TODAY IS MEMORIAL DAY by Marilyn Meredith

Because it’s long holiday weekend, too many forget this is the day to remember all those who gave up their lives in wars for our freedom. My husband served 20 years in the Sea Bees, including 3 tours in Vietnam. We were fortunate as he came home to us, unlike so many other families who suffered great losses.

Though my husband loved his time serving his country, it wasn’t so pleasant for me. We had a big family—ultimately five children. Often, I was the only parent at home.

There was never enough money. I got my monthly allotment check and I had to buy food for the whole month and budget wisely. There were times I went to work to supplement our income. Usually I ended up splitting whatever I made with the babysitter.

The only reason I decided to share the above information, is that there are many military families still going through separation and not enough money. At this time, we have two family members who are married to service men and have children. I believe the pay is better than what it was during my time as a military wife—but I sincerely doubt that it’s enough. And for those who’ve lost their husbands (or in some cases, wives), I’m willing to bet besides the emotional struggle there are monetary ones too.

Yes, I know that is neither writing nor mystery related, just something I felt compelled to share.

At this time, I’ve been busily planning three book signings—one in my little mountain community at a local coffee/sandwich shop, one in the closest city in a wonderful chocolate store, and one at a museum in Tehachapi—the setting for Spirit Wind. This is the latest in the Deputy Tempe Crabtree series.

Fortunately, Spirit Windhas received some great reviews.

Marilyn

Available in trade paperback and on Kindle.

Voice and Word Choice by Paty Jager

Voice is the author’s style, the quality that makes his or her writing unique, and which conveys the author’s attitude, personality, and character; or. Voice is the characteristic speech and thought patterns of the narrator of a work of fiction.”

This definition I pulled off the internet helps define Voice, but I’m going to dig a little deeper.

Each genre, historical or contemporary, western or mystery, I have to think about the “voice” I need to use for each one. I know the example of voice says it conveys the author’s attitude, personality, and character- true, but that has to also fit the time period and the place- historical or contemporary western. Jeans in a historical are called denims or overalls – in a contemporary they could be call Jeans, Wranglers or Levis.

This also goes along with word choice. The writer needs to know if a word was used in 1880 or if it didn’t become popular until the 1900s. When I type a word when writing an historical, and it feels modern, I use online etymology, a website where you can type in a word and it tells you when it was first used and the meaning of the word at that time and later.

Same goes with my mystery books. I use terms that are contemporary but try to include a bit of a western feel or voice to the books. I do this because they are set in rural areas and because my main characters are Native American, which also leads me to think about phraseology when writing from their points of view.

Paiute Fancy Dancer

Especially, my Gabriel Hawke character. He grew up surrounded by his culture, and therefore, has a deeper connection to the outdoors and the earth in general. While writing in his POV, I try to make sure his inner dialog as well as what he says to other characters captures that essence. 

Shandra Higheagle, while having the love of the outdoors and making pottery from clay she digs on the mountain where she lives, she grew up in a white world and is only now learning how deep her roots go in the earth. And because of this, she is easier for me to write because I can include my wonder of the Nez Perce and their culture to be reflected in her as she is coming to know more about her family.

When I sit down to write a book, depending on the genre, I have to mentally put myself in that time and place to make sure I give the best accounting of the events that are happening and told through my characters’ eyes and emotions. If you read a book from each of the genres I write, you will see there is a bit of difference in voice because I am trying to show the story through their eyes and not mine. But some of my emotions- such as my need to show injustice – will come through in every main character.

Word choice as I commented on earlier, has to do with making sure the word is true to the time and the occupation of a character or knowing what I am talking about. I don’t know how many western romance books- contemporary and historical – I stopped reading because a character grabbed a fetlock to swing up onto a horse’s back, or they grabbed the cantle as the horse started galloping. Or what really had me tossing a book…They put the halter on the horse and slid the bridle into its mouth. The writer needs to know what they are writing about. If they don’t know, they need to look it up. I spend a third of my writing time looking things up. Even if I think I know it, I still look it up to be sure. And while I’m looking it up, I might find a better word that makes the scene sound even more convincing.  

Words are what make up a book and they need to be thought about carefully. Just as carefully as the characters that are fabricated to show the story.

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What Do Animals and Children Reveal? by Paty Jager

It’s funny how having a reader comment about how having a child’s interaction with my main character shows a different side to him–a side she liked–reminded me why I put animals, and in the case of the Gabriel Hawke series children, in my books.

When I started brewing up my character Shandra Higheagle, I knew she would have a big dog, because she was going to live alone on a mountain. But then I turned that big dog into a coward, and there went her protection. Along came a curmudgeon of a woman, Crazy Lil, who came with the ranch Shandra bought. And with Lil came Lewis, the cat, who hangs around her neck like a fur necklace.

