The Journey Continues

Vaughn

Vaughn

In my post on July 14, we embarked on a canoe/kayak trip from Sinclair on Long Lake to Limestone Point on Square Lake. After an amazing night in which we were able to observe the galaxy in all of its splendor and we sat around a campfire drinking coffee the way it was intended to be drank, we awoke at 4:30 a.m., stiff from sleeping on the dew-covered ground to await the warmth of the sun as it rises over the placid surface of the lake. Rather than hassle with another campfire, we fire up the Coleman Camp Stove and cook a breakfast of eggs, potatoes, and freshly caught trout (did I mention that we caught them that morning?) as well as more coffee.

Square to Eagle

Square Lake to Eagle Lake Thoroughfare

Breakfast over, we clean up the campsite and load up our gear for the paddle along the northwest shore of Square Lake to the Eagle Lake thoroughfare.  Eagle Lake is the connection to the Fish River overflows into the Fish River in the southeast corner of Wallagrass 13 miles (21 km) upstream of the confluence with the Saint John River. From the outlet, the lake extends southward through the eastern part of the town of Eagle Lake and forms a “L” extending eastward through township 16, range 6, into township 16, range 5. Fish River enters Eagle Lake at the bend in the “L”. The chain of lakes tributary to the Fish River enters Eagle Lake via the Eagle Lake Thoroughfare from Square Lake in township 16, range 5. Smaller tributaries to Eagle Lake include Clark Brook, Gilmore Brook, Brown Brook, Devoe Brook, and Pond Brook from the town of Eagle Lake, and Alec Brook, Miller Brook, and Last Brook from township 16. The Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railroad follows the west shore of Eagle Lake through the town of Eagle Lake and then follows the Fish River into Fort Kent. Eagle Lake provides good habitat for rainbow smelt, brook trout, lake trout, and land-locked salmon. The entire eastern arm of Eagle Lake is within the 23,000-acre (9,300 ha) reserve of public land available for ATV riding, birding, camping, cross-country skiing, fishing, hiking, hunting, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, and swimming.

Eagle Lake Sporting Lodge

Eagle Lake Sporting Lodge

One other point of interest is the area’s only true sporting lodge. Arriving at the entrance to Eagle Lake we turn left and follow the shore until we reach the Eagle Lakes Sporting Camps. Although the dining area is open to guests year-round, it is open to the general public July through October by Reservation on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday for Lunch & Dinner. The Lodge is accessible only by water (boat or plane) or woods road (four wheel drive vehicle is best) and by snowmobile (or ski equipped plane) across the frozen winter in ice fishing season.

Cabin at Eagle Lake Sports Camp in summer

Cabin at Eagle Lake Sports Camp in summer

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Winter (‘Nuff said!)

Leaving the sporting camps  up the lake we will pass the Maine Warden Service float plane base from which the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife survey the vast woodland from the air searching for lost hikers, hunters, and coordinating with wardens on the ground.

Lastly we come to the quaint village of Eagle Lake, sitting along route 11 and providing the primary public boat launch. The village is the last stop before entering the Fish River and making our way to Fort Kent where the river meets up with the Saint John River. If you should decide to undertake this trip (it is not for those of us who are not in shape) plan on spending four or five days in a canoe or kayak. Personally, I’ll use my fourteen foot boat and forty horsepower motor.

For those of you who are not into the camping and outdoor scene, in a future blog I’ll take you on a tour of the Saint John Valley and its Acadian culture and history.

 

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Weekend Update: July 23-24, 2016

fallsbooks1Next week at Maine Crime Writers there will be posts by Jessie Crockett (Monday), Barb Ross (Tuesday), Maureen Milliken (Wednesday), Kate Flora (Thursday), and Brendan Rielly (Friday). And in our special “A Day In . . . “ series, Vaughn Hardacker will post a blog tomorrow.

