Book: Sailing an Alien Sea

I love reading books written by friends. Knowing how incredibly hard it is to write a book, I enjoy fiction even more, since it’s something I’ve never tried to write.

My friend Cindy Gold wrote Sailing an Alien Sea about a year ago. I read it last month and loved it.

I’ve known Cindy and her husband Terry Gold since 1996, shortly after I moved to Boulder. I was an early board member, then angel investor, and subsequently VC investor in Terry’s company Gold Systems. Terry worked incredibly hard at Gold Systems, along with many people who worked for the company through the years. It went from an idea and a few founders to an almost $10 million revenue company, before growth peaked about a decade ago. Over the past five years, the company had a steady, but slow decline, being close to break even every year, but never becoming solidly profitable or generating additional growth. After numerous painful layoffs and several near misses to sell the company, Gold Systems finally shut down early this year. Throughout the entire process, Terry was a tireless leader who never gave up and, even after two acquisitions feel apart at the end, he still tried to find a home for the remaining employees. While my investment in Gold Systems returned $0 to me, I’ll have lifelong respect for Terry and will always consider him a close friend.

Ok – that paragraph should put you in the mood for this book. Cindy is a genius writer. Her story likely has some autobiographical parts, as most first novels do. She writes the story of two teenage girls growing up in Santa Fe. They are an unlikely pair of friends and they travel down different paths as they get older. Much of the book is through the eyes of Sylvie, who is expect is channeling some of Cindy’s wit, style, and personality, which is sharp and deliciously direct. This is no romanticized story of coming of age – it’s complicated, challenging, often disappointing, and sometimes heartbreaking. But against this challenging backdrop, these girls are amazing. I’m not a reader of “chick lit” and this doesn’t fall in that genre, but rather something I enjoy to read, which I refer to as “human fiction.”

Entrepreneurship isn’t easy. Relationships aren’t easy. Life isn’t easy. And writing a first novel is really fucking hard.

Cindy – well done. Gang, if you want some a great first novel to chew on, grab Sailing an Alien Sea.

  • Iris Soda Cracker

    Maybe you could post a few columns on “failure.” How does your friends deal with his long time company failing. There is the age factor. It is one thing to fail when you are 25 quite another when you are 50. This is a bit of a dirty secret. How do people deal with it? What stories have you heard both good and bad. When we are young we are immortal as we age we begin to read the obits.

    • Good suggestion for me to do more on Failure.

      Some stuff here –

      • Iris Soda Cracker

        Thanks. There is a terrible downside to failure and it ought to be talked about: divorce, bankruptcy (personal) even suicide. Not the norm but understanding ahead of time what can happen might make it easier to swallow. Also there are likely signs one should heed way early….just a start on the subject no one wants to name or deal with…

      • DJ

        This has been on my mind a lot lately. I’m in my mid-forties and haven’t had a big hit that guarantees a comfortable retirement. Do I keep doing the startup thing or look for something secure and steady? I expect to always be doing some kind of work, but it’s still prudent to plan for a sudden long-term illness or (more likely) age discrimination/loss of skills making it difficult to earn substantial income in the twilight years.

        • Unfortunately there is no simple answer to this question.

  • Barnett Williams

    What about taking a ‘leap’ with a startup? There is risk involved, obviously, but what are your thoughts on taking the plunge? I’m 25- is it too late? Too early?