Here’s How It Happens

02052015 Italy 2015 (113)I often get asked how I am able to write a blog, write books, do critiques, and still function on planet Earth.

I’m not always sure about that last part, but we’ll assume they are not implying I am a Martian or from Hell or something.

(We recently discussed what makes great writing, HERE)

I’ve talked about it, but some of the “get up at 4am” stuff didn’t fly well with some of you, so among the many other parts of my many efficient habits, is: I tell pieces of my story into my phone.

Now, I have nothing against jotting down an idea with pen and paper. But when I’m driving, that’s not easy to do. Or good to do. And pulling over every 3 minutes when another good idea hits is equally annoying.

I use talk to text on my phone and email it to my home computer, and translate it later.

That translate is important, because I talk fast and don’t enunciate in enough robotic cadences to have my often-irritating phone from hell understand every word. Sometimes when I go to read it, even I don’t know what the hell I meant.

I was only slightly more coherent than this guy.
I was only slightly more coherent than this guy.

(I once voice-texted with an author friend while I was drinking near a Jacuzzi in Orlando. She recalls it as being particularly hilarious because my phone was at its evil best and the alcohol made my proofreading even worse than usual. She claims it was one of our funniest conversations ever. We are thinking of doing our upcoming interview drunk, using only talk to text.)

So, at the risk of embarrassing myself to the point of needing to take up residence on our closest planetary neighbor, here is the talk-to-text version and subsequent translation from a thought I had today. It took less than five minutes to dictate, and would usually take about 15-30 minutes to decipher and form into a relevant post. (Typically, a vignette like this would go into one of my Savvy Stories anthologies, like the upcoming “FOURthcoming: funny things I learned from my preschool daughter.”)

It's the phone!
It’s the phone!

First, the talk to text gibberish (keep in mind, my phone hates me but I am sober):

So, I saw how it happens.

 

Some comedian made a joke that your parents picked you up one day and then sit you down and then never picked you up again. It’s a little sad and poignant but it’s also kind of funny and thought-provoking

 

And I saw how it happens when my daughter was in preschool, she went three days a week and had a pretty late start time

 

My wife and I work some odd hours so we didn’t care how late the kids stayed up because she got plenty of sleep should take naps in the afternoon after school if she needed more sleep she go to bed earlier but

 

For the most part she would fall asleep around 930 or 10 o’clock sometimes 1030 watching TV with us on the couch.

 

We had a routine. We would eat dinner, we would do some stuff, and then we would watch TV or play games or whatever, but then when it was about that time we would start turning off the lights and put on a TV show that was deafly not interesting to a child so no cartoons maybe a baseball game or sometimes survivor because that was a pretty good show for her to watch she likes the games competitions

 

Anyway that was our routine. For long time. And it sounds funny but I won’t lie part of the reason why workout is so that I can pick up my daughter. I was around too many people who are grown and grown they had to pick up their kids. Honestly, we had a birthday party I was grunting and groaning picking up their kids as I put him on a trampoline because he’ll some of those kids are happy. The bigger ones especially. Older ones but my kids not that old and not that heavy so I didn’t want to be grunting and groaning when I picked her up

 

And I wanted to be able to pick her up for a long time

 

Putting your child in your arms and caring them off the bed is a two minute long hug that one day will stop. I knew this.

 

And then one day it got taken away from me. With the new routine of going to kindergarten every day and getting up a lot earlier, routine was formed

 

It was dinner then a little bit of goofing off and then a bath or shower. Because we usually eat dinner so late, we basically a compressed all the times and dinner segued right into shower segued right into brushing your teeth and going to bed. Often, I wasn’t upstairs helping her get her shower anymore. So often, I missed saying good night to her. But what also happened was, there was no need to carry her off to bed because she was already upstairs near her bed. She walked on down after brushing her teeth climbed in the bed and went to sleep

 

And that’s when I realized that with rear occasions where exceptions, I probably put her down and didn’t pick her up again

 

I probably carried her to bed five nights a week last year. Actually, three months ago I was still doing that. Now I’m not doing it at all

 

Now I’m Harley doing it at all.

 

 I don’t like it

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That was borderline indecipherable!
That was borderline indecipherable!

Whew! Rough, huh? Good thing we’re all friends.

Now, the translation (and obviously, we edit a bit and arrange things as well, because speech isn’t writing, folks!):

So, I saw how it happens.

A comedian once made a joke that “your parents picked you up one day and then set you down – and then never picked you up again.”

It’s a little sad and poignant, but it’s also kind of funny – and thought-provoking.

And I finally saw how it happens.

When my daughter was in preschool, she went three days a week and had a pretty late start time. My wife and I work from home and log some odd hours, so we didn’t necessarily care how late the kid stayed up because she got plenty of sleep. She’d take naps in the afternoon if necessary, and if she needed more sleep, she’d go to bed earlier. But for the most part she would fall asleep around 9:30 or 10 o’clock watching TV with us on the couch.

What's not to love?
What’s not to love?

We had a routine. We would eat dinner, we would do some family stuff (watch TV or play games or whatever), but then when it was about that time we would start turning off the lights and put on a TV show that was definitely not interesting to a child – so, no more cartoons, maybe a put on a baseball game. Sometimes “Survivor” because that was a pretty good show for her to watch. She likes the games and competitions.

Anyway, that was our routine for a loooooong time.

And it sounds funny, but I won’t lie: part of the reason why I work out every day is so I can lift up my daughter.

I’ll wait for your amusement to die down. Hear me out on this one.

I was around too many people who moaned and groaned whenever they had to lift up their kids.

Didn’t want to be one.

It all goes by too quickly to waste time complaining about it.

In all honestly, we had a birthday party and I was grunting and groaning picking up their kids as I put them on our trampoline, because, hell, some of their kids are freaking heavy!  Especially the bigger ones that are just a few years older than my kid!

But that’s why I caught it. The “heavy” kid was eight. And I don’t mean fat or anything, I just mean she weighs more than the 45lbs my kid clocks in at. Enough to notice. Enough to groan when picking her up a fourth and fifth time. You get the idea. You’ve been there.

My kid was five.

That meant in just three short years, I’d very likely not be picking up my kid so much. Maybe sooner.

And of course, that means some time after that, I wouldn’t be picking her up any more.

Awww...
Awww…

And I want to be able to pick her up for a long time.

Putting your child in your arms and carrying her off the bed is a two minute-long hug that one day will stop. I knew this.

And then one day, without warning, it got taken away from me.

With the new routine of going to kindergarten every day, and getting up a lot earlier, a new routine was formed.

It was dinner, then a little bit of goofing off, and then a bath or shower. Because we usually eat dinner so late, we basically compressed all the times and dinner segued right into shower segued right into brushing your teeth and going to bed.

Often, I wasn’t upstairs helping her shower anymore.

So often, I missed saying good night to her.

But what also happened was, there was no need to carry her off to bed because she was already there. She brushed her teeth and walked down the hallway, climbed into her bed, and went to sleep.

It was perfect. She didn’t fuss and cry about her bedtime like a lot of kids do. Not yet, anyway.

And that’s when I realized that – with rare exceptions – I probably put her down and didn’t pick her up again.

I probably carried her to bed five nights a week last year. Actually, I was still doing it three months ago.

Now I’m hardly doing it at all.

I saw how it happens.

I don’t like it.

.

So? Did I get ya tearing up a little? No? Maybe?

It’s okay, sometimes it’s too early or you’re not in the right mood. Usually if I play around with it I can tug at the heartstrings a little. Remember, no tears in the writer, no tears in the reader.

Anyway, that 670 words sample is a taste of how I do some of the stuff I do. Hope it helps!

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Your humble host.
Your humble host.

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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.” Check out his other works HERE.

FLASH FICTION CHALLENGE

Your humble host.
Your humble host and carnival barker.

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

As most of you know, my character names tend to be just as boring as watching the grass grow or paint dry.

Steve. Melissa. Barry.

Yawn.

It’s just never been one of my things to name my character Zora or Borax or something like that. With me you might get a Nikki.

I think the most exotic name I came up with was Gina. No, actually it was probably Julietta.

Yawn.

I know, right?

Another problem I struggle with is titles. We’ve discussed this. It’s tricky to get just the right name for a story.  I bet every one of you has a WIP with a goofy name you don’t love.

Now, one day while I was thinking up character names, I thought – go to a list of baby names on the internet and see what’s there! THAT will solve your problem!

It didn’t.

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

So I used the name of the kids in my daughter’s preschool class.

But it occurred to me that if there are websites for random number generators, there are probably websites that are name generators!

In there was!

And it sucked.

It gave me names like Zora and Borax.

New Method: one word from each book cover
New Method: one word from each book cover

However, it also occurred to me that there was probably a random title generator.

And there was!

And it… was kinda interesting.

I chuckled as I looked at some of the titles it gave me – but it made me think how FUN it would be to write stories based on some of those titles.

So I of course immediately thought of you. Why not? You’re a fun type of person. Mostly.

CONGRATULATIONS!

WELCOME TO OUR FIRST FLASH FICTION CHALLENGE!

This idea is borderline brillaint, Dan!
This idea is borderline brillaint, Dan!

Did you see that coming? So here’s the deal. First of all you go to this website

http://www.kitt.net/php/title.php

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

And get six titles. Pick ONE to write your flash fiction story about.

BTW, the definition of flash fiction is: whatever you want it to be. So sayeth Wiki:

“Flash fiction is a style of fictional literature or fiction of extreme brevity.[1] There is no widely accepted definition of the length of the category.”

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 some editing.

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 batty.
  4. Post your link to your story here in the comments section.
  5. You have until Friday 10/16/2015 at 12 noon EST, that’s Tampa Florida US of A time, for those of you who live elsewhere.

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.” Check out his other works HERE

Author Interview with TA Henry – get ready to smile, it’s a kick!

T A HenryFolks, it’s always fun to chat with friends, so it was a blast to interview T. A. Henry for this interview. I hope you enjoy it as much as did and will check out her new book that releases TODAY!!!

T.A. Henry is a Pacific Northwest transplant who loves it there. “I am a stay at home mom who home schools her only kiddo. I hike, crochet, and yoga with all my spare time. LOL. I like to think I am funny. I hear I am a good friend. I think the secret to that is I have very little judgement.”

Dan: What makes you so damn interesting anyway?

T.A.: I am obscenely boring and that’s what makes me so interesting.

I don’t think it’s possible to be “obscenely” boring. How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

30 days.

That’s fast! Maybe obscenely fast…

In fact, I was still typing like a mad woman at 11:51 PM on the 30th of November last year. But I made it, uploaded with three minutes to spare. What can I say, I like to live dangerously.

So it was for NaNoWriMo?

It was. I do all my novel writing during Nano. It’s a huge push during November to get a manuscript to functional. I can’t imagine asking my friends and family to make that kind of sacrifice year round. And to be honest, I’m still really slow at the rest. I needed January through April to edit my Nano novel, then July and August to correlate, analyze, and make changes based on Beta feedback. Not a lot of time in there for new novels. Not yet anyway.

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

T A Henry 2Total control. I choose everything. It’s published where I want. It has the cover I want. I took a departure from the norm in style and I didn’t have to defend myself to an agent, editor, or publisher.

I think I see a theme emerging: CONTROL!!! Home school, indie… is that present in your stories, too?

Whew. Dive right in there. Let’s pick apart my less than pleasant character traits right off. LOL. I never must have thought about it as control but more as responsibility. If I do it, it will get done right. With my son, I have a responsibility to provide an education that is best suited to him. With my book, I have a responsibility to give it the best chance at being read. I honestly did not believe in the case of Scripting the Truth, that was with a traditional publisher, if I could have even gotten one for it.

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

So Scripting the Truth started as a dream, in fact, as a naughty dream. In my dream, “the guy” is working for a porn studio and she goes to audition and they pan her because her boobs are too small so she offers to… well that’s not important. I realized of course that I couldn’t write that book. So it underwent a few modifications.

Don’t be so sure! I was ready to keep reading! (You can give your short synopsis or blurb, since readers will want to know more after reading that) Plus now I get to use the tag “boobs” so it’ll get a lot more SEO hits. I may have to add that as a question, actually: “Can you work the word ‘boobs’ into one of your answers, please?”

At loose end in post World War II London, Lady Margaret Leighton chances upon a movie poster showcasing the young soldier she gave her heart to while serving as a military nurse. Desperate to reconnect with him, she uses her wits and newly discovered writing muse to scheme her way into the movie studio where he is an actor. Molly is certain they will live happily ever after. And they just might… But first Molly has to figure out who she is and what she wants. Can she made this unexpected career work with the expectations of her elite family? She’ll try to do it all while trying to keep the seams on her stockings straight.

 

T A Henry 4
TA’s dog. “The pup is my mutt, I use the term with realistic endearment. LOL. His name is Jersey Cow.”

Speaking of stockings, let’s get to the important stuff: Can you wash light and dark clothes together? Have you even turned a bunch of stuff pink in the washer?

I used to be very anal about separating all my colors. As a kid I was supposed to do the laundry and I could never figure out where to put my dad’s pale yellow polo shirt. I turned many versions of that shirt a few colors. Then I lived in an apartment with the smallest washing machine ever and I started just throwing everything in together. It was fine. I felt so betrayed, all those years of separating, the extra work, and time, and money….all for nothing. Sigh.

It’s a damned conspiracy is what it is. I separated colors FOREVER and my wife let me just because she was happy I was doing laundry. Then I saw her doing it and I was like waaaaiiit!

Bwhahahahah.

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

Depends on the work. For Scripting the Truth, I wrote in first person. All from Molly’s point of view.

TA's blog
TA’s blog

What about your blog? How and why did you start that?

The writers from my group told me I needed to get online if I ever wanted to publish. So I started to blog about Nanowrimo, a blog a day, just describing the process of writing 50 thousand words in 30 days or less.

 

How long have you done Nanowrimo? And do you recommend it?

2015 will be my fourth Nanowrimo. As I mentioned I lost the first two years, partly due to bad time management and partly due to the complicated nature of my first novel attempt, which I am still working on. LOL

 

T A Henry 6What can you tell new authors are some of the benefits of accepting that challenge?

Oh, man. Nano is amazing. It’s like super charging your creative drive for a month. I highly recommend getting completely involved locally if you can. I am lucky enough to live in a Region where the MLs make a huge effort to host a write in a day the month of November. Write ins for the uninitiated involved a bunch of writers gathering at a coffee shop, library, restaraunt, and writing together. We have word sprints, how much can you get out in ten minutes, in five, in two. Faster, faster, faster. Yeah, now you won a silly little prize. People will help you work through plot issues, or character problems. You can shout out, I need a name for a twenty something male jerk and eight responses will come back instantly. Support. Nano equals support. And for me, I am about one and a half times as productive at a write than I am at home, and I take my kiddo to write in half the time. The pressure of hearing everyone else type, I come up with something to get my own keys clacking.

ANOTHER pantser!
ANOTHER pantser!

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

Pantser all the way.

Oh, I hate you! WHY pantser?

This comes up a lot in Nano discussions and I think people who plot have practically written the whole thing before the month even begins. The joy of writing 50 thousand words in 30 days or less is actually writing it during the month. If you follow a detailed outline you might as well not even Nano, you’re a cheater. >raspberry<

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

So I failed my first two Nano endeavors…

That means you didn’t get 50,000 words written in 30 days?

Yes, and then one year my husband bought me No Plot, No Problem (Chris Baty). He recommends tracking your time usage for one week and seeing what you can give up, if only in the short term. So I did this and discovered I was spending way more time than I thought on email, Facebook, surfing the web and TV. Granted I had a small child and I was pretty worn (um, this is actually the word I meant – threadbare, in tatters) by the time I got him down at night, but still. I cut all that out the next November and bam, I won.

Have you ever been recognized by a fan in public for your writing, or when was the first time a fan came up to you in public (not an author event or signing)?

Ok so I don’t have any fan stories, probably because I don’t have any fans…

T A Henry 3Nobody does. We just have stalkers. They’re polite, though. Usually.

(Laughing) I still remember the first time someone quoted me to me. I was having a conversation with someone and they were like “I just read this interesting bit about….” Yep, from my blog. They were using it as a factoid for the argument. LOL. And then recently someone texted me to tell me they were reading a great book they thought I would love. I reminded them I reviewed it a few months earlier and their response was great: oh so that’s where I got this, thanks for the recommendation.

Still, to have somebody quote you to you – pretty cool? Did you let them win the argument for that?

I totally did. I also rubbed it in that they were quoting me to me and we had a good laugh about it.

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

Buy a Morgan. Hire a nanny for a few hours every day. Oooh, and a weekly house cleaner. My wants are pretty simple.

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

Scripting the Truth launches today! Available on Amazon in print on demand and kindle versions.

Awesome! Give us a little taste!

Okay, here’s an excerpt:

T A HenryBy the following morning I had concocted a plan. I dressed in my favorite Schiaparelli suit for the aura of professionalism it lent my visage, which I desperately needed if I was going to pull off the plan I had in mind. I rang for a cab to drive me to the Lime Grove Studio, timing my arrival for mid-morning in hopes that most of the office staff would be having their elevenses and I could successfully parry with a lesser office being. Sadly, there was but an office boy in total at Lime Grove. I moved onto Islington as the next closest office of Rank Organization. Here I struck pay dirt. The office was busy despite it being almost upon the sacred lunch hour. I straightened my beret, checked my lipstick, and powdered my nose before tackling the gargoyle in charge.

“I have business with Patrick Dumount. Please let him know Lady Margaret Leighton is here to see him.” I hoped my no nonsense verbiage combined with my most brisk tone would get me past the first hurdle.

“You have business do you?” The woman’s tone was designed to mock. I got a little nervous.

“I do.” Simple and direct. Act as though there is no reason she shouldn’t do exactly what I wanted her to do. That was the trick.

“I’ll bet. You must be the ninth girl this week who tried the business sham to get to see Patrick, and the 200th since that film hit the box office. Now be off with you before I call security.”

“Oh but I know Patrick. I am sure if you told him Lady Margaret Leighton was here he would want to see me.”

“Listen sweetheart pretending to be nobility is actually an offense punishable by law. So take yourself off now.”

“My father really is the Duke of Richmond and I am Lady Leighton and I need to see Patrick Dumount on urgent business.” I found myself getting a bit short in the temper.

“Tell you what honey, bring the good Duke down here and then maybe I’ll believe your story.” With that she picked up her phone and began to slowly push buttons. “I’m calling the security officer right now. I’d be long gone before he arrives if I were you.”

Unless I was prepared to involve my father in this mess I had no choice but to retire bested. As I slowly made my way to the door a flyer on the cork board caught my eye.

.

Good stuff. Good luck with the book launch and thank you so much for dropping by!

Fans, you can reach TA here on her blog

https://tahenryauthoress.wordpress.com/

and on Facebook, Twitter, etc. Check out Scripting the Truth on Amazon TODAY!

.

Your humble host.
Your humble host.

REBLOG me! Or in this case, TA. 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.

Interested in guest posting? 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.” Check out his other works HERE.

NY Times Bestseller!!! – AND – USA Today Bestseller!!! Woo hoo!!!

This idea is borderline brillaint, Dan!
This idea is borderline brillaint, Dan!

I’ve seen quite a few authors make the New York Times bestseller list and/or the USA Today bestseller list so I wanted to know what all was involved in doing such a thing. Lots, of course. Lots of sales, lots of promotions.

Lots of everything.

But one author did it by putting together her stories with other authors in in anthology.

Ooh, that’s interesting…

Now, it’s not like they broadcasted the information that subsequently got them the title of USA Today Bestselling Author. I had to friend one of the authors on Facebook under a fake name (I pretended to be a mid-twenties female fan on FB) so she’d have a conversation with me – and eventually, after a few weeks, in bits and pieces, she gave up the goods.

Hello!
Hello!

And what she said opened my eyes.

(Yours, too. Right now you’re thinking: Dan’s a sneaky fucker.)

Yep.

When it comes to promotions, pull out all the stops. If somebody won’t tell Dan the author/blogger, let them tell somebody they think is a fan. (And I was a fan. Right after I friended her for being a USA Today bestselling author. I just used a fake personality. Is that wrong? It’s like being an undercover cop.)

What did I learn?

It's nice to have friends.
It’s nice to have friends.

In the USA Today bestselling author’s case, what happened was she contributed a story to an anthology along with 8 or 9 other authors, and they all promoted the book.

It did well and made the USA Today bestseller list! USA Today uses e-Books; at that time the NY Times didn’t (it still may not, I don’t know.)

Think about it. WHY DID THAT WORK?

 

9 authors promoting the book

9 authors tweeting about the book

9 authors running ads

9 authors utilizing their different ad resources

9 authors blogging

…and pimping…

…and pushing…

Solo marketing efforts when not guided by skilled smart people.
Solo marketing efforts when not guided by skilled smart people.

That’s GOTTA be better than you going it alone, right?

What did the anthologies have in common? The book had a theme. They all, more or less, were based around that theme. And by more or less, I mean less. It was a loose interpretation of anthology, but whatever. The goal was to bind together and make a splash with quality stories.

And they did.

They made a splash.

They wrote QUALITY stories.

It was a legit endeavor. They worked together and got themselves onto the USA Today bestseller list – meaning each of the authors involved gets to claim the title of USA Today Bestselling author. Like a Olympics gold medal winner, you don’t have to win it again each year to still be called an Olympic gold medal winner. Once is enough, you get the title for life.

Think about the power of that on all your marketing efforts going forward

They all get to claim it, because who can say which story is the one that did it? They all did.

So…

 

Hmmm...
Hmmm…

I wonder if WE could do that?

I wonder if we have enough clout here for each of us to contribute a short story that goes into an anthology that we all subsequently promote and have it make it to the New York Times bestseller list or the USA Today bestseller list?

Let’s say we did, and it worked. How much better does it make your pitch when you go to meet an agent/publisher/publicist/etc., to say you are a USA Today bestselling author?

Sounds nice, eh?

That goes on every book cover from then on

That goes in every bio from then on

That goes in every interview you do from then on.

You get the idea.

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

Just by show of hands, if you’re interested in trying something like this, comment below or send me a message. If you have my email, use it; if not, try the Contact Me button and let’s see what kind of group we can assemble. There’s a lot of talent that reads this blog there’s certainly a lot of smart people here. I think it really might be doable.

And that’s a phrase you’d get to use on every story you put forth from then on. Plus, I believe if you can do it once, you can do it again – but by doing it once you’ve leverage your ability do it again!

Maybe this goes somewhere, maybe it goes nowhere. One anthology I saw was a sample from each of their books, taking segments that could be stand-alones. That might just piss people off, though… Maybe an anthology of short stories we write just for this book, with a legit common theme designed to appeal to a large genre’s audience, is better.

What do YOU think?

Would we be better doing it as a bunch of short stories, with a theme? Probably. But I’m open. Give me your thoughts. Let’s see what we come up with! (If it’s a bad idea, ask yourself why you read the post. Maybe the title? Those publications are powerful, eye catching things!)

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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.” Check out his other works HERE

“My Blog SUCKS and I’m Kinda Clueless” – what you need to fix your broken blog

The blog has been kicking it this week
The blog has been kicking butt. Click image to be amazed.

THIS blog is THRIVING – but a lot of other blogs aren’t. Every day I get emails telling me how much I was able to help out another blogger or author. It warms my heart, and I thank you all, because YOU are a large part of why my blog is successful.

The ways to make your blog thrive are not difficult, but they aren’t exactly easy, either.

This has been one of my most well-received posts, so I wanted to rerun it today to help others who haven’t seen it.

 

If you already read it – read it again. There’s lots of good stuff you probably forgot.

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it was a dark, scary place
it was a dark, scary place

This is a LONG one. Wade through it.

Dear Dan,

My blog sucks and I’m kinda clueless about what to do with it…”

Okay, nobody said that… directly.

Indirectly, LOTS of you have. And lots of blogs scream it.

Not to worry. I’m here to help.

I’ve been reading a lot of other authors’ blogs lately. Not because they’re good, although LOTS are, and not to make myself feel better about this blog, although mine is definitely better than some of what I’ve been reading.

I read them to learn.

blog cancelledThe suffering writers of these blogs I’ve been reading will, on occasion, mention book sales. 50 sales in a month is the average for people who are working their butt off and that means half of them are selling less than that.

Trust me, I’d have been happy as hell to have had 50 sales in ANY of my first six months. I didn’t have 50 total over my first six months, combined. ZERO is an exaggeration but it’s close.

(BTW, here are some tips for getting reviews for your book, too.)

When I started putting books out I asked other authors what worked for them as far as marketing, etc. Many were happy to give me advice, and I am happy to share that advice with you. Yes, it’s all going to find its way into a How To Market EBooks trilogy and Write Better Books – because that’s what I do. I write and sell books. But you’re getting that information for free right now, aren’t you, smartie!

This is so sad. Seriously! And this is AVOIDABLE.

Here’s some mistakes I see in unsuccessful blogs…

For the rest, click HERE

I’ll Show You Mine If You Show Me Yours: An Exercise in Show Versus Tell

We are not above immature ploys!
We are not above immature ploys!

I know, that title is childish – but it got your attention, didn’t it? That’s a lesson re-reminded to me from the “Blogger’s Butt” post we ran yesterday. A good, catchy title brings readers to your post. Remember that. Sometimes I forget.

You guys often get all excited when I explain a particular aspect of storytelling, and I like to make you happy (even if other people think it’s dull) so here’s an example of a critique I did recently. The names have been changed to protect the innocent (maybe), but this is a really interesting story that I’ve taken a sample of to show you my critique process and a few points on SHOWING VERSUS TELLING.

Trust me, it's not that bad.
Trust me, it’s not that bad.

If you join a critique group, keep in mind that each reader brings their own likes and dislikes to your story, and not everyone will get it – same as with readers when they go to buy your finished book, with some differences. What appeals to a custom cabinet maker in California may not be what appeals to a retired chemistry teach in Michigan, but they both might read your story. Your blurb and cover design will help rope the right audience, but some things appeals to everyone.

(We recently discussed blurbs HERE – they are super important!)

Show Versus Tell – NOT what you did in kindergarten.

Let the reader see the scene. Describe it. When you show what’s happening, you are putting us there in the moment as readers, using our senses; we get a better feel for the story and characters. We are part of the scene as it is happening, and we immerse ourselves more in your story – making it more interesting and harder to put down.

An example is when Chekhov said, “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.”

Yeah, do that.

The internet can occasionally be helpful!
The internet can occasionally be helpful!

If your search for the term “show versus tell in storytelling,” you’ll get a lot of articles that explain this in a lot of detail and that give examples. Read some of them, but develop your style for it. Watch for how your favorite authors do it. Now that you’re aware, you’ll see it – or not see it, I guess, if it’s done well.

Okay, here’s the story and the critique notes in bold. I try to be friendly, light, and informative, but just as often I’ll ask questions I’m thinking at that moment like a reader might be thinking in their mind, and I’ll make comments a reader might be thinking, too. This is helpful as play-by-play feedback, letting the author know you are getting the material or not. I am also very lax in capital letters, punctuation and spelling in critiques, cos I’m lazy.

This is a long post, but it’s worth it to see how things unfold.

Well, maybe that last one...
Critique-ers can be nice, friendly, helpful folks!

REMEMBER: each critique will bring a different perspective. By receiving several as you’re writing, you can appeal to a wider range of reader or hone in on a specific type. You’ll get differing opinions on how to address a problem so you can make a choice that feels best to you. My suggestions are just my ideas. Somebody else might have a better one. Use it!

Here’s the story:

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Simone was sitting at the table in the small kitchen of the flat. She had a glass of wine in front of her and a cup of what we called coffee but was really a blend of chicory and acorns taking alternate sips of each.

“That’s an interesting breakfast.” I straightened the skirt of my uniform waiting for her to acknowledge my presence.

She shrugged and took another sip from her wineglass. We had been living on a small inheritance from our mother but it was hardly an inexhaustible source of income. I was focused on my work, but Simone had been distant and unmotivated since her last love affair had come to an end even though there was a long line of replacement suitors. We shared a phone in the hallway with six other tenants and were most unpopular as the majority of calls were for Simone. She went out most nights but came back at varying hours of the morning saying little to nothing to me about her personal life. Simone was much more French than I was.

 

Isn’t wine glass two words?

This paragraph is a bit tell-y. I’d give one or two details here, but more casual and save the rest for later

for example:


We had been living on a small inheritance from our mother but it was hardly an inexhaustible source of income.
Why’s that important to know now? Lingering resentment that you work and’s doing whatever? dig in a bit, Maybe with some conversation.

as you get ready: “Mom’s inheritance isn’t going to last forever.”
“Hah. That pittance.”

established the inheritance (obviously from a deceased mother), that it’s not a lot, and that they disagree about how to live using it, or whatever else you want to imply. You can also say it was a stale conversation you’d gone over a thousand times before

and this:
“Are you still upset about Harry? It’s been three months. And from the number of phone calls you get, there is no shortage of replacement suitors, princess.”
“Oh, everyone knows all about my social life, don’t they? Maybe if we didn’t share a hallway phone with have six other tenants…”

Then the comment about most nights

This folds it in and makes it seem less like a big gulp of information, much more digestible, to my eye

I sat down and poured myself a cup of the same liquid. I looked at my sister over the rim, noticing her smudged mascara, the slight paleness of her lips and red tinge under her nose as if she had been crying, although I discarded that thought immediately for Simone rarely wept. Even after suffering the dissipations of the morning after a late night she was still strikingly beautiful and I had to stifle the usual streak of jealousy I felt in my stomach. She acted her usual aloof self and didn’t meet my eyes once. Was she coming down with a cold?

 

This is good, but imply the jealousy, don’t tell it straight out

Sisters will have ideas about each other. you can show her semi-jealousy without stating it. Assume your reader is smart, and if there’s jealousy it’ll come cross in the tone they take with each other.

However,
Even after suffering the dissipations of the morning after a late night she was still strikingly beautiful (damn her)

She acted her usual aloof self and didn’t meet my eyes once.
that statement implies jealousy.

Also, you can google jealousy or signs of jealousy, and have our characters do those things. Readers will pick up on it.

too pretty/always trying to look good
too many phone calls
active social life

I think they’ll get it.

 

“Well, see you tonight then.” I stood up.

She looked up and her eyes focused on me for the first time. “Oh, good bye Sylvie.”

I turned back after opening the door but she just gave me a dismissive wave of her hand. I didn’t bother with my coat but put up my umbrella for it had started to rain early in the morning, although it was a light shower. There was the usual Friday traffic. The footpath was filled with people as I turned from White Hart Lane to the much more crowded Whitehall where I worked. There were men and women in uniform as well as mothers pushing prams, older couples on their way to the shops, young girls traveling to school, and other assorted people going about their lives as best they could considering the perilous times.

this definitely reads as icy, but when you say “dismissive wave of her hand,” imagine you doing that, or somebody doing it to you. Think about what you see and describe that. Maybe they hold the newspaper up in front if their eyes, don’t look at you, wave their hand – THAT SHOWS the dismissiveness without TELLING it, and brings your reader in much more.

I started my routine typing after reaching my office, noting that my boss Colonel Hastings, was not in as yet, a common occurrence of late where previously he had been implicitly punctual. There was an air of something different over the past few months with him, for Colonel Hastings, always friendly and jovial, had become positively secretive. He had taken to staring at me when he thought I wasn’t looking and his expression was pensive as if he wanted to tell me something but was holding back. I took it personally thinking he was dissatisfied with my work and I was about to be transferred, although it had always been satisfactory.

it is said we don’t start to do things, we just do them. So maybe she assembles some paper and whatever. I can go either way on it

I started my routine typing after reaching my office, noting that my boss Colonel Hastings, was not in as yet, a common occurrence of late where previously he had been implicitly punctual.

maybe try:

I started my routine typing after reaching my office. Colonel Hastings, was not in as yet.

That’s becoming more and more common.

occurrence of late where previously he had been implicitly punctual.(implied)

Later she can refer to him as boss, but I think him being a Colonel it’ll be assumed if she is readying herself for typing. See? In my mind, the officer doesn’t type, the underling does – saying it without saying it again

He entered the office. We dispensed with saluting, an understanding we had between ourselves unless joined by a superior. He appeared tense as he bid me good morning, the furrow I had come to recognize between his eyebrows. His blue eyes were bloodshot and rimmed with black circles in contrast to his pale complexion. I was alarmed. Was everything was all right with his family?

We dispensed with saluting, an understanding we had between ourselves unless joined by a superior.
and this cements the work chain of command

He appeared tense
what does that look like? Darting eyes, sweaty upper lip, fidgeting with papers, tugging at his collar or necktie?

It was his custom to greet me, perhaps exchange a few words, and then continue into his office. Instead he paused, moved aside the files I was working on and actually sat down on my desk, a completely unprecedented event.

some of this reads as very formal. not good or bad, just an interesting style thing. if the author’s tone is more formal when the character is at work and less so at home, that’s a neat technique

“Sylvie, in a few moments I’m expecting a young man. When he comes in I want to speak to you both.” He blinked three times in quick succession, a thing he only did when he was concentrating or annoyed. I wasn’t sure which it was.

three is a but technical. it may or may not work. Why not say several times and keep the explanation. It’s something she’d know about her boss, but three reads as too exact to my eye

 

“Yes, sir. May I ask his name, sir?”

“His name?”

“Yes, the name of the young man.”

“Oh of course, forgive me. His name is Andrew. Andrew Le Claire.”

I was confused. “But Colonel Hastings, that’s my surname. Is he related to me?”

that’s my surname.
he would know this, readers will quickly get it

 

“No, Sylvie, but he will be.”

With that mysterious comment he left me, open mouthed, his last sentence resounding in my ears like an echo. It was impossible to just carry on with my typing but I made an attempt. After three errors in the first paragraph alone, I paused trying to calm myself. What could Colonel Hastings possibly mean by those cryptic comments about the man named Andrew?

good question

As if in answer to my query the door opened. He was indeed a young man, older than myself but not by many years, likely twenty-seven or eight to my twenty-five. He was dressed somewhat formally in the clothes of a businessman, although he could never be mistaken for one. The knot of the tie was crooked, and all the buttons of his jacket and coat were open in a carelessness that implied he was dressed like that by necessity, not choice. He had fine features, a wide, easy smile, full lips for a man, and a lock of dark hair that fell across the left side of his forehead. He was carrying the newspaper opened to the crossword that was half solved. He had a way of holding himself that was not military at all, an aura I found refreshing and confusing at the same time.

this description is good. unlike the earlier one, which seemed info-dumpy, we’d expect her to spend some time taking in this stranger under these circumstances.

“Hello.” His voice was quite lovely, somewhere between tenor and baritone. “I’m Andrew.”

lovely tends to be a British term

I stood up, the top of my head came to about his cheekbones. “Sylvie Le Claire.” I extended my hand but instead of the shake I was expecting, I got a formal bow that contrasted ridiculously with his demeanor. He took my proffered hand so I wouldn’t look like a complete fool and pressed it into both of his own. He continued in a polite string of perfect French to which I answered him in the same language.

now, if she thinks he’s good looking, she can say she came up to his impossibly handsome cheekbones, although if you said that I’d probably get on you about it, but you take my point

show us a few French words. it adds to the ambiance and shows us she knows French without having to tell us

“Bienvenidio, madame.”
“Merci”
“Aah, cest speak francias?”
“Oui, messieur.”
“Blah biddy blah blah about the recent weather”
“Reply in French about I prefer it warmer”
smiles
the colonel interrupts

Colonel Hastings interrupted by opening his door. “Well I see that you have met each other then. Splendid. Please come in, both of you.”

don’t tell us he interrupts. we see it. another possibility:

He took my hand. “Bonjour, mademoiselle.”
“Merci.”
He smiled. “Oh, vous parlez français?”
“Je suis du Québec.”
“La météo est toujours cette agréable?”
“This cool weather is unusual for us. I prefer it warmer.”
The colonel cleared his throat. “Well, I see…

See? (French words and odd markings compliments of Google translate)

 

Andrew stood aside to allow me to precede him. We sat opposite Colonel Hastings who pursed his lips and didn’t look directly at either of us. Andrew leaned back in his chair, the puzzle open on his lap while I sat straight without moving. I clasped my palms together surprised that they were moist.

“Forgive me for all the cloak-and-dagger Sylvie, but what I’m about to explain to you is in the highest confidence.”

“Of course, sir,” I crossed my legs. Most of our work was classified.

period after sir

 

“Let me start by asking you how long it’s been since you have seen your father?”

That was probably the last question I was prepared to be asked but I decided to answer without inquiring the reasons. “About ten years, although my sister visits every year or so, at least she did until the occupation.”

I’d break this up.
That was probably the last question I was prepared to be asked. I decided to answer without inquiring the reasons.

it gives us readers a pause at the period, making it feel like she’s contemplating her answer.

 

“I see. And your step mother?”

“My step mother? You mean Colette?”

He nodded. I didn’t speak out of bewilderment so he leaned a little forward. “Go on, Sylvie.”

“The same amount of time I suppose. They only married recently after the death of my mother but have known each other many years.”

“Did you know she had a son that lives here in England?”

Aha! I knew it. The England part, not the son.

see, and that is an example of showing not telling. We pick that up contextually and confirm it like this.

 

I was starting to have an inkling what the conversation was possibly about, but instead of looking at Andrew, I kept my eyes on my boss. “Yes although I don’t really remember him. I believe Simone, my sister, is acquainted with him but I’m afraid my father and I are somewhat estranged, so I’ve lost track of the family.”

“Yes, well her son was at Oxford some years ago reading mathematics but never finished his studies. He was recruited to a special branch when war broke out. I’m not at liberty to discuss it more than that.”

“That’s all very interesting sir, but I don’t see—“

“Andrew is Colette’s son and for our purposes, your brother.”

“Andrew is Colette’s son – and for our purposes, your brother.”

(more dramatic)

Dun, dun, dunnn!

 

I turned toward Andrew and saw him in a new light. Of course, I now remembered his name was Andre. There was a resemblance to my step mother around the eyes, but not in the color for Andrew’s were greenish while his mother’s were dark brown, it was more to do with the shape. I thought he might lean forward and kiss me on both cheeks, but he sufficed with winking, a gesture I thought odd for a man I had just met. “Enchante.” The newspaper rustled on his lap.

I had the feeling the two of them were in a conspiracy about something, as if I had walked into a room and everyone had stopped talking. Colonel Hastings cleared his throat. “Let me explain from the beginning what the proposal is.”

“Proposal?” My oblivion was embarrassing.

He went on to say how for the past few months he had been working on a special project and was currently recruiting suitable people to infiltrate occupied France and become operatives of an organization of which I had never heard called the Special Operations Executive. He thought of me because of my familiarity with the language and the fact that I would be able to blend in without arousing suspicion.

“We want you to return to Sainte Victoire where you will be reunited with your father at his café. Andrew will be at the farm his mother owns and you will both be couriers among other things.”

I was too shocked to ask him to elaborate.

“I know it’s a lot to take on board. You would be doing a great service to your country, both of you. We have intelligence that a certain officer whose father is a high ranking Nazi frequents Sainte Victoire, it being his assigned territory if you will. The man is known to be careless and might be persuaded to let certain important information slip if properly handled.”

You know, I rarely read author notes because they can give stuff away, but this had a definite WWII feel to it, probably from the formality of speech and things like a typewriter, the hall phone, etc. Good job of getting me there.

 

I had to laugh at that. If Colonel Hastings was looking for a femme fatale he had the wrong person in me. “My abilities at that type of thing are sorely lacking, sir.”

“I think you underestimate yourself Sylvie, but we have another role in mind for you. We were considering someone else for the part of…of becoming friendly with the enemy.”

A sudden pain hit my temples as the realization struck me. “Simone.” My voice was almost a whisper.

good job with this!

Okay, and although you can’t really end here (it was too soon in the story), you can see how ending here would be an amazing page turner/cliff hanger, right?

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END OF SAMPLE AND COMMENTARY

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See? Critiques aren’t so scary!

Okay, you saw mine; now show me yours! What ideas would you bring to this story, or what thoughts of mine did you find helpful? All opinions count equally!

.

Your humble host.
Your humble host.

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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.” Check out his other works HERE.

Why YOU Should Join A Critique Group, You Arrogant SOB

img_2351-19I was an arrogant writer when Savvy Stories came out. Still am. You have to have an ego to put out a book and expect strangers to spend money on it – and enjoy it and not return it and not laugh at you and not…

You get the idea.

I laughed when I was first told to try a critique group.

A bunch of scared talentless hacks all sitting on a corner cowering while they endlessly rewrite their pseudo novels and tell each other how awesome they are? No thanks.

But the guy who recommended it to me, a real pompous ass type (or so I thought) said

the people there could help me by letting me help them.

Wait, what? Help me by… Yeah. Okay. That’s right.

(More on critiquing your own work HERE)

 

See, when you point out mistakes that others are making, it almost forces you to be a tougher judge on yourself. Okay, I was fine with that. I had a few published books at the time and

I thought I knew what I was doing.

And I did.

I’m a pretty good storyteller

with very little training. As in, none, really. Thing is, I could be better. I knew that, but I didn’t know how to get there. But I was certain the a bunch of goofballs in a critique group wouldn’t be the answer.

But I checked it out, since I’d just read that the lady who wrote “50 Shades Of Gray” had used a critique group to help her work the story into a novel, and obviously it did well. Ironic that it’s seen as a pretty poorly written novel, but I didn’t know that then. All I knew was: bestselling author admits a critique group helped her book become successful. I wanted that sort of help. So I was open to the idea when the pompous ass guy suggested it.

I asked him for a recommendation of a group, and he gave me one.

Since it was free, I decided to join and see what would happen.

I put one of my short stories up – one that I knew was good – and sat back and waited.

People liked it. I knew they would.

They said it was funny. It was.

They caught a few typos. Oops. Well, that happens.

Then they mentioned a few things that separate good writing from great writing. Stuff that, while small, makes a difference over the course of a novel.

Um… okay.

Yes, there were sniveling writer wannabes there, and evil troll types, but there were serious writers, too. It was pretty easy to tell which was which.

I submitted more stories, and found myself enjoying the process. The book I was working on went into the group and became a much better story. Who knew? I didn’t see that coming.

One day I started a new book and submitted a chapter to the group. A critique partner I particularly respect and admire, who had one indie book out and another awaiting publication with a traditional publisher, made a comment when she read the first chapter:

Wow, you’ve improved a lot in your writing.

Well… who doesn’t want to hear that? I’d already put out a bestseller, remember.

As people read your submissions, they bring to it their perspective, and by gaining that input from several sources (or a dozen) you open your eyes to what the masses – the book buying public – want. Not just what you want to say, but also how they want to receive it. That’s huge.

A book that you write will appeal to you, but after it goes through a critique group, the story you love will still be 99% your words and your message, but it will have some built in feedback as to what a broader audience than you thinks, and when it comes time to sell that book, it will sell better.

That’s a good reason to do it, right there.

You’ll meet lots of people you won’t respect or who have arbitrary rules, or who can’t string together a compelling story, but you’ll also meet writers you love reading, who are trying like hell to get published, or who are published – and who will help you improve your writing.

And usually, it’s free. How awesome is that?

Oh, and you’ll get to read some cool books before they become cool books, but while they’re still cool books.

And you’ll create a group of writer/author friends. You may help shape a story that becomes a book, and have a lasting personal friendship with its author.

And you’ll help some new, talented people get their book out.

Robert, you sound a little stressed.

Relax. You have talent, and it’s a good short story! It had an interesting twist, and people will love reading it, whether that’s in a blog or as a freebie giveaway to get them over to your novel. I just put out my 14th book a few days ago and I’ve helped others put out theirs. When you’re ready, I’ll help you, too.

Now, about this novel…

Who wouldn’t want that kind of support and encouragement?

First, you should subscribe to my blog, not because it’s awesome but because I often take critiques and redo them there as “lessons,” and there’s one or two about getting your big voluminous tome out of your head and off the notepad and into a computer so it can become the novel it wants to be.

 Read one of them HERE

Then, baby steps. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Don’t worry that you’re “behind schedule,” by using a critique group, because it’ll be a better product when it’s finished, and that’s where a critique group makes the difference: when you write something, and get it finished, you may think it is ready for the world – and maybe it is. But why not let some critique partners have a look and offer their input? Maybe some chapters would be better rearranged. Maybe it just needs some smoothing and some polish. Then, why not send it to a few “beta readers” who can just read it like a regular person would, and can offer their feedback? And what will happen is, that beautiful story will grow from a child into an adult very quickly. From a decent amateur story to something that reads as professional. It will read smoother, better, and more engaging. Little errors that readers would notice – won’t be there, and instead they’ll just enjoy a terrific story.

 

But ya gotta get it written, and even if it’s written, if you put it into a critique group with typos and punctuation errors, crits will spend all their energy on telling you where you need a comma. Now, if you need that help, then put it up right away. If you can fix that yourself, do it and let the crits focus on the story. But even if you want crits to catch spelling and grammar errors, just say that in the notes, and let them do it, then make the changes and put it up again as version 2.

 

A year from now, or in six months, or whatever, you’ll have a beautiful book to release out onto the world.

 

The year is going to pass whether you start or not; wouldn’t you rather have your novel published by then? And if short stories are dying to escape from your pen, let them. There’s room enough in the world for both. Put them on a blog at WordPress (which is free) and the world will have lots of samples of your writing, and you can build a fan base. Then when you novel is ready, take 20 of your best short stories and publish them as a book of short stories. Fans will love to read that while they’re waiting for the next (his working title) book. And you’ll have two published books instead of just one – which is more than most writers ever do.

Get to it!

That’s my advice to you, too. Get to it! A critique group, that is. And to better writing.

What are some of the ways YOU have discovered that help your writing?

If you benefit from this blog, share it with your friends!

img_2351-19Dan Alatorre is the author of several bestsellers and the hilarious romantic comedy Poggibonsi: An Italian Misadventure.

Check out Poggi HERE and my other works HERE and check back often for interesting stuff.