Phone calls

Every time the phone rings, my daughter says, “That’s Mommy! I will get it!”

 The home phone makes a unique ring noise when it’s Mommy, so I know it’s not her. My daughter hasn’t figured that out yet.

 “That’s Mommy!”  “No, it isn’t.”  “It is.”  “It isn’t, trust me.”  “It is.”  “No, it’s not.”  “It is.”  “No, it’s not.”

 That would go on for 20 minutes if the phone would ring that long, but after 6 or 8 rings, the answering machine takes over – if my daughter hasn’t climbed onto a chair and grabbed the phone first.

 Many a telemarketer has had a nice chat with her.

 “Mommy?”  “Is this Mommy?”  “You’re not Mommy!”  “where’s my Mommy!!!???”

 It’s fun for me…

The Lincoln Navigator

I drive a black Lincoln Navigator. If you have one, and ever see another one in traffic, pull up right behind it and follow it for a few miles.

Other cars start to get out of your way. They don’t think the President is in town, but they are pretty sure they don’t want any part of whatever happens if they block in what looks like a motorcade. If you both turn on your bright headlights, you can even run red lights. Nobody blinks.

I’ve seen uniformed soldiers in the mall parking lot snap to attention when two black Navigators drove by.

It’s awesome.

The First Rule of Wine Making And Maybe of Writing Books

What is my target audience - or do I even have one?
What is my target audience – or do I even have one?

The hardest part or being an author is being a marketer. All authors know people who have different jobs (construction, medical, whatever) and they say, I’m writing a book, or I have an idea I think would make a great book. Most of the time those books don’t get written.

So for those people, writing is the hard part. Luckily, most authors don’t have that problem. I suppose you can always hire a marketer to market your book for you, but it’s hard to get somebody to write your book for you.

The challenge is, if you know how to write, learning how to market. I met a lot of wine makers over the years, and I learned what I call the first rule of the wine maker, and that is: make what sells. You can make all the sweet dessert wines you want but if nobody buys them, you are SOL. You can make the best tasting meritage with great tannins and an amazing finish, but if nobody knows about it, you won’t be making it very long because you’ll be out of business. So the smart wine maker makes what sells, and that allows him to make what he wants as a sideline.

It's not one-size-fits-all!
It’s not one-size-fits-all!

Heartbreaking, no? or smart business?

Now, wine making isn’t the same as writing and marketing books, but there may be some sage business advice for people who want to be in the business of selling books – because even though I write for a reason other than to sell books, I want the books to get sold.

I have told people that my Savvy Stories books were written for a small audience but she is getting bigger every day. I wrote those books about my daughter and about learning how to be a good dad. I think it would be really cool to hand my daughter a stack of books one day and say, “Here; this is all about how much fun it was hanging out with you.”

So, with those, I was making the wine I wanted to drink…

How my Amazon author site looks now.
How my Amazon author site looks now.

When selling books becomes my top priority, you may see me writing something other than what I’m writing now (I’ve written a sci fi thriller, a romantic comedy, cook books, children’s books, family humor and paranormal, but so far no teen vampire stuff). For now, though, I’m going to keep making the wine I like to drink, I’ll be telling the world all about it with great enthusiasm, and I hope the new stuff sells and the old stuff keeps selling, but if it doesn’t, I know I have my integrity and my pride of doing my best at writing what I loved, and not just whatever crap I thought I could sell. That doesn’t mean I won’t try something different in a few months, to get things going and spark some interest. But I have a funny feeling that when a writer stops writing about what they love and starts writing what they think will sell, they need to guess right.

I think the people who people give up on writing do so because they do it for a while, it doesn’t get to a place where they can quantify it as successful, so they get discouraged and stop. Sales of books is probably the universal bar for success; marketing is they way to hit that bar.

Guessed wrong.
Guessed wrong.

Guessing wrong about what to write, and failing at chasing the money/popular theme of the day/trend, would be soul-crushing to writers who write out of love for their topic, and is probably a dangerous road to follow – if it is the only path you choose.

The winemaker didn’t say to ONLY make the wine that sells, and he knows he must be a good farmer to grow good grapes, a good winemaker, AND a good marketer, to be successful. If he lacks in any of these categories, he needs to work on it or hire someone to help in the areas where he lacks. Help usually costs money. But if he can learn those skills, as he learned the skills of making wine (or marketing book) – because few are born with the knowledge – he (and we) can be successful.

Balance is required, above and beyond the writing. You need the  persistence to hang in there and adapt, and the willingness to learn fully what is necessary to be successful in the craft you love – however you may define success.

This is true in any business.

.

Your humble host.
Your humble host.

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Dan Alatorre is the author of several bestsellers and the hilarious upcoming novel “Poggibonsi: an italian misadventure.” Check out his other works HERE.

What Makes A Person A Friend?

What makes a person a friend?

My daughter has a little playmate, another little girl her age. Let’s call the other little girl Nancy. They are the same height and they were born about a month apart. They see each other once a week if they are lucky, since we all have busy schedules, but when they do get to see each other, they literally jump up and down and scream with delight.

It is hilarious and beautiful to watch.

Nancy’s mom, let’s call her Emily, is a young lady in her 20’s (so she is much younger than I), asked me recently time why I thought they were such good friends. She would take her daughter to play with other friends of hers and they didn’t play together as well. Nancy went to play with her friend Sophia and they ended up not playing well but actually complaining that they didn’t like playing with each other!

That happens, I know. I guarantee as a kid I disowned my best friend more than once, but we would forget our disagreements overnight and the next day we were best friends again. I assume girls can be the same way.

When you ask my daughter about Nancy, she gets excited. If you tell her she is going to see Nancy today, it’s like Christmas. She will bring up Nancy’s name out of nowhere and ask if she can go see her today.

Nancy’s mom says that Nancy is the same way.

The two girls first met when they were both about 1 year old, at Gymboree, a kind of indoor playground for very small children. They had a “class” together once a week and would see each other at the open gym sometimes a second time that week.

Then Nancy and her family moved away for a year to Colorado. Not much was said about them by my daughter while they were gone. In the interim, Savvy learned to swim, ride a bike, and discovered Monkey Bizness.

That’s another indoor playground for kids, but it’s built for kids that are probably age 2 to age 7. There are big things to climb on, a big bounce house, slides, a fingerpaint area, tables for lunch… all inside and air conditioned.

And we would go there about once a week. Which is where we ran into Emily and Nancy again one day.

A year had passed. Nancy had grown and was talking. Emily had changed her hair color, so I did a double take.

At first, I thought I recognized them across the room, so I smiled and waved and said Hi. Then I immediately had an awkward second thought: Nancy and her family moved to Colorado a year ago; you are waving at a lady you don’t know.

But my first thought was right and my second thought was wrong. it was them. And when Emily came over to say Hi, she was happy to see us. When Nancy recognized Savvy, and Savvy recognized Nancy, they were delighted. Little friends reunited again. They played together, held hands, hugged… it was quite a reunion.

We exchanged phone numbers so we could get the kids together once a week or so.

From there, whether they played together once a week or less than that, they were fast friends. in the ensuing year, they have gone to the zoo together, the park, had picnics, played at our house in the pool, attended each other’s birthday parties, and gone back to Monkey Bizness several times.

And that’s when, recently, Emily asked me why I thought they were such good friends.

It was an easy question to answer, but it was very difficult as well.

They are friends because they play together often enough to know that they can trust each other. They are young, still almost babies, but they have learned that each will not hurt the other. They have similar interests and when their interests don’t align, they are relaxed enough to try what the other wants to do. They have similar home situations; each is an only child that doesn’t go to day care – although Nancy started pre-VPK a month ago.

They encourage each other to eat so they can go back to playing. Nancy has often fussed at Savvy: Eat your carrots! Savvy is a slow eater; that cuts into play time.

They enjoy each other’s company.

They put up with each other’s crap.

They miss each other when they are apart. Savvy will say, “Dad, remember when me and Nancy went on the boats? And we didn’t like it?” It’s her way of reminding me about the motorized boat ride at the zoo, where the kids can drive their own little boat without an adult on board – and it’s a disaster because they can’t drive, the boat starts spinning in dizzying circles, and they cry. Or they throw up. We were lucky that our kids just cried.

They didn’t even ride it at the same time. Savvy rode it once, and hated it; and then a month later when we went back, Nancy rode it (Savvy refused) and hated it. Neither could control the boat, and they just went in circles, spinning out of control until the ride operator rescued them.

I’d hate spinning in circles, too.

But I thought is wasn’t nice for Savvy to bring up a memory where her friend had a bad time, and I was bothered by it. She originally asked, “Dad, remember when Nancy went on the boats and she didn’t like it?” and then she laughed.

“You didn’t like it, either,” I reminded her. “Don’t pick on Nancy about not liking that ride. Neither of you liked it. You cried when you went on it, too.”

The next time she brought it up, she included both of them in the recap: “Dad, remember when me and Nancy went on the boats? And we didn’t like it?”

I was equally perplexed at why she would bring up a bad memory at all.

But she references Nancy at other times. “Can I go over to Nancy’s house today?” or if we were in the car, she would ask if we could go by Nancy’s house. Sometimes she would ask if we could go to Monkey Bizness and see Nancy, or if Nancy could come over to grandma’s house after swim practice.

Not all the time; she asked these things randomly and occasionally.

Of course, it was a 3-year old’s way of saying that she missed her friend. But it took me a while to realize it,, because they most common phrase she said was about the boats. “Dad, remember when me and Nancy went on the boats? And we didn’t like it?”

She missed her little friend. Her mom and I were fun, but there’s no substitute for a friend your size, who can go down the slide right after you, bounce along in the bounce house with you, fingerpaint next to you…

The answer to the question “Why are they friends?” was as simple as it gets.

And as complex.

They are friends because they like each other.

They have common interests, and their parents have similar parenting styles. that means we allow certain things and don’t allow other things.

They like each other and they trust each other. When one gets hurt, the other shows concern. If one accidentally hurts the other one, or knocks her down while running for the same slide, or trips over her while playing in the bounce house, they apologize. And they mean it.

They’re good kids.

I can think of a hundred reasons why they are such good friends, and I couldn’t say what exactly it is about the combination that makes it so special for each of them. I’m just glad they are good friends. I’m glad they are discovering close friendships at such a young age. I hope they continue to be good friends for a long time, and to add other people into that circle. I’ll do my best to help.

But to be honest; they’re three years old. What do they really know about friendship? I don’t know…

I don’t know, but they do.

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For more amazing cuteness from my 4 year old daughter and the rest of her hilarious family, check out my Savvy Stories book series here. (Book two is on sale today) http://www.amazon.com/Dan-Alatorre/e/B00EUX7HEU/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_pop_1

 

Sunday Driver

I was driving to Savvy’s cousin’s 2nd birthday party, which was being held at her grandma’s house, and even though it’s a short drive, I’m running late and trying to hurry. The speed limits on the streets between here and there are pretty moderate, but for some reason traffic was a little backed up.

Up ahead, about 3 or 4 cars in front of me, was a big old or a Mercury Marquis, driving slowly like they were looking for a street that they couldn’t find.

One by one, as the cars in between us turned off to their respective destinations, it was finally just me and the big old Mercury. From behind, I can see two little heads that are barely able to see over the dashboard, an old man and an old woman, driving their giant car at about 2 miles per hour.

I chuckled to myself. They weren’t looking for a street; they were just driving at old man speed: slow. Sunday drivers.

I realized that the car they drove was like the one my Dad had driven for many years – maybe he still had it, too. Even though he could certainly afford any car he liked, Dad would buy a car that was about 1 year old, then drive it forever. That’s just his style; not too flashy.

Although I always remember him driving really fast when we were kids, it could have been him behind the wheel of this monstrous Merc now. He doesn’t really drive fast these days. And Dad has seemed to shrink a little with age, so he just might be a little lower in proximity to the dashboard like the gentleman in front of me.

Of course, my Dad was always taller than me when I was a kid, and when I finally got taller than him, he still insisted I was not. He probably still would if I asked him. But there’s a time for good sportsmanship in each of life’s games, and when you are decidedly taller than a man you’ve looked up to all your life, you don’t haggle. As years go by and you see each other less and less, you might wish he was still the taller of the two of you.

I eased back a bit from the Mercury as the driver finally found the road they had been searching for, and they turned and went on their merry way.

And I thought: good for them. Slow driver or not, I hope to be there one day. It had never occurred to me before, but it would be nice to like them and my Dad.

Those slow old drivers and my Dad have lived to see their children grow up, their grand children get born, and maybe a few great grand kids too. That sounds pretty nice to me, something to look forward to about old age that I had never thought about before.

God bless that little old guy driving in front of me.

I hope to be one some day.

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For more amazing cuteness from my 4 year old daughter and the rest of her hilarious family, check out my Savvy Stories book series here. (Book two is on sale today) http://www.amazon.com/Dan-Alatorre/e/B00EUX7HEU/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_pop_1

 

Various Grumblings: Be Careful Not to Bite The Hand That Feeds…

Amazon! They de-listed my 2nd book from my author page!

What’s with these guys? I take the time to load book 2 up last Sunday, which takes at least 24 hours to see if it goes through, watch as it is doing well all week, and today it’s NOT THERE. So I click the link and it says we’ll add it to you profile within 24 hours… gee, thanks. Why did you take it off in the first place? I guess it wasn’t selling well enough or something. Buggers. If they weren’t the #1 book seller, would anybody put up with their crap? I’m a good soldier; I post their link on all my sites… ungrateful rats.

Thanks, I needed to vent.

Meanwhile, the paperback version of “Savvy Stories 2: the TERRIBLE Two’s,” ALSO being done through an Amazon affiliate, is almost ready to go: 99% done on the actual text, and fine tuning the cover artwork. That’s been a fun chore (truthfully) and it will be nice to have an actual physical book to show people, give to my non-computer dad, etc. I was able to get the cost down from $12.50 to between 5.85 and 7.99, depending on where I want to be, price wise, for a paperback. I like the idea of a “first” book at $5.99 but I’m not making much at that price, about a dollar if they buy it through Createspace and about 20 cents if they buy it through Amazon. But the $5.99 really appeals to me.