Snow Write and the Seven Muses

SnowpumkinYaaaaaay. Snow Day! It used to mean building forts, snowball fights and belly flopping out in the streets of the Bronx.

All that and NO SCHOOL! No math on a snow day, no history and, most especially, no composition. Composition is what they called writing in those days. In those days, I called it a name more closely associated with composting than composition. I hated it. I hated writing. I hated to be forced to take a pen to paper and form a correct sentence. Jeez!

Dread, loathing and fear crippled me every time the teacher wrote on the board, Assignment: Write a Composition on…, it didn’t matter on what subject, it was God awful to have to write anything.

Enter, “The Great Blizzard of 2016,” the name the media has given to a snow storm and scared the pants off everybody with essentially the headline: We are all going to die this weekend.

The city has shut down. The subways closed. Snowmageddon! Every event, party and casual dinner is scratched because SNOW is falling.

So given this day of inert, imposed idleness, we can all clean our closets, watch TV or read. So why am I writing? Why am I writing this? Well, you know how we authors are supposed to have muses? Mine are more like dwarfs, you know, Grumpy, Stupid, Bashful and the rest? They seem to be my muses, my motivators to write. And since running and throwing myself down on a Flexible Flyer sled has been replaced with the exhilaration of my GS that is so fast it has four speeds, 1st, 2nd, 3rd and Jail! – All that’s left to do on a snow day is to write.

Today, Grumpy has the lead, the “Yaaaaay” of Snow Day is now the “Arrrrrgh” of Blizzard. I’m grumpy about how, on a day like just like this, I would be out all day, wearing snow soaked double pants, double shirts and ice-caked galoshes until my fingers and toes froze. Yet, when I was supposed to go home, I yelled up to our third floor tenement apartment, “Five more minutes, Mom.” Today, I don’t want to don my L.L. Bean Thermo-fill, hi-tech ski apparel and leave my opulent penthouse to venture out into the deadly, white killing machine that is, The Blizzard of 2016.

 

I was more of a man back when I was a kid.

 

Value vs. Price

 

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Did ya win?

Since you’re reading this you know I didn’t. But even if you were the only one who had all the 1.5 billion dollar Powerball numbers spot on (8-27-34-4-19 Powerball 10), you still only won a third or $505,920,000. Then, did you win the “1.5 billion dollar lottery?” If I said, “Here’s 100 bucks.” but only a $33.33 landed in your hand, did you get a hundred? If the ad says a new car for just $149 a month but you are $289 a month lighter as you are driving off the lot, did you win? Why wasn’t it enough to call it the 500 million dollar Powerball? Why did it have to be the unattainable, never realized, never intended to payout, 1.5 billion Powerball?

There is an old joke about the farmer who is approached by a man in a suit. The man asks the farmer, “How much is one of your cows worth?” The farmer says, “That depends, are you from the IRS or did you just hit her with your Cadillac?”

And there it is, the Value vs. Price proposition. In fact, one of the most cutting insults I can throw at someone is that they know the price of everything and the value of nothing. If a 1.5 billion dollar lottery ticket is really worth only 500 million, what else is over priced or undervalued in our society. Last week, an 11 and 8, major league pitcher just signed a contract valued at multi-tens of millions of dollars. That averages out to 1.5 million dollars per winning game. Unless of course, if he wins only half the games he won last year, then he will be a 3-million-dollar-a-win pitcher! Wars, Affordable Healthcare, Tunnels and Bridges are constantly low-balled when sold to the public and always twice, thrice or what ever you call four times, more expensive to the tax payers in the end. We are all in on this.

All, except the hero. You know him, sometimes he’s the old guy in the park, feeding pigeons all year, but who marches in the Veteran’s Day Parade. Maybe on his cap is a medal. It could be a Bronze Star or Purple Heart. It could be a Battle Ribbon or just simply a pin or patch that indicates he has served his country. What price did he pay for that medal? Or for that matter, what price did his fellow soldiers-in-arms pay, those who didn’t come back? What is the value of their service and sacrifice? It’s probably more than the price of a few dollars for the metal and fabric. Its value however is priceless to every one of us who lives in freedom.

