Maggie Pill

The Most Entertaining Cozy Author You Never Heard Of!

Monday, October 26, 2015

Researching Chickens? Why Not?

You don't know what you don't know until you try to write about it. Chickens, for example.
The fourth Sleuth Sisters has chickens, and though I grew up with them, I guess I wasn't really paying attention. We always had chickens because, like the punch line in the old joke, we needed the eggs. My grandmother was the expert, and now that I need details about raising chickens, she's not here to help. I've been reading online about feed, temperature, water, and safety measures, which brought back some childhood events, like playing catch with eggs--that almost never ends well.

My most memorable chicken experience was terrifying. My little sister was probably three years old, and we were playing in the yard. The rooster was a mean sort, and he attacked my sister, knocking her down. I recall turning to see her flat on her back in the mud while the rooster stood on her chest. Dad was nearby, and he shooed the bird away and hurried to comfort my sister, who was sobbing. There were two very distinct chicken footprints on her white blouse.

She was fine but the rooster was not. He was Sunday dinner.

Most of the time it wasn't like that, of course. The chickens were a fact of life, and we co-existed. We dodged their leavings when we crossed the yard, hunted for their eggs when they tried to hide them, and chased their babies so we could cuddle them. Grandma would call the flock to her with an apron-full of grain, "Here, chick, chick, chick!" and they'd come running. Only she could take the eggs right out from under a hen, but when she did they were still warm. I remember the earthy smell of the coop, the way I had to scrunch down to enter it, and the low protests of the hens, no more than murmurs of discontent at my presence. They taught me things I didn't know I was learning. (I taught them nothing in return, but it's hard to teach a chicken much.)

One of the things I enjoy about writing the Sleuth Sisters Mysteries is going back in time to those memories. We didn't know then how lucky we were to live where we lived and the way we lived. I wish more of today's kids could experience that lifestyle.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Grand Hotel & Book Goodies

JoBe Cerny & Maggie Pill

Leaving Mackinac Island--yes, it did snow!
Saturday I traveled to Mackinac Island to sign at Grand Hotel. It was cool, so I have to tell you about it. The weekend was a celebration of the movie Somewhere in Time. Each year the hotel hosts the event, and actors who were in the movie return to the place it was filmed and meet their fans.

How does Maggie Pill fit in to a celebration of a Christopher Reeve/Jane Seymour film? Maybe not so much, BUT--
My audio book producer, JoBe Cerny, was in the movie all those years ago. Now he owns his own studio in Chicago and does voiceovers (He's the Pillsbury Doughboy) as well as a lot of other creative things, including writing mysteries. He decided that since he'd be on the Island and I was so close, I should come up for the day and sign with him.

Niece Samantha and I started early and caught the ferry then took a horse-drawn carriage to Grand Hotel. (For those unfamiliar with Mackinac Island, no cars are allowed there.) It was cold, but there were still people everywhere, and Sam gamely steered my suitcase full of books around bicycles and baby carriages.

We found JoBe at the hotel and spent an enjoyable few hours with him, meeting people from all over the world. Many were dressed as people from the era (1912), and the costumes were gorgeous. One woman from Georgia was surprised to find that we in Michigan use the term *boonies*. She thought it was strictly a southern word for "way far away from everything."

It was a great day, and I wish I'd taken more pictures, but I tend to forget to do that when there are people to talk to. Sam did take the two above, so I have proof we really went.

And the BOOK GOODIES part? Book #3 of the Sleuth Sisters Mysteries, MURDER IN THE BOONIES is featured at Book Goodies right now.
If you haven't taken a look at it, please do.
Now I'll get back to writing Book #4...

Sunday, October 11, 2015

What Should I Call Book 4?


 I've finally started writing the fourth Sleuth Sisters (Remember, there's another author in my head who has obligations too). Though a title isn't required for the writing part, my mind is toying with the possibilities. A lot of cozy titles are plays on words and that's okay, but I don't like them to be too cutesy. Since this mystery has to do with water rights, I'm wondering if A Long, Tall Drink of Murder is a good title.
Be warned: tomorrow I might have a whole different idea, and to be honest, titles with "dog" or "cat" in the title sell extremely well. Maybe I should get Styx or Buddy or Barb's stray cat into the title, because of course they'll all have a role.


Monday, October 5, 2015

Let Me Tell You About My Sister...

When I go places to promote my books, I usually begin with an introduction to the Sleuth Sisters, explaining that Barb and Faye start a detective agency but don't want Retta involved because she's so very bossy. Audiences get a kick out of Barb's penchant for secretly correcting grammatical errors around her home town. Some who've read the books tell me what a sweetie Faye is, and a few have confessed that though they didn't like Retta at first, she's become tolerable because her strengths contribute to the agency's success.

What's most rewarding about talking to audiences about the books is that women tend to compare their own sibling relationships to my characters' situation. "I have a sister who--" or "There are four of us and--" and interestingly enough, "I'm the bossy one in my family. I'm Retta." They see their own families in the Sleuth Sisters, and they try to decide which sister they're most like.
Heh, heh, heh. It's going exactly as I planned!

If I have a plan in mind (and I really don't; I just have fun with it) it's to show that each of us has worthwhile qualities. We get angry with our siblings. We discuss them with other siblings and wonder how that loon got born into our family. But in our hearts we know their value, having grown up with them. Barb knows Retta would wade into Hell to save her. Retta knows Faye will always be understanding. Faye knows Barb always considers her welfare and tries to protect her from life's pummeling.

After all, they're sisters.