Monday, December 22, 2014

Where is Rocky Bluff, California? by F. M. (Marilyn) Meredith

Rocky Bluff is not a real town, but rather a place straight out of my imagination.

Despite being a made-up place, I can see it in my mind as if it were real.

Located on the coast in Southern California, it is between Santa Barbara and Ventura, but closer to Ventura, still in Ventura county.

This is a shot from the 101 highway of some houses in Carpenteria--which is a real town fairly near to the location of Rocky Bluff, a town that is divided by the 101 like Rocky Bluff is too.

Carpenteria may have been similar to Rocky Bluff in days gone by, but now it is a much larger town.

The geography of Rocky Bluff is similar to Carpenteria in that it is situated near the ocean, with a wonderful beach for residents and visitors to enjoy. That's more or less where the resemblance ends.

My fictional town is butted on the north side by a bluff that rises upward--a place where the rich have built larger homes--and from where the town gets it's name. 

The main street, Valley Boulevard, divides the town from the beach  and the houses that have been built on the slope that rises toward the highway and a road going under the bridge. On the other side are small ranches and orange groves. The land continues to rise upward into the hills. 

On the ocean side of Rocky Bluff a series of beach cottages are in various stages of disrepair, as they've served as rentals for many years. The Rocky Bluff Chamber of Commerce, plans to raze the houses and build expensive beach condos, a plan most of the Rocky Bluff residents are unhappy about.

The members of the Rocky Bluff P.D. wish that the RBCC would consider financing new equipment and hiring more officers. The RBPD has been underfunded and understaffed for years.

And that's just a peek into what Rocky Bluff looks like.

Marilyn aka F. M. Meredith

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Slivers of Glass by Janet Elizabeth Lynn and Will Zeilinger

Summer 1955: The body of a woman thought to be killed three years earlier is found behind a theater in Hollywood.  Movie stuntman Skylar Drake, a former LAPD detective, is dragged into the investigation. He can make no sense of the crime until he discovers a dirty underworld and unearths deep-seated… greed.  

The hunt takes Drake to places he’d never expect.  He’s anxious to close this case and get back to his business in L.A., but he’s constantly haunted by the memory of his wife and young daughter, killed in a mysterious house fire.

With more than enough dirty cops, politicians and crime bosses to go around, Drake can trust no one including Martin Card, the cop assigned to work with him. 
Buy link: website:


There were a dozen other things I could’ve been doing besides standing in line at the drug store listening to Bill Haley’s “Rock Around the Clock” piped in overhead.  Though, it was a treat to watch the cashier move behind the counter in her form-fitting white smock. I shook my head and plopped a tube of Pepsodent and a couple of toothbrushes on the pharmacy counter.

She looked up and said, “That will be seventy-five cents, Mr. Drake.”

I dug in my pocket and dropped three quarters in her hand, “Thank you, Miss Abernathy.” She placed my items in a small white paper bag and folded over the top. “Here you are, and quit calling me that.  My name is Emily. Anyway, this should keep you smiling brightly. I only wish I could see yours sometime.”

In all the times I’ve walked to this drug store, I couldn’t remember a day she didn’t smile at me. Too bad there was a ‘y’ at the end of Emily’s name. Women with names like Sandy, Cathy or Abby were bad luck. Those ‘y’  women were always trouble and it would be dangerous to get mixed up with another one now.

“Thanks,” I tipped my hat, "When I have something to smile about, I might just show you.” I knew Emily pretty well since this place was only a couple of blocks from my apartment, an apartment I lived in because a fire took my home along with my beautiful wife Claire and Ellen my little girl.

As I turned to leave, I winked at the two little old ladies behind me.  They stepped back and stared as if I’d just sneezed in their faces. I turned and waved goodbye to Emily only to see her pointing behind me in horror. I followed her gaze and saw a dark green car hurtling toward us - right through the huge windows at the front of the store! The gigantic crash at my back sent shelves, boxes and cans hurtling in our direction. 

I turned around as glass, smoke and debris seemed to explode in a cloud around us. At that moment my training from the Marine Corps took over. I instinctively swept up the two ladies and Emily and pushed them to the back of the store. 

The other customers ran screaming out the huge opening where the storefront windows used to be. I shielded the women against the back wall with my body all the while knowing that my weight could suffocate them, but what else could I do? The ceiling could come down on us at any moment. I held them against the wall while listening to my heart pound. 

Slowly the tinkle of glass subsided and I released them. Tiny slivers of glass and wood had embedded themselves in my sweater and trousers. 

“You’d better be careful,” One of the little old women chirped, “Your backside looks like a pin cushion.  Best not to sit down for a while.”


A very popular dessert in the 1950’s, served at the famous Coconut Grove in Los Angeles. The “Grove” was known for its great cuisine. The Coconut Grove is featured in one of the scenes in Slivers of Glass, a Noir murder mystery.


2 oranges or tangerines
2 bananas
shredded coconut, unsweetened


Peel the oranges or tangerines. Pull the pieces apart; cut the pieces across the middle. Peel the bananas and cut them into thin slices.
Cover the bottom of the bowl with orange pieces. Sprinkle 1-2 teaspoon sugar over oranges (depending on the sweetness of the oranges/tangerines). Put some banana slices on oranges, and then sprinkle a little coconut over bananas.

Do the same thing for the next layer, first the oranges, sugar, bananas and coconut. Make more layers, using all the fruit.

Sprinkle coconut on top. Cover with plastic wrap, refrigerator for 1 hour. Serves 3-4


JANET ELIZABETH LYNN was born in Queens, New York and raised in Long Island, until she was 12 years old. Her family escaped the freezing winters and hurricanes for the warmth and casual lifestyle of Southern California.
Janet has always wanted to write and made it a quest to write a novel. Ten years later, with much blood and sweat, her first murder mystery novel, South of the Pier, was published in 2011. She has since written seven more mysteries. Miss Lynn has traveled to the far reaches of the planet for work and for pleasure, collecting wonderful memories, new found friends and a large basket of shampoo and conditioner samples from hotels.
At one time Janet was an Entertainment Editor for a newspaper in Southern California.
Contact info:

WILL ZEILINGER  has been writing for over twelve years. During that time, he took novel writing classes and joined writer’s groups, but what has helped the most are published authors who mentor, encourage, critique  and listen to him while he continued to learn the craft.  At the time of this writing, Will has published three novels (Ebooks.) The Naked Groom,  Something’s Cooking at Dove Acres, and The Final Checkpoint (also in print). 
As a youth he lived overseas with his family. As an adult he traveled the world. Will lives in Southern California with his wife Janet Elizabeth Lynn, who is also an author. Will says that finding time to write while life happens is a challenge.

Contact info:
Twitter:  @Will_Zeilinger

Thursday, December 18, 2014



The easy answer is wherever it works best for the plot. In much detective fiction, the murder, or discovery of the body takes place at the beginning or very early on. But a lot of good stories take a while to develop, even when the motivation for the detective is the act itself.

If the story is focused on the characters more than on the action, or, is a balanced presentation, then a murder may not take place until well into the book. Nothing wrong with this, assuming the writer has mastered all the other tools of the trade. A bunch of people standing around endlessly trading bon mots or quips or cutting insults becomes exceedingly tedious, even if, as veteran readers of crime fiction, we know it’s all leading to murder, or worse.

On the other hand (isn’t there always?) a small clutch of really unusual interesting characters can carry a reader a long way into the story. Add other unusual or unsettling circumstances, such as weather or location and it’s possible to “compel” readers for many pages. Yet too many authors of crime fiction seem to offer a cast of similar characters. For example, I just finished a novel in which all three main characters have similar backgrounds: they moved back to town after a successful career and a failed marriage. Their careers were in large coastal cities and adjusting to a more bucolic life takes some getting used to (at least several pages). Now, analyzing the structure of the novel, I find the story line and it’s significant events take up about half the book. We have a good short story or novella but not a full length novel.

In my short story, “A Winter’s Tale” weather, circumstances and (I hope) mounting realization of inevitable conflict leading to horrific acts, drive the story and the reader forward, but actual murder, and thus the placement of body parts occurs as bookends to the tale. On the other hand, my latest novel, The Case of the Purloined Painting has a complicated back story requiring at least some understanding of modern history. But rather than inflict several pages of WWII on readers, I have spread salient facts related to the main motivator through the narrative. And bodies occur in several chapters. Readers will judge whether those unhappy events distract or push the plot along..

In conclusion, although old rules for crime fiction suggest readers require a body in the early going, I don’t believe that’s necessarily a requirement. At the same time, I think authors are well-advised to be cautious. If your protagonist runs a fast food joint in Southern Mississippi, you can’t start every book finding a body in the deep fryer.

Before he became a mystery writer and reviewer, Carl Brookins was a counselor and faculty member at Metropolitan State University in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Brookins and his wife are avid recreational sailors.

He is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and Private Eye Writers of America. He can frequently be found touring bookstores and libraries with his companions-in-crime, The Minnesota Crime Wave.

He writes the sailing adventure series featuring Michael Tanner and Mary Whitney. The third novel is Old Silver. His new private investigator series features Sean NMI Sean, a short P.I. The first is titled The Case of the Greedy Lawyers. Brookins received a liberal arts degree from the University of Minnesota and studied for a MA in Communications at Michigan State University.


The Case of the Purloined Painting
By Carl Brookins

ISBN-10: 0878397086
ISBN-13: 978-0878397082
North Star Press
Trade paper, 176 pgs

Blurb: When an American Army unit arrived at the end of the war, some soldiers appropriated items in what appeared to be abandoned circumstances. A small painting by a mid-level Polish painter is used by an ex-GI to float a bank loan which results in the founding of a manufacturing firm in Minneapolis. 

Now the painting and the ledger become the center of murderous attempts by the descendants of the veteran to conceal the paintings journey. World-wide efforts at repatriation of stolen art from WWII is a major ongoing effort and the story links to that effort as international operatives descend on the Twin Cities. 

Enter private detective Sean Sean. He is a short but effective operative who, unlike many PIs of the modern era, doesn’t sleep around, doesn’t shoot people unnecessarily, and has many friends among various local law enforcement agencies.


Before he became a mystery writer and reviewer, Brookins was a counselor and faculty member at Metropolitan State University in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Brookins and his wife are avid recreational sailors.

He is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and Private Eye Writers of America. He can frequently be found touring bookstores and libraries with his companions-in-crime, The Minnesota Crime Wave.

He writes the sailing adventure series featuring Michael Tanner and Mary Whitney. The third novel is Old Silver. His new private investigator series features Sean NMI Sean, a short P.I. The first is titled The Case of the Greedy Lawyers. Brookins received a liberal arts degree from the University of Minnesota and studied for a MA in Communications at Michigan State University.

P.S. I met Carl for the first time at the now defunct Mayhem in the Midlands mystery conference. I was fortunate to run into him and have several conversations at various other mystery conferences over the years. I miss having the opportunity to listen to his wisdom about mystery writing and other topics.  Marilyn

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Busy, Busy, Busy by Marilyn Meredith

Yes I am, but not so much with Christmas doings.

My house is as decorated as it's going to be. My Christmas checks are written--yes, that's what I do. If you had four adult kids, 18 grands, and 15 great-grands, you might resort to giving money too. Actually I give to the families these days, then they can do what they want with the cash.

I'm farming out the cookie baking to my granddaughter and daughter-in-law.

I've ordered the Honeybaked ham for Christmas Eve.

Tonight hubby and I are headed to my writer's group annual Christmas dinner. This will be the only Christmas party I'll attend. Missed the church's party last weekend because I was ill.

So what am I busy with?

It seems something comes up every day I have to tend too.

What caused the most work is the branch of the bank we've used for many, many years is closing. The nearest branch will be much too far away. So we've changed banks. It took two hours to open two accounts at the new bank. Now we're in the throes of making all the needed changes for our direct deposits. Won't close the old checking account until all the checks we've written clear. That may take awhile. (Just so it all is done by March 1.)

Now what's going to take my time for the next couple of days is going over the 2nd edits to my next Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery. Need to get with it because it's way overdue.

And of course I wrote this because I saw I didn't have anything new until tomorrow.

Merry Christmas.


Sunday, December 14, 2014

Another Christmas Memory

I was around 9 or 10 and oh, did I ever want a two-wheel bicycle.

The problem was, and I'd had this pointed out to me many times, no bicycles could be purchased because of the war. (WWII). The metal was needed for the war effort and bicycles were not being made.

What a surprise on Christmas morning when I came out to discover a shiny new, blue girl's bicycle standing up by the tree.

How could this possibly have happened when it was impossible to buy a new bicycle anywhere?

I didn't count on my dad's expertise at being able to make anything. Yes, that's exactly what happened, he built my bicycle from scratch. I have no idea how he managed to get all the parts, some of the bike was made of pipe (he was a plumber) but he did. Not only did he build my bicycle but he built another for my cousin Barbara who lived a block away.

Learning how to ride the bicycle took me forever. (My cousin was much quicker at it much to my humiliation since she was 11 months younger.)

My poor father held onto the seat and ran alongside me over and over until I finally got the  hang of balancing.

After that I rode that bike everywhere--not to school--probably afraid someone might steal it. I rode to my friend's houses. And in the summer, I packed up my basket with books, tablets, pens and pencils and rode around until I found a home with a big tree (Weeping Willow preferred) and parked myself on the lawn in the shade. Sometimes I even packed a lunch.We didn't have any parks close by.

Never did a home owner come out and ask what I was doing.

I was so fortunate to have a dad like mine. Another year he built me a three story doll house and my artist aunt made all the furniture and curtains for the windows.

He also built our first TV with a Heath Kit. We were the first ones in the neighborhood to own a television. We had lots of company to help us watch wrestling, roller derby, Beanie and Cecil, and whatever else was on which wasn't much.

Frankly, for a long time, radio was much more exciting.

Merry Christmas Everyone.


Friday, December 12, 2014

Christmas Traditions Over the Years

When I was growing up, we had several traditions.

One was attending the Christmas program at our church. The program often was the children performing some version of Christ's birth.

Though most Christian churches today don't have anything to do with Santa Claus, back then, after the Christmas program ended, Santa Claus handed out small stockings with candy in them to every child.

My father worked for Paramount Studio which always had a wonderful Christmas program for the children of the employees, followed by expensive gifts for every child there. I remember some of the events being held way out in the country (now right in the middle of Studio City), and others at a theater in Los Angeles.

I don't remember doing anything special on Christmas Eve, but I do know we were anxious to get to bed then couldn't sleep. Along about 4 a.m. we begged to get up and go into the living room and see what awaited us. 

We always had to wait for our parents to dress and allow us to begin the Christmas unwrapping.

Dinner was always at our grandmother's house in South Pasadena. We always wore something we'd received for Christmas--usually a new sweater, even if it was a hot day.

This is where we received her presents and the ones from our Aunt. 

Years later, when I was married and had my own family, when possible, we drove down to Los Angeles to have Christmas there. 

One Christmas though, I expected my third child and everyone drove to our little rented house in Oxnard for Christmas. I suppose I cooked the dinner, though I don't remember. The baby didn't arrive until December 28th.

When I was working, we had Christmas at our own house--by this time we owned a home. One Christmas I worked a split shift and the kids opened their gifts while I was gone. I wasn't happy. And we ate our Christmas dinner in a restaurant. (The only time I can remember doing that.)

Many years later when we'd moved to Springville, and lived in and ran a care home, we always had a bit of a celebration dinner Christmas Eve--but presents for our ladies were always opened on Christmas Day after we had a great breakfast.  And later of course, the whole family came to be in on Christmas dinner.

Now that we've retired from the community care business, we have our big dinner on Christmas Eve--and that's when some of the family come and presents are opened.

The next day all the grown kids (who are now grandparents) have their own traditions. And we eat leftovers. We usually watch movies and relax.

What are your favorite Christmas traditions?


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Fatal Attraction by Jennie Spallone

My most recent mystery FATAL REACTION shines a light on my former career as a special education teacher and tutor of students with emotional and learning disabilities. Spoil Alert: No one I taught wound up killing their father! They might have hurt and maimed -- just kidding!

In this book, I examine how a catastrophic family event causes a nurtured child to morph into a school bully. Yes, I worked with school bullies in real life. Their trust in adults has been destroyed. Their hearts are crusted with despair. And so they lash out for attention. Whether positive or negative, attention reflects that they are "visible" in the eyes of others.

These kids "act out" because they lack a responsive, responsible adult to guide them through their daily lives. Responsive because we all need love and gentle direction to steer us down the path. Responsible because limits must be set to inform the child what behavior will be tolerated and what behavior is off-limits. As a teacher, I found it difficult to offer consistent consequences for negative behavior. Dealing with manipulative teenagers is exhausting, especially in a classroom setting! It didn't help that my own parents divorced when I was a young child, and I was raised without boundaries. Yet I knew I was loved and cherished, which kept me on the straight and narrow.

Maybe our task is to reach out to these kids as a weekly mentor through OMNI YOUTH SERVICES or other Big Brother, Big Sister Programs in our local area. Give them one-on-one attention, whether it be to take them out for lunch, shoot some hoops, watch their favorite sports team on television, or engage in an activity that peaks their interest. No, not drugs!

I believe we are all instruments of G-d, each with our own view of the Divine. As an instrument of the Divine, "being there" for a kid just might keep them from shooting up a school cafeteria or cutting their wrists.,,, 

Book Blurb:

Lake Forest bank executive Joseph Barge is dead and everybody he’s tormented is celebrating, all except Ellie, his 13 year-old daughter. Left to the cold glare of her father who drowned his sorrows in rage and alcohol, Ellie resorted to bullying to get his attention. Years ago, she lost her mother. Now her father,too!

In shock at her father’s death, Ellie plunges into a deep depression, unable to communicate with the outside world. Distressed by her student’s suffering, special education teacher Mitzi Maven teams up with CPD Detective Maggie O’Connor and hottie North Shore Detective Eric Whelan to solve the case. 

It doesn’t take long for Mitzy, a former investigative reporter for the Chicago Tribune, to discover a slew of suspects who wanted Barge gone. A disgruntled co-worker. The sexually-harassed nanny. The sister-in-law who fought for custody. Half the White Oaks Middle School teaching staff.


Suspense author Jennie Spallone wrote over one hundred profiles and feature stories for local and national publications, as well as the award-winning mystery novel Deadly Choices and Window of Guilt, before putting pen to Fatal Reaction.

Jennie, an active member of Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America, has spoken at local bookstores, schools, and libraries, in addition to Mystery Conferences throughout the country, including Scene of the Crime, Bouchercon, Printer’s Row, Sleuthfest, Malice Domestic, Magna Cum Murder, Midwest Literary Fest, Love is Murder, Public Safety Writers of America, Romantic Times Writers’ Conference, and the University of Wisconsin Writer’s Institute.

Please send your comments, questions and speaking engagement queries to