Thursday, March 31, 2011

How to Get Amazon Prime for FREE

Stumbled on these two programs by accident on Amazon. Prime is the upgraded option on Amazon that gives you free two day shipping on most items. It normally costs $79 a year, unless . . .

1. You are a student currently enrolled in some type of schooling. If so, click here to find out more about
Amazon Student.

2. You have a young child. If so, you probably qualify for Amazon Mom. Note that you don't have to actually be a mom to qualify for this . . . as long as you are one of the primary caregivers, you qualify. I am now a proud Amazon Mom.

Has anyone heard of these before, or did I just miss it? Any other programs out there like this that we should be aware of?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

How to Outsource Your Memory and Never Forget a Quote Again

One of the most frustrating things for readers and writers is forgetting where a quote came from. I hate it when I remember a great quote, but can't remember which book it is from. After flipping through a few books and searching for it online, I often give up.

Enter Evernote. I first read about this tool in The 4-Hour Workweek but have been putting off really testing it out for awhile. Now I can't believe that I have gone so long without it. In short, Evernote is a online note taking and storage program that uses text recognition and tagging. That may not mean much at first glance, but it changes everything for me.

Now when I finish a book, I flip back through and take a picture of any page that I have highlighted a quote on with my Evernote program on my iPhone. After snapping all of the pictures, you can tag them with the name of the book, project, and any other information you need to help keep it organized. This is is the best part . . . your notes are then uploaded to Evernote online and the text you just took a picture of is now searchable!

If you want to find every quote you have highlighted in any book that contains the word "reformation" it takes about 5 seconds. Or if you need to search all the notes from a project you worked on a couple of years ago, its a piece of cake. Best of all, its free up to a certain data limit. You can take it for a test run and see if it is right for you.

I have only scratched the surface of the things you can do with Evernote, and will post more about other things you can use if for in the future. What are some uses that you can think of? Will this change how you research your next book? Are there any other programs out there that you think are better?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Next Story - Review

The Next Story focuses on how the theological, theoretical, and experiential intersect with technology. The author has put together a thoughtful book that will change the way you think about technology. In fact, I have found that the impact of this book goes beyond the words on the page – it will inspire you to rethink many aspects of your life in the modern age.
Part One breaks down these three facets in light of technology. The theological implications of technology are often overlooked, and the author’s definition of technology as “the practical result of the creative process” is helpful. Christians are called to create, and part of our duty is to shape and use the technology all around us for God’s glory. The next chapter focuses on the theoretical aspects of technology, followed by a short history of technology. The history of technology is a great perspective on the speed of change leading to the modern world. It is a welcome reminder of how far we have come in so short a time.

Part Two focuses on different aspects of technology viewed through the three lenses that the author describes in Part One. These discussions are the best part of the book. They are fair critiques and Challies never forgets to point out all of the benefits along with the drawbacks.

The chapters in Part Two focus on communication, mediation, distraction, information, truth, and privacy. While they are tied to technology in particular, they are issues that Christians have always dealt with. Though each chapter is excellent and offers insight into theses issues, one chapter that stands out is the chapter on privacy. The idea that we should add “you shall know them by their data” to “you shall know them by their fruit” is great. Also, thinking through how our lack of privacy online reminds us that we keep nothing private from Him is a powerful idea.

Whether you are a digital native or a digital immigrant this book is worth reading. The real strength of this book is the framework that it gives you to help evaluate technology as a thoughtful Christian. I have never read anything like it and am grateful to have it as a reference in the future. Highly recommended.

- Easy to read, theologically sound, well thought out.
- Unique. Doubt that you have another book that addresses these issues so completely.
- Valuable for all Christians. Great resource for parents, students, and pastors who must deal with these issues often.

*Wish List for Updates
- This book is admittedly descriptive rather than prescriptive, but practical suggestions would have been great. Challies hints at some in the epilogue, but no additional resources are given. (For help with avoiding distraction and managing time online, I recommend starting with The 4-Hour Workweek.)
- The mediation chapter critiques virtual churches, but nothing is said about the advent of preaching-by-video churches. Would like to see the author discuss/critique the growing number of churches that are primarily taught via live streaming video from other locations.

Monday, March 28, 2011

How to Write and Sell Simple Information - Review

This is a great book for anyone who wants to break into the "how to" writing business. The author goes into a number of different methods and mediums to accomplish these goals, all of which are helpful. After an overview of the "how to" process, the author tackles different formats and how to market them.

