Peg Herring's Blog – May 2009 Archive (21)

If You Knew Then What You Know Now

I often hear people say that if they knew they were going to live this long, they'd have taken better care of themselves. I think writers find many areas of the business where a little forethought (or listening to the advice of those who've gone before) would have saved them work and frustration.

Early on someone advised dating the file on a project in the file name. That way you always know which version is the most recent and, ostensibly, the best. I didn't do that for a long time,… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on May 29, 2009 at 10:18pm — No Comments

On Blood and Guts

Don't much like it. I know many do, so I try not to judge. I picked up a mystery in a bookstore yesterday that boasted, "If you like suspense paired with truly grisly detail..." Put it down, even though critics and friends have told me it's very well done.

We all have a line in our tiny little minds, a line we don't like crossed. How much detail should there be as to what the killer did to the victim? How much physical pain and emotional distress can we put our protagonist through?… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on May 29, 2009 at 12:05am — 8 Comments

I'm Liking the Slashing

You may recall that I was asked to reduce a book from 82,000 words to less than 70,000. I have to say that I've enjoyed that daunting task, and I may have improved the book overall.

When you cut, you have to look at what the least useful parts of a story are. What I found was a subplot that stretched credulity somewhat. It made a satisfying little "ta-da" at the end, but now that I've cut it, I think the book is stronger, more believable.

The bad part is all the little… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on May 27, 2009 at 10:55pm — 1 Comment

On Being the One-Person Show

Authors love to gripe about how hard it is to market and promote, and with good cause. It sometimes feels like nothing I do works, and in this economy, that's very possibly true. So what's a writer to do?

As a teacher, I learned to multi-task, and it serves well in this business, too. I think writers have to work more in multiple universes than others do: I'm promoting MACBETH'S NIECE but getting ready for HER HIGHNESS' FIRST MURDER to come out in January while editing SHAKESPEARE'S… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on May 26, 2009 at 10:46pm — No Comments

On Familiar Characters

Some hate it, but the general public likes the trend of putting famous characters, whether real or imaginary, into new stories. I just finished Laurie King's THE BEEKEEPER'S APPRENTICE, in which she does a nice job of extending the Sherlock Holmes story by introducing a young woman who meets him in his later years and becomes his partner. No Watson she; she's as sharp as Holmes and just as unique.

I used Macbeth, of course, walking a line between the real one and Shakespeare's greedy… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on May 25, 2009 at 10:32pm — 1 Comment

On Working and Spring

I Meant To Do My Work Today

by Richard LeGallienne

I meant to do my work today,

But a brown bird sang in the apple tree,

And a butterfly flitted across the field,

And all the leaves were calling me.

And the wind went sighing over the land,

Tossing the grasses to and fro,

And a rainbow held out its shining hand,

So what could I do but laugh and go?

That's how yesterday felt. As a result, I have a red neck, sunburned thighs, a… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on May 22, 2009 at 10:15pm — 2 Comments

Things Learned from Readers

I went to a book club meeting last night where my book, MACBETH'S NIECE, had been read. Everyone was very kind, and it was one of those gratifying experiences where you're treated as an expert and you feel a bit like an imposter playing the "Author" role.

The part that sticks with me this morning is the questions. These are all people who read, and from the general discussion I think they read decent material: good fiction and nonfiction too. They analyze things as a group, much like… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on May 21, 2009 at 11:20pm — 8 Comments

Green Is a Prettier Color Than Blue

I know. It's a matter of opinion. Steak is better than seafood. Girls are smarter than boys. Duncan Phyfe is nicer than Old Mission.

Yet we try to convince others that a certain author is no good or the very best. We think that if we just point certain "facts" out to people, they'll stop buying junk and read what we read. I suppose it sharpens your skills of argumentation, but it isn't going to work.

I recall a student who was hooked on a certain spooky author and asked if… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on May 20, 2009 at 8:40pm — 4 Comments

Picking Up, Women, er, Characters

Sometimes a character just walks into my life and I think, "He/she has got to be in a book!" Questions arise like "How many times did she dye/perm/heat that hair to fry it that badly?" or "Does she really think everyone else loves that irritating dog as much as she does?" Answers to the questions provide fodder for a secondary character with depth and dimension.

People-watching garners tidbits of human nature that add salt to a story: the man in the restaurant who speaks to the… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on May 19, 2009 at 7:53pm — 3 Comments

Let Me Tell You About My Weekend


There, that's it in a nutshell. From that one word you can picture a line of tiny, transient shops, set up along a lake shore under canopies threatening to fly away (some did); customers staying home or at best hurrying through the rows with no willingness to browse, chat, or buy.

There were good things, of course. I met lots of really nice vendors and got to know them pretty well, since we had only each other to talk to. I had time to cut down that book the… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on May 18, 2009 at 9:56pm — No Comments

Folk Fest

I'm booked at a semi-local festival this weekend, one dedicated to, of all things, the Morel Mushroom. The weather is supposed to be non-cooperative, as usual. If it's outside and I'm signed up, Mother Nature is almost guaranteed to rain, sleet, or do a great imitation of Hemingway's three day blow. I practiced putting up my handy-dandy canopy by myself, since my "chauffeur" is fishing in Canada. Should be great.

It's often a little like Seger's descriptions of being on the road:… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on May 15, 2009 at 9:03pm — No Comments

Born to Write

I spoke with a woman on the phone yesterday and got a now-familiar response. We were talking about real estate, but when I mentioned that I write, she said, "I've always wanted to write a book."

Yup. Another one. She went on to say that she's just too busy to get started on it, etc. etc.

I know she isn't lying. I know she'd really like to. But I can't help but think that if you really, really want to write, you'll write.

The last year I taught school, I also… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on May 14, 2009 at 10:35pm — 4 Comments

Cut It Out!

Got an enthusiastic response to a query yesterday, which is cool, but-- (There's always a "but," isn't there?) The publisher has a word limit, and my story is (get this) 12,000 words over it. So the question from them is "Can you pare it down to 70,000 words?

Yeah, sure, if you'll publish, I'll pare.

So the work begins. Do I cut out "things," e.g. whole scenes or chapters, or do I do words, eliminating prepositional phrases, descriptions, and adverbs? I decided to go for… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on May 13, 2009 at 10:55pm — 5 Comments

Trends in Marketing

It's entertaining to watch trends in any aspect of life, I suppose, and being a writer, I observe various fads and fancies in the writing business in order to decide what works for me and what doesn't. There is the rush to do book trailers, for example, and of course, blog tours. Lately, it seems that interviewing the characters in your books as if they were real is the hot thing to do.

If I had to be totally honest (and I try to be here), I think they all sound like fun. Certainly I… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on May 12, 2009 at 10:34pm — No Comments

A Wasted Day...or Not

I went to an Authors' Day celebration at a library 83 miles from my home on Saturday. There were nine authors there, a few Friends members, and very few others. The only sale I saw was two of the authors selling each other their books of poetry.

In one sense, it was a wasted day. Still, I think of it as an investment. The people in that town (well, some of them) now know my name. They know about my book. They even have a bookmark, so that if the stars align just right and they decide… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on May 11, 2009 at 7:00am — 2 Comments

Would You Like to Take a Look at It?

How many times as an author have you been asked that question? A person at a book signing or a speaking event hangs around, waiting for a chance to talk to you. Or an email arrives through your website contact. Or a phone call from an acquaintance from the blue. The method may vary but the message is the same: I've got something written down. Would you take a look at it?


It isn't that we're mean people. It's that we aren't the ones who should be looking. We know no… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on May 8, 2009 at 11:00pm — 5 Comments

How Do You Focus on One Project?

If you're like me, you have at least six book ideas buzzing inside your head at any given moment. I read once that James Michener did all the research and outlining for IBERIA years before he ever got around to writing the book, and I know how that goes. It seems like there's never time to develop that clever idea that I wrote three chapters of one week, or start on the one that comes to mind when I'm driving long distances alone, or rework the one that isn't bad but could be improved now that… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on May 7, 2009 at 9:58pm — 2 Comments

Write That Bestseller!

Browsing the book store yesterday, it occurred to me that there are books that I never could have imagined anyone writing or reading. Who thought up a book about WWII radio operators, or how to make clever cupcakes, or slow-thinking guys named Forest who can run really fast and far?

Of course, not all books succeed, but someone loved the idea enough to write it down and do the editing work. Then someone else loved it enough to sink money into making it a book. And sometimes, someone… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on May 6, 2009 at 10:40pm — 5 Comments

Why Do We Keep Reading?

A discussion on a mystery chat group recently dealt with why we keep reading authors who long ago ran out of things to say to us. Either their work has grown stale or we ourselves have read enough of it to know exactly what's coming, yet we keep buying them, reading them, waiting for them to do it again.

I suppose it's habit, in part. It's also a desire to recapture that feeling of joy you once had, like going to your high school reunion and expecting to meet the cool dudes and… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on May 5, 2009 at 11:07pm — 2 Comments

It's A Story!

If you're tired of hearing about my WIP, you'll be glad to hear that I finished it yesterday. Now, "finished" doesn't mean publishable or even submitable. It just means that I now have a story that goes from Point A, a murder, to Point B, a solution. And the best part is, it feels right.

There's a character who isn't right, but now that I know what she did, I know how to fix her. There are of course oodles of other things to fix: time lines, foreshadowing moments, and details, not to… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on May 4, 2009 at 9:00am — 2 Comments

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