Friday, December 20, 2019

Take the Challenge Take Charge Program

Why am I posting this? As an author of mysteries, I avoid violence in my stories. Although a death has to take place in a murder mystery, it happens off-stage. No shooting scenes, no violence. The result is a great story with red herrings, interesting characters and plot lines.

Since the Sandy Hook Massacre in December 2012, I realized that the violence in our society was like a three legged stool. One of those legs is violent video games/media. It is everywhere. I believed this, but couldn't see that anything was being done. Until now.

A book recently recommended to my husband confirms my beliefs of the last seven years. My husband said I should read it. Since it was the 7th anniversary of Sandy Hook, and I was distraught over the craziness happening in our state of Virginia, I told him I couldn't. I was too emotionally fragile. He said just read the last two chapters. Those chapters cover what we as a society can do to combat the epidemic of violence. Positive steps.

The book is Assassination Generation by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman. 

I read the last two chapters plus the appendix and co-author's note. It gave me hope. But only if we all talk to our children, grandchildren about the violence in media and video games. Research has shown it takes up to three days to detox a child from violent media. The SMART Curriculum cited when screen time was reduced, so was student aggression, and obesity/overweight issues.

Take the Challenge Take Charge Program, developed by Kristine Paulsen, educates on the result of excessive media viewing. Let's begin detoxing our nation's children. I know we can do it.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

The Perfect Gift

Looking for gift ideas? A book to curl up with and read during the winter months is the answer. My books are available on Amazon or Barnes and Noble online under author M.E. Maki. 

A question is whether there will be another book available for the next holiday season. I am working right along with my new suspense story that features a new protagonist and a much faster pace. The learning curve is going well. So far the chapters have been well received by my two writing critique groups, an incentive to keep writing.

Already the characters have changed things up. I expect that now and am not surprised. The character that I originally drafted to be a prepper, sort of a sad personality has now shown me that he lives the way he does because he is a survivor. Through the story I hope to capture what is tormenting him and help him find inner peace. 

In the meantime his sister, Alaina, has to alter her life plans for the better good. 

This story is going to be an interesting ride for me as well as the reader. Wish me luck!

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Murder Gets Even and Death in the Dune – by John Molino

Similar to my experience – someone who never planned to write and publish a book, one of my neighbors, John Molino, has done just that. He develops the most interesting plot lines and characters. His first book, Murder Gets Even, published in 2018, is a fascinating story set at Cameron Station Military Installation in Alexandria, Virginia in the Summer of 1970. Colonel Fleming Andrews is the kind of character that you love to hate. Mr. Molino crafts this character, as well as the others in the book, so that the reader is drawn into them, and the story line. The story grips the reader and won’t let go until the last word is read. 

When John finished Murder Gets Even, he said that was it. One and done. But a year later he comes out with another cleverly crafted story, Death in the Dune. The story begins in 1617 Virginia Settlement with an unfortunate incident, but by the second chapter it is present time and the Dune, located along the Chesapeake Bay is up to it’s old tricks. The dune is located as a barrier between the bay and a condo complex where retired Commodore Bob keeps a watchful eye from his “lanai.” It is he who notices the change in the dune, and warns his neighbors. They, along with the authorities, listen to Bob with much skepticism and wonder about his mental faculties.

John Molino is a gifted storyteller, and I await his next book – next year, John?

Saturday, November 9, 2019


The National Novel Writing Month officially began on November 1, but it is not to late to get started on the book you always wanted to write. 

The goal of NANWRIMO is to get authors in the habit of writing every day. Write a little; write a lot, but just write. Work on your story. 

I'm part of the NANOWRIMO Rebel group. I found that on most days I can't make the 1,167 word limit that would get me over the finish line of 50,000 words for the month. Life interrupts. NANOWRIMO Rebels still write every day, but the goals are much more attainable. We all need that feeling of success.

I'm working on a suspense story now. I am also in a memoir (life stories) group at the library. I have other things I'm involved with. And, I want at the end of each week to not only meet my goal, but exceed it. 

This year for NANOWRIMO I set my weekly word count at a conservative 3,000 words. I barely made it this week. But I did and more. Another goal is to compose a new life story piece, which I have not done. Yet. Maybe I can squeeze that in at the end of the day. 

