Friday, May 30, 2014

Want to Help With Next Rocky Bluff P.D.Mystery?

Because I'm doing the final edits to the next Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery, it's time to start thinking about what I should write about in my next Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery.

Of course there are some ongoing plots:

How is Rick Strickland going to be as a father? And especially to a child with special needs.

What about the romance Gordon Butler is having with Lizette Gibbs? Will it go forward without any glitches?

What new might happen in Doug and Stacey Milligan's life that could cause an upset?

How is Chief Chandra Taylor fitting in?

Nothing much new has happened in the life of Abel Navarro and his wife, Maria. Any insights?

And then there's Vaughn Aragon who has gone through some tough times. Will life ease up for him?

Will things change in the town of Rocky Bluff after the natural disaster it experienced? And if so what?

There's some questions, anyone have some answers for me?

Of course I have some ideas myself, but I thought it would be fun to have some of my readers and fans chime in.

Marilyn aka F. M. Meredith

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Hard Decisions

Yes, I've had to make some lately about what I should or am capable of doing.

When I was younger, I drove everywhere to go to conferences and conventions. I flew to places I'd never been before, rented a car to get to the event, or took a shuttle, without any problems at all. I wanted to go so I did.

Hubby and I flew to all sorts of new places--switching airplanes and a couple of times even airlines.

I've slowed down a bit. It's no longer easy for me to dash from one place to another in an airport trying to get to the plane on time. Going to San Antonio the last time, I barely made it and only then because someone saw how distressed I was (thought I was having a heart attack) and put me in a wheelchair and took me where I needed to go at break-neck speed.

My plan was to attend Bouchercon this year, after all it's in Long Beach CA. I sent in my registration and someone asked me to be there roommate. Not only was the hotel expensive, but to get there, I had to fly from Bakersfield to L.A., then catch a shuttle to the Bouchercon hotel. The reservation for the hotel was only for two nights, making it not really worth the hassle of the trip. So I decided not to go. I'm disappointed of course, I won't get to see all the wonderful authors and fans who'll be there.

Another big change is I'll no longer go to book or craft fairs where I have to take a tent and put it up. Hubby has trouble getting around and hauling stuff is out of the question. Yes, it cuts down on a lot of great venues for selling books, like the Springville Apple Festival--but the last one we attended wore us both out.

Fortunately, there are a few places that provide the tents and the tables and within driving distances. I'll be focusing on those these days.

And of course, I love giving talks to groups about writing and/or my books.

As the saying goes, "Getting old is not for sissies," and it does make one make some hard decisions.

Marilyn aka F. M. Meredith

And here we are struggling with our tent.

Friday, May 23, 2014

My Fascination with Small Towns

You might think that because I grew up in Los Angeles is the reason I'm fascinated by and set both of my series in small towns. And you might be right, at least partly.

When I was growing up in Los Angeles, though it was a big city even then, my neighborhood was like a small town in many ways. We knew all of our close neighbors. We felt safe to wander here and there--and the rule was only that we had to be back in time for supper--5 p.m. for me and my sister. There were no close grocery stores--Ralph's was the first and it was too far to walk and bring home groceries. We had no park, but behind our house up a flight of over 100 stairs was a wilderness of sorts. No houses, lots of wild growth, a wooden and cement structure that was a reservoir. Now all that is gone, taken over by the Glendale Freeway. We could go anywhere we wanted on public transportation--downtown to all the big stores, the public library, and all the way to the beach.

My first experience with a small town was in 1951 when I traveled to Cambridge MD to be married. Besides being on the East Coast with much different weather, flora and fauna, houses and buildings, no public transportation--believe me I experience culture shock too. I definitely knew I was living somewhere different.

Not too many years later, hubby and I and our two kids (at the time) settled in Oxnard, CA. And though it's now a booming city, it was a small town back then. With three nearby military bases (Port Hueneme, Oxnard Air Force Base, and Pt. Mugu) many of the inhabitants were in the service or worked on the military basis in a civilian capacity. We bought a home near the Port Hueneme Seabee base (hubby was a Seabee)  and we were about a mile from both Hueneme and Oxnard beaches and it wasn't long before we had 5 kids.

Oxnard grew and grew, hubby retired from the Navy, worked for Sears and retired from there and he wanted to move to someplace smaller. We decided on Springville CA, a small town in the foothills of the Southern Sierra where I had some ancestral roots. Another bit of cultural shock. To shop for food or clothes, seek medical aid, it was necessary to drive 17 miles down the hill to the larger town of Porterville.

We've now been here since 1981, retired from yet another job, that of being the owners and operators of a licensee care home for developmentally disabled women, and have become grandparents to 18, great grandparents to 13 with 2 more on the way.

Springville has made some changes, not all for the good, and it is still a small town.

I've had a great time incorporating what makes a small town unique into both of my series.


Driving toward Springville.

