Thursday, April 30, 2009

Coming Next

We have a busy weekend planned.

Saturday, May 2nd it's back to Fresno and the San Joaquin chapter of Sisters in Crime. I'm the speaker this month--and I've been asked to answer lots of questions about writing, how I schedule my writing time, how I handle writer's block and various other topics. Of course I'll be bringing copies of my latest two books, No Sanctuary and Kindred Spirits. I'm always tickled to see all my Sisters.

When we get home, we'll attend our church's youth groups' Spaghetti Dinner, a fund raiser for the kids to go to camp this summer. Hubby does NOT like spaghetti, but he'll bite the bullet and attend. It's only $5 a plate, so who can complain?

On Sunday, we're attending the wedding of an ex-daughter-in-law. She and our son divorced years ago--but she gave us two grand-sons who are now grown. They are both participating in the ceremony. Afterward, the reception is being held in the Italian restaurant where she's been a waitress for years--more spaghetti? For hubby's sake, I hope not.

Monday, I'll be back at the computer working on either my own manuscript or a ghost writing project that I'm waiting for the go-ahead on.

Marilyn a.k.a. F. M. Meredith

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


Yesterday visiting daughter and son-in-law, hubby and I went to the movies and saw Earth. Documentaries are not my usual choices for movie viewing. However, to truly enjoy the amazing film, seeing it on the big screen is the better choice.

James Earl Jones narrates as the camera catches spectacular images of this amazing planet we live on. It's not the Seven Wonders of the World, but it covers Antartica, the Arctic, the desert and rain forest and some of the creatures who live in each place.

If you go to see it, stay through the credits--shows you some of what the people who took the photos went through--entertaining stuff.

Off to prepare breakfast for my family.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Mary Higgins Clark and Other Famous Writers

Over the years I've met several authors who fall into the category of Best Selling and Famous.

Probably the one who falls into the category who has the most recognizable name is Mary Higgins Clark. I met Ms. Clark for the first time when I attended my very first mystery conference. It was held in a camping center with rather primitive accommodations. We did have rooms that you had to share and not necessarily with someone you knew--there were only a certain amount of beds. My sis and I shared our room with a stranger who wasn't at all happy. The ground was uneven and sensible shoes were needed.

No one bothered to tell Ms. Clark what the area was like. Her clothing was what you'd expect someone to wear in a much classier environment. She had dressy outfits, wore nylons and high-heeled shoes. Despite this, which I knew must've made her uncomfortable, she was a nice and approachable as could be. It was a small conference and everyone had the opportunity to get to know her.

Years later, I attended a cocktail party the night before the Edgar awards. She was there with her then fairly new husband. I told her who I was and where we'd met and she acted like we were good friends and immediately introduced me to her husband. We chatted for a few moments before I left. I know she couldn't possibly have remembered me after all these years, I used to be much thinner than I am now and not near the wrinkles.

What was interesting about her, she looked terrific. Her hair was a lighter color, quite becoming, and she had a glow about her. (New marriage I suspect.)

Jan Burke is another friendly and down-to-earth person. My first meeting with her was right here in Springville when the Friends of the Springville Library brought her in to speak. A couple of my Fresno Sisters-in Crime friends came all the way to meet her and buy her latest book. I saw her off and on at mystery conventions and she was always friendly. One year at Mayhem in the Midlands, her husband, my husband, and Wm. Kent Krueger's wife sat on a panel and told what it was like being married to an author. Funny stuff!

Ran into J. A. Jance in the hall of a hotel one day and she told me what promotion works best for her. (I'd met her previously at a SJ Sisters in Crime meeting.) She's another author who is always friendly.

Wm. Kent Krueger writes terrific books and he's also a super nice guy. I met him first at Mayhem in the Midlands and have seen him at several Bouchercons. Always friendly.

Now, on the other hand, there are some famous and not so famous authors who do not fall into the friendly category. I won't mention names, but no matter how often they see you there is nary a sign of recognition--and you're lucky if you'll even see a smile. These authors have their little gathering of pals and they are the only ones that they seem to want to be around. Not the way to get fans who will buy your books.

I'm not a famous best seller--but I hope I'm always friendly to anyone who wants to speak with me. I might not remember names, but I always remember faces.

a.k.a. F. M. Meredith

Monday, April 27, 2009

Back From L.A. Times Book Festival

If possible, every author should try to go to the L.A. Times Book Festival. It's eye and mind boggling. Thousand and thousands of people attend. Is it worth it as far as welling your own books? No, because there's far too much competition from all the big name authors like Mary Higgins Clark and her daughter. (They also appeared on stage and if you had gotten a free ticket ahead of time you could of seen them being interviewed--same with many other celebrities who have written books.)

I've been three times and I've decided this was my last. Not because of low book sales because I did fine in the Sisters in Crime booth, but I'm too old to be walking about a mile from the parking garage pulling a load of books in a carrier down hill to get to the venue and up hill to get back to the parking garage at the end of the day. (Plus it's scary driving around in L.A.)

Just being on the UCLA campus is wonderful. The buildings are old and beautiful. Seeing the sea of thousands of white tents side-by-side as you come onto what is usually a grassy and cement open-area is mind-boggling.

Every kind of book you can imagine is available from authors, publishers, bookstores, special interest groups (political, health areas, product sellers), and religions of all kinds.

I had a one-hour signing experience on Saturday and Sunday in a co-op booth where I'd paid for the time. The booth wasn't in the most advantageous spot--nor was it in the worst places. I only sold one book each day there. However, I did talk to many people and hubby handed out lots of cards.

The L.A. Chapter of Sisters in Crime was far better. I had a two hour signing slot there on Sunday. I joined that chapter for a couple of reasons: one, so I could sign in their booth and to keep in touch with what their members were doing in So. Cal.
Six authors signed at a time and I knew a couple of them and believe I sold as many books as most of them did. Hubby acted as a shill, handing out my cards to passers-by and talking about my books and I must say, some folks came and bought a book because of his efforts.

We stayed in a crummy motel (good chain) in a not so great part of town, but only about seven minutes from UCLA. Took much longer to walk from the parking garage to the festival than the drive. Friday evening we walked around the corner to an Arabian cafe, food was good. What was interesting was several people were smoking hookahs (water pipes)inside the place. Never saw that before.

