Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The 10 Best and Worst Inventions of the 21st Century - So Far

Obviously this is my list, while most of these are on a lot of people's lists there are many others not included. We each have our favorites.

1. The Keurig Coffee maker (K-Cup) – while technically from the latter part of the 1990s, this appliance caught on in the after being wholly acquired by Keurig Green Mountain Coffee and revolutionized the coffee industry as much as Starbucks changed coffee drinking. Starting in 2008, innumerable brands of coffee, soup, tea, became available at the local supermarket for the machine. I love the thing, and don’t start with all the baloney about the throw away cups. I ask you, how many wine and liquor bottles did you toss this week? And what about that countertop roll of paper towels that you replace each week? And at 5:00 a.m. who wants to make a full pot of coffee? 

2.  Apple iPad (2010) and the ensuing wave of personal tablets. If one item changed how we deal with everything from entertainment to logistics it was the invention of the iPad and its imitators. In your hand you can contain a library, access to patients records, maintain shipping records, managed inventories, display restaurant menus, and even waste innumerable hours playing WarCraft. I actually invented the original reader tablet (go here), I was just fifteen years too early.

3. The (now) ubiquitous Smartphone. While the successor to a number of late 20th century PDAs and Blackberries, the iPhone (2007) set off the mad scramble to change how we entertain, interact, and access the world around us. While a lot like the tablet, the Smartphone’s advantage was its cellular connection, size/portability, and ever-expanding world of Applications (Apps). It has also lead to police citations for distracted driving, users injured after walking into poles, ponds, and crosswalks, and more selfies than the world should ever need or want. In fact the selfie might be considered a 21st century sub-invention of the Smartphone.

4. Facebook (2004). This social media application took the world like Genghis Khan did in the 13th century. No description is necessary – if you don’t know what this is you probably are in the 13th century. I often believe that Facebook is like being forced to spend the rest of your life at your Aunt Milly’s with her cats being required to go through the photo albums of her bus trip to Bulgaria in 1973 with Trump driving and Hillary doing the tour guide thing.

5. Print On Demand – POD
Like most technologies, POD is a derivative of the high-speed reproduction systems developed during the last forty years (Xerox, Minolta, etc.). POD differs in that with one machine produces a professional book of fiction or non-fiction a in less than five minutes (often much less). The Espresso Book Machine (Xerox) was first installed in 2007. This is both a physical invention and a data system using interrelated tools for data storage (book files), sales access (book page at Amazon, etc.), and input (authors/publishers). It has dramatically changed and expanded the number of books (paper) available.

6. Amazon Kindle (2007) and the eBook. I ask you, does an ebook really exist? Without a reading device such as the Amazon Kindle and subsequent tablets, or iPad, or smartphone, or even you computer, the ability to read an ebook is impossible. Yet, this electronic collection of whatever it is has revolutionized – and I mean revolutionized – the world of writing and publishing. I would offer that more than 90% of those with a tablet device or a computer have downloaded at least one ebook—admit it. Jeff Bezos and Amazon not only changed how we buy books but how we read them as well.

7. The Collateralized Debt Obligation (CDOs). I didn’t say they would all be positive - go see the movie the Big Short Wikipedia Says : In the early 2000s, CDOs were generally diversified,[5] but by 2006–2007—when the CDO market grew to hundreds of billions of dollars—this changed. CDO collateral became dominated not by loans, but by lower level (BBB or A) tranches recycled from other asset-backed securities, whose assets were usually non-prime mortgages, and are known as Synthetic CDO. These CDOs have been called "the engine that powered the mortgage supply chain" for nonprime mortgages,[7] and are credited with giving lenders greater incentive to make non-prime loans[8] leading up to the 2007-9 subprime mortgage crisisAnd the world was given the Great Recession and the destruction of my company.

8. YouTube (2005). And yes, you can become a movie producer of cat and puppy videos all in the comfort of your own home. You too can put your wedding movies out there for everyone to see, and yes this simple company and its camp followers has led to the destruction of the traditional porn industry – is nothing sacred? YouTube Movie production is the direct result of the blending of softwares, cameras, phones, and creative genius (for some), and is now significantly responsible for how we store old memories (digitization) and create new ones.

9. Google Earth (2001). For armchair travelers, planners, geographic voyeurs, and vacation planners, Google Earth is just plain cool. With its 3D function you can get a feel for the land
 nd the structures of cities, with its street view walk or drive the cities and countries of much of the world. Combined with its ad features for hotels, businesses, restaurants, and almost everything else that pays to play, it can make a business. (also includes Google Maps here).

10. DNA Testing.
AncestryDNA, 23and Me, Family Tree, etc. are all companies that will test your DNA to try and place your genetic ancestry based on their huge pool of DNA tests. Like the commercial though, you may think you were German and discover that you are really Scottish, or Norwegian, or Dalmatian (the region, not the dog). Not done this myself, kind of spooky out their in my gene pool.

Also Rans:
  • iPod (2001)
  • Bluetooth (2000ish)
  • Skype (2003)
  • Robotics – ongoing for the wounded and injured
  • Drones – I am so tired of them
  • Tesla Electric Car – While cool, I think its financial success is still debatable
  • Roomba Vacuum Cleaner (2002)
  • Flat Screen TVs – Smart TV
  • NetFlix (late 20th century DVD – but took off in the digital world)
  • Medical devices for the heart, pancreas and other organs
  • Innumerable international political organizations – most corrupt and derivative

Friday, January 8, 2016

New Years Resolutions For Writers

It is my opinion that writers, more than most, make New Years Resolution in numbers far beyond the normal guilt ridden lists of regular folks. Much of it due to the stack of incomplete manuscripts stuffed in folders spread across the computer screen, stacks of notebooks, unread novels, and a general dissatisfaction with the state of their work. So out come the goals, the lists, and the resolutions for the coming year.

Most writer’s resolutions tend to be along these lines:
  1.  Finish the current Work In Progress (WIP) by April 1, and this is not a joke.
  2.  Have the last WIP run through Grammerly and get it off to the editor (confirm loan at bank).
  3. Follow-up with that agent you met at Bouchercon who was so interested in your work that she actually remembered you on day two of the conference. Get WIP ready.
  4. Update Curriculum Vitae for the New Year. Remember to include the mention of that novel that won Best New Author from the local affiliate of the Nora Roberts Book Club – also update all book descriptions—this is important, get done by end of February.
  5. Sign up for at least three  two writer’s conferences, ask partner if they like Utah.
  6. Try to meet Michael Connelly, get autograph. If not him, try for Lee Child or David Baldacci.
  7.  Start outlining and spit-balling the new follow-up sequel to that thriller wasting away in that stack of papers on the shelf. Goal: If there are two books in the series a publisher might be more interested.
  8. Back up everything on the computers, do it now. Or at least, by the end of the month – remember what happened last time!
  9. Two options: Drink less or drink better.
  10. Take 2015 Resolution list pinned to corkboard and place in manila folder of Past Resolutions. Do not look at previous lists.
So, as you can see my list is little different than yours. Maybe the order, maybe the direction, but without a doubt the phrase “Stop Procrastinating” seems to cover them all.
Make 2016 the most productive and creative year of your career.

Happy New Year

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry Christmas to All

Have a wonderful Merry Christmas
and a Happy New Year from
Greg Randall and all the folks
at Windsor Hill Publishing

Monday, November 23, 2015

Big Bucks and Big Publishing

The Wall Street Journal published an interesting article in its Thursday edition (HERE).
It is about first time authors, big advances, the literary marketplace, success and more often, failure. To be honest it is all about money – big money.

I write thrillers and occasionally a literary work or two. But to sit down and read a 927 page novel such as City on Fire by Garth Risk Hallberg (published by Alfred A. Knopf) is daunting, no matter how good the reviews. Writers only have so much time. Hallberg’s  advance of nearly $2 million does get the juices (and keyboard fingers) going though and the imagination. The publishing world it is like the lottery – millions play, millions lose. But it also being at the right place, with the right work, at the right time.

Four things must come together to produce a successful book: story, agent, publisher, and reader. Sure there are many other players in the process but these are the most important. Like baseball, it’s a simple game: you throw the ball, you hit the ball, you catch the ball.

As an author I know what it takes to write a book, even an award-winning book. As a self-publisher I realize how difficult it is to produce and market a successful book. As a reader I’ve learned over the past half-century what a good story is and what a great story is. All this still doesn’t necessarily produce a “blockbuster.”

Andy Weir’s The Martian is one of those books. I’m sure Andy, when he started out, wanted to tell a simple story. Maybe the modern version of Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe. He serialized the book, sold it for $.99 on Amazon, got noticed, sold the book to Crown, and the rest is as they say history. The real story is that every book has a history, unique to itself.

For me the writing process is almost more enjoyable than the finish. That may be the reason I’ve not flogged my books in front of agents and publishers. I sent a few queries out, toes in the water thing, but never allowed the publication process to dominate the writing. For me it is all about the story—someday, the great horned-toad willing, someone will wave my book in the air and say this is the greatest thing they’ve read since sliced bread. That will be nice.

More Later . . . . . . .