Friday, December 27, 2013

Persistence Is Key

Nobody is going to tell you to write a book. It just never happens. What usually happens is you get an inkling about maybe kinda sorta writing a book. It starts off small. Maybe you come up with a character or two in the shower. By the time dinner rolls around, you find yourself with a plot. Then a beginning. Then an ending. The middle is your job. That's where the real work is laid out. Because if you got a killer beginning and a dynamite ending, then its up to you, and you alone, who has to hold the audience for an extended period. 

It can be difficult at times.

Little trolls plant seeds of self-doubt in your head.

Is this a strong enough beginning? Why did I put that obstacle in front of that one character? Will this even make sense?

But there is one thing to look out for if you are a truly dedicated writer. And that is Persistence.

When I first started, back in 1999, I knew that I'd write garbage. I gave myself time to write the most awful work I could. Wrote 168 pages of fiction then deleted the entire thing. I also had four or five ideas brewing. Maybe altogether I had 500 to 1,000 words to work with.

There was this old desktop computer I had when I first wrote. It was bulky, black, an Acer brand. Thing is, this computer was incredibly slow. It wasn't new either. My aunt gave it to me because she was getting a new one. My writing ritual would always start the same.

I'd take the stairs up to the attic, turn the corner, sit at my desk, turn on the computer, then pull out whatever book I was reading at the time. Different Seasons by Stephen King was always a favorite. I'd read this book because it took 20 to 30 minutes for the computer to boot up. When it was fully on, I'd open up Microsoft Office, which took another 10 minutes, and I'd start typing. There was the occasional freeze which was annoying but would clear up after 10 or 15 minutes. 

So, all told, it took me an hour of wait time each time I sat down to write. But I didn't care. If a novel is intriguing, you'll become real persistent. Wrote 80,000 words on that computer. Now I sit here and wonder how I ever had the patience. 15 years later and I've already written 500,000 words. It just takes persistence.

Persistence is key.

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Thursday, December 12, 2013

Write, Publish, Repeat and Other Writing Guides to Get You Started

Let me just say that I wish this book existed when I first started writing. It's that kind of book. If you're a newbie, this tome is a fantastic resource for inspiration, motivation and practical tips on "how to get your work out into the marketplace without the gatekeepers of publishing." If you are a budding writer, I, like you, went through every permutation you could think of: I kept it secret for years, then tested the waters, dipped into POD, have been scammed, gave up, started all over again.

The best thing about this book is that you get tips from guys who tell it to you straight. No sugar-coating, just the facts of what they found as they themselves mitigated through the waters of the self-publishing career. And yes, it is a career choice. Much like other how-to writing books, this one takes you through some of the personal stories of why and how these trio of authors (Johnny, Sean and Dave) came to the conclusion that they wanted their works out there. This is not a Gold Rush scam. I'm happy to read that they address the many scammers who take advantage of aspiring writers (like buying reviews, faking reviews.)

One thing I have to contend with are some of the reviews of this book. The ones that say they aren't interested in the authors or their life story. Life stories of how someone got started writing, for me, are usually the best part of a how-to guide. Why should I get invested if I don't know if someone else has gone through the exact same struggles as I had? Would you discount the personal side of King's book On Writing?

If you know of these authors and have listened to their Self-Publishing Podcast, you can skip ahead to Chapter Five of this book. That seems to be when this book picks up steam. It does take you by the hand, which is excellent if you are a newbie, but it also give you a much needed "Face-Kicking Machine"(The Bialy Pimps, a hilarious book by Johnny) as to the realities of the industry you are getting yourself into. They discuss more on strategies rather than tactics. But the major point is, dude, just keep writing more books. Because this is the long haul. And if you are not interested in being prolific as well as diverse with genre-hopping, this might not be the book for you.

So why should you listen to these guys? 1) They have experimented with strategies and are giving you the info on what worked and what didn't. 2) They continue to learn new things and share them with the self-publishing community. 3) They have successfully become a fiction machine generator, churning out book after book that are not only interesting concepts but differ from the last one. Originality is a hard thing to find in the bookworld and these guys know what they're doing. 4) They have written over 100 books together and just finished writing 1.5 million words for the year. If that isn't productivity, I don't know what is.

While I didn't agree with every single thing that was outlined in this book, it still is a great resource to get you started, either in fiction or non-fiction, and keep you on the path to your future publishing goals. If you have a tight budget and plan on being a writer and could only afford 4 How-To guides on writing and publishing, I suggest you pick up a copy of On Writing by Stephen King, Newbie's Guide to Publishing by JA Konrath, Write. Publish. Repeat by Johnny B Truant and Sean Platt and finally Zen In the art of Writing by Ray Bradbury. Honestly, as someone who has written for 15 years, I've read a lot of How-To Write guides and these, in my opinion, are the only four you need.

