Monday, April 29, 2013

Nights, Weekends, Holidays and Birthdays

As I settle back into my recliner after a superlative Easter Brunch at my sister’s sister-in-law’s (talk about extended family!), I reflect on the holidays that I’ve missed. 

Technically, you couldn’t really say I missed them as I was present but often not at the place of the celebration.  In the years I spent on the job, missing a holiday celebration was part of the deal. I signed up knowing that I’d miss Christmas morning with the kids opening their gifts, Thanksgiving afternoon with Mom and Dad, birthdays and anniversaries. Those days were often spent driving around alone trying to keep busy but not get into trouble or sitting in a dimly lit room staring at flickering monitors.
Santa surprises a patrolman
Santa surprises a patrolman

It’s kind of funny, going to work on Christmas morning when everyone you know is still in sugar-plum fairy land isn’t as doleful as it sounds. I always (even in the depths of my comatose commute) felt a little special to be awake when everyone else was asleep. I knew that when I got to work, that I would be there. I might really be able to help someone, maybe even save a life.  But, I knew I would miss holidays with family and friends when I hired on so I didn’t spend time feeling sorry for myself. I adjusted my thinking to alternatives and never looked back. Sure, I had to explain my goofy shifts to my mother and non-law enforcement friends. But over the years, they all grew accustomed to my absence or shortened visits (“Sorry Mom, gotta go to work.”).

When I got married, it was to a man who had children. Holidays and birthdays were sometimes celebrated a day before the actual event, or maybe a day after—it depended on my husband’s schedule. Because he was a fire fighter, he worked 24 hour shifts, sometimes 72 hour shifts. 

One day, I consoled my son who was upset that we wouldn’t be together for Easter: I reminded him that he’d be at his mother’s house and get goodies then come home later that night and have goodies at our house. Twice as many goodies! This was a lesson that the kids learned well. Our time together became more special because we had to schedule it—with others in the family (brother-in-law and sister) who also worked in emergency services, it was usually a challenge.

Christmas Eve swing shift and grave yard were always kind of “special”. In years past, someone from county dispatch sent out periodic “Santa sightings” over the police telecommunications system. These days, this is strictly prohibited, but for those of us on duty then, it provided entertainment between family fights and drunks.  

In dispatch and on the street, it was normal to be sorry to miss your family but few if any officers or dispatchers allowed themselves to give in to melancholy. I’ve been ordered in on Christmas. I wasn’t happy but I worked. Crime, fires and medical emergencies don’t wait for 9 to 5 hours, so neither can the job. One Christmas, I worked my scheduled day shift-7am to 5pm. 

The second dispatch position was off on vacation and as no one had signed up to work the overtime, five dispatchers were ordered in to each work a 2 hour shift. That is an extreme, to be sure. Usually, a generous soul—one with grown or no kids—would take the time. But not always. Sometimes I had to dump the kids at a sitter and work. It’s just the way it is. But don’t feel sorry for me. I am a professional and get paid accordingly. If I worked a holiday, I was compensated with varying degrees of salary or commensurate time off.

911 Call Center
911 Call Center

After all, all your co-workers were in the same situation.  The bottom line was that everyone, no matter what their situation, was prepared to get the job done—paycheck aside, even then it was sometimes a sacrifice. But we do it every day—nights, weekends, holidays and birthdays.

A salute to all those working this Easter!

Thonie Hevron author of BY FORCE OR FEAR
available on
Thonie's Blog--Just the Facts, Ma'am

Secretary-Redwood Writers
Public Safety Writers Association, Sisters in Crime

Giving writers--and readers--an authentic cop experience

Sunday, April 28, 2013

A Selection from Hotels to Remember by Mary Montague Sikes

I was privileged to receive a copy of this beautiful book.

Besides entertaining and educational information about Williamsburg, the book focuses on the Williamsburg Inn one of the many Inns featured in the larger coffee table book called Hotels to Remember.

What is even more special about this book are the wonderful paintings of the hotel as well as accompanying photographs all done my Ms. Sikes.  The book contains many historical details as well as what the hotel offers today.

I have met Mary Montague Sikes (also called Monti) who is a multi-talented person who not only paints and writes, she also teaches.

Anyone interested in historical places, would love reading this book. It would make a terrific Mother's Day gift.

The book was published by OakTree Press and can be found on

Highly Recommended!


Friday, April 26, 2013

Folger Library as Inspiration for Fiction

My guest today is Quintin Peterson and I asked him to tell me what inspired him to write Guarding Shakespeare.

Introducing my friend and fellow PSWA member, Quintin Peterson.

