Saturday, February 28, 2015

A Brief View of All the Jobs I've Had

My most important job for many years and one that's continued on is being a wife, mother, grandmother and now greatgrandmother.

I began in the working world--meaning that I got paid for what I did as a babysitter at the age of 10. Yes,, 10. I took care of a girl with developmental disabilites who was the same age. Quite an experience--and I earned a whopping 50 cents. I never went back.

The next baby sitting job I was nearly 12 and took care of 5 little ones one evening. We did okay though I don't remember changing any diapers--and also don't remember what I was paid. I continued babysitting all through my teens, earned the money to buy clothes my mom throught were too expensive. (And I'm sure she was right.)

I did housework also for one of the women I babysat for--didn't like that at all.

When I was a senior in highschool, I did inventory one night at a big deparment store in downtown L.A. I also worked for a time in a hot-rod store.

After I was married and had a child, I worked for the telephone company in downtown L.A. as a file clerk. A while later I became an Information Operator for the phone company in Glendale.

When hubby and I and all the kids lived in Oxnard, I worked for General Tel and Tel as an information and long idstance officer off and one. (Left everytime I was going to have another baby.)

During this time period I also served as the newsletter editor for the local PTA for 4 years as well as other jobs, and was PTA president at the grammar school for two years and the junior high for two years.

I had a Camp Fire group (Blue Birds to Horizon Club) for 10 years. I aslo had a Camp Fire group at the Camarillo State Hospital for girls with developmental disabilities, and later one at the Ventrua School.

While still in Oxnard, I worked ten years as a teacher in a pre-school for childen with developmental disabilities--a job I adored.

After a falling out with my boss, I went on to work first in a pre-school on the Seabee base for one semester, but I didn't care for it much. Then I substituted as a teacher in various pre-schools and Head Start. From there I went to work full-time as a teacher in a day care in La Colonia. Loved that one too. Moved on with the same company as a teacher in their day care in Ventura--also a great job. 

Then I was offered a job as a teacher in a pre-school (more money) back in La Colonia. Loved tht one too and got to use my Spanish--though not for long, soon had all my students speaking English.

We moved to Springville where we bought and took over a residential care facility for women with developmental disabilities. (Much more complicated than it sounds here.) Hubby and I loved this work. We shared our home and lives with these women.

Along the way I became the president of the regional provider association, organized and became an instructor for mandantory training for all administrators, and did that for many years. Illness of family members brought the need for us to retire, but I continued to teach for a long time, still do the association's newsletter and serve as a consultant.

Way back when I was in Oxanrd I was writing, writing, writing. I continued to write--and finally got published soon after we moved to Springville and I've been writing ever since.

Probably more than you ever wanted to know, but many of my experiences have influenced my writing and certainly helped me with many phases of my life.

Marilyn Meredith

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Using a Real Place for a Setting

Anyone who is familiar with my two mysery series knows that I don't use actual places for the settings, though in both cases they are similar to places that I know.

In my Rocky Bluff P.D. series, Rocky Bluff is a Southern California beach community between Ventura and Santa Barbara--and no, it is not Carpenteria. Rocky Bluff has it's own geography, street names and history. In many ways it's similar to two other beach towns, Ventura and Oxnard.

The action in the Deputy Tempe Crabtree series usually happens in a fictional town called Bear Creek and the surrounding area. Sometimes the story centers on the Bear Creek Indian Reservation.
Bear Creek is similar to the town where I live except I've moved it into the mountains another 1000 feet in order to have "better" trees and more weather.

The indian reservation has many similarities to the Tule River Indian Reservation--but it's not exactly like it. I've given Porterville the name Dennison, but kept pretty much to what the nearby city looks like. I've also had Tempe visit Crescent City in Northern California and Santa Barbara and was true to both areas.

Now I'm writing the next Tempe adventure--and it's all taking place in Morro Bay, Los Osos and San Luis Obispo. I am familiar with all three places having stayed and visited those areas many times. However, there are many things I don't know and have had to research. Some I have been able to learn about from the Internet--but others I've had to ask friends for information.

 I'm fortunate that I'm a member of the Central Coast chapter of Sisters in Crime. I've been emailing members and asking them questions.

I'll probably have one of them take a look at it when I'm through to make sure I haven't made any big errors.

Oh, I still have fictional places--especially house where people live. 

The plot itself has been fun--but I do want to get where things happen right.


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

What to Do When You're A Guest on Someone's Blog

If you have the date, be sure and put everything together as soon as possible and send it on. Sometimes I have people scheduled at their or their publicists request, and nothing arrives.

What to send:

In one attachement, a word file with the post--either a topic the host asked for or one you wanted to write about, a blurb about your latest book, a buy link, your bio and your links like webpage, blog, facebook etc.

Other attachements should have a .jpeg of your books cover or covers, and one of you, the author.

On the day the post appears, be sure and promote it.

I always promote my guest's blog on Facebook and Twitter, but since it's your post you should be promoting there and on all your groups on Facebook and listserves you belong to.

Check back on the blog from time to time and if anyone has left a comment, acknowledge it.


Sunday, February 22, 2015

A RATION OF REALITY TV by Gerrie Ferris Finger

Wikipedia defines reality TV as “Television programming that documents unscripted situations and actual occurrences, and often features a previously publicly unknown cast. The genre highlights personal drama and conflict to a much greater extent than other unscripted television such as documentary shows…”

Just a minute. With that definition, I part ways with Wikipedia, a people’s encyclopedia I rely on for information in writing my novels.
Reality television is about as real as Bugs Bunny. I’ve never watched a full episode of Survivor, but I’ve seen enough outtakes to detect manipulation, scripting, coaching, editing and lines said straight from a story board. I know I used to write them.
A fired cast member of Storage Wars alleges in his lawsuit that producers staged entire storage lockers that were the subject of the auctions with valuable or unusual items to create drama and suspense for the show, sometimes faking scenes of bidding.

