I just wrote one of the best chapter I’ve ever written.

I just wrote one of the best chapter I’ve ever written.

And if I were to read it again right now, every ounce of passion and emotion and tension would be right there on the page.

The problem is, all that stuff probably isn’t there. At least not the way I imagined it in my head when I wrote it.

So I’m going to let it rest and I’m gonna come back to it tomorrow or the next day. I’ll have a fresh perspective and I’ll be able to see what’s missing and really fatten it up until it is dripping with emotion and has everybody clinging to the arm of the chair with white knuckles because of the tension.

I’m within a week of finishing Primary Target and within three weeks of requesting beta readers.

HOME STRETCH, BABY!

Spellbound Narrator Auditions (Updated 10/11/2020 at 12:15pm EST)

Nicole B Dolan


Storm P Brown


Zach NeSmith


Jennifer James


Chicquito Joaquim Crasto


Matthew Cook

Victor Warren


Cheri  Calvert


Ray Wolinski


Ray Lisnewski



Nikki Lynch


Patrick Hyndes Darnell II

The Purge

Today was purge day!
I’m so happy.

 
I know there have been a few books and movies about a purge, where society gets rid of their undesirables or whatever. This was not that.
Although…
 
So what is the purge in Dan parlance? In DanSpeak?
 
I’ll tell you
 
When I am putting together a book, when I’m starting to think about how this would be a neat idea for a scene or that would be a neat idea for a plot, I dash off a quick note to myself and I throw it in a folder on my computer. By the time I sit down to make the outline – I like to use outlines so I know where the heck the story is going; that way I get there – I have lots of story prompts. Ideas to write for scenes or dialogs or subplots.
 
One idea might be, “Oh, the killer turns out to be the Butler.”
 
The next one might be, “No wait it’s the maid!”

 
You get the idea.
 
Many, many times they are ideas that are dialogue, created to flesh out a complicated plot point. (You can have two characters summarize something pretty quickly in dialogue. That makes for a good conversation to read but it doesn’t necessarily make for a good story to read.)
 
I will also want to throw in some “red herrings.”
 
What are those?

 
Suppose I’ve got you thinking we are looking for the killer the whole time, and suddenly the butler shows up with blood on his hands! We are all thinking: maybe he did it.
 
But really, he was… I don’t know, butchering a hog for dinner, and in fact the maid had blood on her hands, too! She was actually killing the wealthy billionaire whose house they all live in. (I don’t know. I don’t write stories like that. Not really. Maybe a little.)
 
Anyway, the red herring is where you make the reader think the bad guy is one person and then you get later to expose that it’s not that person.
 
I can’t tell you how much FUN writing red herrings is.
Red herrings are a blast.

 
There are several in Primary Target, the 2nd book in my wildly popular Double Blind series – maybe. If I told you, they wouldn’t be red herrings anymore!

 

So all these ideas get thrown into a folder. And then I start numbering them. I say, well, this will be chapter 1; this idea would be chapter 2… and then I have these other miscellaneous things like, Here’s how this type of gun works and That’s not really an idea, that’s more like research.
 
And as you might guess, or maybe you wouldn’t guess this… Well, let me back up.

I guess I should explain, and say not every idea that goes in the folder turns out to be one that I can use in the story. Or could use it all. Or should use.

 
And so I might have said, “What if the maid jumps out at the end and kills the butler!” But I also might’ve said, “What if the maid kills herself in the opening scene?”
 
Probably, the maid can’t do both. So of those two conflicting ideas, one gets chosen and one gets purged.
 
And some other stuff that gets purged is research information, like “What if they all fly to Spain” and then I have some information on Spain. I keep it for a while, and when I decide I don’t need it, purge! Or the description of a character that I ended up not using. Purge!
 
Some of the stuff from the purge is a good idea that’s just not gonna be used in this book. That stuff goes into an idea folder of things I should look at writing down the road. Other times, I’m like, that’s a good scene for this character but not in this book – so I will stick it in the folder for the next book, and maybe I can use it there. Maybe it’ll be the one after that.
 
But – and this is probably the scary part for a lot of people – there might be 50 or 60 ideas in my story folder, and probably 30 or 40 got purged today.
 
Again, doesn’t mean they were bad ideas. It just means I don’t need them or it’s too late in the plot to introduce something new or whatever.
 
And so, the purge.
 
Once the purge gets done, what’s left? A handful of bullet points that need to be addressed before “The End.”
 
And then a few little scenes that make everything tied up with a satisfying little bow at the end.
 
Maybe one or two little hooks baited so you click over to preorder the next book in the series.
 
All said, there are 20 remaining things to address – five are main story points and the rest are little pieces that help wrap those five main ones up.
 
I’d say more but I don’t want to give anything away.
 
But suffice it to say once the purge happens, we are in the home stretch – and probably no more than 30 days away from requesting beta readers. In fact, For Primary Target, my goal is to have it done before October 1.
 
Will I make it? Not if I keep writing this instead of that! So stay tuned!

That’s it for now. Talk soon!

Looks Like Things Are Improving!

Dan AlatorreI try to be an optimist in business. There’s always someone who’s making a breakthrough when everyone else is down…

…and I think, Why not me?

(It’s usually NOT me, but one can always hope!)

I have many, MANY author friends who’ve said their sales are down 30% (or more) since March 2020.

They are scaling back on marketing purchases until things improve.

That is one way to go.

Me, I’m writing and publishing as much as possible – I’ve put out a book every single month for this entire year, and I am scheduled to maintain that pace through 12/31/2020. I am also working my butt off doing MORE marketing than ever before. Hopefully, when things improve, I’ll be in a good position; but if things head south again, I’ll have learned how to weather difficult times.

 

But it made me think.

If people scale back because things are down, then things get MORE down.

  • The authors buy fewer ads for books because the readers aren’t buying books.
  • The advertising site has less money because the authors aren’t buying ads; maybe they cut back on hours, so
  • their employees have less money – to buy books, among other things.

You get the idea.

We’re in this together, gang.

It occurred to me that authors are a lagging indicator when things are going bad. We buy our ads in advance, so when the crap hits the fan, we’ve alerady spend money for March and April. But when things start to improve, many authors will buy more ads – when we see things improving. Which is after it starts to happen. We’re a lagging indicator in our ad buys.

But we can be a leading indicator if we are watching our business.

My sales results lately have been really good, and they are headed in the right direction (see chart, below). Maybe not as good as February, but way better than June. Much better than late August. Much better than early September. It doesn’t matter if the bars on that chart are tracking $5 for $5000, or if they are just for a week; that wasn’t the point. My sales are TRENDING in the right direction.

I have to believe it’s not just me.

upswing

It’s too soon to tell, but I think things are on the upswing.

There will be plenty of people who don’t see it. This trend isn’t six months or a six weeks. I’m just saying, that might be the bird on Noah’s ark that indicated that there was dry land up ahead somewhere and maybe things were going to start getting good again.

Like I said, I’m an optimist in business.

But it looks good to me.

 

We’re Putting The Band Back Together!

Some phrases say a lot with a little. They’re kinda like memes before memes were cool.

If memes are cool…

(Can’t say I’m digging the new WordPress editing system. Lots of extra hoops to jump through and who needs that? Keep it simple, WP!)

So I was talking to a friend recently, and we were discussing how a song you used to like can suddenly change and make you not like it. I had one oldie that I liked, and it was maybe a fave from my childhood, but it was an oldie when I was a kid, so I guess it’s an extra-oldie. (Why oldies? Pop radio plays the same ten songs over and over so I dial around to stay sane…)

Anyway, I thought it had a great tune and it was catchy, but when I heard it recently and listened to the actual words the guy sang in the song was heartbroken. (Ringo Starr, from The Beatles, and the song was Photograph. Allegedly he wrote it during his divorce and it became popular later.) He was saying, “All I’ve got is a photograph and I realize you’re not coming back anymore.”

That’s just words. Music. Rhymes.

Until one day you’re feeling down about something and you hear it, and then you’re like, wow, she’s not coming back, dude. Your life is forever different and – bad as it is, rough as it is – you have to get used to it.

Maybe having millions of dollars helps. I couldn’t say.

Probably it does.

There’s another tune, from the 80s. REO Speedwagon, “I Can’t Fight This Feeling Anymore.” For me, that song was about a guy who had a fight with a girl and then some time had passed, and now he’s asking why he’s maintaining a distance.

And I can’t fight this feeling anymore
I’ve forgotten what I started fighting for

But before that, it has a different message:

“I can’t fight this feeling any longer
And yet I’m still afraid to let it flow
What started out as friendship, has grown stronger
I only wish I had the strength to let it show”

That’s totally different. Where you start listening to a song determines what you take from it.

