Publishing’s Big Bets!

A new trend is shaking up the publishing world, and this time it isn’t Amazon! The publishing industry’s hunt for the next blockbuster has given rise to an elite new club: the million-dollar literary debut. Literary fiction, long critically revered but poorly remunerated, is generating bigger and bigger bets by publishers.

As a result, publishers are competing for debut literary talent with the same kind of frenzied auction bidding once reserved for promising debut thrillers or romance novels. “If they feel they have the next Norman Mailer on their hands, they’re going have to pay for that shot,” literary agent Luke Janklow said. “It’s usually the result of a little bit of crowd hysteria in the submission.”

At least four literary debut novels planned for 2016 earned advances reported at $1 million or more, a number agents say is striking in the world of highbrow fiction. At least three such debuts were published this year, and two in 2014.

You can read more here:

http://www.wsj.com/articles/betting-big-on-literary-newcomers-1447880214

Innovation Takes Us Only So Far

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As Steve Jobs famously said, “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.” Innovation not only distinguishes individuals, it differentiates peoples and nations.

“Thought leaders” hold forth on innovation, tech industry leaders talk about it constantly. If you haven’t read a hundred quotes about innovation you’re likely leading a sheltered life.

Imagination is not only the uniquely human capacity to envision that which is not, and therefore the fount of all invention and innovation. As the writer J.K. Rowling puts it, “Innovation is arguably most transformative and revelatory capacity, it is the power to that enables us to empathize with humans whose experiences we have never shared.”

When one speaks of innovation, our thoughts immediately go to the icons of Silicon Valley, the Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg’s of this world. We look to the tech industry to be our innovative engine.

But new theories are challenging this assumption. Increasingly, however, economists and social thinkers are challenging the conventional wisdom on innovation. Speaking at the Institute for New Economic Thinking conference in Toronto, Mariana Mazzucato, a professor at the University of Sussex, described the most notable technology innovations as coming from the government, not the private sector.

Read more about this controversial new theory in this New York Times article here:

Will World War III Start Here?

The South China Sea

Last year, I placed an article in Asia-Pacific Defence Reporter that talked about the South China Sea.  While it would be too much of a stretch to say World War III will start there, it is beyond argument that the tensions in the South China Sea (SCS) have been a source of extreme friction that has escalated into conflict between China and her smaller neighbors.  Five years ago, few people paid attention to the SCS.  Now they are – and for good reason.

Stretching from the mouth of the Pearl River in China to the north, to the tip of Indonesia’s Natuna Island in the south, the South China Sea comprises a stretch of roughly 3,500,000 square kilometers in the Pacific Ocean that encompasses an area from the Singapore and Malacca Straits to the Strait of Taiwan, spanning west of the Philippines, north of Indonesia, and east of Vietnam. Put in perspective, the South China Sea would encompass the entire land area of India – and then some. Over $5 trillion in trade passes through the South China Sea every year. Two thirds of South Korea’s energy supplies, 60 per cent of Taiwan and Japan’s energy and 80 per cent of China’s crude imports all go through the South China Sea.  Indeed, as much as 50 percent of global oil tanker shipments pass through the South China Sea, which sees three times more tanker traffic than the Suez Canal and over five times that of the Panama Canal, making the waters one of the world’s busiest international sea lanes. More than half of the world’s top ten shipping ports are also located in and around the South China Sea. As intra-ASEAN trade has markedly increased—from 29 percent of total ASEAN trade in 1980 to 41 percent in 2009—maintaining freedom of navigation has become of paramount importance for the region.

In the main, the nations of the Indo-Pacific region have managed to increase their economic output and improve the lives of their people through peaceful means. No land army in the region has invaded its neighbor in recent times and disagreements are usually settled peacefully. The one notable exception to this is where land and sea meet, in those areas where numerous islands dot the seascape and trade passes and where mineral and fishing rights are contested. In an increasing number of cases there is contention and even conflict. Nowhere is this more pronounced than in the area of the South China Sea. However, with many nations asserting opposing rights in this sea, there is vastly more heat than light on the issues causing this friction.

You can read this entire article: “The South China Sea: The World’s Most Important Body of Water?” in the November, 2014 issue of Asia Pacific Defense Reporter at this link: http://www.asiapacificdefencereporter.com/

 

Mindfulness

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Mindfulness is a phenomenon sweeping the world – and there’s a reason for it. Most of us live distracted lives of mindlessness – living on auto-pilot, doing our rituals on social media and never stop for a moment.

At Google headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., Chade-Meng Tan, a veteran engineer, teaches mindfulness, a term that covers an array of attention-training practices. It may mean spending 10 minutes with eyes closed on a gold-threaded pillow every morning or truly listening to your mother-in-law for once. Google naturally sees it as another utility widget for staying ahead. This is not just a geek thing. Everywhere lately, the here and now is the place to be. George Stephanopoulos, 50 Cent and Lena Dunham have all been talking up their meditation regimens.

