Perd Hapley is a Dimension-Traveling Alien

will-the-real-perd-hapley-please-stand-up-2-26474-1428472335-14_dblbigIf you’re like me, then you have a strong and abiding love for Parks & Recreation. I can admit that it is one of my favorite comedies in recent memory, due in large part to the brilliant casting and writing. And Ron Swanson, always Ron Swanson.

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However, I came to an interesting realization the other day: Perd Hapley is a dimension-travelling alien observer who is clearly the most powerful being in the shared TV universe. For eagle-eyed fans, you will notice that Jay Jackson, the actor who plays Perd, has a penchant for reading the news on your favorite TV show.

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What you never noticed though, his how closely he likes to stay to danger and intrigue. Much like the Observers from Fringe, I think that Jay Jackson has created a kind of shape-shifting constant character that is not unlike Stan Lee in every MCU movie.

Starting in 2007, Jackson has played a report or news anchor no less than 14 times, including:

Bones (TV Series)
Scandal (TV Series)
The Catch (TV Series)
Supergirl (TV Series)
Pretty Little Liars (TV Series)
Parks and Recreation (TV Series)
Revenge (TV Series)
Battleship (Movie)
Fred: The Show (TV Series)
Body of Proof (TV Series)
The Mentalist (TV Series)
Fast Five (Movie)
The Closer (TV Series)
Dexter (TV Series)

Now, perhaps you can say that he has been typecast as a reporter/news anchor or even that Jay Jackson likes playing these parts. However, I like to think that a casting agent, writer, producer, director, or even Jackson himself is purposely creating one of the greatest easter eggs in all of TV history.

So, the next time you are watching a TV show and they cut to a reporter in the field or an anchor delivering the news, don’t be surprised if it is Perd Hapley looking back at you.

On Strong Female Characters, Face-less Heroes, and Myriad Personalities

Sixth Prime

When I started writing Sixth Prime, I decided early on to do something very deliberate: I would make half the main characters women; I would make sure the personalities better reflected the myriad of the human experience; and I would describe characters without using skin color or any physical identifiers.

You might be wondering: what exactly is the point of that?

Women represent half the population

I would be remiss if I ignored the statistics right in front of me. More than half of the world’s population is female, so why wouldn’t I include a representative number of female characters? I’m talking about adventurers and villains, scientists and soldiers, and everything in between. The goal should be to tell the best possible story. I waited until I had outlined everything, and then randomly assigned characters as men and women (this includes romantic relationships as well, so buckle your seatbelts).

Personality guides behavior and decision-making.

I went to graduate school for psychology, and as such I’ve always had a fascination with why people do what they do. This, naturally, translated into thinking about how I could smuggle personality psychology into a narrative. The Prime saga, beginning with Sixth Prime, is an attempt to do just that. I wanted readers to feel like they were represented by one of the characters in such a way that the decisions and consequences felt more real to them.

The reader should decide how the characters look.  

I know it’s a long shot, but maybe (just maybe) the Prime Saga becomes a movie or limited series. I bring this up because nothing is worse than people arguing how characters should look or the kinds of actors or actresses who should play them. Really, even if an adaptation is not in order, I love the idea of people coming to their own conclusions about how a character should look based on their choices, personality, and behavior. I want the characters to be defined by how they make readers feel; I want a reader to be able to see themselves in the character and as the character.

 

Here is the working teaser:

2.3.5.7.11.13.

A war brews as a galaxy struggles to maintain a peace treaty signed in haste. The Commonwealth boasts sprawling cities built upon slums. The Sovereignty has placed the yoke of industry upon its citizens. Sixteen men and women are connected in a way they cannot yet understand. A murder of a prominent artist begins a chain of events that will ultimately determine the fate of the universe.

Only thirteen will remain.

In the end, there can be only one Prime.

Are you a Prime?

 

Interested yet? I sure hope so. If you are, then how about a brief excerpt? Check it out at: https://authordanobrien.com/2016/07/28/preview-of-sixth-prime/

Perhaps you want to grab the Kindle version for only $2.99? http://www.amazon.com/dp/B01ENLPOVG

 

 

Should You Publish a Book? (Or Why Writing A Book Builds Your Brand)

CTA_writer's deskI know it might sound a bit silly for someone who is both a ghostwriter and a multi-published author to say that you should publish a book to expand you brand, but I guarantee I am not the only one saying it. Writing a book is a wonderful experience, if you approach it in the right way and with the right goals in mind.

Self-publishing has made getting a book out there easier than ever; in many ways having a book is the new en vogue marketing piece for businesses and independent authors alike. Whether you have a story that you really want told (but you don’t want to write it) or you have a sales or business process that would benefit from a wider reach, getting a book out there is important on a variety of levels.

Most readers couldn’t care less where your book was published or if you have the author credentials to publish. What matters is having a story or idea, and then creating and distributing the best possible version for people to read.

 

Should I write a book?

The short answer is: yes. The longer answer is: yes, but only if you plan on following through. The bitter truth is publishing has changed so dramatically that anyone can write and publish a book; the only barrier to entry is the follow-through to actually do it.

