Monthly Archives: October 2009

A Lesson in Life

Have you ever heard the adage, “They beat the horse that works and let the lazy one sleep?” Guess what? I’m apparently the horse that works. Not a day goes by without my boss assigning me “special projects” that no one else wants to do. In fact, I have a few colleagues who don’t even fulfill their primary responsibilities, don’t meet their objectives, don’t meet their goals, and how does management deal with this? They slap their hands and give their workload to “the horse that works”! 

One must conclude from this situation that doing an exceedingly good job rewards you by increasing your workload. Yearly raises are pretty much the same across the board, so whether you’re an engine or a caboose, the money is the same. So, where is the incentive to do a really great job? Yes, you can talk about work ethics and integrity and the satisfaction that comes from doing your best, but that will only take you so far. Don’t you eventually reach a point in time when the straw breaks the camel’s back? 

I keep asking myself what motivates me to work at this pace. Why don’t I just kick back and be the lazy horse that sleeps? I’ve tried. God how I’ve tried. But I can’t seem to go against the grain of my nature, and that is to do a good job and exceed expectations. Is there a silver lining in this curse? Of course there is! If my mindset was to just do enough to stay ahead of the bullet, would I have had the ambition to write four novels? Would I have self-published They Never Die Quietly? Would I have made the publishing deal with Amazon Encore? Would I have signed a two-book foreign deal? Maybe the beatings aren’t so bad after all.

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Another Day in Paradise

In less than an hour I’ll be on Freeway 5 fighting traffic on my way to Anaheim. I’m scheduled to participate in the huge solar conference being held at the Anaheim Convention Center. A few fellow colleagues and I are working the Go Solar California booth. I don’t mind functions like this; you get to meet a few interesting people. But what I do mind is driving anywhere near LA. It’s the only city where you can find total gridlock on the freeway at 3:00 am. What’s that all about? 

My ailing cat, Alex, had a pretty good day yesterday. My wife and I found another food that she likes even though her kidney problem is suppressing her appetite. Seems that in addition to the prime cuts of beef in gravy, she has a penchant for fishy tuna. Hey, as long as she eats, I don’t care if she wants limburger cheese and red onion sandwiches. 

This post is going to have to be short and sweet. I must prepare for my adventure on the freeway to LA. Why doesn’t someone invent a time machine—something like the transporters they use in Star Trek. Sure would make traveling a lot easier. Then again, I’d hate to get inside one of these machines with a housefly.

Jeff Goldblum

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A Rude Awakening

ALEXThroughout my life I have encountered numerous situations that made me seriously question the integrity, motives and competency of orthodox health practitioners. I know in my heart that there are thousands of dedicated doctors, nurses, veterinarians, chiropractors, and support people who provide quality care and compassion for patients.

Unfortunately, my experiences have yielded few instances that positively impacted my opinion of the medical community in general. Therefore, I can only draw my conclusions from my personal dealings. 

I was a big fan of ER and my wife loves Grey’s Anatomy. But we both question their saint-like portrayal of doctors and nurses. What always amuses me is the classic situation where an ambulance races into the emergency parking lot carrying a patient with a non-life-threatening injury. Barely into the parking lot, a mob of doctors and nurses surround the ambulance the minute it comes to a stop and they all huddle around the patient with IV’s and stethoscopes and life-saving equipment. 

Unless you’re suffering from severe chest pain or a major artery is gushing blood, you’d be lucky to get treatment in a hospital emergency room in less than four hours let alone immediately. This grim picture may be more about the system than about the people. But a recent experience of mine has reinforced the notion that whenever dealing with health issues and healthcare providers, you’d better assume the role as your own advocate. My particular situation was with one of my cats and a local vet. 

Alexandra or Alex as we like to call her, is my 16-year-old tuxedo cat (black with a white bib). Over the last few months her appetite has decreased considerably and over the last 6 years she’s gone from 16 pounds to 10 pounds. Dealing with the vet was pleasant. She was very patient, answered all of our questions and didn’t seem like she was rushing us in any way. After hearing our story and physically examining Alex, she suggested a series of diagnostic tests: blood work, urine analysis, X-rays, and a dozen other tests. When we asked her how much it would cost, she basically said that she doesn’t deal with the charges and would let someone else give us a recap. 

So, after a few minutes a very pleasant young woman entered the room with an itemized computer printout of each test, various medications, etc. and the associated prices. The total was $412. We, of course, told her to proceed. When the tests were completed, the vet delivered the bad news. Alex has CRF  (Chronic Renal Failure). The vet painted a rather grim picture and suggested that we have them perform an ultrasound. We again asked how much and of course she had no idea. The “closer” returned and the estimate for the ultrasound was $327. Based on a lengthy conversation with the vet, we pretty much determined that the ultrasound was not really critical, nor would it change the diagnosis or treatment. 

The course of treatment was for us to leave Alex with the vet for an entire day so they could flush the toxins from her kidneys through an IV. This is not a cure, only a treatment. Again, the vet could not quote the cost. So, we dropped Alex off early in the morning and the “closer” gave me an estimate for 3 consecutive treatments. The cost: $1,100. Based on our own research and do-diligence, my wife and I felt that Alex needed one, maybe two treatments, but not three. The estimate for two treatments was $824. We asked that they perform the first treatment and then we’d decide if we wanted to proceed with the second treatment. 

Well, my wife spoke to the vet and explained our decision and let her know that we would decide if we wanted the second treatment when we picked up Alex at the end of the first treatment. Six hours later my wife called the office to find out how Alex was tolerating the treatment. The woman on the phone said, “What treatment?” My wife went on to explain. As it worked out, Alex sat in a cage for six miserable hours and they didn’t so much as take her temperature. 

Apparently, the vet was waiting for us to call and give her the go ahead for treatment. What? Isn’t that why we dropped her off in the first place? Isn’t that why we paid in advance for two treatments with the understanding that if we decided not to have Alex undergo the second treatment they could issue a credit to our charge card? Was there any reason for us to have dropped Alex off if we didn’t want the first treatment? When we spoke to the vet, she had a case of selected memory and was very defensive. She didn’t apologize or even consider that she was in error. The office manager recognized that it was their fault, but never did the vet fess up. 

Now, of course, we wouldn’t consider going back to this vet for love or money. We decided to consult a vet who practices holistic medicine. The good news is that for no particular reason except that Alex has been getting plenty of affection from mommy and daddy, her appetite has modestly improved. The only problem is that the only food that appeals to her is Friskies Meaty Filets in gravy. Considering that neither my wife nor I eat beef, it is a bit of an irony.

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Slacker Weekend

Okay, I admit it. I didn’t write a single word this weekend, nor did I update my blog with a post. Shame on me. As you might imagine, I’ve been flying high on the residual wave of excitement. But I did buy myself a new notebook computer. I figured it was the least I could do considering the two-book foreign deal. Besides, my old reliable Toshiba is limping badly (blue screen of death). Not to mention the fact that computer technology advances so quickly that my current computer is a dinosaur—a   v-e-r-y      s-l-o-w dinosaur! 

I bought the computer at Fry’s: the toy store for men. Not to slight you gals, but hey, it’s a guy’s ultimate fantasy store. As my wife and I cruised down the aisles, my shopping cart mysteriously led us to the big screen TV department. Imagine that. Well I’ll tell you, I love HD TV and the latest models are awesome. But have you ever seen a Samsung LED TV coupled with a BlueRay DVD? Holy resolution, Batman! Un-freakin-believable! 

Neither my wife nor I have ever seen such a crystal clear picture. It was almost like we were standing in the same room with the cast of Pirates of the Caribbean. The resolution, vivid color and definition made traditional HD look like a 1952 Zenith B & W. I’ve got to get me one of those. But I think I’ll wait a bit until the prices come down as they always do with electronics. 

Time for me to get some work done. No, not the sequel. I have a day job. Remember? But hopefully, not for long.

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A Twist of Fate

HemingwayOkay, things like this never, ever happen to me. I never have the winning raffle ticket; never walk out of a poker game with more than I came with; never have the pleasure of yelling, “Bingo!”; never pick the winning teams in a football pool; and never win the stuffed animal at the carnival ring toss. 

You might think that I’m just being negative, but I tell you truly, with few exceptions I rarely grasp the brass ring. Now a Las Vegas odds maker might conclude that one who always misses the mark will eventually hit pay dirt. The law of averages might suggest that anyone on a bad streak will eventually be a winner. Even the unluckiest guy on the planet gets a payoff once in a while. Any good commissioned salesman knows that every “NO” gets you closer to that “YES”. Well, yesterday was a monster “YES”. 

A couple of posts ago I mentioned that my literary agent and editor from Amazon Encore were working on a foreign deal. Remember? I had no lofty expectations about this deal. In fact, based on what I’d heard from the experts, the best I could hope for was a very modest offer with no up-front advance. And believe me, just to find any foreign publisher interested in my novel was beyond anything I could imagine. 

Well, yesterday I got an e-mail from my editor and the subject line read: “Exciting Developments”. He went on to say that he wanted to arrange a conference call with my agent and me. We exchanged a few e-mails, coordinated an agreeable time, and in his last e-mail to me, he wrote: “Your life is going to change today.” Can you even begin to imagine what frenzied thoughts were crashing through my brain? 

I had two hours to agonize before the call, so I, of course, did what any insane person would do and tortured myself with the “what-if-game”. Was it an offer from a foreign publisher? Maybe a filmmaker was interested? Did I get a great review from the New York Times? I thought of every possible scenario—or so I thought—but not in my wildest dreams was I prepared for what my editor would tell me. 

When I telephoned in to the conference call, my editor didn’t waste any time with small talk or segue slowly into the crux of what had developed. Without skipping a beat, he said, “A foreign publisher (not free to reveal the country or publisher’s name at this time), has made you an offer. It’s a two-book deal with an advance of (I can’t tell you this either, but let me just say that I needed a nitroglycerin pill). You get ¼ when you sign the contract, ¼ when they publish the first novel, ¼ when you produce the second manuscript and ¼ when it’s published.” 

Originally, when we first heard of their interest in my novel, they hinted of a sequel, but I never really expected it would be part of the deal. Nor did I expect the advance to be more than a pittance. When I hung up the telephone, the only words I could muster were, “Oh my God!” I haven’t written even a single word of the sequel; it only lives in my head. And it’s merely a loosely sketched outline. What if they don’t like it? What if it’s not as good as the first novel? What if I get a case of chronic writer’s block? The psychobabble has begun. Needless to say, I need to get my act together and get to work. For years I’ve dreamed about a successful writing career, but never thought I’d be writing against the clock. Holy crap. What have I gotten myself into?

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Office Politics

Those who know me well have heard my rants about Washington politics.  I have little patience for the incompetence of our elected officials and hold a dim view of their principles. Although this morning’s paper riled me to fury, I won’t bore you with another political tirade. Instead, let me bitch about corporate culture.

I’m anything but a spring chicken; been around the block a few times. During my life I’ve worked on construction, I held upper-management positions in the retail automotive business, I worked for a highly regarded university, and I held several positions with two Fortune 100 companies. 

Although there are obvious differences in the dynamics of dissimilar work environments, there are a few common denominators. In my experience I have noted that ass-kissing gets you a lot farther than productivity. And it applies to ditch diggers as well as commercial pilots. Time and time again I’ve seen ass-kissers climb the ladder of success while the worker bees rot in the same dead-end position. Hard work does not always yield success and advancement. But ass-kissing generally opens lots of doors.

If you think I’m tainted or that my premise is invalid, take a look around your office and make note of those who have “earned” a key to the executive washroom. Did they get there because they worked their little butts off or because they sucked up to the top banana?

So here’s today’s compelling question: if I become successful as a writer and make enough money to quit my “day job”, whose ass do I kiss to get ahead?

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It Keeps Getting Better

If you’ve been following my progress you know about my book publishing deal with Amazon Encore and how I got to where I am right now. If not, and you care to know, please click on “All About the Book” for the whole story. Needless to say, this rollercoaster ride is not only surreal; it’s almost overwhelming. But make no mistake about it; it’s “good” overwhelming.

Yesterday my editor from Amazon Encore contacted me and said that a “foreign publisher” (I can’t reveal the country yet) is not only interested in acquiring the rights to publish They Never Die Quietly in their particular language, but they are also interested in negotiating a deal on the sequel. Sequel? Except for a loosely sketched story that’s been bouncing around in my mind, there really isn’t a sequel; only an idea. In fact, other than the title, I haven’t so much as penciled a single word.

They asked for the first few chapters or at least a synopsis to whet their appetite. The thought of writing the first few chapters under this kind of pressure was not exactly a comforting idea, so my editor and I put our heads together and composed a brief “teaser” synopsis. The goal, of course, was to get their juices flowing. Now I’d love to share the synopsis with you, but with the breadth of the Internet, God only knows who’s watching. Call it paranoia but I’d hate to have someone pirate my idea. So, all I can say is that the serial killer in the sequel is going to make Simon (the villain in They Never Die Quietly) seem like a choirboy.

If you’ve read my novel I would suspect you find it difficult to believe that any serial killer, no matter how diabolical, could be eviler than Simon. But believe me; you’re in for a shocking surprise. Guess I better get busy, huh?

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