Measure What You Ingest

Can you recount ten notable headlines of news articles that you’ve read over the last thirty days?

Probably not.

Don’t worry, neither can I.

But can you recall a point that moved you in a book from the last ten years?

You probably can.

That’s because reading intentional long-form works tend to have a far more lasting effect on our lives than reading any of the day’s gossip columns. If this is true for me as I suspect it is for you, it means that we must be more deliberate than ever before about what we’re ingesting on a regular basis.

Making behavior decisions in the present based on what we know will help us in the future is the very essence of wise judgement.

Here are a few things I do to make sure I’m consuming content that I know helps and not dilutes my perspective:

Use YouTube Videos as Podcasts. Whatever your hobby or profession is, there’s probably someone online who’s said something that you need to know. And while podcasts are plentiful, YouTube trends higher on people’s scope. So I stock pile recommendations that people send me, most notable sermons, tutorials or songs, and play them through my headphones when I have down time, especially during travel. The key here it that you don’t always need to see it to receive it. Hearing them talk is just as essential to the process of learning, and often allows us to retain more information in certain contexts.

Stay Addicted, Just Change The Drug. If you find yourself addicted to reading materials on your mobile device, then leverage your new addiction, don’t despise it. This means putting your Kindle app right next to your favorite news aggregate app. Or better yet, place the pop-culture apps further back in your screen pages and keep your Kindle/iBooks app up front. This visual reminder helps promote long-form works of value while keeping the dreaded pop-web-surfing monster at bay.

Value Authentic Communication First. If you’re a Christian, and you’re tempted to read your email or check social media first, make sure that your Bible app is close. I’d much rather hear what God has to say to me to start my day than what people do. Emails are important and, to an extent, so is social media; they’re just not the most important. It’s the myriad of other voices in my email and social media accounts that tend to side track me. Kick things off right: hear from God first.

What ways have you disciplined yourself to intentionally digest wholesome content while skirting the frivolous?

New good habits are hard to form, but they become just as powerful as old bad ones. Only more so: because they help instead of hinder you.

ch:

Why You Should Be Reading Books On Your Phone If You’re Not Already

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I remember thinking the same thing you probably are when someone suggested it to me too.

There’s no way I’m reading a book on my iPhone. That’s insane.

Somehow, my brain instantly categorized this preposterous notion as on par with fishing for King Salmon with a toothpick and dental floss.

Not happening.

And what was my main reason against it?

That’s too much to read on so small a screen.

Somehow, I saw my brain melting as it tried to cope with all the text. There’s just no way to stay focused over that long a period. Is there?

That’s about the time that reality set in, and I asked myself just how much do I read on my iPhone in a day anyway? The truth—as you might imagine—is that I read on it a whole heck of a lot. And chances are, you probably do too.

I read blog posts, weather alerts, headlines, news articles and product reviews. I read text messages, emails, phone numbers and addresses. I read instructions, quotations and statistics. I read comments, tweets, status updates and pins. Not to mention, I wrote on it a ton (this post not withstanding).

Come to think of it, I hardly use my iPhone to call anyone. All I really do is read on it.

So if reading a book on my iPhone is technically feasible—which it is, given Amazon’s Kindle reader (which I much prefer over iBooks)—than I asked myself the second most obvious question: why on earth would I want to?

The answer to this one, of course, is simple.

Because it’s with me. Constantly.

I’m not sure how your perfect reading scenario looks, but mine goes something like this:

I’m sitting in an overstuffed leather chair beside a crackling fireplace in my massive library. I have my favorite pair of slippers on, my grandfather’s pipe, a warm sweater, and mahogany table with a Tiffany desk lamp warming the pages of my favorite tome with soft incandescent light. I’m like my own personal PBS special.

And how often does this happen?

Uh. Never.

Why? Because I can hardly remember the last time I had twenty uninterrupted minutes all to myself. It’s not because I don’t want it, or think it’s important; but with the beautiful family I have, as well as the amazing church, businesses and relationships I live to foster, such “ease” is not apart of the season I’m in. And honestly, nor should it be.

And yet there is still the quite-necessary requirement that I must read in order to better myself and those who’ll be touched by my life.

Why read on your phone? While you may not have the perfect time frame or the perfect environment, you do have the perfect convenience. And that’s your phone.

It’s always with you, always remembers where you left off, and is always full of your favorite books. Sure, there’s no trumping your hardcover library collection, but that’s not the point. Your phone is your instant-access entry point into the pros that you never have to leave on the proverbial shelf.

