest but not very effectual. Sadly, many more are barely a hairsbreadth above the scam level. 

Personally, I cannot understand why anyone would risk such huge amounts of money and - on occasion - losing the copyright and ownership of their book by Hybrid publishing when they could hire out everything on their own and retain control. I just can’t. I have seen a bad Hybrid contract where the poor writer paid in the lowish five digits for basically nothing - a badly edited, badly covered book that got no publicity from the ‘publisher’ at all. The royalty scale was less than 5% of cover price - and I don’t think there was ever a copy sold except those the writer guilted friends/family into buying, and he didn’t even get royalties on those! However, I know there are many writers who prefer Hybrid pubbing and they deserve the respect due their freedom of choice. 

So how do you find a good Hybrid? First of all, read everything you can about any Hybrid house in which you are interested - and don’t assume that just because they are affiliated with a recognizable publisher they are aboveboard and honest. There have been a couple of real scandals through the years about semi-scams - at least from the writer’s point of view - in which exactly that and worse happened. Thankfully I haven’t heard of any concerning a big house recently, so maybe that sad time is over.

Which doesn’t mean that there aren’t ugly sharks out there just waiting to gobble up little wide-eyed writers’ money! You must do your research! Google the company and look at both good and bad comments. Best of all, ask your fellow writers. Most writers today are connected through at least one eloop, or know someone who is, and your fellow writers are the ones most likely to know if a Hybrid is good or bad. If they say it’s good, believe them - but verify! If you can get hold of their contract, go through it word by word - and you might be best served if you show it to an attorney. Who owns the copyright to your book? What input do you have in editing/cover/whatever? What are they offering - i.e., what are they guaranteeing in writing - for the money you are paying? Don’t be dazzled by smoke and mirrors and pie-in-the-sky promises. Publishing is contractual, and the contract should be equitable and airtight.

There are good Hybrid publishers out there - there are so many more bad ones. If this route is your choice, do your due diligence and be careful in your choice.

So - these last three blog posts have been nutshell descriptions of our publishing options. I believe there are so many variations and permutations of these three basic types that it would take a work bigger than War And Peace to cover them all, and by the time it was finished there would be new ways appearing.

Whichever you do, be careful, look out for yourself and your work, and choose wisely. And whichever way you decide to go, I do wish you the very best of good fortune.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021


Deadly Trail is the first in the Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series.

On Facebook I asked what questions would people like me to answer about my books, writing, etc.

How much are my characters like me, was one, and I decided to answer it here.

The simple answer is hardly at all. I write about people much younger than I am--but I once was the same age as all of them. And, I have a good memory of what it was like all along the way.

In  my Deputy Tempe Crabtree mysteries, Tempe is a strong woman, and I consider myself to be strong--but that's where the resemblance ends. After all, she is a native American and I don't have one speck of Indian in me. I've never been in any type of law enforcement, but have many relatives and friends who have been.

The same goes for my Rocky Bluff P.D. series, none of the women are variants of me.

However, whenever a character is in a certain situation, I see what's going on through the eyes of the person I'm writing about, see what she or he is seeing and experiencing, and I know how they are feeling based on my own past experiences--or just knowing how I would feel under the same circumstances.

I know my characters well enough to know how they will respond in various situations. Each one is unique and has their own past and personality. All of that has to be taken into consideration when I'm writing about them.

And now, other writers, what about you? Tell us how much your characters are like you.


Tuesday, February 9, 2021

3 Tips for Spinning Satisfying Plot Twists

 Today, I've turned over my spot today to my guest, Desiree Villena:


You jump up from the couch clutching your book. Your eyes are wide, you can’t believe it. “I knew it!” you shout, and point at the first creature you see, hoping they’ll share in your triumph. You’re humming with excitement and satisfaction: it seems you’ve encountered a plot twist.

A firm reader favorite, the plot twist is not just fodder for mysteries and thrillers. In recent times, it has reared its head in almost every fiction genre there is. But if readers have come to expect the unexpected, how can you keep them on their toes?

