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.

 

The Scary, Scary World Inside the Female

 

 

No wait, why don’t I just pull a pin on a grenade and wait 5 seconds…it will be the same as trying to survive this blog or any discussion that dares to invade the inner sanctum or reasoning process of half the human raceby the male half.


I am in the finishing phase of my 5th novel, Give Us This Day, and for some unknown reason, I risked my life and limb to stubbornly, not only write a book with a female leading character and hero (heroine!) but to have the audacity to go inside her, to delve into her psyche and foolishly think I could come out with my cognitive skills and self-image intact!


Note to all male authors: When delving into the working of the female mind, always, always, always assume that you are wrong. Then just ask any female and you’ll quickly confirm just how wrong you are.  But then ask another female and see how wrong the first woman was! — No, no, no, not that Female #2 agrees with you, noooo, you are not even on the same page as her, the terrifying reality is that she doesn’t agree with Female #1!

Okay, so back to me. I recently was enlightened to the fact that having a male character ask a female character for permission to call her by her first name, i.e. “May I call you, Brooke?” Is actually worse than chauvinisticThis critique hit me like I was T-Boned in my new Corvette just as I was pulling out of the dealer’s lot. I quote from the response of a woman whom I sought out not only for her brilliance but also because she is, like my protagonist, Brooke Burrell-Morton, a powerful person of achievement and position, who was kind enough to read and comment my manuscript, …


It’s huge power play and condescending for a man to address a woman who is an equal or better by her first name.   It’s like him asking her to get coffee for him.  She’s [Brooke is] a sharp cookie and should be offended or at least think he’s a sexist a**hole by his asking. 


I had two simultaneous thoughts when I read that… First, thank God for her and her sharing that critical piece of social decorum of which I was totally unaware, ill-informed and insensitiveAs, apparently, were a few other female early readers who missed it. (See Female#2) 


My second thought was…I am never going to talk to a woman ever again, God knows how many faux pas I commit per minute in just even the most innocent and casual chat with someone of the opposite sexYikes, I don’t want to ever be a sexist a**hole, EVER! Much less announce and confirm that fact in unretractable, New Times Roman set 12 on 12 in 435 pages that will live-on somewhere or on some shelf or digital file till the sun flickers out. 


Now, on second thought, where’s that hand grenade?

 

This is the End: Episode 7 of The Accidental Author and the WESU Series

In this final episode: Loving your characters good and bad • Homage to Tom Clancy “The Master” • Plot line of The Devil’s Quota.

Next Time:
Join us next time as The Accidental Author delves deeper into the arts and craft, nuts and bolts and heart and soul of authoring a novel.
Up coming episodes will feature interviews with authors, publishers and others who will share valuable insights into what makes an author tick… and why!

Watch the whole series!

Episode 1 click here
Episode 2 click here
Episode 3 click here

Episode 4 click here
Episode 5 click here
Episode 6 click here

THE BIRD’S THE WORD…

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Happy Bird-day to you… Happy Bird-day to you….. Happy Bird-day dear, reader, happy Bird-day to you. Now blow out the flaming turkey… (that’s going to make it a little dry.)

Today is the day when America gives itself the bird. You know, Turkey, Butterball, Oven Fowl… And why? To celebrate abundance but also to offer thanks for the blessing of NOT having to track the thing through the frozen woods and hunt down this feathered feast and bring it back to the homestead alive and pecking. Instead, we just go down to the market. While there, we simply grab an ear of corn from the neatly stacked display, rather than fertilizing and tiling the field months before. Then we head to the desert aisle to grab a pumpkin pie that we didn’t bake from a pumpkin we didn’t grow.

In a way, this might make you feel a little guilty, but that’s not the point of today’s Thanksgiving blog. The point is that we have it really good. But consider for a moment, how much of a pilgrim’s everyday life was consumed by maintaining a food supply? How much “downtime” could they have possibly enjoyed when they had maybe 6 months of productive time by which to generate enough food to be able to LIVE through the other six? Compare that to how long the average American spends in the supermarket today.

But the moral of this story is: all of this almost didn’t happen! American that is. This country was nearly wiped out in its infancy. The first generation of American’s was almost the last. Why? Human behavior. And that leads to the character study part of this author’s blog.

The first form of government of the Plymouth Colony (the beginning of the United States of America) was outlined in the Mayflower Compact. It was the kind of document that intellectuals dream up… and dream about. In theory, it was a plan for Utopia, where everyone in this new land would share in everything. It was envisioned as the antidote to the unfair, uneven distribution of goods and wealth in bad, old Europe. In the New World everyone would share in everything, everyone held one share of the colony. The thinking was that this equality of wealth would  render poverty, famine, injustice and class divisions, a thing of the old, discriminatory,  European system’s past. These ills of society would be eliminated from the human condition by the simple, HUMANE, act of sharing.

Well, a lot of people died. In fact, everyone almost died. You see, it didn’t take long before those humans who didn’t work, or didn’t work as hard as others, realized they still got the same share of everything. And those humans that tilled the fields and broke their backs making everything started resenting the fact that they got the exact same share as the takers. Eventually, the “makers” started envying the “takers” and they quickly caught on and figured they’d slow down and still get their share too. “Utopian Paralysis” ensued and production practically ground to a halt. This forced Governor William Bradford, of the now starving, Plymouth Colony, to throw out the Compact and declare, in rough terms, the free market system. Like magic, those who were takers suddenly didn’t have anything to eat, so guess what? They became makers. And the rest, as they say, is history. Human history. Or in this case, history in spite of humans or their human behavioral defaults.

In short, the open market way back then is the reason we can go down to the market when it’s open today and buy, in a couple of minutes, a full Thanksgiving dinner – because way back when, we gave Utopia the bird!

The Accidental Author – Episode Two

In the window above is the next installment of The Accidental Author, some real heartfelt confessions in this one plus an homage to one of the finest authors living today. If you missed episode one, click here.

The Thrill-ogy Of It All!

Untitled.jpgGood things come in threes: Three Dog Night, the Musketeers and Coins in Fountains. Three legs, as on a tripod, always find an even plane. So like coffee beans in the after dinner aperitif Sambuca, you always want three. Therefore, after I wrote my first book, The Eighth Day, of course the last thing I ever thought of was three.

Then The Hammer of God hit me – hard. The stars my second book created swirling around my head formed more than just one book’s worth of storyline. So I decided that two books were needed to flesh out the arc of the characters and the fulfillment of their goals.

If you are following along with your calculators or spreadsheets, then =Sum(1+2) yields 3. And thus my “Thrill-ogy” was born. “Three” + “Thriller” compacted neatly into a freshly minted term: thrillogy.

The third leg of my story tripod lands on solid ground June 17th with the publishing of The God Particle by The Story Plant. It encapsulates the maturity and development in my character’s lives plus the evolving threat matrix that continues to drum up scarier and scarier techno-nightmares.

From an author’s perspective, but not maybe a marketer’s, being able to move the lens around to investigate other characters and let them take it for a while is very attractive. The marketer would have it always be the same as my first. “Don’t change a winning formula” would be their advice.  Well, I “dood” it anyway.

In The God Particle, Brooke Burrell, my female FBI agent who had significant supporting roles in both previous books, takes the brunt of the action as she faces death and, worse, the question of what to do with the rest of her life, While the world hangs in the balance.

These were fun to write, and I hope my readers have fun reading all three. So don’t believe that old saw about, three’s a crowd; cram your bookshelf or Nook with my thrillogy and have three times the fun. Sorry, that got a little slogan-y.

Well, it’s off to an Italian dinner and dessert. I think tonight, instead of a Tartufo, I’ll have a Tar-three-fo.

 

Out from behind the curtain

Meet my site administrator Jenny

Much like the wizard stepped out from the curtain in The Wizard of OZ, now it’s my chance to do the “big reveal” here at “It’s Only Fiction ‘til it Happens.” 

Why you ask?  Well, it’s to give you easier access to discover what Tom’s doing and how to you can be apart of it.  

Don’t Fall Behind

The blog is the place to dig deep into the “Wild” Bill Hiccock thrillogy and the politically faced-paced, techno charged world Tom created. Access trailers of The Eighth Day and The Hammer of God or head on over to the store and purchase the books at Amazon, B&N, or iTunes.  

But it’s 2014, and everyone wants more, more, and (let’s face it) a little bit more. “Like”-ing Tom’s Facebook Page gets you unlimited access and “cool” freebies.  You can sign up for his newsletter, learn about giveaways, and get a preview of The Eighth Day, that’s the first 10 chapter for you–FREE. Got questions, want to know what Tom’s doing next, or just want to say hello–follow Tom’s Twitter or tweet @tomavitabile.  

But his social circle doesn’t stop there (he is the modern Renaissance Man after all). Venture to The Story Plant where Tom can often be found guest blogging.

The Secrets Out 

For the “newbies” out there looking for a new emerging author, check out these reviews at Goodreads and Amazon.  

‘The Hammer Of God’ is a rip-roaring thriller that I simply couldn’t put down. A mixture of plausible and implausible elements results in a gripping thriller that doesn’t let up until the final page .

-Wayne McCoy (Goodreads)

Tom Avitabile is a new author who I recently discovered. I read his first novel and thought it was a very good debut novel. I just finished The Hammer of God and could not believe what a great writer Mr. Avitabile is becoming. This book grabbed me from page one and just got better as it progressed. The author is apparently privy to all sorts of insider information about the intelligence community and high tech. I highly recommend this book to all thriller fans.”

-Fair Reviews (Amazon)

If you haven’t been following the blog closely, the highly anticipated conclusion to his “thrillogy’, The God Particle, is coming July 17th.  Check out the mini trailer below.  You can also expect more from Tom in the fall when The Devil’s Quota storms in.

Elements of Literary Style… for Dummies

books stack_0Somebody once gave me as a gift, a book on the Elements of Style. I assumed it wasn’t as a prescriptive, in that they thought my worked lacked it, but more because it was a simple solution to the problem, “What do we get Tom for his birthday? To which the answer was probably right in front of them in a bookstore, “Oh, here’s something about writing, he does that… and it’s only $14.95!”

I approached the book with appropriate interest and anticipation of what secrets to trade craft lay between its covers.  To my dismay it turned out to be a “slog”.  It read as a lengthy, dry, dissertation that was droll and lacked any dynamism to motivate me to turn to the next page.

It angered me.  After all, isn’t the whole issue of ‘style’ a concept emanating from the good side of the literary arts? Isn’t it a positive entity, one that enhances the reader’s experience? Yet, here the author (lecturer, in the most gruesome sense) felt no compassion, compulsion or responsibility to his reader/student to try to utilize any style in his presentation, no attempt to do the hard work it would entail to romance his presentation, add challenge or wonder to the litany of the very style he was attempting to impart. Not even a jocular quote on style from GBS, if he ever said one. Nothing… flat line.

Readability, if I may forge the term, is an index of many factors, one of them being  ‘style’, that becomes the connective tissue of a story, indeed the sinewy strands of communicating neurons that allow the mind to flow with the story, a current that unconsciously holds the reader magnetized to the track the author wants to lead them down. Not so much for this book.

Indeed this was a book that one had to be assigned to read out of fear of flunking the course.  Then it hit me, Textbook! A book whose sole ingredient, to the exclusion of all else is, text! – Without subtext, context, pretext or super-text. (See my short blog; Writing Tip # 4 Text Appeal)

Yes, I know, many of you would argue, “The one place you don’t want style is in the elaboration and illumination of style as not to obfuscate or diffuse the examples.”  And you would most likely be correct, but it didn’t work for me, I had to put it down, I never read it, couldn’t read it and couldn’t force read it, so I left it on the shelf.

Which by now, as you probably realized, is self-evident by the lack of style (whatever that is?) by which I wrote this blog!

I’ve become that guy!

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Last night, at a social function, I turned into that guy. I used to joke about being a “Hyphenate”, that is, a writer-producer-director-a**hole! Last night, I crossed the ‘rude-icon.’

Pontificating is best left to pontiffs, bloviating to the bloviators and pedantics to the, um, well,… the pedanta-philes, I guess. But there is no way in H-E-double hockey sticks, that I should have simultaneously, berated and regaled my dear friends with my extremely tedious treatise on the vicissitudes of the authoring process. Like a bowler leaning his body to karmically get the ball to curve into the 7-10 split, I bent the vernacular, twisted the point and generally put “the spin” on my English.

God! Look at what I just wrote, above!

Who am I? Who is this person I’ve become? I have a case of mothball smelling, patches on the sleeve, utteration-laden, over dramatic profundities capable, boring, old Professor’s Syndrome.

Yuck! Me? I used to be soooo cool. Now, I am a walking, comedic character from a ‘coming of age’ college kid movie spewing dialog lines like; “Er… not really!” an ambushing, “However, in reality…” a ticking, “Well, here’s an interesting fact.”. I hope I get over myself in time for my next blog.

Wait, ‘utteration’ isn’t even a word! See what I mean!

Sometimes you write for you…

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In the middle of writing my fourth book, I get the feeling that I am enjoying it a little too much. Maybe I am creating the ‘Great American Novel’ for an audience of only one American. You know, like laughing at your own jokes, or singing in the shower, which never sounds bad. Maybe I am self-referencing and modulating the characters and stories to make my own tail wag.  It’s hard to know.  I don’t like sending out chapters for comment or asking someone to read a work half done, but is my enjoyment of my story a kind of insanity, a delusion of isolation?  A world I created that has no relation to the world of the potential readers at large.  Which begs the question, am I writing for some, quantifiable segment of society or am I writing for myself?  Right now it feels like it’s totally for myself and my own amusement.

Oh wait, I have an editor!  Whew, what a relief to have another human, not inside my head, who can give an objective opinion without my internal bias.  Did I mention, God Bless editors?