Saturday, May 27, 2017

Intriguing Thoughts from John Beyer

I enjoy reading quotations from famous people -- other writers in particular -- and someday I would enjoy people quoting me or one of the characters from my stories. Perhaps they do already and I do not know about it – wouldn’t that be a hoot and a half?

But here’s one of my favorites from Somerset Maugham: “If you can tell stories, create characters, devise incidents, and have sincerity and passion, it doesn’t matter a damn how you write.”

For a writer, that could not be plainer. Write on a napkin. Write on a wall. Use a pencil or pen. Perhaps just strike the old typewriter keys daily or punch the keyboard an hour every other day. The bottom line is that you just need to write – that is if you are a writer and if not then you must read what the writer writes.

That was a plug for all writers out there – we write so others will read.

Again with a quotation. This time one of my favorite authors, Ernest Hemingway: “When writing a novel, a writer should create living people; people not characters. A character is a caricature.”

Now this is where I get in trouble. I’m currently working on my fourth novel, (the other three were released by Black Opal Books over the past few years), but my ‘people’ are not doing what they are supposed to be doing. I am not insane and invisible entities do not talk to me while I write or go about my daily life chores but the people in my novels do what they do. Yes, there is an overall theme I am working on when sitting behind my desk in my office but the letter after letter minutiae is up to those I am including on the pages.

My spouse, lovely Laureen, thinks I’m nuts. She happens to have a Ph.D. in Brain Research and perhaps she knows something I don’t but then again, I have Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology. My degree negates hers, or at least I’d like to believe that is the case whenever my wife disagrees with me. I’m certain every husband understands this struggle.

Okay, my characters – sorry, Ernest – my people move about the pages of my writing like nymphs in the forest. Darting here and there and sometimes I will actually stop the movement of my fingers on the keyboard and wonder what the hell is going on.

Jonas Peters – one of two of my main protagonists – ends up in Peru and threatens an admiral of the Peruvian Navy. That wasn’t in the plans at the beginning of my latest novel but it’s there now. Frank Sanders – the other protagonist – ends up killing a couple of bad guys one dark and not-so-stormy night. Again, wasn’t in the plans but it’s there now.

The point of this that is sometimes writing just happens and however it works is fine. Characters are not real but may feel that way when you spend months upon months creating the lives they lead, the pain they experience along with the occasional joys bestowed on them.

Maugham was correct – as long as you write with sincerity and passion you cannot go wrong. Writing comes from the heart or should. That will be evident with your readers.

Hemingway was also correct – your ‘characters’ must be real people and not just fictional creatures. One dimension does not work for the mind and should not for any sort of writing. Readers must believe that person they view on a page in a novel should be someone they could recognize on a street corner.

One day, while Laureen was waiting for a plane in Dallas she called and said: “Yuri is in the airport. He’s here.”

Yuri is a fictional person from my novel – Soft Target. She saw him sitting at a bar.

I just smiled and told her to have a safe flight.

Characters can be real – not just for the writer.

Just saying.

John Beyer Bio:

Former street cop, training officer and member of SWAT John Beyer has been writing most of his life. He’s traveled to at least 23 countries (and was actually shot in the head in Spain in 2000 during a march between Neo Nazis and Communists two days after running with the bulls in Pamplona). He was caught in a hurricane off the coast of east Baja (Bahia de los Angeles) while kayaking and lived to tell about it. Essentially, it’s hard to tell where experience leaves off and fiction takes over. You’ll want to read his books.

Twitter: @Drjohnrbeyer
Operation Scorpion buy link:

Thursday, May 25, 2017

It's That Time of Year Again

Too much on my plate. (Maybe that's anytime of the year.)

Wasn't even paying attention to the fact I didn't have anything new on my blog--because I had so much else going on. 

In my normal life, the big memorial day weekend is coming up--for me it's going to be a time to do a bit of catch-up and writing (hopefully). On Monday we celebrate a great-grands 14th birthday. She's special because she began her life right here in our home. We've had her breezing in and out the past 14 years.

I've been spending some time doing promotion.

