Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Local Author Book Signing at UMass Library


Tomorrow, Wednesday, April 26th, come on down to the UMass Library from 7 to 9 for a book signing by local authors.

We'll be at the O'Leary Library on the Mezzanine level.

See you there. There might even be local celebrities!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Wicked Cozy Authors at Nashua Barnes and Noble

So we had a great book event at the Nashua Barnes and Noble- one of the rare gatherings of the Wicked Cozy Authors. Six great writers (and wonderful people) came to answer questions and chat with fans old and new. They write fun, classic-style, traditional mysteries: the ones without all the graphic blood, sex, and gore on the page. They've been nominated for a slew of writing awards, and combined, have written over 40 novels in just the past 4-5 years!
They're also fellow members of Sisters in Crime, a great organization for mystery writers, and some, if not all, are also in the Mystery Writers of America.

R to L: Edith Maxwell, Barbara Ross, Julie Hennrikus, Sherry Harris (who flew in to be with the group!), Jessie Crockett, and Liz Mugavero. (Note: some of them have pen names, so many I can't list them all here!)

To see an interview with Edith, click here.
To see an interview with Barbara, click here.
You know you've made it when they have a printed sign with pictures!

Here they get introduced, with a note about their titles, awards, and alternate names.

Some of the fans- it was an enthusiastic crowd

People asked the authors how they create their works, how they get inspired, whether they plot everything out or just start writing, and much more. When curiosity had been satisfied, it twas time to get up and chat with the authors one on one.

The bookstore staff were professional and nice- they even brought out tea and scones, as cozy mysteries should have cozy treats!

Some friends of the authors showed up

And here's two other authors, Lisa Haselton (L) and Peggy McFarland. Lisa was waving, but looks like she's warding off the photographer!

And then the signings began, as readers picked up a lot of good new books. 

Great night with a talented bunch. We hope they'll make more area appearances.
You can find them all on Facebook and Twitter as well as the website links with their names here.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

For Those Who Love Truth- Interview with Lee C. McIntyre

Yes, we've been doing a lot of interviews here, because there are so many cool writers doing great work! Here's one that's a bit different, as Lee is publishing so far in the non-fiction world.
But we'll be talking about fiction- specifically why so many people believe in things that aren't true, even when shown the truth.
Disclaimer- those who are offended by facts, and prefer their opinions over verified science and reality should not read further. They are likely to have some beliefs challenged by a rational thinker. 

Lee McIntyre is a Research Fellow at the Center for Philosophy and History of Science at Boston University and an Instructor in Ethics at Harvard Extension School. He holds a B.A. from Wesleyan University and a Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor). He has taught philosophy at Colgate University, Boston University, Simmons College, Tufts Experimental College, and Harvard Extension School.

His most recent book is Respecting Truth:Willful Ignorance in the Internet Age (Routledge, 2015)

in which he explores the problem of why people sometimes refuse to believe something even when they have good evidence that it is true. In a forthcoming book, Post-Truth – which will be part of the “essential knowledge” series at MIT Press – he explores the recent attack on facts and truth since the 2016 Presidential election.


Q. Lee, you wrote this book well before the current climate of a mass disbelief in facts. Did you see all this coming? Please tell us a bit about the origin.

A. I wouldn’t say I “saw it coming” because I had hoped it wouldn’t get to this point, but the idea of “denialism” was certainly out there and I was fighting against it. One of the most maddening things is that the tactics which were successfully used to obfuscate the truth about things like evolution, climate change, and vaccines have now made the jump to ALL factual topics. It used to be that political ideology was keeping people from believing the truth about science. Now it’s about things like whether it rained during Trump’s inauguration or whether the murder rate is going up. This is distressing because we’re moving in the wrong direction. 

Q. For some of us, it's frightening and impossible to understand how millions of people can just choose not to believe in reality, and still function. Tell us how this comes about.

A. It’s pretty frightening to me too, even though I’m trying to understand it better. In my new book Post-Truth, I’m examining some psychological research that has explored the question of disbelief in the face of evidence. What they’ve found is that we are wired with cognitive biases that can smooth the path toward irrationality. I don’t think anyone can really explain how evolution allows this (what’s the reward for disbelieving in truth?) but it is there, at the neural level. Of course, we’ve known for years that emotion, desire, and motivation can color our beliefs. Way  back in the 1950s Solomon Asch was doing work that showed that if you put someone in a room with others, and they all gave the wrong answer to a factual question, he’d do it too. These were situations where it was easy to tell that the answer was wrong, but there is a strong human desire to conform. Unfortunately, this is exacerbated by getting positive feedback for your mistakes, so when people hunker down in a news silo or a chat room where they are believing in wild things but everyone around them is too, they don’t get the kind of negative feedback that is necessary to change their beliefs. Belief becomes tribal. More recent psychological work has shown that once we get to this level, it is very hard to convince someone to change their mind, even when the facts are in their face. They just don’t see it. It’s not that they are being stubborn: they literally can’t see the truth anymore.