Some of the best tips include:

Titling your work
Steps to publish a book
E-zine tips
Marketing tips for authors
Research a book
Mindmapping outlines
Organizing materials

The one complaint I have about this book is the organization of the nuts and bolts information. Some of the really good advice is tucked away in chapters that some people may skip (like the dvd chapter). Would have preferred to have each chapter on different mediums narrower in focus. That way, you could skip the parts that you really did not have an interest in. As it is, you really need to read each chapter to glean all the great information contained within.

There are better books out there on writing, but if you want to integrate your books, ebooks, newsletters, podcasts, and more . . . this author has some great ideas and has had a lot of success doing it.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Adventures of Johnny Bunko - Review

Daniel H. Pink, author of A Whole New Mind, wrote this innovative career guide that is easy to read and offers some great advice. Some of the other reviews on this work complain that the claim "the last career guide you'll ever need" is too much, but I think it lives up to the full title.

This book is obviously directed towards new graduates and 20-40 something's who are dissatisfied with their current job. I recommend books all of the time, and often to people who fall into the 18-40 age bracket. If there's one thing I've learned about this age bracket its this: most of them don't want to read long books. Of all the titles that I recommend, maybe 1% take me up on it (and that's generous). Most people are too busy to read or they just don't believe that the books I recommend put forward any real solutions.

Pink solves this problem by keeping it simple. He only offers 6 tips to guide your career path, and he does it through a manga comic book. Sure, there is more information available for those who want career guidance, but Pink has created a book that people will actually read, remember, and implement. As far as I'm concerned, that makes it a success.

The 6 tips are simple, but are also complete. It would be difficult, if not impossible, to come up with a list of 6 items that would be more helpful than the list that Pink gives. I don't want to give away too much because it is such an accessible book, but the first tip is "There is no plan". Bunko's "chopsticks genie" explains how are best-laid career plans are often derailed and how we should react instead. The other 5 tips are laid out in similar fashion.

This book succeeds where many others fail. It offers valuable, real world advice in an engaging, readable way. If you are struggling with your career path, or if you need a gift for a young graduate or dissatisfied laborer, this is a great book to pick up. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

5 Things You Need To Know About Book Awards

1. Purchase a copy of the Writer's Market Guide that is appropriate for you book. This is the best way to sort through the many awards available, as well as the periodicals that may be interested in reviewing your work.

Christian Writers' Market Guide 2011

2011 Children's Writer's And Illustrator's Market

2011 Novel And Short Story Writer's Market

2. Contact the magazines or periodicals that you read on a regular basis. If you write a book, particularly non-fiction, then it will likely relate to what you read. If you write a book on sewing, contact the various magazines that you follow and submit your work for review, awards, or the end of year best book lists that most publications use.

3. Beware of paying money for guaranteed positive reviews/awards. The gold medal may look great on your book and it may even help you sell a few copies. But, in the long run, awards of this type are empty and reflect poorly on the book. It is normal to pay an entry fee to submit your book, but any entry fees that also include positive reviews and endorsements should be avoided.

4. Few books are bought on the basis of an award unless it is a nationally recognized one. Don't be discouraged if your work does not receive awards right away. Remember that you don't have to win for your entry to be a success. If your book is in front of the right people at the right time, other avenues may open up.

5. Finally, if your book wins a prestigious award, advertise it! Put out a second edition with the award displayed on your book cover. Typically the only awards that will help sell your book are established national awards (like the National Book Award) or niche awards that have been established already. Don't waste your time and money advertising anything else other than those types of awards. The truth is that nobody cares about any other awards.

Positive reviews, even by amateurs, are often more valuable than any book award. In the end, the only prize that really matters is determined by the consumer. When your audience loves your work it is more valuable than winning any contest will ever be.

Moonwalking With Einstein - Review

After stumbling on to the competitive memory circuit, the author embarks on an unlikely quest to become the memory champ in the next U.S. competition. This book chronicles his journey and provides a fascinating account about the history and science of memory along the way. 

I started reading this book knowing very little about the art of memory other than a basic definition of mnemonics. The author describes many of the techniques that he used to increase his memorization skills, including:

Memory Palaces: Places you create in your mind to store visual memories

The "Major System" for memorizing numbers phonetically

POA Systems for memorizing numbers and/or cards: Person-Object-Action sequences for individual numbers (more interesting than it sounds)

This information was brand new to me. As Foer is introduced to these techniques, you can feel his enthusiasm for learning new ways to use his brain. The art of memorization is all but lost in our current society of externalized data storage, but it does not have to be that way. The techniques that this memoir introduces will start you down the same path if you like; either way, it's a great read.