Whether you want to publish a fiction or a nonfiction book, the idea behind having a book is the same: you have a message you want to share. Anyone can blog; putting out a book creates social proof, a means to leverage everything else you do after you publish.

For instance, let’s say that you are a brilliant personal trainer and nutritionist who blogs and is social-media savvy. Your personal education and expertise are unquestioned, but in the vast abyss of the internet, your social proof is limited to people who see your posts.

Having a book allows you to separate from other folks trying to do the same thing, and it allows you to reach a new potential customer base.

How about some examples of folks who might want to write a book?

  • Consultants who want to generate more leads.
  • Though-leaders who want to show how and what we lead.
  • Someone who wants to leave something behind.
  • Entrepreneurs who want to spread their brand.
  • Job seekers and freelancers who want to demonstrate their expertise.
  • Someone looking for a stepping stone.
  • Business owners who want another stream of income.
  • Anyone looking for a purpose.
  • Anyone who wants to become an authority/expert (or feels like they know nothing).

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What now?

Write. If you can’t (or won’t), then get a ghostwriter. There is no shame in contracting out the writing of your product. Often, you won’t have the time or inclination to put the words to the page. Unsolicited advice: choose a ghostwriter who fits well with what you are trying to write. Just because someone has a background in a particular area does not necessarily make them the best fit. This is your baby, so choose wisely. 

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Edit. Do yourself a favor and hire out for editing and proofreading. True, you could get out your red pen and mark it up yourself, but feedback is incredibly important in terms of providing the product consumers want. Speaking of feedback, cultivating a group of beta readers can be a real game-changer. Unsolicited advice: most editors worth their salt will charge anywhere from $3 a page up to $10 a page, depending on what they provide. Most editors calculate a page as 250-400 words a page. 

Format. Sometimes, it is the simple things that make or break a book. People like to imagine they don’t judge a book by its cover, but they most certainly do. You can learn how to format a book for print or as an eBook with a simple Google search, but it doesn’t mean you’ll be able to do it. Contracting out the formatting guarantees the book looks how you intended. Unsolicited advice: know what you want the interior of your book to look like. Otherwise, you’ll be trading emails with a designer until the end of time. Also, realize that formatters can charge anywhere from $1 a page up through $12 a page. 

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Publish. In many ways, this is the part of the process that has changeed the most. Writers have always had to write; that writing then needs to be edited. However, anyone can publish now. With Kindle and print platforms like CreateSpace, you can have a print copy to pass out at seminars and an eBook version for people to read on their smartphones or tablets. Unsolicited advice: set your release date in the future at least three months in order to maximize the next item, marketing. 

Market. This is what everything comes down to. Whether you are traditionally published or self-published, 90% of your efforts should be focused here, as this is what sells books. Marketing is everything from interviews to advertising to content marketing and beyond. Unsolicited advice: learn to market and build a long-term plan punctuated by smaller, measurable goals. Doing this allows you to better track your progress and make changes where you need to. 

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You knew it was coming. All this talk about publishing and contracting out tasks to help you get there meant a referral to someone who provides said services was coming. So, without further ado, here is the promotional plug for Amalgam Consulting.

 

Is impatience the real enemy of reaching your goals?

If you are like most writers, the excitement of writing a book can very nearly be everything you need to finish and publish, to reach your goal. In many ways, this is true of all goal-setting behavior. I was lamenting the other day that I really wanted to be done with Sixth Prime (seriously, click and give it a read) because I think it will resonate with readers. Even though there is still another draft to go before several rounds of edits, and then design, I wanted it now.

Why is that I wonder?

The impatience paradox. I talk a lot about starting goals and setting goals, but very little about completing a goal when you have stalled in the middle. I like to call this the impatience paradox. This is the overwhelming feeling that creeps in mid-goal, which is usually accompanied by fatigue with the process and a burning, irrational desire that people should already be supportive of the finished product (or goal). For writers, this is often the moment when you think this book could be “the one,” and you really just want everyone to be sharing and reading and writing and freaking out over it. As normal as that sounds (impatience happens to everyone in pursuit of a goal, especially if that goal is within reach), it can be a productivity and discipline killer. It can make you switch your focus or collapse beneath the weight of wanting it to be done. So what can you do?

Overcoming impatience. Don’t let impatience keep you from reaching your goals. In order to get past impatience, you need to recognize it for what it is: fear. More than likely, you are having anxiety about the outcome of your goal, or how achieving your goal will affect you. Once you publish that book, people will react to it. What if they hate it? What if they love it? What if it doesn’t sell? What if people want more? Regardless of how it makes you feel, you need to remember that you started down this path for a very good reason. You had a goal; don’t give up now.

Reaching your goals. So, how do you get back on track? Simple: remember why you started down this path in the first place. Return to both the long-term goal you set in the beginning and the smaller goals in support of it. Rebuild those behavior-reward dyads once more and trend toward discipline; make the goal more important than the smaller roadblocks you put in your way. Use the simple formula of pairing the behavior that needs to be completed (writing every day) in order to reach your goal (finishing your novel) with a reward you only get when you perform that behavior (writing every day, just in case you forgot).

Being able to embrace that you are impatient, and can still reach your goals, sets you up for success in the future. The real enemy is giving up.

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Why I’m A Coward

04fWe all have something that we really want in our lives. Perhaps it is a dream that we actively and purposefully ignore; maybe it is something just on the periphery of our awareness. In my opinion, either we are honest about what we really want or we allow ignorance of it to guide our actions.

For me, it is wanting to be a screenwriter.

I’ve found a way to work on my own terms and make money; I’ve created a universe where I can write novels and short stories, while working freelance, without having to show up to a traditional 9-5 job. Even so, if I’m being honest, I have failed to really pursue what I want to do.

It is right there, in the forefront of my mind, when I wake up every morning.

It is right there, within reach, in everything I do.

But I don’t go after it.

Why? Fear.

I’m afraid of what it will cost me to pursue it.

Or at least what I think it will cost me.

I make excuses about not wanting to move to LA or put my wife in the position of us not making enough money. I talk about wanting to be able to provide a standard of living as a means to not jump in with both feet. The reality is that it is achievable if I wanted it bad enough; if I wanted more than I wanted comfort, more than I wanted to succumb to fear and let it guide my behavior.

I’m a chicken-shit when it comes to the thing I will regret as I lay dying.

Sure, I’ve published a lot of books and I’ve manged a modicum of success. However, I talk about becoming successful enough with my books that Hollywood will take notice. If I were being truly fearless, I would doggedly pursue that dream, hustling and working toward it without regard for failure. I wouldn’t wait for my success and my dream to overlap. I would go out and get, leaving nothing on the table when I do.

I wanted to end this with something powerful like no more or  I will pursue it now that I have laid it bare. But really, I remain afraid of upsetting what I have. I will continue down the path of least resistance, holding the idea with me each day that my dream will remain beyond my reach as long as I don’t pursue it. I will continue to be honest about not pursuing it, but will likely remain afraid to go after it in some misguided notion of homeostasis.

I will live a great life with the woman I love, but I will always know that I was too scared to pursue the personal goal that, objectively, would not have upset my life, but more than likely given a rich texture to it I would have cherished.

I will continue to be a coward hiding behind a veil of simpler personal success accented by easy-to-attain personal goals that are easier to recover from if I fail.

I can do better.

You, dear reader, don’t have to be a coward like me.

Take chances. Chase your dreams.

The Psychological Advantage

Business-Psychology-Learning-how-to-Make-your-Products-Stand-out-to-Potential-CustomersAccording to Forbes, 39.2% of psychology majors coming right out of college had an offer for a job somewhere. Of course, the knowledge and skill base of your average graduate is pretty variable, but it does speak to the utility of a background in psychology. Most companies, at some point or another, fall into a trap of the latest psychological-metric trend guaranteed to increase growth and productivity, or lend a hand to HR in order to hire the right folks.

However, let’s talk about using psychology to your benefit.

Watson and Skinner, the pioneers of behaviorism, taught us a lot about human behavior and how to understand behavioral contingencies. It was Skinner, however, who gifted us operant conditioning and a quick path to behavior modification that could yield actionable goal-setting (and adherence) behavior.

Alright, let’s back up.

That was a lot of jargon coming at your fast.

Understand the behavior. So what is that you are trying to do? Be accurate and honest here. Are you trying to write more every day? Do you want more conversions from your marketing campaign? Do you want to be more productive and complete more things on your to-do list? Whatever the thing is that you want to do, define it, and describe it well.

Salient, powerful reward. This is really the tricky part for program adherence. When we think of rewarding ourselves, we generally land on something that we could do without, or something we have a lot of ways to get. What you want to do is choose something specific, salient, and powerful; and by that I mean something that you couldn’t go through the day without. How about an example? A good friend of mine really wanted to finish the novel he had been talking about for a decade. The problem was: he didn’t make the time; and he lacked the discipline to stick to a writing schedule. He asked me what he could do differently since I am a productivity and discipline junkie. I asked what he did every day; he shrugged. As we were sitting over coffee, I noticed that he checked his phone a few times. I asked him what had captured his attention. Apparently, he had become addicted to one of those app games where you built little towns and went to war with other players. He explained that if he didn’t check in often, his town and little digital population would be decimated. That was the a-ha moment: I had successfully found what he couldn’t live without. The solution was simple. He would have to write a certain amount of words in order to check on his digital world. Lo and behold, the strategy worked because the reward was very clear.

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Volume. Behavior change takes time; as such, you will have lots of opportunities to fail (which is the currency of success), but, more importantly, you will be able to repeat the behavior-reward dyad enough times to truly turn it into a habit. The actual amount of time it takes for this kind of habituation varies based on psychological makeup, the task, the reward, and a host of other things. Some estimates put it as low as 10 days and more conservative suggestions put it at closer to eight weeks. Either way, volume is your friend; when in doubt, keep working that behavioral contingency.

Make the behavior as easy as possible to guarantee program adherence. Human beings like to complicate things. We want difficult explanations to simple problems, because we can’t imagine that the answer shouldn’t be multi-faceted and complex. You might talk about looking for a simple solution, but what you really mean is you want an easy answer, which is not the same.

CTA_writer's desk