A radio interview for a station in Wisconsin at 6:35 a.m. Because my household is noisy at this time in the morning. I did the interview in our bathroom. Worked great--nice and soundproof. And no, it didn't echo, old house, big room, no tile.

I signed up for a book festival that's happening in October--The Big Valley Bookfest. I've been to this one several times. Last year, I got sick and couldn't stay until it was over, hoping for better health this time.

There's a website I need to visit, I've been asked if I want to be interviewed by a Fresno radio station, the answer is yes, but I need to check it out first. 

Posted about my latest mystery on the Ladies of Mystery Blog.

I just finished writing a newsletter that I do every month for an organization--one I've been doing for years.

I have a chapter that I read to my writers' group that needs fixing--and of course, I need to write more because it's past due to the publisher and I"m a ways from being finished. 

I just got a writing job that actually pays money, so once I get the information I need, I'll have to get busy with that--this happened while I was writing this blog post.

And that's where I am at the moment.

I'd love to have more readers of my latest book, Unresolved. I've had great feedback about it, but so far only one review. Hoping for more.

So that's where I am at the moment.

Marilyn aka F. M. Meredith

Sunday, May 21, 2017


Yesterday I attended a writer's meeting about writing memoirs. Many people I know have done this or in the midst of doing so. Frankly, it's never interested me. There are some things in my life I don't care to share with anyone. I've never much liked tell all tales from others.

Those things I think are interesting enough to share with others, I'm quite happy to do here on my blog. When doing that, I can concentrate on one subject or memory. Sometime I think might be interesting to someone else.

My childhood for the most part was wonderful. I had two parents who loved me and my sister and though I grew up at the end of the depression and through the second World War, we lacked for nothing important. Our lives were like many others at that time. Much of our life focused around school and church events. 

We went to the movies most Friday nights--maybe because my dad worked for the movie industry, but maybe just because he liked movies. We saw whatever was playing, newsreels, coming attractions, two features, and a cartoon. Some of what we watched was inappropriate for impressionable kids--but dad paid for the tickets and he wasn't going to waste the money by walking out.

We also spent some Sunday afternoons at my maternal grandparents house in South Pasadena and some with our cousins in Highland Park. 

We went somewhere on vacation every summer--during the war years dad saved his gasoline coupons by riding his bike to and from work. We camped out, in Yosemite and when we were older at Bass Lake. 

I belonged to Job's Daughter's where I learned many social graces--like how to set a table with all the many spoons, forks and knives.

High school was great--yes, there were different social groups, but I had a wonderful bunch of friends to hang out with--some that I'd gone to grammar school with and some girls we met at the high school.

Meeting my husband when I was a senior--the cute sailor I met on a blind date--changed the direction of my life. More about that next time.


Friday, May 19, 2017

My Last Guest Post on my Blog Tour is Posted!

Though I didn't intend for it to be so long, my blog tour for Unresolved , the latest in the Rocky Bluff P. D. mystery series is posted for all to see.

 This has been a long journey, and for the most part, quite satisfying. The best part is reading the comments left by people on the various posts. And of course, those who have read the book saying they enjoyed it. 

Did it help sales? Some, probably not a whole lot, I won't know for sure until I get my first royalty check. 

Putting together a blog tour is arduous--finding the people willing to host you, writing something different for each post, sending them off, checking each day to see if the post has appeared (sometimes they don't), through the day looking to see if someone has commented and leaving a reply.

I'm sure some of you may wonder why I do it, since it is so much work. I have several answers. I love writing, and thinking up new topics and writing them is fun for me. I don't do book tours, in fact never have done much of that because all the nearby bookstores have disappeared. In fact, I'm more inclined to give library talks--because the people who come are there to hear you. 

The main reason I do blog tours because it's a way to let a lot of people know about my latest book.

If you haven't had a chance yet, go take a look at it on Amazon, Unresolved, by F. M. Meredith. And if you've already read it, and liked it, please leave a review.


Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Learning to Cook All Over Again, by Judy Alter

I used to be a good cook, praised for my skills in the kitchen, my willingness to tackle complicated recipes like Coquilles St. Jacques, and my ability to serve large dinner parties and even larger cocktail parties. Today I am cooking from a wheelchair in a postage-stamp kitchen with standard-height counters and no stove or oven. My stove is one of those new-fangled hot plates that operate by magnetism—it heats hot and fast, often too much of both.

I burn food, I scorch the pans, I singe myself. I have spilled, dropped, and splashed. When I chop celery or onions, the floor is littered with bits of green, bits even the dogs won’t eat. The most used tool in my kitchen is not a spatula or a measuring cup but the grabber I can use to retrieve things from the floor or high up kitchen shelves.

What happened? Two things: severe hip pain prevented me from walking and then the doctor advised against even trying to walk; complicated hip surgery and a long recovery followed. For six weeks I could put no more than one-quarter my weight on my left foot, and even today I am strongly advised against bending at the hip. I can stand for a while, with the chair close behind, to stir or chop or wash dishes but that’s it. I didn’t cook for probably six months, and I guess the memory—or skills—grow rusty.

I also moved from my 1800-square foot house to a 600-square foot cottage. Talk about downsizing! People ask what I miss and I reply, “My kitchen utensils.” I thought I took what I needed, but not so. I was in pain, not thinking clearly, and my children cleaned out the kitchen for me, taking what they wanted of what I left behind. For weeks recently I didn’t have a metal spatula, only a rubber-coated one, and any cook knows you can’t get under something and get a good crust with a coated spatula. I missed slotted spoons, tongs, ladles, good knives, and a host of other things. For my birthday this year, I plan to register at Target.

There’s an upside to all this. I put some old bad habits behind me and began to do some things a better way. I’ve found for instance that my unmeasured proportions are off—my dishes based on a roux carry too much of a hint of flour, and my recent hot potato salad didn’t have enough vinegar—I tried to increase the recipe by guess. Usually I follow recipes more carefully.

I’ve had success with such out-of-the-ordinary dishes as a mushroom ragout and failed miserably with everyday things like grilled cheese sandwiches. But every time I cook I get a little better. I’m proud that I recently engineered a dinner for six.

I used to wish I were a chef but by the time I reached this decision my back, knees and feet were too old for the rigorous hours on your feet. Barring a career calling for a toque, I thought I’d like to be a food writer. I did publish three food books: Cooking My Way Through Life with Kids and Books, Texas is Chili Country, and the slim Extraordinary Teas Chef, and as this blog and my own Judy’s Stew demonstrate, I still like to write about food and cooking.

Now my goal is to get my cooking skills back up to their original level. I recognize that I may never again cook Thanksgiving dinner for my family of sixteen or host a cocktail party for sixty, but those Coquille St. Jacques? I’d like to serve them to you someday.

Judy Alter's Bio:

An award-winning novelist, Judy Alter is the author of several fictional biographies of women of the American West. In The Gilded Cage she has turned her attention to the late nineteenth century in her home town, Chicago, to tell the story of the lives of Potter and Cissy Palmer, a high society couple with differing views on philanthropy and workers’ right. She is also the author of six books in the Kelly O’Connell Mysteries series. With the 2014 publication of The Perfect Coed, she introduced the Oak Grove Mysteries.
Her work has been recognized with awards from the Western Writers of America, the Texas Institute of Letters, and the National Cowboy Museum and Hall of Fame. She has been honored with the Owen Wister Award for Lifetime Achievement by WWA and inducted into the Texas Literary Hall of Fame and the WWA Hall of Fame.

Skype: juju1938
Buy link for Murder at Peacock Mansion:
Buy link for The Gilded Cage

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Our Home and Refuge

We've always taken in folks who needed a home--even if we didn't really have room for them.

In our first home, while raising five children, over the years we had several guests who remained for different periods of time:

For two days and nights, an infant whose mother was in the Navy dispensary and the dad was distraught. He didn't know me at all, but I offered to take the baby and he took me up on it with only my address as any kind of guarantee.

A young couple we met while camping, came back to our house and stayed until the husband found a job. 

One of my teen daughters' friends who didn't like her step-father. Not sure how long she was with us, but a few months.

When we moved, to the home we're in now, we brought along son's girlfriend who was in a bad situation. 

Our new home was also a licensed care facility, where we cared for four and later six developmentally disabled women.

