Friday, April 30, 2010

Setting Aside my Writing

For this weekend I will not be doing any writing. Heresy, you say? Nope, in this case family comes first.

My eldest daughter and her hubby and their big Golden Retriever Archie drove their motor home over 5 through a snow storm to get here. Yes, snow storm--end of April in California--pretty crazy.

They park the motor home at my other daughter's house. Everyone came here for dinner--barbecued spareribs prepared by my son. Delicious.

Of course we yakked a lot--besides our guests, son and his wife, grandson who lives with us, granddaughter who lives next door were all with us.

Later we went back to the motor home and watched Survivor--we're all hooked on it. Yakked for another hour and then went home.

Today we're headed for the movies and we'll probably play some board games later. That's what we usually do when we're together.

We've got a big, big family and I'm always happy when we can get together.

So, that's why my writing is being put off until next week.


Thursday, April 29, 2010

My Camp Fire Leader Days

Two of my former Camp Fire Girls are on Facebook with me.

I had a group of Blue Birds first and as they grew older they became Camp Fire Girls and I stayed their leader for 10 years. I had three kids when I began, and had two more children while I continued on with the group.

One of the former Camp Fire Girls reminded me of the fact that when I was nine months pregnant I took them camping. Yes, I did. I asked the doc's permission and he said I could go as long as I called the Highway Patrol to take me to the hospital and didn't try to get there on my own. After all it was my fifth child. I think my son arrived about two weeks later.

In case you think I'm super woman, I took too mom's along with me who helped with a lot including the hiking. I was far too large and uncomfortable to do any hiking.

That was the year when the Beatles had first come to the U.S. just to give you an idea of how long ago it was. All the girls could talk about was how much they "loved" this Beatle or that one.

That group grew over the years and we went on other camping trips, a couple of back-packing outings into the wilderness of the Sespe Forest, to San Diego, L.A.

When the girls graduated from high school and my leader days were done, I volunteered to go along as an extra mom with other Camp Fire groups so got to go on more camping trips, one to Anacapa Island and a couple over to Catalina Island.

Fond memories.


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Distractions, Distraction

The notes for my next Rocky Bluff P.D. series are on the table right next to my computer desk. I have the time right now to start writing. Instead, I've done everything else I could think of doing.

I changed my bed and washed the linen. I had to didn't I? After all, I had a scorpion in my bed for two nights.

I did all five days of my Bible study because I know I have meeting I must attend, then my daughter and son-in-law are arriving on Thursday for the whole weekend.

I received an email with another bio of an attendee for the PSWA conference and thought I needed to enter it right away into the bio sheet everyone will get at the conference. Since there are two missing, I sent them email reminders.

Maybe someone else wants to go to the conference but thinks it's too late. I had to put something on Facebook letting people know they can still sign up.

Time for another cup of Chai tea, so I heated up the water and made another cup.

I found another email I hadn't answered, so of course that had to be done.

I realized I didn't have a post for my blog for today, so I did this one.

Now, since I can't think of anything else I ought to be doing, guess I better open up Word and get started.


Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Scorpions, Spiders, Skunks and Snakes

On Facebook I wrote, I Found a Scorpion in my bed--and I think that sounds like a title for a book.

At the Stiletto Gang I wrote about my encounter with the scorpion which was right there on the bottom sheet when I turned back the bed. They don't scare me at all, though I didn't plan on sleeping with it. I went to get my husband and show him. Frankly, I thought the ugly thing was dead. When he came back with me, guess what? the scorpion had disappeared. I should have killed it when I first saw it.

We shook out all the sheets, the covers--but no scorpion. No telling where it went. I couldn't see it anywhere so I went to bed.

On Facebook, almost everyone who responded to my post was aghast. Some thought I should have slept anywhere else but that bed. Others thought I should never given up looking for it.

The reality is even if the thing bit me I wouldn't die. It's a worse sting than a bee, but not fatal or even near fatal. My house is old with lots of cracks and crevices to hide in. Scorpions appear from time to time along with all kinds of spiders. I have no problem putting them out of their misery.

We used to have trouble with mice--but our three cats have taken care of that problem. Anyone who follows my blog knows that when our bathroom was being remodeled, the workers left the door to the outside open all the time and one of our closest became home to a family of rats. Pretty horrifying. Hubby and a grandson took care of them.

Though we have plenty of lizards that make it inside, never a snake even though there are plenty outside. Hubby used to haul the rattlesnakes off to an old barn we had on the property to take care of the icky critters in there, but the barn is gone, so I guess the rattlers will have to stay out of hubby's way.

And then there's the skunks. Every evening a skunk family passes through the yard and leaves behind their odor. A couple of the dogs have been sprayed and one time my poor daughter-in-law stepped out the back door of our house and a skunk sprayed in her direction. Fortunately, she didn't get the brunt of it.

When you live in the country, you have to put up with all these critters who got here first.

The funniest comment anyone made on Facebook about my encounter with the scorpion was made by my niece who said I did exactly what my mom would've done. That's true, nothing much fazed my mom except bad stuff that happened to family members.

And that's the saga of the scorpion--hopefully it will stay out of my way.


Monday, April 26, 2010

Author Fest at the Visalia Library

Last Friday night, the Visalia branch of the Tulare County Library hosted 10 authors for an author fest. I was privileged to be invited.

We'd been given, via attachment, a poster to use for publicity. They also made individual posters for us that we could print out and use. I know they had newspaper publicity as well. They are really trying to get people to start reading again.

The Friends of the Library were there to help and they provided yummy refreshments.

Our instructions were to arrive by 6:15. My daughter-in-law came with me to help with the selling of the books. It's difficult to talk to prospective buyers and do the change making too. They library was just getting the tables moved around, but at each place was an easel with a huge poster with information about the author and his or her books and it was decorated appropriately. (They let us take these posters home and I'll use it again by changing some of the information.)

The other authors arrived at about the same time. I was only mystery writer, there were several people with local history books, two children's book authors, a romance writer, and a true crime.

Before 7, the starting time, people began drifting in. Most spent quite a while at each table, asking questions and flipping through books. A few were intent on buying. In both the romance writer's and my case, some folks came intent on finding us in order to purchase a book.

I was pleased to see friends I haven't seen for awhile and some folks that I'd met at other events who were interested in seeing what I'd written lately.

It wasn't a huge crowd, but I did quite well. At the end of our time there, I gave a copy of each book I'd brought to the library. As far as I could tell, I was the only one who did that.

Now I can rest for a couple of weeks, my next event isn't until May 8th when I'll be at the Jane Austen Festival being held at the St. Paul Newman Center in Fresno. I'm not sure why a mystery writer should be there, but the ones in charge were insistent that as a local writer they wanted me.


Sunday, April 25, 2010

What it Means to Be an Author or at least this author

When I talk about what it means to be an author--I'm speaking of my own experiences. I'm with a small independent press so my experiences will be different from those with a major publisher and different from those who self-publish. Actually I've been published by a major publisher and self-published two books, but those experiences have been a while ago.

I've had lots of experience with small presses--some good and some bad.

I'm quite satisfied with both the small presses I'm with now, Mundania and Oak Tree.

I do not get advances, my books come out in about a year after I've submitted, my publishers do some promotion but I do lots of promotion too.

I get royalties--but by the time Amazon, Ingram's, bookstores, take their bite, the publishers get theirs, what's left for me is minimal. (Publishers don't get much either.)

If I were in it just for the money, I'd have quit long ago.

At this particular time, I want to see what is going to happen with Deputy Tempe Crabtree and the other folks who live in Bear Creek and what I'm going to learn about the Bear Creek Indians. And no telling what will happen in Rocky Bluff--what murder or mayhem will occur to occupy the RBPD--and what turmoil will be going on in the officers' private lives. Hopefully my readers are as anxious to find these things out too.

It's most rewarding to read good reviews about my books and to hear from readers who enjoyed reading one and ask me questions about what is going to happen next.

Meeting fans in person is thrilling. Giving talks anywhere is fun for me. If people buy books, that's a plus.


Saturday, April 24, 2010

PSWA Member Kathleen Ryan

Marilyn: First, Kathleen, tell us about your background.

