Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year, dear readers. It's been an amazing year for me as a writer.

My first mystery novel, Speaking of Murder, was published by Barking Rain Press in September. I did as much promotion as I could--dozens of guest blogs and a half-dozen speaking events--but haven't seen any earthshaking sales or important reviews. 

I signed a deal with an agent, John Talbot, and then a three-book contract with Kensington Publishing. I wrote the first Local Foods mystery and sent it in, and have 30k written on the second one (a few thousand words more by tonight, I hope!). 

I had a short story, "Stonecutter," accepted for publication in an anthology, and two other stories were published in the Burning Bridges anthology where all proceeds went to charity.

I decided to self e-publish two previously published short stories whose rights have reverted to me, because they are actually the backstory to two important characters in Speaking of Murder, and I have formatted them for Smashwords and gotten covers done (by StanzAloneDesign - aren't they cool?). They'll be available for all ereaders sometime in the next month.

I attended a dynamite Donald Maass writing workshop, the Writers' Police Academy, and New England Crime Bake and learned so much from each event. I even plunged into the world of smart phones and Kindles.

All this went on while I was working full time writing software manuals, exercising most days, selling and buying a house and moving, and sitting with my mother while she died in April. Whew!

I'd like to thank all of you who stopped by to see what was up all year long and especially to those who commented and who read my writing. It means so much to me.

May you have a happy, healthy, harmonious new year filled with lots and lots of reading!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Farm Blog Posts

I have an idea for this blog for next year (which starts in a week and a half).

Farmer Cam Flaherty's Great-Uncle Albert is going to write some posts on farming. He actually suggests that to Cam in A Tine to Live, a Tine to Die. (Today's exciting news is that the book is up for pre-order with its gorgeous cover on both Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Whee!)

I already have a garlic-planting post planned out, one on battling woodchucks, and another on planting fall greens. Albert can talk about pruning fruit trees in early March, about planting buckwheat as a summer cover crop, and about putting the fields to bed in late fall. Composting is already at least partly covered in TINE, but that's a possibility, too.

The posts will likely show up every other week so as not to over burden the author (me!) who is writing furiously on the second book in the series, so far titled 'Til Dirt Do Us Part.

What farming or gardening topics would you like to read about? If you are a grower of food, what's your most challenging crop, and your most enjoyable? If you don't have that much success with your green thumb, what would you like help with?

Saturday, December 15, 2012

In Great Sorrow

I was stunned to read that one of adults shot dead yesterday at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, was named Lauren Rousseau. She was apparently a vibrant young teacher, devoted to her young charges, who had just landed a permanent position at the school. She had parents, a boyfriend, friends. She had baked and decorated cupcakes to take to a post-Hobbit viewing party Friday night.

That she shares the name I invented for my protagonist in Speaking of Murder is irrelevant, really, but it jumped out at me. I am filled with immense sorrow for all the victims - the young and innocent, the older and innocent, the innocent staff members who tried to save their young charges - and for their families. 

May we find a way to finally and effectively outlaw multiple-round firearms and keep them out of the hands of anyone except the most qualified police. May we find a way to help those in need of counseling, mental health therapy, love. May we never accept that innocent people should die under any conditions. This is my prayer, and this would be my protagonist's prayer, as well.

Rest in peace, real Lauren Rousseau. 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Another Productive Retreat

I felt called to take myself on retreat again. It's so hard for me to write during the work week, and with the holidays coming up and then a knee replacement looming in January, I wanted to make some real headway with the second book in my Local Foods Mystery series. 

I found a Quaker retreat house in West Falmouth, which is on the near edge of Cape Cod, on  Buzzard's Bay. The house is just across a Friends graveyard from the West Falmouth Friends Meetinghouse that was built in 1842. I reserved a room for $25 per night, but no one else was going to be there, so that was the price of the entire house.

I drove down after work on a Friday with a bad cold and stocked a few simple provisions. I set up my netbook, made some tea, and set to writing. My only distractions were my own: going for a walk, reading, thinking. The house did NOT come equipped with internet. This turned out to be a huge blessing. I crossed the street to the library once a day to check for any messages that needed acting on and otherwise left cyberspace alone.

