Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Interview with Katie Pierson, author of '89 Walls'

Katie Pierson freelances for local non-profits, using her background in public policy and grassroots organizing to overthrow the patriarchy one introverted step at a time. When she’s not writing fiction, she returns library books, makes soup, and tries to be cooler than she really is by hip-hopping at the YMCA. She earned a Bachelor’s Degree in American History from the University of Pennsylvania (where she dabbled briefly in being a College Republican) and a Master’s in American History from the University of Minnesota. She grew up in Lincoln, Nebraska, and now lives with her family in a suburb of Minneapolis. ’89 Walls is her first novel.
For More Information
About the Book:
Title: ’89 Walls
Author: Katie Pierson
Publisher: Wise Ink Creative Publishing
Pages: 240
Genre: Young Adult
Format: Paperback
College is not in the cards for Seth. He spends his minimum wage on groceries and fakes happiness to distract his mom from the MS they both know will kill her. It’s agony to carry around a frayed love note for a girl who’s both out of his league and beneath his dignity. 
Quinn’s finishing high school on top. But that cynical, liberal guy in her social studies class makes her doubt her old assumptions. Challenging the rules now, though, would a) squander her last summer at home, b) antagonize her conservative dad, and c) make her a hypocrite.
Seth and Quinn’s passionate new romance takes them both by surprise. They keep it a secret: it’s too early to make plans and too late not to care. But it’s 1989. As politics suddenly get personal, they find themselves fighting bare-fisted for their beliefs—and each other—in the clear light of day.

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Q: Thanks for joining us, Katie. Can you tell us how you came up with the idea to write your book, '89 Walls?
I never planned to write a novel: I just like to read them. But a conversation with a friend in 2006 about the pros and cons of potentially attending my 20th high school reunion brought to mind the random people you run into at those things: old crushes, old “frenemies.” I suddenly had the idea for Seth and Quinn’s reluctant romance in ’89 Walls.

It wasn’t until I was half done that I realized that the story was also a partisan allegory. Seth is the Democratic Party in the late 80’s: reactive, angry, without a compass. Quinn’s father, Tom is the Republican Party: optimistic, smug, still grounded in a true small government philosophy and underestimating the rising Religious Right with its creepy fascination with people’s private lives. Mr. Levine, the teacher, is the moderator who allows two strong points of view to talk it out respectfully.
Quinn is all of us, trying to find her way when tidy theories crash into reality.
Q: How hard was it to write a book like this and do you have any tips that you could pass on which would make the journey easier for other writers?
I’ve heard others say that writing a novel is like opening a vein and letting it bleed. I agree. I’ve learned Hebrew and experienced natural childbirth. Writing this book was way harder. But that’s also what made it worth doing. When I kick it, my tombstone will say “Author.” I’m proud of that.
I tell closeted fellow writers that everyone feels like a fraud—it's not just them. All you have to do is print yourself a business card and put "writer" on it. When you claim the title you are one. 
Becoming an author is a different story. If my long and detoured road to publication taught me anything, it’s that you only get to call yourself an author when you put on your big girl pants and act like one.
Q: Who is your publisher and how did you find them or did you self-publish?
How much time do you have?
I craved a traditional publishing contract for the usual reasons: an advance, high editorial standards, broad marketing and distribution, collegial support, and the all-important stamp of legitimacy.
My timing in seeking the above could only have been worse, however, if I’d attempted it during the zombie apocalypse.
I spent a humbling two years seeking an agent for my realistic historical young adult novel during an international economic collapse, the publishing industry’s subsequent version of its own Hunger Games, the e-print revolution, and the creation of special sections in bookstores for Paranormal Teen Romance.
Signing with an agent after five lonely years of writing and racking up rejections feels like sitting by a warm fire after circumnavigating the South Pole. This profound relief kept me from noticing for eighteen months that my agent’s priority was to build her own career—not mine.
By the time I figured out that her early-career priority was to prove herself responsive to a handful of editors’ tastes, the manuscript had already done its job (for her). At my insistence, she reluctantly followed up with half of the 35 (!) submissions. Then she stopped returning my calls.
Frantic Internet research revealed that I was not alone in my experience with this agent or agency.
In retrospect, it was like finding out that not only is your Prince Charming a pimp, but that he’s your pimp.
The editors who did respond rejected the manuscript. But they offered detailed, supportive feedback that amounted to, “Good writing, but I can’t sell the sex scene and teens don’t care about politics or the late Eighties.”
I disagreed. Since when did editors worry about selling sex to readers? It seemed, too, that they drastically underestimated the intellect and interests of the Obama generation. 
After another round of agent rejections, I received enthusiastic, detailed requests for revisions from two top dealmakers. I spent a feverish six months working with a freelance editor and making the suggested changes. I re-submitted to both agents. Neither responded to my multiple communications.
At this point it finally hit me that my own standards of professionalism were higher than those of the gatekeepers I’d been trying to dazzle. I understand from other authors that there are excellent agents out there: I just haven’t had the pleasure of meeting them.
As I began researching small presses, another agent asked for my full manuscript. She praised my writing, sent me pages of insightful editorial feedback, and asked for a revision. Before proceeding, I shared with her my experience with my first agent. She responded by withdrawing her conditional offer of representation and suggesting that I abandon ’89 Walls altogether. This confirmed my fear that my ex-agent’s promiscuous submissions on my behalf had branded my book as damaged goods.
Fury is a powerful motivator.
I submitted the manuscript to several small presses. One made an offer and two more expressed preliminary interest. After exhaustive online research and outreach to their authors, though, I couldn’t bring myself to sign a contract. I’d worked too hard and too long to hand over creative control and money-making potential to for all I knew were two guys with a software program.
It was a great day when it hit me that “making it” in traditional publishing—at least with this particular historical, political, realistic and slightly steamy YA novel—would mean lowering instead of raising my standards. I owed it to Seth and Quinn not to settle for mediocrity.
Determined to produce a book that could compete with Big 5 titles, I found a mentoring press to deliver the professionalism that I hadn’t been able to find in traditional publishing. Wise Ink Creative Publishing brought me back in from the cold.
Mentoring presses give authors access to a carefully-curated stable of talent, including professional editors, copy editors, proofreaders, cover designers, interior designers, and publicists. My cover designer’s day job, for example, is at Random House.
Several of my Big Five author friends admit that they loathe their books’ titles or cover designs. This sounds horrifying, like letting a stranger name your newborn. This process has taught me to trust my gut instincts: self-publishing gave me full creative control.
I studied Wise Ink’s extensive resources and read every book on self-publishing I could get my hands on. My resulting in a 15-page marketing and work plan has produce far more buzz for ’89 Walls than a traditional house could afford to generate for a debut author.
Wise Ink also helped me build my website and jump into social media. It put ’89 Walls into the regular distribution channels, and made sure it could hold its own among its Big 5 peers on the bookstore shelves.
There’s no advance. I assumed the financial risk but earn 100% of the profit. Speaking of, you can order ’89 Walls directly from Itasca Books Distribution or use this cool book store finder to buy it from (and support) a local, independently-owned store near you. It’s also available at Amazon. And please visit my website at www.katiepierson.net.
If there’s a moral to my publishing story it’s this: “when all else fails, raise your expectations.”
Q: Is there anything that surprised you about getting your first book published?
I had absolutely no idea how many steps were involved in a book’s production. But I was pleasantly surprised to realize how much I enjoyed the steep learning curve and making the creative decisions.
Q: Finally, what message are you trying to get across with your book?
My critics hate ’89 Walls in an interestingly passionate sort of way. They say I have an agenda. This cracks me up. Of course I have an agenda. As does everyone I’ve ever met. One of my characters says, “If you think you’re neutral, you’re kidding yourself.” ’89 Walls is about the choices we make in love, sex, family loyalties, politics and friendship. It’s a fast-paced summer read for older teens and anyone who remembers the 1980s. Message-wise, I’d describe it as pro-dialogue, pro-choice, and pro-young people.
Q: Do you have any final words?
Readers who experienced 1989 as teenagers may be surprised to discover how much went down that year: divestiture in apartheid South Africa, the Tiananmen Square protests, the Webster decision, the Iran-Contra scandal, the Exxon Valdez oil spill, the savings and loan crisis, the growing AIDS epidemic, the end of the Cold War, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the premiere of Seinfeld.
Thank you so much for this opportunity. It’s been a pleasure.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Guest post by Christopher Nuttall, author of ‘Trial by Fire’

Schooled in Magic is a fantasy book, but it draws extensively from real history.  The Allied Lands bear a strong resemblance to Middle Ages Europe, complete with self-obsessed rulers, clergy and commoners struggling to build a united state and a looming threat on the southern border from the necromancers.  I studied extensively to create the matrix for the Nameless World, reading hundreds of history books about kings, princes and their worlds.

