Thursday, December 31, 2020

Turning the Page

 I love a good book metaphor, and "turning the page to 2021" is perfect. Anyone like 2020 enough to want to relive it? It would be interesting to look at lists of New Year's Resolutions prepared last January and see how many could be achieved.

My writing was off until the third quarter of 2020, largely self-inflicted slowness encouraged by worry. And we all know how effective worry is in relieving writing stress. Not.

The one full-length book I managed to finish was Least Trodden Ground, first in the Family History Mystery Series. Ironically, near the beginning of Least Trodden Ground the protagonist mentions the 1918 flu pandemic. Family historians sometimes try to figure out which ancestor succumbed to it. 

The book is set in Garrett County, Maryland, and Western Maryland had few cases of the 2020 coronoavirus as I wrote it. Easy to have references to masks or not hugging people.

As I finish the Unscheduled Murder Trip, lo and behold cases in Western Maryland (where many eschewed masks) have exploded. Now I wish I'd made the series timeless. I can't make the illness a focus of the book, but I will have to have a memorial service with few attendees, and now there's a sign on the door of an assisted living residence -- Mask It or Casket. 

I should do a blog post on choosing a time period for a book.

As 2020 finally draws to a close, I wish you enjoyable reading and a healthy 2021.

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To learn more about Elaine, go to or subscribe to her newsletter.

Sunday, December 20, 2020

The Makings of a Good Holiday-Themed Book

Some ideas come naturally, other times authors think hard about how to appeal to a certain audience or work an event or holiday into a book. A quick look at online booksellers (even more so than in bookstores) indicates how many writers incorporate a Christmas theme. 

Halloween is popular in genre fiction, especially relatively recently. This seems to have coincided with when more adults started celebrating it. 

The Christmas concept makes sense for a lot of reasons -- it's often a joyous period (who wants to write about bad stuff all the time?) and the season is a long one. In the U.S., the timespan goes from after Thanksgiving, at the end of November and runs through New Year's Day. A plot has a few weeks to evolve and there is a lot going on. And it can be just plain fun.

To hold reader interest any book needs conflict (in the sense of addressing and resolving something) and action. Action does not mean chase scenes, simply that something important has  to happen.

Think of the Christmas story many people read as children and continue to see -- Dickens' A Christmas Carol. Structurally, having Scrooge visited (in the form of his late business partner) by the ghost of Christmases Past, Present, and Yet To Come  is brilliant. More important, the visits give Scrooge the chance to learn a lot and evolve fairly quickly.

A problem gets resolved. Readers want something to be better because of action that took place during the Christmas season. 

Reaching to cinema, It's a Wonderful Life continues to play in living rooms every year. To be sure not to miss it,we bought a DVD. Jimmy Stewart shows us (also with a visitor from  the past) that what we do with our life matters, and we reap what we sow. Look at all those friends in the ending scene!

Dare I mention Elf? How did a film about a naive adult Santa's helper become so popular? If you're still asking the question, watch it. The plot revolves around Will  Ferrell's story, but who evolves? His reluctant father, the curmudgeonly Walter Hobbs, played by James Caan. And the people of New York rise together to save Christmas. What could  be better?

What makes it better is the juxtaposition of the routine life of rushing and commercialization next to Elf's unendingly hopeful nature. (And it is funny.)

Good stories have a strong plot. I strongly believe that the most important element of a seasonal story is to give readers hope by showing the characters doing something positive to help others. And succeeding, of course. 

Romance and mystery fiction are two adult genres that seem to explode with holiday stories each December. Just look at the covers floating by at a retail site. Pick an author you like, and see if they have a Christmas spirit story. I've taken to rereading Karen Musser Nortman's A Campy Christmas, which is one of her campground mysteries. The usual characters get snowbound and take on a different task. Someone ends up better for it.

If this year is more stressful than usual for you, read or watch a story you remember fondly, or pick up something new. The Christmas season can offer hope.

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Elaine Orr writes four mystery series and whatever pops into her head. Check out her books with holiday cheer or learn more at

Monday, November 23, 2020

Would you Like to Worry Less?

 Years ago I developed the idea for a book, The Art of Deliberate Distraction. I hesitated to finish writing and publish it because I'm no expert in counseling or anything similar. I can claim to be someone who tries to focus on positive thinking.

