Thrillers that Deliver

I have been accused of authoring “Thrillers that Deliver!” Guilty, I guess, but with an explanation. So, in my own defense here goes.

To the question of how I delivered a thrilling manuscript: I have no idea!  In that, no one idea was the final idea. Therefore, like my protagonist who doesn’t know she’s unraveling a huge international conspiracy, I wrote it like that.

After I had those twist and turns in order, I went back and wrote the connective tissue with voltage that energized the “stumbling through the plot,” my main character was unknowingly doing. At any given point she had NO IDEA what was laying out before her. While she was looking over here, the real bad guys, and their horrendous deadly plan, was over there. This connective tissue informs the reader of the true peril she is in. It elevates her simplest innocent action into a hair-trigger moment of which she is unaware. 

If a mystery is a “Who done it?” Then my definition of a thriller is, “Stop who’s going to do it!” I believe the trills are more heightened it’s even better when the heroine doesn’t know she is in danger, and millimeters away from stopping them.

The other secret to delivering thrills is to see my plot as a shark in the ocean. The plot, like the shark, must keep moving or die. And just when you think it’s safe, that she can finally take a breath, NOPE!

See if I delivered again, this February when Forgive Us Our Trespasses hits the shelves.

Where were we…?

Oh yeah, right here. Right where you are now. Right where we are now…in front of our screens. Many of us can’t imagine what the last year plus would have been like without them. A time that brought new words into the lexicon. Some not so welcomed, like Comorbidity, Strains, Herd Immunity, and other here-to-fore inside baseball terms – if you played on the immunologist’s ball team. I can’t wait for the frequency of usage for those words to lessen to the point of very seldom.  

But since words are my business, here’s one; Zoom. An interesting redefined usage of a verb. It used to mean to accelerate to a faster rate of speed or to express a sudden fast change in movement. Instead, it became the verb for not going anywhere. But it did allow us to do work and meet up with distant friends (you know, the ones also in lockdown, who live across the way). As a director (another of my passions that I am lucky enough to have as a profession), Zoom has a whole different meaning. To move in closer…Ha! But I guess zooming did keep us closer.  

One way I got closer to people, who grew to mean very much to me, turned into one of the very few good moments from our time in self-quarantined solitude. Since my other passion is music, I am a drummer, have been since I was 8. Somewhere around 9, my moms skimped and saved to get me an actual drum set. (But really, I suspect, to save her pots, pans, and wooden spoons.) Now, I perform from time to time with two great musicians/entertainers, simply known as Mark and Ted. We play all kinds of music, but one of our ‘sweet spots’ is what is known as “The Great American Songbook,” standards and jazz from the uniquely American idiom of music. That genre is very appealing to folks of a certain age. Over the years, they have become a cadre of loyal fans. Almost every Friday night, at an Italian restaurant in New Jersey, we play for nearly full houses, 2-3 deep at the bar sometimes. 

And then came Corona. Tumbleweeds. Crickets. Stay home. Stay safe. Social distance. Our dear fans and friends, most of whom are all in the high-risk group, as one might expect of folks who would love oldies and pop music, were forced to sit at home every night. Gone were those sweet Friday nights when we used to all get together…

So, I gets this idea, see! Why not Zoom a live set to all our loyal following. A live stream. Right from my apartment. Right from my apartment of us performing a set just like we were in the club. Mark, Ted, and I, socially distanced 6 feet apart, plus a large HEPA filter to allow them to sing without masks. Add some digital wizardry and we ‘counted it in’ to a downbeat at 7:15 p.m. on Friday night, May 29th, 20-COVID-20. We performed for our dear friends and music fans, remotely.

The result was that 245 people “zoomed in” that night and texted during the performance. Saying, “Hi,” and thanking us for a few hours of “the way it used to be.” To my surprise, folks from as far away as Malaysia, the U.K., New Mexico, Florida, and even the Bronx (Yaaay!) streamed in. It was a labor of love, met with love and which generated much love. What a great moment in a horrible time.

The sound is a tad bit distorted, but if you like that kind of music…

As for many people whose businesses closed during Covid, creating an online business became the only way to survive. I was lucky enough to hang up a digital shingle announcing that I was available to coach writers through their manuscripts. (I happen to know a little about that.) To my amazement, my little book coaching business went very, very well. I couldn’t be happier with the response I am getting from first-time and published authors who have found my analysis and suggestions well worth my fee. (Thank you to each and every one of you for confirming that I am on the right path). In many ways, I am paying forward the kindnesses, considerate and insightful criticisms, and constructive points of which I was the beneficiary. I received good energy from generous people that led me to seven novels and three #1 bestsellers.

