Monthly Archives: July 2013

Hands Against the Wall

I usually try to keep my blog posts limited to writing related stuff, but today I’m going off the reservation.

I’m going to vent.

I’m kind of pissed…a little perplexed…and somewhat amused.

What could cause this mixed bag of emotions?

Facebook.

You know – the “social” network…

I’ve been on facebook since 2009. To date – I have 844 friends – and most of them are people I either know or at least share a mutual friend (or 12). I also have a fan page (https://www.facebook.com/BlindoggBooks) with 981 followers. I don’t spam people, I rarely post anything objectionable and I try my best to be a good cyber-citizen.

Imagine my surprise when I was notified recently that my account was locked-out from sending friend requests for 7 days. The reason? I sent a friend request to somebody and that person, instead of simply ignoring or declining my request, clicked the little box that says “I don’t know this person”.

lockout

Perhaps it was done innocently. Maybe they didn’t realize that by checking that box it sent a message to facebook that I was basically a stalker.

Here’s the biggest irony…this person (I don’t know who it was) was most likely recommended to me by facebook. You know – in the side bar where they list “people you may know”? At the very least I share a mutual friend with this person; otherwise I wouldn’t have sent them a request.

I don’t put the blame solely on this person for dropping a dime on me, as I said, it was probably done innocently. Maybe they didn’t realize what the repercussions would be if they checked the box. On the other hand – maybe they did it intentionally – which makes them a bit of a jerk and I’m better off not being friends with them anyway.

Facebook has a larger share of the blame, in my opinion.

Facebook bills itself as a “social network” – so let’s take a close look at that title.

The word Social is an adjective which means (among other things) of or relating to human society, the interaction of the individual and the group, or the welfare of human beings as members of society and tending to form cooperative and interdependent relationships with others.

Network in this context is a noun meaning an informally interconnected group or association of persons.

So given the definition of facebook, you would think the mission statement would read something along the lines of…

“To promote interactions between people previously unconnected and to nurture friendships through encouraged mingling.”

Instead facebook seems to have more of a “you can be friendly, but only to the extent to which we allow.”

jail cellMy friend Armand Rosamilia seems to get locked up once a month…and another friend of mine had to start a second page because her first one reached the “friend limit”.

 

 

I’m not a political science expert, but that seems like fascism or communism, or some other –ism.

dictators

Anti-socialism.

They have essentially established unilateral control over our interactions and mingling by instituting rules which punish people for doing that for which the site was created. It sounds more like a twisted social experiment than a social network.

Don’t get me wrong…I’m sure there are people out there who abuse the site and it is necessary to regulate them, but I am pretty damn sure I’m not one of them.

I think there is a very simple way to solve this problem…If a person decides to check the “I don’t know this person” box they should be prompted with this question – “By checking this box you are labeling this person as a stalker and sentencing them to facebook jail…are you sure you want to do this, or is this just somebody you don’t recognize and you’d rather not accept their friendship at this time?

Then as a failsafe if they still want to check the box they could be prompted with “Seriously? Just say no and go back to posting pictures of your friggin cats and telling us where you ate lunch. Idiot.

Maybe if this post is shared, reblogged, retweeted and passed around enough it will reach the facebook lawgivers and they will revisit a policy that is, for the most part, counter-intuitive to everything a social network should be.

That is all…I’m through ranting.

 

As always – thank you for reading

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The Castaways Take Off!!

Greeting dudes and chicks!…Tonight’s the Night!!!

The first radio broadcast by The Castaways (Armand Rosamilia, Becky Pourchot and me) will air tonight – Friday, July 26 – from 7:00 – 10:00 pm on Surf 17!!!

Our program will be dedicated to the artistic and creative side of Flagler Beach and beyond.

welcome to flaglerOur first show was recorded Tuesday and considering we had no appreciable radio experience and no rehearsal time we had a blast. We had no idea what we were doing, but we stumbled through it anyway! Since it was our introductory show, we naturally took some time to introduce ourselves – and then we moved on to cover a range of topics from our personal writing preferences to some advice to aspiring writers.

Mixed in among the talk and the shenanigans we also played some good songs.

You can listen to us wherever you are simply by tuning in to www.flaglerbeachradio.com and you can even tune in on your smart phone with the radio play app of your choosing.

surf 17

In the future we will be bringing you great information about – and interviews with – local writers, artists and all-around creative people…

Now that we’ve got the first show under our belts it’s a safe bet that we will have a blast every week.

All three of us want to thank Vern Shank for giving us a chance and also for coaching us through the process.

So tune in at 7:00 and check us out…at the very least you’ll get to hear Armand’s and Becky’s outrageous accents! (I, personally, have no discernible accent – sorry).

Don’t forget to like us on facebook and follow us on twitter!!

pier sunset

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As always – thank you for reading…and listening

 

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Why Authors are so Important

dream1dancer

Do you remember, as a child, how a story pulled you away from the present? Do you remember the thrill of discovering pirates and dragons. How your heart beat harder as you rushed to read on, to make sure your hero survived? This is way an Author is so important. He/She can take you away from now and set you down in a world of wonder and excitement. By their words, you discover new worlds, strange animals, magic.

The child in us all still seeks those long ago adventures. That first kiss thrill. That moment of enlightenment.  We don’t realize, as we read their words, how much the writer agonized over whether their characters would survive or die.  How the story carried them away as well even though they were the ones telling it.

The writer creates a world that is new and exciting. Just.For.You. They take great joy as…

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Interview with an American Hero

This story began in 1970 when I was ten-years-old.

I purchased a P.O.W. bracelet, which I still have. About a year ago, a friend suggested I try to locate the man named on the bracelet…

Bracelet

                Not only did I try, I succeeded.

            Captain Leon Ellis, as he is named on my bracelet, and I exchanged several emails and as it turns out, he has gone on to do amazing things with his life.

            After being shot down Capt. Ellis spent more than 5 years in North Vietnamese prison camps. Upon his release, he remained in the Air Force and eventually retired as a Colonel. In civilian life he decided to draw on his experiences as a POW to write an amazing book called Leading With Honor.

            In the book, Lee uses the unimaginable things he and the other captives endured to teach invaluable lessons in leadership.

            The book is nothing short of fantastic.

            While primarily intended for corporate and business leaders, the lessons are universal and can be employed by anybody.

            Although he is constantly touring to support his book, Lee was gracious enough to grant me an interview.

            It is with great pride that I present that interview…please enjoy my discussion with a genuine American Hero.

Ellis Plane

           

(Tim) In the opening chapter of Leading with Honor the reader is immediately pulled in by the amazing story of your plane being shot down and your subsequent capture. For those who haven’t read the book yet, can you briefly describe the thoughts you experienced in those moments? 

 (Lee) It was a combat pilot’s worst nightmare, being shot down over enemy territory.  Yet our training was so good my initial reaction was to stay focused in doing everything possible to evade capture.  I was working the process and hoping for the best.  Once I was captured, then the shock and fear hit like a truck.  Just being ejected from a high speed aircraft is a shock to your system and body, but being stripped to your underwear by the enemy, who is now in total control of your wellbeing, is pretty scary.  I soon gathered myself and decided to take it one step at a time doing my best to do my duty, survive and trust that God had a plan for my life. After all, I was still alive and that was a very positive thing compared to many of my fellow fighter pilot friends who never survive ejection and capture in this situation.

 

 (Tim) The conditions of your captivity are also described in great detail. As a reader I often found myself asking how anybody could survive such conditions. Was there anything in particular that kept you going?

 (Lee) There were several things.  As I mentioned earlier, great training.  We were well prepared for hardships.  Secondly, we were a competitive and optimistic group of people—most of the POWs in North Vietnam were aircrew members.  Great leadership really made the difference.  They were courageous servant leaders and their resilience set the example for the rest of us of how to lead with honor.  We wanted to keep up with them.  Of course there is the survival instinct—why wouldn’t you want to hang on and come home.  Finally, faith was crucial.  We had faith in our families and our country and each other, and especially, I think most of us believed, like Pres. Ronald Reagan did when he was shot, that we had been spared and that God had a purpose for us and would see us through. 

