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: What I’m Thankful for as a Writer

tangled web front cover jpegBy Marilyn Meredith

Though I’ve always written from the time I was a kid, I didn’t really get started on the submitting, getting rejected and re-submitting merry-go-round until later in life, I’ve had much to be thankful for—and I’m going to start with that first book that I sent out to a publisher.

1. The used portable typewriter my mother gave me. (This was in the days long before computers, copying machines, Internet and emails. I retyped that first 500 page book many times.)
2. My first computer and the dear man who sold it to me and taught me how to use it. (This was in the days of the real floppy discs.) I bought several computers from him and he continued to teach me the intricacies. And I am so thankful for all the time computers have saved me since.
3. The first critique group that listened to my historical family saga and pointed out that I knew nothing about point-of-view. I had no idea what they were talking about.
4. The Internet and email. I’m sure I don’t have to explain why.
5. My mentor, Willma Gore, who was in my 2nd critique group for many years and taught me so much about writing.
6. All the publishers (good and not so good) who took a chance with me. I learned from all of them.
7. The critique group I’ve been in for years and all the members along the way who have taught me so much and helped me make my writing better.
8. My son-in-law, the police officer who got me interested in police work and took me on my first ride-along. And all the law enforcement offices and mystery authors who’ve become my friends since that time—especially those who belong to PSWA.
9. All my writing friends who have given me so much encouragement along the way, including fellow members of Sisters in Crime and MWA.
10. Mike Orenduff of Aakenbaken and Kent who is republishing all of my Rocky Bluff P.D. mysteries, including this new one, Tangled Webs.
11. And to those mystery writers who had a great influence on me long ago like Agatha Christie and Ed McBain.

A special thank you to Thonie for hosting me today.

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.

Link: :

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

Though I’ve addressed this before, in case you ever wondered why I write police procedurals this answer is on John Wills blog:

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

Breaking My Own Rule

A review of Shot to Pieces: A Novel by Michael O’Keefe

Review by Thonie Hevron

Shot to Pieces coverBlurb: SHOT TO PIECES is the story of NYPD 1st Grade Detective Padraig Joseph Durr. Durr is tasked with solving a particularly grisly gang related homicide in Brooklyn. When Paddy catches the squeal, he is also on the verge of an emotional and psychological breakdown. Because of his penchant for self-destruction, fueled by a childhood of abuse and sexual exploitation, coupled with an ingrained sense of worthlessness and abandonment, Durr has brought his entire life to the brink of ruin. Can he hold it together long enough to solve this murder? Can he fix himself enough to be re-united with the one true love of his life and his family? Or will he implode, irrevocably destroying his career, his family and himself?
A few weeks ago, I was contacted by fellow Public Safety Writers Association author Michael O’Keefe. He asked me to read and review his debut novel, Shot to Pieces: A Novel. I told him that I would happily read it as it is a genre in which I write—police procedural, but I don’t do book reviews on my blog. I don’t have an MFA, nor any formal education in literature. I felt unqualified to make a comprehensive review. I am religious about leaving reviews on Amazon, however, and that is what I told him I’d do. We exchanged books the next day. He read mine and posted a very nice 5-star review on Amazon. Read it here.

I, however, was bogged down enough that I couldn’t finish his book until today. I began Shot to Pieces with the expectation of reading a depressing police procedural. Check out the blurb above to see why. But I’d committed to read the book, so I read on.
And boy, am I glad I did! This was one exciting, wild ride with a lot of heart. I’m a west coast law enforcement veteran, so some of the situations hero Paddy Durr gets himself into seem foreign to me. But here’s the deal: they are believable. I can see these things happening during an active career. As can be expected, NYPD differs from small town agencies I worked for. But the personalities of the other detectives, brass, and mutts are collages of many personalities I know!

And the hero, Paddy Durr, has many traits—both desirable and unfortunate—that make him a realistic and exciting protagonist. He’s prone to trouble—you already know that. But his observations on the job are stunning, particularly one in Chapter 27 where his fiancé asks why all the cops in the area come to see him while he’s being treated in the ER. I’ll start the paragraph for you, but you’ll have to read it for the full effect. “Active cops are a different breed. We’re the gunfighters, the alpha dogs of the police department. We’re not special, just different. … So, this pilgrimage is as much away to say I’m glad we’re not meeting at your funeral as it is to say thank you for reminding me to get my head out of my ass. An event like this forces everybody to get back on their A-game.”

M O Keefe
Author Michael O’Keefe


Every page is laced with an unusual combination of intelligence, testosterone, and heart. It’s gritty, it’s real, and moved me to tears a few times. Make no mistake: Paddy’s story is basically a love story—his love for the job and all it stands for as well as his love for his wife and family. However, if you’re a romance reader, take a pass on this book.


But if you enjoy police procedurals like Michael Connelly and Joseph Wambaugh, this is right up your alley. I may not have the ed creds to analyze Shot to Pieces (aside from a little head-hopping now and then) but I know what I like.

So, it’s my blog and I can break my own rules: I highly recommend Shot to Pieces: A Novell!

Writer's Notes

Writers’ Contests Count

By Thonie Hevron

PSWA-stickerEntering contests are a no-brainer for me. I can directly attribute my entry into the realm of traditional publishing (albeit a small press) to winning a contest. I’ll bet many authors could say the same.

In 2012, I entered my unpublished manuscript, working title Probable Cause, in the Public Safety Writers Contest (PSWA). I won third place in my category-unpublished novel. Now re-named, By Force or Fear, I soon self-published it on Smashwords as an eBook, in the hopes of getting enough money together to do a print version. Meanwhile, I worked on mapping out the second book of the Nick and Meredith Mysteries (I’m a compulsive plotter).

After months of writing, querying, submitting and all-around frustration, I entered my novel, in a contest at Oak Tree Publishing (OTP). Oak Tree had recently published an anthology for the PSWA, so I thought it would be worth a chance. I was stunned when I won. First prize was publication of the winning book. I’d entered my second Nick and Meredith Mystery, Intent to Hold. It had just won second place in unpublished novel category the PSWA’s 2014 Writers’ Contest. After a polishing up, my new publisher agreed to publish the first novel, now renamed By Force or Fear.

aklogo-web_origAs events progressed, both novels with Oak Tree Press went to press with the third, With Malice Aforethought, in contract. Sadly, Oak Tree’s production has fallen into limbo with the ongoing health issues of its publisher, Billie Johnson. Johnson offered many OTP authors their rights, so I took mine. The short version of this story is I now have another publisher, Aakenbaaken & Kent, with whom I’m very pleased. I’m currently working on another Nick and Meredith Mystery, working title, Felon with a Firearm. I’m hustling to get it finished for the next PSWA writing contest that opens in May.

East Texas Writers Guild Book Award 3rd place 2015I’m also looking into other places to submit my work for competition. In 2015, the East Texas Writers Guild awarded Malice third place in “Best First Chapter” category. There are many more contests in which to submit your work. Start with a Google search: I use “mystery contests.” It helps to search within your genre.

Contests count. They give the author credibility. Winning a contest means someone other than your mother likes your work. Agents and publishers look at winners differently. It’s a terrific marketing tactic to use, “Winner of the Agatha Award” on the book cover. But for me, it’s a wonderful confidence booster to win a writing contest. Winning motivates me to work harder for the next entry. It also helps me to set goals. Having a first draft by May 1st, the usual deadline for PSWA’s contest, is a typical goal. I’ll make Felon the fourth try to come in better than Malice’s second place in 2016.

This month, Romance author Donna Schlachter will weigh in on Do’s and Don’ts in Contests. J.L. Greger, author of several science-based mysteries asks, “Do You Feel Lucky?” February will end with thoughts from a prolific children’s author, Natasha Yim, the chair of the Redwood Writers Club (California Writers Club branch in Sonoma County) Contests. Posts are up every Friday at 6 A.M. on Just the Facts, Ma’am, Writer’s Notes.

Think about entering a contest. You can’t lose anything more than a few bucks–some are even free. A contest might jump-start flagging progress on your WIP, you could set and meet realistic goals, or even better yet, you could win!

Writer's Notes

Conferences: The Pros and Cons by Michael A. Black

By Michael A. Black

mike Black BloodTrails coverAs we begin this new year it’s totally appropriate that we take a look at the conference scene and ask that pertinent question: How do I get the most bang for my buck?
How do I choose a good conference? Where are the best locations? Should I choose genre over craft, a fan-based conference vs. one with a lot of authors? What should I expect out of the experience? How about the cost?

All of those are legitimate questions, but they’re fairly easy to answer. First, do a bit of research on any prospective conferences and figure out which ones are best suited to meeting your goals. Cost is always a factor, as is location. Is the conference in an interesting place that’s easy to get to? My advice is pick one that’s in a neat place, and tack on a few days to do some sightseeing. While you’re looking into it, check out the costs of travel and hotel rooms.

Genre based vs. craft based… If you’re interested in improving your knowledge and writing skills, check out what the conference program has listed. If you’re only going to collect autographs from your favorite writers, then learning something is obviously secondary. And, if you’re a writer, pick the appropriate type of conference. Don’t go to a sci-fi con if your main interest is writing romance. Pick your genre and check out what each has to offer. I can tell you right now that my main interest is the mystery/thriller genre, but I’ve gone to a few sci-fi cons and they’re a lot of fun (Imagine people walking around in costumes and discussing things not of this world.) Mystery/thriller conferences are usually less intimidating, and very friendly. Some of the nicest people go to them. It’s not uncommon to meet a bestselling author in the bar, for instance.

You should examine what you want to accomplish. The opportunities to network are very good at most conferences, but keep in mind, the bigger they are, the more you’ll feel like a small fish in a big pond. Bouchercon, the international mystery writer’s conference is held in a different city each year, and it’s pretty overwhelming, especially your first time. I wouldn’t recommend Bouchercon unless you’re only interested in getting a book signed. Even if you’re a published author, your chances of being on a panel or getting a signing opportunity at a conference that large are questionable. Smaller conferences are usually better for meet in people and making connections.
If you’re looking to learn, and what writer isn’t, check out the conference program. Usually, they’re made up of various panels on different topics, and feature some individual speakers. My high school physics teacher used to say that one hour across the table from a wise man is worth ten years study of books. See who’s attending the conference and be they writer or expert in a certain field, let that information be part of your decision making.

Okay, I think I’ve covered the basics, so let me use what time I have left to push my favorite conference, the Public Safety Writers Association Conference. It’s held each summer in Las Vegas, Nevada and is without a doubt the most writer-friendly conference I’ve ever attended. This year’s dates are July 12-15, at the Orleans Hotel.
I know what you’re thinking… Vegas in the summer? Sure, it’s hot, but it’s the desert. You’ll be inside the luxurious hotel in the air-conditioning during the day, and at night it cools down to a comfortable level. The Orleans is not on the Strip, so the rates are incredibly reasonable ($45.00 a night weekdays and $94.00 Friday and Saturday) and there’s a shuttle bus that’ll take you over to the main drag, if that’s where you want to go. Did I mention that the Orleans contains numerous restaurants, and food court, several movie theaters, a bowling alley, and lots of slot machines? You don’t even have to outdoors if you don’t want to.

But enough about that. Take it from me, it’s great.

The conference itself is designed for writers of all levels and abilities. Some of our PSWA members are published authors with impressive resumes. Others are first timers, and others are aspiring to be published. Regardless of your level, you’ll find everyone friendly and always willing to offer advice and assistance. We usually have numerous publishers on hand to listen to pitches, too.

While you don’t need a background in public safety to join the PSWA, many of our members are former police, federal agents, ex-military, or firefighters. Others are people who write about those things. The conference offers the opportunity to rub elbows with those who’ve actually done the stuff of books and movies and others who’ve successfully written about it. It’s a wealth of information, and everyone is very approachable.
The luncheon meals are included in the conference fee, which is real low compared with other conference of this type. And we have an old-time radio play that aspiring actors and actresses can participate in, if you so desire. There’s also an intensive writer’s workshop the first day you can sign up for that features three published writers giving you individual critiques and writing advice.

So what are you waiting for? Visit the PSWA website today ( and check things out. Registration is easy and the price is right. Hope to see you there.
Mike Black Book Jac PhotoMichael A. Black is the author of 29 books, the majority of which are in the mystery and thriller genres, although he has written in sci-fi, western, horror, and sports genres as well. A retired police officer with over 30 years’ experience, he has done everything from patrol to investigating homicides to conducting numerous SWAT operations. Black was awarded the Cook County Medal of Merit in 2010. He is also the author of over 100 short stories and articles, and has written two novels with television star, Richard Belzer (Law & Order SVU). Black is currently writing the Executioner series (Fatal Prescription, Missile Intercept) under the name Don Pendleton. His latest novel under his own name is Blood Trails.

Writer's Notes

What’s Going On?

By Thonie Hevron

PSWA Award singleI’ve just returned from the Public Safety Writers Association (PSWA) Conference in Las Vegas. It’s a member-driven conference focused on those who write in the field of public safety. Active and retired personnel from police, fire, EMS, and dispatch make up the bulk of the population. Civilians who write crime fiction and technical public safety articles/books are also a large component of this diverse group. City cops—from Chicago PD to rural sheriff’s departments, FBI, military enforcement from all branches, probation and parole, fire officers—paid and volunteer as well as emergency medical personnel are active members. The breadth of experience is remarkable.

We gather annually to share our information. This year’s event spanned four full days for those who wished to attend Thursday morning’s optional “improve your writing skills” workshop taught by three published authors. This included a critique of previously submitted manuscripts. During the conference, attendees participated in numerous panels and attended presentations on topics such as “Anatomy of a Murder,” “Investigating the 2001 Anthrax Attacks,” “Writing True Crime,” “How to Write for the Web” and craft topics like “Editing Your Work” and “An Examination of Point of View”. Several time slots were set aside for meet and greets with editors, other authors and three publishers.

Aside from the plane trip from hell (check out my Facebook page), arriving a day and half late—and missing my own panel on “Promotion,” I still had Saturday. The cut-rate airline new to our regional airport has a very limited schedule which necessitated leaving the conference early. Hence, I only had one day in Las Vegas. Sigh. Still, it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. I pitched my fourth novel to a publisher I’d never heard of before but was interested in my story. The networking alone is fabulous. Because of PSWA, I’ve had facetime with an FBI profiler, SWAT masters (both in city and FBI), homicide and vice detectives, several of whom had been undercover. I can’t pass up tapping these guys on the shoulder, asking them to read my work for authenticity—in exchange for Beta reading, critiques and blurbs (who’d a thunk anyone would want my name on their book?).

So when I got word that I placed second in the annual PSWA Writing Contest for unpublished novel, I was bowled over. Imagine these esteemed members choosing my book, With Malice Aforethought. Second! Whew!


News about With Malice Aforethought

My publisher, Billie Johnson of Oak Tree Press, is recovering from a serious health issue. She and another staffer are working on the back log of projects already in progress. Oak Tree isn’t accepting any new submissions until January. At this time, I have a signed contract but haven’t sent my manuscript in. I’ve decided to use the next month or two to polish some of the uneven parts of the story. My time frame to get it to Oak Tree is September 1. From there, I’ll keep you posted as I find out more.


