Weekend Update: June 25-26, 2016

fallsbooks1Next week at Maine Crime Writers there will be posts by Vaughan Hardacker (Monday), Kate Flora (Tuesday), Dick Cass (Wednesday), Barb Ross (Thursday), and ??? (Friday).

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

from Kaitlyn Dunnett: I’m interviewed in the June issue of Savvy Scottie Magazine about The Scottie Barked at Midnight. Cool, huh?

 

 

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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And Now For Something Completely Different

John Clark sharing a bit of my college experience and a most amazing friend who I met during that time.

asu

I graduated in a class of 38 from Union High School in June of 1966. Since most everyone who was college-bound was going to UMO or UMF, I was determined not to join them because I felt it would be a continuation of high school and I was ready for something completely different. I’d applied to Bowdoin, Princeton and Arizona State, the latter at the suggestion of my junior year English teacher Maxwell Fogleman who had moved to the Phoenix area because his wife had really severe arthritis. Bowdoin and Princeton weren’t thrilled with my math grades, but ASU, on the other hand, gave me a full academic scholarship. End of college search.

Mom was going to school herself at UMO that summer and arranged for me to share driving with a professor who was going to winter in California. We drove through a bunch of states I’d never seen and I remember almost killing us in Arkansas when I overestimated the passing power of his Fiat. I suspect he was more than happy to drop me off in Tempe for freshman orientation.

Going to school in the desert was a shock in many ways. The dry heat caused me to drop 15 pounds in little more than a week, I climbed orange trees on campus after dark to harvest fruit until I was informed that they were ornamental ones and the fruit wasn’t particularly good. Going from a high school of less than 100 to a campus where 29,000 students attended classes took some real getting used to as did hearing people with different color skin speak languages I’d never encountered before. Perhaps the biggest people shock was discovering how many Mormons lived in the area. Keep in mind that I’d gone to a rural Maine high school where the closest thing we had to a minority was the lone Catholic girl im my senior class. Heck, I didn’t even realize there was a significant Franco-American population in Maine until after graduating from college.

At that point in my life, I was still civilized enough to be relatively optimistic and made friends easily. One of my first friendships was with George Castano a fellow in his early twenties who came from Colombia in South America to study architecture. He had a Vespa scooter and we’d often ride through the Valley of the Sun to look at unique architecture. In fact George introduced me to Paolo Soleri’s experimental architectural community Arcosanti (https://arcosanti.org/). I also met a guy from Las Vegas, M. Thomas Carollo who remains a good friend to this day. Our friendship came about because we were the only two in a literature class who knew the Myth of Sisyphus. Other friends included two girls who had come from Laos where their parents were doing community work or were CIA operatives (which of these was true never became clear). Still another friend was a zoology major who wouldn’t go out with a guy until he let one of her two giant scorpions climb from his hand to his shoulder (I passed).

My most interesting friend, however came from Wales because, he said, “I’m tired of absurdly long names and freezing my arse off half the year.” When people first heard Wambu Jerusalem’s name, they expected to see someone with dark skin and an African accent. Fizbin, as I came to call him, was anything but. He was on the short side and chubby with pale blonde hair and scary blue eyes. At first, he planned on going into architecture or pre-medicine, but something happened one night when we left Parry’s Buffet on Mill Avenue to change that.

demon

Fizbin was trying to explain the rules of cricket when there was one hellacious growl as we passed an alley. I froze and looked around expecting Satan to pounce on us. My friend swore in an odd language (I could tell from his tone of voice that what he was saying couldn’t be repeated in his mother’s kitchen) and got between me and whatever was about to attack. When the creature did come at us, I sobered on the spot. It might not have been the big guy from hell, but it looked like they belonged to the same union. The ugly bastard was close to seven feet tall, yellow green and had the classic glowing red eyes depicted in every horror tale you’ve ever read. Before I could react, Fizbin did something with his left hand while chanting in that strange tongue. He caught our adversary by surprise and the next thing I knew, it had been reduced to a greasy cloud of smoke that smelled like a cross between a decaying chicken and a burning tire. I threw up and, as soon as I was done, he grabbed me and we took off.

I was so shook up, I hid out in my dorm room for three days. Fizbin must have known I needed time to un-freak and start wrapping my head around the attack because he waited until I sought him out and asked what in hell was that all about?

It was time to trust that I could keep a secret, he said. He’d come to the U.S. as much to get away from some family difficulty, as he diplomatically put it, as to keep his buns warm in January. He went on to tell me about his family, who were involved in magic and had been for generations. If I hadn’t seen him in action, I would have been skeptical, but having witnessed an NFL-sized demon reduced to less than overcooked bacon in seconds, helped his credulity big time.

