Thursday, December 30, 2010

2010: That's A Wrap

Three years this blog has been up. Three years and three books.

The year certainly went by fast

What have we learned for the year? Well, I've learned that a person cannot read 10,000 books in one year. I've only been able to read 300. I've also learned that I set my sights too high. I also did the same thing with wanting to find a traditional publisher. Hours before the new year are the only thing between me and that dream and I doubt that someone's going to be calling me up from St. Martin's Press or Random House. But that doesn't bother me. I've learned a lot by designing, formating and writing my own books. When you're that in-control of a project, it makes you self-reliant. If a publisher picks me up, I guess that's okay, but in the meantime, these books will go public when they are finished, edited and on Amazon when I choose.

As for sales, only a handful of print books have been sold. Some customers have bought used copies but, little did they know, I don't get paid royalties for used copies. They have to be bought new. On the upside, the ebooks have been selling quite well. I guess the way of e-readers has really opened more readers up. Here's what I've garnered so far. That is to say, here are my profits for the year:

Smashwords - 1,414 ebooks: Price Free.

Amazon Kindle Sales - 73 ebooks: Price 99 cents each

B&N Nook Sales - 3 ebooks: Price 99 cents each

So, as far as I can see, I've sold close to 1,500 ebooks on my own and maybe 15 to 20 print books. Not bad.

Calculating my earnings, with the 35 cent royalty for amazon, I've made about

Yep. That's the life of a writer, starting out, anyways. But this year I'm going to step up my efforts, open up a podcast and see how far that takes me. Page by page, I've been able to type up some stories, now thanks to my new secret writing place. We'll see if I can change these numbers.

Happy New Year everyone! Drive safe, live large, chase your dream.


Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Ur In For It Now

With King, the mighty, word-savvy, page-turning King - You get what you paid for. I'm no stranger to Stephen King. I remember where and when I first met him. I was a sophomore in high school, just learning how to go through my lines (only four) in a production called Up The Down Staircase. I played a kid named Edward which was originally written for a black kid but, for me, they changed it to Italian.

The stage was occupied with twenty or so school desks. Every kid who walked on stage held some sort of prop. Figured I might need one too. I rooted in the back, looking through some boxes, when I found him. The weathered and dusty paperback of Insomnia was heavy, to say the least. I had trouble sleeping so it only felt natural to read the book. I asked one of the members of the faculty if I could borrow it but they just said, "Take it."

I plowed through that thing in one week, sometimes taping some of the pages together because there was a section, near the end, where four of five pages had been ripped out and stuffed back in.

That's when I first met King.

Now, a Kindle loaded with over thirty books later, I was ready to read that elusive, exclusive, ever seducing book called UR.

The story follows a 35 year old lit professor who, out of spite, buys a kindle. The kindle arrives and looks like all the others expect for one thing. It's pink. And it apparently has a direct line to different, literary dimensions. What if Hemingway wrote just one more book? Or what if Shakespeare wrote five more plays before his death? Even though this title is a novella, it works at an even pace, getting you comfortable with the story as well as the new techno gizmo that is the Kindle. I could just imagine King tinkering with it, jumping from his seat and bolting to his writing den to pound out the story as he examines every button on the kindle. But that's the draw of King. He gets us where we live. He always starts fresh with what is new, foreign or, quite possibly, alien to us.

I mean, think of it. A plastic box which holds thousands of books that you can just have zapped to you every time you press a button? Imagine what it was like in that pitch room. Look out Radio and TV, there's a new revolution in town. But such is the Pop of King. He tackles the things of today, haunts them tomorrow then serves them to us thick with the aroma of mystery, intrigue and horror. Twice already he's terrified me with vintage cars: From a Buick 8, Christine. He's turned the common cold into a plague: The Stand. He's turned our phones against us: Cell. Our dogs are against us: Cujo. Any way you slice it; nothing is safe from King.

With UR (read in two sittings) I'm glad King has stuck to his guns when it comes to having story be the key driving point and wait for plot later. There were a couple of times where I thought I could predict the outcome, but he cornered me with my suggestions and addressed what we were all thinking in the story. Not only does the Kindle device have lost literary titles but it also has alternative newspaper articles...I'm going to leave it at that. One reviewer called it brain candy and I'm willing to agree with them. It was so intriguing I didn't want it to end. All I can say is that I can see a second part to this fantastic tale. But what would the title be? Kindle 2: UR IT? Or maybe Pinky's Revenge? In any case, this is one title I'm willing to re-read over and over again.

By the way, there were, in King's own way, hints of other books. I'm noticing a lot of connections and crossovers in his works. Most notably, the Dark Tower Series has some relevance to the plot. I guess there's never a stand alone work when you're as prolific as the master storyteller himself.

Thanks, King. I've had the damn Kindle for less than two days and already you have me edging away from it in some cases and watching it from a distance the next. Will I discover another, terrifying literary underworld? One can only hope.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Wouldn't You Know It

This 8,000 worded thriller, tackled by two authors no less, completely took me by surprise. In reading, that is always a good thing. Not only is the premise fresh, quick and straight to the action; it compels you to read faster.

The story is simple. Your elders always said don't pick up strangers, they may be psycho's. They also said don't get in to any stranger's car. They may be wacko's as well. But what happens when two killers meet, thinking that the other one is their next intended victim. Well, I don't know about you, but I think that makes for a great Hitchcockian thriller and a feast for the avid reader's eyes. And if you know me by know, you very well know that I am hopelessly addicted to reading.

I give this tale a solid five stars for originality, pacing and it's length.

I must also note that I read this short tale on the Amazon Kindle version 3. That's right, T.A.T.T. fans, I have given in. I am now a proud owner of a kindle. And this story, Serial, was the first thing I read on it. Of course, it was free. But the story was worth a good five spot at least. Call it a literary cutting of the ribbon. I'm sure I'll review the functions of the Kindle in the future but, for right now, I'm still tinkering with it. It was a very thoughtful gift from my in-laws.

To put it to good use, I've already collected twenty or so classics to wet my literary appetite. This does not in anyway mean I've stopped reading traditional paperbacks or audiobooks...this just means, depending on my mood, I can carry less bulky tomes while I go for a walk deciding what to read next.

Oh, there is one title I've forgotten to mention which I've added to my Kindle collection of books.

Yes, it's a Stephen King book.

You might say an exclusive novella.

It might be right up ur alley...

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

One thing I have to admit, I'm not the biggest fan of mysteries. But I do get curious on occasion. Take for example my wife. She's an avid reader like me. She also introduced me to such books as Catcher in The Rye and T is for Trespass. So, when I saw her reading a hefty tome that had just a title and no cover art I asked her what she was reading.

"Girl with the Dragon Tattoo."
"Is it any good?"
"I dunno. I bought it cause it was six bucks."

As the nights passed I noticed that she read for longer periods. Sometimes, when we were both reading in the front room, I'd catch her gasp or groan as if she were living in the novel itself. After she was finished, she ran out and bought the next book in the series: The Girl who Played with Fire.

She told me that the first book was intense. I believed it and decided to take the dip. The story revolves around three central characters: An old, retired billionaire who is trying to solve a case over forty years cold, a investigative reporter who is called upon to take on the task and a girl who has a troubled past but mainly keeps to herself. She also works for a security company gathering data on clients and is a hacker.

I won't say that this book CAPTURED me right away until around page 180, when Lisbeth Salander, the hacker girl, convinces me that there's more to her story.

This book, by late author Stieg Larsson, took a while to get going but once it did, hoo, it did not let up. There are a lot of details in the case and a hell of a lot of exposition but that further saturates this book in realism. Compared to the mystery books of today, which are few and far between, this is the first one that really got me interested. It has the sharpness of a Sherlock Holmes book but has the atmosphere of an Agatha Christie novel. Yet it is set in 2007.

Lisbeth may very be the new flawed heroine of our time, she has the draw of Hannibal Lecter where you know she's smart and you know there is more to be said but she keeps a lot of information hidden for her own personal reasons. She is by far, one of the most original characters I've read in a mystery yarn. Do yourself a favor and read this book and find out why a Girl with a Dragon Tattoo would play with fire or kick a Hornet's nest.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Doctor Who?

Fresh from writing a short story last night, I woke up early today to try to branch out and tackle another one. Woke up at close to nine in the morning. But as the morning charged on, my enthusiasm diminished. Blocked again. Always happens when I want to write a second day in a row. I overloaded myself, hyped myself up too much, had a whole pot of coffee with sugar and creamer and fashioned myself a nice hyper headache.

I know it seems silly, but writing six pages really took it out of me last night. I blame the coffee.

So from 9am to now, currently 1:39pm, I haven't written one fictional word. Instead, I decided to web browse some of my favorite authors and ones that I wish to read. I started with Clive Barker than took a glance at some Anne Rice. Inevitably, I always end at Stephen King. Somehow I was led to his Wikipedia page and stumbled on this article, one that made me do a double take. Maybe this has already been covered by other bloggers, but the news still disturbs me a little.

"On November 19, 2009, while on a promotional tour in Toronto, Canada for his latest novel Under the Dome , during a reading at the Canon Theater being moderated by the filmmaker David Cronenberg, Stephen King described to the audience an idea for a sequel novel to his 1977 novel The Shining . The story, King said, would follow a character from the original novel, Danny Torrance , now in his 40s, living in upstateNew York, where he works as an orderly at a hospice and helps terminally ill patients pass away with the aid of some extraordinary powers. [1]

While on the road, I mentioned two potential projects while I was on the road, one a new Mid-World book (not directly about Roland Deschain, but yes, he and his friend Cuthbert are in it, hunting a skin-man, which are what werewolves are called in that lost kingdom) and a sequel to The Shining called Doctor Sleep. Are you interested in reading either of these? If so, which one turns your dials more? [We] will be counting your votes (and of course it all means nothing if the muse doesn't speak).[2]

On December 31, 2009, it was revealed that Doctor Sleep received 5,861 votes, while The Wind Through the Keyhole received 5,812."

A sequel to The Shining? Why?Is he writing too much? Tell me what you think.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Power of eBooks

So far, I've come to realize that ebooks are way more popular than print books. Case in point: I've been selling way more ebooks than I have print copies.

Even today, with the job market, real estate market and consumer market flipped upside down, people are still hesitant to spend too much for one thing. I have done so in the past myself. I buy most my books now through goodwill. But if a book really stands out, I'll buy no matter how expensive it is.

Lately, I've been catering to people who just want a taste. To try before they buy, so to speak. So, I'm happy to announce that Mr. Dead Eyes and For What It's Worth are selling steadily on the Amazon Kindle. Their price? Only 99 cents, less than a pack of bubble gum. I also have Wearing Donnie Torr, my newest book, and the longest, at 336 pages, up there as well for just 99 cents.

On Smashwords, with all my titles, I've been giving them away as free downloads (Formats include: HTML, Javascript, .mobi, EPUB, PDF, RTF, LRF, PLAIN DOC and PLAIN TEXT) and have garnered over 800 downloads to date.

Also, I've just recently decided to widen my audience and make all my titles available on the Barnes and Noble Nook for the unshakable price of 99 cents. That's right, folks. Whether you're a kindle owner or a nook owner, you can still be able to get my books. So read some, tell your friends and send a review or two my way. In the meantime, as always, I will be writing. I'm working on the second short story collection and my next novel. We'll see where this leads. Thanks for being loyal readers of my work.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Shorties For Now

Novels, whether they be 200 or 400 pages, can be a big undertaking. So can short stories in some respect. I like to put just as much focus on short stories as I do novels. But, on occasion, there have always been a few ideas that are a wild spark that cannot be tamed. Something that needs to be written at that moment before the fire of it dies out. That's the drive that I love from writing short stories.

On one side I will have a story I need to spend some time on, even check out a couple of books from the library for research.

On another, I'll have stories that I have to challenge myself to write in one sitting or write it before the week is out. The majority of these stories have only one or two scenes and are purely dialogue -driven.

For novels I work at a slower pace. It took me six years to flesh out the plot and characters for Mr. Dead Eyes. For Wearing Donnie Torr it took me two years but also was a hundred pages longer than my first book.

For right now, I want to take the road of Stephen King and Ray Bradbury. I'm going to start selling my short stories to magazines. It's what you have to do for exposure. At the moment I have 35 to 40 short stories under my belt. By year's end, I hope to have 150. So who knows? Open up your favorite magazine, scan the table of contents and you just might find one of my short stories...

Monday, October 18, 2010

Roberto Scarlato's Triple Threat

So let's recap. We haven't done one of those for a while. I doubt that we've even done one but we'll see where it takes us. I once said that I wanted to try to be on 100 blogs. I tried, queried and asked 50 blogs to publish a post of mine. I ended up on less than ten blogs. While I'm thankful that these blogs gave me the time of day, it's still less than the exposure I wanted to shoot for.

I also said that I wanted to read 10,000 books by year's end. Even with piling on the audio books and such, I've only been able to read 285. Not even close to my target goal. So, in short, a failing effort.

Then, an even bolder statement, I said that I wanted to be published by a well-recognized publication like Random House or St. Martin's Press by year's end. I was hoping that printing my books would help get me noticed. As it turns out, there are about two months left to go and still no book deal contract. Even if I don't get published by Random House or others, I love writing and self-publishing. I don't care if it takes another ten years to get a book deal, I'll still be churning out titles via Amazon for as long as it takes.

Just recently I published a new title called Wearing Donnie Torr. There is a link for it to the right of this post. At 336 pages it's priced at $14.00.

I've also started posting my titles on and and they have been looked at here or there but I'm going to try to get more exposure somehow. Soon, I plan to podcast both For What It's Worth and Wearing Donnie Torr through

But for right now, I'm experiencing the troubled times portion of this blog that any author goes through: I want more people to notice and read my books.

In the meantime, I'll just keep writing.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Her Name Was Olivetti Nostalgia

Last night I dreamt I was riding shotgun in a pale white station wagon with wood paneling. I was wearing a white shirt, my hair slicked back, my arm out the window, hand gripping the top of the car door window, like I usually do when I want to feel the breeze up my sleeve. Nestled in my right sleeve is a folded pack of smokes. Wait a minute, I think. I'm not a smoker.

Turning to my right, I see that the car is being driven by my sister, she smokes. She smoked in the dream yet the cigarette never fizzled out. She looks annoyed, turning the wheel this way and that. We're not out for a joyride, not in this black night. The shops and stores and restaurants whip by us in the night. I can't place the town. It could've been any town within the radius of five miles from where I live right now. That's how plain it looked. But when you dream, as dreamers do, everything is blurred.

We pull up to a goodwill shop and I could feel the hairs on my arms prickle with delight. We've finally found it. It's from this exchange that my sister and I share that clues me in that I was the one who suggested we search for this one particular goodwill shop.

I bolt from the door and enter the shop. It seems peculiar to me that a goodwill place would be open this late, but hey, everything seems weird in a dream...cause you don't know you're dreaming yet.

I scan the shelves and racks, desperately looking for something. That's when I see it. It's near an endcap on the fourth shelf, exactly at stomach level. It's black, slick, the keys on it look brand new. It's a small Olivetti typewriter. The figure, who is me, in the dream pets the typewriter, thankful that he's found it after an exhausting search. Meanwhile, what I like to call my dream specter, overlooks how glad my persona looks and recognizes how important this typewriter is to him. But it is puzzling.

It's true that one of my life goals is to write out an entire manuscript on a typewriter, so far I've had a clumsy affair with laptops and desktops. In some ways, I'm still finding my voice. But what if it's the tool that matters the most. What if a typewriter solves all my writing problems, winging it old school, so to speak. The only other time I even touched a typewriter was that bastard thing that my mother kept in the attic which hated my words and I hated it. But that was nowhere near as elegant as this. That one was built of scratched plastic panels and buzzing sounds. This one just had basic alphabet, a couple of punctuation symbols and a ribbon; pure poetry for the eyes.

It was almost haunting how I watched myself look around suspisciously, making sure the coast was clear. I pulled out a roll of white paper from my jean pockets and laid them next to the typewriter on the right side of the shelf. I fed the paper in and began typing. The rhythm began to jump, making my fingers dance across the keys, I was really catching the flow. I didn't even know what I was writing. But, from the traces that I've gathered, I must've typed at least twenty five pages or so.

A clerk appeared to my left, asking if I wish to pay for said item. I nodded, almost embarrassed that she caught me while I was on a roll. I brought it up to the register, wondering what a fine price for this treasure must be. I was guess 200 easy. The cashier startled me by saying it would only cost 59 dollars. I paid the dough, brought the thing up to my chest, hugging it, keeping it as close as a newborn. What happened next, after I walked out of the store and back to the car, I caught a quick flash of me in my apartment, with the typewriter on the coffee table while I was hunched over it on the couch, noisily tapping out with my two fingers what I would hope to be a grand opus.

Then I woke up. Strangely, I had the dream embedded in my mind all morning. I just kept thinking about that typewriter. Curious to find such a typewriter, the first website I came to talked of such a typewriter. Black, small, ribbon, easy to use...and it only cost 59 dollars.

Is this a sign?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Publish This Book

Whenever I get off work, I've always got my nose in a book. I'm on a constant search for more reading material. Back in March I frequently visited Barnes and Noble in Oak brook. My routine consisted of me grabbing three or four books I was curious about and schlepping them to the upstairs cafe.

At the time, I was thumbing through The Tattooed Girl by Joyce Carol Oates, which I finished, Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, How Starbucks Saved My Life and Publish This Book.

I like carrying a stack of books and read at least ten or fifteen pages out of each forming a sort of Battle Royale on which book will win my attention. The book that was the victor: Publish This Book, of course.

It was the only book of the bunch that grabbed me from the very first page. I was laughing loudly each time I picked it up. Sometimes I had to walk off a good laugh because people were staring at me. Publish This Book follows the journey of Stephen Markely, a man who sets out to get the book in question published. With all good memoirs, especially with writing memoirs, it's not about the end result but being taken on a journey with the author, through the struggles and the victories. I'd come to Barnes and Noble almost every day to down one more chapter out of the book, because I couldn't afford it at the time. By the time I reached chapter ten, I had to own the book. Once I purchased it, I read the rest of the book over the course of a day, loving every sharp-witted page of it.

Stephen Markley is one author that needs to be read by every budding writer. It's one of those rare books where you not only gorge yourself on a hundred pages at a time but you are also sad that it has an ending.

Stephen Markley lives in Chicago, is around my age, and writes for the Chicago Red Eye. A great paper which you should pick up. You can read his unique articles at Off The Markley.

A few weeks ago, I contacted Stephen and even was able to talk to him on the phone. He's a very smart, very funny, very well-read guy. I was happy to find that he was an avid reader as well and had a very long reading list.

Here is the interview with the one and only Stephen Markely:

1. What was your first thought when you sat down to write this book?

“Well, here’s another idea I’ll probably spend a year on with no point.”

2. In your book you have traveled quite a bit. In your wanderlust, which place was the best to visit?

I studied in Florence for a summer and traveled around Europe. That was probably one of the best experiences of my life, mostly just because it was my first time legitimately traveling on my own with a bunch of other drunk, horny, adventurous young people. When I was traveling out West by myself, I fell in love with Jackson Hole and Grand Teton National Park. Now I’m basically again without a home except for my car, and remembering how much I totally love it. In Boston on this book tour, I met a few complete strangers at my signing. We went out for a beer or two and ended up staying out until four in the morning. We ended up back at this apartment with these two girls who were in a band. We sat out on the porch under Christmas lights and they played “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” by Dylan. It’s that kind of stuff you can never plan that always sticks with you.

3. You describe your writing arena as " a dismal cave of a room with a mattress, movie posters on the walls and a collapsible lawn chair from Fifth third bank. I call it my Throne of Genius." Does the Throne of Genius still hold up today or can you write anywhere, anytime?

I’ve always been able to write anywhere, anytime but I prefer a dark room with few distractions. This includes the Internet. I’ve now found that I absolutely cannot open the Internet until after I’ve written all I need to for the day. I’m a big believer in the dark side of the so-called “series of tubes.” It’s probably the most dangerous tool for a writer, especially if you’re one who wants to write in big, complicated ways (which I always try to do). So place isn’t a concern so much as what distractions you have to manage.