Just for sake of reference, here are just some of the How-To write guides I have read:

1. On Writing by Stephen King - By far the best book on writing advice I've read. King is gentle in his approach and I've re-read it several times over.

2. POD People by Jeremy Robinson - A slim book, 156, but a great resource for people trying to break into POD print books. Best part about Print-on-demand is that its cost effective. No waste and eco-friendly. Plus there is a really inspiring story of how Robinson finally was able to live off of his own writing.

3. Newbie's Guide to Self Publishing by Ja Konrath - This is originally segments from his already popular blog. It is free on amazon. Contains 350,000 words and has lots of good personal stories as well as ebook advice.

4. So You wanna be a writer? by Vicki Hambleton -This book is inspirational, giving you constant boosts of motivation if you just decided to write.

5. Plug Your Book! Steve Weber - Great for people looking for strategies on how to get more exposure for your books.

6. No Plot? No problem! by Chris Baty - Nanowrimo founder takes you by the hand and tells you to just start writing that first book. 30 days to get 50,000 words. It is possible.

7. Write Good or Die by Scott Nicholson - Loads of inspiring stories from other writers on how they got started.

8. How to Tell a story by Mark Twain 

9. Danse Macabre by Stephen King

10. How I sold one million ebooks by John Locke - I do not by any means recommend this book. I'm just listing it because I've read it. The entire book seems moot because this author admitted to buying reviews and took self-published authors two steps back. Plus, the entire book has this cocky attitude about it.

11. Be The Monkey by Barry Eisler and Ja Konrath - a conversation between two authors on the future state of self-publishing.

12. Literature in Fiction - This book is halfway decent but it also has contradictory advice segments at times.

13. The Story and Its Writer - By far the best book for a writer learning the craft. Inside it includes famous stories by a gaggle of writers. ( stories include The Lottery, Young Goodman Brown, Bartleby the scrivener, Metamorphosis, Hills like White Elephants.) It also has a forward on some stories on how they went about creating their works.

14. How I Write by Janet Evanovich

15. How I wrote my First Book

16. How to Write a Sentence by Stanely Fish - Sharp prose, friendly advice but it also bogs you down a bit.

17. Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury - This book will wake up the inner writer in you.

Subscribe to Roberto Scarlato's mailing list to learn more about his writing, future works and opportunities for free books! 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Rough Draft Interview with Michael Robertson Jr.

As a writer, you have to read a lot. You have to study other people's work. I love reading everything. I like to pay tribute to Self-Published books and Traditional published books because I see strengths in both. So when I stumbled onto Rough Draft by Michael Robertson Jr, I was pleasantly surprised. Not only is he capable of creating atmosphere, likable characters and intrigue but he has also published five other works, including Regret. Which I'm happy to say that is my next book to read.

I contacted the author and wanted to see if he would be up for an interview. Here's what he had to say:

1.     What is your earliest memory of writing?

I remember one time in the 3rd grade when the book fair was at my school and I saw one of those book adaptations from some current children’s movie that was popular at the time. I was immediately possessed by the idea that I would write a book adaptation of a favorite movie of mine. I got home from school that day and popped in the VHS, sat down with a piece of paper and pencil, and started to write out all the dialogue in the movie. I made it about five minutes…

Not a glamorous or successful start, but a start, nonetheless.

2.     When did you decide to be a writer?

When I was young (Elementary school) I used to love to write little stories. We had this yearly event called the Young Authors Contest, and I always got excited about what story I’d write that year. As I got older, I drifted into sports and didn’t write anything that wasn’t required for school.

However, I’ve always been a reader at heart. Devoured books at all ages, all through school.  I was the guy reading a Stephen King novel on the bleachers waiting for basketball practice to start. One day when I was about twenty I inexplicably got the itch to start writing again. I remember reading books and thinking, Man, I’d really like to try telling a story of my own. That weekend I wrote the first chapter of the first novel I’d ever written. That book will never see the light of day, but I had a blast and haven’t really looked back.

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

People have different views and definitions for what they believe writer’s block is, and to answer I can give you two different ways I’ve experienced it.

The first is more of the common definition I suppose. I was writing my novel Regret, and about half way through I hit a road block. The story had been going along fine, I was piecing it together nicely (so I hoped) and then BAM! Complete plot failure. My issue wasn’t so much WHAT was going to happen, but WHY it was going to happen. And that WHY was going to have to fuel the events of the entire last half of the novel. I don’t think I wrote anything on the manuscript for close to a month. How’d I combat it? Just a lot of thinking and pondering as I drove around town, or as I was falling asleep.

