Saturday, September 17, 2016

Gina Catalano on Tandem Leadership Management

Gina Catalano talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by alvinwriter.com about her latest book, Tandem Leadership: How Your #2 Can Make You #1.



“Execution is what’s going make your big idea a great idea.” ~Gina Catalano

Gina had run a few manufacturing companies before starting her own consulting business, where she noticed that entrepreneurs were brilliant with the product or service they delivered but struggled to build their business team, particularly with people who could do the duties they themselves did. Gina worked with these entrepreneurs, using the principles she learned to scale up their businesses.

The book, Tandem Leadership, was originally intended for entrepreneurs of small companies who are seeking to expand their business, but it turned out to be useful to anyone. It sprang from a comment made to her at a seminar, when someone told her that a book on leadership would help out companies that were struggling with their management team. As one of the reasons she wrote it was to help others whom she couldn’t help out in her consultancy business, Gina had originally created the book in a standard “how to” format. But after some conversations with her editor, she reverted to writing the book in storytelling format, akin to fiction, which was fine with her, since she had always thought of writing a novel. In addition to telling a part of the story and presenting the principles Gina wanted to point out, each chapter has a few questions for the reader to reflect on.

Gina agrees that not much attention is paid to the COO (#2) position where management books and doctrine are concerned and mentions that she originally intended to write Tandem Leadership from the point of view of the #2 organizational leader. She points out that even solopreneurs have key partners or a virtual assistant who acts as their #2 and that, over the course of her career, she has had the opportunity to be both a COO and a CEO. She uses the metaphor of the bicycle to make her point about how much easier the work is when two people are involved.

Gina remarks that, the sooner an entrepreneur thinks about the things that the entrepreneur is doing (which can be passed on to someone who can do the work for a lesser cost than the entrepreneur does), the better, even if hiring someone is still months down the road.
Gina works with entrepreneurs to create the future that appeals to them (such as having more time to be with their children) and which they can look forward to with all the available free time and resources that come with handing off some responsibilities to others and earning more money.

Gina admits that entrepreneurs usually don’t have a picture of what it’s like to have a #2, or what kind of #2 they would have. She remarks that #2s should complement the CEO rather than being just like the CEO (which emphasizes the blind spots both would have) or being the opposite of the CEO (which creates some loopholes). Gina says that CEOs are outwardly focused, while the COO is internally focused, is better at the CEO at some things, such as handling people, and are more interested in getting things done than in getting credit. She recommends that CEOs just tell their COOs what needs to be done and then let the COO to do things by themselves, rather than running close herd on them. Gina recommends that a CEO meets with his or her CEO regularly and effectively, meeting more often and in shorter time spans rather than getting involved in long meetings.

Gina is presently working on her next book, which is intended for #2s, and may also write something regarding succession in family businesses. She also remarks that being open to doing things in a different way, and then sticking with it long enough to master it, will get one further down the road than changing things every so often.

Gina Catalano’s website for her book, Tandem Leadership: How Your #2 Can Make You #1, is tandemleadershipbook.com.

Purchase on Amazon: Tandem Leadership: How Your #2 Can Make You #1 by Gina Catalano

Friday, September 16, 2016

Jennifer Reich on Why Parents Reject Vaccines

Jennifer Reich talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by alvinwriter.com about her latest book, Calling the Shots: Why Parents Reject Vaccines.



“In the end, parents see themselves as primarily responsible for their own children.” ~Jennifer Reich

Jennifer is a sociologist by training whose research, for the past twenty years, centers on how parents care for their families under the initial assumption that all parents do what they believe is right for their children. Her book, Calling the Shots was ten years in the making and focuses on the question of parents who refuse to have their children vaccinated over concerns over vaccine safety. Jennifer has spoken to parents on the decisions they make, to pediatricians about the care they provide, lawyers representing families who may have been harmed by vaccines and vaccine researchers, just to name a few, to get as many viewpoints as she could on the question of vaccinating children.

Jennifer’s first book was an exploration of the child welfare system, wherein she researched on legal issues about parenting, and it was while she was mulling over which topic to focus on that George W. Bush announced vaccinating people against smallpox as a counterterrorism measure. At the same time, there was an uprise in the issue of parents not wanting their children vaccinated, and Jennifer then latched onto these issues. She feels that the book is part of a conversation about the subject, one that opens up a dialogue by avoiding the polarizing tone that previous books on the subject have taken by being respectful of the various viewpoints around the issue.