And, of course, when something is successful, good friends and investors step forward. We are now considering a way to avail more folks of some of the handy-dandy tips on “realizing your novel” that I impart to help writers transform into authors. Stay tuned…

Finally, not many of us got through the time of corona unscathed; I, like many of you, lost loved ones, dear friends, and acquaintances. Nothing will replace our loss, but I guess the best we can hope for is for something good to have come out of all this. I believe that some small measure of good must have come out of all our mutual sacrifices. I hope you feel the same…

Tom

Top it Like it’s Hot: The Eighth Day Tears Up the Barnes and Noble 100

The Eighth DayI’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.

Ah, summer.

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.

QED.

Avitabile - Science vs BeerOf 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.

Avitabile
Tom Avitabile
http://tomavitabile.com/
tom@spadvertising.com

Creative Death and Taxes, s’il vous plaît.

Although Gerard announced to the world and the French politicians that he was renouncing his French Citizenship and moving to Belgium, our crack Paparazzi photog from our vast international staff, snapped GD in Gay Paree on May 11th, Hardly incognito (note emblazoned blazer).  Image by Jean Rúisi.
Exclusive Image: Although Gerard announced to the world and the French politicians that he was renouncing his French Citizenship and moving to Belgium, our crack Paparazzi photog from our vast international staff, snapped GD in Gay Paree on May 11th, Hardly incognito (note emblazoned blazer). Image by Jean Ruisi

Ah France, you gotta love it.  I love Paris; it’s one of the world’s great cities to walk around in. I love and have written about The Côte d’azur and the jazz joints of St Germain. And then there is Normandy and her history, the valor and sacrifice of American boys who fell on the beaches with that day in 1944.

French literature, French cinema and Art nouveau have influenced me, and millions of Americans, from birth. Yet here’s a little sour pickle I picked up from the Associated Press. Dateline Paris: France mulls “culture” tax on smart phones.

Ha! Culture Tax? Okay, so the French gouvernement  (which thought necessary the designation of Bridget Bardot as a national treasure), is very conscious of France’s artistic contributions and identity to the world. So a culture tax turns out to be a 1 percent sales tax on everything Internet from the phones to tablets to possibly Google and YouTube use. Ostensibly this tax will pay to build a healthy and robust resource of French online content, free of franglais. Put another way, to subsidize the online content and web-related industries of France. The French have done similar things, to a degree, with their movie industry. Many feel it hastened the decline of risqué French cinema because part of the creative process was risk itself, and the government tried to minimize risk to the filmmaker. Smarter people with more time on their hands than me will debate the outcome over coffee and cigarettes, but I feel it hurt more than it helped.

However, enter the Pigeons! Yes, pigeon is a rough French translation which actually means “fall guys.”

You see, France is on the verge of 75% income tax on Frenchmen who make more than 1 million euros per year. Well, the Pigeons are revolting. The Pigeons, as they identify themselves online, are a group of entrepreneurs and business leaders who are threatening to leave France because they find it too… taxing! Some have already done so. And, you guessed it: Many of the Pigeons are the ‘early birds’ into the French online industries. Programmers, content providers, artists and in general people who risked their life savings and ate canned soup for years because they had a dream. They succeeded, built companies, hired thousands and are now, somehow, branded as the Diable! So the Culture tax will do what, exactly? Who’s going to be there to take the subsidies? To build this brave new French online world?

It seems to me that the mother lode of everybody on the Internet in France, chipping in 1% of sales, has to be worth more than whatever confiscatory tax the government could wring from the pockets of those rich misérables. But now, those who can build, populate and create content with those taxes, will not be there to be protected by the government.

Even the film industry (already enjoying subsidies) was shocked when their mega-star, Gérard Depardieu, split France (au revoir) as a way of keeping more than 25 cents on every dollar (or Franc or Euro, whatever) he earned.

Of course, no one in France, Europe or most of the PIGS, (not a demeaning term but an acronym actually used in economics and finance which refers to the economies of Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain) would ever connect the ‘cradle to grave’ costs associated with many of the government programs that Politicians use to keep the masses voting for them. Spending beyond means is the real reason why governments run out of money… yet the Pigeons are being scapegoated.

The streets of France are filled with French citizens who embrace and even cheer-on the idea of going after the rich to make up the shortfall in the public treasury – as they take their share of benefits that deplete that same treasury. It will be a bittersweet moment when every person en France who has a smartphone tablet, or uses the internet, will be forced to pay, just like the erstwhile roi of cyberspace. 

Trying to create the next generation, online French content culture without the Pigeons would be like… I don’t know… like trying to make a French film without Dépardieu? 

P.S. For more laughable reading, see:
UK’S RICHEST CONCEALING BILLIONS IN OFFSHORE TAX HAVEN

Avitabile

Tom Avitabile
http://tomavitabile.com/
tom@spadvertising.com

A play, right?

Tom Avitabile, A play, right?Last night I had the most wonderful, wonderful dream, in fact it’s 6 a.m. on a Sunday morning and I jumped out of bed just to write this down.

Last night, I dreamt of Broadway! For the first time in my life.

I was on a subway platform. People were dressed in colors and outfits the likes of which I had never seen underground.  Women wore pastel colors, their skirts and dresses very float-y, moving and swaying as they did. The men were in primary colored suits, sport coats, overalls and jackets.  All the men wore thick rim glasses. I entered down a flight of stairs to the platform. The gleaming silver train was already in the station.

Somebody said, “and a 5, 6, 7, 8.” and suddenly everybody snapped into precision from the shapeless mass of people they were a second earlier. A piano started playing and someone clapped in time to the music. People were moving… no, they were dancing! Choreographed in and out of the car doors onto the platform and back again. They were singing. I was like Dorothy on the first day in Oz, turning every which way trying to see all around me. Every new part of the number brought with it some inventive set piece, or some alignment of dancers that was based on the morning commute I’d seen a million times before, but shaped in a moving pulsing throng of color and body attitude that made them move as one.  Suddenly the men had hats, fedoras, and they became part of the routine as they used them as props and did complicated hat switching routines that actually made me laugh out loud in awe.

Then I saw the lead. She was definitely a Broadway dame! I didn’t know her, but she came right past me as I was taking it all in. I could see she was the star. Her voice was thick and resounded over the entire stage without a mic. She moved like she was on wheels, you could see her as being on the Broadway stage since she was a kid, probably played Annie, and probably just got a Tony for being a witch in that revisionist Oz musical or something like that. Whoever she was, I mean she was impressive.

Then I saw another man enter, he was in a blue suit.  Not your ordinary blue, a shocking blue with wide pinstripes you could see from the back of the theater, different from all the others. It was Tom Hanks! Tom Hanks was in this play! I smiled and giggly laughed as he did his bit again passing right by me.  

At one part in the number the ‘Train” started to move, the whole thing. I remember how silent it moved, with just the slightest rolling noise. Ball bearings, I thought. It moved maybe 20 feet in total, I remember watching the front of the train, it looked as though it was going to hit one of the steel columns of the subway station set, but at the last minute the column pulled away. And the train car moved without incident.  I remember thinking in my dream, “That had to cost a million dollars just for this.”

A few of the performers, gave me odd looks, as I was the only inert object in a sea of swirling chroma and intense motion. Then the door to the train jammed as it was halfway open.  The dancers who were now, I guess, leaving the train, amassed at the half-opened door and suddenly the symphony of movement halted. The intentional choreography disrupted, they became a messy mass of humanity piling up at a narrowly opened door.  The guy clapping stopped and the piano player halted mid-score. Someone yelled from out in the dark seats. “Harry, what the hell is it with this door?”

From somewhere up over my head, at least 30 feet and into the rigging, ropes, sandbags and lights came a voice. “On it, boss.”

A dancer walked by me, and said to a fellow chorus member, “Just like the real thing.” The dance captain heard that, “Hey, did you hear what Frank just said, like the real subway.”

I had only been on Broadway for 4 minutes and felt that I was witnessing something special, a moment when, with all the creativity around me playing out, when choreography and lighting and set pieces were all acting as one organism, in all this well planned, well executed spontaneous art that was unfolding exactly as painstakingly planned, beat by beat by hand clap, came a moment of randomness that would, if they went with it, bring the beauty of real life to their ‘Morning Subway Commute of the Mind’. The Stuck Subway door!  At that moment I saw it as another brilliant element in this brilliant mosaic that would tickle audiences and maybe put another notch in a reviewer’s memory stick. A little dab of New York the way the actors themselves on this stage, who take the subway daily, see it.

 Then somebody from the dark seats in the ‘house’ section of the theater yelled.  “That’s 5 everybody… Harry can we make that do that? Somebody find Jerome. See if he can choreograph the stuck door.”

As the staging around me dissolved into regular traffic and the performers made their way to whatever they do when they weren’t on stage, a man approached mister Hanks with a cell-phone and he took the call and walked off.

Tom Avitabile, A play, right?The leading lady chatted for a moment with a wardrobe person, and was tugging at her costume, demonstrating something.  I took the opportunity to do what I came here to do. Suddenly, in my dream, there was a reason for me to be there. I picked up a case I didn’t know I came in with and headed up stairs to the offices of the theater. I walked through a room with benches and maybe 20 people, all sitting reading books, newspapers or working their phones, coats and bags at their sides.  Extras, I thought. Or Understudies, more like casting probably.  A big show like this must constantly be replacing cast members, or maybe it was for the touring, bus and truck productions that mirrored every big Broadway play across the rest of America. Then, in a logic that can only make sense in a dream, I looked into a room as I passed it. It looked more like a large classroom. A few music stands and a piano were up front.  For some reason my first thought was some kind of Julliard type classroom where students learned Broadway appreciation 101.  Then I thought, maybe it was a rehearsal room of some kind, but I dropped the whole line of thought.

I found myself approaching a desk, there was a woman going through papers, I waited and introduced myself.

She looked up. “Can I help you.”

“Yeah, I was told to show up here.”

“Who are you here to see?”

I didn’t know, or couldn’t say.

I remember seeing the look on her face. It was like she took pity on me. “Are you here for the casting?”

“Kind of, I guess”

“Do you know what part?”

“Adrian, I blurted out.” Then I remembered, “A Mr. Krantz, asked me to come in.”

Those two names turned her around. She immediately changed her tone and body language. Adrian (?) was the 3rd starring role in this play. And I got the immediate respect and attention, as if I were a big star.

“Oh, I’ve been expecting you. Have you been shown to your room?”

“No, I have kind of been wandering around.” I was now playing it like a big country bumpkin for some reason.

Then suddenly I knew why I was there. I remember saying in my dream, “I guess I am the ‘ingénu’.” And I also remember, as soon as I said it, saying to myself, “a 50 year old ingénu, can you believe it.” (I just looked up in the dictionary what I thought was spelled Angeniux or some French derivation, and found it to mean, and I swear I didn’t know this, “2. naive character in drama”)

She picked up the phone and announced, “He’s here. Yes, I will.” She hung up and said, “Right this way, the director, the producer and the choreographer will meet you in your room.”

I walked up more stairs and had the following thoughts, I am out of shape, I’ll have to get my boss to give me enough of time off from my job so I can do this, but this is big, it’s worth it, I got a lot of catching up to do. I am sure the dance captain will assess my limited abilities and help me not make a fool of myself. In two or three weeks, I’ll bet I’ll be thinner and in good shape. I’ll eat good and stick to it.

Now again, this is the dream I just had, this dialogue actually happened in it. I am not embellishing it. I do find it troubling that in my dream I was so vain.  Anyone who knows me will tell you, I think, I hope, that my appearance, fashion sense and caring about those things is never evident outside of a wedding reception or business presentation.

Around this point in the dream I awoke. I lay there in a state of warmth, in a wonderful peace. The dream actually must have made me smile.  But the narrative kept going. (Now, did I really wake up, or was I still dreaming that I was now dreaming that I was thinking about it after waking up?) Anyway here are the last thoughts, the kind of climax to my dream, the back story if you will: I was chatting with someone in a Sardi’s styled restaurant the night before, we hit it off pretty good and were laughing and topping one another’s jokes. At some point he handed me his card and asked me to come here today.  He was the producer of this play. He wanted me to play a role I was born to play.  You see, the whole idea of this play was that there was a regular guy in it. Someone who spoke to the audience. He was trapped in a Broadway play. He had lines like, and this would be before a big number, “No, no don’t start singing… no, no more singing again.” He was a character, unbeknownst to me, previously played by the likes of Matthew Broderick, who I was replacing.  An everyman who is trapped in a Broadway musical.

In a fit of inspired casting, they decided to try a real person. Someone with absolutely no talent, to play someone with absolutely no talent whose idea of hell is Broadway!

I even had a line in the play that said, “Hey, there’s Tom Hanks!”

Then I really woke up.  I was still in love with my dream. It was a rare dream, in that it had a beginning, middle and end. It was totally wrapped up. Very rare. I immediately tried to remember what I ate last night, and how late I ate it. I never had such a congruent dream. So much in fact, that I wrote this even before eating or the other thing you do as soon as you get up. So much in fact that right now, some 57 minutes after I got out of bed this morning and turned on this computer, I am thinking about synopsizing it and showing it to a friend who is a show runner for one of the big Broadway production companies. It could work? Especially if they don’t cast me and we can talk Tom hanks into playing himself.  (…Why Tom Hanks?)

AvitabileTom Avitabile
http://tomavitabile.com/
tom@spadvertising.com

The NEW Italian Renaissance

Tom Avitabile | The NEW Italian RenaissanceThis new renaissance is brought to us by the two most famous Italians in history; forget DaVinci and Michelangelo, I’m talking about Mario and Luigi.

The world will soon be divided into two classes: The addicted class and the non-addicted class. The defining addiction will be to Digitally Enhanced Living (DEL).

The non-addictive folks will be cursed to suffer the raw, naked, unfair, unkind, slow, unpredictable, low-tech reality of being an organic life form (factory installed). The people who are addicted to DEL will live in their own plugged-in world, and will have no need to share their lives in the physical reality. An unplugged person will be limited to the friends and loved ones they can manage to interact with on a human level while the DEL will have virtually millions of friends. What do I see as the first page of this Orwellian nightmare?

Google Glasses. Finally the isolation of sitting hours and hours in your mom’s basement on your computer, trying to be relevant, can now brought to the great outdoors. Bring your fantasy-based, illusion-generated life with you wherever you go. On second thought, why go anywhere? Continue reading “The NEW Italian Renaissance”

Production Value = Life or Death

“Did you hear about this guy named Ben Ghazi who killed a bunch of people in Libya? It was in the news a while back, and they said it was because of a video that some guy produced.” *

Tom Avitabile  |  Production Value = Life or DeathWhen I looked into it, I found that it’s wasn’t actually a video, it was just a trailer – a couple of minutes long posted on the internet. And at the time of the attack, maybe less than 500 people had seen this trailer. Yet it caused riots in Egypt, Libya and the Middle East. But more importantly, it really pissed off that Ben Ghazi guy.

Last week the North Koreans released their own YouTube video trailer. In this video they depict a nuclear attack on the United States, complete with missiles, computer graphics and the destruction of New York City. They even scored it with the counterpunctual melody of the Michael Jackson song We are the World… and yet there has been no outcry.

American people have not surrounded North Korean embassies or interests, screaming and yelling for the blood of the North Korean ambassador. As far as I know, no American named Chevy Chase, or Austin Texas killed four Korean diplomats. There has been no outcry in the press anywhere in the world over this shameful video. A vile, disgusting video that hit America below the belt, right in that deep and dark nightmare of the previous attack on the United States. Not a word of disapproval even to the point of just pointing out that it was rude. Not one word, not one peep.

Here’s the reason, Production Value! The Ben Ghazi guy video thing was crudely done, horribly edited, had bad ADR (Automated Dialog Replacement) in that the voices were chopped in after the shoot to change the meaning so that the actors who actually played the part didn’t know what they were saying because later on somebody went back in and edited different words. It was a real hack job. So bad, they arrested the guy who made it and he’s still in prison. (America defends good production values, and this dude’s were woefully inadequate)

But the North Korean video, now that’s excellent production value. It was a good CGI video, that’s the difference – good, clean production wins the day all the time. So nobody killed anybody, or lodged any complaint. Except for maybe one small group, BMI/ASCAP. Did those North Koreans pay the royalties to use the Michael Jackson hit? Forget about the whole thing about blowing up New York, illegal downloading may be the true crime here!

Oh, and this week, the North Koreans released another video, the one they shot of the detonation of their latest production – a nuclear bomb. But hey, at least they used High Def, so again, nobody anywhere in the world is saying nothing about anything.

*actually overheard in a Starbucks near NYU in New York City.

Tom Avitabile  |  Production Value = Life or Death

BS: For those of you who read my post from Monday but were wondering where the pictures were, scroll down to the updated post.

Tom Avitabile

Tom@TomAvitabile.com