A Day in Boothbay Harbor

by Barb, who was writing this on the front porch but came in because she was getting cold (he, he, he)

We hope you’ve enjoyed this summer’s “A Day in…” posts from Maine Crime Writers. Today’s post comes to you from my Maine town of Boothbay Harbor (with a quick trip up the peninsula to Boothbay–more on this later).

harborside1Breakfast: When you ask, “What’s the best place for breakfast?” the answers always depend on the criteria. For example, our friend Stan is all about where to get the best hash. He’ll wax on about potato to onion ratios, or say something dismissive like, “It’s a beef-pork combo.” Other people are all about the omelets. (Though for my money, that’s not even a contest. The French-inflected Vietnamese cooking means the omelets at Baker’s Way are the best in town. Have a croissant while you’re there.) Other people are into the lobster benedict or the fish and eggs (my husband’s favorite.)

A portion of the view from the harbor side tavern.

A portion of the view from the harbor side tavern.

Personally, I believe all Maine breakfasts should be judged by the blueberry pancakes, which is why my current favorite breakfast place in town in the Harborside Tavern. Order 1, 2 or 3 of their fluffy blueberry pancakes and real maple syrup. (If you’re staying locally, order two and take half your order home.) Both the bacon and the sausage (link or pattie) are excellent.

A harbor cruise: From breakfast, let’s walk down the pier and take a harbor cruise. There are several available. We’re going to take a cruise because the best way to see Boothbay Harbor is from the water. You’ll have your choice of whale watches, puffin watches, sunset sailboat cruises or a general tour around the harbor. Whichever you take, you are almost sure to see seals, eagles, osprey, working lobster boats, two to four lighthouses, islands with 100 or 1 or 0 houses, and maybe a minke whale or two, even if you don’t go for the whale watch.

harbor cruise 1 harbor cruise 2

A walk through town: Back from the cruise, let’s take a walk through town and maybe do a little retail therapy. Don’t forget to stop at Sherman’s where you’ll spot books from most of the Maine Crime Writers for sale.

in town

Lunch: For lunch we’re going to cross the famous footbridge to the Lobster Dock. This is one of my favorite places to eat in town, with a large menu of local favorites (including crab cakes that famously lost in a fixed fight with Bobby Flay). You sit outside. The food is delicious, the scenery glorious.

lobster dock 1 lobster dock 2 lobster dock 3 lobster dock 4



Shannon'sAlternative: If you are all about lobster rolls, and only lobster rolls, stay on the town side of the footbridge and order up at Shannon’s Unshelled. Every houseguest we have ever sent there has returned home raving.

Botanical Gardens: After lunch, we’re going to buzz up the peninsula to Boothbay to visit one of Maine’s newest tourist destinations, The Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens. Built on 270 acres of total shoreland, the gardens offer a spectacular children’s garden, miles of trails, and many beautiful sights, including a garden of the 5 senses designed to enhance the enjoyment of people with physical and sensory challenges. The gardens are open from April 15 to the end of October, and then re-open for a spectacular holiday illuminations display. What to see and do depends on what’s in bloom, but the gardens are always a terrific tourist hit. If you’re feeling energetic, you can even rent kayaks there. Our kids did that over 4th of July weekend and saw hundreds of seals.

botanical garden 1 botanical garden 2 botanical garden 3 botanical garden 4

violaboothbay2014Time to sit on the porch: Go back to wherever you’re staying and grab your beverage of choice and a book. If you’re on a day trip, one of our local watering holes will welcome you.

Dinner: There are so many great choices, but our favorite is Ports of Italy. The food is traditional Italian with lots of fresh local seafood, homemade pasta, and local vegetables. I’ve been there twice this year and failed to take photos either time, which is too bad because the presentation is as beautiful as the service is impeccable. So this photo will have to do.

ports of italy

Like all the “Day in” posts, this one barely scratches the surface of all the things there are to do in Boothbay Harbor. We hope you’ll come stay as long as you can.

All photos in this post, except the two views from the Lobster Dock and the one of relaxing on our porch, are by Bill Carito. If you like them and want to see more, you can friend him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/bcarito and follow him on Instagram at billcarito and bill.carito.colorphotos.







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A Day in Old Orchard Beach

Jessie: Looking longingly at the beach-goers trundling past my porch

As a part of our series on places in Maine I was thrilled to put up my hand for Old Orchard Beach. I started spending summers here six years ago and have loved every minute of them. Here are a few of my favorite ways to  enjoy this iconic beach town:

IMG_0391The Beach:

With seven miles of sugar fine sand, Old Orchard has a spot for everyone. But I suggest heading out early in the morning during high season to spread out your beach blanket right above the high water mark. The views are best with no one else in front of you and you won’t end up scrambling to drag your belongings back from the rising tide.

Toss a small box kite in a bag and some bocce balls into your beach cart. Low tide provides a lot of room to get up and play. Nothing beats a game with friends as the sun drops low and the temperatur2015-07-23 09.37.43es start to cool.

Bring some shade. This beach is known for its retro vibe. Why not protect your skin and stay cool too by carrying a parasol? If you’d rather use a beach umbrella I’d advise bringing along a way to weigh it down. Several times each season someone’s unanchored umbrella pinwheels down the beach laying waste to unsuspecting sunbathers.



The Pier and Amusement Park:

IMG_0624 IMG_0974The Pier has changed many times over the years but has remained a must-do for visitors. There are eateries selling everything from lobster rolls to deep-fried oreos. Souvenir shops sell marshmallow guns, shark tooth necklaces and OOB t-shirts. There’s even a place that will write your name on a grain of rice should you need such a thing. A dance club stands at the end now just as a ballroom did when the Pier first opened in 1898.

Palace Playland is the last remaining ocean-front amusement park in New England. It has a decidedly retro feel and is close enough to the beach that it’s easy to spend the day moving from the beach to the park effortlessly as the spirit moves you. They have rides for little kids and for the older ones too. Games of skill and chance as well as an arcade round out the offerings. It’s the sort of place that fills you with nostalgia just by walking through it. Every Thursday night at 9:45 they put on a fireworks display.

Old Orchard Street:

Old Orchard Street leads from the crest of the hill along Saco Avenue straight down to the Pier and the beach. Every summer crowds amble along people watching and enjoying the breeze. There’s a fountain in the center of the square at the end of the street with a built in bench encircling it, providing a great view from any spot.

There are stores carrying sweatshirts and bathing suits and boogie boards. Others, like Beachology and Happy Nest sell beach house decor. There’s a place to get a henna tatoo and another where you can purchase baseball cards. You can even stop in at the local fortune teller. My favorite spot is the used book store. Not only do they have a wide variety of reading material, they have the best prices on bottled drinks in town.

To Eat:

Dickinson’s is the place to stop for handmade fudge. They give out samples, making it almost impossible not to buy some to take home. Lisa’s Pizza always has a line down the sidewalk with people eager to purchase a slice or to order poutine, a dish made of French fries, cheese curds and gravy. And speaking of fries, if there is one thing to eat in Old Orchard it’s a serving of Pier Fries.  They’ve been selling ntheir crinkle cut wonders for over eighty years so you know they’ve got a bit of potato magic in every box.

I hope you will make the trip to Old Orchard one day this summer and that you will enjoy it as much as I do!

Readers, have you ever been to Old Orchard? Do you have a favorite memory there?

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The Journey Continues



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


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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