As a result, you’ll read more. If you’re always waiting for the perfect scenario, then you’ll keep putting off reading those books you know you should be reading “when the time is right.” Guess what? If you’re really a doer, the cold hard truth is that the time is never going to be right, what with those long rainy nights curled up in the bay window with your cat. But there is time while you sit there getting your oil changed, while you’re in the waiting room, on the walk back to your office, while you wait for your lunch appointment to show up, when you’re standing at the bus stop, elevator, subway, flight, carriage ride.

Wait, strike that. You should never read during a carriage ride.

The point is, reading on your phone can finally kill the procrastinator in you once and for all. (It’s even a great device to write on).

So go on. Download a book and give it a try. Yes, the first few swipes on that tiny screen may frustrate you or even infuriate you. But chances are, once you get past the physiological aversions to it, reading on your phone may just become your next overstuffed leather chair.

ch:

PS :: If you need a book to start with, my book The Sky Riders is only $0.99 on Kindle right now.

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(While not exactly my description above, I randomly found this image on Pinterest after published my post).

Reading Small, Thinking Big

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Reading a novel on an iPhone is ludicrous.

Or so I thought.

Until I had a revelation. The same kind of revelation I had when choosing between two physically-large books for a flight, because taking both was simply too much for my carry on. So I put the Kindle app on my iPad and took both. And a few dozen others.

Making the jump from paper to screen for my book reading was manageable. Large visual surface (actually, the iPad has more real estate than most book pages), and even an unexpected perk: no book light needed at night. But still, reading a novel via the Kindle app on my iPhone? It can’t be done.

Until I realized that I read thousands of words every day on my iPhone.

Texts, emails, articles, research, PDFs, Tweets, Facebook, posts, status updates, recipes, directions, lyrics. In fact, I read more on my iPhone than I make phone calls. Conservatively 100 to 1.

So why couldn’t I read a 100,000 word novel on my iPhone?

Because…because…

Once I realized I’ve already read enough text on my iPhone to fill dozens and dozens of books, the argument was over.

And I read a novel.

In the mean time, I found out I’m not alone. In fact, Henrik Berggren, CEO of Readmill, recently presented his findings at a conference in Malmö, Sweden, showing that not only are mobile smart phones the most preferred book reading device in 2013, but they also keep us more engaged in our reading.

“It is not only that they are spending more time reading the books because the screen is smaller. Even taking into account screen size, smartphone users read more often, they finish more books in general, they start more books, they share more quotes, and they write more comments,” says Berggren. “This paints a very clear picture that the people that are most engaged with their books are the people who read on their phones.”

They always say that the best camera is the one you have on you. Which has quickly become the smart phone. Likewise, it would appear the that the “best reading device” is following suit.

Not there yet? Don’t worry.

You will be.

Because my analytics tell me half of my readers are viewing this on their mobile devices right now.

ch:

Subscribe to Shawn Blanc

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I like technology.

I like design.

I like coffee.

As a result, I like Shawn.

I’ve been following Shawn Blanc for a few years now, and have marveled at his transition from hobby-blogger to full-time writer, all thanks in part to his loyal readership who are willing to pay $4 per month for daily content (including a video entry during the weekdays).

I love Shawn’s work because it’s short, sweet and gives me the guts of major happenings in spheres of influence I’m passionate about (rather than having to wade through countless paragraphs just to get the point).

I also love that I can support a creative, a husband, a father and a Christian with my money. It all goes directly to him. No middle man. No royalty.

Read awesome.

Read clean.

Read Shawn.

ch:

RISE OF THE DIBOR free today on Kindle

Been wanting to read RISE OF THE DIBOR but haven’t taken the leap? Then you can download it for free today on your Kindle-enabled device here.

Already have it? Please help me and re-Tweet or Facebook or Google+ or Instagram (pic?) it to your peeps:

RISE OF THE DIBOR is free today on Kindle! tinyurl.com/6r77dkm

Thanks readers!

ch:

The Future of Book Publishing

where music leaves us

In addition to wondering about the future of the printed book, there’s at least one more pressing question that those interested in the book-world have been and should be asking: what about the future of print publishing?

While there are some similarities here with the music business, they’re not nearly as close as they were in my previous post on the subject. The main reason is that making good music is still rarely a one-man-show. Even for a guy like me who’s been around and mastered [pun intended] almost all facets of the industry, music-making–from initial creative inertia to final product–involves and even requires many talented people to pull off well. Sure, there’s the occasional one-hit-wonder, or guy-with-a-laptop-who-only-uses-samples-to-create-a-project; but to make a meaningful collection of songs up to industry standards, it takes a team.

It also takes a lot of equipment.

Acoustically perfect rooms are still needed, as well as gold-sputtered large-diaphragm microphones, expensive hard disk space, CPU processing, quality monitors, mixing surfaces, mastering programs, not to mention hiring all the musical talent, engineers, producers, and mixing ears. Then you front the money for design, duplication, and distribution. And unlike book signings, which yes, often do include performances of a sort, music must be performed. And that’s a whole other industry.

I think it’s for this reason alone that we haven’t seen the complete demise of record companies. Because someone still needs to coordinate the talent and front the monies and manage the time lines.

True, musical artists can do much on their own. But those that do are still the exception, and usually have a big wallet or are using inventive methods of grass-roots investment to finance projects (like Eric Peter’s last project which proudly displays “The Hopper Tribe” in his liner notes). Larger record companies also have a lot of pull with what gets played and how many shelves a project sees space on. But even that is beginning to change.

I don’t know anyone that buys music based on “record company,” but on what they like. And in our information-accessible generation, connecting the artist with their listeners–both existing and potential–doesn’t really need the record company. They need an internet connection and a list of tour dates.

the lone art

So how, exactly, are music publishing and book publishing different?

Well, writing novels is incredibly simple: an author sits down…and writes.

Granted, most writers I know are a bit strange.

Some, downright weird.

But then again, you’d have to be.

To spend hundreds and hundreds of hours sitting in front of a computer screen staring at lines of information is pretty tedious. More like a computer programmer. And no matter how cool the Matrix made looking at code seem, computer programmers are even weirder than authors.

In a nut shell, it’s this simplicity that makes the publisher obsolete. Technology just helped push the inevitable along.

but the publisher does so much!

So if a record company does all of the stuff I listed above, a publishing company surely does just as much to merit an equal place of prestige.

Right?

I said, right?

What hundreds and now thousands of writers are realizing is no, they don’t.

As I said, writing books is much simpler than making music.

Yes, there are editors. But a good writer truly only needs one good one; often a skilled writer can edit their own work successfully. A handful of “Proofies”–as I call them–help, but they’re usually willing to proof the book for free seeing as how they had the intangible privileged of reading it before anyone else.

Editors often get in the way, too. Traditional publishers always have a way of using their editors to make you fashion the art they think will sell, not what you think is right. Sure, there’s something to be said for market awareness; but critical thinking and a serious eye can tell you just as much as any market analyst would, and having an editor that “gets” you and your art is almost priceless.

Interior design? Exterior design? Why, but of course! After all, no matter how often the quote is used, we actually do judge books by the their covers. And how they’re laid out. But those services, along with editorial services, are quite easy to secure, especially when producing for the growing e-market.

That leaves distribution. Distribution of thick, heavy paper books that are constantly vying for shelf space–the majority of which you’ll never ever see as an author–and cost anywhere from $12-$15 for a consumer to buy.

Which you, the author, gets all of.

Umm. Actually, no. You get about 8% of it. And 14.5% if it’s a digital sale.

So where, exactly, is that other 92% going?

That, my friends, is the million-dollar question, and what authors like me are trying to figure out. And the only logical answer is into a bloated publishing system with high production overhead, over-staffing, heavy distribution costs…

…and does very little marketing for the author.

I can almost justify the first few items, but that last one is the clincher. Where the benefits of big-publisher name recognition, shelf-placement pull, and high-profile advertising prowess should really kick in is in the marketing. The crazy part is I did more self-promotion for the largest Christian publisher (Thomas Nelson) than I did for one of the smallest (Tsaba House). And none of it changed my personal bottom line…except in countless man hours, personal travel expenses, and creative ideas.

The result?

More fans, but less money for my baby’s mouths.

ok, but they’ll still be the filter

Ah yes. Traditional publishing’s last resort.

Now that anyone can publish themselves, who will help you know what’s good and what’s not? Surely the publisher will.

Any publisher that is still thinking this is already dead, they just don’t know it yet. It’s the same mistake “big government” makes. You’re not smart enough to manage your life, so we’ll do it for you, just give us all your money for the greater good.

In the not too distant future, the reader becomes the filter.

If social media has taught us anything, it’s that if one person likes something, they’ll tell all their friends. And if it’s a truly worthy concept, nothing can stop its success. Which means that if success is that apprehendable by the content creator, they have even more incentive to create their best work for their public. Which means you get better books for less money: the author knows their success rises and falls on whether or not you like it, not whether a publisher says it’s good or not, and can drop their prices for you (because the author is still making more on a less expensive self-published book than they are on a far more expensive traditionally published book).

guilds: the future publishers

I believe that in place of publishers will come alliances. Guilds, if you will. Gatherings of like-minded creators and inventors who’s allegiances are bound by willfully aligning themselves with one another. Sharing resources, combining platforms, and blending fans.