Jackass Mail Run in Springville

Snailhead, behind our house.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014


 I first decided to write CONTEMPT OF COURT many years ago.  I suppose I am like a lot of lawyers who promise themselves that one day they will write a great American novel.  My book is not exactly that, but I hope that the reader will find it enjoyable. This is my first novel. 

The story is about a Sacramento trial lawyer who is in trouble.  He is still trying to come to grips with the loss of his wife to ovarian cancer five years ago.  One day, he is mugged on the bike trail when out for a jog. The mugger takes his car keys, steals his car and ransacks his home.  His law office is burglarized.  He is smashed from behind one day when driving on the freeway.  To top it off, he is held in contempt of court by a judge for no good reason and thrown in jail.   Then things really go bad.  Unfortunately, the authorities aren’t much help.  So my hero and his law partner have to figure it out for themselves.   

The stakes go up, and the question is whether they can figure it all out before someone is killed.

I have been practicing law in Sacramento for more than forty years, first as a public defender then as a business litigator.  I have loved both types of law and have drawn upon my experiences in fashioning this story. 

I recall a case when a judge threatened to hold some attorneys in contempt of court for not following his order to turn over financial documents to the attorneys on the other side of the case.  Problem was that all of the attorneys were under an explicit order from another judge, who was handling a related divorce, to not divulge any financial information. This judge was trying to protect the privacy of both the husband and wife, so his order made imminent sense in the divorce case.  Nonetheless, the first judge was not persuaded. So I wondered why the first judge would do this. Was there some hidden agenda? 

I combined this dilemma with a fear that a lot of criminal defense lawyers have, which is that a former client might be released from prison and come back to settle some score.  Or it could be a witness in some case who felt that he was not treated right.  A lot of my story is true or is at least based on true stories, with some embellishment.

When I set about this project, I started by following the age-old advice of just sitting down and writing and to focus on what you know.  About five years and ten revisions later, I finally finished my book.  It has been a very exciting time.

I love the pure ecstasy when I am alone, sitting in front of my computer and writing, especially when I have figured out exactly what I want to say.  It means that I have given a great deal of thought to the particular passage or chapter and have a clear plan for what will happen.  Even when I have not figured out exactly what to say, there are times when it just comes to me, as I write.  It is obvious and it feels right. There is pure joy in writing at those times.  I have started sometimes in this writing mode in the morning and all of sudden realized that it is 5 p.m., with no recognition of the passage of time. 

I have to say that there are other times when it does not come so easily.  Then I have to grind it out.  But as long as I am making progress, it is still very exciting.  I am creating something out of nothing.

During the time it took to write this novel, I spent quite a bit of time learning about the art of writing fiction. I took online courses in creative and novel writing, I attended writing conferences and learned from professionals what was necessary for a good novel.  I read countless books on how to write.  I have kept them all and they sit on my bookshelf for my occasional reference when I get stuck.  As an aside, it is amazing how many good books exist on how to write.   I have listened to several CDs of authors talking about writing. 

When I read a novel now, it is a different experience for me.  I look at style, how characters are introduced and developed, how the plot develops, transitions and tension. 

I hope that readers will enjoy this book, but also gain a new appreciation for how hard trial lawyers work every day.  It is a very big responsibility to go into the courtroom and carry someone’s hopes for justice on your shoulders.  Trials are very difficult events for lawyers on both sides, but especially difficult when you are convinced that you as the lawyer are right.  You have to accept that the result is out of your control.  This is one of the hardest lessons in life to learn, both for the lawyer and for the client.

Title:  Contempt of Court
Author: Ken Malovos
Genre: Legal thriller/mystery
Paperback: 232 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (October 23, 2013)
ISBN-10: 1484159454
ISBN-13: 978-1484159453
Kindle: B00GJXAY4Y

About the author:

Ken Malovos is a mediator and arbitrator in Sacramento, CA. Previously, he was a trial lawyer, a public defender for 12 years and a business litigator for 25 years. He is a graduate of Stanford University (philosophy) and UC Hastings College of the Law. Ken is a past president of the Sacramento County Bar Association and Legal Services of Northern California. He is a panel member for the American Arbitration Association, a fellow in the College of Commercial Arbitrators, a member of the National Academy of Distinguished Neutrals and a member of the California Academy of Distinguished Neutrals. Contempt of Court is his first novel. He lives in Sacramento with his wife. 

You can visit Ken Malovos’ website at

 Thank you for visiting today, Ken. Your book sounds fascination!

Marilyn aka F. M. Meredith

Monday, May 19, 2014

Report on My Celebration of Murder in the Worst Degree

Unfortunately for me, the Porterville Fair and our church picnic won out and my event was poorly attended.

That's the bad news.

The good news is those of us who were there had a great time.

Son and his wife came along to help bring everything inside the Art Gallery and helped set up.

My friend, Karen, who traveled from the coast the day before, arrived before we did. She helped arrange the refreshments. The woman who was the hostess in the gallery was very helpful in many ways.