When crafting a plot twist, bigger isn’t always better. Rather than simply escalating the shock value, you’ll need to make sure your twist is unexpected, narratively sound, and expertly foreshadowed. So if you want to start writing a book with an impactful surprise, here are three top tips to help you nail all of those key elements.

1. Challenge your reader’s expectations

Some twisty tropes have been done so many times that they’ve become tiresomely predictable. “It was all a dream,” “she was dead along,” “I am your father,” etcetera, etcetera. Choosing to mimic one of these notorious twists makes it difficult to pull the wool over your reader’s eyes. Bamboozling your reader by foiling their predictions, however, can make for a great plot twist. If you successfully subvert their expectations by putting your own spin on a generic trope and avoid using tired clichés, you can thrill your audience with a most-pleasing sort of surprise.

Upturning a trope isn’t the only way to topple expectations. For instance, most readers feel safe in the assumption that a twist comes at the end of a story, and there are moves you can make to challenge this. You might have them believe that the monumental twist has already happened, then hit them with an even more shocking twist later on. Or you could catch them off-guard by throwing them a second twist while they’re still recovering from the first.

You can also blindside a reader by revealing that the impression they have of a central character or series of events is entirely false. My favorite way to do this is to use an unreliable narrator. Readers are misdirected by the biased way the narrator tells the story — either because of their subjectivity, their misunderstanding of events, or a hidden desire to present things differently to how they are.

2. Don’t rely on shock value alone

Some unexpected plot twists are all about shock value (I’m looking at you, Gossip Girl), and these twists tend to feel disjointed. A dramatic reveal, like a suspect’s twin sister, might induce a sharp intake of breath — but if it has very little set-up or consequence for the story, then you risk deflating the tension and bringing things to an abrupt, unsatisfying end.

A gratifying plot twist is one that is both surprising and meaningfully connected to the story. It should reveal a deeper layer behind what’s come before, or significantly change the course of events. Whichever direction your twist catapults your plot in, the golden rule is that it absolutely must make sense alongside everything you’ve already established. One of the most frustrating things an author can do is ask their readers to forget everything they’ve understood so far.

To avoid personality transplants and long-winded explanations, be sure to ground your twist in the existing narrative and establish realistic character motivations — so that when it all goes down, your reader understands how and why. Once you’ve written your big reveal, re-read everything that’s come before and ask yourself: Does the story still hold up? Or better yet: Has the twist added value beyond just a momentary shock?

3. Play a game of Clue

If you’re looking to write the kind of plot twist that induces the famous “Oh, of course!” revelation, rather than an exclamatory gasp, then you’ll need to include an element of foreshadowing.

It’s best to think about foreshadowing when planning your novel, so that you can determine precisely the right moment to drop a subtle hint — carefully drawing the reader’s attention to it, but not being too heavy-handed. Your clues should be planted so that the tension builds towards your plot twist, keeping readers eager to reach the climax, without leaving so many clues that they have it all figured out too soon. After all, the guessing game is half the fun!

To that end, you might want to plant a few red herrings alongside your clues. Leading readers down the garden path and away from the truth, red herrings will keep your audience guessing right up until the twist, increasing the tension and escalating the pace of your novel. Of course, you don’t want to get so wrapped up in a false lead that it makes more sense than your actual plot twist. So take one more look over that manuscript and make sure that with the twist in mind, the truth makes perfect sense. 

Did I say there would be three tips? Well, how about THIS twist: here’s one more!

After taking the time to perform a thorough self-edit, share your manuscript with trusted beta readers to make sure your plot twist has readers jumping up from the couch and pointing at traumatized cats.

You can ask your beta readers to record their working theories as they read; this way you can see whether they picked up on your clues at just the right moment, and whether they were misled just the right amount by your red herrings. Or you can prepare some questions for them to answer. Was your plot twist unexpected? Did they feel cheated by the reveal, or was it rewarding? Were any red herrings unnecessary, or any clues clumsy? Getting a reader’s reaction in real-time is invaluable when it comes to spinning satisfying plot twists.

And that’s it! With the help of these tips, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a writer who’s always one step ahead of their readers. Best of luck!

--Thank you, Desiree, those were great tips!