 

(Tim) Comparing your psyche before capture and after release…what would you say was the biggest change?

(Lee) By nature I was not much of a thinker, but more of a doer prior to being shot down.  I liked action and did not like sitting still and thinking.  Sitting in a POW cell for years with very limited mobility and no books, magazines, or TV we learned to use our minds to a much greater extent. I gained the ability focus and think deeply and to a much great level of complexity. For example I spent two months farming once—all in my head—just for something to do.  I became so engrossed in the project that I would work eight to ten hours a day solving all sorts of math problems and decisions related to equipment, prices and labor for raising crops, and animals.  Later, I memorized long poems and learned to speak Spanish and French plus several hundred German words.  Eventually we got some cards and I learned bridge.  It was probably a chess board that one of the fellows made that gave my brain the most rigorous workout.  Without all this mental exercise, I don’t think I could have ever written a book and now I’m working on my fourth.

            I’ve been told that I look pretty serious.  That’s probably more the case in outward appearance than before I was captured.  I’m quite happy on the inside, but I have to work at smiling more. And, I’m very aware of our many blessings and for the most part, I’m very thankful for the little things of life.  Also, after not having freedom for so long, I’m very aware of how important it really is for the human condition.  Finally, I would say I’m more conscientious about doing what is right.  That takes energy, commitment, and courage and it’s something that we all need to take more seriously.    

 

(Tim) The experiences you shared with your fellow P.O.W.s are unique to a very select few, did you have trouble identifying with “regular people” when you returned home? 

 (Lee) When we first came home, I think that may have been the case.  I was somewhat disappointed at the self-centeredness in others and the lack of discipline.  We had become hyper disciplined—it takes that in a POW camp to stay alive and it also takes that to live locked up in a cell with others for years.  As time went on, I adjusted but I’m still too judgmental of others who are undisciplined.  It helps to see my own issues with organization papers and keeping up with my glasses.  I’ve learned a lot about grace. 

 

(Tim) Obviously, you have no trouble discussing your captivity, was it always that way? Did you go through a period where you tried to block it out and avoid talking about it?

 (Lee) It’s never been a problem to discuss it.  I thnk this is because we had time to sit and talk with our comrades who had gone through the same experience.  Our treatment improved the last two years of captivity and was much more “live and let live.” This gave us time to decompress—something that our current warriors don’t get when they rotate back home and are at the dinner table with family within 24-48 hours.  In a way, we had two years of group therapy and that really turned out to be a blessing. 

 

(Tim) Do you harbor any resentment or bitterness toward the North Vietnamese? 

(Lee) During those last two years when the treatment better, we had time to reflect on what had happened and I think most of us realized we did not want to go home bitter.  After all, bitterness does not hurt the person you are bitter toward, it only hurts you. We were not going to allow bitterness to keep us in shackles after we were free, so we learned to let it go.  Maybe a big part of it all was our gratitude for being able to come home and then for the great reception that the POWs got on our return.  Unlike most Vietnam vets, we were well received with parades and lots of positive attention.  The war had ended and everyone celebrated that.  Also, a lot of attention had been focused on our plight for several years so people were very kind to us when we returned.  That made a big difference.  We sacrificed and we were rewarded.  Regular Vietnam vets sacrificed for their country and then were dis-honored even spit on.  That’s a pretty big disconnect to the psyche and in itself could cause bitterness.

            I do have an extreme dislike for communism. It destroys freedom and has been an economic failure in every case where it has been tried.  It can’t feed its people and only remains in power by terrorizing citizens.  The fact that some people still think it will work is amazing and a tribute to the power of propaganda. 

 

(Tim) After reading your book, I got the impression that the decision to turn your experience into a series of leadership lessons came relatively easy for you, as if it were pre-ordained. Is that true? 

