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Preview: Marilyn's Musings

Marilyn's Musings

Award winning author discusses her day-to-day life as an author, mom, grandma etc.

Updated: 2018-02-22T07:32:57.243-08:00


One of My Favorite Writing Things to Do


(Everyone was following along on the handouts I gave them about Simple Editing Tips.)

I love going to a school class room and talking to kids about writing. I've gone to high schools, grammar schools, and yesterday to talk with 7th and 8th graders.

This was one of the most attentive and interested group of kids I've visited with, I say visited, because though I shared some brief editing tips, they asked great questions. Questions makes a session like this not only more enjoyable for them but also for me.

This was a country school--and I mean way out in the country. Took about 40 minutes to get there from my house.

I know the teacher, though it's been a long time since I've seen her.

Guess they enjoyed the visit, because I've been asked to come back near the end of the year. The plan is to put together a mystery. That will be fun!

I have no idea what I was looking for, but it didn't stop the kids from being attentive. I had a great time and I think they did too.


Writing, Writing, Writing


That's what writers do--write.

Though I know there are some who don't do as much as others. 

I write everyday, but not always on my work in progress. In fact, I don't really have a work in progress at the moment.

What I do have is a book that is completed, but I still have to read the last chapter to my critque group then send it off to an editor.

I have ideas, a title and the first two lines for my next book.

What I have been writing:

This blog post.

Bits and pieces for two newsletters. 

Two program designs for people wanting to open residential facilities. (I'd rather be working on the new book, but these bring in much needed income.)

And what's been taking most of my writing time working on the re-editing of the Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery series.This is something I need to get done ASAP. It takes a lot of time, but is enjoyable since I've truly forgotten a lot about these books. 

That pretty much sums it up--but remember, besides writing I have a husband and home to tend to and all that goes with it. It's always been that way from the time I was raising kids, working full time, and had my own residential care home. I wrote.





My tenth Alafair Tucker Mystery, Forty Dead Men, has finally been released into the world. I’ve been gearing up for the personal appearances that go with a launch. This entails a new outfit and a new hair color. I always plan on it entailing a 20 pound weight loss as well, but as yet that goal has never been accomplished. I am particularly proud of this book, which deals with the psychological effects of warfare on a veteran of the First World War. They called it shell shock back then. Now we call it PTSD. George Washington Tucker–a young veteran of the fighting in France during World War I, returns home to the family farm in Oklahoma. Overjoyed, his family gives him space to ponder what to do with his life. Only his tiger mother, Alafair, senses that all is not well with her elder son. One morning when she tidies up his quarters, she finds two cartridge boxes under his pillow, boxes that once contained twenty “dead men” each. All the bullets are missing, save one. When Gee Dub becomes the number one suspect in a murder, his mother Alafair, who recognizes that not all war wounds are physical, marshals every resource to keep him out of prison.The early reviews of Forty Dead Men have been stellar. Publishers’ Weekly starred review of Forty Dead Men says “Casey expertly nails the extended Tucker family—some 20 people—and combines these convincing characters, a superb sense of time and place, and a solid plot in this marvelously atmospheric historical.”Launching a new book is an adventure for me every time. Forty Dead Men is my tenth book in almost thirteen years, and just in that short time things have changed so quickly that I have to re-learn how to do it with each release. When I first began writing the Alafair Tucker Mystery series in 2003, I had a story arc in mind that was going to carry through ten books. This is a wonderful idea, but as anyone who has ever written a long series knows, after a couple of books all your plans for a story arc have been knocked into a cocked hat. The reason this happened, at least to me, is that I seem to be writing about real people who have their own ideas about how things should be gone about, and once I put them into a situation, they react to it in ways I had never anticipated. Besides, I really want readers to be able to pick up any book in the series and have a satisfying experience without having to know anything about what went before.My original arc idea went like this: I would to feature a different one of Alafair's ten children as the character of interest in each book. The featured child would somehow be involved in the events surrounding a murder, and as their mother, Alafair would intrude herself into the kid's life, whether s/he wanted her or his parent's help or not, and in the end, Alafair and maybe the child would contribute to the solution of the mystery. As an aside, the featured offspring might end up with a life-partner. The million dollar question for the author of a long series is this: How do you keep it fresh? How do you make every story stand alone, yet in its place as well? I have found over the course of ten books in the same series that I have even departed from the usual mystery novel format. The later books are constructed more like thrillers than puzzles, they may or may not revolve around one of the children, and Alafair may or may not be able to solve the mystery.I stuck with the formula through book one. As it turns out, I like to mix it up a bit. Because if you aren't excited by your own writing, how can you expect your readers to be?Forty Dead Men, An Alafair Tucker Mystery, is available in hardcover, paper, and ebook, wherever books are sold. Read the first chapter of each Alafair Tucker Mystery at Donis’ website, www.doniscasey.comBio:Donis Casey, author of ten Alafair Tucker Mysteries from Poisoned Pen Press. Her award-winning historical mystery series, featuring the sleuthing mother of ten children who will do anything, legal or not, for her kids, is s[...]

