Now The Work Begins!

Vaughn Hardacker here: Recently I completed a novel that I’ve tentatively titled The Exchange. The plot is a crime thriller in which my protagonist (named Dylan Thomas–his mother was a fan of the poet) is a former state police detective who left the paramilitary world of law enforcement to become a lawyer. To survive while attending law school he became a private investigator and after passing the bar maintained his status as an investigator. He is on an ice fishing weekend in northern Maine when he receives a call from his sister, Caitlan (named for Thomas’s wife) who is extremely distraught…her three years-old daughter has gone missing and the police believe that she and her husband are responsible. Dylan takes on the role of attorney for his sister and her husband and uses his investigative skills to seek the perpetrator. He learns that the child has been abducted to be sold in an adoption plot. The investigation will lead him through Maine to Boston where the scheduled exchange is to take place.

That’s the first draft. Now the real work begins. Hallie Ephron once said, “To write is heavenly; to rewrite is divine…” Well, I’ve achieved heavenly, now I have to strive for divinity. I set the finished first draft aside for several months (hoping to be able to edit…rewrite…naively. If I immediately jump into the process while the plot and novel are still fresh in my mind I find it impossible to identify the areas that must be:

  1. clarified. Things that my brain knew and thought I included in the manuscript.
  2. Expounded upon. Those things that lead the reader to understand the various characters, their motivations, and their actions.
  3. Deleted. This is the hard one. Identifying those sections where I have deviated from the plot (no matter how interesting the deviation) and do not move it forward. In many instances this is where I have to “Kill my darlings” (I wish I knew who first said that!)
  4. Redundancies: eliminate scenes/sections that were previously written or information that is already understood.

In his book on writing Stephen King stated that once he finished a first draft he set the manuscript aside for a period of time and then wrote it again from scratch (That’s the true definition of a rewrite! I don’t have that much discipline. I do a line by line edit of the document in my word processor–I’ve been told that King does all of his writing in longhand on pads of paper). He also states that his object is to contact the manuscript size by 10%. For some reason my word count doesn’t vary that much as steps 1 and 2 above seem to replace those darlings I removed.

Once I have completed the second draft, I give the manuscript to my first readers with the instruction to ignore grammar and spelling. That will get caught during the final edit from my publisher. What I want them to concentrate on are the four items listed above. I also try not to have only writers as a first reader, I want readers who will read the work and give me their honest opinion on what worked for them and more importantly what did not. People who will not placate me but will tell it to me straight. I am lucky as I have several who will give me constructive honest feedback. Sometimes its hard  to handle all that truth!

In closing. As many of you may know the Maine Literary Awards were held last week and four of us who regularly blog here were finalists in the Crime Fiction Category (from left to right):

Yours truly for my novel: Wendigo

Sandra Neily for her novel: Deadly Trespass

Dick Cass for his novel: In Solo Time

Kate Flora for her novel: Death Warmed Over


Congratulations to Dick Cass for taking home this year’s award. As for me, this was my third time as a finalist in the past four years and that ain’t bad for a hermit from Aroostook County!

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My Pictures From 2018 Crimewave

MaineCrimeWave was a lot of fun this year. I got to sit on two panels. One was about writing compelling endings. The other was about conflict.91BB3F66-91B8-4AD2-9F4B-F90D5DFF6D76

Here’s a picture of me with F. Lee Bailey, the keynote speaker. What a talk he gave.2D37B720-9BA9-4EFA-BD4B-36A0813A5ECBDouglas Preston was awarded the 2018 Crimemaster Award and was also a fascinating speaker.


HerI am below on a panel with authors Daniel Palmer and Brenda Buchanantalming about writing Compelling Endings.


Here’s one of the gang below. Not all of us made it that photo. Tough getting all the crime writers in one picture.458606EE-76D2-442B-83A2-F5509928E500



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Mapping Moosetookalook

Kaitlyn Dunnett/Kathy Lynn Emerson here, today talking about maps. I love maps. They are so much better than GPS—but that’s another story.

When I was writing historical novels, I searched for every map I could find, both contemporary and historical, trying to make sure my locations were as accurate as I could make them. When I create a fictional place, whether it’s a house or a whole town (or even a whole county) I need to sketch it out on paper to see where things are in relation to one another. I am no artist, but I can use a ruler and a pencil, so I make floor plans for my houses and road maps for my towns. I’d love to have these appear in my published books, but so far only the ones I wrote as Kate Emerson have included professionally drawn maps. I’m given to understand that such things are expensive, and since I have no talent in that area myself, it doesn’t seem likely any will appear in the Kaitlyn Dunnett novels.

