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


I have a psychologist friend who claims it's impossible for one generation to understand another to any great extent. Being raised in different times means we just don't react to things the same way. We've all seen the lists that chart those differences: events and objects that mean a great deal to fifty-somethings (phonographs, first man on the moon) that twenty-somethings think of as ancient history.

For the historical writer, that adds another layer of problems. Not only to do we… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on October 30, 2009 at 9:44pm — 1 Comment

How Does That Happen?

I know not what path others may take, but as for me, it's the same path, over and over. As I write, I leave big holes, but as I edit, again and again, they fill themselves in almost as a matter of course. As big problems are solved, smaller ones come to light and get their turn for my full attention. It's the fourth time through that I see a tiny event that deepens the bad girl's motivation and makes her more realistic. On the sixth time it might be an incident that, added to the main plot,… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on October 29, 2009 at 8:32pm — 1 Comment

Luminarites, (the Other Side of Functionaries)

Okay, so I was really disgusted yesterday with the type of person who makes life harder. Then, in bookstore visits, I met the opposite type...twice!

Two bookstores, two lovely people. One has been in the business for 22 years and loves putting people together with books they love (and the authors who write them--YAY!) The other is much younger, so she hasn't put in the time, but she went out of her way to make me feel that I was not a hat-in-hand requester of their patronage but a… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on October 28, 2009 at 10:32pm — No Comments


I love that word. It so fits the buttoned-down, small-minded little people who have nothing better to do than throw their teeny-tiny bit of weight around. Life parallels art, and I'd just written a functionary into my Tudor mystery who has one little bit of authority and uses it to the extreme. I thought he might be a bit much. Then I ran into one in real life.

There is a form that I had to have a doctor fill out for a family member. It took me weeks to get to the specialist's inner… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on October 27, 2009 at 8:51pm — 1 Comment

Gimme a "D" (eadline)

I've given myself a week to get it all together. I've long nown that I do best with a deadline. They're natural for teachers, because every hour of the day is at least one. For a writer, there are plenty of deadlines as well, but not always when you need them. I've got plenty going on: two books coming out soon, one edited and in need of promotion; one whose editing hangs over my head like that sword in mythology (When will they send it back? How much will they want it changed? How much time… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on October 26, 2009 at 11:18pm — 2 Comments

Goodreads and Giveaways

Maybe I'm the last to know, but I found out that Goodreads will do a giveaway of an author's ARCs for free. I offered some copies of HER HIGHNESS' FIRST MURDER and got a great response. Goodreads lets you choose how many books you'll give away, decide how long the contest will run, and enter the information you want people to read. They choose the winners, send you their mailing addresses, and you mail them the books. It's a pretty painless process, and the first day I was listed I had 176… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on October 23, 2009 at 10:00pm — 1 Comment

New Territory

If you're ever feeling good about getting published and all, just stop and think about how many states in this big ol' country of ours have never heard of you.

I'm planning my winter vacation/booktour, and this year we're going into states we've only driven through other years. So I begin the introductory letters, the offers, the enticements. "I'm someone you've never heard of, but I'm really okay, not crazy or anything."

It's a bit daunting, a bit exciting. And a lot of… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on October 22, 2009 at 10:17pm — 5 Comments

Nebulous Characters

Had a character in my WIP who would not let me pin her down. She's evil, but that's all I could see in her. Did I want her to appear to be self-absorbed, slightly dumb, or tooth-aching sweet? Should she know she's evil when all is said and done, or should she suffer under the all-too-common murderer's delusion that she did what she had to do? I tried all the usual methods, letting her talk, letting others talk about her, but in the end I went ahead and finished the story without a clear picture… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on October 21, 2009 at 10:14pm — No Comments

The Poet and the Prose-ist, II

Some things that came to mind as I listened to Billy Collins talk about being a poet and writing in general:

Poets start from scratch more often. Whether that's good or bad I can't say, but the novelist has a thread to follow for months, even years, while the poet faces a blank page every day or two.

Poets are allowed to break the rules of writing (such as they are). Playing with language in encouraged. Novelists have more of a job to do, a goal to reach, less time for… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on October 20, 2009 at 10:27pm — No Comments

The Poet and the Prose-ist, Part I

I went to hear Billy Collins speak yesterday. Imagine yourself listening to an hour and a half of poetry...and then imagine something not boring at all. His combination of self-effacing humor and intelligent, fresh play with language made the time fly by, and my friend and I agreed that we're jealous of his talent with words. But that's why he was Poet Laureate and we never will be.

Mr. Collins made some points about writing that apply to all of us, though, and I plan to write about… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on October 19, 2009 at 10:28pm — No Comments

What I Love About Crimespace

I would admit that it's not helping me sell books. I admit that I spend more time than I should posting 5 days/week and responding to others. And I'll admit that we hammer at the same old questions over and over: Should I...? Can I...? Why do they...? And so on.

What I love about it is the half-ghoulish, half-frantic picking of each other's brains, trying to find out if we're normal writers, whatever that may be. Here we compare experiences, observe and comment on the oddities of the… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on October 16, 2009 at 10:03pm — 11 Comments

What Exactly Is "The Old Razzle-Dazzle"?

Whether we're considering quality of writing or branding or charisma, the problem is the same: personal differences. I gripe a lot here about writing that I consider bad, but obviously somebody liked/likes it, so I'm different from those people.

Readers look for different things from books, so what I want isn't necessarily what you want. I've learned to smile like Buddha and say nothing when people gush over their favorites, books I wouldn't read if you gave them to me along with… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on October 15, 2009 at 11:15pm — 4 Comments

Ruined, I Tell You! I'm Ruined!

I've said it here before, so stop me if you've heard it: writing has made me into a very picky reader. Once upon a time I could enjoy a mediocre book: let myself slide into disbelief, allow a few terrible sentences to pass, ignore a character who has no flesh whatsoever. But now that I'm tuned in to the "how" of writing, I'm offended by writers who slack off, the way good doctors and good lawyers must be embarrassed and insulted by the Medicare-cheaters and ambulance-chasers in their… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on October 14, 2009 at 10:37pm — 3 Comments

How Many Characters Is Too Many?

I lunched with a fellow writer yesterday and we discussed that topic, which is about as useful as "How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?" The answer has to come from the story itself, and the author has to make intelligent decisions as things progress.

Another friend in the business made the point recently that mystery is a little different from other genres, since "extra" characters are needed to create red herrings and give the reader alternate guesses. So the question… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on October 13, 2009 at 10:45pm — 1 Comment

Bad Dialogue

Often it begins with "As you know..." followed by a character telling another character stuff the author needs the reader to know. That's bad.

Dialogue reveals character and advances plot. Characters can make observations about the past if it's done well, "I never did agree with the king's decision to close the monasteries last year." There, we got some history, a timeline, AND a character snapshot.

And, by the way, keep it short.

Added by Peg Herring on October 12, 2009 at 9:43pm — 9 Comments

The Gift of Murder

I've probably mentioned I'm part of this year's Toys for Tots anthology from Wolfmont, titled THE GIFT OF MURDER. Now I can tell you that I recommend it, since I finished in this morning over breakfast.

I'm pleased to have been included in the anthology, an entertaining mix of holiday crime stories. A great gift for the readers on your holiday list, since you get 19 chances to please instead of just one, and you support a worthy cause at the same time.

Nice work, Tony… Continue

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

That Wonderful Bottom Drawer

In my writing workshops, I always advise letting a piece "rest" in a drawer or file somewhere for an extended time when it's finished, and I just proved to myself once more the value of that practice. There's something about stepping away that clarifies things: plot flaws solve themselves, characters solidify, and bits that nail the thing together grow between the cracks and almost insert themselves.

My WIP for October is the sequel to HER HIGHNESS' FIRST MURDER, which has been… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on October 8, 2009 at 10:01pm — No Comments

There's No Predicting

If you'd asked me a week ago, I'd have said that writers' groups don't buy books. Most of the time when I speak to a group of wanna-be writers, they're there to pick my brain, and the enticement of reading my work evades them entirely.

Then I meet a group that surprises me, and I have to run to the car to get more books (always more books in the car--that's a rule.) And I take orders from more people who didn't come prepared to buy the book but want to send a check.

The… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on October 7, 2009 at 7:30pm — 2 Comments

I'm Puttin' on My Top Hat...Sorta

Fred Astaire aside, I've scheduled a library talk tonight, so I've been doing all that silly stuff we do before presenting ourselves to strangers. Not sure why it matters if my nails are polished, but it makes me feel like I have done my part. The thing is, one never knows if it's going to be worth all the effort. I pack three tote bags with handouts, giveaways, book I hope to sell, etc., and then drive whatever distance I must. And sometimes nobody shows up. Sometimes three people. Sometimes… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on October 6, 2009 at 10:30pm — 1 Comment

Deferred Gratification

I had a professor at the U of M(ichigan...she hangs her head after Saturday's humiliation) who was always on about deferred gratification and how Americans had lost any grasp of it in modern times. It's hard to argue the point after seeing the newly touted sports channel that lets you "see every touchdown in every game" on a Sunday afternoon. Jump from game to game, just watching the highlights? How long would it take to be totally lost as to which team you were watching? And what's the… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on October 5, 2009 at 9:21pm — No Comments

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