The Bianca Goddard Mysteries

Today, our guest author, Mary Lawrence, discusses her fourth Bianca Goddard Alchemy mystery:

Mary Lawrence: Thank you to the members of this blog for allowing me to announce 22019MaryLawrence - Copysmallthe release of my fourth Bianca Goddard Mystery, The Alchemist of Lost Souls (Kensington, April 30). For those unfamiliar with my historical mystery series, here is the basic lowdown, with a synopsis and short excerpt–

The Bianca Goddard Mysteries are set during the twilight years of King Henry VIII’s reign and feature the daughter of an infamous alchemist who creates medicines for the sick and poor using basic chemistry and plant knowledge gleaned from her parents.
Instead of focusing on court politics, the series explores the lives and deceits of commoners in London and the slums of Southwark. Bianca must keep a low profile during this dangerous time when a woman could be accused of witchcraft and sorcery, but it is her nature to find answers and to understand-she is, after all, an alchemist’s daughter. Each book works as a standalone so it isn’t necessary to have read the series from the beginning.

Synopsis:
In book 4, The Alchemist of Lost Souls, disgraced alchemist, Albern Goddard, has concocted a new element, “an amalgam of earth and fire.” Once he understands the nature of this lapis mortem, he hopes to win back the favor of King Henry VIII. Unfortunately, the element is stolen. Albern seeks his estranged daughter, Bianca-now pregnant with her first child-for help in finding it.
When a woman’s body is found behind the Dim Dragon Inn, an eerie green glow issuing from her mouth, rumors circulate about how she died. Bianca traces the element to a dead-end believing it is lost and no longer a threat. But when John, her husband, is conscripted and the element turns up again, Bianca risks her life to prevent it from being used against the king’s army.

Excerpt:
als9x6This tale begins with a rascally lad and a disgraced alchemist. One sought allowance with a group of puckish boys, and the other wished forgiveness from his petulant king. The two crossed paths one spring day when the air puffed warm against their cheeks, calling to mind the hope of renewal that comes with the lengthening days and appearance of green tips on trees.
Albern Goddard wore his best woolen gown, one he’d bought from a fripperer back when he was in the king’s good graces. The clothes dealer had gotten it from the widow of a barrister who had been stabbed in the back–a fitting end to any lawyer, thought Albern. The rip had been mended and the blood stain scrubbed clean. No one was the wiser, and he himself barely remembered the gown’s tainted history as he strode triumphantly down Thames Lane.
His coif did not hide the lift of his chin; the scholarly garb accentuated his proud posture–for here was a man basking in the ticklish glow of divine favor. A smile strained the muscles around his mouth; his usual expression was one of stoic indifference. And that was on a good day.
He may not have discovered the philosopher’s stone–the coveted agent of transmutation capable of turning base metal into gold; instead, he had discovered a substance of unplumbed worth. Of this he was certain. Months of collecting and fermenting the golden stream–his golden stream in urns stinking up his alchemy room–had eventually wrought a substance so astonishing, so exceptional, that he could hardly keep from whooping and dancing down the street.
However, unbridled enthusiasm can easily turn a man into a fool. The alchemist knew this; he had eaten from fate’s fickle hand before. So, he quashed the smile on his face, replacing a cheerful expression with one more solemn. Ahead of him lay several days of careful analysis to prove his discovery’s importance.
Meanwhile, on the street ahead, there lay an ambush in the form of a gaggle of gamins. Their winter boredom had festered, so that this day of sun and warmth was like a needle to their boil, releasing the hellions to run free.
What boy can resist the call of his friends’ mischief? After a winter of trudging through cold wet lanes lugging home bundles of sticks for his mother’s fire, of being cooped up with his siblings like chickens kept from wolves, of listening to the constant wails of younger ken, what lad of any spirit could suffer another moment staring at four cracked and soot-grimed walls? So it was that on this day, a boy with thread-bare britches and raggedly hair wandered farther than was his usual habit.
He hitched himself to a group of boys kicking a pig’s bladder stuffed with hay. Other stragglers left their chores to join in, and soon there was a mob of exuberant, yelling imps tripping over one another and upsetting geese, pushcarts, and pedestrians. They raced around, calling each other “lead-legged”, and “beetle-brained buzzards”. They ran down Bread Lane and exited onto Thames Street just as Albern Goddard was crossing it. The ball rolled to a stop inches from the alchemist’s shoe.
Bio: Mary Lawrence lives and farms in Limington, Maine. Her debut mystery, The Alchemist’s Daughter (Kensington, 2015) was named by Suspense Magazine as a “Best Book of 2015” in the historical mystery category. Her articles have appeared in several publications, including the national news blog, The Daily Beast. Other books in the series include Death of an Alchemist, and Death at St. Vedast. Visit her at www.marylawrencebooks.com
Facebook https://www.facebook.com/marylawrence.author/
Twitter https://twitter.com/mel59lawrence

