Tuesday, August 9, 2022


My guest is J. L Greger today: 

The key questions in any newspaper article are how, what, when, why, and how. In most murder investigations, the how and what questions are answered when a dead body with bullet holes or stab wounds is found. Accordingly, most murder mysteries address the questions of who and why.

How becomes a key question in medical mysteries.

The question of how becomes important when a poison is used to kill one or more individuals. In my new mystery FAIR COMPROMISES, twenty resident in New Mexico come into clinics and doctors’ offices complaining of double or blurred vision, sagging eyelids, and headaches the day after a political rally. Public health workers quickly hypothesize the cause was botulism toxin in improperly home canned food served at the rally.

There’s just one problem. One individual’s symptoms are much more severe. She is suffering paralysis of her arms and legs and having trouble breathing. New Mexico health officials contact the FBI because that patient is a candidate for the U.S. Senate and they fear she may have been targeted. Moreover, the available botulinum antitoxin can prevent worsening of symptoms but cannot repair nerves damaged by the toxin. The Senate candidate is apt to die or be permanently disabled.

The mystery turns from being the analysis of a severe food safety breach to the investigation of a diabolical murder attempt using “cosmetic” botulism toxin when scientist Sara Almquist with the help of a talented FBI lab crew discover a more sinister source of the toxin at a health and beauty spa in Santa Fe.

A little science is needed to explain the how in this mystery.

Scientists have known for a hundred years that a bacteria (Clostridium botulinum) could grow in improperly canned vegetables and meats and produce a poison that was lethal. However, this bacteria was sensitive to acid and didn’t produce the toxin in acidic canned tomatoes and fruits. Despite the education efforts of  Cooperative Extension agents, a few home canners have continued not to use pressure cookers when canning non-acidic vegetables and have killed their relatives.

In the 1980 and 1990s, physcians discovered they could cure certain neurological conditions by injecting tiny amount amounts of botulinum toxin into spasmed muscles of patients. Scientists also figured out tiny injections of botulinum toxin would prevent the muscles contractions that caused crow’s feet around the eyes and worry wrinkles on the forehead. Thus a whole new cosmetic product line (BOTOX and other botulinum toxin products) was discovered.


After the how is answered, Sara and her FBI colleagues must discover the who and why  in this mystery. It’s not easy. The villain or villains are clever and ruthless.


Sara Almquist and her FBI colleagues rush to find who endangered the lives of a hundred attendees at a political rally by poisoning the food with botulism toxin. The poisoners’ target was a woman candidate for the U.S. Senate; the rest were just collateral damage. As these agents track clues from a veterans’ hall in Clovis, New Mexico to health spas in Santa Fe, they must make a multitude of personal and professional (perhaps too many) compromises.

FAIR COMPROMISES is available at: https://www.amazon.com/Fair-Compromises-Science-Traveler-Greger/dp/1735421421

Bio: J.L. Greger is a scientist turned novelist. She includes tidbits of science in her award-winning mysteries and thrillers: The Flu Is Coming, Malignancy, Games for Couples, Dirty Holy Water, Fair Compromises, and six others. https://www.jlgreger.com


Tuesday, July 26, 2022

I'm Home After a Great PSWA Writing Conference

 No, I didn't take any pictures. Many did, however, and I'll probably "borrow" some as they get posted.

One thing I learned that kind of goes along wiht Janis Patterson's last post, is one of the publishers who spoke said that for her house they would like 3 or more books from an author a year. And her specifics for the books were 80,000 words or more. This was for the Christian Imprint for Wolfpack publishing.

Never, ever could I put out three of more books a year--not even when I was much younger.

When would the author who churns out one book after another have time to live?

I need to write one more Tempe Crabtree mystery, and I've been gathering ideas, but I have so much other stuff to do that I haven't had time for much more than that. Even though I don'thave to cook dinner anymore there are still two other meals to prepare. My husband needs my help these days. And I have other jobs that make more money than writing and need to be done as they come in.

And wwhat about just living? Chores need to be done, bills have to be paid, all the little things of life that pile up if you don't tackle them right away.

Everyone needs to take the time to be with loved ones and friends, to enjoy good conversations and read other authors books. Reading is probably what got you hooked on writing in the first place. 

Taking 6 days off to attend the PSWA Conference was wonderful. I got to see many old friends and catch up with them, and I made several new friends. The food was great everyplace we ate, and most especially the conference's spectacular lunches. The speakers were great as were the panels, and I learned a lot.

I'm still not totally unpacked--have books to put away--I'll get around to them eventually.

I will get back to writing, but have a long list to complete before I can.

Happy Writing and Reading,


Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Inviolate Writing Schedules and Other Fictions

by Janis Patterson

There are those who say that the success to writing lies only in following a strict schedule. So many words per day, every day, or writing X number of hours without deviation, or... whatever. On the other hand, there are an equal number of equally fervid writers who are convinced that no good writing ever comes from being forced. One should wait for the magic touch of the muse, as anything which is worked at, which happens without fiery and flowing inspiration is unnatural and bad writing.  

Give me a break. Or two.

That said, I will admit that my writing is easier when I am in the throes of inspiration, and that I do try to write a certain number of words every day. Keywords here are 'easier' and 'try.'

