Remembering Your First Love

by Ron Estrada

When my son began his baseball career back when I was a long way from fifty, he played, like most kids these days, on a t-ball league. I, being a foolish young father who wanted to participate in all of my son’s activities (and my wife told me I had to) helped coach.

Ever been to a t-ball game? Any resemblance to actual baseball is purely coincidental.
A new t-baller will hit a line drive past the toes of several infielders, then he himself will race out to center field and retrieve the ball, to the wild cheering of both teams.

A new t-baller will turn to the first base coach and say, “Chase me to second base!” I refused. Not that I didn’t think it would be helpful, but I was vaguely aware of a rule against such a strategy.

A new t-baller hits the ball three feet, then run to third, then to first, then to the pitcher’s mound, where he and the picture will wrestle for ownership of the aforementioned ball.

T-ballers, my friends, know how to have fun.

Then they learn the rules.

Ever been to a little-league game of 12-13 year olds?

They spit.

They throw their helmets when they strike out.

They spend hours every week perfecting their swing. Their pitching. Their stance in the batter’s box.

They don’t smile unless they win.

Baseball, somewhere between slapping a ball off a tee and puberty, stopped being fun.

Sound familiar?

Ever been to the desk of a first time novelist?

They write loads of backstory.

They tell instead of show.

They use passive verbs.

They’re smiling.

What’s up with that? Here’s what’s up: they’re in love. They’re in love with the cursor moving across the screen the way a t-baller is in love with bumblebees bouncing off dandelions.

A new writer is simply thrilled with the idea that she is actually writing a novel. Something few people will ever attempt and much, much fewer will be successful at. And when she gets to the end of the novel, like the t-baller, she could care less what the score is. In fact, she doesn’t even realize a score was being kept.

She will cry. She will call her critique partners who will share in her joy. She will pour a glass of wine to celebrate this great achievement for which she was not paid a penny and into which she invested hundreds of hours of time.

Today, this Saturday, the 6th of May, 2017, I am giving you permission to forget the rules. To write for fun. To show and not tell. Write a meandering tale about an Amish werewolf with a fascinating (and long) backstory who falls in love with fire jumper in Montana.

Will it ever get published? Probably not.

Will you have fun? I know I did.

And you will discover your first love again. This diversion into your newbie-ness will not stall your career. It will give it life.

You may never be the writer’s version of a major-league center-fielder, but darnit! This is your field today. These are your dandelions. The sun is shining and you don’t even know what the rules are.

Romp to your heart’s greatest joy.


TWEETABLES

Ron Estrada has multiple published magazine articles, including a regular column in the bi-monthly Women2Women Michigan. He also freelances as a technical writer, specializing in white papers for manufacturing and consumer products. He writes spec fiction, hovering somewhere between post-apocalyptic and dystopian fiction (he prefers the term pre-Last Days), but has also dabbled in Mystery and Suspense. Turn-ons include long walks to Frosty Boy and dinner by Kindle light. His real-writer’s blog can be found at RonEstradaBooks.com. You can e-mail him at rmestrada@ameritech.net or catch him (at pretty much any time) on Facebook. Twitter handle is @RonEstrada. CB handle is God’s Gift.

Stealing History

by Ron Estrada

As I write this, I’m watching Vikings via the magic of Hulu, the binge watching hub of the modern world. I’ve watched a few of these historical fiction TV series, and while I cannot vouch for their historical accuracy, I can vouch for their entertainment value.

The writers of these shows have done what any good writer would do, historical or otherwise. Take a piece of what is fact and insert a bit of fiction into it. This is how we can “steal” a great segment of our story, all that bothersome background and setting. The writers of these TV shows did just that. We can, therefore, justify borrowing our settings from the TV show writers who have done all the hard work already.
Now, don’t get me wrong. You still have to do your research. I wouldn’t dare to write a novel about Vikings based on one TV show. The books I read and websites I visit provide me the depth of knowledge to write with confidence. And if you write with confidence, your readers will pick up on it.

The purpose of the TV historicals is to fill in those imagery gaps that plague any author writing about a place or time which we’ve never visited. How do we know the TV writers got it right? We don’t. Hopefully, our own research will help make those corrections.

We must remember, also, that we are not claiming to be historians. We try hard to get it right, but we are storytellers first. Tellers of fiction. It’s our job to tell a compelling story. My hope, and the hope of all the historical fiction writers I know, is that our readers will be inspired to dig deeper. Our books are nothing more that a catalyst toward a deep appreciation for history. Our readers will appreciate that gentle nudge and hold no grudge when they find out we got some minor detail wrong.

So steal away. Take advantage of the wonder of modern cinema. Maybe the settings, clothing, and speech aren’t perfect, but I can vouch for this: I’d like to learn more about Vikings as of right now. And for that thirst, I am grateful for the writers of this TV show.

TWEETABLES

Ron Estrada has multiple published magazine articles, including a regular column in the bi-monthly Women2Women Michigan. He also freelances as a technical writer, specializing in white papers for manufacturing and consumer products. He writes spec fiction, hovering somewhere between post-apocalyptic and dystopian fiction (he prefers the term pre-Last Days), but has also dabbled in Mystery and Suspense. Turn-ons include long walks to Frosty Boy and dinner by Kindle light. His real-writer’s blog can be found at RonEstradaBooks.com. You can e-mail him at rmestrada@ameritech.net or catch him (at pretty much any time) on Facebook. Twitter handle is @RonEstrada. CB handle is God’s Gift.

Make the Sell First

by Ron Estrada

You are a salesperson.

Say it with me.

I (insert name) am a salesperson.

Let me tell you about salespeople, having spend most of my adult life working in close proximity with these folks. A salesperson will tell you what you want to hear in order to the “yes.” After said “yes” is achieved, it is only then he’ll tell you what you’ve really just bought. But you’ve already said “yes,” so you’re ten times more likely to go ahead with your purchase.
No, it’s not dishonest. But a good salesperson knows that he can’t sell you diamonds for a penny if your defenses are up. And the “yes” is the wrecking ball against your defenses.

What does this mean to you, dear writer? You, who are wholesome and would never stoop to such tactics when pitching your darlings.

You must stoop.

All of you, I assume, have a novel in hand, ready to pitch. You, being a serious writer, review the bios of every agent and publisher to whom you submit. They often tell you exactly what they’re looking for. Your novel will match none of those. No one’s will.

But you can adjust. Let’s say, for example, the agent or publisher to whom you are pitching (I used whom twice in one post!) has a bio, and she is looking for 20th century historical romances with a paranormal twist.

Your WW2 historical romance is written, edited, re-written, cuddled, and ready to ship.

Now here’s where you pause. Like most writers, you’ve probably dabbled in multiple genres. I don’t need a show of hands, but you’ve likely dabbled in just about every genre minus the 50 Shades category (some of you, and you know who you are, have even stepped into those dark waters).

So ask yourself: would I want to rewrite my novel with a paranormal twist?

If the answer is “no,” keep searching. If it is “yes,” then by all means pitch it that way (helpful tip: make sure you’ve got some sort of outline written for the rewrite so you don’t sound like you’re making it up as you go along…even if you are).

Now, chances are you wouldn’t do this for an agent. They’re far more general in their requirements than publishers. But, if you find yourself in the position I have recently, you have a great publisher on the hook, but she has different ideas about how your novel or series should go.

Can you live with the new direction? (I can…she had better ideas than I did…see my last post).

I suspect that this is often how publishing goes. Now, I still have great plot ideas that I’ve greenlighted as “must writes,” but I don’t need to pitch those now. I need to pitch whatever the publisher wants. I need the “yes.” After I have the “yes,” then I can casually mention to my new publisher, “Oh, by the way, check out this idea.”

Yes, she may hate my favorite ideas, but that’s what hybrid publishing is for.

How about you? Have you ever “massaged” the plot of your written book to get the “yes”? How did things turn out?

Ron Estrada has multiple published magazine articles, including a regular column in the bi-monthly Women2Women Michigan. He also freelances as a technical writer, specializing in white papers for manufacturing and consumer products. He writes spec fiction, hovering somewhere between post-apocalyptic and dystopian fiction (he prefers the term pre-Last Days), but has also dabbled in Mystery and Suspense. Turn-ons include long walks to Frosty Boy and dinner by Kindle light. His real-writer’s blog can be found at RonEstradaBooks.com.  You can e-mail him at rmestrada@ameritech.net or catch him (at pretty much any time) on Facebook. Twitter handle is @RonEstrada. CB handle is God’s Gift.

Writing for Boys

I don’t need to post stats to convince any of you that we are in a fight against an ever growing number of distractions that pull our readers away from the written story. Those who write adult novels compete with hundreds of television channels, Facebook, the internet in general, and what seems like a new movie release every day.

For those of us who write for children, you can add schoolwork, and socializing to that list.

For those of us who wish to reach boys between the ages of 8 and 13, add video games, sports, and video games.

Yes, I know girls also get involved in sports and video games, but girls are also more mature at that age and naturally gravitate toward books. I invite you to peruse Instagram, search #bookstagram, and do a quick survey of male vs. female readers.

If I were to hazard a guess, I’d say that there are ten girl readers for every boy, and we’re losing them at an alarming rate.

So how do we middle-grade writers fix it?

We have to create characters who do the things that boys daydream about. As a former boy, allow me to help. Boys fantasize about:

  • flying through outer space
  • saving the cutest girl in his class from certain death
  • fighting in a war (against the living and the dead)
  • having a pet grizzly bear
  • scoring the winning touchdown in the Superbowl
You will note nothing on that list about a first kiss (though the cute girl he saves will certainly offer one), finding a long-lost relative, or taking first place in a singing contest.

When you think boys, you have to get out of his house. Probably out of his town. Maybe even off of
his planet. Boys play video games because they take them to places and adventures that they could never really hope to see in their drab middle-school existence. And that’s how we have to write for them. Take your 9 year-old protagonist to Mars. Put your 15 year-old in the pilot seat of a WWII bomber. Have your 12 year-old boy save the cutest girl in class when the zombie apocalypse overruns the playground.
There’s a reason the word “x-treme” in advertising is aimed at teenage boys. Anything less is what they already have, and it bores them. Think x-treme and you’ll pull your reader from his PS4. And if you run out of story ideas, play with a PS4. You may be surprised to learn that there are stories being told in those games (face it, PacMan was a very one-dimensional character). 
And who knows? Maybe one day you’ll see your character on PS4 game cover, shooting down Martian zombies with his death ray.

Ron Estrada writes young adult and middle-grade novels. His first YA series is available on Amazon. His first middle-grade historical is in the hands of his trusty agent, seeking a publishing home. You can find out what Ron is up to at RonEstradaBooks.com.