Back to School Means Back to Cyberbullying…

Jayne Hitchcock here. You know what I loved best about this summer? The lack of stories in the news about kids and teens killing themselves because they were cyberbullied. I have already been booked to speak at two schools this fall, which is sad, but good. One is a repeat – they want me to speak to their sophomores every year, which is even better.

But I wish more schools would hire me or someone like me to come speak to students about how what they do online is there FOREVER. And that cyberbullying is never, ever cool. Or that sexting that photo of your boobs, penis or whatever is never a good idea. Or that app they use does not make the posts/photos disappear – they are still there somewhere. That’s good advice for adults as well – It will haunt you for the rest of your life.

If you have children or grandchildren of school age, as long as your child is under the age of 18 and living under your roof, you have every right to know what they are posting online or sending via their smartphone/cell phone. You are paying for a roof over their heads, food on the table and their Internet and cell phone service, right? Then you can lay down some rules. My advice:

1. If your child has a password on their device, you need to know it. You also need to make sure they know you are not going to snoop on the device unless you need to. What would that be? If they suddenly start acting strange, don’t hang around with friends, spend way too much online or on their smartphone, their grades drop, etc or, heaven forbid, they disappear.

2. Set a time limit on all of the devices they use. If they have a laptop, netbook, tablet and/or smartphone, take it away from them at their curfew time at night. There is no earthly reason they have where they absolutely need to keep texting or chatting online into the wee hours of the morning. What they have to tell their friends can wait until the next morning when they wake up.

3. If they are allowed to use any devices in their bedroom, their door must be open at all times. If you walk by and they hide, turn over, or close their device, then it’s time to have a talk and see what’s on the device.

4. Go over the “rules of the Internet superhighway” with them. A good place to start is to exchange pledges – we have a couple on our web site at (they are on the left side of the main page). There is one for kids/teens and one for you. Sign and exchange them.

5. Make sure you encourage your child to come to you if *anything* happens to them online or via smartphone upsets or worries them. Most kids/teens are afraid to tell their parents they’ve clicked on a link to a bad (usually porn) web site or that someone is bothering them online. They are actually afraid *they* will be punished for something they have no control over. Many students have told me this after my talks at their school. Make sure your child can come to you for help.

6. If it is cyberbullying or online harassment, make sure they have asked that person to stop. A very simple “please stop contacting me” is more than sufficient. Then they should NOT respond after that, but should keep anything else that is posted online, sent to them, etc. If it continues, the school needs to be notified, especially if it is happening during school hours. If you know the child, a phone call to their parents may be in order. This is where keeping anything your child receives comes in handy. Then the parent can’t say their child didn’t do it. If there is a clear threat of physical harm, you should definitely call your local police and file a report. Don’t think it will just go away – if you or your child don’t do something about it before it gets worse, it can and will get worse. I do not want to read in the paper or see on TV you crying because your child killed themselves due to cyberbullying.

7. If you child is reluctant to talk to you or another adult, encourage them to go to our web site at and have us help them for free. We don’t contact the cyberbully, parents or the school. We can resolve 70% of the cases we get without involving anyone else.

8. Or they can talk to Phoebe, The Cyber Crime Dog at She has a form they can fill out on the page, become friends with her on Facebook and message her or follow her on Twitter. She has helped many students who would otherwise not seek help (and she has mad typing skills with her paws, lol).

9. I encourage you to put monitoring software on your child’s device and/or take advantage of parental controls on them, whether they are video came consoles, smartphones, tablets, or computers. We have a list of ones we have tried out ourselves – many have a free trial so that you can find one that suits your needs best. It’s better to be safe than to be sorry.

Finally, we have a load of resources on our site at Please use them and please do refer others to the site.

Questions? Please ask!

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Weekend Update: September 13-14, 2014

fallsbooks1Next week at Maine Crime Writers there will be posts by Jayne Hitchcock (Monday), Barbara Ross (Tuesday), John Clark (Wednesday), Sarah Graves (Thursday), and Kate Flora (Friday).

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

AndGrantYouPeace-final-3Kate Flora is thrilled that the lovely and generous Tiffany Schofield at Five Star has made a book trailer for her new Joe Burgess book, And Grant You Peace. You can watch it below.








