Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Edith Maxwell



JAN BROGAN -  It's my pleasure to welcome here today a friend, as well as a regular Jungle Red commenter, Edith Maxwell. Her first murder mystery, Speaking of Murder, which features Quaker linguistics professor Lauren Rousseau as sleuth, was first runner up in the Linda Howard Award for Excellence contest, and it is hitting the book shelves this week. It is published under her pen name Tace Baker by Barking Rain Press.

Why the pen name? Because when it rains success, it pours. Edith also has another book, first in her  Local Foods Mystery series, A Tine to Live, a Tine to Die, featuring organic farmer Cam Flaherty, coming out in June, published under her real name by Kensington Publishing.

Her short stories have appeared in Thin Ice and Riptide by Level Best Books, the Burning Bridges anthology, the Larcom Review, and the North Shore Weekly, with one forthcoming in the Fish Nets anthology. She is active in the Sisters in Crime Guppies group and on the board of SINC New England.

Best of all, Edith is willing to give away a free copy of Speaking of Murder to one lucky mystery fan who will be chosen at random from the comments page. So please give Edith a big round of welcoming applause.



EDITH MAXWELL/TACE BAKER: It’s such a thrill to be here in this illustrious company, and on the other side of the Comments page that I haunt every morning. Thanks for having me to visit, Jungle Reds, my esteemed mentors and pals.

Crime novels always have something bad that happens, often to someone good. Sometimes something good comes out of it, sometimes not. Four years ago something bad happened to me. One early morning I drove from my home in Ipswich, Massachusets to my job as a technical writer for a software company, as I had for the past fourteen years. By 8 AM word had already spread through the cubicles that it was a Layoff Day. Ouch. Nobody got any work done, as my colleagues and I clustered in the halls, waiting to hear who would be axed this time. When I heard the phone on my desk ring, I knew I was the next victim of a Reduction in Force (in the software industry, people speak of being RIF’d).



I drove home, stunned. I polished my resume, searched for a new job, applied for unemployment, signed up for Cobra. The economy was collapsing around us and I had no idea how long I would be out of work. But once my mood stabilized a little, I knew writing fiction would make me feel better. So I wrote a short story of murderous revenge called “Reduction in Force.” It was published in Thin Ice by Level Best Books in 2009. And then I told myself, You can’t look for a job all day long. Might as well write that book. And why not write what I knew?

I’m a native Californian who started my adult life living in Brazil as an exchange student for a year when I was 17. I earned a BA in linguistics and then taught English in Japan for two years.  I went on to earn a PhD in linguistics in southern Indiana, taught a few classes, spent a few years in high-tech in the Boston area, and spent a few more raising babies and organic vegetables north of the city. I attended a Friends meeting on Sundays and started to write crime fiction. I lived with my now ex-husband and (still-current) sons in West Africa for two separate years. When I reentered the paid work force, it was to write documentation for Avid Technology, the company that eventually RIF’d me, a company that produces a video-editing application augmented for forensics by small police departments and used to win Oscars by big film studios.

So when I started writing the book, I dreamed up a linguistics professor. Made her a Quaker, a world traveler, and a runner (did I mention I ran the Boston Marathon in 1998?). Gave her a boyfriend who is the local police department’s video forensics expert. Placed her in a fictional town very much like Ipswich, and made up a larger town nearby where I located the college where she teaches, a Friends Meeting, and a hospital. Even incorporated a fictional owner of the very real decrepit boat shop that actually burned down in Ipswich while I was writing the book. And then I followed the professor and the other characters around and wrote down what happened to them. Which turned out to be a lot.

I’m not my protagonist Lauren Rousseau, by any means. She’s younger and taller, slimmer and fitter, and is a tenured college professor, a job I never managed to snag. And she still has knees that can run, unlike me. But the research part of the book? I’d already lived much of it.

Which fictional character’s experiences would you like to have in real life? Writers, which parts of your real life did you use in your fiction? And what bad thing were you able to turn into something good?