Jennifer notes that vaccination allows parents to think about the legal aspects of parenting, as in the United States vaccination has been enforced through the school system since the 1960s, as the belief is that putting together several children in a schoolhouse increases the risk of infection, and vaccination is necessary for parents to access educational resources. That said, states allow for parents to opt out of vaccination for particular reasons, such as religious beliefs, and it is the latter that a lot of parents resort to in order to keep their children from being vaccinated.

Vaccination was around even before Edward Jenner conducted his ground breaking vaccination work, but the method back then was to use living smallpox viruses in an attempt to avoid smallpox infection, which sometimes caused the person so vaccinated to be hit by the disease itself. Edward Jenner, however, was the first person to use a non-infectious agent (the cowpox virus) to vaccinate against smallpox, and even then, the conversation around the pros and cons of vaccination was present. Jennifer points out that a threshold percentage of the population - eighty to ninety percent - need to be immunized to keep an infectious disease at bay, and that not everyone can be vaccinated, due to such reasons as personal physiology.

Jennifer points out that the concerns around vaccination stem from the present context of individual parenting, wherein the parent is responsible for everything about their children, and health is related to individual responsibility, and thus individual parenting. She points out that bad luck plays a role in one’s life, which is something that parents who attempt to control everything they could - a possible byproduct of the context of individual parenting - don’t fully understand, and that the reason that a lot of parents who choose not to vaccinate their children come from higher income families is because these parents can devote more time to their children’s concerns, rather than with making a living

The issue of whether or not to vaccinate thus stems from a larger issue about parenting, and Jennifer points out that public health isn’t personalized to individuals, whereas concerns about health vary from individual to individual, which is why some parents regard the public health system may not apply to their individual children. She also points out that, while the short-term concerns about possible adverse effects from vaccines have been debunked and that longer-term adverse effects are hard to relate, given the length of time between the time of vaccination and when these supposed effects do show up, Jennifer believes that better information should be given to parents to enable them to get a clearer picture of how useful vaccinations are, particularly since the issue is a contentious one amongst families, with the older generation, who lived through polio, finding it difficult to believe that the younger generation of parents don’t want their children vaccinated.

Jennifer believes that the conversation about vaccination now needs to be done in a context of lack of blame and disbelief and contentiousness, and also believes that parents who do have concerns should ask questions to clarify their issues.

Jennifer Reich’s website for her book, Calling the Shots: Why Parents Reject Vaccines, is amazon.com.

Purchase from Amazon: Calling the Shots: Why Parents Reject Vaccines by Jennifer Reich

Monday, September 12, 2016

Rachel Dunn on How Making Better Videos Creates More Clients

Rachel Dunn talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by alvinwriter.com about her latest book, Better Videos: Stand Out. Be Seen. Create Clients.



“Don’t listen to the limiting beliefs of what you think that thing stands for.” ~Rachel Dunn

Rachel has been in the television industry for over two decades now, and as early as the age of fifteen she knew she wanted to be a video director, which everyone around her, at the time, regarded with askance. She worked with a lot of TV stations and created a company, Girl Director, which she uses to help empower other people to create videos.

Rachel wanted her book to essentially be a kind of mentor to people who want to create videos and who have been in the video business for a long time but who might have lost sight of what they wanted, as well as people who haven’t done videos before and who are trying to create these. Rachel hadn’t intended to write a book, but after meeting with publisher Angela Lauria, she found that Angela’s goal of making a difference in writing was congruent with her own desire to make a difference with videos. She admits that writing out the book helped boost her confidence greatly and gave her an additional tool by which she could help others.

Rachel remarks that the technology, where making videos, has progressed greatly in the past few decades. As an example, just fifteen years ago, she needed to use huge machines in a studio or in a room in a building, whereas nowadays people can make a video on their laptop, wherever they are. She remarks that everyone can make videos as time goes on, with the communication eventually being “mind-to-mind.” The biggest market today is for businesses, with their creating content for their customers, with one kind of video being client testimonials.

Rachel remarks that people who make videos should know why they want to make the video in the first place, as a “how-to” video, for example, would be different from one intended to create clients, after which she then recommends that they create a strategy to make the most of the video. Rachel remarks that videos for business give others a snapshot of the business itself and see the person behind the business that they could relate to. She remarks that high-budget videos still exist, but the proliferation of easily accessible technology can enable anyone to create an ad that is similar to the kind that high-cost advertising firms can produce, which is why the latter are now facing challenges.

Rachel has had a lot of experience with clients who have transformed themselves, such as a client that was undercharging whom she was able to help see the value of his work. Rachel, herself, was transformed by video when she created a documentary on elephants, as she had felt insecure about being in front of the camera - and in the documentary, she needed to be in front of the camera.

