I am not comfortable bringing up what I am about to bring up because it is not a topic people generally discuss. And while it shouldn’t embarrass me, it does. I believe in God. It is hard to explain what I even mean by that. The God I believe in doesn’t fit the standard image of our Christian God. There are no fiery clouds, no three-persons-in-one, no virgin births. All it means is I believe in a higher power that lends order and purpose to the universe.
It is not important whether you agree or disagree with me. I only mention it because it has influenced how I’ve spent my time. I used to pray in chapel every day during all four years of high school as part of my lunch break. When I went to college I upgraded from prayer to meditation, often accompanied by weed. I realize now that there was a kind of an emptiness in me. It manifested itself as a feeling of being ill-at-ease. It wasn’t a big deal. It was more of a minor nuisance at, say, the level of a canker sore.
One day, stoned out of my mind, I found this little sheet of paper that had a prayer on it. It came from Jeremiah 29:13. That passage says ‘You will find Me when you seek Me with all your heart’. And that’s what the paper said. “Repeat ‘I believe in God with all my heart’ – three time and really mean it – and God will reveal Himself to you.” So I said it. And I really meant it (and I was really stoned out of my mind). And I repeated it three times. And all of a sudden ba-bam! I heard the sound of the Universe. I shit you not. I heard the movement of the stars. I felt a power that was strong enough to move mountains – and I don’t mean as a euphemism. I mean ‘move mountains’ in a literal sense. It scared the shit out of me.
I soon realized that it was actually the deep bass tones of a truck engine going by outside my window. Or maybe it was a reflection of the quality of the weed. It might have been my mind just fucking with me; a sound only heard inside my head. But whatever it was, I was (un)duly impressed. And have remained convinced that God revealed himself to me for lo these many years. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying I’ve lived a good and faithful life. I’m just saying I believe in God. I’ll get back to way I am pushing this point in a while. For now I just needed to let that out.
I spoke to my business partners before my return from Madagascar and Dave told me they’d be happy to have me back. Dave did say that Jim had a concern. Jim was Amy’s right hand before we’d started the firm and now my third partner. Dave let me know that I’d have to make some sort of concession to get him to go along. Jim defined the pound of flesh he wanted to extract. He agreed that I could have my old position back but I wouldn’t be re-admitted as a member of the Board. As a Vice President, I’d be able to make day-to-day decisions affecting my business. But I would need to run any significant business decision by the Board. Dave intervened on my behalf. He added that the arrangement would hold for only the first year.
I returned to a bit of a mixed bag. On the plus side, the firm was bigger and healthier than ever. The company won virtually every contract Amy targeted. We were up to 300 people and doing over $30 million in annual gross sales. That is very good for a young professional services firm.
On the minus side, our technology base was weak enough to be teetering. And our software development practice drove our business. Many of our deliveries were sub-par and our clients were getting angry. Maybe worse, no one seemed to be aware that software applications were moving to the Web. Fortunately, I’d used my last year in Madagascar as a self-study opportunity. I was actually more current than I would have been even if I stayed working in DC. It took a lot of effort but I managed to turn the ship around.
I had also finished my third manuscript before leaving Madagascar. I spent part of each weekend editing it during the first year of my return. It was a techno-thriller about a robotics firm that needed to test a robotic arm. The arm worked by reading microchips implanted in the brain. The kicker was that, because the technology was so specialized, it needed a specific type of wound. The prototype trial needed someone with a left arm amputation below the elbow. With venture funding running out, the robotics company was getting frantic. They went to their last resort and contacted a criminal organization. They paid an organ harvesting crew to ‘create’ a victim with the necessary wound. The book was set in the Dominican Republic. It allowed me to put a bunch of sailing, sharks and Haitian voodoo culture in the mix.
One day I received a book contract in the mail. It was from a place called ‘Books In Motion’. They signed on to make it into an audiobook, and it left me with my printed book rights still intact. What a deal!
But like my other publishing misadventures, this one was also doomed to fail. Two years down the road, I still had no audiobook in sight. Then I got a letter from them saying, ‘Our business plans have changed. So has our Editor. We no longer plan to move forward with Cut Loose’. Oh well. I once again consoled myself with, ‘I didn’t like it very much myself’.