Monday, November 27, 2017

A Writer's Identity Crisis

I can't think of anything more frustrating than to be asked, "So who do you write like?"

I have given in to the slightly snarky response, "I write like Amy M. Bennett" but it hasn't gone over well. The inquiring party wants a name that is far better known.

The truth is, I don't know who I write like. I took a test on Facebook that took a sample of my writing and determined that I write like Stephen King. I'm still not sure how to take that and it doesn't matter if it means that my style of writing is the same as his--if I were to say "I write like Stephen King", most people would assume I mean that I write horror. Not even close.

Perhaps I don't read as widely as I should (maybe I would if I had more time) but I'm not familiar with a lot of current writers. And to be honest, I doubt I could identify anyone's style as anyone's but their own. I've been told that some of my books remind the reader of Agatha Christie (which makes me cringe because, much as I love Agatha's books, her style can be tiresome and overly burdened with talking heads and too much description!) but I don't see it myself.

Oftentimes, budding authors will try to encourage readers by comparing their books and/or writing style to popular authors or even movies and actors. "If you love Jackie Collins' books, you'll love mine!" or "Reminiscent of Hepburn and Tracy movies" try to convey what the author's style and stories are like but fall pitifully short and are, in my opinion, a lazy way to describe their own unique style. Amazon might lump me in with Karen Musser Nortman, Robert D. Kidera, Karen McInerney, and B. R. Snow (I am only familiar with Karen McInerney's work) but that's only because customers who bought my books bought those authors' books as well. And who really knows why?

And how many people these days even remember who Hepburn and Tracy are?

Besides, one Mary Higgins Clark is enough. One James Patterson. One Agatha Christie. One whoever the hottest popular author is at the moment. I can describe my books as "cozy mysteries set in an RV campground in a mountain village in New Mexico with a little romance, a little humor, and a lot of fun, engaging characters" and not feel the pressure to live up to another author's reputation.

I've got plenty to do building my own.

Some of my favorite writers that I may--or may not--write like!

Monday, November 6, 2017

Food for Thought

As I've mentioned before in previous blog posts, there is something about fall weather that gets my creative juices flowing. It would probably benefit me more if those creative juices stirred my writing, but they propel me to the kitchen and my creativity there tends to leave a bigger mess to clean up!

This is the time of year when I get the urge to try new recipes, to bake huge amounts of cookies and fruit breads with which to stock my freezer for the holidays, and to prepare elaborate meals for family and friends. I would probably do more if I had more time, but gainful employment cuts into my cooking time (although it does provide me with the means necessary to purchase what I need to cook, so I make it work!)

I enjoy being invited to parties where I can bring a dish. I have more recipes than I'll ever be able to make but making one for other people to share gives me an opportunity to pass it on to someone who may be able to make it more often. Unfortunately, several people who know what my day job is (if you don't know, it's professional cake decorator. Almost 40 years experience) often request that I bring the cake for the occasion. While I don't mind doing so, it basically requires me to use a simple cake mix and use my creativity only for the decorations. Often, I'll just make the cake at work and take it to the party. Not much there to stir my creative juices.

I am fortunate in that my family, while proud of my professional accomplishments, prefer that my desserts be less decorative and my creativity be put to use in coming up with different desserts that aren't found in grocery stores or bakeries. I also enjoy the fact that several of my dishes have become often-requested favorites, with my nieces and nephews asking for certain dishes to be made for their birthdays and family get-togethers. It's nice to have a few stand-bys that are quick and easy to make on rushed evenings, but I enjoy making more elaborate meals for my husband and son. They are the willing subjects of my culinary experiments and appreciate my efforts.

With the holidays approaching, I will be pulling out my time-tested recipes for cookies, pies, appetizers, and side dishes for the upcoming gatherings. If time allows, I will delve into my collection of recipes and try out one or two that have intrigued me but I haven't had time to make. Either way, my main ingredient in all of my recipes is love. Love for the art and craft of cooking and baking and love for those who will share in what I make. It's what makes the act of cooking so satisfying.

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An array of appetizers for a family gathering, including chicken wings, bacon-and-pastry wrapped asparagus spears, little smokies, and other goodies!

Monday, October 30, 2017

Halloween Memories

For all the positives of country living, there is one thing that can be considered a negative at this time of the year, especially if you have children.

Trick-or-treating just isn't the same when the only houses you can go to are Nana's and Tia's.

Growing up in El Paso, Texas, I lived in a typical '70s-era neighborhood, where all the dads worked and all the moms stayed home. Everyone knew everyone on the block, even the grumpy old neighbor who didn't like kids and whose yard was a black hole for any ball or kite that happened to land in it (no one dared approach the gate to ask for them back, much less give in to the dares to just jump the fence and run like crazy.) The shopping center was a block away where we could spend our twenty-five cent allowances on candy at Winn's (think Walmart on a much, MUCH smaller scale) and roller skate and ride bikes and skateboards all over the parking lot on Sundays when everything was closed (except Furr's Cafeteria where the old folks went for lunch after church.)

Back then, Halloween was a big event, but unlike these days, it was a one-day event. Costumes and black and orange decorations and huge bags of candy would show up in stores around the first of October, but they were clearly meant to be purchased for use ONLY on the thirty-first. It didn't matter what day of the week Halloween fell on--THAT was the night for trick-or-treating. THAT was the day we wore costumes to school and took orange-frosted cupcakes (homemade, of course) to share with our classmates. Decorations went up on homes only a couple of days before Halloween, and they were mostly cardboard jack-o-lanterns, black cats, bats, and witches, with an occasional skeleton hanging from a tree (if you were lucky enough to have a tree in your front yard.) No giant inflatables of haunted castles or the grim reaper. If we did carve a pumpkin, we did it Halloween afternoon because our mothers wanted to cook it as soon as we blew out the candle in it that night (yes, pumpkins were considered food as well as decorations back then.)

Trick-or-treating was a group affair, mainly because our parents wouldn't let us wander around the neighborhood alone at night (even if we did it during the day.) Often a couple of dads would accompany the group, for the purpose of preventing older kids from scaring younger kids into giving up their candy and to keep control of excited kids who would dart into the street in the eager quest to get to the house with the "good" candy. "Taking candy from strangers" took on a whole new meaning for that one night. True, we knew all the neighbors, but for that one night, clad in masks and flapping costumes and approaching houses that were dark except for the porch light, the people we knew so well became strangers to us. Stories about razor blades in apples and well-intentioned warnings about tampered candy made everyone seem like a menace (especially grumpy neighbor who, inexplicably, turned his porch light on, but kept his gate closed.) Despite the fact that we knew exactly where every piece of candy came from, parents insisted on inspecting it and getting rid of homemade treats (even when they came from neighbors who routinely gave us cookies or who were parents of kids who attended school with us and made our school party treats.) Strangely, it was the one day of the year where we didn't feel completely safe in our own neighborhood... and that was what made it exciting.