In fact, once I started reading this book I could not put it down. The entire memoir is well written and keeps the reader's interest page after page. Though this is certainly not a how-to-book, it is a great starting point to learn more about memory principles.

The author includes really interesting discussions about memory and creativity throughout. Though they may seem to be opposites at first glance, the author argues, compellingly, that they go hand-in-hand. My favorite chapters were:

The Memory Palace: Details the history of this visual/spatial memory technique and point the reader in the right direction if they want to learn it.

The End of Remembering: This chapter chronicles the reasons behind why we don't commit things to memory anymore. This account was very interesting, especially for the implications in scripture memory. I am guilty of reading widely at the cost of reading deeply.

The Talented Tenth: This short chapter discusses some of the implications of memory and our school systems. Very interesting account of how memorization came to be disdained in the school system and the consequential effects.

The Little Rain Man In All Of Us: Talks about the processing power of our brains and what savants can teach us. This chapter includes very interesting interviews with the man who inspired Rain Man and Daniel Tremmet, the subject of the documentary Brainman.

The whole book is a really great read and is highly recommended. The only thing missing is a further recommended reading list. It will entertain you and possibly inspire you to practice the art of memory for yourself; it has inspired me to commit to memory many of the things that I have forgotten many times over. 

Friday, March 18, 2011

Don't Shoot the Dog! - Review

Don't Shoot the Dog! The New Art of Teaching and Training is much more than a training book for pets or animals. It is a book that will teach you how to change your own behavior, your children's behavior, your pets behavior, or even a sea lion's behavior.

This book came highly recommended to me, or I probably would never have picked it up. The title certainly makes it look like just a dog training book, and most of the examples do relate to animals. However, this quick read is also a goldmine of the two best kinds of information: valuable and practical.

The purpose of this book is to convince you that positive reinforcement is the best way to shape behavior. Chapter 2 lays out 10 Rules for Shaping. "Shaping consists of taking a very small tendency in the right direction and shifting it, one small step at a time, toward an ultimate goal." (35) These rules can help you do a variety of things for yourself and others. The personal examples that the author lists through her experiences training marine animals and teaching students hold your attention and are varied enough to appeal to everyone. 

Chapter 4 lists the eight methods that you can use to change behavior (the first is Shoot The Dog). These methods are comprehensive and will help you think about how you react to everyone around you. Each of the eight methods include a chart detailing various problems and how to use each method to change them. The problems that are tackled include a dirty roommate, noisy kids on a car ride, lazy employees, a faulty tennis swing, a spouse's bad mood, an ornery cat, and adult children that aren't self-sufficient. Intensely practical problems . . . this chapter will change the way you think about raising your kids. Just being able to visually compare punishment with seven other methods of behavioral change is eye-opening. These eight methods were the highlight of the book for me and helped to shed light on how my reactions were reinforcing negative behavior in others. They are:
  1. Shoot the animal
  2. Punishment
  3. Negative Reinforcement
  4. Extinction
  5. Train an incompatible behavior
  6. Put the behavior on cue
  7. Shape the absence
  8. Change the motivation
The last two chapters detail more real world environments and how these lessons can be applied. The author also answers the objections raised by some that training is a form of brainwashing. She clearly lays out the facts in these chapters and shows that we are always training someone to do something. This book just helps us to be aware of how we are affecting others around us and what to do about it.

This book is highly recommended. It is one that I will refer back to repeatedly in the future.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

5 Questions About Hell

Rob Bell is stirring up a lot of discussion about Hell with his new book, Love Wins

Below are 5 questions about hell that need to be answered, as well as Scripture and helpful thoughts from Christian authors that point in the right direction. These questions are complicated and have implications that go far beyond any blog post. Hopefully, these verses and thoughts will serve as a starting point, a direction for others to follow when they pursue answers to these questions.

Lucid Books would love to publish a book about heaven, hell, and the current theological firestorm raging over the doctrine of eternal punishment. We are committed to engaging debate and furthering the gospel, and would love to publish a response to Love Wins. If you are interested, contact us here.

Five Questions:

Is Hell real?
Can anything positive come from believing in Hell?
Why does God create people who go to Hell?
Are those who have never heard of Christ going to Hell?
Is Hell a Lake of Fire? Really, we are supposed to believe that?