The next night we risked our lives cross Santa Monica Blvd. to go to a Japanese Restaurant. (The crossing sign was way too short and we had to run.) The restaurant was a tiny hole in the wall with wonderful food.

Except for the fact there are scary drivers on the road, our three and a half drive to and fro was uneventful.

If you ever want to do this, you need to make arrangements with a bookstore or organization this is going to have a booth as it's the only way you'll be able to sell books.


Sunday, April 26, 2009

Missing a Unique Time at Church

Because I'm at the L.A. Times Book Festival on the UCLA campus today, I am unable to attend church services at the Springville Baptist Church--the church where I've been a member since 1981.

Today is Youth Sunday, and our little church is celebrating by having the youth take over the entire service. Kids will be collecting the offering, singing and leading the singing, giving the announcements and the missions moment. And yes, two young men are each giving a sermon. One is sixteen and my great grandson, Brandon. The other is my granddaughter Jessica's fiance, Juan. Juan is nineteen.

Oh, how I'd love to be there and see and her how these kids do. I've heard Brandon preach before. He gets nervous and paces a lot.

Once his younger brother preached at one of these Youth Services, he was about 10. He preached about adultery. (The kids get to write their own sermons.) That was quite interesting--certainly kept everyone's attention.

I won't miss out completely as my daughter is going to film the event.

I'll be sending up a prayer asking for guidance for these two young men.

a.k.a. F. M. Meredith

Saturday, April 25, 2009

L.A. Times Book Festival

I'm writing this in anticipation of what I'll be doing today. I'm attending the L.A. Time Book Festival on the U.C.L.A. campus today, Saturday the 25th and tomorrow, Sunday, the 26th.

I'll be signing copies of No Sanctuary in Booth # 610 in Section F from 1 to 2 on both days.

On Sunday, I'll also be at the Sisters in Crime booth from 10 to 12. That booth is located right in the middle of things. I'll be signing copies of Kindred Spirits as well as No Sanctuary.

Anyone who buys a book from me at either booth will get a free copy of Deadly Omen, the first book in the Deputy Tempe Crabtree series.

If you are there, please stop by and say "hi."

Friday, April 24, 2009

Earth Day Thoughts and My Sarcastic Views

While Earth Day was being celebrated, I thought about the people who were telling all of what we ought to be doing to "Save the Planet." Oprah had a program with all sorts of tips. My first thought was, "And what pray tell is Oprah herself actually doing to save the planet." I suppose her answer might be, "Through my very popular television show, I'm letting people know what they ought to be doing." Okay.

President Obama and his wife, Michelle, had a vegetable garden put into the White House lawn. Whoopee! I can't quite see Mr. President and his Mrs. out there wedding the garden. Oh, I'm sure they'll show their girls how to do this and that, but the back-breaking, sweat inducing real work that it takes to care for a vegetable garden? I don't think so.

What about all these movie stars who rant and rave about what "we" ought to be doing and have two or three private airplanes to fly wherever they want to go? I never have figured out why people think movie stars have any great insight into anything. Most of them can't even have a relationship with someone for any length of time. The majority have few or no morals and we're supposed to listen to their advice about anything? But people do, isn't that amazing?

Don't get me wrong, I'm doing my part. I changed every light bulb in my house to those funny-shaped ones (to be honest, my husband did it), and we put solar panels on our roof. Of course, we did that to lower our electric bill. We do have bags to put our groceries in--though sometimes I forget to take them inside the store. I recycle water bottles--our well water is far superior to the city water that's been bottled from city water no matter what the label says. I use plastic sacks to line my waste baskets. When possible, I reuse zip lock bags.

I just get tired of people who are using up far more of the world's resources than me or any of my friends, telling me what I ought to do.

That's how I feel and I'm not backing down.

a.k.a. F. M. Meredith

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Forensic Handwriting Expert and Author, Sheila Lowe

Long, long ago and far, far away (well, Anaheim, CA) when I was a senior in high school, my boyfriend’s mother analyzed my handwriting from a book she’d read. Fascinated with the things she wrote about me, when I found a 25 cent booklet at the grocery store (this was 1967, when you could still find things for 25 cents) called Handwriting Analysis, a Guide to Your Hidden Self, I grabbed it up and started studying. For the next ten years I haunted the library and bookstores and read everything I could about handwriting analysis. When I finally discovered there were courses in this field, I was thrilled to bits, and the rest is, well, history.

Eventually, I became certified by the American Handwriting Analysis Foundation and a few years later, an attorney contacted me to handle a forgery case. I said I didn’t do handwriting authentication and couldn’t possibly testify in court. The attorney disagreed. He asked, “Do you know handwriting?” Well, yes. I’d been studying and working with handwriting for nearly twenty years by now. “You can do this,” the attorney insisted. “I’ll get you qualified.” And he did. That was 1985. Today, my practice is divided between handwriting authentication in cases of forgery, and behavioral profiling for employers who want to make sure they’re hiring the best person for the job. I also have PI and law enforcement clients, psychologists, and just plain folks. Basically, anyone who needs to understand someone else better is my prospective client.

Along the way, I wrote The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Handwriting Analysis, which has been an international bestseller, and Handwriting of the Famous & Infamous, and a whole lot of monographs and articles about handwriting, as well as Sheila Lowe’s Handwriting Analyzer software. But what I really always wanted to do since I read my first mystery at age 7 was write one. Finally, I did.

Of course, the logical thing to write about was handwriting analysis. After analyzing more than ten thousand handwriting samples over my career, I had collected some interesting cases. So my fictional handwriting expert, Claudia Rose, does very much the same type of work that I do, only she’s much braver (or sometimes foolhardy) in the way she goes about it.

A friend in New Mexico read my manuscript and told me I needed to enter it in the Southwest Writers Conference competition. With no expectations, I entered the first 20 pages and was thrilled when I placed third of 96 entries in the Mystery category. Well, of course this meant I would immediately get published, right? After all, part of the prize was dinner with the judges, editors (the late) Sara Ann Freed and Tom Colgan. Wrong.

