Peaks Island Press

News on Peaks Island Authors

“Darkness First”: James Hayman takes us into the long nights with a good read

Author James Hayman

Author James Hayman

All across the island, residents are chopping and splitting wood or carrying it inside to stoke their stove again the November chill. And with crime fiction author James Hayman living among us, the chills are bound to keep coming. The last time I wrote about fellow island author, Jim, he had banded together with many others to raise funds to help Longfellow Books recover from storm damage of the blizzard, Nemo. Since that time, Hayman has been busy penning (or should I say keyboarding?), the third in his series of McCabe/Savage thrillers, “Darkness First.”

Islanders conduct a lot of business on our shared ferry ride, and that’s where I caught up with Jim to ask him about “Darkness First.” I was curious to know more about why Harper Collins has released it first as an e-book, rather than the traditional release as an expensive hardcover. The first “imprint” sells for the introductory price of only $2.99. Jim explained, “When Penguin U.K. offered an e-promotion on my second book, The Chill of Night, they sold some 10,000 downloads in a day. That helped me realize that e-books have more than 50% of the genre fiction market and that I should consider going that route.”

True confessions here. I don’t read e-books. You can call me a luddite, but it wouldn’t be true. I’m an aggressive and avid technology consumer, but that inclination has not invaded my nightly escape to bed where I like to hold a book and turn pages when I read voraciously. I’m sorry. I just haven’t gone there yet. I’m sure it will happen.

Newest thriller Darkness First

Newest thriller Darkness First

For those of you who do read novels digitally, you can download Darkness First to your Kindle, Nook, or iPad from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or any other e-book source. You can even read the first chapter for free at Amazon or at Jim’s website. The reviewers are saying that this is his best one yet. For insight into Jim’s process of writing a thriller series, don’t miss Bob Keyes’ interview with Hayman, splashed across the front page of today’s Portland Press Herald Audience section.

Homemaking, Snowbabies, and the Search for the North Pole: Josephine Diebitsch Peary and the Making of National History

North by Degree

North by Degree

After crossing Casco Bay by ferry, packages are delivered to islanders by the taxi driver. This week, I found a package on my doorstep and hurried it inside, just as a rainstorm hit the island. I was thrilled to find that it  contained a copy of the newly-published book “North by Degree: New Perspectives on Arctic Exploration” (Lightning Rod Press, American Philosophical Society) that includes my article “Homemaking, Snowbabies, and the Search for the North Pole: Josephine Diebitsch Peary and the Making of National History.”

Josephine Diebitsch Peary

Josephine Diebitsch Peary

Since 2007, Peaks Island Press has offered its readers a glimpse of the daily lives, inspirations, and publications of the many authors who call Peaks Island home. Once in a great while, I turn the spotlight on myself and share something about my own writing process or publications. “Homemaking, Snowbabies, and the Search for the North Pole” started with a conference presentation that I gave at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia in 2008 where an amazing assemblage of speakers gathered to bring new perspective to the history of Arctic exploration. The timing was very meaningful as 2008 was the centennial of Robert E. Peary’s 1908-09 North Pole Expedition and it was also the fourth International Polar Year. I was honored to be invited to share my research: an account of Robert Peary’s quest for the North Pole through the eyes of his wife, Josephine. Here’s an excerpt from the article to give you a sense for the story:

Patricia Erikson in Greenland, researching Josephine Peary

Patricia Erikson in Greenland, researching Josephine Peary

“The notoriously deadly and tragic outcomes of many prior Arctic expeditions had made the idea of taking a woman, more specifically a white woman, to the Arctic seem ridiculous to the American public in the 1890s. In 1891, three years after their marriage, Josephine embarked on her first of several Arctic expeditions with Robert Peary. She did this despite public criticism that the expedition was too dangerous for her and in spite of the male expedition members who resented her presence and what they called her “scandalously short” traveling costume. (Erikson, p. 266).

I don’t believe my research travels ever involved a scandalously short traveling costume, but I did a fair amount of retracing Josephine’s footsteps before I wrote about her. That journey included interviewing Peary family members, visiting the Peary cottage at Eagle Island, diving into the archives at the Maine Women Writers Collection (UNE), at Bowdoin College, and at Dartmouth College, and traveling to Qaanaaq, Greenland to gather oral history from Inuit peoples whose ancestors played crucial roles in the Peary expeditions. I’ll share more about these adventures for those of you who love research, non-fiction, and travel.

In the meantime, if you’d like to read some of my writing about the Peary family, you can check out the following that are available online:

The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two: Cat Valente

An illustration from The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland

An illustration from The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland

Peaks Island author Catherynne Valente has just published “The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two,” her third in a five-part YA fantasy series that has placed her on the New York Times bestseller list.

A reviewer for Booklist said, “As usual, Valente enlightens readers with pearly gleams of wisdom about honesty, identity, free will, and growing up. September often worries who she should be and what path she should follow, but the lovely truth, tenderly told, is that it’s all up to her. Thanks to a dramatic cliff-hanger ending, there is sure to be more empowerment and whimsy to come. Grades 5-8. –Sarah Hunter” and Times Magazine called it, ““One of the most extraordinary works of fantasy, for adults or children, published so far this century.”—Time magazine, on the Fairyland series.”

Recently, Valente spoke at Portland’s beloved Longfellow Books in Portland and this spurred some television coverage. I thought you might like to watch the television interview with Cat here or below

Interview of Cat Valente

Interview of Cat Valente

or watch a trailer about the series

Come for Stone Boat’s last summer cruise through poetry

Peaks Island ferry

Peaks Island ferry

It’s September 1st and islanders are starting to find each other again as the throngs of tourists begin to thin. Recovering the ability to greet folks on the ferry whose name you actually know feels rather like sighting a rare bird that has shown up in your yard unannounced.”Oh, my goodness, I actually know you! Where have you been?” And then we share how gardening, hosting guests, traveling, and picking berries have kept us out of sight for months. Not only do we rediscover each other on the ferry, but also over words.

