Re-Imaginary Friends

“Make the most of yourself, for that is all there is of you.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

“The more I practice, the luckier I get.”
Lee Trevino

Do you have a story you dream of sharing with the world? Or perhaps yours is a life experience, a collection of songs, special photographs, or even a horror film. But is your dream locked away for a lot of “good” reasons?

  • I’m not a writer (singer, photographer, etc.), I’m a _________.
  • Probably no one would be interested.
  • I don’t have any extra time.
  • I’m afraid it wouldn’t be good enough.
  • It’s just not practical.

Many friends seem to be re-inventing–or “re-imagining”– at least a part of themselves these days. Some have had that inner spark fanned by opportunity or circumstance. Some have finally just summoned the courage needed to fuel their re-imagination passion. With the hope you will find inspiration, encouragement, or just that final nudge, please let me introduce you to some of the folks I’m proud to call my re-imaginary friends.

Mike Mahan is a college professor and graphic designer. He also loves animals. As a gift to his wife, Mike published a photographic tribute to their first three years with Sadie & Church. I admit being biased, but I think there is nothing in the world that’s cuter than a Schnauzer puppy, and Sadie has a sweet personality. Church is friendly and pretty laid back. It’s a good thing she is, too. She’s the size of a small mountain lion.


Brian Talgo is a carpenter, stonemason, ecologist, and currently an IT engineer living in Oslo, Norway. After re-discovering several long-forgotten writing journals in his cellar, Brian wrote and published The Beauregarde Affair. It’s a slice-of-life story about a bunch of hipster youths occupying (okay, okay, “renting”) a house on Morningside Drive in 1970s Atlanta … with a hognose snake named Beauregarde. To put it mildly, the neighbors weren’t exactly pleased.


Eddie Rhoades couldn’t decide what he wanted to be when he grew up … so he went for it all. He’s a musician, graphic artist, songwriter, illustrator, Southern humorist (à la Lewis Grizzard), Lifetime Master Gardener, and a former aerospace tool designer. With contributions from his brother Robert and his daughter Amanda, Eddie has written and produced Last Man Standing, Universal Love, and Songs for Your Garden. Eddie’s songs will make you laugh, cry–laugh some more–and definitely tap your toes. Remember, when you’re laughing out loud at some of the lyrics (the song, ‘Toss It’, comes to mind . . .), it’s easy to forget to clap your hands over young children’s ears.


Vickie Holt is a clown, and I say that with the utmost respect. Perky the Clown, and her husband, Steve the Magician, entertain children of all ages, and share the message of Christianity. Vickie found the picture of my sister-in-law’s garden sundial in my Flickr photostream and asked if she could use it on the cover of her latest book, The Sundials of Heart Island. I was pleasantly surprised, and said I would be honored. The more amazing coincidence was that my nephew and his beautiful bride had recently gotten married in the gardens of  Boldt Castle … on Heart Island!


Bruce and Karen Talgo both work in the field of architectural engineering and sales, and they have always been passionate about music. Bruce has been writing lyrics for many years. Karen has a lovely singing voice and she plays the piano. They decided it was time to set Bruce’s lyrics to music. They worked out the melodies, cut demos in their basement, started their own record label, and put together a studio band of talented local artists. As a result, Corrected Visionaries recently released their debut album of blues / 80s progressive rock. Their first CD, Optical Delusions, is a long-time dream come true.


Joe Laipple is a behavioral psychologist and works as a business consultant for Aubrey Daniels International in Atlanta. After years of coaching executives and business leaders on how to get needed change to occur … and make it stick … Joe wrote Rapid Change: Immediate Action For the Impatient Leader. Filled with real world examples, Joe explains the behavioral science behind successful organizational change in practical, implementable terms.


