Meredith Cole started her career
as a screenwriter and filmmaker. She was the winner of the St. Martin’s
Press/Malice Domestic competition. Her first book, POSED FOR MURDER, was
published by St. Martin’s Minotaur in 2009. She was nominated for an Agatha
Award for Best First Mystery Novel in 2010. Her second book, DEAD IN THE WATER,
came out in 2010, and continued the adventures of Lydia McKenzie in Brooklyn.
She teaches writing at the University of Virginia and lives, gardens and writes
Finding my way through my fiction and through my garden
By Meredith Cole
The other day a friend remarked that it was funny, seeing
that I was a mystery writer who killed people in my books, that most of my Facebook
posts were pictures of flowers in my garden.
It didn’t seem strange to me. Gardens are, after all,
bloodthirsty places. Plants, bugs, and animals are all battling for supremacy,
and plants are always turning brown and dying. Gardening is also full of
disappointments, so it’s certainly not for the faint of heart or the squeamish.
I knew I wanted a garden when we lived in New York.
Surrounded by concrete, we dreamed of having a green space of our own. But I
didn’t know how obsessed I would get with plants and flowers once I had my own
garden. Fifteen minutes quickly turns into hours as I hack at weeds or dig up
our lawn to put in more flowerbeds.
Gardening is a great contrast to writing. I’m on my feet
rather than sitting in a chair, and I’m outside instead of inside. I may be
stuck in my story, but there’s always plenty to do in the yard.
But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that
gardening and writing havequite a lot
in common, too.
They take patience.
Did I mention that gardening wasn’t for the scared and
timid? It isn’t. And neither is writing. It always takes way longer than you
think it will to finish a book, and then far too many rewrites before your
editor/agent/readers say it’s good and you feel that it’s really finished.
Like gardening, I start various projects only to see them
wither on the vine. It wasn’t the right spot or the right time for the idea or
plant to flourish. If you don’t want to fall into complete despair, you move on
to another idea or try a different plant in that cursed spot. Eventually you
learn something or you get lucky.
Experts are helpful.
I used to think that if I could just find the perfect
writing book or class, I would somehow figure out how to write a novel. But I
never did. I just had to keep trying things and figuring it out myself.
Gardening experts are useful and can share their expertise
and advice. But in order to figure out what works in your yard, you just have
to try things. Sometimes you’ll fail, but when you have a success you feel like
a genius. Or like you have a green thumb.
You have to do it for
Only a few times in the past few years have I looked at my
yard with total satisfaction and been eager to show it off. The rest of the
time I see the flaws and I’m busy trying to fix bare patches in my yard. So if
I relied on the admiration of strangers to make gardening worthwhile for me, I
would have quit after that first spring so long ago. Same with writing. You
have to develop a thick skin because not everyone will love what you write. You
can’t write simply to hear applause.
I love seeing crocuses bloom and trees flower, and plants
thrive. But I realize that I love digging in the dirt and dreaming of what I’m
going to plant even more. In the end, it’s the act of gardening and writing
that give me pleasure in the end and inspire me to give up hours of my evenings
I’ve been writing mysteries since 1993. My first published short story, My Late Aunt Hattie, was an 800 word short-short that combined elements of comedy, mystery, and the supernatural. It was published in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine and went on to be included in The Haunted Hour anthology.
I am the Agatha Award nominated author of over 24 novels published with Penguin, St. Martin’s, and Kensington, 10 of which have been IMBA National Bestsellers.
I am also the author of over 80 short stories. I’ve been nominated three times for the Derringer Award for Excellence in short mystery fiction, and I’ve had stories included in the Mystery Writers of America Anthology A Hot and Sultry Night for Crime, as well as Murder Most Crafty, and The Haunted House.
What’s in a name?
by Tim Myers (and friends)
When I first started writing in the early 90s, I never
dreamed I’d ever use any name but Tim Myers for my work.Sure, my birth certificate said Timothy, but that
name has always felt as though it is one I have yet to grow into.To those who know me, I’ve always simply been
Tim.So when I published my first short
story in Woman’s World, my byline was never in question.As I suffered through the next one hundred
twenty three submissions before my second sale, I doubted many things,
including my abilities, my talent, and dare I say my sanity, but I never gave
my name a second thought. Ultimately I sold over eighty short stories before I
started publishing novels with Penguin/Berkley as Tim Myers, and I thought I’d
never have to give it another thought again.
Life’s funny that way, isn’t it?
