For frequent flyers on the Twitter hashtag game circuit, Don Lorah is a familiar face. #MuseMon, #2bitTues, #1lineWed, #Thurds, #FictFri, & #SlapDashSat know him for his regular contributions. Gritty, honest, funny and thought-provoking, his words find a home 140 characters at a time.
With three books already available on Amazon.com, Don looks forward to completing his current WIP with a mind to querying. Agents, be aware!
Like me, you’ve had a lot of jobs, changing careers with apparent ease. Pop commentators on job trends say that this is the way in North America. Did you find career changes easier with each transition?
I don’t know if it’s easier. I’ve never really thought of it that way. I became a teacher because everyone said I’d be good at it. I wish people had told me I’d be great at making money. I might still be doing that.
But I am a seeker. My philosophy is if I haven’t used something or done something within a two-year time frame, I get rid of it. This philosophy is in contrast to my wife’s. Disagreement’s ensue.
People get upset about that. They think I’m rejecting them. I’m not. I love the people I meet at different stations in my life. But I’m not ready to settle. I’m not someone who will be doing something for 40 years and accept a plaque at the end of my life. Some people — that’s what they want and I think that’s excellent for them — but it’s not for me. I am a creature of habit, but I’m also someone who can have a conversation with anybody. I’ve never met a stranger, just someone I haven’t talked to yet.
Right now, I am patiently/not patiently waiting for my kids to graduate so I can pick up stakes and move again. If I could get paid to travel that would be awesome. That’s one of the things I like about writing. I can type away on my computer anywhere!
Wouldn’t it be cool if we could change our perceptions in the same way? You seem to have through your fiction. Good characters, bad characters, all with equal amounts of flawed and redemptive qualities. Are you a ‘character’ author?
Yes. Yes. And more Yes.
People fascinate me. I tend to read mostly biographies. I want to know people’s stories. I want to know what they’re thinking. When something happens, what’s their reaction? Why? Why do people do the things they do?
Plus it’s so cool creating someone you would want to hang out with. It’s like creating your own friend.
Dean Koontz wrote two books Fear Nothing and Seize the Night. The characters he created in those books made me go and read the rest of his collection. There was a part in the second book where Bobby and Christopher were sitting in Bobby’s jeep drinking beer and I kept thinking I want to be there with them knowing full well murderous monkeys were hot on their tail!
When you break most stories down to their basic elements it’s the same thing; good guy vs. bad guy, bad guy vs. really bad guy, guy meets girl, etc… But it’s the characters that make you care about the story.
I can speed read a mass market paperback in an hour and tell you the butler did it. The books I care about enough to slow down and savior the words are the ones with lasting characters.
I hope to one day create such a character.
You long for the beach. What draws you to water?
Two reasons really. One, I love the ocean. I love the waves crashing over and over. I love the feel of the ocean breeze. I love how I feel floating in the water. The beach is a happy place for me.
The other reason is because of nature. Me and the outside do not get along. I break out from everything. I hate touching plants because I know a rash will form. I cut the grass and look like I’ve got walking pneumonia. (Maybe that’s an exaggeration.)
But every spring, every fall, when the weather changes, I break out. Right now I have these spots on my arm, I get them every year, that make me look like I’m a heroin junkie. Poison Ivy will send me to the emergency room. I’m a pro at taking my steroid shot.
The ocean helps wash all that away. It’s a cleansing every time I go in the water. Hiking in the mountains is a completely different experience.
With the ocean, I’m refreshed. We’re drawn to each other. That being said, I cannot surf. Tried. I’m not coordinated enough. I also hate open water. I don’t do well on boats. I have heard every shark story ever. No thank you.
Ed-I hear ya! I never go in past my knees. JAWS really ruined it for me. Lol.
The list of writing credits you’ve supplied is lengthy and varied. Will you give us an excerpt from one of them?
The following was something I submitted for a short story contest. You had to use the line “You don’t have enough points, sir.” as your opening line. I didn’t get nominated. The contest encouraged creativity but the five finalists were all dystopian society pieces. If the contest rules had said they were looking for dystopian pieces I would have written something along those lines. Either way, I had fun. It was a short 700-word contest. Title of the piece is Devil’s Grin.
