Peg Herring's Blog – January 2009 Archive (22)

One of the Crazies in My World

I direct a choir at my church, and they are a great group of people. Over the years, however, we've had a few members come and go who weren't so great, and one of them came to mind yesterday for no reason I can figure out. He's dead now, so I guess I can talk about him.

Looking back, I realize that he had a personality disorder. He was fixated on things, and in the case of our relationship it happened to be reading music and making me, as choir director, accountable for everything I… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on January 30, 2009 at 10:22pm — 1 Comment

Technology Versus Me & You

I love my magic techno-box...most of the time. It does what I do very well, until this morning, when it informed me upon startup that its Spooler SubSystem Application has a problem. It may as well have spoken to me in Farsi.

You don't care what's wrong with my computer. Actually I really don't, either. I will take it to a very nice young man and he will make it better, end of story. My thought today is on the dependence I've developed with technology and the fact that authors are… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on January 29, 2009 at 10:19pm — 2 Comments

Guest Blog #4-P.J.'s Lament

Today my guest blogger, reader/reviewer/judge P.J. Coldren, has some complaints. Constructive ones, of course, so listen up, authors!

For my last guest blog, I'm going to do something I don't normally do. I'm gonna gripe. I've been reading mysteries for a bloody long time, and there are some things that really irritate the crap outa me.

I know that as readers we don't want to be bored with the minutia of daily life. In fact, that's one thing that annoys me - the long… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on January 28, 2009 at 10:00pm — 2 Comments

How Famous Do I Want to Be?

Just got word that an interview I did at Magna Cum Murder last year is up on YouTube. You just type in "Peg Herring," and there I am, talking with a very gracious host who asked all the right questions. It's very nice. Well, actually, it's a little creepy.

Writers are not known for being spotlight-seekers, with of course some notable exceptions. Most of us would prefer to sit before our magic boxes and talk to ourselves. I like doing my presentations, of course. I'm in control, and… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on January 27, 2009 at 9:46pm — No Comments

I Could Write a Book

I used to hang out in my grandmother's kitchen a lot, possibly because she was usually baking. I was a loquacious child, and often explained to her, in great detail I now realize, what I wanted Life to do differently. Her response was often a terse admonition, "If wishes were horses, beggars would ride."

I didn't get it then, but I do now. Grandma was a practical Scotswoman who knew that you can't just want.

As I present workshops these days for aspiring writers, I see lots of… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on January 26, 2009 at 10:36pm — No Comments

The Picky Reader (R)

I admit it; I've become a picky reader. Becoming more aware of writing as I practice the craft, I am increasingly intolerant of writers who are sloppy and formulaic. In the last two days I've started no less than five books only to drop them in the give-away pile an hour or so later. It's something I never would have done in the past, but I've decided that there's too much good writing out there to waste my time on junk.

I've ranted here before about secondary characters who have no… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on January 23, 2009 at 10:37pm — 5 Comments

When Is the News Not the News?

Okay, all you 24/7 news junkies, here's a quiz: What's the difference between news and opinion? I don't mind you checking in all day long to watch the same footage, described in the same words, over and over. I'm just concerned that you keep your minds straight on the question above. I'm sick of "news" that is really fiction. I mean, I'm a novel writer and I wouldn't go as far as a lot of so-called newspeople in spinning a story.

We hear first, sometimes for days, what someone… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on January 22, 2009 at 11:12pm — 6 Comments

P.J.'s Guest Blog #3 Favorite Books

When people find out that I review mysteries, and that I read manuscripts, they almost always ask me a question I really dread, "Who is your favorite mystery writer?" The easy answer is, of course, that I don't have a favorite. There are too many good writers to pick just one. The reply when I'm with people who read mysteries with as much fervor as I do is more complex. It turns into a series of new questions: Male or Female, Living or Dead, Cozy or Hard-boiled, P.I. or Police Procedural,… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on January 21, 2009 at 10:45pm — 1 Comment

Preparing to Dazzle the World

Don't forget, tomorrow is P.J. Coldren's third guest blog, this time on favorite books. Trust me, she's got a lot of them, and she does a great job with the topic.

At 7:00 am I was interviewed by a reporter for an upcoming presentation. The thought struck me that it helps to prepare. Now isn't that profound?

Yes, I prepare for my presentations. I practice, I check my bag of supplies three times (at least) to be sure everything I might need is in there. I plan my route and… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on January 20, 2009 at 11:28pm — No Comments

Go Ask Alice, I Think She'll Know

Do you ever feel like you're in Wonderland, with the White Rabbit pulling you along and urging you to hurry, even though you're not sure where you're going or why? That's publishing.