Several books into my career, my agent contacted me and said
that an editor at another Penguin line, NALSignet, wanted someone like Tim Myers, only female.He called and asked me for recommendations,
and I instantly asked, “Why can’t I do it myself?”This led to a series of discussions between
the three of us, and then, after two partial submissions, the editor finally
agreed that I’d captured the voice they’d been looking for.There was one catch, though.I couldn’t publish the books as Tim
Myers.I struggled mightily with this
decision to change my name, but finally, I agreed, and thus Elizabeth Bright
was born.Like a great many difficult
things we deal with for the first time, it got easier as the years rolled
on.In fact, it turned out that my mysteries
sold better when they were told from a female point of view with a female
author’s name.And we writers are an
empathetic bunch.After all, we put
ourselves in the minds of killers all of the time.Why not the opposite sex?The next time a new series for
Penguin/Berkley presented itself, I was told that I’d need yet another female
pseudonym for them, so Melissa Glazer was created.
As I continued to write and publish, my next batch of names
became more androgynous in nature, again at the insistence of my publishers,
with names like Casey Mayes, Chris Cavender, and a few others I’m not allowed
to disclose to this day.When I started
adding some independently published books of my own to Kindle and Nook, I swore
I’d never use another nom d plume in my life.
But then the complaints started rolling in.Many of my gentle mystery readers were
shocked by my tough suspense novels.They wanted a clear warning, despite my best attempts to provide it,
that the new and darker books wouldn’t be mistaken for cozies.I created DB Morgan, and he now handles all
of my suspense, though I share a byline with him.There’s one more name I can mention,
blossoming from my other Woman’s World work.I sold them a romantic short story and submitted several more, all under
the Tim Myers name, but I found there was an aversion to that new collection under
my own name, so Kelly Roberts was created to address the situation.
I get notes all of the time from readers telling me that
this is all very confusing, that they just want to read my books, and people constantly
ask why I use so many names when I write.As you can see, the answer is much too complicated to clear up with a
simple response, and mostly I just say with a grin, “Different name, same
writer.I love my name, but my
What it all boils down to is that I’m just trying to create
the best fiction I’m capable of writing with each and every word I choose.And in the end, isn’t that all that
matters?We writers are, in my opinion, nothing
more than simple storytellers trying our best to amuse, entertain, and maybe
So. In keeping with our photo challenge of the day, which is "cemetery."
And, since cemeteries are a little bit "woo-woo" - are you in the mood for a story that's a teeny bit spooky - well, spooky may not be the right word.
I'll let you decide.
In 1983 I travelled to Greece with my dear friend Michael. We stayed a couple days in Amsterdam on the way over, visited The Rijksmuseum, which I, of course, loved.
And stayed at the most divine hotel in the world, The Pulitzer . You have your choice of staying in the newer section of the hotel or the old (very old!) section and we chose the old. If I ever get back to Amsterdam, this is where I would hope to stay. It's just exquisite and beyond words. The corridors are hung with wonderful art work, there's a fabulous hotel garden. It's just to die for, and we thought we would stay there on our way back to Atlanta after Greece, but our reservations got screwed up and we ended up staying somewhere else. A brand new Sheraton. we were only there one night and our flight left early the next day.
Michael went out with friends he had in Amsterday and I stayed in, too pooped after almost three weeks of traveling abroad to want to do anything. I ordered room service, ate and went to bed. The phone woke me later and it was hotel security. Someone had found my purse in the hotel hallway outside my room.
Apparently, the room service guy picked it up on his way out the door and I never missed it.
The jewelry I was travelling with was gone. I didn't put it in the hotel safe because I wasn't planning on leaving the room - who knew you couldn't trust Room Service.
Anyway - - - one of the things now gone was a little cameo bracelet I dearly loved. Each little cameo was different.
Wherever I go now I'm on the lookout for pieces of jewelry that look like what I lost in hopes of replacing some of it.
Now here's the thing about this bracelet. I had put it in my school locker in high school before gym class one day and as I was closing the door to the locker the bracelet got caught and one of the cameo faces was badly dented, but not broken. The cameo on the end. and it made me very sad.
okay - skip forward to 1999.
Since this trip, a lot of things have changed.
I met and married my Donald.
Michael died and I miss him every day.
Donald and I moved from Atlanta to Boone.
We discovered the adorable little town of Abingdon, VA, not too far away.
There's a wonderful festival in Abingdon every year - The Virginia Highlands Festival - and we attend fairly often. The festival also has a big antique market going on at the same time. Three huge tents full of everything you can imagine - including estate jewelry.
So, looking at the jewelry this particular day in 1999, I almost fainted when I saw, for the first time since losing my own cameo bracelet, one just like it. Unusual since each of the cameos are different. I start babbling to the guy who owns the booth about how I had had one just like it, it had been stolen, blah blah blah and I would have to have this one! (and there went ANY possibility of getting a better price. sigh).
