Tuesday, March 26, 2013

A Thoughtful Review

In my traditional mystery, Speaking of Murder (published under pseudonym Tace Baker), linguistics Professor Lauren Rousseau occasionally falls back for comfort and guidance from her Quaker faith as she searches for her student's murder amid small-town intrigues and other threats.

Callie Marsh, a Friend I do not know personally, has reviewed the book for the West Branch Friends Meeting of Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) newsletter. She gave me permission to share her very thoughtful review from the point of view of a mystery lover AND a Quaker. I copy the review here unaltered. Thanks, Callie!

Review of Speaking of Murder by Tace Baker

Tace Baker is a pseudonym for Edith Maxwell, a Quaker writer from New England Yearly Meeting of Friends. She chose her pen name before she knew that one of the first Quaker printer/publishers was also named Tace. She was Tace Sowle, (1666–1749), who inherited her father’s print shop and made a good busi-ness of it, an unusual feat for a woman of her time. Speaking of Murder, published in September 2012, is Maxwell’s first full-length mystery, and I am looking forward to more. She writes well. The pace is good, the characters, likable and real. Her protagonist is Lauren Rousseau, a college professor of linguistics at a small New England college in Ashford, Massachusetts. The story moves, however, from the life of academia and its own intense political ins and outs out into the wider community, including the sea front of a coastal town and the daily comings and goings of a variety of townspeople. Maxwell introduces her reader to the rich and lively world of an old New England small town without sentimentality or romanticism. She creates her novel with integrity and care.

I was delighted to see how well Maxwell navigates across social and economic differences. Her portrayal of the community is sensitive, without suffering from self-conscious anxiety about racism or classism. This is no small task. It is encouraging to see Maxwell’s writing reflect how Friends and the broader European-American views and cultural mores about race and sex can shift with work and time. The novel reflects this transition and invites us to grow with it.

Maxwell writes comfortably about her Quaker professor. Lauren is a Friend many of us might know and enjoy. Her Quaker understanding of the world is woven into who she is and how she lives without being preachy or overly theological. I felt very comfortable with her. It is fun to read a novel when one feels a bond of common beliefs and customs with the protagonist. Yet the book will read well for a general audience too, perhaps raising some mild curiosity in the non-Quaker reader.

I was fully engrossed in the story itself. The book is hopefully the first of a series, setting the stage for future books. Not unnaturally in a first book, I came away wanting Maxwell to deepen her characters, give me more understanding of why and how they are who they are. As Maxwell continues to write about these people, first she and then we, her readers, will come to know her characters more fully, developing a lasting friendship with them. I look forward to that.

Maxwell also writes the Local Foods Mysteries, in which organic farmer Cam Flaherty has to deal not only with eager locavores but also murder on the farm. A Tine to Live, A Tine to Die will be published later this spring. Maxwell promises she will get back to Lauren Rousseau and the town of Ashford, Massachusetts. You can buy Speaking of Murder at quakerbooks.org, the Friends General Conference website, or on amazon.com. It is available in electronic or hard copy. You can find Edith at her website, edithmaxwell.com. Enjoy. . .

Reviewed by Callie Marsh

Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Value of the Brown and Green

Growing up in Southern California, I was a Brownie and then a Girl Scout from second grade all the way through senior year in high school, in the Santa Anita council.

It was an important part of my life. My older sisters were in scouting, too, and my mother was a leader for many of those years. She was Leader of the Year for our council in 1968 and also worked at a couple of summer camps.

Here's me my first summer at Girl Scout camp. 

My family's summer vacation was always camping for two weeks among the giant Sequoias in Sequoia National Park, so I was accustomed to being able to live simply outdoors.  But our troop did so much more than camp.

Of course, with the era I grew up in, scouting sometimes reinforced traditional roles for girls. I remember learning as a Brownie how to make a hospital corner with a bed sheet, a skill I found fascinating (and hadn't learned at home), and we sewed our own skating skirts when we took roller skating as a group. 

But we also learned about Juliette Gordon Low. We were taught to tie knots, brush and ride a horse at summer camp, sing in harmony, live with dirty knees and hiking boots, and, of course, how to become excellent little sales people when cookie and calendar time came around every year. I even studied judo with my older sister's troop. Despite being decidedly non-militaristic as an adult, I must confess that I loved wearing a uniform and marching (wearing white gloves) in step in parades. 

Being competent and self-reliant was part of the Scouting package and that identity has carried through my life to this day. We also learned to work well with others, to support other females on our team, and we were led by kind, strong women. I never experienced any of the cliquish in fighting that went on among girls in my larger world.

When I was a Senior Scout, our troop volunteered with a disabled girl who needed directed limb exercises. We put on a community pancake breakfast to raise money for some charity. We wore our camp uniforms to meetings: white blouse, green bermuda shorts, and knee socks in a time when girls couldn't even wear pants to school. Over the blouse we had light-blue cotton jackets on which we sewed patches collected from every trip we took.

The picture above shows a happy-but-tearful me being sent off by my troop to my exchange year in Brazil halfway through my senior year in high school. One of the best parts of my year of living with a Brazilian family, attending high school, and learning Portuguese by immersion? You guessed it: being welcomed into an equipe de Guias Bandeirantes, a Girl Scout troop.

In my Local Foods mysteries, a central character is Ellie Kosloski, a plucky 14-year old Girl Scout just entering high school. In the first book, she's working on her Locavore badge -- one of the newest badges  -- and she's volunteering on Cam Flaherty's farm. She ends up being trapped in a near-fatal situation with Cam toward the end and the two work together to forge their escape. We see her mature as the series continues but she continues being a Scout.

I'll admit that when I read about the new Locavore badge, I just had to add Ellie to my series. But it was a natural addition for me who, like many of my author peers, grew up on Nancy Drew and Cherry Ames, strong girls who solved intriguing puzzles. When I informally surveyed a number of crime fiction writers in Sisters in Crime, forty-one reported having been a Girl Scout with only two saying they hadn't. Some who had didn't stay in long, but many said it really formed their self-perception as a person who could do whatever she wanted.

What about you? What childhood experiences shaped your best adult traits? Was scouting part of it?

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Finding Reviewers

I'm looking for readers. 

It's a little over two months until A Tine to Live, a Tine to Die releases and I have a couple dozen advance review copies of it to give away (Preston stays here, though!). What I want is reviewers with a wide reach. 

I've contacted several respected reviewers who I met through Facebook and they agreed to read the book. The Natural Farmer, the newsletter of the Northeast Organic Farming Association agreed to review it for their June edition, which goes out to 10,000 subscribers. I even asked Johnny's Selected Seeds to read one and they said they could mention it on their social media.

Another thing I did was start a Goodreads giveaway.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Tine to Live, A Tine to Die by Edith Maxwell

Tine to Live, A Tine to Die

by Edith Maxwell

Giveaway ends April 04, 2013.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win
I don't hang out on Goodreads much but probably should!  

My publisher is handling the big review sites, like Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, and major newspapers, as well as publications like Edible Boston. I'm not sure how that works but am leaving it up to the publicist there. 

If you have a venue where you could circulate a review to a lot of readers, please contact me and we can talk about arranging an ARC for you. I want to get the word out!