Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The Value of a Critique Group

Marilyn Meredith (aka F.M. Meredith) has another new Rocky Bluff mystery! This is number thirteen in this series. She also writes a second series with many books. I asked her how she keeps her characters interesting in such a long series.

 

The hostess of this blog and I go way, way back. Gloria was in two different writing groups that I taught. The second one operated like a critique group. As the instructor, I got to make my suggestions first, but everyone else could do so also.
When I first started writing with the hopes of being published, I couldn’t find a critique group so my sister took my chapters to one in her area. They seldom praised anything, though perhaps she only told me the criticism, and I learned lots.

The critique group I belong to now, I joined way back in 1981. The members have changed over the years, in fact except for the founder, I’m the most consistent attendee. I’ve learned more from this critique group than from any other source including conferences, writing classes and books on writing.

Early on, I learned that the praise was nice but the criticism and suggestions were the helpful part. If I attended and read my pages and didn’t hear what to the other members seemed confusing, or didn’t make sense, or the grammar was flawed, I wouldn’t waste my time.

That doesn’t mean I always agreed with every bit of criticism, but if something was pointed out, I took a long look at it to see how it could be fixed or written more clearly.

I’ve always considered my critique group my first editor. They don’t catch everything, but I’m thankful for what they do point out. Even the paid editor doesn’t find every error, and often not the publisher. In the end, it’s up to me to make sure the work is as error free as possible.

A good critique group can be a valuable asset to your writing journey.

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 bookandtablevaldosta@gmail.com 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 http://fictionforyou.com and her blog at http://marilymeredith.blogspot.com/




Tomorrow, I’m visiting  http://paperbackwriter.rebeccaswritingsvcs.com where you can read a short excerpt.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

After speaking at the Kingsburg Library yesterday, I began thinking about libraries I have utilized and loved.

Libraries have been an important part of my life. My family were readers, and though there were only a few books in our home when I was a child, we frequently went to the Carnegie library where we lived.

It was an adventure for me. I remember sitting cross-legged on the floor in front of a shelf of children’s book while my mother and my older sister perused the adult section. At the time I hadn’t learned to read, so I looked at the pictures and imagined the stories. It never occurred to me to ask to take one home. I guess I thought that privilege was only for adults.

But when I was about five, I was allowed to borrow a book. It is still a vivid memory.
The cover was illustrated in red and green Scotch plaid. Of course, the story had to be read to me. It was about a Scottish boy whose parents had died. His father was from the highlands and his mother from the lowlands. The families of the parents argued over which branch would have custody of the boy, and a big argument ensued. As the story came to a close, a compromise was reached. The boy would spend the summers with highland family and the winter with the lowland branch.

I was hooked on stories and books ever after.

My sister, fifteen years older than me, was a teacher with much experience with children. Worried that I might damage the library book, she said, “Don’t open the covers too far, like this.” She gave a partial demonstration of what I was not supposed to do. “The book will cry,” she said. “You don’t want to make the book cry.”

Up to that moment, it had never occurred to me to bend the book covers back like that. But as soon as she was out of sight, I had to test it. I opened it until the covers touched. Alas, no tears appeared. I remember thinking it was a silly to imagine a book would cry.

How about you? Do you remember your first book? How have libraries impacted your life?

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Tulare-Kings Writers Need to Know

Calling Writers of Tulare and Kings County!

Tulare/Kings Writers is under new leadership!
With a big thank you to Steve Pastis for leading the group for the past five years, the torch has been passed —

As of January 21, 2017 the group will be led by Gloria Getman as President, Judith Boling, Vice President, Carolyn Barbre, Secretary, Newell Bringhurst, Membership, Marilyn Meredith, Media Manager, and Sylvia Ross, Hostess Coordinator.
We have some interesting plans for the coming year, so come to the next meeting and hear about them. We want to know about YOU, your writing, your goals, your successes, and your special talents.

Mark Your Calendar! February 18, 2017 - 10 A.M. to 12 P.M.  in the Blue Room at the Visalia Public Library, 200 W Oak Ave, Visalia
Refreshments will be served.

 

Friday, February 10, 2017

New Historical Novel by Judith Bixby Boling

On a cold night in November 1865, Michael Llewellyn informs his only daughter, Priscilla, that she is betrothed to Josiah Pennyman, a man she has never met. Six months later. she boards the Emma, a merchant ship, to travel from Boston to the Pennyman cattle ranch outside Corpus Christi, Texas.

Denied the company of her lady’s maid, Priscilla embarks on the journey alone. Faced with superstitious seaman, the treacherous coral reefs off the Florida Keys, and her own doubts, she resolves to honor her father’s wishes.