Marilyn Meredith

Tuesday, January 26, 2021


 Yep, I'm doing it again, from February 3 - 7,  Seldom Traveled  will be on sale for Kindle for only .99 cents. (I had to change the dates because of a glitch on Amazon.)

This one has a missing fugitive, the murder of a wealthy visitor to Bear Creek, and a raging forest fire. 

I love this cover, the graphic is representing an eagle who plays an important part in the story.

Here's a great (and slightly condensed version) of a review that gives you a preview of the story:

5 Stars:

This is my first time reading Marilyn Meredith, but I've found that I've always enjoyed books with Native American characters. I love the spirituality normally displayed and this book was no exception. In fact, the climatic ending made this a true winner for me. If my time permitted, I'd be reading the entire series...

Initially, Tempe was assigned the responsibility of interviewing persons of interest; however, so many emergencies were happening at one time, that Tempe moved deeper and deeper into the investigation, finding clues that had been overlooked, including a potential threat note that had fallen and become hidden. And through it all, readers watch her intelligence and savvy shine through as she calmly evaluates each situation and then acts to get through the latest crisis, saving others from the danger...

Another wonderfully drawn character was Nick Two John who owned an Inn and with whom Crabtree often interacted in the course of her duties... Readers can almost believe he is a shaman as he prepared tea or something to eat, seeming to know in advance she will be coming and need sustenance. Then as she spent time sharing about what case she was dealing with, Two John would leave her with a message to ponder and hopefully remember and act upon.

Surely, with Two John and her husband constantly keeping Tempe in their thoughts, she was walking a spiritual walk... And her fellow officers were right there when needed to support her. While graphic violence is downplayed in the books, Tempe still finds herself in life-and-death situations and finds her way out again...Kudos to the author for bringing Tempe Crabtree to life for her readers!

The setting, the characters, and the mystery come together in a wonderful blend! Grab a cup of tea! I read the book in one sitting and could easily have kept on reading if all of the mysteries hadn't been solved... I was hooked and so hope I get the chance to read more of this fascinating series!


 Only on sale from February 1- February 5. 


If you haven't read it already, this is a great time to start.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Publishing - A Basic Primer - Part Two

by Janis Patterson


Happy New Year! Hope your year is starting well and that all things are good with you.

As promised, this column is going to talk about the newest iterations of publishing - Self and Hybrid.

Self publishing has been around for centuries. Some of the very earliest novelists - such as Fielding and Richardson - Self published, but that was a very different time and a different business model. In the last century Self publishing was pretty much limited to Vanity publishing - see last month’s column - but thanks to the technological revolution Self publishing has become its own respectable and sometimes very profitable industry.

Ebooks have changed the face of publishing. No longer do writers need the heavy hand of a Trad publisher to shape and validate their work, nor do they have to put up with the Trad’s domination of the distribution system. Someone can write a book and put it up by themselves on several electronic vendor platforms. Easy-peasy! That is not to say, however, that they should.

A Self publisher is exactly that - a publisher, and he should take on the duties of a publisher - all the duties. Get a good editor and cover artist and, if putting books out to a lot of vendors, a formatter. And yes, you will have to pay them money, because professionalism and quality are not free. 

Ah, you say, didn’t I tell you that money should always flow TO the author, not FROM the author? It’s still true - but when you are publishing your book you are the Publisher You, not the Author You. Publisher You is responsible for everything, from getting a very good editor to make Author You’s book the best it can be (and no one should ever put out a book without having an editor look at it!) to getting a cover artist to getting a skilled formatter to uploading to the vendors to doing the publicity necessary to get the book in front of the public. Now there are those who are talented enough - or have friends/family who are - to do the covers and formatting and publicity themselves. Most of us are not. Don’t rely on a friend or relative to do your editing, though; get a professional.

Publisher You also has to take charge of the niggling but oh-so-important details of publishing - do you need an ISBN? Should you copyright through the government? Do you go exclusive with Amazon/KU or do you go wide? Should you put out a paper version as well as an ebook? And those are just the beginning of the decisions you need to make. Are you going to use your name or a pseudonym? Do you/should you have a website? What kind and how much publicity should you do? Do you hire a publicist? And the list goes on...