Our kids got to trick-or-treat a few times, when they were younger and we lived in town. The difference was that the neighbors really WERE strangers and my sister-in-law and I often swapped out the collected candy for the candy we bought ourselves. Once we moved to the country, Halloween was celebrated with a party and a scary movie and more treats than the kids would have gotten from going door-to-door. The fact that we don't feel as safe as we used to in our own neighborhoods as we did when I was a kid seems to have robbed a lot of the Halloween fun I remember. Lots of the scary stories we told as kids now show up on nightly news casts.

I stopped getting excited about Halloween when things took a turn more toward horror than scary. Or maybe it was when the push to get Halloween on the shelves in stores in early September was almost as ridiculous as the push to get Christmas decorations out in October. Maybe it was more fun when we were only scared ONE night out of the whole year. Either way, I still treasure the memories of when I was a kid and Halloween was a lot of innocent fun.

Still love the colors of the season... especially in New Mexico!Image may contain: one or more people and indoor
Image may contain: one or more people and indoor

Monday, October 23, 2017

The Greatest Mystery Story of All Time (in my opinion!)

I often get asked about my favorite authors and books. Those can be hard questions to answer because I love many authors and their books. But the question, "What do you think is the greatest mystery ever written?" calls to my mind something that many people don't expect.

What do they expect? If they know my tastes in mystery novels, they're likely to name Agatha Christie. But which of her books? "Murder on the Orient Express"? "Ten Little Indians"? "The Mysterious Affair at Styles"? All stories that have a twist in solving the murder. All stories that exhibit a great deal of genius (though "Styles" made me want to throw the book across the room, yelling, "Not fair!") But neither of them are the mystery I consider the greatest one ever written.

The author? Roald Dahl. Yeah, THAT Roald Dahl, of "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory", "James and the Giant Peach", "The BFG", etc. fame. And his story that I consider the greatest mystery ever written isn't even a novel. It's a short story that was initially rejected by The New Yorker but was eventually published by Harper's Magazine in 1953. It was adapted for an episode on Alfred Hitchcock Presents (which aired in 1958) and was one of only 17 episodes directed by Hitchcock himself.

The story is "Lamb to the Slaughter". If you haven't read it, find a copy and do so. You can find the TV adaptation on YouTube. How do I tell you about the story without giving it away? What makes it the greatest mystery ever written?

It's not really even a mystery, not if you follow the true definition of a mystery. There is no "whodunnit" in this story. The reader sees the entire murder play out in front of his or her eyes, from the murderer's point of view. The horror in the story is seeing the murder and knowing what everyone else in the story doesn't know. In a nutshell: a woman discovers her policeman husband is cheating on her. She kills him and gets away with it by having her husband's police officer co-workers destroy the evidence.

I could say so much more about the story but it is brilliant and should be enjoyed by reading it in its entirety. I first stumbled across the condensed version in a copy of Reader's Digest back in the '70s (thanks, Dad!) and read it again, years later. Was that the story that sparked my interest in writing mysteries? It certainly played a part, but it also gave me the despairing knowledge that I would never write the greatest mystery story of all time. Roald Dahl had beat me to it.

Image result for lamb to the slaughter

Monday, October 16, 2017

So Where DO Those Story Ideas Come From?

It's probably the most commonly asked question of writers, especially fiction writers. It seems to many people that, judging from the mind-boggling number of novels that exist, that writers are a rare species who sprout story ideas from their brains the way chickens sprout feathers.

If anyone were to take a close look at the many books out there, it becomes clear that most of them are, essentially, telling the same story: guy meets gal, they fall in love and live happily ever after (or not.) Poor person wants to become rich and famous and succeeds (or not.) Hero/ine wants to save world from evil villain and succeeds (or not.) And so on. The details change, the setting changes, even the motivations change, but the essential story is the one that is retold over and over. So finding the story ideas isn't the problem. The challenge is in finding a new, engaging way of telling the story.

At a recent book event, the question was asked, again, about how authors find their stories. The person asking was a poet who was puzzled at the way fiction writers were able to create characters and tell their stories. I'm not sure if we answered her questions in a way that made sense--novelists often find themselves becoming more and more incoherent the more we try to explain the way we work. But it's like asking a poet where their verses come from.

They come from people. Good people, bad people, sad, happy, angry, all kinds of people. And how they feel. And what they do and think. What they want and how badly they want it. Whether it's poetry or prose, fiction or non-fiction, all stories and the ideas that inspire them come from people. It's the writer's job to record it all and tell the world about these people and events and the stories they have inspired.

Granted, not everyone has the interest or the ability or desire to write down stories. That's why not everyone is a writer. But everyone has a story and many times it's the same story that someone else has... it's just that the details are different.

It's the writer that takes that ordinary story and adds the words and details that make it special.

Monday, October 9, 2017

At the Other End of I-10

Sounds like a country song, doesn't it?

I have spent all but six months of my fifty years of my life living in the Southwest. In truth, the only time I ever visited the Deep South was when we boarded a cruise ship in Miami to go to Key West. With the exception of about eight hours in Key West, the majority of the time we spent was in airports. Not the best way to truly experience a new place.

When I met Mike Orenduff, he was a New Mexico mystery author, creator of Hubert Schuze of "The Pot Thief" mystery series fame and our connection was limited to being fellow authors of a fairly new sub-genre known as New Mexico mystery authors. Because of a twist of fate (or merely the fact that life goes on), Mike also became my mentor and my publisher. And life had also taken him and his wife, Lai, to Valdosta, Georgia where they decided to retire and, in Mike's case, open a combination coffee shop/bookstore/bed and breakfast inn in addition to his publishing duties.

As Mike has always been an enthusiastic supporter of my writing endeavors, when he became the publisher of my fifth book, he encouraged me to visit Valdosta and do a book signing. Because my husband and I are somewhat adventuresome and we like to experience as many new things as possible, we took him up on his offer.

Traveling east from El Paso had never extended further than Houston, Texas for us. This time, we landed in Panama City Beach, Florida and took to the road on Interstate 10 heading east. Instead of desert sand and cactus, we saw cotton fields and Spanish moss. The weather was warmer and far more humid. It was a far cry from the setting of my Black Horse Campground novels. Could I possibly interest people who were unfamiliar with the desert southwest in a story that was set in such an alien setting?