JAN BROGAN _ Don't forget a free copy of Speaking of Murder will be sent to one lucky commenter.  Look for Edith M. Maxwell on Facebook and @edithmaxwell on Twitter. She blogs weekly at www.edithmaxwell.com. Tace Baker can be found at www.tacebaker.com, @tacebaker, and www.facebook.com/TaceBake

74 comments:

Jack Getze said...

Congratulations on the two book, left-right combo, E. Way to come out swinging, and Good Luck!!

I'd love to reside at 221B Baker St. and have people hire me to solve crimes, call me Sherlock. I even have a real calabash pipe.

Joan Emerson said...

Good morning, Edith. I enjoyed reading a bit about your background but I have to say that getting RIF’d/downsized is one of the scariest/most frightening/devastating feelings . . . and there’s simply no way I could ever consider counting that as “lucky,” even if it did give you the opportunity to write. But life is filled with serendipities, isn’t it, so here we are, enjoying the ultimate result of all that in “Speaking of Murder” [which, by the way, I downloaded and read [and thoroughly enjoyed] last evening]. I loved that Jackie kept cooking for Lauren . . . what a great sister! I wish you the best of luck with your book and with the one coming our way in June. Congratulations!

Edith Maxwell said...

Thanks, Jack! I almost bought a house on Baker Street this summer, oddly enough.

And Joan - getting RIF'd was certainly scary and devastating. But I'm so glad it kicked me into novel mode. And I'm thrilled that you liked the book! Thanks so much.

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

YAy, Edith! And welcome! Yup, one of my life philosophies is that something bad almost always turns into something good...I got the idea for THE OTHER WOMAN in the dentist's office while I was waiting for a root canal!

Edith Maxwell said...

Thanks, Hank! (SO glad I have good teeth, though...)

Lucy Burdette said...

Congrats Edith! What a year it's been for you...we're all very proud to have you in the JRW clan and wish you many book sales

Edith Maxwell said...

Thanks, Lucy! It's so fun to be an honorary Red.

Sharon Ervin said...

What a wonderful, colorful background from which to craft characters and places. I speak to groups occasionally. When a retiree says s/he is too old to begin a once-dreamed-of writing career, I say they just now have the life-experiences needed to write really good fiction or non, their choice. You are a prime example. Good interview. Great life.

Hallie Ephron said...

Ooooh, and I wanted to be the first to comment as Edith usually is for us... We, too, are happy to see you as a guest author on Jungle Red, and we're all thrilled about your new book -- I have a copy of it right here, waiting to be read.

Looking forward to the TINES, too. As someone who can barely manage to get a manuscript drafted in a year, I have to ask how on earth are you keeping up with your deadlines?

What's obvious, though, that with all the fascinating experiences in your past, you'll have no shortage of ideas for what to write about in what we know will be a long and prosperous run as a published (YAY!) author!

Seriously, Edith, we're so happy to have you here.

Edith Maxwell said...

Thank you so much, Sharon. Indeed, experience provides lots of material!

Edith Maxwell said...

Aw, thank you, Hallie. I hope you enjoy the read. You were personally responsible for improving part of it along the way (Seascape). ;^)

With a full-time day job, meetingt deadlines is tricky, but so far I've done it. If I didn't love writing so much, it would never happen. I just have to grab time from my weekends, from plane trips (I wrote the first few pages of 'Til Dirt Do Us Part on the way home from Writers Police Academy on Sunday!), and then take myself for a solo writing retreat a few times a year.

Karen in Ohio said...

Brava, Edith, for turning lemons galore into lemonade. I wish you the best success with your current books, and the next ones to come.

As a reader, it is getting really hard to keep up with all you prolific writers! Looking forward to reading this one, and thank you!

Edith Maxwell said...

Thanks, Karen in Ohio. I have trouble keeping up with all the books I want to read, too!

Terri Herman-Ponce said...

