And I Thought I knew What NOIR Was

Vaughn

Back in 2002, I attended New England CrimeBake, the initial one. Jerry Healy was the keynote speaker of the single day event held at Northern Essex Community College in Haverhill, Massachusetts. During the conference I was asked what I wrote and I replied Noir. The novel I was writing at that time was My Brother’s Keeper, Skyhorse Publishing, July 2019. I recently reread what I wrote–it was not nor will it ever be noir.

Noir is an offshoot of hard-boiled fiction, think Raymond Chandler and James M. Cain. It was strongly influenced by the cinematic works of Robert Mitchum, early Alan Ladd, and Humphrey Bogart. I believe that the first movie I ever saw that was truly noir was White Heat with Jimmy Cagney.

Noir consists of a number of elements.

My Brother’s Keeper

a. The protaganist is usually an outcast. For instance, Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer. In the opening scene Hammer is introduced as having served in the military in WWII (in the latter novels Hammer was a Korean War vet — Spillane didn’t want his protaganist to be in his late eighties — a problem when you write a series using the same protagoanist for more than fifty years ) Throughout the series Hammer only has two friends, his secretary Velda and police Captain Pat Chambers, with whom Mike is often at odds.

b. The noir protaganist is not a hero. Hammer is a good example of this. In most of the books, he finds the antagonist but rather than turn them in to the police, he shoots them.

c. In noir no one on Earth has any hope and they are usually driven by some personal purpose. Be it revenge, greed, or any of a myriad of reasons. In Hammer’s case it’s usually revenge, but he also spends a lot of time uncovering a great conspiracy–usually rich men and politicians.

d. There is usually a sexy woman involved. How many detective movies have you scene where a young attractive woman walks into his office (seldom if ever was the detective a woman). When watching noir movies or reading some of the books keep in mind the time and place most that I have seen take place in the 1940s and 50s. Think Jack Nicholson in Chinatown.

e. Noir characters are usually (not always) nocturnal. The movies usually take place at night and are filmed in a manner that makes the viewer believe that all crime happens at night on rain soaked streets with streetlights that give insufficient illumination.

f. Noir is primarily written in first person so that the reader is in the protagonist’s head–in many noir movies the protagonist narrates. It leaves open the prospect that maybe the protagonist POV is isn’t telling the story the way it happened. Is he (or she) deluded, confused,  or just outright lying. Now before you write a comment on POV, you don’t have to use first person–use the one that is best for your story.

g. The mystery is usually the murder of a young woman. Your protagonist need not be a private detective or a disillusioned police office. It can be an amateur like a veteran returns from the war to learn that his wife has been murdered. You get the basic plot it’s been done enough. Keep in mind item a. above.

h. Very few noir stories take place in small town in rural America. Marlowe stayed in L. A. and Hammer the streets and allies of New York. However, don’t be afraid to take noir out of the city. The Postman Always Rings Twice takes place in a small country local. How about the Bates Hotel?

i. To satisfy the diehard noir fan you must have violence. Somewhere along the line the protagonist is going to get the snot knocked out of him (Nicholson’s detective in Chinatown has his nose restructured with a knife).

j. There ain’t no happy ending. At its core, noir is about broken dreams. In short, make sure your protagonist is left no better off than they started. In our example of the vet trying to find his wire’s murderer–he identifies the killer, but he is a wealthy politician and everyone in town owes him for something. Net result killer gets off and protagonist is forced to leave town.

k. Keep your writing simple, direct, and hard. Just get to the point and make it snappy.

In closing, as much as I would like to write noir, I don’t. I also better mention that if you are writing noir you do not have to hit all eleven elements. It may help to keep in mind that noir is protest literature. I’ll get into that in my next blog.

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Weekend Update: April 4-5, 2020

Next week at Maine Crime Writers, there will be a posts by Vaughn Hardacker (Monday), Brenda Buchanan (Tuesday), John Clark (Thursday) and Joe Souza (Friday).

 

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

Well…like the rest of you, we are all quarantined. But we’re looking forward to some of the great Maine events that lie ahead, if they don’t have to be canceled.

