Weekend Update: September 22-23, 2018

Next week at Maine Crime Writers, there will posts by Jen Blood (Monday), Barb Ross (Tuesday), Kate Flora (Wednesday), Susan Vaughan (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:

from Kaitlyn Dunnett: The winners of ARCs of Overkilt, the 12th Liss MacCrimmon mystery are Elizabeth Ann from TX, Candace from TN, Lily from MI, Karlene from GA, Linda from TX, Susan from CO, Nicole from NY, and two more who haven’t yet responded to my email. If you entered and your name is Amy A. or Cara, please check your email, including your spam filter. If I don’t hear from you by Monday, I’ll have to draw another name(s). Thanks to all who entered. Look for more giveaways to be announced here and on Facebook in the future. For those wondering, I no longer use Goodreads for giveaways because Goodreads (and their parent company, Amazon) now charges a hefty fee for listings that used to be free.

Lea Wait: Lea is excited to be making her first school visit of the 2018-2019 school year at the Warsaw Middle School in Pittsfield, Maine, on Thursday, September 27. What does a school visit entail? They’re all different, but at this one she’ll speak to all 325 fifth through seventh grade students at  a school assembly, and then talk with four separate  groups of sixth and seventh graders who’ve read her FINEST KIND, and finally, meet with seventh grade teachers to discuss incorporating writing and history into their classrooms.

As the month is coming to an end, we remind you that our September prizes are a signed first edition of Richard Russo’s Empire Falls and the audio CD of a Louise Penny book. All you have to do to be eligible to win is post a comment on one of our blogs.

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MCW writers Kate Flora and Bruce Coffin with Kate’s co-writer Joseph K. Loughlin at the South Portland Library

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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Library Love

A discussion on Twitter this past weekend asked people to tweet about the libraries they love the most. I follow a lot of writers, so was not one bit surprised by the number of shout-outs for people’s hometown libraries. For those of us who live to read and write, there’s nothing like your first library.

The Fitchburg Public Library has long incorporated this image of an owl into its logo.

Because I couldn’t possibly cover my feelings for the Fitchburg Public Library in the word limit for tweets, I thought I would expound on the subject here.

I have never read this book, but will have to track it down.

My hometown is not a fancy place now, and it wasn’t when I was growing up, either. A small city in central Massachusetts, it’s the home of a state college we called “TC” for Teachers’ College, now known as Fitchburg State University.

But the college wasn’t Fitchburg’s dominant institution when I was a kid, its paper mills were.

A paper mill in my hometown

 

The smoke-belching behemoths strung along the banks of the Nashua River made a lot of money for their owners, and in the best tradition of local corporate ownership, their owners invested some of their profits in the community.

The city’s gem was the Fitchburg Public Library, a handsome building on Main Street built by the Wallace family in 1885, which had a separate children’s room as early as 1899.

A lot of towns have libraries built by wealthy benefactors (famously, the Carnegie family) but few boast an entire separate building (connected to the mothership by an indoor walkway) dedicated to the library needs of children. Built in 1950, the Fitchburg Youth Library was paid for with contributions from the city’s youth and another substantial gift from the Wallace family.

Home away from home in my formative years.

Spacious and well-stocked, the Fitchburg Youth Library boasted comfortable, kid-sized chairs in front of a kid-sized fireplace and lots of kid-sized tables where you could spread out and do homework or art projects. The librarians were helpful and knew all of us regulars by name. My mother used to drop me and my sisters at the library when she had a lot of errands to run, knowing we’d be safe and absorbed until she returned.

But the FPL’s dedication to encouraging literacy and library skills among the city’s youth didn’t stop with the stand-alone library—we also had the bookmobile, a retrofitted bus that lumbered up and down the hills of the ‘burg, bringing books to kids and adults who couldn’t get to the main library.

The bookmobile driver was a fellow named Mr. Scott. He and another mobile librarian answered questions and helped us make selections.

Here’s an interior view.

When we took out books to the checkout they’d touch the little inky metal part of the card to the tips of our noses, a signal to the entire neighborhood that we’d been to the bookmobile.

Old school.

In adulthood I’ve held cards at enormous libraries (the Boston Public) and tiny libraries (Friend Memorial in Brooklin, Maine). I spend lots of time at the library in my current community (the wonderful Walker Memorial in Westbrook) and have a special place in my heart for the Peaks Island branch of the Portland Public Library.

I’ve been honored to give readings at dozens of libraries across the state, and I’m continually impressed by the creativity and resourcefulness of local librarians and local library boards as they rise to the challenge of the internet and develop new ways remain engaged with their communities.

I love them all, but if I had to choose the library I hold most dear it would have to be the marvelous little jewel tucked behind the big library in Fitchburg, with an entrance of its own on Newton Place, the place I first found my home among the books.

Commenters: What is your favorite library, and why?

