Lumbering in Maine

Simply Dead is set against the mountains and the lumbering industry in Maine.

In the spring, logging camps were set up in the woods and the massive trees were cut down with nothing more than human sweat and axes. Lumber was important for building, yes, but this was also the era of sailing ships and tall masts were a requirement.

The loggers would ‘drive’ the logs down one of the many rivers to Falmouth. The men would ‘roll’ the logs down the rivers by standing on them. I describe this more fully in my book. The lumber drive would end in Falmouth with a celebration. (I’ll bet. Talk about dangerous work!)

Paul Bunyan and his blue ox are part of the American myth and he is based on the real lumber men. In Bangor there is a statue of Paul Bunyan.

Paul Bunyan statue in Bangor, Maine.JPG

Demonstrations of log rolling are a feature of some of the Maine shows.


The Shaker Murders and Giveaway

I have arranged a giveaway on The Shaker Murders.

The Shaker Murders

I am hoping to prepare readers for my newest book, Simply Dead, which will come out August 1. The giveaway will begin June 7.

Simply Dead High-Res Cover

In the depths of winter, with a blizzard coming on, the constable Simon Rouge asks Rees for his help in finding his niece Hortense. Her cart had been found abandoned on the road and now she had been missing for almost two weeks.

The search for Hortense, and the unraveling of the secrets behind her abduction, lead Rees into the mountains of Maine.

Other murders, including the deaths of two Shaker Sisters, occur before Rees finally unmasks the killer.



While we were in Costa Rica we stopped at a chocolate plantation. I’m sure everyone know the story; how a chocolate drink was served to the Spanish conquistadores and from there went on to become one of the most popular foods in the world.

cocoa pods

Cocoa pods on a tree.

The seeds inside are coated in a sweet jelly like substance. That has to be taken off.

cocoa bean

Once the jelly like substance is removed, the beans are fermented. After fermentation, the beans are dried.


Then the beans are cleaned and roasted. The shell is removed. The tool used to do that at this plantation was a large mortar with a pestle to crush the shell.


The inner seeds, the cacao nibs, are then ground to cocoa mass, unadulterated chocolate in rough form.


These nibs are heated and reduced to a liquid. Adding sugar, cinnamon, nuts and more -yum.

The higher the amount of the chocolate (you will see 70% for bittersweet for example) the stronger the chocolate flavor.

Malice 2019

I attended Malice this past weekend and what a great conference – from Victoria Thompson to Parnell Hall to the panels.

I have to give a shout out to my great panel mates. This was truly one of the best I have been on.



From left to right: Maureen Jennings, Verena Rose, Mariah Fredericks, S.C.  Perkins, me, Jess Montgomery.

All very insightful and articulate ladies.

I also really enjoyed my conversation with Maureen Jennings at the signings.

maureen jennings


While on our vacation to Costa Rica, we went to a coffee plantation. As anyone who has read my books knows, Rees is a big coffee drinker. Then coffee was even more of a luxury good.

Coffee us reputed to have been discovered by a shepherd who noticed his sheep and goats were more energetic once they ate these beans. From Africa, coffee went to the Arabs who discovered roasting and made a drink from them. They went to Italy and France, to the rest of Europe, and then to Central America in the 1700s. In Costa Rica coffee is known as the gold grain because it became such a huge part of their economy.


Two seedlings are planted per hole to maximize yield.


Pretty white flowers bloom on the bushes before the berries form.

Picking coffee has to be done by hand since a coffee bush will have both green and red berries on it. A basket is attached to the picker’s waist and they walk around picking.


The the coffee has to be dried and roasted before blending into the drink most of us have every morning.

Finkelstein Memorial Library

On Sunday, March 31, I spoke about the Shakers, The Shaker Murders, and other topics at the Library. This is the library I was Director of for 14 years. A large library, it serves a diverse population. Working here was life-changing for me in so many ways. And, even though I left over ten years ago, they continue to be supportive.

The Shaker Murders

Eating clay or pica boo!

One of the cultural activities brought over from Africa was eating clay. A puzzle to medical practitioners, it was labeled pica and has always carried a stigma. Pica is eating non-nutritive materials like earth or, in some cases, laundry starch.

Well, despite the stigma, it turns out that eating clay has been around a long time, since Greek and Roman times. Holy clay tablets were widely distributed and traded throughout the Mediterranean and Western Europe as cures for poison and the plague. According to one source (EnviroMedica), the tablets were blessed by the Roman Catholic Church as late as 1848. Studies have shown that clay eating is highest where calcium and iron intake are low.

Although not confined to pregnant women, a high percentage of pregnant women ate – and eat – clay. The current thinking is now that since the nutritional demands during pregnancy are so high – and pregnant women in the past couldn’t take the pregnancy vitamins, they ate mineral rich clay to support the baby. The clay also helps with nausea and vomiting and, as clay goes through the digestive tract, absorbs toxins. One of the preferred clays is kaolin, a white clay that is used as a base in Kaopectate. So anyone who has taken Kaopectate has ingested clay for stomach upset.

Eating clay has been used by cultures world-wide, In Bolivia and Peru, wild potatoes (which are toxic and bitter) are cooked in clay dishes. The clay leaches away the glychoalkaloids found in the wild potatoes and makes them edible.

The United States has deposits of kaolin. One of the largest is in Georgia. No less than a personage as Josiah Wedgewood ordered from the mine for his fine china.

A final note: kaolin is available from Amazon.

Who knew?


Murderous March

Spent a wonderful weekend participating in the Mavens of Mayhem Mystery convention. I am currently president here (for my second time.) The Mavens are a chapter of Sisters in Crime and this was their second annual mystery convention.



Setting up.



Vickie Delaney


In order: Raffle table, Bob Knightley, Carol Pouliot, Edwin Hill and Kate Laity, the panel speaking and me, moderating the panel.

Wonderful, fun and exhausting.



The Banjo

There is an interesting article in the latest issue of the Smithsonian. I found it interesting anyway since it detailed the history of the banjo. We take this instrument totally for granted but it is actually very interesting.

Originally an African instrument, it came to this country with the slaves, It underwent a number of changes (the addition of an extra string for example). Banjo, the name, is relatively new, evolving from a variety of names: Banjar, banshee and more. One of the popularizers of the banjo in modern times? Pete Seeger.

The funny thing is that I was already researching musical instruments from that time. I am already working on my ninth Will Rees. Stay tuned for more information.

Granny Cradles

In The Shaker Murders I used a granny cradle to comfort one of my ill characters. I saw one of these large cradles at a display of Shaker materials at the New York State Museum.

These cradles look like baby cradles although they are much larger. No one is quite sure what these items were used for but it is assumed they were used for people who were ill or at the end of life and in need of comfort.

I chose to use the cradle this way.