He took it out for me to look at and I almost started crying.
Y'all. Not only did it look exactly like my bracelet, the end cameo is dented.
He told me the price, I said "can we do any better?" He chuckled and said, "Oh, I don't think so." And it wasn't all that bad so I bought it.
I had to.
I am as sure as I am of anything else I know that this is my bracelet.
The original granite marker was placed in this spot in 1986 by the ESHC Auxiliary stating - -
"In remembrance of the residents laid to rest here from 1935 to 1962."
"All God's Children"
An additional plaque was added in a 1999 rededication by
The Harold M. English Foundation.
It states - -
"198 rest here"
The Eastern Shore State Hospital for the Insane, located at Cambridge, Md., opened in May 1915
The physical growth of hospital buildings continued for several decades and the average daily population increased steadily to 675-680 patients in 1956. By the early 1970s, the patient census had dropped to approximately 420, primarily due to a focused effort on deinstitutionalization.
On July 1, 1973, the Eastern Shore State Hospital became known as the Eastern Shore Hospital Center (ESHC). ESHC has been fully accredited since May 1967. In November 1993, the hospital moved from assigning patients to their units by geography to a treatment oriented system. In the mid-1990s, the hospital’s site was considered for public economic development. In order to allow for development while continuing to provide necessary mental health services, another site of land was purchased and funding was appropriated to build a new ESHC.
Bill Crider (that’s me) was born in Mexia, Texas.So were Les Baxter, Fred “Firpo” Marberry,
and Don the Beachcomber.Anna Nicole
Smith was not.You could look it
up.I went to school for a long time and
eventually got a PhD.The title of my
dissertation was The Private-Eye Hero, which tells you something about
my interests.After getting my degree, I
taught school and wrote books.I’ve
retired from teaching, but I’m still writing books, which is why I’m here on
the blog today.I’m married to the
lovely Judy, and we have two grown offspring, Allen, who lives in Austin where
he’s a recording engineer.He also does
sound for (and occasionally plays guitar in) the Cornell Hurd Band. Angela’s in
San Francisco, where she’s an immigration attorney for Homeland Security.
My new book
is Murder of a Beauty Shop Queen, and if I’m counting correctly, it’s
the nineteenth book in the Sheriff Dan Rhodes series.Just to prove that I’m a “hip” and “with it”
kind of a guy, this one has a book trailer, which you can see at this URL if
you’re so inclined: http://goo.gl/yoTnh.St. Martin’s has been doing some quite nice
covers for me in the last few years, and this one for Murder of a Beauty
Shop Queen no exception, as you can see in the video.Or if you don’t care for trailers, you can
see the cover at the book’s Amazon page (http://goo.gl/qKTJG).Not that I’m asking you to order it or anything.You can get it at many fine independent
Okay, now that the shameless commerce department is closed,
I’ll tell you a little bit about the book.If you’ve read the other eighteen books in the series (as surely you
have), you know that living in Blacklin County, Texas, can be pretty dangerous,
especially in the county seat, Clearview.They seem to be averaging a murder or two a year there, and this time
the victim is a young woman who works in The Beauty Shack. There have been a
few suspicious characters seen hanging around in the abandoned building across
the street, and that’s the first place Sheriff Rhodes checks.Sure enough, he runs into trouble, and this
leads to some other problems in the little town, which has been experiencing a
lot of thefts of copper and aluminum.And car batteries.As usual, aspiring
amateur sleuth Seepy Benton wants in on the action.
It turns out that the murder victim had an active social
life, including close friendships with a number of prominent citizens in the
town.They are not happy to have their
privacy invaded by the investigation, and they want the murder solved
immediately.They also don’t want their
involvement to be known.Those things
aren’t as easy to achieve as they’d like them to be, of course, and Rhodes is
also dealing with other little things, including drivers who think the
sheriff’s job includes changing flat tires for them.There’s never a dull moment in Blacklin
To find out if the sheriff changes the tire, and to listen
in on some of his conversations with the usual crew at the jail, you’ll have to
read the book.I’m hoping this will be
the one that puts me on the NYTBR bestseller list, makes Sheriff Rhodes as
famous as Jack Reacher, and gets me a big movie deal, though there’s not much
chance of that.The sheriff gets beaten
up a lot more than Reacher does, and so far Tom Cruise hasn’t come calling
about playing Rhodes.All the actors I’d
originally hoped might one day play Rhodes in a movie have gotten a bit old for
the part by now.They’ve aged, but
Rhodes hasn’t.Well, not as much as they
have, at least.He’s lucky that
way.But I digress.You should buy the book, make me rich, and
help me and the sheriff start living in the style to which we’d like to become
accustomed.As always, we thank you for
Thanks, too, to the gracious Kaye Barley for giving me this
opportunity to say a few words about my new book. It’s always a privilege and a
pleasure to visit Meanderings and Musings.
