Writer's Notes

Lots to Report

By Thonie Hevron

March 1, 2019

Much going on here in the Hevron household. Now that taxes are done (ugh), I’m focusing on the upcoming Spring Market in Novato. Live sales have always been productive for me. This will be the second year in Novato. Last year I set a personal record for meeting people and selling books even though it rained all day. This year the weather looks to be the same, but I’ll have a new partner: Sandy Baker is a children’s author as well as a Master Gardener. She incorporates these two loves into kids gardening books. Jeane Slone will be back again later in the year. We will be at the Margaret Todd Senior Center, 1560 Hill Rd, Novato from 10AM-3PM on Saturday, March 2, 2019. Stop by if you’re in the neighborhood!         

This past weekend, February 21-24th, I was in Ventura, California for the annual board retreat for the Public Safety Writers Association (PSWA). I was voted in as a board member. It will be my pleasure to work alongside the many club leaders who have mentored (Marilyn Meredith) and supported me through the past years. I’m proud to stand by two prominent Law Enforcement technical writers, Tim Dees and Michelle Perin-Callahan, as we map out the future of our club. Also there, Mike Black who is a giant in the publishing world and makes the annual conference better every year, Mysti Berry our IT wrangler, John Schembra (a military/thriller/paranormal author) is our very capable membership chair.  The other new board member, Scott Decker, an award-winning non-fiction writer, has volunteered to man the social media console. The board came up with some great ideas and ways to implement them. I’ll be talking more about this as time permits in the upcoming months.

If you’re wondering what my job will be, wonder no more: in 2020, I’ll be the PSWA Contest Chair. With Michelle Perin-Callahan’s help, I’ll steer writers toward the coveted PSWA Writers Club award.                 

View from the Ventura Pier during an early morning walk.


In May, the Mister and I will be taking a well-deserved break. I’m not planning on posting, appearing or even writing for most of the month.

As always, thank you for your support.

Writer's Notes

Guest Post: The Biggest Plus of Being a Mystery Writer

tangled web front cover jpegBy Marilyn Meredith

#1 is those I’ve met along the way. I’ve had some great conversations with some of the big names like David Morrell whom I had the privilege of introducing at a writing conference, Dennis and Gayle Lynds whom I met at a small writing conference years ago and ran into several times after that. Mary Higgins Clark whom I met at the same small writing conference the next year and again at an MWA Edgar cocktail party in New York. Ian Rankin who I sat with (along with his publisher and agent) at a Bouchercon luncheon, Nancy Pickard who I joined on a panel with one other person at a conference. Lee Child who I was with on a panel and had a great conversation later in an elevator, Jan Burke whom I’ve met several times and had a delightful conversation with her and her husband in an airport. And William Kent Krueger who I’ve met several times and count as a friend.

However, the friendships that I’ve made with fans and other mystery writers are at the very top of my list. One of these, of course, is my hostess today, Thonie Hevron. I met her and many others at the great Public Safety Writers Association Conference.

Among those is John Schembra whom I met long ago when PSWA was still the Police Writers Club and have had many discussions with him since then. Michelle Perin Callahan, who is now the president of PSWA, has been a friend since PSWA reorganized and had its first conference.

I can’t really name all the author friends that I have in PSWA because it would take up too many pages. Just know that I revere all these friendships.

And of course there are all those friends I’ve made through Sisters in Crime—especially the Central Coast bunch. I’ve known Sue McGinty the longest, but Barbara Hodges comes in close. She and I championed eBooks long before anyone believed they’d become a real item. Victoria Heckman and I braved being roommates in Alaska and have a deeper bond because of it. Madeline Gornell and I were also roommates at a conference and acted like teens at a slumber party.

Gloria Getman and I became friends when she attended a writing class I taught many years ago, and I still see her often at the Tulare Kings Writers group. Lorna Collins became a friend through Epicon and we’ve been close ever since. There are so many more who’ve enriched my life and I cherish.

However, I don’t want to forget the fans of my books who have been one of the main reasons I keep on writing. Top on the list is Sheri Smith who came to a winetasting and music event where I was selling my books. She’s even appeared in one of my books at her own request. Some of my fans prefer the Deputy Tempe Crabtree series, and others favor the Rocky Bluff series. When I still attended the big mystery cons I met some great readers who became my fans, and now they are friends on Facebook, along with some new fans I’ve picked up along the way. It’s so great when one of them asks me when the next book is coming out.

Marilyn, who writes the RBPD series as F. M. Meredith

Blurb: 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.


Marilyn in Vegas 1Bio: 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

Join me tomorrow at where the topic is Preparation for What Should be Next.

Writer's Notes

What the Heck is a Beta Reader, Anyway?

What the heck is a Beta Reader?

I’m taking a break. Mostly, because it took so long to get this story down, I struggled with the last half. Eventually, the beginning became a problem, too.

The first half was easy to write because I had a clear picture of what I wanted to happen with Nick and Meredith. The storyline was less important. Then, as you may have read months ago, I connected (on Facebook) with Mike Brown. Mike and I worked together at Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office (SCSO). Although my tenure was three short years (1991-1993), I remembered Mike Brown’s reputation as an experienced, educated and common sense-supervisor. When I asked him to take a look at my outline for authenticity, he was enthusiastic and helpful.