First, I had to convince them that there was more to New Mexico than "Breaking Bad" and Billy the Kid. I introduced them to pinon coffee and New Mexico wine. I offered them stories about people who are just normal every day people who happen to enjoy green chile with their meals rather than grits. And they were interested!

Despite all the so-called differences at the opposite ends of I-10, ultimately the stories that interest people are about people just like them. Even if they don't appreciate the merits of muscadine grapes. Or green chile.

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Monday, October 2, 2017

Mysteries Abound!

Despite the fact that I've always wanted to be a writer and that I always knew that someday I would realize that dream, I've always been amazed at the fact that I became a writer. Not just a writer but, of all things, a writer of mysteries.

I never imagined myself to be organized enough to write a mystery.

One look at my desk--indeed, a look at my personal effects and life in general--organization seems to be the last thing I consider important. I'm often the writer who has to ask to borrow a pen in order to sign a book (yes, I have.)Yet, if you read a lot of mysteries, you'll find that one has to have some organizational skills in order to plan a perfect murder (on paper, of course!)

Mysteries always seemed so daunting to write, perhaps because some of the first few mysteries I ever read (back in my early teens) were Agatha Christie novels. Hercule Poirot, her fictional detective, was the epitome of organization, "order and method", as he was fond of saying. Only he could tie together such obscure clues as bottles of tanning lotion, a book on voodoo, the sound of a tub being emptied, and use split-second timing (and a tampered-with watch) to pull off a murder and almost unbreakable alibi ("Evil Under the Sun", in case you're wondering.) And to be able to line up the clues in such a way that they made perfect sense--well, to Poirot anyway--seemed to me a task suited only to a ultra-organized, super-intelligent writer. Not to me.

Of course, I realize now that writing  mystery does take some thought and preparation and it really isn't any harder to write than, say, a romance. In reality, almost every story, every novel, is a mystery.

The mystery may be as simple as "Who murdered the victim and why?" or "Will the lovers find each other and live happily ever after?" It may be as complex as "Will the evil genius's plan for taking over the world work and why does he want to do so?" or "Why does the  main character have so many issues with her mother/daughter/ex-husband and will they make peace and live reasonably happily ever after?" Even children's books have an element of mystery... "What DOES happen when you give a mouse a cookie?"

What it all boils down to is that the writer--whether mystery, romance, western, chick-lit, or whatever--has to make sure that the reader is satisfied (even if they're not particularly happy with the way the story turned out.) The story has to make sense, the characters' motivations have to be real (at least to the characters themselves), and the questions, the "why"s, have to be answered. We read to discover the solution to the mystery behind the story.

And we write because, at least in one facet of our lives, we like to know where everything is. Including a pen.

Image result for pen

Monday, September 25, 2017

Guest Post by Marilyn Meredith, Friend and Author of the Deputy Tempe Crabtree Mysteries

Today, my friend and fellow mystery author, Marilyn Meredith, is taking over the Back Deck Blog to tell us about her latest Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery, "A Cold Death", and her journey as an author! Grab a cup of coffee (or chai, Marilyn's choice) and enjoy your visit!

My Journey as an Author

Like many others, I’ve written since I was a kid, starting before I could actually write words, drawing a story and all the characters. Once I could read, I went on to write my own version of the Little House on the Prairie books. I also wrote and illustrated a book about fairies that my mother sent to a publisher and received a kind rejection. In grammar school, I also wrote plays for the neighborhood kids to perform and in junior high, I wrote and put out my own magazine.

Because of marrying soon after graduating, and raising a big family, my writing narrowed down to PTA newsletters, and plays for my Camp Fire Girls to perform. Though I did write a couple of novels that were rejected, I didn’t write any fiction again until my sister did our genealogy. It fascinated me and I decided to do some research to try and find out more about what happened. The research then led me to write a 500 plus page fictionalized novel of my mother’s side of the family. I was a grandmother by this time. After many rejections and rewrites, this became my first published book. I wrote about my father’s side of the family, and that one was published too.

During my writing life I’ve had several agents, learned from some, and not from others, but no one sold anything for me.

I switched to writing mysteries after I’d finished with the historical family sagas. My Deputy Tempe Crabtree mysteries were first published by a small press and I became friends with the publisher. She published the first four and unexpectedly, died. I’ve gone through publishers who turned out to be crooks, others who decided publishing was not for them, others who’ve gotten ill or had family tragedies that made them decide to close their businesses.

Fortunately, Mundania Press, the publisher for the Deputy Tempe Crabtree mysteries is still going strong.

What I’ve told you is merely the highlights of what I’ve experienced on my journey. In reality, looking back I often wonder why I didn’t give up. Of course, I’m glad I didn’t. Because of being an author I’ve met so many wonderful people, other authors and readers, helpful folks in law enforcement who have become friends, have had many adventures, traveled to places I’d never gone to before, learned so much about writing and publishing, and for the most part, had a great writing life.


Blurb for A Cold Death:

Deputy Tempe Crabtree and her husband answer the call for help with unruly guests visiting a closed summer camp during a huge snow storm and are trapped there along with the others. One is a murderer—and another a ghost.

Anyone who orders any of my books from the publisher‘s website:
can get 10% off by entering MP20 coupon code in the shopping cart. This is good all the time for all my books, E-books and print books.

On Kindle:


Marilyn Meredith’s published book count is nearing 40. She is one of the founding members of the San Joaquin chapter of Sister in Crime. She taught writing for Writers Digest Schools for 10 years, and was an instructor at the prestigious Maui Writers Retreat, and has taught at many writers’ conferences. Marilyn is a member of three chapters of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and serves on the board of the Public Safety Writers of America. She lives in the foothills of the Sierra, a place with many similarities to Tempe Crabtree’s patrol area. Webpage: Blog: and you can follow her on Facebook.

Contest: Once again I’m going to use the name of the person who comments on the most blogs on my tour for the next Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery—which may be the last in the series.

Tomorrow I’ll be here:

What About Killing Off a Main Character?

Monday, August 21, 2017

Everyday Miracles

In case you all didn't notice, especially if you live in the midwest, the sky got darker today and it wasn't because of a tornado or thunderstorm.

There was a total solar eclipse, a rare astronomical event, was last seen in North America in 1979. The next one won't be until 2024. As with this year's event, unless you live in the path or plan to travel to see it, your best bet is to watch it on TV or via live stream. As with most people across the country, we were treated to spectacular cloud cover which created an eclipse of sorts--one that happens several times a week--and literally eclipsed the real eclipse.

