Monday, September 15, 2014

A Few Writing Tips

I've served as a judge for many writing contests and some want the judges to leave comments about the manuscript on the judging sheet.

One thing I've seen far too often is wrong formatting in a manuscript. Most editors want the manuscript double spaced and an indent for the beginning of a paragraph, not a space between paragraphs. Before sending off to a publisher, check the guidelines and do what is asked for.

Active voice works so much better than passive. For an example:

Passive: Mary was strolling along the pier.
Active: Mary strolled along the pier.

When ever possible get rid of sentences with the was combinations.

Use strong verbs instead of adverbs to describe the verb.

Start a new paragraph when someone new does or says something.

Break up some of the long descriptions with action and/or dialogue.

Be sure something exciting or some conflict happens in each chapter—end a chapter with a reason to go on to the next chapter.

Use a person’s action or a description for a dialogue tag when possible rather than said, etc.

Remember, the point-of-view character can’t see how he or she looks. 

Be sure that each character is unique and different.

Put color, smells, sounds into the description of settings.

Make sure everyone doesn't drink the same thing unless there is a reason for it.

When something exciting is happening, use shorter sentences.

Avoid words like responded, answered; said and asked are preferable, but even better, use an action by the character or description as a dialogue tag.

When the dialogue is exclamatory, the reader can tell, you don’t need the exclamation points.

Stay in one person's point-of-view for scene. Should be the person who has the most at stake in that scene.

Only one space between sentences—not two.

These are just a few of the suggestions I've written on writers' judging forms.


Saturday, September 13, 2014

A Day in the Life of This Author

My day always begins between 4:15 and 4:30 because that's when I automatically wake up. I think it's because I had to get up at that time during the years I lived in and was the administrator of a licensed care home (mine) and I've never been able to break the habit.

Though I was gone from two days and got little sleep the night I was away (lumpy bed and people trying to get into our hotel room twice in the night), it was no different yesterday morning.

After showering and dressing, making a cup of Chai latte, I always do my Bible study first. Helps me get a positive start on the day.

I went through the email and answered the important ones. And yes, I admit it, I did take a peek on Facebook. 

My major task for the day was to go through the galley proof for River Spirits, the latest in the Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery.

It's always interesting to see what mistakes and typos are still there.

Now, you should know that this has been gone over twice by the editor assigned to the manuscript by the publishing house, to say nothing of the many times I went over it before sending it off. And of course my critique group has read and seen it before anyone else. They are masters at catching bloopers, typos, and repeated words.

Despite all this, I found lots of errors and things that have to be fixed--including repeated words too close to each other.

Other errors were out of order words, one wrong use of a word, same pronunciation different spelling, and missing words.

I've sent in my discoveries and now it's up to the person who does such things at the publishing house to fix them.

Despite all this, I'm betting once the book comes out there'll be something that all of us missed. Or like I'm fond of saying, that the gremlins put in.

Now it's time for me to take a break. 

I have another blog post to do and a couple of paid jobs to work on. Whether I'll get to them today I'm not sure.


Thursday, September 11, 2014

Penny Warner Visited SJ SinC

Penny Warner writes cozies for adults and a great series for children. She came to visit the San Joaquin Chapter of Sisters in Crime and talked about her books and also gave us some promotion 

She's always a fun speaker. 

Her children's books are all about codes and decoding, and she said sometimes the kids write to her in code and she has a tough time deciphering them.

This is the latest in the code buster series.
I bought all three of the books for one of my great-granddaughters who likes to read.

This is her latest mystery series which she is writing under the name of Penny Pike. I've started reading this one and it's delightful.

What Penny said about marketing:

An author in the audience complained about the time taken from his writing to promote.

Her answer, everyone has to do it.

She does something special to give out for every book--made toe tags for one book, sign language cookies for her books with the deaf newspaper heroine.

She speaks at many places about her books and advised that a writer should book him/herself into as many places as possible.

And here's Penny Warner's bio from her website:

I've been writing since I read my first Nancy Drew in 6th grade. Since then I've had over 50 books published, fiction and non-fiction, for adults and children. I've been lucky -- my books have won national awards, garnered excellent reviews, and have been printed in 14 countries, including Russia, France, Spain, Germany, Holland, Australia, Canada, Indonesia, India, Israel, Poland, Japan, and China.

My best-sellers include Healthy Snacks for Kids, Kids’ Party Games and Activities, Best Party Book, Games People Play, Kids’ Holiday Fun, Learn to Sign the Fun Way, Baby Play and Learn, Kids Pick-A-Party, and Kids’ Party Cookbook.

I have a Bachelor’s degree in Child Development and a Master's degree in Special Education, and I've been teaching child development at the local college for over 20 years. I also teach writing tips at conferences across the country, including Pikes Peak, Whidbey Island, San Francisco, Jack London, and dozens of others.

I belong to Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, SCBWI, Women Writing the West, and California Writers Club.

And I've appeared on television featuring ideas from my books, including the national Dr. Spock PBS series, “Parent Sense,” the “Later Today” show, “HGTV,” “Channel 7 News,” “People Are Talking,” “Mornings on 2,” and dozens of others.

In my spare time, I write a weekly newspaper column on family life (avaliable at, and I contribute to popular websites including,,,,,,,,,, and

My husband Tom and I write interactive mysteries as fundraisers for libraries across the country.
I live in Danville, California, have two grown children, and four adorable grandchildren.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Headed to the Buena Vista Library

Yep, tomorrow I'll be going to Burbank to appear on a panel with L.A. Sisters in Crime.

Time: 7 p.m.

Place: Buena Vista Branch of the Burbank Library

Topic: Cozies

As most of you know, I write two series, both police procedurals. So how did I get on a cozy panel?

With the Deputy Tempe Crabtree series, though she is in law enforcement, she serves and protects in a small town. Most, not all, cozies take place in small towns. The Rocky Bluff P.D. series also takes place in a small town--though there are different characters who play important parts.

Yes, there is usually a murder, one that always gets solved by the end of the book.

There is no bad language in either series, though I'm sure my characters may let loose with a swear word now and then, I don't quote them. I figure my readers have heard enough bad words to supply them if they want.

I always close the bedroom door.

Well, at least I do now. In the earlier Rocky Bluff P.D. mysteries, the reader did get a sneak peek inside the bedroom once in awhile. Haven't done it lately, not because I'm a prude, just because it hasn't seemed necessary for the plots.

And in case you're wondering, why I'm going so far here's my answer.

I've belonged to the L.A. Sisters in Crime for a long time. Because of the distance, I seldom get to participate in anything with them. When I was asked to do this panel, I asked my daughter if she was willing to drive me there because neither my husband or I drive in new places at night. Obviously, her answer was yes.

I love library events so I'm looking forward to this and meeting some fellow members of SinC.

I do hope some of you who live in the area will come out to see the panel and introduce yourself to me.

Marilyn aka F. M. Meredith

Latest in the Deputy Tempe Crabtree series.
Coming soon: River Spirits

Latest in the Rocky Bluff P.D. series.
Busy working on the next one.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Sisters in Crime SinC-Up

To belong to a chapter of Sisters in Crime, you also need to belong to the International organization.  They have a newsletter and in this one was the suggestion to join their Blog Hop.

I also belong to three chapters of SinC--The Los Angeles Chapter, the San Joaquin Chapter (the one I attend the most), and the Central Coast Chapter (the one I do the  most events with.)

We were given some questions to answer and I've chose a few, so here goes:

Which authors have inspired you?

In the beginning, Mary Higgins Clark, not just her mysteries, but herself as a person. I met her years ago at a small mystery conference at a rather campy retreat. She was gracious, helpful and friendly. Still a long time ago, but with many years in-between, I met her again at the agents and editors cocktail party during an Edgar week. When I reintroduced myself, she acted like she remembered me. Like an old friends, she brought me up to date on what she'd been doing and introduced me to her, at the time, brand new husband.

Many other female mystery writers have also inspired me like Jan Burke, and many not so famous but terrific writers who have become my friends such as Sue McGinty, Lorna Collins, Victoria Heckman, and oh so many others. Many of them I met at cons and conventions, others through Oak Tree Press--the publisher of my Rocky Bluff P.D. mysteries.

One of my favorite male writers is William Kent Krueger. Met him several times at the now defunct Mayhem in the Midlands conference. I've watched him gather many awards over the years for his outstanding books, but despite his great success, he's remained a friend. 

If someone said, "Nothing against women writers, but all of my favorite crime fiction authors happen to be men," how would you respond?

I'd probably say, "You  should try some women writers, you might be surprised." And then I'd suggest some I know along with their books.

What's the best part of the writing process for you? And what's the most challenging?

I write two series, and I love starting a new book and knowing I'm going to find out what's happening with these characters I've grown to love and care about over the years. If I don't write that next book, I won't know what's going on in their lives.

The most challenging is taking time away from the writing to do the necessary promotion. 

If you were to mentor a new writer, what would you tell her about the writing business?

Over the years, I've mentored quite a few new writers. One of the big things is letting the person know that they will probably not become an instant success or make a lot of money. Other advice I've given, is read the kind of books you want to write. Don't spend time telling everyone about the book, put your energies into writing it. Be sure you get it edited by someone who knows about mysteries and editing before you sent it off anywhere.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Happy Birthday to my Hubby!

Happy Birthday to my hubby!

This is how my handsome hubby looked when I first met him on our blind date. We actually met on the sidewalk between my house and my girlfriend's house in Eagle Rock--probably a distance of 3 miles. He was so handsome, I had an immediate crush on him.

At the time he was stationed at Port Hueneme Seabee Base going to school. He managed to get back to our house most weekends, and it wasn't long before he proposed.

We've now been married nearly 62 years, raised 5 children, have 18 grandkids, helped raise 2 of them, have had other grandkids live with us at different time, and now have 14 great grands with another on the way.

I don't know that we'll do anything special for his 84th birthday, but I'll give him a big kiss and hug and thank God once again that I've had such a great husband all these many years.


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Today is my Sister's Birthday!

Happy Birthday, Sis!
My sister, Marjorie, who has always been called Margie was born when I was five years old.

She was the cutest baby, little girl, and young woman and she really hasn't changed all that much.

When we were growing up, she was often a pain. We always shared a room and she was messy and I wasn't. Now I'm messier than she is.

As adults, we only lived close to each other for a few short years.Even when we didn't, for many years as adults our families spent Thanksgiving and Christmas together. Then both of our families got way too big. 

We moved to Springville first, then she and her husband built a house here. All of her adult children soon moved nearby. 

When the economy took a big dive, she and her boys all lost their jobs. One by one, they moved to Las Vegas, and of course the grandchildren went along too. My sis couldn't take the separation and soon moved to Vegas too--where she is today.

We get to see her about twice a year. We go to her house for a visit at least once each year and then we see her and much of her family at our family reunion.
This is not how I thought we'd end up. I figured eventually we'd live together as old ladies--but I know that will never happen. She'll stay in Vegas with her big family and I'll be here in California close to mine.

We do talk on the phone and of course, we know what's going on with one another because of Facebook.

My sis and her family a few years back in their front yard in Vegas.