Monthly Archives: February 2015

Tips for Writing Dialogue

Talk is cheap.

It’s one of the great truisms in life. It’s also the name of a really good album by Keith Richards (he of the Rolling Stones) but that’s a discussion for another day.  talk is cheap

When it comes to writing novels, however, talk is where the money’s at.

Whether you’re writing sci-fi, romance or horror – if your dialogue doesn’t ring true you may find people talking about your work in ways that aren’t very flattering.

I began reading recreationally while I was in college (way back when), prior to that I avoided books like the plague because the books assigned to me in high school English Lit class held very little appeal to me (shameful behavior which I talk about here).

While I was in college I accidentally began reading Stephen King’s The Dead Zone. His descriptions of small town life reminded me of my own upbringing (I guess a small town in Maine and one in Rhode Island have lots in common) so the story captured my interest, but the dialogue was the thing that grabbed me.

I remember thinking “Wow! You can write books like this?”

King was only the tip of the iceberg, though. Eventually I stumbled onto Elmore Leonard’s Get Shorty and that was all she wrote for me – my love of reading was immediately catapulted into a desire to write.

One of the predominant themes running through my list of favorite authors is the ability to craft realistic dialogue.

Leonard, King, Koontz, Dorsey, Hiassen, Evanovich and Grisham to name a few.

Dialogue, in my opinion, can make or break a story.

boring dialogue

Actually, let me revise that statement.

Good dialogue will not save a poorly written story…but bad dialogue will certainly ruin a well written one.

I’ve never spoken to any of the authors listed above about their methods, but I can reverse engineer just about anything – and through reverse engineering I’ve figured out a few simple tricks for writing dialogue…


Know your characters and know how they would talk

Elmore Leonard’s characters are not the cream of society. Most of them are urban criminals who tend to have very little use for proper English and even less use for a moral compass, so their speech, as one might imagine, is filled with contractions, slang and cursing. It also violates practically every rule of grammar ever written – and probably a few that haven’t been written yet.

get shorty

Grammar violations notwithstanding…when you read an Elmore Leonard novel it’s the dialogue of the characters that keeps the story moving and keeps you turning pages. Elmore never needed to waste words describing extraneous crap, because his dialogue put you in the story so deeply you could see, hear, smell, touch and taste everything.

In stark contrast to Elmore’s revolving door of degenerates…take John Grisham’s Harvard educated lawyers and white collar criminals. Their speech is representative of their social standing and upbringing, which make his stories ring true.

write goodly

Now if you were to insert Leonard’s dialogue, as well written as it is, into a Grisham novel – well, let’s just say that Tom Cruise would have had one less movie on his resume.

Make sure each character has their own way

Listen to people when they talk – it’s the best way to learn how to write dialogue – and you don’t have to listen very long to see that each of us has our own little idiosyncrasies.

Me, personally…I tend to use the phrase what-not fairly often. I used to work with a guy who, for some strange reason, began many of his sentences with the word anyways.

Think of your characters as individuals with their own speech habits. Maybe one of them mispronounces a word (or words), another might have a habit of using the wrong word in an effort to make his vocabulary sound impressive.

Paying attention to such small details will make your characters seem more like real people, which will help your reader become more invested in them, and, in turn, your book…and what-not.

Keeping it real can be done without getting too real

You want your written dialogue to sound as though it was transcribed from an actual conversation, but, there are limits to how much of that conversation you want to record.

When most people talk they subconsciously insert fillers into their sentences—such as: like, uh, & you know.

I think most of us hear these things so often that our brains tend to block them out. We hear them, but we process the sentence as though they weren’t there.

Even though these fillers are a natural part of our everyday speech, they would be extremely unnatural, and really annoying, in written dialogue.

So, uh…leave them, like, out.

Regional dialects, slang terms and cursing can be overdone

If your novel is set in the south, it can be very tempting to throw in a bunch of y’alls or have your character say things like fixin to. While it may be geographically correct, too much of it will annoy your readers.

yoda says

The same applies to slang. Naturally, a little bit of slang will definitely make your dialogue ring true, but there is a fine line between a little bit and too much. Overdo it and your readers will start skimming over it.