Perhaps it's because it can be dangerous to watch this natural phenomenon, or because we were not in a prime viewing location (and had no plans to travel to one), or maybe it's because there has been so much hype about it, but I wasn't overly excited about watching the eclipse. True, it's an uncommon occurrence and it's cool to think of daylight being obscured in the middle of the day and the attendant weirdness (roosters crowing midday, owls and bats coming out in the middle of the day, etc.) does pique interest. But really, what about every day events that deserve our attention?

The sun sets every day, but not every day brings a spectacular blaze of color to the western sky. When was the last time we appreciated a sunset? Or a sunrise, when the morning is cool and the birds are just waking up and starting to sing and the sky begins to lighten? Or a thunderstorm with jagged lightning bolts lighting up a night sky or curtains of rain drenching the land and helping things grow?

It's easy to grumble about a sunset blinding us as we drive home at the end of a long workday. Or about having to get up early with too little sleep to get to work. And of course, there is scarcely a person in the world who hasn't cursed a rainstorm that causes canceled plans and power outages and other inconveniences.

Maybe if we only could experience those things as rarely as an eclipse would we be able to appreciate the little miracles that happen around us every day.

The sunset from our house, three days before the eclipse

Monday, August 7, 2017

Road Trip!

Over the years, Paul and I have developed a great many more interests than we had when we first married. Many of them have led to a lot of great adventures, but one thing that we've always enjoyed doing together is road trips!

Our first road trip was our honeymoon. We drove from El Paso, Texas to Niagara Falls, New York in a Nissan pickup truck that had no air conditioning. We drove up through Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and into New York in three days, stopping in Amarillo, TX, Springfield, MO, and Columbus, OH. Up till that time, I had never been further east from El Paso except for visiting family in Hobbs, New Mexico! The fact that this trip took place in the beginning of July during the great summer drought of 1988 and we made it without consulting attorneys bodes well for us reaching our 50th wedding anniversary! We drove back through Pennsylvania, Washington, D.C. and spent a few days in our nation's capital, then continued on through Virginia, Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, the Texas Panhandle, and on to home in New Mexico, stopping in Knoxville, TN, Little Rock, AR, and then visiting Paul's sisters in Santa Fe. While we were glad to be home, we still talk about that trip!

Since then, we have made many trips--several trips to Santa Fe, NM and San Antonio, TX; Phoenix, Lake Havasu City, and Grand Canyon, Arizona; Estes Park and Canon City, Colorado; and Monterey, California. Many times family accompanied us on these trips, but mainly it was just the two of us. We love seeing new places, watching the sun come up or go down from different vistas, visiting new towns and eating in little roadside diners or from the cooler in the back of our car or truck while exploring a new state or city park. 

We have taken many trips by plane as well. On occasion, there just isn't enough time to take a leisurely drive if we only have a few days off from work and, in some instances, it was simply cheaper to fly (yes, $49 fares really are a thing sometimes!) And of course, driving to Europe is definitely not possible! But we are truly believers in the phrase "getting there is half the fun" and, given a choice, we prefer to drive.

Next weekend, we are taking an familiar road to San Antonio to spend a quick four-day weekend with close friends. True to our nature, we are excited though we can make the drive with our eyes closed and several people have pointed out that, for only a short visit, flying would definitely save us some time. But we are taking a detour, veering off the faster and more direct Interstate 10, to make a side trip to Alpine where there is a small, well-known bookstore where I hope to do a book signing. Along the way, we will drive through small Texas towns, watch the sun come up near the Big Bend area (we like to leave early--about 3 or 4 a.m.--when we go on road trips!) and eat breakfast in a place too small to have a Denny's or IHOP. 

And along the way, we'll probably reminisce about previous trips and look forward to future ones!

The first leg of our trip always includes making a left or right on US 70!

Monday, July 31, 2017

Collector's Woes--When Too Much is Too Much!

I have learned one thing about collecting and it is this: proceed with caution.

There are stories galore of people who collect some item simply because fell in love with model Volkswagon Beetle cars or Hummel figurines that they saw on their grandmother's shelf or they hoarded their childhood comic books in cardboard boxes in the family attic or basement or drove their mothers crazy with odd rocks they picked up from every family vacation and stored in empty pickle or peanut butter jars all over their bedrooms. And you know how the story ends: those childhood collections end up yielding gems that are worth thousands of dollars--either a rare first-edition Superman comic book or an odd-looking rock that turns out to be a rare gem. That's the fairy tale ending.

The reality is that, somewhere along the line, Mom cleaned house and either threw your "treasures" in the trash or sold them for a quarter at a garage sale. Or else you somehow managed to rescue them from Mom (or spouse) only to discover that their value was a great deal less than what you had hoped.

I have learned, over the years, that collections require a lot of work. And I'm not a collector in the sense that I have seashells, or paintings, or music boxes all over the house.

I collect recipes.

The benefit of collecting recipes is that, while I do have an impressive amount of cookbooks which I enjoy reading when I'm burned out on novels, a lot of the recipes I've collected have come my way via Facebook. It's amazing! I see a recipe, I read it through, I decide whether or not it's something I and my family would enjoy and I click a button. That's it! I've saved it to my collection! And I don't have to dust it or find a place for it on my already crowded knick-knack shelves! Woo hoo!

And there they sit. In my recipe files. Unmade.

The problem with my recipe collection is that, much like Grandma's milk-glass collection, it is hardly ever pulled out of obscurity and used. Once in a while, I run across a recipe I really, REALLY want to make and I actually write down the ingredients on my grocery list and I make it. And it's wonderful! So I tell myself to make something else. Dig out another recipe and give it a whirl. But which one? There are so many....

I am tempted to write down the name of the recipes on slips of paper and pull them out of a hat and force myself to make at least one new one a week. Judging by the number of recipes I already have saved, not counting the cookbook recipes I want to make, plus the fact that I add a new recipe every time I browse Facebook (we'll leave that number up to your imaginations, okay?) and then figure a rate of one recipe per week, I might not live long enough to enjoy all those meals.

But at least I don't have to dust them!
Top photo is a standby recipe (migas), bottom is a Tuscan chicken recipe I found on Facebook. Guess which one gets made most often?

Monday, July 24, 2017

Once Upon a Time--How a Contemporary Novel Becomes a Historical Novel

Due to family visiting, today's Back Deck Blog post is a re-run from February of 2016. The fact that I have been actively engaged in a Facebook group that focuses on reminiscing about "back when" drove me to dig up this post. See if you can relate!


A couple of things have happened in the last week that have set me to pondering about the way authors write their stories with details that should help orient the reader in the story's setting.

They also made me feel old in the process. See if you can relate.

