Author Profile: Michael E. Dellert

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Your humble host

We were fortunate enough to spend a little time recently with Michael Dellert and managed to get him to open up a bit about his process and inner thoughts on writing.

Michael is an award-winning writer, editor, publishing consultant, as well as a writing coach. His publishing career spans 20 years. His blog is a resource for creative writers of all kinds, offering tips, tricks, and advice to aspiring writers seeking to improve their craft, plus insights into the current state of the publishing industry.

His recent guest post about character development was the most bookmarked of any post we’ve had here on the blog.

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DAN: What is the working title of your next book?

MICHAEL: The book I’m publishing next is called A Merchant’s Tale. It’s due in stores and online by early April.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

00 Dellert 3First, you have to understand that I’m a medieval literature nerd and a fantasy world-building geek.

So A Merchant’s Tale is an exploration and introduction of characters and settings that will continue to grow and develop and interrelate with one another through a much longer cycle of stories, similar to the cycles of medieval romances, such as the Matter of Britain or the Matter of France.

The specific idea for the story came out of my world-building exercises: I was developing a medieval economy in which my characters had to make a living for themselves, and it occurred to me that a traveling merchant would see a lot of opportunities for danger and adventure.

Which is the more important of these two: write drunk, edit sober?

Writing drunk is certainly the more fun of the two options, but most important?

CJ Cherryh once said: “It is perfectly okay to write garbage—as long as you edit brilliantly.” So I’d have to say “edit sober.” Well, semi-sober anyway. Wine doesn’t count, right?

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

It took me about a month to write the first junk draft of A Merchant’s Tale. It took about three months to rewrite for publication.

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

The actors I envision often aren’t suitable for the role anymore. Hell, they’re not even suitable for the role now. For example, the character of the young acolyte in A Merchant’s Tale might be played by a young Matthew Broderick (as “Philipe Gastone” in Ladyhawke) or a young Christian Slater (as “Adso of Melk” in the adaptation of Umberto Eco’s Name of the Rose). By the time I even wrote the story, both actors were already far too old for the role.

Which living author or blogger would you buy drinks for?

You, Dan. Many drinks, and often. With little umbrellas in them.

What makes you so damn interesting anyway?

Me? Because I’m like the mushroom that walks into the bar that doesn’t serve his kind: “Why not? I’m a fungi!”

What is the best part about being an indie author for you?

00 Dellert 0It allows me to exercise both halves of myself: the half that spent thirty years trying to be a good writer, and the half that spent twenty years being a good publisher. As a writer, I get to develop and execute stories that actually mean something to me. As a publisher, I get to put my professional skills to use publishing something that actually means something to me. An occupational hazard of publishing is that the longer you’re in it, the less you actually have to do with books. It becomes an exercise in accounting.

What’s something most readers would never guess about you?

That I’m actually a strange visitor from an alien planet, with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men. And an orbital death-ray. Commanded by my sock-monkey, Leroy.

Besides writing, what are your favorite things to do?

There’s something besides writing? I hike, I swim, I take the dog for walks, mostly just to get out of the house and give myself a clear, quiet space to think about writing. They also happen to be good exercise, which is an important way to keep oneself from not wasting away to nothing while gallivanting through one’s own imagination. I also enjoy cooking with wine (both in the food and otherwise) and listening to music. I try to get away from my desk as often as my schedule will allow (which is probably not as often as is strictly healthy). I go out to movies, readings, and arts exhibitions with friends. I’m told one has to keep up a regular interaction with society.

Why do some authors sell well and others don’t? (Indie or otherwise, but indie if possible)

Most indie authors fail to sell well because they fail to market well.

 A lot of writers have a sort of Field of Dreams approach to their work. They write it and just expect readers to magically show up. It doesn’t work that way.

Readers have to find their work. Writers can make that easy for their potential readers, by engaging in social media, getting out and doing readings and signing, or sending out free copies of their work to reviewers. Or they can make it very hard for their readers by just dropping their book into Smashwords and hoping for the best.

Also, too many writers think that marketing is “beneath” them. Sometimes, it’s not even the writers themselves who think this. I have an ongoing argument with one of my friends about this. She thinks I should only have to write, I shouldn’t have to market. I keep pointing out that even JK Rowling shows up for book-signings and movie premieres.

What’s the strangest place you’ve gotten a great story idea? Describe in detail. Inquiring minds want to know!

In bed. And that’s all the detail you get. A gentleman never tells.

What’s the oddest or most awkward or embarrassing research you’ve had to do?

The most awkward research I ever did was on the history of early Islam, from the socio-political context of the Prophet through the various successor dynasties of the early Caliphates and down to the Crusades. The next day, someone from Homeland Security asked to become a member of my LinkedIn network. Coincidence…? I think not.

How did you choose the genre you write in? Or did it choose you?