To those who want to get into the video business, Rachel says that they should have a clear vision for themselves, and then do whatever it takes to get there. She also remarks that one shouldn’t listen to limiting beliefs in pursuit of their goal, then pick a niche that one is interested in and then do it well and charge their worth. Properly mentored, anyone interested in getting into the video industry can become proficient within a few months.

To someone who would want to create videos, Rachel would say, create emotion with the video and share a story about a mistake one has solved. She hopes that people would gain the confidence that they need, and foresees herself writing books about videos in the future, with possible developments that will make videos even easier to make and share. To those who are stuck in anything, Rachel remarks that she asks herself “What would it take to show up?” She remarks that the answer will pop into one’s mind if one just listens to it.

Rachel Dunn’s website for her book, Better Videos: Stand Out. Be Seen. Create Clients, is www.girldirector.tv.

Purchase on Amazon: Better Videos: Stand Out. Be Seen. Create Clients by Rachel Dunn

Friday, September 2, 2016

Monica Burch on Teaching STEM Using Robotics

Monica Burch talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by alvinwriter.com about her latest book, Inside ROBOTICS.



“When you work hard at something, you usually become better at it.” ~Monica Burch

Monica is an electrical engineer who had worked with several companies before deciding to stay home with her kids. She observed that they liked gaming and wanted to teach them some engineering concepts that she liked as an alternative to just playing video games. She discovered Robotix kits shortly after she set up her own company, ConstructU, and has found these to be handy when working with her own kids. She used the kits to work with other kids to teach them the essence of STEM - science, technology, engineering and mathematics - in a way they could easily understand and experiment with. Monica also notes that such early exposure would enable kids to handle such “hard” subjects as Physics when they encounter it later in their studies.

Monica founded ConstructU on the basis of creating a world where kids loved to learn and to create universal thinkers, where kids can learn hands-on, engineering activities as well as to expose them to STEM, as there presently isn’t much around at present to involve children where STEM is concerned. She teaches using Robotix kits that kids could easily incorporate into their lives - build, take apart, rebuild and take their creations home, teaching them, from the inside out, about the various things that would make a robot work and teaching the kids math and science along the way. Monica likes using the Robotix system because kids can relate to such things as toys and bricks to construct something, and because the kids can actually see what works and what doesn’t through a process of hands-on trial and error, enabling to retain what they’ve learned. She considers the kit to be an excellent teaching and learning tool.

Monica wrote Inside ROBOTICS from her realization (after speaking to several people) that a relatively inexpensive means of instruction (other than hiring her) would be useful to a lot of people attempting to teach STEM. The book is intended to be read and used by parents, teachers and just about anyone who would want to introduce kids to STEM. The book and the projects within are easy to follow. She found that writing the various steps involved was the most challenging part of writing for her, and she was thankful that she found people who would check her on this. Writing about the personal stories was both hard and easy, in that telling these were challenging, but their being around to be used by her were easy.

Monica is involved with the Maker Movement and considers her work to be a “Constructor Movement,” which she regards as a subset of the Maker Movement. Continuous learning is something that she believes is important to everyone, as people - particularly kids - essentially need to know what goes on in something in order to make it, with electrical circuits being the example she gave. As her work involves exposing everybody to STEM, she notes that even those without a scientific bent can get some familiarity with it through Robotix, pointing out that she recently held a course on programming which was attended by kids who were more interested in programming than in building things.

To those who would like to teach kids about STEM, Monica would say that the kids who are interested in this may not become engineers or scientists but can find positions in other fields, such as medical technology or even baking, and suggests researching the Internet, particularly the Future Channel, to see a list of professions and careers that are related to STEM.

Purchase from Amazon: Inside ROBOTICS by Engineer Monica Burch. 

Sunday, August 28, 2016

D.J. Bodden on Writing Black Fall, Volume One of the Black Year Vampire Saga

D.J. Bodden talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by alvinwriter.com about his book, Black Fall, Volume One of the Black Year Vampire Saga.



“If you have this perfect line, say it, and if you have this perfect action, do it.” ~D.J. Bodden

D.J. had a very varied childhood, being born in the Cayman Islands and then spending his childhood in Monte Carlo and being educated in the French educational system. It was when he was seventeen that he realized that he didn’t particularly take well to the thought of the career track that he foresaw being laid out for him with that system, as he was a storyteller at heart. Being a Marine veteran, D.J. remarked that military veterans had a lot of stories to tell, even those they didn’t tell anyone else, and was attracted to the stories behind the boxes full of “neat things” that they had. He spent thirteen years in the military, which he was able to do as he held both British and American passports, and it was while he was in the naval academy that one of his professors suggested that he major in literature.

It was towards the end of his final deployment in Afghanistan that he wrote his first book, one which, he admits, was “horrible.” He then worked with editor Michael Garrett, Stephen King’s first editor, who gave him a great deal of constructive advice. D.J. then spent the next two years after that researching and working on his craft as a writer, as well as becoming an editor, helping other writers. It was while he was doing that when he met with writer Joe Cleveland, who came to him with a concept which D.J. became invested in, to the point that he began altering the story, with Joe Cleveland’s assent, and made it more his own. Joe ultimately didn’t like the direction the story was taking, so when Joe offered to essentially sell the rights to D.J. for a particular sum, D.J. took the offer; and it was thus that Black Fall came into being.

D.J. was familiar with the classic stories of vampires, such as Bram Stoker’s Dracula and The Vampire Lestat, so he found the kind of vampires in such stories as Twilight somewhat funny. For him, vampires are intellectual creatures that are outliers of human society, and through the book, he explored what it would be like to have such creatures exist in the practical, everyday world we all live in. He also.notes that various literary movements become popular because people, at the time these movements are popular, wrestle with questions about certain sectors of society which are reflected in these movements, and it is in this context that D.J. writes about vampires.

D.J. took six weeks, after buying Joe out, revising it so that it would be the start of a book series, which is designed to follow the lead character, Jonas Black, from adolescence to his sixties, through literally world-changing events that also change him. The characters in the final version of the book aren’t as originally conceptualized by Joe Cleveland, in conformance with the change in the concept of the story. He filled out the characters’ back stories in particular, such as the one for Doris, to make them more three-dimensional than they had originally been, noting that he spent “thousands of hours” doing research and re-imagining the characters. He hated the kind of style that focused on setting, which he experienced while learning French literature, and so focuses on a more visual style of description, keeping the descriptions of setting at a minimum.

D.J. believes that a reader should never be bored, and points out that people buy the books in the series one day after the other; and it is for the reason of “trying not to get people bored” that he cuts out any scene that he gets bored with. D.J. also remarks that he learned something new every single day when he was writing the book, admitting that he is obsessed about the characters and the story when he is working on them, and that some of the most important story points came while he was just walking around.

D.J. advises that people approach everything, particularly things which they have assumed to be true all their lives, as if they were approaching it for the first time, without any preconceived notions, and that, once one has figured out what one needs to do, then one should do it, as one might never get the chance again.

You can find Black Fall on D.J.’s website, djboddenauthor.com/books.

Purchase on Amazon: Black Fall by D.J. Bodden

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Hiroshi Yaita: Getting into The Heart of Work by Ryuho Okawa

Hiroshi "Henry" Yaita talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by alvinwriter.com about Master Ryuho Okawa’s latest book, The Heart of Work: 10 Keys to Living Your Calling.



“Try to follow the ten keys in this book. You will see your workplace in a different way.” ~Hiroshi "Henry" Yaita

Happy Science was founded in Japan by Master Okawa in 1986, with the intention to enable people all over the world to find happiness in their lives. Since then, it has expanded to several countries in Europe and Asia, in the United States and in Russia, and is presently expanding into education and politics.

Henry himself was with a company that traded in metals some thirty years ago and wasn’t very happy with it, because he had some conflicts with his superiors when his mother loaned him a book by Master Okawa, and after applying those teachings his attitude towards work changed. He then joined Happy Science as a member and became a full-time staff member in 1994, as he was excited by the possibilities of spreading, throughout the world, the concepts that had changed his life.

Master Okawa attained enlightenment and, according to Henry, has written 2,100 books in Japanese based on what he learned, particularly after 1991, when he was finally able to converse with spiritual beings and was convinced that spirituality was needed as a foundation for human happiness. Master Okawa himself used to work in a trading company in Japan and was assigned to New York to work there, thus gaining knowledge of Western business practices as well as Japanese business practices, and as such, wrote the book so that people all over the world, be they ones who follow Japanese or Western work ethics, can be helped by the ideas within.

The Heart of Work was originally intended for up-and-coming young businessmen who wanted to achieve success, but it is actually intended for everyone, be they employees, housewives or entrepreneurs. According to Henry, the book is based on a deep understanding of humans as beings who come from the spiritual world and who have an objective to fulfill while they’re on the Earth, based on a life plan that we created before coming to this physical plane, and recognizes that we, as humans, seek out work as a fundamental aspect of being human. Henry also notes that, perhaps the most important key noted in the book is the one where work and love are related (Chapter 5 in the book), as, according to Master Okawa, work and love are the same, and that love should be the basis of all relationships with other humans, particularly since no one can do their work or achieve their objectives alone, and creating and maintaining relationships thus essential to one’s success.

One’s calling is what one intends to achieve in one’s lifetime, and Henry remarks that one can determine what one’s calling is based on one’s own interests and skills. He also mentions that one can know what one’s calling is by figuring out which activities give one pleasure through experience, such as going through several jobs, and that one needs to find one’s inner desires and strengths through inner reflection. To those who are dissatisfied with their work and their lives, Henry points out that people think about what they can get from their workplace, such as praised and promotions, but this isn’t the way to achieve happiness and success. Focusing on other people’s needs and serving these from the standpoint of wanting other people happy, however, enables one to find pleasure, happiness and gratitude. He also emphasizes that the work we do is a blessing from God, who wishes us to find the pleasure of creation through work, and that jobs aren’t punishment but ways by which we could attain this pleasure of creation.

Translating Master Okawa’s books is the main thrust outside Japan, and according to Henry, five such translated works will be published this year, such as a book on justice and two others on meditation and enlightenment.

Master Okawa’s book can be found on happy-science.org and at okawabooks.com.

Purchase on Amazon: The Heart of Work: 10 Keys to Living Your Calling by Master Ryuho Okawa

Friday, August 5, 2016

Rory Flynn on His 2nd Eddy Harkness Detective Novel, Dark Horse

Rory Flynn talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by alvinwriter.com about his latest book, Dark Horse, an Eddy Harkness detective novel.



“All good writing is just bad writing that’s been edited.” ~Rory Flynn

Rory likes to write dark fiction generally in the category of crime, but he has been writing short stories since he was child, and he having read the works of such authors as Agatha Christie and Georges Simenon. He was a crime reporter for a few years and thus got a bit of an insight into police work, and he released his first novel in 1992; Dark Horse is actually his seventh book (the first five were released under his real name), and the second in a planned ongoing series.

Rory, along with several others, founded Concord Free Press, which is a publishing house that has a unique approach to book distribution. It is based on the concept of a gift economy, and authors publish their original works and give these away for free through the press, while still retaining the rights to their stories. The paperbacks are delivered free to the book’s buyer, even free of shipping charges, and in exchange, the buyer of the book is encouraged to donate to a worthy charity or do some act of active generosity. The Press has been very successful, as Rory remarks that millions of dollars have been raised for various charities, such as the rebuilding from the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, with one of the most successful ones written by Gregory Maguire, who wrote the novel Wicked, on which the play was based. His book proved to be so popular that the press needed to allocate particular times to handle the volume of requests.

The series of which Dark Horse is the second book for revolves around the work of the lead character Eddy Harkness, and Rory intends that all of titles in that book are those of fictional illegal drugs. His characters are all quirky in their own particular ways and also have their own particular mannerisms, and Rory just loves putting them together in a scene to let them just go. He also notes that drafts enable him to figure out just how much the characters will show up, and that writing enables him, as with all writers, to explore the various aspects of human character and relationships, both bad and good.

Rory notes that the drugs featured in his books are fictional ones, and also notes that drugs are part and parcel of American life unfortunately, with a lot of Americans under the age of 14 already abusing one form or another. Corruption, Rory remarks, is found all over the world, and while his experience as a crime reporter gave him an insight into how police operate, he admits he only wants to get the details plausible, rather than get bogged down in the details and minutiae of policing. He admits that the cops in his books would not be found in the real world as his creative license makes them too different and that Eddy Harkness, if he were real, would likely get fired for his actions in the book.

For Rory, writing a book is second nature, with each one being an evolution from an idea to exploration and to the final product, and while he realizes that the job of the writer is to engage others. He also tells young writers that, just because a topic is interesting to them, it may not be interesting to others and challenges them to constantly ask the question, "Who would care?" where the topic is concerned. Where Rory is concerned, the world is "endlessly fascinating," so if he gets interested in a topic, he might get a story from it, although he does want to make sure that the story hasn’t been written before and wants to make sure that others would be interested in it.

Rory Flynn’s website for his book, Dark Horse, is mrroryflynn.com.

Purchase on Amazon: Dark Horse an Eddy Harkness Novel by Rory Flynn