Mystery Shorts?

Jayne here, and no I am not talking about clothing, although I am sure I do have some mystery shorts in my bureau somewhere, ha ha. I write mainly true crime/non-fiction, but in the past I have written short stories, primarily sci-fi/fantasy (yes, I did!). My first six books were about Okinawa, Japan, with three of them fiction (one a children’s book). Although I am researching my new book on cyberbullying, I had an idea for a book of short stories that are mysteries – cold case files type of thing.

Is there a market for a book of short stories like that, or should I consider fleshing them out as possible novels? I have three done already (well, in my head, but all thought out and ready to type). Before I go crazy typing them up, I’d like some feedback.

What are your thoughts on short stories? Better as standalone in a book filled with other author’s short stories, sold to a magazine or other publication, as an e-book, or better as a full novel?

On a side note, by the time you read this I will have been on a panel at UCONN (go Huskies!) about a very interesting case: http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/supreme-court-case-tests-the-limits-of-free-speech-on-facebook-and-other-social-media/2014/11/23/9e54dbd8-6f67-11e4-ad12-3734c461eab6_story.html.  This is definitely testing that line between online harassment and freedom of speech, as was a recent incident at UCONN: https://www.reddit.com/r/UCONN/comments/31sul9/ras_for_social_justice_allege_their_antiracism/. It should be an enlightening and lively talk.

I know I’m keeping this short, but it’s an almost three hour drive for me. Wish me luck!

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The Marvels of MARVEL!

Kaitlyn Dunnett/Kathy Lynn Emerson here. I bet, from the title, that you think I’m going to talk about Marvel’s Agents of Shield. Or maybe Marvel’s The Avengers. Or even Iron Man or Agent Carter. Okay. I admit I have a fondness for movies and TV shows based on comic books—oops! make that “graphic novels”—but in this case, the marvelous Marvel has to do with libraries, specifically the Maine State Library. Unless one of them has switched to writing articles in scholarly journals, it’s unlikely that either Stan Lee or Joss Whedon is involved.

marvel

MARVEL! is Maine’s Virtual Library. It is a database accessible either from library computers in the state of Maine or from the user’s home. Repeat: from home.

We all do research online, whether it’s just to find out more about some subject that catches our fancy or because we need detailed information in order to write a scene in one of our books. When I talk to writers about doing research, I am always careful to remind them that depending on online sources is risky. After all, anyone can put up a webpage or contribute an article to Wikipedia. No credentials required. But going online can also yield new sources of information to explore. There are probably whole books written on any given subject, but there may also be articles in periodicals, whether they be popular magazines or academic journals. Once you have the title and author of a book, it’s relatively easy to either buy a copy or borrow one through Inter-Library-Loans. But if it appears that the best or most recent information may be found in a shorter piece written by an expert, that’s where MARVEL! comes in.

library-old style

library-old style

At the beginning of April, I was gearing up to start work on the next Mistress Jaffrey Mystery, set in sixteenth-century England. The plot is going to involve a maidservant other characters think is possessed by a demon. I’ve been reading books on demonology and exorcism and taking notes, but before sitting down in front of that blank screen, I wanted to see what else might have been written on the subject. Articles often come out in advance of the publication of a book, sometimes years earlier, so I’ve learned that it’s always a good idea to mine this resource for the most recent research.

MARVEL! is easy to use. Just go to the Maine State Library page, where you’ll find it listed under “Popular Services.” A click of the mouse brings up a keyword search form. I typed in two words: Elizabethan exorcism.

MaineStateLibrary

Books also come up in these searches, but the first two items were articles, one in Northern History and the other in History Today. Both had links to see the PDF Full Text version. These can then be read online, downloaded, or printed. Personally, I like the print option, so I can highlight and scribble notes on the pages. Since I’m technologically challenged, it took me a couple of tries to figure out how to print the entire article instead of just the summary, but I now have copies of both articles.

If you already know that an article exists and you’re searching for a copy of it, the same procedure works just fine. Last year, for an entry in my “A Who’s Who of Tudor Women,” I was trying to find an article I’d seen cited in a bibliography. “Thomas Cromwell’s Abbess, Margaret Vernon” by Mary C. Erler was published in the February 2014 issue of History Today, a periodical which makes some of its articles available on its website. When this one wasn’t among them, I turned to MARVEL! I didn’t even have to type in the entire title. The words abbess and Margaret Vernon were enough to take me straight to the article.

circulation and ILL Mantor Library, UMF

circulation and ILL
Mantor Library, UMF

Those examples involve historical research, but MARVEL! works just as well for contemporary subjects. There’s a ball python that makes an appearance in my upcoming Liss MacCrimmon mystery, The Scottie Barked at Midnight. I typed in pythons as pets and MARVEL! produced an assortment of articles and books on the subject. The fourth on the list contained exactly the information I needed in an article in a medical journal.

