Anthology update!

For those of you who are interested (and I hope that’s a lot of you), we have finalized some of the ideas for the anthology.

The theme is: SCARY

 

That’s a pretty broad brush, gang. Feel free to go crazy.

Scary includes: you know, lots of stuff. Horror. Macabre. All that. Channel your inner Stephen King.

 

You are ALL welcome to contribute something for consideration. I’ll be the considerer.

 

The DEADLINE to get your short story to me is September 1.

That way we can do whatever editing and changes and still have the thing ready to go by October 1, our planned release date – to market our scary stuff in Halloween month.

 

ANY length short story will be good.

I think most of you can put out 3000 words in 30 days, some of you can do it much faster than that.

 

Shorter submissions are welcome.

Longer submissions will be considered, but… I only have so much time. If you send me 50,000 words I can tell you it’s gonna be very difficult for me to get to that one in time, OK? So govern yourself accordingly.

 

But that said, some of you, like me, have some big ol’ monster story that you’ve written, and there might be a chapter in there that would be a really really good standalone with a few tweaks. So think about doing that!

 

Here’s what you do:

  1. If you are interested in being in the anthology, use the “contact me” button and tell me you’re interested.
  2. I will reply and say something like Great! Can’t wait to see what you send!
  3. At which point you will have an email address to attach your story and send it on over.

Simple as one, two, three.

Early words will be appreciated. (That was supposed to say early birds, but I like the typo better.)

 

Any questions, ask them below or send me a email – but odds are if you have a question somebody else has the same one, and I can always update this post with that information.

 

Thanks! Can’t wait to see what you send!

ANGEL IS LIVE! Get it now, and if you need to POST YOUR REVIEW, please DO THAT, too!

Ta dah!!

Angel Cover 17

I’m so excited. I keep forgetting that midnight July 31st isn’t first thing August 1 but first thing July 31, so I was expecting this sucker to go live TOMORROW. Oops.

Oh, well. Doesn’t matter – we are off to the races now!

Get your copy today by clicking HERE

 

Gang, this is absolutely one of the BEST novels I have written.

  • The part where Mrs. Billen goes to the train tracks? Oh, that scene I can reread over and over. It’s hauntingly scary. Not for the weak!

  • Hell, the opening – talk about a grabber!

  • And of course, who could forget Father Frank? Another memorable character. One of my best.

But scene after scene, you will find yourself glued to the pages. I did.

Don’t take my word for it. Read it yourself. The Ammy sample will get you and the book will keep you turning pages, right up to the surprise ending.

What was YOUR favorite scene?

(NO SPOILERS!)

 

 

 

 

What You Need, Writer!

dan

Billy Crystal once made a movie called Mr. Saturday Night (or something like that – I’m not looking it up). It wasn’t a really funny movie, the way people expect Billy Crystal movies to be, but it was good for other reasons. There were some lessons in there that I think he learned that he wanted to express, and

they are lessons worth knowing.

 

One of the things he says (and to me it’s a big lesson from the movie but it’s not his main point at all) is this: there’s funny in the living room and there’s funny on stage.

BOOM.

Right now you are like, what???

Or, whuuutt??

That’s okay. I know it’s early.

 

I’ll never forget when I went from eighth grade to high school. Eighth grade was the highest level at the Catholic grade school I went to, and eighth graders were the oldest students there. Freshman year in high school – just a quick three months from the end of eighth grade to the beginning of freshman year at high school – was a whole New World. I went from being at the top of the food chain to being plankton. The seniors run the high school and the freshmen are insignificant. Or at least they feel that way.

 

Both, that is. The seniors feel very superior and most of the freshman feel very insecure.

 

That doesn’t last of course but the initial transaction was very shocking to me.

 

In eighth grade, I knew everything. I knew where to go, what to do, who to see. I knew all the teachers, the principal, the janitor… I knew how to get around.

 

That was not the case my first day in high school.

 

My first day, I didn’t know room 231 was on the second floor because it started with a 2.

I was kinda lost.

(But from learning that I now know that room 1408 in a hotel is on the 14th floor, and I know an address that’s 1216 Maple St. is probably 12 blocks away from the main artery in that town.)

 

Anyway…

 

They are two sides of the same point, I think, and there’s a lesson for us all in this – or a lesson for you guys at least – and it’s one that is hard to explain, so bear with me.

 

See, I have a friend who, it turns out, is very, very funny. She is crushing it on her Twitter account. Well, not actually her Twitter account, but one she created under a fake name…

 

Her modus operandi was to tell snarky little jokes and whisper them to a friend, maybe in a classroom. Bust up the friend without drawing attention from the teacher. Or to whisper something snarky and humorous at Thanksgiving dinner to her sister about her mom, without mom ever catching on. Or to literally be watching a movie in the living room and text back-and-forth with one another without letting mom find out.

 

This is being funny in the living room, and it’s good stuff. If you have a sibling like this, they are likely your favorite.

 

To take that on stage and do it in front of strangers, whether high school or grade school or community theater or internet or late night TV, that’s the big leap.

Yeah, ALL of those are BIG leaps.

We can see going from snarking quietly about Mom to cracking jokes on Fallon is a big leap, but they are ALL big leaps. Every one of the steps in between is a big leap. A giant chasm filled with possible eternal humiliation.

 

That’s where you have to have confidence in what you’ve done. What you know.

 

Comedians in a nightclub will warm up the crowd a little bit. Once you make somebody laugh one time, it’s easier to keep them laughing.

A writer does not necessarily enjoy feedback at that speed.

You may write your story for weeks or months… For some of you, years… Before getting any feedback on it.

 

If you blog or post on Facebook, you get feedback pretty quickly. A blog will tell you within a few days, maybe a few hours but sometimes as much as a week; a Facebook post is pretty quick. At the end of the day you know if you said something that got a reaction.

 

You also might pay attention to things (the way I do) like how a comedian phrases a joke that gets a laugh, building upon that theme with variation and repetition while making it new each time he restates it. If he has to refer to a red door three in a joke, the first time it’s the red door, the second time it’s the red opening, the third time it is the crimson rectangle that gains passage to the house – I mean, repetition breeds boredom unless thesaurusized, you know?

 

So for those of you who are yet to make the leap, here’s what you need to know.

 

I’m not going to pretend it’s hard. For me, it was not. (Not noticeably, anyway – but we’ll talk about that in a sec.) I was always able to crack a joke quietly to a friend, and as I built up my confidence I was able to go onstage in high school and do a standup routine in front of hundreds of people.

It was not an overnight thing but an evolution.

During one of the high school plays my freshman year I was kind of the announcer, a role created to fill time between scenes while they dropped the curtain and changed the set. The announcer’s lines were kind of funny and I realized people – adults I didn’t know – laughed. Senior year I did a man-and-woman standup comedy routine, with some ad libs that brought down the house when my beautiful co-player forgot her lines and skipped two pages of material.

 

What was my evolution to get there, from almost crawling under a desk to killing it onstage???

 

Because it seems like a series of obvious small steps – but was it?

 

I came from a large family and a lot of my brothers and sisters had good senses of humor, but in order to get any attention – at least this is how it seemed – around the dining room table from my parents, you had to be able to speak up. The thing my dad enjoyed most was a good laugh. Probably we all do, but dad worked hard and we didn’t see as much of him as we did my mom, so getting a good laugh out of Dad was a really great way to end the day. Also, if you made dad laugh you probably made everybody else left, too.

 

Instant celebrity status – at least within the family.

And it was minor celebrity status, to be sure.

 

Go try that crap out at school in the middle of a fourth grade classroom and the teacher frowns – and most of the kids don’t laugh because they (correctly) don’t think they should – and you will feel heat on your cheeks like you didn’t know was possible. Somebody has parked an oven next your face on each side.

 

(See that door analogy coming back? Cheeks went heat to ovens.)

 

Anyway, when my jokes for flat at school, they did not get repeatedand I became pretty quiet.

Except maybe with my friends after a loooooong period of soul searching.

 

And as my confidence grew again I would occasionally make a witty comment, but not usually at school, usually in a more appropriate forum like being the announcer at a play. That was when I found out, Hey I can be funny and if I do it the right way I can get a lot of recognition and status and prestige and probably respect. People respect you if you can get up in front of a group and tell a joke.

 

Hell, people respect you if you can get up in front of a group and speak.

 

Now, my older brother had been class president in our high school, so it seemed like a good idea to get involved in student council like he did. I had no idea what I was doing. I figured I would just go to meetings. And I did.

 

But when it came time to read the minutes of the student council meeting in front of the class, that was public speaking 101 – and guess what?

Public speaking is people’s number 1 fear. They fear it more than death.

And with good reason.

Nobody teases you for ten years after you fuck up your death.

 

I kind of held the paper in front of my face and almost made myself into a little ball, and spoke very, very quietly (and as fast as possible) and got that stuff the hell over with.

 

That evolved, too. I was a homeroom representative for three years (most of freshman year I just pinned the minutes to the bulletin board because

John White picked me up by the neck from behind while I was reading them.

I didn’t know what to do, so I kept reading the minutes as he strangled me.

It was pretty embarrassing. Inferno cheeks and much laughter from the class.) Somehow, I kept on being homeroom rep, and being part of student council.

 

And then senior year I ran for class president.

I didn’t win, but I was one of the two finalists, giving our speeches in front of the entire school in the gymnasium.

And I’m still proud of that. Obviously. (I got voted onto prom court, too.)

 

But during the interim years, my band – I was a drummer in a rock band – played in garages and then my friend got the idea that maybe we would play the music at the school masses. See, I went to a Catholic high school, too, and every once in while we would have a big school mass in the gymnasium. That was basically like putting on a rock concert, in my opinion. A concert with some prayers around it. That is totally how I viewed it. With myself as the centerpiece of the band, of course.

 

And then we had to practice, so we got to get out of certain classes to go practice for the mass. That’s prestigious, too. Kids can’t get out of class, and if you can, you have esteem.

 

Suffice it to say the nuns found us too loud

when we practiced and too loud during the masses, but the cool young priest gave us a thumbs up and I guess he outranked them so that was that. We got to play.

 

And then from there we did other stuff, dances and parties, including the back-to-school dance. Which was a big deal. A concert, as we saw it, featuring us, with all our classmates in attendance. Not Revenge Of The Nerds, exactly, but…

 

Wait, WHERE are all these wild, unrelated analogies going?

 

It’s an evolution, people!

 

You have to make the step. You have to decide you’re going to make the step and then make the step. You must put yourself out there.

 

You will think this comes natural to me to me because I do it all the time for you.

I write stories and I do video shows and I am a boisterous and outgoing personality. I crank out amazing books.

 

I’m telling you it didn’t happen overnight.

 

It didn’t for me and for most of you it’s not going to, either.

 

But what I’m also telling you is, it’s possible.

 

It’s a skill like anything else, and unless you find it extremely unpalatable, you can do it.

 

I’m not saying you should start working on your standup routine, because as writers that pretty much death by a million embarrassments in your eyes.

(You’re probably wrong about that but okay.)

 

What I am saying is, you can write a great story.

 

You can.

You can!

 

I think you believe that but you don’t have the confidence to believe anybody else believes it.

 

Or as I like to say, if your kid had this challenge, what would you tell them? Follow that advice yourself.

“Whatever your objective, you must define it, create a plan for achieving it.”

-Dr Phil.

C’mon, you gonna argue with Dr Phil?

I am here to tell you, if you would just put it out there… well, you might fall on your face.

(John White is not lurking in the shadows anymore, though, I don’t think.)

But don’t get discouraged.

 

The first time I glowed beet red in a classroom for telling a joke that fell flat, I wanted to crawl under a rock and never come back out again. And I probably did for a few days.

 

But for whatever reason, my confidence and ego was such that I had to stage a resurgence. Maybe I didn’t know better. Maybe my parents wouldn’t let me quit. Maybe I knew I had to find another way, one that didn’t involve python-like decapitation at the hands of a larger classmate.

 

Maybe I had somebody quietly encouraging me.

 

Despite my many setbacks in life, if they are numerous, here I still am pushing out stories for other people to pay money for and enjoy.

Think about that. Total strangers plop down money to read what I write.

 

They laugh at the right places, they cry at the right places, they swoon sometimes… And then they write to me, telling me stuff like that.

 

And I will tell you this: somebody writing to express how good a writer you are is probably one of the most amazing experiences you will ever have.

 

So please stop denying yourself. If I can help you in any way – and I can – to boost that confidence, let me know. You can enter a contest I host. You can join my private critique group. You can submit a story for the anthology. I’m a pretty nice guy when it comes to helping people, ask anybody. And as writer types, I get it. I wanna boost you by showing what you do well and helping you fix what needs improvement.

 

(By the way, did you see what I did a moment ago? I told you – on a blog read by tens of thousands of people – about one of my most embarrassing moments in high school. And nothing bad happened when I told you.) 

Oh, and my funny, snarky friend? She put out a bestseller.

 

But it has to come from you. You have to want it.

 

I can’t make you want it – or maybe I can.

 

Hopefully I can.

Hopefully I did.

But if you read this far you wanted it first. Time to act.

TICK TOCK: Update on the WRITING CONTEST, the ANTHOLOGY, and maybe some other stuff. (About 7 quick bullet points in all.)

  1. MIDNIGHT TONIGHT, July 31, 2017, Eastern Standard Time, is the deadline for your story if it’s going in the Word Weaver Writing Contest.

Word Weaver logi FINAL trimmed 2

Prizes, fame, and a critique of your writing by me – but not if you don’t enter.

2. If you are interested in being in the anthology, please let me know by clicking the Contact Me button and telling me. You don’t have to have your story finished, just tell me you’re interested in joining the team. (Newbies: this could be your chance to get published with some famous folks!) We’ll go from there.

I’ve accepted stories from several authors and have commitments from several others, but

there’s not a door that slams shut when we reach 20 stories or anything.

SEND ME YOUR STORY.

If we get “too many” good stories, it’ll just be a big, fat book. Or we’ll have two volumes. Don’t not send me a story because of any concerns like that.

Is YOUR story good enough to be in the anthology? Well, I won’t know that until you send it, will I? (If it’s not, I’ll let you down easy and might even work with you on how to fix it.)

3. YES, stories from the two Word Weaver Writing Contests (April’s and now July’s) will be considered for the anthology

– why wouldn’t I? I’m not big on turning away talent or making extra work for myself.

What else?

4. If you are wondering if you should try to be in the anthology, the answer is yes. Try. What do you have to lose?

5. Oh, the anthology entries don’t really have a set length. Mine will be about 3000 words, but a few from other authors are just several hundred words and one is longer than 3k.

6. Yes, you can have several stories of yours go into the anthology. See #3. Again, one author has several. I might have two. (And if we get so many stories we need two volumes, I’ll put one of my stories in each. How’s that?)

7. We will probably create a private Facebook group or something to discuss important anthology stuff, so stay tuned for that.

Okay, I have to go get ready to read more of the zillion Word Weaver Writing Contest entries.

If you have any questions about anything, let me know.

 

How To Critique and Edit Your OWN Work, part 2

danLast week we discussed some basic tips to improve your writing the way a critique group would. Today we address more of those suggestions plus how to deal with reading harsh critiques you might get in a free online critique group and other not so fun things. (And some fun things, too.)

READING CRITIQUES

When you read a critique of your story in a free online critique group, try read it in combination with other critiques.

If three crits all point to the same thing as a problem, consider addressing at it. 

Don’t change anything based on just one crit unless it’s from Stephen King or Stephen Hawking, and then be sure to mention what close personal friends you and I are.

In a critique group, look for people who want to help you improve. That doesn’t mean to seek out fans or to make friends, because that tends to lead to supportive sounding crits that mean well but aren’t necessarily truthful or helpful. Find writers who get it, and read their stuff. Look at their other crits. Develop a network through correspondence with them and look to make better stories all the time.

Nice things to say at the end of a critique if I liked it:

You have talent! Keep up the good work!

Let me know if I can help in any way.

Thanks and good luck!

Dan Alatorre

Yeah, I use my real name in online critique groups – and on my blog and on my books... You should, too. That name’s gonna be on a book I’m trying to sell; I need to get past any shyness. This helps. Plus I need all the marketing I can get, and the recipient of the crit might become a fan. Plus the crit comes off as much more honest if my name’s on there. Plus you’re more likely to not be a jerk if your actual name is attached.

I really mean it when I say I want to help, too. You’d be surprised at how few people take me up on it, but I think everyone appreciates the gesture. Consider this blog. It’s usually helpful. It feels good when people tell you that you helped them. Try it.

Okay, now a few tips.

WRITING GOOD ACTION SCENES

Action scenes are tough to write. We try to put things into one long sentence to show the speed at which they happen. That tends to make us, the reader, have to think about it more, slowing things down. Our brain needs it to come to us in smaller, choppier sentences so it can digest them faster. It usually reads better that way, but only for action scenes. Chop it up and it will read better. (It will look a little odd to you, but we readers know you don’t write everything that way.)

BTW, HARSH CRITIQUES…

Harsh critiques usually come from jerks who think they know something about writing. I’m not sure they do (heck, I’m not sure I do), but I’m sure you’ll figure out which ones I mean. THIS IS WHAT YOU ARE AFRAID OF – PEOPLE LAUGHING AT YOU AND YOUR STORY, SAYING YOU SUCK, HUMILIATING YOU.

Don’t be.

Critique groups are places to learn, and some very nice, very helpful people are there. Find them. Yes, some mean people are there, too, occasionally. Not many, though, and usually their stories suck, so consider that when considering their comments. Some people just have a head full of bad wiring.

If I liked their story, I’ll add:

I liked your story. So did other people. Stick with it. Put another story up soon.

Okay, more tips.

THE WORD “START”

“as she starts to sob”

Some crits have an issue with saying that characters start to do something. In reality, the argument goes, we just do something, we don’t start to do it. I can see it both ways, and I see their point as a way to make for better overall writing and a smoother story, not just an arbitrary rule. There’s a time for both. I can start to wash my car by gathering a sponge, a bucket and some soap. But the rationale is, you’re doing those things in preparation to wash the car, so say that, not that you’re starting to wash the car.

CANADIAN/BRITISH SPELLING

Using Canadian/British, etc., spelling, can affect the use of certain punctuation like single quotation marks, double quotation marks, and word spellings. I won’t be mentioning this unless something really jumps out at me, except to say I won’t be mentioning it. Consider Americanizing your words. There are a lot more of us and we buy a ton of books, but it annoys us when we see things we think are misspelled. Meanwhile, you guys in other countries are used to how we spell stuff. It’s not fair, I know, but aim for the biggest target.

COLLOQUIAL TERMS

Using colloquial terms and phrases – generally it is okay for a character to say them but not the narrator.

SHOW, DON’T TELL

Aha, a biggie. You’ll see this a lot in free online critique groups.

New writers do a lot of telling in their stories and not enough showing. Explain the scene. Let the reader see it. Describe it. When you show what’s happening, you are putting us there in the moment as readers, using our senses; we get a better feel for the story and characters. We are part of the scene as it is happening, and we immerse ourselves more in your story – making it more interesting and harder to put down. An example is when Chekhov said, “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” If you search for the term “show versus tell in storytelling,” you’ll get a lot of articles that explain this in better detail. You’ll see examples. Then you can decide which is better for your style. It isn’t always necessary.

There are more but this is a good start. Come back again and I’ll tell you some more.

Finding these things in our story and correcting them puts you GIANT steps ahead of others, and allows crits to spend their energy helping you build a better story – or allows readers to smoothly and effortlessly enjoy your improved work.

That’s why you let it rest and take a few passes at it.

dan

Meanwhile, SUBSCRIBE to this blog. Click the “Follow” button and never miss any of the hugely important things going on here. Think about it: if you read this far, you need this stuff. And it doesn’t cost you anything. And there are way fewer spelling errors than there used to be.

Check out bestselling author Dan Alatorre’s latest hit, the hilarious and sexy romantic comedy Poggibonsi: An Italian Misadventure by clicking HERE, and see all his other amazing stuff HERE.

The end (of the contest) is near!


  

If you haven’t entered the Word Weaver Writing Contest yet, you still have this weekend. 

  

Don’t miss out!

  
I know. You’re busy. You don’t have time. That Thing You Do is on cable. There’s a pile of laundry calling your name and loved ones who insist on being fed. 
  
Priorities. 
  

You’re a writer. That stuff will keep and Dominoes delivers. 

  
Get to the writing and enter the contest!