Q. Can you give an example?

A. Sure. During the 2016 election, conservative voters in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin were targeted with a deluge of fake news in their Facebook feeds. This was a coordinated attack by Russia, where they hired thousands of hackers to produce ridiculously false and horrible stories about Hillary Clinton. You’d hope that people would be able to apply some critical reasoning skills and know that these weren’t true, but when your friends are passing the same stories back and forth, one might begin to wonder: “Does Hillary have a brain tumor?” “Did she organize a child sex slave ring out of a Washington DC pizza restaurant?” This sounds absurd, but in politics you ignore absurd stories at your peril. Remember the “Swift Boat Veterans for Truth” during the 2004 election, who were trying to make the case that John Kerry was a coward in Vietnam? He didn’t want to “dignify” it with a comment for two weeks. By then it was too late. When people hear false stories over and over again, and their friends are talking about them, they are more likely to believe it.

Q. What do you feel is the main reason people believe something obviously untrue?

A. It’s called motivated reasoning. In short, they want to believe it. If someone wants to believe something then there is an easy pathway in their brain to try to make it true. Daniel Kahneman talks about this in his wonderful book Thinking Fast and Slow. When we hear something that we want to be true, we engage in something called “confirmation bias,” which is when we go out and look for reasons to think that the belief is right. But the problem is that if you’re on the hunt for reasons to believe something you’re probably going to find it, even if the belief is wrong. This is why science has so much invested in testing a hypothesis – in trying to disconfirm a theory. You don’t learn much by examining evidence that one of your beliefs is true, you learn by trying to find evidence that it’s not. But who is going to take the time to do this? When we all got our news from the same media sources, there was more opportunity to work from the same set of facts. Now a lot of the alternative media are simply making things up, and no one can tell what the facts are anymore.

Q. Why is this mindset dangerous?

A. The main reason is that it’s so easy. Like I said, it’s wired in. Whether we’re liberal or conservative, our brains are set up to engage in a process that feels a lot like thinking, but it really isn’t. In the past, it may have felt safe to dismiss the kind of people who believed in conspiracy theories about climate change or government surveillance. Now those people are running the White House. And it’s dangerous at a general societal level too. Remember that fake news story about Hillary Clinton running a child sex slave ring?  A deranged man read the story and showed up at the pizza restaurant where it was allegedly taking place and fired off a few rounds from his shotgun. An even better example occurred a few weeks later when the Pakistani Defense minister read a fake news story that said that Israel would nuke Pakistan if they sent any ground troops to Syria. He immediately threatened nuclear retaliation against Israel. Fake news can get people killed.

Q. When public officials go on record with "alternate facts," do they know they're lying, or are they blinded by their ideology?

A. That’s a good question and it’s hard to know. There is a long tradition in American politics of “spinning,” which is putting the most favorable face on a set of facts. But I think we’re way beyond that now. It’s not necessarily that they know they’re lying, but maybe they’re not really sure what’s a lie and what’s the truth anymore. When you watch Kellyanne Conway , I think that most of the time she’s lying and she knows it. She’s too good at what she does to avoid the truth so assiduously. It must be a deliberate campaign of obfuscation. That said, some have argued that the best way to deceive others is to deceive yourself first. We saw this back on election night in 2008. Remember when Karl Rove was doing the color commentary for FOX News and he just wouldn’t accept that Obama had won the election? Even though FOX had already called it, he kept insisting that the numbers were wrong and that when a few more counties came in from Ohio, Romney would win “in a landslide.” That is delusion. That is someone who is so deep into their ideology that they can’t see the facts anymore. The goal is to stop people from getting to that point. Every lie has an audience. Even if you can’t convince the liar, what about the people who are listening? If we can stop someone before they make that slide from ignorance to “willful ignorance” to full blown denialism (or delusion), then we’ve done a good thing. But Karl Rove? I think he’s a lost cause. Kellyanne Conway too, because even if she’s aware of what she’s doing, she’ll never admit it.

Q. Tell us what rational, thinking people can do to counter this mass hysteria.

A. Fight back. Don’t let a lie go unchallenged. Keep relentlessly pushing the truth. The problem occurs when people are only hearing one side of the narrative. Propagandists have known this since Joseph Goebbels and probably before. It’s called the “reiteration effect.” If you hear something over and over you are more likely to believe it’s true. There is also something called “source amnesia,” which is when you remember the message, but forget whether it came from a reliable source. People who want to get others to believe their lies capitalize on this and they have to be fought. One of the most encouraging things I’ve read recently comes out of some of psychological research which shows that  if you just keep hammering people “right between the eyes” with the facts, eventually is has an effect. At first they resist and it may even backfire, but you can also break through. Also, remember that if someone hears the same facts from more than one source it will help them to believe it. The reiteration effect works both ways. Truth is a powerful weapon. And remember: all of these “irrational” people don’t think that they’re being irrational. In their mind, they’re looking for the truth too. (We know this from fiction right? The villain is the hero of his own narrative). We can capitalize on this. Give them some facts that challenge the narrative of lies they’re being fed by the ideologues and the propagandists.

Q. Is there anything we can do to keep this from happening in the first place?

A. Teach critical thinking! And teach it early. I just read about a 5th grade teacher in California who was teaching his students how to spot fake news. He made a game out of it. He gave them a rubric such as “look for copyright” and “look for a date on the story.” Simple things. Things a fifth grader could do. And they LOVED it. He said he can’t get them to go out for recess now until they play “the fake news game.” That is the right track. Also we forget that the expectation of objectivity in a news source is a fairly recent luxury. The concept of objectivity didn’t even exist for American news until about the 1830s and didn’t really catch on until the scourge of “yellow journalism” in the 1890s. People need to learn how to be skeptical of what they are reading again. We need to engage our brains and expect to question things. And if we want more objective, fact-checked, double-sourced, investigative journalism we should darn well be prepared to pay for it. I bought a subscription to both the New York Times and the Washington Post just after the election. I hear a lot of other people had the same idea.

Q. If someone came to you for advice on how to deal with the current political situation, how would you help?

A. This is a tough one, because I’m a philosopher and not a political activist. But the one thing I’d say is don’t give up. Stand up for what you believe in and make sure your elected representatives know how you feel. Truth matters. Facts matter. But your voice matters too. If you don’t make a statement about your beliefs they will get drowned out.

Q. Give us a bit of hope, some good news about all this.

A. It may seem that we have given up on truth, but that is not true. Even when people are going to be personally hurt by something that is true, they are reluctant to destroy it. Nixon kept the Watergate tapes. Criminals keep souvenirs. Why do we do this? Because I think that at some level people have a deep desire to know that the truth exists, even if they want to ignore it for a while. It’s like taking a kayak out into the ocean. It’s fun and exhilarating, but you want to make sure to keep the shoreline in sight.

Q. When you wrote Respecting Truth, did you map a good deal out in your head (or even outline) before crafting, or did you piece together ideas until a form came about?

A. I had been working on the issue of science denial for quite some time, so a lot of the outline was already there. But then I had to really dig into the examples and figure out how to make them accessible for a general audience. Another challenge was to figure out how to write a book where I was offering some perspective on the topic, while still telling a story. Philosophy is so argument oriented that we sometimes forget people are more convinced by an example or a story than a syllogism. I always outline. I can’t help it. But when I sit down to write it’s an act of pure serendipity. I’ve got all of these sources and pieces of things I want to say and I just draw on them and put them together. I guess it’s sort of like quilting (though I’ve never done that). You have the pieces but you have to be ready for snags and surprises along the way.

Q. What would you want a reader to take away from reading this book?

A. That it is possible to understand why science denial is happening and that we can do something about it. My goal in writing these days is to engage the general reader. I still write some technical philosophy that’s primarily for my professional colleagues, but I enjoy the challenge of trying to reach a wider audience as well. In Respecting Truth, I want to think clearly about issues that are important to all of us, and draw the public into debates that might have seemed closed off. Truth and reason have been the subject of philosophy for the past 2400 years. All of a sudden they’re sexy topics. I think we need to embrace that.

Q. Who should we be reading and listening to now? Are there writers with similar themes to yours? Who are your influences (can be writers, or even artists, musicians, or others) and what is it about their work that attracts you?

A. Everyone who is interested in the story of how we came to be at a point where facts and truth are in question should read Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway’s book Merchants of Doubt. It is a devastating history of how denialism over scientific topics (like smoking, acid rain, ozone, and climate change) has been manufactured by those who had money at stake. Ideology often has deep roots in economic interests. I don’t write about that aspect of it myself, but this book is great background for anyone who thinks it is all ideology. One of the most profoundly important books I’ve read in recent years is Robert Trivers’s The Folly of Fools, which talks about the role of deception and self-deception in human behavior. Trivers is a biologist, but he writes like a dream, and his insights are marvelous. In philosophy, I enjoy the work of Michael Lynch, Noretta Koertge, and Alex Rosenberg. In social science, there’s been some stunning work done by Sheena Iyengar, Brendan Nyhan, Jason Reifler, Daniel Kahneman, and Cass Sunstein. Some of my favorite “general audience” writers about similar topics are Robert Wright and Michael Shermer.