The Maine Crime Wave, June 19 & 20. Check out the details here: http://mainewriters.org/maine-crime-wave/

Books in Boothbay, Maine’s annual author event, perfectly combined with a trip to the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens. https://www.mainegardens.org

Books in Boothbay 2020

July 11, 2020, 9 AM – 1:00 PM, Boothbay Railway Village

We hope to be spending the summer in Maine libraries, doing our fun programs like Making a Mystery. This summer, if we can resurrect ourselves from isolation, we’ll be introducing a new program: Casting Call: How We Shape The Characters Who Carry The Story. We hope we’ll be seeing many of you at these events.

Here are some questions for those of you who follow Maine Crime Writers:

What Would You Like From Us? Are there questions we should be answering? Insights we should be providing? Do you want to know more about the writer’s life? Or maybe less? Are we keeping you up-to-date on our new releases?

Hope to hear from you. We’re a community, even if we’re currently isolated from one another.

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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The Games We’re Playing to Stay Sane

Kate Flora: Probably being in quarantine is easier for me than for many, since except for the now canceled trips to the store, the occasional dinner with friends, and going to the gym, my life is pretty much unchanged. As an over 70 person with an underlying condition, I am taking the advice to be careful very seriously. In fact, I just finished washing the batch of groceries that someone picked up for me, hoping I’ve been careful enough.

People are doing a lot of good things to support each other and stay connected. This weekend some of will attend a Zoom cocktail party and my book group will Zoom together on Sunday. I even had a Zoom tap lesson earlier this week, although that was a mixed blessing, since I was revealed as a total klutz after a month away.

There are a lot of games going around on Facebook, like sharing something true about yourself that sounds make-up. I shared that one summer I was an upstairs/downstairs maid for an eccentric millionaires on Islesboro, a job that entailed constantly being on poop patrol for untrained dogs, always carrying a can of Brasso and a rag to polish up all the sea-tarnished brass, and when I turned down the beds, carrying an iron so I could iron smooth the fold in the sheets.

Another game is naming 5 concerts you’ve been to, one of which is a lie. Mine would be Joan Baez, The Rolling Stones, Bob Seeger, Bob Marley, and Bob Dylan. Can you guess which of these is a lie?

Then there’s the game of name X (you can choose the number) things everyone likes that you don’t. For me? Lamb. The Office. Loud music. Most shades of green. Flats. Breaking Bad. Schitt’s Creek. Blue Fish. Okay…you’re on.

In my neighborhood, people are putting bears in their windows for the neighborhood children to find. I just put Joey the Koala in my little library, along with a stack of juvenile and Y/A mysteries. (If you look closely, you will see me, with my unkempt hair, reflected in the glass)

And of course, everyone is kindly posting pictures of flowers and beautiful places. So here are some of those. Enjoy. Stay calm if you can. Don’t hoard toilet paper. And let us hope this makes us all kinder.

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Feuding Brothers: Who Was the Femme Fatale?

Kaitlyn Dunnett/Kathy Lynn Emerson here, today writing about a real life mystery I’m trying to solve. I’ve written before about some of my adventures uncovering the truth behind family stories, both my own and my husband’s. Another puzzling tale resurfaced last month, thanks to some recently rediscovered notes I made years ago when I was visiting relatives with my mother. I wrote about that trip here and touched on the mystery in that post. Since then, I’ve been doing a little sleuthing, hoping to find out more.

My mother, Marie (age 8 in 1918), and her cousin Eleanor (age 12 in 1918) both remembered the basics. Their Uncle M. H. (age 26 in 1918) was dating the local schoolteacher before he went into the army in World War I. While he was away, his brother Howd (age 22 in 1918) started dating her. When M. H. got back after the war and found out, he wasn’t pleased (to put it mildly!) and literally stopped speaking to Howd. Although they were both living at home, sharing a room in the farm/boardinghouse their parents ran (and both sleeping in the barn in the summer to make more room for boarders), they communicated only by having my mother or one of their other relatives relay the message.

Uncle M.H. in his uniform

To say the least, I was curious about who this femme fatale might have been. Neither brother married her. Howd married in 1933. M. H. waited until 1946 to wed.

I started by asking Howd’s daughters if they’d ever heard the story. Neither had, and I think they were a bit skeptical of its veracity.