No doubt from this scribbler of fiction. Who wants to watch other people’s real trash? I have enough of my own. And Hoarders. Are people that hungry to see others wading through garbage for an entire show?

There’s sex aplenty in reality TV. It appears for some “stars” to start with their debut of “leaked” videos where they’re having explicit sex with their boyfriends. (Who else?) These untalented, fame-hungry people are turned into infamous personalities when they are awarded their own reality TV shows. I know, they really care what I think. Certainly, Paris Hilton and her best friends forever do not, nor would Kourtney and Kim when they take Miami. (These shows I have never seen. I am a dedicated researcher.)
If the producers of Duck Dynasty wanted to humiliate (as was alleged a few yeas ago) a class of people, it backfired. I don’t know right now, but it was one of the most popular shows on television. I’ll say this for the show, it was boring enough to be reality.
But I’m not a total naysayer of the genre.
My first remembered TV experience (after the real western, Gunsmoke) was when my parents could not wait to see Candid Camera. I researched when it came on air—in 1948. (I’m not that old, but was this the dawn of reality TV? Some say it was the earlier live comedy shows with Sid Caesar’s and Milton Berle, where anything could and did go wrong.)
Candid Camera (and its copycats) had a renaissance in the seventies and was re-reincarnated again in 2014.The original Candid Camera got old with the its staged practical jokes, but people’s reactions were real—as far as my childhood memories recall. Maybe I’ll tune in to the new edition. But what’s that they say? You can’t go home again—or something old is old again?
Speaking of old reality TV, The People’s Court became reality for me when my cousin was sued and tried on air by a roommate over a couple pieces of furniture. He had to pay.
Are there current shows purporting to be reality TV that I like. Yes. My husband is a devoted fan of Deadliest Catch. I’ve watched a few episode—seen one, you’ve seen them all. I like The Next Food Network Star, not because I don’t believe it’s staged, but because I like food shows. (My husband, OTOH, does not. Unless it’s grilled or breakfast food, which he does quite well, he’s not interested, and he thinks his food from the grill and griddle couldn’t be beat.)
Along the byways to my becoming a sophisticated TV watcher (by my own account), my reality television consisted of documentaries, television news and game shows. Today, game shows not so much. About documentaries—favorites of mine—Wiki, says they are in the gray area of reality TV. Ask the producers of true documentaries (not docudramas) what they think!
 My husband has added sports to my watching reality pleasure. I play golf and I watch golf. If spitting into the grass and muttering the F word isn’t reality, I don’ know what is. (Tiger Woods has paid handsomely for his profanity—in cash. He doesn’t care. He’s a big reality star.) If a fight on the baseball diamond isn’t real, it’s really good to watch.
Lately, I’ve gravitated to talk shows. Bill O’Reilly can get riled up and Morning Joe can get into Mika’s face. Makes me wonder about the survivor there, and which one will get voted out with show’s next edition?

Bio and links Gerrie Ferris Finger:
Retired journalist for The Atlanta-Journal Constitution, in 2009, Gerrie Ferris Finger won The Malice Domestic/St. Martin's Minotaur Best First Traditional Novel Competition for THE END GAME, released by St. Martin's Minotaur in 2010. She grew up in Missouri, then headed further south to join the staff of the The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. There, she researched and edited the columns of humorist Lewis Grizzard and co-wrote a news column with another reporter for three years. The series that started there is still going strong today. Running with Wild Blood is scheduled for release in January 2015.

My Review:

Gerrie Ferris Finger never disappoints and Running with Wild Blood is no exception.

Richard Lake, of the Atlanta Police Department, gets a cold case when a witness suddenly gets his memory back. Lake recruits MoriahDru to look into the murder of Juliet Trapp, 16 when she died, and a student at Winters Farm Academy.

Juliet Trapp had told her mother she was going to Bike Week with Wild Blood, an outlaw motorcycle gang, over the Christmas break. The police were unable to solve Juliet’s murder after interviews with the bikers. The case roars into high gear when Juliet’s father, Sherman Trapp, is murdered in Chattanooga where Wild Blood is the predominant motorcycle club. Dru discovers that Trapp was trying to find the killer of his daughter, but got too close.


That's the official blurb, but this mystery is so much more.

Dru, is a licensed private detective and the owner of Child Chase, specializing in finding missing children. 

She and Richard Lake are romantically involved which adds a bit of spice, especially when FBi Agent Grady Locke becomes in involved in the investigation and takes a liking to Dru. 

Besides descriptions of mouth-watering meals eaten by Dru and Lake, the couple’s involvement and riding with motorcycle gangs during the investigation, will all keep you turning the pages to see what happens next. 

And yes, there are some great gun battles. Dru is no wimp when it comes to hand-to-hand combat or handling a gun.

I loved everything about this book. The dialogue and action ring true, and it’s obvious the author knew of what she was writing about.

Marilyn aka F. M. Meredith

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Writing Advice from Two Pros

I recently attended the San Joaquin Sisters in Crime meeting where Simon Wood and Catariona McPherson were the guest speakers. Both were charming and were there to promote their latest books. However, during their talk, they dispersed some nuggests of writing advice.

Both of these authors treat writing as their full-jobs--an occupation.

Catriona has a goal of so many words a day--though admitted sometimes she doesn't quite get there.

Simon works 9 to 5 or 6 on his writing.

Both authors do a lot of research. Catriona admitted to writing about a place that was no longer existed, but she learned a lot about what it was like and used it all in her latest book.

