Showing posts with label books. Show all posts
Showing posts with label books. Show all posts

Dec 23, 2021

Are You in Panic Mode Yet?



 It's two days until Christmas. You have someone to buy for. Maybe you forgot. Maybe that person is difficult to buy for. Maybe you feel like the trite gift card is just too...trite for this person. You're desperate.

How about a book?

No, it probably won't arrive before Christmas, but you could present the description and cover art, creating anticipation for that 'something nice' that will arrive later, when things have calmed down a little.

Each book is a personal choice, but there are so many to choose from, so many great hours of enjoyment to come.

And if it happens to be one of mine, well, you'll make another person happy. Bonus!

Find all my books (and Maggie's too) 

https://www.amazon.com/Peg-Herring/e/B002JK5FKY

https://books2read.com/pegherring/


Dec 10, 2021

Book Clubs Take Note: Discussion Guide: Sister Saint, Sister Sinner

Book Club Clip Art  

When I sent Sister Saint, Sister Sinner to my editor, she was (as usual) helpful about pointing out areas that needed more development, parts that repeated information already given, and places where the logic  temporarily failed. At the end, she made a comment that stuck with me: "People are going to be talking about the things you deal with in this book."

To me, that meant the story was destined for book clubs. Having visited a few in my years of writing, I knew that they often begin with a list of discussion topics. Now, they often don't stay focused on them, and that's okay. Sometimes it's the wine. Sometimes it's a natural progression. But discussion leaders like having questions that can get the conversation back on track when it strays too far from the story.

Every person who reads a book gets something out of it that no one else does. I had the experience once of visiting a book group where one reader didn't like the book and kept bringing up her objections, much to the dismay of the discussion leader. I remained polite when she asked why I did this and didn't do that with the plot. The leader kept moving on to someone else's comments. It wasn't my most pleasant experience, but I recognize that readers will never agree completely on the quality of a book. Authors have to get used to it.

In anticipation of book club interest, I'm posting 20 discussion questions here. You might not want to read them until you've finished the book, since there are spoilers. Mostly they serve to start discussion of a character, a plot point, or a theme. Here are examples from the list:

1.     1.  At the beginning of the story, the sisters have been living separate lives. Now that you’ve finished the book, do you see any significance to their distance from each other?

1.    14.  The relationship between Kim and Drew seems like it was meant to be. What factors in Drew’s makeup contribute to Kim’s attraction to him? 

1 1818. Olin Dobbs becomes for Nettie the son she might have had. Do you believe her support of Olin is a form of redemption for her?


Buy it HERE




Nov 16, 2021

Something Stinks

 


Last week, Amazon decided that I'm not the author of one of my books.

My first reaction was to make a joke about it on Facebook. Then I sent Amazon a happy little note assuring them that Maggie Pill and Peg Herring are one and the same person.

I got the identical email a second time.

In the meantime, my FB friends made suggestions, some facetious, some not. A lawyer friend said to get a DBA (Doing Business As) for Maggie Pill and send them a copy. That would be a great idea if I weren't in Florida. I called the county clerk for my home in Michigan, and they won't accept an application that isn't signed by a Michigan notary public. 

Another author said she'd had the same problem. She'd sent Amazon an email from her pen name's email address, saying that she had the right to make changes on the book. I did that, also sending a copy of said email in reply to theirs, so they had one from "Maggie"  and a copy of it from Peg.

No dice. This time, I did get a list of things I might be doing wrong. Perusing the list, I learned that the message had to be signed by hand by both parties.

Okay. Print the message, sign Maggie's name and my own, scan it, send it.

Got the same generic email back.

Angry now, I sent a message listing all the things I'd done and asking for a specific reason why ONE of Maggie Pill's eleven books had been singled out as a forgery. The sales are still getting credited to me. It's still listed as part of the Sleuth Sisters Mystery series. I ended with "and SHE IS ME."

This morning I got a message saying that I can now resubmit the book for publication, after making sure my metadata is correct.

Since I have no idea what was wrong in the first place, I'm a little lost, but I did it. I played it safe, leaving blank any line that isn't compulsory. 

In 72 hours, I'll know if it worked.

I don't really blame Amazon or anyone who works there. This is the way the systems we have in place work, and they're designed that way because people don't read instructions. The first thing I did was wrong, because near the bottom of the original email, they said they wouldn't just take my word for it that I'm Maggie Pill. 

Still, it's hard to correct something when you're not sure what the issue is. What has changed since the book was published back in 2018? 

We've all been led through looping instructions that take us back to the beginning, no wiser than we were when we started. Somewhere in the system there's an algorithm that says, "Okay" and moves you forward, but good luck finding it. A human being might have been able to see that Maggie's books are listed on my bookshelf and always have been, but I doubt that humans are involved in the initial stages. To be fair, the big entities we deal with daily are inundated with people who don't read, don't understand, and don't follow directions. Companies insulate their human beings from the frustration of having to explain over and over in the simplest terms what customers should be able to understand.