The next step was to find out a bit more about my great uncle’s time in the military. I had a photo of him in uniform, so I already had proof that he served in World War I, but I didn’t know any details. The U.S. entered the war on April 6, 1917. It ended November 11, 1918, and the last U.S. combat division left France for home in September 1919. My uncle, however, was involved for a much shorter period of time. First I found his draft card. He registered for the draft on June 5, 1917. According to the information taken down at the time, he had brown hair and brown eyes and was of medium height and build. Then, thanks to Ancestry.com, I found his service record. He was inducted as a private on September 3, 1918 and was discharged on January 30, 1919.

Wait. What?

Yes, that’s right. Uncle M. H. was away from home less than five months and was never sent overseas. The war ended when he’d been in the army just short of ten weeks.

This narrowed the time frame significantly for discovering the identity of the schoolteacher in question, and I thought I had an ace in the hole. The local one-room schoolhouse in Hurleyville, New York, where M. H. and Howd and my mother all went to elementary school, is one of the best documented in the area and the person who has all the original records is a distant cousin through M. H. and Howd’s mother. Even better, he’s someone I’ve gotten to know on Facebook and with whom I have exchanged family information and photos. I emailed him to explain my quest. He consulted the Treasurer’s Book for Columbia Hill School for 1901-1927 and sent me a list of all the female teachers from 1907-1927.

Columbia Hill School around 1918-19 with my mother marked with an X

I wish I could say that solved the mystery, but since M. H. left town in September 1918, the teacher he’d been seeing would logically have been the one who taught in Hurleyville in 1917. You guessed it. Between 1907 and 1927 there is only one year that has no entry—1917.

In the fall of 1918, Miss Agnes Krause was hired to teach for thirty-six weeks, which seems to have been the usual school year. That would put her at the school from just about the time M. H. left and throughout the period when Howd was dating his brother’s girlfriend. Had she also been there in 1917? Did she arrive enough before M. H. left to give him time to start courting her? We will probably never know, especially since the only Agnes Krause of roughly the right age that I’ve been able to find in the records on Ancestry.com is listed as a shirt maker, not a teacher.

It’s also possible that our femme fatale was teaching at one of the other small, one-room schoolhouses in the area. There were a lot of them and several weren’t too far away. Since those young women usually boarded with local families during the school year, however, it’s most likely the woman I’m interested in taught at Columbia Hill School.

Will the mystery ever be solved? Maybe not, but I’ve learned a few interesting facts along the way, thanks to my third cousin, Paul Lounsbury. He also sent along some scans from the Treasurer’s Book. The teacher at Columbia Hill School in 1910 and 1911, Miss Florence Haley was initially hired for sixteen weeks at the princely sum of $11.00 a week, the same amount her predecessor, Miss Mary Robinson, earned with a commitment for thirty-two weeks. Florence actually received a little more than that, on one occasion getting $77.80 for seven weeks of teaching. And you thought teachers were underpaid today!

If you want to know more about the one-room schoolhouse project Paul was involved in, you can click here

With the January 2020 publication of A View to a Kilt, Kathy Lynn Emerson/Kaitlyn Dunnett will have had sixty-one books traditionally published. She won the Agatha Award and was an Anthony and Macavity finalist 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. She was the Malice Domestic Guest of Honor in 2014. Currently she writes the contemporary Liss MacCrimmon Mysteries and the “Deadly Edits” series as Kaitlyn. Next up is A Fatal Fiction, in stores at the end of June. As Kathy, her most recent book is a collection of short stories, Different Times, Different Crimes but there is a new, standalone historical mystery, The Finder of Lost Things, in the pipeline for October. She maintains three websites, at www.KaitlynDunnett.com and www.KathyLynnEmerson.com and another, comprised of over 2000 mini-biographies of sixteenth-century English women, at A Who’s Who of Tudor Women.

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On Our Own In Maine–Part Two

As we wrote yesterday, we’re all more isolated than usual, so some of us who blog regularly at Maine Crime Writers have put together two posts to let our readers know how we’re doing with the whole self-isolation and social distancing thing. Or as Maine’s CDC head puts it, physical distancing. Social contact is still possible.