There's always something looming that might be done, should be done, must be done. There's always a deadline. Yet it's hard to say whether it makes any difference if you get it all done and on time. No one knows for sure what works.

Keep up your website and blog on all the sites you can… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on January 19, 2009 at 10:39pm — No Comments

What Advertisers Think of You

We're retired and my husband is a news junkie, so the television is on all day. I wander through once an hour or so to check on his progress (he's always building something) and to keep my legs from going numb from sitting in one place. What is advertised is for the most part depressing.

If one judges by daytime TV, Americans are constipated, crippled cretins, likely to buy and sell gold by mail, be so far in debt to the IRS that we'd trust anyone to get us out, and blithely unaware… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on January 16, 2009 at 11:30pm — No Comments


I heard a story once about a philosophy professor whose final exam consisted of just one word: WHY? The only student who received an "A" on the exam responded with two words: WHY NOT?

Why do you write? Why do I? The usual reasons people choose a path in life boil down to a few basics: we like it, we think we're good at it, we like what we get from it. I became a teacher because I like sharing what I know with others, it was evident that others liked the way I operated in the… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on January 15, 2009 at 10:27pm — No Comments

Guest Blog #2 Reviewing Books

As promised, here's a second blog from P.J. Coldren, this time on reviewing books. Getting the perspective of a reviewer is helpful for writers, and P.J. is both candid and eloquent on the subject:


One of the other ways in which I spend my copious free time is reading books for review purposes. I review on a regular basis for and for CrimeSpree Magazine. I occasionally post reviews on, and have just become involved with their… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on January 14, 2009 at 9:34pm — 3 Comments

When in Doubt, Edit

At workshops I present, I often meet people who can't get past the first fifty pages. They need to make those initial chapters perfect first, they tell me, and then they can go on. That's probably never going to happen, hence a completed MS will never appear.

Still, when I'm stalled, I usually print off what's done and do an edit, which serves a few important purposes. First, it gets me back into the story. I may have stalled because I'm worrying about presenting a character or… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on January 13, 2009 at 10:22pm — No Comments

From the Road

I'm traveling but wanted to remind readers that Wednesday P.J. Coldren will again guest blog here. Her topic this week is reviews: how she chooses what to review and how she approaches the task. Again, good for authors to hear from the "other" side.

Added by Peg Herring on January 12, 2009 at 8:13pm — No Comments

If I Were an Agent, I'd Pick You

Eureka! I mentioned yesterday that I'm judging the initial round of a contest, and I'd read a couple of good samples and a couple of bad ones. Well, the last one I read was a winner, and if I were an agent, this person would get a contract ASAP.

What is it that set it apart from the others? There's the rub: I can't really say. There are books that hook me as a reader from page one, and this is one of them. The character is unique, the plot pulled me in, the writing style is neither… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on January 9, 2009 at 10:56pm — 1 Comment

About That Plot

I'm judging a contest myself, and I took advice from P.J. Coldren's comments here yesterday as a starting point. Having read two entries, my mind centered this morning on plot.

If I had to choose the most important element for me, it would be plot. I appreciate beautifully written prose and lovingly rendered characters, but if there's no plot or a bad plot, who cares? I suppose for literary fiction we can allow the character study novel or the moment-in-time study, but a steady diet… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on January 8, 2009 at 11:01pm — No Comments

Guest Blog #1 Contest Judge

As promised, today's blog is from P.J. Coldren, one of the judges for Malice's writing contest. Here's what she has to say about the process and increasing your chances of moving up.


I've been asked to guest blog and I thought I'd write about something I've been doing for a long time: I'm a preliminary judge for the (St. Martin's Press) Minotaur Books/Malice Domestic Competition for the Best First Traditional Mystery Novel. I'd like to start off by saying that these are my… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on January 7, 2009 at 9:20pm — 9 Comments

St. Francis as a Mystery Writer?

Okay, maybe not. But I keep remembering the prayer, because it applies in every situation, throughout life, and for all eterniity.

We have to have the serenity to accept what can't be changed. The economy is lousy, the industry is quirky to say the least, and the process of getting published is often unfair and illogical. Accept it; it's what we've got. In addition, each writer has certain talents and lacks others. You may tell a great story but lack the ability to make your… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on January 6, 2009 at 10:02pm — No Comments

Pros at Prose

I'm reading Michael Connelly and James Lee Burke (one upstairs, one downstairs). What do these guys have that makes them so good? Burke certainly has the descriptive prose down, with unique, well-crafted phrases that both describe and lead, so the story doesn't suffer while the author shows off his prose. Connelly's what I'd deem a page-turner; the reader wants to know what's going to happen next, so it's hard to put the book down and do something like, oh, I don't know, write a blog maybe.… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on January 5, 2009 at 9:30pm — 2 Comments

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