The reason for the dog for Shandra was protection, but Lewis for Lil was to show she had a soft caring side that she doesn’t show. Or want anyone to know about. As is with most women, they both have a soft spot for horses. The way Lil cares for the cat, the horses, and Shandra, shows more of her character than one would guess from her interactions with other characters.

Gabriel Hawke, the main character in my new series, is a by the book Fish and Wildlife State Trooper. His marriage failed because of his job, so he doesn’t have plans to marry again. He is a bit standoffish to people he’s never met because of his Native American heritage and the put downs he’s suffered over the years. He likes to remain aloof until he sees which way the other person will treat him.

In walks his dog, Dog. Yes, he named his dog, Dog because he doesn’t want to get too attached, but guess what? The dog is by his side whenever Hawke isn’t in uniform. He shares food with the animal and allows it to sleep next to him in his sleeping bag when on patrol in the mountains. Then there’s Jack, his horse, and Horse, his mule. Hawke believes if you name an animal what it should be, just as it has it’s animal name, it will behave as such. Hence, a mule is called Horse to keep it from having the nasty mule tendencies. Guess what? It doesn’t always work. 😉

As Hawke works to keep his relationships with two women whose company he enjoys platonic, along comes a child who steals his heart with her interest in plants and all things that deal with his beloved Eagle Cap Wilderness. His heart softening and letting the child in has also lowered his resistance to the two women. All this interaction with animals and the child is bringing him out of his grumpy, stoic trance and having him see the world in a whole new way.

When a main character’s true self can be shown through animals or children, you can bet the reader is going to become more engaged with that character and care just a little bit more about them and what happens to them.

Rattlesnake Brother, book 3 in the Gabriel Hawke series is now available in ebook and print.

Corrupt officials.

Illegal hunters.

Death to those who dare complain.

Fish and Wildlife State Trooper Gabriel Hawke encounters a hunter with an illegal tag. The name on the tag belongs to the Wallowa County District Attorney and the man holding the tag isn’t the public defender. 

As Hawke digs to find out if the DA is corrupt, the hunter’s body is found. Zeroing in on the DA, Hawke finds he has more suspects than the DA and more deaths than the hunter.

Universal Link: https://books2read.com/u/3JyooJ

The Good and Bad by Marilyn Meredith

Poppies by the dumpTraveling the road of life is never smooth. It seems just when everything is going well, a huge boulder crops up to make the way difficult.

First off, my post is late because when I was writing it on Sunday, the power went out and when it came back on I had to be somewhere else.

Health wise, I’d done really well, until I took too bad tumbles—one that required a trip to the ER, and another when I decided to stay home. After a couple of weeks I still have very sore knees and following the doc’s advice to use a cane. (Would be okay except I keep misplacing it.)

My writing career has also taken a tumble in that one of my publishers seems to have problems. Lack of communication and royalty payments has made me come to the sad decision to ask for my rights back. Which means I’ll be self-publishing one of my series, hopefully.

One of my great-granddaughters (17) had back surgery—scary, but she’s already walking and climbing stairs. (She’s a super active young woman, a mountain bike racer—that’s how she got injured, works part-time while going to school, heads up a couple of clubs, planning on college.)

One of the great-greats who lives with us (4 year-old Priscilla) has a new pet—a worm named Sylvia. How can you be upset with life, when such fun stuff is happening?

Plus after years of drought here in California we’ve had lots of rain, and now the hills are covered with wild flowers—yellow, white, and most wonderful of all, poppies and lupine are sprouting all over the hillsides.

Back to writing—I’m moving ahead with the latest book in my other series and in April I’ll be presenting at a wonderful writer’s conference in San Luis Obispo about settings and characters, and sitting on a panel about research. I’m also going to have my books for sale at a big book fair in Visalia.

Being around other writers and talking to readers about books is a great way to lift my spirits.

Happy spring everyone!

Marilyn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why I Write Mysteries by Saralyn Richard

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I love reading and writing in all genres. I’ve taught creative writing to high schoolers and adults, and I’ve rarely met a story or a writer that I didn’t enjoy getting to know, but when it comes to writing novels of my own, I choose to write mysteries. I could tell you the reasons have to do with suspense and tension, tight plots, clues, character motivations, themes of good vs. evil, or other such elements, but the truth is simpler.

