Thursday, December 31, 2009

Goodbye 2009

How do you celebrate New Year's Eve?

Over the years I've celebrated in many different ways. When hubby was overseas the kids and I celebrated alone, toasting each other with root beer floats. Together, we attended many gala celebrations in different places from the Seabee base to various private parties.

For twenty-three years we had our own residential care home and we celebrated with special treats and sparkling cider with the women who lived with us. Hubby and I would rent movies to watch.

Once again we're by ourselves (more or less, since we have relatives living next door)but we have no desire to party. We'll watch a movie and sleep through the end of 2009.

Neither of us make resolutions anymore, though we always hope to achieve certain things--of course I want to write a new book for each of my series, and I'll be busy promoting those that come out.

We hope to stay healthy and enjoy 2010.

Happy New Year!


Wednesday, December 30, 2009

When Your Book is Done, How to Choose a Publisher

My advice here will probably surprise some and dismay others.

First, make sure you have a book someone would want to publish. Is it error free? No typos or grammar problems?

If you want to be published by a New York house you will first have to find an agent. Do some research, find an agent who represents the kind of book you have written. Actually, you probably need to find many agents who represent the kind of book you've written. Send exactly what each one asks for in a query--make sure it is the best query ever written. Again, no typos or grammar problems.

If you're older like me, forget that process, it takes too long. There are many good small independent publishers out there looking for good books. Usually, they are more willing to look at books of different lengths and those that mix genres. (Genres are the type of books: mystery, suspense, romance, crime novels, erotica, science fiction, horror, fantasy--and there are many sub-genres.

You don't need an agent to contact these smaller publishers, but you do need to pay attention to what kind of books they are interested in and exactly how they want you to submit. Then do exactly what each publisher's guidelines say to do. And no, they aren't all the same. This takes some work, but if you really want to get published, you'll do it.

Most publishers also want to know how you plan to market (promote) your book, so you should be thinking about that too.

That's enough to get you started. Good luck!


Tuesday, December 29, 2009

And Now Back to Writing Tips

Today I'm going to talk about the difference as I see between published writers and those who would just like to be.

1. Actually sitting down and writing every single day--or at least a schedule of writing so many hours on so many days.

The published writers that I know do that. One of my favorite writers is up at 4 a.m. so she can put in 6 to 8 hours a day. Another one works a full time job and still manages to write three series--which means three books a year.

2. Once the book is done making sure it is really ready to send out to an agent or publisher. (Has to be an agent if you are seeking a major publishing house--smaller, independent publishers can be contacted without an agent.)

Belonging to a critique group can help a lot. My critique group is my first editor. They hear/read every single chapter that I write and make lots of great suggestions and catch mistakes I didn't even see. I often hire and editor for the second run through. I have a couple that I really trust. Then, of course, the publisher has an editor who goes over the manuscript.

3. Be willing to accept rejection--because unless you are mighty lucky, you will receive rejections. Keep sending the book out. If anyone gives you constructive criticism that makes sense, pay attention to it and make changes in the book.

4. While that book is making the rounds, start another. Repeat. Never stop.

5. Keep learning. Go to writers' conferences, read writer magazines.

(Speaking of writers' conferences, if you're writing mysteries, a good one to try that covers beginning, middle, and advanced writing topics is

6. Don't ever give up.

7. If you really want to be a published writer, you need to do all of the above.

That's a start.


Monday, December 28, 2009

God Knew What He was Doing

God knew what He was doing when he made moms young.

I raised five babies and lived through it. Saturday morning, my middle daughter and I drove three and a half hours to visit and babysit for my youngest great-grandaughter. I wanted to see her and my granddaughter again and because my daughter often makes this trek, I went along this time.

As you can see by the photos, my granddaughter and great-granddaughter are both beautiful. We had fun playing with the baby and things went well for awhile, even after mom went off to work. But--when she realized mom was really gone and only grandma and great-grandma were left to tend to her needs--she was not happy. In fact, she became quite angry and let us know--did she ever let us know.

Grandma--my middle daughter--is still young--compared to me--and she quite expertly fixed bottles, changed diapers, played and cajoled and calmed baby down--for awhile.

Then, baby began experiencing the pain of teething. We'd been warned this was a possibility but we hadn't received any instructions. The crying intensified. Mom was called at work and gave us some tips--and where to find some medicinal remedies. (I had some suggestions from years ago, but they weren't acceptable.) Grandma took completely over and things quieted a bit. Grandma put baby into p.j.s and we got into ours. The three of us climbed into the guest King-size bed. Baby decided she didn't want to sleep anywhere near me. Crying again. Grandma got her up and walked her around until she finally fell asleep. Back to bed they came.

We slept--for awhile. Baby woke and cried. Grandma got her settled and we slept again. Then somewhere in the wee hours, mom came home from work. She took over. We slept until the alarm rang at 4:45 a.m. We had to dress quickly, mom got up to hug and kiss us goodbye and we were back on the road at 5:15 a.m.

It was raining. We drove the 3 1/2 hours home because we needed to be back in time for my daughter's duties as the praise team leader at church and mine as Sunday School teacher. We made it in the nick of time.

Not sure how much sleep we had--maybe 3 hours putting all the snatches of shut-eye together. I'm glad I went though. I helped my daughter when she needed more than two hands, I got to see my granddaughter and great granddaughter and I'm happy I did. And this is the biggie--I kept daughter awake on the long drive home.

And yes, God knew what he was doing when he made mothers young.


Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas Dinner at Our Church

Our church's invitation was to anyone who didn't have a place to go for Christmas dinner, we also offered to take dinners to those who couldn't come out and pick up anyone. The invitation appeared in the morning newspaper Christmas day and we had a big sign out of the highway.

Eight people called for dinners to be brought to them, one family asked for a ride. Others came, not in big rushes but in small groups. We also fed all those who came to help--and we had lots of helpers.

One thing that was very noticeable, those who came who were not members of our church really looked as though they needed a meal and they truly seemed to enjoy it.
I think they all had a great time.

But those who helped probably enjoyed it the most. We took turns at the food table dishing up the turkey, ham, mashed and sweet potatoes, gravy, green bean casserole, dressing and rolls. And we had quite an array of homemade desserts, plus coffee, punch and hot cider.

My daughter-in-law helped at the food table and she said she had a wonderful time. One of my grown grandkids also did a turn--and he too seemed to really enjoy the job.

Usually we have Christmas dinner at my house, but this year I told them if they wanted to eat with me and grandpa, they had to do it at the church. They all came and worked. My granddaughter put name tags on people so we could call them by name when we sat and visited with folks.

It was a great way to spend Christmas--and we had more than enough food.


Saturday, December 26, 2009

And This is What it Looked Like At Our House Christmas Eve

Just a peek at the madness and fun of Christmas Eve. This year we had more kids around than usual. Son and his wife were here, plus there three grown grandkids, a friend with a baby, and three great-grand kids.

We ate pizza, drank sodas, and opened gifts.

Nice evening, but grandpa was glad when the kids went home. The noise gets to him after awhile.


Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

Remember, Jesus in the reason for the season.

Here's wishing you all a blessed Christmas Day. Enjoy the time with friends and family.

Merry Christmas and may your New Year be all that you hope for.


Thursday, December 24, 2009

'Twas the Night Before Christmas

Again, I thought these photos made for a grand Christmas greeting especially on Christmas Eve. In this blog you can see photos of my daughter,her hubby, and her other two grandkids, Peyton and Garrett. Oh, and I must not forget Archie, the dog. The dog belongs to my daughter and her husband, but Archie loves kids, any kids, and they feel the same about him.

These kids also live down in the southern part of California quite near their cousins which makes it nice for my daughter and her husband when it comes time to visit.

The occasions for these photos were Peyton had a violin recital and Garrett had a gymastics exhibition.

I think the photographs convey the Christmas spirit, so once again, Merry Christmas.


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Pageant

Because it's getting so close to Christmas I thought these pictures were definitely appropriate. My eldest daughter's grandchildren participated in a Christmas pageant at their church. It was an original play, and Ethan was a drummer boy and in one picture is holding an injured sheep. He had lines and a lot of action in the play.

His two older sisters, Emily, the eldest, and Olivia were shepherdess.