Like all of life writing is uncertain. You can vow that you will write a minimum of 5,000 words a day, every single day without fail. If you can, good on you. The rest of us have lives. We have families, cars, homes, jobs... all of which seem to go maniacally wonky just at the worst times. There are things in life that should come before writing - family comes to mind first.

So - you've set a schedule and stuck to it pretty well, then something overwhelming happens and until it is resolved the writing goes out the window. Then what? Your rhythm is off. You haven't kept your word, and if you're so unreliable why go on? Obviously you aren't a real writer unless you .... whatever.

Yes, there are people who actually believe that. I look at writing schedules sort of like I do at a diet. They can be wonderful things from which you can benefit greatly. Depending on your attitude, they can also make your life miserable. If you break a diet, you don't just give up and wallow in a slough of chocolate (however delightful that might seem), you admit what happened, then pick up and go on. Or at least you should. At least, I do. Most of the time. 

Being a writer is a life and career choice - it shouldn't be a sentence. Yes, we have deadlines, and yes, if we've given our word that so-and-so will be done by such-and-such a time, we should honor it, no matter what it takes. That's a sprint, though, not a way of life. 

So am I advocating heedlessness, hedonism, laziness? No. If you are a writer, you must write. But... if you are a human, you must also live. As the Facebook meme says, Eat the chocolate, drink the wine, smell the roses. 

It's all about balance. I am a firm advocate that family comes first. Yes, you owe dedication to your craft, but you also owe dedication to your Self. And your family. And your life, however you choose to live it. But you must also be disciplined and productive in the way that is right for you.

Besides, there is a extra - if rather naughty - benefit to having a writing schedule. When something comes up that you should do, but don't really want to, but can't say no gracefully, you can always say, "I'd love to, but I haven't made my word count for today." Works every time.

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

I'm Busy Packing Today

I'll be headed to Las Vegas and the PSWA Conference early tomorrow morning. 

This will be my only writer's conference this year, but fortunately it's my favorite. It will be like seeing family--and there are new people coming too, so I plan to make some new friends.

The first day I'll be helping with the pre-conference workshop and giving some tips on dialogue. I also critiqued three partial manuscripts and will meet with the authors to give them some ideas about what they can do to make what they've written even better.

That evening there is a get-acquainted gathering with food and drinks available. Always fun.

The conference begins Friday morning. There are some great speakers and lots of panels. I'm on three panels--more when I get home.

There is another plus to this conference, my sister lives in Vegas, so I'll get to see her too.

While I'm gone, our son will care for my husband here at home. 

I am truly hoping to get my imagination fed so I can come up with ideas for a new Tempe Crabtree mystery.

I'll give a report when I return.


Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Have Neglected My Turn to Post

 And I have a lot of excuses--I've really been busy. Unfortunately, not from writing my next Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery. I wish that were the excuse.

No, I've had many other things I've had to get done, including caring for my husband, the most important of all. We're both up there in age which means it take me long to do most anything.

Happily, I am in good health and my brain still functions--though I confess a bit slower.

Yes, I rally want to get back to writing.

I have been doing some promoting on the Internet for my latest and I think, last Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery, REVERSAL OF FORTUNE. I've nearly finished a virtual book tour--which has resulted in some sales. 

I had so much fun writing REVERAL OF FORTUNE, and using what I learned about fortune tellers in this tale. I also tied up some loosed ends, and I think I left the readers enough clues that they can imagine what happens next in the personal lives of the ongoing characters. Believe me, it is hard to leave all those people.

And I've been lamenting the fact there hasn't been many opportunities for in-person events. In the past, there were always some library events to participate in. Covid ended most of those in our part of Califonia. 

My author's life has definitely changed. 

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

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

The Deus Ex Machina Temptation

by Janis Patterson

Writers have been lazy for a long time, even back to the earliest days of literature and drama, like the Ancient Greeks. They weren’t so much into novels - though they did have a form of them - but they were very big into theatre. Some of their plays are still performed in their original (albeit translated) form today.

One thing, though, that does not translate well is the concept of Deus ex Machina - i.e., god in the machine. The Greeks loved multi-thread stories, and they did so love to complicate them, crossing storyline and storyline and getting everything so mixed up that the action looked like a snarl of delicate yarn after three rampaging kittens have finished playing with it. 

It got to the point where it would take another play longer than the first one to get everything unsnarled - if it could be in direct action at all - that the concept of Deus ex Machina evolved. Some god or another would come down from Olympus at the moment of maximum confusion, deliver a trenchant little homily on the fecklessness of man and sort things out with direct action. In other words, he would say ‘you go with you, and you go with you, and you are a criminal so you need to go to jail...’ etc. Morally and romantically satisfying, I guess, but really really bad drama.

These days we aren’t so big on gods coming down and meddling in our business - though at certain times I really think we could use some! - but writers have been known to substitute Great-Aunt Debbie or sweet old Professor Smith or even a talking cat for Zeus or Apollo. And that is not only a disservice to the readers, it’s a cheat, which is an insult to the reader. Worst of all, it is terribly lazy writing. Our characters need to work out their own problems in a rational and logical manner - and our readers need to see them do it.

