Thursday, September 30, 2010

One Step at a Time, A Review

One Step at a Time by Josh Bleill with Mark Tabb

Triumph Books

Though I don't usually read non-fiction, this one I received from the publishing company and I was glad to get it. The main reason was because of the co-author, Mark Tabb. Mark used to be the minister at our little church years ago. He was interested in writing and it wasn't long before he was bringing pieces over to share and I'd give him some writing tips. Since that time, he's moved on and has written 20 books. Feeling as though I gave him a bit of a shove in the beginning, I've followed his career.

Now on to One Step at a Time.

Josh Bleill became a Marine and served in Fallujah, Iraq. The book tells about his early life, his basic training, and what it was like in Iraq. On October 15, 2006, an IED tore through the Humvee he was riding in and killed two fellow marines and injured Bleill and his best friend. He woke up in the hospital where he learned he'd lost both of his legs. The book deals with his physical healing as well as the more difficult trial of what to do next with his life--and how to do it.

Needless to say, this is a heart wrenching tale but also uplifting to see how this young man faced nearly insurmountable challenges and managed to build an exciting new life.

I highly recommend this book to everyone.


Wednesday, September 29, 2010

My Cousin Barbara at Our Family Reunion

Soon I'll have some pics to share from our family reunion.

Of course I was thrilled to see all my family members--but one it's always great to visit with is my cousin, Barbara. I only see her once a year at this event. She's eleven months younger than I am and she's not computer savvy--no email or Facebook to keep in touch.

We grew up one block away from each other. Our fathers were brothers and of course we spent a lot of time together at one house or another. One memory we shared was skating down the hill on a very steep sidewalk and to stop we ran into a neighbor's garage door. She didn't appreciate it, but we did it anyway.

Despite her reluctance to embrace technology (oh, she does have an old-fashioned cell phone) she is very adventuresome.

When her husband was alive--he was a world renowned professor of bugs of all kinds--can't spell the "e" word--and they traveled all over the world looking for bugs.

When her grandchildren turned ten one by one (she has 6) she took each one to the destination of their choice--Italy, Central America, Greece, Greenland, etc. And in between times, she traveled with groups to such interesting places as Borneo and China.

Now that each child has had their dream trip, she's starting over. The eldest grandson has chosen to go to the Upper Amazon. But before they go there, she has a trip planned to some remote place in China. Pretty good for a 76 year old grandmother.

I don't envy her at all, I don't like to be on planes for such a long time--but I cheer her on.

We had a great time visiting and playing our favorite card game, Estimation, with a whole slew of relatives.


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Jeri Westerson and The Demon's Parchment

The Demon's Parchment

Once a knight and nobleman at the court of the English king, Crispin Guest was convicted of treason and stripped of his land, his title and his honor. Effectively banished to the lower social reaches of the crowded neighborhoods of London, all he has left with which to earn a living is his intelligence and keen eye for detail. Now, using those wits and gifts, he has become known as the “Tracker” – a man who can find anything, can solve any puzzle and will do so for a price.

With the winter, however, have come tough times and paying clients are few. Even so, when approached by a mysterious figure, Crispin is wary of taking him on. The client is one Jacob of Provencal - a Jewish physician currently attending the Queen at court, despite the fact that all Jews were expelled from England nearly a century before. Jacob wants Crispin to find stolen parchments that might be behind the recent, ongoing, gruesome murders of young boys, parchments that someone might have used to bring forth a demon which now stalks the streets and alleys of London. With the help of his apprentice, Jack Tucker, an orphaned street urchin with a thief’s touch, Guest must unravel several mysteries at once if he’s to stop the murders in time to protect those nearest and dearest to him.

Jerri was kind enough to answer a few questions for me about her and her latest book.

Marilyn: Jeri, would you be so kind as to tell me about your background?

Jeri: I wasn’t a history major. In fact, I majored in art. But I was raised in a family of rabid Anglophiles so I came by my interest in all things medieval naturally. History was always something beloved at home through text books and through historical fiction, so when I decided to give being a novelist a try, I was naturally going to write about the medieval period.

For about ten years I wrote historical fiction novels…that no one wanted to publish. I had agents, though, and we tried our darnedest. Then a former agent recommended I switch to medieval mysteries as mysteries were a far better market. “You mean like Brother Cadfael?” I asked. “Yes, just like that.” Except I didn’t want to write stories “just like that.” I wanted something with more action, more violence…more sex! I realized I wanted a hard-boiled detective in a medieval setting and that’s what finally sold.

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

Jeri: I’ve always been a writer, ever since I could pick up a crayon. But it was a hobby, never a career choice. I wanted to be an actress, but after some real world auditions I decided the actor’s life was not for me.

I switched majors in college to art and became a graphic artist for some fifteen years in Los Angeles. It wasn’t until I semi-retired to have my baby that I realized I wanted to slow down and stay at home. I thought I could continue to do commercial art but during the two years I was raising a toddler, the whole graphics industry had switched over to computers, while I, alas, had not.

So I decided I might try this novel-writing that I had been doing for fun as a real career. After all, how hard could it be? Ha ha.

Marilyn: How hard was it for you to find a publisher?

Jeri: It took fourteen years to get published. Hard enough for you? Eleven years of writing historical fiction, and three writing medieval mysteries. The actual first Crispin book was rejected everywhere. It had at its heart a plot involving the knights Templars and the Holy Grail. Guess which book had hit the bookshelves the same time I was trying to sell mine? (Curse you, Dan Brown!)

But having networked with other mystery writers, I had heard that oftentimes the first in the series doesn’t get published and it’s the second one that does the trick. I had a habit of after finishing one novel starting in right away on the next. And in this case it was especially important because I had never written a series and wanted to make sure I could.

So by the time an editor was looking at Veil of Lies, I was deep into book number three. As it happened, fourteen months after we put Cup of Blood, the first real Crispin Guest novel to bed, my editor at St. Martin’s called my agent asking if I had any other books in that series because he “couldn’t get those characters out of his head.”

I had just sent Veil of Lies to my agent and without even reading it, he sent it off. Two weeks later I had my first contract. So it only took fourteen years and two weeks.

Marilyn: What was the inspiration for this particular book?

Jeri: Each book features a religious relic so I always start there. In The Demon’s Parchment, the latest Crispin Guest Medieval Noir, I wanted to do a few things. I wanted to talk about medieval Jews, I wanted a more supernatural sort of element in there with a Golem, and I wanted to feature a medieval serial killer (based on a real medieval serial killer).

Marilyn: Were there any surprises for you along the way?

Jeri: Oh yes. But I can’t really tell you about them. Those would be plot spoilers.

Marilyn: Tell us something about what you've been doing to promote this book.

Jeri: It’s the same thing I do for all my books. I get myself booked at all kinds of events all year round: bookstores, libraries, literary luncheons, big author events, mystery fan conventions like Bouchercon and Left Coast Crime, and have a big launch party once a year featuring sword fighting knights (Saturday, October 23 at 5:30 pm at Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena, CA—all are welcomed. It’s free!).

Marilyn: Where can the readers purchase your book?

Jeri: Barnes & Noble, any independent mystery bookstore,

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

Jeri: I’m working on a second medieval mystery series with all new characters that will be lighter in tone set to be a lusty, funny, fast-paced romp. But in the meantime, you can see the Crispin series book trailer, book discussion guides, my appearance schedule to see if I’ll be in your home town, and other fun stuff on my website:; you can see my blog of history and mystery at; and you can read Crispin's blog at You can also friend Crispin on his Facebook page or follow me on Twitter.

Marilyn: Thank you so much, Jeri, this was a fun interview.

Jeri's Bio: Noir and hard-boiled fiction seem to be in Jeri Westerson’s blood. She was born and bred on the mean streets of Los Angeles. Reporter, would-be actress, graphic artist; these are the things she spent her time on before creating her hardboiled detective, Crispin Guest—ex-knight turned PI, solving crimes on the mean streets of fourteenth century London in her Medieval Noir series. The Boston Globe called her detective, “A medieval Sam Spade, a tough guy who operates according to his own moral compass.” Her 2008 debut from St. Martin’s Press, VEIL OF LIES, garnered nominations for the Macavity Award for historical mystery and the Shamus Award for Best First PI novel. Her second, SERPENT IN THE THORNS, is also a 2010 Macavity finalist and a finalist for the 2010 Bruce Alexander Historical Mystery Award. Her third, THE DEMON’S PARCHMENT, is due for release October 12. Jeri is newsletter editor and on the board of directors for the southern California chapter of Mystery Writers of America and is president of the Orange County chapter of Sisters in Crime. She is also a member of Private Eye Writers of America and the Historical Novel Society.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Dumpster Dying by Lesley Diehl

Today I'm interviewing Lesley Diehl, author of Dumpster Dying.

Marilyn: Tell me about your background.

Lesley:I really was a professor of psychology and college administrator in my past life. When I retired, my partner, Glenn, and I knocked around the country in a tiny motorhome (only 28 feet long, no slide-outs) with two cats and a dog with attitude. We finally settled in the Butternut River Valley in Upstate New York where we are renovating a cottage built in 1874. It came complete with our ghost, Fred, who likes to play tricks on us such as starting the truck in the middle of the night.

I have always read mysteries and written poetry and short ditties of some sort since I was an adolescent. Before then, I thought I could write opera although I had no musical training, but only the cows knew of this fancy of mine. Although my English teacher in high school and my English professor in college encouraged me to continue writing (I did publish a story on a beauty salon in the college literary magazine), I went on to graduate studies in psychology and replaced creative writing with scientific writing as required to get tenure and advance in my career.

I did not return to creative writing until I met Glenn, and I did so in self-defense—the man wrote all the time! We are both active in Mystery Writers of American Florida Chapter, attending their monthly meetings in the winter and volunteering for the national conference, Sleuthfest, held each February. In 2009, I won their short story contest.

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

Lesley: Roughly, at birth. My mother was an odd person and my father worked all the time. I was an only child. I had things to say and no one to say them to.

Marilyn: What inspired this book?

Lesley: I live in Okeechobee, Florida in the winter. It is an area of Florida that only those interested in fishing know well. There are more cows in that county than people, but the people there are very interesting. This is rural Florida, cowboy country. In some ways I feel almost as if I’ve been carried back in time. I like to hang out in cowboy bars and dance to country western music, but, I’m not kidding, you have to watch out for those spurs! I cannot imagine a writer coming to this area of Florida and not wanting to put the land and its people down on paper.

Marilyn: Tell me and my readers something about your book.

Lesley: Although set in Florida, Dumpster Dying is not just another story about sunny beaches and bikini-clad beauties. In it, Florida natives collide with winter visitors in murderous, yet often humorous ways.

Emily Rhodes, the new bartender at the Big Lake Country Club in rural Florida, lifts the lid of the club’s dumpster one night to discover the dead body of the wealthiest rancher in the county. The authorities are certain they have the killer since evidence at the scene points to Emily’s friend and boss, Clara, but Emily has doubts. She believes Clara is hiding a secret involving the dead man’s family, but unraveling how Clara and the rancher’s lives are intertwined competes with Emily’s own problems.

Emily’s life partner has recently died, and the only will she can locate leaves everything to his ex-wife. Despite the grief she feels over her partner’s death and the money problems it has created for her, Emily sets out to identify the rancher’s killer. She must outwit a vengeful widow, fend off the advances of the man she believes to be the murderer, get to know an adult daughter she’s never met, and flee a fire bearing down on the drought-ridden pastures and swamps of her adopted community. Suddenly, the golden years of retirement seem more like pot metal to Emily.

Marilyn: Where can we purchase it? In your case, probably a better question, is when is the expected publication date?

Lesley: Expected Date: Fall (Oct or Nov 2010)

Marilyn: Anything else you'd like to tell my readers about your book?

Lesley: Think Stephanie Plum surrounded by alligators with a herd of cows bearing down on her.

Marilyn: Wow, that sounds like a lot of fun. Thanks for letting me interview you today.

Lesley's Bio:

I retired from my life as a professor of psychology and university administrator to reclaim my country roots by moving to a small cottage in the Butternut River Valley in upstate New York. In the winter I migrate to old Florida—cowboys, scrub palmetto, and open fields of grazing cattle, a place where spurs still jingle in the post office. Back north, I devote my afternoons to writing and, when the sun sets, relaxing on the bank of my trout stream, sipping tea or a local microbrew.


We'll all be looking forward to Dumpster Dying. Great title, by the way.


Sunday, September 26, 2010

Another Part to Being a Writer

Writers write as I've said many times. They also have to promote, which means talking about their books as many places they can think of, online, social network sites, blogs like this, in person at libraries, bookstores, social and service groups, book and craft fairs.

However, that's not all. Writers need to help other writers. It's a paying it forward type of thing.

When I first started writing, I had so many different people who helped me along the way. My sister who typed many many pages of my manuscripts--until I finally took over. Members of my critique group and in particular, Willma Gore who taught me so much about writing and gave me the courage to keep on going. Other writers who invited me to speak with them, who gave me tips, taught me many things about the business of writing. People who were friendly to me at writer's organizations and big conferences, people who became my friends.

Since that time I've tried to do the same. I've taught writing classes, given talks for writers' groups and conferences. I've tried to help other writers and give them advice as others gave me advice.

When I'm at a conference or a big mystery convention I always try to make new friends. It's lonely being at a big conference or convention if no one speaks to you or invites you to sit with them or share a meal.

Frankly, I've made the best friends that way. Maybe I've even gained a new reader or two because I was friendly.

I don't want anyone to ever say that I wasn't friendly to them, or I've thought myself to important to be nice. I've seen that happen with some rather famous authors. I've also met some really famous writers who are always friendly.

Being a writer means you've put your name out there, if someone makes a point to meet you, it's important that you have the grace to be be friendly.


Saturday, September 25, 2010

Mitchell Family Reunion

Thanks to two granddaughters and a niece, we now have annual reunions. We call it the Mitchell Family Reunion after my dad's family. Though a lot of us attend, there's not a Mitchell among us--my sis and cousin started life as Mitchells, but we've had our married names much, much longer.