Writers regularly hole up and avoid other people in order to write our books, so we’re also in a unique position to offer a few helpful survival tips. Please feel free to comment, let us know how you’re doing, and share your own suggestions to avoid going stir crazy.

Kate Flora: As the introduction to this group post notes, most of us are good at putting

person holding hour glass

Photo by samer daboul on Pexels.com

ourselves in a chair and staying there. When I talk about the writing life, I occasionally tell the audience that the word “discipline” comes right after “imagination.” Books don’t get written because we dream about being writers. They get written because we force ourselves into the chair and to work even when we don’t want to and even when what appears on the page is more like gravel than prose. Sometimes I admit that I do grow restless, and in order to get the work done, I have a few tricks that I use. First, I set goals, either a page count or a word count. Second, I use either the Pomodoro timer app on my phone, or my green apple kitchen timer, to keep me in the chair for a set period of time. Third, because I am a confessed chocoholic, there are treats if I reach my goals.

Have a project you’ve always wanted to pursue? This might be the ideal time. Maybe you are someone who has always wanted to write a book but never had the time. There may never be a better time to try that. Go look up some of the blogs about NaNoWriMo…or national novel writing month, and put them to work, see how much you can accomplish before the stay home order is lifted. Or maybe you have some genealogy you’ve always wanted to pursue? If I can find it in my basement, I have a box of the letters my father sent my mother while he was overseas during World War II. This is an excellent time to get out the box and start reading.

I confess that when we can return to some kind of normal, I am looking forward to going to a restaurant and letting someone else do the cooking. Also hoping that the kindness and connection we are seeing, at least in my neighborhood, will last. I suggested to my neighbors that we make a “walking rope” with knots at 7′ intervals, so we could safely walk together. No takers yet.

Kaitlyn Dunnett/Kathy Lynn Emerson: Since we live year round in Maine, preparing for a normal winter means keeping a good supply of necessities on hand at all times, in case of extended power outages during an ice storm or blizzard. It was a blow when the ski areas shut down with many days perfect for skiing left in the season, but since my husband and I fall into that over-seventy-high-risk category, we can’t really complain about something so minor. He’s back to making jigsaw-puzzle tables. When his orders are filled, he’ll keep going so he’ll have stock on hand for next Christmas. I’m not writing anything new at the moment, but I am revising the manuscript for my 2021 Deadly Edits mystery and proofreading a couple of nonfiction projects I hope to publish independently as e-books when things settle down out in the big wide world.

That still leaves me a fair amount of free time. We’ve decided to go out, briefly, only once a week for the foreseeable future—to pick up the mail at the post office and whatever groceries and/or prescriptions we’ve run out of. To keep myself from going stir crazy I could catch up on house work, but cleaning, spring or otherwise, has never been high on my to-do list. That may change, but in the meantime reading, especially re-reading some of my comfort reads, doing jigsaw puzzles, and binge watching The West Wing are much more appealing pastimes. I’m also open to learning something new. The current project is mastering Zoom on my iPad. Thank goodness for WiFi! Once I figure this out, there are all sorts of groups I can participate in. It may not be as good as meeting in person, but it sure is a lot safer.

Maine Crime Writers alum Barb Ross: I haven’t been isolating in Maine. My husband and I have been in Key West, Florida since New Year’s Day. Tomorrow we begin the 1800 mile drive home to Portland. We won’t be alone there either. On March 14, my niece and her best friend fled their closed college in New York City and they’ve been staying at our house ever since. (They’re native Mainers so they’re not putting any additional burden on our healthcare system.) But like the other authors I do have advice about working from home. Most of it will have already been given. a) Go outside every day if you can. b) Get up from your desk and move around every hour or so. My third piece of advice is to allow time for “mode-switching.” If you’ve been commuting to your job, you have, consciously or unconsciously, been using your drive time to change modes. On the drive in your mind slowly abandons the preoccupations of home and starts working on the problems of work. On your commute home, the opposite happens. Working from home, it can be helpful if you find some routine that signals to your brain it’s time to go to work. I have been using my teeth care routine, which takes several minutes. (It feels like hours.) My brain now knows that after this we’re going to work and begins its transition. In the evening, before I shut down my laptop, I have a little routine where I add the day’s files to Dropbox and whatnot, and put all the loose stuff on my desktop back in its proper folders. Your routine may vary, but I find a “mode-switching” routine very helpful.

