Showing posts from June, 2010

The Empowered Author

At the PSWA Conference, Agent Holly Sullivan McClure gave a presentation on The Empowered Author. Here are some of her key points:

Don't pay for anything, you are the talent.

Make sure you submit the best you possible can.

Have a business plan. Work on your plan and keep it up to date, because writing is a business.

How many of you authors out their have a real business plan?

I must confess, I don't have one.


A Wonderful Surprise

We had a wonderful surprise at the PSWA conference. Keith Bettinger called Hap and me up and his first words were, "Everyone knows Marilyn loves cops." After that I'm not sure what he said, but it was something to the effect that he was presenting us with a plaque to honor our son-in-law, Michael Cole, who died in the line of duty. On the plaque is a medal and a rubbing of his name from the Police Memorial in Washington DC.

My eyes filled with tear and I doubt anything I said was coherent. The plaque is gorgeous and he gave us another for our daughter and three rubbings of Mike's name for their sons. Hap had to run to the restroom afterward to wipe his eyes. Not only was this a surprise, it was a wonderful tribute to our son-in-law. Thank you, PSWA.

Anyone who has been reading my blogs or has heard me speak, knows that Mike was an inspiration for much of my writing. We'd known lots of police officers since we lived in a neighborhood full of them, but Mike is the on…

Gearing Up for Lingering Spirit Blog Tour

Beginning July 6th I'm starting a blog tour for my latest book, Lingering Spirit.

Not too long ago, I began receiving the requests for essays about various writing subjects and answers to interview questions for this tour. Though it takes some time to do these, they are a lot of fun.

With a blog tour, each blog appears on a different day throughout the month. Then it's up to me to promote the places I'm appearing each day. While I'm on a particular blog, it is helpful if I go to the blog several times during the day just in case someone left a comment or question for me to answer.

I hope when people read Lingering Spirit the have the same reaction as Beth Anderson who said "Lingering Spirit, which I just finished reading...that book made me cry four times, an incredibly hard thing for any book to do. It's just beautiful, Marilyn. It should be a runaway bestseller. You REALLY can tell a story!"

You can order Lingering Spirit from Amazon, of course, but if …

Agents and Editors Panel at PSWA

Those on the panel were from left to right:

Billie Johnson, Oak Tree Press
Lee Emory, Treble Heart Books
Verna Dreisbach, Driesbach Literary Agency
Holly Sullivan McClure, Sullivan Maxx Literary Agency

Pet Peeves about Queries.

Using Sir or Madam instead of the agent's or publisher's name or a misspelled name. Instant delete.

No bold, underlines, or fancy fonts in the query.

Be professional. Give a clear, concise description of your book, your self, and a good platform of how you plan to sell the book.

Manuscript well-written.

Authors need to read the guidelines and know what the agent or publisher is looking for, never ignore guidelines.

When you pitch your book and the publisher says yes, move on, don't keep talking.

The way you present yourself in person and in writing is important.

In your manuscript, take out passive verbs. Show instead of tell.

Know the core technology of writing.

It was a most enlightening panel.


How to Plot a Novel in an Hour

In the photo, mystery novelist and real-life police officer, is receiving a certificate for his latest mystery from contest chair Michelle Perin.

Mike also did a great demonstration on how to create your plot by using a large poster board and lots of post-it notes. He also suggested using divisions that are defined as the main plot, minor plot, Act I, II and III with three scenes in each one.

Another bit of advice was to write down each scene as it comes to you. And of course, the reason for using post-it notes is so you can move them around.

His presentation was far more skillful then how I'm relating it here, but it certainly was a good idea and much easier to do than an outline.

A confession--this is a much better organized way to write a book than how I do it.

This was Mike's second year at the PSWA conference.


Simon Wood

Thriller author, Simon Wood, was the keynote speaker at the PSWA conference, and he was a hit. With his droll humor and great British accent, he charmed all the ladies right off.

His talk about writing suspense was right on, and he also participated on a panel about the difference between mysteries and thrillers.

We learned a lot.


