When Writer’s Block Becomes Fun

John Clark sharing a serendipitous moment that happened back in May and what followed. Our younger daughter Lisa was home from New York and we had gone to Waterville for Indian food. After our meal, we decided to do a bit of browsing. Beth and Lisa were still looking through a book store when I wandered further down Main Street and a poster in the window of Framemakers caught my eye.

Since both Beth and our older daughter Sara are into art projects, the idea of buying a block of pine for a dollar and creating something unique sounded pretty interesting. Anyone could purchase one or two numbered blocks for a dollar each, decorate them in whatever manner they chose and Framemakers would exhibit them from July 8th through September 13th.

Last Friday we went to the open house, curious to see how many were on exhibit. I chatted with staff there to learn more about how the block project came about. Four years ago, another arts group in the Waterville area came up with the idea as a way to generate funds for an arts scholarship during the Christmas season. It was extremely successful. For whatever reason, the group moved on to different projects, so the folks at Framemakers which has been part of the downtown Waterville business community since the early 1980s, got permission to carry on the project. They decided to move it to the summer season as more and more cultural events were happening in the area (things like arts at Colby and the Maine International Film Festival).

Blocks are available for purchase at $45. the artist receives $30 and the remainder goes toward funding a $500 scholarship for a local student who is pursuing a degree in some branch of creative arts. Last year, blocks sold almost covered the entire scholarship.

Framemakers buys the lumber to make the blocks locally and passes all money from their purchases into the scholarship fund. There are no restrictions regarding age or medium. We chatted with sisters who looked to be about ten and twelve. This was their second year as participants and they had both sole their work.

In addition to the block art project, pieces by other local artisans were on display and available for purchase. Abbot Meader has a collection of paintings depicting scenes in and near Baxter State Park.

While I was waiting for Beth who had gone to the Brunswick Music Theater with friends, I noticed a fellow enter who looked wicked familiar. When I looked at the black and white photography exhibit in the window opposite the blocks, I realized who he was. Bob Lane and I worked together back in the early 1980s at AMHI. He was a bit smarter and left for a career at the Department of Labor, retiring six years ago. Beth had him as a student in her basic nursing skills class while working there. We had a nice chat, catching up on people we both knew. As you can see, he’s doing some pretty cool stuff in his retirement.

We’re already looking forward to doing this again next year. This time, we’ll have a whole winter to mull over ideas. Anyone care to guess which two blocks are mine?

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Weekend Update: August 12-13, 2017

Next week at Maine Crime Writers, there will be posts by John Clark (Monday), Kaitlyn Dunnett/Kathy Lynn Emerson (Tuesday), Kate Flora (Wednesday), Maureen Milliken (Thursday), and on Friday there will be a special group post about our short stories in collections and anthologies.

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

Kate Flora and Lea Wait both have new books out! From Kate it’s the eighth Thea Kozak mystery, Death Warmed Over. And Lea has a new stand-alone mystery for young people, Pizza to Die For.

Bruce Robert Coffin‘s Beneath the Depths was released on August 8th. It is the second novel in the Detective Byron Mystery Series.

Bruce will be appearing at three different locations this coming week. Tuesday at 6 pm he will be at the Bridgton Public Library, Thursday at 6:30 pm he’ll be at the Gray Public Library, and on Saturday at Letterpress Books in Portland from 10 am to 1 pm.

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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Giveaway-Whispers of Warning

Congratulations, Ruth Nixon! You are the  winner of the Whispers of Warning Giveaway! 

Jessie: On the coast of Maine, moving once more towards a September 1 deadline.

I’m not sure why it is but for some reason, over the past six years I have had five September 1 deadlines. For some people having the summer to finish up a book would be ideal. Teachers perhaps. Or students.

For me, it hasn’t been an easy cross to bear. We live at the beach every summer and my office is on the front porch of our small cottage. The sound of the beachgoers trundling past my window smelling of sunscreen, boogey boards tucked under their arms just leaves me feeling crotchety and envious.

It doesn’t help matters that the salty breeze floats up and teases me with the reiminder of all I am missing as I sit at my desk putting my head down and conconcentrating on the task in front of me.

Making things even more challenging is the fact that my kids are home from school all summer and my regular work schedule is thrown into disarray. It is hard to focus on work when your nearest and dearest are thinking only of play. Or of what is or is not available in the refrigerator.

In the end though, all of those summers have been memorable and satisfying. The books, and the work it took to produce them, are a large part of what made those summers something to remember. Somehow, some way, the books have all gotten written. And as difficult as it is for me to believe, in just over a month, on September, 19, the second book in my Change of Fortune mystery series, Whispers of Warning, will be released. Last year at this time I was frantically trying to finish the manusript in order to turn it into my editor by the agreed upon date.

To celebrate the journey I would love to give away a copy of Whispers of Warning to one commenter who leaves a memory of something that took a great deal of effort at the time but was worth it in the end.



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Planetary Protection Officer or Global Drinks Ambassador???

Hey all. Happy August to you.

During an insanely busy year, book #2 in the Michael McKeon series is finished, in which we meet The Prodigal, the world’s first private nuclear power. I’m very excited about a new book I’m writing with a whole new cast of characters and a protagonist who not only must race against an external ticking clock, but one inside him as well. More to come.

In the meantime, here are some bizarre news stories perfect for your late summer amusement.

Seven priests walk into a bar…start of a killer joke, right? Not in Cardiff, Wales, where the bouncer thought they were a bachelor party in costume and refused them service. When the manager realized the error, he bought them a round.

Scottish whisky company Grant’s is recruiting a new global drinks ambassador. The only thing better might be that NASA is now taking applications for Planetary Protection Officer.

Perhaps best of all, in response to NASA’s open application announcement, nine-year-old Jack Davis from New Jersey applied. He is “great at video games” and has watched most of the alien movies except Men in Black. Most importantly, “My sister says I am an alien.”

Courtesy of NASA

Speaking on behalf of brothers of sisters everywhere, good luck Jack! When he’s 21 and done protecting the planet, I hear there’s a global drinks ambassador opening. Just don’t dress like a priest.

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The Post Where I Announce We’re Moving to Portland

by Barb Ross

Yes, we’re going to be full-time Mainers! Both Bill and I are excited about this next chapter. The plan (there’s always a plan) was to sell our house in Massachusetts (check–you can read about it here), and then come up to our home in Boothbay Harbor and stay until we leave for Key West mid-December. We weren’t going to rush into anything. We definitely weren’t.

But I was keeping tabs on the Portland real estate market, just to educate myself, I said. Bill and I went to a few open houses whenever we were passing through. Casually, I told people, we’re exploring.

Then, in mid-June, when our whole family was up in Boothbay for the weekend, I found a place online that seemed perfect. Our home wasn’t even on the market. It was too soon. Nonetheless, I shot an inquiry off to the listing agent, could we maybe see it on our way home to Massachusetts?

That didn’t work out and between putting our house on the market and helping our son and his family move from Connecticut to Virginia, we didn’t make it back to Maine until after July 4th, the Friday before Books in Boothbay, in fact.

We looked at the place on our way up and, surprisingly, it was even nicer and more perfect for us than the photos. Even more compelling, given all we had been through in the spring, it needed almost no work, not even paint. We drove around the neighborhood, which we kind of, sort of, knew and liked it. (It seems to be in an area of shifting designations, most recently I think it has been called the India Street neighborhood.)

I was still burbling about it the next day when I saw Lea and Kate.

By that point our house in Massachusetts was under contract, but it hadn’t closed, which meant we didn’t have the money in our pockets to go around buying condominiums in Portland, or anywhere else. So though we loved the place, we waited. But both of our thoughts kept returning to the house.

Finally, everything came together. (Knocking wood furiously. We don’t close on it until this Friday.)

Barb’s study, where the magic will happen, starting fall 2017

It’s a four story townhouse, with an elevator, handy because the kitchen is on the third floor. My favorite part is that Bill’s study is on the first floor, and mine will be on the fourth. I love him, but… No water views, sadly, though last time I was there I glimpsed a tiny sliver of Casco Bay through the chimney tops.

Bill’s study, where the magic will also happen, three floors away from Barb, a relief to them both

It all feels a little impulsive and crazy, but also thoughtful and well-considered. We’ve always loved Portland, since we started coming there in the late eighties when we used to camp at Sebago. Portland’s future was just a glimmer at the time, but we still thought it was cool. Also, we’re city people at heart. Neither of us has ever had dreams of quiet country nights.

The kitchen and dining areas. By the way, the rooms in all these photos were professionally staged. Enjoy. They will never look so polished again.

But, it will be an adjustment, no doubt. We’ve never lived in a house less than 100 years-old, this one was built in 2007. And we’ve never lived in a condominium association. Because there are some ongoing issues, we were given all the minutes of the past year’s meetings prior to close. There were some passages I found hilarious, but maybe I won’t when I’m in the middle of it?

So, we’re going to be Portlanders, or is it Portlandites? Surely not Portlandians, that’s the other coast, right? So much to learn! I’ll have to rely on my Maine Crime Writers friends to find dentists and doctors, hairdressers and mani-pedi places. Things I haven’t changed in years. It’s a little daunting. But as my business partner used to say, you should always be moving toward something, not just away from something, and that’s what it feels like to us.


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