Simon likes to go to the places at the time of day or night that he's writing about. He also likes to intereveiw people, people with the ssame kind of problems his characters have or professionals who understand the problems.

One thing he cautioned about was that every police department is different, so if you're writing about a real police department, you better find out what they do and don't do, have or not have.


Thursday, February 19, 2015

ROLES by Charlene Wexler

My life has had me play some diverse roles that have brought me to my latest career as a writer.
  Daughter, granddaughter, sister, friend, girlfriend, wife, mom, caregiver, grandmother, teacher, and dental office bookkeeper are some of the roles I’ve played in my life. Those roles affect my writing.

Some people think my writing is all over the map—funny, serious, murder mysteries, and a family saga. My writing varies a lot because it is affected by all of those diverse roles and experiences.

My first murder mystery, Murder on Skid Row, is predominantly set in a dental office. In Milk and Oranges, my book of serious and funny essays and short stories, you’ll see just about all the roles I’ve played in my life.

Lori, my family saga, reflects all those roles too. Murder Across the Ocean is my latest murder mystery. It deals with how a modern seventy-something woman like me and my friends might handle solving a murder. Not by sipping tea like Miss Marple, good as those mysteries are.

People find that they relate to my writing. Take my book Milk and Oranges. The section “How’s Your Love Life?” features fiction that causes women to nod their heads in agreement. “Family and Friends” describes some of the fun and quirky characters in my life and makes you think of similar loved ones in your own world. The “Animal Magnetism” section shares some stories about animals that pet-lovers enjoy. “The Cruel Club” section is about death, a subject we all deal with at one time or another. And “The Passing Parade” section offers a few observations to which readers who’ve been around the block for a few decades can relate.

Lori, my family saga, affects people the same way. It deals with family and friends, divorce, alcoholism, infidelity, homosexuality, the judicial system, the Holocaust, financial booms and busts, and cancer.

But it’s not a downer. It’s the story of a woman gaining strength she never knew she could achieve and of victory over diversity. You could describe Murder Across the Ocean the same way

My writing features tragedies and triumphs to which every reader is able to relate. Whatever I write seems to trigger interesting memories in my readers, and I hope my writing helps give them the confidence to deal with whatever is going on in their own lives

A critic once said that Murder On Skid Row doesn’t follow the typical murder mystery format. 

That’s actually one of the best things anybody ever said about my writing. I hope my novels, essays, and short stories don’t follow a typical format. If you’re just going to do what everybody else does, why bother?

So, my latest role is to be different. For most of my life I was more of a conformist. This is more fun!

A clash of cultures. A domineering mother-in-law. An alcoholic husband. A fatally ill child. The possibility of economic ruin. 

            The sheltered, comfortable, liberal upbringing undergone by Lori in the North Shore suburbs of Chicago in the United States did not prepare her for marriage into the difficult and quirky working-class family of her husband, Jerry—or for the sweeping societal and social changes of the last quarter of the 20th century.

            Lori deals with relationships between family and friends, divorce, alcoholism, infidelity, homosexuality, the judicial system, the Holocaust, and financial booms and busts. Most importantly, it deals with cancer from the points of view of both the victim and the survivors.

            Lori’s seemingly perfect suburban world is in constant peril. Fortunately, her lifelong best friend, Adele, is there every step of the way to provide support and advice—until Adele faces her own tragedy. When separated from Adele by thousands of miles, Lori also finds she can count on her new friend, Rain—an ex-flower-child with a surprising connection to Lori’s past that holds the key to Lori’s future.

            Lori is the story of a woman gaining strength she never knew she could achieve, and of victory over adversity—a story with tragedies and triumphs to which every reader will be able to relate.

Seventy-something American Lori Brill thought she’d have a pleasant, uneventful vacation in London visiting her granddaughter, Cate.

Lori’s trip started out even better than she could have imagined when she ran into Josh, her old high-school boyfriend, in line for the same flight at the airport—resulting in an unexpected night of passion in a London hotel room. Lori was all smiles as she stepped out of the shower the next morning, ready to slip back into Josh’s arms—until she saw his bloody corpse lying in the bed where they had made love only a few short hours before.

The London police naturally suspect Lori of murdering her lover, but the case becomes more complicated when it is discovered that international ladies’ man and real estate mogul Josh has swindled millions of dollars from hundreds of people—a fact that broadens the case beyond the Scotland Yard team led by Inspector Geoffrey Holmes and brings in American FBI agent Jordan Gould.

Also on the case are Lori’s granddaughter Cate and Cate’s fiancĂ© Joseph, two London solicitors. Complicating matters are Cate’s and Jordan Gould’s growing mutual attraction as the investigation progresses; another growing mutual attraction between Lori and Inspector Holmes; and Lori’s family’s unexpected connection to Joseph’s father, Lord Roger Lunt, and to the wealthy German nobleman Baron Joseph Braun and the horror of the Holocaust.

So who killed Josh? Was it Josh’s beautiful girlfriend Suzi, who unexpectedly appears in London? Was it Josh’s Chinese financial backers? Was it British mobsters, led by the evil Roland McKeifer, who kidnap Lori in an attempt to find Josh’s hidden millions? Was it Baron Braun, who summons Lori to Germany to tell her a 70-year-old secret? Was it someone whose money had been stolen or heart had been broken by Josh? Or was it someone else? Find out in Murder Across the Ocean.

Biography of Charlene Wexler

Charlene Wexler is a graduate of the University of Illinois. She has worked as a teacher and dental office bookkeeper and as “a wife, mom, and grandmother,” she said. In recent years, Wexler’s lifelong passion for writing has led her to create numerous essays as well as fiction.

She is the author of the books Lori, Murder Across the Ocean, Murder on Skid Row, and Milk and Oranges.

