Creative License Revoked

When I decided to get serious about my writing, I had a critical choice to make: Use my real name or a pen name. It may not seem like a big deal, but I thought it was important to know what direction I was headed from the start.

I decided on a pen name because it allows me to retain a bit of anonymity while still building and promoting my personal brand and business – and besides, I just think it sounds better.

But when it came to writing about other real people, I had to decide again – aliases, or actual names?

The nature of my humor writing is satirical and sarcastic – which means that sooner or later, it’s bound to show many of the players in a less than positive light. Knowing that people may not be eager to have slightly exaggerated facts printed about them under their real names, I decided I should use aliases for everyone in my upcoming book.

Once I made that decision, I thought it would be a simple thing to pick entertaining names for all the characters, and voila – everyone would be happy.

Then I remembered that no matter what you do, you can never make everyone happy. Continue reading

Cover Me

As I progress toward publication of my first book, I’m learning all sorts of new things that are part of the process. Today’s lesson:

I am NOT a graphic designer.

In order to publish on Kindle Direct Publishing for sale on Amazon, you have to have some kind of cover for your book. Realizing this, I started researching ways to get a cover designed quickly and cheaply.

I watched a video tutorial on Ernie Dempsey’s site about how he designs his own book covers using a free utility called Gimp. It lets you edit and manipulate photos, add text, and insert all kinds of cool visual effects.

I thought that sounded great – especially since I’m trying to keep costs down, and the production schedule… well, on schedule. This would allow me to come up with my own design based on my own photography, and I could do it without a PhD or a bottomless expense account.

So, I downloaded Gimp and started playing around with it.

It seemed pretty cool – I even managed to create a basic design using an old picture of my son, looking angry at the camera, and even added the title and byline text to it.

Sadly, it just wasn’t doing it for me.

This is supposed to be a humorous book, and the picture in question showed my son in anything but good humor. Not wanting to portray an otherwise sweet kid in such a poor light, I thought that doing some sort of cartoon caricature of a screaming kid would fit the bill. Luckily, Gimp allows you to draw your own, so…

Here’s my attempt at drawing my own cover, using Gimp to draw on my track pad: Continue reading

A Vacation Killed the Employee in Me

Recently I accepted a transfer to another state for my day job. I made the move for a variety of reasons, but the highest on the list was quality of life. I had become increasingly disillusioned with being just another rat in a big pointless race, and desperately wanted to find a slower pace.

With that in mind, I found a similar position in a smaller town. The position had the potential for a net pay cut, but an overall quality of life raise.

Good trade, if you ask me. Continue reading

Caution: Revolting Writer

Revolutionary.

The word is thrown around by sensationalists everywhere, from politicians to motivational speakers to guys hawking counter top toaster ovens on late night TV.

There are revolutionary diets, revolutionary exercise programs, revolutions in skin care, sexual performance, learning foreign languages, buying and selling real estate, playing the lottery and winning blackjack in Las Vegas.

The misapplication of the word has gotten so bad that it strikes me as more revolting than revolutionary.

I understand why people sensationalize things – they’re looking for attention, better sales, more followers, etc. That doesn’t change the fact that overstating things with tired words actually tends to water down the message you’re trying to impart.

If you tell people you’re leading a revolution or you have a revolutionary product, they’re likely to immediately paint a mental picture of some late night snake oil salesman trying to separate them from their credit card number – and they’ll tune you out.

Want to avoid losing their attention? Try this approach: Continue reading

What’s the Difference?

Writers deal with resistance in multiple forms almost every time they sit down to write.

Fatigue, writer’s block, laziness, criticism, overloaded schedules, day jobs, apathy – all can serve as stumbling blocks that slow down or completely stop your work.

But there is another obstacle that may be even harder to overcome than all the rest.

Defeatism.

That nagging voice in the back of your mind that stands in accusation of your work, whispering not-so-sweet somethings to your confidence.

“Who’s going to read your writing, anyway?”

“Who cares about your opinion?”

“What difference does it make if you don’t write today?” Continue reading

Pursuit of Pride

As a writing exercise, my friend Scott asked me to name one accomplishment I’m proud of. Being a self-deprecating perfectionist, listing achievements that may cause a swollen ego isn’t exactly my strong suit – I can always point to several things I’d change or do differently to make the thing better next time. To add to the difficulty, I tend to see pride in general as a liability rather than an asset, so I’ve significantly handicapped myself right out of the gate.

In order to get through the exercise, then, I have to adjust the phraseology of the original question. Instead of naming something I’m proud of, let’s see if I can’t at least name some pursuit that I enjoy and am reasonably good at.

On that subject, my wife and I were talking about the intersection of passion and work the other day, and she asked me what I’m passionate about; what do I like doing so much that I’d do it for free; what do I do that can solve problems for others, etc.

I drew a complete blank. Continue reading

Politically Incorrect Career Counseling

Jimmy strode toward his high school counselor’s office with a purpose, armed with high test scores and naïve optimism. Today was the day – the day he’d discover what his future would hold. Wealth, fame, accolades – it all hung on the career decisions he would make behind the doors of the humble office ahead. He took a deep breath, squared his shoulders, and opened the door.

“Well, well,” said Mr. Snidely, the counselor. “Good morning, Jimmy! Are you ready for the first day of the rest of your life?”

“Absolutely, Mr. Snidely,” Jimmy said with a smile. “I can’t wait!”

“Good, good. Take a seat there, and we’ll get started.” Jimmy sat on the edge of a cheap plastic chair facing Snidely’s desk. He felt his pulse quicken with anticipation and the promise of a bright future.

“Now, then,” Snidely said, looking over several forms. “Let me just make some preliminary notes here…” He peered through his glasses and spoke under his breath as he checked several boxes. “Career Description: Prostitute.”

“Excuse me?” Continue reading

No, Thank You

The other day I was reading a post on Ernie Dempsey’s blog where Ernie discussed the disturbing trend of ingratitude in our society these days. The example he cited was Apple’s recent launch of the iPhone 6, where Apple execs simultaneously gave away rock band U2’s latest album – to every iTunes user on the planet.

On the surface, this seems like a pretty magnanimous gesture, not just for Apple, but more especially for U2. They’re the ones who put in the work to produce an entire album of new music, only to give it away completely free.

Publicity stunt, you say?

Okay, yeah, that’s probably their angle. Apple technology launches are still a pretty big deal worldwide, so this would give U2 heavy exposure to that demographic. What U2 and Apple may not have anticipated was Continue reading

The Courage of Conviction

 “…a long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defense of custom.”                                                                                                                             – Thomas Paine, Common Sense

Courage comes in many forms.

For most of us, the word evokes mental images of heroic physical action under extreme danger.

A soldier sprints unprotected through enemy fire to pull a friend to safety.

A good Samaritan wades through flames to rescue an accident victim on a lonely stretch of freeway.

A bystander steps in front of a weapon, preventing a criminal from harming an innocent.

These are all examples of people who willingly face injury or death to help others in need; but facing physical danger in spite of fear is not the only definition of courage. Continue reading

The Perspective of Elapsed Time

Sometimes it’s difficult to see our lives objectively.

We’re so close, so caught up in the living of our daily grind that we can’t always see what got us here; what we missed by taking this path, or what we gained by not taking another.

Things may look better or worse to us in our present situation, simply because of our perspective.

For example:

Twenty-two years ago, Continue reading