We don't get to see these great-grandkids often as they live at the southern end of California, but this past year we were fortunate to be with them twice--at our family reunion and when we went to the Erle Stanley Gardner Mystery Festival.

This is one of my Christmas cards to all who take the time to read my blog.

Merry Christmas


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Travails of Country Living

Last week while taking my morning shower, the water barely trickled out. I complained to hubby, of course, and he went out an tinkered with the well. Son, who lives next door and uses the same well, mentioned he'd been doing his wash. We thought that was the reason for the poor water flow.

However, things worsened--soon no water came out at all. A well-man was called, but he didn't stop by until the next day. We were managing on containers hubby had filled with water at the church. (One of the good things about being a deacon and the preacher's son-in-law.)

While all this was going on a feral cat managed to sneak into the house. Once he got inside, he was not happy and meowed his displeasure loudly. We tried to get him out. What this entailed was chasing him around, trying to move him in the direction of the outside door. We couldn't just leave it open because the inside cats would go out and no telling how many more outside cats would come in.

We tried off and one for two days to maneuver the cat toward the door while someone stood there to open it. We'd almost make it, and the dear animal would veer off in another direction.

We finally managed it the same day the well was being fixed--an all day process which entailed a new pump and pipes. Of course by this time the cat had left hidden treasures for us to smell, find and clean-up.

We had water for showers, finally, and doing dishes and the laundry. We took our showers, started the dishwasher and were supposed to go to a party. We both decided we'd had too much stress to enjoy ourselves and would be much happier staying home. So we did.

We watched the last episode of the Ladies #1 Detective Agency and loved it.


Monday, December 21, 2009

Countdown to Christmas

The house does look like Christmas despite the fact we didn't bother to haul out our big artificial tree to decorate. There was a good reasons for that, the last time we did it, the cats thought we'd given them a new toy and they knocked off all the ornaments, breaking all the glass ones. At the time we had two cats, now there are three.

Instead we bought a small pre-decorated and lighted tree and it adds festivities to the part of the room it's in. We also decorated the mantle with three manger scenes, put our Christmas stuffed animals on the hearth, and the ceramic carolers I made years ago on the coffee table despite the fact one of them has a chip in it.

Christmas cards add a lot. As they come in I tape them on the book shelves.

We don't put out the gifts until the afternoon of Christmas Eve--again the reason is the cats.

It'll be fun this Christmas Eve, besides the two grandsons (grown-up)and the granddaughter (also grown), son and his wife, we'll also have the other granddaughter and her two little ones. Husband and father is overseas serving in the Army and that's why she's spending Christmas here, her home is on an Army base in Georgia.

I am ready. Wrapped my last two gifts yesterday.


Sunday, December 20, 2009

Running a Contest on Another Blog

Yep, that's what I'm doing. On Mysterious People,
I have an interview up and if you leave a comment you'll be entered into a contest for my latest Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery, Dispel the Mist.

I've never even had a contest on my own blog, but when I was asked if I'd like to do this on the Mysterious People Blog of course I said yes.

The blog will be up until December 26th, and then I'll draw two of the names to see who will receive the books.

This is fun and I love reading the comments.


Saturday, December 19, 2009

Anyone Else Having Problems Understanding Our Government?

Blizzard expected in the middle west and Atlantic states--our government is overseas where the temperature is about 25 degrees and they are promising big bucks to other underdeveloped countries for help solve the global warming problem. We're going to give money to countries where the leadership is totally corrupt? Does anyone with any sense think the money will go for what it is supposed to?

And we're doing this while getting farther and father in debt? Frankly, I do not get it.

I really hoped things would change for the better, but that clearly is not happening.

Until our government actually goes back to what our founding fathers spelled out I'm afraid we're going to be the laughing-stock of the world, if we're not already.

Heaven help our grandchildren, because it looks like that is all that can possibly help.

I don't usually write anything political, but I just can't believe what's happening.


Friday, December 18, 2009

Expiration Date Indefinite

My husband was in the Seabees for 20 years. We were poor--but we always had good health care mainly because we lived about two blocks from the base and the Navy Hospital. My second child was born there back when it was merely a dispensary. Her first baby was born there when it was called a hospital--but it looked exactly the same. (Her husband was in the Army at the time and I had the privilege of being her birth coach--that was a wonderful experience.)

But I digress. Having a Navy Hospital so close was terrific, though the next three of my children were born at the Catholic Hospital in town and I paid the fee of $25 for the privilege and had a civilian doctor to deliver them. (A true blessing and well worth the $25.) After the children were born, then we returned to the Navy base for subsequent care--sickness, broken bones, stitches. Since all together we had five children (first child was born on the East Coast, also in civilian hospital, can't remember what that cost, but since we didn't have much money it couldn't have cost much) we used the Navy facility often.

When we moved out of the area to where we live now, the closest Navy Hospital was about a two hour drive away--much too far to rely on for medical care. So we purchased medical insurance but could pick the doctor of our choice.

Then things changed for the better, for retired service men and their families something called Tri-Care. It works like medical insurance, paying part of whatever the needed treatment cost and because we are also on Medicare usually that takes care of the rest. And we could keep on using our doctor.

The only concession is that I must have a military ID as a dependent. I've always had one, but every three years it had to be renewed. They want to make sure the spouse doesn't divorce the retiree and continue to get medical care.

My ID card was due to expire January 2010, so hubby and I made the trek out to the nearest military base, two hours away. When we got there we learned we should have gotten an appointment, but now we'd have to wait our turn. That turned out to be an hour and a half.

My name was called. My information was pulled up on the computer, papers were filled out, hubby showed his ID card, I turned over mine, my photo was taken. I was about to ask what I should do in the event my spouse was no longer around--when the young Navy man who took care of us said, "Oh, you won't have to come back anymore because the expiration date is now indefinite."

Seems that the new rule is when you're over 65 they don't expect you to get divorced and you can keep the card until you expire.

Needless to say I'm quite happy to have and ID card with an indefinite expiration date.


Thursday, December 17, 2009

Proud Grandmother

The photo is of my granddaughter, Genie (pronounced Jenny), and her family. Genie was a fun kid--she played soccer and did shotput and discus in high school. School didn't come easy for her, she worked hard to get decent grades. She got her first job as a hostess in a restaurant--and of course we had to go there and eat.

She went to the local community college at first and this is where she met her husband-to-be, Mark. She continued her education at Northridge, where she majored in Speech Therapy (actually had a much longer title, but can't remember exactly) and received her Bachelor's Degree. We proudly attended the graduation with her parents and other members of the family.

Genie and Mark's wedding was beautiful. They moved to Fullerton where Genie became a speech therapist at a local grammar school and Mark started his career as a deputy sheriff. While there she began work on her Master's Degree.

They now have two children, Peyton and Garrett and they now have their own home. Genie teaches speech in a nearby grammar school and she is really busy with all of her children's activities.

Yesterday, Genie learned she'd been chosen as teacher of the year for her school! One more reasons to be proud of this wonderful young woman who is my granddaughter.

Grandma Marilyn

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Front Page News!

What a surprise to open up the local newspaper today and find a headline that said, "Marilyn Meredith authors new mystery novel." I knew there'd be an article, but I certainly didn't expect it to be on the front page.

The story reported my two day stay at the Art Gallery with my books, a lot about my latest Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery, Dispel the Mist, and a mention of No Sanctuary being a finalist in the mystery category of the Epic E-book awards.

Not everything was accurate about the book, but sometimes reviewers who actually have read the book don't get everything right. Again, this is one of those things that may arouse enough interest for someone to buy a book. You never know.

No matter, I'm delighted and must let the young reporter who interviewed me and read the piece how much I appreciated it.

Again, never ever think that not selling a lot of books at an appearance is all there is to this promotion game.


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Christmases Past

Got a sweet email from my eldest daughter who said she'd seen a list of popular toys from the past and remembered all of them--and had gotten most of them. She let me know she appreciated the wonderful Christmases we managed to have despite the fact when our kids were still kids we had very little money.

Hubby was in the Navy (Seabees) and we made so little money we qualified for welfare though we never signed up for it.

