Monday, May 2, 2016

Naming Characters by Marilyn Meredith aka F.M. Meredith

Today I have a very special guest blog by my good friend and fellow author Marilyn, aka F.M., Meredith.  Marilyn always has great advice, and her words of wisdom in this post are no different. 

Naming Characters
Even when I’m giving a prize winner’s name to a character, I like to make sure that name fits the

person I’ve created. In most cases, it’ll be a minor character who probably won’t appear again. Of course if someone told me they wanted to be a suspect or even the murderer, I’d be glad to do as they desired.

There are many ways to choose characters’ names.

One of the characters who has been in every book in the Rocky Bluff P.D. series, is Officer Doug Milligan. I have a favorite cousin named Doug and I always liked the name as I like the character. Milligan seem to fit for his last name. Often that’s the way it happens, the name just comes to me.

When I first knew I wanted to introduce a black police officer, I chose the last name Zachary. This was the surname of a Camp Fire leader I knew years ago. I don’t really remember where the name Felix came from, but Felix Zachary has been an important character for many books in the series.

When I first began writing my Tempe Crabtree mystery series, I borrowed my great grandmother’s name because it seemed to fit for a Native American or Indian as she prefers to be called.

Marilyn at the PSWA conference 2015

When I’m writing about a person with a definite ethnic background, I’ll visit a website with names from that culture and try to find a first and last name that seem to go with the character as I see him or her.

For the really bad villains, I like to choose odd names. In A Crushing Death one of the bad guys is named Omar Padweitz, another is Elford Lemus. At times, I’ve used much more common names for other reasons.

If I, through some strange coincidence used your name for an unlikeable character, I apologize. I assure you it wasn’t done on purpose.

Speaking of names, I love Holli’s. Think about it, Holli Castillo could be the name of a movie or TV star, or a famous singer. Guess what, Holli writes great mysteries and also creates short films.
If you’re an author, what is your way of choosing character’s names?

Marilyn aka F. M. Meredith

A Crushing Death

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

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

Facebook: Marilyn Meredith

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

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

The Right to Remain Silent

Some writers seem to write just to get attention.  Obviously, writing for the public presupposes on some scale that the writer wants attention.  Whether posting on a blog or publishing a novel, the writer wants people to read it.

But some writers, particularly on public forums, seem to post things just to get others riled up and to get responses from people with diametrically opposing viewpoints.

Take the newspaper forums.  In New Orleans, we have To be honest, even the most innocuous response to a story causes a shit storm of responses on the site.

Some responses are from buffoons, for lack of a better, more technical category– you know, those people who will say anything just to cause trouble, whether they believe it or not.

They will comment on race, sexual orientation, physical beauty, weight, especially if it has absolutely nothing to do with the story. These people never progressed emotionally beyond that sixth-grade logic.  Maybe in middle school, other kids laughed at the comments because they wanted to fit in or maybe 11-year-olds really do think some of those things are funny.

Then there are the politically motivated, the people who believe politics have something to do with everything.  A typhoon just struck the Phillippines? Someone will blame the inclement weather on the Democrats or Republicans. Earthquake? Must be something George Bush did. Or Obama.

The religious zealots also crave attention in the forum world.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t begrudge anyone wanting to offer prayers to a cause or victim.  What I find annoying are the comments like, “Katrina was a punishment from God.”  Or attempting to justify terrorists' attacks by calling it God’s will.

Do these people think they are convincing people of their viewpoint on God? Or do they just want to aggravate the crap out of everyone else?

The worst, however, are the people who have to argue an opposing viewpoint just for the sake of argument.  As a criminal appellate public defender, my job is nothing if not playing devil’s advocate, but I’ve seen people on list serves or public forums who always argue against what the masses seem to agree, even when the argument is nonsensical and unsupported by any actual evidence or facts.  These people can have no other goal than to get people to notice them.

The U.S. is a great country to live in, in part because of the rights we have.  Consequently, it’s kind of difficult to complain about someone exercising their First Amendment right to free speech.  But the Framers intent in drafting the original Constitution was actually to limit the government’s involvement and intrusion into our daily lives, not necessarily to give us extra rights.  The amendments contained in the Bill of Rights--adopted more than a decade after the Constitution was signed--was designed to enumerate specific rights the government could not infringe upon.

Interestingly, the Bill of rights also includes the Fifth Amendment, which gives citizens the exact opposite right, the right not to speak.  While it involves the invocation of the right of an individual suspected of a crime not to be forced to incriminate himself, sometimes I wish the individuals who relied so much upon the First Amendment would take a hint from the Fifth Amendment.

(As a short aside, if you ever want to get freaked out, watch a British cop show.  When they arrest the suspect, the first thing they do is ask if the arrestee wants to say anything, and advise him that remaining silent can be used as evidence of guilt.  Whoa is all I can say about that.)

