4 VITAL Things To Know As An Indie Author (The Emotional Rollercoaster, part 2)

Well, maybe that last one...
You ROCK!

 

If you wrote a book and published it, congratulations! You’re a small business owner, and entrepreneur. A budding capitalist.

 

You write your product. That’s cool!

 

Then, you sell your product.

 

So… you’re a salesperson.

 

Ugh.

scared%20mom
Salesperson??? Nooooo!

Most of you NEVER wanted to be salespeople.

 

Your book/books are your business, and you have a small staff of employees. Probably just you. That means you are the boss, but also the manufacturer, the salesperson, the marketer, the accountant… the janitor… Since without sales there really isn’t any business, the most important thing is selling the product (after you have a product).

 

Whether it is a hobby or a part-time job or full-time job, that just means the amount of JOY or PAIN & SUFFERING you go through are magnified. Whether you are selling 1 book a week, 1 book an hour, or 1 book a minute, you probably want that number to go up.

 

Pick a good number of sales for a day, a week, or a month, or a year, and manage your expectations to trends, not little blips. Doesn’t matter what number you pick; some of you are new and some of you have been doing this a while. When I published my first book, it didn’t sell squat for a long time. A loooooooooooooong time.

 

Back then, if I sold a book a day, I was on FIRE! I was king of the world, a marketing genius! Things were going my way! Oprah was sure to call. I started rehearsing my Oprah interview questions and answers. Honest!

 

sk-well
Your writing self image when sales suck.

I don’t care where you are on the sales volume ladder, if you go a few days without making a sale, you will be convinced that you are suddenly a dog. Worthless. Unfit to walk the earth. Nothing is coming your way except more empty Amazon sales reports.

 

By picking a time frame of a week and setting my new-author-self’s expectations to sales over a week, I wasn’t disappointed if I didn’t sell a book that day. I kept doing things every day to sell books, knowing they’d come in. That’s hard when they don’t come in, which is why you track efforts and results, but you want to give yourself enough time to produce a result before stopping an activity.

 

  1. UNDERSTAND: You are the same author on a good sales day as you were on a bad sales day. Your book is still just as good. (This is easy to say but hard to make yourself believe on a bad sales day.)

 

Welcome to the emotional roller coaster that is sales! It will mess with you!

 

Give yourself time to develop that thick skin for this. It’s not easy. I have had a book flying off the shelves. THOUSANDS of copies over a few short days. I was a guru. Talk to me three months later when I hadn’t sold for three days. I was an idiot. Except, I wasn’t. I was just as good as when I was selling big.

 

drunk
Sometimes the brain doesn’t get it, either.

Your brain understands this. Your gut does not.

 

At first, you will question everything when sales dip. Or when your second book doesn’t launch better than your first. Or when book three is a blockbuster and book four sells in piddles.

 

Guess what? Even if every book does better than the prior book, you’ll wonder why they didn’t do even better!

 

You’re a tough boss!

 

When you started, you were planting lots and lots of seeds, not knowing which activities might result in sales. Most seeds come to harvest later on, maybe after you stopped doing the activity.

 

  1. Good salespeople prospect all the time, and try different things. So do good authors. That may be different things for different authors, but consider an “all of the above” strategy until you have the sales volume you want.

 

My friend Jason Matthews constantly re-tweaks his SEO keywords in his books, among other things.

 

Another friend, Kelly Abell, does lots of events and signings and lectures. As in, talks to groups of people who came just to hear her speak.

 

Another friend doesn’t do jack, he just keeps writing books. (He’s the one the rest of us hate.)

 

th
Like on a spread sheet? Ugh.

What you want to do is keep track of what you’re doing so that later on you can have an idea of what worked. That will help. Track results any way you can, so you don’t spend time or money on things that don’t work.

 

  1. Sometimes things fluctuate. Now, if your sales go to zero and stay there for six months, you really need to think about what you’re doing, but if you have an occasional blip, you need to let your emotional side know that it’s going to happen. Look for trends. Don’t freak out over any one little thing.

 

  1. Very rarely do two books sell the same. No two kids are alike, and your books are a lot your kids. They will sell in their own unique way.

 

Don’t get discouraged. Even Stephen King puts out a dud once in a while, but since his marking is so good you would never know it. Maybe if you had the insights on his sales numbers you would see certain books sell a lot better than others. He’s still a great writer.

 

Same with Steven Spielberg movies. Some are great; some are not. He’s still a great talent.

 

And in both cases, certain ones that didn’t do at the box office or with critics, you may have thought were terrific.

 

Don’t let your emotions run thing. Put your emotions in your books but try to keep them out of your book business.

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Dan's pic
Your humble host.

REBLOG me! Or SHARE this post on Facebook and Twitter! 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.