Dinner was delightful and both editors invited me to send them the entire manuscript. Long, sad story short, neither bought it. Sara Ann, who had said initially that she loved the characters, and found them “slightly over the top in a Jackie Collins way” said she didn’t like the characters (!). Tom tried not once, not twice, but three times to talk his editorial committee into buying my book but they said it wasn’t strong enough. Huh? What does that mean? No one could tell me. It took seven years for me to figure it out, but once I understood, with the help of a good independent editor, what was needed, the book got sold.

In the beginning, I hadn’t thought about writing a series, but while trying to sell Poison Pen, the first book, I began writing Written in Blood, applying what I had learned along the way. “Friends” kept telling me to give up on Poison Pen and just chalk it up to experience, but there was no way I was going to let all the hundreds (thousands?) of hours I’d put into that book just languish in my computer. So every rejection I got, I wrote a new draft, polished, improved and, as mentioned above, finally got it right. I got a two book deal with Penguin, followed by another two book deal. Book three, Dead Write, is about to come out in August, and I’m currently working on Unholy Writ for release next year. The series seems to be selling well and I hope it will continue for some time.

I’m also writing a non-fiction book about relationships and handwriting. Psychological research tells us that people are motivated by four basic but complex needs: the need for love, security, power, the need to create. When we don’t get one or more of those needs met early in life, we tend to spend a big chunk of energy on pursuing it. For example, the person who doesn’t receive the proper amount or kind of nurturing as a child grows up looking for love (yeah, in all the wrong places), yet even when they find it, it’s never the right kind. They feel like a bottomless pit and keep making bad choices. Handwriting shows what it is that motivates us. Using the handwritings of celebs such as the Obamas, Britney Spears, Jack and Jackie Kennedy, and many others, the book will give clues to look for in the reader’s own handwriting that will help to avoid those bad relationships. I’m planning to include some graphotherapy exercises to help the reader work on dissolving blocks to relationship success.

Finally, I’ve learned over the past ten years that writing the book is the “easy” part. Getting it sold is somewhat harder. But the hardest part of all is the marketing. Like most people, I’d always thought that all the marketing would be handled by the publisher. I’ve learned otherwise. But that’s another story.

Sheila Lowe

(805) 658-0109 - forensic handwriting mystery series

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Chester Campbell, author of The Surest Poison

Welcome to Chester Campbell, today’s guest blogger, whose writing career has spanned sixty years. His latest work is a mystery novel titled The Surest Poison, just published by Night Shadows Press. In it, three seemingly unrelated murders crop up during the investigation of a toxic chemical dump that plagues a rural community west of Nashville. PI Sid Chance is hired to find the party responsible for the pollution behind a small plant whose current owner is being harassed by the state. Sid is tailed, threatened, and shot at before encountering some nasty guys from his past.

In her Agatha Award-winning book Don’t Murder Your Mystery, Chris Roerden says, “Talking that offers no resistance, no characterization, and no meaningful interaction to move the story forward is not dialogue.”

So what is dialogue? To start with, it’s one of the most potent arrows in the writer’s compositional quiver. Dialogue is a form of action that can make your characters come alive.

If your dialogue is snappy, adversarial, and oblique, your manuscript has a good chance of getting past the screeners who are first readers at literary agencies, Roerden says. The object is to make those words between the quotation marks give clues to the speaker’s personality as well as provide a forward push in the direction the plot is taking. It’s an opportunity to portray characters directly, through their own voices.

As with any area of writing, there are some cautions. The voices need to sound natural, the way people really speak, but without all the meaningless trivia that we throw into everyday conversations. And a little bit of colloquialism goes a long way. One or two “ain’ts” is enough to brand a character.

Another pitfall to beware of is using dialogue for a data dump. Avoid continuous paragraphs of one speaker. Break it up with a question for clarification or an action by one of the characters. You can also intersperse paraphrases with dialogue. If you’re trying to create tension, don’t let it fizzle through information overload. As Roerden puts it:

“A data exchange is a tension deficit disorder.”

In the opening chapter of my new mystery, The Surest Poison, my private investigator, Sid Chance, frustrated, runs off to his remote cabin for a few days. As soon as he returns home, he gets a call from Jaz LeMieux, a wealthy businesswoman and former cop who got him into the PI business and becomes a part-time associate. You get a feel for the characters in this brief exchange:

“Glad you finally decided to answer.” Jaz LeMieux’s voice had an edge.

“I just got home a little while ago.”

“From where?”

“The cabin.”

“Don’t you answer your cell phone?”

“When it’s turned on.”

There was a pause. “I think you’re reverting to your mountain man persona, Sid.”

He said nothing.

“Have all my efforts been wasted?”

“I did a lot of pondering last night,” he said. “But I came back.”

There are a few points to mention about this. In the first line, the attribution is done through a separate sentence describing Jaz’s tone of voice. Otherwise, there is no attribution until the last line, “he said.” With only two speakers, it’s obvious who is talking, partly because what is said. Jaz is miffed and Sid is close-mouthed. Their relationship mellows during the story, but the tension pops up now and again.

He said and she said are about all that’s needed, except for asked, in tagging your speakers. It’s more interesting to tag them with actions in a follow-up sentence. And if you use said, don’t rely on an explanatory adverb but make the dialogue strong enough to stand on its own.

Like most PI novels, mine are heavy on dialogue. That’s what investigators do mostly, buttonhole witnesses and suspects and pump them with questions. And if done well, it helps make the story and the character come alive. Do you have a favorite tip regarding dialogue?

Today’s visit is part of Chester Campbell’s Blog Book Tour. He will give away several copies of his books in two drawings during the tour, which runs through May 1. Leave a comment here and you may be a winner. The first drawing will be tomorrow for two winners of autographed copies of The Surest Poison. For more details go to his website at

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A True Confession

As a kid, I was such a liar, telling such tall tales, complete with description and dialogue, that looking back, I remember some of those lies vividly like a true memory.

