Whose Story Is It?

Does the title ring a bell with you? The one thing that I battle is Point of View! Yes that thing editors watch closely and the trap many authors fall into–POV.


First we must define what POV is. In his book, Story Robert McKee says: Each story is set in a specific time and place, yet scene by scene, as we imagine events, where do we locate ourselves in space to view the action. This is Point of View–the physical angle we take in order to describe the behavior of our characters, their interaction with one another and the environment.”

The simplest way for a writer to ensure they remain consistent is to use a 1st person POV. The reader experiences the action through the eyes of the narrator–usually the protagonist. The problem for me is that I don’t like being restricted and I feel that it is difficult (again, for me) to create viable subplots.

I write in 3rd person. This too can be a problem. It’s my tendency to fall into an omniscient voice; the view of God–all-knowing and all seeing. This is not to say we aren’t God to our characters, after all we created them and put them in the situation and location of our choosing (we even go so far as to give them a family). Regardless, the character must interact with them emotionally, spiritually, and physically. It is our job to show this and the way to do it is through POV.

My Brother’s Keeper

I prefer to use a 3rd person limited POV. Don’t panic (as I did at first), you can shift POV, only the shift should be related to characters and be done between scenes or chapters. For example, George R. R. Martin in his A Game of Thrones series writes each chapter from the perspective of a different character–he goes so far as using the POV character’s name rather than chapter numbers. The key point is regardless of whether you are writing in 1st or 3rd person, in each scene stay inside one character’s head. In her book, Writing and Selling Your Mystery Novel, Hallie Ephron writes: “Reading a scene where the point of view slides from one character’s head to another can feel like riding in a car with loose steering. It feels out of control and confusing.” (Sliding POV is my personal bane. I continually find shifts in my first draft.)

In closing, Robert McKee defines the importance of POV in a single paragraph: “The more time spent with a character, the more opportunity to witness his choices. The result is more empathy and emotional involvement between audience and character.” Sounds like a plan to me.


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Weekend Update: January 4-5, 2020

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

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

Encircle Publications has notified Vaughn C. Hardacker that they want to publish The Exchange. A contract and publication date are forthcoming. The novel follows Dylan Thomas (yup, same name as the poet) as he searches for his three-years-old niece who has been abducted in an adoption for money scheme. The trail will take him from Maine to Boston.

Kaitlyn Dunnett‘s blog last Thursday  https://mainecrimewriters.com/2020/01/02/where-did-you-get-that-idea/#comments included a giveaway. It’s not too late to go there and leave a comment to be entered in a drawing for an advance reading copy of A View to a Kilt.



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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Planning, Plotting, and Other Adventures

Kate Flora: January is always a time for reflection. My friend Lea Wait used to make fivephoto-89 year plans, and January was a good time to review and revise them. I admired her greatly for that, but I’ve never been that kind of planner. Sometimes I hit January 2 in mid-book. Sometimes with no plan beyond sitting down at the computer and waiting to see if a Thea or Burgess wins the “me first!” contest. This year, I’ve promised my publisher a new Burgess by June, so that’s the direction I’ll go in.

My writing life, though, often seems to have plans of its own. When I finished my first Joe Burgess police procedural, Playing God, after four and a half very intense months, I had planned to write something else, but being away from my characters made me feel so lonely I started book two, The Angel of Knowlton Park,though I took it at a far more leisurely pace.

Other times, my plans are interrupted by an invitation to submit a short story to an anthology. A few years ago, that resulted in a story called Michelle in Hot Water, about Michelle Obama and women from other government agencies who have a secret vigilante group who persuade drug company moguls who’ve raised the price of critical drugs for children to change their minds. The story ended up in a collection called The Obama Inheritance: Fifteen Stories of Conspiracy Noirand gave me that magic moment writer’s dream of: Maureen Corrigan read from my story on NPR.

Twenty-nineteen began with me in the midst of my tenth Thea Kozak mystery, Death Comes Knocking, but a chance meeting with an agent who suggested a new series sent me in a different direction, resurrecting seven chapters that had come to me a few years ago when a dark and damaged character sat down on a barstool beside me and started to talk.

Yes, Virginia, our characters really do this. Not reliably, but often.

I ended up putting Thea on the back burner and spending a lot of last year turning those seven chapters into the rough draft of Gutted. Now Detective Rick O’Leary and a vicious serial killer are resting and awaiting rewrite.

9781941110898_FC-600Just as I came into the end zone with that book, I got another invite to submit a story—this time to an anthology: The Faking of the President: Nineteen Stories of White House Noir.Before I could pick up Thea and the mysterious pregnant stranger on her doorstep, I had to do a deep dive into the life of Huey Long to compose a story of what might happen if his assassin had failed, Long Live Long. The anthology debuts in April, 2020.

