Same Beach – Different Book

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And different role!  Those that follow the blog, know I have developed an eccentric pattern in my writing routine. It’s a rather odd thing, but I like to edit my manuscripts on the beach in Puerto Rico. You’ve heard of “beach reads”, I call this a “beach-edit.”  Each of my four novels have gone through this sun, sand and red pen ritual.  It kinda’ goes like this:

Read, turn page, read, ooops, red pen, read, Bikini,

read, turn page, read, Bikini, ooops, red pen, Bikini,

read, read, turn page, Bikini

You get the rhythm and the two-piece picture.

Last week however, I sat on the beach in beautiful Isla Verde and edited a manuscript “not of my own making!”  I did a beach-edit on my cousin George Cannastraro’s brilliant new book, Constantine’s Dagger.  This was my first experience in “story editing” or “content editing” a book.  My cousin allowed me to make him the guinea pig in my editorial experiment. 

Followers know I am not a master of grammar and sentence structure.  I couldn’t last 2 seconds in a Spelling F not to mention a Spelling B! But I, and anybody else who has done this for a while, can spot story opportunities, contradictions and potential character and plot enhancements when doing a fresh, critical read of work – not of your own brain.

No two writers write the same, even when they are cousins, but if you really put on the Editor’s cap and go with the flow of the author, it’s a pretty happy outcome. In our case, and I guess in all cases when you get down to it, story editing is about choices, conscious or otherwise, made in the telling of the tale. Sometimes when we write we have a single trajectory, one way in and one way out of a scene or subplot.  But when it ain’t yours, you are free to see the “story-scape” from a different perspective and make recommendations to give more involvement, drama, comedy, risk and reward to the reader. 

We had some wonderful moments opening up the story with added beats, which increased the tension, drama, and comedy or emphasize a character’s trait. This was easy because the action and dialogue were written so well and with a flair for word-craft. We took the opportunity to increase the texture, widen the scope and to more clearly focus the reader into the story through experiencing emotions, rather than reading about them. We had fun “cutting in” to use film terms, “close ups,” and reaction shots or just playing with rhythms like leaving the next shoe to fall, not now… but, …wait for it, …wait for it, … Now!

That part became more like conducting an orchestra than editing. But only because George wrote great characters, and musically wove them together. 

I am about to mangle an old Native American saying, but it went something like, “You can’t paddle your friend’s canoe across the river, without you, yourself, getting across.”

My first shot at editing, has gotten me across a divide I have experienced in my own writing. Now, I see more globally at the same time I am writing locally within my story.  I am quicker to recognize patterns and old stand by’s in my own work. In fact, right now, I am in the first pass of my 5th novel, Give Us This Day, I am more attuned to pacing and making conscious choices. Like whether to play the note a little longer, or make it a quick flourish in order to make an impact.

I recommend story editing to anyone who wants to get across the river that we sometimes encounter when we are traveling along the path to our own novel.

The signpost up ahead… this is the next stop on…

The Writing Process Blog Hop

Welcome to the next stop on The Writing Process Blog Hop.  I’m Tom Avitabile and thanks for ‘hopping’ in.

First off, I’d like to thank the author who handed this off to me, Joe Badal. An extremely gifted writer and someone of whom I once wrote,

[His] writing is as crisp and as tight as a line drive home run. Author Joe Badal hits all the bases from the military, to the political, the tactical, to safe at home – Homeland that is.

Read Joe’s books, but not on a train, bus or other form of public transportation – You WILL miss your stop!

As followers of the blog know, we are asked to answer four questions, well, I have been cramming for weeks to get the answers right, so here goes…

1)  What am I working on?

That seems simple enough  I am working on two things, er… three things. My fifth book “Give Us This Day” (got four on the shelves and one in the laptop). This book marks the emergence of a new sub series – A Brooke Burrell Novel.  My FBI agent turned special operative for the president turned Navy wife turned reluctant operator again, is getting some nice notices and it just seems right to give her a platform of her own.

The second thing I am doing is totally new for me, editing content on my brilliant cousin George Cannistraro’s brilliant second novel, “Constantine’s Dagger.”  It’s an epic story of war, family, courage, royalty and a mother’s unselfish sacrifice to protect her sons – spanning decades. It is an epic book, and the stuff of miniseries.

The third thing is, I am always working on being a better writer. Blasphemous statement alert: I hate writing!

I am the last person on earth to write a composition for school, much less a 120,000-word manuscript.  Geez all those wordsit gives me the willies just thinking about em.

HOWEVER, I love, love, love AUTHORING!

I see “author” as a more comprehensive role: the job manager, the architect, the engineer, the artist, the psychiatrist, the logistics coordinator, the personnel department, the scenarist and the problem solver. The author does all that before the story goes over to the ‘writing department.’  You know, the monkeys who sit in the room (on the other side of my brain) and bang out words in an order and manner detailed and outlined by the author.)

I guess if I didn’t discover authoring, I would have never had the drive, commitment, and stamina to finish even one chapter.

2)   How does my work differ from others of its genre?

The MONKEYS!  They are what make me different.  In fact, I would venture to say that no serious writer of any period, genre, or level of notoriety has ever admitted, much less, handed his work over to a bunch of damn monkeys…

You see, these little banana-eating, key pounding creatures, only know what the Author has outlined for them to write. But those little troublemakers start writing stuff that wasn’t in the big picture. Yes, I have to edit out many scenes where an agent, or the President, asks someone if theyd like to get a banana but on balance these little guys are so divorced from the story that they bring an “on the ground” perspective to the characters.  It’s like my character’s still have to take out the garbage or change their pantyhose that have a run in them, WHILE they are saving the world. Ugh, monkeys… they complicate the lives of my characters and in doing so bring them closer to the reader’s experiential match points. So, in the end, is my work different from other author’s? I wouldn’t begin to say that, but I know this, every person leaves their creative DNA on anything they write. Plagiarism aside, it is almost impossible for any two writers to write the same scene the same way.

3)   Why do I write what I do?

The old adage states: write what you know. Most people take that to mean, a lawyer should write courtroom dramas and a cop should write crime novels and an old, snoopy biddy should write cozy mysteries.

Well, my stock and trade is as a Stage/Film director. BUT! I started out as an electronic engineer; I have worked for the House Committee on Science Space and Technology; I have built computers and designed new systems in movie making. I am also currently a Senior Vice President and Creative Director of a smaller New York advertising firm.

The core through line tying all this stuff together is human perception, reaction, and condition.  As a director of humans, a student of humans, and a human myself, my core competency is in Human characters.  I know the human character. Therefore in “writing what I know”, I write humans. Humans who are: plagued by their choices, intelligence, stupidity, compassion, pathology, genetics, up bringing, and whatever moral code serves them for good or evil. Then I place them in settings that I know, (see above list) and, even more fun, places I don’t know.

If all that is too wordy then skip to this: “I author the books I desperately want to read.”

Okay kids, we’re coming to the last question. In case you all run out of here, I just want to say that’s it’s been a pleasure hosting this next stop on the blog hop. As you are leaving, you might want to check out some of the books on the table in the back.

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And thank you for supporting living authors…

Now the last question…

4)   How does my writing process work?

Pretty well, thank you…Goodnight!  Oh, you want more? Ah, Yes. Well…

I try to write five out of seven days a week mostly. You know, get up an hour early, write through lunch and go to bed an hour later. Don’t watch Homeland or Home Shopping Network. Write instead.

Writing to me is a subset of what I really am. Let me go back and explain, once again, my dirty little secret, I hate writing.  To me writing is a tool, one of many to be used to get to a final product. That product has been designed by the author – me, if you are able to follow this warped way of thinking.

When I am deep in a book, the world and it’s characters that I have created become a dream. A very good dream! When I have to stop writing, it becomes a dream interrupted.  And just like on those nights when you are having one heck of a good dream and you awaken and then try hard to get back to sleep – to re-enter that wonderful dream… Well that’s my process. Only, I always have the last sentence I wrote as a marker of where to pick up that dream already in progress.  I then see life as the distraction that takes me away from this beautiful dream, incredible characters, and a story that keeps me in awe and wonder.

My line is “Writing is a dream interrupted by life.”  The International Thriller Writers, ITW, of which I am a member, said it so much better when they simply said, “Writing is dreaming in ink.”  But you’d expect that conciseness, them being writers and all.

Well, I think I’m done. Thank you for getting this far in my blog.

And now a word about the next stop on the Writing Process Blog Tour, on August 25th.  We have two great authors who are all ready to share their thoughts, practices, fears and joys about the process with you (and I can assure you, no more about monkeys).

 

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ETHAN CROSS

When a fireman or a policeman would visit his school, most of his classmates’ heads would swim with aspirations of growing up and catching bad guys or saving someone from a blazing inferno. When these moments came for Ethan Cross, however, his dreams weren’’t to someday be a cop or put out fires; he just wanted to write about it.

And his dream of telling stories on a grand scale came to fruition with the release of his first book, The Shepherd, which went on to become an International Bestseller published in several countries and languages. Ethan followed this up with more great titles like The Prophet, The Cage, Callsign: Knight, and Blind Justice. His latest book is the third installment of the Shepherd series, Father of Fear, coming from the Story Plant in Summer 2014.

In addition to writing and working in the publishing industry, Ethan has also served as the Chief Technology Officer for a national franchise, recorded albums and opened for national recording artists as lead singer and guitar player in a musical group, and been an active and highly involved member of the International Thriller Writers organization.

Ethan Cross is the pen name of an author who lives and writes in Illinois with his wife, three kids, and two Shih Tzus.

http://www.ethancross.com/category/blog/

AuthorPic1Color-248x300JEREMY BURNS

An avid reader since the age of three, Jeremy Burns was devouring novels by the time other children his age were still learning their ABCs. Blessed (and, at times, cursed) with a decidedly active imagination and an insatiable curiosity for nearly everything, Jeremy made learning and storytelling two of his chief passions. After earning his degree in History from Florida State University, Jeremy accepted a position teaching literature, creative writing, political science, and philosophy at an international school in Dubai. Like the characters in his books, Jeremy is an intrepid explorer whose own adventures have taken him from Mayan ruins in the Yucatan to the pyramids of Egypt, from medieval castles across Europe to the jungles of Bangladesh, and beyond. To date, Jeremy has traveled to more than twenty countries across four continents, seeking adventure, discovery, and ideas for future novels. When not exploring a new corner of the globe, Jeremy lives in Florida, where he is working on his next thrilling novel.

http://www.authorjeremyburns.com

The God Particle On SALE NOW!

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God-Particle-Ad2Buy The God Particle now till June 24 and get the e-book versions of the first two books in the series – the #1 bestseller THE EIGHTH DAY and THE HAMMER OF GOD – FREE

Click here for details –> http://thestoryplant.com/marketing/book-giveaway.php?gid=9.

 

The Waiting Game

On Tuesday, June 17th my third novel, The God Particle goes on sale at all the usual places. Currently, I am pacing in the virtual waiting room awaiting the delivery of this little package to the world. Many things go through your mind at a time like this. Questions like; Will it ever go to college? Will people like it? Will it be healthy? Will it someday have offspring of it’s own?

College: Will it be embraced by the all important 18-25 demo and be catapulted to “must read” status by students who find resonance between what they are learning about the world and the themes, issues and concerns contained between the covers?

Likability: That elusive quality. Sure, I gained 106,000 words during the gestation of this thriller, but will people like the way it came out? 

Healthy Retail: Can this creation achieve a strong showing in sales? Will the marketing, promotion, reviews and buzz encourage readers to buy and suggest this new arrival to their friends, associates and groups.

Offspring: The God Particle itself is the child of two previous Bill Hiccock books coming together. Will this new take, focusing on Brook Burrell, the FBI agent turned secret operative for the Science Advisor to the U.S. President attract the right kind of soul mates that will produce a next generation of books?

These are the questions the parent of any book ponders as he or she waits for the signal that the labor has ended and now their “baby” has to go out into the world and make it on it’s own.  I can only hope I imbued it with all the smarts, compassion, wit, thrills and drama to succeed out in the world and make me proud. 

Getting Buzz

I was recently on The Business Buzz with host Jeff Sherman and Marty Keena to discuss aspects of writing a novel including character and plot.

 

Remembering What Didn’t Happen…

Here’s What Didn’t Happen This Morning:

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We didn’t wake up to another long daily speech by “Four” instilling in us the national purpose. There was no weekly push to identify and register undesirables.  There was no report of skirmishes with the Empire on its eastern borders overnight.  Especially in the Yamoto mountain range, just past the Mississippi River. We did not hear that, as of today, the national Youth Orientation requires all 14 – 17 year olds to now wear the new brown shirts that have been ordered by “Four”

There was no news report that the council had raised the taxes on Jews, Free-Blacks, Gypsies, and Homosexuals to a seasonally adjusted high. Also the little town of Twin Oaks, Ohio wasn’t machined gunned by the Goring Division’s elite Shock Troop unit, killing every last man, women and child in a 20 block “ghetto” area, an ordered response by “Four” to the “Undesirable’s “ uprising that killed five Policemen of the State.

And best of all, we weren’t forced to listen to the exploits of Four’s two sons as they partied and ate their way through Himmler University, formerly Oxford over in the old London area of the New Deutschland.  The smaller of the two offspring, Enrich Hitler, who, as we are constantly reminded, shot his girlfriend’s dad when he found out he was one quarter Jew, (Enough already we’ve heard that a thousand times…) had recieved, as usual, all A’s in his grades like a good little wunderkind.

That would have been today in The New Reichland, or as it used to be known The United States of America, before we lost World War Two. The German Third Reich (…may it reign for a thousand years) winning the east part of the new fatherland, and by treaty, the Japanese new kingdom of Shōwa existing in the most western states.

The great cleansing occurred from 1948 thru 1960 with Former American citizens, who rejected their new authoritarian overlords, and refused to speak only German, the new national language, were systematically and efficiently eliminated by the Fuehrer’s Purification branch. (The over 38 million bodies evaporated using the glorious Nazi uranium reactors, first created towards the end of 1944 during the Great Victory of the Third Reich (…may it reign for a thousand years).

The one party, National Socialist Government assures all it’s loyal citizens that the unrest fomented in the troubled west, the Japanese held nation of Shōwa, named posthumously after the great axis ally Hirohito, will be crushed by a new weapon, the Stuka V26 Drones. Chancellor for life, his right and correct self; Adolf Hitler the Fourth, cited his beloved great-grandfather, Hitler the first, (…may his memory live for a thousand years) by stressing the that the New Aryan blood lines, the fruit of the great victory shall not perish under the boot of those Japanese Imperialist who are not satisfied with the award of the western part of the continent.  There was no comment from the emperor’s palace in New Edo (formerly Los Angeles.) Also, the state office for news and propaganda reported normal relations with our Italian neighbor to the south, Messico d’ Il Duce. The former Mexican nation granted to, and named after, our ally in the Great Victory, Benito Mussolini.

Oh, and their was three other things that didn’t happen today, “Four” (more properly, Adolf the Fourth) didn’t announce the new “Schwarz” tax regulations in which New Reichlanders will be taxed 500 Marks more for each of their Black servants and the new death sentences announced for those who mix blood with this or any non-Aryan species (including of course, Jews.) The Ministry of Purification held firm however, that unrepentant homosexuality after 10 years of State mandated re-education, still remains punishable by death.

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NONE OF THIS HAPPENED…

because brave men and women fought and died to defeat this atrocity of human endeavor called the Third Reich and their allies the Japanese Empire.  That’s why Memorial Day is more than a day off, an un-official start to summer or a great sale day at the malls… Memorial Day honors those who gave up the rest of their lives so we wouldn’t live the rest of ours in The New Third Reich.

No one under the age of 50 today seriously thinks that this, or some dystopian version of it, would be life, as we know it in America today if we had lost the war. Let me assure you, World War II was not made for the movies. This wasn’t a small disagreement between two philosophies academically opposed. This was real hell. 70 millions of people died, at least 6 million men, woman and children exterminated by the “state” because of to whom and how they prayed (Jews), or whom they loved (Gays) or their low social status (Gypsies). Ten times more humans were uprooted, made homeless and lost everything.

Why? How? The forces of totalitarianism, enslavement and racism, (a small minority of the German people – but the ones with the guns,) started out in their quest to dominate the world using “blitzkrieg” or lightning-fast attacks with massive overkill and total destruction. In the end, these, “supermen” were fighting for their very existence. Their goal of domination and purification of the world halted when it ran up against the only place on Earth in the 1940’s that could stop them after Europe fell, The Untied States of America. Make no mistake, the NAZI dreamed of marching into Times Square like they marched under the Arc’ triumph in Paris. (Check it out on Google or Wikipedia, dude. They actually killed tons of innocent people and took over France!) Burning down the U.S. capitol and enslaving the liberty loving Americans was the goal of the entire Germany-Italy-Japan “Axis” war machine.

The only thing that stopped them, and saved Europe, and the World was the American and Allied Soldiers, PERIOD! They were men and women of every race, ethnicity and creed who fought the good fight. May their memories; the memories of the fallen who so nobly gave of themselves for our freedom… may their memory never wane for a thousand, thousand years.

God Bless their souls and God Bless America and you. Have a safe and reflective Memorial Day.

Authors of the Round Table

Recently, I was invited to participate in the ITW Thriller Round Table, which (as I dust my shoulders off) is quite an honor. The topic on everyone’s mind: “How do you separate the author from your characters?” Here’s my two cents which is worth a million dollars.

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Our Love Affair with Lists… and being number one

unnamedDavid Letterman understood our fascination with ordinal ranking and has made a late night institution out of his Top Ten list. We all grew up listening to songs on the charts, “And now the number one hit across the nation…” Does anybody watch the 239th Nielsen Rated TV show?

We love lists. They help us decide what we consume, buy or desire. From “the number one pain reliever…” to “don’t settle for second best…” lists guide us, inform us and allow us to not think too much because someone else has already vetted, evaluated, opted for, shown propensity for, or simply bought a truckload of X.

So it was with slight apprehension that I accepted the fact that my book, The Eighth Day, had achieved a number one ranking on The Nook One Hundred. When I first got the news there was no fanfare, no drum roll under an announcer barking, “And the number one bestselling book is…” Just a lovely, one line, “fragment” of an e-mail from my publisher, The Story Plant’s, Marketing Department:

#1 bestseller!

Longer accolades and sweet congratulatory notes followed, but that was the moment. I will admit that, having been raised on lists, at that instance I experienced weightlessness. Not quite an out-of-body transcendence, but a lightness of being akin to an endorphin high greeting me after this race to the top.

Then my analytical author’s psyche chimed in. As you know, part of what it is to write is to examine all the possibilities at every beat in the story and choose the best possible words, actions and emotions that will tell your tale the way you want it told. Here is my internal dialogue, which I am sure is the reason why many authors drink to excess: “Is this a victory for me or my publisher? Are readers buying my book, or the company’s placement, merchandising and marketing? Do they know my work or are they truly buying a book by its digitized cover? Was this a result of the publisher’s clout and high-voltage push or an actual desire for the mega-wattage power of my book? Would another piece of meat have benefited from the sizzle that was applied to my steak?”

That “glass is half full” line of plot analysis gave me the worst kind of writer’s block – blocking joy. My dear friends sent along “congrats,” “knew you could do it,” “whoo hooo!” and other forms of textural backslapping which feels great but – and again, here’s that author’s dark cloud – that is a friend’s natural and very sweet form of acknowledgement. BUT they’ve already read the book, or at least bought it, so they were responding to the “list” thing. However, when I started reading e-mails from people who are not so close to me, I discovered the reason why I am able to write this and not be in some drunken stupor at the moment… PEOPLE READ REVIEWS! Those e-mails contained sentiments like; “After I read all the great reviews, I bought the book…” Variations on that theme appeared in most of the other e-mails from the more distant reaches of my address book.

So it’s a split decision. The ranking and all the hoopla surrounding the marketing may have got the attention of folks, but they were sold by the performance of the book as related by “those what read it.”

The moral of my story: even though you can’t judge a book by its cover, you can judge a book by its coverage!

I feel better now. Hey did I mention my book is NUMBER ONE, BABY!!!!

The Nook Daily Find

The Eighth Day is featured on the Barnes & Noble Nook Daily Find Blog today. Get it now for $1.99 and read the first book of the “thrillogy.”

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The Eighth Day
Tom Avitabile

NOOK Book (eBook)
Before Tom Avitabile’s action packed thrillogy comes to a conclusion on June 17 with The God Particle, go back to the beginning in this first novel, where a series of random murders and attacks turn out to not be so random after all. America is under attack–and doesn’t know it, until William “Wild Bill” Hiccock and his newly formed ragtag team step in to find and take down the bad guys.