Weekend Update: February 13-14, 2021

Next week at Maine Crime Writers there will be posts by Susan Vaughan (Monday), Kate Flora (Tuesday), William Andrews (Thursday) and Charlene D’Avanzo (Friday).

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

Susan Vaughan: The Kindle version of my Maine-set romantic suspense novel, Hidden Obsession, is only 99c through Feb. 15. Here’s a short description.

Revisiting the past can heal… or lead to murder.
Sheri’s reluctant return to Maine coincides with a murder. She finds herself in the killer’s crosshairs and in the arms of determined blue-eyed cop Justin. Can he solve the case before the killer carries out a special plan for Sheri?

And a review: “A highly entertaining read—a thriller, a mystery and a romance, all bundled into one. A real page-turner, with plenty of action, fully-rounded characters, and a Maine setting to hold it all together.” 5 * on Amazon

Order here: http://getbook.at/Hidden-Obsession

 

 

 

 

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. We also do programs on Zoom. Contact Kate Flora

 

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Pieces Falling into Place

In my last post, I talked about the possibility of self-publishing a collection of my essays, to be made up of some of the 249 blogs I’ve posted at Maine Crime Writers since the summer of 2011. The response to this idea was very encouraging and one lucky person who commented now owns an autographed copy of Crime & Punctuation. I picked the winner at random, but all the suggestions were very helpful in planning out what I wanted to do next. My sincere thanks go out to everyone who posted a comment.

To my delight, it took me less than a week to pull together a rough draft of the proposed collection and to figure out how to improve upon my original concept. For one thing, there will be fewer sections. While it’s still necessary to organize the essays into topics, rather than just throw them out there willy-nilly, a nine-part structure seem to cover all the bases. They are:

Cozy Mysteries
Historical Novels
My Life in Books
Climbing the Family Tree
People, Real and Fictional
Places
Miscellaneous Tips for Writers
Cats
Odds and Ends

I have a tentative title, too, from the very first blog I wrote for Maine Crime Writers: I Kill People for A Living: A Collection of Essays by a Writer of Murder Mysteries. I know it’s long, but without the subtitle potential readers might get the wrong impression!

Although I’ve now chosen which blogs to include, I’m still fiddling with details. In some cases, an essay could be placed in more than one section. There’s also the problem of repetition. I told some of the same stories, both writing and personal, in more than one blog over the years, but since the context is different, I have to decide whether or not to eliminate all but one instance.

The other decision I have to make is whether or not to include the original date of each essay. I’m editing them, so I can insert updates on information where required, and I’m not putting them in the order they were written.

Decisions. Decisions. All thoughts and suggestions are welcome!

And, of course, before anything is made available to the public, I’ll need to have the whole thing professionally copy edited and get the wonderful cover designer I used for my children’s books to come up with something that will catch the eye of potential buyers.

One more thing I have to share—for the first time in ages, I’m having fun working on a book. That’s worth its weight in gold.

Kathy Lynn Emerson/Kaitlyn Dunnett has had sixty-three books traditionally published and has self published several children’s books. 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 “Deadly Edits” series (A Fatal Fiction) as Kaitlyn. As Kathy, her most recent book is a standalone historical mystery, The Finder of Lost Things. She maintains websites at www.KaitlynDunnett.com and www.KathyLynnEmerson.com. A third, at A Who’s Who of Tudor Women, is the gateway to over 2300 mini-biographies of sixteenth-century Englishwomen.

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It Does Not Compute

Once upon a time, I got so mad at my husband I couldn’t sleep. (Don’t worry. We celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary last month.) I went upstairs where the family computer was, and started pounding out a tale involving an amnesiac heroine, a house of ill repute, and a dark and brooding hero who was going to do everything the heroine told him to without a question or raised eyebrow. I am blushing in shame just thinking of typing such utter nonsense, then and now.

Furthermore, I was so naïve I had no idea what a word count feature was; you see, we have four children, and I never got near enough to the computer while they all lived at home to do any exploring. I knew nothing. The day I discovered how to cut and paste changed my life, and that’s no exaggeration.