Q. Any goals you've set for yourself, professionally or personally? What's the next step in your writing world?

A. In addition to Post-Truth, I’m currently working on a book about scientific reasoning. At heart, I’m a philosopher of science and I have a theory of what’s so special about scientific reasoning. That’s not quite a general audience issue, but I’m writing it as clearly as possible, because I think that these days especially it’s an important issue for all of us. Post-Truth is a book that I’m really excited about. It’s short, pointed, and goes right to the heart of what I think is the main threat to our society today. But it’s also much more political than anything I’ve ever written. I’ve joked with my wife that if they ever start having political prisoners in the USA, they’ll have a cell waiting for me. I’m also an aspiring novelist. I love to read Joe Finder, Harlan Coben, and Linwood Barclay. I remember sitting on a beach one day reading John Grisham saying “I’ll bet I could do that…how hard can it be?” That was in 2004.

Q. Tell us a fun fact about yourself.

A. I once sat in the cockpit of an F-15 Eagle and got a perfect score on the Secret Service test to detect counterfeit money (not on the same day). I’ve also had a painting rejected by the Museum of Bad Art (not because it was too good, I can assure you).

Q. Any other information you'd like to impart?

A. I believe that reading is our strongest weapon against tyranny.


Web page: leemcintyrebooks.com/

Where to buy:  https://www.amazon.com/Respecting-Truth-Willful-Ignorance-Internet/dp/1138888818/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1492098049&sr=8-1&keywords=lee+mcintyre

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Interview with Maine Author Vaughn C. Hardacker

Howdy folks. Today we've got an interview with Vaughn C. Hardacker, an author of thrillers.
Vaughn's part of the Maine Crime Writers, a group who blog about living and writing in the great state of Maine.

Now I wrote Shadow of the Wendigo, a supernatural thriller set in Canada. So when I saw this come up (to be released July 11, 2017), I said "Hey, I know that legend."
Furthermore, Vaughn set the book in Aroostook County, where I grew up. So it's chillingly familiar, and he gets it all right.

Q. So how did this novel come to be? Was it envisioned from the start as a bigger canvas, or did it expand organically out of an idea? Please tell us a bit about the origin.

A. The origin of Wendigo is very unusual. I had just finished a novel, THE WAR WITHIN (still unpublished) which was a combination crime and war novel (awarded second place in the 1989 International Literary Awards) and wanted to start something new. I was an avid reader of horror stories and never missed seeing a single B horror movie during my pre-teen years. I still recall reading my first two horror novels, DRACULA, and FRANKENSTEIN. By the time that I graduated high school, I had read all of Poe’s short stories and now wanted to write a horror novel of my own. I picked up my copy of Roget’s Thesaurus and looked up monster. One of the words listed was Wendigo. I had never heard of it, so I did some research, and was immediately hooked.

Q. Did you start with the germ of an idea and start writing to see where it went, or did you map a good deal out in your head (or even outline) before crafting?

A. I’m strictly a seat-of-the-pants writer. Learning that the Wendigo was an Algonquin god made me think of the north Maine woods of my youth (I was living in the Chicago suburbs at the time). I started with a single plot line: A Native American trapper finds a body while tending his traps and believes he has stumbled across a victim of a Wendigo. He races to the nearest phone (keep in mind this was 1989 and cell phones were still in the future) and reports the finding to local authorities and when they return to the scene, the body is missing. Only he suspects what the killer is.
The novel went through numerous rewrites until it was finally worthy of submission to my editor at Skyhorse Publishing. The editor, Jay Cassell, also edited books on the outdoors (The Shooter’s Bible among others—many are sold at Cabela’s and Bass Pro Shops). He immediately accepted the manuscript.

Q.What do you feel is the main theme(s)?

A. I believe the main theme, although it’s never actually spoken, has its roots in my childhood. I grew up in an environment where children were to be seen but seldom heard. I still get very frustrated when I feel that people are not listening to me or are unwilling to at least acknowledge that I have a valid argument. Throughout the novel, John Bear (who, after several iterations was no longer a trapper, was now a game warden) has to deal with the frustration of knowing that regardless of how much evidence he presents, no one believes that they are dealing with an extraordinary and horrific monster.

Q. Why do you feel this is important, and what would you want a reader to take away from reading this book?

A. I hope that the reader will walk away thinking about the affects of not respecting the opinions and beliefs of other people can have.