From epic book sales and discussions to author talks to literary walks, Peaks Islanders enjoy an active literary community out here on The Rock. The creative buzz wouldn’t be complete, of course, without poetry! As you may have heard, the Stone Boat poetry events invite writers to bring their own poem — or that of a favorite author — to read aloud.
This month, Stone Boat gathers at Lawrence and Jani’s “pump house” at the top of Elizabeth Street. (Any good Mainer calls a place by what it used to be long before they were born). See you there!
September 4th, 6 PM
Contact:  Jesse Mantsch

“Stone Boat” poetry event sails into late summer on Peaks Island with Betsy Sholl

Betsy Sholl offers her view on the importance of the arts to Maine

Betsy Sholl offers her view on the importance of the arts to Maine. Photo by Erikson, Peaks Island Press

Guest post by event organizer Jesse Mantsch (

Valued poetry aficionados & devotees:
Stone Boat Poetry Reading on Peaks Island.
August 7, 2013 at 6 PM

Eighth Maine Regiment Memorial and Lodge
proudly featuring former Maine Poet Laureate Betsy Sholl
& your poems! (open reading)

Betsy Sholl has published seven collections of poetry, including Rough Cradle (Alice James Books, 2009). Don’t Explain won the 1997 Felix Pollak Prize from the University of Wisconsin, and her book The Red Line won the 1991 AWP Prize for Poetry. Her chapbooks include Pick A Card, winner of the Maine Chapbook Competition in 1991, and Betsy Sholl: Greatest Hits, 1974-2004, Pudding House Publications. She was a founding member of Alice James Books and published three collections with them: Changing Faces, Appalachian Winter and Rooms Overhead. Among her awards are a fellowship from the National Endowment of the Arts, and two Maine Writer’s Fellowships. Her work has been included in several anthologies, including Letters to America, Contemporary American Poetry on Race, and a range of magazines, including Field, Triquarterly, Brilliant Corners, The Kenyon Review, The Massachusetts Review, Beloit Poetry Journal. She has been a visiting poet at the University of Pittsburgh and Bucknell University. She lives in Portland, Maine, and teaches at the University of Southern Maine and in the MFA Program of Vermont College.

Come show our honored guest some island hospitality at one of Peaks Island’s historic sites, the Eighth Maine Regiment Memorial and Lodge

Annie O’Brien’s “A Path of Stars” at “I’m Your Neighbor” event

Guest post by Annie O’Brien (

A Path of Stars – A Celebration of Cambodians in Maine

Anne Sibley O'Brien's "A Path of Stars"

Anne Sibley O’Brien’s “A Path of Stars”

Thursday, August 8 - 10:30 a.m.-12:00 noon – Portland Public Library

I’ll be sharing my most recent book, A Path of Stars (ages 7 and up), and engaging young readers in activities to learn about Cambodia including drawing the lotus, writing in Khmer, and sharing Cambodian food. Hopefully, the event will also include a performance by some members of the Portland Cambodian Dance Troupe.

Thanks to a generous donation from Joe and Debbie Bornstein, every child who attends will receive a free copy of A Path of Stars.

And I’m told that the Bornsteins plan to help promote the event with the Time & Temperature Building sign; that week, instead of “CALL — JOE,” it will say “PATH — STAR”!

Here’s more info on “I’m Your Neighbor, Portland”:

In the midst of a national conversation about immigration and assimilation, Portland  is debating, not policy, but which book to read first. “I’m Your Neighbor, Portland” is a year-long, city-wide read and series of public events at the Portland Public Library designed to promote a sense of community among the city’s diverse communities.  The city-wide read features nine books whose immigrant and refugee subjects made Maine their home in the last several decades and in doing so transformed Portland into a vibrantly multiracial and multicultural city.

Read more about the books and events at

Scott Nash takes Blue Jay the Pirate to South China, Maine

Blue Jay the Pirate

Blue Jay the Pirate, Scott Nash

Scott Nash is preparing for the next book event with his usual genius. Nash’s rendition of a Blue Willow transferware plate – with his protagonist of The High Skies Adventures of Blue Jay the Pirate at the center – took my breath away. The daughter of an antiques fanatic, I grew up surrounded by things like Blue Willow plates, pewter tankards, and spinning wheels. The detailed setting and character of these plates, inspired by 18th century Chinese ceramics, is a perfect choice for getting us to think about ships, pirates, and South China, Maine, of course!

The South China Public Library, the oldest continuously operating library in Maine, is hosting this author-illustrator whose interactive talks are always a big hit. Here are the details:

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

10:30-11:30 AM

South China Public Library, South China, Maine

According to the National Park Service, "The Blue Willow pattern was introduced in England by the Spode factory in the late 1790s. During the 18th century Europe was fascinated by all things Chinese and especially their beautifully hand-painted china with scenes of Chinese landscapes. The Blue Willow pattern is not an exact copy of a Chinese pattern but rather based on several traditional Chinese designs."

According to the National Park Service, “The Blue Willow pattern was introduced in England by the Spode factory in the late 1790s. During the 18th century Europe was fascinated by all things Chinese and especially their beautifully hand-painted china with scenes of Chinese landscapes. The Blue Willow pattern is not an exact copy of a Chinese pattern but rather based on several traditional Chinese designs.”


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