Mystery Readers Only

Guest Post: Setting’s Importance

Not as We Knew It


By Marilyn Meredith

My hostess, Thonie Hevron, made the suggestion for this topic, and it’s a good one.

Though there is no real town of Rocky Bluff, it is similar to another town set on the Pacific coast between Ventura and Santa Barbara. It is only vaguely similar however, since Rocky Bluff is a much smaller community, and the geography is different in a major way.

Both towns are divided by the 101 Highway, with the part near the beach being where the business and most of the homes are situated. The other side is more rural with ranches and orange groves. A big difference is the bluff which gives my town its name and where the homes are larger and far more expensive.

When I first began writing this series, I lived in a beach town not far from my fictional setting. I know what the weather is like, the ocean often bringing in a blanket of fog, and the only time the temperature rises is when an East wind strikes.  Living close to the ocean, means being able to smell the saltiness on the breeze, and when close enough, to enjoy the glorious differences of the blues in the water, and watch the waves come into shore. I try to put in words what the characters in my mysteries experience through sight, sound, and smell.

In my latest, Not As We Knew It, number 16 in the series, the intersection of the 101 highway plays a major part in one of the subplots. The fact that Rocky Bluff is between Ventura and Santa Barbara is important to one of the mysteries.

When writing one these mysteries, I transport myself to this fictional town in my mind, and picture what is going on around the characters as the story plays out. How the weather is affecting what is going on, when one must travel what he or she sees along the way, and how other factors that are important to the story are being affected.

About Not As We Knew It: The challenges come one after another for the Rocky Bluff P.D. to handle―from a missing woman to a fatal house fire. Detective Doug Milligan is faced with new and unusual problems to solve, some on the job and others related to his family. With the department shorthanded because of the Covid virus, Chief Chandra Taylor must make some hard decisions in order to protect the town of Rocky Bluff.

To buy:

Marilyn Meredith

About Marilyn: Marilyn Meredith is the author of over 40 published novels, including the Rocky Bluff P.D. series, which she writes as F. M. Meredith, and the Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series. She is a member to two branches of Sisters in Crime, and the Public Safety Writers Association. Over the years she’s taught writing for Writers Digest School, and at many writers and mystery conferences. She now lives in the foothills of the Sierra with her husband and other family members.

Mystery Readers Only

Guest Post: What Does the Future Hold?

By Marilyn Meredith

None of us really know, do we? My guess is we are all hoping and praying for the end of this pandemic.

Despite the unknown, I bet most of us are still making plans.

Because my latest Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery was published recently, I’ve been unable to do the in-person events I’ve usually done to promote a new book. There are still some events on my calendar during the later months of summer and fall that I’m hoping will happen—but who knows?

This brings me around to the future of my Deputy Tempe Crabtree series. End of the Trail is #18 in the series. You might think the title is prophetic, but it refers to something important in the book.

However, it would be a good place to end the series, but I’m not sure I’m ready for that. New ideas and adventures for Tempe keep popping into my head. I’d like to have her visit new places, places with different tribes of Indians and legends.

Another big question, in any new book I might write, how do I deal with the pandemic? I guess I’m probably going to have to wait and see how what’s going on right now turns out. I’d like to hear from other writers how they plan to address the pandemic, or not, in future books.

Now back to End of the Trail, the short blurb is this:

Deputy Tempe Crabtree joins the search for a missing hiker which results in a murder investigation, a near death experience, an unexpected rescue, and an unhappy ghost.

As usual, I had fun writing this book about some quirky characters including some who’ve been in previous books.

You can find the book on Amazon for Kindle or as a trade paperback.

Author Marilyn Meredith

Bio: Marilyn Meredith has published over 40 books, as well as the Tempe Crabtree series, she also writes the Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery series under the name of F. M. Meredith. She lives in a town in the foothills of the Central Sierra with a resemblance to the mountain town of Bear Creek where Tempe is the resident deputy.

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

Thankful: In So Many Ways

Thankful and dressageBy Thonie Hevron

This image doesn’t do justice to the volume of thankfulness I carry in my heart. Hubby and I found it at a local store and I “felt” it so deeply, we mounted it on the front of our house, next to the entry door.

I cannot lie: I’ve had some challenges this year. Last year ended with the mister feeling so poorly that he couldn’t do anything but sleep eighteen hours a day. At the Thanksgiving celebration, I saw the concern on everyone’s faces at the sad shape my once vigorous husband was in. By April of this year, he was in ICU. For thirteen days, my kids rallied around their dad—and me. My daughter, Melisa, said, “Dad’s in the best hands possible. We can’t help him, but we can help you.” It still makes me puddle up when I think of it. On his birthday, April 20th, the docs said he must go home. He wasn’t improving in the hospital and they could do no more for him. By then, the kids and I were collecting ideas for hubby’s funeral.

The mister came home, remained in bed for a week or so. Then, something happened. We choose to believe it was God’s intervention; you can believe it or not. His meds were the same, his diet was better than in the hospital, but he was still emaciated (he lost 30 lbs. in the first 2 weeks of his illness). It’s like a light switch was flipped. He began to improve. Slowly, slowly, all the miserable symptoms disappeared, weight re-gained. Finally, after four months, he was healthy enough to endure a surgery for tumors. The story improves—as does his health. He won’t be running any marathons soon (he never did before…) but he’s much better. In fact, the cardiac procedure he was scheduled for yesterday was canceled because the EKG showed no need for surgical intervention! A miracle.

We both feel like we’ve been given a chance to reclaim our lives. I didn’t know how my world could be rocked until I faced a future without my best friend. It’s been humbling and inspiring. I’ll go over my word allotment if I count all my blessings but I’m going to do a few:

  • Last month, I picked up my new story, Felon with a Firearm, and have been working on it. I’m about 2/3rds done with the first draft.
  • Hubby suggested a housekeeper twice a month to free me up for writing. That’s working nicely, I must say.
  • I have a new publisher (for whom I am thankful), Aakenbaaken & Kent (A & K), a small press out of Georgia. He’s contracted to re-publish all three of my titles as well as the new book. Look for this in 2019. Yay!
  • We have health insurance and have paid a pittance to what hubby’s medical bills were.
  • We have the best kids, and friends, sisters (and brother-in-law) ever for holding my hand in hospitals in four counties.
  • We live in a lovely home in the town we feel most connected with—love the weather, accessibility to so many travel amenities, medical, entertainment, proximity to friends and family.
  • In short, we have everything we need and much more. This is why I’m thankful.


November is always busy as I do craft fairs and book events. This November will not be any different, but I know Thanksgiving at my sister’s house will be a joyous occasion.

Enough about my thankfulness. Let’s hear from other authors about their thankfulness. Marilyn Meredith is featured twice this month, the 7th is related to her Tangled Webs book release —also from A & K. Marilyn’s Thankful theme on November 12th. Barbara Wallace will post on November 9th, Madeline McEwen on the 16th, Jackie Zortman (another A & K author) on November 23 and the last (but not least) installment on Thankfulness is Stephen Brayton on November 30th.

Don’t forget to look in on Sundays for Just the Facts, Ma’am, stories from the street. As an author, they will stimulate your imagination but give you the real feel for what police officers feel.


Thonie’s November Appearances:

S Rafael Holiday-Craft-Fair.pngNovember 3rd, Saturday: See Thonie at the San Rafael Goldenaires Annual Holiday Craft Fair. Historical novelist Jeane Slone will also be there. The Fair features handcrafted items from over 60 vendors. Hours are 10 A.M. to 5 P.M. at 618 B Street, San Rafael.

Fall Craft RP p1November 17th and 18th, 2018: Thonie will be at the 3rd Annual Fall Crafts and Vendors Fair at the DoubleTree Hotel, 1 DoubleTree Lane, Rohnert Park. The event is free and will be open from 10 A.M. until 4 P.M. both Saturday and Sunday. Books will be for sale.

39th RP CraftFaireLogo.jpgThe Rohnert Park Holiday Faire at the Rohnert Park Community Center, 5401 Snyder Lane, has become an annual tradition for Thonie and historical fiction author Jeane Slone. This year’s event will be on November 23 and 24th (the weekend after Thanksgiving). Be sure to check out their book table and do your other holiday shopping, too! This event is free and starts at 10 A.M. until 4 P.M.


Writer's Notes

Killing Your Darlings: or Whatever by Marilyn Meredith

By Marilyn Meredith

When asked if I’d like to join in on this discussion, my first thought was eliminating those pesky words and phrases that pop up almost unintentionally in everything I write—so, that, just, as, and any unnecessary adverbs and adjectives.

But instead of talking about them, I thought I’d like to bring up my darlings I don’t want to kill off.

I love writing about ghosts and spirits, and in nearly all of my Deputy Tempe Crabtree mysteries one or two make an appearance. (Oops, I guess I couldn’t really kill them off because they are already dead.)

In my latest offering, titled Spirit Wind, there is indeed a ghost, and something else that travels on the wind. Unfortunately, it isn’t available yet because I haven’t finished it.

AColdDeath-lgIn the most recent published tale, A Cold Death, the ghost of a young girl seeks Tempe’s help.

The one before that, Seldom Traveled doesn’t have a ghost, but there is definitely something supernatural watching over Tempe as her life is threatened by fire and a murderer.

I can’t imagine writing about Tempe and not including a ghost, spirit or something not quite of this world. Besides the fact that I like imagining what it might be like for Tempe to be confronted by these other worldly specters, it’s great fun to write about her encounters and weave them into the story plot.

To end this, I don’t want to write what everyone else is writing about. Keeping my darlings, in this case, ghosts and spirits, “alive” in Deputy Tempe Crabtree’s world is what I plan to do.


–Marilyn Meredith


Marilyn in Vegas 1
Marilyn Meredith


Bio: Marilyn Meredith is the author of over nearly forty published novels, including the award winning Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series. She lives in the foothills of the Sierra with her husband, grands and great-grands, and numerous animals. Under the name F. M. Meredith, she writes the Rocky Bluff P.D. crime series. She is a member of MWA, three chapters of Sisters in Crime and on the board for Public Safety Writers Association.


Visit her at and follow her blog at


Latest books:

AColdDeath-lgA Cold Death


Seldom Traveled Front Cover

Seldom Traveled


Writer's Notes

September: Killing Your Darlings

By Thonie Hevron

Malice cover“In writing, you must kill all your darlings.”

William Faulkner

My reason choosing this topic is embarrassing. When planning my last novel, With Malice Aforethought, I had an idea. An outline followed, then the beginnings of a story. I began work. Some months later and about 30K words into Malice, I happened to re-establish contact with a man I worked with many decades ago at the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office. Mike Brown was generally accepted to be one of the most competent, sensible and well-liked deputies around. When he retired, he was a Captain, and a 16-year veteran of Violent Crimes Investigations unit. He’d worked both positions my male protagonist held in the story. I reached out to Mike and asked him to read my outline.

His answer was quick: this scenario couldn’t happen.SCSO patch

Oh no! What was I going to do with the beautiful words I wrote? Thirty thousand words—a third of the book! It was with great anguish, I pressed the “delete” button. Mike was very generous with his time and with further discussion, I came up with a reasonable scenario that Mike said was credible. This newer version was not only more accurate, but it was better. It fit into my character needs better, was more exciting and allowed more plot flexibility.

In short, killing my darlings made for a better story.

My sacrifice on the altar of fiction authenticity was worth it.

When I announced this topic, my idea was to discuss how to cut words—words being the author’s darlings. But in receiving early posts and feedback from others, I’ve found some authors consider this phrase to mean actual characters. I believe there is no wrong answer and I’m thrilled to read others take on the subject. For every author, cutting their precious words is difficult. I can’t tell you yet what works for me, because with four books under my belt, it seems to change all the time. I do have a file of deleted scenes I keep so I don’t feel like I’ve wadded up the words for the waste basket. I’ll leave expert advice to three authors who present well thought out suggestions. They are below if you’d like to read further.wastebasketKristen Keiffer writes in Well-Storied, September 10, 2015 “8 Things to Cut When You Kill Your Darlings.” Her post is short, cogent and efficient. If you’re an author editing your manuscript, check this article out. “What it Means to Kill Your Darlings” on (2016) offers more ideas by Bethany Cadman.  Ruthanne Reid’s offers more suggestions how to recover from your assassination in her 2015 offering: “How to Kill Your Darlings and Survive the Process.”

I’m posting on Saturday, the first of September because I have a full house of authors this month who want to talk about murdering their own syllables.  On September 7th, Judy Alter has insight into killing off characters versus your own words. Lesley Diehl decided to interpret “Killing Your Darlings” as killing off characters, in her case, sometimes a really bad guy is too wonderful, too aggravating, too colorful to kill off even though he might deserve it! Her post appears on the 14th, Marilyn Meredith on September 21 talks about characters she doesn’t want to kill off, and Patricia Guthrie winds up the month on the 28th.


Writer's Notes

I’ve Had Lots of Help on my Writing Journey

By Marilyn Meredith


Me at Art ConIn the beginning, my sister helped me connect with a critique group because I couldn’t locate one where I lived. She read my chapters and reported the problems and suggestions to me. My sister has been a great support to me in many ways.