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Thread On Arrival — Arriving Next Week!

Lea Wait here, looking forward to the April 30 publication date for the 8th in my Mainely Needlepoint series. (With thanks to everyone who’s followed Angie Curtis and her friends in Haven Harbor, Maine! Without readers … there would be no books.)

Every book is special to its author — perhaps because of a connection to the author’s life, or because of when it was written, or because of a character that was especially fun, or important, to write.

In THREAD ON ARRIVAL, that character  is a teenaged boy named Leo.

When I was a child (a few years back,) I especially loved reading books about feisty “orphans who made good.” Anne of Green Gables? Check. Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm? Of course. And an assortment of Louisa May Alcott characters. When I was still in elementary school I decided that when I grew up I would adopt an orphan, like the characters I loved. (Think Alcott’s LITTLE MEN.)

When I was in my twenties I volunteered with children aged 6-12 who, for various reasons, could no longer live with their families. Most went on to foster or adoptive homes. When I was twenty-eight I applied to adopt as a single parent. My first daughter came home when she was four, and I was thirty. She was followed by three other girls, ages 8-10. I founded a support group for single adoptive parents.  I helped prospective parents find agencies that would work with them. I conducted classes for single and married adults to introduce them to the realities of adoption.

Some of my friends were foster parents, so I became familiar with the highs and lows of parenting children “in the system.” In my book SHADOWS ON A MORNING IN MAINE my protagonist, Maggie Summer, adopts a girl who has been in foster care.

Now, in THREAD ON ARRIVAL, I introduce a new character to Haven Harbor. Leo’s parents are dead, and he is a survivor of the foster care system. His life hasn’t been easy. He hasn’t been easy. And now he’s suspected of murder.

Welcome to Haven Harbor, Leo. You’ve found your forever home.

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Weekend Update: April 20-21, 2019

Next week at Maine Crime Writers, there will be posts by Lea Wait (Monday), Kate Flora (Tuesday) Jen Blood (Wednesday) John Clark (Thursday), and Dorothy Cannell (Friday).

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

 You will find many of us in June at the Maine Crime Wave. Fun. Event-filled. Affordable. Hope we’ll see you there!

http://mainewriters.org/maine-crime-wave/

 

 

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, a panel of writers from diverse parts of the crime writing genre, or perhaps a workshop, 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 joy of the Maine write-cation

Two deer by a lake at sunset

I got a couple of visitors outside the cabin the other night, but I left them alone for the most part and they left me alone.

As you read this, and as I write it, I’m in a cabin in Piscataquis County. Wifi is spotty so I’ll keep it short.

Not that I have to make excuses — I’m on a write-cation, and if you get what that means, then you’ll get that, as much as I like you, I don’t want to spend a lot of time talking to you.

People who don’t get it, before I left, told me how crummy the weather was going to be, how muddy things were, how there’d still be snow on the ground. Don’t care. Don’t care. And don’t care.

I’m here to spend some cozy time alone with my book. While it might have been possible to do that at home, the true write-cation involves getting away from everything that pulls at your brain except the book. While some people have referred to those as “distractions,” it’s more than that. Basically, I don’t want to have to talk to anyone, think about anything that I don’t want to think about or do anything I don’t want to do. It’s all about the book.

