The Hero I Took to VOTE

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On Election Day, I continued a tradition that I have been doing for years. My last blog, below, explained it in detail, but in brief; I find the name of someone who died fighting for our freedoms. One of those freedoms is the right to vote, so right before I vote, I say their name and thank them for their sacrifice. Giving their life so that I, (we) can exercise one the most precious human rights there is. namely, to have a say in determining ones’ destiny.

This year’s hero is a World War II Sergeant who won his medal of honor in the bloody Okinawa conflict, one April day in 1945. I discovered his incredible story while researching a character arc for my new book, Constantine’s Dagger. His citation below says it all…

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For more truly amazing reading, go to MEDAL OF HONOR WINNERS. Next week, I’ll post the other man of honor I met, vis-a-vis research, whose story also plays a role in my new book.

Snow Write and the Seven Muses

SnowpumkinYaaaaaay. Snow Day! It used to mean building forts, snowball fights and belly flopping out in the streets of the Bronx.

All that and NO SCHOOL! No math on a snow day, no history and, most especially, no composition. Composition is what they called writing in those days. In those days, I called it a name more closely associated with composting than composition. I hated it. I hated writing. I hated to be forced to take a pen to paper and form a correct sentence. Jeez!

Dread, loathing and fear crippled me every time the teacher wrote on the board, Assignment: Write a Composition on…, it didn’t matter on what subject, it was God awful to have to write anything.

Enter, “The Great Blizzard of 2016,” the name the media has given to a snow storm and scared the pants off everybody with essentially the headline: We are all going to die this weekend.

The city has shut down. The subways closed. Snowmageddon! Every event, party and casual dinner is scratched because SNOW is falling.

So given this day of inert, imposed idleness, we can all clean our closets, watch TV or read. So why am I writing? Why am I writing this? Well, you know how we authors are supposed to have muses? Mine are more like dwarfs, you know, Grumpy, Stupid, Bashful and the rest? They seem to be my muses, my motivators to write. And since running and throwing myself down on a Flexible Flyer sled has been replaced with the exhilaration of my GS that is so fast it has four speeds, 1st, 2nd, 3rd and Jail! – All that’s left to do on a snow day is to write.

Today, Grumpy has the lead, the “Yaaaaay” of Snow Day is now the “Arrrrrgh” of Blizzard. I’m grumpy about how, on a day like just like this, I would be out all day, wearing snow soaked double pants, double shirts and ice-caked galoshes until my fingers and toes froze. Yet, when I was supposed to go home, I yelled up to our third floor tenement apartment, “Five more minutes, Mom.” Today, I don’t want to don my L.L. Bean Thermo-fill, hi-tech ski apparel and leave my opulent penthouse to venture out into the deadly, white killing machine that is, The Blizzard of 2016.

 

I was more of a man back when I was a kid.

 

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

Accidental Author Episode 4

Click on the video for Episode 4 of the Accidental Author. In this show; writing in the dark. How much drama or action is too much or how little is not enough? The sensuality of literature… If you missed any of the previous episodes click below
Episode 1 click here
Episode 2 click here
Episode 3 click here

“Vengeance is mine.” Sayeth the Author.

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​Sometimes characters do the darndest things… Like suddenly they show a side of themselves that I, their Lord and Creator, never imagined, intended or wrote. Such is the case with my dear sweet, Brooke Burrell. Now don’t get me wrong, she’s a tough warrior as well as a good investigator. Over the course of the four novels that I have known her, she was never vengeful or carried ill will. She of course did do some things that got her a raised eyebrow from her superiors. Mostly for on the spot improvising of procedures and methods that they never taught at the FBI academy at Quantico, but this time she shocked even me!

​Normally, I write bad guys who eventually get their just deserts. And “we” never go after them with anything other than purely professional, prosecutorial ends in mind. However, if these evildoer’s choose to turn and fight it out, well so much the better, good-riddens to the no-good. Up until now, with Brooke, it was never personal, just part of the job. But somewhere along the way, in my next book, Give Us This Day, this poor schmuck, Paul, must have gotten on Brooke’s S-list, because she left the story, walked away from her character profile and violated several laws in settling the score with this “walking cancer on humankind.”


