Flower Riot and Paying Deep, Deep Attention

Sandra Neily here:  It was a wonderful day except for the tick. Grateful for Maine’s Tick Lab.)

This week my second novel, Deadly Turn, was finally published. It’s taken years, with a long break for cancer treatment and then more time to revisit and recraft what I wrote years ago. (Leave a comment on this post. I’ll scramble your names on pieces of paper, close my eyes, and send 2 of you a free copy. Leave emails, please.)

The novel and its drama take place deep in the Maine woods where wild flowers are often shy (Lady Slippers, Purple Trillium). This week, however, I was seeking sun and the riot of flowers that cover ski slopes near my home. Early July is best, just when Lupine is fading and right before Goldenrod (which I’ve never liked … go figure).

I wanted to see how many flowers I could visit on one hike up the grassy slopes. Their names are below so you can test yourself. To identify some I didn’t know, I used this amazing plant ID ap on my phone when I got home with pictures.

I spent a lot of the ‘hike’ sitting in flowers or on my knees, watching flowers. Maybe after creating characters who pay deep attention to the natural world, I needed a field trip away from the keyboard so I could practice deep attention. It was a wonderful day. (Except for the dog tick. Very grateful for Maine’s Tick Lab.)


More Deep Attention: In this excerpt from Deadly Turn, teenager Chan shows us how it’s done.


As we worked our way downhill, climbing over downed trees and skirting raspberry thickets, I could see Chan’s generosity everywhere. Piles of cedar brush were mounded next to tall balsam firs where sheltering deer could nibble cedar until the spring thaw eased their hunger.

In a marsh, old tree snags sticking out of a small pond supported square boxes with large round holes: wood duck nests built and nailed up by the boy. Wood ducks usually nest in trees, but these birds had luxury condos high above predators hungry for spring eggs.

Chan sat on a log, pulled off his rubber boots, and waded toward a tiny island, bending to pick handfuls of grass as he sloshed ashore. Birds flapped around his head as he shook the stems and they rained down white kernels. He turned and pointed. “No dog,” he said.

I pulled Pock into a sit. Two ducks swam so close that we could see each feather as if we had a magnifying glass. Pock shivered slightly but sat still. Long ago my dog had learned that his lips would never touch a fast duck. Their webbed feet treading water, the birds swayed back and forth, staring at us. The male wood duck looked like an extravagant art installation staged far from a museum.

He had bright red irises that matched the red of his bill. His wing feathers were iridescent blue slashes, and his vivid green head sported white racing stripes that folded into feathers pointed backwards like an aerodynamic bike helmet. Someone with minimalist tendencies had finished him off. His body was geometric blocks of brown shades, some with a copper sheen, other hues compressed between tiny white lines that looked like contour lines on a map. The basically brown female blended into her surroundings, but blue wing feathers marked her as a wood duck.

“Oh, Pock. Have you ever?” I asked. He was still trembling, oblivious to ducks as living, breathing art.

Scattering the birds and wading back to us, Chan grinned. “Wild rice. If I was hunting them, it might be illegal—feeding them during hunting season. ‘Specially since I planted it. But I’m not hunting ducks, and I make sure no one else is either.”

By a massive beaver dam, Chan had chain-sawed a pile of birch for the beavers. Beavers don’t usually need help from anyone, but drag marks under the water showed the residents were storing up the limbs they’d eat after ice closed the pond. “Wait, here,” Chan said as he carefully shouldered his shotgun and navigated logs mudded into the top of the dam. Pock didn’t even look back as he raced after him.

I didn’t see the deer carcass on the far side of the dam until a bald eagle landed on it. Each jab of his curved beak brought up something red and stringy. He may have been eating, but his intense yellow eyes tracked every move I made.

He wasn’t bald. White feathers overlapped his head and cascaded around his shoulders in a fashionable shag haircut. His feet looked like bright yellow rain boots with knives at each toe. I had a flash of a James Bond movie where lethal objects snap out of everyday items and kill people. A bit of white brow sagged over each eagle eye, gathering darkness into his stare.

