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On Dharma Bums, Eternity, Legacies & Champions: Publishing Highlights of 2012

Happy New Year!

Time to clean off the desk after a busy, eventful 2012…

Headshot- for proposalFirst of all, a big congratulations to my sweetheart, Martha Halda, whose memoir, A Taste of Eternity, is now at book proposal and agent stage.

Martha first thought of writing this book while recovering from a horrendous 1999 car accident in which she was pronounced clinically dead three times — and had a profound Near Death Experience that has defined her physical and spiritual life since.  To give you an idea of how far she has come from that accident? After her family was initially told she would be an invalid for the rest of her life, she went on to complete the 2002 Dublin Marathon, and lives a healthy, robust life today.

Now, she’s written the first three chapters of A Taste of Eternity, and looking forward to a 2013 publish date. Martha has also started a blog, in which she’ll share a few stories from the book and how her daily life continues to be touched by those precious minutes she spent directly in God’s hands.

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Between Christmas and New Year’s, I picked up a very interesting project: to write a Cliff Notes-type “specimen” for Barnes & Noble.  The book in question? One of my all-time favorite novels, The Dharma Bums. Once again, interest in the Beat generation and author Jack Kerouac is flying through the roof, this time because of the December 21 film release of On The Road, Kerouac’s breakthrough novel. When Kristen Stewart is one of the three lead actors (she plays Marylou), the movie figures to draw attention for younger moviegoers. Many will likely turn to the rich soil of Beat literature, which continues to speak to the young, disenfranchised, soul and purpose seekers.

However, The Dharma Bums project excites me for another reason. In the decade since the last time I read the 1958 autobiographical novel about Kerouac’s the dharma bumsawakening to nature and Buddhism, I’ve gotten to know the real-life Japhy Ryder, the novel’s protagonist. With this book, Kerouac turned mountain man-Buddhist-poet-conversationalist extraordinaire Gary Snyder into a cultural hero and the leader of the “rucksack revolution”, a good 15 years before Gary won the Pulitzer Prize for Turtle Island.  What amazes me is how little Kerouac deviated from Gary’s voice and character in what was supposed to be a fictional character. Every time I read Japhy Ryder’s dialogue, I could hear Gary expounding on something or another during the many times we would get together in Northern California. The actions, the convictions, the interests, the profound knowledge and wisdom … all Gary. And to think: he was only 25 when he and Kerouac had the experiences that formed the backbone of The Dharma Bums.

Ever read a novel where you personally know the protagonist? I hadn’t, either. It certainly creates a different experience, one that I hope will add reading insight for the Barnes & Noble customers who pick up this treatment later in 2013.

• • •

photoAlso on the shelves at Barnes & Noble, and newsstands throughout the country, is The Legacy Series Magazine. I was privileged to help conceptualize this magazine, as well as edit it. We began with a tribute to the late Steve Jobs and his enormous legacy to businesses and consumers (besides masterminding Apple products, he facilitated change or the creation of eight industries). Then we talked to some of the most visionary people and leading innovators in technology today, including Dallas Mavericks owner and Shark Tank co-star Mark Cuban, GE Senior VP Beth Comstock, bestselling author Ken Segall, Zinio Executive VP Jeanniey Mullen, Chris Voss of The Chris Voss Show, Ask.com co-founder (and my old high school friend) David Warthen, and iPhone Film Fest winner Craig Perkins.

We also wrote compelling features on the present and future courses of social media, filmmaking, technology, publishing, crowdfunding, music, green technology and cloud computing. All of these pieces brought out what I love most about fine magazine journalism: Great interviews, great insights, explanation of new concepts, and the writers’ distinct abilities to inject their personal experience and the stories of others into the material they were covering. You want to know what’s coming next in these areas? Get the mag.

The Legacy Series Magazine will be featured at MacWorld/iWorld in San Francisco in three weeks. We have a major announcement pending on possible multiple issues, but we will always produce the large annual publication in the fall.

• • •

TCW_r2_ecover-loresI also had the privilege of serving as co-author to Dr. Steve Victorson in The Champion’s Way. Steve and I spent three years gathering materials and writing this book, which revolves entirely around groundbreaking research Steve did in the late 1990s for his doctoral dissertation at Boston University. In that research, he interviewed more than 40 national, world and Olympic ski champions and top performers, and found 11 distinct characteristics in common between champions. These 11 characteristics are not found in any other books on the subject.

We put Steve’s findings to the test with champions in all sports — and they rang true, in every case. Thus, The Champion’s Way’s 200 pages explore the inner and outer qualities of champions, look at nearly 100 repeat winners in 15 different sports, and point out specific ways in which all of us can develop, sharpen and refine our own latent championship qualities. Besides plenty of great sports anecdotes, the lasting value of The Champion’s Way is how the 11 common characteristics can create top performance in our lives, no matter our vocation, sport or interest.

The Champion’s Way is available through bookstores nationwide, and in both print and Kindle form on Amazon.com.

 

 

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A Writing Month to Remember — And 7 Tips for Continuous Productivity

When I was working on One Giant Leap for Mankind, NASA’s 25th anniversary salute to the Apollo 11 moon landing, Apollo 10 commander Thomas Stafford introduced me to the “forcing function”. He said that many great achievements and accomplishments in our lives, and our society, come from a motivating factor that “forces” us beyond our limits. Or, it propels us to reach a target due date that might seem impossible at first glance.

Stafford was talking specifically about the race to the Moon in the 1960s, to fulfill President John F. Kennedy’s proclamation that we would land a man on the lunar surface and return him safely before the end of the decade. However, he added, “it (the forcing function) works for everything you really want to accomplish.”

That’s how November has felt to me: one big forcing function. I’ve been working with four deadlines all month. Last week, we finished producing The Legacy Series: Celebrating Innovation & Technology, a year-long project that will be released next week in print, online, mobile and tablet form. What a blast! Besides editing the publication, I wrote articles on the Future of Filmmaking, the late Steve Jobs’ long-term legacy, our “Innovation Nation”, and the Crowdfunding phenomenon. I also conducted wonderful interviews with some truly innovative, creative business and technology leaders: Jeanniey Mullen, a trailblazer and key international figure in digital publishing and email marketing; Chris Voss, one of Forbes magazine’s Top 50 social media experts; Craig Perkins, winner of the iPhone Film Fest; Dr. Gustavo Rabin, author of Becoming A Leader and a man with whom I worked last year; and two giants of industry, GE senior VP Beth Comstock, the woman who masterminded the online TV and movie viewing site hulu.com when she was at NBC Universal; and the one and only Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, a co-star of Shark Tank — and co-owner of Magnolia Pictures and the Landmark Theaters, two components of a 21st century version of the old movie studio system.

More on The Legacy Series in a release celebration blog next week.

On Tuesday, I reached the 50,000-word goal for National Novel Writer’s Month (NaNoWriMo), an international online event where you, well, write 50,000 or more words in a month. I used the occasion to write part of a rough manuscript for my memoir, Do I Have A Story for You!, which friends, associates and two literary agents have suggested I write for 10 years. Now, I am finishing book proposals for a biography I am writing, as well as my sweetheart Martha Halda’s memoir, A Taste of Eternity, concerning her near death experience and increased purpose of her life since.

And people say we slow down in our 50s, that it’s impossible to crank it out in this busy world. This month reminded me of something filmmaker George Lucas told me years ago about his least favorite word in the English language. “I made a career out of people telling me it was impossible,” he said. “It’s not a good word to use around me.”

It’s been a very creative and productive month, during which I have been reminded of six tried-and-true rules about writing, creativity and productivity:

1)   Write every day. If we commit ourselves to writing for even 1 to 2 hours per day, pages get written and books and articles get finished.

2)   Write or create something new. Try a new form of writing, or a new type of art or craft. Bring play into your work. The key to a great story is to make the ordinary seem extraordinary. So it is with our lives.

3)   Set daily goals. What do you want to accomplish today? Set a specific, measurable goal that is attainable, realistic and timely. They’re known in business as SMART goals.

4)   Connect. Spend time each day connecting by e-mail and social media. Blog, Tweet, post on Facebook, build Google + and LinkedIn accounts, and follow people with large follower networks. The phone works great, too.

5)   Focus. Practice focusing on one thing for long periods of time. Use visualization or meditation to build greater concentration. The more we focus, the more organized we become, and the deeper we can move into our subject.

6)   Eat Well and Work Out. Working out is the perfect accompaniment to creativity. It burns stressful energy, clears our minds, and rejuvenates us. That goes for food as well. Eat high-protein, low-carb diets — especially when powering through major projects.

7)   Enjoy. Enjoy. Enjoy. As ultramarathoner Pam Reed told me once about the pain that comes with long races, “You know it’s gonna hurt. But enjoy the experience.” Same holds for writing books or dealing with tough projects. Enjoy the experience.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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