I retired from the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department on April 23, 2010, after more than 28 years of public service. When I started working at the Folger Shakespeare Memorial Library as a Special Police Officer (SPO) and issued Badge #28 on December 14, 2010 (BTW: I was sworn in as a police officer on December 14, 1981 and issued Badge #2807), I learned that April 23rd is Shakespeare’s birthday. The coincidences were not lost on me.

It didn’t take long for the plot of a noir story using the Folger Library as the backdrop to occur to me – The Maltese Falcon meets The DaVinci Code I thought – and on January 27, 2013, a short story version of Guarding Shakespeare, a caper about a plot to heist a priceless artifact from the Folger Library, was published in eNoir Magazine Issue No. 2. On March 24, 2013, the novella Guarding Shakespeare was published in paperback and Kindle Edition by Ram Press.( The short story version has a different ending from the novella, only so far as that I picked an appropriate section of the whole story to stop telling the tale.)

Although the works listed below have scenes that occur within the Folger Library or mention it, I am not aware of any work of fiction other than Guarding Shakespeare that is actually about the Folger Shakespeare Library. At any rate, the novella Guarding Shakespeare is now part of the Folger Shakespeare Library’s Special Collection, which also contains the following works of fiction that mention the Folger Library:

The Adventure of the Global Traveler by Anne Lear, which was first published in Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine (Sept.-Oct. 1978) and reprinted in the anthology Laughing Space, edited by Asimov and J.C. Juppson, published by Houghton Mifflin, 1982.

Renaissance Summer by Clare Richards, published by Harlequin imprint Silhouette, 1985.
Interred with Their Bones by Jennifer Lee Carrell, published by Dutton, 2007.
The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown, published by Doubleday, 2010.
The School of Night by Louis Bayard, published by Henry Holt and Co., 2011.
Robert Ludlum’s The Bourne Dominion by Eric Van Lustbader, published by Grand Central Publishing, 2012. 

Quintin Peterson 

Blurb for Guarding Shakespeare:

The Folger Shakespeare Library is the world’s largest repository of Shakespeareana and English Renaissance books, manuscripts, and objects d’art. Nobody alive knows the library better than Special Police Officer Lt. Norman Blalock; he’s been guarding it for 25 years. That’s why he is the perfect candidate to pull off an inside job and heist from the library’s underground bank vault a priceless artifact that can rock the foundation of English Literature.

Quintin Peterson’s Bio:

Native Washingtonian Quintin Peterson is a retired D.C. police officer who served the public for more than 28 years. He is an artist and an award-winning writer who has authored three DC-based crime novels, a book of poetry, several short stories available via Amazon Kindle and Nook Books, and has contributed to five crime fiction/noir anthologies and two magazines. His latest offering is the noir novella, Guarding Shakespeare, a story about a plot to heist a priceless artifact from the Folger Shakespeare Memorial Library in Washington, D.C., which is where the author is currently employed. (For complete bio and links to author’s web pages go to

Thanks for visiting, Quintin.

Marilyn aka F. M. Meredith

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Get Your Kicks...With Someone You Already Know

Get your kicks…with someone you already know

By Kris Neri

There are places where the most amazing connections occur. I describe them as spots of coincidence.

Sedona, Arizona, where my husband and I own a bookstore, The Well Red Coyote, is one of those places. In my time there, I’ve witnessed the most unexpected crossing of paths. Once, two middle-aged women, who had been close friends in high school, came to an author signing. Today they both lived in two other states and hadn’t set eyes on each other since their teen years. Amazingly, they recognized each other immediately, and they were thrilled to discover they each still liked to read, and now, both wanted to write.

I’ve actually witnessed too many of these encounters to describe. It’s always exciting and fun, and maybe also a little bit jarring because it’s so unexpected.

Route 66, the site of my next Tracy Eaton mystery, REVENGE ON ROUTE 66, is another one of those of coincidence spots. Every time I cruise Route 66, I connect with someone else from my past.

Last fall, when Joe and I headed home from Albuquerque, New Mexico, after attending the banquet for the New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards (where my last book, MAGICAL ALIENATION, won!), we spent as much of the trip as possible on Route 66. These days, it’s impossible to follow the whole length actually on Route 66. Long sections of the old road still exist, mostly through the centers of towns. But those stretches are just threads that fray off of the ribbon of the interstate. To do Route 66, you do have to hop off and on the interstate.

But getting off is always fun. This time, I told Joe we had to stop in Gallup, New Mexico to see the El Rancho Hotel there. I’d visited it while traveling alone on Route 66, but he hadn’t. El Rancho was built in1936 for Mr. R.E. “Griff” Griffith, brother of the famous movie director D.W. Griffith. It’s a great, rustic old dowager that used to attract old-time movie stars, back in the days when they cruised along Route 66, and it provided a place for Western film casts and crews to be housed for movies shooting on location..

