Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Magna cum Murder

Magna cum Murder was terrific for me this year. It was smaller than usual, so everyone got to meet everyone, which was great.

I had three great things happen there. First, Mattie Coleman had set up a booth selling her hats and clothes. For the first time in my life I had bought a pair of shoes with nothing to wear at home that matched. They are a brown suede with a reddish tinge, with a thin gold thread outlining a five-petaled flower on the toe. They are beautiful and, for a wonder (I have arthritic feet), comfortable to wear. And, I have a cloche hat in an odd beige trimmed in brown that was a gift that, again, nothing I own matched. So I brought them both to Magna, hoping Mattie could work her magic. And she did. She had a brown knit suit that sets off the shoes beautifully. And the trim on the hat matches, too – but for an oddity, the shoes hate the hat and it’s mutual. I have brown leather shoes to go with suit and cloche but I needed a hat to wear with the suit and suede shoes. And, again, Mattie came through. She had to go back to her shop, but she found this amazing hat, one of those that change color depending on the light and angle from brown to red to gold. Its shape is as of a garrison cap, and the top of it is covered with a tight bunch of ruffles in the same fabric as the rest of the hat. The edges of the ruffles glow red and gold, much like paper that has been burning in a fireplace. You can wear it about six different ways, and I’m sure I will. Anyway, the brown of it matches the shoes.

Second, they had a round table discussion up and running and I got to take part. It was unusual in that at any time there were three authors at the table, but every fifteen minutes one would leave and someone took his or her place. Each author stayed forty-five minutes, which meant that every forty-five minutes there was a new set of authors talking. There was no subject set, each one brought something (unless the discussion was already hot on a topic, which it usually was, though it shifted all the time). It was great! There was an audience whose members were also always shifting, and they could make comments or ask questions, too. I loved it, and hope to do it again in two years – no Magna next year, as it coincides in time and place with Bouchercon. Magna is in Muncie, just up the road from Indianapolis, the site of next year’s Bouchercon.

Third, I was asked to moderate a panel called You Are What You Write? First, I drew a super set of panelists: Louise Penny, Austin Comacho, Marion Moore Hill, and Sarah Wisseman. I decided on a philosophical, summing-up approach, as it was the last panel of the convention. I asked some obvious questions, such as How is the character in your books who is most like you also least like you? I asked, What problems did you have inventing a character you disliked or who is not at all like you? And the last question was the best, it got some amazing replies: "In Cruelest Month, Louise Penny (she was Guest of Honor at the con) suggests that the little town of Three Pines (in which her stories are set) is a happy place because the villagers throw away bad feelings. But a psychic visiting the town says that feelings have power and need to go to a specific place. There is a house on the edge of town that people stay away from because they think it is haunted or inhabited by evil spirits, but it’s really the ugly thoughts and feelings discarded by the villagers. We, as authors, create bad people and bad feelings. Does putting them onto paper discard them from our minds – or nurture them?" Louise thought that was the best question asked her at the entire convention. Sarah said she feels she takes wicked ideas out of her head and puts them into a book as into a box and can close the cover on them. Austin said he thinks of them as weeds and explores the possibility of identifying and uprooting a bad weed so it doesn’t become a whole field of them. Marion warned against becoming so friendly with wickedness that we "invite it to come in and sit down." What a great panel that was!

Well, I tried to post a picture of me in the hat, but somewhere along the line I made an error. I'll get it yet! (Just not this time.)


Camille Minichino said...

Wow, I've wondered about this. Who of us hasn't? We have to get into the minds of killers, even if we are cozy writers, or the book won't work. And the research is often creepy and hard to put aside.

I love the ideas in this post ... putting the bad stuff somewhere.

Betty Hechtman said...

Great post. I liked hearing about Magna. It sounds like it's worth it just to see the hat booth.

I do believe that thoughts have energy and it's an interesting concept to think of putting bad ones in a safe box.

Joanna Campbell Slan said...


I posted a photo of both of us and your hat on my personal blog yesterday. Go to

and look up yesterday's post. If that's the hat you're referencing, I can add the photo to your post, I think.

Camille Minichino said...

oh please add the hat!