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:


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Addiction on Trial – An Interview with Dr. Steven Kassels

From time to time, Maine Crime Writers like to introduce you to other Maine writers and to new books for (we hope) ever growing TBR pile. Today our guest is Dr. Steven Kassels, whose book, Addiction on Trial, is garnering rave reviews for the way he uses a taut thriller to raise reader’s awareness of a major social problem. Here’s a description of the book:

9781491825327_COVER.inddThe Book: When Downeast local Annette Fiorno is found at the bottom of a ravine, outsider and relapsed drug addict Jimmy Sedgwick is accused of murder. Unassuming Maine lawyer Rob Hanston and big shot attorney Shawn Marks form an unlikely legal team as they attempt to discredit the overwhelming evidence. Addiction on Trial, the first in a series of Shawn Marks Thrillers, revolves around the murder cases of attorney Marks, an egotistical yet likable high-powered Boston attorney who can juggle an array of female companions without taking his eye off the legal challenges of his work. Addiction on Trial sends a powerful message of societal discrimination toward drug addicts and explores common misperceptions about what drug addiction really is—a chronic illness requiring a treatment approach similar to other chronic diseases. Medical and behavioral aspects of addiction are woven into the intrigue of this thriller, which culminates in a riveting murder trial.

1. As a physician, how did the area of addiction become of interest to you and what are some of your concerns?

As a physician working in emergency medicine, I became aware that in many cases, more than 50% of patient visits to the hospital emergency room were related, either directly or indirectly to the disease of addiction. For example, the child with asthma due to a parent smoking in the home, the unexpected teenage pregnancy due to drugs or alcohol, auto accidents, patients feigning back pain or kidney stones to get pain medications, heart disease, etc. This led me to also become board certified in addiction medicine. As I continued in my years of practice in Emergency Medicine and Addiction Medicine, I have had the privilege to treat patients from all walks of life as there are no socioeconomic or geographical barriers to most illnesses or addictive behaviors.

From a medical perspective, it is very clear that we have differences, but we are more similar than not. When we are sick, we all benefit from compassion and care. Society should not differentiate between what diseases we should treat.

Accessible treatment (location and cost) needs to be available to patients with the disease of addiction. How is treating one with chronic drug addiction any different than treating one with chronic diabetes? Both can have a genetic predisposition and for both there can be a strong socialization element as well. Who wants to be the only person not drinking alcohol at a party or not eating a piece of birthday cake? If medications are readily available to treat diabetics, are they prescribed along with the necessary referral to meet with a nutritionist or dietician about dietary choices/changes? Should not this type of supportive counseling also be readily available for patients with addictive-related diseases?

2. What led you to write the book and how did you come up with the theme?

As a physician, I have learned an incredible amount from the many courageous patients who entrusted me with their medical care. Since I always wanted to write a novel, what better way to entertain than to combine my knowledge as a physician with my imagination as a fictional storyteller; albeit based on medical and legal truths? I also wanted to convey a message, but who wants to read another scientific book about addiction? Not me! So I created Addiction on Trial as a murder-mystery/legal thriller with the issues of addiction woven throughout the storyline.

I hope I have accomplished my two goals: one being to educate about addiction without it coming across as a lecture, to encourage discussions, and to raise awareness that the disease is everywhere; the other to create an easy to read, sit on the beach or by the fire murder-mystery that would be enjoyed by readers and passed on to a friend, family member or acquaintance.

3. Why did you chose a work of fiction to address the complex issues of addiction and its effects on family and society?

As a physician with years of practice in both Emergency Medicine and Addiction Medicine, it became evident that many patients, and sometimes a majority of patients, presented to the Emergency Department with injuries or illnesses related to the disease of addiction, often relationships that aren’t immediately recognized such as the diabetic who has a food addiction, the heart attack patient who smokes and/or drinks excessive alcohol, the automobile accidents, the unexpected teenage pregnancy from having sexual relations while intoxicated, the relative or friend injured by a heroin/opiate addicted person bent on getting their prescription drugs. The list goes on and on.

When I would give lectures to a wide range of groups, it became evident that I was preaching to the choir and I needed to take the message to regular people, not just those working in the fields of addiction treatment.  With the Heroin/Oxycontin addiction epidemic destroying communities across our nation, the desire to reach a broader group synced up with my longstanding desire to write a page turner. I put the impulses together – why not create a murder mystery/legal thriller based on medical and legal truths about addiction and educate through the back door?

By turning fact into fiction, I have been able to reach a much wider audience of readers; those who would not choose to pick up a scientific book book about addiction. The characters, some from Maine and some from away, some with addiction and their families who live with them, are exposed through omniscient narration, allowing the reader to experience the despair and the hope that touches so many of us and our communities.

