He was in no mood for Nazi B.S.!

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Last week I shared with you the Medal of Honor exploits of Beauford T. Anderson.  As I was researching recipients for the lead character of my upcoming book, Constantine’s Dagger, I came across a second man of honor who so perfectly fit a supporting character in the book that I had to infuse his spirit into my character’s actions, as well. In fact, from a story perspective; two friends from the neighborhood who both perform intrepidly in war, became the cornerstone of the third act of the book. It is with great pleasure that I share this post from the website WWII in Color.


Warning, this is an account of war, the language and the actions describe below are not for the faint of heart. I’ve included at the bottom, the less “colorful,” official citation with non-offensive language.

One of the more darkly humorous episodes of warfare occurred on 29 January 1945, in Holzheim, Belgium. Funk and his paratroopers were assaulting the town, and he left a rearguard of 4 men, while he scouted ahead to link up with other units. Those 4 men had to guard about 80 German prisoners. 

Another German patrol of 10 happened by and overwhelmed the 4 Americans, freeing the prisoners and arming them. When Funk returned around the corner of a building, he was met by a German officer with an MP-40 in his stomach. The German shouted something at him, and Funk looked around.

There were now about 90 Germans, about half of them armed, and 5 Americans, disarmed except for Funk. The German shouted the same thing at him again, and Funk started laughing. He claimed later that he tried to stop laughing, but the fact that the German was shouting in German touched a nerve. Funk didn’t speak German. Neither did any of the other Americans. Why would the German officer expect him to understand?

His laughter and non-compliance caused some of the Germans to start laughing. Funk shrugged at them and started laughing so hard he had to bend over. He called to his men, “I don’t understand what he’s saying!” All the while, the German officer was shouting more and more angrily.

Then, quick as lightning, Funk swung his Thompson submachine gun up and emptied the entire clip into the German, 30 rounds of .45 ACP. Before the other Germans could react, he had yanked the clip out and slammed another in and opened fire on all of them, screaming to his men to pick up weapons. They did so, and proceeded to gun down 20 men. The rest dropped their weapons and put their hands up.

Then Funk started laughing again and said to his men, “That was the stupidest fucking thing I’ve ever seen!”

That stupidest fucking thing earned him the Medal of Honor.


The moment I read that account I knew it was detailing a possible way my character, class-clown and cut up, Joey from the lower Eastside, might have acted. Below is the “G” rated official citation.

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The Hero I Took to VOTE

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On Election Day, I continued a tradition that I have been doing for years. My last blog, below, explained it in detail, but in brief; I find the name of someone who died fighting for our freedoms. One of those freedoms is the right to vote, so right before I vote, I say their name and thank them for their sacrifice. Giving their life so that I, (we) can exercise one the most precious human rights there is. namely, to have a say in determining ones’ destiny.

This year’s hero is a World War II Sergeant who won his medal of honor in the bloody Okinawa conflict, one April day in 1945. I discovered his incredible story while researching a character arc for my new book, Constantine’s Dagger. His citation below says it all…

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For more truly amazing reading, go to MEDAL OF HONOR WINNERS. Next week, I’ll post the other man of honor I met, vis-a-vis research, whose story also plays a role in my new book.

Take a Hero to Vote and Say “Thank You” as You Cast Your Ballot

Back by popular demand, as we approach election day, November 8th, is “Take A Hero to Vote.”  Feel free to share and spread the gratitude.

Resources Online

Do some Detective work in your neighborhood

  • Call your local newspaper and ask for a list of fallen soldiers in your area
  • Ask Family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors
  • Google your town, county, or state, which may have specific websites dedicated to Fallen Soldiers in your area.

Visit Popular U.S. Memorials 

eLectile Dysfuntion

*Caution: Effect could last 4 years!

I am a thriller writer, and most thriller writers would agree that presidential elections are usually anything but thrilling. That’s why we do all kinds of things to them to heighten the drama and up the ante.  AS IN my number 1 bestselling book, The Eighth Day, where I have a “HACK” change the results of a presidential election.

“Preposterous,” you say? “Never can happen,” the pundits say?

Well, welcome to the world of me, specifically my tag line, It’s only Fiction ‘Til It Happens!cropped-tomavitabileblogheader1.jpg

Yesterday, the internet was hit with a cyber-attack. Many sites, companies and services went down across America and the globe. “Experts” fear this may be a “test run” for a big assault, possibly timed for the upcoming election.

Thrilling possibilities for a thriller… ‘cept I already, kind-a wrote it.

But! Here’s what I didn’t write: Both sides in this election have had passion in their midst. Passion that attracts the disgruntled, disenfranchised citizen. These long forgotten and long suffering folks, shaking their heads and clucking their tongues at the lack luster choices served up every four years to continue the status quo. These are the side-liners who threw up their hands and threw away their votes, or worse, (and more commonly) those who sat it out and yawned instead of voting in the quadrennial ping-ponging of power between the two parties. It is they who have been attracted to the populists lightning rods of both parties.

Two candidates this year became the poster children of this dormant population of Americans who meet most elections with a shrug, “What’s difference does it make. My life never changes because who’s in Washington!”

This isn’t political science; this isn’t politics at all. This a shot of adrenaline. The plot of this year’s election is something more thrilling that dark forces and evil men with nefarious goals manipulating an election. It’s bigger than that and it’s scarier to the political ruling class. The members of that class, who in the end, win or lose, in or out of power, all keep their position in the game. In fact, unbridled, non-aligned PASSION is their worst nightmare….  Rightly or wrongly placed, it is intense, virginal, grass-rooted, non-professional, damn-the-pundits, full-speed ahead, passion – ON BOTH SIDES!

One side actually nominated their recipient vessel of these political frustrations to run. The other side sent their passion magnet back to the Senate, where he could wield even more power as the Majority Leader, if his party wins the Senate.

If the other passion candidate loses his chance to be president, he will just go back to TV… only this time as an owner of a network that will amass all those passionate people who “lost” from both sides.

Who’d a thunk it – Passion. If you put it in a thriller, it would get rejected by every publishing house in town as “unrealistic.” I mean, after all, insidious plots that have citizens being subliminally programed by their computers to unconsciously pull the lever for a third-party candidate nobody knows, is a lot more believable, more realistic than Passion rearing it’s, non-political, non-scientifically polled, head in a presidential election.

To quote the recent noble prize winner, “The Times they are a changing…”

Stay tuned and remember to vote this November 8th.

Honey vs. Vinegar

I just finished reading an astounding debut novel by a very talented author. The writer got everything right in terms of plot, structure, character, setting and flow. The work spoke in a unique voice that immediately created empathy with the reader. BUT, and this is one of those really good “buts,” the real achievement of this novel dealt with its subject matter. Or specifically the unique way the author chose not to deal with it.

This novel carries a theme, right out of today’s national strife. Most of the first works of authors who are using a novel to point out social injustice or cultural rot, do so in a manner that oft times poisons the work with vitriol, resentment or a polarizing posture so much, often too much, as to make the text preachy, heavy, overladen with agenda; wholly unengaging to a fiction reader. Mostly because when an atrocity or unfairness is pointed out, we can all respond that it’s wrong, but in a novel, (as opposed to a text book) too much hammering the point becomes belligerent and many readers put the book aside. After all, who wants to be yelled at or preached to, or in some cases, made to feel guilty by electing to read a novel.

In this case, the author, who has every birthright to be bitter, angry and condemning, instead has found an amazing way to deal with the horror, injustice, and inequity in America with a neutral, matter-of-fact manner that is even more chilling and terrifying than if he pointed at the monster and said, “There it is.”

Admittedly, the inspiration for many novels comes from deep rooted passion and/or a burning discontent with the way things are. The art of writing is, in part, to make the lesson palatable; even subliminal so that the desired effect is achieved and the reader brought to a new understanding as a happy result of a great read.

Being blinded by passions, overtaken by emotion and grinding out that “get even” tome is usually the hallmark of an inexperienced novelist. Again, a non-fiction book or essay on society’s ills would have different rules, and much of what I just described is probably perfectly appropriate in that context, but a novel must entertain as well as reflect, educate and enlighten. If it does those things, I believe it reaches the largest possible audience and within that group, the very people who need to be enlightened.

Last week, by agreeing to read and blurb this new work, I learned so much about how to engage, illuminate AND entertain.  In the coming weeks you learn this author’s name and the name of his towering work. Right now, it’s still in the publishing phase. As soon as it is out and you can experience,  it will be all over this page. (Maybe even invite him to guest blog.)

Aww… what the hell, his name is Danny Gardner, and his phenomenal book is called, A Negro and an Ofay. Watch for it. Read it. Then spread the word. The very much needed word in today’s America.

The incredibly self-serving promotional blog!

Tombstone4Every once in a while, I get a random E-mail from a reader that is suitable for being chiseled onto my tombstone…

As you can imagine, since I won’t get to enjoy it then, I am carving it into this blog, now.

As far as I can tell the woman who wrote this E-mail is an Executive Director of a prestigious International Institution and a very active patron of the arts here in New York. She wrote me after reading my fourth novel, The Devil’s Quota.

A personal reaction as I finished one or your novels. And be assured it is not a review …only a personal observation. I read a lot and a wide variety of fiction and nonfiction. And recently have been in a nonfiction period; some because of my job and the current situation in Paris and also my fondness for biography. My thumbs will abandon me before my observations about your talent are given full voice, so I need to cut to the chase. 

You are a great writer. And in my mind not only because you mastered your preferable way of expressing yourself in print but because you also had a commitment to getting the facts right in a suspense novel to make it both credible and engaging.

My personal observation (forgive me) from reading other acclaimed authors who write in that same vein, I think they never do well (at least in my reading of them) expressing …romance and …how and what happens when we deeply love. But you mined that desirable passionate part of us so effortlessly with Eric, using simple observations and dialogue, almost as a poet would.

For many other suspense authors there seems always to be a hard stop from the tough character exposition or plot development into the required sex scene or an attempt at romance that for me usually seems forced, contrived and not real.

Starting on page 117 what you wrote was not only real to me but combined passion with a sweetness every woman wants in a man and you suggested men want that too. How splendid, if true.

Well enough from me, I guess I am simply saying …well done and I did enjoy the tale and the journey.

B.T. (initialed for privacy – Tom)

The Joys of Tag Team Writing

TAG TEAM

Characterizing my writing process on TV, radio and in print interviews, I have often been quoted saying…

“You sit alone in the dark and put words together that you hope another human being will derive emotion from. “

Well, I now have to amend that statement. This time I’m not alone and that “dark” is less intimidating when you have a co-writer. Enter my cousin George Cannistraro, a gifted author in his own right. We recently joined forces on a brilliant saga that George penned through a first draft entitled, Constantine’s Dagger.

Before, as cousins, we were always throwing drafts at one another for sanity checks;  “Am I crazy or do you think this plot line or character works?” needless to say we found each other’s opinions and suggestions invaluable. But, this time it’s different; George has asked me to share a credit in his sweeping story, epic in scope, yet at the same time, a mother’s intimate story of strength, sacrifice and courage.

For me, a solitary practitioner of the written word, I must say the tag team experience is unexpectedly fun. Especially after George did all the hard work crafting a plot and birthing characters that immerse you from the first page.

I had the privilege of adorning this action, adventure, love story; spanning 3 decades, 4 continents and one world war, with a little shiny bangle here and a soft silky ribbon there.

Personally for me is something became the sweetest moment since I started writing books. It is when I was able to write about my grandfather (our grandfather) back in the 40’s because George loosely based the American side of the plot on our family’s immigrant past.

The book is a monster, bigger than the sum of its two contributing writers.

Now both George and I can sit in the dark and wonder if a third human being will ever “get it.”  

BLOG SPCRIPT:

Do something nice for yourself, read:

After The Wanderers by George Cannistraro

ATW

 A surprisingly adept decent into hell and ascent into life.

The Summer of Love has been romanticized by many, in hundreds of books and films of the 60’s, but in ‘After The Wanders’, Cannistraro allows us to relive it, in a truly wonderful, non-romanticized, ‘warts and all’ LSD trip. In marked contrast to the literary, well trodden, flower power nostalgia of Haight-Ashbury, Carnaby Street and Woodstock, Cannistraro sets his turf in the mean streets of the Bronx.

At times poignant, and at times laugh out loud funny, this lush chronicle of coming of age, in the Age of Aquarius, is set against the background of urban strife, racial tensions, anti-war protests and raging hormones, literally on drugs. And like the times, his main character’s journey is part acid trip, part rock ‘n roll concert and part free love. With a couple of rumbles, scams and the funniest wedding I have ever read about in print. Denoted with sage lyrics from the music of that time, those words become the poetry and headlines to not only the content of the book but of the decade the story is set in. In all, a gripping read that spans generations by shamelessly reveling in our basic need to feed our human desires.

 

 

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!!!