7booksAs a writer, I love books and I love libraries, but I also love the convenience of being able to find information without having to leave my office. I’ve ordered Inter-Library loans from home for years, through my courtesy card from the University of Maine at Farmington. Thanks to the Maine State Library, MARVEL! makes it even easier for me to do the research necessary to write my books. And if I can’t find what I’m looking for? All it takes to get help is an email to the ILL librarian at UMF or to one of the librarians at MSL.

Does MARVEL! or its equivalent exist in other states? I don’t know, but I’d love it if our readers would chime in and answer that question.

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Support Your Local Library

Kate Flora, behind the amazing podium at the Portland Public Library

Kate Flora, behind the amazing podium at the Portland Public Library

In honor of National Library Week, here’s a post we did as a group way back when MCW was young. The sentiment still holds–writers love libraries. We love our local libraries, we love the libraries we visit, and we love the librarians who converse with us through the blog, on Facebook, at mystery conferences like the Maine Crime Wave, and at gatherings we’re attending. We welcome the chance to talk with readers. For many of us, libraries were the temples and/or refuges of our youth and helped us keep our noses buried in books.

(And note: one lucky commenter on one of this week’s blogs will win a bag of mysteries)

Kaitlyn Dunnett: I made the mistake of making the following suggestion: how about writers and

Lea Wait, Al Lamanda and Jim Hayman at the Kennebunkport Library.

Lea Wait, Al Lamanda and Jim Hayman at the Kennebunkport Library.

libraries as a group topic? We could relate funny/good experiences, talk about some of the neat-looking buildings around the state, and maybe make a plug to “support your local library.” The immediate response to this from our resident guru (that would be Kate) was “Feel free to start that post with a story.” I immediately went blank. I can’t even count the number of Maine libraries I’ve visited, on my own or as part of a Sisters In Crime panel. There are lots of lovely memories. Unfortunately, I’m not always sure which memories go with which library. This is doubly embarrassing because Maine libraries often have unique features. Patrons have to walk across a bridge over a stream to reach the Wilton Free Public Library, which backs up against a cliff on the other side. Once or twice, it has been completely cut off by high water. I did one of my very first book signings there, way back in 1985 when my first novel, The Mystery of Hilliard’s Castle (w/a Kathy Lynn Emerson for ages 8-12 and published by Down East Books) came out. Here’s a picture taken that day, back when my hair was brown instead of gray. Another unique library is the Friend Memorial Public Library in Brooklin, Maine, a center of boat building. Those same boat builders constructed shelves that slide back out of the way to create an open space for programs. Many of our small Maine libraries sponsor reading groups as well as inviting authors to speak. I’ve met several times with the mystery readers’ group at the library in Rumford and always have a wonderful time.

The Friend Memorial Library, Brooklin, Maine

Okay, that’s a start on good thoughts about Maine libraries. What stories do the rest of you have to tell?

Lea Wait: Maine is the kind of state where you don’t tear down or throw out. You re-use. So some of my favorite libraries had former lives.  The Wiscasset Library was once headquarters of the 19th century Lincoln and Kennebec Bank;  the original vault is still in the basement. The Winslow Public Library had its start as a roller skating rink;  the center of the rink is now a wonderful oval children’s department. The Thomaston Library was once an elementary school. And, of course, too many libraries to be counted started their lives as large elegant homes.

Barbara Ross, Dorothy Cannell, and Kate Flora at the Skidompha Library in Damariscotta, at the Chats with Champions series

Barbara Ross, Dorothy Cannell, and Kate Flora at the Skidompha Library in Damariscotta, at the Chats with Champions series

Sarah Graves: While thinking about what to say here, I realized that my relationship with libraries large and small, public and private, is one of the longest and strongest relationships in my life. From the tiny three-rooms-above-the-fire-station in Pewaukee, Wisconsin through the wonders of government and university collections and now back to Eastport, Maine’s excellent Peavey Library, I’ve relied upon them for all kinds of things. Information, of course, and entertainment…but also for peace of mind, that sense that here is something worth having and saving for all of us, and I’m not the only one who thinks so. And for humility…because there’s nothing like the sight of the book that was the Big New Thing in 1955 to lend  perspective to whatever my little writing-tale-of-woe happens to be that day.

