Maggie Pill

The Most Entertaining Cozy Author You Never Heard Of!

Monday, August 13, 2018

The Evolution of Book #7

Image result for cartoons of woman thinking
There was some concern after PERIL, PLOTS, and PUPPIES came out that the Sleuth Sisters series was finished, and to be honest, I wasn't sure myself. I've said many times that I don't want to write the next book just because. I need a story that I want to tell, because it's very hard work to write a book (at least one people will want to read).

Sister anecdotes can go on forever, of course. There's always fodder for more humor in the way we interact with each other.

Cute animal items are also easy to come up with. The fact that the real-life Styx almost broke my leg last week while trying to tell me he was glad to see me demonstrates that.

Setting can become a problem in a series; call it the Cabot Cove Syndrome. How many murders can a small town expect? I felt that if there was a Book 7, it should take place somewhere else. Series writers will admit that after a few books it's also difficult to get all the secondary characters in if the characters remain in their small town. Readers have their favorites and want to know what's up with (for example) Gabe, Mindy, Rory, Lars, Dale, Cramer, Bill & family, etc. Not to mention all the pets!

And for me, character isn't enough in a mystery. I have to have an intriguing puzzle for the sisters to work on. Sometimes I don't know how it will work out at first, but gradually the plot forms. Writing it down is another matter, and there's the rub. It's NEVER as easy as it seems in my head to get all the pieces in the right place at the right time. The next mystery has begun to spin its web, thanks to a suggestion from my sister (who else?).

The other question I've been asked after PP&P is about Barb's Grammar Nazi role. My husband came up with an idea for that, and I think it will resonate with all those who silently cheered for her as she corrected grammatical mistakes in public places.
All in all, I think Book 7 is a go. Image result for cartoons of getting an idea
Now all I need is the time to write it.

Monday, July 30, 2018


Now available as an audio book here:
or on Audible if you do things that way:

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

The Listening Days

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Judy Blue, who reads Retta

I received the files for PERIL, PLOTS, and PUPPIES from Audible on Friday. Since I had an event on Saturday, I couldn't start listening until Sunday morning. I plan to do about 2 hours/day until it's done, so I'm currently on Chapter 30. I thought I'd tell you how it goes.

Once a book is released in e-book and/or print, the author or publisher can contract for audio. Generally you can pay up front or share revenue, and costs for narrators run a large gamut. You submit the book for auditions and choose from those you receive. You make an offer, and if you're lucky, the narrator accepts.

The studio in Chicago that does the Sleuth Sisters books hires three actors to read the three parts: Barb, Faye, and Retta. They've been the same for the first five books, but on this one they replaced Faye. I listened to the audition and agreed they'd found a good voice for her. Once that was done they went ahead and read, each woman reading her chapters as she finds time to come in to the studio. When they're done, the tech has to put the chapters in order and make sure the book flows smoothly together. When the studio says it's ready, they submit to Audible, who lets me know it's time for me to okay the book.
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Anne Jacques, who reads Barb

My job at this point is to check everything. I have to listen attentively for mistakes in line-reading, pronunciation, or what I'd call "emotion," the actor's interpretation of the situation and character. Usually it's little things I find, but in one instance (with a different book/narrator) I found that the narrator had inadvertently skipped a that would have been weird!

It's important to get it right the first time with audio books, because they're harder to fix than e-books or even printed work. I try to carve out a chunk of time where I won't be interrupted, and I have to concentrate. That means 9 hours in my office with no other activity that might distract me. The result is that my office gets really clean and neat on those days, because cleaning isn't mentally distracting. I guess that's a good thing...

Once I'm done, hopefully tomorrow, I okay the audio book to Audible. It takes them a week or two to check the files for technical problems and release the book, first to Audible and soon afterward to Amazon.

Liz Cloud, the new Faye


Monday, June 25, 2018

Peril, Plots, and Puppies...Everywhere

The 6th Sleuth Sisters Mystery, PERIL, PLOTS, and PUPPIES, just went live as an e-book on Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and all other major e-book distributors.

Still waiting on news from the studio in Chicago about the audio version. I know it's in production, I just don't know what phase.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Audio for PPP

Peril, Plots, and Puppies, the 6th Sleuth Sisters Mystery, is currently in production as an audio book at Cerny American in Chicago. It's always interesting to be part of the process, and though I'm far away, I have some responsibilities.
Of course I can choose the people who read my books. Since I've been happy with all the earlier audiobooks, I'm happy to stick with the Cernys. I did learn that the actress who reads Faye is no longer available, so I had to okay a new narrator for that segment. Her audition was good, and I think the books will continue to move well from pages to audio files.
I also try to give the narrators a list of words that Michiganders know well but others might not, place names like Mackinac, items common here but not in Chicago like pasties, and in the case of this book, German dog commands. Now I know they can look that up, but why should they have to when I have a friend who taught German for decades? She kindly provided me with phonetics for the German words, and I sent them on. Since they all occur in Faye's chapters, I figured the "new girl" would appreciate a little help.
I've read authors who send lengthy requests for the readers to do this or that to show emotion or reveal undercurrents, but I tend to rely on the experiences of the narrators. After all, they're trained actors and I'm not.
Finally, when the "sisters" get done with their readings, the studio engineer will send me the audio files, chapter by chapter. I usually spend a day just listening (between 8 and 10 hours). If I hear something that isn't right, I note the chapter, write down the time shown on the counter, and note the problem, usually a mispronunciation or a repeated line, when they edit a segment and forget to take out the original. The author's role is important here, because otherwise they'd have to pay a tech to sit and listen for 9 hours. It would be expensive, and of course no one want the book to be Right more than the author does!
So that's what's happening as I write. I'll soon get the files to okay, and once I've done that, Audible checks them for technical correctness, which takes a week or so.
When exactly will the book be audio ready? That depends on the narrators' schedules, the engineer's timeline, and Audible's efficiency. But it's in the works, and that's always exciting!

