John M. Wills

Books and blog


John M. Wills

Award-winning author and freelance writer. Published ten books in addition to more thant 200 articles, short stories, and poetry. Writing professionally since retiring from the FBI in 2004.

Halloween Memories

Today, my good friend and fellow writer, Marilyn Meredith, joins me to talk about her HALLOWEEN MEMORIES, as well as to introduce her newest novel, Bones in the Attic. Enjoy!

Times were different when I was a kid. We went trick-or treating in groups. And I mean 10, 11, 12 year olds ventured out alone, and we also took younger ones along with us. The word was passed when we ran into other bunches of kids where the homemade goodies were being handMarilyn in Vegas 2[1948]ed out: fresh baked cookies, candied apples, popcorn balls. (Sadly today, no one would eat a homemade treat.)

One time, my group went home and I decided to continue on alone. (I was far too brave as a kid.) I went into a different neighborhood, climbed a flight of steps, knocked on the front door. I was answered by a man with a rifle in his hand. He glared at me. “Do you know what I do to trick-or-treaters?”

Believe me, I was scared. With a trembling voice, I said, “No, sir.”

He put down the rifle. “I give them candy.” And he did.

I nearly ran all the way home.

I also remember Halloween parties where we bobbed for apples and had scary, dark passages filled with spider webs and scary creatures to venture through.

We went all out when our kids were trick-or-treaters. We never bought costumes, but always made our own. The cleverest was when we made one of the boys a bookworm. He had a book made out of cardboard around him, wore green pants and painted his face green.

We decorated the front door, and sometimes the young visitors had to put their hands inside a scary looking box to get their treats.

My cousin still decorates his house as scary as can be with moving ghosts and graves with skeletons popping out, and he dresses up like a ghoul to greet the children—some run away in fright.

When we moved to the country where we are now, no one is brave enough to venture down our long scary lane except for grandkids whose parents bring them.

Bones in the Attic, Marilyn’s latest novel

Bones in the Attic[1947]
The discovery of a skeleton, a welfare check on a senior citizen, and a wildfire challenge the Rocky Bluff P.D.

Buy link:

Marilyn Meredith, who writes the RBPD mystery series as F.M. Meredith, is the author of over 40 published books. She once lived in a small beach town much like Rocky Bluff and has many relatives and friends in law enforcement.

And she’s a regular on these blogs:
2nd and 4th Tuesday:
4th Monday of the month:
Thanks, Marilyn, I’m sure readers will enjoy your latest offering. Please visit again!

Time For A Good Read

It’s summer, and it’s a great time to read entertaining books at the beach, on vacation, or just lounging around the house. My friend and fellow author, Jackie Taylor Zortman, has a newly released novel. I’m sure many of you will enjoy her style of writing and have a hard time putting this one down. It’s called, JAKE-Whiskey, Water & Wildfire (Book 1 in The Drifter Series)1437254200

The story

Jake is a woman’s wildest dream and a hotshot firefighter with a Harley. He has a tendency to be a drifter and rides for miles under miserable conditions until some place mentally flags him down. He’s never been married and intends to keep it that way.

The day he rides into Kimble, Colorado he wants nothing more than water with a lot of ice in it and food for his rumbling gut. But inside a cafe, he finds someone in a short uniform and cowboy boots that makes his heart leap and the sparks fly. Try as he might to avoid it, their relationship sizzles.

When a sudden wildfire ignites, Jake is the only one on the scene prepared to fight it and he immediately takes control. It’s not the first fire he has battled and it’s what he loves and is trained to do.

What makes Jake certain that Kimble, Colorado is the place he is meant to be? Why does Miss Berta adopt him as her pseudo-son and why is he so drawn to her as a mother figure? Are the answers simmering inside the fire or is it something more? The ending will both shock and surprise you.