Congratulations again, Edith! This is SO exciting! I've faced downsizing and layoffs myself, and it's never been fun. But the thing is, once you pick yourself up and decide to start looking ahead again, it's amazing how life hands you a brand spanking new outlook that, often, brings better things. When one door opens, right?

So happy your door turned out to be writing. I wish you the best of luck!

Anne K. Albert said...

What a fascinating life you've had, Edith! I share your believe that something good can come from whatever started began as bad. It's that turning lemons into lemonade that separates the writers from authors!

Super post!

Edith Maxwell said...

Right, Terri! What a wonderful door it has been.

And thanks, Anne. Best lemonade I've ever tasted...

Larissa Reinhart said...

Edith,
I loved learning your story! What a great way to turn a closed door into an open window.
Larissa

Edith Maxwell said...

Love that metaphor, Larissa. An open window, indeed! Thanks.

RP Dahlke (AllMystery e-newsletter) said...

Thanks for sharing the background on your life's adventures, Edith. When the rest of us have to dig through magazines and newspapers for ideas, you've got your time at the peace corp and South America as inspiration. How cool is that?

I'm pleased to announce that Edith, as Tace Baker, will be one of the Top Ten Weekly picks at All Mystery e-newsletter Oct 27th.

Wishing Edith and all the fabulous writers at Jungle Reds Best Sellers!

Edith Maxwell said...

Thanks, RP. I actually wasn't in the Peace Corps, although several close friends from grad school were. Not sure why I didn't join - it didn't seem to be on my or my friends' radar when I graduated from college in 1974.

But it was my exchange student year in Brazil at age 17 (barely) that really changed me life and drew me to traveling and living overseas.

Jungle Red Writers said...


Edith,
Tell us how you came up with the pseudonym Tace Baker. I love the name Tace.

~jan

Tammy said...

Congratulations, Edith! I have a soft spot for linguistics (my undergraduate major), so I'll for sure check out your book. I look forward to the stories you'll cook up with all of your fascinating life experience!

Edith Maxwell said...

Jan, there is so much that goes in to selecting a pen name. These days one of the most important is that it be unique for Googling, and have the URL and twitter handle available.

So I looked for archaic Quaker names and found Tace. I liked it. Certainly unique! It's easy to say and spell, as is Baker (which I drew out of a hat because I like to bake and because it's near the top of the alphabet).

Then I learned that Tace Sowle was the first Quaker printer/publisher in London in the early 1700s. Quakers have always believed in equality of the sexes. She was a businesswoman in her own right.

http://www.quaker.org/quip/tsowle.htm

Cool, no?

Edith Maxwell said...

Thanks, Tammy. Hope you enjoy the story!

Marianne in Maine said...

Yay, Edith! I've had SPEAKING OF MURDER on my list since its release. I'm anxious to get to it. If Ken Follett's latest wasn't so long I'd have already started yours.

What a fantastic life you've had! Great experiences for future books. I look forward to reading them.

As far as a character whose experiences I'd like to share, I must say - almost all! Gemma James because she gets to share life with Duncan. Lady Georgie, of course. And Diana Bishop in Deb Harkness' All Souls Trilogy. Life with that vampire is never boring.

Here's to your continued success!

Edith Maxwell said...

How sweet, Marianne. Thanks so much.

Kaye Barley said...

Edith, Congratulations!! This is an exciting time for you - enjoy every minute. You've earned it fair and square. Looking forward to reading both books.

Darlene Ryan said...

Edith, congratulations on both books. I'd love to hear why and how you ended up as an exchange student in Brazil.

Edith Maxwell said...

Darlene, I applied to American Field Service (AFS) in high school. They asked if I had a preference for northern or southern hemisphere and I said I didn't. Right after Christmas they said I was leaving in three weeks for Brazil! Entirely their decision.