I wrote and wrote and wrote. I took care of my cold and kept writing. I gazed out the back window at the remnants of the Meeting garden, moseyed out to pluck some bits of parsley for my soup, and kept writing. I went for a walk down to the bay and sat and listened to the calm winter lapping of the bay, then went back and kept writing

I had recently re-read Rachel Aaron's post on how she writes 10,000 words a day (and thanks to Ramona DeFelice Long for reminding me of that post last week). One of her secrets is to leave home for few hours. Check, in spades. Another is to only write the interesting scenes (and really, if you aren't compelled to write it, readers probably won't be compelled to read it, either).  I had plotted a few scenes ahead. So I jumped to the really interesting one and wrote that. Then I went back and wrote the scenes leading up to that one, making them more interesting, too. Check.

I took meal breaks at the kitchen counter and finished Kaye George's latest funny mystery set in Texas, Smoke, and then started Jeri Westerson's latest in her fabulous Crispin Guest series, Blood Lance, but I only let myself read as long as I was eating. Then, guess what, I kept writing. 

I walked through the graveyard to sit in worship with Friends on Sunday morning, then got to know a few of them, handing out bookmarks for Speaking of Murder as I did (well, it does have a Quaker protagonist). Then I went back to write.

My cold was still pretty bad late Sunday night (despite adding a bit of brandy to my tea with honey and lemon) and my cough wasn't fit for human company. I cancelled my plan to drive very early to work on Monday morning and filed for a sick day, instead. I stayed at my writing station until midday on Monday. Final tally for just under 3 full days of retreat? 15,071 words. Wow! 

The work in progress is now just under 100 pages long. It isn't due until July 1 but I feel very comfortable with this headway. Sure, it's a rough first draft. Now, though, I am confident that I will have enough time to schedule in revision and polishing before I have to send it off. 

Quaker House, I will return to thee.

What's your favorite retreat center? Where are you most productive writing when you can grab a stretch of time, whether it's three hours or three days?

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Tine for Production!

A Tine to Live, a Tine to Die is in production over at Kensington Publishing. I just got a sneak peek at a draft of the cover and I'm blown away by the gorgeous colors and arty but realistic vegetables. This is so very exciting. Not to mention seeing my name on the front!

And here are the blurbs that will be on the back:

"Cameron Flaherty understands farming and computer language better than she does people. But when a murder threatens to poison her organic farm, she opens her heart to a posse of endearing volunteers and reaps the benefits. With an insider's look at organic farming and a loyal, persistent heroine, Maxwell offers a series that cozy mystery fans will root for."

-Agatha, Anthony, and Macavity-nominated Lucy Burdette, author of Death in Four Courses

"Edith Maxwell’s A Tine to Live, a Tine to Die is a sparkling read. It’s a down on the farm murder mystery with a bumper crop of locally grown suspects and red herrings."

-Reed Farrel Coleman, three-time Shamus Award-winning author of Gun Church

"A fresh new voice on the cozy mystery scene, Edith Maxwell serves up a tasty plot and a bumper crop of colorful characters in her debut novel, A Tine to Live, A Tine to Die. Fans of Sheila Connolly and Dorothy St. James will be happy to discover a smart, new sleuth who isn't afraid to get her hands dirty."

-Rosemary HarrisAnthony and Agatha Award-nominated author of Pushing Up Daisies

Just color me glowing.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

New Locations, New Ideas

I wrote a guest post for the fabulous Maine Crime Writers blog recently about a week I spent on an island in Maine thirty years ago. I hold very fond memories of that week on Great Gott's Island.

It got me thinking about other places I have traveled, which are many and international. Which got me thinking about having my protagonist in the Local Foods Mysteries do some traveling later in the series. But it's a cozy series and cozies typically keep the action confined to one town, one setting. There are exceptions to this rule, especially in long-running series. Katherine Hall Page, for example, has set books in Maine, in France, and elsewhere, but usually goes back to her protagonist's Massachusetts town in between other locales.

I could reasonably have farmer Cam Flaherty attend the Common Ground organic farming conference in Unity, Maine, and then head to an island for a week of vacation. But it would be tricky for her to, say, spend time in Mali or Japan or Brazil, places I have lived and know well.

So maybe I need to come up with a new series with a protagonist who has a reason to travel to some of the far-flung places I have experienced as a resident. Sheila Connolly has a new series set in Ireland (and reports that she just got back from two weeks of "research" there, which sounds to me like just an excuse for a cool vacation). I read about someone who created a travel-agent protagonist for just that reason, and Gigi Pandian has a new series featuring an historian who also has just cause to travel (her first book is set in San Francisco and then Scotland).

Come to think of it, I already HAVE a protagonist with a reason to travel. Lauren Rousseau, the linguistics professor in Speaking of Murder, could plausibly head to Japan for an Asian Linguistics conference. Or to Mali to do research on Bamanankan, the first language of a large portion of the population. Or to Brazil, France, Quebec, Puerto Rico, and so on. 

So it looks like what I have to come up with is the TIME to write two series at once. Once I do that, I can also go on tax-deductible "research" trips - I look forward to that. 

What exotic place would you like to see a mystery series set in? What's your favorite travel mystery? Or do you prefer that your cozy protagonist stays settled in one place? 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Avid Newsletter Article

Cool. The following interview just appeared in my former employer's employee newsletter! Along with my picture and the book cover. Thanks, Avid

Avid Solutions Help Solve the Crime in Speaking of Murder

From a former Avid technical writer to a successful author, Edith Maxwell has been making a name for herself in the publishing world with her recent book, Speaking of Murder. The mystery novel is about the murder of a student at a small New England college and follows the plight of the heroine as she strives to solve the murder with help from Avid solutions.

Maxwell, who goes by the pen name “Tace Baker” for Speaking of Murder, worked at Avid from November 1994 to October 2008, and while she was here, she wrote the Xpress Pro documentation and the Interplay Assist book, among others.

We had the opportunity to ask Maxwell a few questions aboutSpeaking of Murder, why she included Avid solutions in her book and if she plans to write more books in the future.

What inspired you to write Speaking of Murder?
Ever since I heard about the dTective application by Ocean Systems, which works with Avid Media Composer, I wanted to use it for crime solving in a mystery novel or short story. dTective is used by police departments to clarify surveillance video, add height markers, and much more in the pursuit of bad guys. Speaking of Murder also features Lauren Rousseau, a linguistics professor, as the amateur sleuth, and I earned a PhD in linguistics in 1981, so I am well acquainted with academia and the field of linguistics. I put those together in my book and went from there.

Can you provide examples of how you included Avid’s solutions in your novel and explain why?
I reference Avid several times. Lauren's boyfriend, Zac, is a video forensics expert who uses the dTective application in his work for the local police department. He explains it to Lauren and demonstrates it to her on his laptop in one important scene. Lauren's mother is a retired technical writer who wrote user documentation for Avid and we see her talking to Zac about that. I also show Avid NewsCutter being used in a news truck at the scene of a fire. It's all just part of the story, but I enjoyed working those real-life references in.

Do you plan to write more books and will you reference Avid solutions in future books?
Of course I am writing more books! The sequel to Speaking of Murder is about two-thirds written, but it doesn't feature Avid software. I'm sure I'll get back to it in a future book, though.
To learn more about Speaking of Murder and to see what other books Maxwell is working on, go and

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Next Big Thing

Thanks to author Nancy Adams for inviting me to take part in this fun event. Check out her blog from last week where she answers the same questions about her work in progress, titled CHIMERA, that I do below. 

"The Next Big Thing" was started by blogger She Writes to help female authors promote their current work by answering a set of ten questions and then "tagging" other writers, inviting them to do the same. 

Here's my contribution.

What is your working title of your book?
'Til Dirt Do Us Part

Where did the idea come from for the book?
It's the second book in my Local Foods Mystery series, and I wanted to set it in the fall, so it opens at a Farm-to-Table dinner on farmer Cam Flaherty's organic farm with the food cooked by a local chef. We get to meet a few new characters and touch base with the regulars from the first book, A Tine to Live, a Tine to Die. I modeled the dinner on the fabulous one I attended at month ago at Cider Hill Farm in Amesbury (that's a pic of the table). Phat Cats Bistro did the cooking with all local ingredients and it was, excuse the expression, to die for!

