Of Course I Should Have Done It … Sooner

 Sandra Neily here:

I should have done it sooner.

 Well, that’s perhaps an endless list for most of us. (Including my missed Crime Writers posting date last week. Apologies to the team.)

But I should have done this sooner. My second novel, Deadly Turn, was published (by Piscataqua Press) in early July. When we ran a free Kindle offer for my first novel (to spark excitement about buying the second one) almost 6,000 people applied for the free offer and it was past time to update my web site.

I’d read up on suggestions about how to craft the About section. The current thinking is that personal information should be offered up in the first-person speaking voice of the author.  And we really should have a mission statement that’s short and cuts right to why we write.

Here’s how I revised the “About” info on my site:



“I am creating a series of murder mysteries about the murder of the natural world … stories that are compelling, intimate field trips into a world at risk of disappearing.”

Growing up in East Boothbay, Maine, I learned that the natural world is a disappearing world. Over the years, the woods and waters around me disappeared under bulldozers or behind gated driveways. These losses are the core experiences of my childhood and my conservation career, and they are the marrow of my fiction.

When moose are angry, the ears go back. The hump on the back swells. You should already be gone or behind a huge tree. I know this…

My resume includes being chased by moose, river otters, and mad mother partridges. I forgive them all, as I am often out there hiking, paddling, or skiing where they live. My seriously unsupervised childhood exploring clam flats, deep forests, and secret streams grew into my Mystery In Maine series with my first award-winning novel, Deadly Trespass and most recently, Deadly Turn.

Deadly Trespass has received the national Mystery Writers of America McCloy award and was named a national finalist in the Women’s Fiction Writers Association “Rising Star” contest, a fiction finalist In Maine’s Literary Awards competition, and a finalist in the international Mslexia novel competition.

Deadly Turn (published in July, 2020) is already receiving praise as a page-turning adventure from some of Maine’s most accomplished outdoor professionals and advocates.

Guiding a Class V rapid (real consequences and boulders) is so much easier if one’s crew really does know the terms “left” and “right.” Always was an adventure.

My novels are infused with the drama and laughter of various outdoor careers, the sadness of loss, and close encounters with dogs and wildlife. I’ve been a whitewater river outfitter, licensed Maine Guide, and co-founder of a coalition to protect the Penobscot River from a dam. I am the author/editor of “Valuing the Nature of Maine,” and ‘Watching Out for Maine’s Wildlife” (reports that document nature’s economic value).

My love of and concern for Maine’s woods and waters has led to various appointments including the Maine Economic Growth Council, the Northern Forest Sustainability Initiative Steering Committee, the Citizen’s Advisory Committee to the Northern Forest Lands Council, and the Maine Department of Conservation Public Advisory Committee. These efforts however, often shared in the company of people who care deeply, have not eliminated threats to the largest intact, temperate forest in North America.

I’ve spent most of my adult life working in the conservation field, sometimes in paid communications positions, sometimes as a citizen activist. I’ve been recognized for my work to illuminate the economic value of our resources. I’ve authored reams of op-eds, legislative testimony, articles, and newsletters that usually find audiences predisposed to care.

Ripogenus Gorge, Penobscot River. Would have been a lake with the 19th dam.

I’ve been recognized for my work to save the Penobscot River from its nineteenth dam—a dam that would have drowned the river’s last remaining gorge and its rapids, wild salmon, and mist covered rare plants.

But times have changed. Many of us are trapped in information silos that shelter us from the knowledge and compassion we need to secure a future for our world.

My goal is to create stories that are compelling, intimate field trips into a world at risk, using the magic of mystery and Maine’s north woods to engage readers into knowing and caring. Fiction can reveal truths which are otherwise obscured. I take Edward Abby seriously: “. . . since we cannot expect truth from our institutions, we must expect it from our writers . . .”

Disappearing forest. Clearcuts outside of Greenville. Less than 2% of Maine’s commercial forest lands (about 9 million acres) have any old or older trees on them.

I live on Moosehead Lake with my husband and rescued Lab, and would rather be fly fishing, skiing, paddling, looking for salamanders with my granddaughters, or just generally “out there”-—unless I’m writing stories that draw readers into disappearing worlds.


It really matters that when fall fishing, one wears every scrap of clothing one has, no matter how GEEKY.

Even if you aren’t creating copy for a website, I suggest your write up an “About” for yourself. Who knows when you’ll need to share yourself beyond the cold form of a resume. And the process (plus editing it down) helps us focus on what might really matter About our lives.

The second Mystery in Maine, Deadly Turn, was published in early July. Her debut 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 was a finalist for a Maine Literary Award. Find her novels at all Shermans Books and on Amazon. Find more info on Sandy’s website.





About Sandra Neily

Sandy’s novel “Deadly Trespass” received a Mystery Writers of America award, was named a national finalist in the Women’s Fiction Writers Association “Rising Star” contest, a finalist in the Mslexia international novel competition, a runner- up in Maine’s Joy of the Pen competition, and recently, an international SPR fiction finalist. Sandy lives in the woods of Maine and says she’d rather be “fly fishing cold streams, skiing remote trails, paddling near loons, or just generally out there—unless I’m sharing vanishing worlds with my readers. "
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2 Responses to Of Course I Should Have Done It … Sooner

  1. You are a remarkable woman! We all learn so much from thest wonderful blog postings. Just curious–how do your books win awards? Do you have to enter them yourself for consideration, or are their publications automatically reviewed by the award bestowers

    • Sandra Neily says:

      Sorry for the delay in getting back to you. Thanks for asking! I enter contests on my own. They do usually cost a fee, though. I make up a calendar of deadlines to remind me about ones I might try for. (If I have the funds.) There are contests publishers can enter on behalf of their author clients, but that’s not often something small Indie publishers have the capacity to do. Hope Clark has an amazing blog that helps me find all sorts of opportunities like this (and grants too). https://fundsforwriters.com/

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