Day 4: Another Day completed

My alarm went off at about 6:45.  I'd every intention to rise and dive into the work.  Instead, I slumbered another 45 minutes.  Regardless, I completed the 500 word goal.  In fact, I believe I exceeded it by possibly two hundred words.  As I'm writing this, I only know that I had written more than 500 words today.  My hope is to return to the book tonight and get 500 more.

Daily Starting Total: 10,557

Daily Finishing Total: 11,392

Daily Total: 835

Day 3: A Day Trip to Reno, but did I get it done?

It all started with a trip to Reno

The business I'm in takes me to Reno, Nevada on a regular basis.  Some months I'm up there once and other months it can be up to three times.  Luckily Southwest has direct flights between Las Vegas and Reno all day, every day.  I had to get up at 5 am for a 7 am departure.  That meant that I wasn't getting up for writing at 4 am or anything.  I had it in my head that I was going to write my 500 words later in the day.

Did I get it Done?

I had my doubts it was going to get finished today when I had come home later than planned and my wife and I decided to get Reflexology as we are both dealing with an inordinate amount of stress.  Prior to leaving, I squeezed in about 230 words.  After the massage, I sat down and squeezed out some more prose.  Knowing I would have to report the number to you tonight pushed me forward to get it done.  I actually feel really satisfied knowing it is finished for the day.

So here's my report:

Starting Total: 10027

Finishing Total: 10557

Daily Total: 530

Day 2 of the Writing Experiment

Jumping In with Both Feet!

Well, it's the first time I wrote consistently for two days in a row.  However, this might be the first time I have worked to track my progress.  I woke up a bit later today than I had yesterday.  I still made writing a priority.  I haven't calculated the total as I write this sentence, but I think I ended up getting carried away and writing over a thousand words.  If you take away some of the minor interruptions I had to deal with this morning, I would say it took me about 45 minutes.  

A Little More about this Project

So, a while ago, after reading about all of these Kindle authors who wrote at super fast speeds and then possibly went over their work one time before publishing it, I thought I would implement some of their experiment.  It seems like the reading public is wanting this more pulpy-style of writing.  I don't know if it's true or not, but I wanted to experiment.  

As I said yesterday, The Son of San Diablo is still finding its audience and I have been working a very long time on the sequel.  However, that becomes a boring drudgery and slog after a while and it starts to feel like you can't tell which way is up and which way is down.  I had been looking at pre-made eBook covers around the holidays and it dawned on me about a month ago:

What if I purchased some of these lower-priced (but still lovely) pre-made eBook covers and then conceived of a series of stories that could be set around them?

And that is exactly what I did.  I decided on a pen name that had been rattling around in my head for a couple of years and then went to work.  I chose about 10 color covers and had a rule that none of them would exceed $30.  I kept that rule for all of the covers I had purchased except one.  That one came in at around $35, but it was so beautiful and fit what I was looking for that I couldn't resist.

The next part of the plan basically involved coming up with a central character who would find himself in various scraps and situations that would lead to something that the cover conveyed.  I developed a couple of supporting characters as well and then I set to work on outlines.  

The outlines were based on a very simple outline I had already conceived.  The question I asked myself when I first started out on this project is:

Can someone write a story that is exciting, engaging, a little philosophical and addictive?

Having read nearly all of the works of Ian Fleming and much of Edgar Rice Burroughs, I had concluded that yes, one could do that.  It just would take focused, concentrated effort and an economy of words.  

I now call the approach: 'Flemingway Block.'

'Fleming' for Ian Fleming and his love of the flair that comes with the adventures of one James Bond.  These adventures were always punchy and forward-moving, but had a lust for life in the sensual pleasures that included how food and drink tasted, what a beautiful woman looked like or the pain that Bond would feel at the hands of his enemies.  I love his writing.  It is especially good if you've ever heard a well-known British actor read it aloud.  So, there was that.

The 'way' was a reference to Ernest Hemingway.  Recently, I heard someone say the only people who read Hemingway are high school students and it’s usually because they’re being compelled to. That’s not entirely false. He wrote the tightest prose, so it only made sense to abbreviate his name in this title.  Like others I’ve spoken with, I have found his stories a bit difficult to get into, but have read enough to appreciate his desire to have an economy of words.  Therefore, from him I have taken that.  I also have worked to keep things on the surface without digging too deep and losing the reader.  I have tried to avoid too much exposition.

Finally, 'Block' for Lawrence Block giving me the inspiration to try this.  Also, because having read a few of his detective novels, I have found his free-flowing prose to be liberating and economical all at the same time.  He pulls one in unlike many others.  I wanted to homage some of that.

Now, don't get me wrong.  I don't think I have the skills, talent or body of work to stand next to these men in any kind of peer-style relationship.  Instead, I want to emulate these three and see what happens.

More tomorrow.

Daily Report

Starting Total: 9115

Finishing Total: 10027

Daily Total: 912

 

My Writing Experiment

Thank you, Lawrence Block

If you are someone who has ambitions to become a professional writer or at least to see something published under your name someday, then this post is for you.  In order for this post to make sense, I am going to make one or two assumptions about who you are and why you might be interested in this post (and the posts that follow on this blog).  

My first assumption is that you are a busy person.  You might be going to college full-time and working a part-time job or vice versa.  You might also be raising a family with or without a spouse/partner.  You might also be the type of person who has wanted to write and publish your own work.  Honestly, you might be thinking to yourself: Even if it is self-publishing on Amazon, it is better than nothing.  And you would be right.  

Being that kind of person with the aspirations you possess, you seek out all of the latest books of wisdom on writing.  You may dig into the past and see what past writers have said about getting it done.  Some of the writers who write about writing may be prolific like Stephen King or Lawrence Block.  Others you may have read might fit into the 'writers who write about writing' category like Anne Lamont whose most well-known book is Bird by Bird.  Sure, she's written fiction, but everyone talks about this book.  