Brenda Buchanan is the author of the Joe Gale Mystery Series, featuring a diehard Maine newspaper reporter who covers the crime and courts beat. Three books—QUICK PIVOT, COVER STORY and TRUTH BEAT—are available everywhere e-books are sold.  She is writing a new series that has as its protagonist a Portland criminal defense lawyer willing to take on cases others won’t touch in a town to which she swore she would never return.

 

 

 

 

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Sometimes I wonder If I’ll Ever Learn…

Vaughn Hardacker here: You may recall that in an earlier blog I wrote about having to put down Maggie, our Maltese, and obtaining a Yorkie puppy. My significant other, Jane, convinced me to get another dog, although our age (I turned 71 this summer) made me reluctant. I’m a glass half empty type of guy and I used the excuse that there is no guarantee that we’ll live the fifteen years that Yorkshires live on average. What will happen to the dog then?

To get to the point, as the time came for us to take Maggie (Jane’s companion for seventeen years) to the vet Jane became more and more despondent. It quickly became evident that she was devastated by the prospect of losing her best and most loyal friend (until I came around–isn’t that a scary thought!) and I relented. So no sooner did I tell her okay let’s get another dog. She immediately showed me a post on facebook. A woman in Pittsfield had a male Yorkshire Terrier for sale. It was then Jane confessed that she’d already been in contact with her. That was on Saturday. Monday came and we took Maggie to the vet (an experience that I never want to go through again). On the way home I was informed that we could pick up the Yorkie in Pittsfield the next day… Enter Skipper.

Now, lets jump forward ten months. Jane had a dog stroller (I had no idea they made such a thing!)

Skipper before visiting the Groomer

that had been Maggie’s and she posted it on facebook (there is an Aroostook County sell and swap page) and was called by a woman in Madawaska who was looking for one. Oh, by the way, she had four Yorkie puppies, three males and a female, she was looking to sell to someone who would give them a good home. Hello, Ginger. Yup, Jane bought the little female.

Now, lets morph back to Skipper. Ginger was two pounds, twelve ounces and Skipper, who is now almost eleven months, old weighs in at nine or ten pounds. Ginger’s parents were both small so the chances are very good that when she is full grown Ginger will not weigh more than five or six pounds. My concern was how was Skipper going to act?

We brought Ginger home and put her in her playpen (yuh, we not only have a puppy stroller, we have a playpen). Skipper’s first reaction was to stare at her and growl. He stuck his nose

Ginger Nine Weeks Old

Skipper watching over Ginger

against the side of the playpen and surprisingly Ginger went over and pressed her nose against his. Before we knew it, Skipper was on the love seat guarding the puppy!

Who’s The Boss?

Despite all my reservations and the size differential Ginger stood her ground and gave Skipper as much as he gave her. In fact, we’re constantly amazed at how well they get along to the extent that Skipper seems to cater to her (even when she stands on him).  The biggest surprise came the first time they played together. Apparently Skipper thought he was going to overwhelm her. He quickly learned that he might be bigger, but she was nastier and more aggressive.  In fact, I’m amazed that they don’t hurt one another when they rough-house.

Ginger has been with us for two weeks now and the two of them are attached at the hip. When Ginger is in her playpen and the door is closed, Skipper runs all over the house looking for her. Though I think there are times when he enjoys being able to chew on a Bully Stick without being assaulted.

The only downside is that every day they act more and more like human kids–whatever one has the other one wants. Never in my wildest nightmares did I think that at 71 I’d be raising kids again! I do have to admit though that it’s nice having someone else run the house for a change (it sure isn’t Jane or me!).

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So You Wanna Write A Crime Short Story? Well Do Ya, Punk? Then Just Do It!

In the spring, I challenged my friend, Tim Queeney, to write a short story for the upcoming crime anthology, Landfall. In response, he challenged me to do the same thing. So we set about coming up with compelling ideas and writing our stories. We knew the odds of being included in this anthology were long, but what the hell. Nothing gained, nothing lost. And I had some spare time on my hands.

Writing a short story is difficult. Compression and limitation are the keys. A writer must restrain his or her ambition and examine life in microscopic detail. I’m not sure which writer said it, but the goal is to start your story near the end.

It had been a long time since I had written a short story, but the reality of my career as a writer is that I started out as a short story writer. In 2004 I won the Andres Dubus Award for one of my stories. In 2009 my short story was selected and published in Quarry: Best New England Crime Stories. The next year my story was a finalist for the Al Blanchard Award. Then I abruptly stopped writing short stories and began publishing novels.

After our challenge, I started writing my story. A title had not yet been decided upon. I believed I had a fresh, original idea with a relevant topic, now I just had to execute. The goal was to play small ball. Focus on minor details. Provide character development leading up to the surprise ending (thank you Stephen King for your influence). Tim and I switched stories. We critiqued each other and gave pertinent advice. I loved Tim’s story, “Clearing the Deck” but thought the ending could have been stronger. So he made it stronger.