Her work has appeared in several publications, including North Shore Magazine; the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Dentistry’s Vision magazine; Alpha Omegan magazine; the book and CD Famous Poets of the Heartland: A Treasury of Beloved Family Poems, Talent, OR: Famous Poets Press, 2014; and the Gazette newspaper of Chicago.

She also has had essays and fiction published on the websites, The Best Short Stories (, Cat Stories (, Cats and Dogs at Play (, End Your Sleep, Funny Cat Stories (, Funny Cats Playing (, Funny Passport Stories (, How Old is Grandma? (, Laughter Is My Medicine (, Moral Short Stories-Ethical Tales (, One Bright,, Short Stories for Women (, True Cat Stories (, and Way Cool

Wexler’s first novel, Murder on Skid Row, was published in 2010. It is the story of a double-murder on Chicago’s Skid Row in the 1960s. Murder on Skid Row won an international Apex Award of Excellence from Communications Concepts, a writing think tank outside Washington, DC.

Published as an e-book on Smashwords and as a print edition by Central Park Communications in 2012, Milk and Oranges, is a collection of her short fiction and essays examining life, love, and the tragedy and comedy of the human condition. Whether she is tackling fiction or essays, Wexler writes from the heart. With a keen eye for detail and a way of looking at the world a bit sideways, Wexler’s writings in Milk and Oranges entertain while they make you think.

Milk and Oranges received a Bronze Award in the Women’s Issues category of the eLit Book Awards competition sponsored by the publishing services firm Jenkins Group Inc. of Traverse City, MI, and a rare international Grand Award in the Apex Awards competition by Communications Concepts in 2012.

In 2014, Charlene published two novels as e-books on Smashwords and Amazon Kindle: Lori, a family saga spanning several decades, and Murder Across the Ocean, a murder mystery set in England. Murder Across the Ocean also is available from Amazon as a paperback.

Her short story Abracadabra Magic received a “Very Highly Commended” rating in the Tom Howard Prose Contest, 2009.

Wexler is active with the Alpha Omega Dental Fraternity, the Authors Marketing Group, the Chicago Writers Association, Children’s Memorial Hospital philanthropy, the Geneva Lake Museum, Lungevity (an organization that fights lung cancer), the McHenry Bicycle Club, the Museum of Science and Industry, the Mystery Writers of America, the National Council of Jewish Women, the Richmond IL Book Club, the Jewish United Fund, and the University of Illinois Alumni Association.

“I have always used writing as therapy,” Wexler said. “Now I have the time and opportunity to pursue it as a career.”

Her advice for other aspiring writers—even grandmothers like herself—is to “follow your dream. You can do it, and it’s never too late.”

Tuesday, February 17, 2015


I’ll admit:  my favorite parts of the writing process are research and editing. Writing that first draft? That’s my version of walking through water deep enough so it’s hard to keep your head above the waves.

So when I started thinking about writing a new series I first thought about what I’d like to learn  about. The bigger excuse to do research, the better!

I thought about writing an historical series. I even picked a time and place. (I won’t share more, since I still may write that series!) But my first mystery series (the Shadows Antique Print series) had a background of antique prints, so I decided to explore another area of antiques or art in my new series.
I thought of many possibilities. Antiquarian books had been done. China and glass didn’t fascinate me. Some antiques were wonderful, but I didn’t think I could sustain interest in them for a whole series. I kept thinking, as I walked through antique shows and attended auctions. And then, at a show in Vermont, I saw an entire booth full of samplers.  

I’ve always loved old stitching:  I grew up with samplers on the walls of my home, and as a child I saw them at the antique shows I attended with my grandmother, whose expertise was in old dolls and toys, but who also loved the “womanly arts” of embroidery, tatting, knitting, and needlepoint. She tried to teach those skills to me, but, sadly, my skills were with words, not needles. (I can knit pretty well, but that’s the end of my needle craft skills.)

In past generations, women were expected to know how to sew. Embroidery was an embellishment; a way to demonstrate high levels of those skills, as well as a woman’s artistic creativity. Needlepoint decorated clothing and homes. (In Elizabethan times wealthy families often retained men or women whose only job was to embellish wall coverings, bed hangings, gowns and vests.)

I knew those things. But I didn’t know much else about needle crafts. If I wrote a series with a background of needlepoint, I’d have a great excuse to learn more. A visit with the head of the Textile Division of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston convinced me: I’d found the background for my series.

And, since I was still learning about needlepoint, I decided my protagonist, Angie Curtis, would also be learning.

So Angie’s grandmother, an expert needlepointer, has a small Maine business with several employees who do custom needlework for designers and high end shops. One of the needlepointers is also an antique dealer, and she suggests they also identify and restore antique needlework.
The Mainely Needlepoint series was born.

In TWISTED THREADS, the first book in the series, Angie Curtis is called back to Haven Harbor, Maine, where she grew up … and where her mother disappeared fifteen years ago. Now her mother’s body has been found and Angie, who’s been working for a private investigator in Arizona, is determined to find her mother’s killer. To do that she has to face her own past, and get involved with her grandmother’s needlepoint business.

And I’m sharing the results of my research not only with Angie and the others in Haven Harbor, but with my readers. At the beginning of each chapter I’m including a quotation about needlework, or words from an early sampler. A glimpse of the past, although the mystery is today. In some books Angie will even find clues to the killer in needlework.

Am I having fun? Absolutely. And I’m learning a lot along the way.  I hope my readers will enjoy the result.

