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.

The Drone Wars vs. Hot Beans!

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Okay, so I am going to try to make this not some old guy rant about, ‘In My Day…” but since The Eighth Day has achieved #1 bestseller status, many more people have been reading it and resonating with the Bronx, New York side of the story. Which elicits E-mails from fans of both the book and the Bronx. “Belly Flopping” a street game being central to the character development of FBI Special Agent, Joey Palumbo, has started a stream of E-mail consciousness that lead to HOT BEANS!

For those of you NOT blessed to have grown up on the gritty streets of the Bronx, I will endeavor to explain this particularly unique “childhood” game.

Start with a Garrison Belt, which is a serious looking strap of leather that’s around two inches wide with a mean-ass metal buckle on the end. Just like in Hide and Go Seek, one person is designated as “It.” The rest of the kids hide at “home base” around the corner. Now the guy that’s “it” hides the belt anywhere on the street. When he’s got the belt where is sure no one will find, he yell’s, “REEEEEAAADDYYY!”

Everyone comes around the corner to find the belt. The one who finds it, gets to yell, “HOT BEANS” and then gets to whip the crap out of everyone who is caught between the home base (around the corner) and him. At this point it would help to remember we are talking a heavy thick belt with a heavy buckle that can draw blood.

Believe me you don’t know what terror, fear, trepidation, caution, strategy and courage is until you play this game. Why? Because unlike other games, where the only skin in the game is playing for a win, bragging rights or the most points, in Hot Beans, your skin is actually at risk in this game.

Today, kids hardly go out into the street anymore. Their games are on a computer. The optimists and sociologists say it’s a good thing, that they are developing skills for our techno-future.

However, I wonder about those men and women who operate the drones and other High Tech, Stand Off, Remote controlled weaponry that we are embracing as national policy. I am referring to those who joystick their way through a war, one that’s been made impersonal and game-like on LCD screens. A process that transforms the deadliest endeavor of mankind to be remarkably like, Call Of Duty or Battlefield 3.

What happens if somebody pulls the plug on their console, will they, who have been raised in this kind of Sanitized War, be able to become warriors? The bigger question is, are Americans, who never played HOT BEANS and have no skin in the game but a vote once a year, citizens who in general have become war weary, will they have the grit to turn to our war fighting soldiers who have tested their mettle? Combat ready troops who are the ultimate weapon, and last resort, in defending a nation’s way of life and thus all we hold dear? Or will our techno-war complacent population cower at “home base” when some big, ugly brute from a foreign land wields an actual big belt with malicious intent?

P.S. Millions of people play war-based video games. All of these games are sold with graphics depicting “Shit Wired Tight” soldiers who are shown as stoic, deadly and dressed to kill. These are homage’s to the true warrior. Yet, millions of players, who assume these roles, never show up to a Veteran’s Day parade or write their congressperson to take better care of the actual “prototypes” of these fake computer icon warriors, when they return from the real life battle.

Those images and the exploiting of heroism has amassed many billions of dollars in box office for games and almost equal amount for movies. Unlike these computer generated figures, our soldiers have actually faced danger, unspeakable horror and have risked everything. Yet, far too many are homeless.

Here’s a thought for all you gamers out there, donate 1% to 10% of your highest war game score to Veterans Matter or text VETS to 41444.

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Continue reading “The Drone Wars vs. Hot Beans!”

Upon Further Review…

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Along with the corner bookstore, many of the benchmarks of the book business have bitten the digital dust. Hundreds of thousands of books now flood the virtual shelves of the big and small on-line retailers. Marketing experts call this “fragmentation” while most authors call it “frustration.” It seems nowadays this evolution in book selling has made the REVIEW, the gold standard in determining how much buzz, support, exposure and sales potential a book receives.

“If you like your thrillers realistic enough to make your spine tingle, and well-written enough to keep you turning pages, you must pick up THE DEVIL’S QUOTA.  Tom Avitabile is at the top of his game.  Read this book.” – Linda Fairstein, New York Times bestselling author of TERMINAL CITY and DEATH ANGEL

But how does an author garner reviews, and good ones at that? The simple answer is write a great book. The nuanced answer: start the snowball effect, the more reviews, the more people read the book, the more they post reviews and it goes on like that until you have an avalanche of reviews.

“The go-to guy for pure thriller reading pleasure, Tom Avitabile delivers with every word.” – John Lescroart, New York Times bestselling author of THE KEEPER and THE OPHELIA CUT

It’s also great when your big –time multi million selling, NY Times bestselling authors who huge fan bases, take the time to read your book and then serve up glowing quotes. That’s just gotta help. But in the new democracy of the Internet, average readers hold an awesome power also. Their reviews on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBook, Good Reads and other sites are critical in informing the large retailers where to put marketing “soft dollars” to push a book over the top.

“This gritty and interesting novel swooped me up early in it’s pages and hung on tight to me until the very last words.” – Five Stars – Good Reads by Booklover Catlady

Me personally, I would never push my reviews in your face, but it is a dire necessity today to garner as many 5-Star reviews as you can. Why? The algorithm (No, not the Al Gore Rhythm, which if you’ve watched him dance is decidedly not in evidence) but those little robotic calculators that today make decisions large and small in everything from your refrigerator, to automated factories to how Amazon decides a book is worthy of “Push”

“This is the kind of book you want to snuggle up with for a quick and quiet thrill.” – The View From the Phlipside

So the new reality is this: an author could get tens of thousands of dollars worth of boost marketing from on-line book sellers if the Al Gore Rhythm machine inside their servers counts a certain number of glowing reviews. Now this isn’t money in the author’s pocket, it’s in soft dollars or what you would have to pay them to push a book like this to their customers. Let’s just say for that kind of advertising they’d charge you four arms and six legs. But old Al Gore the Rhythm King, he’s going to bestow that windfall on a purely digital, cold, unemotional basis – namely reviews!

“Tom Avitabile’s plots are page-turning and gripping. Good read for all fans of crime/thriller fiction!” – Crystal Book Reviews

Therefore in conclusion, you may not be able to judge a book by it’s cover but, Al-A-Gore-ically, they can, and do, judge a book by it’s reviews…

“Reading a novel is like being in a car and taking a journey. The narrator is driving. And whether he drives fast and cruises the curves or whether he’s pedestrian and pokes through the plot – he’s in control.
Tom Avitabile is a cocky chauffeur and The Eighth Day is one hell of a ride.”
-Anonymous via Amazon

Here’s some links in case if by now you haven’t gotten the clue, that I would love a good review from you.

Continue reading “Upon Further Review…”

Social Security Disability Program

Capitol Hill Building in Washington DC

Got a scary note from someone whose identity I will solemnly protect.

Due to his vast time spent in the federal government, working as one of those nameless, faceless bureaucrats and rising to a very high position mostly by playing the game and not making waves, I asked him to do a pre-read of my 4th book, The Devil’s Quota.

In this book, some of the largess from the yearly government haul of our hard-earned taxes is funneled to fuel a private illegal enterprise by an entrepreneurial federal employee – who taps whatever is lying around the spreadsheet to fund it. In my book somewhere around $250k “falls off the federal truck” and seeds his shady endeavor, reaping an outrageous and illicit secondary personal income to his regular paycheck from the Federalis. I thought that was an indicting, criminally devious enough plot point.

His astounding response to my fictional criminal invention was “drop in the bucket”. The bucket being the Waste, Fraud and Abuse Vat that ‘overfloweth’ from the massive amount of money in the system that just can’t be accounted for. He then mentioned, in his letter of last week, the tremendous fraud and waste in misappropriating or inappropriate dispersal of millions of dollars just within one small part of government, the Social Security Disability Program (SSDP) of the government.

That “ooops” of misappropriation is somewhere between $2 and $3 billion out of the $10 plus billion that is disbursed every year by the SSDP. Keep in mind that it is only one department of one administration of the many agencies that make up the huge juggernaut that is the federal government.

Billions going out the door to unqualified recipients while millions of citizens who legitimately deserve these funds to survive, get the crumbs. Now, I am not one to rain on someone’s parade of ‘good luck’, and in my anti-establishment youth my opinion was, if you can game the system – then screw the government. If you can get away with a score like that, good for you. Everybody does it. It’s only the dumb who play by the rules. Of course that was before I paid taxes and realized the government was me, or at least co-funded by me, so screwing the government was a ménage à trois!

 Today, I personally know many people who magically became disabled when their 99 weeks of unemployment ran out. If one of you is reading this right now, don’t worry. I am not a rat. Someone, somewhere in the government is allowing them to reclassify, so I feel they are merely fighting to survive, trying to put food on the table. It’s hard to hold them responsible for utilizing a resource born out of either sloppiness or corruption at the federal level.

 But then I thought about what the Social Security Disability Program is in existence to do. It turned me around when I realized that many deserving citizens, who find themselves unable to work, are turned away because the money earmarked for their legitimate use is being diverted to those who otherwise have no disability.

To be balanced and fair to this issue, critics of the critics would say no one gets turned away. That’s because of the 12 million folks who are in the SSD Program, maybe 25 to 30% are in some way gaming the system. But, they point out, ‘no legitimate claim is denied.’ Somehow the folks who take comfort in this notion, must not pay taxes or they make a lot of money in some way from the SSDP.

So back to what started this all, my book and what I thought was a horendous dastardy deed by a criminal government employee. So I said to myself, I’ll change my book, I’ll expand the plot, I’ll point out this inequity, I’ll lead the reading public to the door of the Social Security Disability Program! I’ll up the ante from a mere $250,000 chicken feed theft to $250,000,000, which would be more in line with reality. I started contemplating my Pulitzer Prize acceptance speech.

“The power of fiction to right the wrongs of our non-fiction world, when those wrongs are so egregious that on the face of it they seem like the invention of fiction themselves…”     – Pulitzer Prize winner Thomas Avitabile

Then the CBS TV show 60 Minutes ran a story this weekend. Although my contact wasn’t in it, it was almost word for word his account of the dis-ability of the government to be accountable. I was scooped! So instead of polishing my Pulitzer I guess I’ll just go back to polishing my manuscript.

 P.S. If you want another little ‘Government Gone Wild’ chestnut to get your blood boiling, after two years of gaming the system (whether you are entitled or not), EVERYONE, even the scammers, automatically qualify for Medicare after two years on SSDP, no matter what age they are, just because they were on SSDP! If you put that in a book, the editor would cut it out as unbelievable.

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

Don’t cry for me, Puerto Rico

Tom Avitabile | Don't Cry For Me, Puerto RicoI know that what I’m about to say is going to draw no sympathy, no empathy, no amount of concern from anybody, and that’s the way it should be. I’m at a wonderful, magical moment in the process of The Devil’s Quota, my fourth book. If you’ve been following the blog, you know that from time to time I’ve been trying to bring you, the reader of the blog (if I’m the blogger, are you the blogee?), into my wacky, arcane, never-been-done-before process of writing.

 Here’s another one: The good news about finally getting the first pass of The Devil’s Quota back from my editor is that it coincides with a holiday, and holidays usually coincide with me taking a trip which ultimately winds up with me under an umbrella on a Caribbean beach with a thick, four-inch spiral bound notebook of three-hole punched, 385 page manuscript. Oh, and a red pen.

 In the prima facie case of the ultimate beach read, while bikini clad Bunnies and really buffed Brads wave at some Steves and Bobs who are bobbing in the water, I sit in the shade under an umbrella, looseleaf across my lap, red pen at the ready, attempting to be an unbiased, unemotional, disconnected reader/arbitrator of that which I wrote.

 It’s an interesting process: That progress from the writing phase to the editorial stage acts as a kind of mental sorbet, cleansing the mental palate. This allows attacking the book fresh, and energizes me with very insightful and illuminating powers. The biggest advantage is the modality switch from the extreme high-definition quality of a retina display laptop to reading toner on paper. That, in and of itself, it is a transformational step.

 For someone born before the computer, who learned how to read on paper, there is actually a discernible difference. The skill, the comprehension and the “Oh geez, I didn’t notice that on the screen!” moments overtake you when you are actually holding the book. Somewhere in between, my “workday” on Isla Verde also has a Piña Colada (virgin of course, I’m working) and various friends and curiosity seekers stopping by, wondering why I’m sitting under an umbrella doing my homework when everybody else is playing.

Tom Avitabile | Don't Cry For Me, Puerto RicoI will come home from the Caribbean with not only sand in my bathing suit, but hopefully sand-sprinkled pages of a manuscript. I’ll shake it out—the sand, all those crazy knotted sentences, all those overused pronouns, all those not-defined-well set up scenarios and characters, all shaking loose with them—leaving only a pristine, perfect first draft which will then go back to my editor. As the shampoo bottle taught us: repeat, rinse, repeat.

 *Editor’s note: To that end, there will an Ethan Cross guest blog filling this space- enjoy.

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