Food at the Conference

One thing you can always count on at the PSWA conference is great food! Everyday we had the most fantastic lunches you could imagine thanks to Keith Bettinger who chose the menu.

For the first lunch, we had the best Chinese Chicken salad I've ever eaten.

Of course there was far too much of everything--and then at night, there were all sorts of interesting restaurants to try.

What saved me from coming home way heavier were the long walks through the casino to get to places--and the equally long walk to the bathroom from the conference room.

And yes, I do think the food is an important part of any conference.


What I Wish I'd Known from the Beginning

The very first panel at the PSWA conference was about what the authors wished they'd known at the beginning of their writing careers. Panelist were Sue MCGinty, W. S. Gager, Michael Black, Bette and J. J. Lamb.

Here is some of what they had to say:

1. Enjoy the moment.

2. Keep track of everything if you are writing a series.

3. First chapters need to start off exciting.

4. The hardest parts are the middle.

5. Think about what is the worst possible thing that could happen, and then put that in the book.

6. Should be suspenseful to the end--excitement to the final chapter.

7. Be sure to tie up everything.

8. A twist at the end.

9. Joining a critique group.

10. Learning how to edit.

11. That it's tough to find a publisher.

12. Need to start promoting yourself from the beginning.

13. Publishing is a cut-throat business.

14. Make each book able to stand alone even if it is a series.

This is all good advice and it was a great panel.

Jackie Vick and her book The Groom's Cake

This June 19th, Keith Publications will release my eBook, “The Groom’s Cake”. How did I get to this point? Well, there are several morals to my story.

Conferences Equal Contacts

Conferences are the perfect place to mingle with agents, editors, and other writers. My first conference was Love is Murder in Chicago. Though it took place a few years ago, I still stay in contact with several writers I met there. Some have appeared on my group blog, Writers in Residence. Some have published books that I’ve read and loved. Some have shared their expertise to help me nail a character’s career. All have remained my friends.

I believe that editors and agents look more favorably on submissions received from conference attendees. It’s human nature. They have actually met you--even if it’s briefly after one of their panels—so you are now more than an impersonal query letter. They also see you as someone who’s making an effort to mingle which is so important in this current environment of author self…

Last Day of the PSWA Conference

Sunday begins with a bang when Sunny Frazier tells us how much sex is too much?

I thought that topic ought to get people up and to the conference on time.

Following we'll talk about setting, the importance and whether real or fictional is better. The panelists are Sue McGinty, Rebecca Dahlke, W.S. Gager, and Madeline Gornell.

And last, but certainly not least, and one of the most important topics for fiction writers is: POV, Why Does it Matter explained by Morgan St. James.

Next will be the final book sale and signing.

After lunch, the contest awards will be given out.

Pretty exciting stuff.

And like last year, as soon as we're through and get the evaluations, we'll begin planning for the next conference.


Second Day of PSWA Conference

After reading all the good stuff we had yesterday, I bet you wish you'd signed up for the PSWA Conference.

This is Saturday, day 2.

By this time people should be feeling comfortable and making friends.

Kregg Jorgensen is going to tell how to target articles to particular magazines.

A fun panel follows where the participants, Michael Angley, Joseph B. Haggerty Sr., Holli Castillo, and John M. Wills will discuss how much truth is too much in fiction. We already have a change here, as our moderator became to ill to come so I'm stepping in.

Michael and Lai Orenduff are going to show us a good cover is worth a thousand words.

After lunch, our keynote speaker, Simon Wood is going to let us in on how to create suspense. Simon writes wonderful books, so this should be great.

Spooky Stuff, Supernatural touches follows with a panel of writers who put all that in their books, Michael Angley, Monti Sikes, and Beverly Lauderdale and I'll be adding my two cents worth as the moderator.

Literary …

First Day of PSWA Conference and Launch of New Book

Today is the first day of the conference--and also the day I'll get to see my new book, Lingering Spirit for the first time. My publisher, Billie Johnson, had my copies of my book and several other authors' books shipped to the hotel. If all went as planned, they should be here to display on the book store tables. I've ordered enough to bring home with me so I'll have books for reviewers and for my own book launch.