In the news department, here’s what’s happening with some of us who blog regularly at Maine Crime Writers:

HIGHLANDGAMESCOVERfrom Kaitlyn Dunnett: The tenth Liss MacCrimmon mystery, Kilt at the Highland Games, will be in stores in hardcover and online as an ebook on Tuesday, July 26. When I wrote this one, I wasn’t sure the series would be continuing (it is, never fear) so a lot of the more interesting characters from earlier books in the series came back for return appearances. And one character who has been there from the beginning spends most of this one as a missing person.

Beyond the Sea Book Festival in Lincolnville Beach at Beyond the Sea (2526 Atlantic Highway, Lincolnville) is all all-day event next Saturday, July 30. There will be lots of Maine authors signing books there, including our own Dorothy Cannell, Kaitlyn Dunnett/Kathy Lynn Emerson, Kate Flora, Barb Ross, and Lea Wait, plus frequent contributor Katherine Hall Page. Dorothy and Katherine will be there starting at 10:30 and the rest will be joining them at 11:15. For more information and listings of all the Maine writers who will be there, go to Beyond the Sea Maine or call 207-789-5555.

 

 

An invitation to readers of this blog: Do you have news relating to Maine, Crime, or Writing? We’d love to hear from you. Just comment below to share.

And a reminder: If your library, school, or organization is looking for a speaker, we are often available to talk about the writing process, research, where we get our ideas, and other mysteries of the business. Contact Kate Flora: mailto: kateflora@gmail.com

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The Devil May or May Not be in the Details

Back in the days when I was the World’s Oldest Living Graduate Student, I submitted a story to a fiction workshop that featured an old woman fly-fishing in an Alaskan river and the things that happened to her. What surprised me most about the reaction to the story was the deep certainty of most of my seminar mates that I had spent some large amount of my time in Alaska doing exactly what the woman was doing. JOan WulffApparently I had captured both the landscape and the details of fly-fishing for salmon in a bear-infested countryside convincingly. Why surprised me was that the closest I’d been to Alaska at that point in my life was a train ride West that stopped in Nebraska. As it turned out, none of my peers had been there, either. But they believed I had.

Which leads me to thinking about research and about getting things right in fiction. I know long tons of writers who labor mightily to include the correct details of equipment, procedure, geography, any kind of fact that can be challenged or verified. The tendency is most notable in police procedurals and thrillers involving Federal agencies and high technology. Tom Clancy is probably the most notable practitioner in the weaponry line. But let me take the devil’s advocate view for a minute and ask: do we care more about the model number of the missile that’s going to take out Air Force One? Or the fact that the President might go down with the plane?

John Gardner talks about writing fiction as creating a dream for the reader, allowing nothing in technique, word choice, or style to interrupt the dream. John GardnerI’d guess there are readers for whom a technical detail or a procedural gaffe would break the dream, but how many are there and why do they read? To keep us honest? To prove they’re smarter than we are?

Aside from the occasional reader with an axe to grind (read: gun nut or other obsessive),  most people are not going to know something esoteric you didn’t get right, something in the furniture of your story that has a mechanical function but isn’t central to the story or characters. Fiction is as much about verisimilitude as it is about a complete consistency between the fictional world and the outside—real—world.

Every published writer I know has a story of an email debating the spelling of a certain item (Dopp kit vs. dopp kit, anyone?) or insisting that a Glock 42 has a six-round capacity and you’ve allowed your hero to fire seven without reloading. But these readers are often not satisfied even with a correction or an acknowledgement—they’re more interested in being right about something—anything—than about whether you’ve broken the fictional dream. They would argue that you, the writer, broke the dream by getting a fact wrong but I’d submit that most readers like this are looking for a reason, something to complain about.

If you can make it believable, isn’t it enough? Does every detail also have to be verifiably accurate? Well, yes, but maybe not for the first reason you’d think.