With the arrival of COVID-19 and the ensuing stress, this seemed like a time to tackle the project. The result is The Art of Deliberate Distraction. It's more an article than a book, so I've added my heartwarming novella, Falling Into Place, as a bonus.

What is deliberate distraction? Deliberate distraction offers a way to consciously refocus your thinking – if only for a few minutes – so you can feel more well-balanced as you handle tough events. 

If you're trying to work from home and keep kids on task for homework or remote learning, it's tough. I remember a cartoon from the beginning of the pandemic. I don't have the image, but it said something like, "Tried remote learning. Two boys were kicked out of class and the teacher was fired for drinking wine." 

After nine months, it's harder to laugh about the restrictions and separation from our families. As one who had pneummonia last year, I wouldn't want to tackle COVID-19. So while I don't like missing Thanksgiving with my Maryland family, I prefer to love from a  distance so I can live for next year.

There are simple things we all love to do -- take a  walk, talk to a friend, read a book, binge watch our favorite TV show. When we're stressed or extra busy, sometimes it feels as if we have an obligation to worry. We do have a responsibility to tackle problems if we can, but we can also give ourselves permission to take our thoughts somewhere else by practicing deliberate distraction.

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

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Making Writing More Readable

Each writer has their own style and each character has their own voice. However, you (usually) want your writing to be read easily. A reader can  get frustrated if they have to go over a sentence or paragraph a couple of times to get the gist of it. Though if you want a character to be misunderstood, then you're golden. 

I have a mental checklist as I edit. I'm not talking about a read-through as you continue to write a story. These suggestions are for what I call polish editing.  

  • Watch for what a grade-school teacher called 'helper verbs' – especially any form of the verb to be. Was plus a gerund can usually be replaced by past tense. I was walking becomes I walked. Some authors believe that using gerunds makes an action seem more immediate. It can -- unless you do it all the time.
  • Use precise verbs. Words such as walk and look are often overused. Do a word search if you're editing online or use a highlighter if reading on paper.
  • Break up paragraphs—especially so that each character's dialogue is in a new one. A long paragraph can take up a full ebook page.
  • Avoid overly long sentences. If you use 'and' and 'but' a lot, consider shortening some sentences. Varying sentence length can be a good way to vary characters' speech patterns, so long-winded or clipped sentences, when used purposefully, can be useful. 
  • Avoid using similar names or having a lot of towns or characters whose names start with the same first letter. This especially helps when a book has numerous characters or there are many pages between mentioning a locale or name.
  • Avoid passive voice! The subject of a sentence should usually be the person performing the action. Instead of, "Those words were spoken by me," the phrase, "I said," is more direct.
If it feels as if polish editing inhibits a character's voice or makes your writing sound more like nonfiction, your approach may be too rigid. If you really don't get this, ask an editor to go over a few pages of your work and offer suggestions geared toward readability.

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

Saturday, October 31, 2020

The Craziest Thing I've Ever Done (in terms of books)

 What happens on Halloween? Kids dress like action heroes and adults act like kids. It's also the day that I issued two new books, Least Trodden Ground and Aunt Madge and the Civil Election. 

Who would be crazy enough to do that? Looking in the mirror, I recognize the face.

Least Trodden Ground has been in the works for months and had the benefit of my Decatur area critique group. (Thanks Angela, Dave, and Sue.) The book combines my love of family history with a mystery set in the Western Maryland mountains -- my home state.

Aunt Madge and the Civil Election is a story I promised when I wrote Underground in Ocean Alley. In that book in the Jolie Gentil series, Jolie tries to solve a murder while Aunt Madge runs her campaign. She dove into the race in her mid-eighties to promote sensible growth rather than see a big development change the character of the town. Election results are unknown at the end of Underground in Ocean Alley.

I knew Aunt Madge's camapaign would be fun to write about, but I needed to "hang the idea" on more than people running around putting up yard signs. And then the U.S. 2020 election came around, and I was tired of listenening to people argue. (Yes, I voted. Of course.)

Why not give Aunt Madge a worthy opponent, but have both candidates commit to a civil election? And throw in some humor. Why not indeed?

To write in a parallel timeline to the prior book, I muted the mystery (didn't want to give it away to people who wanted to read Underground) and wrote Aunt Madge and the Civil Election from her point of view rather than Jolie's.

