Friday, October 15, 2021

Positive Delay Tactics --- Maybe

I believe that the best way to write enough to publish is just to keep writing. Well, duh. What does that mean?

Ideas for stories come fairly easily. What does not come eaily is bringing those ideas to fruition in a story that matteres -- and all good stories matter, whether they deal with a serious topic or something that may be thought of as frivilous.

Sometimes you reach a point and realize a story has nowere to go. It's buried in the "maybe later" file and you go on to something else. If that happens too often, it may mean your "keep your buns in a chair" gene is not working properly. My gene has been known to wander.

Writers have different indicators for when a story is stalled. We may:

  • Have characters repeat (to another character, or while ruminating) recent action. As if repetition will clarify where what should come next.
  • Start a new chapter or scene with a phrase such as, "The next day dawned bright/cloudy..." Moving action forward without showing the transition because, well, how did we get there?
  • Have characters deal with daily life beyond what's needed to move the story along. Mindless activity may help an author think, but it loses readers.
  • And the tried and true distraction, clean something in one's own home.

I used to place characters on a bus or train. In Falling Into Place, I have the grandpa accompany a sick child home from school on a city bus -- because he wasn't sure what they'd do when they got to his place.

In Toxic Traces (which will never see the light of day) I put several characters on the D.C. subway. As if that would get to the next plot point. In both cases, I took long breaks from the stories as the characters got their bearings.

These were early books. Now I know I can't stop. I always have ideas for scenes, so I'll write a few paragraphs or pages even if I don't know how they'll fit into the story. I generally use the scene in some way, but even if I don't, the process of putting pen to paper has continued. 

Of course, those who outline carefully before starting ChapterOne will say, "See, this is why you outline." I do make notes as I start and along the way, but I'm way too impatient to outline. One of these days a diversion will waste too much valuable time. In the meantime, I enjoy the ride.

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To learn more about Elaine, go to elaineorr.com or sign up for her newsletter

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Balancing Murder and Family

Balancing murder and family is a true skill -- as long as you aren't thinking about killing someone you're related to.

The 12th book in the Jolie Gentil series is underway: working title is "Sticky Fingered Books." Among the many facets of their lives. Jolie handles ordering food for the day care center their four-year old twins attend and Scoobie runs a poetry group for the kids.

Say what? Kids like to rhyme, and Scoobie is a natural clown. Most kids like clowns, as long as the make-up is friendly.

These activities are fine, but readers pick up a mystery to find out how a crime gets solved. They like some excitement along the way and a bit of humor is almost expected now.

As characters evolve, readers may come to care about them, their friends, and families. But not  if a good murder mystery takes a back seat. 

Another key factor is the amount of danger parents would put themselves in to solve a crime. Pretty dumb for a female sleuth to set her husband and kids up to be without her. Ditto for daddy.

Then there is the question of aging the kids. Mine are twins (Lance and Leah) because I find it easier to manage (in a book at least) two kids of similar age rather than a single kid. Much less need to entertain them, and more opportunity for humor. 

Mine entered the stories at age three and are now four. I don't believe they will age much more, for several reasons. Early thirties is okay for how I see Jolie and Scoobie. Forties not so much. Too staid.

The biggest reason to keep them young is that as they aged some older characters would eventually have to die. That or live to be 100+ and eat only soft food. Neither appeals to me, and I think readers would bombard me with bad reviews if Aunt Madge died.

I've written several other books since the 11th (Underground in Ocean Alley). In retrospect, one reason I've avoided #12 is addressing the kid factor. Now, it's time.

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To learn more about Elaine, go to elaineorr.com or sign up for her newsletter

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Talk Like a Pirate Day is Here Again

     I'm not sure why this eclectic annual event tickles my fancy. Perhaps because it's just so....odd.

    If you are a fan of Talk Like a Pirate Day, make sure to greet your friends appropriately. Shiver me timbers, look who's here. Ahoy, maties. 

    I grew fond of the September 19th holiday when searching for an event to use as a fictional fundraiser for the food pantry in the Jolie Gentil mystery series. Any Port in a Storm developed around the theme, and it may have been the most fun book to write.

    Scoobie was able to find humor in all aspects of the day. Here is one of his pirate limericks.

A pirate charms, that's not new.

Me ladies he said, what to do?

Said the wench this is fun

But from spouse I must run

Or t'will be no chance for a screw.

Jolie's comment? "Not exactly PG-13, is it?" 

    Part of the planning for the event entailed coming up with a list of things people would pay 25 cents to do. (It's a fundraiser, remember?) The list was single-spaced, and included items sure to offend any group. 

  • Talk like a pirate
  • Talk like a grouchy pirate
  • Pretend you are a dead pirate
  • Fart like a pirate
  • Act like a girl pirate (if you are a boy)
  • Act like a boy pirate (if you are a girl)
  • Act like an androgynous pirate (if you aren't sure what you are)
  • Walk like a fat pirate.
  • Show your junk like a pirate
  • Drink from your tankard like a pirate
  • Walk the plank like a pirate
  • Not walk the plank like a pirate
  • Stop talking like a pirate
All this and a murder, too. The book is on all sites, and is included in a Kindle Unlimited box set that's free until September 20th. Enjoy!

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To learn more about Elaine, go to elaineorr.com or sign up for her newsletter

Sunday, September 12, 2021

When You Can't Get a Book Out of Your Mind

Most of us have at least a few books that stick with us. When we know why, it's easier to select other books to read.

Robert Harris Pompeii comes to mind fairly often. As you might guess, the 79 AD eruption of Mount Vesuvius plays a role, and we know how that transpires, right? So, no big surprises.

The novel Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides has a secondary character always referred to as "Chapter Eleven." (You can guess the context.) I listen to audiobooks almost dayly. Every time the narrator announces Chapter Eleven I think of Middlesex.

More recently I listened to Tess Gerritsen's The Bone Garden. I'd advise reading rather than listeneing if you are at all squeamish -- but I never wanted to turn off the CD player.

Of course, these have compelling characters and plots that "matter." I generally don't enjoy character studies or family sagas, in which dramatic action (in the sense of conflic) is less prominent.

All three of "my" books deal with hsitorical events, Middlesex and The Bone Garden do so from current times, Pompeii is set in 79 AD. I love to read about prominent past events in fiction -- not necessarily as historical fiction.

All three have elements of science, Gerritsen and Eugenides use medicine and Harris' employs geology and water.

I borrow nearly all of the books I read from the library. After reading Pompeii, I bought a copy. Must be my favorite.

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To learn more about Elaine, go to elaineorr.com or sign up for her newsletter

Friday, August 27, 2021

Rethinking a Character's Past

I read a blog post today on Writers Helping Writers that contained this sentence. 

"Before randomly choosing a trauma from the past, think about who your character is and how this trauma could make their story journey more difficult for them. Get really curious about this."

I often think about my characters' past lives. Sometimes I'll have a page or two of notes for a relatively minor character. It's the only way (for me) to have a character act purposefully rather than just doing something I need them to do to move the story along.

For the characters in the Jolie Gentil cozy mystery series, they had met for one year in high school and then again nearly a decade later. I had mapped out a number of their high school interactions so they could refer to them as adults.

Slowly I began to realize that those experiences really had shaped who they became as adults, I just hadn't done it intentionally. So I wrote a prequel, and as it evolved I learned a lot more about the adults they became. And they'd already appeared in six books!

A traumatic incident affected Jolie and Scoobie greatly -- in opposite ways. I suppose that makes sense -- easy and fun situations shape most people less than something dramatic (good or bad).

As a result of the prequel (written years ago) I have a character in the wings waiting for a spot in another book. Life does have its connections.

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To learn more about Elaine, go to elaineorr.com or sign up for her newsletter

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Looking for Free Books?

 Is your Kindle or Nook overflowing with unread books? If not, here are some good ways to find a few.

1) At Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Google, Smashwords, etc., put in search items such as, "Free mysteries" or "free science fiction." Some will appear (usually more on Amazon). Once you've clicked on a freebie, see if the site shows its ranking vis a vis other free ones in that category. That could send you to a list of top free books in a genre.

2) On Facebook there are a number of groups for free books. Try:

Free Kindle Books  (1) Free Kindle Books! | Facebook

Free Books  (1) FREE BOOKS!! | Facebook 

Free PDF Books  (1) Free PDF Books Download | Facebook (You can read these on a computer without a Kindle or Nook.)

Free and Bargain Ebooks -- Kindle, Nook, Kobo, ibooks and more. (1) Free & Bargain Ebooks - Kindle, Nook, Kobo, iBooks & More! | Facebook

3) Book Bub. This site sends a weekly email with bargain and free books. There used to be more free ones, but each week there are a few, and some of the bargain books are good deals. You don't have to wait for an email, go to BookBub for daily deals.

I'll keep adding to this post. All ideas are welcome!

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To learn more about Elaine, go to elaineorr.com or sign up for her newsletter

Saturday, August 14, 2021

Deciding Where to Blog

Blogging can be a useful tool to present opinions, share information, or attract people who want to read about something you produce -- books, crafts, consulting advice, etc. Blogs can simply be fun, too.

Since late 2011, I've blogged about writing, family history, book marketing, and whatever suits my fancy. I decided many years ago to write a quality product and not worry about whether my articles are read 500 or 2,000 times per month. If you want to acquire paid advertising for a blog, that matters. Otherwise, don't worry about it.

The first decision will be where to host a blog, I looked at Blogger (www.blogspot.com) and WordPress (www.WordPress.org). 

WordPress has more templates and is said to be better equipped for commerce. I had trouble figuring out how to set up a blog there. Since 30% of the world’s bloggers use it, the problem was clearly mine. (I've since had help in transferring my webside to WordPress, and could blog there. However, since this blog is well-established, I simply reference it on my website.)

A second choice will probably be whether to “self-host,” which means buying a domain name to place with Blogger or WordPress (or another site). In so doing, you are essentially creating a website (and probably paying to host it) and using the site as a blog. 

People who advocate self-hosting point out that you will own your content and it will be harder to steal it. I would suggest these two reasons may not be crucial. You own your writing unless you give the copyright to someone else, and anyone can copy and paste what you write, no matter where you post a blog.

The advantage to self-hosting (a.k.a. buying a domain and paying a website host) could be better capability to add videos, sell products, and add plugins. There are likely more advantages, and you can read about them at different hosting sites. I plan to keep writing books rather than learn more about blogging.

I'm happy with my free site at Blogger, which Google hosts. The hardest thing for me is remembering to write a post three times a month. You'll see I started strong, waned, and am now more consistent.

Content matters most. Wherever you place your blog, I suggest an index, organized by broad topics. You can get to the index to Irish Roots Author by clicking that link at the top left of this page. Have a look.

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To learn more about Elaine, go to elaineorr.com or sign up for her newsletter