The two granddaughters, married with children, make all the reservations and plans. They looked long and hard for a place everyone could afford that was also easy to get to. All the tourist spots were much too expensive. They found a Holiday Inn Express on the outskirts of Barstow that was not only inexpensive, served a free full breakfast, but was in-between the family living in Southern California, those in Central California and the large contingency in Las Vegas.

My niece (only one I have) plans the games for the little kids, but a lot more goes on too.

Two of my daughters are doing Friday night's dinner. Then we'll spend the evening visiting and playing cards. We love to play this game called Estimation that was my parents' favorite card game. It's loud, silly and any age can play it.

On Saturday morning everyone will take advantage of the free breakfast. The first activity for the kids is a scavanger hunt through the hotel. (The hotel is wonderful to us.) There will be a triathalon where the kids have to swim, run around the outside of the hotel and do exercises. There will also be water games. Lunch will be served. In the afternoon, a family picture. You have no idea what a chore that is. People kind of do their own thing for awhile--of course there's the pool and there is a big outlet mall nearby.

Dinner will be chili beans which I'll have cooking all day. That evening we'll have a talent show and a Wii bowling tournament (my hubby's favorite), and then more games. A hardy bunch play pinochle into the wee hours of the morning.

Sunday a.m. of course lots more visiting, the free breakfast, and a bug hunt by the pool. Because we have all ages from babies to we matriarchs ( my sis and two female cousins) there is always something for everyone to do.

At 2 p.m. on Saturday I'm having an impromptu book signing in the closed (well, it's dark in there anyway) breakfast room. Only bringing my latest books in case one of my relatives would like to buy one.

People start saying goodbye after the bug hunt. I'm so looking forward to seeing everyone--and I do hope I remember to take pictures. I'm not very good about that. If I do, I'll post them after I get home.


Friday, September 24, 2010

My Critique Group

Last night was our regularly scheduled meeting but we were missing two members.

Brent, our one and only man, had a business appointment. He's important to the group as he bring a male perspective to whatever we're writing. Often, it's something like, "A man would never think that way." Or he'll set us straight about something mechanical or about a car and anything to do with horses or ranch life.

Christi is our youngest member and a grammar school teacher. I love her critiques--she looks at things in a fresh and modern way. Her daughter is soon to be married and Christi has other things on her mind at the moment.

Besides me, the other two regulars in attendance were Jann who writes fantastic poetry and is far more literary than I am. She has a different view of the world than I do and has wonderful insights into what we've all written--and Shirley.

Shirley founded the group many years ago as a college class. Since that time, it has gone through many phases, sometimes with too many members, at other times with members who mainly wanted to get together socially, but mostly it has been a group for serious writers wanting to make their written word better. Shirley was an honors English teacher for many years and we can always count on her to make sure our grammar is correct--but she also is a great editor.

Having my critique group hear and critique my chapter is like the first edit. This is so important to me because I know they will catch many things that I've missed. One thing I've learned, is that they often don't agree and each one catches different things.

We print out enough copies for each person to have one to write on as the author reads. Reading aloud helps me to catch problems too. Of course I don't always agree with their suggestions, but there's no need to argue about it. Often, if they've noticed something, it means I need to take a second look.

I love my critique group and know that they have definitely helped me with all of my writing and my published books.


Thursday, September 23, 2010

Some of my Friends at the Central Coast Book Fest

Book Festivals are among my favorite promotional events. The one in San Luis Obispo is a particular favorite. The location in the plaza behind the San Luis Mission is ideal.

One thing about being near the coast the weather will change all through the day. It was chilly enough in the a.m. for a wrap. Midday it was warm. By the end of the festival, the wind had picked up to the point that it was actually blowing over some of the umbrellas.

As usual, I hardly took any photos--but here are two. One is of good friend Madeline Gornell. She will soon have a mystery out that is centered on the old Route 66 and she's beginning her pre-promo.

The other two gals were selling their books a the Central Coast Sisters in Crime booth, both good friends. Victoria Heckman is the president of that Sisters in Crime chapter and writes books set in Hawaii. She's also a popular teacher in the area and several of her students stopped by to tell her "hi." I've known Victoria since her boys were little, now one is in college and the other in high school. We've had fun together on several mystery panels.

Sunny Frazier is the other one in the photo. Her books are set in the Central Valley. She and I have been friends for a long time. We also have done several successful presentations together.

While we manned our posts, several people stopped by that I've met at different times and places. I think one of the perks of book festivals is all the people you get to talk with.

The next one we are all going to is going to be at the Hanford Mall inside in front of the new Kohl's on Saturday, October 2nd, from 10 to 2. If you live in the area, do come see us.

Remember, Christmas is coming and an autographed books makes a great gift.


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Firefighter's Toys? You Bet?

by Kurt Kamm

Last week I was at a UCLA function and was talking to a woman who was unhappy because she was trapped in her car for three hours in a Los Angeles Canyon while the LACoFD battled a brush fire. Her comment was, "If the fire department didn't have so many toys to bring out, I could have gotten out sooner."

Thank goodness for the "toys." The policy in SoCal, home of some of the world's most destructive wildfires, is hit it fast and hard, with everyt resource available. Last year, an ineffective response led to a 7 week, 165,000 acre fire outside of the city of Los Angeles, which took the life of 2 firefighters.

I live in Malibu, on a hillside overlooking the water. The day after the conversation at UCLA, I received a notification of a brush fire 8 miles away. Less than 5 minutes later, I heard a familiar roar and went out onto my deck. I watched Quebec 1 and Quebec 2, the SuperScoopers fly low over my house to pick up water in the ocean to drop on the fire. I watched them skim along the surface, lift off, and fly up over my house, so low that I could see the pilots.

Ten minutes later they reappeared, and were headed down to pick up more water, when they pulled up and disappeared. I knew that the fire was out and that they had been radioed to return to their base in Van Nuys, about 20 miles away.

Each year the County of Los Angeles leases two Super Scoopers from the government of Quebec for the fall and winter fire season. These fixed-wing aircraft can carry up to 1,620 gallons of water. They are designed to scoop water from a lake or the ocean in 12 seconds and inject it with fire-resistant foam -- a combination up to three times more effective than water alone.

We also have some other airborne firefighting toys, including a 747, a DC 10, converted Blackhawk attack helicopters and everything in between.


If you want to see some spectacular aerial firefighting pictures, check my website –

If you are interested in a couple of award winning firefighter novels –RED FLAG WARNING and ONE FOOT IN THE BLACK - check those out on the same website.

Stay Safe-

Kurt Kamm

(Thank you, Kurt, for being a guest blogger today. Besides being a volunteer firefighter, Kurt is also a member of Public Safety Writers of America. )

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

My First View of a Corpse Outside of a Funeral

This happened in a most imappropriate setting amongst a bunch of women all taking Early Childhood Education.

The time period was soon after California decided anyone working with children in day care, pre-schools and the like, should have some college credits in Early Childhood Education. For those wanting to be teachers an AA degree was created.

Most of the classes I took were valuable and things I could use in a classroom, Music, Crafts, Cooking, Exercise, and of course more scholarly classes about children and how they grow, physically and psychologically.

One of the classes was labeled Science for Early Childhood. I expected fun experiments that kids could do. The professor taught all sorts of science classes but obviously had not a clue what he should teach people that they could use for programs for kids.

