Tag Archives: baseball

How Many Tools are in Your Writing Toolbox?

In the world of professional baseball, teams send scouts to colleges (sometimes even high schools) to evaluate young talent.

There are five aspects of the game that these scouts look for, and naturally, the more areas a player excels at, the higher he is rated—they are hitting for power, hitting for average, fielding, throwing and speed.

scouts

A player who demonstrates proficiency in all five of these areas is rare, and is referred to as a five-tool-player.

Bo Jackson, Mike Schmidt and Kirby Puckett are a few examples of such elite players.

Naturally, it isn’t necessary to be a five-tool player to be successful in Major League Baseball, but obviously it is to a player’s advantage to possess strength in as many of the five as possible.

So it is, too, with writing.

Bo

You don’t have to be a five-tool-writer to be successful, but you should work to excel at as many of them as possible. In the ever-changing world of independent publishing they will all serve you well.

What are these tools, you ask…

Well, there is no official scouting report naming them that I am aware of, but I have compiled a list that I think are key skills all writers should strive to possess.

They are:

 

  • Coming up with a good concept

I call this the What if idea…every good book starts with a great what if. For example – What if a giant shark staked a claim off the shores of a small New England town and terrorized the residents?

In my opinion…the what if is the foundation of the story – and like any building, a story is only as good as the foundation upon which it is built.

  • Knowing how to turn a good concept into a good story

Once you’ve got your concept, the next trick is turning it into a good story. You’ll need to develop good characters, give them obstacles to overcome and a journey to complete – all without losing sight of your awesome what if.

snoopy writing

  • Writing a first draft that contains all the proper elements of a good book

I don’t believe in formulas when it comes to anything creative, least of all writing…However – there are certain guidelines you should follow when writing your book. There are dozens of websites and blogs offering in-depth analysis to help you. They’ll tell you all about tent poles, conflict, dialogue, plot points, pinch points, and everything else you should know about. Again – I don’t consider these things to be rules, but they are, at the very least, worthwhile suggestions.

  • The ability to work well with your editor

Probably the biggest problem area for authors – of all levels. Let’s be honest…we spend months, maybe years, writing a masterpiece, and some glorified English teacher who has never written anything more detailed than a resume is going to tell us to butcher it?

The short answer…YES!

edit

It’s like doing a jigsaw puzzle. You sit there for an hour looking for a certain piece and somebody walks up and, after two minutes, picks up the piece and drops it in. Fresh eyes…they make a huge difference and the as the writer, sometimes we are just too close to the work to see the flaws – and believe me, there are flaws.

  • Marketing skills

This is probably the most difficult concept for writers to warm to. Not in the same sense as writers disliking editors – but in the sense that too many writers have the attitude that their masterpiece will sell itself. The reality is the exact opposite. Your book might be the next Gone With the Wind or Harry Potter, but unless you hand it to Steven Spielberg personally, and he reads it, and loves it. Nobody will ever hear about it. The number of books published every day is mind boggling, so if you don’t get out there and push it, your sales numbers will be less than spectacular.

I’m not trying to discourage you.

On the contrary I’m trying to help you. I want every independent author out there, myself included, to be wildly successful.

I’m also not saying that the five tools I’ve outlined above are all you need to be successful, but they’ll help.

It should be noted that I am, by no means, an expert.

What you have just read is merely my opinion – and I welcome any additions, alterations or suggestions to make this blog more useful.

Let’s help each other.

help each other

 

As always – thank you for reading

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It’s Time for Me to Weigh In on a Most Controversial Topic

A few years ago, when I had just gotten started in the whole “marketing myself” thing, I was given a critical piece of advice by fellow author Armand Rosamillia.

At the time my primary means of marketing was facebook.

I’m sure I don’t need to tell you about some of the things people post on facebook every day — and how easily some of the conversations escalate from innocuous to ugly in the blink of a cursor.

Back in the day, I thought nothing of joining in these “spirited” debates – never, for a moment, considering the option of keeping my opinion to myself.

Especially when it came to politics.

So, talking with Armand one day, he explained the error of my ways…

To paraphrase, he said that whenever I engaged in a hot-button topic I ran the risk of alienating potential readers –something that no author, especially an unknown indie like myself (I hadn’t yet risen to the level of fame I’m at today) could afford to do.

I saw the wisdom of his words and, even though it took some serious self-control, I followed his advice and I can honestly say that I haven’t contributed to an on-line controversy in years.

Well…as the saying goes – all good things must come to an end.

I can no longer sit by and keep my mouth shut.

I’ve been watching an issue simmer for a long time and it seems as though it’s about to boil over. It’s been the topic of many heated debates, even causing serious rifts between good friends and brothers. It isn’t confined to cities like Baltimore. It’s been discussed in places like Cincinnati, Miami, Boston, Chicago and New York.

Whenever the topic is brought up it sparks an immediate confrontation between sides. There doesn’t seem to be a middle ground, either…people expect you to take a side. None of this I can see both sides crap.

Naturally, I’ve always had an opinion on the matter, but, as I stated earlier, I’ve gotten out of the habit of adding fuel to the fire.

Until now.

If you get your news on the same channel I get mine you’ve seen that things have escalated recently, so I can’t not say anything anymore.

I have an opinion and, although it won’t make a bit of difference in the on-going debate, I am going to throw my two-cents in.

I apologize in advance if my opinion angers you, please understand that it is just my opinion. Many people are bound to be surprised by what I have to say, given my lifelong leanings. All I ask is that you respect my thoughts the same way I respect yours. If we can’t see eye-to-eye…I hope it won’t put a damper on our relationship.

If you don’t want to hear my opinion, now is the time to stop reading…

 

I think it is time to ban the designated hitter and return baseball to a game of strategy and managerial challenges – rather than proceeding down the road to “whoever hits the most three-run homers wins the World Series.”

 

Once again – I apologize for my radical views…but somebody had to say it.

 

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.

baseball

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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Short Story Contest : Follow Up

Back in February I announced the “Second Quasi-Annual Blindogg Books Short Story Contest”click here to refresh your memory.

Let me start by saying I would like to thank all those who submitted entries…as usual I received some excellent stories.

Unfortunately, I didn’t receive enough entries to make a real contest out of it – so I made an executive decision…Everybody Wins.

bears trophy

That’s right…just like modern-day Little League where every kid gets a trophy just for playing – everybody who submitted a short story to the contest will have their story published.

The only difference is that instead of having them in my next novel (tentatively titled Protect This and scheduled for an August 2014 release) they will be included in the collection of short stories I am currently writing to be released before Christmas 2014.

I started writing short stories about my main character, Ike, back around Christmas of 2013 at the suggestion of my friend and fellow author Armand Rosamilia. I plan to have around 20 stories in the collection – and now I will have five or six more.

Ike shirt front

So that’s the latest news on the “Second Quasi-Annual Blindogg Books Short Story Contest” – and once again I would like to thank all the entrants for submitting their stories, and truth be told, I’m glad I don’t have to decide on the finalists. It would have been too difficult!

The short story collection will be called “Ike for All Seasons” and it will be available before Christmas!

And speaking of Ike – in the next day or two there will be another Ike tee-shirt campaign – get ready to make your Ike fashion statement!!

 

As always – thank you for reading

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Writing Tips From the World Series

Warning: I’m going to talk about baseball for a minute, but only briefly, I promise.

I was watching game 1 of the World Series between the Red Sox and the Cardinals and something unusual happened in the first inning.

The Red Sox had runners on first and second when David Ortiz hit a ground ball to the second baseman which should have resulted in a routine double-play. Unfortunately (for the Cardinals) shortstop Pete Kozma failed to handle the toss from the second baseman, resulting in a bases-loaded/no out situation for the Red Sox as opposed to having a man on third with two outs.

Kozma

In baseball, and especially in the World Series, that is a huge difference.

The Red Sox went on to score three runs in the inning and eventually won the game 8-1.

Even before the game was over the baseball pundits started with the what ifs.

What if Kozma hadn’t dropped the ball?

They began giving their predictions and analyzing how the inning would have been different. When the game was over the talk was about how that play changed the game – and you can bet your bottom dollar that when the World Series is over they will pontificate for days, maybe even weeks, about how that one play affected the outcome of the series.

If the play had gone a different way (any different way) there would be as many potential results as there were fans in the seats…maybe more.

What does this have to do with writing?

Quite simply…you can crerate an entire story with those two words…What if.

what if

The What If  is a fiction writer’s best friend and if you aren’t asking yourself what if often, you should be.

I once saw an interview with Peter Benchley, author of Jaws, and he told about how he once read a newspaper article about a shark attack of the New Jersey shore…and he asked himself what if a shark decided to stake a claim in a certain place and stay there until the food source was gone…

jaws

That is not an exact quote – but the what if part is. When I heard him say those two words a bell went off in my head.

What if…is the key to mapping out your story.

You start with a basic what if concept and build on it by asking what if whenever you get to a fork in the road.

Asking it once will create a ripple effect, and each answer will bring about its own what ifs. Some of them will be dead ends, you may have to back-track and change an answer here and there to create a new path…but eventually you’ll have a story.

Like the baseball game, the number of potential answers is virtually unlimited, as are the outcomes.

The beauty of writing fiction is – unlike baseball – you get to ask the what ifs before it’s too late.

That’s why I tell people I don’t believe in writer’s block. If you find yourself stuck…just ask yourself what if. And keep asking it (and answering it, of course) until you are writing again.

It’s not a shortcut – there are no shortcuts in writing – it’s more like a navigational tool that will allow you to predict the outcome of the game before it’s played.

Now if we could only put down a few bets…

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