A discussion with co-worker, who is the same age as I am, involved a mention of the term "long distance" and a brief "Remember when?" conversation about having to call after eight in the evening because the rates were lower. Another co-worker, who is less than half our age, stared at us in a puzzled manner. What did we mean by "long distance"? What rates? It took us several startled seconds to realize that, thanks to the advent of cell phones, "long distance" no longer means what it once did. When I moved to Alamogordo, NM from El Paso, TX after my marriage (almost 28 years ago!), gabbing on the phone with my mom, my sister, or my friends back home was not something I did for thirty minutes at a time... and certainly NOT before 8 p.m. when the rates were lower! Having to explain about phone rates made me feel... well, a bit out-of-date.

On Saturday, while working the register at the winery, an older couple (older than I, that is) approached and asked if, by any chance, we accepted traveler's checks as payment. Talk about a blast from the past. After I recovered from my surprise, I explained that we didn't accept any kind of check and the woman smiled and said she had figured that, but she had some 17-year-old traveler's checks and "they always said they never expired so I thought I'd give it a try." One of my co-workers, again about half my age, came over, intrigued. "I've HEARD of traveler's checks," she said. "But I've never seen one before!" So followed a conversation about traveler's checks and how they were supposed to be better than cash (this was before revolving credit came along) and so much safer and it occurred to me that, in this age of electronic banking, how completely antiquated and inconvenient they must seem to this generation.

The art of writing, itself, has undergone enormous changes. From typing a 300-page manuscript and submitting it via "snail mail" in a cardboard box with enough return postage in case the publisher (or more likely, agent) rejected it to being able to publish a book without an agent, editor, or publisher (or, alas, even any talent) shows how much the world has changed in the last thirty years.

Yet, if I had been writing a story set in the mid-'80s, talking about things like long-distance and traveler's checks would have been perfectly natural and my readers would know exactly what I was talking about and could relate. Now I wonder how many of those things would be recognizable to the current generation of readers. I recall reading the works of Agatha Christie, James Herriot, Laura Ingalls Wilder, even Judy Blume and the Nancy Drew mysteries and asking my parents what was meant by certain phrases or even looking up words in the dictionary because my late '70s-early '80s upbringing didn't include things like what was described in those books. Party lines and ration books are as alien to me as long-distance rates and traveler's checks are to this generation. Who knows what will replace texting and debit cards in the future?

Time marches on....

Monday, July 17, 2017


It's been a long time since I've experienced a true "summertime" season like I did when I was a kid. Back then, when my days and seasons were defined by school schedules, there was always the anticipation of summer that started sometime after Mother's Day. That was usually a signal that there were only a couple of weeks of school left and everyone was gripped with excitement when they walked into the neighborhood discount store (Winn's or TG&Y in my case) and saw inflatable swimming pools, swim suits, sunglasses, and "summer" toys and games--soap bubbles, water guns, pool toys, and snow cone makers. They all signaled that the school year was coming to an end and a seemingly endless summer awaited us!

Back then, things were at a slower pace. I don't recall many of my friends being involved in organized sports or activities that regulated their days. Sundays were the only days when we had something scheduled (church and Sunday school) and, during the week, we were only ruled by mealtimes. Breakfast and chores had to be finished before we could leave the house; lunch was usually a sandwich, sometimes hastily eaten at home or at a friend's house, so we could get back to whatever we were doing; and dinnertime was signaled by everyone's dad pulling into the driveway after work. That meant we had to get home, wash up, and eat, knowing we would have a few more hours of play after dinner before the streetlights came on.

Even during the years I was raising kids and homeschooling, there was still a clear delineation between summer and the rest of the school year--namely, no school! But now that we are at the point where the kids have outgrown school and before there are grandkids whose schedules include school, summer had taken on a different meaning. Perhaps it's because summer no longer means long, lazy unplanned days, where anything could happen or nothing at all. Now every day, all year long, work schedules keep us from a lot of spontaneity. Vacation trips must be planned, time off requested, and all the work our parents did--packing, making reservations, and all the attendant tasks--suddenly make us realize why we felt so carefree! We used to just get in the car and go! 

But summertime also is marked by the simple things that we suddenly realize we had missed during the winter. The grill is used much more frequently than in the colder months (though we occasionally get the hankering for barbecue chicken during snowstorms); we have more time for sitting on the deck with a cup of coffee in the mornings or a cold beverage in the evenings; flip-flops, tank tops, and shorts take the place of warm socks, sweaters, and jeans. In some ways, though it's far more subtle than when we were kids, we still get that carefree feeling of time stretching before us and only occasional glances at the calendar remind us that these days won't last forever. 

So pour another glass of lemonade, put your shades on, and kick back in a lawn chair. Labor Day is still seven weeks away!
Enjoy every day!

Monday, July 10, 2017

Two of the Best Friends a Writer Could Have

I've often reflected on how nice it would be if I had an extremely successful writing career, one where I didn't have to work a "real" job forty hours a week, one where I didn't have to look for places to sell my book (my agent would take care of that, but it would be a simple matter of picking which of the dozens of clamoring booksellers I should arrange to visit), one where there would be bidding wars among a half-dozen movie and TV producers who were clamoring for the rights to put my stories on the screen.

My chances of winning the $100 million PowerBall are only slightly better. And I don't play regularly.

Still, the odds have been very kind to me. So many writers have spent years searching for a traditional publisher, one that pays royalties. Many have skipped the heartaches and headaches and gone straight to self-publishing, only to discover that there are still plenty of heartaches and headaches in trying to get their work out to their audience. But I have been blessed; not just one, but two publishers have expressed their belief in my work.

First, thanks to the encouragement of "Pot Thief" author, Mike Orenduff, I discovered Oak Tree Press and Billie Johnson, the publisher who accepted my first Black Horse Campground mystery and subsequently published the next three books in the series. Nothing has ever quite matched the thrill of being able to use words like "my publisher" and "book contract" without using imaginary quotation marks!

Secondly, due to unforeseen health issues, my fifth Black Horse Campground mystery ended up being published by a different publishing house. With Billie's blessing, I submitted "A Summer to Remember" to Aakenbaaken & Kent, the publishing house that belongs to... Mike Orenduff!

One thing that hasn't changed is the unrelenting belief and incredible support both of my publishers have shown me. It is matched only by the support and encouragement from my readers. And in return, I try to show my gratitude by working just as hard as they do at getting my books out to those faithful readers. First and foremost is, I keep writing. It's hard, sometimes, with working a full-time and a part-time job, besides caring for my family, but I owe it to myself, my readers, and my publishers. They count on me to produce and I won't let them down.

I also take every opportunity that comes along to promote and sell my books. I don't wait for my publisher to find me venues to speak and places to sell my books. Library and author events, bookstores of all kinds, church festivals, local art events, any place that comes to my attention that has the remotest possibility of gaining me one more reader is always pursued. Sometimes it's a lot of work for little or no reward, but the reward comes in knowing that I'm paying my dues as a published author.