It's a challenge to write a scene from a different POV -- to write a 17,000 word story that parallels a prior book. Of course there are many dozens of scenes in  this "long short story" that are not in the other book. But concurrent action can't contradict what happened previously. Whew! I made some small adjustments.

I was determined to publish Aunt Madge and the Civil Election before the actual U.S. election, so there were several 2 AM evenings followed by a 7 AM morning. And no input from my critique group! They make everything better.

So, today I have two new publications. Least Trodden Ground is available everywhere and the paperback can soon be ordered at Barnes and Noble. (It's on Amazon now.) Aunt Madge and her campaign are available at most online retailers and will be in paperback in a few days.

To add some extra fun, if you comment on this blog post you'll be in the running to win one of two copies of each book. Our black cat Stella will chooses the winners. They will be announced November 6th.

Now, calm yourself by reading (any) good book!

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

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Dealing with Rejections

     You haven’t fully become a writer until you’ve had work rejected by multiple magazines or publishers. I’ve heard writers say they could paper their walls with rejection letters. Bottom line, if you don’t have a thick skin, find ways to toughen it. Just keep thinking, “Where do I submit next?”

     Dr. Seuss (a.k.a. Theodor Geisel) submitted And to Think I Saw That on Mulberry Street (his first book) to twenty-seven publishers and received rejections each time. After what he decided would be the last one (because he wouldn’t submit again), he was walking down Fifth Avenue in New York and ran into a friend. He relayed his situation, and the man told him he had just become an editor at a publishing house and invited him to submit there. The rest is publishing history.

     Rejections don’t mean your writing is bad. 
They simply mean the piece isn’t right for that magazine at that time. They could also be because you didn’t pay attention to submission guidelines, or it could mean your story needs work. If you’re lucky, you’ll get some feedback. Take it with an open mind.

The important thing is to keep writing and submitting!

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

Monday, October 5, 2020

Creating an Online Course During Covid

 I've often given talks on writing and publishing, and enjoy it. I think those will be out for a while, so I redesigned an online course and put it on a new platform, TabletWise. 

Some potential authors have an idea for a book, get right to work, and finish it in a few months. That's not how it works for everyone. Story ideas can come naturally, but it can be a challenge to structure them well. For some, it's even hard to wrap their head (and computer) around the idea. 

"Decide What to Write and Learn How to Publish" guides a writer through the decsion of what to write, offers resources for learning how to write, and then digs into the publishing world. The course has information for those who want to work with a traditional publisher and those considering self-publishing.

In the last few years, the term 'hybrid publishing' has arisen. I've seen a couple definitions. A common one includes an author paying a publishing firm to perform certain functions -- such as formatting and some marketing. The publisher does not accept all authors, and the author makes more per book than with a traditional publisher. 

One way to publish that's laid out in the course is 'author as publishing manager.' If you decide to self publish, you can essentially be your own general contractor -- find people to format, perhaps hire an editor and publicist for specific tasks.

If you plan to do only one book, then working with a hybrid publisher can make sense. If you plan to do several -- and you don't want to perform all roles yourself -- you can manage the process as others perform tasks for you.

If you want to go with a traditional publisher, the course suggests how  to find an agent and offers a list of detailed questions to ask a publisher before you sign a contract.

The course offers a mix of videos and text lessons you can download. In other words, you  get to see my smiling face sometimes. 

You can buy a lot of books and take a lot of classes on writing and publishing, or you can take this course for the reasonable price of $19.99 by visiting Learn Desk. You can learn beyond the course by consulting the list of resources at the end of each lesson.

What are you waiting for? Readers are waiting!

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

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Saving Our Bookstores by Buying Gifts as Well as Books

In-person shopping isn't as big this fall as last, but that doesn't mean we can't buy books and other gifts at independent bookstores or Barnes and Noble. Shop at a store or on line. Put a note on the refrigerator to remind yourself.

You say not all your friends and family want books? You can buy games, puzzles, toys, notecards and a lot more. Many stores will ship products. 

I have begun publishing my paperbacks (as well as Nook Books) through Barnes and Noble Press, to make it easier for readers to order them in the stores. They do a lot for authors, so I'm happy to see them make money when I do.

