Tuesday, March 23, 2021

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


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

Yep, this is nervous time. 

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

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

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

We'll see. 

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

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


Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Cold, Challenges and Changes

by Janis Patterson

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

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

We have 1 month to go.

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

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

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

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Revisiting the Topic, Include the Virus or Not


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Saturday, February 20, 2021

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

by Linda Thorne

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

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

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

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

Amazon Buy Link

Author Website

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Publishing - A Basic Primer - Part Three

by Janis Patterson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, February 16, 2021


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Tuesday, February 9, 2021

3 Tips for Spinning Satisfying Plot Twists

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


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

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

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

1. Challenge your reader’s expectations

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

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

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

2. Don’t rely on shock value alone

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

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

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

3. Play a game of Clue

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Marilyn Meredith

Tuesday, January 26, 2021


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

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

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

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

5 Stars:

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

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

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

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

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


 Only on sale from February 1- February 5. 


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

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Publishing - A Basic Primer - Part Two

by Janis Patterson


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, January 12, 2021



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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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