Friday, October 15, 2021

Trusting Readers

by Linda Thorne

On my scheduled post in April, I wrote about letting go of my second book, admitting semi-giving up, but with one catch. On occasion, I can't resist tinkering with it. I don’t know what will happen long-term, but I needed to shake that burden of guilt that goes with leaving a loosely completed manuscript sitting in draft form. 

To complete my debut novel, Just Another Termination, I practically lived at critique groups and every time I got stuck in my writing, I left one of those meetings knowing what I needed to do. With my full-time job and husband’s health, I’m no longer willing to spend my off-time at critique groups away from home. This has taken its toll on my writing.

Last weekend I was paging through my current manuscript, A Promotion to Die For, and began moving segments of plot from one section of the book to another, making changes. I was rewording some of these sections when I noticed something a critique member would  likely have caught if I'd taken these pages to be critiqued. I’d been giving readers more information than they needed, writing down to them as if they were not as savvy as me at catching the storyline. I took out some details that could be brought up later, if they ever needed to be explained at all, and the scenes read so much better.

Readers need to enjoy the story, love the characters, and get it. I believe this occurred in my first book; that is, if those who read it were honest with me. I’ve enjoyed books where I have room to guess and make my own assumptions. In many cases, I'll find out later whether my guess or assumption was incorrect when the writer explains what she previously left unsaid. Sometimes I finish a book without some parts being clarified, holding onto my original presumptions. Does it really matter if what I thought differs from what the writer had meant? Often not since the reader will view a scene, situation, or character differently from how other readers do, including the writer.

I’m sometimes thrown off by an unknown word, term, gesture, or activity obviously familiar to the author, but not to me. I prefer the challenge of figuring it out or, at least, getting the gist myself for what’s happening rather than to be fed a detailed account.

I enjoyed that moment last weekend, looking over my neglected manuscript and, at the same time, discovering a problem that gave me a topic for this Make Mine Mystery post.



Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Slowly But Surely, It's Coming Back

 

Someone was asking me a question.

The Porterville Art Association hosted me for a talk and book signing last Saturday at their Art Gallery.

They've never closed during this pandemic continuing with their art classes and spotlighting various artists and their works. 

I was invited there last year too. This year I spoke about the Importance of Setting in Fiction. I don't think there were any aspiring writers in attendance, mostly it was people interested in hearing me talk about my books--among them were a couple of my friends. 

It was a small enough group that people could keep space between them. Some wore masks, others didn't. 

I brought a small sampling of books--my latest one, of course, THE TRASH HAREM, and I also had a copy each of my first books, two historical family sagas--and they both sold.  I did well, considering the small size of the group.

Next up, is a one day Fall Festival held in my own town of Springville. It is taking the place of the big Apple Festival which  hasn't happened because of Covid. This event will be much smaller that the other one. I have an ideal spot. The hard part is getting set up because I need help to do it.

After that is the Holiday Boutique, a two day event at the Porterville Art Gallery. I love doing this one because it's inside, the table and chairs are provided, and they usually have a steady stream of customers.

I love hanging out with the folks who run the gallery and yes, I do buy some of their gifts on sale. Plus it's a good time to really take a good look at all the paintings.

So, it is really coming back, and I'm happy.

By the way, I'm also having a .99 cent sale on Kindle for Angel Lost, it's going on all week.

https://www.amazon.com/Angel-Lost-Rocky-Bluff-Mysteries-ebook/dp/B089RP1VYL/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=Angel+Lost+by+F.+M.+Meredith&qid=1633711180&s=digital-text&sr=1-1



Marilyn who writes the RBPD mystery series as F. M. Meredith


Wednesday, September 15, 2021

The Plague of 'ist'

by Janis Patterson


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Tuesday, September 14, 2021

A Question for Readers

 What makes you buy a book?

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

Do you look for books written by your favorite author?

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

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

Here's how it is with me:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Marilyn

And this is one of my favorite covers.



Thoughts on Being Indie-Pulbished

 

The latest in the Deputy Tempe Crabtree series


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

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

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

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

What are the disadvantages:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Those are my feelings about being and independently published author.

Feel free to share your thoughts with me.

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

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

I THOUGHT THINGS WOULD BE BETTER BY NOW

 

Didn't you?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Marilyn

Friday, August 20, 2021

Published Authors Often Start Off as a Wannabe

by Linda Thorne

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

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

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

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

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

Amazon Buy Link


 Author's Page

Website

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

The Danger Challenging Professionalism

by Janis Patterson


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

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

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

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

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

Then the proverbial noxious substance hit the fan.

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

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

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

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

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

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

How can anyone ever trust them ever again?

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

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

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






Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Today is My Eldest Daughter's Birthday

 


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

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

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

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

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

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

Daughter Dana and her husband Mike

Marilyn

Official Blurb:

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

To purchase The Trash Harem

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

Marilyn Meredith’s Bio:

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

Webpage: http://fictionforyou.com/

Blog: https://marilynmeredith.blogspot.com

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

 

 

 

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Building and Maintaing Supense for your Mystery

 I was the moderator for this panel--here is what was shared:

First of course, every novel must have conflict.

1. Let the reader know what's at stake.

2.  The main character has to work against the clock.

3. Uncertainty.

4. Awkward challenges--moral dilemmas.

5. Suspenseful happenings.

6. Chapter endings--leaving things hanging.

7. Create a promise, hidden identity, a puzzle

8. Use flashbacks.

9. Characters with complicated histories.

10. Create a hero the reader will believe in and care about--and is vulnerable. 

11. Create a great villain, smart, motivated and a worthy opponent for the hero.

12. Dramatic irony.

13. A countdown

Of course there was much more--but these should help.


Marilyn



Tuesday, July 20, 2021

What Does A Murderer Look Like?

by Janis Patterson


Answer - just like anyone else.


Back in the early days of mysteries it was a trope to have the villain be either ugly, deformed or physically handicapped, as if their outward appearance were some sort of resonance to their inner deformity. (And let’s face it, deliberate murder is a deformity of the soul. I’m not talking about in self defense or defense of another, either. You know what I mean.)


Anyway, besides being cruel and extremely politically incorrect, it was also a dead giveaway to anyone who read more than one or two stories.


I believe that under the right (wrong?) circumstances and pressures, anyone can take another’s life, but we’re talking about those who do it deliberately and with malice aforethought. How do we spot them?


Answer - sometimes we don’t.


Life would be so much easier for everyone if one’s outward appearance revealed their inner proclivities, but it doesn’t work that way. Think of Ted Bundy, who by outward appearances was the kind of young man every mother prayed her daughter would bring home - good looking, well-mannered, well-educated, apparently with a shining future awaiting him.


Nothing could have been further from the truth. Beneath his almost leading-man exterior lurked a monster who loved to kidnap, rape, torture and kill young women. A low estimate of his kill tally is around 30, while most say it is probably much more.


Another deceptive monster is the sexual sadist and murderer Dennis Rader (aka the ‘Bind Torture Kill’ / BTK killer). He looked just like a kindly suburban father/grandfather type - balding, glasses, an open, plain face and lived an almost stereotypical modest suburban life with his family. But - he had definite weird and kinky sexual tastes, though he kept them well hidden, and he was thought of as normal, polite and well-mannered. He also liked sadism and killing and is reputed to have killed at least 10 people.


Remember the fictional (thank Heavens!) little girl so expertly played by Patti McCormack in the 1950s film THE BAD SEED? She was absolutely average looking, but evil to the core, killing everyone who displeased her. I remember I was about the same age as she when I first saw the film and was absolutely horrified. A little girl the same age as I, a cold-blooded murderess? That little girl could be sitting next to me in class. She might be in my Girl Scout troop! The revelation of the ubiquity of human evil shook me to the core.


The two killers who murdered the Clutter family and shot to fame because of Truman Capote’s IN COLD BLOOD certainly looked (to the popular imagination) like killers, but to say that is an indication of prejudice, just as it is to say that Bundy had to be a hero because he was handsome.


Almost every day in the news we see pictures of ordinary people who have either committed great crimes or performed good and heroic deeds. Some are handsome and some are plain and some are downright ugly, but their looks in no way equates their actions. To paraphrase MLK, people should be judged not for their appearance, but for their character.


So - the endgame of this overly-long little homily is that when you create your characters, do not automatically match their physiognomy to their actions. On the other hand, don’t go too far the other way and make every handsome person a villain. Our job is to create believable characters, not perpetuate stereotypes. There are handsome heroes - and villains. There are ugly villains - and heroes. And most people are a mixture of both. Make your characters real.


Tuesday, July 13, 2021

PREPARING FOR THE FIRST WRITERS CONFERENCE IN A LONG TIME

One of the former panels, obviously about law enforcement of some kind.



This was a fun mock mystery  radio program--made us all laugh. 


 As I've said before, the Public Safety Writers Association's writers' conference is my favorite. And after not being able to have one because of the pandemic--this month we're getting together once again.

Not surprisingly, we don't have as many attendees as usual. Though this is always a smaller conference, usually around 50, this time it's under 40. Some folks are still wary about the corona virus, others aren't ready to fly again. 

The attendees are most made up of people in law enforcement and other public safety fields who are writing or wanting to write, and a scattering of mystery writers who want to rub elbows and learn from the experts. 

I've been with this group since they reorganized several years ago and worked as the program chair. I turned that job over to a retired police detective who is a multi-published and award winning author--Michael A. Black. He's doing a fantastic job.

I have several reasons for being excited about going, I've made many friends with these folks and I'll be happy to see them again. Also some close mystery writers friends will be there and I haven't seen them for a long time either. A fun reunion is ahead.

I expect to learn a lot too. One of the main speakers is former LAPD homicide investigator, Mike Brandt who will talk about effective interviewing as a writer. Rannah Grey is going to tell about how her true crime book make it into a prime-time TV documentary. Terry L. Kerns, former FBI agent, and at present is the Opiate Coordinator with the Nevada Attorney General's Office-- topic is Examining the Opioid Epidemic. Friends Larry and Lorna Collins are going to present how to write the prefect pitch letter to agents and editors.

And of course there are the panels--from various members of law enforcement, Keeping Things Real in Your Writing; The Art of Mining Yourself and Experiences into Writing Fiction; Steps in Conducting and Investigation; What's your Jurisdiction; Writing Action Scenes

On the Writing and Publishing Side: Fiction Type-casting; Dealing with Censorship; Non-fiction Do's and Don'ts; Stepping into Publications; Animals, Aliens, and Other Things That Go Bump in the Night; Building and Maintaining Suspense in Your Fiction; Polishing Your Manuscript.

Like to get in on this one? It's not too late, https://policewriter.com/ It's in Vegas, could sign up the first evening of the conference--Thursday at 3 p.m.

Believe me, I can hardly wait/ It's been far too long.

Marilyn



Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Why Write About a Female Law Enforcement Officer?

 

What the reader wanted to know was why I chose to write about a female law enforcement officer when those in my family are all male.

When I was growing up, my uncle was a Los Angeles police officer--motorcycle cop, and later a detective. My son-in-law was both a police officer and a sheriff's deputy. Right now, my grandson is a police officer and my grandson-in- law is a deputy.

To be fair, my son-in-law, who was killed in the line of duty, was the one who started me writing about men in law enforcement and their families. He contributed a lot to my Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery series, especially the first one: Final Respects.  At the time we lived in a beach community with some similarities to the fictional Rocky Bluff. In  the books that follow, female officers appear. 