With the deadline quickly approaching, we were like two Iron Chefs facing against the clock to finish cooking our meals. Finally, feeling like we’d done all we could with our stories, we submitted them electronically and waited. And waited. Would our works be selected for the anthology, LANDFALL? Although I felt I wrote a killer story, one just never knows, I hoped for the best but prepared for the worst. After all, this business of getting published is competitive, brutal and especially cutthroat. Thick skin is a requirement to being a Romeo and a writer

I like writing novels. I like the expansiveness of plotting and developing detailed characters. When writing a novel, you can take your time. Breathe. Create beautiful sentences. Killer plots. Develop wonderful characters. A writer does not have the luxury of these benefits when writing a shorty story under five thousand words. And truth be told, as crass as this may sound, short stories don’t pay much.

 

After submitting it, I forgot about the story and moved onto other things, like promoting my newest novel, THE NEIGHBOR, and editing my new novel, PRAY FOR THE GIRL, which is scheduled to publish in the spring of 2019. The summer flew by. I took my son down to the University of Miami for his first year of college. My daughter returned to college. The house was now a bit quieter for the wife and I. Life stuff happened and I forgot about my story—until Tim reminded me of it one day. No news in publishing is usually bad news. Maybe they hadn’t got back to us because we didn’t make the cut. Oh well. Rejection is a part of the writer’s life. Deal with it.

 

Then an email came in September, informing me that my short story “School Daze” had been chosen. I felt elated, almost like I did the first time I was notified. But what about Tim? Would I be getting off the island without him? Tim soon emailed me and told me his story was chosen as well. Hooray! We’d killed it like tag team wrestlers: like Fuji and Tanaka. Out of 215 stories Level Best Books had received, only 31 had been chosen, and ours had made the cut.

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So look for LANDFALL: Best New England Crime Stories in October. My short is about an unusual school shooter and I guarantee you that the ending will be a stunner. Will I write another short story? Probably. But my heart is still with the novel, and that’s where my focus will soon return. I’m back to being a double threat as a writer.

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Previously on Maine Crime Writers . . .

Kaitlyn Dunnett/Kathy Lynn Emerson here, today with follow ups on some of the blogs I’ve posted during the past few months at Maine Crime Writers.

First, though, a reminder that the drawing for one of nine advance reading copies of the next Liss MacCrimmon Mystery, Overkilt, remains open until Thursday afternoon. When it gets to be 5 PM here in Maine, I will toss crumpled slips of paper with numbers on them to Bala the cat. Each entry will have been assigned a number. The nine she chooses to play with will be the nine who win copies of the ARC. If you haven’t entered yet, you can do so by sending an email to me at kaitlyndunnett@gmail.com with the subject line “giveaway” before 5 PM on October 20.

Now back to your regularly scheduled program, updates on some of the things I was writing about in various blogs. In Books Looking for a Good Home back on March 1, I wrote about weeding out specialized reference books and hoping to find people who’d appreciate them. There were actually a couple of weedings, and the addition of some titles my husband owned, amounting to over 250 titles in all. By posting about the first two collections (177 titles) on social media, offering the books free if the recipient would pay for the postage, I found homes for sixty two of them. In August, fellow Maine Crime Writer John Clark picked up the rest, and a good-size stack of jigsaw puzzles. A retired librarian long involved in raising money for Maine libraries, John will now be the one finding them good homes.

In April, I wrote about Mom’s Good China and the problem many people in my generation face. No matter how pretty the heirlooms are, no one in the family of the original owner wants to inherit them. In this case, I lucked out. The china had been hand painted by a well-known artist in my old home town. Someone in the Facebook group for people who come from there knew the artist’s granddaughter and put us in touch with each other. Last month, she drove here to Maine to pick up the china and take it home with her. Instead of sitting, unloved, in a spare cabinet in my kitchen, it is now with the artist’s family, where it will be appreciated and passed on to others who have a connection to it.

First in the series and the ebook is still on sale for $1.99

The topic for August 1 was Those Pesky Details. I was in the process of rereading my own books, all twelve of them in the Liss MacCrimmon series, to try and prevent myself from including bloopers in the current work in progress. I’m pleased to report that I finished the project and now have extensive notes on all the major characters and settings. To my great relief, I haven’t contradicted myself on too many occasions. If the police station goes back and forth, several times, between having one desk and several file cabinets and two desks and one file cabinet, and the fire department loses a truck between Scone Cold Dead and Scotched, perhaps no one will notice. Ditto the fact that Moosetookalook Scottish Emporium is air conditioned in Kilt at the Highland Games and, in X Marks the Scot, the very next book, there’s “no air conditioning and never has been.” Even more mysterious, there is no mention of Dan and Liss’s house having a garage until the twelfth book, Overkilt, when I needed one. On the other hand, nowhere in the earlier books did I say there wasn’t one. I did contradict myself by giving Liss and Dan a dishwasher in the early books. In Book Twelve, Liss says she’s never felt the need to own one. Maybe her memory’s going. Or mine is. Anyway, all in all, not too many “oops” moments.

