Tag Archives: writing

Welcome to the Period of Post-Quality, where the details don’t matter

Two men sitting in conference room

Remember when attention to detail used to matter?

A lot has changed since the 2008 financial crisis.

Some of the aftershocks are more obvious. There are fewer jobs. Fewer opportunities.

Wealth and abundance flow into Wall Street, while capital and resources are siphoned from Main Street.

Yet some of the effects are more abstract — harder to define. People sense there’s something off, but they’re not sure how to put it in words.

It’s vague, and harder to pin down, but there’s a definite difference in the way we do business.

I thought about it for a while, and out of nowhere, it hit me:

There’s less of a commitment to quality these days, and more of a focus on volume.

You see it everywhere, from the way we communicate to the products we buy to the superficial summaries we hear on the news.

Instead of forging a few meaningful relationships, we’re firing off friend requests to everyone online.

Rather than reading an article in-depth, we’re glancing at our phone and skimming the headlines.

Instead of fine-tuning the tiniest of details, we’re glossing over the aggregated data.

Like I said, it’s abstract and murky, but it’s a general sense that we’re not doing things as well as we could.

And I’ll be the first to admit: Maybe it’s just my perception. Maybe I’m turning into a crusty, old curmudgeon who grouses about social media and laments the good-old days when every phone had a cord.

But I don’t think so. I’m an older Millennial — just on the verge of being in Generation X — and I remember when things were different.

It’s not a dramatic change — like Marty McFly traveling to an alternate 1985 — but it’s there. It’s noticeable.

Details used to matter. Meticulousness used to count.

Go-getters would seek methods to add value to their jobs, and their motivation would be recognized and rewarded.

I’ve had some unpleasant experiences in the past. I was a receptionist for a small office, so I endeavored to create value for my employer. I was tasked only with answering the phone, but I offered to write ad copy, shoot video, start a blog, design intricate flyers.

I wasn’t looking only to advance. I wanted to develop a reputation as a valuable go-to and a knowledgable resource. I wanted people to regard me as an indispensable member of the team.

Yet that didn’t happen. The effort went nowhere. The details didn’t matter.

Despite my asking, the position didn’t expand to encompass all my skills.

Now granted, that’s only one bad experience. And it encouraged me to seek employment with my current company, where grit and heavy-lifting are appreciated.

But there’s a general malaise these days — and not just among Millennials like me. People in generations before mine feel the same way.

How do I know? I talk to them.

I’ve always felt more comfortable with people older than myself — which is a huge benefit in the workplace. Experienced professionals have stood in your shoes, and they can advise you on how to avoid the mistakes that they had to learn on their own.

I’d rather someone instruct me on the wisdom of tying my shoes, rather than falling flat on my face and finding out for myself.

I’ve heard many Baby Boomers talk about how things aren’t as good as they used to be. People cared more, they say. A job well-done was a badge of honor.

People aren’t as invested now, they tell me. Employees show up, but they shovel work onto others, or they make pompous declarations without considering all the facts.

These aren’t burned-out cubicle-dwellers on the verge of retirement. These are people I admire and trust. They’re not begrudging change, or holding their era in higher esteem.

When they tell me that things used to be better, I believe them. And I agree.

We’re living in a high-gloss, low-wattage society. There’s no substance beneath the surface. The perception of competency is paramount, but actual experience is scarce.

We pad our LinkedIn profiles with buzz-terms and jargon, but there’s no actual wizard behind the curtain. We build dense, keyword-specific resumes, but there’s no character beneath the clutter.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Whether it’s technology making us complacent, or the aftershocks of an all-embracing recession, we can choose to be the indispensable go-to who’d do anything to help out a colleague.

We can decide to be the master of details who’s known for accuracy and efficiency.

We can elect to be the resourceful collaborator who’s always seeking new ways to add value.

This doesn’t have to be the Period of Post-Quality. But it’s up to us.