Sandra Neily:  I am looking for things to share to make families’ lives easier.  So I am repeating some of them here (below), in case folks missed yesterday’s posting. Today, I met up with my family and grand kids at a ski area (they are closed). The kids loved sliding. I could snowshoe up and down and keep good distance. The dogs loved chasing the sled. TONS of room to separate and still have fun together. Made us feel both connected and much free-er. No playground is safe, but the snow is. You don’t have to travel far inland to find spring snow. (See below.)

And I am making an online “flip” book of my pictures and some clip art I downloaded and sending it to my grand kids. I miss reading to them but now, they can follow along on their computer as I narrative a story I created … using pictures of family and places they recognize. Think this might be good for any older folks who are isolated and would love to receive this kind of book. https://bit.ly/2JvBjsw

 Audio Books for Kids.  Audible has curated a huge selection for kids, aged 0 and up. Bet the sound effects are good on the toddler ones. At stories.audible.com, you will find hundreds of kids’ titles available completely free. The collection has been handpicked by editors and is a mix of stories to entertain, engage, and inform young people, ages 0–18. The experience is completely free – no log-ins, credit cards, or passwords required. Just click, stream and listen. (As a big kid who drives a lot, I downloaded some Harry Potter. The award -winning reader of this serious is amazing. A very UP treat, except for Voldemort of course.) 

Kids Get Virus Questions Answered: The NYTimes Daily podcast recorded kids’ virus questions, plays their voices, and has a perfect person answer them. In fact, send this to any person you think needs an interesting, non-preachy, lesson. (Maybe the governors of Florida and Idaho.)  There’s an adorable girl, aged 4, who asked a great question. Kudos to her parents for opening the world to her. Fearlessly. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/27/podcasts/the-daily/kids-coronavirus.html

Ski Areas are Closed but Not For Us Walkers/Hikers. My social distance treat is a March snowshoe or hike up hill. Parks and trails are getting closed all over. There’s been way too many people using them for us to keep safe distances and also, restrooms are closed, so it’s just not a safe place. It’s worth a trip to your nearest ski area where there are either muddy trails that offer tons of room, or spring snow conditions. Snowshoeing or hiking on snowy trails is just soul-restoring. Doggies just love the space to run and roam. Find a list here:  https://skimaine.com/

See the Happy: Put a great, happy home-screen pic of loved ones on your computer so you see it first thing. (Mine.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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On Our Own In Maine–Part One

 

Given that everyone these days is more isolated than usual, those of us who blog regularly at Maine Crime Writers thought we’d share how we’re doing with the whole self-isolation and social distancing thing. Of course, writers have an advantage — we regularly hole up and avoid other people in order to write our books. Even for most of us, though, this is isolation on an unprecedented scale. Some of us may have griped in the past about being in “book jail” to meet a deadline, but the situation we’re all experiencing right now is infinitely worse.

That said, we’re in a unique position to offer a few helpful survival tips. Today and tomorrow, you can read how some of us are coping. Please feel free to comment, share your own tips, and let us know how you’re doing.

Charene D’Avanzo: What do writers do when we are “on our own”? Besides writing books, we read them! In times of confinement and disquiet, books offer insight, diversion, and more. Here’s a few I recommend:

     For absolute escape I unapologetically turn to Dorothy Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries. The classic exemplar of the British gentleman detective, Wimsey has “straw-colored hair, a beaked nose, and a vaguely foolish face”. His hobby is criminology, which he is brilliant at, and he’s an expert on food, wine, and classical music. Clouds of Witness, second in the series, is on my nightstand right now. Peter’s brother is on the hot seat for their sister’s fiancé’s murder.

Another of my favorites by the Nobel prize-winning author Gabriel Garcia Marquez has the currently unfortunate title of Love in the Time of Cholera. In Spanish, cholera can translate as passion, the essence of this story. Although young Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza are passionately in love, Fermina marries a wealthy doctor. Fifty years, nine months, and four days after Florentino first declared his love for Fermina, he does so again after the doctor dies. The term “cholera” in the title alludes to plagues that ravage the countryside.  

