Tuesday, June 24, 2014
The Unsettling of a Mystery Writer @EdithMaxwell
JRW: A big farmgirl welcome today to our good friend, Edith Maxwell! She's had such interesting past lives--you'll love reading about how she's woven these experiences into her mysteries...
EDITH MAXWELL: I’m delighted to be back on my favorite blog as a guest. Since I left my day job as a technical writer a year ago, I’ve been spending much more time with my characters and my stories. This is a good thing! I’m writing constantly and living my dream. There is a down side, however. Life just isn’t the same anymore.
When I was an organic farmer twenty years ago and turned the compost pile, it didn’t occur to me to worry about whether a body part might surface in it. But now, what if I uncovered a foot in there among the decomposing leaves, coffee grounds, and broccoli being broken down by soil micro organisms and worms? I wonder what I’d do. Run screaming, most likely. But maybe I’d snag a second careful look and take notes. Or throw up.
Back on the farm I spent long hours in every imaginable kind of weather. I knelt to press a thousand cloves of garlic into long beds of compost. I hoed out weed after weed and then hilled up the clear soil onto the potato stalks. I harvested quarts of blueberries into a bucket slung around my neck, snapped off pounds of asparagus, cut perfect heads of lettuce well into the fall. I never imagined a killer lurking in the woods just beyond my fields.
Now, though – without a moment’s hesitation I can conjure up all kinds of mayhem on the farm, even in my small home garden. And it’s quite unsettling. I met some pigs recently at the organic farm where my son works. They’re funny and make goofy noises, and made me laugh as they poked their snouts into the dirt to get grubs or dug into some kitchen scraps. I happen to know, however, that if they were hungry, from either temporary or long-term malnourishment, I would not want to be helpless in their pen with skin exposed. You wouldn’t either.
And then you have your basic haystack. The old fashioned ones built on a platform in the salt marsh, like still exist in Newbury, Massachusetts. Or the new ones, with the hay rolled tight into a six-foot wide cylinder and then wrapped in white or pink plastic. They look like a good place to hide a body. And what about the classic New England barn, with all manner of old horse stalls and hay lofts? Just think what you could hide up there, or find, when you least expected it.
Even local chickens, those sweet, tiny-brained, personality-laden birds that give us rich delicious breakfasts and tasty winter stews – that tiny brain can do some serious pecking. Chickens have been known to peck at their owner’s eyes. What if a victim was unconscious and trapped with an attack rooster? Or the hens had been fed a plant that made the eggs poisonous, or their meat? You get my drift.
I’ll keep writing about murder and mayhem down on the farm, but I’m a lot more wary when I’m strolling around one of the many local farms in my area.
And you, dear Reds and Reds-fans? Do you see murderous possibilities where others don’t? What kind of mayhem do you imagine lurks at your local farm, farm stand, or farmers’ market? Or have you heard of actual locally sourced murder on a farm? (Edith will be giving away a copy of 'Til Dirt Do Us Part to one commenter today...)
The produce is local--and so is the crime--when long-simmering tensions lead to murder following a festive dinner on Cam Flaherty's organic farm. It'll take a sleuth who knows the lay of the land to catch this killer. But no one ever said Cam wasn't willing to get her hands dirty...
Edith Maxwell writes the Local Foods Mystery series (Kensington Publishing), the Speaking of Mystery series under the pseudonym Tace Baker, featuring Quaker linguistics professor Lauren Rousseau (Barking Rain Press), and the historical Carriagetown Mysteries, as well as award-winning short crime fiction.
A mother, world traveler, and former technical writer, Edith lives north of Boston in an antique house with her beau and three cats. She blogs every weekday with the Wicked Cozy Authors. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter @edithmaxwell