4. Do you still stay in contact with your wacky roommates?

I stay in contact with everyone. Erik and I were just on a pub crawl in Times Square last night. We met nothing but old ladies, and I ate a bunch of street meat. I would obviously like to ditch all of my friends now that I’ve achieved D-list celebrity, trade them in for a larger group of sycophants and Yes Men, but that seems like a lot of work, so I’ll probably just have to listen to Elliott complain about his slow Internet connection for a while longer.

5. In your opinion, having joined writing workshop groups, are they productive? Do they help hone your craft?

I think so. It always depends on the seriousness of the people you’re involved with and how well you mesh as a group, but I think it’s imperative that writers get outside of their own heads and get outside perspectives on their work. At the same time, I’m a skeptic of how much any type of instruction or criticism can actually help. At some point, you either got it or you don’t. There’s just stuff that can’t be taught, instinctive shit that you learn just by practicing and reading relentlessly. People who buy a lot of “How to Write” books (not including mine!) are probably throwing good money after bad. You can read 100 books about how to build a house, but you won’t know how to do it until you go and build your first house (if that makes any sense).

6. Nick Hornby is in this book. You interviewed him for the RedEye and also told him about your project. Did he give you any feedback after the book was released?

Nope. Never heard from him. I assume it’s just not on his radar. He sounded like a really nice guy, though, so I’m not too worried about it.

7. You wrote in the midst of the presidential election, while everyone bit their fingernails in anticipation of the possible new president. At one point, you say that it's hard to condense the material into a book proposal saying, "How do you put into easily digestible words that sensation of the gathering storm?" Which was harder to write, Publish This Book or The Proposals for Publish This Book?

I generally do not understand how to summarize anything. I write very much by instinct, as I said earlier, so the idea that you’re going to sit down and write out this very dry, very precise map of a longer work that’s much more complicated and has a number of moving parts—ugh, it makes me tired. I’m struggling with the proposal for my novel right now because it’s even weirder, more complicated and more difficult to describe than “Publish This Book.” I shudder every time someone asks me what it’s about.

8. What's your earliest memory of writing?

I used to bug my dad to type out my stories. I’d sit on his lap at this computer screen with pee-orange word processing and tell him what happened next in my dinosaur story. It’s just something I’ve always wanted to do, something I’ve been drawn to. I don’t know that anyone’s born to do anything, but for me, writing is as close as it comes.

9. The footnotes are hilarious. It felt as if I were reading two books: the actual book and a text commentary on this book. Was it hard keeping track?

Not really. I’ve heard criticism that the footnotes can be overwhelming for some. This may be the case, but it’s also kind of the point. The footnotes are not just funny asides but also a commentary on the proliferation of post-modern tricks writers employ, sometimes with good reason and sometimes not. They also can be surprising, and I think that’s one of the keys to making someone laugh via print (which is far harder to do than in a movie or television show or stand-up routine because all you have are words—no inflection or gesture or expression to snatch a laugh).

10. If they do make a movie, who would you want to play you and which director would you like to tackle it?

Brad Pitt and Martin Scorsese.

11. What is next for you? Is fiction your next stop?

Yes, I’m working on a novel right now, which is part inside joke about “Publish This Book,” part meta exercise, and part old-fashioned American fury.

12. How did it feel to see your book in print?

Incredible. Just holding it and flipping through the pages that first time—I can’t even describe how it made me feel, but I’ll try: joyous and vindicated and elated and a little bit tired because I knew this was still only the first step, that much of the hard work still lay ahead. Hell, maybe even a little sad just because I knew this feeling was unique--that I'd get to enjoy it once and never again feel that same kind of awe.

13. Do you get writer's block? How do you combat it?

Never. There are times when I write slower than at others, but I think writer’s block is largely a self-perpetuating myth, a way weak people excuse themselves from just sitting down and doing the work (no offense, weak people!). Maybe someday I’ll eat my words and my creativity will seize up, but right now I gotta fucking eat, so I can’t afford the self-pity.

14. Someone somewhere in your book tried to make a comparison between you and Tucker Max. What would you say if you ever met him? Or would you just straight up sock him in the eye for being such a douche?

I genuinely could not care less about the guy. Anybody who equates our books after reading them both is clearly not paying attention. He does what he does, and I say with all humility—knowing full well that I have much to learn and experience and grow when it comes to being a writer—that I’m working on an entirely different plane than him.

15. What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

Perseverance. It’s partly about talent, it’s mostly about luck, but the only thing you actually have control over is how hard you work. Also, try not to be a fuck. Work hard, be kind. Conan O’Brien said that, and I think it’s the best advice ever offered to anyone in the creative fields.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

How To Be More Productive

These dry spells are killing me. Honestly, I get the worst tension headaches now when I know I should be working on a project. In the past four months, I've been able to finish one short story. That's it. That is also pathetic. I maybe wrote twenty pages total in all that time.

One of the things I've learned about being a writer is that you have to be disciplined. You have to create goals and standards for yourself. More importantly, you need deadlines. Something that will pressure you to complete your work. It was effective in high school so why not now?

So, to better churn out some titles, I've decided to create some deadline for my next three books.

Oct 13th = W.A.S.L. ~ The second volume in my short story collection.
[72 pages finished]

Dec 15th = (Untitled survival story.) ~ a novel.
[20 pages finished]

Feb 16th, 2011 = P.F. ~ a novel.
[40 pages finished]

These dates are the dates when I absolutely must finish writing each one, after that, maybe three weeks of editing, designing and possible publication. I figure that if I'm able to churn out one book every two months, then I will always have a project ready to go. Plus, my ideas are flooding my head like a dam about ready to burst. Better to relieve the pressure now.

Wish me luck, gang. Until then, keep writing.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Where In The World is Roberto Scarlato?

Been MIA for months now and I know I owe you, the readers, an explanation.

Here's the Gist:

The Announcement ~

"I'm on the phone with my girlfriend, parked at my local jewel. I'm reclined, relaxed. I'm happy to have such a sweet person in my complicated life. When I say complicated I mean that my family life was practically devouring my daily life, routine and taking a toll on my emotional equilibrium. Then we start talking about marriage. We've talked about it many times before and we always thought that weddings were too expensive and something you had to save up for. We were convinced that given the jobs we had ( at the time we were both looking for work), if we saved up for a year, maybe we can get a semi-descent wedding. At this stage in our lives we were comfortable with a court marriage. A union is a union, isn't it?

On March -- we both approached her Parent's. I announced that I loved their daughter very much and that I wanted to marry her. To which they gave me their blessing. They were calm, respectful, joyful. Everything you hope a reaction would be. Since I didn't have a ring, I tied a bit of lace around my girl's finger. (Symbolism: Tying the knot. I know, obvious, but I also never seen it done before.)

Then I bring her to my house to share the good news with my folks and my sister. My father is so still, I question whether he stopped breathing. But that's his way; he takes excitement with a pause, as if freezing the moment. He did shake my hand though and congratulate me so that was a relief. My mother and sister? They have a twofer sob fest. They're crying and hugging and loudly praising our union. My mother rushes upstairs to grab something. She brings down several Ziploc bags of her jewelry. She finds a ring which belonged to my dear old nana and bestows it to my future wife, just so she could get used to the idea of wearing a ring."

The Planning~

"Our plans were brewing fast as we made lists, made calls, hired people and registered for stuff. Since we were jumping on plans in March, we figured we would have plenty of time when it came to the wedding in July.

We loaded the guest list, professionals and friends into the excel program on my girlfriends' Laptop. We giddily referred to it as our 'wedding planner.' It was amazing and a miracle that we got everything done. Cut down to the last two weeks and we had the marriage license and the rings. We looked at over forty different apartments until we finally found one we could call home."

Beyond the Sea~

"These are mainly just the highlights but, in the future, I'll write more in detail.

This was it.

July 25th. A bright, blue, cloudless Sunday Morning. I began it at 8:30 am. I jet to my parents house and pick up my father, he's ready by 12:30pm. We have to meet the photographer at my in-laws house by 1:00pm. Due to some technical difficulties, my future wife getting all prettied up and the star treatment at a salon and spa, we have to get there at 1:45 pm instead. The bride leaves, we arrive and I shake hands with our photographer, Tim. A really nice guy if you ask me. We take a limo: me, my dad, my brother in law, my father in law and Tim. We enjoy drinking some beers and telling some old, dirty jokes as we drive downtown.

We finally arrive at navy pier, I change, my father cracks jokes. He's not nervous at all. Neither am I. He's happy. His mustache curls as he grins, knowing that his son is a grown-up. The ceremony begins on top of the boat at 4:30ish pm. It was Un-for-get-able. And I mean that in every sense of the word. We exchange vows. It's unique. Instead of saying I do or I will, we have to repeat This is my solemn vow. I like it, it has much more promise and truth to it. Our buddy Matt plays us a rendition on his guitar of I'm Yours by Jason Maraz with a special twist; halfway in he blends in Somewhere over the Rainbow. There wasn't a dry eye on the boat, folks. Finally, we kiss. We are now husband and wife. The speakers on top of the boat blare Beautiful Day by U2. We shake hands, hugs, we take an endless amounts of pics with friends and family. Then we go down into the lower level of the boat where there is a dance floor.

The boat is rocking back and forth so hard, once we are away from the dock, that I'm reminded of that scene from At World's End. Tim comes up to me asking where he can get some Dramamine. We cut the cake, my brother in law gives a fantastic, funny speech.

We dance our first dance. Can't Take My Eyes Off You by The Four Seasons.

Then the music plays the carefully chosen playlist compiled from me, my wife and my father in law. We picked some really great songs. There were classics mixed with oldies. Seventies mixed with eighties. It was a blast. (Sans chicken dance, macarina, and the electric slide because I HATE those songs.)"

The Blues Brothers~

"Rewind a month prior to the wedding and you'll see me in a ford focus, on a cell, rapidly trying to talk my brother into pulling a surprise on the wedding party. In the end, he opted out, but that was okay cause I had my wing man Matt with me.