The image of me sitting at the keyboard, mouth open in shock at what she just did is maybe not the most flattering picture of me as a confident, able, top of my game author, but it is nonetheless where I found myself… My immediate thought as I reached for the delete key was, did I just lose the Brooke Burrell fan club? My finger hovered over the top right most ‘destruct’ key as I pondered. Did the words and actions on the screen before me amount to a literary death warrant or divine inspiration. In the end, I did what any courageous, confidant and in full command of my craft author would do, I let it stay in the manuscript, so the editor can make the call. Sometimes… I am such a wimp.

Blog note: The next episode of the Accidental Author goes live on Thursday.

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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Same Beach – Different Book

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And different role!  Those that follow the blog, know I have developed an eccentric pattern in my writing routine. It’s a rather odd thing, but I like to edit my manuscripts on the beach in Puerto Rico. You’ve heard of “beach reads”, I call this a “beach-edit.”  Each of my four novels have gone through this sun, sand and red pen ritual.  It kinda’ goes like this:

Read, turn page, read, ooops, red pen, read, Bikini,

read, turn page, read, Bikini, ooops, red pen, Bikini,

read, read, turn page, Bikini

You get the rhythm and the two-piece picture.

Last week however, I sat on the beach in beautiful Isla Verde and edited a manuscript “not of my own making!”  I did a beach-edit on my cousin George Cannastraro’s brilliant new book, Constantine’s Dagger.  This was my first experience in “story editing” or “content editing” a book.  My cousin allowed me to make him the guinea pig in my editorial experiment. 

Followers know I am not a master of grammar and sentence structure.  I couldn’t last 2 seconds in a Spelling F not to mention a Spelling B! But I, and anybody else who has done this for a while, can spot story opportunities, contradictions and potential character and plot enhancements when doing a fresh, critical read of work – not of your own brain.

No two writers write the same, even when they are cousins, but if you really put on the Editor’s cap and go with the flow of the author, it’s a pretty happy outcome. In our case, and I guess in all cases when you get down to it, story editing is about choices, conscious or otherwise, made in the telling of the tale. Sometimes when we write we have a single trajectory, one way in and one way out of a scene or subplot.  But when it ain’t yours, you are free to see the “story-scape” from a different perspective and make recommendations to give more involvement, drama, comedy, risk and reward to the reader. 

We had some wonderful moments opening up the story with added beats, which increased the tension, drama, and comedy or emphasize a character’s trait. This was easy because the action and dialogue were written so well and with a flair for word-craft. We took the opportunity to increase the texture, widen the scope and to more clearly focus the reader into the story through experiencing emotions, rather than reading about them. We had fun “cutting in” to use film terms, “close ups,” and reaction shots or just playing with rhythms like leaving the next shoe to fall, not now… but, …wait for it, …wait for it, … Now!

That part became more like conducting an orchestra than editing. But only because George wrote great characters, and musically wove them together. 

I am about to mangle an old Native American saying, but it went something like, “You can’t paddle your friend’s canoe across the river, without you, yourself, getting across.”

My first shot at editing, has gotten me across a divide I have experienced in my own writing. Now, I see more globally at the same time I am writing locally within my story.  I am quicker to recognize patterns and old stand by’s in my own work. In fact, right now, I am in the first pass of my 5th novel, Give Us This Day, I am more attuned to pacing and making conscious choices. Like whether to play the note a little longer, or make it a quick flourish in order to make an impact.

I recommend story editing to anyone who wants to get across the river that we sometimes encounter when we are traveling along the path to our own 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.

 

Authors of the Round Table

Recently, I was invited to participate in the ITW Thriller Round Table, which (as I dust my shoulders off) is quite an honor. The topic on everyone’s mind: “How do you separate the author from your characters?” Here’s my two cents which is worth a million dollars.

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An Industry Veteran Reflects On Effective Mentoring In Times Of Change

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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.