Authenticity is as much, if not more, a service to the writer as a courtesy to the reader. When a writer knows he or she has the details right, that authenticity breeds authority, which is very subtle and very difficult to fake. It’s partly that every detail is correct and partly choosing the right details but getting them right gives the writer confidence. I think of Peter Robinson, the consummate Yorkshireman, writing an L.A. novel that no less a writer than Michael Connelly found pitch-perfect. I don’t know L. A. well enough to know whether everything was accurate but it was all believable. Robinson’s command of the details exuded authority.

There’s also the issue of specificity in details, which is difficult to fake if you don’t know what you’re talking about. If you call a gun by its brand name and describe its characteristics in description and action, you carry an immediacy into the story that saying “a pistol” doesn’t own. HD-150If I tell you Sam Franji picked me up in downtown Dubai in a black Harley-Davidson F-150,
doesn’t that tell you quite a bit more about Sam than if I’d said he picked me up in his truck?

 

Which brings me to circle around and say this is probably yet another one of those things that my writer laziness fights with. It’s more work to research your characters’ guns, their equipment, their modes of operation, procedures, etc. Uncivil SeasonsYou may get away with faking some of it but you have to ask yourself if you aren’t cheating the story somehow, not making the tale as compelling a dream as it could be. You also have to ask yourself if you’re forfeiting some authority in your work. I admit to cutting a corner here and there but I have to confess, I once threw a book (->) across the room when a character was shot—center mass—with a twenty gauge shotgun and was out of the emergency room the next morning. If you’re not going to go in for all the gory details, I’d say, at least make the ones you do get believable.

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Lea Wait’s Wiscasset

DSC00498 No; I don’t live in Wiscasset, Maine, the harbor village twelve miles from the Atlantic, on the Sheepscot River, about an hour north of Portland. But when I decided to write a series of books set in one typical northern New England town, Wiscasset fit the bill.

In the early 19th century Wiscasset was the largest port east of Boston. The Boston Stage stopped there. Ships sailed from Wiscasset in the salt and spar trade (Yes, there were lumber mills in town) and, later in the century, to the South Pacific. There was a small ice trade … and a smaller whaling industry. Later there were mills, and the railroad brought passengers to town.

Yes; lobstermen still call Wiscasset home.

Yes; lobstermen still call Wiscasset home.

Map showing locations mentioned in Lea's books set in Wiscasset

Map showing locations mentioned in Lea’s books set in Wiscasset

Wiscasset was (and is) the county seat of Lincoln County, Maine, and its courthouse stands, next to the Congregational Church, above the town green, overlooking the harbor.

Mud flats today .. where long wharves once filled the Sheepscot River

Mud flats today .. where long wharves once filled the Sheepscot River

Once eleven long wharves stretched into the deep river from the shore. Most were burned in one of the two fires that destroyed much of Wiscasset in the 1860s and 1870s. For many years tourists stopped to take pictures of the Luther Little and Hesper, two schooners built in the early twentieth century and left to rot on the mudflats near the bridge to Edgecomb. The ships are gone now, too dangerous and tempting to young people who wanted to explore them, but their memory — and their images — are part of the history of this midcoast town. Today about 3700 people call Wiscasset home. It’s a year round community, although in summer tourists stop for the many antiques shops and historical sites in town — and to stand in line at Red’s Eats, a nationally known spot to buy lobster rolls and other local cuisine.DSC00487

I’ve written five books set in Wiscasset … Stopping to Home, set in 1806, about two children who’ve lost their mother to smallpox and their father to the sea, and who must make a new place for themselves.  Seaward Born, 1804-1807, in which a boy named Michael Lautrec in Charleston, South Carolina, escapes slavery via sea, changes his name to Noah Brown, and ends up in —

Old Jail, built in 1811, with attached jailer's house. Worth a trip!

Old Jail, built in 1811, with attached jailer’s house. Worth a trip!

My granddaughter, Tori, checking out one of doors in the jail ...

