Thursday, May 25, 2017

Why I Observe Memorial Day

This weekend, we will observe Memorial Day. The holiday began three years after the Civil War in 1868 as Decoration Day, a time set aside to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers. The date of May 30 probably was selected because flowers would be in bloom across the country in the late spring.

The first large observance was held at Arlington National Cemetery. The ceremonies began on the veranda of the Arlington mansion, once the home of Gen. Robert E. Lee. Washington officials, including Gen. and Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant, attended. After speeches, children from the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Orphan Home and members of the Grand Army of the Republic strewed flowers on both Union and Confederate graves as they recited prayers and sang hymns.

By the turn of the twentieth century, ceremonies were held on May 30 throughout the country. After World War I, the day was expanded to honor those who died in all American wars. In 1971, Congress declared Memorial Day a national holiday. The date was also changed to the last Monday in May.

So, what does this mean for us?

Some communities hold parades. Local Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts place flags on the graves of veterans in cemeteries. Many cities and communities sponsor concerts and fireworks displays. And some families visit the graves of their relatives and friends.

For me, personally, this is a time to remember our fathers, both of whom served in WWII. Fortunately, neither of them was killed, but they gave years of their lives to the service of their country.

One family member, my grandfather’s older brother, Charles Methven, died on October 20, 1917 in Ieper, Belgium during WWI. The family then lived in Canada, and Charles served for Great Britain. He was buried in West Flanders, Belgium near where he fell. He was twenty-three years old.
When I hear Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae’s poem and see the poppies on Memorial Day, I think of Uncle Charles. The poem was written in the same place where Charles died.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place: and in the sky
The larks still bravely singing fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead: Short days ago,
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved: and now we lie
In Flanders fields!

Take up our quarrel with the foe
To you, from failing hands, we throw
The torch: be yours to hold it high
If ye break faith with us who die,
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

This year, I will once again remember those, including Charles, who went to war when their country called and who never came home.

This holiday will continue to focus our attention on those who made the ultimate sacrifice so we can enjoy the freedoms we sometimes take for granted. They deserve our eternal gratitude and respect.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Thoughts of a First-Time Author

Today my guest is my friend, author Wayne A. Burt. I asked him how it felt to have his first novel published. This first-time author is ecstatic. Find out why.

To say I’m over the moon about getting my first book published would not be accurate. I'm over the galaxy would be more like it. I’ve been writing stories for thirteen years. I’ve always known it could happen, I even believed it probably would someday, but when it actually did, the wonderful feeling was unbelievable. Until you try, you have no idea how remote the chances are to get picked up by a publisher. Just to find one who accepts submissions is a challenge. Then to be selected over the hundreds of submissions they receive is a miracle. If I hadn’t sought out and met Larry and Lorna Collins, and joined Lagunita Writers Group, Catching a Wave to Sycar might never have come to pass. Lorna edits for Desert Breeze Publishing, so she made a recommendation on my behalf.

I received a gift of great joy. I feel complete. I created a happy allegory about God’s love for his children and his creation, and now it will be available for a long time. The granddaughter who inspired it has read it five times. Parents can share it with their children. Children will imagine what it would be like to fly like a bird or swim with a dolphin, and I hope they will understand what it’s like to be loved by their heavenly father.

Don’t ask me how I came up with the idea for this book. It just happened. I had read that stories with a magical element sell well. So, I waited for an idea. One day, this one popped into my head, and away I went. I believe in revelation. I’m my creative father’s son, made in his image.

This isn’t the first time I’ve received a gift of this nature. I’ve written Christmas carols I feel the same way about. All of us are blessings to those around us. This book is mine. And now it’s ours. Isn’t it fun?

Someone should write a book about how many different ways Wayne Burt can work the fact that he’s been published into a conversation. Perhaps, it’s shameful, but I think there’s no point in writing a book if people don’t read it. Right? It’s the salesman in me.

The marketing part of the journey is fun, too. Little girls are excited when I sign the book for them and write their names in the front. People want to buy it and support me as an author. I recently had a release party at my home, and my friends and family were all there to support me. It’s a kick being the center of attention.

I listen to a lot of audio books as I drive all around each day doing my sales job. Sometimes, at the end of the book, someone interviews the author. It’s silly, but I’ve always wanted to do it. I don’t know exactly why, but I love talking about writing. The process is fascinating to me. An idea for a story comes into your head, characters are created, and it’s like they come alive and become real, and their stories are revealed. Amazing. You can find this interview on my website

The last thing I want to say is this book was a team effort, making the joy of this milestone in my life all the sweeter. When I started, I didn’t know how to use a computer. My first two novels were written by hand. I was encouraged to write by my sister-in-law Janet Powell, and was taught how to write by her daughter, Colleen. My grandchildren and their prodigious imaginations were a great source of inspiration. And the editing skills of Lorna Collins and the team of writers who belong to Lagunita Writers helped me polish the work for publication. Thanks to you all.

Visit me on my website:
You can also find me on Facebook:

The moment teenager, Sophia Anderson, paddles into the huge wave, she knows something weird happened. She just doesn’t know how weird. When the wave transports her to an island paradise in another world, she thinks she must be dreaming, but when she encounters a talking butterfly, and an amphibious girl from another planet, she’s convinced she's never been more awake in her life.

