What’s All This VIDEO Nonsense About (And How Can I Do Some?)

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your humble host
On occasion I get letters from readers (or I just make one up) asking for writing advice, needing suggestions about their work, requests for money…

I’m happy to answer these fans, and since what they want to know is usually something others might need to know, I share the letters here. (Names withheld to protect the innocent.)


Dear Dan,

What kinds of software do you use for your video blogs (a.k.a Writers Off Task With Friends)?


Budding Vlogger


Dear Vlog,

Great question!

Check out Google Hangouts On Air. It’s simple and free, and up to ten people can be on at one time (although three is kind of the safe limit for audio quality, it seems.)

You start the video call, then you can record it, then when it’s ended it automatically posts to YouTube. Doesn’t get much easier than that. Then you can edit it from there, right on the YouTube site.
All for free.
I highly recommend it mainly because it’s free. If you have a good camera on your computer (high def is better), sit in a place with ample light, and have decent internet speed, you’ll get a great image and a great recording.
Editing is like anything else, it takes some getting used to, but it’s hard to beat free…
When we started the show Writers Off Task With Friends we didn’t really know what we wanted to do as far as videos, but we did know we wanted authors to have a place to come and share ideas and laugh. We did that, although I suppose the comparisons to Fun With Flags was inevitable. For me, the show is a way to help authors get word out about their work, not so much from our site (although we do have our fan) but using the video as a way to post themselves on Facebook and Twitter and their blog, etc., to get a different aspect of themselves out there and showcase their unique personalities in ways written interviews can’t.
It’s been a ton of fun and I highly recommend it to anyone. After a few shows, you’ll feel very at home. Probably.

Check out the popular Writers Off Task With Friends channel and see all sorts of terrific authorey stuff! SUBSCRIBE and never miss a show!

Subscribers get to watch all new shows immediately, they don’t have to wait for me to air them here.

This Kind Of Stuff Makes Me Cry… Twice

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your humble host

My friend D G Kaye wrote about this topic regarding what the dying want to tell us about living, gleaned from her own experiences and validated by a something she read. I was captured by a few paragraphs in the post she linked to.


Well, I was captured by the whole article…

but these were the essential paragraphs to me (emphasis added):

What the dying want us to do

— and wish for us to know — is to regard our lives as precious moments making up our days… the kind where we find unexpected beauty that will be remembered with a wistful smile.

Like walking with your child alongside you, going somewhere without purpose. Or waiting patiently while five- and six-year-old children choose, change their minds, choose, and then change their minds again, about the root-beer-flavored or the banana-flavored popsicles.

My mother and grandmother were telling me loud and clear that as we live our lives, we have to stop running and chasing what we think leads to happiness, and slow down before we rush past the very thing we’ll wish we had more of at the very last hours of our days.

The rest is HERE

But the key for me was enjoying the children and the nonpurpose of their silliness.

walking with your child alongside you, going somewhere without purpose

Yeah, that stuff gets me right in the heart. Twice.

That’s what the dying tell us to cherish.

It gets me a first time because they are saying we didn’t know and now it’s over. That’s just sad but they aren’t saying they wasted their life, they’re saying they should have done more of the stuff that didn’t seem important.

It gets me a second time because maybe without knowing it, I knew – I listened to people smarter than me, people who knew, whose children had grown up and who told me I’d blink once and my baby would be in college, blink again and I’d be walking her down the aisle – that the random moments of childhood go past us quickly and we will remember them fondly, but were so busy as parents we almost don’t notice.

I listened.

I took their advice.

(I also tried to not blink twice. Ever.)

I wrote those moments down, as best I could, as often as I could, and cobbled them into a book.



This isn’t a cheap plug for my book, this is a clumsy attempt for what was (at the time)

a new dad trying to capture those precious moments with his baby daughter, and in doing so accidentally capturing everyone’s moments with their own kids.

I cry every time I read it.

My mom passed away before my daughter was born, so maybe in some way there was a guiding hand telling me to slow down and grab of few of these silly moments and write them down.

I didn’t rush past them, mom.


Savvy Stories

$2.99, FREE on Kindle Unlimited.


Dan Alatorre is the author of several bestsellers and the amazingly great sci fi action thriller “The Navigators.” Click HERE to get your copy of The Navigators – FREE on Kindle Unlimited!



Friday Flash Fiction Challenge! Win A Valuable Prize! Probably!

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your humble host

Yes, it’s time to start doing our Friday writing challenges again! Today’s is simple because I know you’re rusty.


Complete the following sentence.

The most important thing about writing a book is…

That’s it.

That’s the challenge.

That might be harder than it looks, but there probably are no wrong answers. So, now that you know we’re gonna start doing these, how about a SECOND writing challenge to kick it off?

I really want answers to the first question, but here’s a second challenge.

Write a limerick using one of the words or phrases from the following list.

If you can’t remember what a limerick is, you are at a distinct disadvantage.

There one was a man from Nantucket…

Oops. Well, we better not go there.

How about… Oh, there’s a clean version. Thank you, internet!

“There once was a man from Nantucket

Who kept all his cash in a bucket.

But his daughter, named Nan,

Ran away with a man,

And as for the bucket, Nantucket.”

Get the idea? Remember these? Okay. Using the limerick format, write your entry and post it below.

TheNavigatorsFinalHere are your word/phrase choices. Use one of the following words or phrases in your limerick:

  • Time travel
  • University
  • Barry
  • Brilliant flash
  • Missy
  • Paleontology
  • Mr. Mills
  • Diggers
  • Findlay
  • Rocks
  • Mine
  • Kiss
  • Run
  • Motel 6
  • pickup truck
  • tiger
  • mammoth
  • lawyer

Yep, that’s right, all of the words relate to my new novel The Navigators. Why not? I need the publicity. (The Navigators $2.99, FREE on Kindle Unlimited. Click HERE to get your copy!)

ONE participant will be selected at random to receive a FREE eBook of their choice from my many books on Amazon.

ALL participants will be entered in a random drawing for a FREE paperback of The Navigators whenever I get that done. Soon. probably.

You can’t lose!

Have at it!

And we’ll see you next week for another exciting Flash Fiction Challenge! (A REAL one. Honest.)

Oh, and for reading this far, check my Amazon author page for special deals on my books over the next four weeks. I will have free books and discounted books available almost every day for the next 30 days. Because I love you. Yes, you can tell your friends. About the deals, not that I love you. That would just sound silly. I may not remember to mention it anywhere else, but if you follow me on Amazon it’ll notify you of the deals when they happen. Probably.

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Dan Alatorre is the author of several bestsellers and the amazingly great sci fi action thriller “The Navigators.” Click HERE to get your copy of The Navigators – FREE on Kindle Unlimited!


Book Reviewing

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your humble host

This post was originally a guest blog post on happy meerkat’s page, and I’ve shared it from there.

No, wait. Meerkat was the guest at Eternal Scribbler’s blog.

I think.

Anyway, it’s good info you need, people!


Being a book reviewer is something far more rewarding than I ever imagined.  Being able to read books and talk/write about how great they are is something I’ve only been doing for a short time but it’s so rewarding, especially when you find a gem from a new and unheard of author.

For me reviewing starts with reading.  I can never read more than two books at a time, one fiction and one non-fiction (memoirs are like fiction for me).  This is because

I’m one of those people who loves to get completely absorbed by a book

and I couldn’t do it if I had several going at once.  Once I’ve read a book I get to writing my review that same day or the next if I finished the book late at night.  I have to write up my review right away not only because I might forget something if I waited but I just get this urgent need to write it and I can’t move on to a new book until I do.

If anyone’s ever read my reviews you’ll notice I write a book blurb type opening.  I like to write the sort of reviews I’d love to read and it’s especially important on a blog, where the blurb isn’t always available, to let people know what the book is about.  Writing this opening to my reviews can sometimes take up to 20 minutes of my time as I think of the right one.  After that it’s onto the main part of my review.

Writing the review isn’t too hard as I basically try to give all the information I’d like to know.

I hate reading spoilers in reviews

(sorry fellow reviewers who write them) so I never include any which can sometimes be hard but I think it’s very important.  I don’t think authors want the little secrets of their books revealed before you’ve read them and I know it makes for better reading if I am surprised by something that happens.

