New 2016 Sunrise Calendar, Monochrome Gallery, and a Photo Book?

Tony Corbell and Rob Hull released a blog earlier this week that suggested highlighting your work on a calendar. It seemed like a great idea, and within a couple of days someone asked me if I would be selling a 2016 calendar.

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So I built one featuring 12 sunrises and sunsets, which people can buy for $20. You can see a few sample pictures here.

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Sunrises and sunsets are by far the most popular pictures I publish. While individual architecture or landscape photos can perform as well, nothing does as well regularly as a colorful sky. The sunrises and sunsets were curated against the month of the year, each one depicting a season.

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I have also created a new gallery of monochrome photos on my portfolio site. Every month I feature a new series on the portfolio, and this month it made sense to publish monochrome (black & white for the most part) as they are arguably my most artistic works.

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The above photo of the Memorial Bridge in Washington, DC is a great example. I do like working in a singular color because it forces the eye to see structure and light in the purest sense.

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All of these monochrome photos are available for sale here. In fact, if folks ever wanted to buy a photo of mine and don’t know how, the photo portfolio is the place to do it. Any photo can be uploaded and printed on demand, and shipped right to your house.

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Many people over the past year have asked me to create a photo book. I have researched cost and to self publish a print collection of 50-100 photos would cost buyers $75, give or take. That photo book needs to be awesome to justify the cost.

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The good news is I definitely have enough pictures to do this now. It’s a matter of curation; which ones and how to present them. I am currently looking at how to do it via Blurb, and think I may release a book on landscapes before Black Friday.

The Enemy Found, a Preview of Perseverance

After many iterations, the sequel to my first novel, Exodus, is being released on July 27. At 160 pages, Perseverance is either a novella or a short novel, but don’t let the length fool you—it’s non-stop action crescendoing in an epic battle. In fact, you may hate me by the end of it because I kill off some favorite characters.

“Geoff has dove into fiction writing like a dog after a bone,” said Author of Amazing Things Will Happen C.C. Chapman. “While the first book was fun, he took it up a notch with this one. The characters are more developed, the action more fierce and the story line much richer. You’ll end the last page filled with an urge to know what comes next and angry that you have to wait to find out!”

The following is Chapter Seven of the new book, “The Enemy Found.” I hope you enjoy the preview. You can also order the book on Amazon here and on the iUniverse site here.


Chapter 7: The Enemy Found


Concealed by a line of pines protecting the Cache la Poudre River, the Watchmen looked upon their enemy. The Christians still wore black tunics with white crosses, but they also had a motley collection of furs thrown
over their shoulders to keep warm. Weatherworn tents were set around the camp, and steam rose from a pot over the fire. A series of birdcages were sitting within the group of tents.

“We should all ride back now,” said George. “The Elders need to know so they can prepare the village for combat or evacuation. We may need to retreat into the mountains.”

“We’re not going anywhere this time,” said Charlie, who assumed the role of the Watch leader since Hector had become an Elder. “There is no way the village can handle another move like that. The first heavy snows
will come any day now, and we’re already scrambling to feed ourselves through the winter. We need to stay and recover now.”

“If Jason were here, he’d insist on informing the Elders immediately.”

Charlie straightened his lanky frame and glared at the Watchman.

“Aye, and he’s not one of us anymore, boy. And Hector isn’t Watch commander anymore, is he?”

Realizing that he had spoken out of turn, George nodded and left it at that.

“Okay, fellas, let’s work together here,” said Patrick, a grizzled, middleaged fisherman turned Watchman. “No one expected the Christians to follow us out here, at least not this quickly.”

“They must have had scouts following us. How else could they have Perseverance found us so fast?” Charlie scowled as he pulled out his knife and began sharpening it.

Patrick nodded. “Four tents and four men, so no one is watching us now.”

“Why would they trail us like this?” said George. “Why are we so important?”

“Ha! That’s easy. Mordecai,” said Charlie. “What else would drive an empire to trail and spy on a ragtag group like us? Who else could inspire this desire for conflict? If it was just us, they would have given up somewhere around the Mississippi. But when the former head of your church, the former number-two man in the Empire, joins up with a rebel village? You can’t let that go.”

“Oh, man.” George sighed. “How many times did he tell us about Pravus’s lust for power? He punishes anyone who stands in his way.”

“Maybe Mordecai alerted them to our location.” Charlie’s eyes burned as he challenged them to defend the priest. The accusation hung in the air.

After a period of time, George replied. “Why would he go to the trouble of saving us only to have us die by the blade? That makes no sense.”

“I can’t disagree with him, Charlie. That seems farfetched,” said Patrick. No one responded, so he continued. “Well, what should we do, gentlemen? Shall we capture them?”

“No, the risk is too high. There aren’t enough of us,” said Charlie.

“Let’s wait until dark, then we’ll get the horses and leave. We don’t want them spotting us. We’ll head back to the village, get some more men, and ambush them in the morning before they set out. I don’t want any of them escaping to warn the Empire.”

“Sounds like a plan,” said George. The three men settled in and watched the Empire scouts eat their dinner.

The Final 12

It’s hard to believe, but we are in the final 12 days of the 365 Full Frame Project. To celebrate, I will be making a big deal with the final 12 photos starting tonight with #354.

For those who are not familiar with 365 Full Frame, the project was created to add high quality full frame photos to the Internet at a low licensing cost. This was to reaffirm the need for high quality visual assets in the current era of social media. All dollars earned were reinvested in more photography equipment.

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It’s been quite a ride, and there have been times that I just wanted to stop. There were other times where I just thought the whole project was super annoying to people.

But I persisted, and here we are. One year later I have published more than 700 photos for the project, only half of which were selected for public consumption (the pug pic is an one of the 350+ outtakes).

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Along the way I became a better photographer and a professional one, too. I have been hired twice now by companies as a photographer this year and several others have asked to bundle photography with writing or social media services. So there is much to be said for dedicating oneself to consistent practice, photography or some other interest. Or you could say it helps to develop a third pitch. ;)

I plan to publish a photo book using the best 365 Full Frame photos created over the past year. Anyone who sponsors the project at a $100 level or more will get a complimentary copy of the book. And for those at the $50 level, if you chip in another $50 you will get a book, too. No bull (pun intended).

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And yes, after the cost of the books, I will continue to reinvest any 365 Full Frame dollars raised in more equipment. Thank you for your support and on to the final 12.

A Nine Year Rant

Last week marked my nine year blogiversary. Actually, it’s nine years of blogging, but this blog came afterwards. I sold my first one, the Buzz Bin.

So one might ask why am I still blogging and what have I learned? Here are nine mini-insights and rants about blogging and content as a whole to celebrate.

1) Blogging Is Not Everything

When I was caught up in the social media wave, blogging and the online presence it created was everything. It was an incredibly freeing tool that sent me on a wild writer’s journey, one I had always dreamed about. Over the last few years, I’ve come to see that blogging as little more than a tool. Blogs, photos and social media in general are very useful, but they ALL have their place.

When I see content marketers and other communicators prioritize their blogs as most important, I shrug. Maybe it’s everything for them. Maybe their blog communities are the alpha and omega of their business. And that’s OK. Many good things have happened from such gatherings, and I can testify to that based on my own experiences.

My blog certainly works to inform members of my community, but meeting, talking with, and seeing people in real life and via other venues is much more important. I’ve come to realize the relationships are most important, not the medium.

2) Strong Relationships Don’t Scale

Strong relationships don’t scale in a comment box. When I overinvested in digital media and underinvested in personal contacts, I put myself in a vulnerable position. Clients, co-workers and friends — the ones that impact your life in a positive fashion — matter more than any social score or reply. I’d rather talk with them directly. This is what enables me to retain great relationships — strong ties.

I don’t get as many comments as I used to (who does?). When I do it’s usually with people who I have spent some time with, and that’s important to me.

3) If There Wasn’t Public Commenting, We’d Have Less Haters, BUT…

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Haters are going to hate. Sometimes people just disagree and that’s OK, too. But there are others who feel they need to be contrarian or think they’re “smart.” They leave their litany of negativity. What would these people do without commenting? Is graffiti still an option?

BUT, you still need comments because it is social media. If a site is publishing without comments, then they are articles, not blogs. Blogging was at the heart of social media before social networks. In my mind, a blog is a two-way street. A publication — whether it’s a traditional masthead or an individual’s enterprise — can reside on a WordPress and not be a blog. Commenting is what makes social media.

4) Frequency Matters Until It Doesn’t

Blogs and content, one isn’t the other though some mistake the two as synonymous. If you’re a content marketer, then you probably know high blog post frequency is just one path to success. If you don’t use your blog as a primary content marketing vehicle, then frequency doesn’t matter. It’s what you choose to do with it. Frankly, if you’re a person you don’t have to content market. You can just be you, too.

5) Content Marketing or UX?

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Speaking of blogs as content marketing, the latter has been the marketing rage for a few years. Today, many would acknowledge the proliferation of content has just created the new spam. Five entertaining tips (and yes, this list of nine rants pokes fun at the Buzzfeedization of everything) done well are awesome, but the imitators have bludgeoned the customer with me, too efforts. See, here’s the problem: Content is just part of the user experience (UX).

When you sacrifice UX for the sake of personal attention and triggering Google bots, you create a long-term negative-sum game. It’s back to over-marketing. Following someone or a brand via social networks and RSS is a very casual form of permission. We need to consider how frequent average content impacts the customer’s experience interacting with us. Is this really worth talking to folks about?

Mark my words, content is a part of the UX. A great UX is what matters most to a brand, from first touch to every single interaction after a sale. Marketers will be forced to address the UX problem they are creating with content glut.

6) The Blog as a Public Journal (Yeah, Old School)

When I started, blogging was about journaling new technology discoveries, lessons learned, and sharing insights. For a while, a bunch of early adapters chatted together and broke in this fantastic new set of media. Then personal branding, corporate social media, and content marketing changed things. Blogging became a rat race, a demonstrative example of marketing smarts.

Then you have a kid. You run a business. You measure what’s generating leads. And maybe you prioritize.

When you hang up the frequency bite, you realize it’s going to be hard to be heard. You’re not playing the game anymore. Complicate that matter with a restlessness about blogging social media how-tos and trend pieces, and you have a problem. Content marketing is going to be difficult.

So, during the past year, I blog only once a week, and I write whatever I want. Topics can vary, including new media, fiction, photography, and work. When I have a social good topic, I blog about over at the Huffington Post. Most topics are opinion-based, just like they used to be. It’s old school blogging.

You know what? I have enjoyed blogging this past year more than I have since the 2000s. That’s pretty cool.

7) Influencers Aren’t Cool

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When I started blogging, bloggers were considered wild and rebellious by corporate America. By the end of the 2000s they were considered cool. Somewhere around this time, corporate America started to see the value of bloggers, at least as potential word of mouth endorsers. Bloggers became “influencers” in the corporate vernacular.

Today, word of mouth influencers are still important, but in the larger sense most people just see uber-bloggers/influencers as big over-privileged pains in the ass. Go figure.

8) I May Go Back to High School

I really hated high school. The exclusionary cliques, the stratification of the popular kids based on vapid criteria, and the shaming of the uncool was all too much. High school was an awful experience, and when graduation came I could not leave for college soon enough.

It’s been 25 years now. People have changed quite a bit, at least based on what I see via Facebook. I find myself very interested in attending this year’s reunion. I am sure there will be some of the old shenanigans, but I also think some people will be quite interesting.

Maybe I’ll feel the same way about social media conferences in the future.

9) Perseverance and Longevity

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My new book will be released later this summer. It will be called Perseverance after listening to the editorial feedback I received from the publisher. Perseverance is an interesting word when it comes to blogging.

There were months on end, long periods of time when I wanted to quit. But I didn’t. As a result I achieved longevity. I had periods of notoriety, but overall I meandered. The body of work moved between professional to personal interest, and back and forth again. More than anything, the blogs reflected my own personal journey and perhaps they suffered for that. That’s OK, I’m still standing.

As time has passed, many, many peers have stopped. Some have had periods of fitful stopping and starting. No matter what, whether they like this blog or not, people know this blog will keep publishing in the foreseeable future. I’ve made it this long. I can’t imagine not making the decade point.

Writing Fiction Hurts More than Nonfiction

Successful author and friend Chris Brogan asked me to pen some thoughts the process of writing fiction works versus penning business books. My gut response was that it hurts more than nonfiction.

How can writing a book hurt you ask? I think most people who have accomplished the task will agree that it’s a laborious two-year process (give or take six months). For every accolade you get, you’ll invest hours of your time. Most authors make very little money.

After my last business book I felt a great emptiness, a lack of purpose in my writing. I needed to turn back to my heart’s desire, writing fiction (as opposed to developing books about social media and marketing).

When I published Exodus, I released a demon that had bugged me for decades. I gladly sucked it up to make the dream come true.

Why Novels Are a Personal Journey

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Image of my first business book Now Is Gone by Dave Barger.

Exodus had little financial pay-off — in actuality, I published it at a loss. So today I find myself focusing on business needs first. Consequently, Exodus became my stepchild of published works. It was poorly marketed, but still moved more than 3000 units in spite of me (it’s true, I am not Stephen King).

Still, I published a novel. I finally wrote the book that I always envisioned would be my calling card as an author. No one can take that away from me.

With a successful business book there is usually some sort of a pay-off, including developing new business, introducing new ideas to the marketplace, garnering speaking gigs, or positioning yourself as a “thought leader.” These are the reasons to write a business book, in my opinion. While I am much less inclined to jump at the opportunity to write a business book these days, I probably will write a couple more before my career ends.

The pay-offs are much less obvious with novels. For most successful novelists, it takes a catalog of books before they start seeing strong financial gains. It requires real commitment, and it’s one of the reasons why I admire Brian Meeks‘ steadfast focus on his fiction career.

This lack of any significant financial gratification makes publishing a novel something you do to fulfill yourself. Most publishing houses are reticent to sign new fiction authors. These days most aspiring authors are going to have to self-publish or work with a hybrid publisher and share the financial risk.

After the First Novel

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I still want to write novels, but it’s less about fulfilling a lifelong inner need. Now it’s about being who I am, an author. In fact, I am still working on the last draft of book II, now titled Perseverance, and I believe it will be released this summer.

After Exodus was published, it became clear I had room to grow as a writer. Character development and style were all in need of mechanical improvements. So I set out to write a better novel, one that shows the lessons learned from experience. I owe it to my readers and myself to improve.

But because the pain has no obvious reward and I am not getting paid to publish the novel, I treat book two like a hobby and am taking my sweet time. Novel writing is a second tier priority compared to family and business.

This slower pace makes it less likely I will become a mainstream novelist anytime soon. That’s OK. Since I see novel writing as a personal act of art rather than a career, there is no sense of loss with that. The slower pace mitigates the pain and intensity of a major work, while allowing me to meet my responsibilities.

What are your thoughts on writing novels versus business books?

Read the War to Persevere Before Anyone Else

Hello there, I have great news. Over the weekend, I finished the second proof of The War to Persevere, Book II of The Fundamentalists. The book is now in its final production phase, which includes proofing and a final edit.

If you’d like to read the book before it is released at the end of the year, I am looking for readers who are willing to provide feedback. Email me at geoffliving [@] gmail.com for a copy.

The Next Book After War

Before I get into more details about the War to Persevere, I’d like to invite you to write a book with me.  I have begun the pre-production work on a third novel (my seventh book over all, god help me).  This next book is a present-day lampoon of the blogosphere. The book is under contract, and is tentatively slated for publication in the spring of 2016.

 Many of the folks I know are aspiring writers, too.  You are welcome to join me, and write along. It helps to go through the process with others.

The great bulk of this writing will begin during National Novel Writing Month or nanowrimo.  Don’t worry, NaNoWriMo is a good time to get into the discipline of writing everyday. I won’t be writing the whole book in a month, nor would I expect anyone else to.

If you are interested in writing with a group this winter, or just want updates on the novels before they are public, please consider joining my Goodreads group, “Living in Words.”

What’s The War to Persevere About?

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Some of themes in War include women’s right to fight in the military, delineating dogma from faith, and power as a corrupter.  It’s definitely a new book, and moves away from some of the themes of religion in Exodus (or more likely resolves them, separating religion from despotism).

This new book incorporates a lot of feedback that I received from readers of Exodus, including:

  • Characters you can like a bit more (as well as others you can hate!)
  • More modern language
  • Faster paced action scenes
  • More show, and less tell

In all, War is clocking in at 41,000 words. This makes it a very short novel or a long novella depending on your definition of a novel.

And that’s all the writing news I have for you. Thanks for reading along.  The floor is yours.