In addition to the Mainely Needlepoint series, Lea Wait is the author of the seven-book Shadows Antique Print mystery series, and has written five historical novels for young people. She herself is a fourth generation antique dealer, and lives on the coast of Maine with her artist husband, Bob Thomas, and their black cat, Shadow. To learn more about Lea and her books, see her website, She also welcomes readers to friend her on Facebook and Goodreads. The second in the Mainely Needlepoint series, THREADS OF EVIDENCE, will be published in August, 2015, and is now available for pre-order at bookstores and on-line.  

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Planning Another Blog Tour

Fool that I am, yes, I'm working on another blog tour for my latest Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery, Violent Departures.

The first step is to find people willing to host me. I've reached out to several and also asked other Oak Tree Press authors if they'd like to be one of my hosts. Some have given me ideas about the subject for the post--others have left it up to me.

One big decision I made was to keep the tour a bit shorter than the last one--this will have 20 stops, beginning April 1.

I'll have two prizes--one will be to have a character named after him or her in the next RBPD mystery and the other, to choose an earlier book in the series--either paper or for Kindle.

Next step, of course, is always to start writing the posts with the goal to make them interesting enough for people to want to read them--but to keep them fairly short. This is always more work than I realize and especially hard when I'm also trying to write a book in my other series.

So, you ask, why do you do it?

Not sure, but I'd say that it is a challenge. And I always see an uptick of sales when I'm on a tour.

So be looking forward to April 1 when I being this tour. 

Marilyn aka F.M. Meredith

For anyone who hasn't guessed, I borrow a lot from Ventura for my fictional Rocky Bluff.

Friday, February 13, 2015

PEARL HARBOR BLUES by Victoria Heckman

It all began (for me) when I moved to Hawai’i to attend the University of Hawai’i at Manoa.  It was love at first sight.  I felt I had come home.  Everything about Hawai’i felt natural and comfortable, like I belonged there.  I stayed for many years, my children were born there, and when I decided to write my first novel, of course, it would be set there.  Fast forward about 10 years. 

 While living there, I went to the Arizona Memorial about once a year. I couldn’t stay away.  It always touched me that I found both American and Japanese military standing side by side, not speaking, but both quietly paying their respects, lost in the past, perhaps.  They were always old, at least to me at that time, and I knew from the bits of discussion I would hear before and after the visit, they were part of that war.
Another puzzle piece was that I thought I might continue in law enforcement in Hawai’i.  I was a reserve officer before moving there, so I checked out HPD, did ride-alongs and research. 

Ultimately, I decided it wasn’t for me, but two very important things arose as a result.  I found my best friend of that period, an HPD officer who, even after I decided not to enlist, let me go on hours of ride-alongs.  She also introduced me to another officer who was three years old at the time of the Pearl Harbor attack.  

Way back then, people lived along the shores of the harbor, and he was that little boy playing on the shore in the first part of my book.  That terrifying tale stuck with me for twenty-five years and to me it was vital that it was remembered, albeit fictionalized.
 While living in Hawai’i for so long, it was impossible not to be keenly aware of our military. O’ahu is, after all, pretty much one big military base—all branches.  I lived across the street from a military museum at one point, and again, went regularly.  I don’t understand my own fascination for WWII, particularly the Pacific arena, but some of it is my own family’s military background.  

Almost every male through my father’s generation served, and my grandfather designed the first jet.  He was in the Air arm of the Army, back when the air force didn’t exist yet.  I heard a few bits and pieces from him, but he didn’t want to talk story, as we say in Hawai’i.  None of our military men do.  I wish they were still around to talk to, because now, I think I might be able to understand, just a little.  Although this  mystery novel, Pearl Harbor Blues, isn’t set during the war, it does start there and is a little nod to all those who serve, both then and now.


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

MMA--A Family Affair

This may seem a strange topic for my blog, but from time-to-time I do write about other things than mysteries, writing mysteries, and hosting guests. And often, the other things have to do with family.

Recently, my eldest great grandsonBrandon had an MMA fight at the Tachi Palace in Lemoore.

His opponent had 9 previous matches and never lost.

Brandon had had 3 matches, lost one and won two.

His opponent trains in one of the most prestigious gyms in the area.

Brandon trained in the fellowship hall of the First Baptist Church in Springville. He's also the one who runs the MMA training. My son worked with him on his strength training. His brother did the wrestling. My grandson-in-law did the boxing. His dad was right there with all the training.

Boxing coach, Brandon, Strenght coach, and Brandon's dad.

I might add that Brandon also is one of the youth pastors at our church.

When it came time for the fight, not only did a lot of relatives attend the fight, so did many of our church members including a lot of the youth.

Immediate family support
The Cheering Section

Yes, Brandon won! They went the three rounds. It was judged the best fight of the night.

Did I go? No, I stayed home and prayed.


Monday, February 9, 2015

Forgotten Senses: Smell by G.K. Parker

Forgotten Senses: Smell

Anyone who has ever read a writing craft book or taken a course will no doubt have heard authors encouraged to use senses in their stories. Nobody disputes that fact.

Why is it then the only senses that are used with regularity are sight and hearing? And even hearing tends to be relegated to voices, phones, traffic and other cliches. Touch is not used as much as it should be, especially in novels with erotic content. Tactile touch can make any scene more sensual, but it's often overlooked or given minimal attention.

But the sense that is overlooked the most is scent. It's one of our most powerful senses, even if
nowhere near as powerful in us as in other animals, such as dogs.

How often have you caught a whiff of something and immediately had a flashback to another time and place? Pheromones, odors that are a microscopically undetectable can trigger desire and rage. Smells of all types can be powerful that way.

So why is it overlooked? I think it's because we live in a society that deems most natural smells to be undesirable. We spend billions of dollars every year to make sure our bodies emit minimal natural odors—bad breath, body sweat, stinky feet, etc. We'd rather fill our homes with the artificial odor of flowers or, ironically, a 'fresh' air smell. Artificial fresh air? Why not use real fresh air?  Because the truth is, we don't like real smells.