I’d grown up hunting and pecking on a big, black used Royal upright typewriter whose “e” key stuck from years of abuse and overuse in the English language. Remember carbon paper? Typewriter ribbons that smudged everything? When I went to college, my father bought me a used electric typewriter where I continued to type my term papers badly with the wrong fingers, and at the very last minute.

I am also an adult education typing class drop out, and have never taken any computer workshops which conceivably could have helped me to write 20-plus books somewhat more efficiently. Home row remains a mystery to this day.

Getting back to my first ill-fated “book” and the whorehouse. It turns out that at less than 20,000 words, it was a novella. But it was a start, and I gradually became slightly more proficient as the years rolled by. Entirely self-taught, I have a feeling I haven’t taught myself all that well, and am probably only using a small fraction of the operating system’s and programs’ possibilities.

One could say the same of my brain. But I have recently learned that despite the 10% myth, most of our brain is used most of the time, even when we’re asleep. I know just enough to be dangerous when I’m awake. Those hundred billion neurons are always busy and full of mischief. My webmistress rescues me regularly, and is worth every penny to maintain and update my website. Mind you, I’m not a total Luddite. Sometimes I’m even proud of myself that I’ve kept as au courant as I have. I remind myself for an old dog, I still have a few tricks left in me. But my four-year-old granddaughter probably knows more right now about technology than I ever will.

There are several manuscripts “under the bed,” never to see the light of day even if I could find the floppy disks they were saved to. (I know, it’s “to which they were saved.” My English teachers are long dead, and rules were meant to be broken, right?) I used to mourn them, but now feel I’ve saved myself much embarrassment and scorn. No one will be clamoring for Maggie Robinson’s juvenilia, if a past-middle-aged woman’s writings can be called that. I did win a few writing contests back in the pre-published day which helped boost my confidence, though I have no intention of trying to resurrect anything from the dust bunny skeletons now.

I’ve lost track of the desktops and laptops I’ve gone through, and the keyboards whose letters I completely erased with my fingertips. How many times have I bought and installed the Microsoft Word program? Bill Gates really owes me.

What’s your relationship with technology? Have you killed more than your fair share of computers? If you had to write in longhand, could you read your handwriting?

My kids’ initials

Maggie Robinson is a former teacher, library clerk, and mother of four who woke up in the middle of the night, absolutely compelled to create the perfect man and use as many adjectives and adverbs as possible doing so. A transplanted New Yorker, she lives with her not-quite perfect husband in Maine, where the cold winters are ideal for staying inside and writing historical mysteries and romances. A two-time Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice nominee, her books have been translated into French, German, Portuguese, Turkish, Russian, Japanese, Thai, Dutch and Italian. Maggie is a member of Sisters in Crime and Maine Romance Writers.

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Blockchain Technology, The Novel & Art


Blockchain systems are changing the world. From currency to finance, this new and exciting technology will revolutionize the way we conduct business and art for years to come. Most people are familiar with this technology because of the cryptocurrency, Bitcoin. But Bitcoin, although the largest of the cryptocurrencies, is a small part of what this new system does.

How does this have anything to do with writing you may ask? I’m getting there.

First of all, let’s explain what a blockchain is in the most simplest way possible. The best way to describe the blockchain is to call it a database, only the data is stored on blocks that hold sets of information. These blocks are chained together, stamped with a date and the information on them is irreversible. Computers from all over the world transact the blockchain, making it highly decentralized and difficult to control, which is the key to its power. These computers are called nodes. Any changes to the information on the blocks have to be agreed upon by the community of users.

Okay, here’s the cool part. The blockchain is being used for novelists and artists alike. Hashmask, a digital art and collectible platform, recently sold a piece of digital art for over six-hundred thousand dollars. The owner receives a NFT (Non-Fungible Token) that represents the unique art or collectible. The owner of the NFT interacts with the digital art on the blockchain and gets naming rights, as well as unlimited commercial rights. These are rare pieces of art where the owner of the NFT becomes part of the artistic process. Think these digital tokens are worthless? Ten million dollars in digital art sold in four days in February. Check out Hashmask for more information about their platform. https://www.thehashmasks.com

The prospect for writers is even greater. There are two blockchain startup platforms that are very intriguing: Scenarex https://www.scenarex.ca and Publica https://publica.com/. This is how Forbes Magazine describe this new ebook technology. “When you buy an e-book on one of these services, it puts a record of your purchase on a blockchain that establishes your ownership of the file. You get a token — a small digital file — signifying ownership. Then you can alienate — a legalese term meaning to sell, lend, rent, or give away — the file to someone else. When that happens, a record of the new ownership is put on the blockchain, and the token moves to the new owner.” When you buy the book your name goes on the blockchain forever. Then, when you sell it, the next owner is put on the chain.