Good luck with whatever you are writing. And remember, it is important that you get into the habit of writing, get into your project, and in time, finish it.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

The Death of Cassie White news

Now in Large Print

Several readers have asked, "Are your books in large print?" The answer, unfortunately, was, "no."

I hated seeing the disappointment on readers' faces, so I asked Kindle Direct Publishing. The response came right back, "Yes. There is a little box in the set-up page that you have to check." The book has to be reentered and assigned a new ISBN number. 

I was so excited. I immediately reformatted the text and my cover designer offered to redo the spine width and not charge me any more. 

So The Death of Cassie White, the newest Caitlyn Jamison Mystery is now in Large Print!

Why I Don't Use Goodreads

This is a frustration post, so feel free to disregard. I just don't understand why the Goodreads website has to be so darn difficult. 

On my marketing schedule today was to add my new book, The Death of Cassie White to the Sisters in Crime website bookshelf. I got that done in no time. Next on the list was to add the book to my author page on Goodreads. I can't say how long it took to figure out how to add the book, but I finally clicked through enough (over and over again) to find the new title page. Unfortunately, when I did that, I missed the very small print at the top right that said upload image. I filled out all the required boxes and checked the box - I am not a robot. 

The entry appeared but with a plain cover. I tried over and over to find where I could upload the cover. No obvious place. Again, I just circled around. Went to YouTube, and that is where I learned about the small print wording. Went back in, but can't get to that unless I upload the book, but can't do that since it is already uploaded - sound like a Catch 22?

I went to their question section. Again, no help. Most advice had to deal with how you CAN'T change cover photos. 

If anyone has the secret answer - please let me know. 

Thursday, October 17, 2019

The Third Caitlyn Jamison Mystery is Published

I've been so busy (explained in previous post) that I've neglected to share the fact that I published the third Caitlyn Jamison Mystery on October 4. I've been holding off on formally announcing the publication until I receive my shipment of books - just to make sure. I'm not especially happy that it is taking two weeks for my books to arrive. In the past, book shipments always arrived a day or two or more ahead of the stated shipping date. And, with CreateSpace, they also honored my small orders and not bundling them, which then moves the arrival date ahead by several days.

And so I wait. The time is not wasted. I'm now able to focus on setting up the timeline, plot line, and characters for the suspense story I've started. I attended a workshop at the library last Saturday where I learned about taking each major character and listing their strengths, weaknesses, misbelief, and personal goals. I started this on Sunday morning and realized how difficult that is. It is forcing me to dig deep into each character's thoughts, feelings, and beliefs that drives them, and the story will be richer because of this. I'm concentrating on finishing this part of the project, as well as finishing my draft outline so that on November 1 I can start NANOWRIMO and accomplish my personal writing goals for each week.

Speaking of NANOWRIMO, I am a National Novel Writing Month "rebel." Instead of setting myself up for certain failure by adhering to their 1,167 words a day to get 50,000 words in the month of November, I'm setting my writing goal to 430 words a day, which is more reasonable for me. Another goal is to write one new memoir piece per week. I'm setting my goals low so hopefully I will exceed them and feel success. We have to do whatever works. The important message of NANOWRIMO is to get in the habit of writing. And that I applaud. 

The Death of Cassie White

Table set up for Chancellor's Village presentation
I published The Death of Cassie White on October 4, 2019. If I thought my summer was busy, it was nothing compared to the last two months. Finishing final edits (realizing editing is never finished), and getting transcription jobs coming in, and preparing the first seven chapters of my suspense story for the Old Town Sleuth critique group meeting on October 1 . . . well, needless to say, I’ve been a little stressed out.

I am still waiting for my first shipment of books to arrive – hopefully tomorrow. Although extremely pleased with the quality of the covers of Kindle Direct Publishing (Amazon), I am not so happy about their bundling my first two small orders (in order to get the books faster), into one big order, shifting the arrival day by three days. Consequently, I missed having my new books for my first author talk yesterday.
I arrived early to make sure I had plenty of time for set-up.
Getting over that, my talk to the residents of Chancellor’s Village Independent and Assisted Living facility in Fredericksburg, VA was extremely delightful. There was a good turnout and a fun loving group. We had a lot of laughs as I shared stories of my writing life. How it began in 2008, why, and how plot lines are developed and characters who change the story.