Princess Alassa, for example, is based - at least in part - on Mary Queen of Scots.  Scotland was simply not used to having a queen on the throne (nor was England, but England was a more established country at the time) and the concept of being ruled by a woman shocked many of the higher noblemen.  Zangaria is a cross between Scotland and the United Kingdom of Charles I; there are social tensions between aristocratic, magicians, businessmen and traders, all of whom want to secure their own position and, if possible, demolish their enemies.  The prospect of Alassa - who was something of a brat before she went to Whitehall School - taking the throne spurred her enemies to act. 

Real history also discusses the limitations facing rulers in their times.  To us, the idea that Mary couldn’t rule in her own right seems absurd; to her noblemen, it made a convenient excuse for ignoring her from time to time.  (Elizabeth I had the same problem.)  Mary had to balance a number of competing factions, all of whom hated the others; in hindsight, it isn’t really surprising she lost her balance and fell off the tightrope. 

That’s not to say that real history should be used as a guide.  Alassa … may not end up being chased off her throne by her noblemen.  The story will go the way that suits its internal logic - and, unlike Mary, Alassa has magic.  On a fundamental level, the Allied Lands are different from Earth.  And that is something that should always be borne in mind.

About the Book
Title: Trial By Fire (Schooled In Magic 7)
Genre: Fantasy
Author: Christopher G. Nuttall
Publisher: Twilight Times Books
Sample Chapter HERE.
Purchase on Amazon / OmniLit
Three years ago, Emily killed the Necromancer Shadye before he could sacrifice her and destroy the Allied Lands.  Now, the shadows of the past hang over Whitehall as Emily and the Grandmaster travel into the Blighted Lands to recover anything Shadye might have left behind, before returning to Whitehall to start the fourth year.  For Emily, it is a chance to stretch her mind and learn more about new and innovative forms of magic … and to prepare for the exams that will determine her future as a magician.
But as she starts her studies, it becomes clear that all is not well at Whitehall.  Master Grey, a man who disliked Emily from the moment he met her, is one of her teachers – and he seems intent on breaking her, pushing her right to her limits.  In the meantime, her friends Alassa and Imaiqah are acting oddly, Frieda seems to be having trouble talking to her and – worst of all – Caleb, her partner in a joint magical project, is intent on asking her to go out with him.
As she struggles to cope with new challenges and to overcome the demons in her past, she becomes aware of a deadly threat looming over Whitehall, a curse that threatens her very soul.  And when she makes a tiny yet fatal mistake, she finds herself facing a fight she cannot win, but dares not lose…
About the Author
Christopher Nuttall was born in Edinburgh, studied in Manchester, married in Malaysia and currently living in Scotland, United Kingdom, with his wife and baby son.  He is the author of twenty novels from various publishers and thirty-nine self-published novels.
Connect with the author on the web:

Interview with Daniel R. Mathews, author of The Demons of Plainville

Can you tell us what your book is about?

The Demons of Plainville is a memoir that revisits the darkness of my childhood experiences.  I detail my struggles against abusive parents, bullying and homophobia while attempting to somehow discover my self-identity. It’s a memoir where I’m forced to battle the demons of anger, sorrow, loneliness and fear while learning to fight for myself and others. And perhaps more than anything, it’s a book about the power of friendship and mentors in the life of a troubled child.

Why did you write your book?

Ultimately, I wrote The Demons of Plainville with the hope that readers who had suffered similar experiences in their lives, or knew someone in a similar situation could derive some sense of solidarity and hope. But, to be honest, there is a storyteller compulsion behind the memoir. While there is no single catastrophic event that on its own merits a memoir,  there are many bizarre events, occultist ties, and real-life plot twists that read like a work of fiction. I hope for these reasons that readers will find the memoir an entertaining read, as well.

What kind of message is your book trying to tell your readers?

There are a couple of messages, but I believe the most important one for young people is that it really does get better. Unfortunately, it’s not an easy process, but as hopeless things may seem right now, life can and does get better.

However, the secondary message is that this process does not happen alone. I only survived because the right people stepped into my life and gave me a sense of hope, belonging and a reason to keep up the fight and not give up. If you know a troubled child or an adult who is struggling to recover from his or her past, there is no more powerful weapon than friendship.  

Who influenced you to write your book?

While it was a handful of friends that pushed me into penning the memoir, I have to credit my Grandfather above all. He believed that I had stories to tell and that I had been born to do this. Granted, I’m sure he never envisioned me writing a memoir, but then he knew that I had always kept my past and my feelings bottled up. About a year before he died, sensing I was unhappy with my current career, he urged me one last time to start writing. Sadly, it wouldn’t be until after he had passed that I finally took his advice. Regardless, this memoir and my subsequent novels wouldn’t exist if it hadn’t been for his belief in me.

Is it hard to publish a nonfiction book?

I think writing a memoir can be the most difficult of non-fiction books because it is inherently emotionally evocative. I experienced an outpouring of emotion with almost every major scene in the memoir, and I know I’m not alone in that experience. Now, I’ve done some non-fiction work with aviation instructional materials and found it difficult to resist over embellishing the material. Typically, non-fiction material needs to focus on the core information that you need to convey to readers while holding their attention. This can be a surprisingly difficult proposition, especially when dealing with educational materials that are dry in nature.

Which author(s) do you admire?

I’ve gone through an interesting evolution as I’ve grown up. Because my Grandfather was a bookbinder by trade, I grew up with Mark Twain, Edgar Allen Poe, and Charles Dickens. So they quickly became my favorite authors. As I became a teenager, my affections shifted to Tom Clancy, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and Stephen King. As an adult, I became infatuated with the works of J.K. Rowling and her amazing world-building abilities and H.P Lovecraft for the same reasons.

Have you suffered from writer’s block and what do you do to get back on track?

I rarely suffer from extended writer’s block and I credit my use of outlines that I develop prior to starting a major project. I think when you take the time to map out some major scenes, plot points and characters arcs in advance that the likelihood of running into a serious block diminishes. However, when I do start encountering a block, I return my focus back to improving the outline. Sometimes just some mindless plotting or playing with ideas will reignite that creative spark. If all else fails, I just step away from the computer and take a walk.

What would you do with an extra hour today if you could do anything you wanted?

If I said, I’d devote that extra hour to getting these questions answered that would probably be a little too much on the nose. So, instead, I’d devote that extra hour to flying. I’ve not been behind the yoke of an aircraft in some time regrettably, and there is nothing that gets the adrenaline pumping or your confidence rebuilt as commanding a small aircraft.

Which holiday is your favorite and why?

Far and away, my favorite holiday is Halloween. There is no other holiday that encourages you to become anyone or anything. I cannot think of a day that is more geared to the art of storytelling and imagination. There is an animatronic zombie sitting beside my desk as I type that shows my devotion to the holiday.

If we were to meet for lunch to talk books, where would we go?

I’m not much of a coffee drinker, so I’d be inclined to say Panera Bread over Starbucks. But in reality, nothing beats a small independent bookstore with a nice little cafĂ©.

What do you like to do for fun?

I’m a PC gamer, so I enjoy playing MMORPGs like World of Warcraft, and games like Skyrim and Fallout. I also enjoy heading over to Netflix or the local theater to see a movie.

Can you tell us about your family?

Well, technically I wrote an entire memoir discussing this subject. I guess I could summarize my family as having been profoundly troubled. Alcoholism, drug abuse and some degree of mental illness pervaded my immediate family back at least one generation.

What do you like the most about being an author?

There are few careers on this planet, where use of your imagination is not just encouraged, it’s required. What other job can you sit down and create other worlds for people to explore and enjoy? There is a symbiotic relationship between movie production, game development, and novels. In the end, someone has to sit down and create a world, then populate it with characters. While it is a challenging job, I believe there are few that are more gratifying than being an author.

What kind of advice would you give other non-fiction authors?

Whether fiction or non-fiction, I’d say first that outlines are your friend. Take the time to make at least a simple outline before you type the first word of the project. In some ways, this is even more critical for a non-fiction author that needs to keep their material properly organized and collated to properly convey the necessary information to the reader. I’d also say to be sure to fact-check your information and keep all of your sources well documented and cross-referenced if at all possible. Your credibility as a non-fiction author rests upon your ability to deliver factual information practically and informatively without resorting to hyperbole or hearsay.  

About The Book

Title: The Demons of Plainville: A Survivor's Story of Storms and Reconstruction
Author: Daniel R. Mathews
Publisher: Lost Legacy Press
Publication Date: May 26, 2015
Format: Paperback - 292 pages / eBook  / PDF
ISBN: 978-0990710745
Genre: Autobiography / Memoir / LGBT / Non Fiction

Buy The Book:

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Demons-Plainville-Survivors-Storms-Reconstruction-ebook/dp/B00XYWRZUY/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1433300766&sr=1-1&keywords=the+demons+of+plainville

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-demons-of-plainville-daniel-r-mathews/1121966956?ean=9780990710745

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14029330.Daniel_R_Mathews

Book Description:

Some true stories read like fiction, but for those who have to personally live through the experiences, the nightmare is vividly real. Daniel R. Mathews digs into the darkness of his past with his haunting memoir, The Demons of Plainville.

As a child, Daniel struggles to find his footing in an upside-down world. His mother is mentally ill and addicted to drugs; she performs black masses to summon demons, is physically abusive, and plays brutal mind games that make him doubt his sanity and despair of ever making sense of life or himself. Even his father beats Daniel after “rescuing” him from his mother. Thanks to a few unexpected friends, Daniel survives his devastating youth and emerges stronger for it.

But Daniel’s battles aren’t over. Finally free of his abusive parents, he now must face himself and wrestle with his sexual identity in a community that sees nothing wrong with homophobia.

Candid and compelling, this is a triumphant tale of a young man who walked through the darkness, bravely faced his demons, and against all odds carried the faint light of hope with him every step of the way.

Book Excerpt:

Chapter 1: Telling The Truth

Accusations. This is how it always begins. S Screaming follows when my answers prove inadequate. Then come the threats, and finally the misery of surrender.

I was about eight at the time, living in a small red brick apartment building
in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Our apartment was on the basement floor, so
there was not a good view outside, only a few small quarter windows allowing
in some daylight. The building stood on a grassy hill that overlooked Myles
Standish State Forest. Some days I would just curl up on the sun-warmed
grass, staring down into the forest below me and imagining that I was a bird
darting between the trees.

My anger grew as we went through the same cycle day after day. I stood
in our tiny living room facing the yellow sofa with my mother giving me that
disdainful stare that made me feel ashamed. I’d look towards the light tan
carpet, afraid to make eye contact with her. The details of the accusation did
not matter, as I seldom had any idea what she was talking about. Whether
there was a quarter missing from her bureau or the bathroom light being left
on at night, there was no end to the possibilities of accusations. Each day the
school bus dropped me off at the bottom of the hill, I paused at the bus-stop
to gather whatever courage I could muster. I knew that a new accusation

would be awaiting me, starting the cycle anew.

“Stand up straight when I’m talking to you!” She barks at me. “And stop looking
down at your feet. Where is it, what did you do with it?” she screams, finger
pointed towards me.

“I don’t know,” I say defensively, shrugging my shoulders.

“You little fucking liar,” she says, standing up from the couch and slapping my
face. “Now get in your room!”

I would rush into my small room in our apartment, slamming the white door
shut before ripping clumps of my own short blond hair out. I hid the hair
under my giant stuffed bear, which stood up to my waist in height. The bear
was a gift from my maternal grandparents, ever standing ready to accept my
love. I clung to the bear; its soft white and gray fur brought me comfort during
times of sadness or anger.

My mother grew suspicious of the growing bald spot on the top of my
head and one afternoon decided to tear the room apart. Eventually, she found
the tangled lump of blond hair hidden under the bear and challenged me for
answers, answers I did not have. I could not explain the anger inside me, at
least not an explanation I dared speak in front of her. I had begun craving
independence and the seeds of rebellion sprouted forth. She pushed me at
every opportunity, accused and cursed me for anything ranging from theft to
family misfortune. I just did not understand.

My only outlet was to punish myself through self-inflicted pain, just to
release the frustration. My mother took an attitude of open hostility against
me, one that persisted throughout my childhood.

“I’m going to send you to a mental institution!” she screamed at me, her long
dirty blond hair swinging between her shoulder blades as she frantically shook
her head. She wiped the sweat from her flushed brow then paused for a moment
and looked down at me with great disgust waving the fist full of my hair
she found at me. I clung to my stuffed bear, looking up at her.

“If you do not learn to behave, I’m going to send you to a reform school
for boys.” She had hesitated for just a moment longer before her voice shifted
into a menacing tone. “They just love cute little white boys at the reform
school. They will take care of you real good.” Turning her back on me, she
stormed out of the room, leaving me weeping into my bear’s fur while I continued
to hug it with all my strength.

I’d heard of reform school before I was in second grade. However, I was
left pondering the nature of how they would take care of me. Strange feelings
overtook me. At first, heat surged through my body, then excitement.
My heart began to beat faster, and for the first time that day I smiled. The
words take care of you echoed in my mind over and over. Other boys at this reform
school were going to take care of me. My mind reinterpreted her hidden
threat; other boys were going to be touching me. I did not understand what
this might mean, but I wanted desperately to find out. These strange longings
would grow and expand in time. The seed long within me had sprouted. Yet,
it did not grow for a while.

We eventually moved from the basement apartment to my grandparents’
house in the same town. The small ranch style house was nestled in small
groves of pine and oak trees. There were numerous cranberry bogs in the
area and a large waterfront district a few miles east of the house. Small single
engine airplanes frequently flew overhead, taking off and landing at the local
airport just to the north.

The yard was ideal for play, with a large back yard that sloped down into
a small grove of pines and blueberry bushes. The neighbors behind the house
owned a pair of horses that I visited every day. The house had three small
bedrooms. My room was adjacent to the living room, just wide enough to fit
my bed and a small dresser. When in the house I spent most of my time looking
out the large living room bay window watching the cars and trucks drive
by. Otherwise, I sat on the back deck with my grandmother. We would try
to identify the particular birds visiting the feeder using a small field guide to
birds. I went down the stairs and tossed a ball around with my grandfather on
the lawn or helped him weed his small garden.

Because of the influence and presence of my grandparents (my mother’s
parents), my problems decreased. More often than not, my mother would
go off with her cousin Alice, leaving me behind. Alice’s arrival frequently
corresponded with noticeable changes in my mother’s behavior. Alice was
stern yet generally pleasant towards me. However, when they left together,
they would return in a giggly or light-hearted mood, which would come
crashing down a few hours later. I found the sudden mood shifts to be the
most troubling occurrence because it added uncertainty and fear to my already
besieged mind. One afternoon, though, while my grandparents were
out for the day, my mother and her cousin called me into the small bedroom
my mother was staying in at the end of the house.

Mother closes the curtains and shades, leaving just a shaft of sunlight entering the
room. She held a large red case, almost like a toolbox of some sort. She opened
the case and took out some items, including candles, a bell, incense, goblet,
matches, and a book. The book was entitled The Satanic Bible. She placed the
black and red candles around in a pattern that she refers to as a pentagram
with a circle around it. She ordered me into the imaginary circle and told me
to remain silent and not leave the center of the circle for any reason,” or else.”

She and Alice joined me in the circle while they lit a burner and then some
incense. The snaking trail of smoke climbed towards the ceiling. The ritual
was both exciting and frightening. She picked up the book and looked over at
me, smiling. She told me that she would pray to Satan and summon demons,
but the demons were not allowed to enter the circle. As long as I remained
calm, I would be protected.

She began the mass by ringing the bells; she used the book to speak words
I’d never heard before. The ringing echoed faintly in the room, combining
with the sweet smell of the incense. I felt almost dizzy, overcome by a giddy
feeling of excitement.

She proceeded to cut herself with a silver knife with an ornate looking
pearl handle, just enough to draw a steady trickle of blood from her finger, allowing
it to flow into a tarnished bronze colored chalice. Alice took the knife
and sliced her own finger, allowing drops of blood to fall into the chalice. My
mother held the chalice upwards as an offering and mumbled a few words.
After placing it back on the ground, she took a long slender writing instrument
and dipped it into the blood. The blood served as the ink, allowing her
to write on a small blank piece of white paper. I couldn’t see the writing, but
she told me it was an offering for our luck and fortune. She ripped the paper
into small pieces and set it ablaze. The mass finished with a final ringing of
the bells, driving away the demons.

I couldn’t see these creatures, but the air was laden with smoke and darkness.
I was sure the demons were there.

That afternoon was my first introduction to the “Lucifer,” originally the chosen
angel. The year was 1976 but on this otherwise bright summer afternoon,
it might have been 1692. Witchcraft was alive and well in the suburbs of

Mother and Alice repeated this scene several times during the summer,
always when my grandparents were out of the house. Since these rituals were
never performed in their presence, I always wondered what the ramifications
would be if they found out. As strange as it sounds, these were the few times I
felt emotionally close and accepted by my mother, so I was grateful for them.

As October approached, we were on the road once again. My mother,
Alice and I settled down one town over into a small cottage in the woods
of Carver. The cottage was just a ten minutes’ drive from my grandparents’
home, nestled amid lush green pines and small evergreen trees. Alice worked
for the state in Boston and money my mother received from welfare covered
the cottage’s rent. The commute from Carver to Boston was long, so Alice left
early in the morning before I got the bus and did not return home until the
sun had set. My mother spent a great deal of time sleeping during these times,
taking various prescriptions that generally left her tired and moody.

Loving the outdoors and the woods, I approved of our new home’s location.
Surrounded by miles of forest and a large lake that reflected the sunlight
in shimmering ripples of yellow, it was almost a boy’s dream come true. The
dream didn’t last long though.

I started the third grade at age nine that autumn. School became an issue
for me almost immediately. The first day I climbed into the bus, the driver
assumed I was a girl, as did the kids on the bus.

“Who are you?” the bus driver inquired, searching his list.

Before I could answer, he said, “Oh, there must be a mistake. Your name
is Danielle, right?”

I looked at him in surprise, “No, it’s Daniel!” I snapped back. The kids
in the front seat immediately giggled and pointed at me. I looked down and
began blushing.

The bus driver cleared his throat. “Well, Danielle is French for Daniel. So
climb on in, let’s go.”

This led to the unavoidable teasing and taunting one would naturally
expect from such a mistake. I could barely contain the tears of shame though
I did a reasonable job of keeping some composure for the trip to school. My
natural femininity provided a constant source of irritation throughout the
first semester, though eventually the kids forgot about it. Perhaps subconsciously,
I began to isolate myself.

Yet school was only a passing nuisance because my mother’s attitude towards
me changed quickly. She resented my growing desire for privacy and
independence. Away from the influence of my grandparents, my mother’s disposition
soured. The cycle of accusations and threats began to accelerate, taking
on a more menacing tone.

Book Trailer:  http://www.daniel-mathews.com/site-news/tdop-book-trailer-released/    

Discuss this book in our PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads by clicking HERE

    About The Author

An avid reader of science fiction, horror, and fantasy, Daniel R. Mathews is a novelist and nonfiction writer whose books feature LGBT youth braving danger with honor and dignity, including his personal memoir, The Demons of Plainville, and debut horror novel, The Unseen Kingdom. For the past two decades, Mathews has worked as a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certified ground instructor, meteorologist, and a member of the web development and Internet technical support community. He currently lives in Flagstaff, Arizona.   

Connect with Daniel R. Mathews:

Website: www.daniel-mathews.com

Facebook: http://facebook.com/AuthorDanielMathews 

Twitter: http://twitter.com/DanielRMathews

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/Daniel_R_Mathews  

 Virtual Book Tour Page

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Interview with Alan A. Winter, author of Island Bluffs

Title: Island Buffs
Author: Alan A. Winter
Publisher: KBPublishing
Genre: Thriller/Suspense
Format: Kindle/Paperback

 Island Bluffs is a story of love, forgiveness, and understanding the dark side of the human spirit. It explores the age-old question: are children accountable for the sins of their parents and grandparents? Carly Mason is a successful New York City forensic dentist. She and her widower husband, Gabe Berk, are trying to start a family. Thinking they had exhausted the options by consulting with all of Manhattan’s fertility experts, Carly and Gabe learn of an eccentric scientist who runs an exclusive clinic. The doctor commits to helping the couple conceive the baby they so desperately want, but only if they agree to what seems like an outrageous stipulation; Carly must carry twins, one biological and one that she is a surrogate for. Once the twins are born Carly has to surrender the non-biological twin to the doctor at birth, no questions asked. Further, should the old doctor die before Carly gives birth, she has to agree to give the baby the name chosen by the doctor. As required for treatment, Carly and Gabe move into a new house, which is within thirty minutes of the clinic. They soon discover that their new home and town, Island Bluffs, are far from ordinary. Carly and Gabe feel eyes spying on them at every turn. Gabe’s father, Yehuda, hears strange noises that only he can hear. Megan, Gabe’s rebellious sixteen-year-old daughter from a previous marriage, is attracted to the son of a Neo-Nazi. The mysteries continue to deepen as a scavenger ship appears on nearby waters searching for sunken treasure along with glimpses of a lone swimmer lumbering through the waves of Barnegat Bay. Island Bluffs is a present-day town bound to the past by horrible secrets and pacts made long ago. Keeping secrets buried as some had hoped was no longer an option for the Berks. Their new and some thought long-forgotten home made that impossible by putting them squarely in the middle of it all. When the truths are revealed, the shocking twists and turns will challenge the very notions of what is right and wrong.

  ORDER INFORMATION Island Bluffs is available for purchase at  


Q: Please tell us about (insert book title here), and what inspired you to write it.

A:  One day, a lawyer that I knew, gave me an unexpected answer when I asked how he was feeling. “Do you really want to know?” he asked. I assured him I did or I would not have posed the question. His answer astounded. “I had a rough time of it, last night. The ghost in my house kept me up all night.”

Boy, did that get my attention. I asked him to elaborate and when he did, the story he revealed was nothing short of amazing (to me) and right then and there, I knew I had to write about it. I used his true story as the basis for a book and that is how “Island Bluffs” came to be written.

Q: What themes do you explore?

A: “Island Bluffs” is multilayered. It plumbs the age-old question of forgiveness and explores how people can go on with their lives after having experienced horrific events. A unique part of this book explores this theme from three different viewpoints: an aged American GI who lost the love of his life during the WWII, a Holocaust survivor, and a survivor of the Mengele Twin Experiments.
Another theme explored in “Island Bluffs” delves into the question: are children and grandchildren responsible for the sins of their parents?

And lastly, “Island Bluffs” offers a unique twist on the Nature vs. Nurture debate . . . in a way that has not been tackled in any book to date.

Q: Why do you write?

A: I write because I am compelled to write. I need to write. It is part of me. I started writing thirty years ago and not only fell in love with the process of writing, but realized that it was necessary to keep my mind healthy. When I am not writing, I think about writing. My characters are always with me and even when I am in the midst of writing a new book, which I am now, I am already plotting and researching the next story. It is a switch that cannot be turned off.

Q: How picky are you with language?

A: I am not only picky with language (as I know it to be correct), but I am very in sync with rhythm. I try to make my sentences lyrical, I tried to have them almost be melodic. And by that, I do not mean musical. Rather, it is the cadences that are important to me. To do this, I read my sentences out loud to hear how they sound. I repeat this many times until I am satisfied that they not only work with language, but with the right amount of syllables and “beats.”

Q: When you write, do you sometimes feel as though you were being manipulated from afar?

A: I don’t feel it some times; I feel it all the time. For me, writing is channeling. I am comfortable starting a book and having no clue what the ending is going to be. Frankly, I never know the ending. What I rely on and have faith in is that my characters will guide me to the right ending. And in every book, including “Island Bluffs,” they have. You see, I trust my characters to be truthful . . . and truthful characters bring a story to the right conclusion.

Q: What is your worst time as a writer?

A: The worst time I had as a writer is when I realized that after proofreading my previous novel, “Savior’s Day,” many, many times and after having corrected all the typos, I found more than a hundred typos in the final version after it was in print. That killed me. I immediately pulled the book, hired editors (not one but two), corrected everything and then had the book republished.

Q: Your best?

A: My best time as a writer is when I am in front of my computer writing. Oh, I could turn a cliché and say that it was the first time I held a book in my hand, and it was just like holding a newborn child - and it is - but that is a happy time, a satisfied time, and time of accomplishment. The best time is every time I write.

