Life Imitates Art

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One of my best friends, Bill Bleich, is a fabulously-successful screenwriter. And he is generous with his advice. He once told me:

You can boil down the plot of anything – a Greek Tragedy, a novel, a movie, you name it – into this: “What do these guys want, why do they want it, and what’s keeping them from getting it?” If you think about just about anything you’ve read or watched, I’m confident you’ll likely reach the same conclusion about that story.

When we came up with the high-concept for Tom Clancy’s Op-Center: Scorched Earth, we were firm in our decision that we’d focus intently on the Islamic State – also known as ISIS or ISIL.

The book was just released (August 2) as a trade paperback and if you read it – and we hope you will – you’ll see the sharp focus on the Islamic State.

Still, for many who feel whipsawed reading news reports or what the Islamic State is doing, it’s tough to understand what ISIL is doing and why they’re doing it. As we researched the subject we came across a wealth of material – some of it useful, some not so much. One of the great resources we uncovered was a March 2015 article in The Atlantic. Here is part of what it said:

The Islamic State is no mere collection of psychopaths. It is a religious group with carefully considered beliefs, among them that it is a key agent of the coming apocalypse. Here’s what that means for its strategy—and for how to stop it.

If you want to better understand “What do these guys want, why do they want it, and what’s keeping them from getting it?”   Read more of this outstanding report here.

If you want to see how life imitates art, read more about our New York Times best-selling Tom Clancy’s Op-Center series and our just-released Scorched Earth here.

What Does the Future Hold?

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If you watched any of the news coverage of the Republican or Democratic Conventions, you likely heard any number of pundits holding forth on a number of issues.

One of the favorite subject some pundits take on is the future. There are some that hit and some that miss. Suffice it to say there’s a cottage industry of “punditry” on the subject.

For most of us in the business, these pundits are, at best, a secondary source. The real pros go to the National Intelligence Council – the NIC. It harnesses the collective wisdom of the Nation’s sixteen intelligence agencies to deep dive into what our future world will look like – as well as the impact this future world will have on those of us living in the United States.

This collective wisdom is captured in their report, Global Trends 2030. In a sentence, there is no more comprehensive analysis of future trends available anywhere, at any price. It’s not an overstatement to say this 160-page document represents the definitive look at the future.

Among the major projections in GT2030: China’s economy is set to overtake that of the United States in the 2020s, but China will not challenge the United States’ pre-eminence or the international order; Asia will become more powerful than both North America and Europe combined (based on GDP, population, military spending, and technological investment); the United States will achieve energy independence with shale gas; and wider access to disruptive technologies – including precision-strike capabilities, cyber instruments, and bioterror weaponry – could increase the risk of large-scale violence and disruption.

And there is much more in this report!

Read the entire article here on the Defense Media Network website and consider what our world may look like in the future.

Scorched Earth – iTunes’ Summer’s Biggest Books

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iTunes featured Scorched Earth as one of this “Summer’s Biggest Books”, in the Mysteries and Thrillers category. Get your copy today!

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Scorched Earth is Now Available!

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The third book of the rebooted Tom Clancy series was released today. Tom Clancy’s Op-Center: Scorched Earth garnered great early reviews from Publisher’s Weekly and other venues and is an Amazon Summer Reading pick. It’s well-positioned to join the first two books of the new series, Tom Clancy’s Op-Center: Out of the Ashes and Tom Clancy’s Op-Center: Into the Fire on the New York Times, USA Today and Publisher’s Weekly best-seller lists.

Here is a sneak preview that will give you an idea of the motivating force for om Clancy’s Op-Center: Scorched Earth: It took President Obama only eight months to elevate ISIS from “a J.V. team,” to an organization that the United States was committed to, “degrade, and ultimately destroy.” And since the normal instruments of national power the United States can bring to bear cannot begin to degrade—let alone destroy—ISIS, this president, as well as future presidents, will have only one card to play. The president will need to call on the National Crisis Management Center, more commonly known as Op-Center, to protect American lives and freedoms.

So That’s It!

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Is there a more important question than this: “What is love?” It’s even the title of a popular song (Haddaway – 1993). Is love wile ecstasy – or flannel pajamas?

I think that for most of us, we’d pick the first answer. But then we’d think about it some more and wonder if that’s all there is to a relationship.

I just finished a great book, A Book About Love, by Jonah Lehrer. I decided to get the book – as I did for so many other books I’ve enjoyed – based on book review by David Brooks.

Here’s part of what David said in his review last month:

For Jonah Lehrer, true love is not usually like this. In “A Book About Love” he argues that this wild first ecstasy feels true but is almost nothing. It’s just an infatuation, a chemical fiction that will fade with time. For Lehrer, love is more flannel pajamas than sexy lingerie; it is a steady attachment, not a divine fire. For Lehrer, attachment theory is the model that explains all kinds of love.