What genre does your book fall under?
This is a cozy mystery series -- think Agatha Christie's Miss Marple. The protagonist is Cam Flaherty, an amateur sleuth. The violence is all off screen and the action takes place in a circumscribed area, in this case her farm, the fictional small town it's in, and a nearby small city.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
Oh, my! That's a challenge. Maybe Clare Dane for Cam - she's about the right age and can be both serious and funny, although she's not really tall enough. As for Jake, the chef and romantic interest - I don't know. I'd need a really tall Scandinavian-looking man with some weight on him. Any ideas?

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

During the fall harvest dinner at the end of Cam Flaherty's first season, she has no idea that a toxic threat to her quiet life as an organic farmer festers under society's topsoil.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I'm really fortunate to be represented by John Talbot and the series is published by Kensington Publishing.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
It took me about six months to write the first draft of A Tine to Live, a Tine to Die, and that's my goal for 'Til Dirt Do Us Part, too. I have a full-time day job, so it's tricky!

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Sheila Connolly's Orchard Mystery series, Paige Shelton's Farmers Market Mystery series, and Susan Wittig Albert's China Bayles Herbal Mystery series are all cozies with a farm theme.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I was an organic farmer myself many years ago so I know the language and tensions of growing food for a living. I love diving back into that world and creating stories within it.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
The Local Foods movement is getting more and more popular. Barbara Kingsolver's book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle tracked her family's project of eating only locally produced food for a year and popularized the term locavore. So members of the Westbury Locavore Club belong to Cam's farm-share program, or CSA. Also, Cam is a geek, a former software engineer, which informs her personality and some of her interactions.

Next week be sure to check out "The Next Big Thing" from the following authors who are carrying on this event!
What do you think the next big thing will be? Have you heard of locavores? Leave a question or comment (along with your email address) and win a free copy of my first mystery, Speaking of Murder.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Helping Authors

Now that Speaking of Murder is out, I'm thinking a lot about how readers can help authors. I know others have covered this, but here's my list of suggestions.

  • Ask your library to purchase the book. That way it reaches many readers for a long time.
  • If you read the book and liked it, write a short review on Amazon or Barnes and Noble and assign it a handful of stars. That will let prospective buyers know it's a book worth reading.
  • If you're in a book club, suggest they read the book. I'd be happy to come and talk if you're within driving distance, or could visit via Skype if you're not.
  • If you travel in twitterdom, Facebook, or other social media, first follow me or click Like on my two Author pages, then post a quick note about the book and what you liked about it. Our overlapping circles can ripple outwards into the world, and your circles certainly include some people mine don't.

If you have mystery-loving friends, consider buying copies of the book to give as holiday or birthday presents. One very cool friend of mine just told me he ordered TEN copies from our local independent bookstore to give to family members as Christmas presents. That was a great piece of news for a writer! Supporting independent bookstores is also a great practice (you can order a discounted signed copy of the book from the New England Mobile Book Fair if you haven't already purchased it).

  • And above all, talk it up. Word of mouth is a great marketing tool. If you'd like me to send you some bookmarks to send out, just ask. I have a few thousand. 
Of course these ideas apply to how readers can support all authors, not just me!

Do you have other ideas on how to support an author? As a reader, which of these suggestions are you likely to implement? Authors, what has worked for you?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Box of Books

I came home Friday to the most fabulous sight: a box of books. MY books!

It was an amazing feeling to hold the book in my hands, to leaf through it, to read the wonderful blurbs on the back cover. I started writing this book almost four years ago. This is a dream come true.

Here's one of the blurbs: "Debut author Tace Baker combines convincing, diverse characters, a vividly described setting, and a plot that picks up speed until it reaches a surprisingly intense confrontation. Who knew linguistics professors led such interesting lives?" -Sheila Connolly, New York Times bestselling author of the Orchard Mystery series and the Museum Mystery series.

Thanks, Sheila

Both of my parents have passed away, my mother just last April. But I dedicated the book to them. I wrote, 

This book is for my late parents, Allan Maxwell, Jr. and Marilyn Muller. They always told me I could be anything I wanted to be. And now I'm an author, exactly what I want to be.

I have a couple of launch parties scheduled, as well as a dozen guest blog posts, so I'll probably be pretty scarce around here this fall. I hope you'll drop by some of the blogs, though. Watch my facebook pages for news. And if you wanted to pick up the book, Barking Rain Press is selling it for half off during September.

Guest Blog Schedule:
Dru's Book Musings - September 19
Mysteristas - September 20
Jungle Red Writers - September 26
Chris Redding, Author - September 27
Lisa's Book Critiques - September 28-29
Auntie Em Writes - September 30
Schooled in Mystery - October 2
Poe's Deadly Daughters - October 6
Kristi Belcamino - October 10
Novel Adventurers - October 12
Writers Who Kill - October 13
Buried Under Books - October 16 - October 17
Marilyn's Musings - October 18
Lisa Haselton's Reviews and Interviews - October 22
Killer Crafts and Crafty Killers - November 2
Cindy Carroll - November 7
Mystery Lovers' Kitchen - November 24

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Two Years of Blogging

I'm a little late with this. I somehow missed the two-year anniversary of this blog, which was August 7. I got a little closer last year with One Year in the Blogosphere

My goal when I started was one post per week. I pretty much stuck to it: 106 posts over two years. I let up a bit on frequency this summer. Hmm, think moving and getting two books out had anything to do with it? Plus I've been blogging every few weeks over at the Sisters in Crime New England group blog, Pen, Ink, and Crimes, which sometimes uses up all my available blogging energy.

A post I wrote about doing research on the Crane Estate in Ipswich has gotten a lot of steady traffic. But besides that, the top three posts have to do with finding the space to write: Retreating to Write, my report on Wellspring House, and Gathering to Write, about a four-writer retreat I was part of in June. I guess most of my readers here are writers (or would-be writers longing for retreat). Total comments for the two years is 519. Average of 5 per post? Seems high, but then those count my replies to all you kindly (and MUCH appreciated) readers who leave a comment.

One interesting stat: the first year more readers viewed the blog on Firefox than on Internet Explorer. That flipped this year, with a new fourteen percent on Chrome (what I use exclusively). More people continue to use Windows than Mac, although one percent read it on an iPhone. Other mobile devices are still under one percent. 

At the end of last year's anniversary post, I noted that I would "continue blogging on topics relating to Speaking of Murder (book One), Murder on the Beach (book Two), and, of course, writing and publishing." At the time I didn't have a publisher for Speaking of Murder, and now it's coming out in print (under a pen name) from a reputable small press, Barking Rain, in less than a month. See Tace Baker's web site for details, or preorder it!

And the Local Foods Mysteries series wasn't even a gleam in Kensington Publishing's eye at the time. Now it's a three-book contract signed, sealed, and delivered, and I'm about to send the completed and many-times-revised manuscript of A Tine to Live, a Tine to Die off to the editor this Friday! Watch for that release next June

That's a big change in a year's time.  I wonder what will happen in the next year. Despite several articles that foretell "Blogging is dead," I plan to continue for at least one more year. 

I thank each and every one of you for being a faithful or even occasional reader, and I'll randomly pick one commenter from today's post and send him or her a signed copy of Speaking of Murder, so be sure to leave a valid email address if you think I don't know how to find you otherwise.

Finally, do you think blogging is worth it? Do you read blogs regularly? Still write posts alone or with others, or has Facebook taken over that role? What do you think is next on the horizon?

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Speaking of Murder!

My alter-ego, Tace Baker, has a book coming out! 

The pre-order page for  Speaking of Murder  by Tace Baker on Amazon is now live. You can also sign up for a free preview of the first four chapters on

This is very, very exciting news. I started writing this book in the winter of 2009. I finished the first draft a year later, and then took a year to polish it. I started trying to find an agent in winter of 2011 with no luck. 

Those of you following this blog know that we had a couple of close calls with small presses before Barking Rain Press decided to take a chance with Tace. We've been through a full editing pass and this morning the editor, Betty Dobson, and I received the page proofs (as a PDF) from the publisher, Sheri Gormley. Whee! We have a cover, ISBNs, and more. It's finally real.

 I've set up a book launch party and invited all my 936 Facebook friends both near and far as well as a dozen more local friends. Come on down to the Book Rack in Newburyport on September 27 at 7 pm and help us celebrate. 

