How to Write a Cliffhanger the Right Way

This week a reader was pissed after reading my perma-free book. But this isn’t the first time. What made this situation unique was, he sent me an email, stating he’d enjoyed it, but that he wouldn’t be reading the next one in the series. Why? Because I ended the book with a cliffhanger. He wrote that because I was so desperate for readers to buy the next book, he wasn’t going to play ball. He also gave me some condescending advice about how I’ll put readers off with this devious writing strategy. Before I wrote the ending, I was well aware of writers using the old ending-a-perma-free-book-with-a-cliffhanger strategy to sell the next book in a series, and have seen hateful reviews for perma-free books that ended with a cliffhanger. I had also considered how readers would react to my ending, so none of what he wrote was news to me.

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Find out what happens to the house in the next book.

I emailed back, writing that there are two types of cliffhanger. The first type leaves the reader without the conclusion to the story’s main story thread or mystery, with the conclusion in the next paid-for book. This is obviously uncool. The second type is ending a series book with the inciting incident for the next book in the series, after concluding the main story thread or mystery of the first book, like in an episode of Quantum Leap—I even gave a nod to that show by finishing with the main character’s catchphrase: “Oh, boy.” I think endings like that are fair, and, if done right, exciting, and I don’t remember people going apeshit at the end of each episode of Quantum. I told the guy the type I’d used was the latter, and thanked him for reading, anyway, etc. He never got back to me. And the ninety-nine cents he would’ve paid for my next book had I not been “desperate” for him to read it has me writing this blog post on a street corner, having not been able to pay my mortgage this month. I’m also starving, and for the life of me I can’t find a piece of cardboard to scrawl on to inform passersby of my dire straits.

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“If my story only had a beginning, middle and end, as opposed to a beginning, middle, end, and another beginning, things would’ve turned out different for ol’ Crazy Joe here.”

I was going to make this week’s blog post about differentiating between the two types of cliffhanger, and making a case for why I think they’re a good thing, citing examples in television. But I just kind of did that in—what?—three hundred words, so there’s that idea out of the window. Then it occurred to me that I haven’t written a blog post that mines the comedy from a situation in a little while, and that I’m supposed to be a comedy writer, God damn it. So without further ado, I reveal to you, three ways to sell the next book in your series that are less offensive than using a cliffhanger.

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A swarm of hot-air balloon enthusiasts using their favorite mode of transport to avoid the dreaded cliffhanger
  1. Tell the Reader the Next Book in the Series Contains the Secret of Life

You’ve just finished reading a page-turner, and it turned out it was the priest whodunit, not the chicken farmer, or the icecream man, and definitely not the mistress. It was a solid, mildly entertaining read. It didn’t make you laugh, and the writer could’ve found ways of putting humor into their ridiculous but semi-serious mystery work, but it was a decent read nonetheless. With only five minutes to go of your train ride to work, you figure there’s no point starting the next book on your Kindle, so you start scrolling through the back matter. You read about the author, and he proclaims his undying love of the mystery genre, and tells some silly story about what inspired him to write mediocre fiction. After that, you come to the plug for the next book, and HOLY SHIT!, it contains the freakin’ secret of life. You rush to work to get connected to your workplace’s shitty WIFI, download the book, and read it over the next week or so. When you get to the end, you find out it was just another shitty story about an alcoholic detective solving a ridiculous murder mystery, padded out with an unconvincing love-interest subplot. Huh. No secret of life, which the author promised. It could’ve been worse, at least this God-awful book didn’t end with a cliffhanger. But wait…the next book promises it’s the only book on the planet that can be seen from space. Holy freakin’ cow! You’re not sure how that’s possible, with it being not composed of matter, but still. Space!

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Warning: may contain excitement intended to bring about sales of next book in series
  1. Tell the Reader the Next Book in the Series Will Somehow Feed the Third World

Despite your sales ranking revealing a different a story, tell the reader that if they buy your next book it has the potential to fund the feeding of the Third World, after it’s helped you pay for your wife’s breast augmentation surgery. If they just cough up their ninety-nine cents, celebrities having pictures taken with African infants with distended abdomens will become a thing of the past, and publicists will have to go back to the drawing board when they’re client’s clothing line isn’t selling as well as they’d hoped.

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“Does he bite?”

3. Tell Readers the Next Book in the Series Will Get Them Laid

Feel free to copy and paste the following text into the back matter of your book, changing details where necessary:

Dear reader,

Thanks for taking the time to read my high fantasy story about a wizard who comes up with a spell every time he’s caught in a situation he seemingly can’t possibly escape from.  If you could take a few minutes to leave a review for this book, it would put a really stupid, really big grin on my face. But first, I just want to take a second to tell you what inspired me to write this book. As you know from my “About the Author” section previous, for a long time, probably since I’ve been potty trained, I have held within my heart a great passion to write high fantasy. But what I’ve also held…in a different place than my heart, is the need to get laid. Probably like you, I didn’t get to bang the redhead with the big tits in my math class, and my love life since highschool has been equally underwhelming. But, like the wizard in this book, I too managed to make the love interest in my life inexplicably sleep with me. I took the time and effort to write the secret to my success into the next book in this series. All you’ve got to do is buy it. Click on this link to find out the secret and unleash your inner happiness.

Kind regards,

L.J.J Writersmith


 

So there you have it. Three great marketing tricks.

But seriously, thinking of writing a cliffhanger? Think again, if it’s the first kind. As always, if you laughed out loud at least three times, please take a second to share this post with the buttons below. It’ll get you laid, probably.

In next week’s blog post, I’ll reveal the one writing hack that’s guaranteed to make you sell more books than Lee Child, Jo Nesbø, and J. K. Rowling combined.


 

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Wondering what my fiction reads like after this bit of neurolinguistic programming? Try it for free here.