Inexplicably looking for another book about a epidemic? In a recent NY Times piece Roger Cohen recommends The Plague written by Albert Camus in the 40’s. About his book Camus said “there have been as many plagues in the world as there have been wars, yet plagues and wars always find people equally unprepared. When they break out people say: ‘It won’t last, it’s too stupid.’” Kinda sounds familiar, no?

Susan Vaughan: Like some others here, my husband and I fall into the over 70 category, so social distancing and staying put are good ideas, although we’re both pretty healthy. No reason to tempt fate. Grocery shopping, a trip to the car body shop (don’t ask), and a walk with a neighbor–6 feet apart–have been my only outings. I don’t ever seem to find it difficult to keep busy here at home. But oddly–and I have just realized this–the pressure to have to stay home has led me to force myself to keep busy every minute. A false approach. I’m tempering those urges as of now. I am starting a new writing project, a novella, so lots of pondering and note taking, may look like fiddling around, but that’s how a story comes together anyway.

Zumba class

I do need to exercise and not just my fingers on the keyboard. Walking the dog isn’t that demanding because she stops to sniff every foot or so. Lots of animal tracks and scent in the new snowfall of course. My fitness class at the Y is on hold, but my Zumba instructor has created a video class on a site called Zoom, so three times a week, for an hour I’m dancing in my office in front of the computer screen. No, that’s not me in this photo.

Stay safe and take care.

John Clark. It seems like every day there’s another ‘I sure didn’t see that coming’ moment. The biggest for me thus far, is seeing the recovery community turned upside down. Many of our meetings are in churches, schools and community buildings. The closure of many,  coupled with the ten person meeting limit has cut available AA, NA and Alanon meetings to almost zero. For old times like me, that’s worrisome, but for those in early recovery, it’s almost life threatening. They’re encouraged to attend 90 meetings in 90 days, so what do they do? Granted there has been a scramble to create online resources, but what if you’re broke, living in a homeless shelter, or have no internet access. I worry we’re dealing with one health crisis at the expense of another.

Another gotcha happened after I had my last check-up visit after cataract surgery and got a new prescription for glasses. When I took them to Walmart, I was told they were unable to order glasses and were reduced to delivering those ordered before the moratorium, or adjusting glasses frames for existing customers.

Then, there are the logical disconnects that keep me amused. Shaw’s has signs everywhere limiting customers to two items of high demand like toilet paper. This week’s ad had a special on a certain brand of same with the caveat ‘Must buy three.” Wonder how that’s shaking out.

Meanwhile, I’m calling older people, mostly former library patrons in Hartland to see how they’re doing and letting them know I’m thinking about them.

Maureen Milliken. I’m afraid I’m not going to be a ton of help for people looking for ways to ease their discomfort with social distancing. As I mentioned in my post last week, I’ve been a social distancing hobbyist my entire adult life. While I sympathize with people who are freaking out at the thought of not having contact with other people, I have trouble empathizing. Does that make me a social-isolation-opath?

I worked in an office — OK, newsrooms — for more than three decades and they were (most of them) a lot of fun. But I longed for the days off when I didn’t have to talk to anyone. I still work full-time, but at home. That’s pre-corona at home. Ditto for my two part-time jobs and my writing. So I’m home a lot.

Milo, the poster cat for social distancing.

I have two feral cats. I’ve had them since Aug. 14 and one is still hiding, though sometimes we surprise each other in the living room when she thinks I’ve gone to bed (in other words, turned off the TV). The other one is friendly, but he’s the poster cat for social distancing. Won’t get within arm’s length.

While I love my large family, I spent the first 18 years of my life, then shorter periods, crammed in with them sharing bedrooms, a refrigerator, the couch, the bathroom, fighting for the last cupcake and fighting over what to watch on TV. That’s right, one TV, six kids, and a pair of pliers to turn the broken channel knob with.

I know everyone will recommend reading, writing, meditating, etc. All that stuff is good and you should do it. But here’s my take, for what it’s worth: Get used to yourself. And whoever you may be stuck with. What else can you do?