We have wonderful panels and speakers lined up for this first day. A panel telling us what they'd wished they'd known from the beginning, with Sue McGinty, moderating and Michael Black, W. S. Gager, and Bette and J. J. Lamb as panelists.

Michael A. Black will tell us how to Outline a Novel in an Hour.

For those who write for trade publications paper and on the net, Keith Bettinger is moderating, Michelle Perrin, Kathleen A. Ryan and Ed Nowicki.

At our first lunch we'll introduce ourselves.

First panel after lunch will consist of Billie Johnson of Oak …

PSWA Registration is Today

Though I'm writing this way ahead of time, when it comes out I'll be telling my sis goodbye and heading off to the Orleans Hotel. Once we've finished checking in, we'll head off to find the escalator (and hopefully a nearby elevator) so we can haul what we need for registration to the room where our conference is going to be held.

Tables are supposed to be set up outside for us to register people from 3 p.m. on. At 6 we're having a get-together, a good time to meet new folks who are coming and see ones we already know.

This is always exciting--though I do know a lot of the registered folks--there are many I haven't met yet and I'm looking forward to meeting them.

All this is if everything goes off as planned.

When I get home, I'll let you know if it did or if there were some hitches.

Last year, every day they moved us to a different room--made detectives out of us all. This year we've been promised that we'll stay in the same room throughout the c…


My sis, Margie, is five years younger than I am. While we were growing up, she was more of a pest than a friend. She was messy, I was not. (I'm messier now than she is.)
We shared a room at times, so the messiness was a problem.

She liked to search for my diary and read it--sometimes spilling the beans to people I had crushes on.

As time went on, the age difference didn't matter much. We both got married young and began having children right away.

I had two kids and thought I was through. Then sis got pregnant, and a couple of months later so did I. A few years later same thing happened. And again. She never told me, I didn't do it on purpose. In fact I never planned to have five children.

She stopped giving birth at 3--but adopted a wonderful baby girl who is all grown up and has two children of her own.

We didn't live near one another until after we moved to Springville (where we live now) and she moved here too as did her children. We had a great time doing things toge…

And More Pictures from the Tea

This was the table paying homage to the New Moon books and won the prize for the best
decorated table.

Sandy Whalen is telling about the book she read here, all about Abraham Lincoln. I sat at this table because there was no room for me at Sheri's table. I had a good time here and met some lovely women I'd never met before.

I should have take pictures of the food--but I was too busy eating it.

And finally, that's all of my photos of the Springville Literary Tea. I do hope they have one next year and that I can go.


This was the table paying homage to the New Moon books. She won the prize for the best decorated table.

More Pics from the Springville Literary Tea

This is Sheri Smith in the outfit she wore to tell about the Tempe Crabtree series. She did a great job. She told a bit about each book in the series.

I gave her six copies of Deadly Omen as gifts for her guests.


Pictures from Springville Literary Tea

I'm having trouble with the photos, so I might have to do more than one post in a day.

The photos I'm trying to display are of Sherri Smith who used my Tempe Crabtree series books as the theme for her table. She dressed up like a deputy and wore a black wig and white hat. She also decorated her table with an Indian girl in a canoe and Southwestern dishes.

I'll post this and see what other pictures I need to try and download.


A Sad Happening

During Sunday School yesterday, a deputy sheriff called the church to report that one of our members had been found dead in her duplex apartment. What a shock! This woman was in her late forties. Yes, she had all sorts of ailments, including being a tad developmentally disabled--but no one had diagnosed her with a fatal disease. She had a difficult life and the church helped her out a lot with food, sometimes rent, and rides to church and special events. Different ones had taken her to the doctor and emergency room at various times. So she really was a big part of the church family.

The deputy came to church to ask our pastor if he knew of family contacts for this woman. The pastor sent him to her best friend who lived down the road in a senior and low income complex. During church, pastor was called out to speak to the deputy once again. When he went to the friend's apartment, he found her dead too.