I was 17 and two months old. I scurried around, got a passport, got permission from my high school to graduate a semester early (I had already fulfilled all requirements), made and bought some new clothes, amassed a presents for my host family (mostly Native American jewelry and dolls), said tearful goodbyes to all my friends and family (one older sister was already doing her AFS year in Germany!), and hopped a plane from Los Angeles to meet 39 other AFSers in New York City, my first time on the East Coast, my first experience with snow.

We had a day or two of orientation there then two weeks in Rio for intensive Portuguese before we dispersed to our host families. I had studied Spanish, French, and German, but spoke no Portuguese, so I really learned it like a child does from immersion. By the end of the year I could hardly speak English! Great stuff.

jenny milchman said...

Good for you for starting over this way! And so glad you made it to "the other side," both of Jungle Red, and of RIF-dom.

BTW, you look almost the same in both photos :)

Edith Maxwell said...

Thanks, Jenny! Those are just different versions of the same photo shoot. ;^)

Jake said...

My always expanding list of authors has expanded with this blog posting. Added to my TBR list. Not a writer just an avid reader who would be honored to win your book.

marja said...

Ah, yes, I can relate to your RIF experience. It happened to me two and a half years ago. Unfortunately, I live in a small town with very few jobs. Oh well...

Your latest book sounds like something I'd enjoy, and I'm looking forward to it. Great post!
Marja McGraw

PlumGaga said...

I'm always surprised by the routes that lead people to high tech industry jobs. It's a perilous field at this time.

Edith Maxwell said...

Thanks, Jake!

Marja, sorry about your RIF experience. Hope you've found something satisfying to take the place of the old job.

Linda Rodriguez said...

Congratulations on all the publishing success you're having, Edith! Can't wait to read both books.

I, too, believe that the negative which befalls us turns into positive if we allow it. After many years running a university women's center, I got so sick I had to leave my job. So I decided to write the novels I'd always wanted to write and never had time for. What seemed like the worst thing turned into the best thing.

My protagonist, Skeet Bannion, is younger, taller, stronger, and healthier than I am--and much more frightened of commitment. I gave her my own grandmother who died when I was 13, allowing Gran to live into Skeet's adulthood and play a part in her life. I've truly enjoyed bringing Gran back to life that way and imagining what life would have been like if she'd been able to stay around.

And I guarantee that Gran would have had some choice words to use about Captcha this morning!

Edith Maxwell said...

Yours is also a wonderful story, Linda! And how lovely that you can keep your Gran alive in your books.

Susan M. Boyer said...

Congratulations, Edith! Our journies have some similar curves in the road. :) The company I'd woked for for 11 years went out of business, which enabled me to chase this dream.

I'm looking forward to the read! Wishing you many book sales! :)

Deb said...

Hi Edith, and welcome to the other side:-) I always so enjoy your comments here on JRW, so what a treat to look forward to your books--and to learn more about you. What an interesting life! And congratulations on not one book contract, but two! In these days, that's a super accomplishment.

Marianne in Maine, Duncan thanks you:-) (Gemma says he does have his annoying moments, however...)

And I just wanted to add, what fun post yesterday. I had to leave for a speaking event so didn't get to comment more than once. "Bollocks", by the way, is very much in use as a curse word in the UK--my characters use it all the time--and is not actually all that polite:-)

Leslie Budewitz said...

Congratulations, Edith and Tace! Love your line about how great the lemonade tastes!

Isn't it fun to live other lives through our characters? Sort of like Linda keeping Gran going, I named characters for my mother and late father--even though they're quite different--so I can keep them close as I work.

Lexie's Mom said...

Hurray, Edith! I can't wait to read this book, and I've enjoyed watching things unfold on FB and your blog. I, too, have been through the high-tech RIF process, and yes--the bad led to good (turns out I was pregnant, and decided to work from home for a few years and stay with my munchkin). And high-tech provides great fodder for murder mysteries! I can't decide which character, though. There are too many interesting ones. Congrats, congrats to you!

Edith Maxwell said...

Thanks, Leslie!

And Lexie's Mom, so true! In my Local Foods Mystery series, the farmer is a laid-off software engineer who brings a geek perspective to the farm. Very fun.

Ruth McCarty said...

So happy for your success, Edith!I loved "Speaking of Murder" and can't wait to read your new series.

Edith Maxwell said...

Awesome, Ruth! Thanks so much.

Joan in Warwick said...

Congratulations! I enjoy your comments here in response to other bloggers, and look forward to reading the books.

Michelle F. said...

I studied French and German too in high school. I dabble in languages. I have some Spanish books and courses with tapes and C.D.'s but really haven't started them yet.

I really haven't traveled much. I don't fly and I've only been as far as Toronto and Williamsburg, Virginia. I live in Ohio so Toronto is closest.

Edith Maxwell said...

Thanks so much, Joan!

Lynn Cahoon said...

Woo hoo Edith. Talk about turning lemons. I'm so glad you turned to writing.

Edith Maxwell said...

Thank you, Lynn. I have always written, but had a break of about thirty years between bouts of fiction!

Nancy said...

A linguistics professor? Organic farming? Near and dear to my heart. I can't wait to read both books! Congratulations!

Edith Maxwell said...

Cool, Nancy! I appreciate the interest.

Lisa Alber said...

Edith!

Nice to see you on the other side! I always read your comments.

So you were a technical writer, eh? I've met many authors who previously were. Not surprising, I guess. Speaking of layoffs...Back in the late 90s I was laid off from a dot-com, in which I worked as a, yes, technical writer, and went on the dole. That's when I decided to try out the fiction-writing lifestyle and realized that I could handle it, that I loved it, that I must continue!

(Too bad that eventually had to return to the workforce!)

Edith Maxwell said...

Hey, Lisa, thanks. Actually I still AM a technical writer, alas. Hoping to ditch the day job in a couple of years but for now, it's Step One, consequence, Step Two, screenshot, consequence, and so on!

I have also run into quite a few tech writers who also write mystery. Hmmm.

Annette said...

Edith, you are in wonderful company. And congratulations on your new book. I know you will be very pleased with the success coming your way.

GG Byron said...

Edith -- Great to read how Speaking of Murder came about. I've heard so much about your book on the SinC and Guppy posts.

My protagonist, Penny Summers, in Katelyn's Killer is a bit like me except that she's of the female persuasion and although I served in the Navy on an aircraft carrier and visited Barcelona as a result, I didn't attend the Naval Academy - but St. John's College, across the street from the Academy. And, like me, Penny was a Public Affairs Officer and now a gardener.

BTW, look no further...send me the book. Puleeze?

Sincerely, John Gordon at PennySummersMysteries.com

marysuttonauthor said...

Add me to the list of "technical-writers-turned-fiction-writers." But I wasn't RIF'd - I was flat-out fired.

Congrats, Edith.

Lisa, in Alabama said...

Congrats on having both books coming out. I know it keeps you busy, but I hope you enjoy the whole experience.

Thanks, too, for bringing me to this blog for the first time. Enjoyed the camaraderie.

Lisa Cox

Jungle Red Writers said...

Hi Tace/Edith,

Red Julia is neck-deep in a manuscript but wanted to be sure you knew how much she enjoyed reading SPEAKING OF MURDER, and how much she appreciates your support both of Reds (like from the git-go...) and the New England mystery community.

What a wonderful inspiration you are!
Mwah!

Marilyn Levinson said...

Edith,
Congratulations. May you have many sales. I love reading about the lives of my fellow writer friends. How nice that you lived in various parts of the world.

Lucy Burdette said...

By the way, your titles are great Edith for the series--I especially love TIL DIRT DO US PART:). Just when you think they couldn't possibly come up with one more pun!

Grapeshot/Odette said...

Edith,

I learned so much about you that I didn't know. Congratulations on your book! (Did know about that). Back in the day, I was in high tech, too, and remember the days of layoffs. Bad times! But good things came out of it for you, and that's a positive. Hoping like crazy I win the free copy. Much luck with this novel and those to come.

