The signpost up ahead… this is the next stop on…

The Writing Process Blog Hop

Welcome to the next stop on The Writing Process Blog Hop.  I’m Tom Avitabile and thanks for ‘hopping’ in.

First off, I’d like to thank the author who handed this off to me, Joe Badal. An extremely gifted writer and someone of whom I once wrote,

[His] writing is as crisp and as tight as a line drive home run. Author Joe Badal hits all the bases from the military, to the political, the tactical, to safe at home – Homeland that is.

Read Joe’s books, but not on a train, bus or other form of public transportation – You WILL miss your stop!

As followers of the blog know, we are asked to answer four questions, well, I have been cramming for weeks to get the answers right, so here goes…

1)  What am I working on?

That seems simple enough  I am working on two things, er… three things. My fifth book “Give Us This Day” (got four on the shelves and one in the laptop). This book marks the emergence of a new sub series – A Brooke Burrell Novel.  My FBI agent turned special operative for the president turned Navy wife turned reluctant operator again, is getting some nice notices and it just seems right to give her a platform of her own.

The second thing I am doing is totally new for me, editing content on my brilliant cousin George Cannistraro’s brilliant second novel, “Constantine’s Dagger.”  It’s an epic story of war, family, courage, royalty and a mother’s unselfish sacrifice to protect her sons – spanning decades. It is an epic book, and the stuff of miniseries.

The third thing is, I am always working on being a better writer. Blasphemous statement alert: I hate writing!

I am the last person on earth to write a composition for school, much less a 120,000-word manuscript.  Geez all those wordsit gives me the willies just thinking about em.

HOWEVER, I love, love, love AUTHORING!

I see “author” as a more comprehensive role: the job manager, the architect, the engineer, the artist, the psychiatrist, the logistics coordinator, the personnel department, the scenarist and the problem solver. The author does all that before the story goes over to the ‘writing department.’  You know, the monkeys who sit in the room (on the other side of my brain) and bang out words in an order and manner detailed and outlined by the author.)

I guess if I didn’t discover authoring, I would have never had the drive, commitment, and stamina to finish even one chapter.

2)   How does my work differ from others of its genre?

The MONKEYS!  They are what make me different.  In fact, I would venture to say that no serious writer of any period, genre, or level of notoriety has ever admitted, much less, handed his work over to a bunch of damn monkeys…

You see, these little banana-eating, key pounding creatures, only know what the Author has outlined for them to write. But those little troublemakers start writing stuff that wasn’t in the big picture. Yes, I have to edit out many scenes where an agent, or the President, asks someone if theyd like to get a banana but on balance these little guys are so divorced from the story that they bring an “on the ground” perspective to the characters.  It’s like my character’s still have to take out the garbage or change their pantyhose that have a run in them, WHILE they are saving the world. Ugh, monkeys… they complicate the lives of my characters and in doing so bring them closer to the reader’s experiential match points. So, in the end, is my work different from other author’s? I wouldn’t begin to say that, but I know this, every person leaves their creative DNA on anything they write. Plagiarism aside, it is almost impossible for any two writers to write the same scene the same way.

3)   Why do I write what I do?

The old adage states: write what you know. Most people take that to mean, a lawyer should write courtroom dramas and a cop should write crime novels and an old, snoopy biddy should write cozy mysteries.

Well, my stock and trade is as a Stage/Film director. BUT! I started out as an electronic engineer; I have worked for the House Committee on Science Space and Technology; I have built computers and designed new systems in movie making. I am also currently a Senior Vice President and Creative Director of a smaller New York advertising firm.

The core through line tying all this stuff together is human perception, reaction, and condition.  As a director of humans, a student of humans, and a human myself, my core competency is in Human characters.  I know the human character. Therefore in “writing what I know”, I write humans. Humans who are: plagued by their choices, intelligence, stupidity, compassion, pathology, genetics, up bringing, and whatever moral code serves them for good or evil. Then I place them in settings that I know, (see above list) and, even more fun, places I don’t know.

