Weekend Update: April 29-30, 2017

Next week at Maine Crime Writers, there will be posts by Kathy Lynn Emerson/Kaitlyn Dunnett (Monday), Bruce Coffin (Tuesday), Brenda Buchanan (Wednesday), Dick Cass (Thursday), and Lea Wait (Friday).

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

Today (Saturday, April 29) Maureen Milliken, Gayle Lynds and Janet Morgan will all be at Wiscasset Public Library for a Sisters in Crime 30th Anniversary extravaganza. The library is holding an open house with the authors from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., and the authors’ panel begins at 11 a.m.

It’s Malice Domestic weekend and Kate, Kathy/Kaitlyn, Barb, Lea, Jessie, and Bruce are all in Bethesda MD for the big event. We’ll try to post a picture or two during the weekend, and an update to the update, especially since Kate, Barb, and Jessie are all among the finalists for the Agatha award in their respective categories.

And if you’re not in Bethesda,  and buy e-books on KOBO — you’re in luck! From April 27-May 1, in the US and Canada, Kobo will be selling e-books of Kaitlyn Dunnett’s KILT DEAD, Barbara Ross’ CLAMMED UP, and  Lea Wait’s TWISTED THREADS, each for only $1.99. (Is there a rule against titles with more than two words??!)

Lea Wait would also like everyone in mid-coast Maine to know that she and her husband, Bob Thomas, will be celebrating the opening of an exhibit of Bob’s paintings at the Southport Memorial Library, 1032 Hendricks Hill Road in Southport, Maine, on Thursday, May 4, from 7 until 9 p.m.  If you miss that night, the exhibit will be up from May 4 until June 30.

Lea is also excited to announce that she’s just signed a two-book contract with Crooked Lane for a series about two (very different) sisters running a restaurant on a (fictional) Maine island. The first in the series, tentatively called KINDRED SPIRITS, will be published in June of 2018.

Barb Ross will be appearing at Breakwater Books in Guilford, Connecticut on May 3 at 7:00 pm with Lucy Burdette and Liz Mugavero.


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



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Sisters (and brothers) celebrate a special crime-filled birthday

Sisters in Crime began 30 years ago as a way to support and advocate for female writers, who … wait for it… weren’t getting nearly as many reviews as male writers were, as well as a lack of attention for other things in the writing and publishing world.

Me and Coralie Jensen talk to fans after a Sisters in Crime 30th Anniversary talk at Rodgers Library in Hudson, N.H. this week.

This month, as Sisters celebrates its 30th birthday with library events across the country, things are a little better (a little), but the group is still as necessary as ever.

Now with 3,600 members nationwide, Sisters in Crime offers support, advocacy and community to writers at all levels of the game and, we’re proud to say, welcomes the fellas to join as well.

Many of the bloggers on this site are members of Sisters in Crime. Just as Maine has a huge pool of talented writers, New England seems to be the strongest, most active Sisters group.

If you write, or just love mysteries, check us out.

Is there food? You bet there is! McArthur Library in Biddeford provided these beautiful cupcakes when Kate Flora, Lea Wait and I spoke there on April 20. And they tasted as good as they looked.

Also, keep an eye out for a Sisters event near you. To celebrate, Sisters has joined with its biggest fans and supporters — libraries — to present events across the region. Sisters’ Speakers Bureau, which provides a two or three-author panel to libraries, similar to the Maine Crime Writers Death & Desserts program, has brought authors, libraries and fans together for years and is going strong.

Look for an event near you! Tomorrow, Gayle Lynds, Janet Morgan and I will be at Wiscassett Public Library for a 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sisters open house, with the author program at 11 a.m.

On May 21, a number of us as well as some special guests, will be at the Curtis Library in Brunswick for Sisters’ annual Murder by the Minute event, where we read from our works.

If you can’t make either of those, keep an eye out at your local library either for one of our “birthday” events this spring, or in general. Or ask your local library to have us there.

You can find out more about Sisters in Crime at sincne.org.

Maureen Milliken is the author of the Bernie O’Dea mystery series. Follow her on Twitter at@mmilliken47 and like her Facebook page at Maureen Milliken mysteries. Sign up for email updates at maureenmilliken.com. She hosts the podcast Crime&Stuff with her sister Rebecca Milliken.


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Conferences, Conferences, Conferences

by Barb, on the train to Malice Domestic even as you read this

My business partner and I used to joke that anything anyone asked us to do, we would agree to, as long as it was six months away. It’s so easy to look past the craziness of the present and say, “Oh, sure. Things will have settled down by then. I can do that.” But when you get there, of course they have not.

So, last fall, I apparently thought it was a great idea to attend three conferences three weekends in a row. Last weekend, it was the Maine Crime Wave, sponsored by the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance, where I moderated the debut authors panel. Since I knew that all the authors on my panel, Maureen Milliken, Bruce Coffin, Dick Cass and Brendan Rielly would be funny and informative, I didn’t have to stress about it. Instead, I got to enjoy the day, attending terrific panels and catching up with many fabulous Maine writers after the long winter away. I heard the craft sessions were excellent. I met people from Massachusetts, New Hampshire and even Missouri at the event. Maine CrimeMaster Award winner Tess Gerritsen and her agent Meg Ruley not only spoke on the morning panel, they hung out all day, attending panels and sessions, which I thought was remarkable and generous.

Debut authors panel at the Maine Crime Wave 2017 with Barbara Ross, Richard J. Cass, Maureen Milliken, Brendan Rielly, and Bruce Robert Coffin

This weekend it’s on to Malice Domestic in Bethesda, MD. Thursday night before the conference opens, my fellow Wicked Cozy Authors and I will squeeze in an appearance at the Bethesda Barnes and Noble at 6:30 pm. The store is 0.3 mile from the Malice hotel. We’d love to see you there.

Malice is a conference for fans of traditional mysteries, not a writers’ conference. My four-year-old granddaughter, Viola, calls it the “stinky conference,” because for as long a she can remember, Malice has fallen on her birthday weekend, hence, “Gram can’t come to my party because she’s at a stinky conference.”

It is not, however, a stinky conference. It’s a truly fun gathering of lovers of the traditional mystery. This is my sixth year going (not quite consecutively) and now for me it has a feeling of old home week. I can’t wait to see all the people who share my passion for novels involving murders, a closed pool of suspects, and a brilliant detective, professional or amateur. I’m a panelist at this one. Preparing for that is not difficult, though I have spent the last month or so making sure I have up-to-date bookmarks, and goodie bags for the people sitting at my banquet table and something to wear everyday. The fourth Maine Clambake Mystery, Fogged Inn, is a nominee for the Agatha Award for Best Contemporary Novel, which will be announced on Saturday night.

Next weekend (May 5-7), I’m teaching a class at Muse and the Marketplace, the annual craft conference for all types of writing sponsored by Grub Street, Boston’s premier writing center. I’ll be leading a class called, Four Lies People Will Tell You about Marketing Your Novel, which was born out of posts I wrote for this blog. This one does require a ton of prep since I’ll be standing and talking and taking questions for an hour, and I’ll have slides and a handout and all that stuff. I know what I want to say, but pulling it together is my job for the train ride to and from Malice.

In between Malice and Muse, I’m doing a panel and signing on May 3 at Breakwater Books in Guilford, Connecticut with my friends Liz Mugavero and Lucy Burdette, (Because I am crazy, apparently.)

At this point, I have no idea how I’ll survive, but I know I’ll look back on it all as a wonderful time.





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Traveling Light

Jessie: Enjoying the height of daffodil season.

Every year about this time my thoughts turn to travel. Each spring I take a trip to Bethesda, Maryland for the Malice Domestic conference. I generally fly to the conference and with all the changes to air travel have learned to pack into the smallest carry on suitcase I can manage. I love the challenge of whittling the possibilities down to the fewest items I can manage. I aim to include one item per day I will be traveling plus one extra. Accessories, underpinnings, sleepwear and formal wear don’t count.

Over the years I’ve developed a list of clothing items that mix and match and collapse down to almost nothing when tossed in a bag. I usually only take one extra pair of shoes. I pack one pair of trousers, one day dress and one skirt. I scrunch in a couple of scarves for variety and a couple of shirts and a sweater. I wear one pair of earrings on the plane and plop a second into the suitcase. I throw a tinted moisturizer with sunscreen and a bright red lipstick into a toiletries pouch along with my toothpaste and toothbrush.

I never leave home without my iPad mini, my phone and the charger that juices them both. I load my iPad with books to read, maps of the area and my latest writing project in the Scrivener app. Just before heading out the door I tuck a small knitting project like socks or a lace-weight shawl into my purse and loop an infinity scarf that converts to a cardigan or a dress around my neck to keep out the blasts of arctic chill planes always seem to provide. So far, I have never missed anything I haven’t bothered to take along but have sometimes regretted the things I did make room for in the suitcase.

Readers, do you travel light? Do you pack for every possible contingency? Do you have any favorite travel gear you would recommend or tips to share?


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How to Make a Murder

You may remember this post that I wrote back in July, about the murder mystery I was writing and coordinating for Sisters in Crime and the annual Books in Boothbay event held at Boothbay’s Railway Village. Well, I’m at it again… This time, coordinating an event for the wives of the Masons’ Grand Lodge of Maine at Point Lookout in Northport.

Murder at the Railway Village display

Every year, the wife of the Grand Master is charged with creating an event to remember for fellow wives during the multi-day Annual Communication. This year, Sharon Pulkkinen – wife of Grand Master Thomas Pulkkinen – thought perhaps commemorating the annual luncheon with a murder mystery would be the way to go. Naturally, I was very happy to lend a hand. Sisters in Crime once again stepped up to assist, providing me with three other mystery authors who will be actors in the unfolding drama. I’m very happy to be sharing the stage with Maureen Milliken, Janet Morgan, and Charlene D’Avanzo. In addition, a couple of the ladies there for the luncheon have also kindly volunteered to serve as suspects.

Part of coordinating the event includes putting together the brochure or flyer, which I have a great time doing. I used InDesign for the flyer I did last summer, but this time I’m doing a brochure, and am using a template from www.canva.com. If you’re not familiar with Canva, it’s a fabulous resource for authors — or, really, professionals in any field. They provide templates, royalty-free photos, clip art, and more, for everything from Facebook banners to print brochures. Most everything is drag and drop, so it’s easy to use and very, very inexpensive. Frankly, I don’t know how I lived without them all these years! Here’s one side of the brochure, currently in process:

To stage the crime scene, I was able to get crime scene tape, evidence markers, and evidence bags on the cheap from Amazon. I bought a 5′ x 6′ rug for $20 and a wine glass for a buck from Big Lots, and will be following this recipe to make the blood I’ll be spattering all over the rug. My lovely assistant Ben will pose as the body and I’ll use standard sidewalk chalk to make the chalk outline. The Boothbay event was a family affair so I had to keep things pretty tame with respect to the crime scene, but the ladies of the Grand Lodge have given me license to go nuts this time out. Within reason, of course – I won’t be leaving severed body parts in the lounge or chicken livers on the mantle or anything. But a tasteful spattering of blood should make a nice effect.

The day of the event, I’ll go up early to place the evidence and set the stage. Every participant will get a brochure that includes a list of the evidence found at the scene, details of the crime scene and murder, background on the victim, and a list of suspects along with their connection to the victim, possible motive for the crime, and their alibi for the night of the murder. They’ll have an opportunity over the course of the event to question the suspects, review the crime scene, and come up with their theory of whodunit. Once time is up, attendees will write down and submit their guess as to the murderer and motive. Since there are often multiple people who guess correctly at something like this, there are five prizes up for grabs: a basket of signed mysteries from the authors in attendance, and four centerpieces specially created for the event.

All in all, I think it should be a memorable afternoon for everyone involved. I’ll be sure to take lots of pics of the day (and the crime scene) and share them either here or on social media over the next few weeks. I’m very much looking forward to it!

Jen Blood is USA Today-bestselling author of the Erin Solomon Mysteries and The Darkest Thread, the first novel in the Flint K-9 Search and Rescue Mysteries. To learn more, visit www.jenblood.com. 


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