Sunday, February 7, 2016

What I've Been Up to Lately by Marilyn Meredith

Yes, I've been busy--but I always am.

In the writing part of my life, I've been working on my blog tour for A Crushing Death. The schedule is set, the posts are all written and I've sent off most of them. Before I send each one, I carefully go over it, trying to eliminate all typos and other errors. From much experience, I know that I'll miss some that I won't see until the day they're printed.

I've also been working on my next Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery. I'm at an exciting part, but haven't really had much time to write. I read a chapter each week to my writing group, which means I do have to be at least on chapter ahead.

Those who are my real life or Facebook friends know there are many other things that take my time:

Number one is family--and I wouldn't have it any other way. I love my family and spending time with them.

Number two is my church. I teach a Sunday School class of 3rd through 5th graders, most boys. I've had anywhere from 14 to 8 every Sunday. Some of these kids have rough home lives--I like to remind them that Jesus loves them no matter what--I do too, but sometimes neither of us likes what they do.

I'm still active with the residential care business and write a newsletter for them once a month which means I need to keep up with all the changes that come along. I answer lots of question via email and over the phone. Plus, I write program designs for people wanting to go into the residential care business.

I'm also the newsletter editor for the Public Safety Writers Association. I gather articles from the members, edit them, and get them ready for the guru who posts thems on the website. This newsletter comes out quarterly.

I love to read, go to the movies, and have dinner out. Actually, I don't mind cooking-but I get tired of doing it. I not only like to try new foods and like to try new recipes. So you can see, I don'thave my nose to the grindstone all the time.

Tell me what keeps you busy?

Marilyn aka F. M. Meredith

Friday, February 5, 2016

My Favorite Writing Conference

Over the years, I've attended many mystery and writers conferences. A couple of my favorites have disappeared.

Organizing and putting on a conference or convention is a major undertaking and depends upon willing volunteers. Sometimes, the volunteers wear out or get too old, leading to the demise of the event.

The two biggest mystery cons, Bouchercon and Left Coast Crime are going strong. I've attended many of both and they are great if you like to see many mystery writers and fans gathered together. Both are big events with lots of people. 

This year I'm only attending one conference and it's my favorite, the Public Safety Writers Association's writing conference. This one is small with only one track, and believe me everyone stays for everything.

Though the program isn't up on the website yet (will be soon), it will have a good mix of writing presentations and public safety topics, including some panels. Anyone who wants to be on a panel, just marks that on the registration form.

Something new: before the conference begins there is a writing workshop from 9 to 3. For anyone wanting some good writing tips and comments on their work in progress, this would be good to sign up for--and yes, I'm one of the facilitators.

Registration begins at 3, followed by a get-acquainted reception at 6, with snack food and a no-host bar.

Bright and early Friday at 9 a.m., the first session begins. Friday and Saturday go until 5 p.m. or so, and Sunday ends after the writing awards are handed out after lunch.

The conference is always held in the Orleans hotel in Las Vegas in July which means great hotel prices. Frankly, I never step out of the hotel until the conference is over, there is plenty to do right there, but it's easy enough to get a shuttle to go elsewhere in the evening if you're so inclined.

What I like about this conference is you really have the opportunity to get acquainted with other mystery writers and all sorts of experts in many law enforcement and other public safety fields.

And yes, you can bring books for sale.

For details and registration about the conference go to

If you have any questions, just ask in the comments.

Marilyn aka F. M. Meredith

One of our great lunch times.
Me at the bookstore with two of my books

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

On the release of my second Indie novel and what I've learned...

by Linda Hall

Its relatively easy to get your first book out there as an Indie author. You probably already have that one novel in a drawer which has been through the rounds of agents, editors, elevator pitches, and fifteen-minute-conference-sessions-with-experts. Despite all the good advice, you still dont have a publisher. So you decide to follow the lead of many modern authors and self-publish it. After hiring a cover designer and editor, its out there. And it wasnt so hard. Its really not rocket science. Getting that second one out there, however, and the third one, the fourth, can be more challenging.

After publishing twenty mysteries with traditional publishers in the Christian/Inspirational market I was ready for a change. I wanted to branch out and write not romance, but mainstream mystery. Everyone was down on the idea, though. My agent told me I would lose readers. Writer friends would say, “What if you lose your fan base. Do you really want to do that?”

Yes. I really wanted to do that. If I had to stay one more day in Inspirational Romance, well, Im afraid I would go screaming into the night with my can of spray paint.