How often have you heard of people who buy houses on the outskirts of town because they want the illusion of living in the country. But the moment they smell the real country air, they lobby their local politicians to ban farm animals since they stink. Our homes and buildings are becoming hermetically sealed from the outside world. Germs are equated with bad smells, so we buy sprays that promise to destroy those germs and all the associated smells in exchange for chemically ‘good’ ones. Even in the face of rising allergies and asthma that has been linked to these chemicals, we persist in thinking if it smells good, it must be good.

We're so ingrained with this that as writers we tend to downplay it in our stories. This is a mistake. Use olfactory senses and your work will become all the richer for it.

As writers we’re always supposed to be aware of what’s around us. We listen in on conversations and watch people. While you’re doing that, be conscious of what your nose detects. Take a walk through a woodlot, farmers market or down an alley with dumpsters a day before pickup. Think about the odors, then try to think of words you could use to describe those smells.  Then take your new senses and use them in your stories. It will make them richer.

In my debut historical novel, Ashes & Ice, a great deal of the story is set in New York’s Lower East Side in 1888. The infamous Five Points of Gangs of New York fame. This was a time when plumbing was just being put in throughout the city, but for the most part only in the wealthier sections. Poor areas like Five Points still used outhouses and chamber pots, the latter simply dumped out the windows of tenement buildings into alleys that would often be filled with garbage you had to wade through it. Add to that the waste from free roaming pigs, chickens and the occasional cow, on top of what the thousands of horses in use at the time and you had an olfactory nightmare. The wonder is not that there were ongoing outbreaks of cholera and dysentery, but that so many survived and moved on to better things.

In my novel I try to capture some of that horror in the lives of my characters, Caitlin Walsh, Johnny Dorlan and the native boy, Finn Gallagher, hopefully without grossing the reader out too much. I hope I’ve struck a balance which will help bring my story to life and help the reader understand a little what it was like to live in such a place at such a time.

Leave a comment and win an e-copy of my debut historical, Ashes & Ice.

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GK Parker is an enigmatic man who keeps to the shadows where he writes dark historical fiction which explores the deepest shadows in such places as New York City's most notorious slum, Five Points made infamous by Charles Dickens and police reporter Jacob Riis, whose photographs of the Five Points and the abject poverty the residents -- mostly Irish, Jews and Italians -- lived in. They shared the streets with pigs and diseased cows where 'blue' milk was used by the poorest. disease was rampant in the Points, with cholera and typhoid being the most common.

But Parker's writing is not confined to the east coast. He's also delved into Prohibition in Los Angeles, where the LAPD didn't stop gangsters from setting up business, they got rid of them because they were competition. All major American cities had criminal outfits which made sure the alcohol kept flowing. The LAPD filled that role. It was a time period rich in stories that haven't been told yet.

When not writing or researching, Parker enjoys his Doberman Pinschers, Slik and Jake, traveling, a good brew and hunting. He currently resides in Topanga Canyon. But he's always on the lookout for new places to explore.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Lessons Learned About Writing by Patricia A. Guthrie

Good morning and thank you for allowing me to be here.  I'd like to share some of the hard-earned lessons I've discovered over many painful years of writing and discarding novels. Just ask my computer. It has to store those painful memories.

After four failed attempts and two published books, "In the Arms of the Enemy" and "Waterlilies Over My Grave" I've learned many vital lessons. Probably the most important is:  

Research, research, research.  

After the first of the year and my yearly New Year's Resolutions, I decided to take my own (and others') advice and put myself to the test. I cleaned out and organized my computer. I cleaned out lots of old websites and blogspot addresses, many which no longer existed, and I waded through some of my (and others') old writing articles. I thought about the value of research and how much time it would save when we wrote our novels.

So here goes: the value of researching our novels.

We know (pretty much) what our major themes will be, where our novels take place, who our characters are and where they live, whether an apartment, house, cave, boat. Don't we?

We have a vague idea (unless we're really brilliant and we're a great panzer or have figured out the joys of outlining) what will happen to them throughout the course of the book. Where will the plot take these made-up beings? What is your story is trying to tell you. What is its theme? We do know that novels are trying to tell its reader something, don't we?

We also know that our characters have goals, why they have these goals and what stops them from achieving their goals. Then the all-important resolution. How do they overcome these conflicts. (the all important: goal, motivation and conflict. Thank you Debra Dixon for that title.)

But, do we know, I mean really know who our characters are?

What are their character traits? We all have certain traits, things we do out of habit or mind set. Why is that important? Because our habits and personality show us how we'll respond in situations. An example: My character Elena Dkany has a habit of walking out of uncomfortable situations, especially when she's angry. In "Legacy of Danger", she walks out on such a situation and gets kidnapped. If I didn't show that side earlier, it wouldn't have made her response to this flight and fight for her life scene realistic. We might think, "Huh? Where did that come from?"

There's also their manner of dress. You don't want a cowgirl type lady who wears jeans to suddenly appear in frilly dresses (except for special occasions where she wants to impress someone.) What do they wear? Is she especially fond of black?

What about their appearance? Does she have strawberry blonde hair and green eyes? So, will we forget and make her eyes blue in chapter 20? I know, because I did that to Maggie in "In the Arms of the Enemy." Had to go back and check those eye colors--and hair color. Strawberry blonde is not auburn, no matter how many ways you want to describe it and some brilliant reader will catch it. Trust me.

