Monday, April 30, 2012

Autism Awareness Doesn't End in April

To say that I'm excited over how Chicken Boy is touching people since MeeGenius published it in early March would be an understatement. It seems now people are buying it on both the digital platform as well as the print version that came out last week from ASD Publishing


I have already gone to the school in Nutley that won the library of books from MeeGenius and spoke to the class there twice. Next week, I'll be at another elementary school in NJ talking about the book. And still other people have reached out to me about coming to their child's school. (I know we're hitting the end of the school year  - but I plan to continue talking about the book into next year and as long as people want to hear about it...just drop me a note if you have a school in mind.)


There are a few public events coming up as well.


I will be at the Well Read Book Store in Hawthorne NJ on Sunday, May 6 at 4:00 pm 


Facebook event link
 
I will be at Jarets Stuffed Cupcakes in Nutley NJ on Sunday, May 20 at 1:00 pm










In late June, I'm traveling to Maine to talk about my adult novel...but naturally I will be discussing Chicken Boy as well. I find I want to talk about it wherever I go and I really appreciate the enthusiasm others have as they download the book or get a copy in the mail. (And when you do...please take photos and share them on my Facebook page for us all to see!)
Lastly, I wanted to share this wonderful blog from a teacher in California. He was discussing autism awareness with his 6th graders and read the book to them and had them write 'reviews' to turn in to him. So wonderful to read each of them.


Remember: Autism Awareness month may be ending today on April 30th...but awareness doesn't need to end.  



Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Indie Connection

Anyone that reads or blogs about books can't help but notice how fast things are changing in the publishing industry. Well known authors are taking control of their works and publishing on their own. The field is becoming a huge batch of indie authors mixed with traditional published writers. 

Social Media has changed the landscape on how to get to people through bloggers, Twitter, Facebook, Google+ - you name it: people are using it. If you are an indie, you are told you will not get on the radio, TV, in bookstores, etc. You can spend money on a publicist and still not see things happening. So how much time should authors spend marketing their work?

Much.

If you write it and no one is reading it...are you just writing for yourself? You have to find ways to get beyond your friends to meet strangers who will enjoy your work and share it with others. You have to not listen to those that tell you "you'll never do 'x'" - and just go for it! Because of connections I've made, I have been featured in national magazines, national radio and even on PBS television. And yes....I am an indie (he declares as if standing in front of a room of indies that will shout back "hello, indie!").

Another amazing connection are the indie bookstores. I was recently speaking to the owner of the one in my town and telling him it is nerve-racking for an author to walk in and introduce themselves. But trust me: you NEED to do this. They may say no. Or they may end up placing your book in their store. You never know until you try.  My indie publisher uses Ingram distribution services which means the books are available in catalogs so they can find it. But you should really talk to them. Show them how you plan to market yourself (having your book in that store doesn't mean it's going to sell). You need to make it worth their time and effort to give up some shelf space and not make it cost them too much. It IS a business for them...so treat it as such. Offer to give a few discounted copies at first and show how you can get people to stop in their store. Drive people from your website to theirs. We're all in this together: so you want to scratch their back as much as you want yours scratched. And check in periodically to see how things are going. If your books are not moving, then why should they take that valuable space in the store.

I am so grateful, lucky, blessed for the few stores that have hosted me in a book signing. A few in NJ have been so nice to me and I'm also heading to Maine in June (as my current book is set in that state).  But you can also think 'outside the box' when it comes to book signings and plan them in places outside of bookstores. You're a writer! Write up a different scenario and start thinking of something clever that matches your book.

But my biggest advice: you are not alone. Connect to those other indies. Not only those doing the writing, but those selling. Those in other indie markets. Those that understand the rough road you are on.

It's not as lonely when you're doing it with someone else.

***
Well Read Book Store is a wonderful local bookstore in Hawthorne, NJ. Check out their website or on Facebook


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Ahhhh....Youth

Last week I celebrated my birthday and I'm feeling the calendar flipping by. I turned the age my father was when I moved to NYC. That alone seems so odd. But there are times, I don't feel any older at all. I've lived up north now for almost 25 years and at times...I think it was just yesterday when I arrived.