(Lee) Not really, at least on the front end.  That was a huge and risky undertaking.  I had thought about writing a more autobiographical book for many years but had no real drive or purpose for doing so other than for my family and some people who had asked me to do it.  So I did try that about four years ago.  About halfway through I got some good feedback that it was good stories but not clear about purpose and no different than other POW books.  So I shelved it for six months and thought about it, knowing the feedback was on target.  Then I realized that what I needed to do was to focus on what I know best and that is leadership.  If could tie the stories of the great leadership we had that had made such a difference for us to the contemporary setting of leadership then it could be a valuable contribution.  The book feedback indicates that was a good decision.

 

 (Tim) You talk about the amazing leadership you had in the camps, did you realize how valuable that leadership was at the time? 

(Lee) Yes I did.  I was so thankful that I was the junior ranking guy and did not have that responsibility. I observed the leaders very carefully to see what worked and didn’t. I often mentally placed myself in the role of the leader to consider how I would handle things.  Usually, they were more mature and tougher than I was, but occasionally, I could see how they could have done something differently.  Five and a half years of leadership observation and reflection served me well when I came home and returned to work.  I was now six years behind my peers and then was promoted two years early to major putting me eight years behind my peers in operation experience and formal leadership.  It was hard work (I made many mistakes like everyone else does.), but I succeeded and really enjoyed being a leader at increasing levels of responsibility over the years.

 

(Tim) While reading the book, I was amazed at how you correlated events in captivity to valuable examples of sound leadership. How difficult was it to find the right camp experience to illustrate your leadership example? 

(Lee) It was definitely a challenge and made this book significantly more difficult to write than the two previous books.  Likewise, picking the right case study was difficult.  My experience in writing and speaking helped a lot in seeing the nuances of differences in stories and situations.  I think one of my talents is to see patterns and understand balance and fit. 

  

(Tim) Even though I am not a corporate executive, I found many of your “lessons” valuable anyway. Did you intend the book to be useful to the average person as well as business leaders?

(Lee) Yes. I think that’s one of the things I’m most pleased about.  It’s been well received by a broad audience from female teenagers, to grandmothers and from young soldiers to generals and CEOs. I think we can surmise that many leadership lessons are really just life lessons. Character, courage, competence and teamwork are crucial in every walk of life and that’s really what the book is about.

 
 (Tim) You talk to business leaders and executives all over the country, how is your message received? In other words, do you get more “We need to try that” or “No thanks; I’ll do it my way”?

(Lee) I think leaders are inspired to grow and lead at a higher level.  But I make it very clear that it’s not easy and requires sacrifice.  The only way you can become a better person or better leader is to behave differently, and that means growth and change.  That’s never easy.  Most leaders respond to a challenge and find something in my presentation that meets them where they are and they can use immediately.  That’s very rewarding and gives me energy and passion to do what I do.

 POW release
 

(Tim) I imagine that after more than five years in captivity, the book barely scratches the surface as far as teachable experiences go. Do you have plans for a “sequel”? 

(Lee) Yes but the sequels will be shorter, more how to books.   Right now we are working on the first book in the Leading with Honor series; it’s on accountability.  This seems to be a major missing area in every sector of our culture so look for it in 2014. 

 

 (Tim) I get the impression from your book, and our correspondence, that you are a humble and modest man. Do you get uncomfortable knowing that most people, myself included, see you as a hero?

(Lee) The POWs who were there in the early years and ended up serving in the camps for six, seven, and eight years were my heroes. But, very few people whom we label heroes see themselves as such.  We were just doing our job to the best of our ability.  We were well trained and well led and that made a huge difference.  Most important, I think we were committed to our job and our leaders and determined to do our best in a bad situation.  Our mission, vision, and values were summed up in three words.  Return with honor.  We wanted to return, but it had to be with honor to the best of our ability.

            In my mind, heroes are people who are committed to do their job/duty/responsibility and serve under difficult conditions.  You can find heroes serving in combat zones, but also teaching in school, serving as firemen, policemen, and working in companies to make our way of life successful. They are all around us and we are the better for their service and sacrifice.

            Lee Ellis signing

            I hope you enjoyed this interview and I cannot endorse Lee’s book enough. Please visit Lee’s website, Freedom Star Media for more information about his book. You can also like his facebook page here and follow him on Twitter (@LeonLeeEllis).

 As always – thank you for reading.

 

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This is the Tale of Our Castaways

Greetings dudes and chicks and all the ships at sea – I’m here to tell you about my latest adventure – so just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale…

It all began a few months ago when Armand Rosamilia, Becky Pourchot and I met a guy named Vern Shank at a local event called Entrepreneur Night. Over the course of the evening Vern told us that, among other various gigs, he was starting a new radio station here in Flagler Beach. Somewhere during the conversation Becky suggested that the three of us do a radio show dedicated to the Flagler Beach creativity scene.

surf 17

After three months and several discussions between Vern and Armand, the show will soon be a reality (not to be confused with a reality show).

Beginning on Friday, July 26th our show, “The Castaways: A Three Hour Tour” – will air on Surf 17 and FlaglerBeachRadio.com. The premise of the show (at least theoretically) will be to focus on the many creative and artistic happenings here in Flagler Beach – but anybody who has ever been around when the three of us start talking knows that the subject matter could go anywhere…ANYWHERE.

You may be wondering how we came up with the name The Castaways and why the show is called A Three Hour Tour.

Lemmee ‘splain…

Ever since Armand and I began hanging out together people have been telling us that we look like The Skipper and Gilligan (don’t make me explain who they are!). Since Surf 17 is “The sounds of the surf” we figured our nickname should be somehow surf related…so we decided on The Castaways (which sort of makes Becky our “Mary Ann”). Then it only seemed fitting to call our show – which will be 3 hours long – “A Three Hour Tour” (once again – if you don’t get the significance you had a lousy childhood…).

castaways

Surf 17 is a different type of radio station.

Granted it’s difficult for a radio station to do something truly unique these days, but Surf tries. When you listen, you’ll hear (as the name of the station implies) surf music from the Beach Boys, The Ventures and lots of other great bands. You’ll also hear songs that may not be specifically about surfing but still give you that “day at the beach” vibe.

And thanks to the internet you can listen wherever you are on your computer, tablet and even on your cell phone.

So join us here each week my friends, you’re sure to get a smile…on the sounds of Surf 17 – where the weather never gets rough and we’ll do our very best to make you comfortable (are you getting all these Gilligan references?).

Once again – make sure you tune in Friday nights from 7-10 pm (EST) for The Castaways: A Three Hour Tour. (starting Friday, July 26th).

As always – thank you for reading

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Social Media Marketing for Indie Authors (and Dummies)

One thing I hear quite often from readers is that “writing a book must be hard.”

Well, it’s definitely not easy, but truth be told, writing the book is the easy part. It’s the “getting it out to the world” that’s the hard part.

Ask 10 Independent Authors about their marketing strategy and you’ll get 20 different answers.

The good news is, there is a ton of ways to promote your work. The bad news…you have to figure out which one(s) will give you the most bang for your buck.

I hang out with two other indie authors on a regular basis (Armand Rosamilia and Becky M. Pourchot) and we have devoted a lot of conversation time to the “best” marketing ideas. We’ve discussed ideas from newspaper ads to radio broadcasts, we go to art-related events regularly and we routinely harass local businesses into selling our books and hosting signings. We also discuss the value, or lack thereof, of giving bookmarks to potential readers (see Armand’s blog post about it here) and even the advantages, or disadvantages of giving books away.

After we’ve beaten the above ideas to death, and beyond, we move on to social media – which, although mostly free, is not without issues. There is no doubt about its value as a marketing tool, but be careful how you use it or it can do more harm than good. It’s taken me about 5 years to get a handle on it and I’m still no expert, but here are a few of the lessons I’ve learned so far…

 

Lesson #1 – The internet is free publicity…unless you count the old adage “time is money.”

time is moneySure – you can sign up for Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Goodreads and a slew of other social media sites and plug yourself until the cows come home – but how much time are you willing to spend every day keeping up with all of it. If you want to establish an on-line presence you have to be active. Keeping a facebook page dynamic enough to draw interest requires constant attention. Not letting your Twitter feed become stagnant takes time, and your Goodreads page isn’t going to remain up to date by itself. I think you see the way I’m steering the boat…

 

Lesson #2 – Using the internet is so easy a 12-year-old can do it…problem is, I’m not 12.

baby on facebook

I have enough trouble remembering 47 different user-IDs and passwords, never mind figuring out how to link my Facebook feed to my Goodreads page. Every time I try to update my website, it’s a two-hour ordeal, and before it’s over I have usually invented a handful of new cuss-words. And why can’t things look and act the same on my phone and Kindle as they do on my PC? I swear, the first thing I’m going to do after Steven Spielberg makes a movie from one of my books is hire an IT Department.

 

Lesson #3 – Be careful with your content…you won’t sell a book to someone who thinks you’re an a$$hole.

political postsWhether you’re on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, LinkedIn or Pinterest it is wise to avoid controversy. I used to enjoy engaging people in “spirited debates” on Facebook, but Armand finally convinced me that it was not the best business decision, since I ran the risk of alienating people who had opposing viewpoints. Yes, I am entitled to my opinion, as is everybody, but by voicing those opinions I was running the risk of pissing people off, so I backed off and now I only engage in non-controversial (for the most part) discussions. I suppose if I were Stephen King, I wouldn’t care about it, but…

 

Lesson #4 – Sure, the idea of being on the internet is to sell books…but don’t actually ask people to buy them.

salesman

Talk about contradictions, right? You want to use the internet to reach the world and sell your book (or song, or painting, or whatever), but if you do nothing but bombard the feeds with “buy my stuff” posts your sales numbers will be less than staggering. You might as well put on a cheap suit and shout “…but wait! There’s more!!” Nobody likes a high-pressure salesman. Social media is meant to be, as the title implies, social…so socialize (bearing in mind Lesson #3). Share content that is interesting, funny, philosophical or thought provoking…then every now and then slip in a casual reminder that you happen to have something for sale.

 

Lesson #5 – Social media is a two-way street…make sure you go both ways.

two way

Imagine you meet somebody at a party, begin a discussion and within minutes you realize that this person talks about nothing but themselves. Pretty soon you’d be wishing for somebody to interrupt so you can casually slip off to the bathroom. Social media is no different. Don’t be “that guy” (or girl). Contribute to conversations you didn’t start, acknowledge pictures of peoples children or pets with a “like”, “favorite” or “+1” (whatever the case may be). Show people that you’re interested in them and they will respond in kind. Pretty simple, actually.

 

Lesson #6 – If you can’t be original…at least add some creativity when you plagiarize.

duplicate original

There’s really nothing new under the sun, and social media drives that point home like a sledge hammer. There are going to be times when you share a picture, retweet an article or repin an item. There’s nothing wrong with that. Just try to do it in such a way that doesn’t leave you looking like a parrot. Mix it up, add some original content and try to make it (at least partially) your own. If you’re creative enough to write a book, you should be creative enough to come up with a caption more original than “LOL” under the picture you stole form your high school buddy. And try to avoid reposting content that has been around the block a thousand times…

I think that’s about enough for now. One other lesson I’ve learned about the internet…don’t overshoot the attention span of your audience!

And speaking of the internet – here are links to connect with me out there on the interweb – stop by and say hello.

Facebook

Twitter

Goodreads

Amazon

Pinterest

LinkedIn

Website

And if you want to find me quickly, do a search for #Ike

 

As always – thank you for reading.

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Authors and Bookmarks

After having my good friend Armand Rosamilia teach me all kinds of stuff about marketing and branding, it appears that I have finally taught him something! The foot is on the other hand now, isn’t it???

ARMAND ROSAMILIA

Back in the early days of publishing (for me… we’re talking 2005) I always had a huge stack of bookmarks at my disposal. I did a new bookmark for every release I put out with Carnifex Press and every one of my own releases got the bookmark treatment with the website on one side and the book cover and ordering info on the other. Of course, when Carnifex Press went the way of the dodo I was stuck with about five thousand useless bookmarks. I guarantee there is a heavy box filled with them somewhere in my garage. It was also the last time I used anything other than a business card to promote my work. 

Author Tim Baker swears by bookmarks, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen him without a handful of them in his pocket and within easy reach. Hell, if you even glance at him he’ll…

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