REFLECTIONS OF MY 2020 WRITING LIFE

As you may have already guessed, this past year was nothing like I expected—and no surprise to any of you because your lives weren’t anything like you expected either. For this post, I’m going to stick to what happened or didn’t happen as per my writing life.

Before I’d made up my mind whether or not to attend the two big mystery cons, Left Coast Crime and Bouchercon, both to be held nearby, the virus struck and they were both cancelled.

I’d signed up for a local writer’s conference in March, and it wasn’t long before it was canceled too, as well as the wonderful Central Coast Sisters in Crime conference in April.

My favorite conference of all, the Public Safety Writers Association’s, held in July in Vegas. was axed too. Two big book fairs in October disappeared from the calendar.  In November, I was supposed to be the speaker for the Nightwriters in San Luis Obispo—but of course, that was cancelled too. 

The only in-person event that survived was a two-day holiday boutique held in the Porterville Art Gallery, and yes, I had a booth. People wore masks and kept their distance. I sold books and others sold crafts. No one got sick.

My latest book in the Deputy Tempe Crabtree series came out, End of the Trail, and I really thought it would be the last in the series. However, I’ve changed my mind, because when I made a trip to visit my eldest daughter, I got a great idea for another  mystery in the series.

I also finished Not As We Knew It in the Rocky Bluff P.D. series. I did the forbidden and included the virus because I felt I had to—the series is in real time and to be honest, I had fun writing it.

This is where a problem came along. I’ve always had parties on the occasion of a new book coming out, held in various locations. Of course, this year it couldn’t happen. This meant all my promotion efforts had to be online, and online they were.  I did a free e-book promotion for one of my favorites in the Rocky Bluff P.D. series. It did a fairly good job enticing people to buy some of the other books in the series.

With End of the Trail it was mainly Facebook and Blog Posts. Certainly this was not nearly as profitable as doing in-person events.

What I’ve missed most is my writers’ critique group, being with my writing friends, and sharing out writing.

Lifting my cup of Chai latte, “Here’s to a better 2021 for all of us.”

Marilyn who also writes as F. M. Meredith

Guess What I Just Realized

My latest mystery in the Rocky Bluff Police Department series, Not as We Knew It, is now available on Kindle and in paperback from Amazon.

Of course, this means it’s time to promote it. Since in-person events are for the most part no longer available it means relying on the Internet to let people know I have a new book out.

I’ve always enjoyed visiting other’s blogs to talk (write) about my latest books, and as I’ve been thinking about what to write, I realized this was the second time I’ve done something odd in a mystery.

There is no murder!

What a shocker. There is definitely plenty of mystery, and as in all the Rocky Bluff P.D. mysteries, a lot about the officers and their families and how they are dealing with what’s happening in their lives. And since I’m writing in more or less real time, you can guess what the biggest problem going on that they must cope with.

And, there was no murder in my last RBPD mystery either, Bones in the Attic.

Maybe that’s a good thing since Rocky Bluff is such a small town, but I am a tad worried about my readers. Almost all mysteries revolve around murder. A missing woman is the main mystery, but other crimes are committed like happens anywhere.

The book is done and being read, waiting for the reviews to come in.

Not as We Knew It is  #16 in the series.

 Marilyn who writes this series as F. M. Meredith

My Mentor

Reading Susan Oleksiw’s post about writing mentors made me know I had to write about mine–Willma Gore.

I met Willma when I moved to Springville and joined a Porterville writing group. (I’ve belonged to this same group since 1981 though the members have changed through the years.) Willma had many articles published in West Ways magazine, Guideposts, farm journals and many other publications.

During our critique group meetings , she pointed out many ways for each of us not so well-published writers to make what we were working on better. New people joined the group, others dropped out, but Willma and I remained. I learned so much from her such as how to better handle point-of-view, making the setting real, creating believable characters, dialogue that moved the plot along and revealed character, using sounds, smells, taste, touch as well as what things and people looked like, and so much more.