Greg & Stephen...after all these years
But today I got to experience something that definitely took me back. My good friend and former musical theatre writing partner Stephen Kitsakos had me go to his university in NY where he is a theater professor. Stephen and I go back to 1994 where we met in the BMI Musical Theater Workshop and worked on numerous projects together for years. Now as a professor, he had mock auditions with his students where I watched them sing and then gave them instant feedback on their performances. What a talented bunch of kids he has! It really was my pleasure to be involved in such a great day.

But here is where the age comes in. I swear I can recall my going through that like it was yesterday. I was attending all those NY auditions and being told "NEXT" and sometimes getting the job. But now, I'm the older one sitting there on the other side of the table and sharing words of wisdom with such eager and enthusiastic ears...one can see why people love to teach. I work on a college campus - but I'm not directly involved with students in a setting like this. With those that love theater in the way I did when I moved from Texas to NYC. You can see the hunger in their eyes and the desire to make it in the business. The joy of studying what they love and I found myself grinning ear to ear remembering that feeling and secretly reliving it again.

I may be older and I may have a few tidbits to share...but I still love that youthful feeling one gets when they do what they love. Stephen is a wonderful professor and I'm thrilled he gets to live his life in such a creative way. I'm just as happy that my road has turned through the years, yet allowed me to stay creative as well.

And even if the clock says I'm getting older...it's awesome to capture that feeling of youth by being around those who are just starting down their trek. What a great feeling for this guy who looks in the mirror and sees his dad staring back. That same dad who drove him to the airport at 18 to fly off and start his own journey.

What a great one it's been, Dad.


Sunday, April 22, 2012

Chicken Boy Flies into Print


I honestly believe if we put our minds to it, we can move mountains. Maybe that comes from my week in Sedona - getting in touch with that spiritual side the way they do out there...but what was simply a story on a napkin last summer can now be purchased as a 32 page children's picture book.

That's the road of Chicken Boy: The Amazing Adventures of a Super Hero with Autism. Those that follow this blog know the history of this story. How I entered it into a contest last fall. How the public voted and turned it into an award-winning book with MeeGenius. (To whom I am grateful for the contest which allowed me a platform to share the word on this book.) How my godson became a hero at his elementary school when MeeGenius went there a few weeks ago and donated a library worth of books from their collection. 

MeeGenius at Radcliffe Elementary

And now, the book is available in print from ASD Publishing. Though ASD has not published children's books before, this fit into their mission of personal growth. I was able to use the prize money from MeeGenius to pay the illustrator and book designers to convert the 20 page eBook into a standard 32 page paperback so that those who wished to have the book in print could do just that.

I am so excited about this next leg of the journey. So many people are already enjoying it as an eBook on the MeeGenius platform and now if people wish to order it online, they can get it from ASD or from one of their favorite online bookstores such as Amazon or Barnes & Noble

Please share the word. Autism Awareness month may be ending on April 30th, but there is no reason we can't make ourselves aware every day. And if this book gives a small glimpse into that world of one child (particular my godson) - I'm happy I could bring a little attention to it.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Art That Makes You Feel

Sondheim once said "art isn't easy..." and that is so true no matter what art form you work in. 

My book Well With My Soul came out last October and continues to find a new audience as more people discover the book. Even while talking of my latest release this week, it is what people are saying of that debut novel that has me thinking today. I've always said you want to evoke a response in your writing. You want to make people think, talk, question. And in a way...I feel I'm achieving that and it makes me very pleased. Even when those discussions are around questioning why I would write such a book in the first place (including those 1 star reviews I get on Amazon).

I would link directly to a recent review except they gave away too much of the 'shock' in the story (but if you've read it, contact me and I'll share it with you). That review sparked a debate that has really got me thinking about how we write and what we write. In this instance, I wonder if there is a generation gap happening that I never thought would occur. I look at the younger generation as the open-minded, risk-takers...but it also seems perhaps some don't quite understand what gay men went through early on that had to live a closeted life. That people choose all sorts of ways throughout history to deal with homophobia (even though today we see the term "pray away the gay" in the media). 

As a fiction author, I am not always expressing my own opinions in my work. It's one of the reasons I love to write fiction: to get into the head of others. To think in a different way. Respond to situations in a manner that Greg wouldn't. But many times, we may be misunderstood, misinterpreted, misrepresented - and that is all part of being an author.

On the flip side with this exact same story, I received an email from someone I went to high school with. An avid reader. A teacher. A Christian. This book that deals with sexuality and religion really made her think about what the Bible says and her own feelings towards wishing for two gay men to stay together surprised her. That is the hope I have in writing as I do. The reason I write stories that may not always turn the way you expect. She thanked me for writing the book and said she can't wait to read my next. 


And even the younger reviewer (that actually said nice things about the book, but also felt it was full of homophobia) felt conflicted and disturbed by the story. And the fact the book is causing people to stop and question and spark debate: all completely worth it.

As an indie author, I only see a very small ripple effect of what I write 'getting' to others. I can only imagine if a big-time publisher had picked up my book and the controversy something like this book would have caused.

But art isn't easy. 

And I'm glad that it's not. 

Monday, April 16, 2012

Do You Take Time to Enjoy the Moment?

When in Rome...


or this case, Sedona. A place known for its vortexes and spirituality - I knew I wanted to 'give in' and make this trip part of that. I'm always good at pampering myself with a massage or spa visit on vacations, but this time I enjoyed something a little more.


We all love validation in one way or another. So on my actual birthday, I visited two psychics who used different techniques to get to the same conclusion. Without me sharing anything...but said I was in the right place with my writing and in my life. Both pointed out the stamina I had to stick with things and the focus and goal oriented way in which I lead my life. (All of which...I knew, but at least they didn't tell me to drop the pen and run as fast as possible away from sharing my stories.) One interesting tidbit was being told I could not be placed in a box. (Anyone that reads my books can attest to that.)


Today, it was visiting the vortexes. Discovering what it was I wished to work on, let go of, etc. For me...it's the anxiety I tend to keep inside that will manifest as stress. And in more ways than the one the past two days...this beautiful land keeps telling me to relax and stop running towards the next thing constantly: enjoy what I'm doing at the time.


So here at the start of my vacation, I wanted to share that little bit of information with those that read this. So many people I know get caught up in planning and setting goals. Always remember to stop and enjoy the ride as well. (Something I'm really working on doing with each milestone I hit in this new career of mine.)


Relax. Breathe. Rejueinate.


I think I could get used to this place.



Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A Birthday Wish

It's happening again.

That excited feeling in the pit of my stomach as the release date for my 2nd novel nears. Like my first, I feel as if I've been working on Patchwork of Me for years (because I have). It started out a few years ago in November with the yearly National Write a Novel in A Month challenge. That story grew and morphed and finally became something slightly different from what I had originally planned...but something I'm very proud of with the elements of a mystery, a story told through the voice of a female, and family that we 'create' with those around us. 

And then there is the fear that people may not 'get' that Greg is always going to be switching what he writes. I'm not going to always tell gay stories (because of Well With My Soul) or stories of death and addiction (because of Proud Pants) - but will be trying new things and telling the stories of characters that suck me in.

With Patchwork, it is about Sara Butler - a product of the foster care system who spends her early thirties hiding from her past while striving for a normal life with her small group of quirky friends in Arizona. (Yes, I got a few gay friends in there because I love that relationship that gay men and women can often have.)  Seeking treatment for an invisible rash and abnormal dreams, her therapist helps her unlock a heinous past that she is unsure she wants to open. (I loved reaching into this dark place to patch together this past.) And then we have a road trip: where friends travel together, learn about one another and Sara can confront her past in Maine in order to plan for a future.

And so it's here. Just a few days. On my birthday (Sunday 4/15) to be exact.

So what does Greg want for his birthday this year? Just to see my book climb up the charts on Amazon. If everyone I know that plans on picking up a copy of this book could hit Amazon all on the same day - it would cause this book to soar (and how happy would THAT make the birthday boy??)!

Patchwork on Amazon  Kindle version


A few reviews:












Monday, April 9, 2012

What Makes Someone Take Off?


Have you ever wondered what it is that gives someone that 'it' factor? Why fame and fortune follow some while others continue to work hard, but we don't always know about them? Of course some has to do with timing, luck, right place at right time (amazing publicist), but it still makes you wonder.

Here are a few examples that have been on my mind.

Books: 

Fifty Shades of Grey goes from self-published book to multi-million dollar movie deal. 
The Shack was being sold out of the back of the authors car when it because a best seller.
Amanda Hocking was throwing digital books up online just as quickly as many others...but somehow she was the one that made it onto the lips of everyone in the country.
Of course I could list so many indie books I know that those reading this have never heard of, yet they are brilliantly  written books.