I kept his secret for the next three years and learned more about the magical world and its cast of characters than anyone reading the entire Harry Potter series. Fizbin changed his major to criminal justice shortly after the attack, graduating with honors. He returned to Wales and began a career in British law enforcement shortly thereafter when he moved to London.

I didn’t hear much from him for a while and things in my own life were fairly chaotic, so I didn’t think much about it. When things settled down, I reconnected with him and we’ve been in contact on a regular basis ever since. He retired from the Metropolitan Police Force as a deputy commissioner last fall. Early in his career he had been approached by a shadowy section of British intelligence that became aware of his unique skills. After he was assured he wouldn’t be turned into a human guinea pig, Fizbin signed on and became the central figure in what became known as the Bureau of Extraordinary Enforcement Science, or BEES.

Whenever we chatted by phone or online, he’d hint at some of the things he and a couple other gifted people were creating to even the odds against the bad guys. To say that I was curious and more than a bit envious would be a gross understatement. Last month, he came for a visit and we spent three days touring Maine while he talked nearly nonstop about some of his tricks as he calls them. I’ll let Fizbin take it from here.

Hello MCW readers. I’ve been following the blog since its inception and greatly enjoy the creativity and variety of postings. As John has noted, I’ve enjoyed a most unusual career in British law enforcement. To help you understand what I did, think about the concept of open source software. Simply put, it is code created that can be modified and improved by anyone capable of doing so. What we did at BEES is pretty much the same thing. Three of us would get a request from some law enforcement entity in the Commonwealth and we’d see if we could cobble together a mix of magic and technology to meet the need. Perhaps the best part of the job was having free rein to name our creations, like being part of Monty Python, if you will.

Our oldest creation came from a request by the Thames Division. With the river getting increasingly murky, they were having a devil of a time locating bodies. We came up with an ectoplasm based seeking device we called the (Infra)Red Herring. This dandy can function to a depth of 300 feet, run for hours and can be altered to seek out flesh, metal or plastic. It’s become very popular not only in the UK, but in parts of Canada. In fact, we get frequent orders from the Mounties in Kissit, Yukon.

Another very popular one is the Clink, named in honor of the old prison on Clink Street. Imaging a heat-seeking missile made of unbreakable and flexible transparent material. You have a hostage situation or a baddie who is vicious and armed to the teeth. Flick a Clink into the air and before you can say tea and crumpets, the villain finds himself handcuffed, often in embarrassing and uncomfortable ways.

Gumshoes are often used in conjunction with Clinks and another invention we call Pavement Pounders. Gumshoes start as a flying cloud of colored ectoplasm and often resemble a horde of insects. The good guys release one when a suspect is fleeing and wait for the fun to begin. The substance can hit 50 kilometers an hour and as soon as it gets ahead of the baddie, drops to the pavement where it becomes stickier than the strongest glue. I wish you could see what happens when the runner hits it and comes to an immediate and painful halt.

Pavement Pounders are like a surreal combination of your Energizer Bunny and a bloodhound. Imagine a moving mist that can sense DNA, gunpowder residue, blood, hair follicles and thread in quantities too small for the human eye to detect. This one saves an incredible amount of time and even saves lives by scouring dangerous neighborhoods for vital evidence.

purplehaze

My personal favorite is the Perpetraitor. I created it when I was in a Jimi Hendrix listening phase, so when released, it often appears as a purple haze with his image flickering as it moves off to do its job. Once released, it seeks out hidden subjects and when it locates them, settles on their head causing them to speak loudly while confessing to whatever crime(s) they’ve committed. One unexpected benefit is that they often confess to things that are utterly hilarious.

These are just a few of the almost one hundred we have created for use by Commonwealth law enforcement. I hope you find them as intriguing as I do.

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What “Everyone Knows” About Authors …. But Isn’t True

Yes — this is Lea Wait, and this is a “golden oldie” blog post. I first wrote it several years ago, but over the years many readers (and other writers) have commented on it, and I decided that it was time to revisit the subject, with a few additions this time around.