The list of books on writing instruction is endless.  Honestly, there are only a few really, really good ones out there.  Then there are a handful of mediocre and a few that definitely should never have been written.  It seems sometimes that some people make a living off of writing books about writing more than they can make actual money from their writing.  That's not meant to be a dig.  If anything, I think every person who wades into the world of fiction and finishes one book (terrible or world-changing) should be lifted up on the shoulders of their peers and carried through the streets.  The heralding them as a hero to the masses wouldn't be a bad addition either. 

One of my favorite books on the writing instruction side is Steven Pressfield.  He wrote numerous fictional novels, but most notably The Legend of Bagger Vance.  I read that last year after picking up The War of Art and wanted to see what kind of writer he was.  It was a solid book that isn't just about golf, but about existence and meaning.  It's an interesting exploration and I recommend that if you are a golfer or just someone seeking some direction in your life on how to live 'the authentic life,' you check it out.  Pressfield's other books on writing are also quite insightful.  I have yet to dive into another novel, but I see that coming sooner rather than later.

The Son of San Diablo

Writing The Son of San Diablo: A Manifest Galaxy Novel came in so many fits and starts over the years that it is kind of astounding it ever really was published.  It took the imminent passing of my mother last year in August to spur me on to get it published on Amazon.  Though I believe we live on after we die and likely get to check in on our family members and friends, I wanted my mom to see a novel her son wrote while she was still in mortality.  

The Son of San Diablo was based on a short story I entered in a local writing contest about a dozen years ago.  It was a historical drama then.  Over the years, I had come up with another concept: What if a wormhole connected mankind to the rest of the galaxy and that eventually led them to discover new, habitable worlds?  Add to that the desire of every leader of every nation to first claim these planets and their resources for their own?  What would that kind of galaxy be like 500 or 600 years into the future?  

So, I played around with the idea and eventually got to The Son of San Diablo.  The short story I referenced earlier is passable, though I'd be embarrassed to give it a public reading.  My mom told me she’d read the short story one morning before work when the pain of chemo was too much.  I told her that I had expanded it and changed the concept into something more enriching.  I had even discovered a theme that had evaded me in the short story, but now was fully realized in the book.  If you want to know what that theme was, the book is on sale at Amazon in ebook and paperback format.

So again, thank you, Mr. Block

In a roundabout way, this takes me to the writing experiment I am undertaking.  

I was listening to Lawrence Block's Telling Lies for Fun and Profit the other day and something he said about work habits struck me.  He will usually write seven days in a row regularly.  He will measure his work progress by output rather than by time put in.  Now, this isn't the first time I've heard this advice.  However, this time it sunk in deeply.

All at once, I formulated some ideas on a new project I had wanted to undertake.  You see, at this moment, The Son of San Diablo is still finding its audience.  I know there are some who have read it and have enjoyed the story.  They seem to get what I am trying for in the book.  However, there's a feeling of self-consciousness that I have (not the novel) that holds me back from being fully free and desiring to just let loose as Cameron M. Clark.

So, the project was rather simple:

Every day, I will track my progress on an unnamed project and will post the results here.  How do I measure my progress?  Well, Mr. Block says he shoots for five to six pages a day on the lower end (of course, this was back in 1981 when his book was originally published).  Being a full-time dad, a full-time professional (VP of Business Development) and a few other roles I can't get out of, I had to set my sights a bit lower.  

Instead, I read an apocryphal story that George RR Martin writes 500 words per day and that's it.  I don't know if that's true.  At first, that would be easy to judge and dismiss.  The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I don't have the same pressure Mr. Martin has and I could do 500 (or more words) every day as long as the minimum goal was 500.  Once done for the day, I can wait until tomorrow.

I already had been working on this unnamed project for a while, but some of it was in stops and starts.  Instead, I will attempt to write at least 500 words per day and then update you on this blog daily.  If I miss writing on a certain day, I will post that too.  I will not sugarcoat.  Nor will each post be as long as this one. In fact, it has taken me longer to write this post than it did to write the 500 words for my fictional story.  Sweet irony!

Regardless, if you follow this blog or if you have a friend looking for some inspiration in writing, I highly recommend you tell them to follow along.  Even if this is a failure/disaster, we can all have a good laugh at the fact I got further on the project doing it methodically than not doing it at all. 

It’s a learning experience for me, most of all  

Without further ado: 

Starting Word Count: 8443

Finishing Word Count: 9115

Daily Total: 672

When in Doubt...

... remember the wisdom of Socrates:

 I know that I know nothing. 

Do NOT Promise that You will Call Back!

The Fastest Way to Subliminally Tick Off Your Clients

I'm going to share a professional pet peeve of mine.  How many times have you called a friend or professional associate and you get sent to voicemail?  No big deal, right?  Have you noticed how much less often you actually leave a message?  Instead, you might decide to call back in a few minutes or send a text.  Sometimes, you may decide that the notification on the person's phone of your missed call will be enough.  Regardless, you rarely choose to leave a message.

Why is that?

I think the top reason most of us don't leave a message is either: a) we know the recipient won't even listen to the voicemail and will just call us back or b) they won't even bother with the message, nor will they call back.  It's like we sense this is going to happen and decide: 'What's the point?'

Again, why is that?

I think it has to do with the promise nearly every person makes when they record a voicemail outgoing message?  What is the one thing everyone says?  Check it out:

Hello, you've reached Tom Jones.  I'm not available to take your call right now, but if you leave your name and number, I'll return your call as soon as I am able.

Did you spot the promise?  They ask you to leave your name and number and then they say they will call you back as soon as they are able.  Generally speaking, how often is that?  Are they going to call the annoying telemarketer who has an amazing trip for them to take if they just listen to a 3-hour sales presentation?  Are they going to call the sibling they are having a quarrel with and it appears there is no resolution in sight?  Are they going to call the credit collection specialist who reminded them their payment is overdue?  

Likely, no.  So what makes you think you're any different?  Just like you, I have made thousands of business calls over my career and nearly every single outgoing voicemail message says: 'Please leave your name and number and I'll return your call as soon as I am able' or some other variation of that.  However, less than 5% of these recipients ever return the call.  

It's a Trust Breaker

The late, great Dr. Steven R. Covey used to compare the winning of people's trust to making deposits in a bank.  When we make commitments and promises to others and then we follow through on fulfilling what we're promising, we are making a deposit in that person's emotional bank account.  When we break commitments and promises, we are making withdrawals.  Is it ever possible to make withdrawals and still be in a good place in the relationship?  Of course!  But those are usually after many deposits have accumulated over time.  It's also worth noting that just like Rapid Rewards points with Southwest Airlines, what you put into it will always outweigh what you take out.  In other words, it might take five deposits or even 10 to equal the one withdrawal you make when you break a commitment.

So, the basic rule of thumb here is that if you are screening your calls (even with prospective and existing clients) or you just never get around to calling people back, don't promise you will in the outgoing message.  It'll just piss them off.  Instead, try something like this:

Hello, you've reached Jane Thompson.  I'm not available to take your call at this time.  Please leave a message.  

See!  You made a request, but you didn't promise to return the call.  That might come across as being a jerk, but honestly it is better to not make promises you know you won't keep than to try to make promises that you anticipate you likely won't keep.  

You know what will impress them most of all when you do this?  IF YOU CALL THEM BACK!  It's that simple.  Try it.

For more information on how to make and keep your commitments, check out my new book:

https://www.amazon.com/Better-Business-Development-Now-Clients-ebook/dp/B07219PS7K/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1505375726&sr=1-1&keywords=better+business+development+now

Free Fiction

It's been a great Labor Day Weekend.  

One of my daughters decided to stay home with me while the wife and other two kids headed to a nearby state to see family and celebrate a religious rite of passage.  The daughter that stayed with me is a bit of an activity addict, just like the other kids and her old man.  So, it was First Friday in downtown LV on Friday night.  Food, crafts, music, weirdness.  It was fun.

The next day was low key.  Some Crazy Pita and a movie.  We went and saw Baby Driver.  Yes, I know it's an R-rated film, but it really is some of the best writing and filmmaking to come out of Hollywood this year.  Having already seen it once, I had wanted her to be exposed to this kind of storytelling.

The story is powerful, the characters are compelling and the dialogue is fantastic.  If you haven't seen it yet, because you didn't like the title or it didn't appeal to you, do yourself a favor and get a ticket and go.  Edgar Wright shows why he's an underrated genius in this masterpiece.

Yesterday was pretty chill, but today with the other kids home, we decided to head up to Mary Jane Falls in the heart of Mount Charleston.  No joke, there are small waterfalls that are trickling down from the mountain (after a rather intense 2 mile hike) that you can stand under and cool off before heading back down the trail.  

Free Stuff!

Anyway, the other big thing to mention is that I decided to do a 'soft' promotion for The Son of San Diablo: A Manifest Galaxy Novel.  It's not the first free promotion I have done.  However, it is the first for this particular book.  At the time of this writing, a few dozen Amazon readers have 'purchased' the free book and have downloaded it to their Kindles or Kindle apps.  

I will admit that I struggle with the concept of 'Free' with Amazon.  Personally, I think that allowing people to sell their works as low as $0.99 or to allow for the reader to read it through the Kindle Unlimited program makes the most sense.  The problem with giving away everything for free is that free becomes the expectation and the rule.  It tells the reader 'Hey, I don't value all of the work I've done on this and really, neither should you.'  Maybe I'm just overthinking it, but it does seem silly that the way I'm supposed to get new readers in Amazon's eyes is to give things away for free.

Regardless, I am hard at work on a three part series that continues the 'Manifest Galaxy' legacy with some of the characters and concepts that were introduced in the first book.  It will be easier to give away one fiction book when I have multiple parts of the series to sell.  

It Should Mean Something 

It might just be me, but I think writing a fiction story should mean something.  I'm going out onto a limb here with this opinion, but since analytics tells me only a few dozen people are checking in every week, I am probably in pretty safe company at the moment.

When I say fiction should mean something, I don't mean that it must contain some moral message.  Nor do I think it has to teach or preach.  If some lesson or moral makes itself apparent through the theme of the story, then the best fiction will do that for some of the readers, some of the time.  I think the best stories don't have any kind of universal meaning, they just should have meaning.  Some things in the story might ring true for most of humanity, but it can mean something to others and neither is wrong.

Take for instance, the Joseph Conrad novel Heart of Darkness.  As far as we know, Conrad was being paid by the word and his intention may not have been to satirize the view that western culture was superior and that imperialism was some sort of infallible force.  Yet, after finishing the book the other week, I took to the Internet, as any inquisitive reader would do and I wanted to see what others thought of the book.  

While I can understand the racist overtones that many readers and critics perceive in the text along with some readers' dissatisfaction with what they call the underwhelming climax, I think there is something deeper there.  I believe that Conrad really wanted to explore the dark side of human nature and what a man might do were he left to his own devices and given all power out in the remoteness of nature.  Of course, this wouldn't be the case with every man or woman who was put into the same position as Kurtz was at the Inner Station.  However, his desire to enact on what were clearly psychopathic tendencies is clear and undeniable.  I think this was something Conrad was trying to explore, albeit indirectly.  

While we're digging for the truth, I have a confession to make.  I never finished Heart of Darkness until about a week ago.  I had made at least two valiant attempts to read the book over the years and failed in both at around the 40 page mark.  Conrad does seem to take his time getting things started.  However, once protagonist Marlow gets to the mouth of the river, things become more interesting.

Anyway, there is a reason for my strange confession to not reading a book that is over one hundred years old until just now.  It is because the stories we tell run parallel to each other in a certain way.  His story takes place in late 19th Century Africa and my story takes place over 600 after humanity has reckoned time in a way that coincides with the discovery of the first wormhole outside of our solar system.  Yet, both stories are told through the point of view of protagonists who meet charismatic and influential figures that have feet of clay.  

Both Kurtz in Conrad's book and Barney in The Son of San Diablo are held up as paragons of virtue by those around them.  In both cases, the truth becomes unravelled slowly and our heroes must make certain decisions related to what they will do with the truth.  I won't give up the end of Conrad's book and of course, I'm not going to tell you how my book ends.  The funny thing though is the way I ended up making decisions in the book that I never knew would be so closely related to Conrad's book.  However, let me be clear.  Conrad is the vastly superior writer to myself.  His way of weaving a yarn is so compelling and just darn fun, that once he gets going, it's hard to keep up.

Early Twentieth Century Literature

This brief touching upon Joseph Conrad and Heart of Darkness has led me to make another strange confession.  I've lately become a bit preoccupied and a little obsessed with fiction from the Edwardian Era.  This was early 20th Century fiction such as stuff written by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Rudyard Kipling and of course, Joseph Conrad.  I have much more to say about this new avenue of study at some point, but I will digress.  I also have more to say about the mastery with which Conrad concocts his tale, but I will save it for another time.

Pen.jpg

A Tribute to My Mother

I’ve learned over the last week that nothing can prepare a child for the eventual loss of his or her parent. Last month, my mother took her final breaths and then her spirit shed its mortal coil and left us to join the angels in heaven. After a long-fought battle with cancer that started almost exactly twenty years ago, Julia Anne Clark finally succumbed last Thursday night in her and my dad’s house in Fontana.

Other than my wife, she was my biggest fan and cheerleader of my work and my writing.  She was one of the most optimistic and emotionally resilient people in my life.  She radiated positive energy to everyone around her.

My heart broke repeatedly as I sat in her home and watched the pain and discomfort she experienced during her final weeks in home hospice care. Despite all of our feeble efforts to ease the discomfort, her pain never fully subsided while she was still alive. As the days wore on, she had become smaller and more frail, but her fighting spirit stayed strong until the end. My mother was that kind of person. She was silently stubborn at times and had taught her kids to never give up and to hold on to their dreams. She also had an innocent sense of humor and was continually looking for fun things to do with her kids and her grandkids.

There are so many wonderful things that have been written about her by family and friends and I thank them for their kind words from the bottom of my heart. I also want to thank my dad, brother, sister and sister-in-law for everything they did to assist and comfort her during those final weeks. In many ways, she was truly the embodiment of the generous, giving soul who always took an interest in others and helped them feel like they were a part of something bigger. Maybe that was one of the reasons why she chose to become a special education teacher. Those souls with special needs who came down to earth might have felt the most alone of us all and like they didn’t fit in. It was God who put them in her path and vice versa, so that those with special needs would feel that love and the inclusion from someone special like her.

She was someone that I admired throughout my life. When I look back now, my one ‘irrational’ regret is that I didn’t take more pictures standing beside her… just she and I and no one else in the frame. I was proud to have her as my mother. I guess I just thought she’d always be around and there would be time for more pictures.

I can’t speak for anyone else, but being a part of my mother’s end-of-life care taught me more deeply, some lessons I might have forgotten otherwise. Give time to loved ones. Cherish the present with the people you love. Be gentle. Be brave. Be kind. Life is too short to hold onto destructive grudges. Forgive while you can and seek others’ forgiveness before it’s too late.

My mom was a unique and special individual. I wish more of you could have gotten to know her like I did. She was the kind of person that really did take an interest in others and show it outwardly. I think some of her good qualities rubbed off on me, Cassell and Kenlon along with our spouses.

When I think of her life and example, I’m happy and proud to say I am and always will be Julia Clark’s boy.

Love you, Mom.

http://www.fontanaheraldnews.com/obituaries/obituary---julia-anne-clark/article_13793c76-88ea-11e7-9e70-377fbe08eaf3.html

In case you're wondering, I am not the cute little bald guy in the center of this picture. No, I am the sailor with the dutchboy haircut.  Hey, what can I say?  My dad saved so much money putting that salad bowl on my head before the haircuts started. 

In case you're wondering, I am not the cute little bald guy in the center of this picture. No, I am the sailor with the dutchboy haircut.  Hey, what can I say?  My dad saved so much money putting that salad bowl on my head before the haircuts started. 

Taken at Container Park in Las Vegas sometime early in 2016.

Taken at Container Park in Las Vegas sometime early in 2016.

Me and Mom.jpg

The Pain is Exquisite

Thursday night, my mother passed.  

It was a long battle with pancreatic cancer that lasted nearly a year-and-a-half.  During her final months, as we watched her slow physical decline, I never saw her lose the optimistic, upbeat personality she must have developed long before I was born.  

I have felt the pain of losing a parent and the sadness that comes with it happening too soon.  My confession is that it is more intense than I would have ever imagined.  Whether I had lived 40 years or 400, the pain was always going to be the same.  

Yesterday, I wrote a letter to her that was tear-filled and marked by pangs of sadness.  In it, I listed the 'no more's.'  I have since concluded that I did it out of gratitude I felt for all of the times I was able to enjoy doing those things that unfortunately cease when a loved one is gone.  