The Quaker book catalog has agreed to list Speaking of Murder, and my new local bookstore in Amesbury, Bertram and Oliver's, will stock it, too. I'm even arranging to have an independent bookstore in Bloomington, Indiana stock it, since it features a linguist and I hold a PhD from IU in linguistics. I'll be out there two weeks after the book comes out to help market it.

Now it's back to final polishing on A Tine to Live, a Tine to Die, and then I need to get started on the detailed synopsis for Till Dirt Do Us Part, all mixed in with promotional activities and a full-time job. Who needs sleep?!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Forensic Linguistics - What?

I picked up my New Yorker magazine this week and browsed the table of contents. Whoa! An article from the "Department of Linguistics" titled "Words on Trial." Really? (Note: you might have to be a subscriber to read the whole article.)

How cool is that? Solving crimes with linguistics. But wait, that's what my alter-ego's first mystery revolves around! Tace Baker's Speaking of Murder will be out from Barking Rain Press on September 18. It features a Quaker linguistics professor who...well, let's just quote her web site

"The murder of a talented student at a small New England college thrusts linguistics professor Lauren Rousseau into the search for the killer. Lauren is a determined Quaker with an ear for accents. Her investigation exposes small town intrigues, academic blackmail and a clandestine drug cartel that now has its sights set on her."

So I drilled deeper into the article. I knew this from prior research, but it was cool to be reminded of how linguists can solve crimes by analyzing consistent patterns in text messages, voice mail message, or written notes. 

For example, Professor Robert Leonard matched certain elements in the emails of an accused murderer with the text scrawled on the wall at the murder scene. Things like using "U" for "you," which is commonly seen in text messages but not in emails, and misplaced apostrophes in words like "doesnt'" and "cant'." (Oh, be still for a moment, you Pet Peevers, you...) This case had no physical evidence, and the accused was condemned to three life terms in prison based on the forensic linguistic evidence.

I encourage you to read the entire well-researched and well-written article. It's given me more than one idea for Book Three in Tace Baker's Speaking of Mystery series. In Speaking of Murder, Lauren Rousseau uses spoken accents, both domestic and foreign, to identify and eliminate suspects. But she's fully capable of doing text analysis or of determining, as Leonard did, that the suspect used contractions only in negative statement ("I can't") but not in positive ones ("I am"), evidence that resulted in conviction. 

Have you read mysteries solved by a linguist or investigator with linguistic prowess? Or heard of crimes with language-related evidence?

Friday, July 6, 2012

Thoughts of Murder and Mayhem

I'm immersed in a whirlwind of selling a house and renting an apartment while we find the right next house to buy. The gale force slams me with decisions about what to shed, what minimal possessions to bring, and what to store. The relocation storm also forces me to make sure precious items are packed with care. How do I cushion the stone Buddha in the garden so  he isn't chipped by moving from here to there and then to where I want him to land? Will my mother's lovely china really survive the move?

Of course, being a crime writer, the possibilities for murderous mayhem alert me at every turn. What if someone rented one of those temporary storage containers, as we have, and the first item she carried in was a body in a cedar chest? She might then fill the pod with the rest of their boxes of books, her fine china, her garden statuary, her momentarily excess bookshelves, the extra couch. 

The pod gets carted off to the warehouse, which is temperature and humidity controlled. No one notices. 

You get the picture. But how, you might ask, did the victim meet his or her demise?

I recently ordered Dr. D.P. Lyle's amazing resource, Murder and Mayhem: A Doctor Answers Medical and Forensic Questions for Mystery Writers

Ooh. Ooh! Dr. Lyle regularly blogs answering these kinds of questions and I don't always make time to read his posts. (He also writes the Dub Walker thrillers and the Samantha Cody series.) But having Murder and Mayhem on my desk makes it hard to concentrate on anything else. A brief sample from the table of contents:

  • Does alcohol intake prevent death from freezing?
  • What structures must be injured to make a stab wound in the back lethal?
  • Can a bee sting kit be altered to result in the death of the user?
You see what I mean. I'd like to take a couple of vacation days just to read this book cover to cover. In lieu of that, what's your favorite nefarious and unusual way to kill off a (fictional) victim? Have you perused Dr. Lyle's books?

Monday, June 25, 2012

Eliminating Unnecessary Words

The topic of eliminating unnecessary words has been covered before. Many times in many places by many, many astute writers. 

