A Thanksgiving Story


your humble host

Posting this same story each year has become a bit of a tradition, and since the holidays are kinda traditiony, it’s worth it to post it again.


LAST YEAR, I prefaced the post with this note:

I’m flying to Detroit today to visit my brother Rick, who has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. A young man, he won’t likely last five more years, and maybe not one more. Those are just the facts.

I don’t tell you this to evoke sympathy, but to explain why I’m reposting this blog from a while back, and to remind you to visit your family because one day they won’t be around to complain about. (That was supposed to sound somber, not wishful.) All my brothers and sisters are flying in to wish him happy birthday, as well as my dad. Mom passed away a long time ago, so it’s the whole family coming. That tells you something.

I hope he’s around for me to whine about having to fly from warm happy Florida to freaking freezing Detroit again next year for his birthday.

THIS YEAR I am returning to Detroit to freeze my butt off again, and to celebrate another year of my younger brother being here. I hope to do it for many years to come, but I know that’s not going to be the case. He’s dying from cancer and may be giving up the fight. My flight is tomorrow.

Again, this isn’t a sad post, and I’m not telling you this stuff to get sympathy. NONE of us has a crystal ball that tells us how much time we have. My neighbor’s wife and kids were almost killed by a drunk driver; the youngest girl nearly died and spent a long time learning to walk again.

We think we have time, but nobody knows for sure.

Hug and kiss your kids, and hug and kiss your parents, too. Make sure each hectic, stressful, crazy, joyous holiday is tinted with a little bit of the somber knowledge that it won’t always be as it is today, and on a day in the future we might like a day like this back.


Every year at Thanksgiving,

when we were kids, my whole family would assemble for a long day of playing football in the back yard, followed by a fantastic, huge Thanksgiving feast.

All of the kids in our small Ohio neighborhood will remember the great football games, because it was an annual occasion where, regardless of age, brothers and sisters and cousins and neighbors would play. As we got older, it was even more fun, because it might put a college kid against a grade schooler. Rain, snow, mud; it didn’t matter. The dirtier, the better. Around dusk, the game was disbanded, and the players had to get cleaned up for the grand feast.

Thanksgiving dinner at my house as a kid was great.

My grandma and grandpa would drive up from Cincinnati in their car. They were appropriately old, having lived through the Great Depression and all that, but certain things they did made them stand out – like how my grandma always called her car “the machine,” making her seem even older than she was. (When I was really little, I always thought that when she referred to her car as “the machine,” she was talking about a washing machine, and I couldn’t figure out why she was taking a washing machine back and forth from Cincinnati all the time.)

Sometimes we would get uncles and aunts from Cincinnati, too, and our cousins; and as we got older, brothers and sisters would come home from college with girlfriends or boyfriends. Eventually, the married sibling with kids would try to “split” Thanksgiving between our house and the home of their in-laws. Sometimes, our parish priest came to Thanksgiving dinner, a rare treat. He was a big guy, and played football with us, too, with no mercy. He would level you, no questions asked. I suppose he could always ask for forgiveness at work the next day.

We had a big, flat back yard, and playing football in it allowed us all to work up a big appetite for a huge dinner. After cleaning up, we would go into the dining room for dinner. On regular days, we would eat in the kitchen, at the kitchen table; but on special occasions like Thanksgiving, the dining room was required. It had a long table that mom would make even longer with some extra slats that extended it. But of course, that wasn’t enough to seat all the people who would come, so we would place a card table at one end, with some extra chairs. All the nice plates were used – one of the few times during the year that they were ever used – along with the nice glasses, the crystal butter dish (and a plastic margarine tub), fancy pitchers for water and milk… maybe even a few candle sticks! And the aroma of turkey and stuffing filled the air.

So, the kids are squeezed into their chairs, which are placed close to each other, to fit as many people at the table as possible.

Side dishes are coming out: cranberry sauce, corn, gravy. The adults are finding their places. Some small talk is being bantered about. My grandma, getting ready to take her seat next to my grandpa, begins to tell us about the pumpkin pies she’d just made from scratch.

