My debut novel, Unnatural, Erica Rosen MD Trilogy Book 1, is a medical thriller
Unnatural features a San Francisco pediatrician who happens upon a Chinese girl with blue eyes. Puzzled by this seeming impossibility (Chinese people have brown or occasionally green eyes – but not blue), Erica eventually learns that the girl is the product of embryonic stem cell gene editing performed at a secret government facility in China. Erica and her roommate, Daisy (a Chinese American), head off to China to expose the secret operation and rescue the girl’s younger brother, who is being held at the secret facility.
Do you outline, or are you a pantser? I’m in between. I have a definite plot and resolution in mind, as well as many of the stops along the way. However, I do not make a detailed outline. As I write, I’ve found that I come up with ideas that are better than many I think of ahead of time, so I go along with those changes.
Do you write in more than one genre? I’ve been sticking to the suspense/thriller genre, mostly medical suspense/thriller. I enjoy using my background in biochemistry and medicine when developing my plots. Keeping the details accurate is challenging and fun.
What is your writing process? I come up with a general concept, either something I’ve read about or something that pops into my head. After that, I need time to develop a plot around the concept. For Unnatural, I decided to write about embryonic stem cell gene editing. Then I figured out the where and the who. My writing is more plot-driven than character-driven, although I do put a lot of thought into developing the characters.
What kind of research do you do? I do a lot of research. For instance, for Unnatural, I learned about gene editing with CRISPR/Cas9. The technology that forms the backbone of my story, by reading A Crack in Creation by Jennifer Doudna and Samuel Sternberg. Dr. Doudna recently won the Nobel Prize for her work in that area. Another book I read was Young China by Zach Dychtwald, where I learned a lot about the current culture. I also read relevant references online. I find the internet indispensable not only for researching the scientific aspects of my writing but also for maps, pictures, videos, and information on hotels, airline flights, and general fact-checking. I’ve found that such research often leads to pesky emails and website ads for things, such as hotels and restaurants in Beijing. A small price to pay for all the information I can gather from the comfort of my home.
Where do you write? I like to write in my home office, at my PC. I bought myself a large, curved screen a year ago, which makes my writing much easier. I can have my word document open while I search the internet for information. Sometimes I’ll reference an eBook I display on my screen. When I have finished the whole novel, I can scroll through many pages at a time to look for underlines Word has made. I find the large screen to be very efficient. I prefer to work in a quiet environment, but since I don’t live alone, that’s often impossible. When I’m traveling (something I barely remember doing, but which I hope to do in the future), I bring my laptop but mostly use that only for typing short stories and editing, not for novel writing. For that, I like my home setup.
How much of your plots or characters are drawn from real life? All of my characters are fictional, although I give many of them attributes I have gleaned from people I have encountered. For instance, in the first novel I wrote (unpublished at this time), one of the characters was a graduate student in biochemistry who was also a nun. That’s an unusual combination. However, years ago, when I was a biochemistry graduate student myself, there was another graduate student who was also a nun. Strangely, she also had a prosthetic leg. I let my fictional graduate student keep both her legs because one has to be careful not to make fiction as bizarre as real life often is—readers won’t go for it.
As I am very familiar with laboratory and hospital settings, it is easy for me to come up with accurate descriptions. I had to google some specialized laboratories and equipment, however, to accurately describe some things. I found YouTube videos extremely helpful.
What are you currently working on? I am working on books two and three of the trilogy. Book two is titled Unwitting; I haven’t decided on a name for the third book. While the main story in Unnatural reaches a resolution, the next two books include developments in the lives of Erica and other characters introduced in book one, as well as new problems Erica finds herself thrust into.
How do readers contact you?
I can be contacted through my website https://www.devengreene.com
My blog is https://www.devengreene.com/blog
My Facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/devengreeneauthor
My Instagram name is: devengreeneauthor
Tim Dees – Writer of Non-Fiction Police Procedure and Technology
I’ve written two books, the first a guidebook for law enforcement officers on how to use the internet. It was written in 2001 and is out of date now. The other is a collection of some of the answers on law enforcement I have posted to Quora.com, titled “The Truth About Cops.” The publisher has gone out of business, and there is a used copy for sale on Amazon for $1052.00. That’s steep for a book whose content you can get for free on a website.
Most of my writing has been articles of 800-1500 words. I started out pre-internet, writing for Police Magazine, Law Enforcement Technology, and Law and Order. I was Law and Order’s technology editor for about eight years.
I got noticed by Officer.com’s owners, who hired me to be their first editor-in-chief. I stayed with them I moved to LawOfficer.com.
Do you write in more than one genre? My go-to topical area was police technology for many years. I’ve since branched out to discuss police training, management, and ethical areas.
What brought you to writing? When I was a working police officer, Police Magazine had a feature on each issue’s last page, titled “The Beat.” It was a first-person short form “war story,” usually from a cop who wasn’t a regular writer. I am told it was the most popular feature of the magazine. I started thinking, “I can write this stuff.” I wrote a short essay about getting ready for a winter graveyard shift in uniformed patrol. They bought it for $75. I later wrote four more articles for “The Beat,” which I think was a record.
Where do you write? What, if any, distractions do you allow? I live alone (except for my dog) in a three-bedroom house. One of the bedrooms is set aside as my office.
I allow my aging dog to interrupt the writing process, as he can be very insistent when he wants attention. He never bothers me unless he hears me typing. When I’m writing, I try not to visit any websites or read emails, as that will send me down the rabbit hole.
Tell us about your writing process: When I get an assignment, it has to ripen in my head for a few days. I’m thinking about it, even when I’m involved with something else. When I sit down to write the piece, I start classical music from Amazon Music or my iTunes collection. I try not to get up except to refill my coffee or go to the bathroom. I usually write an entire article in one sitting.
What are you currently working on? I have an assignment about what President Biden can do for law enforcement in his first 100 days in office. I also write a regular column for a trade magazine on various aspects of law enforcement. The magazine goes out to owners and managers of government surplus/Army-Navy stores, which illustrates how there is a trade magazine for every profession or business sector.
Has an association membership helped you or your writing? I came to the Public Safety Writers Association when it was called the Police Writers Club. When he handed the club over to what would become the PSWA, I came with it as the web manager. Eventually, I was asked to join the board of directors as a member-at-large and tech consultant.
Like many other members, I’ve benefitted from being able to pick the brains of PSWA members, usually via the listserv. I’ve also met some characters among members, people I wouldn’t have even known about without the PSWA.
Who’s currently your favorite author? I’m partial to Marko Kloos, who writes several military science fiction series.
How long did it take you to write your first book? My (late) wife worked for Walmart loss prevention. When she was promoted and assigned to the Tri-Cities area of Washington, I followed her. I wound up a househusband for about a year. I wrote the book during that time.
Do you outline, or are you a pantser? This depends on how familiar I am with the topic. If I know it, I’m a “pantser,” writing out of my head with some guidance from the subject matter expert. If it’s all new stuff for me, I need the outline to cover the topic adequately.
What kind of research do you do? Ideally, I find someone who is using the new technology and pick their brains. When a tech company doesn’t give me access to any of their customers, it’s a big red flag.
One of the challenges of writing about legitimate new tech is that the manufacturers always want to connect me with the sales manager for that product line. He will have the best and most polished spiel, and they can go on forever. Whenever possible, I want to talk to the engineer who designed the device or service, to the “geek.” That person will answer my questions more accurately, if not as smooth.
What is the best book you ever read? I’d have to think about that for a while. It was probably something by Robert A. Heinlein or Tom Clancy. I discovered Heinlein via a school librarian (the unrecognized heroes of education who get kids to read by determining their interests) when I was in the 8th grade. I was the right age for what he called his “juveniles,” articles and books written for publications like Boy’s Life. By the time I graduated from high school, I had read his more adult works, which got pretty strange. One of his central characters is a time traveler who manages to return to his childhood years and has a romantic relationship with his mother.
What’s in store for you? My financial situation doesn’t require that I supplement my income with writing. I have only one regular writing obligation to produce an article of around 1200 words once a month. It can be about anything in law enforcement. I still accept one-off writing assignments from websites like PoliceOne.
Do you have any advice for new writers? When I was a full-time editor, I received lots of pitches, mainly from working cops and correctional officers, who wanted to be the next Joseph Wambaugh. I had a rule that if I found more than five writing errors before I got off the first page, you were done. There are too many aspiring writers who seem to believe that the editor’s job is to correct their spelling and grammar. At the same time, they pontificate on more high-minded issues. Everyone makes mistakes now and then. If you can’t be bothered to proof your work or have someone do it for you before you send it off as a finished piece, I’m not going to do the work your high school composition teacher was supposed to have done.
If you haven’t mastered the basic skills, you will be wanting in the more advanced work. Before a writer can tell their story, they have to learn the fundamentals of writing. These include writing complete sentences, spelling all the words properly, inserting quotes that are formatted correctly, and so on. Those skills come from writing for someone who knows the craft and will be merciless in pointing out your errors.
I also look for competence in using a word processor’s features in the age of word processors. There is a feature in Word that displays all the formatting codes such as spaces, paragraph marks, indents, etc. If I turn that setting on and see that the writer has used the space bar and Enter key to position and format their text, rather than using text alignment, tabs, and paragraph spacing, that’s another red flag. I liken this to asking a journeyman carpenter to drive a nail. If he can’t do that quickly and cleanly, think about how much difficulty he’s going to have in framing a doorway.
Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and your writing? I still value the PSWA, and I’m happy to assist where I can with technical details of policing and anything else I know about. If your question concerns something I don’t know about, I can always make something up.
How do our readers contact you? Your website, blog links, any links you want to be posted?
Marilyn Meredith Writes the Rocky Bluff PD Mystery Series as F. M. Meredith
Marilyn is here to tell you about the latest: Not as We Knew It. It’s #16 in the series, but all the mysteries are solved by the end of the tale. Like all the stories in this series, it is how what’s going on in the small beach community of Rocky Bluff affects the officers and their families.
The challenges come one after another for the Rocky Bluff P.D. to handle―from a missing woman to a fatal house fire. Detective Doug Milligan is faced with new and unusual problems to solve, some on the job and others related to his family. With the department shorthanded because of the Covid virus, Chief Chandra Taylor must make some hard decisions in order to protect the town of Rocky Bluff.
I’ve written in one form or another since I was a child. Because I had five children and now share my home with three great-grandchildren, I’m used to distractions and have no problem return to whatever I’m working on.
George asked if an association membership has helped me or my writing. I can honestly say being a part of the Public Safety Writers Association has certainly given me a big boost in writing about folks in law enforcement, answers to many questions, and sometimes even a plot idea.
Many of my characters are based on real people or combinations of folks. No one has ever accused me of writing about him or her. One exception is a friend who wanted to be a character in my other series. I didn’t use her real name, but I did describe her and her personality, and she loved it. I’ve also held contests where the person who one had his or her name used in a book. That’s fun, too, and the character never is anything like the real person.
Though I usually know the main theme of the story I’m going to write, I don’t outline. I do keep notes as I go along, especially about new characters, so I don’t forget some important detail.
I’ve written and published over 40 books, mostly mysteries but some in other genres. My other series is the Deputy Tempe Crabtree mysteries, the latest being End of the Trail.
Rocky Bluff is a fictional small beach community along the Pacific coast, set between Ventura and Santa Barbara. It has some resemblance to another town but has its own characteristics. To me, it feels like a real place. When I’m writing about it, I can see it in my mind’s eye, and I can smell the ocean and feel the dampness of the fog. I feel the same way about the characters, and I’m compelled to write the next book, so I can find out what happens to them.
To buy: https://www.amazon.com/Not-As-Knew-F-M-Meredith/dp/B08NDT3FW5/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=