Maggie Pill

The Most Entertaining Cozy Author You Never Heard Of!

Saturday, February 20, 2021

It Isn't What You Read. It's Why You Read

(Thanks to reader Margaret who sent this darling pic of her cat Murphy with Sleuth Sisters Book #2)


I recently read a post where a woman said she re-reads books at bedtime because knowing what happened makes it unlikely she'll be kept awake by the story.

A woman who bought my book at an author signing told me she reads the last chapter first, so she knows if the rest of the book is worth reading.

In times of stress, my sister re-read favorite books as a way of comforting herself. They were usually romances, because one of the requirements is a "happily ever after" ending.

Reading fiction serves many purposes in our lives. There's enlightenment, vicarious adventure, understanding of other times, places, and peoples, and, like the examples above, comfort, intellectual stimulation, and sleepiness. 

Often I see lists of "MUST READ" books, and the implications of the NYT, Oprah, and other best-seller lists is "Here are the books you should be reading." We all know how artificial those lists are, (Publishers often buy bunches of their own books to move their titles up the ranks) but they're effective in getting people to buy (not necessarily read) books.

Social media sites often ask readers to list favorite books, and I seldom reply. You'd have to be a LOT more specific for me to pick one book. My favorite book about WWII? Probably The Nightingale. My favorite plucky female lead? Ariana Franklin's Adelia. Best detective? Harry Bosch, of course. The finest story of overcoming adversity? Exodus. Most impressive creation of a unique narrator? Room. The one where I learned the most about life in medieval England? There are lots of them, but Rutherford's Sarum comes to mind. Even as I write these, others come to mind that I loved, so there really is no favorite. It's a combination of writing talent, topic, and reader's needs/wants at the moment she opened to page one.

I usually read for entertainment, so a fast-paced mystery is my usual choice. But sometimes I read to get a sense of a time period or a person, so historical novels fit my fancy. Of course there are books with appealing characters, like Odd Thomas or Tess of the D'urbervilles. They capture my heart, and it's hard to read the final pages, knowing we'll be parting company. I think that's why series are so popular, and why readers harass authors for the next book. We know it takes time to write a good one, but it's hard to be separated from our favorite characters.

Some people read in only one genre, and I get that. If one genre satisfies a person's read-need, they can probably tell you exactly what they're looking for in a story. My reading choices vary, not only by genre but I also stray into nonfiction. It's all about how I'm feeling at the moment. It isn't about someone else's favorite book. It isn't about the top seller this month. Each reader should choose the books that works for her, right now. Which leads back to my original statement. It isn't what you read. It's why you read.

Friday, February 5, 2021

Nice People Who Aren't

 The other day I was talking to a woman I know slightly. She seems really nice, always friendly and smiling. As we talked, another woman walked by that neither of us knows well, since she's new to the community. The first woman grabbed my arm as soon as the second one had passed us and whispered, "You've got to watch them."

I looked around for dangerous types, but it was just us. "Who?" I asked.

"Them! The Asians or Mexicans or whatever she is."

That was the point where I should have said, "Stop talking, Ms. Bigot." I'm always so dumbfounded by the stupidity of a) being a bigot and b) assuming everyone else is too that I'm often unable to respond. I tell myself I must have misunderstood. This woman, is educated, economically middle-class, and as I said earlier, seems like a nice person.

Seemed. I didn't find anything nice about this encounter.

Instead, I got an earful about how "they" come to this country and look for a man to marry so they can stay. They live with the man for X number of years and then dump him when they get citizenship.

Yep, I was still dumbfounded. I must have looked like it, because she cited a source. "Jack (her husband) told me what those people do. A woman did it to a friend of his."

Arguments abounded in my brain. 

    She didn't have a clue what the woman's background is. There's quite a bit of difference between Asians and Mexicans, and the "whatever" puts anyone who doesn't look like us in the same bucket.

    Her husband's single example had so many holes in it I couldn't have begun to address them all.

    The evil "they" is what logicians call a generalization. Even if you know one rotten person of a particular ethnic group--

No. I don't need to explain how not nice this was to anyone with a brain. I might have provided her with a few well-chosen facts, but really, is it going to make a difference to a person that dumb? 

What I said was, "I've got to get this trash down to the bin before the trucks get here to collect it."

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Book Reviews-The Good, the Bad, and the Unsure

 Book reviews are golden for authors. They move a book up in the complicated algorithm system so that more people see the book when they go looking for something to read. They convince readers to at least download a sample of the book. And when the review is positive, it makes an author feel like she's done something right.

                                                                         Buy It HERE
Getting book reviews is a problem. With so many books being released in the current world of self- and traditional publishing, it's hard to connect with a reviewer and make a pitch for that person to read my book. Chances are they have way too many books already in that TBR pile.

For indie authors, it's worse. When I was traditionally published, my publisher had a list of reviewers they regularly submitted books too, and there was a strong chance my work would be reviewed and posted in the likes of New York Magazine or the Historical Novels Review. Once I went out on my own, the process became hit and miss. A few reviewers, like Lelia Taylor of Buried Under Books; P.J. Coldren (multiple sites); and Patzi Gil, host of the Joy on Paper radio show, stick with me because they like my work, and I'm forever grateful to them.

There are places where a writer can buy reviews, but I don't feel comfortable with that. It's like authors who write to "suggest" I submit their books for a prize or vote for it even if I haven't read it. It feels like cheating.

The upshot of all this is that reviews help authors. You don't have to be a "professional" reviewer. Since they seldom get paid, most reviewers work for the love of reading. There's no training to become a reviewer. If you love a book, you should definitely say so. If you don't love it, you might consider a review anyway. Numbers count, and I've read negative reviews and thought, "She didn't like it, but it sounds interesting to me." You can always do what P.J. Coldren does and tell what you liked and what you didn't, and then let the reader decide. EVERY BOOK HAS HATERS. Conversely, EVERY BOOK HAS FANS (even when you or I can't see it).

Here's a review of my newest, TWICE THE CRIME THIS TIME. Once again, I'm grateful to Kings River Life, the magazine, and Cynthia Chow, the reviewer, for giving me a chance and for "getting" what I aim for in my cozy mysteries.

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

The Glitter Analogy


 There's a meme on social media about spreading COVID-19 and working with glitter, how no matter how careful you are, it's going to end up everywhere. With no intention of doing so, I proved its truthfulness this week.

I had a small area in my bedroom that needed some color. It's a long, narrow shelf with paneling behind it that was too monotone, too dull. I decided to spice it up with some creative decor, so I bought some little knicky-knacky things to hang on it.

It didn't work. They faded into the dull background. It needed something else.

So I started looking, and I came up with a swath of netting fabric. It matches the bedroom curtains and makes a great background for the knick-knacks, bringing out their shapes and colors.

Except it's infused with glitter.

First I ironed the fabric, and I noticed the floor around the ironing board was shiny. Okay, I'll sweep that away later. Putting it up, I had to stand on the bed, and I noticed glitter falling onto the spread. All right, I'll get that with the hand vac. Hubby came in to help me make sure it was even, and he said, "Man, there's glitter all over." I told him I'd take care of it.

It's two days later. I have swept, vacuumed, and mopped the bedroom floor. I've run the hand vac over the bed multiple times. It still looks like Christmas in there. To make matters worse, we've tracked glitter through the whole house, so our chairs, our rugs, and our socks sparkle. We've taken to checking before we go anywhere other people will see us, removing shiny spots from our faces and hubby's mustache. Anywhere I try to sit down to relax, I catch a glimpse of another particle, and I have to get up and deal with it. 

The original fabric has a spot that's drooped, and it really needs to be adjusted, but I'm not touching that thing again. It can hang crooked for eternity!

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

The Very Best People, According to Authors

When you're thinking like an author, the best people are those who not only like your work, but also help you spread the word that it's out there and it's good. With that in mind, here's a link to an interview I did recently with, which does just that. They liked The Sleuth Sisters, but they let me talk about my other work too, which is kind of them. Here's a link to the interview:

As a reader, you might not be able to interview me online like they did, but you can still help.