Cursing and foul language is a similar situation, but, in my opinion, a much more difficult one to gauge. Not only do you have to try to use the right amount to sound genuine and still avoid being annoying, but you also have to worry about offending people. This is where you have to think about what your character would say, as well as how much your audience will tolerate before they throw your book into the recycle bin.

Remember that your reader can’t see ‘tone of voice’

If you subscribe to the anti-adverb school of writing, you’ll find yourself facing another dialogue challenge…conveying the character’s tone of voice. Vocal inflections, smirks, smiles, frowns, grins and other indicators of the intent behind our speech can’t be conveyed in written dialogue, and you’ll be drummed out of the writer’s union if you over-use attributions like he said facetiously. There’s only one way to solve this particular conundrum…sharpening your character development skills. Craft your characters skillfully and your readers will know them well enough to interpret the unspoken meaning behind their words.

Pay attention to the calendar

I was talking to an editor recently. The topic of dialogue in novels came up (covert research on my part for this post!) and she told me about her biggest pet peeve…make sure your dialogue is historically appropriate!

I’m sure none of you need to be told that if your novel takes place in the Victorian age or colonial America you need to be historically accurate, after all it would have seemed a little out of place if Rhett Butler had said “Check it, bitch, I don’t give a fat rat’s ass.”

But there’s more to it than just covering the big chunks of history. Here in America slang phrases come and go faster than iPhones, so what is accurate today could be painfully outdated a year from now.

The editor I mentioned told me she had been working on a novel written from the point-of-view of a teenage girl. The problem was that the author (a baby-boomer) failed in her attempt to capture the lingo of a modern day teenager; instead the dialogue all sounded like it was straight out of the sixties.

Moral of the story…in addition to using jargon sparingly, make sure it’s accurate for the time period of your book, whether it’s last week, last year or the last century.

Unless your character is a robot, don’t make him/her speak like one

This last one is sort of a mop-up, catch-all tip. It incorporates a few of the previously mentioned ones, but deals with real-talk.

As I said earlier, listen to people talk.

Nobody says: “I am going to go to the store. Would you like me to purchase something for you?”


They say: “I’m going to the store. Want anything?”

Contractions may be a lazy way of speaking but we all use them…all the time.

When it comes to dialogue, the contraction is your friend…

Instead of I am, he would, she will and they are – use I’m, he’d, she’ll and they’re…because that’s how people talk.

There you have it…my nickel’s worth of free advice.

I hope it’s useful to you – and if you have any tips for writing dialogue please feel free to share them in the comments section.

As always – thank you for reading


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The Birthday Gift

I was raised on baseball.

My parents, and all four of my older brothers, loved the game, so I was indoctrinated at an early age.

As a gift for making my First Communion I was given my first ball and glove (or mitt as some people call them). I believe I was about six-years-old at the time.


I lived in a baseball bubble for the next 6 years.

I had no interest in any other sport…zero…none.

The other kids in my neighborhood shared my love of baseball, but not my disinterest in other sports, so they were playing football and hockey (both ice and street). Since winter in Rhode Island is not conducive to baseball I decided that playing football and hockey would suffice until springtime.

When my twelfth birthday was approaching I put in a request for a football, a helmet and some shoulder pads.

Lo and Behold, my wish was granted (I still wonder how my mother managed to pull it off, given our less-than-privileged lifestyle). So…on my birthday in 1972 I suited up and grabbed Ray, the kid across the street, for some gridiron fun in the large empty field across the street from my house.

It was a beautiful fall day and we were having a blast, just the two of us, slamming each other around and enjoying the sound of our pads and helmets making contact. football

At some point during our “game” we looked up to see a lanky kid with a head of naturally curly red hair sprinting across the field toward us, waving. We didn’t recognize him, which was odd in our small and close-knit neighborhood, so we took a time-out until he reached us.

Our suspicions were confirmed…we didn’t know him, but that didn’t seem to matter to him.

With a huge smile he announced that he had just moved into one of the newly constructed houses around the corner. Still panting form his sprint across the field, he continued on, informing us that he had his own helmet and pads and if we would have him, he’d love to join us (if memory serves, there were several pleases and thank yous thrown in).

Since I was the oldest, and since it was my birthday, Ray deferred to me. The new kid had observed the rules of playground etiquette (not inserting himself into the game without permission, and tacitly acknowledging our seniority) so I granted his request.

point ave

The neighborhood as it looks today. Not much has changed. I lived in the brown house on the right. The field on the left served as our sports complex – although there were no trees in the way back then,


Have you ever looked back on one of your decisions in life and realized exactly how huge the resulting impact was?

That moment, there on a mostly-dirt field in the brisk October air, when I invited a stranger to join a game of football, has affected my life in more ways than I can possibly describe.

The new kid’s name was Kevin.

Shortly after he returned with his gear my mother interrupted the game by informing us that it was time for birthday cake and ice cream – and being my mother, she told me to bring both Ray and my new friend.

Ray and I didn’t need any additional encouragement…we sprinted to my house as if it were the end zone in the Super Bowl…assuming Kevin was right behind us.

When we were at the table awaiting the magic of chocolate cake…the festivities were delayed when mom asked where the “other kid” was.

In the excitement to get a good seat at the table, Ray and I had pretty much forgotten about him.

“I don’t know,” I said. “Probably still outside.”

He seemed like a good kid, but he hadn’t earned enough points to out-prioritize cake and ice cream.

My older brother Ted then took it upon himself to rectify the situation. He went to the back door and found Kevin, still wearing his shoulder pads, waiting silently and patiently outside.

Despite Ted’s urging, Kevin steadfastly, but very politely, declined the invitation to join us, so Ted did the next best thing…if Kevin wouldn’t come to the party, Ted would bring the party to Kevin.

Ted brought him a nice big slice of cake, a generous scoop of ice cream and a tall glass of soda.

Kevin was properly grateful and thanked my brother profusely, while simultaneously insisting that he didn’t want to impose.

The rest, as they say, is history…or, in my family, legend.

Kevin and I became instant friends.

Soon afterward Kevin was an honorary member of my family, and I, his. It wasn’t long before we formed the once-in-a-lifetime type of friendship that many people talk about, but few ever experience.

Best friend doesn’t even scratch the surface…

Tim Kevin PawSox

Kevin (right) and I when we were doing some work at McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket, RI – Home of the AAA Pawtucket Red Sox – it was a dream come true for us!


In the 43 years since that day, which included high school, college, jobs, houses, wives, kids, and cars, Kevin and I have weathered every conceivable type of storm and come out on the other side closer than we were going in. I can count on my hands the number of days we harbored anger toward each other (and it was always my fault), but I could never count the number of times we supported each other in times of need.

When I wrote my first novel I dedicated it to my mother and my son, they being the two most important people in my life.

My second novel was dedicated to Kevin.

I left Rhode Island in 2006. Since then, Kevin and I have only seen each other twice, but despite the separation we are still as close as any brothers.

As much as I enjoyed the football equipment I received on my birthday, I can honestly say that meeting my lifelong best friend was, by far, the best gift I could have asked for…so I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge him on his birthday.


Happy birthday, Reefus…I love you, my brother!

Sox cake


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The Difference Between The Best Seller List and The Best

Last week I posted about Fifty Shades of Grey being art…then, a few days later, posted about Cause and Effect and how it figured into my next novel.

For some reason I began thinking about the two posts and how they could be tied into a single question…


Do people buy a book because it is popular—or—Does a book become popular because people buy it?


Sticking with the Fifty Shades example…

The series passed the 100-million copies sold mark in February 2014, and I would assume that the popularity of the movie caused another spike in sales.

Now let’s look a little bit of historical info.

50SoG was originally written as fan-fiction based on the Twilight series (another series that could have served as an example for this question). Twilight has also eclipsed the 100-million mark in sales – a very impressive number.

But is it impressive simply because of the sheer volume? Or is it a true barometer of the level of quality inherent in the work?