Certainly sounds like too big of a coincidence, doesn't it? As a mystery writer…

An Afternoon to Remember Literary Tea

What a fun time I had attending this tea. There were 10 tables, each table decorated to represent a book or a series of books. I don't have my pictures ready yet, but will put them on the blog when I get them. The hostess of the table spoke about the book that she'd picked.

Here's a list of the books:

Absolute True Diary of the Part Time Indian

44 Scotland Road

Still Alice

Stones to School

The Twilight Saga

Everybody Needs a Rock

The Napping House

Marilyn Meredith's Tempe Crabtree series (my biggest fan did this table--and she even dressed up like Tempe, complete with a black wig and sheriff's badge.)

The Last Song

Team of Rivals

We sere served tea and the most elegant of foods between the times the hostesses for each table told about their book choice.

First we were served a Fruit and Cheese Platter.

Next came Special Tea Sandwiches: Shrimp on the Round, Smoked Turkey Circles, Pecan Chicken, Zesty Cucumber Flowers, Pimento Cheese on Rye, Strawberry Cream on Raisin. Each sandwic…

And Another Graduation

My great granddaughter, Olivia, graduated from fifth grade. She doesn't live close enough for us to go down there often. Fortunately, her grandm (my daughter) and her grandpa did get to go.

Daughter told me that in this school district the kids graduate from 5th, because middle school is 6th through 9th.

This great-grandaughter is quite an athlete, already winning ribbons for her shot-putting and discus throwing. (Her older sister does as well.)

My grandson, their dad, was a discus thrower and shot-putter in high school, as was their aunt. It'll be interesting to see how far these girls go with this since they are starting so early.

Another milestone in our big, wonderful family.


My Library Visit

From 11 to 3 I sat with a display of my books in our little town's branch library. It's only open a couple of days a week because the librarian also works in another small town's branch library on alternate days.

The library itself only has three rooms. The main room with the librarian's desk and the children's section and two computers for the public's use. The room I was in had two two-sided book stacks, and books lining the walls, plus another wall with magazines and a stand with paperbacks. The third room is a small meeting room. Of course there were two restrooms, and a supply closet.

I sat at one of the two tables in the room I was in.

The occasion was marking the 100 year anniversary of the Tulare County Library system.

In the morning while I was there, a day care group walked over from their day care. A popular local folk singer, Patti Torrey, came with her guitar and enchanted the kids with some great songs--some they had to chime in with songs. This was a…

On Writing a Series

Because I am starting a new book in my Rocky Bluff P.D. series, it's time to refresh my memory on many things--how Rocky Bluff is laid out. It's a beach community with a rocky bluff on the north side. The most expensive and newer homes are up on the bluff.

The town flows upwards from the beach.

A freeway runs over the town and on the other side of the freeway are orange groves and small ranches.

I have an cast of characters in these books that make regular appearances. There's Detectives Doug Milligan and Frank Marshall. Frank has been married a long time to the same woman. Doug is in love with Stacey Milligan who has recently become in charge of investigating vice. She was widowed and has a little boy named Davey and her parents, the Osbornes.

There's also Sergeant Abel Navarro, his wife, Maria, their daughter, Lupita, and a whole slew of Navarro relatives.

Officer Felix Zachary and his school teacher wife, Wendy, have played important parts in the ongoing saga.


Graduation and Heartache

Graduations should be a wonderful time, a time of saying goodbye and new beginnings.

Unfortunately, this year, Porterville High School's graduation had a sad element. One of their graduates, a football player, and a young man who lived up in the foothill community where I live, chose to go to a party, a party where there was drinking, and on the way home, with his brother driving, they went off the road and hit a tree. The boy who was to graduate died and one of his friends is in the hospital. The brother is in jail. No one was wearing seat belts.

My heart goes out to the families. The mom of the dead boy was in the front row at the graduation. In his empty chair was his cap and gown and his football Jersey.

So sad. I hope it made the other graduates think and choose a non-drinking venue for celebration.

Unfortunately, we hear about similar accidents at graduation time every year.

Young people think they are invincible. They are not.

My heart and prayers go out to everyone who has bee…

Great-Grandson's Challenge

I talked about my great-grandson's graduation from the eighth grade a bit. However, there is more. He and another boy are the shortest in the class. In August, they'll be headed to high school.

