Thursday, January 24, 2013

And The Award Goes To...

It's that time of the year when creative types are deep into awards season. Hollywood is showering accolades onto the biggest and brightest movies. The music industry will be handing out trophies next month to those that are declared the best in their fields. Everyone will say they do it for the love, but secretly...they all enjoy winning those awards. People want to be appreciated for what they do; no matter what field they strive.

But for each major movie you've seen or song you've heard on the radio, there are countless others out there working at their craft simply because they love it. Musicians playing gigs in bars to a few people who hear their original songs. Filmmakers creating indie films because they have a story that must be told. Writers placing books on Smashwords and Amazon because they have a story dying to get out of them and they just hope to find an audience willing to take a chance on a 'no-name' author.

I am all about seeing the great blockbuster film. But I will also take in a small indie film and (at times) be completely blown away by what I've seen. I love that people need to be creative with or without the fame and fortune that comes to a select few. During this awards season...I tip my hat to the indies out there. 

Check out a few links of indie movies, musicians and authors below. (No, I don't even know all of these people...have just run across them online, social media, or heard of them somehow.)

Filmmaker Zeke Zelker's "In Search Of"

Musician Tess Henley

Author Terri Giuliano Long

Musician Chris Huff

Filmmaker Gregg Watt

Author Jack A. Urquhart

Musician Crystal Yates

Filmmaker Alison Bagnall

Musician Joshua Micah

Monday, January 21, 2013

16 to 44: A Day of Presidents

The day the 44th president of the United States made an inauguration speech that included equality for all including gays and lesbians, I thought a fitting time to finally see the movie of our 16th president. After all, I've always stated that his quote is my favorite. (“In the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years.”) And that he was assassinated on my birthday (ok...I know, many years apart) has also made me feel a connection to this man. So myself and a handful of others sat in what seemed like our own private screening room and watched the Spielberg movie of LINCOLN. 

It is hard not to watch the movie and think of the parallels that we see happen today, especially where congress is concerned. And I'm sure many people would debate this is liberal Hollywood attempting to push an agenda. But what is so wonderful is watching where Republicans and Democrats stood on the line to help a Republic president push through an Amendment to end Slavery. An amendment for equality. Spielberg has done a wonderful job at telling a story where the outcome is already known: and yet still manages to build tension and make us feel as we watch each person place their vote. 

Lincoln aging in 5 years during the war.
Daniel Day-Lewis has always been a favorite of mine and in this role, he gives a stoic, unassuming, brilliant performance. He truly brought history alive in his performance as Mr. President and made me think about this man who wanted nothing more than to see this accomplished. No matter the cost to what it could mean to those around him. I found him subtle and yet riveting. (The man has my vote for the Oscar!) (As a side note: he reminded me so much of my own grandfather in this film that I'm sure that connected deeply as well. From stature to his slow swagger of a walk - I felt as if my grandfather was alive again.)

Mary Todd & Sally Field
Sally Field was worried about her age in playing Mary Todd, but I saw her and her costar as complete contemporaries. She showed a strong first lady who also dealt with so much loss in life...and portrays it beautifully. There is nothing this woman can't do and I love each performance she gives.

I felt a strong sense of country pride seeing the film on the Inauguration Day and Martin Luther King, Jr. Day as well. It spoke to me in ways I find hard to convey in words. I was overcome with a sense of gratitude to Mr. Lincoln when the film ended, but also a great sense of sadness in his assassination before it was fully adopted. I also left the theater and couldn't get to my car quickly enough to hide the tears the movie brought to my eyes. When this strong president was fighting for what he believed right: that all men should have equality even when he didn't know what it would mean for the African-Americans going forward (as the movie stated) - he never knew that almost 150 years later a black man would be leading the country. Say what you will about politics and which person you want to see leading the country: watching a historical movie where we now know what transpires afterwards is pretty incredible. 

Equality is a wonderful thing for us to continue to talk about. Thank you, Mr. Spielberg for bringing this story to us...especially during this particular time in our country and showing democracy in action.

Monday, January 14, 2013

When Is Loyalty Enough?

I've had it with the discount cards from every single store that we visit.

Carrying these cards in wallets, on key chains, in pockets becomes absolutely ridiculous. As if we don't carry enough already. It never fails, they ask me for the card and I've left it at home so I have to remember if I used my home phone or my cell phone for them to enter it.

And then with so many to carry, someone finally comes up with an app for our smart phones that will hold every single card in the device that many of us have glued to her hands throughout the day.

Awesome, right?

I was excited by this new application. I took the time to load them all into my phone and felt organized to go out into the world on my next shopping expedition.

And then you start to use your new app. You get to the stores and they can't scan it from your phone. (Which means they have to now key in the long number instead.) Or they just say "I won't do it." If you say "other cashiers will scan my phone" - you get some kind of retort "I'm not them."

If stores want to offer discounts to customers, how about this: anyone in your store IS a customer! Give them all the discount. Aren't CEOs happy to have people shopping in their stores? Enough with the loyalty discounts. You would think the fact that I'm shopping in your store is enough to warrant me whatever discount your offering the person in front of me.

Thus ends my rant. I better run to CVS for some medicine for this headache I now have just thinking about it. (Hopefully they can scan from my new app!)

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Returning to My Youth

Greg at 14 years old.
There is something so special about working in the theater. My earliest 'job' was doing theater for children the summer after my 8th grade year which continued all through high school. (I say job because eventually we would receive stipends for directing plays.) I started my writing career for the stage with that group. I got to play roles such as Charlie Brown, a Prince, Dracula, an old man in Rumpelstiltskin. And the friendships made and that have endured to this day from those summers of theater were really amazing.