Movies: 

List any A-list star and for each of them, there is a D-list one that you may not know...but are still busy working in the business constantly.
Just look at this list of top ten male action stars. I bet many do not know Jason Statham, yet he works all the time (as the lead in films), but hasn't become a household name like the others.
For every Meryl Streep (and let's face it...there is but one) - we have numerous actresses who go from movie to movie, but never get that breakout role...or they work all the time, but don't become a household name (Robin Tunney).


TV: 

Something like The View will take off and then we get The Chew, The Talk, The Revolution and I bet you can't list the panel on each of those shows.
Reality TV 'stars' (I use that word loosely) have figured out to take off...one must be the nasty person on the show.
Being a huge character in a hit show can work against you and sometimes you can never work again. You're forever known as that one character.
Many former stars have figured out ways to re-invent their careers is to go on a 'celebrity' reality show.


I guess there is no set answer on what makes someone shoot into the mainstream and causes many to know their name. But the next time you're flipping channels and notice some movie with a lead you've never heard of: google their name. You might just be surprised to know that person has been working in their particular business for years. 


Thursday, April 5, 2012

Where To Put Those Leftovers

Sometimes in life we get to be really lucky and have colleagues that we not only respect in their professional field - but also really like them as a person, mentor and friend. Author Arthur Wooten is just that person. The past eight months I have read his work, picked his brain on ideas, shared a table with him at a book fair, and seem to stroll down similar literary paths in the types of works we write. 



This weekend he releases his latest novel Leftovers where he has taken us to a place unlike the others in his novels. In 1954, Vivian Lawson is a down-on-her luck housewife living in a small New England town, who finds herself faced with a huge fork in her road at the mere age of 25. A world where tupperware and the people who understood the power of the "burping plastics" can make life so much better.

To celebrate this glorious feast of words...I've asked Arthur to answer a few questions for my blog.     

I've read (I think) everything you've written. Where do you get your cross-genre ideas?

I'm a storyteller. And I never know where the next idea is going to come from. I've learned over the years that I have, as I hope most of us do, a very inquisitive mind. And when a theme or an idea inspires me or intrigues me, one that makes me think I want to know more about this, then I write about it. So, it's not so much that I sit down and deliberately try to think of cross-genre ideas...I write about what I find interesting and hope...the reader will feel the same way.


I'm always asked about how a man writes for a woman. How did you channel your inner diva for Leftovers?

I draw from my acting background. In the mid-70s I studied with Uta Hagen at the HB Studios in NYC. And her book, Respect For Acting, changed my life. Not only as an actor, but as a human being in general. I'm fascinated by what makes people "tick". And Uta's teachings fueled that curiosity. It doesn't hurt that I'm a "sensitive" guy. But Leftovers, the story itself just pulled me along. In many ways I am Vivian, our lead character. She's a person, that when REALLY down on her luck, discovered there are only two ways to go. You quit - literally - or you fight your way back up. She paid her dues and she truly deserves all that she is rewarded with by the end of the novel.

What was your biggest challenge in writing women's lit?

I think any man writing for a female character has to be super-conscious of how every element in her life influences not only the decisions she makes but the emotional life that drives her. Women have to do if too if they want to be successful when writing about men. It's like a muscle, you can develop and fine tune the ability to create a fictitious inner life of any character. Heck, it's work for me with animals!

What theme do you want readers to take away?

Hope. Self-esteem. Empowerment. No matter how hard it gets, if you think outside of the box and surround yourself with loving and giving people, you can accomplish whatever it is that you desire. 

 
Thank you, Arthur, for stopping in. And for those reading this - jump online at your favorite book buying place and get your copy. You can get a listing of different sites here. Or follow Arthur on twitter to see what is next for this man.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Twisted back 33 Years

The tornado hitting in Dallas on Tuesday (where I still have family friends) takes me back to being a ten year old child on Tuesday, April 10, 1979. (Well, I was actually nine as I turned ten 5 days later.) It's amazing how at that age I can still recall so much of what happened that day in Whichita Falls, Texas: a tornado that went down in history as three tornadoes came together to form one giant F4.

