Monday, September 19, 2016

My dear friend and one of my favorite authors, Marilyn Meredith, is launching the next book in her Detective Tempe Crabtree mystery series, Seldom Traveled. Detective Crabtree is one of my favorite characters, and I love this series. Tempe is a Native American. This is one of the reasons I’m fascinated by her. For this post, I asked Marilyn to tell us a bit about the real reservation and the Tule River Indians who live near her. Marilyn and I met at a conference ten years ago and have remained friends since then.
What Eagle Mountain Casino has done for the Tule River Indians

Lorna asked me to write about how the casino on the reservation has changed the lives of the Indians who live there. For those of you who might not know, the Yokut Indians and others who live on the reservation have been the models for the Indians in my Deputy Tempe Crabtree books.

The reservation was established in 1873 and covers 85 square miles of rugged foothill and mountains of the Sierra. Where the residents live, work and play is in a narrow valley. Though picturesque, for many years, life was hard. There was no electricity until the 1960s, and no jobs. The only employment available was in nearby Porterville which had to be accessed by a vehicle—and not many jobs were available to Indians.

In 1996, Eagle Mountain Casino was established. Along with the casino came many jobs, not only for Indians but also for people from the nearby area. Revenue from the casino made it possible for many new developments like a Health Center, Child Care Center, Education Department, a new Fire and Police Department, and more.

Eagle Feather, a gas station and large convenience store was built on Highway 190, along with a large automotive shop to maintain the casino buses. Eagle Feather 2 is located halfway between Porterville and the Pacific Coast.

The Tule River Aero Industries is located at the Porterville Airport and does major engine and airframe repair and has a sales department. The tribe also has a print shop, and owns and operates the Oak Pit Steakhouse in Porterville.

The tribe generously contributes to many different local charities and youth groups.

Though life may still not be perfect on the reservation, the casino has definitely made major improvements not only for the Indians but also for all of us who live nearby.

Marilyn
Seldom Traveled
The tranquility of the mountain community of Bear Creek is disrupted by a runaway fugitive, a vicious murderer, and a raging forest fire. Deputy Tempe Crabtree is threatened by all three.


Buy directly from the publisher in all different formats:


Marilyn Meredith has had so many books published, she’s lost track of the count, but it’s getting near 40. She lives in a community similar to the fictional mountain town of Bear Creek, the big difference being that Bear Creek is a thousand feet higher in the mountains. She is a member of Mystery Writers of American, three chapters of Sisters in Crime, and is a board member of Public Safety Writers of America.



New Contest:
Winners will be randomly picked from those leaving the most comments on the blog posts. Each winner can choose one of the earlier books in the series as either a print book or e-book.


Sunday, September 11, 2016

Indelible Memories

Some events burned themselves indelibly in my memory. The day my father died when I was seven. The day President John F. Kennedy died. And 9-11-2001.

I remember every minute, how I felt, what I said and did. Mostly I remember how helpless and confused I felt. The reality was simply too overwhelming to comprehend.

February 16, 1954
I got off the school bus and saw cars parked in our driveway and in front of the house. I recognized some, but others were strange. I walked inside, the rooms were filled, and the blinds were drawn. This had never happened before. The greatest surprise was seeing my paternal grandfather with his arm around my mother. As a rule, they avoided each other.

Mom said my dad was dead. I couldn’t grasp what it meant, and part of me didn’t believe it. Except Mom was crying. My aunts were crying. Heck, even Grandpa was crying. I decided I should cry, too, so I did. It took a long time to accept the reality of his loss.

November 22, 1963
The PA system crackled at lunchtime one day during my senior year of high school. This never happened. Gilbert Strother, our principal, announced the president had been shot in Dallas. I don’t remember what else he said, but we simply couldn’t believe the news.

JFK was “our” president. Even though he was the same age as my mother, he represented youth and change.

We had just returned to class when the PA came on again. Mr. Strother’s voice broke as he announced the death of our president. Nearly everyone began to sob. I think a couple of girls screamed. Classes were shortened for the day.

When I returned home, Larry was there already. He had heard in class at Cal Poly Pomona, where he was a student. They had cancelled classes. We turned on the TV and began the marathon coverage of the funeral and burial. Grief engulfed the nation.

