Weekend Update: January 19-20, 2019

Next week at Maine Crime Writers, there will be posts by Jen Blood (Monday), Barb Ross (Tuesday) Susan Vaughan (Wednesday) Sandra Neily (Thursday), and Maureen Milliken (Friday).

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




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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Walking the Winter Beach, Redux

Dear MCW blog readers:  Sometimes I scroll back through old posts and come upon one that’s ripe for a re-run, and so it is with this March, 2017 post about our Sunday beach-walking ritual. Forecaster chatter this week is we’re on the brink of the annual polar vortex, and Sunday is predicted to be chilly indeed. So if you take this post as inspiration to head out on a beach walk of your own, don’t forget to pull on your long johns, grab your thickest mittens and maybe even bring along a facemask for the half of the walk when-inevitably-you’ll be marching into the wind’s sharp teeth.  Enjoy!

by Brenda Buchanan

Sunday afternoons lend themselves to rituals.

Leisurely drives to who knows where. Gathering around the table for dinner with family and friends.  Kicking back with the Sunday papers, funnies and all, at least at my house, where we’ve never stopped immersing ourselves in newsprint. Joe Gale and his real-life counterparts (including three generations of Millikens) are our heroes.

Our central ritual is the Sunday afternoon beach walk, which happens year-round but is especially wonderful in the winter.  There’s nothing like a bundled-up exploration of what the tide has wrought to re-charge a girl for the week ahead.

For readers of this blog who don’t live near enough to a Maine beach to walk regularly in the cold-weather months, here are some favorite photos to get you through until spring.

Some weeks the beach is drenched in sunshine.

And sometimes skies are gray.

More frequently than you might believe, the weather changes in the course of our walk.

Last Sunday the wind was howling at Pine Point Beach, transforming the waves into wild ponies.

Yesterday I found this lobster trap, marooned in the dunes.

Sometimes we’re entertained by intrepid surfers.















And sometimes we entertain ourselves.

No two weeks are the same, on the beach as in life.

I can’t say I’m ever bored when propelling myself through the wind along the wrack line. When I can’t sleep, I sometimes try to conjure the sound of the waves hitting the shore, especially the winter beach, when stones tumble against each other at the verge, tapping in a rhythm that soothes my soul.

We typically stick close to home—Scarborough and Ferry beaches near Prout’s Neck, Pine Point when the wind and tide are right, Crescent Beach in Cape Elizabeth when we want to approach the shore from the woods.

Occasionally we wander up the coast to Popham or Reid State Park.

Something always provides a nudge of inspiration for a story.

Do you have Sunday rituals? Or favorite beaches?

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 wherever ebooks are sold.

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The New Year Is Off To A Great Start

It’s only January 17 in the year 2019 and I’m feeling that this year will have a lot in store for we writers.


First: I was invited to be a participant in Guys and Goals, a forum for gifted fifth and sixth grade boys. I was contacted by Jamie Pelletier who invited me to participate as a presenter. She told me that she was seeking adult men who would be positive role models for sixty young Aroostook County men who were at or near the top of their classes. First of all I want to be clear that never before have I been considered a positive role model! However, when I asked Jamie what would be expected of me she informed me that I would do four thirty minute presentations each to a group of fifteen students. The presentation was to be about my life and how I became a writer.

I started the presentation with an introduction giving the basics of my life, stating my being a local boy, my educational background, and a brief employment overview. I then asked if any of them were considering becoming writers. I was pleasantly surprised when there was at least one (or more) students in each group that raised their hands. I followed up asking if they were writing now. They all were. What followed was an enjoyable morning in which I hope motivated them to write–it motivated me.

The second positive was the influence we members of the MWPA are gaining in Maine. The Portland Press Herald decided to no longer publish reviews of books written by local (Maine) writers ( https://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/publisher-news/article/79001-mwpa-saves-local-book-reviews-with-boost-from-stephen-king.html). Joshua Bodwell learned of this and started an online petition campaign. In two days the campaign (see link above) had increased online subscriptions and the paper relented–they will continue to publish reviews.