That said, a while back a reader named Mark Roberts sent me a message on Facebook and included his map of downtown Moosetookalook, based on reading several of the Liss MacCrimmon mysteries. He wanted to know if it was accurate.

It wasn’t far off, and it triggered an exchange of emails that resulted in my sending him a copy of my amateurish sketch. Mark offered to turn it into a proper map of the area around the town square. Of course I accepted. What writer wouldn’t?

The project was complicated by the fact that several of the shops around the town square have had more than one owner. Amazing how many murderers and murder victims there have been in that part of town! We wanted to avoid spoilers, but it would have been confusing to put just the current owner (as of the eleventh book, X Marks the Scot) or only who occupied them in the first (Kilt Dead), so Mark had to devise a way to show all the owners (to date—who knows who will end up dead or in jail in future books?). The other problems was that, like most towns that have been around for a couple of hundred years, Moosetookalook’s streets don’t form a perfect grid. They curve. They go off at odd angles. That said, the streets around the town square are more uniform than most. They get downright twisty for the part of Moosetookalook not shown on the downtown map. Mark did a wonderful job and you can see the final result at the top of this post.

My “working” map of all of Moosetookalook is drawn on a desk-blotter size piece of graph paper taped to the back of my office door. It’s in pencil, because I make changes in it from time to time, as well as lots of additions. It comes in handy when I forget where I’ve put a minor character’s house or a grocery store. And, truthfully, since I’m directionally challenged, it helps to have that map handy when I can’t remember if Liss should turn left or right when she leaves Moosetookalook Scottish Emporium to go to The Spruces.

What about you, readers? Do you still use road maps, or has modern technology taken their place? Do you like to find maps of fictional places in the novels you read? And if there are none, do you ever draw one for yourself?

Kathy Lynn Emerson/Kaitlyn Dunnett is the author of more than fifty-five traditionally published books written under several names. 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 (Crime & Punctuation—2018) as Kaitlyn and the historical Mistress Jaffrey Mysteries (Murder in a Cornish Alehouse) as Kathy. The latter series is a spin-off from her earlier “Face Down” mysteries and is set in Elizabethan England. Her most recent collection of short stories is Different Times, Different Crimes. Her websites are and and she maintains a website about women who lived in England between 1485 and 1603 at A Who’s Who of Tudor Women.


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Scene 1, Chapter 1, Bad News Travels Fast.

I know, I know. You’ve heard it all before. Authors say it all the time. “I’m finishing up my book on a deadline so I can’t blah blah blah.”

But it’s true! It happens. These babies don’t write themselves.

So, for my post today, either a special treat or a lame way to get out of writing a post, depending on your point of view, here’s the first scene in Bad News Travels Fast, the third in the Bernie O’Dea mystery series. It’s due out this fall.

Keep in mind, what you’re reading here hasn’t been edited or scrutinized by my publisher, so it’s either a special treat or an annoyingly raw scene. Again, depending on your point of view. [Don’t be concerned about typos, etc. It WILL be edited, it’s moving through the pipeline even as you read this. Thanks!]

I hope you enjoy it. Frankly, I’m a little sick of it.

Without further ado, Chapter 1, Scene 1, of BAD NEWS TRAVELS FAST:


Lydia Manzo lay dying less than a mile from where she’d wandered off the Appalachian Trail.

She lay dying less than half a mile from where searchers passed not once, not twice, but four times.

She lay dying as the search moved farther from her campsite in the deep Maine wilderness, then was scaled back.

She lay about as close to expiration as a human can be and still draw breath, for the rescue that was never going to come.

Then someone murdered her.

It was tragic, it was incomprehensible. And it was a secret.

“I don’t accept this.” Bernie O’Dea was too hyped up to sit down. She paced the  police chief’s office, bouncing on her toes.

“Bernie,” said Pete, the chief. “Bernadette, why don’t you sit down?”

She could feel his eyes following her, like one of those Jesus photos her parents’ old aunts all had. “As a newspaper editor, I don’t need anyone’s permission to write that someone killed her, I just need someone to say it on the record.” She stopped pacing to look pointedly at the fire chief, who sat with his arms crossed, long legs stretched out in front of him, in the corner, like he was hiding. Or being punished. Her look was wasted on him. He was looking at his feet. She turned back to Pete and tried the same look. It didn’t work with him, either.

“Please sit down,” he said. “You’re making me dizzy.”

Sit down? She was never going to sit down again. “She was murdered. You know it, I know it. Sandy knows it.” She glared at the fire chief again. “I don’t understand why I would write anything else.”

Maybe she was murdered.”

“Maybe, Pete? MAYBE? It’s Sandy’s call,” Bernie said. “He saw what he saw. He’s the one who knows. He’s the goddam fire chief for chrissake. If people aren’t going to believe him, who will they believe?”

Sandy shifted, but didn’t look up. He face was bright red. She glared, trying to will him to look up, wondering how much of this maybe wasn’t even about Lydia Manzo at all.

“Bernie,” Pete said. “Bernadette. Please sit down and talk about this like the rational adult I know you are.”

She knew how she was acting. She knew she could never act this way with anyone but him. She was taking advantage. Sandy and Pete had already talked about it before she’d arrived that morning. She could tell. The fight went out of her and she sat down. The medical examiner’s report that she’d printed out before racing the two blocks from the newspaper office to the police station was twisted into a tight, damp knot in her hand. She opened it and smoothed it on her lap, feeling Pete’s eyes on her.

“This report,” she said, trying to sound calm. Trying to sound like the rational adult he thought he knew she was. “Is a piece of shit. How can they call it suicide two days after and not even investigate? And why would I not write what I already know to be true? I’m asking rationally.”

Pete took a deep breath. “It doesn’t matter what Sandy thinks he saw,” he said.

Sandy’s head jerked up and Bernie felt a nice punch of satisfaction. Come on, fella, get in the fight.

“It’s not my case,” Pete said. “It’s the state’s. They’ve ruled it a suicide. Every sign points to it being one.”

Bernie geared up to respond. Pete held up his hand.

“Including the Ziploc bag over her head,” he said. “And the fact that she was in a remote spot where no one would likely go to kill her. She was near death in the middle of nowhere, and that’s not only a suicide motive, but a really bad potential murder victim.”

“Don’t try to make it sound like it makes sense,” Bernie said. She turned to Sandy. “You’re sure of what you saw, right?”

He shrugged. “Does it matter? The medical examiner and the game wardens who carted her off didn’t see it and won’t back me up.”

Aw shucks, what me know something? “I can’t believe you guys,” Bernie said. “Fine pair you are.” She got up. “I have a newspaper to put out.”

“Bernie,” Pete said. She knew that voice. Caution. Slow down. Don’t go there.

“Don’t worry,” she said. “It’s off the record. I’m not printing it, at least not until you two come to your senses.”

“I really am sorry,” Pete said as she walked to the door.

She knew he meant it, but she didn’t want to give in. “Sorry doesn’t help.”

“Lunch at noon?”

“You’re buying.” She closed the door—softly— knowing coming from her it had much more of an impact than a slam.

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Weekend Update: June 16-17, 2018

Next week at Maine Crime Writers, there will posts by Maureen Milliken (Monday) Kaitlyn Dunnett/Kathy Lynn Emerson (Tuesday), Joe Souza (Wednesday), Vaughn Hardacker (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:

Jessie Crockett will be leaving the blog next month, though we still hope she’ll return to share news of future books.

William Andrews will be joining us.

A reminder about our contest:

This one should be a lot of fun, and we hope to see entries from many of you.IMG_1393 The subject: Where Would You Put the Body?

The contest: Send us a photograph of the place you’d put a body, along with a description of why you chose that spot.

Where do you send it? To

What will you win? This nifty Poe tote bag and a bunch of books and other goodies.

What’s the deadline? Thursday, June 28th. Grab your camera and send us those pics.

This week at the Maine Literary Awards, Dick Cass won the award for Crime Fiction. He was joined by an entire MCW short list including Kate Flora, Sandra Neily, and Vaughn Hardacker, along with other MCW writers who came to cheer them on. (Missing from these photos is Brenda Buchanan, who arrived just after the group photo was taken.)



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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casco-bay-454645_1920Jessie: Finally in Maine, enjoying the salty air!

This summer marks the eighth that my family will spend on the coast of Maine. It is the second of those same summers that I haven’t had a September 1 deadline for a book. I am wildly excited to consider that I will not spend long, sunny days watching others trundle past with beach carts and folding chairs, the scent of sunblock wafting through my windows in their wake.

I won’t bribe myself to get a certain number of words written or pages revised in the morning in order to go to the beach in the afternoon. Tides rather than productivity will rule the timing of my beach visits.

I am not the only one pleased by this turn of events. My family and friends that visit us at the seaside each year have expressed pleasure at the thought they need not feel guilty leaving me alone in the house while they went off to frolic in the waves or to strill the shore. My children have wistfully mentioned the possibilty that I might remember how to use the bbq grill or at least the way to the local grocer.

So I’ve stocked up on plants for the patio and the window boxes. I’ve bought new pillows for the beds. I even have been perusing the internet for grilling recipes. All in all it looks like a pleasurable few weeks stretching ahead rather than a frenzied scramble of activity. I couldn’t be more pleased!

Readers, do you have any fun plans for the summer? Writers, how do you motivate yourself to work when the summer sun is shinig through th e windows and tempting you out of doors?

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Beavers Beware

Bob Noonan lacks neither opinions nor expertise and he’s fun to converse with. Born in southern Maine, he grew up in Scarborough and Windham. After graduating from Chevrus High School, he went to St. Michaels College in Vermont, earning a teaching degree. His teaching career began at Alburg High on the peninsula jutting into Lake Champlain, then it was on to a progressive school using the Summerhill model, in Bangor. He had an opportunity to work for the Small Business Administration in Fairbanks, Alaska for a couple years before returning to Maine where he became a carpenter, first working for others, then operating his own company.

trapper bob

Throughout all of his education and work experiences, something else lurked in the background—a love of nature, especially as a trapper. Bob is adamant that trapping not only connected him with the natural world in unique ways, but was instrumental in helping him deal with depression and bipolar illness, starting in his early teens. His family was middle class, Dad a salesman in the shoe industry, Mom a homemaker. He was expected to earn his own spending money and started doing so in a unique way.

Everything started with an impulse swap. Bob was weeding his comic collection and when offered a minnow trap, he exchanged an unwanted comic for it. This was at a time when he and his friends were fishing at night for eels under the Snow’s Clam factory wharf. On a good night, they might catch three or four. He baited the minnow trap with broken clams and when he pulled it the next day, it had more eels inside than he could imagine. Some were eaten (Mom cooked everything her husband and sons brought home), some were shared around the neighborhood, and the rest were sold.

His fascination with trapping led him to creating innovative ways to live catch mice and squirrels, using a regular snap trap, wire mesh and a coffee can. They were sold to Helen Perley who owned White Animal Farm on Pine Point in Scarborough. (more about her here She paid him ten cents per mouse and a dollar for each squirrel.

Another neighbor trapped muskrats in Scarborough Marsh and was happy to share his skills with Bob. That led to his taking a taxidermy class and then buying his first Conibear trap from the Sears & Roebuck catalog. Bob says this trap was the first major trapping innovation in over 100 years. It worked so well, he soon bought another dozen. Trapping became so much a part of his life that he ran a trap line in high school, burning both ends of the candle by checking it early in the morning and then at night. His trapping continued while in college where he ran a line within walking distance of the school. It was during that time when he discovered the challenge and allure of going after mink. He told me there were two general ways to set traps, with bait and by blindsetting. With the latter, the trapper must use his experience and powers of observation to predict exactly where the animal will go. When there are multiple holes in a river bank, this makes the task even more challenging.

Eventually, Bob’s love of trapping, his history as an avid reader, and a talent for writing merged and he began writing for a magazine called The Trapper. He made $300 per article, but soon ran out of topics based on his own knowledge. Realizing how much he enjoyed this aspect of the field, he began traveling around the country and into Canada, interviewing others whose experience made for good reading.


In 2009, he founded his own magazine Trapper’s Post (, which continues to this day as a bi-monthly publication with each issue sent to some 14,500 subscribers in the US, Canada, Sweden, England, Australia and New Zealand. The staff of five or six is supplemented by freelancers in the field. Many contributors have lots of experience, but are not great writers, so Bob spends plenty of time editing. The publication also serves as a collective newsletter for 58 state trapping associations (some states have more than one).

When not working on the magazine, Bob serves as the animal control officer for the town of Canaan as well as freelancing for other nearby towns, especially during skunk mating season. Part of his take comes from extracting skunk scent with a syringe and mixing it with petroleum jelly to create a product sold to trappers and hunters as an attractant and masking agent. Skunks can and do spray when you’re holding them by the tail, an experience Bob once had. If you ever get a chance to chat with him, it will be well worth your time and he’s your go to expert on all things trapping should you need information for an upcoming book…And you can ask him why he once had to stand in a Walmart parking lot wearing a towel.


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