Susan Vaughan here. I posted two killer Thanksgiving recipes last year, and this year I’m reprising the cranberry sauce one and adding a new one.

Thanksgiving is my husband’s favorite holiday—family and friends, great food, but no pressure about gifts—so we have the complete Thanksgiving turkey dinner, no matter it’s just the two of us. Back in the Dark Ages when I grew up, the only cranberry sauce I knew was a tasteless jelly that came in a can (sorry, Ocean Spray). One spoonful and I decided this side to the turkey extravaganza was not for me. As an adult, I shunned even homemade sauce, thinking it would be no better. It wasn’t until I married that I learned to love the real thing. At my in-laws’ home for our first Thanksgiving as a married couple, of course I couldn’t turn down my mother-in-law’s homemade whole-berry cranberry sauce.

Cranberry sauce

Yeah, it’s a cliché in novels when an author describes taste as exploding on the tongue, but that was exactly my experience. At last, a cranberry sauce that made my taste buds dance. Every Thanksgiving since, I’ve made her killer recipe and am sharing it with you in her memory. The recipe can be adjusted for different amounts of berries.


Ingredients: 12 ounces fresh cranberries, 1 ½ cups of water, 1 ½ cups of sugar. Combine all in a saucepan and heat on stove top.

Stir until sugar is dissolved. Bring to a boil and boil about 20 minutes. Let cool slightly, then pour into a bowl or mold. Chill. The sauce jells nicely and looks pretty, almost too pretty to eat.

Next up is a Maine version of the sweet-potato/yam casserole my mother used to bake.


PUREED YAMS Ingredients for 6 servings: 3 yams or sweet potatoes, cooked, then peeled and cut into 3-inch pieces, 4 tablespoons butter, cut up, 1 tsp nutmeg, ½ tsp cinnamon, Salt and pepper to taste, ½ cup maple syrup (or to taste). I think this recipe would be good with winter squash as well.

Sprinkle cooked and cut-up yams with spices, maple syrup and butter. Mash by hand or lightly in food processor until pureed, but take care not to overwork them. Bake in 9 X 11″ dish at 375 for 15-20 minutes to heat.

And if you make it the way my mother did and the way my husband likes, top with tiny marshmallows and broil until they melt and/or brown.

Sweet-Potato-Casserole marshmallows

Anyone who would like printable versions of these recipes, email me at Put “Thanksgiving recipes” in the Subject line. And Happy Thanksgiving to all!

*** My latest release is ALWAYS A SUSPECT, the prequel to my Task Force Eagle series. You can find more information about my books at

Always a Suspect 3D small

Posted in Susan's posts | Tagged , , | 10 Comments

Best New England Crime Stories 2016: Red Dawn–The Maine Connections

ReddawncoverfrontHi All. Barb here. Every year I write a blog post about the Maine writers whose stories appear in the lastest release in the Best New England Crime Stories series from Level Best Books. Sadly, this will be my last year to do so. My era as a co-editor of this delightful series has ended. Happily, this is not the end of the anthology. A new group of editors has stepped in. They expect to open submissions, as usual, in January.

Maine authors are always over-represented in Level Best submissions. Partially, I think this is because Level Best has had a Maine connection going back to one of the founding editors, Kate Flora. Another reason is that Maine has great organizations like the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance to get the word out about submissions. But mostly, I think it is because much of the best crime writing in New England is happening in Maine. This year we have an unusual bumper crop of nine Maine authors, whose stories range from classic mysteries to woo-woo to noir and everything in between.

You can purchase Best New England Crime Stories 2016: Red Dawn in paperback or Kindle formats from Amazon here, for Nook here, and in paperback directly from Level Best here.

This year’s authors, as always, include familiar faces and new.

Dorothy Cannell 2We all know Dorothy Cannell, who is a true force of nature. Despite her long and glorious publishing history, her story, “Singed” represents her Level Best debut. Dorothy is one of those rare people who can somehow squeeze a classic whodunnit into 5000 words. Born in Nottingham, England, Dorothy came to the U.S. in 1963. She married Julian Cannell, and lived in Peoria, Illinois, from 1965 to 2004. They now reside on the Maine coast with their dog Teddy and a cat named Killer.

Bruce Robert Coffin makes his fiction debut in Red Dawn with his story, “Foolproof,” which gives new meaning to the expression, “the bottom of the barrel.” An award-winning artist and retired police detective sergeant, Bruce Robert Coffin has penned a number of short stories along with his first novel, The Reaping. He resides in Maine with his wife.

SanfordEmersonAnother Maine debut author is Sanford Emerson, whose story, “Devious Doings in Dallas,” impressed the editors with its strong voice and point of view. After retiring from a thirty-five year career in law enforcement and corrections in Franklin County, Maine, Sandy operates a Christmas tree farm and a woodworking business in Wilton, Maine. If this sounds a little familiar–it should. Sandy is the husband of Maine Crime Writer, Kathy Lynn Emerson.

kateflorathumbnailAnother familiar name is Kate Flora, whose story, “Nice Guy,” shows us why they always finish last. Kate is the author of fourteen books. Death Dealer was an Agatha and Anthony nominee. And Grant You Peace won the 2015 Maine Literary Award. She’s a former assistant attorney general, a founder of Level Best Books, and was international president of Sisters in Crime.

judygreenJudith Green continues her streak as the only author to be published in every anthology by Level Best–lucky thirteen this year. Her story, “Dear Manuel,” continues her chronicle of the life of Margery Easton with a modern take on an epistolary story. As a former Adult Education Director for an eleven-town school district in rural western Maine, Judy has written twenty-five high-interest/low-level books for adult students. Her mystery stories have been chosen for each of the anthologies of New England Crime published by Level Best Books. “A Good, Safe Place,” published in 2010 in Thin Ice, was nominated for an Edgar®.

ginmackeythumbnailIn Gin Mackey‘s story, “The Demise of My Wives,” an author finds a cure for writer’s block that’s both grisly and surprising.  Gin spent years writing for Fortune 500 corporations before finding her passion: writing fiction. Her short story “Swimming Lessons” appeared in the anthology Fish or Cut Bait. Gin lives on the coast of Maine, where she’s hard at work on her novel Disappear Our Dead, featuring Abby Tiernan, a grieving widow turned home funeral guide.

dale_image_ebookDale T. Phillips serves up a classic “Lady or the Tiger,” story with “Hope It Fits,” in Red Dawn. Dale is the author of four novels, over 50 short stories, story collections, poetry, and a non-fiction career book. He’s appeared on stage, television, and in an independent feature film, Throg. He co-wrote and acted in a short political satire film. He competed on Jeopardy and Think Twice, and lost in spectacular fashion on both.

barbararossthumbnailBarbara Ross (yes, that’s me!) also serves up an epistolary story with “The Perfect Woman.” This one takes place in 1947-48 and took me back to my maternal grandmother’s family summers in the Jersey Highlands. I am the author of the Maine Clambake Mysteries, Clammed Up, Boiled Over and Musseled Out. Fogged Inn will be published in February, 2016. My husband and I own the former Seafarer Inn at the head of the harbor in Boothbay Harbor, Maine.

annelisajohnsonwagnerthumbnailLevel Best’s third Maine debut author is Annelisa Johnson Wagner, whose story is “No Aura.” Annelisa grew up in northern New Hampshire but now lives in southern Maine. She misses the White Mountains but appreciates the rocky coast. She is a middle school teacher and a member of Writers on Words, a writing group. This is her first fiction publication but she has also completed a novel and continues to hone her writing.

Maine writers, we hope you’ll continue submitting to Level Best. And readers, we hope you continue to enjoy the stories!

Posted in Barb's Posts | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Where Are The Perks?

by Dorothy Cannell

I am feeling embittered. My life as a published author has little similarity to the glamorous, pampered existence I once believed would be assured me in return for the gift of my every printed word.

Where is the devotedly efficient housekeeper? As I write this the dust thickens on furniture and in corners and will continue doing so until I hear my husband stomping around muttering that when it comes to cleaning a man’s work is never done. Where are the secretaries? The clerical one who would proof read this blog when finished, correcting punctuation and deleting as she (or he) deems required. The social one who would this afternoon take our two cats to the vet for their check ups. Then go and have my hair cut for me. Where is the French chef ready whip up elegantly delicious meals, snacks, drinks at a moment’s notice? Instead, previously mentioned husband (name escapes me) is putting a hot dog and baked bean casserole in the not preheated oven.

This mood will pass. I will see the negatives of having a home cluttered with staff. I’d have to talk to them for one thing – time consuming. I’d have to accept despising looks – if my hair wasn’t well combed or I slobbed around in my dressing gown all day.

There is a positive side to this pettishness regarding reality. It springs from having reached a point in current book Peril in the Parish where I want to burrow in and not come out until my characters pause in telling me what comes next. Against this there is the tug of the real world, because though less exciting than the fictional one (Scotland Yard has never requested my help in solving a particularly difficult case) it provides the base for who I am as a person and a writer.

I am now going to try and sort out what our two cats are arguing about – hopefully not politics or religion. Tell Teddy (dog) that his father and I very much appreciate the fact he has never taken the car out and wrecked it or asked to attend an Ivy League college.

And finally, assure husband that no French chef could concoct a more exquisite hot dog and baked bean casserole.

Posted in Dorothy's Posts | 7 Comments

Improvising – My Life and My Writing

Lea Wait here.

Last weekend I attended Crime Bake, the New England mystery conference in Massachusetts, and to my delight Hallie Ephron mentioned on a panel that acting was an important skill for writers.

I felt like standing up and cheering.  You see, when I was an undergraduate, I knew I wanted to write, but I hadn’t focused yet on what I wanted to write. During high school summer vacations I’d worked in a Maine playhouse, and I’d written plays, poetry and a little fiction.

So I majored in both English and drama, focusing, when I could, on playwriting.

But in a small liberal arts college (Chatham College — now University — in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania,) drama majors were required not only to study drama, but theater. I took directing classes, painted scenery, and took part in every school production, large or small. I also studied acting at both Chatham and at the Pittsburgh Playhouse School of the Theater.

But it was a class on the philosophy and history of dramatic criticism, an upper-class course I took my freshman year, that changed the way I saw my life.  The professor in that course demanded not only that we read Aristotle and Plato (and so forth) but that we demonstrate that we’d understood their dramatic theories by acting them out.

He believed (combining several well-known schools of acting), that every character must have a motivation in every scene. A need. That motivation influences how he or she plays the scene.

I will never forget the first class, in October of my freshman year, when I was asked to stand up and act “to overcome.” I had no idea what I was supposed to do. After the professor repeated his instruction (multi times, with frustration,) finally an upper classman stood up, came over to me, and said, “Do you know how to do what he’s asking?” By that time in tears, I shook my head. “Then go over and tell him that, to his face,” she said. I did. The class applauded … they’d understood all along (they’d studied with this professor before) that by doing that I had “overcome” my fear.

After that, I caught on. I acted when I was supposed to. About six months later the same professor took me aside and pointed out something I’d never realized: that I “acted in” rather than “acting out.”  If I was to act “fear,” for example, I cowered. I never ran or screamed, as some of the other students did. After that I experimented with acting inward or outward — learning more about myself than about acting.

And by the next year I was not only doing improvisational theater in school and, for fun, with fellow acting students outside of class, but I taught a class in improv for kindergarten students.

After graduation I moved to New York and took professional classes in improvisational theater. (Gene Hackman was a classmate,  and I met my first husband, a television comedy writer, there.)

After that I moved on to other, more academic and corporate interests. But I often found myself sitting in long meetings consciously playing the role of “bright executive” or “serious student” or “to survive.” I had the courage to produce and be on-camera talent in a daily corporate CCTV show for two years. I got through a lot of difficult moments in my life by pretending to be someone stronger, wiser, or tougher than I felt.

Now I  write fiction. My heroes and heroines also play roles — the ones I assign them — and have motivations. Sometimes they act “in” and sometimes they “act out”.

Without learning improvisational acting, my life — and my writing – wouldn’t be the same. I strongly recommend improv to anyone, at any age, looking to understand themselves — or their characters — better.

At least – it worked for me.

Lea Wait writes the 7-book Shadows Antique Print Mystery Series and the 2-book Mainely Needlepoint series, the third of which, THREAD AND GONE, will be published in December. She also writes historical novels for readers eight and up, and a memoir with writing advice, LIVING AND WRITING ON THE COAST OF MAINE. 

Posted in Uncategorized | 10 Comments

Weekend Update: November 14-15, 2015

fallsbooks1Next week at Maine Crime Writers there will be posts by Lea Wait (Monday), Dorothy Cannell (Tuesday), Barb Ross (Wednesday), Susan Vaughan (Thursday) and John Clark (Friday).

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

Chris Holm received exciting news this week. The Strand Magazine published its list of ten best mystery novels of 2015 and Chris’s The Killing Kind is #1. Way to go, Chris!

strand list

from Kathy Lynn Emerson/Kaitlyn Dunnett: Last weekend was the New England Crime Bake, including the launch of the new Level Best anthology, Red Dawn, which included stories by several of our regular bloggers plus one husband (mine). Here are a few photos.

Bruce Coffin signing a book for John Clark. Dorothy Cannell and Kate Flora are at the far end of the signing line.

Bruce Coffin signing a book for John Clark. Dorothy Cannell and Kate Flora are at the far end of the signing line.


Panel on historical mysteries with James R. Benn, Mary Lawrence, Dorothy Cannell, Kathy Lynn Emerson and moderator Leslie Budewitz,

Panel on historical mysteries with James R. Benn, Mary Lawrence, Dorothy Cannell, Kathy Lynn Emerson and moderator Leslie Budewitz,

Kathy's husband, Sandy Emerson, at his first signing for a story in RED DAWN.

Kathy’s husband, Sandy Emerson, at his first signing for a story in RED DAWN.


Panel with authors of how-to books moderated by Hank Philippi Ryan. Shown are Elizabeth George, Paula Munier, Hallie Ephron and Kathy Lynn Emerson.

Panel with authors of how-to books moderated by Hank Philippi Ryan. Shown are Elizabeth George, Paula Munier, Hallie Ephron and Kathy Lynn Emerson.

from Lea Wait: Today (Saturday, November 14,) I’ll be speaking about an author’s life and my LIVING AND WRITING ON THE COAST OF MAINE at Maine Coast Books, Maine Street in Damariscotta, Maine, at 11:00.4_1

Then at the end of the week my books and I’ll be at Studio 53 (53 Townsend Avenue, Boothbay Harbor, Maine) along with wonderful local artists, writers and craftspeople for their annual Gifts for Giving show. The show will be open Thursday, November 19, from 11 am until 4 pm; Friday, November 20, from 11 am until 8 pm (including a Gala Reception from 5-8;) Saturday (early bird shopping in Boothbay Harbor) from 7 am until 4 pm; and Sunday the 22nd from 11 until 4.



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:

Posted in Sunday Updates | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments