I am an Empath.

Wait! Before you roll your eyes and click off this blog, I don't have any paranormal powers. It isn't magic that I can read people. I'm not psychic. I can't glean people's “energy,” whatever that means, or any of that mystical crap.

What I can do, is tell you what you're thinking and feeling, generally before you know.


If I'm in physical proximity to you, your body (posture, eye contact...etc.), and facial expressions give me tons of data about what you are experiencing inside your head. We all have this ability to read physicality, though most people hardly pay attention to one another, except on rare occasions. Ever had a blind date? The first second you see your date in person, you can tell if they like how you look.

In person, or not— over the wire, or web, I ask a LOT of questions. And I listen to your answers. My brain picks up inconsistencies in what you're saying, telling me you are lying to yourself, and subsequently...me.

The first time my DH (of 20 yrs now) met my mother, she said to him, “My daughter (me) was born old.”

What she meant was, I was born plugged in. I don't know why. A genetic anomaly? My senses feel hyper-charged—touch, taste, sound, even vision (clarity in peripheral sight) seem heightened, compared to most (and not just by my reckoning). OCD? Bipolar? Maybe. I've spent a lifetime trying to process the massive amount of information I get from others, and it's exhausting. And I hate it. And I wish I could shut it down, live like most everyone else.

Sort of...

I've picked up patterns in human behavior along the way. Lots! It's another reason I can tell what you're feeling, often before you know. I can now predict likely responses to an enormous array of specific stimuli. It's a fantastic tool for writing believable characters. And understanding what motivates people is equally beneficial for developing marketing campaigns with great response rates.

Yet, I struggle with living plugged in. It's emotionally costly. I lose myself while inside others, acutely feel their pain, their sorrow, their fears and hopes. I've tried to shut my senses down with drugs, both prescription, and not. I had an allergic reaction to Prozac that almost killed me, and no reaction at all to weed over time.

I've become a recluse for the most part. I limit my friendships to very few. I stay plugged into my two teens, my DH, my bratty, but cute Shepard pound hound, which serves them well, though at times, probably not me so much. I disappear, absorbed in them. (To be fair, the dog's needs are simple. No hidden agendas, no unconscious complexities. She makes her feelings obvious. Thank you, Annie!) And while I'll continue to choose living, be here for my friends and family, I must admit, there is, and has always been, a beckoning to shut it all down, turn off the input. Unplug, for good.

Facebook and Ageism

I applied for a Marketing Copywriter position at Facebook about a year ago, 20 years after my first Creative Director position out of college. Facebook rejected me. Bewildered, as I had every qualification, through experience, creating and implementing hundreds of successful campaigns, I asked the HR woman why I was rejected.

“We are looking for someone less qualified.” Her response.

Hmm...Less qualified. Why would that be? We'd discussed no salary expectations. In fact, FB's job app didn't ask me for any. Someone at FB had looked extensively at my online portfolio, as I had a huge spike in page views, from one source, in Menlo Park, according to Google Analytics. The HR woman began her personal rejection email with “Your portfolio is amazing! However...”

What she meant was, “We're looking for someone younger.”

It probably shouldn't have hurt as much as it did, since I wasn't actively job hunting when I answered the FB ad. That particular day, I'd had an argument with my DH about finances. He didn't want me to quit writing fiction for a full time job. I didn't want to quit fine writing either, but selling fiction isn't likely to get our kids through college, especially our daughter, who plans to become a cancer researcher, which requires a doctorate.

What stung so much, was their acknowledgment that it wasn't my skill set they were rejection, but my age. Thank you, Mark Zuckerberg, who is now over 30 years old, which, according to his own words, makes him stupid, addled, and a bad employment investment.

Hmm...why would anyone with half a brain say such things? Oh, I know, at 22, he only had half a brain to work with. OK. I'll give him ¾. No. . His parents were wealthy before Mark, and provided him with every opportunity for success. (Hardship generally stimulates faster brain maturity, requiring creative survival - thrive solutions.)