Helpful Verses on Eternal Judgment, Christ, and Hell

“Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
(John 14:6 ESV)

“And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The LORD.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.”
(Exodus 33:19 ESV)

“And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.””
(Matthew 28:18-20 ESV)

“For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality.”
(Colossians 3:25 ESV)

““Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”
(Matthew 25:41 ESV)

“And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire.”
(Mark 9:43 ESV)

“‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’”

(Mark 9:48 ESV)

Helpful Quotes on Hell

Wayne Grudem defines hell as “a place of eternal conscious punishment for the wicked.” (Systematic Theology, 1148)

“Earth is the closest place to hell that Christians will ever experience and the closest place to heaven that unbelievers will ever experience.”

“Be sure that there is something inside of you which, unless it is altered, will put it out of God’s power to prevent your being eternally miserable. While that something remains there can no Heaven for you, just as there can be no sweet smells for a man with a cold in the nose, and no music for a man who is deaf. It’s not a question of God ‘sending’ us to Hell. In each of us there is something growing up which will of itself be Hell unless it is nipped in the bud. The matter is serious: let us put ourselves in His hands at once – this very day, this very hour.” (C.S. Lewis, God in the Dock 154-155)

“How can we love a holy God? The simplest answer I can give to this vital question is that we can’t. Loving a holy God is beyond our moral power. The only kind of God we can love by our sinful nature is an unholy god, an idol made by our own hands. Unless we are born of the Spirit of God, unless God sheds His holy love in our hearts, unless He stoops in His grace to change our hearts, we will not love Him. He is the One who takes the initiative to restore our souls. Without Him we can do nothing of righteousness. Without Him we would be doomed to everlasting alienation from His holiness. We can love Him only because He first loved us. To love a holy God requires grace, grace strong enough to pierce our hardened hearts and awaken our moribund souls.” (Sproul, The Holiness of God 183)

“The reason it is hard for us to think of the doctrine of hell is because God has put in our hearts a portion of his own love for people created in his image, even his love for sinners who rebel against him. As long as we are in this life, and as long as we see and think about others who need to hear the gospel and trust in Christ for salvation, it should cause us great distress and agony of spirit to think about eternal punishment. Yet we must also realize that whatever God in his wisdom has ordained and taught in Scripture is right. Therefore we must be careful that we do not hate this doctrine or rebel against it, but rather we should seek, insofar as we are able, to come to the point where we acknowledge that eternal punishment is good and right, because in God there is no unrighteousness at all.” (Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology 1152)

“Then I said that I thought a person who is in hell would do everything in his power to be in a lake of fire rather than to be where he is. I really have no graphic picture of hell in my mind, but I can’t think of any concept more terrifying to the human consciousness than that concept. I know that it’s a very unpopular concept and that even Christians shrink in horror at the very idea of a place called hell.” (R.C. Sproul, Now, That’s A Good Question, 303)

For additional information, these are all great resources on hell and a loving God.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Silver Chair - Review

This book, the fourth in the Narnia series, is a great read that focuses on two themes: spiritual warfare and following Christ. This is the first book where none of the original children come back to Narnia, though their cousin Eustace Scrubb is the main character, along with schoolmate Jill. They are transported back to Narnia and quickly receive instructions from Aslan and set out on their journey. 

"Following the Signs" is a phrase that is often repeated throughout their journey. The children fail to follow through on the first couple of instructions, but still proceed forward. Jill tries to recall the words of Aslan each night so she won't forget Aslan's instruction. Even for children, the metaphors here are obvious. Memorize scripture and follow Christ - even though you will fail at many things, always follow His instructions. 

The other theme of the book centers on spiritual warfare, especially with regard to pride. The children journey to an underground kingdom, where Prince Rillian is enslaved by a witch. He has been enchanted for so long that he only gets a fleeting glimpse of his former life for one hour each night. When he is finally freed, he realizes that he has been living a lie and denying the truth of his real life as a King of Narnia. 

This is one of my two favorites so far in the Narnia series. Lewis uses large themes in this book and follows them all they way through to the end. The Silver Chair is an excellent addition to the Narnia series and great for all ages. 

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Foolishness of Preaching - Review

It is odd that men are called to preach sermons, isn't it? Fallible preaching by fallible men is a dangerous affair. As Christians we hold the Bible to be infallible, our final authority for faith and life. God has used men to preach the perfect Word of God, to put into words what Scripture means. The foolishness of preaching is almost comical when viewed that way.

Capon is a writer who I love to read, partly because I disagree with him so much. His theology is wacky, his methods are unconventional, and his wit is too sharp at times. On the other hand, he is challenging in many ways and he is an amazing writer. I always come away from reading Capon having learned much more than when I read an author I already know I agree with.