Sometimes the lie was to talk myself out of punishment. Back in those days, we could pretty much wander all over the neighborhood as long as we were home by dinner. My father wanted me and my sister at the dinner table, no matter what. There were limits though, my mom really didn't like for us to go visiting beyond the grammar school which was about three long blocks away. On this particular day, I went way, way past the school. First I visited a school friend named Marilyn Benedict (see how well I remember this?) and it was the first time I'd ever been there. Having gone that far, I though I'd visit a girl who was a year older than me who lived in a house that looked like a castle--much, much farther than I was allowed to venture. She wasn't home. But by this time is was getting very late and I knew I'd miss dinner. My big story was that I'd somehow gotten turned around and crossed this really big bridge (there was no bridge) and it took me a long time to find my way back. I can see that bridge in my mind--as clear as any of my other memories. I doubt if the lie got me out of trouble, can't remember that part.

I grew up during the 2nd World War, so a lot of my fantasies--and lies--had a lot to do with the war. A friend of mine and I concocted poisons in her basement by mixing all sorts of things that were in bottles and cans and putting them in little pill bottles. We told everyone that when the enemy invaded we were already assigned to be spies.

There were many, many more--such as another friend and I were going to have our appendix out at the same time and the hospital was going to let us share a bed. I can remember telling that to a teacher. Running off to join a circus was another whopper. But the biggest one that many of my school chums believed was about my sister. During the war, many of the people living in Europe sent their children to the U.S. in order to keep them safe. I told everyone that my sister who is five years younger than I am was a princess from overseas who had come to live with us. My poor sister truly thought she was adopted for a long, long time and wondered why her parents never came and got her.

Fortunately, the lies I tell now are in the form of my books. Like my mother told everyone, I had--and still do have--an overactive imagination.

An that's my confessions.

Marilyn a.k.a. F. M. Meredith

Monday, April 20, 2009

Hanford Book Fest Huge Success!

I've done a lot of book festivals and fests and you never know how they will turn out.

Sometimes the people who come are not the least bit interested in buying books. Sometimes the organizers haven't taken important details into account. Sometimes the event it outside and the weather discourages visitors. Sometimes the venue is far too small for the number of authors.

And sometimes everything is perfect! Such was the Hanford Book Fest. Fantastic for a first time event. It was inside, the room was large, though not many people came but more than I expected, they seemed to be interested in the books and purchased some.

Sunny Frazier (who spear-headed the whole thing) and the Hanford Libary and the woman who is in charge of the Veteran's Center and the vets who volunteered and helped out in so many ways are all to be commended.

And what a variety of authors and books! It was fun just to walk around and look at the books and talk to the authors.

Though I wasn't happy about having to drive somewhere again, it wasn't as difficult today because I had two friends with me, Shirley who runs our critique group, and Lisa, a new member who jumped right in and helped out with the event.

We all had a great time--oh, and I got to see folks I haven't for awhile. Bonnie Hearn Hill was there with her husband. Sue McGinty, dressed in her nun's habit, sat next to me and we had a good time visiting. There were many, many others too numerous to mention but I delighted in seeing them again.

And today I work on my book!

Marilyn a.k.a. F.M. Meredith

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Yosemite Romance Writers and Crazy Drivers

Yesterday I went to the Yosemite Romance Writers meeting and together we brainstormed about writing a romantic suspense. They came up with three very good ideas, complete with sleuth, side-kick or romantic interest and ideas for the crime and/or murder victim. We also talked about what had to be in a mystery to make it a mystery, as well as all the different genres.

It was a lot of fun for me as well as the members. What a friendly bunch--with one male attendee who is a new member.

We had a lovely lunch, what else at Marie Callendar's, complete with yummy pie for dessert, and they bought a lot of my books--always a good thing for an author.

The only drawback was driving to Fresno--not my favorite thing to do, but the traffic wasn't bad, even though everyone thinks they need to drive 80 plus miles an hour. And there were the few crazies on the road mostly after I go home and was driving on a two-lane rural road--one nut who kept passing over the double line even when cars were oncoming.

I learned my lesson on one of those two lane roads when I got a $300 ticket for speeding, no reckless passing, and I and the CHP were the only two vehicles on the road. I set my cruise control now.

Marilyn a.k.a. F. M. Meredith

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Has Anything Disappeared From Your Computer?

I'm always diligent about saving things I'm working on--but a couple of times within the last few months, the gremlins have been busy.

First, was about 4 pages I'd written on my latest manuscript. Actually I lost the whole thing, but because I use Mozy to back-up while I'm sleeping, I was able to find the manuscript--just not the last four pages.

Then, a couple of weeks ago I did a five page program plan for working with diabetic clients and thought I saved it, to wait for the check to pay for the job. Check arrived today, do you think I could find the plan? No! And yes, I did a Search on the computer, nothing. Then I went to Mozy, not there.

So guess what I did tonight? Wrote the five page program plan from scratch. I've sent it off as an addendum.

Part of my problem is I'm stretched far too thin, this is what I'm doing or have recently done:

Reviewed 10 books for American Authors Association.

Read two mysteries and reviewed them for Simon and Schuster. Have one more to go, plus half way through a mystery from Thomas Nelson that I need to review.

Been diligently working on the program for the Public Safety Writers Conference, plus putting together the folders for the registrants--sending them messages and answering questions via email about the conference.

Working on my own manuscript.

Judging entries for a writing contest.

Have two books to read and questions to come up with for the panelists on the panel I'm moderating at Mayhem in the Midlands.

I won't be doing any of that this weekend because today I'm off to the Yosemite Romance Writers meeting, and Sunday the Hanford Book Fest.


Marilyn a.k.a. F. M. Meredith

Friday, April 17, 2009

Family Matters

The title of this blog has a double meaning, family really does matter a lot to me as anyone knows who has been reading this blog. And family matters have been complicated as well as wonderful of late.

I'm not going into details, but sometimes family members clash and the fall-out is hurtful and especially to those who love them. The ones who are acting out never seem to realize that they are hurting far more than just the person they are lashing out at. We recently went through just such an incident.

