Weekend Update: October 25-26, 2014

fallsbooks1Next week at Maine Crime Writers there will be posts by Dorothy Cannell on Monday and John Clark on Tuesday with a special guest post on Wednesday and our annual Halloween blogs on Thursday and Friday.

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

Kaitlyn Dunnett: The winner of an autographed copy of Ho-Ho-Homicide, chosen in a random drawing from those who commented on Monday’s post, is Nikki Andrews, who shared a great story about a “Christmas tree sampler.” Want another chance at a free book? I’m visiting Dru’s Book Musings on Monday and Wicked Cozy Authors on Tuesday. The direct link to “A Day in the Life on a Christmas Tree Farm” as written by Liss MacCrimmon for Dru’s Book Musings is http://wp.me/p3nHH-5yt but it won’t be live until October 27th.

Lea Wait: Busy weekend coming up NEXT week! On November 1 from 10-4 I’ll be one of the many authors at the Albany Children’s Book Festival — it’s at Albany Academies, just off New Scotland Road, in Albany, New York. And the next day, Sunday, November 2, I’ll be a guest on the live variety radio show (what fun! yes, a few places still do those! The Cold River Radio Show has been called the north country version of Garrison Keillor) in New Hampshire. That’s seven p.m. Sunday night in Intervale, NH. If you’d like to be part of the live audience (there’ll be a book and CD signing afterward) you can get tickets at White Birch Books in North Conway.

Kate Flora: This week, I’ll be at the Edythe Dyer Library in Hampden on Wednesday at 6:00 p.m., and in South Portland on Thursday at 7:00. I’m also very excited to be on Maine Calling this coming Thursday at noon for a special Halloween discussion of Stephen King’s book, Carrie.

A Taste of MurderBarb Ross: Kensington has packaged Clammed Up, the first book in my Maine Clambake Mystery series, with the first book in Joanne Fluke’s Hannah Swenson Mystery series and the first book in Lee Hollis’s Hayley Powell Food and Cocktails Mystery series set in Bar Harbor, Maine. The ebook, A Taste of Murder, interestingly called a “boxed set,” goes on sale on Monday, but you can pre-order it here.


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. Don’t forget that comments are entered for a chance to win our wonderful basket of books and the very special moose and lobster cookie cutters.


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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Slow-Cooker Curried Fish & Butternut Squash Stew

Hi. Barb here.

MusseledOutFrontcoverWe’ve had one of our trademark beautiful falls in New England this year, but the last few days, a nor’easter has been lashing at us. That’s put me in mind of this delicious recipe that my husband Bill Carito developed for Musseled Out, the next book in the Maine Clambake Mystery series.

This slow-cooker stew is delightful, mixing so many great fall flavors. The base can cook all day with the fish and kale added an hour before serving.




2 Tablespoons olive oil
3 ounces pancetta, diced
½ pound kielbasa, cut into half-inch rounds
2 medium onions, sliced
1-2 red peppers, quartered and cut into thick slices
3-4 fat cloves garlic, chopped
2 Tablespoons curry powder
½ teaspoon cayenne
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 Tablespoon kosher salt
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
1½ Tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
2 cups dried chickpeas, soaked overnight
1 pound butternut squash, cut into large pieces
1 small to medium head cauliflower, cut into florets
3-4 cups diced tomatoes or 1 28 oz. can with juices
4 cups vegetable broth
1½ pound fish such as pollock or cod, cut into thick pieces
8-10 ounces chopped kale
1 13.5-ounce can coconut milk


Slow Cooker Curried Fish and Butternut Squash SoupHeat oil in pan on medium heat. Add pancetta and lightly brown, about four to five minutes. Add kielbasa rounds and lightly brown, about three minutes.

Add onion, peppers, and garlic and soften, about three minutes. Stir in curry powder, cayenne, lemon juice, salt, brown sugar, and ginger. Deglaze pan with a 1/2 cup of broth, if necessary, and scrape everything into slow cooker.

Add soaked chickpeas, squash, cauliflower, tomatoes, and vegetable broth.

Cook on low for seven hours. Add fish and kale and cook another forty-five minutes. Add coconut milk, adjust seasonings and cook fifteen minutes to meld flavors. Serve with crusty bread.


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A Cliché In Time Is Worth Two In The Bush by Al Lamanda


I live in a really peaceful cove on a medium-sized lake in the country. This quiet setting is ideal for inspiration and writing. Most of the time. My closest neighbor is an eighty-five-year old man who looks and acts exactly like the Lucky Charms leprechaun on a sugar high. He is a retired history teacher and his opinion of fiction, especially mystery/crime fiction is right up there with his opinion of stepping in dog poo. So he sees fit to drop in on me whenever he feels like it and he feels like it almost every day. Since I don’t write non-fiction history books I can’t possibly be busy. Right?

Anyway, a few weeks ago on a Sunday afternoon, the leprechaun opens my front door, walks in and takes a seat on the sofa. He turns on the television and goes nuts with the remote until he finds a football game to watch. (cause I can’t possibly be busy. right?) I was in the middle of a paragraph and did my best to tune the leprechaun out. However, he is the type of leprechaun that isn’t content to just walk in uninvited, watch my TV and eat the candy in the candy dish on the end table, no…no…no. He is a very vocal and animated leprechaun who feels compelled to shout at the TV as if the announcers of the game not only can hear him, but should also follow his expert advice.

“Don’t cry over spilt milk,” I heard the leprechaun shout at the TV when there was an argument over a penalty. A few minutes later, he shouted, “That’s it, that the whole nine yards.” And still later, “At the end of the day you lose.”

By now I had given up all thoughts of writing and wandered over to my sofa just in time to hear the leprechaun say, “It’s in overtime. They had an ace up their sleeve.”

I reached for a Snicker’s mini-bar in the candy dish and the leprechaun said, “Help yourself.” I did and looked at the TV. “The quarterback put his eggs all in one basket, that’s why it’s in overtime,” the leprechaun said. A few minutes later the kicker kicked a field goal and the game ended. “The rest is history,” the leprechaun said.

That’s when I realized that my history teacher leprechaun neighbor spoke almost entirely in clichés whenever he made a point. (seems like it to me, anyway) I politely pointed this out to him and he said, “That’s a far cry from the truth.” Getting a bit aggravated here, I asked, “What does that mean, a far cry from the truth? Is somebody crying when they tell a lie? Is the truth far, far away, what?” The leprechaun, sensing my aggravation tried to calm me down by saying that we should, “Bury the hatchet,” and “Call it a day.”

We did and he left, but only after the candy dish had been emptied. I turned off the TV and returned to my desk, but the damage had been done. My head was now filled with clichés. Tired, stale, overused clichés. For a writer, a cliché is a death sentence. If I read a cliché in a book I am most likely not going to finish that book.

Clichés are everywhere these days it seems, even on the news. The one I hate the most is also the most overused one, the At The End Of The Day cliché that every talking head on the news uses over and over again to make their point.

So if you write for a living, avoid using clichés at all costs. Using clichés means poor and lazy writing and that you have nothing original to say. Don’t believe me. Pick up a book, any book and if you read the phrases Against All Odds, American As Apple Pie, As The Crow Flies, and Back Against The Wall within the first few pages, I can pretty much guarantee it’s a book you won’t finish. A book you’ll Avoid Like The Plague, so to speak.

With that in mind, I compiled a list of the clichés I hate the most. I’m sure you have your own list and many will overlap.

Don’t Cry Over Spilt Milk. (Usually I just wipe it up or wait for my cat to do it for me, but cry over it? Never.)

The Rest Is History. (Everything is history if you think about it.)

Avoid Like The Plague. (Umm, sure, no problem.)

Every Cloud Has A Silver Lining. (And you know this how?)

When It Rains, It Pours. (Except for those days when it lightly drizzles or is a steady, but moderate rain that ends with a beautiful rainbow.)

Cat Got Your Tongue? (I don’t even know what this means. Am I asking you to speak by somehow suggesting that my over zealous kitty has clamped down on you tongue and is preventing you from speaking?)

Dressed To Kill. (Exactly what does one wear when planning to kill someone? I missed that page in the Bean’s clothing catalog.)

Spitting Image. (Sounds messy and gross to me.

Don’t Judge A Book By It’s Cover. (Unless the cover is blank of all information about the story, title and author, how else am I to judge a book?)

Another Day, Another Dollar. (Okay, us author’s work pretty cheap, but a dollar a day? Come on)

All In A Day’s Work. (What if you’re on the night-shift?)

Beat A Dead Horse. (Who, I ask you who, would do this?)

Best Thing Since Sliced Bread. (Sliced bread is not that big of a deal, really. You get some bread, you slice it. It even comes already sliced and ready to go, if, at the end of the day you’re too tired to slice it yourself.)

Beggars Can’t Be Choosers. (Of course they can, especially if they choose to beg.)

Bored To Tears. (I usually just take a nap when I’m bored. Cry when I’m bored, never.)

Open A Can Of Worms. (What store sells worms in a can?)

Cross That Bridge When You Come To It. (I’d like to see you cross that bridge before you reach it.)

Dead As A Doornail. (Somebody write me if you have ever used nails that were living.)

Dressed To The Nines. (Somebody? Anybody? Write me if you’ve ever left the house wearing a nine.) There are a lot of theories on this one, but no one is really sure.

It Goes Without Saying. (Then shut up and don’t say it.)

Okay, that’s my list of the clichés I hate the most. I’m sure you have your own. The important thing is that (insert at the end of the day here) agents and publishers will judge your work by the number of clichés you use in your writing and most likely reject it as lazy writing.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I see a leprechaun coming up my driveway and I’m going to hide the candy dish and lock my doors. Just remember that, at the end of the day using too many clichés is the kiss of death for a writer.




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Collecting … Stories … and Scottish Jewelry

The Cairngorm pin my grandmother left me.

The Cairngorm pin my grandmother left me.

I’m Lea Wait and, as many of you know, I’ve been involved with antiques all of my life. My great-grandfather sold antiques and fine Scottish and Irish silver, crystal and linens in his Boston shop over a hundred years ago. My grandmother was a dealer in antique dolls and toys; her business was very like that of Gussie’s in my Shadows Antique Print Mystery Series. And my mother and I were (and I still am, although I’m not as active as I used to be) antique print dealers.

I grew up in a family of both dealers and collectors. (And, yes, there’s a difference!) My father collected ivory carvings and scrimshaw. And then broken bank notes (paper money from American banks that went bankrupt.) My sister Nancy collected Thomas Nast cartoons and wood engravings and letters. My sister Doris collected miniature Mercedes-Benz cars, and vintage Fiestaware dishes. Me? When I was a teenager I collected political memorabilia and old postcards and out-of-print Edith Wharton books. When I was older I collected special Christmas tree ornaments and old Santa Clauses.

My daughter Ali collects niello jewelry from Thailand, where she was born. My daughters Caroline and Elizabeth collect Spode Christmas Tree china. One

Cairngorm piece that may be worn as a pin, pendant - or scarf clip. I bought it in Edinburgh.

Cairngorm piece that may be worn as a pin, pendant – or scarf clip. I bought it in Edinburgh.

of my grandsons has growing collections of baseball cars and LEGOs.

But in recent years tastes (and space) have changed. I’ve sold my political and postcard collections. My sister donated her Nasts to a museum. There is a limit to how much china you can actually use and hundreds of Santas can become too many Santas.

Today I don’t really collect anything (the thousands of books in my home don’t count, really, because I use them as well as admire them. And that’s my story.)

But I do have some family pieces I value, and that I won’t part with.

One small collection I have is of Scottish jewelry. My grandmother, who came from Scotland, always called it “Cairngorm” jewelry, and left a piece of hers to each of my sisters and I. In Scotland today it is called “pebble jewelry,” and souvenir shops sell imitations of the real thing. In the Harry Potter movies, actress Maggie Smith wears one.

Real pieces are different colored agates and other Scottish stones set in sterling silver settings. They became popular, along with tartans, after Queen Victoria and Prince Albert bought their Scottish castle, Balmoral, in 1852. Victoria and Albert often dressed in tartans, and so did their children. Some of the first pieces of “pebble” jewelry were kilt pins.

Cairngorm anchor pin.

Cairngorm anchor pin.

Agates include amethyst, citrine, carnelian, jasper or bloodstone … they can be cloudy or clear or transparent. In this jewelry, small pieces of stone are cut and set to be level with their silver settings. I have one piece which is just one stone; others have perhaps two dozen stones.

I first loved them because my grandmother loved them. And then I loved them more when I found out more about them. And that’s the best reason for having a collection.

For example, one of my pieces has a special meaning … it’s in the shape of an anchor. Anchor pins were worn by Scots who fished off the East Coast of Scotland, especially those who worked out of Aberdeen. Like the heavy sweaters they wore, knit especially for them by wives and mothers and sweethearts, the pins were worn to bring good luck on the waters and, if fate was not with their owners, to help identify their body so they could be brought home.

I love that my book Seaward Born, although not set in Scotland, pictured a drawing of an anchor very like my pin at the beginning of each chapter. That pin has inspired other stories, too … one of my “not ready for publication” books is about one of these anchor pins, and those who wore it.

I often look at the pieces of Pebble Jewelry I have and wonder about those who wore them before I did. Because, like all antiques, each piece has a story.

And that’s what I’ve always thought collections were: symbols of the stories they told.


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Oh yes, even FOOD can be scary

We’re entering the Halloween season, when pumpkins abound and houses and bushes are bedecked with spiders and ghosts and witches. But as crime writers, our minds often also turn to whimsy at the table. So here, for your seasonal delectation, are some ways you can make your dinners as scary as your decorations.

How about Spooky Spider Eggs?

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Recipe at: http://www.sunset.com/food-wine/holidays-occasions/good-halloween-candy-recipes/spider-deviled-eggs-recipe

Everyone loves chocolate cake, right? And frosting? So here’s how, with just a few small additions, you can make it look absolutely spooky. Yup. Red food coloring and a carving knife.

A red velvet cake with a twist?

A red velvet cake with a twist?








Roasted brains, anyone?

Okay, so this is really whole roasted cauliflower, but it sure would look spooky on your Halloween table. Here’s the recipe: http://www.purewow.com/entry_detail/recipe/8821/Use_Your_Head.htm?referrer=rss_recipe

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And for more creepy ideas, try these websites:



Stay tuned for our Halloween specials, when Maine librarians tell us about their scariest books.

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