 

When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Grow a Mustache

I’ve been a bit down about indie publishing of late. After enjoying a little success, holding the number-one spot in Amazon’s comedy category for almost a week, sales have since plummeted. I’ve also been getting my first really bad reviews. In order to jumpstart sales again, I’ve been trying every marketing strategy I could lay my greedy eyes on, but with little success. Am I about to give up? Am I resigned to talking about publishing like a bitter wannabe piano player with stubby fingers talks about his disastrous first piano recital? Hell no. It’s time to get tough.

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“Honey, can you open the pickle jar?”

I’m not going to be overnight success. It’s not written in the stars, or at least it’s not written in my books, which are tailored to a certain readers’ taste. I might not be successful at all, but I’m not going to let that kind of negative thinking stop me from trying my damn hardest. I figure it’s going to take time, if it’s going to happen. The last couple days I’ve been putting together a plan to earn a decent living as a writer. In the absence of a comedy mother lode to mine this week for my blog, I’m going to share that plan with you.

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A prize-winning horse reluctantly sharing a carrot with its owner
  1. Perma-Free Book Downloaded by the Masses

Permanently free books make some indie authors angry. They whine and moan about free art and the future of publishing and other authors undercutting them, ad nauseam. I think that as long authors don’t make every book in their series free, it’s cool. Besides, you didn’t pay to read these words. Readers are rightfully hesitant about trying out new authors, and I think giving a little taste for free to whet their appetite is a sound strategy for overcoming that hesitancy. Besides, if it works for crack dealers—at least in old wives’ tales—then it could work for me. As long as the writing is up to scratch, which for me means as funny as balls and as exciting as a cocktail party hosted by Bill Cosby.

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This publishing industry elimination facility is cleverly disguised as a “library”

A free book to a browser is a no-brainer, but will they fly off digital shelves all by themselves? Absolutely not. But I’m pretty well schooled in giving away books already. When I ran my free Kindle book promotion, I managed to giveaway a shade under ten thousand books by running a Freebooksy ad, which is basically paying an exorbitant amount of money to some guys who’ll beg the members of their huge mailing list to download your book. If that fails, I’ll pay even more to get a BookBub ad and hope I get accepted. If I don’t, I’ll Andy Dufresne their asses until they submit. And hey presto, new readers.

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Despite repeatedly walking through this sewer pipe, this indie author’s requests for acceptance from BookBub was never granted

2. Build My Own Mailing List

How will I gain the loyalty of those readers, apart from by writing kickass books? By getting them to sign up for my mailing list. I have a few readers on there now, as a result of selling a fair few books, but in order to encourage readers to sign up, I’m offering a discount on new releases the first week they’re published. This way, readers will be more inclined to hand over their already spammed-the-shit-out-of email addresses to me, and I’ll be able to encourage readers to buy my new book during that first week, which will hopefully trick Amazon’s algorithm into thinking I write decent book-type books and expose my books to masses of unsuspecting new readers. Most of these will hate my books and leave bad reviews, but some will like my shit and hopefully…

3. Get Likes for My Facebook Page

Okay, so the whole ellipsis-leading-onto-the-next-section thing didn’t exactly work there. But you know what I meant. Not everyone signs up for mailing lists, but I’m struggling to think of anyone I know who doesn’t use Facebook. Apart from my dad. And my grandparents. And probably my doctor, now that I think about it. But whatever. Another way I’m going to encourage loyalty from my readers is by directing them to my Facebook page. I have a little message in the front and back matter of my books, thanking readers for reading, which I’m genuine about, and which directs readers who like my shit to also like my Facebook page. This has been working okay. I’ll give myself a C-minus for effort. In order to encourage it further, I’ve put in an “About the Author” section in the back matter of my books. I was a little hesitant to do so, because I’d feel more narcissistic than Prince after a line or three of cocaine, but I figure that if I can get readers interested in me after they’ve discovered they like the shit I write, then I can get more people to want to form a quirky-algorithm-dictated digital-age bond with me. I’m also going to start writing more jokes on Twitter. I figure I’ll publish the setup on my Twitter feed, and then have an ellipsis leading to a link for the entirety of the joke, which will be on my Facebook page. This way, more people will land on my page, and hopefully more people will like it, and more people will read my announcements for freshly released books, feeding into my sales-all-in-one-week strategy mentioned above.

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In a vain attempt to make people laugh, these two people each lost approximately two pounds of sweat

But all this is pointless, if I don’t…

4. Write More Freakin’ Books

It made sense that time. I’m getting the hang of this. I currently have three books in my comedy mystery series published. The fourth one is with my editor, and the fifth I’m writing the first draft of. As an indie author, I can’t get away with publishing once a year. I figure I need to write four or five novels a year to stay relevant. Last year I managed four, minus the edits of the fourth one from my editor. After I’m finished with the fifth, I’ll probably start writing a new series to keep things fresh. I’m thinking maybe a series about a hostage negotiator who has a harder time negotiating his family life than talking down crazed criminals. Sounds like an idea for a bad ‘90s sitcom, but whatever.

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Will he jump or won’t he?

And last, and definitely least, I’m going to…

5. Regrow My Mustache

I shaved off my lip weasel before Christmas. I haven’t been the same writer since. It seems that when left unclipped, my upper-lip hair follicles are the source of whatever mystical shit inspires me to write semi-decent mystery thrillers with a shit-ton of borderline misogynistic jokes. My days of trimming are over, and the days of me blow drying and hair spraying my mustache hairs into a macho style have just begun…again.

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You ladies out there will have to rely on Groucho glasses to harness this awesome power.

Thanks for reading. If you like what you read here, check me out on my Facebook page and like it.

My rage-inducing perma-free book can be checked out here. If you like that one, I’ll then expect you to pay for subsequent instalments, like a drug dealer who lives exclusively in our moms’ nightmares.

How to Not Shoot Yourself in the Face After Receiving a Bad Review

Last time I blogged I think I maybe came across a bit of an asshole. But, as I’ve written before, I don’t think it’s the first time. My intention every time I write a blog post is to discover a comedy mother lode, from which I can mine joke after joke, until I ask you to like my Facebook page or check out my books. But sometimes I fail in finding the comedy. The result can sometimes get messy. So what blog post idea have I come up with this week to make sure I stay well clear of coming off as bitter or hateful? As an indie author, what benign subject shall I blog about that has no potential for turning into a whiny, rhetoric-filled rant? Why, bad reviews, of course.

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After a receiving a bad review, this indie author went for a relaxing stroll.

If there’s one piece of advice indie authors agree on, it’s that you should never, ever reply to or comment on a bad review you’ve received. Ever. It’s sound advice, and I’ve managed to heed it so far in my short non-career as a writer. The last couple weeks I received my first really bad reviews, but I took them well, like a divorcee who had no intention of gaining sole custody of his children. I won’t be addressing the failings of the reviewers who posted bad reviews for my books directly. But it would be irresponsible of me if I didn’t use my reflections on these reviews to calm indie authors who might be worrying about their first really bad reviews. That’s my thinly-veiled excuse for writing the following advice, and I’m sticking to it.

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Veiled, thinly in parts, but in the literal sense.

While reading my bad reviews, I identified three distinct types. Two of them you can forget about. Hell, you can even make a night of it and read them with your spouse with a bowl of popcorn, reading bad reviews the same way Woody Allen thinks about going to the movies. The final one could result in you spending an evening with a bottle of whisky and a loaded gun. In order to put your mind at rest, if you’re an indie author awaiting his first reviews from non-Twitter followers and family members, I’m going to dispel the myth that all bad reviews are damaging for your potential writing career.

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A swarm of bad reviewers in their natural habitat.

Three types of bad reviews. Two you should be indifferent about. One that should make you go back to the drawing board. Got it? Good.

Let’s jump right in.

  1. The Review Written by Someone Who Got Offended by Your Book

John Locke wrote that if you don’t offend anyone with your writing, then you’re not doing it properly. I agree, especially if you’re writing comedy or humorous fiction. The book business is highly competitive, and in order to gain fans, your aim should be to tailor your writing style to appeal to a slim demographic of readers, which inevitably alienates or offends the rest. As long as you tailor your book descriptions to keep that demographic of reader who will hate your books from reading them—like I thought I had, and still do—then have at it with a writing style that isn’t cozy or appropriate for all the family. When I tell a joke, I want to surprise you. And sometimes that means shocking you. Just because one reader thought I was being sexist when I wrote a shit-ton of ex-wife jokes in my first novel, does it mean they shouldn’t be in there? Absolutely not. I bet some of those jokes are the reason for at least a few of my five-star reviews. And who knows, you could even end up with a reviewer going hyperbolic on your ass, spewing hate-filled observations that might intrigue potential readers browsing your book. Like I did.

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Popcorn time.

I bet at least a few potential readers who read the above review thought, If this crazy person hated it, then I bet I’d love it! Or it could be: Jesus, what in the world has this author written to upset this person so badly? I want to find out. I know I’ve thought both of those things when reading reviews for other authors’ books. Hell, one of my colleagues muttered the latter when I showed her the above review. If you get a review of this kind, relax. You just offended someone. I do that practically every time I write a simile. And who knows, by writing that edgy joke that made some readers want to throw their Kindle in the trash from disgust, you might just gain yourself a fan who’ll write a five-star review for your book and buy everything you write.

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Brain fuel

2. The Review Written by Someone Reviewing the Wrong Type of Book

On a number of occasions I’ve received reviews that made me think, Did this person read my book?  And one occasion, I was convinced of it—and it turned out she had. But that’s not the type of review I’m thinking about. A couple days ago, someone reviewed my book thinking it’s something it’s not. Here it is:

bad review twoThis person seems to be convinced that I attempted to write “noir detective fiction.” Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I wasn’t entirely sure what that was. So I googled it and found this definition:

noir fictionSure, my books feature a private investigator as the protagonist, but I wasn’t attempting to write “noir detective fiction.” The Jake Hancock Mystery Thrillers are throwaway three-hour reads with outrageous plot lines, silly characters, and a shit-ton of borderline-misogynistic jokes—if you ignore that women in the books run rings around the men. I could say they’re parodies of detective fiction, but that would be giving myself way too much credit. As I mentioned above, I wrote a book description for the first book that communicates that it isn’t a serious mystery thriller. There are clues left throughout the description, but the key is in the following paragraph:

“Despite having not worked undercover for a while, Hancock poses as Megan’s much-older boyfriend for a family weekend at her childhood home in Rodeo, Texas. From within their home, he will learn their secrets…and hopefully get laid in the process.”

This part of the description alone should’ve informed this reader he or she wasn’t getting Raymond Chandler. Am I worried about this review? Hell no. I did my job in writing an appropriate book description. If they couldn’t see that they were buying oranges instead of apples, then they need a new glasses prescription. And if you write appropriate descriptions, this type of review will be kept to a minimum. Will this review hurt my sales? There’ll probably be some potential readers who are put off buying, but for every browser put off by this review, I bet there are two who think, What did you expect? And ignore it.

If I wanted to be a pedantic dick, I’d point out that “noir fiction” features someone other than a detective as the protagonist. But I made a promise to myself at the start of this blog, and I didn’t have a clue either.

