Sunday, October 27, 2013

Battle of Good and Evil at Halloween

Marilyn Meredith's Spirit Shapes was just released. It's the perfect book for Halloween.

In Spirit Shapes, Deputy Tempe tries to solve three crimes that have occurred in the eerie Wilkinson House over the last eighty years. As Tempe is drawn into a battle of good evil, she is confronted with a problem faced by many with cross-cultural backgrounds. What is the best way to recognize the truth? Is it her Indian traditions as represented by Nick Two Johns or Christianity as represented by her husband Hutch or some combination of the two?

Spirit Shapes is a good snapshot of modern America with three-dimensional characters; some of whom just happen to be elderly, homeless, Goths, or kids that fall between the crack in the school system. The plot and conclusion will surprise you.

 Contest: The person who comments on the most blogs on this blog tour will have the opportunity to have a character named after him or her in the next Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery. Note Lorna Collins in Spirit Shapes is the winner of Marilyn's contest last year.

Bio: Marilyn Meredith is the author of over thirty published novels, including the award winning Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series. She borrows a lot from where she lives in the Southern Sierra for the town of Bear Creek and the surrounding area, including the nearby Tule River Indian Reservation. She does like to remind everyone that she is writing fiction. Marilyn is a member of EPIC, three chapters of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and on the board of the Public Safety Writers of America. Visit her at and follow her blog at

Tomorrow (October 31) she'll be visiting :

You can buy Spirit Shapes (in all formats) form Amazon or directly from the publisher:

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Where do you get ideas for your writing?

The old dictum (Write about what you know.) is generally good advice. That’s probably why several authors have created successful cozy mystery series based on their hobbies (i.e. gardening, quilting, or cooking). Out of habit, I still thumb through scientific journals. When I read how a few mutations (changes) could turn a bird flu virus into one that can infect humans, I knew that I had the basis for a medical thriller. I called it Coming Flu.

Many authors looking for tax write offs, base their novels on vacation spots, such as the Caribbean islands. I’m not as smart. My next novel Ignore the Pain was based on a coca tea bag, postcards, and other cheap souvenirs that I collected on a trip to Bolivia. I didn’t get a tax write off and the location is grittier than a tropical isle. Readers may be pleased to know my souvenirs did not include a llama fetus from the Witches’ Market in La Paz, Bolivia.

But you don’t have to travel far for ideas. Have you ever wandered down a street in an old section of your home town and wondered what happened behind those facades last year, ten years ago, or even a century ago? Or just go a nearby mall and “people” watch.

Advertisements are under-utilized sources of ideas (particularly humor) for novels. Consider the endorsements of weight loss regimes and products on TV. The sizes of some of the servings of food in these promotions make even small salad plates look large. And many of those “delicious” shakes are nauseating. In my medical mystery Murder:A New Way to Lose Weight, readers get to see how desperate diet doctors can be. They might even be murderers.

But other ads for clothing, cars, and sexual performance medications on TV are also promising. Don’t’ forget those Friday night TV shows, which are thinly covered hour-long advertisements for bridal gowns.

Bug and I would love to hear about your favorite sources of ideas for writing.

Friday, October 11, 2013

How does an undercover FBI agent write about Christmas?

Today I'm welcoming a guest  John Wills.

This ex FBI agent is a dynamic speaker. I've heard him play the role of a crook in the "hood" at a Public Safety Writers Association meeting. Granted I'm no expert, but he sure convinced me. I bet he was good at undercover activities while an FBI agent.

Here's what John has to say.

Thank you, Janet, for hosting me on your blog.  
I’ve always wanted to write a feel-good story about Christmas. My story, however, is gritty and deals with some pretty tough topics: PTSD, homelessness, and alcoholism. The Year Without Christmas is the story about a family living in a small town in Michigan. After a tragic accident, they spiral down into the darkest time in their life.
As Robert Frost noted, “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader.” That describes my journey as I crafted Eric Doyle’s story. Based on my life experiences, and those of family and close friends, I often found myself needing to pause as I wrote certain segments of the novel. My Catholic faith also played a large role in the story, although it never interferes with the stark conditions Eric faces as he winds up homeless on the streets of Chicago.
My bio begins in Chicago. Born and raised there, I was the second oldest of six children. We were a blue-collar family, my parents both worked to afford to send all of us to Catholic schools. I attended from kindergarten through college, and graduated from St. Xavier University in Chicago. I also spent a brief stint in the seminary, studying to become an Augustinian priest.
Instead of the priesthood, however, I spent two years in the Army, and then became a Chicago police officer. Twelve years later, I left the CPD and became an FBI agent. I worked all over the world, and was undercover on several occasions with the FBI. I spent my last six years teaching at the FBI Academy in Quantico, VA. I retired in 2004 and hired on with a training company in Seattle to train military and police throughout North America. I spent the past eight years training and travelling.
I am now fully retired. I continue to write novels, articles, short stories and poetry. Most often, I can be found spending time with my beautiful wife of 43 years, Christine, and my four grandchildren.
My reviewer page on the New York Journal of Books:
My articles on