Worth Reading and Watching I

Some online stories and videos that are worth reading and watching. Why one professional cyclist refused to quit a race, even when most of his fellow cyclists dropped out.

A tragedy that hits close to home: A Manhattan mother jumped eight stories to her death with her infant son strapped to her chest. Miraculously the baby not only lived but his only injuries were a few scrapes and bruises.

This short 30 second clip shows that digital isn't a good replacement for all paper--at least not yet.

Sometimes teenagers can be really stupid. I say this as someone who may have done equally stupid things. Thankfully, smartphones weren't around to record any of it.

Several writers are trying their hand at writing stories about Mormon missionaries. So far they've failed to find an audience. The reason? Apparently they don't feel authentic. (And, might I add, you can only tell the same story so many times.)

The future of typing: Smartphones are reinventing—and ditching—the keyboard. (Link may expire.)

A man who dressed as a superhero to fight petty crime has hung up his outfit after he was beaten up. Below you'll find an interview he did with a UK TV station.

The Third

Valor Publishing

I’m thrilled to announce that my new novel "The Third" has been picked up by Valor Publishing and will be coming to a bookstore near you. The tenative release date is May 4, 2010.

About The Third.

To avoid an ecological catastrophe, draconian environmental laws—including strict limits on family size—are passed to save the human race. As a recycler, Ransom Lawe does his part to protect the planet by breaking down old homes and turning them into new material to help build a more environmentally friendly city.

But when Ransom learns that his wife, Teya, is pregnant with an illegal third child, the love he feels for his wife and unborn child outweighs the risks that come with concealing the pregnancy. With the Census Bureau this close to discovering their secret, Ransom is forced to make a decision that could save his family or tear them apart forever.

More information coming soon including exclusive excerpts, book trailer, and book tour dates.

Join my email list and become the first to get updates on "The Third" and other exclusive information.

Book Review: Sea Changes by Gail Graham

Sea Changes by Gail Graham

Ever since the late wife died, I've had a hard time reading fiction where the main character is a widow or widower. Thought the authors try hard, most of them don't do a good job of capturing what it's like to lose a spouse. Oh sure, most of them do a good job describing the sense of loss and grief that accompanies the death of a spouse, but when it comes to the internal emptiness that comes with it, most of them fall short.

So when I learned that Gail Graham's latest novel, Sea Changes, was about a widow living in Australia who is struggling to move on with her life two years after her husband's death, I was tempted to pass on the book without even reading it. The last thing I wanted was wade through page after page of self-pity.

Thankfully, I decided to give the book a chance.

Sea Changes is about American expatriate Sarah Andrews. She lives alone in a small house. She's mostly estranged from her two children. Despite living in Australia for thirty-some-odd years she still hasn't adjusted to life in Sydney. She stays in Australia only because her daughter lives there. Sarah's only real human contact comes from weekly therapy sessions with a psychologist named Kahn. Despite seeing him for nearly two years, he's been of little help. Most of her therapy sessions involve her talking and Kahn saying very little and abruptly ending the sessions on time.

Thinking that life holds little purpose for her, Sarah decides to swim far enough out to sea that she'll be too tired to return and drown. But as her strength fails her, a girl names Bantryd appears and takes her to an underwater world. Later Sarah wakes up on the beach and wonders if everything she has just experienced was a dream. The incident prompts a change in Sarah. She begins to see more of a purpose in the world. She also is determined to find out if the underwater world she visited was real or simply her imagination.

Graham does a great job of capturing the feelings that come years after losing a spouse. However, she's smart enough not to make widowhood the focus of her story. Instead the story is really about the journey that comes when life suddenly changes. It's about rebirth and learning that even when we're left alone in the world, there are people and places waiting to be discovered if only we take a step out of our day-to-day routines.

In fact, the most satisfying part of the book was seeing how Sarah finally became her own woman and changed from a woman who saw no purpose in life to one where she wasn't going to let anyone tell her what to do. And the best part? The book had the one of the best ending to a novel that come across in years. It doesn't matter if you've never lost a spouse or never read a fantasy novel in your entire life. Graham has written a beautiful novel that will stay with me for years.