Finally, in the middle of last month, I wrote Too Darn Hot about the fact that this past summer was a brutal one for Maine people used to cooler, less humid days and nights. It did, in fact, set records, especially the one for number of days with a dew point of seventy or above. We’re still having a few hot, humid days, but at least now the temperature drops at night and we’re able to enjoy sleeping with the windows open.

Kathy Lynn Emerson/Kaitlyn Dunnett is the author of nearly sixty 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 (Overkilt—November 2018) and the “Deadly Edits” series (Crime & Punctuation) 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 www.KaitlynDunnett.com and www.KathyLynnEmerson.com and she maintains a website about women who lived in England between 1485 and 1603 at www.TudorWomen.com

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What I did on my summer vacation, part II

I had a great trip to some of the farther reaches of our beautiful state Labor Day week. My sister Liz and I went down east to Lubec for three days, then up north to the Crown of Maine — Aroostook County’s St. John Valley.

The only bad thing about going on vacation is coming back. I’m so loaded down with stuff to do, I’m going to let the pictures do the talking. I will say this though — I know I say it all the time, but I’ll say it again — I don’t think a day goes by when I don’t appreciate how lucky I am to live in such a beautiful place.

Lubec harbor with Liz on the dock. Hard to take a bad shot in Lubec.

We stopped by the library, of course.

And the Lubec Historical Society, which was hopping, and where I bought a book about the great gold hoax.

No trip to Lubec is complete without a visit to West Quoddy Head, the easternmost spot in the US. We also visited East Quoddy Head, on Campobello, which is in Canada across the way there.

Way up Route 1, in Grand Isle, in the St. John Valley, we took a look at the Musee Culturel du Mont Carmel, a former basilica. It wasn’t open, but it was still pretty cool.

One of the cool things in the Acadian Village in Van Buren was this teachers desk in the one-room school, that has the signatures of the teachers who used it. Liz, who’s a history professor, took this photo.

Lest you think our trip was all culture, we had a pint (or in Liz’s case a glass) at the First Mile Brewery in Fort Kent. Called that, as you know, because Route 1’s first mile is there. I had the red ale, and it was quite tasty.

Before we boozed it up, we earned it by hiking up Deboullie Mountain in the Allagash region. This is the view from the top.

Deboullie summit, complete with fire tower, which we did not climb. And guess whose book coming out October 31 has a plot point involving a fire tower? No, guess. Guess! That’s right, me.

Another Aroostook County stop was Stockholm, home of fellow Maine Crime Writer Vaughn Hardacker. We couldn’t find the monument, though. Unfortunately this is the only photo that survived our visit. (taken by Liz).

The absolute gorgeous magnificent St. John River. Hi Canada! This was taken in St. John Plantation. Or Township. Same dif, as we say in Maine.

Sunrise over Eagle Lake on our last morning. We stayed at The Overlook, a nice motel that I highly recommend. While we didn’t see a moose, we heard the plaintive cries of one lovelorn lady every night. All night.

We ended our trip by doing my favorite thing — we dropped down Route 11 from the top of Maine like a set of keys. It goes all the way to my town. Of course, no trip down Route 11 is complete without me shooting this Katahdin view in Stacyville (or possibly Soldiertown or Hersey Plantation), which I think I have a good dozen shots of by now.

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Weekend Update: September 15-16, 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 Brenda Buchanan (Friday).

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

from Kaitlyn Dunnett: You still have time to enter the contest for the giveaway of advance reading copies of the twelfth Liss MacCrimmon mystery, Overkilt (in stores October 30). If you haven’t already entered, simply send an email to kaitlyndunnett@gmail.com with the subject line Giveaway. The drawing will be held September 20th. In this one, Moosetookalook’s luxury hotel, The Spruces, owned by Liss’s father-in-law, is targeted by protestors because they claim his special Thanksgiving couples promotion violates family values. The boycott quickly spreads to include Moosetookalook Scottish Emporium and other businesses in town, causing hard feelings all around. Liss tries to make a joke of it, calling the reaction “overkilt”. . . until someone takes things a bit too far and her nearest and dearest suddenly become suspects in a murder investigation.

Bruce Robert Coffin and Kate Flora will be at the South Portland Public Library on Thursday, September 20th at 6:30pm. Also appearing will be retired Portland Police Department Assistant Chief Joseph Loughlin, co-author of two novels with Kate. It promises to be an interesting night of crime and mystery author talk.

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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