How Did You Learn to Write?


A friend and fellow writer asked me this recently. I know that he teaches writing at a college, and of course has a degree in writing. I think my answer surprised him.

I didn't take writing in college--I have an AA degree in Early Childhood Education--but this is what I told him:

I have always read a lot( and still do) and that's where my learning began. 

When I wrote my first book, my sister took chapters to a critique group (I couldn't find on in my area), and they taught me a lot, especially about point of view.

An agent, who didn't sell my book, gave me a lot of feedback on how to make my first book better.

I subscribed to and read Writer's Digest faithfully for years. And I read books on various topics about writing.

Attending writing conferences always taught me something new. (I'm talking about conferences not conventions.) I've been to so many some strictly about general writing, others aimed at the mystery genre. 

And probably the most valuable of all is my attendance for many, many years to a critique group. I still belong and value their input and suggestions.

One particular member who spent so much time helping me was Willma Gore. She has great wisdom and insight on how to make writing better. Though she's in her late 90s she still runs critique groups where she lives now.

Biggest tip of all is that I've never stopped learning.

My favorite writing conference is the Public Safety Writers Association's annual conference. There is a pre-conference writing workshop that will focus on specific phases of writing. The conference itself has panels on writing, but also on various type of law enforcement and other fields of public safety. This is a great conference for mystery writers.



What I've Been Doing the Last Few Days


My intentions were to write a new blog post while I was away from home. Of course, that didn't work out since I didn't have the password I needed to get into this site.

With daughter Lisa driving, we headed off to Ventura early Thursday morning. The main reason was for me to attend the Public Safety Writers Association's Annual Board Meeting. We meet in a hotel for 3 days and talk about what we should have done better the year before and what we will be doing the coming year--with a big focus on who is going to do what and the conference in July.

We work hard, but it's also great to see the board members who we sometimes only see once or twice a year. (We do keep in touch via email.)

My husband spent the time with our daughters and their husbands while I was busy working. We did all have some meals and visits together.

While we were there we also toured some of the devastation of the Thomas Fire which began in Santa Paula and burned all the way into Santa Barbara. Seven hundred homes were burned in Ventura, some right to the ground, others damaged badly.It was a horrible sight. Neighborhood were decimated. We saw cars and motor homes burned to be almost unrecognizable. So hard to imagine how horrible this is for the families who have lost everything.

Besides all this, the board accomplished a lot, with much more to be done. 

I'll be keeping you posted about the conference. Oh, and while I was there I learned my publisher will be attending the conference, so that was another plud.




New Press Release



Fun Facts About NO BELLS


I just finished re-editing No Bells. I love this book.

This is Gordon Butler story. He's a favorite among the Rocky Bluff P.D. readers. Nothing seems to go right for Gordon despite being an upstanding, honest, and likeable police officer. Things don't change much for him in this offering.

He gets all the odd-ball calls to investigate from poop to a menacing seagull. 

Cellphones finally make an appearance.

The economy at that particular time period plays a part in the plot. 

He has fallen for the woman of his dreams--and she becomes the major suspect in a murder case. He's determined to clear her name.

A young man with Down syndrome is an important witness.

The title, No Bells, came from something one of my son's girlfriends said to him.

There is no cover as yet because the new publisher is changing them all.

I am so grateful to Mike Orenduff of Aakenbaaken & Kent for bringing this series back to life.

Marilyn aka F. M. Meredith


The Story Behind the Story...A Train Ride to Hearbreak


by Donna SchlachterThe idea for this story came from a love of a movie and a friend with a great story to share.The movie was “The Fugitive”, both the original series pilot and the more recent remake. I loved the idea of a train ride leading to a second chance. My friend had recently taken a train ride from Denver to San Francisco, and she shared several delightful stories. I wondered if a train ride might be like a cruise in that it would provide an insulated environment where the travelers might do something they’d never done before. If so, this was perfect fodder for a romance, much like the old TV show, “The Love Boat”.And then I saw “Murder on the Orient Express”, and as a lover of anything Agatha Christie, decided to incorporate a few of the details in my story.The result? A chance meeting, two characters with integrity, and a way for God to reach both of them. 1895, Train to CaliforniaJohn Stewart needs a wife. Mary Johannson needs a home. On her way west, Mary falls in love with another. Now both must choose between commitment and true love.October 1895Mary Johannsonhas scars on her body that can’t compare with the scars on her heart. She is alone in the world, with no family, no prospects, and no home. John Stewart is at his wit’s end. His wife of three years died in childbirth, leaving him with a toddler and an infant, both girls. Theirs was the love of fairy tales, and while he has no illusions about finding another like her, his children need a mother. Though separated by thousands of miles, they commit to a mail-order marriage. But on their journey to Heartbreak, they meet another and realize the life they’d planned would be a lie. Can they find their way back from the precipice and into the love of God and each other, or are they destined to keep their word and deny their heart?Buy link: Donna:Donna lives in Denver with husband Patrick, her first-line editor and biggest fan. She writes historical suspense under her own name, and contemporary suspense under her alter ego of Leeann Betts. She is a hybrid author who has published a number of books under her pen name and under her own name. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Sisters In Crime; facilitates a local critique group, and teaches writing classes and courses. Donna is also a ghostwriter and editor of fiction and non-fiction, and judges in a number of writing contests. She loves history and research, and travels extensively for both. Donna is proud to be represented by Terrie Wolf of AKA Literary Management.www.HiStoryThruTheAges.wordpress.comwww.HiStoryThruTheAges.comReceive a free ebook simply for signing up for our free newsletter!Facebook: Books: Amazon: Smashwords:   [...]