So many flowers on one hike! From top to bottom: Meadow Hawkweed and Orange Hawkweed, Bird Vetch, Hedge Bedstraw (Also called False Baby’s Breath), Milkweed, Common St. Johns Wort, Bladder Campion (Maiden’s Tears), White Meadowsweet (butterflies love it), Daisy, Buttercup, Purple Meadow Rue, Yarrow, Lupine, Wild Strawberry

Sandy’s 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.













































































































Baby’s Breath), Milkweed, Common St. Johns Wort, Bladder Campion  (Maiden’s Tears), White Meadowsweet (butterflies love it), Daisy, Buttercup, Purple Meadow Rue, Yarrow, Lupine, Wild Strawberry

Sandy’s 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.

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Weekend Update: July 11-12, 2020

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

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

from Kaitlyn Dunnett: a  new Q&A from me about A Fatal Fiction is up at the Sisters in Crime New England blog: https://sincne.clubexpress.com/content.aspx?page_id=2507&club_id=338034&item_id=2026&pst=11429&actr=3&fbclid=IwAR2DaHZTTXW3F7IxlWhqF7ZSp4wdy9fkObB5l1-FeQNs8VXRGaBesZ5nuiU

and the winner of the July 7 drawing for a hardcover copy of A Fatal Fiction is Lori B. Thanks to all who entered by leaving comments on my June 30 post.

Kate Flora has a “Day in the Life of . . .” at Dru’s Book Musings, featuring the protagonist from my romantic suspense novel, Wedding Bell Ruse. You can read it here:


Also, Kate’s publisher for The Faking of the President says the book is a NYT reading pick. Very exciting!

Sandra Neily’s  second Mystery in Maine novel, Deadly Turn, was published this week.  Patton, Game Warden Moz, and the ever wayward Lab, Pock, return. Read the first three chapters here. See her blog post to win a free copy.


If you comment on MCW posts this week, one lucky commenter will receive a copy of The Faking of the President.

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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Is A Writing Group For You?

People ask me all the time about what it takes to publish a novel. What’s the best steps to take? How do I go about it? One of the first things I tell them is to join a writing group.

I’ve been in many writing groups throughout my career. Some were good and some not so much. I’d been in one called The Pine Nuts that met monthly in Cape Elizabeth for seven years and that group was amazing. It helped me become a better writer in ways I’d not anticipated. Unfortunately, I had to quit the group for personal reasons. So when I began looking for a new group to join last year, I knew the kind of people I wanted to surround myself with. My current group, while small, has been invaluable to me.

Do you need a writing group? In my opinion, every writer would benefit being in one. Not just any group though. It’s important that you find one that is a good fit for you and where the members are thoughtful and respectful of each other’s work. A good writing group nurtures the individual rather than criticizes and puts the writer down. They find the good in a manuscript while gently coaxing the writer to make important changes where needed.

What to look for in a good writing group.

1. Experience. You want to join a group with some experienced writers who have also been in a group setting before. People who have been in a group understand how to criticize without being too judgmental, as well as praise the writer where praise is needed. Experienced members can also put you at ease and give you vital feedback in a supportive and positive environment

2. Diversity. By this I mean you want a group with different types of writers. Diversity in this regards allows you to see different styles of writing and incorporate that in your manuscript. Good writing is still good writing, but if someone who writes romance really enjoys a chapter of your crime novel, then you know you’ve done a good job holding their attention.

3. Dedication: There’s nothing more frustrating than showing up to group only to realize that half the members have not showed up. Or have not read your submission, even though you spent hours reading and critiquing their submission. A group is only as good as its members and so a policy of some sort attendance policy makes sense. Ask the group leader about the dedication of its group members. If the attendance policy is not enforced, I would think twice about joining.

4. Rules: There should be some rules if a group is to be successful. They don’t need to be hard and fast, but you don’t want to join a group where chaos and disorder are routine, otherwise you’ll be wasting your time. For example, each person should be allowed a limited amount of time to speak without interruption. There should be a limit as to how many pages a person can submit to the members each meeting or else members will submit hundreds of pages. And each person should be allotted the same amount of time to critique a submission or else meetings can quickly get off topic. It always helps to have one person be the moderator, Keeping time and gently coaxing members to follow the rules. More importantly, all criticism should be based solely on the work and not be personal attacks.