Now, you have to understand; Grandma and Grandpa were a bit of contrasting personalities.

Depression Era folks, they worked hard and scraped and saved their whole lives, just like most of our grandparents. Nothing was ever wasted. My grandma was boisterous and outgoing; my grandpa was pretty reserved and quiet. He was really tall; she was short and round. He was nice, polite, and quiet; she was loud – but probably because she was becoming a little hard of hearing about that time, and hadn’t figured it out yet. She didn’t seem loud to herself.

Everybody understands that pumpkins are orange colored, and when you see a baked pumpkin pie, it’s kind of a brownish-orange color.

Well, Grandma had made some pies from scratch, and she wasn’t happy with how they turned out. As everybody is taking their seats for dinner, and mom is putting the finishing touches on the turkey, Grandma is explaining about these pies she’d made. My little brother Rick and I are across the table from her, anxiously awaiting dinner, and dad is seated at the head of the table.

We are truly ready to feast.

Grandma says that the pies had turned out wrong, and she couldn’t figure out why – so she didn’t bring them. Well now, being Thanksgiving and all, that seemed odd, to leave pumpkin pies at home; so I turned my attention to her instead of the noise coming from the kitchen where the turkey was.

Grandma continued. She left the pies at her house because instead of being a nice, deep brownish-orange color, they had turned out….


Green??? I was dumbfounded. How the heck does an orange pumpkin turn into a green pie?

It just seemed amazing to me; the epitome of bad cooking. I had never been a fan of Grandma’s cooking – being German, she liked to cook things until she was sure there was no flavor left; her house always smelled like steamed cabbage and canning pickles. In summer, the open windows never quite dispensed those sour aromas out of her house, so it was hard to breathe in there if you were a kid. You wouldn’t go into the basement unless you were with somebody who knew CPR.

Grandma was strict and stern and had very little patience for unruly children, and she let it be known on a regular basis.

There were seven of us kids just in my family alone, and I was almost the youngest of the bunch. Add in a few sets of cousins, most of whom were older, and you can see why whatever patience she had for little children had worn out long ago.

So the thought of her cranking out some green pumpkin pies as though a Martian had made them, was too much for us, the aforementioned unruly kids.

My younger brother Rick and I thought that the whole scenario was pretty funny – green pumpkin pies? We began to chuckle.

Dad, of course, was angry at the lack of respect we were showing our grandmother, and quickly told us to pipe down.

Of course, when you’re a kid, trying not to laugh just makes it even harder to not laugh.

Rick and I were holding our breath, silently snickering over the thought of Martian pumpkin pies, when Grandma dumped a little more gas on the fire:

When she sampled the green pies, they tasted funny, too. Bad. Well, we hadn’t considered that. We figured that the color was wrong but that they tasted okay – such was not the case.

Holding back a disrespectful chuckle is one thing; holding back a bona fide laugh is another. You can only expect so much self control from a kid. Now I was ready to burst. I could feel my ears turning red from holding back my laughter, and Rick was barely holding on next to me. The key to not laughing when you’re in a situation like that is to turn your thoughts away from the source of the laughter and distract yourself. This dinner was too special to get in trouble. I took a careful deep breath and thought about Mom, in the kitchen with the turkey…

Then the next bomb went off.

Grandma’s pumpkin pies were green and they tasted funny, BUT SHE MADE GRANDPA EAT THEM ANYWAY! (Depression Era folks do things like this).

Well, I hadn’t considered that. I thought she sampled the pies, found them to not taste right, and had tossed them out. It didn’t occur to me that she would sit down with her Martian-green, awful tasting pies and actually try to force somebody to consume them. Rick and I are hardly containing our laughter, audibly laughing while doing our best not to. I’m ready to explode. Rick’s shoulders are bouncing up and down so hard, he is hitting me with his elbows. This snorting and chuckling was drawing more attention to Grandma’s story.

Dad is getting visibly angry at us. He’s telling us to behave.

We are dying. Rick was turning purple, holding his breath trying not to laugh.

Then came the topper:

“Those must have been the worst pies I ever made,” Grandma said.

