Thursday, June 29, 2023

Metaphors and Similes: A Love-Hate Relationship

Metaphors and similes are sometimes my friend and sometimes drive me bonkers.

In Star Trek IV the Voyage Home, the crew is approaching earth and smacks into the effects of a probe that is damaging the atmosphere. Bones hollers at Captain Kirk about where they are, and his response is, "We're out of control and blind as a bat." That metaphor is a much better response than a point on a star chart. 

The second line of John Sandford's Deadline is, "D. Wayne Sharf slid across Winky Butterfield's pasture like a greased weasel headed for a chicken house." A good simile. You know you're dealing with a despicable character up to no good. A slimeball, perhaps.

But then there are authors who describe something and add a simile to the description. "Her deep blue eyes were like the North Atlantic Ocean on a cloudy day." Thank you, but I understood deep blue. More to the point, I have no idea when the North Atlantic Ocean looks like on a cloudy day.

Certainly, not all similes are irritating. Figurative language can add a lot to a story. But when you're reading a book and everything is compared to something else, it's irritating. More so if you are listening to a book.

I was about to cite a couple of authors, but I've chickened out. Who am I to question the writing style of people who sell lots more books than I do?

If you want to email me about the authors you think overuse similes or metaphors, I'll quote you in another blog post. 😆

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To learn more about Elaine L. Orr, visit her website or sign up for her newsletter.

Friday, June 23, 2023

Writing Now Instead of Wishing Later that You'd Done It

By Elaine L. Orr

I'm going to do something I don't usually do in a blog anymore, which is publicize a book that's been out for a while. 

Let's assume you would like to write some fiction or nonfiction. The issue is whether you can add that to your plate, or if next year would be better. There’s always next year, right? Next year always comes, but not with more than 24 hours in each day.

Sharing What I've Learned

That's why I wrote Writing When Time is Scarce and Getting the Work Published. It's free(through June 27, 2023) and the Kindle version is only 99 cents in all countries. If you don't read this post right away, it's still a bargain for you. The paperback is also inexpensive because I didn't write this book to make money. I wrote it to share what I learned in a way that may help other writers.

If you think you have, "no time," you may be able to rethink your activities and pare down some responsibilities or hobbies. Perhaps this book will help you get a better sense of time involved in writing blogs or books (or anything else). Then you can figure out what to cut or reprioritize.

The Most Basic Point

One thing is definite. If you allocate a certain time of the day or given day to writing, you are more likely to make progress. If you let those most close to you know you plan to write a few hours per week, you can more easily designate time to do so. 

What you don’t want is to reach a certain age and say, “If only I’d started earlier.”

This book will help you figure out it’s not about turning your life upside down. It could be about two more hours per week. If you can find it, I can show you how to go from rough draft to published author -- whether you do all the work yourself or work with a publisher. Check out the chapters:

1. Thinking Through the Writing Option

2 Setting Aside Time & Resources to Write

3 The Publishing Environment

4 Options for Types of Writing

5. Feedback and Proofing

6 Types of Publishers and Questions for Them

7. If You Do Decide to Self-Publish

8 Preparing to Publish: Ebook Formatting

9. Paperbacks with Amazon KDP

10. Paperbacks with Barnes and Noble and Ingram Spark

11. Online Tools To Create Book Covers

12. Business Basics of Retail Accounts

13. How Retail Sales Sites Differ

14. Loading Ebooks to Online Retailers

15. Producing Audiobooks

16. Selling What You Write

17. BONUS CHAPTER! Articles, Short Stories, and Blogs: Brief Can be Mighty

Why should you read a book I've written? 

 For years I wrote in bits and pieces because I had busy jobs. Most of those early products will never see daylight, but they did teach me a lot about writing. I kept reading books on writing, taking classes and...writing. Finally, I was ready to publish -- and put out 25 book in 7 years (I'm now up to 31.). 

Your path may be different, but the route doesn't start until you make the time to write.

Ready, set, write!

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To learn more about Elaine L. Orr, visit her website or sign up for her newsletter.

Tuesday, June 20, 2023

How to Distract Your Writing Time with Research

 By Elaine L. Orr

I love to dig into information. It's why I like to explore my family tree and pick sleuths who have interesting careers that I don't know a lot about. Lots to learn before (or as) I write. 

But there comes a point...

I've started the fifth book in the Family History Mystery Series, tentatively titled Long-Held Lake Secrets. The series is set in Garret County, the most Western of the Free State's counties. 

Until this book, most of the action has taken place on Meadow Mountain, a real place that hosts the fictional town of Maple Grove. I chose that mountain because much of it is parkland, so I didn't need to describe a specific town or its neighbors.

The crown jewel of Garret County, Maryland is Deep Creek Lake, created for hydroelectric power in the mid-1920s by building an earth and rock wall dam across a tributary of the Youghiogheny River. A source of fishing and some recreation, it's now a major destination with dozens of hotels and rental homes along the 3,900-acre lake. 

Boat Dock at Fort McHenry, on the lake.

My sleuth, Digger Browning, has driven on a bridge across the water in most of the books, but I decided the lake had to play a major part in the fifth book. I love water and learning about it. For a few years, I went to to a monthly watershed meeting in Iowa for heaven's sake.

But here's the rub. If my sleuth is going to investigate something that may be hidden in Deep Creek Lake (to say nothing of a murder) my instinct is to learn all about the lake -- how it was formed, what flora and fauna surround it, what the rules about boating and other uses are...I could go on. Think bear-proof garbage cans.

I've now learned a great deal about building the dam -- original plans for four -- only one needed. Lots of campsites, a largely groundwater-fed lake, and many kinds of fish (stocked annually).

Do I need to know all that? Wait, I can't stop going from book to website, to article. Do all writers have OCD?

Perhaps it's our primary fuel. I'm not sure. I'm still making pages of notes.

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To learn more about Elaine L. Orr, visit her website or sign up for her newsletter.

Wednesday, June 7, 2023

When a Hobby Leads to Mysteries

 By Elaine L. Orr

Most of my mystery series come about because I'm interested in a place. The Jolie Gentil series grew from a love of Mid Atlantic beach towns, especially smaller ones, in the off-season.

The River's Edge series, set along the Des Moines Rivers in Southeast Iowa, grew from my admiration of how residents of Van Buren County, Iowa helped each other after the river flooded in 2008. I still haven't put a flood in one of the books, but I think I've captured the feel of a small, rural town.

The Logland Series was not meant to be one. Huh? I wrote Tip a Hat to Murder as kind of a lark. I'd recently moved to central Illinois and thought, "How come I've never written a book about a place I live?" (I used to live in Iowa, but wrote that series after I left.) The Logland series features a small-town police chief and a lot silly humor at times. So, different for me. Then I didn't want to let go of the characters!

Where did the name Logland come from? Illinois is famous for Abraham Lincoln, right? The first thing little kids learn about him is that he lived in a log cabin. In fact, we all played with Lincoln Logs. I know, it's a groaner.

What about the Family History Mysteries?

My sister describes a day we were all at my aunt and uncle's place on the Rhode River in Maryland. She was standing next to my cousin looking at the water and joked about how I'd become fond of tromping in cemeteries looking for long-dead ancestors. She deemed that weird.

My cousin and her adult daughter looked at each other and back to my sister. They also tromped. My sister said she realized she was the odd one out. (In fact, my cousin Barb and her kids have visited cemeteries and courthouses in six or eight states.)

The photo at right shows the result of that (joyful) work. Most people have names on their family trees. My cousin's wall has photos of ancestors going back several generations. That is a labor of love.

William Orr & two siblings, Missouri
One day late in 2019, it occurred to me I'd never written a book about the state where I lived my first 43 years (Maryland) or created a sleuth who liked to delve into family roots. Thus grew Digger and her Uncle Benjamin, and the Pandemic let me do four books rather quickly.

To get a good sense about my thoughts and how they led to the series, take a look at my post on Lois Winston's blog, Killer Crafts and Crafty Killers. The photo at the beginning was taken in the early 1930s, about 100 years after William Orr left Aghadowey in County Londonderry. The couple in front are his cousins, who stayed in Ireland.


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To learn more about Elaine L. Orr, visit her website or sign up for her newsletter.