Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Merry Christmas--It's Almost Here!


By this time, hopefully, all  your decorating is done and gifts purchased and wrapped. 

I've finished and am ready. Also looking forward to the new year, and praying for lots of changes. #1 being the end of Covid and all the restrictions that have come with it.

What I'm hoping for is a return to normal in the book business--writing conferences and conventions being held, in-person writers' meetings and presentations, book signings in various venues.

There are many thing I really can't do anymore--I gave up flying and no longer drive and have to rely on others to take me places. (Fortunately, I have family members who are willing to drive me here and there.)

For the here and now, enjoy every minute of this holiday season, no matter how  you celebrate. For those with family who will be getting together, be thankful for time spent together. I certainly will be.

And when it comes to gifts, I hope you all receive books to read. When I was a kid, it wasn't a good Christmas unless I got at least one book.

Have a great Christmas everyone.


Wednesday, December 15, 2021

On Organization and Ivy

by Janis Patterson

How on earth did it get to be the 15th of December of 2021? In contrast to last year, which seemed to go on for aeons with no end in sight, this year has whizzed past like a hummingbird who spots a newly filled feeder - and not nearly as prettily!

Don’t worry - I’m not going to wax sarcastic or angry about politics (at least not here) - I’m just saying that time didn’t go as quickly when I was younger. In my defense, as a full-time writer I tend to live my life in a cocoon - The Husband says I live only half-way in the world of reality - and that makes time slip away even more easily.

All my writing life I have been sort of a do-it-now and bounce-from-one-project-to-another kind of person. Great fun, but not very businesslike. Disorganization is not efficient, but although I could set up really nifty organizational systems (something I used to do for all different kinds of businesses) but after setting up one for myself (one of many over the years) would never keep up with it once it was done. Sigh.

You might know that I have been a very happy member of Novelists, Inc. (NINC) for years, and have learned so much from it. However - this last conference I attended a workshop that literally changed my life. I don’t remember the speaker - a very nice woman writer who is apparently quite successful - but she spoke on organization and one of her centerpieces was a planning board. Apparently these organizational boards have been around for a number of years in all kinds of industries, but I confess I had never heard of such a thing.

It’s a fairly big whiteboard, divided into 9 boxes of equal size. The three vertical columns are for the months - her version of the board was set up to cover a quarter, which makes sense to me. The horizontal columns are (going down) To Do, Doing, Done. How incredibly simple!

After NINC I bought a piece of whiteboard and some thin, pretty lining tape. After a lengthy session with a tape measure (you do know that I am numerically-challenged, don’t you?) I divided the board into 9 roughly equal oblongs. As the quarter had already started, I slapped a bunch of stuff up, thinking that was all that was needed.

It was not. Oh, the board was nice-enough looking, if somewhat amateurish. There are very pretty boards, all color coordinated and perfect-looking available on line, but - hey! - I’m a writer, and therefore poor. I did spring for some colored post-its and markers, which made the board look sprightly. Blue for the first month, pink for the second, green for the third, all with matching felt tip pens. Very impressive.

But I am learning that there is more to organization than just slapping down some things I want to have done, which is very different from actually doing. Now that there is a fresh quarter to say nothing of a fresh year staring me in the face, I’m giving more thought to what I want to put on my board. Not what I want done, but what I should do. And what I can do.

I find myself breaking down each task into component parts. Instead of just ‘publish My New Book’ I find it much more helpful to have a post-it for doing final edit, one for getting copyright, one for setting up ISBN, one for cover, one for uploading, one for deciding on pre-order and release dates... all the necessary minutiae for a release. So much easier than trying to remember everything at once - you can’t afford to miss a single step, and yet private life is a beast which sometimes seems determined to upset everything.

As I begin each step I move it into the Doing box. When the task is completed, the post-it is moved into the Done box. Maybe it’s a small thing, somehow related to the pretty stickers given out by kindergarten teachers as a reward for each task accomplished, but it gives me a little lift to see the Done box filled up with completed post-its.

Nor do I wait until the night before to work out my quarterly board. Remember I said I was a do-it-now and bounce-around type person? I find that in trying to fill out my board with the next quarter’s tasks I find I have been making notes (albeit general ones, to be fleshed out when I actually write up the post-its) in a dedicated notebook. Apparently organization is like ivy - once it gets a foothold it spreads everywhere! I have even been found recently cleaning out the kitchen cabinets!