These are the some of the checklist items to look for when thinking about joining a group. If you’re living in Maine, the MWPA has a comprehensive list of writing groups throughout the state. I would highly recommend joining a writing group if you want to kick your prose into higher gear. Feedback is extremely important to writers, especially new writers still looking to establish their voice. Be prepared to develop a thick skin, and try and view criticism not as a personal attack but as a tool to help you get better. Without criticism, you’ll never know what you’re doing wrong or what in your work needs to be fixed. Different sets of eyes will point to weaknesses in your writing. Good feedback will help you straighten out bad habits, realize the holes in your plot and heLp you improve your character development.

So go out and find your people. It will not only help you improve your skill set, but you mind make some new friends for life.


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Ants On the Beach, Otters On the Trail

John Clark reporting on the 2020 week Downeast. Beth figures this was our 7th weekly stay at Cobscook Bay Cottages. This time we didn’t get to stay at Seawall, instead staying in Sunrise which, had there been less fog would have lived up to its name. Unlike Seawall, where we walk kayaks over a plank walkway to reach the water, we carried them down a somewhat steep incline. I don’t dare kayak any more thanks to a bad knee, but Beth loves exploring and the serenity that comes with moving slowly along the tidal currents. After a heavy rain, the slope became extremely slippery and I lost my footing. I wasn’t on the ground for more than 15 seconds, but paid a price-two very painful bites by fire ants. Most Mainers scoff at the idea of these fierce critters in Maine, but people along the coast, especially in the Eastport area will tell you they’re plentiful and vicious.

The residents of Sipayik are serious about COVID-19. There’s one of these signs at the entrance to EVERY street in the community.

As you might expect, COVID-19 impacted what we did and where we went. However Washington County is perfect for relaxing and exploring and there are so many beaches, hills and trails we’ll never see them all. We were disappointed not to get out to Campobello as that’s a big favorite of ours. We visited Eastport twice, Lubec once and if you want to see first hand how the virus has hammered a local economy, look no further. On the Sunday before the 4th of July weekend, the main street of Eastport was eerily empty. Two stores were open and as you can see by the photo below, the impact is pervasive. Remember, towns like Eastport, Lubec and Calais depend heavily on tourism revenues in a short 4-5 month span, so the deserted streets and vacant buildings hit not only individual pockets, but municipal ones as well. At least Eastport is getting revenue from one, soon to be two, cruise ships waiting for business to resume.

Sunrise Cabin

All was not doom and gloom. We enjoyed a drive around Eastport to see new vistas, stopping to take photos of boats, lupines and beaches new to us. On our drive to Lubec, we got a laugh while watching clammers far out on the flats appealing to the weather gods to hold off impending rain. One friendly local pointed out a boardwalk through a marsh that was bordered by thousands of wild rose blooms, their scent beyond delightful. New to us was a trail to the top of Klondike Mountain that has impressive views in all directions. The round trip is ½ mile and even for old bad bodies was pretty easy.

These ants went to art school

Another find was our trek on part of the Downeast Sunrise trail, 87 miles long https://www.traillink.com/trail/down-east-sunrise-trail/ The rail-trail follows a section of a 19th-century railroad that ran between Calais and Bangor, later becoming the Calais Branch of the Maine Central Railroad in 1911. The branch closed after Maine Central was sold in the 1980s, and the Maine Department of Transportation acquired the railbed in 1987. The first section of trail opened in 2009, and crews completed the 2-mile-long final section in Ellsworth in 2016. We walked a portion that is in Pembroke, meeting only one other couple riding an ATV. There were two delights awaiting us on the two miles we covered. First was an abundance of big wild strawberries. We ate our fill, but barely dented the crop. The second came as we crossed a small bridge over a bog stream. We heard a splash, followed by two more and watched as Mom and Dad otter shepherded their little one upstream.

You otter come visit.

We always look for beach glass and pottery on the various beaches in the area. This year, I looked for unusual small rocks as granddaughter Piper is fascinated with them. I’ll let her pick five from what I brought home, with the rest going on the rock wall behind her house for future fun. She’ll get another surprise as well. I introduced her to root beer barrels, but haven’t seen any recently. The candy shop in Eastport had them as well as tons of other goodies. She’ll be treated to weekly surprises well into the fall.

