Maggie Pill

The Most Entertaining Cozy Author You Never Heard Of!

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Predicting the Future

I can predict the future--but only when it involves my husband.

Example #1: He asks, "Do you think we should buy a camper?"
"No," I reply. "We've done that several times, and we always end up not using it much. It's so easy to drive anywhere we want to in a car and stay in a motel."
At the same time, I begin watching second-hand stores for decent pots and such, because I know there will soon be a camper in my yard. The request for my opinion was academic; he'd already decided it was time to try the camping life again. To be honest, it doesn't make much difference to me, since he's willing to do all the work of setting up and taking down, but I knew from that initial question what my future held.

Example #2: We're leaving on a camping trip. He says we should take off about noon, because most campgrounds have mid-afternoon check-in times. What I say out loud is "Okay," but what my spousal clairvoyance whispers is "10:00." And I am correct. He's got the whole thing ready to go at 8:00 a.m. We sit around for a couple of hours (me writing Sleuth Sisters #5, him surfing) and he says, "I think we should go, and I'll buy you lunch on the way."
Not a problem. I am, after all, skilled in that area of ESP, so I knew the real schedule that was hidden in his cute little head.

Example #3: He puts in a garden every spring. I can't help much anymore due to back trouble, so I suggest he should go small: one cherry tomato plant--or two if he must. One squash plant--never more. His reply: "You never know how many are going to make it." He plants six of each. My prescience kicks in: "They're all going to make it, and we'll be inundated with squash and cherry tomatoes." August bears out my prediction. We're freezing stuff we will probably never use and giving cherry tomatoes away to complete strangers if they're too slow to get away.

What's good about a long marriage is that you get used to each other's eccentricities and adapt to them. I'm pretty good at dragging my feet if I really don't want to arrive at an event unbelievably early. (We once got to a preseason baseball game three hours early in order to "get a good parking space." We got so fried sitting in the Florida sun waiting for game time that we left after two innings.)

I'm sure he could list for you many things I do that make him crazy, like answering a question with a question. After forty-plus years, he'll tell you if he asks, "Where do you want to eat lunch?" I'll say, "What do you feel like eating?" I contend I'm being polite. He thinks I'm trying to drive him crazy, camper and all.

Friday, August 19, 2016

You Can't Eat Flowers

Well, technically, there are a few that taste okay, and they make really pretty additions to summery salads and such.

But mostly, flowers are to look at, and for some reason, they make me very, very happy. Hubby does most of the vegetable gardening these days, but I still love my flowers and refuse to let my aching back keep me from them.

My lawn is full of flowers, and I try to arrange it so they're there from early spring to late fall: daffodils, tulips, narcissus, crocus, violets, and hyacinth come first, blooming in various places at various times, depending on where the sun hits. Then come the flowering bushes: lilac, snowball, spirea, and a little one I always forget the name of, though I look it up every year. Peonies, iris, lilies of  the valley, day lilies, tiger lilies, and other colors of lily come in their turn, along with the potentilla bushes and
clematis, who take a while to warm up enough to bloom. Add whatever annuals I choose in a given year: lots of petunias because they're happy with wherever they're planted. Marigolds because they can take the heat, and I recently put in a perennial that looks like grass most of the time but has tiny pink flowers in June. Impatiens because they like my shady back door. And a variety in the front flower box, running to pinks and pansies. Late summer brings the hollyhocks and something my family calls "outhouse flowers," apparently because they were often grown to disguise the outhouse in the back yard. They're tall and hardy with a small, aster-like yellow flower atop the stalk, and they spread easily, making a nice line along my front driveway edge.

Perhaps most fun of all are sunflowers, and our first one showed its pretty face this week. I managed to make it appear to be growing out of my head, but I'm quite inexperienced at selfies and intend to stay that way.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

I like listening to famous authors tell about their writing process, because they're all different. Here are a few examples I've collected, with my reaction.

Lee Child says he writes a book once and allows his editor to make a few suggestions for changes, but only two or three.
   I could never operate this way, being one who needs feedback. If it works for him, great.

Mark Billingham says his process often involves lying on the couch staring at the ceiling for long periods of time.
  I can relate to that, although if you're a regular reader, you know I'm more likely to take a walk when I need to think things through.

Robert Barnard said he simply began writing and went where the story led him. He admitted he sometimes ended up stuck but said it was like climbing a mountain. You might come to a spot where you can climb no farther, but looking around, you see where you've been and where you need to go.

That's most like my process. I simply cannot plot a book out with sticky notes or sheets of diagrams. I try, but the actual writing is what fuels the story for me. When I get to page 38, I think, "Oh, THAT'S why she's at this conference--she wants to be a clothing designer!" I go back to page 12 and add that.

Like Mr. Barnard, I look back and see how things should be, and the story gets stronger each time. It means I will print off the first 50 or 100 pages several times and read from the beginning, keeping in mind where it's going so I can give the reader the information she needs.

My way might take longer, but maybe not in the end. If some authors can put it all together in their heads or on a storyboard, that's great. You either put in the time before you start the actual writing or during. I work best by jumping in, then taking two steps forward and one step back.

Next week I think I'll be ready to share some thoughts on the fifth Sleuth Sisters and where I am on that particular mountain.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Household Tips--with Cat

Making coffee: fill your coffeemaker with cold water and the correct amount of coffee. Explain to cat that you aren't doing anything she should worry about. For the 9 millionth time.

Fill cat's water dish. Set it down carefully, avoiding cat's attempts to bump it with her head.

Making the bed: straighten the fitted sheet, moving cat gently aside. Smooth top sheet over bottom, at which point cat will hurry to the center and crouch down.

Wait for cat to get bored with being covered up and squirm her way out the side. Smooth sheets again.

 Pull spread over sheets, being careful not to upset cat, who is now tumbling along with spread. Ignore her glare at the very idea that blankets should be flat and smooth.

Clean catbox. Get in and out as fast as possible. Cat is waiting to use it.

Work at your computer, making sure cat has a comfortable spot where she can monitor your accomplishments.

Make lunch. Explain to cat that a running can opener does not necessarily mean it's time for her to eat again.

Work in yard. Be prepared for cat to appear from unexpected places, imitating snakes and other startling creatures.

Eat dinner. Attempt to share with cat, who appears interested in what's on your plate until you give her some, then puts her tail up and walks away.

Relax in your chair, making sure chair is exactly the way cat likes it, depending on the season. Read a book if cat approves. If you surf the net or play games instead, hold device firmly so cat can scratch her head against it as needed.

Go to bed. Be sure to leave plenty of room for cat in the following areas: at your feet. At your side. Near your head. At your back. And definitely between you and your significant other.

Enjoy your rest until cat decides it's time to get up and do it all again.