Her daughter and granddaughter who were visiting, also from the coast, along with Karen, were my audience.

I talked about how the Rocky Bluff P.D. series got published, first as an ebook, then a less than ethical publisher( though the books turned out great), picked up by another publisher who did two in the series and then decided the publishing life was not for her, and now Oak Tree Press who has reprinted all of the books.

I also explained how I kept track of the characters and the mistakes I've made. My ending was how much fun I have writing about these people who seem real to me now.

Because the woman I didn't know before that day was interested in writing a book, I gave her a mini-lesson on writing.

And I sold three books--as many I've sold at times with a much larger audience.

In some ways, you could say this was not a successful event, but those who came enjoyed it. My friend, who is also a mystery writer, said she learned some things she hadn't known before. I was pleased to meet the other woman from the coast and may see her again at some events I have coming up near her. 

I had a great time visiting with Karen the night before and at the event.

So yes, it was a success as far as I'm concerned.

Marilyn aka F. M. Meredith

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Celebration of Murder in the Worst Degree Today (May 17)

Though the book has been out for awhile, and I've been promoting it like crazy all over the Internet, today is the formal (well not formal, but you know what I mean) launch.

Why is it so late? The places to do something like this are limited. Our only book store closed. When I decided the Porterville Art Gallery would be a great place, they had their Saturday afternoons all filled until today's date. I jumped on it.

The date has turned out not to be such a great one as the annual Porterville Fair is going on. I'm hoping the readers and writers interested in books and writing have already gone to the fair or aren't interested in it.

From experience, it's best to come up with some kind of presentation if you want people to come to an event like this. I'm going to talk about the Perils, Problems and Joys of Writing a Mystery Series. And I'll answer questions people may have. And yes, I'm serving refreshments and have a couple of door prizes.

The Porterville Art Gallery is at 151 Main Street in Porterville--there is lots of parking in a lot behind the building and a back entrance. I'll be there from 1-3 p.m. 

One of my good friends, a writer and a fan, drove over from the coast yesterday so she could attend today. We had dinner together last night and had a great conversation.

So, if you're in the area and are so inclined to come by.

Marilyn aka F.M. Meredith

Thursday, May 15, 2014

A Mystery Writer Evolves by Patricia Skalka

Patricia Sk

 Writing is a strange business. Sometimes you go looking for stories. And other times, the stories come to you. When I was a Reader’s Digest Staff Writer, I scoured newspapers and obscure publications searching for true-life situations I could mold into magazine articles. I wrote mostly medical pieces and human interest and competed with both in-house and other freelancers to uncover the next great story line. I have a thick folder of ideas, most of which caught my eye because they were interesting to me, not necessarily to my editor.

But since I turned to writing fiction full time, I find that mostly I don’t go looking for stories; instead, they come to me. The idea for Death Stalks Door County emerged from the depths of the starless, moonless night that enveloped me as I sat on a stretch of deserted beach along the peninsula’s Lake Michigan Shore. The water was quiet that night, the stillness broken by a soft shushing of waves along the sand.  I held out my hand. Nothing. I wiggled my fingers and but couldn’t see them moving. I could only imagine my hand in the tarry blackness, just as I imagined shadows floating through the forest at my back. Anything can happen here, I thought. So much must have happened here I realized as I listened to the almost silent footfalls of the tens of thousands of people who had slipped along the water throughout time.
 As a girl I’d spent summers on my grandmother’s farm in central Wisconsin. A city kid who learned to drive the tractor and milk cows and feed the chickens. Hard work and the kind of life many people ran away from. As an adult, I discovered Door County, a Wisconsin place that people flocked to – for vacation, for camping trips, for retirement, for a chance at a quiet life. Hours spent walking the sand, reading on the beach, nurturing the story that was forming in my head. A man flees the city; he is damaged and morose, pained with guilt and grief. He comes to Door County seeking solace and finds death instead. I had friends who were cops and my character is a former cop; he suspects the worst but wants nothing to do with the troubles of this adopted home. Until he faces the ghosts of his past and then…

The underpinnings of life are much the same in the city and the small town. Congestion, noise, turmoil, pace of living vary tremendously. But people do not. They have similar dreams; they love and hate and plot revenge on those who have wronged them.  Some have kind, giving hearts; others are motivated by arrogance and greed. One by one, the characters took shape in my imagination and the plot line developed. What if? And then, what if again? What leads a person to commit the ultimate crime; How does the human heart justify the most grievous wrongdoing? And how does a stranger stop the killing?

 For many years I wrote nonfiction, human interest stories that were limited by the parameters of reality; I turned to fiction because I wanted to tell stories of my own making and set my own limits of what was possible. I read mysteries, have always read mysteries, and recognized the inherent value of pitting good against evil and of understanding the extreme pressures that twist an ordinary individual into a tortured soul, capable of the vilest of deeds.