Normally, commenting on public forums won’t result in criminal charges so the Fifth Amendment wouldn’t be implicated.  New Orleans is anything but normal, however, and we have had U.S. Attorneys get in trouble for commenting on public forums about pending cases under pseudonyms, so it’s always wise to be careful.

Did the U.S. Attorneys involved crave the same attention the way some buffoons and trouble makers on the forums or Facebook or Twitter seemed to crave attention?  Or did they comment in order to tip the scales at trial time, to give them a leg up in the prosecution?

 At least one federal judge seemed to think the latter was correct when he set aside convictions that he felt were influenced by the U.S. Attorneys' comments on the forums.  So commenting is not always innocuous and not always victimless.

As writers, we get attention whether that is our ultimate goal or not.  Our work should affect people, hopefully in a good way, but not necessarily so.  While everyone might not like what we’ve written, just as we sometimes might not be able to stomach comments made by racists, zealots, or just plain crazy people, it’s important to remember that our words matter, and can sometimes have effects we haven’t anticipated.

While the government prosecutors involved in the posting scheme likely didn’t realize they would eventually get in trouble for posting their comments– mainly because they made up fake names they thought couldn’t be traced– anyone who puts anything in writing, whether in a book, on a forum, or in an old-fashioned hand-written note, should realize that someone on the other end is going to read it.

As writers, we can only hope that whatever it is we’re writing has some kind of positive impact, whether it’s as big as saving the world or as simple as giving someone a break from the monotony of daily life. Otherwise, why write at all?

Sunday, February 14, 2016

And the winners are...

The 2016 Bad Wolf Productions Indie Short Film Fest is less than a week away, Saturday, February 20th, at 9:00 p.m.

We received an amazing 1,050 entries from 80 different countries, from the shortest of 15 seconds to the longest of a little over an hour.  I personally watched over a thousand short films.

It was not easy or simple, but we narrowed down the selections to 115 minutes of screen time.

 The 2016 Bad Wolf Indie Short Film Fest Official Selections:

 A Friend by Erwann Kerroc’h
Beg by Kyle Wigginton
Canned by Tanya Zaman
Coldstream by Nicholas Chia, Yang Sishuo, Yeo Shiyun, Goh Peng Fong
Cradle by Zanyar Lofti
Dead at the Door by Nick Pollard
Exit Zone by Mark S. Wright
Milk and Honey by M. Tayler Samardick
Poor Man’s Lunch Date by Nick Blady
Red Handed by Edward Andrews
Rent Money by Harrison Carr
Ruby by Larry Woldenberg
Sinners by Steve Hall
Slinky by Rianne Stremmelaar
The Watcher by Cynthia Bergen

Because it's a Bad Wolf event, there will of course be a few surprises thrown in the mix, so mark your calendars for February 20th.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Bad Wolf Productions Indie Short Film Fest

Bad Wolf Productions is accepting short film submissions for the Bad Wolf Productions Indie Short Film Fest.  All selections chosen will be shown Saturday, February 20, 2016, at 9:00 p.m. at the Zeitgeist Theater in New Orleans, Louisiana.  A short reception will follow. 


1.  All entries must be received by January 24, 2016.

2.  While we prefer films of ten minutes or less so we can showcase as many films as possible, all films will be reviewed.  If your film is a masterpiece, we will not disqualify it because of length.

3.  All genres are eligible.

4.  We have no rules as far as profanity, nudity, violence, or gore, but we do have to consider what is appropriate for a public audience.

5.  All entries must be submitted via a Vimeo link, minimum requirement 720p but 1080p preferred.  The download button must be present.  If you password protect, please be sure to provide the password.

6.  The Vimeo link must be emailed to and include the name the filmmaker wants associated with the film, the city, state, and country where the film was shot, if the film has premiered anywhere and if so, where, and if it has received any awards in any film competitions. Include your password as well if your film is password protected.

7.  If your film is chosen, you will be required to sign an agreement certifying that you have all of the necessary actor, crew, music, property, location, etc. releases and have cleared anything that needs to be cleared. This must be either scanned and emailed or printed and faxed back to us by February 7, 2016. If the filmmaker is under 18, his or her parent must also sign the agreement.

8.  There is no entry fee and no fee for admission.

PLEASE NOTE:  You will receive an email confirmation within 24 hours of our receipt of the film. If you do not, please email us to verify receipt.

Notification of films accepted will be emailed and posted by January 30, 2016.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Hello 2016

So it's a new year, that time when I make resolutions I have no intention of keeping and plan to be a better person.  This year will be different, right? Not so much.  

So with the idea in mind that I probably won't keep them anyway, here are my ten resolutions for 2016:

1.  Try to be less adorable.  It's hard. As I get older, it's a natural progression that I get more precious. I'm too old to be beautiful or sexy or even really pretty, so I'll take adorable.  But since I probably won't keep this resolution anyway, I'm going to pretend to try.