I bought Christmas presents all year long and hid them where I was sure they'd never be found. (Learned in later years that the kids did manage to locate some of my hiding spots.) Hubby and I made some gifts too, the one I remember most is a Barbie house that he built and I made the furnishings and decor. Eldest daughter got that one and was thrilled. Of course she got a Barbie to go with it.

Often we got toys that had to be put together after the children went to bed on Christmas Eve--sometimes meaning that we stayed up all night to do it. When hubby was overseas on Christmas, we'd spend Christmas at my parents' and my father had this lovely chore.

One Christmas I had to work and missed the whole Christmas opening procedure. I was not happy. We even ate Christmas dinner out--and I think that's the only time in my entire life that I didn't have Christmas dinner at home.

Our children were always given money to go buy presents for their siblings. That was back when $5 would actually buy three of four gifts at the five and dime store. Today, you might be able to do it at one of the dollar stores.

Of course we always had a tree, though it depended upon how much money we happened to have how big that tree might be. For a couple of years we had an aluminum tree. No one really liked it.

It was a lot more fun to decorate a tree when a bunch of kids helped. We would put each strand of tinsel on one by one. We also popped popcorn to string and loop on the tree branches. More popcorn was eaten than strung.

Sometimes we went Christmas caroling--often with a church group. Does anyone go caroling anymore?

Those long ago Christmases with five children were wonderful--and it didn't matter that we didn't have much money--we had a wonderful time.

Merry Christmas.


Monday, December 14, 2009

What Can Happen After an Appearance

Friday and Saturday I spent the full day at the Porterville Art Gallery with my books. I was near the back by the Christmas Tree. That had no effect on who came by to see me though as there were refreshments in the back room so I had the opportunity to speak with everyone. Those who were interested in books stopped by and took a look, and some bought. One man bought four books in my Deputy Tempe Crabtree series as he likes Native American mysteries.

One of the stringers for the local newspaper stopped by both days and asked me lots and lots of questions. She's interviewed me at various places I've been selling my books--and I think she'd like to be a novelists one day. I know that there will be something in the paper about me because the new managing editor emailed me to ask questions about the article the young reporter had written.

So selling books isn't all that making an appearance is about. I once had a publisher tell me that even if you didn't sell one book, those who saw you and your name, would recognize it the next time they saw it.


Sunday, December 13, 2009

Being the Only Author in an Art Gallery Boutique Sale

Friday and Saturday I spent the full day from 9 to 5 in the Porterville Art Gallery along with artists and artisans selling their wares. Two tables had gorgeous handmade jewelry--and I bought some for Christmas presents. A potter with gorgeous pots, several artist with miniatures, gift cards, handpainted Christmas ornaments, and many beautiful paintings were among the group.

Everyone else was a member of the Art Association, my only requirement was to bring cookies both days.

Just like last year, it rained. Despite that some adventurous souls wandered into the gallery and purchased gifts, including my books. No, I didn't sell a lot, but I did sell more than I have a some places where I paid to have a table.

Like with any of these ventures, I had an enjoyable time meeting new people and hearing lots of stories that may one day become a part of a book. Yep, it's dangerous to tell me your innermost secrets because I may use them someday. However, you'll never recognize it.

That was my last appearance anywhere until next year. I think my hubby is sad because we just got a new GPS. I hope he likes the voice on this one as well as the one on the last.


Saturday, December 12, 2009

What Needs to Happen Before a New Book Comes Out?

Most authors know they must have a strategy to promote a book before it comes out. In fact, many publishers are asking for your marketing plan at the same time that you send in a synopsis and a few chapters.

Because I've done several marketing plans for publishers I usually build on one of those as I'm working on the plan.

Because I'm with a small, independent press I won't have books to send out for review until the book has gone to press and is available for purchase. But once I get books I'll be asking reviewers if they'd be willing to review it.

I'm already planning to go on another virtual book tour in March. If anyone would like me to visit their blog let me know.

I'll have a book launch and I've already been told I can have it the same place I had my last one, a combination bakery and gift shop in town. I'm planning to approach the new book store in Porterville too and see if she's willing to do one too.

Of course I'll update my website to include the new book and submit the first chapter for people to sample.

Because I work on promotion all year I already have several months of appearances scheduled on my 2010 calendar:

Conferences and Conventions: Epicon in New Orleans, Mayhem in the Midlands in Omaha, Public Safety Writers in Las Vegas, Bouchercon in San Francisco.

Speaking engagements: Clovis Library Book Club, Ridgewriters in Ridgecrest, Visalia Library, Hanford Library

Book Fairs and Craft Festivals: Celebration of the Whales in Oxnard, Jane Austen Fair in Fresno.

Group Author Signing: Coalesce Book Store, Morro Bay

In November, I'm going on a mystery cruise and you can be sure I'll be promoting like crazy there.

Of course I'll be writing blogs, posting on Facebook, Twitter and all the other places I'm on.

At the moment I'm fairly open from July on. But guess what, in September I'll have a new Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery and it'll all start over again.


Friday, December 11, 2009

Soon to Have New Book Out

Checking out the cover to An Axe to Grind one can immediately make some valid assumptions. There will be a murder. The victim may or may not be headless. Noticing the badge, you know it'll be a Rocky Bluff P.D. crime novel.

And with all of the Rocky Bluff P.D. novels, the characters who've been there since the beginning, the police officers and their wives, will all be there. In this one, Detective Doug Milligan and Vice Officer Stacey Wilbur are the main players and yes, their romance does move ahead.

You will get to peek into the lives of Ryan and Barbara Strickland again and see how the free boys are faring in their relationship with their step-father. Probably the character who has grown the most throughout the books is Ryan. His transition from a publicity hound and skirt chaser to a good husband and father has been remarkable.

Most of the earlier books you can find on Amazon's Kindle.

And of course, I must once more mention that the one right before this one, , is a finalist in the Mystery/Suspense category of the Epic awards.

While you are reading this, I'll be sitting in the Porterville Art Gallery on Main Street hoping that someone will come and take a look at my books.


Thursday, December 10, 2009

On Organization--or Lack There Of

Once I was truly a well-organized person. When I was the most organized I ran and lived in a licensed facility for 6 developmentally disabled women. I cooked and served three nutritious meals a day and snacks (did all the grocery shopping) and did all the laundry, but I paid someone to do the housework, though I did do touch ups. I planned activities and executed them. I did all the paperwork connected to this job (much of it unnecessary but required), planned and gave approved training to other providers. And of course I took each one of the women to regular doctor visits and any emergency, and kept track of their medications.

I also put out a state-wide newspaper (still do) for other administrators of licensed facilities about new regulations and other news.

Believe it or not I managed to write nearly every day for at least three hours.

When my mom lived next door, we walked three miles every day--looking back, not sure how I fit that in, I sure don't walk three miles anymore.

I've always attended several mystery or writing conferences every year. BAck when we had the facility, I often did this by myself and my husband held down the fort--or when he did go, we hired staff to take care of things.

I'm still writing every day--most days--and I hire someone to do the main part of the house and I do our bedroom, bath and my office. I'm still the chief cook and bottle washer, but I like to cook and I always wash the pots and pans as I dirty them. We almost always eat on paper plates so I don't have to run the dishwasher too often.

One thing that has really changed is how much promotion I do on the Internet. That's can be a real time suck with writing a blog every day and the two I do for other blogs on a regular basis. And then of course there's Facebook, Twitter and all those other things. I also write a monthly newsletter for people who have willing signed up for it.

One of the writing organizations I belong to is Public Safety Writers Association. I'm on the board of directors and my job is organizing the program for the annual conference. It's fun, but also time consuming. I'm also the editor of their quarterly newsletter. The hard part is getting people to write articles for it.

I've confessed before about liking reality shows on TV--but I'm not much good for anything after supper anyway. I've gone like a house afire all day and need some down time and I'm usually asleep by 9 or so.

I'm active in my church, though I don't do nearly as much as I used to. I teach Sunday School and I'm the church clerk which means taking minutes at their bi-monthly council meetings, not difficult.

But I did all these things and more before--now I can't seem to cram quite as much in as I used to. I guess I'll blame it all on getting old--as good an excuse as any.


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Christmas Shopping

I don't do a whole lot of it anymore--we have far too many in our family. Four living children, plus eighteen grandkids and eleven great-grands. My sister and I no longer give gifts to one another, because she has nearly the same situation too--although she gives one present to each of her offspring and most of them show up at her house on Christmas day to receive it.