Nancy Martin is the award-winning author of nearly fifty popular fiction novels, including the Blackbird Sisters Mysteries, for which she won the 2009 Romantic Times Lifetime Achievement Award for mystery writing. Nancy has served on the board of Sisters in Crime, is a founding member of Pennwriters, and she teaches writing workshops around the country.
I’m a sucker for articles with titles like “Ten Traits That
Mean Your Child Could be a Bully.” Or “Five Qualities Men Dislike in Women.” Lately,
I ran across “Four Things to Consider Before Taking Back a Cheater,” which was
a doozy. I click over because the ideas are enticing, and I’m always looking
for ways to juice up or add a dash of the absurd to my books. And I like
finding out what people are thinking about.
A few years ago, I started running out of ideas for my
Blackbird Sisters mystery series. I
don’t mean I ran out murderous possibilities. That part was always easy. (What
does it say about me that I can find plenty of reasons to bump off my fellow
man?) But when I set out to create Nora Blackbird and her world, I knew wanted
a protagonist with the capacity to grow and change—an uncommon attitude in the
mystery world, where readers (and editors!) seem to prefer characters who
remain the same book after book, who bounced back, kept going, continued
wisecracking while solving crimes. After writing nearly forty novels in the
first part of my career, though, I knew I’d get bored writing this kind of
Energizer Bunny amateur sleuth. I threw a lot of spaghetti at the wall before
coming up with a layered, witty, yet troubled character whose voice I liked and—most
important to me--whose story arc would take a while to unfold.
But after seven books, Nora Blackbird had reached the end of
the emotional story arc I originally designed for her. And she seemed to have
been—I couldn’t help seeing--left behind as the real world evolved. She was no
My editor thought I should keep going even though Nora had
reached a plateau in her emotional life.So did most of my readers. But I had seen a lot of mystery series lose
their steam or jump the shark or get too silly or too dark or . . . too rote. I
didn’t want to find myself getting mugged online by reviews written by an
annoyed readership. Nor did I want to
get so bored with Nora that I’d lose my passion for writing.
While writing Book 7, I thought long and hard about where my
characters could still go. And the answer seemed to be: Nowhere.
So I told my editor I needed a break, and I stopped writing
the Blackbird mysteries. I turned my attention to a new character.I had noticed how much my Blackbird readers
were interested in the trials and tribulations of Emma Blackbird—the alcoholic
sister with a sex addiction and numerous personal and emotional problems. I
decided to take the most intriguing parts of her character to create Roxy
Not everybody liked Roxy, but I loved her. Troubled and
angry, she also had a streak of loyalty and determination that made me love her
and want to explore her character.Her
mission: to rescue people who couldn’t go to the police when they needed help.Roxy’s life was a mess, and I enjoyed
As I wrote about Roxy, however, I often found myself thinking
of the Blackbirds. Nora was never far from my heart—perhaps because her voice and
sensibility are closer to my own than Roxy’s are.Looking at Nora from a distance—no longer
pounding out pages about her every day--I began to see where Nora could go
next, how her character could travel other arcs, and she could become entangled
in other issues—ones that intrigued the creative writer in me, but were also
up-to-date enough to hook my readers all over again.
Which is a long way of explaining how I came back to write
about the Blackbird sisters again.
The new book is NO WAY TO KILL A LADY, and it sends Nora
Blackbird on a new journey with her sisters Libby and Emma, as well as her
lover, Michael Abruzzo, who is drawn to his life of crime the same relentless
and dangerous way Nora’s first husband was drawn to cocaine. Nora’s trying to
decide if she’s enabling him or helping him away from the dark side . . . all
while wrestling with her own new life issues. I wanted Nora’s life to be rich
again—full of ideas that interest women these days. I want my readers to laugh
at the wit on my pages, but I want them to think about the context of their own
lives, too. I want Nora to face new challenges, change her mind, fight new
demons . . . and rise above.
So? Could your child be a bully? Do men really like women who
are narcissists? And what happens if a woman is not just the cheater, but the
instigator of adultery?Most of all: What’s
your thinking about mystery detectives who never change, who seem unaffected by
the death they encounter so frequently? I’d like to hear your opinions.
So. Tomorrow, Sunday, August 5th, is my first post as "Oh, Kaye!" at Jungle Red. I'm going to talk a little bit about what an odd little child I was, along with some thoughts about libraries and bookstores. I hope you'll take a minute and drop by to say "Hey!"
LordAMercy, I hope I'm not the only one who shows up. for real . . . .