Now I fully admit that this last quarter’s board was an intense learning curve, punctuated with several Family Situations that had to be attended to. Life happens. The board helped to keep me on track, as winding and overblown as it was. I expect better from next quarter’s.

It’s true - you are never too old to learn something, and when you learn something that actually works it’s wonderful. I greatly anticipate what this next quarter’s board will do for me.

PS - this is my last blog of the year. I want to thank you for your support this past year and look forward to seeing you all next year. I wish all of you the Happiest of New Years!

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

All the Changes 2021 Has Brought

 This has definitely been a year of changes. And we can blame some of them on that dratted Covid.

So many meetings are no longer being held in person which results in the lack of friendly exchange and companionship. And I do miss my writers' meetings. I had three I attended every month: San Joaquin Sisters in Crime, Tulare-Kings Writers, and my own weekly writers group.

When I was writing Christmas cards, I realized how many of my friends are no longer with us--and I guess that's to be expected when you're old as I am.

Changes are being made in the way we celebrate Christmas, as family members have decided to try something new.

Lots of book fairs have not been held, though it looks like some of them are trying to reorganize for 2022. 

Some libraries have reopened, many have not.

I can't blame my lack of writing time on Covid--I've just been too busy with other writing chores--and caring for my husband. At 91 he is having lots of difficulties and requires more of my attention in many ways. 

Life has always been full of changes, but I think there have been many more this past year.

No matter what's going on in your life, I hope you'll have some happy times during this holiday season.

And for those who celebrate Christmas, to you I say Merry Christmas/


Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Let's Discuss Promotion


During the pandemic, many of the events and ways of selling books was prohibited.

For my new book, I was a guest on a lot of blogs. I actually enjoy writing new material for blogs.

I did manage to still do a bit of that kind of promotion: Our local art gallery of which I'm a member never closed. I was invited to speak twice at their general meeting and able to sell my books. The audience was small, masked, but very attentive.

The art gallery also held their annual holiday boutique and I had a table with my books. Though not as well attended as those before the pandemic, it was great fun and I did sell books.

In our little foothill community, the annual Apple Festival was cancelled two years in a row, but this year they held a smaller one day Fall Festival. I did well selling my books and the most fun was seeing old friends.

I've done two book signings for new books in the fellowship hall at my church. Not a big attendance, but I did sell copies of my new books and others too. 

Many writers did Podcasts, but I haven't tried that yet. Mainly because I live in a busy household with three grandkids, not sure where I would do one and if it could happen uninterrupted.

I've had .99 cent sales for older books in my series--the RBPD series and the Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series which did well and resulted in people buying other books in the two series. Which is the whole idea of doing this kind of promotion. It takes a lot of work and finding places that don't cost much to help promote. 

Though there have been two big book fairs I was invited to participate in, both were far away and meant being away from my husband who needs to have someone to help.

I did attend one conference away from home and my husband stayed with my daughter and husband. Most writing or mystery conferences are not the best for selling books (unless you are a big-name author), but the are a great place to learn new things about writing, what's going on in the writing world and other tidbits. But most of all, it's wonderful to be with other authors. For me, a writing conference lifts my spirits and gives me the incentive to keep on writing.

So tell me, what have you been doing in the way of promotion and what have you planned for the future?


Wednesday, November 17, 2021

The Wages of Sloth

by Janis Patterson

I’ll admit I’ve never been much of a go-getter. There are so many more attractive things to do than work; I’d rather do what I want to do (and I’m the only one who feels like that, right?) Fortunately for me, most of the time I want to write; writing is what keeps me as sane as I am, whatever that is. And let’s face it, the insane covid idiocies haven’t helped anything at all!

However, even I was shocked last week when after vowing to get my act - and my desk - cleaned up I found eight (I think) finished manuscripts, needing only covers and ISBNs to release, plus half a dozen novellas which I had planned to make available in paper - not counting the six or seven (can you tell I’m hazy on numbers?) books I have had reverted from trad publishers.... all waiting to be covered and released.

Holy guacamole! I knew there were a couple of releases I should attend to, but I swear these have been multiplying on my hard drive like mushrooms in the dark! 