I remember that he taught us about why there are so many fires in the foothills of California. Interesting, but not something very useful.

One night we came into the class and on each desk was a dead cat, body skinned and cut open with all the organs visible. Yuk! I don't even remember what that particular class was about.

The next time we came to class, the professor rolled out a metal cart with the a naked female corpse, like the cats, cut open with organs visible. The smell was horrendous, formaldehyde mainly. Disgusting. I have no idea what he talked about.
I do remember feeling sad that this poor woman who no doubt had signed a paper to donate her remains was being used in such an inappropriate and disrespectful manner.

Looking back, I wonder why none of us complained to the administration. All I can think is that we'd already invested so much time and we just wanted our grade and credit and to get out of there.

I also think the professor took great delight in shocking his classroom full of mostly middle-aged women.

Though I'd seen many people in caskets, prettied up for viewing, this was my first time of seeing a corpse in such a manner. Frankly, though I write about dead bodies, I don't want a repeat of what I saw in my Early Childhood Education Class.


Monday, September 20, 2010

The Art of Murder (Writing)

Sheila Lowe gives us this good advice about writing mysteries.

Who doesn’t love a good mystery? With six of the top ten hardcover fiction books on the New York Times bestseller list in the mystery/crime genre, clearly, many readers do. And since my own mystery series has been published over the past four years, I’ve learned that a very large number of people are interested in getting their own mysteries published, too.

I’ve heard it said that there are three rules in mystery writing...but nobody knows what they dum bum.

Seriously, all fiction requires plotting, characterization, setting, dialogue, and point of view, but the mystery genre has some other special requirements of its own. Before you even get to those things, though, you’ll need to know what subgenre you are writing. Subgenre affects who your audience—your all-important market is going to be. The subgenres include soft-boiled cozy (traditional) mysteries, medium-boiled psychological suspense, and hard-boiled gritty noir, police procedurals, thrillers. Who knew it could get so complicated?

In cozy mysteries there is little or no on-scene violence, bad language or, heaven forbid s-e-x. Cozies feature an amateur sleuth who is an ordinary person, such as Jessica Fletcher of Murder She Wrote, or Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple. The sleuth knows the people who are involved in the mystery and the story is typically set in a village or a small community where there is a limited pool of suspects. There’s generally a puzzle that has to be solved in order to get the bad guy or gal, which is why cozies are sometimes known as “locked room mysteries.” For example, how did the killer do his deadly deed when the door to the room where the body is found is locked from the inside and there are no other exits?

Police procedurals have a protagonist who works in law enforcement, usually a police detective, such as Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch. The detective follows police procedures (or doesn’t, and gets his butt kicked by his superiors as a result), and often has personal problems to deal with, such as alcohol or drug abuse, several troublesome ex-spouses, and run-ins with authority figures in the department.

Thrillers are fast-paced, action-oriented, and tend to be more graphically violent. Think Jason Bourne. The reader may know from the outset who the bad guy is—a spy or terrorist, perhaps—and we might see him plotting some horrible crime that is going to affect an entire population. The larger scale plot is the polar opposite from the setting of the cozy.

In stories of psychological suspense, character is emphasized more than plot. Thus, there may be less physical action, but a closer focus on who the various characters are and their reasons for doing what they do. My own Forensic Handwriting Series falls into this subgenre. My protagonist, Claudia Rose, is drawn into each plot through her clients. She doesn’t solve crimes with handwriting analysis, but she does learn about the motivations of the various people who populate the stories.

Once you’ve figured out your subgenre, you’ll have to figure out the crime, the precipitating event. Then, there are the subplots, the suspects, and the red herrings you’ll plant, making sure there is tension on every page. But those are subjects for another blog post.

--Sheila Lowe

Sunday, September 19, 2010

What to Do at A Book Festival

Book Festivals are one of my favorite places to promote books. When this is posted, I'll be manning my table at the Central Coast Book Festival. This is one of my favorites because a lot of people who love books and reading attend. Also the festival provides tables, chairs and umbrellas--so all the author needs to bring is their books any handouts and whatever decorations they plan for their booth.

This is what I need to be sure to take with me:

Books--of course--I'm taking all my latest.

Book stands.

Crime scene tape--always decorate my table with it.

Plastic bags for those who need one.

Cash box with change.

A guest book for people to sign and put their email address if they'd like to receive my newsletter.

A notebook to keep track of sales.

My business cards to give to people whether they buy a book or not.

My husband to help with the money part. (Always a good idea to have someone else along to take the money and make change so you can concentrate on talking to people and autographing books.)

A shawl in case it starts out cold in the a.m. On the coast the weather can be unpredictable.

Comfy shoes since you need to stand up to talk to people.

A smile and an upbeat attitude. Make sure to make eye contact with people and speak to them when they walk by.

Believe it or not, I've seen authors sitting at their table reading a book, or so engrossed in a conversation, they don't speak to people browsing through their books.

Save your long conversations for quiet spells or after the festival is over.

Stay until the end. If you don't, you may never be invited back again.

Have fun!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Heading for San Luis Obispo

While you're reading this, I'll be on my way to SLO. Of course the reason for going is Sunday's Central Coast Book Festival in Plaza Park in front of the San Luis Mission.

Anyone who has followed my blog for any length of time probably has figured out that we really like to go over to the coast. It's about a 3 plus hour drive. We take a short cut past Corcoran Prison, turning on a far road which eventually takes us to Interstate 5. We're only that for a couple of miles. We got off on 41 and head through the rolling hills until 41 becomes 46 which goes right to Highway 101 where we head south to our destination. In this case, the Apple Farm Inn in San Luis Obispo.

Though the part of California we'll be traveling through doesn't have the change of seasons that you see in other parts of the country there are difference depending upon the time of year. In the early spring, after the rains, the hills are green. A bit later all the wildflowers come out--fields of poppies, lupine and goldenrod and mustard.

As it gets hotter, the fields turn yellow--or golden as my sister likes to say and may be part of the reason for calling California the Golden State.

In autumn there are places along the way where fires have turned the landscape black.

We don't go over during the winter months, mainly because of the Tule fog on our end--though it can be foggy over there too, but nothing like the fog we get.

We're looking forward to our stay in the Apple Farm Inn. We stayed there once before and it was delightful.

That evening we plan to have dinner with fellow author and friend, Madeline Gornell.


Friday, September 17, 2010

Paying Your Dues as an Author

Maybe it's too easy to become a published author these days.

By paying your dues, I mean first reading the kind of books you think you want to write.

Going to writer's conferences so you can glean from the wisdom of writers who are already published.

Reading books about the different aspects of writing. Learning what works and what doesn't.

When I was first trying to get published, I found out about all the different kind of publishers--way back then there weren't so many. I bought the Writers' Digest Market book and read about each and everyone, what kind of book they published, how they wanted manuscripts or queries to be submitted. Now you can find all kinds of publishers on line--but it's still necessary to find out what they publish and how they want to be contacted.

Joining an honest critique group--one that will point out mistakes and make helpful suggestions. I've belonged to the same critique group for over 30 years. I think of these other authors as my first editors.

Buying other authors' books so you can find out something about how and what they write--and then finding out about their publisher.