About the author

Jackie Taylor Zortman is an award winning published writer/author.  She is the author of a non-fiction book “We Are Different Now,” two award winning fiction novels, “Footprints in the Frost (Detective Max Richards Book 1)” and “Snow Angel (Detective Max Richards Book 2),”and a novella “JAKE-Whiskey, Water & Wildfire (The Drifter Book 1).”

Jackie by AmyJackie has had numerous articles and short stories published over the past 25 years, is a Charter Member of the Public Safety Writers Association and a member of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. She is a contributing author to the anthologies “Felons, Flames & Ambulance Rides”, “American Blue”, “The Centennial Book of the National Society of Daughters of the Union” and “Recipes by the Book, Oak Tree Authors Cook”.  She also writes poetry, genealogy and history. She has won 10 Public Safety Writers Association Writing Competition awards in the last five years.

She lives in a bustling quaint tourist town high in the mountains of Colorado with her husband and their Siamese cat. When the deep snows of winter blanket the terrain surrounding her home, it becomes the perfect spot in which to write.

Find JAKE at

Science Makes a Great Mystery

Today I visit with J.L. Greger a fellow novelist and member of the Public Safety Writers Association. I’m sure you’ll find her new novel intriguing. Enjoy!reduced flu

Do you realize how many mystery and thriller writers have science backgrounds? Consider Arthur Conan Doyle (physician), Agatha Christie (apothecaries’ assistant during World War I) Michael Crichton (physician by training), Kathy Reichs (forensic anthropologist), and Robin Cook ( physician). Thus, it’s not surprising as a retired biology professor from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I write mystery/suspense novels with tidbits of science.

Scientists, especially physicians, write mysteries and thrillers for several reasons: 1. Science is a way to add intriguing bits of reality to fiction. 2. Nothing is scarier than a disease which resists known medical treatments. 3. Finding a cure for a new disease or making a vaccine against a new virus is an example of problem solving. That’s pretty similar to solving a fictional mystery but with higher consequences. 4. The stress of medical emergencies bring out the best and worst in real or fictional characters.

Let me tell you how science is integral to the plot of my new thriller: In The Flu Is Coming, a new type of flu — the Philippine flu — kills nearly half of the residents in an upscale, gated community in less than a week. Those who survive become virtual prisoners in their homes when a quarantine is imposed. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recruits Sara Almquist, a resident of the community and a scientist, to apply her skills as an epidemiologist to find ways to limit the spread of the epidemic. As she pries into her neighbors’ lives, she finds promising scientific clues. Unfortunately, she also learns too much about several of them and violence ensues when they try to escape the quarantine.

The flu I describe in my thriller could happen.

CDC and the World Health Organization are constantly watching for emerging flu viruses, fearing one will emerge with the virulence of the virus that caused the flu pandemic of 1918. Did you know: One-third of the world’s population was infected with that virus and 50 million died worldwide?

All it would take for another flu pandemic are small mutations in avian or swine flu viruses (not previously occurring in humans) that allowed them to be transmitted among humans. In The Flu Is Coming, those mutations occurred in the Philippines. While scientist like, my heroine Sara Almquist, struggle to find clues that will allow the development of effective vaccines and antivirals, the flu spreads rapidly. Scary but real?

Of course, Sara gets involved in a lot more than science in The Flu Is Coming when she learns too much about the criminal activities of a couple of her neighbors. So, fans of police procedurals won’t be disappointed. They’ll get a snap shot of the problems faced by law enforcement agents during a quarantine.
Why don’t you read The Flu Is Coming and learn a little thrilling science?

Thumbnail of the new novel: In The Flu Is Coming, epidemiologist Sara Almquist is trying to stop two killers: the Philippine flu, which is rapidly wiping out everyone in a walled community in New Mexico, and a drug kingpin determined to break out of the quarantined enclave.

The paperback version of The Flu Is Coming is available at: The Kindle version at:

Bio: J.L. Greger is a scientist and research administrator turned novelist. She likes to include tidbits of science in her award-winning thriller/mystery novels: Murder: A Way to Lose, Riddled with Clues, and others. To learn more, visit

Why She Writes Police Procedurals

My good friend Marilyn Meredith shares her thoughts on this topic. So pleased to have her visit my blog today.

I thought the most appropriate place to give my thoughts on this to be right here on John Wills’ blog. Besides serving many years in various kinds of law enforcement, John is great family man, strong in his faith, and a friend to many—including me.

In addition to putting their lives on the line, men and women in law enforcement have to deal with people who have absolutely no respect for them.

Marilyn in Vegas 1What I’ve tried to do with my Rocky Bluff P.D. series, besides write an intriguing mystery, is to show the family lives of the characters and how what’s going on affects them on the job, and how what’s happening on the job affects their families.

Yes, I do know what I’m writing about. My uncle was a motorcycle cop and later a detective with L.A.P.D. When I was a kid, I had a regular babysitting job with the children of the police officer who lived two doors up the street. My son-in-law was a 15 year veteran of the police department and lost his life in the line of duty. I have a grandson who is a police officer and a grandson-in-law who is a deputy sheriff. I’ve had and still have many friends who work in law enforcement.

No, I don’t think all police officers are perfect, no more than any of the rest of us are perfect. What I know is they have one of the hardest jobs there is, and I’m so thankful there are still people willing to do this dangerous and often unappreciated job.

In this latest Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery, every family is dealing with something: Sergeant Navarro’s mother has broken her hip, Sergeant Ryan Strickland is appalled by atangled web front cover jpeg stranger’s reaction to his baby, Officer Gordon Butler’s wife is not enthusiastic about his trainee, Detective Milligan is worried about his teenaged daughter, and even Chief Taylor has some doubts about her new love interest. And yes, there is a murder to solve.

Marilyn, who writes the RBPD series as F. M. Meredith

What’s inside? 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: :

Meet Marilyn: 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

I’m headed over to Creatures and Critters where I wrote about the real murder that may have influenced my mystery writing.


My good friend and fellow writer, Marilyn Meredith, has recently written a postMe at Danas quilt containing quick editing tips. Marilyn is an award-winning author and prolific novelist with decades of experience. Whether you’re writing your first book or your twenty-first, these quick tips are a great guide or reminder on how to make your work stand out.

First off, if you are self-publishing do not leave an extra space between paragraphs.

Indent for paragraphs. Take a look at a book on your shelf and see how it looks inside.

Read books in the genre you are writing in.

Start your book with something exciting happening to your main character(s).

Make sure the reader can tell right away who the main character is. Don’t wait for several pages to introduce him or her.

Don’t begin with pages of back story, the back story can be added in appropriate places along the way.

Eliminate most exclamation points. Don’t ever put one in the narrative. And if the dialogue is exclamatory enough, you don’t need the exclamation point.

In most cases, stick to “said” and “asked” for dialogue tags–better yet, use action and description as a dialogue tag. Example: “Get out of my way.” Pete shoved the big man in the aisle.

Use the word all right–not alright.

All pronouns refer back to the last person or thing mentioned.

For a quote inside a quote, use a single quote mark. Example: “My dad told me ‘Get out’, and I did.”

Eliminate the word “that” when you can. It, like “just” are often over used. Often that isn’t necessary. There are synonyms for “just”.

Take a look at see what other words you overuse–like “so.” Do a word search to replace some of your “favorites” with other favorites.

Use descriptive actions words rather than adverbs. Look in your thesaurus for other words for walk, run, look etc. Find the word that best describes you character’s action.

Weave your dialogue, action and narrative together. Show us what’s going on.

Never have a character tell another character something he/she already knows.

Don’t use parenthesis in a novel. If something needs to be explained–explain it in the narrative.

Be sure to self-edit. When you think it’s as good as you can make it. Hire an editor.

Snow Angel by Jackie Taylor Zortman

My fellow author and good friend, Jackie, has just released her new novel. You won’t want to miss another Max Richards mystery because it guarantees to hold your attention and have you fully invested in the story.

