Wednesday, June 30, 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.


Tuesday, June 29, 2010

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 one who took me on a ride-along and came to my house every morning after his shift and told me everything he'd done while I plied him with coffee.

Unfortunately, we didn't have him long enough. He died in the line of duty, leaving behind his wife and three young sons--our daughter and grandsons. About twenty-years have passed. The boys are all grown, and my daughter has remarried another great guy and they have a teen-aged daughter. Life does move on.

I wrote Lingering Spirit a few years later. It is a work of fiction, the woman in the story is not my daughter nor did what happens in the book happen to her, though of course I was inspired by a lot of what did happen, but I can assure you though there are some parallels in the beginning of the story, fiction and my imagination take over for the main body of the story and the ending.

For those of you who read Lingering Spirit
I hope you enjoy it and will take the time to write a review on Amazon.


Monday, June 28, 2010

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 you'd like an autographed copy, go to my website:


Sunday, June 27, 2010

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.


Saturday, June 26, 2010

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.


Friday, June 25, 2010

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.


Thursday, June 24, 2010

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.


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

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.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

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-promotion.

Conferences Don’t Have to Cost

Last year, I attended three online conferences. Only one cost money, and the $25 fee was reimbursed several times over with free eBooks and gift certificates, and the fee went to fund libraries.

Lea Shizas (remember that name) runs the Muse Online Writers Conference. It’s absolutely free, and the subject matter covers so many topics that you’ll have no trouble hooking up with a program that fits your goals. You can still meet other writers in chat rooms, and the more you participate in each session, the more others will remember your name.

Next I attended the Online Catholic Writers Conference. Again, it was free, and you don’t have to be Catholic to attend. I discovered some wonderful information about teacher’s guides for children’s books, pitched a novel to a publisher who requested my manuscript, and met more people. You start to recognize screen names, and they start to recognize you. Lea Shizas (remember her?) was a presenter.

Contacts Pay Off

I had a novella, “The Groom’s Cake”, and I wasn’t quite sure what to do with it. I found out that Lea Shizas (here is the payoff for remembering her name) had a publishing company, MuseItUp Publishing. They accept novella submissions. While the story wasn’t right for them, Lea had a friend who was starting up a publishing company—Keith Publications. She recommended I send my story to them. They accepted, and here I am.

Lea might not have given me the inside scoop if she hadn’t recognized me from the conferences I attended and—more importantly—from my participation.
Keith Publications might not have been so quick to look at my novella if they hadn’t had the recommendation from their friend, Lea.

Publishing really is a small world. It’s up to you to get your name out there so that, when you are ready to submit, editors can put a face (or screen name) to your query. It certainly paid off for me.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

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.


Saturday, June 19, 2010

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 Agent, Holly Sullivan McClure will follow giving all the authors some tips to empower us.

And our last panel of the day is What's the Difference Between a Mystery and a Thriller? Mysti Berry will find out from Bette and J. J. Lamb, Simon Wood, and John M. Wills.

At the end of the day, more book signings and one on ones.

If things didn't go as planned or they were absolutely wonderful, I'll say so in my comments at the end of the day.

Of course I'll be looking forward to a great meal with wonderful people.


Friday, June 18, 2010

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 Tree Press moderating Becca Buckley, RJB Publishing, Lee Emory of Treble Heart Books, Verna Dreisbach of the Dreisbach Literary Agency and Holly Sullivan McClure of the Sullivan Maxx Literary Agency letting us know how to please editors and agents and what the worse mistakes are.

Steve Scarborough will tell us about Detectives Then and Now.

Our promotion panel will be moderated by Madeline Gornell and consist of Sunny Frazier, Michael Orenduff, Morgan St. James and myself.

FBI Agent, Mark Bouton will tell us How to Spot a Lie.

At the end, there will be book signings and one on ones.

That's quite a busy day. I have time-keepers to keep us on track.

Now, I'm one again praying that all goes as it should. One year I had to switch everything around because one of my speakers came in a day late.

If I have anything like that happen, I'll write it in the comments.

I'm hoping to go out for a delicious dinner with delightful companions.

More later.


Thursday, June 17, 2010

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 conference.

Keep my fingers crossed--and I'll post a comment if it's not like I'm hoping


Wednesday, June 16, 2010


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 together. But, one by one, her kids moved to Vegas and she soon followed.