I loved her deeply.  

I had the opportunity to spend many a day and night in the final two weeks of her life, at her bedside, trying my feeble best to ease her pain and suffering.  It was never enough and in hindsight, I know that.  

The morning I departed from their home, she was resting in the hospital bed in the living room hooked up to morphine and a bag of liquid nutrition.  I whispered some things near her ear and told her that my 15 years as a parent have taught me that she was good for me as a mother.  I have a deeper appreciation for what she did and what she tried to do.  I also apologized for my imperfections as a caregiver.  Those imperfections of which I'm ashamed have nothing to do with actual imperfect care.  After all, I was always gentle and patient with her in those final weeks.  Instead, my imperfections had to do with the anger and resentment I had felt toward other people in the times of caregiving.  What mother would want to know her son was angry over the way others engaged with her to ease her pain and suffering in her final mortal moments?  

I also felt some anger and a touch of melancholy over the situation and how things happened and I know it didn't help anything.  It wasn't until my final 24 hours in her presence that I finally felt at peace with what was happening, the contributions of all others and the fact that I couldn't fix everything.  Those are life's tender mercies.

I'm grateful for that. 

My mom and dad on a train trip that I think was on the way back from Santa Barbara to LA.

My mom and dad on a train trip that I think was on the way back from Santa Barbara to LA.

Writing Fiction can be FUN!!!

I have been dealing with a number of challenges in my life recently.  

My mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer just before Thanksgiving last year.  Her strength and courage have shone through in the past few months, as she'd undergone chemotherapy and has also participated in alternate therapies.  Unfortunately, things have continued to progress, but she is one of the toughest people I know.  I know a lot of people say that about someone they see going through something as horrible as cancer, but I would put my mom up against anyone else, anytime. 

Recently, she was transferred to hospice care, so I've been a bit distracted with that.  

Add to this situation the fact that I am starting a new job (with the company I sold) in a little over a week.  I'm excited for that change.  More to say on that in the near future.

Now let's get to what you clicked for!

I am happy to say that despite some of the challenges I outlined above, I am still persevering toward some goals I had set for myself.  Yes, I have published a number of nonfiction books, such as the quote books, the bald book and my latest business development book.  However, for nearly  a decade I have been writing fiction secretly.  I know, I know.  Join the club.  Just about everyone 'has a novel or two in them.'  

The Clark home has at least three completed handwritten manuscripts lying around the house for a trilogy I really have wanted to finish.  The shortest of these is about 300 pages and the longest probably clocks at 550 pages.  Anyway, those will never see the light of day in their current form or anything close to it.  In working on them though, I stumbled across a short story I had written about 12 years ago.  It placed second in a local writing contest and won me $250.  I thought that was a pretty good sum for a radio DJ who was barely getting by, but the writing and self-publishing bugs hadn't yet bit me.

What's it about?

It's called 'The Son of San Diablo: A Manifest Galaxy Novel.'  The funny thing is that the original short story I drew upon long ago was an historical piece and I was able to adapt it into a longer science fiction piece set in a planetary, colonial-type setting.  The story takes place centuries from now, after humanity has discovered a wormhole that opens up the galaxy and all of her habitable, yet-uninhabited planets for mankind to explore and settle.  

It is on one of these planets that we find a small mining town named San Diablo.  The 'golden boy' of the town has returned after being away many years to explore the galaxy.  However, not everything is as it seems.  As we watch the story unfold through the eyes of a local news reporter (yes, they still have those centuries into the future), not everything is as it seems.  

The book is called: The Son of San Diablo: A Manifest Galaxy Novel.  

Hardest Creative Project Yet...

Like I said above and I know many other people will say it: I've got a novel or two in me.  I'm no different.  However, I will tell you that this was a challenge.  I've been following and trying to learn from the 'fast-writers' on Amazon, who are turning out two or three novels a day... or maybe a little less.  I'm not nearly that fast, yet.  I'd like to think I will get to that speed, but it didn't happen on this book, nor do I think it will happen on the next.  

However, I really enjoyed writing the dang thing.  It was tough, but each day that I got a little further into the project, I felt satisfied.  Like I said, most of the fiction I will be publishing in the next year is 10 years in the making.  The trilogy I'm planning to write will be something I'd written more recently than The Son of San Diablo.  The trilogy started about 5 years ago when one of my friends connected to entertainment along with my brother, the film director, were asking for cool TV show pitch ideas.  I had been watching the newer Battlestar Galactica series on Netflix at the time and thought it would be cool to do a show that loosely drew from that universe.  Over time, the concept has changed and it will now be set in the same universe as 'The Son of San Diablo.'  Some of the characters in both stories will have connections with each other.  

However, I'm getting ahead of myself.  I'll be adding a page for 'The Son of San Diablo' soon.  

At heart, I've always been a fiction writer.  The nonfiction always felt a bit 'safer' to me.  However, as I have worked to publish this first novel, I realize that sentiment is silly.  We feel as safe or as unsafe as we allow ourselves to be.  The old sentiment to go out and create something you will love, even if no one else will, still applies.  I hope that isn't the case for me, but if it is, I will continue to create.  

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Why I Chose to Self-Publish 'Better Business Development Now'

Well, I'm excited to announce that the book is complete!  It was not an easy process writing a book that covers so much on professional services business development.  It was a mountain to climb and I am happy to say I completed it.

Why Self-Publish?

I have studied the business of self-publishing, specifically self-publishing on Amazon.com, for many years.  My first exposure goes waaaaay back to listening to the fun, free-wheeling podcast episodes of Sean Platt, David Wright and Johnny B. Truant on iTunes.  Their 'Self-Publishing Podcast' was a lot of fun out of the gate.  Since then, I've discovered many more, but all along the way, I have felt that there was a mix of promise, potential and of course, challenge in between the lines of what all of these successful podcasters were saying.

Traditional Publishing vs. Self-Publishing

When you think about the lay of the land, for a long time, traditional publishers have ruled the day.  As 'naturally' follows in a free-enterprise economy, the aggressors or rather, the entities that position themselves as the dominant species, prevail in most conflicts and their adversaries take a secondary or tertiary position, if they even survive at all.  This is how it went with traditional publishing.  I don't fault them for becoming what they have become.  It is the way everything seemed to move in this current economy.

However, economies are almost like organisms, living things.  Change one element here or there and it begins to affect the rest of the body.  This causes movements, some fast, some slow.  With that in mind, a shift that causes only a few 'mega-corporations' to take over the publishing industry can lead to another shift where a monolithic digital presence (mainly in the form of Amazon) can create a situation that begins to topple the 'big book' business.  Large, nationwide book chains are upturned in the form of Borders Books and others.  Eventually, Barnes & Noble starts sending coupons in the mail (something they never used to do) to their members and of course, their suppliers, the traditional book publishers start to watch sales take a hit.  

This something that is not new to you if you've been living through the first seventeen years of the 21st Century.  Things shift and things change.  Some of the now defunct enterprises that were buried by the digital book publishing business might have done well to take seriously the philosophy of Nassim Nicholas Taleb, which many have called The Black Swan.  In short, Taleb says that it is always what we don't know that will help us (or more often) hurt us than the things that we do know.

Back to the Question: Why Self-Publish?

I could go on and on about my theories about the book publishing business, but I think most of us are familiar wit the current landscape and honestly, there are probably a number of things that are happening behind-the-scenes that you and I will never really know.  I won't fault these big book publishers for what is happening to them.  If anything, I feel bad for them, because this economic shift means there will be layoffs and reductions.  Many people who work at these places will bear the impact of this shift.

Regardless, I can tell you that Better Business Development Now is a book that would pass the muster of any traditional publisher.  Honestly, the book is formatted better than some professionally published books I've seen.  It also contains more useful content than most traditionally published business books.  Part of that has to do with who wrote it.  I'm a real-life practitioner of what I preach.  I'm not some theoretical pontificator, nor am I a consultant who 'dabbles in this stuff.'  Instead, I'm the real deal.  I make deals all of the time for the people I work for.  That's how I stay gainfully employed.  And that is why I wrote this book.  To simplify my non-traditional approach and share it with others.  There are multiple reasons why I went with self-publishing Better Business Development Now: A Bare Bones Guide to Get More Clients!  

Despite the adoption of the philosophy of Stoicism into my life, I am still an impatient kind of guy.  The primary reason for choosing self-publishing over traditional publishing was time.  Honestly, when I have studied how long it takes to query and hook the interest of potential agents and then potential publishers, I could have written three more books.  I would be lying to you if I said that I never have queried agents or publishers for various books I have written.  I didn't waste any time on this one.  It seemed like it would have been more time waiting and waiting to hear back from people who already were running low on available time to tell me they didn't have time to read my manuscript.  

Instead, I could take my completed manuscript and professionally designed cover and upload it to Amazon.com in a matter of minutes for the reading public to see and hopefully, buy.  Nothing that traditional publishers or other types of companies that promise Print on Demand services seemed to compare to what Amazon was offering as far as turnaround and uploading.  

Another reason was editorial control.  Yes, my book was edited and proofread by separate parties, who helped me with my grammar, spelling and syntax.  If there are errors, well, I still take full responsibility.  However, I also received feedback on my content.  I received pushback on my content as well.  In some cases, the pushback was valid.  In other cases, I proceeded with my plan to publish the book as I had intended.  

Third was money.  I won't belabor this point.  It's quite simple.  The many numbers that get passed around in the traditional publishing world are amounts like 6% on every sale up to 25% on every sale.  Of course, this takes place after the advance has been made up in sales.  It makes economic sense for traditional publishers to operate this way since they are taking the economic risk.  

In self-publishing with Amazon, you the author, take up to 70% of the royalties in each sale.  That's a killer deal for the guy or gal who did most (if not all) of the work to get the project out to the public.  I have self-published the quote books and Bald n Dashing this way and I have always received a 70% royalty whether it was through Kindle eBook sales or Createspace's awesome print book offering.

Let's Wrap this Up

So, if a traditional publisher approached me about publishing a future work, would I do it?  If the price was right, of course!  I doesn't have to mimic the kind of deal I am getting from Amazon, but it is something that I think every self-published author should entertain if they are ever approached.  At this point, I haven't received that invitation to work with a traditional publisher and I'm not worried about them validating me to know my work is good.  I will keep writing and keep publishing, because it is enjoyable, profitable and honestly, a fun way to help others.

I'm interested in what others have to say.  There are numerous self-publishing communities out there (mainly for fiction) and I think each indie author has something valuable to say about their experiences if they've even published one book on Amazon, Smashwords, Kobo or Nook.  

Enjoy the Day!

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The Expert vs. The Specialist

When I hear the word 'expert,' I always imagine someone who has gathered a bunch of information about a particular subject.  I picture him or her sitting on their pile of books, dispensing unsolicited advice to any traveler or passerby who is within earshot.

I compare that word to that of the 'specialist.'  A specialist is someone who has trained and learned the things he or she wants to become proficient in so that other people will benefit from that time and effort spent honing skills and knowledge.  

The expert can tell you how the fire started, but its the specialist that knows how to run into the burning building to save others, because that's what specialists do.  The expert can tell you all of the ways to stop the fire, but its the specialist who will actually act on those ways to put it out.

Relying on your vast body of knowledge causes you to run the risk of becoming obsolete.  Seeking out new ideas and continually honing your skills to serve others is one sure way to always stay relevant. 

Eyes open.  Mind even more open.  Skills sharp.  It's that simple.

 

Before he was in the UFC, Conor McGregor was an excellent typist.

Before he was in the UFC, Conor McGregor was an excellent typist.

Is the Term 'Client Relationship Management' Wrong? (Part Two)

I have been gone longer than planned.  I apologize to those of you who reached out to me for leaving you hanging for so long.  It was not my intention to be gone for quite this long.  However, life gets in the way.  Mostly good things going on, but its so easy to get distracted.  

I am putting the finishing touches on my latest book: 'Better Business Development Now: A Bare Bones Guide to Get More Clients!'  It's a labor of love that has taken many incarnations over the years and I am grateful that the timing for this book's release and publication coincides with some of the most advanced technology Amazon.com and Createspace have ever done for publishing platforms and authors.

On with the Show!

So, back to the business at hand.  In my last post, I had mentioned that I would share with you the thing you need to be focusing on more deeply than the relationship you are developing with your clients.  It doesn't matter if they are prospective or existing clients or clients who are now former clients.  For every single one of them, this is the number one thing that they are looking for in the relationship with you, your employees and your company.  

Too often, the focus on relationship-building and relationship-building activities in the form of dinners, rounds of golf and everything else take center stage before and even during the working relationship between provider and client.  The level of trust seems to increase as likability increases.  The problem is that many times, the prospective client confuses likability with competence.  Eventually, after all of this relationship-building your business development reps and you do, the client wants to fire you anyway?

Why?

Cutting to the Chase

No matter what industry you are in or what kind of professional services you provide, the thing you need to focus on more than developing relationships with prospective and existing clients is to provide solutions to the client's problems.  

Your client came to you because he or she had problems that needed solving.  Most clients, if they really care about their business and livelihoods, could care less about a nice round of golf or the type of gift basket you gave them at Christmas if their problem remains unsolved.  

I know this isn't the sexy answer you might be looking for, but it's the reality.  My years working for and owning my own professional services company proved time and time again that my competitors could outspend me at every turn, but if I was able to solve the problem more quickly, more effectively and at less expense, we were the choice every time.  

Don't get me wrong, we did take people out to lunch and for rounds of golf.  However, there were many times that a lot of my existing clients would meet me for lunch or golf and laughingly tell me about a nice trip they took or a cool, expensive party they attended and it was all a competitor's expense.  Even more crazy, I would get the reassurance from that existing clients that we were still getting all of the business.  

The least expensive way for my competitors to have taken our business was also the most challenging.  That's why many of them failed at it.  It was working on solutions for the prospective clients and continuing to deliver solutions to their existing clients.  

Had they done that, it would have killed my business.

You can find out more about this soon in my new book 'Better Business Development Now: A Bare Bones Guide to Get More Clients!' soon available on Amazon and Createspace.

 

 

a picture of Newport Beach, because I can.  

a picture of Newport Beach, because I can.  

Is the Term 'Client Relationship Management' Wrong? (Part One)

If you've worked in business development for more than a month, you'll know that CRM stands for 'Client Relationship Management.'  CRM is a catch-all kind of term that covers the strategies, practices, tasks, software and related activities in the customer/client-buying experience. 

I think it's making us lazy.

Relationships ARE Important

Client relationships are important.  Without the relationship that exists between the client and their chosen service provider, there can be no exchange of services for money.  No money means no profits.  No profits means no business.  

However, what if I told you that your focus on the client relationship itself has been the reason you fail to keep so many of your clients?

We've all seen it time and time again.  A client relationship begins to develop and go from the prospective client stage to the existing client stage.  Throughout the development of this relationship, there have been lunches, a few dinners and numerous rounds of golf.  All of this has been intended to strengthen the relationship between the client and the business provider.

But does it?

We Used to Beat Our Competitors... A Lot!

I had many competitors who spent gobs of money on lavish dinners, gifts and even trips out of town to win business.  Often, some would skirt the laws and regulations connected to such business development practices and decide the risk was worth the potential reward.  Yet, most of those clients still chose my little rinky-dink company over their lavish dinners and expensive inducements.  

What were we doing that was so different from them?  I mean, it was crazy.  We had client after client tell us about how they would go to dinner or lunch with a competitor and while it was nice to be showered with attention, there was really only one place they would send business: us. 

A lot of companies will hire a business development manager to go out and get new business for the company and continually beat past sales figures with more and more growth.  That's what the business development manager does in conjunction with his or her marketing department and a few other professionals who will help win the client.  Eventually, after the client is won, they will fall out of love with the company and its professionals and fire the company to go look for a new service provider.  This cycle can take anywhere from a year to three or even five years to complete.  

Why is that?

Honestly, have you ever questioned why you can see a million dollars in new business walking through the door in any given year while there is a simultaneous exit of a half a million or more during the same time period?  

What if I told you that focusing on the relationship has led you to miss the mark over and over and over again?

What if the relationship between you and your client is NOT the highest priority?

What if its something else?

In my next post, I'll tell you what it is.  It's late and I'm tired.  When you realize what the true secret to strong client relationships are, you will likely smack your head for not realizing it beforehand.  

Y-O-U!

Let's get one thing perfectly clear:  There’s no secret to ‘hack’ your way to success in the professional services arena. You can't nor should you attempt to manipulate your way into long-lasting, profitable relationships.  This goes double for when you’re working in the arena of business-to-business marketing and selling.  After all, this is the ‘service’ industry.

It can be brutal sometimes. I get it.  It’s an ongoing, demanding process.