He also sees marriage through the prism of attachment. Marriage itself, Lehrer argues, is not about finding a soul mate, or your mystical other half. It’s not even about finding someone like yourself. As he writes, “A 2010 study of 23,000 married couples found that the similarity of spouses accounted for less than 0.5 percent of spousal satisfaction.” It’s about finding someone with steady emotional tendencies and then being stubborn in the face of the nagging incompatibilities that will be there at the beginning and will never go away.

The book’s out there in most libraries. I’m all-but-certain you’ll enjoy it!

You can read the full review here

Is Innovation Still Pumping?

We’re living in an age of innovation. We’ve witnessed more change since the turn of the century than in any previous fifteen years. These new innovations seem to come faster every year.

Because of this we expect revolutionary new technology to spring up out of nowhere. And when it doesn’t, we predict “an end of innovation. Here is what Farhad Manjoo, the Wall Street Journal’s technology shared regarding “bounding our expectations.”

First, stop clamoring for the “next big thing.” Were you disappointed, once again, that Apple didn’t release something amazing and new this year—a TV or a smartwatch, say? Were you bummed that there were few revolutionary features on the latest smartphones? Have you concluded that the tech business is boring, that there isn’t any more innovation, that we live in uninteresting times? If so, I’ve got two words for you: Grow up.

I, too, constantly yearn for mind-blowing new tech. But I’ve been getting tired of the claim that just because we haven’t seen something on the order of the smartphone or tablet in the last few years, the tech industry can no longer innovate. The problem with this argument is that the touchscreen smartphone (and its cousin the tablet) was a singularly novel, industry-shattering device, and we’re unlikely to see anything as groundbreaking in a generation.

Read more about what we can expect from innovation here.

Life Imitates Art

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With great reviews and strong advance sales, our next Op-Center book, Tom Clancy’s Op-Center: Scorched Earth is poised to live up to the expectations of our readers. The bar is high, since our first two books of the rebooted Clancy Op-Center series, Tom Clancy’s Op-Center: Out of the Ashes and Tom Clancy’s Op-Center: Into the Fire lived up to our expectations both were on the New York Times, USA Today, and Publisher’s Weekly best-seller lists. Here is just a taste of the forthcoming book ahead of its August 2 release date:

Few would argue against the statement that ISIS (or ISIL—the preferred term used by U.S. national security officials—the “L” standing for Levant,) presents a profound threat to the West. As President Obama said in widely-watched speech in September 2014, “Our objective is clear:  We will degrade, and ultimately destroy, ISIL through a comprehensive and sustained counterterrorism strategy.”

 Almost two years later, U.S. national security officials remain perplexed as to how to deal with ISIS. No one is talking today, in 2016, about defeating ISIS, only containing them. What is happening in the greater Mideast in areas where ISIS roams freely will not resolve itself in the next several years. For Western nations, and especially for the United States, today’s headlines are looming as tomorrow’s nightmare.

ISIS will remain a threat to the West—and especially to the United States—years into the future because America has not come to grips with how to deal with this threat. As Jessica Stern and J.M. Berger describe in their best-selling book, ISIS: The State of Terror, and as Michael Weiss and Hassan Hassan describe in their best-seller ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror, the very nature of ISIS makes attempts to deal with it by employing the conventional instruments of national power all-but futile. Here is how Michiko Kakutani framed the challenge ISIS presents in a Books of the Times review of these two books:

The Islamic State and its atrocities—beheadings, mass executions, the enslavement of women and children, and the destruction of cultural antiquities—are in the headlines every day now. The terror group not only continues to roll through the Middle East, expanding from Iraq and Syria into Libya and Yemen, but has also gained dangerous new affiliates in Egypt and Nigeria and continues to recruit foreign fighters through its sophisticated use of social media. Given the ascendance of the Islamic State (also known as ISIS or ISIL), it’s startling to recall that in January 2014, President Obama referred to it as a “J.V. team,” suggesting that it did not pose anywhere near the sort of threat that Al Qaeda did.

In Scorched Earth, life will imitate art for years to come. We’re certain the challenge ISIS presents today will remain fresh and relevant for years. Indeed, the issues driving what makes the greater Levant the center of enormous strife today guarantee it will remain this way in the near- to mid-future. Simply put, from our point of view, as well as that of political officials, military leaders, historians and many others, the Mideast will remain a petri dish spawning and regenerating cancers like ISIS for years to come.

It took President Obama only eight months to elevate ISIS from “a J.V. team,” to an organization that the United States was committed to, “degrade, and ultimately destroy.” And since the normal instruments of national power the United States can bring to bear cannot begin to degrade—let alone destroy—ISIS, this president, as well as future presidents, will have only one card to play. The president will need to call on the National Crisis Management Center, more commonly known as Op-Center, to protect American lives and freedoms.

Our future blog posts on Tom Clancy’s Op-Center: Scorched Earth will reveal more of what went into plotting this book.

Read more about our New York Times best-sellers, Tom Clancy’s Op-Center: Out of the Ashes and Tom Clancy’s Op-Center: Into the Fire (Now available in mass market paperback, digital and audio editions) here.

Tank Man

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Many believe the United States and China are on a mutual path to peace and prosperity, citing the “Walmart factor,” and suggesting our economies are so intertwined conflict between our two nations is impossible. For those who believe this, it may be worth remembering that over a quarter century ago China ruthlessly crushed the student uprising in Tiananmen Square.

Such actions should give us pause especially since China has put policies in place to completely block any mention of Tiananmen, an uprising on that date, or any reference to the event where the government turned on its own people. Not only that, but this incident has eerie parallels to events that impact U.S. national security today. Here is how Daniel Henninger put it:

This Thursday is the 25th anniversary of the Tank Man’s solitary protest. On June 5, 1989, the morning after the Chinese army crushed the students’ democracy rebellion in Tiananmen Square, with hundreds dead, a man in a white shirt walked in front of the army’s tanks, driving down a street near the square. For a while, he made the tanks stop.

To this day, no one knows who the brave Tank Man was. But the whole world watched on global television as he stood down the tank commander. When the tanks tried to go around him, he moved in front of them. Eventually, two people came from the crowd and led him away. He was never seen again.

As the United States continues to “Rebalance to the Asia-Pacific Region, we should remember the Tank Man – and especially what happened to him.

Turning Point

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Go to school, work hard, succeed, get a job, work hard, succeed, raise a family, pay the mortgage, repeat….  Sound familiar. How many of us get on the treadmill and stay there, without finding out what we’re passionate about, let alone acting on it. Clare Ansberry offers some thoughts on the subject – compelling thoughts. Here is what she shares:

A dream prompted Martin Seligman, psychologist and author, to shift his research to humans from animals. Archaeologist Joyce White was drawn to Southeast Asia by an image of the Thai countryside in a slide presentation. A chance encounter with an elderly homeless man led physician Lara Weinstein to her work treating marginal populations. “It was almost like a transcendental experience,” says Dr. Weinstein, a family doctor in Philadelphia.

Such events are more prevalent than one might expect. A 2006 Gallup poll of 1,004 adults, the most recent it has done on the subject, found that 33% of Americans said the following statement “applies completely” to them: “I have had a profound religious experience or awakening that changed the direction of my life.”

The experiences vary. A revelation, directive or message comes unexpectedly. A series of unlikely synchronistic events occur. Some people sense a divine presence, and others feel deeply connected to something larger than themselves, be it nature or others around them, and pursue more altruistic work.

People of all ages and faiths, agnostics and atheists, have such experiences, yet they rarely talk about them. They’re concerned others will dismiss them as delusional or won’t take them seriously. Sometimes words fall short of conveying the intensity of what they felt.

Read the entire article here.

Suspense!

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Two things are universally true. First, writers are told time-and-time again to “create suspense” in whatever they’re writing. Second, Lee Child is one of the most celebrated authors writing today. When I discovered her opinion piece in the New York Times entitled, “A Simple Way to Create Suspense,” I thought I’d struck gold. I wasn’t wrong. Here’s part of what she shares:

How do you create suspense? I’m asked that question often, and it seems that every writers’ symposium has a class with that title. It’s an important technical issue, and not just for so-called suspense novels. Every novel needs a narrative engine, a reason for people to keep reading to the end, whatever the subject, style, genre or approach.

But it’s a bad question. Its very form misleads writers and pushes them onto an unhelpful and overcomplicated track.

Because “How do you create suspense?” has the same interrogatory shape as “How do you bake a cake?” And we all know — in theory or practice — how to bake a cake. We need ingredients, and we infer that the better quality those ingredients are, the better quality the cake will be. We know that we have to mix and stir those ingredients, and we’re led to believe that the more thoroughly and conscientiously we combine them, the better the cake will taste. We know we have to cook the cake in an oven, and we figure that the more exact the temperature and timing, the better the cake will look.

So writers are taught to focus on ingredients and their combination. They’re told they should create attractive, sympathetic characters, so that readers will care about them deeply, and then to plunge those characters into situations of continuing peril, the descent into which is the mixing and stirring, and the duration and horrors of which are the timing and temperature.

But it’s really much simpler than that. “How do you bake a cake?” has the wrong structure. It’s too indirect. The right structure and the right question is: “How do you make your family hungry?”

And the answer is: You make them wait four hours for dinner.

As novelists, we should ask or imply a question at the beginning of the story, and then we should delay the answer. (Which is what I did here, and you’re still reading, right?)

Read more of this insightful article here.