If you are in the position where you have to preach a sermon in a couple of months, you could do a lot worse than this book. In the second section Capon specifically addresses preachers and gives some great advice for those who want to learn the real work of preaching sermons. His timetable and schedule is realistic, spiritually challenging, and thoughtful.

As good as the second section is for preachers, the first section (The Bedrock of Preaching) is more applicable for all believers. Capon's first chapter is his take on gospel presentation. This is something that I have reflected on many times since the first read, and will probably do so for years. This first chapter alone is worth the price of the book and will certainly provoke a lot of thought.

One of the many quotes I really like from the book, "Topical sermons are like topical anesthetics: they don't go deep." (63)

Capon also offers some great writing advice on page 131. It's a small addition to the book, but some of the best advice on writing that I have read.

This is not Capon's best, but there is plenty to glean from this work whether you are a preacher or not. Get this book after you have read, and liked, some of his other works like The Romance of the Word.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Voyage of the "Dawn Treader" - Review

Book 3 in the Chronicles of Narnia takes us to islands of stars, dragons, wizards, and more. The story in this book is driven mainly by the voyage itself, with the children visiting seven different islands in their search for Aslan's country.

I have heard people say this is their favorite book in the series, and others say it is their least favorite. Personally, I loved the way that story is told. It feels like a true adventure novel and Lewis intersperses the voyage with plenty of great theology.

Rather than write a long review, there is one passage in particular that I keep going back to. Tim Keller mentions the same passage in his latest book King's Cross: The Story of the World in the Life of Jesus. Eustace Scrubb has been transformed into a dragon through his greed, and after despairing that there is nothing he can do about it, Aslan comes on the scene.

"So I started scratching myself and my scales began coming off all over the place. And then I scratched a little deeper and, instead of just scales coming off here and there, my whole skin started peeling off beautifully, like it does after an illness, or as if I was a banana. In a minute or two I just stepped out of it. I could see it lying there beside me, looking rather nasty. It was a most lovely feeling. So I started to go down into the well for my bathe.

But just as I was going to put my foot into the water I looked down and saw that it was all hard and rough and wrinkled and scaly just as it had been before. Oh, that's all right, said I, it only means I had another smaller suit on underneath the first one, and I'll have to get out of it too. So I scratched and tore again and this under skin peeled off beautifully and out I stepped and left it lying beside the other one and went down to the well for my bathe.

Well, exactly the same thing happened again. And I thought to myself, oh dear, how ever many skins have I got to take off? For I was longing to bathe my leg. So I scratched away for the third time and got off a third skin, just like the two others, and stepped out of it. But as soon as I looked at myself in the water I knew it had been no good.

Then the lion said - I don't know if it spoke - you will have to let me undress you. I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate now. So I just lay flat down on my back to let him do it.

The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I've ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off . . .

Well, he peeled the beastly stuff right off - just as I thought I'd done it myself the other three times, only they hadn't hurt - and there it was lying on the grass: only ever so much thicker, and darker, and more knobbly looking than the others had been. And there was I as smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been."

Powerful. Excellent book for all ages, just like the rest of the Chronicles of Narnia.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

One Simple Idea Review

One Simple Idea is a practical, real-world guide that will help you take your ideas and get them to market with minimum investment of time and money. It is a great read that motivates the creative genius inside to think outside of the box, dream big, and get paid for it. One Simple Idea is a 5 star book and a steal for anyone interested in turning ideas into cash.

Part 1 focuses on how nice it will be once your ideas pay off and you are earning extra income.

"Find Your Million-Dollar Idea" (Part 2) really kicks off the valuable information in the book. This section offers great advice on what makes an idea valuable and marketable. Key emphasizes simplicity and how small ideas can make big money. While this part is good, I think it's also the weakest section in the book. Key only offers three creative thinking methods to come up with ideas . . . each just a paragraph long. He focuses on other idea generation methods that are simpler, but creative thinking techniques can unlock tons of great ideas in my experience. Going in depth here would make this book too long, but it would have been nice to include some additional recommendations for idea generation. For a book that is really strong in this area, check out Thinkertoys: A Handbook of Creative-Thinking Techniques (2nd Edition). It makes a great companion to One Simple Idea: Turn Your Dreams into a Licensing Goldmine While Letting Others Do the Work

Also in Part 2, Key gives an "idea litmus test" (70-73) to measure the ideas that you dream up. This is a great tool and a step that could be easily missed.

"Prove Your Idea" (Part 3) offers real world techniques to prove the viability of your idea. The information in this section is easily worth the price of ten copies of the book. Key's thoughts on prototype development (105-110) remove financial and fear barriers from the inventor's equation. Using his methods anyone can test markets with a little research and create great prototypes of their invention with minimal investment.

"Protect Your Idea" (Part 4) is the most valuable section in the book. If Part 3 saves the price of ten copies, Part 4 could save the price of a thousand copies. The first chapter details Key's method of protection through patents. His thoughts on this (not to mention the additional information on could save an inventor thousands of dollars, if not tens of thousands. Getting advice like this from an entrepreneur is more valuable than advice from a patent attorney.

The second chapter in this section details the best method to protect yourself when presenting your idea to others. Again, the advice is not just theoretical. Key spells out exactly what to look for and what to add to your agreements (133-134).

"Prepare to Pitch Your Idea" (Part 5) details how Key has licensed his products. His two-step method is simple, easy-to-follow, and a great idea. Anyone who has evaluated products of any kind will appreciate his approach. It will give you success more frequently and limit your failures to substance, not style.

"Submit Your Idea to Potential Licensees" (Part 6) details methods to do just that. Key gives techniques to narrow down your list of companies and even includes access to a part of his site that will give you the names of more than 1,300 companies that license products through open innovation (see page 173). Chapter 17 then details what to do once you narrow your list of companies down. Key's advice on cold-calling is practical and very helpful. This section could easily be applied to a wide variety of businesses. Key has obviously made many thousands of calls over the years and presents methods that will help you secure a licensing agreement.

"Bring Your Ideas to Market" (Part 7) gives a brief overview of how to negotiate and cut your first licensing deal. While there is not enough information in this section to answer all your questions, it is a great start. It is helpful to know what the going rate for royalties on inventions is, and Key does not hold back any information.

Be sure and check out the last two pages of the book for Key's 10 Steps from Idea to Market (222-223). He references the steps a couple of times throughout his book, and finally gives them all in one place at the very end.

"Appendix: Valuable Resources" is the last part of the book. The only thing better than a great book is a great book that points you in the right direction to learn more. Most of the resources on this page direct you to a section of Key's website. The advice is valuable, though the page on his site could be better organized and indexed with hyperlinks. Also, the recommended business book section is weak with only two books recommended. However, this could all be updated quickly and the resources themselves are very valuable.

- Excellent advice. Real-world help, not conceptual theory.
- Will help you take your ideas to the marketplace
- Additional resources and the value added from this book outweigh the cost of the book a thousand times over
- Weak on the creative thinking & idea generation sections
- References other chapters throughout the book. Helpful if you read a chapter here and there, annoying if read cover to cover
- Uses same examples too often. I know much more than I want to about Michael Jordan's Wall Ball now.

If you are interested in a book that can actually deliver on its promise to make you money with minimal investment, this is a great one. It is refreshing to read a book that gives real advice, has very little theoretical filler, and clocks in at less than 240 pages. It is a book you will read through once and refer too often when you come across a great idea that has market potential. Buy it and, as two of Key's students say on page 151, "Invent yourself out of a day job one idea at a time."

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

#1 Tool For Writers

Book marketing has changed over the last decade. Now more then ever authors are involved in marketing their books. Publishers can pull out all the stops to make first-time authors true success stories, but the author's involvement is the most important piece of the marketing puzzle.

Authors who are interested in publishing with Lucid Books often ask what they can start doing now to help sell books in the future. We always give the same advice to every author: start a blog.

Authors should create a blog focused on the content in their book. It seems like everyone has a blog these days, but few are focused. Authors can build a following by creating content, getting feedback, and more. Below are some of the questions we are often asked about blogs.

What is a blog?
Technically it is shorthand for a weblog. It can be anything you want to be, but is best used as a forum to share your work.

How do I start a blog?
Two great sites that will get you on your way for free are Blogspot and Wordpress.

When should I start a blog?
The best day to start a blog is at least three years before your book comes out. The second best day is today.

How often should I post?
You should post regularly, though daily is not neccesary. You want to post short articles regularly and try to have a longer piece at least once every couple of weeks.

How do I attract readers to my blog?
Tell your friends and family about it, comment on other blogs, and give the search engines time to pick up the content you are adding.

More Tools for Writers:
Mind Maps
The Maker's Schedule
Speed Reading Tips
Outsourcing Your Memory

Monday, March 7, 2011

I Will Teach You To Be Rich - Review

I discovered the author of this book through a promotion for The 4-Hour Body. After being on Ramit’s email list for a couple of weeks, this book shot up to the top of my “to buy and read soon” list. I finished it a few days after purchase and was not disappointed.

I Will Teach You To Be Rich is a personal finance book geared towards 20-somethings who need a push in the right direction . . . which covers just about every 20-something that I know. I think this book is useful for anyone, but better suited for someone 40 years old or younger who wants a solid finance book that will not bore anyone to death.

The advice is more straightforward than I was expecting . . . no big revelations. The upside of this is that the techniques that Ramit offers will definitely work, the downside is that you have probably heard them before. The section on investing in an index seems too conservative for most young people, but it will work (probably) if you are willing to wait 45 years or so to be rich.

One of the best features in the book is the six week schedule. It really encourages the reader to do something rather than just read good advice.  The credit card advice was also great, with some actual suggestions on what cards to use. I appreciated that Ramit went this route with the credit cards. The “cut them up now” method of personal finance always seemed extreme to me.

Admittedly, this book is more about how to save money than it is about getting rich. It may not be the type of book that many people want to read, but it’s one that most need to read. My suggestion is to buy the book and follow the author on the accompanying site. This book is good, but I think it just scratches the surface of what this author will offer in the future. As someone who has avoid reading Dave Ramsey’s book, mainly because I have had too many people recommend it to me, this is a great alternative and a really solid finance book.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Predictably Irrational Review

Dan Ariely, the James B. Duke Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics at Duke University, writes about "the hidden forces that shape our decisions" in Predictably Irrational. This book is not as diverse as some of the other behavioral economics books out there, but Ariely makes up for breadth with depth. Many of the subjects tackled are explored in detail.
Ariely writes about how he first became interested in the field of economics. You can skip the introduction to most economics book, but Ariely's story is worth reading. Ariely received third degree burns on over 70% of his body as an eighteen year old. His experiences in the hospital, including three years of recovery and therapy, convinced him to study what shapes our decisions.

For the most part, the subjects Ariely tackles will keep your interest. Some of the broader financial subjects, like supply and demand, could have been tightened. The information is good but too much time is spent explaining the experiments used to prove it.

Ariely spends a lot of his time in the more traditional economics arena, albeit with examples that make the subject interesting to anyone. Unfortunately for the reader, the most fascinating subjects are also the shortest. There are at least two chapters that I will refer to in the future, one on the influence of arousal and the other on the context of our character.

As a Christian, these chapters interest me because they arrive at traditional Christian values through the study of behavior, absent of Scripture. In Chapter Six, Ariely tackles arousal. He conducts a unique study, the details of which are not important, but suffice it to say that Lifeway Research won't be doing a similar one anytime soon. In fact, I think this chapter is important to read for pastors because it is one that Christians would not conduct, but the results support Biblical values.

Ariely concludes that we make bad decisions when we are controlled by lust. Not just bad decisions either . . . he shows how right and wrong become very gray when we are trapped in temptation. He offers two solutions, but focuses in on the second. He concludes that the best way to avoid bad decisions is to avoid putting ourselves in that situation. Some parents have decided that once they teach their kids to say "no" that their job is done. This book easily disproves that theory . . . it is often the parents job to say "no" so their children will be protected from uncontrollable situations.

Another great chapter covered the influence of the Ten Commandments on cheating. Long story short, reflecting on any part of the Ten Commandments was enough to stop cheating. Ariely goes on to test the same with different honor codes and has similar results. The results seemed to have surprised the experimenters, and I think there is more to reflect on for Christians here.

I debated whether to review this fully because it touches on some controversial subjects. However, I think books like this are important for Christians to read. The more we learn about human behavior, the more the Bible is confirmed. This book is recommended for anyone who is interested in why we behave the way we do.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

King's Cross

C.S. Lewis was the greatest Christian author in generations. Anyone, no matter what stage of life they are in, can read his books effortlessly. Lewis' words formed Christian doctrine, shattered Pharisaical religious myths, and evangelized the lost. Few authors are able accomplish this with their life's work; Lewis accomplished it in every book he authored. And now Tim Keller has authored a book that is just as sweeping, applicable, and paradigm shifting as Lewis' best work. 

King's Cross is a book about the life of Jesus as told in the Gospel of Mark. Keller, verse by verse, offers his thoughts on every major theme in Mark. There have been countless commentaries and just as many devotional works on the Gospels; King's Cross is both.