We've chosen to mostly give money--money to our two girls who live far away, gift certificates to their spouses for a favorite restaurant. For the ones that are here, one I take shopping because she is such a generous person if I gave her money she'd use it to buy gifts for someone else. I give her husband movie tickets as they, like us, love to go to the movies. Son, I give money and gift certificates because he's at our house for the gift opening. In case you think that's unfair, it adds up to the same as I gave the girls.

For the grandkids with their families, I give them money, the amount depending upon how many are in the family. I also send English muffins to each family to arrive sometime close to Christmas.

I'm not that fond of shopping anyway and this is much, much easier.

My mom was a master shopper back in the day and probably why I don't like it much as she used to take me along with her on her expeditions when I was little. We'd ride the streetcar to downtown L.A. always to go to a sale in the Broadway basement. We'd be among the huge throng of women waiting for the doors to be opened, then dash down the stairs to the basement where piles and piles of goods awaited. The women would grab stuff up, fight over things, and all I remember is legs and rear ends. More than once I got lost. Sales in the Broadway basement were far worse than what happens on Black Friday--at least they seemed so to a little girl.

Merry Christmas,


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Christmas Traditions

Over the years we've made had traditions and made new ones.

When our children were small, we stayed up half the night putting together toys we'd purchased, one time we had just finished by the time the kids were awake on Chirtmas Day. We insisted the children open one gift at a time so we could see everything that was received. They always got lots of present from my parents too and they needed to be able to thank them.

When my sister and her family all lived here in Springville, we also had a Christmas gift exchange and party usually at my house, though when the family got too big, we went to a recreation room at a mobile home park. That tradition ended when my sister and her whole family moved to Las Vegas.

Once the kids all grew up, we changed our Christmas gift opening to Christmas Eve. We soon realized that it was much easier to have something simple to eat before hand and have the big meal on Christmas Day when that's all we had to concentrate on.

Our church always has a Christmas party for the adults, finger foods and an exchange of Christmas ornaments.

My writing critique group gets together with spouses and significant others for a dinner out.

This year we're adding something new. Our church is going to provide Christmas dinner for anyone who doesn't have a place to go--not just church members but anyone in the community. It's been publicized in the paper and posters have been put up around town. Our church is small--it's a great day if 30 show up on a Sunday morning. No telling how many will show up for the dinner, but many have promised to bring turkey and ham and various side dishes. If it turns out well, I suspect it'll become another tradition.

Our town is more of a village than town. We have lots of wealthy retirees, but there is also a large low-income housing unit that once was a TB sanitarium for seniors and the handicapped. We also have some down-and-outers of all ages who might like to have a home-cooked Christmas dinner.

Once thing that I've learned over the years, change is inevitable. This one sounds like it will be a wonderful change no matter how it turns out and I'm looking forward to it.

What are your Christmas traditions?


Monday, December 7, 2009

Book Tours--Do you Do Them?

Today I read about an author who was disappointed to find out that her publisher no longer paid for book tours and that was something she had been looking forward to. So instead of forgetting her dream, she and her father put out a call to everyone they knew through various means to see if they could interest people in having her come to universities, libraries, whatever venue they had some influence with. Actually it seemed to work pretty well.

I've never gone on a book tour, though I must confess I've felt a tad bit of envy when reading or hearing about someone's successful book tour. One author I've met and admire is Michael Orenduff (The Pot Thief series) who toured from his hometown to Las Vegas where he attended the Public Safety Writers Association's conference.
Imagine what a task the arranging for that must have been! He also reported have a wonderfully successful book launch for his second book with people lining up waiting for his signature.

Though I have had this envy, I never felt inclined to cold call bookstores to arrange book signings. I do email the ones that I know when I have a new book coming, though not so much anymore. The idea of planning a tour cross-country or even around the state doesn't appeal. When doing a book tour like that you've got to spend money staying in motels or find friends who live in the area who will let you sleep on their couch. I might have considered that a few years ago, but now I prefer the comfort of a bed.

The last few years I've been quite happy to be doing more unconventional promotions such as book and craft fairs, county fairs, art galleries, coffee, sandwich, and gift shops, book clubs, service and social clubs. Of course I've never had a long line waiting to buy and have me sign a book, and I would like to have that experience, but if I never do I've still managed to meet a lot of great people and collect a few fans.


Saturday, December 5, 2009

Spreading Holiday Cheer

On another blog that I post on weekly, one of the bloggers was talking about how people are no longer polite or even nice to one another. Certainly we've all see this.

One way to counteract it and spread holiday cheer is to smile at everyone and say a kind word. It can really be fun. If you smile at someone with a grim expression they'll probably smile back.

I also like to compliment strangers and pick up on something that I like--such as "I really like the way you've done your hair." Or, "Wow, that color looks great on you."
I've even told someone how much I liked their tattoo. Tattoos don't really thrill me (even though my husband has three) but some of them truly are quite artistic.

If you come upon a scary looking individual who is trying to intimidate you, smiling at them and giving a compliment can really disarm them.

You may have guessed, I like to talk to strangers and I hope that maybe I've brought a bit of happiness into their lives or at least surprise.

Because I'm what might be termed "a little old lady", once I know this tactic probably saved me from having my purse stolen. As a very suspicious young man came toward me at a fast pace and I had that feeling I was going to be a victim, I made eye-contact, flashed a huge smile, and asked him where on earth he was going at such a speed. He stopped abruptly, blinked, turned and ran the other way.

Anyway, try it. Tell people how cute their baby is, anything you can find to say. It's fun and it works.


Friday, December 4, 2009

Bad Things Happening at this Time of Year

Just now heard about a friend learning her job was terminated at the end of the month. Crummy timing. I know that's it's happened to more than just her--in fact my son was terminated after working for the same company for five years.

One of my daughters cleans for a family whose house burned down yesterday evening. It's a total loss, all their possessions including the Christmas gifts they'd already bought. The only one home was a grown son who managed to get all their animals out.

Losing your home would be devastating at any time of year--hard to imagine having to start all over.

Over the years I've been terminated a couple of times. Once I taught in a school I loved for ten years. The director and I had a falling out and I had to leave. From there I went to day care center. The woman who hired me moved to another center and the new man hired in her place quickly displayed that he had no heart for the children or his staff. When the school secretary pointed out that he was being dishonest with things like charging the corporation for his wife's services as a translator when we didn't need a translator and we never saw her on the premises, for supplies that weren't there, $200 for a staff party--when the party was at my home and pot luck--and it was obvious something had to be done, but the secretary feared losing her job. I became the whistle blower and lost my job immediately. However, the woman who hired me in the first place, rehired me at her new school.

My point here is something one job loss can lead to another, better position. If I hadn't lost the job at the first school, I would never have moved to the place we live now. When we bought the house we now live in, it was a licensed facility for six developmentally disabled women. We took over the facility, lived in the home, and cared for the women who became like family to us. Along with this new profession I was afforded the time to write. As time went on and regulations required all administrators of facilities to have more training, I organized and taught that training in the area I lived in. My new job brought many new challenges and helped me grow as a person.

Recovering from the loss of a home would be difficult. But my belief is that things happen for a reason. Whether you believe in God or not, my faith tells me that God is in control and if we trust in Him, thinks will eventually work out--and often in a way we could never imagine.

My thoughts and prayers are with everyone who may be experiencing a loss of any kind at this time of year. May God bless you and watch over you and guide you to the next step in your life.


Thursday, December 3, 2009

On Selling Books

Just received a monthly royalty break-down from one of my publishers for the month of September. Though books and e-books were sold at different sources, my royalty came to $17 plus a few cents. My percentage, of course, was the least. The bookstores keep the most, then the publisher, then my cut. And in case you aren't knowledgeable about the publishing business--that's how it goes.

This particular publisher is good about letting the author know which books were sold as e-books and which as trade paperback, whether they were sold through Ingram (which means a bookstore ordered them and they were sold), or Fictionwise (an e-book distributor) or purchased directly from the publisher. I like knowing, because it gives me some idea of how my promotion is working. The royalties were all for previous books, none for Dispel the Mist, as yet. I'm anxious to see how that will play out and if my blog tour helped.