It seemed like a regular spring day as my friend's father took us from our small town just 12 miles outside of Whichita to the Sikes Senter mall to see Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. I still remember his dad saying "we're under a tornado watch" and him pointing out the type of clouds to look for. But that afternoon, everything seemed fine. That all changed once we were inside the movie theater. Midway through, the lights blinked and then it all went off. The emergency light came on and his dad (who was very calm) told us to sit still. We listened as what sounded like a freight train went right over our head. I recall being nervous and wanting my own parents, but also remember my friend being bratty and wanting to go to the bathroom. A few moments later (okay, it was probably minutes, but it didn't feel long at all) an usher came in and said that a tornado had gone over and everyone should leave.

Really? Just go?

We walked out and hooked up with the other people we had come with (a woman who had younger kids who were next door seeing Bedknobs and Broomsticks ...why do I recall that). All around us, the mall was destroyed. People were running around, grabbing whatever they could...and I saw my first 'looting' taking place. We went outside and cars were moved around the parking lot like toys. I can recall seeing people bleeding and this dad just took us swiftly back to where he had remembered parking the car. 

Once there (and I'm not sure how, but we were able to drive it), we started driving back the 12 miles to get home. Moving perhaps a block every 30 minutes. A car wash had been moved out into an intersection - it was complete mayhem. 

Outside Sikes Senter 1979
Back home, all the electricity in our small town was out. So my parents were listening to a car radio where someone was reporting from...Sikes Senter. (Little did I know, that very mall was one of the worst hits of the storm.) The man was reporting for radio and making it sound like War of the Worlds...so my mother had enough and had to walk away from listening. My father (the same father who said he was prepared to fly to NYC to look for me if he had to after I was in the first World Trade Center bombing) got in our family car and drove to Whichita to look for us. 

I never know how my dad got there...but he was there (didn't find us) and back to our small town before we ever made it home. It took us hours to get there, but once we did...I was so happy. Over 40 people died that day and over $400 million in damages. We were out of school for a week (no electricity for much of it) and I recall going to the grocery store where there were concerns of all the food spoiling. 

After that, we'd always run across the street to the neighbors cellar like Dorothy whenever a threat was in the air. It also started my fear of mother nature. Any time we'd have tornado watches or warnings, I'd break out in hives. The first few minutes of the movie Twister almost caused a panic attack in me.  And it all steams to that day.



video from another 9 year old from that tornado.

Sending much prayers to the people around Dallas who are dealing with their own April Tuesday Tornado today. I remember all to well how it feels.


Sunday, April 1, 2012

Promoting Awareness

Awareness for autism continues to grow. Perhaps it's because it is in the news more. Perhaps it is because it seems to touch more people in some way due to the rising rate of diagnosis. Or maybe it's due to the APA discussing the change in the definition surrounding it.


Whatever the reason, I'm glad there is a month to keep it in the forefront of people's minds. The more people are aware, the more people will understand. Realizing there are people in the world who go through life in a different way does not make them any more or less of a productive person. 


Here are some ways AutismAwareness.com suggest to show your support:



  • Light your house or workplace blue on 2nd April – Or better yet for the month of April! 
  • Wear blue on the day and ask your friends / colleagues to make a donation to an autism charity
  • Organise a ‘blue’ fundraiser at your school: blue cake stall, wearing blue to school, or even asking your school to be lit blue in April
  • Purchase World Autism Awareness Day merchandise and wear it or display it proudly all month! (Google for your favorite site and decide who you want to donate towards in buying merchandise.)
  • Tell all your friends and family about World Autism Awareness Day and why it is important to you!
  • Promote ‘Light it up blue’ campaign on your Facebook and Twitter pages and update them regularly on what’s happening

Whatever you do, it is appreciated by those that deal with autism on a daily basis. One thing I've learned is that everyone is different. How one family is affected by autism may be completely different from another. Two children that are on the spectrum can be completely different. And one way of thinking does not work for all. I'm very careful to state that as I promote my children's book on autism that was published by MeeGenius this past month. My story was based on my godson: one person's story. By no means do I even attempt to speak for an entire group of people. But I'm thrilled that this month (Wed, April 11th actually) MeeGenius will be going to my godson's school and giving them an entire library of their eBooks. Part of what came out of me winning the contest through them. That is one small way we will be promoting awareness this month!