What about their histories? How well are they educated and where? Who were their parents? Alive? Dead? You don't want a dead father coming to the rescue in chapter 30. And being educated or not educated will give you volumes of dialogue opportunities not to mention how your characters will handle the challenges they face.  
Foreshadowing in a novel is important. In Waterlilies Over My Grave there is a constant foreshadow of water in the poem the killer keeps reciting "Annabelle Lee." Annie is staying in a house by a lake. In "Arms of the Enemy" the killer is foreshadowed in the prologue. That includes research, also.

What about the villain? Who is he? Why does he target who he's after? Is he a serial killer? What makes a serial killer? Research. What triggered their mad responses to life? Do they have any good in them? If you want him/her to be three dimensional and come alive they'd better have a good side as well as the bad. In Waterlilies Over My Grave, the villain Duncan Byrne saved a girls life when her sole support and a roof-over-her-head dies. The fact that he later tries to push her in front of a train doesn't help his image any and shows his insanity. 

 Back to where they are. In "Legacy of Danger" my work in progress, much of the novel takes place in Romania. Romania has earthquakes. As a reader, you need to know, maybe from dialogue and history that earthquakes took place hundreds of years ago and that they'd had one recently. That will make a later scene more viable when the characters run into one trying to escape. (great way to kill off a bad guy).

In other words, if someone is killed with a sword, you'd better show the thing hanging on the wall over the fireplace, otherwise, where the heck did it come from? (I read that somewhere and have remembered it throughout the years.)  

You get the idea. Research can be tedious, but it can also be fascinating. Writing about Romania has been a "writing" lifetime of experiences. I never was in that country, but I did live in Germany for a few years. And, I've done research on the culture. The old farmer driving his cows home in the shadow of a mountain with a cross and a small chapel on its peak. It was a glorious picture. 

So, do a casting call. Find a star or celebrity you could picture as your character and tack him and her on your wall. Write down your descriptions from the color of their hair, their eyes, their clothes, their hobbies, favorite meals and drinks, favorite colors, to their history and everyday lives and put the page(s) in a notebook or someplace you can get quick access. 

You'll be glad you did. 

Have a great day. 

My web address is:

Thank you, Patricia for visiting us today.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

A Series of New Thoughts by Elaine L. Orr

Starting a mystery series is kind of like picking a college. You commit to several years of your life and the relationship never really ends.

I had the idea for the Jolie Gentil cozy mystery series in early 2005, and did not publish the first book until 2011. It was sort of like the six-year college plan that tuition-paying parents dread. My delay was not weekend partying, more the desire to write the first two books before putting them out. That way, I'd really know the players.

Writers who plan carefully don't need to do this. They spend substantial amounts of time developing a character's back story and role. That could be me in another lifetime, but it's not me in this one. I like to get to know some aspects of a character as I write. Never a dull moment.

After eight books and a prequel in the Jolie Gentil series, I confess to being a tad restless. That doesn't mean the Ocean Alley friends will not appear again, but it does mean I want to start a second series. The most consistent part of the planning is that I have to like the setting and be familiar with the protagonist's occupation. I do like to learn new things when I write, but there has to be a core interest before I start.

Jolie is a real estate appraiser in a Jersey shore town because I've bought and sold a bunch of houses and learned a lot doing that, and because I love the small-town beach atmosphere. The new series will tell the story of a woman who has a landscaping business – not a career she planned, but one she will come to enjoy. I am not overly fond of mowing the yard, but I'd much rather do that than laundry. And I love to garden.

So, here come the planning questions. Will my protagonist (Melanie is her name in the first draft) be a friendly person or does she keep to herself? What makes her want to get to the bottom of something? It doesn't really work if someone is simply nosy or the town gossip. People will avoid them, and that makes it hard to dig up clues.

Who else will populate the book? I don't present myself as an expert in the mystery genre, but my humble observation is that the lone sleuth (Miss Marple, Philip Marlowe) was especially popular when readers were used to a slower-paced life. The lone sleuths tend to spend more time in their own heads than interacting with others. In the age of social media, most readers are in constant contact with others. At some level, people like to relate to a character, and they like a brisk pace.

There are plenty of modern thoughtful sleuths (I especially like Terence Faherty's Owen Keane), and I don't like mysteries that are solved by a protagonist who stumbles around until she trips over clues. To be thought-provoking to write, my protagonist has to be smart and have interesting friends, family, or colleagues.

I don't want to say more about Melanie's cohorts yet, but I will name the setting. She lives in a small Iowa town and knows a lot about rural life. I moved to Iowa in my early forties. Prior to that I had no idea which John Deere plant made equipment for rectangular bales of hay (square balers) versus the huge round masses (round balers), and why the small-bale market is increasing. (Ottumwa, and people who have farmettes don't want to move and store big bales.)

This kind of knowledge is common in parts of the Midwest—perhaps not fascinating to those in big cities, but knowledge of agriculture-related particulars is part of the ambience in Melanie's world, not the entire focus. Melanie won't be noticing sand in the tread of someone's shoe; she'll be more likely to smell manure on them. Eww!

So, lots to think about for the new series, and plans for how to put Jolie in more trouble without making it seem too mundane. I have a lot of ideas for that, including some new characters.

The only reason I can even talk about a second series is that readers have been kind enough to read books in the Jolie Gentil cozy mystery series, which I self-publish. We live in a wondrous world. Now, I've murders to plan, so back to the keyboard.


Elaine L. Orr is the Amazon bestselling author of Trouble on the Doorstep and other books in the Jolie Gentil cozy mystery series, which has eight books and a prequel. She wrote plays and novellas for years and graduated to longer fiction. Biding Time, was one of five finalists in the National Press Club's first fiction contest, in 1993. She is a regular attendee at conferences such as Muncie's Midwest Writers Workshop and Magna Cum Murder, and conducts presentations on electronic publishing and other writing-related topics. Her nonfiction includes carefully researched local and family history books, and Words to Write By: Getting Your Thoughts on Paper. Elaine grew up in Maryland and moved to the Midwest in 1994. 