Planning how you will market you book. Pay attention to what others are doing and pick out which ideas would work best for you. Begin collecting emails of people who might be interested in your work when it is published.

Most publishers want to know upfront how you plan to market your book.

Most of all you must write the best book you possibly can and when you are through, have someone edit it who knows about editing.

Decide who you are going to send it to whether agents or publishers. Have a list of potentials and once you send queries out, get started on your next book.

Except for few and far between flukes, it takes a lot of work to become a published author. In many cases, it may take years. If you really want to be a writer, then you'll keep paying your dues.


Thursday, September 16, 2010

Why God Matters By Karina Fabian and Deacon Steve Lambert

Though small, Why God Matters is a powerful book.

Deacon Steve Lambert and his daughter Karina Fabian share their experiences along with succinct and meaningful guides from the Bible and Catholic Catechism

I particularly liked what is stated in the Introduction. "May what you read help you on your small steps toward great faith. May you breathe in Christ's breath."

One of the topics addressed is "Simple ways to deal with Life's Trials" from the trivial irritations to the depths of dispair.

Something we all need to learn in our walk of faith is to ask for what we need rather than what we want.

There is a section on guardian angels, and another on how to keep a balance in your life.

Karina and Deacon Steve explain that's it's important to keep a relationship with God that's more than personal and how to do it.

Both Karina and her father tell how God made himself know to each of them.

There is so much in this book that will be helpful to any Christian, no matter his or her denomination. I'm a Southern Baptist, but I found many gems in this book to encourage me and strengthen my faith.

I recommend this book as a devotional or as just an uplifting read.

Book website:

YouTube video book trailer embed html code:

Excerpt from Chapter 2: Fabian Facebook:

Karina Fabian Twitter:

Karina Fabian Blog:

Tribute Books website:


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Setting Goals

I often have friends and other authors ask how I get so much written. A simple answer is because I'm a writer and that's what I do.

Though I don't write down my goals they are fixed in my mind.

I write two series, so I must write two books a year.

This is how it works:

At the end of the month or the beginning of next, I have a new book coming out in my Deputy Tempe Crabtree series called Invisible Path. I am planning the book launch for it right now, including a blog tour.

I have another Deputy Tempe Crabtree done which I'm now reading chapter by chapter to my critique group. When I'm done with that I will do a final and thorough edit and send it off to Mundania Press for fall of 2011.

I'm in the process of writing another Rocky Bluff P.D. crime novel. When I am through with the chapter by chapter reading of the Tempe book with my critique group, I'll start reading the new RBPD novel to them.

In the meantime, I'll be thinking about a topic and hopefully something about the Indians or the reservation around me that I can incorporate into another Tempe Crabtree mystery. I've already collected a few ideas but have nothing definite yet.

The same thing with the Rocky Bluff P.D. stories. All year long I collect ideas about police officers and their families, unusual crimes, things that happen in beach communities. Ideas begin to perk, so when the time comes, I'll have a head start on another book.

Of course I'll be taking time out to go to book festivals, giving library and bookstore talks, places where I can talk about and sell my books. Even then, when hubby and I are driving I run ideas by him and we brainstorm.

On these trips, besides having the opportunity to meet new and interesting people, I usually get to see author friends--something I really look forward to.

When I get up in the morning, I already know what I'm going to do. (Yes, I include housework, cooking, sometimes having to go to town to shop--or just taking a day off to go to a movie.)

No, things don't always work out like I'd planned--but they do often enough for me to accomplish my goals for the year. Remember, I'm a writer, so I write.


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Planning for the Lanching of Invisible Path

The galley proof has been checked and sent back in, the cover is ready, now it's a matter of time before I'll be able to order copies of Invisible Path.

I've already set the date for the book launch at the little used book store in Porterville. It'll be Saturday, October 23rd from 1-4. I'm hoping to have one at the library in Springville the Friday afternoon before, but haven't made those arrangements yet.

As usual, I'm doing a blog tour, but have no information about that as yet.

Some of the things that are planned, are events I signed up for awhile ago knowing I'd have a new book out at the same time. The biggie is Bouchercon in San Francisco, also in October. I haven't attended the last two Bouchercons, but this one is too close to pass up.

In November, hubby and I are going on a week long mystery cruise. Of course, I'll take copies of Invisible Path as well as An Axe to Grind.

So far nothing is scheduled for December, but I'm sure something will materialize.

Whenever a new book comes out there's always a flurry of activity--fun, but hectic at times.

Marilyn Meredith

Monday, September 13, 2010

Some Thoughts About my WIP

I'm about 3/4 of the way through my first draft of the new Rocky Bluff P.D. crime novel. This one is starring Gordon Butler. He's fun to write about because he's a good guy, but nothing seems to go right for him.

I know exactly where this book is headed, but I've really had a lot of interruptions while writing it. I don't mean people interruptions so much as just different jobs popping up that I need to tend to.

I have managed to write a few pages every day, but sometimes I'd really like to keep going but I can't.

While thinking about this book I began to realize that nearly every car I'd described was silver. Even though I'd kept a card with the names of the cars and who they belonged to along with the color, I managed to make most of them the same color. One of the reasons, I'm sure, is because I'm not much of a car buff. I don't care about cars--only that they start when I turn the key and that they get me safely where I want to go and then back again.

I've never yearned for a particular kind of car nor have I even been any good at recognizing one make from another.

I usually turn to my husband to suggest a type of car that would be good for a certain character, or one that will work for what I want to happen in the story.

The worst thing I ever did with a vehicle in a book was one of my first Deputy Tempe Crabtree mysteries. For awhile she drove a Blazer then it became a Bronco and a few pages later turned into a Blazer again. No one noticed. Not my husband nor my publishers--it took a reader to point out the error.

What I notice I'm doing with this book is a lot of dialogue and not much action. Of course I'm building up to some great action for the ending, but when I get this first draft done, I'll have to go back and insert more of what the characters are doing while they are speaking to one another. I've done it already in some places, but in others, I was far too anxious to get the scene written.

I don't think as well in the evening as I do in the morning so mornings are when I do most of my writing.

When I'm out and about tomorrow, I'm going to take a good look at the colors of all the cars and see if I can't come up with more variety than silver.

Marilyn Meredith

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Grandma's Bragging Rights

These are some of my youngest grandchild's high school graduation photos. Isn't she beautiful?

Unfortunately, I don't get to see her enough because she lives about a 3 1/2 hour trip away. Also, she's got a busy social life so sometimes when we go, we don't get to see her.

However, in the last few months we've had some quality time with her and got brought up to date on her exciting life.

From the looks of these photos, I think she ought to consider a modeling career. The car is her dad's--but it looks like an ad for the car.

Of course graduation isn't until next June--but they do everything really early these days.

Graduation photos are sure different then when I was a senior. The photographer came in, we lined up one by one, he took 3 shots, we got to pick the one we liked best and that black and white shot is what turned up in the year book. Can't even remember if I bought any for me or my folks. Well--I graduated way back in 1951, what do you expect.

Proud grandma, Marilyn

Saturday, September 11, 2010


This is a day in our recent history I hope none of us will forget. It was a day we were attacked on our own soil by a group of people who hate us so much their aim was to kill as many of us as possible.

