Confessions Of A Story Junkie, Part One

SF 7-10

Sunday, 10:19pm
Reno, NV
There are eight million stories in the naked city…” (Jules Dassin film noir classic)


Here’s a nice little piece of insight for writers.

And by “writers”, I’m referring to those ink-stained wretches (of whom I share a proud bond) who really care about the craft of writing.   For whom the act of stringing words together is — when done right — a sacred thing. (Not the ones who would shove it all off for a chatbot to handle.)

You can make a living as a hack writer (meaning: Someone who can communicate through writing, but who neither loves language nor attempts to create phrases with rhythm or dynamics or craft.)

Most of the best-selling novelists these days are complete hacks, in fact.  (Talkin’ to you, Dan Brown.)

Metaphor Alert:

If you need a comparison to understand what I’m talking about, let’s take the mastering of a musical instrument

What’s the difference between the dude who noodles away at a guitar for decades but never plays for anyone… and the guy who steps on a bar stage to cover a Cream tune… and Eric Clapton?

Answer: The first dude can’t even call himself a guitarist (and wouldn’t dream of it, unless he loves mockery).

The second guy is a hack. 

No shame, and we need these guys to keep live music rocking in the free world. (And, with Auto-Tune software, we’re hearing more and more hacks enter the slipstream of popular music.)  (Hey, I’m an accomplished hack at this very thing — been playing at biker bars for decades.)

The third is Eric.  Now, he’s a guitarist

Lives, breathes and dreams the instrument, and learned the craft at a master’s level. 

Put in 10,000 hours of practice as a teenager, and never let up.  (Don’t you DARE think he somehow came upon his skills “naturally” or easily.  He worked at it.)

So, yeah, if all you wanna do is use writing to reach a goal… like, say, getting filthy rich and famous… then by all means, aspire to hackdom with your writing.  Thumbs up from this corner, and more power to ya.

By the way, you don’t have to get brilliant before you become rich. I highly recommend getting rich first, because then you’ll have the time and resources to get brilliant. This here might be a good shortcut for you.

Being “good enough” can take you far.


Just as a small number of people burn with a desire to become an entrepreneur (an ember that never sparks in most folks)…

… if you truly care about writing — and I mean TRULY care, to the point that the crap ground out by the endless mob of bad writers out there actually grates against your brain — then, first, know that…

…you are in a minority.

Do not expect appreciation of your dedication to the craft… except from other writers who know damn good writing when they see it.

I’m the first person to tell up-and-coming freelancers not to obsess on the “writing” part of becoming a freelancer. 

Get good enough to get the job done, but do not overlook the other important aspects of the career — like in-depth marketing savvy, knowing how to deal with clients, mastering street-level psychology, and all the other skills in your Bag O’ Tricks that will make you a well-rounded and wealthy freelancer.

On the other hand…

If the standard advice for the wannabe damn-good writer (“Writers write”) sounds just fine to you…

… then maybe you actually have some ink in your veins.

I can pin your ears back with advice about progressing in the craft.

Today, though, let’s just discuss one of the more important fundamentals: 


The human brain is hard-wired to seek out and appreciate good storytelling.  Before the Web, before TV, before newspapers, before writing even existed…

… all knowledge was shared through stories.  Myths, fables, reports from the field, riveting tales shared over a damp mug of mead…

… a story would be told, memorized, and told again generation after generation.  The super-awesome ones still exist today (in archetypal plots like Romeo & Juliet offshoots, the Grimm Bros. folk tales, most comic books, all Hollywood movies, and even the urban myths now circulating online).

Some carried forbidden information (pre-Civil War hymns like “Follow The Drinking Gourd” were plausibly maps for escaped slaves) (the drinking gourd referred to the Little Dipper constellation, which would lead you north to free states as you traveled by night).

Others were complex morality tales (no such thing as a free lunch, Hansel.  Gretel, you listening?).  Most reinforced the rules of living amongst your group, by identifying the outsiders and establishing the requirements for bravery and acceptance.

All the great propaganda masters and influence peddlers understood the power of a story to trump the truth. 

(Like Goebbels, Lenin, D.W. Griffith, Walter Winchell, and several modern-day politicians I can’t mention, because their bullshit still coats the thinking parts of too many folks’ brains.)

You know why successful scam artists are called “Con Men”? 

The “con” comes from “confidence” — they weave believable stories so well that otherwise right-thinking people fall for them, convinced that up is now down, and black is now white.

Of course, stories are used for good, too. 

It’s just easier to illustrate the power of a story with the evil examples.

Hey — are you in a committed relationship with a little snuggle bunny you dearly love?  At some point, you both created a story starring yourselves… which made so much sense, that you agreed to live out the script in real time.

Ask Mom how she met Dad.  She’ll tell you a story.

In fact, ask anyone how they got to where they’re at right now.  The job, the haircut, the town to live in, the car they drive, the last vacation they took…

… they’ve got a story about it.

We are, each one of us, the stories we tell.

And what we buy, and how we choose our goals, are deeply intertwined with stories.

Now, here’s the kicker: Just because humans are front-loaded with a love of stories…

… doesn’t mean you’re automatically able to tell a good one.

In fact, most folks suck at storytelling.  Just like they’d suck at anything they didn’t work at.  Fishing, playing guitar, climbing rocks, grooming a dog, creating a business plan, dancing the Watusi, whatever…

… just because you can do it, doesn’t mean you’re good at it yet.

I’m gonna go out on a limb here and make a wild guess:  You’ve been bored, before, by someone telling a lame story.

Of course you have.  We all have.

And wouldn’t the world be a better place if everyone who told a boring story realized it, and then studied the craft of storytelling so they would never bore you again like that?

We can only dream.

I was lucky.  I was the baby (youngest by 8 years) in a family crammed with storytellers.  I learned early that… unless I learned to pepper my tales of childhood adventure with enough tidbits (or scary parts) to interest the adults… I would be interrupted, ignored or at best tolerated at the dinner table yarn-fests.

So I paid attention to how really good stories played out.  This was during the late 50s, where Saturday afternoons were spent devouring truly awful sci-fi movies, and where your prowess as a storyteller on the playground could instantly elevate your social status.

You gotta tailor your tale to your audience.  That’s the primary lesson.

A story that bores the bejesus out of one person, may dazzle the hell out of someone else.  And you should get good at knowing whether you’re bombing or scoring quickly (so you can change course if necessary).

Those bad sci-fi movies were cinematic masterpieces to us. 

As a kid, we knew the payoff was coming (usually a monster).

As an adult, I can only watch those films as kitsch now — the plot holes gape, the lack of logic appalls… and while I finally understand why they always starred some busty babe in the cast, the romance is goofy at best.

So the main rule for writer/marketers is this:

Learn what kind of story appeals to your audience.  If you don’t know, you’re taking a risk with anything other than a paragraph-long tale.

Don’t pretend to know how to weave a story that gets listened to.  Instead, learn the craft.  (Just as you would never pretend to be able to play guitar if you wanted to impress real musicians.)

There are no shortcuts… but you can get hip to good storytelling fairly quickly if you apply yourself.

Don’t rely on books.

There are some decent ones out there, and go ahead and read them.  (“How To Write A Damn Good Novel”, Jim Frey.  “Man & His Myths”, Carl Jung.  Search “how to write a good story” on Google and follow up on two or three of the suggestions.)

No more than that, though. 

There aren’t that many elements to storytelling.  Get the basics, then move on.

Because book-learnin’ won’t get your chops honed.

You gotta start talking.

Every time you wake up and survive the day and get back home, you’ve got a story to tell.  Maybe not an epic adventure, but shit happened to you.  And you did things, sometimes wrong, sometimes right, and you were often surprised or alarmed or excited about the outcomes.

Unless you live in a Unabomber-style cave, you know people who tell stories.  Start critically breaking down what you hear, both the good ones and the bad ones.

Consider how to improve the sucky ones, and figure out what made the rockin’ ones rock.

Learn to edit yourself viciously.

The best verbally-delivered stories are fast and furious.  Trim away all irrelevant details.  (And learn to spot irrelevant details quickly as you’re speaking.  If it doesn’t matter whether it was Tuesday or Monday you saw the UFO, then don’t waste time trying to establish the day.)

In fact, it’s the “set up” part of telling a story that trips most people up. 

Consider the classic “two ducks walk into a bar” joke storyline. 

Is it important that it’s a bar and not a library?  Sometimes.  But it’s almost NEVER relevant what kind of bar it is, what town it’s in, who else is in the bar, what time of day it is, what the weather is, etc.

Two ducks walk into a bar.  That’s enough.  Move on to the next act — the interaction with the bartender.  Act Three is the punchline.

A good story doesn’t have to be funny. 

Or even entertaining.  But they ALL deliver some form of information.  The classic “I was broke, I discovered a way to make money, and now I’m rich and famous” storyline is so common in advertising BECAUSE it’s a short, understandable plot that nearly all audiences can identify with.

It’s just a set up, however.  Good for you, surviving all that nastiness and turning your life around.

If you want to hold my interest, however, you’ve got to segue immediately to what this has to do with me.

Okay, we can discuss storytelling more later.  The ins and outs of the craft aren’t hard to master, once you know what to do.

But you gotta know where you’re at, first, with your ability to weave a rollicking tale.

It’s NOT a natural tool in your kit.  The love of stories and the yearning to be able to tell one is in your DNA, yes.  But actually doing it requires some discipline and dedication to the craft.

How about this: In the comments section below…

… tell us a quick story about something that happened to you in the summer.

That’s all.  A short tale about some event, or action, or realization, or whatever.

If you’ve already sharpened your skills, you can turn a yarn about cutting the grass into a laugh-fest that makes our bellies ache.

If you’re rusty at it, you can make the story of your DUI arrest after the wedding of your ex (which you attended as an uninvited stalker) a total snoozer.

But don’t be shy. 

The first attempts are always the toughest. 

Here, you have a community of like-minded people… who care less about the quality of your story, than the fact that you’ve screwed up the courage to write one out here.

C’mon, don’t be a wuss.

Tell us a quick dispatch from your July adventures.  Or non-adventures, doesn’t matter.

Before you can start crafting stories with the mojo to captivate and convert prospects, you gotta be able to tell a simple tale that has no consequences at all.

I’ve done this often during my rare Copywriting Sweatshop seminars. 

I tell everyone to go to lunch, and come back with a story.

It’s pretty eye-opening.  Most folks will come back and insist that “nothing” happened, and thus, there was no story to tell.

Well, it’s impossible that “nothing” happened.  If you walked out the door, got knocked unconscious by a falling flowerpot, and didn’t awake until after the lunch break…

… so that LITERALLY you had no sensory awareness or brain function…

… you’d still have a story to relate.  “Dude, I got bonked by a flowerpot out in the hall, and woke up with paramedics about to put the electric shockie things on my chest…”

Et cetera.

Was the waitress rude at the cafe?  Was it surprising that the food was so good (or bad) in the place you went to?  Was the couple in the booth behind you breaking up?  Did you leave thinking “Carlton’s a complete whack-job”, and come back (after talking with other attendees) realizing I’m actually only slightly whacked (and thus tolerable for the duration of the event)?


Give it a try.  No one will bite you.

If push past your reluctance (or lack of “natural” skill) to craft stories, you are well on your way to influencing people, winning friends, and getting your sales message across to vast nattering mobs of fresh prospects.

If enough readers here enjoy digging into storytelling details, maybe we’ll explore some other tips later.

Stay frosty,


P.S. The ability to weave a riveting story is just one of the tools of top marketers. You’ll find a whole lot more right over here.

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  • # “then, first, know that you are in a minority.”

    Day after day, I stumble upon dozens of articles that seem copied one after another. Now, it’s true that most of them are second-hand web content, but that doesn’t justify bloggers’ needs to keep doing it. So the minority you’re talking about is real. A few people who know to write become entrepreneurs and even fewer entrepreneurs have the smallest idea about writing. That’s sad and I think it’s going to stay like this for for a while.

    Lloyd Burrell

  • John Carlton says:

    Thanks for the note, Lloyd.

    • Paul Gourhan says:

      Lloyd There is now software out there that can help you to quickly generate articles. Using the advanced “fill in the blank” technology you too can quickly and efficiently generate hundreds of unique SEO friendly articles that your readers can gag over. This is one of the innovations of the SEO marketing community Gurus. Personally it makes me really sick.

  • G says:

    July – a point in which we know that more than half the year is gone…

    …Let me set the scene:
    It was my birthday and we went out for an amazing (and expensive) dinner at flowerdrum…

    …Flowerdum is one of the most prestigious Chinese restaurants in the world and let me say it was one helluva dinner! The finest Chinese cuisine that would ‘blow your head back’ — the type that delivers punch after punch of flavours with each bite.

    Staggering (either the wine or gravity with a twist) out of the fine restaurant on to the bustling sidewalk of Chinatown I decided to go for a piss down an alley…

    …The graffiti on the broken, brick walls and stench of the alley would turn a stray cat away…but.. I needed to ‘go’

    Seeming like a maze, the alley twisted and turned 3 times over and to my great surprise their was a club at the end of the alley — one of those real ‘underground’ type places where social ‘hipsters’ hangout.

    Turns out it was an ex meth lab (no shit) turned bar and it was intense – anyone could have walked in and thought drugs were being punched out on a pill press on the spot…

    … shit I dunno, maybe they were.

    The ‘gear’ was still their (in locked cabinets).
    Eyeballs were rolling into the back of peoples heads, tongues being munched and teeth being ground like chalk.

    We (my mate and I) picked up some hot young 20 something females who were more drunk than us and whipped them into a frenzy with a wild story of what we do for a living.

    Side note: If you are single… Learn to tell stories to the point where the other person is compelled to hear EVERYTHING you say when telling a breathless story. (For the sake of example, I turned my story of how I work online into a gripping adventure for THEM and made it exciting and sexy!)

    Back to what I was saying…

    This all happened late July – Early July I did a few ‘gigs’ online and made decent bank and decided to do another 6 months of travel

    What I do online makes for a story that always floods my inbox but I’ll save that one for another time.

    First flight to catch is at 6am tomorrow morning to Darwin, then Perth and am then off to Switzerland and then…

    Get this…

    To Malta to work as a protege for Trevor Crook.

    So that ‘wraps-up’ July and brings us full circle to what you read at the start of this comment….

    Half the year is gone…so…

    What ya gonna make of what you’ve done so far?

    What ya gonna do for the rest of the year?

    Shit… What ya gonna do for the rest of your life?

    YOU have knowledge and stories that people want to know and you are essentially robbing them if you don’t share them

    So follow the Carlton’s lead.
    Share your story with us.
    Share it with your partner, your friends and if it’s a really good story, share it with the world!

    One of the best things about the internet is you can share your stories to literally millions of people all over the world.

    Share it in words.
    Share it in video.
    Share it on youtube.
    Share it with audio.

    John makes an excellent point that something is always happening – always!

    That means stories can always be told (and will be)

    Question is…

    Are you gonna let us be privy to YOUR story?

    We’d love to hear it…

    Now type and tell.

    • John Carlton says:

      Hey, G, nice tale. I took off 3-6 months a year during the 90s, monetizing my fun with royalties. It can be done, though it helps to be single and unattached. You’ve entered a jetstream in the culture, and I suggest you keep a journal to track your stories, cuz they’re gonna pile up.
      Meanwhile… my story has been steadily cataloged here in the blog over the past 6 years. I’m about to start an autobiography (still have to wait until a few more people die so I don’t embarrass them), and have been collecting my tales for the last year or so.
      A life well-lived should produce a tightly-edited bio of around 700 pages, I figure. Like you, I’ve had single summers that could produce multiple novels…
      Thanks for the post.

  • Eric says:

    So I’m online here on the sly – I’m supposed to be taking care of the machines, keep them running. That’s what they pay me for.

    There’s a little troll looking for me to assign me some BS job , so he can justify HIS job.

    But I keep moving, make him work to find me.

    This old place has a hundred hidey holes and hallways, I love to confound the little prick!

    Yes I’m a lousy “employee” ,but I do what they need from me.

    Sh*it, here he comes gotta sign off…

  • […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Eric Graham, Peter Garety. Peter Garety said: Confessions Of A Story Junkie, Part One […]

  • Ian says:

    I watched a baby black bear “orphan itself”.

    I was white water rafting . Half way through the voyage I saw a black bear trying to scale down a cliff to get near the water.

    200 yards downriver, on the opposite bank, a baby black bear crawled out of the liquid conveyor belt.

    My guess was it fell in…got swept downriver and mama freaked was freaking out.

    I’m still wondering if he ever reunited with Mom.

  • Dave says:

    Rode my bike. Up some mountains. In France. Actually part of the Tour de France. Stage 17. 15500 feet of climbing and descending in one day (the part of Mt Everest that sticks up above the plateau is 15000 ft). My speedometer said I max’d at 55 mph on a descent. Said hi to Lance, rubbed shoulders (and elbows and handle bars) with some very fast bikers, only crashed once. More embarrassing than painful, nice scar, great story. Loads of fun.

    Slept very little, ate great French food. Five course meals. Dinner started at 8PM and ended whenever all the wine bottles were empty and the stories of the day were told.

    Made some really cool friends. Doctors, lawyers, no Indian chiefs, but there was an FBI agent, a bug collector and a spiritual goddess with a healing touch…

    Still smiling from the memories. Will be telling the stories for years to come.

    • John Carlton says:

      Hi Dave. This kind of extremely-clipped writing can be very effective to get a long story told in a short space. You cut everything that isn’t essential. Good job.
      However, this is more recital of facts than story — you can easily MAKE it a story by choosing one element (like, say, the FBI dude and the bug collector) and telling us what actually happened.
      You have all the elements here — now, start considering how each mini-story actually had a beginning, middle and end. They can still be short and clipped, but you deliver a punch line (like “and that’s how I avoided an international incident with the FBI”) that highlights the mini-adventure.
      Try it out. Pick one, and tell us what HAPPENED. Short and sweet little tale. The facts are just elements — the STORY is the way these facts are delivered in an interesting way.
      Quick note: I met, years ago, some of the original hippies from the sixties — the dudes about whom many, many stories have been told.
      However, THEY couldn’t tell a story to save their life. I saw them being interviewed by someone doing a documentary (on the notorious “Red Dog Saloon” in Virginia City), and they just couldn’t explain what happened. Each event — which I dearly wanted to hear about from someone who’d been there — produced a “well, you have to have been there” response. Which is worthless to someone craving a story.
      A good story will PUT you “there”. You find common things that your listener can identify with, you use metaphors, you use emotional responses, you use every tool in your kit to make the story come alive.
      It’s not hard, once you get in the groove.
      But, again, most people never learn the basics. Just because something happened to you, doesn’t mean you can tell a good story about it.
      If you DO want to become one of those rare individuals who tell great stories, start listening closer to them, and make note of the elements they use to hold interest and deliver the essence.
      Sounds like you had a great July, Dave. Thanks for sharing.

      • Dave says:

        Left pedal clip is jammed. Foot won’t come loose. Shit. Headed for the wall. Three choices, turn left and take out the guy beside me. He doesn’t deserved that. Turn right and hit the cute little kid with his mom and dad watching the race. Not cool either. Fall down before hitting the wall and take a big helping of asphalt with a side order of gravel. Looks like it’s gonna be option number three. Shit. Bang. Pow. I’m on the ground. No searing pain. All the limbs are working. Looks like nothing’s broken. Hop up quickly, maybe nobody noticed. Ha, right! Hey, I’m bleeding. Nice three inch gash on my right calf. Must have hit the front sprocket going down. Blood already soaking into my sock. Shit. Probably need stitches. I wonder how you say stitches in French. Screw that, I’ve got a race to run. Spray some water on it with my water bottle; apply pressure for 30 seconds then saddle up and go. That’s how I got the scar…

        John, Thanks for the challenge and thank you very much for the feedback. I am grateful. Several years ago I attended the first copywriter training course you held in Reno. Since then I’ve made boatloads of money using the skills I learned there; (I write a weekly and monthly article for clients) but you know what really rings my bell? Every once in a while when I’m at a seminar or meeting someone will come up to me and tell me how something I’ve written inspired them, changed their perspective, or actually altered the course of their life. Wow! That’s the real shit there! None of this would be happening if I hadn’t attended your course. Thank you! BTW-I still get a smile on my face when I see a new blog post from you come into my Google Reader ‘cause I know I’m gonna be educated and entertained all at the same time. Rock on, dude!

  • Susie Nelson says:

    When my friend, Fran, asked me to do “cat duty” while she whisked off to Washington, D.C. to continue her job hunt, I had no idea what I had signed on for…

    Shouldn’t be a big deal. The almost 30-something kid down the street who still lives with his parents was going to stop by each day to do the food-and-water thing. My mission, that I had already accepted, was to do the “once-a-week litter box” thing.

    (Now I gotta tell you – once a week is not the kind of frequency I recommend for cleaning a litter box…it’s…for lack of a better description…a shitty mess. But that was the least of my problems…)

    The first call came about two days after Fran skipped town. Turns out…Cosmo…the orange-striped psycho cat…had decided the living room was his oyster…and that it would be much more fun to defecate on the white, thick shag carpeting in the living room and on stairs.