Fog, you say?

I always take plenty of books with me, managing to read nine in between excursions. I was saddened to miss the book sales at the Peavey and Lubec libraries this year. If you want to do some good, I’m including the names and addresses of food banks and libraries in the area. Every one of our Maine food banks and libraries needs money right now, but these are really struggling.


Eastport—Labor of Love – Garrapy Food Pantry, 137 County Road Eastport, Maine 04631. Contact: Fern Garrapy at 853-2373 or Email: lacyl@localnet.com

Pleasant Point—Saint Ann’s Food Pantry: 853-2600 x 239. Pleasant Pt Perry, ME 04667. Email: lmitchell@wabanaki.com

Lubec Community Outreach Center Food Pantry: 733-6113 44 South Street Lubec, ME 04652. Email: cathy@lubecoutreach.org

Peavey Memorial Library 26 Water Street, Eastport, ME 04631-1599

Lubec Memorial Library 55 Water Street, Lubec, ME 04652-1122

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Maine Librarians Can!

This will go down in history as the summer of can’t.

Can’t experience the anticipatory happiness of hearing musicians tuning up to play a concerto.

Can’t applaud as the Pride or Independence Day parade marches by.

Can’t take in a summer theater production in a converted barn and watch the fireflies flit during intermission.

Can’t sit along the left field line and applaud the Sea Dogs.

Can’t duck into an air-conditioned auditorium on a humid afternoon and escape into a big screen movie.

Can’t wander into to your local library to hear a local or bestselling (or local and bestselling) author read from her new novel, talk about his writing process or otherwise bind the audience of readers together in appreciation of books and those who write them.

Actually, you can do that last part virtually or outdoors because Maine’s librarians are a resourceful, creative lot who don’t know the word “can’t.”

Most libraries have been offering curbside service for the past couple of months, which allows you to peruse their catalogs online and order what you’d like to read.

A sign outside the Camden Public Library, advertising its pandemic availability

They’ve put up plenty of programming online—story hours for little kids, gaming clubs for teenagers and writing groups for kids and adults.  Check your local library to see what’s being offered in your town.

Many libraries also have organized Zoom or outdoor events.  The Maine State Library Association publishes a statewide calendar, which can be found here: https://maine-msl.libcal.com/calendar?cid=10791&t=m&d=0000-00-00&cal=10791,12840&inc=0  However, not every library in the state submits their events for inclusion on this central listing, so check your local library (or maybe one on the other side of the state, given that we’re talking virtual events) to see what catches your fancy.

Here are some upcoming events I found interesting in a brief online tour of some of my favorite libraries in the state:

This Wednesday evening, July 8, the Blue Hill Library’s online discussion group called Readings on Race will take place from 6-8 p.m. Facilitated by Surry resident Kate Mrozicki, this week’s topic is Interrupting Racism: How to Speak Up and Be Heard. For more information:  https://www.bhpl.net/events/readings-on-race-interrupting-racism/

Porter Memorial Library in Machias

Beginning this Friday, July 10 and continuing through the summer, Porter Memorial Library in Machias will feature a four-part film series on the life of Bill Copwerthwaite of Machiasport, a master builder of yurts, and maker of fine spoons, bowls and chairs.

The film is called Mr. Coperthwaite: A Life in the Maine Woods. The filmmaker is Anna Grimshaw a professor at Emory University who has a home in Machiasport. Each section of the film will be online for two weeks, so you can watch at a time convenient to you. New sections will be posted on Friday July 10, July 24, August 7 and August 21. For more information: http://www.porter.lib.me.us/w/index.php/coperthwaite-film-series/

Also this coming Friday, July 10, Jesup Memorial Library in Bar Harbor will feature my friend Rich Bard talking about his new book, Beyond Acadia: Exploring the Bold Coast of Downeast Maine.  Rich worked as a Maine wildlife biologist before turning his talents to land preservation. He was executive director of the Downeast Coastal Conservancy for several years before moving south to become the ED at Scarborough Land Trust. For more information about this virtual event, go here: https://jesuplibrary.org/event/beyondacadia/