00 Dellert 2In many ways, the fantasy genre chose me. I grew up watching old Tarzan movies and Flash Gordon serials on TV, enjoying the Golden Age horror movies with Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff, and reading about Greek and Roman mythology. I can’t remember a time when Fantasy and Science Fiction weren’t my favorite forms of entertainment. Even now, I get giddy as a school girl when I see the Batman vs. Superman trailers.

Can you wash light and dark clothes together? Have you ever turned a bunch of stuff pink in the washer?

I can, I have, and so I don’t anymore. Experience is a harsh laundress.

What “person” do you like to write in? First Person, Third Person, etc. – and why?

I often do my early drafts in first person, to get a better sense of characterization. But I prefer to write in Third Person Limited. It allows for, in my opinion, the greatest flexibility in presenting the story and still exploring the broadest possible range of human experience within that story. It also allows the author to break up the story into multiple viewpoints and maintain energy and interest through the boggy middle part of the story. Stories that limit themselves to a single viewpoint run the risk of becoming self-indulgent whinge-fests for the main character, and of turning potentially powerful secondary characters into limited cardboard caricatures. I also struggle to capture the magic of what CJ Cherryh calls her “Third Person Intimate Internal” point of view. I’m not sure I’m there yet.

I hear you have some very exciting news! Can you share it with us?

Yes, thanks! I do, in fact. I’m going to be running my first Goodreads giveaway. Starting 18 February, 2016, contestants can enter for a chance to win one of just 20 exclusively autographed copies of both Hedge King in Winter AND an advanced reading copy of the complete, 13-episode series of A Merchant’s Tale, before it finishes its serial run and before it’s available anywhere else! The contest closes on 5 March, 2016 and winners will be announced by 11 March, 2016. You can learn more here at Goodreads.

How do you decide on a title for your book?

You know those refrigerator poetry magnets, where you just mix up different words? I give them to my dogs to play with and record the results.

What do you do for cover art? Do you do it yourself, hire an artist (you can name names if you liked them), or purchase premade?

Fantasy is a very difficult genre for indies when it comes to cover art, particularly medieval fantasy. Stock photography of dragons is hard to come by

and you want to find something that makes the reader wonder what’s special about your book compared to the other 500 titles next to it on the shelf. If you’re not an artist yourself (and I am certainly not an artist), your options are to do something very abstract (which runs the risk of being incomprehensible), to purchase something premade (which therefore has no organic relationship to your book itself), or you have to commission custom artwork.

So I hire artists, depending on my budget. For my first novella, Hedge King in Winter, it was important to me that the cover didn’t scream “first time indie author,” so I broke open the bank and hired Victor Titov and his Grafit Studio to come up with an original design based on some ideas that I sent him. When the budget for my second title, A Merchant’s Tale, proved to be more modest, I used 99Designs to run a book cover design competition. This helped me keep costs down and gave me a few samples from various artists before I had to settle on one of them. That artist, Vacaru George-Florin, and I then worked together post-contest to further fine-tune the idea that became the final cover for A Merchant’s Tale. For my next title, Romance of Eowain, I’ve done the same thing with 99Designs, owing to scheduling conflicts with both Victor and George.

The challenge then becomes tying together books that are ostensibly part of a series, but have widely different styles of artwork on the covers. I have a single book designer who handles my cover and interior book design, tying together the various titles typographically, rather than by the artwork.

How has your experience with editors been (you can name names if you liked your editor)?

I recently engaged a copy-editor for A Merchant’s Tale before I sent it away to the typesetter, and she really helped me tighten up a number of places where the language clunked, but I had become tone-deaf to it.

she (my editor) really helped me tighten up a number of places where the language clunked, but I had become tone-deaf to it.

Her name is Erin Sandlin, and she’s also the author of the blog Being Southern Somewhere Else, and has several published books of her own, including No One Has Such A Dog, and No One Should: A Collection of Canine Essays and Petit Fours from the Pie Hole: It’s For Your Face Hole. Aside from her excellent editorial skills, she’s also a social activist, and she’s donating a portion of the proceeds from her collection of canine essays to a charity called Ahimsa House, which works to rescue abused women with animals from domestic violence situations. I have a lot of respect for Erin, both for her editorial work and her social causes.

What do you think some of the greatest misconceptions about indie authors are?

The greatest misconception is that indie authors are indies because their work lacks quality, that their work “wouldn’t make the cut” in a traditional publishing environment, and that they’re all in it for vanity’s sake. That is patently false. Many worthy indies are simply talented entrepreneurs who have recognized that they can take their work directly to the market (as in the readers) and let them decide on its worth, rather than waiting for the traditional market (as in publishers) to take a chance on a horse of a different color.

Many younger writers today won’t remember this, but it used to be that a writer was actively discouraged from engaging in what was called “simultaneous submissions,” the practice of sending the same work for consideration to several possible publishers at the same time. Each publisher wanted the opportunity to consider a work in their own leisurely time, and weren’t happy with the idea that they might finally, after months of deliberation, make an offer on a story only to discover that it had been snatched up by a competitor in the meantime. So there was actually collusion amongst publishers to discourage this practice. This meant that a new author might send the same manuscript around to only a dozen houses in half as many years.

Today, indie authors with an entrepreneurial spirit can publish half a dozen novels in the same year, and collect a heavier share of the profits off each book.

However, the problem of quality is going to continue to plague them for at least another five to ten years, not because they aren’t talented, but because they lack the resources that traditional publishers can afford to bring to bear. Cover art, professional production values, and good copy-editors all cost money, a resource that most indies have only in short supply.

Plotter? Or Pantser? And prepare to defend your position!

Plotter, but in a very hippie-dippie-doo pantser kind of way. I believe that plot is the series of damned things, one after another, that happen to the characters while they’re trying to resolve the theme. The theme is what ties the “series of unfortunate events” together and provides the narrative drive, and that can only be explored through the characters in a very creative fashion. So the plot might involve an argument with a colleague, bad customer service at Starbucks, and a running gun-battle, but the theme might be about finding love. The plot is easy. The theme is much more challenging and unpredictable.

What was your road to publication like?

Like the road of many emerging authors, I imagine: long, bumpy, uphill, dark and full of terrors, plagued by dead ends and switchbacks. The hardest thing to overcome is the notion that becoming a published author is really going to change very much in your life. The day I dropped Hedge King in Winter, my first commercially-published fiction work, I still had to go out and get the milk. It wasn’t like a limousine showed up at my door and divested a full media fanfare, clown-car-style, at my front door, along with millions of dollars in sales. It just doesn’t work like that. When I drop A Merchant’s Tale in April, I’m still going to have to figure out how to pay the rent. Becoming a published author creates at least as many problems, if not more, than it solves.

What advice can you give new authors?

If you’re serious about it,

don’t give up, and don’t think in terms of this book or that story. Think in terms of a career.

Don’t start building your platform after you’ve published your book, start building it while you’re writing your book. The contest doesn’t go to the strong, or the fast. It goes to the bull-headed and the stubborn.

And if you’re not serious about it, go learn a trade and do that instead. There are easier ways to earn a living, and those of us who are serious really don’t need the competition.

What’s a good writing secret or time management secret?

  • Show up. Set realistic daily goals, be ruthless about achieving them, and show up to get them done.
  • Keep track of your goals and your progress toward them.
  • Spend a few minutes at the end of each writing session making a notes about where you intend to go in the next writing session, so you don’t have to flail around “waiting for inspiration.”
  • And when you have a bad day and don’t meet your goals, be merciful. Give yourself credit for showing up, and for what you did accomplish. Then show up the next day and get back to work.

Check out Michael Dellert’s Goodreads giveaway!00 Dellert Merchant's Tale - GoodReads

Where in the process do you create the story’s title? Do you start with it? Do you know it before you begin? Before you end? Elsewhere?

I have working titles planned out well in advance, before I start, just to keep track of project goals on the calendar. But the final title often evolves out of the final rewrite, once the theme and resolution are clear to me.

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

Mornings. I like to get up, take the dog for a walk, then sit down with a cup of coffee and get started while I’m fresh, before the day has a chance to whisk me away with other things.

Coffee addict? Name your poison.

Gods, yes. The caffeinated kind, dark-roasted, fresh-ground, light and sweet.

What’s your favorite food?

Italian is my comfort cuisine. I grew up in Northern New Jersey, in Sopranos territory. Ay, oh, badda bing, badda boom. If it’s smothered in fresh, hand-made tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese, fuhgeddaboddit.

How do you develop characters?

Very carefully.

How much structure is in your story before you start writing it?

None. And all of it. There are basics to good story-telling structure that I try to live by. But how I’m going to use them in any particular story largely depends on which way the characters take me. There is no story without characters, and the characters will have unique needs that have to be addressed in each story, regardless of how it’s structured. I try not to let my initial idea of the story become confused with the actual story.

How many story ideas are in your “good ideas” file? What are some of them?

Too many to count, but some of them include: Is it possible to write a “traditional” (i.e., contemporary) romance novel with a male protagonist? What does a “heroine’s journey” look like? When the villain is the hero of his own story, what does that story look like? What happens when the “child of destiny” is an unlikeable little brat? What does “boarding school” for the unlikeable child of destiny look like in a medieval setting? How do the friends, family, mentors, and rivals of the “child of destiny” shape his fitness for his role long before that fate becomes apparent?

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

Character, I think. I’ve started more novels than I will ever finish, and those that fell by the wayside failed to engage me and draw me in early to the story. In almost every case, this was because of poor characterization.

If I don’t care about the characters, I’m not going to finish the book.

If writing suddenly made you rich and famous, what would you do?

Drop dead of shock, more than likely. But after that, there’s some beach-front property in Fiji I’ve had my eye on…

Best book to movie you’ve seen?