When my agent couldnt sell it, my only recourse was to strike out on my own and publish it myself. Well, I digress, I did publish something else first. As a sort of experiment, I put together a bunch of short stories that Id had in drawers and notebooks and file cabinets and entitled it Strange Faces. That was a few months before I released Night Watch. I guess I wanted to see what would happen. When the sky didnt fall, I got Night Watch ready for publication.

Night Watch, the first book in my new mystery series had gone through so many edits and agent edits that I was pretty confident of the story and the solidness of the writing.

That was fall of 2014, and then it hit me. I was in this. I had to come up with a second book. Fans were already emailing me! With a bit of fear and a lot of trepidation I started on The Bitter End. But, this time I was really on my own. I had no agent to bounce ideas off of, no in-house editor to brainstorm with.

I used NaNoWriMo to get the bones down for the story. I rewrote and polished and rewrote and polished and paid for a professional editor and cover designer was able to release it this past November, just about a year after I started it. Now, Im working on a third. Maybe there will even be a fourth.

Heres what Ive learned:

1.As an Indie author, you are chief cook and bottle washer, table setter, waitress and sign painter and ad copy writer. You are everything. If there is a typo, you cant shake your head and say, “Oh, that stupid publisher of mine.” But have no fear, there are a whole lot of good people (editors, designers, formatters, publicists) out there waiting for you to hire them. 

2. Write your heart. I had all sorts of people, which included fans and readers, who wanted me to continue in Christian romantic suspense. I could not. My heart wasnt there. (Cue the spray paint.)

3. Use NaNoWriMo each November to get down the skeleton of the book. At the end of that crazy month you will be surprised at how much work is done on the book.

4. Hire professionals. I shouldnt even have to say this - but get professional editors, cover designers, formatters, proofers etc. 

5. Schedule your days as if you had a contract. Back when I was writing for publishing companies, my normal output was a book every twelve to 18 months. Im a slow and careful writer, and it does take me that long. No matter what I do, I can’t make that timeline any faster. The time it takes is the time it takes.

6. Dont let people tell you that good writers always outline. Dont let people tell you that good writers write never outline. Your book is your baby. About a hundred years ago when I was a young mother and had small babies, I remember all of the “advice” that threatened to turn me into a neurotic new mother. I finally learned to simply smile and thank  people for their unsolicited advice, and then do my own thing regarding my child. Your book is your baby. You know whats best for it. 

7. Give yourself permission not to do any of the above. Writing should be a joy not a burden.

Linda Hall
Award-winning author Linda Hall has written twenty mystery novels plus numerous short stories. She has written eighteen novels for traditional publishers like WaterBrook Press, Random House and Harlequin. In the last couple of years, however, she has decided to go it alone, and is now Indie publishing her mysteries and stories, and loves the freedom and control this brings.
Most of her novels have something to do with the sea. She grew up in New Jersey and it’s along it’s shorelines that her love of the ocean was born. during the summer they basically move aboard their 34’ sailboat
Linda has achieved the rank of Senior Navigator, the highest rank possible in the national boating safety organization. CPS. Her Senior Navigator diploma hangs proudly on her  office wall. What this means is that she knows how to use a sextant and can ‘theoretically’ find her way home by looking at the stars.
Her new mystery series, Night Watch and The Bitter End feature a female boat captain who happens upon mystery and murders on the high seas.
During the summer she and her husband basically move aboard their 34’ sailboat aptly named Mystery. and sail down from their home province of New Brunswick, Canada
She and her husband Rik have two grown children, seven grandchildren and one very spoiled cat named Captain Hook.
The Bitter End -

Twitter: @writerhall

Monday, February 1, 2016


So, as I was trying to decide what to write for this post, I took a very unscientific and short poll of the people around me.  I asked; What’s one question you’ve always wanted to ask a writer?
The results were…interesting.
You see, unlike a lot of full-time writers who work from home or coffee shops, I’m lucky enough to have a co-working space near my home.  Co-working is a relatively new concept where people who are freelancers, or who spend a lot of time telecommuting, can have access to a shared workspace outside the home without the expense of trying to rent a whole office.  I know, working from home sounds fantastic, but after awhile with no one to talk to but the cat and the fridge, it can get a little lonely.  And the laundry can start to seem more important than meeting the deadline.

On top of that, there are fewer people you can consult when it comes to questions for blog posts.

The question my co-workers agreed on was this:
Do you start at the beginning, the middle, or the end?
That one’s interesting for me, because it’s entirely different when I’m writing mysteries than all the other kinds of writing that I do. 

