Peg Herring's Blog – September 2007 Archive (19)

It's All My Mother's Fault

Really. I mean, the woman started reading me Edgar Allen Poe when I was still too short to reach the kitchen faucet and get my own drink of water. She would often appear in our bedroom doorway with a book and share a snippet of poetry or prose that had grabbed her imagination, and it was usually something spooky. She talked about words and the usage of words, why things were better said this way than that. And she put into my hands at about age thirteen the most unlikely of English teacher…

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Added by Peg Herring on September 28, 2007 at 10:48pm — No Comments

Where Do You Go To Think?

I have two places conducive to thinking, and they are as different as can be. First, I think in the car, preferably on a long trip and preferably alone. The automatic process of driving seems to calm my conscious mind and let the deeper thoughts arrange themselves into viable plots and possible characters. I particularly like the drive across Michigan's Upper Peninsula, which is both beautiful and remote, allowing lots of time to work out plot knots. I carry a small recorder and talk to…

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Added by Peg Herring on September 27, 2007 at 9:35pm — No Comments

Getting the Word Out

Today's a library talk day, and that means getting those ducks in a row. Do I have enough cards, books, handouts, and such? How will I look after a long drive on a hot day? And worst of all, will anyone care enough to show up?

First-time authors aren't exactly hot properties, and while libraries are usually willing to let me do my schtick, there's no guarantee patrons will show up to watch. I combat the no-name problem by approaching with a theme rather than just "Come Here and Buy My…

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Added by Peg Herring on September 26, 2007 at 9:53pm — No Comments

What's Next?

Creativity, like love, life, and the circulatory system, is a river. It flows where it likes, sweeping with it everything in its path when it is at its strongest. It never fails that when I have a great idea for a story, I have two, sometimes three, and that can be hard to handle. On which one should I spend the time and energy that it takes to make an idea into a finished project?

I imagine Lewis and Clark, coming to a fork in some river and wondering which one to take. Will it lead…

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Added by Peg Herring on September 25, 2007 at 10:08pm — No Comments

The Evolution of Mystery

I'm studying up on the history of mystery, and I've decided I need to go back and read some old stuff. Of course I knew Poe gets credit for the first mystery, "The Murders in the Rue Morgue." But I need to read some of the other early guys like Dickens and Wilkie Collins.

Before the modern mystery began, the Chinese had a version of mystery fiction in which a judge or similar official is followed as he deals with the various crimes he must unravel in order to mete out punishment. It…

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Added by Peg Herring on September 25, 2007 at 4:37am — No Comments

Why You Should Read

I saw a post on a forum yesterday about why a person should be a reader, and it made me want to add my own arguments. And what's a blog for except to say what I want to say at any given moment?

As an ex-English teacher, I spent years trying, sometimes with success but mostly not, to convince high school students that reading was not only good for them but fun as well. I guess it's something a person has to learn for himself, and it often takes a while. My father didn't begin reading…

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Added by Peg Herring on September 21, 2007 at 10:39pm — 1 Comment

Getting Published a Different Way

Several people I've met in the writing business got their start not by the traditional write-a-letter-get-an-agent-who-will-find-a-publisher method, but by entering a contest. Contests are a good way to get noticed, to see if your work is noteworthy, and to achieve publication.

Sometimes you win, and that's great. Winning the better contests in any given genre usually means publication, and that's great. But some I've met didn't win the contest but still caught the attention of an…

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Added by Peg Herring on September 20, 2007 at 10:00pm — No Comments

Life Interrupts Art

I don't know about anyone else, but life keeps getting in the way of my writing. Just about the time I plan on having a whole day to hammer out the plot details of a project, something comes up that calls for me to be somewhere else for a large portion of the day. Maybe I'm weak-minded, but it seems that once I've spent several hours in a store, a car, a meeting, or a public building, I can't drag my mind back to the proper set for effective writing. At best I get some editing in, but very…

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Added by Peg Herring on September 19, 2007 at 9:56pm — No Comments

Steve Hamilton

I went to see Steve Hamilton speak in Charlevoix, Michigan last night, and it was a good decision. I've enjoyed the Alex McKnight series for several reasons, primarily the Michigan settings that are familiar to me, the characters who are so well-drawn and lifelike, and the fact that my husband also likes them so we can talk about them together. (His usual Vietnam-era memoirs aren't so much fun for me.)

Steve is an entertaining and personable speaker who just talks about what he does…

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Added by Peg Herring on September 18, 2007 at 10:43pm — No Comments

Motivation

I was surprised not too long ago to get a call from an acquaintance with a problem. As we had talked over the years about writing, he'd told me he had several manuscripts in a drawer somewhere that he'd written as a younger man. He was interested in my quest for publication but maintained that he was too busy with work and family to try it himself. But when the news came that his job would disappear within a few months, he contacted me to ask about getting an agent. It seems he considered…

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Added by Peg Herring on September 17, 2007 at 10:31pm — No Comments

Am I in Your Book?

People can't help but wonder when they have a friend who is an author: Am I in the story somewhere? Of course we use people we know for characters, otherwise everyone in the book would be just like the author.

You needn't fret, however, about looking bad or silly or pathetic. Like the children we create but can't control, once a character steps into a story he or she becomes a unique individual. I may want a character to do something brave, but if it isn't in him, he'll refuse, and…

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Added by Peg Herring on September 14, 2007 at 9:57pm — No Comments

A New Work in Progress

Authors speak of their works in progress in a variety of ways: with excitement, with concern, with joy, and with anticipation. There's a feeling that comes with starting a new manuscript that for me is an odd combination of thrill and dread.

It wasn't always that way. When I first began writing, I just wrote, and when I finished that first MS, I was thrilled to be "done" with a "book." Wrong on both counts. It certainly wasn't done, and it never became a book. It's just a collection…

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Added by Peg Herring on September 13, 2007 at 9:43pm — No Comments

The People in Your Neighborhood

Mr. Rodgers used to sing about them, but most of us don't know them anymore. Even though I'm rural and have lived in this area forever, I don't neighbor much, seldom talk to the mailman or go next door to borrow something.

That doesn't mean I don't have connections. The internet, anonymous monster that it can be, is a creator of networks. I "know" people through this medium that I'll never meet. I share ideas with them, tell them about my mood today, and frequently ask for their help…

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Added by Peg Herring on September 12, 2007 at 10:57pm — No Comments

Scattered Like Dandelion Fluff

I had lunch with a fellow author a while back, and she had come to the end of two series contracts, having written six books. She was in the position of starting over, sort of, and wrestling with the question: What next?

It's one that writers face at the end of a book or a series, unless there's a series so popular that the public won't let it end. I heard Martha Grimes speak on that, and it's a problem of a different kind, but today I'm thinking of the "What's next?" aspect. Do you…

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Added by Peg Herring on September 11, 2007 at 10:09pm — No Comments

A Question for the Author

When someone finds out that I'm an author, a question often crops up that I've never found a good answer for. People want to know how long it took to write the book. Although I've come up with a reply in order to sound competent and capable, the real answer is, I have no idea.

Is the time it takes to write a book that initial few months when the ideas come so fast and furiously that I barely have time to write one scene down before the next one starts pushing its way into my head? Is…

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Added by Peg Herring on September 10, 2007 at 9:56pm — No Comments

Sub-genres

I'm about to start a series of talks at local libraries on mystery sub-genres, and it's led me to some interesting people. I wanted to offer my audiences two authors' work as representative of each sub-genre: one very successful author and one who is just getting started but is promising. Since my reading within the mystery genre as a whole is pretty eclectic, I thought finding enough examples would be easy. I advertised for nominations in the sub-genres I'm less familiar with, meaning to…

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Added by Peg Herring on September 6, 2007 at 9:18pm — 2 Comments

Murder Is Contagious

Okay, fellow mystery writers, confess: Have you begun to see possibilities for murder in everyday situations? Does the idea cross your mind in certain instances that the world might be better off without _____, and you have just the method to accomplish it? Oh, it's only idle thought, and you'd never act on it, but it's the tiniest bit satisfying to realize that if you had to, you could make the world a better place and never get caught, right?

I thought so. Writing about murder…

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Added by Peg Herring on September 5, 2007 at 9:54pm — 2 Comments

Advice for Writers Makes You Crazy

For five years now I've been reading advice from publishers, editors, agents, and fellow writers about how to succeed in the business of selling a book. I have had some success, but I also feel at times like I'm buried in advice.

Don't start with a prologue! You must have a hook! Format exactly as the industry demands! Number your pages on the right! No, number on the left, next to the slug! Make the first line block style! Indent EVERY paragraph! Ban widow/orphan control! Make your…

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Added by Peg Herring on September 4, 2007 at 9:59pm — No Comments

What We Call Things Makes No Sense

It's bad enough that I still say that I roll down the car window and dial a phone number. We old folks still talk about records and tapes even though we have nothing in our music cabinets but CDs. It's acceptable to say something in writing and type on a computer. We park our cars in the driveway and drive them on the parkway.

If you think about it too much, words can make you crazy. I guess the thought came to me because it's…

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Added by Peg Herring on September 4, 2007 at 1:28am — No Comments

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