The truth is, more came out of the two Fantasy Fiction Tours that Wayne Thomas Batson and I dreamed up in 2007 and 2008 than almost any other book-related venture we’ve done. Pam Schwagerl, CEO of Tsaba House Inc. was also indispensable in her assistance (proof that sometimes smaller is better). The 9 authors that partook in that have benefited to this very day. And it wasn’t publishers doing the heavy lifting: it was the fans of a single author taking a risk on the work of another by mere association.

I believe that the new face of publishing will be self-published authors who combine efforts and resources, link arms through shared branding and emblems, co-occupy websites, and venture out on tour together. Not because they have strong backing, but because their audience is strong enough to trust them and those they create alongside of. ch:

What authors have you learned about and fallen in love with because of their affiliation with a pre-existing reading allegiance you had?

Are you more likely to buy a book because of the publisher or because of a recommendation?

New Book Series and Upcoming Event

The Berinfell Prophecies

Hey’a Gang! For all my reading fans out there, I wanted to let you know, it’s official: Wayne Thomas Batson and I will be coauthoring a new Fantasy Series called The Berinfell Prophecies. Book 1: Curse of the Spider King will be out in stores this Fall! Keep your eyes peeled for some amazing new marketing we’re going to be launching. It may not be as easy to spot as you think…

Booksigning Event Coming Soon: Lunch with the Authors

12noon-2pm Saturday, February 7th, Wayne and I will appear at Scranton’s own Banshee Pub for Dramatic Reading, Swordfighting, Booksigning, and Discussion. So if you know anyone in the great state of Pennsylvania who might be into Fantasy books, please spread the word and tell ‘em to come out and meet us!

PRESS RELEASE:

“In days of yore, traveling Bards entertained audiences with tales of faraway lands and feats of derring do. Return to yesteryear as two award-winning authors and entertainers come to lunch with patrons of the Banshee Pub at 320 Penn Avenue. Fresh off a 10-city Tour of the West Coast, authors Wayne Thomas Batson and Christopher Hopper will appear in full medieval costume to entertain Banshee customers with dramatic readings from their books, swordplay, and perhaps a song or two.”

For Fans of Narnia, Lord of the Rings, Eragon, and Inkheart – With five young adult Bestsellers and eight published novels between them, Batson and Hopper know how to spin a tale. Trek with Batson and Hopper down a spiral stair to a subterranean labyrinth where a gigantic beast dwells. Or visit the kingdom of Dionia where great heroes train and something treacherous lurks in the shadows. Batson (Thomas Nelson Publishing) will be signing copies of his Door Within Trilogy, Isle of Swords, and Isle of Fire, and Christopher Hopper (Tsaba House Publishing) will sign copies of his Rise of the Dibor and The Lion Vrie—with perhaps a sneak preview of his soon to be released Athera’s Dawn.

For more details, leave a comment or contact The Banshee Directly:

Banshee Pub
320 Penn Ave
Scranton, PA 18503
(570) 969-4248

Experimentation on Books

Margaret (cherryblossommj ) over at Creative madness that makes me myself tagged me for a new game she’s created.

Here’s how it works.

I’m going to list five MUST Read novels and five Keep Your Eyes on These novels, then tag five bloggers who I’m asking to post my list on their site. They may then add one book to each list but must also subtract one book. Finally they should tag five other bloggers, link here at A Christian Worldview of Fiction and comment to this post so visitors here know to check out how they may have changed the list.

If you aren’t tagged but want to play, copy the "how to" paragraph above, make your own list of MUST Reads and Keep Your Eyes on These , and tag away!

So, here is the original list with one addition (and deletion) from me! Enjoy!

CH

- – -

MUST Reads :
The Door Within by Wayne Thomas Batson (Tommy Nelson)
Demon: a Memoir by Tosca Lee (NavPress)
Broken Angel by Sigmund Brouwer (WaterBrook)
The Restorer by Sharon Hinck (NavPress)
Beyond the Reflection’s Edge by Bryan Davis (Zondervan)

Keep Your Eyes On These :
Scarlet by Stephen Lawhead (Thomas Nelson)
On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness by Andrew Peterson (WaterBrook)
Auralia’s Colors by Jeffrey Overstreet (WaterBrook)
The Legend of the FireFish by George Bryan Polivka (Harvest House)
The Paradise War by Stephen Lawhead (Westbow Press)

FIVE BOOKS TO LOOK FOR SOON:
Shade by John Olson (B&H)
Field of Blood by Eric Wilson (Thomas Nelson)
Isle of Fire by Wayne Thomas Batson (Tommy Nelson)
Stepping into Sunlight by Sharon Hinck (Bethany)
Eternity’s Edge by Bryan Davis (Zondervan)

The bloggers I’m asking to post the list (and make one book-for-book change to each list if they wish):

Justin B.

Shane Deal

Mooney

Shannon McNear

ForstRose