We became good friends and traveling companions as we attended various writing conferences. She eventually moved to the coast where I visited her when I attended various conferences there. Time passed, we both grew older, and she once again moved, this time to be near a son in Sedona Arizona. I was able to visit her several times and sat in on a couple of her regular writing classes where she was continuing to teach writing skills to other aspiring authors.

Willma is now in her late nineties and living in an assisted living facility, where she still holds weekly writing classes. We still keep in touch via email and she’s one of my biggest fans, always reading my latest book.

I owe so much to Willma, not only for what she taught me, but also for a wonderful and long friendship.

Marilyn

Fun and Learning Something New

A lot has been going on in my life this past month. We have a gigantic fire in the mountains above our foothill home, called the Sequoia Complex Fire, and at this moment we are still on voluntary evacuation alert. The smoke is horrendous.

We had a huge family celebration for my husband’s 90th birthday despite the Covid virus. Nearly 50 relatives attended our four living children, many grands and great grands, and four great-greats, plus in-laws. It was a wonderful party. Some of the relatives came a day early and others stayed a day later. Enough time has gone by that we know no one got sick from attending.

I’ve been working on my next Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery and since it’s set in real time, I didn’t see how I could write this one without including the virus. In some ways it’s been fun because I can use all the different views people have about the Covid 19. I had the opportunity to spend some time talking to my police officer grandson, and he shared some of what he has to do now because of the virus. He was most helpful.

But I really want to share something else. I’m reading a novel, not a mystery, which has more backstory, mostly in narrative, than what is happening “now.” I’ve never read a book quite like this before. What it is doing though is really building each character and showing why each one is like she or she are now.

I don’t think I would ever write like this author has, but for this story it is certainly working. It did make me think though how I could give a little more background to some of my on-going characters for people who haven’t followed my series from the beginning.

Isn’t it amazing how we can find-out new ways of doing things from how other authors? Plus, no matter how old we are, we can always learn something new.

Marilyn

Today is My Birthday!

I never thought I’d live this long–but it’s been great. I’ve had many blessings and achieved a lot.

The celebration will be limited to birthday cake and ice cream with my family, which is perfect.

Even with the pandemic, my life has been much the same as usual except for the cancellation of all the mystery and writers’ conferences and conventions and book fairs. (And yes, I really do miss them.)

This month began with a trip to see our youngest daughter and her family: husband, two sons and their wives and children. It had been a long while since my husband and I had seen any of them. We had a great time! We ate wonderful meals prepared by our daughter and a special treat prepared by one of the grandsons.

We had wonderful conversations, played UNO and Mexican train. We spent time with four great grandkids. I learned a lot about Rumbas from a 6 year-old great-grandson who has 9 of them, and takes them apart and puts them back together. Got to chat a lot with a 5 year-old great granddaughter, and had fun with a 2 plus-year-old great granddaughter with the most amazing copper-colored curls, and met the newest great granddaughter who has just turned one.

I learned a lot about Covid 19 from a granddaughter-in-law who is a nurse at a busy hospital and sanctioned our visit. Her husband, my grandson, is a police officer and he  told me what is going on in his town. The other granddaughter-in-law is busy working from home as is her husband, my other grandson.

We couldn’t have done any of it if it hadn’t been for my middle daughter and husband who drove and accompanied us. (Neither my husband or I drive out of town any longer.)

The rest of the month has been filled with the usual: grocery shopping, a couple of doc visits (one over the phone), some work from home stuff for me and of course my writing and some online promotion.

My eldest daughter (and Facebook) has kept me up on the news about a great-granddaughter who has moved to Pennsylvania and is busy doing make-up and hair for brides and others, as well as another great-granddaughter who has started college at St. Mary’s (Notre Dame).

Because a grandaughter, her husband and three girls live with us, a lot of other interesting things happen, such as one of the great grands had a drive through birthday party which, though different, was lots of fun.