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Tips for New Writers

 Recently I did some editing for a new writer and some of the problems I noted and jotted down were the following:

Character development:

Let the reader visually see the characters either through the POV character's eyes including clothing, or in the main characters case, there are ways to let the reader know how he/she looks by problems if he/she is extremely short or tall, and preferred choice of clothing--why?


How do people speak? Short sentences, clipped words, if they have an accent needs to be the same all through the book, use cliches, big words, incomplete sentences.

Dialogue tags:

Use the speaker's action, or what he does with his clothes, etc. as action tags.

Leave out the boring stuff. 


Description of what color things are--surroundings, clothing, cars, etc.


Can be important in setting a scene--good smells and bad.


Weather can add complications to the plot. 

Where the heck are they?  Give some descriptions of the scene. 


Need to have conflict to make the story interesting.

If you can change a sentence around to get out of using the word "was", do so. Makes for better writing.

Just a few things I noted while going over the chapter I was editing.

Bet you could add some other good ones.


Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Of Raptors and Writers

by Janis Patterson

I had a visitor this morning. As usual, I was out in the hot tub fairly early, doing my exercises. (Arthritis makes dry-land exercising both harmful and painful.) After finishing I sat in the water relaxing and drinking the last of my coffee, when there was a loud squawking of many different kinds of birds and while I watched a great hawk landed on the top of our fence. I don’t know what kind of hawk it was - as Egyptomanes The Husband and I simply call all hawks ‘Horus-birds’ - but it was definitely a hawk and a fairly large one. Even though we live close to the center of a very large city, hawks are not unknown in our neighborhood. Every so often in our secluded back yard we find evidence of a hawk’s meal - no body parts or bones, just a large circle of disarticulated feathers, rather like a fairy ring made of feathers instead of fungus. I will admit that though this is a normal and expected part of the natural world it is still unsettling.

I can see why ornithologists say birds come from dinosaurs... this beautiful specimen of Horus-bird paraded up and down a short portion of our fence, its head always moving, its ophidian gaze sweeping the entire yard with the bearing of a conqueror, all very much the pattern card of a raptor. Its attention seemed most drawn, however, to a small Indian peach tree sitting on the other side of the fence which divides the back yard from the parking area.

Suddenly there was an explosion of blue jays swooping around and screaming. There must have been at least half a dozen of them, all the brilliant blue of the male, and they were dive-bombing the preening hawk. The aerial show must have lasted a full two to three minutes before the hawk gave way and flew off. While I have not gone to investigate, I surmise that somewhere in that little Indian peach tree is a blue jay nest and do not wish to disturb the inhabitants further. The jays have nested in this area in the sixty-odd years since my parents built this house, so it is not an unreasonable theory.

So what does this digression into nature have to do with writing? The jays are each smaller and weaker than the large and powerful predator hawk, though combined they dominated him into if not submission at least to departure.

Sometimes the little guy does win, though almost never in the publishing industry. Right now I’m all incensed about Amazon’s buy-read-return for full refund policy. Amazon says it wants to provide the best experience it can for its customers/readers... but is dead silent on the experience of its writers, without whom they would have no readers.

It seems they neither realize nor care that the buy-read-return for full refund is simply straight-up theft. Now I will admit that over the years I have returned a few books - either they were misrepresented, or my sometimes unreliable arthritic fingers have mis-clicked, or some other out-of-normal circumstance, but NEVER (and I repeat, NEVER) have I bought one, read it and then returned it for credit. That’s plain dishonest. There are those who start with the first book in a series then work their way through the entire series, buying, reading completely, then returning for full credit before they repeat the crime with the next book. For those of you who say it is not a crime as Amazon allows it as part of their TOC, just remember there are legal crimes and there are moral crimes. Legal crime - maybe, maybe not. Moral crime - definitely, as it is deliberate theft from the author, who deserves to be paid for the work the serial returners are enjoying.

Apparently these people neither know nor care that what they are doing is dishonorable, or that it makes a big and often uncomfortable difference in the writer’s income. Amazon has to know, though, and honor and honesty aside, this constant full-refund bit has to be affecting their money, too - unless they are using the ‘read time’ income as a form of float, which I doubt.

So what are we as writers to do about this serial theft of our work? There are always out-and-out pirates who steal our work and give it away for free, but they’re obviously criminals... not the organization we’re trusting to sell our books for us. And I’m not ragging just on Amazon - maybe the other etailers do the same thing - I don’t know. Amazon’s buy-sell-return for full credit policy is well known and has never been a secret.

So what can be done about it? I have no idea. Amazon is the 9000 lb gorilla in the electronic book world and individual writers have no say.

But - if a handful of blue jays can protect a nest from a sizeable Horus-bird hawk by banding together, perhaps we should start talking about into banding together. If the vendors won’t protect our income, should we not at least look into what is necessary to protect our own? 

Let’s hear it for blue jays!

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Promotion Experiments

 Over the last two months, I tried two different types of promotion.

The first was offering one of my books in the Rocky Bluff P.D. series free for Kindle. This one attracted the most takers, and resulted in people buy other books in the series--which of course is the reason for doing this.

The second was offering one of the books in my Deputy Tempe Crabtree series for .99 cents. 51 copies were purchased and soon after 3 of each of two other titles, and 2 copies of three others, and one copy of others.