To which Grandpa replied, “Oh, I wouldn’t say that!”

I exploded. I burst into EXPLOSIONS! Explosions of laughter.

Of course, my kind Grandpa was trying to say that the pies weren’t very bad. But to Rick and I – and everyone else at the table by now – it sounded like he had said that she’d made lots of things that were worse than green pumpkin pies that tasted bad!

Poor Grandpa! No wonder he was so thin!

I think we said these things out loud, too, amongst our laughter, which caused the whole table to erupt.

Rick and I were practically crying, we were laughing so hard, and there was no containing our laughter now.

Dad was trying to put a lid on Grandma’s embarrassment. “Do you want to eat in the basement?” he demanded.

We stopped only long enough to look at each other. “Okay!” we shouted in between laughs, and stood up with our empty plates. We knew we weren’t going to be able to stop laughing, and eating turkey in the basement was better than getting sent to our rooms without dinner, so we took the deal.

On our way to the basement,

we figured that since we had paid the price of admission, we could really let loose, so as soon as we were around the corner from the dining room, we just burst. We howled with laughter, repeating Grandma’s funniest lines and Grandpa’s topper, each revision funnier than the last. We were practically making ourselves hysterical – the kind of laughing that just kind of feeds on itself, and gets funnier and funnier. We just could NOT stop laughing.

Between gasps of air, Rick considered the consequences of not getting turkey on Thanksgiving, a day designated for eating it.

“Are we going to get any turkey at all?” he asked.

“Who cares?” I laughed. “As long as we don’t have to eat any green pie!”


We were beside ourselves.

My stomach hurt from laughing so much.

As we trudged down to the basement (I guess Mom quickly got us some food on the way down; I don’t remember), we were just laughing like crazy. Whatever words one of us managed to squeak out between guffaws were just indecipherable gasps anyway, and made the other one laugh even harder. Boys of a certain age can do this for hours.

Remanded to the basement, we were not constrained by politeness any longer, and we could really let loose with our laughter. We fell down on the spare couches and spun wild variations to each other of Grandma’s pie encounter: she had thwarted a Martian takeover of planet Earth by poisoning the invaders with green pies. She was supposed to receive the medal of honor for saving the planet, but the pies were so bad that the president couldn’t go through with it.

We laughed loudly and uncontrollably to ourselves

– or so we thought.

But as is the case in many old houses up north, the heating ducts run upstairs from the furnace in the basement, and those old ducts can transmit sound pretty good. So all of our noise – sincere, hearty laughter, jokes, and disrespectful commentary – was broadcast straight back into the dining room above us through the heating ducts, for all to hear. And since we weren’t in front of anybody anymore, we didn’t feel the need to be reserved, so we were laughing even louder. And upstairs in the dining room, they were hearing every bit of it.

Eventually, the adults caved in and brought us back up, because they could hear us almost as good from downstairs as they could if we were at the table. We might as well be in the dining room, where we would at least try not to laugh. Besides, two little kids can laugh about something for an hour if left unattended. So they brought us back up from the gallows.

Trying to bail Grandma out one last time, Dad said we should apologize to her.

The room fell silent as everyone stared at us. I took a deep breath, in hopes of thinking of something that would sound sincere and respectful, but Rick cut me off.

“I’m sorry your pies were green and awful,” He said.


The whole table burst out laughing this time!


We didn’t care. It was one of our best Thanksgivings, ever.

Eventually – about 25 years later – dad came to laugh about it, too.


This story is part of The Long Cutie available on Amazon 

I posted it for my little brother Rick, who’s not feeling great right now.


Your humble host, left, and his younger brother Rick.

What Do YOU Think?

I’m interested in getting your thoughts about stuff I see and hear, quotes I read, stuff that passes as knowledge – and starting an authorey conversation.

01 postcards (3) u

I agree.

Again, like I’m gonna disagree with Hemingway…

But it’s true. Sure, you can teach new authors stuff, or help an inexperienced writer get through a few hoops; I do it all the time. A lot. But in the same way magicians are never supposed to reveal the secret to the audience, allow for that mystique to linger. I’ll admit it’s hard, but I make it look easy. Because it is easy. For me, it really is. Except the stuff I hate, like editing. That’s hard. And editing is part of writing. So writing’s still hard for me. See?

What are YOUR thoughts on this idea?

WRITING CONTEST – Tick Tock, we are halfway to the end of our contest period!

Re-announcing the contest in case you haven’t been paying attention.

I have something REALLY good for you this time.

Word Weaver logi FINAL trimmed 2

RE-Announcing the November 2017

Word Weaver Writing Contest!

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

91LMy5tOhGL._UX250_ bw-head  img_2193_pp8x101

Bestselling authors Jenifer RuffAllison Maruska and Kelly Abell

Woo hoo! Celebrities!

Enter your amazing piece of writing! I and my hand-selected celebrity judge panel of bestselling authors will decide the winners and award a HUGE prize package plus some other amazing goodies.

YOU will have the month of November to enter an amazing piece of your own writing to my contest.

Here’s what you do:

Yep, you guessed it. Enter a piece of your writing in the contest. Nothing gets by you!

The contest “theme” is intentionally broad:


Does that mean Romeo and Juliet? Does that mean a boy and his dog?

I don’t know. That’s up to you! I’m pretty loose on these things.

What can you win?

Scroll down a little, impatient one.


The FIRST PRIZE winner will receive:


The big enchilada.

Do I have your attention now?

I expect we will publish another anthology in 2018, combining bestselling authors and established writers with first timers again. (Our last anthology topped the charts at #1.)

  • The first place winner of this contest will be guaranteed a spot in that book.

  • If the winning story is part of a book, then I will personally publish the book.


  • critique process,

  • content edit,

  • book cover,

  • get beta readers,

  • the whole nine yards.


  • That’s not an either-or proposition, that’s potentially BOTH – a spot in the anthology AND your book published on its own.

You’ll have the whole month of November to create your masterpiece, OR EVEN BETTER – USE AN EXISTING STORY.


The FIRST PLACE winner will also receive:

  • PUBLICATION of their winning piece on this website

  • A guest blog post or author profile to appear on this site


  • You’ll get to refer to yourself as an AWARD-WINNING author. Because you’ll be one. How cool is that?

Now… there are critiques?

Yep. We’ll get to that in a second. Check out the other top prizes first.

2The SECOND PLACE Winner will receive THIS prize package:

david duanes design


The gang at David Duanes Designs have been responsible for many of my amazing book covers, as well as the cover of the #1 bestselling anthology The Box Under The Bed!


The 2nd place winner will also receive:

  • PUBLICATION of their winning piece on this website

  • A guest blog post or author profile to appear on this site

  • slightly less massive bragging rights than first place (because that’s only fair)

  • I think they get to refer to themselves as an AWARD-WINNING author, too. Second place is an award, right?

3The THIRD PLACE Winner will receive THIS prize package:

  • 30 day access to Dan’s Inner Circle, where I can analyze your writerly needs and help guide you on the way to your goal, with input from OTHER bestselling authors, too.

  • PUBLICATION of their winning piece on this website

  • A guest blog post or author profile to appear on this site

  • also bragging rights because why not, but try not to outbrag the first and second place winners, okay?

  • And still, I think they’re an award-winning author, too. A little less so than 1st and 2nd, but it still counts. And who’s gonna look it up and give you crap, anyway?




Yep, I’ll critique your work (up to 3,000 words), whether you win or not.

I will spend an hour of my time giving you the Dan Treatment of your 3,000 word piece, just like I do in my private critique group. Don’t worry, I’m pretty nice and very encouraging. Most people like my crits. Not all, though. Some people are just babies.

I might spend more than an hour if it’s really good, and you can send more than 3,000 words, but I’m only human and I’m not gonna be able to wade through 10k from you for this contest, okay? Doing 50 critiques is a LOT of freaking work.

Many participants who wrote stories for my contests were later INVITED to be in an anthology we published.


Getting the information, the encouragement, the support, and the hands-guidance you need to GET PUBLISHED.

Almost everyone who was in the last anthology has expressed an interest in doing it again. That puts you in there with bestselling authors and other published authors.