Savage Justice by Dustin Dodd, a Review


Dustin Dodd was the featured speaker at our last San Joaquin Sisters in Crime meeting.

He was a K-9 cop and wrote a fiction book about a K-9 cop and his canine partner: Savage Justice.
I was extra interested in the subject of his talk because my grandson recently became a K-9 officer. Of course I bought the book. It was fun to read also, because the setting is the Central Valley--Clovis  and more.

The book had a lot going on--new situations and threads, but they all managed to connect in the end.

Dodd wrote the best final action scene I've ever read in a book. So good, it flowed in my mind like a movie.

There were some editing problems, but they didn't keep me from eagerly turning the pages to see what was going to happen next.


Changes in My Life (Since I've Gotten Older)


First off, let me say that inside I feel great--and young.

However, my body reminds me that I've been around a long time. And now there are things that I don't do anymore. I used to be a night owl, now I get up and go to bed early.

One that I really miss is flying--especially to mystery cons. Hubby and I used to go to every Bouchercon all over the country. Besides the convention itself, we met many interesting people and some who became good friends. We also visited cities we would have never visited otherwise.

I no longer drive to faraway places, something I used to do a lot. Now the only driving I do is to town, to my writer's group and a meeting  or two in Visalia.

That doesn't mean I stay at home, I don't. Thank goodness I have a daughter who is quite willing to drive me and sometimes hubby to places I need/want to go. We attend the Public Safety Writers Association's Board Retreat in Ventura, and the annual conference in Las Vegas. 

In Ventura we are able to visit with two of our daughters. When we go to Vegas, we are also able to spend some time with my sister and her family. We usually head down to the farther southern California to visit our eldest daughter and her family. 

During the year, there are many speaking and book selling opportunities that come up, and thanks to my middle daughter I can attend those too. We both love going over to the Central Coast Sisters in Crime events.

Feb. 1 at 7 p.m., I'll be on a panel about writing mysteries with three of my mystery writing friends: Gloria Getman, Krista Lynn and Cora Ramos at the Fig Garden Regional Library 3071 W. Bullard Ave.

I once loved to swim in the ocean--yes, the cold Pacific--but now I'm content to gaze at it when I have the chance.

Hubby and I loved to dance, but that also is a pleasure of the past.

Our big date nights have changed to day and will usually be a movie and a meal out. Neither of us like to drive a night anymore. 

What I still do and will until I can't is:

Teach Sunday School--my 4th and 5th graders.

Write. New mysteries and blog posts.

Edit: My new and old mysteries.

Promote my books: Any way I can--including Facebook and Twitter, library panels and talks, book fairs, etc. 

And probably the most important to me is spending time with my family and friends.

Actually, I'm still living a great life.


New Version of Final Respects Has Arrived


No matter how many times it happens, when a box of my own books arrive I can't help getting excited.Final Respects, the first book in the Rocky Bluff P.D. series, has been re-edited and re-published by Aakenbaaken & Kent.There are no changes to the plot, only some editing changes.I've written about how this story came about in other blogs, but I want to let you know what the publisher had to say about Fringe Benefits:Publisher's Notes:Final Respects was the firs book in the Rocky Bluff Police Department series. It was first published nearly two decades ago. Aside from some minor editing, we decided to keep the book just as it was written. It is still an excellent story of crime, romance  and small city life. And it is also a period piece with things like pay phones. We are delighted to have it back in print and look forward to printing all the books in one of America's most long-running and popular police procedural series.Officer Michael Cole was a sheriff's deputy in El Dorado County, California. He died on duty in an automobile accident while responding to a call.Cole previously served in the Oxnard Police Department and was nominated by the South Oxnard Kiwanis Club, for outstanding service in the police department and the community. He was a member of the Santa Clara Catholic Church, and was active in the parish and elementary school.He was survived by his wife, Lori; three sons, Robert, Gregory, and Christopher, and by his mother-in-law, who authored this book and dedicated it to him.Additional Note by Me:My grandson, Gregg, (his name is spelled Greggory) has followed in his father's footsteps--first as a police officer in Aspen Colorado, and now a K-9 officer in Roseville, CA. Final Respects is available from Amazon as a trade paperback and on Kindle., I write this series under the name F. M. Meredith.Marilyn[...]

