REMINDER: Media Appearnce: Living the Dream Mom

Just a reminder that I'm scheduled to appear on Living the Dream Mom internet radio show TODAY (July 28) at 10:00 a.m. EST (7:00 a.m. PST). The topic? Married to a Widower. Guests include a woman who married a widower with three children and since has had one of her own. Should be a fun and lively discussion. You can listen to the show by clicking here then clicking the Live On Air button in the top right-hand corner.

If you want to call in and ask questions, the number is 1-877-864-4869 or you can click on the Live Chat button on this page during the show to address your questions there!

Media Apperance: Living the Dream Mom Radio

I'm scheduled to appear on Living the Dream Mom internet radio show this Thursday (July 28) at 10:00 a.m. EST (7:00 a.m. PST). The topic? Married to a Widower. Guests include a woman who married a widower with three children and since has had one of her own. You can listen to the show by clicking here then clicking the Live On Air button in the top right-hand corner.

If you want to call in and ask questions, the number is 1-877-864-4869 or you can click on the Live Chat located at the top of this page during the show to address your questions there.

Book Publishers Wake Up! The Future of Reading Is Digital!

The Future of Reading is Digital

In the latest issues of Wired, Clive Thompson writes:

Books are the last bastion of the old business model—the only major medium that still hasn't embraced the digital age. Publishers and author advocates have generally refused to put books online for fear the content will be Napsterized. And you can understand their terror, because the publishing industry is in big financial trouble, rife with layoffs and restructurings. Literary pundits are fretting: Can books survive in this Facebooked, ADD, multichannel universe?

To which I reply: Sure they can. But only if publishers adopt Wark's perspective and provide new ways for people to encounter the written word. We need to stop thinking about the future of publishing and think instead about the future of reading.

Every other form of media that's gone digital has been transformed by its audience. Whenever a newspaper story or TV clip or blog post or white paper goes online, readers and viewers begin commenting about it on blogs, snipping their favorite sections, passing them along. The only reason the same thing doesn't happen to books is that they're locked into ink on paper.

Release them, and you release the crowd.

I hope every publisher in the world reads Thompson’s article and breaks out of the old, archaic ways of publishing and marketing books.

Most publishers still don’t get it. Sure, they’ll publish a chapter or two online. Maybe even make slick trailers to get some hype. But only one publisher that I’m aware of allows the entire content of their books to be published online. Publishing entire novels online and giving people a chance to share that content or hype it on social networking sites is, as far as I know, unheard of.

Yet there’s never been a better way to market books to people then the Internet. Posting an entire book online and providing a way for others to share or highlight portions of that content on Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, GoodReads, Shelfari, and other sites is a great way to build an audience and SELL books.

In an industry that suffering from cutbacks and lagging book sales, publishers worry about losing books sales if they post the content online.

Guess what? They won’t.

They’ll actually sell more books because more people will be exposed to it. I’m willing to bet they’ll even find a market for some of their books that they didn’t know existed before.

Writes Thompson:

You're far more likely to hear about a book if a friend has highlighted a couple brilliant sentences in a Facebook update—and if you hear about it, you're far more likely to buy it in print. Yes, in print: The few authors who have experimented with giving away digital copies (mostly in sci-fi) have found that they end up selling more print copies, because their books are discovered by more people.

Still publishers wring their hands when they think about posting the entire conents of their books online. "What about Napster?” they say. “It almost bankrupted the record industry.”

Here’s the dirty little secret of the free online music days: CD sales actually rose during the heyday of free digital music. That’s right. People bought more music because they had a chance to sample it first. Musicians who would have languished in obscurity suddenly found an audience because more people heard about it.

Instead of embracing the new technology and trying to find a way to share music and make money from it (like creating slick online stores where people could by songs and albums), the record companies sued the hell out of everyone they could think of. Instead Apple came in and filled the gap and turned their company around. Now Apple is raking in billions of dollars that could have gone straight to the record companies and musicians if they had embraced technology instead of fought it.

Right now publishers are in a unique position to develop technology that allows people to read books, share portions of the content on their websites or social networking sites, allow readers comments and feedback, and link to places where their books can be bought. Something akin to Google books, only on steroids.

And for the record, I have no problem taking my just completed novel and working with a publisher to post the entire contents online for people to read. As far as far as I’m concerned, it will not only help me sell more print copies but give me a chance to see who the book really resonates with. My guess is that, like my memoir, Room for Two, I’ll discover a completely underserved market that is hungry for its contents.

The challenge is finding a publisher who’s willing to be the vanguard and embrace the digital revolution that has consumed the rest of the world.

The Importance of a Good Editor

Behind every good writer is a good editor. Good writers who have a good editor (and a good relationship with that editor) know he or she can help with the storytelling process and give needed insight to turn an okay book into a great book. The same is true with TV shows and movies. After the show or movie is shot, a good film editor takes images, dialogue, pacing, music, and actor’s performances to make the film or TV show into and turns it into a something the audience will become whole absorbed it.

Like good book editors, if film editors are good at what they do, the audience won’t be aware of the editor’s influence over the film or TV show.

So my hat’s off to whoever edited the first episode of LOST. By cutting out the original first minute of footage from the show, they not only set the tone for the entire series, but made the first episode an instant classic.

See the original beginning of LOST below.

The Lost Art of Letter Writing

A Handwritten Letter

I just did something most people don’t do anymore.

I wrote a letter.

A real, honest-to-goodness letter.

You know, the kind that involves putting down your thoughts on paper, putting said thoughts in an envelope, attaching a stamp and leaving it for the mailman.

It’s something I rarely do anymore.

And you know what, I miss it.

There’s something real about holding a piece of paper in your hand that someone has taken the time to pen to paper and compose their thoughts. I like it better than email.

Don’t get me wrong. I wouldn’t go back to just stamps and letters. I love being able to send photos of the kids to family members or chapters of my book to friends for their feedback at a click of a button. I like being able to access it wherever life takes me. And I like that friends and family to do the same to me.

But there’s just something special about seeing information written on the envelope, opening a the envelope, and seeing a page or two of handwritten content that just makes the experience so much more personal than seeing the same message from someone pop into your inbox. Anyone can type. Who actually takes the time to think about what they want to say then actually use a pen to compose their thoughts and put in the mailbox these days. That’s so much effort!

I don’t know what it is about letters I like.

Maybe it’s the personal touch.

Maybe it’s the fact that in the days before email I was a prolific letter writer.

Maybe it’s the handwritten letter I received from an old friend earlier this week that prompted me to respond in kind.

Whatever the reason, today I find myself wishing there were more letters in my mailbox and fewer emails in my inbox.

The Digital TV Divide

TV Rabbit Ears

I’m deciding whether or not to buy one of those digital TV converter boxes. You know, the ones that people who don’t subscribe to cable or satellite will need once digital TV goes into effect on February 17 of next year.

If it wasn’t for LOST, I’d probably just let my TV reception turn to static in February and get rid of the set altogether considering how little I or anyone at our home watches it. The only time I really spend watching anything is one or two movies on the weekend that come in the mail from Netflix. And even then Marathon Girl and I are more inclined to watch them on a laptop or portable DVD player instead of the television since the two of us watch movies in bed after the kids are asleep.

I don’t think our kids would miss the TV much either. Yes, they watch the occasional kid TV show but would be just as happy watching one of their Thomas the Train DVDs or 20 minutes of an animated Pixar movie.

Besides, with shows being broadcast over the Internet the next day and (usually) being available on DVD before the next season begins, I’m seeing less and less of a need for regular broadcast television. Were I to ditch the TV altogether, the only thing I might miss is watching is the occasional professional football/baseball/basketball game or presidential conventions and debates though (thankfully!) the latter only comes around once every four years.

Which brings me back to the one reason I’m seriously leaning toward buying a digital converter box: LOST. Sure, I could watch it the next day on or wait until it comes out on DVD and go on a 2-day LOST bender, but there’s something about anticipating the next episodes twists and turns every week and being able to blog about it and talk about the latest LOST theories with Marathon Girl, friends, and co-workers that makes watching it every week fun.

So I’ll probably end up buying a digital TV converter box sometime this winter. But only because of LOST. However, there’s a good chance once that LOST comes to a conclusion next year, our TV will have outlived its usefulness and come to an end too.

Why I Never Became a Journalist

Watching Charles Gibson’s series of interviews with Sarah Palin makes glad I never became a journalist. I majored in journalism my sophomore year of college. As a result I ended up taking a bunch of journalism classes and wrote for the college paper. It seemed to be a good fit. I love current events and writing and journalism was a natural way to blend the two interests.

By the end the year, however, I realized a career in journalism wasn’t for me. It wasn’t the work that turned me off to that specific career. I enjoyed the fact finding and writing parts of the job. Instead it was the attitude of the professional journalists I came in contact with that turned me off the career choice.

Reporters for the local paper would occasionally come in and talk to our journalism classes. They were arrogant, self-centered, and seemed to revel in the fact they could control the current events and news coverage in the local area. (This was back in 1993-1994 school year when the Internet was mainly traversed by computer science geeks and had not yet wreaked havoc on newspaper subscriptions and the advertising that supports them.)

I came in contact with other journalists when we headed down to the local newspaper building with other journalism students to print our papers. Occasionally I’d overhear their conversations. It was more of the same. Conversations about politicians and political causes they hated and how they couldn’t wait for a mistake could be made so they could destroy lives and careers. Objectivity among the professional journalists, at least in the town I lived in, wasn’t taken very seriously.

After the school-year ended, I was offered the chance to be the college paper’s editor. I initially accepted the job, then, after a couple weeks of contemplation realized that even if I could write objective stories and not have an arrogant attitude, I’d have a hard time working and interacting on a daily basis with people who did act that way. I turned down the offer down and transferred to another school.

I should mention that not every journalist I knew then and know now is that way. Paula, the editor of the college paper that I worked for, was a fabulous journalist and worked hard to get to the bottom of every story. I can say the same thing of Ember and a few others I know. Sadly, the majority of those I knew and have come to know aren’t that way.

I guess having seen and know how a reporter should handle him or herself (and seen the few good ones that do handle themselves in a professional manner) is what made watching Gibson’s interview so painful to watch. No, it wasn’t his tough questions I had a problem with (though I’d like to see Obama, Biden, and McCain subjected to a similar grilling) but Gibson’s condescending attitude toward Palin. It reminded me of the way some college professors look down at their students. You know, the one that aren’t really there to teach but view their students as some insignificant bug that’s hardly worth their time. The same attitude oozed from Gibson through ever moment of that interview. He – not the viewers – was going to decide whether or not Palin passed or failed his series of pop quizzes.

It was unfortunate, really, because a good reporter shouldn’t make him or herself part of the news story. Sadly, almost every article I read about the interview spent as much time rating Gibson’s performance as well as Gov. Palin’s.

It’s too bad journalists have taken this route. They play a vital and important role in any free society. Sadly the way many journalists have conducted themselves over the last 50 years, have made a lot of people discount what they read and see from the press unless it’s from a partisan source that already subscribes to their world view.

I’m optimistic that things can change. Unfortunately, there’s going to be a lot more financial hemorrhaging, layoffs, and declining number of viewers and readers until real change begins to occur.