Category Archives: Choose Yourself

Writing in a bookstore window–I am fascinated by the story of Harlan Ellison

I am fascinated by the story of Harlan Ellison.

I wrote a post about him five months ago.

And I am really interested in his writing in the window of a book store.  He wrote stories in the from the start of the day to the end of the day and he would put the pages up in the window as he finished them.  And the pages would be clean and error free.


He did this many times over the years.  Apparently some of those stories he wrote in a window won awards.  But as of this moment I am not sure which ones those are.  Now Ellison won a lot of awards for his short stories.  I just wish I knew which ones where written in a store window.

One story I do know that he wrote in a window was Objects of Desire Are Closer than They Appear.  And the premise for the story was given to him by Chris Carter.  Carter gave him the phrase a 102-year-old pregnant corpse.

Some began to believe that Harlan was cheating by already having ideas for his stories planned out before he sat in the bookstore window, so eventually he would get people to give an idea.  Robin Williams gave him the phrase “Computer Vampyre”  and Ellison wrote the story Keyboard.

I find that fascinating.

Ellison did not let writers block get in the way.  Writing is fun.  Writing in enjoyable.  And more than anything else, writing isn’t about rewriting to get it perfect, a lot of his stories he taped to the window as he finished them.  Remember this was on a typewriter, not a laptop.


Harlan writing at the Booksmith in May of 1994 at the Booksmith in San Francisco. 

Just cool as all get out.

The writer that wrote stories in bookstore windows

Could you write a story on demand?  In a store window?  With a first draft that is error free?

Harlan Ellison writing in a bookstore window.  Source

Apparently that is what award winning sci-fi writer Harlan Ellison did.  And he didn’t do it once.  He did it several times over the years.

I first heard about this feat from Dean Wesley Smith’s blog, and then I decided to do some research on it, and I found this post on Mental Floss.

Ellison would sit with a typewriter.  A TYPEWRITER—not a laptop.  You see you little whippersnappers you couldn’t always go back and remove a letter or a word.

Ellison says that he did this because:

“I do it because I think particularly in this country people are so distanced from literature, the way it’s taught in schools, that they think that people who write are magicians on a mountaintop somewhere,” he told NBC after one such performance in 1981. “And I think that’s one of the reasons why there’s so much illiteracy in this country. So by doing it in public, I show people it’s a job … like being a plumber or an electrician.”

After doing this several times people began to question if he already had the stories in his head.  So, he started taking prompts from people.  One came from none other than Christ Carter, the creator of the X-Files.  His prompt: There was a 102 year old corpse.  Harlin would hand the pages as they finished and a clerk would post them in the window.  The pages were immaculate, double spaced, and error free.

I would love to be at this level.  

But as I think about this, I contemplate how many myths of writing Ellison takes down here.

Outlining–He doesn’t outline here.  He writes.  He stops to read and research, but there is no outline here to his process.

No rewriting—Have you ever heard of such a thing!  No rewrites!  Try telling that to your English teacher.

Writing taking a longtime—These are short stories, but he didn’t slave over these stories for years on end.

Ellison shows that writing doesn’t have to be a big esoteric exercise.

Solid creative writing is work—just like a plumber.

(This post originally appeared on my Steemit blog.)

Cover for my next book–Irving Williams and the Mystery of the Lighthouse Ghost


My newest book Irving Williams and the Lighthouse Ghost is coming soon.  

Here is the cover.

I got the cover from a designer I found on  It was the first time that I used Designcrowd, here designers send you the designs first and then you select the winning design.  You can even purchase several designs, if you have the budget.  There were a couple of other designs that I liked, and I wanted to reward the designers for working on the designs.

I posted what I thought I wanted.  But this designer read between the lines and came up with something I never would have thought of.  My wife said that it looks like a classic children’s story.  So, it won the contest.

The book will be ready soon for prerelease.

The many things to learn from Neil Gaimen–Ideas for writers and other artists.

I published my first book in 2013.  It was a children’s picture book.  

At that time I thought I would keep writing picture books.  I felt out of sorts when my second book was not a picture book.

But then I learned about Neil Gaiman.

He does everything.


I knew that he had written Coraline.  I had read the book and seen the movie and liked it a lot.

Then I saw him appear on Youtube with a wonderful commencement speech.

And an amazing speech at Bookfest in 2013.

Then, I read American Gods.

Wait?  The guy that wrote Coraline is the same guy that wrote American Gods?

How is that possible?

Then it seems he writes many other things.

He takes the time to write short stories.


Hold the phone–

He began his career writing comic books.


And before that he was a journalist.

And it was as a journalists that he learned to write fast and under a deadline.

What I did was work as a journalist. It forced me to write, to write in quantity, to write to deadline. It forced me to get better than I was, very fast.

Oh, and P.S. he didn’t go to college.


And yet he has an honorary Doctorate.

Oh, and now he does audiobooks.

Yes, his books aren’t made into audiobooks.

But not only that….He narrates them.


And he does pictures books

Now he’s just showing off.

My favorite book of his is, Fortunately the Milk.

Just wonderful.  I remember reading it and thinking “Man, this is the book I wanted to write.

(Seriously I can’t recommend this book enough.  Just pure joy from start to finish.)

Here’s what I learned from reading his books and reading about his career.

  1. Write many different things.

  2. Learn to write fast.

  3. Be creative in different domains

  4. Enjoy the process of writing.

I’ll leave you with his eight rules of writing.  Very beneficial for anyone trying to write.

  1. Write
  2. Put one word after another. Find the right word, put it down.
  3. Finish what you’re writing. Whatever you have to do to finish it, finish it.
  4. Put it aside. Read it pretending you’ve never read it before. Show it to friends whose opinion you respect and who like the kind of thing that this is.
  5. Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.
  6. Fix it. Remember that, sooner or later, before it ever reaches perfection, you will have to let it go and move on and start to write the next thing. Perfection is like chasing the horizon. Keep moving.
  7. Laugh at your own jokes.
  8. The main rule of writing is that if you do it with enough assurance and confidence, you’re allowed to do whatever you like. (That may be a rule for life as well as for writing. But it’s definitely true for writing.) So write your story as it needs to be written. Write it ­honestly, and tell it as best you can. I’m not sure that there are any other rules. Not ones that matter.

Check out my post about Neil and the need to market like a dandelion.

Also check out my latest book:


The Idea for lesson plans with the new book.

I have a new book available for preorder.  The Return of the Professor, The Dolbin School 3.

The Return of the Professor Kindle Cover 1

But I am also offering lesson plans/activities to go with it, and the other two books in the Dolbin School Series.

Knowing my readers

I don’t know why more writers don’t do  this.  Especially if you write for children.  When books are taught in class, teachers need to take the time to come up with plans for the books they use.  I am a teacher.  I want teachers to use my books.

When visiting Potomac Elementary School, I spoke with the librarian and she told me that she appreciated Dolbin School for the Extraordinary for the short chapters.  Suddenly it dawned on me that teachers were using my books.

I also know that parents of older kids are reading the series, so with these activities parents can also have some value with with the books.

How many times have you had your child read a book and then be done with it?  I hope with these activities I hope parents will be given ideas of what to do with other books their children read.

Trying something new

With the release of this new books I have taken over a year to get the book the out.  Which is a mistake and another post in among itself.  So I wanted to do something different for it.

I have no idea if this make any difference in sales. But part of indie-publishing is trying something new and experimenting.

But I also know who a lot of my readers are, and I know what they need.  And I know they need activities and lesson plans.

So here’s how get the plans for the new book.

  1. Buy the book.
  2. Forward your receipt to

An email will be sent immediately to you with a link for the plans.


I also have lesson plans for my Kevin series.  If you join my Insider’s List you get them for free.  They were written by  a teacher friend Nikki Sabistion over at Teaching in Progress.


Let’s say this again. You don’t need to pay anyone to publish!

Again.  In 2016, you don’t pay people to publish you.


You publish you.

I have had several conversation recently about this.

These are my steps:

  1. Write book.
  2. Hire cover designer.
  3. Hire editor.
  4. Publish on Amazon and iTunes.

No where in there do I need to pay someone thousands of dollars to get my work out.

If you see AuthorSolutions, iUniverse, Tate Publishing, just ignore them.  Please, I’m begging you.

Don’t believe me.  See these great posts from David Gaughran:

Author’s Guild ends relationship with Author Solutions.

The connections of Author Solutions with Barnes and Noble

Penguin helps exploit writers

In 2016 put your time and money into making a great book.  Your money goes to cover design, editing, and formatting.  NOT PUBLISHING.

Remember, YOU publish YOU.


Visiting an elementary school as a visiting author and Idea-Mating to come up with more ideas.

I was invited to visit and share my writing at Potomac elementary in November.  Thank you to Beverly Blue for the invite.  I also got to share the day with AJ Cosmo and Verlyn Tariton.)

There I am at the top giving lessons in the gym. Thanks again to Potomac Elementary.

There I am at the top giving lessons in the gym. Thanks again to Potomac Elementary.

I met with students from Kindergarten to 6th grade.  I met with seven different groups.  If that’s sounds intimidating, just remember teachers do that everyday.


Instead of me just reading from Kevin and the Seven Lions, although I did that, I talked mostly about generating ideas for writing.

I shared a lesson that I do in my classes at the start of every year.  First, one side of the paper you write all the different things you love.  Be it football, baseball, ponies, pizza, cars, Disney, doesn’t matter just put it down.  Now you have a list of things things you can write about about.

But we’re not done yet.

On the other side of the paper write down things you hate, or don’t like.  The loathe side of the list.  Homework, brussel sprouts, tests, whatever, put it down.  Now you have more things you can write about.

This what I call my Love it-Loathe it List.  All of my students have one at the beginning of their writing journals.

Now we take it a step further.  Take one thing from the love side of the paper and one from the loathe side of the paper and combine them.  Pizza and brussel sprouts, Football and spiders, now all of a sudden you have a third or more things to write about.

Idea mating, two ideas coming together and making more ideas.

With the sixth grade group we came up with football playing turtles.  (For some reason, someone hated turtles.  Turtles.)  We discussed that with turtles you combine turtles, ninjas, mutants, and your teenage years, and suddenly you have Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  Idea mating at it’s finest.

I taught the kids there should never be a day when you say I have nothing to write.

Never. Ever.

I don’t allow it my class.  When it happens I refer my students back to the Love-Loathe it list.

There is always something to write about.


(For more ideas on creating ideas.  Check out Claudia Azula-Altucher’s book Becoming an Idea Machine.  See my review of that book here.)



Getting Ready for my first school visit

Next week I am visiting Potomac Elementary School in Northern Virginia.  I got this picture below.  I will be also be visiting the school with AJ Cosmo as well.

I am looking forward to not only meeting the students, but also meeting teachers.  Having teachers support your work is amazing and as I have mentioned in the past a great way to develop an audience.  When teachers and librarians recommend books, they recommend them to dozens if not hundreds of students over time.

If you write children’s books, get yourself into the school libraries.

I am blessed to have this opportunity, I am looking forward to it!

Seriously, never in a million years would I have thought this would happen.

Seriously, never in a million years would I have thought this would happen.

Facebook Memories and beginning of this strange thing I do.

According to Facebook I first shared to the world about my first book Kevin and the Seven Lions on October 30, 2012.

Kevin and the Seven Lions Memory

It was also announced that Disney had bought Star Wars and that there would finally be an Episode 7.  (Which is now only a few weeks away.)

Episode 7 30 rock

In those three years, I have met many  new people because of the books.