The recreation director and I ended the talk by encouraging the residents to write, especially memoir writing. They each have a wonderful story to tell, to share with family. I left there energized and feeling that maybe in some small way I enriched their lives as much as they did mine.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Savannah Suspense

This is the first book where I haven’t had a title pop into my head before the book was started. Having said that, each of the other three book titles changed by the end of the book, so I should count myself lucky.

This new project is fun and very different from what I’ve written in the past. I’m learning a new sub-genre, and have developed characters that I’m giving free rein to on the story. I have no idea where the plot is going, and I’m not concerned. When I get in the groove with the characters, each chapter writes itself. So I’m taking it just one chapter at a time.

In talking with one of my beta readers and mentioning how difficult it was to manage a large manuscript, he suggested I keep the chapters as separate documents. I’m trying that with the Savannah suspense, and so far I like it. When I think of something to add to a chapter, I don’t have to scroll until I find it. I just pop into that chapter and add what I want.

Each chapter has a short description title so I know exactly what it is about. I am also keeping a timeline document with a short synopsis of each chapter to keep careful track of what day it is and what happened. To add another level of tension, the story is set around a holiday, so to get things to work out, I’ve already had to back up the dates. Easy to do with individual chapters and a timeline.

I’m on Chapter Seven, where protagonist Alaina Carter and her former CDC partner Denton Parker are part of a team to help the city as it faces a potential crisis. They are meeting with the city’s emergency team to put plans in place should the possible scenario play out. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

A Busy But Productive Summer

It appears I’ve maintained blog silence this summer, though I did keep up the blog on my website. There are only so many hours in the day.

I received the beta readers’ comments early in the summer and diligently worked for weeks addressing their concerns/corrections/additions to the manuscript. When that was done, I went through and edited more. When I couldn’t look at it again, I gave it to my second beta reader. She went through with a fine-tooth comb and found a few more issues, and she also gave me areas that I could flesh out more. After working in her suggestions, I went through the manuscript again. It was at that point that I gave the book to my husband to read. He spent all day Sunday reading, marking little things. A couple of typos, a couple of missing words, and suggested I explain why the government and utility companies were pointing fingers at each other. Excellent suggestion.

I was pretty stressed out that day. I am so close to publishing, but thought what if he finds a major problem that will take weeks to work out?

The stress released when he put it down and said, “Well, you’ve done it again. It’s a page turner.”

On Monday I finished my Author’s note, the front matter is ready, and I sent the cover text files and photo off to a graphic artist. (She loves the photo).

The Death of Cassie White is almost ready to launch. It will be a bittersweet moment. I’ll be glad to have the book done, but sad to not spend more time with Caitlyn, Ethan and the rest of the gang—at least not until next time.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Riverside Writers Presentation - Do what's right for you

On Saturday, 8 June 2019 a Sister in Crime, Mary Behre, and I did a mini panel on writing to the members of the Riverside Writers group in Fredericksburg, VA. Mary writes The Tidewater Series, Humor, Suspense, and a Psychic Love-Connection. She has traditionally published four books and I have self-published two, working on two more. 

The panel worked well due to the fact of our age difference, publishing preference, and varied experiences with marketing. 

We took turns introducing ourselves and sharing how we got into writing. We then went into our personal writing process, publishing, and marketing.

The message I conveyed to the group was to do their homework when considering publishing options. Understand what the author is responsible for, what the royalties will be, and when they are paid. Mary and I stressed the fact that no matter how you decide to publish, the AUTHOR has to do their own marketing. If the author is not out there doing signings, presentations, active with social media, the books will not be sold; the author will not be paid. Someone asked where Mary had done signings and she listed several states. When that person asked if her publisher set those up, Mary laughed. Not - she had to do the work herself. 

I shared a recent experience with KDP. I realized that my first book, An Unexpected Death, only showed a Kindle version on Amazon. Months ago I had successfully brought my books over from CreateSpace to KDP. How did that happen? At 4:30 p.m. I sent an email off to KDP. At 6:30 I received a phone call, but when I saw it was a Seattle number, I thought it was a Robo call and I didn't answer. A message was left. A rep from KDP wanted more information on my issue. He said he would keep working and would send an email. At 8:30 p.m. I received an email telling me the issue was resolved. My trade paperback and Kindle weren't linked-an Amazon website problem. But the point is, I've had only great customer service experience with CreateSpace and now KDP. 