If all that is too wordy then skip to this: “I author the books I desperately want to read.”

Okay kids, we’re coming to the last question. In case you all run out of here, I just want to say that’s it’s been a pleasure hosting this next stop on the blog hop. As you are leaving, you might want to check out some of the books on the table in the back.

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And thank you for supporting living authors…

Now the last question…

4)   How does my writing process work?

Pretty well, thank you…Goodnight!  Oh, you want more? Ah, Yes. Well…

I try to write five out of seven days a week mostly. You know, get up an hour early, write through lunch and go to bed an hour later. Don’t watch Homeland or Home Shopping Network. Write instead.

Writing to me is a subset of what I really am. Let me go back and explain, once again, my dirty little secret, I hate writing.  To me writing is a tool, one of many to be used to get to a final product. That product has been designed by the author – me, if you are able to follow this warped way of thinking.

When I am deep in a book, the world and it’s characters that I have created become a dream. A very good dream! When I have to stop writing, it becomes a dream interrupted.  And just like on those nights when you are having one heck of a good dream and you awaken and then try hard to get back to sleep – to re-enter that wonderful dream… Well that’s my process. Only, I always have the last sentence I wrote as a marker of where to pick up that dream already in progress.  I then see life as the distraction that takes me away from this beautiful dream, incredible characters, and a story that keeps me in awe and wonder.

My line is “Writing is a dream interrupted by life.”  The International Thriller Writers, ITW, of which I am a member, said it so much better when they simply said, “Writing is dreaming in ink.”  But you’d expect that conciseness, them being writers and all.

Well, I think I’m done. Thank you for getting this far in my blog.

And now a word about the next stop on the Writing Process Blog Tour, on August 25th.  We have two great authors who are all ready to share their thoughts, practices, fears and joys about the process with you (and I can assure you, no more about monkeys).



When a fireman or a policeman would visit his school, most of his classmates’ heads would swim with aspirations of growing up and catching bad guys or saving someone from a blazing inferno. When these moments came for Ethan Cross, however, his dreams weren’’t to someday be a cop or put out fires; he just wanted to write about it.

And his dream of telling stories on a grand scale came to fruition with the release of his first book, The Shepherd, which went on to become an International Bestseller published in several countries and languages. Ethan followed this up with more great titles like The Prophet, The Cage, Callsign: Knight, and Blind Justice. His latest book is the third installment of the Shepherd series, Father of Fear, coming from the Story Plant in Summer 2014.

In addition to writing and working in the publishing industry, Ethan has also served as the Chief Technology Officer for a national franchise, recorded albums and opened for national recording artists as lead singer and guitar player in a musical group, and been an active and highly involved member of the International Thriller Writers organization.

Ethan Cross is the pen name of an author who lives and writes in Illinois with his wife, three kids, and two Shih Tzus.

AuthorPic1Color-248x300JEREMY BURNS

An avid reader since the age of three, Jeremy Burns was devouring novels by the time other children his age were still learning their ABCs. Blessed (and, at times, cursed) with a decidedly active imagination and an insatiable curiosity for nearly everything, Jeremy made learning and storytelling two of his chief passions. After earning his degree in History from Florida State University, Jeremy accepted a position teaching literature, creative writing, political science, and philosophy at an international school in Dubai. Like the characters in his books, Jeremy is an intrepid explorer whose own adventures have taken him from Mayan ruins in the Yucatan to the pyramids of Egypt, from medieval castles across Europe to the jungles of Bangladesh, and beyond. To date, Jeremy has traveled to more than twenty countries across four continents, seeking adventure, discovery, and ideas for future novels. When not exploring a new corner of the globe, Jeremy lives in Florida, where he is working on his next thrilling novel.

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.


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.

Tom Avitabile

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.

Tom Avitabile

Hold Page 1 Clancy Died!

Avitabile - Tom ClancyThe King is dead!