We need to take the time to remember how horrified we were when we saw those airplanes crash into the Twin Towers. The feeling we got when we knew that it was impossible for everyone to escape, how we felt about those who sacrificed their lives trying to save people they didn't even know, how we felt over the next days as we learned about the individuals who were lost.

Remember the horrible reality of the plane crashing into the Pentagon and more lost lives. And those brave souls on the plane probably intended to crash into the White House who lost their lives preventing it.

A lot of folks think these were isolated cases, something that can never happen again. That's a foolish belief. Ever since 9/11 our enemies have been planning other horrendous events. Some of them have been prevented thanks to those who are watching for these things--and we've seen some of this on the news. You can be sure there are other attacks that have been prevented that we haven't heard about as well.

We know now that there are terrorist living among us now just waiting for the opportunity for another attack against the American people. It'll be something different. Let's pray complacency doesn't keep those who are supposed to be watching out for our security from seeing threats before they happen.

In any case, we as Americans, need to let everyone know that we love our country despite the things we complain about. Because we live in this country we are allowed to complain loudly and about everything. Many people in other countries are jealous of our freedoms and want to take them away from us. Don't ever forget that.

I thank God every day for our country.

Don't ever forget all the people who have given up their lives to keep us free.


Friday, September 10, 2010

My Publishers

Recently I wrote about working with small presses, now I'd like to tell you about the two I have at the moment, Mundania and Oak Tree Press, and I hope for a long time.

Though they are both small presses, they are very different. Mundania is much larger than Oak Tree and has a fairly big staff of editors and cover artists. They also have different imprints from fantasy to erotic romance--and I am one of their few mystery authors.

Mundania posts royalties once a month, though if you haven't earned $25 you won't see it until you do. Oak Tree Press does royalties on a quarterly basis. Both publishers let you know exactly what books have sold where--such as book stores (Ingram), Amazon,e-books, Kindle or from the publishers' website. This might give an author some idea of what promotion is working, but it's hard to figure out because it takes so long for a royalty to get back to the publisher.

Both publishers are quick to answer questions--but I know neither like to be bugged. How do I know this? One of Mundania's editors is on Facebook on often lets her hair down about authors that are a pain--no names, but the offenses are there. I'm personal friends with Oak Tree's publisher and the acquisitions editor and have heard horror stories from them too.

You have no idea how nice it is to be on friendly terms with your publisher and know exactly what you can expect.

One thing I've learned over the years with every publisher I've been with--don't count on the publishing date being exact--things happen. I always wait to plan in-person events until I actually have books in hand. With blog tours, I plan them a month after the date the book was promised--even then it might get a bit scary.

Since I'm writing two very different series, it's nice to have a different publisher for each of them.

Marilyn Meredith

Thursday, September 9, 2010

What You Might Give Up When You Write

Had a conversation with a friend last night about writing time. It's a question I get asked a lot, how often do you write, how many hours a day etc.

He began to tell me what takes his time. He belongs to an active organization where he must participate weekly and often on weekends. And he has been elected an officer of a fine organization.

When I thought about it, except for family, my social life mostly consists of whatever activity the church might plan and if I'm not gone somewhere and my when I go off to do something related to writing.

Weekend after next, we're headed to San Luis Obispo for the Central Coast Book Festival. Of course the goal is to sell books, but the most fun is going to come from seeing friends. Already set up one dinner date with a good author friend and then the following night we'll spend with one of my publishers and probably other friends. We have lots of friends who live in the area that we only see when we go to the coast--and they are all writers.

In October comes Bouchercon, four full days with mystery readers and writers. I know I'll see many friends who I only see once in awhile. I'm looking forward to that part more than anything else. Bouchercon is the largest and most famous mystery convention and this year it's in San Francisco. Lots of exciting things are planned, but I know what I'll enjoy the most and remember after I'm back home, is the time I spent with my writer and reader friends.

Except for Sisters in Crime, I no longer belong to any organizations. I don't do any volunteer work and my only "work" is writing. In the past, I belonged to social groups, did all sorts of volunteer jobs, and worked full time. I've given all that up, so I can write two books a year and spend the time I need to promote them.

Do I feel like I'm missing out? Absolutely not. I still spend time with my family, in fact we have our annual family reunion coming up. I'll tell you all about that when the time comes.

I supposed it all comes down to priorities and what you really want to do. I want to write.

Marilyn Meredith

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Working Habits

People often ask about my working habits--and to be honest, sometimes they are good and sometimes not.

Oh, I do plenty of work at the computer but too often it has nothing to do with my work in progress. I'm planning promotion, writing blogs, answering emails, and checking on Facebook--where I also do some promotion--but not working on my book.

I've learned over the years I have to write in the morning as my brain doesn't work as well in the afternoon. But afternoons are also a more difficult time to do any physical labor I might have planned: cleaning the bathroom, dusting my office and bedroom, etc. And if I do that in the morning, then I'm too tired to write, vicious circle.

Labor day I decided the first think I would do was write--and that's what I did. Got about six pages written before I pooped out. Oh, I know exactly where I'm going with this book, and having fun doing it, but I have to have a nimble brain to write and after I've written for two or three hours, I'm done.

I have a pile of notes and 3 X 5 cards on a tray table next to my computer. It has characters' names, their personalities and physical characteristics, also keep track of the cars they drive--because I can never remember. I also tend to make all the cars the same color--will have to fix that when I'm rewriting.

And as ideas come to me I write them down too, though I know exactly how the book is going to end. I worked that out while on a long drive with hubby.

So, after writing this, I know that when I get up I should go to my computer, not look at my email for Facebook, but just get to the writing. Will I do that? I don't know.


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Working With Small Presses

I gave a talk on this subject to a group of writers at Willowbridge Bookstore. This is the essence of what I said:

The publishing industry is changing and it's changing fast.

POD used to be a bad word—this is what’s happening right now.

Dorchester Publishing/Leisure Books is not going to publish mass market paperback anymore—only POD and e-books.

St. Martin’s just announced they are switching to POD. And I'm sure it won't be long before other big publishers will be doing the same.

Why? Economic issues mainly. It's much too expensive to print books that may end up being warehoused.

Most of the small presses have been using POD for years—and at the same time, publishing e-books.

Paper books will not disappear, but things are changing.

When looking for a small press make sure that not only do they do print books but also e-books. You want to be able to sell both.

When submitting to a small press, do exactly what the guidelines tell you. Every small press seems to have different guidelines. Some only want an e-mail query first, other might ask for the whole manuscript. Be sure to follow the formatting guidelines.

If you are submitting to more than one house, tell them. (Not in the query, but if they ask for the whole manuscript.)

Some small presses will ask for a marketing plan upfront. Be sure to have one ready. If you don’t have a website yet, start one using Blogger or one of the other free blogging sites. Get on Facebook, Twitter etc.

You will have to promote your book—if you publish with a New York press, you will have to promote your book. You’ll need to do it online and at in-person events. Not many good bookstores left like Willow Bridge but they are out there. Also look for other outlets for in-person selling. (Gift stores, craft and book fairs.)

Do not bug your publisher. It is okay to email with questions—but don’t be a pest. Never say nasty things to a publisher. If they reject your work, move on to the next. They all know each other and pass the word about troublesome authors.

