Tuesday, July 31, 2012

My Obsession With The Olympics

It's that year again...it happens every four (well, two if you also enjoy winter) where for some odd reason: I turn into a sports person. I'm not 'that' guy so why my addiction to the Olympics when they air? Why do I sit through hours of watching people work their hardest to fulfill a dream and achieve a goal?

That is the answer for me.

It is the blood, sweat and tears they have put into it for years to get to this point. And for the most part, I enjoy what I'm watching. (Some events more than others if I'm to be completely honest.) Yes I cheer for my country, but I also cheer for others. The spirit of the games is alive and well in my house and I simply can't get enough when they are on. I hate that media has to ruin it for us by telling us the outcome before we get a chance to watch the broadcast during the evening. I annoy my personal friends on Facebook as I post excessively about it. And I cheer for the underdog. I applaud the winner. And yes, I get wrapped up in the stories when someone proposes to their girlfriend and then they go on to win the gold medal as she watches. My throat gets a lump in it and I become the sap because I'm happy when people accomplish what they've set out to do.

So that's the answer. That's why I tweet and post and annoy people with what I'm watching.

I love to see someone succeed.

Now excuse me while I run to check what's on the other channels that are airing Olympics during the day.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Chicken Boy Ends Summer and Goes to School

What does August mean for you? Summer coming to an end so grab those final beach days? Get that 'back to school' shopping done in the hopes it will get your kids out of the door even more quickly if you have purchased all necessary school items? 

I think it depends on what our calendar is. Many people have this internal 'new calendar starts in September' feel that was banged in our heads since we were in school ourselves. I personally will be taking to the beach for some needed rest for one of those weeks, but still have much going on.

For me, August is the time to get Chicken Boy back in the attention of others.

  • This week is the national conference for the autism conference in San Diego and while I couldn't get out there, I did purchase an ad in their program to introduce our superhero to the conference attendees. 

  • I'm taking the young boy on a mini book tour marathon in August with Orangeberry Summer Splash (100 authors hitting 500 blogs) with the hopes more people can find out about autism awareness through this picture book.

  • I will be at a local bookstore with Chicken Boy in early September and I'm reaching out to schools in NJ that had wanted me to visit them this past June (and I wasn't able to as summer came upon us quickly).

  • But I do hope other schools in NJ/NY area will want to host me at their school to talk about autism and the book. It is something I greatly enjoy doing and so please don't hesitate to reach out to me!

And lastly...I've recently had to re-do my website (new domain and all) due to some hosting issues so check it out and let me know what you think!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

What is Your Book Telling Your Reader?

Have you taken the page 99 test? I see you scratching your head wondering what in the world I'm talking about. We all walk into a bookstore and look at the back of the book, maybe open the 1st page and read it to see if we want to buy the book. Only that 1st page has been edited to DEATH so that you will do just that. So the page 99 test came up so that people can turn to that page instead. Interesting... kitschy...but still cool.

So being the nerd that I am - I tried it on my own books. Well With My Soul has one of my brothers making his big break in that page. He always wanted to be in a Broadway show and on page 99, he is in rehearsal for it. So it plays to the theme of the book. I was thinking "not bad, Greg."

Then I tried Patchwork of Me. Perfect! Page 99, Sara discovers a huge part of her past and why she has the invisible rash.

There is an online site where authors can upload the page for others to read, but for my author friends out there...I say test yourself. Do you find that page interesting? Does it grab you and cause someone to want to buy your book? Is it saying anything of importance to your reader?

Just thought I'd pass along the info and enjoy testing your own books or those books you browse through the next time you go into a store.

 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

How Would The Word Inoperable Change You?

Sometimes facing death can force new life into us in a way we never even imagined. Recently I have been tweeting and sharing on my Facebook page about an author's poetry book on Amazon. I spoke in vague terms as I shared why he suddenly put it out as I did not want to say too much. But that author has had a change of heart and decided we could tell his story (and I for one am so glad that he did). I truly think that people connect to the truth that others share. They see themselves in those stories. And many times can find inspiration in learning from others.

Empty Of Me by Jon Order



Jon Order was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor on June 1, 2012. He has embraced this sudden change in his life wholeheartedly and with an amazing sense of purpose, clarity and humor. And, despite the whirlwind of preparations and myriad of "things" he needs to put in order, Jon has remarkably created this manuscript of selected poems written over the past several decades. Be it the loss of lovers and friends, a mother declining, thoughts on religion or simple amazement at the power of Nature, his poetry reflects his awareness of the daily presence of death, risk, and inevitable decline even as his life has been enriched.