On the other hand, family members sometimes do incredibly kind things. This one I will give the details about. One of my grown grandsons, his idea, brought four of his friend up. One brought along a riding mower. Armed with weed-whackers and walk-behind mowers, these young man tackled the weeds that had grown knee-high all over our nearly 2 acres. They did this for a tri-tip and chili bean dinner. Hubby barbecued the meat and I made my famous chili beans. We had tortillas, garlic toast and sodas to go along with the meal.

These young men are about four years out of high school, don't have the best jobs in the world, but they actually expressed appreciation for the meal which was there only payment for a really big job.

We raised this particular grandson from the time he was 11 until he moved out at age 20. Over the years, many of these same boys spent the night at our house and ate many meals with us. It was a form of deja vu having them all around our table again.
We enjoyed our meal, talked and laughed.

Yes, my husband could have done what they did--but first he'd have to fix his riding lawn mower, which he's talked about doing since the beginning of the year. And I can assure you even with it fixed he'd have never been able to do all those young men accomplished in about two hours time.

I'm blessed by having a big family, good times and bad.

a.k.a. F. M. Meredith

Busy Weekend Coming Up

Saturday I'll be going to Fresno to present a program on "How to Write a Mystery" to the Yosemite Romance Writers. I've given this program a lot and it's great fun. Once we talk about the ingredients for a mystery, we'll come up with the idea for the sleuth, the murder victim, the possible murderers, the motive, and the location. Of course for romance writers, they'll need to be the added flavor of romance.

Sunday from 11 to 3, I'll be at the Veteran's Center on Irwin St., in Hanford CA's Heritage Park for a book fest. Thirty authors have signed on for this event, so if nothing else we should have a great time visiting with one another and looking over each other's books.

I'm going to be taking two members of my critique group, Shirley Hickman, who also will be bringing two of her books, and Lisa Duncan who is tagging along to see what we're up to.

This is all part of what authors must do to get their books out to the readers. At the moment, I'd really like to be concentrating on writing as I'm at the most critical part of my latest novel. No matter, though, I always do have a good time at these events.

a.k.a F. M. Meredith

Thursday, April 16, 2009

LA Times/UCLA Festival of Books

Marilyn Meredith Featured Author
at the
LA Times/UCLA Festival of Books
Booth # 610
She will be signing her latest Rocky Bluff P.D. Crime Novel, No Sanctuary

Signing Saturday and Sunday, April 25 and 26 at 1-2 p.m.
In Association with Authors' Co-op

UCLA Campus, Sat. & Sun, April 25 and 26
FREE Admission/Parking $9.
Easiest Parking at Structure 3 Near Hilgard & Sunset Boulevard
Westwood (Los Angeles Area), CA.
For a map of the on-campus event go to:
Look for the Authors' Coop banner in the F section near the food booths

Get a FREE gift book with your purchase of any book while supplies last.

Browse books of other authors.

Sign for Free handouts on promotion, editing and more (to be sent by e-mail).

P.S. If you miss Marilyn at either of those signings, you can find her at the Sisters in Crime booth on Sunday from 10 to 12.

Booth Sponsored by:
Marshall Turner's, Red Engine Press. Series of Books for Authors,
Featuring: Rey Ybarra, Host Best Selling Author TV
Invitation produced by:
RRP Consulting,
Gift with Purchase Books Furnished by:
Leora Skolkin-Smith, Diana Raab,Red Engine Press and others.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Leaving the Last Two Posts Up

Because I'd like everyone to have the opportunity to read Rob Walker's post about the background to his trilogy, I'm not posting anything new today.

a.k.a. F. M. Meredith

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Rob Walker

Because I didn't manage to get Rob's photo on the preceding blog, here it is.



Ever wonder what goes on BEHIND the BOOK? Here is a behind the scenes look at how my HarperCollins Trilogy (City for Ransom, Shadows in White City, and City of the Absent – recently released for Kindle sales all over again) came about in the first place:

City for Ransom by Robert W. Walker, Avon\HarperCollins, 349 pgs., $6.77 pub. Date Dec. 28th 2007

I wrote City for Ransom, a big departure from my Instinct and Edge series work largely out of frustration that’d set in around the forensic novel right about the first CSI episodes and all the clones. I asked a simple question: “What’d the cops do before forensics?”

The answer sent me to gaslight Chicago 1893, a time when animal and human blood remained a mystery! Instantly, I knew I’d have to act the detective to ferret out the retired owner of the defunct Chicago history only bookstore--Chicago Book Exchange. I eventually learned that the bookstore “lived” in a small bungalow in Evanston, Illinois, a house that held the Exchange stacks! Mr. Kenan Heise had years before helped another ‘upstart’ author, my hero, John Jakes in a similar request when Jakes needed information about Chicago history for North and South.

I felt in the right place, in the right company, purchased $300 worth of titles on Chicago crime and medical history, and the final result is City for Ransom and its sequel Shadows in White City with a 3rd Ransom title in the works.

My “mission” was to create a detective like none other, one not always capable but always determined—a kind of bumbling fellow who cleans up well and can make the recovery sooner than the discovery, a kind of fellow who must remember to straighten up, a sort of lumbering bear who can, if pushed, strike like a viper. “The entire time I spent writing Ransom, I kept seeing the actor Brian Dennehey. I wanted to team Alastair with a female partner of sorts, but while there were women working for the Pinkerton Detective Agency, there were no feminine police inspectors at that time. So I drew on research about women doctors of the era and out of this came Dr. Jane Francis Tewes.

My novels have always had the reputation of being like a poison-tinged knife being twisted in the dark, of characters standing against all odds with only half the facts to stave off the evil—certainly the case with Alalstair Ransom and Dr. Tewes. With the World’s Fair as backdrop, you can’t imagine the amount of research required to bring this era to life. I am a stickler for making the story compelling. To make 1893 as compelling as a current day novel is the task I set for myself. I consciously used contractions and speed of language, active sentences, and a suspenseful narrative voice. I wanted it to read as effortlessly as any novel set in the here and now.

At the same time, I wanted to maintain my gallows humor….and I weaved in laugh out loud ‘stuff’ throughout. I always feel that if it makes me laugh, then I know there’s a sick element in there somewhere worth laughing about. I consciously wanted a Conan Doyle feel to the book, but also a Dickensian feel as well. Both of which, I believe I accomplished with my own style overlaying all.

