VOODOO… is coming


Our second annual scary writing contest and anthology (actually horror, eerie, macabre, unsettling, etc) is coming July 1

Word Weaver logi FINAL trimmed

Word Weaver Writing Contest: VOODOO

Writing Contest.


Publication in ebook, paperback, and audio book.



I am finalizing sponsors and will officially launch the contest July 1.


is coming.

A special discount on entry fees is available for a limited number of contestants who register early. CONTACT ME NOW to learn more and get your savings.

ASK DAN ANYTHING. You have writerly questions. Fire away.

your humble host

This blog has long been a friendly place to come and learn writerly stuff, and what better way to learn than to ask?

You have questions. Writing tips, marketing, motivation, you name it.


What are your challenges? Your issues?

If I don’t know, we’ll put it out to my vast network of author friends and get an answer. Or I’ll make something up.

Many people helped me when I was starting out because I was willing to ask what I needed to know.

That shortened my learning curve substantially.

– Dan Alatorre

So go ahead. Ask me anything.

Space Island Anthology (Coming Soon but start thinking about it) A “Winnquippy”

your humble host

I wanna do a space anthology.

And after talking to Jenny this morning, I discovered Jamtart is a space enthusiast.

“Space and fantasy are my jam.”

– J. A. Allen

Who knew?

A while back, in the midst of a post about another subject, I snuck in this message:

“If you are paying attention, this will probably be the basis for a future contest and subsequent anthology – NOT the one in July – but expect another one after July.

All kinds of stories can take place in and around this strange new place.

And if you think you can’t write a space story, you are wrong.

  • Love can happen in space.
  • Cowboy stories can happen in space!

Wasn’t Han Solo in the original Star Wars just a kind of cowboy? Of course he was. And he rode in to save the day at the end, too! Total cowboy move, Lucas.

Almost any story can take place in any setting, so you can write a story that could take place in space. Get your brain wheels turning in that direction, but not before July because July is a different story challenge!”

And I was so sneaky almost no one noticed the message.

Lesson learned.

so I’ll try to be less subtle this time.

I wanna do a space anthology!

That’s all I know. I don’t even know why I wanna do it, except the following idea hit me and it seemed like it’d be an okay short story… and then I thought, but what if I combined it with other stuff, like if I asked you guys to write stuff about space and we put it all together… I think Allison’s gonna be in it… we talked. Pretty sure she said yes…

And then I realized I had several anthologies I was supposed to be working on, some books I was editing, a murder mystery novel I’m supposed to be writing, two writing camps I’m running this summer, and oh yeah these contests(and their prizes that I STILL haven’t emailed out). What can I say? I got busy. And a little distracted. It happens.

Anyway, I made a blurb for the short story/possibly book, but it serves well as a basis for the space stories to happen in and around:

Actually, I made two. I’m not sure which I like better.

Version 1

Space Island. In order for astronauts to reach Mars, the President asks for the creation of several refueling stations to be placed along the route. These would have to be stocked with air, food, water, and rocket fuel, since part of the problem of a long space journey is you have to take your fuel with you. The idea was, send it up first, and like the old Pony Express routes, where a fresh horse awaited riders every twenty miles, you’d get new fuel cells along the way. The docking stations would be like a series of international space stations. They would be like space islands. Rocket maintenance crews would live there, and eventually other people, because the ISS has shown muscle deterioration will occur during long space flights.

So somebody would have to run the bar on space island, and somebody would have to clean the toilets.

And when a murder happens, somebody would have to investigate.

154 words

Then, like any good author type, I revised it and tried to get more information into fewer words

Version 2

Space Island. In order to achieve the new U. S. President’s ambitious challenge of sending astronauts to Mars and returning them safely, NASA creates several docking stations along the route. Similar to the International Space Station, but much larger, these “space islands” are stocked with booster rockets and other supplies, and are inhabited by employees selected from nearly every country on earth. Rocket maintenance crews and other support teams sign up for a two-year term to perform any mission-critical functions that may occur during the hazardous journey. But since long-term space travel creates crew fatigue and physical side effects, recreation elements were introduced as well.

Somebody has to run the bar on Space Island and somebody has to clean the toilets in the gym. Somebody has to manage the hotel.

But when the first murder in outer space happens, somebody has to investigate – without creating an international incident and getting the fledgling Mars program shut down before it begins.

160 words

I think I like the second one better, but that’s beside the point.

YOU might get to write stories about space with me and some other bestselling authors!


Because that’s kind of the point.

Like I said, you can have a love story in space. (Star Wars had that, too, kinda.) The story I plan to write, Space Island, will be a murder mystery set in space, about a guy who has to investigate the murder that happens on one of the space island refueling station/hotel/ etc. Don’t know all the details yet. It’s a Work Not Quite In Progress Yet. A WNQIPY. A “winnquippy.”

So what kind of ideas can you think of?

Here are some images to help. I have one in mind for a cover, which I’ll share, but many get the writerly wheels churning.

I love these to because they are red, very eye catchy, and spacey. But that’s about all they are. Not probably inspiring you to write a story based on them, but they DO tell a potential reader that it’s a n anthology about space stuff inside. That’s not a bad thing.


I love the idea of a broken down space ship. Maybe this is a pilot who was on his way to Space island, and now it’s a story about survival. Or giant roaches.

Zombunny 3-4

Love this book, too. Totally not related to Space Island, but cute as hell. Get yours HERE


Kids being lured away into a space ship? Oooohhhh… creepy. There’s a Space Island story there.


Possible alien encounter?


LOVE this because of the skull. This is TOTALLY the right idea for Space Island, but it’s too subtle. I’ll probably make one of the cool red ones (above) into the cover and add a skull, but this is where the idea came from. Although, this might work. But probably the red one above with the round space station looking thing, with a skull in there.


Space and fantasy? Hello, Jenny? A more steampunk, ethereal vision, I suppose; but, hey –  if it gets the wheels turning for a story, then that’s all that matters.


Sunrise over Space island? I don’t know. These were just pics I liked.

You can go with any story, as long as you put it in space.

Because that’s the idea.


A whole anthology of it, with maybe 20 or more contributing authors, some published and some not, appearing side by side in a book that we will publish later this year. 

IMG_2111July will bring our Scary Anthology contest – actually a “horror anthology,” because scary is relative but horror is an actual genre with a wider berth. That’s what we need, to keep the bozos who get all picky about stuff in their reviews to take a chill pill and just read. And review. Don’t wanna skip that part. But horror might lure in a few more readers and keep the reviews more positive. I’ve been reading up on Stephen Kings’ stuff, and it’s horror with stuff that would disturb some readers and make others feel a tad uncomfortable – but did it actually scare them? Some, yeah, but maybe that’s just a common term for eerie, macabre, uncomfortable, you know? You get the idea.

But somewhere in between now and later, a space anthology will get under way, complete with a contest and a lot of other stuff.

If you have stuff already written, get it out and dusted off.

If you are stuck in your voluminous tome and wanna have a distraction that’s your jam, hey, I’m here to help.

That’s what friends do, Jenny.

And if you wanna do a poem, a sonnet, a… what are those Japanese things called? Haikus? If you wanna do a haiku for Space Island, HAVE AT IT. Do a bunch. Maybe we’ll put one in between each story, as a palate cleanser. Why not?

A lot of stuff that was popular with readers in The Box Under The Bed wasn’t to my usual tastes, but as soon as we got a few stories I was comfortable with, I opened the gates pretty wide.

Some of those less obvious choices (to me) were a big hit with readers.

Another lesson learned.

So YOU should give Space Island a try.

This is a great chance for your stuff to get seen along side the work of a some bestselling authors. Take it.

More details coming soon, but comment or email me with any questions.

And remember: July = scary anthology contest, the basis from which will come the second book in The Box Under The Bed series, Voodoo. 

working cover art for TBUTB2, Voodoo. I can’t take my eyes off it.

Pool Noodle Sword Fight

I had a bunch of kids over at my house this week for a writing camp. Mostly girls going into 5th grade, a boy, and my daughter – who will be starting 3rd grade this fall.

The theme was Percy Jackson and to prepare I did some internet searches (I’d never read the books or seen the movies, but my daughter had watched them and I’d caught glimpses. I knew there were swords, and Pinterest validated this.)

A pvc “+” and a pool noodle, and the kids can safely sword fight all week between writing prompts, trivia, and PJ movie sessions. All set.

Off to Lowe’s and the dollar store for sword making supplies and a few prizes to give away at the end of camp.

Funny thing, though…

This kid is going into second grade, and she just turned eight years old.

We pop into Walmart all the time but for whatever reason, it seemed like it had been quite a while since she and I went on a shopping excursion like this. Going to the dollar store for some cheap pool noodles and Home Depot for the PVC pipes to make into swords, and Walmart for some writing journals and pencils and other supplies. In other words, we would be spending a fair portion of our afternoon shopping together.

The last time we did this, at least the last one I documented, was when we went to Walmart to try out bicycles. Two wheelers with training wheels. I think she was about three years old. That’s five years ago.

During that trek, we tried out soccer balls – well, we played soccer in the aisles for about twenty minutes – and rollerskates, a trampoline, a few T-shirts, bought some balloons… And eventually checked out the bicycles.

Again, I’ve been shopping with her plenty since then, but… I think in my mind she’s still four or five years old. Older than when we got the bicycle, but not in third grade.

Except of course she is. Almost. In two months.

In this picture, I don’t see an eight-year-old girl. I mean, I do, but I don’t. I see a slightly larger version of the three-year-old. I guess the changes happen in such tiny bits every day in front of us, so we don’t notice from one day to the next. When we went to put on some “winter“ pajamas this past January, we realized she had outgrown them. Last summer and last Thanksgiving there were some issues of toes hurting in shoes. It’s funny because I’m not sure I’ve outgrown a pair of shoes in more than 10 years, but of course she’s outgrowing them every 2 to 3 months.

Much of that playful Walmart day that existed at age three and four is still present today. A lot of it, thank God.

But at the writing camp, which took place in my house, she acted very much like the other kids – who are a few years older than her. (That was good to see. Last year she could only last till about noon and then she had to go play in her room. This year she was able to finish the camp each day.)

But she still wanted to sword fight and balloon fight at this year’s camp, and play tag with the other kids during the breaks, which they all did.

So maybe the grown-up kids aren’t so grown up, and maybe my baby girl isn’t quite a baby anymore. Obviously. Duh.

But in many ways she is. Still very playful. Still very innocent, I think.

And I look at pictures like the one above and it takes my brain a second or two to see an eight-year-old and not a three-year-old or four-year-old or five-year-old. I guess I’m just a few years behind, mentally, when it comes to her. It’s pretty easy to see her every day and think of her as five, but not really as four anymore. She’s not learning to swim like when she was two. She knows her way around the school campus with certainty, not like when she was five.

But it’s still my first thought. That she’s three or four.

I guess that’s normal. It’s a first thought, after all; a fleeting glimpse, a peek at a memory of a little kid who doesn’t exist any more, but who, in many ways, does.

I like that.

I love who she was and I love who she’s becoming. It’s fun to watch.

I miss that little kid even though she’s still right here.

And in some ways she always will be. As long as she still wants to play sword fight with a pool noodle pvc sword. Heck, I’d still play with one. They’re fun.

And if I want to do it at my age, maybe it’s because I haven’t grown up all that much, either. Or maybe I just want to play with my kid while she still wants to play with me, and curl up on the couch with me, and go on a Walmart – Lowe’s – Dollar Tree shopping spree with me. I don’t know. I’m not sure it matters.

But I’m gonna make a second pool noodle pvc sword today and challenge her to some duels.