    By the end of week one, I had blown through a whole roll of paper towels, and a big bottle of the “miracle spray” that did absolutely nothing to help with this mess.

    And…as the problem got worse…Fran finally asked if I could take Cosmo on a trip to the friendly neighborhood vet.

    I scrounged through her garage, and dug up the cat carrier. This thing looked like an over-sized fishing tackle box…and was two sizes too small. I somehow managed to stuff Cosmo inside, latched the box, and peeled off down the street – as I have a low tolerance for complaining cats…(considering the amount of cat crap I had cleaned at this point…thoughts of “lethal injection” were racing through my head…I think I may have threatened it once or twice during the ride…).

    Cosmo and I had to visit the “specialist.” Also known as the “Cat behaviorist.” And after his thorough examination – he put Fran on a speaker phone to ask if anything had recently changed in Cosmo’s environment.

    Hmmmm….he was chased by the “neighborhood bully cat;” she had company the weekend before she left town – including a very loud 7-year-old that got her thrills out of chasing him around the house; the water heater broke and flooded the utility closet where the litter boxes were kept; the roof leaked, so repairmen had been at the house pounding and banging on the roof; and she accidentally locked the cat in her bedroom for the first two days she was gone, as she rushed out the door for an early-morning flight.

    The “cat behaviorist’s” diagnosis: your cat is stressed.

    He’s a nice guy. Several friends recommend this veterinarian. But really…I could have made that diagnosis without 8 years of vet school…

    So I stuffed Cosmo back in the carrier…and away we went…along with a prescription for Prozac…
    NOT for me…for the cat!!

    • John Carlton says:

      Funny, Susie.
      I would have tried whiskey first on the little feline, but I hear that serotonin uptake inhibitors work, too.
      We’ve got constant drama with 3 dogs/1 cat, too. You’re a good friend for volunteering for this job… though I suspect it’s your last volunteer job doing it…
      And who has white shag with pets? Idiots…

      • Susie Nelson says:

        I’ll have to give that Whiskey trick some thought…although maybe I’ll just have to drink a lot of whiskey…or Gin & Tonics…or Red Wine…or…since it sounds like she’s heading out on the road in the next week or two for a follow-up interview. (Sigh….the things we do for friends….)
        And it’s really expensive white shag…Fran is a very tall, slender, gorgeous, guys-crawl-out-of-the-woodwork-to-meet…witty…BLONDE…(OK – what did Willy Wonka say…scratch that last one…)
        I think the problem stems from the fact that she named the thing after her favorite drink…but then again…I’d have to confirm that with the “cat behaviorist.”

    • Amy says:

      Hilarious! I have two feline friends, names Feathers and Daisy, otherwise known as “you little shit” and “get off that now!”

  • Richard Fairley says:

    It Started With A Smoothie

    With three types of tortillas in the fridge I wasn’t sure just how patriotic I was when I realized at 29 years of age that I have never hosted a dinner for my family; much less on the USA’s birthday.

    Sweat should have poured from my cheeks and slightly creased forehead, but I wanted a glass of whine and grab that “ancient” spanish guitar.

    Not knowing exactly what to to cook or much less how it was going to look if my hands managed to get mangled in it, I grabbed the nonstick pots and pans from the cabinets along with a bag of long grain rice.

    My mother agreed to help and began blending onions into the thawed hamburger meat by the sink.

    My mother was seated and floating from time to time and then I attempted to phone my brother to clarify directions. I decided to make a smoothie and offered my mother one: “A peach one?”

    to be continued

  • Elizabeth says:

    The fun run winner
    One Sunday in July my husband and I joined a fun run through the local wine region and made it through to the finish line. After the event there were prizes for the overall winners as well as for age categories. Hubby was elated when his name was called as the first prize winner in his age group and he happily accepted his certificate and a bottle of wine. Not a bad effort at age 71 wouldn’t you say? We thoroughly enjoyed sipping his prize even after we found out that he was the only entrant in his age group

  • Amy says:

    John, I’ve just started learning screenwriting, novel writing and the three act structure. Interesting how this is tied in with the human psyche. And now I find that copy writing is the same. My journey over the first hurdle is complete.

  • Clay says:


    That’s maybe the only word that can describe the quaint little island in Thailand I’ve been living on for the past month.

    Perfect temperatures, warm sunlight, and white sandy beaches for miles.

    It’s so nice that I’ve even learned to overlook the little mosquito problem.

    Or, should I say, my friend’s little mosquito problem: dengue fever.

    Paradise: where your roommate contracts dengue fever and you both refuse to leave.

    (My friend is fine now, by the way.)

  • Starting this month, my Dad broke ties with Democratic party in Florida, and embarked on the craziest adventure yet–he started his campaign for Governor of Florida.

    Running as an Independent for the first time, (or any time), and being charged with accusations of being a “spoiler” for the Republicans, it has been a stressful time to say the least.

    Plus, we’ve limited our fundraising to $250 maximum, no more. While our opponents are selling themselves to any and all speciali interests that come calling, we are about the people’s voices, and having faith again in ordinary folks again.

    It’s truly been a walk of faith and a trial by fire. 🙂

    So, that’s been my July!\

  • Mark says:

    We found a baby-kitten in our garden that had been bitten by a dog. My girlfriend heard it first, she’s got a radar for that, I was almost ignorant of it. The leg was broken and we brought it to the vet. The bones got nailed without opening up the cat which has to live for another 2 weeks in a cage. Intolerable! Several times the cat escaped the cage which seemed like a miracle because it’s as closed as a closed cage gets. And yet, after days I figured out how it all came about. That would be the boring part of the story and the part that would take away from the cat’s secrets. The cat who’s name is now Houdini. Houdini has been adopted and all is well.

    • John Carlton says:

      You’re on to something here, Mark. This particular story is not tight yet, but the elements are there — especially the promise of a string of tales about a rescued cat named Houdini.
      Thanks for the post.

  • Russ Banister says:

    Got myself a street legal dirt bike a while back. Been learning how to ride the darn thing. Wants to behave like a bad boy on the street, but calms way down when we hit the mountain forest roads.
    Maybe it’s the rider?

  • Ooops. I guess that wasn’t really in story form, or was it?

  • Marcella says:

    One day last month I’m running over to Staples to get some ink cartridges. I’m pissed off and in a hurry and suddenly this little brown curly haired dog, a dead ringer for Benji in the movies, runs in front of my car. I slam on the breaks and so does everyone else around me.

    The dog panics. It’s running around in circles in the middle of 6 lanes of suburban traffic snarl. So I open the car door and call to the dog and it jumps in like it’s been riding in cars for years. The dog is well cared for, friendly, nice collar, no tag. I’m sure its owner must be looking for it.

    So I bring the dog home for the night planning on taking it to the animal shelter the next morning. I figure the owner will call the shelter, find the dog, and everyone will live happily ever after.

    Only problem is, my 10-year-old son falls madly in love with the dog. We drop the dog off at the animal shelter the next morning and I am forced, under duress, to promise my son that if no one claims the dog, we can keep it. He promptly names it Zeus and insists on calling the shelter every day for the next 10 days to find out if the dog has been claimed yet. It hasn’t.

    So 10 days later I fork over $65 to adopt the same *&%$ dog I just dropped off less than two weeks earlier. Only now it smells horribly and has acquired some weird coughing, sneezing condition. And it has an electronic chip embedded in its neck so it can phone home if it gets lost again.

    The next day I once again head back to Staples for more ink cartridges. This time, while I’m gone the dog escapes from my yard and heads down the major boulevard a couple of blocks from my house. Evidently the dog has only experienced riding in cars, not running from cars, because once again he starts running around in circles in the middle of traffic.

    A nurse on her way home from working the third shift sees the little dog running in traffic. She tries to grab the dog but he runs away and hides under some bushes at the side of the road.
    So the woman gets out of her car, gets down on her hands and knees and tries to coax the little dog out from under the bushes.

    Another passing motorist sees the woman crawling on her hands and knees at the side of the road and thinks she’s having a heart attack. He calls 911.

    The 911 dispatcher sends the paramedics and a hook and ladder truck. The woman assures the paramedics and the firemen that she’s OK.

    At this point, the dog runs out from under the bushes and jumps in the woman’s car. The woman uses the new electronic chip to find me. I pay a $40 fine for having a runaway dog. Still waiting for the bill from the paramedics.

  • Dave Doolin says:

    I’m trying to figure out whether I have time for this… or whether I can’t afford to miss the opportunity…

    It was wet as hell that winter in Veracruz. The province, not the city. We were out in the wildlands of the Sierra Zongolica, prospecting for new pit caves. Sotano de Tomasa Quiahua had just been discovered, and we were hot hot hot to find the next 1000′ deep shaft into the underground.

    A week of prospecting turned up… not much. And the rain left us of feeling more like drowned puppies than world-class expeditionary cavers.

    So off the mountain we went, in search of booze, hot food, and someplace warm and dry to take a crap.

    Now, the roads in that part of Mexico used to suck. A good one was graded more than once a year, and had gravel. The road crossing the Sierra was not good. More of a wide track with limestones pinnacles and ruts in the mud than a real road. But is was driveable, barely, and we descended into the town of C____, a few kilometers downstream from Nacimiento del Rio Tonto.

    Not a thriving metropolis buy any means, but we found a room (eh, barn) to rent for a night or two, and settled in.

    After living in wet, soggy clothes for days, this was perfect!

    The rainy day turned to a rainy evening.

    Our landlord, a right friendly fellow, extended us all the hospitality we could imagine, under the circumstances. And even invited our native Spanish speaker, J___, over for a snort of the local rotgut (sugar cane liquor. _Not_ rum.).

    All was well with the world.

    My friend M___ and I are kicked back, relaxing, debriefing our past week and plotting the next.

    The music starts up next door, where F___ and his young friend E____ is entertaining J___.

    After a few beers, of course it’s time to offload, and M____ wanders out to some some personal business.

    A couple of minutes later, he bangs back into the our little barn, hissing through his teeth “Man, you hafta see this, come on!” and he’s practically dragging me out into the rain.

    “Check this out,” he says, “there’s a peephole in wall.”

    Sure enough, from the right angle, I could see a tiny thin sliver of light beaming into the rain.

    “Take a look, take a look!” He’s urging me towards the hole in the wall.

    Now, I’m not ordinarily disposed to spy, but the opportunity was there, the time was right, and besides, somebody had to drill the hole in the wall, right? What use is a peep hole if nobody uses it?

    And there’s J___, sitting on a chair with a dirty glass of rotgut, looking _extremely_ uncomfortable, watching F___ and E___ more or less feeling each other up dancing around their tiny hovel.

    I had to put 4 fingers in my mouth and bite down hard to keep from shrieking with laughter.

    It was so funny so that M___ and staggered back into our side of the building, and collapsed into hilarity. That sort of fall-out-of-your chair rolling-on-the-floor-for-real kind of laughter.

    Gales of laughter.

    Laughing so hard I almost pissed myself.

    By and by, we collected our wits and went on a rescue mission. Why J___ didn’t just pick up and leave, I’ll never know. Very polite young man he was. Well-mannered. But not at all interested in making time with F___ and his young friend E____.

    Get drunk. Screw whatever you can catch. Spy on the neighbors. I guess there really isn’t much else to do in this part of Mexico.

    Sounds about like down home everywhere I’ve lived.

  • Eliyahu Kane says:

    The room is dark. I am sleeping.

    I hear the door open.

    What time is it? It’s too dark to see the clock.

    There are no birds chirping so it’s before 5. I feel like I slept at least 2 hours. It must be after 4.

    I open my left eye and see two eyes staring back at me.

    “Wake up. I want you to wake up.”

    I reach for my wife, She is not there. She hasn’t been there all July. She is in the third week of a five week trip to Dayton. I am watching the kids.

    I signal my three year old to climb into bed.

    “I’m wet.”

    I reach over and touch him. His diaper is full and his shirt is soaked.

    I tell him to bring me another diaper and a new shirt. I look up and see he has them already.

    I quickly pull off his shirt and put the dry one on him. I’ll worry about washing him off tomorrow.

    I take off his wet diaper, fold it up dry side facing out, and toss it across the room to a place where I will most likely see it before stepping in it. I put the new diaper on him and signal him to climb into bed.

    He climbs into bed.

    “Daddy… I’m hungry.”

    Night over.

  • Brian McLeod says:

    Friday, I decided to play hooky.

    My body needed a break and my brain needed to freewheel for a little while.

    All I really wanted was a drink and a smoke…
    …to hang out and be silly with some friends for a little while.

    So, I cruised over to a private little weekly get together where I like to hang out sometimes. At least I do whenever I can steal the time… like Friday.

    At first, everything was perfect. I bumped into some old pals, lots of laughs… all good.

    Then, he showed up.

    It was like he sucked all the fun out of the room the instant he entered… and then he wouldn’t leave.

    My pal John was just about to set me up with something he’s been working on for months… when The Man With No Name inserts himself into the conversation.

    Disruptive. Annoying. Belligerent.

    John bails immediately… and there I am left standing toe to toe with possibly the most disagreeable and toxic bastard ever born.

    So, what did I do?

    I’ll tell you next week.



  • Dana says:

    What do you mean your parents are going with us? Your sister wants them to come too, otherwise she’s just going to come see us?
    I can work with that. David(my brother-in-law) and I will just head up to his cabin on the bikes for a few days then. I need some vacation while I’m on vacation.
    Wheels down, we head to the Harley dealer. I’ll take that one, a H.D. Road Glide. David has his own custom Wide-glide, and I’m informed Randy will be joining us on his 650.
    We get all our gear loaded up, which isn’t much because we’re on motorcycles. David tells me we have about a 2-1/2 hour ride, a little longer depending on how often we stop. I figured out real fast it was going to be longer because we wheeled into the first bar about 20 minutes into the ride. After a couple more stops, I wisely decide to stick with water for the rest of the ride. V-twins and booze don’t make a cute baby. And David rides like a bat out of hell, so I figure all my reflexes should be responding properly. Besides, I’m in unfamiliar territory too. Little did I know, I was about to find out just how unfamiliar.
    As we continue ripping down the highway David grows impatient and passes some bikers in front of us, and the van in front of him. I pass the bikers, but can’t make the van. Randy doesn’t pass either. What to do…what to do? I decided to pass the van, but unfortunately I can’t see David. It appears he kept the throttle cocked. I decide to open it up a little and in no time there’s a fork in the road and Randy’s not in my mirror.
    David must’ve gone straight…or not. I continued about 2 miles past the fork in the road and decided I better pull over and wait for Randy. I came to the conclusion that I wasn’t going to catch David. Randy knows where we’re going and I can now see the bikers I passed coming up the highway. Unfortunately Randy’s not behind them. I’m no brain surgeon, but there was a fork in the road back there and I don’t see neither one of those guys. I went back to the fork, but I had no idea how far to go. But thank God for technology…maybe. If I stand just in the right spot I can get a signal. Three texts and twenty minutes later I’m heading for the bottom of the hill, wherever that is, and they are sitting there waiting for me.
    We pulled into the cabin, fired up a few stogies, poured a few mixers and escaped reality for the next four days motorcycling in western Pennsylvania.
    Vacation with the in-laws isn’t so bad when your bedroom is three hours away.

  • My three-year old daughter Marí and I were joyfully playing in the sand trap on the golf course behind our house. She actually loves to pick up the rakes and rake the sand. Just fun for her I guess. There we were innocently raking the sand trap together when one of the neighbors (who doesn’t know me or what I do) drove by on his golf cart with an 8 to 9 year old boy who I assume was his son.

    He stopped, looked and said to me, “You can’t do THAT unless you’re Mexican.” Taken aback and stalling for time to think of how to appropriately say what I was really thinking, I eloquently said, “What?” Again, in the midst of a solid laugh, he said, “You can’t do THAT unless you’re Mexican.” So I, smiled back and said, “Well, I’m Puerto Rican so I guess that’s close enough.”

    He looked back at this middle-aged white Puerto Rican who lives in his same neighborhood and my pretty little white Puerto Rican daughter and said, “Oooooh” and vamoosed it.

    “Órale” as our Mexican friends say. What if I had been a proud Mexican instead of a more objective Latino who dedicates his life to Latino / non-Latino relationships and communications? That man might have been in a peck of problemas. ¡Órale!

  • Melinda says:

    I realized I’m perhaps ill-equipped to deal with my aging father, who lives with me. He had a mild stroke a couple of years ago, and had been in an accident that left him in a 3 month coma when I was a kid, so the man has some mental challenges to overcome on a good day. Last week, he pounded on my bedroom door and announced that his keys and glasses were missing. He did not use the tone of someone who had misplaced them, but rather the angry shriek of a howler monkey who realizes someone has eaten his last banana. I tried using soothing words, gently prodding him to retrace his steps. I tried searching every nook and cranny of the condo, hoping to cut short his constant commentary on how nothing “ever went missing” prior to my arrival. Much shouting and stomping of feet later, I was in the kitchen and, exasperated, I looked to the heavens & asked whatever god that would listen to give me patience and strength (and hurry!!). I opened my eyes and saw there, lying on the flourescent pane of the light fixture, the clear outline of keys and eyeglasses. I could almost hear them mocking me, but I was delighted to see them all the same. Of course, Dad had gone to the store for a lightbulb, and wanted to replace it first thing when he got home so he wouldnt forget. He scampered up onto a chair to begin the project and put his keys next the bulb as he went about it. When the lightbulb didnt fit, in a state of frustration he slid the flourescent pane back in place without putting his glasses and keys away first. You sap my strength old man, but I’m so glad to still have you in my life.

  • charles says:

    Woke up unexpectedly again last Friday night. 2 AM. Not sure why, but it’s getting to be a pattern. Couldn’t fall back asleep, either. Also a pattern.

    To the pantry for a blueberry pop-tart and logged onto my laptop.

    Inbox filled with launch notices. One email had a link. Link took me to a video on facebook.

    Good use of social marketing.

    Video content wasn’t as good as the marketing, my mind went elsewhere.

    Searched facebook for my ex-girlfriend, 30 years removed from high school.

    Too many choices for her. Fairly common name.

    Looked up her brother. (Joaquin)

    Found him… and two photos over was my ex.

    30 years later and she looks incredible. Blonde, fit, tight arms showing in her sleeveless top. Sinewy comes to mind. Same beautiful white teeth.


    I wonder where she lives. Is she married? Should I contact her?

    We were quite the couple our senior year. I don’t mind saying I was quite the looker as an 18 year old, but the years haven’t been kind.

    I’d be embarrassed to have her see me.

    No, I’ll pass and just be nostalgic.

  • It was a Saturday. The last day of July. If I was going to see him, it was going to be today or never. The time for procrastination was over.

    While I wasn’t especially fond of going to see him, given our broken history together, he was my father after all. I couldn’t let my emotions control me any longer. Now that he was out of the hospital, it was almost obligatory for me to go and make an appearance.

    Especially since my grandmother almost broke down on the phone, almost begging me to come see the man that had avoided me for years.

    With a surprising strong knot in my stomach, and a small buzz in the back of my ears, I picked up my keys off the counter, grabbed my wallet and headed out the door.

    As I climbed in the car, I couldn’t help the wave of nausea that swept over me. Every mile I crept closer to my grandmother’s house, those feelings intensified. Throat tight. Chest heavy. Legs shaking.

    I knew that it was the right thing to do, but at the same time, I just wanted to crank the steering wheel around, and drive right back in the direction I just came. Desperately I waited for these thoughts to disappear, and miraculously replace themselves courage. Believe it or not – they didn’t.

    After what seemed like an eternity of red lights, slow traffic and road construction, I finally arrived at my destination. I parked my car, said a small prayer under my breath, and walked up to the front gate of my destination. After a few seconds frozen in place with fear, and approached the door.

    I reluctantly knocked and awaited for the response. As she opened the door, a faint smile welcomed me and a guiding hand directed me inside. The door closed behind me, as it always seems to do in horror movies…

    – Coty

  • Stan says:

    Hi !
    July was the occasion for me to go to my cousin’s wedding, near Bordeaux, in the south of France.
    The husband’s colombian family was there to, and I was totally surprised to hear their bourguignon banns ! ’til I discovered that one of them was living in Bourgogne since 20 years…
    Stan – from Fontainebleau, France.

  • PJ McClure says:

    That bitch in the GPS and a $200 cup of coffee.

    Grandpa had a slight stroke this year and I volunteered (succumb to guilt and pressure) to drive he and grandma on a 10-day bucket-list trip.

    Already armed with highlighted maps, predetermined stops, and meticulous notes, grandpa was less than impressed when I plugged in the GPS before leaving.

    The first 500 miles were spent with grandpa echoing the sweet British voice of my GPS babe, Andi. “Grandpa, you can just relax and enjoy the ride. The GPS can get us anywhere want to go.” He wasn’t convinced.

    On day two, we swung in to a gas station suggested by Andi. Digging for quarters to pay for a cup of coffee, I sat a wad of cash on the counter. 226 miles later I realized that the wad wasn’t in my pocket.

    “I’m going to call that gas station and see if they picked it up for me. Do you remember the name of it, or what town it was in?”

    Grandpa had been waiting 726 miles… “It wasn’t on my list so it isn’t in my notes. Maybe that bitch Andi wrote it down.”