My readership loves the intelligence of my main characters who are articulate and knowledgeable in the arts, letters, history, music, the bible, mythology, psychology and now pseudo-sciences of 1893, such as phrenology and spiritualism. City for Ransom is a culmination of my career, the book I feel I was born to write. As a native Chicagoan who points to the fact I “survived” both inner-city Chicago crime-ridden streets and the Chicago Public Schools to go on to earn a teaching degree and a masters at Northwestern University, one can well believe that yes, this is the book that I was meant to write, along with Ransom sequels. While born in Corinth, Mississippi, I’ve lived in Chicago since age four.

The real story behind the story might well be this: When I delivered the manuscript to my editor, she immediately pointed out a line in our contract that I’d ignored stating the book length be 85,000 words. The script I delivered was 140,000 words. It took three consecutive rewrites back-to-back and a ton of coffee to reduce the story to 90,000 words, but I had just created three short story for the horror anthology Small Bites –in which all stories had to be five hundred (500 )words. I learned to cut big time doing the three Small Bites stories accepted. I took what I learned from that exercise to Ctiy for Ransom, and without having had the Small Bites experience, I don’t know how I would have managed to cut the novel by 40-50,000 words! Thankfully, I was able to use most of what was cut for Shadows in White City, sequel to City for Ransom.

My next book returns me and my readers to present day Atlanta, Georgia and is an equally wild ride, a kind of modern day NOIR was my intention in crafting DEAD ON which sees print from Five Star in July. But anyone can sample in now and until July at my website

Thanks to Marilyn Meredith for indulging me here at her blog! It’s been a gas. I’d be happy to return some time and discuss the BEHIND the scenes stuff for DEAD ON if she’ll have me back!

Rob Walker

Note from Marilyn: I've read all the books that he talks about here and they are great. I'm definitely a fan and I'd love to have Rob back to talk about the behind the scenes stuff for Dead On.

Monday, April 13, 2009

A Quick Preview of Tomorrow's Blog

Today is one of "those" days. Had planned to have a great blog from guest Rob Walker about planning a triology.

Since both of us are a tad disabled when it comes to putting photos and book covers on blogs, I haven't been able to get the covers of all three books in the triology that he's writing about. If I still can't by tomorrow, I will be putting that most interesting blog up tomorrow.

As for today, I have a doctor's appointment. I'll get some reading done as I always have to wait at least an hour at the doc's.

Also, I read another wonderful book this weekend, not a mystery, Saffron Dreams, about a Muslim woman, her life in Pakistan, her marriage, her move to New York, and how 9/11 totally changed her life. It's a wonderful book with insights into a culture must of know nothing about.

The author is Shalia Abdullah and the book was published by Modern History Press. By the way the cover is absolutely gorgeous.

Remember, tomorrow a very special blog.

Marilyn a.k.a.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

He is Risen!

I hope that's one of the songs we'll be singing this a.m. at the Easter Sunrise Service at our little church in Springville. I doubt we'll have much of a crowd since we didn't have any publicity that I know of--too much was happening to church members.

Our pastor and his wife are having big time car problems. Wife (who is also one of our daughters) borrowed our car to drive up to wear her daughter lives in order to care for new baby while daughter had a dental appointment.

Their other daughter (my granddaughter too of course, as is the new mom) has been horribly ill all week as well as her husband. They are finally on the mend.

The woman who has always been the one to spearhead all of our fun events is traveling with her husband. Another member who is a big worker, has also been sick.

Some sort of flu has been really making its rounds. Not only among church members, but everywhere it seems.

Mostly, I've just been playing catch-up. I have about ten books I need to read and review. I'm working on a new one of my own, and it looks like I'll soon be ghost-writing another.

Today, Easter Sunday, I plan to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ with my church family and my own family who'll come over to our house after church for dinner.

Here's wishing you a wonderful Easter Sunday.

a.k.a. F. M. Meredith

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Critique Group Celebrating Birthday

This is my wonderful critique group. We're celebrating the birthday of our founder, Shirley Hickman who is standing in back. From left to right, Jann, Kristi, Shirley, me and Brent.

We finished our session and were getting ready to eat the most delicious lemon cake I've ever had.

My critique group serves three purposes:

1. They are my first editor and they keep me on my toes.
2. They give me a chance to use my own editing skills.
3. They've become good friends and I look forward to spending time with them once a week.

They've listened to nearly all my books as I'm writing them, and then, God bless them, they end up buying a copy too.

I wish every author could be a part of as wonderful a critique group as I am.

Marilyn a.k.a. F. M. Meredith

Friday, April 10, 2009

Time to Do Some Cleaning

Yes, I do some chores every once in awhile. When I can, I hire someone else to do them. My d-i-l was cleaning for me regularly, but now she's gone to work with her hubby (my son) on a job where she's away from home weeks on end. Last week one of my grandsons did the floors and dusted--he's good at it, but he didn't get around to the bathrooms. We have three--all well used.

I'm really hard at work on a new book in the Rocky Bluff P.D. series, but my mind only works well on that sort of creative process in the mornings.

I try to write something new for this blog every day, not easy either. And then there's the twitters to come up with--and on and one.

Not only that, I just received a box of books, about 10, from the American Authors Association for who I do book reviews, so sometime I must tackle that. Oh, and I recently received 3 books from Simon and Schuster to review. (I read while I'm eating and in bed.)

I'm going to be speaking for my chapter of Sisters in Crime at the beginning of next month and they gave me some questions members want me to answer. I put down a few notes about that.
I've got two book festivals coming up and realized I'd better order some more copies of No Sanctuary.

And to get back to what I started, it's time to tackle at least one of the bathrooms.


Thursday, April 9, 2009

My Take on the Economy

Yes, I know the country is in bad shape. Making money to help it certainly isn't the answer.
Talking about how bad it is, isn't either.

Instead of looking at the glass half empty, we should start looking at it half full.

We've been through all this stuff before. During the 2nd World War my mom never put her money in the bank--she and dad came through the depression and didn't trust banks. She kept her money in a secret hiding place instead. She managed to save enough for them to buy a house.