There were many discouraging moments on the path to publishing Death Stalks Door County. What kept me going was both an affinity for my characters (I would have recognized them walking down the street) and a strong sense of obligation to tell their story, because only I knew it and if I didn’t tell it, no one would.  Originally I intended the book as a stand-alone mystery. But by the time I finished, I was so caught up in the fictional people and their world I couldn’t abandon them. One book would lead to another. I’d do what I’d always considered impossible: I’d write a series.

Death              Book Blurb:    Introducing The Dave Cubiak Door County Mysteries: smart, hard-edged detective fiction on a popular vacation peninsula, a scenic wonderland surrounded by the pristine waters of Green Bay and Lake Michigan

Six deaths mar the holiday mood as summer vacationers enjoy Wisconsin’s beautiful Door County peninsula. Murders, or bizarre accidents? Newly hired park ranger Dave Cubiak, a former Chicago homicide detective, assumes the worst but refuses to get involved. Grief-stricken and guilt-ridden over the loss of his wife and daughter, he’s had enough of death.
Forced to confront the past, the morose Cubiak moves beyond his own heartache and starts investigating, even as a popular festival draws more people into possible danger. In a desperate search for clues, Cubiak uncovers a tangled web of greed, betrayal, bitter rivalries, and lost love beneath the peninsula’s travel-brochure veneer. Befriended by several locals but unsure whom to trust or to suspect of murder, the one-time cop tracks a clever killer.
In a setting of stunning natural beauty and picturesque waterfront villages, Death Stalks Door County introduces a new detective series, “The Dave Cubiak Door County Mysteries.”

Author Bio
              I was born and raised in Chicago, in a little-known neighborhood called Hegewisch. Strictly blue collar, nestled along the southeastern border of the great metropolis amid belching steel mills and factories. My mother was a homemaker who passed along her many fine skills. My father was a carpenter determined that my brother and I would be college educated.
 Books were scarce in my working class home and family tales were not passed from one generation to the next, so I don’t know how I acquired the propensity for putting words together into sentences and stories. But even as a young girl, I sat at the kitchen table and scrawled simple yarns on sheets of coarse lined-paper. Stories about people always drew me in. I grew up reading the biographies of famous women – Molly Pitcher, Marie Curie, Clara Barton -- and came naturally to writing about women and men who accomplished notable deeds or faced down great challenges. For my high school and college newspapers, for national weekly and monthly publications and finally for the Reader’s Digest, I wrote about people’s accomplishments, heartaches and dreams. I kept journals during both of my pregnancies so I could give my daughters a portrait of the world they were about to join.

             All the while I wrote about reality, I read fiction and imagined that one day I would write a story that was entirely my own. I always loved mysteries: devoured Nancy Drew and read the Boxcar Children series to my own children, got teary eyed over Lord Peter and Harriet Vane. Eventually I realized that all of life is a mystery and that in terms of books, a really good mystery isn’t just a story about who done it; a really good mystery teaches about life. That’s the kind of mystery I most enjoy reading and the kind I set out to write.

Buy sites:

 Patricia Skalka

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

One of my Favorite Reviews of Murder in the Worst Degree

Another spectacular installment of the Rocky Bluff P.D. Series is now available. Officer Gordon Butler is patrolling the beach when he is approached by a surfer about a body that has washed ashore. The Rocky Bluff P.D. is fairly certain they know who it is, but it will be up to Detectives Doug Milligan and Felix Zachary to figure out what happened. Meanwhile, Officers Stacey Milligan and Lizette Gibbs investigate the rapes of two women. The new police chief, Chandra Taylor, is making some changes at the department, one of which impacts Ryan Strickland, who is already on pins and needles awaiting the birth of his first baby.

F.M. Meredith shows she knows how to keep it fresh for fans of her long-running Rocky Bluff P.D. Series. Several changes have come to the department: a new police chief, some retirements, and a promotion for Felix Zachary to detective. That doesn't mean new fans will feel lost. Not only is there just enough backstory to help newbies feel comfortable, each book is a stand alone, so you truly can pick up any book in the series for a great read that blends the personal and professional lives of the members of the Rocky Bluff P.D.

Murder in the Worst Degree, like the other books in the series, draws its strength from the likable, complex set of characters working within the department. Coupling this cast with an intriguing plot with twists and turns along the way, you'll enjoy getting to know everyone while trying to figure out the suspects and motives.

One of the best aspects of this series, and this book in particular, is that you see plausible situations played out in this fictional police setting, by a group of people who seem almost as real as one of your friends or relatives.You meet new characters within the town as the police department follows the clues and works to keep the residents of Rocky Bluff safe. It's a perfect blend of both worlds. I would love to see these novels turned into a television series.

If you enjoy mysteries that are equally character driven and plot driven, Murder in the Worst Degree is a perfect choice.