    • John Carlton says:

      People, here is an example of a well-edited story. Set up, act two, punch line.
      Nice job, PJ. You’ve got excellent story-telling chops.
      My bet: You learned them in your family. I like your Grandpa without even meeting him.

      • PJ McClure says:

        Thanks John. You made my day.

        I grew up on a dairy farm and story-telling was welcomed treat every day. Leaning against a truck or squatted down in the dirt, I watched some of the best ever spin their tall-tales.

        I’ve paid thousands to watch performers that can’t hold a candle to those word smiths of my youth.

        Be your best.

        • John Carlton says:

          Really good point there, PJ. Modern media has cornered the storytelling “market”, defining what is and what isn’t a “good” story. Which is bullshit. I lived and worked in Hollywood, and the hacks outnumber the pro’s there by a factor of a million. People rave about Leno’s opening monologue… which is really just short crappy stories slapped together for cheap laughs.
          The BEST material in the world never gets recorded or wide distribution. It’s those stories told over a period of years by people like your family, PJ, and mine — the laughs are so profound they make your belly ache, and the tales so outrageous (and true) that you want to hear them again and again.
          The BEST compliment I’ve ever gotten was recently, from a colleague. I paused, mid-story, and said “Wait, I’ve told you this one before, haven’t I?” And he said, “Yeah, but I wanna hear it again. Don’t stop.”
          We lose a LOT by relying on others to tell the stories in our life. We stop seeking adventure, we stop crafting our own scripts for living life, and we start reading People magazine. (Well, I don’t, but that’s what those gossip mags are for — feeding the craving for stories that our regular lives lack.)
          Those of us who CAN tell a tale need to keep doing so, and keep insisting that people around us tell better stories, too.
          It’s a freakin’ mission.

  • Tom Bell says:

    This one isn’t from this July, its from *A* July…

    The Mohawk guy…

    If your going to be a drug addict, a TRULY good addict, there is a lie you must be able to tell yourself or its just never going to work.

    I don’t care if the next hit kills me…

    Thing is, everyone gets their chance to put the stories they tell themselves to the test.

    The day I nearly died twice started like any other, selling toys, buying drugs and smoking myself senseless, huddled in my 10 x 12 apartment on the upper west side of Manhattan. It was at about 3am that I was faced with split testing the whole not caring about the dying statement.

    Smoked large hit, got racing of heart, pondered the obituary statement of unidentified large white male dead and stinking up a weekly flopartment on 97th street. I even imagined the look of “not again” on the faces of the coroners crew charged with removing the body.

    EWWW what a sucky job!

    Ok, myth busted, I decided I REALLY did care if the next hit killed me, so off to the hospital I went. I called the ambulance and gathered my things.

    In my part of town the standard response to seeing your neighbor leaving their tiny apartment via ambulance was to go steal their stuff (Hey these apartments only HELD one person, no person, no defense, easy opportunity…

    My 2 “things” were a “boom box” stereo and a little sony watch man (a REALLY big deal back in the 80s when this happened)

    The bullet proof vest laden ambulance driver took me in and I was placed on a table in the hall of the hospital, the wires applied and the EKG started, my watchman and boom box by my side.

    As I sat there for the test, I started to play with the tv and see if it would get a station and a scary looking guy who had to be 6′ 5″ came by and started asking friendly questions about the tv “what stations come in?, How does it work?”

    I eventually passed out.

    Woke up without the tv or the boom box, went into freak out mode, I mean seriously? a hospital? robbed? wow.

    I went outside and called my friend from Florida, I had fallen as far as I could go and it was time to get off the friken merry go round, my exact words were “im done, checking out, its been nice… I need a fu-king sign”

    At that exact moment, hours after speaking with him on the hospital gurney, I saw the Mohawk guy standing across the street.

    Holding a bag, my bag.

    I will never EVER forget that exchange of words. “I know you have MY stuff in YOUR bag, now your a big guy, I’m not gonna hit you, what I’m going to do is follow you and start screaming thief like a maniac and if you run, ill run. You might get to where your going without a cop hearing me

    You might not…

    He handed me the bag, it was my stuff, 8 million people in New York city and there he was with my sign

    I quit drugs that day cold turkey, moved out of the city and now oversee a multi million dollar marketing agency

    In the words of one of my favorite musicians, Peter Gabriel, “it is so strange the way things turn”…

  • David says:

    We went to Dunlap Tennessee to drive a road rally with some friends. Dunlap, is a fairly small town with beautiful views and friendly people. Still there is an element about the place that’ll make you think if Ned Beatty came through, he may get told to squeal again. And there are plenty of places where no one would hear him.

    We were first to leave and left the parking lot with a loud rev of the engine and a “see ya later losers wave” to the other teams.

    We were making great time and and knew this was going to be a piece of cake.

    And then, six turns into the course, the road forked and the street signs had been stolen, (Likely hanging next to some deer head in a pot bellied beer drinkers den as some sort of trophy.) the only marker we saw was an old pick-up truck with a wooden tailgate, and I thought to my self, this had to be used by the locals to give directions.

    We quickly found out the street signs that hadn’t been stolen were riddled with bullet holes and barely legible, not good for our race.

    After 36 minutes of being completely lost, and somehow skipping a whole section of the course, we rolled back into civilization and got back on track.

    We were pressed for time and we knew it, thank goodness for ABS brakes, we put them to the test a few times, especially in one blind hairpin turn where the road was wet and a dog was lounging on the double yellow line.

    When we finally made it back, we were in exactly last place! And the worst part was we had been beaten by a team of two women who enjoyed rubbing salt in our wounds, with their victory.

    This was my first road race and I learned a few things: If you ever decide to run a road rally, in Dunlap or anywhere else, make sure you have a good map of the area, (GPS doesn’t always work right) an odometer that is accurate, and an easy way to track your time between stages of the course.

    I’m going back tomorrow, to buy the good map, and I’ll be back with my burning desire to take first place next month.

  • David Blaise says:

    I didn’t mean to sound unsympathetic, but I simply couldn’t believe what she was telling me…

    “I’ve been working on this business for years,” she lamented, “ten hours a day, six days a week. “I’ve worked nights, weekends and holidays and I just can’t seem to make it pay.”

    “Well, it does take some effort to succeed,” I countered. “How much did you do in gross sales last year?”

    “About 50 thousand,” she replied.

    “Wait,” I said. “You did 50 thousand dollars in gross sales last year working 60 hours a week?”

    “Yeah, why?” she asked.

    “On an average 35% gross profit margin?”

    “Yes, why do you ask?”

    “I just need to get clear on this,” I said. “So you spent 60 hours a week to generate less than $18,000 in gross profit for yourself before any of your expenses were paid?”

    “Yes, that’s what I’m saying,” she said. “Why do you ask?”

    “Because now I’m trying to figure out what you could possibly be doing for ten hours a day, six days a week to generate only seventeen-five before expenses. What exactly do you do all day?”

    She looked hurt and dumbfounded by the question.

    But she was a smart woman, so instead of getting defensive, she kept the question in context and quickly realized that her discomfort was not caused by my question. Her discomfort sprang from the many unprofitable actions she was taking on a daily basis and the few necessary actions she needed to take in order to change her results.

    From that moment on, we were able to begin the process of reinventing her business…

  • robert says:

    Every time its my birthday in July, it takes me back to July 1981, when I had just turned 21 years of age. Young man, the key to the door and all that.
    Cut a long story short…I got pissed and got left by my so called friends, got picked up by a older lady aged about 60 who took me to her house and started giving me more drinks.
    I said to myself ” F@@k it” Im going to have myself some fun, am only 21 once, right?
    Just then the older lady started to kiss me and said- ” Have you ever had sex with a mother and daughter at the same time?”
    A big smile came over my face. A bit excited and a bit scared. NO! never I said – well come on I was only 21 remember.
    Would you like to try it she says?
    Rubbing my hands and thinking what I was going to tell my friends – YES! YES! with a stutter in my voice
    I’d love to try it – Bring it on…
    O.K hold on she says and gos to the bottom of the hall way and shouts up the stairs…MOTHER!!!!

  • Coty Schwabe says:

    It was a Saturday. The last day of July. If I was going to see him, it was going to be today or never. The time for procrastination was over.

    While I wasn’t especially fond of going to see him, given our broken history together, he was my father after all. I couldn’t let my emotions control me any longer. Now that he was out of the hospital, it was almost obligatory for me to go and make an appearance.

    Especially since my grandmother almost broke down on the phone, almost begging me to come see the man that had avoided me for years.

    With a surprising strong knot in my stomach, and a small buzz in the back of my ears, I picked up my keys off the counter, grabbed my wallet and headed out the door.

    As I climbed in the car, I couldn’t help the wave of nausea that swept over me. Every mile I crept closer to my grandmother’s house, those feelings intensified. Throat tight. Chest heavy. Legs shaking.

    I knew that it was the right thing to do, but at the same time, I just wanted to crank the steering wheel around, and drive right back in the direction I just came. Desperately I waited for these thoughts to disappear, and miraculously replace themselves courage. Believe it or not – they didn’t.

    After what seemed like an eternity of red lights, slow traffic and road construction, I finally arrived at my destination. I parked my car, said a small prayer under my breath, and walked up to the front gate of my destination. After a few seconds frozen in place with fear, and approached the door.

    I reluctantly knocked and awaited for the response. As she opened the door, a faint smile welcomed me and a guiding hand directed me inside. The door closed behind me, as it always seems to do in horror movies…

    (sorry if this was submitted twice. And awesome stories everyone! Who knew there was so much talent out there.)

  • Sabrina says:

    They say calamities come in threes. They should have added “and when you least expect them”.

    I couldn’t believe it. I’d had enough stress for the day. Expecting the best, but fearing the worst outcome… by the end of the day, I was a mangled mess of nerves.

    Finally the call came – my mom was resting well after a difficult surgery. Few minutes had passed before the phone rang again – this time with the news no one wants to hear.

    “Your grandmother’s gone.”

    But she was recovering so well… we’d seen my husband’s grandmother just a couple weeks prior – when we were back home for my own grandmother’s funeral, which came just a couple weeks after Uncle’s funeral.

    Maybe her spirit fought but could no longer resist the call. Someone had to be the third.

  • robert says:

    P.S I forgot to say – When I heard her coming down the stairs with her zimmer frame – I was slipping on my own shit trying to get out the door.

  • Jake says:

    I have a business where I design and make machines and the like for all kinds of folks. Mid July a guy calls me and signs me up to to make a half dozen metal crates for collecting treasure at the bottom of the ocean. I get them started and the next day he calls with more things he needs. This continues until I have way more to do than time left. I am working into the long hours of the night. Friday of the first week he calls up and says, Can you come to Saint John with me to set up the sub going to the bottom of the ocean? I say yes of course. Who could say no to a week on a boat in the islands looking for treasure?

    So I spend every waking minute the next week getting all his stuff ready to bring, Crates, shovels, rakes, weird stuff. End of the week comes around and I deliver all the stuff so the currier can take it to the ship. I ask what should I pack for the carribian? They all look at me funny and say, We aren’t going to the carribean, we are going to Saint John’s in NewFoundland. (The week on the boat was great fun too!)

  • Over the last 13 years I have become a real natural health nut job. Driving my friends and family nuts as I rant and rave about the newest thing I have learned while watching them do nothing to better their lives.

    I tell you this to set the stage for my first trip to my roommates parents. Before we even leave the house she is telling me not to offend her family.

    Here I am thinking this is ridiculous, I have always been a people person, and getting along in place with everyone that I certainly want to get along with shouldn’t be a problem.

    After a 5 hour trip to bum funk Egypt, in the middle of now where, we finally arrived late in the evening. At the parents house I was introduced to aunts, cousins, significant others, and second cousins. It was a little intimidating to say the least.

    First night no issues…

    However, at breakfast in the morning one the cousins living in Florida started talking about healthy sunscreen. I sat quietly as she explained all the horrible ingredients in the sunscreen, which I absolutely agree with, until she mentioned titanium dioxide.

    I mentioned that it was a controversial ingredient. She began talking louder and immediately justifying who she was, where she lives, and how she knows what a great product this sunscreen was.

    I sat there wondering what I did to make her talk louder and begin justifying herself all over again. I didn’t feel as though I had done anything, so I stated again. Titanium dioxide is a controversial ingredient from what I have read.

    In the snottiest tone she says “Fine, anyway…” and she continued on about the rest of the ingredients, all of which we had agreed on were good previously. After this second reaction I just kept to myself and said nothing.

    Emotions with friends and family are one of the most difficult things to control. You don’t see some of them often enough and the need to justify your experiences become stronger.

    The rest of the day I heard about her living all over the US and about the grass roots movement she has partaken in. Her husbands political connections and about how busy she keeps between work and family.

    I was gaining back some admiration for her as the day went along. Around the campfire that evening when the cocktails were in full force that things got emotionally difficult for me.

    Others started going to bed getting sick and tired of hearing it from the cousin. Now you would think this woman handing out all sorts of healthy advice would just look phenomenal right?

    Nope, she was a heavier set woman with rolls…

    Every now and then on vacation, drinking, I am known to get away from my typical diet. She brought down to the fire Hostess cupcakes and I hadn’t had one of those since I was in college. So I helped myself.

    You’ll never believe it, but she was the first one to start giving me shit about it. Now I have no problem for being Mr. in your face about what your eating and taking some flack ought be a problem, but from her out of all people???

    I mean she was the one who had bought them and brought them!

    Because she was so well read and had so many experiences I was very intrigued about her opinions. As the night progressed I continued asking her questions and when she asked me questions about my life I would answer.

    About the 5th time she asked me what my background was is finally when her brother had enough. He told her to shut up and he walked her back to the house. Now my roommate hadn’t been outside and as her cousins were walking away she got mad at me for causing the drama.

    I was blown away, I begun explaining myself that all I did was ask questions, and explain she was the one getting upset and repeating herself. When the brother came back to the fire and apologized for his sister is what got me off the hook with my roommate.

    The next morning she avoided me at all costs. It didn’t matter I was the one entertaining her son all morning, who was a classic only child.

    When it came time to say good bye, she stopped me from giving her a hug and said “I think this is enough”, as she grabbed my hand awkwardly and shook it.

    On the ride home all I could think to myself was I couldn’t believe I had worked this woman up so much that she couldn’t let it go the next day. I am still just mystified that emotionally it bothers me.

    The need to defend oneself is one of the biggest time killers. Controlling those emotions and staying on task is an incredible tool towards being successful.

  • Allen says:

    Lesson Learned…

    I have a business client. Our relationship is very recent, but somehow it went askew already, and I ended up owing them a refund.

    For some bizarre reason they were not eager to collect immediately and took a couple of weeks to get back to me about the debt.

    Imagine my surprise when instead of asking for money, they offered me to submit a proposal for another job … with a tacit understanding that the bid will cover my balance.

    Fortunately, the gig seemed easy, as the client has already done a good chunk of work himself. All I had to do is was win the damn bid and do a mop up.

    Fully aware that they may have other proposals I was facing a dilemma: Should I do what any reasonable person would do — make a
    competitive bid, get the gig, and pay the debt or…
    Is there another way?

    What should I do?

    I decided to eat on the decision…

    During a dinner a daring idea darts into my mind: I’ve already lost, so I might as well go down with style… Why don’t I listen to Dan Kennedy once in a blue moon… and… jack up the price?

    I engineered a beefy proposal, quoted a 150% price hike, and then, almost in a jest, had the gall to claim that the proposal is “preliminary, as I’m yet to examine the part that the client has done… And if that’s not up to my standards we’ll have to negotiate the matters further…”

    Knowing that I am gambling, and my proposal is probably the highest they’ll receive I warily hit the send button. At that point I didn’t care anymore. But still, pulling such a stunt is nerve tickling. (Try it yourself.)

    And you know what happened?

    Exactly what Dan said would happen: The client has agreed immediately and cut a new check on a spot. I paid my debt and pocketed another 50% on top.

    And you know what else?

    Instated of jittering with joy, I feel like crap!

    I feel cheated. I can’t sleep at night. A haunting thought is glaring in my mind: The client agreed too fast! Why didn’t I ask for more money!

    Lessons learned: Listen to Dan Kennedy. Always ask for more. And never agree immediately.

  • Adil says:

    July short story….

    I was walking through a hotel in london during a seminar of some sort. Anyway while I was walking through the lobby I happened to notice none other then Anik Singal, for those that don’t know him, just google him. Anyway he was just chilling out, all alone so I decided to just go up to him and see how he was doing.

    Crazily enough he was totally free, doing nothing, nada, and no one had come to pick his brain.

    with my spider sense tingling I grabbed the nearest napkin and literally introduced myself to him, had a little chat about iron man and marvel comics. Then got into a conversation about marketing…. so yeah it was pretty awesome, he was telling me how he flew just over 100,000 air miles… pretty cool stuff.

    Anyway this was a golden nugget because had i not gone for a walk through the hotel I would have missed out on some great advice, conversation and a free napkin from a 5 star hotel…


  • Jacob says:

    I am father of 3 kids. Their al lovely and quite but it is always the smallest one who is the quitest. Also in our case. His name is Mees and he is 2,5 years old. During the day he does everything what lies in his ability to ruin the relationship between him and the rest of the family. He steels candy by climbing in the kitchen to the highest places. He tries to escape where ever we are. He is hitting his brothers running by and screams standing on the kitchen table to get attention. But he is all doing this with a big smile on his face and he is very smart in palming you in. He says sorry on the most sweatest way, hughs everybody and has a big bag of acting skills. My wife and i wondered how it could be that the difference between his behavior is so big. After i whil i began to understand this. He is just pressing the buttons to see whats happening. He is pushing the lines to expand his world. And he is doing that with excellent push and pull tactics. The harder he is pushing the harder he has to pull to make it up. And he has to make it up so he can push again, because he doesn’t wanna give up he has to keep pushing. So for all parents who are feeling helpless about their ‘stick them behind the wallpaper’ kids. The better they know; how to ruin your most pressure stuff, how to make you going out of youre head, how to bomb youre organised houshold, the better they will know how to make up, how to influence you, and how to make people laugh. Later on he will have mighty weapons with that. Please don’t pay attention on grammar or spelling, I am from the Netherlands.

  • My mom passed away from cancer late last year. Just a few days ago my brothers and I set out to scatter her ashes. She was always a bit undecisive. Though she had mentioned ideas about the ocean and the mountains where she wanted it done, it was never made for certain.

    Seeing as we live in Santa Cruz, CA which is a beautiful area my brothers and I decided to do both. Not only that but we’d re-trace a hike my mom had made a few years prior that takes you from the mountains to the sea.

    After a big breakfast we set out on the 16 mile hike. I knew there was no choice about it despite that my legs we’re already sore from the previous weeks 6 mile road race and gymnastics (but that’s two more stories for another time). Although I had been hiking before there was never anything like this so I made sure to be mentally prepared for it.

    The redwoods surrounded us the whole way going up and down the hill sides. Passing other people on their own journeys we made our way to a waterfall. It was small but the trail actually climbed right up through it, allowing you at points to get right next to the water. It was breath-taking. Despite the fact that it was technically illegal we thought there was not better place to deposit the ashes…half of them anyway.

    On we continued towards the beach. Over four hours in it began to become a bit strenuous. At least the feet didn’t enjoy all the friction of each step. We could see our destination on the horizon even through the trees but still about an hour away. Trudging along we finally made it.

    Stepping into to cold ocean water with bare feet felt better than ever. And here was were the journey would end. The last of the ashes were poured into the sea. Three men, brothers, not apt to share their feelings with one another certainly had their own ideas and emotions flowing through them.

    Thanks for the assignment. Hope you share more on story-telling John.

  • Kevin says:

    Black Bear in Lower Alabama.
    My wife and I moved out in the woods of the Delta down a long pig trail in 2006. Miles of nothing but wildlife.
    My inlaws told us Black Bear lived back here, but I hadn’t seen any.
    Then, a couple weeks ago, about forty feet away from our front door, a large bear stepped out into the clearing. Twin cubs, bubble-headed with big round ears, ran out and tumbled behind her.
    Mamma bear was the blackest black ever. Healthy.
    She grunted once and the cubs caught up to her. Then they were gone.

    • John Carlton says:

      Okay, somebody out there needs to enlighten me on black bears. The California flag (where I grew up) has one. I always thought they were west coast beasts. Now, Kevin tells us they’re in the South.
      Anybody out there study black bears?
      (Yes, I could Google this, but let’s see what readers come up with…)

  • Joe McVoy says:

    It was a dark and stormy night…

    … and a marketing client of mine actually did what I recommended!

    Frank is a painting contractor and because of the economy, he has had to lay off all his crews due to lack of business and actually go back to painting himself.

    He found one of my web sites where I talked about how to build a painting business so he gave me a call.

    I signed him up in a network marketing company I’m in that uses handwritten greeting cards to build relationships with customers and to get more referrals.

    What I told him to do was to take a picture of a customer’s house after he painted it and send them a personal note with that photo on the front of a greeting card and include some home-made brownies as a “thank you”. No sales pitch at all, just a sincere thanks for the business.