Ohh, a tough one. Most adaptations are so awful. But I think the best adaptations have both been from the novel M*A*S*H. I think in both cases (movie and TV series), what made the adaptations great wasn’t their loyalty to the story per se, but to the characters and their absurd circumstances.

What are your three favorite books by other authors?

  • Gate of Ivrel by CJ Cherryh.
  • Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein.
  • The Swan War Trilogy by Sean Russell.

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

I was in seventh grade, so about twelve years old, before I finally had a label to put on the thing I’d been doing for as long as I could remember.

Do you hate cats?

Hate is a strong word. But I’m about as indifferent to cats as they are to me. I’m definitely a dog person. My dogs have always been so excited to see me when I come home: “Where you been, what you do, what it smell like, when you gonna take me theeeere?! I’m so glad you’re hoooooome!!!”

My cat, on the other hand, could care less. “Oh.” (Licks crotch.) “It’s you.” (Licks crotch.) “My litter box needs cleaning, by the way.” (Licks crotch.) You know you’re going to go blind doing that, you silly cat. She’s lucky I’m a big-hearted slob and rescued her from the rain one dark and stormy night.

In a story we are often asked to create images for the reader that we may not have experienced ourselves. When have you had to do that?

In a medieval fantasy story, that’s something that has to be done on almost every page. But

ironically, it’s not usually the really fantastic stuff that is hardest to write.

In A Merchant’s Tale, there’s a scene involving a monstrous bear and a pack of otherworldly hounds. This actually wasn’t so hard to write: I grew up around dogs, and I grew up in a region where black bears are very common, so much so that I’ve several times encountered them by surprise and at close range, as my characters do in the story. I drew from those experiences to paint that scene. It was more challenging to describe a typical rural medieval scene in early springtime: the tools the farmers were using, and the difficulties they faced using them. I grew up in a rural community, but I’ve never been a farmer, and I’ve certainly never known anyone who had to use an ox-drawn ard-plough to furrow a half-frozen field. That took some research and some imagination.

Tell us about yourself. Who IS the real Michael Dellert? And not the typical boring bio stuff. The dirt. Like, when was the last time you did laundry?

I did laundry last weekend, same as every Saturday morning. I try to get most of my errands and housekeeping out of the way early on Saturdays, so that by afternoon, I can look forward to having the rest of the weekend free.

I take a guilty pleasure from superhero movies, despite how awful they often are.

And I’m a critical theory nerd: structuralism, post-structuralism, deconstruction, post-colonialism, transnationalism, I eat all that theoretical stuff up with a spoon.

What’s a favorite quote of anyone besides you, and one from you?

Kurt Vonnegut: “When I write, I feel like an armless, legless man with a crayon in my mouth.” I love that line. It so perfectly describes the difficulty of wrestling words down onto paper in the form of a compelling story.

From me? “You can’t edit what ain’t writ.” My personal mantra every time I’m faced with writers’ block. I can’t make something better if I don’t start someplace.

Most writers are a bit shy. Is that how your friends would describe you (shy), or do you have your readers fooled?

I’m not sure I’d describe myself as shy. I was actually a member of a theatre troupe in both high school and college. My best friends, I don’t think they’d describe me as shy. But if I’m not on stage, I can be very reserved, particularly around people I don’t know well. One of my best friends likes to call me “Silent Bob,” as in the Kevin Smith character from Clerks. I don’t speak often, but when I do, apparently I’m terribly profound.

Did you ever have a job where they were strict about shined shoes and stuff?

Several of them in fact. I’ve worked a few jobs in corporate publishing where appearances were considered important. I even had one job where I was told that the car I was driving (a beat-up 2001 Jetta that’s been across the country four times) didn’t “represent me as well it might.” I was actually told that it would be a good idea “for my career” to get a new car. I left the job. I still have the car. I figure the car is more loyal and better company.

Is tea a big deal over in England like they make it seem in Downton Abbey? (My wife watches, not me.)

I’ve had the pleasure of doing a lot of business in England in my career. Yes, tea is a big deal, but not as important anymore as in the period of Downton Abbey, at least, not among those I’ve known. Beer, on the other hand… My lord… I’ve come home from some business trips sure that I’d need a liver transplant.

How playful are you? Is your REAL Facebook page much more revealing about sides of you that people won’t know from your blog posts or books? Is there a double life thing going on?

I’m very playful, though I doubt even my REAL Facebook page shows much of that side of me. My grandmother always said, “Don’t do anything you wouldn’t want to see on the front page of the Sunday paper.” In the modern age, I figure that extends to social media. But in private and among friends? Hell, the kit gloves are off.

How hard was it to hit that “Publish” button the first time and send your book into the world? Looking back, what can you tell new authors about that experience?

There were more than a few moments of trepidation, I have to admit.

I think I needed two glasses of wine before I worked up the nerve (to hit the publish button).

But I had spent about six months ahead of that moment getting prepared: setting up my blog, talking about it on my blog, growing my Facebook and Twitter platforms and mentioning the book there a million times each. Hitting “Publish” was really the only thing I could do. However big a fool I might look if the book was awful, I would have looked more a fool if I’d built up all that hype and then backed down.

I would tell new authors, “Just do it.” If you’ve been working diligently at your craft, built a platform, announced to all and sundry that you’re going to be publishing a book, and you finally come face-to-face with that button, then it’s time. Yesterday’s not an option, and tomorrow is too late.

Just push the (publish) button. It’s really not going to change your life that much, where the world is concerned. But at the same time, it changes everything in your heart, where it really matters.

Doing something once and for the first time is always hardest. But doing it at all gives you the courage and confidence to do it again and again. So go ahead. Just do it.

Have you ever spent time with anyone famous? Was there any ransom involved?

I once attended a fund-raising party where I met Harry Belafonte Jr, his wife, and his daughter. They were very lovely and gracious people.

I’m also an irregular attendant at the Irish-American Writers and Artists Salon in New York City, which is headed up by Larry Kirwan (of the band Black 47) and Malachy McCourt (brother of Frank McCourt, of Angela’s Ashes fame), whom I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and talking with from time to time. They’re both very kind and humble people, dedicated to the arts and the improvement of artists’ circumstances. It’s a privilege to know them both. And so far, the only ransom has involved shots of whiskey.

What was the most fun interview you’ve done and why?

Why, of course, this interview is the most fun I’ve ever had, ever, in the whole history of fun times. But it might have been because of the bologna in my shoes. The bologna just made me feel funny.

I think we have a new contender for most bookmarked post!

Here are Michael’s links:

Michael Dellert Learn more about Indie Publishing!

LinkedIn: Michael Dellert

Blog: MDellert-Dot-Com: Adventures in Indie Publishing

Twitter: @MDellertDotCom

Facebook: Michael Dellert, Writer, Editor, Publishing Consultant

 

Author On The Ledge!

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Be sure to enter to win a signed copy of Savvy Stories HERE

LAST DAY! Don’t miss out!

 


 

 

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Your humble host

 

You’ll know it when you see it.

An author friend has started the downward spiral of doubt.

Here’s an example from a blog post of an obviously dismayed author friend, followed by my reply:

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…it seems as if I’ve just wasted the last (fill in your number here of the weeks, months or years) of my life writing a story no one will ever be interested in EVER. It should be printed off only to be burned in a barrel and then bombed with a nuclear warhead. I have THREE chapters left to write. THREE. At the end of the summer, in September, I had FIVE.

 This week I sat down to write and . . . nothing happened. I stared at a blinking cursor for six hours. Well, that’s not entirely true. I checked my email. I went to town on Twitter. I cleaned the house and did two loads of laundry. I watched a few cat videos on Facebook.

 AND I deleted two thousand words from my latest draft

This is what we call the ledge.

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Is this you?

Occasionally I’ll see a writer out there and talk them back in through a window. Just as often they let me know they’re out on the ledge and I talk them down. But on rare occasions they get out there and start deleting thousands of words and then it’s more a matter of getting them to hit the net when they jump.

Or if they slip.

You don’t strike me as a jumper so we’ll say slip. Yeah, that’s it. The ledge needed cleaning and next thing you know you were out there on it. It happens.

In fact, it can happen to any of us. You’re chugging along thinking positive thoughts about yourself and your writing, and then you reread the latest chapter of your GAM (Great American Novel) it and you’re like whaaat? Or a trusted CP (Critique Partner) starts asking if you wrote you latest submission while under the influence of prescription cough medicine.

Okay, so what do we know, and what do we do about it? Cos if you think I’m gonna hold your hand, you might have shot me a Facebook message (I have messenger now, too; it rocks) BEFORE you deleted thousands of words – and managed to write a thousand on your blog lamenting… your inability to write? Do I have that correct?

Well, I love irony as much as the next guy. Heck, maybe more. I even have sympathy for anybody buried under a foot of snow while I contemplate whether I’ll wear a sweatshirt with my shorts as I go buy chlorine for the pool. (I decided yes on the sweatshirt, but only because it was a little windy.)

Okay, sister, time for the tough love.

If you think this is the hard part, you are wrong. This writing stuff? This is the easy part. Even when it’s hard, it’s easy. The hard part – the part we refer to as the abyss – that’s when you press the “publish” button and a few weeks go by and nothing really happens. Or you get three or four bad reviews in a row. Or your sales drop for some unknown reason. Or you have no sales and you suddenly realize it’s been quite a while since you did have some.

We talked about the emotional roller coaster that is authordom, HERE.

You’ll want to crawl under a rock and question your right to exist because nobody anywhere wants to read your story. Or review it. Or recommend it to friends. Or any one of a thousand other ways your shiny new manuscript will bring harm to your delicate little writer psyche.

But there’s good news! I can help you avoid the abyss!

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This does not have to be you!

And I could have helped you avoid the freaking ledge! Do you not know how to get ahold of me? Facebook, Twitter, the Contact Me button on the blog, Instagram, Pinterest… You can call. I’m in the book, for pete’s sake. There’s like two guys with my name in the whole United States and I’m not the radical priest in Texas.

Okay, okay, here’s the deal:

  1. You have probably written a pretty good book. You may still f*ck it up, but more than likely it’s completely readable and interesting. (Amazeballs in Jennyspeak.) How can I say this? You’re here on my site, which means you have a clue and you give a damn, and you know the difference. I don’t say that to everybody – check the array of carcasses in my critique group that got a “better luck next time” card from me. My readers have, almost without exception, been good writers. (I say almost because nobody bats .1000)
  1. If it was easy, everybody would write a book. 80% of US Americans want to and the vast majority don’t.
  1. Of those who attempt to write a book, MOST SUCK. Your book probably does not suck. (See #1)
  1. You have a LOT of people who want to help you in whatever way is needed. Don’t be afraid to ask for that help when you’re blocked. (And I don’t mean constipated, but I’m sure you know somebody to call about that, too. It’s not me. I wanna get on the record about that right now.)
  1. You are beautiful, funny, interesting, and a nice person. And your family loves you. Probably friends, too; I only know you online. But let’s give you that one, too.
  1. You have a LOT of people who want to help you in whatever way is needed. Sometimes that means goofing off with them for an hour on Facebook chat (now messenger; I upgraded and it’s totally addictive) until they prod you to get creative and clear the logjam. After all, you managed to put down tens of thousands of words in a mostly cohesive string so far. Odds are a few more thousand are in you. Here’s proof, click HERE.
  1. This was not going to be a list but what the hell, it is now.
  1. As a list, it needed to stop at three or five, but once we sailed past those, ten seemed to be the magic number.
  1. Have a drink. (Like I need to tell you that.) Try writing drunk, like Hemingway said – write drunk, edit sober. It’s worth a shot (get it? Shot?) You may come up with something really interesting. You may not. But at least you’ll be drunk. And cut back on the cat videos. They obviously aren’t helping.
  1. You have a LOT of people who want to help you in whatever way is needed.

Whatever way is needed.

WHAT EVER way is needed.

You have a LOT of people who want to help you in whatever way is needed.

Get it?

Let them.

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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.

Dan Alatorre is the author of several bestsellers and the amazingly great upcoming sci fi action thriller “The Navigators.” Click HERE to check out his other works.

Writing Good Dialogs

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Be sure to enter to win a signed copy of Savvy Stories HERE

 

 



 

 

Dan Alatorre - AUTHOR

I’m told I write good dialogs. (That wasn’t always the case. I used to have baskets full of dialog tags – even flowery ones. I was told those would make baby Jesus cry, so I tried hard to stop – but it was a hard habit to break.)

scared%20mom Yeah, we don’t want that.

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

First, I have the conversation. 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.

eevn rough drafts aer hard wrk eevn rough drafts aer hard wrk

Then, I go back and add in the “beats” – the little actions and other stuff that people do during conversations. Because if I try to do it all at the same time, I usually miss something. Like the timing of a conversation, which is most important. In real…

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Okay, What’s The Big Surprise?

Ta daaaaahhh! Here it is:

YOU can win one of 5 signed paperback copies of “Savvy Stories, funny things I learned from my daughter” by entering a Goodreads promo right now!

Click HERE to enter the promo.

goodreads ad ss 1
Not much to look at, is it?

Okay, you’re giving away a book. Why is that a big deal?

In a word,

BOOK PROMOTIONS = MARKETING

Marketing? Eek! Eek! Eek!

Learn along with me! You need to see how these marketing things work!

savvystories1 perry kirkpatrickJoin the giveaway, and share the links with your friends. When the time comes, I can help promote your book (as I have so many others here) with interviews and guest blog posts, or I’ll tweet it to my 17,000 Twitter followers etc.

We’ll help each other become more successful.

You want that.  

Most author types aren’t great at the marketing stuff. Heck, I’m not sure anybody is. But by entering promos – the kinds you’d hope to do for YOUR book – you’ll see how they work (just like we said to join Goodreads, the world’s largest book club. Have you done that? Send me a friend request when you do. We’ll be buds).

As author types you want to do promotions.

As readers, you want to benefit from promotions.

You’ll have questions when you do. Learn along with me!

Here’s what you need to do:

  • Enter to win my hilarious book: CLICK THIS LINK
  • Post my promo on your Facebook page and Tweet about it. Tell your friends. This is a funny book that’s not likely to offend anybody, so it’s cool. Some of my other stuff, you may wanna not tell your mom about.
  • Newsletter subscribers can get more details but everybody will be updated on what I did and how it’s working. You’ll want that when you go to do your promotion for your book.
  • Maybe YOU did a Goodreads promo. Share that information in the comments section so we have a good collection of ideas like we did for the interview post. What about it worked? What didn’t work? Would you recommend running it on Super Bowl weekend? No? Me, either, but I messed it up and that’s what it is now.
00 Savvy Stories funny bone
See? I’m not the only one who thinks it’s funny.

