Saturday, November 3, 2018

Marilyn Meredith Talks About Critique Groups

Today my friend, Marilyn Meredith, talks about critique groups, one of my favorite topics. If it weren’t for Marilyn and the critique group she moderated, I never would have written my three mysteries. Welcome Marilyn!

Marilyn, who writes the RBPD series as F. M. Meredith
Is A Critique Group for You?
Some people love belonging to a critique group, others are totally opposed to them. This summer at a writers’ conference, I moderated a panel about critique groups. Three panelists loved their critique groups, three hated them.
 I’m in the “love belonging to a critique group” camp. I’ve belonged to the same group (though different people have come and gone) for many years. Here are some of the reasons I love my critique group.
1.     In the beginning, I learned how to write.
2.     I found out what a point-of-view meant and how to use it.
3.     I’ve learned, and continued to learn better grammar.
4.     I learned how to describe people, places and things.
5.     My group point out mistakes I’ve made. Sentences and plot points that need to be made clearer.
6.     I’m able to share what I know to help others write better.
7.     I get encouragement from the other writers.
8.     And I get lots of criticisms. If they didn’t critique what I wrote, I wouldn’t go anymore.
9.     I consider my critique group my first editor.
What someone needs to understand, is when hearing what others say, don’t start defending your writing, just listen, write down pertinent points they make. Wait until you are home to take a good look at what was suggested. Maybe you won’t make the change the way they said, but it may give you an idea of how to make your work even better.
If you can’t take criticism, you don’t belong in a critique group. Over the years we’ve had many people come to the group but didn’t stay because their words were too precious to them. Everyone’s writing can be improved. If someone has suggestions as to how my writing can be better, I want to hear it.
What about the rest of you? What are your feelings about critique groups?

Too many people are telling lies: The husband of the murder victim and his secretary, the victim’s boss and co-workers in the day care center, her stalker, and Detective Milligan’s daughter.


F. M. Meredith who is also known as Marilyn once lived in a beach town much like Rocky Bluff. She has many friends and relatives in law enforcement. She’s a member of MWA, 3 chapters of Sisters in Crime and serves on the PSWA Board.

Facebook: Marilyn Meredith
Twitter: @marilynmeredith

Next up I’m visiting and answer the question, Why Do I keep on Writing?

Friday, October 26, 2018

Rendering Lard

I thought the main character in the historical novel I’m writing might have to render lard for her cooking, so I’d give her my grandmother, Ida Martin’s recipe. This is exactly as she wrote it for a newspaper column in Wisconsin.

Rendering lard
For trying out leaf lard I first cut it up in small
pieces to go into a sausage grinder easily. I then run the lard through the grinder, which makes it very fine, just like sausage meat. I then put my iron kettle on the stove, filling it nearly to the top with my ground lard, without any water, and start cooking, watching and stirring some at first so they shall not stick to the kettle. To tell when it is done is to look at the scrap, when the scrap is brown your lard will keep; I then strain through a wire milk strainer into one-gallon butter crocks, but don’t strain in jars while too hot, as lard is hotter than boiling water, and might crack the jars. Now, done this way, it is not an all-day job rendering the lard, but you will get it all out of the way before dinner, and then can have time in the afternoon for making “liverwurst,” head cheese or some other of the many duties on a farm when butchering time comes around. I.L.M.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Fashions of 1904

I’ve been doing some researching for the historical novel I’m working on and was thinking about the clothing my main character was likely to have worn. I searched the internet and didn’t find exactly what I was looking for. Then it occurred to me to look at some of my own old family photos.

I believe this photo was a common style around 1900. Of course, these ladies, my great aunts, were all dressed up to have their picture taken. They wouldn't have worn duds like these to cook dinner. I would love to know the color of the dresses, but alas, this was long before color photography.

All I can say is that I’m sure glad we don’t dress like that any longer. Can you imagine what it would have felt like in the summer?

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Flirting in the early 1900s

My character in 1904 carries a parasol. Parasols were commonly carried by fashionable women and often used to signal a woman’s intentions towards a man. Here are some of the parasol signals she might have learned from her older sisters.
Carrying it closed in the left hand — Meet on the first crossing.
Carrying it closed in the right hand by the side — Follow me.
Carrying it elevated in left hand — Desiring acquaintance.
Carrying it over the right shoulder — You can speak to me.
Folding it up — Get rid of your company.
Letting it rest on the left cheek — No.
Letting it rest on the right cheek — Yes.
Striking it on the hand — I am much displeased.
Swinging it to and fro by the handle on left side — I am engaged.
Swinging it to and fro by the handle on the right side — I am married.
Tapping the chin gently — I am in love with another.
Twirling it around — Be careful! We are watched.
Using it as a fan — Introduce me to your company.
With handle to the lips — Kiss me.

Fisher, J., The Little Flirt, 1871
“Parasol Flirtation,” Taranaki Herald, 1891
Sangster, William, Umbrellas and Their History, 1855
Shafer, Daniel R,. Secrets of Life Unveiled, 1877

Friday, September 21, 2018

The Lowly Coat Hanger

You probably never gave a coat hanger much thought. I know I didn’t until my character was hanging her clothes in an armoire in chapter 7.  That’s when the question came up. What did they use to hang their clothes in 1904?

Most of us use clothes hangers 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They lovingly support our clothing investment, some of our most prized possessions. But have you ever stopped to wonder where the idea originally came from? Who invented this humble little device? What year was it invented?
Some historians believe that Thomas Jefferson, our third President, invented the predecessor to the coat hanger. However, it seems likely that the earliest version, one with a hook and shoulder shape was developed later, after the invention of the coat hook by O.A. North on Connecticut in 1869.
It didn't take long for others to jump into the game and a variety of patents were filed with the US patents office. The one pictured below looks like it would have been use with a coat hook.

In 1903 at the Timberlake Wire and Novelty Company in Jackson Mississippi, Albert J. Parkhouse, an employee, decided that the coat hanger needed improving. He took a simple piece of wire and shaped two ovals and twisted them together, then finished it with a bent hook at the top so it could be hung over a bar. It was revolutionary. More clothes to be stored together in one place.

 More design ideas came along in the ensuing decades. The more rigid variation of the design (depicted below) incorporated wood and further wire support struts to add strength and durability.

 In 1932, Schuyler C. Hulett mounted cardboard tubes on the wire sections which supported the clothing in order to prevent excess wrinkling.

In 1965, Gerhard Wieckmann filed a patent for a revolutionary new hanger that still had a wire hook, however used a new design wooden frame. This wooden frame was developed to minimize the creases in clothing caused by wire hangers. This version of the hanger cost a little more, but would have a much greater lifespan. Then in 1967, J.H Batts filed a patent for a molded plastic hanger, the kind I like to well. The advantage was not only lower production costs but increased the durability. 

Golly, the things we take for granted. So there it is. Yes. Della could have had a hanger to hang up her clothes in 1904.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

My Summer Reading Collection

You never know where you’ll find a great book. I found the first one on the Friends of the Library sale shelf. The second book, I’ve on my own shelf waiting to be read, the same with the last on the list. But the two in between came to my hand in a less common way. I was in the Dollar Tree store, wandering down an aisle and saw a shelf of books. It’s hard for me to pass any collection of books, so I pawed through the pile and picked two. Boy, am I glad I did.

Starting in June I read Oxygen by Carol Cassella. When I realized this book is about an woman anesthesiologist, written by a real life anesthesiologist, I knew the medical side of the story would be accurate. In the story, Dr. Marie Heaton, a tightly wound doctor, is sent into a tailspin when a child under her care unexpectedly dies while under anesthesia. Struggling to cope with the disaster that follows, she finally rallies and is determined to discover the underlying cause of the death. Ultimately she is lead to realize she’s been betrayed by the person she would least suspect. Highly recommended.

Memories Can Be Murder by Connie Shelton. I’ve enjoyed a number of Shelton’s Charlie Parker series. her characters are like real people, and I like the way she plots her stories. In this one Charlie finds a notebook of her father’s which opens old wounds and sends her on a quest to find out what really caused the plane crash that killed her parents.

The Striver’s Row Spy by Jason Overstreet. This book is an interesting peek into the post-WWI era of black America. The protagonist, Sidney Temple, a man of color in 1919, is tapped my J. Edgar Hoover to be one of the 1st African-American agents. His assignment is to move into Harlem, and infiltrate the organization of Marcus Garvey, a man who is advocating that the colored population relocate to Liberia. Hoover wants Temple to find and report incriminating evidence against Garvey.

Zodiac Station by Tom Harper. This is a tale of sabotage, suspicion, and paranoia among a group of scientists on a remote Arctic island of Utgard. It’s a good book to read during the hot summer. The description of Arctic cold and the difficulties of living in that sort of climate almost make you shiver. The science and the puzzle are fascinating.

Night Passage by Robert B. Parker is the first Jesse Stone novel. While reading this book I kept hearing Tom Selleck’s voice. He did such a great job of portraying Stone’s manner of investigating in those movies about corruption in the small New England town of Paradise.

Hope you find something here you'd like.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Visalia Library Book Festival 2018

The Book Festival at the library in Visalia was a huge success with lots of browsers and many, many children. Tulare-Kings Writers were well represented as you can see by the pictures. The library plans to make it an annual event.