Thursday, September 30, 2010

Books arrived!!!

The actual books arrived!

Amazing seeing what you wrote in print.

Went to an event with friends and champagne. Entirely a coincidence. Put the kids to bed after. Funny how life works.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Pre-concieved notions and Mark Cuban

Today, at the Media Innovations Summit, I met Mark Cuban. And, I heard him speak. Those who follow my work blog know that I wrote about him in the context of the Lionsgate battle with Carl Icahn.

What is it like to meet someone you’ve written about? Well, I remembered writing positive things but double checked when I got home. I felt responsible because I liked him and what he had to say. And, he is a larger than life personality so I’d walked into everything with pre-conceived notions.

Pre-conceived notions and biases has been a theme in my Coro Executive Leadership Program. We all have them; how aware are we of them? How do they affect us?

Captive face that issue. Writing about an Islamic terrorist, a polarizing issue, leads many to make assumptions about my position that aren’t right. Those that have gone on to read the book have acknowledged the disconnect. How many of us follow through to test our pre-conceived notions or biases?

I’m glad I met and spoke with Mark Cuban today. He was approachable, brilliant, knowledgeable and articulate. And he was willing to take a stand and express strong opinions. I admire him for doing so.

On my end, I’ll continue to ponder how I cast a light on events before they happen

Sunday, September 26, 2010

My weekend: the chaos of life

My weekend went too fast!
Running. On the beach. Yoga. With my daughter.
Taking her to get her ears pierced. And to dinner.
Coro program. Leimert Park and doing the related presentation.
Article in the WSJ about macro-factors affecting stocks more than/as much as fundimentals.
Trying to finish reading a novel tonight. I will. Not great; engaging.
Interest rates and the impact of unintented consequences.
A conference tomorrow and a trip out of town Tuesday.
Pictures? So many pictures.
Lesson learned? Do as much as you can and enjoy what you do. None of it comes again.
Back to reading my novel.
I'll post a few pictures tomorrow.

Monday, September 20, 2010


I was sitting at my desk and asking myself "what is the best use of my time right now?" and I couldn't come up with an answer.

The issue isn't that I don't have many, many things to do. Rather the answer to my question hinges on priorities. Over the weekend we shot raw footage for the Captive video,I went running on the beach and to my gym, I spent a lot of time with my kids and starting shopping for Halloween decorations (a holiday we take seriously at my house) and I read. I also did so many things (laundry; fed the cats; checked email) that I had to do. What was the best use of my time over the weekend?

Last night I went to bed early after a few kid related emergencies (which are their private affairs and not really that bad after a good night's sleep). I'm rested now and have already accomplished a lot today.

What next? Yoga? More work?

I haven't decided yet.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Shooting a video for Captive this weekend

This weekend we'll be shooting a video for Captive (thank you Amy Sommer). My kids will be there; helpers, not "extras". We mulled over the video strategy: why I wrote the book, what I hoped to accomplish and how I felt about the related issues.

Terrorism is a heated topic. I took UCLA extension classes while writing this novel to learn how to write it better. At the beginning of each new session at least one fellow class mate would take offense at the topic and my "politics". What are my politics? Pretty quickly that person would realize that they had judged too soon and the book itself wasn't nearly as polarizing as they'd assumed.

Writing about terrorism allows for the posibility of controversy. Related attention can help sell books. But that isn't the point of the novel. People grow up in vastly different societies and make decisions (at an early age) based on what opportunities are available to them.

I had a conversation last night with someone who had volunteered as a criminal defense attorney during law school. One of his clients got the death penalty. Yet that client was a broken and brutalized man. How much choice and free will is due to circumstance? Read Captive to see how I address that question.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Op-ed piece I read this morning

While I don't always agree with Kristof I do agree with his piece in this morning's New York Times. We all have a responsibility to see outside our own little worlds. While I feel no obligation to agree with the beliefs or even opinions of others I do think that they need to be free to have/state them.

Education is one answer. Not judging pre-maturely, focusing on solutions not blame, crossing party lines and attempting to create change. That latter point is the reason I read Kristof - agree with him or not he does make an effort.

As does George, for you to judge how effectively, in Captive (Khalil too, by the way - his viewpoint is just very different).

Go to:

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Sunday, September 5, 2010

October 4 is the official release date of Captive. We are doing reverse “windowing” with it being available on Kindle/digital first, hard copy to follow. A dear friend has offered to host a book party (details to follow…though perhaps not online).

The idea of monetization, an issue which I face as part of my other life, my job, came up repeatedly last week.

