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

Eight Days a Week

I love writing. I like speaking. I even enjoy promoting (when it works). But there is a problem with this business: I never know when I'm done. Done for the day? Maybe not. In theory I work from 7:00 to 11:00 a.m., but that perfect idea, the solution to the plot-knot, the urge to edit just a few pages while the baseball game is on, calls to me and somehow I'm drawn back into what could be called work but is more like obsession.

Done with the book? I doubt that ever really happens.… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on April 30, 2009 at 10:01pm — No Comments

Find an Apt Phrase

I started a novel yesterday by fellow Five Star author Barbara Graham, and I have already noticed that she has a gift for turning a phrase. Like others I enjoy reading, Craig Johnson and Laura Lippman for example, once in a while I stop reading to say to myself, "What a great description!"

They're usually brief; today's writing doesn't demand long passages of flowery description. Often it's a simile. Barb used "like a slug under a bucket" to describe a character, and it was exactly… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on April 29, 2009 at 10:15pm — 1 Comment

There Ought to Be a Law

We Americans are well-intentioned people, and that sometimes leads to legislation that verges on the ridiculous. If someone robs a bank in a Richard Nixon mask and kills a six-year-old in the process, citizens will propose a law that robbing banks in Richard Nixon masks be subject to special sentencing.

If a protester burns the American flag on the Fourth of July, a Congressman will demand on the steps of his local courthouse that burning flags on a holiday be a capital offense. And I'm… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on April 28, 2009 at 9:57pm — No Comments

Life is Messy. Fiction Is Neat

A big reason I love reading novels is that things wrap up at the end. The bad guy is caught or killed or at the very least driven away from our hero and his/her loved ones. Everything is explained, and there is closure for those involved. They may have lost loved ones or several pints of blood or their sense of security, but we know they will recover and go on. Unless you're into noir, order is restored.

On the reality side, life is a mess. Crises don't come neatly one after the… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on April 27, 2009 at 9:58pm — No Comments

I Am in Blood/ Stepp'd So Far...

"I am in blood

Stepp'd in so far that, should I wade no more,

Returning were as tedious as go o'er:

Strange things I have in head, that will to hand;" MACBETH Act III, Scene iv

No, I haven't killed anyone. It's writing this darned mystery -- actually it's finishing the thing.

I have all the dead victims I need. There's been lots of figuring things out, lots of action, lots of cleverly- woven-in historical detail. Now it's time to end it, which as you might recall,… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on April 24, 2009 at 10:17pm — 1 Comment

Writing Yourself into a Corner

There is a moment in most good mysteries when the reader thinks, "There's no way they're getting out of this one!" It's a great, great thing for an author to create...if she can deliver an ending to match.

The book I'm reading has built to that moment, but as I read this morning's chapter I began to doubt that the characters will be able to recover to any believable degree. The bad guy will die, of course, in some suitably horrible way. But the world has been so disrupted, what with… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on April 23, 2009 at 9:11pm — 3 Comments

Our Hobbies in Our Books

I guess it's a good idea. I know people who are making good money writing books tied to hobbies or jobs or pastimes they enjoy. Apparently everyone in the reading public who likes that hobby runs out and buys the books. Too bad I don't knit or quilt or play hockey!

My hobby, is suppose, is history, and I'm every bit as guilty of indulging myself when I write as those who write about flower arranging or antique collecting. We like to share what we know and what we do with others, and… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on April 22, 2009 at 9:53pm — No Comments

What Did "They" Believe?

As a writer of historicals and a history teacher for many years, I am often irritated by statements about what people in the past believed. "They believed it was unhealthy to sleep with the windows open." or "They thought the stars controlled a person's destiny." My question always is "Who is 'they'?"

If we apply the same generalizations to today, then "we" believe that the everyday actions of someone named Lindsey or Paris or Beyonce are very, very important. "'We' also believe that… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on April 21, 2009 at 10:53pm — 7 Comments

The Guy Who Won't Be Captured

In everything I write, there seems to be a character who refuses to be defined. Throughout the rough draft he (or she, I really can't say) is nebulous and shifty. For me, it's often a "bad" character, one who will be in some way dishonest.

Of course I begin with a scenario, so I know his/her role and propensities, but how does he/she present to the reader? In a mystery, it's important to give clues so readers don't feel cheated at the end by a surprise from out of nowhere. But how… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on April 20, 2009 at 10:24pm — No Comments

Back to the Good Stuff

We're back at home, hospitals have faded into the background, and I had a successful presentation last night. Those three things make me somewhat more cheerful, although it was a near miss. Here's the story.

I hurried home from that faraway hospital place, changed my clothes, packed my stuff in a bag, and headed to the location where I was scheduled to speak. I stopped to eat on the way, choosing a fine dining establishment with a three-course meal, as I always do when I'm on the… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on April 17, 2009 at 10:31pm — 1 Comment

Maybe It's Just Me...

But I'm seeing a lot of sad stuff lately. The hospital was the big sad stuff: people dying, people crying, that sort of thing. Kind of to be expected.

But also sad was McDonalds in the morning, where old people congregate these days now that the corner diner is gone. Eavesdropping on their conversations, there seems to be a frantic desire to do something useful, anything. I heard a woman go on for several minutes about how her grandson wanted her to bring him a Subway sandwich for… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on April 17, 2009 at 2:00am — 4 Comments

What Do You Call Crazy?

I witnessed an event yesterday that reminded me of CATCH 22. A psychiatrist asked a patient if she would consider a life-extending but invasive process. She at first said no. He asked why and she said it was prolonging an inevitable decline and she didn't want that. He talked with her for some time and then asked again if she would consider the treatment. She said she would consider it. He then informed her that she was competent, since she'd given the "right" answer. His word.

So,… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on April 16, 2009 at 1:44am — 4 Comments

People Watching

I'm spending my days in a hospital this week, so I'm doing a lot of observing. You might call it eavesdropping, but I have to be there, and I can't close my ears, so there.

Anyway, it's great fodder for drama, the juxtaposition of tragedy (illness, death, emergency) with the daily routines of life (gossiping, laughing, teasing). I have never been able to comprehend how medical people do it, but I greatly admire those who are good at it.

Then there are the snippets you get… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on April 14, 2009 at 10:17pm — 1 Comment

The World Is Too Much with Us

Looking at a week where Life interferes with Art, so let's let the blogs be short.

Layers. I write in layers, reading over and over and finding each time places to add depth. The question then, for all of you who have written a zillion books: does it come to the point where you put it all together more easily? Does the number of revisions lessen over time? Not that I mind them; I just wonder.

Added by Peg Herring on April 13, 2009 at 10:52pm — 2 Comments

ENDings….the most important element of your story…..

Guest blogging today is the lovely and talented Rob Walker.

I hear it all the time. Beginnings…the most important element of your story. Opening pages, first paragraphs, and so it goes, and every first word and first paragraph is absolutely important, sure. I also hear tell the middle, running chapters, are the most important element of your story. Those action-packed plot twisting, meaty, center pieces, yeah, all… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on April 10, 2009 at 9:42pm — 3 Comments

On Interviews, Scary, Wary, and Flair-y

In the last month I've done interviews several different ways, and in the course of things also had to be on the other side, interviewing a local celebrity for the newspaper. It got me thinking about the process, and you know by now that whatever I'm thinking, I write about here.

Least threatening are print interviews where an interviewer sends you a list of questions and you answer them at your leisure. You have time to reflect, change a word here and there, and think about what you… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on April 9, 2009 at 10:43pm — 2 Comments

In Defense of Novels

I spoke to a college professor recently in regard to a matter unrelated to writing. In the course of the discussion, however, it came out that I am a writer, and he asked, "What sort of things do you write?"

When I answered, there was a pause, as he searched for something to say. "Oh. That's interesting," was all he could come up with. Then he asked how the weather was in Michigan. No segue.

It's hard to get used to the idea that many people consider fiction writing to be… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on April 8, 2009 at 9:49pm — 5 Comments

Creating a World

I recall, a long time ago, picking up a book called EATERS OF THE DEAD. It hooked me immediately, and I was so convinced by the initial claim that it was an ancient manuscript, blah, blah, blah, that I had to stop and say to myself, "This is a novel. He's making it up." But how cool that Crichton could do that to me.

The authors we love build us a world. Sometimes we have to help them, suspending disbelief and letting them show us things that cannot be, but if they're good at it, we… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on April 7, 2009 at 9:24pm — 2 Comments

The Dreaded Flashback

I happen to like flashbacks if they aren't too obscure. That's a good thing, because my newest WIP is going to require it. The problem is that obscurity thing; I want each flashback to clarify the overall plot, not make the reader crazy with extraneous detail.

I wrote the first few chapters, which take place in the now, setting up the premise, introducing the characters, and establishing the hook. Now it's time to start feeding the reader bits and pieces of the protag's past so we… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on April 6, 2009 at 10:31pm — 1 Comment

Geeks Bearing Grifts

There should be a Congressional investigation into why no one can write a comprehensible manual for using the computer. I'm reasonably intelligent, but whenever I come to a point where my deskbeast won't do what I want/need it to do, the situation rapidly deteriorates into chaos.

First, I visit the HELP section. Here I am given a list of instructions that leads in a very wide, very challenging circle, accomplishing nothing but ending with the question, "Did this solve the problem?"… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on April 3, 2009 at 9:49pm — 3 Comments

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