September 11, 2001
We woke early as usual since we both kept early hours. We turned on the TV to get the weather and traffic report. I had taken the day off because we were expecting the contractor to do repairs following an earlier water leak.

Just as the TV came on, the scene switched from the local feed to the New York coverage with the announcement of a plane crashing into a World Trade Center tower. Smoke billowed from the building, shown behind the network anchors. As we—and they—watched, a second plane hit the other tower.

I immediately turned to Larry. “We’re at war.”

At the time, no one knew exactly who was responsible or why. Larry left for work and I continued to watch the live coverage. I saw the emergency responders arrive, and experienced sheer horror as the towers collapsed. Iconic clips played and replayed throughout the day. Added to the footage from Manhattan, the feeds from the Pentagon were added, including a live audio report from inside the building as the plane hit. More and more reports came in, some accurate, and some speculative.

Unreality overwhelmed the country. During the next few days, just like in the days following JFK’s assassination, the news coverage was unrelenting. And our country stood together.

Like all our neighbors and most of our friends, we flew our flag for days, beginning on September 11. Our old flag finally shredded, and we bought a new one.


The flag flies again today as it did fifteen years ago. These memories do not diminish over time. They are still too raw and too real. What do you remember this viscerally?

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Small Blessings

This morning I have been thinking about small blessings. These are the ones I receive every day and often don’t notice.

I woke up this morning. In itself, this is a blessing. I get another day. Another day with Larry. Another day to live in this glorious place. More of my friends are taken as time goes on, but I am still here. So what if I have a cough? So what if I don’t feel 100%? I’m awake and alive.

I rolled out of bed and stood up. What a gift. I often think about my friend Renee. She is paralyzed and can’t turn herself over without help. She needs assistance to sit up, move, dress, do her morning routine, and everything else in her life. She is not my only friend with physical disabilities. I’m grateful to be able to stand and brush my teeth and shower and dress by myself.

I took a hot shower. I have been grateful for hot running water for many years. I relish standing beneath the stream as I wake up and begin my day. When I think about it, a hot shower truly is a miracle.

I live in a place where many people pay a great deal to visit. We get to be here every day. The weather is close to perfect, and we truly enjoy it. Whenever we are at the marina, we remind ourselves of the gift of living in this special place.

We own a terrific house, one we never in our wildest dreams imagined we’d ever live in, much less own. It is big enough to share with others. Our daughter and my mother have both lived here. We have hosted several foreign students, and have housed various others over the years. We still love hosting company.

We are retired and, unlike so many of our friends, can afford to live in the same manner as we did when we were working at our careers. We have a second career as authors, and other people seem to enjoy our books. I have a third career as an editor. I’m busier than I would really like to be at this time in my life, but I’m grateful for a functioning brain and the ability to contribute to others.
The greatest blessing in my life is Larry. We dated for the first time when I was fourteen. I was crazy about him, and a few years later, he decided we should be together. We just celebrated our 51st wedding anniversary. We still have fun together, and he still makes me laugh.

The secondary blessing is our daughter, Kimberly. She brings us such joy, and we are proud of the adult she has become.


Sometimes I forget how truly blessed I am. Then I look around and realize all the wonderful things in my life. How could I not feel blessed?

Monday, August 29, 2016

Why Write Book Reviews?

It seems I’m always begging people who like our books to post reviews on Amazon.com and Goodreads. Yet most don’t. Why not?

THEY THINK IT’S HARD
Actually, all it requires is a couple of minutes and a couple of sentences. The star rating counts the most.
.

5-stars = Excellent read
4-stars = Good read, but not outstanding
3-stars = Just okay (On Amazon, it’s considered a negative review. On Goodreads, it’s neutral)
2-stars = Not great, but may have a quality or two worth reading
1-star = Should never have been published

I almost never write anything less than a 4-star review. I recognize tastes vary, and what may not appeal to me may appeal to someone else. I’ve only posted two 1-star reviews. One was so badly written I couldn’t get through the first page. (Amazon subsequently removed this one because of all the negative reviews and comments. I was far from alone.)

The other was by one of my favorite writers, but this book was dreadful. Quite a few others also hated it. I had previously written many positive reviews for this writer. This book had many reviews, and I felt obligated to warn others away from this title.

The vast majority of my reviews are 5-star.

THEY SAY THEY DON’T KNOW HOW TO WRITE
You don’t have to write a treatise. One or two sentences will do. You can always start with: I liked this book because… Then list a couple of reasons you enjoyed it.

THEY ARE FRIENDS
Amazon.com (and now Goodreads since they are now owned by Amazon) will not allow friends of the author to post reviews. How Amazon is aware of our friendships is beyond me. But it's worth writing one, even if Amazon removes it. You and the author will know in the future. (And Amazon may not realize you have a relationship.)


So why should you—and I—post reviews on books?

REVIEWS AFFECT PLACEMENT
It may seem strange, but the number of reviews a book receives affects how it shows up in Amazon listings. The algorithms by which Amazon makes these placements is arcane and confusing to nearly everyone, but the more reviews, the better the placement. A well-reviewed book will show up on the suggested books list for other books and may be suggested as a bundle with other books.

PUBLISHERS LOVE GOOD REVIEWS
Publishers will feature their well-reviewed books more often in their publicity. Since they do little of it anymore, good reviews give the author a boost.

THEY AFFECT LISTING ON OTHER SITES
Some other sites which feature authors and books require a minimum number of Amazon reviews before they can be listed. These sites have large followings and can give a listed book greater visibility. But if there aren’t enough good reviews on Amazon, they won’t be considered.

READERS USE REVIEWS TO BUY BOOKS
Readers looking at books to read on Amazon or Goodreads often use reviews to decide whether or not to purchase the book. Good reviews generate sales—always a positive for authors.

So, if you enjoy books, please follow up with a positive review.

And if you’d like to post a review on one of our books, here are the links:

We would appreciate your reviews, especially if you have enjoyed them!


Do you write book reviews? Why or why not?

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The Roses

The other day I looked at our roses. We have five bushes in the rose garden out front.
One is for Larry. He wanted a Sterling Silver, a pale lavender. Those weren’t available at the time, so we have a Stainless Steel—another light lavender.
One is Kim’s. It’s a JFK because she has been fascinated by the president since she was a little girl. It’s creamy white, but occasionally a streak of red appears on the petal. These streaks look like blood.
I don’t have one of my own. I let John, our landscaper, pick one out. He chose a Marilyn Monroe, since he is obsessed with her. (He has photos of her all over his house.) Marilyn is creamy pale rose to peach in color.
We planted a Double Delight for Larry’s mother. It was her favorite, and Dad always planted them for her. Looking at the blooms on her bush the other day, I realized how like her it was.

Letha was tiny and cute. She wore lots of prints and ruffles, jewelry and scarves. She never wore one bracelet when three would do. Her accessories—including shoes and bag—always matched her outfit. Oh, and her earrings did, too.

She resembled Betty White. Whenever she entered a room with her ever-present smile, the whole place lit up. She wasn’t a comedienne, but she always smiled and made anyone in the vicinity feel better. I was blessed to have had her in my life.

The Double Delight bloom is large and showy with a strong, sweet fragrance. The color varies. Just like Mother, it seems to be bored if it stays in the same outfit for too long. (She used to change clothes from head-to-foot at least five times a day.) The rose blooms early and continues to flower late into the season. The color can vary from nearly white, through rose, to deep red and varies from center to tip. The deeper color appears on the edges. We planted one in the church rose garden in memory of Mother and Dad. The first time we went to see it, the large, showy open bloom had a double center. Completely appropriate since it was in memory of both of them.
My mother’s rose is a Mr. Lincoln. It is a long-stemmed single blossom with a slightly tart fragrance I love. When I looked the other day, a single bloom stood tall and straight and proud, just like my mom. And like Mom, the rose is stubborn. While the Double Delight sends out dozens of blossoms all season long, Mr. Lincoln shows only one or two at a time, and usually when few of the other bushes are in bloom.

Mom herself always stood tall. Although she was only 5’4” everyone thought she was much taller. She always wore high heels and dressed in simple business attire—suits and dresses. She preferred a nice brooch to necklaces and rarely wore bracelets. She favored simple, conservative earrings, and her shoes and bag matched.

As I look on their roses, I am always reminded of the two most influential women in my life. Even though I miss them very much, their roses are a reminder of these special ladies.


Have you ever noticed how flowers reflect the people who love them?

Monday, August 1, 2016

Lessons Learned

One of the great benefits of getting older is you actually learn stuff. Here are a few suggestions I made to a younger friend when she was frustrated in her job. I think they hold up pretty well.

GRATITUDE
Start every day by listing the things you’re thankful for. No matter how bad your situation, it always contains blessings. Find and acknowledge them. (Try the 30 Day Gratitude Challenge. Each day, list something you are grateful for. It’s a good way to start the day.)

Start your conversations with everyone at work by thanking them for something—verbally if possible, mentally if not. Don’t be fake about it, but each time you see someone, try to think of one thing you like about them, one thing they have done for you, one thing they’ve helped you with. Then say it—or at least think it. Take the time to do this before rushing into other conversation. It will change your perception as well as theirs.

Continue to pursue doing what you love—whether where you are now or not. What is your real passion? If this is the most important thing to you, you shouldn't have to hunt for time to do it. You’d make the time, and the work itself would renew and refresh you.
NO JOB IS PERFECT
Let me repeat: NO job is perfect. You’ll enjoy some more than others, but EVERY job has its issues. No boss is perfect either.

I vividly remember wanting to be a Department Head or VP early in my career. By the time I reached my early thirties, however, spending my days doing something I enjoyed made far more sense.

Everyone needs balance in their lives. Even if you have to put it on your calendar, start setting aside time to spend with friends. What is play for you? DO IT.

At least twice during my performance reviews I was told to lighten up. I was so intense and driven I made the people around me uncomfortable. I never expected as much from anyone else as I did from myself, but I didn’t suffer fools lightly—and it sometimes included the boss. I didn’t think I was conveying this, but I had to have been. Work became much more enjoyable when I really got to know the others around me as people. I recommend it.
NO ONE OWES YOU ANYTHING
Work is a bargain between you and your employer. No one in the organization is obligated to help you in any way. If some do, consider it a bonus. But don’t carry any false expectations about how far or how much they can or will do. They are each fighting for their own positions. Particularly in a failing department or division, those from the top down are fearful for their own spots. And they probably know quite a bit more about what’s going on behind the scenes than they can or will tell you.

Get your expectations in check. Do the best job you can, given the resources and authority you are allowed. YOU ARE NOT IN CHARGE. Others are. And they make the decisions. Work as well as you can within those parameters.

Do what you are asked to do, and do it well. But don’t take on responsibility or expect to receive kudos for stepping on toes to take on more. Always try to make your boss look better, even if she is a real jerk. It will pay off in the long run.

BE STILL
Psalm 46:10: “Be still and know that I am God” has haunted me for years. I am woefully short on patience. I want to act and get things done NOW. The truth is control is an illusion. We can only do what is in our sphere to do. But we can’t control the outcome.

It’s a hard lesson and one I don’t always totally embrace. (I’m getting better about waiting, but I still don’t like it.)

Maybe your next position isn’t even available yet. Maybe you have to be at the nadir in order to accept the next offer. And it won’t be perfect either.

I can promise you this. Ten or twenty years from now, you will look back at your current place and say, “Oh, now I get it. This was what I needed to learn.” Or “I can see now I was being prepared for something better.”



What life lessons have you learned? Can they be helpful to others?

Monday, July 25, 2016

Dreaded Dialogue Tags

As an editor, one of my biggest annoyances is the use of unnecessary dialogue tags. What I mean is the obsessive use of “he said” and “she said.”
A friend insists on tagging every instance of dialogue with one of these. For me, this habit is like fingernails on the blackboard. His excuse is he took a writing class years ago where the instructor insisted the word “said” is invisible. I told him I found it annoying, so obviously it wasn’t invisible. He continues to write tagging every instance with “said,” and I refuse to read his books.

So, if you don’t use these tags, how do you let the reader know who is speaking?

First, write distinctive voices for your characters. If you have two characters and each of them has a distinctive speech pattern, rhythm, and POV, it may not be necessary to tag their words at all. Your reader should be able to identify the speaker simply from the word choice and position advocated by each.

If the conversation is between a man and a woman, the words may also be quite obvious.

But in cases where the scene features several characters, it may be necessary to indicate the speaker. One of the easiest ways to accomplish identification is by using actions. People aren’t just talking heads. They move, make gestures, and interact in nonverbal ways.

It helps for the writer to determine what each character does when under stress. Do they bite their nails, twist their hair, tense their jaw or clench a fist? When quizzical, does the character raise an eyebrow or frown or do a double take? Each of these reactions will not only help identify the speaker but also give depth to the character.

