May 29, 2020

Series: What I Wish I'd Known Then

I suspect every writer looks back and wishes things done and undone, and I'm no exception. I write what pleases me, not what I think will make tons of money.  Often I don't know as I'm working on a book if it's a stand-alone or if I'll want to revisit the characters at some point in the future and write them a new adventure.
The technology for book publishing has a steep learning curve and requires constant updating. I started my career with a traditional publisher, which meant I didn't have to worry about that end of things. Now that I'm independent, I decide at what point a book releases, how it's presented to the world, and how to make the internet assist. A while back I learned how to make a boxed set of some of my series, so binge readers can get all the books for one price. I think that's a nice bargain for them.

Recently I learned that Amazon will let readers know about all  the books in a series IF the information is presented to them correctly. As I mentioned above, I often don't know with the first book if it's even going to be a series. (The two main considerations are whether readers like Book #1 and whether I like it enough to pound out 70,000 more words about those people.) I often have to go back and add a series title to the Book 1 file later, so Amazon's algorithms will notice and offer readers the other books.
I've learned that a series title needs to be catchy, and it's best if it's unique." A Dead Detective Mystery" has been used as a series title by other authors, so my four dead detective novels are mixed in with books by different authors and labeled incorrectly (one is called "Book 7"). I have to figure out how to correct that, but I know from experience it will take lots of time and energy to get it done.
Publishing is always changing. That can be good, as the geniuses at Amazon or Draft2Digital make it easier to use their services. But it also means authors have to keep up with formatting, cover creation, promotion, end matter, and more.

I'm always picking up tricks to make things easier, but it seems that like as soon as I learn one, some other new thing comes along.

Mar 15, 2020

Writing, My Precious

Image result for cartoon person readingWe sometimes hear writing described as precious, which, according to one definition I found, is some combination of
1. self-absorbed – the author inserting his own personality too much in the narration.
2. autobiographical – the story is about something that changed the author’s life, turned into fiction.
3. trying too hard to make the text sound nice/pretty
4. trying too hard to effect a style

Last night I dumped a book after about 20 pages for reasons I can't pinpoint except to call the writing precious. I felt like the author was standing at my shoulder, asking, "Didn't I describe that character completely? Isn't she stunningly beautiful?" Every character was described in great detail before he/she ever said a word. In addition, they might just as well have worn signs that said, "LIKE ME" or "DON'T LIKE ME." The "good" characters were perfectly beautiful or incredibly handsome, and the "bad" characters had beady eyes or a bald spot. Again I "heard" the author asking, "Don't I do this description thing well?" After only twenty pages, I didn't care enough to keep reading.


I've got another book going that is precious for a different reason. I'll probably finish reading it, though I have to make myself keep going. It's historical, and the author is trying (I think) to copy the style of Victorian writers, which, as anyone who's read Dickens knows, is rather long-winded and roundabout. I like Dickens, but adopting that style for a novel of today falls into the precious category. The author is trying too hard, and as a reader I want to say to him, "Just tell the story!"

As an author I admit that it's hard to walk the line. Writers aren't supposed to insert themselves into a story, but we're also told that one can't write well unless she digs deep into her emotions and reveals herself in some way. Readers expect lovely language, but too much is "flowery" and gets you nominated for the Bulwer-Lytton Award for horrible writing. We're expected to understand style and develop one of our own, but if the writer's hand shows, we're being precious. Even big-name writers reveal their prejudices at times, though it's best to be even handed. (I love the fact that people still argue about what Shakespeare did or didn't believe about race, sex, religion, etc. He was very good at offering both sides and letting the reader decide who was right.)

A writer's job is to write, hopefully so well that the reader forgets there was a writer. When we stop our reading and think, "Oh, there's the author," that's a failure on her part. That's when writing is precious. 


Feb 5, 2020

Who "Deserves" an Honor?

It happens every day. Someone gets recognized, honored, if you will, by some entity. Often people who are well-informed gasp with dismay. Really? We're going to point to that person as an example of what's good in our neighborhood, our profession, our nation?
Sadly, recognition can say more about who does the recognizing than what the recipient has accomplished. Some things come down to who you know (I'm aware that should be whom). The doctor, writer, teacher, businessman, or talking head given an award is probably no more talented than a dozen, maybe a hundred others in his or her field. But we like awards, and we like one shining example, not a dozen really good ones.
Malcolm Gladwell attributes it to a human desire to have one top dog to admire in any one arena. That's likely to be a pooch the choosers know well, one who has served their purposes, "done his time," "paid her dues."
Can we really quantify who is the sexiest man alive? Or who wrote the best book of 2019? Or who's the best at political analysis? No, but we pick someone to honor anyway, often by purely superficial means. Reasons tend to be subjective.
"I know her. I don't know those other people."
"He deserves recognition. He did me a favor once."
"She's okay. She always speaks to everyone in the room."
News flash: If the award isn't for being nice, doing favors, or being everyone's pal, then it shouldn't be given.
It's good when we can all agree that an award is deserved, and that certainly happens. But when awards appear for purely selfish reasons on the part of the givers ("Look how great we are!" "Who are we going to honor at this year's banquet?") it's pointless. When an award comes more from the recipient's acquaintance with the panel of selectors than from any real talent or initiative shown, award-giving becomes divisive and petty.
And when a single individual bestows an award just because he can, it's an insult to all of us. At least the sexiest man alive comes from a vote of (some of) the people.