Q: Is there anything that would stop you from writing?

A: I do not say this lightly:  dementia. Short of that, I cannot imagine anything stopping me from writing because I write for me, not for anyone else. My father-in-law wrote four books after he had a debilitating stroke, was completely paralyzed in his dominant hand, and could no longer speak. So physical handicaps are limitations to writing. They can present as huge speed bumps but they are not barriers that bring writing to a halt.

Q: What’s the happiest moment you’ve lived as an author?

A: Now that we are speaking about happy, I would say holding my first novel in my hand. That was quite a thrill.

Q: Is writing an obsession to you?

A: Writing is a passion for me, not an obsession.

Q: Are the stories you create connected with you in some way?

A: My stories are independent of each other, though I have had two different characters appear in subsequent books because they brought compelling skills that enhanced the new story. The stories, themselves, are in no way related. If I were to pick one writer that I most admire and am most like, it would be Michael Crichton. His works covered a host of subjects, that spanned different locations, and even different time periods. Mine follow those patterns.

Q: Ray Bradbury once said, “You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.” Do you agree?

A: I would not use the phrase “drunk on writing” when it comes to separating the vagaries of everyday life from interfering with one’s literary abilities. Rather, I would say that writers need to compartmentalize their writing from their everyday activities. When I write, I do so in complete quiet and I don’t need to block out the world more than that. I find that I go into that zone necessary to concentrate on my writing without any additional effort.

Q: Where is your book available?

A: “Island Bluffs” is available on Amazon, Barnes&Noble, and on eBook.com

Q: Do you have a website or blog where readers can find out more about you and your work?

Yes.  www.alanwinter.com has more information about me and all my books.


At first blush, Alan is quick to say that he never intended to be a writer. But when he thinks about it, he's been writing in one form or another, for his entire adult life. In college, he wrote paper after paper for his history and literature courses. Professionally, he edited a dental journal and wrote more than twenty scientific papers. That still doesn't explain how a dentist came to write fiction!

 It started in 1982 when Alan made small talk with a patient about a sci-fi idea he had. She thought the idea was so terrific, she urged him to write a movie treatment about it. Alan dismissed her offhand. What did he know about writing movies?

 The patient persisted. Each time she would visit his office, she would demand to see the finished movie treatment. Seeing she was serious and relentless, Alan agreed to hand her a treatment. But how? He had no clue where to start. Asking other patients for guidance, Alan was introduced to a young screenwriter who agreed - for a fee - to write the treatment. They worked together, produced a treatment, and shopped it around to a number of studios. One studio took the idea (without permission or payment) and turned Alan's treatment into a movie.

 Alan experienced two revelations at the time:

 1. Rather than waste energy being litigious, be flattered that a studio felt Alan's idea was worthy of turning it into a movie. Knowing a stranger valued his creativity supported all of his future projects. 2. Collaborating with the screenwriter gave Alan the validation he needed that if and when he chose to write a book, it wouldn't be foolhardy...not that it really mattered what others thought!

 Still, Alan had no desire to write fiction. That changed in 1985. That was the year that Alan began writing his first novel, "Someone Else's Son," which was eventually published by MasterMedia, Ltd.

 What prompted Alan to write "Someone Else's Son" is a story in itself. When Alan completed his periodontal training at Columbia, he joined a prestigious Fifth Avenue periodontal practice. Day after day, the well-to-do, prominent patients asked Alan if he was old enough to be a dentist. (He looked that much younger than the two senior partners). Trying to convince the patients that he was old enough to be a dentist and, therefore, experienced enough to treat them, Alan put his two sons' pictures on the treatment room wall. When his third son was born, he added that one, too. Every few months, he updated the photos.

 But a curious thing happened on a daily basis. The patients kept asking why Alan had pictures of children on the wall. When he replied, "They're not just any children; those are my sons," no one believed him. They claimed the boys looked too dissimilar to be brothers. They joked that he must have taken the wrong one home from the hospital. Though this was not the case (at least he didn't think so), Alan wondered what he would've done had he discovered, years later, that he and his wife had brought the wrong child home from the hospital. The result was "Someone Else's Son."

 While maintaining his periodontal practice, Alan has continued to write since he first took up pen to paper, although now he is very appreciative that his mother forced him to take typing in summer school after his sophomore year of high school. Boys just didn't do that back in the '60s, but it has been an invaluable skill over the years.

 In 1999, "Snowflakes in the Sahara" was published by iUniverse. "Savior's Day," also published by iUniverse, was published in 2013 to critical acclaim. It was selected by Kirkus Reviews as a Best Book of 2013.

 "Island Bluffs," Alan's newest novel, is published by KB Publishing to excellent reviews. He is at work on his next novel, "The Legacy of Izaak Wolf," about an adolescent with Asperger's Syndrome achieves the near impossible to save his family from a surefire calamity. Alan and Lori live in his native New Jersey. They have five children and five grandchildren.  

For More Information

Visit Alan’s website.

Interview with Anne C. Graham, author of Profit In Plain Sight

Anne C. Graham is on a mission to help 5 million business leaders and their teams double their profit per employee – or more in less than one year, in less time than they’re spending on email.  Drawing on over 25 years of deep profit and growth expertise from her “in the trenches” and executive experiences with Fortune 500 companies and smaller firms, she closes the all-too-frequent gap between the good intentions vs. year-end results.  The solution is the roadmap she wishes she’d had - a Profit Plan that transforms “we don’t have the budget for that!” into a “YES!” to funding every greater dream and goal for their business as they create prosperity for their company, their employees, their customers, and their communities.

As a best-selling author, international speaker, and accelerator, Anne inspires thousands of business leaders each year to Profit… On Purpose by moving past conventional thinking to discover Profit In Plain Sight.  Audiences and clients love Anne’s fun and interactive approach based on value to the customer, NOT accounting, and her ability to create profound AHA! Moments so that participants leave with a new perspective of their possibilities plus practical actions they can implement for immediate impact.  Anne is the Managing Director of the Legendary Value Institute, a popular faculty member in an award-winning MBA program, and a passionate boater on west coast of British Columbia.

You can visit Anne’s website at www.ProfitInPlainSight.com 

Contact Anne at:
Website: www.ProfitInPlainSight.com
Author Website: www.AnneCGraham.com
Blog: http://annecgraham.com/read-the-blog/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AnneCGrahamAuthorProfitInPlainSight?fref=tsFacebook: http://www.facebook.com/AnneCGraham
Twitter: https://twitter.com/AnneCGraham 
Linked In: https://www.linkedin.com/in/annecgraham
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6475264.Anne_C_Graham

Author Interview

Can you tell us what your book is about?

Profit in Plain Sight: The Proven Leadership Path to Unlock Profit, Passion and Growth emboldens readers to shift outdated thinking and quickly uncover profits by answering these persistent management challenges: 

1.       How can I get my employees to behave like owners and care about our bottom line?
2.       How can I stop losing money on customers without firing them?
3.       How can we increase customer loyalty?
4.       How can we increase top-line growth and revenues?
5.       How can we increase bottom-line growth and profits?
6.       How can we improve and leverage our reputation for quality?
7.       How can we innovate in value-add ways without spending a lot of money on R&D?

Every chapter begins with what I call the Tough Love questions that leaders need to be asking their teams… dispels the common myths about business that we’ve all been taught… tackles core challenges head-on… and closes with specific solutions and an Action Plan that’s designed to be implemented in less time per week than executives are spending on email per day.  Throughout each chapter are colorful stories from my own experiences and those of my clients, designed to create AHA! Moments that inspire the reader to think about the possibilities in their own business.  Profit in Plain Sight is all about creating a Profit Plan based on delivering value to customers, and earning profit safely, sustainably, and with integrity so that leaders can finally transform 7 of the deadliest words in business – “We don’t have the budget for that!” – into all the profit they need to fund the growth they want.

Why did you write your book?

Several years ago, I embarked on a mission to reach and impact 5 million business leaders to help them transform scarcity into abundance, after having the experience of seeing the world’s second largest computer company bleed to death and downsize 120,000 people worldwide by trying to grow revenues at the expense of profits.  My career disappeared along with many others.  I took on several challenging turnarounds in the years that followed because I had created a profitable division at the failed company and I wanted to see if I could do it again… and again.  My approach delivered results in several different industries, in companies large and small, as I kept seeing the same pattern:  firms trying to profit at the expense of their employees, or at the expense of their customers.  Neither worked.  Its only when you engage your employees in creating value for customers that you earn the profits you need to fund growth safely, sustainably, and with integrity, and I became passionate about that cause.  Profit in Plain Sight  provides leaders with a 5 step Profit Plan that is all about employees and customers, without a scrap of dry accounting content!