Paul Doiron after a book talk at the Curtis Library in Brunswick

Paul Doiron after a book talk at the Curtis Library in Brunswick

Kaitlyn: I doubt there’s room enough here to mention all the libraries that have done good things for Maine writers over the years. The public libraries in Portland and Bangor are large but writer-friendly. I still have the tee-shirt from a panel Kate Flora and I and some others did there eons ago. It says: “Solve a Mystery . . . Read.” The Maine State Library in Augusta has a collection of books by Maine authors. In addition, the librarians there are always willing to help with research. The library also offers free access to MARVEL, which provides the text of articles online. I use Mantor Library at the University of Maine at Farmington regularly for research and keep the inter-library loan staff very busy every time I start a new book. With a courtesy card from that branch, I can request books online from anywhere in the University of Maine system (URSUS) and from other libraries connected to it through MAINECAT. The little libraries are great for research, too, especially in local history and genealogy. They can all order inter-library loans.  And many of them function as mini-museums, too, with permanent exhibits of items of local historical interest. Even with budget cuts, most rural Maine libraries still manage to provide all kinds of extras to patrons, everything from computer access to photocopying services. And, of course, books.

Gerry Boyle: What would we do without libraries and librarians, the best “handsellers” in the book business? From Biddeford to Portland to Bangor and beyond, I’ve always enjoyed my visits with library patrons. But I must say my favorite is the Albert Church Brown Memorial Library in China Village. Where I live. Where I was, for many years, president of the board of trustees. Now I’m the guy who lovingly mows the library lawn.

I’ve spoken a couple of times at “my” library but I must say it always seems a bit odd. The patrons mostly know me as a neighbor and friend, somebody to chat with at the post office or the transfer station. So when I go and read from one of my books or sign books there it seems kind of pretentious. When I ask for questions, I expect somebody to say, “Gerry. Good to see you here. When are you going to return my wrench?”

That said, our village library, like others, is a mystery lovers haven. A room full of titles, new and old. I can take out a yellowed John Creasey or the newest release. I can ask Mary Grow, the librarian, what she recommends. She’ll tell me what she thinks, the feedback she’s getting, whether she thinks I’ll like it. When I finish a book, I not only return it, I give my unofficial review.

So when a reader says, “Sorry, I don’t buy your books. I get them at the library,” I don’t complain. These are places where the reading is the thing.

Barb Ross:  I’ve been to the Friend Memorial, too.  On a panel with Katherine Hall Page, Valerie Wolzien and Wiscasset’s Janet Morgan.  What a gem! My library gigs, in Maine and throughout New England have been great.  Many librarians could give many booksellers lessons in how to manage an event, in my opinion.  How’s that for a grand generalization and a controversial statement to boot?

Here I am at my first library panel in Wells, Maine with Kate Flora, Jayne Hitchcock and Anne Mosey introducing. Can it really be just eleven months ago? I was nervous and very glad to be in the capable hands of Kate Flora.

Kate Flora: My first job was as the librarian’s assistant at the Vose Library in Union. It meant I was second in line, after the librarian, for the new Victoria Holt, Phyllis Whitney, and Mary Steward romantic suspense novels. Among my memorable experiences at Maine libraries I have to put a very special night at the McArthur Public Library in Biddeford, with Lea Wait and Ruth McCarty. It wasn’t just that the librarians were so kind and friendly, nor that the crowd that night (and it WAS a crowd–our Maine librarians are good at giving us an audience) was so receptive and asked such intriguing questions. It was the refreshments. I’ve posted this photograph on a number of occasions, because it is such a prize, and it has inspired many another library to do the same.

Biddeford Library serves finger cookies for a mystery event

Camden Library serves finger cookies. Who can resist this very unusual spin of the term, “finger cookies?”

And no one can say our librarians lack ingenuity and creativity. See the cake the Freeport Community Library provided for a crime story/Poe’s Birthday event. And the Camden Public Library did themselves proud with an entire buffet of mystery treats for a panel that Gerry, Jim and I did there.

Freeport Library hosts “Poe’s Birthday” with a special cake

Camden’s “Cake to Die For”

My “home” library, of course, is the Vose Library, in Union. It’s where I had my first job, helping the librarian after school. And where they’ve invited me to participate a few times in their annual “Soup and Suspense mystery event.