On July 16 from 6 – 7 p.m., Jennifer Finney Boylan will discuss her new book Good Boy: My Life in Seven Dogs, with Pulitzer Prize winning author Richard Russo in an outdoor event in Monument Square, directly across from the main branch of the Portland Public Library. Part of the PPL’s Outdoor Spotlight Lecture Series, tickets are required.  Information is available here: https://www.portlandlibrary.com/events/spotlight-lecture-jennifer-finney-boylan-discusses-good-boy-with-richard-russo/

On Wednesday, July 22, the Bangor Public Library is livestreaming an event called Peter Boie – Magician for Non-Believers. The show is interactive and includes a Q & A and an opportunity for the audience to learn a few magic tricks.  For more information: https://www.bangorpubliclibrary.org/adult-programs/2020/7/22/magic-for-unbelievers-virtual-tour

On July 28 from 6 -7 p.m., Camden Public Library will host author and activist Anne B. Gass in an online presentation called Voting Down the Rose: Florence Brooks Whitehouse and Maine’s Fight for Women’s Suffrage.  The link to this Zoom event can be had by contacting the library.  More details are here: https://www.librarycamden.org/event/suffrage-centennial-program-voting-down-the-rose-with-anne-b-gass/

This is only a sampling of the innovative programming happening in Maine’s libraries this summer. There may be no live music, live theater or live baseball, but even during a pandemic our can-do librarians are finding ways to entertain, engage and enlighten.

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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Weekend Update: July 4-5, 2020

Next week at Maine Crime Writers, there will be a posts by Brenda Buchanan (Monday), John Clark (Tuesday) Joe Souza (Thursday), and Jen Blood (Friday).

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

 from Kaitlyn Dunnett: I have a neat article in CrimeReads. You can find it at https://crimereads.com/how-the-demolition-of-the-last-great-borscht-belt-resort-inspired-a-catskills-mystery/


from Kate Flora: Thrilled to learn that The Faking of the President is reviewed in The New York Times. Check it out here: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/02/books/review/christopher-buckley-make-russia-great-again-political-satire.html?referringSource=articleShare


John Clark, Dick Cass, and Kate Flora have stories and essays in the new pandemic anthology, Stop the World.

STW ebook cover final

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/STOP-WORLD-Snapshots-Pandemic-profits-ebook/dp/B08BCS7RGR/B & N: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/stop-the-world-lise-mcclendon/1137200166

The paperback from Ingram is now live also: see both editions at B&N here, for preorder.


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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My Battle With The Smartest Groundhog On Earth

Vaughn Hardacker here: Summer in Aroostook County has finally come and gone. Last week we had a three day period of ninety plus degree days (part of a record setting run of 11 consecutive days in which the temperature was eighty degrees or higher). One of those days matched the all-time record of ninety-six at the Caribou National Weather Service (the thermometer display on my truck console read ninety-seven, a new record, but only the NWS reading counts). Now, it’s only a matter of days before winter returns.

By now you are probably asking, “What does all this have to do with groundhogs?” The answer is that when it gets that hot groundhogs will exit their underground dens in search of someplace cooler–such as my garage. Last winter was not as cold as the previous few and I used fewer wood pellets than in years past. You can imagine how delighted I was to learn that something had chewed the bottom off several bags, leaving an impressive mound of pellets spread across my garage floor. Enter Ms. Groundhog–I was told by my neighbor that he had seen the groundhog on my lawn with a young one trailing behind.

Not being a person who is intelligent enough to leave well-enough alone, I decided to rid myself of this pest before her clan grew even larger. I was a man with a mission. Over the years I’ve mellowed quite a bit. Twenty years ago the Marine in me would have taken over and I would have set up an ambush, waiting all night for (as We Marine Sharpshooters say) my one shot; one kill. Being considerably older and less gung ho, I decided to take the humane course of action and capture it alive. My plan was simple: buy a live trap, catch it, and relocate it. For a few minutes I played around with the fantasy of releasing it near my neighbor who lives up the road’s property–he has a huge vegetable garden, food of choice for any groundhog. However, I decided that giving it a ride on my ATV was a better choice–something like a ten mile ride into woods where I would release it.