You need to have a presence on line. Subscribe to yahoo lists, belong to groups. Keep up with what’s going on in the publishing world. You want people to recognize your name.

That, folks, is what I had on my handout. I spoke for an hour and a half, so I said plenty more and answered lots of questions. Anyone have questions for me here, I'll be glad to answer them.


Monday, September 6, 2010

Some Tips About Speaking in Public

Years ago even the idea of standing up in front of people terrified me. That was before I became PTA President four years in a row. I quaked a bit through my two years of president for our grammar school, but it really seemed scary to have to stand up in front of the much larger crowd of parents for the junior high. The past president gave me some advice which has stayed with me every since. "None of those people out there wants to take your place."

As time passed, I've taught classes to large and small groups, and given many, many talks about writing. It dawned on my awhile back that there are some other tips about speaking in public I should share.

Wear something you like and you're comfortable in.

Stand up. People pay a lot more attention when you stand up to speak. Also, your voice will project.

Put together a handout that you also can work from to make sure you cover all your points, but make sure you know your subject well enough that you don't have to read your talk.

While speaking, look from one person to another, make eye contact with everyone.

Ever once in awhile, smile.

Remember, everyone who is there came to hear what you have to say.

Be sure to leave time for questions. If you don't know the answer, say so.

On your handout have you website address and email address.

Try to stay within you time limits. If people are getting restless, it's time to quit.

Thank everyone, and smile.

P.S. If you give the same talk often, be sure to refresh it. Check facts, see if anything has changed since the last time you gave this particular talk.

The more you speak in public the easier it becomes.

And a confession, while I'm waiting to get up and talk, I do feel nervous. The minute I stand up in front of everyone, the nervousness leaves.

Good luck.


Sunday, September 5, 2010

Happy 80th Birthday, Hap!

Yep, it's hard to believe, but that cute sailor I went out on a blind date with all those many years ago is 80 years old today.

Way back then, he had beautiful nearly black hair, with a curl that always fell on his forehead--and the most gorgeous blue eyes. He reminded me--and others--of a young Frank Sinatra. He could really belt out a tune on the piano--anything that was popular and oh, could he play the Boogie Woogie.

When we met, he couldn't dance, but later, after a few years of marriage, I taught him and soon he could dance far better than I ever could.

The first years of our marriage we weren't always together because of his assignments with the Seabees. I think he loved his time in the Navy as much or more than he loved me or the kids.

We moved a lot at first, Maryland, Virginia--Norfolk and Virginia Beach, on the Navy base at Port Hueneme, with my folks in L.A., our own place in L.A., in Oxnard in an apartment, then a rented house and finally we bought our own home there.

Our only child born out of California was our eldest, Dana, all the rest were born in Hueneme or Oxnard--until we had 5. When Hap wasn't overseas, Vietnam War duty took him away three times, he worked with the Cub Scouts, Indian Guides, Little League with our oldest son--youngest wasn't interested. And of course he helped with the girls Camp Fire Girls groups.

He fixed our cars, built all sorts of things in and around our house, had extra jobs at times in gas stations and playing the piano in local nightclubs. He could just about do anything.

While in the Navy, Hap made Chief--a real highlight in his Naval career.

He also acted in lots of plays in the community theater and was really good at it.

We went on lots of camping trips because we couldn't afford any other type of vacation. We started out tent camping fairly close to home--we had lots of good mountain and beach areas nearby. Once we tent camped clear across country in a VW bus and pulling a little trailer with all our supplies. That experience made us buy a camper.

Hap was Father of the Bride three times, with two of the receptions at our house. Our oldest boy married too and we had his reception at our home too.

Grandchildren joined our family.

Hap retired from the Navy and went to work for Sears.

Then Hap felt like Oxnard was getting too big. Our youngest daughter and husband moved into our house and we moved to Springville and took over a facility for developmentally disabled women--this became our home and our work for nearly 23 years.

More grandchildren arrived.

Eventually three of our children moved to Springville, some with families.

We lost a son to cancer. Hard for all of us--and we knew it was time to retire from the care business. We've taken in grandkids when needed--have one with us now.

When I became more active with the promotion of my writing, Hap helped me with everything, and began traveling with me to conferences and conventions and learned that he really loved it. He made as many if not more friends that I did.

We've had a great time, seen a lot of interesting places, and we have a wonderful and very large family.

We're both slowing down. Flying isn't as easy as it once was. Hap has given me orders that we can only fly to places that we only have to make a couple of plane changes and never again an airport change.

Hap sings in the choir at church and participates wherever he's needed.

Fortunately we do have a couple of our grown kids around to help out if we need them--though Hap is still helping them out just as much.

I think Hap has grown more patient with age and I've gone the opposite direction.

And frankly, I think my husband is even more handsome than he was as that cute sailor. I can honestly say that he's my very best friend.

Happy Birthday, Sweetheart.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

My Hurricane Experiences

With all the talk about Katrina, I'd like to share my three experiences with hurricanes, only one with a name. (The other two might have had names, but I didn't hear them.)

First one was when hubby and I were in the process of moving me and our two daughters, 3 years old and 2 months from California to Virginia Beach. Our belongings were coming in a van. I'd flown with the girls to Washington DC (plane broke down in Phoenix) and husband picked us up and we stayed at his family home before driving to Virginia. As we progressed south we heard that a hurricane was headed toward Virginia too.

We arrived, hubby left us in a motel while he reported into the base. That was the last I'd see of him for 2 days. The hurricane was coming. The motel was deserted except for the manager and a black hotel maid We had no food. All I had was canned formula for the baby. The maid baby sat while I made my way through 50 mile and hour winds walking to a nearby store. I bought canned soups and a big box of crackers and a jar of P-nut better.

The manager loaned me a pot and a one burner hot plate, a bowl and a couple of spoons. The maid stayed with me a lot because she was scared too. I don't remember all of the details, this was years ago. We managed and husband finally returned for me.

The second hurricane happened in Virginia beach while we were living there. A bad hurricane came along, blew the front door of our apartment house away and beached a foreign freighter. During the height of the storm, we drove our kids down to the beach and watched the waves crash up on the parking lot we parked in. (Stupid. I cringe when I see people doing that on TV now.)

The third was during Isabel. Our plane was the last one to land at Dulles in D.C. When we rented our car it was suggested we take out flood insurance. Good thing we did. We told to get moving if we were headed south so we'd make it before the hurricane. We drove our brand new rental over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and to our destination in Cambridge MD. The winds was already blowing hard.

We had one day to visit and drive around. (I was supposed to do a library talk that evening, canceled, and a book event the next day so I checked in with the bookstore.)

The relatives we stayed with lived right on the Chesapeake Bay. They had a dock, a strip of lawn, the two lane road, a large expanse of lawn and gardens, and then the house with several steps up to the porch. The garage was on ground level as was the added on-sun porch. We parked our car in front of the house.

That evening we watched TV and the crazy reporters being nearly blown away as they talked about the high water, the trees blowing down, etc. all around us. Finally, we all went to bed. Sometime during the night, the electricity went out. A candle in the bathroom was a clue and a call out from our host to only flush if necessary.

