You have questions. Ask away.

your humble host

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

You have questions. Writer stuff, marketing, motivation, you name it.


Your questions. 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.

A Huge Opportunity FOR YOU, AUTHOR! Be A Sponsor in the March 2018 Word Weaver Writing Contest

your humble host

Hi gang! I’m getting ready to start promoting my March 2018 Word Weaver Writing contest, so I thought I’d reach out and see if you’d like to be a SPONSOR.

You: Whaaat??? Me, sponsor your contest?
Me: I know!

But it wouldn’t be just you (unless you wanna write a biiiig check – and then let’s talk. Because ten bucks is ten bucks.)

We writer types are always trying to get noticed. THIS HELPS THAT.

Plus, it’s cheap.

You: Hmm. My book could use some exposure…

Here are some impressive stats.

  • My blog enjoyed over 60,000 views in calendar 2017, and the contests get the biggest attention overall.

  • Each of our Word Weaver contests has had more entries than its predecessors. I expect that to keep growing, but I think it’s more fun to have different prizes and sponsors occasionally. 

  • In our original July 2017 Word Weaver, almost 1000 people came over a 36 hour period just to see the winners announced and to read the winning entry.

That’s a lot of eyeballs on your book, company, service, etc.

AUTHORS: signed paperback or ebooks/audio books make good prizes and your book cover will be featured in each ad.
NON AUTHORS: ANY product or service that relates to my readers’ interests will be considered. That could be anything, really, but try to keep it Rated G, okay?

Who can be a sponsor?

Anyone, really. I mean, this blog is public, so some shoe maker in Taiwan could be a sponsor if he wanted to. 

What kind of stuff makes for good prizes?

All sorts of stuff! You can give away signed copies of your paperback, your ebook, your audio book, your editing service, a gift certificate to Amazon, Starburcks or Omaha Steaks, a dollar amount of swag you produce, book covers, book promotion services, software, etc. Get creative!
Prior author sponsors gave away books and gift cards.
Prior non-author sponsors gave away publishing, editing, and much more.

What’s it cost?

The cost of whatever you decide to give. As of right now, there is NO FEE to be a Word Weaver Sponsor. That is expected to change in future contests as we get world famous and car makers and airlines wanna get in on this.

What do I get?

Promotion, silly! I’ll run weekly promotions during February, almost daily announcements in March (the submission period) and April (during the announcement of the winners), maybe more. I will use the blog, Facebook posts and ads, Twitter, etc, plus your efforts in sharing the contest announcements.


Sponsors of my contests can get a discount for my other stuff, like $10 off one of those cool sideline ads you’ve been staring at. You guys know me; I do stuff for friends all the time. I didn’t have ANY sponsors for my last contest, did I? (It was a little lonely, I’ll admit it.)
Oh, and I put ads on Facebook and twitter, too. So there’s that. YOUR stuff being seen by all those folks.

Be SEEN by Millions of people,

probably. It could happen. You don’t know.
(I made myself laugh with that last line!)

If you wanna be part of this for March 2018:

Please reply using the Contact Me button and let me know. I will be looking for a first place prize, a second place prize, and a third place prize, plus door prizes like Amazon gift cards, Starbucks, and other fun stuff.
The format will be similar to what we did in April 2017 where all the prizes were featured every time, plus all of my fellow authors books. Click HERE link for that example. (It was really good.)
I’ll decide which prize is best for first and second, etc., by it’s value and appeal to my readership. Publishing and book covers are cool prizes, but all prizes will be considered, and door prizes can be just about anything – your name and website, etc., still get out there every time.

Let me know!


I can’t have a hundred sponsors. Well, I could, but I won’t. Yet. Maybe one day. That’d be a lot of stuff to keep track of, and I barely remembered to send out the door prizes last time. Maybe if the car maker people call, though…

Food For Thought (a.k.a. A Writely Kick in The Rear)


If you ever wonder what motivates me to do so much, it’s this. Each writerly thing gets me closer. Some work and get me closer faster; some fail and I learn something to avoid in the future, but all are progress because I win or I learn.

Keep your eyes down and keep working.


I Believe In You

your humble host

When it gets tough, remember: I still believe in you.

I’ve seen it again and again, writers thinking they just don’t have it. They get down on themselves and want to walk away.

Some do walk away.

Don’t be one.

You have the talent. You just don’t know how good you really are.

You HAVE the talent.

You do.

Don’t give up. You’ll get there. Nobody said it would be easy, and if it was – if it was easy – would you really want it? Well, it’s not easy, but it’s not impossible.

Somewhere out there some person is starting to write today. Just starting. They have less talent than you, but if they have more motivation, more desire, more passion, they will make it when you decide to settle for less.

You decide who quits and who wins in that race.

I believe in you.



Update: prize notifications sent


I emailed all the door prize winners. Check your spam folder. Sometimes stuff that says “contest” is flagged as spam – but for most of you who won, I replied using your “contact me” entry.

Anyway, THAT’s done.


UPDATE to the update: yeah, the title of this post said “notifucations” or something  originally. The typos are how you know it’s me.



Crap I Forgot To Give Out The Door Prizes.

Well, I’ve been busy.