Yes, it's true: writing the book is just the beginning. Rarely does a popular author hit the jackpot on the first time out and very few authors make a cushy living solely from their writing. Whether that is what is in my future or not matters little to me. I am living the dream of writing my stories and having them published.

And I owe a lot of that to Billie Johnson and Mike Orenduff. You both have been a blessing to me and I only hope I've done my best for you! I am eternally grateful!

Monday, June 26, 2017

Looking at the Positives--What Keeps Me Writing

I'm eighty-plus pages into book 6 of the Black Horse Campground series (no title... yet), and, in some ways, things couldn't be better.

But things can always be better, right? I could be making a ton of money, have given up my day job as a cake decorator, and have thousands--if not millions--of adoring fans.

However, I choose to look at the positives. Though I have a small readership, I know many of my readers personally. And I know that they like my work. They are willing to pay for my books, not just get them for free. I can go on, Barnes and Noble's website, and GoodReads and see my books listed (and not as self-published!) whereas that once seemed to be an impossible dream. My day job, though the fodder of many jokes, still gives me a measure of creative satisfaction and pays the bills as well, which allows me to spend time on writing. And traveling to book signings, where I get to meet a few new "fans" and sell a few books... perhaps enough to cover travel expenses.

"Seems like very little pay for a lot of work," so I've been told. Well, a lot depends on your definition of "work" and "fun". When it comes to the writing, work = fun... even the stuff that many writers (including myself) bemoan. The editing, the rewrites, the promotional stuff sounds like a lot of dull, boring work, but it's part of the process and a writer can either choose to let that overshadow the fun stuff and make it all seem like drudgery... or they can choose to focus on the positive.

Focusing on the positive sometimes seems unrealistic, perhaps sappy and overly sentimental. It's more "real", some will say, to be honest about the hard, thankless work, the long hours, the lack of success in finding readers and--the big one--selling books. However, I don't really think that focusing on the negatives will make the job any easier or more fulfilling. After all, I write for the fun and the joy of it. To me, having readers and seeing my books for sale is already more than I expected. Being a writer is not one of the most well-paying jobs out there and very few people actually make a living, much less millions, from writing.

What keeps me going is the satisfaction of doing what I love. It's not a job I absolutely HAVE to do in order to make a living. I have been in situations where I had to make myself show up to work out of a sense of duty and responsibility, mainly to my family that was counting on my paycheck, and I managed to make it through the day with smile. But that is not the reason I write. I could walk away from my writing this moment and it wouldn't make any difference in my bank account or lifestyle. I even believe that my family and friends would still love me if I did so. So if I'm not happy, then why do it?

But I am happy. And so I write....

Monday, June 19, 2017

Getting a Clue: How Suspense is Built into Books and Films--A Guest Post from author Vivian Rhodes

Today's Back Deck Blog post is by Vivian Rhodes, mystery novelist and award-winning television writer. Vivian will tell us about how suspense is built into a story and also about her latest book, "If You Should Read This, Mother". 


I love good suspense, whether in the form of a book, a play, or a film.  Some of my favorite authors over the years have been those who have mastered the art of keeping me in suspense: Ken Follett, Jonathan Kellerman, Gillian Flynn, and of course the Mistress of Mystery, Agatha Christie. In fact, uppermost in my mind when I wrote my latest thriller, If You Should Read This, Mother, was how to balance telling a good story while keeping readers in suspense.

As far as films go, keeping the viewer in suspense entails a bit more and no one did it better than Alfred Hitchcock.  Unfortunately, not every director was as capable as Hitchcock, and often viewers could see things coming way before they were meant to.  Of course, many viewers actually enjoy the ride and figuring out the ending early on.

Do you love watching a suspense film and knowing what’s ‘around the corner’?  Many  movies, especially the vintage ones, offer the viewer plenty of clues as to what lies ahead. The obvious cliché, of course, is the young woman in the horror film who, alone in the house, decides to go down to the basement in order to ‘investigate a noise’. 

Ten giveaways that portend what is going to happen by the end of the movie:

1.   If someone is lying on his deathbed cheerfully relaying what his plans are for the immediate future, odds are there is no future in store, immediate or otherwise.

2.   If a questionable character poses the question, ‘Do you have any close family or friends, anyone who would miss you if, say, you disappeared?’ it would be best for our hero or heroine to proceed with caution.

3.   If we are only witness to a gloved hand committing a murder, the murderer is most likely a woman. (It also stands to reason that if a serial killer is not committing sex crimes, there’s a good chance that, here too, the killer is a woman.)

4.   In a mystery where someone has done something very, very evil, a look at the credits will often suggest who the heavy is even before the film has begun. (ie. Don Porter in older films and perhaps Christopher Walken in newer ones).

5.   A former bad guy who turns good and fingers his cronies will still have to die, but will die a ‘noble death’ (ie. saving the life of the heroine).

6.   If a woman lets go of her toddler’s hand for any reason (ie. to pay a cashier or to powder her nose) said toddler will inevitably wander into traffic with dire consequences.

7.   It is rarely the guy on the lower end of the food chain who is morally responsible for a crime committed. Usually the heavy is a man of influence (editor of a newspaper, politician, or corporate heavy).

8.   If a woman marries a man about whose background she knows very little, she will probably live to regret it. (This is particularly the case in films made prior to Google).

9.   If a beloved pet is introduced at the beginning of a murder mystery there is, unfortunately, a good chance that said pet will not be alive by the end of the film.

10. If a woman laughs at a furious man and he warns her to stop laughing at him, it’s a safe bet that the man, often a psychopath, will put an end to the laughing by either strangling or stabbing her to death.

            And of course, if a film ends in an intentionally ambiguous way, we can assume that the producers are thinking ‘sequel’.

Blurb for "If You Should Read This, Mother", by Vivian Rhodes

Megan Daniels was only three years old the day President John F.  Kennedy was assassinated, but flashes of that day begin to trigger other disturbing memories that have lain dormant within her.  At first they are merely snippets, but as they begin to appear more frequently Megan has difficulty separating what is real from what is imagined. In her attempt to learn more, she sets out to find her biological mother, but keeps hitting brick walls. No adoption papers exist, and all she has to go on is her possible birthday: November 22. In the small town of Meredith, CA, Megan’s search takes on a dire, domino effect—one woman has already been murdered as a result of her inquiries. As she digs for the truth, Megan eventually unravels a sinister plot that began decades earlier, but in doing so she places her own life in jeopardy.

