Thursday, December 31, 2015

Here’s to a happy, healthy, and successful writing in the New Year

The book I grabbed to read on the commuter train to DC on Monday happened to be Elizabeth George’s, Write Away.

Although I read this book several years ago, now that I have a published book under my belt and am well into starting the next one, it was fortuitous that I singled out Write Away.

I like the way Ms. George begins each chapter with a line from her journal, expressing the same doubts and frustrations that many writers have. She first presents the basics to keep in mind when writing any story – character.

She believes the foundation of any story is its characters. They are what readers will remember and will talk about. Developing character descriptions was difficult for me to do, but I must have done something right, as I am getting comments from readers that they love my characters; they can’t put the book down.

I am thankful Write Away jumped off the bookshelf and into my hand this week. I need to reread the advice that Elizabeth George imparts.  

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays

This past month has been filled with book marketing, book selling, volunteering, holiday preparations, and more book marketing/selling. In fact, I can’t believe it has only been a month since I published An Unexpected Death.

Today I pause and thank all those who supported me through this past year through their time, energy, and talents. It is you who helped bring these type of comments from readers:

“It is an absolutely incredible book for a first-time author. In jaw-dropping admiration I congratulate you!!!!!!!!!!”

Thank you everyone, and may you all have a happy, healthy and peaceful new year.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Review from a reader in Florida

Touching comments continue to come in via personal emails. Below is part of one such note:
Wow!  Just wow!  From start to finish.  As a crime/mystery book lover, I've read hundreds, maybe thousands, and would rank M.E.Maki right up there with my favorite dozen authors.  The ones I anxiously await and delightfully secure sequels.  Glad you are working on your next one - I'll be looking for it.  You have touched on some really contemporary topics, which is pretty rare.  And given a fresh treatment to the old standards.

 I am so thankful to these readers who take the time to let me know not only that they enjoyed the book, but what they enjoyed about it. So helpful as I work on the next adventure facing Caitlyn and Ethan.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Where do book ideas come from?

"Where do you get your ideas?" This might be the number one question authors are asked. For those who have read An Unexpected Death and made it to the acknowledgement page you know what inspired one of the plot lines.

Another plot line was developed after I read Summer in a Glass by Evan Dawson. This book is about the history and stories behind some of the Finger Lakes wineries. By spending time and developing relationships with the owners and staff, Mr. Dawson was able to creatively capture the personalities that make up these fabulous New York wineries. I found the book fascinating and became so involved in their stories that I wanted to incorporate in my book this growing part of New York's agriculture.

Back to the question of where do ideas come from? They come from everywhere and anywhere and sometimes from the most unexpected places.

Saturday, December 19, 2015


I have learned that not everyone knows how or is comfortable with posting a book review on Amazon. Instead, they send a personal note, and those bring tears to my eyes. The notes are heartfelt and have provided me with the incentive to keep writing.

The first note came in early December:

It’s written in English - Semicolons, grammatical structure, no dangling participles. A rarity in the 21st century. So far, big kudos. The amount of research this took must have been daunting.

Great smoke screens surrounding the killer … interesting characters with back stories that kept you guessing.  What I am most waiting for you to explore is the husband of the town clerk, Penny Mitchell – the genealogist. I bet he could bring a lot to the plot of the next mystery.

Great job. Big, big, big, big congratulations. You did it!!! – Reader, December 2015

Not only did I get a thumbs up from this voracious reader (and who works in a Chicago book store), but she also told me what she wants to see me develop in the next book.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Where am I going with this?

Ah, the vicissitudes of writing. I wrote a great first chapter. Character and setting descriptions were good. My writing group thought it was great. I’m on my way. Or am I?

I’m stuck. That great beginning wasn’t a springboard to the rest of the story. The character I had killed off hadn’t been developed. He needed to be.

There was no segue into the plot line, and my protagonist wasn’t going to show up until several chapters in – not good writing/planning.