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

I Took on Another Job

Those of you who know me also know that I already have too much to do. This is kind of a labor of love/

I've belonged to the San Joaquin chapter of Sisters in Crime from the beginning. In fact, I attended the first get-together of like-minded women at the Red Lobster in Fresno for the founding of this chapter and I've been a member ever since.

Because Fresno is a long way from my little village of Springville, I never served as an officer or committee members. 

When the president began talking about modernizing the chapter in different ways, especially the promotion, I suggested that we have a blog. Guess what? She asked me to do it.

Because I've been blogging for such a long time I thought it would be a cinch to set it up. Not so. I ran into all sorts of problems, including getting the URL wrong. It took me forever trying to figure out how to fix it. Then I didn't like the way the format looked so back to square one.

I'm sure as time goes one I may do some more tweaking, but for now you can find it at:
The first post was an introduction to the blog titled, Will Kill for a Story.

The next is about the coming meeting.

Every post will either be by one of the members or showcasing the coming meeting. I'm hoping for lots of member participation.


Sunday, February 1, 2015

Characters Who Have Shaped Me by Kathleen Delaney

Usually writers talk about shaping characters, about how they grow and change as the story evolves. And that’s true. We live with them, sculpt them, tweak them, change them if they let us, but we don’t always think of how they affect the reader. Oh, I don’t mean in the context of the story exactly, but how the characters themselves, their attitudes, the way they live their lives, the way they treat other people, can have an effect on someone else’s life.

My brother wrote me an interesting email the other day. He has a habit of doing that, shooting off an idea that makes me stop in mid-stream and think about something that hadn’t been there before. He had just finished re-reading Anne of Green Gables and wanted to talk about it. I hadn’t read it for years, so begged off until I could find my old copy and catch up. In the meantime, he asked what character had most influenced me during our growing up years, and why.  Now, there is an interesting question.

He said that the person he was most influenced by he didn’t discover through childhood books. Instead, it wasn’t until he was a young man that he discovered Atticus Finch. To Kill a Mockingbird has influenced millions of people in all kinds of ways over the years, but the way Atticus handled his role as a single father had never occurred to me. It did to my brother. The balanced way Atticus approached his growing children’s needs, how he listened to them, how careful he was to be firm but fair, how he brought them into the discussion of the events that were going on in the town, my brother said, influenced greatly how he tried to bring up his own children. Must have worked. They’re pretty great people.

I read more growing up than my brother did, so have earlier memories of books, characters that influenced me. Jo, of course, in Little Women, all the animal books, I remember the dogs, cats and horses more than I do any of the people. As I got older there were other characters that are forever seared into my memory. Who could forget Scarlett, kneeling in the garden, digging up roots, vowing she’d never be hungry again. Or Jane Eyre as she returns to a burned Fairfield and a now blinded Mr. Rochester, or Oliver Twist as he holds up that wretched bowl and asks for more?  I could go on and on talking about characters that I’ll never forget. But that wasn’t what he asked me. Was there one who had an effect on my life, on the way I have lived? Was there one person, one character whose behavior I’ve tried to copy? I’ve thought about that a lot. Finally, I came up with one. Pollyanna.

Stop laughing. Go back and read it again. Pollyanna wasn’t a simpering little thing who ran around with a holier-than-thou attitude. She had some real problems, but what she really had, given to her by her father, was a realistic coping skill. It was called the Glad Game.  It started when Pollyanna, daughter of missionaries, got crutches in the missionary barrel instead of the doll she wanted. Her father suggested that, instead of being so sad, she should be glad she didn’t need them. Good little girl that she was, she complied. Sounds sappy, and probably was, but what he did was throw her a life preserver, and teach her how to find one when life tried to drown her.

Everyone needs coping skills. There isn’t one of us that doesn’t have stuff thrown at us through life that we think we can’t deal with. I know I have, and these last two years, while I have learned to live without a leg, learned to walk again, learned that I can do just about anything that I did before, I’ve found they came in quite handy. Not that I’ve run around—wheeled around—playing the Glad Game, but I’ve learned you can cope with almost everything if you give yourself enough time and have some kind of life preserver while you do.

I throw a whole lot of things at the characters in my books that require pretty good coping skills. Maybe that’s why I like writing mysteries. I like to see how these people work out all those problems I present them with. In mysteries, coping is what its all about. I try to make my characters as real, and as memorable as possible while they struggle with murder, mayhem, and mind numbing tragedy. And if any one of them ever is able to influence someone’s life in even the tiniest little way, my cup will runnith over.

Thanks, Pollyanna  

Dying for a change:
First Place for Murder
And Murder for Dessert                     
Murder Half-Baked              
Murder by Syllabub             


Kathleen Delaney is the author of the Ellen McKenzie real estate mysteries. The series has been praised by Library Journal, Publishers Weekly and Kirkus. And Murder for Dessert was named a Notable Mystery by Booksense.

Kathleen’s next book, Purebred Dead, is the first in a new series featuring Mary McGill and her dog, Millie. Mary is a retired home economics teacher who now donates her time to running many of the town’s charitable events. She has her finger in every pie and a seat on every committee. The town counts on her to make every event run smooth. Usually they do, but not this time. There is a dead man in the manger of the town’s Christmas scene, a small black and white puppy beside him. Two of the local children saw a man run out of the manger. Did he see them? Are they in danger? Mary, along with Millie, determine to find out. The new series will be released by Severn House in the UK in May and in the US on Aug 1.

Kathleen lives in Georgia, close to two of her own grandchildren, along with two dogs and a cat.