 

Got a QUESTION? ASK IT! Hit the Contact Me button and I’ll see what I can do. (I have lots of smart friends.)

 

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

 

Yes, BLOG! What New Authors Need To Know About Building A Platform

Is this you when it comes to blogging?
Is this you when it comes to blogging?

Occasionally a new author will write me with a question or problem and I’ll answer it here so we can all learn.

 

Dear Dan,

I went to a writers’ conference last weekend (which was kind of intimidating) but I learned a lot about writing technique and learned some things about myself. I’m not a good self-promoter. I’m kind of quiet, actually; but one thing they recommended was a blog and/or website. I never had a good impression of blogs because I never thought people would be interested in things like, “I got up and made myself coffee.”

Sincerely,

Blogless Beginner

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Dear Blogless,

Not a good self promoter? A little on the quiet side?

Talk? To people?
Talk? To people?

Sounds like you’re an author all right!

Let me tell you a secret. MOST people aren’t good self-promoters. There are very few Donald Trumps in the world – he wrote a few books, you know.

(We recently discussed building an author platform HERE, HERE, and HERE)

The folks at the conference who recommended you have a blog or website probably believe a blog is a good platform from which to build a fan base – and they may be right – but you don’t have to do one. If blogging is a chore, it’ll read like a chore, and nobody will want to read it, a lose-lose.

But some blogs are fun to read. Like this one!

My blog has started to become a good one in the last year or so, after I figured out what I was doing. It’s supposed to be helpful and lots of people think it is. I also like to promote other authors and so far that’s worked pretty good for them, too. So anything I can do to help, let me know.

A visual representation of my blog, year 1
A visual representation of my blog, year 1

(You know what would be good for you to do? But boring? I mean BORING? Go to my archives and see the progression of what I blogged about 3 years ago and what I blog about now. Which posts got comments and which didn’t. Talk about an education! There’s 2 years saved right there!)

There are a lot of ways to do a blog, almost none of them wrong, but you’d never know that from reading people’s complaints about how nobody reads their blog.

And you’re right, nobody wants to read about boring stuff, but think about it: some construction worker somewhere doesn’t want to read about writing and how to do better dialog. But somewhere else, a bunch of nurses would love to share their funny nursing stories – and a bunch of nurses might like reading that, as well as a bunch of other people. (There’s more but this is a start.)

You ROCK!
You ROCK!

What interests you will be interesting to others, trust me. It’s a chicken-egg thing, but if you blog with enthusiasm about what interests you, people will find it, enjoy it, and tell friends.

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REBLOG me! Or SHARE this post on Facebook and Twitter! 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.

Your humble host.
Your humble host.

Got a QUESTION? ASK IT! Hit the Contact Me button and I’ll see what I can do. (I have lots of smart friends.)

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

FLASH FICTION CHALLENGE: PLOT POINT

Your humble host.
Your humble host.

If you wanna get right to the challenge skip down to “FLASH FICTION CHALLENGE!” and champagne Leo.

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As most of you know, plots are either very easy or very hard.

You take a trip to Italy and see a girl on a train? Bingo! Three months and 100,000 words later you’ve written a Pulitzer Prize winner (it could happen) –  definitely your best book yet!

By contrast, you take a vacation to the Florida Keys and become convinced the guy who rented you the house is a psychotic madman with a cool boat who will take you scuba diving – to murder you!

And, well… three months later its whole story line consist of these seven words: Rental house owner wants to murder me. With the supporting phrase: “His friend on the boat looked squirrely, too.”

They ARE tasty, though.
Margaritas ARE tasty, though.

Yeeeeeah, maybe that one’s not going anywhere. Chock it up to too many margaritas.

Which is why I am convinced: we do NOT pick our plots, OUR PLOTS PICK US!

Or at least for this writing challenge, that’s my theory.

Luckily, thanks to a Random Plot Generator, we no longer have to wander in the darkness. We can now allow our plots to quickly and easily find us!

Your mission, should you decide to accept it, is to go to the Random Plot Generator and allow the plot gods to speak to you! Yes, it says movie plot generator; just ignore that. Do not question the will of the gods.

EXAMPLE of where your plot idea will be. CLICK  TO ENLARGE
EXAMPLE of where your plot idea will be. CLICK TO ENLARGE

YOU must then write 1000 words on the topic the gods have chosen for you, AND you have to include the random phrase IN the piece.

Yeah! Not so easy now is it, tough guy???

Um… and that’s about it.

You have one week to complete the assignment. Link to it here by noon on 11/20/2015 EST. We’ll have more of these challenges on Fridays through the holidays, unless there’s a mass revolt like we almost had over the haiku scandal. (I thought haikus were supposed to rhyme.)

It's the holidays - almost. Relax and have some fun with a Flash Fiction Challenge. And a margarita.
It’s the holidays – almost. Relax and have some fun with a Flash Fiction Challenge. And a margarita.

FLASH FICTION CHALLENGE!

If you read this far, you have to participate. Basically I’m looking for something around 1000 words. It can be less, it could be more. If you’re closing in on 3000 words and you haven’t really nailed it yet, think about a little editing.

Take a deep breath and click on your Random Plot Generator: ONE click per player!

http://plot.kitt.net/

THE RULES

  1. You write 1000 words more or less on the topic
  2. Post it on your blog
  3. Reference us on your blog and this challenge so your regular readers don’t think you’ve gone rental-house-owner-in-the-Keys-style psycho.
  4. Post the link to your story here in the comments section.
  5. You have until Friday 11/20/2015 at 12 noon EST, that’s Tampa Florida US of A time, for those of you who live elsewhere.

That’s it! GET TO IT!

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Your humble host.
Your humble host.

REBLOG me! Or SHARE this post on Facebook and Twitter! 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.

Got a QUESTION? ASK IT! Hit the Contact Me button and I’ll see what I can do. (I have lots of smart friends.)

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

Endurance: Don’t Quit =/= Never Take Breaks

Your humble host.
Your humble host.

A critique partner and friend recently noted that I’m looking even more prolific the past few days, putting out a few chapters of my story for inquiring eyes at the critique website.

Kinda sorta.

Now, you know I am a BIG advocate of WRITE EVERY DAY, but I recognized something that you need to know as the holidays approach (you’ll finish the big battle scene over Christmas break, right Jenny?) or as you transition into a new job (several of you) where you’ll have more writing time.

Currently, I am in the middle of a two week span where my wife is traveling for work Monday through Friday, and since our young daughter can’t tell time yet and has been fighting a minor cold… I can stick the little one in bed as soon as the sun goes down (6:30pm) and I have LOTS of time to write! Zero family time requirements!

Stop looking at me.

Gone, just like that.
Gone, just like that.

Also, since my wife vetoed the inclusion of the witch in my current WIP turning into a dragon and escaping, I saved about 30,000 words (maybe) about a big dragon hunt.

I do miss my dragon, but that deletion allowed me to realize that… MY STORY WAS ALMOST DONE!

I’m like, wait, if there’s no dragon hunt, then this comes next, and that, and that, and… I’m finished!

I was like, I might be able to finish this story during the two weeks my wife is gone!

(Love you, honey! Miss you! XOXO!)

And what are markers? Not felt pens? Where is all this explained???
And what are markers? Not felt pens? Where is all this explained???

Of course, I’m midway through that fourteen day span now, and I’m not sure the whole “finish the story in two weeks” thing will happen at all, but a few days ago it seemed possible. Because getting the kid up and dressed and fed and to school on time – and oh, homework (what is with this Common Core shit? I am totally lost. Add the objects and put the markers in the five frame? What the fuck is a five frame???), pick her up after school and eat dinner (I won’t lie there, it was ALL fast food and junk. Cheetos for breakfast. Stop looking at me. I’m usually the one forcing her to eat the carrots and green beans, okay? Just, you know… not this week.)

I was actually thinking about this yesterday, saying if I had 5 straight hours a day, or possibly six, times at least 10 days, plus my usual writing time on weekends (thank you, dance class) would I be able to get the book finished? That’s a lot of uninterrupted writing time, and as the end of the story nears, I get excited and want to write more anyway.

or a big mug of beer since I didn't have a picture of a bucket
or a big mug of beer since I didn’t have a picture of a bucket

And at first I thought yes, but as I went along each day I thought maybe not, but I couldn’t understand why. It was like a bucket got dumped out and needed time to fill back up.

To be crude, I actually thought it was like sex. Feel free to skip down a paragraph to protect your sensibilities. Every guy can certainly have an “O” once a day every day for a week, no problem; but trying to have seven in a row, more or less back to back, while certainly possible and with the right partner and stimulation I am willing to try, after about number three he just wouldn’t be, you know… delivering much, and by number seven maybe not anything at all. Certainly not like the first one. Most of you readers are ladies; feel free to sympathize with this dilemma.

Okay, it’s safe to start reading again, you innocent ones. And I thought the bucket analogy would be better than the sex analogy, but the sex one actually came to me first.

Must... finish... story!
Must… finish… story!

Now, that doesn’t mean I can’t still knock out my story, but I ended up pacing myself a little more, or actually allowing myself to recuperate more between writing sessions. But like working out and building a muscle (or having sex, I guess) if it’s fun and you enjoy it, you can build up your writing endurance. That… actually sounds like I’m still talking about sex stuff. I’m not, honest.

Probably the discipline analogy applies more to building muscles, but the sex analogy applies to the fun of doing the writing. The more you do, the more you are capable of doing. The longer you go, the longer you are able to go. Yeah, it all sounds like sex stuff now doesn’t it? Sorry. I shouldn’t have gone there. Try to keep your filthy mind out of the gutter.

These are probably habits that can be developed like anything else, and I’m not sure I realized that until this week.

Maybe not this much, but you get the idea.
Maybe not this much, but you get the idea.

First, realize that writing drains you! Emotionally, creatively, maybe physically. I mean, typing isn’t super exerting, but thinking and rereading and hovering over the keyboard, you might get a sore back or a headache. But when you run through an amazingly creative idea and pursue it to its end, you may need time to think up and develop the next idea for the story, or to properly smooth out the transitions, even when you’re “in the zone.”

Which is kinda DUH, of course, but I hadn’t thought about it because my writing time, like yours, is usually limited.

BUT!

Like muscles or habits, we can build them up over time. Monday, I wrote for about six hours. Six glorious, uninterrupted, creative hours. It was pure genius, flowing from my brain through my fingertips to the computer. Tuesday, I wrote a little less, but I was like: Do it! You may never get a chance like this again! They’ll teach her how to tell time in school eventually, and daylight savings time will rear its ugly head again one day! Write! Wriiiiiiiite!!!

Um, where was I?

Oh yeah, habits and endurance.

Well, maybe that last one...
I get up at 4am to write. All my author friends hate me.

So while we have all probably created some cute little writer-ey habits, like you always squeeze in an hour for your blog after dinner on Thursdays, or how you get up an hour early to work on your novel, or how each night before bedtime I read by the fireplace to my adoring daughter (it could happen), we have to realize we can add to that writing muscles and increase our endurance.

Just as breaks are necessary for the body to rebuild the fatigued muscles, increasing the weight we’re lifting allows us to eventually add more weight. So writing a little more each day will allow us to be capable of writing more each day.

To find the time for that, check out my other posts where we discuss how to find time to write, HERE and HERE.

But when you have that time, use it, and be prepared to increase the endurance. Because after lifting 20 lbs all week, lifting 10 is easy-peasy. So you can lift your 10 faster, get more reps in, whatever.

or going crazy because relatives visit and the kids are out of school
or going crazy because relatives visit and the kids are out of school

If you get the time to write more, which a lot of us do over the holidays or as we change jobs to a more writing-friendly scenario – and you’re all trying to do that, I know – realize there will be a lag time, a learning curve, to your new situation. Allow yourself time to adjust to the new schedule and don’t expect to go at it 8 hours a day every day from the jump. It may take a week or more to build your endurance up to being able to write four or eight hours every day.

And it may be incredibly hard not feeling guilty while you don’t write each hour of your new schedule. Don’t! No guilt!

Give yourself the time to build up to it. If you were trying to run a mile and hadn’t ever run further than to the fridge during a commercial TV break, your spouse wouldn’t expect the Boston Marathon on Friday. You won’t run a mile today and again tomorrow and again the next day. You have to build up to it, so run a half mile or a quarter mile or maybe just 100 yards today, and probably not even that much tomorrow, but as you stay after it, you’ll be hitting a mile or more soon enough.

I wrote all these over Christmas break. Oh, you gained 5 lbs and made cookies? YOU ROCK!
I wrote all these over Christmas break. Oh, you gained 5 lbs and made cookies? YOU ROCK!

Only you can tell what’s enough, so give yourself what you need as the holidays or new job approach, and don’t set unrealistic expectations, but as you reach success with your goals, brag about it! To us and everyone who’ll listen – which won’t be your family and friends because they have no idea if 3000 words in a day is good or not. So tell us. We get it.

I wrote this for you because I needed to grieve for my deleted dragon, and also because I needed a break from my awesome WIP. Now I’m warmed up and ready to bang out another marathon session. And we finally got past it sounding like weird sex talk… right until that last line. Darn. So close.

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Your humble host.
Your humble host.

REBLOG me! Or SHARE this post on Facebook and Twitter! 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.

Got a QUESTION? ASK IT! Hit the Contact Me button and I’ll see what I can do. (I have lots of smart friends.)

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

3 Steps To Writing An Effective PLOT TWIST

You know how it is when you’re finishing a book and you are certain that with just one more day it’ll be done? So you blow everything off and three days later you’re still insisting you’re just one day away? That’s what happened, so Allison wrote today’s post.

Enjoy! (And thanks, Allison!!)

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Plot twists are my favorite things to write. Because they make me feel like this:

Insert evil laughter here.
Insert evil laughter here.

Plot twists are all about defying readers’ expectations. They don’t necessarily have to be gruesome or so shocking your readers pass out. They just have to take the expected course of the narrative and turn it in an unexpected way.

(To check out some of Allison’s many other brilliant blog posts, CLICK HERE – Dan)

As I prepare a blog post, I Google the topic to see what’s already been said. Unlike dramatic irony, quite a bit has been said about plot twists. There are many ways to write twists and many different kinds of twists. Definitely check those out. I’m adding my two cents because 1. I love to write them, and 2. People say I’m good at writing them.

So I thought I’d share my process for writing a twist. To illustrate, I’ll use a short story I posted recently called Final Theft.

Step 1: Set it up

Twists rarely come out of nowhere, and when they do they’re meant for shock value. Use un-set up twists (like suddenly killing your MC) sparingly for two reasons: 1. Using them repeatedly would be annoying, and 2. Readers just won’t trust you anymore. They’ll think you depend on shock to keep a story going, and of course being the masterful storyteller that you are, you don’t need to fall back on shock value.

Setting up a twist can be as simple as inserting a character name, action, or conversation. It can be a bit of back story or a nugget of information that may seem extraneous at the time. You may have to go back and add some setup to justify your twist (as I often have to). See if you can pick out my first setup in the story:

I stand on the blackened patch at the center of the crumbling structure, eyeing the fluttering gold aspen leaves through the hole in the roof. The gap has grown since I last saw it, and a few new windows to the forest outside have formed in the walls. I guess things change when you ignore them for so many years.

The dirt crunches under my shoes as I step outside. The cool October wind meets my naked arms. I’d forgotten a jacket was required around here this time of year. I stuff my hands into the pockets of my jeans, but that doesn’t keep goosebumps from forming on my prison tats. I glance back at the old building – Manny thought it was a church at one point. By the time we found it, it was good for little more than building a fire in the middle of the floor and smoking pot. That, and anything else we could find to smoke. It was the only time we didn’t feel like crap.

Come on, man, this isn’t cool. She’s our grandma.

I shake my head at the memory of my cousin’s words as the cabin comes into view.

Did you catch it? Don’t worry if you didn’t. I sprinkled a few more clues before the twist at the end, so you’ll get another shot.

Step 2: Anticipate expectations

Ask yourself this: What would most people expect in this given situation? If you’ve read a lot of other stories, you have a good idea of where a narrative like yours will naturally lead. Figure that out, and then throw it away.

Read the next chunk of the story, and I’ll ask a question at the end.

It looks like shit. I guess that happens after five years of neglect. No one bothered to clean out the place when Nana died. If I hadn’t been locked up at the time, I would have done it. But only because I know there’s something inside worth finding.

How could you?

I’m sorry, Nana. I needed it.

My grandmother gave me that necklace. It was priceless.

Her words sounded different through that phone they put on the other side of the plastic divider.

If she knew how many priceless items I’d pilfered, she wouldn’t have visited me.

I kick the door, and it opens into the darkened front room. The couch is still there – a pink relic of the 1950s. It was old when I visited as a teenager – a young man, really. Legally old enough to be charged as an adult.

A coating of dirt obscures the cushions.

I guess the broken window above it didn’t protect like it once did.

Promise me something.

What?

Don’t steal again, and give up the drugs, and I’ll request leniency in your sentencing. Manny’s been so sick. I don’t need this stress.

I did promise, but burglarizing her place was only part of the picture.

Besides, it’s not like she’ll miss what I plan to take. Is it stealing if the victim is dead?

Here’s the question: What do you expect he’ll find?

Life experience and the plots of countless movies, TV shows, and books lead us to expect jewels, money, or some other kind of valuable. So those obviously won’t do for twist purposes.

Oh, there was another setup clue in that chunk. Did you catch it?

Step 3: Withhold the twist until the last possible moment. 

I don’t mean all twists must occur at the end of the story (though many do). They can happen anywhere. What I mean is, keep any information that may spoil the twist from the reader until the story absolutely requires it. I’ve found the best twists are those that allow the reader to discover the truth right along with the character. Revelations are made in real time. It’s even better if the reader is a hair ahead of the character, because they’ll read on to see if their prediction is correct.

Remember what you guessed our MC would find in Grandma’s cabin? Hang on to that, because we’re going for a ride.

I enter her bedroom and wiggle the floorboards. Which one was it?

Nana, what are you doing? What’s in that box?

I’d left it when I pulled the job. Thought she wouldn’t suspect me, since she knew I’d seen her hide it.

Oh, it’s nothing, dear. Just some personal treasures.

The fifth board I try gives, and I lift it.

The space beneath is empty. I reach in and wave my arm under the floor.

The back of my hand bumps something.

I grasp it and pull it through the hole. It’s a small white box, held closed by a metal clasp, like the jewelry box my sister had in her room.

I look closer. This is Marcella’s box.

If I’m right, all that will be inside is a ballerina that twirls, not the treasures Nana said she kept.

Marcella died when I was twelve, around the same time I found Nana hiding this under the floor. Maybe she just wanted something personal, something her granddaughter loved. Maybe I should let it be.

I stare at it, then flick open the latch and lift the lid.

The ballerina is buried by a cloth. I remove it, and a small glass bottle with no label tumbles out and onto the floor, rolling across the wood. It looks like medicine. Makes sense. Marcella, Manny and I seemed to always be sick when we visited. Bad luck, Nana would say. Just like my dad when he was little. Sick all the time.

But why would Nana hide it?

I open the bottle and sniff. The acrid smell turns my stomach. It reminds me of lying in bed, wishing I could hike through the woods to the cave, like the kids down the road.

I cover the bottle’s opening and tip it. A coating of clear liquid covers my finger. I bring it to my mouth as a lump forms in my throat.

I wipe the liquid on my jeans. I can’t taste it. That shit made me sick for years. All the food and drink Nana prepared smelled like this. She’d said my taste was off from my illness.

The illness Manny and Marcella also suffered. The same one that ended up taking Marcella’s life.

I stare at the bottle in one hand and the cloth in the other.

Nana didn’t hide treasure. She hid evidence.

I replace the bottle and the box, leaving everything as I’d found them.

I guess I should keep my promises.

The character didn’t figure it out until the third line from the end. Did you figure it out sooner?

Of course, I could have planted the twist in another way. Maybe Manny was waiting for our guy in the cabin. Or maybe it was all a dream! (I offer that last one ironically – don’t write an “it was all a dream” twist. Just don’t.)

Bestselling Author and friend Allison Maruska
Bestselling Author and friend Allison Maruska

As I conclude, I remember two of the most famous twists ever created: those from The Sixth Sense and The Usual Suspects. Yes, they were surprising (as all twists should be), but the reason they worked is the viewers could look back and see all the clues. Everything in the story lead to the moment the twist was revealed, and anyone watching went, “But of course!”

What are some of your favorite twists?  

I Lost My Dragon

This is NOT my dragon.
This is NOT my dragon.

OK so I’m writing this fantasy story, right? And it’s cruising along, I’m doing great; everything is going great. It’s really flowing.

(Recently we discussed ways to be extra productive HERE)

And I had – very early on – I thought: what’s a fantasy? You want to have a castle and a prince and a knight in shining armor… a witch and a sorcerer…

And I thought, oh! Maybe a dragon!

So, time goes by and I’m 60,000 words into it now. I have the romance angle for the story and I have all these great plot twists, and I mentioned to my Critique Partner (yes, it was Allison) that when they go to burn the witch at the stake, she’s going to turn into a dragon and fly way.

Great right? Plot twist! Who’d see that coming?

Also not my dragon
Also not my dragon

I even set it up with a talk about The Inquisition and how they used to burn witches and sorcerers at the stake but that it was BS, that they really just burned dissidents at the stake and uppity folks; heretics and women who could read. Heck, they pretty much burned anybody at the stake. If they were bored on a Friday night, they’d be like, “Hey, yonder cometh Silas; friend, who can we burn?” And Silas was all like, “Ye know what? Nathan hath been bugging me lately…”

It’s how they rolled.

STILL not my dragon
STILL not my dragon

So I thought great, we will have a scene where a witch goes to get burned at the stake and instead she conjures up a magic spell and turns into a dragon and flies away.

Now, I am all set. Plotter. I got my Dragon subplot. I got everything.

I mention this to my critique partner who says, “Well you may lose some people there, with that turning into a dragon thing.” (Again, it was Allison. There’s a dragon in her story – that new Drake And The Fliers thing. She gets to keep her dragon, but I don’t get to keep mine.)

But she is a trusted CP so when she said having people suddenly turn into dragons was not consistent with the world I’d created in my story, I thought: Hmm…

So I mentioned the idea to my wife. “At the last second, as the witch is getting burned at the stake, she turns into a dragon and torches her torchers!”

I could TOTALLY see the scene in my head!
I could TOTALLY see the scene in my head!

Crickets.

My wife scrunched up her nose – you know, she gave me that look, the wife look.

And I thought: Hmm…

So… maybe nobody turns into a dragon in my story.

Okay….

And then what?

And then nothing, because I was gonna have this whole part where they chase the dragon and hunt it down… and now I don’t have a dragon. I was gonna have like 30,000 more words in the story, but now that it’s dragon-free, it’s…. it’s…

It’s almost finished.

Because there’s no goddamn Dragon.

THIS is my dragon. and my soul
THIS is my dragon.
and my soul

Oh, and in deference to Emily, there’s no ball with frilly dresses, either!

(Well, there is, but it gets messed up, and, well, I don’t want to give too much away, but they probably burn somebody at the stake over it.)

So, no dance, no Dragon, no extra 30,000 words in my story.

And like I said, that means it’s basically almost finished. Which means if I was smart I would jump on that horse and ride and finish the story.

Your humble host.
Your humble host.