The Marine Corps is testing Mind Fitness Training to help soldiers relax and boost “emotional intelligence.” Nike, General Mills, Target and Aetna encourage employees to sit and do nothing, and with classes that show them how. As the high priestess of the fully aware, Arianna Huffington this year started a mindfulness conference, a page dedicated to the subject on The Huffington Post and a “GPS for the Soul” phone application with a built-in heart sensor to alert you when you’re calm or stressed.

The hunger to get centered is especially fervent in the cradle of the digital revolution. The Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz told Wisdom 2.0 audiences about modeling his current software start-up, Asana, after lessons learned in his yoga practice. At the same summit, eBay’s founder and chairman, Pierre Omidyar, shared the stage with Thupten Jinpa, the Dalai Lama’s English interpreter, and pegged the auction site’s success on human goodness and trusting in complete strangers. At another, Padmasree Warrior, the chief technology and strategy officer at Cisco, detailed analog weekends devoted to family, painting, photography and haiku.

And…increasingly…the science supports the benefits. The New York Times article, “Contemplation Therapy (February 21, 2016) discusses an interesting study that suggests there is science behind claims made for mindfulness meditation.

Read more in another article here:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/03/fashion/mindfulness-and-meditation-are-capturing-attention.html?_r=0

 

Are We the Masters or Servants?

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I’ve used this blog to talk about technology and to see where technology is pushing the edges of the envelope and not just delivering a handier Twitter app. Technology continues to dazzle us. But as Arthur Clarke famously said, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

But sometimes this “magic” has made many people wonder and filled others with fear. Few people can forget the chilling scene from Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey: Astronauts David Bowman and Frank Poole consider disconnecting HAL’s (Heuristically programmed ALgorithmic computer) cognitive circuits when he appears to be mistaken in reporting the presence of a fault in the spacecraft’s communications antenna. They attempt to conceal what they are saying, but are unaware that HAL can read their lips. Faced with the prospect of disconnection, HAL decides to kill the astronauts in order to protect and continue its programmed directives.

Are we still the masters of technology – or are we the servants? Movies like Ex Machina can make us wonder. Unfortunately, there is often more heat than light on the subject.

 

Read more in this thoughtful NYT Magazine piece here:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/13/magazine/all-is-fair-in-love-and-twitter.html?_r=0

Publishing Breakthroughs

Writing Techniques

Twenty years ago, the words “self-published” meant a writer had gone to a vanity press, paid a great deal of money, and gotten several boxes of books he or she never sold. Ten years ago, things were a little better a few self-published books were able to break through and find at least a modest market. Five years ago things changed dramatically and self-publishing, thanks in large part to Amazon, began to take off.

 

Today, the market is reaching new heights. In a New York Times Magazine article, “Meredith Wild, a Self-Publisher Making an Imprint,” the curtain is drawn upon on this booming market. As the article points out:

Ms. Wild’s path from becoming a self-publishing star to operating her own small imprint is the latest sign that independent authors are catching up to publishers in the sophistication of their marketing and the scope of their ambitions. Self-published authors can negotiate foreign-rights deals and produce audiobooks. A handful of the most successful independent writers sell print copies of their books in physical retail stores like Barnes & Noble, Walmart and Target, giving them access to a market that traditional publishers have long dominated.

Now enterprising authors like Ms. Wild are forming their own small publishing houses. Just like the old-guard editors and publishing companies that they once defined themselves against, these new imprints promise to anoint fledgling authors with legitimacy and give them an edge in a flooded and cutthroat marketplace.

In a sense, these authors-turned-publishers are thriving because the self-publishing ecosystem has become oversaturated. Amazon has more than four million e-books in its Kindle store, up from 600,000 six years ago, making it harder for new authors to find an audience. Building your own brand may sound appealing and empowering, but only a small fraction of self-published authors sell enough books to make a living, and many are put off by the drudge work and endless self-promotion involved.

It is a new era. Read more here:

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/31/business/media/meredith-wild-a-self-publisher-making-an-imprint.html?_r=0

Peering into the Future with the U.S. Intelligence Community

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Earlier this month, I blogged on looking to the future and offered the first installment of a series I wrote for the Defense Media Network. That post introduced the National Intelligence Council’s capstone publication, Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds. I suggested there – and offer the same idea again – that you don’t have to be as prescient as the late Tom Clancy to have a clearer window on the future. You need only mine the world-class work the of the sixteen U.S. intelligence agencies comprising the National Intelligence Council – the NIC as it is more commonly called.

Among the projections in its groundbreaking report: Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds:

  • China’s economy is set to overtake that of the United States in the 2020s, but China will not challenge the United States’ preeminence or the international order;
  • Asia will become more powerful than both North America and Europe combined (based on population, GDP, 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 bio-terror weaponry – could increase the risk of large-scale violence and disruption.

Read more about Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds and looking to the future on the Defense Media Network Website Read this second article of the series here:

http://www.defensemedianetwork.com/stories/global-trends-2030-how-does-the-intelligence-community-see-the-future/

Are We Grateful?

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Most of us learned to say, “thank you” as kids. But somewhere along the way we lost that. We’re too busy to make other people happy is the excuse. But maybe being grateful makes us happy.

Arthur Brooks explains it this way:

At one time, I believed one should feel grateful in order to give thanks. To do anything else seemed somehow dishonest or fake — a kind of bourgeois, saccharine insincerity that one should reject. It’s best to be emotionally authentic, right? Wrong. Building the best life does not require fealty to feelings in the name of authenticity, but rather rebelling against negative impulses and acting right even when we don’t feel like it. In a nutshell, acting grateful can actually make you grateful.

For many people, gratitude is difficult, because life is difficult. Even beyond deprivation and depression, there are many ordinary circumstances in which gratitude doesn’t come easily. This point will elicit a knowing, mirthless chuckle from readers whose Thanksgiving dinners are usually ruined by a drunk uncle who always needs to share his political views. Thanks for nothing.

But we are more than slaves to our feelings, circumstances and genes. Evidence suggests that we can actively choose to practice gratitude — and that doing so raises our happiness.

How does all this work? One explanation is that acting happy, regardless of feelings, coaxes one’s brain into processing positive emotions. In one famous 1993 experiment, researchers asked human subjects to smile forcibly for 20 seconds while tensing facial muscles, notably the muscles around the eyes called the orbicularis oculi (which create “crow’s feet”). They found that this action stimulated brain activity associated with positive emotions.

Read Brooks’ entire article here:
http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/22/opinion/sunday/choose-to-be-grateful-it-will-make-you-happier.html

Life Imitates Art in Northeast Asia

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As we move through 2016, what many predicted has finally happened – North Korea continues to scare us to death. We foreshadowed this in our second book of the re-booted Tom Clancy: Op-Center series, Tom Clancy’s Op-Center: Into the Fire. Not many understand what is at the root of the emerging crises in Northeast Asia. Life imitates art as we show in Into the Fire .

Booklist is a book-review magazine that has been published by the American Library Association for more than 100 years, and is widely viewed as offering the most reliable reviews to help libraries decide what to buy and to help library patrons and students decide what to read, view, or listen to. Booklist’s reviews singled out Tom Clancy’s Op-Center: Into the Fire for high praise. Their review struck a chord for readers as well as for libraries who have ordered both books. The phenomenon of the rebooted Op-Center series is catching on for a wide audience.

Here is what Booklist’s Jeff Ayers said about Tom Clancy’s Op-Center: Into the Fire:

Op-Center runs outside government channels, keeping tabs on potential threats to the U.S. beyond the purview of the conventional agencies. A North Korean general and his family are killed in an apparent robbery, but, in fact, it is the first step in a developing coup. Then a U.S. naval vessel, the USS Milwaukee, is engaged in exercises near the South Korean border when the ship’s commander is accused of violating North Korean territory, and the boat is attacked. The Op-Center team initiates a rescue of the survivors, but the mission requires that the group sneak in, make sure the  Milwaukee  is scuttled before the North Koreans grab it, and rescue the soldiers—all without starting a war. A secret treaty between North Korea and China involving a potential source for oil only makes the mission even more crucial. This is a top-notch military thriller, combining politics, suspense, and action. Couch and Galdorisi continue to make the Clancy brand shine

And coming soon…the next installment of the Op-Center series: Tom Clancy’s Op-Center: Scorched Earth.

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Leveraging Self-Doubt

Writing Techniques

Last month, I led two writing seminars at the San Diego State University Writer’s Conference. The three-day event was packed with great editors, agents and writers and there was a wealth of advice I wrote down – twenty-eight pages worth! More on that event in future blogs on Writing Techniques.

Several of the keynote speakers addressed the writer’s “curse” of self-doubt and talked about ways to overcome it. Somewhere, deep in the recesses of my writer’s brain, I knew I’d read a killer-good article on the subject. I had. It was a piece in the New York Times Magazine aptly-called: “The Dutch-Elm Disease of Creative Minds.” Here is part of what it said:

If you are in any kind of creative business you likely ride on the razor edge between hubris and self-doubt. Some call self-doubt, “The Dutch-Elm Disease of Creative Minds.” Mark O’Connell takes a refreshing view of this in his article: “Sorry, Chief, but that’s Not Going to Cut It,” in the New York Times Magazine. He addresses self-doubt head-on

Because if I had to identify a single element that characterizes my life as a writer, a dominant affective note, it would be self-doubt. It is a more-or-less constant presence in everything I do. It is there even as I type these words, in my realization that almost all writers struggle in this way; that the notion of a self-doubting writer is as close to tautology as to make no difference, and that to refer to such a thing as a “struggle” is to concede the game immediately to cliché, to lose on a technicality before you’ve even begun.

You can read this awesome piece here:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/08/magazine/the-dutch-elm-disease-of-creative-minds.html