Andrew Cuomo. So angry!

And speaking of TV, I do have friends who I see every day and spend time with. Lately they’ve been my angry buddy Andrew Cuomo, who soothes my Italian DNA with bluntness, anger and oh-so-familiar hand gestures. At the other end of the spectrum, there’s Dr. Nirav Shah, head of Maine’s CDC, whose daily briefings are calm but firm, judgment-free and end with a sincere admonimition for us to take care of ourselves. And Dr. Tony Fauci, a fellow Holy Cross alumn, who I root for daily.

Dr. Nirav Shah. So calm, so reassuring.

There’s also Rachel Maddow. So angry, so disappointed. I know Rachel, I know.  And Stephanie Gosk, from NBC, who’s not only an awesome journalist, but is also cohost of a true crime show. And Kelly O’Donnell, NBC White House correspondent, who looks like about a dozen girls I went to college with. And Joy Reid, who’s only on

on weekends, so I have to anxiously wait to see her. There’s also the soothing, yet often urgent,  voice of the Forensic Files narrator as well as the new Forensic Files II narrator. Yes! It IS a shocking twist! YES! No one DID know what the mud on the tire would reveal! We are of one mind!

Want to talk to someone? Do what I do. When the Property Brother on that ubiquitioius video doorbell commercial says, “FACT! Everyone LOVES video doorbells!” Yell, “THAT’S NOT A FACT!”

See? You can social distance and be just fine. So, my advice to those new to social distancing is this: Wherever you go, there you are. Get used to yourself and ride it out.  I’m not trying to trivialize anyone’s fear or trauma, but it could be a lot worse.

BTW, Forensic Files is on ALL THE TIME on HLN. Just in case you’re wondering.

 

Sandra Neily: Sharing out free audio books for kids … and more….

Free Audio Books for Kids.  Audible has curated a huge selection for kids, aged 0 and up. Bet the sound effects are good on the toddler ones. At stories.audible.com, you will find hundreds of kids’ titles available completely free. The collection has been handpicked by editors and is a mix of stories to entertain, engage, and inform young people, ages 0–18. The experience is completely free – no log-ins, credit cards, or passwords required. Just click, stream and listen. (As a big kid who drives a lot, I downloaded some Harry Potter. The award -winning reader of this serious is amazing. A very UP treat, except for Voldemort of course.) 

Kids Get Virus Questions Answered: The NYTimes Daily podcast recorded kids’ virus questions, plays their voices, and has a perfect person answer them. In fact, send this to any person you think needs an interesting, non-preachy, lesson. (Maybe the governors of Florida and Idaho.)  There’s an adorable girl, aged 4, who asked a great question. Kudos to her parents for opening the world to her. Fearlessly. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/27/podcasts/the-daily/kids-coronavirus.html

Ski Areas are Closed but Not For Us Walkers/Hikers. My social distance treat is a March snowshoe or hike up hill. Parks and trails are getting closed all over. There’s been way too many people using them for us to keep safe distances and also, restrooms are closed, so it’s just not a safe place. It’s worth a trip to your nearest ski area where there are either muddy trails that offer tons of room, or spring snow conditions. Snowshoeing or hiking on snowy trails is just soul-restoring. Doggies just love the space to run and roam. Find a list here:  https://skimaine.com/

See the Happy: Put a great, happy home-screen pic of loved ones on your computer so you see it first thing. (Mine.)

 

 

 

 

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Weekend Update: March 28-29, 2020

Next week at Maine Crime Writers, there will be a group posts on Monday and Tuesday, with  Kaitlyn Dunnett/Kathy Lynn Emerson posting on Thursday and Kate Flora on Friday.

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

Kate Flora is looking for some humor to get through these anxious days. In that spirit, here’s a new take on proof reader’s marks you might enjoy:

Screen Shot 2020-03-25 at 4.13.10 PM

 And something very Maine to entertain you:

In ‘Blow the Man Down,’ a Down East noir where women are tougher than men

https://www.bostonglobe.com/2020/03/18/arts/blow-man-down-down-east-noir-where-women-are-tougher-than-men/

Don’t miss our group post on March 30th in which we share how Maine Crime Writers are handling the quarantine.

 

 

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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