If you have visited Rob Mahan Books before, you may know some of my own re-imagination story, but here’s the part perhaps you haven’t heard. With a dream of someday becoming a writer while working for nearly thirty years as an engineer, a potential but somewhat risky and definitely complex opportunity presented itself. I’m blessed with a wife who has never said, “No.” Instead, she has always said, “Let’s find a way to make it happen.” It’s the reason the dedication in An Irish Miracle reads:

To Linda
You made it possible
With love


I’m proud to call each of these folks re-imaginary friends. Consultant or clown, designer or salesman, mother, father, friend . . . whoever you are in your “real” life, I hope you find the opportunity, the courage, the support–whatever it takes–to make your dream come true. These good folks all did it, and you can do it, too. I know you can.

What do you re-imagine yourself doing five years from now . . . or tomorrow?

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“My Editor” – I Love Saying That

Three Red Pencils by Horia Varlan (CC BY 2.0)

As an engineer, I learned the value of getting “a fresh set of eyes” on anything I was designing. At each stage of the design process (paper napkin, 3D computer model, dimensioned drawings, etc.), it was always a good idea to have someone else look over my work and offer suggestions or catch mistakes, because The Rule of Tens applied. That rule meant that every error that made it another step in the design process before it was caught would be ten times more costly to fix. The last thing I wanted was a call from the fab shop supervisor. By then, the cost to correct an error in my design might include surrendering body parts.

As an author, the same ideas apply to writing a novel. While working on An Irish Miracle, I was very fortunate to have Robin Martin, of Two Songbirds Press, as “my editor”. I really do love saying “my editor” because of the tremendous value Robin’s “fresh set of eyes” and talent as a freelance editor brought to my writing. I was well past the “paper napkin” step, having already written three drafts, before I contacted Robin through the Editorial Freelancers Association website. Based on her detailed Evaluation and Critique, I wrote the fourth draft, which nearly doubled in length while making my plot stronger and my characters rounder. I was also able to correct writing errors that Robin had documented, eliminating instances of filtering, narrative exposition, and shifting points of view that would have jarred my readers out of their vivid and continuous readers’ dreams. After doing a full contextual edit of the fourth draft, Robin even found yet another “fresh set of eyes” for the final proofreading of my corrected and polished manuscript. From experience, she told me she was too familiar with it to proofread it herself.

Because of the collaboration with “my editor”, An Irish Miracle is nearly ready to be sent out, and I’m confident that I won’t be receiving any unwanted telephone calls from the fab shop supervisor!

Taking Feedback (Gracefully)

Photo Credit: Soggydan on Flickr

I didn’t do a very good job taking feedback from my “alpha” beta reader* on the first draft of my first novel, An Irish Miracle. One could say my initial responses were a bit defensive, as most of them started with “Well, I did that because . . .” It soon became obvious taking that approach would eliminate the possibility of future feedback from any beta reader, and I desperately needed all the feedback I could get. I was setting out on the path from engineer to author quite alone.

It took me several tries, but with some very helpful coaching, I started to catch on. My responses to feedback began sounding more like “That’s really interesting. Would you please tell me more about what you mean . . .” For the second draft, my circle of beta readers expanded to two. From that feedback, I learned the term “in media res” and rearranged the timeline of the entire story, which was a big improvement.

For the third and fourth drafts, my circle of beta readers continued to expand and I worked at my new skill of taking feedback gracefully. I got volumes of excellent critical feedback that helped me to polish my novel. I also made some observations about taking feedback on my writing:

  • The most critical feedback, often the most difficult to hear or to read, was absolutely the most helpful. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, I guess.
  • The feedback varied considerably, depending on how beta readers experienced the story through their own filters and life experiences, giving some insight into how a broader audience might react to the story and to the characters.
  • It was ultimately up to me, as the author, to decide how to treat each item of feedback I received. Whatever the decision, always gracefully and with sincere appreciation for the gifts of time, thought and effort the feedback represented.
  • It paid dividends to seek out beta readers who were a lot smarter than me.

*A beta reader reads a written work with an eye to improving story, characters, and general style before the work is published. Of course, my “alpha” beta reader is my lovely wife Linda, who is an avid reader in her own right and who is a lot smarter than me!