Anyway, for the November Word Weaver contest – and remember, the winners were just announced at Christmas, so it’s really only been a few weeks, not months – I have not done the drawings for the door prizes. Which I totally should have and there’s no excuse for NOT doing it except Christmas, publishing a new book, needing a break after reading and critiquing and judging all those stories, setting up the interviews and profiles… oh, and being invited to write a new book for an anthology of bestselling authors and working on that outline, plus editing The Water Castle and generally taking a few days off to enjoy the holidays…

Other than that, I’ve been totally derelict in my duty.

You have my apology.

And I’ll be contacting the winners soon. This week, for sure.


How Your Dialogues Mess Up Your Story, Part 2

your humble host

LAST WEEK we went through some examples of amazing dialogues,

and practice makes perfect, so today we’re doing more.

The more you do this, the better your dialogues will be, and I sense there may be more than one dialogue scene in your story, so let’s work through this with an ad libbed example.

If you write weak dialogue, it’s a sign that your overall writing is weak and that your story isn’t gonna hold the reader’s interest.

That’s bad. So… don’t do that.


Examples one and two were last week, remember? Pay attention.

It’s easy to write good dialogues, but it takes some practice.

Here is what you need to know to write GREAT dialogues.

TIP #1: Decide what message the dialogue is supposed to convey.

Mary wants to tell her husband she’s pregnant. Joe bought a lottery ticket for Fred – and it won. We’re out of pickles. Whatever the message is, decide that first.

TIP#2: HOW do people converse? Write that. Fast.

Why fast?

That’s what works for me.

I write down what two people would say, and I write it as fast as I can. It’s half jibberish, too, because I’m a lousy typist.

In real life, people cut each other off, or change topics in midstream.

That can be helpful, making the characters more realistic – or it can be a disaster, making the author seem like a lunatic.

Worry not. Locking you up as a crazy is much harder than most people think.

There are examples below, but think about WHY the conversation is interesting, or how it can be MORE interesting.

Boring, readers can get from their spouses. They want excitement and drama. Give it to them.

TIP #3: Adding tension adds to, well, everything.

One character might hem and haw. The other might be angry. Use the schizophrenia within you and be two minds, each with their own goal in the conversation. Joe wants to keep the lottery winnings; Fred wants to know if he won. Conflict! Mary’s husband asks for a divorce the day she gets the news about being preggers. Or he’s shipping off to a new promotion and won’t be home much for the next 12 months. Doesn’t matter, any tension adds to the dialogue. 

TIP #4: Beat ’em up.

Since you wrote as fast as you can to get the conversation parts down, go back and add in the “beats” – the little actions and other stuff that people do duringconversations. Because if I try to do it all at the same time, I usually miss something.

Like the timing or pace of a conversation, which is important. That takes practice, and most of you won’t have that on day 1.

People don’t just sit and talk. They react physically to what they hear. They move while they talk, communicating their thoughts through body language. Readers understand that. Use it.

What does a stressed out lady do when she’s sitting at a table? Tug at her earring? Twist up a napkin? Stuff like that makes for good beats.

Without that, your conversation will be… lacking. Readers understand that, too.


A great technique to create realistic dialog is to make a point and then answer the way people do when they’re arguing.

DIALOGUE ONE – written fast, NO BEATS

“What? No, it isn’t!”

“How would you know?”

“I, well, I wouldn’t. But it sounds wrong.”

“There’s some logic at work. Thanks, Hemingway.”



Oh, and add some sarcasm. (That’s just fun.)

Write things the way YOU argue – and do it quickly. Go back and add in the commas and other punctuation afterwards, and make sure the conversation is slightly combative.

Write like that witty person you always wished you could be in an argument. You can – in your writing.

TIP#5: People tease and contradict.

Look at your text messages between you and your friends. Are they all facts or is it fun? Does your Facebook chat contain witty banter?

No? Time to make some new friends!

If yes, then use that as a guide.

Get it down first, then finesse it, soften it, whatever.

And don’t worry about grammar. Why? Because very few people speak with proper grammar.

Sorry, grammar Nazi friends. If necessary, tweak it later.

Now, the conversation above was like 4 lines long, then I went back and added an insult. Cos people do that, even if they like each other. Then I added the last two lines because it can be amusing to see one person start to go off the rails and the other person not bother to reel them back in. It’s fun for me.

But that’s a template you can use!

Emulate good ideas while you develop on your own. (Notice I said emulate, not plagiarize.)


DIALOGUE TWO – beats added

“What?” Bill threw his hat down. “No, it isn’t!”

Ted glared at him. “How would you know?”

“I, well, I wouldn’t. But it sounds wrong.”

“There’s some logic at work. Thanks, Hemingway.” He turned and started off.


Ted nodded, not looking back. “Exactly.”

You get the idea.

You may mess up your dialogues until you develop an eye/ear for what works, which requires being a bit of an actor…

Which is a lot of work, actually.

But hey, who said it would be easy? Oh, I did.

Good dialogues do one more thing: they make your characters memorable – which makes your story memorable.

How do you practice? Think of a little scene and roll it out, like I did above. Do a few from your story from memory. Compare them to what you wrote.

  • Do your dialogue correctly and no one notices.

  • Do it wrong and it sinks your story.

  • Do it amazing and it elevates your story, especially among other writers because they can’t do it as good as you.

And WHY have a witty, sarcastic person in there?

Because ordinary people are dull to read about. Reading is an escape, so make it a good one. Larger than life but believable. A roller coaster ride. Fun.

It’s more work but the payoff is bigger – and well worth it as you build your writerly muscles.