Saturday, May 28, 2011

Getting the Baby Home

The review copy arrives.
I have seen my name in print before. I have had short stories published in anthologies. I have witnessed musicals I've written come to life on stage by performers. But there is something so exciting about receiving the galley copy of your first novel in the mail. You scan through the book still not believing it is an entire work of yours and you feel as if you are holding your baby. Of course you see the imperfections in the child that neither you nor your editor caught (but they jump out at you in print) and you are glad you get a chance to make those corrections before the final print. You're not thinking in terms of story (which you know too well) - you are busy noticing the design and 'look' of the product. Taking note at how the words appear on the page. Where each chapter begins and ends. Smelling the paper it is printed on. Reading the acknowledgement page and hoping no one feels left out. Looking at your picture on the back (and wondering if readers will think you a cheesy author when they see it). 
But it is yours and words really can't describe the feeling you have. This is the copy that will be sent to reviewers months prior to publication - that they will use to place their own judgement on your work. It will still go through more changes before the final product, but for now you have held a bound copy of the book in your hands and you begin to get a sense of what it means to be a published author.   

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Time Keeps Slipping

In my head, I still think I'm some young guy in my twenties running around to numerous auditions in New York. I'm not sure how the last twenty years flew by so quickly, but yesterday I was reminded once again of how my body is telling me that I'm aging. A nuclear stress test. This was encouraged by my doctor for many reasons. I'm over weight (though down 34 pounds in the last 2 and a half months) and my family history of heart disease (Dad had his first attack in his 40s and died in his late 50s). Running on that treadmill while the doctor and assistant carry on a conversation is humiliating for the fat guy who is attempting to not interrupt their discussion with huffs and puffs. 

I still want to believe I'm young and invincible, but even though my brain says one thing - the years on my body tell me another. And always through something medical (that first colonoscopy was a buzz kill to my youth and my daily high blood pressure medicine is also a constant reminder). Let's face it: men hate to be told what to do and despise going to doctors. But at some point, we have to face the fact we are not the same people we were when we were younger. We can't eat the same things and we certainly can't stay out living it up as we did back then. 

In this season of school graduations surrounding me (from my niece in high school to the college students at my job), I feel I'm reminded of the joys of youth and how far away from it my body has gotten. My mind is still there, but the body is pulling up the rear in the race. To those students I say "enjoy life now! It's gonna fly quickly!" 

Oh and I think my ticker is gonna be just fine according to the test yesterday. Perhaps I didn't get those same genes from my father or just maybe my brain is the loudest organ in my body saying "Get Healthy!"

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

One More Try

Well I couldn't hold back. After going to Spider-man on 1/1/11, I had to return for Spider-Man 2.0 to see what changes they have done. And actually...WOW! Unlike other blogs and some news sources that have given every nuance of the show away (and were cleverly blasted in the new version), I won't go into detail. But I will say the book has been greatly altered by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (who has written for Marvel comics) to give it more play and fun as well as more...well, a story. We actually are shown action instead of a "geek chorus" telling us what happened (as those 4 students were cut). Gone are the issues I originally had with feeling as if the true story of Peter Parker was non existent. The family dynamics have been enhanced with the aunt & uncle gaining many new scenes (as well as his relationship with Mary Jane) and the Green Goblin has become the villain that he should have been all along. 

I have to say how pleasantly shocked I was how much I enjoyed it this time. (Yes....the neigh-sayers read that correctly. I liked it!) It proves that story is important and director Philip Wm McKinley has much to do with those new changes from his pacing to moving scenes around and eliminating much of the Julie Taymor character that confused so many: the spider woman. While many were quick to attack Ms. Taymor, I still believe she has a mind like no other. The visuals she created (much that have stayed) are stunning to look at. It was unfortunate that she couldn't get out of her own way to let this story live and grow. Too much time was spent on a mythical character that obviously she was drawn to, but now in the new incarnation - makes much more sense than in version 1. The score (for me) is still not a musical theatre score - however, on a second listen, I was able to remember some of the songs from the first time around and there are several good tunes in the show that make sense in the new order and with a new lead in.  

Because Chris Tierney became the face of the show after his accident, it was great seeing him on stage again. In the ensemble, your eyes go to him because we recognize those long locks. And as Spidey, you can sense he is having the time of his life flying around. I was fortunate to get to see the alternate Peter Parker (since Reeve Carney is in LA to sing on American Idol tomorrow). I love Matthew James Thomas. For me, he is Peter Parker. He is quirky, yet adorable and has a wonderful voice. I'm so glad I got to catch him because I honestly feel he added more of the spark I was feeling from this performance. Act II is pretty much completely new and is now such a fun spectacle that I actually left this time on a high that I did not experience the first time. This show will entertain tourists either in NYC or when it goes on the road - and at last it is a spectacle that includes a story that the audience can recognize and root for. 

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Too Long or Too Short?

I have been writing and rewriting a story since fall of 2008. Too short to be a novel - too long to be a short story. At this point, it will probably be a novelette. I call it an unconventional memoir because it's not my life story, but that of my older brother. He died at 34 years old two hours after I turned 29. I have wrestled in my brain for years trying to understand his life: why he made the choices he did, what propelled him down his path - and came to discover how his life (in a strange way) helped to shape who I became as a person. His was a rough life though he had the same opportunities that I had. But writing through his memoir has been cathartic to me (as I've attempted to invade his mind) and it has also brought up many things from my own past. 

We all recall our history differently. Try it. Think of something in your life and discuss with a parent or sibling and see how you each remember elements of that period in a particular way. Yesterday I took a virtual tour (thanks to google maps) through one of my childhood towns. A very small town near the panhandle of Texas. Yet I was able to recall those streets and knew which one would take me towards my elementary school and the town pool. The house I remember spending the crux of years with that brother seemed so much smaller - I looked at the porch where I can see him screaming at my mother as I clutched a pipe in my hand to defend her if the fight progressed or the bedroom window we shared where he would jump from to escape something occurring inside the walls. Looking at a single photo can open the flood gates of memories and yesterday those memories were a mixture of caustic and treasured.       

It suddenly strikes me as I try and classify this memoir that my brother's life could fit into that same classification. Death at thirty-four was a novelette too: too long and too short. I'm not sure when I will finally complete this I never think something I write is truly finished. But the journey has been well worth it. Hopefully readers will agree. 

Monday, May 16, 2011

First Write: Then Promote

Writing can be one of the loneliest things I've ever done. You feel you are in some sort of self imposed exile while you attempt to get every perfect word written. Then you hand it off to an editor who marks it up and gives it back to you like a graded paper. Next, you gather an assortment of people to read it and give you feedback and then you wait to hear what those people are actually thinking. I've spent the last five+ years working on my first novel and this fall, Well With My Soul will finally be available to be in the hands of friends and strangers to see what I have been working on. Today as I unleashed a Facebook page dedicated to that 'self promotion' and took to twitter this weekend (to begin to understand that social world as well), it all feels exciting and scary at the same time. I'm thrilled to start the discussion about my book so that people will actually buy it in five months when it is published, but an entire different side comes into play when you move from author to self promoter. All I can do is take that leap and hope that people will be interested enough in what I have to say to read it and then tell others. Here we go!  

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Spring Cleaning...Shedding Pounds

I am not happy unless I am deep into a project. And as if my job, my marriage, publishing my first novel, editing other novels is not enough - I added losing weight as well. The last time I underwent a major weight loss plan was over 10 years ago. And while that time had some sort of 'ego' involved, this time it was all about health. As a man in my 40s with heart disease and diabetes in my family history (my father had his first heart attack in his 40s and died in his late 50s), I knew it was time. Something just clicked in early March and said "Do this!" So I needed a kick start and went on NutriSystems (which I had previously done...and no, this is not an advertisement for them). I realize that everyone's body is different and it takes all kinds of 'diets' to work for different people. But this one works for me (for some reason). I don't eat it exclusively as I know eventually I will need to go back to real food. So I do both. And I cut back and count and watch and all that stuff we know we're supposed to do. And then I added walking, but walking. Just to get this big body of mine moving. And two months later, it is really working. 
Thirty-one pounds down this morning and I already feel so much better. Yes I'm still listed as obese on the BMI scale, but at least my breathing is better and I don't wake during the night from fear of chocking from my large neck. I don't get out of breath from simple tasks and my energy has increased. Not to mention that my blood pressure (yes, I take the pill each morning) has gone down and staying down. My cholesterol and triglycerides are in great shape. In two weeks, I'm doing a stress test to get a baseline on my heart just to make sure Dad hasn't passed some things to me through my genes, but if he did - I'm making choices that he did not make so that I can stick around for a while. (Thanks, Dad for teaching me lessons from Heaven!)
And oh yes, I may have to change the title of this blog - but if so: it'll well be worth it.  
May 2011         -       October 2010

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Where were you...

When you first heard the word AIDS? 

The Normal Heart was first produced back in 1985 when the country was just learning about the word, but the epidemic still had no name. Playwright Larry Kramer has gone on to become one of the leading activist for the LGBT community and that activism shown brightly in this semi-autobiographical story. I've never seen this play (though I did visit NYC in 1985 and saw another play dealing with the AIDS crisis called As Is and then moved to NYC two years later). The play centers on the AIDS epidemic as it took off during the early 80s. I was blown away by the fear that is captured in the play of what gay men were going through during that time. Seeing the play on Broadway for the first time in 2011 one can only think about how far we have come during the past decades and yet how far we still need to go. Not only in the fight against AIDS, but gay rights in general. The world was a different place in the 80s and this play clearly shows it. 

I couldn't help but think back to the late 80s and early 90s when I was losing friends to this disease at a dizzying pace. It is great to know that people can now manage the disease with medication, but the fight is still not over. For the show, it was great to see Joe Mantello back ON stage since he has become one of Broadway's hottest directors since he appeared in Angels in America. Ellen Barkin (The Big Easy & Sea of Love to name a few movies) and Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory) both make their Broadway debuts and are wonderful in each of their roles. (As is the entire ensemble.) Yet my favorite is John Benjamin Hickey (a fellow Texan) whom I have loved each time I've seen him from Cabaret to Love! Valour! Compassion! and Showtime's The Big C. The man gives a marvelous master class in inhabiting a character on stage and going through a change in front of our eyes that took my breath away....literally. (This was one of those shows I could not speak when the lights went down due to the tears running down my face.) The show is deserving of the Tony nominations it received, especially for Mantello, Hickey & Barkin. It's a limited run through July, so if you get a chance - step back in time and learn a little of the history that has shaped a community.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Do You See What I See?

I was watching Yentl on cable this morning (yes, I play into the cliché of watching Barbra Streisand movies) and I traveled back in time when I owned that album and played it over and over until it would begin to skip on my small record player. The amazing thing was what themes one can get from a movie or a song. As a writer, when I finish a story and pass it to someone to read, I love the feedback that I get. What they take away from it may not always be what I was thinking when writing it, but I love that it touched them in a different way. We all bring our own background (baggage) to what we see and read that colors how we view situations in everyday life.

I’ve often thought I was drawn to writing stories of obsession, addiction, or someone’s longing for something new (sounds like Yentl). Those seemed to be a common thread in my writing. But just yesterday a friend pointed out another commonality in what I do – never giving my reader exactly what they think they are going to get. I looked at my writings and found it to be true in just about everything I’ve done. (I suppose that is not such an awful trait.) Soon I hope that more people will be able to read my works – once they are out in the public, but for now I’m thrilled to have those readers that can be honest about what my writings say to them…and occasionally hold up a mirror to me and I get to see something new in my work now and again.         

Oh…and as a teenage boy, this Yentl song spoke wonders to me about coming out of the closet.

I’ve wanted the shadows,
I don’t anymore.
No matter what happens,
I won't anymore
I've run from the sunlight-
Afraid it saw too much.
The moon had the one light
I bathed in-
I walked in.
I held in my feelings
And closed every door.
No matter what happen.
I can't anymore.
There's someone who must hear
The words I've never spoken.
Tonight if he were here
My silence would be broken.
I need him to touch me-
To know the love that's in my heart-
The same heart that tells me
To see myself-
To free myself-
To be myself at last!
For too many mornings
The curtains were drawn.
It's time they were opened
To welcome the dawn.
A voice deep inside
Is getting stronger,
I can't keep it quiet any longer.
No matter what happens,
It can't be the same anymore...
I promise it won't be the same

Sunday, May 1, 2011


Let me just say that I love watching HGTV, but I am not one to take on those home projects. D.I.Y. stands for "Dial Interior-Decorator, Yes?" in this house. So when my other half said we needed to paint the living room wall before our new sofa arrived, I didn't think it was going to make for a good Sunday afternoon. But I must say, I was pleasantly surprised. We added two coats of the white primer, than the sand color and I'm sitting watching it dry rather nicely. (Insert joke about watching paint dry here.) 
Red Wall Be Gone!
Now I don't think we'll be rushing out and getting frequent flyer points at Home Depot anytime soon, but I am pleased this project is just about done. And once that sofa arrives, we can rearrange the room to make the mammoth thing fit. (That part will be easy compared to a day of painting.)