Let’s face another fact…America is The Land of the Fad.

Don’t believe me?

Then explain to me if you will…

  • The Pet Rock
  • Cabbage Patch Kids
  • Oxygen Bars
  • Racquetball

pet rock

Yes, here in The Land of the Free…we will stand in line for days to purchase the latest hot-ticket item and even throw a few punches to get the last one off the shelf. We’ll pay top dollar for something we could get for next-to-nothing (water) and we’ll replace a perfectly good product with the latest version (iPhones) for no other reason than it’s this year’s model.

So is it a stretch to think that we will buy a book based solely on the fact that “everybody is reading it”?

I think the numbers speak for themselves.

While I still stand by my post about 50SoG being art…I also believe that you can’t judge a book by its sales numbers – especially a number like 100-million.

That’s a mind boggling number.

To put it into perspective let’s look at Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Huck Finn

Arguably one of the best books ever written (in this country), it was published in 1885 and sells about 200,000 copies per year. That means it will sell 1 million copies every five years. So how many years will it take to sell 100-million?





According to my math – that’s 500 years.

Let that sink in for a minute…

It would take 500 years for one of the best pieces of American literature to match the sales numbers Fifty Shades has hit in less than 5 years.

Surely this doesn’t mean that 50SoG is a better book than Huck Finn? Not just better…better by a factor of 100?

I refuse to even entertain that thought.

I think the only thing we can accurately discern from this is that Fifty Shades is benefitting from being the most current fad, and like all fads it will fade into the annals of pop culture history before the next President is elected. It will be nothing more than a question in Trivial Pursuit (talk about fads) where the answer is perpetually on the tips of people’s tongues.


You might say that it won’t be long before we turn the page on it and move on to the next chapter.

Naturally this topic deserves a much deeper conversation than I am offering here, but I think it is safe to say that, when it comes to the book buying public in America, we can invoke a thought from one of my other recent blog posts…If you build it, they will come.

Face it America…if Madison Avenue says you want it, you’ll sell your sister into slavery to get it.


As always – thank you for reading


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To All Book Reviewers – A Thank You

I’m sure that all authors, independent and otherwise, share Dylan’s sentiment…Thank you to everybody who writes a book review!

Suffolk Scribblings

Thank you

Writing book reviews is tough. It doesn’t matter whether it is a couple of lines and a rating, or a well thought out essay, it takes effort for a reviewer to translate all the emotions and experiences they’ve just felt and translate it into something concise, considered and heartfelt. Many authors complain about how difficult it is to write a plot synopsis or promotional blurb, but it can be just as difficult for reviewers to condense everything they’ve experienced, complete with explanation and reasoning, into a few paragraphs. And then there is the worry about the reaction. Every author understands the anxiety of letting their work go, wondering if people will love or hate what they’ve written, but it is exactly the same for a reviewer, especially if they didn’t enjoy the work they are reviewing.

Some, lucky few, get paid to review books, but most book reviewers do it for free. And this is important for authors to remember…

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Cause & Effect and the Story of My Next Novel

Cause and effect.

The relationship of one event to another – for example a left jab and a bloody nose.

Two separate events – where the first (the left jab) causes the second (the bloody nose).

Pretty simple. Left jab…cause. Bloody nose…effect.

It’s usually not difficult to follow the sequence from cause to effect…usually.

In some cases the cause may be separated from the effect by a chain, or several chains, of other events. In our example the effect was seen almost immediately after the cause, but it is entirely possible for the two to be separated by time – seconds, minutes, days, months or even years.

It’s like math – it can be really simple

basic math

or it can be really complex ,

diff eq

but it always works and, if you’re willing to spend enough time and effort, it can always be proven.

Every event in the history of the known universe has been the effect (directly or indirectly) of another event.

Nothing just happens.

history of the universe

I believe that it is possible to follow the trail from a seemingly random event to its original cause. Sometimes the path may not be easily recognizable because it may intersect with, or overlap the path of a completely separate chain of events, nevertheless it’s there.

To oversimplify my point – consider the day your parents met (which was the result of other events, but let’s start there). As a result of that meeting you exist, therefore everything you think, do and say can be seen as a result of that meeting.

coffee on keyboard

So you’re at work and you spill coffee on your computer keyboard. The guy from I.T. is in the middle of something when you call and request a new keyboard. He drops what he was doing to bring you a replacement. The guy who was relying on him to finish the interrupted operation is now waiting longer than he had anticipated, so he decides to walk across the street for a latte. The barista is cute so he asks her out. She accepts, they date and eventually get married. Their first child is born three years after the day you spilled coffee on your keyboard, so your clumsiness could be seen as the causation of the birth of their child…but remember, if your parents hadn’t met, you never would have spilled that coffee…

And it goes on and on and on…

Nothing just happens.

Picture an infinite number of chains, of an infinite number of sizes and shapes. Each chain has an infinite number of links. Links from some of the chains connect to links from other chains. Some of the chains never intersect – directly.

Your life is one of those chains.


My life is another.

The act of you reading this blog post, written by me, means that a link from my chain is now connected to a link form your chain, thus altering both of our courses.

If you think about it long enough it can be absolutely mind boggling.

So…why am I waxing philosophical, you ask?

Because I want to tell you about my next novel.

The book is called Full Circle and it’s about the simple belief that what goes around, comes around.


Life is not a coincidence.


“Being in the right place at the wrong time” is not the real reason for anything.

Full Circle will be a departure from my usual Florida crime fiction stories (sorry, ladies…no Ike in this one). It will have more in common with Unfinished Business, but without the paranormal element.

UB cover

For the uninitiated among you, I actually began writing Full Circle in 1988.

At the time I had a deep interest in Karma, and a lot of spare time.

So I grabbed a spiral-bound notebook and started writing (remember, there were no personal computers in 1988). I wrote about fifteen chapters before I shelved it.

Although it’s been over 25 years, I’ve never forgotten Full Circle.

When my first novel, Living the Dream, was released I told myself that Full Circle would be my next project.

It didn’t exactly work out that way. There have been nine other projects since then, but Full Circle is now officially my current project.

It has the potential to be my Magnum Opus, but then again it could be the biggest mistake of my writing career…only time will tell.

There are two schools of thought on changing horses in mid-race…

Some say I should stick to what I’ve been doing. It may not be classified as great American literature, but it has a certain appeal, and my readers seem to enjoy it.

Others tell me I should stretch my writing muscles and venture off into new territory.

I’m a believer in personal growth and all that stuff…so what the hell?

The worst that could happen is Full Circle crashes and burns – and I go back to writing Florida Crime Fiction – which I was going to do anyway.

Regardless of the outcome, one thing is for sure – 25 years ago I began writing a novel…and we are now seeing one of the effects of that event.


As always – thank you for reading


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Fifty Shades of Grey is Art – Whether You Like It or Not

Before we get to today’s topic please take a couple of minutes to watch this video of an Australian movie critic’s review of the movie adaptation of the best-selling novel Fifty Shades of Grey.


Well – this is embarrassing…the review has been taken down because of copyright issues. I’m sorry about that.

In short – she trashed it. According to her there was not a single redeeming quality to be found in the movie. She called it “domestic violence dressed up as erotica” and several other negative things. She even went as far as to say that her husband did not get lucky after the movie because (I’m paraphrasing) it left her anything but in the mood.

Agree? Disagree? Don’t care?

Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I have never read any of the Fifty Shades novels, nor have I seen the movie…and barring a frontal lobotomy, I never will.

50 shadesThat being said…let’s talk about taste.

A wise man once said “Opinions are like assholes…everybody has one, and everybody thinks everybody else’s stinks.”

I posted the above video (when it could actually be seen) on my facebook page recently and, within minutes, I had a nice little string of comments – some agreeing with the critic and some accusing her of having her head where her opinion is.

I’m not picking on Fifty Shades (even though it was originally written as fan fiction for the Twilight saga), I chose it specifically because it has an immediate polarizing effect whenever it comes up in conversation, so I figured it would be a good example for my point…

Book(s) or movie…it doesn’t matter…mention Fifty Shades of Grey and you’ll have a debate raging in no time. Not just your garden variety debate either…you’ll have a full-blown free-for-all with one side saying it’s awesome, another side saying it’s trash, the third side will tear it up for the way it objectifies women and there will even be a side complaining that the author didn’t properly research the whole BDSM scene before writing about it.


Men, women, young, old – Fifty Shades gets ‘em hot…and not in a good way.

But is it good?

Is it trash?

Is it a poor excuse for erotica?

Is it a brilliantly played card by the author to cash in on horny housewives?

Relax…those are all trick questions.

The answer is to each one of them is Yes…and No

When it comes to our taste in art there are no right, or wrong, answers. Good taste and bad taste are totally arbitrary concepts. Art appeals to each of us in a different way, for different reasons. The world would be extremely boring if everybody liked the exact same kind of music, movies, paintings and books.

I think we need to amend the list of taboo discussion topics…Religion, Politics, Sex and Art.

Call it what you will…but Fifty Shades is art.

That’s right, I said it. It’s art. art

You couldn’t pay me to read it and I’d rather pour bleach in my eyes than watch the movie…

…but, love it or hate it, it’s art, and the thing that makes it art is the fact that we can’t come to an all-encompassing opinion about its quality (or lack thereof).

It’s the difference between art and science.

If I say “Jaws is the best movie ever made” there will be people who agree with me and people who disagree with me, and with varying degrees of intensity.

Now if I say “The sum of the squares of the two legs of a right triangle is equal to the square of the hypotenuse.” Nobody can disagree with me – because it’s science.

pythagorean theorum

A fact is a fact is a fact…but an opinion is, well, we’ve already covered that.

Whether you’re talking about books, music, movies, paintings or interpretive dance – one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

The interesting thing, to me anyway, is how defensive some people get.

I’ve seen people defend their favorite artist with more ferocity than they would their own children. I remember once, in high school, when I wanted to pound a classmate six ways from Sunday for having the audacity to say that Kiss was a better band than The Beatles.


I kid you not…to this day I’m still amazed at the self-restraint I was able to muster in the face of such blasphemy.

But, I digress…

I imagine the first art critic made his debut in a cave in France, and there was probably more than one Neanderthal there with their leopard skin wrap in a twist over his review. Who knows…it may have been the reason for the first war, or at least the first rumble.


Since then there has been no shortage of people standing by to tell us why something is good or bad—and an equally ample supply of folks willing to let everyone know how wrong the dingbats in the first group are.

It’s funny how people will call a reviewer all sorts of names when said reviewer takes an opposing stance on a particular work of art, but those same people, when trying to decide which movie to see, will say “oh, let’s watch that one….they say it’s really good.”

Who says it’s really good?

Probably the same guy you called a moron last week because he panned Fifty Shades.

The impetus for this entire post, believe it or not, was a conversation with a fellow author about book reviews. We authors ask (more like beg) readers to post reviews knowing that it’s only a matter of time until somebody trashes our book.

It’s not an easy pill to swallow, but you have to take the good with the bad. The trick to dealing with it is to remember that it’s all a matter of taste.

So, the bottom line is, whether you’re an artist or an art aficionado, screw the critics, because art appreciation it is not a matter of black and white…

…it’s all about shades of grey.

face palm

(come on – tell me you didn’t see that coming!!)


As always – thank you for reading


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How Much Is Not Enough?

Tonight’s Powerball jackpot is about 500 million dollars (give or take a million).

500 million

I, like many others around the country, will be joining forces with several friends and purchasing large quantities of tickets.

The theory, naturally, is to increase our chances of winning.


I’ve done it before and I must admit, it’s difficult to not fantasize about all the things I’m going to do with the booty, even though I know the result will most likely be a repeat of this attempt.

In tonight’s pool there will be 15 of us, each contributing $6 – which means, at $2 per ticket, we will have 45 chances to win.

If, or should I say WHEN, we win, and take the lump-sum payout, we’ll each walk away with about $24 million.

Not too shabby.

I could finally replace the missing hubcap on my Mitsubishi and buy some new socks.

cashI think it’s even safe to say that my great-grandchildren will still be enjoying it after I’m gone…

I also think it’s safe to say that there a very few people who would take issue with such a nice payday.

Which brings me to the reason I decided to write this post…

As I said, I’ll be one of 15 people in this attempt to hit it big…but the number of people in the group isn’t always that high.

There are only four of us willing to take a chance every week, regardless of the size of the jackpot. The rest are bandwagon-jumpers only interested when they stand to make “the big bucks”.

This attitude baffles me because the minimum Powerball jackpot is $40 million.


That’s Forty Meeeeeelllllion dollars.  Dr Evil

Some basic math tells us that, if there were 15 people participating, each person would pocket a cool 1.33 million.

Apparently 1.33 million isn’t enticing enough for some people to risk five or six bucks.

Now, granted…1.33 is not 24 – but is the risk/reward really that bad?

The guy who runs the pool I’m in (we’ll call him Julio) has determined that the “others” usually start climbing on board when the jackpot clears the 200 million mark.

More basic math…and we learn that the magic number for participation seems to be (gulp) 6.66 million.

I’m not one to cling to religious dogma, but that’s a bit eerie.

Anyway…root of all evil notwithstanding – I’ll throw my hat into any ring that has the word million attached to it.

root of all evil

If you play, good luck – hopefully one of us will get to sleep in tomorrow.

If I don’t win tonight, I’ll try again next week when the jackpot will either be in the neighborhood of 600 million ( a very nice neighborhood, indeed) or a paltry 40 million (not exactly the projects).

nice neighborhood

And if it’s true that money doesn’t buy happiness, at least I’ll be able to buy lots of stuff to take my mind off my misery.

Good luck to all of us and remember…

You can’t lose if you don’t play.


As always – thank you for reading


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Follow-up to #Authors #Marketing Yourself and your Work article…

A final follow up thought about Susan Toy’s recent series about author marketing…the take-away from this should be “give the people a reason to be interested in you and they’ll find your work without harassment.”

Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog


As a demonstration of how to put into practice; and get results from, what Susan Toy was telling you in her great 5 day series, we decided that a few statistics, based on the series, would be interesting:


Part ONE has had 351 views, 104 likes, 60 Comments, 54 tweets, 58 uploads to Facebook, 33 uploads to LinkedIn and 13 reblogs

Part TWO has had 232 views, 88 likes, 57 Comments, 34 tweets, 56 uploads to Facebook, 21 uploads to LinkedIn and 11 reblogs

Part THREE has had 186 views, 73 likes, 38 Comments, 23 tweets, 51 uploads to Facebook, 22 uploads to LinkedIn and 9 reblogs

Part FOUR has had 155 views, 66 likes, 36 Comments, 21 Comments, 16 tweets, 31 uploads to Facebook, 26 uploads to LinkedIn and 7 reblogs

Part FIVE has had 172 views, 72 likes, 18 tweets, 47 uploads to Facebook, 25 uploads…

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The Great Baseball-Movie Dialogue Debate

In the short (5 1/2 years) time I’ve been calling myself a writer I’ve met many other writers. Some in person, some in cyberspace – and the variety of opinions I’ve seen and heard from them on how to write is fascinating.

Literally as many attitudes as authors.

Naturally I have mine – and I’m not usually shy about sharing them (ipso facto, this blog).

One of my writer friends, Steve Boone, bass player for the 60s rock band The Lovin’ Spoonful, recently shared his thoughts on a speech given by Bob Dylan at the MusiCares Awards . Another writer friend, Becky Pourchot, took a piece of the speech and shared it on facebook, citing how applicable it is (or at least should be) to writers.


The portion of Dylan’s speech that appealed to her was this;

“Last thing I thought of was who cared about what song I was writing. I was just writing them. I didn’t think I was doing anything different. I thought I was just extending the line. Maybe a little bit unruly, but I was just elaborating on situations. Maybe hard to pin down, but so what? A lot of people are hard to pin down and you’ve just got to bear it. In a sense everything evened itself out.”