    He was getting one referral from every 10 jobs he did and as a result of doing this, he’s getting 9 referrals from every 10 jobs – he’s had to hire back his crews and is busier than ever.

    but, instead of building the greeting card business like he planned when we talked, he put that on hold to deal with the growth in the painting business.

    He did give me a great video testimonial though….

  • Sharon says:

    I needed a dress for an upcoming event since nothing in my closet fit me anymore. The thought of buying another size larger than the last time was not appealing at all. It was actually painful. It was time to make a change – I joined the YMCA. I was intent on losing weight even if it meant participating in every fitness class in my new found gym. Where would I start, after talking to my demi-counselor and discussing my all or nothing desire to lose weight fast, it was suggested that a cardio class was in order with a side of weight training. Okay, I’m in the gym to get some amazing results, therefore I need amazing classes. The next day – there it was staring me in the face at 8:00am in the morning – the music was pounding out my name in the beat; the instructor had a body an overweight like me would kill for and the perspiration falling from the brow of every member exiting this class let me know this one would get me thin again. I proudly held my stomach in and marched right through the door of my first spinning class – I moved to the far right corner in the back of the class and tried to mount my bike. After a few minutes of trying to figure out how to adjust the seat, handle bars and tension somebody realized that I was a newbie that was probably going to hurt myself without a little help. The instructor begin by going through the basics for the beginners while I tried my best to look at least like a novice displaying a bit of impatience on my face. Now it’s time to ride. The music starts to pump, the whole class is hovering over their bikes like they are on the open road, the instructor is now our scenic guide – heads start to bob up and down to the beat of some great sounds, legs and feet are all moving like a marching band – in sync and unstoppable. Except me. I didn’t realize that you should make sure that the strap on the pedal is tighten around your feet or you look like a disjointed acrobat. Okay, now I’m back in the saddle, I just need to concentrate, focus on the music, follow the directions of our guide and keep those wheels moving. What’s that you say . . . we’re taking a hill? I got it, you tighten the tension on the wheels to simulate the struggle to get up the hill. That’s why everybody is standing and moving much slower like their legs are stuck in the mud. I’m feeling this in a major way. My legs are burning intensely as I start to sweat profusely. My next maneuver is to keep my legs moving while I try to wipe some of the flowing water from my face. I wasn’t quite coordinated enough to do them both. I had to choose, take the hill or wipe my face. This was a no brainer since I couldn’t see from the sweat. I had to take the tension off the wheels and sit down to take care of the other situation – whew. We are about 10 minutes into our 45 minute ride and I am trying to visualize the mega weight loss that will be the result of this pain I’m experiencing. My fellow riders are transfixed on the guide’s every word and following her instructions to the letter. ” Take the hill with passion, ride it out, breathe, give it a little more, work for it” – they are loving it. No not I – I didn’t survive. I was swallowing back my coffee from earlier as the nausea was trying to overtake me. I made an executive decision, it dawned on me I needed to be someplace else at that very moment. A quick glance at the clock, a big sigh and the appearance of being late for something. Then make my move, get off that bike and out that door with as little commotion as possible. The thing is my legs didn’t want to carry me anymore. It was an all out mutiny. I’m pleading in my head asking my legs to just get me to the car. I was home 20 minutes later, but the pain hung around for 5 more days. The seats on those bikes were not designed for comfort and you know this for days after spinning classes have come and gone.

    I’m No Quitter
    I did go back and I did conquer that bike. Eventually I too could mount, ride, take the hill. sway with the music and wipe the sweat all at the same time. And, 40 pounds of fat now gone – I ride like the wind.

  • Noah says:

    July is hot in Tucson. Hot and muggy, as temperatures top a hundred every day, and monsoon has the humidity up around eighty percent all the time. So what in the name of the seven mad gods possessed me to quit smoking in July in Tucson?
    I guess it was either the smell or the fact that I could barely make it up a flight of stairs without running out of breath; could be either on or both.
    So I quit. I just stopped. I’ve tried to quit three times in the last year, but I just put ’em down and haven’t picked ’em back up. I’m astounded.
    And better yet, I haven’t even been grumpy or moody, or the least little bit of an asshole over it either. Of course my wife , kids and business partner may say I’m stretching the truth a tad there, but what do they know.
    I have been savoring the taste and smell of cigarettes for thirty four years, they have been my only real constant companion for all that time, and I kicked ’em to the curb in July.

  • The rays from the setting sun made the sky red, but not as red as the blood that splashed on the asphalt around me. The key was not to resist my attacker with force against force, but to relax and receive his push. Allow his left hand to remain on chest, going back onto my rear leg, making him into my front leg for a moment, freeing my own front leg. Simultaneously, I deflect his knife wielding right hand as I pivot on my rear foot. I push him as he overcompensates sailing past me. His head slams into the concrete column with a sickening crunch and a spray of blood. It is over as quickly as it started.
    I guess I looked like easy game going to my car in that parking garage. He probably thought I was a free lunch. I certainly don’t look tough, being small, overweight and obviously Jewish. A rich fat 50 year old accountant or dentist maybe. Guess again asshole. Trained in martial arts since I was 10 years old and I definitely don’t have a glass jaw. I’ve fought full contact without equipment from the time I was 12, before Bruce Lee made any movies or there was a martial arts craze. And nothing makes me madder than the taste of my own blood.
    But the truth is, despite my training, I’m a coward. I hate confrontations, have no pride, and will endure any insult and walk away. I actually get butterflies in my stomach and weak knees every time “it gets real.”
    But I had no choice. No time to think, not even a nanosecond. It was all reflexes. I’m not big or strong, but I am faster than greased lightning, and my technique is nearly perfect. It no doubt saved my life. But I threw up all the same.

  • Jer says:

    Damn Editing!

    I woke up a notch …reading this post. Old John crafts an engaging quest.

    Caught me with “Metaphor Alerts” and keep hooking with hints along the read …that storytelling’s everywhere.

    And getting better comes with finding what makes bad …bad and rocking ones …rock.

    Yes, I want that candy-pie.

    So I ask my self: “how to get some …for me?”

    Immediately, visions of kids in their mom’s shopping cart flash before my eyes. And I notice their story is more visual than words. Seeing how they watch their friends, dad, and strangers is a clue to how they learn to talk to them.

    Trying out a set of new clothes for them …it seems.

    Until they learn to speak – and start repeating what they hear. Trying new ounces. Seeing what comes back. To find the best story that makes sense for them.

    Yes, kids copy others. Since I never stopped being one, I’ll go out and find the badest mother in town.

    And practice swiping his style & lingo, to see what it does for me.

    Don’t have to go far…

    …Just now a neighbor boy runs out into the street. Points his plastic yellow six shooter up into the air and says: “take that …monster in the sky.”

    And I hear my self responding: “how many monsters have I aimed at?”

    Then I come back to my desk rereading John’s post that started this trip. And discover an important clue.

    Each paragraph’s a story! Nestled with fresh words & ideas. To keep me glued and in tune.

    So when I spit my innards out in this writing, I find getting it down in print comes first.

    Then go back over the read. And find …oops, it needs tweaking here & there to follow his clues.

    Then comes dang editing to make the final sense!

    ‘Cuz, first drafts never tell…

    …Gotta go folks. Ran out of time. In a article, I could say: To Be Continued. Or in a blog, stick in a “read more” tag.

    Plain fact is: My wife’s yelling to “come & get it.”

  • Shirley Bass says:

    In a fevering rush, I pounded the keys only to hear the sounds of whispering from my spouse and a thieving security salesman. Never did I think he’d bring him in. But to my amazement they stood there watching and jabbering, while I pounded faster and faster before my focus became a melting pot of disarray.

    Frustrated and fevered, boiling to point of no return, I stood up and excused myself from an insulting intrusion.

    Fishing, baiting, with no release…he reeled him in, as I drew my ink pen from a garbled bag, quickly scribbling out…three thousand smacks.

    I sit here now, safely pounding away, knowing the alarm system didn’t go off, when our house went up in a puff of smoke on that windy day in March.

  • Bill says:

    When my wife’s dad died five years ago, he left everything to her. The Farm has what you’d expect. Barn, cows, tractors…and the truck. Or as my kids still call her, Papa’s Truck.

    Papa’s Truck is a dingy brown ’88 Ford F-150. She has less than 50,000 miles. Yes, that’s original miles. Her body is only slightly and lightly dinged. She runs like a swiss clock, though she shifts a little sloppy. And be sure to keep her in oil.

    The kids used to ride in Papa’s Truck to check the fence, check the cows, or go to the Waco store for a root beer and a Nutty Buddy.

    My eldest, Riley had a fleeting romance with Papa’s Truck after she got her license. But that fizzled when she broke down half way to the beach. Turned out it was just a burned up ground cable, but she never quite trusted the old truck again. Any hope of reconciliation died when we bought a nice little used Taurus for her.

    Jacob is fourteen now. In September, he gets his permit. He burns to drive Papa’s Truck.
    Our secret plan is to have her refurbished as much as possible without altering her look too much. I can’t think of a better 16th birthday present for our boy.
    Two weeks ago I jumped into the truck to go somewhere. I backed down the driveway, stopped, put her in park. I got out, left her running, left the door open. Walked around front, opened the passenger door, picked up a bag of trash, turned and walked toward the trash bin. I heard the clunk as she fell into reverse.
    I turned, ran, jumped in. She idles high so we were moving pretty fast as I crawled across the big bench seat, grabbed the shift lever and threw her into park. By then we’d piled into the fig tree next to the curve in the driveway.
    I settled in behind the wheel and pulled her back into the driveway. I was laughing as I put her in park…and shut down the engine. I got out and went to shut the door. It was folded completely forward, touching the front fender. It had caught the tailgate of my other truck.
    I went around to close the other door. The one that took out half the fig tree.

  • Adam Gordon says:

    My immediate future was not looking good.
    The road ahead was sloping slightly and it seemed to go on and on forever. Not a town or even a light in sight. The last town was some miles behind and the next, well, I just wasn’t sure.
    Lonely, no passing traffic, in either direction.
    The misting rain didn’t help. I was wet, getting wetter and no prospects of getting dry.
    Nor did the light help, dusk and fading fast.
    But the real problem lay at my feet. The front forks and wheel of my ’69 Triumph Trophy were at a very unfortunate angle to the rest of the bike.
    They’d started to twist at the top of the hill. All I could do was coast down until I was slow enough to let it all fall over.
    There was one other problem – I was about dead smack in the middle of the Asian side of Turkey. There’s gotta be a way out of here.
    That was back in 1972. Still have that old Triumph, too many memories to ever let go.

  • Michael says:

    Older women are not low-pressure relationship types, infact the opposite is true. I found out the hardway this past month…

    Miss D and I hooked up at this professional conference. Having had this fantasy to date an older woman since my 4th grade teacher, this was an opportunity not to be missed. We hit it off straight away, i guess it was the romance of being in an exotic resort town, the comfort and relaxed environment of a hotel that got the best of us.

    Fast forward to when we got home and back to our normal pressures and lives; everything changed. Now i was supposed to see her every weekend (woman we had an arrangement!); if i left without giving her some action there would be hell to pay.

    Last week of july, i told her i was getting circumcised and would need 6 weeks to recover. Haven’t heard from her since then, but i bet come mid September, the drama will start all over again.

  • Jane L says:

    When I was much younger, I loved to travel. As a student of Classical Arabic, the Middle East was an obvious choice, which is how I found myself in Damascus. I was staying in a cheap hotel, and came back one day to find a young girl doing acrobatic floor exercises in the hallway outside my room. It turned out she was a circus performer, and she and her Dad – a strong man who was no longer strong – adopted me, and introduced me to all their circus friends, including the community of strong men.

    On my last night in Syria, when the only money I had was the bus fare to the airport, they asked me to go see the show and hang out with them once last time. It wasn’t a very good show – my young acrobat friend was way the best thing in it – but they were such great people. I even considered accepting the job of magician’s assistant cum stooge to the funny-man, which was apparently on offer.

    When the current strong man and his gorilla mate discovered I was planning to take a bus to the airport, they insisted they would take me after the show. I didn’t know these guys well, but they were friends of my friends, and when I checked the idea out, everyone was very enthusiastic.

    I should have realised trouble was on the cards when, after the show, they said I would have to wait until after the second show. By which time the last bus would have gone – so I would be totally dependent on their goodwill. Again, I checked, again everyone said it would be better to get a lift, the bus takes so long, and you never know what types you will encounter on the bus, much safer with nice big stong men to protect me….

    …After the second show, I went to look for my ride. Small problem, the car had broken down, we would have to go by taxi. I was annoyed, and pointed out that they could have told me this before I let the last bus go. No, no, it would be fine, but they hadn’t eaten, and they needed to get something to eat first, and it was late so it would be a takeaway, and we would have to go to their house.

    At this point I began to feel nervous. The bus had gone, I didn’t have enough money for a taxi, and they were going to take me to some part of the city, I didn’t know where. I thought about the choices, and decided I didn’t really have any.

    We sat in their sitting room and I watched them rip roast chickens up with their bare (and very strong looking) hands. When they had finished, they lit some candles and turned off the lights and gorilla-man left the room. By now I knew I was in trouble.

    The strong man sidled up the couch towards me, and began to come on to me, as I sidled away. Back and forth we went along the couch. It was all in Arabic, and my grasp of that language wasn’t too great. It took some doing, but after 5, 10, maybe 15 minutes talking, (however long it was, it felt like a life-time), I managed to persuade him that I really wasn’t interested, and it would be very bad manners, most un-Islamic, for him to take advantage of an innocent young English girl like me.

    He got up, switched on the lights, and shouted to the gorilla, ‘it’s all right, you can come back in again’.

    Gorilla man slouched in, looked at me, and said something unrepeatable in polite company, followed by: ‘What’s the matter, don’t you have sex in England?’
    ‘Oh no’, I squeaked virtuously. ‘Certainly not before marriage and absolutely never to someone your parents haven’t met. Can we go now? I have to get to the airport. You’ll have to pay for the taxi, because I only had enough for the bus, and you promised to get me there.’

    And so they took me to the airport. My would-be seducer and I shook hands and said our goodbyes like civilised people as the gorilla glowered from behind, muttering under his breath about foreign women who take advantage of poor, unsuspecting Arab men.

  • Lisa Bloom says:

    Hi John
    Love what you’ve written. It’s so true, storytelling is what gets people motivated, stories sell and when entreprenuers find their story, there’s no stopping them! I help people do just that….check it out..
    With all the marketing blurb out there, the only stuff that really compells people and makes them take action (like taking out their credit card!) is a good story.
    I’d be happy to share resources and lots of other powerful story stuff…

  • RonnieS says:

    July, 6.10am, a clear blue sky, a clean fresh day.

    I’m out walking Jack. To the outside world he’s just a labrador but, in his head he’s a Special Forces-Ninja Level, deer-chasing machine – call-sign Black Dog – and today is a target-rich environment.

    A bit of stalking (you the stuff – like you see on Discovery), a gradual quickening of pace and then that point, the all-important moment when deer clocks dog, and joins the game. The deer, white-ass bobbing up and down and him, chasing with every single ounce of his strength, disappearing into the woods and emerging some minutes later, empty-pawed but satisfied.

    I swear he smiled – that tired yet fulfilled look you get only when you know you did your best. He’s no chance of ever catching one but fire of desire never dims in those orange-black eyes.

    The power of desire personified.

    Regards from England

  • steve says:

    Leaving the office last night the boss says, “thanks for the extra duty the last couple of days, I know it was alot of extra work”

    In a flash my thoughts were, Thank you? You haven’t used that term more than twice in the last 25 years, I think, I don’t remember the last time. If you want to thank me put it in my paycheck.

    After 25 years you are wealthy and I still show up 9 1/2 hours a day for a paycheck.

    ” No problem boss we have a good crew and it was easy, just kept me a little busy”.

    I’m the schmuck. Maybe this John Carlton is right and I need to learn a new skill for a new life.

  • steve says:

    10,000 Hours!

    Is that what it would take to not be a schmuck anymore. Can I find 40 extra hours a week and 5 years to study the craft of storytelling, writing, and psychology? In 5 years I will be 62, but that is ok because as I approach retirement I am looking for more to do not less.

    Enjoy the good life, working is the good life, just depends on if you like your work.

    Whew, that is a pretty big commitment. and my time is short.

    • John Carlton says:

      This is important: That 10,000 hours figure is what experts have agreed on — loosely — as the time it takes to become a MASTER at something. You can get “good enough” with hundreds of hours.
      However, most people never get really good at ANYTHING in life anymore. We get “okay” at multiple things, never going deep on anything.
      I urge all parents to get their kids interested in music young. You start at age 13, you’re a master by 20 (if you keep at it). All the decent guitarists I know can’t go a single day without playing. I’ve personally played an hour or more most days of my life since I was 13. I’m not an expert, but I’m good enough to play with anyone in the kind of music I like (classic rock, country, alternative, etc.). I never pushed to get better than being able to wow people at biker bars — that was my goal. Never wanted star status with a record company.
      When it “takes”, a person falls in love with the instrument (or hobby). They can’t wait to practice, they consider the instrument the most beautiful thing they’ve ever touched, they love to talk about it with other addicts, etc.
      I use the music analogy or metaphor because it shocks people. If you’ve gotten good at an instrument, then you understand why you can’t tell a good story — you haven’t practiced. If you’ve never thought about mastering an instrument, then the shock of realizing how MUCH time masters put into it gives you perspective.
      This is important. It’s ignored by most of the culture, who cannot believe people put in so much time to get good at something.
      Yes, you can get “good enough” much faster. But to master it, you need 5 years of full-time attention. Approximately. Or 10 years of part time. Or 20 years of dabbling.
      The thing is, by mid-life, we’ve pretty much chosen what we’re gonna be good at for the rest of our lives. Unless there is intervention, and somehow we change gears.
      Just do NOT expect to get really freakin’ good at something without putting in the time. You don’t HAVE to become a master. But if that’s what you want, roll up your sleeves and get busy.

  • carlen says:

    It was a dark and stormy night in early July… July 2010 to be precise.

    And affiliate marketers everywhere were moving fast and furious to write 20 articles a day… 140 articles a week… 500-600 articles a month. Articles on stuff they knew little or nothing about…

    Hey John… I’ve been working at figuring out Internet Marketing since the first of the year, and article writing was the first gate I opened to learn some of the basics.

    I did learn some of the nuts and bolts, which was very beneficial. But trying to do article marketing was a most painful process for me. I’ve spent a whole career as a writer and editor (in journalism), and seeing folks who had no love for words or language spin out hundreds of articles over stuff they didn’t care about was enough to send any word-caring soul into a cave.

    This is soul-less writing at its worst.

    There indeed are exceptions — breaths of fresh air blowing through a stinking swamp — who indeed care about the product they’re offering and who care about the persons reading their articles. So no knock on them… my tip of the hat!

    So much for my rant… I’ll be back later to tell my July story. carlen

  • Gary says:

    Valentine’s Day, the one day of the year that we guys have a chance to do something special. Even if she says “Oh, I don’t need anything, so don’t bother” Don’t fall for that one, I repeat, do not fall for that one. Here’s the interpretation of that for you young guys out there: “If you don’t care for me, don’t get anything”. Got it? Good.
    My plan this year was to go over the top but with simple stuff, you know the flowers and candy are nice but I was looking to make a statement of my love for Beth. I started working on this about two weeks ahead of time( I know, a disgrace to guyhood all around….we like to do something the day of ) by buying 300 balloons! All with cute little animals on them, you know nice fuzzy warm little cute animals holding hearts. Cute wins big points, just so you know. I also bought a helium canister which looks a lot like a propane tank. It has a built in nipple designed for filling balloons….how smart am I.
    So, the day before Valentine’s I was down in the basement and did a practice balloon. Put the balloon on the nipple and pushed it down like it says and …..nothing. So, I did what guys do and pushed harder…..nothing. Took the balloon off and pushed harder still…..still nothing!! So, I tried a different angle, but still pushing hard and guess what? …..a snapping sound followed by a high pitched whistling of helium rapidly escaping from the canister and the nipple and filling mechanism were in my hand. I quickly try and put the mechanism back on the canister but I can see the threads are broken!! Cheap plastic threads!! What were they thinking!!
    Gee, I’m feeling a little dizzy! Yikes! The pure helium is rushing into my small surroundings and I’m breathing it in like a junkie on a crack pipe. I quickly grab the canister and set it outside until the whistling stopped and opened up the two windows to vent out the helium and got out of the basement.
    I went back to the store with the obviously “defective” canister and the young lady store clerk just smiled at me. “I think this one was a factory defect or something” I say to cover my apparent lack of balloon expertise. “Let’s take a look” she says and looks at the broken mechanism. “Did you push on this too hard or drop the canister?” she asked “No!, I did not drop it” defensively I retorted “Did you push on it hard?” she comes back “ How hard is too hard?” I ask
    “ Come with me and I’ll show you how to fill one” she says walking away. She showed putting the balloon on the nipple( I know this…and roll my eyes) and then by some freakish show of strength she fills the balloon with no face grimace or anything. She goes “Here you try” and I put the balloon on the nipple and jam down on the mechanism, only her model takes no effort at all….in fact it works with the lightest of finger pressure. She went on to tell me that in the instructions( Whoa!, I’m a guy, we don’t need any stinking instructions!) it shows how to release the shutoff so the mechanism works. Blatantly, red in the face I concede that I “may” have used a little too much force, but put in the suggestion that steal threads should be used to justify my lack of instruction reading.
    So, back home….. with a new purchased canister and the know how to fill a balloon effortlessly. I go down to perform a Trial balloon fill after releasing the shutoff . My results……From placing the balloon on the nipple to finish tying of the ribbon on the balloon. 25.8 seconds.
    Lets see: 25.8 x 300 balloons= 7740 seconds
    7740/ 60seconds = 129 minutes
    129 minutes/ 60minutes = 2 hours and 15 minutes!!
    I’ll have to get up real early to get this done….lets see Beth is up every morning exercising by 6:00 . So, I set my sites on 3:30 A.M. , yes I know, but anything for love right?
    After checking the clock every hour making sure not to oversleep, I climbed out of bed trying to wake up enough to focus on the task at hand. Down into the basement I go.
    I grab my supplies: balloons, ribbon and canister and head into the living area down there, where Beth exercises. I put the balloon on the nipple and push down….nothing. So, I push harder! ……. Still nothing! So, I take the balloon off and start to push harder, only to be stopped by the store clerks voice in my head “Did you push too hard on this?”. That’s right the shut off, yes release that and ta dah it works. Had you scared didn’t I?
    Back to my mission: Nipple, balloon, take off, tie ribbon. Nipple, balloon, take off, tie. Nipple, balloon, take off, tie………….on and on, and on.
    Hey, looking at the clock I realized that I did it in record time. I actually got faster as I went. 5 o’clock on the dot. Plenty of time to bring the balloons up stairs to surprise Beth when she wakes up….cool. I’m such a smooth operator.
    I gather up the massive balloon bouquet that I tied onto the chair next to me and I went up stairs. Now these stairs are stairs that I have climbed hundreds maybe thousands of times, easy stairs. Nothing complicated about these stairs, except maybe when you are sleep deprived. My foot aims for the top stair like it normally would except this time it catches the top edge with the big toe with a loud smack! Oh! My god! The pain!……this toe is surely broken. I instinctively reach for my toe forgetting that my hands were full of balloons that were tightly(did you get that…tightly,very tightly) filled with helium.
    As soon as I let go of them they raced toward the ceiling and in our old house they are still the textured kind. Tightly filled balloons full of helium traveling at a high rate of speed makes for trouble especially at 5:00 in the morning right outside the bedroom.
    The balloon ignited a “popping” bonanza like a string of firecrackers on the fourth of July. As each one popped it sends another one bounding along the ceiling to hit the next sharp piece of texture popping it. The noise was amazing!
    Beth stumbled out of the bedroom surely wandering what the Armageddon was all about, only to see me doing some strange dance(you know the one when you smash your toe) and balloons banging on the ceiling.
    “What’s going on!!?” she asks already breaking into a laugh. Hopping on one foot and grimacing I try to get out “Hap…py….ouch….valenti…..nes day….sweetie” I grab one of the few surviving balloons and hand it to her and soon as she had in her hand it popped! It had already been wounded by the ceiling.
    She continued to laugh as the rest of the balloons met their demise…..I went to get some ice.
    Next year……flowers and candy. There is something to be said for traditions! Ha! Ha!
    Hope you enjoyed. I know Beth sure did.
    Moral of the story.
    Maybe read the instructions….it could shorten the learning curve.
    Keep it simple
    Balloons and textured ceilings… good!

    Sorry, it wasn’t a July story…..but I really wanted to make her day.

  • Amy F says:

    I was 30,000 feet above Brazil, on a Varig flight. I was spooked before take-off, when the woman next to me decided to pray.
    But two hours in, I was nicely relaxed, and looking forward to my food.
    Then suddenly – the place shuddered violently and made a truly awful groaning noise. It almost felt like we’d come to a grinding halt mid-air. Felt like we’d been struck by lightening, but I couldn’t say for sure.
    The Captain spoke. In Portugese. For more than a minute. Meanwhile, the plane continued to shake badly from side to side. The crew had long since scarpered to strap themselves in.
    I gnawed on my nails and wondered when the heck the English translation was going to come. Finally, it did:
    “We have bad weather, please stay in your seats”.
    Huh? It took a minute to say that in Portugese? What didn’t I know? What wasn’t he telling me?
    Still don’t know. But I do know this: if you need to pray before flying, don’t get on the plane!

  • It’s hard to visit a city and escape the carefully crafted attractions and quaint hotels. We seldom dare to venture into the unknown streets, clinging to what feels safe, seeing the land from a distant window of a tour bus. The experience seems hollow, and without scratching beneath the surface, we leave the places we visit not knowing much about them or its people.
    Those bold enough to go into the uncharted territory, find a city’s beating heart. Have courage, my friend, it can be a very revealing journey.
    I’m not saying that you should throw away the $10.00 tour guide; if you’re like me, however, you’re constantly wondering what’s around the corner. Having a cup of coffee in the midst of it all beats going to McDonald’s.
    It’s funny how we each perceive things differently, not seeing what is, but what we want to see. And that’s usually not much. Do you remember when you last stopped to smell the roses? Was it a hot day? Did you happen to notice who passed you by?
    Most of us are in a rush these days, we’re either coming or going, living our lives in a daily commute, forgetting the rest of the world outside our office doors.
    But, what would happen if we step outside, slow things down a bit and took some time to notice, just notice what’s going on around us? I tried this little experiment on the streets of San Jose, Costa Rica; that day, I decided to take it one slow step at a time.
    “Can you spare some money?” the homeless guy asked me; truth be told, he caught me quite unexpectedly, “ I don’t have any, sorry…” He looked around, scratched his ass and went on his way, a wandering ghost, walking in the shadows of the crowd.
    I sat down on a bench, watched the children chase the pigeons away as their parents did their best to keep them from running off. There are lurking monsters ready to gobble them up, or so they say, but all I could see is the red-nosed clown on the corner trying to take a picture of a kid on a ragged wooden horse, not quite the bogy-man I was expecting to see.
    I heard someone whistle behind me, I turned around to look, like a family of meerkats the street salesmen quickly wrapped their things – knock off watches, leather wallets, plastic shoes – in their makeshift stands, before the police came walking through. “They confiscate our things, nobody’s buying anything these days and my daughter needs to eat,” the lady that sat next to me said.
    People living out their lives, people passing by, the city brings everyone in like the tides.
    As I rode back home from the bus that day, I thought about this and I realized how little I knew about the city where I grew up and decided to walk a little slower, whatever city that I may be in.

  • “Don’t be silly!” Said the two locals to the blonde teenager in a dark pub in rural Ireland.

    “There’s not really any violence here – it’s a safe place!”

    5 minutes later the republican was unconscious, and the unionist was being led out by police.

    Which of course goes to show, besing silly is often the best way forward.

  • Ras Blasko says:

    Man, this is hot! Really really really hot. The wood fired oven is on for the last 2 hours and has already reached 600 Degrees …….. (centigrade). This is going to be a long Italian summer night. Saturday night and nobody wants to cook home. I am the Pizza Chef and am ready to make one fresh pizza per minute. The dough had matured enough and is plump and soft. Ready to be pressed into nice, thin crust pizzas. The preparation had started the day before with the mixing of the dough ……10 liters water, 18 Kg flour, salt, oil, bicarbonate soda…..and …..damn! I almost forgot the fresh yeast. I don’t know what’s going on with my head. I seem to forget the basic stuff….maybe that beautiful blond girl that comes every Saturday. Didn’t manage to ask her name and number. What is it now? two months she’s coming? damn! nobody will believe at an Italian stallion not getting a simple number. But Saturday is just a crazy day. Today is also the city’s festival, we’re celebrating the 150th year anniversary of the Saint patron of our city. I’m expecting a lot of business….a lot of pizzas to do. Sharp at 7:00 people start to flock in and here I go…2 Vegetarian, 1 Margarita and one Tuna ….with no onion. 1 Calzone with egg, 2 four seasons, 6 Seafood, 2 sausage (one with olives)….Orders keep on coming, hand written by my cashier. Already five containers of pizza dough are finished. The take away shop is hot, I’m sweating and use a towel to dry my face…..wouldn’t want to season a pizza, right?…I go at the back one second and change my second t-shirt of the day. I’ve crossed 130 pizzas by 9:00. My record is 325 pizzas in one night. Faster, faster, spread 6 at a time, get them in the oven. Turn them around one time or they’ll get burned on one side. Move them around to make sure that the oven doesn’t get too cold in one place. I am not thinking any more, it’s all on autopilot now. By 11:00 I’ve crossed 300 pizzas (I know because of the empty dough trays) ….I might beat my record today and maybe also have a good cash because everybody is ordering the expensive pizzas……yessss!!!
    By 11:45 the last client leaves and I’ve made 356 pizzas…..REEEECOOOOOORD. The shop smells of wood, mozzarella, pizza crust, fresh vegetables ahhh!. My hands smell of Gorgonzola ….eeww!….OH SHIT, I forgot to ask her number again!

  • carlen says:

    June was not a good month. We shut the door to our 26-year-old regional business magazine. Advertising sales had been slipping and sliding downward for two years. And since January they just fell over the edge.

    I didn’t have the cash reserves to cover these kinds of losses, nor was any outside investor willing to step up.

    Back in December I decided to learn as much as I could about this Internet Marketing stuff that had been getting my attention lately. I hoped to be able to develop another revenue source that could help the magazine weather this slump… clearly the worst one we’d experienced over its life.

    I was learning much about IM, but I wasn’t able to move quickly enough to cover the losses. Contrary to what a lot of “gurus” say it’s just not that easy to make big $$ online in a short time… especially when you’re starting from scratch.

    To my great surprise, though, when we shut down we heard from a bunch of readers about whether we were going to continue online with a real estate feature we’d published from the beginning.

    Initially, I had no intention of doing so… there already were three other competitive online products in our market. But remembering some of Carlton’s comments from his most recent SWS class, I got on the phone to talk with a few key people.

    From there, we put out a survey to 7,500 of our readers whose email addresses we had – about a fourth are in real estate. The survey response was very encouraging… and informative.

    So we decided to move forward with getting this detailed information up and online.

    Meantime, I decided to enroll in Jeff Walker’s Product Launch Formula class… based almost strictly upon a strong endorsement by John and partner Stan. I can tell already that this PLF course is going to pay strong, strong dividends.

    So this is where I am to date. I’m putting the launch pieces together using the elements of SWS as my foundation.

    I hope to re-launch this real estate stuff online by early October at the latest.

    Stay tuned. Carlen

    P.S. Nope, John and Stan, this is not a kiss-up story. These are the facts of what’s been happening to me in June and July.

  • Michael Bacon says:

    On July 1, we sold our machine shop in sunny St. Petersburg, FL for 10% over appraisal. The place looked pretty good so we got a premium. You don’t have to be a bankrupt loser like the media talking heads say. We spent a couple of relaxing weeks at a campground. But, now the job market is really, really tight. Okay, now we’re living in a camper in my mother-in-laws yard in Michigan. %&*$#@! The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. NOT! Take stock in what you have right now. Now smile.

  • Justin says:

    Kinky sex in August is WAY better than any story in July…

    My phone jolts me to attention with it’s piercing alarm – I’ve received a text message.

    But not just any – it’s from my office.

    A “Package” has come in.

    But not just any package…

    …a “Glazer Kennedy” package.

    (Yes, for those in the know, a Mr. Dan Kennedy product)

    I tear of the cellophane with the reckless abandon of a child on Christmas morning, sneaking to a corner of the office to inspect my find, lest some authority figure wake up from their bedroom and stumble downstairs to find that I couldn’t wait for the family…

    Popping the CD, entitled “How to create PERSONALITY in your copy”, into my cd player on the way home, I listen as Dan says something OUTRAGEOUS that I’ll never forget…

    It went a little something like this:

    While going on a tirade about how he hates public cell phone use, Dan relays a few comments he recently heard while waiting in airport bathrooms, hotel lounges, etc.

    The best one, made me laugh and nearly careened my SUV off the freeway as I struggled to keep eyes-on-road and hands-at-10-and-2, was from a 30-sum year old woman, in business suit, at a Marriott…

    “But if I’m tied up and gagged, how will I be able to tell you that I’ve had enough?”


    I relay the story to my wife upon arriving home, with a wink in my eye.

    As expected, my enthusiasm was not reciprocated.

    *THE END*

  • Victor says:

    How to start a fire and get ashes of cash.
    Before I tell you how to start a fire in the right place to end up with ashes of cash ,let me tell you about a man who started the wrong kind of fire .
    This Young dude had it all together 2 children ,beautiful wife ,a house ,a mortgage and a career many of his friends envied him, his neighbors could not keep up with his house parties ,house renovations every year,vacations twice a year and the 2 Mercedes Benz that always sparked and parked before their double garage home.
    This dude wore Kelvin Klein’s emporium but smelled glory and success.
    How did this dude start a wrong fire? Did he screw up one of his contracts that he was negotiating and lose his highly paid Job? nope ,the guy was smart he knew how to get the job done and everyone respected him. His bosses relied on his skills to pull up these big shot contracts that put millions of profit in the company’s pocket and made him a big commission check and more enemies, jealousy freaks. This is what he did though ;it was around 4 o’clock he receives a text message from a female colleague , a friend also whom they went to the same college and this text message went like this “Hey what’s up, I took a day off today I am at the harmony Hotel wanna hang up for an hour have a couple drinks ? Just before you go home?” the dude did see no harm leaving his work an hour early that was no problem his boss could let go 2 hours early if he wanted to.
    Being at the hotel with another woman that you are acquainted with was just to simple too no harm obviously the woman knows me well I am married and it’s just an hour he said to him self. After that evening though as he was driving home he kept on thinking about those sweet words that he spoke to his wife in a place of intimacy, the surge of feeling that followed and the fire of love that they shared each other and the bond that was between them that seemed to be unbreakable and now a colleague ,a friend has step in between them just in one single evening.
    In case you are wondering the kind of fire the dude had, it was not sexual appetite. This guy had a fire of taking action ! But this time he took action at wrong place and it ruined everything he had. A lot of us can easily take action on things that are unfruitful as long they taste better for a season,but we would not take action on the things that will improve our lives.
    In order to get ashes of cash in your account I want to encourage to start a fire in right the place ,your dream place, start taking action on building that business you always dreamed to have ,start planing on that vacation you dreamed about 5 years ago and most of all start taking action on changing your financial situation despite the economy.

  • Doc Irina says:

    Lesson 1. You are not invincible. Actually, your body is pretty fragile and “bruises easily”.
    You become particularly painfully aware of this obvious truth when you turn, well, 50 something. They say, if you are over 50, you wake up in the morning and nothing hurts – it means, you are dead.

    Three weeks ago I woke up in the morning… and had to very slowly crawl out of bed instead of cheerfully jumping out. My back was in agony screaming at me as loud as it could, “Don’t move! I am hurting!”

    I cannot say I was surprised: we spent all previous week moving from a condo we were leasing to a new house, and I packed, lifted, and moved quite a bit of stuff. I was just upset at my body for letting me down. I don’t have time for this c..p! I am too busy!

    Lesson 2. Don’t be angry at your body and don’t fight with it – it always wins.

    Yes, for a few days already my body was letting me know that my low back is not quite alright. I was ignoring the warning signs pretending that nothing is going on because the “sick” scenario just was not an option. The more stubborn and demanding I was the louder my body spoke. We ended up yelling at each other… and you already know that I lost the argument.

    Lesson 3. Appreciate small things in life.
    Really, blissfully-ignorantly we take for granted all those wonderful things our body allows us to see, hear, smell, taste, feel, and do. Do you realize how complicated of a task can be a simple brushing your teeth in the morning or putting your socks and running shoes on? Well, if you ever had a herniated lumber disc, you know…

    If only my back would allow me to sit in my chair instead of helplessly rolling on a floor trying not to spill tea on a keyboard. If I could only position myself on a seat of my little Z4 without breaking into cold sweat, grinding my teeth, and growling the names of all saints… I am not even talking about dropping a piece of soap in a shower or flushing a toilet. And you thought you have problems?..

    Lesson 4. Respect your foundation.
    Have you ever paid attention to the “bottom life”? I mean, to how many things we actually place at the bottom, at the very foundation of our existence? Or how many times a day you have to bend down to get something? I am talking figuratively as well as literally. I learned to appreciate life at the bottom level when in the complicated process of tying my shoelaces I had to look around for what else I could do while I was down there… It’s amazing what you find.

    Lesson 5. If you help the body instead of fighting it, it rewards you.

    My conventional medical diagnosis – “mild herniation of L4-L5”. Projected recovery time with intensive therapy – 6-12 weeks, if I am lucky.

    I was back to normal in two weeks (it was still July) without ANY medication, not even once.

    Thank God, I am my own Health Boss and I know how to help my body to do what it is naturally designed to do. Hey, I teach this stuff. And now I had a chance to practice what I preach. That was refreshing and encouraging.

    Thank you, my herniated disk. Lessons learned.

    P.S. If you want to know “the Health Boss Formula” that I used to beat the conventional medical odds, I will publish it on my blog in a few days. The story is getting too long…

    P.P.S. I apologize for any grammatical imperfections; English is my second language.

  • Brundige says:

    It’s quite a privilege to have the “Rebel”
    a world renown copywriter critique a
    what’s next episode of a moment in the mundane life of…
    It was a hot, humid July evening,
    even with my antique air conditioner at max.
    I was on my way downstairs for some
    Neapolitan, one of my many favorites.
    I’m all for ” Unity ‘N’ Diversity.”
    The phone rang, no problem it’s wireless
    so the ice-cream run continues…
    I went downstairs past the freezer into
    the den, the thought that came to mind as
    I’m standing there with the wireless to my sweating ear listening to blah, blah, blah.
    ” Hey, aren’t I supposed to be getting some
    ice-cream? ”
    After the phone call, I went into the bath
    threw water on my face and began brushing
    my teeth. Heading for the freezer finally
    The phone rang once, that’s my sons’
    long distance code.
    For his ” whats up dad, how’re you feeling
    fine I hope,” weekly greeting ritual.
    Prior to the 3 way calling connection to
    his girlfriend.
    That done it’s back to the bath to get
    my wireless, out of the medicine cabinet.
    Part way up the stairs comes that
    original thought.
    ” Hey, aren’t I supposed to be getting some
    ice-cream? ”
    Back down the stairs with one focus
    in mind.
    No force in the universe is going to
    distract me this time…ice-cream.
    Part way up the stairs with a spoon
    and some ice cream, the phone rings.
    Back down the stairs to get my wireless
    out of the freezer.
    Now, no force in the universe is going to distract me this time…ice cream.
    That was without a doubt the best
    ice cream I’ve ever had.
    I did say mundane didn’t I, well
    thanks for asking. Talk at you soon.

    =>Stay Frosty !

  • Joe C says:

    After reading through the stories yesterday afternoon, I left my office in downtown Manhattan determined to find a story before I climbed down to the subway. I didn’t have to wait long.

    My office is on Broad Street, just south of the New York Stock Exchange building. They have a huge American flag stretched across the front of the building, with 3 smaller flags on flag poles beneath it. It’s really very striking the first time you see it.

    As I walked past it yesterday, a man – I would guess he was in his late-fifties – was walking towards me. He was spectacularly unremarkable. Head down, trudging through the swampy, August New York City air. But as he passed the flags, he straightened his back, pulled back his shoulders, turned his head smartly to his right, and snapped off a beautiful salute. A salute worthy of the parade grounds of West Point.

    He noticed me witness this. Gave me a smile and a small nod, then smartly walked by.
    Taller. Prouder. With purpose.

    And I did the same.

  • angry white guy says:

    The date was july 29th- my birthday. Woke up, turned, found a black dude on top of my wife. Shotgun was pulled out. End of story.

  • KJ says:

    This past July I reached a point in my life that I had been striving for, for the past 5 ½ years.
    But before I tell you what that “point” is, it would not really be fair to myself that I only portray the 5 ½ years that I diligently, and daily, several times a day, had been working toward this.

    What about the 7 ½ years before that? That day sitting in my kitchen when I so painfully envisioned the estimation of effort it would take me to undo the traps I had set for myself. Those traps laid by my own feelings of insecurity, not believing my own self worth… only getting a glimpse of my true self at fleeting moments.

    But even 12 years is not the real story. Not even.

    How about 20 years ago, in college, when I realized with horror, that I was using such minutia of my full potential…that there had to be more to life than getting up, going to school, getting a job and being a good plugging success, only to wake up day after day with that longing, aching feeling of what does life all mean and what am supposed to do while I am here?

    The problem with me telling you, or anyone, what I found that allows me to be, do, have and create anything I want, under my own steam, under my own volition and my own free will…is that you would never believe it.

    So I tell the lesser tale.

    Of being like everyone else.

    Yet, that collective everybody individually knows deep down inside, that no one is the exact same as the next person. And that each one of has a purpose in life…even if we have forgotten what it is, like I had.

    What I will tell you though, is that the hard work DID pay off.

    And the reward has been the real pay of life: the satisfaction of a job well done, the thrill of solving problems, the excitement in the challenges to overcome, the arrangement of life the way I want it to be, not how it wants me to be…THIS is what makes life worthwhile again, so that even the mundane is fun, rather than “livable.”

    Because there is one thing that I now have again that I had lost for a very long time. And no amount of money, glory, status, fame or any person could be a replacement for it. And it’s the best thing I could have ever invested in…


  • Soccer Guy says:

    It’s still inside my nose.
    That rancid odor, that makes me want to vomit: when – I think of it.
    Something so basic, so innocent; could come into my life and impale itself on my psyche.
    I checked the cupboard. Did the sniff test. Threw out the usual suspects. Sterilized the area. Job done.
    The stifling, sweaty heat must be to blame.
    Days later the vapour appears again. SOMETHING IS IN THERE.
    I braced myself and go in again, expectant of the discovery.
    Almost instantly the culprit is in my hand. As if it knows it’s time to come out, it’s had its fun;the teasing has ended.I look down on the pierced foil. How could one small hole cause so much unrest. It’s time for closure.
    Now it must fester and maggotize itself at a new dwelling.
    Cesars dog food – great for your dog.
    Bad for your nose!

  • Stephen says:

    July has been a doozie, but not in the way you’re thinking. Lemme tell you what’s happened. First, my father dies real quick, after hardly been sick in 89 years. Missing him heaps, ‘cos we talked most days for the last 18 months. And that’s only because his partner – not my mother – died about 2 years ago, and we all finally got some contact with Dad again. It was pretty unpleasant (…!) but we’re getting connected again. Or should I say ‘were’ getting connected.

    (Even now, when the phone rings about dinner time, I think “Ah, that’ll be Dad…”, but it’s not. But it’s a good thought, kindof welcome and close.)

    Reminded me of her funeral, which I organised for her ‘cos he was all but blind and her family lived 200 miles away. Met her family at the airport, untold calls and things, drove them all over town, the flowers, the service and the hymns, the lot. I even wrote and delivered the eulogy for her, out of love for my Dad.

    None of my family even attended, let alone wanted to speak, it really hadn’t been smooth for 35 years, if you know what I mean…. Speaking about her was the right thing to do, but it really meant getting out of my shoes, and into someone else’s – my Dad’s. It sure was a struggle. A lot like marketing, I’m learning.

    So all that came back to me at his funeral four weeks ago, where I spoke again. But this time was a real blessing and I’m not grieving for him at all, just have a real beautiful peace which is pretty nice. Thank you, Lord 🙂

    But July isn’t finished with me, yet. Or, should I say my wife, ‘cos her father dies just 7 days ago, so we all drove or flew to the other end of the island this time – New Zealand is two long islands.

    Huge funeral, much-loved guy, cut my wife up something terrible, ‘cos he was a real family guy, wonderful Dad. Used to play his harmonica and old swing records down in the garage, with his friends and a drink or two; his wife kept the rest of their home neat and ‘nice’.

    We buried him in the pouring rain, took nearly an hour ‘cos the clay and rocks just packed down real solid. Finally got a hot drink and caught up with cousins and friends. Lots of tears and laughter, hurts and hugs. But it was good. got back home all washed out, didn’t feel like work, none of us.

    So, believe it or not, July finishes on a good note for me, after untold rough water and tears, when I finally got my first audiobook uploaded and published, sold my first copy after TWO DAYS. Boy that felt good.

    I don’t care if that is pathetic by someone else’s standards, it’s huge for me, and it’s the start of my huge profit surge. (One day my wife’ll believe the internet is not some sharkpond out there where all my money goes… I’m telling her the tide is turning, now)

    It really is small fry compared with us both losing our dads, but it has been a plus late in the month.

    And, I gotta mention, I been part of this guy Carlton’s copywriting course, the online school one that just finished in June, trying to get rid of my self-imposed stupid thinking about what to say and how to write and sell. Ideas is one thing, but getting them across to the other guy, so that they hear the message and not me, well that’s been a revelation, really. I just gotta practise it.

    I’ll see if they can’t organise their course at a better time next time round, too. I’ll probably do it again, maybe the advance one so I force myself (or let them force me) to get the skills and thinking so I use them properly, not just a headful of ideas, but really use them right. I really wanna do it right, ‘cos I’ve had a gutsful of long working hours trying to teach kids math when they’d really rather be doin’ somethin’ else. rather be helpin people who want to be helped, it’s less stressful.

    Overall, July’s been a dazzling but exhausting time, but I reckon I’m getting the hang of it. Whadd’ya think?

  • AnitaAshland says:

    In July I had to take all four of my daughters in for blood draws at the clinic’s lab.

    As you can imagine, they weren’t excited about this, and neither was I.

    The youngest two (ages 6 and 8 ) had never had a blood draw before so they were even more anxious.

    At first I tried to use hype to lower their resistance.

    “We’ll make it a blood draw party! Treats afterwards!”

    Of course they didn’t fall for that.

    As a copywriter I, of all people, should have known better than to try a used car salesman approach.

    Next I decided to tell them a story about how their six-year-old cousin had several vials of blood taken from him last summer and he handled it like a champ. No tears.

    That didn’t lower their resistance either. I guess hearing a story secondhand about someone else’s success isn’t all that inspiring.

    Finally I realized I needed to dig deeper and tell a personal story and show them I know what the fear of blood draws is like.

    So I told them about when I was six weeks pregnant with their 14-year-old sister.

    I had unexpected bleeding and marinated in anxiety in the examination room chair, afraid I was having a miscarriage.

    The doctor patted me on the knee and consoled me. Then he sent me to the lab to get a blood draw that would determine whether or not I was still pregnant.

    “How do you think I felt while I was getting a blood draw that would tell me whether or not your sister was still alive?” I asked my youngest girls.

    Their eyes got big as saucers and they hung on every word.

    They literally started tugging on my arm and begged me to take them to the lab immediately for their blood draws.

    They did this even though I also told them a story about how I once had a blood draw that ultimately gave me bad news.

    Because they were having their blood tested for a particular autoimmune disease that runs in the family, it was important they know that not every blood draw has a happy ending.

    Yet they were still excited about going to the lab and fired up about how blood can tell us so many things about our bodies.

    There were no tears except for when my youngest cried with empathy during her 8-year-old sister’s blood draw and turned to her 14-year-old sister for a hug.

    Scenes like that don’t make it into scrapbooks but fortunately remain permanently filed in a mother’s long term memory.

    The blood work came back normal. Whew.

    But that didn’t stop my 8-year-old from asking, “When can I go get another blood draw?”

  • ken ca|houn says:

    Ken’s Latest Vegas Adventure:
    I just got back from another weeklong trip to Vegas. Saw 3 hotties at the Bellagio blackjack table I was playing at from my view at first-base. Told ’em they should sit next to me for good luck. Plus they could get tips on how to play. It worked like a charm — had my opener, approach, escalation and “game face” on.

    Heck I reeled ’em in with copy verbal hooks, teasing glances, yelling “Yosh!” whenenever I won, much to their confusion (that’s what Japanese guys say when they win something).

    The night wore on… soon it was 12:30am, then 1am. The girls were getting antsy from sitting at the blackjack tables (plus the dealer was a chode), so I suggested we grab a coffee and move the party on over to Tao’s at the Venetian.

    A quick cab ride later, there we were — being the alpha male w/3 hcs on my arms was fun. After a quick set, I isolated one in the corner of the club for some witty rapport and one-on-one conversation, a gentle touch on the shoulder and she gazed intently at me. So then, we

    (ok story interruptus…sorry lol…. btw did that have you hooked?) just curious, trying to learn this stuff about storytelling from John, who’s a master…


  • Jea says:

    I normally workout in the mornings while the gym is still quiet. I feel comfortable enough to break a sweat, stretch out, bend over – without the consequence of embarrassing myself .. you see, I only push 10 pound weights. Working out with cute older ladies stretching their legs – one in particular groans as she punches the air – it makes me feel stronger. It makes me push harder. It makes me feel proud to be in the shape that I am in.

    (note: this story is not true, I am actually in great shape and am inspired by the air punching lady. She must be well over 70 and an inspiration to vitality, health and fitness:)

  • Sharie says:

    How Three Saddles and a Beloved Ole ’87 Kawasaki Led to a Real Epiphany and a New Direction

    One thing’s for certain-
    Not having enough money stinks! And not having nearly enough money, and having your phone ring at 7:52 a.m. on a Sunday morning-again-because people want their money, and you really,
    r-e-a-l-l-y, REALLY don’t have it-well, that really stinks!

    And it has a very numbing effect on your mind, your spirit, your energy, your life.
    Makes you not able to think. And you don’t care that you can’t think. Or, at least, you tell yourself you don’t care–because if you do care, you’ll just get so mad you, well, just won’t be able to think…
    Better by choice than by force, right?…

    So, back to some saddles and an old bike my husband and I love to ride. Well, he “rides” the bike, and I just “ride along.” But we do both love that bike. Had it for about 10 years-been all over, including a trip to Ohio last summer to see our newly-married, newly-moved-way-too-far-away daughter. Our rear-ends have still not forgiven us for that one…

    Since money’s been so tough, we’ve recently decided that our new motto would be: if “it” wasn’t attached or related, “it” was for sale. And since we’d given the horses away during the drought summer of ’07 and the Ohio bike trip had convinced us that our 40+-year-old bottoms can’t take any more long rides on a sports-cruiser, I was instructed to post a few ads on Craigslist.

    This was at the end of a particularly grueling Friday of a particularly grueling week last month.
    Nothing like Friday’s deposits not being up to snuff to kind of get the “What the heck are we gonna
    do now?!” juices flowing.

    So I list each of the saddles on Craigslist separately. It’s about 8:30 p.m. And WHOA! Not 20 minutes after they showed up on the site, my husband’s cell phone rings. “You want to meet
    tonight?” OKAY! Turns out his wife didn’t quite share his enthusiasm for late-night saddle shopping, so it was agreed on for the next day. During the where-to-meet phone call, my husband lets the guy know that instead of two saddles, he actually had three listed (apparently the guy had only seen the last two ads), and that he’d make him a really sweet deal plus throw in his extra small tack. “SOLD!” For a quick $500. Paid the electric bill and a little gas and groceries. Really.

    So the next week we listed the bike. Had a few calls. One guy from Nashville was coming that weekend to have a look. Then funnily enough (I love that word), a family friend was visiting his brother here in town from North Carolina, and he was in the market for a bike. While scanning through, you guessed it, Craigslist, they saw our ad with pictures of the bike outside our house. “That looks familiar,” one brother said to the other. “Whose place is that?” “That’s the Orrs’,” was the answer from the younger brother who’d spent many-a-day at our house. And over they came with cash in hand.

    So what does this simple little tale have to do with anything profound, let alone any kind of real life-altering epiphany?

    For a short summary, that very brief, minor reprieve from money woes (i.e. we paid a few very overdue bills and it felt really good), I gained some clarity about both myself and our financial situation. The positive effects those two small injections of cash provided for both of us, and how just a little bit of gumption, action, if you will, super-imposed on my brain that I really could, should even, do something to help us out of this depressing financial abyss we’ve been in (“Just say NO! to construction trades…) through no fault of our own.

    So why in the world can’t I, shouldn’t I, am I NOT using my love of words to help people and at the same time help my family? Not too many people really love words. It used to concern my step-mom that I found reading the dictionary at a young age a nice pasttime. I also loved playing hard outside too, so no real worries were warranted. I do, indeed, love words. Well, well-crafted, interesting, sometimes clever, always informative words.

    Don’t get me wrong. I’ve spent the last few years trying to find a way to provide some much-needed additional income. But with all my attempts, research, ideas, ad nauseum, and all the time and (some) money spent on all of it, I’ve had nothing to show for it. Why?

    Well, that moment of clear inspiration made me understand that I was looking in the wrong direction. The wrong business. To be truly good at something, you really need to be passionate about it. Or at least I do. And as geeky, dorky, and boring as it may sound to some, I’m passionate about words. Writing them. Crafting them. Using them for good purposes.

    Of course, I’m passionate about other things too, like my amazing husband of 25 years and my four fantatstic kids, and cooking really, really good food. But that’s another few dozen stories.

    So I’m at a pretty neat place in my life. Nothing I’ve ever truly wanted to do, really decided to do, have I ever not done. So this is what I will do. Learn the art and science of putting words together in ways that will inform, inspire and convince the right people to buy the right things from companies which have quality and integrity. What a super-cool way to make a living!

    That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

  • Slip sliding away … the nearer your destination …

    It had been our very first scene in our 18 months old relationship. Given its intensity – do you mind, if I spare you the details? – I concluded it was also our last. Scene, that is. Hadn’t seen it coming as it did, completely out of the blue. Like rain falling out of the sky on a sunny day, like that lava freezing Pompeii’s peoples’ facial expressions for eternity. We were both in our late-late fifties and this was the best relationship we had ever been in. On that we had lovingly agreed. The long hoped for, idyllic, ideal, ultimate love relationship. Heaven. And now this. My head spun as if attached to my body purely for comical effect. And there it was, Slip Slidin’ Away, bursting forward as it used to from that juke box in Paris, in the eighties, so loud it made conversations difficult. I didn’t want to hear that song. Didn’t want to slip slide away so near the destination YET AGAIN! Why did it play, why did it play? Was I into self-fulfilling prophesies? Why THIS one? Why ME?

    I explained, this me she so bitterly complained about was the best me there had ever been, million miles better than previous mees, and that I had no means of being any better (or any worse, for that matter).

    On the morrow I learned the volcanic eruption was … nothing but a volcanic eruption, nothing but a stream of lava, and that getting out of the way – or rather, retreating onto higher ground – had been the sensible thing to do.

    We’re back to hoped for, idyllic, ideal, ultimate, love – only more so. Thanks in no small part, to her being who she is, and to me being the best me there ever was.

    Talk about a happy ending.

  • Katherine says:

    The call came at 5:53. P.M. On a Tuesday. I’d been ignoring the emails all day. Hell, I’d been ignoring the emails all month. “Needed: Writing Teacher, $2,300 for 8 weeks of work.” Part-time. Very part-time. Yet, the students in the last class had never met a comma, much less a semi-colon. To them, the idea of a dangling participle conjured visions of body parts and faulty zippers. Frankly, I was still recovering.
    The mistake was answering the phone. No, the mistake was misplacing my reading glasses and answering the phone anyway.
    “Schedule conflict,” I answered reflexively. The plan was I’d stay home nights to help Derek with his college applications.
    “It’s a morning class.”
    Damn. I didn’t have an answer ready. But then I realized I could use the money to buy Derek a car. We were forever haggling over who needed mine the most.
    “Done,” I agreed.
    A week later, Derek’s arthritis returned. One morning, he crawled down the stairs on his hands and knees because the pain in his feet was so bad he couldn’t stand. Another day, he cried.
    Another round of doctors. Three more months of physical therapy. More sleepless nights worrying about my son, about paying bills, about paying for college.
    At work, the kids who have never met a comma and who think “tense” is something you do when you’re scared, don’t exhaust me anymore. They have one punctuation mark I need. The one over the number 4.
    Does this make me a bad person?

  • Adil Amarsi says:

    another brilliant post that has come up at a time i need it too.
    Thanks John,


    300 Internet Marketers

  • Jon says:

    Damn I love johns writing. It’s ballsy and in your face.. reminds me of the way Stephen King talks

    This was great stuff, and I love the topic of story writing. I’m going through my stage of writing trash novels, so hearing the reminder to take the basics and get cracking was just what I needed to hear…



  • Jimmy Smits says:

    I put on my pants and went outside.

    The world was burning.

    My hair caught fire.

    The polyester in my shirt started to melt to my skin.


    • Terence says:

      Jimmy, I love it.

      Reminds me of haiku. BTW, interesting story about “haiku”. Was teaching English in Saigon and told all the 11 year-olds I wanted them to go home, go online and bring two of their favorite Haiku poems.

      Laughter, outrageous laughter from four or five of the boys. Stares of embarrassment from the girls.

      After class, one of the cool 11 year-old boys came up and said “Terence, in Vietnamese ‘haiku’ means two penises”.

  • Pete says:

    There it lay, beckoning to me. Daring me, as I peered through the sweat in my eyes, assessing what lay in front of me. Heaven. Or Hell. Maybe both. This was where it counted. 30 obstacles. 10 minutes. One shot. Could I do it? Was I man enough? Did I have what it takes?

    It all came down to this – the months of preparation, work, sacrifice. All the sweat, the pain, the doubt. The fear. I knew what was waiting for me on the other side. But could I get there?

    The noises outside me slowed down, blurred and faded away. It was just me. And it. It was time. I calmed myself, closed my eyes and took a long, deep breath.

    And then all hell broke loose.

  • Terence says:

    I live in Asia for various reasons.

    And, yes, wonderful Asian women is one of them.

    And I’m short. Not people run into me short, but short enuf that it gets commented on from time to time.

    So this morning I go into my fave online dating site looking for my next victim..sorry I mean girlfriend..

    And I see this headline from a Thai girl who’s perhaps not attending her English classes faithfully enuf.

    “Better to have loved a short man than never to have loved at all”.

    Yes, I got in touch. Coffee next week in Bangkok….

  • Nick says:


    I have no idea what happened in July.

    Most likely I stumbled through life… putting in too many hours at my day job… and wishing and hoping for a better life.

    The end.

  • Shawn says:

    Call me Turkey Butt.
    Go ahead, I don’t mind. My Dad calls me that, and he means well by it. I’m pretty sure he’s laughing with me, not at me. See, this is a story that involves my family, and since it is ninety-five percent true, I don’t want to embarrass them by using their real names. So I’ve decided to change them all, even mine, to protect the innocent, the not-so-innocent, and the downright guilty. I’ll let you figure out which is which.
    With that in mind, I will call my brother-in-law “Redneck“, because he is one. I will also refer to my sister as “Momma” because, after ten years and four kids (with a fifth on the way), it’s the only name she remembers. There. Shelly and T.J. should be pleased that I didn’t reveal their names.
    This took place several summers ago, in Texas, back when Redneck and Momma first decided to start seeing each other romantically. The three of us decided to blind-side a friend into babysitting so that we could see a movie. Well, they decided they wanted to see a movie, and I decided to chaperone. I wasn’t sure that I much cared for this Redneck fellow, as he and my sister started dating each other under what I considered inauspicious beginnings.
    See, my sister was separated from her husband at the time. She had married young, to an older man, and it appeared to be a happy match. In a superficial way, it was. As my sister grew into womanhood, however, things started to deteriorate.
    There were several strikes against the husband. He went to a, how shall I say this, very interesting church, one that had an extremely narrow view of women and their place in marriage and society in general. Momma could have lived with this, however, as she was a pious girl who was eager to please God by taking in His teachings and living her life accordingly. The men representing God, though, heaped it on a little thick; preaching restrictions and sacrifice until even the most pliant individual would be begging for time off for good behavior.
    The second strike was that her husband had a drug problem, and it could be that this was the straw that broke Momma’s back. She had not been pristine in her youth; a fact that she does not kid herself or others about, but now that she had children, she could not see the benefit of indulging in mind-altering substances. The fact that her husband did see some benefit, and indulged often, was what really widened the rift between them. She gave him chance after chance to clean himself up, for their children’s sake if not his own or hers, and at last it had seemed to bear fruit. But nope, he had lied to her and was using again on the sly. When Momma discovered this, she turned to the Redneck.
    Now, that sounds crass, and it isn’t exactly how it happened, but it was my understanding of events at the time. Here was this guy interacting with my little sister in a way that I found wholly unacceptable, and I was not pleased. I had talked to her about it…ok, ok, I had made big-brother pronouncements to her, but she has always been as stubborn as I am, and her mind was made up. She was doing something for her own reasons, thank you very much, and she did not feel compelled to justify herself to me. If I did not like it, I could lump it. With a display of my utterly dispassionate intellect, I decided to reserve judgment. The fact that I was living with her at the time and had nowhere else to go had absolutely nothing to do with that decision.
    Where was I? Oh yes, the movie. Having decided to see a movie, one starring Bruce Willis, I believe, we checked the paper to see what was playing. Not the local paper, but the paper of the nearest big city, which was about forty miles away. The town we lived in had a theater, but, to be frank, it was rinky-dink. It only had two screens, and only showed movies that had been out at least three years. So it was to the big city that we looked for our entertainment.
    We found the movie we wanted to see. It was showing in a new megaplex that had been recently built, and so we bundled ourselves into the Redneck’s limousine. Well, Jeep, really. Close enough to a limousine for a redneck, though, don’t you think?
    It was a beautiful Summer day. The sun shining the way it can only in Texas. People were smiling. Birds were singing. Flowers were releasing pollen at a furious rate, directly into my sister’s allergy-ridden nose. Keep that picture steady in your mind, it’s important. Not my sister’s runny nose, the perfect Summer day.
    It being such a perfect day, the Redneck had taken the doors off his Jeep. He was driving, Momma sat next to him, and I was consigned to the backseat like the family dog. Their excuse was that I was skinnier than my sister (and still am) so I’d be more comfortable than she would in the back. But I knew the real reason. My knee wasn’t nearly as nice to fondle as Momma’s was.
    So off we went, down country roads to link up with the highway the megaplex was built on. A lovely, relaxing forty-minute drive through the country to heighten our anticipation of the movie. Life was good, even if the Redneck’s hand was a little high up on Momma’s leg for my liking.
    Have you ever been to Texas? If you haven’t, and plan on going, and someone from Texas finds out, they will regale you for hours about what a wonderful state it is, their favorite sites, their favorite restaurants, where you should go, what you should see. They will then tell you that if at any point you don’t like the weather, just wait five minutes and it will change. They are exaggerating. It took ten minutes on our trip.
    The wind suddenly picked up and turned cool, bowing the grass and trees alongside the road. Having spent our lives in Texas, we knew what that meant on a Summer day. We looked north, and there they were. The biggest, darkest, ugliest storm clouds you would never want to see heading for you while you are stuck in a door-less Jeep. Momma, the Redneck, and I bowed our heads together and held counsel on what course of action we should take. I said we should head back for home, as I did not find the prospect of being soaked in freezing rain followed by two hours of sogginess in an air-conditioned theatre any kind of great treat. Shouted actually, because it is loud in a Jeep when the doors aren’t on. Or when the doors _are_ on, for that matter.
    The Redneck, however, drawing on generations of country-living wisdom, felt we could beat the storm and my sister agreed with him. To this day she swears it had nothing to do with the Redneck’s hand resting on her thigh, or the fact that turning back meant she would have to spend the rest of the day with the kids. She won’t look me in the eye when she denies it, though.
    With the vote two to one in favor of pressing on, we pressed on. We were traveling northeast and the storm was traveling southwest; our paths would cross. It was just a matter of when. Would it hit after we made it to the shelter of the theatre or while were still on the road? What a silly question. It hit us full force not five minutes later.
    Now, while the Jeep was door-less, the Redneck did leave the roof on. I had never heard weather giggle before, but I swear the rain was laughing as it came swooping into the Jeep. Its friend, the wind, was doing a wonderful job of blowing it sideways, which, of course, whipped it right into where the doors would have blocked it had they been there. We, tough Texans that we were, screamed like little girls every time another wave of ice water washed over us. Good thing the Jeep didn’t have a windshield, because our piercing shrieks would have shattered it.
    We were soon miserable, shivering masses of drenched clothing and sopping-wet hair. Being from Texas, though, we were stubborn, and had become united in our determination to get to the theatre. Let the weather do what it may, we snarled, we shall soon sit and shiver triumphantly at the mega-plex, laughing haughtily at our victory over the elements.
    That’s when we came upon the frogs.
    The rain must have brought them out. Thousands, if not millions of frogs were everywhere. They covered the fields on both sides of us, stood three and four deep in the trenches between the road and the fields, and lined the shoulder on both sides of the road, as well. Unfortunately, they also covered the road. We were now soggy, freezing Grim Reapers of countless frogs. Happy we weren’t. Hungry, either.
    After a half-mile of froggy Armageddon, the frogs started to thin out and the road cleared. While the rain had been freezing, and the frogs had been disgusting, we were more determined than ever to make it to the movie. We were halfway there, for Christ’s sake. Looking back on it, I really don’t think we should have expressed it that way. If the flood and the rain of frogs weren’t hint enough, what happened next was.
    We had made it a few more miles down the road when a lightning bolt streaked down from the heavens maybe a quarter-mile ahead of us and struck a power line transformer. Words fail to describe the life altering terror that is produced when a lightning bolt hits that close, but I’ll try anyway. The world was washed out by the light of the bolt, a white so bright it scalds the eyes. The boom that instantly followed the flash was beyond deafening. It was the voice of God. A pissed-off God. A God that is pissed-off with you in particular.
    I’m sure you’ll forgive me if I admit I soiled myself.
    If you have ever wondered how powerful lightning is, consider this picture. It had been raining hard for fifteen minutes, and the rain was still pouring down. The ground was saturated with water and was flooding. Water was pouring off the tops of trees in waterfall gouts. The grass and vegetation in the fields had been bowed and crushed by the weight of the water running off it, and the lightning bolt had set it on fire. The field of grass was burning _wet_ and sending fuming geysers of steam and smoke into the sky, where the wind happily whipped it at the jeep.
    That was enough for me. I had finally figured out that this movie thing was a bad idea. I was all for admitting defeat, turning tail, and going home. But there was a house behind the field, the fire was spreading fast, and we wanted to be sure that the people in the house knew what was going on and had called the fire department. When we pulled into the drive, we saw a guy heading up to the house while talking into his mobile phone, so we knew that was taken care of and could head back home. Even the Redneck was ready to concede the battle.
    We were backing out of the drive when, just to throw a little salt in the wounds I think, the locusts hit us. Grasshoppers, actually, but close enough to do the job. The fire was in tall grass now, and the grass was full of hoppers. As it started to burn in earnest, all those hoppers began abandoning ship. Apparently, they thought the Jeep was safe harbor.
    There was more screaming from us brave Texans, this time interspersed with grunts of disgust as we tried to sweep the hoppers out of our hair and away from our faces. There was some coughing and spitting too; screaming while enveloped in a cloud of hoppers isn’t the best idea. You have to open your mouth to scream, and hoppers don’t taste so good. The Redneck finally managed to maneuver the Jeep back onto the road and we eventually left the pestilent cloud of insects behind us.
    The trip back was subdued. If the Redneck’s hand was anywhere near Momma’s knee, I didn’t see it. At that point I really didn’t care. As we pulled back into the driveway of Momma’s house, the last of the rain tapered off. The clouds started breaking up, and the sun shone through the cracks. Looking up, I saw a beautiful double rainbow that seemed to stretch toward infinity. The perfect Summer day was back. I grunted at it and hobbled my way into the house to dry off and help with the kids.
    It wasn’t long after that that Momma finalized her divorce with her holy rolling, drug snorting husband. She ended up marrying the Redneck not long after. I have since come to know him much better, and he is in every sense of the word my brother. He really is a great guy, and if I ever have any doubts, I only have to see how he loves my sister and treats her children as his own to know that he is right for her. The fact that he still wanted to see her after our Apocalyptic adventure also speaks well for him, I think.
    We all laugh about that day, now that sufficient time has passed to make it seem amusing rather than humiliating. We tell the story, and whoever screamed the most like a girl changes depending on who tells it, but we don’t really talk _about_ it much. I don’t think any of us really know what to make of what happened, but we have all agreed on one thing. We will never, ever try to watch a Bruce Willis movie again.
    God is my witness.

  • Traveling to China? Don’t Get Conned… Like Me!

    This is my personal story about my experience in Shenzhen, China, which I thought might be helpful to you if you’re traveling to China any time in the future.

    You see, both counterfeit yuan (Chinese currency) and conmen are very rampant in China. I knew about this but I totally forgot about it because things have been great since I moved to Chengdu (another
    city in China), 6 months ago. What happened was that, while I was in Shenzhen, I was being conned of 700 yuan (approx. US$106) by
    two conmen. Not a big amount, but a big lesson. I don’t want the same to happen to you, which is why I feel compelled to share this with you.

    How did that happen?

    Here’s the story.

    While I was waiting for a taxi in Shenzhen, a man approached me to tout for my business. As the queue was pretty long, and the man
    appeared pretty friendly, I agreed to go with him.

    After a short walk, we hop onto his car. Yes… it’s a car, not a taxi. There was another man in the car. He was the driver.

    On the way to the destination, the man who approached me (let’s call him Dick) asked for the taxi fare, which was 20 yuan. I passed Dick a 20 yuan note but he rejected it. I was puzzled but didn’t think too much about it so I passed him another 20 yuan note. He said that didn’t do as well so I passed him 2 pieces of 10 yuan note instead. But he said they all didn’t feel right and asked if I had other notes.

    I was thinking, “What could be wrong with the notes? Although counterfeit notes are rampant in China, they should mainly be 100
    yuan notes, not small notes.”

    Since I had to pay for the ride, I had no choice but to pass him a 100 yuan note as I had run out of small notes. He then passed it to the driver and they both said that it didn’t make it as well and handed it back to me.

    To cut a long story short, I passed them all the seven 100 yuan notes I had with me one by one but none could make it so they returned me each of the notes every time after they had examined it.

    By now I was a bit frustrated and asked them, “So how?” They asked if I had Hong Kong dollars and I said no. They pretended they had no choice and thus accepted the two 10 yuan notes I took out earlier.

    If you’re feeling as strange as I did, please bear with me, I’ll reveal the truth in just a while.

    On retrospect, I was being too careless or perhaps even stupid. I should have felt something wasn’t right. But at that moment, I just thought they were being extremely careful since counterfeit yuan is so rampant. I thought they didn’t want to be cheated!

    After we arrived at my destination, I got off the car without giving the whole deal another thought.

    So how did I realize I was conned?

    After I was done with my late lunch at a restaurant, I took out a 100 yuan note to foot the bill. Immediately, the waitress told me it was a fake note! I was like, “Huh?” I asked her how could she tell and she
    said she could tell by touching the note!

    So I showed her all my seven 100 yuan notes and she said they were all fake! I was like, “What the f**k!? This can’t be real!” But I had no choice so I paid for my lunch with my credit card.

    I still couldn’t believe what I had been told so I decided to test it again. I went to a convenience store nearby to buy a bottle of mineral water. Again, I paid for it with a 100 yuan note. The cashier took over the note but quickly handed it back to me and said, “This is fake.” I showed her
    the other notes and she said they were all fake. She even pointed out to me that two of the notes had the same serial number!

    “Damn!” I thought.

    At that moment, I was convinced all my notes were fake. But how could it be? I withdrew all the 100 yuan notes from the ATM. Banks
    can’t be dispensing fake notes, right? I was utterly baffled.

    Suddenly, I recalled the two men I met earlier. They must have swapped my notes while pretending to examine them! Only then did I realize the two men were actually putting up an act, finding an excuse to get hold of all I’ve got and then swapping them!

    I felt so stupid right there and then. To think I even thought they were just being careful examining and rejecting my notes because they didn’t want to be cheated! In fact, they were just putting on their best show to cheat me!

    This was indeed a big lesson for me. The only one fortunate thing in this misfortune was that I had only a total of 760 yuan (approx. US$115) with me. Not a big amount and it’s a loss I could afford. But in order to prevent this from happening again, from now on, I’d make sure I make a tiny mark at a corner of all my notes so I’d know when someone has swapped my notes.

    So that’s the story I want to share with you. I hope you can learn from my stupidity and carelessness so your money will be safe when you travel to China, or anywhere else in future.



  • Dave Patrick says:

    Hi John

    It’s the end of a hard day scribbling about a place where I have never been – 2000 words for a client to put on his site.

    Anyway, I flipped over to Warriors and someone had written a post with a list of the greatest copywriters in the whole Universe and there among them I spotted your name.

    I then remembered another post by another copywriter who had mentioned you as one of the greats, if not the greatest so I sauntered over to this site and boy is it fun
    and informative. I now feel as if I’v had a cup of my favourite China Tea – Lapsang Souchong i.e. refreshed.

    Expect me here daily including Sundays.

    Prosperity to all


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  • Katherine says:

    Well ….. July is Jan. 2012 for me. I decided to leave my boyfriend of 8.5 years, bless his heart (or at least get another place for out-of-home office space). I went to an apartment across the street to see if I could get in. They said Yes! I’d go over there on my bicycle for the various levels of application. I decided I couldn’t afford to keep my commitment on the lease with my boyfriend plus another apartment, however. Been saving that extra money now that I would’ve put toward rent on a new apartment and instead buying goods I turn around and sale for twice as much on Amazon and eBay (my bread and butter). I kinda need that money. That’s one thing about a workable relationship — it can make sense in more ways than just snuggle bunnies. But I’m still not so sure it’s worth it. It’s a real tough relationship.

  • Andy Bailey says:

    it was hot.

    got sweaty.

    walked past a girl in the park.

    Oh my, she had the bluest eyes I’d ever seen!

    I knew instantly she was the ‘one’. What a kind face she had, but, slightly sad. Like she hadn’t laughed enough.

    So I said so, hah! didn’t even think about it, just blurted it out.

    I’m not a creepy kind of guy, I would have never had done it if I had though about it.

    She was that beautiful. I just wanted her to know.

    she told me to get lost.

    maybe it was the sweat.

  • Leonie says:

    Writers write! Ahh nice to see good ol fashioned great writing, without the need for all the tricks. I licked up every word, right to the end. Been a while!

    Here’s my little dittie…

    We were relaxing on the picnic rug, my man and I, after a delicious lunch, staring at the sky.

    I thought I might drift off for a minute until the tune of Greensleeves broke through the tranquility and got louder and louder.

    In Australia it’s the tune played by all ‘Mr Whippy’ ice-cream vans.

    We both rolled over to our stomachs to watch the van pull up in front. The music was very loud by now. Kids and adults alike were moving towards the van with money ready for exchange.

    Suddenly a man appeared out of nowhere and began abusing Mr Whippy loudly, telling him to turn the music down. He and Mr Whippy had a discussion through the window which I couldn’t hear. But I guess the gist was that Mr Whippy wasn’t going to turn it down.

    Mr Angry knelt down and started trying to let down Mr Whippy’s tyres. Mr Whippy jumped through his servery window and started gesticulating wildly. Just as we thought the first punch would be pulled, Mr Angry relented and stormed off.

    Mr Whippy got back in his van and calmly resumed serving ice-creams to the gathering crowd.

    We raised our eyebrows at each other, turned over and continued looking at the sky.

  • Matt Meister says:

    I was at the fork in the road , do I go thru the drive thru or walk inside and confront the crowd? Today I just felt good, so I decided to park.

    Walking into a coffee shop, I smiled and flirted with the cute girl in front of me in line. The rush of endorphins kicked in when she turned and returned the smile, she was obviously nervous but she managed to hide it once she saw I was harmless…

    Kudos to the ones that smile back…see it wasnt that bad was it?

    You got to love the girls that spend the extra minute making sure they look just right.

    From the freshly washed sweet smelling hair in the morning to the nice shape in the afternoon and the confident walk at night.

    I am so grateful I was born a man!

  • Robert J Nelson says:

    I walked into the bar, and spotted two friends right away. Being 20 drinks deep, I was a little too excited to see them.

    Dave raced to the bar to buy me a drink. I beat him there, and ordered two jaeger bombs. He one upped me and ordered two more.

    That was four jaeger bombs in front of us. God damnit, I thought.

    We pounded them. Perry came up and bought us both one more.

    After I pound it, I see a fat chick, and pull her in.

    “Yo, my friend Perry told me he thinks you’re hot.”

    She giggles. Perry runs. I’m humored.

    Fast forward 3 drinks. The fat chicks walks up to me. She doesn’t look quite as fat as she did before.

    Fast forward 2 more drinks. My tongue is in hers. Perry and Dave are laughing their asses off in the background.

    Screw those guys, I think, I’m going home with this girl one way or another.

    Soon, it’s bar time. We head to the pizza joint. If you’re going to bang a fat chick, you should probably feed her, I think.

    We get there. I make sure she is properly fed. Two slices should do it.

    Suddenly, her friends come in to save the day.

    “We’ve got to go… blah blah blah.”

    She says she’s sorry, she can’t go home with me.

    Dammit. I’m not gonna bang a fat chick tonight, I think.

    Ten hours later, I wake up in my bed and pound two glasses of water. I read about five texts from Dave and Perry rubbing it in.

    Dammit. I made out with a fat chick, I think.

    Thank god for her friends. They truly did save the day.

  • […] done this often during my rare Copywriting Sweatshop seminars.  I tell everyone to go to lunch, and come back with a […]

  • […] This article has been published with permision of John Carlton. First published at the following link: […]

  • John says:

    My story, from the other day –

    I’m from Australia, but I live in the Philippines. I live on a tropical island, beside the beach. Being the tropics, it’s damn hot most of the time.

    Scuba diving is the thing to do here. But I’d done scuba diving and wanted to try something different. In the middle of the island is jungle… deep deep DEEP jungle. Very mountainous too. I’ve always wanted to go in there, but never known how or where or … yeah.

    We grabbed a tour guide and began the trek. Started by walking steeply uphill through a relaxed Filipino neighborhood. Along the way, fantastic views back over the area. Seriously. We were getting higher pretty damn quick and we could see out over the whole area.. the beaches, the coconut trees, the other island… and of course, the blue turquoise water.

    After 2 hours, we made it to the top. Baclayan village. An indigenous people’s village. Not as fantastic as it sounds though. A few small houses and a fresh water swimming pool. This pool was “fed” water by the river that ran by next to it. Coconuts for lunch. Then up up and up.

    Eventually, we made it to the lookout. AMAZING. Best view I’ve seen of the entire area. I looked up the mountain and felt a strange urge to keep climbing. I have a “thing” for mountains. I like to climb. To get away from the world. Something magical about it.

    Anyway, after that, we came down. And going downhill is almost as hard as going uphill! It’s all tension on your ankles and your knees. And boy do you feel it the next day!

    We made it down safely. What a day. Fantastic. Highly recommended.

  • Chad Michael says:

    I left the farm to go on a walk with my daughter through the fields of long, unkempt grass. My dog was springing over the tops of the grass to ferret our rabbits. When we got back, my dog has 17 ticks…at least that’s all I could find.

    By the end of the summer, I had stored all the ticks in a jar of alcohol out of curiosity. I couldn’t count how many we had but I can tell you it was enough to make you wretch.

  • Robert Seth says:

    Something in July…

    Well, that’s our birthday month for both me and my sweetie whom I’ve been married to for 32 years.

    This particular birthday was a little different from all the rest. I’d survived a devistating illness during the year before and was still suffering some of the side effects.

    It’s customary in our family to get to do whatever you want on our birthday…and the family has to join in, cheerfully!

    My problem was that I apparently hated my birthday. For several days before it, my wife ased, “what do you want to do for your birthday?” My answer was a little differnt each time, but usually included “nothing!”

    I would add, “we don’t have any money” (the bank account always seemed to be empty on my birthday) and I’ve got too much to do at work. My clients are screaming at me to get it done.

    Then I would continue grumbling that it was always this way and I wish people would jut leave me alone about my birthday. I couldn’t wait for it to be over and for life to get back to normal (and the bank account to fill up again).

    Well then, as if some of Scrooges Christmas Spirits had suddenly appeared, I realized that I really did hate my birthday! In the same spiritual breath, I also realized that I was extremely lucky to even be alive for this one and that I should be celebrating instead of grumbling.

    So the morning of my birthday I told my clients I wouldn’t be in, I made arrangements for a break in what my wife was working on, and we headed for town to make a day of it.

    The best part for both of us was lunch ON the Willamette River in Portland, OR. We ate at Portland’s only floating restaurant where you can feed the geese and ducks right out of your hand. I accepted the usual bread appetizer but fed it all to the geese.

    The waitress told us that a whole troop of ducks (mom and babies) waddled the entire lenth of the deck on day last week. They made their way between the tables accepting treats from all the admiring patrons.

    After visint lots of stores and having a great time, we finished off the day at another of our favorite restaurants that includes a movie theatre (where I FINALLY got to see “Iron Man III”)

    It was a glorious day and I’m happy to say, permanently chaned my attitude about my birthday.

  • Gavin says:

    Last night was the most interesting night of my entire life. . .

    I’ll get back to why it was in just a second but in order for you to understand you need to know the basics first.

    It started at 10 P.M.

    I was frantically searching for the answer I had been looking for for months now.

    Why have I not achieved the success I want yet?

    I didn’t understand up to this point.

    Until last night.

    For so long I had been things I thought were the “right way”.

    Little did I know until finding the key to my own success that up until this very point I was doing everything the wrong way.

    My process was whacked.

    My communication was slacked.

    My relationships with my future customers were dull and dead.

    Then I discovered the secret.

    I discovered the holy grail solution to all of my problems.

    Since last night nothing has been the same.

    Nothing had mad sense.

    NOTHING had worked.

    I was reminded of a time when I was a kid and I believed that I could be anything that I wanted.

    Whether it was a super hero, a fireman, a millionaire, a ninja (that one was probably my all time favorite and when I watched batman later in life and I figured out that there were secret ninja camps hidden away in the mountains it re ignited my kid found passion).

    No one could stop my imagination.

    No one could stop my creations.

    I was this all knowing being. (at least I thought so)

    Until I grew up and realized that once you get into this thing called the “real world” everyone likes to try to crush your dreams. . .

    . . . Everyone likes to say you have to get a job, you have to go to school, no you can’t be a ninja. ;-(

    That one broke my heart.

    Fast forward to the most interesting night of my life. . .

    I had been told for so many that I couldn’t be what I wanted to be and that I had to conform to the status quo of which society lived and operated like mindless zombies in.

    It wasn’t until I regained the secret into my life that I had so many years ago that I felt complete again.

    I felt renewed.


    So you are probably still waiting for this all powerful secret huh? hehe

    Well I’m going to give it to you in just a second I promise.

    I just need to ask you one question first.

    Do you remember when you were a kid?

    I really want you to think back to the days where nothing mattered, you were innocent, you hadn’t conformed to the role society labeled you as, you were just. . .

    . . . Life was Simply Pure bliss.

    Well the secret that I found again and was reignited in my heart has allowed me in just one day to regain all of those childhood desires into my life in a matter of seconds.

    Okay maybe not so much the ninja fantasy anymore but come on what little boy didn’t want to be a kick-ass super secret awesome ninja?!

    Anyhoo. . .

    Last night my belief in myself was reignited.

    That’s the secret.


    If you don’t believe in yourself who’s gonna?

    Those dreams you had as a kid, those fantasies you wanted so bad, those aspirations you desired can all become a reality.

    All you have to do is believe.

    Believe that it’s still possible.

    Believe that you can do anything you set your mind to.

    Believe that you are the most powerful thing to walk this planet.

    Believe that YOU are all you need to be happy.

    Last night was the most interesting night of my life. . .

    Because I believe in myself again.

  • Jeff says:

    It’s amazing what a small world it is

    I was invited by a former co-worker named Sonia to go to Miami with her and a small group of friends. They all live in Texas

    I also have a very good friend Adam who lives down there. He joined us for lunch the third and final day of our trip

    He then took myself and two others out (Crystal and Chris) on a sightseeing drive. At one point, he made a comment about having to go to a wedding the next day

    During our little excursion, Crystal posted on Facebook that she was out sightseeing and tagged the rest of us in the post. A reply came shortly after. “YOU know Adam?”

    Turns out, she’s the one who was getting married the next day

  • […] Salespeople Discover 7 Ways Storytelling Helps You Write Irresistible Copy The Savvy Copywriter Confessions Of A Story Junkie- John Carlton What Hollywood Producer David Mamet Can Teach You About Copywriting and Storytelling How To Sell […]

  • Dom says:

    Back in July my gf and I rented a scooter in Phuket and decided to drive around the island one night. I’m from England, so driving on the left was natural to me (Thailand is the left as well), but I’d never been on a scooter before, and I’d been drinking.

    My gf is from Taiwan, where they drive on the right, and scooter is her preferred form of transport. It seemed like the obvious choice was to let her do the driving.

    ..then we approached the first roundabout.

    “We need to turn right here, so go around to the left and take the third exit” I said, using my phone’s sat nav.

    After she turned right and went round the roundabout the wrong way, dodging a few locals in the process, I decided that drink driving was probably the better option.

  • […] done this often during my rare Copywriting Sweatshop seminars.  I tell everyone to go to lunch, and come back with a […]

  • Josiah says:

    I’m a bit late to the game but I suppose something like this is better late than never. So, here it goes.

    “I’ll have a Cappuccino” says the middle aged woman to me.

    An easy enough order right? However there were two women at the bar and it was my first shift alone after about three days of insufficient training at the local coffee shop that I worked at and the sudden rush of two people made me queazy.

    I go to make that foamy drink but on the first step get stuck. Of course on my first day the grinder isn’t working.

    “It looks like the grinder isn’t working, so it might be just a minute.” I tell the two ladies who seem to be in good spirits and don’t mind the hassle. They indicate that they are on somewhat of tight schedule but to take my time…great.

    I examine the grinder. The whurring sound is strange, maybe something is wrong with the blade. Oh yeah, that’s gotta be it I think to my self. Without really any thought to the blade part of that previous statement I took the hopper off to test my theory.

    With a whoosh and a bouncy crackle all of the unground beans came crashing down onto the counter in a parade of my incompetence and I just have to chuckle at how dumb I look. The two ladies began to laugh at me too, at this point they are getting their coffee served with a Three Stooges type show. For my next feat of slapstick, after gently placing the hopper down, I stuck my finger into the “broken” grinder.

    It definitely wasn’t a problem with the blade. I jerked my finger away and looked at the ladies in horror. The tip of my finger was missing a huge chunk.

    “Uhhh, I’m sorry I’ll just be a second!” I blurt out

    “You know it’s fine I’ll just have a coffee.” she responds with an eye

    “Awesome! I can do that.”

    Great article I’m looking forward to reading more as I pursue the possibility of becoming a copywriter.

  • […] Confessions of a Story Junkie (part 1) – John Carlton talks about being “good enough” at writing, but mastering storytelling. “Just because humans are front-loaded with a love of stories…… doesn’t mean you’re automatically able to tell a good one.” […]

  • dieta keto says:

    Hi John,

    This article was a breakthrough for me when I read it 2 years ago. Now I’m re-reading it to get myself attuned to the copy-dimension. I’ve been off all this time and now I’m back. Your articles and sales letter are always true inspirations.

    All the best,

  • Alan Young says:

    Last week I became Lional Messi for 30 minutes!

    Ok maybe not Lional Messi. Not even close. Truth be told it was the 5th time in my life that I’d played football or “soccer” for you Americanos.!

    Somehow I found my self playing for my brother Mikeys team that night. Just so you know. It’s the premier league of Sunday football.

    We’re not talking balding, over weight middle aged men here. No. It’s the young “wipper snappers” who I was playing with.

    My son and my fience even came down to get a glimpse of me in action. Only 3 weeks ago I’d played for the first time since I was 10.

    You see, my local team AFC Bournemouth had just won the championship league. All that exciting football that season got me thinking maybe I might be good at this ol’ football lark.

    And belive me. I don’t mess about when I get the idea to do something. I go into “obsessed” mode and start thinking I could be a footballer. Lol.

    I’m 30. My bros 18. I think he’s got a better chance than me.

    And guess what? My mum even said to me when she heard I was playing for my brothers team “aren’t you a bit past it now?”

    Cheeky or what!

    So anyway the day came. And I’m not going to lie. I was nervous. So much that I drank about a 3 days worth of water because my mouth was so dry.

    I was secretly hoping I wasn’t going to get called up. I was only a sub. But after 2 minutes. Roberto the main striker got an injury and my time had come.

    I was up.

    Right at the front. Main striker! Now was the time to impress with my 3 weeks worth of experience.

    It was fast a furious. My son going crazy when I got the ball. When I did I was like a dear in the head lights.

    But over the 30mins I did get more confident. I even set up a quality goal!

    It wasn’t bad for my first game. We won 4-2. My son and fiancé told me I was amazing (thats’s love for you 🙂

    With all this football madness I did learn a lesson.

    If you want to do something. Just go out there and get involved. I could of said I’m too old to start playing football. I could’ve said I haven’t got enough experience ,I’m not playing for your team.

    But I didn’t and I had an amazing time and I’ve now got a fun hobby that keeps me fit and my son loves to watch.

    All the best.

    Alan “Lional Messi” Young

  • Jacob Blunav says:

    This one day in July, I rounded up my friends and decided to go to a Music Festival.

    The festival was going to be 3 days long, and among other bands and acts was meant to star Ellie Golding.

    Frankly, I had never heard of the other bands or much cared bout them.

    My excitement was palpable ‘cos believe it or not, it was also my first festival ever.

    I’m 28 years old and yeah… First one ever.

    As noisy and beer goggled as we were, we got to talk over or plan.

    So… Andrew, “Have you called your friends and do we know where we are staying?”

    Andrew did not… and when we finally managed to get hold of them. It turned out that there were out of town at some dude’s wedding or something…

    So much for out planning skills.

    Well, at this point there was no way back. Screw it! We will sleep on the beach, but we are attending this festival.

    You could tell that the beer had taken its effect. But a buck gets ten you’ve been in the same situation.

    Or if you haven’t let me tell you I would have slept on that beach, really. I’m sure I would have woken up with a very different opinion of my beach stay but who cares… right?

    Lucky for us we managed to skip that and got a space at a camping site very close to the festival.

    Thanks to my luck stars. Ellie was bound to be on in a few hours so we pitched our tents and headed out.

    After a few questionable, immemorable but enjoyable bands the big star was bound to make her appearance. I felt like a little kid on a Christmas morning.

    It’s happening. She will be on in 5…


    “Ellie ain’t coming”, the announcer told us.

    And suddenly the festival lost 50% of its former charm.

    Yeah, we might well have called it October fest. but that is an entirely different story.

  • Dunstan Midlane says:

    My wife was about to leave me…

    Neglect had pushed her very far before, but this time it was different.

    What had started out as a fairy tale had turned sour. Sour to the point this woman who once adored me was now incapable of even the tiniest display of affection.

    What had happened this time that had pushed her over the edge? Hadn’t I been careful enough? There’s no way she could have found out, is there?

    Well, whether she had discovered my secret or not, one thing was clear. She was taking our son and she was leaving. And this time it seemed to be for good.

    I tried to fight it. I tried to reason with her. But there was no talking to her. There was no defending myself. I had pushed her too far. It was over.

    My last ditch attempt would have to be to come clean. About everything.

    This realization was a hard pill to swallow. I had been living this other life all this time to protect her, hadn’t I?

    And just like that I knew I was trapped. All the work that I had done to conceal my sordid second life had been in vain. If I was to keep my wife I would have to do the one thing I struggled with most… to be honest.

    And in this case, honesty was the most painful policy. Telling my wife about everything I had done and where all our money had gone was the most difficult thing that I had ever had to do… or so I thought.

    The really difficult part was still to come… but it took place in August 😉

  • The Day The Coffee Turned Sour

    It’s 2 pm and I just woke up. Stumble from the bad straight to the toilet.

    Piss, shit, weight myself.

    I need coffee now. Walk to the coffee machine, put in 200ml water, 1 spoon of Gold Arabica roast coffee and press ”on”.

    The machine makes hissing noises and the coffee starts to drip in my “special someone” cup. Being massively sleepy, I distract myself from
    the waiting with listening to my friends’s pussy-ass voice messages. He’s chasing some ass and it’s not happening…

    Coffee’s ready. Nice, my favorite part of the day, sit with my cup in front of the computer and take a sip.

    FUCK, disgusting.

    I realize in a split second, that I forgot to put away the remains of the old coffee from the day before, so the taste was stale and sour.

    There goes my perfect morning…

  • […] So I read an insanely dope post on storytelling by no other than the magician of copyrighting John Carlton. If you like words, their flow, and their ability to produce hard cash, you might want to check out that article here. […]

  • Michael says:

    Last July…
    There I was thinking I had nothing to say. But here goes.

    Last July, I drove down to the south of France from London with my girlfriend. It was ostensibly for a holiday and apparently free.

    The reason it was
    Free is that we were to deliver some furniture to the holiday-home of a (rather wealthier) friend.

    What actually happened is that I drove for 15 hours with one hour long break for dinner. We arrived at 1 am.

    We only stayed for 3 days because the GF needed to get home for work.

    I drove around 1400 Miles (for you Americans reading, trust me – for a Brit that’s loads-you can’t drive more than 300-400 miles in the U.K. without falling off into the sea).
    Even in my shitty old car of the time that is around £350(say $450) in petrol and west and tear.

    Next time I’ll happily pay for an AirBnB and a flight.

    There’s no such thing as a free lunch.

    Which is why if you are wanting sell things online you have two choices. Waste your time and money doing it on your own. Or pay a professional to work with you.

    Here’s the link to my expensive coaching…

    Only kidding (or am I?)
    Thanks for encouraging me to write a story!

  • Markus says:

    This July stared out to be the work heaviest ever.
    There where times I couldn’t sit another second
    on that book.

    It all started some weeks before. I flunked my
    bookkeeping exam. Didn’t know what happened

    In my whole life I was good at learning. Didn’t had
    to do much for decent grades. Failing at a test
    wasn’t even possible in my mind.

    About 6 weeks before the exam I shifted into
    the high learning gear. I teamed up with Sarah
    to get through it. Was also new for me.

    I never studied that hard for something. We got
    some old exams for practice.

    We had to change gear. This was very different
    compared to what we learned before.

    It took 60% to be positive. So we made a study
    plan. We calculated the waiting from the modules.
    And focused on the big ones.

    We had the silly feeling that, our professor Dr. Hilber
    would set an example on us. He is known for that.

    The time was short. And my workdays got longer.
    Everyone was saying that I would pass it easily.
    Nobody knew that I couldn’t do it properly.

    I flunked badly… couldn’t even finished the exam.

    Our next exam was already scheduled. Exactly
    at ma vacation. Great…

    Change the plan and being honest was the only
    option. Practice, practice, practice…

    After sitting daily for 6 weeks at the books.
    Pounding the knowledge and practicing till
    I couldn’t hold my pen anymore.

    The written exam was passed… now I could
    attend the oral exam… Two weeks later.

    Hot weather and boring subjects… exactly
    that what I wanted for this summer.

    It felt like half a year later. The oral exam was
    difficult as well. Still I managed to get through it.

    That was such a relief. Now I know that I have
    to more than just be there to pass.

    Valuable anyway for the accountant exam I’m
    learning right now…

  • Joakim Eriksson says:

    Lookout tower nightmare…

    The lookout tower does not look that high, I thought after walking for about 10 minutes from the parking lot.

    … 5 minutes later we’re up.

    Do you see how beautiful it is she says to me?

    I’m full of breath and couldn’t care less about the view right now. My thoughts only. Couldn’t speak for another 5 or 10 minutes.

    I wouldn’t have bothered if my country had been invaded by Russia at that time.

    This was the absolute worst staircase I’ve experienced.

    My wife enlightened me when we came down that we’ve missed paying entrance.

    Of course, we did not pay.

    I already pay for a gym card.

    Btw: The view was Sweden’s largest lake, a quarry and a castle from the 17th century. Beautifully? Yes.


    Once down, my wife sees there are more attractions to explore. Something about an excavation.

    I’m not really on the notes as I have cramps in both my legs after the climbing of the lookout tower.

    But archeology is interesting …

    And it’s only 200 meters down this slope she says.

    What an excavation …

    10 square meters of rock someone dug up a 100 years ago. I couldn’t care less…

    Apparently, there had been a volcanic eruption a couple of billion years ago.
    My wife is not the slightest disappointed despite the fact that we now have to walk 200 meters upwards in 32-degree heat. (I know it does not sound so hot, but this is Sweden).

    I said walk… But she bounces more like a deer.

    She’s up in no time.

    For me, it takes at least 5 more minutes. I’m more like a giant sloth.

    She does not care about me because she is completely occupied by a monument from WWII.

    This monument is about an emergency landing that went bad. (my wife told me afterward)

    In most cases, I’m very interested in airplanes but not today.

    It’s hot and I’m hungry.

    I just continue walking towards our car and the food we’ve brought with us.

    My wife thinks it’s cozy to have a picknick.

    What is not cozy is my mood when I get hungry.

    This day is such a day.

    We find what my wife calls a cozy place with benches and tables. Not hard to find those in Sweden I can tell you that.

    It’s cozy because my wife has discovered some sheep nearby. What she does not understand is that sheep collects miserable animals hot days like this.

    Little devilish flies that can get both Budha and Jesus to kill.

    We can’t sit here and eat, I scream. My patience is over and the clock has not even passed 12.

    We run to the car with 2000 little flies after us.

    The whole car was covered with flies. It used to be white, now it’s black.

    We find a “cozy” place for our picknick a few minutes later.

    Just outside of a 12th-century church.

    But that’s another story.

    I will tell you one thing:

    You can see in stone carvings how a stone mason is sitting and carving the church, a knight who paid for the church handing it over to Jesus.

    This church Is unusual for Sweden, it’s dedicated to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

  • Jenni says:

    Oh, July, How I Hate You July.

    I was packing up the last few things and stuffing an awful lamp into a box. It wouldn’t fit… Oh, it’ll fit, I thought to myself, as I crammed it in harder. Shit, I heard the lamp crack and almost started to cry, well not quite.

    Screw it, I didn’t like that lamp anyway so…

    …thunk, straight to the bottom of the trash bin.

    The door to the garage opened and I was startled. Confused by my reaction, I actually heard footsteps above my head moments before. I must have just tuned them out.

    “Mrs. Brown is that you down there?” I heard a voice call, but I didn’t answer. “I am sorry, I told your realtor,” she said, “you’re going to have to leave now, its the buyer’s final walkthrough.”

    My fucking realtor is all I could think, but no words came out.

    “Mrs. Brown?” she repeated

    “Oh yeah,” I said “No problem.”

    She quietly walked back up the stairs and disappeared.

    I just stood there looking at the few items left in the garage, thinking maybe they would suddenly disappear. Somehow realizing that it didn’t even matter. After 10 years in this house, I thought, fuck my husband, fuck my realtor, fuck the buyer, and fuck all this shit in my garage. I am done with it all. With no intention of ever coming back, I walked out of that garage and pulled the door closed.

    As I turned, staring straight at me was a house that was once my home. I saw the flowers I planted in the yard were wilting. So I guess, in my sadness, or anger, or dysfunction I watered them. At that moment, I also decided to steal the hose. In my car, it went… with a final satisfying slam of the trunk door. I almost smiled.

    Traffic was worse than ever and it took me a solid 5 minutes to get out of the driveway. I am sure it was just an extra twist of the knife in my back… As I finally pulled away, I caught a quick glimpse of the buyer’s car pulling into my driveway.

    I didn’t know whether to cry, be angry or laugh that someone else would have to mow that massive 2-acre yard on hot summer days. I used to complain about it all the time and the mosquito-infested creek in the backyard. Ugh, I hated it too. Well, I think it was fair to say I was getting the better end of the deal.

    It’s only a house I told myself. It’s only a house. But, it still hurt. I don’t think it was the house as much as the loss of a life I had loved. I drove away that day and I never did go back. She got the rest of my crap in the garage and 2 acres to mow. And I got the hose! I still have that hose.

  • Mark says:

    -> You need to read this if you have friends. <-

    This is a short story (with a shocking lesson).

    A couple of weeks back I met with one of my best friends (let's call him David). It was his brother's birthday, they both came to my city to hang and chill.

    Due to COVID-19 we did not have that much of a choice but to go grab a couple of beers and go out in the hot sun, sit at a park and enjoy the day.

    After a couple of hours talking, launching and being the idiots us man can be I suddenly found myself in a heated discussion with Frank (Its after this argument that a HUGE realization hit me, I'll tell you in a bit).

    We were in the centrum of a very busy city almost screaming to each other and waiving our hands like idiots.

    Not charming at all…That's for sure.

    Suddenly! In the heat of the moment the following thought crossed my mind: – "Is it possible I am the one that's completely wrong in this this argument?"

    Naturally my (big) EGO got in the way and I did not pay any attention to that thought. But later when I got home (after the discussion had somewhat ended and Frank and his brother left) that same thought entered my mind:

    "Is it possible I am the one that's completely wrong in this this argument?"

    And then it hit me!… The reason why I was arguing (almost fighting) with Frank was because I was JUDGING him. Big time!

    I could not accept his behavior even if his actions had little to do with me.. I was acting like a spoiled child.

    Then one of the biggest realizations ever happened!

    I realized that "I am a friend NOT a coach."

    I realized that your friends are not placed on this world to please you, nor to fulfill every need you have. Friends are here to support you, share with you their love and be there for you.
    It's also not my job to force my will upon my friends. I am not their teacher.

    I should not have criticized my friend, instead I should have been grateful for his presence, accept him for what (good man) he is and show him brotherly love.

    That's what friends are for, that's what the dynamics are between friends , equal, fun, supportive, honest. Not preachy or bossy, that's the job of a coach. I am not such.

    I accepted my friends and relatives. I accepted them how they ALREADY are. And If I feel the need to share my opinion I state my thoughts and let them go. I provide my intention, and then I let go.

    Since this epiphany hit me I feel much better and I stress much less than I used to. That's a fact.

    Share this story if you know someone (not yourself offcourse 😉 double wink) who my benefit from it.



  • Radu says:

    He knocked her out and with a handful of hear dragged he unconscious body down the stairs…

    it broke my heart. Before that

    Today wasn’t the normal day. I had spend more time than ever just reading and more reading.

    Having just spend all my money on a course leaving me with

    I kid you not i had £0.66 in my account. Waiting was not on the waiting list anymore. I had to take fucking action.

    (still sitting in my chair writing this) I read through this course what must of been 5 hours straight.

    This pain you get in your lower back from sitting down all day started to drive me insane… I kept losing focus, checking my phone every 5 mins (if that). And what was meant to be intense reading became. Reading memes on IG with one eye and reading 3 words of the course with the other.

    I just thought to myself after spending all this money. And being left with not even enough money to buy a piece of bread. I was reading memes. I just threw the phone across the bed and jumped into my shoes and out the door i went…

    Normally i take a walk to revive my mind and get my thoughts back on track to get back to work.

    This time i though let me listen to Cant Hurt Me audiobook by the incredible David Goggins.

    It would take me days to go through this mans life story. ( I highly recommend checking him out. He changed my life. more on that later)

    David got abused by his dad so bad that he would miss school so people didn’t see his purple bruised body from all the whooping he got… this was just one of the thousand of torture he experienced

    ( he’s know now as the toughest man alive, how? its a store you want to find out)

    Walking around the park listening to this book. Got me shivering head to toe.

    Hearing him tell me how his EVIL (a nice way to call his dad) had pulled out a fresh thick leather belt.

    saying – “this came all the way from Texas to whoop you” to his mum

    Even writing this right now makes me want to cry.

    As he knocked he out unconscious grabbing a tick handful of her hear and, without any emotions and feeling dragging her body down the stairs…

    I wanted to stop listen when i heard what happened next.

    I guess you will have to find out what happened another time…

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