The potential blockchain technology holds for authors is limitless. It will solve the problem of reselling books. In this system, authors will get paid when the ‘owner’ of the novel resells it to someone else. There will be exact accounting information and all the buyers will be known because they’ll be recorded on the chain, making marketing your books that much easier. Of course, there are issues that still need to be worked out, but I’m very excited about this new decentralized system for authors.

Blockchain technology is not only here to stay, but it will change the world. I’ve barely scratched the surface about it in this short blog and am learning more and more each day. The various platforms and cryptocurrencies seem to grow by the hour. Be ready for the economic and artistic tsunami that’s coming our way. In the near future you may be selling your art on this exciting new platform.

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They Exist: Here’s One of Mine

If you’re my age, you probably recognize the name Carlos Castaneda. He wrote several books starting with The teachings of Don Juan; a Yaqui way of knowledge, in 1968. I was attending Arizona State University at the time it was published and the book, along with those that followed, fascinated me, probably for the wrong reasons. However, one thing that has stayed with me ever since is what follows:

“Places of power is a very interesting ecological phenomenon, which has a great significance for spiritual work. This term was introduced by Mexican Indian Juan Matus, described in the books of Carlos Castaneda. Places of power are geographic zones, sometimes large, sometimes small, which possess energy fields that are of significance for people.” (https://www.encyclopedia-of-religion.org/places_of_power.html)

As I’ve grown older, my awareness and use of places of power had strtengthened. If you reflect, I bet you can recognize spots that make you feel something…Extra energy, more clarity, a sense of well-being, or greater creativity. When I was writing my first young adult fantasy and working at the Boothbay Harbor Memorial Library, sometimes I would find myself stuck and unsure what was to happen next. Every time I was mired in a plot hole, driving past the Edgecomb Pottery Works sparked an answer.

When we lived in Hartland, I had two such places. One was standing by the kitchen sink, generally washing or drying dishes (I still like doing so, even though the same energy flow doesn’t exist in Waterville). The other was our back yard, particularly while weeding the vegetable garden.

I was a bit worried when we moved to Waterville, but I’ve found another place of power, one that many might find surprising. You may remember that a closer access to the Alfond Youth Center’s pools was one of the reasons we moved here. I started participating in a 45 minute aquatic exercise program in the heated therapy pool. The pandemic put that on hold just as I was becoming used to the program.

When it resumed, most of the regulars (we generally had12-18 in a session), didn’t come back. In fact for some time, there were just three of us. When the virus case numbers jumped, the class was suspended, but an open exercise session became available at nine, so I started using that hour to build on what we had been doing, coupled with adapting exercises prescribed by my physical therapist. When the regular class resumed, I started doing both. That’s where I am these days, spending almost ten hours weekly exercising in 90 degree water.

The pool is my new place of power. I’ve come up with numerous short story ideas in it, several of which have been published. Right now, I’m using pool time to write ahead on a YA novella that I hope will be the last piece in an anthology I’m calling Hardscrabble Kids. It will contain two novellas and a dozen or so shorter pieces, all featuring Maine kids in unusual or magical realism situations. I’m lucky to have some of the students at Messalonskee High as my beta readers.

The story I’m writing now is challenging. It started out as a teen boy with fairly severe OCD, but has now morphed into a girl who is a junior cross country runner in 1969. Part of the plot involves her anger and frustration with the way males treat her She’s so tired of every accomplishment being given the tag line-’for a girl.’ Remembering what exactly life was like back then is challenging. I keep having to research what was available then. Looking through my high school yearbook made me realize how draconian dress codes were…Not a single photo of a female in pants. I’m also pushing the envelope by introducing a character not publicly recognized back then, at least not in small town Maine.

I’ve included some photos of my current place of power. I hope you have one, or will find one soon.

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Weekend Update: February 6-7, 2021

Next week at Maine Crime Writers there will be posts by John Clark (Monday), Joe Souza (Tuesday), Maggie Robinson (Thursday) and Kaitlyn Dunnett/Kathy Lynn Emerson (Friday).

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

Ornate Hearts Valentine's Day Facebook Post-2

Here’s the link: https://amzn.to/39K4lm4

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. We also do programs on Zoom. Contact Kate Flora

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Social Media: The New Krystallnacht?

Vaughn

I believe that our country may be dealing with a schism greater than any since the middle of the nineteenth century. The division has become so great that I’m afraid we may never again be a single country. I spent six years in the U. S. Marine Corps defending this country against all enemies, foreign and domestic. Now I think we are at the edge of a great precipice and our foreign enemies are watching as we view each other as the enemy.

In my seventy-plus years I cannot recall a time when freedom of speech has been under attack as vociferously as it is now. For many years we have seen our media endorse one candidate or another and still report the news. Now it is my belief that the media is not capable of reporting the news because they are too busy making the news. I guess we should define what we mean by media. First, there is the paper that is delivered to your door or that you by at the local convenience store: I believe traditional newspapers are no longer a major player their circulation is plummeting and there are no signs that it is going any where but down. All of the local weekly papers in Aroostook County are now owned by the Bangor Daily News. The price is now over a dollar an issue and at most our local paper (the Aroostook Republican) is about the size of a junior high school paper (on average six pages during a busy news week). I consider modern media to be mainstream radio, TV, and online news. The problem is there are no true news outlets any longer. Every major news outlet has become a propaganda generator for which ever political party they favor.

However, it is my sincere belief that the greatest danger to our country is social media (of late it hasn’t been social at all; it’s been political). If you doubt that then you haven’t been paying attention to what facebook and Twitter has done of late. They have shut down the accounts of the past-president, Amazon has forced the closure of parler, a social media platform that was gaining popularity with conservative-leaning people, and facebook has refused to advertise at least one book that espouses a political POV other than that of their CEO. They have even gone so far as attempting to force certain news networks off the air. I have a question for Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos, and Jack Dorsey: What part of the first amendment is it that you don’t understand?

I seldom go on these platforms. The vituperative attacks leveled by anyone who posts a POV contrary to certain people are heinous. The strength of our country has been our willingness to listen to someone else’s POV.  Evelyn Beatrice Hall paraphrased Voltaire’s attitude about the author of a book that was attacked, publicly burned and resulted in the author’s exile as, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Marketing my books has forced me into a contradiction. I would like nothing better than to shut down all of my social media accounts. However, we all know that if we are to succeed as writers we need to sell books and social media gives us access to millions of prospective readers (so long as what we write doesn’t go against whatever philosophy the CEO deems acceptable). When I first started writing, I was surprised to hear published authors express their dislike of booksellers such as Barnes and Noble. Why? They were so big that they could influence publishers decisions of which books to buy and which to turn down. I feel the same way about facebook, Twitter, and Amazon.

Over the years I have learned many things the hard way but two rules that I try to live bay are: One, I have my beliefs and you have yours, I don’t evangelize you so please don’t do it to me.  Two, no opinion is right, yet no opinion is wrong. I hear a lot of things said that are not correct. I also find myself thinking a lot: “If some people didn’t talk so damned much; no one would know what a damned fool they are.”

The first freedom dictators take away if freedom of speech. One of  the first industries socialist and communist governments nationalize is the communication industries. Open discourse is forbidden, the government message is THE message. You may recall that a few months back I wrote a blog about Kristallnacht, the night that the Nazi Party along with students burned books that were deemed to go against Nazi ideals. We are prime for our own Kristallnacht. College campuses close their lecture halls to speakers when they don’t like the speaker’s POV. This bothers me a great deal. I went to college almost fifty years ago and if nothing else, my professors taught me how to think–not what to think.