As the reception was really gettin' jumpin', with my brother in law and friends crowded around him as he danced crazy to Shout by The Isley Brothers, I tapped my bride on the shoulder and said I'll be right back and to "watch this...", giving her no clue as to what I was about to do. Matt and I hurried to the back behind the dance booth and donned our fedoras and shades, then we waltzed out and did a rendition of Soul Man as The Blues Brothers. People were flipping out. My cousin has the footage. I will upload it soon."

What a town~

"The evening was over and we loved every minute of it. I'm writing this on august 19th but people still frequently remind me and my wife how much our wedding rocked. They are still deliriously high from it. Not only did I marry my muse, see my father look so happy, get to dance my ass off on a boat but every minute is fused into my memory. After all that preparation, it was a worthwhile turnout. 120 guests and not one complained or made a scene.

So now, I sit back in my couch, gazing out on the deck of our apartment, staring at the hypnotizing woods as I reminisce. I have my writing projects lined up, all the boxes of all our stuff is here and unpacked, and I just relax as I comb my Facebook page, looking to see who put up the latest batch of pics. If you want, you can friend me here and see them for yourself. But until my next post there is only one thing left to do...

...thank you notes. :)"

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Notable Movies #6

Haiku Tunnel: Every writer must see this movie. If it doesn't have you in tears of laughter than there is something wrong with you.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

A Sudden Urge

It's a hot day in Elmhurst. Hotter than hades. People brown almost instantly as they step out of their cars to enter the safe haven that is the library. I've loved coming to this library for a long time. It's so big and yet so blissfully quiet it makes you want to set up camp. I've finished several stories on my laptop when I was there. When I wasn't writing, I'd wander.

Down the long aisles and muted carpet I would walk to find something new to read or possibly another audiobook to check out. But more and more I found that I had a very limited palate when it came to reading. I was an intense horror fiction reader for many years. Over time I've come to appreciate mysteries, dramas and real life biographies. But that time has come again where my brain closes another door just to say, "We have enough of that. What else ya peddlin'?"

My feet bring me to the audiobook section where many potential rewards await. I skim through the titles, feeling a boy's curiosity as I accept and eliminate choices simply by reading just two or three sentences of the back cover. Yes sir, I'm a special case. I give a book three chances with me. First is the cover inspection, it has to look intriguing, something that would propel me forward. Second, there has to be a solid back cover blurb that would make me crazy enough to open it. Third, I'll give ya just two to three paragraphs to wow me. If the tune is sour, I'll just close it and move on. Guess it wasn't written for me, I think to myself as I slide the book back as if it were infected with something.

Then I stumble upon a book called Lucky at Cards. Now, I've always been a fan of Film Noir, but I never thought that the grittiness of the streets and the heartbreak of finding out the truth would ever translate well on the page. I had always chalked it up as just one of those things. However, I've found myself slowly slipping into a sudden urge...a thirst for more.

The first pulp fiction book I read was a little slim number called The Gutter and The Grave. A great title and exquisitely written. A flawed detective, a deceiving dame, and a deadly game of cat and mouse. It had all the fixings. Yet it was so humble in its approach that by the last page, I couldn't believe it was over that quick.

I did some research and found that the Pulps were coming back in a big way. A company called The Hard Case Crime Series were bringing back the goods and even taking on new authors to the genre. Stephen King even wrote a book called The Colorado Kid, which I intend to have a look at.

Recently, I've read and finished Lucky at Cards which was so enjoyable it hurt me in the gut that it ever had a last page. A card mechanic, after being kicked out of Chicago for his cheating talents, comes across two things that are about as deadly as booze and bullets; a dame and a game. Of course, you can see right through her, but that doesn't mean that the descent of the antihero isn't entertaining.

At the same time I'm sixty pages away from finishing a good one called Murder and The Wanton Bride - a Mike Shayne mystery. Because the book is so well written, I wanted to research the author. Found out that he was born in Chicago, Illinois. Well, what do ya know? I've also found that his book Bodies Are Where You Find Them was the basis for the movie Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang.

So now I find myself spiraling into a new world, a world that goes back to the great depression, where every man wore a fedora, where coffee was only fifteen cents a cup and I'm loving every bit of it. I've downed a couple Sin City graphic novels, sure. But these novels speak to me on a deeper level. Maybe I'll feel brave enough to tackle Raymond Chandler next.

I guess I've always had a soft spot for the old stuff. Hell, I've got a Pulp Fiction story tucked away, waiting to finish the second chapter and keep going until the sun rises. I've considered finishing it and submitting it to Hardcase Crime. But I have a few other projects lined up first. I would be swinging on a star if they accepted it though. That would be a hoot.

But maybe I'm getting too deep into this, having written this in a slightly sly tone as if I were a detective. In a way, novelists are constant detectives. We're always asking questions, gathering information, looking for the bigger picture and observing people night and day.

It's about that time to end this post. I guess my take would be to give the pulps a shot, if you are starved for reading material. To all those who feel that going back to the pulps is beneath you, I say this; everything is beneath us but that don't mean we all have to be blind. All you have to do is look back and you may get a slice of a very well made literary pie and it was right under your nose the whole time. Take it from me, Jack. The pulps are where it's at.

~Robbie Scarlato

Friday, May 14, 2010

An Inconvenient Penmanship

Dry spells are never fun. They can be really annoying. Progress is flowing with W.A.S.L. short story collection volume 2 and W.W.T.W volume 3's coming out in drips. About 60 pages are completed from each book. Last writing attempt took me three hours and I was able to crank out 6 pages. I just wish this stuff would get churning like before. But I guess it must be that I have a lot on my mind. I'm at a turning point in my life and don't think I'll have the full amount of time I want to devote to the work until I'm well into my own place.

It's getting to a point where, since my laptop has been sick, I've been carrying a green notebook around with a pen. I hate writing longhand. I always get cramps in my hand. My penmanship has always been horrible, to the point where I'd be staring at the page, wondering what the hell I wrote down in a storm of quiet-fury-concentration. Oh well, back to the old drawing board. I got another idea for a short story today, with a title that was conceived by my own brother. Hope it pans out, but I won't be writing another short story collection for a while after these two volumes. Short stories used to be so easy for me to jot down, maybe they will be again. Wish me luck.

a very tired writer.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Gary Goose Chase

When I was in seventh grade, our teacher introduced us to a fresh new voice. His name is Gary Paulsen. (No, not Robert Paulsen, Fight Club freaks.) His work falls mainly in fictional outdoor survival stories. I've always been drawn to those kinds of stories because the bulk of the survival strategies are true. It gives more weight to the story. The first book I read of him was called Hatchet. It was exquisite. It was about this boy named Brian Robeson who, while on a plane to visit his recently divorced dad, crash lands in the Canadian wilderness and needs to survive on his own. His only tools are the survival kit inside the plane and a Hatchet - a gift from his father. I fell in love with this 208 page book. Over the years, I've rediscovered it, dusted it off and found myself slipping back into the pages. I must have read that book three times in my life.

Then came The River, the slim sequel to Hatchet. It nearly surpassed the original. I was happy to see that Mr. Paulsen did not lose his touch.

Recently, I have read two more Paulsen books: Brian's Winter, an alternative look of the main character trying to survive in the winter, and The Island, a completely separate story about a teenager who moves to a new place, discovers a small island that brings him peace and decides to dwell there.
While doing some searching, I found that there were two more sequels to the river: Brian's Return and Brian's Hunt.
What I like the most is that the character continues to grow and that Mr. Paulsen has not lost his voice. Since the first reading of Hatchet, I have been a loyal fan of his work. So when I found out that he was doing a reading in Naperville, just 30 minutes away from me, I had to see him. On February 13th I brought Hatchet and The River with me to hopefully be signed by my childhood hero. I even brought my dad along to join in the experience. We lost our way a couple of times, mainly due to the GPS which kept directing us to every frickin' tollbooth known to man on the way there. At one point my father shouted, "What the hell! It's like a government conspiracy! Turn that thing off before I throw it out the window! I know the way. Don't need any techno piece of junk telling me otherwise."

Finally, we arrived. He parked while I bolted through the bookstore, searching for the author setup. To my dismay, I found none. And we were ten minutes late, too. I walked up to the counter and asked, "Excuse me, isn't Gary Paulsen supposed to be here?"
To the best of my knowledge it was the correct date and time. Gary was on tour promoting his new book Dogsong.

The woman came back with the schedule. I had the right time but the wrong day. I was a full TWO MONTHS early. This has always been a thing with me. My family has always been horribly late to any wedding, funeral, engagement party, etc. I would be so embarrassed that my ears would practically line up with my shoulders in shame. So, as I grew older, in order to compensate this horrible tradition, I would show up to things early. I would show up anywhere between 30 minutes up to 2 hours early, sometimes reading a book to pass the time. But this was way too early even for me. It was a historical fail. But that's what I get for not checking up on everything. The date I was going off of came from Goodreads. The true date was on a site called

This has happened to me before. When I was on my way to see Monica Ali do an interview for her new book In The Kitchen in the city, I found that Goodreads had screwed up and put the wrong address down. So I had to jog five to six blocks to a different place only to be late. Sadly, April 13th, the real date when Gary Paulsen would be in Naperville has long since passed, but I've definitely learned my lesson. That will be the last time I go on a Gary goose chase.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

On The Goodreads Delay

Hello readers. Some of you may be wondering WHERE THE HELL IS MY BOOK? For those of you just joining us, in march a giveaway that I listed on goodreads was finished and the winners were announced. I was giving away 15 free, signed copies of my short story collection. I received all the addresses and was all set to go when...disaster struck. I had lost my job. My income was dwindling as I was paying my bills with the cash I had saved while I was searching for another job. I've recently picked up another job but it looks like they are starting me off on part-time hours. So, even though I have a stack of copies, I haven't been able to pay postage to send them. It's really frustrating for me, as I imagine it is for the winners of the giveaway. Plus, I'm in the midst of wedding plans and a move to boot. But fear not, loyal readers. Soon I will be able to send them, my best guess is a week or two. And you will have your copies. I promise. So, again, sorry for the delay. All of your copies are still very much your copies, you own them, I just have to send them.