Choosing Book Titles

Today, my good friend and award-winning prolific author, Marilyn Meredith, visits my blog to discuss how she comes up with titles for her novels. Having written dozens of books, she knows what she’s talking about. Tell us how you do it, Marilyn.

Thanks, John. Every author has his or her own way of doing this—but for me it’s been different for each of my books. When I started the Deputy Tempe Crabtree series, the first book I wrote, Deadly Trail, was not the first book published. Deadly Omen was the one my then publisher wanted. With two books having the word deadly in them, for a few short moments I considered having the word Deadly in every title. However, I realized that would be quite limiting.

Unequally Yoked is about a problem in Tempe’s marriage to Hutch because of his Christian beliefs and her using Indian mysticism to solve crimes. This becomes an ongoing problem for them.AColdDeath-lg

The title Intervention refers to something that happens in the story. The Wing Beat is the wing beat of an owl, the harbinger of danger. I don’t think Calling the Dead needs any explanation. Judgment Fire is about fires and in one case the judgment that comes along with it. Kindred Spirits refers to Tempe and new friends she meets—but it also is in honor of the Tolowa woman I met and who gave me some great ideas for this book and became a close friend.

Dispel the Mist and Invisible Path come from Indian sayings and they fit what happens in the mysteries.

Bears With Us is both a play on words and describes what is happening when bears invade Bear Creek. Raging Water is self-explanatory.

Spirit Shapes involves a haunted house, ghosts and spirits. And yes, River Spirits is just that, spirits that come up from the river.

Seldom Traveled is also based on an Indian’s philosophy and fits the places where Tempe has to go. The latest in the series, A Cold Death can be taken two ways.

Some of these titles are what inspired the book, others came to me while I was writing. It isn’t a mysterious process to me, though some titles I know from the beginning, others come later.

For you writers out there, do you have a particular formula for creating a title?


A quick look at Marilyn’s new release: A Cold Death.

Deputy Tempe Crabtree and her husband answer the call for help with unruly guests visiting a closed summer camp during a huge snow storm and are trapped there along with the others. One is a murderer.

Anyone who orders any of my books from the publisher’s website:

can get 10% off by entering MP20 coupon code in the shopping cart.

This is good all the time for all my books, E-books and print books.

On Amazon:

Marilyn Meredith’s published book count is nearing 40. She is one of the founding members of the San Joaquin chapter of Sister in Crime. She taught writing for Writers Digest Schools for 10 years, and was an instructor at the prestigious Maui Writers Retreat, and has taMe at Danas quiltught at many writers’ conferences. Marilyn is a member of three chapters of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and serves on the board of the Public Safety Writers of America. She lives in the foothills of the Sierra, a place with many similarities to Tempe Crabtree’s patrol area. Webpage: Blog: and you can follow her on Facebook.

Contest: Once again I’m going to use the name of the person who comments on the most blogs on my tour for the next Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery—which may be the last in the series.

Tomorrow I’ll be here: talking about, “Lessons I Learned Along the Way.”






The Real Story About Cops

Today I’m hosting Ben Celano, author of BEAT COP, CHICAGO BLUE, Reflections of a “Street Grunt,” books one and two. As a former Chicago police officer, I enjoy reading books written by my former colleagues. Please join me as we  learn a little bit about Officer Celano and his books.

Ben, please give my readers a thumbnail sketch of yourself.

61dlBaRiisL._SX800_Thanks, John. I’m a 22 year veteran of the Chicago PD. Prior to becoming a cop I had a series of marketing jobs for major corporations. After serving in the Army from 1963 -1966, I set my sights on becoming a Chicago police officer, something that had been a life-long aspiration of mine.

I served the city of Chicago as an officer from 1982 – 2004 in one of the busiest districts in the city, working both a beat car and squadrol (prisoner transport). My entire tenure in the department was spent on the street. Along the way, I met many interesting people, some of whom I had to arrest. My stories, and the stories of the officers I worked with, are the brutal truthful reality of those experiences.

When did you begin writing and why?

My first attempts at writing occurred when I was 16-years-old. I attended a YMCA English class in night school. Our teacher asked us to write a short story, which I did, and that’s when I got the bug. After that, I dipped in and out of writing for personal enjoyment. While a police officer, I wrote articles for a local newspaper, “The Austin Weekly.”