The plan: I have a friend who owns a live trap so I visited her only to learn that she and her husband have been involved in the same battle . . . to date they have captured six. She told me that Tractor Supply in Presque Isle sold them. I inquired as to what sort of bait I should use. She said: “I was told lettuce or other vegetables will work, but we had better luck using donuts. With this information I ventured off and bought live traps. Tractor Supply had a deal where if you bought a Raccoon-size trap, it included a smaller trap free of charge. I thought this was ideal, one for Mama and one for baby.

I placed the traps baiting them with donuts and vegetables and waited for the next morning. When morning came the trap was sprung. However, no groundhog inside. Even more baffling was the fact that the donuts were gone and the vegetables left behind! After some thought I realized that this actually made sense. My partner, Jane, had seen the obese villain (see picture above) and said, “It sure isn’t on a low-fat diet.”

I was not about to be defeated. That night I re-baited the trap. Next morning. Same results.

On night three I changed my tactics. I placed both traps and baited them with donuts (I assume that by now you are having visions of Bill Murray in Caddy Shack!).

Morning day four: Large trap was not sprung–donuts gone. Small trap was sprung . . . donuts gone . . . no captured groundhog in either one (Mama must have taught her little one well!).

By now I’m starting to feel more than a little demented. I will not be defeated!! I will get these demonic creatures!!! I have sent messages to some of my Marine buddies requesting Claymore mines, and if that fails I’ll get a sniper team!!!!

If that doesn’t work–does anyone remember a song entitled: They’re Coming To Take Me Away, HA HA, HO HO, HEE HEE?


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A Virulent Case of Blogger’s Block?

Kate Flora: There must be a thing called “Blogger’s Block” because I’ve spent the last Screen Shot 2020-07-01 at 1.25.42 PMseveral hours trying to write a post about Maine poets and poetry and it refuses to come together. Maybe later in the summer, when I’ve had a chance to do more reading and immersing myself in poetry. When my copy of Wes McNair’s book about Maine poets arrives.

But for today, I am utterly uninspired. Actually, I am uninspired about writing anything and when I look around, my surroundings aren’t helping.

To my right are a stack of tax forms that must be completed and mailed soon. Despite having studied taxation in law school a thousand years ago, and done well, I find these forms utterly incomprehensible. It’s like some kind of numerical origami. But if I turn to my left to get away from them, there is a stack of bills that must be paid. How can it possibly cost that much to tune up a water system? Definitely no inspiration there unless it’s to fantasize, as we all sometimes do, inflicting torture on those whose services we depend on.

EigLAV1%Q9mKI1W+EXuTXANormally, when I’m feeling overwhelmed by the “must do” lists, I can take myself out to the garden. This week, that has only meant getting rained on, and when I do go out between showers, I am confronted by plants that were lovely only days ago, and now are flattened and dragging down other plants. The weeds have loved the rain so much they’ve tripled in size, all the roses need deadheading, and the bunny has been too aggressively nibbling. It is NOT inspiring when the garden just becomes another “Must” on the to-do lis

Here’s the thing. It’s summertime. As I finished up the (bad) first draft of my seventh Joe Burgess book, I realized that my head was empty. For thirty-five years, I’ve always rushed the endings of my books because a new and exciting idea was demanding my attention. This time? No new ideas. No plots or characters swimming in my brain that must be explored. No reading or seeing something and wondering: What’s that about? My publisher wants the first chapter of the next Thea Kozak book and I have no first chapter to offer. Soon he will want the first chapter of the next Joe Burgess book and I have no ideas.

It’s true, right now, writing does not bring me joy. (No, Marie Kondo, I am not throwing out my books and my laptop.) I consulted with my Facebook friends about this dilemma, asking them if anyone had ever stepped back from writing for a while. Some said yes. Some said maybe for a day or two. Some said often for months or years. Then, in a casual conversation with a neighbor, he suggested that maybe I just want to take a sabbatical. That sounded right. A manuscript that needs review immediately arrived, and someone needs some nonfiction advice, so perhaps the decision is temporarily postponed. But…

I’m imagining taking the summer off. What will I do with myself? Read? Cook? Garden? Swim in the sea? Take up a new hobby? Maybe even spend some time cloud watching. What do you think, dear readers? Will stepping back return me to the writer’s chair soon, filled with new ideas and stories or will I wander into retirement?