The problem with 20-something brains— their neural connections aren't fully established yet. Until our 30s, decision making skills, complex reasoning that only comes with life experience, as well as regulating impulse control are just a few of the skills young people generally lack. Additionally, different areas of our brain peak (and degrade) throughout our lives. Even by Zuckerburg's simplistic view that youth is smarter, thinks faster (his level of cognitive complexity in accordance with his age), at 22, he'd already passed his prime. His brain's raw speed data processor peaked at 19. And he was still 20-30 years away from the ability to evaluate other people's emotional statepsychology being the cornerstone of marketing.

Well, our omniscient Zuckerberg built a global company, his converts proclaim. And that he did. He started FB in 2004, at Harvard, copying the site Hot or Not, which put up pics of students, female students at the time, next to each other for other students to vote which was hot, and not. As a woman, and mother to a daughter, WTF, Mark! But as a purveyor of human behavior, I get that, like teens, young adults are often still motivate by appearance, not substance. (The debate over the intrinsic value of Facebook is ongoing. It's contribution to humanity seems rather nominal, and it's social platform a proven productivity sinkhole in business.)

Mark was verging on 30* when FB became profitable through PPC advertising revenue. And Zuckerberg didn't make that happen alone. Almost 40 yr old, Peter Thiel, invested half a mill in 2005, and helped The Facebook 20-something founders get $13 million in Accel Partners financing a year later. And you can bet, Accel didn't leave it solely up to Mark and his young crew to make them billions.

Mark doesn't proselytize this truth. He's now old/smart enough to know that if you stroke the ego of the young, which is still fragile and forming, you'll get them to work 24/7 (though studies show working long hours does not improve productivity, and hurts a companies bottom line), for a 5th of the salary he'd have to pay experienced pros. Young people aren't particularly gifted, talented, or brilliant, for the most part, as Zuckerberg professes, even today. They're cheap to employ.

Facebook is among the top 100 H1B visa filing employers of foreign workers. Not because Chinese and Indians know more, as tech is an emerging market we are all learning dynamically, but, again, because they are cheap labor, a 10th of a U.S. Worker's salary and benefits. (Specific H1B visa numbers are extremely hard to obtain, as corporations are legally allowed to withhold this information from public scrutiny.)

Mark is growing up, though like most boys, his mindset seems stuck somewhere between his teens and 20s, his arrogance no doubt compounded by his early success. Limiting FB hires to young (and immigrant) workers is immature at best. Study after study show older employee's productivity, creativity and reliability is equal to or higher than that of their younger colleagues.


*Reid Hoffman was in his late 30s when he started LinkedIn in 2003. Even with 4.7 mill in Series A funding, it wasn't until Hoffman was in his early-40s that LinkedIn became profitable.  

Between What is Said, and Heard

On our drive from school the other day my teenage son told me a classmate had offered him a joint. I’d been preparing for this moment, staging it in my head for years, ready with my bag full of allegorical stories of my reckless youth before easing into the “Why drugs are bad for you,” speech. But as I drove home searching for how to begin, I remembered back when I was a teen, walking in on my sister’s confession, and my twisted interpretation of her troubling story...

I was fourteen, finishing 8th grade. Another sunny day in L.A. and I came home sweating from my twenty minute walk from middle school. I heard my sister talking in our parent’s bedroom, which was usually off limits. When I got to the doorway I saw her and mom sitting next to each other on the end of our parent's bed. They stared at me standing in the threshold, looking more like siblings the way their short, thick red hair framed their tear-streaked freckled faces.

I migrated into the room looking back and forth between them and asked what was going on. They shared a non-verbal exchange as I sat across from them on the little cushioned chair in front of the mirrored vanity. After some time mom revealed how my sister had been vomiting and starving herself for the last several years to stay thin. In the telling she became overwhelmed with grief. Fresh tears slid down her cheeks and she covered her mouth and succumbed to her sadness.

My sister took over, sat perched on the edge of the bed and confessed to years of fasting and purging because skinny was in, and she didn’t want to be left out. Like most of her high-school girlfriends, she’d finally achieved what I thought impossible for our well-endowed family lineage. She was unarguably thin.

