Writers! It’s official! Your book doesn’t have to be about the pandemic

There’s nothing like a Maine sunrise to usher in a new year!

So, there’s good news and bad news as 2021 starts, but you already know all the bad news, so let’s look at some good.

The best news for writers is that you DON’T have to make the book you’re writing, or your next book, about the pandemic, lockdowns, shut-ins and social distancing. I have this on very good authority. I attended Make CrimeWave in September — doesn’t every month feel like a year these days? — but in any case, a panel of agents and editors said they are not interested in books about the horros of 2020.

Sorry if you just finished 100,000 words on some lockdown murder mystery or a metaphor dystopian fantasy that parallels the lockdown (please, stop now if you’re writing that). But think about it  — do you really want to read a book that takes place in the hell we all lived and are mostly still living? I sure as hell don’t. It’s almost 20 years since 9/11 and I still don’t want to read fiction about that, either.

I feel like most of you are like me and will breathe a huge sigh of relief that agents and editors won’t be, as a group at least, looking for books about this stuff. I’d begun to feel the book I’m still slogging along with was going to be so out of date. Domestic suspense, who cares?

Though that doesn’t mean I won’t change my title to “The Girl in the Mask,” or “The Girl With the Curbiside Curse,” or something else with girl in it to catch both the domestic suspense wave, which seems to require “girl” in the title, and the 2020 wave. Just kidding. I’m not going to do that. Unless I get an agent and she wants me to.

Although, of course, that’s not to say that your new awareness shouldn’t color how you write. Now, go get ’em.

So, now that that’s out of the way, here’s some more stuff.

We had the traditional Maine Crime Writers “The Books We’re Giving…” post last month. As usual, I didn’t take part. I’m old school and like people getting Christmas presents from me to be surprised, and not read about it in a blog post. That’s just me.

But, since I know you’re all wondering, here’s what I gave this year (and I got copies of each for myself, something I do more often than not). One thing that didn’t really occur to me until I sat down to write this — I usually give nonfiction books as gifts. I’m not sure why Probably a blog post for another day.

I got my brother Bill “A Libertarian Walks Into a Bear: The Utopian Plot to Liberate a  New Hampshire Town,” by Matt Hongoltz-Hetling. I worked with Matt, who’s a great reporter. But that’s not why I bought the book. It’s about how the free staters tried to take over Grafton, N.H. an opening salvo in their plot to take over New Hampshire, with the goal to shut down the government. This isn’t a novel, but it is as compelling as one. It really happened and is a time read.

I also got Bill the updated “Kennebec Land Trust Hiking Guide,” a handy book that has maps and info about trails on 32 Kennebec Land Trust properties in central Maine. It’s a neat non-bound book connected with a detachable ring. Nice!

I got my dad “The Great Secret: The Classified Word War II Disaster that Launched the War on Cancer,” by Jennet Conant. I heard the author on the podcast “This Week in History,” and her book sounded great. And it is. I won’t give away what the secret is in case you want to read it.

I got my mom “The Book Lover’s Journal,” as a way to track her reading, because she’s a voracious reader but can’t remember anything she reads. I say this with love.

I got my sister Becky “The Good Nurse: A True Story of Medicine, Murder and Madness,” by Charles Graeber, which is about nurse Charlie Cullen who killed possibly 400 or more people in nine hospitals in New Jersey and Pennsylvania in the early 2000s. I didn’t have to get a copy for myself, I already have it. It’s the topic of our Crime & Stuff podcast Episode 44.

I also got her “What Cats Want: An Illustrated Guide to Truly Understanding Your Cat,” by Yuki Hattori. Becky spends a lot of time trying to understand her cats. Don’t we all?

I got my niece Hannah “Nala’s World: One Man, His Rescue Cat and a Bike Ride Around the Globe,” by Dean Nicholson. I saw a news story about it and then read about it in the paper, and thought Hannah would like it. It’s got lots of good cat photos, too! The title is pretty self-explanatory.

I got my sister Liz, who lives in Portland, Oregon, and enjoys doing stuff with her yard, “Natures Best Hope: A New Approach to Conservation that Starts in Your Yard.” It’s a neat book with a lot of photos, which I like.

For her part, Liz got me a $50 gift card to Powell’s Books, which you may have heard of. It’s Portland, Oregon’s huge bookstore. So with it, I got myself a bunch of books, too. What a great way to start off 2021!

I’d write more, and tell you what I got, but I’d rather you go read a book. Maybe by a Maine Crime Writer, maybe by someone else. Maybe with “girl” in the title or maybe a nonfiction with a short title, colon, and then longer title, which seems to be required, looking at the titles of the books I bought.

Oh yeah, speaking of which — one little plug. I was asked to donate one of my books to the Harrisville, N.H., for their annual book auction. Last year’s featured 46 books and works of illustrators, and they raised $22,231 for a great cause (the goal was $23,000). This year’s is Feb. 21-March 21, and I’ll be posting more on social media about it. A great cause, so keep an eye out!

About Maureen Milliken

Maureen Milliken is the author of the Bernie O’Dea mystery series. Follow her on Twitter at @mmilliken47 and like her Facebook page at Maureen Milliken mysteries. Sign up for email updates at maureenmilliken.com. She hosts the podcast Crime&Stuff with her sister Rebecca Milliken.
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2 Responses to Writers! It’s official! Your book doesn’t have to be about the pandemic

  1. Anne Cass says:

    You are a fountain of knowledge today…always enjoy your posts!

  2. Sandra Neily says:

    That was WONDERFUL Maureen. I made special note of the kids’ books. Thanks for taking the time to go deep on all that. I got a great gift certificate too that I spent on books. I have not had a book-binge in ages.:Millet’s “A Children’s Bible,” Strout’s “Olive Again,” ….and a whole stack. Even some audio books. Hubbie and I are listening to Obama’s memoir as we drive. Really far from a yawner so it’s very safe. Thanks again!

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