We raised a grandson there, had two others for different periods of time, and a granddaughter who stayed with us during the school week.

A son while he was suffering from cancer during the times his wife had to work.

There was another small house on the property.

Many different folks have lived there at different times when they needed a place to stay.

My mother and father.

My middle daughter and her husband.

A granddaughter and her husband and three kids.

My son and his wife who are there now. 

We retired from the care business so ended up with more rooms for people to stay.

Five missionaries for two weeks while they built a church on the Indian reservation. (That was a fun time.) 

In the big house, we raised two grandsons, and had a granddaughter who stayed with us more than she stayed with her folks. 

A grown great granddaughter who needed some privacy. 

A great grandson and his new wife until they were able to afford a place of their own. 

And now the granddaughter who stayed with us often while she was in school, is with us again along with her husband and two little girls. They are buying our house and we'll stay here with them.

We can proudly say our home has been that for many people. 


Sunday, May 14, 2017

That Certain Spark, by Karen McCullough

I recently finished reading a book for a contest that got me thinking about what makes a book enjoyable. The book in question was well-written, had an interesting central idea, a decent basic plot, and a group of potentially interesting characters. All the ingredients that should make for a good read.

It wasn’t. In fact, it was a slog to keep going through it. When I tried to figure out why, I came up with one word: shallow. The dialogue was smooth but a little stilted. It advanced the plot but offered very little insight into the characters speaking. The descriptions were reasonable but rather uninteresting. The writing was good and kept the story going but didn’t delve into anything other than surface descriptions of a large group of characters and a rather complex macguffin.

It was missing the magic ingredient that turns a competent story, with decent plot and good characters, into an interesting one. Something that’s hard to put your finger on, but you know it when it’s there. Or not there. Texture. Depth. Resonance.

Of course, knowing that doesn’t tell you how to fix it. I like to think it’s all about the detail. As texture of fabric and depth come from varying heights of the yarns, texture in a story comes from varying levels of detail. You don’t describe everything in the story in depth as that would not only grow tiresome quickly it would make all your stories much, much longer than they need to be. But some pieces of the story don’t demand the same amount of attention as others. 

Deciding what details to use is part of the art of storytelling. It’s finding that right thing to include that helps the reader see more than just the one thing.

In the opening scene of my recent romantic suspense release, Hunter’s Quest, my heroine is driving in the North Carolina mountains. I describe dark woods that come up to the edge of the winding road, wildflowers blooming along the edge and the aroma of honeysuckle wafting through the air. I could have added the chirping of birds, the tangled undergrowth, small animals running across the pavement, but I didn’t. I didn’t feel like those details were needed and I didn’t want to overload the paragraph with description.

I hope I set the scene well enough so that when the crack of a rifle shot shatters the peace and a man runs out in front of her car, the contrasts will shock the reader into awareness and draw them into wanting to know more about what’s going on.

Blurb for Hunter’s Quest: Kristie Sandford's vacation is interrupted when a man jumps out in front of her car. She avoids hitting him, but when she stops to see if he's hurt, he demands she help him escape from the people chasing him. Kristie has an odd "gift" - she occasionally gets warning messages, and she gets one saying he needs her help or he'll die. Jason Hunter is an NC SBI (North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation) agent working on his own time searching for a friend, an investigative reporter who disappeared while tracking down rumors of corruption in the bureaucracy of a small mountain town. Jason is grateful to Kristie for rescuing him, but dubious when she insists she has to continue helping him. Kristie is attracted to Jason, but the edge of danger she senses in him reminds her too much of the abusive family she escaped as soon as she could.

Still, the message said he'd die if she didn't help him, and the messages have been right before.


Karen McCullough is the author of more than a dozen published novels in the mystery, romantic suspense, and fantasy genres and has won numerous awards, including an Eppie Award for fantasy. She’s also been a four-time Eppie finalist, and a finalist in the Prism, Dream Realm, Rising Star, Lories, Scarlett Letter, and Vixen Awards contests. Her short fiction has appeared in several anthologies and numerous small press publications in the fantasy, science fiction, and romance genres. She has three children, seven grandchildren (soon to be eight) and lives in Greensboro, NC, with her husband of many years.

Author’s links: