Last month, Tori Eldridge rounded up ten Thrillfest 2014 authors in a powerful hour on Empowered Living Radio. I was fortunate to be asked to take part in the discussion with a group of strong authors. Listen to the whole show or skip ahead (time stamp 1:00:16) to hear me offer concise and effective strategies on staying positive.
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 words… it 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 scene’s where an agent, or the President, asks someone if they’d 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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
David 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:
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!!!!
We had banana pudding. Yaaay! Also, there was a lady who asked me questions (Teresa LaBarbera).
Watch my 5 minute interview here: Book Lovers Corner: ‘It’s Only Fiction… ’til it happens!’
I’m proud to announce the first installment of the Bill Hiccock Thrilogy has crested the 50th percentile to reach #53 on the Barnes and Noble Top 100. This coincides with the start of summer reading season.
It means barbecues and tapped out kegs, but there is one cohort that is conspicuously missing. No scientists participate in this defiant disregard for the earth’s actual position around the sun because they know that summer does not actually start until the interval of time between June 201/4 June 213/4. So scientists everywhere will be abstaining from hot dogs, hamburgers and presumably beer.
Of course the author in me can’t help but view Memorial Day as the official start of summer beach reading. This magical season has always been a time of mixed emotions for authors and publishers, who pray that people will buy their books and sit on the sands with the dust jackets on – so everyone can see who’s reading what. It’s quite a thing in the publishing world.
Not being immune the trends of the industry, my elite marketing department has put together a Father’s Day promotion. Scientific dads will love Presidential Science Advisor Bill Hiccock – just like his dad does – even though Father’s Day falls on June 16th this year.
From June 2nd to the 16th, The Eighth Day will be available for $.99! If that doesn’t satiate your appetite and you need more Bill Hiccock, The Hammer of God is available for just $7.99. The perfect summer read and the perfect gifts for dad…for under $10.
You might even see some of my ads around town – the ladies up in marketing will be doing their best to make sure I won’t be able to afford any parties until after Labor Day.
In the meantime, I hope you’ll enjoy this selection of posts from my blog!
Summertime People Watching Tip: In this disputed summertime limbo, it will be easy to spot the scientists in any crowd as those not wearing white pants.
“To Err is human, to really screw things up takes a computer.”
–General James Hardtack – USAF
If you don’t recognize the above quote, or can’t Google it, don’t hit your computer on the side of the monitor, it’s from a character in one of my (many) almost-produced screenplays. But once again, the theme of this blog being, It’s Only Fiction ‘Til It Happens, is in full force with this tasty headline from the DenverPost.com, “Supercomputers could generate warnings for stock crashes.”
Feel better now? Now that supercomputers are on the watch? Well, not to pop your thought bubble but in my book, The Eighth Day, the entire Stock Market is locked up and frozen by a piece of freeware, distributed to all the online day traders.
The shareware application was called ‘Pocket Protector’; it protected the money in your pocket, your stocks, actually. It employed algorithms originally used in terrain avoidance software for supersonic F-22 Raptor fighter jets. It read the market and countered any moves instantly by making minute or major buy or sell decisions faster than a blink of a human eye.
Its purported goal was to avoid having your portfolio crash by maintaining the value. Since everybody downloaded it and put it into play, all those little ‘trade-bots’ would eventually absorb any shock and flatten out any activity until a balance is achieved. At that point, the individual trader has a problem, because the Artificial Intelligence acts like a Rottweiler, whose jaws are locked on their wallet. As soon as they let go or try to trade anything, the investor would lose everything.
So nobody unplugged ‘Pocket Protector’ out of fear of losing all their assets as everybody else’s apps would gobble up their money in a nanosecond.
Now for the part that isn’t a plot in my book, but the Denver Post article: Enter Edison, a supercomputer that can crunch 2 quadrillion operations a second. That’s 2,000,000,000,000,000! The feds, or somebody, are planning to plug this super puppy into the existing stock trading system and it will act as an early warning system that somehow will allow authorities to shut down the system before the various stock trading computer programs, that now rule the roost, do any real damage. What could possibly go wrong? See CHAPTER THIRTY-FOUR: “Best Intentions” in The Eighth Day!
Episode 3: What does a modern day Renaissance man think about? Meet Tom Avitabile.
He’s as close to Da Vinci as we’re going to get. He lent his mind to Congress, he directed Hollywood stars, he wrote a crime trilogy, he has white-collar success… oh, and he plays in a band. Welcome to this man’s mind.
“It looks like it’s shaping up to be a bad flu season, but only time will tell.”
– Dr. Thomas Frieden, National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
In The Hammer of God, the inciting incident of the book is a flu vaccine shortage which is caused by nefarious forces overseas, resulting in half the number of vaccinations necessary to guard the public.
That is step one of a two-step biological attack; take away the first line of defense – which would be the flu vaccine. Then the second part of the attack was to unleash a really nasty airborne bug on the public. So the bad guys weren’t contaminating the flu vaccine to be their vehicle to do harm. They contaminated the supply to take it off the market.
This created a situation, in my book, where during the onset of the attack, people had symptoms that mimicked the flu – and no one suspects anything is awry. The airborne bug’s dormant stage lasts five to six days, taking the world by surprise when the infected take an extreme turn for the worse and people start to die.
It seems like we should be very cognizant of foreign suppliers producing this and other vaccines because their production and distribution lines might be interrupted more easily.
Of course, this being a book about my hero, he thwarts the attack. The mastermind is arrested and becomes a bargaining chip in the escalated terror plot to follow. But the groundwork is there in the story; this is a weak pressure point in the threat matrix aimed at this country.
I am confident in the safeguards that had somebody tried to manipulate or add something nasty to the flu vaccine, it would set off alarm bells and triggers. The far greater insidious plot device is simply to render us unprotected and willing to accept high numbers of infections as the new normal – when in fact it’s anything but. It is the start of an attack.
Remember: wash your hand often.
ABC has decided to cancel my absolute, all-time favorite show: The Last Resort.
When you read The God Particle you’ll see one of my main characters is the USS Nebraska – a trillion dollar missile boat (luckily on our side). That’s why I am so distraught over the cancelling of this series, whose main star is the USS Colorado, the sister ship of the Nebraska.
Besides I looove the dialogue…to the point where I say “Damn, I wish I would have written that!”
Please take a moment and email ABC. Tell them to keep the Last Resort afloat.
When building a character, mess defines the polar edges of the character. Mess is the result of all the unfinished, all the partial efforts, partial thoughts, unexecuted dreams, abbreviated wishes. These untidy loose ends create mess.
In a good life, mess would only be around the edges — those things just out of reach that you haven’t gotten to yet. Mess as a character trait, is a part of the recipe of a literary character. It has to be delicately treated. It ranges from Pigpen to James Bond. With all due respect to Peanuts, let’s look into James Bond. Continue reading