Friday, November 29, 2013

Movie Review: 12 Years a Slave

Rating: ****

Another adult film released amidst the usual holiday popcorn flicks worth seeing. I'm just not a fan of the mega popcorn flicks unless they're just so great like Avatar you can't miss it. So with that thought I passed on Hunger Games and went for 12 Years a Slave. This film is like the 20th century version of Roots. It does nothing to glamorize slavery and takes a realistic perspective on the brutal reality of being a "free" man who loses his freedom when he's kidnapped and taken south to New Orleans and forced into slavery. As an educated man, he is self-aware and knows the difference between enslaved and being free. The film realistically walks the viewer through the emotional and physical breakdown of the man forced into degradation.

The film is not uplifting. It's brutal and sad. Even at the end, you're not feeling inspired to do much more than hope slavery is ended forever everywhere in the world. The movie addresses the human condition and how being turned into nothing more than a commodity to be bought and sold is completely dehumanizing, degrading and demoralizing. It's awful and painful to watch, but it's a solid movie. I expect it will be up for awards, too. The acting was superb on all counts.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

ADD of Writing and Publishing

Today's rant is to make fun of myself. I am down in Marina del Rey taking care of a close friend who had surgery on her ankle and is stuck in bed. I have my trusty laptop, and my scattered mind to keep me productive today. First, I woke up this morning thinking about my forthcoming book Body in the Trunk. In my distracted fashion, I was thinking, "Hmmm ... I'm not sure I'm happy with that premise. I think I'll map out a new direction and adjust the manuscript." Then I thought, "Oh, I better write that down or I'll forget my new direction." Of course, I got up and thought, "Oh, I need coffee." My gal pal doesn't drink coffee. So off to the local cafe to grab my "dark roast" and then back. As I escaped outside I looked and around and sighed, "Oh, I forgot how nice the weather is in Marina del Rey." (I used to live here.). Then I trekked back to the apartment, and thought, "Oh, I need to check email." Then I saw a new chapter submitted by an author and I thought, "Oh, I need to edit that today." As I tried to download the manuscript, I noticed some other urgent matters brewing with some print production and a legal issue. "Oh, let me answer those ..." Then I remembered, "Oh yeah. I need to write down that storyline." "Oh, wait! I need to blog." And then I remembered to write down the story line and then realized I still needed to blog. But wait! I needed to first blog for another client. "Oh, don't forget to give Sonja her pills." ...

OMG! Do you ever just want to shoot yourself in the head? LOL ... and that my friends is a brief glimpse into the brain of an over-active mind. Here is my new mantra: focus, focus, focus!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Fiction Writing Tips: Story Layering

In working on my new book Body in the Trunk due out in Spring 2014, I started using a technique I'll call story layering. When I was working with Scott D. Roberts' critically acclaimed novel Vengeance is Now, which is receiving non-stop praise and making the list of the top fiction books of 2013, I noticed he used story layering. I will describe it the way I do in my book, which is not how Roberts did it. I have a story that is doing a past/present storytelling technique. As the detective in the book unravels the mystery, the reader gets to go back through the eyes of the victim to see what actually happened. Each chapter is a layer to the story that moves seamlessly back and forth between the story-telling methods and "layers" the story together, which is another way of saying "develops," too. But it's not just story development, it's truly a layer on top of layer. Kind of like a layer cake with each layer being glued with the frosting, which is the story in-between.

I realize this description probably sounds esoteric. Let me warn would-be writers who want to use the technique, be careful it can easily get confusing to the reader if you're not using aforementioned glue. For example: the detective tells the true crime writer (the woman investigating the crime for a book she is writing) the pieces to the puzzle (he's being the frosting here) and then I take the reader to the actual story and tell it just like a real story would be told in a book so the reader is present and gets the specific details.

One way to track your story is to make a flow chart where the center is the actual story, and then literally tie each character and their roles in the story. Write how each character will affect the other character in the story. And then show how the stories will run together, and then begin writing to "layer" them piece-by-piece (or action by action) as it impacts the story. It can be complex if you make it complex. When I write I see the story unfurl like a movie in my mind's eye, and this allows me to slowly unroll the story inch-by-inch so the reader can see it.