And as usual, my cookbook, "Cooking for a Big Family and a Crowd" is my best seller for Kindle and in paper.

Though I haven't really done any promotion yet for the latest and last of my Rocky Bluff P.D. series, two Kindle copies have been purchased (and more since I wrote this.)

My big promotion for Reversal of Fortune isn't going to happen until June. Why? Because I have too many other things I have to take care of first.

Oh, I"ll probably mention some things about it on this blog, maybe when my turn comes again. We'll see.

In case  your interested, here's the cover:

It's following the same theme of all the other covers in the series.

Marilyn, who wrote this series as F. M. Meredith

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

MeToo Moments Develop Characters


One of the reasons I wanted to write novels was a #MeToo moment that occurred when I was a young scientist. However, I didn’t want my writing about this incident to be an exposé on sexual harassment but rather a way to show a character’s motivation. I also didn’t want to rush to write about this incident until I was an experienced author. Hence, I included the incident in my tenth novel Games for Couples.

I think you will be surprised as you learn which characters were sexually harassed in this murder mystery. Here’s a thumbnail sketch of Games for Couples: 

A biotechnology company is desperately racing to develop cultured meat products—meat made from cells in a test tube—-before their competitors. Disaster strikes. A subject in a clinical trial testing one of their new cultured meat product dies. Was his death caused by lethal compounds in the cultured meat, sabotage by a competitor, or the spite of battling couples? 

I hope that convinced you the plot is strong. Now let’s talk about Me Too moments and why they might be good writing tools.

Consider this:

Sexual harassment in the workplace is common. A 2017 poll found that 54% of American women report receiving "unwanted and inappropriate" sexual advances with 95% saying that such behavior usually goes unpunished. A number of well-publicized cases have occurred in the entertainment industry, but many have also been documented in the scientific community.

One purpose of the Me Too Movement is to highlight the difference between sympathy and empathy. Sympathy is understanding someone else’s misfortunes from your own perspective. Empathy is understanding the plight of others by putting yourself in their shoes.

All authors struggle to engage readers by developing multi-dimensional characters. A plot is generally not believable without realistic characters. A common maxim among writers is: Don’t tell me. Show me. In essence, that’s a simplistic way of saying authors need to build empathy for their characters, not make them objects of pity.

Many Americans think sexual harassment is bad because it is painful and illegal. They forget that harassment has long-term consequences and affects many important life decisions made by women.

In Games for Couples, I tried to show how several characters developed because of MeToo moments. I hope you’ll be surprised and agree MToo moments can supply the motivation for many actions by characters.

Book at: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1735421405/


Bio: J. L. Greger writes is a biologist from the University of Wisconsin-Madison who consulted internationally. The pet therapy dog Bug in her Science Traveler Series novels is exactly like her own stoical Japanese Chin. https://www.jlgreger.com

Marilyn Meredith says, Janet is my guest today, she's a good friend and Games for Couples is a fascinating mystery--Do give it a try.


Wednesday, April 20, 2022

What Makes A Professional?

by Janis Patterson

Not long ago on another forum there was a discussion (really it wasn’t that polite, I’m just using that word because I’m a lady) about what makes a writer. A professional writer. I suppose anyone who scribbles down the idea for a book they’re going to write when they have the time or even pens a grocery list can technically be considered a writer because they have committed the act of scribing words in a line... just not, in my estimation, a professional one.

Writing is unfortunately like the other artistic professions such as musician or dancer or actor in that what seems like everyone in the world wants to do it - or more honestly, to reap the rewards for having done it - but they don’t want to put in the time and effort necessary. To them it looks easy, so they should be able to do it right out of the box, shouldn’t they? (This is when I usually start to growl...)

On the internet there is a photograph of two views of a ballerina’s feet. One side shows how they appear on stage - delicate white hose, pink toe shoes intricately tied with perky pink ribbons, feet delicately arched as she stands gracefully en pointe. On the other side is a picture of those same feet naked - blisters and raw spots, bloody band-aids, deformed toes and other horrors. This is the price ballerinas pay for those seemingly perfect moments on stage leaping apparently weightless from toe to toe.

Writing is not as physically brutal but is equally demanding in other ways. First you have to learn your craft, and for some people that is the hardest part of all. Writing a book is a lot more than writing X number of words about a series of incidents that may or may not make sense. You have to know grammar and spelling - and while editors and proofreaders are there to catch our mistakes and omissions, they are not there to do the heavy lifting. Word choice is important, for with it comes nuance, and so much of telling a good story is nuance.

Even assuming you have the soul and skills of an English teacher and can spell obscure words and place every comma correctly (an art in itself!) does not make you a writer. You have to be able to craft a story that is logical, cohesive and interesting, which is an intimidating juggling act. Understanding and properly using backstory, foreshadowing, pacing, characterization, research, character interaction and a hundred other different tools go into making a good book. These are skills which do not come automatically, no matter how much one wants to be a writer.

And don’t forget imagination, the ability to create believable, relatable worlds and populations out of little more than imagination and (in my case) caffeine. It’s amazing how many people cannot think of anything outside of the pedestrian everyday.

But writing is so simple, cry the wanna-bes. It’s just English, and I speak English. 

