On my shelf: books on writing


Today I cleaned my office. Don’t be shocked — I know I’ve warned everybody that housework is dangerous and should be avoided whenever possible. But eventually you have to put yourself on the line, screw up your courage, and throw yourself into battle, screaming like a Celt wearing blue face paint and swinging a broadsword. Or maybe you clean with a dust rag and vacuum cleaner, or a weedwacker. Whatever. They’re all valid methods. My point is: while straightening my bookshelf, I took stock of the books on writing I’ve collected over the last twenty years.

There’s a wide range here — from the lighthearted to the scholarly. Some focus on commercial fiction, others on grammar. Others, like Stephen King’s On Writing, are as much memoir as instructional book. I’ve hung onto all of these because first, I love writing and love learning as much as possible about the way storytelling functions, and second, because each of these books taught me something worthwhile about my craft.

In alphabetical order:

Telling Lies for Fun and Profit, Lawrence Block
The Seven Basic Plots, Christopher Booker
Bestseller, Celia Brayfield
The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell
The Complete Guide to Writing Fiction, Barnaby Conrad and the staff of the Santa Barbara Writers’ Conference
The Elements of Legal Style, Bryan Garner
Writing Mysteries: A Handbook by the Mystery Writers of America, Edited by Sue Grafton
On Writing, Stephen King
Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott
Story, Robert McKee
How Not to Write a Novel, Sandra Newman & Howard Mittelmark
Save the Cat, Blake Snyder
On Teaching and Writing Fiction, Wallace Stegner
Stein on Writing, Sol Stein
Making Shapely Fiction, Jerome Stern
The Elements of Style, Strunk & White
Eats, Shoots and Leaves, Lynne Truss
Writing the Blockbuster Novel, Albert Zuckerman

I value all these books on their own. But their real worth can never be realized until you read fiction and study how their lessons play out on the page.

And no — when I picked up On Writing, I never imagined that one day Stephen King would update it with a list of recommended books that includes two of my novels. That’s beyond anything I could have dreamed up.

Today: Dripping Springs Community Library


This afternoon I’ll be at the Dripping Springs Community Library, talking about writing and my novel Phantom Instinct. The event is free and everybody is welcome, so come on down.

Copies of my books will be available for sale, and all proceeds go to benefit the library.

Author Visit: Meg Gardiner 
Tuesday, March 24, 2015
4:30 PM – 5:30 PM
Dripping Springs Community Library
501 Sportsplex Dr.
Dripping Springs, TX 78620
(512) 858-7825

MWA Cookbook giveaway on Goodreads


Lookie here: It’s the Mystery Writers of America Cookbook. In which I have a recipe. So I am now an OFFICIALLY PUBLISHED COOK.

When I pointed this out to the Husband, he said, “Miracles do happen.”

Yeah, he’s not getting any of the biscuits in my recipe.

But you can. And to celebrate the book’s March 24 launch, its publisher, Quirk Books, is holding a giveaway on Goodreads. Enter by April 3 at this link.

‘Bye, Portland

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Left Coast Crime was a terrific conference. Good panels, good friends, lots to learn, lots of fun. And Portland was gorgeous. It’s rare that I round a corner and gasp. But when I saw Mt. Hood yesterday, that’s what I did. In the photo above, it’s 65 miles away. 100 km. Yeah.

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It was wonderful to catch up with Laurie R. King. (I am selfie-challenged, but fortunately other conference goers rescued me.) And I was the lucky recipient of a gift from Sean Chercover: the Blackwing 602, which he insists is the best pencil in the world. I will let you know.


On Friday I moderated a panel on writing female protagonists. I read up on each panelist, researched and prepared questions for a 45 minute discussion, then prepared more questions, printed my questions, and psyched myself up by humming “Eye of the Tiger.” I went to my hotel room to put on my good shoes and my makeup. Makeup… I had left at home.

You have to understand. I was a tomboy. I hated makeup. I still rarely wear it. Except when I’m onstage in front of a large room under harsh lights. Which is why, 45 minutes before I led a panel discussion on the modern heroine in crime fiction, I had a girly panic, ran out of the hotel, across a park, into a mall, found a Macy’s, sprinted into the cosmetics section, and stood there going, “HELP.”

I got it. And made it back to the panel in time to discuss heroines and stereotypes and breaking all those crime fiction molds. Makeup artists of Portland, I salute you.


Left Coast Crime: Today, female protagonists. Tomorrow: cats!


Today at Left Coast Crime I’m moderating “She Said, She Said: Writing the Female Protagonist.” 1:30-2:15pm. We’re going to talk about women, men, social and physical limits — and how to break them; brains vs. brawn, stereotypes, writing from the POV of the opposite sex; the “strong female protagonist”; and authors’ best, worst, and funniest experiences writing mystery fiction.

Tomorrow I’m on a game show panel. And I’ll be competing with the other big event that’s taking place at the conference hotel: the cat show.

Watch out. Let them escape their crates, and crime writers cause all kinds of trouble.

This weekend: Left Coast Crime in Portland


This weekend I’ll be attending Left Coast Crime 2015: Crimelandia. I am excited that I’ll get to attend this excellent crime writers’ conference, held this year in one of my favorite cities, Portland, Oregon.

Most of the time I’ll be hanging out talking about mysteries, thrillers, and suspense novels with readers and other writers. To reiterate: this is my ideal weekend.

I’ll also be taking part in a couple of panels.

She Said, She Said: Writing the Female Protagonist
Friday 1:30-2:15pm
Meg Gardiner (Moderator)
Lisa Fernow
Darrell James
Frances McNamara
Carole Sojka

Been There, Wrote That: The Game Show
Saturday 1:30-2:15pm
Gar Anthony Haywood (Moderator)
Hilary Davidson
Meg Gardiner
Timothy Hallinan
D.P. (Doug) Lyle

The first panel should offer plenty of lively discussion. The second panel should be a hoot. To quote our moderator: “The purpose of the panel is to test how well you know your own work, and to see how many laughs a room full of people can get at your expense when you can’t remember a damn thing about your last book, let alone the one you wrote three years ago.”

If you’re in the Pacific Northwest, drop on by.

Coming March 24: The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook


Here’s something new for you: The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook.

Along with “plot stirrers” such as Lee Child, Charlaine Harris, and James Patterson, I have a recipe included. (To all my relatives: stop laughing. Right now. Just stop.) The book will be published March 24. Check it out at the link above.