People have stories—every single one of us. It takes a voice, a desire, and belief in ourselves to make our stories known, but it only takes a set of ears to make them heard. We are all vapors with pages meant to be shared with one another.
The street makes waves of heat and oil a mile or two outside of town. There are images floating in the air, beckoning, saying: Come, this way to the unknown. It’s hotter than hell out here. But come. Don’t stop now. Come. Continue reading
Rebecca finds her mother in tears. They live in a tiny apartment where they eat rice, beans, and week-old bread for dinner most nights. Rebecca has two t-shirts, one pair of pants, and one pair of shorts. Her shoes have holes in them, as do every pair of her socks. She has never owned a new hairbrush. Mother weeps because of a note she has read. She pulls her daughter close and hugs her. There will be one train without a search, she says. Nobody is supposed to know, but this will be our chance. Mother is not crying out of pain or sorrow, but out of joy. The family will get to move to America after all.
“We’re finally vacationing,” Mother said while drying off another dish. “It’ll be nice. A fresh break. We need those. Everybody does but especially us.”
Father was standing there, his right arm propping his body up against the counter. He looked calm, like it might not have been his plan after all, and that the surprise of vacationing really might have been something providential.
Scotty and Max had the hose running outside. It was summer, and after supper they still had plenty of light to burn. They were playing, but when Father stops hearing their laughter but still hears the water running through the pipes below the house, he knows they’ve returned to Mrs. Jensen’s hornets nest on the side yard.
“Alan, the boys are at it again,” said Mother with a sigh. She was placing dishes in their cupboards. “Well? Aren’t you going to do anything?”
Father spreads the kitchen drapes with two fingers and peers out. The lawn is glistening, the planters flooded. Mrs. Jensen’s clothesline is bare but he is pretty sure that has nothing to do with the boys. He finds the faucet down below and the bright green hose that is connected to it looks like a green rubber band pulled taught around the side of the house.
“No,” Father said. He lets the drapes fall back. “They’re boys. Boys do these kinds of things.”
“I understand that,” said Mother. “But those boys have the hose pointed straight at that poor old woman’s house. Who knows what could happen. She has that collection of pottery she likes to keep on the front porch. One blast of water and…”
“I know,” said Father quietly. He looked at the ground and took a deep breath. He lessened his grip on the countertop. “Just let them realize what their actions mean. They have to learn at some point, and better here than anywhere else.”
“Well I just don’t like them poking around other people’s things is all,” Mother said. “Just ain’t right.”
A voice from outside carried through the window. It wasn’t Scotty, or Max. It was deeper, older. A man’s voice.
“Who was that?” Mother said. “Sounds like it was saying your name.”
Father walked through the kitchen, into the dinning room, past the old leather chair, and pushed open the front screen door.
“Alan,” came the voice again. It was Mr. Davis from across the street. He was yelling and swatting the air.
Father could see a trail of water that went from Mrs. Jensen’s side yard out into the street, across the far sidewalk, and up onto Mr. Davis’ front lawn. There were three paper grocery bags laying sideways on the driveway. A head of lettuce rolled out onto the lawn.
“Alan stop them!” said Mr. Davis.
“Stop who? Hey what’s going on Jim?”
“Stop the boys, Alan. The boys!”
Father looked again at the trail of water and noticed that the hose was not taught as before but was detached and sliding quickly across the street. He ran through the front yard and into the street just as Mrs. Jensen, with the six o’clock sun in her eyes, was about to swing into her driveway.
Father gasped and felt the weight of the car lift him into the air. His right shoulder sunk into the windshield and he felt his body cartwheel over the rest of the car and fall like a burlap of bricks into the street in front of his house.
Mrs. Jensen, surprised by the sudden impact of something heavy on her windshield swung her steering wheel the wrong direction and scurried up Mr. Davis’ driveway, running over a bag of groceries and slamming into the back of his pickup.
By then, Mr. Davis was halfway down the street and still swatting away Mrs. Jensen’s hornets.
Father groaned. He looked at Mrs. Jensen’s car and tried to see if she moved. There was an airbag out. He tried to stand but felt a knife-like pain shoot through his right arm. He let it dangle, lifeless. Probably broken. He tried using his other arm and with the curb managed to stand, but when he tried to walk he felt more pain run from his right knee up the side of his body. He collapsed from the intensity. “Mary!” he yelled, and in seconds mother came running from the house.
At the sight of Father, Mrs. Jensen’s car, the hose water, and Mr. Davis, she stopped suddenly and glared at Father.
He looked at her eyes and then down at the grass below her feet. “I know,” he sighed. “I know.”
At one point in your life you might have thought about writing a book. Chances are, however, that you probably haven’t thought about what you’d write for the cover copy on the back.
You know, the dust-jacket text that accompanies that funny picture of you wearing a tie.
Recently, I applied to write for a specialty at scripted.com. One of the questions I was asked to answer (in a constrained 250-300 words) was how a new author might write a successful cover copy for their new book.
If you didn’t know, I am currently writing my first book, and in a matter of months I’ll have to come up with something creative and catchy to “woo” my readers. This question was not only fun to think through, but entirely relevant!
Here’s what I submitted. What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts and advice—they’d certainly be heeded!
So, you’re new to the self-publishing industry and you’ve just finished your first novel. Congratulations are in order, but not just yet. Pat yourself on the back, grab a snack, and come back here for your next assignment. I don’t mean to spoil the fun, but you’re only halfway done.
Marketing. The mark of a good writer is how bad he or she is at selling their work. Okay, not really. But, the truth is that many who write have a hard time understanding the importance of advertising. Their final product might be New York Times bestseller worthy, but if they fail to woo their audience in more ways than juicy plot lines and compelling character development, their book will inevitably fall face down into a CVS sale bin.
One of the best ways to woo is to offer a taste. An author’s cover copy is the most delectable portion that their book has to offer, and often, it becomes the only part of the meal that gets tasted. It could make or break their novel’s success. Creating compelling cover copy requires three things: attractiveness, charm, and brevity.
Attractiveness is the garnish upon the plate. It means the copy should be appealing to look at. The truth is that people judge books by their covers all the time. The same is true of cover copy. Make margins, font types, and letter sizing absolutely captivating or the book will get placed right back on the shelf.
Charm is an art form. It is the ability to hook and engage the reader, sometimes in a way so compelling that it is mysterious. Within the first fifteen words the author must have the reader’s attention or the likelihood that they will continue reading drops severely.
Brevity implies delivering only the best words. It means removing adverbs and adjectives entirely. Cut straight to the dilemma and then get out. Leave the reader tasting the plot in their mouth but still feeling the hunger in their stomach.
Below is a post from a blog called “Write a Bike” that I formerly wrote on. It chronicled my trip from LA to Portland via a bicycle, and it also housed odd stories just like this one. Enjoy!
Our night in Watsonville may have been the most interesting experience of my entire life.
Warmshowers.org is a neat idea to connect mostly touring-cyclists (like myself) with others who have great road stories to swap, as well as to provide those who are touring with a warm shower and usually a dry place to sleep. As I mentioned earlier, Britney was our host, and arriving at her house was…well…different.
When Britney called us to let us know she was ready for us to come we pedaled to the outskirts in the southeast and then up what seemed to be a two-mile driveway on her property. Suddenly I realized that something was off.
I saw three very small, and fairly new-looking shacks built up into the hill, and as I panned across the property I noticed two guys about my age staring at me. I waived and they raised a low hand and offered lazy half-smiles. I rode up and introduced myself to them. They had long hair pulled back into ponytails and patchy beards. Their jeans were dirty and their heavy sweaters looked like they hadn’t been washed in months. Their names were Josh and Jake, and before long a girl drove up with a two-year-old buckled in the backseat of her car. She got out and introduced herself as Britney’s sister, Kali. After five or so minutes of unsuccessful conversation I went to find a place for our bikes. Josh and Jake had pointed off beyond a big tree and said I could put them “under the camper.” I rolled over and found five other mangled bikes lying under a camper shell on stilts (I found out later that Jake actually lives in the camper shell).
Then I made my way past an enormous garden and up a wooden stairway toward the main house. The door creaked open and the smell of vegetables was in the air. The front room was full of books. At first blush I saw heaps of titles on gardening, traveling, and murder mystery novels.
The walls were covered with old Native American-like blankets and the roof had old potato sacks finely stapled to it. The child from the car was now playing in a tiny red tent and Denny was siting in the next room on a large burgundy sofa covered in Mexican-poncho material. There were two vintage lamps lighting the entire room and a turn-of-the-century wood-burning furnace that was heating the house. Kali and Jake were busy chopping potatoes and broccoli in the kitchen amongst heaps of recycled yogurt and margarine containers (they had numerous crates of old containers like these all over the kitchen).
As I sat down I noticed an old man tucked into the corner of the first room whom I had failed to notice when I first walked in. He had a long white beard that matched his long white hair, which he covered with a beanie. His eyes were glued to his Facebook profile. Kali introduced us. His name was James, and I later learned more than I ever thought I could know about camping in Oregon from him. That was all he spoke about to Denny and I, then he was off to one of the other shacks in the yard.
Kali said we could take a shower if we wanted. It was outside along the east side of the house. She said it is fun because you get to “bathe amongst the trees.”
I didn’t shower that night.
Dinner was almost completely made up of foods grown in the yard, which was exciting. A part of me did wonder, though, if I was secretly eating some kind of herbal narcotic. I imagined myself floating amongst books about eggplant and carrots with old-man James cackling at me from the corner of the front room.
Making conversation with the residents never got any easier. Denny and I mostly listened to them banter back and forth about the best places to find hot-springs, and which volcanoes in the United States were more likely to burst. They were not interested in our stories much, which was fine. I didn’t need to be asked, but it was weird that strangers could sit in their room and basically go unnoticed.
That night I slept on a piece of ply-wood stacked upon bricks with blankets as bedding beneath me. In the dark of the night I kept hearing people going in and out of the front door. I didn’t sleep peacefully, probably because I couldn’t stop thinking about how I was sleeping in a genuine hippy-house. It was exciting, intriguing, and uncomfortable all at the same time.
The next morning Denny and I packed up, looked around for signs of any other woken life, and in finding none, rode off.
It has been well over a month since I have done anything on this blog, and believe me, I’m aware. I think about it everyday. I think, “wow, I was so gung-ho about this when I first started. What happened?”
Yeah. Really. What happened?
In a lot of ways, life happened. I got a dog, said goodbye to a roommate, got handed new tasks to start doing at work, etc.
But I also know that any “writer” who is going to call him/herself as such must make the time to write. The truth is that life will never stop getting in the way of what I want to do, which means at some point I will seriously need to evaluate how badly I want to write.
Trust me, though. I want it. Recently, signed up for a short, rather inexpensive course on self-publishing, marketing, and other general writerly things at storycartel.com . I still don’t know if I am in, but if I do get in, I see this as a good kick in the right direction. I will be paying to do it, and because I’m cheap, I know that fact alone will motivate me to write more.
I’ll try to post all of my exercises and findings here on the blog too. I think thats a great place to re-start.