Second, I don’t experience writer’s block as much as I do “Idea Block” – I think my biggest fear is that I will run out of things to write, that I won’t be able to come up with anything semi-original or intriguing enough to justify writing. I go through that a lot. Basically between every story and novel.

4.What's your writing routine? Do you write longhand, typewriter or computer?

I’m self-published, still work a 9-5 as a Director of IT, and of course have a normal life to contend with. My routine is non-existent with the exception of there’s usually coffee or tea in large quantities. I write either in the early mornings, or late at night… or sometimes at work if it’s—I mean, yeah, mornings or nights. I write on a computer and have to have quiet. I know a lot of writers like to write with music playing but I can’t do it. My brain tends to focus on the sounds and not the words I’m trying to put on the screen. Although as an experiment one time I did write a short story with the Inception soundtrack playing. It was pretty gruesome (the story, not the music), so maybe there’s something to it. Maybe I’ll give it another shot in the future.

5.     Rough Draft is a real page turner. What inspired you to write it?

My mother is just as avid (if not more so) a reader as I am and we had an email conversation one day discussing three of our favorite authors and the styles of each of them (they all write horror / thrillers) and what each of their strengths were. I made the comment to her that it would be really fascinating to read a collaboration by the three of them. As soon as I typed the words I saw an image in my head of the three writers sitting in a cabin in the woods, their laptops on a table, working together on this potentially epic novel. The idea grew from there.

6.     I notice that within the book you give a nod to your Pseudonym  Dan Dawkins. Why did you choose to write under a pen name?

I actually wrote a blog post of my own back in January of 2012 explaining why I published Regret and The Teachers’ Lounge as Dan Dawkins. The quick answer is this: My novel Regret is a tell-all memoir of a man who reached his breaking point and snapped in horrible ways. This man also happened to be a writer of fiction. I thought it would be a neat marketing tactic to put the book out as Dan Dawkins and see what the reaction was. I didn’t come clean about it being myself who’d written the book until much later. You can read my full explanation here;

7.     I loved the idea of three writers figuring out what happened to this abandoned town. Is this partly inspired by the Lost Colony of Roanoke?

I’m familiar with the story of Roanoke, and maybe subliminally Rough Draft was influenced by memories I had of the tale, but I don’t think I ever consciously thought of Roanoke as I was writing.

8.     This book caught me off guard with how unpredictable it is. Was it outlined or did you write freely?

When I started writing Rough Draft the only thing I knew was I had to get three horror writers to the cabin in the woods and they were going to be forced to write a book together before they’d be allowed to leave. I had no idea why at the time. I got them there, and then gradually came up with the reasoning. Once I had the reasoning, I had my ending (somewhat), but everything in the middle was unplanned and not outlined at all. I can’t outline to save my life. I just see where the characters take me. I put the puzzle together one chapter at a time. Trying to think one or two steps ahead but usually having to go back three.

9.     What are you working on now?

Right now I’m working on the beginnings of a new novel. Only have about 20k words, but I think it has potential. However, I’ve got a lot going on outside of writing (recently married, trying to sell and buy a house, the holidays are coming up) so I’m not really able to focus on it as much as I’d like. I think I’m going to shelve it for a while and write two other ideas I’ve recently had (they’ll be short stories or novellas), and pick the novel back up once things calm down.

10. What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

This is the question that I myself always looked forward to hearing answered during author interviews I watched or read. And the answer that always comes up is simultaneously the best answer, and most boring answer that nobody wants to hear—You have to read a lot and you have to write a lot. There’s no other way to develop your skills as a writer. It’s the only way to find your voice.

Another answer that I’ve recently discovered and I think is fantastic is one I heard Joe Hill (Stephen King’s son, who can write with the best of them) say at a recent reading he did. He said, and I’m paraphrasing here, don’t set out to write a short story, or a novella, or a novel. Just sit down each day and make it your goal to write one really good scene. Don’t just write about your character getting up and eating breakfast, just to get your words in for the day, but each time you write, go for one really good scene. You do that over and over and eventually you’ll have something. 

Monday, October 28, 2013

What I'm Not

I'm not a writer dying to be published. I already am. I am self-published and proud of it. Nobody forced me into it and I knew it would not be quick and simple. My biggest fear was never having anything read that I had written. I wanted my voice out there so I put it out there. I'm never going to apologize for that. I'm not a writer who is longing to be published to the esteemed New Yorker. I'm not a writer who feels that exclusivity is a bench mark and that rejection is a totem of climbing success. I'm not a writer concerned about how many degrees you have. You want to impress me? Turn a blank page into something creative.
That will impress me. 

I'm not a writer who toils for years on the perfect modern american novel. I used to think that was what a writer was supposed to be all about. I was highly misinformed. I'm not a writer who will tell you to quit or that there are too many books out there in the ether. I've read amazing stories and have been wowed in many unique ways a thousand times over. Sure there are a lot of books out there. But yours is not out there yet and it needs to be. I'm not a writer who will settle for the notoriety of having written something. I want to support my family writing interesting stories to the amusement of the masses. That's what I'm all about. And I happen to want to write a lot. 

I'm not a writer who will write the same predictable story again and again. I am always striving to write something different; to venture further away from my comfort zone. in doing this I've discovered that approaching each story with a different eye gives the material that much more vibrancy and life. Never be comfortable. Always be willing to change and try something new.

I'm not a writer who believes that you only have one good story in you. Count up all the times you've played the 'What If?' game in your head. I bet it was more than one time. I'm not a writer who will buy reviews, no matter how tempting that might be. You wanna review something of mine? Fine with me. If its a five star review, that will put a smile on my face for a while but it will do nothing for me in the long run. If its a 3 to 1 star review filled with constructive feedback I may brood over it for weeks but in the end I will dust myself off and try to win you back with the next title. I'm not a writer who will offer you runaround advice on how to write. I'm gonna give you exactly what I learned and when I learned it and tell you straight out that you might find a different formula but so long as words get on the page, you've done something right. I'm not a writer who will slow down and take it easy. People have been telling me to take it easy my whole life. If I wanna fill up my tank and take a journey through a landscape of words leaving behind a lengthy back-list of written works in my wake then who are you to tell me to slow down? 

I'm not a writer who will compromise on story. If a story is engaging and rips an emotion from you, then that story has become a part of you and I believe that someone else needs to experience that same visceral feeling. I'm not a writer who believes this is art. This is work. A lot of work. And you know what comes after all that hard work? An income. If you've published hundreds of short stories to countless magazines and in the end you are dirt poor, you need to start selling your stories on the streets. Maybe then, through stomping those streets, you'll see how much more profitable and rewarding it is to talk directly to readers about your stories. I'm not a writer who supports these "Get Rich Quick On Kindle Scheme" ebooks. They are taking advantage of you and are simply driving up their sales on the backs of desperate people. I am not a writer who will ever write a How-To Book on writing. A memoir of writing, perhaps that's in the cards. But how can I possibly tell you how to write a book when I myself am constantly learning new things?

I am not a writer easily dismayed by dwindling sales or lackluster feedback. You ignore me, I'm just going to keep showing up. I'm not a writer who is going to charm you. At the end of the day, if you are driven to read something of mine and want to talk about it or the act of writing itself, then you have my full undivided attention. I'm not a great writer. I would say I'm a competent one. I've weaved enough story ideas that when I explain them to people, they scoot forward and are nearing the edge of their seats. That's why I do this; for the thrill of connecting with readers.

I am not a lot of things. What I am is a writer with heart. And if you've just read this and feel inspired to start writing yourself, then I bet that you have some heart too.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

When To Bail Out

It's never easy but sometimes you have to recognize when to bail out of a story.
I have to admit there are times when I work really hard on the structure of a story...then come back to it six months later.
As a boy, it was difficult for me to learn cursive writing. I hated it. But I tried to stick with it and my teacher slightly frightened me when she said, "In cursive writing you must always keep your pen on the paper with every word. Do not lift up your pen in the middle of a word. You are essentially bailing out. If you do this, I will know it."
That haunted me for a while because keeping pen to paper was a challenge to me. But there were days when I did lift the pen. And you know what happened? My teacher never even noticed. I got good marks on my cursive and my little felony of lifting the sacred pen went unaddressed.
I'm not saying that that makes me an expert and that I should pursue a life of crime in forgery. I'm simply saying that if you feel that you need to bail out of a story, it is perfectly okay.
Either you have to bail out because you need to abandon the story completely because it doesn't work or you need time for the idea to settle and meld better so that you can come back to it later.
When writing my first science fiction novel, there were several times I had to bail out and walk away, promising myself that I would return to finish the story. In order to blend myself back into the story, I reread everything I had written before. So if I had 200 pages written, I'd sit down and read all of them before I wrote another word. It was tedious, but I felt needed.
There have also been times where I had to bail out of a short story because initially, the idea was interesting but it didn't come out on the page. I would actually say out loud, to an empty room, "What the hell is this? What was I thinking? This is just a bunch of words on a page. A word salad. There's no story here. Time to get outta this mess."
But I learned something crucial to writing: Always make sure that when you come back to the page, that the same passion, drive, inspiration and creativity come back with you. It will be a challenge but one that will ultimately be rewarding in the long run. And it will appear seamless. Like you never lifted the pen from the paper at all.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Walk Like An Addiction

For the past 13 years, I have been chasing the dragon. It’s a hard drug. One that many people try to gain but some fizzle out with less than nothing to show for it. I began at the age of 14. A young age. I was unsure and always stumbling. I charged forward, trying to chase some semblance of an existence where I could cling to my addiction while still maintaining a healthy, sane life.
          In the beginning I tried jokes. I aspired to be a comedian, learning the greats…also a bit of the weird icons of my youth. Eddie Murphy, Andy Kaufman, Richard Pryor. I studied all of them. While I lacked the physicality of Jim Carrey, I tried blunt force trauma with my humor. A dash of deadpan, a bit of bravery and I was on my way. I even went as far as perfecting the Eddie Murphy laugh and the simple action of joke and punch line. My segments were normally done in two acts.
          No problem, I told myself, I’d get discovered eventually.
          I was basing this pipe dream on one twenty minute act I had done at a talent show when I was eleven or twelve years old. That’s when I was first introduced to the drug.
          I stumbled, naturally, twice, taking the audience of about fifty or so by surprise by coming out with it and saying, “Oh boy…am I nervous.”
          My quips were met with respectable chuckles but what really floored them was my ending joke. No, I did not wow them with my puppet act which only lasted five minutes or my quick-thinking distraction of pointing my parents out in the audience. But what really let the dam burst wide open was when I said, somewhat abruptly, wiping the sweat from my forehead, regretting wearing a small suit with slicked back hair, “Man, how many times am I gonna be nervous already? Usually they have a glass of water up here.”
          That’s when it hit them.
          It started like a wave.
       One kid, my brother’s friend, fell out of his chair, clutching his stomach with laughter. My father, by the end of taping remarked, clear as day into the microphone of the camera, “I almost pissed my pants.”
         But even after, the drug would not do it for me anymore. I didn’t let anyone know I was taking it.
        Later on in life, I turned, while intoxicated on the drug, to a new way to unleash my eccentricities on an audience. I turned to magic. Even then I was unsure of myself, feeling darkness in the pit of my stomach whenever I tried to abuse the drug.
         One night I foolishly did a practice run of a magic act for my sister which I would perform at someone’s birthday party. Don’t ask me whose house. I have long forgotten that. You would too. I started this sentence with foolishly because anyone would be considered a damn fool for revealing anything to their sister. The sibling rivalry we endured over the years reached epic proportions. But no match was won so brutally on such a bitter night then when my sister, in the middle of a group of kids nearing fifteen in all, loudly proclaimed that the act was flawed. I quivered in my top hat, was shaking with uncertainty as I started my program.
          With each trick she gleefully pointed out all the secrets of my act. I’m talking every…
          “The cards are marked!” she cried. “The tube has a mirror, the plates are an optical illusion, there’s a hole in the back of the deck, a string is attached, etc.”
          And on and on it went.
          I was down to the last two tricks in my bag but, in a fever of hate, packed up my briefcase and foldout table and stormed out. I circled the block, dragging the table with me. It made a horrible scrapping sound on the road. It echoed my distaste for such a mean trick. I thought I would get the drug that night, but it couldn’t be found. I had misplaced it.
          As a film director, I carried this burden. I guess I was well in line with everyone else because at that time, in my teens, all the would-be artists were taking drugs.
        Then, like most of my phases, I fell out of it. The drug was there, pedaling around inside my head, but there was still a void.
         It was the month of being a sophomore that I was struck with four ideas. If I remember correctly, these four ideas said something to me in the computer lab on the third floor of my high school that day. They said that they could not be filmed. Sure, they could, but with my budget, a film would not do them justice.
          So I wrote.
          I wrote and set the four ideas aside.
          I wrote a list of more ideas.
          I began writing a novel.
          I began showing people the first twenty pages.
       Now I knew the name of the drug I had been chasing all these years; Awe. I wanted to shock, entrance, hypnotize, command, terrify and juggle with people’s imagination. It was the drug of Storytelling. It was a drug so sweet when you get a taste, that you always go back for more.
        Yes, I have seventy or so ideas waiting to be written, but something tells me, when I’m in my seventies, I will well have surpassed that number in stories. What I’m trying to tell you, friends, is that Storytelling is a very powerful drug. One which I hope to never recover from. For I am happily hooked on it.


Saturday, September 21, 2013

Feed Em After Midnight

I am a night owl.

Always have been, always will be. That said, I think many more writers would benefit from one solitary exercise to help you write more. Yes, we know that you must kill your darlings. We also know we must write what we know and to begin at the beginning. But here's what they are not telling you that it took me 13 years to figure out.

When it comes to night owls  its best to not drain your brain with late night TV or endless computer games. If you stay up past midnight and you are a creative person than there's only one thing you can really do...


Think about it.

This whole time you've played it safe, let yourself wind down, letting your mind to be entertained into pudding. But how much writing have you gotten done? Hmmm?

The only way you can zap your mind out of entropy is to feed it after midnight.

Take Gremlins for example. I'm sure we've all seen it by now. (By the way, don't hold out hope for a Gremlins 3. It ain't happening.) In this movie a father buys a new unique pet for his son. It's cute, its furry and all sorts of cuddly. The only rule: No feeding after midnight.

Now, if they aren't fed at midnight, we would have been treated to a family friendly Boy-and-his-Mogwai story of hope, endurance and the cute things that help us analyze life.

Good story but where's the drama?

Feed em after midnight and what happens?

Why chaos ensues! And yes, it is startling, but honestly, a Mogwai is the perfect metaphor for writing. The act of writing itself presents chaos but with it also fear, drama, comedy, horror, heroic feats, tender moments, shocking revelations and stunning plot twists. And if you can accomplish all that by sitting in a chair and writing, who knows the new stories you might unleash?

So feed your imagination...but make sure you do it after midnight, K? ;)

Monday, September 9, 2013

Now You're Just Some TV Show I Used To Know...


It's a word we often hear but seldom see it done well. What's the last good adaptation you've seen? Was it faithful to the book? Did it stray from the source material? How about the Characters? Was each one represented well?

I think the last good adaption I saw was The Shawshank Redemption by Frank Darabont. I read the novella years after seeing the movie and, y'know what? It's pretty much on the mark.

So what is it that has me so frazzled, so steaming that I absolutely 100 percent had to blog about it?

That would be...



So, okay, let's get into it.

In the past I have seen phrases like this on a movie poster:

Based on true events, Based on a True Story, Based on the Book, Inspired by The Article (Live Free or Did Hard)

I think we should add a new category: Loosely Based on the Book.

At least with that subtitle, you know full well what you are in for. 

Since then, I've heard nothing but constant buzz about the movie and how it finally evolved into a show. So when I saw that it popped up on Amazon Prime a month ago, I flipped it on and started watching. For the first three episodes the show was solid. But with each episode after, I started getting aincy. The characters were not being themselves.

Granted, I was up for some changes. But each episode is changing too much.

Changes I don't mind:
- In the original opening of the novel, a woodchuck is severed by the dome. We even get a peek inside his thoughts. In the show, it's a cow instead. I see why they did this. A woodchuck would be silly and a cow being severed in more visually shocking.
- The people within the dome can see through the structure but can't be heard on the outside. Likewise, the people outside it can't hear them either. That's going to be tough to get around, I thought, seeing as how in the book, people held entire conversations with each other through the dome.
- Phil Bushy is a good guy. I don't mind that. He was a good character and I thought, well, it'd probably be more compelling for him to turn bad if people see he was a likable guy before.

Now here's where things start going south:
- There are not enough shots of the dome.
- People seem to carry on as normal at times.
- Barbie, instead of being the drifter not looking for trouble, is now a hitman. (Seriously?)
- Julie Shumway used to be a no nonsense reporter but is now shoved into the vulnerable widow category.
- Junior is psychotic but he doesn't kill Angie. Only holds her captive. In the novel he was way more menacing and a definite threat.
- Big Jim Rennie is now someone who wants the town to like him. (Quick note: None of these criticisms are slights on any of the actor's performances. Given what they had, I think that they act well when they had good dialogue in the beginning. But the more the show strayed, the more the script, in my opinion, took a hit.)
-It can rain in the dome. (Wait. What?)
- Now a new character shows up, Maxine, and tells Jim Rennie and Barbie, "Oh, guess what? I've been watching everything going on inside the whole time. So now, since I'm bored. I'm going to blackmail all of you. Soooo yeah. That's happening. So everyone get used to it because now I have the power. Mah hahaha!" (Okay, she didn't quite say it like that but I was rolling my eyes. This started feeling like a whole other dome on a whole other town. Where were all the characters and situations I had once connected with?)

After the 10th episode, I gave up. It just felt formulaic. But I'm not the only one. Many people have been burned by this show, filling the message boards with nothing but hate. Enough to a point that Stephen King himself wrote a public message on his site, praising the show and its courage to strike out on whole new story avenues. 

Can't fault him for that, right? He's a good writer and if he wanted to sell his work, good for him. He knew there were going to be changes to it. But something about it bothered me.

Then I finally figured it out.

It's not that I hated the show. It's just that it exhibited traits that I had seen before. Gimmicks that I was burned by once before...

That's right. Lost. 

One of the writers on Under The Dome is responsible for Lost.

I see all these traits:

- People asking questions and getting no definitive answer.
- Characters attributing every mystery to the Dome, like the island.
- Villainous characters turning good and good guys turning bad. Then they swap back.

It all just pisses me off.

So I left that show.

Then I started getting interested in reading the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher (Storm Front and Fool Moon.)

I liked it a lot and will read more of the series but I wanted to check out the show which had one season on SyFy and just so happened to be in my Netflix Queue.

Why is it that a television show will never give me the story I want from the book? 

All of a sudden, I've got nothing but questions: Who is this girl in bed with Dresden? Isn't he supposed to be chivalrous and not a chick magnet? Jeep? What happened to the VW Bug? Bob's out of his skull? Why does he look like a white-haired Tim Curry? Where's the classic Harry wit? I dunno, I guess once tv execs get their hands on it, the source material goes out the window.

So, in the end, I'll just read the books. I like them better. A show or a movie cannot capture what a novel does to you. Maybe that's just the way it is.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

My Kobo Experience

As an experiment, and a way of branching out a little, I decided to take one title of mine (Village Americana) and put it up on a site called Kobo Books. Recently they've added the Kobo Writing Life program, in where self-publishers can upload their work. I uploaded the book to both Amazon and Kobo at approxametly 10:30pm on April 7th. Let's see how these two sites stack up.


Amazon - Within just six hours, the title was already live.
Kobo - Kept checking the site constantly. Finally went live on 4/9. They have instructions for you to email them if it takes longer than 72 hours.


Amazon - While writing this post, the ebook is #96,228
Kobo - Ranking in three categories: Fiction, War - #619, Thrillers - #4093, Suspense - #3240


Amazon - As far as I know, you cannot de-list a book.

Kobo - As soon as you click the button, boom, the book is de-listed.

Free Promos:
Amazon - If you sign up with KDP Select your book has five promotional days which helps promote your work.
Kobo - You can mark your title free anytime you want, with no three month exclusivity clause.

I think Kobo might be a good contender, but it will take some time for it to rival the top dog.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Mr. Mom

Let me tell you something: It is such a thrill being a dad. Seriously. I always knew I wanted kids but when it actually happens its all so mixed up and exciting. On April 30th, my entire life changed. What happened was my wife woke up that day to inform me that her water had broken. Quick as a flash we packed up all our stuff and drove to the hospital. The hospital was 16 miles away, traffic was mild. My wife was not worried in the slightest. Called my work and officially started my paternity leave.

10 hours and a whole lot of praying later, our daughter was born. I was right their on the front line, making grown-up decisions, having a surreal feeling about the experience. She was a tough one and had some trouble coming out so we had to sign papers for a C-section; a procedure we originally dreaded.

A team of doctors and nurses worked hard and made me proud by being very professional, calm and even joyful. They took our daughter to a table where they cleaned her up.

The doctor working on my wife said, "Hey Daddy, go ahead. You can go over and say hi to your daughter."

So I sat right up and I did.

There she was, the little tyke who was previously kicking around inside my wife's belly.

Naturally, I found the humor in the situation as she turned her head to me and cried out.

"Hi, kiddo. Name's Roberto. I'm your father."

I held out my hand for a shake.

Her transfixed eyes studied me then she cried again.

"I know, I know. It was tough in there, huh?"

Again, she studied me curiously, then let out a small, little, teeny-tiny cry.

"I know. I'm sorry. I know it sounds like I'm shouting. I only have two settings: Loud and Too Loud."

This made the doctor crack up.

The funny thing is, she actually kept quiet whenever I spoke. She was actually hanging on my every word. It was so neat.

They cleaned her up some more then we all regrouped in our own private room. It was a room where we endured what I would later dub hell week. I didn't want to sleep, forgot to eat and always questioned the next checkup, blood test and procedure. She was so small and I was protective of her. In five days I must have racked up as little as 9 hours total.

In the end she had to go into a light box to settle down something called Billy Rubin.

We were able to bring her home, once it settled down and we couldn't have been happier. As we fed her in the nursery, my wife was telling me something funny and I laughed. Then our daughter laughed. Then we all laughed.