And if I wanted to be an even bigger dick, I’d point out that this reader is a fan of a series called Taco Bob and the Witch Sisters. I’m not dicking on that series, as I haven’t read it, but the reviewer seems to have reviewed that series based on its merits, but held my series to a literary standard I didn’t try to attain in the first place. She’s right: It is a poor attempt at “noir detective fiction.”

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Tacos minus Bob.

3. The Review Written by Someone Who Thinks Your Book is Objectively Bad or Mundane

Ready with the whisky bottle and loaded gun? Getting the above types of bad reviews is all well and good, but what you don’t want are reviews that say your book objectively sucks. That it’s riddled with errors, punctuation or otherwise. Or that it’s mundane. And the reviewer is oh so eloquent in explaining why. These reviews are book-sales cancer, especially if they make up the majority. To fix the former, you need beta readers or an editor. I use a number of beta readers to spot mistakes in my books, after I’ve done a shit-load of editing myself. But as with all books, even ones published by big publishing houses, there are probably a few errors in each of my books. But I figure the readers who love my books will forgive me for it. In fact, one reviewer wrote as much:

good review

The next reviewer, not so much:

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Four-star reviews, if they become a trend, can be equally destructive to sales. I mentioned above that you should write to entertain a very specific target demographic, and for good reason. If you try to please everyone, you could end up wowing no one. Try to please everyone, and you’re serving everyone a bland meal. Remember to open the spice drawer, even if chili powder doesn’t agree with Aunt Barbara’s irritable bowel syndrome. The only solution to avoiding mundanity is to be brave. Write books that offend the shit out of some people, but which makes fans of others.

Of course, this list isn’t exhaustive. There are many other types of bad reviews. Feel free to add your own in the comments section. Meanwhile, I’ll be writing the next Hancock book. It’s going to offend the shit out of some people. I can’t wait. Thanks for reading, and please share if I made you laugh at least four times…maybe that’s ambitious. Three? Deal. The share buttons are below.

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Three Dumb Things Skeptics Need to Stop Writing About the Steven Avery Trial

Because I live on planet Earth I’ve watched the fascinating docu-series Making a Murderer on Netflix. Like anyone who possesses at least a modicum of logic, I came to the reasonable conclusion that Steven Avery was framed by the Manitowoc County sheriff’s department for a crime he probably didn’t commit. But some people remain unconvinced of his innocence. Which is cool. What’s less cool, and more importantly outside of what’s considered sane, rational thinking, are some of the arguments skeptics are citing on blog message boards and social media as proof of his having done it.

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“I know who did it…it’s that bird there!”

Now these cotton-headed ninny muggins have cited a vast array of dumb reasons to prove Steven Avery’s guilt, but I like to keep my blog posts short. So I’m only presenting three of my let-a-bald-eagle-peck-my-eyes-out-from-frustration favorites.

Let’s jump right in, shall we?

  1. “If Steven Avery didn’t do it, then who did!”

This argument doesn’t hold much water. No water, in fact. It goes without saying that just because you can’t think of anyone else who might have committed the crime, it doesn’t mean you should blame the only person who’s standing trial. This is a child’s way of thinking. A kid comes down the stairs on Christmas morning, sees presents under the tree. He thinks a second, then says to himself, “Mom and Dad were asleep last night, and the presents weren’t under the tree when I went to bed…so it must’ve been Santa!” If you’re a Steven Avery-innocence skeptic and my implying Santa doesn’t exist has let the cat out of the bag and ruined Christmas for you, my apologies.

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“No, Mr. Avery, it isn’t ‘unfair’ that you’re the only one in the lineup.”

2. “But what about the sweat DNA evidence under the hood?”

Ken Kratz is a fine storyteller. Now that his career as a district attorney is over, he should really put that keen imagination of his to a more ethically-centric use, like thinking up ways of tricking old ladies out of their hard-earned retirement funds. One of his complaints about the documentary was that the film didn’t include the litigation of the prosecution’s “sweat DNA” evidence found under the hood of Teresa Halbach’s car. His argument being that they wouldn’t be able to plant sweat evidence. I’m not sure, and I can’t be bothered googling it, but I’m pretty sure the DNA under the hood of the car is mentioned in the film. What isn’t mentioned is the source of the DNA, which is probably what Ken Kratz, Mr. Ethics, has his panties in a bunch about. The source of the DNA isn’t mentioned for good reason: because it’s not identified. Not only that, but there’s no such thing as ‘sweat DNA’. I’ll let Jerome Buting, one of Steven Avery’s attorneys, do the explaining:

“It wasn’t sweat DNA. There’s no such thing as ‘sweat DNA.’ Their own expert, from the crime lab, testified that they never did a presumptive test on that hood latch to see if there was blood there. And she said, ‘I can’t foreclose the possibility that it was blood from which the DNA came.’ It was a discolored swab.”

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“He did it for sure. I seen the magic fairy dust.”

3. “It would have been too difficult to plant the evidence!”

I imagine the people who believe this crock must exclusively wear Velcro-fastening footwear, because “Shoelaces are too difficult to tie. Believe me, I’ve tried.” Or I imagine they bring their laptops to PC World to have viruses removed, because “Them things are stubborn. You can download free software to remove them, you say? Horseshit!” Conversely, what is difficult is dislodging a car key from a piece of furniture and have it land underneath a slipper. If you’re a skeptic, give it a try—use a shoe if you don’t own slippers. They’re quite similar. I bet my last Jolly Rancher that you can’t get your car key to fall underneath your Velcro-fastening shoe when dislodging it from a piece of furniture.

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“I found the key right there, underneath them ones in the middle. You see, with it being under the middle pair, we knew he had to have murdered her and put it there.”

So there you have it. If you’re a skeptic, feel free to call me an asshole in the comments section below. If you’re tired of hearing unconvincing arguments for Steven Avery’s guilt, do us all a favor and share this blog using one of the share buttons below.


 

If my poking holes in fallacies has convinced you I’d make a pretty good comedic mystery writer, well this is your lucky day, because that just happens to be the genre of novel I write. They can be checked out here.

The best way to say hi or call me an asshole is via my Facebook page.

Five Achievable New Year’s Resolutions

Before we all get shit-faced tonight and then sing ‘Auld Lang Syne’ while we watch someone else’s fireworks display from our balconies as the clock strikes twelve, we’ll probably be considering how we can better ourselves in 2016. But are we kidding ourselves with typical New Year’s resolutions? Probably is probably the answer. New Year’s resolutions are like Chinese welding: they’re made to be broken. Maybe it’s time we lower the bar a little. Are we really going to consistently pack ourselves into gyms, transforming our bodies to look like Brad Pitt’s in Fight Club? Will we be able to spend more time with our families while maintaining the same work schedule? And can we really imagine ourselves volunteering every weekend, handing out warm bowls of soup to queues of cold vagrants? It’s time to stop being so 2015 and step into the world of the realist.

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This holiday makes it seem like it’s going to be a great year

I know what you’re thinking: if we can’t realistically achieve those improvements to our lives, then what areas of our lives can we expect to improve? I’m glad you asked. I’ve spent the last five minutes thinking of achievable New Year’s resolutions so you don’t have to. I know, what a guy…

You’ll probably never have a six-pack, but you can realistically expect to be able to:

  1. Throw away a pair of socks as soon of one of them has a hole in it

As far as New Year’s resolutions go, this has got to be the easiest. After pulling out a pair of socks on a Monday morning, only to find one of the garments no longer achieves its primary purpose of completely covering your foot, get up and throw those suckers in the trash. Both of them. It’s 2016, and you’re way above having a collection of odd socks in your underwear drawer. Your wife will now at least respect you a little, and you can say goodbye to that inevitable embarrassing moment when you’re on a staff training course and the course leader makes everyone do an activity with their shoes off. For the really confident New Year’s resolution maker, you can promise yourself that you’ll regularly trim your toenails, so that the big one doesn’t prematurely poke a hole in your sock in the first place.

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I know I saw a hole someplace

2. Regularly wipe the dust off your printer in your office

Okay, I just looked around the room to come up with this one, but I can’t be the only seemingly civilized human being who cleans every surface in his home except the printer’s. Looking at him now, he looks really sad with that years’ old layer of dust coating him. In 2016, things are going to be different, and I’m going to respect my boarding pass printer-outer. And so should you. A printer’s for life, not just making air travel slightly less stressful.

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Dust…? Ha!

3. Spend MORE time flicking through your news feed on Facebook

Watching viral videos of monkeys throwing feces at each other is important. Thinking of heading to office earlier in 2016, so that you can gun for that promotion that evaded you in 2015? You have permission to forget all about it. You may as well spend time in the mornings by slightly amusing yourself while simultaneously depleting your sense of self-worth. Who knows, those few miserable chuckles could do a world of good for your morale, making you the type of employee who your employer thinks would be suitable for handling the complexities of the next rung of the ladder. It probably won’t, but at least you’ve spent your time trying to watch a bunch of shit videos, half of which wouldn’t load on your three-year-old iPad.

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Come at me, brah!

4. Say “I love you” to your parents at the end of FaceTiming them without putting on a silly voice

You’ve tried to have a meaningful conversation with your parents while hungover on a Saturday afternoon, and it’s getting to the point where you need to rap things up. Instead of waving like a mad man and saying those three blessed words in the voice of Patrick from SpongeBob SquarePants, look straight into their eyes—well, the camera lens—and say it like you mean it. You’ll feel better, and your parents might think you’ve started taking ecstasy on Saturday afternoons. Win-win!

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That’ll never be us

5. Don’t drink water

In 2016 you’re going to be more efficient. You’re going to run your days like a well-oiled machine. Teeth still need to be brushed. The baby’s diapers still need changing. So what can be shaved from your daily routine? Drinking water, of course. All that unnecessary swallowing of water and the subsequent bathroom breaks are undoubtedly the reason why your face didn’t appear on the front of Time magazine in 2015. But won’t I die, Dan? I hear you ask. Not if you buy IV equipment from eBay and hook it up to your arm every time you sit down to do work by the computer. The really ambitious New Year’s resolution maker can forego all that unnecessary eating, too.

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Is his face exactly in the center?

So there you have it. Choose one of the above and make 2016 what it’s supposed to be: a hopefully slightly less depressing facsimile of 2015.

It wouldn’t be a proper Dan Taylor blog post if I didn’t at least spend a little time waffling on about myself, so I’ll let you in on what my New Year’s resolutions are: getting in shape, quitting drinking, and getting more organized. Oh, and handing out bowls of soup to vagrants with a fake smile on my face.

Happy New Year!


 

My books about a private investigator way too cool to make New Year’s resolutions can be checked out here.

And don’t forget to say hi on Facebook.

Interjections Are a Funny Business

While reading a review of a book I was thinking of buying, I came across an interjection I’d never encountered before. At first I thought it was a typo, that the person had meant to write “belch.” But upon googling the word, I was proven wrong. The word that had got my attention was “blech!” Just in case you didn’t magically understand its meaning from reading it, blech implies nausea. Of course it does.

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Blech!

I found it among a list of equally bizarre interjections, and in the absence of anything else to blog about this weekend—blech!—I thought it might be good fun to try them out. What kind of writer would I be if I couldn’t incorporate the likes of feh, gak, and neener-neener into my writing? And what kind of writer would I be if I couldn’t come up with my own equally bizarre interjections? A shit one, just in case that wasn’t clear.

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Now what would he say next…? I know, “Neener-neener!” Nailed it.

Here we go:

  1. Neener-neener, often uttered in a series of three repetitions, is a taunt.

Reading neener-neener once makes poking my eyes out with a public restroom toilet brush seem preferable, let alone reading a series of three, which I’m informed from the list of interjections I’m referencing is often the way it’s used. But who am I to stand in the way of the evolution of the English language? I’m pretty sure that if had one of my characters use this in their dialog, readers might think I’d swapped my green tea breaks from writing for a casual smoke of crack. Or that I’d fallen asleep with my head on the keyboard and hadn’t edited out the result, which is basically how I wrote the first Hancock novel, according to one reviewer. But fuck it. I’ll do whatever it takes to stay fresh and happening. Time to pop my cherry:

Girlfriend: Did you forget to clean the bathroom this weekend?

Me: Neener-neener neener-neener neener-neener!

Girlfriend: *Takes away my crack pipe and hands me a cup of green tea*

  1. Feh is an indication of feeling underwhelmed or disappointed.

No commentary this time, just straight into the cherry popping:

Girlfriend: What did you think of that Matt LeBlanc film?

Me: Feh!

Girlfriend: Ah, so a C minus?

Me: On the money.

Well what do you know, it is actually effective communication. I actually gave that pile of steaming cinematic feces a D plus, but still, impressive.

  1. Gak is an expression of disgust or distaste.

This interjection has typo-accusation bait written all over it. It’s barely a noise, never mind a word. My googling gak further revealed that it’s also a noun that means a sticky or messy substance. As soon as I read this, coming up with a way of using gak in a sentence was child’s play:

Girlfriend: *While sorting through dirty laundry* Dan…what’s this gak on the bed sheets? *Drops laundry upon realizing* Gak!

  1. Chrecckkkcccxxxx is an indication of great pain, like when one stubs one’s little toe on a coffee table leg or reads a series of three neener-neeners.

I have to confess to making this one up. I have another confession: it’s my favorite. Why? At least it’s an approximation of something people in the English-speaking world actually say, which is more than can be said for feh, neener-neener, or gak. Next time you mistake your open wound for a steak dinner and pour salt in it, give it a try.

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Chrecckkcccxxx!

So there you have it. Was that as good for you as it was for me? If so, press one of the share buttons below. Otherwise, feel free to type any one of the interjections above into the comments section.


 

My books, which aren’t a result of me falling asleep with my head on the keyboard, can be checked out here.

The best way to say hi is through my Facebook page. You can also say gak, feh, or neener-neener to me there.

Three Ways to Put Humor into Your Writing That Even Your Grammy Could Manage

It’s difficult to not enjoy something if it can at least make you laugh. Well, maybe not sex. You can probably add Jay Leno to that list, too. But you get the idea. Movies, books, video games, they’re all improved by humor. A so-so novel can get the thumbs up if it can make the reader laugh out loud on the train to work like a crazy person. But how do you do it? What’s the secret ingredient to comedy? I probably don’t have a clue, but I didn’t let credibility stand in my way for the previous blog posts. And it’s too late to start now.

I’ve written quite a bit of comedy. Four novels’ worth (two of which are published at the time of writing this) and a shit-ton of jokes on social media. To learn the ropes, I read a lot of comedy. I noticed one common element among all the jokes that made me laugh so hard I thought I might have to change my underwear: surprise.  Writing a joke is about luring the reader into a false sense of familiarity, and then pulling the rug out from under their feet.

“You were supposed to laugh, Grandma.”

“So that’s the answer, Dan? Surprise them? Sheesh. Thanks for nothing.”

Now hold on a minute. I’m not done yet. I have three main ways of doing this. They just so happen to be the easiest ways I use, and if I can use them effectively to make readers laugh, there’s more than hope for you.

Here we go:

  1. The List Joke

The setup is simple: a list of items that are a set and that lure the reader into thinking they can predict the next one. The punch line is the final item on the list, which should come right out of left field. I use this joke structure often in my Jake Hancock P.I. novels. In the example below, the titular character expresses his thoughts on children in general and his fondness for his nephew.

kids jokes

Below is a joke I posted on my Facebook page.

list joke

Next time you’re listing a character’s attributes, or writing a series of events, or listing pretty much anything in your writing, try to make the last item comical.

2. The Cliché Turned on Its Head

Writers are supposed to stay away from cliches like small children should unshaven men who carry around unusually large bags of candy. But not comedy writers. Cliches work really well at luring the reader into that ‘false sense of familiarity’, making it easier to pull the rug out from underneath their feet. Take this example I posted on my Facebook page.

police officer joke

You thought you had it all worked out until the last couple of words, and then bam! Admit it. Okay, if you’re not going to say it, at least nod your head. That’s right.

3. The Ridiculous Simile

I start licking my lips when I know I’m going to write a simile. Why? This is a golden opportunity to flex my comedy writing muscles. Instead of writing a plain, old simile, turn the silliness up until you pull the knob off. Like I did before writing these examples from Hancock P.I.:

clown joke

sex

Next you time you go to write that something is like something else, make that something else comical, like the way you’d talk to the clown you hired to perform at your kid’s birthday party who turned up drunk.

So there you have it. Did I just dupe you into reading my jokes by offering dubious comedy writing advice? You can bet your last Jolly Rancher I did.

Come back next week when I share the results of my KDP Select free promo days. Depending on the results, the post will either be called ‘How I Gave Away a Shit-ton of Ebooks’ or ‘My Evening with a Loaded Gun and a Bottle of Whisky.’

If you enjoyed this blog post, share it with your friends..


My novel Hancock P.I.,which I coincidentally chose to extract examples from, can be found here.

Feel free to leave a comment either on my blog or on my Facebook page.

Amazon Are Suing the Fuck Out Of Fake-Review Writers

It’s not news that Amazon products tend to have bogus reviews. Kindle books are probably the worst offenders. But what might be news to you, if you’re new to the internet and think that ‘to google’ means to shake a snow globe, is that reviews for Amazon products can readily be bought from a number of websites. Amazon, in their ongoing war against shady and biased reviews, are suing over 1000 fake-review writers who offer their services through Fiverr.com, an online marketplace offering tasks and services beginning at $5 per job performed.

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“Go ahead, son. Give it a google.”

This is great news for authors with well-edited books who rely on honest reviews to inform customers whether the book is right for them. Amazon customers can now shop with more confidence, and the playing field for honest self-published authors has been somewhat leveled.

“What you reading? I’ll happily review it for you.”

But you’ve got to feel for the bogus-review writers, though, right? Informing Kindle customers that the badly edited vampire-on-werewolf smut they’re thinking of buying is comparable to Dickens, among other fraudulent claims, might cripple them financially. My heart bleeds for them, at least oozes blood a little, so I thought I’d dedicate this week’s blog post to helping them out. Their days of reviewing books they haven’t read are over, but it doesn’t have to mean financial ruin. Below are five equally respectable services they can offer for $5 through Fiverr.com.

  1. The Fiverr.com Virtual Blowjob Experience

This needs little explanation. It involves a webcam, a reformed fake-review writer’s gaping mouth, and a desperate dude who has a strong imagination and a large bottle of lube.

Gig extras: Virtual Ball Cupping Experience.

“How do we do this?”

2. “I’ll send a virus to your worst enemy’s computer for $5!”

Unable to put your bullying by Tommy what’s his name behind you from your highschool days? Now you can put that hatred to bed, with a Trojan horse remote installed by a reformed fake-review writer.

Gig extras: any nude photos can be extracted from your worst enemy’s computer and posted on a range of social media sites.

“The dipshit sent an actual horse! Can you believe it?”

3. “I’ll mail anthrax to your boss’s address after you didn’t get that promotion you didn’t deserve. Only $5!”

You’re totally right. Bill didn’t deserve it. And yes, it’s unfair that you won’t be able to afford your wife’s breast augmentation surgery you’ve been looking forward to for so long. The solution? Your boss won’t be able to breathe easy again!

Gig extras: can also get that kindergarten teacher who implied little Joanie might be dumb.

“You can’t fire me, because I already quit!”

4. “I’ll break up with your girlfriend for you for $5!”

Has she been acting like a bitch lately? Been together so long you can’t muster up the nerve to do it yourself? No problem! Just order the gig and provide her cell number in the ‘details’ section.

Gig extras: also offers the ‘Virtual Blowjob Experience’ for those subsequent lonely Friday nights.

“He aint worth one of your tears.”

5. “I can put your neighbor’s cat up a tree for $5!”

Guy been mowing the lawn early on Saturday morning? Do you think 9 pm isn’t a reasonable time to take out the trash? Get the dude back. Don’t worry, the cat won’t feel a thing!

Gig extras: he can throw in the dog, too. Shit, he’ll put anything up there with four legs as long as you pay him $5.

“Dude said ‘cat’…”

So there you have it. Five great alternative career opportunities for the reformed fake-review writer. Feel free to add your own in the comments section. These guys need all the help they can get, and it’s important to provide an empathetic response to their problem, among all the knee-jerk responses chastising them we’re sure to get from bloggers.


My books, only ever honestly reviewed, can be checked out here.

You can also like my Facebook page and say hi. I have no idea why, but those likes are important.

My Totally Straight Love Letter to Jason Statham

As an indie author, I spend quite a bit of time on Twitter. I write the odd joke, plug the shit out of my book series, and try to steer you off Twitter and onto my blog with carefully chosen and manipulated silly photos, which is probably why you’re reading this now. There are two standout things I’ve learned from interacting with other Twitter users: 1) cats are way more popular than I thought they were, and 2) there’s a whole load of crazy in the world. And I mean a shit-ton.

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Say cheese!

Of all the kinds of crazy I’ve witnessed, my current favorite has to be intense, foaming-at-the-mouth-to-meet-their-idol fandom. Before you go straight to the comments section to call me an asswipe, hear me out. I get regular fandom. It gives us purpose, in a pathetic kind of way. We can get through a difficult day knowing we can go home and worship Justin Bieber, One Direction, or Kermit the Frog. (I was scraping the bottom of the barrel there.) It also gives us a sense of community, knowing that there are other goofballs out there who obsess about Kermit the Frog as much as we do.

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Kermit’s tactic for hiding from rabid fans involves leaves. By winter he’s fucked.

Being a fan is generally an innocuous pursuit, but I think we can both agree there’s healthy interest, and not-so-healthy interest. I believe the difference is this: the sane fan enjoys that famous person enriching their life, whereas the insane fan wants to be part of their idol’s life. They’ll stop at nothing to meet their idol, possibly even if they’re deceased. Common symptoms are: creepy narcissism, an inability to talk or post about anything else, and a total disregard for all the things in the world that actually matter. A rarer symptom is having their idol’s surname as part of their Twitter handle (true story).

The often deadly Justin Bieber virus. Highly contagious, especially among prepubescent teenage girls.
The often deadly Justin Bieber virus. Highly contagious, especially among prepubescent girls.

I truly envy these people. While I’m worried about my receding hairline, whether to buy life insurance, or my daily fiber intake, these people are so distracted they couldn’t possibly give a shit about any of those things. That seems like a cool place to be.

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A frightening display of fellowship by a pack of foot sport enthusiasts.

I want me some, at least for a little while. Just a couple minutes. And what better way than to write a letter, ostensibly writing about and to my idol, but not being able to keep my hand away from the cookie jar and inevitably rambling on about myself. Receding hairline…what receding hairline? By God, it’s working!

Cue wavy dissolve before dream sequence.

Dear Jason Statham,

Let me start out by saying I love your movies. But this wasn’t always the case. When I was at university, I used to wear a bowtie and think that I liked art-house films with little dialog, lots of staring into space, and actors smoking cigarettes as though they were kissing a beautiful lady with the patience of a Tibetan monk. But I’m happy to say I’m cured now. I know I’ll never be fully over this disease—it’s definitely a disease, Jason—but I’m in recovery. It’s all thanks to you.

(Can I call you Jay? Is that cool with you? Is it even short for Jason? Forget it, I’ll just carry on writing Jason.)

Regardless, with your performance in The Transporter, you helped me discover that I don’t like artsy movies. I like movies that don’t take themselves too seriously, movies in which the actors have bulging muscles, raise one eyebrow after delivering a cheesy line, and straighten their shirt collar after kicking a bad guy’s ass. I feel like I’m free, like I’ve discovered who I am, and it all started with you. I love you, Jason, but not in that way. Not that there’d be anything wrong with that.

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Here I am…probably shouldn’t have worn that shirt

This lack of pretension seeped into other areas of my life: I no longer pretend that I like scallops, classical music, or those fancy potato chips that boast the quality of the soil used to grow their silly unpeeled potatoes. Cheez Doodles all the way for me, Jason. Most importantly, it’s influenced my writing style: gone are the trite metaphors and observations, unnecessary and overlong descriptions of rooms and places, and intellectualization of characters’ emotions. In their place is dumb fun. Fast-paced, exciting, and a little silly: like watching two giraffes engaged in a taekwondo bout.

This is my girlfriend. She is not you, Jason Statham.
This is my girlfriend. She is not you, Jason Statham.

As a tribute, I make reference to you in my novel Bad Guy by Proxy. I shoehorned in your doing your own stunts—super-fun fact, by the way. And there’s even a character loosely based on you. He’s a martial artist and has a bald head. (I’ve often thought of kissing yours, in a manly way, like when I turn my dad’s attempt at a handshake into a hug.)

Jason, I salute you. Keep up the good work. I’ll carry on watching if you keep acting in that ironic, self-aware way of yours. You’ll never play Macbeth, and for that I’d like to kiss you in a special place—in a totally straight way.

Yours sincerely,

Dan Statham


If reading about my healthy interest in Jason Statham has convinced you I’d make a decent comedy thriller writer, you’re in a luck, because that happens to be the exact genre I write in. You can check out the words and punctuation I have for sale here.

Have I Created a Monster?

I’m rubbish at being American. So bad, in fact, that I’m British. This causes me a problem when writing my Jake Hancock P.I. series, which is set mostly in Hollywood. That’s why I have a dedicated beta reader—the eagle-eyed Tammy McGowan of Washington D.C.—to spot any British English phrases, any references someone over the pond wouldn’t get, and any words that feel as right in an American’s mouth as a crumpet with butter.

After doing a great job with the first novel, I asked Tammy, “So, what do you think?”

“It’s good. It’s witty, fresh,” she replied.

I sensed a but, so I didn’t reply.

“But there’s one problem.”

Okay…”

“Jake’s a bit of an asshole.”

I wiped the sweat from my brow. Phew! I kind of knew he was when I wrote him. He’s supposed to be that way. I’d come to terms with that already, and I’m prepared to take my lumps. He’s only supposed to appeal to a small demographic of readers.

But she’d sown seeds of doubt in my mind. What if this ‘Jake’s a bit of an asshole’ thing is a bigger problem than I initially thought? What if no one likes him? I like him, but wait, does this mean I’m an asshole? Is this why I have few friends?

Instead of talking this problem through with her, I got on the defensive.

“That’s cool. He’s supposed to be an asshole.”

“I don’t think he’ll appeal to American readers. If someone acted that way in America, people would think that he has bad social skills, has lived overseas for a while, or is…”

“An asshole?”

“Right.”

I inspected dirt under one of my fingernails. “Do you think that’ll be a problem?”

I knew the answer before I asked. We’re not talking about a typo or spelling error that can easily be fixed. It’s a huge problem. If I worked quickly, I could possibly make Jake less of an asshole in the time it would take to write a whole new novel.

I went away from the conversation disheartened. I thought about scrapping my novel. I even phoned my dad to talk the problem through. His solution was simple: “Who’s Jake?”

Now clearly he didn’t have a clue what I was talking about when I recounted the conversation with Tammy. But maybe he’d hit upon something. Who is Jake? I thought.

He’s arrogant, narcissistic, flippant and, as far as Tammy’s concerned, he’ll appeal to American readers like a barbecue does a vegan. Is this necessarily a bad thing? Does the world need another clean-cut hero?

Days passed and I managed to trample on those seeds of doubt. I got back to the confidence I felt when I wrote the manuscript, or at least enough steps in front of the doubt to not worry too much about it. I no longer think Jake being an asshole is a problem. To some people he will be. But not everyone. Some readers out there will get him.

Tammy offered, and continues to offer, great advice. But this time I ignored her. Not because I think she’s wrong, just that she likes what she likes and I like what I like. Maybe I’m oversimplifying it. Maybe I should imagine a graph that compares curves of book sales for both a sterilized version of Jake and the Jake that I wrote—but that isn’t me. I want readers to like what comes naturally to me, which happens to be writing about a character that most people will think is an asshole.

Besides, not everyone thinks I’m an asshole. At least I hope.

I spoke to Tammy later on, and told her this: “If he’s not able to make enemies, he won’t make any friends.”

What do you think? Have I created a monster?

JakeHancockOne

Hancock P.I. is now available to download for Kindle on Amazon.

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