***

This touched me on a few different levels. I met Jon Order via social media last year. The man was so incredibly supportive of everything I did. Buying my books. Tweeting about my accomplishments. Encouraging me on my journey. I've never met him face to face. We have that relationship that many have now - virtual. But it is still very real and when I received the email from him about his brain tumor, my heart ached for him and his family. It also hit me because just a month prior, my own mother had been diagnosed with breast cancer and was going through her surgery (and starts her radiation treatments shortly). I realize everyone's journey with cancer is very different. And words like 'inoperable' can change the entire way you view life. I for one am proud of Jon's accomplishment of getting this book out. Not only because I love what the words are saying and how they speak to me, but because of the message he is sharing that one should never give up on a dream. No matter the time you may think you have. Check it out for yourself. See how this poet's words speak to you. You'll be so glad you did.


We live on borrowed time
No one can be sure when the loan will finally come due
But I'm loving all of mine, I know what time is for,
I've borrowed it so I can spend it all right here with you.


Friday, July 13, 2012

A Year of Publishing: First Anniversary


Wow. It has been a year since my first book was published. I look back on this year in amazement, excitement, exhaustion from all that has transpired. Never in my wildest dreams did I expect so much to occur in one year’s span. But I know I need to stop and be thankful for each milestone, accomplishment, award won, book published, marketing opportunity, person who read, and life I was able to touch.

As an indie author, I am well aware that I am fighting an uphill battle. (Like that Miley Cyrus song that sticks in my head “It’s a CLIMB!”) And it has been. Had a traditional publisher grabbed me up, who knows where I would have been at this point? Well – I do. A year later, I’m sure I would have still been waiting in anticipation for the book to make it to the shelves. There is a different pace in that world than what Indies do. For us, it is harder to find an audience – so when you do…you want to have an inventory of books for readers to say “I like that author, I’d love to read something else by them.” For me: that too is difficult as each of my books are vastly different, not sticking to a genre or a certain mold. But I had worked on several books prior to even starting down the road so they were written (many of them had gone through the eyes of an editor) and just sitting in the proverbial drawer.

First Milestone 1 & 2 in Kindle & Books in Blended Familes
A recent report has shown that some of the numbers of Indie published authors have been slightly altered because of those few break-out writers who have been discovered by everyone. Half of Indie & self-pub'ed authors make less than $500 a year. (I don’t see quitting the day job any time soon.) But is it about money made or amount of readers you can reach? It depends on the person you speak to.

I never expected to make a ton of money by being a writer. I just love to tell stories. The bonus (for me) has been the people I’ve met, the connections made, the awards I’ve won. Stepping outside of my circle of family and friends to generate a small buzz about my work has been thrilling. But I’ve made many mistakes along the way as well (and in my effort to pay-it-forward: I’ve tried to share as many of those mistakes as possible).

Cool Milestone - Japanese
A few of those: 1) my desire to get into stores meant my publisher had to give a much larger discount to buyers across the board – so basically I made nothing off of Well With My Soul when it sold so well in the fall. (Lesson learned by book 2.) Now I know it is next to impossible for Indies to get into stores unless the owner knows you and you can prove your book to them. 2) Editing/proofing. Even though my books have gone through so many eyes (eyes that were paid to look at them), mistakes got through and that absolutely kills me when I see them or when someone points them out. (Especially when they use that very thing to give you a bad review.) 3) Not putting marketing dollars into the correct places: something every author should think long and hard about before buying an ad in “X” or spending money in other ways. 4) Setting expectations too high. We must live in reality and know that copies of our books are not going to sell daily…no matter how many bloggers, twitter friends, and other authors say otherwise by sharing their numerous sells and downloads. I don’t know where they are living – but it is not in the world I live in as I don’t see those kinds of sales.

WWMS breaks top 100
But the joy…the excitement from watching each book climb the Amazon list when they would come out. Words can’t describe (even though you know it is because your dear friends have hit the site all at once and the strange algorithm used by Amazon sees you as a ‘book on the move’ and you shoot up (where you don’t stay for long…but you did have that one moment in glory at the top of an online chart). No. I didn’t ever see my name in the NY Times, but I was in several magazines, radio spots, and a PBS TV show: so that was not too shabby. Publisher’s Weekly wouldn’t touch my book as it was tainted as an Indie Book, but strangers read my work and wrote amazing reviews on Amazon and Goodreads (and one owns an Indie bookstore in Colorado and after reading Patchwork of Me requested copies of all of my books to sell in her store). Wonderful friends and mentors encouraged me to submit my children’s book to MeeGenius and because of an outpouring of votes from so many people, it won the People’s Choice award and I was able to get it into print where I took it to schools and talked candidly about autism.

