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.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Defining Success as a Writer

Success is a word that can be defined in many ways. Most people would believe that an author would define success in terms of New York Times best-seller list rankings. Or the amount of money made from book sales. Or winning Pulitzer or Nobel prizes.

Writers, for the most part, undertake the task of putting thoughts, ideas, and stories down on paper for the purpose of being heard and hopefully understood. I don't know many writers who purposely sit down to write for the sole purpose of making money. Even the best-selling authors whose books get turned into movies didn't start their writing career because they wanted to get rich. They wrote because they had stories to tell. 

It would be easy to quote Harvey MacKay: "Find something you love to do, and you'll never work a day in your life." However, unless you've figured how to make a living taking naps, even the things you love to do require a great deal of work. Writing is no exception. Becoming a successful writer requires even more work. It's not enough just to put words down on paper. Or even to have a book or novel published (that can be done for free these days, with minimal talent.)

I've been a published writer for almost five years now and the success I've had has little to do with finances or literary prizes. This past weekend, my husband and I traveled about 200 miles to attend a book signing in a small, independent bookstore in Albuquerque, NM. It was a slow weekend and, as the shop owners told me, business has been hurt by nearby road construction which discourages people from venturing in to the Old Town area. Any money I made on that trip didn't even cover the cost of the trip (gas, parking fees, and one meal.)

The success came in the form of having the bookstore owners happy to see me. They like my work and it sells. Customers who came in and ventured over to meet a "real" author expressed interest in my books and a few bought copies (and hopefully will purchase the rest of the series.) Others merely congratulated me and wished me well. And when I walked up to the store, there, on a poster, was my book cover and the words "Author Signing Today". Not every writer gets that privilege.

That's what I call success.

Me, at a previous signing at Treasure House. It's always worth the trip!

Monday, April 17, 2017

Announcing the Release of "A Summer to Remember"!

If you had told me twenty-five years ago that I'd be announcing the publication of my fifth novel...

I probably would have believed you.

I remember clearly the first day I sat down and tentatively began typing the first words of a novel that has yet to see the light of day (beyond my and my husband's eyes.) I had been reading books on the craft of novel writing, I had subscribed to both "The Writer" and "Writer's Digest", I had steno pads with lists of names and notes about a story idea. What I felt was a weirdly exhilarating feeling of fear and excitement. Could I really write a book? Could it be good? Would someone besides me read it? Would they like it? Would I get paid to do it?

It took twenty years to get to where I get paid for what I write. And even now, I still feel that same feeling of being scared to death and being on top of the world when I first sit down to write another book. What trumps that feeling is the feeling I get when I hold the finished, printed product in my hands.

Perhaps it sounds egotistical and presumptuous to state that, back then, when becoming an author, a novelist, seemed like a pipe dream, I always knew it would happen someday. It was probably more wishful thinking than anything else, but no matter how many times I received a rejection letter, no  matter how many times I struggled to get the words to say what I really meant, no matter how many times I felt frustrated, giving up was never an option. Because I knew--I KNEW--that someday, I would have a book published.

Those dreams never went so far as to having me win a Pulitzer... just the New York Times best-seller list. But even if that never happens, even if I never make a huge amount of money, even if I only have a small but dedicated group of readers, I've already proven that dreams can come true. It takes a lot of hard work, a lot of persistence and patience, and a thick skin. That's what took twenty-plus years to develop. But those were the tools I needed to succeed.

So on that note, let me introduce you to the fifth book in the Black Horse Campground mystery series, "A Summer to Remember"!

It's been a memorable year at the Black Horse Campground. But someone wants certain things forgotten....

After Bonney Police detective J.D. Wilder wraps up three cold-case murders, believing that the murderer was his former partner, he tries to focus on his personal life in his new hometown and his budding relationship with Corrie Black, owner of the Black Horse Campground.