I love mysteries, because in no other genre is the connection between reader and writer so vivid. When an author lays out a mystery, she is ever-mindful of the reader. She unfolds the crime and investigation clue by clue, scene by scene, in a sometimes tortuous path toward solution. She hopes that the reader is traveling along the path, enjoying the adventure every step of the way. If she plants a clue in one chapter, will the thoughtful reader recall it in a subsequent chapter? Will the red herrings be identified as such? The author hopes to strike the perfect balance between foreshadowing and surprise, so the reader is captivated and delighted.

Every single time a reader responds to one of my books, I feel a new thrill, as if seeing the story through new eyes creates a wholly new perspective, one that I may never have considered before. A mystery is an invitation to the reader to come along with the detective, to match wits with the criminal, to bring his own clever ideas to bear upon solving the puzzle. The synergy created by the author-reader partnership is intellectually and emotionally stimulating and rewarding.

In MURDER IN THE ONE PERCENT, a group of the country’s wealthiest and most powerful elite gather for a birthday party in the lush, peaceful Brandywine Valley of Pennsylvania. When one of them is killed, and almost everyone has a motive, young Detective Oliver Parrott realizes this will be the case to challenge his intellect and to test his moral compass. Figuring out who comes to the party with murder in his heart and poison in his pocket becomes an active mental exercise for the reader. As the author, I am literally one step ahead of the reader, leading him by the hand, with an enigmatic smile on my face.

Book Blurb:

Final cover w quoteSomeone comes to the party with murder in their heart and poison in their pocket…

A powerful and rich playboy, a rare but naturally occurring poison, a newly divorced woman with an axe to grind, and pressure from the former President of the US—these are just a few of the challenges that African-American Detective Oliver Parrott faces when he answers a routine call for back-up and discovers someone died at a country estate the morning after an elaborate birthday party. When Parrott learns the deceased is the wealthy former US Secretary of the Treasury and just about everyone at the party had a motive to kill him, he realizes this will be the investigation to make—or break—his career.

Buy Links:

https://www.amazon.com/Murder-One-Percent-Saralyn-Richard/dp/1626947716/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1517072668&sr=8-2&keywords=murder+in+the+one+percent

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/murder-in-the-one-percent-saralyn-richard/1127890200?ean=9781626947719

https://black-opal-books.myshopify.com/products/murder-in-the-one-percent

http://www.saralynrichard.com/bookstore/ 

Author Bio:

Galveston Author Saralyn RichardAward-winning mystery and children’s book author, Saralyn Richard, is a writer who teaches on the side. Her children’s picture book, Naughty Nana, has reached thousands of children worldwide.

Murder in the One Percent, ©2018 Black Opal Books, pulls back the curtain on the privileged and powerful rich. Set on a gentleman’s farm in Pennsylvania and in the tony areas of New York, the book introduces Detective Oliver Parrott, who matches wits with the country’s elite.

A member of International Thriller Writers and Mystery Writers of America, Saralyn has  completed the sequel to Murder in the One Percent, entitled A Palette for Murder. Her standalone mystery, A Murder of Principal, will be released soon. Her website is www.saralynrichard.com. 

Social Media Links:

My author’s website is http://www.saralynrichard.com. https://www.facebook.com/saralyn.richard,

https://www.twitter.com/SaralynRichard,

https://www.linkedin.com/in/saralyn-richard-b06b6355/,

https://www.pinterest.com/saralynrichard/,

https://www.instagram.com/naughty_nana_sheepdog/ and https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7338961.Saralyn_Richard.

I am available to meet with book clubs and organization members. Contact me at saralyn@saralynrichard.com.

Not Your Usual Suspect by Paty Jager

gabriel hawke logoThe way my mind, and I would expect most writer’s minds work, if I see a person with something interesting about them, chances are they are going to end up in one of my books.

I like to make my main and secondary characters stand out. Whether it’s their background, their mannerisms, or just the way they look. Study the people around you. No one is exactly like another. Yes, they may have the same color of hair or wear glasses. But if you look close, one may have designer glasses while another has the cheapest brand. And one may have smooth, shiny hair while another has hair that could use some conditioner or even be washed.  Both the glasses and the hair tell you a lot about that character without me saying too much.

That is what I like to do when writing. Give the readers just enough information about a character to then let their imaginations fill in the blanks.

I think if you over describe a character, you are not allowing the reader to fully use their imaginations in “seeing” your story.

Crime SceneIt’s like the scene were six people witness a crime and each one sees something different. I think all readers are the same way. Even if I did give them an exact description of a character, they would still “see” the character in their own way in their mind.