Some authors run a GR promo for 30 days. That seems long to me. Some run it for ten (that’s what I’m doing). Some buy ads, too, even though the promo itself costs nothing (I spent $50; we’ll see what that gets me).

In the end, we all wanna sell more books. Did having over 2000 Goodreads friends help this promotion? We’ll see. If it does, can YOU have over 2000 Goodreads friends? Sure. I do, so you can.

MOST IMPORTANTLY, we are BUILDING a promo platform.

What?

What’s a promo platform?

TheNavigatorsDanAlatorre
This book will benefit from these tests. So will yours!

Well, I like to test things. I wanna see how Savvy Stories does in this promo before I roll out my new book, The Navigators, and start promoting it.

Savvy Stories is kind of the test run for Navigators – and maybe for your book.

How you become an expert is by doing something a lot. We all need help and ideas for promos because it’s not second nature to us and because the interwebs are changing all the time. What works best? What would you do again? Find out as we do it.

First, as I do this promo, I build interest in me and my OTHER books as well.

Second, after checking it out, maybe some potential readers aren’t interested in Savvy Stories. I have other books for them to look at.

Maybe they follow me on Amazon, or here. When they stroll through my bookstore – my Amazon page – there’s a lot to look at. Sales of other books go up when interest in any book goes up.

Later, if I run a sale or whatever, a LOT of GR readers will already have me on their radar and sales will benefit from that.

 

But first things first. Join the giveaway and share it with your friends!

I’ll keep you posted on the rest!

Have YOU done a Goodreads promo for you book? Tell me about it, below!

Have you entered a Goodreads promotion? Tell us about it!

head shot
Your humble host.

SUBSCRIBE TO MY FREE NEWSLETTER! Get a FREE copy of “25 Great eBook Marketing Tips You Wish You Knew,” FIRST SHOT at new stories, and exclusive behind the scenes access!

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.

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.

 

YOU GUYYYYYS!!!!!!

Look at this! How did this happen???

You are no doubt reading along enjoying today’s post, “20 Questions With Author Barbara Tarn” – as well you should be –

1000 blog followers 994 as of 02022016
It looks like this.

and LOOK what’s also happening today

(more or less).

LOOK!

1000 blog followers 994 as of 02022016 b.jpg
Do you see it?

What, you don’t see?

Step closer to the glass, Clarice.

Closer, please.

Closer

1000 blog followers 994 as of 02022016 c

What?????

Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat???

We are almost at 1,000 followers? HOW DID THAT HAPPEN?

You remember a few weeks ago I was talking about this and saying we might have a party at 1000 and we’d probably get there in March (I hoped; maybe by the end of March)? It’s freaking February second! And I honestly questioned whether we’d ever reach 1000 followers.

And, to be honest, I’m still pretty sure WordPress has made some huge error in calculating all this. The real number is probably around a hundred, but

scorecard, baby!

We will probably reach 1000 today! Or this week! 

Can you believe it?

I can’t. I mean, I can, but I can’t. It’s crazy.

I don’t know why this has me so excited. Except it does.

My little blog that just over a year ago had NO followers except a spambot and a confused but sympathetic friend, now has almost 1000.

I’m probably jinxing myself for posting this now, but after I saw 994 I was pretty sure I’d miss 1000 when it happened and as a result you’d all miss the party!

Well, party on, people!

I think if a lot of you guys re-blog this to your followers, we’ll hit 1000 today. That’s kind of how this stuff works. Otherwise it’ll happen in a few days and we’ll all miss it. That’s kinda like missing the ball drop on New Year’s and watching it on the news the next day, or not seeing you car’s odometer roll over to some big round number. Not nearly as exciting. Hell, I’d gone dark, remember? I wasn’t even paying attention.

Anyway, we have a little bit of time to plan a party. If you want to come over to the house, I’ll be home most of the day compiling The Navigators into one file. (I should probably let you guys see a few sample chapters of The Navigators, too. Hmm… and the cover. It has a cool cover. And a really fun story. Remind me about that later and I’ll do it.)

I can run out and get some champagne but otherwise we have plenty of wine. Do you wanna bring stuff? We only have either two or four beers, but we have LOTS of chips for some reason. And a little leftover hummus. It’s red pepper style. Do you like hummus? The red pepper is good. We just opened it Sunday, so I’m pretty sure it’s still okay to eat. Oh, and cheese. We have a lot of cheese. because we have a lot of wine. And because we like cheese. But bring whatever you like if we don’t have it. I think there are frozen meatballs in the fridge, too.

Anyway, what I’m saying is it’s a party!

And it’s be cause YOU amazing people have read and commented and reblogged and followed and subscribed. (And because of me a little, too.) But now I get to stand here looking smart as a result of all YOUR hard work getting word out there about this blog. (And mine, a little, too.)

