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Tuesday, March 27, 2018

When a Writer's Brain Turns to Mush

My writer brain is mush.

I'm supposed to be living the best of the writer's life. I dedicate 24/7/365 to my dream life of being an author. I love creating with the written word. I love communicating through words. I love the community which surrounds authors and books.

I haven't written a creative word in weeks and the prognosis does not look promising.

My dad died just before Christmas. Sure, grief's natural process dries up creative juices, but creative writing has always been a refuge for me. I could place my real life worries on the back burner while the front burner heated up stories and complicated the lives of my characters. The total immersion inside a reality of my creation has always been therapeutic.

It's not the grief that's draining me, although I'd be lying if I didn't admit to its pain. It's grappling with a world which has shifted on its axis that has me consumed.

My mom, at 90, is determined to live in her home as long as she can. The perils of her independence become more apparent with each dented fender, burned dinner, or forgotten conversation. The solid vessel of family now makes a tinny sound when struck revealing unseen fractures made years ago. Transferring the legal life of my dad to my mom and others according to his last wishes has been met with competing narratives and misunderstandings. 

And folks tell me this is "the easy death." One spouse dies and everything goes to the surviving spouse. 

I used to see the world in its simplified way. I didn't scratch the surface. I didn't think I needed to.

My dad's passing opened up portal to the future and I can see its dystopian shape skitter across my bedroom ceiling as I lay awake.

I will use the gift of words I am told I have. I will talk, and question, and answer. I will clarify and empathize and remain discretely silent. I will try to untie the knots of misunderstanding and hopefully keep the fabric of my family knit together. I will pray and I will cry. 

All of this takes the energy I need to devote to my craft. My fourth novel is halfway done. The other half will just have to wait.

But, I'm taking notes. I know my writer brain will come roaring back to life and I'll be ready.

Friday, March 23, 2018


Ah! A new book and a giveaway! Whoo Hoo! 

 I'm lucky to know Edith Maxwell as an author and as a friend. I've watched her writing career blossom and am amazed she can be involved in multiple community and writing/author groups and have time to polish up her eighteenth novel! Her historical Quaker Midwife series is terrific. Her settings zing with authenticity and her characters are imbued with the conflicts of their time plus modern sensibilities. 
If you don't know her books, you should! Here's the inside scoop on her upcoming release. Don't forget to comment or ask Edith a question to enter the giveaway!  -cjh

Why I Wrote Turning the Tide

I’m delighted to be back on Out of the Fog. Thanks for inviting me, Connie! I thought I’d share how I came to write Turning the Tide, my third Quaker Midwife Mystery, which comes out April 8. And I’d be delighted to send a signed copy of the new book to one commenter here today.
The series begins in 1888 and came about from a simple news story I read in our local paper in 2013. It described the Great Fire of 1888 in the mill town of Amesbury, Massachusetts, where I live. The fire, on the night before Good Friday, burned down many of the carriage factories – and Amesbury was world famous for producing graceful well-built carriages. The town and neighboring Salisbury had been tussling about who was going to annex whom, so the municipal fire-fighting equipment hadn’t been updated. The fire raged, spreading to the telegraph and post offices, so they couldn’t send for help to other larger towns. Only an overnight rain helped reduce some of the damage.
I was walking to Quaker Meeting one Sunday morning after reading that article and a short story about a Quaker mill girl who solves the mystery of the Carriage Fire arson popped into my head. Poet and abolitionist John Greenleaf Whittier had a bit part in the story, too. I now have a five-book contract for a series featuring Whittier, that mill girl, and her aunt Rose Carroll, our midwife-sleuth.
Each of my books in this series has a social issue as a theme. In book time, Turning the Tide was getting around to fall of 1888, so I thought woman's suffrage during the presidential election was a perfect fit. Quaker women were in the forefront of the suffrage movement, from Lucretia Mott to Susan B. Anthony to Alice Paul. I brought Elizabeth Cady Stanton to town to rally the ladies, and then (fictionally) murdered the leader of the Amesbury Woman Suffrage Association. Despite the murder of one of their own, the women turn out in force across the street from the polls on Election Day, carrying placards and wearing sunflower-yellow sashes. I loved delving into the questions of the era, which is still almost thirty years before women won the vote nationally.
Rose Carroll, midwife, is a strong amateur sleuth. She hears secrets the police detective never would be privy to from the lips of laboring women in birthing chambers, places a police officer would never be allowed. Rose rides her bicycle about town, and delivers killers as well as babies. Her mother, an ardent suffragist, comes to town in this book to support the protest, too.
Readers: What historical fiction do you like? Have you had experiences with midwives in your own life?