For myself and millions of others, Tom Clancy, was the King of the techno-thriller. I was brought into reading fiction by his excellent work. I have first editions of every one of his Jack Ryan series. But what I really got from Mr. Clancy was a reverence and respect for those who risk their tomorrows for our safety today.  Before The Hunt for Red October, Clear and Present Danger, The Sum of All Fears and the others, military heroes were mostly one-dimensional war-fighters. Clancy opened them up, made them regular people with a skill set to be respected and he gave them souls. Without overtly writing it out, he revealed the warrior’s code, he brought a level of admiration, professionalism and honor that filled in the outlines sketched by the likes of John Wayne et al.

Clancy also appealed to me because he was a master at explaining the technical on the way to laying the foundation for a heart-racing story.  Also because he was just an insurance salesmen fooling around with his kid’s video game and synthesized one of the greatest Naval techno-thrillers of all time.

His prescient detailing of a jumbo jet passenger plane being used as a guided missile years before 9/11 was the kernel at the heart of this very blog, “It’s Only Fiction `til It Happens!”

I have homages to TC throughout my work. Just short of plagiarism, my Dick Bridgestone, super-operative, who is a fierce warrior and expert spy, is kinfolk of John Terrence Kelly or as we know him, Clancy’s John Clark.

In fact, in my first book, I had my lead character, Bill Hiccock actually consult a best selling author on some “What-if” scenarios as he tried to figure out what the bad guys were up to.  With Clancy in mind, I set the meeting on a palatial mid-atlantic estate on the Chesapeake, replete with military artifacts and statues and hardware on the grounds.  I had him negotiating his “rate” as getting to fire off the 16-inch guns on the U.S.S. Iowa, his fall back position was if he could shoot off one cruise missile. Speaking as a “novelist” he gave my Professor Hiccock the novel idea which became the inciting element to his quest. My “Clancy” couched his idea in the phrase, “If I were writing the book I’d….”

Tom Clancy has achieved what many of us write for, immortality. Although he is gone, his work will never leave us.

God rest your soul, Tom Clancy.

Here’s the excerpt from The Eighth Day where I had Hiccock meet with Frank “Clancy” Harris:


The exclamation “Pull!” was followed shortly by an ear-piercing shotgun blast which shattered a clay pigeon. The pieces fell serenely into the Chesapeake Bay. The skeeter, in shooting goggles, ear protectors, duck hunter’s hat, and red flannel jacket, was bestselling author Frank Harris. When he was 45, he started fooling around with some military-styled video games, and a year later wrote his first thriller, which became a huge hit.

At the age of 55, the former bank manager was a multi-million-dollar word machine churning out high-tech spy and political novels. Although Harris never served in the military, when his publisher dressed him up in pseudo military casual attire for the picture on his dust jackets, he looked every bit the part of a retired flag officer. He had handsome features, and the peaked cap covering his balding head made him appear years younger.

He was firing from the jetty that extended into the bay from his 25-acre waterfront estate. Hiccock, standing next to him, recoiled from the kickback as the next blast emptied out of the double-barrel shotgun in his hands.

“This is about the terrorists isn’t it?” Harris asked as he removed his ear protectors and walked over to the gun table.

Hiccock smiled. How could he have expected this guy not to figure it out? “Let’s make believe you didn’t ask that and I didn’t nod, okay?”

“Just like in one of my books. What’s the Washington braintrust think?”

“They’re looking for the ghost of cold wars past. They are so inside that box, a light goes on when you open the door. That’s why I’m here.”

“Generals always lose the start of the next war because they fight it like the last war. After a few licks, they’ll catch on.” Harris wiped down the shotgun and placed it on the table.

“Something tells me the clock may run out before we get off the last shot.”

“Well, I think I know what you’re looking for, but it’s going to cost you.”

Hiccock surveyed the vast accumulated wealth of Harris’ surroundings. A quarter of a mile behind him, knights in armor, forever mounted on stuffed horses, stood on motionless display behind the 20-foot glass windows of Harris’ armaments room. A Sherman Tank was propped up like a statue with a landscaped circular garden surrounding it amidst original Remmington sculptures with a few Robert E. Lee pieces thrown in for good measure. It was Harris’ private homage to man’s largest and longest-running endeavor: war.

“Forgive me, but what else could you possibly need or want?”

“The U.S.S. Iowa.”

“The what?”

“I want one magazine battery, three cycles, nine rounds,” Harris said matter-of-factly as he reset his “ear muffs” and heaved a shotgun into the ready position. “Pull!” he called to his houseboy, butler, or whoever was launching the clay pigeons, 50 yards downrange from them. The clay pigeon disappeared in a smear of powder. “I get to squeeze ‘em off!”

“Let me get this straight, Mr. Harris. You want the United States battleship Iowa for target practice?”

“Each shell weighs 2,700 pounds, is 16 inches around and can hit a target 20 miles away. Ever hear one of those babies go off as it belches out flame and smoke? What a sight! What a sound!” He gently wiped down his prize shotgun. He picked up a smaller weapon.

“How about a million dollars, a plane, and enough fuel to make it to a sympathetic country?”

“Okay, one cruise missile?”

“I can’t believe I am negotiating weapons of mass destruction with you!”

“That’s what you need to afford the best-selling author who has everything.”

“Deal. I hope.”

“Trance-inducing visual graphics,” Harris said plainly.

Hiccock again smiled. “That’s certainly outside the box. You mean brainwashing by computer?”

“If it was my novel and I was writing it, I would have the bad guys lulling regular people in with hypnotic graphics, the kind only a computer can make. Clicking the mouse would make the graphics swirl and perform. When their mouse click responses start to lag or match a predetermined rhythm, then I‘d know they were going under and ready to accept input. All that would be left to do is implant the commands. Maybe by telephone.”

“That is brilliant. I’ll order a check of the phone company logs.”

“Yeah, maybe I shouldn’t have told you. It would have made a great book. Well it’s yours now. Time to feed more fish.”

“Feed more fish?”

Harris picked up one of the target pigeons. “I have them specially made from freeze-dried compressed fish food. Mixed with a little egg, they harden like clay. The minute they hit the water they re-hydrate into fish food.” He brandished an Uzi sub- machine gun. “Watch this.” He smiled at Hiccock. “Pull!” he barked.

With the sound of a zipper, the gun spit out 30 rounds per second. The plate was not exactly shattered as much as separated in mid-air, continuing in the rough shape of a plate until gravity pulled the falling pieces apart. “Neat huh?” he asked with the excitement of a schoolboy.


Tom Avitabile

Machine Gunner # 3 and the Korean Miley Cyrus.

The Collective
The Collective

I’m really pissed off. I read an article this morning and it’s really pissing me off. It was about none other than that international butterball, Kim Jong-un of North Korea.

In America, Miley Cyrus does a suggestive, some say near pornographic performance, at the MTV awards and most people yawn or cluck their tongues. In North Korea, a beautiful singer, who sings party line propaganda songs while she’s extolling the joys of working in a state run factory, is machine gunned at the order of this little North Korean meatball in a soldier’s suit. Not figuratively machine gunned, but actually machine gunned! This despicable offspring of a degenerate leader, had this 22-year old girl and 12 members of her orchestra lined up and executed by machine gun fire!  Torn apart by hundreds of bullets per second ripping through their bodies.

But WAIT! That wasn’t the half of it. He rounded up all their families. 12 Families! Sons, daughters, moms, dads, grand folk and forced them to WATCH! Let me say that again, he made them witness the murder of their loved ones, by machine gun! And then, operating under the ‘guilt by association’ theory, he had them ALL, every family member, sent to prison for life.

MTV NEWS FLASH: This happened within 200 miles of where your Samsung phone comes from.

Those executed were simple musicians and they did nothing but bring music and joy to the world….machined gunned! This heinous act goes to the basis of what we as authors write about all the time, which is – to have a thriller, we need an antagonist who is willing to do the unthinkable.

