Showing posts from April, 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 wee…

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" th…

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 emai…

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 crevic…

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 ti…

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 …

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.…

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 t…

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, unti…

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 s…

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…

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.


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 …

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 M…

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 res…

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 t…

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 …

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 …

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 …

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.


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…

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 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 u…

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 usua…

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…

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 moti…


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 a…

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 …

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 wan…