In the a.m. when we woke, I looked out the bedroom window which faced the back of the house. All the trees poked out of the water--no ground visible anywhere. I woke my husband. "I think we better see if we still have a car."

We ran to the front window and peeked out. Our car was bobbing as it floated on the bay which now came all the way up to the porch. All in p.j.s or various states of undress, the four of us gazed outside with wonder. There was no longer a pier, or road, or front yard. The mailbox was all that was visible, no post.

One of the younger neighbors came over to check on us, wearing fishing waders. Over six foot tall, the water came up past his waist. We were afraid when the tide went out our car would float out with it, so he tied the car to the porch.

No electricity meant no phone either. Our hostess managed to feed us quite well out of her refrigerator. When we weren't looking out the window at the strange sights: people in boats going down were the road was supposed to be, huge Army vehicles going to check on elderly residents farther down the road, kids swimming down the road, we played board games.

A relative came to check on us in a piece of farm equipment with huge tires. We shouted that we were fine.

In the afternoon, the water began to recede somewhat. The same relative came in a truck and my husband's cousin and I waded through the water to go to the relative's house and take a shower and change clothes. Something we'd been unable to do. We had to drive through lots of water going and coming.

When electricity finally returned we called the rental car place and told them about the car--which of course wouldn't start--nor would hubby's relatives cars in the garage--all ruined. Thanks to the flood insurance, that evening a big truck arrived with another rental car for us and they took away the damaged one.

Things were a long way from normal, but hubby did get to go to his class reunion, the main purpose of our trip. On our way, we saw a lot of damage.

Our new rental car got us back to the airport quite nicely. And those are my hurricane experiences. I prefer earthquakes.


Friday, September 3, 2010

Happy Birthday, Sis!

Today is my baby sister's birthday. She is 5 year's younger than I am. We really didn't become friends until we were adults--and with every year we grow closer and closer.

My sis married right out of high school and still has the same husband. (Me too) She has four kids--three boys and a girl. I'm not sure exactly how many grandkids and greats, but there are lots.

Once a month she has a big birthday dinner at her house for everyone in her family. For the birthday boy or girl (or man or woman) she bakes a cake. (I do nothing like that.) She can really bake.

She's a wonderful hostess. We try to get to her home in Vegas at least once a year for a visit. No, we don't go to the strips--we do family things, and mostly enjoy each other's company.

This year we're going on a seven day cruise together to Mexico. It's mystery cruise, with three days being an on board mystery convention. How fun is that!

I'll love spending all that time with my sis.

Happy Birthday, Margie. Your sister loves you.


Thursday, September 2, 2010

Proofing Gremlins

You have no idea how many times authors and editors go over their manuscripts and then the galley proofs. And it never seems to matter-when the book comes out, there are those strange typos and glitches.

Lingering Spirit was not only proofed by the publisher of Oak Tree Press, it has been proofed years ago by the first publisher, and yes, I'd gone over it numerous times.

But now that it's out in book form I've learned there are numerous errors.

All I can tell you is that there is this ugly little gremlin with green warts all over him, who gleefully jumps from page to page to see where he can leave his mark. That has to be the answer.

With my upcoming book, Invisible Path, my critique group has gone over every page, to be fair, I've done a lot of editing and rewriting since then.

But from there it went to the publisher. The editor went over it once and sent it to me with corrections, then she sent it back again with more.

The galley proof arrived and I printed it out and decided to go through it from the back to the front--as I'd heard this was a good way to catch mistakes. Sure enough, I found a bunch.

We'll just have to see how the gremlin does with it. Wow, I hope he's out to lunch that day.


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Meet Nancy Lynn Jarvis

Bio: Nancy Lynn Jarvis has been a Santa Cruz, California, Realtor for more than twenty years. She owns a real estate company with her husband, Craig.
After earning a BA in behavioral science from San Jose State University, she worked in the advertising department of the San Jose Mercury News. A move to Santa Cruz meant a new job as a librarian and later a stint as the business manager of Shakespeare/Santa Cruz.

About Nancy Lynn's books:

The Death Contingency: Santa Cruz California Realtor Regan McHenry is an unlikely solver of mystery and murder, but when a seller turns up dead during an escrow and a Realtor friend is suspected of his murder, she has to unravel the secrets of the dead man's past to figure out why he died if she's going to help her friend.

Backyard Bones
: It’s not the first time Regan has experienced déjà-vu.

But when the sensation involves finding a second body buried where one was found just weeks before, déjà-vu takes on new meaning. Someone murdered a girl on her seventeenth birthday and, as Regan delves into the motive behind the girl’s murder, she discovers many people are trying to hide secrets about their entanglement with the dead teenager.

Regan must figure out which of them is a murderer — and she has to do it carefully or she’ll become the killer’s next victim.

Buying Murder
: Murder gets personal when human remains are found in the beach cottage that realtors Regan McHenry and her husband, Tom Kiley, buy. The murder victim has been hidden away for sixteen years, and although the authorities quickly discover his identity, the trail to his killer is cold after so many years. Regan has sworn off playing amateur detective, but when it becomes clear the police have to focus on more pressing crimes, she has to break her promise. As her friend police ombudsman Dave Everett says, “Your house, Regan, your murder.”

Confessions from a real estate agent turned murderer

I’m Nancy Lynn Jarvis. I used to sell houses for a living; now I kill people and enjoy doing it. I used to be a hard-working agent who didn’t mind putting in long hours because I loved what I did and the people I met. I wasn’t a super-star, but I won a few office awards and made a good living. My clients considered me competent, likable, professional and reliable.

So what would make a Realtor like me start killing people? Well, it began with the housing market of 2007. I’d seen down markets before but nothing like that one. My philosophy is that people should try something different every few years, so it seemed like the perfect time to take a time-out to try something new. I became a murderer… at least on paper.

I’d seen a lot in my twenty years as a Realtor. I had stories to tell—some were humdingers! Those stories became the backdrop for my murder mysteries. The murders in my books are made up--- the real estate stories are true.

My protagonist is a Realtor named Regan McHenry who enjoys finding the perfect home for her clients. Unfortunately, sometimes she finds homes with bodies in them. Regan is one of a kind; she’s the world’s only real estate agent/amateur sleuth created by a Realtor.

Originally I thought real estate agents would be the only readers of my books. I made the chapters short and the storylines easy to follow so they could pick up the books during open-house lulls. It turns out you don’t have to be an agent to enjoy the books. Readers say they love the “insider info.”

The only downside with serial killing is I’m enjoying it so much, my time-out has turned into an early retirement.

One thing concerns me, though: my blood-lust is increasing. Only three people died in the first two books. Three people died in the latest book, Buying Murder. I’m just starting to work on the fourth book, Widows Walk, and already know there will be at least four murders.

You can read the first chapter of The Death Contingency, Backyard Bones, and the newly released Buying Murder for free at .

You can pick up a recipe for Mysterious Chocolate Chip Cookies there, too. (Realtors often bake cookies at open houses to entice buyers so there had to be a recipe.) You’ll need to be brave to try it, but the cookies are good. And I promise they won’t kill you.

Marilyn's Note: These books sound like a lot of fun. Thank you, Nancy for being on my blog today.