So I won’t be around that much this week because I’m gonna jump on that horse and ride and finish the story!

Wish me luck.

Actually, wish me a dragon. I really liked the Dragon part.

New Author Interview: Jaye Marie, a NaNoWriMo Success Story

Your humble host.
Your humble host.

When I was a brand new writer, I didn’t worry too much about how to write a story or what the process was. I just was relating funny stories about first-time parents with a new baby in the house. A lot of sleep deprived people could relate to that, so it transitioned pretty easily into a collection of funny stories about that could be a book.

When I started to actually write novels or fact-based fiction, that was when I really kicked into a different gear.

And I needed help.

As a new author, I always wanted to know how other authors did things. What was their process, what did their inspiration come from, things like that. I still like to know that stuff. No reason to reinvent the wheel.

So I like to bring as many authors to the table so you can learn how they do things.

Maybe you get a few tips, maybe you give a few tips in the comment section, but ultimately I want this blog to be what I would’ve wanted to read a few years ago when I was starting out. Things that would have helped me when I was new. And in keeping with our NaNoWriMo theme this week, so here is somebody who started at NaNo and went from there. Enjoy my chat with Jaye Marie!

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Dan: Thank you very much for braving the waters of The Dan Interview. Let’s start at the beginning. When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

Author Jaye Marie
Author Jaye Marie

Jaye: I love books and have read my way through stacks of them, so when my sister Anita needed someone to edit and type up her manuscripts, I was happy to help and discovered my vocation and my love-hate relationship with the world of computers.

I think we all have that so one degree or another. Mine’s mostly hate, and when it gets to my relationship with my phone, it’s all hate. Deep hatred. It’s mutual, though. My phone hates me, too. I assume you got past that, though?

There are still days when I can feel the hate building up, in spite of my legendary patience. I should have been born with a more techno savvy brain, then my life would be measurably better.

As it is, there are just too many annoyingly frustrating pieces of equipment in my life, so when it all gets the better of me, I go for a very long walk!

I learned how to edit and proofread, taking over the job of getting Anita’s books ready for publication.  I had wonderful compliments from one of the best literary agents in London for my editing of Anita’s book, Bad Moon and for the last ten years since my retirement, that is what my life has been like.

Somewhere along the way, I started thinking about a story that had been nibbling away in the corner of my mind for months and before too long, it demanded to be written and I am very pleased with the outcome.

It’s nice to scratch that itch, so to speak, isn’t it! How much structure is in your story before you start writing it?

The itch that you mention certainly picks its moments. In the beginning, I tried to rely on my memory when inspiration stuck, but these days I am never far away from a notebook and pen.

I wrote my first book ‘The Ninth Life’ last year on NaNoWriMo.

Whaaaat? A NaNoWriMo success story???

NaNo 2015Yes, and all I started with was the characters and a rough idea of what I thought would happen. Then my characters took over and practically wrote did the job for me. When I thought about the sequel ‘The Last Life’, everything changed. Continuity was essential, I discovered, so I made a storyboard to keep track of what was evolving.

Awesome. A pantser turned plotter! There’s hope for the world! ARE YOU LISTENING, PANTSERS???

What time of day do you prefer to do your writing?

I write best first thing in the morning, something that still surprises me, for I have never been at my best at that time of day. Always considered myself a night owl, but apparently my muse is not!

I am totally the same way. My wife thinks I’m nuts. My kid is starting to think so, too.

How do you develop characters?

I like to identify my characters with real people.

Me, too. Do you tell them? Like, this one is based on you, sis. I don’t usually tell. I don’t need the hate. I get enough from the phone.

jaye marie 4In the sequel to ‘The Ninth Life’ (soon to be published) the detective inspector, David Snow, is a dead ringer for Tom Selleck in his role as Jessie Stone.

So you probably didn’t call Tom and tell him.

No, but this way I know exactly how my character will behave in every circumstance and this imparts more realism. I have heard that some authors have photographs of their role models, but not gone that far yet.

 

Tell us the expected publish date, and I assume it’s an indie pub?

‘The Last Life’ is due to be released on 6th November.

Yes, I am an indie, and proud of it. Well, you would be too if you had my brain. Sometimes I wish someone else would have it, and let me choose a new one!

 

Who or what helped you the most getting started?

jaye marie 2When everyone started talking about ‘Indie’ or self-publishing it was as if a light went on in my brain. I knew how hard it was to be published in the traditional way, so I became very excited at the prospect of being able to do it ourselves.

I started our website, and found that I enjoyed talking to people from all over the world and posting our thoughts on line. Then I concentrated on publishing Anita’s books. It wasn’t quite as easy as they made it sound, but with my usual stubbornness I kept at it, learning more and more as I went along.

