DO NOT GET DISCOURAGED!! The 6 Things You Need To Do To Be A Successful Author

 

 

If you look at some author groups on Facebook, you hear a lot of complaints: no sales, no reviews, no royalties, marketing is hard…

 

anti_no_crap_yard_signApparently, life sucks for authors.

 

 

DO NOT BUY INTO THIS CRAP!

 

Complaining about book sales is a bitchfest designed to… do what, exactly?

 

COMPLAINER: Is anyone selling books? I hear authors selling one or two every now and then but no one I know is making a killing, or has a best seller!

 

REPLY 1: Not selling as many these days as 2010-2011. I definitely know authors who are doing well. It usually requires writing great books and several of them and sticking with it for years.

 

REPLY 2: No one is going to sell much as long as they continue with Kindle Unlimited.

 

COMPLAINER: My friends say they sell, but what they don’t say, is they buy the books, & give them away. “I say, that’s no sell.” As they don’t make no money, nor royalties on their books.

 

REPLY 3: I have made no money on anything I’ve written or published at all in any format

 

REPLY 4: I published for the first time in January this year and things were going okay until around July when it nose dived. It picked up a bit until this month and now I barely sell one or two a day. I’m hoping that if I self publish my next, which I hope to do early next year, it will kick start sales of my current book.

 

REPLY 5: I have done well but need to put out new books.

 

REPLY 6: My sales have collapsed. The only sales these past few weeks were 6 in Germany, (Amazon de) and as I have to reach 100 Euros before I get paid, I will almost certainly never be paid for those. I assume just too many books out there.

 

REPLY 7: I sold a few here and there until ‘BOOK NAME’ was released in early October. It stood at #1 in SPORTS VENUE best sellers during October and remained in the top 10 so far throughout November, so sales have been brisker.

 

COMPLAINER: A few are selling books, but those authors are going out of their way, to pay promoting companies. Plus traveling to different cities to book signings, & talking about their books to everyone that will listen. Having a box of books in their car, in case someone wants to buy.

 

REPLY 8: marketing has to be done regardless – even if it means door knocking your locl district then moving furture afield. yes cart books in cars – in your handbag what ever where ever, -I used to sell many years back and travelled a long way

 

REPLY 9: Well, I have to admit that I do almost nothing to promote my books. (rueful face)

 

REPLY 10: So very true. It’s a consistent process to build an audience and a following, and requires all of that, and more.

 

REPLY 11: I agree sales have plummeted…wonder what’s happening? Too many books, or too many poor books?

 

REPLY 12: Right now I’m selling more Audio books than ebooks. I’m lucky I have two good narrators and I’m moving all of my books to audio.

 

REPLY 13: I think that audio books are the way to go!

 

REPLY 14: Would you mind sharing names of your narrators please. I would look at all

 

th
I am completely inspired now.

I skipped two replies, because they offered success stories and the other people didn’t seem to read them.

  • One said they had sold 10,000 copies this year so far and was doing well on KOLL, and
  • the other said her friend was doing really well.

 

curious-woman
Why would they do that?

Why did the responders skip the success stories?

 

Because it’s easier to blame other people than to look in the mirror and say “I need to do more.”

 

If life sucks as an author, go do something else. PLENTY of people make money selling books. Two of my friends just got signed with publishers last week. TWO IN THE SAME WEEK. One of my friends is doing so well she just quit her job to write full time. A few of my friends have bestselling books.

 

I don’t know a million people, so what’s happening? Why do I know the success stories and so many other authors don’t?

 

I was a sales manager for Fortune 500 companies for many years, folks, so I know a little about the attitudes of salespeople. What does that have to do with being an author? You’re selling books aren’t you?

 

Well, no, not according to those comments…

 

IF your sales are weak, you have two choices: it’s me, or the stupid buying public.

 

Which means 99.99% of the time, it’s you. Luckily, you can fix what’s wrong!

 

stressed-woman-with-blonde-hair-with-hands-on-head-near-computer
They were just… awful.

I have read LOTS of people’s books. People who WANT to be published. It is a twenty to one ratio of bad to good. And that doesn’t count the 2 or 3 times as many I skip because the opening line sucks or the topic doesn’t appeal to me in some way.

 

I can afford to be fussy! So should you! The buying public is!

 

Look, that doesn’t mean MY opening lines are always amazing, or that every one of my books is a page turner.

 

But they SHOULD BE.

 

You must, must, MUST have a good cover. We’ve talked about this. It’s a mini billboard ad for your book. It MUST make people want to look further – as in, read the blurb.

 

The blurb is not a mini story, it is AD COPY, a small advertisement for your product, the story.

 

The opening lines needs to be interesting. So does the opening paragraph. So does the opening chapter, but an opening chapter has to do a lot of other things, too. Like set up what the book is about.

 

Look, it’s simple if you address it properly. Did you see Schindler’s List or Titanic? We KNOW what happens in BOTH of those stories BEFORE we ever watch ten seconds of film. Titanic sinks. Jews get killed in WWII. There’s your plots.

 

But the stories that get told are amazing, and both became blockbusters.

 

And everybody already knew the stories.

 

Spielberg starts with a candle and a Jewish prayer but quickly gets into watching this wealthy guy get dressed and then go charm a bunch of Nazi officials at dinner. It’s like watching a con artist ply his trade. What’s going on? Who is this guy? LOOK HOW SMART HE IS! He’s conning everybody! I wish I was as charming as that.

 

There’s a whole story going on along with the one we know, but it starts right away and does so in an intriguing manner.

 

What is the ONE piece of advice I’d give any new writer about their story? Take the most interesting thing in the chapter and say it first, in the opening paragraph if possible and in the opening line if you can. Grab my attention somehow.

 

After that, write a good story, keep the story moving, get a decent cover and learn how to write a blurb.

 

THEN you can start to MARKET your book.

 

TO RECAP:6

  1. start with the most interesting thing
  2. write a good story
  3. keep the story moving
  4. good book cover = eye catching
  5. good blurb = makes you wanna click to buy or read more
  6. marketing

 

 

That’s a whopping SIX things you need to do to be successful. I’d be willing to bet that NONE of the complainers are doing all six.

 

Know how I know?

 

I was a sales manager for a long time. I had to work with people I’d trained, but after I trained them on what to do, many didn’t do it.

 

And they weren’t successful because they didn’t.

 

Many, many, many people made more money working for me than they ever did in their entire lives.  Many didn’t do what was necessary and quit or got let go.

 

  • Authors, you have to market. If you don’t, you won’t be successful.
  • You have to write a good book. If you don’t, you won’t be successful.
  • Each of the six building blocks requires the other five, so if one is weak the others can compensate a little but if one doesn’t exist, the entity fails. If one is super strong, that can carry the whole thing. That doesn’t happen often. As in, less than 1 in a million. So you better get good at all six.

 

When you aren’t, your book won’t sell. You can then join the ranks of the complainers who know everything else is at fault except their efforts.

 

But we know the truth.

 

I want you to be successful. Move away from the folks who can’t or won’t do it. The naysayers. The whiners and complainers. You can fail all on your own; you don’t need their input, and odds are they are wasting loads of your time, too.

 

Find the “can do” folks.

 

Thumbs Up

But in the end it’s YOU who has to do it. And we’ll help. Cos complainers have figured out this blog is not the place for them.

 

YOU can do this. It isn’t easy, but it isn’t hard, either. And it’s not luck.

 

If your writing sucks, join a critique group. Inside of 30 days you’ll see stuff you’re doing wrong, and inside of 90 days you’ll be a better writer. Stay in the critique group. A year later you’ll be amazed at how good you’ve become.

 

If your cover sucks, hire somebody to make one. They don’t have to cost $500. I know artists who have made covers for bestsellers that cost under $50. If you don’t have $50, there are cheaper places, too, and you can LEARN to do it yourself for free – as in, you probably can’t do it on day 1, that stuff will suck. It’ll look homemade. You’ll need to learn it.

 

If your marketing sucks, ask other people what worked. A lot of good marketing doesn’t cost anything, like your Amazon page and a Goodreads page, Twitter, Facebook, etc., but you’d be amazed at how many flailing writers don’t have an Amazon page set up!

 

If you’re a crappy storyteller, think about why you want to be a writer. Read good storytellers. Emulate them the way a kid playing baseball wants to emulate Babe Ruth. Listen to audiobooks. By the way, a LOT of stuff is free at the library so it doesn’t have to cost money. Practice your craft in flash fiction challenges and in critique groups.

 

Get the idea? It’s all fixable.

 

If you put in the effort.

 

And stay the hell away from people who are too lazy to do the necessary work and just want to have you end up down at their level to complain  with so they don’t feel bad about their own lack of effort.

 

You. Can. Do it.

 

I’ll help you.

 

You Want Your Book To Read Like A Serial – Even If It’s Not One

I remember reading A Tale Of Two Cities in school and being partly fascinated with it. I don’t pretend I grasped the complexities of the novel at that age, maybe eighth grade or freshman year in high school, but I remember it read a lot like a soap opera – and our teacher informed us that it had in fact been released as a weekly serial.

 

Obviously, I didn’t forget that.

curious-woman2
I just have that kind of mind

But why did a popular author like Dickens release it as a weekly serial instead of just release it as a regular book?

 

Well, if you compare it to soap operas or good, dramatic TV shows (say 24, or The Sopranos, but there are plenty of current examples), they solve a problem or two each week and start a new problem, then leave you with a cliffhanger – you have to tune in next week to see if Jack Bauer gets to the ticking time bomb in time!

 

Soap operas tend to the same thing. The husband comes home early and is about to walk in on the wife and her lover – tune in tomorrow to see what happens!

 

And, by the way, the chapters in our books are supposed to do that.

 

man-reading-book
This is amazing!

A writers we want to create a scene and write until the scene is done (the problem is solved) so we can stop and let the next day or next set of problems start the next chapter – but the story tends to be much better if we don’t.

 

For example, in The Water Castle, the Prince has to go meet with a local tribe of hostile Indians who keep attacking his castle. I set up a day long ride and off he goes with his friend.

 

Where’s the best place to end the chapter?

  • After he gets to the Indian camp and before the big meeting
  • After the big meeting, say they get on their horses and ride away
  • As they are riding into the camp and are met by a bunch of angry Indian scouts pointing spears at them?

 

Our natural inclination is to write the chapter and complete the scene, so we have them go to the camp, sit down, hold the meeting, and ride off into the sunset.

 

But… we’re supposed to put our characters up a tree and throw rocks at them!

 

And… we need some tension to turn a story into a page turner!

 

So the rocks will be: they are met by spears. Hmm. Maybe the meeting won’t go as planned. And the cliffhanger will be – they are met by spears, END SCENE

 

What?

 

curious-woman
I wonder what comes next?

Yeah, you have to start the next chapter to see what happens. Now, maybe the spears come down and the meeting goes as planned. Maybe the prince and his buddy get locked up. (Readers probably won’t think they get killed, but only because they’ve both been pretty integral to the story – but Game Of Thrones regularly killed off main characters). Doesn’t matter. By making the reader turn the page and start the next chapter to find out what happens, the reader is more engrossed in the story and less likely to put the book down. That’s a good thing.

 

So, you kind of want your book to read like a serial even if it’s not.

 

Dickens put out A Tale Of Two Cities as a serial to exploit the fact that he was popular, and he created a lot of buzz each week as readers were dying to know what happened next.

 

Certain current authors have done that with eBooks (Hugh Howie with Beacon 23, for example), and a lot of romance novels are written in serial format. Tons of comic books aka graphic novels are.

 

I have been toying with the idea of releasing my latest story as a serial because that’s almost how it was written. Putting a chapter a week up on the critique group site, their standard format, tends to cause that.

 

Dickens put out 45-chapters of ATOTC in 31 weekly instalments to help launch his new literary periodical titled All the Year Round.

 

Can you imagine Kindle readers having to wait 31 weeks to finish a book?

 

Could you?

 

18k2mkqoaqxtwjpg
Maybe not.

I think the key to launching a novel as a serial would be to group several chapters and release it over maybe 6 installments (6 weeks). Maybe price each segment at 99 cents and have the composite – the whole book – available for a buck less than the total of the installments, so impatient readers like me could just jump ahead and buy the dang thing and read it. Also, you might make the installments available on KOLL but not the composite book, (so you don’t screw yourself out of your royalties).

 

Maybe have a preorder link in each prior book so readers could immediately get the next one…

 

But that’s all business plan stuff.

 

What’s really in play is whether a modern, lengthy book would be well received as a serial. Some have. (We all now understand the importance of writing a novel readers can’t put down.)

 

The big guys have marketing arms to help push whatever they want. A serial release might never go anywhere if it wasn’t marketed properly.

 

I barely know how to market a regular book, I can’t imagine marketing a serial is easier!

 

What are your thoughts? How many segments is too many for a serial? How long would you spread it out? Have you ever bought one/read one?

.

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.

 

 

What the HECK is a Virtual Assistant???

Your humble host.
Your humble host.

I know people who use Virtual Assistants and swear by them, and I know a lot of authors who are swamped with trying to run a blog and Twitter and Instagram and Pinterest and Snapchat, etc., and still find time to write – but don’t think they can delegate any of these tasks, and don’t think they can afford a VA.

So I asked my friend Michelle to explain what a Virtual Assistant is, and what she does, and to answer some basic questions for our group.

If you have additional questions or want to know more, ask your questions below as comments (others may have the same question) or contact Michelle directly. I’ll then ask her to answer it here, too, as a reply, and everyone can see her wonderful, friendly demeanor.

.

MM 1A note to Dan’s readers: This post may come across as quite self-promoting, I know. I am writing about what a virtual assistant is because I AM a virtual assistant. I feel great about what I do, love helping people get organized, and think many people can benefit from quality assistance. What I’m not doing is writing to convert dozens of readers to clients. I work with only a handful of clients at a time, so that really isn’t my goal at all! If you are interested in more information, I would be more than happy to consult with you, and I have a wonderful network of great VAs who I can refer you to if we aren’t a good fit or if I just don’t have the bandwidth to help you.

That being said…

What is a Virtual Assistant??

I’m not talking about Facebook’s “M” or Siri or Cortana, here. A Virtual Assistant is (generally) an independent contractor who provides business support for multiple clients remotely. Some are generalists, and others have specialties. There is a very wide variety of personalities and skills in the VA industry. It has been growing for well over a decade and shows no signs of stopping.

MM 2As a VA, I work personally with creative professionals in order to maximize their time and efficiency and make them more productive and profitable. It’s a partnership in which I take over administrative tasks so that my clients can focus their energy on things only they can do.

If you are a writer, you need to put pen to paper (or, you know, fingers to keyboard)! All of the other things: the invoicing, website management, research, bookkeeping, travel planning, newsletter scheduling – those things should be handled by someone who can’t do what you are gifted and trained to do best.

Why Contract a Virtual Assistant??

Yeah. That.
Yeah. That.

I generally find that I can complete a client’s administrative and business support tasks in about 50-75% of the time it takes a client to do the same task, so not only does the client gain that much time, but the work is completed SOONER than it would have been if the client was handling it alone. Here are a few other quick reasons.

Partner with a VA so that you can…

  • Keep up the momentum of your growing business by letting your VA take care of things quickly.
  • Take a step back and look at the bigger picture of your business while your VA takes care of more of the nitty gritty stuff (including reports and analytics to help show you the progress you are making).
  • Avoid burnout by delegating the things you hate and focusing only on what you love to do.

