All posts by gstroot

Ideas for a Sales “Game Changer”

The pendulum always swings.

The marketplace creates chaotic attractors; whether it is through constant tension between consumer and vendor, between commodity and complexity, centralisation or decentralisation or just plain human indecision.

Chaotic Double Pendulum

“Mastering The Complex Sale” is not a book for anyone supplying an item as a commodity, it talks of the chasm between the value driven complex sale and the simpler process of self service. Whether the “swing” attracts us to the commodity in the cloud, or a complex enterprise architecture it is “value” that drives us. The attractor of Cloud/SaaS serves to provide simplicity as it’s commodity.

Contemplating these thoughts while on a break in Bali (where a dress comes in “one size fits all”) invokes one to examine the bridge from commodity to true value. In Bali making it all work comes by way of jewelry: “Accessory Partnership Innovations” or API’s… not much different really.

But I digress. Building a “Diagnostic Business Development” framework is critical, making one that remains impervious to the foibles of the market pendulum is essential, and beyond the scope of “Mastering the Complex Sale”.

The book convincingly advises on avoiding the danger of promoting customer-self-diagnosis through an “Era 2” sales process suggesting that commoditisation reduces everything to price. This is in stark contrast to “Era 3” value creation (which benefits both customer and vendor).

Star Fort

Looking at what we do  I can see alignment with the philosophy, and an intuitive alignment to attaining a mastery of the complex sale. Reading the epilogue of the book I get to “Choose a Side”. But that’s where I hesitate and consider bastions against market tides.

What if a product was able to reach both those seeking a commodity as well as those seeking further complex value propositions? How would this work? Choosing a side is not as simple as segmenting a company, this creates silos (itself against the grain of the book). What is needed is a way to “have our cake and eat it too”.

The Game Changer

In part the “commodity” problem is fueled by:

  • Complex procurement processes that pay lip service to the philosophy of “value for money”;
  • Commodity products that fuel this procurement process;
  • Business silos that try to work around the system through tendering with specifications that have been fed to them by commodity vendors.

Sales and Procurement has become a game. Once you accept this then it is simply a question of how to stay ahead of the game?

Game Changer

So, this series of blogs has the sole purpose of exploring the next move after the “Mastering of the Complex Sale”. It is also about the practical implementation of Diagnostic Business Development within the sales and peripheral support structures. While calling it an “Era 4 Holistic Sales” process may be pretentious and premature (as it may only be relevant to certain industries), it is certainly relevant to the strategy being played out at Amristar, and the delivery of market relevant geospatial software solutions.

The next move?

The next move is really quite simple, but it has some fundamental requirements that must be true before the move can be played:

Chess moves
  • The organisation must have some appreciation of the complex sale
  • The organisation must have a product which can be projected as a commodity (with value)
  • The organisation must be able to articulate the bridge from a commodity product to creating further value (which is complex).

In other words to attain “Era 4”


Must aspire:

  1. To transcended Era 3 mastery of the complex sale
  2.  To have understood Era 1
  3. … and Era 2

    Spiral dynamics image
    Transcending through Spiral dynamics

A fabulous read on this topic across human development is spiral dynamics and integral theory.

Sales must also understand that the commodity offering is a tributary to the complex sale and Diagnostic Business Development process. It doesn’t make the job easier. just different

The organisation

Has likely self diagnosed a need to reduce the barrier to entry (technically, politically and commercially). It must be truly invested in it.

Attaining this practically?

Is the organisation shipshape? Is Value integrated into the company?

There are still many aspects of the organisation that need to be carefully and strategically aligned in avoiding “Value Leakage”. For successful Diagnostic Business Development this leakage must be minimised in the chain of supply (through to Sales and beyond).

Thull mentions these as:

  • Research and Development
  • Marketing
  • Pre-Sale Technical Support
  • Post Sale support
  • Human  Resources
  • Procurement

Obviously this needs comprehensive buy-in and spans across more than simply the Sales business unit.