Judy Copek

Liz Mugavero said...

Congrats, Edith/Tace! So proud of you. You really exemplify the whole idea of a door closing so another can open.

Edith Maxwell said...

Whoa. Go away for a couple of hours and get seriously behind on comments. Thanks everyone!

Annette - thanks! I know I am in Very Good Company.

John Gordon - We're going to select the recipient randomly, but I'll tell you that Speaking of Murder is half off from Barking Rain Press until the end of September. Just saying...

Ouch, Mary Sutton. And thanks!

Lisa in Alabama - you should definitely come back here every day. Awesome host-writers, awesome topics, awesome guests. (Oh, should I blush? I'm just honored to be among them.)

Edith Maxwell said...

essRed Julia wrote me the most wonderful cover blurb - glad you're deep in a manuscript because I want to read it! Many thanks.

Lucy - the Guppies totally helped with those titles, and that reminds me that I have to go back into the files and remember who made up which one. I personally have NO talent for titles...

Marilyn Levinson - Living abroad enriched my life beyond description (although I have tried) and also made me appreciate home in a way I hadn't before.

Judy Copek (I think that's who's hiding behind Grapeshot/Odette) - thank you! I know you were a geek even in the early days of geekdom. A prize to be worn with honor.

Liz - my deadline-mate! Much gratitude.

Gloria Alden said...

What an awesome background you have, Edith. I'm terribly impressed. I can't wait to read SPEAKING OF MURDER. Will you be at Bouchercon with it? Hope so.

Deb Romano said...

Busy day for me; FINALLY I get a chance to sit down and post something! I was looking forward to you being a guest here today, Edith,and I look forward to reading both series of books. My Inquiring Mind wants to know how you made the transition from linguistics to being a tech writer? Was it another lemonade situation?

I think it might be interesting to be Miss Marple; she seemed be the first to know everything that was going on in her village, whereas I am just about the LAST to find out what's going on in my city..and I WORK for the city! It would be nice not to be in the dark all the time. And of course it would be lovely to be Gemma, because then I would be married to Duncan, one of my favorite detectives, and a very popular man around here at JRW!

Edith Maxwell said...

Gloria, thank you! I won't be at Bouchercon this year, alas, but next year for sure (and I'll be able to drive there!).

Deb Romano - yes, actually, that was another transition (or several). The first part involved letting go of the idea of a tenure-track academic position and accepting a job in hi-tech. Then it was letting go of the hi-tech job to stay home with my two little boys, because the job didn't allow flex time or part-time work, and my babies were more important to me (and my now ex-husband had just secured tenure for himself and agreed to support us all for a few years). That segued [boy, that's hard to spell] into growing organic vegetables while I was home with kids. And when I realized my marriage was not sturdy, I got myself into a tech writing certificate course so I could be financially self sufficient again, and have done that ever since! A long and wiggly path from one occupation to another, but rich all the way.

AnnOxford said...

It's so much fun to catch you today on the other side of the fence, as such. And it's the best way to let you know I am about to enjoy (and then feel sad '0) the last 19 pages of Speaking of Murder. Academic mystery setting are my passion and yours is definitely shortlissted on my favorites. "Thank you, and more please."

Edith Maxwell said...

Sorry I missed you last night, Ann. And thank you! I am so pleased by your comment.

Judy Alter said...

Edith, I second several comments--what a fascinating background you bring to your writing. And I love the name Tace--I'd been wondering where you got it. And cheers to you for perseverance and not giving up in the face of several kinds of adversity. I like the idea of bringing your own life to your fiction. The single biggest aspect of my life I brought to my mysteries was my experience as a single parent--and many people say that they see me in Kelly O'Connell.
Cheers to you and keep it up. You're on a roll.

Lee Shin said...

spot on with this write-up, i like the way you discuss the things. i'm impressed, i must say. i'll probably be back again to read more. thanks for sharing this with us.

Lee Shin
www.trendone.net

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