Series: Rocky Bluff PD
Paperback: 176 pages
Publisher: Dark Oak Mysteries (January 23, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1610091450
ISBN-13: 978-1610091459

Review by Cheryl Malandrinos on The Book Connection 

Buy Now:

Marilyn aka F.M. Meredith

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Damaged Characters, Murder Mysteries, and Dealing With the Past

Damaged characters, murder mysteries, and dealing with the past

by Patrick Linder

I’m often asked how much of what I write about is real and how I come up with plot ideas. These are interesting questions for a writer of murder mysteries to consider, especially given the common advice that you should “write what you know.” Spoiler alert: I’ve never actually murdered anyone.

I write about murder, but I consider myself first and foremost an emotional writer. Perhaps a better way to say that is that I am a writer most concerned with the emotion(s) of the story. That’s one big reason why I love mysteries—to solve a murder you have to also solve what the motivation was and what the repercussions have been, and these are almost always tied to emotion(s).

If you take a step back and think about a mystery as this fantastic combination of crime, motivation, and repercussion, the emotional path often leads directly to any number of damaged characters. I love the emotional baggage that damaged characters bring with them. I love the mystery of why they are limited and how those limitations shape where and who they are in the present. And I love having a detective who himself (or herself) is also battling limitations and emotional baggage.

My novel Ghost Music: A Marcus Brace Mystery combines all of these elements. My detective is flawed, not a superhero. As Marcus gets closer to finding the murderer, he is forced to deal with his own emotional limitations and face a family legacy that he would rather remain buried. Understanding his own history becomes key to understanding and solving the murders taking place in the present.

It’s this type of multi-layered mystery and emotion that I love. I’m working on the sequel to Ghost Music and once again find myself creating a story that answers not just why the main crime was committed but also why the characters are damaged. To solve the crime, you have to solve the damage that each character brings to the story.

So, what do you think about mysteries that include a damaged detective? Is your favorite sleuth appealing because he/she has been forced to deal with some type of damage, or because they already have everything together?

Ghost Music summary
Seattle Detective Marcus Brace is falling apart, both professionally and personally. Before he can put his own demons to rest, a brutal homicide and an unusual summons from family long-forgotten force Marcus to confront everything he’s been running from. With the killer targeting those closest to him, Marcus is on a journey to not only find a murderer but also solve a family mystery that was hidden for decades. 

A fast-paced murder mystery that looks at how past and present interact, Ghost Music was awarded Third Place for Unpublished Fiction by the Public Safety Writers Association and has garnered critical praise since its publication.

 “If I were working on a 5-star rating system here at Haunted Book Case, I'd give this novel 50. I definitely look forward to anything further this author puts out. He's a fantastic writer.”
--The Haunted Bookcase

Patrick Linder
Patrick Linder was born and raised in Wichita, Kansas. He graduated from the University of Kansas with degrees in English and American Studies. Awarded a Mellon Fellowship in Humanistic Studies, Linder earned his PhD in American Literature from the University of Washington. Linder is a regular contributor to the online journal Rebelle Society. He lives with his two children in Snoqualmie, Wash., and is currently at work on the follow-up to Ghost Music, again featuring Seattle Detective Marcus Brace. Stay in touch with Patrick at or by emailing him at: patrick (at) patricklinderbooks (dot) com.

Find Ghost Music on sale at Amazon in either paperback or Kindle format.

Thank you for visiting me today, Patrick. I loved what you had to say about your book. 


Friday, May 9, 2014

Springville CA Rodeo 2014

Tiny Springville, located in the foothills of the Southern Sierra hosts a rodeo once a year. This year, when the rodeo began on Friday evening, so did the rain. It rained and rained. Since California is in the middle of the drought, rain is welcome--but I'm sure many wondered why it had to come at the start of the rodeo.

The next day, no rain, but the temperature made a radical drop. For Saturday, the rodeo starts in the late afternoon, and usually Highway 190 in front of our house is lined with cars by 4 o'clock--but that wasn't the case. However, traffic began to pick up, vehicles began filling up both sides of the street, which mean the parking lot at the rodeo grounds was full.

 This was taken fairly early on--I beet the rest of those seats filled up before it was all over. We live close enough that we could hear the enthusiastic announcer late into the night.

No, we didn't go. Those seats are hard on the old bones, and frankly, rodeo is not my favorite entertainment. In the past, I went to plenty of them--and what I enjoyed most was seeing old friends and eating the wonderful food served at the concession stands.

However, a part of our family was in attendance and from the looks of the pictures I've seen, had a great time.

First two rows are son Matt and wife,  his three grown children, their spouses, and 3 of his grandchildren.

For a little town, Springville goes all out.

Marilyn aka F. M. Meredith

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

How Writing about Rocky Bluff P.D. became a Series


Paul Fahey is the winner of my blog tour contest! He commented on the most blogs post on my tour. There were a couple of close seconds--but I recounted once the tour was over--and he definitely won. Now all I have to do is write the cook and decide who he should be. In Murder in the Worst Degree, the winner of the contest didn't make out too well in the end, though her character was pivotal.