I’m a multi-genre author.  I have at one time and another written Young Adult, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror and Romance and a few things that cross the boundaries between them.  I love them all, but I have to admit, mystery has a special place in my heart.  I’ve always read mysteries and loved mysteries.  I grew up on Sherlock Holmes, of course, and there was this strange story my dad gave me called The Nine Wrong Answers by John Dickson Carr that I must have read a dozen times.  I discovered Agatha Christie browsing the shelves at my grandmother’s house in the country.  I found Dorothy Sayers in college and I was recently introduced to the wonder and delight that is Josephine Tey. 

But when I’m writing mysteries, I do the one thing I don’t do when I’m reading them.  I skip straight to the end.
Okay, maybe not straight to the end, but pretty darned close.  I will sketch out a few beginning scenes to get an idea of who I’m “talking to” and where things are happening.  There will probably be some research at this time, and, if I’m writing about someplace like Portsmouth, say, where I’ve visited (and loved), but don’t live, there’ll be a lot of time with Google Street View.  Of course, there’s always going to be something new about the means, the motive or opportunity that has to be — you will forgive the expression — dug up. 
But as soon as I’ve got some names and faces, I flip through straight to the end, and I write those chapters, solidly and in detail.
Why?  I don’t do this with anything else I write. In fact, I kind of can’t.
But mysteries are different.  For every scene in a mystery, there are actually at least two scenes.  There’s the scene on the page, where all (well, most) of the characters know is going on in front of them.  Then, there are the invisible scenes, which are just as important, if not moreso.  The invisible scenes are the ones that are happening inside the characters, based on the things only they as individuals know. These scenes underpin the entire book, and drive the plot.  The only way I can write them properly is if I know where the plot is going. This means I have to have the ending solidly fixed in my head before I can write the beginning.

I suppose it makes sense, though.  I mean, what is the first, and last question in a mystery?
If I don’t know that, how can I tell you my story?
Thanks for stopping by, and here’s hoping you enjoy the latest.

Delia James writes her magical mysteries from her home near Ann Arbor, Michigan, assisted by her loving husband, Tim, her magnificent son, Alex, and her vocal cat, Buffy the Vermin Slayer. 

A Familiar Tail is the first of her Witch’s Cat mysteries.  To hear more about the series and read a sample, you can go to, where you’ll be able to seen the latest news, order the latest book, like her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter.

A FAMILIAR TAIL (Witch’s Cat #1)

Unlucky-in-love artist Annabelle Britton decides that a visit to the seaside town of  Portsmouth, New Hampshire, is the perfect way to get over her problems. But when she stumbles upon a smoky gray cat named Alastair, and follows him into a charming cottage, Annabelle finds herself in a whole spellbook full of trouble.

Suddenly saddled with a witch's wand and a furry familiar, Annabelle soon meets a friendly group of women who use their spells, charms, and potions to keep the people of Portsmouth safe. But despite their gifts, the witches can’t prevent every wicked deed in town....
Soon, the mystery surrounding Alistair’s former owner, who died under unusual circumstances, grows when another local turns up dead. Armed with magic, friends, and the charmed cat who adopted her more than the other way around, Annabelle sets out to paw through the evidence and uncover a killer.

Friday, January 29, 2016

A Short Break in Guest Posts

Hasn't this been great? An opportunity to meet so many authors and read about their great books? What's that great saying: "So Many Books, So Little Time", it truly fits in this situation.

While all this has been going on, I've been working on my next Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery and gearing up for the launch of my next Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery, A Crushing Death, which will appear in March--not sure exactly when.

I can't believe it's #12 in this series. I'd found a great photo for the cover, but didn't know where I got it, so we had to go for another--but this one fits. There is a condemned pier in the story, and this pretty much gives the impression of having seen better days.

And yes, I've been planning another blog tour--more about that later.

I've also been slowly, but surely getting some in-person events lined up.

The first one will be in March--fingers crossed that I'll actually have books by then--when I'll head over to the coast to speak to the Central Coast Sisters in Crime about, drum roll please, Putting Together and Promoting a Blog Tour. That's scheduled for March 26 at 10 a.m. at the Nipomo Library.

I belong to the Central Coast Chapter but don't live near there so I don't get to meetings often.

A high school teacher emailed and asked if I'd come speak to a couple of her classes about writing--of course I said "yes." I only know it'll be in April.

I'm also going to have a booth at the Jackass Mail Run here in Springville--it's only a half day affair--also an April event.

The only conference I'm planning to attend this year is the Public Safety Writers Association's which is always held in July in Las Vegas.

I'm sure as time passes, I'll have a lot more appearances to add to my calendar.

Marilyn aka F. M. Meredith

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Keeping a Series Alive, by Amy Bennett

It's hard to believe that just three years ago, the Black Horse Campground mystery series was just getting its start with the first book, “End of the Road”. Corrie Black, Rick Sutton, and J.D. Wilder were about to make their debut into the world and no one knew where their adventures would take them in future books.

Four books later, I'm still trying to figure out where they'll be next!

In “End of the Road”, a newcomer to Bonney County arrives in time to be suspected of murdering a long-time guest at the Black Horse Campground. Not only does J.D. help solve the mystery, he finds himself being accepted as a member of the Black Horse—and Bonney County—by Corrie and Rick and other lifelong residents. Over the course of three books, J.D., and my readers, have come to know and love life in Bonney and enjoy a relationship with its most interesting residents.

In the fourth book, “At the Crossroad”, due out soon, J.D. is firmly established as a resident of Bonney and his fierce sense of protection and loyalty come into play when he suspects that a killer has walked free for many years among the community that has become his haven from his former life. As J.D. feels more at home in Bonney, secrets from his past begin to come to light and he finds acceptance and peace despite the mysteries he helps to solve.


Trouble often comes in threes. It's no different at the Black Horse Campground.

On his first day as detective with the Bonney Police Department, J.D. Wilder finds three cold case files on his desk—three women who have disappeared over a fifteen year period at five year intervals. It seems that no one has ever taken the cases seriously... or even properly investigated them.

Then J.D. receives a visit from two former colleagues who inform him that he's about to receive another visitor; a woman from his past who is in trouble and needs his help. Again. The timing couldn't be worse, since he's finally about to ask Corrie on a date, but then Corrie also has a visitor from her past show up... someone who's hoping for a second chance with her. In the meantime, Sheriff Rick Sutton has his hands full dodging his ex-wife, Meghan, who insists on discussing personal business with him... business that has to do with digging up a painful past.

When three bodies are discovered that prove the missing women were murdered, J.D.'s investigation reveals that all of their visitors have some connection to the victims. But which one of them killed three women... and is prepared to kill again?

When trouble comes to Bonney County, Corrie, Rick, and J.D. band together to protect each other and their community. But can they solve the mystery before the murderer strikes again?

Excerpt from Chapter 14

J.D. returned to the Black Horse more wide awake than he had been in days. Amato's words rang in his ears, while a voice in his head warned him that if he didn't get some rest, he was going to be completely useless when the time came to have his wits about him and his energy. Still, a night spent in mostly inactivity wasn't going to allow him to rest. He went into his cabin and changed into his running clothes. He needed to release some tension and energy if he was going to rest at all.

He slipped out of the cabin, casting a glance toward the campground store. It was almost six thirty a.m. and Corrie's apartment light was on but the store's lights were still out. He had missed the Friday night fish fry dinner, but he hoped to be back once she was open and be able to talk to her more. And get a decent breakfast.

He started out, following the path he'd taken a couple days earlier. The cool morning air was amazingly refreshing, helping clear his mind while invigorating and relaxing him at the same time. His breathing eased as his strides became more purposeful. He was near a breakthrough in the cold cases. He could feel it. Officer Amato had information that could help reveal the truth about what happened to the three women. After that... he'd have to wait and see.

He rounded the curve where he had seen the small cemetery the last time he had run this path and he slowed to a stop. He had pushed it to the back of his mind and had all but forgotten about it until this moment. Now was as good a time as any to pay his respects. His run had already accomplished its purpose. He knew he'd be able to sleep when he got to his cabin and he'd probably stroll back to the campground after this. He allowed himself a grin as he left the path, picking his way through the tall grass and brush to where the grave sites were.

Unlike most small cemeteries he'd encountered, there was no fence surrounding this one. In fact, there were only three wooden markers, crosses, all of them uniform but in different stages of weathering. He stopped when he got close enough to make out the lettering and suddenly the breath rushed out of him, leaving him feeling weak and dizzy with shock.

The first marker, the most faded, bore the name Carla Sandoval. The second, Rosalie Edwards. The third, the one with the least amount of weathering and the least faded lettering, read Benita Rojas.
Beside the one for Benita Rojas was an open grave. A plain wooden cross lay nearby. Both looked recent. Only a few days recent.

J.D. stumbled back, afraid that his eyes were playing tricks. He fumbled for his cell phone and let out an expletive when he realized he'd left it in his cabin when he changed his clothes. He reached the path and took off at a dead run back to the Black Horse Campground.

He'd been right; there had been more to the disappearances than what was common knowledge.

He hated it when he was right.

Author Bio

Amy Bennett's debut mystery novel, “End of the Road”, started as a National Novel Writing Month project in 2009.  It went on to win the 2012 Dark Oak Mystery Contest and launched the Black Horse Campground mystery series, followed by “No Lifeguard on Duty” and “No Vacancy”, which have both been awarded the Catholic Writers Guild Seal of Approval. “At the Cross Road” is the fourth book in the series.

When not sitting at the laptop actively writing, she works full-time at Walmart of Alamogordo (not too far down the road from fictional Bonney County) as a cake decorator and part-time at Noisy Water Winery in Ruidoso (where you can find some of the best wines in the state of New Mexico, including Jo Mamma's White!)  She lives with her husband and son in a small town halfway between Alamogordo and Ruidoso.  Visit her website at  and The Back Deck Blog at

Monday, January 25, 2016


I recently heard a presidential candidate make a statement in a debate that has stayed with me. In justifying his qualifications for the office, he said, "I know what I don't know."

To most ears, that would sound like an oxymoron, but the implication was that, as the leader of the free world, he would do his due diligence before deciding on any course of action. He was willing to admit that he had a lot to learn. In other words, he knew what he didn't know, and he was willing to admit it—and to seek out the best sources to round out his knowledge base.

I soon began thinking about applying his comment to writing. From personal experience, I know about rodeos, horses, llamas, hospitals, and libraries.  That was a good start when I began to plan Checked Out, the second book in my Aimee Machado series. As I started filling pages, I sometimes found myself needing to know something that was not a part of my personal knowledge base. When that happened, I knew what I didn't know.

As a former library worker who spent many hours on the Reference Desk, I've developed great respect for the concept of primary sources. That background has served me well and saved me from embarrassing myself in print. At least so far.

The Internet world gives us easy access to resources. It's hard to imagine anything that could not be found there. The trick is to know what we need to know. If we see another crime writer describe the "smell of cordite" after a gun battle, do we assume that we can use that same sense of smell in one of our own scenes? No, no, no! A quick search of cordite will tell you that the smell of Cordite in the air is erroneously mentioned in modern fiction. Turns out cordite hasn't been made for the past seventy years and hasn't been used in firearms for several decades.

Unfortunately, too many contemporary writers don't know the difference between cordite and gunpowder. In a recent TV episode of Elementary, Sherlock Holmes mentioned smelling cordite. But don't blame the actor who spoke the line. The writers obviously didn't know what they didn't know about cordite.

This faux pas is a perfect demonstration of why we writers mustn't blindly trust secondary sources for details that are not in our personal knowledge base. An Internet search may be a start, but many Internet sources are unreliable, so when in doubt, drop in at your local library and consult a reference librarian. Or go to a primary source. How is a full body mount of a horse constructed? I asked a taxidermist. What are the pros and cons of a vegan diet? I consulted a medical professional. If you need to know something specific, someone out there can tell you. But first, make sure you know what you don't know.

Sharon St. George Bio:

I spent an idyllic childhood in a small northern California town, riding horseback and camping with my family in the nearby mountains. One of my favorite pastimes was reading fiction, and a trip to the library was always an occasion of great excitement. I’ve since traded horses for llamas, but I still trek to the high mountain lakes near my home—always with a mystery novel in my backpack.

My love of reading led me to earn dual degrees in English and Theatre Arts and to try my hand at writing. Before my Aimee Machado Mystery series was published by Camel Press, I had written advertising copy and feature stories too numerous to count, three plays, and a book on NASA’s space food project. I’m a member of Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America, and I serve as program director for Writers Forum, a nonprofit organization for writers in northern California.


When rodeo cowboy Cody O'Brien is found dead in his horse trailer, it appears that his horse, Game Boy, is the culprit. Aimee Machado, health sciences librarian at Timbergate Medical Center, has no reason to doubt the preliminary finding—at first. Cody had been in the hospital awaiting an operation the night he dies, but his checked himself out. Had he reason to believe his surgeon, Dr. Phyllis Poole, was incompetent? Or is his death related to his complex relationship with his family? It turns out his father is dying, and four people other than Cody stood to inherit: his young trophy wife, Echo, his son James, his daughter Keely, and her fiancĂ©, Tucker.
Aimee is highly motivated to investigate. She once had a crush on his brother, James, who has now set his sights on her. The missing nurse, Laurie, left Aimee a desperate phone message the night she disappeared. Moreover, Aimee's friend and co-worker Cleo has elicited her help to discredit Dr. Poole.

Aimee is already confused romantically. Although it pains her, she is trying to keep Nick, the pilot she loves but does not trust, at arm's length. But his help proves too invaluable to refuse. Can Aimee ferret out the truth without losing her job and her life?
Checked Out is the second book in the Aimee Machado Mystery series, which began with Due for Discard.