No, it’s not, and even having a book out there does not make you a professional, as the flood of self-published dreck flooding the internet proves. Now there are wonderful things about self-publishing - it broadens the readers’ choices, which before the self-publishing revolution were pretty much confined to what the traditional publishers thought would be profitable for themselves. Even though there are expenses to be borne, self-publishing gives the writer more money, and so many truly professional writers are expanding into this brave new world. On the other hand, it allows a bunch of ‘writers’ who should not be doing anything more than a Christmas card or a grocery list to say “See? I’m a published author.”

Desire does not equate professionalism. For confirmation, just think about someone walking into a hospital saying, “I want to be a surgeon, and I’ve watched hundreds of tv medical shows so I’m ready to do an operation now.” Perhaps an extreme example - no one dies of a badly written book - but the principle is the same.

So what does constitute professionalism? In a broad sense, control of the writerly tools - spelling, grammar, story construction - and a willingness to work, both at learning the craft and the acceptance that it is a job. No one works at a job only when they feel like it (at least, not if they want to keep their job) or their private muse graces them with the urge. No, being a professional means you work at it like any other job, which means you will miss lunches with friends and other pleasurable amenities because you are working. Writing is even more demanding, because the majority of it is done inside your brain, which means you are working pretty much all the time. 

To make it even more confusing, there are different kinds of professionalism. I know of a woman who for many years made very good money as a top-notch corporate PR person doing all kinds of writing and doing it extremely well. She has been working on a novel - the same novel - for almost nine years, and it still isn’t finished. Is she a writing professional? Definitely. She is just not a professional novelist, which is a shame, as she is a gifted wordsmith. There is more to being a novelist than just writing skills and the ability to craft a believable story.

Obviously I am finding it difficult to define exactly what makes a writer a professional novelist. Making money? That’s one metric, but a sort of shaky one; there are working novelists who turn out exquisite books but who are making little more than coffee change. There are writers who churn out undeniable schlock yet bring in the money hand over fist. Unfortunately, writing is one of those arts which is totally dependent on public acceptance and let’s face it, the public is sometimes an unreliable judge. 

Perhaps the best defining attribute of professionalism is attitude - the willingness to learn the craft and to work at it like the job it is instead of a glorified hobby. And believe me, it isn’t easy.

Friday, April 15, 2022


    You haven't seen me blogging here very often. It's a mystery to me, but lately it seems I'm more interested in writing romances. Since this is a mystery blog, I can't pretend my current romance books could be classified as mysteries.

    Still, I can share one mystery about writing. It seems many books are geared toward a younger generation. That's not me anymore. True, some older people want to escape and pretend they're younger while immersed in fiction. 

    Often I find when a book does contain an older person as a main or secondary character, the author uses depictions of people that may have been true years ago, but not anymore. It's time for some writers to look around and discover that the older people of today are not cardboard cutouts, but people much like themselves, just older. 

    Granny, Grandma, Grandpa, etc. to describe a character is missing the essence of what today's older folks are really all about. We're not all sitting around knitting, though I don't knock that hobby for those who have the talent. We're not sitting around in rocking chairs all day and imparting wisdom when called for. 

    Sure, some of our clothes don't fit like they used to, but they're not much different than anyone else's. We don't need a younger person to help with computers. We can do fine on our own.  

    Many, depending on our age, can still drive. We attend festivals, even participate at times. Some of us even know how to play instruments, such as pianos or guitars. Others decorate, paint or do repairs. We like going to Fitness Classes to stay in shape. We go out to eat when we feel like it.

    Shopping is a fun sport for many of us, though finding the right clothes to fit is sometimes a challenge. We bond with our neighbors. Some of us still have jobs, though in my case I'm retired and just write books when I feel like it. 

    Many of us own dogs or cats, even both, or birds or other animals. We like to read, watch movies and TV. Some of us even like cooking, though I admit that long ago I did, but now it bores me. Luckily, I have a hubby who likes taking over that chore. 

    Yes, some are married still, while some have lost their spouse. Others are looking for a soul mate or don't want one. Anyway, you get the picture. We're normal people, not stereotypies.     

    Now that I've had my say, I would be remiss if I didn't mention that in Found At the Pound, A Senior Romance Featuring 2 Dog Lovers, you'll find ordinary people, who just happen to be seniors. I'm also in the midst of a spinoff on one of the characters in that book.

Thanks for letting me vent a little. 

                               Morgan Mandel



Tuesday, April 12, 2022

The Fun Part of My Writing Life has Changed

Back in the day, I went to many writing conferences and mystery conventions. I never missed a Bouchercon or Left Coast Crime and my all time favorite smaller con, Mayhem in the Midlands, which is now defunct.

Because Bouchercon and Left Coast Crime move around, hubby and I saw a lot more of the country, visiting places we'd have never gone to otherwise.

I can't say I ever sold many books, but I always learned a lot, laughed a lot, enjoyed meeting many famous authors: Mary Higgins Clark, Sue Grafton, Wm. Kent Krueger, Lee Childs, J.A. Jance, and so many more. I made lots of friends both writers and readers, and it was so much fun to see them again at the each con.

I belonged to three Sisters in Crime groups: the Los Angeles chapter and actually visited several meetings and was the speaker at one, explaining about E-books which people weren't ready to embrace at the time. I met Naomi Hirahara there, way back before she'd done much writing. Because of this membership, I went to three  different LA Times Book Festivals.

