Category Archives: Writing craft

One-Day Fiction Writing Seminar . . . Registration Now Open!

Most of you know I teach writing at conferences. I receive a lot of positive feedback from the classes I teach and attendees often ask if I’ll ever host my own fiction seminar. Well, here it is. The details are below.

I researched other similar one-day seminars and intentionally set the price-point below them. That being said, I don’t want a day like this to be a burden to anyone if he or she really wants to attend but can’t afford the full price. If you want to come but the price is an issue please just email me and we’ll work something out. Trust me, being a one-income family of six I’m no stranger to financial difficulties. I understand and want to help.

Also, check out my new coaching site for writers. It’s not complete but you’ll get the iea.

SAVE THE DATE!!

Saturday, September 20th. 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

ONE-DAY FICTION WRITING SURVIVAL TRAINING

“Acquire the Skills to Survive the Fiction Writing Journey”

Where:
The Underground
104 33rd Street
Latrobe, PA 15650

Instructor: Mike Dellosso, Author & Coach

Schedule:
Morning Session . . .
Developing authentic characters
Point-of-view (seeing your fictional world through the eyes of your characters)
Writing “real” dialogue
Setting (creating a world that comes alive); pacing (keeping your readers turning pages)
Dealing with antagonists
Writing the 5 senses

Lunch . . . 1 hour, on your own. There are restaurants nearby or pack a lunch and hang out at the church.

Afternoon Session . . .
Theme (the “point” of your story)
Time management for the writer
Defeating writer’s block
7 things that have nothing to do with writing that will improve your writing
Honest to goodness Q & A (this is your chance to ask anything about writing, publishing, agents, editors, money . . . whatever)
Final words

Nearby hotels:
Wingate by Wyndham
Springhill Suites by Marriott

Cost:
$50, must register in advance
TO REGISTER AND PAY BY CHECK, PLEASE SEND AN EMAIL TO michael_dellosso(at)yahoo.com
TO PAY BY CREDIT CARD, CLICK HERE  (note: there is a $3.74 processing fee when paying by credit card)

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Editing Life

I don’t like edits. There, I said it.

I’m the kind of person who does things once and wants to leave it at that. I don’t like having to go back and do things over, take a second or third pass at a project. I want to only put one coat of paint on a wall, file my taxes once, try on a single pair of pants.

Writing a novel is no different. I spend considerable time on the first draft for a reason. I want to get it right the first time. But as any writer knows, once isn’t enough. Twice isn’t enough. Three times? Nope. Not enough. Edits are part of writing. Changes need to be made, mistakes corrected, inconsistencies made right.

I’m delving into the edits for my next novel, Centralia, now. And how’s it going? Let’s just say . . . it’s going. And I’m kicking and screaming.

But no matter how much pain the edits cause, or how much discomfort they produce, I know the changes will be for the best and the book will be better because of them.

I’ll respect your intelligence and assume you see the parallels to life here. It’s a lesson I need to learn over and over again.

I’ve published eight novels now and every one of them is the same story. I dislike the editing. I kick and scream. The book is better in the end.

And sadly, it’s not much different with life.

Get Your Writing in Gear in 2014

For those of you who don’t know or need to be reminded, I do offer coaching services for writers at any stage of the game. From not-even-started-yet-because-you-have-no-idea-where-to-begin to already-published-and-looking-to-get-more-published. The services include everything from editing to critiquing to mentoring to brainstorming to accountability. Whatever you need, whatever you want. We can cater anything to your schedule, goals, and abilities.

A sample list of services and prices can be found on my coaching page (members of my Darlington Society get 20% off) but below are some examples of coaching plans and prices (per month). I think you’ll find the pricing competitive with the rest of the market at worst, a bargain at best. And if you join my Darlington Society the prices drop even more.

Example #1: For the casual writer who needs some guidance

1 critique/edit (up to 15 pages) and 1 half-hour phone chat to discuss it  (once a month) . . . $60 or $48 for TDS members

Example #2: For the novice who needs a little more guidance/instruction/editing

2 critique/edits and 2 hour-long phone chats to discuss it and for instruction . . . $140 or $116 for TDS members

Example #3: For the established writer who struggles with motivation/scheduling and needs accountability

1 half-hour phone call every other week . . . $40 or $32 for TDS members

Example #4: For the established writer who needs someone to look over material and critique it, comment on it, catch errors, etc.

2 critiques (up to 15 pages each) per month . . . $80 or $64 for TDS members

So you can see there are services and combinations of services that won’t break the bank. And there are a plethora of other scenarios available. Again, the services will be totally based on your need, desires, and finances.

If you’re interested, contact me either by leaving a comment below or emailing me privately and we can discuss your needs and wants. The first half-hour consultation call is FREE.

Hope to hear from you soon!

Reach Your Writing Goals!

Writer Wordart

(Photo credit: MarkGregory007)

A few months ago I added a page to my website introducing a new coaching service I was offering for writers. I didn’t really push the service, didn’t do much in the way of announcing anything. I just kind of put it out there and let it be.

To be honest, I wasn’t ready to start accepting clients on a regular basis.

But now I’m ready.

If you’re a writer, especially a fiction writer, or if you aspire to be a writer and are looking for some personal coaching/tutoring to hone your craft . . . I can help.

If you have questions about writing or publishing that you need answers for . . . I can help.

If you’d like someone who is experienced and impartial to look at your material and give an honest opinion . . . I can help.

If you’re trying to determine whether to go the traditional route or self-published route but can’t decide which is best for you . . . I can help (I’ve done both).

If you’re discouraged and in need of some encouragement and help in determining what your next move should be . . . I can definitely help!

Please, if any of the above scenarios describes you, check out my coaching page, review the pricing, and contact me. I’m flexible. If what’s offered on that page doesn’t fit your needs or budget, contact me anyway and we can work something out. I want to see writers succeed.

I hope to hear from you soon!

The Bestseller That Never Was

Darlington WoodsBack in early 2010 I was getting ready to release my third novel, Darlington Woods. I’d released The Hunted in 2008 and it enjoyed some moderate success, enough to land me another contract. Then in 2009 I released Scream and that did even better, almost doubling the sales of The Hunted.

So in preparation for Darlington Woods I planned for a big release that would net big results. I truly felt it was my best writing to date, both in style and storytelling. The plot was engaging and fast-paced, the characters were interesting and unique, the theme was right from the heart and I knew it would touch many lives. It was the first full-length novel I wrote after battling colon cancer and so much of myself, my journey, my emotional roller coaster was poured into every page of the story.

To launch the book, I’d scheduled a handful of book signings in Pennsylvania and Maryland and a fairly comprehensive online book tour I called the “Light the Darkness Tour”. Emotionally I knew, just knew, that this one was going to be big, this was going to be my break-out novel, the one to “put me on the map.” I spent a lot of time in prayer, dedicating the book to the Lord for him to do whatever he wished with it.  Then, just a month before the big release Publisher’s Weekly reviewed the book. Here’s an excerpt:

No shortage of vampire books stock bookstore shelves today, but few combine Christian themes with ghoulish vampire villains like this headlong rush of psycho-spiritual suspense . . .  Never indulging in long boring tangents or fussy character descriptions, Dellosso’s pacing is perfect and passionate. Even though the choice of setting and parts of the plot mirror the popular novel The Shack, readers familiar with that book will find this new combo of Christian vampire fare a quick and breathless read and will scream for more.

Now, remember, this was when the Twilight saga was at its prime. Vampires were the in thing. And the fact that Publisher’s Weekly not only called it a vampire novel but also compared it to The Shack . . . well, I was sure that would seal the deal. And why wouldn’t it?

The big day came and to make a very long story very short . . . the book flopped. Sales were mediocre but worse than both Scream and The Hunted. I couldn’t understand it. I’d prepared more for this release than either of the other two. The book had gotten more exposure than I even planned for. Publisher’s Weekly had given it a glowing review. And both vampires and The Shack were still very hot. What went wrong?

You know, three years later I’m still asking myself that question. I still think Darlington Woods is my best book. It’s my favorite of all my titles. I look back on that release and the subsequent trip and can’t understand it. I think part of it is the environment of the Christian fiction industry. One, supernatural suspense as a genre was on the downslide in the Christian market (and still hasn’t recovered) and horror was never a hit. And two, maybe vampires were hot in the secular market (and still are) but in the Christian market there was (and is) little interest.

Funny thing is, never once in the book are the creatures referred to as vampires. They’re called darklings and though they act like vampires I didn’t even think of that while writing it. But it seems that Publisher’s Weekly comparison turned out to be at least one stake in the book’s heart.

The other truth I need to face is that it just wasn’t God’s time. I don’t know why and may never know but I have to accept it. So much of this business of writing is skill and talent and marketing ability, but so much more is reliance on God and faith in him to do what he knows is best. It’s a walk of trust every day.

And isn’t that so much like the rest of life?

Name My Blog Contest

I want to change the name of this blog. It’s time. Currently it’s “What Mike Says” and I’m tired of that. It’s trite, boring, vanilla.

So here’s what we’re doing: I’m going to give you a chance to rename this blog. Not the entire website, just the blog, what you’re reading now. If you want to, take some time to peruse some of the posts and get a feel for the type of stuff I write for this blog. It’s not really focused on any one topic. A little about writing, a little about parenting, a little about life and faith and how the two intersect. There’s also some about my writing in particular, my books, my activities.

I know there are some very creative people out there. I’m looking for something outside the box. Something that isn’t cliche for a fiction author or suspense writer. Something that begs people to click on it and see what it’s all about.

Just comment to enter. You may enter as many suggestions as you want. Winner will be announced Thursday morning.

And the prize for the title I choose? One of my books and a PDF copy of a never-published book I wrote several years ago called Fear Mountain. Only a handful of people have ever read this book. I recently edited it and am now making it available in PDF form for limited giveaways such as this as.

So are you in? Get that creative engine humming and give it your best shot!

The Story Idea Engine

As an author I constantly get asked where I get my ideas from. I usually say something like “from all over the place” or “from lots of different places” or something equally as generic and non-committal. If you’ve ever asked me that question and gotten that or something similar for an answer, I apologize. I know it’s rather a non-answer.

English: Thinking, bright idea.

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But it’s difficult to say exactly where ideas come from. It’s like saying where dreams come from.

At times, though, I can give specifics and I should. So here goes . . .

I was sitting in church, toward the back, scanning the crowd while the choir sang. Being a people watcher I love doing that. You can catch all kinds of interesting things if you watch folks in church. You learn a lot about them too if you watch closely enough.

Anyway, my eyes fell on this one young couple who had a small boy with them. I don’t know them well but I know who they are. They’ve been attending our church for several years but are a quiet couple and tend to keep to themselves. But then I got to thinking that it seemed their son was the same age years ago. I thought back to the first time I noticed them at our church, probably six years ago, and their son had to be the same age. No way he was six years older than he was six years ago. He didn’t even look six years old now. They have another son that I know of but he hasn’t seemed to age either. And come to think of it, no way they look six years older.

Pop! Story idea: How could a couple keep from aging? How could they remain ageless and no one would notice? This story is about a couple who started attending a church but stayed on the fringes, never really got involved, didn’t make many friends, blended in and became just one of the “Sunday morning crowd.” Only one morning someone notices something not quite right about them. This particular couple never seems to age. Their children never seem to age. For years they’ve remained at the same stage of life.

How could they remain ageless? What if they had a time machine and once a year they travel back in time exactly one year and switch places with themselves. So their doubles (from the past), a year younger, take their place in the present. And every year they do the same thing, always starting over with their age, never moving forward, never aging. How long could they keep this going before more folks started noticing?

(Yes, I was thinking about all this during the church service. I know, shame on me. No need to berate me. I handle that on my own quite fine.)

Now, it’s not the greatest story idea and seems more like something you’d find in a Dr. Who episode but you get the picture for how these things happen. An over-active imagination can pull a story from almost any scenario.

And that’s how I get my ideas. No magic. No “idea books.” No brainstorming sessions. Just looking for extraordinary possibilities in the ordinary life all around me.

I have more of these examples and will share them in future posts.

Question: do every day occurrences get your imagination engine revving? Do you concoct stories in your head about people you meet or see or interact with?

Open Invitation to Join The Darlington Society

TDSCrestSo I have this group called The Darlington Society. They’re not a huge group but they make a lot of noise. And they encourage. And they pray. And they support. And they get something in return, too.

To answer a few questions . . .

What is it? The Darlington Society is a group of readers formed to support and encourage me in my writing. But it’s so much more than that. It consists of individuals from various countries with various interests and opinions and backgrounds. They chat, they pray, they bounce ideas around. It has become an entity of its own.

What do they do? Well, in short, they review my books, help spread the word about my writing and activities; they get encouraged, share struggles and prayer requests; they get questions answered and get an inside view of how the publishing process works. They’re my inside team so they know news before anyone else.

What do they get in return? They get an early copy of my next release, discounts on services and books, access to the private Darlington Society Facebook page, and interesting updates. But besides that, well, I’ll let a few of them tell you in their own words:

The Darlington Society has been such a blessing to me; to see how the publishing industry works from the perspective of an author and to read Mike’s great stories and share them with my readers. Mike has always been incredibly helpful and encouraging. –Nikole

To me TDS is a special family. I love the transparency and openness of the group.  How we can be “real”  before each other and how we can come before one another for and in prayer. –Beth

The Darlington Society is uber-cool, like a big family. We pray for, encourage, and help each other…on top of all the Mike Dellosso FANDOMNESS!! So happy to be in TDS! –JoJo

Interested? Membership is always open. Bottom line: if you enjoy my books you’ll enjoy this group. You can be as involved as you want to be, there’s really no pressure. Just drop me an email or leave a comment below and I’ll be in touch.

Oh, by the way, you can read about more of the details on this Darlington Society page.

Hope to hear from you!

Writing Un-Blocked . . . FREE E-book!

Writer's Block

Writer’s Block (Photo credit: thorinside)

Writer’s block is an enigma of sorts. Is it real? Is there really such a thing? Or is it all in one’s head?

I think if writer’s block was put on trial we could call thousands, no, millions of witnesses to attest to the fact that, yes, the block is real. They’d swear under oath, sit in that little box witnesses sit in, then forget what they were going to say.

And yes, writer’s block is in one’s head. Where else would it be?

I think writer’s block can grow from a variety of factors including frustration, anxiety, pressure, poor time management, and many others. It can come in a variety of forms and last for durations of varying times. But it is real. You can’t tell millions of writers who have suffered from it that it’s  bogus. It’d be like telling people that their dreams aren’t real, they’re just figments of their imagination. Um. Okay.

So, the question as I see it is not whether writer’s block is real or not but rather what do we  do with it? How do we prevent it? And once it slithers in and clogs our neural pathways, how do we get rid of it?

WritingUnBlock2All this week you can get for FREE a little e-book I wrote about writer’s block, how to prevent it and how to defeat it. It’s called WRITING unBLOCK! It’s a quick read but I hope you get something out of it that will help you prevent and/or defeat that dreaded block.

Please help spread the word about this book by sharing this post or the book’s Amazon page on all your social networking hang-outs. Thank you!

Warning: Violence, May be Controversial

butcherknifeI murder people often.

I write suspense and therefore my books contain killing. And sometimes, I get scolded by readers for too much killing. Too much violence.

Honestly, this bothers me.

It doesn’t bother me so much that the reader points it out, I’d expect nothing less. It bothers me that they’re offended, because I take great pains to not go overboard in describing murder and death.

It’s a fine line to walk and for Christian authors and often a controversial one.

First, let me explain my view of how I handle violence in fiction and then I want to talk about a couple other views that are out there.

One, all death should serve a purpose. I know that sounds really cold but remember folks, this is fiction. I’m telling a story, setting the stage, developing characters for you to love, hate, empathize with, whatever. Everything should serve a purpose, including the killing.

Two, my opinion is that murder and death should only be described with enough detail that the reader gets the idea and can understand what’s going on. A popular mantra in fiction writing is to “show, don’t tell.” But with violence (like with horror) often times what’s not shown is just as effective, if not more effective, than what is shown. I want to describe the scene enough so the reader understands the gravity of the situation, the brutality, the evil, but not describe it in such detail that it turns off the reader. Violence should never be described in such a way that it detracts from the story as a whole. We’re not out to shock readers, just move them.

Three, I need to be careful when I write scenes with violence. As an author I act out that scene in my head as I’m writing it. That means I’m going places in my mind that make me uncomfortable and are potentially dangerous. I need to practice caution and not dwell too deeply on the evil involved with most violence.

Now, time to get myself in hot water . . .

There are two arguments out there I hear most often in favor of showing violence in all its bloody and gory detail that I’d like to address. But first, a disclaimer: what follows is my opinion and my position. I may be wrong, I may be right. It’s my opinion. I don’t intend to belittle anyone or point any fingers. And I’m ready for comments and positions against my opinion.

The first argument is that readers need to be shown evil in all its ugly glory so they will know the extent to which evil can destroy and maim and disfigure. My response is that people know evil is out there, they saw what happened on 9/11. They’ve seen or at least heard about the terrorist beheadings, serial killers, mothers who drown their children, husbands who beat their wives senseless, the holocaust, the tortures, the experiments, abortion. They’ve seen it in movies, video games, on the news. We’ve been that desensitized as a culture. And besides, if that’s the argument then why stop at murder and such, why not include rape? Incest? Other sexual crimes? Isn’t that showing the reader how depraved evil really is as well?

The next argument is that it’s okay to describe violence in gratuitous detail because the Bible has many acts of violence in it. In my opinion, this argument is bunk. Yes, the Bible contains violence. Murder, dismemberment, rape, warring, looting, and much more. But it doesn’t describe the details. It handles it properly, giving the reader enough information to understand what has transpired but not too much.

English: Jael Smote Sisera, and Slew Him, circ...

English: Jael Smote Sisera, and Slew Him, circa 1896-1902, by James Jacques Joseph Tissot (French, 1836-1902) or follower, gouache on board, 5 7/16 x 7 3/8 in. (13.9 x 18.8 cm), at the Jewish Museum, New York (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For instance, in Judges 4, Jael drives a stake through Sisera’s head while he’s sleeping, nailing his skull to the ground. The Bible describes it this way: But Heber’s wife Jael picked up a tent stake and a hammer. She went quietly over to Sisera. He was lying there, fast asleep. He was very tired. She drove the stake through his head right into the ground. So he died. So what do you think? Is that gratuitous? I don’t think so. There’s no description of the sound of the stake puncturing his skull; no description of blood and brain matter, of the spasms his body no doubt underwent. His last gasp for air. It’s handled very modestly.

Here’s another example. In 2 Kings 9 Jezebel is murdered. This one is gruesome even by biblical standards. It’s described this way: When Jehu came to Jezreel, Jezebel heard of it, and she painted her eyes and adorned her head and looked out the window. As Jehu entered the gate, she said, “Is it well, Zimri, your master’s murderer?” Then he lifted up his face to the window and said, “Who is on my side? Who?” And two or three officials looked down at him. He said, “Throw her down.” So they threw her down, and some of her blood was sprinkled on the wall and on the horses, and he trampled her under foot. When he came in, he ate and drank; and he said, “See now to this cursed woman and bury her, for she is a king’s daughter.” They went to bury her, but they found nothing more of her than the skull and the feet and the palms of her hands. Therefore they returned and told him. And he said, “This is the word of the Lord, which He spoke by His servant Elijah the Tishbite, saying, ‘In the property of Jezreel the dogs shall eat the flesh of Jezebel; and the corpse of Jezebel will be as dung on the face of the field in the property of Jezreel, so they cannot say, “This is Jezebel.” Here we have some blood, a woman being trampled. But oddly there’s no description of what was left of her other than it being the skull, hands, and feet. No description of her body hitting the ground, her screams, the sound of bones breaking as she is trampled. No description of dogs eating her entrails and so on. It’s all handled very discreetly.

The Bible is known for giving an accurate, unabashed play-by-play of events as they unfolded, but it rarely offers color commentary describing what happened.

So how much description is too much or how little is not enough? Well, that’s the million dollar question isn’t it?

So, there you have it. Let the comments begin. Agree with me, make your own arguments, state your own opinions. I’m not saying I do it right all the time in my own writing. Sometimes I go back and read through one of my books and wish I hadn’t described things or acts or people in certain ways. There’s always regrets and second-guessing. But we learn and hopefully we put what we learn into practice.

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