When he receives information that proves his former partner wasn't the murderer, the case is reopened with the knowledge and urgency that the killer is poised to strike again. But who held a grudge against the three cold-case victims... and who is that person's next target? With the help of Bonney County Sheriff Rick Sutton, J.D. probes the memories of several Bonney residents who knew the victims and begins to make connections.

Then another death occurs and while J.D. and Rick are investigating, Corrie is attacked. The attacker and the cold-case murderer could be the same person, but Corrie's condition is critical and she's lost her memories of the entire previous year... including the identity of her attacker and even having met J.D. Will she survive long enough to remember what happened? Or will she end up as a memory and the murderer gets away once again?

Available in print from amazon:

Monday, April 10, 2017

Patience and Perfection: On Editing a Book for Publication

Anyone who's ever written just about anything that is to be seen by an audience knows one thing is true: gremlins insert typos and mistakes into the finished product.

It has to be that. It can't be carelessness or anything that would be the writer's fault. Right?

The hard truth is that, as stated perfectly in a Facebook meme, "I do my best proofreading after I hit 'send'." I know that I do my very best to find all the typos, glitches, misspelled words, missing words, and messed-up indentations and paragraph breaks BEFORE I send my work to my beta-readers, editors, and--especially--my publisher. Imagine my chagrin when my manuscript comes back to me with a list of things that need to be corrected attached. And it's not a short list, either.

So I spend the next few days going over the manuscript line by line, scrupulously fixing all the mistakes that were brought to my attention. And once done, I send it off again.

And I get it back a few days later. With a new list of new mistakes.

It's harder this time around. I've already seen the manuscript at least a dozen times already, so I have several key passages memorized. That's where the gremlins hide; in plain sight in the most often read paragraphs. Because the writer KNOWS what the paragraph is supposed to say, so the eyes and brain skip over the exact words on the page, including the word "her" masquerading as "he", the character's name being substituted for another's, and an errant comma popping up where it doesn't belong.

This is where a writer needs to be patient, not just with the extra eyes that spot all of the gremlins' shenanigans, but with him or herself. It's tempting, after two or three rounds of corrections with a deadline looming, to just say, "Okay, the corrections are done, just go with it!" I've hit that wall more than once, especially with this last book that I've been working on. But it's important to soldier on and not be discouraged. It helps to remind oneself that it's the writer who will look foolish when the reading public finds the errors.

I've learned to be patient and not rush through the editing process, no matter how badly I want to be done and move on to publication. I want to make a good impression on the readers so that they will want to read more of my work. Errors will still sneak through (those gremlins have an uncanny knack for being persistent!) but a large amount of mistakes send a message to the reader that the author doesn't care enough to deliver the best work they can. That's definitely not the message I want to send my readers.

They deserve my very best!

Getting after the gremlins... caffeine helps!

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Finding Time vs. Making Time

I've often said that many times it's not a matter of "finding" time to do the things one wants to do, but simply a matter of "making" time. After all, it's a matter of priorities, isn't it? Writing or watching TV? Editing or going to a movie with friends? Blogging or... taking care of family?

It's a common joke (sort of) that writers struggle to decide between laundry and housework or working on their novel. But when a writer suddenly finds him or herself having to take care of family... it's not a laughing matter.

Whether it's taking care of a new baby in the house or an elderly person who needs assistance,that is when a writer has to develop a knack for finding time. It make be a few moments in between naps or during a favorite TV show (the family member's, not the writer's!), or getting up an hour earlier or staying up later, but one thing is certain: a writer no longer has the luxury of time.

This is when a writer must really take to heart the fact that writing IS a job. However little time one can find, it's important to take it seriously. Writing, sadly, can easily be relegated to the category of tasks considered to be frivolous or merely entertaining. A writer must treat their writing time seriously in order for others to treat it seriously as well.

Those stolen moments must be utilized to their fullest. Five minutes might not be long enough to immerse oneself in the latest work-in-progress, but it might be enough time for a character sketch or a quick blog post, maybe even a Facebook post.

Just try to fight the temptation to start browsing Facebook instead of working!