The butterfly is Truson, the lord of all worlds. The girl is Norie, an amphibious girl from the dying planet, Sycar. Truson calls them on an adventure, thrilling, dangerous, and as much fun as it is frightening. Can they rescue Sycar's people in time?

The book is available through Amazon and from the publisher:

Wayne A. Burt is a California native who married his high school sweetheart and raised their three children on the warm beaches of the OC. He earned his undergraduate and graduate degrees from Azusa Pacific University and Fuller Theological Seminary and worked with youth professionally and non-professionally for much of his life. He didn't begin writing for children until his own had grown up and moved out. His first published work, Catching a Wave to Scar, was written for his oldest granddaughter. His grandchildren's amazing imaginations sparked the ideas for the story.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

From Reality to Realistic Fiction

Interesting characters need realistic “warts.” Sometimes the best way to develop a character is to look at a real person. Let me explain how I developed (hopefully) one of the multidimensional people in my new thriller, Riddled with Clues.
My dog, Bug, a Japanese Chin, and I have done pet therapy at the local VA Center for years. This particular VA Center has a number of rehab programs besides a major hospital. It also offers multiple programs to aid homeless veterans in New Mexico.

On one visit to the VA, a ragged veteran sat and stroked Bug for several minutes without speaking. Then he looked at me and said, “What does this dog call you?”

I recognized this was a serious question and deserved a thoughtful answer. I didn’t smirk or giggle. “I think he calls me Mom.”

The veteran lowered his head close to examine the dog’s face and then resumed stroking him. After a minute, he nodded. “I think that’s right.”

Several months later, a neatly dressed man on the VA campus approached Bug and me. “Hello Bug and Bug’s Mom.” As he talked to me for several minutes, I realized this was the same veteran. He was well-educated but had experienced hard times not only in Vietnam but also in his personal life. He wasn’t pathetic; he had dignity.

His words replayed in my mind over the last five or six years. When I set this thriller, Riddled with Clues, at the VA Hospital in Albuquerque, I knew I would include this man as a major character.

Please note: HIPPA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) doesn’t allow health care workers or volunteers to identify patients. However, I don’t know the name of this man and I didn’t describe him in the novel as he looked. Everything about the character in my novel is fictitious, except for the description of these two brief incidents. I think these two incidents showed the mental state and personality of a veteran in rehab better than long descriptions. I hope you agree.
Now aren’t you curious to find out how this character fits into the plot? Note: I didn’t give you the character’s name. Here’s the blurb for Riddled with Clues:
A hospitalized friend gives a puzzling note to Sara Almquist. He received the note signed “Red from Udon Thani” while investigating the movement of drugs from Cuba into the U.S. However, he doesn’t know anyone called Red, and the last time he was in Udon Thani was during the Vietnam War. After Sara listens to his rambling tales of all the possibilities, both are attacked. He is left comatose. As she struggles to survive, she questions who to trust: the local cops, her absent best friend, the FBI, or a homeless veteran, who leaves puzzling riddles as clues.
The other character based on a real individual in this novel is Bug. Isn’t he a handsome devil?

I hope my story will give you ideas for developing realistic final characters.

Riddled with Clues is available in paperback and Kindle on Amazon. 

J. L. Greger likes to include tidbits of science and exotic locations in her Science Traveler Thriller/Mystery series, which includes: Riddled with Clues, Murder…A Way to Lose Weight (winner of 2016 Public Safety Writers [PSWA] annual contest and finalist for New Mexico–Arizona book award), I Saw You in Beirut, and Malignancy (winner of 2015 PSWA annual contest). To learn more, visit her website: or her Amazon author page:

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Keeping Characters Interesting

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.

Since the Rocky Bluff P.D. series has reached #13, making sure the characters continue to be interesting is a challenge.

One way, of course, is to see their growth. Though all have grown and changed through the years, two characters have changed the most.

The first is Ryan Strickland. In the beginning, he was not a nice guy. He also was a big publicity hound, to the point of keeping a scrapbook of every time his name appeared in the paper. I can’t say too much more without spoiling it for someone who wants to start at the beginning of the series, but he has grown and become a much more likeable character.

Gordon Butler is the other character who has changed a lot. He has had some major challenges in various books, some to do with his love life, and others with bad luck. He became sort of a comic relief and garnered many fans because of it. I’ve probably had the most fun writing about Gordon Butler and his mishaps, but as he’s matured, circumstances have improved for him.

The Rocky Bluff P.D. has changed, too. Some people have left, including the police chief. A new chief has taken over and has been smart not to make many changes, though the department is still understaffed and underfunded.

I hope people will continue to read this series and enjoy learning about the characters and what is happening to them on the job and with their families.

F. M. aka Marilyn Meredith

Unresolved, #13 in the Rocky Bluff P.D. series:

Rocky Bluff P.D. is underpaid and understaffed and when two dead bodies turn up, the department is stretched to the limit. The body of the mayor is the first discovered. The second is 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, including Amazon:
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

Up next, on May 7 I answered the question, Besides Blog Tours, What Else?