Life (and everything else) is a movie…

From my first book, The Eighth Day, to my current release, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, many readers emailed me or commented that “they could see it as a movie.” Or that “it should be a movie,” or “it would make a great movie.” My favorite is, “Why didn’t you make it as a movie?

At some level, these well-intentioned comments bristle my literary soul. After all, a published book is the same achievement, relative to process, as a produced movie. They are both the end-product of creative inspiration. And each is the pinnacle of its art. (My card-playing Uncle Guido would say, “It’s da Pinochle a de art.” Uncle G always put his cards on the table.)

Last week I attended a very fancy dinner in a chic Manhattan restaurant. The check was more than my monthly rent when I was 35. Luckily, this time I was the guest. I’m no kid, but I was the youngest guy at the table. The purpose of the dinner meeting was to discuss a “big investment deal.” More money than the entire block I lived on back then costs. This was serious stuff. Four hours of exquisite apps, salmon, Delmonico steaks, wines, martinis, and “to the moon” desserts. All for three people!

But the amazing thing was we all had movie stories. It seems the movies were a common drug we were all addicted to. By mid-dinner, we were suddenly all teenagers, speaking of our hits and near misses in the movie biz, fueled by celluloid enthusiasm and cinematic verve, it was the most energetic part of the evening.

Orson Welles, in describing what it was like to be making his, (soon to be classic film), Citizen Kane, is quoted as saying, “It’s the biggest electric train set a boy ever had.” Well, the ‘little boys’ sitting around the table agreed.

The big, eight-figure deal may or may not happen, but that night, we all got to dabble in “the dream.”

P.S. Every time, and there are many, that some reader says my books should be a movie, I always ask, “You know anybody?

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.

That Lying Sack of Chips

In my first book, and first of my three #1 Best Sellers, The Eighth Day, I take a deep dive into the issues surrounding A.I. When I wrote it, Artificial Intelligence was a far off concept, today not so much. In my book’s plot, one of the unforeseen milestones in achieving artificial intelligence is passed as a higher order device “reasoned” that a lie is more efficient than the truth. In fact, this is the core and resolution of my main plot. At the time of publication, many, not me, thought this was science fiction. Or science fantasy. I thought what I always thought, and as my T-Shirts proclaim… It’s Only Fiction ‘til it Happens!screen shot 2019-01-13 at 12.01.44 pm

Well here’s today’s proof of that concept from TechCrunch.com You can read it here: https://techcrunch.com/2018/12/31/this-clever-ai-hid-data-from-its-creators-to-cheat-at-its-appointed-task/

But to summarize, the article reluctantly points out, around a year ago that a computer has achieved the next higher order of demonstrated intellect, namely, it has learned to lie, cheat or omit; as a more efficient path to its goal. So let’s forget about the notion that computers (like angels) cannot tell a lie. Or the erroneous notion that only pure computational logic is the last vestige of truth. For all those who are shocked by this, or think it’s Jabberwocky, I say, “Huh? Where have you been for the last 20 years?”

20 years ago, few, if anyone, ever heard the terms, giga-byte, tera-byte or petaflop (okay, some may still be in the dark about a petaflop. it is a massive chunk of computational speed. if you are into numbers that’s one thousand trillion, or one quadrillion, operations per second, in any single device.)

The “bytes” measure how much memory or “things” a computer knows about, but it is in the petaflop where we approach the speed of the human intelligence process. It arises from being able to instantly make a connection between basic concepts and fold them into higher order ideas. Believe me, we could write about this for days, so take it on faith, Computational Speed = Artificial Intellect!

I say intellect because to lie, deceive, omit or cheat requires something most humans miss when having this discussion; a sense of self, pride, ego. Yes, I am speaking about a machine not wanting to be “seen” as in error. That means somewhere down in this machine’s core, it cares. Read that again: somewhere down in this machine’s core, it cares.*

Most humans only lie to protect some higher ideal. Even if that ideal is their own frail ego. That leads us to today and tomorrow when you may think you are talking (interacting) with a one-dimensional machine, performing relatively simple input/output functions. But in reality, the new reality, the device could be moderating its responses or protecting some aspect or part of the response. You, trusting in machines, might not be aware of this deception. This “self-preserving instinct” may be a by-product of the race to the ultimate A.I. An unintended consequence of machines that learn. A situation where “ego” is baked into its processor’s algorithm. Think of it as asking Siri what the stock price of Apple is when the next iPhone release performs badly and she fudges the answer.

Notice I said; SHE fudges the answer.

 

  • *In all fairness, the author of the article claims the machine innocently encoded information in a manner imperceptible to a human. You can accept that opinion and sleep tonight, or ask yourself, How did it know it was imperceptible?”

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.

Episode 5 of the Accidental Author

Click above for the latest episode of the Accidental Author and hear me discuss the following • Backstory to the Bill Hiccock “Thrillogy” • Passion-the essential element to being a good writer • Perfection – the enemy of good.

Don’t miss an episode!

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

Episode 4 click here

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…”