The Pantser verses the Plotter by D.R. Ransdell


Writers frequently debate whether it’s better to write by the “seat of the pants,” going day by day, discovering what happens as it happens, or to plot the story in an organized fashion, perhaps creating as much as a twenty-page outline before any “real” writing begins.Steven James makes a good case for the pantser in his book on writing titled Story Trumps Structure. He’s a pantser himself; that way his writing is more organic.I started out as a complete pantser. After each day’s writing session, I asked myself, what should come next? What makes more sense? I slept on that question, and the next day I got up and started writing. Although the process did indeed seem organic, what I wound up with was a mess! I had scenes I didn’t need and others that didn’t help the novel. I had to go back with an evil eye and cut out—so painful!—extraneous details. For example, one recent novel I drafted was over a hundred thousand words. That’s probably too many! But after I cut all the stuff that didn’t fit, I only had 60,000! So that was too few. And yet the material I threw away didn’t fit in and didn’t help the novel.So what’s a writer to do?For the draft of my latest novel, I tried to navigate the difference. I plotted out the whole story in terms of three storylines: one main storyline which contained the murder, and two auxiliary lines that kept the plot moving and the characters interacting. Then I wrote down a list of 20 or so things that should happen for each storyline. I combined them on a small chart so that I could stay on track. Of course, my outline didn’t work out as smoothly as I had conceived of it. I had to combine two days (didn’t need both), rearrange scenes, and even omit some of my points. The farther I got into the novel, the more changes I made. One whole day I had to spend my writing time futzing around with the outline and rearranging my tiny slips of paper.  This didn’t bother me; I assumed it was the unasked for, organic part of the process. But when I read James’ advice, I had to ask myself: do the pantsers really have it right? Or the outliners? Or, really, is the “right” space somewhere in between? In my heart, I’d like to be a pantser, but I don’t want to throw out whole days of writing because things don’t fit in later. Evidently I couldn’t pants around and stay focused enough to write ab good story. Maybe that will come later. I hope so since it’s kind of fun!In the meantime, though, I’ll continue with the hybrid method of being organic on occasion—while trying to stick to an outline made of small pieces of paper I taped to a notecard.D.R.’s latest mystery, Substitute Soloist, will be published in April from Aakenbaaken & Kent. When mariachi musician Andy Veracruz has to join an orchestra because he desperately needs a job, he lands in more trouble than ever. Not only is the conductor crazy to find a missing woman, but the man enlists Andy’s help so charmingly that the musician can’t resist the challenge to chase after the mysterious Liza….D.R. Ransdell is a writer and musician in Tucson, Arizona, where she teaches writing at the University of Arizona and plays mariachi music on the weekends. She lives with several cats, but so far they have refrained from offering any writing advice!http://www.dr-ransdell.com[...]

Interesting Things I'm Learning About My Rocky Bluff P.D. Mysteries


So far I've edited, and it's been re-published, Final Respects. So much has changed in life, police work, and for my characters. Time has moved much faster in the actual series than in real life since I only write one book a year.Bad Tidings is a bit sexier and with gorier scenes than I usually write. But I love the main characters in this one, the husband and wife are so similar to good friends I had many years ago. Both are gone now and the chances of anyone recognizing some of the personality traits are less to none.Fringe Benefits introduces a minor character who as time moves on, becomes a favorite of many of my readers--Gordon Butler. I've had a lot of fun writing about him. The story itself focuses on a very bad cop--and a runaway. Bits and pieces of this story came from some tales told me by my cop son-in-law and some observations I made of some of the police officers who lived in our neighborhood long ago.Smell of Death  is based on a real crime that happened when I lived in Oxnard. The title came from my son-in-law who said movies and TV never depict how bad a crime scene can smell. (They do a better job of that theses days.) He also mentioned that officers are never working on only one case at a time. Something I've used in other books in the series. This is the book where Stacey Wilbur and Detective Milligan first become romantically involved.No Sanctuary is about two churches in Rocky Bluff, their ministers and their wives. Drawing on all the experiences I've had with many churches over the years, this was an easy one to write. One of the other crimes in the book came from a story told by a female police officer who spoke at a Sisters in Crime meeting. Despite the fact that someone is decapitated in An Axe to Grind, there are some funny elements as well as some scary ones--especially for Stacey and Doug. UC Santa Barbara makes a brief appearance in this one. One big difference in Angel Lost is the fact that there is no murder. Stacey and Doug are about to be married and her mind is focused on the wedding, Abel Navarro's mother disappears and Gordon Butler, who has been renting a room at Doug's, must find a place to live. The vision of an angel appears in the front window of a furniture store causing complications for the Rocky Bluff P.D. The idea for the vision in the window is from something that really happened near where I live. Right now I'm editing No Bells, which is essentially Gordon Butler's story. More about that when I'm done. All this is being done under the direction of my new publisher of this series. The covers are getting a facelift too.Marilyn aka F. M. Meredith[...]