What kind of message is your book trying to tell your readers?

The message in Profit in Plain Sight is one of empowering leaders at all levels to determine their company’s level of success, regardless of what the economy is doing.  Unlike Gordon Gecko’s “Greed is Good”, Profit in Plain Sight is about “Good, Not Greed”.  Only companies who have a healthy bottom line that’s not at the whim of economic turmoil can create sustainable employment, take care of their customers, create great experiences for them, and invest for growth even when they can’t or won’t take on more debt.  As a veteran of several recessions who often found those were the best times for seizing opportunity, I’m concerned by the number of leaders I speak to who feel like victims of the economy and choose to hunker down whenever there’s a blip; that’s what puts us into recessions, and keeps us stuck in post-recession hangovers.  The simple principles and action plans in Profit in Plain Sight give business leaders the confidence and tools they need to be responsible for their own destiny.

Is it hard to publish a nonfiction book?

It’s a steep learning curve to develop a great self-published book through the writing, editing, design, and distribution process, but well worth it.  It’s an intricate dance once working with a major publisher because they have more experience and thus different ways of doing things.  I’m extremely grateful for the support and patience that the good folks at Morgan James showed me as a rookie writer.

Which author(s) do you admire?

There are so many authors who’ve had an impact in my career, and I recognize many of them along with their books in a substantial list at the end of Profit in Plain Sight.  Jim Collins had a significant impact on my outlook on business with his bookGood to Great and on the way I wrote Profit in Plain Sight.  As with many leaders, I was inspired by Collins’ stories of great companies, but I really struggled to put it into practice when I was in charge of a tough turnaround.  In fact, trying to get to “Great” created what I consider to be the greatest failure in my career!  When I analyzed why, two things emerged.  One of them was that a key difference between my failed turnaround and the previous string of successes involved getting mired behind my desk dealing with internal issues instead of connecting deeply at an executive level with my customers, to find out how to serve them in the future and let that set my agenda.  That theme – that only customers create cash flow – became central to Profit in Plain Sight.  My  challenges in implementing Good to Great led to an uncommon breakthrough in Profit in Plain Sight – I created over 15 complimentary downloadable learning resources with links in every chapter so that executives who are serious about transforming their business never have to reinvent the wheel.

Have you suffered from writer’s block and what do you do to get back on track?

I occasionally suffer from writer’s block on days when I have to write my blog.  My solution is to go for a brisk 60 minute walk with my iPhone.  In almost no time at all, I find myself dictating blog ideas into the Notes app so that they’re written down instead of stored verbally, and then it’s just a matter of sending them to my word-processor and polishing them up when I return to the office. 

Writer’s block was never a problem with the book.  In fact, verbal diarrhea might have been a more accurate description!  The original manuscript ended up being over 1000 pages – clearly too much for just one book.  On the advice of peer-reviewers, I divided the manuscript into two – I had always planned to write a second book, and now it seems that I already have!  Many of the how-to’s in the original book became the downloads and learning videos that add value for leaders who wish to go deeper, creating a better flow to the book and a more reasonable page count.

What would you do with an extra hour today if you could do anything you wanted?

With an extra hour I would do what I tell my readers and consulting clients to do – go and meet with a customer face-to-face.  Sam Palmisano, the former CEO and Chair of IBM, met with a customer every single day during his 12 years at the helm, and credits his customers with showing him how IBM needed to transform to remain relevant and valuable to them as a partner.  Meeting with a customer is also where all the FUN is in a business.  Almost every executive I know went into business because they were passionate about using their creativity to solve their customers’ problems.  Years of sitting behind a desk dealing with email and spreadsheets is enough to eliminate that passion from almost any business.  And it’s so simple to put back in.  That’s why the subtitle of Profit in Plain Sight is “The Proven Leadership Path to Unlock Profit Passion and Growth”.  Nothing will transform your business more quickly than regularly listening to the voice of your customers.

What do you like to do for fun?

I love to spend summer days on my 36’ boat enjoying the pristine beauty of the coast of British Columbia.  A quiet bay and lovely scenery is a reset button for me after a busy work schedule with clients or travel for speaking engagements.  Coincidentally, I find my creativity is unleashed every time I’m on the water, so the boat also makes a perfect place for tremendously productive writing time – that’s where most of Profit in Plain Sight was written.  I also love to travel to places with beautiful beaches or beautiful architecture, and once again it’s a blend of work and play, because my next-best place for getting creative ideas is at 30,000 feet.

What do you like the most about being an author?

I love the impact I can have.  So many readers have reached out to me at speaking engagements or via email to share the difference that sharing my school-of-hard-knocks experience has made in their business.  One executive credits what he learned with saving his marriage, because his business went from struggling to thriving.  Another shared the impact on his company’s ability to invest for growth and be a good employee when they went from a loss of almost 10K per employee to profits of $27K per employee in just one year – all because of a single wake-up call they received in one chapter of Profit in Plain Sight.  Making that kind of a difference is the reason I do what I do.  And I love to hear successes like those.

What kind of advice would you give other non-fiction authors?

Engage your potential readers early in being part of the creative process – they’ll love it!  I title-tested extensively with my speaking audiences, and they came up with a far better title than I was working with.  I also engaged many of them to peer-review my early chapters, and they provided excellent advice on what was resonating with them, what was confusing to them, what was interesting, and what was just  plain too much detail.  I believe in creating products that your customers want to buy, and their feedback made me a better writer, better able to address their needs and deliver a great  product to them.

About The Book

Title:  Profit In Plain Sight
Author: Anne C. Graham
Publisher:  Morgan James
Publication Date: July 7, 2015
Pages: 289
Format: eBook / Hardcover / Paperback / PDF
ISBN: 978-1-63047-293-1 
Genre: Business

Discuss this book in our PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads by clicking HERE

Buy The Book:
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Profit-Plain-Sight-Leadership-Passion/dp/1630472913/ref=sr_1_2?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1434998346&sr=8-2&keywords=profit+in+plain+sight

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/profit-in-plain-sight-anne-c-graham/1120518388?ean=9781630472917

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23331219-profit-in-plain-sight

Book Description:
  1. 84% of business owners and CEOs surveyed score a C, D or F on the Return on People Benchmark - they can't even give every employee a decent raise, let alone hire, invest in facilities, equipment or technology, or expand into new markets!
  2. 40% companies who increase their revenues in a given year will actually decrease their profits… and there’s a better way to increase both.
  3. 96% of companies will put their greater goals on hold this year with one simple phrase: We don't have the budget for that.
Imagine if leaders were able to break free of their profit constraints, stop being victims of exchange rates and oil prices, and be in control of earning all the profit they need to fund the growth they want.

Savvy entrepreneurs would never start a new business without a Business Plan.  Experienced executives would never try to lead their business without a Strategic Plan.  But almost every manager confesses that they don’t have a Profit Plan beyond their P&L, and that means that profit becomes the leftovers between disappointing revenues and higher-than-expected costs.

Profit in Plain Sight offers the Profit Plan that’s missing, with a step-by-step roadmap that enables these busy leaders to grasp the big picture, and to implement solutions in less time per week than they are spending on email per day.

Unlike many  business books, Profit in Plain Sight gives readers access to the “hows”, not just the “shoulds”, with downloadable training resources and action plans  at the end of every chapter, plus regular opportunities for the reader to reflect on how their thinking is changing and growing.

This book finally helps leaders who are passionate about their business have all the profit they need to fund the growth they want, with tough questions to start changing the conversations in everyday management meetings, with practical, actionable techniques that are quite different from conventional cost-cutting approaches or the all-too-dangerous “increase revenues at all costs” techniques.  Instead, Profit In Plain Sight offers take-it-to-the-bank results.    

Book Excerpt:

Prepare to Transform Your Most Persistent Market Challenges into Profit, Passion, and Growth

… with The Proven Leadership Path that Delivers Results

  • How much easier would igniting profit, passion, and growth be if everyone in your business embraced change and became part of it?
  • What would be possible if transforming your business felt more like play than like work?
  • How quickly could you turn good intentions into tangible results if you simply could take small steps that require less time than you are devoting to e-mail in a given day?