Lea’s granddaughter, Tori, checking out one of doors in the jail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wiscasset, of course.  Maine’s separation from Massachusetts and statehood in 1820 is the background for Wintering Well, about a boy who learns life does not end with a disability, and his sister, who must make a place for herself, too. Finest Kind (1838) is set after the deep depression of 1837, and follows a family from Massachusetts who come

Nickelss-Sortwell House - mentioned in my STO{PPING TO HOME, and (as a hotel) in UNCERTAIN GLORY. Open to public in summer.

Nickels-Sortwell House – mentioned in my STOPPING TO HOME, and (as a hotel) in UNCERTAIN GLORY. Open to public in summer.

Fort Edgecomb, just across the bridge. Built for War of 1812 and re-commissioned for Civil War

Fort Edgecomb, just across the bridge. Built for War of 1812 and re-commissioned for Civil War

Several old graveyards are in town. This stone is in honor of Captain Smith, a character in UNCERTAIN GLORY

Several old graveyards are in town. This stone is in honor of Captain Smith, a character in UNCERTAIN GLORY

north, hiding a family secret, and make a home for themselves in Maine. And Uncertain Glory (1861) is about a boy who published the town newspaper in the middle of the 19th century, and how Wiscasset reacted during the first two weeks of the Civil War.
Many characters in my books really lived in Wiscasset, and historical notes at the end of each book give more background. A local artist, Brenda Erickson, has drawn a map of “Lea Wait’s Wiscasset, so

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

readers can take walking (or imagining) tours of the places in my books, such as the old

Stairs to the Hidden Garden ... which appears in several of my Shadows mysteries.

Stairs to the Hidden Garden … which appears in several of my Shadows mysteries.

 

 

 

jail, built for the war of 1812, which plays a big role in my Finest Kind, and which is open to the public on weekend afternoons in the summer. Fort Edgecomb, built across the river for the war of 1812, is a location in Uncertain Glory. And the Congregational Church and buildings that once houses general stores and taverns appear in all of my books.

People might debate that Wiscasset is “the prettiest town in Maine,” despite the sign you’ll see as you drive into town on route one. But it’s hard to argue that it isn’t one of the most historic, and well worth a visit.

Lea Wait, who lives in Edgecomb, writes not only historical novels set in Wiscasset, but the Mainely Needlepoint and Shadows Antique Print mystery series. For more about her books, see Lea’s website, http://www.leawait.com

 

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Feast or Famine: A New Series is in the Works

hardcover and ebook formats available July 26

hardcover and ebook formats available July 26

Kaitlyn Dunnett/Kathy Lynn Emerson here, living proof that a long writing career includes both feast and famine. I’ve been through several famines. Just now, I’m lucky enough to be in a feast stage. The next few years are going to be very busy.

In an earlier blog I talked about using the plot device of going back to the old home town. In that post, I wrote the following:

“When I started work on an idea for a new series, it never occurred to me that I was repeating myself by having the new sleuth return to her old home town. In fact, going back is kind of the point of the book. Mikki Lincoln is a woman my age (sixty-eight) who moved away right after high school. It’s an invitation to her fiftieth high school reunion that gets her thinking about her old stomping ground. A recent widow, she sells her home in Maine and heads for the rural New York state community where she grew up. In fifty years, there have definitely been changes. She’s in familiar territory . . . and yet she’s not. For an amateur sleuth, that seems to me to be the best of all possible worlds.”

At the time I wrote that, I couldn’t yet reveal where negotiations stood for the sale of this new series, or what would happen to the Liss MacCrimmon Mysteries if I started writing about Mikki. Finally, I can tell all. I have not one, but two new contracts. One is for three more books in the Liss MacCrimmon series (#11,12, and 13). The second is for the first two Mikki Lincoln books.

The tenth Liss MacCrimmon story, Kilt at the Highland Games, will be in stores in hardcover next Tuesday, July 26, but I’m already hard at work on number eleven, X Marks the Scot, to be published in the fall of 2017. Credit for coming up with that title, by the way, goes to my editor, Peter Senftleben.

clan grant piperI don’t want to give too much away (actually, I can’t, because I’m making it up as I go along), but the action starts when Liss finds a mysterious map hidden in the back of a portrait she bought at auction. The portrait is a copy of a real eighteenth-century painting of the official piper of Clan Grant, shown here. As you might expect, Liss can’t resist trying to find the spot on the map that’s marked with a big old X.

The first book in the new series won’t be out until the spring of 2018, but I’ve been working on it, on and off, for some time now. My trip back to my old home town last fall for my own 50th high school reunion was also a research trip. I met with a classmate’s son who is a deputy sheriff to pepper him with questions about the investigation of homicides in New York State. As I expected, there are differences between Maine and New York. Since Mikki is an amateur, she isn’t going to be deeply involved in forensics, but I still had to know some basics, such as whether it would be the state, county, town, or village police in charge.

I won’t be using a real place as my setting, but Mikki’s hometown will have a lot in common with the village where I grew up. It’s in the heart of what, fifty years ago, was known as the Borsht Belt, a popular summer vacation spot for folks from New York City in the days before air travel became common. These days, the area has fallen on hard times. In my fictional village, there is a plan afoot to revive tourism by building a theme park. Not everyone is in favor of the idea.

lincolnplaceWhy, you may be asking, would a sixty-eight-year-old woman want to uproot herself and, essentially, take a step backward. I pondered that long and hard and tried to put myself in her shoes. What if her husband of forty-plus years, who is also her best friend, up and dies on her? With apologies to my own husband, who is (knock wood) in good health and seems likely to remain so, I realized that if I were suddenly widowed, I might find it hard to go on living alone in the place we’d shared for so long. An invitation to my fiftieth reunion got me thinking about the “good old days.” Nostalgia is a powerful force. If widowhood and the reunion coincided with the house I grew up in coming on the market, I would be tempted. I loved that house as a kid. As an adult, I can see it has some big disadvantages. It has near neighbors on both sides, for one thing, and I’m used to living out in the country on fifteen wooded acres. But for fictional purposes . . .

porch1958So, on impulse, in need of a change, Mikki buys back her childhood home. When she finds out how much work needs to be done on it before winter, she realizes that she needs to supplement her retirement income and sets up shop as a book doctor. Although Mikki expects to deal with most of her clients by email and phone, one of the first people to contact her is a local woman who has written a book about Murder, Inc., a criminal organization that dumped the bodies of their victims in that area of New York State (true story) during the 1930s. The body of the author turns up a few days later. Is there a clue to her murder in the manuscript? Of course there is, and Mikki is the only one who’s in a position to find it.

Needless to say, although I am enjoying plotting the ins and outs of Liss MacCrimmon’s current adventure, I am also tremendously excited about this new project.

But wait, some of you may be saying. What about the Mistress Jaffrey Mysteries? Never fear, the third entry, Death in a Cornish Alehouse, will be out in the UK in December and in the U.S. in April 2017.

Frankly, the prospect of writing five new novels in the course of the next two and a half years fills me with both great joy and sheer terror, but given a choice between feast and famine, I’ll take the feast every time.

fallsbooks1

Kathy Lynn Emerson/Kaitlyn Dunnett is the author of over fifty books written under several names. She won the Agatha Award for best mystery nonfiction of 2008 for How to Write Killer Historical Mysteries and was an Agatha Award finalist in 2015 in the best mystery short story category for “The Blessing Witch.” Currently she writes the contemporary Liss MacCrimmon Mysteries (Kilt at the Highland Games) as Kaitlyn and the historical Mistress Jaffrey Mysteries (Murder in a Cornish Alehouse ~ UK in December 2016; US in April 2017) as Kathy. The latter series is a spin-off from her earlier “Face Down” series and is set in Elizabethan England. Her websites are www.KaitlynDunnett.com and www.KathyLynnEmerson.com

 

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