Be careful what you ask for.

FBI Profiles of Evil

Tactfully, Brown told me the story premise was all wrong. WITH MALICE AFORETHOUGHT (WMA)is set in northern Sonoma County, California. It’s a rural, sometimes remote region patrolled by the county sheriff. As a veteran of SCSO Violent Crimes Investigations (VCI) sergeant, Brown had responded to these hills for a homicide investigation just as my hero in this story, Nick Reyes, does.

So when Mike Brown said my story couldn’t happen, I listened. Enter the readers “suspension of disbelief.” To put it succinctly, a fiction author writes a situation that cannot happen in a way that makes the reader think, “This could happen.”

Lincoln 9“Suspension of disbelief” is very different from authenticity. Suspension refers mainly to situations, where authenticity is the real deal procedurally. For instance: CSI, the TV series, has frustrated so many law enforcement professionals because of their unbelievable situations.

The premise of my story just didn’t work. So I swallowed my pride, tossed the first third and set about re-structuring the story. It meant giving up carefully crafted scenes that any reader with a background in law enforcement would know weren’t the real deal. Knowing early enough to do a re-write was a blessing in disguise. WMA turned out better than I could have hoped. Still in need of polishing for authenticity, I’ve turned to my peers for their expert advice.

Above is a dramatic example of what Beta Readers can do for a story. I have chosen five retired law enforcement professionals to read my book for realism. Three were authors I met through Public Safety Writers Association—Pete Klismet, retired FBI Profiler and author of FBI DIARY-Portrait of Evil; Dave Freedland, retired Deputy Chief of Irvine Police Department and author of LINCOLN 9, and John Schembra, retired sergeant with Pleasant Hill Police Department and author of RETRIBUTION. All three men have something to offer both as writers and cops.


My last two Beta Readers are not authors. Tim Miller, retired CHP Air Operations sergeant from Napa is reading for helicopter veracity and finally but not least, Mike Brown.

I’m on pins and needles until I hear from them.

For the next month, I’m not writing although I have already plotted out the next story in my mind. I’m catching up on closet organization, yard work and other things I’ve let lapse for writing.

When I get the first manuscript back from one of the Beta Readers, you can bet I’ll drop my trowel and get to work making changes.



Writer's Notes

With Malice Aforethought-Progress Report

By Thonie Hevron


Lake Sonoma overlook
Lake Sonoma overlook

The week slips away and I’ve missed another of my artificial deadlines. As I’ve said before, being so structured, I set goals for myself—for the completion of With Malice Aforethought (WMA), my latest thriller. Because this work is not under contract, I only have to answer to myself. Nonetheless, I’ve missed most of my targets on this project.

Life happens. This year, my husband and I sold and bought homes, moved, traveled for numerous family events both happy and sad, attended a conference, took a real vacation, and most recently, attended a high school reunion. Now, I’m dealing with family health issues that demand my attention—and are the priority.

If all this sounds like an excuse, well, I guess it is. I like to take one year to write and edit a new manuscript. WMA has gone over by three months and is behind schedule. The manuscript has “The End” typed on it but in version five, there are still mistakes to correct. I’m at the point where I read the text out loud. I catch so much with this method, that I can’t skip it. I have two-thirds of the manuscript left.

Dry Creek Valley--Collier Falls Winery
Dry Creek Valley–Collier Falls Winery

Next step, is off to beta readers. I have beta readers to perform several different tasks. First, my husband reads it. Being a retired fire fighter, he knows about car wrecks (there’s one for him to choreograph), electrical matters (for some MacGyver action), and lastly, the characteristic of wildland fire. Then, on to Billie Payton-Settles for editing. She culls the work for grammar, punctuation, sentence structure. At the same time, I’ll send it off to Mike Brown, a retired Sonoma County Sheriff’s Lieutenant who has specific knowledge of the procedures and culture of Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office. The homicide investigation that Nick Reyes and Meredith Ryan embark on is set in the beautiful and wild Dry Creek hills area of Sonoma County. As you know, authenticity is very important to me as a writer and a reader. After I make corrections from these three, I send it to two other law enforcement professionals who will read my work for realism—John Schembra, author of Retribution and many other books and Dave Freedland, author of Lincoln 9.

One of the many fire roads that lace the countryside in Dry Creek hills area.
One of the many fire roads that lace the countryside in Dry Creek hills area.

When I receive the manuscript from the beta readers, I’ll make the corrections and decide whether to send it to another editor for a final review. Then, it’s off to Oak Tree Press. My publisher Billie Johnson has agreed to read the manuscript. My hope is that she will find it a compelling enough story to publish under her banner. With all the work that goes into the manuscript, I hope she does. If this goes according to schedule, I look for With Malice Aforethought to be available this winter.

At least my excuses aren’t totally lame. The point is two-fold: I want the reader to know that there are very sound reasons this book is slow to finish and secondly, by posting this, I keep myself honest to those who read and anticipate my next story.

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