Writer's Notes

A victory…from Las Vegas

By Thonie Hevron

I’m baaaack!

This was my first trip to Sin City. It won’t be my last. Although the glaring grandeur had little appeal for me, I will say I thought it fun to cruise down the Strip. However, because I was tired, I was more than ready to be at the hotel. Silly me, I’d gone cheap and hired a shuttle instead of a cab. Live and learn.

The truth is that I only booked this trip for a Public Safety Writer’s Association Conference.  Vegas has zero appeal to me. Give me a redwood grove or a sandy Southern California beach any day. I’d submitted my unpublished manuscript, Intent to Hold to their annual writing contest. In 2012, I’d submitted and won third place for By Force or Fear. I was hoping history would repeat itself for Intent to Hold.

At the conference, I met many with whom I’ve corresponded through the years. Meeting people in person after developing an online relationship can cause some shifts in perspective. Thankfully, they were all very positive shifts. I met some terrific people.

During the months before the conference, the call for help went out from conference chair Michael A. Black. Like a dummy, I volunteered. While I used to hate getting in front of people, I’ve made strides in getting over the fear. Knowing that

Dialog and setting panel PSWA Conference, Orleans Hotel-Casino, Las Vegas July 2014 photo by Marilyn Meredith
Dialog and setting panel PSWA Conference at the Orleans Hotel-Casino, Las Vegas – July 2014   Photo by Marilyn Meredith



I’d have to speak in front of people to sell my books nudged me onward. Two years ago, I volunteered to co-chair the Redwood Writers Conference in April of 2014, to help de-sensitize myself. Month after month, I got up in front of the general membership and announced conference news. When that day came, I was a little nervous but my co-chair Sandy Baker was super-supportive and all went well. Here’s how PSWA shook out: I was a “contestant” on CSI-Jeopardy, a game played twice every day except the last (only once). I clowned my way to a pithy third but had a lot of fun. I sat on a panel of five discussing setting and dialog. Then, I was the moderator of a panel on wounds and forensics. Since I know nothing about the topic, I contacted the panelists in advance and culled questions from them. A well-rounded and very knowledgeable group that included an EMS/fire training consultant, and ER doc, a forensic scientist, a psychologist, a biology professor…and me!

Pic is a little fuzzy but you get the idea.
Pic is a little fuzzy but you get the idea.

Thank God, I only had to ask the questions.

The crowd was so responsive and attentive that we all had fun. In fact, when our time was up, many said they wanted more time with the panel. I’d say that was a success. Success for the panelists, audience, and me. I didn’t faint! In fact, I got one glowing compliment on my presentation voice.

And, I won third place for unpublished novel award for Intent to Hold. History did repeat.

I’ll be back in Vegas next year, only I’m bringing my hubby next time.


Writer's Notes

Resetting Goals

I spent more than one sleepless night trying to figure how I was going to write 1,000 words every day-7 days a week for 45 days, plus keep the blog going, PLUS have a life (husband, horse, pooches, etc). The goal was to have a body of work to submit to a contest. Well, not just any contest: Public Safety Writer Association (PSWA) Writers’ Contest.  My manuscript, Probable Cause, came in third last year in the unpublished novel. This was a national contest so understandably, I was excited. That book has been subsequently renamed–By Force or Fear–and published as an ebook by Amazon. The first draft of my new book, Intent to Hold, is now just over half completed. Calculating writing, beta readers, editing, then re-writing, meant I could only squeak by with 45 days of actual writing.
Here’s the kicker: those who have read Intent to Hold say it is a better book than the first. Maybe I’ll do better than 3rd place…
Sitting in church this morning, wobbly from lack of sleep, it came to me. There are other contests. I can still enter my first draft if I want to PWSA, or I can wait until next year when it will be completed and polished.
Damn right. So that’s what I’m gonna do. Keep writing at my “normal” pace for now. When the PSWA deadline draws closer, I’ll decide which options to chose.   
%d bloggers like this: