When you write BIG keep it small.

Lesson learned this week: 

Epic, Sweeping, and Grand, don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that…

Interpersonal, character-revealing, reflective expositive reveal of the character of your CHARACTERS.

Now, how’s that for a mouthful? 

130,000 words of Epic, Sweeping, and Grand manuscript hit my publisher’s desk with a thump. (Metaphorically, because I sent it as a word file) He lauded it as “terrific”, the plot fresh and ingenious, the new lead character totally carrying the novel, and the last two acts are overflowing with action (and he meant that in a good way).  He went on to say that he loved the scale of the story.

unnamedPretty good, right? Considering that my dear publisher slotted in Give Us This Day, my fifth book, “sight unseen” last year into his prestigious slate of releases for 2015 and the submission of the manuscript was his first hint as to what it was about. His trust in my work and me was unwavering and complete.

But…

After all that, praise, all that positive feedback, he made ONE, little teeny-weeny note. He said he’d have liked to have seen a little more “sense of fellowship” meaning that sense of companionship between the characters.  He was right. Due to the “fish-out-of–water” nature of the beginning of the story, I purposely wrote the characters as all business. What he felt he missed in this BIG story of mine was the little asides about life or quirks that he felt I did so well in my previous four novels, which he published.

SO NOW, PANIC!

Couldn’t sleep for a week. How to…, What to…, How will…, How does…, started and stopped a hundred mental debates in my head between me and the story.  I’d suggest a scenario in a specific place where a little personal jib-jab could occur and then the story side of me said, “Appears, forced!” “Doesn’t flow.” “Useless appendage here.” “Slows the story, as it’s building.”

Let me tell you, the story side of me is tough!

So, finally a week later, with my pen between my legs (Bad turn of the phrase, I realize, now that I wrote it) …tail between my legs, I asked my publisher “LIKE WHAT?”

At this point, I need to tell you that my publisher is a genius. Not because of what he says, but because of what he doesn’t needlessly say. In one succinct line, he ended my turmoil by name dropping one of my minor characters: Nigel. 

Cue the angelic music: Ahhhh Ahhhhhh. 

That was at 5:45 a.m. last Tuesday.  I was really late to the office that day because at 5:46 the whole missing human connection of my story laid out before me like a GPS map. The ‘tilty’ kind in 3D that looks like you’re up in a plane seeing all the way to Grandma’s house. I immediately saw all the good and further story interconnections that paid for the ink, this new facet of the novel consumed. This one drop of gold that he strategically placed in my brain energized and elevated the entire book – in at least four places in the story!  I eventually left for the office mid-morning! The book was 2200 words heavier, but a million times more wonderful.

I entered the office with a smile that most people would assume is due to having gotten lucky, the night before.  In fact, I had gotten lucky at 5:45 a.m. Actually, upon reflection, I got lucky years ago when I met, Lou Aronica of The Story Plant and he published my first book.

Now if I could just fix that other little nagging thing about the scandalous affair in the second act. 

Uh oh, panic rising…

My Virtual Tour’s Final Stop

Have you spotted the last stop of my Virtual Tour?  I wrapped up the summer by sitting down with Omnimystery and discussing the conclusion to the “Wild” Bill Hiccock Thrillogy.

A Conversation with Thriller Writer Tom Avitabile

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We are delighted to welcome back novelist Tom Avitabile to Omnimystery News, courtesy of The Story Plant, which is coordinating his current book tour. We encourage you to visit all of the participating host sites; you can find his schedule here.Last month we featured an excerpt from Tom’s third thriller to feature presidential science advisor William “Wild Bill” Hiccock,The God Particle (The Story Plant; June 2014 trade paperback and ebook formats). Today we’re sitting down with him to talk a little more about the book and the series.
Click here for the full Q&A

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The God Particle On SALE NOW!

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God-Particle-Ad2Buy The God Particle now till June 24 and get the e-book versions of the first two books in the series – the #1 bestseller THE EIGHTH DAY and THE HAMMER OF GOD – FREE

Click here for details –> http://thestoryplant.com/marketing/book-giveaway.php?gid=9.

 

Getting Buzz

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.

 

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.

imageA BLESSED EVENT…

Weighing in at 375 pages, 108,000 words and, thanks to double sided printing, 3 lbs. I named it The God Particle. And it is kind of a kick for me to be at this final touch point with my third novel. My family planning is now complete with the addition of this third installment in my Bill Hiccock “Thrillogy.” Allow me to reflect on how I arrived at this blessed moment, (Hey, it’s an author’s blog, what did you expect?).

Ahhh, that cute, little first draft, a year and a half of gestation, then its out, smelling like toner powder. Now standing on the spindly unsteady legs of plot lines and character arcs. You marvel at it and know it has more growing to do and you dream about the possibilities.

Oh, oh… someone needs changing! So you unwrap it, the 2nd draft! Flesh out characters, fatten plots, bring in a subplot, make new connections, Hey, I didn’t know I already set up the way these two might meet! I must be a genius.

Not so much. I left out a major hunk of story in the second act! But that’s what why they invented the second pass.

I send it to my word pediatrician, Sue Rasmussen. She makes my perfect bundle of joy even more ‘perfecter’, by pointing out made up words like that one.

I take it on its first vacation, to the beach. We spend seven glorious days in the sand and surf of Puerto Rico. At wheels down of Jet Blue Flight 504 arriving JFK from SJU, I finish the last story edit on the last page. (I love it when the timing works out so well) and shake all the sand out of the book before closing it.

There’s a mid-wife at Kinko’s, Gary. He prints up 10 bound copies with slick little covers with art work in the general direction of the final cover.

Then it’s off to be held by 6 friends and/or strangers to get honest comments.  Most come back good, my cousin George Cannistraro, a talented author in his own right, as always catches a plot point I missed and from that usually the book jumps to 50% better.

Then a deep breath as I click send to let (Grandpa) publisher, Lou Aronica at the Story Plant, give it a read.

Tick tock, tick tock… Ding.

A return email! He likes it! He sees the same beauty in it that I do. Only he takes exception to the very end. The edit I did of the very last words in the book that I made at wheels down. Chauvinistic and demeaning were words he didn’t use, but were apt. So I reworked it made it better (as everything he compels me to rework gets) Now it’s good and I am a caring sensitive male once more. Good. He’s going to publish it, Yaaaaaaaaay!

I Go back to editing book four, “The Devil’s Quota.”  While writing book five, “Give Us This Day.”

Ding! Mail’s in. The edited manuscript is sent back to me. Three years after the first draft was nothing more than a blank screen radiating my chromosomes.

Lots of edits, comments and Tsk, Tsk, Tsk’s.  But also an opportunity for one more polish, one more fine tuning, one last chance to bend, shape, smooth out or hone to a fine point the plot, sub plots, characters, locations, interactions, set ups and payoffs. Oh and I get to detangle the dreaded Head Hopping POV shifts (Ugh, I hate those)

Back it goes into the maw of the Publishers system. Through the editorial intestines, purified by the editor’s liver… wait… okay, really bad analogy… Through the editorial process and then suddenly, one blessed day, Ding! The “pages” arrive. This is how my book will look when it’s ‘all growed up’! In fact, it will look like this forever. The font choice, the leading, the kerning, the style elements.  But along with it comes the big admonishment: Not For Editing!  Meaning hands off anything story or content (I had my chance) but identify in red pen only the errant period, wandering comma, perplexed parentheses, and the ever popular spell check replacement that could ‘rune’ your day!

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So here it sits. All ready for it’s coming out date on June 17th 2014.

Beautiful isn’t it (Doesn’t every author believe their new book is beautiful?)

Ahhh, the joys of author-hood. 

An Industry Veteran Reflects On Effective Mentoring In Times Of Change

Aside

I’m very pleased to re-blog Lou Aronica’s “Soapbox” piece for Publishers Weekly. Lou Aronica was my mentor and is the person who is solely responsible for me becoming an author.  But it wasn’t until I read this piece that I discovered how I was the “beneficiary” of a long line of paying it forward.  -Tom Avitabile 

How to be an Effective Mentor in Times of Change

By Lou Aronica
 

20943-v1-250xI’d only been in publishing a few years when the great Ian Ballantine engaged me in conversation and suggested, in his signature circuitous fashion, that he was willing to mentor me. Ballantine, the guy who brought paperbacks to America, wanted to mentor me—the guy who brought tea to my boss. I took him up on this instantly, beginning one of the most fulfilling and formative relationships of my life.

Mentoring has always had a disproportionately important place in the book business. Because feel and instinct have consistently been more important to book publishing than hard analysis—past numbers and consumer tendencies have rarely been a useful indicator of future performance—it’s been important for each generation to pass down a nuanced understanding of our industry to the next. If Ian hadn’t taught me everything he could about paperback publishing, working with writers, and developing a distinct vision in the marketplace, I’d probably be selling carpet now.

To this day, I still marvel at being blessed with such a generous mentor. In truth, I’ve had more than one. Irwyn Applebaum taught me how to put a list together. Linda Grey showed me how to dig deep into a manuscript. Ray Bradbury taught me more about writing than he ever knew, because I never revealed to him that I envisioned a writing career for myself—a career that has led to 18 books and counting. Given these remarkable gifts from people with huge talent, I’ve always been committed to paying it forward. Often, this has simply been a matter of being willing to dedicate my time to nurturing others. I find people who show a genuine interest in the business and share with them my observations, my methods, and the lessons of my experience. In recent years, though, I’ve faced a question that wasn’t been particularly relevant before: how do you mentor when your industry is undergoing enormous change?

It seems to me that if you’re serious about mentoring, you can try to answer this question in two ways. Obviously, one approach is to attempt to stay on top of the change as much as possible. Those you’re mentoring can help with this. In a recent book, I wrote about reverse mentoring. This is where the relationship maintains the traditional elder-younger dynamic but switches at certain junctures. As publisher of The Story Plant, I’ve found it essential to stay current with everything affecting our business—social media, e-commerce, new forms of distribution, new clients, new consumer habits, etc. Often, someone I’m mentoring will have facility with a tool that I’m less adept at, but will lack an understanding of how it might apply to publishing. In these cases, the mentor-mentee relationship balances. I learn about something that I need to understand, and the person whom I’m mentoring learns how that thing is applicable to the industry.

kindle.booksA second approach is to convey to young publishers that consumers—who need to be at the center of the business model of any industry, especially ours—haven’t changed nearly as much as the world around them has changed. Readers might buy books from different venues and might buy them in different formats than they did five years ago, but there’s very little data to suggest that the reasons they buy books have changed. If this is the case, then the lessons learned years ago are not only still valid, but are potentially more valid now than before, because they counsel a degree of steadiness in the face of continuous change. One of the things I regularly talk about with young people in our business is the importance of not confusing the tools, devices, and delivery media with either the books themselves or the reader. If what we make in our industry is reading experiences, then those experiences are what we’re selling, and the reasons consumers want them should not be confused with the ways that they’re getting them.

It seems to me that, at this inflection point in our industry, we need to look forward and backward at the same time: forward to the tools and opportunities emerging with increasing rapidity, and backward to the universal factors that have always sustained the book world. It dawns on me that this approach has direct relevance to mentoring in an era of change. I believe that any mentor who takes the role seriously needs to help those he or she teaches to understand the enormous value of looking in both directions at once.

Lou Aronica is an author, editor, and publisher whose novels include Flash and Dazzle and the USA Today bestseller The Forever Year. He is coauthor with Ken Robinson of the New York Times bestseller The Element.

 

Guest Author James LePore talks: The Myth of Place

The Myth of Place: Why I Chose Southern Mexico as the Venue for a Large Swath of Blood of My Brother

Mexico, at once magical and diabolical.

—Anonymous

    In 1997, I spent four weeks in southern Mexico, in the city of Oaxaca and on the Pacific Coast between Puerto Escondido and Puerto Angel. I had just read Under The Volcano by Malcolm Lowry, and wanted to see, and photograph, imagesthe country where Lowry (in real life) and the American Consul Firm in (in the novel) had tried so hard, but failed, to commit suicide by mezcal.

    The coast road from Puerto Escondido deteriorated with a jolting suddenness as I approached Zippolite. Earlier, I had picked up a hitchhiker, a middle-aged Brit with bad teeth and a scruffy beard, wearing a bandana like a sixties hippie, who told me, as I was dropping him off at a godforsaken roadside cantina, that he had heard that a busload of American tourists had been hijacked earlier in the day north of Puerto Angel and all were killed. I immediately regretted leaving Puerto Escondido so late—night had fallen as suddenly as the road had turned to rutted hard-pan—but I pushed on. There were two or three large bonfires on Zippolite’s beach, their light reflecting wildly off of the huge waves crashing behind them, the waves that had for years, according to my guide book, attracted the world’s most insane surfers.

    Ten minutes later, I was in Puerto Angel and twenty minutes after that ordering dinner on the veranda of a small but clean and not un-charming inn on a hillside overlooking Puerto Angel Bay, lit to perfection by the moon and stars shining down through a clear night sky. The inn’s owner, a graying ex-hippie herself from San Francisco, had heard nothing of any massacre of Americans. Rumors, she said, it’s what the ex-pats and the paranoid surf bums live on along this coast. The time to worry will be when the rumors stop. She had been running her inn for twenty years, so, relieved, I was happy to take her at her word. So happy that after dinner I had three or four shots of the strong—very strong—and smoky local mezcal.

    There was a couple that I took to be American—in their late twenties, both blond, both good looking—at a table not too far away. The place was otherwise empty. I thought to ask them to join me but there was something about the way they were talking, looking at each other and then not looking at each other, that decided me against it.

    I was asleep within seconds of getting into bed.

    At three AM I was wide awake. My room was among a half dozen or so situated along a wide terrace facing the bay. I took my cigarettes out to this terrace, found a comfortable chair next to a thick potted palm tree of some kind, and sat, to smoke and look down at the bay and the dark Pacific beyond until I felt I could fall back to sleep. Before I could light up, I heard the crash of glass on tile floor quite nearby, followed immediately by the voices, at first constrained and then getting louder, of a man and a woman arguing. A moment later, the young blonde woman from the restaurant came out of the room two doors down, stepped quickly to the terrace’s sturdy wooden railing and began vomiting over it. Her husband, or boyfriend, or whatever he was, came out and put his hand on her shoulder, but she shook it off violently. She was wearing a thin cotton robe or wrap, knee length, which she had been holding closed while she retched. It came loose when she shook off the man’s hand, and I could see a breast exposed, and a portion of soft, beautifully rounded abdomen, before she pulled it tight again.

    Leave me alone, she said. I’m leaving tomorrow.

    What about your share? the man asked. He was wearing jeans and no shirt, his hairless, sculpted arms and chest bathed in moonlight.

    The woman did not answer. She pulled her wrap even closer, then she turned and looked my way. I was in deep shadow and had not lit my cigarette, so I was pretty sure she couldn’t see me. I could see her face full on now. She was very beautiful. I stared at her. Your share of what, I said to myself?

    Fuck you, she said, then turned and stepped past the man and into their room. He followed and pulled the door shut behind him.

    I waited a moment or two, then lit up. And listened. But all was quiet. Like the scene I had just witnessed had never happened.

    Mexico, I thought, Mexico.

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James LePore is author of ‘A World I Never Made’, ‘Blood of My Brother,’ ‘Sons and Princes,’ ‘Gods and Fathers,’ and ‘The Fifth Man.  He currently lives in Salem, NY and is collaborating with screenwriter Carlos Davis on  his sixth novel. Click here to visit his website.