Do You Ever Use Real People in Your Mysteries?

Do You Ever Use Real People in your Mysteries?

The reason I’m asking, I’m contemplating doing exactly that in my next Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery.

Oh, I’ve based characters on people I know or have known and made enough changes the person would never recognize him or herself.

I’ve used real crimes I’ve read about in the newspapers or someone has told me about, and changed the people and the situations enough that no one ever said they knew where my plot came from.

Once, at the request of a friend, I put her into one of my mysteries, described her as she is, and included her dogs and cat. The only thing I changed was her name. She loved it, and her friends all recognized her.  I even included her in another book because she asked.

As the result of contests, I’ve used the names of real people, but the descriptions and personalities came out of my imagination to fit the book I was writing.

In the next Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery, (which I just sent off to the publisher) I used two real situations I knew about in the plot, but changed both radically.

Recently, I met the strangest group of people in an even stranger situation. I don’t want to say any more because I truly want to use them in the next book I’m planning. In order to make it not obvious what I’m doing, of course the names and descriptions will be much different than they are, as will be the setting.

I’m not sure I can pull this off—but the big thing I have going for me is I know none of them read my books.

I’m eager to hear what my fellow authors have to share. And readers,  have you ever recognized a real person or situation in a mystery you were reading?

Marilyn, whose latest Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery is Spirit Wind.

Spirit Wind cover

Blurb for Spirit Wind: A call from a ghost hunter changes Deputy Tempe Crabtree’s vacation plans. Instead of going to the coast, she and her husband are headed to Tehachapi to investigate a haunted house and are confronted by voices on the wind, a murder, and someone out to get them.

Buy link:



The Highlights of June by Marilyn Meredith

As far as my writing life is concerned, the month of June has been most exciting.

Because I’m still promoting my latest Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery, Seldom Traveled, I’ve been a guest on several blogs—which of course means promoting those blogs.

My first book signing was a success mainly because I picked a popular chocolate shop in a nearby city. (We don’t have any bookstores nearby). When I first got there, a local video reporter stopped by to interview me and later in the day a reporter from the newspaper stopped by. Besides readers, a group of my family members also stopped by.

Next up came a book signing at the Tehachapi Museum, located in the town where Seldom Traveled is set. Tehachapi is about a 2 ½ hour drive from my home. I was thrilled they invited me to come.

And I have a final signing at the end of this month set at a local coffee shop in the community where I live.

As part of my ongoing promotion, I offered the first book in the series, Deadly Omen, free on Kindle for five days. Over 1,600 copies were downloaded which I feel was quite successful. Of course now the hope is that after reading Deadly Omen other books in the series will be ordered. This seems to be happening, slowly, but it is happening.

While all this is going on, I’ve been working on the latest mystery in the Rocky Bluff P.D. series, as yet unnamed.

Also, I belong to a small writers group that meets once a month. I’m not always able to attend, but this month’s meeting was absolutely delightful. We all shared what motivates us to keep on writing and where we do our writing. Everyone had such different ways of doing things.

However, my life is not all about writing. I have a big family and I enjoy spending with them. I think it’s important that writers take time off from all the business of writing and promotion to enjoy life. The great-grands that share out home and their parents, keep me busy and entertained.

To the other writers out there, what is your favorite get-away from writing?



Lately, that’s been my writing life, good stuff and not so good.

My long-time publisher for my Deputy Tempe Crabtree series has closed its doors. I asked for and received my rights back for the series and the covers. Because the cover had been designed for the latest book and new designs done for some of the older books, I was pleased.

So what to do next? I decided the best route to take with the series was self-publishing, though I didn’t really feel up to the task. One of my friends, an expert at self-publishing, is taking on this huge job. I say huge because there are 17 books in this series.

The latest book, Spirit Wind, is now published and available in print and on Kindle.

The first batch of the printed books didn’t have the appropriate headers—so I’ve used most of them as review copies—and sold some at a big discount.

A few of the other books in the series have been done, but the old publisher’s copies are still the ones upfront and available. So far, we’ve been unsuccessful at getting them taken down or at least the latest ones the first to show up.

I’d like to do a .99 cent deal for one of the series, but that will have to wait until some of the problems are fixed.

How am I feeling about all this? I’m happy the latest Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery is now available. Though a bit frustrated about some of the other problems, I’m not going to lose sleep over them. One thing I’ve learned over the years, the author’s path is never smooth. I’ve had crooked publishers, and publishers who were friends die. This happened with the first publisher of this series.

I’m going to book fairs (I have plenty of books to sell) and giving talks to writers groups and others. The promotion goes on. And I’m working on a book in my other series.

One thing I can assure you, I’m never bored. I can’t even imagine what that would be like.

The official blurb for Spirit Wind: A call from a ghost hunter changes Deputy Tempe Crabtree’s vacation plans. Instead of going to the coast, she and her husband are headed to Tehachapi to  investigate a haunted house and are confronted by voices on the wind, a murder, and someone out to get them.


Getting the Details Right


Recently I was asked to be a speaker at a writers’ conference—the topic being character and setting description. The chairperson titled it “Getting the Details Right.” Because I have messed up on the details in a few of my books, this is the perfect topic for me.

First off, two of the biggest mistakes I’ve made:

  1. Changing the type of car someone drives. In my first Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery, the car changed from a Blazer to a Bronco several times.
  2. Names of people—giving new characters in a story more than one name.
  3. Leaving out an important day of the week in a book that moved day to day through the week. (I fixed that before it got published.)

What I’ve seen in other people’s books:

  1. Giving a Japanese character a Chinese last name.
  2. Putting in details about a real city that are totally wrong. (And this is why I created my own cities even though they have a resemblance to a real place.)
  3. Setting a story in a fictional mid-west town with the wrong kind of geography and kinds of trees.
  4. Having too much happen in a much too small amount of time.
  5. Changing an important piece of description of a main character such as eye color

Let’s start with setting. I love books that clearly describe the places where the action takes place inside and out and also includes the weather (because this can be an important part of the plot), and different smells (which also can be an important part of the plot, or merely a means to evoke another sense of what the setting is like).

With characters we don’t need to know every detail of a person’s look, but enough to create a picture of the person in the reader’s mind. Along with the outward appearance, the personality is even more important. What in the person’s background would make someone do certain actions? Think about triggers to behaviors and motivations.

All of this is important, but to make sure not to get things wrong as I and many other authors have done, some means of keeping track of all these details needs to be used. Authors do this in many different ways from simply keeping written notes or an elaborate computer system. This is even more important for those of us who write series.

Anyone want to share how they keep track of the details? Or a mistake you’ve found in a book you’ve read


P.S. Though it’s been fixed now, I mixed up some character’s names in my last Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery. No one noticed ahead of time–my critique group, the editor I sent it too first, or the publisher who thought it was my best book in the series.


Yep, this is the one.




Oh, My Goodness, What We Authors Do for Promotion


After all the work we’ve put into our latest mystery, we’d certainly like to have people read it. At least that’s my hope. In order for that to happen, we have to figure out ways to get the word out. And sometimes we have to keep at it in order to try and reach more readers.

My latest Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery, Tangled Webs, made its debut last fall, but so far I only have 4 reviews, good ones, but it would be nice to have a few more. My publisher agreed to make the Kindle version only .99cents for four days, the last day for this bargain is today, January 28th.  If you want to take advantage of it, here’s the link:

In order for people to learn about this price I had to do a great deal of promotion—I found sites that promote .99 cent books and filled in all the blanks and paid the fees. I also wrote blog posts about it, promoted on Facebook and Twitter. Besides hoping to get people to read the book and maybe write a review, of course there’s also the possibility that they may read some of the other books in the series.

Besides all that, and believe me it takes time away from writing which is what I’d prefer to be doing, my calendar is filling with in-person events, places where I plan to have my books for sale. A few are close to home, but others are places where I’ll have to stay over one or two nights. And no, I’ll probably not sell enough books to pay for the trip. (I have to confess though, I really enjoy these occasions, getting to see old friends, fans, and meeting new folks.)

But that’s not the point, as I said in the first paragraph, what I really want is for people to read my books and that’s why I’m doing all these things

All right, fellow writers, I’d like to hear you chime in on this subject.

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



box celebrate celebration christmas
Photo by Pixabay on

Traditions change over the years. Since we’ve been in Springville, we’ve celebrated Christmas in many different ways—but the last few years we’ve had our family dinner and gift opening on Christmas Eve. Once again we’re doing it different—our dinner will be at 1 p.m.

Several reasons, our grandson-in-law who lives with us along with his family, learned that his grandparents from Mexico will be with other family members on Christmas Eve. So, of course he and his family need to join them

Daughter and her husband are happy because they wanted to get an early start to travel to their youngest daughter’s home to celebrate Christmas with her family.


Grandson Nick is happy because he and his family can get over to his wife’s family celebration earlier than usual.

For Dad and me, it doesn’t matter, we’ll enjoy it no matter when it is. (Plus in the morning we’ll get to see the little great-grands open their Christmas gifts.)

Our dinner will be simple too, honey baked ham, scalloped potatoes, rolls, and strawberry jello salad.

Another change is this year we drew names to buy presents for—cutting down costs for everyone

At this stage in my life, I don’t need presents, being around family is what I love most

So, what are your traditions and are they going to be the same as last year?

Christmas long ago.

This is Christmas long ago with my family, no longer live in this house, that’s me sitting on the piano bench. We opened presents one at a time–took forever. Two daughters and a son are there, but missing a daughter and son.


Why Blog?

Some folks say blogging is a thing of the past. Is it? Supposedly, places like Instagram have taken over.

Though I’m not sure blogging is the best promotion tool, I must admit that I love blogging. Many years ago, when I was a teen, I kept a diary right up until the time I started dating that cute sailor I met on a blind date. Though my life had certainly become more interesting, I no longer wrote in my diary. To me, blogging is like writing in a diary and sharing it with many others.

I not only write a post for this blog once a month, I’m a twice a month person on https://makeminemyster.blogspot and I have my own blog, where I post when I have something to share, and host other writers.

My biggest motivation for doing this is that I like to write. Yes, I write mysteries, and love doing that, but I also like to tell what’s going on in my writing life—and sometimes just life itself. On my own blog I can check and see how many people have taken a look at my posts, and I always respond to anyone who has taken the time to leave a comment.

I have used blog tours (I set them up myself) as promotion when I have a new book. And yes, there is always an uptick in sales. Not sure the sales balance against the time spent planning and writing all the blog posts—but I’ll probably keep doing it as long as I have new books.

Reading other people’s posts on various blogs is also something I enjoy—though I don’t have as much free time to do that as I once did. It’s amazing to me the great ideas different writers come up with to expound upon. Often I learn something, or pick up an idea I’d never thought of beforeSo what is your feeling about blogs? If you are reading this one, what motivated you to stop by?

And of course my most recent blog tour was all about my latest Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery, Tangled Webs.

 Written as F.M. Meredith—who of course is me, Marilyn Meredith

tangled web front cover jpeg