It has been an amazing year. I can’t kid myself. I challenged myself to try new things. To submit articles and blogs to websites and get those published which meant more people reading my work and my words being used to stir controversy or make someone think. That’s what I want. That’s what I hope to continue doing. Sure, I’d love to venture out into the vast world so that more people can find me, but for the past year…I am thrilled with the 28,000 hits to my blog, the 600+ people following me on Facebook and the 2,300 on twitter. These are the people that have encouraged and inspired me and hopefully: tell a friend or two about something I've written.

It’s been a great 1st year in publishing. Happy Birthday to Proud Pants. The small story that was only  released to 'test the waters' prior to my 1st novel and yet so many people responded to it.

Now don’t you want to run and download it for your favorite eReader for $1.99?     

Monday, July 9, 2012

When Weight Issues Knock: Who Listens?

This blog started with me discussing weight: how I gain it, how I attempt to lose it. And two years later, it is still a constant in my everyday life. I am so envious of people who can eat whatever they want and never gain an ounce. Even more envious of those that can push a plate away at the table without finishing the food on it. But that is my lot in life and I've grown to know it is just who I am.

That's not to say I haven't tried many things. NutriSystem has been my 'go to' for a jolt in weight loss. I return to them like an old friend that says "remove that real cookie from your mouth and eat this bar that is packed with protein and will fill you up much more quickly." And for the most part, I've maintained a certain level with them. I still want to get rid of more unwanted fat (and this lovely tire around my waist), but the word exercise sends me running faster than anything...and I don't mean the GOOD running that I know I should be  doing. When it's hot (as the heat wave the Northeast has been experiencing) - my lazy butt prefers the cool comfort of my sofa.

Still...I know I have to constantly work at it or I could be right back where I was two years ago. When my pants start to feel tight now, I don't go and buy a larger size. Instead, I change those eating habits. And honestly for me...it's all about those habits. (Many of them bad.) I am very big on drinking tons of water a day and I know that is a great thing. I've even tried natural supplements (buzz, buzz) to help curb appetites and cause you to drink more. And I watch all the inspirational videos that I can stand.

Like my battle in this area, this blog has no ending. I feel I'm always sort of caught in the middle of it. A constant from which I can't escape. But at least when I feel the squeeze of the pants, I now listen. That's a huge step in a better direction. 

Friday, July 6, 2012

When You Can't Fix It

My name is Greg and I'm a fixer.

No, I don't mean I'm a handyman that runs around the house seeking things that are broken so I can repair them. (Trust me: that's not what I mean.)

I mean when I see a problem, I want to know what I can do to correct it. This has aided me greatly throughout my career. Both working in IT and web development to all I've done in the arts with directing, managing, and writing.

But where it can be a problem is in people's lives. Not that I'm a buttinsky. The people come to me. I swear! I have that face that says "tell me your problems" and many times I do hear them. Friends, family, acquaintances, strangers on a vacation. People do like to share with me. I like to listen. I like to give advice. And unfortunately...I like to 'fix'.

Sometimes it is something simple and I can do my little online research and get back to the person with "have you tried this?"

But sometimes you just can't fix things for people and that's when I feel the worst. I see things happening in people's lives and sometimes I get too involved and start planning out if they only did X they could move on to Y and my involvement snowballs into an unpaid life-coach who can't get out. Now for friends reading this...PLEASE know that doesn't mean I don't want to hear what's going on in your lives. I think you all know that I want/try to fix whatever I can. And I do wish I could help people get out of whatever problem they may be having in their life. I really do. That's the hardest part about being a 'fixer'.

Sometimes, we just can't fix the problem.

I don't like that feeling.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

From Movie to Musical

The discussion of what makes a Broadway musical has been talked about for years. When I was in the BMI Musical Theater Workshop, we had to write songs for well-known movies to create certain moments in a 'fake' musical. (I wrote a mean I Have a Head for Business & A Body For Sin from "Working Girl".) I for one have a love/hate relationship with turning movies into musicals. I completely understand that you have a ready-made story with an audience attachment to a movie. But as someone who has written original musicals, I wish more producers would take a chance with those. (That said: I'd love to have any of my books adapted into a movie, so I can't complain 'too' much.)

Look back on the past few years and there have been numerous musicals on Broadway that started as a movie (and then, now and again we'd get a "Next to Normal" to balance it). But I just had to share the amount of movies I've found that are being worked on as Broadway musicals. I'm sure you'll find yourself recalling the movie and sometimes saying to yourself "what are they thinking?" (And then others I find myself going: hmmmm...that looks interesting.)