When I wrote Final Respects long ago, I had no idea that it would become a series and I’d still be writing about the men and women who worked for that small department in a beach community. The ideas for that mystery came from several different stories my policeman son-in-law told me when we lived in a beach community. However, the book wasn't published until we’d moved to a much different locale.

Once the book was done, I couldn’t help wondering what was happening with the characters. Of course there was only one way to find out—and that was to write another book about them.

Though the first book was written a long ago, time has passed much more slowly for the Rocky Bluff folks and their families. Yes, they’ve aged some, there have been divorces and marriages, romances that haven’t worked out, babies born, tragedies, plans that haven’t worked, mistakes made, plenty of scary stuff, and of course, murders.

Though there are continuous threads in the series, every mystery is solved by the end of each book.
Though this is a police procedural, it’s a bit lighter than most. It’s kind of hard to explain, but though there may be bad language spoken by some of the characters—I don’t quote them. And most of the time, I shut the bedroom door.

How much longer I’ll write about the Rocky Bluff P.D. depends upon how curious I am about what my characters might be up to.

Blurb for the latest RBPD mystery, Murder in the Worst Degree: The body that washes up on the beach leads Detectives Milligan and Zachary on a murder investigation that includes the victim’s family members, his housekeeper, three long-time friends, and a mystery woman.

This post was supposed to be part of my tour, but because of some unfortunate circumstances, it didn't make it, so here it is now.

Monday, May 5, 2014

When People Make Me Mad, I Just Murder Them

Lori Soard is visiting me today, and she seems to be in a mood.

This is what she has to say for herself:

It seems like everywhere you go, there is at least one difficult person to contend with. You know who I mean. That loud person, or that bossy person, or that downright mean and crazy person can drive you up the wall. I can overlook all of that, but if you come after me, my family or friends, I am going to kill you – in my next book.

The Gossip
The gossip appears in a lot of my books. She is a useful tool to distribute information to my characters. In real life, she often comes out smelling like a rose, but in my books, she gets called out for her nosiness and for spreading rumors.

The gossip isn’t actually a character I tend to kill off in my books. The gossip does die a social death though, as her true nature is revealed to those around her. Readers often ask me if my characters are based on real people. While each character is completely unique, bits and pieces are based on people I’ve encountered. Sometimes, it is simply someone who sat behind me in a restaurant and proceeded to talk about everyone on her contact list.

The Sociopath
The sociopath… ahh where to start with him or her. When this person appears in my books, it is based on a real person. I don’t write and tell, but suffice it to say that this person hurt me and my family and anytime I can write her into one of my stories, it adds another layer to the book.

Life is a good teacher and while I’m working hard at forgiving this person, I am not quite there yet. Therefore, the anger I feel comes across on the page and my characters experience real emotions. The sociopath goes farther than the gossip. She doesn’t just call the neighbors and tell them that she thinks you’re an alien… she sneaks across to your yard in the middle of the night and plants a space ship there.

This character adds so many layers to a book as the main character battles the sociopath to survive. The sociopath appears in The Elixir and Dear Viking. The two villains in these books are quite different, but the underlying psychosis is the same. I usually kill off the sociopath in my books, but in real life, I’ve simply killed any and all communication, because that is the only way to survive a sociopath.

The Cheater
I’m fortunate to be married to a wonderful man, but I’ve seen friends go through infidelity and the pain it causes. I’ve also seen my daughters’ and their friends deal with heartbreak. The MO of the cheater is always the same.

We don’t want to kill the cheater. That is too good for him. We want to make him suffer. If you’ve ever seen the movie with Diane Keaton called the Ex-Wives Club, then you know what I mean. Dying is too easy for the cheater.

The cheater appears in my book The Lipstick Diaries. Like the gossip, he dies a social death. If he cheated on my heroine, then she may get revenge and then kick him to the curb. Of course, sometimes he didn’t actually cheat at all, as is the case in that book.

The Mean Girl
You went to school with her. You work with her. She might be a family member. The mean girl is out for number one. She doesn’t care about other people’s feelings. She is selfish. She cares mostly about appearance. She makes a great villain. In my romances, she is usually the other woman that is trying to grab the hero’s interest. She never wins, because she is a shallow character, but she can be used to make the heroine realize what she really wants. You can kill the mean girl if you want, but you don’t have to. She’s already her own worst enemy.

Writing Is Therapeutic
Writing is very therapeutic for working through feelings and difficult situations. I’ve kept journals off and on since I was in third grade. I almost always work through grief, pain and even joy through the pages of my books. If I can dig deep and share that sorrow that comes only from losing a beloved pet or a young cousin and it helps just one reader work through their own grief even in a small way, then I feel that I’ve accomplished far more than just writing out my feelings.

Photo Credit: Rune T via Compfight cc


Lori's Bio:

Lori Soard has a PhD in Journalism but she's hardly the stuffy professor type. She enjoys writing romantic comedies, such as Finding Ms. Right, gets excited over a good comedy and has even seen one of her books turned in a Manga comic. When she isn't working on fiction, she is writing articles, designing websites and promoting authors.