Also along the way, a kind friend on Facebook nudged me to submit one of the books I’ve kept in the drawer (most of us have them) to her publisher. Thanks to Mary Harris, and my FB friends who helped me find a title for the book, my first (and likely last) romantic suspense, Wedding Bell Ruse,will be published by Soulmate Publishing in May.

If I did have a plan for 2020, it would definitely involve finally finding a home for another book that languishes in the drawer, Teach Her a Lesson, a domestic thriller.

Meanwhile, I will write the book that’s on deadline, keep my eyes out for another true IMG_2336crime story that needs telling, and try to finish my novella about a wayward U.S. Marshals Service agent named Gracie who likes her Manhattans heavy on the vermouth with three cherries, and handsome fellows to help her decompress after an action. And of course, wait for the the universe to derail my plans and send me something that absolutely has to be written. I will also go to more libraries, hopefully to do our great program, “Making a Mystery,” to show readers how we develop characters, choose settings, and plot our novels.

As you can see, I am not a planner, but I love an invitation to adventure. How else would I have gotten to hide deep in the woods to be found by search and rescue dogs? Or found the bad guy when I was on a stake out? Or get to take the medical examiner to lunch?

I look forward to an exciting 2020 with my Maine Crime Writers compatriots, and all of you, our readers.


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Where Did You Get THAT Idea?

UPDATE: 1/10/2020
the winners have been chosen and notified in the drawing for advance reading copies of A View to a Kilt. Thanks to all who commented.

Kaitlyn Dunnett/Kathy Lynn Emerson here, with more ARCs to give away. See the end of this post for details. And now, on to resolve the burning question posed in the title.

Writers are always being asked “where do you get your ideas?” Most of the time we give a flip or sarcastic answer because, truthfully, we don’t have a clue. Every once in a while, however, the source of a plot, subplot, or incident in a novel has very clear origins. That is the case with one of the key elements in the thirteenth Liss MacCrimmon Mystery, A View to A Kilt, which will be in stores on January 28.

A View to A Kilt was the third book in a three-book contract that dates way back to October of 2016. At the time I signed on the dotted line, it would be fair to say that “untitled book three” was just as vague in concept as that description makes it sound. I had some notion of finally taking readers to Moosetookalook, Maine’s annual March Madness Mud Season Sale, mentioned in earlier books, but all that did was pinpoint the time of year in which the story would be set.

March and April aren’t renowned for much in this part of central Maine except mud. Ski season is winding down. Signs of spring are still elusive. Tourists are scarce. Cabin fever is at its peak, which probably helps increase attendance at annual town meetings where citizens argue over every item on the warrant before voting to approve a budget for the coming year.

late in mud season (less mud) at my house

In January 2018, the time had come to start writing the official proposal for this book. It was due on the first of March. Called “outlines” in the book contract, these don’t have to be very long or even terribly specific, but they do need to contain enough detail to convince an editor that they will add up to 75,000 words worth of story. That Liss had been put in charge of the annual mud season sale wasn’t enough by itself. I didn’t even have a murder victim in mind.

On January 26, I had a doctor’s appointment in Augusta. That’s about an hour’s drive from my home. Since the roads were iffy, my husband drove. On the way, we brainstormed ideas for the new book. I’d had one thought—what if Liss and her husband, Dan Ruskin, found the body of a murdered man in their own backyard? What if no one knew who he was?

There was lots to play with there. Whoever finds a body automatically becomes a suspect, at least as far as the police are concerned. In fact, that’s what happens to Liss in Kilt Dead, the first book in the series, when she finds the murder victim in the back room at Moosetookalook Scottish Emporium. Obviously, the circumstances had to be different this time around. There’s a real danger of repeating one’s self when one writes a long-running series. So—no ID on the victim. But his identity would have to come out at some point, and make things worse for everyone involved, so who could he be? And why was he there, in the Ruskins’ back yard, in the first place? There had to be some connection to Liss or her family.

The suggestion from the driver’s seat was: “How about an uncle she’s never met.”

“She doesn’t have an uncle,” I objected. Hadn’t I made a detailed family tree for the MacCrimmons? I’d given her father a sister but no brothers and Liss’s aunt, Margaret, is a widow.

“A long lost uncle nobody’s ever told her about?”

We went back and forth for a while, at times getting pretty silly, but by the time we reached our destination, “long-lost Uncle Charlie” had evolved into a pretty interesting character. It would take me until I was actually writing the book to figure out all the ins and outs of his disappearance and his reason for coming back to Moosetookalook, only to be murdered before he could make contact with his niece or his brother, but I had enough to write my proposal. I even had what I thought was a pretty good title, The Lost MacCrimmon.

The title bombed but the “outline” was approved. As A View to a Kilt this book will be available in e-book and hardcover formats at the end of this month and it’s not too early to preorder a copy by following the links to booksellers below or asking your local independent bookseller or library to order it for you.