Over these past couple months our daughter has grown, gotten chunky, gotten cuter (didn't know that was possible) and totally looks like her mom.

I've played with the idea of writing a Dad-Guide Book. I guess my first chapter would be titled: "Don't panic. Everything is already all kinds of chaos."

Raising this kid has been non-stop fun. It's also been very revealing. She seems to get smarter every day. 

Here's what I've learned about myself while raising our daughter:

  1. Changing diapers doesn't phase me. I used to work sewer and water and have filled my quota for smelling the foulest things of all the land.
  2. I'm always trying to make our daughter laugh. It isn't hard to do. But if you make her laugh to much, she gets the hiccups.
  3. I feel at ease in caring for her.
  4. When she cries I don't get angry or annoyed. It just makes me love her even more. She's crying because she needs me. As a parent, it makes you feel good.
  5. Having a kid promotes the idea of becoming a recluse. I'm a writer already, so it kind of works.
  6. Speaking of writing, you'd think that raising our daughter would cut into my writing time. Quite the contrary. Since I have a 2nd shift job, my duty is to help out where I can. My main deal is staying up until 5am for the midnight feeding. After a bottle, a change and a seat in the rocker, my daughter is out like a light, freeing me up to write sometimes 3 to 4 hours at a time. Talk about a boost.
  7. Becoming a father has filled me up and made me feel accomplished. I don't care about getting rich or traveling the world. As long as I have my wife and my kid to look after, my life is complete.

Thanks for reading.


One Happy Papa

(Sophia Grace Scarlato)

Saturday, June 15, 2013

In That Moment

Don't wait to write.

Write In That Moment.

Yes, I know what you are saying. Nobody writes in the moment. You have to wait for that moment. You must wait to be inspired. Well, sounds like a bunch of B.S. to me.

Why, you ask?

Well, because lately I've been reading Hemingway's A Movable Feast, an account of his early days writing in Paris. I'm beginning to see what he was talking about. Let's say you've got a scene in your head. Doesn't matter what story its for, just bare with me for a second. You know you have a scene in your head right this second. It's been one you've been toying around with for a while. One that you've been putting off because you don't think it's fully developed yet. You have to wait for that golden moment when everything makes sense and not one shred of it is tainted by clumsy dialogue or wooden prose. Am I right?

Well, would you do me a favor and write that scene right now?

Don't worry.

It may seem difficult at first but, before you know it, that one seemingly innocuous scene will come to life. Your characters will start moving around, talking to one another. The plot will veer in stunning directions you hadn't thought of yet. It will be like alchemy when the lead finally turns to gold. And it will all be due to the fact that you took five minutes and just wrote that one scene down.

I'm not talking out of my rear over here. It's been happening to me too. Every day, in fact, I find that I get a small glimpse of a scene in my head and automatically whip out a pad and pen and start jotting something down to see where it goes. Nevermind that it's not part of the short story that I'm writing. Or that it is a scene three books down the line. The point is that after it is done: you will have something written. And the goal to writing consistently is to have a lot of stuff written

Hemingway comments on how he would write things until he felt empty. Then, in time, he would feel his metaphorical writer's well of ideas filling up again. So, you see, if you are a writer who wants to write. Just write. Your well will always fill back up again and you'll have more stuff written.

(P.S. I tried it again tonight. This whole write-when-you-get-a-scene-in-your-head routine and it paid off. I got about 2,000 words out.)

Thursday, June 13, 2013

It Was A Dark And Stormy Day

Chicago is a great place but sometimes the weather can be annoyingly unpredictable. It changes constantly but it also changes moods as well. I would say that winter is my worst season for writing. Usually I'm so utterly frustrated that I don't have the heart to write anything down. But on rainy days, I'm a writin' fool. Lately, our fair city, has been getting quite a few of those rainy days and brother, the proof is in the pudding. A couple posts back I talked about a milestone I had reached. I had written and published 340,000 words. Not too shabby. It's all due to this excel program that my wife suggested.

With this program I've not only been able to keep track of the titles I have up now but I'm also tracking my word count progress on projects in-the-works. Altogether it totals to a whopping 387,334 words. Three short stories are done (Sci-fi, Humor, Fantasy), and several novellas are coming soon.

Back to the weather, today we had partly cloudy with a chance of HOLYS#*@! But the madness only lasted for four hours or so. The sky went from blue, to orange to green. And when the sky turns green you best believe that's the color for "leave the scene."

And as quick as it came, it faded into the distance.

Does this kinda weather bother me?

Not at all. I'm used to it. In fact, I say bring on the rain because if it takes severe thunderstorms to produce 47,000 words, you better believe I'm going to be praying for rain everyday!!!