Using Writing Prompts


At the Tulare Kings Writers meeting we were given a fun challenge.

From one bowl we randomly chose a character, bowl 2, a setting, bowl 3, a conflict. 

Mine turned out to be a Yale History Professor, A Lost City in the Sahara Desert, and the mysterious disappearance of a wife. That was an easy one for me--I quickly wrote a synopsis. Something I never do when planning a mystery.

Most of the others tried to actually write a complete short story. There really wasn't enough time for that, but everyone did a great job.

The funniest 3 choices were: A Circus Clown, a Pub, and an Alien.

One that wasn't done, but would have been fun was: A Homeless Person, A Cathedral, and the Loss of a Fortune.

This is a small writing group but anyone interested is welcome. We meet in the big library in Visalia on Oak Street, the 3rd Saturday of the month a 10 a.m. We will not have a meeting in February because it's a holiday and the library is closed. We will meet in March.

I truly enjoy these writers with different writing interests, from writing about herbs, poetry, fiction based on true stories, historical fiction, romance, natural plants, short stories,and another mystery writer. We've had many different speakers about writing, promotion, and other topics.



Reading the Reviews of Your Book(s)


Some writers avoid reading their reviews--other obsess over them.

Believe me, I'm happy that a reader has taken the time to read one of my books. However, sometimes I'm kind of amazed by some of the reviews.

Right now I'm in the process of re-editing the books in my Rocky Bluff P.D. crime series for a new publisher. I began with the first book in the series and I"m now working on #7--Angel Lost. It has the most reviews of any of my books which makes me think I must've had some kind or promotion going on though I can't remember what.

I've been sending snippets of reviews to be put on the covers of each book, and while reading the reviews of this one, some of them surprised me.

Most of the reviews were 4 or 5 stars, but there were a few others.

In this particular book there is no upfront murder--the plot focuses on other things going on in the characters' lives--a wedding is being planned, a police officer is suffering PTSD--though it's not called that in the book, a pervert is stalking women jogging on the beach, and an angel (or what looks like an angel) appears in a plate glass window, a main character is kidnapped. And there is a serial killer making his way down the coast. 

One reviewer didn't like the fact there was not the usual murder.

Another didn't like the fact that some of the characters went to church and prayed. Since most of the people I know do attend church and many pray--it follows that I would have my characters do the same. And in this book, it is quite appropriate that they do so.

On complained that the book was too tame--another praised it for not having any bad language or detailed sex scenes.

The only thing I think this proves is that people have a variety of likes and dislikes, and I'm willing to accept the bad with the good.

Besides being re-edited, the book will have a new cover. 

You can be sure I'll let you know when it's available.

So, writers, do you read your reviews and do they influence how you write the next book?

Readers, do you read reviews of books to help decide what you want to read?



All Things Cats by Elaine Faber


This group of short stories is for all of you cat lovers and others who enjoy great short stories.This group of twenty-one stories are a great mix of humorous and sometimes quite poignant tales. Sometimes the story is about a cat--and sometimes it's the cat who is telling the story. All Things Cat contains a great variety that should please every reader."Dead Bush Poker" is set back in time a bit, and the story teller is during a time and place when a cat is a treasure and worth gambling for."Bubbles and Baubles" is a mystery with a surprise ending."Does God Love Cats?" is all about healing."Esme, the Ship's Cat" is told by Esme, and if you love a rousing tale about pirates, this one will delight you."Moonlight Madness" is an unusual Halloween story--with an unexpected twist. Another Halloween story follows--Halloween and the Leger Hotel.I could go on and on describing each delightful tale, but suffice it to say, this is a truly intriguing collection of short stories, all involving some fascinating characters and cats.Highly recommended to all you cat lovers out there!’s bio – 2018Elaine Faber is a member of Sisters in Crime, Northern California Publishers and Authors, and Cat Writers Association.Elaine’s cozy cat mysteries include. Black Cat’s Legacy; Black Cat and the Lethal Lawyer, and Black Cat and the Accidental Angel. Black Cat tackles a California cold case murder, a Texas embezzling lawyer, and skullduggery at an emu farm in the Sierra Nevada foothills.Mrs. Odboddy Hometown Patriot: Whether exposing conspiracies and Nazi spies, or exposing a ration book conspiracy, Agnes Agatha Odboddy fights WWII from the home front. Mrs. Odboddy Undercover Courier: Mrs. O carries a package to President Roosevelt across country on the train, fully expecting to encounter Nazi spies. Elaine lives in Elk Grove, CA with her husband and cares for five cats, leads a writing critique group and volunteers at American Cancer Society. She is currently working on two more cozy mysteries to be published in 2018.   (Website)Books Available at Amazon:    Black Cat’s Legacy     Black Cat and the Lethal Lawyer    Black Cat and the Accidental Angel      Mrs. Odboddy – Hometown Patriot     Mrs. Odboddy Undercover Courier   All Things Cat Marilyn[...]