Man, not having internet on our phones as kids allowed us to screw up a lot of song lyrics!

Anyway, what it matters is this:

It was 9/11 yesterday. 19 years ago, people left their houses on a routine day and their loved ones never saw them again.

Whatever crap you are carrying about someone, let it freaking go. One day soon enough you’ll be dead and between now and that day what do you wish you’d have done differently? What if that last day was today? Start doing it. Car wrecks happen, you know. Lightning strikes. Other things.

Reach the hell out. Worst case, you’ll discover they’re still an arse and you can rest easy knowing you were the bigger person. Or let putting up with their irritating attitude be your gift to them.

Life’s not short. It’s incredibly long and wonderful if we do the right things.

Help others more. It feels really good to have someone say thank you.

Find stuff that makes you laugh out loud and tell others about it, in person or on social media. (I have a friend from high school who does that and it’s a highlight almost every day when I see her Facebook posts.)

Put the band back together.

You might find out you have friendships you’ve enjoyed for a long time and are worth reigniting. You may find out there were good reasons to stay away. Probably a little of both – but as none of us are perfect, maybe consider they might be putting up with your crappy attitude a little too, as their gift to you, and if people are giving each other gifts… well, it’s a great start.

Word Echoes – what they are and why you need to get them out of your story

Sydney knelt at the edge of the stream, rubbing her fingers to get the dead girl’s blood off. The water was colder than she expected, almost icy. Winter was coming fast this year. Lifting her hands to her face, she inspected her short nails. No mud remained visible under them.

Next to her, Bonnie stood up, water dripping from her fingertips.

“That’s good enough.” Bonnie wiped her hands on her jeans. “You can scrub up better when you get home. We’re just trying to be clean enough so we don’t get picked up on the way there.”

WORD ECHOES.

What are they?

Word echoes are when you re-use a word too soon, repeating it in the story too closely to its first occurrence.

In the above example, I have two girls washing their hands. The original version had the word hand or hands appearing a little too often for smooth reading. Repetition is close to boring, and boring will un-immerse your reader from the story. That’s death.

Instead of saying “hands” each time, I made sure I alternated a synonym or another word. Fingers, for example. (I could have gone further and said something like digits, but that’s too exotic for this story. That would be distracting.)

HERE’S THE ORIGINAL:

Sydney knelt at the edge of the stream, rubbing her hands to get the dead girl’s blood off. The water was colder than she expected, almost icy. Winter was coming fast this year. Lifting her fingers to her face, she inspected her short nails. No mud remained visible under them.

Next to her, Bonnie stood up, water dripping from her fingertips.

“That’s good enough.” Bonnie wiped her hands on her jeans. “You can scrub up better when you get home. We’re just trying to be clean enough so we don’t get picked up on the way there.”

Not a big deal, but you can see I’m alternating hands and fingers/fingertips. When I got to Bonnie’s actions, I felt like the water would drip off her fingers, or more precisely, fingertips. That’s a little too close to the prior sentence where I also use “fingers.”

It wasn’t awful, but we just used fingers. Twice. So inserting a 3rd one so soon would be a bad idea.

So I switched it.

That started a little chain reaction…

I went with fingertips for Bonnie, and switched the prior ones in succession: hands, fingers, hands, fingers… Finally, we get Sydney rubbing her fingers to get the blood off them, and I thought, that’s better than having her rub her hands. It’s as if she already got the bigger stuff off and was now concentrating on the detail work. That’s better. She rubbed her hands, then her fingers, then inspected her nails. (Rubbing the hands isn’t stated but I think it is implied.)

I also think it ads to Sydney’s possible fear of what she’s done. She’s trying to get ALL the dead girl’s blood off.

Bonnie seems to not care anywhere near as much.

The contrast heightens the scene, ever so slightly.

These are the little things that help a story read as smooth. Things most readers never hear about, and would probably never notice if they weren’t redone, but which might make them feel as though one story were a little more polished and professional than another. Over the course of a book, that can add up to quite a lot.

***

Want to read the rest of the story? If you preorder Spellbound and email me a copy of your receipt, I’ll send it to you. Quantities limited and this will probably be a pre-editing draft. This story will appear in Wings & Fire, a horror anthology with 20 stories form 15 authors, which will be available around January 15, 2021, but you get to see it now because you read my blog.

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