To be perfectly frank, I sell far more books myself at book and craft fairs, library and bookstore talks. I buy the books at a discount directly from the publisher which means a bigger cut--for both of us.

Anyway, that's the bitter truth about the publishing business and being published by a small press. However, the plus side is, they continue to publish my books. If I were with a big New York publisher, I'd probably be terminated. Midlist authors who are friends of mine and write great books have not had their contracts renewed because the sales numbers were not what the publisher wanted.

Hooray for small, independent publishers!


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Reflecting on Childhood Christmases

A great deal of my childhood happened during the 2nd World War. There were shortages on many things, not just food items.

Our church always had a wonderful Christmas program with beautiful music, carol singing, and the first Christmas acted out. The finale was always Santa coming to hand out candy to all of us kids.

My father was the head plumber at Paramount Studio and the studio put on a Christmas program for all the kids of the employees. I don't remember everything about the, what I do remember was that several were at Ebell Theater in Hollywood, and one was held way out in the country on a wonderful ranch--which is now in the heart of Studio City. Every child received a wonderful age-appropriate gift from Santa.

Our Christmases at home were wonderful--filled with anticipation the night before. Of course we hung our stocking on the mantel. And it was extremely hard to sleep and we often woke up around 4 a.m. We were not allowed to go into the living room until our parents were up because they always too movie of us opening our presents.

The presents I remember best were these. A beautiful doll with a China head and hands and a baby carriage to push her in. (I was not to take her outside and of course I did one day and I hit bump while pusher her and broke her beautiful head to pieces.)

My dad built me a two-story doll house and my aunt who was an artist made all the furniture to go in it. It was absolutely wonderful. I have no idea where it ended up.

Usually I received one Story Book doll at Christmas and one on my birthday. After I was married and had kids, I let my girls play with them and they are long gone. My sister hung on to hers and still has them.

During the war no one could buy a bicycle. My father made my cousin (who is only 11 months younger than me) two-wheel bicycles for both of us. They were wonderful bikes.

When I got older of course I received a lot of clothes, but I don't remember what any of them looked like, what I do remember the the Nancy Drew books I received. And of course that's where my love of mysteries began.

Our family really didn't have much money. Mom didn't work and my dad's job as a plumber paid the bills, but my mother was a genius at stretching a dollar. Though I had friends who received more expensive gifts and more of them, my Christmases were magical.


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Last Month of 2009

Can you believe it? It's December already. The holiday season is upon us as they say.

Looking back over the last eleven months, it's hard to believe all that's happened. I've had two of my books published, No Sanctuary under the name F. M. Meredith by Oak Tree Press and Dispel the Mist by Mundania Press. And I've written two books in both those series which are were sent off to the publishers.

I've given talks to the Porterville Women's Club, to a writers group at a book store in the mountains, talks at libraries, to the Yosemite Romance Writers, to my own Sisters in Crime, to the Porterville Rotary Club, attended the Springville Chamber of Commerce annual dinner, had two book launches, attended two writers conferences, and a mystery con, and spoke at the Crime Writers Conference about electronic publishing.

Had a couple of radio interviews, got a scary letter from the IRS that I owed $8000--yep, that much, but after sending in lots of paperwork proved that I didn't own anything, had two blog tours, tried to write my own blog everyday--mostly did it, blogged every Tuesday on the Stiletto Gang and twice a month on Make Mine Mystery.

Attended the Los Angeles Time Book Festival on the UCLA campus and had signing times in two booths as well as two book fests and several craft fairs where I had my books on display.

Wrote my monthly newsletter for those who signed up for it. Also wrote put together the quarterly on-line PSWA newsletter and the monthly newsletter for California Residential Services Association, and attended their business meetings and annual meeting.

Planned the program for the Public Safety Writers Conference and was thrilled by the caliber of speakers and the great comradery among everyone who attended.

Went to my ex-daughter-in-law's wedding and was thrilled to see my two grandson escort the bride and my great-granddaughter as the flower girl.

Taught Sunday School and went to church, brought food and ate at potlucks, helped at Vacation Bible School.

Spent three days with my books at the Santa Barbara County Fair in Santa Maria.

Had regular doctor visits, icky procedures, had an eye exam, went to visit daughters in Ventura County, attended a friend's book launch, traveled to Dana Point to help with another friend's book launch and had a great time, traveled to Ridgecrest to speak to the Ridgewriters, went to Barstow for the Mitchell family reunion and had a book signing there at the motel.

Thanksgiving came and went and now we're in December. Probably I forgot something, but those are the highlights. If you've been following my blog you know about most of it anyway.


Monday, November 30, 2009

Today, Michael Angley is my guest. His books are fascinating--and so is he as you'll discover as you read his answers to my questions.

As a retired Air Force officer, what made you decide to write novels following your first career?

“I’ve always loved to write, but I postponed my long-term goals while I pursued my Air Force career. In hindsight, I think that was a good thing because it allowed me to focus on my writing with the precision it needed. I retired as a Colonel having spent 25 years as a Special Agent with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, or OSI for short. The OSI is the Air Force version of NCIS, so I had plenty of rich experiences to inspire my writing, from running felony-level criminal investigations, as well as counterintelligence and counterterrorism operations around the world. In my last assignment, I was the Commander of OSI Region 8, at Air Force Space Command. I like to tell people, ‘If it entered or exited Earth’s atmosphere, then I had a dog in the fight!’”

What is the Child Finder Trilogy about?

“The trilogy is a mystery/suspense series with paranormal and religious edges. It features a protagonist, Air Force Special Agent Patrick S. O’Donnell, who is as tough as 24’s Jack Bauer, but with the endearing, family-values heart of 7th Heaven’s Eric Camden. He’s an early-thirties Air Force Major assigned to the Pentagon when the 9/11 terrorist attacks take place.

In the debut novel, Child Finder, Agent O’Donnell’s haunting dreams about missing children reveal a hidden psychic gift which the government eagerly exploits, drawing him into a Top Secret program to find missing kids. But to make matters complicated, Uncle Sam has other ideas in mind for his unique paranormal talents…after all, there is a War on Terror underway. One thing’s for sure—ever since joining this new, secret community, he is surrounded by murder, and the very real threat of harm to his own family!”

And the second book?

“Child Finder: Resurrection will launch in December 2009. It has been a year and a half since Agent O’Donnell left the secret child rescue program after it went horribly off-track, resulting in murder and endangering his own family. And just when he thinks he’s comfortably put this painful past behind him, he receives a call from his mentor. The murky, shadowy Top Secret community where he once was center-stage has been revised, revamped, resurrected!

The government needs his psychic skills more than ever. A sick, twisted, menacing child killer is on the loose, and no one but Pat can stop him. But Agent O’Donnell soon discovers this new nemesis is more than he bargained for. Nothing can prepare him for the psychotic genius he must fight…and the life and death cat-and-mouse game that entraps him! Once again, Pat must call upon his faith and strong spiritual connection with God to sustain and guide him, especially during his darkest hours as he battles…pure evil.”

When will the third and final story publish, and what happens in it?

“Child Finder: Revelation (to publish circa December 2010), is the grand finale, so to speak. Many people believe the saying, ‘The truth is out there.’ But as my website says, ‘The truth is in here, and it’s not what you think!’ Patrick O’Donnell is dispatched to Korea on a sensitive mission to crack the disturbing abduction of a high ranking U.S. official’s children. What he discovers about their sudden disappearance — especially where they have been taken — shocks the foundation of international relations. But more intriguing is what makes these particular children so special. What O’Donnell learns about them, and himself, involves sensitive government secrets he regrets ever knowing. These new revelations will rock his faith, his concept of life, and his understanding of his place in the universe. There’s Vatican intrigue, strange and secret agreements between the White House and the Holy See, non-stop action and adventure!”

How did you develop the character of your protagonist?

“I took a chance. I realized that most protagonists in this genre are rough and tough, and rarely show a soft side. I wanted both! Pat is a family man (has two small children), a deeply-faithful Christian, happily-married, and has an incredibly strong moral/ethical compass. At the same time, he is a ‘kick-ass’ investigator and counterterrorism operator. These contrasts come into play as he enters this Top Secret program – he finds himself pulled in many directions where he must make tough moral/ethical decisions (is everything he is asked to do actually legal?). He wants to save kids, but at what price? I also used his faith for contrast as well. He is a man who grew up with an unfulfilled sense of calling – is it the psychic gift and rescue of children? He’s not sure, so he grapples with what it all means.”