I didn't start writing about my DeputyTempe Crabtree series until after I moved to Springville and went on a ride-along with a female cop, met a female deputy sheriff, and an Indian woman who grew up on the nearby reservation. The three of these great gals combined became my Tempe.

Though the majority of the Deputy Tempe Crabtree books are in the mountain setting of Bear Creek (much is borrowed from the area where I'm living now) in several Tempe goes other places to solve crimes. The latest in the series, The Trash Harem, is set in the city of Temecula.



The fact that when I began writing about males in law enforcement, I heard a lot of interesting tales from my son-in-law. When we first moved into our neighborhood in the beach community, we had several police officers as neighbors. I became friends with them and their wives--and I heard  a lot from them too. 

Frankly, I didn't think much about writing from the point-of-view of male characters. Whoever is the best one to tell the story is the one I write about.

Marilyn who also writes as F. M. Meredith

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

The Danger of Shiny

by Janis Patterson

Let’s be honest - there’s no such thing as a life without distraction. However you do things, however you plan for a good long stretch of uninterrupted time to write, something happens.

You go on a quiet vacation to a remote spot where you think it will be free from distractions and interruptions. Maybe it is, but suddenly your own mind becomes the interruption, putting something new and enticingly shiny in front of you such as plotting another book, sending you down the rabbit hole of intense research, or just daydreaming and de-pressurizing from your everyday life.

If you still have to work at a regular job, it gets harder. Even during your theoretical down time, there are still chores to do, family to be with, and you can bet your employer will call with an emergency just about the time you sit down in front of your computer.

We’ve just gotta face the fact that life gets in the way, sometimes deliberately and gleefully.

My life used to be simple - get up in the morning, feed the dog, make The Husband’s lunch and - once he was on his way - get to work. I could mix household chores in between my writing spurts and since we are supposed to get up and move around every so often during the day, that was perfect.

Then The Husband retired. I do love him and in many ways it’s great having him home all the time. Other ways... as the old joke goes, I married him for better or for worse, but not for lunch!

He is learning to be respectful of my working time; he has even fixed a couple of lunches for us and, after seeing how hard I work at my writing (it is a full-time job, after all!) he takes me out to eat more often. He has even started learning how to do my advertising.

If that were the only distraction! No, there’s always something... The laundry. The dinner. The dishes. Vacuuming. Something breaks and the repairman must be summoned and dealt with. Shopping. Cooking. A million little things. The Husband will learn to deal with such, but not totally and not right now. I’ve had decades to learn the various protocols and minutiae of running our home efficiently; it will take him a while to get into the swing of it.

There are other distractions, too. The siren lure of a new story whispering in your ear while you’re struggling with the uncooperative middle of the one that has to be finished now. The ever-enticing rabbit hole of research; you start up by searching for a relatively mundane fact, such as does a Glock 9mm have a manual safety or not, and two hours later you’re happily submerged in the history of smelting. Or the invention of buttercream icing. Or why calico was so named. Research is a labyrinthine seduction where you never know where you’ll end up. 

So is there an answer? I hope there isn’t. All writing and no play (or life) makes Jane not only a dull writer but a dull (and tired!) person. Perhaps the best answer is both balance and discipline - the balance of life and work, and the discipline to know how much and how far to indulge both in writing and in non-writing. It doesn’t sound easy, because it isn’t. But it has to be done. It really has to be done. I hope someday I master it.



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.

Marilyn

To purchase:

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B096KZDPH8?pf_rd_r=N7DBZKK2MBSG684X7TEA&pf_rd_p=5ae2c7f8-e0c6-4f35-9071-dc3240e894a8&pd_rd_r=c07bc177-fab2-46f8-b86b-64e113b95079&pd_rd_w=C7E2u&pd_rd_wg=SAth5&ref_=pd_gw_unk

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

https://fictionforyou.com





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?

Marilyn

https://fictionforyou.com/


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.

Marilyn

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.

Marilyn

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.

Marilyn

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.

Marilyn

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?



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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.