That’s kind of a big deal.

EACH of the first 50 entries will receive an in-depth critique of their story by ME. That alone is worth the price of admission.


As the winner of the last contest, your help has been invaluable. The reason my books have not been published is I haven’t know where to start. I went through the whole “find an agent” and querying steps for my other book, but was tired of rejection. Now I have an author’s Facebook page, a blog, and a Twitter account that never existed in the world before. You walked me step-by-step through the process. We are nearing the end of the beta reader phase, so I think things are going to move pretty quickly now. Although I know the Moyhill package is going to be extremely helpful, you gave me an amazing critique of my book.

– Heather Kindt, author of Ruby Slips and Poker Chips

Hi Dan,
Wow, thank you so much for the critique. Amazing job, thank you. Dan, thank you so much for doing this. I feel as if I’ve found a great mentor, one who knows where my writing is coming from and hopefully to advise me where and how to get to the next level.
 Adele M
Hey Dan,
 You really know how to make my day! I’m so grateful for your detailed critique of my story. It’s wonderful to get this kind of feedback, and totally validates all the hours we put in, alone at our desks, writing our hearts out. To be honest, I jumped up and down and cheered so much, my dog thought I had gone completely berserk, not to mention my husband.
– Heather H
And there are hundreds more who have received my input on their manuscripts via my unique critique process.

Some are bestselling authors who will not publish a manuscript without me looking at it first!

Where else can you find established authors willing to reach out like that? Nowhere, that’s where. Well… here. But nowhere else probably.


“DOOR PRIZES” just for entering!

ALL contestants not winning first, second, or third place will be put into a drawing for other prizes!

How awesome is that? Lots of stuff for you to win!

  • IMG_2351Several contestants will receive ONE month FREE membership in my PRIVATE CRITIQUE GROUP.

  • Receive up to 3,000 words of your story per week critiqued BY ME in my private critique group. Get The Dan Treatment. This $50.00 value will be awarded to several contestants.

  • One of my audio books (audio books are not autographed)

  • autographed copies of my bestselling books, in your choice of paperback or eBook (but the e-Books aren’t signed, either, okay?)

  • a signed copy of The Box Under The Bedour #1 Bestselling scary anthology (signed by me; I didn’t round up 20+ authors – they live all over the place!)

  • Amazon $20 gift card

  • Starbucks $20 gift card


You must enter an original piece of your own writing and pay the entry fee. Please don’t exceed 3,000 words (but if you’re a little over, fine. If you go 10k, I know you aren’t even trying. Shoot for 3k. You can do that.) Entries can be as short as you want. FEEL FREE  TO USE A CHAPTER OF YOUR UNRELEASED BOOK. (That’s what I’d do.)

THEME: To celebrate the holidays, the theme is relationships. That can be happy stuff, scary stuff, violent stuff, murder (I guess murder is probably violent. At least to the victim.)  …macabre, YOU NAME IT. A boy and his dog count. A girl and her turtle. Romeo and Juliet. Totally your call. Don’t feel limited. Wanna have some insights into what I like? Check out the prior winning entries from the last two contests (April and July), and not just the first place winners. In some way shape or form, your story must touch on the theme of RELATIONSHIPS. I’m pretty loose on this.

All entries must be submitted on or before midnight eastern time on November 30, 2017.

There is NO restriction on genre. Go crazy.

You may submit a chapter or passage from your book if you so desire (I would – this is great publicity), but it should be an unpublished work.


You MUST submit your entry via the Contact Me button and pay your $20.00 entry fee (USD) via PayPal to dalatorr@verizon.net . PLEASE SEND A WORD DOCUMENT (WordPress text and PDFs mess up the formatting). Simply send me a message using the Contact Me button saying you want to enter and I’ll email you back; from there you’ll be able to attach your piece. (Not using Word? Attach it in whatever you used. If there’s a problem, I’ll let you know. But please try to use Word, okay?)


Void where prohibited. ALL entries will be subscribed to my email list. Don’t worry, I won’t spam you. (I don’t know how.) A lot of the entries’ email addresses don’t get on the list because it’s work and I’m lazy. Winners will be notified here on the blog in a big announcement, and they will be contacted by email, either by me or by the sponsor donating the prize, to make arrangements to get their prize – that might include a mailing address to deliver a paperback to. Winners who live outside of the country of the sponsor whose prize they won may be limited to a prize that can be emailed or sent electronically, like an eBook, audio book, PDF, or Amazon gift card. You still get your work published here, and the profile, etc., if you win those things, but sorry; mailing a paperback from here to Canada and other places is super expensive, so we’re letting you guys into the contest but we have to limit the costs that way. I’m sure you understand. One entry per entry fee; limit three entries per person. If you cheat, you’re toast. Play fair. By entering you agree to all this stuff and that I pretty much get free reign in selecting the top 3 winners (along with our celebrity judges) but it’s probably gonna be stuff that appealed to me. Typos matter but content matters more. The rest of the winners will mostly be random drawing but I’m not above awarding stuff to a really great fourth place person. Or not.


unless I get an overwhelming amount of entries, and then I’ll delay that part but trust me you’ll know way in advance because I’ll be whining about it here on the blog.

It is my desire to help each and every one of you succeed as authors and writers, so get busy!

Tick tock. November 30 will be here before you know it.


Your humble host.REBLOG this! And please SHARE this post on Facebook and Twitter! Your friends need to know about this contest, too.

See those little buttons down below? Put on your glasses. There they are. Click them. (The FOLLOW button is now in the lower right hand corner.)

Dan Alatorre is the author of several bestsellers and the amazing paranormal thriller “An Angel On Her Shoulder.”  Click HERE to get your copy of Angel – FREE on Kindle Unlimited!

 Available in paperback format, too!

Saving A Real Life Emotion For Later

your humble host

It sounds a bit odd, but these days whenever I experience something emotional in real life, I immediately try to keep track of what my body did and what my thinking was…

so I can use it in a story.


Don’t look at me like that.


The other day, I got in my car to go to Riverview to watch a friend give a presentation at a library, and my phone GPS app said it would be a 40 minute drive.


And about 20 minutes into the drive as I was sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic, it told me it was still 40 minute drive. And 20 minutes later (as I have only moved about 100 yards), it was still a 40 mill minute drive…

Did YOU ever want to write a book?

What was your writing dream?

valuable prizes

insightful critiques

and you might get published


Take the first step in making your dream come true.

Click HERE for more info and to enter!

Anyway, it was a nice night, so I had the windows open – but only on the passenger side, because when the car is moving it blows the air around nicely that way without getting too much.




A tow truck went flying by my left side in the emergency lane, going about 100 miles an hour. I didn’t see it.


And as it roared by, it totally caught me by surprise.


I flinched.


My head lowered, my shoulders raised, I moved away from the window…


My first emotional reaction was, of course, that I was scared.

That thing surprised me. It really went by close. Too close. It seemed like it was practically going to hit me.


My next reaction was anger. Stupid jerk, driving that fast, that close, blah, blah, blah…


And then I thought, Hmm. What all am I feeling?


First of all I flinched, as I said. I think I also snapped my teeth shut, and could’ve bitten my tongue, but luckily, well, I don’t know where my tongue was, but it wasn’t in the way of my teeth. My stomach jumped. That’s how I refer to it, but there was a huge wave of borderline adrenaline that shot through my system like lightning.


And after that, my heart was pounding.


I’m not a wimp. I’m not scared of trucks. Just trying to tell you what happened.


And then your body wants to do something with that adrenaline.

In this case it turned it to anger

and I furrowed my brow and scowled and said something like, “Stupid idiot!” Then I looked in the rearview mirror and the driver behind me was basically expressing the same facial expressions as I felt I was.


So I thought, jot this down – so I’d have it.


Other people will react differently. It’s good to know what your character’s personalities are, because when they get scared they’re going to do different things.


And of course it’s always handy at moments like this to make a note so you can dip into the paint bucket of emotion later. Or make a blog post about it.


What are some of the emotional experiences YOU have had in real life that you used in a story?