Please talk more about your military career.

“I retired from the U.S. Air Force in 2007 at the rank of Colonel. I was a career OSI Special Agent, and served on thirteen different assignments throughout the world. Among these were five tours as a Commander of different units, to include two squadrons and a wing.

I enjoyed an exciting and dangerous career, experiencing all things imaginable as a criminal investigator and a counterintelligence and counterterrorism operator. Following the 1996 Khobar Towers terrorist attack in Saudi Arabia, I was dispatched to command all OSI units throughout the Middle East, with responsibility for 23 countries. During my tenure my teams and I effectively neutralized numerous terrorist threats to U.S. forces in the region, to include an imminent threat to senior Department of Defense officials. In 2004, I commanded all OSI units in South Korea where we countered a classified target in Seoul. I was honored when the President of South Korea presented me with a Presidential Citation and medal, and the Korean National Police Agency (KNPA) Commissioner decorated me with the KNPA Medal of Cooperation.

"Earlier in my career, while commanding an OSI unit in northern Japan, I conducted an operation that effectively blocked a KGB agent’s efforts to steal critical U.S. technology, and thereby stymied Soviet military advances for years. In 1999, I was the Chief of Counterintelligence within the Directorate of Intelligence, U.S. Strategic Command. My office competed for the prestigious Killian Award, a White House level honor that annually recognizes the very best intelligence unit in the entire U.S. government. We came in as first runner-up for this significant honor!”

Did any of your experiences in law enforcement factor in to the Trilogy plot at all?

“Generically, yes. The main reason I decided on this concept for the series was because of the number of crimes against children I worked in the Air Force. Every one of them literally broke my heart, and as a dad myself, it made it even tougher on me. In some respects, Child Finder is a kind of catharsis, enabling me to save some kids even if fictional.”

Obviously Pat O’Donnell stars in all three books, but what about other characters? Will any of them migrate over to the other two books?

“Pat would be nowhere without his team! His career mentor, Colonel John Helmsley, accompanies him on his journeys, as well as the team psychiatrist, Dr. Woodrow ‘Woody’ Davis.”

When Child Finder debuted it received a glowing review from the Library Journal, and earned placement on its Summer Reads List. Were you nervous about the review process?

“VERY nervous! As a debut author, I had zero experience with reviews until then. While everyone involved in my writing projects has been supportive and positive, getting my first impartial review flooded my gut with butterflies.”

What about the award your debut novel received?

“I am thrilled that Child Finder won the Silver Medal for fiction in the 2009 Military Writers Society of America’s Annual Awards program. This was such a huge honor for me, and from what I have been told by the MWSA community, competition was tough this year with the largest number of fiction submissions in the society’s history.”

What do you want readers of your books to walk away with?

“Inspiration. Plain and simple, I want them to be inspired by my protagonist and his exceptional moral grounding. I want them inspired by his love of wife and children, his love of God, his dedication and devotion to his country. I want readers to believe again in the goodness of people. And with regard to Child Finder: Revelation, I want them to challenge everything they have come so comfortably to believe about life. Is there some strange truth out there that Uncle Sam wants to keep under wraps? Does this book finally unleash this revelation? Of course, it’s all fiction…right?”

Thank you, Mike, fascinating stuff and I can't wait to read your books.

(blog is contained within the main site) Mike suggests that not only you visit him but subscribe to his newsletter. If you do and leave a comment, you'll be eligible for a monthly free book drawing.

Mike's books are available online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and his website has built in links. People can also order a signed copy from him via his website – link on every page.


Sunday, November 29, 2009

It's Beginning to Feel a Lot Like Christmas

Well, doesn't it? We haven't even eaten the last of the leftovers, but now it's time to decorate for Christmas.

I don't really do nearly as much decorating as I used to--even though everything is easier. The last time we put up our big tree, artificial, but it looks real, our cats had a great time taking off all the ornaments. I have three small trees that I put around, all decorated, one with lights.

Our favorite decoration is a stuffed moose that sings "Grandma was run over by a reindeer."

This year I put our three ceramic Nativity scenes on the mantel and didn't bother with some of our other Christmas knick-knacks. Another sign that I'm getting older. I'm just grateful I can enjoy another Christmas with my family.

Since I have managed to take care of most of my Christmas giving, I'm hoping next week I'll be free to really get going on my latest Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery. I'm four chapters into it and amazingly my plot is taking off in a couple of directions I never even considered before I began writing.

I'm also in the middle of reading an excellent mystery. It was terribly slow--at least I thought so--in the beginning third, but now it's all beginning to come together. Despite it being on the best seller list, it did a lot of telling rather than showing for chapter after chapter--something that we're told as writers is a definite "no no".

The woman who used to always decorate the church for Christmas is out of town, makes me wonder if anyone is going to take her place. I'll be happy to worship with or without Christmas decorations.

Tomorrow I have a great interview of an author of a most intriguing sounding trilogy of books. I've already ordered the first one.


Saturday, November 28, 2009

Planning Ahead

I'm truly a planner. I like to know where I'm going and what I'll be doing. I have a calendar that I keep by my desk and one for my purse. Everyday, I check my calendar to make sure I'm not forgetting anything. Frankly, I couldn't get along without my calendar.

What do I put on it? Everything. Whatever I'm going to do that day goes on the calendar from working on my budget to a book signing event.

Coming up next week, I need to write a post for the Stiletto Gang on Tuesday, put up Christmas decorations sometime during the week, and my critique group will be meeting on Wednesday. Saturday I'm heading up to the Willow Bridge Bookstore in Oakhurst to talk about e-publishing at 2 p.m.

The main reason I keep an up-to-date calendar (and yes, I already have one going for 2010) is so I don't double book an event. But it does help me to plan my day. If hubby and I are going to a movie, I put that down too.

Oh, and I do make lists every day too. I love crossing items I've completed off the list.

I don't know what this says about me, but I've always operated this way. I have two daughter who follow in my footsteps, and a daughter who accomplishes a lot without much planning, and a son who never plans.

And, confession time, I do forget things sometimes--especially what I meant to take to a book event and never got around to sticking it in with everything else--but I guarantee it would be much, much for forgetting with out my calendar and my lists.


Friday, November 27, 2009

The Aftermath of Thanksgiving

I didn't even think about taking pictures during the meal--too busy getting it ready, serving it, and eating myself. We were already done, cleaned up, and playing Estimation when I remembered I'd charged my iPhone and brought it out for picture taking.

We ended up with only 15 people for dinner--some didn't come because they couldn't be torn away from the TV--however we had two that we didn't expect.

In the pictures are daughter-in-law Elaina and granddaughter Jessica. I couldn't have done the dinner with Elaina--she was so helpful making the mashed potatoes and her wonderful salsa, and just plain being my right hand lady before and after. Jessica made the green bean casserole and it turned out great.

The picture of Carolyn (great-granddaughter) next to daughter Lisa shows what we were doing after we ate and while we ate dessert. In another one it looks like hubby is peeking at grand-daughter Melissa's cards--don't think he was. Aaron (great-grandson) played half a game with us then retired to the couch to watch the football game.

Some of the picture I took were far too blurry, I'm not the best at picture taking, so didn't post them.

I was tickled that my two grown grandson, Nick and Nathan, came even though they had other dinners to attend. Nick brought his girlfriend and his daughter Kay'lee (6)who let me know she had 3 more dinners to attend. Sure glad I didn't, barely got through mine.

Haven't seen Nathan for awhile and learned he'd been sky-diving since our last visit. While here, he took his dad's (our son) new motorcycle for a spin. I was very glad when he got back.

Anyway, it was a great Thanksgiving and we have enough food to host another dinner. We'll ask, not sure anyone will come--except for son and his family who live next door.

Hope everyone had a great time yesterday. I was thinking back and wondering if my mom was still cooking Thanksgiving dinner when she was my age and the answer was no because she came to my house or my sister's for Thanksgiving.

Now it's time to get ready for the Christmas holidays.


Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving One and All!

