Thursday, November 12, 2015

Writers Write: What It Takes to be A Writer

Interview with Margherita Crystal Lotus

Story Bodyguard Conversation On Story and Writing

There Are No Shortcuts

Whether your medium is screenwriting or narrative fiction, basic story elements are the same.
Frank conversation on what it really takes to be a writer.

From the origin of story in oral tradition to modern day film. A bit of this and that in this interview with healer Margherita Crystal Lotus.
  • bardic story telling
  • Norse sagas
  • folklore
  • story elements
  • dialogue
The first action is to write a story from beginning to end. 

Friday, October 30, 2015

Halloween Interview with Nicolas Simonin about Writing to Scare

Scary Write - Join the Blab

Dark Visions

A special Write Time Halloween interview!

Nicolas Simonin talks dark vision and how to turn that into story. How to look into the dark places of your soul to entertain and frighten. Find the monsters within and bring them into your story. 

To truly frighten your audience you need to find psychological triggers that live deep in every person's soul.

His new film AMY is in production with Hollywood Hispano.

Amy is a dark Hispanic fantasy in the vein of Alice in Wonderland directed by awards winning director Nicolas Simonin. This is his first producing collaboration with HOLLYWOOD HISPANO, an online platform specialized in promoting Hispanic talents in Hollywood.
This Dark Fantasy Thriller is currently seeking for your support, in order to complete production, post-production.
More about our Award winning films at:

A special Write Time Halloween interview!

#horror #story #film

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Writers! Blab about your story.

Sunday, November 1 

Hang out with other writers and creatives. Blab about your current work, publication, book, screenplay. It's story time.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Get Your Story Together

Story Shop 

Yesterday on the Write Time Blab we talked about taking your story idea from idea to story.  If you have a hard time with this help is on its way. Story Shop is the brainchild of David Wright, Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant prolific writers of story. They have started a Kickstarter to bring out the software in April 2016. Pledges range from $5 to Corporate Backing at $5000. 

The Idea

Here's what Sean, Dave and Johnny say.
We’ve got some questions for you, fellow writer:
What’s your planning method?
Do you use notebooks and write things out by hand?
Or do you prefer Microsoft Word or Scrivener?
Do you use notecards to map out your story, then drag them around until the scenes fit?
What about your characters?
Do you write out full character profiles so you’ll know them well?
If so, how do you organize those profiles?
As you’re plotting the story’s structure, do your characters ever change? Ours certainly do, because the story often demands it. So when that happens, do you scribble character corrections and notes on your notecards or make notes on your computer? (And then, with the changes in the characters, do you ever find you need to go back to the plot and correct that too?)
And hey, speaking of plot, are you a plotter? Or are you a pantser? Do you meticulously outline everything from your tale’s beginning to end … or do you just start writing and see where the narrative takes you? 
Either way, how do you keep track of your characters’ appearances and quirks? We know how hard it is to stay consistent with those things.
And hey, have you ever gone to write a book's sequel … and realized you don’t remember which characters from the original were friends with each other, who knew which secrets, or even what hair color all those different people have?
Planning stories and keeping track of all those loose ends is an inherently messy, chaotic process. It takes forever … and leaves you at least a little confused when you go to write your story’s intimidating first words.
We get it.
We’re always in the middle of several series at Sterling & Stone, set in many distinct story worlds. Keeping track of what’s happened and what needs to happen in the next book is tricky. Keeping track of who is whom — and who knows what — is even trickier. We practically maintain big, thick dossiers on each, as if our books are unsolved cases. We pre-plan our stories to make the whole thing as easy as possible … but there’s only so much that an inherently chaotic system can do.
So we got to thinking: What if, rather than trying to track everything manually, there was an app that could help us?
What if the app (not our messy, manual system) could keep track of relationships between characters the way Facebook and LinkedIn keep track of connections?
What if we were able to tag scenes as taking place in locations we’d established, featuring characters we wanted to use … but because it was all a big, user-friendly database, we could sort through who went where and click links through places and people and happenings -- with everything being ABC Easy?
We’d love to have an app that could do all those things. But unfortunately that app — that revolutionary story-planning tool to organize and make sense of our mishmash — didn’t exist. 

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Blab Your Story: Sunday, October 25.

Writers Share Your Story Talk about your greatest challenge.

You've Worked Hard to Write Your Story, Now Tell The World

Blab on Sunday, October 25, for writers to share your story.
  • Practice your pitch
  • Meet other writers
  • Chat about marketing

Let's build community!


Saturday, October 17, 2015

Writers! Pitch your story.

The Story Bodyguard Blab 

Five minutes of almost fame. Join the Write Time blab right here or on at

Connect with other writers and spread the word about your story. Practice your pitch.

See you there!

The Story Bodyguard

Friday, October 16, 2015

Screenwriter: Set the Scene

Details Set The Scene

Filmmaking is a collaborative effort. Your script helps all the participants in the project know their role and involvement in each scene: director, actor, script supervisor, set designer, line producer, cinematographer, etc.

You may write your story in sequence but that doesn't mean the film will be shot in sequence. For each scene you need to set the stage for who is in the scene and the physical space. 

Today, two separate beginning writers sent me scripts that don't set the scene. The characters just start talking. What this tells industry professionals is you are not part of the team but a rank beginner.

Know the budget constraints of your story. If you leap from country to country you are big budget and you'd best have all your details right. If you want people to buy your script, make it as professional as possible. 

There's a lot of advice out there about keeping descriptions to a minimum, but don't skip them. 

Tell the reader who is in the scene, where we are, and the feeling of the space. It doesn't take much.

Sample One - Without Scene Description


John and Marcia are walking on the sidewalk.

                   I don't see him.

Marcia scans both sides of the street.

                  We've got to get out of here.

Sample Two - With Scene Description


Pedestrians crowd the sidewalk as John and Marcia search frantically for Frank.

Ahead of them Frank slips into an antique shop. 

From the other side of the street Gregor threads his way through busy traffic to follow behind John and Marcia.
                    I don't see him.

Marcia scans both sides of the street.

                    We've got to get out of here.

How You Contribute To The Film Project

You've just provided information about making the film. For example:

  • The Director knows this is a tense scene and that he'll have to direct not only the actors but a number of extras plus vehicle drivers.
  • The Cinematographer knows long shots and closeups plus the lighting.
  • The Actors know who is on call for this scene.
  • The Line Producer knows this is going to cost a bit. Extras, vehicles, a city permit probably involving the local police or a large studio set rental.
  • The Script Supervisor knows who to call for the scene: Actors, extras, vehicles and drivers, etc.

Yes, on your first pass, just write the story. But, as you prepare your script for submission make sure you write details for each scene.

Have a question about your story, get in touch.

Zara Altair
The Story Bodyguard

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Indie Author Book Marketing - Use Your Book

Sample Book Marketing Pages

Direct connection with readers is one of the best ways to build a following. Use your book to create engagement with your followers.

The beginning and the end of the book are two great places to invite readers to connect by following your author page on Amazon, your blog, and social media accounts, and getting your next book.

Especially at the end invite readers to review your book. Keep in mind that 100 reviews with an average of 3.5 stars is better than ten 5 star reviews. This is because Amazon ranks, and therefore, shares your book based on the number of reviews not necessarily the ranking.

You can directly keep in touch with your readers by developing an email list to communicate with them in person. Send a regular update--once a month to once a quarter--telling them what is happening in your publishing world. You can include an excerpt from an upcoming book or notify them of any promotions coming up.

Amazon's KDP direct allows you to discount your book once every 90 days. When you have several books you can stagger the promotions so that at least one happens every month.

Front Matter Author Page

First Page After Copyright page before book begins. The tone echoes the tone of the book. If the book is edgy, the page is edgy. If the book is casual and friendly, the tone is casual and friendly.
Here are the basics.

Hello (Dear reader, adventure seeker, lover of cats, etc.)

Thank you for purchasing Name of Book. I’m so glad you decided to (go on a wild ride with Main Character, learn about alkaline diet cooking, etc.)  My readers are my number one asset. As an independent author your purchase means a lot to me.

Any special anything you want to say about why you wrote this book to develop a connection with the reader who has it in his hand right now.  Main Character is a favorite with readers/came to me in a dream/is my alter ego, etc. Or, an alkaline diet is a proven way to fight cancer, I spent months researching….

Ask for engagement…
Follow me on - my blog
I spend a lot of time on (Social Media-pick one) be sure to follow me there…
Members of my (Name of Your Newsletter) get all the latest updates on publishing specials, new books, special member-only excerpts. Everyone who is a member gets exclusive access to (a free book, my 10 best recipes, etc.)

Thanks again.

Now turn the page to enjoy Name of Book.

End of Book Page

This page is even more important than the front page. The reader has just finished reading your book and is in the afterglow of your world.

In many ways the message of the welcome page repeats but with a call to review the book and a strong call to get updates about future books by joining the newsletter/email list.

Thank you again for purchasing Name of Book. I’m so glad you decided to (go on a wild ride with Main Character, learn about alkaline diet cooking, etc.)  My readers are my number one asset. As an independent author your purchase means a lot to me.

(Review request in your style) Thank you for taking the time to read [title]. If you enjoyed it, please consider telling your friends or posting a short review. Word of mouth is an author’s best friend and much appreciated. Thank you, [author name].

Again, any special anything you want to say about why you wrote this book to develop a connection with the reader who has it in his hand right now.  Main Character is a favorite with readers/came to me in a dream/is my alter ego, etc. Or, an alkaline diet is a proven way to fight cancer, I spent months researching….

Ask for engagement…
Follow me on - my blog
I spend a lot of time on (Social Media-pick one) be sure to follow me there…
Members of my (Name of Your Newsletter) get all the latest updates on publishing specials, new books, special member-only excerpts. Everyone who is a member gets exclusive access to (a free book, my 10 best recipes, etc.)

If you liked (Name of Book), continue the adventure/fun/diet. See all my books at (link to author page).

Read the first chapter of my next book/the main character series/great good advice by turning the page.

You can order the next (Name of Series, Next Book) here (link to pre-order page or your author page).  

Ciao!/Cheerio/Yours in Suspense/Sincerely

Your Name

Let Your Book Personality Shine

Let your personality as a human being shine through so your readers feel they have a personal connection with you.
  • Tailor the copy to the subject and tone of your book.
  • Keep it personal and fun. Dry and matter of fact does not engage your readers.
  • Play with your promotion.
  • Experiment with different versions. E-books are easy to update.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Description: Is it hard to write?

The Description Challenge

I was in a conversation recently with a group of writers and authors. One person stated he had a difficult time writing description. How much is too much? And, how does he make it fit in to the story.

My off-the-wall brain came up with an instant exercise. If you are having trouble writing description, especially expanding description to go with the overall story you may want to try this exercise.

The Fight Scene Description Model

Write a fight scene, breaking it down action, by action. Time slows down and small details drive the sentences.

Now use the same detailed technique for description. 
  • What elements stand out?
  • What one thing stands out from everything around? In a landscape it may be a mountain or bluff. In a kitchen it may be the sparkling coffee carafe or the old, stained electric percolator. On a sailing ship, it may be the mainmast towering over the deck and reaching for the sky.
  • After you identify the one thing. Start detailing everything else in the setting with the same attention to specifics.
You can use the image of a Belgian farm here to start your exercise.

Here's how Joseph Conrad incorporates the sea, a steamer, and a deck chair in the opening of The End of the Tether.
For a long time after the course of the steamer Sofala had been altered for the land, the low swampy coast had retained its appearance of a mere smudge of darkness beyond a belt of glitter. The sunrays seemed to fall violently upon the calm sea—seemed to shatter themselves upon an adamantine surface into sparkling dust, into a dazzling vapor of light that blinded the eye and wearied the brain with its unsteady brightness.
Captain Whalley did not look at it. When his Serang, approaching the roomy cane arm-chair which he filled capably, had informed him in a low voice that the course was to be altered, he had risen at once and had remained on his feet, face forward, while the head of his ship swung through a quarter of a circle.

I'd love to here about your experience with this exercise.

Keep writing!


Monday, August 24, 2015

Author Tim Hammill

How to Work With A Cat

Author Tim Hammill tells how his character Max came to him fully formed. Tim reads excerpts from Tails From The Park (Series2). A delightful collection of stories told by Max the cat. Trouble finds him.

Authors! The Story Bodyguard will host a book party for you.

  •  Hosted on Crowdcast: Audience can attend with FaceBook, Twitter, or Google+ account. 
  •  Live questions and answers. 
  •  Create a poll for your readers. 
  •  Use the video to promote your book. Host video clips on your Amazon Author Page. 
 Create more buzz about your book.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Hosting a Book Party - Tails From The Park

The Story Bodyguard is hosting a Book Party. 

Come meet the author +Tim Hammill

+Max Tails and +Tim Hammill are releasing Book 2 of Tails From The Park Saturday, August 22. They are having a Book Party to celebrate. Tim will talk about working with a cat as co-author. He'll be reading from the book.

Come join the fun. RSVP at Then join us at 10 AM PT/ 12 Noon ET/ 6 PM BST.

Meet Max, a cat who tells stories, collected in a series of humorous, adventure tales full of laughter, tenderness, and escapes in Tails From The Park.

Max has an abundance of hereditary feline curiosity.  What starts out as innocent exploration often leads to unintended escapades. He lives with his human Mom and Dad in a mobile home park where life is simple, unless you are a cat.

Full of colorful characters whose sentiments can turn Max from quiet napping intermission to extraordinary mayhem each story sets its own pace.

Best of all, you’ll discover Maxitude. Max has a way of telling which is full of curiosity and vigor. Life is best with Maxitude.
No Where Man: A misty morning.
All Buicks Great and Small: A Buick and a lost friend.
The Fortune Teller: Max get’s his fortune read and creates some word magic.
The Earth Moved Under My Paws: A leash, a quake, a dream, a run.
Pete and Repeat: Short and snappy.
Ka-Bing: Max goes to jail.
Heidi Fang: Adventure with a beauty.
The Burglar:

Of course, Max has trouble interfacing with computers and their periphery. His best skill is waiting patiently for paper to come out of the printer so he can pounce. He enlists his human friend, Tim Hammill, as an intermediary to put the stories into words.

Curl up for lighthearted entertainment and get your Maxitude.

If you are an author and want to hold a Book Party get in touch  

We love authors and book parties.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Why Write In The Third Person?

Story Power

Control Your Story

Screenwriters use third person voice exclusively. Many narrative fiction writers start by writing in the first person using "I," and "we" and don't know how to switch. They feel that using the third person point of view is somehow distancing.

One of the main reasons to use the third person voice of "he/she" and "they" is carry the voice and point of view of various characters in a longer, more complicated story. Each character is personified in a representative tone and language, but narrated in the third person. 

Third person voice is instrumental in a long story to sustain the story tone while creating scenes that transition between different characters.

Representative Emotions

For many writers the most difficult transition is to represent corresponding emotions in third person. While writing in the first person character feelings come unbidden. But when attempting to personify those emotions, the feeling does not flow.

The goal of every scene is to move the story forward. If writing in the third person is a challenge here are some ways to loosen up and get into character. Use the old adage: show, don't tell.

  • Show the feelings in dialogue. Let your character talk it out.
  • Write action that displays the feeling.
  • Take a scene written in first person and transform it into third person.
For each situation your character encounters, identify the feelings and then demonstrate them in dialogue and action. 

Appoint Yourself as the Observer and Recorder

Record the scene as you see it in your mind. 
  • What does your character do? 
  • What verbs do you use to display emotion?
  • Let your character talk to herself?
  • How does your character respond to other characters? to physical obstacles?
  • What minor action personifies the character's emotion in the scene?

Study Other Writers

Find writers in your genre who write in third person point of view. Note how they covey tension, emotions, and actions. Copy the techniques.

I hope these notes help those who are struggling with third person point of view.

Special offer. The first person who can tell me why The Third Man may not have been the best illustration for this topic, will receive free Story Notes on the first ten pages of your fictional work. First or third person, narrative fiction or screenplay.

Zara Altair
The Story Bodyguard

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Author Interview

Tim Hammill on Writing Tails From The Park

Author +Tim Hammill talks about writing the voice of Max, the cat with Maxitude.

Writing in the voice of Max, Tim wrote a series of short, entertaining, adventure stories.

0:42 Tim Hammill introduction

1:35 How Max came to Tim to tell his stories.

8:27 How Tim and Zara met over a dark screenplay.

9:12 Smokey, the model for Max, makes a cameo appearance.

10:46 The cultural emotional tie to the music references in the story titles.

12:50 How Tim created adventure stories with a cat.

15:01 Concept behind the short length of the stories: read on lunch break, commuting, etc.

17:12 Mixing real life experience with fictional characters.

18:54 How Tim arrives at the end of each story.

21:05 Mixing real life and other sources to create a story.

22:37 A look at Max's voice and how he tells the story. Every trailer in the park has its own story.

24:39 How Tim created Max's personality.

28:19 Communicating with cats.

29:29 Tim reads a tender excerpt from the chapter Baby.

33:20 Link to download Tails From The Park

34:07 How Tim develops conflict for Max.

36:47 Tim reads a danger excerpt from the chapter Black Dog.

39:52 Why Black Dog is one of Tim's favorites.

42:54 Max's angels.

48:57 Feelings about publishing the first book.

51:57 Challenges of creating and publishing a book and the fun of promoting.

54:00 Join the Max Gang to get publishing news from Max.

54:52 How Tim knew he was ready to publish.

Meet Max

_Tails From The Park_

Tim Hammill

Friday, July 10, 2015

Give Your Book a Fighting Chance

Your Novel Is Finished

You've finished your work and are ready to publish. If self-publishing an ebook is your choice be prepared for some detail work. Get ready to tell the world about your book. 

Practical Steps to Self-Publish Without Stress

Self-publishing is a lot of work. If you've read that creating an ebook and publishing only takes minutes, don't believe it. Get ready for some work.

Things to do: 

Enter manuscript into Scrivener.Set up Scrivener formatting.

Save formatting as template - for other books.

Compile until you get it right. Save Compile as a Custom Preset - for other books.

Identify Graphic Designer.Create book cover with Graphic Designer.
Get cover in .jpg and .png files.Get components of cover in  .jpg and .png - for marketing.

Create a hashtag for you as an author.Create a hashtag for the book.

Research appropriate book categories for Kindle Choose two (you can change these later)

Choose seven keywords for Kindle and any promotion you do.

Write author bio in third person.

Write book description.

Select a professional profile image. (Hire a professional photographer.)
Evaluate your advertising budget. Research advertising avenues and choose according to your budget.
Create Canva  account Create website/blog if you don’t have one already.

Create covers for Social Media in Canva using images from Graphics and profile photo.

Create Google+ Business Page to alert the search engines about your book.Link business page to your website/link website to business page (more SEO).

Create twitter account - get ready to interact.

Create Facebook account and any other social media.

Start posting on social media. Use your hashtags.Write frequent blog posts. 
Respond to every comment! You’ll be thanking people a lot.

Choose email autoresponder.

Set up account. Set up email list(s). At least one for news about your book.

Create form to gather emails for your book club/newsletter.

Create thank you email to go automatically to new subscribers. (Enhance with graphics.)

Format template for book club/newsletter. (Enhance with graphics.)

Set a schedule for sending newsletter/book club updates. Follow your schedule, keep in touch.

Keep blogging and posting. Use your hashtags.

Create .mobi file in ScrivenerCreate PDF file in Scrivener
Create Kindle account. Decide on publishing policy & royalty.

Upload book .mobi file and cover image.

Insert your book description.

Choose categories.

List keywords.

Choose to pre-order or publish immediately. If this is your first time, choose pre-order because you’ll be adding details.

Create author page in US, UK, FR, DE & JP.

Insert professional photo and author bio. Link twitter and blog to author page.

Keep blogging and posting. Use your hashtags.

Apply for Search Inside account on Amazon.When approved and account set up upload .PDF file

Gather pre-publishing reviews. Sign-up for Upload .PDF file.
Create new email list in autoresponder for early readers to review book. (Especially if you can’t afford netgallery subscription.) 
Create thank you with attached book file. (Use graphics.)
Post a call for early reviews on blog. Post to social media.

The day before the last day to make changes on Amazon reread your entire book for any formatting, grammar, or spelling errors. Make any necessary changes to the manuscript in Scrivener.

Compile. Upload a replacement file.

Keep blogging and posting.

Your book goes live. Celebrate all the hard work!

 These are basics to getting your book up on Amazon and beginning your marketing. Marketing is part of being a professional author.  Congratulations!

Now start writing the next book.

Zara Altair