All of the above in a little over two weeks! As a result I have become re-energized (don’t expect me to wear a pink bunny suit and pound a drum, however) and have decreed that in the upcoming year I am going to become proficient in that part of our business that I hate the most–marketing my books! The first marketing activity is to remind everyone that my fifth novel (second in the Ed Traynor series) is slated for release on July 2 (already available for preorder–hint, hint). My first reader has gone on record as saying that it’s my best yet. The premise is: What would you do if you were summoned to a remote woods land to I.D. a body and it turned out to be your brother–with whom you’ve had a stormy relationship for years?

Well, time for me to get busy. Part of my campaign is to begin doing podcasts and I need to iron out some wrinkles. The primary wrinkle is “what to podcast about?” Any ideas?

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A Wintry Mix – Of Words

 Kate Flora: Oops! There I was, settling in to watch Episode Two of the new True img_2167Detective when suddenly my iPad went “ding!” and there was the reminder. Blog for MCW tomorrow. Thought I’d done that. It was definitely on the list. The list that’s here somewhere, buried under a million other tiny pieces of paper. “Gotta go write a blog post” I tell my husband. “You know what you’re going to write?” he asks. “Absolutely no idea.”

Things don’t get better when I’m at my desk, staring at the blank white page. Nor when I rustle around the room, looking for a handful of reference books.

Well, heck, I think, maybe I can recycle some old thing. But when I find that old thing, it only reminds me that it isn’t suitable. So I dig out my trusty Rodale’s Synonym Finder (a book no writer can be without) and begin to read.

I am looking for the word “Winter.” It isn’t here. Happily, I find “Wintry.” It leads me to delicious choices like hibernal. Hiemal. Brumal. Cold. Frigid. Freezing. Ice-cold. Shiveringly cold. Icy. Frosty, snowy, arctic, glacial or hyperboreal. Then on to Siberian, inclement, stormy, blizzardly, windy, bitter, nippy, sharp, piercing, biting, cutting, brisk, severe, rigorous, hard, and cruel.

Does this make you want to pick up your pen? Are you a writer like me, who loves lists of words? Who thinks it would be fun to create a character who actually uses the word “hyperboreal?”

img_1813If I read on, the book offers me some lovely dark words for a crime writer, particularly one who is writing during the dark months in a cold New England landscape. Here are some tasty words to sample over your morning coffee: bleak, desolate, stark, cheerless, gloomy, dismal, dreary, depressing, unpromising, somber, melancholy. How about dark, gray, overcast, sullen, or lowering? These words pretty well fit the woods behind my house, which are shades of brown and gray and have been since the leaves fell back in November.

When I go looking for “hibernal,” it isn’t there, but “hibernate” pops up at me, the perfect thing to during the month of January. Hibernate leads to: lie dormant, lie idle, lie fallow, stagnate, vegetate, and estivate. Perhaps more fitting, for those of us who find these winter months perfect for sitting at our desks and listening to the voices in our heads, there are these: withdraw, retire, seclude oneself, go into hiding, lie snug, lie close, hide out, hole up, sit tight.

I am pretty much holed up, lying snug, and secluded. But I love the almost song-like rhythm of:

hide out

Hole up

Sit tight.

Which leads me, since playing in dictionaries and Thesauruses is part of a writer’s fun, to fullsizeoutput_1640the far more positive word: snug. Try these lovely words on for size: cozy, intimate, comfortable, easeful, restful, relaxing, quiet, peaceful, tranquil, serene, informal, casual, warm, friendly, inviting.

I am reminded of the snug in an English bar. Snug also suggests secret, private, covert, secluded, well-hidden, screened off.

So while you are reading this, I am secluded, screened off, and well-hidden at my desk, a space which is cozy, warm, and inviting. And once the screen is up and the manuscript is open, I shall turn my back on the hibernal, bleak, stark, cheerless landscape outside.

Hide out

Hole up

Sit tight.

And probably proceed to kill someone, or at least put them in serious jeopardy.

What are you doing on this dark and somber day?

p.s. Evidence of my long-time fascination with words are these three sheets of paper, found while cleaning out a drawer this morning. They were efforts to expand the boys’ vocabularies.


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Going Back Home

What do think when you return to your hometown? Does it make you happy? Sad? Did you grow up in a big city or a small town? For many of us, it brings conflicted emotions, especially if we have family members still living there.

I only pose these questions because they loom large in many of my novels. In my newest book, PRAY FOR THE GIRL (due out 5/30/2019), Lucy Abbott returns to her small Maine town after fifteen years in Manhattan only to discover that an Afghani girl had been stoned to death. Not only does this complicate her relationship to her friends and family, but the death of the girl changes her relationship to the small town she grew up in. It’s not the same place she left. Nor is she the same person.

Surprisingly, I did not grow up in a small town, even though most of my books take place in small towns. There’s something about returning home that intrigues me, especially how old acquaintances perceive you after many years away. What are the bullies and jocks like now? The pretty girls and the class clowns? People change and it’s interesting to see if they changed for the better or for worse. Some even end up behind bars. One of the worst, most pathetic wrestlers on the wrestling team in my hometown went on to become a big MMA star.

Gillian Flynn portrays these small towns wonderfully in SHARP OBJECTS. Camille returns home to write a report on a murder. But she has her own secrets to hide. Her interaction with her town seems fraught with danger and peril. Her mother proves to be a monster like no other. If you haven’t read this book than I suggest you do.

Many people hate returning home on account that they experienced a bad childhood or had a rough time in school. Others enjoy going home. Some never leave. I feel ambivalent about returning to my hometown because of some events that have happened. There was certainly good time, and certainly many bad times too. I still return every now and then, since it’s near Boston. But will I return when there’s no one left? How do you feel about going home?

I do, however, enjoy writing about it. Maybe it’s my complicated feelings about the matter that make it a fruitful topic for my novels. Add in the element of crime and it becomes so much more intriguing. In PRAY FOR THE GIRL, Lucy mud navigate a class bully as well as a love interest that wants to renew their teenage relationship—after fifteen years have passed. Complicating matters is a dying diner and the influx of Afghani immigrants that have moved into Fawn Grove, not to mention a dead Muslim girl.

So, tell me how you feel about returning to your hometown. In the meantime, make sure you preorder your copy of PRAY FOR THE GIRL and see how Lucy deals with her return to Fawn Grove, Maine.





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The Fine Line Between Saving and Hoarding

Kaitlyn Dunnett/Kathy Lynn Emerson here, once again doing some weeding.

This past week, when I was moving last year’s file folders to make room for new ones for 2019 receipts, I realized that every single one of the places I file stuff was overflowing, even the file cabinet in my husband’s office. I need to keep some of those files for tax purposes, but for quite a while, I’ve been meaning to weed out research notes I no longer need. This appeared to be a sign that the time was now.

So, I started pulling files. When I managed to create a gap, I moved other files to the empty space. But then, inevitably, I began to see that some of the files I was shifting into the holes needed weeding, too.

Here’s the thing. I have always had a basic distrust of electronic storage of information. Computers crash. The Cloud isn’t all that reliable, either. I back up on multiple devices. I also print every email I think I may need to refer to later. If I suspect there’s a reason to keep a paper copy, I make one. I have file folders of email correspondence with my agent, with each of my publishers, past and present, and with readers (separated by pseudonym with a separate file for correspondence about my A Who’s Who of Tudor Women). I have files for promotion for each of my books, and files on books and short stories that didn’t sell (there are plenty of those, believe me!) going back to when I got serious about being a writer in the mid-1970s.

