Monday, February 22, 2010

Faster, Higher, Stronger

Pages written since lost post: 57

Okay, I confess: I’m a complete Winter Olympics junkie. I love downhill, ski-jump, snow boarding, bobsled, luge, skeleton, short track, 1000 meter, cross country, and oh yes, figure skating– men’s women’s, pairs, ice dance. Once every four years, I even love hockey. For two weeks in February, I am glued to the television set for six to eight hours a day, cheering– not for a nation or an individual– but for the best. Because when records are broken, when personal bests are surpassed, when the impossible becomes history, gateways open up for all of us to surge through.

This is what I’ve learned from the Olympics this year:

You don’t make the podium by accident.

Every one of these kids had a dream, and they believed in it enough to be at the rink at four o’clock in the morning to practice, every morning, without fail, for fifteen years, rain, snow, sleet, bad mood, heavy date, flu, birthday, Christmas , New Year’s, whatever ; to move across country to study under the best coach; to leave their families, their friends and their lives behind to perfect their sport; sometimes they even give up their citizenship– for life!– for a chance to pursue excellence. They don’t do this part time. They don’t do this half way. Greatness is not something you achieve when you get around to it. Greatness is a lifetime commitment.

When they fall down, they get up again.

Bode Miller, Shaun White, Lindsey Vonn. Need I say more? Okay, I’ll say one more thing. Shaun White, having already locked down the gold, did not have to do the most dangerous trick of his career, the 1260 Double McTwist– which just happened to result in a spectacular crash at the X Games. He did it because when you’re the best, you can’t not do your best.

It’s always harder than you think it will be.

No one likes to hear this. No one likes to even think about it. But the truth is, sometimes your best isn’t good enough. Sometimes you work for years, train twelve hours a day, spend thousands on coaches, perfect your craft, do the best you can possibly do... and still fail. You fall on the throw-quad, crash a gate on the downhill, take a spectacular spill on the Super-G, and this in spite of everything you could do. You think it’s over. And sometimes, truth be told, it is. But sometimes you get up, start all over again, and make a spectacular comeback. Because champions know it’s always harder than you think it’s going to be. And 100% is rarely good enough.

No one who came to Olympic games said, “I came here to lose.” or “I came to play it safe.” No one got there by giving the effort what they had to spare. They came for the gold, and they gave it everything they had.

How about you?

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Catching Up

Pages written since last post: 267


As you can see from the above statistic, that pesky little thing called writing a book has once again interfered with keeping this blog up-to-date. Here's what you missed:

1) Favorite book of 2009 (only two months late!): The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak. This, friends and neighbors, is why there will always be paper books. This is a book you want to hold in your hands, savoring every word, touching the pages, marveling over the design. It's not only that the book within a book does, in fact, look as though it was painted on a cellar wall by a fugitive in Nazi Germany; it's not only the elegance of the story; it's not only the prose that makes you want to weep from the sheer beauty of it; it is all of those things that come together to make one perfect novel. This is why there will always be paper books.

Second Favorite Book :The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer. This book made reading fun again.

2)My take on the whole IPad/Amazon/Macmillan broohaha

Now I know that most of you who read this blog really don't know (or care) much about what's going on in the industry, and you are probably all the happier for it. Personally, I'm getting a little tired of it all too. But because everyone assures me that the world as we know it is at stake, and because I did spend a good bit of time before Christmas posting about e-readers, and-- most importantly-- because it actually makes for a semi-good story, here's my summation: (a caveat-- I very often get things wrong. For a much more coherent, and undoubtedly more accurate, depiction of the situation, go to this post by my favorite industry blogger, Nathan Bransford)

To support the launch of its seriously cool new Ipad mini-computer (some people have made the mistake of calling it an e-reader, but get real), Apple, sensing discontent in the publishing industry over Amazon.com's 9.99 pricing of e-books, went to the Big Six publishers and proposed a deal whereby e-books on the Ipad would be priced at 14.95, and publishers would receive 30% of retail (Amazon pays publishers 50% of retail; i.e. the hardcover price Even I can do the math on that). Macmillan seems to have been first to publicly snap up this gem of a deal, although I understand all six major publishers are either coming or have already come on board with it as well. All fine and good except Macmillan then went to Amazon.com and told them they would no longer be allowed to sell Macmillan e-books under any terms other than the ones Macmillan had agreed to with Apple (14.95). Amazon said Okay, fine-- and immediately deleted all the "buy" buttons for every Macmillan title they carried! Not just the e-books, but all the books.

Now here is what I found interesting. The vast majority of public opinion seems to be casting Macmillan as the victim in this gambit. Amazon is being accused of behaving childishly, of throwing a temper tantrum, of trying to control the marketplace, of bidding for a monopoly on e-books. No one seems to have much to say about who gathered the Big Six in an alliance against 9.99 pricing in the first place. And what about the Macmillan authors? They're the ones who lost sales over the course of a very, very long weekend while their publisher duked it out with the internet's biggest bookseller. But, again to my surprise, the Macmillan authors who have spoken out on this matter seem to be supporting their publisher. As I said at the beginning, I very often get things wrong. And sometimes I just don't get things at all.

The upshot is that Amazon.com admits that it will be forced to "capitulate at some point" to the demands of publishers on the 14.95 pricing (gee, do you think?). And I am downloading every 9.99 book I can while I can.

And, in case anyone is wondering: yes of course I want an Ipad! It has color!!

3)Enough about that; let's talk about ME. Those 267 pages cited above represent my first completed book of the year (the first half of which was written in the last two months of last year) which was e-mailed to my editor with 5 1/2 hours to spare before deadline. Yay, me. My goal this year is to complete two more books and at least two proposals (a proposal, for me, is 50-100 pages). My fantasy also includes 1)completing and self-publishing a book I started last year, just to see what all the fuss is about 2) writing a screen play (who says I don't know how??) 3) uploading at least ten of my out-of-print and reverted titles as e-books. The latter is not such a challenge if you have actual digital copies of your books, but in my case the titles are 20 years old, exist only as bound paperbacks, and have to be scanned into my computer... page, by page, by page. This is what I do for a living, folks. I am a writer.

4) What am I reading?

On my Kindle: Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann
Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert
In hardcover: An Irish Country Girl by Patrick Taylor
On my Ipod: Evidence by Jonathon Kellerman (hint: never download the unabridged version!)
On CD: 206 Bones by Kathy Reichs


Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to download more 9.99 e-books.