And I wanted to be her.

I wanted to be rail thin, heroin chic, a cover-girl stunner like my big sister. To me, she was beautiful—sleek, tight. She was what I too aspired to be, what every magazine, TV show and movie showed attractive, desired women should be.

And she’d just told me how to get there.

What I heard her say that afternoon was vomiting worked. I failed to acknowledge her detailed account of the toll the eating disorder took on her body and mind. I stopped listening right after she told me how she’d gotten skinny. Everything that followed was white noise.

From that day forward, and for the next five years I threw up frequently after eating to purge my body of the calories. I tried to ignore that I was tired all the time, and chronically cranky, and falling into a black kind of depression. The desire to be thin superseded all reason. If my sister could do it, I could, and would, and did, regardless of the health risks.

Several years in therapy with a nutritionist gave my sister the fortitude to combat social pressures and become more accepting of her body. I still battle with my weight. Racquetball and running eventually replaced retching, but my sister’s words still echo in my head and taunt me every time I over-indulge—not all of what she said, only what I heard.

I pulled the Prius into the garage this afternoon and I looked at my beautiful son in the rear view mirror awaiting my lecture. My stomach hurt from the burger and fries I’d eaten for lunch earlier. My heart hurt—lost for words of wisdom for my kid. I wanted to purge my body of the heaviness, then shook my head in disgust at the notion, hoping my son didn't catch it. Thirty years later I'm still fighting the voices inside that rationalized my sister's disorder as a workable solution.

I led my son into the house for a snack and a chat. And I lied. I made up a tale of ‘a friend’s’ reckless behavior that lead to disaster. I told story after story of kids I went to high school with who were users and grew up to be losers (though I know none). I assured him popularity did not come with using. I left no space for him to surmise drugs were simple fun, or required to be ‘in.’ I chose my words carefully, considered them from many angles for possible distortion before speaking, even asked him to summarize what I’d said often to make sure we were on the same page. And though he parroted my sentiments in detail, in recalling my experience with my sister, there is now lingering concern he didn't really hear me.

Sometimes, between what is said and what is heard is the Grand f***ing Canyon.

Writer's Block (War Inside My Head)

I have time to write the 2nd draft of PT. Or, at least, I can make time. But I'm NOT WRITING it. 


I CAN'T THINK OF STORY. HELL, I CAN'T THINK other than about my fucked up sitch, in the REAL WORLD, outside of fiction!!

So, what to do with that. I'm thinking enough to write this, right?


Then write something else.

Like what?


Fuck off. Are you NOT hearing me?

Yes. I hear you. OK...so you can't write PT. Can you write something else in fiction? Non? A blog?

I don't want to write a blog. I want to write PT, but I can't THINK!

Hmm, we went over that. You're thinking right now. Just not about the right thing. So, lets break the problem down. You say you need story for PT. OK. Make some up.

But that IS the problem. I CAN'T THINK OF ANY. Are you deaf, can't hear me screaming at you? Stupid? What's your deal?

You. You're giving yourself no out, no way to hear your muse, let alone create with her. You're back in algebra, the gates of your brain shutting down, like the steel doors on the Get Smart opening.

Thanks, for stating obvious. You're not really helping me here.

OK. so, you want ideas for PT.

Yes. Please. Now would be good.

Hmm...dystopian, right?

Yeah, but on the verge. Just a bit forward.

Pitch of important points, in order: Predictive modeling gone wrong; Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Yup. But I got that bit. And that's not story. It's exposition.

OK. OK. Chill! Jeez. Give me a minute...
40 years later.

If you don't shut up, it will be.

So, what happens next... 

Marketing Fiction

Am I two inches from the floor I can't see, or the next step is a 200 ft drop?

Been fighting myself over this since I started writing fiction. I face this battle every goddamn time I sit in front of my laptop, the cursor blinking at me, waiting patiently for me to decide if should quit fine writing today, and go back to writing copy, because unlike continuing to write fiction, a 'real' job will get my kids through college.

Then the voice of Fantasy taunts: “It is possible, if you keep writing and marketing, that you'll get well known enough to make a living as a fine writer...I could be an inch from the ground...it's possible...”

This voice is evil. A demon. The idiot in my head that keeps me fine writing. People who've read me, and contacted me with praise, they too encourage my stupidity, bolster my Fantasy voice that spurs me on to continue writing fiction, even though I don't make any real money at it, and likely never will.

I dream of making fine writing my sole focus, market only my books, and quit taking on marketing gigs. But I don't. The smarter part of me knows that focusing my energy fine writing puts me precariously on the precipice of that 200 ft drop.

I write to be read. So, not making an income, as long as I'm read, which I am more and more, wouldn't really bother me, except I need money.

My Fantasy demon goes to war with my voice of Reason daily. The battle goes something like this:
What needs to get done today?
Well, you should get the ­__(fill in current project)__ stuff started/done.
Or, you could write The Power Trip.

Fantasy is so much better than reality. It's why I write—to escape here, into a world that's never boring, tedious, tiring, like the real one is so often.

I'm told by selling authors that I should pick a genre and write religiously to that genre to market myself more effectively. In fact, series are even better. I must write series. Romantic detective series, or dystopian fantasies, where the woman is the heroine, as women empowerment is all the rage for the foreseeable future. Over the last 10 years I've been writing to publish, I've watched genre and series writers become known using the Freemium marketing model. Give away the first in the series and charge for the next book, and then spend the next ten years writing the same basic tale with the same cast of characters over and over.

Shoot me now, if being a successful writer means traveling the Freemium series road. Fiction should evoke feelings, thinking, create new ideas (like H.G. Wells, whose words have been actualized into today's tech). How can an author hope to achieve this, focused on production writing for sales, instead of substantive content? I want to feel something, care about the characters I read in the first book, not have to wait for the 3rd in the series for actual people to emerge from the repetitive story line.

My Twitter profile says: Novelist. Essayist. Realist. Idealist. A recent follower inquired how I am both a realist and idealist simultaneously. “Doesn't that make you, well, like crazy?”

It's true. I'm crazy. I get it. And it's also true that between Fantasy and Reality is the Grand fucking Canyon. The problem is, I can't seem to get off the wire of Hope that bridges them.

Paranormal Perceptions

I was 19 the first time I remember it happening. I was cruising north on the 101, and it hit me like I'd just run into a wall when I saw the Welcome to Oregon sign—something was wrong with the place. Not wrong, exactly. But not what I thought it would be. I'd always assumed Oregon was a liberal state. They were the first to legalize personal use of marijuana. I'd imagined a bunch of ex-hippies and weed farmers pretty much ran the place, as in the late 70s, the state was sparsely populated.

I don't know what triggered the knowledge, the absolute certainty that, at least, southwest Oregon was, in fact, a republican area, religious to the extreme, as was their conservative bend. I pulled off the freeway to get gas, up to the pump, behind a rusted flat bed truck with a rifle displayed in the back window of the cab. The sticker on his bumper was the Confederate flag with an AK47-type weapon across it, and confirmed my sense of the place. For the next 100 miles almost every vehicle I encountered had bumper stickers of bible quotes, supporting the NRA, anti-Gay and/or against abortion, and mirrored the sentiments on the billboards along the highway. Almost every radio station was proselytizing Christianity—rock music to talk forums.

It happened again at Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv, back in the 1980s, when it was still a 'quaint' structure. This time it was easy to figure out what was wrong with the place. I got off the plane and into the terminal to find bullet holes all over the walls, with plaques under them, documenting this or that terrorist attack. I threw up in the bathroom before going to the ticket counter to get a flight out of there. I watched young solders, men and women, pass by with huge guns, and grenades on green belts, while the El Al agent explained to me why I couldn't afford to change my return flight on such short notice. A month in the Middle East, under the constant threat of violence, had me on my knees and kissing my clean hardwood floor upon my arrival home.

The internet, and Google Maps have given me a window to the places I've subsequently visited. Now, my impressions of places I go aren't that much different from my initial assumptions. Until the last bit of this summer's family vacation. My DH navigated, and I drove, as I had most of the trip from NJ, to Montreal, to Toronto, and then on our way to Alexandria, PA. We crossed the Canadian/US border at Buffalo in the middle of a drenching downpour. Just past the city I headed south on Hwy 90. Fifty miles into western NY it hit me. Something was wrong with the place.

“I don't have a clue why,” I announced to my DH, and two teens in the backseat. “But it feels like we've just entered the deep South. Like Virginia, or Mississippi.”

“New York is a liberal state,” my husband said with certainty.

'Not out here it isn't,' I'd have liked to have said, but didn't, since I had absolutely no facts to back up my statement beyond the classic New England clapboard homes tucked into the thick foliage of the Allegheny foothills.

The further south we got, the more prevalent my sense we'd entered ultra-conservative territory became. But when I saw the Welcome to Pennsylvania sign on the side of Hwy 219, I suddenly was acutely aware that the inhabitants of the areas we were passing through were on the opposite page of most everything I believe in. My son, the family historian, reminded all of us that PA was on the Union side of the Civil War, backing his dad's position my perception was faulty.

We stopped for lunch at a roadside bar/restaurant near Ridgeway, sat two to two on the stools around the sticky table, and looked at the menagerie covering the walls. A huge Confederate Flag was pinned over the dark wood bar that ran the length of the place. A moose head, and the head of a buck, both with full antlers, were mounted on either side of their array of liquor. Pics of hunters by their kill, holding their rifles on the carcass of lions, tigers, rhinos to crocodiles were sprinkled among the mostly text posters of sayings like, “Alcohol is the cause of, and the solution to, all of life's problems...” a la Homer Simpson.

“What's this symbol mean, mom?” My daughter was examining a small tarnished emblem, hanging on a red and black stripped ribbon, mounted to the wall next to her.

“It's a German cross.”

“No. The double-X thing in the middle.”

I focused on the small circle in the center of the memorabilia, and though I saw it clearly the first time, had to do a double take before answering her. “It's a Swastika, the Nazi symbol.”

My DH and I quickly exchanged glances. His father's family was murdered by the Nazi's. His dad, our kids' granddad, was a prisoner in Auschwitz from 13 to 18 yrs old.

We all focused back on the walls of the bar. I spied several more 'medals' where the Swastika was prominent. But even more disturbing were the small, framed texts: “What’s the differance between a catholic wife and a Jewish wife? A catholic wife has real orgasms and fake jewellery!”(And no, it's not my spelling errors.) “Life without women would be a pain in the ass, literally,” another on the wall near my husband's head read.

I called our blond, blue-eyed waitress over and asked for our order to go, paid the check, then left the bar and went outside to breathe.

“We should have just left, not paid the check, not bought their food, and just left.”

“That's not right,” my DH said upon joining me at our car. “We already ordered it.”

Back on 219, the further south we traveled, the more ramshackle the passing homes became. Hidden in groves of pines, spruce and maple, most of the housing's wood-planked siding was rotting, or missing. Many seemed as if their foundations had shifted, and the entire house was tilted. And a reoccurring theme on most all of them— they were flying the Confederate flag. It hung from dilapidated porches, as a curtain to a second-story window, as banners in storefronts of the small towns we passed through.

Quite frankly, I was horrified. Pennsylvania fought against the South. The Confederate flag was once hated here, an ugly symbol of racism, created for the Civil war, as the Nazi flag was for Germany. Gettysburg is in PA, where thousands of their children were killed by Southerners too ignorant to understand they were dying for separatism that mainly served the rich plantation owners.

“Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the universe,” Einstein ostensibly said. (And no, he wasn't Jewish. He was a self-proclaimed Atheist.) Displaying the Confederate flag anywhere is a proclamation of ignorance, proven by justifications like, “It's part of the rich history of the South, and we have pride in our culture.” No one should be proud they were once ruled by people who found it acceptable to enslaved others, then sent the poor kids to war so the wealthy wouldn't have to pay taxes. Even the Germans know better than to puff with pride they were Nazis once.  

VIRAL STUPIDITY (Marketing Today II)

After my last failed attempted at garnering sales using AMAZON'S PPC Advertising, I decided to try again. (I know, screw me once, shame on AMAZON, screw me twice...) I figured with better targeting, i.e. picking AMAZON product and book pages more aligned with my own, I'd more likely reach readers interested in to my Romantic Suspense novel, REVERB. That's what AMAZON kept telling me, anyway.

I took out two more ads, one for FFTTZ and one for REVERB, even though the last two I took out had over 80,000 'Impressions,' with NO SALES.

I watched the 'Impressions' on the new ads rise into the thousands within a week, though the CTR (Click Through Rate) was very low for both (see pic), as it was for my first set of AMAZON ads.

Then I get an email from Amazon: “Important Notice: Ad Campaign Stopped Due to Low Relevance.”

I checked my AMAZON KDP SELECT Dashboard to review REVERB's ad status (see pic). I notice I had a sale! My first ever, in 4 ad campaigns with AMAZON Marketing. I'm thrilled, for about half a second, until I notice my ad says Stopped!

I inquired several times to AMAZON customer service managers:
Hi Amazon,
I'd like to take REVERB off KDP SELECT, since the ONLY REASON I'm on it was to advertise, and you just threw me off! Why? I had the same campaign running in March and April, and didn't make ANY SALES, and you kept charging me $$ for CLICKS. I finally get ONE SALE, and you stop my campaign? WHY?

AMAZON'S response:
Our ads team gauges the relevance of advertisements on Amazon.com by their click-through rate (CTR). If ads' CTR falls below a certain threshold, this indicates that customers are not interested enough in it, and its settings should be changed. You can launch future campaigns to try different targeting options that may improve your ad campaign’s relevance. We ensure that our authors and customers, both have a pleasant experience with KDP. This is the reason, as a work around, we request you to create a new campaign by selecting more relevant interest targets or product targets so that the ad is shown to more relevant customers.

Hmm...I had a SALE, the ONLY SALE I've ever had with AMAZON Marketing, on the very ad they Stopped! because of 'low relevance?!' How “not interested” could the customer have been if they clicked on the REVERB ad, then PURCHASED the book?

AMAZON Marketing, (and other clueless Millennial marketers out there)— What is the POINT of MARKETING?

It used to be obvious, but somehow has gotten lost in translation with all the 20-something marketers now out there, ignorant that effective marketing does NOT rely on blindly following the latest viral delusion, as youth so often does. And it's NOT for Branding, or Impressions, Engagements, CTRs, or even Reach that businesses invest billions annually in MARKETING and ADVERTISING. On or offline, in print, on billboards or the sides of buildings, with digital campaigns we hope will go viral, to true social networking— sharing the latest and greatest with friends, we market for only one real reason: TO SELL A PRODUCT/SERVICE/MESSAGE. To Sell.

AMAZON Marketing either doesn't know this, and/or doesn't care, because AMAZON is making money with CTRs whether my book sells or not. Perhaps, if AMAZON Marketing Group communicated (at least, effectively) with the AMAZON Book Sales department, we'd all benefit, unless of course, they're making so much $$$$ with their PPC program they don't really care about book sales. If this is the case, they have their head up their asses if they believe they can continue scamming businesses, which will eventually get a clue, and invest their ad dollars in other marketing platforms.

109 Click Throughs did not sell one copy of REVERB in the 3/12/2015 AMAZON ad campaign (see pic), though it cost me $8.46. Times that, by the likely tens of thousands of other businesses out there who invest their money and time in AMAZON Advertising with little to no ROI, because KDP SELECT's Marketing team clearly doesn't understand why businesses advertise. CTRs are bullshit for everybody but AMAZON, GOOGLE, and anyone else serving up PPC advertising using Impressions, Engagements, or CTRs, not SALES, as their metric of a successful ad campaign.