Turning the Tide:

Excitement runs high during Presidential election week in 1888. The Woman Suffrage Association plans a demonstration and Elizabeth Cady Stanton comes to town to rally the troops. Quaker midwife Rose Carroll resolves to join the protest along with her suffragist mother. When she finds the body of the association’s leader the next morning, she’s drawn into delivering more than babies.
The victim, who had spurned a fellow suffragist’s affections, planned to leave her controlling husband. Her recent promotion cost a male colleague his job. A down-on-his luck handyman was seen near the murder scene. Rose’s own life is threatened more than once as she sorts out killer from innocent.


Agatha- and Macavity-nominated author Edith Maxwell writes the Quaker Midwife Mysteries, the Local Foods Mysteries, and award-winning short crime fiction. Called to Justice, Maxwell’s second Quaker Midwife mystery, is nominated for an Agatha Award for Best Historical Novel. Turning the Tide releases April 8.

As Maddie Day she writes the popular Country Store Mysteries and the new Cozy Capers Book Group Mysteries. Biscuits and Slashed Browns came out January 30. 

Maxwell is president of Sisters in Crime New England and lives north of Boston with her beau, two elderly cats, and an impressive array of garden statuary. She blogs at,, and Under the Cover of Midnight ( Read about all her personalities and her work at

Thursday, March 15, 2018

GUEST POST: Book Titles to Remember, and Some to Forget

You've met Ursula Wong on my blog before as she weighed in on why people like reading about strong women and why women fight.  Read on, and a special treat is that she has a new book out in her Amber War Series that blends the unique strength of a woman into a soldier who fights for the love of her country. I know you'll find her take on book titles interesting!

Book Titles to Remember, and Some to Forget
By Ursula Wong

Ideally, book titles should be compelling, unique, and trigger an emotion. Above all else, a title should leave an impression about the book. It took a long time to name my Amber War Series about the Soviet occupation of Eastern Europe. I still wonder if I got it right, because once, when I was at an event promoting the first book in the series, Amber Wolf, a few people called me Ms. Wolf instead of Ms. Wong, confusing the book title with my name. Did I get it wrong?  Let’s take a look a few well-known titles and see how they measure up.

Some titles tell us exactly what the book is about. We know right away that the main character in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll will visit a strange and magical place, the agent in The Spy Who Came in From the Cold by John le Carre, will have a hard time leaving a communist bloc country, and the events in A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens will be as outstanding as the cities themselves. To me, these are fabulous titles.

The late Sue Grafton named her Kinsey Millhone series after letters in the alphabet, but I give her credit in coming up with creative solutions with a mystery theme especially in U is for Undertow, Y is for Yesterday, and X all by itself.

Some titles convey a theme, but this can leave readers wondering what the book is about. Twilight by Stephenie Meyer could be about aliens living in the dark, but we know it speaks to the vampire world between life and death. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah brings thoughts of spring and nature, but this is a WWII story about two women in German occupied France. If the themes are compelling and interesting, the names work. Otherwise, they can be near misses.

Some titles trigger a feeling. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote sends chills up my spine while giving a hint that the subject is about murder, making this title a winner on several levels. The title Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier gives no information that the story takes place during the Civil War, but it works because it conveys the feeling of isolation and the possibility of overcoming obstacles, two important themes in the novel.

Other titles just don’t work well. With all due respect to the authors, The Storyteller’s Tale by Omair Ahman, and The Accordionist’s Son by Bernardo Atxaga tell us nothing about the stories and convey little impression. This is unfortunate because both novels speak to very interesting times in history.

We shouldn’t judge people by their clothes or books by their titles, but we do. My hope is that readers forgive us when we choose poorly (and read our books anyway), and that we writers think hard about our choices, doing our level best to get it right.

Back Cover:

World War II is over, but the fighting in Eastern Europe continues as Lithuanian resistance fighters wreak havoc on the Soviet occupiers. Their guerilla tactics incite Russian leaders to amass their power against the tiny resistance. But sheer force is not enough as the freedom fighters join Polish partisans, and a Soviet spy infiltrates the camp of the Amber Wolf.

Ursula Wong writes about strong women struggling against impossible odds to achieve their dreams. Her new novel, Amber War, continues the spell-binding story of Lithuanian farmers fighting the Soviet occupation of WWII. For more about Ursula, visit

Friday, March 2, 2018

NEW BOOK!: ALL THE DEADLY LIES by Marian Lanouette

Oh, gosh! There is only one thing I love more than launching my own books and that's helping a friend launch hers! Marian and I met through Sisters in Crime and I've watched her career blossom with her signing with Kensington and more. Wow! Marian is as smart and sultry in person as her characters. And Jake Carrington! Hold on, kids! You are going to LOVE him (and you will fall in love with Marian, too!). -cjh

Good morning Connie, and thanks for the invitation to talk about my character Jake Carrington’s journey to publication.  First I’d like to give you a little background on Jake and his cohorts.

A rising baseball player in high school, Jake received full scholarships to play. But a sudden dark event in his teens, the murder of his younger sister Eva, had him turning away from playing ball and training for a career as a cop, like his father before him.

The Jake Carrington Thriller series is a combination of Jake’s cases and his personal life and how they interact, or most times don’t.  His team is filled with interesting characters who I also highlight in the series.

The character of Jake came to me as I was in the middle of writing another book. His voice and antics kept shouting in my head until I paid him attention and wrote his story. Halfway through the first book, All the Deadly Lies, I realized Jake and his crew was a series. One book wouldn’t do him justice or dig deep enough into his psyche to find out what made him tick.

Within a year I had two books, and a third one outlined. I have a special affection for Jake and his crew. In this period of time, I was recovering from open-heart quadruple by-pass surgery, and Jake made the recovery easy as he kept my mind occupied. When I finished the second book, All the Hidden Sins, I pitched it to a small press out of Canada. At the time I hadn’t realized it was in its infancy.  The company and I had a lot to learn. Jake’s success disappointed me and I took the rights back to self-pubbed the series where I experienced success with it.

While attending a charity ball a few years later, I was introduced to my current editor, Michaela Hamilton from Kensington Publishing Corp.  It was my lucky day. A year went by before I submitted Jake’s series to Michaela, and was thrilled when she offered me a four book deal.

When asked, I tell writers to keep the faith, and believe in yourself and your work. You never know where the next opportunity will come from and be prepared to embrace it.

Write on.

The week of February 27th, All the Deadly Lies will be released to great reviews. Click here to read the Review of All the Deadly Lies, a review from

Bio: Marian Lanouette

A self-described tough blonde from Brooklyn, Marian Lanouette grew up as one of ten children. As far back as she could remember Marian loved to read. She was especially intrigued by the Daily News crime reports. Tragically, someone she knew was murdered. The killer never found.

Her Jake Carrington thriller are inspired by her admiration for police work, her experience in working a crematorium, and her desire to write books where good prevails, even in the darkest times. Marian lives in New England with her husband.

Where to buy All the Deadly Lies

Publisher Kensington/Lyrical:

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