Through that support group I met an agent. Though he never offered my book to any publishers, he gave me lots of help with my writing.

When I moved to another area, I joined a long established critique group. In that group was a multi-published author named Willma Gore who mentored me for a long time and I owe a lot of my writing ability to her guidance. I’m still in the same group, though the members have changed many times. But the focus has continued on, to help each writer make his or her work even better. Criticism is necessary, because we authors often don’t notice our own flaws. I want to know what’s confusing, what doesn’t work, if I haven’t accomplished what I set out to do. Every mystery I’ve written has been heard by members of this group.

While thinking about critique groups, I must mention that I learned more about writing from the various members than from any class I ever attended or the many writing books I’ve read.

Many years ago, I joined what was called The Police Writers Club which has now evolved into the Public Safety Writers Association and has members from all different law enforcement agencies and other public safety fields, plus a few mystery writers like me. I became friends with many of the members who in turn have helped me in so many ways: answering questions about police procedure and giving me ideas for my mysteries. These men and women have become important to me in many ways.

Like Thonie, I hire an editor to go over my manuscript before I send it off to the publisher. I found the editor through the PSWA group and I chose her for two reasons, one she knows law enforcement, but second, and probably most important, she’s young and will catch anything that sounds like it came from an old lady (me.)

Despite the help of my critique group and my editor, errors still slip by. When the publisher sends back the text block or what is also called a galley, it is important to print it out and go over it carefully for any mistakes or inconsistencies. It’s much easier to find them on a printed page.

And of course, I receive much support from my writer friends too—those busy folks who are willing to let me be a visitor on his or her blog like I’m doing today. We don’t get to see each other often, but when we do at conferences and writers groups and meeting, itUnresolved’s wonderful to talk about the writing life and share ideas with people who understand. Yes, the writing life is solitary, but it’s important to get away and mingle with others, including readers.

This is the last stop in my blog tour. I hope it’s been helpful to writers and intriguing to readers.

FM aka Marilyn Meredith


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

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.


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














Writer's Notes

What’s Up?

By Thonie Hevron

I haven’t posted a progress report since November 12, 2016. I’m overdue and hope to make up for it with this. Last winter, I wrote that I had re-gained my book rights from Oak Tree Publishing due to the publisher’s ill health. In the intervening months, I’ve taken two major vacations, struggled with some worrisome health problems (all good now) and polished my third manuscript, With Malice Aforethought. I’ve been submitting queries to agents (for representation) and publishers (for a contract).

authorThis week alone, I sent three queries out to two agents and a publisher. The deal is, I must wait for a response. But here’s the kicker: the timeframe for an answer (if I even get one) is anywhere from three weeks to six months—yikes! Who has that kind of time? Normally I wait a few weeks, then move on to another agency. All these queries must be researched. Agents receive from 20 to 100 queries a day. Given that workload, it wouldn’t be wise to submit a mystery query to an agent who only handles children’s book, would it? And even more checking is needed to make sure my mystery agent handles thrillers/police procedurals as my genre is defined. Again, a cozy (think Agatha Christie) mystery literary agent wouldn’t look twice at my sub-genre.

So. A lot of work. Which takes away from writing.

Book report:

I have a fourth book in the wings. I wrote it in the mid-90’s so it needs updating and re-structuring. I hope to have it ready for a publisher/agent later this year.

open bookAs if I don’t have enough to do, my blog seems to be growing. A third retired LAPD officer is now sending me stories in addition to Hal Collier and Ed Meckle. Their posts are entertaining and serve my mission to de-mystify police officers to the public but particularly writers.

However, lately, I’ve been feeling like I’d like to butt in, too. Not stories but commentaries on the writer’s life, hence Writers Notes. So, I plan to write one post per month and publish it on Fridays. On May 12th, I’ll begin with, “It Takes a Village,” my take on the myth of the solitary writer.

My friend and colleague, Marilyn Meredith, will offer her ideas on the same subject on May 19th.  Amy Bennett, author of the Black Horse Campground Mysteries, will chime in on May 26th. I’ll provide links so you’ll be able to click right onto their websites.

June will bring another challenge. What topic and who will weigh in?

Writer's Notes

Guest Post: How Real Life Propelled Me into Fiction

seldom-traveled-2By Marilyn Meredith

The easy answer to this one is that I was a committed reader from my early grammar school days and read everything I could get my hands on from 10 books a week from the library to my mother’s Book of the Month selection. (My favorites were those she told me not to read.)

Though I did write all through my growing-up years, fiction and non-fiction, real life actually got in the way of fiction writing. I married right out of high school and had a big family. As my children grew older and started school, my main writing was for the PTA newsletter which I wrote and produced for four years.

Next came writing plays for my Camp Fire Girls to perform. In the meantime I did write two fiction novels, sent them off, they were rejected and I decided to forget that aspect of writing. Which I did, until my sister did our family genealogy on both sides. When I read through the genealogy, I noticed so many unanswered questions.

What happened to the twin who disappeared when she was sixteen? Why did a mother give up her four girls? Why did the families move so much? What brought them to California? I decided to check the historical facts around the times and places that people were born, married, and died to see if I could learn any answers. In some cases I was able to make educated guesses in others, I made up the answers.

Of course, I had to write a book based on everything I figured out. One of the books was my first published. It is still available as an e-book, under the title Indian Paintbrush. Once both books were done, I really wanted to keep on writing, and since I loved mysteries, I wrote one. The Astral Gift.

My son-in-law, a police officer, interested me in police procedure by entertaining me with stories of what he did at work. My Rocky Bluff P.D. series was born.

Moving to the foothills of the Sierra Nevada with an Indian reservation nearby, sparked the Deputy Tempe Crabtree series, along with my meeting a female resident deputy.

Many other events in my life have given me the impetus or idea for a character, scene or book plot.

Thank you for this great idea for a topic, Thonie.

Marilyn Meredith

Seldom Traveled Blurb:

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.

Marilyn Meredith’s Bio:

me-at-ridgcrest2Marilyn 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.

Buy the book

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.

You can find me tomorrow at




Writer's Notes

Guest Post: A Crushing Death

The Setting for A Crushing Death

By Marilyn MeredithA Crushing Death Right (1)

I love the California coast and its beach communities, particularly the small ones. My affection comes from growing up in Los Angeles and as a teen being able to take public transportation with my friends and visit the beach often. My family made excursions to many nearby beaches whenever we had a free summer weekend.

When my own family was growing up, we lived in Oxnard, one mile from the beach and from April until fall we trekked to the beach and spent as much time there as possible. At that time Oxnard and Hueneme beaches weren’t like they are today. There was public access to all the good places to swim and sun.

The Rocky Bluff in my series is much like the beach community of the earlier times in Oxnard. Because it is fictional, I moved it north to a place between Santa Barbara and Ventura, but still in Ventura County. If you try to find it, you’ll be disappointed because it’s completely fictional, including the bluff that gave the town its name.

I’ve written about Rocky Bluff so much, I can see it in my mind as well as a memory of any place I’ve ever been. I know the broken-down condemned pier and have used it in many of the mysteries. The sand dunes are much like those that my family and I traipsed over and settled near for barbecues.

Things are changing in Rocky Bluff, just like they change in any town. The low-rent cottages along the beach will soon be nothing but a memory as developers come in to build condos along the ocean front. Of course the city council expects this to bring in more revenue. Hopefully some of this revenue will be used to hire more police officers and purchase more up-to-date equipment. But that’s all in the future.

For now, the Rocky Bluff P.D struggles with being understaffed, underpaid and having to rely on Ventura County’s labs and coroner.

I love writing about this beach community.

F.M. aka Marilyn Meredith

A Crushing Death Blurb:

A pile of rocks is found on a dead body beneath the condemned pier, a teacher is accused of molesting a student, the new police chief is threatened by someone she once arrested for attacking women, and Officer Milligan’s teenage daughter is has a big problem.


  1. M. Meredith who is also known as Marilyn Meredith is nearing the number of 40 published books. Besides being an author she is a wife, mother, grandma and great-grandmother. Though the Rocky Bluff she writes about is fictional, she lived for over twenty-years in a similar small beach town. Besides having many law enforcement officers in her family she is counts many as friends. She teaches writing, loves to give presentations to writing and other groups, and is a member of Mystery Writers of America, three chapters of Sisters in Crime and on the board of Public Safety Writers Association.



Buy: A Crushing Death

Facebook: Marilyn Meredith

Twitter: MarilynMeredith

Contest: Once again, the person who comments on the most blogs during this tour, can have a character named after them in the next Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery. Tomorrow you can find me here:





%d bloggers like this: