Maggie Pill

The Most Entertaining Cozy Author You Never Heard Of!

Monday, September 28, 2015

You Ask How Much I Love My Cat

Right now there's a lamp nestled in the corner of a stair halfway down our staircase. It's there for the cat...and maybe to save our lives.

In her dotage, Old Cat wants to nap on the stairs, possibly to keep track of where I am (usually upstairs) and where my husband is (usually downstairs) at a given time. She chose the darkest spot, where the upstairs light doesn't reach. (The downstairs light isn't left on because it's a chandelier and therefore terribly inefficient--though workable for avoiding cat traps.

There are two possibilities for terror:
First, one of us might trip over her and hurtle to our death.
Second, one of us might kick her and injure her old, brittle bones.

She doesn't seem to care, though I have explained the perils to her very patiently, several times.

Hence the lamp. It lights that central area just enough that we can see her there, and she actually seems to enjoy its little glow.

She doesn't have to sleep on the stairway. She already owns the couch, our bed during the daylight hours (and a large share of it an night), the ledge on the kitchen window, and several unknown places where she hides when company visits or the dreaded vacuum cleaner appears. Hubby has shooed her off the stairs several times, because (silly man) he thinks she'll learn not to settle there. I recognize that she's decided she LIKES that step, and by George, she's going to have it.

Again, the only sane solution is to give in to her and arrange something to prevent disaster, like give her a little furniture in her new abode.

What we do for our beloved pets!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Alpena Book Festival-9-26-15

September 26th is approaching--faster than I thought it would--and I'm both anxious and excited about the first-ever Alpena Book Festival.

Anxious questions: Will there be a good turnout? Will they have a good time? Will we have enough of everything? Does everyone know what to do?

These are questions I have every time I'm part of organizing things, and I've learned there's no use trying to turn it off. Of course I know things can go wrong. It might rain buckets (or snow, after all, this is Michigan). We might run out of tote bags or tickets or whatever. And since it's a new thing, people will no doubt be following the organizers around saying, "What should I do?" "Where should I go?"

I can take the chaos once the day arrives, but beforehand, there are no answers, which is what makes me a little crazy.

As to the excited part: I know that people who attend the Festival will be happy they did. We have great giveaways, so just showing up is an advantage. My publisher, Thorndike/Five Star (well, it's Peg's publisher actually) donated over a hundred hardcover books to give away, and another author's publisher, Thomas Nelson, send even more paperbacks. Add that to the books the attending authors and the bookstores are providing, and there will lots of free books.

In addition, there are prize baskets from the authors and the Alpena downtown businesses. There are also prizes for those who attend in costume or make some sort of display relating to books. (Here are some crazy ones:

Also, there's a chance to explore Alpena's downtown, which has more in it than I ever imagined. I tend to go to the bookstore and that's all, but the array of cute shops and interesting merchandise I've seen as I talked with business owners is amazing. They've all been very accommodating, joining into the fun of the Festival by participating in book games and making special displays.

Then there are the panel discussions, where readers can hear authors tell how they do what they do and interact with them on topics like character development and what it takes to develop a series. Some are formal discussions, but the Thunder Bay Winery is hosting a less formal one where people can drift in and out.

For aspiring writers there are several events. If you're thinking of pitching your book to an agent or editor, we'll have people on hand to help you craft your pitch so it's "in tune" with what they want to hear.

Peg's doing a workshop on Friday night (7:30pm) at Blue Phoenix Books for those who write and are thinking about self-publishing. It's both easy and difficult, and it helps to hear from someone who's been through both self-publishing and traditional publishing explain both processes. In addition, Mark Thompson, who publishes non-fiction, is going to speak on what it takes to get memoirs and family histories into publication (6:30pm). Sign up by calling/emailing Blue Phoenix.

So yes, I'm anxious about what might go wrong on Saturday, September 26, but I'm also excited to meet other authors, lots of readers, and have a full day of fun centered around books.

Monday, September 7, 2015

What's Wrong with Literary Fiction

It isn't that literary fiction is bad. I would never argue with the Great Minds who hand out Pulitzer Prizes and such. It's just that books that are termed "literary" aren't always what I'm in the mood for. Here's why.

Too often, nothing happens. The author is so busy telling the character's thoughts and describing the sunlight on the pines that he/she forgets to put in, um, what shall we call them?  Events that lead somewhere.  When I got to the end of Papertowns, for example, I thought..."So what?"

Sometimes something happens, but it's bad. And then it gets worse. I read The Gold Finch. I read All the Light We Cannot See. I even read Anna Karenina. Things happened. Things got worse. And then it was over.

The characters are so messed up that I can't find anyone to like. Holden Caulfield. Raskolnikov. Anything I've read by Elmore Leonard.

The author seems to have a feeling of god-like superiority to the characters: "Oh, look at these poor fools who don't understand life the way I do." I'm struggling through my second Isabel Allende book, and that's the sense I'm getting. Not "We're all in this together," but "Let me tell you about these sad people so we can all tsk-tsk about them."  

Of course there are literary novels that avoid these things. Hemingway never stood over his characters and judged them, and he certainly didn't spend paragraph after page describing their tortured thoughts. Steinbeck, too, managed to show his characters' despair without wallowing in it. Even wordy old folks like Dickens, Hardy, and the Brontes, who wrote more description of setting and such than is fashionable today, included interesting plots that rose intriguingly and gave at least a modicum of hope at the end of the story.

I guess that's why I read mysteries with relish and some prize-winning novels with a sense of duty. I like a story with action and a clear, rising plot arc that ties up neatly at the end with some sort of justice.

Of course it isn't like real life. That's why I read: to escape the world as it really is.