During my 5:00 a.m. coffee time, gazing at our Christmas tree, I ruminated about this problem. My helpful muse (a spirit that inspires) finally appeared and a new plan developed.  I quickly grabbed by writing notebook and jotted down ideas. My original first chapter will be saved and used later in the story. But I came up with a new first chapter that segues into the plot line, and I am now on my way.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Character Bios – Developing their motivations

When the muse strikes, we want to write!  But when the first flurry of ideas wears thin we are left with characters that can display contradicting actions – if character bios haven’t been developed.

Before starting An Unexpected Death I sketched out bios of my main characters. That wasn’t as easy as it sounds. For each person I developed a physical, psychological and sociological profile as well as their goals, revelations, and crucial life choice.  Bios and character motivations are needed in order to provide depth to the story line.

I had over twenty characters in the book, so it seemed like a lot of time and effort to develop these profiles for everyone, because what I really wanted to do was to start writing.

“Your job is to present to us the character and the goal clearly and forcefully fairly early on.”
Nancy Kress, Writer’s Digest, Nov/Dec 2012

And that was okay until some of the secondary characters decided to take on a more important role in the story, and I then needed to determine their key motivation within the story as well as fleshing them out more, i.e. developing their profile. This was an annoying interruption in the writing flow, and I wished I had done it earlier.

It is a given that characters will change/grow during the course of your story. Those who you thought would be static characters might decide to take on a larger role, and for that you have to be ready and know them much better and what their key motivations might be.

In the book, Maddie is the sheriff’s office dispatcher. She was a secondary character with not much description. My first readers asked to see more description of Maddie and suggested she be developed more in the second book. For some reason she touched their hearts, and they liked her enough to want her to play a much bigger role.

And so it shall be.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Coming soon - An Unexpected Death – Available through the Finger Lakes Library System

Mystery readers in the Finger Lakes Library system will soon have two books available to borrow. One has been donated to the Newfield Public Library and another to the Ulysses Philomathic Library in Trumansburg, New York.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015


For the victims of today's violence
Wishing we could change our culture of violence.

The Great Danbury State Fair

One of my first blogs was a photo of my friend and writing partner, Andrea Zimmermann, when she received her just published book, The Great Danbury State Fair. I was fortunate enough to receive an early copy and although I never had the opportunity to attend this fair, the stories contained in this book touched my heart.

I wonder if we will ever again witness the love and passion of men like George Mortimer Rundle, John Leahy, C. Irving Jarvis and others who created and carefully managed this enterprise over its 112 year run.

For anyone who experienced the magic of fairs during their lifetime, this book is a must read. You can order a copy through Amazon, the History Press, or from the author, who will send you a signed copy if you wish. 

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The Challenges of Marketing

My books for sale at NEW Health in Essex, New York
One of the downsides of publishing is reaching your target audience. And that becomes even more of a challenge when an author self-publishes. Though, I hear that even mainstream publishers want the author to do more of the marketing.

I developed a list of twenty-five venues in which to market my book. That list grows by the day as I think of more ways to get the word out to the right people. I have learned to be patient. It doesn’t happen in a day, or week, or even a month. It takes time and I am also convinced that at some point the book will have to sell itself. If it is any good, people will read it and recommend it.

And so I was delighted to see that my daughter, an acupuncturist in Upstate New York, has taken on the challenge and is offering my book for sale in her office. Maybe I should have had ten kids!

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Death in a Family Business

I am honored to be a friend of published author Wally Wood. He has written three novels, not to mention the number of books he has co-authored and ghost written.

Wally’s latest novel, Death in a Family Business, is his first Tommy Lovell mystery. Tommy is betwixt and between at the start of the book. His business had failed as did his marriage. Tommy’s self esteem is at its lowest when he has to move back home. He grudgingly travels with his father to a small town nestled in the Berkshires to help save a friend’s business.

Wally captures the reader with his vivid descriptions while pulling us further into the story as Tommy discovers more about the family “business.”

Check this book out on Wally’s Amazon author page:

Friday, November 27, 2015

“… it’s always what you do with it.”

The latest issue of Writers Digest features an article, “Write Your Novel in 2016,” and that is exactly what I plan to do. One of the quotes within that issue by Neil Gaiman, “But the truth is, it’s not the idea, it’s never the idea, it’s always what you do with it,” caught my attention.