Still, when I get to the down-and-dirty revision stage of a book, I'm surprised all over again at how many overused words I, well, overuse.

I'm working my way though A Tine to Live, a Tine to Die. I searched first for words Donald Maass enjoined us to replace: "felt, gasp, fear, terror." I looked at each character, mostly farmer Cam Flaherty, and made sure that was what she was feeling, and then made sure I showed it in the cleanest, clearest way possible rather than describing the feeling in words. I eliminated a LOT of "felt"s. I didn't find many "terror" instances, and I think all the "gasp"s are gone now.

Then I looked for "stare" in its various noun and verb permutations. Oh, my. Lots of people were staring, sometimes many times within a scene. Revised that one, just getting rid of the verb in quite a few cases. People can just "look" or can fix their eyes on something. Or you can assume if two folks are standing face to face they are mostly likely making eye contact.

Did you know you can eliminate dozens of occurrences of "that?" Yes, you can. The esteemed and insightful Ramona deFelice Long discussed this recently.

Tonight's exercise involves "just." I, and other speakers of English, legitimately use it as a minimizer: "It was probably just an object left long ago." As an intensifier: "The three of them had just made the noon deadline." As a time indicator: "She had just locked the back door." And so on. 

I've found that I use "just" instead of searching for alternatives, for more precise or more colorful ways of saying what I or my characters say or do.

In the minimizer case, how about rewording or removing it? ""It was probably [only] an object left long ago." 
In the intensifier case, how about rewording? "The three of them had barely made the noon deadline."
Same with the time indicator: "She had locked the back door not a minute earlier."

See? Those three examples occurred on one page of my manuscript. I have some hours of revision left on just that word alone. 

I have more to search for, but these are a good start. 

What's your favorite overused word when you revise? What are the kinds of unnecessary words you notice when you're reading? And if you feel like challenging me on this, I might just have to stare you down (after I gasp in terror...).

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Busy, Busy, Busy

I am so busy right now I am not making posting here a priority. I apologize, dear readers.

The bright side is that you're going to have a much better book to read next spring, when A Tine to Live, a Tine to Die comes out. I have a bookstore pub date of May 28, in fact! It will be out in hardcover and eformats at the same time. I'm working hard to polish up the prose, tie up the loose ends, ramp up the tension, ante up the stakes. It's due September 1 to the publisher.

Soon I'll get the edits back for Speaking of Murder, too, and will have a few weeks to incorporate those. You'll be able to buy that book in trade paperback on September 15 (remember, it's under the name Tace Baker) and in eformats a month later. I've hired on a publicist and we're busy scheduling readings, thinking about getting the word out, brainstorming ideas to make these books a success.

On top of all that, I have a full-time demanding job, and oh, did I mention we've sold our lovely antique house in Ipswich and have to move by August 1? Whee! Which also includes finding the next place, whether it's our landing destination in Amesbury or a temporary apartment while we find the perfect downsizer with a sunny yard on a quiet street. 

Life is good, life is full. In the meantime, I do post every couple of weeks over at the Sisters in Crime New England blog, Pen, Ink, and Crimes. I also post regularly on Facebook at and

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Four-Author Retreat Report

Barb Ross put up such a great report about our writing retreat that I'm just going to link to her post over at Maine Crime Writers. Stop by and leave a comment for her!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Gathering to Write

Three fellow authors and I are converging on Old Orchard Beach tomorrow to do some writing. We all share the same agent and three of us share the same publisher. We all have looming deadlines. It's safe to say that none of us is quite finished.

Jessie Crockett volunteered her family's beach house for a weekend of authorial immersion. Liz Mugavero is heading away from Connecticut at lunchtime. I'm working until three PM, a full day for me, and puttering north from Burlington.  Barb Ross drives up from Somerville.

We plan to sit heads down at our laptops or notebooks at four different stations and write independently in the company of others. But we'll also gather for meals - cooked by Jessie at her suggestion - and for mutual critiques and fun, with wine a highly possible companion.

We envisioned walks on the beach, too. The weather is forecast for cool and rainy, so maybe staying inside and tapping out scenes will be just the ticket, instead.

Thanks, Jessie! See you tomorrow.

Have you had small-group writing retreats? What worked best? A few hours, a few days, or a few weeks?