Here are your tips:

  • Work out storyline A in your mind (if you're going back in time it still remains the same).
  • Work out storyline B in your mind (from beginning to end).
  • Now "glue" the stories together.
So you see as I tell the story of the detective's work and he pieces it together, I parallel that part with the actual story of the crime as it happened. He finds the clues, another piece of the story is told about what those clues mean. See how that works? 

Want a great book coach to help ensure your own story stays on track? We provide book coaching services at my company 3L Publishing (www.3LPublishing.com). For more information, call 916-300-8012 or send an email to info@3LPublishing.com. 

Friday, November 22, 2013

Watch Out for the Shysters of Self-Publishing Part II: Graphics

Yesterday I reviewed what to look for to protect your own interests when it comes to self-publishing on the editorial side. Today we're going to address graphic services and production. The funny comments I have heard from misinformed people who don't know what they are talking about goes like this: How hard can it be to push graphics around on a page? My answer: it's harder than you think and it takes education, knowledge and skills. Graphic artist is a true profession not a kindergarten class where you learn to draw squares, which is what that comment suggests. Further, production is a whole other part of the process, and it requires respect for the capabilities of the graphics person. Graphic art is an entire degree program at college. So, the misunderstanding that it's pushing pictures around on a page is very ill informed.

When it comes to graphic design, what I'm going to do is share information that will help you as you move through the publishing process. I hope this information clarifies the value of working with a professional graphic artist (and most importantly someone with real talent). The cover of your book is your first line of marketing to attract readership. People are visual, and they are attracted to covers first and foremost. A bad cover can kill sales. Yes, you've heard me correctly. A bad cover kills sales. A great cover can actually create a best-seller. Yes, you heard that right. For example, an author released a book and its sales were near zero. The same author switched covers, and overnight its sales skyrocketed. Yes, that is a true story. So graphics in some respects are the most important part of the book to get those sales moving.

Two choices in cover art is limiting and often comes up close but not quite right. Let me give you an example. A 3L Publishing author used one of those famous self-publishing services that includes two cover choices in their packages. This woman was given her choices and forced to select a cover that "kind of" worked. While the book was about a grandmother, her closest choice was to select a cover that had a woman who looked no older than 40. How many grandmothers do you know who are age 40? Did that cover serve the story contents? No. But she had no other selections to choose so she was stuck with it.

Cover art is not flat and one dimensional and you can't just type a title over a picture or image. This information related to those who falsely believe you can slap graphics on a page and voile! Cover done. I will give you an example of how complicated cover art can be. See the Vengeance is Now cover art above. Looks like one seamless image, right? It's not. It's actually three different images seamlessly married together to create one image. Do you know how to marry imagery? I will wager that doesn't qualify as slapping a title on an image. Did that cover art cost $50 as part of a package? No, it most certainly did not. If you paid $50 would you ever get that kind of artwork? Absolutely not. Don't fool yourself: cheap is as cheap does ... always.

 What you don't know about production -- it's a science. Do you know how to prevent the printer from doing a poor trim cut and cutting your book off incorrectly? Do you understand kerning? Do you know how to make the spine of the book match the size of the book? Do you know how they center the words on the spine? Do you know how to upload files to the printer? Do you know how to select a printer that will provide good-quality print jobs? Do you know paper pounds? Do you know different kinds of paper? I could continue, but I'll stop there. The average person does not know this information. But if you plan to self-publish you'll need to know it. I always feel bad when an author presents a book with imagery where the trim was wrong and the images are cut-off. It happens, but it doesn't have to happen to your book. Not if you work with qualified professionals.

Want your book to look as good as Vengeance is Now? Call us at 3L Publishing at 916-300-8012. We offer a variety of publishing services and packages. And we promise you'll never have to embarrassingly explain why your cover doesn't match your story.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

American Writers Fiction Contest and Reading



3L Publishing (www.3LPublishing.com) is looking for that next great manuscript to publish under our traditional publishing model. All authors whether professionally published or not are invited to participate. 

