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Book Excerpt: Heart Knot Mine by Lily Velden

Heart Not Mine 7Title: Heart Knot Mine
Author: Lily Velden
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Pages: 218
Genre: M/M Contemporary Romance
Format: Paperback/Kindle

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Despite a successful college teaching career, Noah Daniels has become depressed. He feels he’s leading a monochromatic life: love has eluded him. When he’s offered a chance to teach in London as part of an exchange program, he accepts, hoping a change of scenery will do him good. But once he’s there, his outlook on love and sexuality changes in ways he never expected.

Robert Callinan is Noah’s English counterpart in the program. The men exchange not only their jobs, but also their homes, and it is what Noah stumbles across while staying at Robert’s house that sends him on a journey of self-discovery—both mentally and physically. A journey that puts color back into his life… just not in the way he expected. When the exchange program ends, Noah has to go home, but he doesn’t know if he wants to return to the life he left behind.

Book Excerpt:

Sitting with my ass parked on my favorite barstool, at my favorite bar—the Redhead Piano Bar on Ontario—I nursed my bourbon and silently asked myself the usual questions. Well, actually, it was really only the one question phrased a hundred different ways. That’s what happened when you went the route of academia—you learned how to complicate the shit out of things and use fancy-schmancy words. If you thought about it, it was a bit ridiculous to be using three-plus-syllable words to ask a question, when most of us were usually seeking a simple one- or two-syllable word answer. Yes. No. And, if we’d really lucked out: maybe.

I snorted into my drink, remembering the words of my most admired college professor, Ross Whedon: Noah Daniels, how many times have I told you? An academic will always take a whole paragraph for what could have been said in one sentence. Christ, even my thoughts were long-winded.

What was my question again?

Oh, yeah.

What the hell is wrong with me?

I mean, really, what the hell was wrong with me? She was gorgeous. Tall and willowy, with long, flowing mahogany hair that still managed to look sleek and glossy under the dim lights of the bar. Big brown eyes, clear skin, an impressive rack, and when she walked away from me, I saw she had a great peach-shaped ass.

That’s right, she walked away. Why?

Because I gave her the brush-off. That’s why.

Hence my question. What the hell is wrong with me?

She wasn’t irritating. Her voice didn’t grate. Quite the contrary. She was charming and friendly. In fact, I’d go so far as to say she was interesting and articulate—she was in PR. Surely that meant she could string together a sentence?—and yet, I’d passed on her not so subtle come-on. I looked at her again, knowing I could have her if I wanted her, but try as I might, I couldn’t muster even the slightest bit of enthusiasm for the idea.

And that was the problem.

Me and enthusiasm didn’t seem to be on speaking terms anymore. All the color had seeped out of my life. I was living a monochromatic, black-and-white photograph of a life where everything was a shade of tedious.

I wasn’t sure how it happened, or even when it happened.

It just had.

It crept up on me, like a slow-spreading parasitic vine, gradually sapping the vibrancy from my life. One day I woke up and everything was gray, dull, and lifeless.

And it had been that way for a while.

Lifting the glass, I paused, letting the bourbon wet my lips before throwing my head back and tossing down the last of my drink. Closing my eyes, I hissed, relishing the searing burn to my throat—a small reminder I was actually alive—a living, breathing, sentient being and not merely a walking, talking robot.

If only there was a whiskey burn for my emotions, I’d be set.

Glancing down at the aged cherrywood bar, I vaguely wondered what they used to achieve such a high polish. It was almost mirrorlike in its sheen. I could clearly see my face reflected upon its surface.

And instantly wished I hadn’t.

After grimacing at the shell staring back at me, I decided scrutinizing myself wasn’t such a good idea. Taking my own advice, I looked up, meeting Seth the bartender’s gaze. He raised his eyebrow at me in query, and I gave him a brief nod, watching as he poured me another finger of Booker’s.

As he slid it across to me, not a word was spoken. I nodded, he nodded, and we both went back to doing our own separate things—me to thinking, him to serving the other patrons. The opening notes of a melody from the piano situated at the opposite end of the dimly lit room, and the dulcet tones of Stella McClaren floated above the chatter of the Thursday-night crowd. They went quiet as she continued. I wasn’t surprised. She was good.

The start of the music was my alarm clock, telling me it must be eight o’clock. Time to head home to the never-ending pile of papers waiting to be graded.

Sighing at the thought of what awaited me, I took another sip of the amber fire in my glass and swirled it around my mouth before letting it seep, drop by drop, down the back of my throat. Once again, I said my silent thanks to the bourbon for serving a dual purpose: anesthetizing me while at the same time reminding me, with its burn, I was still alive and breathing. Quite an achievement.

Book Excerpt: The Unholy by Paul DeBlassie III

The Unholy 7Title: The Unholy
Author: Paul DeBlassie III
Publisher: Sunstone Press
Pages: 200
Language: English
Genre: Psychological/Paranormal Thriller
Format: Paperback/Kindle

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A young curandera, a medicine woman, intent on uncovering the secrets of her past is forced into a life-and-death battle against an evil Archbishop. Set in the mystic land of Aztlan, The Unholy is a novel of destiny as healer and slayer. Native lore of dreams and visions, shape changing, and natural magic work to spin a neo-gothic web in which sadness and mystery lure the unsuspecting into a twilight realm of discovery and decision.

Book Excerpt:

“Hush now, child,” said a voice she recognized as that of her mother’s closest friend. “The man cannot harm you, mijita, as long as you are with us.

We will make him think you are dead. But you must be very quiet. Ya no llores,” the woman warned, raising a finger to her lips.

The woman then carried her into a dark cave illuminated by the light of a single candle. The cave was frightening, with shadows of what appeared to be goblins and demons dancing on the red sandstone walls. “I will return for you soon. You will be safe here,” the woman said. The girl watched the woman walk away, shivering as a breeze blew through the cave’s narrow passages.

Closing her eyes, she rocked back and forth—imagining herself safe in her mother’s arms—then opened her eyes to the light of the full moon shining through the mouth of the cave. The shadows on the walls were just shadows now, no longer goblins and demons. As she slipped into a trance, images flickered in her mind. She saw the woman who had brought her to this place scattering pieces of raw meat around the open mesa where her mother had struggled, helped by two other women the girl could not identify.

Suddenly, the scene shifted to a stone ledge jutting over the mesa, and she heard the pounding footsteps of a man running toward the women. The girl felt her heart race and her breathing quicken, afraid that the bad man would spot them and kill them. Then the image shifted again, and she now saw on the mesa three gray wolves circling the raw meat and the man walking away fromthe granite ledge. As he left, she heard his thought: The child is dead.

 

Book Excerpt: Ghost of the Gods by Kevin Bohacz

Ghost of the GodsTitle: Ghost of the Gods
Genre: Techno-Thriller
Author: Kevin Bohacz
Publisher: Mazel & Sechel
Pages: 437
Format: Paperback/Kindle

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Was it the accumulated wounds to the environment that had finally triggered the nanotech plague or was it simply one more step in a shrewdly crafted plan to replace us with humans 2.0? As I write this at least one pair of these transhumans breathe the same air as us, and there are likely many more. They may look like us, they may even be almost human, but they are also cybernetic and will live for an extraordinary length of time. Trust me, their goals are not the same as ours. It was not a natural plague that almost drove humankind to extinction but an attack from within, turning our own biology against us. Scientists discovered all too late an artificial entity, a sentient machine foolishly created in the image of god, had been studying us and genetically altering us for longer than we can imagine. Perhaps it is because of this god-machine that we evolved into creatures who can think and speak and know our own mortality? This silicon god is so different from us that we may never truly understand it, but what we do know is that it is terrifyingly intelligent and it hates us. What we do know is that it tried to eradicate us from the face of our planet and then stopped for no discernible reason. What we do know is that its work is not done.

Excerpt:

It had been a restless night for both of them. The old growth forest was dense with huge oak and hickory trees. The ground was damp, and the air had a mossy tang to it. Mark Freedman heard the snapping and popping of the campfire as he awoke very oddly from a dream. He no longer awoke as humans had since their beginnings. At some point the processing throughput of his nanotech augmented brain surged upward and his eyes simply opened. He was fully aware of the data streaming in from his senses and his wireless neurological interface to the god-machine. The machine was an artificial intelligence whose origin was murky. It was hosted redundantly within the world’s oceans in supercolonies of the same nanotech seeds that infected him. A single seed was a self-replicating nanotech machine about a quarter the size of an average bacterium, yet had the power of a personal computer. The technology was decades beyond anything humans could have created in a lab. Some thought the technology could be almost as old as life on earth while others had far different, more recent ideas.

Mark could still see the spherical colonies in his mind. He had been dreaming of them again. Each was an undulating mass of hundreds of trillion of COBIC bacteria. Each bacterium was infected with a seed that covertly replaced most of the nucleus. It was all so stealthful, like a skilled hunter toying with its prey. Only in this case its prey was the world. Each colony was only a few feet in diameter, a size easily lost in the vast chasms of deep ocean water. Only a handful of these super- colonies were secreted around the world. He could hear echoes of the artificial intelligence thinking to itself. At times it could be maddening.

The god-machine, through its global wireless web, linked together all seeds that permeated everything on the planet. The result was an ancient living network of unimaginable scale and distributed comput- ing power. The seeds undetectably infected virtually every multi-celled creature, including humans.

Mark took a deep breath to clear the cobwebs of his dreams then took another deep breath. He heard a twig snap in the darkness, and his heart jumped. At the edge of the small clearing, beyond the reach of the campfire’s glow, lurked a deep gloom thick enough to conceal almost anything. The night was alive with droning and chirping creatures that should have been hibernating. Climate change had brought so many unforeseen consequences. In seconds his nanotech brain had cataloged the telltale sounds of several species of insects and other small creatures. Some would be extinct before long.

Mark thought how humankind had come so dangerously close to extinction itself. When the nanotech seeds had metastasized inside him two years ago, the technology had not only altered his brain, it had modified his flesh and even to some extent his DNA. While most of the seeds had taken root permanently inside the neurons in his brain, some remained unattached.

Using a mental command, Mark augmented his vision to include medical information about his body. The information was mentally projected as virtual reality. Looking at his arms and legs, he saw what resembled a colored fluoroscopic view. Orange blotches in the overlaid schematic symbolically indicated where the unattached mobile seeds were now massing. He knew these seeds were concealed inside harm- less COBIC bacteria, which they controlled and used both for disguise as well as mobility. These nanotech bacteria navigated his circulatory system like computerized antibodies. The microbes were sheathed in a chemical disguise, dialed-in to match its environment in the same way a chameleon changes its color. The result was complete invisibility to the immune system of its host. If his flesh was injured, this free-swimming nanotech could knit his tissues back together at the molecular level, healing the damage in days instead of weeks. These seeds, however, did far more than heal. Slowly, over time, they perfected through genetic fine tuning. He was the first of his kind. He had no idea how long he would survive, but he did know his lifespan would be extraordinary.

Mark turned off the medical projection. While he could examine his flesh, there was no command that could show him what was happening to his mind. Soon after the nanotech seeds had infected his brain, all his dreams had become conscious experiences and remained that way. In his conscious dreams he was able to solve problems, explore places, and just simply live. It was like an entire second existence had been opened to him. He knew his conscious dream life was mostly the result of photographic recall of everything, including dreams. Surveillance data from the god-machine proved most people had conscious dreams every night; they just failed to remember them and called them by a different name: lucid dreams.