It’s ideal that I’m staying where the book is set. Not only because of setting, which I know, I write about a lot. But also because the book has been going through my brain like a movie for months, so I want to be where it is, see the people and the places.

Bowerbank Town Hall, with the town office behind it. The town office/tax collector’s winter hours are every other Saturday 9 a.m. to noon.

It’s a departure from Bernie O’Dea series, and I’ll talk more about it some other time, but I do want to say this: You can’t fully write about Bowerbank unless you’ve seen Bowerbank. I mean, driven down the muddy roads to the lake, peered into the woods. It’s about more than setting, it’s about bringing the book to life.

You can read about Maine, or even live in it, and not know or forget things like how ubiquitous deer are this time of year, when the snow first melts and they want to nibble what’s underneath. And how they can melt into the woods when you stop the car to take a photo and you look at the photo later and say “Wasn’t there a deer?”

I drove to Lakeview because I’d never been there before. Just to see what it was like. There’s a lake, yeah, and there’s also a view. It’s a tiny cluster of houses and what looks like a former Grange hall or something similar at the end of Schoodic Lake with a spectacular view of our favorite Maine mountain. Well, hello, Katahdin! Look at you!

Lakeview. Who knew?

Something I never would’ve seen unless I took that drive. And I gotta say, a much better payoff than the time I drove to Cornville to see what a town named Cornville looked like.

We talk a lot about living and writing in the great state of Maine. I know I write in this blog a ton about it. It can’t be said enough: If you’re writing about Maine, or just living here, get out and see it and spend some time in a place you’ve never been before. Explore. Soak it up. Even if you don’t have a book going through your head like a movie, you’ll be the better for it.

I also took the opportunity to donate some of my books to the Thompson Free Library in Dover-Foxcroft and the Milo Public Library — so if you live in beautiful Piscataquis County and want to get an idea of how I’m going to treat you when this book is finally done, check them out.

I feel bad I have to leave Saturday. I have a lot more writing to do and the likelihood of getting another opportunity like this, given work, money and other things, is about nil.

So, on that note, I’ll get going. My book awaits.

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Do We Wait ‘Til It Dies? Caddis Scrabble

Zebra Caddis Fly

“Do we have to wait until it dies?” asked my husband, watching a struggling caddis fly cover the Scrabble square he wanted to use.

“I don’t think so,” I said. “They’re landing and taking off again.”

Lured by lantern light against the dark woods and even darker river, at least four types of furiously just-hatched caddis changed the game.

“New rules,” Bob said. “No letter can go down on a square occupied by a caddis.”

West Branch of the Penobscot River

“You’re on,” I said, and of course that made the evening so much better. As if anything could top a campsite by the West Branch of Penobscot River with the noise of rapids and owls in our ears, a river-cooled bottle of wine, and proof the river was so clean and vital, caddis were falling over themselves to hatch and start the next generation.

This winter researching my next novel, I spent some time on caddis flies, thinking about what one might say—if it could talk. I found a video of one making his way from larval stage to pupal stage under the guidance of an artist who had a great idea.

What happens when you give a caddis pupa silver, gold, and jewels to play with …

Check out the video and see the caddis as artist.

And here’s the caddis conversation from my novel DEADLY TURN (due out this fall). The narrator Patton and the game warden Moz are using masks to see a stream under water.

************

I pulled off my boots and T-shirt, tightened my pony tail, hitched up my shorts, and waded after Moz. No ripples parted the water as he waded, not even when he lowered his mask and slid down to float on the surface. I slid my feet over pebbles, imitating his stealth moves. An unseen current tugged my legs, but I lowered my mask, sank to a floating position, and anchored my hands below in stream gravel.

We were floating on the thin film that divides the fish world from the human world. I could feel hot air on my rear end, but every other part of me was cool. Hairs on my arms floated like tiny filaments seeking microscopic food. Rotating my head only slightly, I could breathe and then return to the wet, green world. The water was so clear I could see every grain of sand and cloud shapes as they shadowed rocks and drifted on.