Dec 8, 2019

Christmas Recipes

The book launch for Maggie Pill's newest, ONCE UPON A TRAILER PARK, was a great deal of fun. People asked for the recipes for several items served, so here they are.

Chicken Spread
1 pint canned chicken
1 8-oz. package cream cheese
1/2 c. chopped onion
Drain chicken and save juice. Blend chicken, cream cheese, and onion. Add some of the juice if mixture is too dry. Season to taste with salt & pepper. Serve with crackers.

Cinnamon Toasted Pecans
1 pound pecans, whole or halves
1 egg white
1 tablespoon water
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. In a medium-sized bowl, beat egg white and water to a froth. In a large zip-bag, combine sugar, salt, and cinnamon. Coat pecans with the egg/water mixture then drop them into the bag and shake, coating well. Spread on greased cookie sheet and bake for 40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.
Cool on waxed paper. (These freeze well, but seldom last long!)

Chocolate Peanut-Butter Clusters
In a large saucepan combine
½ c. light corn syrup
½ c. chocolate chips
¼ c. sugar
½ c. peanut butter
3 c. toasted “O” oat cereal, plain, not sweetened
Combine corn syrup, chips, and sugar and cook on medium heat just until bubbles break the surface. Add peanut butter and cereal; mix well. Drop by teaspoons onto waxed paper. Makes about 3 dozen.



Buckeyes
In a large mixing bowl, combine
2 c. peanut butter
1/2 c. margarine or butter, softened
3 c. powdered sugar
Mix well. Form into balls about 1 inch in diameter. Roll between palms to condense and firm. Chill in refrigerator for an hour or so.
In a small, deep bowl, melt one 12-ounce package of chocolate chips with 1/4 bar of wax.
Using a toothpick, dip balls into warm chocolate, leaving the “eye” of peanut butter showing. Set on waxed paper to cool. Makes about 5 dozen.



Oreo Truffles
1 package Oreo-type cookies (not double-stuffed)
1 8 oz. package cream cheese
Squash cookies to fine crumbs. Stir in softened cream cheese. Roll into balls and chill for an hour.
Melt 12 oz. white chocolate. Using a toothpick, dip balls into chocolate and set on waxed paper until they harden. Store in a cool place. About 3 dozen.


Bacon-wrapped Water Chestnuts                        

Cut bacon strips in half and wrap around a whole water chestnut, secure with a toothpick
Bake on a rack set in a sheet pan for 30 minutes at 400 degrees.
Remove from oven, drain grease, and brush with sauce of your choice. Your favorite barbecue sauce is fine, or you can combine 1/3 c. ketchup, 1/3 c. brown sugar, and a tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce. Cook for 12-15 minutes more, until they're done to your liking.

Sep 18, 2019

Such A Deal for You!


Often I have stories that are funny to me but might set other people thinking, "The woman doesn't have a clue."
I know that, and mostly, I don't mind.

At the beginning of the month I signed up for a promotion that required I reduce the price on a boxed set. I did that, making The Simon & Elizabeth Mysteries (all 4 books in that series) just $.99 for the month of September.
When I went back to list it on the promo, I realized it didn't fit the criteria.
Result: The e-book boxed set is really cheap this month, for no good reason.



I did manage to get one promo right, so KIDNAP.org will be free for download on BookFunnel starting Friday., Sept. 20 and going until Oct. 19 (link:https://books.bookfunnel.com/feel-goodcrime/xb92i6xlq7
For that promo an author lists how many books she's willing to give away, and they stay available until that # is reached. If you haven't yet started that series, it's fun, and the second book, PharmaCon, is available in print and e-book formats. Audio should be coming along soon and I'll keep you informed.


Sep 1, 2019







I was interviewed by NF Reads, a site filled with interesting articles about a variety of topics. To see the interview, go here https://www.nfreads.com/interview-with-author-peg-herring/.

Jul 15, 2019

There's Too Many Kids in this Tub!

That's a poem by Shel Silverstein, but sometimes I feel that way about my books. I was packing for a book signing on Saturday, and I simply can't haul all of my books (and Maggie's) along anymore. I ended up taking a suitcase full, leaving it in the car, and checking with Horizon Books to see which books they already had. That way I only had to bring a few books from the car to the store, since Traverse City is a bit of an obstacle course all summer long. Gawking tourists (and I'm not complaining, since I've been that person many, many times), dogs, kids, cars, and protestors make the streets an adventure. Luckily, Horizon Books carries my work in good quantities, so I was able to navigate the streets with only a small tote bag containing the newest release.

But back to the too many kids thing. I once heard a very famous author comment that it was frustrating for him when people asked questions about his older books. "I forget them as soon as I write them," he said. "There's no sense asking me why Bill A. did something in Book Three. At Book Fifteen I might not even recall who Bill A. was."

I have to admit I find it hard sometimes to remember details of my own work. When someone asks, "Why did Susan say that on page 32?" I have to think, "Susan, Susan. Oh, yes. Simon's adopted daughter. Let's see, that would be Book Four... Now why did she say that?"

Most authors "live" in the book they're currently writing, and most of us don't have time to go back and reread or even think about earlier books. The details become fuzzy. The characters' names and personal details won't come to mind.



  As Shel said, "There's too many kids in this tub."

The End of a Series

      https://books2read.com/u/mqrOn6     I love the Kidnap Gang, so it's a little sad to see the end of the series. Why then, is it end...