Location as a Character in a NovelMurderers and thieves aren’t born bad. Their environment shapes their basic inherent characteristics (genetically derived) into criminals. We are all products of both nature and nurture. Accordingly, locations are characters in all of our lives. I wanted to show how sloppy practices can morph into criminal activities (embezzlement, abuse of animals, perjury), and these “small” crimes can escalate into murder in the right permissive environment. In She Didn’t Know Her Place, State U provides the right environment for nurturing wrong-doing. This red-brick state university was a sleepy place in the 1950s. Then the ambitions of a few to make it more competitive led to shortcuts. The result is this college looks in good shape on the surface, but the foundations of most building are badly cracked. The buildings are often drafty because of poor maintenance. In other words, the state college is a character in this mystery. It’s deceiving pretty front hides major flaws.Now think about your novels. Have you developed your locations to be characters? Although we all enjoy reading novels set in exciting locations—a space station of the future, the Freedom Trail in Boston, or Qatar. Any location can become intriguing.A location, like any other character, needs to be multi-dimensional to be interesting. Decrepit, deserted houses and dark, damp basements bode evil in mysteries and ghost stories but are often trite. Contrasts generally make a location more interesting. For example, Jaws would have been less exciting if the location was a rocky beach instead of a crowded, sunny tourist attraction. Marilyn Meredith (our host) has shown political graft and many other nasty secrets in the sleepy, but friendly, community of Rocky Bluff. Have fun making the location of your next novel nurture the basic characteristic (good and bad) of your other characters.Blurb: Would you rather be fired or face criminal charges? In She Didn’t Know Her Place, Dana Richardson faces that dilemma in her new job at a state university in New England. A research center, which reports to her, is falsifying data to help industrial clients meet federal pollution standards, and the last woman who tried to investigate the problem died under suspicious circumstances. Available in paperback and Kindle: J. L. Greger is a biology professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison turned novelist. She likes to include tidbits of science in her thrillers and mysteries. Her newest mystery is She Didn’t Know Her Place. Her other books include: Riddled with Clues (Finalist for a 2017 NM/Arizona book awards) and Murder: A New Way to Lose (winner of 2016 Public Safety Writers Association [PSWA] contest and finalist for a 2016 NM/ Arizona book award). She focuses on families in her short stories. She has published two collections of stories: The Good Old Days? and Other People’s Mothers (finalist for a 2017 NM/Arizona Book Awards). Learn more at her website: [...]

What Sue Grafton Taught Me


We lost one of the most popular mystery writers recently, Sue Grafton, the author of the alphabet series. Her daughter put the end of her series this way, "The alphabet ends with Y."

I was fortunate to have met Sue several times over the years at various conferences, and she was always friendly and acted as though she remembered me.

In the series, her heroine, Kinsey, lives in a town with an uncanny resemblance to Santa Barbara though it has a different name. When asked why she did that, the answer was that too many changes in the real place happen over the years. 

I took that to heart when I wrote my own series, and I'm so glad I did.

In my Deputy Tempe Crabtree series, the main location is similar to the town I live in, a small foothill community. In the series I changed the name to Bear Creek and moved it into the mountains, 1000 feet higher in elevation.

However, many of the landmarks are the same, but because the town is fictional, I've changed things around a bit. An inn has a big part in many of the stories, and yes there is an inn in town. I've used some of the history for my fictional inn, but I've made some changes to the actual building.

The real inn stood vacant for a awhile, and is now under new ownership. Major changes were made to the decor, but I don't have to deal with that in my books.

The real town has 6 churches. Bear Creek has one.

The Rocky Bluff P.D. series is set in a totally imaginary beach town in between Ventura and Santa Barbara. Some might think it's based on Carpenteria, but it's not. It has some resemblance to what Oxnard was like many years ago, and geographically, bits and pieces of Carpenteria and Ventura. 

Since it is a fictional place, the streets, the businesses, the beach front are all creations of my imagination. Any changes that happen, will come from me.

And most important, the Rocky Bluff Police Department is mine. I've kept it small, understaffed, and underfunded because that makes it easier for me. How, you ask? My police officers have to solve crimes the old-fashioned ways. 

Yes, I have Sue Grafton to thank for giving me the advice to use mostly fictional settings.

Sue was a classy and gracious lady. Always willing to share her expertise and to encourage new writers. She will be missed.





            “No one who reads romance novels will believe a 28-year-old virgin.”            My critique partners were definite and unanimous. I needed to check my information.            A friend Jan has her doctorate in psychology. Her practice is mostly adult women. I called her.            “Have you ever heard of a 28-year-old virgin?” I asked.            Jan laughed, coughed a couple of times, then disclaimed. She could not talk about specific clients but, yes, she knew, not only one, but many women who were still virgins beyond age 28.            “Right now I have at least a dozen women clients between twenty-five and thirty years old, seeing me because of that very thing.”            “Because they are still virgins?”            “Yes.”            “That many?”            “I’ve had dozens since I began practicing. Their situations vary, of course. All the ones I’m seeing right now have some college. Most of them have degrees. I promise you, there is not a dog in the bunch. I mean these women are attractive and have a lot going for them. A couple of them are even knock-out gorgeous.”            “Are they homosexual?”            “No. Life might be easier for them if they were.”            “None of them has had sex? Why not?”            “As I said, their situations vary, but most of them don’t know why, which is ‘the problem’ that brings them to me. Because of not having had sex, most of them have developed low self-esteem, in spite of their many other accomplishments. Some are ready to give up on ever having sex, much less getting into a meaningful relationship. Some have decided they’re too old to have sex for the first time, given their ages.”            “They consider twenty-five or thirty too old for sex?”            “Too old for beginners.”            “What do you tell them?”             “At first, I was like you, amazed that there were any virginal women in Oklahoma over the age of seventeen. Opportunity seems to be the main culprit.            “There are some who promised parents or church groups to remain virgins until marriage.”            “And?”            “Still unmarried, they continue honoring those promises.            “I finally began asking some of my more promiscuous clients when they had sex for the first time and how it happened.    [...]

I was Attacked When I First Mentioned E-books


Yep, that actually happened.

I was one of the first authors to embrace e-publishing. My first Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery was published by a pioneer e-publisher. Unfortunately, at the time the only way to read an e-book was on a computer. Also, there was no easy way to purchase much of anything from the Internet.

The Rocket E-Rader became available and was a great way to read e-books. It was back-lit and shut off when you fell asleep. They were bought out by a company that created another e-reader that was slicker looking but not nearly as good.

During this time I was promoting e-books at all sorts of writers' conferences. At a large conference I mentioned that e-books were coming and was booed. The main speaker made fun of me. He said people would never read e-book, they loved the small of paper books.

At another conference, a writer poo-pooed the whole idea of e-books. Guess what, her books are all available on Kindle now.

There were many such instances, but I kept telling people e-books were coming.

Finally a large conference asked me to put on a workshop about e-books, which of course I did. Only a few people came, one was Barbara Hodges, and we've become good friends over the years.

A few years passed and I was asked to be a speaker at the LA chapter of Sisters in Crime to talk about e-publishing. No boos, and lots of interest.

I was invited to be a panelist about e-books at another big conference. The room was packed.

Now e-books are accepted by many.. I have a Kindle and read books with it and I also read paper books.

I wonder if any of the people who scoffed and verbally attacked me when I spoke about e-books even remember.

And yes, all of my books are available as e-books--and in paper too.


Fires in My Books


Over the years, I've included fires in many of my mysteries.

A fire is part of the main plot in Seldom Traveled, the latest in the Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery.
This was written and published long before the latest rash of fires. But fire is always a threat in California, for several reasons. Chaparral covers the hillsides and houses have been built all over the hills. Chaparral must burn to reseed. Logging has been restricted and the trees have become way too dense, many trees have died, so when there is a forest fire there is way too much fuel.

We are fortunate to have so many brave firefighters willing to risk their lives to fight the fires, and we saw much of that bravery during the last few months. 

Fires lend themselves to all sorts of interesting plot twists.

If you read through the Tempe Crabtree mystery series, you'll come across various fires. I'd much rather write about a fire than be as close to one as I was this past year. But I was far more fortunate than many of my fellow Californians.



Interesting Tidbits About NO BELLS


Moving right along with my editing of the books in the Rocky Bluff P.D. crime series, I just finished No Bells.

This is truly one of my favorite books in the series because the focus is on Officer Gordon Butler. He is a favorite of many fans of this series too. Thinks never go quite right for Gordon and the same is true in this offering. 

He falls in love but all does not go well--his sweetheart is the most likely suspect in a murder case.

One of the primary witnesses is a young man with Down syndrome. 

And of course, he manages to get sent on some weird calls--poop and a seagull. I have one of the members of the Public Safety Writers Association, a former cop, to thank for the idea for the most disgusting crime Gordon must investigate. 

Cell phones finally make an appearance. 

The meaning of the title came from something one of my eldest son's girlfriends said to him.

I don't have a cover to show because they are all changing.

Again my thanks to Mike Orenduff of Aakenbakken & Kent for redoing this series.

Marilyn aka F. M. Meredith


A Prickly Affair by Donna Schlachter


A Prickly Affaircame about as the result of a long-standing friendship, a step-mother who I dearly loved, and a desert oasis I longed to write about. Mary Davis, a good friend, contacted me because I’d worked with her on a previous romance collection, wanting to know if I was interested in another, and I said yes. My step-mom and my dad loved Cave Creek, Arizona, and got married in a little chapel in town there, and I wanted to set a book there because I love the town, too. Being a writer with a pen name, I thought it might be neat to have my main character write under a pseudonym, too.As with most of my books, my main character, Lily Duncan, is slightly autobiographical. She is strong and independent—or so she thinks—but she also recognizes something is missing in her life. I think readers will connect with the deep longing in her heart.As for my hero, Peter Golding is named after a chemistry professor I had in college. To be honest, I was a little afraid of him—he seemed so unapproachable. But as the semester went on, I found out he had an incredible sense of humor along with a good dose of an inflated opinion of his own self-worth. My Peter comes west to “rescue” Miss Daisy Duncan from this western backwater of Arizona Territory and whisk her off to the City. Boy, does he have a thing or two to learn!Writing a romance is challenging for me for two reasons: as a suspense writer, I tend to have three or four subplots going on at the same time, but novellas just don’t have the word count to support that. At the same time, I want to intrigue my readers to keep them guessing, so at least a small subplot is imperative.The other thing is I must be certain that the hero doesn’t simply come in and save the heroine. Writing a strong female character helps with that, but I don’t want my male character to look weak, either. He has to have certain abilities that will help him save the day at least once. Getting to the romance can also be a challenge. There must be a reason why these two get together. It’s why we read romance, right? One reviewer said she couldn’t understand why my characters ended up falling in love. We must keep in mind that people in the 1880’s wed for different reasons. Their courtship—if there even was one—looked different than today. For Lily and Peter, they wrote about love and published love stories, but had never been in love. Yet they were drawn to this other person who was completely unlike them and whose life goals were completely different. I believed readers would connect with the idea that while we don’t need another person to be whole ourselves, we can be completed in another. Next on my plate is the release of The Mail Order Brides Romance Collection in February, also from Barbour Publishing. Then I start planning for teaching at a conference in February and teaching an ACFW online course in May. Already it’s an exciting and busy year ahead! About Donna:Donna lives in Denver with husband Patrick, her first-line editor and biggest fan. She writes historical suspense under her own name, and contemporary suspense under her alter ego of Leeann Betts. She is a hybrid author who has published a number of books under her pen name and under her own name. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Sisters In Crime, and Writers on the Rock—Denver; she facilitates a local critique group, and teaches writing classes and courses. She will be teaching at the Writers on the Roc[...]

The Fire Events in California


Besides being big news--the fires in California touched me in several ways.Here in Springville we had our own fire.At the time we had no idea that so many other fires would follow. The smoke got so bad that hubby and I sent to Porterville to stay with friends for three days. The kids remained at our house determined to battle the fire if necessary, mainly because we had so many animals that would be impossible to move.It was scary, but we were so fortunate compared to those living in the way of the fires to come.Though the fire came close what saved us was the fact that we didn't have the horrible winds that fanned the flames in other areas wiping out whole neighborhoods.Ventura is a place close to my heart. We go there at least once a year, and the fire burned down so many homes. The fire began in Santa Paula and burned down a KOA we'd visited last summer.It surrounded the town of Ojai where an old friend of mine lives, and burned into the Los Padres National Forest when I camped and backpacked with my Camp Fire Girls. My daughter is the secretary of a church in Ventura and some of the evacuees sheltered in the church. And yes, she went to work everyday.The fire continued up the coast and surrounded Santa Barbara, relatives of my daughter had to evacuate. Another fire in a more southern region closed the schools two of my great-grandchildren attend. And flames could be seen from my daughter's home.The fires are mostly out now, but it is a huge reminder that the threat is always there.And, yes, this is one of the big memories from 2017.Marilyn[...]

Happy New Year!


As I'm writing this I'm looking back at all the blessings from this past year.

We had four new additions to our family:

Great grandson, Nathaniel, parents, grandson Nick and Crystal Meredith. 

Great grandson, Daniel, parents, grandson Nathan and Amanda Meredith.

Our second great, great grand, Asher, parents great-grandson Brandon and Cymone Cohea. 

And a girl, great granddaughter, Eleanor, parents, grandson Gregg and Caitlin Cole.

I had two new books published, and several re-published.

Hubby and I went on three great trips, to Ventura, where I attended the PSWA Board meeting, got to hang with my PSWA friends and see family; to Murietta, where we visited family; and Las Vegas to the PSWA conference and also got to see our Vegas family.

Daughter Lisa drove me to many writing events in and around our area and also over to the Central Coast. We always enjoy these trips together. 

I know there's lots more, but this gives you an idea of how great my 2017 has been.

I've been up early starting the preparations for my annual crab-leg, shrimp gumbo. It's become a tradition, one that's fairly easy to make.

I'm always eager to see what blessings the Lord will bring for the new year. May you feel his love as he pours out his blessings upon you.

Of course there will be hard times ahead, but the blessing usually outweigh the difficulties.