Also another story from last week, lost in the all the hubbub of 1.5 billion dollars, was that the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals adjudicated the price/value proposition. A court held that wearing medals of valor were not just the sacred right of those who earned them, but that anyone can wear the Medal of Honor or Purple Heart. Even if someone spent the conflict safely out of harms way, a half-a-world away from the death and destruction and slept in his own bed every night. Someone, who never got shot at or even served this country. Someone who obtained his or her medals, not from bravery in the face of the enemy, but from a pawnshop. I hear you can grab a medal for 20 bucks.

But we are not a totally off-the-rails society. Even though the judges did stipulate that Stolen Valor – what you do when you wear a medal you didn’t earn – is not a criminal act, IF you try to make MONEY off it… well then, then you’re in big trouble boy.

New Math: The PRICE of a medal can be a missing limb, PTSD, sleepless nights, aching for the families of the men and women you left behind – or $22.50 at the pawnshop.

The courts, the government and even the media know the price of everything; let’s hope we the people never forget the VALUE.

For more on valor, go see, 13 Hours.

 

Terrorist in America? Bad Form, old boy.

Screen Shot 2016-01-09 at 10.50.54 AMIn my 5th novel and 3rd bestseller, Give Us This Day, my hero, Brooke Burrell is trying to stop a impending and devastating ISIS attack on New York City, but she is halted in her chase of the bad guys in order to appear in Federal Court to answer charges of illegal government profiling of suspected terrorist. Now, as an author when you go there in a novel, you best know of from what you write. That means research.

Here’s why you should never research. Nightmares! Because real life is much scarier than my book could ever be. In fact, since 2014 the government admits to have captured or killed 113 people implicated in terrorist plots in the United States. HUH? Did you read about this? Was this the lead story on the day I was on vacation? Nearly 6 times the number of terrorist who perpetrated 9-11 were caught or killed since 2014!

Some of them, had travel histories and social media postings that all but said, “Hey, stupid American, look over here, I am going to destroy you, your family and your country.”

Yet in spite of the most expansive immigration and border control systems and budgets of all the countries in the world, at least 113 potential mass murderers waltzed through the system on the way to their dance of death.

Just like Brook Burrell faces in my book, the federal government’s intelligence and law enforcement agencies are caught between our sacred constitution, with it’s civilian protections, and the threat poised by those who intentionally defeat our screening system.

If I wrote how these 113 did it, how they infiltrated, invaded and successfully evaded our federal government’s defensive apparatus as part of a book, no editor would buy it, no reader would believe it and no one would ever read one of my books again.

But here’s the unbelievably scary reality; these intenders of death and destruction eluded our defenses, not by some novel way of avoiding detection using skillful spy craft, or James Bond styled, electronic evasion; where they passed an electronic device over a scanner, thus jamming it and walking through our national front door.

No, they are here, aiming their sights on you, me and the country we love, because they checked the “No” box on the official questionnaire that is the paper document which is all that stands between your family and death by terrorist attack…QUESTION 38

The congress just approved funding to allow 170,000 migrants from countries – known to have been visited – by most all of the 113 to enter our shores. Of those I am as sure as the government that those of them coming here to kill us will surely be stopped at the border by Federal Form  DS-156U.S. Department of State Nonimmigrant Visa Application Form to the United States of America. Question 38(C): “Do you seek to enter the United States to engage in export control violations, subversive or terrorist activities, or any other unlawful purpose?” Check one: yes/no.

That’s it! Just check the “NO” box and you are good to go! BUT read the fine print at the bottom: A “YES” doesn’t automatically signify ineligibly!!!! What a great country… to bomb. But let not your heart be troubled, the system does work – kind of– as the government recently revealed after one migrant was found to be a terrorist; “(he) swore untruthfully on his formal application when applying to become a naturalized U.S. citizen,” See they eventually found out… (all comfy now?)

Sounds like Fiction? Well, It’s Only Fiction… ‘Till It Happens that untruthful bit of genius, that effective means of evasion which defeated and outsmarted our state department’s “State of the ARK” detection system is exactly the same box the San Bernardino terrorists checked off on their entry form as well as the Boston Bombers, the 9-11 hijackers. Add to that the countless other’s, some American citizens, who have similar suspicious travel records and social postings of the likes of, Edward Archer, who yesterday fired 13 shots a Philadelphia policeman and later admitted to authorities he did it as an act of terror for ISIS.

Folks, if I wrote all this in a book, nobody’d believe it.

Post Script: Amazingly, Officer Jesse Hartnett, survived this latest terrorist attack on American soil.

Post Post Script: Also, notice that this computerized U.S. form specifically calls out Nazi’s (1930’s and 40’s) but not Al-Qaeda, ISIS or any other known terrorist organization of today – a form adapted to be filled out on a computer after 9/11/01!!!

Cover Up!!!

Yes, with the lack of bookstores nowadays, nobody gets to judge my book by it’s cover… So to remedy that I’m putting my cover, up online. Just imagine your are in the aisle of a drugstore, Century 21 or what ever your old bookstore is now, and you come across this book, face out on the New Release aisle.

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And then if you are like 78.9% of book buyers who buy more than two books a year, you flip it over to read the Blurbs. You know they are called blurbs because you buy hardcover books. 

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Then if the incredible, gushing adoration of those authors who are greater than myself, grabs you, you’ll open the book and, as 87.3% of readers who self-identified as “avid”do, you read the flaps. Both sides combined here for your convenience. 

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Then you’ll say, “I wonder if this guy still looks like that?” and I can tell you he doesn’t he actually lost weight, but 92% of readers admit that they trust heavy-set writers to spin a more “tasty” tale than thin authors.

I know this was totally self indulgent, but this is a cover I would very much like to be judged by.

TOM INCSHOW60 lighter…because I knew you’d ask.

 

 

Safe At Home

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In my second novel, The Hammer of God, my leading character, Bill Hiccock is the science advisor to the president who routinely reports to him on technological threats aimed at America. Yet, upon learning his wife is pregnant, those routine assessments suddenly loom larger and more terrifying in his mind, which causes him, in a moment of self-reflection to ask himself, “Is that what impending fatherhood does to a person: magnify all the sharp edges and pointy things in the world?”

Well, when you “father” international thrillers and regularly write about terrorism and study the threat matrix, you tend to see the world as billions of looming sharp edges and pointy things … all aimed at America.

As an author, this scary view is especially magnified as major holidays and large public events draw near. The specter of an attack and our vulnerability as a free and open society, find their way into the media, public discourse and more than a few family discussions. As I write this, the world has successfully managed to enter a new year with no major terrorist statement accompanying the strains of Auld Lang Syne. There were a couple of blips; a lone wolf in Syracuse who was caught before he could slaughter folks with a machete as they dined locally. He confessed it was an act to serve as his initiation fee and buy-in to ISIS. There were some plots foiled in Germany and unfortunately an attack in Israel. But thankfully the most spectacular event this New Year’s Eve was the 63-story hotel fire in Abu Dhabi, which for now seems to be accidental in nature.

Strike that, the most spectacular event was a million people in Times Square, and millions more around the country unfettered, unstoppable and unmolested as they reveled in New Year’s celebrations throughout America. Made possible by hundreds of thousands of men and woman on watch, on guard and on duty while the rest of us got to party. Lets resolve to keep them and their families in our thoughts and prayers. – Happy New Year.

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#1 Again! Thank you.

My 5th novel, Give Us This Day, just became a number 1 bestseller.GUTD NO 1 SHADOW SHORT

Thanks you to all my loyal friends and fans.  Please consider giving this #1 Bestselling book as a great Christmas present. It’s available as a Hardcover or gift-able E-book in all the popular platforms.

   
3 BEST SELLERS

Give Us This Day, Synopsis:

It always starts out as routine, even when you are only doing it while your husband is deployed at sea. Even if it began as a safe, easy way to make enough cash to start a family. Even if there was no way you would ever get stuck doing it full time . . . after all, that’s why you retired from the FBI. But then they killed off your prime witnesses all over the globe, erased all of their digital fingerprints from a Wall Street hedge fund, blew up your office, tried to blow up St. Pats and, with unlimited funding from financial plays in the stock market, launched the biggest, most devastating attack ever directed against a city. One that no one saw coming. An unthinkable event that would have ramifications for the next one hundred years or more.

And all you wanted to do was go home to Hawaii and coach high school soccer . .  Welcome to former FBI agent Brooke Burrell’s life. Her cushy assignment turns into a countdown to mega-death and destruction, keepingher and her hand-picked group of experts guessing what, where, and when the attack will be – right up until zero hour. 

Give Us This Day is a book with enough plausibility that it will keep readers guessing what will happen next, whether they are in their living rooms or in government offices.

 

Story Plant Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-61188-209-4
Fiction Studio Books e-book ISBN: 978-1-936558-74-8
420 pages

The Defending Super Bowl Champions

With Terrorism in the news I thought I’d remind us of one of the great victories in the battle to keep us all safe. Here’s a blog I wrote 2 years ago:

I write about the threat matrix. My novels pit the good guys’ brains against terrorist brawn.  In the course of my writing, I have done much research into some really scary stuff. The ‘keep you awake’ all night kind of nasty scenarios where America is just one virtual box cutter away from suffering another devastating attack. Yet, this past week the Super Bowl of all terrorist events played out safely with the terrorists as effective as a Peyton Manning overhead snap.  The final score:

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The zip, nada, goose egg shut out to the terrorist’s team was accomplished, as in the game, with over powering defense.   It is my intention to present the MVP. (Most Valuable Protection) award to the NYPD, New York and New Jersey State Police, the Joint Terrorism Task Force and the hundreds of other organizations and departments that did their job so well that the only injuries at the biggest juiciest terrorist target in the world were on the football field.

SuperBowl1Now there may have been some plays “off the field” that we will never see in a replay, but we do know this; no terrorist got to spike the ball at the Stadium or Times Square. Or… The Mall of America for that matter, which would have been an effective play action fake.

Our first responders insured there was no need for any response. As you know, the dedicated men and women, who did such a magnificent job keeping millions safe, didn’t get a trophy. No sweatshirts or hats magically appeared with a Super Bowl Defending Champions logo emblazoned on them the minute the game ended. Instead, they finally got to have a good night’s sleep.  But they dream as champions in the greatest contest of all, with the direst consequences.

Sleep well, as we all do, thanks to you.

God Bless you and thank you, thank you all.

Tom Avitabile

Get, “Give Us This Day” – Today!

My 5th novel, Give Us this Day is available in hardcover and all formats.  Already it has received many 5 star, rave reviews plus much acclaim from authors who were kind enough to share their thoughts on this “non-stop” thriller.

 Order it today!
   

“Clever and compelling. Brooke Burrell is my kind of heroine, savvy, kick ass, and with a direct line to the president. You will stay up late and keep turning the pages to the very end.” – Lisa Gardner, #1 New York Times bestselling author

NetGalley Review: Give Us This Day. Rating: 5 out of 5 stars Review Excerpt: “The book takes you on a rollercoaster ride from the start, and doesn’t disappoint at the end. Very good read and highly recommended.”

Synopsis:

It always starts out as routine, even when you are only doing it while your husband is deployed at sea. Even if it began as a safe, easy way to make enough cash to start a family. Even if there was no way you would ever get stuck doing it full time . . . after all, that’s why you retired from the FBI. But then they killed off your prime witnesses all over the globe, erased all of their digital fingerprints from a Wall Street hedge fund, blew up your office, tried to blow up St. Pats and, with unlimited funding from financial plays in the stock market, launched the biggest, most devastating attack ever directed against a city. One that no one saw coming. An unthinkable event that would have ramifications for the next one hundred years or more.

And all you wanted to do was go home to Hawaii and coach high school soccer . .  Welcome to former FBI agent Brooke Burrell’s life. Her cushy assignment turns into a countdown to mega-death and destruction, keepingher and her hand-picked group of experts guessing what, where, and when the attack will be – right up until zero hour. 

Give Us This Day is a book with enough plausibility that it will keep readers guessing what will happen next, whether they are in their living rooms or in government offices.

 

Story Plant Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-61188-209-4
Fiction Studio Books e-book ISBN: 978-1-936558-74-8
420 pages

Not Growing Up…Just Getting Older

The Mick

When I was 10, the New York Yankees were the “best-est” thing ever in the whole world. The world at that time was the entire Bronx. Yogi Berra (8), Joe Pepitone (25), Roger Maris (9) and Mickey Mantle (7) were the bubble gum cards that got you respect and honor in any schoolyard. The Yankees were so cool, that the candy at Ida’s Sweet Shop on Burke Avenue was named after them. Baby Ruth bars and the M&M boys. And Yogi sold Yoo-hoo Chocolate drink on TV. To be fair, Gil Hodges from the Brooklyn Dodgers, also sold Maypo on TV. But Maypo was a hot, maple flavored oatmeal cereal, not peanuts and nougat wrapped in chocolate. The Yankees were, as was candy, the biggest thing to that point in my decade long life.

I remember that on long hot summer days, you licked the salty sweat that dribbled down your face from your lips as the sun bounced off the concrete of the schoolyard’s ball field and blasted you from below and above. Squinting, you watched Joey Mangione wind up to pitch a black electrical tape wrapped, “clincher” softball at you. At that second you fantasized that you would step into the bucket, explode your rear hip and extend perfectly through the swing, connecting on the fat part of the bat and send that ball right over the 12-foot chain link fence into the traffic on Bronxwood Avenue – just like Mantle or Maris! Extra points if you hit Mr. Deputo’s old salmon and dingy white, colored Studebaker that never moved from the spot outside his house.

In all that time, the thought of actually meeting Roger Maris or Mickey Mantle was the same fat chance as going to the moon. We’d hang out on River Avenue at 161st street outside the Stadium after the game. And sure, maybe we’d catch a glimpse of Tresh, Richardson, Boyer, Whitey Ford even Mantle, but they were out of there like a shot. Piling onto the team bus or beyond reach on the other side of a blue, police stanchion line. A couple of dorky lawyer’s kid’s from the suburbs usually got up front to get an autograph or shake a hand. But not us, we was nobody’s kids. We was just Bronx guys.

Now I am considerably older than I was back in the 60’s and hero worship has gone the way of the Studebaker – free agented and drug tested out of existence. But we did eventually go to the moon. And so did I, last week, in fact.

Now that I am an author, my heroes have changed. The new “Yankees” in my life are the literary team that plays at the top of the New York Times standings. Guys and gals who can hit the long ball out 20 to 30 million books. Men and women who keep their percentages up by coming to bat and connecting… connecting with their fans. At Thrillerfest, the International Thriller Writer’s convention that I attended last week, I met the Mickey Mantles and Roger Maris’ of the game I play in now.

My hero worship, adjusted for age and decorum, returned. The same awe and esteem by which I held The Mick and the rest of the pinstripe company was back and at full gush. So that’s how me, a kid from the Bronx, wound up just shooting the breeze for twenty minutes with Nelson DeMille, a kid from Queens. We didn’t talk baseball much, but I did get his autograph… on his latest book, Radiant Angel.

Here’s the thing. In my life, as a Director – Writer – Producer – Author, I have met and worked with some of the biggest stars, names, celebrities and musicians ever and never asked for a picture… but here’s me and Nelson from Jamaica.

Tom and Nelson Cropped

THE DRAMA ON THE ROAD TO NUMBER 1

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Recently my novel, The Devil’s Quota,  became a number one best seller. As you can imagine, that’s a great feeling and personal satisfaction for any author. However, I couldn’t help but immediately reflect on the perils and precarious pitfalls that occured along the way in creating this book.  During that time in the trenches I wrote a blog chronicling one such close call that could have ended in literary disaster; almost fatally wounding the entire book. It was just a small thing but one that would have cut the very beating heart out of the story.

On this, the occasion of this my second #1 bestseller, (The Eighth Day was my first) I thought re-running that blog, and by reflection, my mindset at a time when the notion of being #1 was a million miles away, when I was solely focused on the editorial and submission of the manuscript. Enjoy.

Modesty, Chastity, Young Love and the Taliban

Tom Avitabile | SetaraRight smack dab in the middle of editing my fourth book The Devil’s Quota – which is set in New York City, upper New York State, Canada and Afghanistan – I felt I had constructed a beautiful love story between an American G.I. and a local Afghan girl. It was all very lovely and very soft around the edges. I was positive that I had captured the true euphoria of that first spark of love, infusing into the relationship the electric sensation two soul mates tingle with every time they meet. I topped off that exchange of energy with its titillating aftermath and breathless anticipation of their next encounter. I even threw in a dash of the fanciful ‘what if’ and the ‘what when’ dreams that occupy their every idle moment.

From a plot perspective, I had set their encounter at the community well, literally at the most nurturing and central location of a war-ravaged, dirt poor Afghan farm village. I had Sgt. Eric Ronson, the perfect male hero for a love interest; a strong, strapping young warrior buck.  As for my femme extraordinaire I had an incredibly radiant, simple farm girl, Setara.  I even had over-arching symbolism in their meeting across not only the walls of the well but the one million walls between their cultures.

So I had it, the forbidden love, fighting to survive against the prejudices, mores and  traditions of the times in which they live.  And then….

The burqa happened.

Or more correctly my editor, Sue Rasmussen happened …  to come across in her research that, according to the taliban, which is known to shoot you if you do not comply, women have to wear a burqa in public. That means fully covered, without the tiniest slit for the eyes! However, the inherent slapstick comedy of women walking into walls and bumping into things is avoided with a dark mesh over the eyes. (See, the Taliban isn’t totally unreasonable.)

But I, however, walked right into a wall. The whole “their eyes met” gone, the descriptives like “the radiance on her face” gone, the insightful “he could see her attempt to suppress her elation over seeing him,” gone!

Conclusion: There is absolutely nothing on the romantic attractor side of a story if the taliban were to write it. One of many good reasons never write a Taliban-based love story, because in a world lousy with taliban, all marriages are arranged. The young-ins have absolutely no say with whom they shall grow old. In short, romance, as we would artfully construct it, becomes a charge listed on an order of execution, read aloud before the stoning to death of the young girl.  

So you can see that the Western-accepted, innocent, G-rated acts like two kids smiling at one another, God forbid holding hands, a scandalous peck on the cheek or the public humiliation and spectacle caused by him merely gazing upon her naked face, in the taliban world, puts a crimp in my romantic story. It is also a fatal AK47 bullet wound through my entire book because I need that relationship in Afghanistan as the emblematic inciting incident for the rest of the story. Those characters also become major players as the story unfolds.

At this point, I’ve got a lot riding on Afghanistan and it’s being spoiled by a thin veil of mesh fabric. That means my two love interests will pass in the night or at least the darkness of the taliban-imposed morality police.

So I took my case to the Google World Court and I looked up images of Afghan women and right there in vivid, living color, in stills taken recently, are images of many women in burqas, but then my heart stopped, almost like my male character’s, when I saw the one woman among them in the hijab. Then, I found many photographs of hijab-clad women among the populace.

The hijab saved my life.

The hijab, more like a loosely worn scarf around the head, allowing full facial features rescued my love story. Now I actually have photographic proof that hijabs and burqas can co-exist with men in the same public space.

Saved! Book back on course. Everything’s good with me. Not so much with the women living under oppression though. Hmmmm, maybe that’s another book?