Sunday, April 22, 2018

My Review/Blog Post on Kings River Life Magazine

Perils, Plots, and Puppies By Maggie Pill: Review/Giveaway/Guest Post

FROM THE 2018 Articles,
andCynthia Chow,
andMysteryrat's Maze,
by Cynthia Chow
& Maggie Pill
This week we have a review of Maggie Pill’s latest book Perils, Plots, and Puppies, along with a fun pet related guest post by Maggie. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of Perils, Plots, and Puppies. There is also a link to purchase it from Amazon, and from an indie bookstore where a portion of the sale goes to help support KRL
Perils, Plots, and Puppies: A Sleuth Sisters Mystery by Maggie Pill
Review by Cynthia Chow
Few know that retired Assistant DA Barbara Ann Evans has been staging “Correction Events” in the town of Allport, Michigan. Unable to bear the sight of grammatical errors public and private building signs, Barbara dresses up like a cat burglar to “tag” storefronts with corrected spellings. When she is spotted at the scene of a murder by a not-entirely-sober witness, Barb is unable to go to the police to either clear herself or provide her own testimony. Making the situation even more awkward is when she and her two sisters of their Smart Detective Agency are hired by the victim’s fiancĂ© to find the “Grammar Nazi” whom most believe had a part in the murder. Barb is as offended by the title as the thought of being considered a killer, but investigating that angle at least keeps her out of the way of her boyfriend, Police Chief Rory Neuencamp.
Peril Plots and Puppies book coverYounger sister Retta Stilson emphatically insists that their client, former beauty queen Frances Habedank, is using them to fool the police and cover her own guilt. Retta may be a bit biased on that front though, as having passed fifty she is facing the harsh reality of no longer being able to rely on her looks. The way Barb sees it, Frances is just the amped-up, much younger version of Retta. Another client’s request to find a lost dog leads the Sleuth Sisters to a horrific puppy mill, where even soft-hearted middle sister Faye Burner has her faith in mankind tested.
The author of cozy mysteries under the name Peg Herring, Pill continues to develop these stellar characters into admirable, vulnerable, and always relatable mature women. Many will sympathize with Retta’s shock and anger at being considered OLD, underestimated, and overlooked. It’s a joy to see how much the only-flighty Retta has evolved since her first appearance nine books ago, especially in the eyes of her two sisters. Chapters narrated by each sister provide further insight into each of their personalities, which include their unique humor and love for one another.
Thankfully for the weak of heart, scenes of the puppy mill quickly shift towards to the extraordinary efforts of a no-kill shelter and generous volunteers. Depictions of the forgiving spirits of the abused canines will have readers visiting their nearest shelter as soon as possible, if only to help care, if not to adopt, a new furry baby. The challenge of aging in a youth-obsessed society and need for animal protection rights are perfectly weaved into this well-plotted mystery investigation. Readers will find themselves relating to at least one, if not all of the three detecting sisters. The siblings may argue and be frustrated by long past offenses, but in the end their love and loyalty conquers all. This continues to be such a fun, witty, and warm-hearted mystery series.
Cynthia Chow is the branch manager of Kaneohe Public Library on the island of Oahu. She balances a librarian lifestyle of cardigans and hair buns with a passion for motorcycle riding and regrettable tattoos (sorry, Mom).
The Last Pet
by Maggie Pill aka Peg Herring
I grew up on a small farm in northern Michigan, so when I write the Sleuth Sisters Mysteries, memories seep in. I really did help pick stones from our fields in spring. In summer, I drove the tractor while my dad and grand-dad loaded hay bales onto the wagon. I gathered eggs from chickens who weren’t thrilled about giving them up. And I used a Mason jar to dip our breakfast beverage from a metal can while the milk was still warm from the cows that provided it.
Not Really Pets
We didn’t think of animals as pets back then. We always had a house cat and more in the barn. Though we enjoyed their company, their purpose was keeping the mice away. Our Collie had a job too, helping us fetch the cattle in from the fields. (I was the second “dog”; Lad went around one side of the herd, I went the other way, Grandpa brought up the rear, and together we drove the cows where we wanted them.)
author with pets as a child
Maggie as a child with her pets
The first animals we had purely as pets were two ornery ponies we loved like family. Later, we moved on to retired draft horses from Mackinac Island (where there are no cars). I learned that like dogs, cats, and even cows, each horse has a personality. Dolly was the size of a tractor, but she made it almost all the way into the kitchen one day before my mother shooed her out. My usual mount, Danny, was good on the out-bound part of a trail ride. He’d calmly follow the other horses to wherever we were going and wait patiently while we swam or picked berries. When we turned toward home, however, he knew he’d soon be set free, so he took off at a dead run every time. No amount of pulling on the reins or hollering made him stop until he reached the barnyard fence.
What’s a Home without A Critter or Six?
As an adult I’ve looked after many pets, from a snowy-white rabbit to a one-eared cat who loved to go hunting with my husband. My two favorite dogs were a black Lab named Pete, who could sneak up on birds and catch them in his mouth, and a little bit of bone and hair named Gertrude, seven pounds soaking wet, who believed she could win any fight, whatever the opponent. Luckily, she never had to prove it.
Though we’ve welcomed many pets into our home, we’ve decided there will be no more. We have only a cat left, an adopted stray named Trouble who is 23-1/2 years old. She travels with us, though I can’t say she enjoys it, and it’s become worrisome. She got sick a month ago, and I agonized over what I’d do if we had to put her down. (She’s better now and back to ruling the house.) Though we love Trouble, we’ve decided she will be the last. We’re on the road a lot due to my book events, and we dislike leaving pets in unfamiliar situations or imposing on friends and family to care for them. Life will be simpler if we don’t take on a new animal. At least that’s what we tell ourselves.
Trouble helping
Not Going Cold Turkey
I will still have access to pets. My brother and sister-in-law live close, and they parent two Newfoundlands. Retta’s dog Styx is based on them. My sisters both have cats and dogs and probably always will. (Faye’s Buddy is based on a dog who learned to abide other humans but clearly considered my sister the only worthwhile one.)
It’s hard to imagine no little fur-face to greet me in the morning (sometimes earlier than I’d like), but when our old cat crosses the Rainbow Bridge, I’m going to try being a Pet Aunt, not a Pet Mom.
Can I do that after decades and decades of daily interaction with animals? We’ll see.
To enter to win a copy of Perils, Plots, and Puppies, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “perils,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen May 5, 2018. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address, and if via comment please include your email address.
Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & mystery short stories in our mystery section. And join our mystery Facebook group to keep up with everything mystery we post, and have a chance at some extra giveaways.
Use this link to purchase the book & a portion goes to help support KRL & indie bookstore Mysterious Galaxy:
Peril, Plots, and Puppies (Sleuth Sisters Mysteries #6)