She was always frugal. Never spent a dime unless it was needed. She taught my sister and I how to sew. We made some of our clothes and so did she. When we wanted something she didn't think we needed, we bought it with our own money that we earned babysitting.

Most of the companies that are in trouble did it to themselves by paying their top people huge bonuses that they certainly didn't earn. The automakers made far too many cars--who on earth did they think would buy them all?

Too many companies are using the economy as an excuse to weed out employees or make them work far more hours than they should.

And yet, one Saturday night we decided to splurge and went to eat at the Red Lobster and guess what, the parking lot was so full we had a hard time finding a place to park. The restaurant was packed. On our way home I decided to check out the parking lots of other restaurants, they were all full too. H'mmm.

I've been checking out the parking lots of all the restaurants whenever I got to town, the nice places and the fast food joints--none of them seem to be hurting for customers.

Let's change our attitudes about the economy--think positive, talk positive and see what happens.

As an aside, no I'm not wealthy, my husband and I live on his retirement from the service and Social Security. I am not a best selling author, though I do make a few bucks on my books which I use up and more on the promotion.


Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Saga of the Tarnished Silver

Through the years I've put one many dinner parties, prepared buffets and hosted numerous parties.

Nothing pleased me more than preparing two main dishes and side dishes to go with them, setting a table with the China my husband brought home from Vietnam, the real silver dinnerware I collected from high school on, and later using the wonderful crystal and silver pieces I'd been given at various times including our 25th wedding anniversary.

When we lived in Oxnard, I prepared the food for four of my kids' wedding receptions. We often had other families over for dinner. (Remarkable, since we were probably the poorest of all our friends). We had a party at our house nearly once a month. Of course most of these were potlucks and bring what you want to drink type of parties.

After we moved to Springville, another of our kids got married, again I prepared the food for the wedding reception which we had outside in our carport, minus the cars. Despite the fact our home at that time was also a licensed residential facility for 6 developmentally disabled women, they always joined in on the celebrations.

Years later that same kid got married again, this time in Vegas--but we had the reception at our house and I prepared the food. Another son had a second marriage and we hosted a reception for him too.

I hosted my writers group one evening for a gala event--was a great time.

The last and biggest event we had here was my mother's 80th birthday party. Over 100 people came and yes, I prepared the food. It was an all day event and she had a wonderful time. All of her relatives came and even an old grammar school classmate she had seen in years. Definitely worth the trouble.

Lately, I've taken to using paper plates, especially when I have a crowd over for a meal. I'm not that thrilled with cooking anymore--too many years doing it. Once in awhile I'll make a dish for a potluck at church--my famous chili beans or a hearty beef stew--but lately I've given my daughter money to buy something to contribute.

What about the tarnished silver? Through the years, polishing my silver has been a way for a grandkid to make some money. My two grandsons who lived with me periodically did it when they were in grammar and middle school. My granddaughter who lives next store polished silver for spending money.

Yesterday at church, one of my younger granddaughters, she's 12, asked me, "Do you need anyone to polish your silver?"

I said, "I sure do. Come on over anytime."

Hope she does, it'll be nice to see all that beautiful silver in my buffet all nice and shiny once again. It sure won't get that way through my efforts. And I'm not planning on cooking the food for my other granddaughter's wedding next year either. Time for the younger generations to take over.


P.S. When hubby and I celebrated our 50th anniversay we did it on a cruise and I didn't do a bit of cooking!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Loss of Another Friend

Jo Ann was one of my friends all through grammar, middle and high school. I was the first to marry. When Jo Ann met her true love, Jim, my hubby and I did a lot of fun things together, going to Knott's Berry Farm (much different than it is today), camping in the middle of the desert, exploring old mines, going to the movies. I was privileged to be a bridesmaid in their wedding.

We went to visit them when they lived in Lancaster and they come to see us in Oxnard. Jo Ann and Jim had three kids, we had five. We didn't see a whole lot of each other until Jim retired and they moved to Cambria. They came here to see us and we went down there and spent a weekend.

As the years passed, Jim began to grow frail in both mind and body. He always remembered us though because of the time we'd spent together in our younger years. He was still handsome with his silver hair and beard, a twinkle in his eye, and his wonderful smile.

Whenever we were over on our way home from the coast, we'd meet Jim and Jo Ann in their favorite restaurant for breakfast. Of course we'd talk about all the good times we'd shared in the past.

I got the call Sunday from Jo Ann to let me know that Jim was no longer frail, he's gone home to be with the Lord.

Of course Jim will live on in our good memories of our younger days together.

Farewell, old friend.

a.k.a. F. M. Meredith

Monday, April 6, 2009

Photos from San Joaquin Sisters in Crime Meeting

Top photo is of the infamous Henry Hill of GoodFellas fame. Despite his gangster pass, he's now reformed and quite a nice guy. Enjoyed listening to his stories and visiting with him over lunch.

Next photo is of good friend Denny Griffin, retired New York police officer, who started rubbing elbows with the "bad guys" after he started writing the history of the Las Vegas P.D. and needed to do some research into the gangsters who invaded the city.

As you can tell by the first photo, we had a huge crowd at this Sisters in Crime meeting--mostly women though we do have a few Mister Sisters. Denny actually belongs to the Las Vegas chapter of Sisters in Crime.

I took these photos with my Blackberry and had a terrible time getting them from the phone to my computer so I could put them on this blog.

Now back to my normal life.


Sunday, April 5, 2009

Sitting Between A Reformed Gangster and a Retired Cop's Wife

What a fun day! Besides getting to see lots of old friends I met Henry Hill of GoodFella's fame. In the movie, Henry was played by Ray Liotta. The movie and book by the same name are about Henry's three decades in the Mafia.

He gave a speech about how he became a gangster beginning as an errand boy when he was a kid. Of course he spent time in prison, but used that time to get an education. It is obvious he does regret some of the things he's done--and he's definitely reformed.

One of my grandson's argued with me that Henry Hill wasn't a gangster, he was a mobster. He thinks of gangsters as being the low-life's who belong to gangs now and stake territories. The gangs of earlier times also staked out territories, but have you ever tried arguing with a young person?

This is why I love Sisters in Crime--gives me an opportunity to meet people I never would have any other way.

