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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A (Choose Your Own Adventure) Day in Portland, Maine

OldPort

Portland’s Old Port

I first laid eyes on Portland nearly twenty years ago, and I’ve lived here for fifteen. It’s a marvelous place to call home—small enough that its rhythms quickly become familiar, but vibrant enough that I still don’t feel as if I’ve experienced all it has to offer. The greatest difficulty in sticking to this month’s A Day In… theme was narrowing my post down to only one day’s worth of activities, so I didn’t. (I did, however, restrict myself to staying within the city limits, even though that meant no lobster rolls at Fort Williams Park—one of my go-to options whenever entertaining out-of-towners.)

Eat

It’s no secret that Portland is something of a foodie destination. (Sidebar: can we retire the word “foodie”? It sounds ridiculous.) Just ask the Boston Globe. Or the New York Times. Or Travel + Leisure. Or Food & Wine. Hell, I once stopped into the Holy Donut and saw two separate TV crews shooting spots on either side of their tiny Old Port shop.

Mmm. Nosh.

Mmm, Nosh

I could write ten posts about my favorite places in Portland to eat, but I’ll do my best to exercise (a little) restraint. If you’re passing through, you could do worse than starting your day at the aforementioned Holy Donut, or Dutch’s, or Standard Baking. Feel like pizza? Slab or Otto is sure to please. A little peckish in the afternoon? Try Ten Ten Pié. Looking for a damn fine burger? Head to Nosh or Woodford F&B. If you like barbecue, the folks behind Terlingua sure know their way around a smoker. And if you wanna have a meal so tasty it’ll change your life, hit up Central Provisions or Miyake for dinner. Afterward, be sure to swing by Hunt & Alpine for a nightcap.

Of course, that’s just one man’s opinion, and it barely scratches the surface. If you want to dig deeper into the Portland food scene, Portland Food Map is an indispensable resource. I can’t recommend the site highly enough. I’ll probably weep when Anestes tires of running it.

Drink

I’m not gonna lie to you. This is where the one-day thing gets dicey. If you wanna check out Portland’s booze scene, don’t be a hero. Prioritize. Designate a driver or take the Brew Bus. And for god’s sake, hydrate.

Free Flight Courtesy of Allagash

A free flight courtesy of Allagash

For my money, the best place to start is Industrial Way, off Riverside, where the venerable and munificent Allagash offers free flights and a spectacular tour (the latter is also free, but requires you to sign up online). Across the road from Allagash, Foundation and Austin Street are quietly brewing up some of the tastiest beer on the planet. Alas, Bissell Brothers used to be there too, but they recently moved to a snazzy new brewery on Thompson’s Point that’s more than worth the trip if you, like me, love hops… and Cellardoor Winery is right next door.

East Bayside offers you some good bang for your booze buck, with loads of options within walking distance. Rising Tide and Bunker are my favorites of the breweries. Urban Farm Fermentory makes tasty cider and kombucha. Maine Craft Distilling pours free samples of its spirits, including a shockingly good malt whiskey and a blueberry moonshine for those who like their hooch a little sweeter. And just up the hill on Washington, Oxbow and Maine Mead Works are worth a stop.

See/Hear/Do

Seems to me, you’ve gotta walk off all that food and booze. To that end, here are a few suggestions.

Like museums? Whether your taste runs from fine art to cryptozoology, Portland’s got you covered. Plays? Check out Portland Stage (I’m writing this post on Saturday, and I’ve got tickets to see Heathers there tonight). We’ve got no shortage of good music coming through (I’m particularly psyched to see Julien Baker next week). And I’ve already written at length about my love for Portland Architectural Salvage.

Jewell Falls

Jewell Falls

Maybe you’d prefer something a little more outdoorsy? You could wander the Old Port (where I put Lester’s fictitious bar) or the Back Cove. Explore the islands of Casco Bay by ferry—or better yet, by kayak. You may know Portland is crisscrossed by countless nature trails, but did you know it also has its own waterfall? Until recently, I didn’t.

Portland’s got loads to offer book nerds, too. A spectacular public library. Three great indie bookstores—LetterpressLongfellow, and Sherman’s—with another on the way. (If you stop into any of them, might I recommend you pick up a copy of THE KILLING KIND? Most hardcovers in town are already signed. The paperback comes out 8/2.) And I almost hesitate to mention it because it’s something of a secret, but one of my favorite hidden spots in town is the garden tucked behind Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s house on Congress Street.

Stay

Yes, those are typewriters.

Yes, those are typewriters

Portland’s got loads of nice hotels, but since I make my living peddling words, I wanted to highlight one in particular: The Press Hotel. Once the headquarters of the Portland Press Herald, it’s since been reborn as every writer’s ideal home away from home.

Of course, you could just move here to save yourself the trouble of finding a hotel. Lord knows it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

***

Chris Holm is the author of the Collector trilogy, which blends crime and fantasy, and the Michael Hendricks thrillers. His first Hendricks novel, THE KILLING KIND, was nominated for an Anthony, a Barry, a Lefty, and a Macavity Award and named a New York Times Editors’ Choice, a Boston Globe Best Book of 2015, and Strand Magazine’s #1 Book of 2015. Hendricks returns September 13th in RED RIGHT HAND.

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Where I Get My Ideas

Dorothy Cannell: I recently told my husband Julian that I was turning into Missnancydrew (160x300) Marple.

“An urge to sit knitting something white?” he asked.

“No. My wild knitting days are long behind me. I’m talking about seeing wickedness at every turn.”

He looked nervous. “What have I done? Left my socks on the floor?”

“Nothing to do with you. It’s that TV commercial, the one about being alert to the warning signs of Alzheimer’s. One of which is leaving objects in peculiar places.”

“I haven’t seen it.”

“You wouldn’t have.” Julian has an uncanny ability to nap through commercials and snap awake the second the program we are watching resumes. “It goes like this,” I said. “A man looking to be in his sixties to seventies is seated on a sofa reading a newspaper.  A female voice is heard in the background exclaiming quaveringly, ‘I don’t understand it.’ Man on sofa: ‘Have you lost your keys again?’ Emphasis on the again. That was enough to make me dislike him.”

Julian: “He’s an actor in a commercial.”

“If he were a character in a book I could dislike him the moment he opened his mouth.”

“What next in this tension packed mini-drama?”

Question mark“He lowers the newspaper reluctantly and says, ‘I’ll help you look.’ But does he do so? No! He pours himself a cup of coffee. Opens the refrigeration picks up a carton, we’ll assume from the size it’s half and half, and low and behold there are the keys. He’s staring at them, shaking his head when the woman comes into the room looking utterly bewildered. Their eyes meet, hers glazed with fear. ‘It’s alright baby,’ he says’ his tone making clear that it’s anything but.

“Not so very odd if you think about it. Picture yourself coming into the house with the keys in one hand and the carton of half and half you’d just driven to the store for when something jolts your attention somewhere else. The phone rings, a picture falls off the wall and lands with an almighty crash, you hear the cat scream from outside letting you know it’s in a fight with that nasty feline from next door. The keys drop from you hand onto the refrigerator shelf. Now if the husband had found them in the flour canister or hung on the Christmas tree that would be worrisome.”

“So where’s wickedness? Julian asked. “Pharmaceutical companies running commercials that unnecessarily panic older people?”

“I’d prefer they took a more circumspect approach, but no, the evil emanates from the husband. The first time I watched I took him for an insensitive clod. On further reflection it came to me that the Gaslight syndrome was afoot here. He put the keys behind the carton. He had for some time been misplacing them and other objects.

“He’s been wanting her dead since he fell madly in love with his Swedish massage therapist thirty years his junior. Oh, you can well believe he’s been spreading the word that his wife’s mental capacities are rapidly declining, and those spending time in her frazzled presence will see the signs. When she‘s found drowned in a local lake it will be taken for granted she wandered away from home during the night.”

“It’s a commercial, Dorothy.”

“I know that. And thanks for never having called me ‘baby’ His use that term when Miss-Marplespeaking to her underlined his determination to crush any self-esteemed he’d left her with.”

“I’m all for husbands,” said Julian, “but I hope he doesn’t get away with it. Being married to a writer takes its toll.”

“I won’t let him, because I’m going to write the rest, but not until I’ve reread a Miss Marple. Such an inspiration at age 130 as she must have been towards the end of her appearances. She was still a whiz at ferreting out evil. A life fully lived, focused on the now, not what may or may not happen down the road. Isn’t what we should all hope for?”

Dorothy

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A Day in Belgrade Lakes

When the Maine Crime Writers were asked to write posts for our summer series “A Day In…” my choice was obvious.

E.B. White, 75 year ago, wrote an essay about Belgrade Lakes, “Once More to the Lake.” He’d taken his son there, to the same place he himself spent summers as a child.

Summertime, oh summeritme. It's everywhere in Belgrade Lakes.

Summertime, oh summertime. It’s everywhere in Belgrade Lakes.

The essay was about a lot of things: life, mortality, days lost and found. But it was also about Belgrade Lakes and how it made him feel. At one point in the essay he just lets loose:

Summertime, oh summertime, pattern of life indelible, the fade-proof lake, the woods unshatterable, the pasture with the sweetfern and the juniper forever and ever, summer without end.

The fade-proof lake

The fade-proof lake

The great thing about Belgrade Lakes, a little village about 15 miles north of Augusta squeezed onto an isthmus between Great and Long ponds, is that much of what White wrote about in that essay still rings true. The smells, the lakes, the camps. Boating to the store, which is still there and much like it was when he wrote about it.

Main Street, Belgrade Lakes

Main Street, Belgrade Lakes

I’m lucky enough to live here. But it’s easy to spend a day in Belgrade Lakes. Easy in more ways than one. This central Maine village, a small but important part of the spread-out town of Belgrade, is true vacation land. If you’re looking for fancy restaurants and shops, snappy downtowns, lobsters or lighthouses, you can find them somewhere else in Maine. Belgrade Lakes is quintessential relaxed summertime slowdown central. It’s a throw-back town that summer residents on the lakes still boat to, where the town’s seasonal eateries roll the dice on nice weather for a few months and seating is outside at picnic tables, and most of the things to do don’t involve spending money.

Hello, Good Pie. The bakery and coffee shop is a popular morning stop in Belgrade Lakes.

Hello, Good Pie. The bakery and coffee shop is a popular morning stop in Belgrade Lakes.

No morning in The Lakes would be complete without a coffee and pastry of breakfast sandwich from Hello, Good Pie. The bakery and coffee shop at the south end of town on Route 27 (Main Street), has been a must-stop for locals and tourists alike since it opened last year. It’s just one of many small, local eateries in town. No one goes hungry in Belgrade Lakes.

Belgrade Lakes' town beach is just the thing on a relaxed summer day.

Belgrade Lakes’ town beach is just the thing on a relaxed summer day.

After breakfast, the best way to relax on a nice summer day is to head to the town beach on Long Pond, a minute or two walk from downtown. This isn’t some sandy, suntan-oil smeared, people-packed beach. It’s a grassy spot in the woods, with granite steps — a vestige from the old Lakeshore Hotel that burned down in the 1950s — leading into the too-clear-to-believe water of Long Pond. Sometimes it’s crowded, but not often.

If boating is more your thing, there’s a public boat landing on Great Pond, and you can put a canoe or kayak anywhere on the three bodies of water that define the mile-long village: Great and Long pond, and Mill Stream, which connects them.

Long Pond loon

Long Pond loon

Great Pond, which the play and later the movie, “On Golden Pond” was the inspiration for, bounds the east side of the village. Long Pond, which stretches along the west side, may not have inspired a movie, but its crystal-clear water, mind-blowing sunsets and ever-present loons have inspired a love of Maine that keep people coming back year after year.

The Maine Lakes Resource Center is a great place to stop in on a hot, or rainy, day.

The Maine Lakes Resource Center is a great place to stop in on a hot, or rainy, day.

A relaxing stroll down Main Street is also in order. No fancy shops here, but several small gift shops and the excellent Maine Lakes Resource Center, which is a great place to spend some time on a rainy day or to get out of the heat. Not only does it have lots of exhibits and information about the lakes, but also about the history of the area. It also frequently hosts talks and events, all of it free.

Spiro's Gyros, one of the excellent seasonal outdoor-eating choices in Belgrade Lakes.

Spiro’s Gyros, one of the excellent seasonal outdoor-eating choices in Belgrade Lakes.

Hungry already? The lunchtimes options abound. The best gyro you’ll find anywhere is at Spiro’s Gyros on Main Street. Right across the street is Pete’s Pig, some of the best pulled pork  you’ll find anywhere. Want more? Down the street is 182 Main, with wood-fired pizza. All are seasonal businesses with outside seating. Nothing fancy in the Lakes, because we’re on vacation, right?

View of Long Pond from the hike up The Mountain in Rome, Maine.

View of Long Pond from the hike up The Mountain in Rome, Maine.

Want more of a walk than the three of four blocks of Main Street? The Kennebec Highlands offers trails throughout the region. One within walking distance north on Route 27 in Rome, The Mountain, is a great hike for all ages and the payoff is views of both Long and Great ponds at the top. There are dozens of hikes within a short drive of the village, and if you want something more strenuous, drive north on Route 27 and within 45 minutes you’ll be entering the High Peaks region of Franklin County. Just get back in time for dinner!

The public docks on Mill Stream are a great place to relax.

The public docks on Mill Stream are a great place to relax.

But you don’t have to keep moving around. It’s vacation, after all. There are a lot of places in the village to just sit and watch — whether it’s people or the water. Mill Stream, which connects Great Pond and Long Pond, is a happy thoroughfare in the summer, but also a home to ducks, loons, sweet breezes and daydreaming. Take a seat along the public docks behind the post office and the lakes resource center annex, and across the street from Day’s Store. You won’t want to get back up.

Day's Store, a hub for both locals and tourists.

Day’s Store, a hub for both locals and tourists.

Speaking of Day’s Store, no trip to the village is complete without a stop there. The same store E.B. White wrote about in “Once More to the Lake” caters to area residents year-round and also is a must for summer people and those passing through. It’s got groceries, pizza and subs, coffee, booze, bait, outdoor equipment, the best home-made doughnuts in Maine and even some books by one of the town’s resident mystery writers (that’s me!).

Staying on one of the lakes, tie up the boat behind Day's (or the post office or Maine Lakes Resource Center) and have some ice cream, do your shopping or stroll around town.

Staying on one of the lakes, tie up the boat behind Day’s (or the post office or Maine Lakes Resource Center) and have some ice cream, do your shopping or stroll around town.

You can eat your sub or drink your coffee at the picnic tables out behind the store on the shore of Long Pond, and get an ice cream fix at the ice cream window that overlooks the lake. Those who have camps on The Lakes boat to Day’s, tying up at the dock behind the store, or from Great Pond, the docks on Mill Stream at the Maine Lakes Resource Center and its annex next to the post office and across the street from Days. Just like E.B. White used to do!

The Sunset Grille, which frequently lives up to its name, is where we wind down at night in Belgrade Lakes.

The Sunset Grille, which frequently lives up to its name, is where we wind down at night in Belgrade Lakes.

After all that swimming, walking around and hiking, a great way to wind down at night is at the Sunset Grille. Trivia night and live music not only keep the locals busy year-round (it’s the only restaurant open in town during the winter). Union Methodist Church also has a coffee hour with music on many Saturday nights, and Day’s sometimes has music, wine tastings and out door movies on the lake. That’s about what you’re going to get for live entertainment in the village.

e Village Inn, which also has live entertainment many nights on its tavern on Mill Stream. Or rent a camp on one of the many lakes. Once the sun goes down, the only sound you’ll hear are the cries of loons and the breeze in the trees.

When the crime writers first talked about writing this series, there were some jokes, as there always are in Maine, about wanting to keep our special places secret and keep the crowds away. But I’m not telling you anything E.B. White didn’t already say 75 years ago (and better). So come on up for a day or longer. It’s worth it.

COMING UP: If Belgrade Lakes still has too much hustle and bustle for you, check back on July 27, when I’m posting “A Day in Baxter State Park.”

The interior of Day's Store includes...wait, what's that? ...books by the town's resident mystery writer!

The interior of Day’s Store includes…wait, what’s that? …books by the town’s resident mystery writer!

 

Maureen Milliken, a Belgrade Lakes resident, is the author of the Bernie O’Dea mystery series (available at Day’s Store among other places!), the second of which, No News is Bad News, was released earlier this month. Follow her on Twitter at @mmilliken47, on Facebook at Maureen Milliken mysteries, and check out what’s going on with her books or sign up for email updates at maureenmilliken.com.

BOOK SIGNING: Maureen will be signing No News is Bad News and Cold Hard News from 10 a.m. to noon, Saturday, July 23, at The Children’s Book Cellar, 52 Main St., Waterville.

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Weekend Update: July 16-17, 2016

fallsbooks1Next week at Maine Crime Writers there will be posts by Dorothy Cannell (Monday), Chris Holm (Tuesday), Kathy Lynn Emereson/Kaitlyn Dunnett (Wednesday), Lea Wait (Thursday), and Dick Cass (Friday). And in our special “A Day In . . . “ series, Maureen Milliken will post a blog tomorrow and Vaughn Hardacker will chime in on July 24th.

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

from Kaitlyn Dunnett/Kathy Lynn Emerson/Kate Emerson:

byroyaldecreecoverAs many of you know, a few years back I wrote six non-mystery historical novels using the pseudonym Kate Emerson. Although they are all set at the court of Henry VIII, they are not a series. Each is a stand alone featuring a real Tudor woman as the central character. The Kindle editions of four of the six are now selling for below $5 (a BIG improvement, believe me!) and one of them, By Royal Decree, is also now available in MP3-CD format. They’re all available as Audible downloads. Check out the details by going to Amazon and typing in “Kate Emerson.” If you just want more information, you can read about all the books at http://www.kateemersonhistoricals.com  Enjoy!

On Thursday, July 21st, Kate Flora and Roger Guay will be at the Gray Library at 6:30 to talk about their book, A Good Man with a Dog.

On Saturday, July 16, (today if you’re reading this post when it is first published) Lea Wait and Barbara Ross will be at Mainely Murders Bookstore in Kennebunk, Maine at 3:00 pm. Love to see you there!

Mainely Murder poster

 

ON Saturday, July 23, Maureen Milliken will be reading and signing her new release, No News is Bad News, at 10 a.m. to noon at The Children’s Book Cellar, 52 Main St., Waterville. (It has more than just children’s books, obviously!). The first in her Bernie O’Dea series, Cold Hard News, will also be available.

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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