Are you familiar with  It's an online platform through which independent bookstores can present their books to the public. This is especially important at a time when so many have been unable to deal with customers face-to-face. The site has helped independent bookstores make $6.9 million. That's a lot of tea and cookies.

Each bookstore has its own sales page. For example, Our Town Books in Jacksonville, Illinois (near me) has

Another option is a list, by state and Canadian province, maintained by New Pages. Some of the bookstores are open for in-person sales and some are currently doing only online sales. I went through several states that I know relatively well and found the list quite comprehensive.

I got a kick out of the website of Solid State Bookstore (on the H Street Corridor in DC), which proclaims "October is the New December." In other words, shop early.

Why is it important to give books as gifts? I substitute teach, largely in a middle school. I love to see the books the language arts teachers pick, and see how they sometimes work with teachers in other disciplines so, for example, lessons in language arts and history cover similar subjects.

But there is one sad thing. When kids finish a test early or tell me in study hall that they have "nothing to do," I tell them to select a book from the shelves or read their own. Some do, and a few always have personal fiction to read. At least 100 kids have said, "I don't read." Period. They say it proudly.

If you know kids with similar perspectives, give them a book that deals with something they do like. If they watch football, give them a history of the Super Bowl. Try an audiobook that deals with a popular TV series. Anything to get them away from the television and video games. Either one is fine in moderation, but most low readers are mesmerized by watching rather than interaction -- which you have to do with a book.

As someone who shops rarely, you may never hear these words from me again: "Grab a credit card and go shopping."

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

Friday, September 18, 2020

Writers and Their Cats

 Our current cats, Stella and Phoebe, are  rarely far from us. They especially like hanging with me, but I think that's largely because I stay quiet a lot -- in the chair in front of my desk, or a recliner fitted with a lap desk.

Mostly I'm ok with their presence, at least until they sit in the laser printer's exit tray or under my feet. Lately that's where Phoebe sleeps. It makes no sense. She could be on a towel on the sofa or by the window. But she rolls herself into such a tight knot you can barely distinguish between her head and tail.

Having a cat at your feet (especially when she has snuck into that position) can be frustrating. (So can working with the newest version of Blogger, which won't let me wrap text around a photo.)

Now check out Stella. She likes to be higher. I walked into the bathroom a few days ago and found her on a towel by the sink. I had just left the room and she appeared to be waiting for my return.

I think the closeness reflects their uncertainty about why the humans are home so much during the pandemic. Normally they rule the roost for many hours each day while I'm writing at the library and my husband is at work. He is back at work, but I'm still working at home.

I'm also struggling to write, so they may believe they are comforting me rather than trying to send me to the hospital. 

After weeks of writing less than a page a day, I began working on a new online class and revising an extensive book of family history. I had to make myself do something productive. It feels very self-centered when there are so many people in dire circumstances. 

Serious point here. If writers (or anyone) find themselves unable to do routine things, recognize why that's so. It may not be possible to change the circumstances, but perhaps you can do something to distract yourself. If nothing else, many authors are giving away copies of  their books. If you want a couple of mine, send a note and I'll send you a Smashwords coupon.

We are all in  this together.

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

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Listening Brings Books to Life

 In the mid-1990s, I found myself bored and with a sore back in the middle of a 1,000 mile drive. I pulled into a Walmart, bought Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, and I've been hooked on audiobooks ever since. Books in the car, books on CD (originally on tape!), and now books on my phone and Alexa.

Alexa? Because it's linked to Amazon, every book I purchase on Audible is available through the round contraption that sits in multiple places throughout our home. Initially I associated it with music and the local radio station. 

Sometimes slow to learn, I hadn't thought about books until one evening I got into bed and realized I hadn't put a tape in the CD player. (I lull myself to sleep by playing a book I've already listened to.) For some reason, I said, "Alexa, play Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets." Bingo!

Audiobooks are not cheap, so I borrow a lot from the library. Try the M.C. Beaton Hamish Macbeth series or John Sandford's Virgil Flowers books. (The latter require a willingness to listed to salty language.) And, of course, Harry Potter's Jim Dale is an incredible narrator.

A couple of hints to reduce the cost. If you buy an ebook on Amazon, digital copies are generally offered at a reduced price. Watch for sales on CDs at Barnes and Noble, if you go that route. And don't hesitate to buy used CDs. The Chatham Public Library District has a wonderful sales room, and always had CDs.

However, I am now hooked on books on my phone. I never thought I would be, but because I always have the phone with me, I use it more often than Kindle.. I have the Audible and Chirp Apps. Chirp has books, usually the classics, for $1.99. These are temporary sales, and I always find something. I'm loading up on Agatha Christie at the moment.

To listen in the car, you can place the phone in a holder or on a stable position on the seat next to you. Another option is to wear one earbud. Never two, you need to hear someone honk at you.

People have asked me if books in the car can be distracting. I find music distracting (my mind wanders) but never books. You'll have to observe your own behavior.

A number of my books are on audio via Amazon and ibooks. I've made the commitment (to myself) to finish putting all of them on. It's time-consuming, because an author needs to hold auditions and listen to the entire book. But there's nothing like hearing your words spoke by a talented narrator.

Pick up your phone or turn on a CD Player and get ready to be absorbed in great stories.

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

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Making Eye Contact with Words When You Can't in Person

     A verbal storyteller engages with an audience through gestures, tone of voice, and facial expressions. Your book can only compel via words on paper or on an ereader. That's harder.

     Unless you are an exceptional writer, you need to learn a lot before publishing something good enough to earn respect -- and income. Yes, read good books by successful writers. Also read about structure, character development, setting, dialogue, and related topics. Readers deserve your best.

     While you can learn a lot from books, it helps to talk about writing with others and perhaps learn in a classroom or similar environment. I learn a great deal from members of my critique group. When one of us sees an interesting article on writing or voice, we tend to share it.

     There are writing classes at community colleges, workshops offered by regional arts organizations, and writing conferences. Most years, writers' magazines such as The Writer or Poets and Writers provide lists of conferences. Check your library.

     There are many online classes now. They can be expensive, though not all are. I always prefer in-person learning, but your location or schedule may not permit that.

     During the COVID timeframe, a number of authors are giving short courses via zoom. I've taken several that Jane Cleland has offered. Doing a search for "zoom classes by authors" turns up many. I also found a comparison of traditional online classes.

     Take note that some of the results will be ads for classes. We authors know there is nothing wrong with advertising, just be sure to look at a range of results.

     Some of what you will learn in any class is basic-–in a mystery, the villain cannot be someone introduced in the last scene, nor can the reader know a character’s thoughts but not be informed of everything that character knows.  John Gilstrap (author of the Jonathan Grave books) put this aptly in a daylong course I took–-these are cheats. (It's become trendy to talk about unreliable narrators, those whose point of view you share but don't share what they know. I don't read these books.)

     In romance, if the only thing keeping a couple apart is miscommunication, a reader will want to bop them on their heads and tell them to pick up the phone. Strong romance stories build tension in varied ways.

     You can probably think of important points in other genres. Personally, when I read science fiction, I want a description of the aliens. I don’t need many details on the humans.

     So, if you're sitting there feeling blue because you can't interact with other writers, you really can get a sense of shared inspiration with zoom meetings or online classes. Just do it!
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To learn more about Elaine, go to or sign up for her newsletter

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Is it Story or Structure?

I may not have any business writing about the story/structure dilemma, because I wrestle with both. Some would say this is the difference between pantsers and plotters (the former said to be writing by the seat of their pants). I do a bit of both.

My philosophy is a writer should never let a good story get away from them because they can't fathom the ending when they start. Got an idea? Grab a keyboard or a napkin and write for a few minutes. You might get an opening scene on paper or a few bullet points about how you want the story to develop. If you don't jot down the ideas, they will be gone or diluted.

Here are some recommendations for putting together a novel To be clear, all authors start with the story in mind, it's simply a question of what they do with that initial idea.

Craft of Writing
Jane Cleland
Jane has been offering some free seminars lately. Click on Events on her site. Her books on structure and plot twists are very helpful.

Helping Writers Become Authors
K.M. Weiland
Her website and blog have years of material. People roll their eyes at the word outline, but her material on it may change your mind.

Story Trumps Structure
Steven James
His focus is more on his own writing than teaching, but this book makes his preference clear.

There is still the basic point. No story is written until you put your buns in a chair (or on a bar stool, as Hemingway might have said). I address that in my book, Writing When Time is Scarce and Getting the Work Published.

Get started. Don't stop. Don't get discouraged. Tomorrow is another day.

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For more information on Elaine's 30+ books, go to or subscribe to her newsletter.

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Jazz Would Like Your Vote

       They say not to judge a book by its cover but I need you to do just that. If you like the new cover of my book, Rekindling Motives (Jolie Gentil Cozy Mystery Series Book 2), please vote for it for the Cover of the Month contest on!
              What's the significance of the cover? Covers are rarely literal; they bring aspects of the book to image form. In this book, Jolie makes an unexpected discovery in an old wardrobe. The family that owned it sold bootlegged whiskey in Ocean Alley during Prohibition. And as usual, Jolie's cat, Jazz, has to be on every cover.
              Last month I submitted When the Carny Comes to Town, and it needed to be at position 100 to go to the next level. It was 101!! I'd like to see Rekindling Motives get into the top 100 so I can go into high gear to get it selected.
              You can head over to All Author to cast your ballot.
               Thanks for your support. It means a lot.
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For more information on Elaine's 30+ books, go to or subscribe to her newsletter.


Thursday, June 25, 2020

The Allegory of the Knife

"This broadcast is interrupted with a warning. A person carrying a knife is roaming the neighborhood. They are wearing a ski mask so their gender and race cannot be determined. Use extreme caution. This individual appears ready to attack."

What do you do? Make sure all doors and windows are locked? Turn on the security system? Call a neighbor to see if they want to go for a walk? Most people would stay indoors and hope local law enforcement will quickly apprehend the dangerous interloper.

But after a day of searching without spotting the potential killer, law enforcement announces the person cannot be found. Local and state police efforts, combined with neighborhood watchfulness, must have caused the fiend to leave. A few suspicious souls doubt the person really meant to harm anyone.

With joy only partially tempered by reservation, you go to the grocery store and take your kids to summer camp. The next morning, you learn the couple across the street was stabbed while walking their dog. Their survival is uncertain.

 Sound familiar? 

A killer virus is stalking our community. We've been unable to attend normal activities, and we learned Zoom is more than a comic book verb. More important, a lot of people have died.

Then it's Phase 4 in my state and we're told it's safer to venture out if we take precautions. But when we do, we face a disheartening environment.

The virus was not transient and is still roaming freely. Yet some people dismiss the danger and say precautions are an attack on their freedom. They are willing to infect others by laughing or coughing in a grocery aisle, knowing their droplets will remain in the air for the next few customers to walk through. 

What's their rationale? The virus spreaders believe they have every right to be where they want to be and share their germs. And the ultimate defense – this is America!

Sure, if they were sick, they'd stay home. When told as many as 40% of cases are spread by those without symptoms, they have one of two responses: "I don't believe you," or "Life is about risk. Stay home if you don't want to get sick." In other words, if you don't want your lungs damaged, it's your job to stay away from people brandishing microscopic weapons.

Why write this now? Because as an asthmatic who's been more short-of-breath since a bout with pneumonia last fall, I welcomed Phase Four as a chance to cautiously go beyond neighborhood walks, a few early-morning trips to the store, and a visit to the farmers' market. 

Since face coverings (a.k.a. masks) are required when social distancing isn't possible, I thought it should be safe. Wrong. I've tried a couple of stores, and it was at best 50/50 for mask wearing. I fled. 

The difference between now and the first few months of isolation is the anger. Why should I have to stay home nearly all the time because of selfish people?

Today I had an epiphany of sorts. I'm old enough to remember the 'smoking in public' debate.  Second hand smoke cause cancer? Hell no, said a lot of smokers. And besides, as Americans they should be able to smoke freely.

Over time, attitudes changed. Most people knew of someone whose cancer had an environmental cause, and lung cancer made it to the top of the list.

What's different now is we can get very sick or die from COVID-19 after a brief exposure. No need to wait years for lungs to blacken. The knife is out in the neighborhood, in the grocery store, at church, and even in a park. It only takes one laugh or sneeze.
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Elaine usually writes mysteries or reflective fiction. While she likes to stay inside and write, she would prefer to go out to do it. But she would rather live to write another day. Learn more about her work at