What is the Cost of a Virtual Assistant??

Value is the importance, worth, and usefulness of something.

Of course, dollars do matter. As I said earlier, there is a lot of variety in this industry! You may pay anywhere from $2-$200 per hour, depending on what you need help with and the skills/experience of the VA, or you may pay a set retainer per month. Essentially, you can find a VA on any budget! I will caution you, though, that you get what you pay for. I have gone through several VAs of my own, and I’ve seen this to be true.

So before you decide on a budget and begin a search for your own VA, think about value.

tired_1794882bHow much is your time worth? What is it worth to you to get an extra 15, 30, or 50 hours a month to invest back into your craft, give to your family, or further your education?

What would it mean to you to finally be organized and on top of your back-end business tasks that bog you down? To know that nothing is falling through the cracks?

What sucks up your time that you DREAD doing? How would it feel to get that off your plate?

Examples and More Information

I’d like to leave you with a hopefully-inspirational list of tasks that you, as a writer, could delegate to a Virtual Assistant. (Note: it will be up to you to make sure the person you partner with is capable of performing all of the tasks you need assistance with, so make sure to vet your candidates! Some of the tasks below require specialized skills.)

  • Research & Fact-Finding
  • Scheduling Interviews or Promotional Activities
  • Formatting
  • Email Sorting & Screening
  • Invoicing & Bookkeeping
  • Proofreading & Editing
  • Website Set-Up & Maintenance
  • Publishing Assistance
  • Copyright Registration
  • E-Newsletter Management

Michelle Martinez partners with busy creative professionals to maximize their time and efficiency and keep them organized. She is the all-in-one solution for her client’s virtual business support needs. For more information, please visit http://michelle.io or email michelle@michelle.io and follow @MichelleAssist on Twitter!

.

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.

When Should I Start Publicizing My New Book?

Advance marketing? the book's not even finished yet!
Advance marketing?
The book’s not even finished yet!

Occasionally I get a question from a fellow author with a problem and I answer it here.

Dear Dan,

My novel is still in its first draft. It´s long, I still have to finish it, and I write a LOT every day, but there´s still a lot of time before it will be published. Many months, probably. Do you think it’s right to start talking about it on my website? What if I don´t know its title yet?

Thanks,

Worried Writer

PS: I´d love to read your novel. Is it possible to get it in paperback?

.

Dear Worried,

Yes, you can start engaging readers now, so there is an interested fan base when the book comes out. A few months before the book comes out, up to maybe as much as six months, is about the right window for advance marketing.

(We recently discussed marketing HERE and HERE.)

OAK TREES FOR SALE
OAK TREES FOR SALE
(eventually)

If you market too early, you may peak fan interest before the book is ready. Start too late, and of course you don’t get enough buzz generated.

Plus, telling readers about the story as it moves along is fun. You can hint at a romantic scene you just finished, or a dramatic twist – tease them a little! That’s what movie previews do, right? And TV commercials? They hint at what’s coming up. The reason a strip tease is sexier than just seeing a naked lady walk out onstage is the anticipation it builds. A menu with pictures making the food look good will get your mouth is watering.

Titles are tough.

Honestly, some of those aren't half bad!
Honestly, some of those aren’t half bad!

What few words can possibly sum up your epic tome? That’s a lot of pressure. Make a working title and consider asking your blog followers if it is a good one; give them a synopsis so they can see if the title “fits” – or maybe they can suggest one. (That’s actually something we could do as a blog post/writing challenge: Name The Story. Let me know and we’ll do it. It’ll be fun. Readers can make up names and vote for the best one).

Then, when you are ready, if you change the name, you can tell your readers. If I were to change the name of Poggibonsi to “Love, Italian Style” and I TOLD everyone, they’d easily switch over. It would give me another excuse to talk about the book, too, generating additional buzz.

Stop spamming me!
Stop spamming me!