If we can shake off all the malaise and complacency and rediscover our entrepreneurial roots, we could be living in a golden age where character counts, hard work is appreciated, and demonstrated proficiency is valued higher than smooth-talking swagger.

Details should matter. Competency should count. Hard work and resourcefulness should be rewarded.

That’s the way things used to be. And I’m hopeful that one day — once again, with any luck — that will be the way things are.

I still don’t have a clearly defined dream

Gravel pathwayEver since childhood, I had a vague notion that I wanted to be a writer.

I carried the idea with me through college. And although I was always writing short stories and even novels, I never gave much thought to how to develop my dream.

I think I just assumed that I’d become a novelist, or a newspaper columnist, or maybe an advertising copywriter. Some opportunity would magically manifest right when I needed it, and I’d end up with a high-paying and personally rewarding career.

Not surprisingly, that didn’t happen.

My lack of focus was frustrating in college. It seemed like everyone else was preparing for a dream career, while I was just writing funny stories and hoping for the best.

I always worked hard and performed well academically, but I never had a clear vision of the future – of what I wanted to do and where I wanted to be.

I think I hoped that when I got older, all the cards would simply fall into place. One day, I’d wake up with a clear idea of what to do with my life.

Not surprisingly, that hasn’t happened, either.

I’m in my thirties, and I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. My vision of the future is as fuzzy now as it was when I was a kid.

My goals are unfocused. My ambitions are murky. Looking toward the future is like peering through the bottom of a Coke bottle.

I know a couple of things, though. I know that I like to write, and I know that I like to make people laugh.

And … well, that’s sort of it.

That’s not a clearly defined objective; that’s a muddy quagmire.

What do I do with that?

Going through life, we all watch people succeed. Some get promotions. Others get book deals. Some figure out exactly what they want to do, and then they go out and do it.

I’ve always admired those people. They have determination, drive – focus. They got it together. They know exactly what they want.

And I’ve always lamented that I’m not like them. I don’t have that pristine vision – that clarity of thought.

I have no idea what I want or how to achieve it.

At least that’s what I’ve always thought. But now I’m not so sure.

Maybe you don’t need a clearly defined goal to be happy, or to succeed. Maybe the desire to succeed is enough.

That and the determination to actually try.

If you want something in life, you have to start somewhere. You have to choose a road, even if you don’t know where it leads.

That’s the beauty of life. There are so many options. It’s not just a linear path. It’s a labyrinth of corridors that branch off in all sorts of directions.

And oftentimes, where you end up is better than what you ever could have imagined.

So yes, my objectives are still vague. I like to write, and I like to make people laugh.

And for now, maybe that’s enough. You have to start somewhere. You have to take the first step.

If I pursue that goal — as obscure and vague as it is — I don’t have to have a clearly formed vision of the outcome. I just have to have a desire to succeed.

So I’m going to keep writing. It’s a step. It’s a start.

And brick by brick, it’s going to help pave my path to a successful future.

That much, at least, is clear.

Check out my serialized fiction on Goodreads

I used to publish my fiction on this blog, but for easier readability, I’ve since moved my stories to Goodreads. If you’re looking for free reading material, please check them out! Just click on the book cover to access the story.

Also, if you prefer reading on your mobile device, many of these stories are available for free in my book, Dying for Eternity: A Short-Story Collection.

Hope you enjoy, and as always, thanks for reading!

The Colane Conundrum: A Literary Sitcom

The Colane Conundrum Cover

Former newspaper editor Lyle Colane never imagined he’d have a mid-life crisis at age 30. But after losing his job and his live-in girlfriend of two years — both on the same day — he’s forced to make some dramatic changes in his life. The results (as you might expect) are life-changing.

With witty, comedic dialogue in the vein of Neil Simon and Woody Allen, “The Colane Conundrum” is a literary sitcom for people who enjoy TV shows, but hate TV.

The Colane Chronicles

The Colane Chronicles Cover

A prequel to my main fiction serial, “The Colane Conundrum,” this miniseries tells the story of Lyle Colane, a young man living in Reno who’s trying to figure out what he wants out of life — besides a second round.