I retired from the SCPD in 2007 after 21 years. I worked in Patrol, Public Information, and Crime Stoppers. I handled the media during the tragedy of Flight 800 in July 1996, and the Katie Beers kidnapping in December & January 1992.

Before that, I was a music teacher (I received my B.A. in Music Education from C.W. Post College, Long Island University), but I also had many other jobs...I was a waitress, a gal Friday, I worked in a deli, a bakery, I delivered mail, I was an assistant choral director at USDAN in Dix Hills (where artists like Mariah Carey and Natalie Portman spent their summer.)

Marilyn: I have a feeling there's more. I've met Kathleen at the PSWA conference, and she just bubbles over.

Kathleen: You're right, In the early 80s when teaching jobs were scarce and I taught music privately, I also worked for the Street Pulse Group; I used to poll radio stations across the U.S. and ask for their play list. My boss, who wrote a column in Rolling Stone ("On Target"), had a business to recommend to record buyers which records to buy and which ones to hold off on; he was monitoring consumer buying habits and trends. It was a really fun job. I still remember some of the songs and bands that were so popular at the time. My boss wanted me to work for him in Connecticut when he left Long Island, but I turned it down. He went on to co-found SoundScan, VideoScan, & BookScan. I'd say he was quite a trend-spotter! Maybe I should have followed him to CT!

Marilyn: And what are you up to now? I'm sure it's plenty.

Kathleen: I have a story in The Southampton Review, "The Watcher" (it won the PSWA Creative Nonfiction Award last year), which is available online:

Also, my story, "Playing with Matches" will be in W.W. Norton's Hint Fiction: An Anthology of Stories Told in 25 Words or Fewer, which is available for pre-order on Amazon ( and Barnes & Noble (

(Marilyn's note: You'll have to copy and paste those URLs in your browser, I'm afraid I'll make a mistake trying to copy them to make them click through.)

Kathleen: I have a story called, "Fraternization" in Six Sentences: The Love Book that's available for purchase: I also have a story called, "Autumn Reckoning" that will be in the forthcoming Six Sentences: Volume 3.

Marilyn: Tell us more about your true crime memoir.

Kathleen: I recently blogged about visiting certain locations in Southampton concerning the victim in my true crime memoir: I am almost complete with polishing.

I hope to take advantage soon of having my one-time review by an editor via PSWA, and then I'll be querying. I have a couple of agents interested in reading the manuscript already.

Marilyn: Thank you, Kathleen. I'm hoping for the best for the true crime, I'd like to read it. And, I'm looking forward to seeing you again in Las Vegas at the PSWA conference.

Thank you so much for visiting my blog today.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Brainstorming for my Next Rocky Bluff P.D. crime novel

Brainstorming all by myself, that is. I'll take input from others.

Because I've had a suggestion from one of the readers of the Rocky Bluff P.D. crime series to put Officer Gordon Butler in the forefront. He's actually been an important character in several of books in the series, and he's always been kind of the comic relief.

I've taken the suggestion to heart and pretty much know where I'm going with this book--at least the main plot. Not sure how it will unfold completely, though.

What I've got so far is the murder victim and an array of suspects. One of the suspects will be close to Officer Butler.

Because it's a series with an ongoing cast of characters, I have to include how Abel's mom is doing and if the relationship between her and his wife, Maria, has made any improvement. And Wendy and Felix--have they had their baby? If so what is it? What happened to Vaughn Aragon? Is he going to get his job back? What about Barbara and Ryan Strickland and their three boys? Anything new happening with them?

And for goodness sake, I can't leave out the newlyweds, Doug and Stacey. My readers would never forgive me if I didn't let them know what was happening with those two after all the trauma they've been through in the last two books.

So, okay, those of you have been reading this series, any ideas you'd like to share with me?


Thursday, April 22, 2010

Pat Brown, Author of L.A. Bytes

I have not had the opportunity to meet Pat Brown in person, though we are on several lists together. This is my chance, and yours, to learn more about her.

Marilyn: When did you first begin writing?

Pat: I was in grade school. I wrote my first book when I was 17. You can imagine how good that must have been. Let's just say no one besides me ever saw the thing. I first started writing seriously in the 80s, but then I wrote Science Fiction. Never had anything published. It wasn't until I switched to mysteries that I sold my first book. It was actually the first mystery I'd written.

Marilyn: Tell me about yourself.

Pat: I'm a Canadian who hates winter. I'd much rather live someplace warm. That's probably why I moved to L.A. in 78 when I was 22. I didn't care that I didn't know anybody there, it was warm and I wanted to write scripts so it seemed only logical. I did write scripts, though I never sold anything in Hollywood. I came back and kept writing SF, until the late 90s when I switched to mysteries, mostly because that's all I read at the time. More logic, right? You can probably tell Mr. Spock was my favorite Star Trek character. LOL. I did write a few erotic short stories that sold in the 90s. Then I wrote what would become L.A. Heat. It got me an agent, who sold it to Alyson Books.

Marilyn: Did you always aspire to be a writer?

Pat: Yes. Though I was told very early it was a lousy career choice and a waste of time. Even my family insisted it was a phase. It just happened to be a phase that lasted 4 decades... But they never really took me seriously until the first book sold.

Marilyn: What was your big break?

Pat: Meeting Lyn Hamilton, who sadly, passed away just recently. She was the Writer in Residence in Toronto and I sent her L.A. Heat -- only then it was called Babylon Boneyard. She really liked it and gave me some good suggestions. When she became the Writer in Residence in Kitchener/Waterloo, I sent it back to her and this time she liked it so much she introduced me to 2 of Leona Trainer's authors she was appearing on a panel with -- Mary Jane Maffini and Barbara Fradkin. I met Leona and she ended up representing me. She sold the book to Alyson Books.

Marilyn: What was your most disappointing moment?

Pat: When Alyson rejected the second book in the series. It was a good year or more before I found another publisher who would take book two and wanted to reprint L.A. Heat. By that time I'd actually written two more books, L.A. Mischief and L.A. Boneyard, which were published as book 2 and 3 in the series. The one that would have been book 2, L.A. Bytes just came out as book 3.

Marilyn: What has been the most exciting thing to happen in your writing career?

Pat: The most exciting thing is something I can't talk about yet. Other than that, I think beyond being published for the first time, was getting my first rave review and hearing from total strangers who read one of my books and took the time to email me and tell me.

Marilyn: What's next?

Pat: At this moment I'm finishing up the first draft of a noir historical set in 1929 Los Angeles. It's a total departure for me. I've never written an historical before and it's also the first one I've written where the main characters aren't gay. I liken it to James Ellroy's noirish books set in L.A.

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

Pat: I love what I do and I can't imagine doing anything else. I hope people keep reading my books and enjoying them because I plan to keep on writing them.

You can learn more about me at
Or follow me on Twitter:
Or through Facebook:

Or I'll be at Bloody Words in Toronto from May 28-30th.

Marilyn: Thanks, Pat, for letting us get a bit of insight into your life. And please, when you can tell us the exciting thing! What a cliffhanger.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Lorie Ham, The Final Note

Lorie Ham has been a good friend for several years. We met at the San Joaquin chapter of Sisters in Crime and we roomed together at Left Coast Crime in Anchorage, Alaska. I'm a big fan of her series and sorry to know that The Final Note is the last.

Here's a blurb about The Final Note.

The Final Note:

Alexandra Walters, a gospel singer living in the small town of Donlyn which is nestled in the middle of the San Joaquin Valley of California, finds herself the victim of a stalker during a reunion tour with her family singing group. By the end of the tour, the stalker is dead and Alex finds herself the prime suspect. The murder takes place in the California Coastal town of Ayr (near Santa Cruz), where Roxi Carlucci lives. Roxi is the cousin of private investigator Stephen Carlucci, one of two men vying for Alex’s affection. Donlyn Police Detective Will Knight is the other. Roxi, Stephen, Alex, Will, and a cast of Alex’s roommates and friends return in this final novel of the series to help find the real killer. To further complicate the matter the stalker returns—is Alex being stalked by a ghost?
In the end not only is the stalker revealed and the killer caught, but Alex finally chooses between the two men she loves.

I had a few questions for Lorie and I think you'll be interested in her answers.

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

Lorie: I started writing when I was 7-I always loved making up short stories about my stuffed animals. At 13 I had my first poem and song published. It’s just something that has always been a part of me.

Marilyn: What gave you the idea to begin this series?

Lorie: I have been a gospel singer since the age of 5 so it’s a life I know but I never thought of using it as a setting for a book until fellow Sisters In Crime members started suggesting it. I decided to give it a try and here I am 4 books later.

(I knew the answer to the question, but thought others would like to know too. Lorie came to my church to put on a program singing gospel songs a couple of times.)

Marilyn: I understand this will be the last one in the series, why did you decide to end with this one?

Lorie: Ending the series had a lot of to do with the publishing industry itself. I had a hard time finding a home for my books because they were crossover before crossover was popular-gospel singer main character, but not really Christian fiction.

Once the series ended up with the publisher it did I found it impossible to find someone else to take over the series once I began having issues with my publisher. So I decided that it was time to finish this series up and move on to something new. I needed this last book to tie up some loose ends, including a stalker I left Alex with in the previous book, Out of Tune. Plus it was time for her to pick between the two guys, lol.

Marilyn: What's next for you?

Lorie: I actually have several new projects going including a vampire book and a new online magazine called Kings River Life which goes live in June. But fiction wise, my current focus is a new mystery series featuring an animal rescuer who just happens to be Stephen Carlucci’s cousin (Stephen is a PI in my current series). Those who love Stephen will be happy to know he will make appearances in this new series.

Marilyn: Where can my readers find your books, including this latest one?

Lorie: The first 3 in the series can only be purchased from me by contacting me at, or you can find used copies on Amazon and The one book not in the series, Deadly Discrimination, will be serialized on my new magazine website at The new book, The Final Note, can be purchased directly from the publisher at and will soon be available on Amazon.

Marilyn: Is there anything else you'd like us to know about you or your books?

Lorie: I think this series is unique because it gives people a glimpse into a world few people really know about, the world of professional gospel music. And I do my best to give an accurate portrayal including not just the good but the bad as well.

Also, I’m excited about the new series as I have also done animal rescue work and it is another world few people have seen what goes on behind the scenes of. It’s not at all like Animal Cops.

People can find sample chapters of my other books on my website The website is under construction so chapters of the new book are not yet up.

Marilyn: Thank you, Lorie. I've read The Final Note and enjoyed it. I'm sorry to see the series end.

Here are some reviews of Lorie's other books:

Reviews of other books-

Out of Tune-

Once again Lorie Ham has created an entertaining and intriguing mystery featuring the very likeable Alex Walters. Ham excels at portraying the realistic relationships between the dynamic Walters family and she always leaves the readers wanting to know more. Readers looking for a novel full of mystery, romance and humor need to look no further.
— Cynthia Chow
Deadly Discrimination-

DEADLY DISCRIMINATION is a classic whodunit with motives and clues a-plenty. I thought I had the perp pegged, but got a big surprise at the end. It's Agatha Christie meets Jan Karon...a mystery lover's delight.
— Rosey Dow
Trouble With Tenors-

Written in Ms. Ham’s uncanny, witty style, THE TROUBLE WITH TENORS is an unabashed whodunit, throwing suspects and motives at the reader almost faster than you can keep track of them. Full of plot twists and inner challenges for Alex as she struggles to come to terms with her feelings towards her ex, her boyfriend, and the new police sergeant, this novel is an engaging read. I look forward to the next Alex Walters installment and hope to see her deepen her relationship with Steven.
— Aimee McCleod

Murder In Four Part Harmony-
In gospel singer Alex Walters, Lorie Ham gives readers a peek at an unusual profession and offers a new slant on the amateur sleuth. Alex's curiosity gets her into trouble, but her faith and her .45 see her through. All the while, she is good company.
— Jonnie Jacobs

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Family Debt

Family Debt
is the true crime story about the brutal murder of the author's father, Jack Bianco.

Read about Teresa Bianco and how she was affected by the death of her father:

Teresa Bianco grew up in a Catholic Sicilian family. She is the youngest of three children. Teresa was introduced to the family business at the tender age of 8.
Her father who was her best friend and mentor was brutally murdered when she was only 14. Some say there were Mafioso ties to the family.

Teresa experienced here first marriage at the age of 15. She gave birth to her only child, a daughter at the age of 16. Her initial marriage ended at the age of 17 however Teresa remarried and enjoyed 18 years of marriage through 2008.

During the initial stages and preparation for writing The Family Debt, Teresa’s daughter was involved in a tragic near fatal auto accident. This occurred in 1996 when her daughter was only 24 years old. The accident, which rendered her daughter disabled proved to have a distinct impact on Teresa’s life perspectives.

For many years, Teresa served, as a manager and administrator for several businesses. In 1990, in spite of her challenges, Teresa forged ahead with the creation of her own telecommunications consulting firm. The firm grew, expanded and successfully flourished for 17 years in the state of Michigan.

In 2004, Teresa moved to Tennessee to support her husband as he pursued a career as a songwriter in the music industry. Shortly thereafter her daughter joined her which was a welcomed reunion for Teresa. Teresa now resides in Tennessee where she continues her career as a writer and manages care for her daughter.

In 2007, she began the journey of researching and documenting the riveting story of Jack Bianco, her father and the main focus of The Family Debt.

When asked about her preparation for writing this intriguing story, Teresa simply states, “ The formal training I received during my school years could never prepare me to tell the story of Giacomo “Jack” Bianco. It would be my personal life experiences that would ultimately provide me with the acute emotions, the insight and the tenacity required to write my fathers life story.”

A daughter’s perspective on a father’s love, a father’s passion and a father’s early demise is revealed to the entire world in this true cold case crime story that was never told….

Until Now…

But exactly what is The Family Debt?

The answer comes directly from Teresa.

The Family Debt is the Unsolved Murder And Untold Story of Giacomo “Jack” Bianco. This is a true story about my father… yes… “my daddy … my best friend”.
It has been my heart’s desire to tell this story for quite some time. It’s actually a 40 year silent cold case… at least until now…

I’m sure it’s going to be captivating and you’ll find yourself wondering…. who killed Jack Bianco?

You see..
Jack Bianco’s life had always been a combination of family and business. Jack learned to always put his family first; no matter what price he had to pay. Had he known the consequences of his decisions would he have done things differently or stayed the course?

After 40 Years Of Unanswered Questions, It’s Time To Repay A Family Debt…

He was a man that lived his life with passion for his family, a man that worked hard at everything he did. His unselfish nature exposed year after year, experience after experience. Jack was undoubtedly a family man who never let his family down… no matter the cost.

Never asking questions, he simply chose to rise to the occasion time after time to persevere the integrity of his family and to protect his personal and business interests. He didn’t make excuses… he simply delivered what was required when it was required.

Then suddenly, one day the giving stopped… abruptly and unexpectedly… the core of the family was taken forever…. his life extinguished. Over time, more questions surfaced, but unfortunately no answers, no explanations…Did he know how steep the price would be to protect his family?

Distant memories of the past coupled with the lingering question “Why was Daddy killed?”

Did anyone care? A daughter did… As for the detectives and investigators…they were simply told to “shelf the investigation”, this, only three days after this horrible murder… a file never to be opened again.

Why? Who did this? Was there a conspiracy? Did a robbery go bad? Was it an act of revenge from a gang member? Was there a contract, a preplanned hit? No one was talking…dead silence.

Almost 40 years later the same questions still pierce the silence once filled by a father’s voice.

Now for the first time, a family’s thoughts finally revealed and shared with you. As you read Jack Bianco’s story…the ups, the downs… the trails and tribulations, you decide…

I hope you enjoy my father’s life story.


The original file on the murder of my father, Jack Bianco, stayed at the bottom of a musty, cardboard banker’s box in Gary, Indiana, for almost thirty years. There was no denying that his case was cold—the leads within were as dead as many of the police detectives who had worked the investigation.

The term “cold case” sounds so uninviting and final, and the prospects of reopening Dad’s case seemed equally bleak. But despite all this, in 1993, I called a retired police officer I knew, to help me find my father’s file. He asked for the assistance of his fellow officers to locate the Bianco file.

Every month for six months, I would call Jerry and ask what progress had been made. His answer would always be, “We’re still looking but cannot seem to find it.” Frustration started to build with my constant question:, “Why can’t you find my dad’s file?”

As we were going into the seventh month of searching for the file, I started to believe it did not exist. I made another call to Jerry. After all these months of supposedly searching for it, I was told the file on my father’s murder was lost in a fire the department had some years past. I asked the question that never would be answered: “When did the fire occur and why did it take you seven months to find this out?” Needless to say, I was not convinced his file was burned in a fire!

Then, a call to the offices of the Gary Public Library—where I could order reprints of old newspapers—helped to fill in some of the crucial blanks of that tragic day in August 1970. The librarian was of great assistance. While I was waiting anxiously on the other end of the phone, he was searching for the articles on microfiche. At first he wasn’t able to locate them, thinking they did not exist, but as we went over the dates again, there they were.

I received the articles about four days later in the mail, three consecutive days of the story. The first one, dated Monday, August 31, 1970, was on the front page of the Post-Tribune of Northwest Indiana, the day following his murder. The headline read, “Owner of tavern linked to gambling gunned down here.”

Linked to gambling? What was that about? As far as our family knew, my father was a legitimate businessman with no ties to gambling—we were enraged! We do know that my father’s half brother Tony Penzato—who was regarded by federal investigators as a top man in the Lake County gambling business—was regularly in the media. The only involvement we knew my father had was to help his brother get out of his unlawful practices.

Who would care about the 1970 slaying of a man from Gary, Indiana, with Mafia connections? His daughter for one.

This was the culmination of a lot of sleepless nights and worry-lines. For over twenty years, I had harbored resentment and anger that these killers had escaped punishment, after taking away a father, a husband, and a good man.

I was just fourteen years old—a week shy of beginning high school—when the doorbell rang in the middle of the night, as I waited for my daddy to come home from work, but it wasn’t Dad. He would never come home again.

A Few Comments from readers–

“Terrific book!! I couldn’t put it down and now my wife is rapidly reading through it! You get a BIG thumbs up from me!! Well done…”

“Let me know when I can get an autographed copy!”

“This book stirred my interest from the first page … WOW Teresa incredible story, couldn’t put the book down!”

“Teresa,what a great read! I was glued!”

“Congratulations on your book! I just finished reading it and I thought it was great! I didn’t know what to expect … no wasted pages … excellent read!”

“Teresa – Looking forward to the release of your book! The excerpt gave me goosebumps!”

The Family Debt Blog -
Press Release -

Contest Winner of Final Respects and Bad Tidings

Congratulations go to JoAnn Breslin whose name was drawn from all those who signed up to win. JoAnn needs to email me her snail mail address.

Please come back to my blog this afternoon when I'll have a most interesting interview up of Teresa Blanco.


Monday, April 19, 2010

In Person Promotion

I'm with small publishers and have never had anyone pay to send me on a book tour. In fact, unless I'm invited, I seldom do bookstore events--though I do have a few special ones I like to visit when I have a new book out. Until recently, it's been years since we've had a bookstore anywhere close to us. A used bookstore just opened in Porterville and were nice enough to host me for my book launch for An Axe to Grind. I wrote about it in a previous blog.

I love going to libraries and giving talks. Will be going to the Hanford Library in May, but before that, on April 23rd, I'm participating in a local author event at the Visalia branch of the Tulare County Library, 7 p.m. for anyone who is interested.

Another event I do a lot of is book fairs and craft shows. We put up our EZ-up tent for the Jackass Mail Run in Springville.(See photo of me doing my part in this effort.

We did the same for the Celebration of the Whales in Oxnard. May 8th will find me at the Jane Austen Celebration at the St.Paul Newman Center in Fresno, I'll be there all day long.

I also go to conventions and conferences. We went to New Orleans for the Epicon, and at the end of May we're headed to Omaha and Mayhem in the Midlands, have three panels and an author talk with two others.

In June, we're headed to Las Vegas and probably my favorite conference, PSWA. So far in July, the only thing I've signed up for is an author signing at the Roseville Library. September is the Central Coast Book Festival, October, San Francisco and Bouchercon, November, A Mystery Cruise to Mexico.

I'm sure other stuff will come up as the year progresses, but that's an idea of what I do for in-person promotion.


Sunday, April 18, 2010

Sorry, I Lied

Though I said today would be about my in-person promotion, I set it to come out tomorrow and for some reason couldn't get it to make the change.

I'd hoped to have pics of the Jackass Mail event I attended yesterday, but can't get my phone to send them to my email address. I'm techno challenged today for some reason.

I'll tell you about the Jackass Mail event instead.

It's an annual event that has evolved a lot. This was the 49th year and much calmer and family oriented that previous years. Once they banned drinking on the streets they no longer hauled so many off to jail, yes, real jail, though they always have a phony one too where you can be put away if you're a man with no facial hair or a woman wearing pants. $1.00 to bail out.

The whole events begins with a party in a saloon a week or two beforehand to pick a wagon master for the Mail Wagon. I've never gone so have no idea what goes on, I imagine it's pretty wild though.

On the day of the run, the Mail Wagon pulled by mules (jackasses) is escorted the 17 miles to Springville by a long line of horses and riders. They make a lunch stop at the Antlers (about halfway) for a barbecue and liquid refreshment--the Antlers being a small saloon on Highway 190 with lots of space for horses to rest.

They don't arrive in Springville until nearly 5 p.m. The ride is uphill all the way.

Meanwhile from noon on, vendors are selling their produces from booths--I was one of the vendors with my books and before noon I'd sold two books which took care of the space rental--bands played, a Quick Draw contest with blanks went on, kids games and I'm not sure what all since I was across from the park where most of the activity took place.

Ned Beatty, dressed in appropriate Western garb, Honorary Mayor of Springville (there's no real mayor since we're not incorporated) said a few words from the balcony of the Springville Inn. And by the way, the Inn is the only place where people are allowed to drink outside, so the balcony and porch and roped off parking lots were crowded with people.

The arrival of the Mail Train was announced by gunshots. Bandits tried to steal the mail, as they do every year, and are thwarted by those guarding the mail wagon. Very noisy and fun to watch.

I'll have pictures in a few days.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Online Promotion, Promotion, Promotion

That seems to be the major topic being discussed on all the author listserves and blogs. Because these are all on the Internet, the discussion revolves around what works best on the Internet. Do I have the answers? Absolutely not. But I have the good sense to do most of the things everyone else is doing.

The first thing I ever had was a website: For years it opened with a flash of lightning. Most people liked it, but some did not--so I had my Web Maven remove it. I've also had her revamp the site a couple of times, and I make sure to keep it updated. That's something readers complain about some authors--that their web page hasn't been updated for years.

I have all sorts of things on my webpage including my latest books, first chapters, book trailers, appearances, etc.

Obviously, I also do a blog, because here it is. I try to update it once a day--not always possible, though I try to write blogs ahead of time.

My blog isn't the only one I'm responsible for. Every Tuesday, I blog for The Stiletto Gang and on the first and third Tuesday, I write something for . Once in awhile I guest post somewhere else.

When a new book comes out I always go on a blog tour.

And yes, I'm a regular poster on Facebook and Twitter and some other sites. Must confess though, I use as it will post on everything I'm registered to and that saves a lot of time.

I belong to DorothyL and several yahoo groups: Sisters in Crime, Sisters in Crime L.A., Sisters in Crime Internet Chapter, All About Murder, All About Muse, Epic Social, Epic Biz, Police Writers, Murder Must Advertise and a few more that have escaped my mind write now. No, I don't post to each of them every day, I only post when I want to respond to something someone has talked about.

I enjoy interviewing people on this blog too.

Does this take a lot of time? Oh yes, but since everyone says that name recognition is of primary importance, this is one of the best ways I know to have name recognition.

Tomorrow I'll talk about in-person promotion.


Friday, April 16, 2010

Meet Ed Nowicki, new member of PSWA

Marilyn: Over the years I've heard your name mentioned many, many times though I don't really know much about you. Now is your chance to enlighten me and the other members of PSWA who many not have met you yet.

First, tell us about your background before law enforcement.

Ed: There's not much to say before being a cop. I grew up in a tough, working class Chicago neighborhood. We'd fight, but with no weapons. We'd have drive-by "shoutings", not shootings. I graduated from Tuley HS, which is now Roberto Clemente HS. Seems like all my buddies became cops or criminals.

Got married to my first wife at 19 (I'm still married to her, but I like to keep her on her toes). I was a dad before the age of 20. I went through a series of go-no where jobs. As a "no where man", I was adequately qualified for those jobs.

I really didn't want to be a cop, but a buddy nagged me to take the Chicago PD test. I did so to shut him up. He flunked the PD test for the third time, and I placed #14 of 5000. I talked to my wife and we decided "let's try it." My buddy who flunked the test for the third time resented me for passing, and we broke contact.

My dad was a state trooper, and he got shot in the calf while chasing a gangster. My mom pressured my dad to quit, and he did, My mom was livid when ?I was appointed to the Chicago PD.

Marilyn: And your work history--how did you get there in the first place?

Ed: I got accepted into the Chicago PD Academy at 20 years old, and was sworn in on 19 FEB 68. You had to be 21 YOA to buy a handgun, so my dad had to buy my gun. I learned police humor when terms such as "baby cop" came me way. I then, literally, had a baptism by fire when Rev. King was assassinated, and they pulled me from the academy and put me in a police district that was in the middle of rioting, looting, shooting with buildings burning. I felt the impact of "shock and awe' first-hand.

My first assignment as a patrolman was in the district with the highest crime rate in the city. This was in a black community that had a very vocal anti-police segment. My first encounter with black Muslims was scary - I felt their hared as the called me a "blue eyed devil." I got into my first shooting (of 6 total shootings)while working alone, while still on probation, and chasing an armed robber on foot during a running gun battle. Like the RCMP, I got my man!

We then had something called the Democratic National Convention of 1968. I was there in Grant Park, on Michigan Ave., and in front of the Conrad Hilton. I had confrontations with members of the SDS. I had friends injured, I was injured and every cop there was injured. The bright lights of TV cameras blinded us as we were hit with chunks of concrete, bags of human excrement, golf balls with nails driven to them. TV cameras required a great deal of light at night and they would not turn off the lights, so we did!!! ?This was only to prevent injury from flying projectiles.

During the summer of 1969, we had to deal with the "Days of Rage" from the Weather Underground, AKA Weathermen, which splintered from the SDS as a very violent faction. Dealing with the Weather men was a scary hell. They set off bombs, shot cops, and hated our guts.

The late '60s and '70s offered constant protests. Young people in general, hated cops. There seemed to be a general dislike for cops by the public. It got so bad, that people even hated the uniform and any person who wore it. I wore a windbreaker over my uniform while driving to and from work to avoid people hurling insults my way. As a young cop, I was proud to wear the uniform, but I was also pragmatic.

I experienced mankind's inhumanity to fellow man and I will never forget some of those experiences. Some will haunt me to this day.

Marilyn, I can go on and on. I got promoted to detective, worked the robbery unit, then I was transferred to the narcotics unit, and work.ed there from 1972 - 1978. I remembering coming into the narcotics unit on February 27, 1974, and I heard that 2 cops got killed: Bruce Garrison and William Marsek. I talked Billy Marsek into becoming a police officer, and I helped to get transferred into the unit, which was headed by an old boss of mine. I was in shock and felt 1000% guilty for Billy's death. I felt so guilty that I'd frequently report for duty with an empty gun. It took me 2-3 years to finally realize that what I did for Billy was for love, not malice. Billy's on the wall of the police memorial panel 61-E: 21. I "visited"Billy on the wall on 5 separate occasions. Each time I do, I get welled up in tears and break down. Imagine a blubbering 6'2" 275 lb man who is crying like a baby. After I healed from Billy's death, I said that I would do all that I could for cops and to keep them alive. I am still and will always be dedicated to that mission.

Yada, yada, yada, I got carried away - sorry!

Marilyn: Don't be sorry, I found this all very interesting. Anything you'd like us to know about what you did for the majority of your career?

Ed: I'm a street cop at heart. I do all I can to help the law enforcement profession. I look back, I was a big city cop and detective, a suburban cop for a year, a small town chief of police, a part time cop for 25 years, and a law enforcement trainer for 28 years (some years overlap, I'm not 91!) I arrested murderers, rapists, dope dealers, wrote speeding tickets, and made almost every arrest, except for treason!

Marilyn: When did you first become interested in writing?

Ed: I read many law enforcement periodicals, and I realized that there were writers, who knew how to put a story together and "experts" who could talk the talk, but I could tell that they never walked the walk. I read work by some of the typewriter commandos, and decided in 1982 that I would try to write, both as an expert and as a writer. I read all that I could on writing, and subscribed to Writer's Digest. I then wrote two articles, and got them promptly rejected. The editors were kind enough to write some constructive criticism. After my ego healed, I rewrote both articles, and had them accepted. Since then, I've been hooked.

Marilyn: And what kind of writing have you concentrated on?

Ed: The non-fiction area has been my arena. I write about one article a week. If I'm energetic, might be two or three articles. I've had over 1000 articles published in most major law enforcement periodicals, and numerous articles in many non-law enforcement magazines such as "Dog Fancy", "Navy Times", "The Teacher", "Bartender", "Western Horseman", "CrimeBeat", "Combat Handguns", EMS Magazine", Firehouse" and "American Handgunner."

There are three way yu can write a non-fiction article" as an expert, as a pure writer, and ans an expert-writer hybrid. Even though I have a law enforcement background, most of my articles are written as a pure writer. As a writer, I might know little for nothing until I do my research, interview experts and assemble the pieces. It's like putting the a jigsaw puzzle together--and you are the one who made the pieces of the puzzle.

I broke out with the original True Blue, which was published by St. Martin's Press, and had two printings. True Blue was "creative non-fiction" and it contained mainly my exploits as a Chicago cop. St. Martin's wanted me to write anther book of stories, but I was having some medical problems and I said "no."

Now, I'm ready to write both creative non-fiction and fiction, in addition to my non-fiction articles for law enforcement periodicals. I know I have another book or two of short stores and a few police related novels swirling around in my head.

Marilyn: What haven't I asked that you'd like to tell us about?

Ed: Since I write non-fiction articles, I need to take photos. I take the photos, but I don't really like to do it. I'm trying to "encourage" some copy connections to take photos for the credit. I haven't been successful.

My son is a cop and most of my friends are cops. Part of my identity is being a cop. I want to actively association with some writers. I'll do what I can to help others, but I'd like others to constructively assist me.

Now, "What do I want to be when I grow up?" I don't know. Serious, I consider myself a life-long student, who appreciates all that life offers. BTW, I'm usually the guy who wears the lampshade at parties.

Marilyn: We're delighted you've become a member of PSWA and I'm looking forward to meeting you at our conference.

Ed: It will be my pleasure to meet you and the other PSWA members. As a PSWA newbie, I intend on doing a great deal of listening with little talking. I'm in awe of PSWA members. The 2010 conference can't come soon enough!

(For more about Ed, here's his official bio.)

Ed Nowicki is a nationally known law enforcement trainer, in addition to being a founder and the executive director emeritus of an international law enforcement training association: the prestigious "International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association" (ILEETA). He began his law enforcement career with the Chicago Police Department in 1968 and has held the ranks of Patrolman, Detective, Lieutenant, and Chief of Police with four law enforcement agencies. Ed retired as a Police Training Specialist with Milwaukee Area Technical College. He has trained thousands of officers across the nation covering various use of force topics at police agencies and police academies. The U.S. Marine Corps and the U.S. Navy have also used his services on numerous occasions to conduct training in Europe. During 1994 and 1999 he traveled to Great Britain and trained police constabulary instructors from England, Scotland and Wales.

A survivor of many lethal encounters, Nowicki has been judicially recognized and is nationally known as an expert witness on police training, standards and procedures, OC spray, self-defense and the use of force. Ed served as an use of force expert during the federal trial involving convicted felon Rodney King. He has received many awards for his contributions to law enforcement and law enforcement training, and is in national demand as a speaker and presenter.

Nowicki compiled and edited two highly acclaimed law enforcement-training texts, Total Survival and Supervisory Survival. He also wrote an award winning (1993 True Crime “Paperback Book of the Year” by Real Crime Book Digest) book of police short stories, True Blue. He is a widely published author, and since 1983 he has ad over 1000 magazine articles published, and still writes for many law enforcement and related publications. Ed is on the advisory board for Police magazine, and a contributing editor for Law Officer magazine, and writes a monthly “Training” column, since 1999, for Law and Order magazine. A former Wisconsin Municipal Judge, Ed holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Criminal Justice and a Master of Arts Degree in Management. In 1994, Ed received the "Award of Excellence in Law Enforcement Training for Individual Achievement" by the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, which was personally presented by U.S. Treasury Secretary Lloyd Bentsen, in 1998 he received the “Integrity Pioneer Award” from the National Institute of Ethics, and in 2007 he received the Law Officer Magazine “Law Enforcement Trainer of the Year Award.”

Thank you so much, Ed, for this great interview.


Thursday, April 15, 2010

Contest to Win the First Two Rocky Bluff P.D. crime novels

The Rocky Bluff P.D. series has had a rocky history. The first two books in the series are not easy to come by. Final Respects is the beginning. My police officer son-in-law and the several police officers and families in our neighborhood gave me the idea to write about the members of a police department and their families.

This book also has the story of three little girls who play in their father's mortuary--something that came straight from the truth. When my daughter was about 10 she often slept over at her friend's house who was the daughter of a mortuary owner. I learned they played hide 'n seek in the mortuary.

It is also the story of several policemen and how what happens in their private lives affects the job and how what happens in the job affects their private lives.

This book is only available from me off my website and on Kindle.

Bad Tidings
is the second in the series. It's about a police detective who often has to deliver bad tidings to others and finds out some bad tidings of his own. Once my copies of Bad Tidings are gone, that's it. It won't be available anywhere. What I do have can be purchased from my website.

The next two books in the series were put out by a publisher who no longer is in business. Fringe Benefits and Smell of Death are now only available on Kindle.

Oak Tree Press has published the latest in the series, No Sanctuary and An Axe to Grind. Those books can be ordered through any book store or from my website--and they are also available from Kindle.

If you are interested in winning Final Respects and Bad Tidings all you have to do is leave a comment with your email address.

The contest will be over April 19th. I'll have other posts on my blog, but I'll keep reading comments and collecting them for the drawing at noon on the 19th.

Good luck,

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

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Gerrie Ferris Finger and The End Game

The latest winner of the Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Novel Competition, The End Game features a strong new heroine in a vivid Southern setting. Gerrie Ferris Finger puts a new spin on the classic mystery novel.

I wanted to know more, so I asked her the following questions:

Marilyn: When did you first start writing?

Gerrie: It seems like I've always written. I loved writing my parents from camps. Other children would groan when the counselor said, "Before we nap, let's take ten minutes to send a letter to our parents." I had my pencil ready. From a young age, I knew that, "Dear Mom and Dad. I am fine. How are you?" was uninteresting. I'd begin with "There's a black snake that lives under our cabin. She had babies and they look like black worms with white shells sticking to their heads." Or some such.

A high school English teacher told me I'd be a writer one day, that I had talent and "style". I didn't know what style was, but I liked what she said. I went on to become a journalist, writing hard news, features, a news column, a few magazine pieces. Like all journalists I began a few novels, but never finished them. I found I couldn't write a novel without a regimen. I retired and started on the novel journey.

Marilyn: Is there any writer who has had a great influence on you?

Gerrie: I'll read anything I lay my eyes on. I'd say Nancy Drew and Agatha Christie started me on the road to crime fiction. When I was in college I read a lot of Joyce Carol Oates and Kurt Vonnegut. I went through a southern gothic spell and absorbed Willa Cather and Katherine Anne Porter. I loved their voices, and I believe they influenced mine. I live in the south and write about its characters and settings.

At the newspaper, I edited columnist Lewis Grizzard's columns, and, when he died, put together two books of his columns. He was my mentor. He could flat out edit his own work. One reviewer called my work "spare prose", but I'm wordy compared to him.

Marilyn: What was the inspiration for your book?

Gerrie: In my years in the newsroom, I believe I read or heard about every revulsion man can commit against his kind, but horrific deeds carried out on small children sickened and infuriated me. The Atlanta Police Department began a campaign to clean up massage parlors. They found foreign children ten and twelve years old working in the back rooms, imported for sexual slavery. The plot of THE END GAME involves two little girls abducted for the overseas slave trade.

Marilyn: What kind of events do you have planned to promote it?

Gerrie: I am currently promoting online, on the social networks and listservs, hopefully not being annoying enough to be called a spammer.

is scheduled for release in time for the writer/reader convention, Malice Domestic. I'll be there promoting, and, after Malice, I'll head home to Georgia making six book stops along the way.

Marilyn: Is there something in particular you'd like us to know about it?

Gerrie: It's a good thing THE END GAME came out in time for Malice, since the manuscript won the St. Martin's/Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Novel competition

Marilyn: Where can we buy the book?

Gerrie: Online books stores, Amazon, Barnes & Nobles, independents. I'm not sure of the places to which St. Martin's will send it. They will send it to libraries as libraries order it.

Marilyn: Is there anything else you'd really like my readers to know about you or your book, or both?

Gerrie: I have two ebooks out now. Desert Breeze Publications is publishing The Laura Kate Plantation Series. The first, WHEN SERPENTS DIE came out in 2009, and, also in that year, HONORED DAUGHTERS was released. They are romantic suspense novels, more on the suspense aspect than romance. In October, DBP will release WAGON DOGS. These are available at many online ebook stores and on Amazon's Kindle.

Thanks, Marilyn, I enjoyed the interview.

Marilyn: Thank you, Gerrie--and your promotion has been good, I've seen your name everywhere and feel like I know you.

Gerrie's Official Bio:

Gerrie Ferris Finger is a winner of the Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Novel Competition. She lives on the coast of Georgia with her husband and standard poodle, Bogey.


A hunt for two young sisters propels Finger's compelling if at times sobering debut… A well-researched plot and snappy dialogue—plus some fine rail-yard K-9 detecting by Buddy, a German shepherd, and Jed, a Labrador retriever—keep the action moving. PUBLISHERS WEEKLY

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

And a Another Book Signing

I forgot to take pictures! I am so bad about that.

My book launch in the Porterville area was Saturday from 1 - 4 in Books Off Main, a new used bookstore that carries local authors' books.

No one came for the longest times--no one, no one for me, no customers for the store.

All sorts of things were going on around town: a huge quilt show, a Tea Party gathering in the Fairgrounds, and a few other things I can't remember, plus it was a gorgeous day--first in a long, long time. When we came down from Springville we saw a lot of people at Lake Success.

Finally, someone came in who'd never seen the shop before. I told her about my book, An Axe to Grind, and she bought one.

Another long, nothing happening spell. Then someone crashed into a city bus on the street by the parking lot. No injuries, but the way into the parking lot was blocked and for awhile the police blocked one lane of the main street the other way. I spent some time watching the excitement out the window and sampling cookies the store owner made for my big event.

Then an elderly man came in with 50 books to give to the store. He sat down at my table and told me some funny stories about his life. Before he left, he bought a book.

A woman who had seen the newspaper clipping about the book launch, stopped in and she bought two books.

About a half hour before time to close down, one of my critique group members came and brought a couple with her. My friend bought a book and her friend bought four.

So all in all, it wasn't too bad of an event.

I thanked the bookstore owner and she invited me to come again anytime--and I probably will when my next book comes out.

Hubby and I left and went to the Thai Kitchen for dinner--which was great. Not a bad day.

Next Saturday, it's a booth at the Jackass Mail Run.


Sunday, April 11, 2010

Part Two of Book Event

We had a wonderful night's sleep followed by a delicious breakfast served by Bev, the owner of the B and B.

We set off on our drive home. Once again I watched for wildflowers and we got to see more of the rock formations at Red Rock canyon.

We arrived home in time to watch General Hospital (our secret vice). Time to unpack, then go through the stack of mail and emails. Always plenty to do.

Though it's a long ways to go out to Ridgecrest, it certainly isn't a boring trip. My pictures, taken on my iPhone, don't do justice to all that we saw.

One thing I do know, is I could never go on a book tour from place to place and book store to bookstore like many authors do--this is hard enough.


Saturday, April 10, 2010

One of the Pluses to Traveling to a Book Event

This week we went to Ridgecrest so I could talk to the Ridgewriters, a branch of California Writers Club about POV. This was my fourth visit there in as many years.

Ridgecrest is in the Mojave Desert and it's big claim to fame is China Lake Naval Air Station where many of the citizens of the town work. The town itself is medium sized with many of the same kind of stores you'll find anywhere else. There is an abundance of motels which cater to the Naval Personnel and all the engineers that come into town. Many people who came to work at China Lake eventually retied in Ridgecrest.

But when I say it's in the middle of the desert, that's exactly where it is. The photos were taken on our way there. The Red Rock Canyon State Park is on the way and the rock formations are absolutely fantastic as you can see.

I wanted photos of the wild flowers that were coming out, but didn't manage to get any. There was a sprinkling alongside the road of the tiniest light yellow flowers. I saw several Joshua trees with blooms. Ever so often orange and darker yellow blooms carpeted the horizon. I also spotted a few Indian paintbrush. By next week the wildflowers should be glorious.

We arrived in Ridgecrest and found a place to eat lunch. Food was good, and some of the patrons were obviously young military men and women. (My husband is always amazed by how young the Navy men and women are--even though he was their age when he was serving.)

We checked into the Bed and Breakfast, BevLens, always a delight to see Bev and her little dog Kaylee. (We have a great-grandaughter named Kay'Lee, making the dog's name easy to remember.)

At 5, we met some of the members of the Ridgewriters at a nearby restaurant. Good to see them again.

The meeting was at 7 and is held in a retirement home. We had a room full of people, the group had done a great job of publicizing the event, with two articles in the local newspaper and their own newsletter. Everyone was attentive and asked great questions. I hope they all know a lot more about POV than they did before. Of course I also have handouts. People bought books and then we headed back to the B and B. More tomorrow.


Friday, April 9, 2010

Melanie Atkins, PSWA Member and Mystery Writer

Marilyn: First, tell me how you found out about PSWA.

Melanie: I found the organization online. I don't really remember how, but I was
intrigued to have found a group of writers from the field of public safety.

Marilyn: Will you tell me and my readers a bit about your background?

Melanie: I'm a multi-published author of suspense and romantic suspense, the former wife of a police officer, and an avid reader. Writing is more than an escape for me-it's a way of life. I grew up in the Deep South listening to tall tales, and that love of storytelling must have rubbed
off on me.
I'm fascinated by crime fiction, and in an effort to learn more I've completed two local Citizen's Police Academies and attended many conferences with law enforcement sessions taught by professionals, including Forensic University sponsored by the St. Louis chapter of Sisters in Crime.

Marilyn: When did you first start writing?

Melanie: I started writing as a child, scratching down stories about my cats in church. I wrote short stories in high school and college, and then life interfered. I later began writing again and tried my hand at full length novels -- and that stuck.

Marilyn: What are you writing now?

Melanie: I'm working on a gritty single title suspense set in my neck of the woods that hopefully will shine a light in a very dark place. The storyline is intense and troubling.

Marilyn: Tell us about your books and where we can learn more about them.

Melanie: My latest release is PRIME SUSPECT, the second ebook in my New Orleans
Detective series released by Desert Breeze Publishing. In this story, New Orleans Assistant District Attorney Marisa Cooper prosecutes murderers for a living, but the tables are turned on her when her ex-husband is found dead in her garage. To prove her innocence, she must team up with her former fiancée, Slade Montgomery, the detective who risks his career--and his heart--to help her find the real killer.

More information is available here:
You can learn more about all my titles on my website, blog, and etc:


Marilyn: What kind of promotion works best for you?

Melanie: Word of mouth and online promotion have been most productive for me.

Marilyn: What's next for you?

Melanie: I plan to continue plugging away at my current WIP while I await the release of my next title, the third book in my series, CHOSEN TARGET, in June.

Marilyn: Is there anything else you'd like me and my blog readers to know?

Melanie: The complete release schedule from Desert Breeze for the rest of my N.O. series and my second series, titled Keller County Cops is:

BELOVED CAPTIVE, September 2010

SHIELD OF VALOR, September 2011

Marilyn: Thank you so much for letting me interview you.

Melanie: Thank you, Marilyn. I look forward to getting to know people in PWSA and
learning from all of them.

Marilyn: We'll be on the lookout for your books and I hope I get to meet you one of these days.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

My Honey and Best Friend

This is what my hubby looked like way back when.

When I met him, he looked like a young Frank Sinatra with his big blue eyes and a black curl hanging down over his forehead. Where did we meet? On the sidewalk, halfway between my house and my girlfriend's. It was a blind date fixed up by my girlfriend's older sister.

My blind date was a cute sailor dressed in whites, bell bottoms and all. The whole big group of us boarded a streetcar and headed for Chinatown in downtown L.A. My date couldn't dance, so we sat there and tried to get acquainted while everyone else dance. Had several of the other fellows apologize for my date being such a dud.
(After we married I taught him how to dance and he became quite good.)

We all took a taxi back to my friend's house where someone promised a ride would be available to take me home. Of course none was, so my date offered to walk me home. It was about a five mile walk, so when we ended up on my doorstep it was about 3 a.m. My folks were up and frantic.

Because by this time I knew my date had no money or a way to get back to the base, I asked if he could stay the night. Reluctantly, my folks agreed. He managed to charm my whole family that weekend--and was invited back again. He came to visit every weekend after that except when he had the duty.

We'd know each other about 6 weeks when he proposed. I didn't hesitate before saying yes. Because we were 17 and 20 at the time, neither of our parents would give permission for us to marry. My fiance was transferred to the East Coast. Mom promised if he had to go overseas, she'd send me back to where he was to get married.

Wasn't long before he called to say he was going overseas. Mom kept her promise and she and I traveled by train to his hometown of Cambridge MD. We got married a week after I arrived. And that was the beginning of 59 years of marriage and still counting. And they all said it wouldn't last.


Wednesday, April 7, 2010

What Are You doing with your Dialogue?

Recently I heard an author read several pages of her book that was nothing but dialogue.

For me, it was a bit off-putting. I had trouble following because though there were dialogue tags there was no action whatsoever. I had no idea where the conversation was taking place, so in essence, the people speaking were "talking heads."

For dialogue to be successful there must be a reason for what the characters are saying. The dialogue must reveal character and/or move the plot along.

People do not speak in space--when they are talking they have to be somewhere, this means characters in books as well.

When you are having a conversation, watch the other folks. Even if they are sitting down, what are they doing? Facial expressions? Smiling, blinking, laughing, frowning.
Do they touch their faces, wiggle their noses, blow their nose, fiddle with their hair or an uncomfortable piece of clothing? These kinds of things can serve as a dialogue tag when your character speaks instead of the usual, he or she said.

Often people get up and walk around while talking, where are the going? What do they touch or stare at along the way. What happens to interrupt the conversation? What action or event is going to take your characters off somewhere else?

Could a reader tell who was speaking without any dialogue tag at all?

Never have one speaker convey to another something that person would already know just to get a piece of information across to the reader. Dialogue should sound realistic, though you should leave out all the boring things we say to one another.

If I were to read a piece from my book, something I don't often do, it would be the first few pages of An Axe to Grind which describes the discovery of a decapitated corpse.

What I used to tell my Writer's Digest School students was, "Good writing is like weaving. You need equal parts of action, dialogue and narration--never a big lump of one thing for pages and pages."

Just a few tips from an old writing teacher and a writer who tries to follow her own advice.


Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Murder on Skid Row.

Murder on Skid Row
is a fascinating story of a young dentist who starts his practice in the worst possible skid row in Chicago. He meets a variety of quirky folks, many homeless and on drugs or alcohol. Despite the danger he finds himself in on nearly a daily basis, he continues to do dental work for the needy.

I had the privilege of interviewing the author, Charlene Wexler.
Here's the interview:

Marilyn: Tell me a bit about yourself, Charlene.

Charlene: I'm a native Chicagoian, now retired on the Illinois/Chicago border. Have been a teacher and a dental office manager before becoming an author. I have a son, daughter-in-law and three adorable grandchildren living in Arizona.

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

Charlene: Always wrote as therapy. About five years ago, in retirement some of my funny stories were published in magazines, and I got started.

Marilyn: I've read Murder in Skid Row which certainly depicted that area during the time period in a vivid manner. I kept having the feeling it might be based on a true story. Was it?

I asked this question at an earlier time, and she said the story was based on something that happened to her dentist father when he first started out.

Marilyn: Where can my readers find your book?

Charlene: Most bookstores will order it,, Barnes&Noble.

Marilyn: What are your future writing plans?

Charlene: I've finished a 290 page woman's story, and am looking for a publisher now.

Marilyn: Is there anything else you'd like my readers to know?

Charlene: I have a web site:

Thank you,


Monday, April 5, 2010

Latest Review of An Axe to Grind

By: F.M. Meredith
Published by: Oak Tree Press
ISBN 978-1-8923343-78-9

An Axe to Grind is another winner by author, F. M. Meredith. Ms. Meredith has been fortunate to have police for neighbors and a son-in-law who is a police officer. With these types of contacts, it's no wonder her mysteries have a ring of truth. She has done her homework and every detail is well researched from the blood spatters on the wall to the condition of someone who is living on the streets.

An Axe to Grind takes place in Rocky Bluff, a small community located along the Pacific Coast. While it's obvious the main characters have been introduced in earlier novels, Ms. Meredith quickly brings the reader up to speed through dialog and action. We are taken on a fast-paced ride as Detectives Doug Milligan and Frank Marshall follow the clues to find out who decapitated Kenneth Buchelo.

As the clever detectives interview the suspects, we find any one of them has motive and all seem to lack a suitable alibi. Kenneth was a stalker who lived in a fantasy world. As such, his victim's family and her fiancé are all prime suspects. Could Rachel's father, a large and easily riled man, be capable of murder? What about her brother, Mike? He has a history of assault. Or, could it be Rachel's fiancé, a possessive man who clearly had a grudge against Kenneth Buchelo.

Then, too, Kenneth's own foster father had words with the strange young man shortly before his death. Oddly, the dad doesn't offer the detectives an alibi, but gets angry when pushed for his whereabouts at the time of the murder.

Underlying the search for the murderer and the weapon are subplots cleverly interwoven into the story. Detective Milligan is engaged to Stacy Wilbur, head of Vice for Rocky Bluff PD. They're having their own problems trying to get married since another officer, Gordon Butler, is living in Doug's house and seems to have no where to go. Ryan Strickland, the Department's Public Relations Officer, also encounters problems at home when his wife's son discloses sexual abuse.

Read An Axe to Grind to see if the detectives find out who killed Kenneth Buchelo before the murderer can strike again.

--Reviewed by Penny Ehrenkranz

Sunday, April 4, 2010


I love Easter Sunday.

Christians all over the world are celebrating the risen Christ--what Christianity is all about, though many seem to have forgotten that.

When I was growing up, all the females in our household, mom and my sister and I, all had a new outfit to wear to church on Easter. Usually dresses my mom made for us.
We decorated Easter eggs and the Easter bunny (Mom) hid them all over the yard or house, depending upon the weather, along with an Easter basket with goodies.

After we became too old to hunt Easter eggs, we still decorated them and had hard boiled eggs in our school lunches. And yes, still a new outfit every year.

Easter vacation was always spent someplace interesting, though never at Balboa Beach where all the popular kids from high school went to acquire their tans. My parents were about to let me go to a place like that unchaperoned.

When I had my own children, we did much of the same--with the addition of two boys to buy new outfits for--and I usually couldn't afford one for me. And yes, we decorated and hid Easter eggs. Usually one or two weren't found until long after the holiday was over. Often we took the whole family camping during Easter vacation. If we didn't go camping, we lived close enough to the beach to go every day.

Now, everyone is grown up and has children and even some grandchildren of their own.

We will have attended Sunrise service at our church at 6:30 a.m. and shared a breakfast with those who were brave enough to come out so early. Back home for a bit, then ready for the Sunday School class I teach, then to the regular church service. Easter is always a time when we have new attendees and others who haven't come for awhile.

After church, I'm having a Sunday dinner for members of my family: son, daughter-in-law, granddaughter; daughter, husband, another granddaughter and hubby and three kids; grown grandson who lives with us; perhaps another grandson, his daughter and his girl friend.

When we're through and all is cleaned up, I'm going to rest.

Happy Easter, Happy Passover, and Happy Spring.


Saturday, April 3, 2010

Time to Start Plotting My Next Rocky Bluff crime novel

I just finished the first draft of the Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery to come out in the fall of 2011. It will go through vetting by my critique group and I'll do more edits before I send it off to my publisher. My next Rocky Bluff P.D. crime novel, Angel Lost, is having an outside edit before I sent it off to the publisher of that series for a January or February 2011.

So that means it is time to start gathering ideas for my next Rocky Bluff crime novel. At the moment I have nothing. No ideas. Nada.

In Angel Lost, an ongoing plot is taken care of and I don't think there's much more I need to do about that.

I need some funny things to happen to Gordon Butler--he seems to be a hit with many of my readers--but they need to be things that aren't always his fault. I certainly don't want him to get fired.

What kind of murder should I have someone commit? Who should be the victim? Any ideas for a scary villain?

I have a file full of newspaper clippings and notes. Time to get them out and see if anything jiggles my imagination.

All ideas appreciated--and if I use it, I'll give you credit in the book.


Friday, April 2, 2010

Johnny Russell, PSWA Writing Contest Winner

Marilyn: Since you are a PSWA member I haven't met yet, I'd like to know something about your back ground.

Johnny: About my background, okay, we’ll let’s see. I’m starting my third year of membership with PSWA. I have had a thirty year career as a San Diego Police Officer. In the interim I have published several articles in the SDPD and SDPOA publications. I have a private pilot’s license and a brown belt in the art of Shotokan karate. I also hold a patent for a sealed mailbox invention called, I am married with five adult children.

Marilyn: What brought you to PSWA?

Johnny: After finishing my manuscript, I looked online for writing competitions in which I could participate. I looked at a lot of ‘em including Writers Digest and Narrative Magazine. PSWA was the most appealing. It not only offers writing competitions, but a manuscript review, tips, resources, members pages etc., all for the cost of membership…No brainer!

Marilyn: How long have you known you wanted to be a writer?

Johnny: Since I was elected editor of the high school newspaper.

Marilyn: What are you interested in writing?

Johnny: Screenplays. One of them received honorable mention in the 2009 PSWA Writing Competition. I plan to enter my new screenplay in the 2010 PSWA writing competition.

Marilyn: If you have a book, tell me about it and where my readers can find it.

Johnny: Yes, I‘ve written a book inspired by true events. The logline is: One man’s voyage from troubled youth to street gang messiah, edited by the Queen, Marilyn Olsen. It is an award winning novel called First Blood. It received second place in the Fiction Unpublished 2008 Public Safety Writer's Association Writing Competition. ISBN 9780595503872.

The book is about a woman who lived in Littletown, Texas. She had six children and did not believe in discipline. In the 1960s she and her husband split and she moved to California, settling in the city of Compton. There she paid the price. Her baby boy grew up committing crimes, spent time in and out of the criminal justice system and started a notorious street gang who we now know as the Bloods.

First Blood is available online at as well as Amazon, B&N, and Indiebound. Also locally at The San Diego Police Officer’s Association and The San Diego Police History Museum. See the book trailer:

Marilyn: What else would you like people to know about you?

Johnny: I’m excited about my new screenplay. It’s an action fantasy adventure called, The Eyes of Bradley Ashe. Let me tell you a little about it.

Imagine you are at war in Afghanistan, while millions of miles away an interstellar battle is also taking place. Except for one lone survivor, both sides are destroyed. The survivor, an alien life form wanders to Earth.

During combat, a jeep is blown in your direction. You are flung down at ground zero. The jeep soars at you but the creature appears and stops it midair. It catches and throws the jeep aside.

This happened to Private Castillo, who had no way of knowing that together with the alien, both sides in the battle would soon have a twenty-four hour window to defend the world from annihilation.

The only question is...why is the FBI trying to hide it?

Marilyn: Are you considering coming to the PSWA conference so we can meet you in person?

Johnny: I do plan to attend the conference.

Marilyn: Great! Thank you, Johnny, for taking the time to satisfy my curiosity.

Johnny: Thank-you, it was my pleasure. And thanks for autographing my copies of Tempe Crabtree’s adventures.