As a professional, you are in the business of serving your clients. You may be wondering how you can outsource that. If that’s on your mind, then professional services might not be for you. You're working in the arena of professional services and this isn’t the same thing as selling a product like supplements online from some remote location overseas. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. You can’t work really hard setting up your practice for 3 years to reach the pinnacle of success and then decide you will outsource the hard stuff so that you can drop off the map halfway around the world.

This One Time, It Really Is All About You!

This isn’t about selling gizmos or gadgets. You’re marketing and selling something else. You are selling ‘YOU!’ That’s right, Y-O-U. You are your product. You are your brand. You are the promise. What you have to offer might not be traditionally tangible. Your offering is based on the results you promise your clients.

Your product is your knowledge, your experience, your wisdom, your judgment, your commitment, your follow up and your desire to improve things for your client. 

Time and time again, I have seen professional women and men who achieve success in their firm, only to flush it down the metaphorical toilet by allowing distractions to take hold. These distractions might appear in the form of longer vacations, later arrivals to work, three-hour lunches or personal drama that creeps in.

There may come a time, if you do things right, where stepping away from your business and returning repeatedly, without seeing major disruption in the systems and processes you’ve established could be a possibility. However, you're not there yet. 

There is no shortcut to get to the peak you wish to climb. More than one professional organization has imploded when the founder or founders stepped away prematurely to explore other business opportunities, retire or just ‘find themselves.’

Recommit

Commit yourself seriously to the reality of your situation for now.  If you’re going to do this, commit to it.  I mean really, really commit. If you commit, it means you’re going to be involved.

Your desire to make things better for your clients should override your own comfort most of the time and it should be something you are conscientious about on a frequent and regular basis.

If you are committed to the simultaneous cause of building your business while helping those clients who seek your help, you will wonder where the hours and the days went.

You could even lose track of time.  I know I have.

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Write More Powerful Emails

Emails are a necessary evil and have been for a few decades now.

What follows are 7 tips on how to write better emails.  Check them out:

1. Always write the name of the person you are emailing at the top of your message.  This includes in replies back to emails the recipient is answering back to you.  

2. Be sure to include your company’s logo in the signature line whenever possible.  This also includes your contact information such as your phone number and mailing address.

3. Always have your email signature at the bottom of each professional email you send.  It amazes me how many professionals have not taken the time to make sure their signature populates on all ‘reply’ emails.  It can be really aggravating to have to scroll to the first email in a long thread to find a phone number or mailing address.

4. If you need to forward some information that started as a part of an internal communication within your office to someone outside of your office, always delete all previous emails in the thread.  There may be something shared internally, that when taken out of context by a client may cause problems in the future.

5. Refer to attachments in the body of your message when you send them. If you have multiple attachments that require a large amount of memory capacity, break them into smaller emails  when possible.  Another option for sending large files is to give the recipient access to the file on a shared drive.

6. If you are continually responding back-and-forth with a client on a specific email thread, be sure to change the subject line. In other words, if you were discussing your new service agreement and the subject line said “New Service Agreement,” but the conversation evolved into setting an appointment for lunch and you're still trying to decide on a place, be sure to change that subject line to “Lunch” or something like that. This keeps things more orderly for both parties.

The last tip I’ll share is the most valuable of them all.

7.  When in doubt, call it out!  Most professional service providers and their assistants can get too comfortable hiding behind the keyboard.  This has led to many email threads going to uncontrollable lengths.  Picking up the phone will lead to the problem being solved in 5 minutes.  I used to I tell my crew all of the time: ‘If you think this email is going to lead a long thread, cut it short and pick up the phone.’

I remember reading once where someone compared email to postcards:  Nobody else is supposed to read your postcards, but you'd be a fool if you wrote anything private on one. 

If you have any email improvement tips of your own, feel free to comment below.

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Forget about Closing the Sale

How many times have you said one of the following phrases?

  • I need to close the deal.

  • I want to close the sale.

  • We gotta get a close on this client.

  • Close the deal or you're fired.

  • Just get the close.

If you've worked in selling professional services six months or six years, it is likely you've referred to the final step in the sales process as a close.  For over a decade and a half in my work and study of the sales process, I've come to resent the word 'close' when it comes to the sales process.  I think your use of the word might be what's hurting your firm or company as well.

Coming to An End?

To close something implies that things between you and your client are coming to an end.  Once you close this deal, it's on to other things.  If you're a business development manager for a professional services company, that may be partially true.  You will be moving on to other things, but what if the managers and other operations personnel in your firm also take the word 'close' a little too seriously?

What I mean by that, is what if these administrators hear the words 'I closed the deal' and it causes them to relax just a little too much?  Maybe they lean back a little bit and think that the client relationship is now secure and that since there's ink on the page, no one has anything to prove.  

The above example might seem extreme, but I personally witnessed time and time again the immediate slacking off of performance once a deal is closed and it frightens me.  No business development representative goes out to win new business just to watch it slip through the firm's metaphorical fingers six months later.  

There's got to be a better way.

A Better Way

Really, there never is such a thing as a ‘close’ in professional services.  It's always in your best interest to remember that.  Instead of ‘closing’ anything, let’s work to get commitments.  The entire sales process is a series of attempts to get commitments from the prospective client while promising to keep commitments in return.  

You've got to get commitments from your prospective clients to consider using your services and that leads to getting the commitment from them to pay to use your services.  All along the way, you are making commitments to them to make sure the connection is there and it is real.  Getting commitments is what all of this is about and hopefully you will make it into a regular habit.

Brush Up on Getting Commitments

So, how do we work to get commitments?  You're probably pretty good at it now.  If you do feel as though you need to brush up your skills, I go into the process deeper in my soon-to-be-published book: Better Business Development Now: A Bare Bones Guide to Get More Clients!  

Check it out on Amazon soon!

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