Being short has not been a detriment to my grandson--he's the short boy on the right in the photo with the hair hanging in his eyes--he was elected student body president for his last year at the school.

I asked him if he was going out for any sports, as he's always been a good athlete. His answer, "Baseball and Basketball." He is a great baseball and basketball player but wondered about him making the team because of his height.

His answer was, "The coach knows how good a player I am, he's seen me play."

What my hope is that he'll go through one of those growth spurts this summer.

The kid has plenty of self-esteem, being short has never held him back. It may be a bit tougher in high school--but I think he's up to the challenge.

The heads in the forefro…

Isn't She a Cutie?

This is my youngest great grandchild, Jaslyn, named for her daddy, Jason.

The photo was taken at her cousin's graduation from 8th grade. We all had to sit on hard chairs outside facing the grassy area where the graduation took place. The deal is because the audience is facing west, the graduation does not begin until the sun goes down behind the hill. That's the way it's been for every graduation I've been to at our little school, beginning with my niece's graduation.

After that we went one year to a grandson's, and the next to his brother's graduation. Both boys lived with us at the time, and what a relief it was to see them receive their diplomas. (Both boys are grown now--and yes, got their high school diplomas and live on their own.)

Next came our granddaughter, who also lived with us during the week so she could go to that school. Her family later moved next door to us, so we went to her soccer games in high school and celebrated her high school graduatio…

Making Plans for Launching Lingering Spirit

For some reason my blog posts aren't posting on the days they should. Oh, well, I'm forging ahead as though all is working correctly.

While I'm at PSWA I should see copies of my romance, Lingering Spirit, for the first time. My publisher has arranged to have them delivered to the hotel while PSWA is going on.

I am going on a blog tour in July for this book. Blog tours are always fun--though a bit of work since you need to publicize your stops and visit them yourself to see if you should respond to any of the comments.

When I return from PSWA I'll visit the bookstore in our next town and see about setting up a book launch. By that time I should have some reviews I can pass onto the newspaper when I give them information about the launch. At this time, I don't think there's any place in my little home town to do a launch.

Since I've already got quite a few book and craft fairs set up, all I need to do for those is just include the book with the others I'll be…

Interview with Dorothy Howell, Shoulder Bags and Shootings

My guest today is Dorothy Howell.

Marilyn: Tell me about your background.

Dorothy: I’ve sold 26 books to three major New York publishing houses, with sales approaching 3 million copies worldwide. Currently I write for two houses, in two genres, under two names.

I write mystery under the name Dorothy Howell. SHOULDER BAGS AND SHOOTINGS, a Haley Randolph mystery will be released in July (Kensington/hardcover). HANDBAGS AND HOMICIDE, which launched the series, was a Publishers Weekly starred review. PURSES AND POISON will have its paperback release in June. The series has sold in the U.K., France and Thailand, and is available in Large Print and e-book formats.

I write romance under the name Judith Stacy. My titles include a No. 1 on the Barnes & Noble Historical List, Harlequin Historicals Top Seller of the Year, and a RITA Award Finalist.

Marilyn: When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

Dorothy: I knew in the 8th grade that I wanted to be a writer. My English teacher introd…

Vacations or Work, What Do You Think?

This photo was taken at Mayhem by Carl Brookins, fellow mystery author and terrific photographer. I was sitting at the signing table after being on a panel waiting and hoping for someone to purchase my book and come ask for a signature. The photo looks just like me--and an awful lot like my mom, though she never dyed her hair and by the time she was my age, it was snow white.

My grandson who lives with us refers to our trips away from home as vacations. Indignant, I told him they weren't vacations, they were work. He said, "Then why do you talk about all the great meals and the fun people you spent time with?"

Good question, so I suppose I should call what we're doing working vacations, though some are more work than others.

At Mayhem, I was on three panels and moderated another. As soon as I knew who I was going to be on panels with I ordered books by the authors I'd never read--and read the books so I'd be knowledgeable sounding on the panels. (I think I was t…

Am I There Yet?

