My New Book and What Erle Stanley Gardner Has to Do With It

Though I thought I was done with my Deputy Tempe Crabtree series, but after a visit to my daughter’s home in a gated community for seniors, another idea popped into my head and I wrote The Trash Harem.

It wasn’t easy. The fact that I couldn’t meet with my critique group due to the pandemic really hurt. Receiving their feed-back chapter by chapter has always helped so much and I’m considered them my first editor.

Erle Stanley Gardner

However, the ideas kept flowing, and because the story is set in Temecula, a place I’ve visited often, a thought popped into my head about a most famous writer, Erle Stanley Gardner. He lived and wrote most of his books while living in Temecula. I knew a lot about Gardner, not only from reading some of his Perry Mason books, but visiting the Temecula Valley Museum where the whole second floor is dedicated to the writer.

Not only is his writing desk available to be viewed, items from his office and other artifacts but also a multitude of photos of his ranch. Gardner’s ranch had twenty seven buildings including separate cabins for his full time secretaries. He loved camping in Baja California; he took his secretaries because he wrote even while on vacation, his doctor, and many others with him in a caravan of different kinds and types of camping vehicles. After his death, the ranch was sold, and resold to the Pechanga Indians.

I had the privilege of meeting three of his four secretaries who appeared at the Temecula museum for a celebration of Gardner. As they told those of us who had gathered, Gardner worked on four books at a time, he spoke them into a Dictaphone and were transcribed by his secretaries. When I met the secretaries who were in their eighties, they were all still lovely, bright women.

And yes, I did figure out a way for Erle Stanley Gardner to be an important part of The Trash Harem.

Marilyn

Official Blurb:

Deputy Tempe Crabtree has retired from her job in Bear Creek when friends, who once lived in Bear Creek and attended Pastor Hutch’s church, ask her to visit them in Temecula. The husband, Jonathan, is a suspect in what might be a murder case. The retirement community includes many interesting characters, any of whom might have had a better motive than Jonathan. There is also a connection to Earle Stanley Gardner as well as the Pechanga Old Oak. What is a trash harem? You’ll have to read the book to find out.

To purchase The Trash Harem https://www.amazon.com/Trash-Harem-Tempe-Crabtree-Mysteries-ebook/dp/B096KZDPH8/

Marilyn Meredith’s Bio:

She is the author of over 40 published books including the Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series, and writing as F. M. Meredith, the Rocky Bluff P.D. series. She’s a member of two chapters of Sisters in Crime and the Public Safety Writers Association.

Webpage: http://fictionforyou.com/

Blog: https://marilynmeredith.blogspot.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/marilyn.meredith

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

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