Mark gazed up from the small clearing at a sky overcrowded with stars. He felt like the only being alive in this infinite, lonely place. A gibbous moon was just setting below the branches. Its pale blue light cast long shadows of tree limbs across the clearing. The shadows reminded him of ghostly talons reaching out for their prey. He checked for dream signs to make sure he was not experiencing a false awakening.

The temperature should have been frigid and the ground covered in deep snow, but it was not. More signs of a planet teetering on the brink of environmental collapse. The continent no longer had uniform seasons. Some places were experiencing a frozen winter while here in Missouri it was closer to early spring. It was chilly enough to be uncomfortable for an organic, but not for Mark and his companion. He simply dulled the temperature sensitive nerve endings in his skin. The campfire’s low flames had been reduced to orange coals. He could see the radiated warmth on his arms and legs but felt nothing. The glowing coals seemed almost alive as they writhed in their superheated world. Unable to feel the warmth, Mark was fascinated and reached out with his hand. A computer assist acted automatically in response to his state of mind. This assist, like the medial schematic, was a geo-projected virtual reality. The assist was warning him that the heart of the fire was 1,262 degrees Fahrenheit. It did this by displaying the temperature superimposed over the coals. Mark thought about the utter pointless- ness of that warning and how it showed the machine interface was still adapting to him and had far to go. He never had any intension of inserting his hand into the flames.

A soft breeze stirred dying leaves on the branches around him as a few more floated to earth. He watched one incinerated as it drifted down onto the hungry coals… as it dissolved, a terrible memory crept back into his awareness unbidden and his heart broke anew. Every day when he awoke the world was as it should be for a brief time, then the serpent of reality opened her eyes inside him and the horror of what he knew broke him again as he knew it would every morning of every day of his unimaginably long life. He spoke in an urgent whisper directed at both God and the god-machine.
“I want our lives back. I want our hope back. How could you hate us so much?”

Sarah stirred next to him. She was a nanotech hybrid like him. They were the only two known to exist in a world of one and half billion humans who had survived the nanotech plague. A plague caused by the god-machine and the seeds living inside his flesh. Mark regretted whispering and furtively wiped the dampness from his eyes. Sarah’s Rottweiler, Ralph, was staring at him. The dog’s eyes glowed with orange light from the fire. The huge animal was like a witch’s familiar.

Sarah could partially see and hear through the animal’s senses as they were radiated out as data across the god-machine’s n-web. Since all creatures were infected with some nanotech seeds, all creatures radiated some emanations, be it mental or emotional. Sarah propped herself up. Mark could see her shadowed expression in the wavering light. She looked so attractive and so frighteningly intelligent. He knew she was curious. He could feel her empathic awareness begin to suffuse him as her cybernetic brain fully awoke like a rising sun. Her spiritual caress was a hand returning to a familiar glove. While she shared and expe- rienced all his emotions, she must never discover the terrible truth. He concealed it deep inside himself and kept it from her so that she did not lose all hope. There was always hope.

Storytelling: The Indispensable Art of Entrepreneurism by Rudy Mazzocchi

Storytelling 7Title: Storytelling: The Indispensable Art of Entrepreneurism
Author: Rudy Mazzocchi
Publisher: Twilight Times Books
Pages: 220
Language: English
Genre: Business/Entrepreneurism
Format: Paperback, Kindle

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The value of any new venture or sound new idea needs to be developed out of the nothingness of silence, ignorance and darkness. It ignites and illuminates the world only when the great storytelling entrepreneur lights the flame. “STORYTELLING: The Indispensable Art of the Entrepreneur” shows, with startling clarity and practical know-how, the process by which wealth and other things of exceptional value can emerge into the world literally out of nothing—nothing, that is, but the Art of Storytelling.

STORYTELLING takes you on a journey which reveals how the development, progressive modification and adaptation of your story is the golden thread and foundational core management practice which ties together all the others:  building, focusing and motivating your management team, navigating through troubled times or excessive growth, maintaining positive momentum with investors and Boards of Directors and positioning the venture for a potential exit.

Award-winning author and entrepreneur, Rudy Mazzocchi, exposes his greatest secret of success and provides an enormous amount of “experienced-based” illustrations and nuts-and-bolts practical advice. He reveals how to create and evolve the story of your new venture in a way that energizes and breathes life into what may have started out as just an idea.

Everyone can benefit greatly from reading this book—whether or not you envision yourself as an entrepreneur. STORYTELLING: The Indispensable Art of the Entrepreneur applies universally to ventures of all types and is an essential element in the fulfillment of any dream—dreams which depend upon capturing the interest and sustaining the highly-motivated commitment of others.

First Chapter:

Introduction

Nearly thirty years of doing this and my leg was still nervously vibrating like a jackhammer. I rolled the laser pointer in my fingers like some gambler would roll a poker chip, over and over in my fingers. While contemplating the two glasses in front of me, one with vodka, the other water—both brimming with ice—I rehearsed my opening comments in my head. A long draw on the vodka provided a warming sensation that calmed the jumpy leg. The second speaker was wrapping up his presentation. Within minutes I’d find myself at the podium!

It was a tough, intimate crowd of approximately thirty highly-specialized and wealthy surgeons with a sprinkling of spouses and administrative personnel. Due to the content of my presentation, I would be the third and final guest speaker that evening, sandwiched in between the cocktail reception and dinner—a “symposium” held each quarter at their exclusive country club. My audience was already fidgety, as the prior two stories had been cluttered, complex and confusing. The three of us—all early-stage CEOs—were there to solicit funding for our ventures from this wealthy group of physicians, but any sympathy I had for my two predecessors evaporated as I advanced my first slide. Immediately differentiating myself further, I stepped to one side of the podium and then took a single step towards the congregation before me.

My heart rate gradually returned to normal as I presented my enticing bait to this hungry audience. Key words would hook many of them, but I held back just enough to relieve the tension on the line. It was important not to come across as being too pushy—too slippery—like many of those faceless salespeople who littered their busy offices during the week. I had something special to provide… it was not only a revolutionary product, but also an invitation to embark upon a journey only a select few might be privileged to take with me… an exciting excursion that could provide them with something to supplement their current wealth.

Following my talk, there was a coronal discharge that filled the room, like the buzzing of electrical lines; many pushed aside their tempting desserts to join me near the massive fireplace in the adjacent room. They’d heard my story and understood its value; appreciated what was needed and asked if they could participate.

As I waited for the valet to bring my car around, I calculated the commitments I’d received during the past hour… at least $900,000. Over the next ten business days, that dinner presentation pulled in a total of $1.4 million—in the bank, with stock certificates issued and mailed out to seven new qualified investors!

To be an accomplished entrepreneur, you must be able to tell your story properly. The twisted road to success—your success—will be filled with enlightenment, dread, exuberance, fear, joy and desperation. Without exception, the journey will be long and any deviation from the path may well place you in danger. If it’s of any comfort, when you do wander off that yellow brick road, you won’t be alone, but the longer you stay there, the tougher it is to get back on track without starting over. This book is based on personal experiences and designed to provide you with certain “guardrails” to help you stay on that path… and to avoid those damn flying monkeys.

Remember the story of the Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum? How many times did Dorothy tell her story to others along her treacherous journey to the Emerald City? Her mission began when she explained herself to Glinda, the Good Witch of the North, after her house took out the Wicked Witch of the East. She refined her story when meeting the Munchkins, and it became stronger and more powerful each time she encountered a new companion—the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Cowardly Lion. Dorothy then put a different spin on things when telling her story to the Wicked Witch of the West. How many times did she have to explain herself to whomever would listen—convincing others to help or join her on the journey? By the time she reached her key objective, her story to the Wizard was fine-tuned, well-rehearsed and crystal clear. Not only did she achieve her goals and those that defined her journey, but others who believed and supported her story along the way were provided a handsome return for their efforts.

Dorothy was a storyteller supreme. The storytelling necessary to become a successful entrepreneur is not much different. In the beginning, along with the idea—the vision—the story we tell is all we really have… and yet it is the most important tool in our bag. If not told properly, we are doomed to constantly deal with evil flying monkeys and the possibility of utter failure.

CHAPTER 1

Definitions and Disclaimers

You most likely are reading this book because you have a precious story of your own to tell. Many of us with creativity, drive and ambition will have something of supreme value we wish to promote. (Let me re-phrase that to read “something of supreme value we must promote, we are driven to promote.”) Our audience could be small and well-defined, or massive as all mankind. Storytelling is very personal to me. I believe it to be the most important element of the true entrepreneur that represents our vision—our dreams. And the process we use to tell that story needs to encapsulate the faith we have in our belief and commitment. We owe it to ourselves and our audiences not to screw it up!

My cup runneth over with confidence from years of success and failures and everything in between. However, to better appreciate the perspectives and suggestions I’m presenting here, it’s important to understand a few of my key definitions as they are used throughout this book. I have also included a brief disclaimer section below to address and repudiate any elements of my story you might believe to be questionable.

WHAT IS A TRUE ENTREPRENEUR?

This is probably one of the most over-used and misunderstood terms used in business. It’s like calling someone a “loving-husband” or “workaholic.” It means different things to nearly everyone I’ve discussed this topic with, and the majority of those who carry the title of entrepreneur have either christened themselves with it or had it assigned by those hoping to achieve such a title.

Merriam Webster defines an Entrepreneur as one who organizes, manages and assumes risks of a business or enterprise. That’s basically it as far as a dictionary definition goes! In contrast, one of the Big Four accounting firms, Ernst & Young, has pioneered and continues to sponsor the prestigious Entrepreneur of the Year Award. Here is their definition: the Entrepreneur is the creator of great ideas who strives to make them a reality.

Since I’ve been fortunate enough to have been labeled an entrepreneur by a variety of different people, I’ll take the liberty of expounding on my own definition as well. A true entrepreneur is not just a person with a vision, but someone who acts on that vision, regardless of the criticism, and despite the potential risk or loss of personal assets. A true entrepreneur acts on that vision to create something that may never have existed if such action were not to be taken.

An architect is not an entrepreneur unless he acts on his vision to build what he’s designed, with his own money, sweat and perseverance. Likewise, an author is not an entrepreneur unless she acts on her vision to write that story, have it published, promoted and sold with her own money, sweat and perseverance. In addition, just as with the category of loving-husbands and workaholics, we can drill down deeper into a subset of such a definition of the true entrepreneur.

THE INVENTOR/FOUNDER ENTREPRENEUR

I believe this describes the ultimate entrepreneur. Remember the definition above? A true entrepreneur is not just a person with a vision, but someone who acts on that vision, regardless of the criticism, despite the potential risk or loss of personal assets. A true entrepreneur acts on that vision to create something that didn’t exist or wouldn’t exist if they didn’t take such action.

The person who looks at a problem or shortcoming requiring a solution, whether a product or service, with the realization that there’s not a current solution for a reason, overcomes conventional thought and identifies a solution through discovery—making it a viable reality. The Inventor/Founder Entrepreneur goes a step beyond, actually taking action to create a new solution, researching its novelty, and usually filing a patent application to protect it, in attempt to secure its value and control its commercial use. Here’s the person who writes that first check, usually without asking the spouse, to file the application for patent protection. Unfortunately, this same person may not know how best to proceed. Although they are the one person in the world most passionate about the story, their understanding of the legal requirements for starting a new enterprise is most likely well beyond their realm of knowledge or expertise. So, in preparation for this new journey, those striving to become true entrepreneurs for the first time will need to learn some legalese, or at least be willing to shell out the money for a good corporate attorney. I’ve learned the hard way that the richer the story, the more important it is to have all the necessary legal protection.

THE START-UP ENTREPRENEUR

The start-up entrepreneur differs from our previous description in that he could be the inventor of the new product or service, but in many cases he is not. Start-up entrepreneurs are more business-oriented and have either partnered with the inventor or possibly “licensed” an existing patented idea for the purpose of building a business and commercializing the product. (From this point forward, I will use product or service inter-changeably throughout the remainder of this book.) These people will often times make the biggest of sacrifices early in the process; leaving or jeopardizing their existing “day job,” working without a reliable salary and putting personal savings at risk. This is the true hard core entrepreneur.

THE PROFESSIONAL MANAGER

An individual hired by an organization to manage, fix or grow the business is often referred to as a Professional Manager. We can safely assume that “manage and grow” are intended to be used in harmony here. Why would any organization hire a professional manager to manage without the intent to grow? These individuals are provided a guaranteed salary, incentive package, health benefits, vacation pay, and the promise of continued employment as long as they perform as their job description indicates. Unfortunately, when some organizations survive and grow under challenging circumstances and/or rough economic conditions, this individual is often credited with being an entrepreneur. This is incorrect. This person falls way short of our definition above. I’ll refer to the Professional Manager again throughout the book. The true entrepreneur relies on these Professional Managers to accomplish key objectives once the business is up and running.

As for the Professional Manager who is hired to “fix” an organization, this individual gets a glimpse of what entrepreneurism is all about, but still falls short of being what we’ve defined as a True Entrepreneur. This is the “hired gun” — the person who comes in at the direction of the Shareholders and/or the Board of Directors to fix what is wrong. I agree that it takes an entrepreneurial spirit to turn-around a struggling company, but an old man with a youthful spirit doesn’t make that old man young! So, too, a Professional Manager with an entrepreneurial spirit does not add up to being a True Entrepreneur. The Professional Manager is not deeply at personal risk if there is a failure.

ART WHAT IS THE ART OF ENTREPRENEURISM?

We all might agree that Art relates to creativity. By definition, it also implies something that one practices—such as the Art of Fly-fishing, or the Art of Medicine. Since it’s just practicing, no one should really judge whether it’s right or wrong, but people do take liberties to criticize how well we accomplish what we practice. Being judged as good or bad by any audience is a given.

While it is true that most forms of Art have a definitive beginning, they often have no ending. The Art of an artist evolves with time and practice. As with any practice, it’s on-going, for as long as one strives to continue – changing, but not necessarily always improving. Such is the Art of Entrepreneurism — with one exception. The telling of the story needs to improve during the entrepreneurial journey or it will fall off the cliff into the abyss. Yes, the echoes of such an unimproved story might be heard again and again, but without any impact, without any value, without any credence.

It’s critically important to realize that, just as we should recognize that one man’s Art may be another man’s trash, we should expect such a great distinction from most existing art forms when comparing them to the Art of Entrepreneurism. The “Entrepreneur’s Art of Storytelling” has direct, visible and often immediate consequences that exist in the real world both of success and failure. Yes, we could probably also debate the definitions of success and failure, but my definitions have changed over time and most likely will not be equivalent to your definitions. Suffice to say, these consequences do not just exist in the mind of the entrepreneur… they exist in visible, concrete reality.

I’ve reached the conclusion that one cannot become an entrepreneur, in the truest sense, without experiencing a dose of failure first-hand. Actual failure, the threat—and even the fear of failure—can alter the way we deal with components of our story… and even to the way we present that story. The lesson here is to forbid failure or the possibility of failure from preventing your continuing the practice of your art. Cherish it, learn from it, and use it to become a better entrepreneur.

DISCLAIMER

Okay, here goes. Let’s face it… by description, telling a story is usually perceived, by many, as just that… telling a story. Unless we’re reiterating a factual event for whatever reason, telling a story involves events that have not happened yet, could have happened, should have happened, or may never happen. By the time my stories reach the point of actually being true, I’m usually on to telling another, now-enriched tale that is necessary to pull my listener into the next phase of a bigger story. Some may consider me, and many other entrepreneurs, as bullshit artists. I like to believe it’s “storytelling” and an indispensable element of any successful entrepreneur. Unfortunately, many unfamiliar with the art will think it as proverbial bullshit nevertheless. Herein lies the true ART of Storytelling.

How do you spin a visionary tale of a new ad-venture that has not yet happened, but could, and should happen, yet has a high chance of never being realized? It’s similar to trying to explain your dream or fantasies to a stranger—they are real, exciting and meaningful to you but difficult for others to appreciate. Even when you get your story across, why should they care? At some point it will most likely start to fall apart with you being the only one still believing your own story. How do you keep them at the campfire, sitting on edge, waiting for your next words? Why should they continue to listen? We’ll explore this further in the bowels of future chapters.

Back to the disclaimer: I have no formal business training, therefore no M.B.A. (people seem to still be collecting those), and no one has given me the right to write such a book… but if I could be so bold… I’d like to think I’ve earned it. And now that you’ve purchased this book, I’m hopeful you’ll learn more about the importance of storytelling in your entrepreneurial journey from my experiences, suggestions and annoying clichés. Many may seem obvious, but several of those points need to be restated and reinforced.

Storytelling: The Indispensable Art of Entrepreneurism

As you can read in my extensive biography at the end of this book, I prefer to be considered a “start-up C.E.O.” I’m also a founder of companies, an inventor, angel investor, entrepreneur (see definition above), award-winning author of medical thrillers (fiction, fiction and more fiction), board director, advisor, consultant, father, son, third-husband, biker, rugby player, and… yes, perhaps at times… a bit of a bullshit artist. However, I hope by the time we finish this book together that you’ll have a greater appreciation for my desire to be considered another great ‘Storyteller.’

Hot Book of the Day: Lifetime of Achievement by Jordan Maylea Ramirez

Lifetime of AchievementTitle: Lifetime of Achievement
Author: Jordan Maylea Ramirez
Paperback: 106 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (December 7, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1480274399
ISBN-13: 978-1480274396

ABOUT LIFETIME OF ACHIEVEMENT

There are too many people going through life content with mediocrity. People going to jobs they hate, to buy things they don’t need to impress people they don’t like. People who are dreading Monday, looking forward to hump day and praying for Friday; and let’s not even talk about those two weeks of paid vacation… those are gold!

How long have we been this way? Is this really what life is all about? I don’t believe we were created to be content with a mediocre lifestyle we never wanted in the first place. What happened to being a rock star, an astronaut, or an actor? What happened to the hopes and dreams we each had as children? Perhaps, over time, our dreams have changed… but our propensity for dreaming is still inside us.

Lifetime of Achievement outlines seven goal-setting strategies to help get you from where you are to where you want to be. In its chapters you will find knowledge from some of the worlds most popular personal development masterpieces, taken down to a level that is easy to read and simple to understand.

Learn the steps to discovering who you truly are, creating goals in perfect alignment with that discovery and implementing an action plan that, when followed, has been proven to produce results. Learn how to conquer fear, to activate the powers of the human mind and discover two of the most important factors shared by virtually every successful individual throughout history.

This book takes proven strategies and puts them into an easy-to-read, easy-to-implement format that can be read in as little as a few hours. Discover the steps, put them to work, and become prepared for a Lifetime of Achievement!

Book Excerpt:

Time has a funny way of passing whether we are prepared for it or not. The sun continues to rise and set, signaling the beginning and the end of another day; what we do with the time that passes is up to us.

Fate. Chance. Luck. We live in a time where these words are passed around like a “get out of jail free” card; relieving people of the burden of personal responsibility. Instead of believing our choices shape our future, we turn a blind eye and believe the common thread connecting those successful people in our world is nothing more than some lucky gene one is either born with, or not.

What a horrible way to live!

People skirt the idea of personal responsibility because it frightens them. The idea of owning each and every one of our mistakes can be a tough one. What people miss though is the unexplainable freedom, joy and liberation that can come with the simple act of becoming responsible for your life!

It was right at 5 years before writing this book that the idea of personal responsibility took hold of my psyche. At that point, I had dabbled in personal development for several years, begun my own business and experienced very little real success. The idea began with a seed planted by my therapist (yeah, I’m not kidding.) when he said to me, “You are responsible for your own happiness. You must become your own secure base in this world.”

The idea confounded me. It took hold and, before long, began to grow rapidly as a result of the books I began reading and the philosophy I began to adopt into my life. Do you hear the freedom in those words? YOU are responsible for your own happiness. YOU ARE! Not your family, not your friends. Not your circumstances, not your environment. You! You are responsible!

Now, don’t get me wrong… as the story goes, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Adopting the belief that we alone are responsible for the results in our life means facing up to the fact that if your current situation is not all sunshine and roses you have only one person to blame – and you can find them by looking in the mirror. Much like a recovering addict forced to face the reality of the chaos they have created, adopting the philosophy of personal responsibility takes courage, perseverance and faith. Courage to face your problems, perseverance to push past them and faith that there is freedom waiting on the other side.

I am here to tell you from personal experience that freedom is there. The liberation that comes from owning up to your choices is unparalleled, and the good news is once you have become aware of this power you can begin to write a new script… word by word, page by page, until you have composed the masterpiece that is your life; created by design and not by chance.

My life over the past 5 years has been incredible! Not every day, not even every week, but overall incredible. It started out slow, but day-by-day I began to see a little bit more of the life I was choosing to live, and became a little less victim to my circumstances. That freedom can be yours as well, if you have the courage to step up and take it!

The best part is even after 5 years the freedom of personal responsibility is just beginning. Many of the goals and aspirations I have for myself have not even been tapped yet… the thought is exhilarating!

I imagine a time not too far in the future, when I will step out onto the balcony that leads from the master suite of my and my husband’s dream home, ready to watch the sun set on another day gone by. I will think back over the years we have been married and smile at the life we have because I will know it was built by design, not left to chance. I will think of our children, tucked safely away in their beds, and the life they will have as a result of the choices we have made. I will be satisfied because in my heart I will know I have achieved the goals I set out to accomplish for myself and my family.

That story WILL be my future and a similar story can be yours too, but we have to begin today.

Take a moment to think about your life – not as it is now, but how it can be if you make the decision to take control of your future. What does “A Day in the Life of You” look like? What does it feel like, smell like, sound like? Close your eyes and imagine your ideal life. Imagine a perfect day and the components that come together to make it so.

The art of goal setting is a powerful component in living your life by design and has been one of my passions for several years now. I call it an art because the act of setting and achieving goals is so much more than thinking about the things you want in life. It’s a process not to be taken lightly, but if you will commit to it wholeheartedly over time you CAN create the life you desire.

Thank you for joining me on this journey! It is my wish that the principles I share with you throughout the pages of this book will be as life-changing for you as they have been and continue to be for me. The sky really is the limit! The future really is yours for the taking! It can begin today, and it begins with YOU!

Enjoy, and here’s to your future!

Purchase your copy:

AMAZON

Book Excerpt: Illusion of Certainty by Greg Messel

ILLUSION OF CERTAINTY, by Greg Messel, Yorkshire Publishing, 452 pp.

The Illusion of Certainty follows two parallel storylines. Marc is a successful businessman who seems to have everything—a great job, a beautiful wife, a house in an upscale neighborhood of Portland, Oregon and two great kids who are preparing for college. But something is not right. Marc is unsettled by the sudden change in his wife, Aimee, who seems distant and unhappy. What’s going on with her?

The second storyline involves a successful young attorney, Alexandra Mattson. Alex, as she is called by her friends, meets a handsome young cop, Sean, during an unexpected crisis in her neighborhood. Sean and Alex seem made for each other and begin to merge their futures in a world of uncertainty.

The only certainty in life is that we will face uncertainty. Despite all fo the technology and controls available in the modern world, sometimes the only comfort comes from the human touch.

Excerpt:

The naked woman stood motionless, leaning against the wall of the shower and letting the hot water strike the top of her head and cascade down her back. She placed her hands flat against the tiled shower wall and leaned forward and closed her eyes. The warm water soothed her exhausted body and she felt enveloped in its comforting caress.

She felt safe and was now pampering herself after a grueling night shift at the hospital where she was a nurse. A nurse with considerable responsibilities.

Aimee Hunt-Wilson had enough experience and clout to avoid these awful shifts but as a supervisor she was on a mission this summer. She had been working nights most of the summer to try to rehabilitate the night shift, which was in disarray. Someone needed to repair the damage brought on by an incompetent supervisor who was now gone. Aimee was trying to shape things up. It’s what Aimee did best; however, it was taking a toll on her.

Marc Wilson was having his first moments of consciousness on this Tuesday morning. He slept alone. That was happening more and more these days. From the bed he could see Aimee, his wife, through the clear glass box that was the shower in their master suite. The only light filtering into the bedroom and casting a soft light on Marc’s bed was the light from Aimee’s shower.

He leaned up on his elbow and gazed through the steam at the nude Aimee. He was getting aroused. Marc still loved his wife’s body. Lately, when he saw her, she was always hidden in the baggy scrubs she wore at the hospital. Her long black hair was plastered to her wet bare back by the shower water. Aimee always tanned so well. At this point in the summer she had a perfect swimsuit tan. Her body had matured but it had actually gotten better since the college days when they first met.

Her breasts and hips were fuller now but the rest of Aimee’s body was taunt and lean. She was about 5-5, probably in the best shape of her life. Aimee obsessively exercised and carefully monitored her diet. After her shower she would come to bed to rest and then be pounding the pavement this afternoon running, getting in her miles. Aimee had always been so meticulous about what she ate and she imposed the same standards on Marc.

Marc’s favorite meal, a burger and fries, was considered in the same category as rat poison by Aimee. If Marc went through a fast food window to sneak a burger, he felt compelled to hide the evidence from Aimee. But all of this vigilance certainly paid off in the way Aimee looked. This mother of two, with a manic schedule, looked terrific as she approached Illusion of Certainty middle age. Her long dark hair, which was naturally curly, was a stunning combination with her bright blue eyes.

Marc now lay in the early morning light watching Aimee step from the shower, all pink and soft, as she began to towel off. She then plugged in her hair dryer, bent over and began to dry her long hair. As he observed her maneuvers to dry her hair, he was taking in the sight of her bouncing breasts and lovely body. Marc knew that when she finished, she would quickly throw on one of his oversized t-shirts and jump under the covers—just as it was time for Marc to get out of bed and begin his day. Marc rolled out of bed and attempted to head her off before she dressed and made it to the bed. He was hoping that somehow he could have her, that he could enjoy the physical pleasures of his sexy wife. This had not been planned but the moment was presenting itself and he wanted her. Marc hoped Aimee would want the intimacy, too. Aimee slipped on some bright blue bikini panties just as Marc stood in front of her and said, “Hey you’re really looking sexy this morning.”

Oh Marc, I’m so exhausted, you seem to have the world’s worst timing.”

“Oh come on Aimee, wouldn’t it be fun?”

“Trust me Marc, it wouldn’t be fun right now. I just need some sleep.”

“So when, in this whole summer, would you suggest I make love to you?”

“Marc,” Aimee said with resignation, “I’m begging you to not start right now.”

– Excerpted from The Illusion of Certainty

Book Excerpt: Chique Secrets of Dolce Vita by Barbara Conelli

Title: Chique Secrets of Dolce Vita
Author: Barbara Conelli
Paperback: 148 pages
Publisher: Flagrans Press (April 2, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0982600410
ISBN-13: 978-0982600412

To live a dolce vita means living with an open heart and soul, indulging in life with all your senses. It means having the eyes to see real beauty, having the nose to smell intoxicating scents, having the ears to hear dreamy sounds, having the mouth to taste delicate flavors, having the body to perceive soft sensations. It means being aware of yourself, of your emotions and desires. It means finding happiness in ordinary yet unique things.

There is a place where you can learn all this. A place scented with saffron where you can find a natural paradise among houses with flaked paint, where famous artists play on the streets, where men have not forgotten how to pay compliments, and where women seductively swing their hips. It is a place where people take the art of dolce vita to perfection. Where you can enjoy little pleasures, live every day as if it was your first and last, breath in the air of true freedom and be whatever and whoever you want to be. In this place, where the real Italian heart is still beating, where people are delightfully vain as well as childishly honest, and where passion is more than just a word, you realize that living the sweet life is not as hard as it may seem.

Let’s wander together for a while along Milanese boulevards and the narrow winding streets of the surrounding villages. Let’s go on a journey that will take us to the atelier of untameable Carla, to the sweet heaven of irresistible Antonietta, among the peculiar characters of bohemian Brera, to the silk workshop of Maria Elena, to see Fernanda’s disobedient genius, to the famous La Scala with Francesco and Giovanna, and to the cradle of Milanese high fashion by madam Mila. Then to the hills that once belonged to pirates and today are owned by lovers. On to misty paths haunted by ghosts and then to secret corners that witnessed passionate stories of love, desire, and heartbreak.

Let’s meet the delicious Milanese women, amazing and unique, whose lives have been irreversibly changed by Milan and who have also changed the face and character of Milan forever. Women whose fate has become entwined with the city’s present and past, with its everyday life, and its transformation throughout history. We can also meet the men who have succumbed to the temptation of sultry hips and mysterious voices in the dark. Who, insane from luscious lips and inspired by irresistible legs, have marked the world with their presence and made it a deliciously bittersweet place to be.

Let’s simply uncover all the sweet, passionate, and dark Milanese secrets that have up to now remained unrevealed. The chique secrets that will teach you to live your own dolce vita no matter where in the world you are. Because la vita e bella, life is beautiful, and the most amazing wonders of this world often hide in the simplest things.

Book Excerpt

If we were to attribute human traits to a city, Milan has a refined spirit, ingenious brain, sensual body, elegant walk, and a sweet soul, maybe the sweetest of all Italian cities. Nowhere else will you find so many cafés, patisseries, and bakeries smelling of vanilla than here. All the sweet traditions of sweet-toothed Italy have met on this Milanese crossroad to show off the best that has been pleasing the soul and tongue of Italians for centuries.
Pasticceria Da Antonietta, or Antonietta’s confectionary, in Via Fontanelli, is a sweet-smelling corner of Southern Italy where the sweet charms of Napels and Palermo have been welded for twenty years. That’s where confectioner Antonietta’s parents came from many years ago to look for work. Antonietta grew up surrounded by traditional southern delicacies enriched with ingredients proven over generations that could not miss on Fiduccis’ table at any family lunch or dinner. She studied the intricate alchemy of icings, creams, and fragile dough, she baked, fried, candied, and filled, until rumor of her exceptional art spread all over Milan.

Antonietta started to create sweet surprises for family celebrations, weddings, and various holidays; her sweet hands were as skilful as the hands of reputable confectioners in restaurants of famous names, maybe even more so, and her creations were even more delicious because she made them with the authentic Neapolitan passion.

When Antonietta was twenty-one years old, her heart got broken by seductive, bewitching Francesco, for whom she had been making his favorite profiterole, fluffy cream puffs with a scrumptious filling, for two years. Antonietta found out that Francesco exchanged her sweet love for a daughter of a Milanese councilman, who did not know how to make profiterole but had a fat dowry from her daddy. When Antonietta recovered from Francesco’s betrayal, she decided she would never again dedicate her sweet art only to one man. She opened Pasticceria Da Antonietta, which soon became a far-famed place and a favorite destination of all the Milanese with a sweet tooth.

Today, Antonietta is forty-one but you would say she is at least ten years younger. Her raven-black hair smells of cinnamon, and her Palermo curves that she had inherited from her Sicilian mother drive young Felipe from next door insane, as well as decent seventy-something Mariano from the opposite house. Although she could have made a much bigger business out of her confectionary a long time ago, she still keeps her small store on the corner and makes all the pastry with her own hands. And although her patisserie is full of delicacies from the whole of Italy and even from neighboring France, most clients come back mostly for the irresistible Neapolitan sfogliatelle, pastiere, and the Sicilian cassata. This is the pastry of Antonietta’s childhood, the treasure of the Fiducci family, and Antonietta’s big love. Its baking runs in her blood and she has taken it to complete and unbeatable perfection. And what’s more, over a cup of mint tea, she will tell you its history because Antonietta knows absolutely everything about the sweet love of her heart.

Sfogliatelle are fluffy sweet rolls from Napels, first created by monks from a certain Neapolitan monastery. For many years, the recipe was a secret domain of the monks, simply because only those within the monastery walls had enough time to bake the laborious sfogliatelle. Sfogliatelle are made of fragile dough that is rolled to create several layers, cut into pieces and then filled with orange ricotta or almond paste. The main ingredient is candied lemon peel, giving sfogliatelle their typical scent. Antonietta has her huge lemons delivered directly from the Amalfi coast where they ripen under the Neapolitan sun and are saturated with sea breeze.

Pastiera is a dessert of many aromas, whose origin goes back to the pagan celebrations of the spring. In the middle ages it was rediscovered by a Neapolitan nun who, led by purely spiritual intentions, created this divine yet sinfully profane temptation. This woman of God wanted to prepare an exceptional dessert that would celebrate Christ’s resurrection and smell like orange trees in the convent garden. She mixed flour with home-made ricotta, added eggs as the symbol of a new life, water smelling of infused orange blossoms, the convent’s very own cider, and a combination of oriental spices that gave a spark of pagan sensuality to her devout doings.

The Sicilian cassata was brought to Italy in the ninth century by Arabs, who ruled Sicily for three hundred years. After they left, nuns of Palermo convents took the cassata to perfection, and thanks to them, the cassata of today harmoniously combines the spicy sweetness of Arabic pastries and fruity
flavors of Sicily. This colorful dessert proves that convents were not just a place of asceticism and spiritual contemplation and that they also witnessed completely unspiritual epicurean pleasure. The Palermo cassata is made of a light sponge biscuit that nuns soaked in chaste-fruit juice, which Antonietta replaced with a totally unchaste liqueur that she invented herself. Slices of the sponge biscuit are then pasted together by layers of ricotta and vanilla or chocolate cream. This base is then poured over with a marzipan icing and on top of that, pink and green sugar icings create colorful stripes on the white marzipan. Finally, the cake is decorated with deep-red Sicilian cherries and juicy citruses. What is there left to say? Maybe only Antonietta’s loving words dedicated to cassata: “Just as well the nuns of Palermo didn’t keep this sweet secret to themselves.”

Whether you decide to savor mint tea and Neapolitan pastries in Antonietta’s sweet-smelling paradise or in any of the countless Milanese pasticcerias, you won’t regret it. Milan literally lures you to lose yourself in the delicious delights the city offers wherever you go. Italian’s sweet life is really sweet, and in Milan, maybe twice as much.

– Excerpt from Chique Secrets of Dolce Vita by Barbara Conelli

You can purchase your copy of Chique Secrets of Dolce Vita by Barbara Conelli online at Amazon.  To check out her official virtual book tour page, click on banner below!

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