I was one of the founding members of the San Joaquin Sisters in Crime chapters who met in Fresno. I went to as many meetings as possible and gave many presentations. Sadly, the Covid wiped out the chapter.

Nearly the same fate has befallen the Central Coast Sisters in Crime. I loved going to their meetings and staying on the coast and visiting with the friends I've made in the chapter. They've dwindled in size and are not having regular meetings though they've attempted some Podcasts. 

Other conferences that were planned were cancelled because of Covid, and now some, but not all, are being revived.

Sadly, I won't be going for many reasons: I can't afford the expense of the conference and the hotel to stay in and another biggie, I no longer fly.

There is one writer's conference I do still attend and that's the Public Safety Writers Association annual conference. They had one last year even though none of the other cons had been revived. It was small but wonderful. (My daughter is willing to drive me there and she helps out with the book sales.) I'm signed up for this year: https://policewriter.com if you're interested. There is also a very inexpensive workshop before the conference, and the first night's reception and all the conference lunches are included in the price. 

And i guess I should admit one of the big reasons I haven't mentioned yet, is I'm just getting old.


Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Making Time to Write

 Because I'm not a big-name author nor can I claim being a full-time writer, I need to figure out when I can write. I'm still trying to finish the edits on my latest and last Rocky Bluff P.D.

If I love writing as much as I've claimed,  what do I have to do that is so important it comes before writing?

First, is taking care of my husband. He cared for me for most of the 71 years we've been married, and now he needs my help.

Second, I have a big family that I love, and when I have the opportunity to be with them, I jump at it. (Well, I no longer jump at all, but you know what I mean.)

I have another job which crops up from time to time, one that actually results in my being paid for my time, so when someone calls on me, I'm going to do it.

Though I no longer do all the household chores I used to do, there are still some I can accomplish and they take some of my time and attention. I'm also the one who does the bill paying, keep track of expenses, and taking care of income tax. 

And in order, to sell my books, I do a fair amount of online promotion. Hopefully there will also be more occasions to talk about my books and sell them at in-person events as the year progresses. 

I use the priority system and do whatever needs to be be done first. Sadly, writing isn't one of the first on my list.

Also, I need to write in the morning when my brain is fresh. I shop in the morning and most of my hubby's and my doctor appointments are scheduled for morning.

After all this you probably wonder when I do write and the answer is whenever I can, which is not as often as I'd like.


Wednesday, March 16, 2022

The Reader-Writer Contract

by Janis Patterson

I hate being treated like a convenience. While there are wonderful readers and I have many wonderful fans, there are those who stand out, and not in a good way. At a glance, the reader-writer transaction seems fairly balanced. I take my time and effort and skill to create a story and make it available; the reader, judging from the blurb, the cover, my track record, word of mouth and other indicators, buys my book, thus giving me wages for the hours of labor I put in on the story.

There’s an elegant simplicity in that... or at least there should be. Some days  it’s hard to find - if not downright impossible. These days somehow the author has morphed from a skilled and respected creator of worlds and populations to the level of a semi-skilled drudge or ordinary and pretty much interchangeable ‘content creator,’ as one large publisher once tried to re-name us. 

Readers castigate us for charging so much for our books - without even considering the time and effort and dedication it took to create that story and even when they are released through traditional publishers who give us no input at all in covers, let alone in pricing. 

People contact us and beg for free books; they say they cannot afford the book, but want so much to read it. Some promise that they will tell all their friends how wonderful our book is and that all of them will buy it - but only if we send the petitioner a free copy. 

Some of the most offensive say that we should be happy to share our books for free just so we can relish the knowledge that our words are being read. Hello! Writing is a business, and a workman is worthy of his hire... Writing is a skilled profession and while we want our words to be read and appreciated, we should not have to work for free to be so. Just try that ‘working just to be appreciated’ reasoning with other skilled professions, such as accountant or plumber or physician!

Part of the problem is that writers are not valued as the educated, professional craftsmen that we are. In America, at least, books are written in English, and since most everyone here speaks (in some cases a sort of) English, they mistakenly believe that anyone can write a book. After all, they speak English, don’t they? There’s no reason they couldn’t sit down and dash off a book or two when they have the time... If I had a dollar for every time some person has assured me with heartfelt intent they’re going to write a book when they get around to it I probably could buy my own private island. The trouble is, most people want to have written a book (and therefore garner the largely mythic benefits of fame and fortune) instead of doing the work necessary to write a book. It is true, though, that most people are physically capable of writing a book. It is writing a good book worthy of being published and read which is the difficult part.

Our books are stolen and put up on the internet for free, whether for actual giveaway or credit card phishing bait. For a long time paperbacks were free of this electronic theft and there used to be a fail-safe built in with paper, but no more. Yes, paperbacks are swapped around, they are loaned and used ones are a staple of thrift stores and garage sales, but paper - especially the paper used in mass-market paperbacks - is relatively fragile and will wear out, where electronic files are forever. Now some canny crooks are scanning the paper copies and putting up the resultant scan for free.