 Vivian Rhodes, a graduate of Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Communication, is a published mystery novelist and two time Emmy-nominated television writer, having written for daytime serials such as General Hospital and As the World Turns. Her Lifetime movie, Stolen from the Womb airs frequently, most recently in May 2016. Her suspense thriller, If You Should Read This, Mother is available at , and Amazon, and can be ordered through local bookstores as well. Her novel, Groomed for Murder is now available as an e-book on Amazon, Ms. Rhodes lives in Los Angeles, where she is an adjunct instructor at Cal Lutheran University. She is presently completing work on her next novel, Girl Obsessed, and writes about all things nostalgic- from film noir to vintage toys- on her blog, Rhodes Less Traveled. (

Amazon links:

Monday, June 12, 2017

What Matters Most: The Readers

Time and again, I have discovered that the biggest reward of being an author has little to do with money.

Yesterday, I was once again in Albuquerque, New Mexico at Treasure House Books and Gifts, a small, independent bookstore that specializes in books about New Mexico and the Southwest. As always, the bookstore owners, Jim and John Hoffsis, were gracious and genuinely glad to see me. Not because I'm a huge draw and my book sales make enough for them to close shop early and take lavish vacations, but because I really enjoy visiting their shop and talking to their customers.

This time, I met readers from Oregon and Florida, newcomers to New Mexico and mystery readers. I was thrilled and touched that they chose, out of all the books in the shop, my first novel, "End of the Road", to introduce them to my beloved home state and the characters that are uniquely New Mexican. Of course, it wasn't purely choice that led them to my books; they practically tripped over me and my proffered cookie plate (I've said many times that authors WILL stoop to bribes, including gingersnaps, to entice readers!) But I did my best to present myself and my books in the best possible light. One woman, an English teacher from Carlsbad, listened to me talk about my books and she said, "You must really love what you do."

Did she mean the writing of the book? Or the selling? It's all about the creative process--creating characters and stories that connect with readers. Naturally, not every person on the planet will be enamored of my books, but that's okay. My Black Horse Campground readers ARE my world and they make it a fun place!

A few weeks ago, my husband surprised me with a party on the back deck of The Cellar Uncorked, one of Noisy Water Winery's tasting rooms (where I work part time), inviting, not only my friends and family, but a favorite local entertainer. After his show, he joined us at our table where we shared wonderful wine and conversation. Somehow, the talk turned to my books and a lively debate broke out among my family and friends--Team Rick vs. Team J.D.! It was a delight to hear these people--people who genuinely love and care about me--talk about something that means so much to me with such enthusiasm. They even voiced my rarely-spoken dream of someday seeing my books on film, either TV or movie. Someone mentioned audio book versions and Chris, the entertainer, offered to voice J.D. for the project!

No amount of money could equate what I felt on that afternoon or what I felt yesterday afternoon or what I feel every time I sign a book for a reader. It's far more humbling and satisfying and I am blessed to have the opportunity to experience that. I may never retire on my author earnings, but the memories will last me a lifetime. That's a far greater treasure.

Meeting a new reader at a previous book signing at Treasure House... it never gets old!

Monday, May 29, 2017

Move Over Toto: More Pets Belong in Fiction--A guest post by J.L. Greger

I hope you all are enjoying a relaxing Memorial Day, but I'm slinging vino at a wine fest and fellow Oak Tree Press author, J. L. (Janet) Greger, author of the Sara Almquist mysteries, is guest posting about pets in ficton!


According to poll of social media users, almost two-thirds of pet owners claim they post two comments or photos of their pets on social media weekly. Half of these pet owners claim photos and notes on pets draw more responses than their other posts.

Are these bits of trivia relevant to fiction writers?
I think there are several reasons for including animals in fiction.

  • Animals increase the appeal of fiction to wider audiences. Cuddly pets are a staple of children’s books cozy mysteries. However, animals are legitimate secondary characters in serious adult fiction. Think of Cat in Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and Argos in Homer’s The Odyssey.

Probably, the most famous fictional dog is Toto in the Wizard of Oz. A Cairn Terrier, originally named Terry, played the role in the 1939 movie, Wizard of Oz He was so popular that Willard Carroll published his biography (I, Toto: The Autobiography of Terry, the Dog who was Toto) in 2001.

  • Pets can advance the plot. In my latest thriller, Riddled with Clues, Sara Almquist is able to help solve riddles left by a homeless veteran and hence solve murders in Albuquerque because she and her pet therapy dog, Bug, are volunteers at the VA hospital and clinics. They know a few of the intricacies of the VA campus of more seventy buildings and are known by staff and patients. Bug in my novels is based on my real life Japanese Chin pet therapy dog. Just look at him. I guarantee patients and staff notice him more than me.

Come to think of it, the sheriff and his posse in Westerns couldn’t chase and capture the bad guys without their horses.

  • Authors can often show a different side of human characters by allowing characters to interact with their pets. For example, my world-traveling scientist and heroine, Sara Almquist, is a no-nonsense woman, except when it comes to Bug. Her cute, bundle of fur brings out her softer side. Asta, the wire-haired terrier, makes the rather stiff William Powell more likeable in Dashiell Hammett’s The Thin Man.

  • Pets are fun to write about. I enjoy including Bug, my Japanese Chin, in my thriller series (Coming Flu, Ignore the Pain, Malignancy, and I Saw You in Beirut, Riddled with Clues). Besides being beautiful, he’s smart. (Don’t I sound like the typical pet owner in the survey?) Similarly, Amy Bennett enjoys writing about an ancient Black Lab named Renfro in her Black Horse Campground Mysteries.

Maybe, you should include a dog or cat in your next writing project. Or be creative and give your human character a more unusual alter ego, like a fish or a raccoon.

Blurb for Riddled with Clues: A hospitalized friend gives Sara Almquist a note, which he received just before he was severely injured while investigating the movement of drugs into the U.S. The note is signed by “Red from Udon Thani.” However, he doesn’t know anyone called Red, and the last time he was in Udon Thani was during the Vietnam War. After Sara listens to his rambling tale of all the possibilities, both are assaulted. The friend is left comatose. Sara must determine whether the attacks were related to events during the secret war in Laos fifty years ago or to the modern-day drug trade. As she struggles to survive, she questions who to trust besides Bug: the local cops, FBI agents, or a homeless veteran who leaves puzzling riddles as clues all across the VA Campus in Albuquerque. 
Riddled with Clues (both paperback and Kindle versions) is available at Amazon:

Bio: J. L. Greger likes to include "sound bites" on science and on exotic locations in her Science Traveler Thriller/Mystery series, which includes: Riddled with Clues, Murder…A Way to Lose Weight (winner of 2016 Public Safety Writers [PSWA] annual contest and finalist for New Mexico–Arizona book award), I Saw You in Beirut, and Malignancy (winner of 2015 PSWA annual contest). To learn more, visit her website: or her Amazon author page:

Monday, May 22, 2017

The Gift of Experiences

Having just celebrated my 50th birthday, I resisted the urge to write just another blog post about the passage of time and the changes one experiences as they get older and blah, blah, blah. What I actually want to talk about is gifts.