She followed Dylan’s quote with this thought of her own – “This is a key element when we write, I think. I often worry ‘Are people going to get this?’ It’s tempting to think about market, audience. Write for you and everything will follow.”

She then cited a movie quote that I use quite often, from the classic baseball movie “Field of Dreams”…

“If you build it, they will come.”


It’s true – I say that all the time in reference to writing and marketing.

When I say it my point is usually more to the marketing aspect of writing than the actual writing, as in – put yourself out there, build a brand and relentlessly market that brand. Convince the book buying public that you are something worthy of their time – and money.

Since I’m writing this post on my lunch break at work and NOT from the deck of my yacht, my marketing strategies are not exactly the stuff of legend, however I still believe that in today’s cyber-society it is completely possible to create interest in your brand with aggressive marketing.

It has worked for me in the sense that many more people know my name today than did in 2009 when my first novel was released.

So – yes…by all means build it – and they will come.

The difference between my use of the phrase and Becky’s perception of my use of it is this;

In her comment she implied that the phrase gives writers license to write what they feel, without regard for whether it is “acceptable” in the market. Be true to your writing spirit and, if your heart is pure, the audience will find you.

It sounds good in theory, but I’m afraid she misunderstood my interpretation of the quote, so, in order to clear things up I’m going to resort to a quote from Bull Durham – another great baseball movie.

In the movie, veteran catcher Crash Davis (played by Kevin Costner) is charged with taking young, brash and arrogant rookie Ebby Calvin “Nuke” LaLoosh (played by Tim Robbins) and giving him a little maturity before he is promoted to “the show” (the big leagues).

In one scene, Crash points out to Nuke that his (Nuke’s) shower shoes have fungus on them. Nuke is annoyed that Crash is interrupting his massage with such trivialities, and confused about why it matters, to which Crash replies…

“…you’ll never make it to the bigs with fungus on your shower shoes. Think classy, you’ll be classy. If you win twenty (games) in the show, you can let the fungus grow back on your shower shoes, and the press will think you’re colorful. Until you win twenty in the show, however, it means you’re a slob.”

shower shoes

The look on Nuke’s face after the lecture is priceless, and if you’ve never seen the movie your life has a serious void…but I digress.

My point is this…

Yes, writers should write from the heart and they should be true to their spirit, however, this is not license to write crap and tell yourself the only reason it isn’t selling is because it hasn’t found its audience yet.

The truth of the matter is, you are writing to sell your work – whether you admit it or not (here are my thoughts about that). Logic (and the laws of economics) dictates that if you want to sell something you must create something of interest to the buyer(s).

I hate to burst your bubble, Dorothy, but you write for the audience first – and yourself second.

Once you sell a million books you can publish your grocery list and people will think it’s literature. Until you sell a million books, however, it just means you have no talent.


Call me a sellout, call me insincere, call me a traitor to the craft, but I am not afraid to admit that if there were no hope of selling another book, I would stop writing…because as much as I love writing, I put too much effort into it – too much of myself – to give it away in the hope that maybe it will eventually be discovered.

So, go ahead, write for yourself…in the meantime, don’t give up your day job.


As always – thank you for reading


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#Authors #Marketing Yourself and Your Work (Final) Part FIVE

The fifth and final part of Susan Toy’s series on #authors #marketing yourself and your work.

Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog


Cartoon from

The following is an extract from a talk delivered at the Calgary Public Library in Feb. 2011.

Part 5

Another area of promotion you should consider developing – and only do this if you are comfortable with it – is speaking engagements. Speaking engagements are something your publisher will not arrange for you, unless they are approached directly by a group inviting you to speak. Make sure you are either allowed to sell books or that a bookseller has been asked to look after sales wherever you appear.

Here’s another important statistic I gleaned from reading Get Known Before the Book Deal: Authors who speak at events sell three times as many books. (This book is listed in the bibliography at the end of this post.)

You can give a straight reading from your book, but my preference is to hear an author talk about how…

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