Category Archives: Writing and more

Updates on Peter DeHaan’s writing and speaking

That’s a Lot of Blogging

I’ve been officially blogging now for 10 years. During that time, I have made over 500 posts in this blog.

Although I enjoy blogging, finding the ideal time to write has not been easy. Initially, I wrote in the evening, after my workday was done. This kept blogging from encroaching on vocation, but was also the time at which my writing prowess is at its lowest. In addition to that, I found that if I blogged just before bedtime, I had difficulty shutting my mind off and falling asleep.

Next, I tried ending my workday with a blog, but then didn’t work either as I was pushing to finish my workday with a flourish, which bogged down my blogging focus. Most recently, I tried to write right after a shortened lunch, but again work distractions abounded.I've been officially blogging now for 10 years. Click To Tweet

Actually, my best time to write is first thing in the morning; I’ve known that all along.  However, if I blog then, I’m not doing the writing for which I actually earn a living, but the kind that is merely fun. So my dilemma of when to blog continues.

I also intended to write about three posts a week, but with so many ideas bouncing around my brain, the desire to write has triumphed, producing five or more entries a week. So, to maintain a sustainable and manageable plan, I’m going to (try to) cut back to three times a week, while attempting to set aside mid afternoons for blogging.

On top of this, I have started other blogs.

That’s a lot of blogging!

Wordsmith Peter DeHaan is a magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Check back each week for updated content, and look for his upcoming book, Woodpecker Wars.

Book Review: The Napkin, the Melon & the Monkey

The Napkin, the Melon & the Monkey: How to Be Happy and Successful at Work and in Life by Simply Changing Your Mind

By Barbara Burke (reviewed by Peter DeHaan)

Promoted as “a customer service fable,” The Napkin, the Melon & the Monkey is ambitiously subtitled: How to Be Happy and Successful at Work and in Life by Simply Changing Your Mind. I believe it lives up to its grand intention. The inside back cover notes that author “Barbara Burke is an internationally known consultant, speaker, and author who specializes in the ‘people side’ of customer service management.”

Reminiscent of the classic The One Minute Manager, this fable follows the vocational pursuits of Olivia, a harried customer service representative at the local utility. Starting her position with much excitement and high expectation, it isn’t long before the crush of complaint calls and barbs from angry customers bring her to her breaking point.

Enter Isabel, a wise and insightful veteran of the team, fortuitously comes to Olivia’s rescue. With one simple piece of advice, Isabel changes Olivia’s job outlook and career trajectory. This, however, will not be their only interaction, but the first of many such exchanges between mentor and mentee. Along the way, Olivia records twenty-two “aha!” moments, which have broad application for her work, customer service, and even life itself.

In case you’re wondering how a napkin, a melon, and a monkey fit into this, let me assure you they do, serving as apt metaphors for three key points, the reoccurring themes in the book. But don’t take my word for it. Read The Napkin, the Melon & the Monkey yourself and then share it with your coworkers. It might make a huge difference.

[The Napkin, the Melon & the Monkey: How to Be Happy and Successful at Work and in Life by Simply Changing Your Mind, by Barbara Burke. Published by Front Wheel Learning, 2006, ISDN: 0-9746379-3-9, 137 pages.]

Read more book reviews by Peter DeHaan

Book Review: Ditched

Ditched: A Love Story

By Robin Mellom (reviewed by Peter DeHaan)

Justina’s prom didn’t go at all as planned. After tumbling from a moving car just as the morning light emerged, she finds her prom dress ripped and stained, with no memory of what happened, no cellphone to call for help, and no money – sitting in a ditch. Literally ditched. And that new tattoo – please, please be temporary.

A hopeless romantic, Justina had mapped out every detail of how her prom should unfold: the kiss, the song, the dance – the entire evening. Reality turned out quite different, conspiring to keep her from her dream – or did it?

In this delightful romp into the unexpected, Ditched takes readers on a wild ride, weaving in the surprising, twisting and turning at every opportunity. Meeting a cast of colorful characters – true friends, fickle friends, and lovable losers – Ditched is highschool drama at its best – and worst.

Ditched: A Love Story is a young adult novel – and for those young at heart.

[Ditched: A Love Story, by Robin Mellom. Published by Hyperion, 2013, ISBN: 978-1423143512, 288 pages.]

Note: On March 1, 2015, Ditched was updated and re-released as Perfect Kiss.

Read more book reviews by Peter DeHaan

What I’m Looking Forward to the Most at the Breathe Conference

This weekend I’m heading off to the Breathe Writers Conference. It will be my third time in three years. There are many things I’m looking forward to, among them:

  • I’m looking forward to my workshop presentation to help and encourage other writers.
  • I’m looking forward to meeting new people and making new friends.
  • I’m looking forward to seeing friends from past conferences, writing groups, and even cyberspace.
  • I’m looking forward to scheduling one-on-one meetings with those who can guide me as a writer.
  • I’m looking forward to buying some books and having them autographed.
  • I’m looking forward to attending the general sessions and many workshops.
  • I’m looking forward to learning more about the art and craft of writing.

Mostly I’m looking forward to being in the company of other writers, to share and learn, to encourage and be encouraged, and to grow as a writer.

Perhaps I will see you there — and then we can do all these things together.

Raccoons in the ‘Hood’

I’ve blogged about squirrels in my yard, which I see on a daily basis and rabbits in my yard, which I see almost as often. This is not the case with raccoons. I’ve never seen a raccoon near my house, at least not until a couple weeks ago.

I was outside as dawn was peaking forth, setting the lawn sprinklers for the day. Not fully awake, I walked around my house, looked up, and was startled to see a raccoon lumbering across my yard, headed in my direction. I froze. What should I do?

Do I yell to scare him off? Chase him away? Ignore him? In my early morning stupor, flashbacks of comedy/horror skits flooded my mind. I envisioned him rearing up on his hind legs and running towards me. With lightening quickness he would attack, mouth foaming and eyes ablaze with anger. Before I could react, he would leap into the air, hit my chest, and pin me to the ground. Then he would…

I shuttered, trying to shake my over-active imagination from my foggy mind. It was not logical, but filled me with fear just the same.

I clapped once to get his attention. He looked up with a start; he too was in a predawn stupor. To my relief, he made an abrupt U-turn and quickly waddled out of sight. He was not full grown, but with quite a tummy on him, was apparently well-fed.

I recalled my next door neighbor catching two adult raccons in her live animal trap earlier this spring. I wondered if those were his folks. The trap was still set in her yard, ready for a third, but this lad was too clever. If he was an orphan, he was doing okay, avoiding capture and finding plenty to eat.

Mr. Raccoon, I hope you have a long life and happy life — just do it in someone else’s yard.

Trolls Under the Bridge

I don’t actually have trolls under the bridge or for that matter a bridge, but what I do have is rabbits — rabbits under the deck.

It’s a good habitat for them. The deck floor provides somewhat of a roof and the lattice surrounding it serves as a means to keep larger animals out, while allowing the rabbits to pass through. It makes for a safe hare lair.

However, as the bunnies got bigger, the lattice became a tight squeeze. But rabbits are rodents and they’re good at gnawing, so they simply chomped a larger entrance. And it’s not just their front entrance, they have a back door, too.

I suspect these were the same rabbits who were enjoying the bean plants in our micro-garden this spring. (By the way, human hair is an effective hare repellant.)

The other day I startled a rabbit from under the deck and then he startled me with his hasty departure as he crashed through his back door. With blazing speed he darted away and into our neighbor’s yard. He circled behind a pine tree and poked his head out from the other side to keep an eye on me.

I had a momentary impulse to give chase and then considered chastising him. But the lattice has already been chewed and he’s leaving the beans alone, so I guess it’s okay for him to stick around. At least he gives me something to blog about.

I’m Back!

A few months ago, in my post “The Work of Publishing Periodicals” I explained why I hadn’t blogged for awhile — for 21 days to be exact. (Prior to that, the dubious record was 14 days — see “The AWOL Blogger is Back .”)

In my entry, I blamed my absence from the blogosphere on attending a convention.  First I was busy trying to work ahead in anticipation of being gone, then I was gone, and then I was catching up from being gone.

So what’s my excuse this time for an embarrassingly long, record-setting, four week absence?  Another convention!  This time it was the ATA (American Teleservices Association) convention in Orlando.  It was a great event and time well spent, but once again, the ramifications of attending precluded time to blog.

It’s not that I don’t have anything to say, I do.  I just haven’t carved out the time to do so.

Perhaps this blog will jump start that process — and if not, expect another long delay between posts!

The Work of Publishing Periodicals

I publish four periodicals: two magazines, an e-publication, and an e-newsletter. There is an established workflow to each, with every day requiring that some task be accomplished for at least one of them.

Additionally, one of the magazines has an overlapping production schedule, meaning that sometimes I have to start the next issue before the current one is finished. The result is that at any given time, I am working on four or five publications. Given a bit of discipline, it is all quite manageable — when I am in the office.

Two weeks ago, I missed four days in the office due to traveling to and covering a convention. I began my preparations in earnest two weeks prior to departure, working in advance and accomplishing tasks ahead of schedule to the degree it was possible. Essentially, this meant doing three weeks of production work in two weeks. Some ancillary things, such as blogging, fell by the wayside.

Then I was gone for a week. Then I spent a week getting caught up from being gone. This included doing those tasks that could not be done in advance, responding to issues that arose while I was gone, and following up on everything from the convention.

So, the essence is that being gone for four days required a concerted effort lasting four weeks.

Although this may sound like complaining, it is really explaining — why it has been 21 days since my last blog entry.

[If you are interested, my publications are Connections Magazine, AnswerStat, TAS Trader, and Medical Call Center News.]

The AWOL Blogger is Back

It’s been two weeks since my last blog and some are wondering what happened.  This is the longest span of non-blog-activity that I have encountered since I began walking down this path.

It’s not that I’ve run out of ideas; I have plenty: from the rabbits in my yard, to Super Bowl ads, to the worst automated-attendant recording I’ve ever encountered, to the packaging on my sandwich, to football.  Then there’s, politics, the healthcare debate, the economy, and unemployment.  Oh, did I mention I had the flu?  Yep, I’ll blog about that too!  I imagine that really excites you.  Then there are the ideas that got away — the one’s that had a time-sensitive element, whose opportunity has come and gone.

So, if it’s not ideas, is it time?  No, it’s not so much a time issue either — though I have been busy trying to get caught up from the holidays and whatnot.

The real issue is I’ve been doing more writing than normal, rendering the allure of blogging a bit less appealing and more along the lines of work — yuck.

Regardless of that, the reality is that I’ve all these blog ideas spinning around in my mind and the only recourse to free me of them is to release them into the blogosphere.

So, I’m back, I primed, and I’m going to resume blogging — on Monday.

Have a great weekend!

Lessons Learned the Hard Way

Here are the lessons learned from my recent computer fiasco:

  • Have a technology plan, but be flexible.  [I had a plan, but wasn’t flexible with it — until I was forced to.  I doggedly stuck to the plan, even when it was inadvisable to do so]
  • Multiple data backups are imperative.  I use three methods, and keep several historical versions, spanning six months.
  • Having backup hardware is essential.  During this ordeal, I was using both my backup desktop computer and my laptop to handle critical items and not fall too far behind.
  • Having a help desk to call for emergencies is critical.
  • If a computer begins displaying flaky problems, it’s likely telling you something — make sure you are listening.

Hopefully, things will get back to normal next week — and maybe then I can blog about something other than computers — anything.