There are a lot of ways to market badly, so I’ll only say this: be honest about your enthusiasm, but try not to be obnoxious and tell fans “Buy my book!” ten times a day on every social media outlet you use. However, be sure to let them know it’s coming, and then that it’s here, and that you want them to buy it. When you get good reviews, boast about it. Enthusiasm is contagious. People like it, and it’ll sell books. Just don’t go overboard. 10% or fewer of your posts should be a BUY MY BOOK post or tweet.

COMING SOON
COMING SOON, I promise!

And be sure to thank your fans for being such great followers, for buying your book, and for writing reviews. People like being thanked.

That was a really great question. Thanks for asking it!

See? Didn’t that feel good?

By the way, ALL my books are available in paperback, and the new novel will be, too. Stay tuned! You can read two sample chapters HERE and see some advance praise HERE and see the sample cover HERE

.

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.

Flash Fiction Challenge: Add A Line

Your humble host.
Your humble host.

I have always wanted to do a challenge like this.

While this may not technically be flash fiction, since there’s no real definition of flash fiction, well then this definitely is flash fiction.

Below is a chunk of my new story, The Water Castle.

I’ll set the stage and walk away.

You take over from there.

Each of you will start out adding a line onto the prior person’s line. Or a paragraph. A description, or action, or inner thoughts.

Or whatever.

You can add up to 250 words for your “line,” more or less. Because you may need some description or you may need dialogue, etc., we’re not going to be strict on that. If you get to 1000 words, dial it back, but otherwise go crazy.

Me! Me! Me!
Me! Me! Me!

The idea is to have 10 or 20 or 50 different people all contribute and then see where we went. It’s not important where my story went, and if you’ve been reading it, don’t try to get this one back on track. Go wherever the prior person’s paragraph sends you.

It’s like jazz music. It’s created right on the spot.

And some jazz really, really sucks.

Hopefully this won’t.

We will get back to regular flash fiction challenges that are more traditional next week. Maybe slightly longer. So look forward to writing 2500 words on something good and thought-provoking in a week!

.

HERE IS THE “STARTER” STORY:

After all the years of riding by and wondering, so far the tower was much less interesting than the stories had let on. She wondered why she’d never entered it before now.

Gina realized then that she’d still been holding her breath, sweating like she’d run a mile. The concrete floor around her was riddled with debris, mostly oak leaves and trash. There were puddles from the recent rains. She forced her inner germophobe to relax, taking deep breaths of the musky air. No one had been here in a while, and even if people slept there at night, nobody was there now.

She looked around. On the far side of the circular room, under the stone steps, in a wedge too small to walk under, she spied a set of black hinges. The weather hadn’t ruined them like it had everything else; the steps served as a makeshift roof. Leaves and dirt covered the rest of whatever the hinges held. She crept over to it.

The tower didn’t seem set high enough to have a lower level. Most things in Florida didn’t.

She pushed the leaves away with her foot. It appeared to be a door. Kneeling, she brushed away the moist black dirt. She clapped her hands to knock the mess off them. The sudden noise inside the small area was louder than she expected, echoing up the tower’s insides and nearly scaring her. She glanced at her hands, frowning. They were stained nearly black.

Whatever. The thick wooden door appeared relatively new, which is to say, it didn’t look hundreds of years old like the rest of the tower. It was square, with huge black hinges on one side and a big iron ring on the other. She worked to slide a finger under the rusted pull, forcing the aged metal to comply. It inched upwards, letting her grasp it with her whole hand – but not without leaving a few marks on her fingertips.

Gina pulled. The door did not move.

She placed one hand on the side of the little door and grasped the ring firmly with the other hand, taking a deep breath of the putrid air.

Nothing.

She sat back on her heels, staring at door. It didn’t appear heavy enough to withstand her pulling on it. Maybe it was stuck. She put her hands on the sides of the wooden frame, trying to jiggle it back and forth. It didn’t budge.

A drop of sweat fell from her forehead. She sat back again, wiping her shoulder across her brow.

She grasped the stubborn ring one last time, using both hands, putting her foot on the side of the door.

