The Founding of Lenape Hollow

Kaitlyn Dunnett/Kathy Lynn Emerson here, today writing about incorporating the history of a real place into fiction, something I get to do with my “Deadly Edits” series set in the part of New York State where I spent my formative years and where various branches of my family settled a good long time ago.

The fictional village of Lenape Hollow is about to celebrate its quasquibicentennial—225 years since its founding—and Mikki Lincoln, my retired teacher turned book doctor and amateur sleuth, has been recruited to update the pageant presented by the local historical society twenty-five years earlier as part of Lenape Hollow’s bicentennial celebrations. There are problems even before a mummified body is discovered inside a walled up chimney.

I’ve been a genealogy buff ever since my grandfather compiled a family history back in the 1960s. It wasn’t much more than a list of names—who was married to whom and what did they call their kids—but he also took me to the local cemetery and, literally, showed me where the bodies were buried. He also wrote his memoirs, including some family stories. As I got older, I found more of those in other sources. Naturally, a few of them found their way into Clause & Effect, the second “Deadly Edits” mystery, in stores on June 25.

One provided a clue. Or perhaps it’s a red herring. You’ll have to read the book to find out. Whichever it is, Mikki finds the following passage in the pageant scrip she’s been asked to edit.

Josiah Baxter was one of the earliest settlers in Lenape Hollow and the following year he persuaded his father, Joshua Baxter, who was formerly from Scotland but for some time a resident of Connecticut, to move west. Joshua, his wife, and his sons Ephriam and Nathan, stopped first at Thunder Hill and then settled in Lenape Hollow. His son William joined them in 1796. Josiah’s wife brought apple seeds with her, which she planted promiscuously among the logs.

Something bothers Mikki about that story, and it doesn’t take her long to figure out what it is. Her grandfather was proud of their ancestor, John Greenleigh. One day when Mikki was ten or eleven, he showed her several passages in a very old book. The first had to do with the founding of Lenape Hollow. The second, in another section, related how John Greenleigh’s cousins settled in nearby Fallsburgh, where his aunt scattered apple seeds “promiscuously among the logs.”

In reality, it was my ancestor, John Gorton, who came from Connecticut. According to Hamilton Child’s Gazetteer and Business Directory of Sullivan County, NY for 1872-3, he arrived in Liberty, NY in 1795 “having previously, in 1793, located with his cousins, Thomas and William Grant, in Fallsburgh.” The history of Fallsburgh in the same volume tells of the arrival of the Grants and a footnote records that “Mrs. Grant brought with her, in her pocket, some apple seeds, which she planted promiscuously among the logs, and now a large number of large trees are scattered over the field.”

How can you not love that description?

I also used another bit of family lore in Clause & Effect. A new character introduced in this second volume in the series is Mikki’s young cousin, Luke Darbee, who comes to Lenape Hollow seeking information about one of his ancestors. He’s figured out that he and Mikki are second cousins twice removed . . . but are they? It seems there was a little hanky-panky going on a few generations back. Luke’s ancestor’s real mother was Mikki’s grandfather’s eldest sister, a sister who got pregnant without benefit of marriage. To preserve her reputation, the child was raised as her brother rather than her son. Luke and Mikki are really second cousins thrice removed. Does that make a difference when there’s a murderer on the loose? Once again, I don’t want to give too much away, but let’s just say that at one time or another Mikki suspects everyone, even Luke.

Mikki ends up solving both past and present murders in Clause & Effect, which leads me to a question for you readers out there: when a mystery series is set in a small town, do you enjoy learning bits and pieces of that town’s history, and sharing the memories of characters who live there, or would you rather have the story focus on the here and now, solving the crime or crimes committed in the present?

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 www.KaitlynDunnett.com and www.KathyLynnEmerson.com 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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Return Of Maine’s State Bird

The Official State Bird of Maine–The Black Fly…

I’ve just finished cutting the grass on my .85 acre back yard. It was an exciting experience in that I was swarmed by our state bird, the Simulium trifasciatum–better known as the blackfly. Experts say that blackfly season runs from Mother’s Day until Father’s Day, after which things dry out and warm up enough to reduce their population. However, May of this year was extremely wet up here in the northern part of The County and rather than being near the end of the season it seems we are at peak.

It takes me just over two hours to cut my backyard with my 46″ lawn tractor; that means for two hours I am the main course at a blackfly picnic. I count 16 bites on my arms (who knows how many are on my head where I can’t see them even though I wore a hat (for years I was not one to wear headgear but now the foliage has gotten so sparse that some sort of cover is needed).

Female Black_Fly Feasting on her favorite meal–namely ME!

Virginia M. Wright got it correct in her article in Downeast Magazine entitled The Blackfly Survival Guide (https://downeast.com/blackfly-survival-guide/).  She wrote: We have met the enemy, and she is the blackfly. She is a mindless, merciless eating machine, and what she wants to eat is you. What she lacks in physical heft is more than offset by her numbers. She and her sisters — for the biters are all female — attack in ferocious, ruthless, maddening swarms. They will turn you into a bloody, itchy, swollen mess if they don’t drive you crazy first. Based upon Ms. Wright, I’m pretty certain that my home is situated in the middle of a colony of Amazon Black Flies, there is not a single male among them.

It makes one feel as if God has a grudge against us. After subjecting us to eight months of winter every year, the blackfly Plague settles in for one to two of our four non-winter months. Did I mention that the height of Blackfly season is that brief period when my grass grows so fast that I have to cut it every three or four days?

To be fair, Ms. Wright lists four things about the blackfly that are beneficial:

1. A healthy blackfly population is a sign of good water quality. Maine had few blackflies in the 1960s when its rivers were heavily polluted.

I would never have thought that a clean water supply could lead to major blood-loss!

2. Maine blackflies do not carry diseases. One of the good things about living in a cold climate is you short-circuit disease-vectoring by insects.

I take umbrage with this: I consider hemorrhaging to death from a thousand small red bites to be a major disease.

3. Blackflies are food for creatures we like. Trout eat their larvae. Birds and bats eat the adult flies.

Really? Personally I’ve never met a bat that I liked–something about them carrying rabies–but then I was not aware that they ate blackflies. Maybe I’ll revisit this.

4. Blackflies can be monetized for a good cause. Just ask the Maine Blackfly Breeder’s Association (official greeting: May the Swarm Be With You), a Machias charity organization that raises money through the sale of gear featuring a large blackfly and the words “Blackflies: Defenders of the Wilderness.”

You got to be shi–ing me!

I’m currently plotting out my next mystery where my antagonist murders his target by releasing a few thousand starving blackflies into the room while the victim is sleeping–all windows are shut and door is locked from the outside. Well time for me to go, I have to take the trimmer around the places where the mower blades won’t reach . . . or as the blackflies say “Here comes the second course!”

 

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Weekend Update: June 15-16, 2019

Next week at Maine Crime Writers, there will be posts by Vaughn Hardacker (Monday), Kaitlyn Dunnett/Kathy Lynn Emerson (Tuesday), Susan Vaughan (Wednesday), Kate Flora (Thursday), and Sandra Neily (Friday).

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

On June 13 at Bangor Public Library, the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance gave out its annual awards for literary excellence. All three finalists in the crime fiction category, won by Barbara Ross for Stowed Away, were Maine Crime Writers: Bruce Robert Coffin (for Beyond the Truth), Barbara Ross, and Lea Wait, writing as Cornelia Kidd (for Death and a Pot of Chowder). Congratulations to all three.

Lea Wait, Bruce Coffin, Barbara Ross and Gibson Fay-Leblanc, Acting Director of the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance, at the Maine Literary Awards ceremony.

 

Bruce Robert Coffin: On Tuesday, June 18th at 4pm Bruce will be speaking at the Fryeburg Public Library. Copies of his books will be available for purchase and signing courtesy of Bridgton Books.

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NOW AVAILABLE AT:

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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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Family Stories

Sorry to be posting late today. We had a little excitement last night.

Stowed Away, (Maine Clambake #6, 2018) won the Maine Literary Award for Crime Fiction.

I was completely amazed and unprepared. It’s the first time a cozy mystery has won and the first time a mass market paperback has won. Plus, the other finalists, fellow Maine Crime Writers Bruce Coffin and Lea Wait/Cornelia Kidd, are both writers I admire, whose books are on my “buy it on release day” list. I am so incredibly honored.

But back to the post. My husband, Bill Carito, and I recently returned from a three week vacation. We took a cruise from Athens to Rome, and then we made a side trip to the small village in Calabria that Bill’s paternal grandparents emigrated from in 1921.

On Monday, I wrote about our adventures finding Bill’s second cousin in Wicked Authors post here. I promised to finish the story today.

So, if you’re all caught up, you know that one of the people in the village of Montauro (Angela!) helped us track down Bill’s second cousin, Giovanni, and his wife, Barbara, and we drove off to meet them in the town nearby where they live.

When we met up, we talked for hours, which was challenging since our combined Italian is terrible and their combined English is only slightly better. But it didn’t matter, because we all really wanted to communicate. In fact, Giovanni had something he not only wanted to communicate, he needed to communicate to Bill. The story he told us was this.

Though Bill and Giovanni are related on their paternal side, it was his maternal grandfather Giovanni wanted to tell us about. In the early 1910s, Bill’s paternal grandfather and Giovanni’s maternal grandfather worked together in the same factory, not surprising in a small mountain village. Fascism had not yet taken hold in Italy, but the ideology was creeping in. The owner of the factory decreed that any worker who organized a strike would be arrested and imprisoned.

There were rumors of a strike. The actual instigator was Giovanni’s maternal grandfather. He was married and had small children, the first three of the ten he would eventually have. When word of the strike leaked out, and suspicion fell on him, Bill’s paternal grandfather, a bachelor at the time, stepped forward and took the fall though he hadn’t been involved. He wasn’t imprisoned, but he had to flee the country, coming to the United States for the first time in 1912. Giovanni strongly believes that if Bill’s grandfather hadn’t done this, his maternal grandfather would have been imprisoned, his mother would not have been born, and he would not have been born. He needed to tell Bill that his grandfather’s heroism was legendary in his family, a critical part of their origin story.

On this side of the Atlantic, we knew of Bill’s grandfather’s earlier trip to the United States, but we had no idea about the reason behind it. We assumed he had come to America to work and perhaps to get a sense of life here, and then had returned to Italy to marry, not returning to the U.S. until 1921 with his own three small children. (Three more would be born here, including Bill’s dad.) The reason for that earlier trip had completely disappeared for us. But Giovanni’s side of the family has not forgotten. It was wonderful to reclaim this family story.

That story might have been lost, but many family traditions remain. The church the village Bill’s grandparents emigrated from is named for San Pantaleon. His saint’s day is July 27, and every year on the weekend closest to that date Bill’s extended family–the grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and now great-great grandchildren of that couple who walked out of the mountains– gather to celebrate family and connection, and express their gratitude for the lives they have created in America. Every year, in Calabria, Giovanni’s family does the same. I love that my granddaughter will be with us this year, so many generations removed from that village church, but still a part of the tradition.

The Sunday after we met, we had a traditional Calabrian lunch Barbara cooked at their house. Their son’s English is excellent and the young man spent hours translating our stories so we all could enjoy them. We ate heartily and drank wine and enjoyed time together. The poor kid must have been exhausted when we finally said our good-byes.

Giovanni and his family. Notice a resemblance?

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Screaming for Ice Cream

I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream.

And scream they did, all those grass-stained Little Leaguers who crowded into the ice cream shop where I worked summers during high school, clamoring for chocolate, strawberry and peppermint stick.

Baseball and ice cream, a winning combination

It was the mid-1970s and the place was my hometown Friendly’s—the once-mighty Massachusetts ice cream and restaurant chain. Little boys who played organized baseball on weekday evenings in the spring and summer descended upon Friendly’s whether they’d won or lost, hollering and jostling for my attention.

“Two scoops for me, lady. Coach said I could have two scoops ‘cause I hit a homer.”

The Friendly’s where I worked looked quite similar to this one.

“If you’re gettin’ two, I’m gettin’ two. I pitched!”

“Yeah, but you gave up 8 runs.”

An exhausted-looking coach standing behind the grass-stained gang would shake his head and hold up one finger. “One scoop,” he’d mouth. “They all get one scoop.”

friendly uniform

Yep, this was my outfit. Exactly the same but our aprons also had ruffles, and of course my name tag said “Brenda.”

The Friendly uniform for females in those days was a pale gray cotton dress (almost knee length) with a white ruffled collar and a white ruffled apron. I often felt as though I was living a double life. On my own time I wore faded jeans and t-shirts, but had to button myself into a Church Lady get-up for work.  And scooping ice cream was not a ruffle kind of job. By the end of a busy night, my right arm would be coated with a dense, sticky film from bumping against the side of ice cream cans and my apron would be stiff with sundae syrup.

I didn’t touch ice cream for a few years after I punched my last Friendly’s time card and headed off to college. I couldn’t even stand the smell of it. (You don’t think ice cream has a smell? I’m here to take the other side of that argument.) But eventually my olfactory sensitivity disappeared, and I fell in love with ice cream anew.

Site of many a delicious cone.

Emack & Bolios in Boston was the site of my re-entry into the seductive world of a cone on a warm summer evening. E & B  was the first small batch ice cream I ever experienced, a whole new taste sensation.

Then I moved to Maine and wrote for a newspaper that had its office a mile up the road from Big Daddy’s in Wells. Many a summer afternoon featured a staff pilgrimage to BD’s, where the reporters and editors at the York County Coast Star held extended debates about which of its many chocolate variations was the best.

Ben and Jerry’s had a store in the Old Port in the 1980s, downstairs from the then-office of the Maine Civil Liberties Union, where I worked as a law student. Training myself to pass it by on my way in and out of 97A Exchange Street was good practice for my current discipline, which is to pretend that the Mt. Desert Ice Cream Shop at 51 Exchange Street, two doors down from my current office, does not even exist.

For illustration purposes only. I avoid this place like the plague. Really.

I admit that back in the day, the temptation of New York Super Fudge Chunk lured me into B & Js on occasion, and I confess that every now and then I find myself stealing a glance at MDIC’s flavor board  (Callebaut Chocolate. Blueberry Buttermilk Sherbet. Nutella.) But I rarely step foot inside. Honest.

I cannot lie, however, about my vulnerability when driving across Route 3 between Belfast and Augusta, where amazing ice cream is sold at a simple yellow wood-frame building with mint-colored picnic tables in the Town of Liberty, known and loved by true aficionados as John’s Ice Cream Factory.

I was put in the know about John’s by a friend who worked in Augusta. She described it as “25.9 miles east of the State House.” Her exactitude impressed me, so the next time I had occasion to drive that stretch of Route 3 I swung into the small (and always full, I have learned) parking lot.

Mecca for Maine ice cream lovers, IMHO.

Friends, I’m here to tell you, John’s ice cream is the best in the State of Maine. The Peach boasts big chunks of local peaches. The Lemon is the creamiest lemon ice cream you can imagine. The Ginger is sublime, and my personal favorite—Chocolate Orange Peel—is so good it makes me want to scream.

One day at a time . . .

Now that I’ve confessed my rekindled passion for ice cream, I want to hear from you, dear blog readers. What are your ice cream memories? What’s your favorite ice cream stand? (Extra points if it’s in Maine). What is your go-to flavor?

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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Writers and Public Speaking Jitters

Public speaking is a necessary evil for many authors. Although there are authors who love being in front of audiences, and who are good at it, I’m betting there are many more who absolutely dread it. Whose stomachs churn and turn, worrying about becoming tongue-tied in front of all those people eager to hear about their new book.

I’m an author who falls somewhere in the middle. Yes, I get nervous butterflies leading up to the event., but once I get talking, I realize I’m not doing too bad. In some ways it’s like jogging: the best part of public speaking is when it’s over and your signing books and thanking people for coming. Knowing you survived.

The reason I chose this topic to blog about is that my new book, PRAY FOR THE GIRL, came out in April and I’ve been doing a lot of talking about it. The book launch at Longfellow Books went splendidly and I thank all my friends who showed up to support me. Then there’s been podcasts and radio shows. Then at the end of June I’ll be appearing on the Cold River Radio Show up in North Conway, NH. The show takes place in Theater in the Woods and I’ll be speaking to an audience of nearly three hundred people about the writing life and my new novel. It’s the largest crowd I’ve ever appeared before and I’m excited and nervous and everything above.

The transition from writer to public speaker is a difficult one for many authors. We hole ourselves up for months at a time, sometimes years, being hermits and living in our own world; worlds that we created from nothing. So then to transition to an extroverted public speaker can sometimes be difficult.

Like writing, public speaking is all about confidence, experience, and knowing your subject (and audience). The more you do it the better you become at public speaking. In the past, I used to write out my entire talk and then try to remember chunks of it, but I soon learned that doing it that way is the worst way to address an audience. Now, I frame a series of talking points and simply speak from the heart; treat the audience like they’re a good friend sitting next to me at the bar. Using this method has helped me be more natural and authentic, and has made me a better public speaker. And I think that’s all an audience really wants from an author. Of course no one would accuse me of being a gifted orator, but at least now I can stand up in front of people and do a decent job. Or, I should say, not make a fool out of myself.

Things will start slowing down soon as the publicity for PRAY THE GIRL wanes. In the meanwhile, I’ll be readying myself for my next book launch in May of 2020. That’s when my new domestic thriller comes out, THE PERFECT DAUGHTER (Kensington), and I’ll be starting up the public speaking process all over again. In the meantime, I’ll be practicing my author talk in the shower and singing the blues.

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Library Card (Redux)

Bruce Robert Coffin here, manning the helm of the Maine Crime Writer’s Blog, albeit a bit behind my time. This month I thought I would revisit one of my blogs from two years ago. I was curious to see how much had changed. Turns out not as much as you might think. I’m still bingeing (or is it binging?) on audio books and trying to finish up my latest manuscript before the July 1st deadline.

Several weeks ago, before taking a much needed tropical vacation to Florida, I stopped by my town library and obtained a card. You’re probably thinking, what’s the big deal? Everyone has a library card, right? Well, I don’t know if everyone does or not, but this is the first card I’ve had since I was a youngster living in the Southern Maine town of Scarborough (Yes, John Rogers Clark IV, I am ashamed). My old card was from the historic Black Point Library. I got the idea after being told by several librarians, that my novel, Among the Shadows, is always checked out, and has a list of folks waiting to read it.

You might think that I don’t need any more books to read. After all, my to be read pile is already huge and, like most writers, ever-expanding. But like most writers, my love of reading equals my love of writing. Can’t have one without the other, right? It occurred to me that I might make more efficient use of my travel time by listening to audiobooks. Driving to appearances and conferences is time consuming. And since I would rather conserve the bulk of my time for writing, driving is the perfect time to digest books that I’ve been wanting to get my hands on. Assuming that you’re not already on the Cloud Library, you might be surprised how many books are available in this format.

As my intake of new books increases so has my list of favorite authors. As of late I have been enjoying the wonderful sardonic wit of Jeff Lindsey’s Dexter Morgan and the descriptive and insightful prose of James Lee Burke’s private sleuth from the Big Easy, Dave Robicheaux, as read by Will Patton. For the record, if HarperCollins ever gets around to producing my novels in audio, I hope to land a reader half as entertaining as the great Will Patton. (Author note: I did land a great narrator in the form of Adam Verner when Harper produced an audio version of Beyond the Truth. Be sure to check it out if you haven’t!)

 

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Well, I could go on about my new found love of audiobooks all day if you let me, but I’m afraid my writing must come first. Hey, I have deadlines to meet. And there are a few chores that need doing. Chores which will require me to hop in the truck and drive… I wonder what Dexter’s dark passenger is up to now?
Write on!

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