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Sunday, June 12, 2016


The Author Attempting to Play Piano
Maggie Pill is the author of the Sleuth Sisters Mysteries, which make people say things like, “That’s just like me and my sisters!” Maggie is also Peg Herring, (Simon and Elizabeth historical mysteries, the Dead Detective Mysteries, and the Loser Mysteries). Maggie is funnier--and much younger. Today Maggie stops by to talk about one of her failures. Been there, done that, Maggie. Minus the sisters, I could have written this post myself! Learn more about Maggie at her blog. 

I’ve done well with many things in life, but there’s one thing I always wished I could do, and that’s play the piano.

People who can play, either with music or by ear, are popular folks. Ask for some Billy Joel and they’ll rattle it off. Give them a piece your choir wants to sing, and they’ll be ready when rehearsals begin. Our elementary school music teacher could play whatever we asked for and watch the boys to make sure they weren’t misbehaving behind her back! I admire people like that—and sometimes I hate them.

Accompanists need a good sense of rhythm, a feel for musical tone, and fingers that glide across the keyboard without conscious thought. My problem is my hands, which don’t play well together. As kids, my older sister and I expressed a desire to play (our third sister showed no interest), so we took piano lessons from our pastor’s patient wife. I learned to curve my fingers, count inside my head, and strike the right notes most of the time. What I never achieved was any sort of fluency. My hands simply don’t trust my brain to move them to the correct positions. Or maybe it’s the other way around. Whichever, my playing of even the simplest song is filled with long gaps as my fingers fumble to find the right keys.

Conversely, my sister was a natural pianist who could play pretty much anything. By high school, she was known as an accomplished accompanist, and I had given up. I knew it wasn’t her fault she was good, and I kind of knew it wasn’t my fault I was bad, but there’s the whole sibling rivalry thing. I sang, I played the baritone (not a hit at parties), and eventually directed several choral groups in town.

But I couldn’t play the piano, even to help out at rehearsals. A one-finger melody is the best I can do, and there are still plenty of mistakes as my brain screams, “You’re going to hit the wrong note!...Told you so.”

Over time, my sister got bored with the piano and simply stopped. She doesn’t even tell people she can play anymore. If she does, she says, people will ask her to.

I struggled on through life without that skill I’d love to have. I write popular mysteries. I garden. I speak to groups interested in reading and writing. Still, there are times when I imagine myself sitting down at a piano somewhere and having people gather round to sing along with my graceful tickling of the ivories. It isn’t going to happen, but when I need a little inspiration for the Sleuth Sisters books, I remember that among my sisters, one of us never cared to play the piano, one of us always wanted to and can’t, and one of us can and doesn’t. It’s a great reminder that sisters are the same but oh so different.

Sleuthing at Sweet Springs
At a local nursing home, Faye meets a woman who insists she doesn’t belong there. Though Faye suspects the claim is wishful thinking, she agrees to look in on Clara Knight’s flock of chickens, penned up at her home on Sweet Springs, ten miles from Allport, Michigan.

At the springs, the sisters find the body of Clara’s neighbor, who apparently fell to his death. Something isn’t right, and Barb and Retta temporarily set aside their argument over the necessity of the Oxford comma in order to help Faye do some digging.

As the Sleuth Sisters investigate, they find Clara Knight’s involuntary move to a nursing home is only one example of the strange things happening at Sweet Springs in the last few months. Barb, Faye, and Retta (with Styx the Newfie and Rescue Dog Buddy along for company) find evidence of arson, deceit, and even murder.

The question is why? What does the land around Sweet Springs have that would make someone willing to kill to own it? Who is trying to get rid of the long-time property owners? Suspects include Clara’s pushy niece, Barb’s old enemy Stanley Wozniak, and a smooth-talking client who makes it clear he’d like to get to know Retta better. And that's just for starters, since there's a shadowy, threatening figure lurking in the background.

The sisters are determined to find out what's going on before more bad things happen. Can they save Clara from someone who wants her out of the way? Will they have to put their own lives in danger to do so? And can chickens play a role in a daring rescue?

1 comment:

Angela Adams said...

Like you, Maggie, I wish I had some musical talent. Thanks for the post.