I am more fortunate than most because I do have an enormous family, and many of them live so close.

And that’s what’s going on with me this month.

Marilyn who also writes as F. M. Meredith

 

Putting the Corona Virus in My Next Book

Many have asked writers whether or not they were going to do it–include the virus in their next work of fiction. My answer at first was no, and I started writing my next Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery to be right after Christmas. But as I was writing, I realized at some point in this series I’d have to mention the virus–after all it is affecting all of us.

Another thing I considered is the fact that the virus and what it has caused may be with us for a long, long time.  It is far too big a happening to be ignored and everyone is being affected by it in many ways.

I began thinking about my ongoing characters and how they would feel about what was going on, the new rules and the restrictions. Like in the real world, because they all have different personalities, they all have different reactions. And, oh, my goodness, there is a wealth of  varied beliefs and feelings in my own family as well as on Facebook to pique my imagination as to what each of my characters might be thinking.

When I started doing that, I realized what great fun I might have. Will my police officers be good about wearing their masks when working? How do they feel about it? Who are willingly staying home? Who are resisting in a mild way, and are they a few who are completely rebellious?

Intertwining all this will whatever crimes are happening in Rocky Bluff will not only be fun to write, but a challenge as well. Do I know my characters well enough to know how they will react in certain situations complicated by the virus? I certainly hope so.

At least this is distracting me enough not to be too sad about missing all the in-person events I’d planned to go to before they were cancelled. My hope is that everything will change enough for us to see a more normal 2021, but I’m not making any bets.

Share you thoughts about all this, won’t you?

Marilyn who writes the Rocky Bluff P.D. series as F. M. Meredith

 

 

 

My Early Experience with E-Books

Final Respect full cover 2020This is the first of my books that was published as an e-book. Unfortunately at the time, there was no such thing as an e-reader. If you could figure out how to buy it (complicated) it had to be read on the computer.

E-publishing progressed, and a Rocket E-Reader came along that made reading e-books a great experience. It had many of the features of a Kindle, though bigger, it was back-lit and if you fell asleep while reading it shut off automatic. My husband and I showed the Rocket off at a writers’ convention and were disappointed at the lack of enthusiasm.

I joined an organization called Epic that was for authors who were electronically published, and these folks made up tor others not wanting to even hear about e-books.

When I went to a big writers’ conference in California where I live, I brought up the subject of e-books and was treated like a heretic. I was battered with comments like, “An electronic book is not a real book.” “A book has to be in paper and smell like a book.” People booed, laughed and made rude noises. I often wonder if any of them ever remember that time. Many of the writers who said e-books would fade away are now happily published electronically.

My first e-book, Final Respects, was subsequently published by four more publishers, both as an e-book and in paper. One publisher didn’t bother to keep track of sales, another decided not to be a publisher anymore, one died, and my last one who took over that house and it’s authors, became too busy. It’s now been re-edited and self-published, along with other books in the series.

Needless to say, I’m still happy with e-books.

Marilyn who writes the Rocky Bluff P.D.series as F. M. Meredith

To buy the e-book, Final Respect go to:https://www.amazon.com/Final-Respects-Rocky-Bluff-Mysteries-ebook/dp/B08B6F4STF/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=Final+Respects+by+F.+M.+Meredith&qid=1592840429&s=books&sr=1-1

 

 

Where Do Your Characters Come From?

End of Trail full cover

This question is frequently asked of authors. My answer is “They come from many places.”

My heroine in the Deputy Tempe Crabtree series was inspired by three women: A female resident deputy I interviewed for a newspaper article, a female police officer and single mom who took me on a ride-along and shared a lot about her life, and a native Yokut who grew up on the reservation.

Tempe’s husband is a composite of the many pastors in my life—some are relatives.

Nick Two John’s appearance came another native Yokut. (He read Deadly Omen and called to tell me I got the Pow Wow right but didn’t mention recognizing himself.)

Over the years, I’ve held contests for people to have a character named after themselves. When I do this, the character in the book is always much different than the real person. My friends and now editor, Lorna Collins, won one of the contests, and her namesake has now appeared in three Deputy Crabtree mysteries as a ghost hunter.

Another friend and fan of the series pleaded with me to put her in a book I did, in Raging Water. Because the character has my friend’s looks and personality (as she wanted), I changed her name to Miqui Sherwood. When her friends read the book, they said I described her perfectly. She has since appeared in two more books, including the latest, End of the Trail.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B087SFTC6K/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1588514254&sr=1-1

Over the years I’ve met many interesting people, sometimes I borrow their personality traits to create a character or unusual appearance or way of dressing.

And often the character appears out of my imagination, especially the villains and the victims—though bits and pieces of real people might make up a part of one.

Over the years, I’ve heard of many ways that authors have created their characters, if you are an author, where do your characters come from?

Marilyn

 

 

More Disappointment

Escape Room 2019

Not to make light of all the horrible things that are happening because of this virus that has changed all of our lives, some in big ways and for others not quite so big, but annoying or disappointing.

So many things have been cancelled including all the wonderful events of the senior year for so many high-schoolers. I have one great granddaughter who is going through this disappointment, though her family has figured out lots of ways to make the passing days fun.

For me, it’s been one writing event after another.  I truly miss my writing friends.

Today, my hubby and I, along with my 2nd daughter who drives for us, had plans to drive to Murrieta to visit our eldest daughter and her husband. We do this once a year.

While we were there, we would have spent time with two of my grandkids’ families, four great-grands including the girl who is missing the fun of the senior year. I was also supposed to go visit her brother’s freshman English class to talk about writing. I went to his 3rd grade class year’s ago.

Our plan was to visit new restaurants and some of our favorites. We always picked a movie to go see in the theater. Another highlight was for all the females in the family to go to an escape room, which we’ve done three previous years. Our choice for this year was a Wizard of Oz themed room. Hopefully, we can get together later on. (In the photo above is all of us who participated last year, 3 daughters, a grand-daughter, and two great-grands and me.)

This is all so minor for what so many are going through. I have one grandson who delivers groceries to the markets and he’s working many long hours. I have two grandsons in law-enforcement, and two granddaughters who are nurses. I’m praying for them to stay safe. Many of my relatives are not working at all because of the crisis.

It is a difficult time for everyone. And a question for you authors who are sheltering in place–are you doing more writing or less? For me, it’s spurts, some days I do a lot, others, not so much.

Marilyn

 

 

 

Self-Isolation…or Not?

Spirit Wind cover

The Governor of California has mandated that all the old folks–60 and above–isolate themselves, meaning stay home. Well, I will stay home most of the time, but I’m never isolated because my house is full of people: my husband, granddaughter, husband, their 3 little girls,  and daughter-in-law who lives next-door and is here everyday off and on. And when my son is off work–he works M-T away–he’s here off and on.

I really need to go shopping, but guess I’m not supposed to. Will see about ordering on line.

Our church has not closed its doors, and I went yesterday and will go again next Sunday. It’s a small church, we had about 25 to 30 in attendance.

My writers group is still meeting once a week and I’m going to attend.

Along with other writing conferences two I planned to attend have been cancelled.

So what will I be doing? Much of the same things I always do, and I will be writing. This virus can’t stop that activity.  Most of the promotion I’ve done lately has been on line, so I’ll still be doing that too.

We can all catch up on our reading too. Isn’t it wonderful that we can transport ourselves all over to new environments without leaving home? The book I’m reading now is set in France.

As for my writing, I’m about 3/4 of the way through my next Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery.  This one is set near where I live, though it is fictionalized, and has some interesting and quirky characters.

So what are you doing during this most unusual time?

Marilyn