Since I’ve started this project, I’m determined to do it right, but it’s going to take much longer than I anticipated. I have to go through each folder to make sure I don’t accidentally throw away something I need. Of course the reason I created the folder in the first place was because I thought I might use the contents someday.

When, exactly, does saving become hoarding? I’ve had an article on jade, cut out of an old National Geographic, for decades. It has gorgeous pictures, but I’ve never used the material in a book or story. Yes, there’s a chance that I’ll have an idea in the future and wish I’d kept that piece, but if I do, I can find it again. That one goes in the trash.

file drawer I haven’t yet dared open

Most of the sixteenth-century material in my research folders has already been used in published books. I’m not likely to use it again. I try never to say never, but right now it seems to me that I’ve done all I want to do with fiction set in that era, especially since I have one book already written that hasn’t yet found a publisher. I’m even more certain I won’t write more books set in 1888, so there’s no point in hanging on to all that nineteenth-century research.

I love maps, but do I really need to keep dozens of them showing New England and New York in the seventeenth-century? I set one romance novel and one juvenile historical (that never sold) in colonial New England. Lots of other historical maps need to go, too. I really can’t think why I’d need one of medieval trade routes, and that’s just one example.

I am finding hidden gems in some files, including lots of postcards, mostly acquired on research trips. I’m not sure what I’m going to do with those. Who sends postcards anymore? Photos I took on those same research trips will go back into my scrapbooks. Ditto some promotional material. I’m also keeping early rejection letters. I’m not sure why. But what about printouts of manuscripts in dot matrix that were never published because an imprint folded? Is it saving to keep those, or hoarding? If I don’t toss them now, there will only be that much more junk for my eventual heirs to get rid of. And what about printouts of all the posts I’ve written, not just for Maine Crime Writers, but for other blogs when a new book was about to come out? They exist online, supposedly forever. Do I really need to take up space with paper copies?

Speaking of paper, there is one bonus to come out of this wholesale weeding. Lots and lots of pages in these discarded files are blank on one side—perfect for printing up various drafts of my work in progress. I’ll recycle them after both sides have been used and I’ve moved on to the final draft.

As the saying goes, pictures are worth a thousand words, so I’m illustrating this post with shots of the weeding project in progress. I hope you’ll share some of your own experiences with downsizing in the comments section, and wish me luck as I continue to search for the fine line between saving and hoarding.

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) 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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Weekend Update: January 12-13, 2019

Next week at Maine Crime Writers, there will be posts by Kaitlyn Dunnett/Kathy Lynn Emerson (Monday), Joe Souza (Tuesday) Kate Flora (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:

Lea Wait: Sunday, January 13, Lea will be interviewed about her THREAD HERRINGS by Harry Rinker on WHATCHA GOT? his nationally syndicated antiques and collectibles call-in radio show between  8:30 and 8:45 ET. To find out where the show airs in your area, check Harry’s website (www.harryrinker.com) The show also streams live at genlive.com – click on “Listen to Talk.”






Bruce Robert Coffin: Thursday, January 24th, Bruce will be interviewed by Frank O Smith from 6 – 7:00 pm in the Eleanor Conant Saunders Reading Room at the Walker Memorial Library in Westbrook. For more information: walkerlibrary.org


The Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram 
has announced while they will continue to run national book reviews obtained from wire services, they will no longer run reviews of books by freelance reviewers about Maine, set in Maine, or by Maine authors. Maine authors, bookstores, and readers depend on these reviews. While this is a national trend, it’s a shame to see it happen in a state so rich in readers and writers. There’s a petition up at change.org if you’d like to sign it here.

Update: The Portland Press Herald says it will reinstate local reviews if 100 people buy a digital subscription using the promo code CARRIE. You can subscribe here.

Updated Update: The numbers are in. Freelance reviews survive. After tweet from Stephen King, readers respond to Press Herald pitch


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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