Are the characters drinking coffee? They can pick up their cups, take a sip, slam the cup down, etc. These actions can show the emotions involved as well as identify the speaker. If they are walking down the street, they can stop, turn, face another character, wave at a friend, etc.

What about body language? If a character leans forward, they are interested in what the other person is saying. If they lean back, they may either be resistant or they may relax. If characters are comfortable (and young), they may pull their feet up on the chair. If they are resistant, they may fold their arms. These gestures can add a level of subconscious information to the scene.

If characters are angry, they can slam drawers or doors, stomp out, thrust out their chins, etc.

The next time you are tempted to write “he said” or “she said,” try to find a more creative and interesting way to convey the identity of the speaker. Your readers will thank you.


Do you have other ways of identifying speakers? If so, what are they?

Monday, July 18, 2016

Why Write Medical Mysteries?

Today I welcome friend and fellow author J.L.Greger. I enjoy her mysteries because I always learn something from them. She uses real cutting-edge medical discoveries as the basis of her books. I’ve asked her to tell us about her latest book, Murder…A New Way to Lose Weight. Lorna


Birth of a Medical Mystery
Have you noticed? Many Americans have schizophrenic attitudes about food. If you doubt me, flip on your TV and watch the ads. First there’s one for a restaurant with pictures of smiling people and sizzling steaks or pizzas dripping with gooey cheese. Next comes a commercial for a diet regime or exercise product. The presenter is smiling as she effortlessly performs twenty abdominal crunches with some sort of “torture” contraption. Most of us would pant after moving the device twice. After a small break for the program, the ads are back.

Funny? Sad and pathetic? Annoying, especially to me, a former professor of nutrition. Maybe, that’s why I wrote Murder…A New Way to Lose Weight.

Let me tell you a little about my new medical mystery.

Dieting is hard. So is fitting into a new job where you aren’t wanted. Linda Almquist is trying to do both as the new interim associate dean of a medical school. Linda steps into a battle among the cliques of the school when she checks out allegations that two diet doctors are recklessly endangering the lives of their obese patients. Then she discovers one of the diet doctors—dead. She and the police suspect the other diet doctor of the murder. Maybe they’re wrong. The murders might be related to something in the past―something involving her boss, the Dean. While Linda fears for her job, the police fear for her life.

Another reason for setting my mystery in a medical school reflects my professional experiences. I was an associate dean in a medical school. Several of the scenes in Murder…A Way to Lose Weight recreate actual events. Associate deans are the recipients of responsibility for all the messes, which the head dean doesn’t want to touch.

Hundreds of clever, creative people (grouped in cliques based on disciplines, intellectual differences, and perceived past slights) work in a typical university health center. Occasionally, a few become bored with medical challenges and unleash their skills on each other. Thankfully, they generally seek revenge verbally, not physically. However, the comments of the medical examiner (Omar Otega) to the investigating police (Hitchings) in Murder…A Way to Lose Weight ring true.

“Motive?” Hitchings scanned the crowd and motioned Omar back to him. “Omar, do we even have a murder? Looks like natural causes.”

“Can’t tell,” replied Omar.

“But no bullet or stab wounds? So natural causes are likely.”

“You’re in a medical school.” Omar walked closer to Hitchings and spoke more softly. “Everyone in this building probably knows how to kill someone without using a gun or knife. A complete tox screen will take weeks. And this woman was only in her thirties, pretty young to die suddenly.”

My third reason to write a medical suspense novel was I found a series of scientific articles on a hot area of research—gut bacteria. Scientists have found the microflora (bacteria) in the gut change with weight loss. Scientists hypothesize they may be able to help patients increase weight loss and keep weight off by altering their gut bacteria. The science educator in me wanted to share that information.


Murder…A Way to Lose Weight (paperback & Kindle) is available from Amazon (http://amzn.com/1610092392).

J. L. Greger likes to include tidbits of science and foreign locations in her thriller novels—I Saw You in Beirut (set partially in the Middle East), Ignore the Pain (set partially in Bolivia) and Malignancy (set partially in Cuba & winner of 2015 Public Safety Writers Association annual competition). Yes, she’s traveled to all those spots. Learn more about her at her website: http://www.jlgreger.com or blog: http://jlgregerblog.blogspot.com.