2.  Pay off my bills.  I can barely write that with a straight face. I'll go right from this blog to some online shopping trying to catch New Year's deals.  I just cleaned out my closet from last year, and it is looking hungry.

3.  Lose weight. Okay, this one I probably will keep, the most difficult one, the one no one keeps. Because I lost 30 pounds in 2015.  Really, since September 22, which is when I started walking on a tread climber to rehab my legs from a head on collision in 2008.  Yes, it has taken me that long to decide I was ready.  I hate to write down how much I've lost, although I'm kind of proud of it, because anyone who actually knows me will then realize how fat I was because they can see how much weight I still have to lose.  But I lost another pound during Thanksgiving and managed to maintain during Christmas, even with being out of town, so I think I'll keep this one going.

4.  Quit cursing.  Like hell I will.  I am a lawyer. I am a writer. I am a good person. I feed stray cats and all three of my dogs and my two cats were rescues.  I was the PTO president at my daughters' school for a year and on the board a bunch of years.  I give bums dollars.  Sometimes fives.  I over tip, even when the service is crappy.  I pray for strangers on Facebook even though I am completely not religious.  If I want to curse, I'm going to curse. Even good people need a stress outlet.

5.  Quit treating driving like a competition. I'm a Sagittarius.  Everything is a competition.

6.  Finish writing book three and four of my series with Oak Tree Press.  This is another one I'll actually do. Chocolate City Justice Part 1, The Party, has a July release date, and Part Two, The Storm, a December release. Not finishing isn't an option.

7.  Organize my office.  Nah. I prefer working in the living room anyway.

8.  Make the hubby finish renovating the bathroom he started in 1999.  If it hasn't happened yet, it probably won't.

9.  Walk the dogs.  We have a big back yard, I'm not sure why that's even a thing.

10.  Be a better person.  This one I always try. I don't know if it's really fair to call it a resolution. I mean, who really tries to be a worse person?

January of 2017 I'll look back and check my progress.  Wish me luck.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Baba Yaga and the Road to Georgia

I recently wrote a short script--40 pages-- called The Road to Georgia, for a grant competition.  The prize is 50 Gs to shoot the film.  I'll admit the process was arduous.

The application process included not only submitting the screenplay, logline, and synopsis, but the director's vision, social media/marketing plan, distribution plan, key people involved in the project and their experience, two letters of recommendation for the team, which included me, as writer and director, and my husband, as producer, and any additional material.  We also included a link to a prior short film we produced, The Shylock's Daughter, and a link to the trailer made just for the contest.  And then there was the budget, which required calls to get prices for insurance, including worker's comp, tech people, grip, equipment, not to mention how much of the budget to pay cast and crew. The production needed a tentative caterer, a costumer, hair and makeup, an accountant, and a food truck.

The film is a romantic comedy and involves Baba Yaga, a character from Russian folklore.  We have taken a few liberties and made her a fortune teller.  Because it's a comedy, and depictions of Baba Yaga show her to look curiously similar to my hubby, he is playing her in the film.

If we don't win the grant, we are going to look for other funding, but it would be nice to win.

Here is the link to the trailer:

My favorite part about the process so far was shooting the trailer and getting a group of actors to workshop the scenes so I could see what worked and what didn't.  It is so valuable to listen to the characters interacting as opposed to just reading the lines myself.  I may see if the troupe will read dialogue from Chocolate City Justice, the third of the Crescent City Mystery series, while I'm still working on it.  

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Writing and Editing

I spent the better part of yesterday editing one of my novels that is already in print. A reader complained that the novel was poorly edited. There was one glaring typo in it, which I won't point out in case other readers haven't found it. But the reader also indicated a misuse of the word "there" in place of the word "their."  I went through the manuscript and used the 'find' feature to locate every time the words  "there" and  "their" were written and found they were all used correctly.  So the reader either is unaware of the correct use of the words herself, or she was just being spiteful.

I don't think one typo--which is actually a real word, just not the word it was supposed to be--constitutes horrible editing.  I have a publisher. My books are edited. We try our best not to let anything sneak through the cracks.  That being said, even the best editor  or publisher or writer in the world can miss a word.

Our brains tend to make sense of the words we see on the page, whether they are misspelled or not.  This means it is difficult to make sure that any manuscript is one hundred percent perfect.

So now I am looking back through both of my published novels and trying to make them perfect to have my publisher in effect re-publish them.  I am also working on the third and fourth books in the series, trying to make the story, which was originally going to take place in one book, less complicated by stretching it over two. 

And then I will rewrite, edit, have it edited, and it will be published in two parts, Chocolate City Justice Part One and Part Two. 

And they may not be perfect. A typo just may get through.

Hopefully, my readers will enjoy the story anyway.