And from me:

Lori is a busy woman. She has been helpful to my career with promotion. Thank you, Lori, for joining me today.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

The Cultural Layers of Mexico by Robert Richter

I remember the first time I ever crossed the border into Mexico, forty-two years ago now.  When friends and relatives found out I was going, and hitchhiking and riding trains to boot, they would ask, “Is it safe?”

Is it safe?  Is it safe?  That’s all I’d get.  Banditos, you know and ambushers and killers.  Won’t you be killed?
And who would ever know?  In those days, when you crossed the border, you literally disappeared off the map.  Telephones existed in major cities where shabby offices hid booths with paper-thin walls, the erratic static navigated by an operator trying to connect you to a larger world she’d never spoken to before.  In emergencies, you might find a place to call; the phone might even work. But who would you call, and for what?  Stranded, you found what transport you could and took your chances. Sick or injured?  Limejuice and prayer were the recommended remedies.  Whatever your situation, you were on your own when you traveled, relying on companions—if you had them—or the local people around you.

I first traveled alone in Mexico during the cultural turmoil of the Vietnam Era, and I quickly began to realize that the official American version of what Mexico is like as a nation and a people was just as distorted as the official version of that disastrous Asian war.  I was safe there, given shelter, taught lessons, helped on my way.  Now, forty-two years of world progress later, when I tell friends and relatives that I’m crossing the border into Mexico again, they ask, “Is it safe?  Is it safe?  The Drug War, you know.  You could be killed.”  Unfortunately, over these four decades, American conceptions of Mexico’s government, culture, and history, including the so-called Drug War at present, remain a politicized distortion in American schools, the American media, and the American psyche, no matter how good communication systems are in contemporary times.

I return to Mexico each year, in part, to remind myself that day-to-day humanity in my own local community and way of life is the same human nature to be found in rural and small town Mexico:  love of family, devotion to a higher power, communal interaction for the betterment and pleasure of all.  In short, decent human beings, working out their lots in life, exist everywhere in the cultural milieu they were born into.  I also keep returning to the Pacific coast of Mexico in search of the day-to-day village life that brought me to that understanding and because, well, I just like the life style there.  It reminds me of earlier times when my own American culture was more free spirited, less cynical, more informal in business, and less restrictive in personal freedoms.  But mostly, I return to Mexico because the history and culture fascinate me with their blend of Spanish colonial and indigenous character.  There is still magic in Mexico, space where different realities exist side by side, and places where the passage of time means nothing.

During my forty years of travel and sojourns in western Mexico, standards of living, communications, and cultural attitudes have changed, of course.  Improved, some would say, but that’s a value-loaded word. Change, yes.  Modernization, yes. Improvement is a word loaded with cultural prejudice. Regrettably, those older ways of life in sleepy fishermen’s villages, tucked away in tropic coves and lost in history and time, are now being destroyed in the contemporary hurricane of the corporate tourist industry.

Because I am also a historian and a writer with a scholarly as well as personal relationship to Mexico past and present, the country’s history and character imbue my work, whether I write fiction or historical narrative, and that work is always composed of personal story telling and sound historical investigation, intended to inform and entertain readers about some real and fascinating aspect of Mexico’s rich culture. An example subject would be the Huichol and Cora Indians who live in the high sierras of northwestern Mexico where the states of Durango, Jalisco, and Nayarit meet.  So isolated and independent, their ancestors were never conquered by the Spanish colonists.  Their animistic religious lives, devoted to the worship of the deer, the corn plant, and the peyote cactus, have never been dominated by Christianity.  Their language is unwritten, its orthographies created by modern anthropologists who have studied their culture.  And Huichol art has come to be known worldwide for its uniqueness in form, style, and subject.  Merely google “Huichol Art,” to verify this point.

The Huichol culture has come under stress of onslaught by modern times.  Alcoholism and capitalism work like water seeping into the cracks of a granite mountain to freeze and thaw, expand and contract, until this particular cultural mountain erodes way to boulders, then to gravel, then sand.  But capitalism also helps keep the Huichol culture alive in some of its purer forms, too.  Those who recognize the artistry in Huichol craft and buy their art sustain a contemporary economic base for an ancient culture, allowing a people to adhere to their cultural values at a level of their choosing.  In communities in the highest sierras, some Huichols still follow the shaman in the old ways, never mixing with the outside forces. In flea markets and tourist resorts, some merely dress in native costume and sell their culture’s heritage.  As the saying goes, it’s complicated.  Two (and more) realities occupy the same human space.
I have tried to present this complication of different cultural realities occupying the same space in a mystery novel called, Something Like A Dream.  Set in 1982, at an early stage of corruption by infiltrating contemporary culture, the story is meant to introduce readers to the Huichol people, their cultural and religious life centered on peyote visions and a spiritual relationship to their environment.  While I set a contemporary mystery about a wife’s search for her lost anthropologist husband against this indigenous cultural background, the story is really about the nature of Huichol life, and I include a list of anthropological references and a glossary of many Huichol terms.  The protagonist of the mystery is an outcast American expat who becomes obsessed with the beautiful wife as he helps her search for her famous husband in the sierra heart of Huichol territory.  On this strange pilgrimage he will find a whole new perspective on reality and dream, and on deceit, self-deception, and human spirituality, in a miraculous healing ceremony that will change his life forever or simply end it.  You are invited to share the search and this look at ancient Huichol life in modern Mexico.  You may find that Mexico has much more to offer than its contemporary image portrays.