Sure enough, there in the gift shop off the El Rancho lobby, I ran into author Earlene Fowler, an old friend from California I hadn’t seen in years. We had a great time catching up.

The only thing strange about this encounter — was that it wasn’t strange at all. It’s happened to me every time I’ve cruised Route 66. It’s part of its magic and appeal.

I’m using the word “magic” loosely. I don’t think there’s anything mystical involved in these happenings. It’s that in places that draw visitors from all over the world, it’s simply more likely that certain paths will cross.

But not all chance encounters are so fortuitous as mine have been. Not all figures from the past are as easy to recognize as Earlene was for me, and they don’t all come forward.

What if you had a secret that you thought you’d successfully hidden? Wouldn’t you hate it if someone from your past hid in the shadows somewhere along Route 66, yet threatened to share your secret past with everyone?

That’s what happens in REVENGE ON ROUTE 66. Tracy’s uncle-in-law Philly Chase, a recovering con artist, is usually such a cheerful cherub. Initially, Philly seems much the same as always. Tracy and Drew first encounter him on this trip actually dodging traffic along Route 66 in drag, which is daffy even for Philly.

But Philly is someone whose past contains lots of secrets. And given his uncharacteristic gloom, Tracy suspects that this secret must be a doozy.

That made this mystery extra hard for her solve. An amateur sleuth like Tracy counts on knowing the suspects, and counts on relationships leading the way. But there on Route 66, where so many paths converge, she doesn’t know how to find Philly’s mystery extortionist.

At one point, when Tracy’s husband Drew complains about how little progress they’re making finding his secret blackmailer, she shouts in frustration:

“What would you have us do, Drew?” I flailed my arms at the passing cars. “Shout to all the drivers flying by, ‘Which of you bastards is putting the screws to my uncle?’”

Eventually, Tracy almost feels desperate enough to try that.

Philly’s blackmailer continues to defy identification, and that’s only part of what makes this Tracy’s toughest case. There, in that spot of coincidence, where endless paths cross, it could be absolutely anyone.

Even after writing REVENGE ON ROUTE 66, I still love cruising the Mother Road. And I look forward to my own coincidental encounters.

But if you have anything to hide — I don’t recommend it.


Kris Neri writes the Tracy Eaton mysteries, REVENGE OF THE GYPSY QUEEN, DEM BONES’ REVENGE, REVENGE FOR OLD TIMES’ SAKE and the just-released REVENGE ON ROUTE 66, which feature the daughter of eccentric Hollywood stars. She also writes the Samantha Brennan & Annabelle Haggerty magical mysteries, HIGH CRIMES ON THE MAGICAL PLANE and MAGICAL ALIENATION, which feature a fake psychic who teams up with a modern goddess/FBI agent. Her novels have been finalists for the Agatha, Anthony, Macavity, International Book Award, and have been three-time Lefty Award finalists for Best Humorous Mystery. Her last book, MAGICAL ALIENATION, won the New Mexico-Arizona Book Award. She teaches writing online for the Writers’ Program of the UCLA Extension School, and with her husband, owns The Well Red Coyote bookstore in Sedona, AZ.


Historic Route 66: with its signs for “New Dead Things,” the Biker Bunny Bin, and the Kontiki Pizza and Chinese Restaurant, which serves only waffles, it’s kitchy, crazy, and fun. How appropriate that it would hold a place of importance to unconventional Tracy Eaton and her dad, aging Hollywood hunk, Alec Grainger.

Their Route 66 adventures always included a stay in Tecos, New Mexico, but their regular stop at Lucy Crier's Lunch Pail CafĂ© was now a thing of the past, since Lucy plugged her ex-beau and went to the big house for murder.  That’s why it’s perplexing when Lucy, safely ensconced in her cell, is simultaneously seen dodging traffic along Route 66. Naturally, Alec uses that mystery to lure Tracy and her sweetie Drew back to America’s Main Street.

But the road takes a darker turn when Woody Crier, Lucy’s smarmy son, turns up dead, and an even stranger bend when the FBI goes gunning for Tracy, calling her one of America’s Most Wanted.

She has no choice but to go on the lam, but this time, the Mother Road provides no escape. Tracy knows if she can’t cut through the web of secrets and lies shrouding her favorite haunts and the pasts of those dearest to her, her own life could be snuffed out in a Route 66 minute.  


