Tips and Tricks, Thought Leadership on Marketing Communications, Sales, Content, Writing and the Occasional Random Post!

  • Chicago Writers’ Association

    Book Review: The First Wolf Pack: A Dog’s Fable


    The First Wolf Pack: A Dog’s Fable. J. Daniel Reed, Terra 3 Communications LLC, November 15, 2021. Paperback and eBook, 220 pages.


    Reviewed by Lisa Lickel.

    J. Daniel Reed’s fantasy tale of The First Wolf Pack draws the reader into an imaginary world of two mighty predators who must decide to survive together or fight to the death.

    When an accidental hunting convergence brings two of the greatest ancient wolves into mortal combat, they realize they are so equally matched that they must use their great intelligence to seek a common goal: survival. Versa and Arn begin to care for each other. Together, they derive an ethic called the Wolf Ways.

    Told in the manner of the great sagas, the narrator, a contemporary dog named Bingley, reveals the secret of contemporary dog heritage through Versa and Arn’s story. Bingley’s tale is filled with lofty wisdom and bits of advice on how to be a family; not just any family but the best at parenting, the best at sharing the role of an alpha couple in a pack, the best at finding nutritious food and cooperation—the first Wolf Way.

    Versa and Arn are notably the first at many things, including digging an inground den to raise their first litter. As the family grows into the First Pack, Versa and Arn form the first wolf council, the Magnificent Ones, and establish the first Wolf Utterance. Soon the offspring grow toward maturity and ponder their parents’ ways. Why do they prosper and live in a pack and work together and not fight like the lone wolves?

    When an intruder assimilates into the alpha family, they teach him their ways, leading to harsh consequences. Eventually, other lone wolves outside the First Pack hatch a plot to attack, and the scattered family packs reunite, hoping initially to make peace and teach the others the Wolf Ways.

    The story occasionally lapses into buzzable page-turning moments, such as when Versa turns to Arn and asks, “Are you as amazed at this crazy, unique life we created? There are no lone wolves who live like we or that know what we know.”

    When Tria is suffering from her turmoil, it takes her father to remind her of her greatness and uniqueness and why she’s driven: “Only you, daughter, share our genes, strength, and cleverness,” he tells her, “and only you can teach the wolf ways.” The advice changes his daughter’s heart, much like taking a Dale Carnegie class, the narrator explains.

    The author has created an epic saga of Gilgamesh, Beowulf, or other Norse legends of old, even faintly reminiscent of Eden and the first humans. We learn how humans and wolves intertwine. Those who love poring over those tales will thoroughly enjoy The First Wolf Pack: A Dog’s Fable.

  • J. Daniel Reed

    Tell us about yourself and how many books you have written.
    I enjoyed a very satisfying commercial real estate career until the pandemic placed a big speed bump on the road of my life. So suddenly out of work, I took the opportunity to chart a new course, to get off the hamster wheel, leave the world of responsibility and stress, and pursue a dream. For this last year, it has never felt like work.

    What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?
    The First Wolf Pack: A Dog’s Fable, my first book, was inspired by several disparate factors; Love of dogs and wolves, fascination with ancient foundational myths, the grandeur of God’s creation, and contemplating the purpose of fireflies in the grand scheme of creation. Somehow these things coalesced into a story about overcoming ignorance, narcissism, suspicion, and self-pity.

    Do you have any unusual writing habits?
    I like to work early in the morning. I write for hours on end when it starts to flow. I don’t force myself to write when I am upset or agitated by things outside of my writing. Some evenings, especially while we are cooking dinner together, I love to tell Barbara (my wife and publisher) the progress of the characters, and the ways the plot and subplots are heading. Verbalizing this way allows me to hear things outside of my head, and my wife is very helpful with questions, comments, and suggestions.

    What authors, or books have influenced you?
    Dean Koontz, John Steinbeck, Ernest Hemingway, Stephen Crane’s The Red Badge of Courage

    What are you working on now?
    A gritty story about xenophobia, bigotry, charity, and compassion set in 1920s and 1930s Chicago.