As writers we should be cognizant of the insidiousness of certain members of the oligarchy that now runs the United States (which we call government). Our founding fathers knew that there had to be checks and balances and set up a system where there are three branches of government, The Executive, The Judicial, and The Legislative. They went on dividing the Legislative into two bodies: the House of Representatives, in which seats are apportioned to states by population, and the Senate, in which each state gets two seats. It is not a good thing for American freedom when one party dominates all three. It creates a situation that puts the wants and desires of a few against those of the majority. It infuriates me when I hear elected representatives vocalize their desire to blackball anyone who worked for another administration from ever having another government job. Elected officials who profess this sort of thinking should lose their seat in Congress. (Which reminds me…in the public sector if you don’t perform or do what your employer wants you to do, you will most likely be terminated. Why can’t we fire a do-nothing politician? Oh well, that a rant for another day.)

In closing: What ever happened to civility? What ever happened to honest debate? I’ve noticed that in our modern society debate has devolved to a playground argument between second graders–silly name calling and personal attacks.

We can fix this; it’s not rocket science. All we have to do is pay attention and when you go to the ballot place vote for the candidate you believe is an adult … of course since we can’t fire them once the election is over they will revert to their true immature selves.

I link my posts to social media. I’ll be waiting to see if my facebook and twitter accounts are shut down.

 

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Grounding our Stories: Place Matters

Last week I hung photographs and prints on the walls of my workday office, the final task of a renovation that began in December 2019 and was completed—but for the picture hanging—two months later.

My office wall, where things I like to look at during the workday finally have been hung.

For the twelve months it took the earth to make a complete revolution around the sun, the things to be hung huddled against the freshly painted walls, waiting for a hook and a hammer to welcome them home.

Yet one more  2020 metaphor, I suppose.

In any event, the things are now hung and that act immediately transformed my office into a warmer, more pleasurable space.

I find it interesting that almost all of the photographs and prints I’ve collected over the years depict places that matter to me. Blueberry barrens in Hancock County. Fenway Park. A clutch of rowboats on the shoreline in Cape Porpoise. The ferry crossing Casco Bay on its way to Peaks Island.

Boats at Cape Porpoise Harbor.

 

This brings me to today’s topic, which is writers who do a great job describing place, which is related to, but distinct from, setting. Setting is the community where the story unfolds. Well-crafted descriptions of place tell you something about the people who live there.

In her brilliant book When We Were the Kennedys, esteemed Maine novelist and playwright Monica Wood describes the Oxford Paper Mill in her hometown of Mexico in vivid, resonant prose. Like Monica, I grew up in a paper mill town, and understand not only what she’s saying here, but why she’s saying it.

On certain spring days the woodyard resembled brush strokes on canvas, wood gathered into glowing pyramids, their shapes shifting as sun and shadow drew out their living colors. In winter, under a pitiless midday light, the entire mill complex could appear almost fragile, its myriad shapes exposed here, snow-muffled there, its breathing presence open to the elements. In summer, at dusk, it laid bare its bones, a bleak and soulless silhouette against a dying sky. The truth behind these tableaux lay in the artless reality of industry, a pact between man and machine, management and labor. But I like to think that on certain mornings of low light, in certain seasons or turns of weather, Dad saw the mill in that other way, the mill as a living being, a bestower of pride and bounty, real as a father: benevolent, trustworthy, unfailingly present.

A painting of a mill by the marvelous Maine artist Caren Marie Michel has a home on my wall.

MCW emeritus Paul Doiron is another master at capturing place. This description of a godforsaken place from his most recent Mike Bowditch novel, One Last Lie stuck with me long after I’d finished the book:

 The forest along the Rocky Brook Road had been logged so hard there was hardly a tree left standing taller than a telephone pole. The state had outlawed wholesale clear-cutting years ago, but you never would’ve known it from the wanton devastation stretching as far as the eye could see. Vast fields, consisting of stumps and deadfalls, tangled puckerbrush, and a few worthless cedars, extended for miles along both sides of the thoroughfare. Poplars and willows were so splattered with mud from the logging trucks that they seemed nearly sculptural. If you had told me brutal battles had been fought here with mortars and rocket-propelled grenades, I would have believed you. 