5 stars (out of five) for the unforgettable book Sea Changes.

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 Other Love of His Life

Amy Paturel has the My Turn column in the latest issue of Newsweek which, interestingly, deals with her fiancé and herself having to make peace with the dead wife before they could move on. A lot of her emotions echo what women who are dating widowers have emailed me over the years. Writes Patruel:

I pored over her pictures trying to learn everything I could about the woman who came before me. She would always hold a place in Brandon's heart, so I needed to know who she was.

A chill came over me when I visited her memorial page and read through the online guest book: "No one could ever fill her shoes," someone wrote. That launched me into my next search: "dating a widower." Every site I visited warned of men who disappear after a few months out of guilt, those who constantly draw comparisons to their late spouse and those who live in the tragic state of "what if?" Brandon hadn't done any of those things.

But then I read this: "If he has pictures of her on the walls, clothes of hers in the closet and trinkets of their life together on display, he is not ready."

Brandon insisted he wanted to move on, that she was dead and he was not. He even avoided the red flags I had read about. About a month into the relationship, the ring came off. Pictures were tucked away and replaced. Slowly, her clothes began to disappear from the closet.

Yet I still grappled with the feeling that I might never measure up to what he lost. In his mind, she will always be 33 and beautiful. Me? I'll get gray hair, wrinkled skin and flabby thighs. What's more, their relationship will remain perfect, frozen forever in newlywed bliss. In six short months, they didn't weather the storms that come with age and time: sleepless nights caring for newborns, arguments over money, in-law drama.

Her essay is a good vignette on what it takes for both people to find peace and start a new life together.

You can read Paturel’s essay here.

(Thanks for the link, Erin!)

Worth Reading VIII

Articles I'd love to comment on if I had the time. All are worth reading. The Courage of Detroit by Mitch Albom (SI.com) This was Christmas night. In the basement of a church off an icy street in downtown Detroit, four dozen homeless men and women sat at tables. The smell of cooked ham wafted from the kitchen. The pastor, Henry Covington, a man the size of two middle linebackers, exhorted the people with a familiar chant.

All Bets Are Off: How Rick “The Free Capitalist” Koerber’s Real-Estate Scheme Helped Wreck Utah’s Economy by Eric Peterson (Salt Lake City Weekly) Critics say Rick Koerber has done his share to contribute to the state’s economic meltdown: home prices sinking into a seemingly bottomless pit, a frozen-stiff credit market and growing unemployment.

Obama's Early Stumbles by Camille Paglia (Salon.com) Readers ask, Camille dishes: On Democratic woes, the Weather Underground, Kanye West, Freud, alleged gay genes and "the long sleep."

Worth Reading VII

Pyramid Schemes Are as American as Apple Pie by John Steele Gordon (Wall Street Journal)But Wall Street's most famous Ponzi scheme was, like the present one, no small affair. And its principal victim was a man few associate with Wall Street at all -- Ulysses S. Grant.

“The End” As a Weapon by Tom Krattenmaker (USA Today) Some environmentalists have their own fixation with the apocalypse — just not the biblical one. This involves the wrath of nature and the ecological end times. But fear is an ineffective tool for any cause.

Apple and the Peril of Innovation by Don Reisinger (cnet) Although I'm sure that some Apple zealots out there won't want to hear this, I'm afraid that Apple's capacity to deliver groundbreaking products every few months at its various events is severely diminished.

Worth Reading VI

Let Detroit Go Bankrupt by Mitt Romney (The New York Times)In a managed bankruptcy, the federal government would propel newly competitive and viable automakers, rather than seal their fate with a bailout check.

Screenwriting Guru McKee Says Hollywood is Finished (Breitbart.com) Robert McKee contends that today's most creative writers have sought refuge in television.

The Right to Win by Thomas Sowell (JewishWorldRewiew.com) When the majority of the people become like sheep, who will tolerate intolerance rather than make a fuss, then there is no limit to how far any group will go.

Worth Reading V

The Uses of Adversity by Malcom Gladwell (The New Yorker)Can underprivileged outsiders have an advantage?

Nationalizing Detroit by The Wall Street Journal Editoral Page In the Washington mind, there are two kinds of private companies. There are successful if "greedy" corporations, which can always afford to pay more taxes and tolerate more regulation. And then there are the corporate supplicants that need a handout.

Sometimes ‘Rights’ Are Wrong by Thomas Sowell (Jewish World Review) None of us has a right to other people's approval.

How to Be Rich by Mark Cuban

In my Worth Reading II post on Saturday, I linked to a great post by Mark Cuban titled “How to Be Rich.” It’s a great read and it’s something that anyone who wants to be rich should read. However, there’s one specific part of Cuban’s post I want to comment on. Cuban writes:

The 2nd rule for getting rich is getting smart. Investing your time in yourself and becoming knowledgeable about the business of something you really love to do

It doesn’t matter what it is. Whatever your hobbies, interests, passions are. Find the one you love the best and GET A JOB in the business that supports it.

It could be as a clerk, a salesperson, whatever you can find. You have to start learning the business somewhere. Instead of paying to go to school somewhere, you are getting paid to learn. It may not be the perfect job, but there is no perfect path to getting rich.

This is invaluable advice – and one that most people won’t tell you. Most people will tell you that the path to success lies in the form of a college degree. While it’s true that those with college degrees earn more money than those that don’t, it doesn’t mean that a college degree will make you rich.

A college degree (or any degree for that matter) is valuable but it only goes so far. What’s far more valuable – as Cuban states – is knowledge. A bachelor’s degree simply means you had four years worth of endurance to write enough papers and jumped through enough hoops. It doesn’t mean you know squat about the subject your degree is in or will become a success.

Think about it. How many people with bachelor’s degrees actually work in the field that they graduated in? How many more are underemployed despite having a college degree?

Let’s face it. A bachelor’s degree is quickly becoming equivalent of what a high school diploma was two generations ago – a security blanket that will open doors to a comfortable, middle-class lifestyle. It also makes it more likely you’ll be stuck in a boring 8-5 job for the rest of your life (or until you either save enough money or your 401k grows to the point where you don’t have to live off it).

The devaluation of college degrees is result of our public school system pushing to get more and more people into college – whether or not college is the right career path for them. As a result bachelor’s degrees have less valuable. And it shows. From 2000-2007 the median income for those with bachelor’s degree fell 3%. (So did the median income for people with Master’s degrees and Ph.Ds. Only those with professional degrees – doctors and lawyers – saw an increase.)

It may not be a bad life, but a college degree in and of itself isn’t going to make you rich.

Cuban continues:

The nature of our country’s business infrastructure is that it is destined to be boom and bust. Booms are when the smart people sell. Busts are when rich people started on their path to wealth.

The current economic climate is creating opportunities for those that are ready. Instead of looking for those opportunities, a lot of people are going back to school. While this choice might make sense for some people, it doesn’t make sense for everyone. Instead a couple of online or certification courses might make more sense and using that as leverage to get hired in an industry that will help you learn what you really need to know to be successful.

Depending on what you want to do with your life, college may or may not be a good first step. But college isn’t going to make you or anyone else rich. Instead working hard and dealing honestly with others is the first step. Then learn everything you can about the industry and field you want to succeed at and figure out how to get your foot in the door is the second. The third, as Cuban writes, is having the patience to wait for the right opportunity.

Then you’ll be rich.

Worth Reading II

Dodd and Countrywide by The Wall Street Journal Editoral PageThe Senator Should Take the Witness Stand

How To Get Rich by Mark Cuban (Blog Maverick) It doesn't suck to be rich. It just takes a lot of work to get there.

Nobody's dummy by Camille Paglia (Salon.com) Liberals underestimate Sarah Palin's vitality and -- yes -- smarts at their own peril. Plus: Obama's presidential air, Biden's condescending mugging, feminism's lost sisters.