Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Not-So-Hidden Agenda

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Whew, it’s hot in Minneapolis! Ninety-one degrees yesterday afternoon! It was hot the day before, it's going to be hot today, and probably again tomorrow. I had to make a trip to the post office in my car whose air conditioning is broken and I was kind of dreading coming out of the cool post office building and climbing into the oven my car had become in the parking lot. But then I came to a stop in the middle of the macadam and just let a baby breeze ruffle my hair while the heat beat down from the sun and rose up from the blacktop. Because I told myself very firmly to build a memory of that moment to comfort myself with this coming January, when that same lot is frozen over with trampled snow, the breeze has icy razor blades in it, and the sun has become a small, feeble light in the sky.

Still, I hope it has cooled down a lot before the State Fair starts August 21. I guess I’ve become a true Minnesotan. It’s not even August and I’m starting to look forward to the State Fair. Minnesota’s is the second-biggest in the nation (Texas is first). It’s so big that I’m fairly sure that most people who go only once (many people go three, five, even seven times!) see a different fair from others who go only once. It's impossible to see it all in one trip. There is, of course, the basic and original reason for the fair: to compete in the farm animals shows, craft contests, and food/drink contests. I’m not big on the swine or cattle barns, but I love the horse and poultry barns. Then there’s the food. The big thing at our Fair is food-on-a-stick. Fruit (dipped in puffy batter, deep fried, and rolled in powdered sugar) on a stick – did I mention that if it’s healthy food you want, eat before you come? Pork chop on a stick. Deep fried Snickers candy bar on a stick. Even spaghetti and meatballs on a stick (I’m serious – they form the meatball around the spaghetti). There are free music shows and shows you buy a ticket for with serious performers. There’s a long building in which you can watch pigs and cows give birth, and chickens hatch. There’s a Midway, featuring that terrifying "ride" where two people are belted into what looks like a couch and launched what seems like a hundred feet into the air on bungee cords. There’s "under the grandstand" where vendors will sell you everything from real estate to an electric organ to one of those trick knives that slices and dices and turns radishes into roses to computerized sewing machines, among several hundred other interesting things. I have agreed to write a short story for a new anthology called Murder on a Stick and I’m stuck for an idea. (I think I have the setting down pretty good.)

Yesterday’s post, from Camille Minchon, spoke of authors with "hidden agendas," and she asked if we (fellow authors) had them. Well, yes, I do, sort of. That is, often I have a goal or aim in mind when I write a book – but it’s not hidden. I’ve been quite open about things that set me off. I’ve also shot myself in the foot that way. One in particular was Show Stopper, set at a Class A Arabian Horse Show. This was the Peter Brichter series, written as Mary Monica Pulver. My heroine bred show-quality Arabian horses in this series and I went to a lot of shows gathering information. Some of what goes on at these things is not very nice and at last I decided to write a mystery in which a trainer is killed at a show. (Everyone I talked to involved with these beautiful horses agreed a trainer should be the victim.) I had a great time writing the book, and people in the horse business agreed it was accurate. But it wasn’t pleasant to see some of their lesser tactics exposed and the book did not sell well among them. But I’m still not unhappy I wrote it.


Kathryn Lilley said...

Ooh, the dark underbelly of the horsie set! Even though they felt stung, it's something I'd love to read about! Sometimes people get defensive about their aub-worlds. The only people I talked to who said they didn't like "Best in Show" were people who showed dogs. Maybe it hit a little too close to the mark!

Monica Ferris said...

That's exactly what I'm talking about. I do have an agenda for the book I'm starting, Blackwork. It's about modern witchcraft and the dangers of believing mortals have real magical powers.