When I retired, I wrote in fits and starts until this past year when I wrote my two books. Because I am an avid reader, I admire James A. Michener, Leon Uris, Ian Fleming, Rod Serling, Ed McBain, and Joseph Wambaugh, to name a few.

Briefly describe your books.

My books illustrate what beat cops do every day. We see a side of society that most will51--L+MvvSL never know. It is the truth of the “street” where mistakes can be deadly. The stories in both books are not sugar coated politically correct versions of the truth. Like it or not, the truth of a police officer’s job is the stark ugly reality of aberrant human behavior. These books rip off the bandage of sanitized news, and give the reader a glimpse of the festering wounds of society’s downtrodden and the police interactions with them.

Besides these books, have you published anything else?

Only the articles I wrote in “The Austin Weekly.”

41wQIfCw5rLDo you write anything besides non-fiction?

Yes, I’m working on a fictional police procedural.

Family, where you live, and any hobbies or passions?

I’ve been happily married for 32 years and live in the western suburbs of Chicago. My hobby, or  obsession  as you might say, is writing.

Any new books on the horizon?

I may possibly write a Book 3 in my Beat Cop series since some of my old comrades want me to tell their stories as well. Right now, that idea is in its embryonic stage, but who knows?

Thanks, Ben, it’s been an interesting interview, and I’m sure those who enjoy true police stories will find your books fascinating. Please let us know when your next book will be published.

Ben’s books are available on Amazon at this link:


Thirty Years Worth of Cop Stories

stories chicago officer bookToday I’m pleased to host retired Chicago Police Sergeant Larry Casey. His book, Stories of a Chicago Police Officer: Serious, Hilarious, Unbelievable, but True, is a collection of personal anecdotes culled from his 30 years’ experience working the streets of the ‘Windy City.’

By way of background, Larry’s grandfather and father were both Chicago cops, therefore his career path seemed predestined. That family history was carried forward in 1977, when at the age of 25 Larry embarked on a three-decade journey that would shock, surprise, humble, and entertain him as he pushed a blue and white around what Frank Sinatra referred to as, That Toddlin’ Town in his iconic song, “Chicago.”

His quest to be the best led him to earn his B.A. and M.A. from Lewis University while still working on the job. That prescience enabled him to begin a new career after retiring from the police department. Larry is now an adjunct professor of Criminal Justice at Wilbur Wright College.

After reading the stories in Larry’s book, some might consider it a work of fiction rather than a memoir or autobiography. But having been a Chicago police officer, I can attest to the validity of the author’s experiences. My colleagues and I used to look at each other constantly and say, “You can’t make this stuff up.”Larry Casey

The book consists of two sections—the first recalls the author’s experiences working as a patrol officer, while the second concerns his tenure as a sergeant. Both offerings are equally entertaining, and at times, eye opening. His stories are a no-holds barred look into the machinations of both cops and bad guys. Larry gives a down and dirty look at what really happens in big cities, and how cops deal with incidents that most people would never imagine happen.

The bulk of the stories are just one or two pages in length, making the book a perfect beach read or nightstand book. One might read several stories before turning off the lights for the last bit of entertainment of the day. Stories Of A Chicago Police Officer can be purchased from the author’s website: Buy the book, from Amazon:, or from Barnes and Noble.


How Do I Become A Writer?

You’ve finished your book, editing and proofing are completed, cover is finished and it’s on its way to the publisher. Now the big question—Will anyone read my work? Chilean author, Isabel Allende, once said that writing a book is like putting a message in a bottle and throwing it in the ocean. You never know if it will reach any shores.

Writing is time consuming and tiring. For many, writing is a full-time job in addition to their “real” job. Some call writing a hobby, but putting up to four or five hours a day doing something is actually more like a job than a hobby. We put so much time and effort in creating our stories that the art of writing can be physically taxing. Writing involves a myriad of components that all shape the successful writer. Many well-known authors home-office-336377_1920such as Stephen King insist that to become a good writer, one must be a good reader. You must read not only the genre in which you write, but read everything—poetry, prose, non-fiction—to be exposed to the art of writing. How do others reach out to readers, how does their writing style compare to your own, and is there one thing in their technique you can incorporate into your own writing style?

I’m sometimes asked by aspiring writers how to get started. I don’t know of any template that exists for the beginning writer, but I do know the first step is simply, to write. Begin to put your ideas on paper. Make daily writing a habit. Don’t write in a vacuum, have others read your work, ideally someone not related to you because you want an objective opinion of your work. Family will most often always tell you your work is great. Sometimes they’re right, it is great, but more often than not it needs tweaking. Take criticism well, don’t argue with feedback. Remember, you asked for someone’s opinion so be gracious in accepting their suggestions. Keep your expectations low. Don’t expect everything you write to be a best-seller or award-winning. Be proud of your work and promote it.

Most of all, think of yourself as a writer and make it part of your persona. Be confident in your abilities and soon others will begin to see you as a writer as well.

“If I waited for perfection, I would never write a word.” — Margaret Atwood

Janet Greger’s New Offering Hits The Mark

Good friend and fellow author, Janet Greger, loves to create new ways for her readers to enjoy her mysteries. In her latest novel, Riddled With Clues, her tale is rife with riddles that challenge the reader and enhance the story. Join me in welcoming Janet to my blog as she explains her take on creating an interesting and dynamic protagonist.

In Search of a Protagonist

I can’t be the only reader tired of “dizzy” snoops who clumsily stumble into police investigations in cozy mysteries and of misunderstood police detectives with drinking problems in crime novels. I also don’t want to read about another neurotic genius, like Sherlock Holmes or Hercule Poirot. Let’s face it – most problems are solved by normal people, albeit probably more observant than most.

What are the essential characteristics of a good protagonist for a mystery or a thriller (or more likely a series of books)? You might debate these points, but they should start you thinking.

  • The individual should be able to solve problems and be observant.
  • (S)he should have logical access to crime scenes, government secrets, or criminal information.
  • The individual should have at least one additional type of expertise (i.e. ability to induce others to talk too much, computer skills, martial arts prowess, etc.)
  • The character should have a quirk or two so as to be realistic.
  • (S)he will probably be gutsy at least occasionally.

Do you want to add other characteristics to the list?

51cGMjOuqrLSara Almquist, the lead character in Riddled with Clues, is an epidemiologist. She has creatively extracted information from large medical data sets to predict the incidence of diseases and the behavior of patients for years. With a few tweaks, she’s able to pry data on individuals from all sorts of datasets. In other word, she’s a professional busybody and a real asset during investigations.

She’s normal, but maybe a bit bossy and cranky. Doesn’t that sound like most middle-aged women? (Men, who are smart, won’t answer that question.) She’s dotty about her dog Bug, who is based closely on my real Japanese Chin. (Please note I use “who” not “which” when describing Bug.) Over the course, of several novels (I Saw You in Beirut, Malignancy, Coming Flu and Ignore the Pain), she has been a colleague of local police officers, FBI agents, and State Department officials. She’s found two of the men interesting in a romantic way. Both are characters in Riddled with Clues, and yes that does add a subplot to this thriller.2016a Bug

Now you can decide if you want to learn more about Sara’s in Riddled with Clues. Here’s the blurb:

A hospitalized friend gives a puzzling note to Sara Almquist. He received the note signed “Red from Udon Thani” while investigating the movement of drugs from Cuba into the U.S. However, he doesn’t know anyone called Red, and the last time he was in Udon Thani was during the Vietnam War. After Sara listens to his rambling tales of all the possibilities, both are attacked. He is left comatose. As she struggles to survive, she questions who to trust: the local cops, her absent best friend, the FBI, or a homeless veteran, who leaves puzzling riddles as clues.

I think you’ll find Sara is not the standard protagonist for a thriller, but she’s more than up to the task.

Riddled with Clues (both paperback and Kindle versions) is available at Amazon:

Bio: J. L. Greger likes to include “sound bites” on science and on exotic locations in her Science Traveler Thriller/Mystery series, which includes: Riddled with Clues, Murder…A Way to Lose Weight (winner of 2016 Public Safety Writers [PSWA] annual contest and finalist for New Mexico–Arizona book award), I Saw You in Beirut, and Malignancy (winner of 2015 PSWA annual contest). To learn more, visit her website: or her Amazon author page:

Thanks, Janet, I read Riddled and thoroughly enjoyed the story. Thanks for stopping by my blog. Sell a ton of copies!