When a person celebrates a birthday or anniversary, the automatic reaction of their friends and family is to find a perfect gift, especially if it happens to be a milestone event (like turning 50!) However, as the years have passed, the attraction and need for material gifts has faded for me. Not to say I'm not pleased with receiving a material gift, but a lot depends on what it is and what it means.

There are few "things" that I really need and if I do need--or want--something, I'll usually get it for myself. I'm at the point in my life that I don't need or want material expressions of affection or just token gifts. I'm looking at de-cluttering my home and life and nothing makes that harder than to be faced with the situation where most of the clutter is from gifts that people gave you because they care about you. It's not that one doesn't appreciate them, but one does feel a bit guilty when having to get rid of them because they are taking over the living spaces, creating more work (such as dusting) when one is already strapped for time, and stashing them away makes no sense since one gets no enjoyment from a gift in storage.

One thing I've come to learn is that, as I get older, and house space gets smaller is that space for memories gets bigger. The kind of gifts I enjoy are experiences. This was brought home to me this past weekend. I wanted nothing more than to spend an afternoon on the back deck of The Cellar Uncorked, a wine bar/tasting room where I work part time, and enjoy some glasses of wine and food with close friends and family. This is what we did and it was wonderful, especially since my husband had contacted a friend who is an entertainer with a busy schedule and was able to arrange to have him perform at the The Cellar that afternoon. Wine, food, music, friends and family... it was perfect! The best part was that, not only did I get to add memories but my friends and family did and I hope they will enjoy looking back on this one as much as I will!

I think the expression on my face says it all!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Busy, Busy, Busy

Somewhere I read a quote stating that if one wanted to get something done, assign the task to the busiest person. 

Some days, I feel like I'm the designated busiest person.

This is the month of May which, anyone who has ever worked in the bakery business knows, is the busiest month of the year for cake decorators. With Mother's Day, graduations, and weddings (no, it's really not June that's the busiest month for weddings) along with several religious occasions (First Holy Communions and Confirmations), it's the one time of the year that management turns a blind eye to a little overtime and when I tell my husband and son (and the rest of my family) that we'll see each other in June. The fact that my birthday falls almost exactly in the middle of the month, doesn't matter. We'll celebrate in June.

So why on earth would I schedule the launch of my fifth book, "A Summer to Remember", not just in May, but on Mother's Day, of all days??? After working an early morning six-hour shift at the bakery, no less?

Well, it's going to make a great story to include in my bio when I hit it big, that's for sure. I should have a section where I drag my weary body home after a 12-hour shift, on my seventh straight day of work, to find a letter telling me that my book series has been optioned by Hollywood and I've become a millionaire overnight (yes, I've already written that section, after said 12-hour seventh day and two glasses of wine. Go ahead and judge.)

Because, no matter how tired I am, I love what I do. Yes, even the bakery job. I get to be creative and I get paid for it. I sling vino part time and I love that, too. And I write. Not as often as I would like, but I do it and it gets published and people read it and they like it. Sometimes I even get some money from it, but that has nothing to do with the love.

Busy people are happy people. I treasure my down time, however little it is, and because I know the likelihood of my fantasy scene from my bio coming true is extremely slim. I will probably be working for most of my life. And that's okay. Because the work I do is fun. And I don't mind doing it for the rest of my life. 

That includes the cake decorating, too.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Meet My Friend, Marilyn Meredith, and her Rocky Bluff P.D. Mystery Series!

Today, I'm turning the Back Deck Blog over to my friend and fellow Oak Tree Press author, Marilyn Meredith. Sit back and relax with a cup of coffee (or chai, Marilyn's preference!) while Marilyn tells us about herself and her Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery series, including her latest release, "Unresolved'!

This is the topic Amy asked for—so I’ll tell you what’s not in the bio.

I’ve been writing since I was a kid. Getting married young to a Seabee who wasn’t home a lot and raising five kids, didn’t leave much time for fiction writing. However, I did write PTA newsletters and plays for my Camp Fire Girls to perform. I didn’t start writing fiction until I was a grandmother and was published for the first time in 1982. I’ve had many jobs and endeavors over the years from being a telephone operator, a pre-school and day care center teacher, owned and administrated a six bed home for developmentally disabled women, but all the time I wrote a lot, concentrating on mysteries because that’s what I liked to read.

The first book in the Rocky Bluff P.D. series, Final Respects, came about because of the stories my police officer son-in-law told me about his job. I knew I had to write about police officers and their families. While we lived in the small beach community I based the RBPD setting on, we had many police families in our neighborhood. I also became a member of the Public Safety Writers Association and made friends with many law enforcement officers who have become a great resource to me.

Of course when I was writing that first book, I had no idea that eventually there’d be 13 books in the series. What happened is once I was finished with one book, I wanted to know what happened next to the people I’d created. The only way to find out was to write another book.

I’ve always told people that the books are as much about the families as the crimes that are committed. In my experience, the police officers I know are for the most part nothing like those I see depicted in movies and TV. And that’s probably the reason that some folks say that the series borders on being cozy. I must admit the books have become a bit “softer” since the first four.

Each book is written so it can be read as a stand-alone, but the lives of the police officers and their families are ongoing.

I hope you’ll try # 13, Unresolved.

F. M. aka Marilyn Meredith

#13 in the Rocky Bluff P.D. series, Unresolved Blurb:

Rocky Bluff P.D. is underpaid and understaffed and when two dead bodies turn up, the department is stretched to the limit. The mayor is the first body discovered, the second an older woman whose death is caused in a bizarre manner. Because no one liked the mayor, including his estranged wife and the members of the city council, the suspects are many, but each one has an alibi.

Copies may be purchased from Book and Table by emailing with a 10% discount and free shipping as well as all the usual places.

Bio: F. M. Meredith lived for many years in a small beach community much like Rocky Bluff. She has many relatives and friends who are in law enforcement and share their experiences and expertise with her. She taught writing for Writers Digest Schools for 10 years, and was an instructor at the prestigious Maui Writers Retreat, and has taught at many writers’ conferences. Marilyn is a member of three chapters of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and serves on the board of the Public Safety Writers of America. She lives in the foothills of the Sierra. Visit her at and her blog at

And tomorrow’s topic, May 9, Research.