  • I have interviewed several people, including AJ Cosmo.
  • I have read my book to an entire school on the morning announcement.
  • I have sold autograph paperback copies.
  • Claudia Altucher, All Street Journal best-selling author of Become an Idea Machine, has sent people my way who needed help in creating their own children’s book.
  • I have been, (ever so briefly) high enough on best-seller lists to be within reach of Harry Potter.
  • I have meet Steven Smith another best-selling writer in the area.
  • My current principal has asked to meet with me to help with ideas on a book idea he has.
  • And there are many  other things to list.

I write this list for two reasons, one to remind myself what has happened, and two to show what is possible when you begin something new.  Writing books and telling stories is more than just book sales, although those do matter, there are numerous unexpected ways that creation will effect you and those around you.

Begin writing.  Trust me.

An eight year old publishes a book-Interview with Max and Martin Weiss

I admit it. I am jealous.

Max Weiss is 8 years.

Max Weiss

And Max has published a book- The Baseball King.

I was 39 when I first published.  Ugh, Max is so far ahead of the curve.

Okay, jealousy aside.

Max does want to be a pro baseball player when he grows up.  Good for him.

Max is an entrepreneur as well.  He sold an early version of the book to his neighbors.

I learned about Max through is father, Martin Weiss (Wow, what a great name!)

Martin shared his story in a Facebook group Choose Yourself, so I HAD to learn more.

Max and Marty were nice enough to answer some questions for me.

(Seriously read this.  There is a lot to learn and admire here.)

  1. Max, how long have you been playing baseball? As long as I can remember. It’s been something like 4 years since I’ve been playing. I started with t-ball. I hope to play for the Boston Red Sox when I grow up. I will play first base or shortstop. Right now I play all positions, but the ones I’m really good at are shortstop, first base and pitcher.
  2. Max, what prompted you to go out and sell one-page copies of the book to your neighbors? One day I was bored and I was thinking about baseball so I though how about I write a book. So I wrote a story and I sold some copies to the neighbors for one dollar. It was good so I thought I should charge money for it. My dad told me now to go back those neighbors and give them the new hard cover book for free.
  3. Is there another book on the way? Maybe there might be a lot of books that I might write soon. Who knows? If I did, I’d write about basketball. When I grow up I might write more books. But I might not be an author if I’m a baseball player. I’m thinking about starting a YouTube channel about different games before I write another book. My other idea is to start a charity for kids who want baseball equipment but don’t have enough money to get it.
  4. Marty, being a member of the Choose Yourself group on Facebook, how long have you been reading James Altucher’s work? I’ve been reading James Altucher’s work since about 2011. A friend of mine, Patrick, first introduced me to him. He had sent me an email saying that I had reminded him of Altucher (albeit he was sure to mention that I was a taller version). I first really became intrigued with Altucher related to his supposed interest in a particular stock at the time that I was following. I slowly became more and more interested in his writings. I do remember the one thing that seemed to really intrigue me about him was his honesty. I remember thinking about how he says things that others would be too afraid to write, yet they are things that perhaps many of us had actually pondered ourselves.
  5. Tell the story again of how you got the Carlton Fisk quote. As the book project continued, I kept coming up with many more ideas. One that I thought that would be really great was to get a current or former Major League Baseball player to write a blurb for the book. I originally asked Max to offer up some names of players. We initially sent out a couple letters to current players (and I believe perhaps even my child-hood, favorite Wade Boggs). Given that I knew sometimes it could take months to get a response from players, I thought it might be best we looked at retired players. It also dawned upon me too that a retired player is more likely to cross generations, which I thought would be great for the book. Max and I agreed upon Carlton Fisk. He certainly knew he was through a Red Sox event we attended locally (Winter Weekend at Foxwoods), and of course Fisk’s iconic World Series home run. I discovered Fisk is an honorary board member of the Cancer Support center. I had then simply sent the appropriate draft copies, along with our request, and a nominal check made out to the Cancer Support Center. Most importantly I was very clear and sincere in my personal note that I expected him to keep the charitable contribution regardless. I thought for example, that this wasn’t necessarily as simple as asking for an autograph and could understand a number of reasons as to why he might not agree to a blurb. Ultimately, Max and I were so ecstatic to receive our request back from Fisk upon which he had written a note on our sample cover print out, which read: “Go for it Max. Good luck,” which he had signed.
  6. With your son writing the book, you formatting and uploading the book, and your mother this seems to be a family affair. Are there other entrepreneurial projects involving the whole family? The key thing about this project was being able to show to Max the relationship between ideas and execution. I was proud even with his initial execution, and wanted to further demonstrate the tools and resources, which are so easily available today to make things happen. While it still requires hard work, many resources have been democratized, and so much is possible or at least a lot more accessible than a decade ago. Beyond the initial entrepreneurial spirit he demonstrated, it was certainly the thought of Max’s grandmother (my mom), having the skills to draw the illustrations, which led me to the conversation with Max around taking this book idea even further. I really liked the idea, that this was a family affair. While not given credit in the book, Max’s aunt (my sister) helped with the editing. She’s a wonderful teacher, and really enjoys what she does. Aside from the experience for Max, it’s been a lot of fun for me as well. Having an excuse for example for putting up a Web site ( And yes there are other entrepreneurial projects. Specifically we sell a few products on This is a lot of fun as well. Particularly as my wife enjoys testing the products, and the boys help me out with things like packaging and sticking labels on products to be sent to Amazon for fulfillment. There of course have been those one off projects. One baseball season for example, I involved my kids in a video project in which we created fun to watch team videos, slightly customized for each child.
  7. What else should people know about the project? I think my mom is confused as to the “seriousness” of it. At first, I’m not sure she understood how far we planned on taking this. Yet at the same time, I believe she probably thinks today it’s a lot more serious that it actually is. I really didn’t want to stress her out in having to do so many illustrations; particularly knowing she doesn’t do this kind of art (oil paintings and realistic portraits is more her forte). My vision was simply some black and white drawings taking inspiration form Shel Silverstein’s books. I had told my mom, she could just draw stick figures. Given what we’ve done with the book today, my mom wishes for example she had used charcoal paper and not just plain typing paper to do the illustrations, and of course is critical of her own work and insists she would have done a better job. I love the illustrations, and also like the “rawness” of the illustrations in that they appear to be hand-drawn in the book. The other interesting aspect to the book was the editing process. It was important to keep Max’s original story intact as much as possible. Heck, I have several books myself published by major publishers, and the editing done on Max’s book is minuscule relative to what the editors had done to my books! For Max it was mostly punctuation, capitalization and spelling. There are aspects of the story we questioned internally, but never mentioned to Max. In fact, we even rationalized some of these things in our head as if the author had purpose. For example, when the boys are playing ball, we found it odd that Max chose the Yankees (He’s a HUGE Red Sox fan!). But interestingly the boy who chose the Red Sox is the one to go on and become the baseball king … and of course why would he have a Yankee become the hero? That raised another thought as well though. We found it interesting and perhaps selfless, that Max’s friend Ryan is that character, and not Max himself. Rather, he takes the backseat. In another example, we thought about having him add to the story of who won the game when he tells the score of the children. Again, we had to step back, and we thought, let it be. Perhaps the beauty here is as the two young boys playing together, it wasn’t really relevant who won. I am afraid that years later, Max will ding me for the one change I made, in which he may later express his mad reasoning … Max at the end of the story is the opposing team’s catcher. In his original story, he was the umpire. Aside from making some nuances with the illustrations come together, I felt there was a conflict of interest of having Max be the umpire for his friend, Ryan in the World Series.


There is so much to learn from this interview.  So thank you guys  for taking the time to answer my questions.

Oh and Max, yes, you can be a baseball player an author.  Derek Jeter released his first book, the same week I released a baseball book.  (Guess who did better in the rankings.)

So you can do both.

Oh, and you can help kids that don’t have enough money for baseball equipement.

Glad to know know kids like you exist Max.


So go ahead and check out the book’s website.

Also Martin Weiss is a pretty accomplished fellow as well.  He write computer/IT books.  Check out his Amazon page.

Here is info on Max and his grandmother.