The Well Red Coyote:

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Family Matters

Two big events are coming up in our family.

We have two grandsons getting married, one the last weekend in May and the other the first weekend in June.

The first groom is Nathan, our son Matthew's oldest boy. Nathan was a great kid and a wonderful young man. He is an electrician now. It took him a while to find the love of his life, Amanda. And she's perfect for him. Their wedding will be in a mountain retreat that is surrounded by old growth Sequoias.  I will be taking pictures. What's different about this wedding is it's three days long, with everyone staying in rooms in the lodge or cabins on the property.

The second groom is Gregg, the son of our youngest daughter, Lori. Gregg is a police officer in Colorado. His fiance, Caitlyn is also perfect for Gregg. Their wedding will be in his uncle's backyard in Montecito. I've never been there but hear it looks like a park. For those who don't know, Montecito is outside Santa Barbara and the place where many movie stars live. I will take pictures at this one too.

Weddings are joyous times--and also a time when you get to see a lot of relatives. Should be fun!


Sunday, April 21, 2013

What is This Writer Up to Now?

Just to give you a taste of what's going on in the writing part of my life, here's a brief taste.

I have finished my next Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery. Yes, it has a title, Spirit Shapes, which comes from a Native American quote which fits the stories. Yes, it's about spirits--many kinds--and is kind of a haunted house tale.

I've read the entire story to my critique group, chapter by chapter, and they've made corrections and suggestions. I've printed the whole manuscript out. Now it's time to sit down and go over it line by line checking for typos, inconsistencies and anything I can do to make it better.

Meanwhile, I'm on Chapter 5 of my next Rocky Bluff P.D. crime novel. I do have a title, but not ready to reveal it as yet. I'll read the first chapter to my critique group on Wednesday. And I need to keep writing so I'll have something to read to them at each meeting, and so I'll have the book done in time to send it to the publishers.

What is holding me up a bit, is I have another writing project that I'll make money doing, and I have to work on it too.

Because I feel committed to having a new post up every other day, I am busy writing this one.

And it also gives you an insight into what a writer must do. At the moment I haven't been doing much promoting, but I will do some as I move along.

If you haven't yet tried a Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery, Raging Water is the latest.

The setting is very much like the area I live in, the Southern Sierra.

The latest Rocky Bluff P.D. is Dangerous Impulses.

This one is set in a small beach community much like the one I lived in for over twenty years.

Happy Reading!

Marilyn aka F. M. Meredith

Friday, April 19, 2013

"They" say There is a Book Inside Everyone, What do you Think?

This is what I think.

Almost every one thinks they should write a book.

Some people think their own lives have been so fascinating everyone would love to read a book about them.

The reality is there are only a few people whose lives have been fascinating enough for a book to be written about them.  And even some of these don't have what it takes to write a book.

Unfortunately, nowadays most anyone can get published thanks to Amazon and other places that will help folks get published for free or pay. I say unfortunately because too many writers go this route who haven't learned what needs to be done to write a book.

First, anyone wanting to write needs to be a reader. It helps if the writer has a clue about what constitutes a paragraph, how a page of a books should look, simple grammar and punctuation, how to develop a plot, a beginning, middle and ending, what dialogue is all about, what it should do, the balance between action, dialogue and narrative, the importance of the setting, how to name characters.

How does a writer learn all these things?

Besides reading, the person who wants to write should be reading books on how to write, attending writers' conferences, joining a critique group, learning as much as he or she can about writing.

And then putting one's fanny in the chair and writing.

Once the writing is done, the book needs to be edited. First,  by the author, going over it carefully looking for errors and inconsistencies. Second by an editor or beta reader--not a relative unless they are a professional editor. This might have to happen more than once.

One of my books went through this whole process, ARCs were made and sent out. One reader found mistakes that I and the editor and publisher had missed.

And one more comment. Not everyone has what it takes to spend the hours doing all this. It means a lot of sitting in front of a computer.

So what do you think? Am I right or not?


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

What Do you Like and Not Like in a Heroine in a Mystery?

I just finished reading a book which will remain nameless and I didn't like the heroine at all. She was intelligent, nice looking, but seemed absolutely clueless about her own peril.

You've all heard of the heroine they call too dumb to live. You know, the one who knows a killer is on the loose, hears a noise in the basement and goes down there with no weapon nor light--or if she takes a flashlight, the battery dies. There is only one reason a woman would go down in the basement like that would be if her child were down there.

In the book I just read, though this woman was a psychiatrist she didn't seem to know anything about people. She lived in one of the most remote places possible and even when she knew someone was after her, didn't leave. Now this house didn't even have an inside bathroom--so she always went to the bathroom just before locking up at night. Then she left all the lights on (she was afraid of the dark) but had no curtains on her windows. Of course this meant that the person stalking her could see everything she was doing.