Even worse, whether the book originated electronically or on paper, some of these criminals are putting the book out as being written by them, selling them and collecting the money. With no payment or acknowledgement, must I add, to the original writer. Sometimes the names and perhaps the locations and the title are changed, but not always. 

What is truly sad is that this piracy is barely regarded as a crime by law enforcement and our government. We have to prove that a crime has occurred and then are more often than not ignored or passed off with a ‘sop’ for an answer. Many of these thieves are based in foreign countries, and right or not, that protects them, which is an insult to every creator. (Musicians and artists are pretty much in the same boat, though they appear to have a few more rights recognized legally than does the poor writer.) I say theft is theft, whether it is your words or a diamond ring from a jeweler’s, and it should be treated as such. But they aren’t.

So why do we keep writing? In my case, mainly because I can’t not write. I’ve been a wordsmith in any number of industries since my elementary school days (yes, I was first paid for writing when I was 9 or 10 years old) and the idea of doing anything else is beyond my comprehension. I’ve held other kinds of jobs, but even then I have always written, creating the best stories and characters in the best form I can... in other words, I live up to my end of the reader/writer contract. I only wish more readers did.

Tuesday, March 8, 2022


 I am close to finishing an as yet untitled Rocky Buff P.D. mystery series, and as I'm finishing up, I've decided it will be the last one. It's time. I will miss the town of Rocky Bluff--one of my own creation, but much like many small towns along the southern  California coast and in many ways, except how it looks, much like the Oxnard I lived in many, many years ago.

I'll also miss the characters who have been living in my head for so long--more years than they've been living on the page.

Doug Milligan started out as a regular police officer with two kids and an unhappy marriage. Over time, life has improved for the now Detective Milligan. 

I'll probably miss Officer Gordon Butler the most. I had the most fun writing all his mishaps, his troubled love relationships, and finally how life changed for him.

Introducing the new police chief, Chandra Taylor was fun too, along with her romance with the handsome mayor, one that has had trouble getting off the ground.

However, there comes a time when an author (me) knows when it's time to wrap things up and retire a series. I'd like to hear if any of you authors have had the same experience.

Not as We Knew it was the one before this one.


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

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Yes, I'm Behind

My only excuse is I've been really, really busy--and then I was tired.

My days are really full--especially the mornings when my mind is clear and ready to work. This is my ideal time to write. However, I've been busy with other pursuits and "have-to's" leaving no good time for my work in progress. And yes there is one.

I'm nearing the end of the first draft of my latest Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery. It's been a fun one. Some insights, The RBPD is still dealing with the effects of the pandemic,the city council is unhappy with decisions Police Chief Taylor made,  a fortune teller and a philandering husband have been murdered, the mayor's daughter must choose between living with her father and her aunt, and as usual, life has it's many ups and downs for those living in Rocky Bluff.

I've also been planning a trip to Las Vegas--not for fun, but to attend my last Public Safety Writers Association board meeting. Though I hope to have helpful input, I'm also looking forward to spending time with the board members, most of whom are long-time friends.

While I'm in Vegas, I plan to see my sister and a few members of her family since they live there. I never do all the other things people go to Las Vegas for.

When I get home, it will be time to do my taxes--not something I'm looking forward to, except getting them done.

And this is my life as an author--not anything like I dreamed about. However, not matter what is going on, I still love the excitement of creating another world, and getting to visit with the characters I've spent so much time with other the years.

How is your February going?


Wednesday, February 16, 2022

A Peroration on the Stylization of - - Oooh! Shiny!

by Janis Patterson

Pundits say that in this modern world of soundbites our attention spans are getting shorter. That’s not a new thing. Some writers have had it since forever. While this problem affects all writers at one time or another, it does seem to afflict amateurs more than professionals. Of course, with professionals not getting paid until a project is finished is a great incentivizer to complete things. 

Professional or amateur, we have all experienced the ‘shiny’ moment. We’re working along on our current project when suddenly a wonderful new idea - the idea we’ve been waiting for, the perfect story, our ticket to fame and fortune - pops into our mind. As seductive as chocolate, it winds its way around our brain, whispering absolutely perfect scenes, introducing fascinating characters, spinning an intriguing storyline that is incredibly original...

So what do we do? Lots of us drop the story we’re working on - and probably struggling with - to pursue this new idea. We don’t stop to think of the litter of partially finished manuscripts that lie in our wake, as this new idea is The Story. We also tend to forget that the one we’re abandoning might have appeared as The Story at the beginning, as probably did all the others.

That’s why a lot of stories remain unfinished, and why many amateur writers never seems to complete a project. Professionals have to, or they don’t get paid, but I know professionals who have their share of abandoned/postponed projects lurking metaphorically ‘under the bed.’

Perhaps I should make a confession - I am a professional writer, and have been for decades. Because I bore easily, I never have fewer than four projects going at once. When the well dries on one, I simply switch to another and eventually they pretty much all get done. It’s very rare that I completely abandon one, but it has happened.

Let’s face it - writing is hard work. Creating worlds and populations and situations out of little but imagination and caffeine (in my case) takes dedication, application - and a lot of sitting and banging on the keyboard. The siren lure of the ‘perfect story’ that would be so easy to write is almost irresistible. We tend to forget that the current story with which we are wrestling probably first appeared as the ‘perfect story’ in an attempt to seduce us away from what we were working on at the time.

