The Worst Job I Ever Had



This was really a movie? With Johnny Cash?

This was really a movie? With Johnny Cash?

Back in college I had the worst job ever. It was so horrible, I’ve never minded a day of work since. That includes telemarketing, selling life insurance, and a two week temporary gig sticking labels on a brochure for the Pork Producers of America. During the blistering summer of 1994 I sold educational books door to door1000 miles from home in the suburbs of Minneapolis. My first hour on the job I was stopped by the police (something that happened 3 times), I was threatened with attack dogs and guns, and offered everything from cookies, to Amway to a tour of Mrs. Yoder’s bedroom. After 8 weeks of door to door hell I missed my freeway exit and drove my Ford Tempo through 8 states back to Tallahassee where I slept on couches for six weeks and ate Burger King until the dorm opened.

For this reason, I respect people’s effort to get the word out on their product. My Facebook network is loaded with people selling stuff. Face creams, art, books, houses, school fundraisers, mission trips to Honduras, and political candidates. It doesn’t bother me. I see it and breeze on by, and I think nothing less of them. Now that I’m about to have a book out, Facebook is a natural place for a first-time-author to get the word out to people. Hell, I have books from a dozen friends that I’ve never read. I’m hoping a few friends go, “He wrote a book? I gotta check that out.” Maybe they’ll buy it, even read it, or recommend it. I don’t expect to get rich off my friends.

But now I’m faced with the question, by plugging my book on Facebook, am I annoying? Is this the door-to-door sales of the 20-teens? Sure, someone is going to find it annoying. It’ll be offensive to the same people who hate dolphins and feel the need to express their anger at the people who play Candycrush (whatever that is). If you’re that easily annoyed, you should probably get off social media because social media is inherently annoying. So, yes, I’m going to plug my book on Facebook, sell 10 copies and be done. It will probably stoke a dozen conversations around town where I end up going on too long about “the novel I wrote,” like it’s Satanic Verses or something from the Oprah Book Club. I’ve spent a year working on this thing and if you’re going to show me pictures of your new dog, I’m going to talk about my book.

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5 Ways Writing Fiction On The Side Has Helped Me Succeed In My Day Job


Life is full of unintended and unexpected consequences. For instance, I was so excited at the notion of potty training our son, I did’t think about how it could make life harder. What could be bad about no more diapers? What no one told me is that any trip with a small potty-trained child has as many bathroom stops as a bachelorette party. (My wife is really really smart so we waited until after we took a trip overseas to potty train my son, thus avoiding repeated trips to the aft lavatory.) What are you talking about, man? Potty training?


A few years ago I started treating writing as my second job. At the same time, I was cognizant that writing should not take away from my paying gig, so I did all of my writing at night – not even a quick peak at lunch. I’m in sales, so stealing time from my work is stealing from my own wallet. A funny thing happened. My numbers have risen sharply. Nearly record levels in the company. Writing has had a huge impact on my day job and here’s why: 

1. Writing is exercise for the mind. Words are important, and in sales they are critical. Success depends upon choosing the right words, reading the customer, and understanding their position. I sometimes have an hour or more drive before a meeting. Since I started writing regularly, my brain fires up faster. I never have enough time to write, so when I get the opportunity to open the laptop, I need to start writing right away. I don’t have 15 minutes to “figure out where I left off.” My brain is ready, I’m better at choosing what to say, and when to not say anything.

2. I’m faster at communicating effectively via email with customers. Duh. Writing 50,000 words in 30 days and editing a 65,000 word manuscript has made me faster. I am better at saying what I want to say more succinctly. Effective writing only comes with practice and having written over 200,000 words in the last two years is damned good practice. I’m communicating better with my customers.

3. Grad School in my car. I love music. But working from my car-office, I need more than good music to get me through the day. I discovered some great podcasts – all free. An hour spent driving and not learning something is a missed opportunity. I’m on a path to independent publishing so I’ve listened to probably 100 hours of podcasts on self publishing. I’ve mentioned them on this blog before ( and  are two, but there are other good ones as well. I also like Yo Pro Wealth ( and Side Hustle ( for the entrepreneurial side of things. If I could take all of the time I spend in my car and get an MBA, I might, but using this dormant time to learn has made working more fun. And like #1, it keeps my wheels turning so my mind is quick during the sales call.

4. Motivation? No problem. I used to manage a telemarketing operation. 24 calling stations, 75-100 young employees asking for donations. Keeping a bunch of college students motivated to get told “no” 90% of the the time isn’t easy. The same goes for being an outside sales rep. Once the kids are fed and dressed in the morning, there’s no one there to tell me to get to work, and no one to notice if I slack off. Since I’ve been writing, I’ve become more effective at using my time. I need to get the most out of every hour. I’ve developed better habits during the day, because I want my work to be done so that I can spend the night writing. I hate logging in to the office database at night. I never think about my motivation level anymore. It’s a given. When I’m working, I’m working smart.

5. Creativity. When I write, I have a tendency to fold myself up inside my head, bouncing around ideas. I not only think about what happens in the story, I think about what the reader knows and when. In truth, I’m selling the reader on the plot. My editor is always saying, “Show, don’t tell.” The same goes for sales. I was working with a supplier rep recently and one of the selling points in our presentation was an up-front signing bonus. I had a strong suspicion that the customer didn’t want to be bought. I said to the rep, “Let’s not mention the signing bonus. We’ll sell him on the product and the service. We use the signing bonus later when he’s on the verge.” In sales we want the customer to know ALL the great things about our product, and we bombard them with selling points. We call it “Show up and throw up.” Honing my communication skills through writing has helped me understand how to think about the narrative in the customer’s mind. He only knows what I tell him, when I tell him, and the timing and sequence is HUGE. Like a good book, you hook them, then you spend some time developing the idea, and then you make a great close. Every customer is different, so why use the same approach over and over? It takes creativity to make an impression.

As soon as my son was reliably using the toilet we had our daughter. I don’t think it was two weeks between his last “accident” when we were back into diapers. As with writing and selling, practice makes perfect. I’m the Peyton Manning of diaper changing. I can change a diaper on a running child, blindfolded. My first book is coming out soon (very soon). My daughter is 20 months old. By the time she’s 3, I expect to have 3 books out. I’m saying this because it’s good to set goals and make them public. So… next year, remind me when I declare our house to be diaper-free, that I should have 3 books out too.

Thanks for reading. You know the routine: sign up at the left to get blog notifications. If you like this post, forward it to your friends. Email me at A proof of my novel The Grandfather Clock is on its way to me. Final final edits and formatting, then it will be DONE. Stay tuned.

Honey I Fixed It, But I Have No Idea What This Piece Is



I just finished the last major edit of The Grandfather Clock. It’s a HUGE relief to be done with that. So huge, I don’t even know how to talk about it. In fact, I’ve revised this blog-post at least 5 times.

My ice maker is making about 10 hollow ice cubes a day, again. I was very proud of myself when I fixed this problem a year ago, for $27. But I don’t want to fix it again! My dad still uses the very first microwave he ever bought. I’ve had probably 8 in twenty years and his is in its fourth decade. Hell, I have one in my kitchen, another in a storage unit and a broken one in my garage.

What does my ice maker have in common with my book? Nothing, because eventually my book will be done, and I will still be trying to fix my ice maker. The microwave will die, but in twenty years my kids will be able to read this book. And the next book, which I’ve started (and already want to revise.)

Hopefully, I’ll be publishing within just a few weeks, barring a disastrous review with my editor. Meanwhile, stay tuned because this blog will start to take its future shape. “What is that?” you didn’t ask…

There’s a place on the left side of this page to sign up for email updates. It will only email when I post an update! Reach me at Oh and quick thanks to Nick Thacker from and Simon Whistler from The Rocking Self Publishing Podcast for suggesting I widen the content area of the blog. Apparently, on larger screens, the whole thing was leaning to the left. It should do that less now. I’m flattered that they checked out the blog.

Book Cover Unveiling


Drum roll, please. Behold! The draft cover of The Grandfather Clock.

Couresty of FWhitehouse from

Couresty of FWhitehouse from

At the recommendation of the gurus at Self Publishing Podcast Sean Platt, Johnny B. Truant, and Dave Wright (also of Sterling and Stone –,  and Simon Whistler of the Rocking Self Publishing Podcast –, I used a website called In a whirlwind 7 day process I created an online contest with a $300 payoff to the best design.

I gave a few basic ideas and pretty much let the designers be designers. Immediately, concepts started coming in. None were terrible. Designers hailed from all over, including Italy, the UK, and a 14 year-old from Vietnam (poor kid got accused of stealing an idea). Another well liked design had a movie-poster aesthetic and got panned by a friend who is marketing executive in Seattle, “This person should never design again.”

After 4 days, 24 designers were narrowed to 6. It came down to two very different designs. I ran a poll and they were almost dead even. The winner was a favorite of my wife and my editor. Thanks also to Sean and Simon for their feedback. The truth is, several choices were great and I couldn’t go wrong. I’m sympathetic to those designers who spent time and don’t get paid, but some of these popped up so fast that clearly a good designer can put together an idea pretty quickly.

Now the pressure is really on to get my final edits done. Work is going quickly. Then I have to get it all formatted. I would LOVE to finish in October so I can completely devote my November work to National Novel Writing Month (the sequel, which is already underway).

Keep in mind, I do all of this after-hours. Most of my writing takes place from 9pm-midnight. Right now, my wife is watching Survivor, I just put the 20 month-old to bed, and the cat is scratching the window. A rare Friday night at home. The outlining of this book started a year ago and there were days and weeks that it went untouched. I can’t wait to get it published and find that first typo. My editor has to buy me a beer for every typo that slips through. Cheers!

Please send me your comments on the cover and the blog. Sign up for updates on the left and email me at I respond to all emails.

Next time, Part IV – It’s all back together in one piece. But I have no idea what these extra parts are for.

“Your Main Character Is A Stupid Arrogant Ass”



“I got a great name for our kids. A real original. You wanna hear what it is? Huh, you ready?… ‘Seven.’ – George Costanza, Seinfeld

Creating characters is easy. Sometimes liking them is hard. Sometimes remembering them is harder. Naming them? Well, I thought that was easy. Let me introduce you to the Scrivener “Name Generator.” Scrivener is an amazing piece of word processing software geared towards writing novels, developing characters and setting and keeping it all organized. So I forgive them if their Name Generator is a little suspect. Let me show you a few random results:

American Male: Daijon Norman, Maddix Koch, Xabiere Mccormick, Javin Castillo

I can’t tell you how many times it spit back Daijon like it was a biblical name.

Irish Female: Seosaimhthin Hennessy, Caoilfhionn Boylan, Gobinet Costello

I’ll stick with Kate and Erin. These are some HARD CORE Irish names.

French Female: Mistique Zenon and Delight Arabie

It’s actually a pretty good French Stripper Name Generator.

Another challenge is getting my characters in trouble so they can get out of trouble. Since I’m the omniscient author, I need to create challenges and know how they will be fixed. Sometimes, that means my character has to make a bad choice. Sometimes that backfires. Actual note from my manuscript:

Protagonist (thinking to himself): Had I been quiet when I entered the second floor?

My editor’s note: “No. He’d been a total dipshit and called out “Hola” like he was there with a six pack and a pizza.”

Turns out, in my first draft, my main character wasn’t always the smartest guy in the room, even when he was alone. He had a tendency to over-share key information, and trust people randomly. Pretty much your average dude, right? Luckily, my editor is a brilliant human of the female race, and she helped my protagonist get in touch with his feminine side. It raised his IQ 20 points and he’s looking at grad schools now.

The point of all this is that good characters take development, but first I had to put them on paper and make them start doing things before I could learn all of their shortcomings. My most interesting character, well, she’s getting more interesting. The boring ones? They’re in danger of landing on the cutting room floor. So, friends, if you think you’re in my book, you aren’t. If you don’t see yourself, I assure you it’s not because you’re boring.

My email address is jkilewrites@gmail.comThe Grandfather Clock will be out on Amazon in late 2014, unless Apple likes it so much that they offer me $100 million to put it on everyone’s iPad without asking them.

Next up, Part IV: It’s all back together in one piece. But I have no idea what these extra parts are for.

Design my book cover: Not Part III of Getting My Book Out


Book pic for blog

Those who say you can’t judge a book by its cover are wrong. The experts know that the cover is just as important as what’s inside (unfortunately). This is a mini-post to let my legions of readers know that I’ve enlisted 99designs to design my book cover. This means that graphic designers from all over have a chance to compete for the design (and get paid for having the winning design). If you are a graphic designer, or know one, you can submit your design ideas to:

Designers submit their concepts, I pick finalists and develop the ideas. Within just a week, I should have a book cover. I’m really excited about that. I’ve done a little research and I have an idea of what I like. I’ve also learned that, oddly enough, books with green covers don’t sell well. Or at least that’s what the authors of failed books with green covers say.

You’ve visited a blog before. Sign up for updates on the left! I don’t spam. Or email me at

Coming later this week: The Real Part III: Your Main Character Is A Stupid Arrogant Ass.

Coming next week: A preview of my book cover.