I have been searching for a unique plot line that I can sink my teeth into and feel passionate about. But maybe I don’t need to work so hard on those plot lines, but instead work at giving them a different twist.

My protagonist, Caitlyn Jamison, is about to get involved in another mystery. This was not in her game plan. She has been quite happy working in DC, though continues to be unsettled about her love life. Her fall trip to the winery for a photo shoot is interrupted by Ethan when he asks her to help solve another murder. And then there’s the cold case. What will she do?

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Books and Flowers

This beautiful bouquet was from our daughter as a way of saying "Congrats" on a job well done. This gesture is so appreciated, and the flowers will be enjoyed by family members over the Thanksgiving holiday.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

An Unexpected Death - Cover and early reports

Some of my neighbors have received their copy of my book,* read it, and commented that they couldn't put it down. That is a great compliment. It means the book's pace worked, and for a first time author, that is a great relief.  Though one husband complained that his wife "couldn't put it down" and therefore he was afraid his Thanksgiving was in jeopardy.  She was able to finish, wrote me a note and added that her husband would be fed!

* In the meantime I still await the twenty copies I ordered :) and keep hoping the UPS truck will stop at our door soon. 

Thursday, November 19, 2015

An Unexpected Death; A Caitlyn Jamison Mystery – Published!

This is the photo used for the cover
This day didn’t seem attainable a year ago when I began this novel. The key to success was plot lines I felt passionate about and a writing partner who encouraged me every step of the way. She even provided me with the virtual head slap when I was having second thoughts about publishing at all.

It took two proofs before I felt comfortable to publish. The first one was marked up with all sorts of edits. In the second, I found a couple misspellings, missing end quotes, missing words. Nothing major, but every detail counts when you face careful readers.

Am I a nervous wreck? Absolutely, and I wonder if every first time author feels this way.

It is now up to my protagonist Caitlyn Jamison and Sheriff Ethan Ewing to strut their stuff, solve the crimes and bring justice to Upstate New York. They run into a number of obstacles along the way, but I have every confidence that they will be successful.

My only wish is that readers enjoy the story.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Finding my Voice

As I begin the second Caitlyn Jamison mystery I started to think more about voice. What is it exactly? What should it be? Is it something I have to learn, practice, develop? In a September 2013 Writer’s Digest article, Cris Freese states:

“To set your voice free, set your words free. Set your characters free. Most important, set your heart free. It is from the unknowable shadows of your subconscious that your stories will find their drive and from which they will draw their meaning. No one can loan that or teach you that. Your voice is your self in the story.”

The article confirmed what I believed, which is that my writing voice is mine alone, my personality coming through, and in that sense unique. It only alters when I get so “in the groove” that the characters take over, and that’s okay.

So where does writing style come in? Style is your particular use of sentence structure - long, short, complex, simple, imagery, conversational, etc. And that is what I need to work on in this next book. Developing a style that fits my voice, my personality, and is in a way uniquely me.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Will this book ever be published?

The road to publishing is often bumpy. I take some pride in the fact that my manuscript was accepted with no adjustments needed. It’s the cover that has been giving us angst. We thought we had provided enough space for the bar code, but alas, it took three tries to get it right. I have ordered another proof and am keeping fingers crossed there won’t be any major mishaps.

What I forgot … this is a first time novel, so there is a certain level (read: high) of stress associated. I am now thinking of things I forgot to put in – like the statement: any mistakes are mine! I also should have included a little more about myself as a person and as an author.  

Writing, publishing, and marketing are new and wonderful experiences for me.  I know I am growing in the craft and although there are some sleepless nights, I think it will all be worth it.

The bottom line is, I hope readers will enjoy the story and overlook the mistakes they find.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Why a Proof Copy is Necessary

CreateSpace strongly advises its authors to order a proof copy before they publish.  I strongly advise this as well.