The retired cop, Denny Griffin, who I wrote about yesterday, became friends with Henry because of his research into all the mob activities in Las Vegas that he wrote about in his books.

These two men were a great draw--the room was packed, more tables and chairs had to be set up. Several people drove over from the Central Coast Sisters in Crime. Three of my favorites were Sue McGinty, author of Murder in Los Lobos, Mary Moses (author of many books) and Karen Kavanaugh, book publisher.

For an old lady, I sure do have some "cool" experiences.

a.k.a. F. M. Meredith

Saturday, April 4, 2009

San Joaquin Sisters in Crime

Today hubby and I drive to Fresno to the monthly meeting of the San Joaquin Chapter of Sisters in Crime. The speaker will be Denny Griffin who has written several books, fiction and non-fiction. His fiction are mysteries set in Las Vegas. His non-fiction is about crime in Las Vegas.

He's probably the most famous for writing the biography of Frank Culotta, big time gangster who turned state's evidence against other gangsters resulting in a shorter sentence--but also making him a target and putting him into the witness protecting program.

We met Denny and his wife Faith (more commonly known as Bear) right after 9/11 when we flew to Orlando FL to what was the called The Police Writers Conference. Everyone was surprised to us there--guess they figured non-law enforcement folks would be afraid to fly. We figured that was probably one of the safest times.

At that time, though I usually volunteered to give a presentation of some sort, I wasn't involved with any of the planning for the group.

Because of the proximity of 9/11 the people attending the conference were few. Few enough that we could all traipse across the highway and have dinner together in a restaurant. During that time, Denny, Bear, hubby and I became friends. Since that time, Bear has become a fan of my Deputy Tempe Crabtree series.

Though we've seen Denny more often than Bear as she doesn't usually accompany him to the Public Safety Writers Conference, I got to see her when we went on the Gangster Tour in Vegas, and when I had booksigning at the now closed Cheesecake and Crime bookstore, she attended.

Bear is coming with her husband. He's had two successful speaking engagements already, one with West Hills College in Lemoore and at the Hanford branch of the Kings County Library--all thanks to fellow author and good friend, Sunny Frazier.

The Sisters in Crime event is already sold out and everyone who comes is in for a real treat. Not only is Denny going to speak but he's bringing a gangster friend along with him.

More about this tomorrow.

Marilyn a.k.a. F. M. Meredith

Friday, April 3, 2009

And On the Personal Side

The cute little girl with the puppy is my granddaughter Jessica (we call her Jessi) a few years back. Now Jessi is all grown up and in love. She and her beau Juan are planning their wedding.

We've had Jessi around us since her birth. While she was going to grammar school through eighth grade, she stayed with us during the week as the school in our mountain community was much better than the one where she lived with her folks. She and her folks moved into our little house next door by the time she graduated and they all still live there.

We had slumber parties at our house for her birthdays. She asked me to come to every class and talk about writing. (Same kids, new teacher each year so would have to talk on different subjects.) We went to her soccer games in middle school and high school.

When she started high school she met Juan. At first she wasn't interested, though she did go to a couple of formal dances with him. When he started coming to church every Sunday and then helping her with the Sunday School class she teaches, it was obvious the relationship had become more than a friendship.

Juan and Jessi are now going to college together. He proposed to her, she accepted. He made a formal announcement in church that they are now engaged. Everyone clapped.

Jessi is busily planning for the nuptials--her father is groaning about the cost. Grandpa and I can't believe that our little granddaughter is all grown up.

We have other grandchildren who've already gone through this milestone--but every time it's been the same--where did the years go?

a.k.a. F. M. Meredith

Thursday, April 2, 2009

More About Prep for PSWA Conference

Over the years I've been to lots of writers and fan conferences: Mayhem in the Midlands, Maui Writers Retreat, Bouchercon, Left Coast Crime, Win/Win, Malice, Epicon and of course, I've been to the Public Safety Writers Association's conferences starting back when it was called the Police Writers Association.

The conference has grown from small to medium then back to small, though this year we've already doubled the amount of registrants from last year. A good thing about being small is we'll only have one track which means we'll have the opportunity to get to know everyone who comes and do some real networking.

Because of all the conferences I've gone too, I think I know what works and what doesn''t. Of course I have no way of knowing how things will go, but we have a line-up of interesting and qualified speakers--forensic experts (two), a former P.I. who is now and editor for a mystery publishing company and a screen writer, a well-known award winning mystery writer, an editor of an award winning anthology, and others. We'll also have some panels that will be entertaining and informative. With a prosecuter, two police officers and a lawyer, we're going to find out what makes them cringe in what's depicted on TV, movies and books.

We'll learn what not to put in our manuscripts, what editors and publishers are looking for, how to build characters, the importance of setting, all about electronic publishing, and putting humor in our mysteries.

For those interested in writing for trade publications in paper and on the Net, we have the editor of a popular daily Net newspaper for police officers as well as a panel of authors who write for those publications.

And of course on the final day we'll learn who won the writing contest we have every year.

This is only April and the conference is in June. If any of what I've been telling you appeals, it's not too late to register.

Now, if I can keep from dreaming about it when I go to bed....

Marilyn a.k.a. F. M. Meredith

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Getting On With Life

Lots of stuff going on right now, some of it mundane like laundry, paying bills, etc.

Of course I'm still busy doing lots of promoting for No Sanctuary, the next phaze being more events where I'm there in the flesh.

Because I'm the program chair for the Public Safety Writers Association Conference in June, I'm always doing lots of preparation for that too. Working on the actual timing for the program speakers and panels, getting volunteers to time each sequence, and making sure it is all well-balanced. Also making folders for the handouts, tent name plates and name tags. Because we have an extremely limited budget, can't do the fancy stuff the big conferences.

Whenever I'm working on these type of things I dream about them. Last night I dreamed about my publisher, Billie Johnson, of Oak Tree Press and a good friend and fellow OTP author Sunny Frazier. Have no idea what the dream was about, but I'd been in touch with both of them by email yesterday talking about the conference.

Now it's time to get back to it.

Marilyn a.k.a. F. M. Meredith