That's a question I'm sure many writers have asked themselves. And the question probably means something different to each individual.

People like Mary Higgins Clark certainly don't have to ask that question, the answer is obvious. She has a distinct following. Any new book of hers that comes out will be in every bookstore. I'm using her as an example because, like many male writers out there writing thrillers, her name is know to everyone who reads--even if they don't read her books.

Because I write mysteries, I also mainly read mysteries. Over the years I've become acquainted with many mystery writers and read a lot of their books. Some of the books I like better than others.

Having said all this, where do I think I stand? Certainly not at the top. If you go into a bookstore except for the one closest to where I live, you'll have to ask for my books to be ordered. When I attend a mystery con like Mayhem in the Midlands, there are some fans of mine there who …

How I Write A Book

Having talked to many other writers, I know there are many ways to write a book--but this is what I do, and what I am doing right now with my work in progress.

Because I write two series and go back and forth between them, right now I'm working on a Rocky Bluff P.D. crime novel. I have an ongoing cast of characters, so one thing I need to do is touch on each of the main characters' lives and what challenges they are facing this time around.

However, this book will focus on Officer Gordon Butler. Gordon manages to get himself into trouble without even trying--things never work out for him the way he hopes. Maybe things will look up for him in this book.

I have a general idea of what I want to happen--and as always, I need to introduce a whole slew of new characters--the murder victim and all those who revolve around her and the case. This means, appropriate names, physical descriptions and personalities--and all must work with my idea for the plot.

I've had to do a bit of resea…

P I Barrington and Miraculous Deception

Marilyn: First, I'd like to know about your background.

PI: My background is in journalism and entertainment: specifically newspaper reporter/photographer and radio (“air talent”) and the music industry at a major label.

Marilyn: When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?

PI: I always tell people that I didn’t want to be a writer. I think deep down I knew that I’d probably end up writing somehow someway and it was always there in the back of my head saying “I can always go into writing.”

I know other authors have struggled so much more than I have and I feel guilty about making it sound as if I’m flippant about it all. But I wanted to work in music; that was my real love and the man who hired me at the record company told me, “I knew you’d never be satisfied until you worked here.”

I was very driven, very career oriented and he was right; I would never have been happy if I hadn’t accomplished that first. So after that long detour through entertainment when I finally came bac…

Ups and Downs with Donna Fletcher Crow

Donna Fletcher Crow is the author of 35 books, mostly novels dealing with British history. The award-winning GLASTONBURY, The Novel of Christian England is her best-known work, an Arthurian grail search epic covering 15 centuries of English history. A VERY PRIVATE GRAVE, book 1 in the Monastery Murders series is her reentry into publishing after a 10 year hiatus. THE SHADOW OF REALITY, a romantic intrigue will be published later this summer.

Donna and her husband have four adult children and 10 grandchildren. She is an enthusiastic gardener and you can see pictures of her garden, watch the trailer for A VERY PRIVATE GRAVE, and read her international blog at

And directly from Donna:

Marilyn, thank you so much for inviting me to be a guest on your blog today. I’m delighted to have this opportunity to get acquainted with your readers. Perhaps something I say will raise a question for someone. If so, please don’t hesitate to ask. I’ll try to be responsive to …

Mayhem in the Midlands Brief Report

Though I've gone to many mystery cons over the years, there is something very special about Mayhem in the Midlands. Perhaps it's because of the volunteer crew who works so hard to put this event together year after year. The setting, as in mysteries, is also important. Staying in a hotel that offers a complimentary breakfast which includes made-to-order omelets and is at the foot of the Old Marketplace doesn't hurt.

Omaha's airport is one of the easiest to find your way in and out of--also a plus.
After a quick phone call the hotel sends its shuttle to pick up anyone needing a ride from the airport to the hotel.

After we'd settled ourselves into our room, our good friend, Pat Lange, who lives in Omaha, picked us up and took us out to dinner far from the hotel. We had a great time catching up with her.

That really is one of the big pluses of Mayhem, this was our ninth year and we were thrilled to see friends we only see once a year--makes for lots of hugs. Some of thes…