I will admit that I am a great fan of Self publishing; it takes you out of the unholy circus of rewrites and endless edits to tailor your story to the (occasionally unreasonable) demands of traditional agents and publishers and all too often leaves you with a product that has only a passing resemblance to your original work. You also make a great deal more money per individual sale than with Trad publishing. The downside is that whatever is done has to be done by you - or at least, by someone you hire. All the responsibility for quality and opportunities for success and failure resides squarely on your shoulders. 

People beginning in the Self pub market now are so fortunate - there are books and groups and FB pages and eloops centered on the Self pub industry from which the novice can learn just about everything necessary. When I first Self pubbed in 2013 I couldn’t find any of them; there may have been some, but I couldn’t find them, so in my usual heedless fashion I jumped in feet first and forged on. Yes, I made a lot of mistakes, but I learned. And some of my ‘mistakes’ turned out to be blessings in disguise. Some turned out to be... not. Still, I am glad I went ahead.

Above I said ‘opportunities for success and failure’ because there is always what Mary Roberts Rinehart called the Blind Villain - chance. You can do everything just right - writing, editing, covers, publicity - yet still there is the possibility that your book will just lie there like a dead flounder while other books, not as good in any or all ways, will take off to the stratosphere. Just do the best you can and accept the chance of this outcome, because there are some things in this world that are uncontrollable. It’s sad but very true, and must be accepted. The only answer I know is to keep going on and write more good books. 

Most of Self pubbing is relatively simple - mechanical and very picky, but still basically simple once you understand and accept the principles. I believe that anyone who really wants to do it can master the production end. And probably the publicity end, too, though that is my personal bête noir.

You see, with every other aspect of Self pubbing, each task is finite - writing, editing, formatting, cover selection - but publicity is ongoing. Sometimes I wonder how some writers manage to do all the publicity they do and still have time to write, let alone have a life. Yes, some do employ Virtual Assistants or Public Relations companies, but the affordable ones are so booked they have waiting lists of potential clients and others are so expensive they are out of reach of anyone but the highest of best sellers.

Not long ago I looked into a PR company to boost the sales (embarrassingly small) of my favorite book, perhaps the best book I’ve ever written. Not only was the basic campaign eye-wateringly high, but it cost more for one month than that book had earned in the past year! Needless to say, it was beyond my means and I politely declined. That said, I am blessed that my newly-retired, science-oriented husband has stepped in and taken over my publicity, learning the job as he goes. It is an interesting journey!
So - if anyone is looking for a ready-made niche, a true bird’s-nest-on-the-ground, may I suggest starting an AFFORDABLE publicity firm for writers. They will have potential clients lined up out the metaphoric door.

Ooops! I have made a mistake - something you get used to when you Self pub. Last month and even above I said I would cover Self pubbing and Hybrid pubbing in this post. Well, this post has gone on much too long, so I will save Hybrid for next month. Hope your New Year is starting out well, and 2021 is the best year ever for all of us! 

Tuesday, January 12, 2021



Yes, I heard what some of you said about not wanting to read a book with Covid 19 in it and others saying they would never write a book that had the pandemic in it. 

None of the remarks mattered, I knew I couldn't ignore what was going on in the world when I wrote the next Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery.The series is set in real time, and who knows how long this mess is going on? Not I. 

So despite the warnings that I might not have any readers, I plunged right in. And believe it or not, I had fun doing it.  I knew what was happening with my friends and all their different views about what was going on. When I visited my police officer grandson, he told me what was happening in his department, plus some other things that were happening.

Two of my-granddaughters-in-law are nurses and I asked them questions. So I really felt I had the information I needed to show how the virus was affecting the police officers of Rocky Bluff and their families. 

And the vindicated part, I just finished reading Law of Innocence by Michael Connelly and guess what, his character, Mickey Haller recognizes the threat of the illness coming from China. And not to spoil a great ending, he shelters in place with loved ones. (Someone complained this was a spoiler--but Haller has lots of loved ones--so I don't think it really is a spoiler.)

I hope some of you will try Not as We Knew It 


So far those who've read it have liked it. 

And remember, I wrote this one as F. M. Meredith.