Spread the word: Tell others about books you like. Most people choose books that are recommended by someone they know.

Loan your books: This is touchy for some, but I love sharing stories I enjoyed with people who might feel the same way. I have fans who read, then mail the books to faraway relatives and friends, which gets them read in a whole new part of the country.

Comment on reviews and interviews: As a reader, I look at articles like the one above and also check to see what others say about them, whether it's my local library asking what we're reading this week or "big shots" like Manybooks showcasing authors.

Write your own review: Anywhere, any length, any level of enjoyment. While authors like to see positive reviews, they all help. People see the title. Algorithms chart the number. Others chime in. It all works to publicize the book.

A Note on reviews: I've spoken to some who are afraid to rate a book because they can't give it five stars or whatever the "best" is. I don't review a book I can't give four or five stars, but that's because I see things from both sides: reader and author. I know how much work went into it, so I tend not to criticize another writer, even if I don't like the book. Because of the way things are set up online, every review tends to help, no matter how bad it is. Besides, the negatives one reader posts ("too gory", "too sexy") might be the positives another reader is looking for.

 I do take issue with raters like one I saw who gave a book one star because "I have arthritis, and it was too heavy for me to hold onto." Or the one who complained that she didn't get it on the date Amazon said it would arrive. Come on, man! Rate the book, not your grumpiness at the world on a given day.

 The crux of my message is this: When you read a book you like, tell other readers. With something like 30,000 new books being released EVERY MONTH these days, we authors need all the help we can get!

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Building a New Series

 writer cartoon | Reading, Writing, Research   To be honest, the path of least resistance for a writer is to keep churning out her most popular characters in book after the Sleuth Sisters Mysteries. I had fun with Barb, Faye and Retta for years, and they're still my best sellers.

Then my sister died, and suddenly the series wasn't fun anymore. The last book was written but not finished editing when the news came, and each time I had to read it again made me sad. How could those sisters have each other when our trio was now a duet? I decided to put the series on a shelf and try something else.


The people in our trailer park in Florida had for some time encouraged me to write mysteries in a similar setting. In condos and trailer parks all over the southern United States, residents come together for a few months each year from many different places. They live in close proximity, in small spaces. And they're retired, which means lots of free time. The old adage says, "Idle hands are the devil's workshop," and we might add, "and idle minds are his raw material." It can be irritating to try to separate fact from rumor, and it's inevitable that what some folks do, other folks don't like. I decided to look at all of that and present the humorous side of being a snowbird.

The first Trailer Park Tale, Once Upon a Trailer Park, was well received. 

The second, Twice the Crime This Time, is about to burst on the scene, with the same mature characters involved in crime-solving interspersed with spousal spats and neighborly encounters, both good and bad. The series is fun to write,especially since so many people are more than willing to share ideas and anecdotes. Several of the incidents in the book are taken from "real life" stories told on warm afternoons on someone's porch.Voices rise as the story heats up, and there's lots of laughter, even if we've heard it before.

I try to be fair.

I always warn them..."I'm writing this down!"

Saturday, September 5, 2020

And... Preorders Are Here


The second Trailer Park Tale is available for pre-order everywhere I can manage it. So far I only have an Amazon link: . I'll add the links to B&N, Kobo, etc. when they're available.

This one continues the adventures of four couples in a Florida Over-55 RV park and, as advertised in the title, there are two crime threads. First, Ron & Julie are asked to see if they can pin down which man living at the park might be the guy who murdered two people back in 1967. While they're working on that, rumors circulate that someone's peeping in trailer windows at night.

Of course there are humorous interactions between characters: husbands and wives, neighbor to neighbor, and senior citizens against the world. Shopping for lingerie, getting a confused old man to his doctor's appointment, and dealing with a guy who believes aliens run the government are everyday occurrences for the residents of the Beautiful Bird Over 55 RV Park. 

If you missed the first book in the series, get it here: