There’s a killer lurking in all of us. Sometimes you just don’t know it.
Take Phil Mercer, for example, what dark secret from his past changes a decent man, and respected professional into a man with murder on his mind?
Down to earth Northerner, Phil Mercer, begins to question why so-called university friends failed to help him establish a practice at London’s Criminal Bar.
Despite that and colleagues’ professional jealousy, he goes on to achieve success as a fearless defender of society’s less fortunate until his career is threatened by events triggered by something completely out of his control.
Figuring his life and career are about to change forever, Mercer strives to find a way to right wrongs by inventing a new parlour game called ‘Comfort Zone.’
At a dinner party surrounded by colleagues he insists they all play the game. He introduces it after dinner as a ‘storytelling game.’
He adds – “the easy choice is not an option at all. What terrifies you? What scares you shitless? Be brave. Be reckless. You are among friends. What can possibly go wrong? It’s just a parlour game, right?” Get this dark suspense noir crime novella now.
She heard the footsteps and guessed the guy was about ten yards behind her. It must be a man. They are too heavy for a woman. Another few hundred yards and she would reach safety – her garden flat home. I swear, no more drug runs for Ben Turner, she thought. This is too risky. Her heart pounded faster. She could hear it thumping in her chest until the sound of her panting blocked it out. She could smell aftershave. It wasn’t her cologne, nor was it her breathlessness she could now hear. Before the lights went out, she thought, Fuck you, Ben!
When she regained consciousness her first sensation was movement. I’m in the boot of a car. She was unable to see anything. I must be blindfolded. She tried to check for a blindfold but trying to move her arms was futile. Her hands were tied behind her back and she couldn’t move her legs as they too were bound. Then she felt a searing pain in the back of her head and lost consciousness once more.
Clueless as to time, she knew she was in a strange room. It stunk of urine. In the distance she heard the low rumble of motorway traffic. Her head still hurt, her eyes unable to pierce the gloom, but she could see shadows. The blindfold’s gone. On trying to move, she heard a scuffling noise and knew she was tied to a chair. She heard a door open but was unable to see in the dark. Then she heard footsteps walking away and heard a second door open. A few moments later, a car engine started and the headlamp beams flooded both doorways and the room with bright light, penetrating the darkness. She was forced to shield her eyes from the light by tilting her head to the side, averting her gaze. Curiosity taking over, she scrunched her eyes and made out the figure of a man in front of her. A man dressed in black, wearing a ski-mask. He held a long knife in front of him. He cut the tape across her mouth before running the blade down her cheek. She felt the blood as it ran to the corner of her mouth, giving her the metallic taste of her own blood.
“Who are you?” she asked in panic. “Is this about the drugs? Here, have them.”
Stephen Bentley is a former police Detective Sergeant and barrister (trial attorney) from the UK. He is now a freelance writer and occasional HuffPost UK contributor on undercover policing.
His memoir Undercover: Operation Julie – The Inside Story is a frank account of his pioneering undercover detective experiences during Operation Julie – an elite group of detectives who successfully investigated one of the world’s largest drugs rings.
His memoir became a UK bestseller and now translated into Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish. It is available in English in these formats: eBook, hard cover, paperback, and audiobook.
He also writes crime fiction in his Steve Regan Undercover Cop Thrillers and Detective Matt Deal Thriller series. He has also written an award-winning short story, The Rose Slayer, which has now been published in an anthology of murder mystery short stories titled Death Among Us, along with over twenty short stories from ten authors.
When he isn’t writing, Stephen relaxes on the beaches of the Philippines with his family where he now lives often with a cold beer in one hand and a book in the other.
In the world of Erez, three kingdoms share a tentative peace. In the far west, Princess Isemay yearns for much more than frilly dresses and etiquette classes. While her twin sister, Alena, prepares for life as a monarch in a neighboring kingdom, Isemay roams the woods with her loyal cheetah, hunting dagger strapped to her belt. It’s only when two surprising visitors arrive at the castle that Isemay must come to terms with her royal future – and a secret magical heritage. Now engaged to the king of the east, Isemay prepares for a position she never wanted.
After saying good-bye to all that she loves, Princess Alena travels north in trepidation – fully prepared to marry a spoiled prince she does not desire and usurp the throne from his insane father who does not deserve it. But when tragedy strikes at her wedding ceremony and she is wrongfully imprisoned, she can only hope that her hurried plea for help will reach her father in time.
Frantic to save her sister – and against the wishes of her betrothed – Isemay joins the army sent to free Alena. A mysterious encounter with a dragon in disguise leaves her with a warning that her life is in danger – but can it save her from the battle to come?
Reaching the first tree, Isemay gently placed her palm on the rough bark and scanned the shaded area directly in front of her. The bright sun made it difficult to see much detail in the shadows, but her eyes adjusted quickly. Golda stood perfectly still next to her, one paw lifted off the ground, the bushy fur around her neck raised higher than normal. Movement to the left caught Isemay’s eye. She yelped in fright at what she saw.
A huge black wolf, larger than any she had ever seen, was standing a mere ten feet away, piercing yellow eyes trained on her. A low rumbling sound was vibrating from its chest and its lips were lifted in a snarl.
Stephanie M. Allen graduated from California Baptist University in 2009 with a B.A. in English and a desire to share her imaginative stories with the world. She loves to write fantasy, particularly centered around young adults. Aside from writing, Stephanie loves to read, ride horses, and sing. She currently lives in Wyoming with her husband and two children.
Where can Witches and their vampire mentor practice their powers without being discovered or persecuted?
By using their magic, the Witches of Vegas become the number one act performing on the Las Vegas Strip—a great achievement for them, but not so much for the magicians—who can’t possibly keep pace.
Isis Rivera is the adopted fifteen-year old daughter of The Witches of Vegas. Zack Galloway is the teenage nephew and assistant to the last magician left in the city. Although they should be rivals, when Valeria, a four-hundred-year-old witch with a long-seeded grudge against humanity arrives in Sin-City, both teens act to bring their families together to stop the evil hag in her tracks.
But can the combined witches’ powers and the ingenuity of the magicians be enough to stop Valeria from taking over the city and possibly the world?
Sebastian’s voice boomed through the theater. “Ladies and gentlemen, for the last five and a half years, you have had the opportunity to experience The Witches of Vegas four nights and three afternoons a week right here at the Sapphire Resort and Casino’s main theater. But today, you will be the very first audience to witness something truly spectacular!”
Isis’ shoulders tensed. A knot formed in the pit of her stomach. She had levitated many times, but never in front of more than four people. This time, it would be in front of over four thousand strangers. Wow, goosebumps popped out all over her arms and legs. She took deep breaths, just as they taught her, in through the nose and out through the mouth. It always helped calm her nerves. Right now, they really needed calming.
“We are about to bring out a new, young witch to the stage,” Sebastian explained. “She will have you believing that a young girl can become lighter than air!”
“Lighter than air.” Isis closed her eyes and chanted under her breath. “Lighter than air.” Her hands and feet tingled with each step toward the stage. The magic flowed through her veins like a steady leak from a faucet.
“Ladies and gentlemen, put your hands together for the future goddess of magic, Isis!
The crowd applauded. A slow, soothing music played through the speakers. Isis took a deep breath, then stepped out from behind the curtain. She could hear the audience but couldn’t see them behind the blinding spotlights. “Lighter than air,” she whispered a few more times.
Isis raised her right foot as if resting it on the first step of a long staircase. She placed her left foot next to the right. A few inches separated the soles of her bare feet from the stage floor. The crowd let out an “ooh.”
Time to make them “ahh.”
Isis reached up with both hands, then, like a swimmer at the bottom of a pool, pulled her body straight up. She floated until her hands touched the ceiling. Way too high. Isis pushed against the ceiling so she’d float down ever so slightly. She let her body go horizontal, then breast-stroked past the spotlights and directly over the audience. Astonished faces pointed her way.
“Lighter than air,” she said once again as a reminder to herself not to lose concentration.
Thank you R&R Book Tours and Mark Rosendorf for providing me with a copy of this book for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
This was an easy to read YA book. The writing style puts me more in the mind if it being for lower YA but some of the content was more on the graphic side. I get why they were there I just don’t know where to put the book in the YA realm.
The easiest way to explain this book is a group of Witches pretending to be Magicians pretending to be Witches.
I enjoyed reading this book it was a nice easy read for a Weekend. There is a mix of pov’s between the adults (Vampires) and the kids. I like how in this series the witch’s magic is tied to their emotions. This creates a lot of obstacles for a 15-year-old and you see the struggle she goes through.
This first book wraps up well. There are loose ends allowing more to come but there are no big cliff hangers. This alone is a plus for me since I do not like huge cliff hangers.
I am interested to see what the other books hold since this is the first book to a series and there is a lot of foreshadowing regarding Isis’s powers.
Mark Rosendorf ‘s writing is based on the personalities and experiences he has come across throughout his life, coupled with his own wild “if only I could do that” imagination. He is the author of the young adult series, The Witches of Vegas. He is also credited with The Rasner Effect series, a suspense/thriller trilogy published between 2009 and 2012.
Mark is a licensed Guidance Counselor for the New York City Department of Education’s special education district. He began his counseling career in September, 2001. Prior to that, he worked in the hotel industry. He has also moonlighted as a professional magician. Today, he teaches magic and Illusion to his students in order to teach teamwork while developing their confidence.
Having accomplished his goals of becoming an author, Mark decided on an early retirement from writing. Then, one night, at two a.m., a new and unique story shot into Mark’s brain like a lightning bolt, screaming for him to write it. Mark found himself spending several nights taking notes on the characters and their stories. That is how The Witches of Vegas was born.
Taylor has room for exactly two things in her life: improving her performance as a college basketball player and maintaining the grades she needs to stay on the team and someday play in the WNBA. But when she meets the beautiful and confident Melony, Taylor’s whole way of life is called into question. RAINBOW is a coming-of-age queer love story with a Love Jones kind of vibe. It’s the first of many queer black novellas by the author Verde Arzu.
Giveaway: Signed Copy of Rainbow (Everyone) Enter Here
Verde Arzu is a passionate, middle school special education teacher. She graduated from Fisk University, a historically black college and university (HBCU) located in Nashville, TN. There she earned a B.A in History.
Her love for teaching pushed her to go on to graduate school where she earned a Master of Science in Special Education from National University. Verde is not only a teacher but an advocate working to ensure equity for students of color, especially those with learning disabilities.
Verde is excitedly working toward completing a post-baccalaureate certificate in writing from UC Berkeley Extension. Upon completion of the program, she plans to continue to publish novellas, short love stories, centered on realistic lesbian and queer relationships.
Verde recalls writing her first piece of fiction as a kid on the front stoop of her two-flat home on the south side of Chicago. She traces her passion for writing stories about African American queer characters from her desire to see more characters’ voices she can relate to.
A native Chicagoan, she currently resides in Northern California with her beautiful wife and two furry, four-legged children, Bob and Marley. She enjoys reading books written by African Americans—with her favorite genre being romance. She is a die heart Chicago sports fan. In her free time, she enjoys playing tennis, basketball, biking, binge-watching her favorite TV shows, and of course, cuddling up with a good book!
He just spent everything on a house in disrepair, but he didn’t know someone was waiting inside.
Tim Russell just put his last dollar on a handyman’s dream; a quaint but dilapidated farmhouse in New Hampshire. Newly single after a messy divorce, his plan is to live in the house as he restores it for resale. To his horror, as soon as the papers are signed and his work starts, ghosts begin to appear. A bone-white little boy. A woman covered in flies. Tim can’t afford to leave and lose it all, so he turns to his real estate agent Holly Burns to help him decide whether he has any shot at solving his haunted problem. Can they solve the mystery before he loses his investment…or maybe his life?
CHAPTER ONE: Henry’s Demise November 29th, 1965
The sun was low in the sky on another perfect New Hampshire day. Henry Smith had just washed and brushed his favorite horse just inside the old red barn. The workday was over until something caught his eye…something out beyond the pond, way out in the field. He walked toward the front of the house and stood there for a few seconds, scanning the tree line where he thought he might have seen her.
It had looked to Henry like the woman they would see from time to time at the corner of the property, cutting across the field into the woods. The closest neighbors were more than a mile away. Henry knew them, and this woman did not look familiar.
The truth was there was no explanation why the woman made frequent appearances way out here for the past few years. All of the neighbors had their own meadows full of wild grapes and blueberries, not to mention pumpkins. Why come here? Then he got to thinking: It was time to select the annual Christmas tree. Why not kill two birds with one stone? He went back to the barn, grabbed the hatchet and set off down the front lawn past the stone wall and headed toward the far left corner of the field. One hundred yards later, he turned left into the forest.
He had known about the overgrown grove since they bought the place, but he was still enamored by it. If this grove had been tended to over the years, I’d have my tree already. I’d just chop it down, and after a relatively short drag back to the house, I’d be done.
The grove started about thirty yards into the wild forest, fully on Smith property. The Christmas trees gone wild had become towering spruce and of course, too far gone for holiday use. They were all at least forty feet tall, more or less, and grew in perfect symmetrical rows. In and around the grove in odd spots however, were random wild spruce that could pass for Christmas trees if you looked hard enough.
Henry made his way through the first few yards of the wild forest, and as always, all at once, the grove opened up in front of his eyes. He was fond of this place. It was hidden, and then it was in your face. And if you were here, it was yours and yours alone for the moment, like being lost in the hallways of an empty mansion. He angled his path to cut through the many rows, moving diagonally and to the right, deeper into the woods. Where’d she go?
He passed more rows than planned, and before he knew it, he could see the man-made symmetry coming to an end at the border of the congested wild forest. More and more rogue trees had claimed odd spots here– a near-even mixture of man and nature. The forest floor here wasn’t just spruce needles like the rest of the grove; leaves from all sorts of trees had drifted in over the years, leaving piles of natural mulch.
The briars were thick, and behind them, undisturbed forest. Nestled inside the briars and brush were two high mounds of leaves that had collected for decades. They seemed artificially high as if they covered something. At first, Henry thought it might be a section of stone wall, but the stone wall in this forest also happened to be the property line, and he was sure he was still a ways from that.
As he closed in, he realized the two piles were each nearly waist-high. A section of gray stone peered out from under twisting vines that had caught years of falling leaves, revealing something several shades lighter than anything naturally occurring.
Gravestones, he recognized. Thirty-one years living here and I didn’t know… He looked down at his hatchet, wishing it was a pair of pruning shears. The briars proved well prepared to protect their long-held secret, but Henry’s curiosity was powerful. He forged ahead, hacking and flattening the bases of the sharp plants so that getting back out wouldn’t be the same battle it was going in.
As soon as he broke through the last of the thorns, he put down the hatchet, dropped to his knees and began to clear the dead leaves and ivy. The stones were crooked from years of heaving frosts but remained steady as he worked. There was a large one on the left and a smaller one on the right.
There was so much moss they were illegible. Concentrating on the left one, Henry scraped gently at the space he estimated the epitaph would be. After three or four moments of gentle effort, he had cleared the top two engraved lines. The first, in smaller letters, read: “Here lies.” The second line, where the person’s name should appear, was taller than the first–but he couldn’t quite make out the inscription.
Then, a twig snapped. Henry looked around, attempting to focus in the dark; it must be her; time to meet the stranger. He looked back, down the near-perfect aisle of spruce. It was all shadows and night had finally fallen. He squinted and took off his glasses, trying to catch a better glance.
She stood there in the dark–the mystery woman in the long dress. All he could make out was her silhouette; her pale white hands were holding what might be a bouquet, and her hair was pinned up, worn away from her neck. It was as unkempt as the woods behind her, strands and bunches pushing out in odd directions.
And there was a smell.
There are many unpleasant odors on a farm, but Henry recognized this as the smell of something unmistakably dead. Like the time a mouse died inside the wall of their bedroom. It was decay, and it was coming from her.
Thank you, Michael Clark and R&R Book Tours for giving me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and feelings expressed are my own.
I used to love reading horror books but I moved away from the genre mostly because I do not like to be grossed out. So in a lot of ways, I feel like there were not a whole lot of options for me in that genre anymore. At least I have had issues with finding some. So when the author described this book as more “chilling than gory” I was sold. However, I went into this book with low expectations. So I was wonderfully surprised by how much I loved it.
Not only did this book have me on the edge of my seat the storytelling was superb. I was hooked from the beginning. I was able to imagine the scene without any issues. Yes, there are diagrams in the beginning of the book but everything was described so well I never went back and looked at them.
In this story, you have some instances where you are pulled to view events from another time and not once was I pulled out of the story. Everything flowed so well together. I would say you should go into this knowing very little about what happens so as not to spoil the mystery.
What makes this tour extra special is that it’s part one of 3! This book is the first in a trilogy, best read as one big, terrifying story!
Here are the details for the other tours:
Dead Woman Scorned (The Patience of a Deadman #2): October 5th – 9th
Anger is Acid (The Patience of a Deadman #3): November 30th – December 4th Contact R&R Book Tours if you are interested. They are happy to provide The Patience of a Dead Man as well.
Giveaway: Print copies of the entire trilogy (US Only), or a print copy of The Patience of a Dead Man (International)
Michael Clark was raised in New Hampshire and lived in the house The Patience of a Dead Man is based. The bats really circled the rafters of the barn all day long, and there really was a grove hidden in the forest. He now lives in Massachusetts with his wife Josi and his dog Bubba.
The Patience of a Dead Man, Dead Woman Scorned & Anger is an Acid are his first three novels.
When Sophie Driscoll’s grandmother dies, her parents take over running the Annex, a warehouse facility that stores magical artifacts and documents proving, and protecting, the existence of faeries. Sophie and her brothers, Flynn and Cal, happily adjust to a new house, new friends, and a new way of living, joining the ranks of generations who have kept the fey and mortal realms separate for centuries. Before the first month of their new life is over, they’ll encounter romance, elves, talking cats, ancient secrets, and potentially lethal danger. What could possibly go wrong…
It wasn’t a dark and stormy night. It was a pleasant late summer’s evening, shortly after sunset, the sky a rich navy blue, stars beginning to twinkle in the distance. In a pleasant subdivision, residents were settling in for the night. In a tent pitched on one of the well-mowed lawns was a group of four teenage girls, in their pajamas and sleeping bags, currently finding out who could come up with the scariest scary story.
“…and to this day, he wanders the woods, looking for his head.”
“Can I just say, eew.” Margaret wrinkled her nose and frowned disapprovingly.
“That was the Headless Horseman. That’s not an original story, Kimberly.”
“Fine! You come up with something better.” Kimberly flopped down onto her pillow.
The tent was pitched in a backyard just like so many other backyards up and down the street. The development was one of the last to be built in the town limits, and it sat near the boundary of the state forest. The fact they lived so close to a nature preserve meant to the adults lots of hiking and biking on the trails, a chance for the kids to see wildlife, and learn about the woods firsthand. To their children, it meant a sense of danger, dark goings-on, and the perfect atmosphere for telling ghost stories during slumber parties.
“Fine, I will.” Sophie sat up taller on her blanket. It was her tent, her backyard, her house, with her family inside, hosting the slumber party. Taking the flashlight, she placed it under her chin, the beam casting shadows over the contours of her face.
“There was a house at the edge of the city that everyone called the glass house,” she began. “It looked like it was made all from glass, and it was strange to the people in the city. It belonged to the most wealthy family, the Greymalkins. They employed many servants and farmers in the past, people working on the land they owned. But these days, they had all but stopped hiring new staff.”
Margaret and Helen watched Sophie, listening politely. Kimberly pretended to be bored, and fiddled with a loose thread on her sleeping bag.
“The people didn’t really go near the glass house anymore,” Sophie went on. “The former staff, or their descendants, said that the Greymalkins were having troubles — illness, bad investments, and the like. They said that soon the family may be forced to sell the glass house and all their land.
“That was a shame, old Mrs. O’Connor said, as her grandson was coming back to town after traveling abroad for a few years, and he needed a job. He’d just completed his courses at an important university in another country, and he was well-trained in managing finances and keeping records. That was a very good thing, said Daphne, one of the few maids left at the glass house. Because the Greymalkins were looking for someone to do just that.
“And so Augustine O’Connor began to work at the glass house.”
Margaret and Helen were definitely interested now. Even Kimberly sat up a little more and glanced in Sophie’s direction.
“Daphne showed Augustine where he would work. It was mostly in one room, a study where all the family’s important papers were kept. After a few hours of working each day, he would go to the kitchens for a meal, and take a walk in the gardens if the weather was good. Most of the time, he only saw Daphne, or the cook, or the butler, Mr. Lee.
“One afternoon, just as he was finishing up, a very grand, and beautiful, woman came into the study. She wore a silver dress, and diamond combs in her hair. This was Lady Greymalkin, he knew, as he had seen portraits of her in the lobby of the glass house. Augustine quickly stood up and then bowed, as Mr. Lee had instructed him to do if he ever met a member of the family.
“Lady Greymalkin insisted he not bother about such a formality. ‘Thank you for doing this work for us,’ she said. ‘We need all our affairs in order before we sell the house.’ So it was true, Augustine asked, the rumors among the people? ‘Yes, I’m afraid so,’ the lady said. ‘Life has not gone…as we planned recently.’ Augustine gave his apology. ‘There’s no need to be sorry. It’s how things happen sometimes.’ And she invited him to tour the rest of the house with her.”
Outside the tent, it was quiet except for the chirp of crickets, and the occasional, brief passing of a car. Fireflies danced in the trees beyond the fence, but the girls didn’t notice.
“Augustine walked along the halls and saw the big dining room, the library, the grand parlor, where the family had entertained in happier times. Lady Greymalkin told him a little more about her children, her husband, and his parents, who built the glass house. When it was time for him to go, she invited him to tour the property on his own, as he wished.”
Kimberly couldn’t pretend anymore; she was listening as raptly as Helen and Margaret.
“A few days after this, the Lady came to find Augustine in the study,” Sophie continued. “She told him that they had a buyer for the land, and soon his services wouldn’t be needed anymore. ‘Thank you so much for your help. I’m sorry it means you’re out of a job. If I can do anything, please let me know.’ Augustine replied that a good reference would come in handy, but also, before he left, he’d like to walk around the gardens one more time. The Lady said yes, and that she would join him.
“As they walked, Augustine saw a door in the garden wall he had never noticed before. ‘Come with me,’ the Lady said, and she showed him a tunnel beyond the door. As they began walking down the tunnel, the Lady said, ‘Oh, I forgot, Mr. Lee needed to see me! Do wait here.’ And she ran back into the garden, shutting the door behind her.”
The back door of the house gently opened and closed. A shadowed figure slipped away from the lights inside, creeping into the yard and towards the tent.
“Confused, Augustine tried to open the door. He found it locked. There was only a little light in the tunnel, and he couldn’t see very far. Deciding he should wait as the Lady had told him to, he stood still.”
The dark figure paused near the tent, crouching down, trying to stay out of the light coming through the windows of his home.
Sophie’s hand was beginning to get tired of holding the flashlight, but she was almost done with the story. “Then a loud sound came from the other side of the wall, a sudden scream. Augustine jumped, and ran into the tunnel. As he ran, he heard other sounds, on either side of him, growls and snarls like those of wild animals. All the noise came out of nowhere, but it seemed to be all around him.”
Helen was spellbound. Margaret hugged her pillow close to her. Even Kimberly’s eyes were wide.
“Augustine stopped running when he realized the light was fading in the tunnel, and the noise seemed to be behind him. He stood in front of another door, and he wondered if this one would lead back to the garden, or to the glass house. He opened the door, and saw nothing else.”
A branch snapped in the yard, and something scratched at the tent. Helen and Margaret screamed, and Kimberly dived into her sleeping bag.
Daley Downing is an autistic author, parent to special needs children, a dance teacher, and cat whisperer. She spends her days attempting to write just a few more words than in the previous 24 hours, and lovingly refers to her genre as suburban fantasy. Visit her at: https://daleydowning.wordpress.com/
You can be happier and more successful when you learn to play the game of work. If you’re not currently satisfied in your career, it could be because you’re playing by the wrong rules.
In Winning the Game of Work, Terry Boyle McDougall shares the rules she learned from wise mentors and coaches, as well as the lessons she learned the hard way. She entered the workplace as an ambitious “go-getter” and was confused about why she wasn’t advancing at the pace she expected. She learned that being smart and working hard aren’t enough. The reward for developing a strategy for the game of work is success and happiness with less stress and duress.
This book will help you:
Get recognized for your value on the job
Develop and appreciate your unique “superpowers” at work
Cope with a bad boss without burning out or getting fired
Get the promotion you deserve
Deliver more impact on the job with some simple hacks
Winning the Game of Work is the essential guidebook to help you develop your unique skills as a “player.” Now is the time to see the whole field, make the savvy moves and win the game of work on your own terms!
Excerpt from Winning the Game of Work: Career Happiness and Success on Your Own Terms by Terry Boyle McDougall. (New Degree Press) Released April 2020.
Chapter 8 Becoming Your Own Agent: Understanding and Leveraging Your Value
Joy, feeling one’s own value, being appreciated and loved by others, feeling useful and capable of production are all factors of enormous value for the human soul. –Maria Montessori
Often you may not recognize things about yourself that others can see clearly. As I’m fond of saying,
“You can’t read the label when you’re inside the bottle.”
The purpose of this chapter is to provide you with perspective and resources that will help you see yourself the way others see you.
When you understand how you’re viewed, you can make intentional changes so that your self-image and the image you project are much more aligned. This is the first step to being compensated for the value you provide to your organization.
Lessons from HGTV
I’m going to confess a deep, dark secret . . . I’m a sucker for HGTV. I love settling in for marathons of House Hunters, Property Brothers, Fixer Upper, and scores of other real estate–related shows. I find something strangely appealing about watching people search for their dream home in Malibu or renovate their mid-century modern in Kansas City.
I won’t call it a guilty pleasure, because after hundreds of hours of HGTV, I’ve learned a valuable career lesson. Buyers abhor uncertainty and will put off buying or require a big discount to overcome any perceived risk.
You’re Always Selling
If you’re wondering what “buying” has to do with your career, it’s simple. Anytime you’re trying to influence someone—be it your boss, a colleague, or the hiring manager at a company you aspire to work for—you’re selling, and they need to buy in order for you to achieve your goal.
Getting hired is an important sales job. Bringing on a new employee, like buying a house, can be fraught with risk. Organizations make a significant investment when they hire a new employee. Interviewing takes time. When a candidate is hired, they need to be trained and introduced to the people they’ll work with.
They may need to meet and form relationships with clients. And all this happens before the new employee ever starts creating value for the company. If the new hire doesn’t work out, a lot of effort and political capital will have been wasted.
“I Just Need a Chance!”
I’ve heard this refrain hundreds of times: “All I need is for someone to take a chance on me—once they hire me, they’ll see I was worth the risk.” I’ve said these same words myself at times in my career. It was frustrating when I was ready to move up and I couldn’t seem to get my foot in the door.
However, I understood it much more clearly once I became a manager. Given what is at stake for the manager, most aren’t keen on taking chances without ample evidence that it will pay off. Even if you are able to do a particular job, your résumé needs to say that clearly.
For most managers, they want some assurances that the person they’re considering has at least some experience similar to the job they are hiring for. Even when a candidate has had similar responsibilities at another company, it’s often hard to get clarity on the intangibles like work ethic, cultural fit, and the quality of their work.
Prove It to Me
Some of my worst hiring mistakes were when I convinced myself that someone was a good bet rather than making them convince me. I gave them the benefit of the doubt rather than insisting that they prove to me that they were worthy of my trust and confidence. When I look back, I recognize that I had some reservations, but I didn’t delve deeper when I should have.
I was anxious to get the roles filled and get on with the normal routine. Only later did I realize that I’d let my own impatience or optimism cloud my judgment. This would be analogous to buying a house and taking the homeowner’s word that there were no problems with the furnace rather than consulting a home inspector to confirm it.
Creating Career Curb Appeal
Enter the lessons from the HGTV gurus! When a homeowner is trying to sell a home on those programs, professionals advise the seller to get their property ready for the market by creating curb appeal—clean it up, declutter, paint, cut the grass, get new carpet, and even pay a company to stage the home.
This allows the home to be shown to potential buyers in the best possible light. It eliminates the need for potential buyers to overlook the stains on the carpet or the neglected garden. When a home looks like it’s “move-in ready,” buyers are inclined to believe what they see and want to buy.
“As Is” Requires a Leap of Faith
Alternately, when homeowners list their homes “as is” and make no investment in fixing up the home before listing it, it is typically sold at a big discount. The uncertainty of potential problems is priced in.
The beauty of many programs on HGTV is that experienced real estate and building professionals will examine a fixer-upper and can tell if the issue is just cosmetic or if it’s an expensive fix. Your average buyer doesn’t have the time or expertise to do that and therefore shies away from buying “as is” homes. They just want to close, move in, and get on with their lives.
Most hiring managers don’t have time to examine each candidate’s potential in any depth. They are like the home buyer that just wants to buy a “move-in ready” house.
Taking time to hire a new employee is a huge disruption from their day-to-day job. The last thing a manager wants to do is invest time and effort to hire someone, then not have them work out. The consequences could be costly in both lost productivity and reputation.
Don’t Sell Yourself Short
When you’re looking for a job, make your value and attractiveness immediately visible on your résumé and LinkedIn profile. When you get a screening interview, be ready with clear examples of how you’ve been successful in previous roles that align with the job.
Be sure to bring the energy as well. Many managers will choose to hire someone who really wants a job over a slightly more qualified candidate who doesn’t show a high level of interest in the position. Blasé is not a good look when you’re serious about getting a job.
Invest to Reduce Perceived Risk
What can you do if you want to pivot to something new or you’re a new graduate who doesn’t have any professional experience? Invest in yourself to reduce the perceived risk of hiring you.
Here are a few things that you can do to gain career curb appeal:
Learn to tell your story in a concise and compelling way.
Spruce up your résumé.
Get your LinkedIn profile to all-star status.
Get some additional training in areas where you have gaps.
Make sure your image fits the role that you’re aiming for (invest in a stylist if needed).
If you’re not sure what blocks stand in the way of your career goals, hire a professional. Like a realtor advising a homeowner on getting their home to appeal to the largest number of buyers, a career coach can help you get yourself ready for the job market so you’re also in demand.
Trying to Get Hired “As Is”
Years ago, when my boss left the large bank we worked for, I applied for his job. I had been his right-hand person and was heavily involved in the operations of the department and the interactions with leaders in the business. In the months after he left, I stepped up to provide leadership to the team and felt that I had a good shot at being officially promoted into the role.
Assumptions Can Lead to Big Mistakes
I applied for the role, but I didn’t do anything special to prepare myself for the interview. I had been at the company for about eight years at that point and would be interviewing with people who I had worked with in different capacities over the years. I assumed that they understood the value I brought to the organization. In retrospect, that was my big mistake.
Because most of the interviewers supported other businesses and were in another city, they actually didn’t understand what I did. Their knowledge of my expertise and contributions was shallow. In addition, I hadn’t interviewed in the eight years since the company hired me.
A Crushing Humiliation
The first interview was with human resources and was basically a screening interview. I did well enough to be granted a second interview. The second-round interview was with a panel of marketing leaders from other areas of the company. I had never been in a panel interview before and wasn’t sure what to expect. Disappointingly, in the interview, I became anxious and didn’t perform well. Let’s just call it what it was—I bombed!
I felt so humiliated, not only because I hadn’t presented myself in my best light, but also because I would continue to work with and see these people at departmental events. I felt like they would be looking at me as a lightweight and unworthy of performing at a management level. It was embarrassing.
Getting Professional Help
Frankly, I don’t like viewing myself as less than an all-star. Though I realized that I wouldn’t be progressing to the next phase of the interview process, I was motivated to get at the heart of my disastrous performance.
I hired a career coach to help me get over my interview anxiety. With her help, I learned how to talk naturally and persuasively about the value that I brought to the organization. I used the PAR method to concisely frame up:
The problems I encountered
The actions I took
The results I delivered.
Going From “As Is” to “As If”
My career coach also helped me recognize how to package myself so employers would see me as ready to deliver value at the next level. I went on a shopping spree and bought some suits and dresses that were more tailored and higher quality than what I typically wore to work. I was dressing for the job I wanted rather than the job I was currently in. I started acting “as if” I were already at that next level.
The recruiting process for the open role continued, and eventually a candidate was offered the position, but she declined to take the job. The hiring manager didn’t feel comfortable offering the role to any of the other candidates, so he started the recruiting process again from square one.
Disappointment Turns to Hope
I reapplied for the role, and using the skills and new mind-set I’d practiced with the help of my coach, I progressed to the final round of interviews. It was down to me and an external candidate. I felt much more confident going through the process the second time, and I was able to easily communicate the value that I provided for the organization. I was hopeful that this time I’d earn the promotion.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be. When I found out that they offered the role to the external candidate, I was disappointed. But it didn’t take long to realize that the universe had a different plan for me. The day I learned that the other candidate had accepted the job, while I was at lunch, a recruiter left a voicemail about a role that was a great fit for me at another company.
Persistence Pays Off
It was as if I was being told that since I’d prepared, something bigger was in store—and indeed there was. That message began an active period of interviewing. By the time I finally moved on from that company, I had two job offers and was actively interviewing with a third company.
The investment I made in improving my skills and promoting myself mentally to the next level resulted in the outcome I’d been seeking. Instead of naively expecting people to see me the way I saw myself, I learned to present myself in a way that made them feel confident “buying” and gave them no doubt that any investment in me would be worth it. The investment I made in myself paid off.
 Montessori, Maria. Brainyquote.com. Accessed February 2, 2020.
Terry Boyle McDougall is an executive coach, speaker and best-selling author of Winning the Game of Work: Career Happiness and Success on Your Own Terms. She works with managers, executives and professionals who want to draw upon their greatest, most authentic abilities to positively impact their organizations. She supports clients who are creating change, driving innovation, and navigating transitions.
Terry relies on both her formal training as a coach and firsthand experience as a corporate leader to support her clients as they work towards their goals. In coaching engagements, Terry serves her clients as a partner and encourager as they break new ground; as a sounding board, supporting them as an objective listener; as a scout, who sees the larger context, their possibilities and potential; and, as a catalyst, helping to spark their commitment and action.
After 30 years of corporate business experience, 15 of which were in senior managerial roles, Terry chose to become a coach to concentrate on helping leaders step fully into their potential to lead satisfying careers. Though the majority of Terry’s professional experience is in financial services and marketing, her work exposed her to a wide variety of industries, business climates and corporate transitions such as mergers, acquisitions, divestitures and restructures.
Areas of leadership skills development include: Goal setting Prioritization Staff management Delegation Strategic thinking Decision making Project management Facilitating meetings
EDUCATION CERTIFICATIONS University of Maryland, MBA College of William & Mary, BA, Economics iPEC, Coach Certification Training ICF, Professional Certified Coach iPEC, Master Practitioner, Energy Leadership Predictive Index, Talent Optimization Partner