Sunday, November 27, 2011

Four Great Books

I read four great books on vacation this week.

I started with Paige Shelton's Farm Fresh Murder, the first in her Farmer's Market Mystery series. Because I've been thinking about writing a series involving a farmer, I wanted to see what this series was about. I was pleased to find a well-written cozy without much overlap with my prospective murder mysteries. The characters are alive and fun, and the story was compelling. I look forward to reading more by Shelton. She's got some great titles, too: her next two books are named Fruit of All Evil, and Crops and Robbers.

Next I
lost myself in Judy Alter's debut mystery, Skeleton in a Dead Space. She captures a real estate agent's life in Texas really nicely, along with the complications of finding a surprise during a renovation while single-mothering her two daughters and helping a teenager get back on the right track.

Then I plunged into Barry Eisler's latest thriller, The Detachment. This isn't a genre I usually read, but I met him at Crime Bake, heard him talk about the new world of publishing, and thought I'd give his writing a try (plus it starts in Tokyo, a city I lived and worked in for two years). Eisler is a big name for a reason. The book is truly a thriller and hard to put down despite the number of people who get killed. The psychological storytelling is superb. I was glad to get to know Rain, the protagonist, at long last.

My flight home
passed quickly because of Julie Hyzy's first in her Manor House cozy series, Grace Under Pressure. I've read all of her White House Chef mystery series and loved them (I'm happy to report it's an ongoing series, with Affairs of Steak due out in January, 2012), so I looked forward to starting the Grace series and was not disappointed. Grace, the new curator of the Marshfield Manor museum, meets challenges right and left with strength and aplomb. I loved Grace's two housemates, Bruce and Scott, and how Hyzy paints the culture of the South Atlantic area.

Vacation's over, so the number of books I read goes way down, but the stack remains high. What was your last favorite vacation read?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Writing from Puerto Rico

I'm spending Thanksgiving vacation with my son at a mountain inn in Puerto Rico. It is beautiful, lush, fecund, mysterious. I've been able to write a scene from Bluffing is Murder amidst hikes and contemplations. I sit on the patio of our cabin and type away.

The road up to this inn is narrow, winding, and half washed out in spots. So I also drafted a short story. What if the road washed out, and the electricity went off, too. Suppose someone went mad from the dark, the ceaseless calls of the tree frogs, the too-close personal interactions? What if murder happened?

See how the writer's mind works? Happy Thanksgiving, dear readers!

Monday, November 14, 2011


I am very pleased to announce that Trestle Press has accepted Speaking of Murder for publication.

After three years of writing the story of Linguistics Professor Lauren Rousseau, I've succeeded in getting my book into the eager hands of the reading public.
Who said persistence doesn't pay off?

The book will be out in a couple of weeks as an e-book in several formats, then will be released in print about two months later. I'm thrilled! This gorgeous cover is thanks to Elizabeth Thomsen for the photograph of Ipswich's Choate Bridge and fellow writer Polly Iyer for the design. Thank you, talented professionals.

Stay tuned for details. And many thanks, Trestle Press. Readers, stop by and see what else they have to offer.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


No, not throwing a ball. A pitch in the publishing world means delivering a pithy witty one-minute spiel on your book to the agent or publisher of your dreams, in person, without stuttering or referring to notes. It has to capture the essence of the story, the main character, the setting, without being boring or including way too much detail.

A snap, right? Not! The fabulous and award-winning
Avery Aames, who writes the cozy Cheese Shop Mysteries (and who has just had her series extended), produced a video on how to pitch and how not to pitch. It entertains as it educates. Thanks, Avery.

Why am I concerned with pitching? It so happens that this weekend is the New England Crime Bake. More than a half-dozen
agents and several publishers will be in attendance. One might encounter them in the hall, at lunch, in the proverbial elevator. Plus there is a pitch session, where each attendee who signed up (including yours truly) gets five whole minutes with an agent. Gulp.

I have drafted a pitch for my second Speaking of Mystery series book, Bluffing is Murder. I'm not happy with it, despite getting some excellent feedback from the Guppies AgentQuest group. I have 62 hours left to revise the heck out of it. Gulp.

When Lauren Rousseau finds one of the secretive Trustees of the Bluffs murdered on the coastal Holt estate north of Boston, police at first suspect her of the murder because she had been seen arguing with the victim earlier in the day. After Lauren goes on a date with her flirtatious karate instructor, she digs up not only local clams but also the truth about the actual killer. A Linguistics professor, Lauren
s abilities to analyze text on a social-networking site lead her to the murderer. She solves the Holt killing and uses her Quaker contacts to unveil the mystery of her own father's death by the same killer nineteen years earlier.

Whaddya think?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

A Year's Celebration and Accomplishments

It's my birthday. Nothing wrong with that. I love hearing from old friends and new. I scoop up news and best wishes from my sons and my siblings. I luxuriate in being treated to special meals and special treatment from my beau.

I fully admit to being a full-blown Scorpio. A double Scorpio, if you want to get particular, since I was born at sunrise, so my rising sign is also Scorpio. I am an extremist. In appetite, in love, in going after what I want, even sometimes in temper.

I am amazed by how many other Scorpios I have in my life. My closest friend. Other dear friends. A clutch of linguist friends (in grad school we used to hold the annual Scorpio Linguist Birthday Bash). A bunch (a murder?) of mystery-writer friends. Several relatives. A couple of influential (former) lovers. My first best friend from childhood. I guess we find connection, although it can involve fireworks, too.

One of the online writer groups I follow was started a year ago by
Diane Vallere. She wanted to start a conversation and resource for fellow mystery writers who were seeking publication with a small press. It's been a great group. While I personally haven't yet succeeded in placing Speaking of Murder with a publisher, I get a lot of support and a lot of information from this group of Sisters (and Brothers) in Crime.

On this anniversary of the group, Diane suggested we all list our writing accomplishments for the year. Since for me this coincides with my birthday, I jumped right in. I was kind of surprised at the list, so I thought I'd share it here.
  • I finished finishing SPEAKING OF MURDER, and worked hard to find an agent or a small press. Still working on that.
  • My story "Reduction in Force" was published in THIN ICE by Level Best Books.
  • I attended the Crime Bake and Malice Domestic conferences, the latter for the first time.
  • My story "Stonecutter" was accepted for the FISH NETS anthology.
  • I wrote 45,000 words on BLUFFING IS MURDER.
  • I blogged weekly here. Posts possibly disappeared unread into the ether, but still it was good practice.
  • I did some tweeting as @edithmaxwell.
  • I participated in an in-person writers' group on Monday nights, meeting every other week or so, with excellent critique partners.
  • Last month I wrote a proposal for a new cozy series involving a farm and locavores. Excited about that.
I guess that's not a bad year, considering that I have a nearly full-time job with a long commute, and am also on the board of SINC-New England, my local Democratic Town Committee, and my Friends Meeting. And I try to exercise daily, cook fresh foods, socialize, garden in season, and read. Okay, this is all making me tired!

Still, I look forward to another full year. Writing makes me happy, and that's always good. Thanks to all of you who have stopped by here and commented. Bloggers crave feedback, it turns out!