In slow motion, Moz turned over rocks, lifting tiny things into the current. Soon they were bumping off my mask and I could recognize them. When I smiled, escaping air bubbles bounced the stonefly larvae toward shore. Their shelled segments arched in the effort to find new rock homes for their waving legs.

Something glittered and I held out a finger to snag it. Not much bigger than an inch, a future caddis fly had woven a hard pupa case around his larval self. This one must have been an artist because it had chosen tiny pebbles with bright mica flakes and glued them together to make a private cave. The creature inside waited to hatch out as a winged insect and feed fish—if it lived. Caddis have short lives. The stream’s current rotated the pupa into my open hand. Tiny wings vibrated inside. Time. Is it time?

I turned the pupa toward the end that looked like it could open. For what?

Time to become what I am supposed to be.

A different kind of bug?

My wings are pushing against the wall. I ache.

Someday you’ll fly. I imagine it will feel great. Pick a windy day. Fish have a hard time feeding when the water ripples.

Maybe your hard shell will fall off one day. You know? The secret one?

I tucked the pupa next to a protective rock, thinking it sounded like the therapist I’d seen since my divorce.

For years I’d casted artificial dry flies into ponds, and streams, and rivers, but never seen how real insects lure real trout. Apparently, my head needed to be underwater.

Two brook trout glided from rocks near shore, darting after the floating larvae, rolling their white bellies over to signal the chase. Slowly Moz reached for his net. I didn’t actually see how he caught both trout in one swipe, but as we stood, they thrashed in his net.

I sputtered water. “Is that legal? The net trick?”

Moz lifted the trout so late-day sun caught red spots pulsing along their flanks. “I am fishing with flies and avoiding live bait, We sound legal.”

***********

I send Danny’s Maine Guide Fly Shop flies into the headwaters of the Kennebec River. And we always return the fish, alive, to their homes. Thank you, Danny!

Want to learn more? My favorite place to browse, the Maine Guide Fly Shop, has a fabulous “Hatches and Hints” page. The counter always has dishes of dependable flies, and their stable of fishing guides is the best. (Please never ask for fly shop expertise without buying something; that’s not ethical or helpful.) https://maineguideflyshop.com/hatches/

In March we explored western North Carolina and linked up with a guide from Fly Fishing the Smokies. This page has great caddis life history. If you go, ask for guide Kyle. (We turned over rocks to visit caddis.) https://flyfishingthesmokies.net/the-life-of-the-caddis-fly-selection/

Helping teach Shannon LeRoy’s AMC class. I’m red shirt, in the back, second from left.

Fly Fishing Women? The Maine AMC offers a women’s class in the perfect learning environment: inspired teachers, rustic camps, mellow ponds, and a trout stream to tie it all together.

And on FB, find the Maine Women’s Fly Fishers

 

Sandy’s novel, “Deadly Trespass, A Mystery in Maine,” won a national Mystery Writers of America award, was a finalist in the Women’s Fiction Writers Association “Rising Star” contest, and she’s been a finalist for a Maine Literary Award. Find her novel at all Shermans Books and on Amazon. Find more info on the video trailer and Sandy’s website.  The second Mystery in Maine, “Deadly Turn,” will be published in 2019.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Memories of Notre Dame de Paris

Susan Vaughan here. I’d planned a different topic for this post, but fate sent me a different direction. I was horrified on Monday to learn of the blaze and watch the flames that destroyed much of Paris’s iconic Notre Dame Cathedral. A tragedy and a huge loss to all. Just thinking about it brings tears to my eyes. This is a photo from a 2017 visit, taken from a boat cruise on the Seine.

Notre Dame is an icon to Catholics and other Christians as well as tourists world wide, and the heart of France itself. It occupies much of the Ile de la Cité, an island in the very center of Paris. For us in the U.S., it’s hard to fathom such a large structure being 800 plus years old. Such history there. Construction began in 1163 on the site of earlier churches and was mostly completed in the early fourteenth century. Damage and plunder during the Revolution followed by further construction (the flying buttresses) and other extensive renovations over the centuries have given us the Notre Dame we knew until this week.

I prefer to remember how she was the three times I visited, in 1966, 1969, and two years ago. Dating myself here, but I spent the summer of 1966 studying at the Sorbonne, once the University of Paris and now the location of several higher education institutions. My courses were for Americans studying the French language and French literature. At that time in my life, I planned to be a French teacher. Some of the American students lived in dorms, but I opted for immersion and lived with a family. My courses were in the morning, and most afternoons I toured the city. Three years later, again in the summer, I visited several countries in Europe and returned to Paris and Notre Dame. Back then, the stonework of the cathedral was nearly black, dirtied with centuries of grime and pollution.

And after meticulous cleaning in 2013 restored the light color of the stonework, I knew I needed to see Notre Dame again. My husband and I took a river cruise in 2017 that began with three days in Paris. Not nearly enough time, but I wasn’t disappointed in the cathedral’s brighter façade with its intricately carved doorways. Note the bell towers. They are still standing today, unlike the spire.

Here’s a close-up shot of one of the doorways.

When you enter, the cathedral’s vast dimensions inspire awe. The most spectacular interior features are three rose windows, particularly this one above the organ. I read today (Tuesday) the organ survived, and pictures showed a lot of the stained glass windows did as well. I saw on the news the rose windows, all three, survived, but will need cleaning.

Notre Dame didn’t originally have flying buttresses, the structures on the outside of the walls, in its design. As the cathedral grew high and higher, stress on the thinner walls popular in Gothic architecture meant support, or buttressing, was needed. I think they add a certain flourish to the overall look of the building.

Notre Dame

Atop the cathedral are (or were?) grotesque figures called gargoyles that serve as rain spouts and purportedly scare away evil spirits. They look medieval, but were actually additions installed during repairs in the mid 1800’s. My other favorite Paris landmark can be seen in the distance.

gargoyles on Notre Dame

At a shop on a side street, on that 1966 visit, I bought a small replica of one of the gargoyles. He’s the one on the right in the above photo. He sits on my shelves today and protects me while I write.

Monuments such as Notre Dame provide humans of all stripes with universal connections. We see them as old friends, something of permanence that will always be there, and we mourn them when they’re gone, whether by accident, as in this case, or by wanton destruction. Over its long history, Notre Dame de Paris has suffered considerable damage, but has always been lovingly restored and continued to attract visitors and worshipers from around the globe. The cathedral has hosted religious ceremonies and historic events. Napoleon was crowned there, and Joan of Arc was beatified there. After this historic and terrible fire, may she continue in this tradition. Oh, and my new heroes? Le pompiers de Paris–the firefighters of Paris!

I hope you readers will share stories and thoughts about Notre Dame.

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A Key West Scene

by Barb, now back in Maine

Time: 3:00 AM. A beautiful night in Key West. The windows are wide open. Somewhere on the front porch of one of the five townhouses in our little complex…

Bang, bang, bang, bang. “Let me in!”

(pause)

Bang, bang, bang, bang. “Let me in!”

(pause)

Bang, bang, bang, bang. “Let me in!”

(pause)

(from a second story window) “Use the front door code.”

“I don’t have it. Come down and let me in!”

“No! Let yourself in. I’m texting you the code.”

(pause)

Bang, bang, bang, bang. “Let me in!”

“No! Use the code.”

“I doesn’t work.” Bang, bang, bang, bang. “Come down here and let me in!”

“You did it wrong. Try again.”

(pause)

“It still doesn’t work.” Bang, bang, bang, bang. “Come down here and let me in!”

“I’m in bed!”

“I don’t care!”

“I’m naked.”

“I don’t care!”

“I’m not alone.”

“I don’t care!  Get down here and let me in.”

“I’m texting the code again.”

(pause)

“Still not working.” Bang, bang, bang, bang. “Get your ass down here and let me in!”

“I am down. I’m standing on the front porch. I don’t see you.”

“What do you mean you don’t see me? I am standing right here.”

Together: “Ohhhh. Wrong house.”

Aaaand scene.

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