Especially in terms of wide scope, political-global thrillers, you need to define your hero byTom Avitabile the evil they overcome. That means coming up with evil characters who are willing to do the unthinkable so that by reflection you can create greater heroes to stop them. When envisioning a plot line you try to figure out, what would be the master evil that would be worthy of a master hero?

You feel guilty sometimes sitting there trying to think these things up and then the world comes knocking at your door with even more unthinkable things than an author could imagine. Like this dipshit in Korea. You just want to believe, for just a second, that this is just a book, just a fictional story, an author’s idea of a bad actor as opposed to what it really is, which is a real, living, breathing human atrocity.

But while were on the notion of writing characters, consider for a second the tale of Machine Gunner # 3.  The Dear Leader, Kim Jong Un, has ordered a young 22-year old singer and her orchestra to be cut in half by machine gun fire. Okay, no big deal, probably just a normal Thursday in this garden spot on the world’s ass.

However, a machine gun is operated by a soldier and a soldier is part of a chain of command. So here’s this meatball, in an army suit, who orders these men to kill a beautiful girl and 12 other musicians… in front of their families.

Tom Avitabile As a writing exercise, just think about that third machine gunner from the left, what’s he thinking about? Is what he is about to do done out of total blind devotion to this despicable, overgrown baby, in an Army uniform? Or is it something else? Something that we don’t even see as a free people? So distant that we, who are so far on the other side of the civilized line, can no longer comprehend. Maybe it’s buried so deeply in our history and genetic DNA? The neanderthal ability to be pack animals, where we could be the ‘beta males’ or the beta dogs to the alpha dog?

What is it? How can the third machine gunner be there and not turn his gun on the guys who are about the kill innocent people? How did he grow up? What kind of values were stressed to him that he could kill a daughter in front of her mother and father and all the other family members? And worse, carry out this deed at the capricious whim of this Kim dirt bag, who as far as we can tell, is only in power by accident of birth.

When I zero this all out, it comes down to what I talked about last time which is, “The Collective.” The collective allows for the machine gunner to carry out his duty because it’s all about the party, the central committee, it’s all about the group.

What is desperately needed in North Korea is an individual! A person who says, “No, I’m not going to do that, I’m not gonna machine gun innocent people because you got a hard-on for them or they pissed on your wife’s petunias and you wanna just eradicate them not to hear her nag you about them.”

Last year, Dear Leader, killed a guy with a mortar shell! His command to his loyal troops was, “I want nothing of him, not even his hair, to be left.” So they had the guy stand in a circle where they’ had already zeroed in one mortar shell and they blew him to bits with another mortar round. Sweet right! It’s like the lowest, base form of humanity plumbing the extreme depths of depravity that men can sink to, are brought to the forefront by the anonymity and autonomy of the Collective.

Back to that third machine gunner, what type of education, schooling, indoctrination did he receive?  What type of “the government is always right,” brain washing occurred?

How many times did his teachers impart the party line that he is nothing but a cog in a wheel? How hard did the collective and all those who benefited from its distribution of labor by subjugating others, have to work on his character to diminish any sense of him as an individual?  How did they crush his spirit to get to the point where he could point a machine gun at a person who he watched sing and dance on TV, then have the indifference to pull the trigger?

Even in western executions, if you have a 10 man firing squad, there are nine bullets and one blank, no one knows who drew the blank  — so that all soldiers can walk away and say “It wasn’t me.” There’s that plausible deniability to the antithetic action of a human pulling the trigger to kill an unarmed person in cold blood. Of course, we don’t use firing squads to eliminate Bruce Springsteen or Miley Cyrus, but at least you knew that if we did, it would have been after due process, not the whim of a pile of human waste playing soldier.

machine gunBut Machine Gunner # 3, this guy knows it was him who pulled the trigger, so where does he go? Does he go home that night to his kids? Does he go home to a bare, one-room apartment and to his half a pound of rice that he’s guaranteed by the government that month?

This tragedy and the millions more in history, the thousands inflicted today and the countless more that will be committed tomorrow, are the fruit of the Collective. It fosters complicity by those who do not have individualism, do not have courage enough to stand up to tyranny. The first mission of the collective is the destruction of every model of individualism, individual values and individual rights. It all must be eliminated from their existence, education and culture. They are truly robots pulling the trigger with the same moral imperative as a machine.

When you write a hero you imbue them with the ability to see things clearly,  something that the people at large don’t see. The hero has insight or instinct that, when all evidence to the contrary indicates that he or she is wrong, they have a code to follow, a truth, an individual perspective that ultimately prevails. You see this in most every story where heroes or superheroes emerge. They have a sixth sense about right and wrong that guides them through. Even when everyone around them is telling them that they’re wrong or afraid to admit the truth.

Once again, this whole machine gunning happened within 200 miles of where your Samsung Galaxy phone comes from. On one side of the border they’re making hi-tech gadgets and Kia’s because the people there practice a basic from of democracy where the individual rises. On the other side of the border they have a ‘collective.’ A factory that breeds robot-men like Machine Gunner # 3 who could perforate the body of a 22-year old, beautiful singer and go home at night.  Odds are, he doesn’t have a cell phone.

It’s all right there on the Korean peninsula, the total height and the total depravity of human existence. It’s astounding.

P.S.  Dennis Rodman just made his second trip to North Korea to ‘hang with’ his friend, Kim Jong-un. Rodman has called Kim an “awesome guy.”

Thrillerfest 2013

with the legendary John Lescroart
with the legendary John Lescroart

Last month I attended Thriller Fest, a four day intensive craft and professional convention held in New York City. Thriller writers from the top of the New York Times list to the middle of the Amazon self-published list were all in attendance. There were master classes given by people whose names are legend, top class, A #1, writing aces, who were teaching advanced writing on really specific, detailed aspects and nuances of beat by beat, pulse by pulse thriller writing. It was totally and completely exhilarating and exhausting. The amount of sheer talent, genius, accomplishment and all around camaraderie of having million-book-selling authors in community with us mere mortals was like strapping on a rocket pack and heading into adventure.

I’m certain that here in New York, Con Edison must have registered a temporary brown out as soon as Craft Fest (the part of Thriller Fest that deals with intensive classroom study) ended and thousands of thriller writers turned on their computers all at once to check that their work had somehow conformed to what they had just learned about crafting the ultimate thriller. For myself, to quote Charlie Daniels “Sparks flew from my fingertips” (if Charlie Daniels actually said that). It was a massive baptism into the art practice, business and human side of being an author.

The human element was brought to full focus as even jaded New York Times best selling authors stood online to get their book signed by Ann Rice, this year’s Thriller Master. I thought I knew a lot about writing before Thriller Fest, I feel good afterwards because it wasn’t so much for me learning, as confirming. I felt I knew the next words that the teachers, again all master thriller writers in their own right, all accomplished authors, all New York Times and Amazon best selling authors, would say. I could complete their sentence – and I did as I was in class.

So I guess it wasn’t so much a convention as a confirmation. What an incredible experience. Of course, they were all writers, no photographers, so the pictures attached are nowhere near professional.

On a side note, I was honored to be on a panel as part of Thriller Fest, again, different than Craft Fest, on a seminar on apocalyptic fiction. Sharing the panel with four distinguished authors, Brian Andrews, Robert Gleason, Ward Larsen, Jon McGoran and Mike Sherer. The panel was moderated by the legendary John Lescroart. It was my moment to add to the collective intelligence. The fun that even discussions of the apocalypse brought was just another indicator that I was in the right place.

One of this year’s class of 2013 debut writers, Kay Kendall, in addressing the morning breakfast said and I’m paraphrasing:

There's no place like home

..spending these last few days here at Thriller Fest, overhearing conversations like “Do I kill him, do I not kill him? Do I just put him in a coma?” And conversations like “Would a knife inserted between the 3rd and 4th vertebrae lead to instant death?”

Her conclusion was she was finally among her own people. Kudos to Kay, that’s exactly the way I felt.