Here is how to enter and participate:

1. Send your book summary and sample chapter to 3L Publishing to info@3LPublishing.com.
2. We will review submissions and narrow down to 16 finalists based on: 1. quality of writing 2. quality of story and 3. market potential

Finalists will then be invited to participate in an American Idol type judging that will involve three judges (see bios below). We will hold 3 writer's groups meeting where we will have each author get in front of the group to describe their book and read their sample chapters. Readings will be limited to 15 minutes each. Critique sheets will be distributed to audience participants to evaluate and vote on their favorite manuscripts. The three judges will offer critique and insight at the end of the reading. We will encourage the authors to invite friends and family to the readings to ensure we have a large audience of participants to vote. Then the top 3 chapters will be posted for final vote on the 3L Publishing blog one at a time. We will encourage the next level of voting to take place to the general public via social media and the blog. Each author will be alerted when his/her chapter is posted to encourage friends and family to vote.

We will contact the finalists individually to let them know they are invited to read to the group. Please be advised: you must be available to read to the group or you will be disqualified. 

The winner will be determined in February 2014 and notified. Winners will receive a complete published book and eBook conversion to Nook, Kindle and iBook. An optional print run will be offered (but author will be responsible for print costs). Winners who decide to print will be distributed to Amazon and into major bookstores. 

The date and location of the first reading is to be determine and will be published on the Meet-Up Group Writers Who Mean Business. Submission can begin immediate as of this post. 

Judges Bios
Michelle Gamble-Risley, CEO, 3L Publishing
Michelle Gamble is an award-winning author with over 20 years in the publishing, public relations and marketing business. She has been in the publishing business since 1988, and has worked as a publisher of a major regional magazine and written for regional and national magazines. She's written five books including the award-winning Second Bloom, Smash, Vanity Circus, California Girl Chronicles, books one and two. She has also had a screenplay titled Virtual Seduction produced as a film, and two others optioned. She opened 3L Publishing in 2009, and the company has published dozens of books including award-winning fiction and non-fiction. The company has also enjoyed publishing three Amazon best-sellers, including A Feast at the Beach, Fortune is in the Follow-Up, Fertile Kitchen Cookbook.

Scott D. Roberts, Author, Screenwriter, Producer, Director
Scott D. Roberts is the writer, producer, and co-director of the award-winning documentary, “Gas Hole,” narrated by Peter Gallagher. He is also the executive producer, writer, and co-host of the monthly segment, “Gas Hole of the Month” which airs on FSTV. He wrote, produced, and/or directed two reality pilots in the last three years, "Giving, Celebrity Style," starring Melinda Clarke ("Nikita," "The O.C.") and "Ted & Jason: Building an Empire," featuring the hair stylist to the stars, Ted Gibson. He’s written over 50 screenplays and TV shows during a career that spans over 20 years and has had his projects optioned and/or developed by New Line, Warner Brothers, Paramount, MGM, EUE/Screen Gems and Columbia. He is excited about his first novel, Vengeance is Now, and sharing his writing style with an entirely new audience. He recently got named a finalist in the 50 Great Writers contest put on by the Author's Show.

Bo Bradley, Author, Operatons Manager and Voracious Reader
Bo Bradley, operations manager for 3L Publishing, makes it her personal mission to ensure the safety of the mind, body and spirit for each person. In her pursuit of this personal goal, she has incorporated her love of reading and literature and her talent as a writer to help the company create a helpful self-help section of books dedicated to these ideals. Bradley is also working on her next book titled Hot Mess: How I Went from a Hot Mess to a Happy Success, which is due out in 2014. She is also writing a paranormal romance. But as a panel member, Bo is a voracious reader who reads at least a book a week. 

Watch Out for the Shysters of Self-Publishing

Like any business environment you have those who run nothing more than a racket as publishers. I have more authors show up to meetings to discuss their attempts at self-publishing that were abysmal failures. The common complaint goes like this: "I spent $10,000 at XXX publisher and never received a thin dime in royalties." Now there are some common self-publishers whose famous names could easily be used in place of the XXX's (and if you want to know their names, call me at 916-300-8012). It is sickening to see authors spend that kind of money to have not nothing financially to show for it, but also have some unattractive products.

Now I would, of course, love to prevent authors from throwing money literally down the drain, but then these same authors think I have an agenda and may feel my warnings are dubious. Well, of course I'm trying to earn a living as a publisher, and 3L Publishing is doing great; but it really does bother me to hear these shameful stories of scams that result in nothing more than low-end books that don't sell.

Here is typically how the scam stories go, and this information should be on-hand as you make a decision about what publisher to use to produce your book if you plan to use a self-publish or hybrid model like 3L's business model.

Editor or English Student? The worst and most blatant offense comes in the form of weak editing. The question you want to ask any publisher your approach (and this is key): how many sets of well-qualified eyes will review my manuscript? And the well-qualified eyes part is the most important thing. Are you getting an entry-level English grad? Or worse a high school student taking AP English? Your alarm bells should sound if editing services are cheap. For example, a $500 editing job on a 200-page book should send you running far, far away. Well-qualified editors are not cheap labor. They typically have a BA in English or communications, and should have another five-plus years of experience on the job to be an actual editor. Lower-end positions such as editorial assistant would be the positions for students or interns. Nothing will set your anger on fire than typos on your back-cover copy, and with "low-rent" editors expect such egregious mistakes. Now back to the old "bold" statement ...

How many sets of well-qualified eyes are reviewing your manuscript? If you're getting ONE editor, please note: you need more than one person to review a manuscript. The first editor is the "big picture" reviewer who looks for the larger writing and syntax mistakes. The first editor will spend the most time on your manuscript methodically going through it and providing advice or doing revisions. Once he or she completes that process, they will now qualify for what I call "tired eyes" that are not longer useful eyes on that book. Tired eyes are really snow-blind eyes that can't see the mistakes anymore. Tired eyes know what are mistakes; but the problem is those tired eyes can't actually SEE those mistakes to catch them. Thus, a fresh set of eyes need to simply read the manuscript again. And finally the author gets his or her last look, and he or she will find mistakes, too.

In my next blog, I'm going to discuss the next self-publishing mistake: graphics!

Do you need to hire an editor? A well-qualified editor? Then call 3L Publishing at 916-300-8012 or send an email to info@3LPublishing.com.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Three Tips to Visualize Goals to Achieve Success

I am working on a new self-help book titled In the Footsteps of Greatness by Josh Mathe. In the book talks about the power of visualization. It reminded me how important it is to visualize your dreams and goals.  He remarked that when he did it and then actually experienced the results and they were the same as his vision it often even spooked him (my words no his). It got me thinking. I have not been using visualization as often I used to do. So today I decided to visualize a few things I want to draw into my life. He also mentioned doing a morning ritual of gratitude, which I believe is important, too.

So for those of you who would like some assistance on how to visualize and draw in what you want vs. what you don't want, here are my tips to how I do it.

  • When I first wake up I like lay in bed a little longer. I'm relaxed and warm, and this time of day is a great opportunity to visualize. I often also meditate upon waking too. I think the morning is the ideal time to do these things. It's a fresh, new day and puts you in the right mind set for positivity.
  • As you visualize what you're trying to achieve, I like to bring in the five senses: sight, sound, taste, smell and (this one is my own), extra-sensory, which some people might not agree about it, but it's a part of my life. I think how it would feel to walk in the room or place. What would the floor under my feet feel like? What would it smell like? What would the touch of a person involved in the goal feel like? What would he/she smell like? Would we hug? Would we laugh together? Bring it all together into the 3D world of your mind. Now if your goal involves another person, this is where the psychic abilities play in. I call it "nudging" or "pushing" ... I know some people again wouldn't believe in this gift. I know it works. People I have that kind of connection with, I will at-will "push" them to contact me. I've done this many times. And I'm refining the skill. So, if your goal involves another person and you have these gifts use them in the visualization. 
  • Do this every day. And as you do so, watch for the results. See if you begin to move more and more toward your goals in the way that you want to go.
We are the masters of our own success. You can't control other people. You can only control yourself. Focus on your inner self, goals and attitudes to achieve those goals. Stay positive every day. Mindset matters. If you believe in the goodness you will see goodness -- and the reverse applies. Keep your focus on making and achieving your dreams, and you will achieve them. 