There’s a lot to work with in rural Maine, but my friend and MCW colleague Richard Cass takes us to the gritty heart of Boston with this passage from Last Call at the Esposito:

Rico’s was the kind of bar the new Boston wanted out of its sight and out of its hair. But there were still plenty of neighborhoods in the city where money and high taste hadn’t yet forced the people who’d grown up there to relocate, just as there were still neighborhood taverns where no one but the locals wanted to drink. Like many of the old-school bars around the city, Rico’s had a second door in the back with a sign bearing a different name, in Rico’s case, The Green Door. This habit, obscured in history, allowed a husband to tell his wife he was at one bar when he was really at another. Since wives tended to live in the same neighborhoods at their husbands, Burton didn’t think anyone was fooling anyone else. But he loved knowing things about his city that the incoming yupsters and hipsters would never find out.

To me, that passage is visceral. I can see the bar. I can smell the stale beer. I can hear the broad Boston accents of its patrons and guess what they’re talking about.

As writers, we can’t aim for more than that.

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.  These days she’s hard at work on new projects.

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Barefoot, in the snow, and uphill both ways

Scan 11

From Sennebec Hill in a snowstorm

 

Kate Flora: I was going to write today about authors sharing some of the best, and worst, writing advice they’ve ever gotten. But something about the impending snowstorm got me thinking about Maine winters of long ago and about the way that growing up in the country and on a farm has had a lingering influence on my life and how I think, especially about land and food.

For much of my adult life, I’ve lived in a suburban community where I can see the lights of my neighbor’s houses at night. That wasn’t the case growing up. We lived in an 1811 farmhouse on a hilltop overlooking Sennebec Pond, with fields stretching out like wings beside us and thick, green forest rising up a hill across the road. We couldn’t see a neighbor to the north, and a barn kept us from seeing lights from our nearest hilltop neighbor to the south. We could see lights in the houses across the pond, more in summer when people were at their camps. But they were distant lights.

Scan 14

For many years, our phone line was a party line. There was no internet, of course, and no computers. Mom wrote her articles and did her correspondence on a typewriter, using carbons to keep a record of her work. We had a creaky TV antenna on the roof, sometimes snowy reception, and for the first many years of television, the set was black and white. We had a record player, but not very many records. Down in the cellar, where my father used to grade and pack the eggs from our chickens, he had a radio that was always on.

We had one bathroom for a family of five, with a hole through the floor into the cellar that grew larger year by year until my mother rebelled and called a carpenter. The cellar was low ceilinged and damp, with stone wall foundations in the older parts of the house, a mixed dirt and cement floor, and housed not only the egg grading table, wire baskets full of eggs, and stacks of cardboard boxes full of eggs sorted and packed by size but a small area where all the canned goods were stored and a dirt-floored area where potatoes and onions hung in wire baskets for the winter.

Because it was a farm, we grew or raised most of our own food, and much of the rhythm of the year was tied to that. In summer, we would be sent to the garden to weed or pick. Long summer evenings were spent at the table, snapping beans, pitting cherries, shelling dried beans, or slicing cucumbers for pickles. When I see pictures of pristine kitchens—vast swaths of empty counters, shiny floors, neat desk tops, and no papers or signs of life—I contrast that with my childhood house. The double desk overflowed with bills and papers and boxes of seeds and gardening tools and balls of twine and sticks to label plants, and batteries and work gloves and miscellaneous items stored in green cardboard berry baskets or held together with clothespins. All that mixed with genealogical correspondence, research books for mom’s articles, and dad’s reference books.

The narrow counters were full of food in progress. Vegetables waiting to be prepped and cooked, loaves of bread rising or cooling, racks of cooling cookies or muffins. Boxes of eggs. Bags and boxes of flour, wheat germ, sugar, and other baking ingredients. Under the desk, potatoes and onions and in the fall, probably a basket of miscellaneous squash. On the floor in the shed, unripe tomatoes rescued before the frost. Piles of beets and carrots. The last cucumbers, summer squash, zucchini, peppers, and maybe eggplant. Cauliflower and broccoli. In a cabinet in the corner, stacks of freezer containers and lids and heavy-weight plastic freezer bags.