And of course, while the list could go on and on, since visiting Maine libraries is one of my favorite “pastimes,” I cannot end this (though I know this group will be back to the subject of libraries many times) without mentioning Carol Briggs, a serious author supporter at the Curtis Library in Brunswick, and Charlene Clemons, at the Ellsworth, Maine library, who has declared herself my biggest fan. I wonder if people realize how much such a declaration means?

 Julia Spencer-Fleming: My local library, the Salmon Falls Library, is typical of what you find in many of Maine’s rural areas. It’s reused from an older building (in this case, the first kindergarten in the Buxton/Hollis area, donated to the town by its most famous author, Kate Douglas Wiggins.) It’s open about 20 hours a week and has one paid employee, the director. (She also acts as children’s librarian, acquisitions director, programming manager, etc., etc.) The wonderful thing is, there are three other libraries serving the two towns; West Buxton, Hollis Center and Berry Memorial. Between them, area residents have the same choices and hours that library-goers in the city enjoy.

I support my library as a volunteer and  as a donor. I also recently became the President of the Friends, by virtue of being the last one to arrive at the annual meeting. Finally, I’m the Salmon Falls Library’s Writer-in-Residence, which means I get the key and can work there when the place isn’t open to the public. Since it’s the only place around with air conditioning, I’m there quite a lot in July and August!

Kaitlyn: One last comment from me. Support your local library. Volunteer. Check out old favorites from the stacks, since whether or not they are culled depends upon how recently they were read. And donate books (in good condition) that you’ve read and don’t need to keep. Even if they aren’t added to the library collection, they can help raise funds at library book sales.

Kate adds: Also donate videos, audio books, and music. Even if the library can’t use your offering, clever librarians like our own John Clark, the librarian in Hartland, can turn those into cash to support the collection.

From all of us: Authors visits, and author panels, are a great way to connect library patrons who are avid mystery readers with their favorite authors and introduce them to authors they may not have discovered. Events like Death and Desserts or Soup and Suspense engage the patrons who make the soup or deadly desserts, and make a talk an event.

Gerry Boyle moderates a panel with Gayle Lynds, Paul Doiron, and Lea Wait

Gerry Boyle moderates a panel with Gayle Lynds, Paul Doiron, and Lea Wait

 

Kate Flora moderates a panel with agent Ann Collette, bookseller Barbara Kelly, Barbara Ross and Chris Holm.

Kate Flora moderates a panel with agent Ann Collette, bookseller Barbara Kelly, Barbara Ross and Chris Holm.

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Greetings from the Crime Wave

This weekend, Kathy, Kate, Lea, Al, and Barb, along with alums Paul Doiron and Gerry Boyle are at the Glickman Library at USM for a day of panels, classes, and schmoozing.

We kicked off last night with Kate, Paul, and Brenda Buchanan and many writers reading a two minute segment of their work. True crime poetry, anyone? A man handcuffed to an anchor? Maine’s premier deathbed artist? There was grace under pressure and a gong and a lot of laughter as we celebrated the courage and talent of a roomfull of writers.

More to come as we enjoy a day with Gayle Lynds, Chris Holm, agent Ann Colette, and others. Will report in during the day (if wifi allows) with highlights.

Sarah Graves and Al Lamanda on the series mystery panel

Sarah Graves and Al Lamanda on the series mystery panel

Kathy Lynn Emerson teaching a class on the traditional mystery

Kathy Lynn Emerson teaching a class on the traditional mystery

Al Lamanda and his editor, Tiffany Schofield from Five Star at the Crime Wave

Al Lamanda and his editor, Tiffany Schofield from Five Star at the Crime Wave

 

Brenda Buchanan and Kathy Lynn Emerson on a panel about the series mystery

Brenda Buchanan and Kathy Lynn Emerson on a panel about the series mystery

Chris Holm doing a workshop on techniques for creating suspense

Chris Holm doing a workshop on techniques for creating suspense

Gerry Boyle, Gayle Lynds, Paul Doiron and Lea Wait at the Maine Crime Wave

Gerry Boyle, Gayle Lynds, Paul Doiron and Lea Wait at the Maine Crime Wave

Gerry Boyle moderates the opening panel at the Maine Crime Wave

Gerry Boyle moderates the opening panel at the Maine Crime Wave

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THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE!

Vaughn Hardacker here: This year there are a couple of anniversaries of major events in my life. On March 6, 1965, the U. S. Marines landed at Danang, Republic of Vietnam, officially kicking off the war, and on June 16, 1965 I graduated high school in Caribou. What do these dates have to do with forming me into the person I am now? Graduating high school says all that needs to be said about that subject. As for the other, within one year I would enlist in the U. S. Marine Corps and in another year and a half I would be in Vietnam.