“You don’t have enough points, sir,” the young attendant scolded Big Jim.
“Points? Who said anything about points?” Big Jim scowled. “I want that doll.” He spread his hands on the counter with a thud demonstrating his strength and willingness to do anything to get the doll.
“Sir, in order to get a prize, you need to collect points through those machines.” She pointed. “You don’t have enough points.” The young girl was matching his intensity.
Big Jim squinted trying to stare her down. She matched his gaze. He knew what was up. He stood up and grabbed his wallet. “Alright, how much?” Big Jim threw two twenties on the counter.
The prize attendant blew out an agitated breath, “Sir, I can’t sell the doll to you. You obtain the doll through points.” She pointed towards the video game machines with their beeps and flashing lights.
Kids wired on sugar stared blankly into the screens accumulating that which Big Jim did not have.
He threw two more twenties on the counter, “My little girl wants that doll and I ain’t staying here all afternoon chasing electronic pellets.”
The attendant folded her arms in refusal.
Big Jim tossed another twenty on the pile. A young punk eyeballed the cash. Big Jim shot him a look telling him to move on.
Big Jim scooted the five twenties towards the attendant. “Look, I don’t care if you keep the money or not. I just want the doll.”
The girl looked at Big Jim, then at his young daughter. She was covered in melted sugar. Sticky. No woman accompanied Big Jim.
“Must be hard raising a daughter without a wife.” The young attendant motioned towards Big Jim’s little girl.
Big Jim followed her motion seeing his princess sucking on a lollipop. He smiled, sure he’d won, “Sure is.”
The attendant smiled back and pushed the money back towards Big Jim. She leaned in close drawing Big Jim down to her level. With a wicked grin she whispered, “Still gonna need more points to get the doll, sir.”
If Big Jim thought he could have gotten away with it, he would have slapped her. He slapped the counter instead. The attendant, those nearby, and Big Jim’s little girl all jumped from his sudden outburst.
He poked a finger in her face, “Look here, missy!”
The young attendant stepped back, folded her arms across her chest and smiled.
Big Jim’s face was redder then the polo shirt his adversary was wearing.
Big Jim was not used to people treating him this way. Usually, he demanded something and he got his way. This insolent little girl was due for a spanking. That’s what he told her.
She feigned fright, “Why are you threatening to beat little ol’ me? Do I need to be punished? Was I a bad girl?” She swayed from side to side with her finger to her lips teasing Big Jim for his outburst.
Big Jim finally read her name tag, “Nancy.”
She raised her eyebrows at the sound of her name.
Big Jim pulled out his wallet and threw a hundred-dollar bill on the stack of twenties, “May I please have the doll?” He asked as calmly as he could.
Before Nancy could answer, her manager walked up, “Nancy, is there a problem here?”
“No.” Nancy looked at Big Jim.
The manager looked Big Jim over, “Well, then let’s get a move on, you’re starting to get a line.”
The manager walked away.
Nancy pushed the money back towards Jim, “You’ll need to get more points, sir.” She smiled the same smile the devil wears when meeting someone in the desert.
Jim grabbed the money off the counter and walked towards the machines with their beeps and flashing lights. He sat his daughter up on a stool facing the electronic screens like so many other children. They chased pellets, points and dignity one token at a time.
Fifteen minutes later, Nancy finished her shift. She stole the doll off the shelf, clocked out and never went back wearing the same devilish grin she’d worn every day of her life.
The promo tag I saw recently on Twitter for SHARE GIRL carries a warning: Not for the faint of heart. Exercise caution when reading. Was it your intention to shock and awe, or did the characters hijack you?
The characters totally hijacked me. I never really know what’s going to happen. In Share Girl, she’s attacked. But it couldn’t be a simple attack. It had to be something horrific to change her from Amber to Share Girl. Otherwise it’s unbelievable. We watch her as she is slowly sucked into a world she is not prepared for. It leaves her broken both physically and spiritually. What is she going to do? How does she change into Share Girl? What type of person is Share Girl?
I want to write a nice story about a guy and girl who love each other. But the guy isn’t cooperating.
The Love Tree was like that. I sat down to write a witty, romantic short story but a couple sentences in, I knew the guy was lying. He bummed me out, but it gave me a great story.
The characters hijacked what I wanted to do, but they helped me create this world, a dark world, a world I wouldn’t have been able to create on my own.
That totally sounds weird.
My characters always do that. In the book I wrote, Something Wild, the same thing happened. My main character got into his car and was joined by someone else. I wrote the scene not revealing the other person. My wife is reading the draft asking, “Who is it? Who is it?” I’m like “I don’t know? I’ll find out tomorrow.”
It adds some excitement to the day!
Ed – I do that too, create characters with nic names not really knowing their true identities until they reveal themselves. It’s always shocking for me!
We met through Twitter #hashtag games. Care to comment on this trend? What do you get from playing them?
I love playing the #hashtag games. I love the sense of community the games provide. We’re all in this together. We met through Twitter, we may never have met otherwise. Like I’ve said earlier, I love meeting new people. Some of my biggest fans are people who I’ve connected with on Twitter. I find that amazing.
Plus, there is such an abundance of talent on Twitter. How some people can take 140 characters and evoke such strong feelings is amazing.
I love the instant feedback a line can give. It’s awesome to think of a great line and share it with the world. I’m always amazed at what people like and don’t like. Something I think is great may only get a couple of likes, but something I think is a throwaway could be my most popular tweet that day.
I love writing series, but I need breaks from time to time, usually through short stories and novelettes. Do you write more than one manuscript at a time? If so, how do you keep it all sorted?
For a while I was. I’d have a couple of things going at the same time. That’s changed with the last book and the one I’m working on now.
I was writing short stories for different contests and magazines, but I found the process difficult.
The last book I published on Amazon completed a trilogy, and this book now is tying a lot of my recent short stories together.
I haven’t been blessed with a new idea yet. Most of my ideas come from dreams. Maybe I need to sleep in a little bit more and the good stuff will flow once again.
Have I forgotten anything?
I don’t think so.
I’ll end with advice. Write because you can. Write because you love to do it. If you become famous or successful, awesome, but don’t do it because of that.
Yes, you have talent. Yes, you have incredible ideas. Yes, no one may ever read them. But you did. You took the time to create something that is from you. You have value, therefore, your work is valuable, even if no one has ever put a price tag on it.
You never know what may last in this world and what will fade away. None of us knows the future. In a time we may not be a part of, your words could be what changes a generation.
If your words, your story, your creation changed the world, changed the course of human history for the better, would it matter if you never made a dime?
Maybe your words will do nothing more than prove to your kids anything is possible. Dreams are worth chasing. There is more to this life than social media and video games.
We all have something to say. Some of us simply have the courage to write it down.
In his own words
I grew up at the beach in Delaware. After a couple of twists and turns down the road of life, I got stranded in Northern Virginia. But I’ve got my wife and kids with me, so life isn’t so bad. Trust me, as soon as the youngest graduates, I’m out of here. Life is short, I need to spend it at the beach.
I’ve had an abundance of day jobs. My family owned a well-drilling company, so I dug a lot of holes every summer. I finally got out of that and worked at a bookstore, selling books and learning how to make foam for a cappuccino.
People always told me I’d make a great teacher. I didn’t like school, but that didn’t stop me from becoming a teacher. News flash, if you didn’t like school as a student, it isn’t any better as a teacher. At least, for me, it wasn’t. I taught 7th and 8th grade math and social studies.
I hated every day!
I’m not exaggerating. Every day.
Still I won several awards: Outstanding Student Teacher, First-year teacher of the year, Math teacher of the year, Social Studies Teacher of the Year, and yes, Teacher of the Year.
Imagine if I had liked teaching!
I left teaching to become a youth minister. Here’s another tidbit to tuck away for future reference: Do not work for small minded people who have no want for growth, personal or otherwise. Too many people get comfortable and don’t want to explore new things. I want to change my whole life about every two years.
In the end, we both believed in God but the similarities ended there. Again, good with the kids, terrible with everyone else.
I gave up ministry life, and worked at a gym for two years. I’m not big on fitness, just really good at picking things up and putting them down. Simply put, I love sugar, carbs and all the other bad things I’m not supposed to like.
I workout regularly but I’m not interested in being Mr. Universe or extending my life cycle.
Now I write. I’ve got a website: www.donlorah.wordpress.com. It contains short stories I’ve written. Some I’ve submitted to magazines and contests, some I haven’t. I also have a three books on Amazon.
The three books in the series are told from the point of view of three different people. In the first book, Something Wild, the story is told by Bodhi, a children’s writer whose wife, Rachel, has gone missing. After accepting the fact she may never be found, clues start popping up that may help him find her.
In A Bona Fide Good Guy, we find Gene, a demolition specialist for the mob trying to make a better life for himself. He’s paved with good intentions, but that doesn’t always make things right. He learns about Rachel and tries to rescue her.
With The Winter Rose, we learn there is more to Rachel then a simple missing wife. There is something evil attempting to change our world forever. Our new hero, Kendall, wants to find inner peace after a lifetime of pro ball and wealthy living. He becomes the final piece of the puzzle, helping Bodhi, Rachel, Gene and the others stand against a force more evil than Satan himself.
My current WIP
I had two different ideas. I even had people vote on them. The first story was about a two siblings with special powers in search of their mother. The other was a full length novel based off of some short stories I had written. The stories revolved around characters found in the Blue Tree Forest. Simon and company, if you’ve read the stories, are not good people. Some unlucky travelers ended up in the forest and are in a fight for their lives to escape.
The story about the siblings won. It made sense — happier ending, people like kids. I’ve been working on the story in my head longer, etc. But when I sat down to write, the second story came out.
I have very little idea where the story will end, and how my travelers will fare. I do know the story will combine, Simon, the fairies, the Blue Tree Forest, The Love Tree, Share Girl and Limbo.
The whole concept of the story came about from one of those crazy late night pillow talks you have with your wife, when you’re half tired, half loopy.
I don’t remember the details, but we got talking about mischievous things and fairies came up. I said I should write a story about fairies. I had this idea of a man taking a leak in the forest and fairies biting his butt. My wife asked if the fairies could have blue hair. I said sure, their hair will be blue as an homage to the Blue Tree Forest they live in.
The Love Tree was supposed to be a sweet love story. Something sappy. But I realized early on that my male character was a liar. His lying introduced me to Simon. Simon is in charge of the Blue Tree Forest, a forest that contains the Love Tree.
Once I had those two stories, I realized I had a world to explore.
The idea for Share Girl came about from a miscommunication. One day the hashtag #Sharegirlstalkboys was trending on twitter. It was to promote the single, Girls Talk Boys, from 5 Seconds of Summer. The song was featured on the Ghostbusters Movie Soundtrack.
I didn’t know all of this when I saw it. Not a big 5 Seconds of Summer fan. Not really their demographic.
Anyway, I inquired, “was the hashtag Share Girls Talk Boys or Share Girl Stalks Boys?” I liked the character called Share Girl. It’s a hard read. It was hard to write. Our main character Amber is Share Girl. She is used, goes through a metamorphoses with Simon’s help and comes out as Share girl.
Limbo was a five part mini-story based off of a series of dreams I had. The first night I dreamt of losing my youngest son. So I wrote a story with this character in mind. Each night I would dream different details I would add to the story. Limbo ended up in the Blue Tree Forest as a challenger to Simon.
So now, I’m attempting to unite all these characters into one story. Crossing my fingers, it can come out like I want. I won’t self-publish this book like I have done with the others. This will be the one I send to agents in the hope of landing a book deal.
Thanks for joining us Don, and best of luck with the querying. *sending good vibes* — ABF
TOMORROW: Historical fiction author Ralph Peluso tries his hand at short stories and wins with a new anthology coming SOON.