This week, I've returned to that time again. No, I didn't get into a time machine and return to the 80s, but I have been asked to play one of the dads in the NJSDA Encore Series production of "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee". Such a fun show, but more importantly - I love watching these teens & tweens at work. And I'm transported back to that incredible time in my life. Sure, these kids today have cellphones to pull out and text and take photos during rehearsals to post to social media (something we never had), but that feeling of being involved in something that only a small group can understand is still the same. I see the bonds they create with each other. Coming back show after show to work together. Being so supportive of each other during 'notes' when different actors get praise from the director. I've been managing the arts center where I work for 6 years now and this group started performing there not too long after I took over the job.  Last night I went through online photos and videos of those previous shows only to remember how incredible it is to watch some of these kids grow up in front of my eyes - doing what they love.

The creative team behind the shows are people that love to be with kids: and you can tell.

Halloween 1983: Greg as Dracula
I've always had a fondness for those people that throw their heart and soul into creating theater for children. The woman who ran the company when I started doing it believed we (as the kids) could do anything. From writing to directing and spending two months doing four back-to-back shows a summer. She instilled a 'can do' attitude in us early on. (Thanks, Gayle!)

Then when I moved to NYC, I worked with a theater company in NJ that not only sent me around the country in a Ninja Turtle costume - but performing fairy tales and plays at libraries, schools, and malls. The woman behind that company knew how to stay young at heart and still runs her company to this day.

I received my equity card doing Theater for Young Audiences. The NY woman behind that company not only LOVED the shows she would create, but also each cast that she sent out on the road to perform for schools across the country; counting each of them as family.

I'm sure this is why I've set my latest novel COOL SIDE OF THE PILLOW in the world of a children's theater company. I know the magic that place can be.  Plus all the women I've seen running these groups have shaped my life in one way or another and in my twisted world of fiction writing - I can thank them with a nod of the pen.

And now Corinna and Terri are doing the same with their group. And for this one small 
week, I got to experience it all over again.

I'm so grateful to Corinna and all of them for allowing me to experience this one more time in life. (What 43 year old man gets to travel back 30 years like this? Awesome!)

The cast of Spelling Bee 2013

Monday, January 7, 2013

Finding A Reader With Your Cover

That time in every author's life has come to me again. Picking a cover. 

I both love and hate this moment in the writing process. As an author, we spend months and months in the pages of our books and become so close to these characters. We long for the day when people will read our work and hope that they will fall in love with our 'made up lands' as much as we have. 

So attempting to chose a calling card that can convey the feeling of the book is so difficult. With my previous books, each has been a different experience in how I worked with the designer as well as the amount of choices they have time to come up with (as this takes many hours on their part). 

For Cool Side of the Pillow, ASD Publishing has done something different in running an online contest with a company that works with designers all over the world. What an experience it has been! You give them the synopsis and a design brief and they run with it. The amount of different designs was just amazing.  Sixteen designers gave over 80 entries (many of those were changes to their original concepts) and it was overwhelming and yet awesome! I saw things through their eyes I would never have seen. You can check out the top 4 here (and even weigh in on the poll) as the finalists are still making last minute changes we have requested to their designs.

Those that read my work know I love to write in many different genres. This new book has humor, a little intrigue, marital and parental issues - and all told through the first person voice of a stay at home dad. So the designers had their work cut out for them to attempt to convey all our protagonist is going through.

I can't wait until we share the winner with everyone! In the meantime, here is the synopsis on the book and I hope you all look forward to it's release later next month.

Zachery Kleinmann lives in the elite world of New Canaan, Connecticut and has left his accounting job four years earlier to be a modern stay-at-home father. But as his son is starting preschool, his wife is passionately involved in her own career, and Zach is knocking on forty years old, he begins to wonder how he will find his own serenity and define himself moving forward. Enter Ginger Charman, an eccentric, free living children's theater actress who has dedicated her life to bringing joy to children and keeping all those around her young at heart. As Zach is pulled into her world and discovers secrets about his new friend, he is not sure he'll ever be able to leave the rabbit hole once he has fallen through - or if he'll even want to venture outside of it again.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Looking Back as Moving Forward

I don't make resolutions. I find that the moment I make one, I just as quickly walk away from it. So instead I am thinking back on 2012 and what was accomplished.

As an author, I couldn't be happier with my year. Two books came out in this year and my children's book caused me to take on advocacy in a way I never expected.

I took on writing articles, reviews, blogs for Broadway World and Huffington Post: both of which keep my mind going as a writer.

I've met some wonderful people because of social media and have found wonderful support in them as I traverse the world of an indie writer attempting to market books.

I returned to the stage for the first time in four years and loved challenging myself in that way.

I continued my love of travel this year with Sedona,  Punta Cana, Cape Cod, Maine: all of which were full of wonderful moments with those that I love.

Yes - this blog is often about my weight and while the scales traveled the wrong way this year, I refuse to make some resolution about it in 2013. Instead, I'll just continue to make that a never ending quest.

And for 2013?? Continuing on this artistic journey I've been on. Doing some more travel. Living my life and loving it.

Speaking of: My 2013 novel Cool Side of the Pillow is now listed on Goodreads "Anticipated Reads for 2013" list. It's around #240 on page 3 and needs some more votes. It's easy if you have a Goodreads account. Just click on the VOTE FOR THIS BOOK link under the title.

Thanks so much and happy new year to you all!