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Creating Realistic and Flawed Characters

I read this statement in a recent review of the 3L Publishing book Vengeance is Now, which to paraphrase went something like this: strictly bad and good characters are boring. Author Scott D. Roberts and I have discussed flawed characters practically from the first time we met each other. We both have a propensity to enjoy the flaws the most -- and it's those flaws that prevent boring. In real life do you know anyone who is perfectly "white" or perfectly "black"? I know people who are overall good people, and I know people who I question their morals and ethics. Truth is most of us have our good points and our "messier" points. So when you're writing a novel or a story, it's always more interesting and provocative to make characters "gray" and then fill in the greater or lesser color of white or black.

Let me give an example: In my forthcoming novel Body in the Trunk, I've written the ex-husband as a real jerk. Yet our heroine married this man. In writing the situation, I show how the husband mistreats his wife, but in that depiction I create what are called "story layers" and delve into short snippets of why she fell for him in the first place. Without writing that "layer" in the story, the husband comes across as merely "black" and the reader would find it difficult to understand why this nice and sweet woman would have married such a jerk. If you give a character absolutely no redeeming value then the audience (a) doesn't like the character at all and (b) cannot understand the relationship. In real life when you hear married couples are divorcing you always have to remember that while the love fell apart they did at one point love each other enough to marry.

The trick is to remember each character's humanity. In writing a good character, he or she will not be perfect. To make a hero a flat good guy or girl is more like writing a comic book character like Superman. Strictly good or strictly bad is one dimensional. Always try to keep your characters human. In doing so you will create multi-dimensional characters that are interesting. And the upshot: reviewers won't call your material "boring".

Do you need a book coach? My company 3L Publishing provides book coaching for all genres. Looking for overall advice on a manuscript or page-by-page coaching, send an email to info@3LPublishing.com or call 916-300-8012.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Things You Should Know About Social Media Marketing

Social media is becoming a hotter and hotter way to market your company. As a business owner, I appreciate the value of being able to reach right to individuals in my audience. There are all sorts of tricks to leveraging your social media presence and increasing visibility. Since Facebook really doesn't come with a manual, some of its capabilities and features are trial-by-error to find and use. I only randomly learn things from other social media users who will mention something in passing. My usual response is, "Oh really?" A few things I've recently picked up.

The more you post the more you're viewed. To move up to the top of the news feed, post frequently enough to move up. Also, some people who like your posts will tag you as a favorite, which can be done by hitting the star next to the person's name. People you mark as favorites will post at the top of the newsfeed, too.

Aforementioned star tags are useful to weed out those posts you don't care about from "friends" you truly don't know. If you want to see more of the people you are most interested to see more of, hit the star next to their names. These people will become priority posts for you to read. Now to a certain extent, Facebook does that its own, too. If you frequently like some person's posts a lot or that person frequently likes your posts, their posts will move up the newsfeed, too.

Two message folders ... a friend of mine said there is a sub-message folder where messages go from people you don't have as friends. I think you can do this under the Privacy settings, which will weed out unfamiliar messages in another folder. A little aside that truly shocked me (because you know I am a naive woman). My same friend showed me how he routinely receives naked photos sent from strangers. My mouth dropped. What are some people thinking? Well, all right I guess for those of us who prefer to message people with our clothes on, this might be shocking and apparently for the rest of you ... not so much.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Learning to Say "Yes"

I always see this self-help advise that suggests women, in particular, need to learn to say "no" more often. We say "yes" and over book our lives. The funny thing is that many women probably say "yes" to things that affect their personal lives, but they do not say "yes" often enough to professional opportunities. In fact, I would suggest the opposite. They say "no" way more often than they should when it comes to seizing opportunities. The reasons usually have to do with fear: fear of failure, fear of change, fear of even success (yes, some people are subconsciously afraid of success). When asked to "leap" fear holds them back. Opportunities show up daily if you look for them. Opportunities to take risks and try something new with great potential. So, my challenge is not to tell women to learn to say "no" more often, but rather than to "yes" and take those risks. Try new things. I'm always experimenting and trying new things to grow and expand my business. Sometimes it works great. Sometimes it doesn't work at all. But at least I tried. Think of it this way: you can fail big or you can succeed HUGE, but if you never try nothing could happen at all. So learn to "yes" and see what happens. You might be in for a HUGE surprise!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Are You a Real Writer?

I run into two kinds of writers. Writers who are absolutely, totally in love with the craft. And writers who are either infatuated with the idea and glamour of being a writer and do nothing to back their declaration: I am a writer. These "writers" are the ones who will ask stupid questions like, "Are you a real writer?" I remember once I was getting a massage and the masseuse asked, "Are you a real writer?" I muse over that question. I've been asked the other silly question, "Are you a real publisher?" To answer both questions: I don't think that writing is like imitation lemonade, artificial or sweeten with Sweet 'n Low. Can you be a "juice drink"? How about on my website (www.3LPublishing.com) I post one of those warning labels: writing and publishing sweeten by an artificial talent that involves a lot of hot air and misleading information and is bad for your business. Maybe next time I'm asked, "Are you a real writer?" I'll simply say, "No, I'm an artificially flavored person." LOL ... I can be a real smart ass, though.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Is it OK to Make Your Blog Confessional?

A prospective client mentioned she blogged but quit because it was too confessional. I started wondering why the confessional nature of her blog made her quit? I thought she should just quit "confessing" on it and shift the content if she had an audience. Then I wondered, should a business owner or entrepreneur "confess" anything on a blog at all. Here is my conclusion:

It depends on the nature of your business. Let's begin with that premise. Are you a counselor? Well, most counselors are not supposed to delve into their own lives so perhaps direct confessions are a no, no. Do you sell products and services? You might want to stick to the product and service world you live in. Do you write self-help or inspirational books? Ah, now we're getting into an area where a little "confession" helps your product and adds credibility to what you're talking about. When I "confess" anything on this blog it typically is with the idea that like you I am human. As a human I tend to error, but as a self-aware human I also learn from my errant ways. If I learn something of value on this journey I will call "life" then I like to share my newfound wisdom. My hope is typically two-sided: I hope to either prevent you from walking the road of my error; or I hope if you already strolled down error lane, you might just feel better about it. "Oh, she did it, too. I'm not so bad."

Confessing for a purpose is fine. Anytime you confess, in my opinion, it should be with a point. Vomiting up your secrets for public consumption should be a lesson in helping others not just purging last night's bad experience. Even venting online should have a practical and useful purpose otherwise it's just putting negative words on a blank screen with no intended usefulness. Whatever come out in e-print just be helpful in some way. If it's just a splurge of your purge, most people will grow weary of it. I can go just about any water cooler and listen to people complain. So if you're confessing make it a lesson to be learned.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Marketing: Consistency and Persistency

This strange change started happening with the book sales. We used to rarely get book sales through the 3L Publishing website vs. Amazon. Out of nowhere, sales for all books began to spike and add up. In order to give you a benchmark, we used to get 3L sales about once every two months when a major book wasn't in release. In the last two months, we get near-daily if not daily sales. Not just of one book in particular but across the board with the new books. What are we doing differently with marketing and sales? I actually can't say any one thing in particular. We do continual and habitual marketing through book promotion and PR. We blog, send out a weekly newsletter, and update social media on a regular basis. I haven't been out networking as often as in the past, but I'm finding that social media has replaced the need to network as habitually as I used to do. I will just say one thing: persistence. Make sure you keep your marketing activities persistent. I believe that is what is paying off. Consistent and persistent ... we'll call this C&P. Use C&P in whatever marketing and PR activities you participate in doing. It might take two months or two years, but C&P will eventually generate sales. If you don't do C&P you will have the opposite effect. What goes up in the natural weight of gravity goes down, too. If you keep blowing hot air into the balloon it will rise. If you quit blowing air it will sink. You see how that works? So use C&P to grow your sales.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Don't Bake the Cake Before It Comes Out of the Oven

3L Publishing's graphic artist Erin Molina used to say that to me. Over the years if there is one thing I've learned in publishing where you're dealing with deadlines is "don't bake the cake before it comes out of the oven." What does that really mean? Worrying, panicking and generally having heart failure over something that hasn't even happened is a true waste of perfectly good energy. The point is that whatever you're worrying or fretting over may never even happen -- and look at all the energy you expended in something that didn't come to fruition. As a project manager, the key tactic I've learned is to stay cool, use your head (know your stuff), problem solve, and then fix whatever is going on. A few useful tips for managers:

Always get out ahead of the problem--this means if you see something brewing or you suspect something could happen, just take measures to ensure it either doesn't happen or make a preemptive strike so it never happens. The advantage of working with clients is understanding human behavior and reactions to certain situations. If you have wonderful foresight, use it, and get out ahead of any potential problem so it never becomes a situation.

Calm, cool and proactive NOT reactive--if something comes up, calmly, cooly and professionally look at the situation. Analyze what can be done and then do it. Sometimes, though, nothing can be done. After all you cannot change a time of day; you cannot make someone answer an email or phone call; and you cannot magically provide an instant answer. And when that is the case, know when you can do those things and that is the answer. Be proactive not reactive means not letting your head spin and lighting fires when it's unnecessary. A proactive manager is the kind of manager I like working with, but a reactive manager or underling is not a blessing. Reactions don't produce positive results. Reactions also often create tensions and confrontations where none were required.

Where's there is no fire there was no flame--and finally we'll call this one "pot stirring and worrying." Sometimes I've worked with people over the years who stir up worry and drama where there is none. When a project hums along let it hum. You don't need to go and double-check a perfectly well oiled engine. Chances are all that checking might spill your coffee on the engine and ruin the hum. In other words, needless and useless checking and rechecking often inadvertently opens the hood so something can spill where it might not have spilled at all.

Finally keep it professional and check your emotions--never ever take a management situation and make it personal between people. You may think you would like to call Bob out and find every expletive you can find to hurl at him, but keep a cool head and manage your emotions. It's easy to do if you apply a simple formula: stick to the facts. I remember one time a dear friend of mine decided he couldn't stand his demeaning boss anymore. Instead of sticking to the facts, my friend chose to get emotional and tell the guy off. Well, friends that was poor decision. Bottom line is the guy was "the boss," and the boss hires and fires. Where do you suppose my friend ended up?

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Hitting that "Reading" Mood or Right Book Right Time

Like relationships, sometimes book success is dependent upon hitting the mood of the readers at just that right moment. I get asked all of the time how to create a best-selling book. I don't have a formula. I've come to the point where I simply admit it's a crapshoot, do you want to play or not? Many factors can influence or derail a book's success. The mood of the readers is one of them. Perhaps you've written an amazing action-adventure but everyone is reading fantasy and action-adventure literally overnight became passé. You're about to release your book and its publicity and potential success is suddenly eclipsed by the release of a mega-seller that everyone wants to buy, and your book has absolutely no relationship to that subject matter. Maybe the cover is off-beat somehow. We had one book where it's about vacations, and everyone thought it looked like summer and it was released for the Christmas holiday vacation season. This misconstrued thought about the "light" cover pushed people away from it. So, timing and perception can affect success.

When I get asked the all-important question, "How do I make my book a best-seller," I tell authors these many factors have an influence. When an author asks how to theme a book to make it more marketable, I explain the impact of these factors, and we discuss it. And none of it matters whether your book is non-fiction or fiction; all of these issues will still come into focus. Frankly, you just never know what people will want to read. I think I generally know, but I have been wrong not only in what ended up succeeding but also in what failed. And believe it or not, content is not always king. Some of the most well-written books have failed. Some of the marginally written books have succeeded. And when I share this with authors who truly buy into the thought that content trumps all else, they don't believe me. The falsely believe their content is superior, and therefore, will be hugely successful. While I am not suggesting you debase your content; what I am saying is that sometimes it just doesn't make a difference. So as it is with many things, what will be will be. My main goal is simple: just enjoy the pleasure of the ride of writing it. If it succeeds, celebrate. If it goes OK ... well, I enjoyed the experience.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Hotel Review: Hotel Paradox, Santa Cruz

Slate showers with cobblestone
shower pans were part of the eco-friendly
design.
Rating: ****1/2

The recently remodeled Hotel Paradox in Santa Cruz, CA is a major winner. Before I get into the review, I want to say that overall I've always found the city of Santa Cruz to be slightly grungy and prefer Capitola just a few miles up the road. Santa Cruz has a rundown quality that can't quite match up to its sister coastal cities like Capitola, Monterey or Carmel. At the same time, it offers a fun shopping area in the downtown and is center to many activities. Wanting to try something different than tried-and-true favorites, I spotted Hotel Paradox online on Expedia that had a great offer for $180 a night, which is not the standard rate, which is closer to $250 to $450 per night. Taking the last-minute offer, I booked a room based on the room pictures that showed an enticing, clean and well-decorated room.

The gamble paid off. The redone 1950's-style hotel had been renovated to what I'll call eco-chic or environmentally friendly decor. From the giant redwood check-in desk to the branch-like artwork and cobblestone shower pans. It was a post-modernist design that reflected the geological and natural features of the coastal area and redwood forest. Beautifully redone with a lovely pool area and elegant restaurant called Solitaire, I adored this hotel. The restaurant offered breakfast, lunch and fine dining for dinner. I will say one thing not to be missed is the clam chowder. Impressively flavored with artisan touches, the soup came fresh with each individual bowl loaded with clams still in the shells, crunchy celery and potatoes with a few bits of bacon to pop the flavor. I have never enjoyed such savory and fresh clam chowder anywhere else, and the restaurant should be given props for its incredible top-sirloin steak and calamari -- both just as excellent in flavor and taste.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Friday Morning Musing: Are You a Talker or a Doer?

It's Friday morning. I have my coffee, and I've got my Mac and my thoughts for you. A friend of mine was talking and said, "I love it that when you say you're going to do it, you do it." This statement begged the question, "Are you a doer or a talker?" And this leads to my cute story of the day.

I've known what I wanted to do almost my entire life. When I was in high school, I toted around a shoebox loaded with stories I wrote (OMG) in ink pen. A little side note: Remember those Bic ink pens with the clear-plastic on the outside so you could see the ink? They probably still sell them. When I wrote my stories, I wrote on unlined paper and I wrote in ink pen. About once every two weeks I had to toss my Bic pen because it was clean of ink. Friends marveled at the empty pen because they had never seen one before. The little tale should give you a good idea of how much writing was going on. Anyway, I had these "friends" (I use the term loosely because they weren't very nice to me). The boyfriend of the girl made fun of me and my passion. "You want to be a writer," was commonly said with a jeer. Years later I ran into the mean-spirited boyfriend, and he had to eat his words and nastiness.

Over the years, though, I've met many people who "talk" about their dreams and desires all the time but no results come from their chatter. I've even been asked the silly question, "Are you a real writer?"This question suggests I write in my diary versus professionally; but I think it comes from a lot of people who talk about doing or being something that in some people's minds is a big deal. Sometimes we romantically look at a big idea, and we think it's too hard or impossible. What I've found is you can't make a dream real if you don't do anything about it. No dream is too big if you put together a plan and take action. Talking about something endlessly or talking about it just to make it seem like you're doing something about it doesn't make it happen. So today's Friday musing is: if you can dream it, you have to do it.

If you like what I'm saying, keep your eye out. My new book Flying Lessons: How I learned to soar in life, love and business comes out in the spring. I am likely to sell it at a .99 cent eBook just to get the word out there and build interest.