MISSED WRITING OPPORTUNITIES AND WHY by Marilyn Meredith

Not too many years ago, when our chapter of Sister in Crime and many who wanted to be mystery writers and a program chair who brought in great speakers, not only did I get some great ideas for plot from them, but also was asked to write a book for them.

One would have really been fun. Our chapter went to the nearby airport and heard and viewed all about the police and sheriff’s helicopters. We heard exciting tales about what they did and arrests they’d made. One of the police pilots seemed to focus on me while he was talking. Afterwards, he came and asked if he could speak with me.

He wanted me to write a book about him and all of his exploits. He offered to take me on “fly-alongs” so I’d know what it was like to fly all over the big city and spot criminals, and sometimes actually land to arrest them. Believe me, I wanted to do it. I took his card and told him I’d get back to him.

At the time, I owned and operated a licensed home for six women with developmental disabilities. My husband and I ran it together. The big city where the police officer and his helicopter were stationed was about an hour and a half drive from my home. Though truly torn, I knew it wouldn’t be fair to my husband or the women I cared for to be away as much as giving a book like this justice—so I turned it down.

The second opportunity was when our SinC chapter had a police detective from the coast who told us all the details about a horrible murder of a teenaged girl, by three teen boys. Afterwards, he asked me if I’d co-write a true-crime book with him about this horrendous crime. Again, to do the job right, I’d have had to be away from home far too much. However, that wasn’t the real reason I turned it down. The thought of interviewing the parents of the dead girl and those of the boys was not something I wanted to do. I know all of their hearts must be broken.

And I’ll close with the one opportunity I accepted and wished I hadn’t. I accepted the job through a ghost-writing company that I’d worked with before, to write the story of a big time but supposedly reformed drug dealer. I didn’t have to meet with him in person; we did everything through email. His story was fascinating. He managed to avoid being caught while selling to some of the most influential people in a wealthy beach community in southern California, and then his change of life style when he moved to Hawaii.

We seemed to get along fine. He was happy with what I’d written until it was time for him to make his final payment. He became verbally abusive, told the company I worked for I hadn’t written anything the way he wanted. The worst of his emails came when I was at the Public Safety Writers Association’s annual conference. I sent him an email telling him where I was and who I was with: all sorts people from different law enforcement agencies from police, FBI, NSA, etc. and I planned to seek their help. That stopped him. I never heard from him again. I have no idea if he published his book—and frankly I don’t care.

I’m not quite sure why those memories popped up, but I thought you might find them interesting.

Have any of you ever turned down a writing opportunity?

Marilyn

What I Like and Dislike About Writing

Writing is something I’m compelled to do. I’ve written in one form or another since I was around four. The first of my telling stories was in a series of pictures about the soap opera my mother listened to on the radio every morning—My Gal Sunday. While mom worked in the kitchen with the radio tuned in, I sat at a little table with a tablet and crayons, depicting what I heard.

During my grammar school days I wrote lots of stories, some were my versions of “Little House on the Prairie,” and an old series of books of my mother’s about the life of Elsie Dinsmore. I also wrote and illustrated a fairy tale my mother sent off to a publisher. She must’ve thought it was good—the publisher sent back a nice rejection letter.

My junior high years I wrote plays for the neighborhood kids to star in and a magazine which I sold to my friends for a nickel. I wrote essays, stories and poems during my high school years. I married young and was kept busy running my household and raising five children. My writing turned to newsletters for PTA and plays for my Camp Fire Girls to perform. I did write two novels during that period of my life and have no idea what happened to them.

My sister labored on our family’s genealogy and when she was done, I used it as a guide for writing two historical family sagas—a huge undertaking requiring lots of research. Both books, after a lot of criticism and work, were published. And I was hooked.

I love the writing process. Because I love to read mysteries, I started writing them. Being inside another place, seeing exciting events through the eyes of imaginary characters became my obsession. Planning the mystery, where it would take place, who would be the detective, deciding who should be a victim and who might want to see that person dead, how the person was killed, all became part of the enjoyment of writing.

I do like the editing part—though I confess to missing mistakes and I’m grateful to my editor for finding plot holes and typos.

Even after all the editing, I don’t like it when a reader lets me know about a mistake she’s found. Oh, I’m glad she pointed it out because it can be fixed, but I’m unhappy because the mistake was missed during the editing process.

Researching is often fun: talking to people in law enforcement, going on ride-alongs, attending mystery and writing conferences, meeting other writers and readers.

What I dislike about the whole business of writing is planning promotional events: making the phone call or going in-person to ask to hold a book signing in a particular place. Though I do enjoy talking to readers, I’m not happy with trying to convince someone to buy a book. If they aren’t interested after I’ve told them about it, I’m not going to push.

I like being on panels at writing or mystery cons, but what I don’t like is when one author tries to hog the whole time period for him/herself.