So …

  • All authors are rich.Lea on Wiscasset town pier
  • Authors get as many copies of their published books as they want, free, from their publishers. Just ask them — they’ll give you one. If they don’t give you one, they’re not really your friend. (They’d also love to give copies of their books to any charity that asks. The more giveaways the more readers! And all authors want are readers, right?)
  • Authors get their ideas from a) their dreams; b) the lives of their friends and relatives; c) their characters, who come to them in visions; d) the daily news; and d) complete plots handed to them by strangers. They’d love to hear your ideas for their next book!
  • Authors have a lot of spare time. All they have to do is write down those stories people tell them. So any author would love to a) watch your children; b) walk your dog; c) serve on your organization’s board; or d) organize a benefit for your worthy cause and call all his or her writer friends to come and support it. (Remember: they’re all rich!)
  • Authors do very little editing. That unpleasant chore is delegated to their agents and editors. After all, editing squelches the joy of personal expression.

    Author's Assistant & Muse

    Author’s Assistant & Muse

  • Authors have staffs to take care of their scheduling and itineraries, book their tours, answer fan letters, design and update their websites, post on social media, write blogs, keep their mailing lists up-to-date, and do research for their next books. (Many also have personal trainers, chefs, and people to clean their houses, wash their clothes, run their errands, and take care of any garden or yard work necessary.) All authors have to do is write, and sometimes read speeches written for them. Their publishers, agents, and personal staff take care of the rest.
  • An author may get some rejections at first, but after his first book is published anything he or she writes will be published.
  • Authors always choose the titles of their books, design the covers, decide what format their books will be published in, and set their prices. If you don’t like any of those things, be sure to tell him or her.DSC02321
  • Authors spend a lot of time flying around the country, staying in fancy hotels, being wined and dined, talking with Oprah, and signing their books. The publisher pays for this, of course. If an author is NOT doing this, it’s because he or she has chosen not to.
  • Not all authors smoke, the way they used to, but most of them still drink pretty heavily.  Alcohol fuels their creativity. They also drink because they’re lonely, sitting in front of their computers all the time. Do your author friend a favor by dropping in unexpectedly several times a week to
    Lea's book about an author's life

    Lea’s book about an author’s life

    cheer him up. (And bring wine.)

  • No matter what they say, authors really are their major characters.
  • Therefore, of course, romance writers have hot sex lives, picture book writers think like preschoolers, mystery writers want to kill people, and science fiction writers want to blow up the planet. Authors who write about vampires .. well .. you can guess. College professors write literary fiction for other college professors to analyze.
  • Authors will be really pleased if you tell them you loved their book so much you loaned your copy to twenty of your best friends. They’ll be even more pleased if you tell them that, to save trees and money, you bought it used to begin with.
  • Now that authors can self-publish, only old-fashioned writers work with agents and traditional publishers. They can make a lot more money putting their book up on Kindle or Nook themselves. If your author friend doesn’t know this, do him a favor by telling him.
Lea Wait writes the Shadows Antique Print series and the Mainely Needlepoint series, as well as historical novels set in nineteenth century Maine. She keeps a bottle of champagne in her refrigerator in case there is something to celebrate, and loves eating seafood of all types (except shark) and listening to the voices in her head. She invites you to friend her on Facebook and Goodreads.
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Dead Zones, Cell Phones, and the Strange Perceptions of “Folks From Away”

Kaitlyn Dunnett/Kathy Lynn Emerson here. I have a new Liss MacCrimmon mystery coming out at the end of July. In fact, at the end of this post, you’ll see how you can win an advance reading copy even before that. But first, there’s this blog, the result of a pretty good review in Publisher’s Weekly that contained one very strange caveat. Here’s the entire review of Kilt at the Highland Games:

HIGHLANDGAMESCOVER“The Highland Games come to tiny Moosetookalook, Maine, in Dunnett’s enchanting 10th Liss MacCrimmon mystery (after 2015’s The Scottie Barked at Midnight). Despite the influx of trade and tourists, Liss still finds time to do some sleuthing, including finding the dead body of Jason Graye, Moosetookalook’s most despised town selectman and a shady realtor. Suspects abound, and the police are swamped between providing extra coverage for the games, searching for missing persons, investigating Graye’s murder, and looking into a break-in at the post office. Could all these events somehow be connected? Liss enlists the aid of a PI friend to get to the bottom of things, but it’s Liss who ends up facing off with a crazed killer, who’s ready to take out more victims. An implausible lack of cell phone usage undercuts credibility, but otherwise this is an enjoyable cozy from start to finish.”

The funny thing is, there are probably more references to using cell phones in this entry in the series than in most of the previous ones. Liss and Dan use a cell phone to call the chief of police’s cell phone to report the murder. Later, when Liss is rushing toward a dangerous situation, she uses her cell to contact both the police and Jake Murch, her friend the private investigator. You’d better believe she wants backup! There are also references to cell phones in use by a couple of teenagers, one of whom has a “stupid phone” rather than a smart phone because he’s saving every penny he earns for college. And the “missing person” referred to also uses a cell phone of the throwaway type, to avoid being found. I’m really not sure how much more cell phone usage there could have been, especially in rural Maine.

my personal "dead zone"

my personal “dead zone”

Why is rural Maine less likely to rely on cell phones than other places? Ever hear of a “dead zone” where you just can’t get a signal? We’re in one here at my house. No way are we ever going to be able to give up our land line. Cell service is iffy in many areas of Maine, some of them much closer to cities than we are.

hikerremainsI spent a few days earlier this month on Bailey Island, where I was warned not to rely on being able to get a signal. Hikers at this end of the Appalachian Trail receive a similar warning, and ignore it at their peril. Those who make the mistake of thinking they can call for help on a cell phone if they are injured or lost while out in the wilderness are in for a rude awakening. Hikers, climbers, and even skiers have learned this the hard way. A few end up losing their lives as a result of this miscalculation.

cell_phone_oldI do have a cell phone. Like one of those in the novel, it’s a “stupid phone” that has no bells and whistles. I keep it charged and carry it in my purse for emergencies. It costs me under $15 a month. It’s so old that it flips open and has an antenna. It would be no use at all if I needed help in a “dead zone” but when I got a flat tire on the Maine Turnpike on my way home from New England Crime Bake one year, I used it to call AAA and my husband.

As usual, I’m old fashioned and behind the times. Lots of Mainers do have cell phones and use them for all the things folks from away do—texting, checking social media, looking things up at IMDb. Sometimes they even use them to make or take phone calls. I see shoppers in the local Hannaford with phones to their ears, no doubt checking to see if there’s anything else they need to pick up for supper. I see a good many damn fools using cell phones while driving. But they are not everywhere, and not everybody owns one, or even wants one.

JOIN THE DISCUSSION—WIN AN ARC!

I’ve been rambling on the subject of cell phones for some 800 words now, and I don’t know if I’ve said anything particularly significant, but I’d love to hear what those of you reading this think of the whole issue of cell phones and, in particular, whether you would find a mystery novel less believable simply because there isn’t a lot of cell phone usage mentioned in it.

Leave your comment on this subject below and you will automatically be entered in a drawing to receive an advance reading copy of Kilt at the Highland Games. I’ll wait till the end of the month to draw a name, so if you’re reading this up to eight days after it’s posted, you still have a chance to win.

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 ~ July 2016) as Kaitlyn and the historical Mistress Jaffrey Mysteries (Murder in the Merchant’s Hall) 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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Giveaway- Whispers Beyond the Veil

WhispersBeyond_FixJessie: Delighted to be breathing the salty air on the coast of Maine.

Several years ago my family started spending summers in Old Orchard Beach, Maine. Almost immediately, I thought of an idea for The Change of Fortune mysteries series set there in 1898, the year the original pier opened.  One thing led to another and before long the book sold.

I just loved working on this book and writing about life in such a magical place at such an exciting time. I also adore the cover pictured at left. Here’s the publisher’s description of the story:

First in a dazzling new historical mystery series featuring Ruby Proulx, a psychic with a questionable past who suddenly finds her future most uncertain…

Canada, 1898. The only life Ruby Proulx has ever known is that of a nomad, traveling across the country with her snake-oil salesman father. She dreams of taking root somewhere, someday, but, until she can, she makes her way by reading tarot cards. Yet she never imagined her own life would take such a turn…
 
After one of her father’s medical “miracles” goes deadly wrong, Ruby evades authorities by hiding in the seaside resort town of Old Orchard, Maine, where her estranged aunt, Honoria, owns the Hotel Belden, a unique residence that caters to Spiritualists—a place where Ruby should be safe as long as she can keep her dark secret hidden.
 
But Ruby’s plan begins to crumble after a psychic investigator checks into the hotel and senses Ruby is hiding more than she’s letting on. Now Ruby must do what she can to escape both his attention and Aunt Honoria’s insistence that she has a true gift, before she loses her precious new home and family forever…

The book won’t be available until September 6, 2016 but I have just received a box of advance reading copies and would love to celebrate their arrival by giving away one of them to a commenter.  So, share a memory in the comments below about Old Orchard Beach, a visit to Maine or something you love about history and you’ll be entered into the drawing for a copy. Good luck!

 

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