So what to do? It’s easy to say that we should ignore the siren whisperings and doggedly continue with the current project, but that’s pretty much what is necessary - especially if we want to finish it and get paid. That’s what separates the professional from the hobbyist. 

On the other hand, this upstart new idea really might be the one that makes a difference in our career. Can we afford to ignore it and lose a potential success?

My solution is a common one. At first I just ignore it as the ravings of a brain bored with what I really have to do now and continue on with my current project. It’s difficult, but I do it. And you know what? After a while the perfect story, the new bright and shiny idea starts to fragment and fades away like the distracting shadow it really was.

But not always. If the idea refuses to go away, I’ll take an hour or two or three from the current project and write a boatload of notes - sometimes as many as 20-25 pages. The basic idea. Character ideas. Conflicts and resolutions. Ideas for scenes and settings and any other tantalizing things that explode in my brain. Then I put it in a ‘Future’ file and, cracking the metaphoric whip, go back to the work-in-process.

After a test of time, these ‘bright and shiny’ ideas don’t usually hold water, though there are always a couple of nuggets in each that eventually find their way into another work. Sometimes, however, about 1 out of every 8-10 or so, the idea retains its shape and luster and proves itself worthy of the prolonged attention and work necessary to make a handful of ideas into a book. That’s when ‘shiny’ becomes ‘sweet.’

Unless, of course, the writing is interrupted by a shiny new idea forcing its way into my mind, an idea that I just know is going to the The Book, the idea I’ve been waiting for, the Perfect Story, my ticket to fame and fortune...

Yeah. Sure.

Tuesday, February 1, 2022

Not My Day to Post, But...

 Just wanted to let the followers of this blog to know I am offering the first book in my Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series free on Kindle through Saturday. .



 and you can learn more about it on my blog today: https://marilynmeredith.blogspot.com/

It is listed as #0 in the series as it wasn't the first one published.

Like all my other books, it has been re-edited and re-published.

There is also an audio version. 

Try it out.



Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Show Versus Tell

by Janis Patterson

One of the most contentious subjects in the writing/reading world is the evergreen argument of show versus tell. For the few non-combatants in this ongoing war, show is where the reader actually sees what happens as it does, instead of being told that it has happened. (By the way, this has nothing to do with past or present tense - it is a construction tool.) 

Both sides have their advocates and logical reasons for believing so. ‘Showing’ brings the reader into the action; ‘telling’ is off-putting and remote, say some. ‘Telling’ gets the action across; ‘showing’ is sometimes clumsy and crude, say their opponents.

I say both tools have their uses. Some things should be shown; some things should not, and I’m not talking just about intimate bodily functions.

When the heroine is creeping through a darkened cellar, unsure if the villain is in there with her, I think the reader should experience every nuance of fear (and hopefully relief when she is rescued by the hero); such emotional involvement is why we read books. This is show at its finest.

On the other hand, imagine a book where every move the hero performs from when he wakes up in the morning, walks into the bathroom, takes care of business then showers, dries off and shaves, finally brushing his teeth before going into the bedroom to dress, taking at least half a page to decide between the blue suit and the brown, the striped tie or the one with little horse figures and finally decides on the one with the gold medallions then takes the elevator down so he can get to his meeting with XYZ Corporation... I’m glad he’s awake, because after all that the readers probably won’t be!

How much simpler to say something like, “After following his normal morning routine Hero hurried to his appointment with XYZ Corporation, his confidence raised by the knowledge he looked very successful in his brown suit and new tie with the gold medallions.” (And even that’s a little wordy, but it beats two or three pages of mind-numbing minutiae!) Telling, not showing.

So, like all the ‘rules’ about writing, you really can’t pin down anything to an absolute always-every-time yes or no. Every writing device - show, tell, backstory, flashbacks, interior dialogue, dialogue tags and the hundreds of others we all know - are just tools, and like every other tool of every kind can fulfill their purpose if used properly.

That’s the telling phrase - if used properly. I am a believer in craft over story. It makes no difference if you have the best story in the world if you can’t convey it to your readers in an intelligent and useful form that tells your story the way it should be. Conversely, there are books where the story is desperately fragile and practically transparent, but the writing is so superb you find yourself reading on in spite of it. Craft over content. Ideally your story should have ample helpings of both, but if one has to be topmost, give me craft.

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

2022 Off to a Busy Start

 What better way to get the year going than to offer a book--the Kindle version--for .99 cents.

Starting January 17 and running through the 21st, I'm doing this with Invisible Path. Of course the reason is to entice readers to try the Deputy Tempe Crabtree series.

This is not as easy as it sounds. It is necessary to find places to advertise the sales, and some of these spots are inexpensive while some are not. Some work wonders, others not so much.

The days of the sale it always helps to announce on Facebook, Facebook groups, Twitter, your email groups as well as make the announcement in your newsletter.I always promote in different ways on my personal blog too. All of this take a lot of time.

Here's the link:


And the blurb:

A popular young Indian man is found near the recovery center at the far end of the Bear Creek Reservation. While investigating, Deputy Tempe Crabtree learns the victim wasn't quite what he seemed, and crosses paths with a militant para-military group, who pique her curiosity and end up being a threat.

What have you done to start off 2022?