Although I had been over my manuscript many times either on screen or with hard copy, reading it in real book form is a very different experience. I won’t try to describe it, because I can’t. Just take my word. The photo above is just the beginning of items I found that I wanted to change, tweak, say better, say differently, add, delete, checking for extra spaces, etc.

It is hard tedious work. But work that will make the book better as a result. I am painstakingly going through each page, noting changes with yellow stickies, and then after twenty or thirty pages, I make the edits in the document. I have about a hundred pages yet to go, so excuse me while I get back to editing the proof copy.

Thursday, October 29, 2015


The start of NANOWRIMO2015 is only three days away. I encourage everyone to visit the website and view all the support that is available to writers.

I will be participating in NANOWRIMO again this year, but like last year I will be doing it my way.

It was the teaming up with a partner as we worked on our individual projects and being accountable to someone I respected and didn’t want to disappoint that kept me going to the finish line. We are teaming up again this year and I look forward to finishing another Caitlyn Jamison mystery by next summer.

Doing it my way veers somewhat from the goal of getting 50,000 words down in a month. I learned a number of things writing my first mystery, and am now applying them to my writing.

I am keeping a chapter outline, adjusting it as I make changes in each chapter.

Using the “Show all nonprinting characters” icon I am clearing out extra spaces, and making sure formatting is consistent.

Using contractions when needed.

My way might not reach the 50,000 word goal, but it sure will save me hours (days) of time when I reach the finish line.

It doesn’t matter how you participate NANOWRIMO, the bottom line is – write!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Lavender Helps

Was it just coincidence that my Amazon order of an essential oil diffuser was delivered early Sunday afternoon, at the exact time I decided to tackle the great unknown, creating a CreateSpace account and loading my manuscript?

I was surprised to see the U.S. Postal truck stop by our house shortly after we arrived home from church. Although the notice from Amazon said the item was to be delivered on Sunday, I never thought it would – it’s Sunday!

But there it was and I immediately started it up in our office with drops of lavender essential oil being diffused into the air.  We needed it.

When I loaded my manuscript into CreateSpace, I realized the pagination was off, as well as the fact I didn’t have enough pages in the front matter. Back to the document. I added the correct number of pages into the front matter, and then worked on pagination. Only problem was even with a section break, whenever I paginated the main body, the front matter also paginated. Very frustrating. After a period of time trying different things, reading online help articles (read: no help), my husband finally said, “Let me take a look.”

He is more advanced in his technology knowledge than I, but we were both a bit frustrated after he tried all his tricks to correct the pagination.

After spending all afternoon fighting this issue he remembered how he had melded two documents into one for one of his genealogy monographs. That is what we ended up doing. We had three documents going, melding the front matter document with the main body document making a third. We then paginated the main body, and voila! It worked.

I tribute our ability to not let frustration and anger take over to the calming influence of the lavender filtering through the air we were breathing.  We got the job done and toasted to our success. Needless to say, we still need to learn how to use section breaks!

Lavender helps.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Great Danbury State Fair - Published!

Andrea Zimmermann with her newly published book

Last October my friend Andrea Zimmermann and I decided we would do our own NANOWRIMO. We would each work on our own writing projects and be accountable to each other by producing Progress Reports each week. After starting and stopping during the writing of my mystery, this was exactly the incentive I needed.

And so it went over the months. Each weekend I sent her my word count, page count, progress made, goals for the next week, and other writing projects completed with word count. For me it was my genealogy blog, Growing up in Willow Creek.  She did the same.

Andrea got a good start on her mystery, but then signed a contract with The History Press to write the history of the Great Danbury Fair. She wasn’t much enthused about this project at first (they approached her), but I prodded her along, and then once she saw photos of the fair and interviewed local folks who went or exhibited, her excitement grew.

This week she received a shipment of her book. She was tickled beyond belief and I am so happy for her. With my novel almost ready to be published, our NANOWRIMO collaboration worked!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015


There are only twelve days until the start of NANOWRIMO and I’m not ready.

I learned a lot this past year while writing my first mystery. I learned that I need to do the prep work, like deciding on the geographic location, and writing good description of people and places. I need to develop character bios (and add to them when new characters present themselves). I need to keep a chapter timeline of what has happened in each chapter. And I have learned that sometimes you need the words that, had, and would. But I don’t need so many of “also.”