Dying for Eternity

Dying for Eternity Cover

Two college students, Andrew and Matt, awaken in a mysterious compound with no memory of how they got there. They encounter a strange woman who tells them they’ve entered a spiritual realm … a halfway point between heaven and earth … because the unimaginable has happened:

They’ve died. 

However, for Andrew and Matt, death is only the beginning — the beginning of a murky and twisted reality that feels more like purgatory than a peaceful afterlife. And when it seems the spiritual realm they inhabit might not be so spiritual after all, their priority morphs from resting in peace to running for their lives….

Permanent Detention

Permanent Detention Cover

Since age seventeen, Paul has been serving a life sentence in Permanent Detention, a special prison for enemies of the state. His crime? Possessing a banned book — one he inherited from his long-dead rebel father. 

Now approaching thirty, Paul’s life has devolved to an empty, meaningless and very lonely routine. But one evening, his life takes a sudden and unexpected turn. For the first time in twelve years, he meets a woman — a fellow inmate named Pam. And though their encounter is brief, Paul falls deeply, profoundly in love. 

Flushed with emotions he never knew existed, Paul dreams of Pam at every waking turn, envisioning the life they could share if only their lives were their own — if only they were free and far away. 

Only Paul must cope with the fact that his life, like Pam’s, belongs to the state … and that no amount of dreaming can penetrate the prison’s thick walls. And when he’s told he can never see Pam again, Paul is forced to grapple with the emotions surging inside him … and to find meaning in a life over which he has no control. 

Set in a dystopian future in which liberty and privacy have become relics of the past, “Permanent Detention” depicts a young man’s resolve to find beauty amid bleakness, and to dream of love in life’s darkest hours.

The Do-Over

The Do-Over Cover

Jimmy Borman is a nerd. A lame, awkward, unpopular nerd. He’s never gotten the girl. He’s never even spoken to the girl. That’s how bad it is. 

He and his best friend, Ronald, occupy the lowest echelons of the sophomore class. And unless something drastic happens, that’s exactly where they’re going to stay. 

But then something drastic does happen — and it involves Jimmy meeting the girl of his dreams, Stacy Beckham.

The only problem? Jimmy’s family is planning to move to Reno during the summer. 

Will Jimmy succeed in winning the heart of the girl he dearly adores? Or will he blow the opportunity and require a do-over? 

Festering in Fremont

Festering in Fremont Cover

When Erin loses her prestigious job at a public-relations firm, she’s forced to move back in with her parents, returning to the small town she grew up in. Will she have an opportunity to reclaim her life, and her career, or will she remain festering in Fremont?

Nightmare of a Malefic Mind

Nightmare of a Malefic Mind Cover

Fred Walsh gave up on his dreams long ago. But now he’s entering a terrifying nightmare over which he has no control….

Baby Camp Recall

Baby Camp Recall Cover

Ted is a 29-year-old loser who can’t hold down a job or maintain a relationship. He’s not sure why. All he knows is that his whole life, he’s been a miserable failure.

But then Ted’s mom gets a letter from a summer camp that Ted attended years ago. According to the letter, the camp used experimental education methods that have proven to be traumatic. In an attempt to reverse the damage, the summer camp is asking for all former students — who now are all adults in their late 20s — to return for a cure. 

They’re issuing a recall.

If Ted goes back, will it solve all his problems and put him back on the path to success? Will he be able to live the life he should have been living all along? 

Find out in Baby Camp Recall.

Sometimes it’s better not to say anything at all 

Writer's block

This is a question I’ve been asking my entire life.

I was sitting slumped over the keyboard, cradling my head in my hands, when Vanessa walked into the room.

“What are you doing?” she asked, frowning.

“Blogging,” I said.

“It looks like you’re sitting there with your head in your hands.”

“This is what I look like when I’m blogging.”

Vanessa approached me and looked over my shoulder. “You haven’t even written anything yet.”

I sighed. “That’s because I don’t have anything to say.”

“So let me get this straight,” Vanessa said. “You told me you started blogging because you had so much you wanted to say.”

“That’s right.”

“And now you’re telling me you don’t have anything to say?”

“Exactly.”

“OK.” Vanessa frowned again. “I’m not sure I follow.”

“I have a lot I want to say,” I said. “The problem is, when I sit down to write, I’m not sure how to say what it is I want to say.”

“So you know what you want to say,” Vanessa said. “You just don’t know how to say what you want to say?”

“Exactly.”

Vanessa shrugged. “So why not just say what you want to say and get it over with?” Keep reading…

The top 60 Tweets of a pretentious English student 

young man studying on laptop in college campus library

Yeah, I went to school with people like this…

Even graduate students studying ecocentric literature can be social-media superstars!

Bio: I express my artistry through emotional meditations and lowercase letters. My heart is pure; my poetry, self-published.

1. If there’s a sock on the door, don’t come in. I’m busy reading Vonnegut.

2. If my beret doesn’t give away my artistic tendencies, then I’m sure the Apple logo on my laptop will.

3. A sublime exhalation of youthful exuberance, in a premature outpouring of passion. (But give me 10 minutes, and I’ll try again.)

4. I’m not arrogant. I just don’t need to take writing advice from the dude who wrote “Charlotte’s Web.”

5. Yeah, well, how many literary-fiction journals have *you* been featured in, buddy?

6. Is that a Bukowski in your book bag, or are you just happy to see me?

7. Personally, I find the em-dash more progressive than the semicolon.

8. How endearing. I went through my own period of rugged Hemingway terseness back in 201.

9. We haven’t truly lived until we’ve written in the first-person-plural.

10. I’ll trade you three gently used issues of Glimmer Train for your annotated copy of “Burning Down the House.”

11. I’m not in it for the monetary compensation; I’m in it to bare my soul through the written word. (Besides, Mom pays my tuition.)

12. My tattered journal contains the scribblings of my soul. Plus, my Econ notes from yesterday’s class.

13. She left my emotional core stinging from the lash of rejection. (It also stings when I pee.)

14. I see you consistently get “it’s” and “its” confused. You need a bib to catch all the drool?

15. [Literary flirting] “So, you want to get coffee sometime? We could discuss whether Truman Capote wrote To Kill a Mockingbird.” Keep reading…

I didn’t think I was destroyed, but that’s what the search engines say 

cat looking at camera

My downstairs neighbor, Dave, often comes over to give me advice on my blog — as well as to drink any beer I might have in the fridge. “People like pictures of cats,” he says, “even if it’s a only meme with a stupid subtitle that has nothing to do with the cat itself. That’ll get you readers for sure.”

Dave the Downstairs Neighbor popped into my apartment on Saturday afternoon.

“What’s going on?” I asked.

He shrugged. “Nothing much. Just wanted to see what you were up to.”

“You’re out of beer, aren’t you?”

“Not necessarily,” Dave said. “I often come by just to say hi.”

“Then you won’t mind if I drink this beer in front of you without offering you one?”

Dave licked his lips. “Do you think you could maybe, like … spare one?”

“You came over here for a beer, didn’t you?” I asked.

“Yes!” Dave said, throwing his arms wide and yelling. “Yes! I came over for a beer.”

“No problem. Help yourself. There’s beer in the fridge.”

“Great — thanks,” Dave said, tromping into my kitchen and wrenching open the refrigerator. He pulled out a bottle and pried off the lid with an opener.

“You got lime?” he called.

“Bottom bin,” I said.

Dave cut himself a lime and slid it into his bottle.

“Now was that so hard?” he asked, walking back into the living room. “It’s like you want me to feel like a freeloader. Say, you got some chips?”

I handed him the bag of Tostitos that was sitting on the coffee table. “So get this.”

“What’s that?” Dave asked, sitting on the couch and resting his feet on the coffee table.

“I was working on my blog this morning, and it’s got a dashboard where you can see the number of visitors you get and stuff like that.”

“Do you get any visitors?”

“I … well, I’m more interested in the quality of reader as opposed to the quantity, you know.”

Dave crunched on some chips. “So you’re still not getting any visitors?”  Keep reading…

Download my free book, ‘Dying for Eternity’

Dying for Eternity: A short story collection

‘Dying for Eternity,’ a collection of short stories, is now available as a free download from the iTunes bookstore.

My 2012 story collection, Dying for Eternity, is now available as a free download from the iTunes bookstore.

The book showcases four of my stories, including Dying for Eternity, Permanent Detention, The Do-Over and Iceholes.

Readers probably know me best for my humor writing, which is my primary focus on this site. However, of the four stories, only Iceholes is an out-and-out comedy. Dying for Eternity is a suspenseful thriller, Permanent Detention is a dystopian romance, and The Do-Over is a high-school romance.

Readers also might recall that I once serialized all of the stories on this site. Later, I serialized them on a separate WordPress site, which I’ve since discontinued.

I can’t in good faith charge for content that once appeared online for free, which is why I’m offering the book at no cost. I’m hoping it will provide enjoyment for readers everywhere, whether you’re in the mood for humor, suspense, or romance.

Thank you as always for reading. And if you enjoy the book, please leave a positive review!  Keep reading…

Using social media to get more blog followers 

social media meme

The good news is that by harnessing the power of social media, you can drive more traffic to your blog. (The bad news is that you apparently have to engage with other people. I thought technology was supposed to make our lives easier?)

I wanted to get more followers on my blog, so I called my old friend, Sally the Social Media Guru.

“I want to get more followers on my blog,” I told her.

“Oh, good,” she said. “That’s my speciality. Are you looking for active reader engagement?”

“I just want a bunch of followers,” I said.

“But are you looking for quality readership over quantity? Are you tailoring your content to target a specific demographic — one that demonstrates brand loyalty through repeated visits?”

“I really just want a bunch of followers,” I said. “Like, thousands or millions.”

“What’s your goal in building your audience? Are you looking to monetize your content?”

“If that means getting more followers, then yeah.” Keep reading…

September 11: My written window to the past

American flag

I was a college freshman when 9-11 happened. Like many Americans, I remember that day vividly. Grappling with fear and uncertainty, I wrote an essay that night detailing the events that had unfolded. That essay was a way for me to cope with what was going on, and today it’s my window to the past — a past that’s now 15 years old. I can’t believe it’s been that long.

It’s been 15 years since 9-11.

Fifteen years.

In some ways, it seems like a lifetime ago. In others, it feels like only yesterday.

If you were alive, you probably remember what you were doing when you heard the news. You probably remember the fear, the confusion, the angst, the uncertainty.

I was a 19-year-old college freshman at the University of Nevada, Reno. That night, I took my laptop to Getchell Library (since demolished) to write about what was going on. I wanted to document, in my own words, the fear I was feeling, the chaos that was unfolding.

That essay is like a time capsule for me. It takes me back to that day, to the very table I was sitting at as I wrote it. I’ve read it several times since 9-11, and it never fails to roil up those frantic emotions I was feeling — emotions I imagine every American was feeling that day, in their own way.

On today, the 15th anniversary, I felt it appropriate to publish the essay here. Only close family has read it. I usually post only humor on this site — as humor is the only way I know of grappling with an often-insane world — but this essay for me helps to mark a significant event not only in our nation’s history, but in our lives.

I was a kid when I wrote this — a kid who hadn’t yet set foot in a Journalism 101 course — so the bulky paragraphs make me cringe, and some of the historical facts aren’t accurate (the attacks killed 2,996 people, not 10,000).

However, I’m glad I wrote it, because it captures for me a time and a place — as well as the accompanying feelings — and it helps me to frame that day in my mind, so that I’ll never forget. Human memories fade, and time tends to numb pain, but it’s always important to remember.

And as a country, collectively and individually, we will always remember.  Keep reading…