We do communicate a lot, phone calls, email, Facebook, but seeing her not so much.

Today, when this post comes out, I'll be in Las Vegas and spending one night and the morning with my sis and brother-in-law. Hoperfully, I'll get to see some of her kids too.

I can tell my sis anything and she can do the same with me. Stuff we wouldn't admit to another living soul.

We will see each other again before I leave Las Vegas, and again at our family reunion in September and we're all going on a week long mystery cruise in November. I'm happy I'll be with my sis for that much time.

Marilyn (who is writing this in Springville but will be on the way to Las Vegas when it comes out--God willing and the creek don't rise--as my husband says.)

PS The day before I left Murphy's Law set in. We had another cancellation from a member who was also on a panel.

Then I learned that A.J. and Nancy Farrar, PSWA board members and very important parts of the conference will not be able to come because of a medical problem A. J. is having. A.J. always M.C.s the conference and Nancy, our treasurer, is the most able book seller. Substitutes have stepped up to do their duties, thank goodness, but they will certainly be missed, having been a major part of the all the previous conferences.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

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.

Monday, June 14, 2010

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--and I'm not the only who thought this--it make one wonder.

The deputy doesn't believe there is any connection between the two. The first woman had been dead for perhaps 16 hours, the friend only a couple. (The deputies in our county are also coroners.)

Truly, I do not think there was any foul play involved. I know that autopsies will be done, whether or not any of us will find out what the cause of death in either case was is doubtful.

Yesterday we had a potluck after church, something our deceased member loved. And those of us who knew her well commented on the fact that it was strange not to have her there.

Our church will have a memorial service for our church member. The empty place in the pew where she always sat will always be a reminder--until someone comes along to fill it.

As a Christian, I have no doubt that this woman is now in a far better place and her pain and suffering is over.


Sunday, June 13, 2010

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 sandwich was bite size and daintily decorated.

And for desserts, again bite size and beautifully decorated: Orange Diamonds, Mini Puffs, Lemon Blossoms, Raspberry Fudgies, Ginger Whites, and Lemon Crumbles.

I saw many people I only bump into once in awhile, since I don't really hang out with the social set in town (these are the gals who do all the work, like the Apple Festival and the Concerts in the Park and much, much more, and I met other most lovely women.

It was a great afternoon, I'm so glad I went--and it was truly an afternoon to remember.


Saturday, June 12, 2010

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.


Friday, June 11, 2010

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 all done in the larger main room.

Some background about the physical location of this library. The town I live in is small and has no local government. It is located in the foothills on the way to the mountains. On the way outside of town is an older complex that once was a TB sanitarium. It has now been turned into low-income housing and many of the people who live here are poor senior citizens and younger people who are on disability or social security because of mental disabilities or health problems. The library is one of the little buildings at the front of the complex.

Because I knew that most of the people who would come into the library probably wouldn't have any money, I only brought a few copies of my Deputy Tempe Crabtree books, set in a place like Springville, and a fictional family saga of the first people who settled in Springville called Two Ways West.

The first person to come see me was a friend from church who is also a friend on Facebook. We had a nice chat.

Next a most interesting fellow came and talked to me about my books and different murders that had occurred in or around Springville. There've been three. I've used aspects of one in two of my Deputy Tempe Crabtree books. (Later that evening, my daughter-in-law, who came along to help me, said she watched that fellow swipe and book and head out the door with it.)

Another man, who'd brought his two teenagers in to use the computers, sat down and told me about several murders that he'd known about when he worked in the L.A. area.

The librarian bought one of my Two Ways West books as did another woman. (Before I let, I gave the library my latest Deputy Tempe Crabtree book, Dispel the Mist.

A woman who has been collecting my books for years came in with a list of the books I've written that she still needed and she bought a copy of Dispel the Mist.

I had a great chat about politics with another woman, visited with a gal who knew my sister, and finally, sold another Dispel the Mist to a young woman who'd once been in a writing class I taught years ago.

Right after I arrived, a homeless man with a huge back pack with sleeping bag, rolled up foam pad, clothes rolled up all over the pack, and many, many sacks came and plopped his belongings down on a chair at the other table. He spent most of his time at the end of one of the stacks reading and sometimes sleeping--and eating cookies and drinking punch and bottled water that were being served. I learned he'd also been at the open house at the other library where the librarian worked the day before, which meant he'd walked the many miles on the country road from that town to get to ours.