Q. What makes a good book or engaging story? 

A. I believe there are three things that make a story engrossing:
1.    Characters who are interesting, yet realistic. I have a hard time reading a book in which the protagonist is a super-human hero. There is one very popular author whose main character was an All-American quarterback in college and lives in an aircraft hangar filled with antique cars and airplanes and affords all this while living on a government paycheck. Needless to say regardless of how popular this author is, I will not read anything he has written.
2.    The scene must have an effect on the story. In WENDIGO not only is John Bear tasked with tracking a supernatural killer but he must do it in a hostile wintry environment that negates all but the most rudimentary forensics. The killer’s trail will be obliterated by the next snowfall or by drifting snow pushed along by frigid winter wind. John Bear has to deal with all of this, along with disbelieving colleagues and superiors (Did I mention the below zero temperatures?).
3.    The plot should be interesting. Periodically, I watch suspense movies directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Modern film seems to be one chase scene after another with a lot of explosions and stunts. Hitchcock mixed physical and psychological action and did it while presenting the viewer with interesting and realistic characters. I wonder what he’d think of the current mindless action films of today if he were alive.
In closing, the writer must respect his reader’s intelligence. They are highly intelligent—they’re reading your book aren’t they?

Q. Are there writers with similar themes to yours? Who are your influences (can be writers, or even artists, musicians, or others) and what is it about their work that attracts you?

A. If, by similar themes you mean the Wendigo, there are many. I have recently read Dale T. Phillips SHADOW OF THE WENDIGO and the creature (?) has appeared either overtly or covertly in a number of other writer’s work (i.e. Stephen King’s PET SEMATARY).
I’ve been influenced by many writers. There are the obvious ones: Poe and King as well as some who are not so obvious. I was a freshman in high school when I first read Mickey Spillane’s classic I, The Jury and became hooked on the mystery genre. While in the U. S. Marine Corps, I became an avid reader of Louis L’Amour, I still read many of his short stories (I have always been impressed by his ability to write in multiple genres—about ten years ago, Bantam books published many of his short fiction in a series entitled The Collected Short Stories of Louis L’Amour the sixth volume was his crime stories—prior to purchasing the set I had no idea that he’d written mystery/crime) while best known for his westerns (the Sackett books) he also wrote thrillers and the aforementioned crime stories.

Q. Is storytelling mostly entertainment, or does it serve other functions? Do you have particular goals other than telling a good story?

A. Without a doubt stories have many functions. For many years I taught business management as a member of the adjunct faculty at a community college in the Chicago suburbs. The most effective way to get a point across to students is to link the subject you want them to understand to an anecdote or story. The anecdote should be interesting and reinforce the point you are making. The concept of using stories to illustrate a particular point that goes back to Aesop’s Fables.

Q. Any other goals you've set for yourself, professionally or personally?

A. I only have one goal and that is to write. I was told by an editor (who was a member of a writer group to which I belonged) that even if I never published I’d write. I believe this to be true; possibly because of my need to be heard (mentioned earlier). However, I do enjoy having readers tell me when they enjoy something I’ve written.

Q. Some writers write fast and claim not to rewrite much. Do you do this, or painstakingly revise? When you send the book off to the publisher, are you happy with it, or just tired of it?

A. Sooner or later every writer will be asked: What is your writing style? My response: “I wouldn’t recommend my style to anyone—it’s prolonged periods of procrastination interspersed with frenetic periods of writing. My first two books, Sniper and The Fisherman, were both started in 2002 and completed in 2013. I started WENDIGO in 1989 and have recently finished reviewing the ARC and it is scheduled for a July 2017 release. On the other hand, Black Orchid was completed in a five month period (in the forward of one of his novels, Stephen King said—and I’m paraphrasing here—some books write themselves and others have to be ground out) Orchid wrote itself.
I don’t think I’ve every been either happy with or tired of any book I’ve written. I have one goal: To get the story written and then let the editors help me tweak and smooth the manuscript.

Q. Do you have good editors, and if so, how do they help you? Do they look for particular things? Do you have different people for different editing levels?

A. My experience with the editors at Skyhorse Publishing has been very favorable. Sniper, The Fisherman, and Black Orchid were edited by Constance Renfro, who has since left Skyhorse and opened her own editorial business (http://www.constancerenfrow.com/). Although she is young enough to be my granddaughter, she was firm and when she believed I was wrong (Who would have thought that would happen?) stayed firm and convinced me to make the edits she wanted. I have just finished working with a new editor, Maxim Brown who quickly spotted inconsistencies in WENDIGO. To summarize, my experience with these editors has been positive and has helped me to become a better writer.

Q. If a writer came to you for advice, how would you help?

A. I have assisted writers in numerous ways:
1.    Have reviewed your work reviewed by published writers and listen to them, don’t take what they say personal and while you may not agree with their assessment, try what they recommend—you may be surprised to learn that they are right.
2.    Develop a tough skin. You are going to receive a lot of rejections, we all do (at least until we reach the height of Stephen King, Michael Connelly, or Robert B. Parker.
3.    Join a writer group and then refer to #1 above. Ensure that the people in the group are serious about honing their craft and can help you get better. Joining a group who are either not serious writers or is comprised of your family and friends will usually not be of much help. Never forget that Your best friends are those who tell you what you need to hear; not what you want to hear.
4.    Read the successful writers who write books similar to theirs. Review the bestseller lists and keep abreast of what readers are buying.
5.    Learn the business of writing and always remember that it is a business. You may not like speaking in public or becoming a salesperson, but they are required skills. If you don’t feel comfortable about your abilities in these areas, start developing them.
6.    Last, but not least, I always emphasize (especially to young writers) that they do not quit their day job.

Q. Stories can be told by using a different medium. Can you see your book as a film, audio, etc.? How would that alter the telling?
A. My books are available in audio (Audible and MP3) and I’ve had readers express that they felt they would be great movies.
The audible and MP3 productions are true to the book. It’s well known that once you sell the film rights to a production company, they can change things in any way they’d like. We’ve all heard someone say: “I liked the book better.”

Q. What's the next step in your writing world?

A. Currently, I am working on a new crime/thriller and am between agents. In the fall I expect to be finished with the novel and doing an agent search.

Q. Tell us a fun fact about yourself.

A. My first writer group consisted of three women (all published authors and two of which were professional editors) and myself. The first night I was certain that I was going to dazzle them with my exquisite prose. The reality: They chewed me up and spit me out.
I went home that night madder than a hatter. I vented on my wife telling her how they didn’t understand what I was saying, blah, blah, blah.
She listened quietly and then said: “Why don’t you stop whining and try what they told you.”
I did.
The next evening I was in the kitchen, staring into the open door of the refrigerator. She walked in and asked, “What are you doing?”
My reply: “I’m looking for some crow.”
She laughed: You tried what they said, didn’t you?
“Yeah . . . they were right—now I’ve got to eat some crow.”

Q. Any other information you'd like to impart?

A. Finally, I’d like to quote a friend, Hallie Ephron who once said: “To write is heavenly; to rewrite is divine.”


Web page: http://www.vaughnhardacker.com/index

Where to buy: Skyhorse Publishing books are available at bookstores and online.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Two Upcoming Anthology Releases With My Stories

Hello there- I've got stories in two different collections with other authors coming out soon.
They're both great, and worth checking out.

Busted! Arresting Stories from the Beat from Level Best Books will be released April 25, 2017.
It's a collection of law enforcement stories.

Level Best Books also produces the annual Best New England Crime Stories, and I've been in the collection every year for the past three years: Windward, Red Dawn, and Rogue Wave.

Next is the new collection from the Horror Writers of Maine, Northern Frights.
From Grinning Skull Press
If you like it scary, this one's for you!
No date for release yet, but it's coming soon!

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Interview with Edith Maxwell on Her Tenth Book Birthday

Today we're pleased to host prolific author Edith Maxwell on a glorious occasion – her tenth novel releases today: the third Country Store mystery!

Her writing is so good, she also has a clutch of Agatha Award nominations: two this year, one for a novel, and another for a short story.

Because Edith has so many series going, she has a number of aliases, but not because she commits crimes and runs from the law- at least nothing has been proven yet (apart from one tiny murder in Boothbay, Maine, last Summer, but let's move on). She can get away with anything, because she's so nice.

So let's find out more about her and her work...

Q. With so many series, how do these novels come to be? Envisioned from the start as a bigger canvas, or do they expand organically out of an idea? Please tell us a bit about the origins.

A. I envision the setting and the protagonist for a series first. The setting and even era, now that I also write historical mysteries, really govern so much of the storytelling. A farm in northeastern Massachusetts is a very different milieu than a cozy restaurant in a small town in southern Indiana. And of course, a Quaker midwife going about her business of delivering babies and caring for pregnant women in an 1888 Massachusetts mill town is different in so many other ways. So I get to know my setting, I learn all I can (that is, make it up) about my main character, and then get to work.