I was talking to a friend of mine from a large studio here in Los Angeles. She questioned why I was spending any time marketing and distributing Captive. She questioned why I wrote. All of it was so hard to monetize – as I didn’t have a large marketing budget or wide distribution. At an earlier meeting that day a prominent local blogger – who’d written a book as well – thought that pursuing the marketing and promotion was very worthwhile in our increasingly fragmented world. Do we create only to monetize? Does quality play into monetizing and what is quality? Interestingly, neither party had read Captive.

Today in the New York Times book review I read the numbers for the top selling authors (though I’d seen them before). Last year (year ended June 1), James Patterson earned $70 million. Stephanie Meyer was at $40 million; Stephen King was at $34 million: Danielle Steel was at $32 million. Not in that article but listed next elsewhere was JK Rowling – who did not release a book last year.

But does anyone seriously write a book just to make money? Perhaps those on the list above…since they know that if they release a book it will sell (lots). Cervantes, a favorite of mine and the writer of a “classic” spent serious time in debtors’ prison. Dickens wrote his books in installments so that he could pay his bills.

No, the writing part is long and requires tremendous discipline. I went through seven plus drafts of Captive and can’t bear to look at it anymore. The time involved is beyond explaining because not only do you write and revise but you also research (ponder, and obsess). Something like 70% percent of books don’t make back their advances (which typically aren’t high).

I write because I have something to say, and will keep writing as long as I do. Captive I wrote straight through and not chronologically. I just saw the book in my mind and it wrote itself. Today I re-wrote the beginning of the sequel because a thought led me to take the characters someplace new.

That is why I write, and not because James Patterson can earn $70 million in a year (though I commend and admire him for doing so – all those people read his book – what an accomplishment!).

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The lights are starting to go out (a rare post topic)

The Lights Are Starting To Go Out

48 states are projected to have budget deficits this year. Countless municipalities (with more limited taxing power) are in worse shape and we’ve already seen the first bankruptcies in cities such as Vallejo, California. Harrisberg, PA passed a budget that didn’t include debt payments (effectively a default). Central Falls, RI has turned its finances over to a receiver. In all, about $2.8 trillion in municipal debt is outstanding ($1 trillion directly held by households; the effective number is much higher). Municipal debt is that which is issued by cities or other local governments and their agencies.
Ben Bernanke recently stated that the Fed will aim to keep interest rates low for the near term, citing the “sluggishness of the national recovery” and the resulting budget woes at the state and local government (a “significant” or “severe” threat to the economic recovery, as per an AP Economic Survey). High and lingering unemployment, decreased consumer spending and corporations remaining conservative due to economic uncertainty are keeping tax revenues low.
Experts have estimated that the states face $350 billion in deficits over 2010 and 2011. While President Obama has pledged $140 billion in aid over a 2.5 year period that sum doesn’t come close to narrowing the projected gaps. If interest rates don’t stay low, some of that debt will most likely need to be rolled over at higher rates of interest – pushing up the projected deficit numbers. At the federal level, the average maturity of US government debt is currently about three years; meaning that rising interest rates will greatly increase the federal government’s own obligations, making it harder for them to bail out state and local governments.
The municipal market is also quite illiquid – so the ability to find bid/ask prices will freeze should there be a rash of defaults. Much as we learned during the recent financial crisis an illiquid market can close almost completely, leading institutions to liquidate higher quality assets to meet obligations (such as margin requirements, loan covenants, reserve requirements or redemptions).
Add to the municipal debt burden unstated debts – such as shortfalls in state and local pension funds – and the municipal burden only increases. Joshua Pauh (Northwestern University) and Robert Novy-Marx (University of Chicago) recently recalculated the 50 states pension plans by valuing the obligations as the bond market values debt. They arrived at a $5.17 trillion number. As only$1.94 trillion has been set aside in state pension funds the resulting deficit is $3.23 trillion.
In the news media we read about the battle for teachers’ jobs, the post office stopping Saturday delivery and four day weeks at schools and governmental agencies. What are we actually seeing?
Hawaii has gone to a four day school week. Illinois announced earlier in the year that it was $9 billion behind in payments to its vendors. Clayton County, GA has cut bus lines. Colorado Springs, CO cut a third of its streetlights this past winter. Schools across New Jersey are cutting language classes and using online programs instead. The Pentagon has announced that it’s cutting thousands of jobs. Each day we read about one more cut or threatened program. Can we really fund such large projected deficits by closing parks or limiting library hours?
This country needs its elected officials to organize a comprehensive approach instead of trying to nickel and dime their way out of a crisis. The cuts need to be felt across the board – including among the unionized and government workers – regardless of fears related to how these vested special interest groups retaliate in future elections.
Otherwise, which career politician will volunteer to turn the last light off?