The NANOWRIMO website suggests the following:
Make a commitment to write each day;
Plan ahead, or not;
Review their prep resources;
Attend a webinar or tweet-chat in weeks leading up to November 1;
Interact with the NANOWRIMO community.

Over the next twelve days I will be busy fleshing out my characters and figuring out my plot lines so that when the calendar turns to Sunday 1 November, I’ll be ready to go.

In the meantime, I hope to get An Unexpected Death, a Caitlyn Jamison Mystery published!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Timelines for Writers

As a genealogist I’m familiar with how helpful timelines are to keep track of each individual ancestor. By developing a timeline for each person, the researcher can quickly see where the holes are in that person’s life.

For example, you find your ancestor on the 1850 census, but then don’t find him again until the 1870 census. Where was he during those twenty years? Did the family relocate, travel abroad, did the census taker miss them or misspell their name so much it became unrecognizable? That is an important hole to fill in your ancestor’s life.

As I work through what I hope to be one of the last final edits in my first Caitlyn Jamison mystery, I realized writers need to utilize timelines as well.

I have read through this manuscript so many times, one would think I could recite it by heart. Not so. Thanks to my first readers, I have incorporated a lot more information, deleted chapters, combined chapters, added description, etc.  As I read through the hard copy, I am reading slowly, inserting myself into the story in order to catch typos and inconsistencies.

I got to a part where I mention a senator and his supporters. I couldn’t remember whether the senator had died yet or not, and it was at that point I thought – aha – if I had developed a chapter timeline reference tool as the story developed, I could quickly answer that question.

When I first started this book several years ago, I did write up a short synopsis of each chapter as it was done. That’s a lot of work, and so I didn’t follow through when I redeveloped the characters and story line. I now know a timeline/chapter synopsis is worth the extra time it takes.

Monday, September 14, 2015

It Doesn't Happen by Magic

Starting a writing project is exciting.  All these characters and ideas are bouncing around in your head wanting to get out. The blank sheet of paper or blinking computer screen cursor is beckoning you to begin.

You are ready to start. Then reality hits. Some decisions should be made first  - if you want to save yourself a lot of time and effort later.

Gosh, this is getting to be work!

Plot Line: What is the main plot line? Will there be more than one? If so, will you be able to keep the thread going throughout the book? For first time writers, sticking with one or two is probably a good idea.

Protagonist: Develop and really get to know your protagonist and other major characters. A bio should be written for each that includes physical characteristics, background, occupation, any little detail that will bring each character to life and resonate with your readers.

Setting: Where does the action take place? The geographic location, if described well, enables the reader to connect with the story.

Description: This is something else I struggled with. Thankfully, my beta readers pushed me to a deeper level of writing when they each demanded more description of people and places.

Point of View:  This can be difficult, especially for a first time novelist – I know from experience. When two or more people are in a conversation, it’s easy to stray, so watch this.

Outline: There are different thoughts on whether or not to outline. As a beginner, it might be a good idea to at least sketch out where the story is going. You can always adjust the outline as the story develops.

Beware of your characters:  Don’t be alarmed when you are “in the groove” and your characters take over. It is an amazing feeling! There have been a few times when I have read what I had written a day or two before and thought – I didn’t write that. I never would have said that. Wow!

Enjoy the writing journey.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

The Seed Was Planted

Sometime in the late 1990s, my sister had a neighbor who was overly possessive of her young daughter. The neighboring family seemed nice enough, but then something went very wrong. One day my sister called telling me the couple had broken up and the daughter was always "sick." The father tried to get help from the pediatrician's office and the school, to no avail. It was a sad situation. 

My sister called me a while later and described what she had learned. She said, "You need to write about this!"

The seed planted that day didn't take root until ten years later. It then took another seven years to grow to fruition. 

An Unexpected Death, a Caitlyn Jamison Mystery is the result. I hope readers will enjoy Caitlyn's adventures as she solves . . . an unexpected death.