4. You set your novel in Maine. Why? What’s your connection to Maine?

Since one tends to write what one knows, and I have lived in Maine for the past seventeen years, now spending approximately five months on Mount Desert Island and the remaining time in Boston, I set my novel in Downeast Maine (and yes I know some prefer to spell it Down East Maine and my editors debated this one issue until the cows came home:)  Unfortunately, Maine is not immune to opiate (heroin, oxycontin, etc) addiction; it has one of the highest rates and consequently now has more deaths that are drug related  than from automobile accidents. Other reasons I chose the setting of Maine is because of my love for the state and wanting to make a change by using entertainment to also educate.

And of course, the setting of Downeast Maine would be a great backdrop for a blockbuster movie!

5. If we asked you to disclose a special Maine place that not everyone knows about, what would you tell us?

Mount Desert Island and Acadia National Park are no secrets.  But there are some hidden gems that many do not know about.  One such place is Little Hunters Beach, and although it can be accessed by the Park Loop Road of Acadia National Park, its secluded view from the road makes it a rarely visited spot. Take the steps and a ten minute stroll down to this cove with cliffs hanging above and listen to the smaller stones make their music as the surf carries them in and out and over and under. A wonderful place to get in touch with one’s soul!

5. Maine crime writers are also big foodies, so where in your part of Maine would you take us to eat, and why?

Let’s go on a journey to a place where time stopped in the 1950′s, but the culinary delights did not stand still.  Isleford Dock Restaurant sits on Little Cranberry Island, just a 20 minute ferry ride from Southwest Harbor or Northeast Harbor on Mount Desert Island. Yes, that’s correct, we go island hopping to have lunch or dinner at this special spot sitting, as its name states, on the dock, surrounded by lobster boats galore.

On Tuesdays there is nary a seat to be had despite a limited menu because the main focus is the live music.  But on other evenings the menu is a culinary delight with great variety for the vegetarian, pescetarian, or flexetarian (my daughter coined this phrase for those who usually don’t eat meat, but on rare occasions are “flexible” – hence “flexetarian).  You will be amazed at the gourmet delights of Scallop Ceviche, Roasted Beets with whipped yogurt and spruce oil, the freshest of salads, or Lamb for Two Done 2 Ways. Other delights are Halibut with kohlrabi and fiddleheads, Lobster served with Burrata Cheese and pickled beach rose petals, great burgers and always a unique vegetarian entree. Sit at the bar or at a table and watch the sun set over the mountains of MDI.  After dinner wander through the art gallery or the pottery store and take in life as it was decades ago!

Dr. Steven Kassels, physician and author, has been board certified in Addiction Medicine and Photo Author ColorEmergency Medicine and has authored the book, Addiction on Trial: Tragedy in Downeast Maine. He is a graduate of Milton Academy, Lake Forest College, and Wayne State University School of Medicine. He has served as chief of Emergency Medicine at an inner city hospital and currently serves as the medical director and is a founding member of Community Substance Abuse Centers, with treatment facilities in Maine and throughout New England. Steve is a member of the American Society of Addiction Medicine and has presented numerous lectures and round table discussions on drug abuse related topics, as well as having testified as an expert witness at criminal trials. It is from these experiences that Steve has been able to create a crime fiction novel based on medical and legal truths. Steve has also written Op-eds for the Boston Globe and the Bangor Daily News and maintains an active blog, Steve resides in Southwest Harbor, Maine and Boston, Massachusetts with his wife Ali. They have four children and five grandchildren. Steve’s other passions include tennis, backcountry skiing, biking, music and the Boston Red Sox.


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Hi. Barb here.

Before starting this post, I looked back, and almost every one of us Maine Crime Writers has written a post about the beginning of the writing process. (And Lea Wait, I’d like to thank you for the ear worm of Michael Finnegan.)

It turns out, we are all over the board on how we begin writing our novels. Some of us have a period of pure research before we begin writing. Some actually wander through the physical landscape. Others write character bios and outlines.

photo2It seems I don’t even approach the task the same way every time. When I started Boiled Over, I mused about my pre-writing thoughts on that book. I had a lot of intentions. I’d thought a lot through. Not so much plot as theme, and what I wanted to achieve for myself and my series while writing the book.

As I begin a new book this month, I’ve done a lot less conscious planning. True, I wrote a synopsis for my publisher back in July. I know the time of year (the weekend after Thanksgiving), the victim and the why of the murder.