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Mikki Lincoln Edits a Memoir (and a giveaway)

Kaitlyn Dunnett here, on release day for A Fatal Fiction, the third entry in the Deadly Edits Mysteries. When this one opens, Mikki Lincoln’s freelance editing business is doing quite well. One of her current clients is eighty-six-year-old Sunny Feldman, a prominent Lenape Hollow resident who is writing a memoir about the days when Sullivan County, New York was known as the Borscht Belt and her family owned one of the most successful of the Catskill resorts.

As always in writing this series, I incorporate some of my own memories. I grew up in the Borscht Belt during the 1950s and 1960s. Lenape Hollow is fictional, but it shares many characteristics of my home town of Liberty, New York. Liberty was semi-famous as the home of Grossinger’s. Lenape Hollow has Feldman’s Catskill Resort Hotel. The remaining buildings at The G were torn down in 2018. In A Fatal Fiction, Feldman’s is scheduled for the wrecking ball. Of course, since I write murder mysteries, things don’t go smoothly. When a body is found on the premises, demolition grinds to a halt and Mikki, who quarreled quite publicly with the victim only the day before his death, shoots to the top of local law enforcement’s list of suspects.

My recollections of living in a town where the population more than doubled every summer make it easy to create a background for Mikki Lincoln, but in this book I was also able to make use of another personal experience. When my grandfather died at the age of ninety-five, I inherited his papers and diaries, including the reminiscences he titled “The Life of a Plodder”—his autobiography. At that time, I was the unpublished author of several historical novels. For the family, I tackled the job of pulling Grampa’s story together and in 1980 I distributed the result to numerous cousins. The experience was educational. The biggest lesson I learned was that you can’t entirely trust memory. Grampa’s version of some events differed considerably from what was reported in newspaper articles written at the time. On the other hand, there was a gold mine of information in his diaries. Notes on crops he planted took up a lot of space, but he also recorded bits and pieces of his neighbors’ lives—the kind of detail that is so often lost to history.

Anyway, long story short, I’ve had some experience working with a memoir. In fact, over the last forty years, “The Life of a Plodder” has been through several revisions. It was available for the general public to read at my webpage for some time and I recently updated and published it as an e-book. You can find links to buy at https://books2read.com/u/mlwvAP. Like Sunny Feldman’s memoir, it’s rich in local history. Although it may be of limited interest to most people, those whose grandparents or great-grandparents are mentioned in it may someday want to read what my grandfather wrote.

For those interested in discovering what Sunny’s memoir has to do with murder, click here for links to retailers.

For a chance to win a hardcover copy of A Fatal Fiction, just leave a comment and you’ll be entered in a drawing to take place July 7. I hate to do it, but I have to make this entries from U.S. mailing addresses only. Good Luck!

With the June 30, 2020 publication of A Fatal Fiction, Kathy Lynn Emerson/Kaitlyn Dunnett will have had sixty-two 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, but there is a new, standalone historical mystery, The Finder of Lost Things, in the pipeline for October. She maintains websites at www.KaitlynDunnett.com and www.KathyLynnEmerson.com. A third, at A Who’s Who of Tudor Women, contains over 2000 mini-biographies of sixteenth-century Englishwomen.

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Sharing Our Favorite Places

Hello, Friends. Today we are sharing some of our favorite Maine places–the where and the why. Hope you will enjoy these insights in to places those who live and write in Maine consider special.

Kate Flora: I’ve blogged about this place before, so it’s no secret, but many visitors to Maine, and even Maine residents, have never visited the Coastal Maine Botanical Garden in Boothbay. https://www.mainegardens.org Along with stunning gardens at many seasons, including a fabulous illuminated display at Christmas, there is a children’s garden with spouting whale rocks, a tiny tea house, and Burt Dow’s boat from the McCloskey book, Burt Dow, Deep Water Man.