Scan 13

Family dinner on the farm

In the late fall, when the harvest had been processed and food production halted, we turned to the holiday season. With no money for gifts, our gifts from the farm were baked or gathered. We made dozens of batches of cookies to be packed in tins, harvested balsam and sewed little scented balsam pillows, and my father, who loved the land and its plants, wandered the woods collecting tiny mosses and partridge berries and made terrariums. Cookies and pillows and those little gardens would be mailed off to friends and relatives who would return the cookie tins during summer visits.

When the seed and plant catalogues—what I call “flower porn”—arrive, I am reminded of my father, with his degree in horticulture, poring over the catalogues and making lists of what he would grow each year, what was tried and true and what new varities might suit our Maine soil. By February, there would likely be the beginnings of peat pots and trays on the windowsills, as seedlings were started for spring planting.

And there was snow!!

And yes, we often walked home from school, though not barefoot, and it wasn’t all uphill. But it was a very different life.

Some lucky person who leaves a comment on this, or a fellow blogger’s post this week will win a copy of my mom’s second mystery, The Corpse in the Compost.

Scan 16

Sheep farmer Kate

Scan 17

With Mrs. Kitzel, the world’s best dog

Scan 15

On a woods trail across the street, standing next to the hollow oak

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My 250th Blog at Maine Crime Writers

the photo I used ten years ago when the blog began

Kaitlyn Dunnett/Kathy Lynn Emerson here. As I was trying to think what to write about this time around, and contemplating the possibility of collecting some of my previous blogs into a book, it occurred to me to count just how many I’ve written since Maine Crime Writers launched nearly ten years ago. The serendipitous total was 249, making this lucky number 250.

Consider this a retrospective. No, I won’t go through all 249 topics again, or share the entire treasure trove of photos used in early blogs I’d forgotten I had on my computer—the ones that vanished from our blog archive when we revamped the site—but I will share that a look at the titles alone was enough to convince me that it will be pretty simple to organize them into topics. My very first blog’s title—”I Kill People for a Living” may very well work as the title for the entire collection.

You may be wondering if there’s a market for collections of blogs. I think there is, especially if I call them essays rather than posts. They actually were written as essays, at least in my mind. That format has always been a comfortable fit for me. Once upon a time, I taught college freshman how to write essays in English 101, otherwise known as Freshman Composition.

In past centuries, essay collections were popular reading. The genre is more of a niche market these days, but it still exists, even if the word “essay” isn’t always used. Essays are called stories in Tim Cotton’s The Detective in the Dooryard. Dave Barry’s books are collections of his humorous newspaper columns. There’s even a precedent for collecting Maine Crime Writers’ blogs into a book—Lea Wait’s Living and Writing on the Coast of Maine.

So, dear readers, here are a couple of questions for you. Would you read such a collection (notice I say read, not buy) if it were available as an e-book and trade paperback? And what do you think of the following as sections of the book?

On Cozy Mysteries
On Historical Mysteries
On the Book (Books) of the Heart
On Being Inspired by People
On Being Inspired by Places
On Being Inspired by Fiction
On Miscellaneous Tips for Writers
On Climbing the Family Tree for Fun and Profit
On Mining Life Experience for use in Writing Fiction
On Life in Rural Maine in the 21st Century
On Cats
On Oddities, Past and Present

one of the oddities I wrote about in an early post

I look forward to hearing what you think. And one person who comments below will be chosen to receive his or her choice of one of my published books—any one I still have available in print copies.

Thanks in advance for your input.

Kathy Lynn Emerson/Kaitlyn Dunnett has had sixty-three books traditionally published and has self published several children’s books. 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 “Deadly Edits” series (A Fatal Fiction) as Kaitlyn. As Kathy, her most recent book is a standalone historical mystery, The Finder of Lost Things. She maintains websites at www.KaitlynDunnett.com and www.KathyLynnEmerson.com. A third, at A Who’s Who of Tudor Women, is the gateway to over 2300 mini-biographies of sixteenth-century Englishwomen.

 

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