The Book That Almost Wasn’t

Marilyn Meredith has had so many books published, she’s lost track of the count, but it’s getting near 40. She lives in a community similar to the fictional mountain town of Bear Creek, the big difference being that Bear Creek is a thousand feet higher in the mountains.

She is a member of Mystery Writers of American, three chapters of Sisters in Crime, and is a board member of Public Safety Writers of America.

When it was time to begin a new Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery, I knew the setting should be somewhere different. Time to send Tempe and her husband, Hutch, on vacation, but where?

One of the places I’ve always enjoyed visiting is Tehachapi, a small mountain town in California, not to far from where I live. It’s the home of the largest wind farm in California, plus the famous railway Loop, where long, long freight trains pass themselves while going around a mountain. But why would they go there?

Maybe it wouldn’t be their first choice, but it had to be something that would draw Tempe. Ah, yes, why not a ghost? Going on a ghost hunt is not something Hutch would want to do, but surely it wouldn’t take long. This would add some interesting conflict.

To come up with the plot, I did some research into Tehachapi’s history, learned about a devastating earthquake, and the Indian tribe that first inhabited the area.  Ideas developed. When I was nearly through writing, my daughter and I made a long visit to Tehachapi to check what I’d written to make sure it was plausible. We did a self-guided tour of the wind farm, checking out the huge turbines and the areas around them. And of course, we stood at the observation point watching a couple of freight trains going around the Loop.

Once the manuscript was done, I sent it off to the small press that had published all the earlier Deputy Tempe Crabtree mysteries. A wonderful cover was sent for my approval, and the book sent off to an editor. I went over the edits and returned them.

I heard nothing for weeks. I sent email inquiries but received no answer. Was I worried? You bet. I had a sinking feeling the company was in trouble.

Finally, I received an email that was sent to all the authors that the press was closing its doors and that all the manuscript rights would revert to the authors. I sent another inquiry asking if I could use my covers, and was given an affirmative answer.

Getting my rights back was good, but what should I do next?

I doubted any publisher would want to deal with a series like mine with 18 books. The alternative would be to self-publish. I honestly didn’t think I was up to the task.

While discussing the problem with a good friend who’d helped me self-publish some of my older books, she offered to take on this monumental task. Her husband agreed to do the covers, using those that I had the rights too.

Of course, I agreed. She started right away and got Spirit Wind ready for publication. I am so happy with the results—and the fact that Deputy Tempe Crabtree is still around to solve crimes, work with Indians legends, and help wandering spirits find their way.