Something Like A Dream

Expatriate beach bum Cotton Waters is known to his cantina buddies as "Algo," meaning Something  in Spanish.  An illegal alien and ex-political activist with old and unresolved legal problems in the U.S., Algo scrounges a lazy fishing village lifestyle and a little beer money out of the Puerto Vallarta tourist trade as a private hustler of a Mexican Riviera lost-and-found--helping some people get lost and finding others--if the price is right or the client's cause worth the time and interest.

In the summer of '82 the worthy cause is Corina Springfield, possibly the most beautiful woman Cotton Waters has ever seen, even in a town like Vallarta, searching for her husband, heir to the Springfield Foundation, missing and presumed dead for over three years.  When Corina shows Algo evidence that her husband may be living among the Huichols, one of Mexico's most mysterious indigenous peoples; and when it's evidence she's held for over a year without bothering to investigate until now, Vallarta's Something" isn't sure he can find her husband, but he knows he wants to try. 

On a search for a lost hero-husband living as a shaman in a tribe of peyote worshipers, Cotton Waters leads Corina Springfield into the center of tribal dissension deep in the sierra heart of Huichol territory.  On this strange pilgrimage Waters will find a whole new perspective on reality and dream, on deceit and self-deception, and  experience a healing ceremony that will change his life forever or simply end it.

Bio:  Robert Richter

From Nebraska homesteader stock, I grew up in Colorado and was a member of the first MA creative writing program at Colorado State University in 1973.  But in 1975, I left that to the dogs and returned to the remnants of the family farm and was a fourth generation dryland wheat farmer for twenty years.  During those years I also published my first book of poetry (Windfall Journal, Jelm Mountain Press, 1980), my first regional history (Plainscape, 1987), and my first novel, a literary mystery set in Mexico (Something In Vallarta, Permanent Press, 1991).

Since giving up my own farming, I’ve done itinerate farm labor, substitute teaching, and conducted escorted excursions in Latin America, while continuing to write cultural essays, history, fiction, and poetry.  I still live in southwestern Nebraska, but also have a relationship with west coast Mexico that goes back forty years.  Experience in both those cultural geographies continues to infuse my work.  In 2000, a biography on a Mexican politician, CuauhtĂ©moc Cárdenas and the Roots of Mexico’s New Democracy, and a novel, Homefield: Sonata in Rural Voice, appeared. I won the Nebraska Arts Council’s Literary Achievement Award that same year.
At age 57, I returned to academic studies at the University of Nebraska, receiving an MA in Latin American History in 2006.  In 2007, I was a Fulbright Research Fellow in Buenos Aries, studying and writing about Argentina’s frontier history.  I am currently at work on a historical novel based on my time there.  A new book of poetry was published in 2009, Days In San Blas.  A history, Search for the Camino Real: a history of San Blas and the road to get there, appeared in 2011.

Marilyn aka F.M. Meredith

Thursday, May 1, 2014

May Day of Long Ago

When I was in grammar school all those many years ago, we always had a May Day celebration.
My memory may be sketchy on this, but we word costumes on that special day and had a big parade.
I don’t recall exactly how the choice of costumes was decided, but I do know it was different each year.
One year, during WWII, my class dressed in patriotic costumes, as nurses and in different military uniform.

In 6th grade, we dressed in Spanish costumes as we were studying Spain at the time and learning some Spanish. I know we learned the song La Cucracha with the famous line of not having any marijuana to smoke. I doubt any of knew what marijuana was in those days.

A princess was chosen from the Kindergarten class—and I even remember the little girl’s name who was chosen, Felicia Glass.

All of our parents were invited to the May Day festivities and each class had the opportunity to dance around the May Pole.

The school, Delevan Drive, was unique in that it had seat carved into the side of the hill for the audience to sit upon as they looked won on the playground where we performed. Many tall eucalyptus trees framed the area.

The two-story brick building where we learned looked like George Washington’s abode—beautiful, but not earthquake safe. A new school now stands in the former place.

One thing is still the same--the school has a garden, we called ours a Victory Garden--and it's been modernized a bit. I'm glad the school kids still have the opportunity to work in the garden. Mr. Nelson was our gardening teacher. For an L.A. school, check out all the great old trees.

I have lots of good memories of my grammar school days. I was Marilyn Mitchell back then.

Marilyn aka F.M. Meredith