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!”


Bang, bang, bang, bang. “Let me in!”


Bang, bang, bang, bang. “Let me in!”


(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.”


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.”


“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.”


“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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Springtime Rituals

The oversized mail chute at the Portland P.O.

I filed my tax returns yesterday, went to the main post office in Portland, walked into the circa 1932 building and put them in the big chute mailbox, just like I did before there was an internet.

Tradition can be such a comfort.

In our turbo-speed world, it may be easier to file electronically, to send my annual report of income and deductions and credits into the ether along with information about how to debit my bank account for the balance due, but I prefer to mail the physical return and a paper check off to Hartford, Connecticut.

There, in what I picture as a gray building with grim slits for windows, I imagine a skeleton crew toiling in a giant, echoing mailroom, because probably only a handful of us still cling to the old way of carrying out the mid-April ritual.


Last month we traveled to Massachusetts for my family’s annual St. Patrick’s Day party, which remains pretty much the same from year to year even though my siblings and I are the oldest generation now.

Irish step dancing dress, circa-1963, when it was mine.

Niece Bridget made the corned beef and cabbage and my sister Kate made mutton pies—individual two-crust lamb pies seasoned with salt, pepper and cinnamon, dropped into simmering lamb broth until they are soft and heated through. My grandmother learned to make them from her mother when she was a girl in County Kerry. She in turn taught my mother, who taught my sister. This year Kate had mutton pie help from her son and his five-year-old daughter Keegan, who seems to have inherited the baking gene.

I cherish St. Patrick’s Day with my family. It’s such a happy gathering. Winter’s on the run, a perfect time to gather around the table to visit and eat, listen to traditional tunes and applaud Caeley, the next-to-the youngest in the clan, as she dances the reels and jigs she’s mastered this year.


Diane’s birthday is in May, which she (and everyone else I know who has a May birthday) insists is the best month of the year to have been born. Given that it’s the month in Maine when the tulips shoot from the earth and the lilacs perfume the air, I think she’s right about that.

Birders checking out warblers

May is when songbirds migrate back to Maine, and in the days around Diane’s birthday it’s become our custom to take part in the Maine Audubon Society’s warbler walks in Portland. Some days this happens at Evergreen Cemetery, others at Capisic Pond. Along with an Audubon naturalist, expert birders and beginners like me spend a hushed hour trying to spot and identify Redstarts, Chestnut-sideds and Black-Throated Greens. It’s become a treasured annual ritual, and I look forward to taking part again in a few weeks.


Today is Patriots’ Day, celebrated in Maine and Massachusetts and definitely in our household, because it is the day (most years) we put the cold frame on one of the raised beds and plant chard and early salad greens.

Our early raised bed in a previous year. Trust me, the grass in our yard shows not a hint of green yet, but the seeds are going in today.

If there is a more satisfying spring ritual than putting your hands in the dirt and your hope in a handful of tiny seeds, I sure don’t know what it is.

These rituals—hard-copy tax returns, St. Patrick’s Day revelry, hopeful May birding, planning and planting the garden—are my springtime signposts. What are the things you do every year this time to mark the earth’s awakening?

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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Weekend Update: April 13-14, 2019

Next week at Maine Crime Writers, there will be posts by Brenda Buchanan (Monday), Barb Ross (Tuesday) Susan Vaughan (Wednesday) Sandra Neily (Thursday), and MaureenMilliken (Friday).

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

Screen Shot 2019-04-09 at 10.45.38 AM

Bruce Robert Coffin will be at the Stroudwater Lodge in Westbrook, Maine on Friday, April 19th at 3 PM, reading from his Agatha nominated novel Beyond the Truth.

We didn’t mean to ignore Maine libraries during Library Week. We spend a lot of our time in Maine libraries. Here are some pictures of Maine Crime Writers at Maine libraries:


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


Stephanie Gayle, Bruce Robert Coffin, and James Ziskin at the Jesup Library.


Barb Ross, Kate Flora, and Bruce Coffin at Maine Authors Day at the Guilford 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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Consistency & Continuity: The ARCs That Define A Series

Vaughn C. Hardacker here: In my last blog I discussed the importance of characters in writing a series. I ended that blog introducing the concepts of consistency and continuity and will make them the primary subject of this blog.


In my last blog I defined these elements as:

  1. Consistency.
    • Agreement or logical coherence among things or parts.
    • Reliability or uniformity of successive results
    • Conformity with previous attitudes, behavior, and practice
  2. Continuity.
    • The state or quality of being continuous
    • An uninterrupted succession or flow; a coherent whole
    • The property of a continuous and connected period of time
    • Smooth, without break

The definitions themselves are pretty straight forward. However putting them into your writing can be a challenge. In my novel Sniper I introduced three main characters (not including the antagonist), two, Anne Bouchard and Michael Houston, I intended to have continuing roles if I chose to make the novel book one of a series. These characters had several strengths in common (a strong belief in what is right and what is wrong, dedication to their careers, etc.) and some individual weaknesses (Mike was dealing with a divorce, a blossoming drinking problem,


and struggling to understand and deal with a hostile young adult daughter–all issues that I have dealt with in my life. Anne was struggling to be successful in a male-oriented quasi-military organization and doing so in a manner that told the other detectives she had earned her success and handed it as a token female). What I ended up with was a tough-acting male protagonist who made a point of appearing as if he had everything under control and needed no assistance and a female protagonist who had to be tough while preserving her softer side. When she is informed that she was being partnered with Houston she was not happy. Her opinion of him was that he was a hedonistic ass (which he was). Houston had been working solo (due to the fact that no experienced detective would be his partner) and was very upset to be told that he was going to be partnered with Anne. The bulk of the interaction between the two was the bond that grew as they learned about one another and a relationship, both professional and personal, formed.

The third character was not intended to be a major influence in the book nor in any subsequent one. It was Jimmy O’Leary (Jimmy O) and unbeknownst to me he became equally as important as Mike and Anne. Jimmy was a street tough and childhood friend of Houston. They grew up in South Boston but their lives came to a fork in the road. They took different forks; Mike finished high school, went into the U. S. Marine Corps, and became a cop. Jimmy dropped out of school, entered a life of petty crime that resulted in his joining Whitey Bolger’s mob, and became the head of his own criminal organization. Over the years they maintained their close relationship (Mike married Jimmy’s sister). Mike made a point of informing his superiors of the relationship and they were able to ensure he wasn’t assigned a case that involved Jimmy.

Jimmy was a ruthless gang boss, but he had his own sense of ethics. He wanted no part of the drug trade and became a court of last resort for the poverty stricken people who came to him for help. His biggest dislike was for pedophiles and child abusers. To my surprise, when people met me and discussed the book all they wanted to talk about was Jimmy. For example, Jimmy is a chain-smoker. One reader, a reformed smoker, told me that after reading about Jimmy he needed to go outside for fresh air and thought he could smell cigarette smoke on his clothes… Jimmy had elevated himself into being a primary character going forward.

So, by now you are asking: “What does all this have to do with consistency and continuity?” I wrote The Fisherman. Throughout the project I had to constantly look at

every scene and answer a few questions:

  1. Does this scene conform with previous attitudes, behavior, and practice with the characteristics I gave each character in Sniper?
  2. If the answer to #1 was yes then all was fine. If no, I had to fix it or develop it in a

    The Fisherman

    manner that shows it illustrating growth on the part of the character(s). For instance in Sniper, Anne does not like Jimmy, but over the course of the story she came to understand the bond between Jimmy and Mike and appreciate his better points.

  3. Does this scene show a continuous pattern of growth on the part of the characters?
  4. Does this scene fit into the series chronology? For example: if the purpose of the scene (section) is to show growth, ensure it comes after the scene that introduced the character flaw.

So in closing, as you write additional entries in the series ensure that your writing shows agreement or logical coherence among things or parts, reliability or uniformity of successive results, and conformity with previous attitudes, behavior, and practice as well a continuous and connected period of time with a smooth transition.

Keep watch for the next entry in my Ed Traynor series, My Brother’s Keeper (a prequel to Black orchid).