Here’s a preview:

Snow Angel Cover on AmazonWhen homicide detective, Max Richards, and his sister suddenly inherit their mother’s estate, they find an old wooden box on a shelf in her bedroom closet.  It reveals a secret she kept carefully hidden and connects them to an abandoned Victorian house in Snowflake, Colorado where Max and his wife already own a remote cabin.

During Christmas they fly to Snowflake to investigate the empty and abandoned old house.  Following their tire tracks in the snow, the new city police chief is introduced into their lives and quickly becomes an important part of their tight knit circle of friends.

After the holidays, Max returns to the city emotionally restless. He retires from his thirty year homicide job, pulls up roots and moves permanently to Snowflake where he quickly becomes part of the small police force. Unexpected twists and turns take control of their lives and changes things in ways they never dreamed.

Find out what was in that box that had such power and what paths it led Max, Sami and his sister, Willow, to follow.

About Jackie

Jackie Taylor Zortman is the author of a non-fiction book “We Are Different Now”, first Jackie by Amyplace award winning fiction novel “Footprints in the Frost” and award winning novel “Snow Angel”. “Footprints in the Frost introduced homicide detective Max Richards and explored his life on and off the job. “Snow Angel” continues his story.

She has written and had published numerous articles and short stores for various publications for the last 26 years.  She is a Charter Member of the Public Safety Writers Association and the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. A contributing author to the anthologies “Felons, Flames & Ambulance Rides”, “American Blue”, “The Centennial Book of the National Society of Daughters of the Union” and “Recipes by the Book, Oak Tree Authors Cook”.  She also writes poetry, genealogy and history. She has won 10 writing awards in the last four years.

She lives in a bustling quaint tourist town high in the beautiful mountains of Colorado with her husband and Siamese cat. When the deep snows of winter blanket the terrain surrounding her home, it becomes the perfect spot in which to write.

Learn more about Jackie and her books at Jackie’s Mountain Memos –

Great New Author

It’s always exciting to discover an author who has the ability to capture your attention immediately and then hold it through 400 pages. That’s exactly what happened when I began reading Shot To Pieces by Michael O’Keefe. I initially balked at the length of the story, thinking it might bog down simply because of its page count. I was wrong. O’Keefe turns out to be a terrific writer who has penned a fantastic murder mystery/thriller.

A1Oen5HN44L._UX250_O’Keefe’s protagonist, NYPD Detective Paddy Durr, is a multi-faceted individual. In a sense, he’s a throwback to the days when cops did what needed to be done and damn the bosses and political correctness. His gruff aggressive nature turns some people off, but no one can question Paddy’s heart or his ability to get the job done.

Paddy has a myriad of problems in his life that complicate his world. From his relationship with his wife, to the bureaucracy of big city policing and interference from politicians, his daily journey is a minefield that threatens to explode with the smallest misstep. He has no tolerance for any colleagues that don’t give their all or who take shortcuts. When Paddy is on a case, be assured he won’t rest until he solves it. His total attention to his job, while being a positive attribute professionally, means his private life is practically nonexistent.

Complicating matters is Paddy’s inability to forgive himself for past transgressions. He so desperately wants to please his estranged wife that he convinces himself the only solution is to let her go. Since she has always been the love of his life, he’s wracked with guilt and self-recrimination. He sees no possibility of reconciliation, thus he lives day to day with the proverbial dark cloud hanging over his head.shot to pieces

It’s easy to see that O’Keefe is a tough street-smart cop. Shot To Pieces reads like non-fiction. The characters, settings, and situations jump off the page. The author has a gift for storytelling—allowing the reader to visualize every character, from the punk on the street to the mayor of New York. The scenes and locations are beautifully written so that readers almost feel like they’re watching the action unfold as he writes.

Not only does O’Keefe do a masterful job in describing the murder investigation, but in describing several scenes with his wife I had to reach for a tissue. This tough ex-cop has a romantic side to him that puts him right up there with romance novel writers. To be able to go from describing a brutal murder to developing a tender love scene with a spouse is a remarkable gift. Such talent!

Based on Michael O’Keefe’s debut novel, I predict much success for this writer. It’s hard to imagine that his work can get much better, but I have to believe that we’ll be hearing many good things about him in the future. Well done, Michael!


Shots Fired: The Misunderstandings, Misconceptions, and Myths about Police Shootings (book review)

Today’s newscasts and papers are rife with reporting on police involved shootings. Preliminary coverage seems to always be negative, insinuating that police were wrong or perhaps too quick to use deadly force. Even worse, when deadly force is employed the news is quick to opine that it was either not justified or too much force was used. We still see those insane questions from some reporters and journalists—“Why didn’t they shoot him in the arm or leg?” Insanity. Social media is the worst. Monday morning quarterbacks and cop wannabes analyze and criticize decisions that an officer has a split second to make.

In that regard, Joseph K. Loughlin and Kate Clark Flora have authored a book that is long overdue. In Shots Fired: The Misunderstandings, Misconceptions, and Myths about Police Shootings, the authors offer a clear answer as to why cops are forced to respond to situations using deadly force. They illustrate why at times even though an officer’s decision is totally justified and within the parameters of law and department policy, some are pilloried by politicians, the news, and citizens. Recall the Ferguson, Missouri incident involving Michael Brown. Officer Darren Wilson acted within the law, yet calls for his indictment sprang up before many of the facts of the case were even known to those investigating the shooting. The rationale was Brown was unarmed. However, as police officers we know that any altercation is always an armed one by virtue of the fact that we ourselves are armed, and that weapon can fall into the hands of the subject we’re involved with.

In their book, the authors present a lucid view about the reality of police-involved Shots Firedshootings. They break the book down into four sections: Myths and Misconceptions; Training and De-Escalation; Stopping the Threat; and Loss and Redemption. To bolster their claims regarding the misreporting and misconceptions about police shootings, they offer many actual cases and court rulings. One of the most important rulings comes from the Supreme Court of the United States which said, “The reasonableness of a particular use of force must be viewed from the perspective of a reasonable officer at the scene, rather than with 20/20 hindsight.” And that “allowance must be made for the fact that officers are often forced to make split second judgments in circumstances that are tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving about the amount of force that is necessary in a particular incident.” (Graham v Connor, 490 U.S. 386 (1989).

Shots Fired points out a misconception the general public has regarding officers’ use of force training. While training academies offer intensive firearms and judgmental training for their students, once the officer graduates and hits the street the intensity and frequency of training is greatly diminished. Many departments only require a yearly qualification with a firearm. Unless an officer is in a specialized unit like SWAT or a tactical team, enhanced or dynamic training is not available. Thus, the officer is forced to employ deadly force with very little and infrequent training. The public might wonder why this is so, and they’d be surprised to learn that it’s mostly a function of budget constraints. Yes, people, if you want a highly trained department, the only way to get that is through taxes.

It may also be useful for the public to know about fear and perceptual distortions (Chapter 11). Even though people suffer the same effects when they’re scared, e.g., being alone at night and getting lost, an auto accident, a family tragedy, they rarely equate their confused behavior with those an officer faces in a deadly force situation. Fight-or-flight instincts are triggered in everyone who confronts a threat. Cops are no different—except they cannot flee. They must stay and take control of whatever threat faces them. And they must control the situation despite the changes they experience via the autonomic nervous system. Tunnel vision, auditory exclusion, slow motion, etc., all combine to hamper the performance in a potential life and death struggle.

What many don’t realize is that some officers that have been involved in shootings carry some mental baggage with them for years. PTSD is a frequent by-product of officer-involved shootings. Officers may suffer from sleep deprivation, acute anxiety, crying, appetite loss, nightmares, and even thoughts of suicide. They worry about possible future litigation and the moral questions surrounding taking a life. Recent postings on social media allude to officers enjoying shooting people. Nothing could be further from the truth. On the flip side, lately it seems these unsubstantiated accusations have spawned a spate of ambushes on cops resulting in deaths and injuries.

Shots Fired is another of those books I must add to my personal collection. It contains much food for thought, as well as actual cases reinforcing the topics discussed. Moreover, this book is ideal for anyone who has questions about officer-involved shootings and deadly force, particularly the general public.

The Sniper Mind (a book review)

Being a former sniper, I was immediately attracted by the book’s title. I was under the impression that this book was an in depth look at what makes snipers tick. It is, however, once I began reading The Sniper Mind by David Amerland.I realized it was about much more than snipers. Although the author examines how and why snipers are so successful at their craft, he then uses their techniques and tactics to illustrate how anyone can be successful in life by using the same techniques snipers use.

David Amerland meticulously examined his subject matter for three years by studying Sniper_Mind_book_cover.5a4b612c9f8a9neuroscientific research, and by conducting interviews with more than a hundred current and former snipers. Each chapter contains a story about a sniper which serves as a segway to a cogent point regarding improving one’s own performance in life and/or business. He then asserts that the snipers’ elite performances that allow them to excel under extreme conditions can be used by anyone to improve their own skills in business, communications, relationships, and their personal lives.

There are many remarkable stories about the feats of snipers throughout the book, how they manage to complete their mission despite overwhelming odds such as long hours, hostile conditions, and lack of sleep and food. The reason they’re successful is they’ve trained their minds. Amerland contends the mind has an ability to sharpen its focus over time through training. He demonstrates, via the minds of snipers, how ordinary people can do extraordinary things, exhibit self-control, and make complex difficult decisions under the worst conditions imaginable. He then asserts that these same tactics can be utilized in personal lives and the business world.

In a vivid descriptions of the sniper’s ability to control his mind and emotions, Amerland says, “The strength and power of a fully developed sniper mind comes from the ability to harness and control feelings and emotions constructively, creating an empowering, motivational platform from what most people would be demoralized and demotivated by. It’s no mean feat. It means being able to grope into the empty space from which despair should normally spring and manage to pull out hope.”

If you’ve ever competed in sports, or been tasked with delivering an important address or presentation, you know the anxiety that accompanies such a task. The author has a section in The Sniper Mind that describes, “The Navy Seal’s List Of Mental Tricks.” SEALS endure the most rigorous of all military training and tests. They are stretched to their individual limits and beyond—sleep deprivation, hunger fear, injuries, etc. Many don’t make it, but the ones who succeed do so by using four simple steps:

·        Set Goals. As in life and the business world, everyone sets goals. However, the SEALS break down their goals into micro goals, short-term goals, and long-term goals. Thus, nothing becomes unobtainable, and they simply take things one step at a time.

·         Visualize The Outcome. Just as an athlete sees himself scoring the winning touchdown or crossing a finish line first, so also do the SEALS train themselves to “see” the outcome they are aiming for. Amerland tells us the SEALS prime their brains for success, which in turn is reflected in the attitude with which they approach each task.

·         Cheer Yourself On. This tactic is particularly useful during their infamous Hell Week. They constantly give themselves pep talks and rationalize that many have endured the same rigors before them and succeeded.

·         Self-Control. SEALS train themselves to control primitive instincts such as anger and fear. Once they are able to do that, they become more confident in their ability to adapt and overcome.

The author concludes that these four mental tricks are adaptable to the business world as well. Furthermore, “Resisting stress, developing a strong will and mental resilience, and maintaining fortitude against adversity are desirable characteristic for any person, not just a warrior.”

The Sniper Mind is a great read for anyone, whether they’re military, police, fire, or civilian. The book is set up so that each chapter describes how to develop or improve a specific skill set and explains the science behind it. At the end of each chapter is a summary of what was contained therein. The book is actually a handbook on how to become exceptional in whatever path you choose by understanding how your brain works.

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