Let’s face it, you guys make me look good. So you deserve the cheese and hummus. And a lot more

THANK YOU

(in advance, I guess, but still.)

You’re the best bunch of folks I’ve gotten to know on the internet. I love you guys.

Probably.

No, really, you’re the best.

You really are. I promised myself I wasn’t gonna cry.

Let’s Celebrate!

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Your humble host with almost 1000 followers.

 

 

Thank you for being there. Remember, your blog can do this, too. And a lot more.

You guys rock. 

 

Stopping Traffic

Dan's pic
Your humble host.

Blog traffic is always different on a holiday weekend

I made what I thought was a great post on a Sunday, and I tweeted about it because I wanted it to be read. I can usually expect a high volume of retweets on Twitter and a subsequent high volume of traffic to my blog.

Nope.

I had just launched the newsletter, too, so I was like, Oops, I guess people don’t like the newsletter SO MUCH that they’ve stopped reading the blog!

And the ones that were clicking through to the blog were leaving almost zero comments. (Comments had been very high; dozens a day.)

I knew it was a holiday weekend – MLK Day was that Monday – but I forgot that things are ALWAYS different on holiday weekends.

And it almost doesn’t matter what the holiday is.

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When I worked at a Fortune 500 company and had to do recruiting, ads never did well on holiday weekends. People are doing different things on those days. I developed a wide definition of “holiday” – and there’s basically one every month. We all know (or should know) that everybody is doing things a little differently during Christmas; you ae buying presents and going to parties and putting up a tree! Your writing schedule suffers but your overall schedule is different, and blog traffic shows that, too. Traffic peaked in October, was a little less in November (Thanksgiving is a BIG holiday that takes people out of their schedules) and of course December has Christmas, as I just noted, which screws up almost one whole month and a part of the following month.

Here’s a list of traffic-interrupting holidays. Many are small hiccups but a few are MAJOR traffic slowers:

January – New Year’s Eve/Day. The reasons should be obvious. Everybody’s partying! But it’s still basically “The Holidays.” January also has Martin Luther King Day, and because it’s a 3 day weekend, expect things to be a little different in your blog traffic. Things get back to normal around the 15th, with a hiccup on MLK weekend. MAJOR.

February has Valentine’s Day. A hiccup.

March has Easter, another biggie (but not like Thanksgiving; it’s maybe 1/3 of the Thanksgiving traffic drop) and also St Patrick’s Day – in case your hangover from New Year’s had slipped your mind. So, a minor major (Easter) and a hiccup (St. Paddy’s).

April – while not a holiday, tax returns are due on April 15 and people might be busy.  Or unhappy. It’s more of a hiccup, if that.

May has Cinco De Mayo, for a little more hair of the dog. (It’s not as big as the other drinking holidays, though.) But Mother’s Day is known for travel and upsetting schedules. (Or just being upsetting. It never works out like you think it will, does it?) Then at the end of May is another a three day weekend, Memorial Day. So you have a big hiccup for Cinco De Mayo, a minor major for Mother’s Day weekend, and a MAJOR tremor for Memorial Day weekend.

June has Father’s Day, which doesn’t affect anything, really. Certainly not like Mother’s Day. Not even  hiccup, but I don’t want dads feeling neglected.

July has Independence Day, the 4th of July. That’s another party based 3-day weekend, and folks travel a LOT at that time of year. Do not be alarmed if your CPs disappear and your blog traffic dies. People are on vacation. You should consider doing that, too. It’s usually a MAJOR.

August – not really any holidays, but people vacation a lot in August. Traffic will be slower almost all month. Plus, parents are getting ready for back to school. Some hiccups, but nothing worry about in general, just usually a slightly slower month overall.

September brings ANOTHER 3 day weekend and drinking/socializing with family cookouts, Labor Day. Again, expect traffic to be different. It’ll be a minor major.

October has Halloween, which didn’t seem to affect traffic but it’s worth being aware of it. A hiccup.

November. Do I need to say it? Thanksgiving, baby! Stuff some turkey and stuff your belly but don’t check your blog traffic numbers because it will be miniscule. A MAJOR major.

December has Christmas, which starts affecting things by the 15th and continues through New Year’s, the 31st. You know what I’m about to say.  A triple MAJOR. The majorest.

So what do we do? Well…

None of this means you shouldn’t blog or advertise or whatever on these weekends, just that you need to be aware that people are behaving differently at those times.

  • Blog traffic drops and comments drop a LOT at those times. Don’t panic. It’ll come back. If you were doing a good job before, odds are you’re still doing a good job.
  • Book sales may be slower. For some budgets, that means don’t advertise cos you won’t get your usual return. For other budgets, it means spend MORE so your revenue doesn’t slide. (If book sales were good, expect them to get better!)

Now, I doubt you’ll save this “calendar” or even remember next Memorial Day that things were projected to be slow for a few days. But you MIGHT want to advertise and do certain promotions AROUND those dates if you can.

Know your business and what affects it.

Like I should have.