ANIMAL HOUSE
Score by Barenaked Ladies

AUSTIN POWERS
Mike Myers is reported to be working on an adaptation.

BACK TO THE FUTURE
Robert Zemeckis is reported to be working on a musical.

BIG FISH
Susan Stroman (“The Producers”) is directing and choreographing; John August, who wrote the screenplay, is writing the book; Andrew Lippa (“The Addams Family”) is doing the music and lyrics.

BULLETS OVER BROADWAY
Woody Allen is working on an adaptation.

DINER
Barry Levinson, the film’s writer/director, is doing the book, Sheryl Crow is doing the music and lyrics, and Kathleen Marshall (“Anything Goes”) will choreograph and direct. 

FLASHDANCE
Was scheduled for Toronto...closed, but sure will show up again.

HONEYMOON IN VEGAS
Tony Danza’s set to star in this one. Andrew Bergman, the film’s director and writer, is doing the book; Jason Robert Brown (“Parade”) is doing the music. 

KINKY BOOTS
Cyndi Lauper’s writing the music and lyrics (and I already heard one of the songs on Sirius Radio) Harvey Fierstein’s writing the book; Jerry Mitchell (“Legally Blonde”) is set to choreograph and direct. 

THE NOTEBOOK
Nicholas Sparks confirmed this one.

REBECCA 
Yes..that great old movie in Manderley

ROBIN AND THE 7 HOODS
The 1964 movie has already had workshops done

ROCKY 
Flaherty & Ahrens & Thomas Meehan ("The Producers") book

SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE 
Rumored to be in works as the creative team keeps changing

SOMEWHERE IN TIME
Richard Matheson (author) is writing book, Ken Davenport is driving force behind it - and yes...this is one of my favorite movies (I wrote my OWN version of this musical in the early 90s and then couldn't get the rights - so I look forward to hearing the music by the composer they got).




And of course...another holiday favorite of mine is coming to Broadway this winter.

A Christmas Story, The Musical (I've listened to the CD and this is definitely on my "GO SEE" list!)





Sunday, July 1, 2012

Summer Movies

It's summer and for many that means blockbuster movies. 

I will admit: I usually wait until movies come out on cable so I can watch them from my own home. But occasionally I get out to see them on the big screen. This summer, it wasn't about the smash 'em up, bang 'em up type that got me in the theater. It was my guilty pleasure love of the show "Family Guy" and Seth MacFarlane. You may assume from what I write that I'm only going to watch movies that are deep and meaningful, but even I have my naughty side that enjoys to laugh at things that we should be embarrassed to laugh at.

And that's exactly what MacFarlane does constantly. He is an equal opportunity offender. Making fun of gays, black, jews - he covers it all. And he doesn't apologize for it. Being the opening weekend, I have no idea how well the movie is doing..but I did google and find reviews from people loving it and giving it an A to those that hated it and gave it an F. But as anything in the arts: that's exactly what you want. You want your work to incite people with passion one way or another.

What I found interesting is that MacFarlane pretty much sticks to what works for him in "Family Guy". (Flashbacks when a character tells a story. The lead having a huge fight scene that goes on a little too long: think Peter & the chicken. And using music to his advantage constantly.)

But I also think he taps into something that we can all relate to. How much our past and pop culture dictates how we view the world. And he uses the 80s to his advantage in this movie - making many go "OMG, I had that star wars set" when you see it on the screen or remembering watching Flash Gordon...even if that particular movie didn't drive your world the way it does his lead character and the teddy bear.

Sam Jones (Now 57 years old)
And it is amazing how MacFarlane can get people to show up in his first film out of the gate. Yes, he uses most of his cast from "Family Guy", but also Mark Wahlberg who has now done numerous films as well as cameos I won't name and even his childhood idol. (A 57 year old Flash Gordon.) 

But (like his cartoons), I feel there is still heart to his movie beyond all the vulgar language & pot-smoking that you will undoubtedly hear much about when people speak of this movie. (Ted has a foul-mouth and there is no denying it.) A heart that many buddy movies can capture: but this one is a real man and a toy. A twist on the regular buddy film. Much is said about the 35 year old man in the movie (come on, Mark Wahlberg - you are 41) still having his childhood bear that he got when he was 8. 

CryBaby 40 years old
Well, I'm here to say I have a bear that is 40 years old. Do I talk to it? No. But my mother did give it back to me as an adult to have in my own house. And I'll admit just seeing it gives an odd sense of comfort: a 'remembering when' that bear got me through many times as a child.

In a way, MacFarlane is able to capture that very same sense of nostalgia while making me laugh my butt off at the same time. And for me, that makes a da$%$% good summer movie!