But that’s pretty much it. It’s a locked room murder, something I’ve never written. A limited pool of suspects–four couples, eight individuals. I’m sure they’ll all be very interesting when I finally meet them, but honestly, I don’t know a thing about them. I’m just writing. And as each couple turns up on the scene, I’m making them up–on the spot.

I haven’t worked out the structure either, which is a little scary. As things are taking shape now, the body drop is in the first sentence of the first scene and the narrative moves between the forward action of the investigation and memories of the night of the murder. Seems a little tricky, requiring extra care with context and transitions. We’ll see if I can make this work, but so far, so good.

ScrivenerpageThe “story” is one my mother told me years ago. I’ve been carrying it around in my head ever since, certain I would write about it, but not sure how or when. A short story? A novel? Part of a series, or a standalone? Finally all the pieces have fallen into place and I’m ready to tell the tale. I think…

I was on the Agatha Best Contemporary Novel panel with Julia Spencer-Fleming this spring and she said that Craig Johnson, author of the Longmire novels, told her, “You must worship at the Church of 1000 Words a Day.”

So that’s what I’m doing. A thousand words a day. I know plenty of people who write more, but I’m trying not to be competitive about it. First drafts are the worst part of the writing process as far as I’m concerned. Give me something to revise, no matter how rough, and I’ll work twelve hours a day. But setting an achievable goal for a first draft and kind of sneaking up on it seems to be working for me. So far.

We’ll see how this goes. It seems odd that I’m taking this loosey-goosey approach to a locked room mystery, arguably the most structured of the genre, but so far, so good. Or maybe the room wasn’t locked. (Though my protagonist just told the cops it was.)

Wish me luck and I’ll see you on the other side–I hope.

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Shadows on a Maine Christmas


Lea Wait here, thrilled to announce the publication of the 7th in my Shadows Antique Print Mystery series. Shadows on a Maine Christmas is available now, in trade paperback or e-book in bookstores (ask your favorite bookstore to order it if it’s not in stock) and from on-line sellers.!cid_487CF410-53E3-4F9A-B4E9-3E3180900689

Publisher’s Weekly said it contained, “loving descriptions of the Maine winter and the area’s strong sense of community.” Mysterious Women: “Surprise ending .. beautifully written.” Kingdom Books: “one of the best and most intriguing plot twists … quick-paced and charming.”

So - I’m pleased. And relieved. Another child has been sent out into the world and, it seems, has had a good start.

So for today’s post, I thought I’d answer some of the questions I often get about my books.

How long does it take a book to be published? It varies. I signed a contract on the basis of a synopsis two years ago and handed in the manuscript of Shadows on a Maine Christmas one year ago.

Are you Maggie Summer? No! Yes, Maggie and I are both antique print dealers. We’ve both lived in New Jersey, and we both have graduate degrees in American Studies. But Maggie’s younger that I am (she’s now 39) and has darker hair and is much braver than I am. She gets involved in situations I’d shy away from. And, no, I don’t drink Diet Pepsi. (I drink tea.) Although Maggie and I both enjoy champagne and a good dry sherry.

Why set a mystery at Christmas? Because I love Christmas! The books in the Shadows series take place 3-5 months part, so, although it’s only been two months since Shadows on a Cape Cod Wedding, that book ended on a difficult note for Maggie’s relationship with her beau, Will Brewer. They needed to resolve some long-standing issues between them. Christmas seemed the right time for them to do that. (Although a little blackmail and murder do delay that a bit.)

Although the Shadows series is set today, you often include historical tidbits. Did you do that in Shadows on a Maine Christmas? I did. The mystery this time revolves around Will’s 91-year-old Aunt Nettie and several of her friends. They’ve kept each other’s secrets for years .. some since the second world war … so finding out what those secrets are, and why they’re important today, means going back in time a few decades. I love doing that!Lea on Wiscasset town pier

What gave you the basic idea for Shadows on a Maine Christmas? Alzheimers. It’s a horribly devastating disease, and one of its characteristic is that those who have it lose their short-term memory, but can remember events in the past. I wondered what would happen if someone started talking about those long-held secrets.

And will there by another Shadows book? Right now, it looks that way! I’m working on a synopsis, and am hoping to have a contract soon. If there is, it won’t be out until 2016. But in the meantime I’ll be working on books in my new series (Mainely Needlepoint) that begins in January, 2015, with Twisted Threads. That series will have a new book published every six months.

And thank you, to Maggie’s readers. If it weren’t for you …. I wouldn’t be plotting the 8th of her adventures!


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