Not that I have been totally remiss - I just put up my very first Vella serial novel (GHOSTS OF BELLE FLEUR - 36 episodes, first three free and releasing today - hint, hint!) and am still hard at work on a non-fic history book to say nothing of having a life, but good grief! 

I can see a lot of publishing going on in my future, so be prepared for a release blitz that rivals my first foray into self-publishing in 2014. The Husband is not happy. In 2014 I had gotten back all the books I thought I would ever get returned, so knowing I don’t respond well unless I have a deadline I decided to give myself a strict release deadline. I come from a newspaper/advertising background where there is only one excuse for missing a deadline - death. Yours. 

In 2014 I released a book - freshly edited, formatted for ebook and paperback and with a brand new cover - to every major etailer every two weeks from 1 June to 31 October. It almost killed me, and The Husband got so tired of seeing nothing but the top of my head as I bent over the computer he literally kidnapped me for a weekend in Vegas to celebrate my birthday. That was fun, but it made one release day two days late, and my newspaper/advertising blood cringed. Thank Heaven the shade of my father didn’t rise up and haunt me for such egregious behavior! (Actually, that wouldn’t have been so bad - I still miss my dad even after forty plus years and would love to talk to him again, with or without him having a physical body.)

If there is one thing obvious from this little tale, it’s that I like writing. I don’t particularly like the work of self-publishing. But - I like the unholy circus of rewrites, more rewrites, waiting, and pittances for payments less. I do like the control and the money of self-publishing. True, I have never sold as much with selfing as with trad, but I’ve made equal or better money. Hey - I can be bought!

So... for far too long I have lounged around doing fun things like writing, cleaning the house, travel, excavating the library, in other words living a life, and must now buckle down to business. Those books are not going to publish themselves, and I (1) can’t afford to hire some company to do it for me and (2) wouldn’t even if I could because I have become accustomed to the bliss of pure control. Unfortunately, bliss comes at a price. I am prepared to pay it. 

After some foot surgery a couple of years ago I had to stay in bed for over a week. The first day was unbearable, but after that I came to like the enforced inactivity - I could feel all virtuous for doing basically what I liked to do - nothing. I even coined a word for it - slothing - and claimed the sloth as my spirit animal. Even though I’m now about to embark on this publishing marathon I’m not giving him up. Sloths are cute. Let’s see if I can teach mine to run.

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Do You Ever Read a Wonderful Book and Wonder about Your Own Writing?

 This happened to me recently when I was reading Craig Johnson's latest Longmire mystery, Daughter of the Morning Star 


It had all the elements I love in a mystery plus so much more. Though it didn't follow the usual mystery pattern, it had a wonderful Native American theme, full of supernatural elements. And Mr. Johnson can write!

I watched all the Longmire TV series, and though I enjoyed it all, it doesn't have the same magic as the books do. 

While reading the story I couldn't help but question my own writing. The descriptions in this tale were so wonderful as were all the characterizations. I highly recommend it. What I read made me want to do better.

No matter how old we are we can always learn and use what we've learned in our writing. 

My book that is closest in theme to Johnson's latest is Spirit Shapes. And I'm having a .99 cent sale on it from Novermber 15th through the 20th.

Here's the link if you're interested.



Tuesday, October 26, 2021

And Another In-Person Event


I parked myself and books under a tree.

Until Covid, the Springville Community Club put on a most popular outdoor event, The Apple Festival. Two years in a row it was cancelled, but this year they decided to try again, this time giving it a new name and only doing it for one day.

Though they didn't have as many vendors as in the past, there were still lots selling all sort of things, goodies to eat, (behind me, the local store was selling Tri-Tip sandwiches and had a long, long line), crafts of all kinds, plants, clothing, yard sale stuff. There were activities for the kids.

I judged a pumpkin decorating contest, and helped judge a costume contest.

While manning my booth, I was visited by old friends I hadn't seen in years, met a Facebook friend I didn't know, and a new mom in town and her daughter bought 13 of my books. Before the day was over I'd sold 18 books all together. Made back the money I'd paid for the space at the event and more.

According to our local newspaper, more than a 1,000 people attended.

I have one more in-person event lined up, the annual two day Holiday Boutique at the Porterville Art Gallery, November 5th and 6th.This one is always fun and a table and chairs are provided. Since it's inside, the weather doesn't matter. 

I've also been asked to give a presentation next year at one of the Community Club's regular meetings.

Yes, things are beginning to get back to normal, and I'm loving it.


Wednesday, October 20, 2021

The Curse of the Blank Page

by Janis Patterson

This isn’t a post about writers’ block. I don’t really believe in writer’s block. The mind is always going, always creating, always fabricating, always dreaming. There’s no shortage of ideas or knowledge of exactly where your story is going to go.

No, this is a post about ... I don’t know. Ennui is as good a word as any. I have two books both almost finished. I know just what needs to happen in both of them. I also know exactly what is going to happen in two more books that are both about half finished. (Yes, I almost never have fewer than four projects going at once. Weird, I’ve been told, but this is the way I have always worked.) Pages of dialogue flow through my mind. Descriptions of settings are firm in my mind, some of them clearer than actual places I have physically visited.

So what is the problem?

Ennui. Or perhaps accidie.

I guess I just don’t want to write the words even as they are yammering in my brain. I sit down at the computer, open the current file and sometimes get a couple of hundred words done before being startled to find myself playing a killer game of solitaire MahJongg or working an electronic jigsaw puzzle - both guilty pleasures. Or finding that I really need to clean the gasket on the dishwasher with a Q-Tip to make sure it’s really clean - right now! (If you saw the perpetually chaotic state of my kitchen you’d know how insanely weird that is.) 

In talking this phenomenon with my writer friends I’ve been given the usually sage diagnoses/advice to burn out (take a couple of hours or even days off), to adjourn for a session in the hot tub (which I do every morning and have for ages), of boredom with the project (I have four going, remember, all in different genres), to relax and read more to refill the well (done that, and lack of ideas/settings/plots is not my problem) and to get a physical checkup to make sure nothing physical is wrong with me (done that, all okay).

No, I have come to the conclusion that the problem is me. I don’t know what it is, but it comes from me. I’ve been a professional writer of one kind or another for most of my adult (and some of my younger) life and have always - always! - made my deadlines. I’ll make these too, but it will probably be a close thing. At my age the inevitable thought of retirement comes to mind, but even in this weird time it is met with horror and denial. I love writing and honestly can’t think of anything else I’d rather do. (Except be a movie star, maybe, or an astronaut... see? My imagination is alive and well and overactive to boot.)

It would be tempting to blame this condition on the plague hysteria that has destroyed our lives for the last year and a half, but that’s the easy way out. To be honest, my life didn’t change that much from pre-plague life to current plague hysteria. I have always worked at home. My commute is from the kitchen to my office, which is just the length of the house. 

No matter how enthused I am when I wake up in the morning (after coffee, of course) and rush to the computer, by the time I get there and turn it on, finish with my emails and go to Word I just sit there and stare at that big blank screen, and that big blank screen just stares back at me like some omnipotent empty eye. I know what I should be putting down - my characters and my actions are ready and I’ve been polishing them in my head all night - but suddenly I realize I need to scrub the refrigerator right now!

Perhaps a part of it is a kind of fatalism, a foreknowledge that it will be a waste of time. The money just isn’t there. My sales have fallen so far down the return is minuscule, hardly worth the electricity it takes to run my laptop. Of course, I don’t write just for the money, but it is a consideration. The old reward-for-value thing - in other words, no reward, no worth. And that’s a hard thing to face, especially for one who used to make respectable money. What has changed? The market or me?

I’ve even thought of changing formats when I write, though I’ve used a word processor/computer since the early 1990s. While I loathe writing anything by hand and absolutely refuse, I have thought of digging out my old manual typewriter, but realize that would take too much energy. Besides, I’d have to clean out the storage closet where it lurks in the back with the other things I keep for sentiment’s sake. Then I would have to put everything back, and by then it would be time to fix supper.

I apologize for dumping on y’all, but several people have asked me when my next book would be out and quite frankly I don’t have the slightest idea. Sigh.

So - it all comes down to ennui (boredom) or accidie (sloth), and both devolve on me. Apparently the only cure is discipline, something I have always been lacking. But I will get better. I promise. Besides, The Husband has promised me a blow-out steak dinner at our favorite steak house when I get back on track. It should work. Hey - I can be bribed!

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.


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.


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



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.


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


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


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


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.


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


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.


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.


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!