IBM is a legendary company, not only because of its enduring success for over 100 years in the fast-changing world of technology, but because it leads its category by a factor of four in terms of
profitability and continues to transform itself to generate growth opportunities. Customers are incredibly loyal, the company has a stellar reputation for quality, and, as the holder of more patents than any other high-technology company, its strengths in innovation are readily apparent. It seems that IBM has found ways to conquer some stubborn challenges, doesn’t it?

But it didn’t start that way. IBM’s roots go back to the 1880s and at one time its products consisted of employee time-keeping systems, weigh scales, automatic meat slicers, coffee grinders, and punched card equipment. Hardly the glamorous “Creating a Smarter Planet” organization we know today.

IBM’s secrets to success came from an unlikely resource who was named President in 1915: Thomas J. Watson, the second in command at National Cash Register. With just a few practical
tenets, Watson laid down the enduring foundation for IBM’s success — a focus on the customer and on customer service, a sales culture that built trust and respect, and an environment that instilled pride and loyalty into every worker. The result? Profit, passion, and growth, with integrity. In the 1990s, IBM had to reinvent itself or risk becoming irrelevant in the marketplace, which it did by reemphasizing its customer focus and creating clarity in its positioning.
In the 2000s, it had to reinvent itself again as the competitive landscape shifted once more, which it did by emphasizing its role in providing integrated solutions, not merely products.

This is not a book about IBM. But as subsequent legendary leaders have proven, those enduring, practical tenets can serve every business well.

How Many of these Stubborn Market Challenges Are Grinding You Down?

Each year a variety of organizations publish lists of the Top 10 CEO Challenges based on polling business owners and leaders. And inevitably, five stubborn market-related issues keep coming up again and again on these lists, although the order may shift from year to year:

1. Earning Customer Loyalty and Retention
2. Generating Sustained and Steady Top-Line Growth
3. Ensuring Bottom-Line Growth in Profit
4. Building a Corporate Reputation for Quality Products and Services
5. Stimulating Innovation and Creativity and Enabling Entrepreneurship

Why don’t we ever get traction and put those Challenges behind us? Because 70 years of thought leadership in the business press, from universities and in executive programs, has left us with more shoulds than hows and a lot of flavor-of-the-month distractions that sound promising but are hard to translate into bottom-line impact.

Let’s change that.

This Book Is for You When …

… most of the books you’ve read are sitting on your shelf and have not had any impact on your business;
… some of the books you’ve read have inspired you but you struggled when you tried to put them into practice because the author shared the shoulds but left you to figure out the hows; and
… you’ve tried to implement ideas in the past as an army of one only to run out of steam, run out of time, or run out of focus when you find yourself spending more time trying to get people to change and get on board than actually implementing anything.

Move Beyond the Myths

Here’s your wake-up call and a bold promise.

We’re Too Busy

FACT: All of us are busy. None of us have spare time. Or do we? Over 90% of executives polled admit that they spend between 1 and 2 hours a day on e-mail … often more. So here’s your wake-up call: unless you work in the order entry department, e-mail does not move the needle in your business because it does not create cash flow, profit, or growth. In fact, it leaves you working everyone  else’s agenda when, as a leader, it is up to you to set the direction and lead by doing. E-mail is a nice, easy, reactive way to start the day and waste most of the morning. And it’s killing your company.

We Have to Be “Always On”

FACT: We’re tethered to responding instantaneously to our phones, our e-mail, and other interruptions, and there are times when that’s appropriate, but more often it’s simply busy work. I’m not saying that you have to abandon e-mail — it’s a part of our lives in the 21st century, just as the telephone and voice mail became a reality in the 20th. But what is currently in your in-box or on your priority list that is more important than securing the future of your business for your employees, your family, and your community? What’s more important than building a profitable, growing business
that can weather any economic turmoil that global change can throw at it?

There’s No Way Out

FACT: The noise is getting louder now that texting and social media elements are also in the mix of e-mail, voice mail, and more. Yet one simple shift is all that’s required to completely transform
noise into results, and I invite you to share Appendix 1 with your entire organization to help them make that shift. In the meantime, here’s my bold promise.

If you have time for e-mail, you have time
to once and for all overcome the stubborn
business challenges holding you back.

When you follow the Solutions in Plain Sight outlined in this book and access the Rapid Results Resources that ensure you never have to waste precious time reinventing the wheel, you will transform your business in less time than you’re currently spending on e-mail.

Close the Gaps when you apply uncommon strategies and tactics that will shift your thinking forever

Our biggest challenge as business leaders at all levels is simply to overcome the thinking that’s kept us stuck with those Challenges. Many of us were taught old-world thinking, long before today’s realities of the Internet, globalization, recurring corporate scandals, all-too-frequent recessions, and a rate of change that’s difficult to keep up with. It’s time to hold our beliefs, myths, and common practices up to a very harsh light of uncommon sense and retool for the future. It’s time to replace them with a road map that delivers results. This first section, Possibilities, is going to give you two powerful tools to do just that.

Most businesses won’t succeed in making the shift. They’ll remain mired in the “we’ve always done it this way” paradigm, because they simply won’t invest the time and energy to be open
to new approaches, and they won’t take the time to build a road map that takes them to their Possibilities, step by step. They’ll continue to default back to “business as usual,” because they think it’s easier, even though they know it’s not working, and they need a new approach. Unfortunately, they’re unknowingly making their lives and the lives of everyone in the organization more difficult, and more uncertain.

Take a look at the shapes Figure 1. How many forms of transportation can you spot? Look carefully, as the shapes hold the key to your transformation. How many did you see? What were they? (Go to Appendix 2 for the answer.)

Rapid Results Resources: Put some energy into your regular meetings and start the process of
Transformation with “The 101 Questions You MUST Ask Your Leadership Team.” Use a couple of the questions every week to get your team thinking about Profit, Passion, and Growth, and to get their creative juices flowing. Download your copy at www.ProfitInPlainSight.com/101Questions.

Solutions in Plain Sight: Inform. Inspire.
Motivate. Systematically Transform.

By opening the cover of Profit in Plain Sight, you’ve already taken your first step to becoming more open, more focused, and more successful. You’ve taken your first step towards creating a process for sustainable levels of increased profits. And you’ve taken your first step that will differentiate your business from your competitors’ when you implement well. Just keep turning the pages to make it happen.

Infuse Your Employees With Possibilities

What does it mean to Infuse employees? It means embedding the desire to be part of something more, to be the best, to behave every day in ways that add value to your customers, and to earn profit with integrity that will help the entire company grow and succeed in the future.

It means engaging them with the Drivers of Transformation that you’ll see in Part I, Possibilities, which will give them the powerful AHA! Moments of information, inspiration, and motivation.

It means involving them in creating the road map forward, because information, inspiration, motivation, and good intentions need to be turned into action before you can transform stubborn challenges into Profit, Passion, and Growth (see Figure 2).

People support what they create. When you Infuse your teams with the passion and talent to be part of the solution, you’ll divide and conquer the workload and transform your profit and growth more easily than you might imagine.

Enthuse Your Customers

What does it mean to Enthuse your customers? It means creating an environment where they love doing business with you and know that your success is part of their success, because you save them time, make or save them money, solve real problems for them, give them peace of mind, and make them feel good. It means being the path of least resistance and getting it right the first time. It means they’re happy to pay for the value you provide.

It’s what happens in Part II, Practicalities, when you take action with the systematic approach of the Profit in Plain Sight Framework to solve the five stubborn challenges that are holding you back from leading your market by industriously activating your road map to success (see Figure 3).

1.      Activate the power of Infused employees with the Two Drivers of Transformation.
2.      Trigger the factors that Enthuse customers as you systematically overcome five stubborn market-driven challenges with integrated solutions that build upon each other.
3.      Achieve Profit, Passion, and Growth … in less time than you’re spending on e-mail.

Overcome Your Biggest Obstacles

Right now you may be thinking you don’t have the time. Your people aren’t onside. You have other priorities that need your attention and focus. You’re uncertain of whether you can make a commitment to see this through. You don’t believe that significant profit increases are possible in your business or in your industry. Hogwash!

Bringing the voices of your customers into your organization is a powerful, counterintuitive, yet proven, approach to see what’s possible from a tactical perspective and will powerfully move you past “we’ve always done it this way” thinking with each of five stubborn market-driven challenges. In this book, you’ll learn exactly how to do that for results.

You’ll stop guessing at what it will take to keep your customers loyal for longer and know for certain how to become their preferred partner. You’ll stop guessing what they might value and know for certain how to deliver value to them that results in Top-Line Growth. You’ll stop applying bandaids to quality issues and get the sludge out of your system to stop the profit leaks and grow your Bottom Line. And you’ll know exactly how to avoid “me too” inventions that are passing for innovation and innovate in low-risk, low-cost ways that will set you apart from your competitors.

The Only Person Who Likes Change Is a Baby with a Wet Diaper

Even with technology, globalization, credit crunches, and economic turmoil, people still need to buy goods and services and people still do business with people. The need to enthuse your customers with the desire to do business with you and to infuse your staff with the passion and talent to deliver never changes.

What does need to change is how you tackle those five stubborn market-driven challenges, and therein lies the stumbling block.

Your people can’t buy into the typical approach of an endless stream of unrelated tasks, so-called best practices (which don’t differentiate you from your competitors), flavor-of-the-month management and proverbial silver bullets. Over 90% of business owners, leaders, and key employees polled admit they get lost chasing bright shiny objects, and those are simply the equivalent of trying to change nice, dry, comfortable diapers to icky wet diapers that don’t make sense to your people. Uncertainty, seemingly wasted time, wasted effort, confusion, and the feeling of a lack of progress simply causes fear and resistance.

Harvard Professor W. Earl Sasser was the first to refer to the plethora of stand-alone tactics as “Kidney Stone Management” (his lengthy list back in the 1990s has only expanded with time).
We’ve trained our staff to expect that whatever new idea is out there, it’s a kidney stone — it will only cause them pain for a while, it will pass, and business as usual can return. No wonder our people are burned-out and skeptical when so many new initiatives are launched, so many seem important, and so many run out of steam. Explain Kidney Stone Management to your executive and management teams at all levels. You’re guaranteed a few rueful chuckles of recognition and an AHA! Moment that indicates that approach is no longer going to be part of your leadership practices.

That’s the reason Profit in Plain Sight will make a difference when others haven’t — solving these Challenges for good comes down to realizing that you’re in wet diapers and wanting the dry ones you’ll get by shifting the way you do business. Dry diapers are the result of implementing the step-by-step road map of over 57 detailed, value-add Profit and Growth Accelerators for near term yet sustainable Profit, Passion, and Growth.

When your people have a mental map of where they’re going, and how they’re going to get there (see Figure 3), Kidney Stone Manage-ment is no longer a problem and they will be informed,
inspired, and motivated to get into the dry diapers. A systematic and integrated process rather than a series of disconnected events will consistently create successes and a sense of forward momentum and progress — the transformation you’re looking for.

You Don’t Have to Go It Alone

Unsuccessful businesspeople try to go it alone, reluctant to show their weakness by asking for help. Successful businesspeople ask for help all the time. They call it getting input and they know the value of not reinventing the wheel. Profit in Plain Sight is the window to Rapid Results Resources that are not just shoulds but specific hows — proven step-by-step instructions plus additional proven strategies and tactics that are beyond the scope of this book.

They deliver results more rapidly and easily than you might imagine. They deliver smart practices specifically implemented in the context of your unique company. All you have to do is commit to transforming conventional passive reading into active learning for results.

Every business leader who has succeeded in doubling their profitability or more — in less than one year, in less time than they and their team were spending on e-mail — has identified obstacles to success. And as they began the process, they found that each and every obstacle dissolved with the straightforward, practical approaches laid out in this book. At this point, all you need to do is finish reading the next two pages, and take the actions outlined. Then, turn the page and do it again. That’s it. Are you with me?


We’ve all heard that you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. But I always say that you can make the horse thirsty or make the water sweeter. From the sheer fact that you’re reading Profit in Plain Sight, I know you’re thirsty.

Make Your Horses Thirsty Too

Embracing a process to transform challenges into opportunities doesn’t come from rigorous change management processes that try to force-fit people into a change that they haven’t bought into. That’s just leading the horse to water. Instead, it comes from naturally leading your team where you want them to go by building an infused culture that thirsts for excellence and that reflects their desire to find the easiest and most effective ways to achieve that end. When you share this book throughout your organization, you’ll help lead your teams’ thirst for where you want them to go.

Make the Water Sweeter

Sweeter water means helping you and your organization find ways to streamline complexity and stay focused on what really drives your business forward. That’s where the systematic Profit in Plain Sight Framework is extremely valuable — bite-sized modules are easy to implement, in less time than you’re currently spending on e-mail. Make the process painless and make the water sweet when you take an integrated approach rather than succumbing to Kidney Stone Management.

I’ve spent time in the trenches “doing,” and even longer with the responsibilities of leading others. I’ve experienced the frustration of dealing with these Challenges over and over, just as you have.  I’ve used every one of these Solutions in Plain Sight, as a leader in large and small companies and with my consulting clients. They’ve worked across a broad range of industries and they’ll work for you too.

Simply. Accelerate Your Results

There is really only one theme to this book — driving Profit, Passion, and Growth. We’re going to put many lenses on that theme, but never lose sight of that as our goal.

There are only two outcomes you need to achieve in order to realize Profit, Passion, and Growth — enthusing your customers, and infusing your employees. I’ll show you what you need to do to
accomplish both.

There are Two Drivers of Transformation that serve as wet diapers to motivate change and, in Part I, you’ll see Possibilities as you learn how to activate them to kick-start the process and help
you measure success and progress.

There are 15 practical, actionable Solutions in Plain Sight in this book and a total of 57 Profit and Growth Accelerators in the Profit in Plain Sight Framework. In Part II, Shift to Practicalities,
you’ll see your Profit in Plain Sight road map unfold as we tackle each of the five stubborn market-driven challenges.

Whether you take action on every Challenge or cherry-pick just those that are holding your business back the most, you will see impact on your Profit. You’ll impact the Passion your teams bring to the business. And you’ll sow the seeds for Growth.

There are no quick fixes … but Rapid Results are within your reach.

You can reach and exceed your goals. You can secure your business from the ups and downs of economic turmoil, and invest in everything you need to take your business to the next level and help drive our economy forward. You can finally feel confident in your plan for the future.

If Not You, Who? If Not Now, When?

Work is slogging it out in isolation; play is getting support to achieve breakthroughs and feeling a sense of progress. So go ahead and put some play back in your day and some bucks on your bottom line.

This Works. You Can Do It. You Will Succeed.

Take these Actions

1.     Download your copy of “The 101 Questions You MUST Ask Your Leadership Teams” at
www.ProfitInPlainSight.com/101Questions to start changing the conversations at every level of your organization. This is an ideal tool for executives and mid-level managers to use to spice up your regular team meetings and begin to shift your culture to one of profit and growth.

2.     See Appendix 1 for the secrets of achieving focus and transformation in less time than you’re
currently spending on e-mail.

3.     Check out Appendix 2 for the solution to the “forms of transportation” brain teaser at the beginning of this Chapter.

Small Steps. Big Impact!

Five Minutes, Five Questions:
Reflect for Deeper Learning

Reflective questions at the end of every Chapter offer powerful deeper learning on how your thinking is changing, so that you can generate the AHA! Moments to break free of the conventional thinking that keeps you stuck when trying to solve five stubborn market-driven

Reflection simply means taking the time to monitor what’s happening in your own mind, evaluate what you’re learning, and ponder what is shifting or changing in terms of your attitudes and behaviors, with the goal of eventually building a new mental framework of how things work. This will allow you to continually add relevant information and discard the irrelevant.

Your first step is internal transformation, to identify what attitudes have already shifted and what behaviors will follow.

But the reflective process only works if you use it.

Ask yourself these questions right now:

1. How can I use the reframing approach I saw in the brain teaser as a metaphor for opportunities hidden in our business?

Which items on the list of five stubborn market-driven challenges are top of mind for me right now — and why?

How effectively are we solving those challenges today?

How often do our people see our efforts as Kidney Stones because we fail to give them the big picture with a road map for implementation?

How committed am I to create an environment where my horses are thirsty and the water is sweet?

Inform. Inspire. Motivate. Transform.
Enthuse. Infuse.

Are you ready to get started with the Two Drivers of Transformation that deliver big wake-up calls and pave the way to transform your business more quickly and easily than you might imagine?

If you prefer, you can go right to whichever Challenge is your greatest burning issue today, and then work backwards to put the foundational work in place that may be required to trigger the

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