Selling four books wasn't too bad for that teeny library. And I must say it was an interesting day to study a lot of quaint characters, many I didn't mention--and I had some great conversations.

And that's the kind of thing I do when I'm not busy writing.


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.

There's the Chief of Police, Chief McKenzie.

Ryan Strickland, the Public Information Officer for the department has come a long since the very first book, once a play boy now settled into family life with his wife Barbara and her three boys.

Officer Gordon Butler is one of my favorites. He's been heart-broken by an unfaithful wife, when on the job always goes by the book, but often things don't go quite right for him either at work or in his private life. He'll be starring in the book I'm writing now.

And of course, there's always a new cast of characters--murder victims and the murderer and witnesses and other suspects.

It's very important to keep all these people and places straight. In the beginning with this series, I began writing everything about each person on a file card. As time went on I've added things and made changes as my characters changed.

Even with keeping track, I'm sure I've made mistakes, but so far no reader has called me on it.

When I wrote the first book years ago, I never expected it to become a series. If I'd known, I might have done some things differently.

Though I busy writing a new one now, the next one to be published will appear at after the beginning of next year.

When I'm done writing this one, then I'll have to start on a new Tempe Crabtree book, but at the moment, I have no ideas for that--but the next one is at the publishers waiting for a fall pub date.

And that's just a little bit about writing a series.


Thursday, June 10, 2010

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 been touched by this needless tragedy--family and friend. And I include the brother who was driving, his life has been changed forever.


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 forefront of the photo and his mom's and dad's.


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 graduation. She's now employed in a day care.

After that, we watched our first great-grandson graduate, the older brother of the latest graduate from Springville School.

Next will come a granddaughter--a great-granddaughter is attending that school now and perhaps well be around to see her graduate.

The sweetheart in the photo doesn't live nearby. Her mom came down to see her nephew graduate--and visit all the rest of us.

Had to share, that's such a cute photo.


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 bringing.

My web mistress is putting the prologue and the blurb up on my website as I write this, so if you'd like to see it and the cover go to

Anyone have any ideas that I can add to this?


Monday, June 7, 2010

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 introduced us to journalism and suddenly – finally – something in school was interesting!

Marilyn: Tell us a little bit about your road to publication.

Dorothy: My first manuscript was a historical romance. I wrote it in long hand and typed it on an electric typewriter my husband gave me for Christmas. After nine rejections it sold to Kensington. I was thrilled! I didn’t know at the time that my next sale would be seven long years away.

When my next manuscript – and the next – didn’t sell, I knew I had to learn the craft of writing. I joined writers organizations, critique groups, attended writing workshops and conferences. I sold my second book to Berkley at an editor critique session at a conference in San Diego. Berkley bought another book from me, then rejected a third. Harlequin Historicals bought it – thank goodness – and that began a long, rewarding relationship with them. I’ve sold them 21 historical romances – so far.

From romance, I moved to mystery. I was very fortunate that Kensington bought my proposal for HANDBAGS AND HOMICIDE in a 3-book, hardcover deal in only four days. I was stunned!

Marilyn: What was your biggest disappointment?

Dorothy: I’m always disappointed when a proposal doesn’t sell. Yes, after all these books I still get rejected and it still hurts. I allow myself to be sad for a while, then move on and try to figure out what I can do better next time.

Marilyn: Biggest thrill?

Dorothy: Every one of my sales has been a huge thrill. I never take anything in this business for granted.

Marilyn: What prompted you to write this particular book or series?

Dorothy: A wash load of my husband’s black socks! Really!

A few years ago when I finished a Harlequin Historicals romance, I was between contracts and decided to take a much needed break. I shopped, had lunch with friends, shopped, cleaned my house, shopped, slept late and, well I shopped some more.

After about two weeks of all this leisure time, I found myself facing a laundry basket of my husband’s black socks. I couldn’t even pick it up. My life had suddenly become so boring, so uninteresting I couldn’t bring myself to carry those socks to the washing machine.

I knew I had to do something, and I knew it had to be challenging. I decided to try my hand at writing a mystery. I’d always been a mystery reader and loved the genre.

My daughter, a college student working part time at a retail store, came home with horror stories about customers, co-workers, management. It was so awful I thought it would make a great book! I wrote a proposal, found an agent immediately, and the series sold in only four days.

And, by the way, I am able once again to wash black socks!

Marilyn: Where can we buy your book?

Dorothy: The mystery series is in chain and indie bookstores. It’s also available in Large Print and e-book formats.

If you happen to read French, the first two books have been released in France. If you’re traveling in England, it’s on the shelves there. Going to Thailand next year? You’ll find it there also.

Marilyn: Anything else you'd like my readers to know?

I recently signed another 3-book deal with Kensington to continue the mystery series in hardcover. Harlequin Historicals offered me an opportunity to contribute a novella to an anthology. It will be released next spring.

I am eternally grateful and thankful for all my good fortune. I certainly could have quit writing during that long seven year stretch when I could hardly get an agent or editor to read my query letter, let alone a proposal or manuscript. To all the aspiring authors out there, please don’t give up. You never know what’s in your future.

I love hearing from readers. Please visit my Web sites at and, or Dorothy Howell Novels at

Dorothy Howell's Bio:

Dorothy Howell has sold 26 novels to three major New York publishing houses. Her books have been translated into a dozen languages, with sales reaching 3 million copies worldwide.

She currently writes for two houses, in two genres, under two names.

Dorothy writes the fashion sleuth Haley Randolph mysteries series, published in hardcover from Kensington Books. Foreign rights to the series have sold in the U.K., France and Thailand. The books are available in Large Print and e-book format.

She also writes historical romance novels for Harlequin Silhouette, most under the pen name Judith Stacy. Her titles include a No.1 on the Barnes & Noble Historical List, Harlequin Historicals Top Seller of the Year, and a RITA Award Finalist.

Dorothy is a member of the Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and Romance Writers of America.

Join Dorothy’s fans on Facebook.

Visit her Web site at

Book blurb:

SHOULDER BAGS AND SHOOTINGS, a July, 2010, hardcover release from Kensington.

Life is beyond fabulous for Haley Randolph. She just spent two amazing weeks in Europe with her boyfriend Ty Cameron, owner of Holt’s Department Store where Haley works. And now Ty’s grandmother, Ada, is letting Haley drive her way-cool Mercedes. Plus, Haley’s closing in on the season’s must-have handbag.
But when Haley finds the body of her nemesis in the trunk of Ada’s Mercedes, things aren’t so fabulous anymore. Topping the list of suspects, Haley must solve this murder quickly – and find that hot handbag – before she becomes a killer’s next fashion fatality!

Marilyn: Thank you so much, Dorothy! What a great writing career.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

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 the only one who did that.) Though I did have a great time, I did have to use my brain to sound halfway intelligent while answering or asking questions.

Next up is an appearance at the Springville library from 11 to 3 on the 10th. I'll have to decide which books to take then heft them up to the library and be engaging while visiting with anyone who might stop by.

We next will be heading for Las Vegas, first stop to see my sister, fun. The following four days will be spent at the Public Safety Writers conference where I'm the program chairperson and also headed up the pre-registration. Though I know I'll have fun, this one is definitely work.

On the Fourth of July, I'll have a booth at the holiday celebration at Channel Islands Harbor for most of the day and until 8 p.m. Definitely work--putting up the tent, selling books, taking down the tent. We'll be staying at one of our daughter's homes before and after. Fun.

The last day of the month, we'll be at the Roseville Library. It's near Sacramento which means quite a drive. We've never been to this particular venue before, but again, we'll be selling books. Work. Meeting new people. Fun.

That's enough to give you the idea. So am I working or having fun?


Saturday, June 5, 2010

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 always buy my latest books.

I'm no longer at the very bottom because I do have fans. Hopefully, now that my books are all on Kindle, I'm gaining a few more. I do a lot of promoting--that's what this blog is all about--and perhaps someone who reads it will actually go out and try one of my books.

Frankly, I know I'm a long way from the top. To answer my question of am I there yet, it all depends upon what that means. I have nearly 30 published books. I consider writing my profession which means I am a writer. Nearly all reviews of my books have been favorable and some glowing.

I know I won't stop writing until I can no longer sit in front of my computer and put words together.

Perhaps some people would think I'm not there yet--but as far as I'm concerned, I'm quite happy with what I've accomplished and what I hope to do in the future.


Friday, June 4, 2010

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 research about the plot, but now I'm ready to forge ahead. If there's more I need to know, I can research as I go along.

These first chapters are hard to churn out. I find myself doing other less desirable tasks like cleaning house or the laundry. Yes, these things have to be done, but I know writers who put all that off while they are writing. I'm not wired to do that.

I'll keep on working until I finally finish. Then I'll read the chapters one by one to my critique group who will have lots of ideas and corrections for me. Once all the chapters have been worked on by the critique group and me again. I'll send it off to someone to edit it for me before I send it to my publisher.

She'll do some editing too and then the book will be sent back and forth a couple of times as it gets combed for mistakes before the final publication.

Sound simple? Believe me, it's not.

Now instead of writing this, I need to get back to Chapter 3.


Thursday, June 3, 2010

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 back to writing, I didn’t stress about it. It wasn’t do or die for me; it was more like a “let’s see if I can do this” attitude.

Marilyn: What was your road to publication?

PI It was a very short one. I submitted short stories to a few online magazines that put out calls for submissions and they were accepted. When Desert Breeze Publishing put out a call for submissions I sent in an old manuscript I’d tooled with for several years and the editor passed on it but asked me to write up a chapter for a science fiction series she wanted to kick off and she liked that and signed me for the series. Crucifying Angel, Book One of the Future Imperfect series was the result of that.

Marilyn: What was your biggest disappointment?

PI: I haven’t had one yet for which I am profoundly grateful every day.

Marilyn: How about your biggest thrill?

PI: I think when I finished the manuscript and typed “The End” and hit send to my editor. It gave me a sense of completion—you know, I could actually call myself an author—even if only in my head. Oh and another huge thrill was selling the mystery that I co-authored with my sister, Loni Emmert. Button Hollow Chronicles #1: The Leaf Peeper Murders will be out in August 2010 through Mainly Murder Press. We finally got to collaborate on a creative project together!

Marilyn: What brought you to write this book?

PI: Miraculous Deception, Book Two of Future Imperfect, is the second in the series and picks up where Crucifying Angel left off with a cliff hanger. I like this one even more than the first because this one has much more intrigue and betrayal and hopefully a few more surprising twists.

Marilyn: Tell me more about the book.

PI: Let’s see. What can I tell you that won’t give it all away? Some characters will be removed and some new ones will appear; some relationships will change in good and bad ways. I know that’s vague but I don’t want to give up too much. The setting is still the same, near-future Las Vegas in all its bizarre glory that I love.

Marilyn: Where can people buy a copy?

PI: Since Miraculous Deception is in e-book format it will be available from; and I believe also through Barnes & Noble, Sony, FictionWise and iBookstore for Apple.

Marilyn: What kind of promotion do you have planned?

PI: E-books and their promotion is a different world than traditional books’ promotion. Blog sites (like yours Marilyn!) w/interviews are always a must; I’ve done online radio interviews which are usually a blast to do (since I worked on air in radio, lol!); and reviews of the books are the treasures of the e-book promotional world! We’re beginning to create some goodies for giveaways, T-shirts, mugs, postcards, bookmarks. I love getting them and I hope readers will too! That’s always a fun part of promotion.

The Button Hollow Chronicles will be in print version and we’re in the embryonic stages of planning a book launch—it will be our first ever!

Marilyn: Where can we find you on the web?

PI: The website I share with my sister is: and readers can find information on Miraculous Deception, Crucifying Angel and Button Hollow Chronicles there. We also do author interviews and occasionally review music and other creative projects on the site. We LOVE to hear from readers and they can contact us directly at and let us know what they think! Oh, and they can be added to our email blast and get information sent directly to them via email!

Marilyn: Thank you so much, PI. Your books sound intriguing and I enjoyed this interview.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

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 all comments.

When I suggested I might discuss what brought me to write my ecclesiastical thriller A VERY PRIVATE GRAVE, book 1, The Monastery Murders, you said, “Great. And I’d also like to know some of your background, how long you’ve been writing, the lowest point of your career and the highest.” And the thing is, all of those things are exactly what brought me to write A VERY PRIVATE GRAVE.

As to my background I’ve been writing professionally for about 35 years and have produced about that many books. (You can see them all and order them on my website And you can watch the trailer for A VERY PRIVATE GRAVE on my home page.) Almost all of my books deal with British history, especially, the history of British Christianity, I suppose, because I wanted to learn more of my own roots and heritage. Writing those books necessitated a great many extensive research trips to the British Isles, most of them accompanied by my daughter Elizabeth from the time she was five years old. A fact which was later to play a major role in shaping my writing— especially when she married a Church of England priest. But I’m getting ahead of the story.

Perhaps the high point in my career (although, I hope I haven’t reached my high point yet) was the publication of the award-winning epic GLASTONBURY, The Novel of Christian England in 1992. And I continued to write and garner the occasional award through that decade.

Then, in the year 2000 began a very long low point. For 10 years, although I continued to write, nothing sold to a publisher. Also in that time our family had 10 births, 5 deaths, 2 marriages, 2 troubled marriages (which recovered), our daughter emigrated, and we moved from our home of 25 years. In other words, life happened. But most significantly for my writing, I experienced a spiritual famine.

So, in the fall of 2001, I took one of the first planes to leave Boise after 9/11 and set out on pilgrimage to 17 sites of historical spiritual significance in England, Scotland and Wales. I returned to write a nonfiction book on pilgrimage— which didn’t sell. But I still wanted to tell those stories.

Thus, The Monastery Murders as was born, using my favorite genre, the ecclesiastical mystery, many of my pilgrimage experiences, and the background of my daughter’s life in England. Like Elizabeth, my heroine Felicity Howard is an energetic (not to mention rash and headstrong) young American woman who studies Classics at Oxford, finds teaching Latin in London boring, and goes off to a theological college run by monks in a monastery in Yorkshire.

Fortunately, the murder of Felicity’s (and also my) favorite monk is fiction. Father Dominic is still alive and well tending his rose garden in the monastery that serves as a model for my Community of the Transfiguration. But as much of the historical background and the contemporary settings of the sacred places Felicity and Antony visit while being chased by murderers are as accurate as I can possibly make them. Even Felicity’s experience of the breakdown of a Britrail train actually happened to me.

Now, here I am, on the threshold of a very different kind of adventure, writing a new series in this amazing electronic age with blogs and websites and trailers and Twitter and e-books and all those things that didn’t exist when my last books were published 10 years. And what an exciting adventure life is— even if the murderers are all fictional.


Felicity Howard, a young American woman studying for the Anglican priesthood at the College of the Transfiguration in Yorkshire, is devastated when she finds her beloved Fr. Dominic brutally murdered and Fr. Antony, her church history lecturer, soaked in his blood.
A VERY PRIVATE GRAVE is a contemporary novel with a thoroughly modern heroine who must learn some ancient truths in order to solve the mystery and save her own life as she and Fr. Antony flee a murderer and follow clues that take them to out-of-the way sites in northern England and southern Scotland. The narrative skillfully mixes detection, intellectual puzzles, spiritual aspiration, romance, and the solving of clues ancient and modern.

“With a bludgeoned body in Chapter 1, and a pair of intrepid amateur sleuths, A Very Private Grave qualifies as a traditional mystery. But this is no mere formulaic whodunit: it is a Knickerbocker Glory of a thriller. At its centre is a sweeping, page-turning quest – in the steps of St Cuthbert – through the atmospherically-depicted North of England, served up with dollops of Church history and lashings of romance. In this novel, Donna Fletcher Crow has created her own niche within the genre of clerical mysteries.” – Kate Charles, author of Deep Waters

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

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 these people are writers and some are readers.

Radine and John Nehring are a couple we always look forward to seeing again. Radine arranged an author conversation with the two of us and Nancy Pickard that was great fun. We sat and talked about writing, while the audience listened in.

Mother and daughter, Benay and Sarah Weiss are another of our favorites. Sarah is so bubbly and full of fun, she makes us feel young just hanging out with her--though no way can we keep up.

Lance Zarimba can always be counted on for good conversation. Pat Dennis kept us in stitches. Though we'd met Marilyn Victor previously, this year we got to know her much better.

It's always great to see Kent Krueger, one of the best writers I know and a most gracious person.

Met Sue Senden who thanks to Facebook I felt like I already knew.

Mike Black, who I met at our PSWA conference was there with his delightful lady friend, and I met Mark Bouton, FBI agent who will be speaking at the PSWA conference in June.

Of course there were many, many more folks I got to see again and others I met for the first time.

Mayhem is as much about people as it is about mysteries. You can always count on good conversations, people to bravely try new restaurants with you, someone to chat with whether it's at breakfast or sitting around in the lobby.

My husband has as much fun at Mayhem as I do.

Someone asked how long we would keep going to Mayhem. My answer, "As long as we're able."