I like to include a little information about the suitability of the book, use of swear words, sex, drugs, etc.  I’m not overly sensitive about books and read a wide range from kids to very dark ones with adult themes but like with movies I like to know if what I’m about to read is going to have some horrific violence, you’d be surprised how deceptive some book covers can be.

Regardless of what I think at the end of reading a book I always try to note the positives and  any negatives.

Sometimes I won’t like a particular book or it doesn’t fit my sense of humour, etc. but that doesn’t make me give a bad review.  If there’s anything I like, or could see someone else liking about the book, I’ll note that in the review.  At the end of the day I hope my reviews are both fun to read and can help people decide if they’d like to try a book.

There’s never a clear formula for what will make a great book.  Books are subjective, what one person finds amazing another might not, but there are some things that can help make a fiction book easier to read and more engaging for me:

The first is the most obvious but

it’s amazing how many books I come across that aren’t proofread enough.

Even some traditionally published books can have errors in them.  While it may not seem like a big thing, and it doesn’t often bother me, it can really spoil a good book if every few pages there’s obvious grammatical, spelling or punctuation errors, not to mention it doesn’t help the author’s image.

The second thing which for me makes books harder to read is unnecessary scenes.  I love reading both long and descriptive books as well as shorter ones with briefer descriptions.  Regardless of which type of book it is though lots of books I’ve read have had useless scenes in them which do little for the overall plot and become tedious to read.  One fantasy book I read had scenes showing the troubled relationships between characters which spanned over half of the book before it got to any of the main plot action.  It was clear after the first few chapters how bad the tension was between characters and about half of those scenes didn’t need to be there.

The third thing I find important is characters.

Whether that character is human or something else I want to be able to recognise the character and connect with them somehow.

I’ve read plenty of books where characters had no defining personality or physical traits, or very little in their description that it was easy to mix them up with others.  I’ve put a book down before and when coming back to it there were so many similar characters that I had to backtrack through chapters to remind myself who was who.  It doesn’t take much to make characters stick in your mind but as long as they look or behave differently to each other (unless your story needs them to act alike) then it’s easy to keep reading a book.  I find a good way is to get someone else to read your book and then describe a character without using their name.  If your reader can identify who someone is from just their personality or looks then they ‘ll enjoy the book more.

Connecting with a character is important too.  It doesn’t mean I have to like a character but the good books make you feel something for each of the individuals, whether that’s liking them or hating them.  One mistake I sometimes come across, which makes connecting with characters harder, happened in a novel I recently read where the main character went from being very pious and a teetotal type to getting really drunk in a tavern.  While sometimes it makes sense that someone would act this way, the book didn’t show this.  There was no good reason for the character to change all of a sudden and it’s very important that no matter who or what they are, their actions have to make sense.

Reviewing is so rewarding, not only do I get to read some amazing books, sometimes before other people, but I also get to shine a light on some amazing and very talented authors. 

The most amazing and best thing about book reviewing isn’t getting ‘likes’ for my reviews, though they are very much appreciated and feel free to like my posts😉, the best thing is when somebody’s told me that they loved a book I recommended.  Knowing I’ve helped someone find a book they loved, and helped spread word of that author, well, that’s definitely the best part of book reviewing!


head shotThis is a great insight into what reviewers are looking for. Coupled with yesterday’s post, you have a lot of ammunition. Use it wisely!

Dan Alatorre is the author of several bestsellers and the amazingly great sci fi action thriller “The Navigators.” Click HERE to get your copy of The Navigators – FREE on Kindle Unlimited!



Hook Your Reader (and use an outline to save time!)

Jenny, Allison and I discuss techniques to hook your reader, and whether an outline saves time – ATTENTION PANTSERS! – with author Leah Vernon (Impure)

Our in depth and insightful conversation with Leah has been spread out over the coming weeks, but you can see ALL the segments on our Writers Off Task With Friends YouTube channel.

Subscribe to the show’s channel, and as soon as new segments post, you will get a notice!

Then you can watch them or download them as MP4’s into your iPod and listen while you drive, shop, or vacuum the house. (I got that idea from Jenny. She said she listens as she vacuums.)

And if you’d like to come on Writers Off Task With Friends and share some wisdom you’ve gained from your writing experiences, use the Contact Me button to let me know!