When I talked about formatting, and how I format as I go since I'm a visual person, Mary asked if I used Scrivener. She does; I don't. I'm happy with Word, and have heard reports that there is a learning curve with Scrivener, which was confirmed by someone in the audience. If one has the time and patience, then Scrivener is deemed to be a great product. 

I think we left the Riverside Writers group with a lot to think about and I hope we were helpful.  

* Do your homework before you make publishing decisions and do what's right for you.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Book Progress Update

We were in the Adirondacks in May for a fundraising hike with our daughter. About every three miles there was an Oasis with water, fruit, and a porta potty. At the second Oasis a woman approached me and said, "How is the next book coming?" The pressure is on :).
I’m embarrassed to see that I haven’t posted a book progress report on this blog since mid-December. So what have I been doing?

The answer is: Writing.

Over the last five months I’ve worked hard to finish the third Caitlyn Jamison mystery. Readers have not been shy about asking how I’m coming on the next book. What they don’t realize is that each book gets harder to write—developing new (interesting) plot line(s), new (interesting) characters, and the challenge of meeting reader expectations. Last week I finished a draft that I felt good enough to share with three beta readers.

Prior to that, I edited the manuscript on my computer screen, had the UPS store run a hard copy (233 8-1/2 x 11 pages), read it aloud, and made notes on items that had to be checked or resolved. I found several overused words: so, able, know, was, photo, think, skeletal. I'm sure there are more, and I will keep looking.
I started with the last chapter and put each through software for diagnostics. Prowritingaid caught issues that I hadn't, and I really appreciate the fact it now picks up missing end quotes.

What else?
In a previous post I mentioned a new character residing on my shoulder and wanted her story told. The character’s name evolved to “Alaina.” Alaina is retired special ops and lives in Savannah, Georgia. Her former partner draws her back into action and the story takes off. While CJ3 is with beta readers, I hope to make great progress on this new suspense story. It doesn’t have a title, so I’m calling it my Savannah story.

For more information check my website: I have a blog and Caitlyn’s News on the site.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019


First Memoir Book birth to marriage
In 2004 I belonged to a memoir writing group at the C.H.Booth Library in Newtown, CT. The group was comprised of about six women. Each had a different story to tell; each had their own particular style and voice. Without saying we understood what was shared stayed in that room. 

It is now fifteen years later and I've successfully convinced the Central Rappahannock Regional Library to start a memoir writing group. The library has a growing Inklings Writing Group, Fiction Critique Group, Poetry Writing Group and Science Fiction Writing Group. Each of those has between four and ten participants. When the Memoir Group did a soft launch to a limited audience, seventeen people immediately signed up. I missed the first session held in March, but attended the second one in April. Ten women attended and it was the most inspiring meeting. The librarian in charge did an amazing job of laying down the ground rules. Besides the "stays in the room" rule, she explained the critique as the "sandwich effect." First a positive comment, then suggestions/questions on how the piece could be improved or clarified, and finish with another positive comment, i.e. "Love your piece. Can't wait to hear more."

I've found that a level of trust has to be gained before I will share my work. With this group I jumped right in. I felt secure as did others as they shared some of their most emotional events. I left the session energized, so much so that I purchased a colorful 3-ring binder, section dividers, developed a draft table of contents of writing prompt ideas, chose a title and photo for the front of my binder. 

I pulled out my notes from November 2004 and will share them at the next session. Some of those memoir writing notes are: Writing journal for ideas, images, dreams. Make a timeline of your life, starting at birth to present day. Note major events. What are you passionate about? What event happened in your life that "changed everything." Think of themes-jobs, houses you lived in, sibling relationships. 

Consider the scenes that make up your life. This can be in the form of a table of contents as I have done, or an outline that you can drill down on as memories come flooding back. 

I'm capturing memories of fifty years ago, so my first draft was just that. It took time for more memories to come back that provided more detail for my piece. I revised my memoir piece several times and it will probably be revised even more as details come to mind. I next have to see if I've saved photos/postcards from our life in Chicago and our California trip.