THE WALL by Lee Teter

THE WALL by Lee Teter

This year being the golden anniversary of the Vietnam War many veteran’s groups are giving recognition to those of us who were there. As a member of the Marine Corps League, I did some research into our state’s contribution to that war. I decided to put my focus on those who made the ultimate sacrifice and was surprised to learn some eye-opening facts: Over 340 men gave their lives (I have one source putting the actual number at 341 and another at 343 (this equates to 5.8% of the total dead), I have not been able to find the discrepancy between the two numbers.   The first casualty from Maine was Captain Herbert F. Hardy, US Army. He died as a result of enemy action on March 4, 1964. He was from Great Pond in Hancock County. The second and third casualties were Captain Roger E. Gauvin, U.S Army and Private First Class Richard P. Bubar, both of Caribou. Richie Bubar died on November 1, 1964. His death hit me particularly hard as I knew him personally and his parents and mine were very close friends. The first U. S. Marine to be killed in Vietnam was Corporal Gary D. Tracy from Limestone, who was killed on June 6, 1965. The last Maine serviceman to lose his or her life in Vietnam was Lieutenant Commander Robert S. Graustien, US Navy, of Fryeburg in Oxford Country. The youngest Mainer to lose his life was Private Bruce A. Abdellah, US Army, of East Holden in Penobscot County. Who was 95 days short of his twentieth birthday when he was killed on October 26, 1971. According to the National Vietnam Veterans Foundation, five men killed in Vietnam were only sixteen years old and the oldest killed was sixty-two and 61% were twenty-one (I celebrated my twenty-first birthday there) or younger. The war still lingers on in those of us who are still alive and many of us are still reluctant to talk about our experiences with anyone but another Viet-vet. As a matter of fact, we still harbor a great deal of resentment about the way we were treated when we returned. The general attitude about the war and those of us who served there was so negative that we were virtually driven underground. Even today, when attitudes have softened, I bristle when someone says, “Thank you for your service.” Unfortunately, I feel that the phrase has become another platitude (like “Have a nice day” that has no feeling behind it) and my first reaction is to ask myself “Why weren’t we told that forty-six years ago?” and I seldom, if ever, answer the so-called well wisher. There is, however, one statement that enrages me more than that: “I didn’t go over but wish I had.” My answer to that has always been: “Well, trust me when I say you didn’t miss anything.” Of the 2,709,918 Americans who served in Vietnam, less than one-third are estimated to be alive today, with the youngest American Vietnam veteran’s age approximated to be 54 years old. According to the 1995 census 1,713,823 of those who served in Vietnam were still alive; 9,492,958 Americans falsely claimed to have been there. (During the most recent census 13,853,027 falsely claimed being here, so FOUR OUT OF FIVE who claim to be vets are NOT.) The census taken during August of 2000 estimated the Vietnam veteran population surviving at 1,002,511 or a net loss of 711,000 during the five years 1995 to 2000. That’s 390 per day.

The Author in the summer of 1968. Serving as a door gunner with VMO-2

Corporal Vaughn C. Hardacker, USMC, in the summer of 1968. Serving as a door gunner with VMO-2

To those of you who say: “Thank you for your service.” Our war has been over for forty something years and many of the younger people thanking us are most likely not aware of the scathing comments and actions to which we Vietnam veterans were subjected upon our return. So I must say that Vietnam veterans need to put the negative feelings behind us and accept the phrase for what it has become, another stranger saying “Good morning” as we pass on the street; just a way of greeting someone (who we really don’t care if their morning is good or not).

When I meet with other Vietnam Veterans and we talk about the war, the question: “Knowing what you know now, would you do it again?” The answer from me and my colleagues (almost exclusively Marines) is “In a heartbeat!” But that is the way we Mainers are. Every Mainer has relatives who fought in our nation’s wars. My uncle, Vaughn L. Hardacker of whom I am his namesake, gave his life in August of 1944 fighting in the hedgerows of France, his youngest brother, Elias (Earl) E., was awarded the silver star in Belgium in December 0f 1944.

In closing, before saying, “Thank you for your service” take a moment to reflect about what you’re saying. If you’re saying it without truly meaning it, just say “Good morning”. Also if a Vietnam veteran stares at you and walks by without answering, please realize that some of us are still not used to dealing with gratitude from the general public and aren’t entirely sure how to respond.

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