And I like to flip things around. If I see a well-dressed man with a bald head and carrying a brief case that’s normal. But I see he is wearing sneakers- that’s different. I figure out why he is wearing sneakers in my mind, then in my story, it’s a woman in her sixties, in a jacket and skirt, with sneakers and gray hair. She is wearing sneakers because she is finished with her appointments for the day and she is getting ready to walk home.  Maybe…

Now the man may just wear sneakers all the time because he is a CEO of a sporting goods firm, but I gave the spin on the woman and why she is wearing shoes to show some insight into her. She is a person concerned for her health, so she walks. And is wise enough to bring sneakers and confident in herself to be able to wear sneakers with business clothing.

Or- is she grudgingly walking because of her health. Perhaps her doctor told her she had to get more exercise and rather than “waste” time, she found she could walk to and from work faster than driving and that way, she gets her exercise and a few more minutes of work time?  There are so many ways to spin one character and so many ways to falsely show they may be the killer.

I would have to say my favorite part of writing murder mystery books is finding ways to throw the reader off and point a finger or evidence toward an innocent person. Does that make me cruel? Perhaps! But it is what makes writing and reading mystery books so much fun!

Go ahead, pick out a person and study them. How can you use something about them to create a character?

The ancient Indian art of tracking is his greatest strength... And also his biggest weakness.

MURDER OF RAVENS

Arresting his brother-in-law ended his marriage, could solving this murder ruin a friendship? https://www.books2read.com/u/bxZwMP

MOUSE TRAIL ENDS

Dead bodies in the wilderness. A child is missing. Hawke is an expert tracker, but he isn’t the only one looking for the child. https://books2read.com/u/mlYaWB

RATTLESNAKE BROTHER

Corrupt officials. Death to those who dare complain.  (Releasing March 20th)

 

Poise Versus Panic By Patricia Smith Wood

imageSince I’m a Gemini, I have many “twin” features. Sometimes I’m one side, sometimes I’m the other.

I’ll give you an example. I can often take two different sides of an argument. Not as much as I once could (I think I’m getting set in my ways), but when called upon, I can. That means I can sometimes talk myself “down off the ceiling” when I get upset about something, or am too invested in one outcome over another.

I think most of us would prefer to respond to problems with poise, as opposed to panic, but sometimes, we just don’t pull it off. I’m going to tell you about two women who did.

I belong to the Croak & Dagger New Mexico Chapter of Sisters in Crime. As most chapters do, we have an interesting speaker (or two) at each of our meetings. For our February meeting, our program chair had secured two very interesting women who just happened to also be members of our chapter. One was a medical doctor with lots of emergency room experience, and the other was a Ph.D. in biology who had been a dean at the University of Wisconsin. They would talk to us about poisons—a subject they were both well versed in. They had given the same talk to a large group of writers at a conference in Las Vegas last summer, and they graciously agreed to provide it for us.

Well, naturally, mystery writers are interested in ways to kill people, so we were looking forward to the presentation. The two experts were going to give us a slide show to impart their information. Our intrepid program chair had contacted the officials at our meeting place (a community center) and requested a slide projector and a laptop for the night of the meeting. This was not an unusual request, and we had often asked for and received equipment such as this for a program. Everything was on track.

Until it wasn’t. Our program chair showed up early at the community center and found only a projector set up in the room—not the needed laptop. She immediately contacted the front desk and inquired. She explained she had been promised the equipment would be there, ready for the presentation no later than 6:30. The two young women (volunteers) shrugged. They knew nothing. It wasn’t their job.

I arrived within seconds of these revelations. I’m the membership chair (and immediate past president) of the group. I hadn’t known there would be slide presentation so was surprised at the problem. I called my husband and asked him to bring a laptop to me which we had used a number of times for slide shows. He did. I tried to set it up, there was a problem. Nobody there knew how to fix it, including me.

If you were a presenter, how would you feel right about now? What would you do? Say you’ll do it another time? Throw up your hands and pout? That’s NOT what our two ladies did.

They used their notes (and the laptop screen) to go through their presentation verbally. They took turns, went through the list of most potent poisons and where they come from. They explained the ways in which someone might be introduced to each poison. They answered questions and thoroughly captured their audience. It was a wonderful presentation.

No, we, the audience, did not get to see the slides. I’m sure that would have been wonderful. But that isn’t the point. Some people (and maybe even me) might have lost their cool, thrown a tantrum because the equipment they needed wasn’t available, or walked out and left us without a program. Not these ladies.

They didn’t pout—they were (and are) poised. They behaved like the professionals they are. They showed us all how to react to a minor disaster.

Which is, as it turns out, to do whatever you can to fix it, but if you can’t, do the best you can under the circumstances. I must admit I was inspired as much by the way they handled the situation as I was with the actual presentation. It’s a lesson I hope I don’t soon forget.

When I grow up, I want to be just like those two ladies.