Change, Mack, P.D. James, Book Clubs, & Continuity

Madeline (M.M.) Gornell is the author of six award-winning mystery novels. Her current literary focus is Route 66 as it traverses California’s Mojave Desert. Madeline is a lifetime lover of mysteries, and besides reading and writing, is also a potter. She lives with her husband and assorted canines in the High Desert. For more information, visit her website or Amazon Author Page.

 
Adler “Mack” Jones thinks, A whole year has passed, and I didn’t even notice. Or see it go by? Or feel it go by? And who the heck is Mack, you ask? The protagonist in a book I just started (600 words written! (smile)) The whole idea for Mack, his friends, and this Mojave story came to me contemplating this blog, an email from Jacqueline Vick, and from Facebook posts by Paul D. Marks on TCM movies. I know, story ideas sometimes come via a convoluted path. But my point for mentioning is; what Mack is thinking, I’m also thinking this early January week of 2016.
My life so far, seems to be broken into chunks, often in ten-year or so groups, punctuated by change. Twenty-sixteen numerically marks the end/beginning of one of those periods—and like Mack, it’s hard to accept 2015 is over? The change has come, but I certainly wasn’t ready for it.
P.D. James advised to “Read widely and with discrimination.” Ha! Easier wanting to do versus actually doing. Give me a good mystery, and I’m set. At the beginning of my last 10 year swatch of time, we’d just recently moved to the high desert. Before that, in Puget Sound I’d been a member of a wonderful book club. And I sure missed it. Fortunately, in not too long of a time (end of 2005) we had a local book club up and going. It is through their wonderful selections I can follow P.D.’s advice. (If you know me, you know P.D. is my “rock star” author.) Here’s an old picture of some of the first members at one of our early initial potlucks at my house. As you might notice, after the book we read, food was an important aspect! We even called ourselves “Books and Cooks.” And how this fits in, besides enabling P.D.’s advice to read widely, is in relation to change and time flying by. (An aside note about time and change—the shelves in back of us are now covered with stuff accumulated over ten or so years! Jeez.)
Which brings me to the writing part of this meandering. Even though I write fiction, it is the “stuff of our lives” that forms, or at a minimum, colors and influences the tales we tell. And no matter what I might literarily imagine, what location I might want to visit in my writing, what intrigue I might want to weave—it’s everyday life, friendships, connections, happenings that take me there.
The personalnugget here—I’m powerless to stop change and time. And that is good—moves me forward! But for some other things, continuity is so important. For example, sharing reading adventures in a book club.
 And, the writing nugget here is; somehow, and I’m not really sure if you can make it happen, or precisely how—but opening our minds and emotions to the serendipitousness of change, while simultaneously holding on to the things in our lives that matter, is what brings richness and depth to our writing. Now, that’s a mouthful! But it’s what Mack is thinking about. What I’m writing about.
Indeed, even writing this post has turned me from, golly where did last year go and why haven’t I finished another novel—to looking forward to the start of a new wonderful year, full of change and continuity from last year—with endless possibilities for Mack!
Happy New Year!

Ghosts, Spirits, and Things That Go Bump in the Night with Marilyn Meredith

 Marilyn Meredith, who is also known as F.M. Meredith, is the author of nearly forty published novels, including the award winning Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series, published by Mundania Press. Writing as F. M. Meredith, Oak Tree Press publishes her Rocky Bluff P.D. series. 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 on the board of the Public Safety Writers of America. She lives in the foothills of the Sierra in a place similar to Bear Creek, the setting of most of her Tempe Crabtree series. For over 20 years, she lived in a Beach community with many similarities to Rocky Bluff.

Ghosts, Spirits, and Things That Go Bump in the Night

When I began writing the Deputy Tempe Crabtree series, my plan was to incorporate a great deal of Native American legends and mysticism. Tempe, who is part Indian, is the resident deputy of a small mountain community. In early books, Tempe participates in several Indian rituals and ceremonies to help solve a crime. When Tempe calls back someone from the dead to find out the truth about a suicide and a murder in Calling the Dead, a door is opened to the spirit world.

From then on, she has unexpected visits from spirits of murder victims, sometimes offering confusing information that is at first not particularly helpful to solving the crimes. She’s also had many visions of Indians from the past.

In Spirit Shapes a body is found by ghost hunters in a haunted house. When Tempe is called to investigate, she faces an onslaught of spirits and ghosts. Some of the spirits are evil—and the ghosts are victims of crimes from the past.

In the book that follows, River Spirits, a movie company is filming on the nearby Indian reservation and one of the actors is found dead. While hoping to trap the murderer, Tempe is guided by unusual spirits that rise from the river called Bear Creek.

Not as it Seems is the latest in the series. Tempe and her husband go to Morro Bay to attend their son’s wedding and enjoy a much needed vacation. Her son asks her to try to find the missing maid-of-honor, and of course Tempe agrees. When the young woman turns up as a ghost, Tempe knows she’s been murdered and continues the investigation. She has no idea what all of her encounters with Indian spirits from the past could possibly mean.

My Rocky Bluff P.D. series is a police procedural and has had nothing to do with ghosts until the last one, Violent Departures. When Detective Doug Milligan and his family move into their new house, it isn’t long before they realize it has another occupant, a ghost. Even though the youngest member of the family has had conversations with the spirit, Doug is reluctant to believe in the phenomena. What happens is a side plot to the main story.

I’ve always been fascinated by ghost stories and haunted houses. Hubby and I have stayed in several haunted hotels, even once in the room that was purported to be haunted. However, I’ve never seen a ghost though my grandkids all think the old house that we live in is haunted.

Oh, I’ve had many eerie experiences over the years, but no ghost sightings. I have lots of fun writing about what I think it might be like.

If you visit my website,  you can read the first chapters of most of my books.

I also have a blog  where I too host authors and write about various subjects.

If you’ve ever had a ghostly encounter, tell us about it here in a comment.


Interview with Marilyn Meredith


Marilyn Meredith is the author of the Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series as well as the Rocky Bluff P.D. series. In addition, she writes Christian Horror, edits, teaches and freelances. Welcome Marilyn!

 
There was an article about you on the Austin Writing Examiner website, about how you just keep getting better. When did you start your writing career, and what lead you to decide to be an author?

That comment about getting better made me laugh. I certainly hope I’m getting better and I always feel like my latest book is the best.

I’ve always written but didn’t start really pursuing a writing career until I was in my forties. Oh I was writing, but hadn’t started the submitting, getting rejected, resubmitting process until nearly all my kids were grown.

Being a reader is what really made me want to be a published writer.

Your current release, Dispel the Myth, is your eighth Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery. This time, she enters the realm of supernatural through the Legend of the Hairy Man. Can you tell us a bit about this legend and how you came to hear of it?

Every Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery contains some supernatural elements and/or Indian legend. In the book prior to this one, Kindred Spirits, I did a lot of my research with a Tolowa woman in Crescent City. In that area stories about Big Foot encounters are many. While doing some online reserach about Big Foot I came across a website about the Hairy Man with legends and a photo of the pictograph that is in a rock shelter on the Indian reservation near my home. Of course I had to learn more.

I contacted the Anthropology Professor at Porterville College to ask questions and he invited me on a class field trip to the rock shelter. Of course I went–and I knew Tempe would have to go there too.

You also author the Rocky Bluff P.D. series, featuring Officer Stacy Wilbur. What are some of the differences between Deputy Crabtree and Officer Wilbur?

Tempe is Native American, fairly tall, dark haired, a deputy sheriff, has a grown son and is married to a preacher.

Stacey Wilbur is white, small, fair, a police officer and now a Vice Officer, isn’t married though she’s in a relationship with a detective, and has a little boy.

What’s the same with both women is they both were widowed after short marriages and they are strong and independent–though I think Tempe is the stronger of the two and she is also older.
Besides mysteries, you write books for the Christian horror market. What are some of the stereotypes about writing for the Christian market that you’d like to dispel?

I wrote three Christian horror–they are all three very scary–but there is a Christian message in all of them. I was never very successful with them because I guess the mainstream publishers were right, they were too Christian for their readers and the Christian publishers aid they were too scary for their readers. I found small publishers who liked the books despite the scary and Christian combination.

You keep an impressive appearance schedule, not to mention you blog, publish a newsletter, freelance write, edit a newsletter, do public speaking and teach. Your energy level puts me to shame. How do you fit in your writing?

It isn’t easy sometimes to fit in my writing. Like today, I should be editing my latest Rocky Bluff P.D. book and when that’s done I need to start another Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery. And believe it or not, I do have a life. I do combine things though, I’m having a book signing at our next family reunion.

As one of the first authors to jump into ebook publishing, can you tell us if what the differences are from traditional print publishing?

When ebook publishing first began there were no e-readers like there are today, so it was slow going. The Rocket e-Reader was the first reader to come out, but it was bought by Sony who just recently came out with their own. Many of my books are available for all the versions of e-readers now available.

When the print-on-demand technology came about, nearly all the e-publishers started doing trade paperbacks of their e-books which is what Mundania Press does, the publisher of my Tempe Crabtree books.

The Rocky Bluff P.D. books are also trade paperback, and Oak Tree Press makes them available as e-books for the Kindle.

E-publishers are far more flexible than other publishers in that they are much more willing to publish a new writer, one that is older, and books that cross several genres. All they are looking for is a good book. There guidelines are always posted on their websites and it is really important that these guidelines are followed. They get lots of submissions and not following guidelines will probably mean a rejection.

Your web site list several writing classes that you offer to groups, libraries and schools. One class is Creating Fiction from your own Genealogy. Could you tell us what this is about?

My very first published books, Trail to Glory and Two Ways West were based on my own family’s genealogy. My sister did the genealogy and when I read it I had so many questions I decided to do some research and write a fiction book from what I learned. What fun! It meant researching the time and places where the family traveled, what might have made them move on, and everything else necessary to write a historical novel.

Once I was done with both sides of the family, I had to figure out what I was going to write next. Since I loved to read mysteries, I decided that’s what I should write.

Putting on your teacher’s hat, what is the one most valuable piece of advice you’d like to offer our readers?

If you are brand new to writing, learn all you can. Read the kind of books you want to write. Then sit in front of your computer and start writing. Write every day if possible. When you’re done get someone to edit your work. When the manuscript is as good as you can get it, start sending it out. Then, start the next book. Don’t let rejections stop you. See if there’s something you can learn from the rejection, rewrite it necessary, and keep sending the book out.

Finally, what’s next for you?

I’m cleaning up the next Rocky Bluff P.D. book which should come out sometime after the first of the year. Mundania has my next Tempe which is due next fall.

Marilyn can be reached at her website. You can also purchase a copy of Dispel the Mist by clicking on the bookcover to the left.