For those who just can’t wait, I still have a few Advance Reading Copies left. If you’d like your name to be entered in a drawing for one of them, leave a comment below or on my Kaitlyn Dunnett Facebook page. Sorry, it has to be US only. Postage elsewhere is more than the price of the book! The drawing will be held on January 10 and copies will be mailed as soon as the winners send me their snail mail addresses. Good luck!

With the January 2020 publication of A View to a Kilt, Kathy Lynn Emerson/Kaitlyn Dunnett will have had sixty-one 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 in the pipeline. She maintains three websites, at www.KaitlynDunnett.com and www.KathyLynnEmerson.com and another, comprised of over 2000 mini-biographies of sixteenth-century English women, at A Who’s Who of Tudor Women.


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Happy New Year from Maine Crime Writers

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Sealed Off Research

by Barb Ross, who arrived in Key West yesterday

I’m excited to be back in my first guest spot on the Maine Crime Writers celebrating the release tomorrow of Sealed Off, the eighth book in the Maine Clambake Mystery series. Here’s the cover.

The titles of cozy mysteries are often punny. In this case, “sealed off” refers to a sealed room discovered during demolition at the Snowden family’s abandoned mansion on Morrow Island.

But I also was determined to have a seal in the story. I love watching these playful creatures in Boothbay Harbor or the Damariscotta River.

I enlisted granddaughter, Viola, then age five, to help me with the seal research. Together we read (many, many times) Andre, The Famous Harbor Seal, (by Fran Hodgkins, illustrated by Yetti Frankel, DownEast Books, 2003) and our favorite, Cecily’s Summer, (by Nan Lincoln, illustrated by Patricia J. Wynne, Bunker Hill, 2005) I also read the books for grown-ups, The Summer of Cecily, (By Nan Lincoln, Bunker Hill, 2004) and A Seal Called Andre, (by Harry Goodridge and Lew Dietz, Dea 2014). The days are long past when a civilian could have a harbor seal as a pet as Harry Goodridge did, or even foster an orphan pup as Nan Lincoln did, and for good reasons. Nonetheless their books provide wonderful, intimate portraits of these smart sea mammals. Viola and I loved them!

We also read Do Seals Ever…? (by Fran Hodgkins, illustrated by Marjorie Leggitt, DownEast Books, 2017), a fun book that combined interesting facts about seals, sea lions, and walruses with facts about sirens–manatees and dugongs. God knows why, because the two classes of mammals have almost nothing in common except being large and floaty. Viola quickly memorized the book and would call me on it whenever I missed a little factoid, even if it was part of an illustration or in the book’s margins. We also learned about the Stellar Sea Cow, an extinct species of siren that lived in the Bering Sea.

Viola has long been fascinated by the concept of extinction. When she was very small she would list all the theories about the extinction of the dinosaurs in order to keep from falling asleep. I remember vividly Bill and I driving away from the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens and hearing a little voice from the back seat reciting, “Asteroid, volcano, disease…” until she passed out in her car seat.

The extinction of the Stellar Cow was therefore most interesting to Viola and she had a lot of questions. Her mom, bolstered by Wikipedia, did her best to answer them, which led, a few hours later to Viola, naked and soaking wet, enthusiastically describing to her aunt the differences between First Nations and European hunting practices, while down the hall  water ran and her dad yelled, “Viola! Where the heck are you? Get back in the shower!”

Which is a long way of saying, I hope you enjoy the book as much as Viola and I enjoyed the research.

About the book

Early October is “winding down” time in Busman’s Harbor, Maine, but there’s nothing relaxing about it for Julia Snowden. Between busloads of weekend leaf peepers at the Snowden Family Clambake and a gut renovation of the old mansion on Morrow Island, she’s keeping it all together with a potentially volatile skeleton crew—until one of them turns up dead under the firewood.

When the Russian demo team clearing out the mansion discovers a room that’s been sealed off for decades, Julia’s baffled as to its purpose and what secrets it might have held. Tensions are already simmering with the crew, but when one of the workers is found murdered, things come to a boil. With the discovery of another body—and a mysterious diary with Cyrillic text in the hidden room—the pressure’s on Julia to dig up a real killer fast. But she’ll have to sort through a pile of suspects, including ex-spouses, a spurned lover, and a recently released prisoner, to fish out one clammed-up killer.

Buy links

Sealed Off is available in mass market paperback, ebook and audiobook editions. Large print format is coming soon.

Amazon https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1496717953/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i9

Barnes & Noble https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/sealed-off-barbara-ross/1131080244?ean=9781496717955#/

Kobo https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/sealed-off-1

Your independent bookstore https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781496717955

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Weekend Update: December 28-29, 2019

Next week at Maine Crime Writers, there will be a guest post by Barb Ross (Monday) and posts by Kaitlyn Dunnett/Kathy Lynn Emerson (Thursday) and Kate Flora (Friday).


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



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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