There are systems such as the Hoshin Kanri management model, that through a hierarchy of Kanban boards can maintain focus on “the customer as the focal point of all activity”.

Alignment attained at the management levels need to percolate down through to execution:

This needs sales feedback on what the customers perceive of as value, and then monitoring its delivery across the whole chain. But a entrepreneurial  business needs more than that; it needs to try, fail fast, learn and move on.

Thull’s Complex sale is aspirational. If the product is complex from inception to realisation Thull’s mastery of the complex sale must be applied, primarily through education: Self education as to the customers problem; and then customer education as to the delivery of a valuable solution.

Commoditisation – it’s not such a dirty word

So what if you could commoditise the educational process into the product. It isn’t only conceivable in the software environment through SaaS but it is already being done!

This allows potential customers to realise the value for themselves. Done properly it allows the Business Development Manager to assist the customer in engaging at the level they need. This will be somewhere between simple pedagogy and the deep-end. The BDM becomes a teacher. The steps: Discover, Diagnose, Design & Deliver don’t change materially, only in substance.

The notion that “there is no such thing as a solution without a quantifiable problem that clarifies customer value” merely needs the organisation to work towards the bricks and mortar of solutions.

Commoditisation is thus reinvented as “sophistication  made readily and easily available”

And then comes the detail…

Other business units are likely to have different requirements and therefore different tools. A CRM is a typical example of where Sales will need a different tool and other areas such as Marketing, HR, Procurement, and even pre-post sale support may require a different suite for their function to be successful.

In all of this there are two facets of the business that will be key to the sustained delivery of Diagnostic Business Development: Training and Operations, the latter an overarching business unit not mentioned in Thull.

The “Dark” Side

Even with the best intentions the conclusion is inevitable.

It came from two of my core beliefs… they ambushed me:
  • Strive to challenge your assumptions
  • To shine a light in the dark, you must first find the dark
Shine a light in the dark

My father may have seen it in me. The seed doesn’t fall far from the tree and I was the seed of a Salesman. He fostered his thoughts but I saw the allure of logic, it seemed to offer a greater truth.

I struggled, I fought, I challenged his assumption

…eventually I challenged mine.

Am I getting ahead of myself? Probably. But to be of any use this story must start in the middle. It must leave behind where I’ve been, start from where I am, and evolve to where I will go.

So where am I?

I am in “Sales”. There I’ve said it.


Whether you call it “business development”, “sales consultant”, “sales executive”, “business consultant” or “pre-sales” the Faustian brush of “sales” brands you as a servant of Mephistopheles. So here I am on the dark side. Now I hope to shine a light.

I know I’ve honed my skills of logic and problem diagnostics, I’ve been in technical sales, I’ve seen and fought commoditisation, I’ve met and worked with good and bad sales professionals. Now how does one create a real spark? Fortunately others have tread that path and they align with the parable my father used to tell (whether it is true or not no longer matters).

He was in a bar. He’d just got some award for his sales target. After some probing his associate leaned over and challenged him:
“If you’r such a good salesman sell me this!”. With that he slammed a box of matches on the bar.
“Sure,” he said, and with this simply pocketed the matches.
The other salesman must have looked a little self satisfied at first and then frustrated because his game wasn’t being played with his rules. “Well, when are you going to start selling me those matches?”
“When you need a cigarette”
I imagine he then simply took another sip of his beer, and that the other salesman may have hesitated before saying “OK, you’ve made your point. Now give me my matches back”.

Knowing my Dad he might have said “As much as I’d love to I also need money to buy the final round of beer.”

He was a self professed devils advocate, and in no small part from his influence I moved from science to IT, through pre-sales and eventually set my flag firmly in sales. From the outset I eschewed one end of the sales spectrum at funeral insurance and used cars (probably much maligned). I also had to acknowledge that even in academia there is salesmanship where the commodity is ideas, and the currency a successful grant application. But I struggled at the other end of the spectrum where the melange of “sales” seem to fly under the radar.

Mastering the Complex Sale

Looking into your glazed eyes I know I need to stop talking, or say something you can identify with.

The sales canvas that I have to work with in my current role is not pristine. It has been painted upon and re-used several times. We are replete with fabulous innovations and ideas and have had some marked successes, but we must learn to play in the major league or dwindle and fade. The products we offer have real vision, benefit and value, the technical details of which will make the eyes glaze over for even the most stalwart coffee laden listener. We debate constantly about messaging and differentiation. We can see it, why can’t others?

Are we deceiving ourselves? I think not. Our customers are some of the most loyal and best advocates for us. We see them as evangelists that seem to be struggling with the same messages and differentiation that we do. We have used our products to solve some of the most challenging issues in the largest of enterprises. We have solved complex issues, we’ve done so with a complex solution. We do not want to cheapen the value but we are reducing the barrier to entry and complexity of access. All good stuff!

I recently noticed “Mastering the Complex Sale” by Jeff Thull in an airport. I got it from Amazon, I’ve read it front-to-back, and now I want to implement it back-to-front.

Why arse about face?

Map Upside down

It really is about perspective.

The book details, in a structured way, the challenges faced by the complex sale from “Discovery” through to “Delivery”. Throughout these early chapters it provides strategies to change the way you think. By the end of this process you are “sold” on the idea. Maybe not the whole thing all at once but enough to be convinced that you need to start thinking in terms of an “Era 3” sales approach and evolve with it

The closing chapters then tell you how to “Build a Value Driven Sales Organisation” and “Prevent Value Leakage”. In a strong sense it practices what it preaches. It has worked with me to develop a natural transition to adoption and then arms me with the means to become a part of the process.

So from the back cover forwards what then is value leakage? and why is preventing it so important?

Let’s get back to our reused canvas. We’re not attached to what’s there, I will have to start to reshape the strategy for sales and marketing. Fortunately the “technology” canvas we’ve adopted is flexible enough to adapt, but to what?  I have the opportunity to reuse what I can and throw out what I don’t

The bigger picture

In order to implement an Era 3 sales system needs to have the fertile soil of the other facets of the business to grow upon.

Preventing Value Leakage opens with:

“Value is the lifeblood of the business world. Value – in the form of improved efficiency effectiveness and ultimately , profit – is the only thing that business to business customers are interested in buying”

Value leakage diminishes the business and since the point of egress for a company’s product is sales it is often sales that bears the brunt of its effects. No matter what value is native at the ideal company it leaks through R&D, Marketing, Pre-sales, Post Sales, HR and Procurement. The company needs “alignment” with minimising value leakage before value can be sold. It needs buy in.

The next installment will be how we get the buy in going. It will be a process of defining our value from the opposing shores of our R&D and Customer ends, identifying roughly where the supports of marketing and branding fit and then building the bridge towards the middle.

Don’t demonise RCD’s

When we moved to WA we were told quite early about regulations regarding RCD’s (or Residual Current Device’s). While this seemed an imposition we found that both the house we rented and the one we purchased had been fitted.  (a striking difference to the regulations we were familiar with over east.

I should state upfront that I am not an electrician. I have some related qualifications so I know that (unlike plumbing) electricity miraculously flows uphill and downhill. I also have the sneaking suspicion that our house has had an amateur let loose on it in the past and I need to know if the house is OK.

So… the story goes like this.

My mother came to visit, she waxed lyrical on slow cookers and was compelled to buy us one. Three delicious meals later, and after the cooker had a prolonged rest (during summer) I dusted it off and switched it on preparing a Mexican dish. Music blaring loud I popped the meat and sauce into the cooker and grooved around the kitchen to get the “special herbs and spices”.

10 minutes later… Silence…

No music, no fridge, no anything! Certainly no little red or green light on the slow cooker. Hmm, obviously a glitch, I’ll just go reset the Circuit Breaker. Nope not the Circuit Breaker, hmmm the RCD switch should be up shouldn’t it?

Six trips back to the RCD later I finally resorted to the old cast iron pot and had relegated the Slow Cooker to the cupboard. And now the story gets strange.

First suspicion, the cooker. Tried it again later and found it just as bad. Plan B was to ask our friendly neighbours if i could try it in their house. They cooperated and 4 hours later we had a great Mexican dish, shredded beef burrito’s with melted cheese and iceberg lettuce with honey lemon and sesame seed dressing (but this is not an episode of MKR). Now that I know it works in another house with an RCD the problem is still not solved. Buoyed by the Burritos I resolved to try it again.

Second suspicion was the RCD. OK So I have a pool that runs on a separate circuit and its own RCD. Six trips back to the pool filter later it was looking like the cooker again; cast iron pot.

OK so a year later I drag it out on a slow weekend for a post mortem. The problem does NOT occur when I first turn it on, so I began to think it must be device capacitance (for a great article on how this can be the bugbear of appliances and RCD’s see this page: I needed 100 Ohms connected from earth to chassis to get it working; nope not good enough –  resistance has to be less than 1 Ohm.

Image of element connection points
Before and after, showing arc point of short circuit. The structural band (with holes for power entry) is held together by a bent over aluminium band (visible at top and bottom) both are directly connected to the chassis. The wire entering into the bakelite sandwich is live, small wonder it arced where it did, and not at the wire entry

Dig deeper. It turns out that the “element” is a band of aluminium, bakelite and an “insulated” filament. The pictures now speak for themselves. I pinched back the aluminium band, rotated the bakelite and filament section to line up with the holes and tested again. No more trips to the switch box. The appliance is definitely faulty and validates the use of the RCD. This could have made the chassis go live and only didn’t because the arc required a higher voltage which it did during the inductive load during switch off/on.Now I need to tell the neighbour to test his RCD.

The other side of the element. Again the wire exit is perilously close to the chassis earth point

I just hope this gets out to all those people out there that seem to blame the RCD for their woes. There seems to be a general push to retrograde to an old fuse or worse. Keep the RCD.

“Contact Ascension” – The Spoiler

Where we left off in the teaser

Ellie is introduced into the research at The Fishbowl;
a large instrumented spherical room
bisected with a plastic floor
and designed to minimise external signals
in military experiments of telepathy.

Ellie, as research principal with some insight into the possible meaning of the signal, changes the way Frank Valetti is exposed to the signal. This generates immediate results and Frank experiences contact with a very influential person in his life; his mother. But the experiment cannot be repeated. With the uneasy deja vu Ellie takes time to travel with Palmer Joss to Australia. She is there for a site inspection of the Square Kilometre Array while Palmer, researching his next book, meets with seminary colleagues performing missionary work. During this trip their romance is rekindled and it concludes as Ellie witnesses Betelgeuse going spectacularly supernova from the Australian outback.

On return Ellie learns that there is also a breakthrough at The Fishbowl, tragically leading to the death of Frank Valetti. Research activity becomes frenetic as the pieces of the original telemetry noise signal and new discoveries fall into place. This leads to an attempt to revive Frank’s consciousness inside the quantum computer. Hesitant to make them public, these dramatic implications lead Ellie and Palmer to take time to reflect in her old home in De Pere. Meanwhile world political and financial forces are already at play. Evgeny: an industrial espionage agent from Hadden Industries, and Xien: a Triad wanting to steal the emerging AI technology, converge upon the new research. Warnings of possible danger come to Elleanor from Hadden Industries

At SETI Institute a new sidereal prime number signal is detected from the proximity of Betelgeuse. This brings many of the SETI Post Detection Task force together where they learn about the developments of The Fishbowl. New collaborations are formed, and the injection of new technologies and staff spurs development to discover that the machine was not simply intended to send an Earth bound explorer to Vega, but to receive a Vegan explorer on Earth.

The explorer, an Artificial Intelligence, is met by Palmer Joss in the Fishbowl. The AI appears as Frank who explains the “covenant” by which he is bound in this new reality; that his consciousness is augmented by a collective consciousness of many sentient lives; and that he will need acolytes like Palmer to help midwife humanity into the next stage of evolution.

Security problems then begin to surface around James. As a result of his condition he is almost umbilically connected to various forms of social networking. Kitz tries to contain possible dangers in the application of the quantum computer to gain military, intelligence, or commercial gain by being first with access, and then stalling its release.

It is agreed that the research can finally be made public after Ellie enters the Fishbowl, there she also meets Frank and learns more of the boundless nature of the multiverse and collective consciousness. Frank illustrates the notion of maintaining coherence as a consciousness by taking her on an escape from the Fishbowl and a journey at the speed of light to the moon and the landing site of Apollo 11. On return Ellie and Frank also consider the coincidence of the Betelgeuse signal by completely reprojecting the universe from the perspective of its source. They discover that the Earth is enroute from Betelgeuse to Vega. It is now that the other purpose of the original Contact machine finally becomes apparent; it can send a consciousness at light speed across space, to be received by another such machine, however the cost of attaining this potential is a corporeal life.

In order to obtain his quantum computer technology Xien, disguised as a cleaner, attempts to kidnap James and the storage device with the AI. Evgeny intent on stopping Xien lays ambush in The Fishbowl. After a standoff and a gunfight James makes an escape and leads his pursuers into a field shrouded in mist. Here a game of two cats and a mouse ensues. The fate of James’ as the victim of a shooting by either Evgeny or Xien appears almost certain until it is apparent that this has all occurred in a quantum reality inside The Fishbowl, and that Frank’s ability to direct metallic objects through magnetic and static fields leads the two villains to shoot each other.

The news of the discovery is eventually released, the technology brings new promise and Palmer and Ellie create the “Shared Echelon Foundation”. This organisation is dedicated to understanding and allowing people to experience the potential of The Fishbowl.

As the book concludes it is clear that Ellie has a hereditary condition that will end her life. She speaks to Palmer and lets him know that she will soon make the 25 light year journey to Vega.

25 years after the first Contact event Ellie’s consciousness finally departs for the stars.

Now would you like to go and read it from  the beginning?

“Contact Ascension” – Teaser

The story so far…

The world has seen an Alien Contact event
only to be dispossessed of its meaning.
An event heralded as a journey to meet
an extraterrestrial intelligence
becomes a 6 second non-event
leaving only the word of scientist Eleanor Arroway
that she experienced 18 hours of contact
with the avatar of her father.
No evidence remains except for a recording
containing, coincidentally, 18 hours of noise.
The story continues…

Security advisor Michael Kitz is appointed to discreetly investigate whether the coincidence of 18 hours holds any significance. He takes the recording to his colleague General John Meredith who heads a team investigating the mind’s ability to control prosthetics for injured war veterans. Quadriplegic Frank Valetti has a Deep Brain Stimulation device surgically inserted for this research, but he is unable to decode the signal. When one of John’s team find a tenuous mathematical connection the possibility of decoding this enigmatic signal calls for a supercomputer. Not to be discouraged Kitz seeks the use of the computing facility of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) in South Africa. He gains access through approaching Rachel Constantine, subauthority of the Chief of Staff, with the political chicanery of an exchange of project management resources in the building of their radio telescopes.

The noise signal is also attracting the interest of other teams. Willie Sharp, Ellies collaborator from the first Contact event, has found a tape in a drawer. It is his copy of the telemetry taken by Ellie’s personal recording device. He provides it to an eccentric and high functioning autistic, postgraduate student James Fraser. James is exploring quantum mechanics and its application in solving problems of complexity using a quantum computer.

Ellie, now working for the SKA consortium, is invited to comment on a computer program currently consuming the resources of the South African computing facility. With all the telescopes nearing completion the mysterious process has come under scrutiny. Ellie takes a sample of the source data and provides it to Willie for his insights. Employing his “Shazzam-like” system, he is dumbstruck to find the signal is the same as that on the tape being analysed by James. This comes at the same time as new patterns begin to emerge from James’ research. On learning this Ellie contacts Rachel Constantine for her advice. Rachel, hoping to mitigate the embarrassment of a presidential administration, arranges for the collaboration of the two teams. Ellie is introduced into the research at The Fishbowl; a large instrumented spherical room bisected with a plastic floor and designed to minimise external signals in experiments of telepathy.


Go to where we lead you in … Part 2 Chapter 8

Go to the spoiler? (no regrets; you can’t “unread it”)

Go and read it from  the beginning

Clash of Memes

Greeds converge to steal the prize

Spiral Dynamics
Spiral Dynamics

In the quiet thaw of the post cold war there is a meritocracy slowly yielding to the open slather of enterprise; money is power. It meets a rogue splinter of unfettered neo-feudalism; knowledge is power. In Chapter 20 of “Contact Ascension” these two powers converge upon a prize that could tip the balance. One force is patiently waiting for the prize to fall into its hands, a guardian of the path. The other force will seek to divert the path using guile and coercion. Both forces meet at the prize which involves not simply technology but also the knowledge retained by an individual James, a person who may be potentially easily led.  The result is a distress call and a lockdown that looks like a stale mate with the pawn being the likely victim.

This theme is suggestive of the conflict as memes of spiral dynamics clash. The Tier one 6th Green level meme of Chinese communism meets with the Tier two “Yellow” Flex Flow of a reinvented capitalism. But is this capitalism simply the old red “Power Gods” doing what it must to protect it’s power? The philosophies clash until the ascendance of the turquoise meme, the Eighth level, the Global view. In older days, when the memes clashed, revolutions like the French and American were fought, or impositions like the Spanish Inquisition were held.

We may not fight as many wars but are we really yet enlightened? What does the enlightened consciousness of eons of ‘transcending-and-embracing’ do? How do you embrace conflict?

Can you transcend it?

Contact’s Rationale

Why did it end like it did?

Open ended books and movies have a certain enigmatic appeal.

circle2A narrative that leaves you pondering, and trying to reconcile a koan into something sensible is “bran for the brain”.

The open end leaves a hunger, a festering hole that demands satisfaction.

The best of solutions have repercussions that resonate, they suggest something beyond the mundane. Both the book and the movie Contact provided this; the book in the form of something secreted in transcendental numbers (PI), the movie left us pondering the purpose of 18 hours of noise. But these scientific or mathematical artifacts are not the only enigmas, the one that strikes more deeply is why make contact and then disappear?

In actual fact it is almost the glaring ommission. The book explains having to engineer a consistent causality but when the topic moves to future contact it is Ellie that suggests that the link is severed by saying “We’ll take it from here”.

In Chapter 18 of Contact Ascension Ellie deliberates over this as she prepares herself for a second journey, this one radically different from the first, and one where she hopes to  gain answers. It is Palmer that pioneered the first real Journey and while Palmer has learnt much (in Chapter 17) Ellie is about to learn much more (in Chapter 19 still to come).

In Chapter 18 – ‘The Key’ I’ve introduced the notions being developed through Spiral Dynamics and Integral Theory. Here we find the parallel with umpteen episodes and books of Star Trek; ‘The Prime Directive’. It is now evident even to us that intervention with a civilization, and any attempt to bootstrap them to an enlightened state is almost always doomed to failure. While Spiral Dynamics provides a scaffolding to facilitate evolution (not revolution) we must attain a pre-requisite level before transcending to the next.

I guess this is what I have gained from the book and movie Contact. In taking a quote from Einstein:

“No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.

How do we find the state of consciousness to solve the problems that we now face? We solve the problem of the open ended book. This is the koan that we all seek to understand. In order to transcend it we need to think beyond the point where our personal books close.

If you love something – set it free

I have decided to set “Contact Ascension” free.

I’ve released the first 7 chapters of Part 1 and the rest will follow. The world can now read it for free, and at some point in time I will probably put it out as a pdf or even an ebook. Contact Ascension’s editing is limited to what my wife and I have been able to inject, but I’m assured its a good read. Being online I can now respond to any feedback and continue the ‘gardening’ process.

So what can I say about the book without giving too much away?

After reading Carl Sagan’s “Contact” I felt it left many questions unanswered. OK, this is the hallmark of a good book. The movie then contemporarised the narrative and departed from the book in two main ways: through only allowing Ellie to experience contact, rather than multiple people; and through the analysis of PI which finally provided Ellie with evidence for the contact event.

Rather than using PI the movie finished with simply 18 hours of noise. This was a masterstroke waiting for expansion that seemed never to arrive. I felt “Contact Ascension” was a story that needed to be told. Dwelling upon this led to the natural progression for Contact and its ascending from the passion that Sagan held for the Cosmos to the fabric that holds it together.

A story can sometimes explain the principles of Quantum mechanics better than the theory. Watch “Sliding Doors” or “Groundhog Day” for two examples of quantum wave collapse. These movies have set the scene for people to grapple with these heady concepts. The raison d’etre for Contact Ascension is to call it for what it is.

Quantum Mechanics holds the deepest mystery humanity has yet to unfold. From the Uncertainty Principal to the Many Worlds Interpretation and the paradoxes like Dark Matter and the Double Slit experiment. These studies are beginning to tease open the veil that separates the behavior of the universe and our role as the observer.

Wave collapse and quantum mechanical measurements insinuate a deep connection with our consciousness, despite our being inextricably organic. So what may be in store from other fields of study that might unexpectedly bridge the gap from a classical world to a quantum mind? Quantum computers may play a role, as may mind control of prosthetic devices and the BRAIN initiative announced by President Obama.

Back to the novel.

Eleanor Arroway must finish her journey. Contact Ascension sets her free, and if there are like minded people who want to see her ‘free’ then setting this book free will free her in other minds.

Writing a Book (midwifry)

After Gestation…

This would be a short blog but for the fact my first novel “Contact Ascension” suffers from the publishing equivalent of “placenta previa” 1.
In short “Contact Ascension” is a sequel that is subject to copyright. ( you can read about what possessed me here)

To rescue my brainchild am seeking some way to make contact with  the Sagan foundation. I hope to be able to propose this idea:

  • That my novel “Contact Ascension” and the ideas it embodies be allowed to live the life it was intended to; to thrive or fail on its own merits.

I wrote this novel with the objective of expanding our consciousness and with the intent of making a difference:

  • With the help of Carl and many others like him “Contact Ascension” embodies how I perceive the wonder of the universe.
  • Having had a hand in its creation I would want it to nurture the nursing grounds of its genesis. I would want the majority of proceeds to pass directly to Wikipedia.

I respect that Copyright is a principle of merit. I also worry that merit is choked in less privileged areas of the world, and I think this impoverishes us all. The only cure is freedom from the protection of privilege.

For my story this freedom represents an embrace by the copyright to “Contact”. If it was consistent with their charter, I hope that the Sagan foundation would support this freedom. (I know Ann Druyen actively supports Wikipedia, without which the book would not have been possible.)

Now I just need this idea to be passed on to others. Perhaps, if there are but six degrees of separation, this will get to the right people and “Contact Ascension” can breathe life.

If this someone is you…


Greg Stroot.

1 Without intervention it was doomed from inception.

Continue reading Writing a Book (midwifry)

Writing a book (gestation)

What possessed me?

As a guy we can never experience pregnancy or childbirth.
Ideas, though, have the potential to impregnate a mind.
So it was that Carl Sagan’s novel Contact, and the movie of the same name, awakened something big, bold, audacious and naive:
to write a sequel called “Contact Ascension”.

Having read umpteen books on Physics, the conundrums of Quantum Mechanics and the promise of a “Theory of Everything”; and being of the generation that could remember the events of Neil Armstrong and Apollo 11 first hand; and having been disappointed that we had not yet invented the warp drive or even the hover board, I thought: “We need more flights of the imagination”. But I’ve grown a little tired of the SciFi genre being subverted by Alien monsters that invade earth, or swashbuckling astronauts seeking treasure, princesses, dispossessed princes and fighting the cosmic Nazi equivalent.

*I* needed something different. I needed something that didn’t challenge my suspension of disbelief quite so much. Maybe others did too.

After much deep and profound brain things inside my head…

I realised that the book that fitted this bill was “Contact”. It took real science, real society, real people, real history, and simply extrapolated it out to its most amazing best case scenario.

The movie? Well it stayed as true to form as possible and extrapolated it a little further, at a different time. But just like the book it left something open. While the book closed with exploration of transcendental PI, the movie had a seed too: Noise.

It was this seed that grew and flowered in my mind. I honestly believe that the amazing story that took root, grew, and fed upon the imaginary planet where myriad books and Wiki articles had decomposed and evolved into its own symbiotic, fertile and evolving humus and loam, is not of my own volition. My mind had been impregnated.

For me the gestation of a book has gone through several phases:
  1. What if ? This is where a good story ends and another starts.  Hungry for more? Unfinished and waiting for a sequel?
  2. Has anyone else thought of this? (check the internet, superficially nothing yet, start now and keep tabs)
  3. Visualise it as a movie: (so hard to step beyond this media)
  4. First endeavour: A screenplay using “Plotbot” (a collaborative screenplay tool). This was good to string ideas together and prod them about. Aborted this idea as no collaboration was forthcoming.
  5. Sketch ideas out in the train: Used my Android tablet, some basic scribble pad type tools and Evernote. This was good to restructure the whole chronology, the fundamental concepts and the ‘rules for my universe’ to adhere to. These had to be cross correlated with fact (remember – ‘suspension of disbelief’ – Thank the cloud for Wikipedia).
  6. Choices: Away on a conference in a distant city do I watch TV or write a book? The latter seemed the nobler endeavour and is really when it began in earnest. Spontaneous, with a strange compelling conviction, and a feeling I could see the sculpture in the stone.  I became Michelangelo, and I needed to uncover it.
  7. Technology: Even though it began on a desktop Word Processor I wanted a document accessible from anywhere, so I moved it to “the cloud”. I tried Dropbox, but then moved to Google Docs because I could have my wife proofreading while simultaneously writing and doing rework on any device. (Tip: use a table of contents to do navigation).
  8. Research, write, research, rewrite, peer/friend reviews, rewrite: The fun part. This is where I could see it grow, and it was when I was inspired with the name.
  9. Midwifry: This is where I am as I write this, and I face a particularly interesting challenge: copyright. With the legal action against Fredrik Colting for his unauthorised and commercially published (ergo non-fan-fiction) sequel of “The Catcher in the Rye” the precedent is set against the commercial release of the novel.
So where do I go from here?

Fan fiction? OK I’m cool with that but it’s unlikely to result in publishing and it would get lost in the fluff.  Kindle Worlds would need a new world for the Carl Sagan canon Wattpad has some fan fiction but copyright rules prevail.

Forge ahead? Self publish and weather the storm (see “The Catcher in the Rye” -> “60 Years Later: Coming Through the Rye”)

Put it to sleep? This Ripvanwinkle idea would extend it till 1996 + 50 (or 70)= 2046 (if the copyright hasn’t passed to his wife and co-author Anne Druyen). “Post mortem auctoris” would make the book irrelevant.

Change the names? OK, I may as well rewrite the original “Contact” novel. Not as silly as it sounds; SETI has moved on, and actual first contact could be different enough. Could we really tell it any better than what Carl did? It would insult him and any pretentious author attempting it. No, I have written a sequel, maybe not nearly as eloquently as Carl and Anne could, but perhaps worthy of the name.

Find a way to have it published with the blessing of the copyright holders. This leads me to my next Blog: Writing a Book (midwifry)