Going back to the outside bathroom, which was down a path away from the house, I really expected something bad to happen while she was going there, in there, or on her way back--but it didn't. I can't imagine having a bathroom so far away except when you're tent camping--and I don't do that anymore.

The story itself was plenty exciting, but all the time I was reading, I kept thinking, "What is wrong with this woman?" Yes, she was grieving the death of her husband--but surely that didn't cancel all of her common sense.

I don't mind when a  heroine takes chances to save someone, but I want there to be a really good reason to do something that will put her in peril.

I love brave heroines but I want them to be realistic too. In the book I've been reading, the heroine wasn't brave--she just ignored all the warnings, including those from the police. Since she was supposed to be well-educated, I had a hard time believing she'd behave the way she was portrayed.

Of course I've written about heroines who've made mistakes that put them in danger and because the heroines in both my series are in law enforcement at times they have to step out even when they know what they are about to do will be dangerous--but it is part of the job.

So tell me what do you like in a heroine? And what bugs you?


Monday, April 15, 2013

When I Am Picking Up Dead Squirrels

My friend Vicky is a wildlife rehabber who takes in injured creatures, nurses them back to health, and pushes them back out into the wild. You can’t feed a Cooper’s hawk or a rat snake on cat kibble. So when I see a squirrel on the roadway who has succumbed to the death wish that seems to plague squirrels I overcome my squeamishness and scoop him up. It’s not pleasant but I like to see the expression on her face when I hand her a bag full of dead squirrels and think of the good meals I’m providing.

This is somewhat like overcoming my natural squeamishness about self-promotion. Tweeting about my new book Payback just isn’t natural to me. Nor is making new connections with near strangers on LinkedIn.

But authors must do this. I know the arguments: you’re not touting your book, you’re sharing it. You’re not trying to get someone to buy your books, you get your name out there by sharing good news about other mystery authors.

Okay. I like the sound of that. Nobody is ever going to write the same book I did or appeal to exactly the same audience. The ruthlessness of today’s publishing climate hasn’t completely overcome the small generosity of spirit it takes for me to genuinely praise another mystery writer’s work.

When my fingers hesitate over the send button I grind my teeth and tell myself I’m not promoting Mar Preston.  I’m offering a few good murder mysteries that take readers out of the grind of daily life for a time to enjoy a little dance on the dark side leavened with a bit of acid social commentary, a nice romance, and some thrills and chills. 

In the scope of human endeavor, this is better than picking up dead squirrels.

Here’s the link to Payback:

Mar Preston is also the author of: Rip-Off

and  No Dice.

And here is Mar Preston:

She doesn't look like someone who collects road kill, does she?

Thanks for visiting today, Mar.

Marilyn aka F. M. Meredith

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Coming up With Titles

Sometimes I know the title before I write the book. At other times I flounder while trying to find the perfect title.

For my Deputy Tempe Crabtree mysteries, Tempe is a Native American, I often find an Indian legend or saying by an Indian and use some part of that. Dispel the Mist, Invisible Path, Wing Beat all came about that way. The one I'm working on now, Spirit Shapes also came from a quote. Of course they have something to do with the story too. 

The latest in that series, Raging Water, is a reference to what happens to Bear Creek when a huge storm strikes. I had to ask for help from my writer's group for that title.

Sometimes the title strikes me immediately, even before I start to write--at other times I flounder.

With the Rocky Bluff series, a first title came easy.

Final Respects revolves around the death of a much-loved policeman, a mortuary and a funeral--the title was perfect.

Bad Tidings refers to the bad news police officers often have to deliver--and there is plenty in this book.

In Fringe Benefits a not so good police officer takes advantage of his job.

Smell of Death was the perfect title for this mystery centering on multiple murders.

Because No Sanctuary is about two churches, the ministers, their wives and the people who attend, this was the perfect title.

An Axe to Grind fit the murder weapon and motive.

Angel Lost has a double reference which becomes apparent when you read the story.

The reason for calling this next one No Bells doesn't become apparent until near the end.

I had one heck of a time coming up with the title for Dangerous Impulses and one of the members of my critique group provided this one.

And for the one I'm writing now, a friend gave me the title which triggered the plot line. I've only written 5 chapters so I'll wait a bit to reveal the title.

Remember, titles can't be copyrighted, and often there is more than one book with the same title--sometimes they even come a around the same time.

I do always check Amazon for titles I'm considering.

How do you come up with a title for your books?