For the new Christian, King's Cross will bring the words of Jesus to life. Its easy to forget the power that Scripture has when you read it with fresh eyes. In King's Cross, Keller gives insight in the world of Jesus. He shows just how earth shattering the arrival of the Good News was. Keller will gently deconstruct the myth that the Bible is not a book that is inspired by God. You will walk away from King's Cross understanding just how radical the Gospel of Mark is.

For the pastor and Bible study leader, King's Cross should be a joy to read. Keller is a dedicated pastor whose love for his people comes across in each paragraph. Its easy be trapped in the intellectual realm of seminary or the spiritual emotionalism that infects almost every church. Keller never loses sight of his true purpose: sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ. He is able to write intellectually without going over the head of anyone, emotionally without any saccharine-sweet spirituality, and evangelistically without Bible thumping. His exposition of the text should inspire those who teach others in the church.

For the Pharisee, King's Cross will convict you. Whether you are an old school Pharisee who still tithes off the mint and cumin or newer model that looks down on the people who are "too religious," Keller seeks to expose and redeem you with Jesus' words. Its easy to miss how much Jesus despises religionists when we pick a verse here or there. When you read any of the gospels in one sitting, it's hard to say what Jesus dislikes more. On page 47 Keller writes, "The gospel says that the humble are in and the proud are out. The gospel says the people who know they're not better, not more open-minded, not more moral than anyone else, are in, and the people who think they're on the right side of the divide are most in danger." Convicting for the Pharisee in all of us.

For the non-Christian, this is a book that will show you why Christians have fallen in love with Christ. You will see Jesus as the original readers of the Gospels did. You will read the words of Jesus and be changed. Forgive Christians of the arguments and the apologetics and the attitudes that turned you against Jesus. Read this book, read the Gospel of Mark, and just ask yourself if it could be true. Could there really be one person who defines history with His life and death? If you have come to cherish the belief that Jesus was nothing more than a great person and a good teacher, a worthy example to follow, then this book will take that away from you. Jesus did not leave us that option. "Either he's a wicked liar or a crazy person and you should have nothing to do with him, or he is who he says he is and your whole life has to revolve around him . . ." (45, King's Cross)

Keller has already written impressive works that are among the best in the last decade, including The Reason For God and The Prodigal God. King's Cross does not fit into a certain category and exposes the power of the Gospel to modern readers. King's Cross is broad in its appeal, brilliant in its execution, and is Keller's best work to date. Buy at least two copies, because you will give it away.

3 Myths About Creativity

Creativity is considered a gift from above; some people have it, some don't. My goal is to help people rethink what creativity is, how it works, and how you can apply it to writing your books.

1. Creativity is not just a gift. It is an acquired skill. The sooner that you accept this the better. Creativity is something you can work at and achieve. Very few people are born with an innate creativity that flows from their fingertips as paintings, books, or music. Most of the time the most creative people are the most determined, those who push through failures to find success.

2. Creativity not something you think up. It is something you do. Steven Pressfield has a great book on creativity for authors called The War of Art. While his underlying philosophy is wrong, he has some excellent advice for all of those trying to actually do something creative. One of the first lines in his book states, "There's a secret that real writers know that wannabe writers don't, and the secret is this: It's not the writing part that's hard. What's hard is sitting down to write."

3. Creative ideas do not come from nothing. You have to work at it. Ideas fuel creativity. If sitting down is the the hard part for writers, staring at a blank page is not any easier. Ideas fuel our thoughts, and when they are put into words they produce books that can be great. One of my all time favorite books is a guide to creative thinking. This book has about 40 concrete tools you use to fuel creativity. Just using one of the techniques this book teaches will give you more ideas then you can possibly use. Read my review of Thinkertoys here.


This is one of my top ten books, period. It's a book that is hard to describe, because I don't know of anything else like it out there. Essentially, it is a book that boils the art of creativity down into exercises that anyone can use to fuel their own creativity.

To take a subject that is so high-concept and write a book with concrete tools that anyone can use is not easy. Michalko has written a book that will change the way you think, no matter what walk of life you come from. You will be smarter after reading and implementing this book, even if you just use one or two of the more than 40 tools he gives for creative thinking.

I've owned this book for a couple of years and am still not all the way through it, mainly because after each chapter there is so much information to digest and work on. Just using the very first technique in the book I was able to quickly come up with hundreds of ideas; ideas that never would have crossed my mind without this book.

To put it as simply as possible . . .  Buy It.

Read some of my other thoughts on Creativity here.