    What is your best method or website when it comes to promoting your books?
    As a newbie I am still learning. Right now, I use Facebook, Reedsy, Goodreads, LinkedIn, and am exploring others. My book is only available on Amazon at this time.

    Do you have any advice for new authors?
    Consider Keats Theory of Negative Capability. It gave me the freedom to not feel compelled to outline my stories, but instead, to tap into something creative that is within me but also something creative that is outside of me. I let the story tell itself, not trying to provide answers to every question that pops up during the drafting.
    If your characters wish to advance themselves, but you don’t know exactly where they might be going, trust them enough to follow them. They will tell you their story if you let them.

    What is the best advice you have ever heard?
    With respect to writing: I recently watched a long-form interview of Dean Koontz from 2012 that made me believe I could write novels and that I should. Koontz emphasizes that all work should have a moral purpose—there is an urgent need in our world for stories containing the hope to counteract the negative views that dominate our culture.
    Without quoting Keats, he did address something like Negative Capability when saying “Get in touch with something bigger than yourself, and let it speak to you.” And further described how his first best seller was born—he developed characters and then figured out how they became intertwined, at times following them.
    And he quotes T.S. Eliot: “the one thing that never changes, the eternal battle of good and evil.”

    What are you reading now?
    While actively writing fiction, I may read some non-fiction BUT I do not read the fiction of others. I am concerned that reading other works will potentially derail the uniqueness of my novel as it is in progress, and to potentially interfere with my creativity. While writing The First Wolf Pack, I read Ralph Martin’s A Church in Crisis. A long time ago my employer at that time gave personality surveys to people in leadership positions. I had a strong need to figure things out for myself, preferring to not follow instructions or to comfortably follow others. I needed to take things apart and rebuild them to know exactly how it worked, so to speak…then to rebuild it my way.

    What’s next for you as a writer?
    I want to finish my second novel during the summer of 2022. It is hard for me to look much further ahead than that. But, I do have two story ideas bouncing around in my head that might launch a third novel.

    If you were going to be stranded on a desert island and allowed to take 3 or 4 books with you what books would you bring?
    The Bible, something from ancient Greece, perhaps Homer’s the Illiad and Odyssey, something from the height of English literature, perhaps Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, and lastly, something by Steinbeck or Hemingway.

    Author Websites and Profiles
    J. Daniel Reed Website
    J. Daniel Reed Amazon Profile

    J. Daniel Reed’s Social Media Links
    Goodreads Profile
    Facebook Profile

  • One of the most enjoyable (but challenging!) aspects of writing fiction is the development of each character—their names, their behavioral traits, and the nuances of each character’s personality. I have been asked if any of the characters in The First Wolf Pack were modelled after real people and I can honestly answer both yes and no. The characters are amalgamations of certain personality traits of people I have known, blended with the personalities of dogs I have had the honor to adopt.  After you have read the book, I’d love to know who was your favorite character and why.

    Get to Know the Wolves of The First Wolf Pack: A Dog’s Fable

    -Arn and Versa:  the first Magnificent Ones who establish The First Wolf Pack

    -Tria:  the one who must overcome her viciousness and emotional flaws to become the greatest wolf that ever lived, and in the process, saves her species from extinction

    -Jett:  Tria’s “twin” brother who is her equal in size and strength, but with calmness of heart

    -Fic:  the wolf who sees into the hearts of wolves and men and saves Tria from insanity

    -Bord and Casso:  emaciated orphan wolves adopted into The First Wolf Pack who are willing to risk their lives for their newfound pack

    -Barr:  the only wolf great enough for Tria

    -Ellip:  the beautiful, clever, smart aleck bitch who steals Jett’s heart

    -Ket the Elder:  the most evil and cunning of lone wolves who seeks to destroy The First Wolf Pack

    -Bingley:  the modern Airedale Terrier dog who is granted the right to speak human by the great wolf spirit and narrates the story—hence it is subtitled “a dog’s fable”

  • How did you get interested in fiction writing?

    It had impetus from two sources. The first source was the story about two ancient wolves I made up on a long car ride to entertain my wife. It was entertaining enough that she suggested I jot down some notes, which lay dormant for several years. The second thing that stimulated my interest was hearing an interview with Dean Koontz. I was impressed by his keen view on life and his love of writing fiction. I then took the opportunity to read some of his books during commercial airline flights while traveling on business.

    What interesting facts did you learn about history, wolves, or other topics from your research for the book?

    • The history of the Lupa, the Capitoline Wolf, which dates back to 295 BC.
    • Wolves’ sensory ability to smell while inhaling and exhaling.
    • I was surprised by the approximate 10% genetic variation between wolf and dog; I thought the difference would be less.
    • The geological dynamics of the subduction zone around The Bay of Naples.

    Where did you get the idea for this book?

    The opening scene and the characters of Arn and Versa, including their names, came purely out of my imagination. A few years later a friend gave me an article that reported the earliest zooarchaeology evidence for the origin of wolves was from Italy. Once I matched my ancient wolf characters to Italy, adapting the legend of Romulus and Remus followed.

    Are any of the characters based on real people?

    Yes and no. Other than the historical characters who are obvious, my anthropomorphized wolves are amalgamations of certain personality traits of people I have known, blended with the personalities of dogs I have had the honor to adopt. 

    Which character(s) were the most fun to write about?

    That is a very hard question to answer. I love all of the members of The First Wolf Pack. If I had to pick one, I’d pick two—Arn and Tria. They each had the most psychologically-complex personalities, especially their recoveries from selfishness and ignorance.

    What is the central message of this book?

    The main message is the importance of humility to achieve courage and find fulfilment; plus the overall benefit of the immutable virtues of the Wolf Ways to maximize the success of family and community.

    What would you like readers to learn from this book?

    I hope that readers might contemplate where and when they see God in nature. Also, wolves are intelligent, regal creatures with a highly-effective social structure. The characteristics they exhibit in the story encourage us all to work together in a cooperative mindset.

    Do you have any new books in the works?

    Yes, I am focused on writing one book right now about prejudice and redemption in depression-era  Chicago. I have another set of ideas on the drawing board, but it’s too soon to speak of it.



  • Wednesday - February, 13, 2019

    Stop Making Elevator Speeches

    Barbara Reed - - No Comments.

    Here is a great article to stop telling people what you do and start making meaningful connections.

    Never Again Give An Elevator Speech

    October 25, 2015 by samhorn

    “It’s not about you. It never was.” – actress Diane Keaton.

    Do you know anyone who likes listening to a speech? Me neither.

    Speeches are lectures. Who wants to be lectured?

    That’s why, from now on when someone asks, “What do you do?” never again TELL them.  What?! Here’s an example to show what I mean.

    Years ago, I was on a speaking tour with my sons. We had a night free in Denver, so we went downstairs to ask the concierge, “What do you suggest?”

    He took one look at Tom and Andrew and said, “You’ve got to go to D & B’s.”

    We were from Maui at the time and had no idea what he was talking about. We asked, “What’s that?”

    He must have known that trying to explain it would only confuse us. Instead, he asked a qualifying question, “Have you ever been to Chuck E. Cheese?”

    My sons nodded enthusiastically.

    He smiled and said, “D & B’s is like a Chuck E. Cheese … for adults.”

    Bingo. Ten seconds and we knew exactly what it was and wanted to go there. They should have put him on commission.

    Why did that work so well? He turned a one-way elevator speech into a two-way elevator connection.  Here’s an example of how you can do the same.

    A man approached me before a presentation and said, “I’m going to tell you something I haven’t told many people. I’m an introvert. I go to conferences all the time, but then I hide out in my hotel room because I hate networking.”

    “What do you mean?”

    “I’m uncomfortable with small talk. Plus, I work in tech. I can never explain what I do in a way people can understand it. It’s so awkward, I rather just avoid it.”

    I asked, “Want a way to introduce yourself that isn’t confusing or awkward, and that can actually lead to a meaningful conversation?”

    He came back with, “Is that a rhetorical question?”

    I asked, “Don’t tell to explain what you do. That’s like trying to explain electricity.  Instead, describe the real-world results of what you do that we can see, smell, taste and touch.”

    He thought about it for a moment and said something about credit cards, online retailers, financial software and computers. The light bulb went off in my mind. “Do you make the software that makes it safe for us to buy stuff online?”

    He lit up. “Yes! That’s exactly what I do.”

    “That’s good … but don’t tell people that.”

    He looked at me, puzzled. “Why not?”

    “Because if you explain, ‘I make the software that makes it safe for you to buy things online, they’ll go, ‘Oh,’ and that’ll be the end of the conversation.

    You don’t want to end the conversation; you want to open a conversation.”

    “So what do I do instead?”

    “Ask a three-part question that gives people an opportunity to share how they – or someone they know – may have experienced what you do.”

    “What’s this about a three part question?”

    “If you ask, ‘Have YOU ever bought anything online,’ and they say ‘No,’ you just ran into a conversation cul de sac.

    If you ask, ‘Have you, a friend or a family member ever bought anything online … like on eBay, Travelocity or Amazon?’ you just increased the odds they’ve benefitted from what you do or know someone who has.

    They may say, ‘Well, I never shop online. But my wife’s on Amazon all the time. She loves the free shipping.’

    Now, link what you do to what they just said, ‘Well, our company makes the software that makes it safe for your wife to buy things on Amazon.’

    ‘OOHH,’ they’ll probably say.  Believe me, an intrigued ‘OOOHH’ is a lot better than a confused ‘Huh?!’ or a disinterested ‘oh.’

    Their eyes will probably light up and their eyebrows will probably go up. They now relate to you and are more likely to remember you. Furthermore, you now have a mutually-relevant hook on which to hang a conversation which means you’re both more likely to want to continue the conversation.

    All this in 60 seconds and all because you stopped TELLING people what you do and started ASKING how they may have experienced what you do.”

    He actually got a little misty-eyed. I asked him, “What’s going on?”

    He told me, “I can’t wait to get home after this conference.”


    ” I can finally get across to my eight year old son what I do in a way he understands it.”

    That’s the power of turning an elevator speech into an elevator connection.

    How about you?  What do you say when asked, “What do you do?” What do your co-workers say?  Do your responses cause confusion or create connections?

    You might want to turn your next staff meeting into a brainstorming session where everyone crafts two-way introductions that genuinely engage people in mutually-relevant conversations that are a win for all involved.


    By the way, this is just one of 25 ways to create more mutually-meaningful communications featured in my new book Got Your Attention? How to Create Intrigue and Connect with Anyone.  You might want to check it out and discover for yourself why it’s been endorsed by Dan Pink, Keith Ferrazzi, Miki Agrawal and Marshall Goldsmith who says it’s a “must for every leader.”


  • Don’t Let a Communication Blunder Hurt Your Career

    Have you ever had to recall an email, issue corrections to a previous document or made a communication blunder that left you feeling a little embarrassed for not having caught the error? It happens and can even hurt your career.

    Communication Fail

    Not all communication errors can be undone

    Many people get so close to their work they no longer see the details. Often something seemingly obvious is overlooked because although your eyes see the words, your mind skips over them because it already knows what the words say or mean. Here’s a real-world case in point.

    When I worked for a technology provider one of the executives included me on an email asking recipients to review the announcement of a customer program for a new service initiative. I finally had time to look at it over lunch at my desk. I opened the email and read the first sentence. I couldn’t believe my eyes and concluded I must have read it wrong. I looked again. Then again. Nope, I read it correctly. I ran up the stairs to the exec’s office, stopping on the way to tell his admin to NOT launch the announcement under any circumstances. I interrupted the meeting in his office only to receive a barrage of angry words and reasons why my review was too late and couldn’t rival the 12 people who already had reviewed and approved it.

    I couldn’t get a word in with all of his blustering. Desperately, I wrote the name of the new service program vertically on his blank whiteboard – one word on each line – then I circled the letters that began every line. I turned to the executive and asked him if he really wanted to launch the program today. He stared at the white board slack-jawed remembering that 12 people – very smart business and technology experts – had been working with this program title for three months and never saw what I saw in seconds.


  • Of the many reasons to write more briefly, email may be the most important.

    Did you know, an average employee now sends or receives 121 emails per day, according to a recent report by the Radicati Group. If you are an executive or lead a large team, you probably receive a far greater amount. With so many emails flooding our inboxes, it’s no wonder response to emails can be slow.

    Is there a way to get better response to your emails? The answer is yes.

    The email app Boomerang conducted a data study and found that emails between seventy-five and one hundred words in length had the best response rates. Although the response rate diminished slowly after that, talk to any busy person and they’ll tell you they prefer emails that are brief and get straight to the point.

    Keep your emails BRIEF, number or list key points, use a subject line that clearly describes the email content, and directly tell recipients what you need them to do and by when.

  • Is your company speaking in one brand voice? Here’s why it’s important.

    Surveys find that the majority of marketing and sales executives recognize the importance of messaging in building brand equity, customer preference and competitive differentiation.  Yet few are satisfied with their sales and frontline employees’ ability to deliver targeted messages in the key areas of value and solution selling.

    The growing awareness of the need for developing consistent, targeted messages provides a unique opportunity for marketers to develop a unified sales and marketing communication platform that articulates a compelling value proposition that directly impacts customer acquisition and retention.  It encompasses every customer touch point from the Web site, social media, sales collateral, print and online communication to customer service applications and sales presentations.

    The following steps provide a systematic methodology to develop a unified messaging platform that is directly tied to increasing business value and meeting organizational objectives:

    1. Understand what’s at stake.

    When companies fail to speak in one brand voice, company credibility is compromised and the brand message is not delivered. Moreover, thousands of cross-selling opportunities are lost, customer satisfaction is diminished and brand equity is diluted.  When an organization fully understands how unified messaging impacts the bottom line, commitment to the concept increases dramatically.

    1. Evaluate objectives.

    Before sales and marketing efforts can be aligned, overall objectives must also be aligned and agreed upon.

    1. Create your value proposition.

    Articulating features and benefits is no longer enough. Customers want to understand what you do in clear and simple terms that speak to their needs.

    1. Define competitive differentiation.

    This is often the most difficult step, particularly in a saturated market. The goal is to identify what truly sets a company apart in real terms.

    1. Craft your messages.

                Organize, prioritize and articulate key messages that tell a compelling story.

    1. Get key stakeholders to buy-in before going to market.

    Create internal buy-in to the messaging to help develop internal evangelists.

    1. Train executives, sales force and customer-facing employees.

    Introduce the messaging in interactive role-playing scenarios that allow employees to internalize and practice the messages.

    1. Develop an aligned go-to-market strategy.

    With unified, consistent messaging in place that supports business objectives, the foundation is in place to create a go-to-market strategy that achieves tangible results.

    1. Measure effectiveness.

    The approach outlined above builds a platform for marketers to gauge effectiveness based upon business objectives and demonstrate return on investment to the business.


  • Every industry uses its own particular jargon. You have no doubt heard or read some of these marketing communications terms:  value proposition, positioning and buyer persona, to name just a few. The question is, do you really know what they mean?

    The goal of all communication is to be understood, so let’s define some of the concepts that often mean different things to different people. (Note:  this is a handy post to bookmark or share with your team.) (more…)

  • If you can’t bother to get the details right, what does that say about your company, product or service? Overlooked details —  no matter how small — can add up to create the wrong impression about you and your company. Worse yet, they can create confusion that leads to lost opportunities and sales.

    Suppose you sent out a direct mail piece, handed out a brochure or launched a website that misspelled the words “accuracy” or “quality”? The error just might overshadow the message. Perhaps the product specifications on your website don’t match the specifications in your product catalog. Not only can that impact your credibility, but the confusion could cost you a sale. I once worked for an educational company who put the wrong phone number in their school and library mailer. The phone number looked correct, but no one actually called the number to verify its accuracy. Imagine the surprise of the recipients who reached a phone sex line when they called to inquire about an encyclopedia. Are you starting to get the picture? (more…)