For the Local Foods Mysteries, I owned and farmed the smallest certified organic farm in my county almost thirty years ago, which is when I started writing fiction as an adult. With the Quaker Midwife series – well, I am a Quaker, I live in the historic town where the books take place, and I formerly worked as a childbirth educator and doula, so it made sense to put my knowledge of the birth experience to work as I wrote a midwife protagonist. The Country Store mysteries came out of my years earning a PhD near the series setting. I loved southern Indiana and wanted to bring a fictional version to life in a set of books. My new Cozy Capers Book Group Mysteries actually was a suggestion from my Kensington editor, who wanted to see a new Maddie Day series about a book club. I decided to set it on Cape Cod and he liked the idea.

Q. Do you start with the germ of an idea and start writing to see where it goes, or do you map a good deal out in your head (or even outline) before crafting?

A. By preference I don't outline, although my Kensington editor asks for a prose synopsis of the next book as soon as I turn one in. But the story can and does change as I'm writing it. How I get the idea for a book varies. A few times it came out of a newspaper article, like when I read about the Great Fire of 1888 that burned down many of the carriage factories in my town. That produced Delivering the Truth, my first Quaker Midwife mystery. Other times I might want to use a particular murder weapon, like rosary peas, or I think of the victim and then I set up a story with three or four suspects who would want that person gone from the world.

Q. What do you feel are the main theme(s)?

A. Essentially I write about how people get along, what drives an ordinary person to cross the line and kill a fellow human, and how justice is restored. I have also touched on background themes of views toward immigrants, mistreated farm animals, conflicts between academics and townspeople, climate change, and racism. But these subthemes lurk behind the main story, which is murder in a village setting and how a regular citizen figures out how to solve it, at least in part.

Q. Why do you feel this is important, and what would you want a reader to take away from reading these books?

A. It's important not to let a hobbyhorse or passionate political belief of my own take over my storytelling. Nobody wants to be preached at, and I don't want to preach. At root I want my readers to be transported into the world I created, to believe that the people I invented could be real, and to forget their own daily issues and stresses for a while. If they delight in the language, laugh at a piece of dialect, or gasp at a suspenseful turn, all the better.

Q. What makes a good book or engaging story? 

A. Good characters make the book. If you don't feel strongly about the characters, in my view it doesn't matter how good the plot is. I want to write a protagonist whom I want to spend time with and whom my readers will, too.

Q. Are there writers with similar themes to yours? Who are your influences (can be writers, or even artists, musicians, or others) and what is it about their work that attracts you?

A. All my fellow cozy mystery authors, including the WickedCozy Authors, write about similar themes and settings. Not the details, of course, but the village setting, the amateur sleuth, the family dynamics, the occasional romance, the best friends and always thorny antagonists. Even the historicals I write fall under the same umbrella of the traditional mystery – they are basically cozies set a hundred thirty years ago. I think we authors all influence each other to an extent, and I know many of them inspire me.

Q. Do you have any other goals you've set for yourself, professionally or personally?

A. Some of my cozy author friends want to branch out and write the “big book,” a blockbuster, a big multi-point-of-view suspense novel or thriller. At this time I don't have any plans for that. I love writing the three series I have in hand – two contemporaries and a historical - and so far my publishers want me to keep doing just that!

Q. Some writers write fast and claim not to rewrite much. Do you do this, or painstakingly revise? When you send the book off to the publisher, are you happy with it, or just tired of it?

A. I write faster than some of my author pals – I can turn out a first draft in two months when I am working steadily. But I also revise for the next two months, so I'm both! And If I weren't happy with the book when I send it off, I wouldn't send it.

Q. Do you have good editors, and if so, how do they help you? Do they look for particular things? Do you have different people for different editing levels?

A. Yes. All my books get a pre-edit from one of two independent editors. By now these ladies know my series, and will catch things like my protagonist acting snarkier than she usually does. They notice when I forget to actually write stuff down. Because I write fast, often I'll know something about a character's reactions or thoughts but I just forget to put it on the page. Then my editor at my publisher gives the manuscript a read and also suggest those kinds of higher-level changes. After that a copyeditor gives it the once-over, and I've been lucky to get thorough copyeditors who check every proper noun in the book, keep me conformed to the house style, and make sure all the details are addressed. Finally, each book gets a proofreader from the publisher.  Of course, I have given the manuscript many repetitions of my own edits and have printed it out and read it cover to cover at least three times.

Q. If a writer came to you for advice, how would you help?

A. It would depend on the advice sought. Here's my basic advice: The most important thing for beginning writers to do is to write the best book you can. You can’t revise words you haven’t written. And keep studying your craft – take workshops, read books on writing, and study writers in your genre whose books you admire. Then find your tribe – join Sisters in Crime if you write crime fiction, or the online or local group in your genre. Their counsel and friendship will be invaluable.

Q. Stories can be told by using a different medium. Can you see your books as a film, audio, etc.? How would that alter the telling?
A. My Country Store Mysteries are all on audio, but I don't alter the writing with that in mind. Quite a few people have suggested that my Quaker Midwife stories would make a great movie or television series, but we have yet to accomplish that! And in that case, a screenwriter would be brought in. I don't know the first thing about writing for the screen medium.

Q. What's the next step in your writing world?

A. I have to launch two books in ten days time under two names from two publishers!  And then finish the first Cape Cod mystery.

Q. Tell us a fun fact about yourself.

A. I hold a long-dusty black belt in Okinawan karate and am a fourth-generation Californian, even though I've now lived in Massachusetts longer than I lived in the west.

Q. Any other information you'd like to impart? 

A. I hope readers will check out all my series on my web site. I'd love to hear from you if you like my stories, and you know, a positive review on Amazon and Goodreads really helps an author! 
Thanks so much for asking me over today, Dale.


National best-selling author Edith Maxwell is a 2017 double Agatha Award nominee for her historical mystery Delivering the Truth and her short story, “The Mayor and the Midwife.” She writes the Quaker Midwife Mysteries and the Local Foods Mysteries; as Maddie Day she writes the Country Store Mysteries and the Cozy Capers Book Group Mysteries. Her award-winning short crime fiction has appeared in many juried anthologies, and she is honored to served as President of Sisters in Crime New England.

A fourth-generation Californian and former tech writer, farmer, and doula, Maxwell now writes, cooks, gardens, and wastes time as a Facebook addict north of Boston with her beau and three cats. She blogs at WickedCozyAuthors.com, Killer Characters, and with the Midnight Ink authors.
Find her at www.edithmaxwell.com and elsewhere.

When the Grits Hit the Fan

Despite the bitter winter in South Lick, Indiana, business is still hot at Robbie Jordan’s Country Store restaurant. But when another murder rattles the small town, can Robbie defrost the motives of a cold-blooded killer? Robbie and her friend Lou go snowshoeing and find a contentious academic frozen under the ice. Police suspect Lou might have killed him after their public tiff in Pans ‘N Pancakes the night before. To prove her friend’s innocence, Robbie absorbs local gossip about the professor’s past and develops her own thesis on the homicide—even if that means stirring up terrible danger for herself along the way.

Called to Justice

Quaker midwife Rose Carroll is enjoying the 1888 Independence Day evening fireworks with her beau when a teenaged Quaker mill girl is found shot dead. After a former slave and fellow Quaker is accused of the murder, Rose delves into the crime, convinced of the man's innocence. An ill-mannered mill manager, an Irish immigrant, and the victim's young boyfriend come under suspicion even as Rose's future with her handsome doctor suitor becomes unsure. Rose continues to deliver babies and listen to secrets, finally figuring out one criminal―only to be threatened by the murderer, with three lives at stake. Can she rescue herself, a baby, and her elderly midwifery teacher in time?

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Sisters in Crime Birthday Party

Thirty years ago, a great organization formed to help women writers of mystery achieve parity in contracts, reviews, support, and recognition, both within the industry and for society at large.
The Sisters in Crime has done tremendous work in promoting mysteries and women mystery writers.
And yes, they do allow my gender to become members as well.
After 30 years of hard work, it's time to celebrate- and so there are numerous events all over the country to mark this historic group.
The New England chapter held an informative workshop led by Nancy Martin, followed by lunch, and then some memories and recognition of some of the people who gave their time and energy to make good things happen over the years.
For writers who pen stories about horrible crimes, we had a jocular time with fun folks.
Thanks to all who made this event happen, as well as the many others held at all levels.

This stellar lineup consists of past officers at the national and regional level, who received tiaras to show how special they are.
L to R- Sheila Connolly, Edith Maxwell, Julie Hennrikus, Sharon Daynard, Linda Barnes, Hank Phillippi Ryan, Ruth McCarty, Hallie Ephron

And each had to give a short speech about her experience with Sisters in Crime.

To show their creativity, even the desserts have a message...

Here's Lisa Jackson and Edith guarding the goodies before the time of devouring
To see an interview with Edith, click here.

Other notable authors Connie Johnson Hambley, Leslie Wheeler, and Lisa Lieberman
To see an interview with Connie, click here

 Here's Nancy Martin (R) leading an exercise at the workshop

And the crowd

Sharon gets thanked by new President Edith for her service

An artifact of an early promotional tool

And a modern promotional tool, a board showing book cover images from the members. 
Thanks to Hans Copek, who puts this together every year.
If you look closely at the board on the left, you'll see my cover on the right, middle, for the upcoming Zack Taylor series novel, A Sharp Medicine, due out this May.