On the other hand, those who design the systems might do better with the specifics. Customer confusion often results from the assumption that we speak their language and use their terminology, so while we're scratching our heads at instructions about metadata and pixels per inch, they wonder, "Why don't those idiots understand?" 

Decades ago, I read John Hersey's My Petition for More Space, which highlights the absurdities of bureaucracy. These days I find myself avoiding contact with automated systems whenever possible, aware that I'll end up angrily screaming, "Customer representative!" and often end up unable to do what I intended.

I used to wonder how people in the Middle Ages survived with the threat of things like beheading and branding hanging over their heads, but then I consider that we live in a world where the appointments we need, the concerns we want to lodge, and the items we want to buy force us to deal with a faceless, uncaring, often non-human bureaucracy that cannot interact with us on the level we seek. There's only a box to check or a phrase to speak. No explanations accepted.

It's a lower level of stress than beheading, but since it's long term and unavoidable, it might kill you anyway.

 



Oct 4, 2021

At the Point Where I Can Tell You

 I sent my next book to the copy editor a few days ago, which for me is a major turning point. It's a commitment of sorts; the book that for a looooonnnnngggg time has been only mine is close to being offered to others. I've certainly talked about it at length to friends and family, but no one has read it except my first-draft beta reader, my content editor, and me (many, many times). And yes, I do pay three different people to critique a manuscript before I inflict it on the public.

Sending a book to the copy editor indicates that it's in its final narrative form, so now it's her job to find the silly stuff that would take away from readers' enjoyment: spelling errors, extra commas, etc. Once that's done, it will be formatted and prepared for print, e-book, and audio offerings.

In other words, I'm saying I don't intend to make substantial changes anymore, and that's really hard for me. Any time I look at past work I think, "I could have done this differently." It's really, really painful to say, "I'm done. This is what they get."

So what is this book about? It's not a mystery, though it has mysterious elements. Not social commentary, though it explores relationships, both family (the sisters in the title) and general attitudes we adopt as we move through society. I'm not a literary fiction type, so that leaves women's fiction as the category closest to accurately describing it.

The premise: Three sisters, close in their youth, have grown apart as adults, due to the way their lives evolved. When events push them back together, they face their differences and make choices that will change their relationship forever.

One is a murderer. One is unsure about her future after her long-time marriage falls apart. And one might well be the next First Lady of the United States.

Here are some possible versions of the cover. Comments?








Jun 16, 2021

You Gotta Love Suggestions...or Not



 People love to tell you what you should do. I guess it's part of being human. Many suggestions are horribly wrong, and they can feel almost willfully so. I saw a post on social media recently asking for book recommendations. The poster wanted to read about an era of history, but she specified she wanted a standalone book. She got no less than three recommendations for series that are "really good."

As my writing career lurches along, I get lots of advice on what I should be doing. My first books were historical, but then other ideas came along. I wrote contemporary mysteries and what I call 'vintage' mysteries set in the 1960s. As a result, Peg Herring's books are scattered through various mystery sub-genres, and of course there are fans who would like more of this type or that. "You should write more ---" Maybe some authors can churn out endless books of one type. I can't.

When I decided to try writing a cozy mystery, I invented a pseudonym, not knowing how well I would fare in that sub-genre. I didn't think about the fact that Maggie Pill would need her own social and IRW presence. I had to practice answering to that name at conferences and being careful to sign the right name when a fan hands me a book and a pen.  It's more work than I imagined to keep Maggie going, but she's fun, and she's very popular with readers. 

Last year, with Deceiving Elvera, Peg moved into women's fiction, which is considered more "literary" than genre books like mysteries. It's a story of a lifelong friendship, but social questions are interwoven: refugee relief, immigration, and people smuggling. Not exactly a light novel.

Peg is currently working on another women's fiction book, Sister Saint, Sister Sinner, and here's where we come to the advice thing. Twice now I've mentioned to acquaintances that I'm not sure how readers are reacting to this new, more serious turn in the Peg books. The breezy response in both cases "You should use another pen name."

That sounds simple, but because of Maggie, I understand what it would mean. Invent a third name. Make a Facebook page for that pseudonym. Then make a Twitter account, etc. Create a blog for her. Start building her a newsletter list so she can send out information periodically. Ignore thousands of readers who know Peg Herring's (and Maggie's) work and might buy the new book because they liked a former one. Not to mention the mental effort mentioned above, being three people at public events.

While it's fine to make suggestions, the decider is probably more aware of the situation than an outsider. So when people say, "You should--" I usually thank them for their input and move on.



Feb 5, 2021

How Writing Changes Reading

 Note to audio fans: Deceiving Elvera is in the works for an audio book. The whole industry seems to be slowed by COVID 19, but I'll let you know as soon as I know.

                                                    How Writing Changes Reading

 I have a friend who's a book reviewer, and she and I often talk about how reading changes a person's reading (if that makes sense, you're a reader). When you start as a kid and read for, say, five decades, you bring a lot of background to each new book you pick up. It's hard for an author to surprise you or entrance you, because you've seen it all before. I recall my daughter telling me how wonderful the Harry Potter books were, so I read the first one. My thought was, "Cute, but hasn't anyone read The Once and Future King?

Being an author is likely to make a person even more of a picky reader than a past filled with books. Writers see plot lines developing, because we've done that ourselves. In the book I'm currently reading, a better-than-average mystery, I have figured out that the bad guy has to die at the end, because it's the only way the hero will ever stop him. I'm in a similar place in my current WIP (Work in Progress). I know a certain character has to die. I'm just not sure of the "how" part yet.

Authors see weaknesses that most readers ignore. We think things like, "You needed to set the stage for that surprise a little better." Sometimes we can't swallow an author's ending, characterization, or even her whole premise. For example, I once read a well-reviewed book where the whole ending hinged on the villain pausing before killing the hero because she found a lipstick in her purse and had to try it out. In the jungle. Someone else's lipstick. I remember thinking, "My editor would never have let me get away with that!"

Generally, I don't comment publicly, but some writers get very uppity about pointing out a book's faults. In an author group I'm a member of on Facebook, a poor woman asked a simple question: How many readers would know that in the 1400's (I think), salt was stored in blocks? For a funny scene, she wanted a servant character who was not a deep thinker to mix up salt and sugar. She got lectured, lampooned, and generally berated by people who assumed she was making fun of those who have learning deficits, which she specifically said wasn't the point of the scene. Some said any reader would know that salt came in blocks. (Um, really? I once had a reader tell me she'd visited the spot where Queen Elizabeth I stayed when she came to Canada.) Some said no book should include a scene with a learning disabled servant because...I'm not sure there was a reason, just outrage. One author even told the questioner that she needed to rewrite the whole book.

While I notice things as I read that I would have done differently, I try to give authors credit for knowing their own story, voice, and reason for what they write. Being an author makes us aware of what writing requires, which can lead authors to being more critical than other readers. Hopefully we'll be more understanding as well.

Jan 18, 2021

I Too Lie for a Living

 Her Highness' First Murder (A Simon & Elizabeth Mystery Book 1) by [Peg Herring] 

Novelists are liars. As one of my contemporaries likes to say, "We make shit up."

The bad part of lying is why you do it.

For writers, it's about entertaining readers. Fiction in a story is harmless in most cases, though I get frustrated with historical novelists who twist facts to suit their story. They don't care if readers (who aren't generally historical experts) conclude that so-and-so wasn't really the villain the history books portray but was actually kind of a pussycat. 

Outside of books, lies take on a more treacherous role. We grew up bombarded daily with commercial advertising, and while some of us learned to think through the hype, others buy products they have no need for because they succumb to the tricks liars play. When I taught high school, I asked students to dissect ads looking for two things: what the specific goal is and how the ad makes its appeal. Often advertisers trigger a person's insecurities so they'll buy a product. (Beauty products are great examples.) Other products sell a vision of what people think will be a better life. Generally, the less essential/healthful a product is, the happier the scenery/actors/activity will be in the ad. (Think car companies, beer, and fast food restaurants.)

One would think that after a lifetime of that, modern citizens would easily recognize lies in politics, but recent times indicate exactly the opposite. Just as people run out to buy products that won't make them irresistible or purchase one more self-help app that's sure to fix their lives, large numbers of voters swallow complete untruths without bothering to fact check what's been said.

As I said earlier, lying in a novel is fairly harmless. Lying to sell a political candidate or idea isn't. Since it's hard to police falsehoods, the burden of finding the truth falls mostly on the consumer. When you read my books, I don't expect you to believe that Elizabeth Tudor solved murders with a commoner named Simon. It's an entertaining dive into the idea of "What if...?" 

When you go to the store, you don't have to buy products that claim to make you wiser, cuter, or more popular. You can think it through. You can look it up. (Try typing "Are some eggs better than others?" into the search bar and discover the answer. You might save yourself a few bucks.)

Most of all, you don't have to believe what any politician or analyst tells you. A few minutes on the internet, checking a variety of sites and reading objective analysis is a great way to counteract the lies that have plunged our nation into chaos. (Hint: if an article uses terms like "lying Republicans" or "socialist Democrats," it isn't going to help you find the truth.) Read the actual words a speaker used, not the edited version, not the slanted opinion that some commentator attaches to it. 

It's time to grow up and learn that lies should be tolerated only in fiction.


 

Everybody Lies

    First, let me say I'm aware that I make things up for a living, so writing about lying is a little hypocritical. But I don't pre...