Though I do like some ways of promotion, I’m not fond of any that takes a lot of time away from writing and costs a lot of money. Anything effective seems to do both.

No matter, when I’m finished with one book, an idea for another is usually rolling around in my brain.

Okay, I’ve had my say. I’d like to hear from my author friends, what do you like best about writing? And what don’t you like about the process?

Marilyn

Waiting, Hoping for Things to Get Back to Normal

During this stay at home time, I’ve written and published two books, have another written waiting on critiques, and started another.

What I haven’t done is gone to writing and mystery conferences, book and craft fairs, held in-person book launches for my newly published books–and I know my fellow authors haven’t either as all these things have been put on hold.

One of my favorite writing conferences put on by the Public Safety Writers Association is planning on having their conference in July of this year in Las Vegas. https://policewriter.com/. And yes, I’ve signed up for it and will be helping with the pre-conference writing workshop.

I’ve also been thinking about planning a book talk,/signing, in my little home town. I do have a place to hold it, just need to decide the best time to have it.

Whether or not his will all happen, I have no idea–but I’m hopeful.

My two newest books are NOT AS WE KNEW IT (The Rocky Bluff P.D. series wirtten as F. M. Meredith ) and END OF THE TRAIL (The Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series.)

What about you? Is anything happening to give you hope that thing are getting back to normal?

Marilyn

Hoping for the Best

Plans are being made starting in August for  book fairs and mystery and writers conferences. Do you think it will happen?

Not being able to see into the future, I have no idea, but I can assure you that I am really hoping it will.

I’ve really missed all the in-person events.

Book fairs are a great place to sell books because the attendees who come are folks who are readers and seeking new books. I’ve gone to many over the years. One in particular I’ve really enjoyed is held in Manteca CA, and they are planning one for this fall. Another group is planning one the same day in Elk Grove CA.

In the past, the Visalia Library (much closer to home) has hosted a book fair on their large front lawn. But the library has been closed all these many months because of Covid—and I’ve heard nothing about future plans for a book fair.

I know one of the bigger mystery conventions has plans to convene in August. I haven’t heard about many other mystery or writer conferences future plans.

I’ve missed them all. Writers conferences are great, a place to learn new things about writing and what’s going on in the profession and industry. Believe me, there are always changes.

Mystery cons are more of a showcase for writers and a place for them to meet other writers and mystery fans. For years I went to so many, that each occasion was a bit like a family reunion. I met so many writers and readers and it was a delight to see them again and catch up on their news.

Public Safety Writers Association’s writers’ conference is my favorite and they are shooting for the end of September. I like this conference because so many people in law enforcement and other fields of public safety are involved.

Whether or not this is the year we’ll  see the writers’ world return to normal, I have no idea. We can always hope, though can’t we.

Marilyn who also writes as F.M. Meredith

Latest Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery, End of the Trail

Latest Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery, Not As We Knew It

An Unusual Month

Not  sure how I feel about the first month of 2021 starting off with some strange happenings. I’m hoping it isn’t a forecast of things to come.

My latest book, Not As We Knew It, made its debut. My sister ordered a book immediately, read it, and reported a couple of typos. Told my editor/publisher and she fixed them. Then my daughter read the book and found more typos and other errors. (Both said they really liked the book despite the problems.) I also heard from other who said they loved the book and ignored the typos. All has been fixed and the new version available on Amazon.

Others have bought copies, and of course, I purchased copies to sell. My editor/publisher is sending me some of the fixed copies to replace the ones with errors. I’ve offered to replace the books of others who bought from the first batch. Only a few have taken me up on the offer.

I’ve been complaining about being unable to participate in any in-person events—and in this case, a good thing, until my new books arrive. However, I was invited to give a presentation on writing at the local Art Gallery, and told to bring some books. Once a month, different artist demonstrate new techniques, and this time it was me to talk about writing. A huge article was in the paper about my appearance along with a warning that everyone had to wear a mask and social distancing would be in place.

Frankly, I doubted many, if any, would come. To my surprise the room already had about a dozen people in it when I arrived; more sat in the next room to listen. (One of the members of the art association said 20 in all attended.) All wore their masks. Among those there were a teenage boy who wants to write mysteries, a young man who is writing a book set in World War II, two older men writing their autobiographies and another writing non-fiction. None of the women spoke up about what they were writing or wanted to write, but may have been there just to support me. However, they were the main book buyers. I also gave away copies of the book with the typos and errors to everyone’s delight.

I spoke for two hours mainly about writing in general and answered lots of questions. I had a great time, and I think those who came did too. Hope I can do it again somewhere in the not too far future.

And if anyone is interested in the re-edited Not As We Knew It, it is available on Amazon for Kindle and in paper. (I write this series as F. M. Meredith.)

One more thing, from February 1-5, I’m offering Kindle copies of Seldom Traveled for .99 cents.

Marilyn