Coming July 2, 2019
My Brothers Keeper




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Advice for Professional Writers: Proofread Your Posts

Kaitlyn Dunnett/Kathy Lynn Emerson here, today on a mini-rant about a pet peeve that’s bothered me for some time now. I know it’s the accepted thing not to worry about accurate typing when it comes to emails and social media posts. For one thing, it’s so easy to blame mistakes on autocorrect. But what professional writers send out into cyberspace has the potential to stay there forever, warts and all. Do you really want an infinite number of people, most of them total strangers, even if they are your “friends” on Facebook, reading posts with your name on them and wondering if the books you write are just as slipshod when it comes to spelling, grammar, and usage? And that’s not even taking into account the impression readers may get if you’ve accidentally left out a key word. A missing not can make it seem as if you’re saying exactly the opposite of what you intended.

Word choice is important, too. Even smaller mini-rant: I refer to myself and others who write books and short stories as writers rather than authors. Yes, I am the author of many books, but I didn’t “auth” them. I wrote them.

I also write emails, blog posts, and Facebook posts and comments. I proofread all of them before I send or post, and I read them again after they are published and make corrections if it turns out I missed a typo. Sometimes mistakes still sneak in, but I try very hard to catch them all before anyone else sees them. I think of that as part of my job as a writer, just as it’s my job to try to catch and correct all errors in a manuscript before I submit it to my editor. I may not find them all, but if I’m going to call myself a professional, I’m obliged to do my best, just as I do my best to invent interesting characters, create a gripping plot, and put it all together in a way that will keep readers turning the pages.

I don’t know what’s being taught in schools these days, but there was a time when “English” class included learning how sentences are constructed, the rules of punctuation, grammar, usage, and spelling, and how to write essays (even if nowadays it’s called blogging). I have no problem with casually breaking rules in spoken English, but once I put something in writing, especially in a public forum where it can be easily misinterpreted and could well go viral, then I believe I have an obligation to do my best. If I’m going to list “writer” as my profession, then whatever I write, no matter when, no matter where, should be as accurate as I can make it. Yes, even private email. To my fellow professional writers, I have this to say: it’s not all that hard or time consuming to proofread, revise if necessary, and make sure you end up saying exactly what you intended. If nothing else, think about the legacy you’re leaving for posterity. One careless covfefe could live on long after every book you’ve ever written has faded from memory.


With the June 2019 publication of Clause & Effect, Kathy Lynn Emerson/Kaitlyn Dunnett will have had sixty books traditionally published. 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 as Kaitlyn. As Kathy, her most recent book is a collection of short stories, 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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Book Launch For PRAY FOR THE GIRL, Tuesday, April 30th at Longfellow Books.

I’m excited to announce that my new thriller, PRAY FOR THE GIRL, will be launched at Longfellow Books, Tuesday, April 30th at 7:00 pm. I hope you can stop by and pick up a signed copy, and say hello. I’ll be speaking, reading an excerpt, and signing books afterward. There might be cake too.

The reviews for PRAY FOR THE GIRL have been fantastic thus far. Here’s an excerpt from the review by Booklist. “ . . .a solid read that poses tough questions about how to help downtrodden towns undergoing social upheaval, a close look at tough personal transformations, and a mystery with a surprising solution.”

The Schleichler Spin says, “In Lucy Abbott, Souza has created an unforgettable character who is tortured, complex, and tough as nails. Her PTSD only scratches the surface of what she’s been through and amplifies the conflicts she’s had with her own identity all her life. . .Through the unforgettable character of Lucy Abbott, Souza is able to turn many of the genre’s clichés on their heads and explore issues of modern warfare, identity politics, and small-town decay while weaving a smoldering commentary on the American Dream.”

”Souza’s new domestic thriller is genre-defining tour-de-force.” Steve Konkoly, internationally bestselling author of THE RESCUE.

“A must-read.” Julia Specner-Fleming, New York Times bestselling author of THROUGH THE EVIL DAYS

”In Lucy Abbott, Jose Souza has created a character like no other.” John Greco, author of BITTER ENDS

In addition, I’ll be conducting an interview on the radio show The Law Business Insider where I’ll be talking about PRAY FOR THE GIRL and my life as a writer. Hope you can check it out.

More exciting news. I’ll be a panelist at the crime writing convention, Crimebake, which takes place in Woburn, MA this November. Hope to see you there.

It plans on being an exciting month with the latest nuclear of my new novel. All those lonely months of writing leads up to a fevered pitch of activity around publication date. I hope all of you get a chance to read my new thriller, PRAY FOR THE GIRl. I thank readers and writers alike for helping me get here.






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