But when Josiah Pennyman reveals his true nature, she hope only to escape this man, and Texas, with her life.



Judith Boling’s love of history led her to write this book. She and her husband have been American Civil War reenactors for thirteen years. She often portrays a Union woman living alone in a small town. As such, she is a member of a Soldier Aid Society, knitting socks and mittens for the brave soldiers. On occasion, she has been known to disguise herself as a Union soldier and join a mounted artillery battery.
A native Californian, she lives in Visalia with her husband, Roger. They have two grown children and five grandchildren.

Priscilla Alone is her first novel. She is currently writing Together Alone, the continuing story of Priscilla Llewellyn and Elizabeth Owens. Publication of Rachel's Ghost, her second book, is  anticipated sometime this spring.
Priscilla Alone is available on Amazon and as a Kindle eBook.





Sunday, January 15, 2017

A Book I Recommend - The Life We Bury by Allen Eakins


I received this book in December as part of our Mystery Readers holiday book exchange. It captured my interest from the very first page.

The story is about young Joe Talbot, a college student, who has a class assignment to interview a stranger and write a biography about a turning point in that person’s life. At a nursing home, Joe learns that there is one resident that might be a likely subject, Vietnam vet, Carl Iverson. But will Iverson consent to be interviewed? He is a convicted murderer who has been medically paroled because he has pancreatic cancer and only a few months to live.

As Joe is about to find out, his cell phone rings. It’s his mother who has been arrested for a DUI and is in jail. She’s screaming into the phone, demanding that Joe come bail her out. Joe must leave, and as he described his childhood, we learn that this woman is an drunk, bi-polar and sometimes violent. On top of that, Joes has a brother, two years younger, who is autistic and can’t be left alone for more than a short period of time. Joe’s focus in life is to get himself out of that situation, and he sees college as his only chance.

With his mother awaiting her court appearance, Joe takes his brother to stay with him in his apartment near the college. Lila, another college student, befriends his brother and becomes a friend of Joe’s. With her help and encouragement, Joe obtains the court records of the Iverson trial and learns about the gruesome murder.  

The next time Joe visits Iverson, he meets Iverson’s friend, another vet. Privately, the friend tells Joe that Iverson could never commit such a crime. When Joe asked why he thinks that, the man says, “Ask him about Vietnam.”

As this fast-paced story unfolds, Joe finds himself in a tug of war between the demands of his family and his need to find out the truth about Iverson. With secrets revealed, Joe goes a step too far.

The story, gritty and raw in places, exposes many issues: family relationships, abuse, autism, brotherly love, guilt, loyalty, death, the Vietnam War, and the criminal justice system, among others. As in real life, not every issue is resolved.

In the genre of mysteries, this one  stands out because the characters are compelling, the dialogue natural, and the conflict well thought out, all of which make it a page turner.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

How to Save Your Book from Fire

Do you have Words to Burn?

A few nights ago a bad dream woke me up. In it, I was escaping from a blazing apartment fire and trying to warn the neighboring apartment dwellers to run for their lives. It’s likely the dream was triggered by the late-night news program. In one of the segments, a woman was crying because she’d lost everything when her apartment caught fire in the night.

As I lay in bed thinking about that poor woman, I began consider what I’d do if my house caught fire in the middle of the night. An escape route was the first thing that came to mind. There’s window next to my computer desk; that would be my exit. The next thing was envisioning what I would grab as I was going out. I decided I would grab my jeans, for obvious reasons, my purse, it contains my insurance cards, and then my external hard drive. If I could quickly find my little flash drive, I’d take that too.


And here is the point of this blog. There’s a reason for my obsessiveness. I work hard to put together a book to publish. It takes months to complete a final copy. The external hard drive is the place where I backup my files from my desktop computer, my main work station. In addition, I often put copy of copy book files to the flash drive and transfer them to my laptop when I wish to work at some other location, like the library.

 A year ago I met a writer up in Oakhurst whose house had burned to the ground. I can’t remember her name. She told me that she and her husband had gone to the city to do some shopping, or something like that. When they came home that day, they found their house in ashes. BUT she had her current writing project saved on a flash drive which just happened to be in her purse that day. It was pure luck, she said. Her story stuck with me.

You’re probably thinking, “Oh, but I have my files on The Cloud. They’re safe there.” Yeah, right. The colossal hacking episode a week ago messed up a huge number of servers around the country, and that’s what a cloud is, a series of numerous servers. Several in the pipeline still aren’t working correctly. It will happen again, I believe, and the potential hazard of such criminal acts gives me goose bumps.

I don’t mean to sound like a Halloween story, but really, how are you protecting your hard work? What would you do if your house caught fire in the middle of the night? Have you backed up your files? Or do you have words to burn. It’s something to think about.