Her fingers crowded the iron ring. She strained her arms as the rough metal dug into her skin.

The door opened a fraction. The wood bent against the old hinges, slowly opening to a dark cavity below. She grabbed the edge of the door and pried it open.

The aroma of fresh water and the sounds of the spring emanated up from the dark space. Gina leaned forward carefully, trying to not catch a stray bat or spider in the face. Cool air flowed up from the cellar. She pushed the door open wider. Dirt and spider webs lined its edges. Inside, a set of stairs descended to another concrete floor.

She leaned back, reaching a foot out to touch the first stone step. It was free of debris, unlike everything else in the tower, and its edges were clean and straight, not worn down like the ones going up the tower wall. The only dirt on these steps was the dirt she had just allowed to fall in on them.

She put some weight on the step, testing it to make sure it wouldn’t crumble to dust and drop her the twelve or so feet onto the hard concrete below.

It held.

She crawled forward, putting both feet on the step, and climbed down into the cellar.

The bright daylight outside filtered in from above. She eased down the steps.

In the center of the room sat a round, framed pool, about three feet across. It was lined with bricks and rose only inches from the floor, but it was full to the surface and rippling with water. It was the only thing in the room besides the stairs. Light seemed to emanate up from it. Gina stepped up to it and knelt down.

Inside, the rim was dotted with glowing green and blue embers, like odd lightning bugs, out of focus under the surface. The water was clear, like a swimming pool. It was visible down to the bottom, however far that was. She guessed maybe ten feet, like the one at Stacie’s house. She hovered over the opening, letting her hair dangle over her shoulders.

Leaning on one arm, she reached out a cautious finger to touch the water’s surface. It was far too clear to harbor germs or dysentery, looking more pure than the stuff that came out of their faucets at home. It had a practically had a fragrance to it, like summer rain or a clear stream.

Her finger touched the water. It was cool. The springs’ temperature was about 72 degrees year ‘round, since they came from the underground aquifer. She’d experienced that at Weekie Watchee when they went swimming there on a class trip – nice on the hands but icy on the body.

She gazed into the opening. Was it a well? Why put a well inside the tower when the springs were twenty feet away?

She dipped her dirt-stained hand into the water, withdrawing it to rub the mud off. Black droplets fell into the well as she worked the bud from her fingers. She leaned over to rinse her hands, immersing them past the wrists.

The water seemed to cling to her, pulling her towards it. Invisible hands grasped her wrists and drew her downward.

Gina jerked backwards, falling onto the hard floor. She scrambled to her feet, ready to flee up the stairs. She pressed herself against the wall, heart pounding, rubbing her wrists, watching the well bubble and roil. A green light glowed from its core.

Her heart was in her throat. A fine mist drifted out from the pool and down across the floor. The smells of mildew now permeated the air. She stepped back, not wanting the fog to touch her.

As she pressed herself into the wall, the whole room began to glow. She held her breath. The noise of the cicadas and locusts was now buzzing in her ears, dizzying her. The stench of the mold wafted down the steps and permeated her lungs.

.

That’s it! Whoever adds their line first, the next person has to read it and add to it in the comments below. I will periodically add them into the story as necessary, so you can comment like usual.

Ooh, what happens???

You tell me! Good luck, jazz musicians!

Here are the rules:

  1. As soon as you see this challenge, add to the story by posting your “line” in the comments section followed by a link to your blog IN THE SAME COMMENT.
  2. Don’t think, just do it. Do it now.
  3. On your blog, also post your line. Maybe explain why you have a random paragraph just sitting there, otherwise people may think you’ve had a stroke. You’re creative enough to handle that.
  4. Tell your blog readers and friends to come add a line.
  5. Have fun with it.
  6. Show off a little.
  7. You can add another line after 5 comments have been added between your prior comment.
  8. Feel free to make suggestions or cheer others on.
  9. There really can’t be nine rules for a challenge like this.

I’ll assemble the finished piece into one post and put it up next Friday.

That’s it! Get to it!

.

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.