I'm writing this post the day before Thanksgiving because I know I'll be far too busy tomorrow. Yes, I'm the cook again this year. We'll be having 17 people for dinner--but I'm a piker, my sis is having 30. Years ago when she still lived in Springville, we used to do Thanksgiving together at my house. She always brought the pies and cookies (I don't do well with either) and made the gravy. My aunt always brought the green beans and the sweet potatoes. My mom made her famous green pineapple jello. Of course I did the big stuff, turkey, ham, etc. Others brought other side dishes.

Our families continued to grow over the years and when all my sister's kids moved to Las Vegas, she followed. Now she has them, their kids and their kids' kids joining her and her hubby at the Thanksgiving table.

When we moved to Springville, we left two grown daughters behind. For a long while they continued to come to Springville for Thanksgiving--but now their children have grown and some started their own families. Eldest daughter and hubby will be spending Thanksgiving with youngest daughter and family. Some of the kids will be home and some not. Youngest daughter has two sons who have moved far away--but may be coming for Thanksgiving. One of eldest daughter's kids and family will be coming for that Thanksgiving dinner.

Here at home we'll have our middle daughter, her hubby, a young man who lives with them, her eldest daughter and hubby with their three kids, our son, his wife, daughter and two sons. And who knows, we may have some guests we didn't expect.

I love Thanksgiving. The food is great, it's fun to be surrounded by loved ones, I'm sure the men will watch football and we'll have a raucous game of Estimation. And we'll have lots of leftovers so I won't have to cook for a few days. One more thing to be thankful for.

Here's wishing your Thanksgiving to be wonderful.


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Great-Grandma's Bragging

This is Peyton with her trophy and 2nd place ribbon she won in Denver this past weekend in the individual dancing competition for Irish dancing. It has a different name which I can neither pronounce or spell.

The dancing group she belongs to won 3rd in group competition.

Needless to say, we are all proud of her. She's only in second grade. She's the one that decided she wanted to learn how to do these dances. She's also learning the violin with the goal of being able to play the violin and dance at the same time.

She's quite a grown-up little girl.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Life of a Writer--Mine

Many readers think of writers as having a life that is magical, much different from what every day folks experience. That might be true of the likes of John Grisham and Mary Higgins Clark but it isn't for an author like me.

Anyone who has read my blog for awhile knows that I'm published by two small, independent publishers and that I have a very large family by anyone's standards.

I usually rise a little before six, dress and greet the day with a cup of Chai tea. Though I ought to immediately start writing, I must confess, I always check my email first--and if I have a blog to promote, I'll post about it on Facebook and Twitter.
Sometime during the day, I have to write something for this blog and I'm also on the Stiletto Gang on Tuesdays and I blog for I Love A Mystery on the first and third Tuesdays.

A couple of times a week I do the laundry. I clean our bedroom and bath, my office and the hall--though I manage to con relatives into helping with the other cleaning.
Hubby often fixes breakfast, we do our thing for lunch and I'm the cook for dinner. We usually have our son and his wife and sometimes their daughter join us. I've never learned to cook for two and rather than having too many leftovers or throwing food out, I'd rather have company.

I teach Sunday School and attend church on the weekends that I'm home. When I'm promoting a book, I'm gone off and on.

I write a newsletter once a month for the residential care business which I was a part of for over twenty years and I still go to their board meetings to keep up with what is going on.

Hubby and I love movies and try to go once a week--though we don't always find something we want to see. We also watch movies on DVD.

Of course I read a lot--mysteries of course and I write review of those I like for DorothyL and Amazon.

We spend time with family--and guess who the cook is for Thanksgiving this year? Yep, that's right, me. I've made the menu, done the shopping, and I think there'll be about twenty of us. I'm looking forward to seeing everyone and playing Estimation with the kids.

So, though I am a writer, my life is very much like anyone else's.

Eventually I'll get back to my work in progress, another Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery.


Monday, November 23, 2009

Epic Open Letter About Writers Association vs. Harlequin

EPIC Open Letter

The Writers Associations vs. Harlequin

The internet is abuzz with news of the backlash in the wake of Harlequin's new "Harlequin Horizons" (soon to be renamed)vanity line. Everyone has their two cents to add; EPIC (ElectronicallyPublished Internet Connection) is no different, though EPIC is in a unique position in this discussion.

Why is EPIC unique? Because we don't have a requirement that would preclude self/subsidy/vanity-published (s/s/v) authors or publishers from joining EPIC as full members. To be a member of EPIC, you must be a published author or industry professional…period. We don't require books or covers entered in our contests to be from conglomerates or even from royalty-paying press. Also, we are not a writers'association "of America" group. EPIC is a global organization that includes members from around the world from the US and Canada to the UK, Germany, Australia, India, and farther.

EPIC started in 1997 as a proposed chapter that split from RWA and formed its own organization. We acknowledged then that RWA was not in a position to accept the indie/e model and support its e-published members. In the twelve years since, EPIC and RWA have grown in different directions.

EPIC embraces all genres of fiction and non-fiction and welcomes industry members as full members, to include: publishers, cover artists, editors, agents, and others who work together toward common goals in the digital publishing age. WAs (Writers of America Associations) are largely author organizations for the traditionally published (or inRWA's case, pre-published authors, as well) and include a limited
range of genres under their umbrellas.

What is EPIC's "official position" on this matter? The official position is that Harlequin authors (and Harlequin as a publisher) were welcomed in EPIC before and continue to be welcomed,including those of the new Horizons line.

The bylaws of EPIC do not specify that a publisher must be a traditional, royalty-paying press, and in fact, they specify that s/s/v-published authors are welcome in EPIC. Our contest guidelines specify that a book must be released for sale in the English language, not that it must be from a traditional, royalty-paying press. Further, the publisher code of ethics instituted by the EPIC publisher coalition
in April of this year does not preclude s/s/v publishers from signingthe code. This code represents what EPIC feels is right and appropriate when dealing with authors.

If anything in the code would limit the Horizons venture, it would come down to a couple of key bullets, including:

* Complete disclosure of all terms prior to author signing a contract. The Horizons site makes claims about s/s/v that imply unrealistic expectations and ignore the pitfalls of s/s/v. As a large number of aspiring authors considering s/s/v will not know the pros and cons of this career choice, full and complete disclosure would include realistic information about what will likely happen when authors choose to use s/s/v.

* The publisher will aid authors in marketing their books. No mention is made of Horizons marketing for the authors, unless the authors pay for a marketing package.

Further, the code would limit the new Carina line, based on a single code item, as far as we are able to discern thus far: "contracting for only such rights to the works of our authors that the publisher reasonably expects to utilize during the term of the contract".
According to the Carina team, they will be signing all rights with no immediate intentions of doing print.

Not adhering to the code would not preclude Harlequin from joining EPIC or even from competing their books and covers in the EPIC contests, even those from Horizons and Carina, but it would preclude them from being listed as a code of ethics publisher.

EPIC does find it troubling that Harlequin chose to lend its name to "Harlequin Horizons," their new vanity publishing arm, but not to Carina, its indie/e-style, traditional royalty-paying press. By doing so, Harlequin suggests that vanity publishing is more acceptable with the Harlequin name attached than a traditional e-publisher associated with the same parent company. This is troubling to anyone with an interest in e-publishing, which would include EPIC members. At the very least, one would think both publishing arms would be equals in Harlequin's eyes. Harlequin further muddies the subject with its own statement, indicating their acceptance of the "changing environment" in publishing.

From a marketing standpoint, one would think Harlequin would, initially at least, want to distance itself from both lines, as departures from the norm they excel at, but in light of the existing Luna and Spice Briefs lines, one would think (of the two new ventures proposed by Harlequin this month), they would want to associate themselves with Carina, as a traditional e-publisher.

But what about the problem the industry faces, in general? To appreciate this situation requires looking at it from two points of view; that of the WAs and that of Harlequin.

The Harlequin Perspective - A new way forward?

Does Harlequin have the "right" to start up a vanity line? Of course, they do. Harlequin is a business independent of any and all WAs. No industry organization should have the power to dictate how Harlequin should run their multi-billion dollar company. They do not need permission or blessing from anybody on how they conduct business, EPIC or otherwise.