Stubborn. I know nothing of this condition…

I started thinking about a story that had been nibbling away in the corner of my mind for months and before too long, it demanded to be written and I am very pleased with the outcome.

 

How did you choose the genre you write in, or did it choose you?

jaye marie 3Before I started to write, I always imagined I would write supernatural scary stories, as this was what I enjoyed reading most. Thanks to Stephen King and James Herbert! But the idea of a woman cheating death so many times took hold and I had to see what would happen. Before I knew what was happening, she had a murderous ex-husband and the bodies began to pile up! I suspect I may change genres as I go along, as my interests are so varied.

So what would be the next genre you’d try?

 The next genre is already emerging, as spooky supernatural themes are jostling for space in my head. This genre is the one I always thought I would write in, so it might be overdue.

Besides writing, what are your favorite things to do?

I have so many hobbies, it might be easier to say what I don’t like doing! From Bonsai and gardening, knitting and crochet, to painting and craftwork. But my one huge obsession is for puzzles. Solitaire, Sudoku, jigsaws and PC games and dozens more. I honestly believe my puzzles keep my brain from fossilising and are solely responsible for my insanity.

I think I read that somewhere. What’s the trick to Sodoku? Looking in the back for the answer? If I ever did one, that’s 100% how I’d do it. But I’m never going to do one. Because math.

 

What do you do about cover art?

I don’t have much spare money, I’m the original church mouse, so I have tried to make our own.

I did that. The results were very good – to me, and me only. They were terrible to the rest of the world. Absolutely horrible. And I have since been declared Unable To Do Covers. It’s an affliction. I think I  can do it but the fans tell me I can’t. Typically, if I like your cover, it’s a loser, so go the other way.

Apart for the financial situation, creating suitable covers appealed to my creative streak. Learning the best way to do it was the difficult part, as I am not the sharpest knife in the drawer when it comes to technology.

I discovered you can make quite good covers on microsoft’s Word, but I fell in love with a company called Picmonkey.  http://www.picmonkey.com/ Every bit as good as Photoshop, but easier to use and most of it is free.

But when some of my fellow bloggers mentioned that Chris Graham from The Story Reading Ape creates reasonable attractive covers, I took a look and now The Last Life has a very professional cover!

 

How and why did you start your blog?

jaye marie 5The first thing you learn when you decide to write a book is that you must have an interesting and popular website or blog. How hard can it be, I thought. Everyone is doing it, so it must be relatively easy.

And once you know what you’re doing, it is easy – ish.

It’s also incredibly easy to get it wrong, so I spent a lot of time checking out other blogs to see what worked.

Smart.

Still cannot decide whether I prefer Blogger or WordPress though, so we have both.

Would you take a moment to tell us the pros and cons of each, and how hard is it to have both? Would you recommend it? Because I can copy-paste like a madman.

That won’t be easy as they are so very different. But seeing as how you asked, I will try.

Blogger was the first one I tried, and it was easy-ish to use, at least for me. I learned so much from making stupid mistakes and stubbornly trying to put them right. I feel a certain loyalty to Blogger, although it does have its drawbacks.

Remember, I am not the best one to ask, all I can go by is the progress we have made, comparing one against the other.

With Blogger, if you have a problem, all you have is a help forum consisting of other users, most of whom are struggling just like you. WP on the other hand, are really helpful and usually sort out your problems by the next day. We do seem to have made more connections and links with WP and in less time, so that’s a good point.

Took me nearly a year to master WP, so not sure what this says about them (or me).

Having two sites does make my life more complicated, but hey, if I wanted an uncomplicated life, I wouldn’t be sitting in front of  a PC, now would I?

What is the working title of your next book?

This question is easy to answer, as my next book is the sequel to ‘The Ninth Life’. It has to be called the ‘The Last Life’ for reasons that become clear when you read the book!

Due to be released on 6th November…!

 

Where did the idea come from for the book?

The original idea came from details of my own life. I have nearly died several times and sometimes I wonder if there might be a reason for this. Maybe I’m an alien or something. One idea led to another and ‘The Ninth Life’ was born. Once I had created the lead character, she seemed to take control and dictated the story to me.

 

What is the single most important quality in a novel; what must an author do to win you over?

A book must inspire me, especially now that I write, for good writers can do this. Not only in the way I write, but also the way I live my life…

Well, hopefully your enthusiasm has inspired some other newbies out there, and given a few tips to the war torn veterans. Thanks for dropping by!

 

Links

Amazon Author Page:   https://www.amazon.com/author/jayemarie44

Amazon Book Link:      http://amazon.com/the-last-life-jaye-marie/dp/B017DNXBXE

Website:                         http://jenanita01.wordpress.com

Blog:                              http://anitajaydawes.blogspot.com

Facebook:                      https://www.facebook.com/jayemarie44

Twitter:                          https://twitter.com/jaydawes2/media