Kaitlyn Dunnet/Kathy Lynn Emerson: One of the prettiest sights in my part of Maine is Height of Land, seen from Rt. 17 north of Dixfield. Unfortunately, it’s been in the news lately, and not for a good reason. At least vandals can’t spoil the view. https://www.newscentermaine.com/article/news/crime/height-of-land-plaque-stolen-from-scenic-overlook-near-rangeley/97-b5cbe562-40c3-405f-ae14-159e43a0af57

John Clark-While Maine has many wonderful places, Beth and I love Washington County where we’ll head soon for our annual stay at Cobscook Bay Cottages. While we won’t be able to visit Campobello this year, there are so many trails and ocean views, we never get bored.

Beth lives in a kayak while we’re at Cobscook Bay Cottages.


An archaeological dig at Reversing Falls


West Quoddy Light

Susan Vaughan: Here in the Mid-Coast, one of my favorite spots is the Beech Hill Preserve in Rockport. This is a nearly 300 acre conserved property that includes a hiking trail from wooded lower slopes through commercial blueberry fields, up to the bare top with views of Penobscot Bay and Chickawaukee Lake. At the summit is a sod-roofed Norwegian hut built in 1913 as a picnic house. On a few weekends in the summer, Beech Nut, as the hut is named, opens its doors to visitors. Otherwise, plaques outside share information. In season, a stand at the parking lot sells blueberries. My husband and I enjoy the hike and the view so much, we even went on New Year’s Day last year. Information and directions are on Maine Trail Finder here: https://www.mainetrailfinder.com/trails/trail/beech-hill-preserve .

Sandra Neily. I love the Penobscot River. I just spent a week there swatting bugs, tying on flies to attract salmon who weren’t interested, and reading. There are many access point to it. Some are views from the road or picnic areas and further north there’s an easement on much of the wilder parts of the West Branch of the Penobscot River, all the way up to its North and South Branches. (The link has a great map with campsites.) Much of the East Branch is also conserved as it runs through Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument.

Barren Mt trail

And I’ll reprint this info .When other parks are crowded, much of Maine’s Public Lands are not.

Some of Maine’s most outstanding natural features and secluded locations are found on Maine’s Public Lands. The more than half million acres are managed for a variety of resource values including recreation, wildlife, and timber. See this GREAT Public Lands Video,“ The Untold Secret.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=3&v=_otWtJlT_r0&feature=emb_logo


Charlene; Stonington has long been my absolute favorite place in Maine. I call it “kayak heaven” because that’s what it is for us sea kayakers.

At the very end of Deer Isle, Stonington looks out on dozens of islands, with Isle Au Haut in the far distance. Many of the islands are part of MITA – the Maine Island Trail Association – where boaters can land to check their charts, take a rest, eat lunch, go for a little hike. Some of the trails lead up to open meadows on top where you might get a terrific view of Acadia National Park to the north or Camden to the west. It’s just lovely.

I’ve always visited Stonington with my sea kayak buddies (we’ve been renting the same houses overlooking the water for decades) in June when the hill tops are covered with wildflowers like daisies and roses to beat the band. Of course, that’s not happening this year, but we’ll make up for that in the future.

A real working community, Stonington is consistently ranked among the top lobster ports in the county and is the largest lobster port in Maine. We’re talking something like 15,000,000 pounds of lobster in a year worth millions. Stonington was also known for granite quarrying – e.g., part of the Brooklyn Bridge is made of Stonington granite.

There’s so much about Stonington I miss right now – the gurgle of lobster boats leaving their moorings at dawn, super cold/crystal clear water, sunrise on the Solstice at 3:30 AM, cooking with my buddies after a day on the water, sitting in front of our fireplace, pine logs crackling.

Next year, next year.

Brenda Buchanan:  Part of my heart lives on the Blue Hill Peninsula.  I resided there for several years in the 1990s and return every summer to a tiny rented cottage on the shore of a tidal cove where my soul is soothed by the birds, the fog and the hush, not to mention the surrounding beauty.  Here are some evocative photos from a variety of my favorite spots:

Sea view Deer Isle from Barred Island

My favorite swimming beach, location undisclosed.

Looking down on Walker Pond on the right and the Reach on the left, from Caterpillar Hill.

Sunset at Allen Cove

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