In its rebuttal to RWA, Harlequin stated: "It is disappointing that the RWA has not recognized that publishing models have and will continue to change. As a leading publisher of women's fiction in a rapidly changing environment, Harlequin's intention is to provide authors access to all publishing opportunities, traditional or otherwise."

On this point, EPIC concedes that Harlequin is correct. RWA has not kept up with the changing face of publishing. Their own members have begged RWA's Board of Directors to form committees and research the digital age of publishing—and they have been denied until this moment, when they have been forced to do so. RWA has frequently changed its guidelines to avoid accepting the changing face of royalty-paying press,
in all its forms.

This is one of the core problems with RWA, SFWA, and MWA. A professional organization must set standards, but changing those standards repeatedly shows a certain amount of duplicity, and ignoring the changing industry is worse. As industry organizations, at least staying abreast of new trends is vital, even if your guidelines remain somewhat stagnant after your debate on those changes.

The WA Perspective - The status quo?

Does RWA have the "right" to yank Harlequin's status for lending their name to a vanity publishing line? YES! RWA's current guidelines say that they must revoke Harlequin's status; therefore, doing so is the only correct course they can take.

RWA has won the respect of many for following its own guidelines despite the size, history, and market presence of the publisher, and EPIC applauds them for it. If Harlequin's true intent is to funnel aspiring authors that they reject over to "Harlequin Horizons," EPIC understands why RWA would deny Harlequin editors appointments at National.

EPIC sympathizes with authors affected by this. With Harlequin's status revoked, any Harlequin author who has not already submitted for PAN and authors who might sign contracts with Harlequin are not eligible for PAN. In future years, under the current guidelines, Harlequin books would not be eligible to compete in the RITA, no matter which line they come from.

Worse, SFWA and RWA have historically removed current paid members, who've formerly qualified as published authors with a later-revoked publisher, from membership or from membership perks they'd qualifiedfor, in previous industry dust-ups. Some of those authors never regained the status they were stripped of.

Nevertheless, Harlequin had to realize that putting the Harlequin name on a vanity line, then sending aspiring authors rejected by Harlequin not to Carina--which is still traditional though e--but to theHarlequin's new vanity line and posting RWA links on the vanity arm's webpage would antagonize RWA, whose views on vanity publishing were well known. In fact, the views of SFWA and MWA are well known.
These moves were not well considered. They made an immediate and decisive move by the WAs necessary.

Self- and Vanity Publishing...An Apologia

There's nothing inherently wrong with self/subsidy/vanity. Certain niche markets and projects lend to it. As long as the presentation (editing, cover, formatting, etc.) is sound, and the authors know going in what the pros and cons are, everything is good.

There are good, bad, and ugly examples of publishing everywhere, from the NY conglomerate's main lines to indie/e to s/s/v. If an author chooses to go the final route, it is on him/her to make sure the presentation and marketing plan are sound. EPIC encourages authors to make those decisions for themselves, without artificial interference from the organization about it. We're here to support our members,
not to make their choices for them in an effort to "protect" them.

On the other hand, EPIC stands with several editors and authors who have tossed their rocks at Harlequin over the wording on the Horizons site. According to Dee Powers' yearly questionnaire of NY editors and agents, indie/e is considered a viable resume point for a writer; s/s/v, at this time, is not, unless you hit the sales jackpot, which is highly unlikely but admittedly possible. The Horizons site gives the impression that publication there will not only be respected but also that it will open the door to not only Harlequin but also other NY conglomerate
publishers and even Hollywood...if you pay enough and work hard enough. It goes against the grain of full disclosure in the pitfalls and problems with s/s/v. On that point, I agree with SFWA's response to Horizons.

Harlequin's newest tack is to remove their name from the Horizons vanity line. If that also includes not funneling rejections from Harlequin to that line and removing the ads for Horizons from the main HQ site, it may actually fly with the WAs. Or it may not. SFWA, at least, has made it clear that they want full disclosure of the pitfalls and problems of s/s/v included to reinstate Harlequin.

A Final Word from EPIC -

One of EPIC's missions is to educate authors on all the options available in publishing and to promote good practice and good business relations between author and publisher. It's a brave new world in publishing circles, and the growing pains are coming to the fore.

Brenna Lyons: EPIC President
Electronically Published Internet Connection

(Since everyone is talking about this and I'm a member of Epic I thought I'd like to share.)


Sunday, November 22, 2009

An Axe to Grind

This is the next book in the Rocky Bluff P.D. crime series. Isn't this a great cover? I am so pleased.

I will be doing another blog tour in March so if anyone would like to host me for that, email me at

Also you can read the first three chapters here:

Please leave a comment.


Saturday, November 21, 2009

Blind Side and New Moon

Yesterday, hubby and I managed a double feature. We went to see "Blind Side" first which started at 10:45 a.m. and were glad we weren't planning to see "New Moon" then because there was a huge line already for people who had purchased tickets ahead of time. We bought tickets for the 2 p.m. showing of "New Moon". We had only 20 minutes between the two shows.

We both loved "Blind Side". Sandra Bullock plays a rich, Southern, Christian white socialite who befriends and gives a home to a big, black teenager. It's definitely a feel-good movie--and definitely entertaining. Sandra Bullock was definitely the right person to play the part of this fearless woman who does what she thinks is right no matter what her friends or anyone else may think. Fortunately, her husband and children go along with her.

New Moon played in the biggest auditorium (as well as another small one at different times) and though there were lots of people there, it wasn't full. I liked the movie--a romantic fantasy all the way. All the girls and women in the audience seemed to love it too from the oohs and aahs I heard. Of course it's not over--two more to come.

The young man (supposed to be 17 and I'm sure he isn't much older) who plays the vampire is quite sickly looking, like he has leukemia or some other horrid disease. The young man who plays the Werewolf isn't nearly as handsome in the face (though there are many who would argue this point) but he's got quite a physique which is displayed a lot in the movie.

My husband wasn't thrilled with it, but he didn't go to sleep. He goes to sleep a lot in movies and I have to poke him when he snores, but New Moon had enough action to keep him awake.

Anyway, I enjoyed the day. We had breakfast out before we began our movie marathon and ate dinner at our favorite Thai place afterward.

See the movies for yourself and let me know what you think.

Friday, November 20, 2009

What I'm Thankful For

With Thanksgiving approaching it's time to think about all that I have to be thankful for.

First and foremost, for my faith in God and my belief that He is in control no matter what happens.

Of course I'm thankful that I live in the United States and because of that, as a woman I can do so much more than I could if I'd been born in many countries around the world.

I'm thankful for my home and the fact that we always have enough food on the table for us and whoever else happens to be joining us at the table.

I'm thankful for my family, husband first and foremost for all that he's put up with over the years, for supporting me both physically and mentally, and for being my best friend, companion and sweetheart for all these many years. For my kids, grandkids and great grands who have given me great joy. I'm truly blessed. Not many get to see, know and love their kids' kids, and then the next generation too.

I'm also thankful for my sis and her husband--she's always there for me, no matter what. I just wish we lived closer to one another.

I'm thankful for my health and the fact that I can still do most of what I've always been able to do though a bit slower and more carefully these days.

I'm thankful for my church family and all the prayer warriors.

I'm thankful for my friends and especially my writing friends. How much fun we've had together over the years. And a special thanks to my critique group who help me make my first drafts much, much better.

I'm thankful for both my publishers, Mundania and Oak Tree Press. Both are so professional and willing to put my work into print and e-books.

I recognize the fact that I am truly blessed and I thank God for these blessings.

In case any of you reading this think I've never had any problems so that's why I'm so thankful, I can assure that my marriage has certainly had it's lows along with it's highs--but we hung in there. For many years, while hubby was in the Seabees and we had such a large family, we struggled to make ends meet. Kids got into trouble. I got fired from a job I loved. We moved away from grown kids and a house and city I'd grown fond of to a completely new area where we knew no one. We took on a job we really knew nothing about--it was hard and we struggled, but we kept at it and succeeded. We also love where we live now.

We lost or oldest son to cancer. Hard, hard, hard. I miss him terribly but know that I will one day see him again.

Watched both my dad and my mom decline and suffer until they too left this world to be made whole and rejoice with the Lord.

Despite the difficulties, I know that I am truly blessed and want everyone to know how thankful I am.